Thursday, July 24, 2003
Posted this at Tim Blair today, regarding this critical article:
Michael Moore might have moments of intellectual dishonesty, but in "Bowling for Columbine" I was impressed with the mental cartoon he rendered of the Lockheed Martin rocket facility just outside Littleton, Colorado, USA, where I was once employed (1976/77). Moore portrayed the facility as a missile factory, and folks like SpinSanity howled that the facility is used to build rockets for communications satellites. Remember, my friends, that the Littleton facility USED to be a missile factory, until the retirement of the Titan II missile from the U.S. strategic missile arsenal in the mid-80's (when Klebold & Harris were children). So Moore's argument, that there was a pervasive atmosphere of sublimated violence in the town that affected Klebold and Harris' upbringing (and by extension, given the millions of people employed by the arms industry, many Americans), CANNOT be dismissed offhand. Paradoxically, that would be the DISHONEST low-road approach: the approach ALL Moore's conservative critics take! What Moore failed to mention (probably for simplicity's sake, although some may argue) is that the Littleton facility NO LONGER produces missiles.
Moore charms through simplicity and directness. It's a useful skill, leaving enough out of an argument to make it direct and easily digested. After "Bowling for Columbine", no one can look at Charlton Heston quite the same way again. Bye Moses, hello heartless creep.....
A big man with big shoes and big ambitions! Someone to watch!
For some reason, this stuff seems to aggravate conservatives worse than anything. I once had a boss who studied the chemistry of cow farts. The University had cows, each with a rubber flap covering a portal over one of their stomachs, and you could open the flap and reach in and grab the stuff straight from the source. But it wasn't an exercise for those 'who need cognitive closure'.
Wednesday, July 23, 2003
I'm surprised there isn't more in the press regarding an accusation (available to registered users) that Paul Krugman made in his NY Times column today. Krugman states:
And while we're on the subject of patriotism, let's talk about the affair of Joseph Wilson's wife. Mr. Wilson is the former ambassador who was sent to Niger by the C.I.A. to investigate reports of attempted Iraqi uranium purchases and who recently went public with his findings. Since then administration allies have sought to discredit him — it's unpleasant stuff. But here's the kicker: both the columnist Robert Novak and Time magazine say that administration officials told them that they believed that Mr. Wilson had been chosen through the influence of his wife, whom they identified as a C.I.A. operative.
Think about that: if their characterization of Mr. Wilson's wife is true (he refuses to confirm or deny it), Bush administration officials have exposed the identity of a covert operative. That happens to be a criminal act; it's also definitely unpatriotic.
So why would they do such a thing? Partly, perhaps, to punish Mr. Wilson, but also to send a message.
And that should alarm us. We've just seen how politicized, cooked intelligence can damage our national interest. Yet the Wilson affair suggests that the administration intends to continue pressuring analysts to tell it what it wants to hear.
I expected a bigger buzz on the Internet, but I only hear a 60 hertz B-flat hum from the fluorescent lights. Why is that? The matter is particularly germane now, with the chaos in Britain regarding Dr. Kelly's suicide.
And here's more interesting stuff regarding the timing of Hadley's confession that the CIA had indeed informed the White House about the shakiness of the uranium story from Niger.
Responding to a post on this blog, I began yearning for days gone by....
I remember, around 1985, I hooked up an already-antiquated version of Pac Man to the black-and-white TV I inherited from my grandmother. The herky-jerky motion was really hard on the eyes and the brain. After an hour, I closed my eyes, turned away from the TV and looked at an open book: ALL the letters on the page started moving in all directions, in the same herky-jerky fashion!
You see, in MY day, we didn't HAVE eyewear, or even much common sense. We had to bust Coke bottles and grind the bottoms to the proper shape with whatever grit we could dig out of the back yard, and use twist-ties to attach them to our faces. And we were HAPPY about it!
In college, I remember talking to a friend and the subject turned to 'what is the worst thing you could ever imagine happening to you.' I started thinking about things like getting drenched in gasoline and set afire, but then my friend said:
"The worst thing that I could ever imagine happening to me is standing in the supermarket checkout line, getting to the cashier, and not having enough money to pay for the groceries."
My jaw hit the floor. Damn, I miss those complacent pre-Sept. 11th days of old!
Tuesday, July 22, 2003
Unfortunately Eoghan Harris' story is incidental to the Kelly scandal. Blair's complaints against the BBC concern its internal newsgathering culture's slanting of the news. Kelly may have seemed an inviting target, because he was unauthorized to speak to the BBC (was he?), but Kelly was also a loyal and decent scientist (was he?). Conflating Kelly and the BBC is the big error. In fact, standing firm against the BBC is what is getting Blair into the most trouble, because Blair's staunch opposition appears directed at Kelly personally. The stands of both Blair and the BBC are so firm that rigor mortis has set in. Blair appears ready to sacrifice Hoon and Campbell, to his own detriment. A calculated retreat by both parties is in order. Winner-takes-all could well mean Blair loses all - time for everyone to regroup. I predict the winner will be whichever party retreats the most gracefully.
A shepherd was herding his flock in a remote pasture when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced out of the dust cloud towards him. The driver, a young man in a Broni suit, Gucci shoes, Ray Ban sunglasses and YSL tie, leaned out the window and asked the shepherd, "If I tell you exactly how many sheep you have in your flock, will you give me one?"
The shepherd looked at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looked at his peacefully grazing flock and calmly answered, "Sure."
The yuppie parked his car, whipped out his notebook and connected it to a cell phone, then he surfed to a NASA page on the Internet where he called up a GPS satellite navigation system, scanned the area, and then opened up a database and an Excel spreadsheet with complex formulas. He sent an email on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, received a response.
Finally, he prints out a 150 page report on his hi-tech, miniaturized printer then turns to the shepherd and says, "You have exactly 1586 sheep."
"That is correct; take one of the sheep," said the shepherd.
He watches the young man select one of the animals and bundle it into his car.
Then the shepherd says: " If I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my sheep?"
"OK, why not," answered the young man.
"Clearly, you are a consultant," said the shepherd.
"That's correct," says the yuppie, "but how did you guess that?"
"No guessing required," answers the shepherd. "You turned up here although nobody called you. You want to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked, and you don't know crap about my business.
Now give me back my dog."
Monday, July 21, 2003
Farewell to Highway 666! It had an interesting genesis and life!
My friend Jerry Steffens from Santa Clara, CA wrote the following (referring first to the first link in this post):
Hmmm, I wouldn't mind having one of those signs myself....
Lately, I've become interested in the U. S. highway system; one reason, no doubt, is that it is slowly disappearing -- highways that I remember from my youth are gone! For example, a few years ago, I went home (Indiana) for a visit and discovered that U.S. 33 no longer went through Mishawaka -- instead, I saw a sign that claimed that the road was Indiana 933. Why? What is the purpose? (I've discovered that these decisions are made by a shadowy government agency called the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officers.
My interest in highways was re-kindled recently on my way back from Indiana (I drove!). I stopped at a strange new museum along I-80 near Kearney, Nebraska called the Archway Monument -- it's an arch built OVER the freeway. Basically, it's dedicated to transportation in the region - Oregon Trail, Mormon Trail, Pony Express, etc.) Mostly, it's pretty hokey -- sixth grade history combined with sound and lighting effects -- but they did have one interesting exhibit about the Lincoln Highway, which apparently was the first transcontinental automobile road in the U. S. One section of the road ran along U. S. 33 through Mishawaka -- I grew up about a block away from it (we called it "Lincolnway"). I had heard of the Lincoln Highway, but I wasn't aware of its extent or significance. What a wild trip that must have been! (The section from Salt Lake City to Ely sounds particularly significant -- it was never paved and never became part of the U. S. highway system (or even the state road systems, for that matter!)
The first editorial to get the Kelly affair about right.
Newspaper stories always seem accurate unless you happen to know something about the subject - then all the holes and exaggerations are revealed. Gilligan didn't do anything different than reporters have always done - stretch the truth a wee bit, for effect - but the stakes here were very high. Kelly was savaged by the Blair government, and the Ministry of Defense didn't come to Kelly's aid (neither did BBC, but then Kelly didn't work for them). Caught between the irresistible force of the government and the immovable object of the BBC, and bereft of friends, Kelly despaired. Who wouldn't? But who should shoulder the most blame? Placing the blame mostly on Gilligan seems incorrect, because, unlike Hoon's goons, Gilligan didn't betray Kelly (or did he?).
My concern is that the controversy was so hot that Blair, Hoon et al. had lost all perspective, and that they pushed Kelly forward fully knowing they were going to rip Kelly into teensy-weensy bloody shreds - AND THEY DID NOT CARE IN THE LEAST - because by so doing, they got back at the BBC. Kelly was blind-sided, betrayed, crucified by his employers, the people Kelly had devoted his lifetime serving. As bad as Gilligan has been, especially regarding Iraq reporting, in this case, he wasn't doing much different than journalists always do - stretching the truth slightly. He apparently met his obligations to Kelly - namely, not naming Kelly publicly - but he may have hinted so broadly who his informant was that it was easy for the government to track Kelly down.
As Kelly himself said, "many dark actors."
Sunday, July 20, 2003
Conversing via E-Mail with Deborah McMillion-Nering in Phoenix about a piece of art-work by fellow Sacramentan Scott Ray Randall, Attack of the 100 Foot Tall Radioactive Killer Flamingo, I began considering the plight of a 50-Foot Tall Woman (never did see the 50's sci-fi movie). I mean, it would be awful to be that tall. I remember, in 1976, watching the crowd at Cinderella City, a mall in Englewood, Colorado (south of Denver) using the mall's warrenlike nature to indiscreetly follow a 7-foot tall woman around as she shopped (according to ex-Coloradan Tony Davi, the mall has since been demolished, which was probably a good idea anyway). But if you are 50 feet tall, it's much worse - you can't shop, you can't go to restaurants, all you can do is sit on railway trestles and pout, and when trains come, you have no choice but to stand up, because 50-foot tall is still too short to pose much of hazard to a heavy locomotive and train weighing hundreds of tons. It's like being Godzilla, but even in Tokyo, you wouldn't get much respect, just lots of stares.
One of the things I love about my FAVORITE pop hero, Kylie Minogue, is her willingness to dabble in kitsch. One of the things she does in one of her Fever Tour songs (available on DVD) is to play upon her short stature (5'2") by stepping upon a hydraulic lift and BECOMING the 50 foot woman of kitsch lore. But it's hazardous: there isn't much she can do up there on the hydraulic lift. She shifts her weight to the right foot, then to the left. She shifts her rib cage right, then to the left. Then she moves her head around. Despite the elaborate set, flashing lights, great tan, and corps of hyperactive dancers, you see the problem: try to make it last longer than just one song, and it would become a yawner. So even Kylie had to be judicious about assuming that role.
I remember eating dinner with the Kubilius family back in high school. The entire Kubilius family was tall - Kendall was the shortest at 6' 8". As I recall, the dinnertime conversation was how short people never amount to anything in this world. But if you are 50 feet tall, the story is different. In my opinion, it's better to be short, and never have to answer that tedious question: "how's the weather up there?"
Went ballroom dancing for about an hour last night, at "The Ballroom." Saw a few old acquaintances, but things were pretty quiet. Maybe I should get private lessons from Lisa Lloyd or Grace Stewart? Hmmm..... Afterwards, blogged for a few minutes, then went to "Faces." Noisy, but not as crowded as I feared. Tried to strike up a conversation with a tall transvestite, but things were so cacophonous that I couldn't make myself understood. Had an amusing conversation with a garish woman whom I mistook at first for a transvestite. Proclaiming herself in a shy and demure mood (ha!), she chose to dance with her boyfriend instead. Danced with a shy woman who apparently had some sort of Mediterranean accent. When she said she didn't know how to dance the style of dance on the floor (some sort of urban rap mish-mash) I suggested she just make it up as she went along. What I wanted to tell her was that dance-wise, 90% of the people there did not have a clue about anything at all. Time to let those worries drop aside. Three beers into the evening, I certainly did. Afterwards, spun Sparky around the neighborhood, and then got some much needed rest (despite the heat-wave, I have yet to use my air conditioner this summer).
So, Kelly WAS the main source for the BBC report, which means that Gilligan "sexed up" his "sexed up" dossier report - perhaps only slightly - an understandable (yet nevertheless a) common failing among the sensation-seeking press. So Kelly was forced to defend things that he never said to people who - nothing personal of course - fully intended to destroy his reputation whatever he might say. I might consider suicide myself under such circumstances.......
It's time for the politicians to stop playing such high-stakes games with people's lives (oh, sorry, that's what they've been doing all along anyway, isn't it?)
I'm getting tired of spam, especially the sort that takes valid names from your Contacts List and makes up a random subject line. Taking my co-worker's full name (abbreviated here as L.W.), a recent penis enlargement spamoid I received had a subject line that stated, "Boy, L.W. is sure going to be sore!"