July 18, 2000

Advogato Entry 1

Well, I just joined (yeah, I came here from Salon..), so this is an inaugural diary entry. Maybe I'll actually get in the habit of doing a diary this time (then again, I don't know if I'd want some of my weirder thoughts posted in public..).


I just managed to upgrade a Linux Mandrake box about as much as I could. (Loopback filesystems are wonderful -- just download the ISO instead of getting a few thousand RPMs) It's a server running some proprietary mishmash of a RAID system (It's a RaidZone in case you're wondering). Unfortunately, their drivers only work with 2.2.15 (AFAIK, I suppose I could patch things up to 2.2.16, but I don't know if it would work). Also, their driver is distributed as a `.a' library/object file that gets compiled into the kernel. I think that's a GPL violation, but I don't have the energy to complain right now.. blargh.

On a slightly lighter note, I came across an IBM ad touting their Linux support earlier today. Pretty cool, though it isn't making the same waves it would have even a year ago.

I need to find where I put a 3-button mouse I picked up the other day -- X Windows with just 2 buttons is nasty.. I just hope the damn thing works (it was sitting in a pile of what may have been broken equipment). I had another 3-button mouse that worked with USB, but that seems to have gotten fried somehow.. Grr!

I joined a mailing list on Minnesota E-Democracy the other day and finally got around to reading the rules and guidelines. Boy do they suck. You're only allowed two posts per day. You have to put your name, e-mail, and city in your .sig, and you can't post under a pseudonym or anonymously. Some guy was going around flaunting the fact that he puts a 5-paragraph advertisement signature for `healthy' cigarettes at the bottom of each of his posts. I posted a reply to him, quoting part of the rules, only to discover that I was violating at least two rules in the process. I didn't have my city in my signature, and I sent the note with an attachment (my GPG signature).

I think they may have already banned me..

Posted by mike at 11:38 AM Central | Old Advogato Diary , Politics , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 19, 2000

Advogato Entry 2

e2fsck: Attempt to read block from filesystem resulted
in short read while trying to open /dev/hdb1
Could this be a zero-length partition?


I had a particularly nasty crash this morning. For some reason, my hard drives can't handle extended writes, such as what you'd get from ripping the audio off a CD. I've even reformatted the damn things and they still do this (I had thought it was a slightly corrupted fs, but now I'm thinking it must be slightly broken hardware.. grr..)

On days like this when things aren't going my way, I just end up feeling so tired and alone. It doesn't help that my job seems to not allow any human interaction. I should have got a job with my roommate belaying for rock climbers at the local gym. He got a girlfriend right away.. *grumble* I'm way too old to have been single for so long. Oh well, complaining will probably only make things worse.

I looked at some of the LFP variable-width fonts yesterday. They weren't very variable in the widths, and a lot of them were too small for my display. Perhaps more people need to try out Gote and make some decent scalable fonts..

I decided to pass a `-gamma' flag to XFree 4.0.1, and I think it helps. But somehow, Slashdot's colors managed to get even uglier. Also, I see that many websites are designed for non-gamma-corrected displays. *sigh*

Ralph Nader was here in MN again over the weekend. He drew a big crowd for a rally on campus -- 1500 people in one lecture hall. I'm gonna vote for him this fall unless there's a drastic change in the other candidates. I tried to search for some more news about it on the websites of the nearby newspapers, but their search engines are so braindead that they give you the same link 10 times. Maybe I need to make my own search engine for this stuff..

Rode my bike into work today, as I'm sick and tired of waiting for the bus. That and the fact that it was actually cool enough outside to ride without dumping a gallon of sweat. The foliage around here is beautiful this summer -- we've had too much rain, so everything is a very deep green.


Finally figured out how to print from Linux to Novell. It was actually pretty easy, so this will save me the trouble of managing IP addresses for 50 printers..

I just tried out Evolution 0.2 (you can get it through helix-update, you know..) and I really like it! Not as light on the memory as I was hoping, but not as bad as I was fearing. It seems pretty fast (my box is a P166, though I have 128MB of RAM). Of course, the Lotus Notes POP3 server just decided to stop accepting my password..

Yesterday, I was thinking a lot about the reasons I started using Linux. It wasn't because Windows (3.1) was bad, it was because DOS sucked and because OS/2 Warp 4 decided to ignore my SB16 (literally -- Creative wouldn't be caught dead writing new drivers). Of course, what I had really wanted to do was 32-bit graphics development (try finding a free 32-bit DOS assembler), but that never really happened.

Posted by mike at 12:39 PM Central | Bike , Decision 2000 , Old Advogato Diary , Politics , Ralph Nader , Software , Work , XFree | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Advogato Entry 3

Just saw on the news that security (the physical kind) is going to be tight on UMN's campuses the rest of the week. Big genetic conference going on, and they're expecting protests. They've basically shut down access to the St. Paul campus, though I doubt anything similar will happen on the Minneapolis side, as it's a major throughfare for commuters going to/from downtown.

Posted by mike at 08:24 PM Central | Old Advogato Diary , Politics , School | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 06, 2000

Advogato Entry 19

Entry 18

Been reading through the Slashdot story about the protests surrounding the Republican Convention. I wish I could be a few degrees less separated from that situation -- then I could at least be reasonably sure I'm hearing the truth or being told an all-out lie. Regardless, it reminds us in the United States that we really have to stay vigilant about our rights. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people disagree about the definition of `civil disobedience' and the degree to which it is useful.. 90% of the time, I think you can be heard without getting in the way of anyone else (ie, walking/sitting on the street and blocking traffic). More than 99% of the time, violence is not going to help you. Oh well, just my opinion.

Wired ran their own story about the stuff in Philadelphia and mentioned phillyimc.org, a site gathering the views of `independent' reporters. It's pretty cool to hear that it's running on Slash, and the Wired article said that it had been put together by some of the core Debian coders (though Wired may have misinterpreted something..). It's neat to see how Free Software is helping people who are interested in protecting the freedoms of Real Life. This continued merging and mingling is really neat, and I hope that the actions of the people involved in this stuff will have an impact upon governments everywhere.

I think I'll use ReiserFS on my computer instead of Global Filesystem. I like the work of the GFS guys, but ReiserFS is far more likely to be a supported filesystem the next time I have to upgrade or re-install my system. Of course, GFS should definitely go into any product targeted at high-end servers or clusters (well, once the GFS team considers it `stable'). They'll both work on anything, but Reiser will be best suited for PCs, workstations, and individual servers.

Hmm.. I see that I said `Palm II' instead of `Palm III' yesterday. Actually, it's a Palm IIIx... (Why didn't they call 'em `Palm ][' and `Palm ]|[' ? That would have been cool ;-)

Posted by mike at 03:25 PM Central | Old Advogato Diary , Politics , Software , The Media | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 11, 2000

Advogato Entry 24


The 12 Coins Problem: It's really easy if you have a balance with 3 platters. You can even do it in two weighings..

Oooh.. here we go -- ``The A&E guide to the late summer big studio movie toilet. Approach with caution.'' Space Cowboys: How bad is it? James Garner seems to be edging his way off the set. The Replacements: Survival Tip: You won't. Take strychnine.

Sometimes, the campus newspaper just rocks ;-)

Anyway, I'm really impressed with the level of political debate in the US these days (and it's amusing to watch the coverage of the Reform Party convention ;-). I think Nader (and the others too) is really getting people talking. Of course, this begs the question -- how many people are going to be in the debates? I remember that there were some debates already, just involving the Democratic and Republican candidates. IIRC, the Republicans had 5 candidates, and the moderator was making a valiant but vain attempt to keep order. That many candidates is very difficult to handle. But I think that if you let in Nader, it's only right to let in others, namely Buchanan (who I hate, just so you know) and Browne (and there are probably others). This is an interesting year, though the primary candidates are very un-interesting (IMHO).

The electricians are apparently going to take quite a while to get the three new 30A plugs in. They managed to do the conduit for one of the plugs yesterday. That's about it. Oh well, we plugged our Sun E425R into some regular jacks for the time being. Still crunching Seti@home packets instead of serving an Oracle DB. We still don't know when that will happen. We don't know what tools will be used in the database project, so the Oracle people won't come and install the db. I have to help research Java development environments. Oh fun.

Finally moved some data over and started using my 60 GB drive. I'm not sure how well ReiserFS is doing it's job, but the drive is extremely quiet. Nice. At work, I'm still torturing myself with an 800x600 display. I think this is part of the reason why I'm having trouble getting work done -- I can't get enough stuff on the screen at once to see what I'm doing.

Enough rambling. Time to do some work.

August 12, 2000

Advogato Entry 26


Well, I actually got out of the apartment today. Went `guy-shopping' with a friend of mine. To the computer shop (my friend needed a replacement 3" fan) and up to Best Buy. I got some music. Would have gotten more, but I'm always scared that I'll get crappy music. I suppose I can exercise the availability of Napster (et al) a little bit more..

This flap over Lieberman as V.P. nominee is confusing to me. I guess it'd be a bigger deal to me if I was Jewish, but I could really care less. The only interesting aspect of it is how it may affect US involvement in any Mid-East peace deals. Besides, Nader has a woman as his Veep nominee. She's a Native American -- Mississippi Band of the White Earth Anishinaabeg. Beat that with a stick.

As for open source stuff, I think I need to take a look at RIMPS and any other decent music playlist software. I need to set up something for my system that makes it easier to find music in my expanding collection (though I can't say I have many many gigabytes of it yet, though I now have the available disk space to start doing so). I did make a simple attempt of my own with PHP and MySQL, though I haven't really played with it for a few months..

August 19, 2000

Advogato Entry 32


I ended up riding my bike out to a theater in a nearby suburb in order to watch The Cell. It was both cool and not. Like with many movies, I'd already seen many of the best visuals in the ads, which was disappointing. Also, you could tell that Jennifer Lopez was trying to hide her accent, which was just annoying..

I remember that I had read too many reviews of The Matrix before seeing it, which spoiled much of the experience. It was still a cool movie, but I wasn't as surprised by what happened as everyone else was.

Seen on the web: LAPD Harassed Philly Mayor's Aide. ``We don't treat our guests in Philadelphia this way,'' the Mayor said. A lot of people would disagree.

I'm wondering if/when Kuro5hin will be resurrected. It was an interesting site.

There are a lot of different methods for distributing news and information popping up on the Internet. You have the traditional media, where the editors tell reporters what to do. You have places like Slashdot, where individuals tell editors about interesting things they've seen. Then there are places like Kuro5hin, where news is moderated before being released to everyone. Advogato requires a certain level of trust for people to be able to post news. The Independent Media Centers largely have an open policy where basically anyone can post.

In my opinion, a combination of these techniques is required. Certain reporters could gain trust and basically post whatever they want. People who are less trusted probably need to go through at least a thin layer of moderation and filtering. Perhaps everything should go through a kuro5hin-style moderation. Then again, it may be hard for the trust levels to work appropriately. For instance, if you have a general news site that suddenly starts getting input from a well-known reporter from a well-known newspaper, would they instantly become trusted and able to post anything? I suppose it depends on the audience.

If the readers get much of their news from corporate media outlets, they'd probably mark the reporter much higer than if the readers were more interested in the independent media.

Just some random thoughts..

Posted by mike at 07:31 AM Central | Movies , Old Advogato Diary , Politics , The Media | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 25, 2000

Advogato Entry 37


Well, I haven't been keeping up with this. Being sick for a month doesn't help things.. Oh well, I'll have to see if I can get back on this horse.

I totally screwed up a CSci assignment today. I was supposed to download a Word(!) document, fill in relevant parts, and hand it in.. Oh well, it's still early in the year, and I still have plenty of time to make up for stupid mistakes. Hopefully, I'm done with stupid mistakes for this semester.

I don't know what it is, but school really seems to take a lot out of me. Even if I don't do anything (or maybe it's because I don't do anything), I get really tired. I should really get into an exercise routine (heh, like that'll happen).

The exciting event over the weekend was that Ralph Nader had a fairly large rally here on Friday. I paid my $7 to get in. Apparently, 12000 people is (or was as of Friday, they're still having rallies) the largest gathering of individuals paying to listen to a Presidential candidate. Not that it means we gave a whole lot of money -- they got about $110k (entry cost plus donations once in the door). Still, it's a much better deal for me than those $25k/plate dinners that some candidates have (*cough* *cough*).

Anyway, I'm having all sorts of fun bashing Sun here at work. We can't figure out how to use the 100Base-T network card in our new server. Fun. My boss had hooked up our tape drive to the system without realizing it only ran at 10Mb. Our backups are running several times slower these days.

As always, I keep hoping that I'll get motivated to help out on some open source projects. Someday it'll happen..

Found out about a semi-new TV channel in town, KSTC 45. There have been all of these strange `Hi, I'm Gregory and I'm 45' posters and ads all over town. It's kind of neat, as it is supposed to be an independent station with a local focus. Unfortunately, they're owned by Hubbard Broadcasting, a company that owns about 10 stations (and they at least used to have a DBS network). It's just hard to call a station like that `independent' (of course, they mean that it will not have a network affiliation

Posted by mike at 12:39 PM Central | Decision 2000 , Old Advogato Diary , Politics , Ralph Nader , School , TV , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 06, 2001

Advogato Entry 229

I'm a citizen of the United States, I was born here and I'll probably die here, but I'm feeling more and more that I don't belong here. I don't support the military action taking place these days. I didn't vote for the President we currently have, and he's not getting my sympathy for having fallen into the situation we have these days.

I'm still proud of the fact I voted for Nader. Yes, I actually did think about the Middle East before I voted. Yeah, it's crappy that the US's current voting system made the last presidential election a big mess. I hope more people will work to fix it..

I feel I have little voice these days as the rights of me and my friends are slowly being eaten away. Still, I have to try do to a little. I'm going to try to see if I can come up with decent reasons why the Microsoft settlement sucks. After that, I'm planning on working with others to try to put together a summit on Intellectual Property (and some related subjects).

I've felt stressed about these things for a while, but I've avoided thinking about them because it's so hard for one person to change things. It's not impossible, but it really helps to have the support of others.

This leads me back to the feeling of being in the wrong place. I feel like I'm in a tiny minority. And, well, apparently I am (if you watch the polls out there). I'm really suspicious that the pollsters are somehow skewing numbers. I just can't believe the numbers that I'm seeing.

And, well, since I haven't heard anyone say it for a while..

Screw you, President Shrub..

Posted by mike at 02:49 PM Central | Law , Old Advogato Diary , Politics , Ralph Nader , September 11th , War | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 21, 2001

Advogato Entry 239

bjf: All I can say is that most Americans are ignorant of the situation. The only coverage I've seen of it is in the print news (well, whatever shows up in Yahoo's most-emailed and most-viewed content). Then again, I've been watching TV news much less (usually only The Daily Show, if anything).. Amazingly, I'm still the most-informed person I know. Then again, college students tend to have plenty of other things to worry about. At the U of MN, a very large number of students work -- I guess the administration believes it's to the point of distraction, as the U has something like a 50% 6-year graduation rate.. I can't speak for any other communitites.

There are people who take an interest in that stuff, though. It's not something I think too much about. IIRC, Nader got somewhere around 20% of the votes on-campus in last year's presidential race. But I suppose that doesn't prove anything.


My brother and I came home yesterday. We brought the car up in early November, expecting to just keep it a week. I thought we'd have too many Snow Emergencies for the car to be easy to keep around, but only one big snow came (and that was just a few days after the car went up). Still bare ground in Minneapolis.

My mom mentioned that one of the instructors I had in confirmation class spoke up at a church service the other day to voice disapproval of bombing Afghanistan since, well, the Bible says faithful people should be peacemakers and shouldn't condone violence. I'm not really a religous person myself, though I agree with that idea.. At any rate, he's been known to voice his opinions pretty loudly in the past. I guess the pastoral staff wrote a long response in the subsequent church newsletter...

There are sane people in this world, just most of them are hiding :-p


What the?!? dammit..

Posted by mike at 09:38 AM Central | Comedy , Daily Show , Old Advogato Diary , Politics , Ralph Nader , School , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 09, 2002

Advogato Entry 271

Should really watch C-SPAN more often. I've seen some interesting discussions about civil liberties going on in the last few days.

It sounds like people are starting to wake up, looking past the war propaganda out there these days and starting to really talk about the laws that have been passed, and what might get passed in the future.

I read Michael Moore's book, Stupid White Men, the other day. It's pretty good, pretty funny. I wrote a review of it, though I don't know if it'll show up anywhere.. The book is a bestseller, though, so hopefully this means things are looking up.

I'll be busy tomorrow trying to figure out how to write an OpenGL program in my Computer Graphics course. I really didn't give myself enough time to get it done...

Posted by mike at 11:09 PM Central | Law , Michael Moore , Old Advogato Diary , Politics , School , TV , War | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 11, 2002

Advogato Entry 276

Well, I was hoping SpamAssassin would reduce my junk mail to zero, but it's still managing an 88% hit rate. Razor was probably only getting about 1/4 to 1/3 of the junk mail coming in to my mailbox. I get a lot of spam where there's some randomly-generated string in the message body, so comparing MD5 checksums doesn't work against that..

So cool that all it takes is an `apt-get install' on Debian (testing) to get both Vipul's Razor and SpamAssassin..

My computer graphics project got pushed back a few days, which is good, but I really need to make sure I use the time, rather than waste it.

Glad to see that the CBDTPA is pretty much being criticized from every direction. Even more pleasing is that people actually wrote into their congresscritters about it! I wrote to my representatives recently, but I was criticizing the idea of reducing restrictions on how many TV/Radio stations can be owned in a market, and I also threw in a few bits on how adding copy protection capabilities to HDTV sets is bad..

I'd like to get into a habit of writing my reps both in Washington and in the Minnesota congress on a regular basis. I haven't checked if my state reps have e-mail, though..

Posted by mike at 08:02 AM Central | Internet , Law , Old Advogato Diary , Politics , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 25, 2002

Advogato Entry 282

Did you know that "In God We Trust" is the national motto of the USA? I thought it was just something we put on our currency.

Posted by mike at 07:55 AM Central | Old Advogato Diary , Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 15, 2002

Advogato Entry 287

Every so often, I come back to thinking about Microsoft's finances. Their accounting techniques have been widely used, most prominently at Enron (or so I hear). Couple that with the new licensing schemes they're coming out with, and I think they've found a recipe for their own demise.

There's this Bill Parish guy that has said that MS is actually losing money these days. I'm not sure I believe him, though -- his grammar and spelling is too poor to be very credible ;-) He also has some ideas that stretch the imagination, such as a Microsoft pyramid scheme that caused a global downturn in the economy. However, if it's true that MS is losing money, that could be one of the reasons why they're changing licensing methods.

From the reading I've done, it sounds like MS pays people with stock too much. Apparently, the SEC doesn't require a company to deduct payment in stock from their profit numbers. If you take that out, Parish says that the company is in the red.

Microsoft has a lot of money in the bank, but it might be to cover their ass when employees start cashing in. The company has been criticized by people like Ralph Nader for not paying dividends to their stockholders (of course, I guess Nader is mostly just annoyed because MS isn't paying very much in taxes).

Personally, I figure Microsoft will probably stick it out for quite a while. They might go down in five or ten years, probably after Bill Gates has made a graceful exit from the company.

In the wake of Enron, I bet the accountants at MS are busily working to find a way to hide financial issues that doesn't look like they're hiding something..

Or maybe I'm just paranoid..

Posted by mike at 09:31 AM Central | Corporations , Law , Old Advogato Diary , Politics , Ralph Nader | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 11, 2002

Advogato Entry 293

Presidents are no fun.

Posted by mike at 01:06 PM Central | Old Advogato Diary , Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 28, 2003


Well, I've pretty much categorized all of my entries from September 11th, 2001 onward. I was just making a Sept. 11 category, but I kept running into other messages that needed to be categorized, and I did a little over a hundred of them. I still have to do a good pass through the approximately 190 messages that are before that day.

I think the events of that day have had repercussions that have made me less interested in posting to Advogato. Since I now have all of my stuff on my own website, I can write whatever I want, and I don't have to bend to fit the technology and open-source orientation of another site. I can say "Bush is an idiot" as often as I want ;-)

Posted by mike at 07:52 PM Central | Old Advogato Diary , Politics , September 11th , War | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 29, 2003

The $7.50 Questions

Wil Wheaton posted a wacky entry about a Democratic National Committee survey he received in the mail. Go and take a look, it's got a pretty awesome punchline. Yes, it's funny because it's true.

Wil also mentioned that he think's the nation's gun laws go too far, which I agree with sometimes. One big thing that sticks out in my mind is that we have the Second Amendment, then a bunch of laws contradicting it. I think it's a good idea to avoid letting mentally unstable people own/use guns, though it's hard to draw a line between a normal person and an "unstable" one. People with criminal histories should probably be watched more as well. Anyway, I guess that's not why I'm writing this entry.

He also mentioned that he'd vote for Howard Dean if the election was held today. I don't know much about him, so I'll have to look. I was very impressed with a speech I saw Dennis Kucinich give on C-SPAN one day. He was very Wellstone-esque, which might explain why I liked the speech.

Posted by mike at 01:26 AM Central | Decision 2004 , Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Candidate This!

Got a recommendation for voting for Howard Dean in my e-mail today. Apparently he was in St. Paul over the weekend and drew a decent crowd. Garrison Keillor even showed up.

I'd really rather wait a few more months before I start to really get into the 2004 elections. It's not even May 2003 yet! But, I think I might have to get sucked into it a bit early this time around.

Update: Couldn't find any news coverage of this, other than an announcement or two of it. There is an entry here, though..

Update: Found a handy page of 2004 Presidential Candidates, for anyone who's looking.

Posted by mike at 04:08 PM Central | Decision 2004 , Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 30, 2003

Ain't Got None

If you ain't got no lovin' in Alabama, you ain't gettin' no lovin' at all

Wonder if the Sunday Night Sex Show is legal there ;-)

Alabama Votes Against Legalizing Sex Toys Wed Apr 30, 4:42 AM ET

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Sex toys are still against the law in Alabama, at least as far as the Alabama Legislature is concerned.

The Alabama House voted against a bill Tuesday that would have removed a ban on sexual devices, such as vibrators, from the state's obscenity law. The ban on sexual devices was added at the last minute when the obscenity law passed the Legislature in 1998.

A federal district judge in Birmingham has twice ruled that the ban is unconstitutional. The first ruling was overturned by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the second ruling has been appealed to the appeals court.

The sponsor of the bill, Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, said because of the court ruling, the obscenity law is unenforceable as long as it contains the ban on sex toys.

"All this does is make our obscenity law constitutional," Rogers said.

With little serious discussion, the House voted 37-28 to leave the sex toys ban in state law, leaving Rogers standing at the microphone shaking his head.

"What you just did is make our obscenity law illegal. You voted for obscenity," Rogers shouted at lawmakers.

Posted by mike at 11:00 AM Central | Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

That's My Bush!

Yes! They posted the Bush vs. Bush debate on The Daily Show's website. This has got to be one of the harshest things anyone has done to Bush for ages. Here's Lisa Rein's version.

Posted by mike at 05:05 PM Central | Comedy , Daily Show , Politics , September 11th , TV , The Media , War | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 01, 2003

Hello Kettle? This is Pot..

Sometimes they annoy the hell out of me and ask me to join their cult, but other times Greenpeace is awesome.

They're handing out decks of cards to a meeting about the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Image from Ananova

Posted by mike at 02:10 PM Central | Politics , War | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 02, 2003

How to Get Bored in One Easy Step

The first debate between Democratic presidential hopefuls will take place tomorrow. I'm sure it'll be live on C-SPAN or C-SPAN 2, but I can't figure out when yet. Supposedly, ABC will tape it, but nobody knows when stations will play it. Some might run it in the evening after the news, or possibly shove it into a late-late-late-night time slot like 12:30 or 1:30.

Posted by mike at 07:28 PM Central | Decision 2004 , Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 23, 2003


Flag of the United States of America

For most of the past two years, I've felt that the flag was taken away from me. It's a slight shadow of what my grandmother felt when the Nazis invaded Norway and took over the country.

Hmm. I guess I'd better stop that train of thought before invoking Godwin's Law on myself.

Anyway, the nationalistic fervor finally seems to be dying down. That makes me feel better. Seeing the flag tended to disgust me—especially when mounted on big black SUVs. That sight has slowly dwindled as the nation returns to normal levels of apathy.

Well, perhaps I'm not very different than anyone else. I mentioned in a distant journal entry that a small flag poking out of the side of a building near the Carlson School on the morning of September 11th was a comforting sight for me. Local primaries were being held that day, and the flag was advertising that people could vote there. A little sign of normalcy.

Later in the day, I decided to wander to Dinkytown to see if I could buy a flag somewhere, but I couldn't find one. I'd had the image in my head of walking home carrying the flag over my shoulder, the colors flapping in the breeze as I walked home down University Avenue. I'm not sure what would have really happened if I'd found one, though.

By that evening and the next day, the flag started to represent something abnormal, a discontinuity in the rules by which our society had been governed. The flag often appeared in association with “In God We Trust” and “United We Stand.” In a sense, those are nice sentiments, but they really seemed to go against what the flag itself stood for. The 13 original states and the 50 we have now don't always get along. The flag is in some ways an acknowledgement of that fact.

If I had mounted a flag in our apartment at the time, I wonder what slogan might have gone along with it. Probably nothing at first, but I probably would have needed to differentiate our mindset from that of the others nearby. E pluribus unum could work (I feel it would be less antagonistic than “United We Stand”), but would probably just be a cop-out. “Truth and Justice” would be more along the lines of what I would like to say, but “justice” can be a messy term (and so can “truth” for that matter). “Truth, Peace, and Justice”? Maybe, but that would probably just make me sound like a hippie ;-)

Anyway, the point is that I want my flag back. I think it's time again to see the positive things it represents rather than terrible events of the past.

Hmm.. Some flag regulations I found say that the flag can't be used for advertising. Maybe I can sue Fox News Channel ;-)

Posted by mike at 12:53 PM Central | Politics , September 11th , TV , The Media | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 18, 2003


Hmm. Which is the bigger lie?

“I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”


“Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

When you live in a culture where politicians care more about the first one than the second—going so far as to impeach someone—there must be serious problems with the way the system works..

Posted by mike at 11:49 AM Central | Politics | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

July 19, 2003

Blame Canada

So, some Americans are jumping the border and heading to Canada. I've actually lightly debated this once or twice, but I think Minnesota is just about as far north as I'd ever want to get. Winnipeg? Nah. Maybe Toronto ;-)

However, I think the United States has shifted about as far as it can go to the conservative side. A blowback seems to be in the works (hopefully that's not just my imagination).

Once I finally get to the point of being an independent individual, I might think about this some more, but I suppose my time would be better spent campaigning for change here.

At least living in this area of Minneapolis provides a moderate buffer to the conservative-ness of the rest of the country...

Posted by mike at 07:18 PM Central | Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 25, 2003

I Try to Help People And All They Want to Do Is Save My Life

Went home after work today, and even got to leave half an hour early. I wasn't really able to do much anyway, since outside forces were at work to prevent me from getting my work done.

I was planning to meet up with a friend and go see a movie, but I guess she made other plans since she didn't hear from me soon enough. Oh well, something Sunday afternoon instead, I guess.

Saw T3 with my brother this evening. Probably about as good as a sequel sequel can get. Not the best movie ever made, but it actually unfolded to be a reasonably interesting storyline.

Oh, my brother repeated the saying that the Terminator is the character that Arnold was born to play, since it doesn't require any real emotion. Seeing the unfolding political situation in California, I figure he might not be available should another movie in the series come out. So, I'm thinking Al Gore…

Anyway, I'm probably going to go see Johnny English tomorrow with the family, and will see something with my friend on Sunday. Movie weekend…I guess I can stand some entertainment…

Posted by mike at 11:39 PM Central | Family , Movies , Politics , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 26, 2003

In Desperate Need of a President With a Neck Bigger Than His Head

Urg. I keep reading things about Howard Dean. So far, he seems to be the Democratic candidate that I like the best for 2004, but I still know next to nothing about his positions. Still, we're only halfway through 2003. I've got a while yet to start to care about it too much.

From some news reports, it sounds like he doesn't really stick to one side in the political spectrum, which seems good to me. If I don't totally agree with a politician (and who ever does?), I'd like him/her to have the capability to make rational decisions, which Dean seems to be able to do, but I still don't know enough.

Posted by mike at 10:35 PM Central | Decision 2004 , Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 28, 2003

How Much You Wanna Bet…


This is disturbing

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon is setting up a stock-market style system in which investors would bet on terror attacks, assassinations and other events in the Middle East. Defense officials hope to gain intelligence and useful predictions while investors who guessed right would win profits.

Posted by mike at 10:18 PM Central | Politics , War | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 09, 2003

The Glut of Irony

Remember the futures market for predicting terrorist actions that the Pentagon wanted to start up a few weeks ago? Some people from MIT, Yale, NYU, and others are now setting up a similar system to predict what strange things our government is going to do next. They have some pretty damning issues as suggestions.

I'm in Byron now. I need to go out sometime to buy a gift for my mom's birthday.

Posted by mike at 09:05 AM Central | Family , Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 15, 2003


Heh. I like this story.

The Sci-Fi Channel in the United States has cancelled an Arnold Schwarzenegger day after the star announced his intention to run for governor of California.

Instead of Terminator 2, The Running Man and Conan the Destroyer, viewers will see a day of California disaster movies.

Emphasis mine.

Posted by mike at 08:55 PM Central | Politics , TV , The Media | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 06, 2003

Think Dunk Tank

I got Think Tank by Blur the other day. The first time I listened to it, I thought it was amazing. The second time, not so much. However, I can't seem to stay away from the melodies and sound mixes of the disc for very long.

“Try Blur—It's Highly Addictive™”

For some reason, I really like the song “Faint” by Linkin Park (I must be losing it). I imagine the rest of the songs on that disc are probably not to my liking, so I must spend some time compiling one of those P2P clients to find out for certain.

The program I had been using a few months ago has become pretty difficult to set up and use, so I haven't been downloading much music for most of this year. Well, plus I'm weak-willed when authority figures tell me I'm doing something wrong…

Yeah, I'd never make it as President.

I totally fubared a computer today at work. Well, it's not really fubared. Truly destroying a Linux box takes effort (hmm… though there are a few commands I know&hellip). I managed to put a lot of files in a place where they shouldn't be—residing in place of other files.

“Oops, I mounted that partition again?” Bah.

On a few random political points:

The only thing I'll say about the impending California recall election is that Gray Davis makes me think of Johnny Carson impersonating a politician. And it creeps me out.

Israel attacked Syria the other day. Everyone was pissed off by that, except not. Syria is one of those countries that the U.S. administration has discussed in the past with potential military action in mind.

Wherever they got this reinvented idea of manifest destiny, I'll never know.

Posted by mike at 11:06 PM Central | Internet , Music , Politics , Software , War , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 31, 2003

Do You Know Any Slow Or Special People?

Staying up late flipping through the channels, I came across some video on one of the public access channels of Al Franken when he came to town a few weeks ago.

So, you're asking, what would Stuart Smalley have to say to President Bush? Well, to get started:

Hello Me.
I'm President Bush
I haven't created any new jobs
But that's okay
Because I'm good enough
Smart enough
And doggone it
Almost half the people voted for me

It was mentioned that Bill O'Reilly had an odd interview on NPR. I listened to it and could tell it had been designed to be moderately confrontational, not unlike the setups that O'Reilly has on his own shows. Listening to it, I had to admit that he's pretty good at what he does, but there are inconsistencies in what he says versus reality. Towards the end of the scheduled interview period (30 minutes or so), he decides to shut down the interview, which was done via radio between two separate locations, so he only had to flip a switch. That's kind of funny, because the context of him quitting was some questioning along the lines of how he shuts out or shoots down any negative criticism so that he always gets the last word.

In fairness, you can't believe every word you hear from Al Franken's mouth. He's a comedian and a satirist. On the other hand, you can't believe every word you hear from Bill O'Reilly because he's a lying bastard. ;-)

Posted by mike at 01:45 PM Central | Books , News , Politics , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 03, 2003


This just struck me as funny:

Usually, a picture is worth 1000 words, but this needs a little description. Here's the Associated Press text that went with it on Yahoo!

Adult film actors Ron Jeremy and Mary 'Mary Carey' Cook pose on the set of their adult film 'Run Mary Run,' Sunday, Nov. 2, 2003, in Los Angeles. The adult film is based on her actual run for California governor. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Posted by mike at 11:47 PM Central | Movies , Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 09, 2003

Border Bound

This morning, I watched a paid commercal program on an Iowa channel starring—wait for it—Howard Dean! Having lived in Minnesota all my life, I hadn't noticed the repercussions of being in one of those lucky states where they have Presidential primaries. Minnesota selects candidates through caucuses instead. (Heh. Caucus. Makes me think of the Simpsons episode where all of the kids get stuck at school because of snow.) I'd hate to have to sift through many half-hour paid ads…Hmm. Kind of reminds me of Ross Perot.

Coming back, I drove a different way to Minneapolis today. I usually go up some back roads to meet up with U.S. 52 to take me to St. Paul, but I had been reminded that there are some windmills just a few miles west of my hometown. Since I hadn't seen them yet, I went west on U.S. 14 toward Owatonna, where I'd take I-35 north.

I was expecting just a few windmills, thinking that the most I'd see would be about five. Amazingly enough, there were at least five times that many all out on this one stretch of flat farmland. I imagine it might be difficult to build too many more out there, since it's right next to a civil airport.

This morning, I read a story in the paper talking about the legislature changing the definitions of “renewable” energy sources. Apparently natural gas is a renewable resource now—not entirely false, since it can be captured from manure and garbage heaps, but still a pretty screwy concept. Coal is also considered to be “clean,” even though the best you could say of it is that it's “cleaner,” but it depends on what you're comparing…

Anyway, the story goes that we might not see new windmills and other “green” energy sources pop up as much, since the government support is getting whittled away.

Posted by mike at 06:33 PM Central | Car , Politics , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 20, 2003

Assume Deposition

I'm pretty sure that the change of government in Iraq is going to follow a similar pattern to what has usually happened when the United States has deposed someone in power in hopes of creating a new ally. There's a guy named Ahmed Chalabi that has been pulling strings for over a decade, trying to convince the rest of the world to get rid of Saddam Hussein. He was one of the most important members of the Iraqi National Congress, a sort of government-in-exile that actually existed in the UK, but supposedly spoke for the Iraqi people. About 10 years ago, Chalabi formed a friendship with current Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, who was a professor at the time.

Through the years, Chalabi brought forth all sorts of information about what was going on inside Iraq. However, much of the information is sketchy at best, even though some governments took it at face value. Wolfowitz eventually came into a position of power, and was preaching the story his friend was telling. I don't know exactly why Wolfowitz liked the story so much, but I believe he had his own reasons for wanting to get rid of Hussein, and Chalabi's stories were good at convincing people.

Of course, we now see the end result of all of that campaigning: Iraq is now occupied by the U.S., and Chalabi is a prominent member of the transitional government there.

The thing that concerns me is that Chalabi doesn't seem to be an entirely ethical man. There are allegations of fabricated evidence regarding chemical and nuclear weapons. He supposedly has a criminal past. Yet, he is widely seen to be a likely candidate to head any new Iraqi government. They say that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Considering that Chalabi is already a bit iffy, I imagine we'll see a new example of that truism in no time.

Posted by mike at 04:33 PM Central | News , Politics , War | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

By the Numbers

According to a study by the Program on International Policy Attitudes and Knowledge Networks, only 20% of the viewers of Fox News Channel are in touch with reality. In fact, none of the commercial TV news outlets can claim that over half of their audience knows the truth: CBS rates 30%, ABC 39%, and NBC and CNN are tied at 45%. Print media works out to 53%, and people who tune in to NPR and PBS rate at 77%.

Okay, it's wrong to say that these people are totally in touch with reality, but they did manage to correctly determine three things:

  1. The majority of the world's population did not favor the U.S.-led war on Iraq
  2. No substantial connections have been found between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda
  3. Weapons of mass destruction have not been found in Iraq

Anyway, there's more info in this poorly HTML-ized press release. Here's a nicer table of the data from that page:

NetworkNo MisperceptionsOne or More
Posted by mike at 07:56 PM Central | News , Politics , September 11th , TV , The Media , War | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 26, 2003

Ficus for President

I don't think I've seen an image more deserving of a caption contest for a long time:

“That's a mighty funny looking doggy!”

Posted by mike at 11:09 AM Central | Comedy , Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 04, 2003


Really, I've got nothing, but I have some random quotes and things that have slowly accumulated around my computer.

O cruel fate
To be thusly boned
Ask not for whom the bone bones
It bones for thee
—Bender, Futurama
I may not do much on this planet, but David Blaine showed me I could do less
—Lewis Black, commenting on David Blaine's London stunt
September 11th was a faith-based initiative
—not sure, possibly Al Franken
Posted by mike at 09:04 PM Central | Comedy , Politics , September 11th , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 13, 2003

Name Your Price

Heh. Apparently, I'm a drug dealer (okay, prescription drugs). And Canadian. Who'd've thunk it?

Bah. Way too many Mike Hickses in this world. At least my name isn't Ben Johnson.

Update: Ack! Two in one day—I'm just listening to a guy named Mike Hicks from the JPL playing Wait Wait Don't Tell Me. So weird.

Posted by mike at 08:46 AM Central | Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Toon Time

Two completely unrelated comics:


Posted by mike at 09:20 AM Central | Comedy , Politics , War | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 15, 2003

Uvula of Mass Destruction

Heh. The Daily Show made this joke today too.

Posted by mike at 10:59 PM Central | Daily Show , Politics , War | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 20, 2003

Shattered Glass

Does this work?  Didn't think soOkay, I'm a week late on this one. It turns out that, while Bush was making a statement about the capture of Saddam Hussein, a technician at CNN flipped the wrong switch and put a test message on the screen. Found the image here.

Update 12/21 3:26 AM: Whoa. Maybe we didn't actually capture Saddam. Well, we did, but he may have already been captured. Maybe. Then again, it must be true, since it's 3:26.

Posted by mike at 12:38 PM Central | Comedy , Politics , TV , The Media , War | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 08, 2004

Dead Presidents

Well, my family went to the funeral service for my step-grandfather yesterday. They had a lot of people show up both from my grandmother's family and from his first wife's family. I suppose that goes to show that if you want a lot of people at your funeral, you should get divorced ;-)

So, there were lots of people I didn't know. I vaguely knew my grandfather's kids and grandkids, and there were some old friends of my grandmother who showed up that I had met at one point or another. Mostly I just stood around, then smiled and nodded when people told me I looked like my uncle (except for the lack of curly hair).

I was happy to see my aunt, who usually visits for Christmas but had decided to stay in New Mexico this year. My mom had been up in Fargo since Friday, but my dad, brother, and I just stayed Tuesday night.

Anyway, we headed home around 5 in separate cars. My brother and I were split, so we could trade off in the driver's seat with our parents. We met for supper about an hour later, and then stayed in close formation on the highway until my brother and my mom pulled off to a rest stop.

My dad and I mostly listened to NPR last night as we drove. For one of the shows, a guy who researches the loopholes in the tax system came on. There was discussion of how the people who get taxed the most are in the middle class to middle-upper class range of people earning $50-500,000 a year. Below that, people have lower taxes (which seems pretty fair to me), and above that, a lot of tricks emerge for hiding money away from tax laws. I guess my memory is getting a little fuzzy, but I think he said that there were 2400 people last year who earned an average of $170 million, and paid no taxes. Lots of other people can defer taxes for decades. They may pay the actual dollar amount that they owe, but it ends up being much less significant because of inflation.

A lot of discussion also centered around companies that use offshore tax shelters. I think people and businesses that do that are a big reason why it's hard to balance the Federal budget. The guy on the radio mentioned that Ingersoll-Rand, a company that makes jackhammers and other construction/destruction equipment has a mailbox in Bermuda that serves as their headquarters. They pay $26,000 a year in fees for that, but they don't pay any taxes on their income here. Just because it's a name I've seen a lot around campus, I was thinking of mentioning this in a letter to the editor in the Daily—I figure that contractors to the University shouldn't be supporting companies that are based offshore. I think the U already restricts contractors from using materials from certain companies that use child labor, etc., but my memory might be failing me. Companies shouldn't be punished for using equipment they already own, but I wouldn't want the money that the U spends on construction to end up on some unnamed Pacific island…

Now, today, there are a bunch of stories popping up on Google News discussing a new International Monetary Fund report telling us what we already know but often ignore—the U.S. is deeply in debt and running a large deficit. My growing opinion of many Republicans (and some Democrats, I'm sure) is that they are really anarchists in disguise. They pass laws designed to reduce the income to the Federal government and then spend more money on extravagant defense initiatives. As the guy on NPR was saying—and as the IMF is implying—eventually, the U.S. won't be able to borrow money anymore. Nobody knows when that will be or what the consequences will be, but it won't be fun. I think that a lot of things we take for granted will break down.

If you think Y2K was a scary proposition, just wait.

Posted by mike at 12:28 PM Central | Corporations , Family , Law , Money , Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 13, 2004

O Give Me a Home Where the Electors Roam

While making my way to the University's job website earlier today, I saw a little blurb about the Humphrey Institute's 2004 Election Project. Dunno if they really have anything interesting, but I plan to peek in there as time progresses…

Posted by mike at 03:28 PM Central | Decision 2004 , Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 14, 2004

Red Green Blue

So President Bush says we're going to Mars…eventually. It's probably close to what would have happened anyway, though this Moon-as-waypoint strategy is a new thing I hadn't heard until recently.

Actually, you'll recall that there was discussion of Bush promising to go to Mars just after the Columbia disaster last year. I'm sure that negotiations had been going on between the White House and NASA even before that happened, so you're looking at years of work coming to fruition today. It sounds like it's not a whole lot different than what happened with JFK when he promised to go to the Moon, though it's still quite an expansion on what took place back then.

I know that there were plenty of negotiations that happened before Kennedy made his announcement. In fact, I believe NASA actually gave dates in the range of something like 1967 to 1971 for getting someone to the moon, not actually on the surface. But, to make his 1961 speech sound better, JFK said, “before this decade is out,” which, in the technical eyes of NASA, gave them until the end of 1970 (decades actually go 1-10 rather than 0-9 ;-)

So, you can be sure that there's a lot of number fudging going on this time around as well. The news reports say that we've now got over 10 years just to get back to the Moon. A much more leisurely pace this time—the right way to do it, actually. There's a lot of work that doesn't need to be done this time around. In 1961, most American rockets could barely get off the ground without exploding intentionally (self-destruct) or otherwise (oops).

This go around, we have time: major pars can be tested properly, there's less need to just use One Big Rocket, etc. The next question is, will we have money? Uh, well, uh… You need money? How 'bout 1-976-HOT-NASA? 1-900-NASA-ASS?

Ack! I just visualized naked geeks (i.e. me). Big mistake.

So, it might not actually happen due to budgetary reasons. Still, NASA knew even back in the '60s that it would be better to take a slow approach to getting to the moon. It's safer and more cost-effective. If it does turn out that Americans go there again and then head to Mars, things could look very different than they did in 1969. It's possible that astronauts will be shuttled up to the International Space Station, then get board another spacecraft parked there to get to the moon.

Maybe Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick were just off by 10 years. Maybe.

Oh, and another note on the political side of things. This will by no means make me even consider voting to re-elect the President. In this case, he's just a figurehead explaining and endorsing plans put together by smart people who work somewhere else. I support the idea of space exploration, and would be happy to see someone on Mars in my lifetime. However, such exploration can't be allowed to go forward if, in the future, we find ourselves with the same problems in our country's political, social, and physical infrastructure that we have today.

Posted by mike at 04:03 PM Central | Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 16, 2004

Around the World in Eighty Seconds

A triumvirate (a la Douglas Adams) of unusual news articles have piqued my interest today:

Bush Booed at Martin Luther King Gravesite via Yahoo! News:

“Bush go home” and “peace not war” the predominantly black crowd of protesters shouted from behind a barrier of buses…

Brain Sandwiches Still on Some Menus via Yahoo!:

“I think I'll have hardening of the arteries before I have mad cow disease,” said Cecelia Coan, 40, picking up a brain sandwich to go at the Hilltop Inn during her lunch hour. “This is better than snail, better than sushi, better than a lot of different delicacies.”

CBS Cries Foul on PETA, MoveOn Super Bowl Ads also via Yahoo!:

“We just want to be able to present our jiggly women,” said Lisa Lange, spokeswoman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, asking to join advertisers like beer brewers who has boosted sales with images of scantily-clad women.

Sci-Fi Scribes Like Mars Plan from Wired News:

“I'd been afraid that this would be some kind of one-off, Apollo-type stunt. But it's not that at all,” he said. “A long-term, large-scale, open-ended space project—it's like watching a science-fiction movie. It's like the sort of thing I'd always imagined.”

And, countering, Mars Mission a Trojan Horse? from Wired again:

[Space historian Howard] McCurdy noted that the current President Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, similarly proposed going to the moon and Mars in 1989. However, that plan fell apart when NASA came back with a jaw-dropping $400 billion price tag.

The current President Bush only signed on to a new moon-Mars plan after assurances from NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe that the agency had returned to being the can-do outfit that sent men to the moon in the 1960s, McCurdy said.

Update: I don't know how many of my friends have been watching The Daily Show this week, but there was some weirdness with Presidential candidate Carol Moseley Braun. She went on the show Wednesday night (I don't know exactly when htey tape, but it's afternoon/evening, I'm sure), and did a pretty good job. Also that day, word leaked out that she was planning to drop out of the race. I haven't been able to figure out exactly when she officially quit, but it's really weird that she stayed to tape the show…

Posted by mike at 12:04 PM Central | Decision 2004 , Food , Politics , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 06, 2004

Man of Steel

After an American Experience episode about streamliners aired a few days ago, I've had a renewed interest in high-speed rail in the U.S. It turns out that some of the first fast trains ran between Chicago and the Twin Cities. For the inaugural run, two identical trainsets ran on parallel tracks, carrying sets of twins (people). The corridor was considered to be the nation's testing ground for (relatively) high-speed rail, with hundreds of people traveling the route each day on trains operated by Burlington, Chicago & North Western, and The Milwaukee Road. (Although, I guess, “testing ground” might be a misnomer of sorts, since there were faster trains elsewhere.)

Today, Amtrak's Empire Builder train runs about once a day from St. Paul to Chicago at an average of about 52 mph. I guess the record average speed for the (approximate) route was made in 1967, with a train averaging about 66 mph. The train today still gets up to about 80 in some spots, but not for very long, I guess.

Every so often, there are proposals to upgrade the line for trains probably running two to three times that speed (or more). When I was probably about 12 or so, I went to a meeting in Rochester where some discussion went on about some of the options. Obviously, the Rochester folks wanted the line to go through town, although it would probably make the route longer and whatnot. I just remember being excited because there was a little discussion of using maglevs, but I think the adults knew better than I did that maglevs are damned expensive and complicated (I just wanted to see something that was really fast.)

Posted by mike at 12:06 AM Central | Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 13, 2004

Like a Speeding Ballot

I guess Roseville is thinking of using instant runoff voting for a special election coming up soon. It's good that places around here are trying it out.

Posted by mike at 09:17 AM Central | Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Beet To a Pulp

There was some news today about ethanol in Minnesota. Some researchers at the U got a paper published in the journal Science that talks about a new reactor they made that takes in ethanol and outputs hydrogen (which is in turn used to power a fuel cell). I've read about fuel cells before, and I'd actually heard that some fuel cells have been made to process gasoline and ethanol directly, so I'm kind of curious why there's all this work going into an intermediate procedure rather than getting everything done in one shot. Still, I guess it might be more efficient overall—hybrid vehicles like diesel-electric trains and the Toyota Prius are more efficient even though they are pretty complex systems.

Also, I heard a blurb on the radio about a new ethanol plant going up somewhere in the state. I guess they're all over, so that's not really new. Still, the news got me motivated to write a letter to Governor Pawlenty. I just requested that he look into whether corn is actually the best source of ethanol around here or not. I've mentioned before that the energy economics of it seem pretty awful in some studies—luckily, more energy gets out than goes in, but in some cases it's just a hair's width… I just asked him to look into sugar beets and other things, which seem like they might be better sources of energy (though it's hard to say for certain).

Once I get back, I'll have to send notes off to people about supporting instant runoff voting (see my previous entry). I listened to a discussion on MPR today where it seemed everyone supported it except for the Secretary of State of Minnesota… Kind of odd.

Posted by mike at 10:17 AM Central | Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 16, 2004

First Come, First Serve

My grandmother brought up the story that my grandpa invented a machine to grade test papers, basically what is used today to grade SATs and whatever. It isn't actually the precursor to anything that exists today—he invented it with a college friend, but I guess they never patented it. IBM came out with something more modern years later. It wasn't brought up today, but I think my grandfather's machine used electrical contacts that rubbed the sheet of paper, and would carry a current when it passed over a pencil mark (since graphite is somewhat conductive). I think current machines tend to be optical, but I don't know.

Heh. After coming back from Wal-Mart earlier, I was thinking, “You haven't been to Wal-Mart until you've been to Wal-Mart in the South.” Of course, Kentucky is really more of a border state than anything else. Natives usually have a bit of a twang, but it's nothing too intense. Still, the screaming mothers at the store today really gave it that certain feeling. My dad and I usually don't patronize Wal-Mart, but there didn't seem to be many other options in the area.

I watched a little TV yesterday and today. Yesterday, we mostly just saw the Daytona 500. We missed Bush starting the race. That's so strange. I guess he took a lap around the track in the presidential motorcade. Sheesh. Well, I suppose it's really not hugely worse than previous presidents throwing out the first pitch at baseball games, though I guess it was considered by some to be a kickoff of campaign activities—and it took place in Florida.

So, for that reason I thought it was funny that today is Presidents Day—Bush had his day yesterday at the racetrack :-p

I've been a little concerned that I'm down here among Southern Baptists while the gay marriage debate is playing out in California. Well. I guess that's a good reason for me to not worry about it. California's still a long way away. It hasn't been brought up yet, so we'll see if that holds.

Posted by mike at 04:32 PM Central | Family , Hardware , Kentucky 2004 , Politics , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 26, 2004

What a Piece of—

Heh. For everyone who gets annoyed by the religious overtones of the president, maybe you'd like some scarily happy atheist-themed music. Listen here, about 1:25 in.

On a completely different subject: I don't know how in the world I wandered into this thought process, but I'm kind of curious about euphemisms for defecation at the moment. Actually, I'm specifically interested in polite euphemisms… I've hunted a bit with Google, but a lot of them are very sickening. As a kid, I was told to call it “big business,” which is pretty funny now that I think of it. I've never heard anyone else call it that (and no, when financial analysts talk on TV, I never get confused ;-)

Update: Oh my…

World Toilet Organization

Posted by mike at 12:49 PM Central | Corporations , Music , Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 02, 2004

Caucus, Caucus, Cau-cus!

Heh. The neighborhood DFL caucus will be held across the street from me at Marcy Open School. I suppose I should go if it's that easy (plus, it would give me a chance to see inside the school). For more info on Minnesota caucuses (and other parties), see this Strib article.

Update: Hmm. The Independence Party (which has no national affiliation) is going to use instant-runoff voting to select a presidential candidate to endorse. That might be interesting. Maybe I should go there. They're doing it at Coffman Union. Hmm. I need my exercise ;-)

Update Update: Nevermind. It's just poll that doesn't mean anything.

Posted by mike at 12:50 PM Central | Decision 2004 , Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Dude, Where's My Cult?

Agh! This is a freaky image:

Jesse Ventura talking to students

I'm more accustomed to seeing a rather hairless former governor…

Posted by mike at 04:56 PM Central | News , Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

You Can't Ignore My Techno

Well, I ended up going to the Independence Party caucus. I guess turnout was about what I expected, though more than the facilitator had planned on. I thought there would be 20 people or so, but I think he only expected about six (he did have enough material for almost everyone who attended, though). There will probably be an article in the Daily tomorrow, since a reporter from the paper was there the entire time. Later on, someone came in with a video camera, and a third person was also videotaping from the doorway after a while. One of them was making a film on the 2004 elections. I asked the other one what she was recording for, and I guess I didn't totally parse her response, but I ended up with the impression she was a journalism student. I was interviewed by the Daily reporter, so I might actually see my name in print somewhere other than the Op-Ed pages ;-)


What did we do? Well, we, uh, caucused. The organizers weren't allowed to do the presidential straw poll until 7:30 (half an hour after things officially got going). There were some proposed resolutions that were discussed, and new resolutions were proposed and voted on. A guy in the group volunteered for being the local district chair, and shortly after being officially nominated said something like “Okay, before moving on, can you tell me exactly what I'll be doing?” which made everybody laugh, of course. People slowly percolated out of the room, and the remaining people (including me) sorta got snookered into acting as delegates to the state convention. In theory, the delegate designation can stay with me even if I move. I'm not sure if my presence will really be appreciated, though, since my ballot went something like Nader, Kucinich, Sharpton, Kerry, Edwards…

The guy leading the whole group had unfortunately forgotten to introduce the state House candidate for district 59B until the very end. Anyway, he's Ron Lischeid. His platform at the moment mostly seems to be replacing Phyllis Kahn, who has been representing the area for 32 years (he says she's served so long that she has become an icon—or “iKahn”). However, he's been active in community groups, and is one of the lead guys for making an official University neighborhood in Minneapolis.

I was reminded of the times my dad ran against Steve Sviggum for his House seat back when I was finishing high school and starting at college. My dad didn't accept PAC donations, and even had to fend off radio advertisements made to endorse him by other organizations. My dad ran as a Democrat, so it should be easier for this guy since it's actually party policy to not use such funding.

The party has a fairly libertarian bent, it seems. I think a few people kind of scoffed when I mentioned I liked the party “plank” of supporting high-speed rail. Obviously, some think that it's less economical than highways and whatever. I suppose I'd really be targeting airline traffic, but I'm never good at articulating such things on the spot. People seemed to be fairly open to the whole gay marriage thing (though the median age of the room was probably about 22). One of the proposed resolutions was to advocate the idea of making everyone have civil unions under the law, same-sex or not, and only having the term “marriage” be used in the religious context.

I guess the party was also conducting an Internet vote expected to take two days, so results won't be in until Friday. That's kind of annoying. There was a vote on the presidential candidate, but there was also a vote on the mascot to use for the party (which has been reported as a “news of the weird” item in the press). Some of the candidates were the bison (both normal and white), the loon, a roaring lion, and a moose. I chose the normal bison, but I guess I'd considered the moose as well. Strangely, that poll was conducted in the traditional way. Maybe there's some party rule that says they can't make binding votes with instant-runoff voting…

Posted by mike at 10:18 PM Central | Decision 2004 , Politics , Ralph Nader | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 03, 2004

Death Cab for Cutie

I might get a contract position with Medtronic for about two months. Theoretically, it would be server installations. We'll see if that works out.

I'm planning to be at a job fair at the Radisson tomorrow. Again, we'll see if that works out.

As a result of my going to the caucus yesterday and realizing that Minneapolis neighborhoods have their own meetings fairly regularly, I figure I should go. The next one for Marcy-Holmes is March 16th at University Lutheran Church of Hope (which is not to be confused with any of the other umpteen churches in the neighborhood—particularly the other Lutheran churches :-p ).

Posted by mike at 09:01 PM Central | Politics , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 04, 2004

Black Sheep

Okay, I know I've been very political lately, but I'm sure I'll calm down pretty soon. I just figured I should mention that while John Kerry won the Minnesota DFL caucuses, it's very possible that things will be tough for him in this state come November. And no, I don't really mean President Bush. While caucuses generally don't see really great turnouts as compared to regular primaries and elections (probably less than 100,000 people participated in all of the caucuses statewide), they're still fairly important.

Votes stacked up for Kerry on Tuesday night, but I think Dennis Kucinich's strong showing (almost 17%—his best contest so far except for Hawaii) indicates that there's a much more liberal undercurrent flowing through the Democratic party. Heck, Kucinich was the only Democrat to venture outside the Twin Cities, and it showed up in the Iron Range according to this Strib article. I can see why Minnesotans would like him—he's very Wellstone-like in behavior when it comes to how he speaks and what positions he takes. The article I referenced said that some people voted for Edwards or Kerry even though they really wanted Kucinich. That age-old “electability” problem.

Of course, by the time November rolls around, Kucinich himself will probably be just a memory. The Kerry camp will have to do a lot to convince me and others in the state to vote for him. It concerns me that the state might fall to Bush because of this, so we'll see how things go. I'm getting even more excited about the results of the Independence Party's IRV poll, but we might have to wait until the weekend or even Monday for the numbers to come in. There's a reasonable possibility that Kerry will come out on top, but I have a strong feeling that Nader or Kucinich will top out in the end. In my opinion, the poll will be a good indication of where Kerry's competition is coming from, and I intend to hype the shit out of the results as soon as I get them.

Posted by mike at 12:57 PM Central | Decision 2004 , Politics , Ralph Nader | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 05, 2004

To the Sixty-Nines

I went to a job fair at the Radisson today (er, yesterday, since I'm up late). The place was packed, and I got pretty excited to see so many people there. It was weird to see so many people wearing suits or at least slacks, nice shirts, and ties (like me). Given my past experience at job fairs, I expected to be toward the high end with my appearance, but there were plenty of people that went above and beyond. Only a very small number of attendees were wearing the clothes I'd expect from students and recent grads.

Of course, upon talking to people, I realized the reason: Sales. Bah. Everyone was looking for salespeople, and I figure the job fair must have been hyped over at Carlson (it would explain the nice attire, since nobody else on campus normally gives a crap about that sort of thing). I ended up giving out two resumés, though. One was with Accenture—that company kind of scares me since they seemed to be a big source of trouble regarding CSOM's out-of-control spending on their website. Another was Eschelon (that's with an s, not without ;-) which I'd never heard of before. One lady there was really excited to meet me. Well, she didn't really seem to be an excitable person, but she promised me an interview which is good. It would be a tech support helpdesk-type thing, but I'm open to lots of things these days.

On the political side of things, I posted to the LiveJournal Twin Cities community the Independence Party preliminary results. Okay, the presidential results actually scare me a bit so far, but we'll see if things change as they go through the different runoff rounds. However, I liked most of the other resolution results, though I'm not exactly sure what it takes for them to be passed (I'd personally only want the ones above 50% to really count, but that's just me).

Oh, and I got my computer to record Tripping the Rift. Wow. That was really excellent (even if God doesn't get killed in the end).

Posted by mike at 01:22 AM Central | Decision 2004 , Politics , TV , Work | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

March 08, 2004

Menace the Dennis

Heh. So I'm right, dammit! I finally tried out Minnesota Public Radio's Select a Candidate survey and got the results: Nader, Kucinich, Kerry, Edwards, Sharpton, and then Bush landed at 0% favorability ;-)

Wow. I must really hate that guy :-D

The interesting thing about that survey is that current results indicate that 44% of the site's visitors had Kucinich as the top candidate. John Kerry is in second place with 16%.

Of course, this is the Internet, and it's entirely possible that there has been a scripted attack to boost Kucinich's standings.

Posted by mike at 11:02 AM Central | Decision 2004 , Internet , Politics , Ralph Nader | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 09, 2004

Voodoo People

The American Family Association is running a new online poll, though perhaps a little less controversial than the gay marriage one that got poll-bombed a few months ago. This one was sent out to people who had voted online previously and has some dramatic numbers. They're simply asking Kerry, Bush, or Nader?

I just took it, and then, well, my browser crashed before I could type anything in. By the time I got back, probably another hundred people had voted, though it didn't change things much. The numbers I've just jotted down say Kerry 90.5% (8578 votes), Nader 6.08% (576), and Bush 3.42% (324).

Funny ;-)

Posted by mike at 07:12 PM Central | Decision 2004 , Internet , Politics , Ralph Nader | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 11, 2004

Plead the Fifth

Oh crikey. You know those five British subjects that were just transferred home to the UK? Okay, you probably don't, but bear with me. They were some of those “enemy combatants” held at Guantanamo for, oh, two years or so. Upon their return, only four of them were held—one was set free right away. The other four have now been released with no charges.

So this basically tells me that these guys were held for two years for little or no good reason. Ooo. That'll do great things for the U.S.'s standing in the eyes of the world. Yeah, uh-huh, sure.

And meanwhile, we're only just starting to put the high beams on people from WorldCom and Enron. I guess Bernie Ebbers has finally been indicted, but Ken Lay appears to be off in some secure bunker chumming it up with Dick Cheney (or something…)

Posted by mike at 10:58 AM Central | Money , Politics , September 11th , War | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 13, 2004

No Bones About It

Today's history lesson: Immigrants beware.

Today, Mexican immigrant workers are dying at a rate of one per day. They have an 80% greater chance of dying than native-born Americans, even when doing the same job. Often this is due to negligence in safety and training on the part of employers, though the article says that the strong Mexican work ethic carries part of the blame.

This is another example of history repeating. We're all aware of the fact that black slaves were sometimes worked to death, but other populations have seen similar working conditions. My old high school history teacher once related the story of dock workers in a busy port. When rolling cargo off ships and down ramps, sometimes large and heavy objects had to be moved. When this happened, black slaves would be put at the high end, pulling on the cargo, and Irishmen would be put on the low end, pushing it so it didn't move too quickly. At the time, there was a nearly endless supply of Irish immigrants, so dockmasters had little trouble finding replacements for those, uh, taken out of the workforce. On the other hand, slaves were actually considered to take a real investment of time and money, and therefore were more valuable.

Slavery was not really practiced in the West, per se, although many are aware of Chinese immigrants who were placed in deadly situations while building railroads and other great works during the 19th century (as we all know because of Kung Fu and other movies). Today, businesses merely have another workforce to exploit. They seem to be extremely happy to use Mexicans, who, according to a recent article I read that talked about cheap labor being used at the ski resorts of Colorado, are fairly docile and submissive when it comes to work environments. They tend to not complain about dangerous situations if they feel it will get them in any amount of trouble. That's a pretty nasty combination.

(Unfortunately, I can't remember where I read that article. It may have been something in the New Yorker, since I read a few of them when I went to Kentucky.)

Some workplace inspectors have said that even illegal immigrants have the same rights to workplace safety as Americans do, although this seems to only be loosely enforced and open to interpretation. Michael Moore made a story about that for The Awful Truth about illegal immigrant workers attempting to unionize at a hotel in Minneapolis. I guess I don't know how the story ultimately ended up, but I believe the hotel owner was fined or something for breaking up a meeting the workers were having.

Anyway, I'm sure it's something that will get worse before it gets better.

Posted by mike at 08:28 PM Central | Corporations , Michael Moore , Money , Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 16, 2004

A Century of Progress

First off, a fun little thing. I've contributed a book's worth of material to Wikipedia while I've been unemployed and bored so far this year. In a weird way, one of the most successful articles is what I wrote on progressive shifting. Honestly, I don't know if what I wrote is right—most places just say that progressive shifting involves a slightly higher RPM after each shift, which I don't say at all. It might be a correct observation, but I think it must be more of an effect than a cause. Anyway, I think the article partially explains the technical reasons why it's better, but there could be more info. Still, there is very little information out there on the subject.

I randomly wandered over to that page recently and decided to search for any information that I could add. To my surprise, the article showed up as the first entry in my Google search. This is kind of weird because within Wikipedia itself, the page is pretty much not referenced at all, except for a link in my user page. I guess people must believe the article is correct—they seem to have linked to it in order to have it show up at the top in Google. I'm most impressed because I only made one edit on that page—to create it.

Anyway, yesterday I went to a talk put on by the Minnesota Renewable Hydrogen Initiative. It turned out to be moderately interesting, though I was especially impressed by the talk Lanny Schmidt did on the ethanol-to-hydrogen reactor/reformer that got a lot of press last month. It's a really simple device, kind of the pulse-jet of hydrogen reforming—except that it's actually efficient (maybe that makes it the ramjet of hydrogen reforming).

When I first heard of the device, it seemed kind of silly. In a way, it still seems kind of silly. Well, actually, the silly thing is that it's meant to feed fuel cells that are fragile and expensive—the reactor is only silly by extension. If fuel cells can ever be made cheaply, it's a great idea. Hydrogen is difficult to store because of its extremely low density (I think I heard that even liquid hydrogen is less dense than air, but I'm unsure). Storing hydrogen in Ethanol instead is a much easier thing to do.

Schmidt also frequently repeated that we need to transition to using biomass-based fuels. There is no way around it. You can extract hydrogen from coal or oil for a while, but you'll just end up running out. In additon, the carbon that comes out in the process has to be put somewhere if you don't want the greenhouse effect to get worse.

There was a lady from the Department of Energy there who kind of got picked on after a while. She was from the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy office, which oversees a lot of the new energy initiatives going on at DoE. She put up a budget table that kind of skewed toward giving money to projects that produced hydrogen by using electricity from nuclear power and projects to sequester carbon from fossil fuels—both things that renewable energy folks really don't like to see because they still involve non-renewable energy. She had to defend herself by saying that a lot of the renewable fuel money comes in from different sources than the main budget she had listed.

Still, I was kind of disturbed by the amount of money the government was putting into the idea. It was a large sum, something like $1.7 billion, but there are individual car companies out there that are putting more money in than that!

Overall, I was fairly impressed by the crowd there. The presenters were much more in-depth than I expected. News reports I've seen about hydrogen and renewable fuels barely scratch the surface of what was discussed over the few hours yesterday—and yesterday's forum just barely scratched the surface of these issues in general.

There was a lot of good buzz at the meeting by industry insiders, but because of secrecy, they couldn't really say much. The DoE lady was the person who was most reluctant to believe that anything could happen quickly. I suppose this is partially due to the fact that she is looking at the national picture, which looks pretty bleak. In Minnesota, we at least have enough crop land to attempt to become self-powered through the use of biomass and wind energy, but this is a much more difficult thing to do nation-wide.

A comment that became cliché by the end of the seminar was, “the Upper Midwest is the Saudi Arabia of biomass and wind energy.” Actually, that comment was made in a few different ways. It was first mentioned by Lanny Schmidt, but I think about three other people also said it. The comment is probably somewhat inappropriate (since places like Brazil could out-biomass us any day of the year), but kind of a nice idea nonetheless.

Well, I could go on for a pretty long time talking about the seminar, but I suppose this is enough for now.

Posted by mike at 03:17 PM Central | Hardware , Politics , The Media | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 17, 2004

Time for Conquest

Doonesbury, March 14, 2004

Heh. Funny. (But weird—notice that some parts of the strip are repeated so it can be put into a wide (4x2) layout instead of the tall (2x4) layout.)

Posted by mike at 01:08 AM Central | Comedy , Politics , War | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


I don't know what it is, but I've come across a lot of weird blood-pressure-raising crap today. I considered posting a few items earlier today, but decided against that. Just writing it down was enough. But this one takes the cake:

108th CONGRESS 2d Session H. R. 3920

To allow Congress to reverse the judgments of the United States Supreme Court.


March 9, 2004

Mr. Lewis of Kentucky (for himself, Mr. DeMint, Mr. Everett, Mr. Pombo, Mr. Coble, Mr. Collins, Mr. Goode, Mr. Pitts, Mr. Franks of Arizona, Mr. Hefley, Mr. Doolittle, and Mr. Kingston) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, and in addition to the Committee on Rules, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned


To allow Congress to reverse the judgments of the United States Supreme Court.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the “Congressional Accountability for Judicial Activism Act of 2004”.


The Congress may, if two thirds of each House agree, reverse a judgment of the United States Supreme Court—

(1) if that judgment is handed down after the date of the enactment of this Act; and

(2) to the extent that judgment concerns the constitutionality of an Act of Congress.


The procedure for reversing a judgment under section 2 shall be, as near as may be and consistent with the authority of each House of Congress to adopt its own rules of proceeding, the same as that used for considering whether or not to override a veto of legislation by the President.


This Act is enacted pursuant to the power of Congress under article III, section 2, of the Constitution of the United States.

The text of the bill: [1] (It's an XML file, so I don't know how well it'll work in everyone's browsers)

A tracking page: [2]

The only page I could find through Google News that was not made by conservative windbags horrified by the so-called “Judicial Activism” going on: [3]

Update: Here's a great little entry discussing all of the other crap Congress is trying to do these days: [4]

I also have the note I sent to Rep. Martin Sabo below (LiveJournalers might have to click the “Comments” link to see it)

Mr. Sabo,

I was very recently informed of a bill currently in committee, HR 3020, the “Judicial Activism Act of 2004”—“A bill to allow Congress to reverse the judgments of the United States Supreme Court.” I'm appalled to see that twelve Republican representatives had the guts to put their names on that thing. The bill is so shocking to me that it makes my head hurt. The bill itself is most certainly unconstitutional—blatantly so. I almost believe that its proposal is an intentional act; a way for conservative representatives to fan the flames around what they have been calling “Judicial Activism” if it was struck down either in Congress or—ironically, yet unlikely, since I doubt it could ever pass—in the courts.

My mind is just completely boggled by this bill. If I give the representatives the benefit of the doubt and believe that they wrote the bill in good faith and without any strange plotting or scheming in mind, then I am left with the conclusion that they lack basic understanding of how American government works and that they hardly have the right to represent themselves in Congress, let alone the hard-working individuals who voted for them. It is a strong thing, but my morals require me to must ask you to request the removal of those representatives from Congress.

Thank you for your time,

Michael Hicks

Maybe I should have just asked for “censure” or something. Whatever. They're idiots and deserve to be spanked.

Posted by mike at 11:06 PM Central | Law , Politics | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

March 23, 2004


Heh. I scoffed at yesterday's news that Microsoft was getting a fine of $615 million or so, especially since that's only about one 80th of what they have in the bank. Still, I guess the European Union is putting other restrictions on the company that might turn out to be more costly.

Hmm. I was just about to scoff at people for blaming OPEC for gas price increases, but I didn't know that Venezuela had joined that cartel. I was under the impression that OPEC was only a Middle East thing, and only produced a relatively small fraction of the U.S.'s oil imports these days, but I guess the group may have changed. Still, I don't care. As far as I'm concerned, after 100 years of figuring out how to make it cheaper to produce fuel, every year should see a record-high price due to inflation.

Oh well, we should all start driving hybrids and moving to ethanol and biodiesel anyway.

Posted by mike at 11:55 AM Central | Car , Corporations , Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 29, 2004

Senseless Randomness

Oh good. People are getting stabbed where we used to live.

George W. Bush has claimed exclusive right to Bible verse (not that I was using it anyway).

I don't know what Ralph Nader is up to. It's weird that he's supposedly coordinating with Kerry somehow, but I guess nothing has actually happened yet. I'm not a big fan of Kerry, though I might possibly consider maybe voting for him if he shows an ability to debate remotely like he did back in 1971 when he got airtime as a disgruntled Vietnam veteran. Last night, C-SPAN ran a debate he had with someone on The Dick Cavett Show. If he showed that level of resourcefulness against George W. Bush, he'd probably win hands-down.

Posted by mike at 09:00 PM Central | Politics , TV , War | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 02, 2004

The Destroyer of Worlds

You may have already seen news reports discussing Rwanda. The common news practice of remembering anniversaries of major events—especially ones with round numbers—is repeating itself. Ten years ago, there was a fragile peace in the tiny central African country, an area a little bit smaller than Massachusetts in size. Fighting had taken place between the two main ethnic groups in the country, the Hutu and Tutsi, from 1990 to 1992. More than a million people had been killed in that fighting. In 1993, United Nations troops entered the country as a peacekeeping force, though their hands were tied in many ways. In April of 1994, dramatic and tragic events took place extremely quickly.

The President of Rwanda, a fairly moderate Hutu, was killed on April 6th when his plane crashed near the airport in the capital city of Kigali. In the early hours of April 7th, the country began its quick descent into chaos. Hutu extremists who had been laying plans for months went into action, sending death squads out to kill Tutsis where they stood. The speed and ferocity of the squads still shocks anyone who learns about what happened there. In World War II, the Germans industrialized genocide. The Rwandans took the 1990s approach and left out the middleman.

Much of the killing was perpetrated by the death squads (known as Interahamwe), though local governments and state radio induced many citizens to take part in ad-hoc groups. The Hutu had once been the servant class in Rwanda under a Tutsi monarchy. (The name Hutu even means “servant” in their native tongue—their original name is lost to history.) They had a strange sort of timidity to them as they went about their gruesome work. Perhaps because they had been forced to respect authority figures under centuries of Tutsi rule, the Hutu were a very obedient people and did what they were told. When outsiders were present, the Hutu generally stayed away or merely waited for them to go away. In some instances, one or two unarmed U.N. troops “guarding” Tutsi safe havens who merely said “you can't come in here” was all it took to prevent further slaughter.

I mention this because I watched Frontline's “Ghosts of Rwanda” program last night. I thought the program was very well-done, although they seemed to leave out some of the backstory (but I missed the first 10 minutes or so of the show). The episode talked about the failure of the U.N., the U.S., and various other countries to act as a positive force in the conflict.

At the beginning, some Belgian troops assigned to the U.N. peacekeeping force had been killed. This disturbed the public in Belgium, so they withdrew from the peacekeeping mission early on. In order to save face with the international community, the country requested that the U.S. also pull its troops out. We did.

At the time, many observers stated that it would be largely impossible to deploy troops into Rwanda to quell the violence. However, by April 10th, troops totaling 8–10,000 had arrived from the U.S., France, and Belgium to pull out their expatriate populations. If they had stayed, the troops would have made a tremendous difference.

The U.N., which had been organized in part to prevent the atrocities experienced in World War II from ever happening again, was unable to act. I'm not sure if this was because of the U.S. or not. From the program, it seemed that the U.N. Security Council had largely wanted to assist in Rwanda, but I may have misinterpreted what was said about that. In the end, 90% of the U.N. troops were pulled out. Those that stayed were largely unarmed, yet were able to save many thousands of lives just by keeping their eyes open (and, in some cases, doing things that were morally right and just, but technically broke the rules of behavior).

The inaction in Rwanda is partially understandable in the context of Somalia, where the events of Black Hawk Down had taken place just a few months earlier. Still, there had been troops on the ground in Rwanda. The international community failed to act—countries even intentionally acted to get out of the way. The U.S. purposefully avoided even using the term “genocide” until it was too late.

The United States has a tremendous moral and ethical debt to repay to the world. In 100 days, 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutu were killed in the genocide. Individual sites such as churches saw death tolls of over 5000 where people were killed face-to-face by machete and machine gun.

September 11th is piddle.

Posted by mike at 02:19 PM Central | Politics , September 11th , TV , War | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 07, 2004

Where's the Expiration Date?

I know a lot of people don't want to acknowledge the presence of Ralph Nader in the presidential race this year, but the amount of coverage and the slant it is at is pretty awful. In most news articles and stories, he's just mentioned tangentially (i.e. “Public Citizen, a group founded by consumer advocate Ralph Nader…”). The rest of the coverage is usually found in commentaries and Op-Ed pages, areas where bias is tolerated (well, issues are meant to be debated there, so everyone is always trying to make their case).

Real articles about stuff Nader is doing are often prefaced or appended with a note about theoretical spoiler status (if such status isn't the entire focus of the article), reducing the useful amount of coverage. Many articles are hardly better than what you'd find in editorials, often stating facts in a diminutive manner (for instance, saying “Nader has just five percent support in recent polls” rather than dropping the unnecessary adjective).

I think some news organizations do actually go through the articles they get over the wires and clip out the extra cruft, but it would be nice if the original article authors would write more substantial stuff…

Well, at least C-SPAN tries to be fair.

Posted by mike at 01:08 PM Central | Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 11, 2004

…And Then the Monkeys Came

It's time for Presidential Daily Brief Fill-in-the-Blank!

Here are my guesses based on the length of nearby text strings in the document (plus the fact that the second one was an “an” rather than an “a”).

told followers he wan
a British intelligence

an Austrian
exploit the o

te some of the more s
a Spanish intelligence

But, I really have no idea.

I listened to a few of the most recent episodes of This American Life today. The first two were really good, though I didn't really feel comfortable with the third one. I guess the first two were somewhat interrelated, since they deal with the current political climate. Actually, the only part of the third episode I liked had a political bent to it.

Episode 260 was largely focused on dissecting the court case that the Bush administration has been using to assert that they have the ability to hold Americans in this country who are accused of being enemy combatants. Back in World War II, the Nazis landed two groups of people in Florida and New York who were supposed to sabotage the aluminum industry in the months after the U.S. entered the war. One of the people was an American of German descent who found himself in Nazi-held territory when Germany declared war on the United States. The story goes that he just wanted to get home, so when he was given a chance to be part of an operation that would bring him to America, he took it. Anyway, he was tried in a secret military court. An appeal was made to the Supreme Court, requesting that the case be tried in regular criminal court, but the justices were pressured into quickly giving an opinion without any supporting arguments.

There's also a look inside the Zogby polling operation later in the episode, which kind of tells you what you already knew, but often forget.

Episode 261 is TAL's response to the whole gay marriage debate, though they handle it by spending more time examining the more traditional version. Adam Felber has a good little satirical story, which pretty much sums up the whole thing for me, and shows how the whole debate has been blown out of proportion for the most part.

The final episode I listened to today was pretty weird. The main story was not something I could identify with, though it's necessary to listen to it at least a bit to fully understand the title of the last story, which was much more interesting to me. Always good to know that the pharmaceutical companies seem to be charging about 40 times what they need to be on certain drugs…

Posted by mike at 04:11 PM Central | Corporations , Law , Money , Politics , September 11th , The Media , War | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 29, 2004

The O'Fish Factor

Frontline had an episode entitled “The Jesus Factor” tonight. The show will be available to watch online on Saturday, and it'll at least air again in the early morning hours coming up. Anyway, it discusses the religious influences on the president.

Posted by mike at 11:25 PM Central | Politics , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 30, 2004


John Troyer's column about a future American civil war is something important to think about. I've been getting an increasing sense that civil war is possible, though I doubt it would be likely. Our country is averse to sending large numbers of people to die.

At any rate, he's right to say that the wounds never fully healed after the first civil war. In many ways, it was still being fought 100 years later, and probably still is today. The Wikipedia article on the origins of the American Civil War describes many things that have parallels today. Of course, the Democrats and Republicans seem to have swapped ideals and allegiances since that time. Many similar tensions seem to be in place today, so I get a little worried from time to time.

Of course, this is not helped by media outlets that often seek conversation by idealists and zealots who have widely divergent viewponts on issues, rather than talking to people who are somewhat less out on the edge. The idealists and zealots should get their fair share of time, but when the public only sees these distant edges of the spectrum, things get very messed up.

I suppose that's why I respect shows like Frontline and Nightline. They talk to the people on the extremes, but also leave enough time to fill in the gradients in between. At least that's how I view them. I suppose others have different perceptions—conservatives still like to call PBS a “notoriously liberal network.” Okay, the artsy/indie shows and NOW with Bill Moyers could be classified as fairly/very liberal, but don't forget that this is the American home of Antiques Roadshow. If PBS is considered the great bastion of liberalism in the same world that plays host to Fox News Channel, someone has a broken calculator.

I kind of feel like I've been thrown into the universe of 1984. I could have sworn that Minnesota went Democratic with a significantly wider margin in the 2000 election. My recollection was that Gore got about 55%, Nader 5%, and Bush 40%, but that's not what the MN Secretary of State's website says. Maybe I just stopped tracking the numbers early and the late returns shifted things a lot. This doesn't seem like it should be a purple state.

An interesting note made in Frontline's “Jesus Factor” show last night is that the best predictor of whether people voted for Bush or Gore in the last election was the frequency at which they attended church. People who went at least once a week were more than 2/3 likely to vote for Bush.

Oh! Oh! You remember that Faith-Based Initiative plan? Turns out that the government is so far only supporting Christian and interfaith organizations, no synagogues or mosques or temples…


Posted by mike at 02:12 PM Central | Decision 2000 , Politics , TV , The Media , War | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 01, 2004

South of the Border

I did a walkabout today. Probably 16–20 miles. After today's TCLUG meeting, I went and got some lunch at Quiznos. I walked almost continuously from about 2:30 until about 8:00. I stopped in for a Blizzard at the DQ near Minnehaha Park and stopped in at a gas station later to get some beverages for the walk, but I mostly just walked.

The Grand Round goes all the way around Minneapolis. I probably only got about ¼ of the way around before I had to head back toward my apartment. It's a really long parkway. Anyway, the edge of my journey was Minnehaha Park, where I saw the falls and the creek. I guess I didn't think the falls were quite as high as they were, but I think we Minnesotans get a little too worked up about that place. I'm not sure it deserves so much attention, but the park has been around for ages. If memory serves, there is a statue of Hiawatha and Minnehaha (his love interest in The Song of Hiawatha, IIRC) that was erected in 1911. I saw a WPA marking at one point in my journey along the Mississippi.

Well, I'm going to be sore for about a week. We'll see if I can manage to climb the stairs to get out of my apartment building tomorrow.

I was pretty amazed by the size of Minneapolis as I went along on my trek. Walking really gives you a strong sense of the size of things. There are so many people in this city. I saw all sorts of different people too; white, Hispanic, Somalian, Asian, etc. I can't say if any community along the path I took was well-integrated or not, but I couldn't really tell where one population ended and another began.

There were a few signs here and there on people's lawns. Most of them just said “Peace” or something else pretty simple. A few “Say no to Bush” signs. I don't think I saw more than one that was remotely pro-war, but maybe some of the “Peace” signs were meant to proclaim something like “My Peace while You're in Pieces.“ I have no way of knowing. I'd hate it if anybody felt that way.

Anyway, I'd encourage people who live in big places to do things like that every once in a while. It's easy to forget just how big our world is sometimes.

Still, it wasn't as fulfilling as it could have been. I was happy to be seeing new things, but really sad that I wasn't sharing it with anyone.

I should try out Meetup.com and see if I can get together with some people who are interested in something that I like. Of course, I'd like a girl out there somewhere to share my ideas, but I don't know if any of these things I'd try to go to would be helpful at all. Can't hurt to try, I guess.

Well, I'm extremely tired now. I'm going to go take a shower and get some sleep.

Posted by mike at 08:55 PM Central | Abode , Politics , Self , War | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 04, 2004

Paint by Number

I'm a little slow at connecting the dots sometimes. I watched The Jesus Factor last week, like I mentioned, but an idea is now creeping into my head (kind of instigated by what I heard today on The O'Franken Factor).

George W. Bush has said that he believes God wanted him to be president. I'm thinking that this belief has heavily influenced the fact that he does not take much input from others on important issues when he is making decisions. In a backward way, this makes sense. If you believed that you had been granted a position of power by God, then you might also believe that God had given you all of the knowledge you needed in order to succeed.

Of course, this doesn't really explain the other higher-ups in the current administration such as Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and John Ashcroft also don't seem to give a rip about silly little things like facts.

It's interesting that the John Kerry/George Bush war record thing finally seemed like it almost was about to start to collapse in on itself when new war crimes in a new war suddenly appeared last week. Seemed to make the discussions sort of backwardly relevant. Sort of.

Hmm. I know I wanted to say something else, but I've gotten distracted.

Posted by mike at 10:04 PM Central | Politics , War | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 14, 2004

Rage Against the Machine

I came across this yesterday: Starve the beast.

I've had the idea floating around in my head for a long time that, behind a veil of “compassionate conservatism,” the Bush administration is actually working to destroy the government. I'm pretty sure that thought process was kick-started some day when I saw a random pundit on television make some sort of comment. The pundit merely said something that connected the dots. It's hard for me to believe that people who describe themselves as American patriots would want to bring down the government—I don't mean the current administration, I mean everything.

Who knew that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, et al. are anarchists? Sure gets rid of the problem of government regulation.

Anyway, this totally meshes with what's been going on. Allowing companies to skimp on their taxes, tax cuts for the rich, etc. However, people trying to still manage to balance the budget are essentially mucking up the strategy by setting up bonding initiatives and taking out loans. Tremendous amounts of economic damage could be done if lenders suddenly stopped letting the government take out more money. Well, that's what it looks like to me.

Well, it's all very confusing and hard to keep track of. My personal opinion is that the government is probably bigger than it needs to be. However, I would advocate cutting back on military spending and focusing more on providing education and health care to people, but that's just me. Fiscal conservatives seem to think that the opposite is better, which is hard for me to comprehend.

The scariest thing for me is the possibility that going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq might have maybe possibly had something to do with this. Starve-the-beast is such a backward idea for me, so incomprehensible, that I can't rule that out.

Posted by mike at 10:04 AM Central | Money , Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 05, 2004

Out of Time

Argh. I'll be avoiding the TV until this Reagan thing blows over. I was already sort of planning on it due to the 60th anniversary of D-Day. A few shows about it are okay, but it's just been all over for the past few months. Now we have a former Republican president die, so there are countless interviews with Republican representatives, governors, etc., including Tim Pawlenty. Apparently he ordered the flags around the capitol lowered to half-staff for 30 days. 30 days? Flags weren't even lowered for that long after September 11th, I don't think… Hearing that, I just had to turn it off.

I mean, I liked Ronnie when I was a kid, he seemed like a grandfather figure. I appreciate that people should be nice when someone dies, and I know that he was pretty popular after being in office a while. Still, not acknowledging that some people didn't like him seems wrong.

Oh well, I suppose I would have gotten mad at people who pointed out such things after Wellstone died. Oh well, at least Wellstone wasn't involved in Iran-Contra or supplying weapons of mass destruction to Saddam Hussein. And when exactly did our national debt start to increase so dramatically? Oh, the 1980s? Gee whiz Gipper, what's up with that?

Ugh. I'm sure somebody mentioned at least one of those things. I just can't sit through enough stuff to see it. Just seeing the Republican pod-people everywhere gets me sick of everything after a while.

Posted by mike at 10:18 PM Central | Politics , September 11th , TV | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

June 10, 2004

Jon Stewart's Favorite Word

If I end up voting for John Kerry this fall, I'll probably have a line of thought that goes something like this:


Of course, that site is trying to convince people who are on the right-side fence of Mr. Kerry's yard. I'm sitting on the othe side of the left fence at the moment.

Posted by mike at 01:35 PM Central | Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 21, 2004

Is That Natural Gas Coming Out of Your Pants or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

Will advancements in effigy technology never cease? ;-)

The guy there is Ben Cohen, the Ben in Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream. He's driving around the country with his PantsOnFire-Mobile.

Posted by mike at 09:22 AM Central | Comedy , Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 16, 2004

Out of the Ashes Rises an Idiot

So there's going to be a vote in Colorado on whether or not they should have their electoral votes be allocated proportionally or just stay with the old winner-take-all system that most states have.

The really funny/sad thing is that the main opposition group is named Coloradans Against a Really Stupid Idea.


Posted by mike at 01:17 PM Central | Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 18, 2004

I May Not Know Karate


With the presidential election less than three months away, University [of Minnesota] employees have contributed nearly 30 times more money to Kerry than they have to President George W. Bush, according to the latest campaign finance records.

That's carazay.

Posted by mike at 07:41 AM Central | Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 05, 2004

Zell on Earth

I was flipping through the channels last night, and, as sometimes happens, I ended up watching a pretty fascinating seminar on C-SPAN. The speaker was Thomas Barnett (or Thomas P.M. Barnett when he wants to act all hoidy-toidy), who has worked as a military consultant and more recently has been a professor at the Naval War College. It was actually recorded in mid-summer, originally partly for the promotion of his book, The Pentagon's New Map.

Anyway, there was a lot of interesting stuff, much more than I can squeeze into a reasonably-sized space on my website. Which is why he wrote the book, I suppose. He had written an article for Esquire in early 2003 that outlined many of the same ideas. Of course, that was the time of “Mission Accomplished” rather than “Mission Continuing,” though he did take a realistic view and recognize that keeping the peace in Iraq would be a long-term thing:

Taking down Saddam, the region’s bully-in-chief, will force the U.S. into playing [the Leviathan] role far more fully than it has over the past several decades, primarily because Iraq is the Yugoslavia of the Middle East—a crossroads of civilizations that has historically required a dictatorship to keep the peace. As baby-sitting jobs go, this one will be a doozy, making our lengthy efforts in postwar Germany and Japan look simple in retrospect.

Part of Barnett's way of viewing the world is doing the fairly basic job of drawing an outline around the places where there have been significant conflicts or stand-offs in the past decade. Not surprisingly, it includes most of Africa (excepting South Africa, which is still not the happiest place in the world, but has stabilized considerably), a good chunk of the Carribbean and Latin America aside from “the ABCs” of Argentina, Chile, and Brazil, and then a band of countries stretching westward from the Mideast and Africa into southeast Asia and Oceania (it looks mostly like Indonesia to me).

For the most part, the countries outlined there do not interconnect with the rest of the world very significantly other than being sources of raw materials for the industrialized world. He noted in his C-SPAN talk that investment in actual goods from the Middle East (not oil) has gone down in the past two decades. There are several other patterns that appear in this region, which Barnett calls the “Non-Integrating Gap” or just “the Gap.” Per-capita income is generally less than $3000. Disease (including the big one, AIDS) is often rampant. The narcotics trade is widespread.

Some of the big countries (well, “big” is relative) that he left out are kind of interesting. Many are what he would consider “seam states,” which are kind of the buffer zone between the “Functioning Core” or simply ”Core” countries. India and Pakistan remain tense and have issues, but they've become largely integrated in the rest of the world. China has also been considered as the new big bad mo-fo for a long time, but he figures we can essentially buy them off of the idea of starting World War III (or IV, depending on what you count, I suppose). They've also become major players in the world economy, and they probably don't want to jeopardize that.

The only non-functioning state that Barnett said was outside of this Gap is our good old friend, North Korea. Barnett mentioned that around the time the Iraq war was warming up, Kim Jong-Il popped up and basically said “Hey! Look at me! I'm still crazy!” I wonder if he stole that line from Jon Stewart ;-)

From what I could understand, Barnett is advocating basically using the containment strategy we had for the Soviet Union during the Cold War and using that to progressively shrink the Gap region. Set up military bases in and make strong treaties with the seam states, encouraging investment, which is the real motivator for change—not actual use of our guns and bombs. It seems to me like a reverse Domino Effect.

Kim could potentially cause trouble, distracting the U.S. from filling in the Gap, but we've been sitting on his fence for the past 50 years and he doesn't really seem to be going anywhere soon.

Barnett also recommended essentially splitting the military into two pieces, a warmaking component he dubbed “the Leviathan,” and a peacemaking component with a “System Administrator” role. For the Leviathan, you want the soldiers to be, “young, male, and a little pissed off.” On the peacemaking side, people would be a little more settled, more educated, and the force would be more gender-balanced. The two forces would have significantly different partners when they did their jobs, too.

The Leviathan force would work with the other big militaries of the world, Britain, France, Canada, and so on—after all, there are few forces on the planet that can keep up with the pace of the U.S. military.

On the other side, the peacemaking force would work with smaller militaries, often regional ones since a lot of forces around the world can't really project power at the distance we can. It seems to me that this is the military that many people want, since forces engaged in that type of action (or inaction, sort of) are more interested in staying in the military long-term. People enjoy helping out more than they like killing—not really surprising. It's certainly an idea I'd support whole-heartedly.

However, he suggested that the Marines be associated with that force, to act as the “teeth” or guard dog. He actually made a reference to that when talking about the Marines, with a line something along the lines of, “A marine is like my terrier. Every day, he wants to get up, dig a hole, and kill something.”

Anyway, I've written way more than I should have, but I really think this guy is a smart cookie. I won't be surprised if his ideas essentially become the bible of the U.S. military through the next several decades. Also, his vision isn't really incompatible with the pacifist in me (who am I kidding—that's all of me). I've always felt that getting rid of terrorism is fundamentally an issue of making people's lives better, rather than trying to kill them. 95 to 99% of this wouldn't require big military action. It's building partnerships, trust, investment, and economic security, not blowing shit up.

He's expecting a moderate bounce in book sales, and not without reason. I'm thinking of picking up a copy.

Posted by mike at 09:24 AM Central | Politics , War | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 30, 2004


Turns out I miscalculated on the hours I've been working. I had been doing 6 hours instead of 5. I knew my day didn't seem to be the right length somehow. Anyway, I guess I'll make up for it by just having a short day tomorrow.

Kerry won the debate. Anyone who says otherwise wasn't really paying attention. But, in the “marketplace of ideas” I suppose you can think whatever you want. I think it's likely that Kerry will “win” all of them, but I don't know if it'll change much of anything.

Upon the recent revelations that viewers of The Daily Show are more on top of things than just about anybody, there's anecdotal evidence that post-debate interviews with the spin-meisters are getting interrupted a bit more frequently with tough questions. I guess the test of that will come in the next few days. If The Moment from this debate turns out to be a silly little foible, the media hasn't yet started to change direction. But, if something substantive sticks, I think someone has started to pay attention to the fact that American news media is a pretty messed up group at the moment.

On that note, there's a great Fresh Air interview with Jon Stewart that was done today.

Posted by mike at 11:35 PM Central | Daily Show , Decision 2004 , Politics , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 14, 2004

Hot is the New Cold

I decided to delete KMWB (23, or 8 on Minneapolis cable) from the channel lineup on my TV, mostly because Sinclair is being stupid. I hardly watch it anyway, except that it provides a little escape when that Jennie Garth show is on ('cuz, well, it's Jennie Garth). But, considering that the show is on only about 0.2% of the week, it's not really worth it to me. Yeah, I can't stand all their stupid dating shows either.

Posted by mike at 04:49 PM Central | Corporations , Decision 2004 , Politics , TV , The Media | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 15, 2004

Debating De Baiters

Wow. Jon Stewart's appearance on Crossfire ended up being much different than what anyone expected. That's got to be the only time I've ever seen someone come on a show (as the only guest!) and totally eviscerate it. A few links so far:

There is video of the show up at ifilm.com and it's also downloadable from some BitTorrent sites, such as bitflood.org

Posted by mike at 06:52 PM Central | Daily Show , Decision 2004 , Politics , TV , The Media | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 21, 2004

That Smell? Freedom

I saw this in one of the blurbs on Electoral-vote.com: Turns out that George W. Bush and John Kerry are related. Not closely (obviously)—they are ninth cousins, twice removed. It goes back to about the year 1600. The twice removed part comes from the fact that there have been two fewer generations on Kerry's side. There's a simple family tree here (though it's more like a family “fork”)

Posted by mike at 08:25 AM Central | Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 22, 2004

Stop Hurting America

Heh. That Mary Cheney debacle did turn out to be about a 48-hour bug, didn't it.


Posted by mike at 08:12 AM Central | Decision 2004 , Politics , The Media | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 28, 2004



The League of Pissed-Off Voters


Posted by mike at 12:36 PM Central | Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 06, 2004

The Body Electorate

Well, I think I have little choice but to get political these days. I'm considering doing meetups or other things with the Democratic party, though that's another step here.

Probably the first thing I'll do is go to my neighborhood association meeting on Tuesday. I don't want to get too political there, but I just want to get involved and hopefully mention my idea of having people host political discussions in parks and other places around the neighborhood.

Next off, I plan to talk to some people in the Independence Party. They're nominally “centrist,” but I think it's more complex than that. Everyone seems to be thinking that the Democrats need to become more socially conservative. In some ways, that might be true. However, as this episode of This American Life shows, Republicans aren't a 100% cohesive group like you might think. Interestingly, they seem to think that lefties are as unwavering as we often think they are, and believe that theirs is the party of “inclusion.” Certainly, they probably aren't as socially liberal as people might hope, but they're definitely a lot more accepting than people fear.

Now, with that in mind, I bring up an interesting article on Slate: "Why Americans Hate Democrats—A Dialogue: The unteachable ignorance of the red states." According to Blogdex, it appears that Bush-backing bloggers are bashing this left and right (er, mostly right ;-) . Now, I would agree that it goes too far on some counts, but there is a grain of truth to it. I certainly believe that right-wingers are more likely to pull out the dirty tricks and hit below the belt. Yeah, it's a generalization—not everyone is like that. Anyway, the main conclusion that I saw there is that folks on the liberal side have to point out these tricks and exaggerations every time they come up. And if we are going to be able to avoid the “whiner” label, I think we have to call ourselves on it too. That may be the only way to gain the respect of the other side.

There was an interesting dissection of Bush's first post-election press conference in The Washington Post. There was a little discussion about the reporters supposedly not listening to “the will of the people” because some of them asked more than one question. Well, perhaps that was just a bad joke (if it was, he needs better writers). Interestingly, Bush also dodged questions relating to issues such as the Supreme Court, the cost of the war in Iraq, and the coming/now here military offensive against Fallujah.

As many of the reporters observed, Bush wants to paint a rosy picture and doesn't want to get bogged down in little details like how much things are actually going to cost. He speaks so vaguely that, well, it sounds good (or at least not bad). But when you're coming up on the time when baby boomers will be retiring, explaining how you'll pay for Social Security is kind of important.

The biggest problem is that Bush wants to make the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent, which effectively makes balancing the budget a mathematical impossibility. We are currently hovering around a $7+ trillion national debt ceiling, and the government might go through another one of those shutdowns if the limit isn't raised again. I wonder how many small-government Republicans voted for Bush.

Well, to end today's entry, I'll come out and say that I did end up voting for Nader. One of a whopping 16 people in my precinct to do so (out of nearly 2300 people). Well, that's who the NPR candidate selector recommended, anyway ;-) Interestingly, the other day I took one of those silly online tests that people make and it called me a socially liberal Republican (like Rudy Giuliani, supposedly). Not sure I believe that one.

Posted by mike at 10:02 AM Central | Decision 2004 , Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 10, 2004

Death and Taxes

Ultra-lefty columnist Ted Rall (and I only use the “ultra-” prefix because I believe he exaggerates reality a bit too often) has an article that about half of the country would love, and about half would hate. A lot of what he says is stuff we knew already. I guess I feel something similar about my life, having grown up in a town that is fairly Republican, according to voting patterns. I guess I didn't really feel it when I was growing up. Teachers seem to be more liberal, so except perhaps for my English teachers, most of them seemed to accept a wider view of the world. But, I can't say for certain what they thought.

Given the seemingly bizarre situation that I mentioned about the rural areas of Florida where Democrats seem to vote Republican, I think it is important for presidential candidates to acknowledge that Midwesterners and other folks away from the coasts don't really like their lack of influence asserted over the national media and whatever. Even the “Second City” of Chicago doesn't get the treatment it deserves.

I've been thinking that the national news outlets need to start putting bureaus in places other than just Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, D.C. I mentioned Chicago, and that might be okay. Of course, CNN has Atlanta, which is good and bad. I wouldn't say that the perspective of Midwesterners is one of the uneducated or of the racist. Space and time seems to mean something different. Driving for an hour is a different experience and has a different purpose in Minnesota than in Massachusetts.

Well, I guess I'm forgoing logic here and falling into the territory of emotion. So, it's a good segue into talking about last night's episode of Frontline: “The Persuaders.” It was certainly interesting and unsettling, just as it was meant to be. The last half hour (the show was 90 minutes) focused on the usage of advertising in the political arena. They introduce the guy who came up with the phrase “death tax” instead of “estate tax” and changed “global warming” to “climate change.” Suddenly the reasons for why the political campaign was all about phrases with vacuous meaning rather than actual plans.

I was thinking the other night about how I was really impressed with Ross Perot in 1992. That man had a plan, and he explained it. Remember those flash cards with graphs and pie charts? Of course, the taxes he planned probably would have sent the economy into a tail spin, but a remarkable number of people enjoyed the fact that he had ideas and was willing to explain them.

Posted by mike at 09:47 AM Central | Politics , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 12, 2004

Layer Cake

Today's Republican annoyance: complaining about Democrats blocking nominees for Federal judges. Fortunately, at least one reporter brings up a nice point in an opening paragraph of their story today:

Democrats used the threat of a filibuster to block 10 of Bush's nominees to federal appeals courts. The Senate did confirm more than 200 of the president's choices.
Now, I don't know about you, but being picky of less than 5% of the choices seems completely reasonable to me.

Hmm. Somehow, I didn't finish this up at all this morning. Okay, let me continue…

WCCO ran an exposé on Metro Transit. Oh no! They have a safety record five times better than the national average! Whatever will we do? Apparently complain. Well, I do agree with the fact that the drivers are overworked and underpaid these days. The system needs a steadier source of income. It always strikes me as odd that the gasoline tax is part of the Minnesota state constitution. Some of those funds should be dedicated to transit, so that the lawmakers aren't bickering about funding every year or two and so that Metro Transit can actually plan ahead.

Anyway, I lot my job today. Not totally unexpected. Well, at least I've been getting calls about people semi-interested in hiring me lately…

I watched The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension this evening. Apparently most people like the movie and rank it up there with Back to the Future. Okay, maybe not all the way up there, but in the same general category. To me, it was trash, and I want those 102 minutes of my life back. Well, I never saw it as a kid, so maybe I just don't have that soft spot for it.

Posted by mike at 07:49 PM Central | Movies , Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 07, 2004

Now With More Puppies

I'm currently reading about the most corrupt mayor Minneapolis ever had, Albert Alonzo "Doc" Ames. If this isn't a plot for a movie, I don't know what is. He had served a few questionable terms as mayor toward the end of the 19th century, but when he took office in 1901, he became a total crook. He eventually resigned after a grand jury investigation, and everything was reported in 1903 by Lincoln Steffens, a famous muckracking journalist. His article was titled “The Shame of Minneapolis: The Rescue and Redemption of a City That Was Sold Out” and later appeared in a collection of his articles called The Shame of the Cities (“the Cities” being cities around the country, not just the Twin Cities).

Of course, if anyone ever wanted to make a movie, very little from that time remains in the city—at least downtown—other than the city hall. Even that has a green copper roof now and not a red terra cotta one.

And while I'm here I may as well quote Samantha Bee from last night's Daily Show:

All other days [in December] bow down to the 25th, Christmas. It's the only religious holiday which is also a federal holiday. That way, Christians can go to their services, and everyone else can stay home and reflect on the true meaning of the separation of church and state.

Posted by mike at 10:58 AM Central | Daily Show , Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 03, 2005

The Theory of the Möbius

I just figured I'd jot this down before I forgot, though I'm sure a lot of other people had the same idea:

The tsunami of a week ago is a major opportunity for the United States to regain its standing in the world. This would require the U.S. to go above and beyond the call of duty in helping out the survivors, providing money, labor, and equipment to rebuild the country—exactly what I believe we should have done in Afghanistan in 2001/2002 rather than bombing them the short distance into the middle ages.

Indonesia and Thailand have significant Muslim populations. It would be a major PR boost for us.

I should actually check out what Thomas Barnett has to say. Probably something interesting.

Posted by mike at 12:02 AM Central | Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 11, 2005

Melodious Owl

Last week, I caught a story on the news saying that a local high school marching band has been invited to Bush's inauguration on the 20th. I was shocked to hear that the band had to pay for getting there. I figure that once you get to the level of a presidential inauguration, you can get a free ride. Well, I don't know how things have been done in the past.

Today, there's a Washington Post story on Yahoo! News saying that the Bush administration is asking Washington, D.C. to put $11.9 million of the district's money (from a $240 million homeland security grant) into the event, breaking a long-standing precedent.

What the hell?

I'd been thinking of boycotting stuff on the 20th (there's apparently an e-mail circulating calling for "Not One Damn Dime Day"), and this would be that proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back for me...

Posted by mike at 03:51 PM Central | Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 20, 2005

En Toto

I'm avoiding the TV today, but I saw an image via Yahoo! News that showed Laura Bush in a Scarlett O'Hara-esque dress (well, I guess I've never actually watched more than 30 seconds of Gone with the Wind, so maybe not). Anyway, blah blah blah, rant rant rant…

Posted by mike at 12:38 PM Central | Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 22, 2005


Ah, Nahm...

Posted by mike at 09:44 PM Central | Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 07, 2005


Well, it appears that Deep Throat is dying. Seems appropriate, considering that a documentary about the movie for which the informant is named is now making the art-house theater rounds...

Posted by mike at 02:11 PM Central | Politics | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 12, 2005

Mallard Fillmore

Can we start calling Bush a lame-duck president yet?

Posted by mike at 09:12 AM Central | Politics | Comments (0)

May 18, 2005


Okay, I haven't been paying much attention to this oil-for-food business, but I know that Norm Coleman has been a significant figure in it for some time. How the hell a junior senator elected two and a half years ago can chair the committee is beyond me. Oh yeah, it's because the Republicans are so happy he defeated Mondale and the memory of Wellstone. We have to resort to having the Brits knock him down a peg or two.

In other news, even my attempts to volunteer appear to be failing...

Posted by mike at 10:13 AM Central | Politics | Comments (0)

May 28, 2005

When Greenville Turned Brown

Superfund. You know, for kids!

Posted by mike at 08:41 AM Central | Politics | Comments (0)

June 21, 2005

Former Dictators GONE WILD

According to Encyclopedia Americana, members of the presidential cabinet can be impeached. I haven't found much else to support that, though obviously the veep can get the can too. There are several "Impeach Bush" sites out there, but I think that's essentially like slicing a mythical hydra. I mean, do you want Cheney as president? Anyway, it is theoretically possible to dump Rumsfeld, Condi Rice, and Alberto Gonzales. It might also be possible to hit people who have cabinet-level offices, but are not part of the cabinet proper, such as Karl Rove and Andy Card. That's doubtful, though.

The low-hanging fruit would probably be Rumsfeld...

Update: Well, the Constitution says, "The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors." It's apparently unclear who exactly qualifies as a "civil officer," but it would include a fairly large number of appointed people in the executive branch.

Posted by mike at 02:24 AM Central | Politics | Comments (0)

September 03, 2005


I'm not sure which highways are passable in the New Orleans area, though early reports said that U.S. 90 was the only way out of the city. From satellite images, I've seen that Interstate 10 is flooded out to the west within the city (to the east, it's flooded and the bridges are out). U.S. 90 is dry because it's mostly on the other side of the river. And the highway passes right over the convention center. It is, in fact, easier to access the convention center than the Superdome. It's on high ground right next to the river (yeah, leveed river deltas are weird like that), and there isn't any standing water.

I don't know why the National Guard hasn't just commandeered all of the open space across the river (and to the also-dry suburbs west of New Orleans) and started setting up tent cities. Surely that would be easier than trucking people 500 miles to the west. Heck, after helicoptering people from rooftops, you can practically drop them off right next to a new tent, so there wouldn't be random crowds of people left here, there, and everywhere. You can get the flooded areas evacuated with far fewer buses (since round-trips are short), and put less traveling stress on folks. After being stranded for days, I sure wouldn't want to be cooped up in a bus for 7 to 12 to 24 hours waiting to get to food, water, and a roof over my head.

Well, I suppose staying in the area wouldn't be so great, simply because of mosquitoes and heat. There'd also be the threat that a levee on the river could breach. Still, simply getting to dry land makes things easier by orders of magnitude, and it would give people—both the rescuers and the rescuees—a chance to catch their breath while better shelter is arranged elsewhere. There's actually electricity across the river.

Posted by mike at 09:58 AM Central | Politics , Weather | Comments (0)


Well, Pat Robertson was praying for another opening on the Supreme Court and he got it.

Posted by mike at 10:29 PM Central | Politics | Comments (0)

September 04, 2005

Out of Band

More hurricane ranting: Why was so much of the emphasis on evacuating people via helicopter? Well, maybe it's just unreported, but there should have also been fleets of boats going around to pull people off of rooftops and out of attics. There was a fleet at least for a while, though that was primarily from civilians. I haven't see any more video of them in the last few days. I imagine they ran low on fuel and/or were told/forced to leave the area.

Well, I suppose much of the problem comes down to an intelligence failure. But this one can't be blamed on the FBI or CIA. Troops with radios, maps, and supplies should have been dropped every few blocks in the city to scout the region and organize people who were there. I've seen very little evidence of military presence outside the relatively dry downtown area.

A command hierarchy had to be in place immediately. That didn't happen, and people still don't know who's in charge. Within 24–48 hours, the forces in the city were reportedly given the right to commandeer vehicles, and they should have done that more extensively.

It seems to me that U.S. military forces have become dependent upon CNN and the other news channels to provide them information. It's okay for them to sometimes learn something new that way, but it looks to me that the frequency of this has just reached an unacceptible level.

This looks a lot like the early days of the invasion of Iraq, where the military was trying to act as a "transformed" force where relatively autonomous units would be acting together. A lot of bad things happened there, with small convoys getting lost in hostile territory. Here, it simply sounds like there wasn't communication. Now, you can argue that troops shouldn't know the overall picture when they're in a war zone, but the exact opposite is needed when attempting to help the public. In the very least, mid-level commanders should be available as purveyors of information.

Well, much of this is just conjecture, but I want to remember at least a few of these things, since questions along these lines these should help determine what went wrong.

On the other side, I'm halfway impressed with the news coverage. However, I'll note that TV schedules for days after September 11th were all confused, since news was being covered all day long. That, of course, is because it happened in New York. This disaster is on a much broader scale, but is not at their back door.

Some of the talking heads in New York (er, and Atlanta) have been willing to accept the tragedy and see the flaws in the relief operations. Others have not. I can see that reporters/anchors such as Shepard Smith of Fox News and Tucker Carlson of MSNBC (formerly CNN) have been changed by what they saw. Both of them wanted to rip out the throats of some of the people they were paired with on the split screen.

For a while, Fox News Channel actually became watchable. However, I think this actual news coverage by people who could really see what was going on is going to be shortlived—on all channels. Heck, for the first two days or so, MSNBC's weird wonk Rita Cosby was in Aruba, still there for that silly Natalee Holloway story. Well, maybe the daytime coverage is different. Since I work during the day, I don't see Wolf Blitzer, so I don't know how he's doing...

Edit: ...And we're seeing government officials lie through their teeth, just like they've been doing for years. It's startling to see how good they are at it, and how accepting reporters are from time to time. If you go and put Michael Chertoff next to Tucker Carlson in the same room right now, only one of them would come out alive. Chertoff has said (I think in almost exactly the same wording across multiple networks), "This is really one which I think was breathtaking in its surprise." Uh huh.

But he says it so calmly that people are taken off guard and just accept it. You have to think about it for a moment before realizing the guy just told you somehting that is patently false. This has been the masterful Bush administration tactic—just say it with conviction, and people believe you. Even if the people listening know it's not true, it just has a deadening effect.

Posted by mike at 12:39 PM Central | Politics , TV , The Media | Comments (0)

Unsafe and Broken

Oh, here we go. I was wondering if anyone had real links. Too bad it's in German—ZDF and ARD TV carried reports of staged Bush photo opportunities in the wake of the hurricane. Of course, any major politician will have some staging going on, but Bush has always pushed the line on what is acceptible there and what isn't (pushing protesters miles away, etc.). Senator Mary Landrieu accused Bush of staging reconstruction work on the main levee breach. I think someone yesterday had said it was "one-third filled in," but it sure didn't look that way in the video I saw on This Week this morning. Well, I can't see through the murky water either.

There's a good editorial in the New York Times that alludes to some of the handling that was happening on Tuesday out in California (er, actually, the observations originally came from The Washington Post):

After dispatching Katrina with a few sentences of sanctimonious boilerplate ("our hearts and prayers are with our fellow citizens"), he turned to his more important task. The war in Iraq is World War II. George W. Bush is F.D.R. And anyone who refuses to stay his course is soft on terrorism and guilty of a pre-9/11 "mind-set of isolation and retreat." Yet even as Mr. Bush promised "victory" (a word used nine times in this speech on Tuesday), he was standing at the totemic scene of his failure. It was along this same San Diego coastline that he declared "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln more than two years ago. For this return engagement, The Washington Post reported, the president's stage managers made sure he was positioned so that another hulking aircraft carrier nearby would stay off-camera, lest anyone be reminded of that premature end of "major combat operations."

We also get this apt connection:

The president's declaration that "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees" has instantly achieved the notoriety of Condoleezza Rice's "I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center." The administration's complete obliviousness to the possibilities for energy failures, food and water deprivation, and civil disorder in a major city under siege needs only the Donald Rumsfeld punch line of "Stuff happens" for a coup de grâce. How about shared sacrifice, so that this time we might get the job done right? After Mr. Bush's visit on Good Morning America on Thursday, Diane Sawyer reported on a postinterview conversation in which he said, "There won't have to be tax increases."
In fact, you're still planning on cutting that Death Tax…

Now, I will acknowledge that there's been criticism of Ray Nagin for not using school and city buses to get poor people out of town. I wonder where those buses would have gone, though? They would most likely have had to go to bigger shelters, which didn't exist within 300 miles, I suspect. Well, I dunno. It's still just one thing versus the wall of mistakes being made by other officials. I'm also disappointed that it sounds like Jefferson Parish was partly responsible for halting foot traffic across the Crescent City Connection, the U.S. 90 bridge that crosses the river right by the convention center.

In another wonderful revelation, it turns out that FEMA director Michael Brown was fired for basically bankrupting the International Arabian Horse Association, a job that he held (in diminishing capacity) until January 31, 2001. Heck, as far as I'm concerned, the state of Louisiana should arrest him (he's in Baton Rouge, after all). If I were Aaron Broussard, I'd direct my sheriffs to arrest Bush if he dared step foot in the parish (which, conveniently, is where the airport is).

I'm still only 50/50 on my approval of news coverage. I'm very displeased whenever I see a wire report quoting Chertoff or Brown without argument. They have just destroyed their credibility in my eyes, and I think reporters should look elsewhere for people to talk to.

Posted by mike at 04:49 PM Central | Politics | Comments (0)

September 17, 2005


I mentioned a while back that there'd been staging of Bush's appearance in Mississippi. It looks like there was plenty of similar stuff going on for his speech from New Orleans on Thursday, and this time, we get it from one of the most reliable sources you can get: Brian Williams. The power turned on half an hour before he drove through, and went off an hour after he left.

Posted by mike at 05:08 PM Central | Politics | Comments (0)

December 17, 2005


Silly.. Brokeback Mountain has been getting a lot of hype, but guess how many theaters it was in last weekend. 5. Ah, yes, those year-end mini-releases so that the'll be fresh in the mind of Academy voters. Okay, it was probably on more screens than five, since theater counts are done on a multiplex-by-multiplex basis...

Anyway, I saw Syriana over the weekend, which was pretty good. There are many elements of truth to the ideas in the film, though I expected a different kind of movie from the trailer that said "Imagine gasoline $20 at the pump."

There were a lot of respected actors in that movie, so I imagine it was either quite expensive to produce, or they all took a relatively slim paycheck to do it. Well, maybe I just have a higher opinion of most of them than the box office sometimes does.

Watching that movie was a little unusual because there were a number of people speaking Arabic or Farsi in the audience (well, heck, it could have been Hebrew for all I know). Other than that, the main cognitive dissonance for the evening came right at the beginning of the film reel when there was an advertisement for the National Guard...

Hmm. Isn't it amazing that the president is actually admitting things these days? Well, some things.. The administration doesn't say much about secret prisons, but they get pretty talkative about the NSA. Now watch them out an operative of that agency.. Hoo-boy.

Posted by mike at 04:07 PM Central | Movies , Politics | Comments (0)

January 12, 2006


My governor will suck the blood of your governor.

I finally got my new headphones yesterday, through a crazy route (with the DHL/USPS "alliance"):

  • Dec 31, 2005 – Fernley, NV – SHIPPED
  • Jan 02, 2006 – Fresno, CA – TRANSIT THROUGH SORT FACILITY.
  • Jan 04, 2006 – Wilmington, OH – TRANSIT THROUGH SORT FACILITY.
  • Jan 06, 2006 – St. Cloud, MN – ARRIVED AT DHL FACILITY.
  • Jan 06, 2006 – Minneapolis, MN – TRANSIT THROUGH SORT FACILITY.
  • Jan 09, 2006 – Plymouth, MN – ARRIVED AT USPS.
  • Jan 10, 2006 – Minneapolis, MN – ATTEMPTED DELIVERY.
Posted by mike at 08:25 AM Central | Music , Politics | Comments (0)

April 30, 2006


Stephen Colbert at the podium during the 2006 White House Correspondents Association awards dinnerStephen Colbert was the last speaker at the White House Correspondents Association's annual awards dinner last night. He did a great job, but just like what happened with Jon Stewart at the Oscars, the audience just didn't get into it. Well, it's hard to tell exactly what was happening while watching over C-SPAN, but the audience was much quieter than when President Bush did his (far tamer) schtick with a lookalike moments earlier.

The quote that has been attached to most news stories is this: "I believe the government that governs best is the government that governs least. And by these standards, we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq." My favorite is probably "[Bush] believes the same thing Wednesday that he believed on Monday—no matter what happened Tuesday." I think Colbert might have been alluding to a particular Tuesday in September.

Oddly enough, I think the biggest laugh Colbert got was when he welcomed New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin to "the chocolate city with a marshmallow center." Though I recall that the laughs again faded when he taglined it with "And a graham cracker crust of corruption."

City Pages has a blurb on it with YouTube video.

Edit (10:45 PM): It's been really disappointing today to see that there has been near zero coverage of Colbert's appearance by the established news media. Of course, it's the weekend, and today is Sunday. Nothing important happens on the weekend. (Pearl Harbor was just a fluke.)

Yeah, that's a bit harsh. I mean, the president is news (well, there's a tradition that the news media believes so). A comedian, even if he's standing next to the president, is not considered important. However, I get a feeling that Dana Carvey got more coverage when he impersonated George H.W. Bush back in the early 1990s. The Colbert story is mostly being covered by blogs (even the City Pages link I pointed at is a blog).

Posted by mike at 05:17 PM Central | Comedy , Politics | Comments (0)

May 04, 2006

The Most Heroic Dog on Television

From the Simpsons episode "Homer's Enemy" (ep. 4F19, 1997):

[Grimes walks into the lunchroom]

Grimes: Can you believe that guy? He's in his office making a pathetic attempt to look professional.

Carl: Hey, whaddya got against Homer anyway?

Grimes: Are you kidding? Does this whole plant have some disease where it can't see that he's an idiot? [Walks to bulletin board] Look here, accidents have doubled every year since he became safety inspector. And meltdowns have tripled. Has he been fired? No. Has he been disciplined? No, no.

Lenny: Eh, everybody makes mistakes. That's why they put erasers on pencils.

Carl: Yeah, Homer's okay. Give him a break.

Grimes: No! Homer is not okay! And I want everyone in this plant to realize it. I would die a happy man if I could prove to you that Homer Simpson has the intelligence of a six-year-old.

[Lenny ignores Grimes, and turns to Carl]

Lenny: So, how you doin'?

The Grimes storyline in this episode works well as an allegory for the media's interaction with the Bush administration. In this case, Homer is Bush, Lenny and Carl are the mainstream media, and Grimes is the public. Well, the left-of-center public, anyway. One could personify it in Stephen Colbert, I suppose.

Posted by mike at 12:01 AM Central | Comedy , Politics | Comments (0)

May 13, 2006

Dave Gorman, Eat Your Heart Out

The drop of Bush's approval below 30% could be more significant than it first appears because of the way the Harris poll is conducted. Participants are asked to rate the president in one of four categories: excellent, pretty good, only fair, and poor, and undecideds either don't count or don't exist. Previous polls putting Bush at 31% did have a few percentage points of undecideds, so if you toss out the undecideds and recalculate, the 31% approval actually represents something slightly higher. The CBS/New York Times of May 5th–8th gave Bush an approval rating of 31% and a disapproval rating of 63%. The Harris poll, where there is no gap, has an approval of 29% and a disapproval of 71%.

So if you do a simple ratio (approve-disapprove)/(approve+disapprove) on the CBS/NYT poll, you'll get a value of -0.34. That's over the domain [-1,1] rather than [0,100%], so add 1 and divide by 2 to get 33%, meaning that disapproval is 67% in that poll (well, with this simple method of interpolation). So, from CBS/NYT to Harris, there is a shift of four points rather than just two. Of course, it could be slightly more likely for someone to say that the president is doing "only fair" rather than stating outright disapproval, so maybe the shift doesn't really exist.

Polls are very flaky and I don't like the way they work, especially with these giant gaps of undecideds that appear sometimes. For instance, 19% of respondents thought that Barack Obama should not run in the 2008 election, according to one poll. But another 19% felt the opposite—that he should run. A whopping 62% of people in that poll had no opinion, so saying that "only 19% of the country wants Barack Obama to run" would be entirely accurate, but also highly misleading since it would give the impression that 81% wouldn't want him to run when that's not the case.

I'd personally like a scale more like what I used earlier, where a value ranges from -1 to 1 (or -100% to 100%). A little ± attached with a value would also be nice. So, if you get a value that says 0.01±0.06, you'd know right away that it's impossible to say who's winning. This is a number you'd get by recalculating a 49% vs. 48% poll with a sampling error of 3%.

But heck, I'm not a statistician, so there's probably something pretty bogus here. Yeah, it's strange to guess at what that undecided few is thinking, but polling is already based on the fact that a small number of people can represent what a much larger number is thinking.

Posted by mike at 12:44 AM Central | Politics | Comments (0)

July 11, 2006

Aroo! I'm Nixon's Head!

Whenever I hear the phrase "kangaroo court", I end up thinking about Captain Kangaroo.

Posted by mike at 10:29 AM Central | Politics | Comments (0)

August 09, 2006

Spoiler Alert

So Joe "Three-Way Tie for Third Place" Lieberman didn't win his primary in Connecticut yesterday. Aw, too bad.</sarcasm>

Posted by mike at 08:25 AM Central | Politics | Comments (0)

August 14, 2006


Heh, I suppose that in the vein of Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead, we need something for Fidel Castro:

  1. Comandante Fidel Castro is still alive
  2. Comandante Fidel Castro isn't dead yet
Something like that...

Posted by mike at 03:11 PM Central | Comedy , Politics | Comments (0)

August 25, 2006


Random tidbit: If Gerald Ford (born July 14, 1913) survives until mid-November, he'll become the longest-lived U.S. president, surpassing Ronald Reagan (February 6, 1911–June 5, 2004).

Posted by mike at 01:50 PM Central | Politics | Comments (0)

October 02, 2006


Ugh. I'm so old... I got pissed off last night since a football game delayed the start of 60 Minutes. Well, I don't watch that show very often, but since Bob Woodward was on, I figured I should catch it. I can just blame it on my political streak.

So, should I buy the book? Maybe. The excerpts I've read so far don't really surprise me. But heck, I hardly read books these days. The stuff seemed well-written, so it'd be enjoyable to just see how Woodward puts things together. I like to think that I'm not half-bad at writing, but there are folks out there who are much better at it.

On a completely unrelated note, I watched Blackadder Back & Forth this morning. Kate Moss as Maid Marian? Hah, she actually looked good! Yeah, the modeling world baffles me...

Posted by mike at 10:11 AM Central | Politics , TV | Comments (0)

October 09, 2006


So, we've apparently had North Korea do a nuclear test in the last 24 hours. Slashdot noted the USGS "earthquake" event (I couldn't quite figure out how to link to it directly, so you have to click on the little square). They're calling it a magnitude 4.2, occurring at 01:35:27 UTC (that'd be 8:35:27 PM CDT last night, though I'm not sure if that's detected time or assumed event time). One giveaway that it wasn't an earthquake is the depth: essentially zero. I would imagine that they did an underground test, but earthquakes usually occur many miles below ground, so a depth of zero kilometers/miles could easily be a few hundred feet underground.

So, uh, remember in the run-up to the Iraq war where people said "North Korea is a few years away from getting the bomb." And here we are, a few years later.

[Edit 12:53 PM: Looks like this is the test site.]

Posted by mike at 10:58 AM Central | Politics | Comments (0)

December 05, 2006


For the conspiracy theorists out there: It appears that the lowest national average gas price of the year occurred on November 6, 2006, the day before the mid-term elections (at least according to GasBuddy.com).

Posted by mike at 09:43 AM Central | Politics | Comments (0)

December 29, 2006


And the big news for tonight is… The next Indiana Jones movie will hit theaters in May 2008!

Oh, and the 57,629th Iraqi since the March 2003 invasion died tonight. Whoopty-doo. (Actually, the number has got to be higher than that since it's just +1 from the civilian count at iraqbodycount.org and doesn't include military numbers…)

Posted by mike at 10:00 PM Central | Movies , Politics , War | Comments (0)

January 31, 2007

Are You Reddy?

So there's news that California might ban incandescent bulbs by 2012. The name of the bill is the "How Many Legislators Does It Take to Change a Lightbulb Act." That's the best name I think I've ever heard! ;-)

I think the bill is generally a good idea, but there are problems. Compact fluorescents are almost as small as regular bulbs, but they aren't small enough. I have a "tree" lamp where a 60-watt-equivalent CFL bulb would poke out the end a bit. The ceiling light fixture in my entryway is just millimeters too tight for me to comfortably put a fluorescent in it. The ban would also have to be restricted to regular room lighting, since most cars still need incandescents for headlamps and various other little bits. Ovens, Microwaves, refrigerators, and other appliances probably wouldn't work well with fluorescents either.

I haven't seen what the proposed legislation looks like, only news coverage about it, so I can't say whether it'll really work or not.

Posted by mike at 10:24 AM Central | Politics | Comments (0)

February 01, 2007

Numba One in the 'Hood, G

<voice type="30s-newsreel">
The east coast is seized in fear as invaders from the moon are discovered throughout the city of Boston! Massive mobilization of policemen and firemen causes havoc for everyday Bostonians! The city is shut down with highways and waterways cut off! Wicked scary! Two men are held accountable as a mayor promises swift retribution!


The '30s newsreel tone seemed appropriate since this seems like a rehashing of Orson Welles' old War of the Worlds radio play. Except for the three-week delayed reaction... (plus the fact that these guys are "Mooninites" from the moon rather than Mars ;-)

The Aqua Teen Hunger Force guerilla marketing idea was neat, and I'd think it was cool if I saw one of the little signs somewhere. Unfortunately, guerilla marketing is of limited value, since it tends to use inside jokes to sell to people who already know about something, or it simply attempts to grab headlines. I think of the blimp that was floating around downtown Minneapolis a year or two ago with an obscure message. It turned out to be advertising the launch of an evening newscast on KMSP channel 9. Whee... How exciting...

There are regulations about various types of advertising, and this probably violated something. As for the terrorism bent to the story, the Boston officials just need to accept the fact that they overreacted. They want someone to pay for their mistake. Sure, the company that was doing the marketing should probably get fined for illegal placement of advertising materials, but I don't think the two employees who they put in jail should take most of the blame.

I'll have to count the number of times that this gets called a "bomb hoax" in the media from this point on, since that's not what it is. Actually, there'd been another campaign in the Los Angeles area for Mission: Impossible III last year which was much closer to being a bomb hoax, with electronic devices being placed inside newspaper stands which had microswitches linked to the box's door. It was meant to play the Mission: Impossible theme when the newspaper box was opened. The bomb squad got called out and did a controlled explosion on one of them.

But hidden black boxes with microswitches is one thing. Flashing Lite-Brite panels with a character easily identifiable to anyone who has cable TV and the occasional case of insomnia is something different.

The marketing folks should have notified the city of the boxes before they went up, but they didn't (well, at least I haven't heard that they did). Of course, it's 90% likely the city would either deny the request to put them up, or the marketers would have to wade through nine months of red tape to do it. I'm sure most people who saw them figured they were advertising gimmicks or discarded toys. I can't blame the person who eventually called it in, since it would definitely look weird to some people. Heck, it's a cartoon giving the middle finger—not something that a Boston urbanite should be surprised to see, considering graffiti and all, but I can understand the worry.

However, the reactions of city officials once the call got placed into the 911 operator and worked its way up the chain just caused things to go haywire. Someone should have been able to defuse the human side of the equation before the bomb squad got called in.

Posted by mike at 02:17 PM Central | Politics , TV , The Media | Comments (0)

February 02, 2007

Are You Threatening Me?

RRR! I'm annoyed at the way the Aqua Teen story in Boston has been getting reported over the last few days. Most of the reporting is leaning heavily in favor of the authorities, which is really annoying. There's usually a token blurb of someone saying "the city overreacted," but then that gets shouted down by the rest of the article with three or five references to officials saying otherwise. I want to go on a rant about the "mainstream media," but you've heard that all before...

Of course, it doesn't help that Turner is kowtowing to the city by promising to make some sort of payment. Sure, maybe give the city $10–25k as a token gesture—something that would cover the initial police response—but a million bucks? Come on! The police figured out that the boxes were harmless by early afternoon, but the city kept going on its witch hunt for hours after that.

Well, the legal case against the guys who put up the signs is pretty weak, so hopefully the case will get laughed out of court if the charges don't get dropped outright.

Posted by mike at 05:27 PM Central | Politics , TV , The Media | Comments (0)


One last thing:

Banned in Boston.

Huh, never knew about that.

Posted by mike at 05:34 PM Central | Politics , TV , The Media | Comments (0)

February 03, 2007


The Retahded

Posted by mike at 09:03 PM Central | Movies , Politics , TV , The Media | Comments (0)

February 05, 2007


Dr. EvilTwo Million Dollars!

Did anyone else have an image of Dr. Evil, that other villain to have a moon base, pop into their minds when they read that? I did. It's a gross overpayment: $1 million to reimburse cities for the activities of police and other agencies last Wednesday, and another million in "goodwill funds" for emergency preparedness.

You've got to be kidding me.

The Massachusetts Attorney General is still negotiating with lawyers for Peter Berdovksy and Sean Stevens. But really, when you get two and a half times the cost of the response back into your coffers, the guys should really be getting off scott-free with clean records.

Posted by mike at 01:17 PM Central | Politics , TV , The Media | Comments (0)

May 03, 2007


Important Update:

Fidel Castro isn't dead yet.

...and neither is Andy Griffith...

Posted by mike at 03:23 PM Central | Politics | Comments (0)