Saturday, January 24, 2004

Get well, Gilliard 

Blogger Steve Gilliard is in a bad way... Send up your positive vibes of choice. Judging by the tone of his friend who is posting updates on his blog, he could really use some thoughts and prayers.
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Buy a candidate 

Get your very own Presidential Candidate at Amazon.

Sure, it's as convenient a way to contribute to a campaign as any other. But don't most of these people have the ability to accept contributions through their campaign websites? And if not, why not?

In any case, I'm not really sure this is a business that Amazon wants to be in.

And who the hell are some of these people? Willie Carter? Lucian Wojciechowski?

UPDATE: I'm disappointed that I can't add a Presidential Candidate to my Wish List so someone else can buy one for me. Darn. I really had my eye on that shiny new Lowell Jackson Fellure Amazon's got.

UPDATE 2: Oh yeah... scooped Reuters. :)
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Friday, January 23, 2004

Release your inner slave 

And get a load of this laugher of a poll from Democratic Underground... I report, you deride.
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Taking us for fools 

Maine Revenue Services is running a television spot about use tax. This is a tax that a Maine resident supposedly owes on purchases made over the internet or out of state. No, seriously. So this TV spot helpfully informs the people of Maine that they are liable for these taxes, and goes on to encourage people to declare out-of-state purchases on their state income tax return. No, seriously. And then it provides a helpful web address people can go to for more information.

I wonder how many gullible people are rounding up receipts right now?

My favorite part of the website:

If you made purchases in a state which charges sales tax and your purchase was taxed, you may not owe any use tax in Maine... However if you paid less than Maine's rate you owe the difference. For instance if another state's rate is 4% and Maine's rate is 5%, a Maine use tax of 1% is due.
Tee-hee. I feel like such a scofflaw now.
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Freedom of the press 

Yesterday, I said that the resumed printing of Zimbabwe's opposition newspaper, The Daily News, might be a sign of rapprochement between Mugabe and his foes.

Never mind.
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Thursday, January 22, 2004

Cold makes you stupid 

Apparently, brain function decreases with the temperature. Huh. Then again, this is from a North Dakota paper, and as cold as it is there right now, who knows.

Good thing it's not cold. Here... In Maine... Hmm.

Actually, this is a tongue-in-cheek column that can be appreciated by anyone who knows what a real winter is. Like upstate New York. Syracuse, or Buffalo, somewhere like that. Or Minnesota, or Wisconsin, or North Dakota. Or Maine of course... although some parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin were colder overnight than my Maine hometown has ever been. Brr.
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Public radio blog conversation 

I, for one, plan on tuning in at 9 pm on Sunday for this.

Sunday January 25 from 9-11 pm EST, from Minnesota Public Radio and airing on public radio stations nationwide (here's a list of stations playing the program). Christopher Lydon will be hosting the first sustained blog conversation on network radio and you’re all invited to join in. The purpose is to air out the internet effects that the political campaign has suddenly made obvious. We want to encompass the new voices and communities, the critique of institutional journalism, the expressive possibilities beyond politics, the doubts, the hype, and the truth. Among the guests will be Atrios, Andrew Sullivan, and many more (a lot of biggies, we'll be updating the site daily) including you, if you’ll tune in, phone in, or just blog it as we speak. If this were a political campaign, which it’s not, the slogan would be: Take back the conversation.
Cool. A number of public radio stations are carrying the program, and it will also be streamed live on the Minnesota Public Radio site.
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Hydrogen powered battle tanks 

Slashdot brings us a story about the U.S. Army's interest in developing hydrogen fuel technology for future use in its vehicles. Among the advantages of hydrogen would be much higher fuel mileage and reduced logistical costs in the field, according to the Department of Defense.

Wired ran a great article about hydrogen fuel in April 2003. I highly recommend it as a primer on the state of hydrogen fuel technology and the obstacles standing in the way of the "hydrogen economy." Among the roadblocks is figuring out a way to produce hydrogen that doesn't use hydrocarbons. Burning coal to produce the electricity needed to make hydrogen kind of defeats the idea of hydrogen as clean power. The Wired article suggests nuclear power as an alternative, but that brings a whole other set of baggage with it. Nuclear power has virtually zero impact on the atmosphere or water, but despite huge advances in reactor safety, a lot of people have a serious aversion to it. So, if nuclear power will open the door to hydrogen fuel, it might take some salesmanship.

That said, the government is often a driving force for change. Military and space technology has frequently paved the way for civilian applications, so if the Army leads the way on hydrogen, maybe the country will follow. I think that hydrogen is coming, and the military has the ability to hasten its arrival if programs like the one above are followed to completion.
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The Command Post quotes a piece from Jane's which says that the U.S. is considering strikes against Hizbullah in Lebanon, particularly in the terrorist haven of the Bekaa Valley.

Perhaps Don Rumsfeld has been reading Foreign Affairs, which made the case against Hizbullah in an article by Daniel Byman in the November/December issue. (Excerpt only, full article requires purchase.)
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Zimbabwe talks 

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is ready to talk with the opposition, according to South African President Thabo Mbeki:

"I am happy to say that in the end ... they have agreed that they will now go into formal negotiations," Mr Mbeki told a joint press conference with the visiting German chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, adding that Pretoria had been "engaging both sides for a very long time".
But apparently Mbeki forgot to tell either Mugabe or the opposition of this agreement which they supposedly have reached:

But a senior official of Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party told BBC News Online he could not confirm this reported change of position.

And a leading figure of the opposition MDC also said it was news to him.
Wait and see, I guess. Given his past, I find it hard to believe that Mugabe would yield an inch. But the leading opposition newspaper, the Daily News, just resumed publishing again after a four month legal struggle, so you never know.

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This pretty much sucks.

PASADENA, Calif. (Reuters) - NASA scientists said on Thursday they had lost contact with the robot rover Spirit on Mars and were unsure what had caused the problem.

Spirit project manager Pete Theisinger told a news briefing that there was a "very serious anomaly" in communications with the six-wheeled craft, which landed on Mars on Jan. 3 on a planned three-month mission to explore the geologic history of the planet.

Theisinger said scientists had been unable to communicate with Spirit for about 24 hours and had so far been unable to explain the source of the problem.
Spirit is not totally dead, according to the article. It has sent out some basic signals, but mission controllers are unable to send commands to the rover, and the rover is not sending back any useful data.

And things were going so well before. Hopefully they can clear this up. NASA has restored contact with wayward spacecraft several times in the past, so perhaps they can salvage this mission as well.
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Dirty tricks 

That's what Kevin Drum calls the infiltration of Democrats' computer files by Republican Senate staffers, reported today in the Boston Globe. And of course, that's exactly what this is. Hopefully some heads will roll. Americans deserve to be served by a clean and honest political process. Snooping and stealing information has no place in the Senate or anywhere else.

UPDATE: Some commenters at LT Smash point out that the files were just sitting there unprotected, for anyone to look at. If so, it changes the complexion of the story quite a lot.
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Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Iran roundup 

The Command Post has a great roundup of Iranian election stories, with some different opinions on what it all means. Good stuff if you're following the situation.
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More on Clark 

I am in full agreement with Tacitus here, concerning two quotes (click on the link) from General Wesley Clark:

Am I reading this correctly? Is Wesley Clark really obliquely belitting John Kerry's war service? Is he really denigrating mere junior officers as compared to exalted generals? Is he really implying that there's some moral failing in not pursuing a lifetime mililtary career? It certainly seems so. And if so -- what a disgrace. Good military leaders of strong character don't do these things: good officers don't denigrate privates, much less junior officers. Good soldiers don't downplay wartime heroism, and they certainly don't disrespect fellow soldiers who earned a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts. They don't do these things unless they're self-interested careerists with no moral center. That's what the officers I knew who served under Wesley Clark said of him, and I see no other way to interpret these statements. Shame.
Tacitus was, by virtue of being in the Army instead of the Navy, closer to the rumblings than I was, but I heard pretty much the same things he cites.
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Speaking of Patriots sweatshirts... 

I must admit my great sin of not owning a New England Patriots sweatshirt. I mean, come on, Wesley Clark has one. So I tried to remedy the situation today. I really did. I scoured the local area in search of a plain old Patriots sweatshirt. Being in Maine, I didn't expect it to be very difficult.

But as it turns out, the only shirts available right now are AFC Champions shirts, and they are everywhere. And well, I just don't have the requisite lack of faith that I would need to buy an AFC Champions shirt. Buying such a shirt indicates that the wearer doesn't believe that the Pats will be more than conference champions.

I am confident that they will be more than that, and apparently so is everyone else. The racks were full of AFC Champions shirts and they appeared to be a very slow selling item.

Glad to see that faith in the Patriots is alive and well in Maine.
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Clark a Pats fan? 

General Wesley Clark gets my respect for a campaign ad which I just learned has run in neighboring New Hampshire:

"We as Americans know what it takes to be great," Clark says in the ad, as the camera closes tightly on his face. "It takes leadership. It takes teamwork. It takes spirit, and sacrifice, and commitment . . ."

"And let's face it, you have to be strong on defense," he continues, as the camera pulls back to reveal that he's wearing a Patriots sweatshirt. "You also need to be strong on offense. And having a heck of a quarterback doesn't hurt."

He concludes, with a little smile, "We are all Patriots."

First Tom Brady shows up at the State of the Union address, and now this?

Like I said, Clark gets my respect for the ad. Totally disregarding his military career, about which I heard few positive comments as a junior officer in the Navy. That I heard about him at all says something, since junior Navy officers don't hear about too many Army Generals. I heard plenty about him, though, mostly about how hard he was to work for. Not to mention Col. David Hackworth's characterization of Clark as a "perfumed prince."

Oh well. Clark's message is "Go Pats," so for the time being I'll let the other stuff slide. :)
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I'm glad to see that the Saudis and French are tackling the important issues of the day...
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Iranian resignations 

The NYT headline reads "Top Iran Aides Threaten to Quit in Vote Crisis." The lede tells a different story:

TEHRAN, Jan. 21 — Several ministers and vice presidents in Iran have handed in their resignations to protest the disqualification by the anti-reformist Guardian Council of nearly half of the candidates for Parliament, a senior government official said today.
Emphasis mine. So the headline says that some top officials are threatening to resign, and the lede says they have already resigned. This helps to clear things up:

"A number of ministers and vice presidents have resigned but they are waiting for the outcome" of the revision by the Guardian Council, Muhammad Ali Abtahi, a vice president, told reporters after a cabinet meeting. "All those who have resigned, including the governors and governor generals, are very determined," he said.
Okay. I don't understand the concept of kind of resigning. Does this mean they have tendered their resignations, but they might withdraw them if enough reformist candidates are reinstated? Looks that way. I'm not really sure how much pressure that puts on the Guardian Council, since the hardliners would rather have these officials out of government and out of the way.

But won't the resignations of reformist officials, coupled with the mass disqualification of thousands of reformist candidates, bring the people out into the streets? They might, but from the Guardian Council's perspective, the people have done that before and the regime has always had enough power to nip an uprising in the bud.

The Iranian people are losing faith in the reformists already. This could be a death blow, and the beginning of a consolidation of power by the conservative mullahs.

Or it might be a temporary setback. But from the cheap seats, it looks like a struggle the hardliners will ultimately win this time around.

Then again, Bahman Batmanghelidj and Kamal Azari seem a little more optimistic than me. I wish I could share their optimism.
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Tuesday, January 20, 2004

The trade that won't die 

ESPN reports that talks have resumed between the Red Sox and Rangers concerning a trade of Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez, baseball's only 20 million dollar men. The teams deny it, but apparently some high-level people in baseball are the source of this rumor. I hope it isn't on. The Sox roster is the envy of the league already. LEAVE IT ALONE!
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The only thing missing is the foaming at the mouth 

If you have never seen a grown man nosedive into self-induced madness, then help yourself to this video clip of Howard Dean.
Video clip, courtesy of all-encompassingly.com, with a hat tip to Allah.
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Sunday, January 18, 2004

Iranian clerics won't budge 

The Associated Press brings us the unsurprising news that Iran's hardline Guardian Council is refusing to back down on its disqualification of reformist parliamentary candidates.

"The Guardian Council won't back down at all," Guardian Council spokesman Ebrahim Azizi told a press conference. "Lawmakers whose speech or behavior suggest that they have had no loyalty to Islam or the constitution will remain disqualified."

The comments dashed hopes of a breakthrough after Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered the Guardian Council on Wednesday to reconsider the disqualifications and laid down criteria that appeared to be easier to meet.
I wonder what might be the consequences of disobeying the "supreme leader." Don't hold your breath.

Meanwhile, the reformists, for their part, are not backing down either.

On Saturday, reformist Deputy Interior Minister Morteza Moballegh, who is Iran's chief of elections, warned he would not allow next month's legislative elections to proceed unless hard-liners backed down.

About 80 reformist lawmakers have been holding sit-in demonstrations for a week. They took their protest a step further Saturday by starting dawn-to-dusk fasts.

President Mohammad Khatami condemned the disqualifications and warned he might resign if they were not reversed. And the European Union and the United States said the elections would lose credibility unless the Guardian Council's decision was overturned.

Iran's 27 provincial governors have vowed to resign by Monday unless the disqualifications are reversed.
The members of parliament holding sit-ins have a blog now, but since I doubt I have many Farsi readers in the audience, I'll refrain from linking it.

A lot of threatening this, threatening that... if the elections are actually cancelled, or if people really do start resigning en masse, then I'll believe it. And then who knows what happens... As I keep saying, stay tuned. This has modest potential to become huge.

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That's Peyton Manning's passer rating for today. Didn't I say it below? Peyton don't do snow. The NFL.com home page has a headline about Manning trying to erase doubts about his game. Well, my doubts have only been compounded.

In any case, it is a great day in New England. To the Eagles... we'll see you in Houston. (Unless I'm wrong... but I'm more sure of the NFC game than I was the AFC.)

UPDATE: I haven't done a good job erasing doubts about my football prediction skills. Hey, I went one-for-two today...

I like the Panthers matchup better than the Eagles anyway. The Pats have dispatched co-MVP quarterbacks in consecutive games, and Jake Delhomme is not a McNair or Manning.
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A prediction 

Before this game kicks off in a few minutes, I want to throw in my final two cents. It's snowing in Foxboro, and I say let it snow. Peyton don't do snow.

Pats 31, Colts 17.
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Building the ideal American 

Bill Whittle has Part 2 of his "Building the ideal American" series up. Go back and read Part 1, "What You Owe," if you missed it.
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Extreme beer 

David Adesnik of Oxblog is a lucky man.

I knew about the festival, but alas, it was a Reserve drill weekend. So no trip to Boston for me. Maybe next time.
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Things that make you go "duh" 

This headline from Saturday's Bangor Daily News seems to be stating the obvious.
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