So I'm watching LOTR: TTT (Dad and I didn't finish on Super Bowl Sunday), studiously avoiding the TV coverage of mini Tuesday. Currently the scene is Helm's Deep, just before the battle between 10,000 orcs and a few hundred people of Rohan:
Aragorn [to a young boy]: Give me your sword...What is your name?
Boy: Haleth, son of Hama, my lord...The men are saying we will not live out the night. They say that it is hopeless.
[Aragorn tests the balance of the obviously old, chipped sword, swings it around.]
Aragorn: This is a good sword. Haleth, son of Hama...there is always hope.
And with 15% of precincts reporting in New Mexico:
Kerry 7,209 29%
Dean 6,317 25%
Clark 6,204 25%
Go Howie! If you believe in hope, and in changing this country, please consider giving a little cash to the Dean campaign.
Although the odds of Howard Dean winning the Democratic nomination look long as voters cast their ballots in seven states Tuesday, some of Dean's allies in Congress continue to voice support for him.
"My guess is the race is far from over and it won't be wrapped up" in Tuesday’s round of contests, said Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J. ...
Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, who is leading the Dean effort among Democratic House members, said Dean supporters are resisting the idea that the race for the nomination should be considered effectively over when television pundits say it is over. "That’s not the way it's going to work," Lofgren said late Monday in a telephone interview.
Lofgren warned against a precipitous rush to rally around the front-runner. "None of the other candidates has really received critical scrutiny," she contended. "If we end up selecting by a coronation a candidate who can't survive because of issues that later develop, that would be a disaster for the Democrats."
Right on. Dean's not performing as well as I would like, and will probably not pick up a lot of delegates today, but it ain't over yet folks. I hope that voters in later primary/caucus states (such as in Vermont on 3/2) get a chance to weigh in on the nominee, and that people don't just succumb to the bandwagon effect.
Of course in the darkest reaches of my heart I'd hoped this exact thing would work to Dean's advantage. But honestly, I think it's bad for our democracy if people just follow the herd and get behind whomever kicked ass in Iowa and New Hampshire. In fact, I argued against everybody getting behind Dean just because he was leading the polls in December.
I wonder what the impact would be of creating a national primary date? I know IA and NH would hate it, but screw you guys. This isn't about you and your brief moment in the electoral sun: this about our democracy. Big picture, people!
Why not treat the primaries just like the general election? You'd still have to campaign state-by-state, just like you do for the general, and then everybody would get a chance to have their voice heard at the same time. I think that would be much fairer and probably result in even stronger candidates.
So there it is: everybody votes on the same date...say, in May or June; conventions in August; campaigning in earnest begins after Labor Day. What do you think?
PS--8 bazillion bonus points to the person who really gets the title of the post.
¶ 6:44 PM
Planned job cuts in January were 26 percent higher than in December due to increases in offshore outsourcing and to mergers and acquisitions that have made some positions redundant, global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., reported on Tuesday.
Post-holiday job cuts reached 117,556 in January, surpassing the 100,000 threshold for the first time since last October.
[Challenger] said one of the main factors behind the cuts was an increase of employers eliminating jobs in the United States and shifting to service providers in India, China and the Philippines.
So we give tax cuts to corporations, which I'll note are not people, and they export our jobs to increase their margins. Where is our Dubcek who will give us capitalism with a human face? Look no further than at one of the candidates for President:
Capitalism is the greatest system that people have ever invented, because it takes advantage of bad traits, as well as our good traits, and turns them into productivity. But the essence of capitalism...is, you got to have some rules. Imagine a hockey game with no rules...Nobody benefits...So you have got to have reasonable rules. And the rules have to protect everybody in the game.
And the saga of the snow thrower (which I will tell you about another time) should come to an end any minute--Sears is supposedly delivering it between 3 and 5PM (but we've heard that one before many times since December 30th). So I'm ignoring work in anticipation. And it's supposed to dump a bunch of the white stuff (not ricin) on us tonight!
Over at Eschaton there was a discussion about penises on TV, and why they're not acceptable but all the violence we see is. I quoted Zardoz:
The penis is evil. The penis shoots seeds, and makes new life, and poisons the earth with a plague of men, as once it was. But the gun shoots death, and purifies the earth of the filth of brutals. Go forth and kill!
MYOB mused about a flying head with Bush's face on it, and I have quickly ginned one up:
I ain't a PhotoShop genius, so it's the best I can muster. Plus I couldn't find a floating version of the head, so this will have to do for now. Have to run to work!
[Update: the original Zardoz pic I used, plus a synopsis/review of the movie for those of you who have absolutely no frigging idea what I'm talking about, is available on Bad Movies.]
¶ 9:35 AM
Weapons Of Public Distraction Related Program Activity
Amazing that when BushCo starts feeling the heat, boobs and scary things pop out of the proverbial woodwork:
Following the discovery of suspected deadly toxin ricin in the mailroom of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, much of the Senate complex will be shut down Tuesday, the Senate Web site said.
Certainly I don't want to minimize the danger of a possible ricin attack, but it seems oddly convenient, just like the terror alerts and Kobe Bryant. Given our vigorous pursuit of silly things like exposed breasts, while we have yet to catch the people who outed Valerie Plame (let alone the anthrax killer), I have become a bit cynical. Then I read stuff like this:
Of eight tests conducted Monday, six were positive for the toxin, with a ninth and final test due Tuesday.
One milligram of ricin, a dose the size of the head of a pin, can kill an adult.
This gets me scratching my head, but maybe because I don't quite understand how testing works. If you've got a visible powder, I would assume there are gram levels of the toxin present, which from what I've read is millions of times more than you need to get a positive with today's analysis methods. If that's the case, why have 2 tests failed and nobody has become ill (thankfully)?
Given that you could have false positive rates of upwards of 80% in some tests, is it more likely that there are merely traces of something else at microgram levels (which make specificity dicey at best) that cause the tests to come up positive? Maybe my more scientific readers can help dispel my doubts.
It's pretty sad when I can't really trust the reporting, or the government officials doing the testing and investigating. After all the breathless front-page pronouncements of "we've found WMD" and "preliminary tests show the white powder to be [insert toxin]" that have proved false with corrections buried on page 12, I'm not going to hold my breath on this one.
[Update: Tom Burka over at Opinions You Should Have has a nice FAQ about ricin that should clear up any questions you might have.]
¶ 8:47 AM
I'm not going to bother with state-by-state percentages, but I'll summarize: Kerry will win AZ, DE, MO, NM, ND; Edwards will in fact pull off SC (but it will be close), and I think OK (just nudge out Clark); Dean and Clark won't win any states, but won't be shut-out in terms of delegates (Kerry = 115; Edwards = 71; Dean = 43; Clark = 40). Hey, my predictions have been getting better, so I must be pretty close this time...
I am outraged at what I saw during the halftime show of the Super Bowl. Like millions of Americans, my family and I gathered around the television for a celebration. Instead, that celebration was tainted classless, crass and deplorable commercials for beer, erection drugs, and cars. Our nation's children, parents and citizens deserve better.
I have instructed the Commission to open an immediate investigation into last night's broadcast. Our investigation will be thorough and swift.
Oh, wait, wrong press release. He's upset about Janet Jackson's boob (as opposed to the hooter pictured below). Maybe now he'll come out against media concentration after this most unfortunate incident.
* Damn it, I was looking prescient when the score was 21-16, just before Brady threw that INT. Thought I was going to only be 1 point off in my prediction (I was assuming they'd play it conservative, get the FG, then hold off Carolina in the final 7 minutes). Ah well, at least the right team won!
* The Pats can thank me: when they were playing the Rams, I left my folks' and listened to the last 6 minutes on the radio, including of course Vinatieri kicking the game winner; same thing this year. I might not be able to predict the final score, but I clearly hold the fate of New England in my hand. Or my radio.
* If the Pats had lost, it would've proven that Howard Dean will win the nomination. My streak of calling races is so bad, all I would have to do is predict he will lose every race, thereby guaranteeing victory.
* The Pats and the Rams have been involved in 3 of my favorite Super Bowls. I have been happy with the results of 2 of them. A cigar to whomever can guess which 2.
* Dad and I watched LOTR starting at noon, and then we all had dinner before the game. Just outside the dining room window, Mom saw an owl (I think it's a Barred Owl). Took a while for Dad to grab the camera and turn off the flash, and the bird flew to a tree in the backyard. I leaned out the backdoor to grab this snap:
Their cam doesn't have the greatest zoom, but hopefully all y'all can see the bird! I wonder if it was an omen...
[Update: nominations for best ad? I loved Shards O Glass, the American Legacy Foundation's anti-tobacco commercial. Makes me wonder, why didn't CBS run the MoveOn spot again?]
A year ago, we lost seven explorers. The crew of Columbia -- Rick, Willie, Mike, Dave, K.C., Laurel and Ilan -- were dedicated to exploration. They went into space understanding both the inherent risks and the enormous potential benefits, and enthusiastically carried out their mission. The STS-107 crew embodied a calling that is deeply rooted in the human soul -- the desire to climb to the top of the mountain, to travel beyond the horizon, and to comprehend and appreciate the whole of our universe. As we reflect on their achievements and their courage, we must honor their dedication and their humanity, and begin once again to look forward, onward and upward.
Our most immediate goal must be to get the Space Shuttle flying safely again, consistent with the recommendations of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, and honor our commitments to completing the International Space Station.
But I believe we must look farther ahead and deeper into the cosmos. We’ve trolled the shallows of low-Earth orbit long enough, and I agree with President Bush that the time has come to set sail once again on the seas of space.
How do we proceed? How do we build momentum? I think the correct approach is to explore incrementally, just as the President suggests, one small step at a time. We must aim high, carefully measure our progress, and doggedly pursue the ultimate goal of extending human presence across the solar system.
President Kennedy referred to the Apollo Program as "Mankind’s greatest adventure." As an astronaut who made those journeys, I’d like to think he was correct. But as I look at the limitless vistas ahead, I have to believe that the greatest adventures are yet to come. We must continue the journey which has only just begun.
Ah, screw it. I'm going to post my chess move here for now, and will copy it to the OSP Knowledge section for completeness when the technical issues are worked out [Update: finally cross-posted at OSP]:
N. Todd Pritsky finally escapes the quantum singularity preventing him from making his chess move. Believe me, it was well worth the wait.
It's About Time!
When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it's longer than any hour. That's relativity. - Albert Einstein
Well, I wasn't sitting with a pretty girl, but teaching an intense class for an exhausting couple of weeks made me totally lose track of time, so my recent trip to Dallas flew by. Apologies to Rook (aka Guy) and the seven of you who have been following our Bloggers Chess match. Now that I've been home for several days, I can finally get my head around the latest developments.
First of all, I didn't expect Guy to chose the safe, conservative route of castling, given all his "Bring 'em on!" rhetoric leading up to his last move1. I thought maybe he would force the issue in the center, bringing up his pawn (P-Q4), for example.
Shoring up his defense of the King is a pretty good move, doesn't really cost him any tempo, and means he's not taking any chances of losing the opportunity later2. Quite honestly, that's what I generally do, so I must conclude that Guy is very wise. Heh.
I wasn't quite sure how to respond. My usual inclination as Black is to push toward the center. Maybe move my King-side bishop, or my remaining knight? That would start opening up my back row so I could mirror Guy's move and give my King some more protection.
The problem I face, of course, is that Black starts at a disadvantage and needs to shake things up to take tempo away from White. I'm thinking that maybe I need to attack Guy's castle, force him to spend energy defending that part of the board instead of attacking the center himself.
Okay, it's settled: B-KN5.
I consulted my Chess Openings book, and I see this is really the one Ruy variation3 that is pretty much equally good for both Black and White at this stage. I still haven't grabbed any advantage from Guy yet, but hopefully I've stalled any attack he was planning.
If Guy stays with this variation, I expect him to pressure my bishop with P-KR3, but he could surprise me. My hope is that I can create an opening in his defenses and end this quickly - sort of the Hail Mary approach, which works in football4, so maybe it will be effective here.
And since today is Super Bowl Sunday5, I might as well offer another prediction: Patriots over the Panthers, 24-17. I'll probably be proven wrong, and it wouldn't be the first time.
1 - Sounds like an apt metaphor for Iraq, actually: despite our Commander-in-Chief's bravado, we've essentially retreated to the Green Zone, and have reduced the number of patrols as resistance to our occupation increases. Could work for Afghanistan, too, now that I think about it.
2 - Some of our more experienced kibitzers might take issue with this assessment.
3 - Horowitz calls this "practical variation 37" in Part 9 of the Ruy chapter (all about the Exchange Variation).
4 - Not to mention Gulf War I.
5 - I'll be heading over to my folks' house to watch on Dad's big plasma TV. Apropos of nothing, I think Howard Dean might be having a Super Bowl Party...
[Update: I added a couple footnotes that I failed to save in my original draft.]
¶ 9:58 AM
I'm trying to publish my Bloggers Chess move over at OSP, but am getting errors, so that might take a while. In the meantime, I thought I would thank the folks who have been following the game, and everybody for sticking with this blog despite the haphazard posting in January. The monthly stats were still pretty nice:
Not bad, considering the post-holiday doldrums and my 2 week exile in Dallas! A little over 7000 visits, which also pushed the odometer over 35,000 total since June 2003. I appreciate my readers continued readership, and hopefully I'll be able to provide some better content going forward.
I'll also be getting back to a regular Blogaround routine to promote my fellow Coalition and OSP members. Probably not today, since I'm heading over to my folks' for the Super Bowl soon. You can do you own Blogaround by checking out the fine links in the blogrolls today.
One other thing about blogrolls. Looks like with the League of Liberals making changes in their mission, the TTLB-maintained roll no longer exists. I'll be deleting the references from my template when I get around to it, and I'm not sure if I'll try to manually maintain the list or not. Probably not, but I'll put a link to the League in the regular roll or something.
In the weeks following an episode of the Bravo/NBC hit show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy—in which five gay men, known as the Fab 5, make over a low-maintenance straight man—many businesses whose products are featured have seen a significant sales boost.
A recent Jericho Communications survey found that on the day following a new episode of Queer Eye, men were five times more likely to go shopping than women. "Men feel more confident now about being stylish," says Judy Gordon, founder of TheTrendReport.com.
A Queer Eye Recovery in the making? One can only hope.
PS--I still hate to shop and am not stylish (just ask my wife). Apparently I'm not like other guys...
¶ 12:05 PM
I got a top score of 320.5 322.8 322.9323.5 before I gave up. That barely beats MercuryX23, but not Rook, making it imperative that I defeat him in chess.Okay, Merc, Jeff, Rook and I are all winners now with a 323.5 score. Or does that make us losers? Me, I'm just waiting for my wife to get home...
[Update: here's proof that I tied Rook and Jeff:
And it only took until halfway through True Lies to do this!]
¶ 10:54 AM
Some folks have been asking about the Great Bloggers Chess Match and whether it's defunct. It is not, but it's my turn and quite frankly, I haven't had the energy to think about moves and the surrounding post. I've promised Rook that I would do something this weekend.
I also promise to re-engage in OSP and The Liberal Coalition. I've found the beginning of 2004 to be filled with way more work, stress, and minor illness than I would like, so I haven't been up to being a very good community member online, let alone at work or at home (and don't ask about my damned book project).
The next couple months on my travel schedule look absolutely brutal, and that is necessarily going to force some major lifestyle changes (including quite possibly where and how I make a living). In that context, one thing I've discovered is that having a blog as an outlet for writing, poetry, photography, chess, etc, helps me keep my sanity from fraying entirely, so I promise my readers that this endeavor will continue.
And if there are any magazine or newspaper people out there who just happen to discover this site, I'd be better and cheaper than Andrew Sullivan, should you be looking for new talent to cultivate. I promise.
A follow up study shows Diebold machines are still a threat to our democracy, according to a report by RABA Technologies (PDF):
At the request of the State of Maryland, RABA Technology’s Innovative Solution Cell (RiSC) performed a review of the DIEBOLD touch-screen electronic voting system. A team of security experts reviewed the SAIC report commissioned by Maryland and went on to hold a "Red Team" exercise to discover vulnerabilities in the actual voting system as it will be deployed for the March 2004 primary.
The key findings of this effort are two-fold. The State of Maryland election system (comprising technical, operational, and procedural components), as configured at the time of this report, contains considerable security risks that can cause moderate to severe disruption in an election. However, each of these vulnerabilities has a mitigating recommendation that can be implemented in time for the March 2004 primary.
With all these near-term recommendations in place, we feel, for this primary, that the system will accurately render the election and is worthy of voter trust. However, between the March and November elections we strongly feel that additional actions must be taken to mitigate increasing risks incumbent on a system that will receive broad scrutiny. Ultimately we feel there will be a need for paper receipts, at least in a limited fashion.
I found this via the NYTimes, so it's getting some press. Problem is, once again this is being covered in the Technology section of the paper, not in Politics, and is not being blared on the front page.
The glitch-struck Spirit Mars Exploration Rover is on the mend as computer experts consider delicate electronic surgery on the robot’s software smarts. The hope is fixing the rover and returning it to science-gathering tasks at Gusev Crater by early next week.
There remain nagging worries, however, that what ails Spirit can’t be fully understood. If that’s the case, engineers here at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) are taking slow steps in certifying that Spirit’s twin – Opportunity that now rests halfway around Mars -- won’t run into the same problems.
Some tele-surgery is planned to deal with some memory issues at the heart of the problem.
The state's school superintendent has proposed striking the word evolution from Georgia's science curriculum and replacing it with the phrase "biological changes over time."
Superintendent Kathy Cox said the concept of evolution would still be taught under the proposal, but the word would not be used.
Cox repeatedly referred to evolution as a "buzzword" Thursday and said the ban was proposed, in part, to alleviate pressure on teachers in socially conservative areas where parents object to its teaching.
Educators and legislators criticized the proposal, saying science teachers understand the theories behind evolution and how to teach them.
"Here we are, saying we have to improve standards and improve education, and we're just throwing a bone to the conservatives with total disregard to what scientists say," said state Rep. Bob Holmes, a Democrat.
Social conservatives who prefer religious creation to be taught instead of evolution criticized the proposal as well.
"If you're teaching the concept without the word, what's the point?" said Rep. Bobby Franklin, a Republican. "It's stupid. It's like teaching gravity without using the word gravity."
[Update: Speaking of the theory of evolution and the theory of gravity, you might be interested in Jay Bullock's excellent takedown of "intelligent design" from last month on OSP. Amazing how these people keep trying to chip away at science in school. Change a word here, edit a concept there, and pretty soon you have no real education.]
A few quotes about the Yawp Heard Round The Campaign:
* "[T]he reason we owe this man (whom, by the way, I do not support for president) an apology is because we say that we want our presidents to be one of us. But when they act like one of us, then we beat them up and say they are not acting presidential," says Dave Lieber of the Star-Telegram (via blogAmY).
* "I don’t think we overplayed [the Iowa speech] a scintilla more than we did Michael Jackson hanging the kid over a balcony," says Fox News Senior Vice President John Moody (via the Howler).
* "Individually we may feel okay about our network, but the cumulative effect for viewers with 24-hour cable coverage is -- it may have been overplayed and, in fact, a disservice to Dean and the viewers," says Andrew Heyward, President of CBS News (via ABC).
Partial credit to Diane Sawyer and ABC. They actually ran a story correcting the misperception about Dean's speech. Too little, too late, I'm afraid. But hey, at least they're admitting to a mistake--contrast to the media's treatment of Gore (or Clinton for that matter).
I'm not in the mood for politics (some developments regarding my work schedule are bumming me out), so I'm going to watch movies instead of the debate (besides, do I really want to hear the same stump speech crap and stuff about the Stars and Bars for the umpteenth time?). I'd appreciate it if any readers alert me to interesting things that come up so my transcript reading will be easier later...
About a month ago I posted a bit about being at Murdoch's mercy, and the dangers of media consolidation. John Nichols at The Nation tackles the consolidation issue in light of CBS' censorship of MoveOn's anti-Bush ad:
CBS officials are still refusing to air a MoveOn.org Voter Fund commercial during Sunday's Super Bowl game because that the 30-second advertisement criticizes President Bush's fiscal policies. There is no question that the network's determination to censor critics of the president damages the political discourse. But the network has not exactly silenced dissent. In fact, CBS's heavy-handed tactics are fueling an outpouring of grassroots anger over the dominance of communications in the United States by a handful of large media corporations. More than 400,000 Americans have contacted CBS to complain already, and the numbers are mounting hourly.
At the same time, the controversy surrounding the censorship of the MoveOn ad has heightened Congressional concern about lobbying by CBS's owner, Viacom, and other media conglomerates to lift limits on media consolidation and monopoly. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, says CBS should be seen as: "Exhibit A in the case against media concentration."
As Bill Moyers observed: "media conglomeration...can take the oxygen out of democracy."
Kerry won because many voters were looking for a candidate who had the best chance of beating President Bush in the November election, and perceived Kerry to be that candidate.
[O]ver half of the New Hampshire voters, 56%, perceived Kerry as having the best chance of beating Bush. Only 16% of the voters felt that about Dean, and smaller numbers felt that about the other candidates. In other words, whatever else they may have thought about Kerry's strengths, New Hampshire voters became convinced that he is the one who is most electable in November...
Dean apparently still retained a considerable amount of good will among New Hampshire Democratic primary voters even as he lost to Kerry...Dean was more likely than Kerry to be selected on three of [five positive personal characteristics], by three- to five-point margins, and trailed Kerry by only two points on a fourth. These include such things as "has new ideas that would help solve the country's problems," "shares your values," and "is in touch with the average American."
Indeed, the exit poll showed that Dean was the favored candidate among New Hampshire primary voters who said that standing up for what one believes in or the ability to shake things up in Washington was the most important criterion for their votes.
Sigh. That damn electability meme. If only people had voted for the person who represented their ideals instead of this bogus idea*. I think that's the only way to truly win in November**.
* Yes, I see polling now shows Kerry could beat Bush. No duh, he's got the momentum and people are starting to pay attention to the race. I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that the same thing would've happened if Dean or Edwards or Clark had won IA and NH--all the Dems were within striking distance of Bush before the voting started.
** This is why I don't actually begrudge what Nader voters did in 2000, while I'm still annoyed by Nader and his party (just as I'm annoyed by Gore and his party).
¶ 10:21 AM
Weapons Of Mass Disappearance
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace released an interesting report a few weeks ago:
This new study details what the U.S. and international intelligence communities understood about Iraq's weapons programs before the war and outlines policy reforms to improve threat assessments, deter transfer of WMD to terrorists, strengthen the UN weapons inspection process, and avoid politicization of the intelligence process.
The report distills a massive amount of data into side-by-side comparisons of pre-war intelligence, the official presentation of that intelligence, and what is now known about Iraq's programs.
That last sentence caught my attention, and I downloaded the second chapter of the report (PDF), which contained charts with info such as this*:
The report also has this to say about the NIE:
Most of the official statements on Iraq's weapon programs were supported by a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq...Three aspects of this NIE merit particular attention: It was produced far more quickly than is normal for such documents; it went far beyond the consensus intelligence assessments of the preceding five years; and, it had more serious dissents to its key findings than any other declassified NIE.
I guess that's what happens when politics, and not good policy, is in the driver's seat. Can I call this 'lying' on the part of the Bush administration, or do I have to resign myself to 'misleading' and/or 'incompetence'? And does the American public even care?
* I couldn't easily reproduce the chart in text, so did a screen shot. The info is truly side-by-side in the doc, but I moved the last few columns down to fit better on the screen.
¶ 10:12 AM
All Dean All The Time
With the primaries upon us, I hope readers will forgive me my tendency to post a lot of Dean stories. Here are a couple more, submitted without much comment:
People like my mother and Judy Dean stand in stark contrast to our national obsession with consumption. Our "Supersize Me!" society has so elevated the manufactured over the meaningful that when somebody dares question the value of our collective covetousness we react like they've impugned the legitimacy of the scriptures.
In their rejection of our fixation on the fashionable, these anti-Trumps suddenly become the little boy pointing out that despite our designer clothes, top-of-the-line SUVs, and plasma TVs, we're really just a bunch of emperors in expensive birthday suits, trying unsuccessfully to buy our way to happiness.
Consumer debt is at an all-time high as are the number of people filing for bankruptcy -- 1.5 million in 2002. Americans are now spending 14 percent of their income to pay off debt while less than 2 percent of their earnings is being saved. Who can worry about retirement or a rainy day when Best Buy is having a sale on digital camcorders?
Of course, this culturewide shopping spree is happening on the watch of our conservative leaders. Conservatism is supposed to stand in clear counterpoint to the excesses of the counterculture -- with responsibility, self-discipline, and living within one's means replacing the "if it feels good, do it" ethos.
But George Bush and his corporate cronies have sacrificed these values on the altar of consumption: "If it feels good, buy it!"
In a political atmosphere dizzy from spin, how refreshing to come across a simple red -- or simple blue -- sweater-wearing wife, mother and professional woman so willing to speak not from a set of pre-packaged talking points, but from her heart.
"I have a medical practice, which I love, but I also love Howard," she explained when asked why, after all this time, she'd finally decided to step out of the political shadows. "I think he'd make a terrific president."
The U.S. Army’s top general said Wednesday he is planning for the possibility that the Army may be required to keep tens of thousands of soldiers in Iraq through 2006.
Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, told the House Armed Services Committee that "for planning purposes" he has ordered his staff to consider how the Army would replace the force that is now rotating into Iraq with another force of similar size in 2005 — and again in 2006.
Of the approximately 105,000 troops going to Iraq this winter and spring to replace the 130,000 who have been there since the start of the war, about 80,000 are Army soldiers. The replacement force, which includes 25,000 Marines, is scheduled to spend a full year in Iraq.
Army officials have said that planning for the 2005 rotation of forces into Iraq will begin in February.
I have no idea if this is really significant or not. On the one hand, I'm glad the Army, DoD, and presumably the administration itself are recognizing that things might not all be rosy and we should plan for contingencies. On the other, I suspect that Bush's political considerations will trump any military concerns just as they did prior to, and during, this war.
Further, how much more will Iraq slip under the radar if we do actually turn over power to the Iraqis in June? We're still going to have a lot of troops there until 2005. If we declare victory, but still don't go home, will the American public fall for the trick as we head into the general election? Who remembers Afghanistan?
Faithful reader Bill S brought to my attention this op-ed by Robert Reich in the NYTimes:
[Dean's] campaign is both grass-roots and reformist, and is based on the proposition that ordinary people must be empowered to "take back America."
Democrats have seen what the Republican Party has been able to accomplish over the years. The conservative movement has developed dedicated sources of money and legions of ground troops who not only get out the vote, but also spend the time between elections persuading others to join their ranks. It has devised frames of reference that are used repeatedly in policy debates (among them: it's your money, tax and spend, political correctness, class warfare).
It has a system for recruiting and electing officials nationwide who share the same world view and who will vote accordingly. And it has a coherent ideology uniting evangelical Christians, blue-collar whites in the South and West, and big business — an ideology in which foreign enemies, domestic poverty and crime, and homosexuality all must be met with strict punishment and religious orthodoxy.
In contrast, the Democratic Party has had no analogous movement to animate it. Instead, every four years party loyalists throw themselves behind a presidential candidate who they believe will deliver them from the rising conservative tide. After the election, they go back to whatever they were doing before.
As we head into the next wave of primaries, the Democratic candidates should pay close attention to what Republicans have learned about winning elections. First, it is crucial to build a political movement that will endure after particular electoral contests. Second, in order for a presidency to be effective, it needs a movement that mobilizes Americans behind it. Finally, any political movement derives its durability from the clarity of its convictions. And there's no better way to clarify convictions than to hone them in political combat.
I think Reich is spot on. As Bill says, why isn't this guy a Dean supporter? Again, why did the Dems try to shoot Howie down, rather than embracing him?
Well, for me the Dean campaign hasn't been about Dean himself so much as his values and ideas. I guess as long as those can ultimately gain traction, it doesn't really matter who the messenger is--so long as the messenger really internalizes and believes in what he's saying, and effectively communicates and implements it.
So it is nice to see Reich and Dean's Dem opponents co-opt Howie's message and movement. That ought to earn Dean a spot on the Cabinet (Sec'y HHS?) if he doesn't win the whole ball of wax. I'd like to see Kerry, Edwards, and Clark capture some of Dean's energy, too, but that might be wishing for too much.
I just installed a UNIVAC simulator on my PC, did a little programming, entered a bunch of polling data, and have come to a stunning conclusion: General Eisenhower will win the Presidential Election. So all the Democratic candidates can give up right now and save us all a lot of money...
The DNC called again (they last called on Jan 2), asking for a hundred bucks. I reiterated my intention to give my cash only to Dean until after the primary season. I also re-emphasized my desire that the Democratic Party internalize Howie's message of real change, embrace the power of the grassroots movement that supports him, and stop behaving like Republicans in general.
We had a nice chat, then the caller tried to renegotiate fifty bucks out of me, and I held firm. I'm an Indy, I'm a Deaniac, and you're not getting a damn cent from me until after the convention. And I tell ya, I ain't giving to Kerry.
I'll give to the Dems to help the party overall, but I won't be able to enter my credit card info on the Kerry website. Edwards, yes. Clark, yes. But I am not supporting Kerry: I'm fighting to overthrow Bush. I hate voting coming from such a negative place, but that's how I see the political landscape at the moment.
All that said, I am still hopeful that I'll get to make a positive choice in November.
[Update: somebody over at Kos suggested that Dean donors should be pissed about how the Dean campaign squandered their dough. As I observed, this was the first campaign I've ever given to (that's another thing I told the DNC lady tonight), and in light of how much Dean has positively influenced the race, I see all my donations as money well-spent.]
¶ 8:16 PM
The U.S. military is planning for a spring offensive against Taliban and al Qaeda guerrillas in Afghanistan, U.S. officials said Wednesday. But they refused to comment on a report that the offensive might extend into bordering Pakistan.
Ah, spring time...always makes me wax nostalgiac about the days when we were told we'd won our wars...
That said, it's clearly time for a change. A grassroots movement is great, but that by itself doesn't necessarily replace good old fashioned political organization. It probably would've been counterproductive to replace Trippi before the first ballots were cast (recall Kerry being declared dead for similar moves), but clearly the campaign was coasting a bit and lost a lot of ground in the days leading up to Iowa, and made some bad moves (e.g., limiting Howie's press contact). Time to refocus, get some better ads, and better mobilize those unions and other groups.
What worries me most right now is the advantage Dean's supposed to have in these critical weeks, overflowing coffers, is possibly vaporware. If it's true that he only has $5M, I wonder how he will be able to compete in the 2/3 primaries, let alone the couple weeks after that.
Question: Mr. President, but how do you describe and account for the difference between what you claimed prior to the war about what he possessed and what he was capable of, and what the intelligence said he possessed and was capable of in terms of a nuclear weapon within the decade, and the fact that David Kay says the intelligence was inaccurate and wrong, and nothing has been found? Don't you owe the American people an explanation?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I think the Iraq Survey Group must do its work. Again, I appreciate David Kay's contribution. I said in the run-up to the war against Iraq that -- first of all, I hoped the international community would take care of him. I was hoping the United Nations would enforce its resolutions, one of many. And then we went to the United Nations, of course, and got an overwhelming resolution -- 1441 -- unanimous resolution, that said to Saddam, you must disclose and destroy your weapons programs, which obviously meant the world felt he had such programs. He chose defiance. It was his choice to make, and he did not let us in.
I said in the run-up that Saddam was a grave and gathering danger, that's what I said. And I believed it then, and I know it was true now. And as Mr. Kay said, that Iraq was a dangerous place. And given the circumstances of September the 11th, given the fact that we're vulnerable to attack, this nation had to act for our security.
Nice to see somebody in the press corps is, uh...pressing Bush to provide an explanation. Shorter Bush: "That's a trick question, and I won't answer it. 9/11!"
Tonight, the people of New Hampshire have asked for change. A real change. We can change America. And we will.
We can have jobs again in America, and we will.
We can join every other industrialized nation on the face of the earth and have health insurance for all Americans, and we will.
We can invest in families with small children and have those kids grow up to go to college instead of prison, and we will.
We can demand -- we can demand for our young people a better future, a solution to global warming, getting us off foreign oil by investing in renewable energy, and we will.
We can regain the moral leadership that this country has held, and we will.
We we can return our school systems to the control of local school boards, fully fund special education and get rid of the federal mandates of no child left behind, and we will.
We can get rid of the president's pharmaceutical bill and instead have a pharmaceutical bill that's helped seniors instead of insurance companies and drug companies, and we will.
We can give the 50% of americans who quit voting in this country because we don't give them a reason to vote a reason to vote again, and we will.
We can take back America and stand up for working families and middle-class families again and take our government back for the people who built it instead of corporations and special interests, and we will.
Well, I was off on the percentages with NH, but it appears I got the order right[Update: okay, so maybe Clark will narrowly beat Edwards. I guess #3 and 4 are going to flop around a bit.]. I'm going to count that as a minor victory, so I'm 1 for 2 in voting predicitions. Now on to the next contest: I predict the New England Patriots will defeat the Carolina Panthers in Houston on Sunday by a score of 24-17 (MOE +/- 4.1%).
That's what CNN is saying, with 24% of NH precincts reporting, and a bunch of close exit polls in hand. Apparently Florida 2000 is a distant memory...
[Update: It's a funny feeling, watching Kerry win NH. Early on I thought he would be my candidate, when I scoffed at Dean's chances (even though I liked Howie and voted for him several times in VT). But Kerry ultimately didn't do anything for me, and while I was initially excited by the prospect of Edwards when I heard him on NPR oh-so-long ago, he also ended up disappointing me.
Only a few weeks before Dean's announcement speech last June, I finally realized that he was truly the candidate for me. He was right about the war, had a vision in sync with mine, and displayed an energy and passion that the other candidates lacked.
I haven't given up on Howie yet (no wins next week and he's done for, though I'll still vote for him on March 2), and I'll cast my ballot for Kerry in the general election if he wins the nomination, but it's not going to be with a great deal of enthusiasm. That's why I've got such a sinking feeling in my stomach right now: I don't like the prospect of supporting a boring politician who voted for the war in Iraq and leveraged his personal wealth to take down a man who engaged me in the process like no other candidate ever has.]
¶ 8:23 PM
What's interesting, and up to this point I think overlooked, is the total delegate count to date: Dean leads with 104 delegates, followed by Kerry with 81, Edwards with 36, and Clark with 30. 2,161 are needed to win the nom.
While I knew that superdelegates were in the mix, and Dean was still really leading even after Iowa, I'd never seen a tally on CNN or elsewhere displayed so prominently. I wonder why? Could the SCLM be trying to make it seem more like a horse race, or am I being too cynical?
"Two Become One" from Nirvana Lounge 2. It's part of the"Alt" Smart Playlist I made last night containing a couple hundred songs in the Alternative, Electronica, New Age and other genres.
FedEx arrived a couple hours ago with some accessories I ordered, including the NaviPod remote control and some stuff for easy listening in the car. I'm messing around with iPod stuff until the NH polls close, and then I'll be watching the returns come in on TV...
Faithful reader timshel brought to my attention a rough transcript (via NRO, of all places) for The Most Exclusive Interview With Howard Dean (RealAudio) by the Daily Show's Jon Stewart. Oddly enough, we were watching a tape of the show when I read timshel's comment. Very funny (inner monologue in itals):
Stewart: "Obviously, a difficult week in Iowa, wish you could have done better ... you did an interview with Diane Sawyer ... do you consider those damage control interviews?"
Dean: 'Good question, Cronkite.' "Well they are certainly gonna help some..."
Stewart: "How will you control the damage from this?" 'This is going great!!'
Dean: 'You've got five minutes, jackass.'
Stewart: "The media has tried to pigeonhole you as an angry guy."
In both these polls, both Clark and Edwards are hovering around 12 percent.
The National Review's The Corner has Kerry 36, Dean 31, Edwards 12 and Clark 12.
I really don't like the media releasing polling data during the day, but what the heck, it's already floating around out there so I'll post it. Apparently it's easier for the SCLM to analyze numbers and political strategies rather than substance and policies. Besides, we need a horse race or the ratings will suck.
Two CNN employees were killed, and a third was lightly wounded Tuesday afternoon when the cars they were traveling in came under fire.
Translator and producer Duraid Isa Mohammed, 27, and driver Yasser Khatab, 25, died from multiple gunshot wounds. Cameraman Scott McWhinnie, traveling in another vehicle, was grazed in the head by a bullet.
The CNN vehicles were headed north toward Baghdad when a rust-colored Opel approached from behind. A single gunman with an AK-47, standing through the sunroof, opened fire on one of the vehicles.
That lead CNN vehicle, hit at least five times, managed to escape from the gunman as the CNN security adviser returned fire.
I guess death is so common-place in Iraq these days that winter weather, which I thought was common-place during winter, trumps it even when it's your own employees. In CNN's defense, the people killed were clearly darkies and not American. Oh wait, that won't wash because the deaths of 3 US soldiers also barely made a blip*. Our media hard at work...
What I want to know is: what's President Bush going to do about this winter weather crisis?
*[Update: The total bloodshed for today is now 6 US soldiers, 4 Iraqi policemen, 2 CNN employees, and 1 Iraqi civilian.]
¶ 2:53 PM
I'd just barely gotten home from the vet when they called to tell me Sam's procedure went fine, and we can pick him up after 4PM. I guess it really is just a snip-snip kinda thing.
The joke about "getting tutored" has been floating around here for a few weeks, and in comments below a couple faithful readers brought up the Far Side comic that inspired the line (alas, my books are in storage, so I can't illegally scan and post).
I'm hopeful that Sam learned a valuable lesson at his tutoring session. What that lesson is, I do not know (maybe "don't be bad, or they'll take you to the vet"?).
I was afraid I looked all weepy when I dropped him off, since I woke up with a pink right eye this morning. Hope it's not conjunctivitis. Anyway, between that and some sinus troubles I've been having since last week I've decided to take a sick day.
[Update: Sam's fine, happy to be home, and appears to think that since he feels, ah...changed, all the household rules have changed as well.]
¶ 10:09 AM
I figure my track record on primary/caucus voting can't get any worse, so here are my predictions for tomorrow's primary in NH:
What would be nice is that Dean wins, but whatever--I'll take a strong comeback and decent 2nd place showing. I have to agree with lots of folks, though, that he needs to pick up a couple Feb 3 states or he's toast. Cross fingers...
[T]housands of women who bought their husbands and boyfriends an iPod for Christmas are beginning to regret it as their partners become "increasingly fanatical Poddies, spending whole evenings and weekends with this small object of desire, their partners have been rendered iPod widows."
The report includes two case studies from the recently "widowed". One describes how: "Every evening he gets the iPod out straight after supper and starts fannying around with it. It’s taking over our lives."
The other iPod Widow reflects: "He’ll occasionally come downstairs and tell me all about some amazing thing it can do, although I’ve never actually used it myself."
477 of them, in fact: yup, that's our projected record deficit this year, according to the CBO.
Oh, but the deficit will get smaller soon, right? Not so fast! CNN tells us:
All the estimates assume lawmakers will not rewrite any tax laws and let spending grow only at the rate of inflation.
Because tax and spending changes are inevitable, the forecasts are not meant as a prediction. Rather, they provide lawmakers with a baseline from which to measure the effect their policies would have on the budget.
Many analysts say the budget office's deficit projections will probably prove too low -- especially in the long-term -- because they omit expenses the president and Congress are likely to approve.
These include making at least some tax cuts permanent, changing the alternative minimum tax so it doesn't affect growing number of middle-income earners, and spending increases for popular programs or unforeseen needs like war or disasters.
Heh, "unforseen needs like war". That's rich! But I digress. It seems pretty clear that the deficits and our national debt are going to grow, especially when the baby boomers retire.
Your grandkids' debt of tomorrow, brought to you by the adults in charge today...
I ended up not listening to The Blogging of the President last night--busy ripping CDs, mucking around with the iPod, and doing maintenance on Stef's PCs. Judging from the comment threads at the BOP site and Eschaton, it seems the old adage "NPR can make anything boring" held true.
I have a recording of the show that I might check out later, and I did listen to the snippet of Atrios vs. Andy at the end of the show. Atrios was articulate, Sully was annoying and has carried an on-air "challenge" over to his blog (to which I refuse to link). Bottom-line: for some strange reason, Andy wants Atrios to cite when he has criticized the Left or praised Bush. Atrios has eloquently responded (typos aside). Sullivan also criticized Atrios' use of a pseudonym.
Anyway, I'm sure there were other good bits on the show, and it's nice to see blogging is being recognized by the more traditional channels, though it's clear they still don't quite get it.
The Democrats’ fierce battle for New Hampshire entered its final 48 hours Sunday with the latest MSNBC poll showing one-time front-runner Howard Dean making a strong comeback from his stumble in the Iowa caucuses.
Sen. John Kerry still held double-digit leads in most of the polling data released Sunday, and a seven-point advantage in the three-day figures from the MSNBC/Zogby Reuters Poll, which showed him leading Dean 30-23 in Thursday-Saturday totals, down from 31-22 the previous day.
However, in just the Saturday survey, it was 28 for Kerry to 25 for Dean, a statistical dead heat in the poll’s four-point margin of error. The Friday-only figure was 26-22.
Click on the bat to help Howie get back in the game!
Is blogging an essential part of our political and cultural future, or just a new talking point for activists and pundits?
Two days before the New Hampshire Primary, this program will open a national conversation on the Internet transformation of politics and the new rules of "the making of the president." It's about bloggers: the influential new class of chatterers and their bottom-up democracy - new voices building new communities on the web.
The rise of Howard Dean, on blog energy and blog fundraising, is the tip of the Internet iceberg, moving like a high-speed glacier across American politics and culture. Mixing live calls, guest interviews, and produced pieces, listeners will hear and interact with the people that are taking the "mass" out of media and putting in individual citizens.
PS--I was chatting with my folks earlier today about this and Mom thought I'd said "The Flogging of the President". Not a bad idea--can we send Bush to Singapore?
¶ 6:20 PM
Coming To A Computer Near You
So I've been thinking a lot about electronic media and business models and social interaction the past couple weeks. In the class I was teaching in Dallas, we talked quite a bit about new networking technologies and how they are changing how telecoms do business, driven by the changing business needs of their customers. To kick off those discussions, I brought up a consumer example of technological change: my iPod.
We've only had iPods in the house for a few weeks, but Stef and I have already noticed interesting changes in how we approach music. First of all, the simple fact that I brought a lot of music on the road is a big indicator of an immediate, radical shift in my listening habits.
I sometimes would bring a few discs on the road with me in a CD wallet, but that was pretty cumbersome and didn't give me a lot of selection. I generally would forego bringing any music at all, especially on long trips when flying was involved--gigs I could drive to allowed me a bit more freedom, but even then I wouldn't bring too much.
In Dallas I realized how much music was an important part of my life, and even though I only had about 180 songs on my iPod, it really helped keep me sane. I cranked high energy tunes to get me going in the morning, and played nice soothing stuff at night when I was winding down. Just having some of my favorite pieces gave me an anchor during some tough weeks.
What's more, I discovered that I am indeed no longer beholden to the album format or even the physical distribution of content. Ever since I read Nicholas Negroponte's Being Digital almost a decade ago, I've been anticipating the day when I was emancipated from atoms and could only care about bits.
I initially resisted buying an MP3 player for years--that was hard for an early adopter like me to do, but given my huge investment in CDs I wanted the technology to mature before I took the plunge (my 600MB worth of MP3s that "backed up" my ancient vinyl collection notwithstanding). The 40GB iPod is the perfect realiztion of Negroponte's vision in the music space for me, since the device can hold about 2/3 of my physical music collection, and really all the songs I actually like and listen to regularly.
The portability of my music collection is actually the least important impact. As I said, I'm no longer stuck in the album structure. One of my fave albums from the 80s is Siouxsie and the Banshees' Peep Show. I have always hated the track "Rawhead And Bloodybones", to the point that I programmed one of my first CD players to skip that song whenever I played the disc. Today I ripped the CD without the offending track, and someday I can see totally forgetting the tune even existed.
Some people lament the demise of the album, particularly in the LP format because of the cover art and associated creativity. True, in an electronic world you're not going to get things like Sgt. Pepper's mustaches, or big unfolding sheets of lyrics, but artists are now discovering the power of the electronic medium with interactive websites that allow them to go beyond the limitations of physical media. Every technology is going to have the effect of diminishing earlier mechanisms (witness how writing has reduced the import of oral traditions, or e-mail has all but eliminated the art of writing letters), but the old ways don't always completely disappear (buggy whips have, but fireplaces haven't).
The original CD was designed to be able to fit Beethoven's 9th symphony on a single disc--an example of how content from almost two centuries ago impacted our musical structures of today. But now that 650MB pales in comparison to the capacity of the average hard drive and is really a limit on artists. Besides, most albums today are nothing more than collections of singles, lacking unifying themes or epic stories to tell. If we were able to free ourselves from the bounds of the CD, maybe we'll get more works like Pink Floyd's The Wall or Planet P Project's Pink World.
What's also interesting is that I've been more inclined lately to try new music. Stef had ripped a few of her discs, which I put on my iPod before my trip. Ordinarily I wouldn't have bothered bringing some of her stuff with me, for fear that I wouldn't like it and would thus have wasted precious space in my luggage. But it was no big deal to add her tunes to my collection, and as it turns out I enjoyed the music! Similarly, I'll be more receptive when we driving to the camp or Maine or whatever if she wants me to check out something new she just got at Half.com or on iTunes.
Extending the whole idea of experiencing new music a bit, the lending culture I think will change quite as well. Stef is loaning a few discs, including some stuff by Nirvana Lounge, to a friend at the radio station. In the "old days", Stef might go for weeks without that music, but now she can loan the CDs to her friend while still enjoying the listening experience. I suspect this means it will be more likely that people will get exposed to new music since it can be even more easily given away.
I'm still probably going to be buying CDs for some time to come. I think it will depend wholly on how important the music is to me (e.g., I'll likely always buy a Peter Gabriel disc, but only download Liz Phair's latest). Regardless, the iPod and iTunes has already fundamentally altered how I look at music.
What I think is actually the coolest thing about iTunes is not even the service itself. Rather, it has charged out in front to show there's a different way to approach the distribution of music, which should open the doors for other business models to emerge. In fact just this week a student pointed out a McPaper article on one new idea.
If only the recording industry had embraced the technological and social change represented by MP3s, Napster, et al. Now the movie industry is learning the lesson and trying to figure out how to prevent similar problems. Of course, the work factor for the time being is greater to copy a DVD than a CD, with encryption (such as it is), capacity and bandwidth issues, and the like. Not only that, but the movie folks are actually trying to live up to the promises of their new media, bringing ever more value to DVD releases, while the CD never became cheaper or more feature rich (a couple "enhanced" discs from people like Sarah McLachlan aside).
Getting back to my class discussions for a moment, now imagine you have an MPLS-based network allowing any-to-any connectivity, combined with Fiber-to-the-Home services giving end-users 100Mbps (or even 1Gbps). What's that going to do to the movie industry?
Well, cinemas probably won't go away any time soon, even if you can get movies on the day of release into your home theater. We still are social creatures--malls haven't disappeared just because of e-commerce, for example. But the distribution models might change over time, and consumer expectations will shift as well, especially as younger generations grow up in a world with more possibilities than we experienced.
Hegelian dialectic (a 50 cent phrase I taught my class last week) rears its ugly head: thesis is followed by antithesis and then synthesis. Our thesis was CDs (atoms). The antithesis was MP3s (bits). And now we've got synthesis (I rip CDs to play on my iPod, and I can burn CDs with iTunes). I'm sure we'll see the same play-counterplay stuff in the movie industry, just as we saw in music, e-commerce (bricks and mortar vs. pure play vs. clicks and mortar) and even politics (go Howie!). It's sure going to be entertaining at the very least.
And now I'm going to plug my iPod into my stereo and listen to some Queen while I check out the sites in my blogroll...
[Update: correcting typos and bad grammar here and there...]
¶ 6:14 PM
Get Out The Vote
The most important vote you'll ever cast is for DM as Best New Blog over at Wampum. Yes, DM made the final list for the 2003 Koufax Awards! Other finalists:
Steve Gilliard's News Blog
The Left Coaster
Open Source Politics
I'm extremely pleased and humbled to be mentioned in such exalted company (and now that I'm home from TX, maybe I can earn some votes by actually blogging again). The usual suspects (not DM, despite my readers' best efforts) are up for Best Blog.
Please note that our friends at corrente and OSP are also finalists in the Best Group Blog category. And friends Norbizness (Happy Furry Story Puppy Time), Tom Burka (Opinions You Should Have), and skippy (that adorable marsupial) are in the running for Most Humorous Blog.
Thanks once again to the folks who nominated DM in the first place and supported this site in the first round voting. If you have a moment, I'd appreciate your vote in the final stage (though I suspect Kicking Ass will, well...kick ass).
[Update: the stuff above is just a sample--there are a lot of other categories and wonderful blogs competing at Wampum, so check 'em all out.]
['nother Update: I'm getting my ass absolutely kicked by Billmon and Baghdad Burning, not to mention the other blogs. It's worse than Iowa. Maybe I should put up a comeback bat? Don't make me yawp!]
¶ 12:44 PM
Faithful reader, Bill S, tipped me off to a NYTimes piece on the Politics of the Web. An interesting read about how the Net has enabled a lot of "preaching to the choir" and so forth. Nothing earthshattering, but then I came to this graf and started musing:
[E]ven some Dean supporters, the pioneers of politics on the Internet, have begun to worry that their insularity contributed to their candidate's poor showing in the Iowa caucuses. "It's all well and good to cheer each other on,'' wrote one supporter last week. "But clearly that's not enough.''
There were myriad factors, including the concerted attacks on Dean, a renewed Kerry focus, the media filter, inexperienced caucus-goers, Howies gaffes and "gaffes", his apparently poor organization in the state, etc. Did the Dean grassroots' insularity contribute to Dean's lackluster performance in Iowa? I don't think so.
It did not stop us from contributing in many ways to his campaign and potential success. We gave money, we gave time, many supporters went to Iowa to canvass for him, etc. I still see the Dean campaign as superior in not only its Internet presence, but also its efforts to synthesize online and offline channels. What our preaching to the choir did was perhaps convince us that all of this assured our candidate's victory, which is of course silly.
Dean's campaign is on the leading edge of clicks-and-mortar e-campaigning, just like REI was an early leader in the e-commerce space. It ain't an easy thing to do, and the first ones out of the gate are likely to stumble as they try to get the balance right. One lesson the Dean campaign clearly did learn from the e-commerce boom/bust is that the Internet lowers the cost of entry into a market, but eventually you need a physical presence to grow your share. They've done that, and done it pretty damn well.
The fact of the matter is that Dean has to work really hard to overcome some of his weaknesses as a candidate. As an insurgent, he also has a lot of forces naturally aligned against him, which only amplifies his warts (to borrow a term from the Diane Sawyer interview). Quite frankly, I'm amazed at how well he has done in the current political climate, and I still am very optimistic that he will prevail in the end.
But let's face it: the Internet isn't changing politics; it's only changing one aspect of how politics is waged. Politics, like shopping, is a social endeavor, and the Internet only alters the speed of the cycle and eliminates the impact of distance. In the end, voters and shoppers are still going to cling to their old tendencies. So if Dean isn't the right candidate for the electorate, a blog isn't going to change that, and the people who read the blog aren't responsible for his ultimate success or failure.
There's probably an argument centered on Fisher-Pry, early adopters and Beta vs. VHS (or Mac vs. Windows), but I'm too tired to pull it all together right now.
Mars has received a one-two exploration punch as the second Rover -- Opportunity -- achieved a successful landing tonight on the red planet.
Engineers and scientists broke out in cheers and tears here at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), mission control for the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) program.
"We're on Mars everybody. We're getting a strong signal," said Rob Manning, JPL's Entry, Descent and Landing manager.
Opportunity looks to have completed a near-perfect entry, descent, and landing, plopping down in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars. The spacecraft's exact whereabouts are not precisely known, but did touch down within a pre-determined, cigar-shaped ellipse within Meridiani Planum.
Roughly 4 hours after landing, the first images from Opportunity were being reviewed by anxious scientists staring at large screens at JPL.
"The data is flowing," cried out a voice from mission control.
As first images appeared, it was clear that the landscape was dark in color, very different from the Spirit landing site in Gusev Crater.
"It looks like a very different site, said John Callas mission science manager. "The scientists must be running wild."
And it looks like NASA has found a workaround for Spirit, too. Eyyahh!
Got home about an hour ago, having left my hotel room at 730AM Central. Mechanical delay on my 1010AM flight from DFW, which I eventually got around by snagging the 1245PM flight (which ended up leaving over 2 hours before my original flight!). Weather delay at ORD, but tailwinds helped us make up a lot of time, and only arrived 5 minutes late (well, ignoring the fact that I should've been home 2 hours earlier). A 12 hour trip, all told, and the iPod lasted the day.
Sam has gotten a bit bigger than when I left. Probably some cat blogging tomorrow, along with a fit of general blogging to make up for lost time...
Leaving on a jet plane in a few hours, and if all goes well I'll be blogging from home around dinner time. If things don't go well, I might very well be blogging from a Red Carpet Club in Chicago*.
Happy to be heading home, despite the -15F weather that awaits me.
* [Update: Nope, blogging from the Club in DFW. My flight to O'Hare is delayed, and that means I'll be getting home a couple hours late. Sigh. Silver lining: I got upgraded on the DFW-ORD leg.]
¶ 8:09 AM
Hasty Funky Poopy Stinky Tang again steals a page from the DM playbook and begs for traffic with a caption contest, laden with valuable prizes. Go there now (why the hell am I driving visitors away when my traffic has plummetted during my Texas exile? Oh yeah, because the hotel bartender sold me a nice bottle of wine at cost).
Why the surprises in the Iowa caucuses? Why did the liberal media's anointed darling Howard Dean come crashing to a third place loss? The simple answer is that Democrats there are (1) illiterate, (2) wimpy, (3) doddering, (4) sore losers, and (5) pig farmers.
This past week someone tried to provoke Wesley Clark to an attack on other candidates over defense, asking him if he wasn't a "wolf in sheep's clothing". The General scored at least three points for saying he never considered the Democratic Party a bunch of sheep. In last night's TV interview Howard Dean said "I feel a little sheepish." Though I ripped that line out of context, just wait. Some media puff adder will turn those words into a disagreement with Clark. They love to play "Let's you and him fight."