Pet Cobra

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Thursday, September 30, 2004

Big night tonight. You know what I'm talking about. Apparently BOTH tribes have to go to Tribal Council on "Survivor"!

Oh, and there's a debate. If you can call it that. Bush and Kerry are limited to 90 second responses, must stay behind their podiums, and can only ask each other rhetorical questions. So what does Kerry need to do to win?

Simple. Break those rules. Early and often.

It's been widely noted (and commented on here yesterday) that Bush's strength is his ability to stay on a scripted message. What the pundits have missed is how easily Bush gets rattled when he's caught off guard. The image of Kerry as a stiff on the order of Al Gore is something that the Bush team has planned for. He's long winded, but passionless, and so having such a restrictive format at the very least levels the playing field. Bush will expect Kerry to be on his best, introverted behavior. For Christ's sake - he couldn't loosen up on "The Daily Show"!

So Kerry, do this. Ask Bush direct questions, apologize to the moderator for breaking the rule, then do it again. Take the inevitable warning and say that the American public deserves to know why there were no WMD's in Iraq, why we have no exit strategy, why the president has said that the war on terror can't be won and that the Taliban has ceased to exist - and that avoiding these questions in a debate is further proof that Bush has no answers to give. Get up in his grille. Get pissed off about the fact that this format was tailor-made for a guy with the depth of a mud puddle. Drop the fucking hammer on the guy who turned his back on the war against bin Laden in favor of a Oedipal grudge match in Iraq. (Check out Joe Scarborough's view on the subject here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5445086/)

Point out to Bush and everyone watching that there's one guy to blame for the mess in Iraq, for the lousy economy, for al Qaeda's continued existence, and that's the other guy in the spotlight. The one who thinks he should be allowed to keep his job.


Wednesday, September 29, 2004

http://www.cnn.com/2004/LAW/09/29/scalia.harvard.ap/index.html

Like it or not, Scalia, you're the product of the "abstract moralizing" you bitch about; you got your job because your moral views on abortion and assisted suicide coincided with the moral views of the president who appointed you. Clearly you wanted to be one of the Supremes, and you're no dummy, so at some point during your screening process you let the President know in no uncertain terms that you are a social conservative. Furthermore, if you truly believed that society, not judges, should address such fundamental question as a woman's right to choose, you would vote in favor of upholding Roe V. Wade, since the majority of Americans clearly support that right. Hope you're having a good time at the Cheney hunting lodge, you self-righteous hypocrite.

By the way - Kerry is squandering another opportunity here to gain votes; not a lot of talk from his campaign about the certain stacking of the Supreme Court with reactionary judges should Bush win the election. Roe v. Wade has never been closer to being overturned than it is now.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6132832/

"President Bush’s ability to stick to a scripted defense of his policies on Iraq and terrorism should give him an edge over Democratic rival Sen. John Kerry in Thursday’s presidential debate, analysts say." Let's think about that for a second....OK, time's up. The key word here is "scripted". That's pretty sad, but then it simply backs up my theory that most Americans are lazy, uneducated bovines. (You want more proof? Pay-per-view professional wrestling. More proof? The Neiman Marcus catalog is selling a $16,000 Mr. Potato Head, which means that pure stupidity crosses all economic lines.)

The format of the debate - no direct questioning of each other, two minute answers, etc. - clearly favors Bush. And there's been a great deal of commentary on Bush's debate performance against Gore, most of it giving Bush the edge. But here's the difference: Bush now has a record that can easily be ripped apart.

So between Mount St. Helens possibly erupting again, and that giant asteroid that's passing a bit too close to Earth for comfort (I bet if it hits New Zealand will survive - one more reason to relo there) and tomorrow's debate, we are in for a couple of interesting days.



Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Outrage:
http://www.cnn.com/2004/US/09/28/daycare.shooting/index.html

I'm sure any dads reading this out there are thinking the same thing I am: that it would be a real pleasure to get ahold of this guy, douse him with gasoline, and toss a burning match on him. Thanks, NRA! You've made it much easier for people to shoot up child care centers! (Those of you who don't believe in karma - I give you Charleton Heston.)

http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/09/28/bush.tuesday.ap/index.html

One negotiates from a position of strength. Reagan knew this. So do the Iranians, who are busy as bees developing their nuclear weapons programs, because right now there really isn't a whole hell of a lot the U.S. can do about it, since we have our hands full dealing with Iraq. And somebody please slap some sense into Kerry - giving Iran nuclear fuel for "peaceful purposes"? Does Kerry even want to win the election anymore? ("First, we will give Iran nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes. Then I propose we give North Korea our old Atlas rockets, which along with their use as nuclear warhead-carrying intercontinental ballistic missiles can also be used for peaceful purposes - the North Koreans could, for example, make great strides in the study of the effects of rocket travel on kimchee. Finally, I propose we donate our vast stockpiles of machetes to the various warring factions in the Sudan. They could use them to build huts and such.")

I'm telling you - moving to New Zealand is looking better and better. Grab the wife, the kid, and the dog, pile on to a tramp freighter, and live out our days in the Land of the Long White Cloud, raising sheep, rooting for the All Blacks, drinking beer with Peter Jackson, and watching the rest of the world descend into madness. Kerry - you're pushing me that way.

(One more thing about Kerry's Iran proposal. You don't "call their bluff" by giving them more of what they want - namely, the means to make MORE nuclear weapons! You call their bluff by doing what Israel did to Iraq in the 80's - blow up their reactor, and let 'em know that the next time it'll be a cruise missile right through the window of their capital building. To quote Sean Connery - "THAT'S the Chicago way!". For an eerily plausible look at this scenario, rent/Netflix the movie "Deterrance".)

Wow - my blood's really up today. Must be the 'roids.

Monday, September 27, 2004

The most interesting bit of news from the weekend was, for me at least, Gen. John Abizaid's appearance on "Meet The Press". Specifically, it was his response to Russert's question on whether Kerry's attack's on the administration's handling of the Iraqi civil war was having a negative impact on troop morale. Here's his response:

"Tim, I believe that debate in our country is what our country is all about. And if we're successful out here, debate will be part of the future of Afghanistan, it'll be part of the future of Iraq and it will be part of the future of all of the Middle East. As a matter of fact, as I look around the Middle East, we're going through a revolutionary time right now and debate is happening everywhere. So that there is a debate is certainly a good thing for the peoples of the region. That there's a debate back home is a good thing for our people."
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6106292/

Not what the Bush people were hoping for. Abizaid is cautiously optimistic, to his credit; he's the operational commander, and that should be expected. Yet he refrains from taking the easy road - blaming the people back home who question the competance of the White House for the challenges we're facing in Iraq.

I've made some observations about why I believe Kerry stands an excellent chance of losing the election. One factor is the Democrats' assumption that their traditional base will stay with them, regardless of what they do or do not accomplish, because the GOP doesn't offer any alternatives. So on Friday, after submitting my latest post, I noticed the following blog. Yes, there are gay Republicans (not that there's anything wrong with that!), and there's some logic behind that. Interesting stuff and required reading for the Kerry crew, who wonder why they're not ahead in the polls. (I couldn't resist jumping in to the discussion going on to ask the obvious question.)
http://gaypatriot.blogspot.com/2004/09/breaking-news-blogactive-supporters.html#comments


Let's talk baseball. Specifically, my least favorite athlete in any sport, and since his fans would have us believe that he transcends sports, one of my least favorite humans in general - Barry Bonds. Balco Barry made the front page of a major sports website today, as he was tapped for random drug testing, which will hopefully expose him for the fraud that he is. Interesting thing - the website was NOT ESPN.com, who buried this story way in the back of its MLB section.

See, ESPN loves Barry. They run column after column about him, most saying the same thing: he's the greatest baseball player of all time. Meanwhile, other players have gone on record with their suspicions, and Bonds' personal trainer has testified to giving 'roids to other athletes. And through it all Barry denies being on the juice - even thought at 40 he looks like a University of Nebraska linebacker. Outside of San Francisco, Bonds is universally reviled; along with the numerous columns praising his abilities, there's an equal number detailing his assholeness (start by Googling "Barry Bonds" and "Marty Burns").

The thing is, we may never know if he cheats or not. Failing one drug test is not a suspendable offence; only after 2 failed tests is a player suspended and test results are given to the public. So chances are we'll be left to wonder.

Anyway, to happier news: Lucas got his first tooth this weekend. The time is just flying by.





Friday, September 24, 2004

Friday arrived, and there was much rejoicing. (Speaking of that reference, apparently there's plans for a Broadway musical based on "Monty Python and the Holy Grail". That seems a bit ridiculous, although clear parallels can be drawn between the chain gang "digging" in the opening scene of "Les Miserables" and King Arthur and his knights riding their imaginary horses in the movie. )

Other than Hurricane # 4 barreling down on Florida, not a whole lot going on the world today. Bush continues to equate Kerry's questioning of his mishandling of Iraq as borderline treason. Interim Prime Minister Allawi is proving to be quite the flip-flopper as he follows up comments made earlier this week about terrorists pouring into Iraq with yesterday's pie-in-the-sky talk of country-wide elections in January. (It's amazing - when Allawi speaks, you really can't see Bush's lips move! And he's very lifelike! Those Disney Animatronics guys are geniuses - much more impressive than "Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln"!)

Meanwhile, Rummy is getting himself into a bit of a pickle with comments he's making; first, his statement that Iraq may only have partial elections was shot down by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage today. And today he suggested that U.S. troops may not wait for the "insurgency" (question: why aren't the Democrats using the more accurate and damning phrase "civil war"?) to end before withdrawing. Is there dissention in the ranks of the Vulcans? Or are we seeing the beginnings of a half-assed exit strategy - rush the elections and get our guys out of there ASAP, regardless of the consequences? (If you ask me, here's how I'd play it. First, dump as much money and resources as possible into rebuilding and training an Iraqi army - not a poorly armed and outfitted police force as we are currently doing. Then let them take over, in both counter-insurgency and law enforcement roles, and move our guys to the borders of Iran and Syria - keep them out of harm's way, and send a message that if men and material continue to move into Iraq from those countries, they're next.)

Great Op/Ed piece by cartoonist/columnist Ted Rall:
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=127&ncid=742&e=7&u=/ucru/20040923/cm_ucru/triumphofthestultocracy
Makes one long for the days of ancient Greece, where democracy had an asterisk attached to it. The Republican machine wins elections not because they actually believe what they shovel, but because they know how to exploit the stunning level of American ignorance.

On the home front: got up early to surf, and paddled out at La Jolla Shores. 2 foot at best, water temps in the high 60's down from 70+ a week ago, but no complaints: it's almost October and I'm playing in the ocean before I go to work. Well, one complaint: no Starbucks in the immediate La Jolla Shores area.

Finally, a plug: failed to mention yesterday that "Lost" kicks ass, 8:00 PST on ABC. See you Monday.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Let's drop the hammer right away.

Here's Dubya, on the recent CIA report that painted a fairly bleak assessment of the situation in Iraq: "The CIA laid out several scenarios and said life could be lousy, life could be OK, life could be better, and they were just guessing as to what the conditions might be like."—New York City, Sept. 21, 2004

So life is great in Iraq. Meanwhile, Rumsfeld today stated that because "violence is too great", limited rather than full elections in January would have to be considered. And yesterday, Gen. John Abizaid (in charge of U.S. forces in the Middle East) stated, in reference to Iraq: "I think we will need more troops than we currently have." Westerners in Baghdad are being beheaded at a pace comparable to that of their powdered-wig wearing counterparts in late 1700's France.
And we've passed the 1K mark of dead Americans (which is an abstraction in the minds of most people. Really want to appeal to voter pathos? Show them footage of the wounded, guys who have had their legs and arms blown off, their eyes burned out of the sockets, who won't be able to throw a football with their kid or watch him or her grow up.)

How anyone in their right mind could listen to Bush paint his decidedly upbeat view of Iraq and not be pissed to the moon is beyond me. The CIA doesn't need to "just guess" at what's going on there; all they need to do is turn on CNN.

So what's Kerry to do? Here's noted conservative columnist William Safire's take on the strategies Kerry needs to employ to win. It's the best article I've seen on the topic. From the New York Times, Sept 20:

"Reading Kerry's Mind, by William Safire

I am John Kerry, falling further behind in the polls with only six weeks to go.
I've already shaken up my staff again; Cahill, Shrum and the whole Kennedy crowd were fine for the late primaries, but their war-hero strategy was all wrong for the general election. Now I've got Sasso and the Clinton heavy-hitters calling the shots. What can we do to stop the erosion in the polls and turn this campaign around?

1. Change the strategic target. It's not the swing voter who counts - I'm told there aren't that many of them. It's the Democratic base that has to be whipped up and turned out.

2. Ignore my peripheral messages that show no traction. Unemployment keeps drifting down and the stock market is going up, so the economy doesn't help me. Deficits don't scare people, taxing the rich shows no traction, and Bush has muddied up the health and education issues. Scaring the old folks about privatization of Social Security only drives younger voters to the G.O.P.

3. Stop wasting time magnifying the fury of the Bush-haters. Halliburton is not the Manchurian Candidate. And our supporters are no good at dirty tricks - that fiasco with CBS, which I pray that the D.N.C. had nothing to do with, will keep backfiring on us for weeks. The "fortunate son" business hasn't hurt Bush - and I wasn't exactly born in a log cabin.

4. Recognize that the war is the switcher issue and take a stand that I can stick with for at least six weeks. Blazing away at his past mistakes falls flat. When I hit Bush on misleading us, he hits me back for voting both ways, and it's at best a wash. So I have to focus now on the bloody present under him versus the bright future under me. Simple: "Bush is losing the war and Kerry will win it." That would give me a leg up in the debates, on which a turnaround depends.

5. Don't let Bush get away with being "misunderestimated" again as a debater. He's a master at the "better than expected" game. He has Bill Weld telling all and sundry what a great debater I am. We have to remind everybody that Bush, with his phony aw-shucks personality, has won every debate he's been in. Then, after I whip him or he makes some massive blunder - and I'll set him up for at least one - I'll slam him for being afraid to face me a third time.

6. Get a slogan that fits on a bumper sticker. My "W stand for Wrong" isn't working because too many hear "wrong" as beginning with an R. Instead, be ready when Bush's people trot out Lincoln's wartime "Don't Change Horses in Midstream." Come back with F.D.R.'s blast at Herbert Hoover after the crash: "Change Horses or Drown!"

7. Duck all the gotcha! news conferences. I'll get away with Imus and Oprah and Larry King and let the hard-news media holler about softballs.

8. Lower the opposition's beltline. It makes me sick at heart to have to claim that $200 billion for the war could be better spent at home. That isolationist knee to the groin sounds as if it came from Dean or even McGovern, but as Bush likes to say - "Whatever it takes."

9. Hit hard the monopoly-of-power horror. A G.O.P. White House and Congress means a Supreme Court that would overturn Roe v. Wade. We must convince women that a vote for Bush means a return to back-alley abortions. Edwards should be going for the jugular on this, but he's showing only an instinct for the capillaries. And that takes me to the 10th commandment of the new, improved Kerry campaign:

10. Above all, win back the women who used to be with the Democrats. Bush has them believing that the fighting in Iraq is for the security of their families. Too many women can't get it through their heads that Iraq is just a distraction from the global terror war. And Bush's pitch about "better fighting over there than here" - tying Iraq to Al Qaeda - closes what used to be our huge gender gap. So I have to move on to "while he's spinning, we're losing" - and never mind that it makes me dependent on escalation by Zarqawi and pessimism from C.I.A. flip-floppers who were wrong before but who now want jobs in my administration.

Yes, scared women are the key, so enough with my sensitive nuances. They want Mr. Tough Guy - from now to November, that's what they'll get."

On the home front, last night Lucas and I enjoyed a session of Guy Geekdom while Beth was working at an event. A round of "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic" on the Xbox, followed by the season premieres of "Smallville" and "Lost". Tomorrow is Friday - going to surf before work; should be good, as we're still in a Santa Ana, with offshore winds and a late morning high tide. Skipping yet another touch rugby game tonight to go downtown to watch the Padres play a must-win game against the hated Dodgers. Tickets were free, and my knee is feeling good - might be a good thing to take it easy for a couple more days. Good stuff.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Conspicuously absent over the past two days (working at a job fair in Hell-A yesterday, and uninspired on Monday), I return to discuss Momentous Happenings in the world.

Another Great Victory in The War On Terror! An Evil Fiend has been prevented from unleashing his Diabolical Machinations (sp?) on an unsuspecting America. I refer to the Dastardly Madman YUSEF ISLAM, better known by his slave name - Cat Stevens. Yes, we can all rest easy knowing that G-Man John Ashcroft and his Untouchables have prevented the Maniacal (I'm running out of adjectives) Artist Formerly Known As Cat Stevens from launching a 20-city club and State Fair tour, where he planned to spew such hate-mongering, "America-is-the-Great-Satan" anthems as "Peace Train" and "Morning Has Broken". We've endured beheadings and car bombs, but 70's soft rock classics...the horror...the HORROR....

Turning now to the World of Sport, news regarding adding more sports to the Olympics:
http://msn.foxsports.com/story/3030568

Rugby: the Rugby World Cup is, behind the Soccer World Cup and Olympics, the third most watched competition in the world. You all know my feelings on The Beautiful Game, but unlike the other "sports" under consideration, rugby will appeal to American football fans and certainly stands the best chance of success.

Karate: No. We already have taekwondo. Unless the karate competition was modelled after the competition in Bruce Lee's "Enter The Dragon". Fights would be to the death, the contestants would get extra points for saying things like "Ahhhh....your Shaolin is very powerful! But it cannot defeat my Five Tiger Style!!!!", the broadcasts would be dubbed (poorly), and there'd be one judge - Chairman Kaga from "Iron Chef".

Roller sports: No. Unless it's Rollerball (the 70's James Caan version, not the godawful remake).

Squash and golf: These are not sports. These are games. Many people have come up with creative ways to separate the two. Mine is simple. A game is a recreational activity during which participants can smoke and drink. (Yes - this includes softball. I always play better with a couple of beers in me. So does Jennie Finch. Honest.) Squash, for those of you who weren't alive in the 70's when people actually played it, is raquetball. (And my axiom holds up here - witness John Candy vs. Tom Hanks in the movie "Splash".

Finally, proof that not all French people are cheese-eating surrender monkeys. Meet Alain Robert - professional bad ass.
http://www.alainrobert.com/



Friday, September 17, 2004

TFGIF. Work around here tends to grind to a halt right around 1:00, when everyone starts wandering into everyone else's office to see how the week went and what's going on this weekend. Granted, not a lot of interesting conversations occur. Not surprising, since I work for the company's (it shall remain anonymous, but I may have indicated that it's a research and development/engineering company primarily working on DoD contracts - ah, the irony)HR Department (I also may have indicated that I'm a recruiter, which provides a fiscally useful outlet for my ability to bullshit people). I'm one of three guys in a department of 20. The two other guys are both 20 years older than me. This is one reason why I choose to do my blog entries midday; it's a social as well as intellectual outlet. Since coming to work here in July, I can count the number of non-work conversations I've had with colleagues on one hand. But I have you, Dear Readers, to keep me from plunging into the abyss of despair. You, and my trusty Yahoo Instant Messenger, with which I maintain daily 8 hour running conversations with Beth.

Allow myself to interject...myself. Comments are always welcome, so feel free to submit them, along with other Wacky Articles, Pics and Links. Here's a good one sent by Kurt:

http://www.kropserkel.com/godfather.htm


On to what's happening:

Apparently, nothing of note in North Korea, at least according to the South Koreans, who now say that there was, in fact, no massive explosion last week. The South Korean official who gives us this new twist on a bizarre plot holds the title of - I'm not making this up - "Vice Minister of Unification". His assistant, a gentleman by the name of Sancho Panza, was not available for comment. http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=586&e=3&u=/nm/20040917/wl_nm/korea_north_blast_dc

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=679&ncid=742&e=2&u=/usatoday/20040917/cm_usatoday/insurgentswillnotsucceed
Taking time off from his evening job as a consultant to the South Korean Ministry of Unification, Colin Powell presents us with his take on why the insurgency in Iraq will fail. He also states that there were, in fact, no car bombings in Iraq either.

On a serious note - the word "courage, in reference to how we need to view the situation in Iraq, is being tossed around like a bag of cocaine at a Crawford Ranch party. "Courage" inspires a guy to fend off an attacking alligator by punching it in the nose. Personally, I admire the trait that prompts a guy to stay the hell out of the swamp in the first place. It's called "intelligence".

Enough of that shite. It's official - Old Aztecs rugby training begins on Oct. 5. My focus until then will shift a bit; need to get in a lot more running. I'm not too concerned about cutting back on the touch games - while fun, not the best way to learn proper techniques and tactics.

On final approach for the weekend...


Thursday, September 16, 2004

Thursdays just suck. They drag on endlessly. I still have an hour and a half left to go before I flee the confines of the office. Ah, to be independantly wealthy and never have to work again. Like my man Dubya.

He and his brood are, of course, the subject of the hot new Kitty Kelley book The Family. The good folks at Slate have summed up the best parts. I don't know how much of the book is true and how much is gossip, but if it's half as funny as the link below indicates I gotta read it. My favorite bit: how Barbara Bush got her nickname.

http://slate.msn.com/id/2106773/


Wednesday, September 15, 2004

I sometimes wonder if I have enought going on to warrant daily updates. My daily activities are for the most part pretty uninspiring - for instance, today I spent my lunch hour at the mall, checking on release dates for upcoming Xbox games. If I surf, it's on the weekends (although I'm paddling out with my old boss Friday morning - that should provide some fodder for the blog). Rugby hasn't started in earnest (another round of touch practice tomorrow night, then it looks like there won't be much of that until real training starts next month).

Thank God for Dick Cheney.

I'll go on record as saying that I consider Cheney to be a borderline sociopath. His comments, both off the record ("Go fuck yourself!") and on, reveal him to be a callous, malicious cretin (great word) whose ego gives him the self-justification to say and do whatever he pleases regardless of the consequences. Take this quote, from yesterday: "I think some have hoped that if they kept their heads down and stayed out of the line of fire, they wouldn't get hit. I think what happened in Russia now demonstrates pretty conclusively that everybody is a target. That Russia, of course, didn't support us in Iraq, they didn't get involved in sending troops there, they've gotten hit anyway."

So Cheney is effectively stating that Russia was attacked by Chechen terrorists because they didn't support the Iraq war. THAT IS INSANE. Not to mention a disgusting use of those dead Russian schoolkids, teachers and soldiers in yet another feeble attempt to justify the Iraq war.

Meanwhile, Democrats are happy that Nader will most likely not be on the ballot in Florida. That may be a good thing for Kerry, but given that we are (last time I checked) a democracy, the idea of not allowing someone to run for office seems a bit...undemocratic. And I'm no political consultant (almost was, back in my idealistic youth), but it seems to me that the Kerry folks probably should be focusing on why Kerry can't get ahead of Bush on his own merits, rather than clinging to the belief that Nader is going to cost him the election. It would be interesting indeed if a truly effective third party were to arise; it would certainly put the pressure on both the GOP and the Dems to put up or shut up.


Tuesday, September 14, 2004

This article begs the question: how would Martha Stewart have fared in Beijing? Of note is the standard means of execution practiced by the Chinese. Think they watch too many John Woo movies?
http://money.cnn.com/2004/09/14/news/international/china_banks.reut/index.htm?cnn=yes

And what would they have done to this guy?
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=519&ncid=757&e=10&u=/ap/20040914/ap_on_re_us/hairpiece_theft

And was anyone aware that this was a problem?
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=573&ncid=757&e=9&u=/nm/20040913/od_nm/crime_necrophilia_dc

It's all part of our wacky world. Props to Arnold, though; along with outlawing the buggery of corpses (an issue that unites us all), he is taking action to shore up California laws against the sale of assault weapons. Apparently there's a gun on the market called a .50 BMG. It's a rifle that shoots a .50 caliber bullet. For those you unfamiliar with bullet sizes, this is a bullet that would be fired out of a large machine gun. Perfect for blowing a hole in an enemy plane, not so much for deer hunting, unless you like your venison ground on the spot. Arnie signed a bill banning the sale of this gun in California, with others to follow. Good on ya.

This is a great story:
http://fray.slate.msn.com/id/2106714/

I'm having one of those days where it's difficult to come up with anything close to a deep thought. So I'll leave it at that.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Monday after a good weekend - went surfing yesterday and the ocean was bathtub warm, a comfortable 75 degrees. Rumor has it that we will be having an El Nino this winter, which is good; we need the rain, and the surf should be an improvement over the lake-like conditions we've had this summer. The surprise yesterday was my paddling ability - remarkably improved since I started lifting weights, and the 13 pounds I've dropped in the past three weeks (insert plug for South Beach Diet here) made for a better floating board.

Sept. 11 came and went, and without the reflection that marked the past two anniversaries. That's not a bad thing. We can (and should) only mourn for a while, and what thoughts we hold towards that day should be geared toward how we prevent it from happening again. Sadly, that's not happening. We haven't caught bin Laden or put a stop to al Qaeda. We're in the process of making Iraq into what Lebanon was in the 80's, a theme park for terrorists. And we've done nothing to revamp the colossal goatfuck that is the U.S. intelligence community...

...which is a nice segue into the "It Wasn't A Nuclear Explosion, Honest" story from North Korea.
Apparently the explosion was a few miles from a North Korean military facility which is being used to develop nuclear weapons and has its own underground test facility. But the good folks in Pyongyang let us know that they were simply blowing up a mountain to make room for something. Because, you know, it's easy to pack enough TNT TO BLOW UP AN ENTIRE MOUNTAIN. We'll probably never know the truth - it would be a bit embarrasing to the Bush administration to try to explain why Iraq has no WMD's, and the North Koreans can apparently light 'em off like fireworks to celebrate North Korea Day(the explosion occurred on Sept. 9, the day the world was blessed with the birth of that lovely nation).

Speaking of WMD's, the Democrats should be jumping on the assault weapons fiasco like dingos on Meryl Streep's baby. Interesting article on this:
http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/09/10/assault.weapons.ban/index.html
Guns don't kill people - the NRA and voter apathy do.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Friday, with 1:40 to go before quittin' time. Today I got a new toy - a Palm Tungsten E. I've never had nor needed a PDA before, but I spend a lot of time roaming between offices, and I need something to store my calendar and keep my chaotic work life organized. Best of all, the boss paid for it.

My Fray entry was tapped as an Editor's Pick - that's two! One more and I'll quit my day job.

Although I have an abiding dislike for Dubya, I can see why people do like him; he's got a goofy charm, and if he's not the brightest star in the heavens, I'm still not sure that I'd consider him a calculating, power-mad cretin. Like Cheney. He knew EXACTLY what he was saying when he made the comment that a vote for Kerry is a vote for a massive terrorist attack, and his transparent attempts to "clarify" what he said are laughable. Especially as he continues to loudly proclaim that there was an al Qaeda-Iraq connection. Cheney knows that a good chunk of Bush's base are people who allow themselves to be frightened into voting Republican. The Man Behind The Curtain is a genius at manipulating post-9/11 fears.

Me, I'm not afraid of al Qaeda. What I AM afraid of is the fact that as of next week, Wal-Mart will be able to sell AK-47's. Polls have shown over and over that the majority of Americans support the ban on assault rifles, and that every major law enforcement organization in the U.S. has backed such a ban. To say that the law doesn't prevent such things as the Columbine massacre is beyond stupid; that's like arguing that stop lights don't prevent accidents at intersections, and therefore should be abolished. That ban will expire, and I can guarantee that the next mass murder of Americans will not be carried out by bin Laden - it'll be some whacked-out redneck with a chip on his shoulder.

That's all. Tomorrow is 9/11. Three years later, and look where we are.


Thursday, September 09, 2004

Looks like the original post did make it. Never mind.

Well, I HAD written a fairly large entry, but when I hit the Publish Post button I got the "Page Cannot Be Displayed" and lost the whole thing. Too bad - it was a good one. I'm actually pretty pissed about it. Topics included why I'm starting to care less and less about what Bush did or did not do in the National Guard (one point being: what does it have to do with Iraq, the economy, etc.; other point being that if you or I could have weaseled our way out of Vietnam, we would have, so let's not get too high-and-mighty); Lucas waking up at 5:00 this morning to practice his baby talk (funny anecdote about my newfound ability to instantly snap out of a deep sleep when the kid makes a noise, much like Jack Aubrey leaping out of bed when he feels the currents shift under his H.M.S. Surprise and how it's a blessing and a curse, then pointing out that although I lost an hour of sleep I gained an hour of fun time with the kid, which more than makes up for it); Beth's observation that the footage of the Genesis probe crashing will be fodder for the conspiracy theorists who will claim that it's, in fact, a REAL flying saucer, made by aliens and not NASA; my easily defending theory that movies based on videogames all suck("Resident Evil", "Mortal Combat", and who can forget "Super Mario Bros."); and a link to the story of the puppy shooting the guy who tried to shoot him (Google it: "dog shoots man"). So you get the Cliff Notes version, thanks to either my POS computer or the folks at Blogger.com (which is free, so I shouldn't complain).

Yawn. Lucas decided that it would be fun to wake up and practice his baby talk at 5 this morning. One of the cool/wretched abilities you develop as a parent is the ability to instantly awaken at the slightest child-produced noise, much like Jack Aubrey launches himself out of a slumber when he senses the current shift beneath the decks of H.M.S. Surprise. Thus I was denied an extra hour of sleep; the flip side is that I got to spend some extra Q.T. with Lucas, and that more than makes up for it. (His new current word is "Guh", which he repeats over and over. Guh. Guh. Guh. Guh. This is apparently one of his favorite inside jokes, as he will pause, laugh, and repeat the whole cycle.)

Watching the tape of the Genesis probe plummet into the Utah desert this morning, Beth observed that it's only a matter of time before the X-Files people claim that the whole thing was a government cover-up; that the flying saucer-looking probe really was an alien ship (they would have a point - it sure does look like a UFO) and that the gang at Area 51 put a "hide in plain sight" strategy into play. Let everyone see the footage and tell 'em it's one of ours! Hell, if Colin Powell can persuade the world that ice cream trucks were mobile weapons labs...

Quick plug for, well, me: http://fray.slate.msn.com/?id=3936&m=12085060
The column by Hitchens is worth reading. My response in the Fray got some interesting feedback. Can't we all just get along?


So we're back to Bush in the National Guard (or, as it's starting to look, NOT in the National Guard), and part of me wants the Dems to stick it to him like his guys did to Kerry, but a growing part of me could not possibly give any less of a shit. Will Bush's absence from Guard duty affect my ability to buy a house in the most expensive market in the country? Did Kerry's Purple Hearts bring about reforms in health insurance costs? No? Then, really, who cares?

No! you say! It's Important! It's all about Character! Well, let's take a trip in the Way Back Machine, back to the fun days of Vietnam (imagine being in Najaf, only it's a jungle, and a lot more people are trying to kill you). For kicks, let's make ourselves 21, fresh out of college, and eligible for the draft. Given the choice between a) enlisting and going to Vietnam (like Kerry), b)"studying abroad" (Clinton), c)"pursuing your Master's and knocking up your wife" (Cheney), or d)"joining the National Guard, getting to fly a jet and party like a rock star"...well, I'm pretty sure that I'm going to cross choice a) right off the list. Do I think Bush and Cheney and Clinton are punks for weaseling out and letting others (my dad among them) go to fight? Yeah. But the real question is: WHAT WOULD I HAVE DONE? To which I say: Oh Canada, my home and native land...

We're all a bit too holier-than-thou when it comes to candidates and what they did/didn't do during Vietnam. We condemn John Kerry when he says witnessed and participated in "atrocities" - yet, for example, George McGovern flew bombing missions in WW II that deliberatly targeted German civilians. We call Bush and Clinton and Cheney cowards for not wanting to go fight. But I think that most of us would've tried like hell to avoid going to Vietnam, and if we did, would have shot anything that moved if we thought it would help us stay alive. That's pessimistic, but it's human nature, and it's been that way for as long as wars have been fought.

Of Greater Concern: movies based on videogames. "Resident Evil:Apocalypse" is out tomorrow, and having wasted 2 hours of my life on the first installment (except the scene where the special forces guys are in the tunnel, and the defense laser grid comes on, and it literally dices them - that was pretty boss), I'm not planning on even Netflixing (new verb) it. Other movies based on videogames: "Mortal Combat" and "Super Mario Brothers". A pinnacle of cinematic suckdom has been reached.

Finally, the feel-good story of the day.
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5950304/?GT1=5100

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

This article cracked me up:
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=574&e=1&u=/nm/germany_wall_dc

Things must really be bad when one in five Berliners is waxing nostalgic for the good old days of Checkpoint Charlie, minefields, and goose-stepping guards with AK's. I remember when the wall came down, and I can't help but think back on the celebrations that were occuring on both sides.

Two interesting developments in the campaign. The first is that a group calling itself Texans For Truth will be running ads featuring former military officers speaking out against the lies of one of their comrades. Sound familiar? These guys, however, were with the National Guard unit that Dubya "served" with, and at least one was in his squadron. (The squadron apparently consisted of 25 to 30 pilots. If you were in that group, you'd probably notice the guy who wasn't.) Touche'.

The second is the shift in Kerry's tactics (probably brought on by some changes made in his staff). Kerry has shown two potentially deadly characteristics - he's very long-winded and too cerebral for most, and he's a bit of a stiff (more footage of the snowboarding, kitesurfing and Harley riding might help with that). The change - he's stealing a tactic from the Republicans (Bush in particular). KISS - Keep It Simple, Stupid. Recent speeches (look 'em up yourselves - I do have to work, you know) have had two themes: 1. Bush has been wrong on everything 2. and if you're OK with high deficits, a lousy economy, the quagmire in Iraq, etc., go ahead and vote for Bush. Why is this effective? Because this steals Bush's single biggest debating weapon. He's prone to say, during debates, that it all comes down to choice: either you like what he's doing, or not. That worked against Gore, when Bush had no track record to defend. Now he has to account for his actions. "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" It's a question that worked for Clinton, and it should work for Kerry.

http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/09/07/cheney.terror/index.html
These were ridiculous, despicable comments. Especially coming from the guy who chose to ignore briefings on the al-Qaeda threat in the months leading up to 9/11. Too busy planning to attack Iraq, I guess.

I'll say it again: the idea of painting your opponent to be some kind of traitorous Fifth Columnist is revolting, and fascist, and should be loudly condemned. I wish Chris Matthews had taken up Zell Miller on his challenge. Do I think Bush, Cheney and the rest of them are a bunch of morons? Absolutely. Would I accuse them of selling out their country? No, although I'd certainly accuse Cheney of trying to make a few bucks off the war for his buddies at Halliburton, thus ensuring that his retirement checks keep coming.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Weighing in on the nation's health care crisis, President Bush had this to say yesterday (from a speech given in Poplar Bluff, MO):

"Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB/GYN's aren't able to practice their love with women all across the country."

We've passed a sad milestone - 1000 U.S. dead in Iraq since the beginning of the war. But wait! you say, didn't all of the insurgents surrender in Fallujah, or Najaf, or whatever? Haven't we turned the corner? Welcome to Sadr City, folks. A lovely Baghdad suburb, whose name doesn't quite conjure up images of Iraqis showering our guys with roses. I grow tired of the Bush post-war Iraq/post-WWII occupations comparisons; they have no basis in historical fact and are completely irrelevant. The Japanese population was utterly devoted to their Emperor and had no desire to be "liberated" by the U.S.; likewise, the U.S viewed the Japanese as a mortal enemy (remember - we locked up as many Japanese-Americans as we could during WW II) , and a victory over Japan could only happen when that country was conquered and occupied. The same was true of Nazi Germany; the Germans whole-heartedly believed in Hitler's cause, and weren't praying for the Allies to liberate them. In both occupations, the Germans and Japanese were brought under heel by an Allied occupation force who generally treated them well, restored infrastructure, and backed up their authority through massive strength, both in numbers and firepower. Clearly there was a huge chunk of the Iraqi population that was glad to be rid of Saddam. Clearly there's a huge chunk of the Iraqi population that now wants us to get the hell out of there. And in my mind, the biggest reason for that is that we've brought chaos to their country - in World War II, we replaced order with order.

Now for you conspiracy buffs. With the 3rd anniversary of 9/11 coming up, this film has been making the Internet rounds. Was the Pentagon attacked by a cruise missile? Aliens? Bigfoot?
http://pages.infinit.net/noc/pentagon.swf

What a load of crap. My favorite: "The FBI seized the film." Yes. Because it was evidence. That's typically what the FBI does. They collect evidence.

Feeling much trepidation about going to rugby tonight. My knee is not yet with the program. We'll make the decision at gametime.




Friday, September 03, 2004

Getting an early start today - lots to discuss, and it's a three day weekend. The brain will be shutting down at about noon, and will reopen at 8:00 a.m. Tuesday morning.

I admit that I didn't tune into to Bush's acceptance speech. I started to read the transcript, but after a few paragraphs got the jist of things. We're turning the corner, etc. etc. Curiously, Bush lets us know that he "will" (Slate's William Saletan reports that he counted the word "will" some 76 times) do this, that, and the other. Not surprisingly, the phrase "have done" didn't pop up very often.

http://money.cnn.com/2004/09/03/news/economy/jobless_august/index.htm?cnn=yes

Before the Bush administration starts touting this as proof positive that we've turned the corner, I have a few things to say about the job market. I make my living as a recruiter, so I know a little about this. First, the numbers don't tell us what jobs were created - skilled or non-skilled positions, and they don't tell us if these were full-time, part-time, or contract/temp positions (there's typically a spike in those during summer months, as vacation and maternity leaves need to be covered, and as construction typically occurs during the summer when weather conditions in most parts of the country are more conducive). Second, wages are still not keeping up with inflation, meaning that a disproportionate number of Americans are still going to be underemployed. Third, we need to look at how these numbers stack up regionally; are areas with higher costs of living seeing the growth in the types of jobs needed for the populations to maintain their living standards (I'm in San Diego, one of the most expensive cities in the U.S., and I can tell you - it ain't happening here). And finally, hiring always always ALWAYS slows during the last quarter of the year. The administration has fallen well short of the mark in terms of sustained job growth. Dubya, meet Herbert Hoover. You guys have a lot to talk about.

http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/09/03/schwarzenegger.ap/index.html

Didn't Reagan also confuse his movies with real life? Details, details. I think the honeymoon with Arnold is going to end soon. While it can't be denied that he has charisma, he's increasingly showing himself to be a shallow, one-trick pony. It's actually unfair to compare him to Reagan; as far as I know, the only time Reagan ever used a movie line in a big speech was the "Go ahead, make my day" reference. With Arnold, it's "terminate" this and "terminate" that, and now we have "girly men" (which I don't find offensive as much as I find it really dated; and if it were me I'd steer clear of using any line that Dana Carvey built his B list career around. Anyone remember "The Master of Disguise"?).

Happy to report that the knee pain has been downgraded from "throbbing" to "dull ache". Hopefully I'll 100% byTuesday. Busy weekend - party at some friends tonight, beach day with friends tomorrow (maybe I'll surf), BBQ with other friends on Sunday. Monday will be all about the couch and the Xbox.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Well, the criminal charges against Kobe have been dropped. Although I'm a Lakers fan, I'm not to celebrate. I'm of the opinion that whatever happened in that hotel room was consensual - but the guy was weak and cheated on his wife. The civil case will never happen - either she'll drop it or he'll settle. The sad thing about this trial is the fallout that women who really have been raped may experience. In my mind, the victims' advocates groups that were so quick to condemn Kobe have done themselves a disservice. Rape is a heinous crime, but we need to keep in mind that in the U.S. a person is innocent until proven guilty (that is, unless their last name is Simpson or Peterson). The evidence (among other things, one witness stated that she was bragging to people at a party that she "hooked up" with Kobe) pointed to the fact that for whatever reason, this girl fabricated the story. I won't go so far as to say Kobe is the victim - you reap what you sow - but the real victims may be true rape victims who may find themselves under more scrutiny because of this girl's elaborate ruse.

This is a piece by Slate's William Saletan. As far as bottom-line responses to the garbage that's been spewing out of the Republican convention, this one is one of the best I've read:

"The 2004 election is becoming a referendum on your right to hold the president accountable.
That's the upshot of tonight's speeches by Vice President Dick Cheney and Zell Miller, the Republican National Convention's keynote speaker.

The case against President Bush is simple. He sold us his tax cuts as a boon for the economy, but more than three years later, he has driven the economy into the ground. He sold us a war in Iraq as a necessity to protect the United States against weapons of mass destruction, but after spending $200 billion and nearly 1,000 American lives, and after searching the country for more than a year, we've found no such weapons.

Tonight the Republicans had a chance to explain why they shouldn't be fired for these apparent screw-ups. Here's what Cheney said about the economic situation: "People are returning to work. Mortgage rates are low, and home ownership in this country is at an all-time high. The Bush tax cuts are working." But mortgage rates were low before Bush took office. Home ownership was already at an all-time high. And more than a million more people had jobs than have them today.

"In Iraq, we dealt with a gathering threat," Cheney said. What about the urgent, nukes-any-day threat to the United States that supposedly warranted our expense of so much blood and treasure? Cheney was silent.

"A senator can be wrong for 20 years without consequence to the nation," said Cheney. "But a president always casts the deciding vote." What America needs in this time of peril, he argued, is "a president we can count on to get it right."

You can't make the case against Bush more plainly than that.

If the convention speeches are any guide, Republicans have run out of excuses for blowing the economy, blowing the surplus, and blowing our military resources and moral capital in the wrong country. So they're going after the patriotism of their opponents. Here's what the convention keynoter, Miller, said tonight about Democrats and those who criticize the way President Bush has launched and conducted the Iraq war:

'While young Americans are dying in the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrats' manic obsession to bring down our commander in chief.
Motivated more by partisan politics than by national security, today's Democratic leaders see America as an occupier, not a liberator.
In [Democratic leaders'] warped way of thinking, America is the problem, not the solution. They don't believe there is any real danger in the world except that which America brings upon itself.
Kerry would let Paris decide when America needs defending. I want Bush to decide.'

Every one of these charges is demonstrably false. When Bush addressed Congress after 9/11, Democrats embraced and applauded him. In the Afghan war, they gave him everything he asked for. Most Democratic senators, including John Kerry and John Edwards, voted to give him the authority to use force in Iraq. During and after the war, they praised Iraq's liberation. Kerry has never said that any other country should decide when the United States is entitled to defend itself.

But the important thing isn't the falsity of the charges, which Republicans continue to repeat despite press reports debunking them. The important thing is that the GOP is trying to quash criticism of the president simply because it's criticism of the president. The election is becoming a referendum on democracy.

In a democracy, the commander in chief works for you. You hire him when you elect him. You watch him do the job. If he makes good decisions and serves your interests, you rehire him. If he doesn't, you fire him by voting for his opponent in the next election.

Not every country works this way. In some countries, the commander in chief builds a propaganda apparatus that equates him with the military and the nation. If you object that he's making bad decisions and disserving the national interest, you're accused of weakening the nation, undermining its security, sabotaging the commander in chief, and serving a foreign power—the very charges Miller leveled tonight against Bush's critics.

Are you prepared to become one of those countries?

When patriotism is impugned, the facts go out the window. You're not allowed to point out that Bush shifted the rationale for the Iraq war further and further from U.S. national security—from complicity in 9/11 to weapons of mass destruction to building democracy to relieving Iraqis of their dictator—without explaining why American troops and taxpayers should bear the burden. You're not allowed to point out that the longer a liberator stays, the more he looks like an occupier. You're not allowed to propose that the enormous postwar expenses Bush failed to budget for be covered by repealing his tax cuts for the wealthy instead of further indebting every American child.

If you dare to say these things, you're accused—as Kerry now stands accused by Cheney and Miller—of defaming America and refusing "to support American troops in combat." You're contrasted to a president who "is unashamed of his belief that God is not indifferent to America." You're derided, in Cheney's words, for trying to show al-Qaida "our softer side." Your Silver Star, Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts are no match for the vice president's five draft deferments.

In his remarks, Miller praised Wendell Wilkie, the 1940 Republican presidential nominee who "made it clear that he would rather lose the election than make national security a partisan campaign issue." But there are three ways to make national security a campaign issue. One is to argue the facts of a particular question, as Kerry has done on Iraq. The second is to sweep aside all factual questions, as Cheney and Miller did tonight, with a categorical charge that the other party is indifferent or hostile to the country's safety. The third is to create a handy political fight, as Republicans did two years ago on the question of labor rights in the Department of Homeland Security, and frame it falsely as a national security issue in order to win an election.

So now you have two reasons to show up at the polls in November. One is to stop Bush from screwing up economic and foreign policy more than he already has. The other is to remind him and his propagandists that even after 9/11, you still have that right."

Rugby went well on Tuesday night; played a game of touch with 6 other guys from the club. Although I messed up a couple of passes (no-look passes tend to end up in the hands of the opposing team), I scored two tries and passed for one assist. After the game my knee began to stiffen up, and sure enough I spent yesterday limping around, popping ibuprofens like M&M's. The new boots worked well. 6 more weeks until the real deal - 15's practice - starts.