Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Motivation - Still Lacking

So…I was going to lampoon His Highness for the thoughtless remark he made yesterday about banning Mickey Dee’s. More better, and more to the point, here’s what Mr. Crittenden has to say:

Antiquated, costly symbol of Britain’s past Imperial glory slams modern, popular, highly profitable and tasty symbol of America’s global cultural imperialism.*

Next week: stay tuned as object of much ludicrous, lavish medieval pageantry involving lots of ermine, gilt coaches and puffy pants condemns colonial upstart nation’s electronic entertainment industry.

My snark is just SO lacking, by comparison.

Here’s a “Good News” story Sanctions that Work:

In the recent cases of North Korea and Iran, a new variety of U.S. Treasury sanctions is having a potent effect, suggesting that the conventional wisdom may be wrong.

These new, targeted financial measures are to traditional sanctions what Super Glue is to Elmer's Glue-All. That is, they really stick. Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt doesn't even like to call them sanctions, preferring the term "law enforcement measures." Explains Stuart Levey, Treasury's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence: "Sanctions are scoffed at. They have a bad history."

Authority for the new sanctions, as with so many other policy weapons, comes from the USA Patriot Act, which in Section 311 authorizes Treasury to designate foreign financial institutions that are of "primary money laundering concern." Once a foreign bank is so designated, it is effectively cut off from the U.S. financial system. It can't clear dollars; it can't have transactions with U.S. financial institutions; it can't have correspondent relationships with American banks.

This explains, in part, why Iran recently converted its financial reserves from dollars to Euros and has been trying to establish a Euro-based oil bourse since 2005. Economic warfare, in other words. But as Ignatius notes, today’s financial markets are so intertwined and inter-dependent (thanks to globalization) that there’s not a lot that can be done to blunt the effect of these financial actions. As the Iranians and Norks are learning.

Oh, and just as an aside…the vehicle that makes those “sanctions with teeth” possible? The USA PATRIOT Act. You know, that constitution shredding, privacy invading, martial-law enabling, egregious affront to freedom loving Americans… Q&O has more on this line of thought.

Today’s Pic(s): Can a bridge be beautiful? Well, yes…according to the American Institute of Steel Construction. And this bridge over the Rio Grande near Taos is, by acclamation of the aforementioned AISC, “Most Beautiful Steel Bridge, Long Span Division.” I wonder if there was an awards show when this accolade was handed out? No matter. It is pretty, ain’t it?

(PS: The photo of the bridge itself is kinda dark, but I wanted to highlight the dramatic sky in the background.)

May, 2004.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I'm Sorry. It was ME, All Along.

So…In the comments toDisgust” (below), Laurie mentions that Glen Beck picked up on the fact that Algore’s Tennessee mansion is a mega-consumer of energy. Mr. Beck ain’t the only one. Here’s a list of people blogging about this (from memeorandum’s 2/27/2007 1400 hrs EST page):

Think Progress:
Gore Responds To Drudge's Latest Hysterics

Link Search: Google, Ask, Technorati, Sphere, and IceRocket

Discussion: WorldNetDaily, Riehl World View,, Hot Air, Blogometer, CBS News, Shakespeare's Sister, The Carpetbagger Report, ABCNEWS, The Sundries Shack, The Huffington Post, Iowa Voice, Polimom Says, Sister Toldjah, The Anonymous Liberal, Don Surber, TigerHawk, Redstate,, Captain's Quarters, Wizbang, Stop The ACLU,, Liberal Values, News Bloggers Blog,, Drudge Report, Ace of Spades HQ, Barcepundit, Roger L. Simon, Reason Magazine, On Deadline, Jules Crittenden, Tennessee Guerilla Women, Blue Crab Boulevard, Oliver Willis and The Political Pit Bull

And that’s just the Big Dogs! Last night this lil brouhaha was the lead item; today it’s been bumped down to the bottom because of its age. But, I digress.

I found something useful and interesting at the Think Progress link. In the body of the TP post is a link to a site that allows you, encourages you, to calculate your personal “carbon footprint.” So I did. My results (a screenshot from that website) are on the right, click for larger.

I’m shocked! Shocked, I tell you! My carbon footprint is “larger than average,” even though my car gets about 30 miles per gallon, I drive about half the miles an average American drives in a year, my entire frickin’ domicile is probably less than 20% of the square footage of any of the eight bedrooms in Algore’s home and my aggregate utility bill is about three percent of Algore’s. I’m biased, of course, but I feel I live pretty damned frugally and a helluva lot, a WHOLE HELLUVA LOT, more modestly than most. And yet my carbon footprint is “larger than average?” Or could it be an inconvenient truth that this site’s sole purpose is to induce guilt?

Oh, Hell. It’s all my fault and I’m SO sorry the planet’s gonna burn up. Forgive me; I knew not what I was doing.

Update 2/27 - 1320 hrs: Do NOT miss The Anchoress on this subject. Excellent points, excellent writing, and excellent linkage.


Today’s Pic: Part of the SFO skyline, taken from a balcony at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. My boss and best bud John and I were there to see a centennial exhibition of Ansel Adams’ photography, which was…how to put it?...phenomenal. To say the absolute least.

August, 2001.

Back in a bit.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Disgust. And What Passes for "Art" in these Parts.

So. I wake up this morning and the top item at memeorandum is the oh-so-predictable “Al Gore Takes Home the Statue! Cue the breathless gushing and the “Draft Al!” posts at the blogs of the usual suspects. Spare me. Please. But, no. What we’ll get is mindless gushing on the order of this sort of krep:

Gore has created a whole new career for himself as a media mogul with the help of his celebrity friends. He is leading a revolution in socially responsible media, and as his credibility grows in Hollywood, more and more celebrities are jumping on the bandwagon.


Ever since he has declared himself a “recovering politician” a vast portion of the American public seems to hang on his every word and looks ready to follow him into a twenty-first century environmental battlefield in Toyota Priuses. Would we really be paying this much attention to Al Gore if he weren’t surrounding himself with chiseled Hollywood faces?


What does it mean when Al Gore becomes more effective as a celebrity than a statesman? For one, it seems to justify the larger role Hollywood has begun to take in politics. If “Inconvenient Truth” can help fix global warming then who’s going to scoff at Brad and Angelina when they make quixotic statements about ending world hunger. After all, at least people will listen to them.

I think I’m going to be ill now… Ya know, after reading the discharge from which I excerpted the above I’ve simply lost all enthusiasm for blogging today.

I think I’ll go scrub down the bathroom.

Today’s Pic(s): I went outside the other day and attempted to catch an unusual sunburst effect of the sun hiding behind an overcast gray sky. Well, I was less than successful, as you can see by looking at the original photo. But…I created an interesting effect while playing around with one of the images and thought I’d share it. Artsy-fartsy, ain’t it?

Outside my door on February 22, 2007.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Democrat Cluelessness

They just don’t get it, period, full-stop, end-of-report:

It was one bullet point in the plan for the Pelosi Congress's "first 100 hours," two sentences in the Democrats' 31-page "New Direction for America" document released last June: In order to "Defeat terrorists and stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction, we will . . . . Double the size of our Special Forces" (emphasis added).

Sounds nifty, doesn't it, like a bumper sticker reading "Outlaw War Now!" And, indeed, top-notch warriors play an invaluable role in any war but are most useful in the sorts of guerrilla actions and antiterrorist activity that will probably dominate the military's missions for the next generation. There are just two problems.

First, doubling can only be accomplished by going a disastrous route – making special ops no longer special. Second, false solutions crowd out real ones. Much can be done to improve the quality of our armed forces, but this Democratic proposal doesn't make the grade.

That’s Michael Fumento, a former paratrooper, writing in this week’s Weekly Standard (and on his blog). He goes on to explain to any clueless Dem who might read the Weekly Standard, and clueless Republicans (yes, there are more than a few out there), who will read the article, just why one cannot “double the size of our Special Operations Forces.” Hint: it’s because they’re special. “Special,” in the Dem lexicon, has more to do with things like the Special Olympics than Special Forces. I despair of the Dems ever understanding the difference.

(h/t: Chap)

A Screw-Up, Collectivism, Nostalgia, and Gossip

How Murtha f!cked up: Murtha Stumbles on Iraq Funding Curbs;Democrats Were Ill-Prepared for Unplanned Disclosure, Republican Attacks:
The story of Murtha's star-crossed plan illustrates the Democratic Party's deep divisions over the Iraq war and how the new House majority has yet to establish firm control over Congress. From the beginning, Murtha acted on his own to craft a complicated legislative strategy on the war, without consulting fellow Democrats. When he chose to roll out the details on a liberal, antiwar Web site on Feb. 15, he caught even Pelosi by surprise while infuriating Democrats from conservative districts.
Then for an entire week, as members of Congress returned home for a recess, Murtha refused to speak further. Democratic leaders failed to step into the vacuum, and Republicans relentlessly attacked a plan they called a strategy to slowly bleed the war of troops and funds. By the end of the recess, Murtha's once promising strategy was in tatters.
Tom Andrews, a former House member and antiwar activist who helped Murtha with his Internet rollout, fumed: "The issue to me is, what is the state of the backbone of the Democratic Party? How will they respond to this counterattack? Republicans are throwing touchdown passes on this because the Democrats aren't even on the field."
Maybe the reason they’re not on the field is because they can’t find the frickin’ stadium. Or, in other words: when is a mandate not a mandate? I don’t believe the Dems are as united as the fringe-Left assumes. The fact that there are more than a few Blue Dog Democrats who are upset with Murtha is reassuring, to me. And infuriating to the nutroots. Let ‘em fume. A significant backlash to the defeatist “end the war” crowd is developing…just in the nick of time.
Do you know anyone who doesn’t use Wikipedia? Neither do I. It’s amazing to think the world’s most famous wiki (there are many) is but six years old and is eclipsing “standard” encyclopedias, such as Britannica. From an article by Cass Sunstein in yesterday’s WaPo:
In the past year, Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that "anyone can edit," has been cited four times as often as the Encyclopedia Britannica in judicial opinions, and the number is rapidly growing. In just two years, YouTube has become a household word and one of the world's most successful Web sites. Such astounding growth and success demonstrate society's unstoppable movement toward shared production of information, as diverse groups of people in multiple fields pool their knowledge and draw from each other's resources.
Professor Sunstein’s article isn’t just about Wikipedia. He also examines and praises “open source” projects (not limited to software development), and his main theme is about the emergence of the collectivization of knowledge. Professor Sunstein obviously thinks this is a good thing, other have their doubts:
A core belief of the wiki world is that whatever problems exist in the wiki will be incrementally corrected as the process unfolds. This is analogous to the claims of Hyper-Libertarians who put infinite faith in a free market, or the Hyper-Lefties who are somehow able to sit through consensus decision-making processes. In all these cases, it seems to me that empirical evidence has yielded mixed results. Sometimes loosely structured collective activities yield continuous improvements and sometimes they don't. Often we don't live long enough to find out. Later in this essay I'll point out what constraints make a collective smart. But first, it's important to not lose sight of values just because the question of whether a collective can be smart is so fascinating. Accuracy in a text is not enough. A desirable text is more than a collection of accurate references. It is also an expression of personality.
For instance, most of the technical or scientific information that is in the Wikipedia was already on the Web before the Wikipedia was started. You could always use Google or other search services to find information about items that are now wikified. In some cases I have noticed specific texts get cloned from original sites at universities or labs onto wiki pages. And when that happens, each text loses part of its value. Since search engines are now more likely to point you to the wikified versions, the Web has lost some of its flavor in casual use.
And that’s just part of the beginning of Jaron Lanier’s Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism, a quite thoughtful and provocative essay. (h/t: lgf)
There are always two sides (at least) to every story. I’m a big fan of Wikipedia, but I also approach its more controversial topics (read that: political) with a sense of skepticism. I don’t take the wiki as “the last word” on these topics, they represent one opinion out of many, and that opinion may or may not be correct. I’ll make any decisions on controversial topics based on what I find at the wiki, along with what I find elsewhere. On the other hand, if I want data about the P-47, including production numbers, where the aircraft was deployed, and technical specifications, I’ll consult the wiki and usually stop there. Occasionally I may follow an external link cited on the wiki page…but that’s more a function of expanding upon the information given by Wikipedia, not skepticism. On the whole, I believe Wikipedia has done more good than harm. And I’d damned sure hate to see it go away.
Laurie e-mails this link which she thought would “… appeal to your (my) sense of appreciation of form and figure.” And she’s right. It does. Dang, but looking at those pics makes me oh-so-nostalgic for Former Happy Days when air travel was glamorous, and something of an occasion. Today it’s just an ever-so-slightly more upscale version of Greyhound. And that is not a compliment. Stewardesses Flight attendants just ain’t the same these days. But neither is the food. Nor are the passengers.
Most, if not all, males in my generation had a common fantasy: a wild tryst with a beautiful stew where you find yourselves thrown together for a brief moment in time…in some equally-glamorous place like Tokyo, Istanbul, or maybe Karachi. I never realized that fantasy, although I came close… close to the point of declining a dinner offer at our destination because I was being met at the airport by My Beloved, The (future, at the time) Second Mrs. Pennington. Given the way things turned out, I might have been better off going to dinner that night.
On second thought, nah. {sigh}
I don’t normally “do” this sort of stuff, but I found this fascinating: Oscar’s Big Production Number: Keeping Ex-Lovers Apart.
HEARTS cease to race. Engagements are broken. Marriages end. And when they do, it is not unusual for otherwise rational adults to behave like jilted teenagers, willing to do whatever it takes — make long detours, flee a club — to avoid running into their object of affection-turned-affliction.
You can bet your Oscar pool, though, that none of the celebrities attending the Academy Awards tonight will be ducking behind a massive gold statue or sprinting down the red carpet to evade a former flame.
Why would they? While the majority of heartbroken Americans must devise their own sophomoric strategies for dodging former sweethearts, celebrities have publicists to deftly manage their Ex Capades.
“Make no mistake about it, these things are very choreographed,” said Ronn Torossian, president and chief executive of 5W Public Relations, whose clients have included Sean Combs, Snoop Dogg and Pamela Anderson.
Wow, am I ever glad I’m not in the movie biz, or in any sort of business where The Second Mrs. Pennington and I might run into each other by accident. My “sophomoric strategy for dodging” TSMP is pretty simple: I stay the Hell out of Colorado.
Today’s Pic: Two friends and I on a daytrip to Matamoros, Mexico from Brownsville, TX. The RV park I stayed in during my Brownsville sojurn had a relationship with a Mexican business English school and encouraged park residents to spend a day with the students. Anywhere from four to six students would take participants from the park around Matamoros, showing us the high spots (and skipping the low), and engage us in conversation. Quite an interesting time. (Me, a Canadian Snowbird friend, and a student. Can’t remember names.)
February, 2000.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Paying the Price

So. I mentioned I was up late the night before last when I put up yesterday’s placeholder post. I didn’t mention just how late I was up, nor did I mention the time I actually rolled out of bed. For the record, I was up until 0330 yesterday morning and was awakened by SN1 calling to chat around 1000 that same morning.

One pays a price for such behavior…and the price is: falling asleep while watching the news just after 1800 hrs, and having your eyes pop open eight hours later at 0200. And there’s not a thing you can do to get back to sleep, because, well… you’re done. I tried and gave up at 0300 or so. It’s gonna be a long day, methinks.

Wild, wild weather today. We’re under a “high wind warning” until about 1800 hours this evening and let me tell you: the wind is fierce! El Casa Móvil De Pennington is doing some serious rockin’ to and fro…I just might have to go out and buy some Dramamine. It’s that bad.

“Well, how bad is it, really, Buck?” you ask? This bad…

I should shoot a video and post it, coz it’s a real “you had to be there” kinda thing.

Not much in today’s news, so let’s flog a dead horse. Peggy Noonan, writing in yesterday’s WSJ:

Mrs. Clinton has never gone after a fellow Democrat quite the way she's going after Mr. Obama, and it's an indication of how threatened she is not only by his candidacy but, one suspects, his freshness. He makes her look like yesterday. He makes her look like the old slash-and-burn. I doubted he could do her serious damage. Now I wonder.

What Mrs. Clinton is trying to establish is this: to criticize her--to speak of her critically as a human being, as a person with a record and a history and a style and attitudes--is, ipso facto, to be dirty, and low, and destructive. To air and raise questions about who she is, how she operates, and what can be inferred from her past actions is by definition an unjust act.

But Americans have always--always--looked at and judged the character and personality of their candidates for president. And they have been right to do so. It mattered that Lincoln was Honest Abe, Washington had no personal lust for power, that FDR was an optimist and a manipulator, that Adams was a man of rectitude and no small amount of stubbornness. These facts, these aspects of their nature, had policy implications and leadership implications. They couldn't be more pertinent. They still are.

Ol’ Hill has a lot to live down. Barack drew blood, and it ain’t gonna be the last time it happens during this long, long campaign season. As Bill Kristol said in a Weekly Standard article: “It was a bad week for Hillary.” Understatement, that.

Paul Mirengoff, on the other hand, thinks this dust-up is insignificant:

The candidates' spat will have no impact on the race -- think of it as the first inning of an exhibition baseball game. But just as exhibition games help managers assess their talent, the candidates (especially Hillary) should be wondering about the judgment of the staff member[s] who bit so hard on Geffen's comments and the aftermath.

The point is well-taken…in that it was Hillary’s staff, and not her, that apparently over-reacted. But, knowing organizations as I do, I find it incredibly hard to believe Hillary couldn’t stop this train wreck long before it happened. It is her staff, after all. And I believe this event was significant, if only for the fact it removed Hillary’s aura of inevitability, as Mr. Kristol noted.

And so it goes…

Today’s Pic: Yesterday I put up a pic of Inger Jirby’s back gate. Here’s a shot of her kitchen, which is probably of interest to me and me only. But hey! It’s my blog, right? Check out that stove…

Taos. May, 2004.

Friday, February 23, 2007

News...Good, Bad, and Indifferent. Plus: Plane Pr0n!

Good News/Bad News First, the good:

House Democrats have pulled back from efforts to link additional funding for the war to strict troop-readiness standards after the proposal came under withering fire from Republicans and from their party's own moderates. That strategy was championed by Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) and endorsed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).


Murtha doomed his own plan in part by unveiling it on a left-wing Web site, inflaming party moderates.

"Congress has no business micromanaging a war, cutting off funding or even conditioning those funds," said Rep. Jim Cooper (Tenn.), a leading Democratic moderate, who called Murtha's whole effort "clumsy."

Calling Murtha’s plan “clumsy” is way too kind. “Stupid” and “treasonous” are two adjectives that come to my mind, but then I’m not a Democrat like Rep. Cooper. Murtha might have made a go of it, if it wasn’t for his oh-so-idiotic crowing and pandering to the anti-war Left. In which case we can be thankful for his poor judgment, which I ascribe to advancing senility. But just because Murtha failed in this heavy-handed attempt to undercut the President’s prosecution of the war doesn’t mean he won’t stop trying. He’s nothing if not persistent.

And now the bad news:

Senate Democratic leaders intend to unveil a plan next week to repeal the 2002 resolution authorizing the war in Iraq in favor of narrower authority that restricts the military's role and begins withdrawals of combat troops.

Good luck on that idea, Senate Democrats. You might have a problem maintaining your majority status if you go that route.

Jules Crittenden gives us his take on the Good News/Bad News meme here. And Captain Ed holds forth on the unfolding Democrat strategies to end the war without victory.

Interesting times, these. Too damned interesting, if you ask me.

The World’s Finest Precision Aerial Demonstration Team has released their 2007 schedule. And El Paso is the closest they’ll come to me this year. But they are performing in Bulgaria and RomaniaAnkara, Turkey, too. I used to live there once upon a time. Fat lot of good that does me now.

In other Air Force news… Air Force magazine has a pretty good piece on the F-22 titled The Raptor in the Real World. Yeah, it’s a puff-piece, but so? The F-22’s capabilities are the stuff fighter pilots’ wet dreams are made of…

A dozen F-22s, flown by a cadre of handpicked pilots and kept in shape by the 27th’s best maintainers, went to Northern Edge, a two-week joint-force wargame in Alaska. Participants included 5,000 troops in Army ground units, Marine Corps ground units, Navy Aegis cruisers and aircraft, and Air Force aircraft ranging from fighters and search and rescue helicopters to E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft.

Col. Thomas Bergeson, the 1st Operations Group commander, said it was the largest exercise for him in 20 or so years. In one Northern Edge engagement, USAF and its sister services put more than 40 fighters in the air at once, as well as E-2C Hawkeye and E-3 AWACS aircraft.

To confront the F-22-led “Blue Air” collection, the joint force mustered its best “Red Air” threat—front-line F-15s, F-16s, and Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets. The F-22’s team blitzed the opposition with a favorable 241-to-two kill ratio. What’s more, the two lost aircraft were F-15Cs, not F-22s. The Raptors came through the engagements untouched.


“They [the Red Air adversaries] couldn’t see us,” Tolliver said. This was true even when the opponents were assisted by AWACS. “And that’s what makes the F-22 special,” Tolliver went on. “I’m out there and I have weapons like an F-15C or an F-16, but ... I’m basically invisible to the other guy’s radar.”

The 241-to-two record was amassed over two weeks of air engagements. Tolliver noted that, in such battles, Red Air units were allowed to regenerate and return to the fight, but lost Blue forces could not. Even with such handicaps, in the largest single engagement, F-22-led forces claimed 83 enemies to one loss, after facing down an opposing force that had generated or regenerated 103 adversary fighters.

More at the link, including Plane Pr0n!!!

More “Red-on-Red” stupidity:

Should we Fox?

"Fox," as in partner with the Fox News Channel. Liberal bloggers and the online political powerhouse launched a campaign Thursday to persuade the Nevada Democratic Party to boot Fox News as the broadcaster of the state's August Democratic presidential debate.

The reason, according to an online letter MoveOn sent to 2 million of its members Thursday, is that "Fox is a mouthpiece for the Republican Party, not a legitimate news channel. The Democratic Party of Nevada should drop Fox as its partner for the presidential primary debate." Joining the chorus Thursday was liberal filmmaker Robert Greenwald, the director of the anti-Fox film, "Outfoxed," who released a video online of Fox's coverage of Democratic candidates.

But the Nevada party organizers -- and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean -- said Thursday that while they may not think much of Fox's reporting, they want to reach out to viewers of the largest cable news network, one with double the number of prime-time viewers of CNN.


Bloggers like Matt Stoller of are more worried about what the network's post-debate spin could be. When Fox broadcast a Democratic candidate debate in September 2003, Stoller noted that the network's post-debate story was headlined, "Democratic Candidates Offer Grim View of America." It cut away early from the show, Stoller said, giving conservative pundit William Bennett first crack at post-debate analysis.

Well, Matt…you can run, but you can’t hide. Your party’s view of America is grim, isn’t it? There is one thing about Fox: they tend to call a spade a spade. Lefties don’t like that. Nunh-unh. Not at all. So I can understand their angst. Kinda sorta.

Hey!! I got an idea!! Put the debate on Versus! Hasn’t that worked for the NHL? No? Well, hell. I thought that idea was at least as good as anything coming out of MoveOn…maybe better.

Austin Bay, writing in TCS Daily on “The Real News Behind the Surge:”

The relentless, focused targeting of Shia and Sunni extremist organizations is a far more important feature of what Iraqis are calling "the new security plan" than more U.S. troops. The coalition's effort to better integrate the economic and political development "lines of operation" with security operations could have greater long-term effects.

Part and parcel of “focused targeting” is keeping pressure on Mookie and the Mahdi Army. Col. Bay talks a lot about that, and brings up the relevant history, in case you may have forgotten. Would that Dubya had done this about a year ago. But… “better late,” eh?

Another quiz thingie, this time it’s Which Famous Guitarist are You?

That's a copy 'n' paste jpg... coz the tables in these thangs never show the bars as filled. At any rate, it's good to know I'd be more like Hendrix if I actually played the guitar!
To take the quiz go here: Which famous guitarist are you?


Today’s Pic: A blue gate leading into the home and gallery of Inger Jirby, a Swedish artist who lives in Taos. Ms. Jirby has a wonderful gallery and an impressive home.

Given the weather here in P-Town has been sooo spring-like of late, I thought a Spring photo would be appropriate for today.

May, 2004.

Up way too late last evening…and stayed in bed way too late this morning. Back in a bit.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Big Fun

Schadenfreude: scha·den·freu·de. Pronunciation: [shahd-n-froi-duh]

satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else's misfortune.
See also: Hillary is Sistah Souljah'ing the entire Democratic Party1 and It's Her Party, And She'll Cry If She Wants To2.


It started with Hillary's unique experience on 9/11 - the day she witnessed the world falling apart while the rest of us went to Disneyland. Then yesterday we heard about how Hillary thinks terrorism is a bad thing, while her fellow Democrats think it's no big deal. And today we get an earful about those nasty rich Hollywood Jews - oh, sorry, I mean fags.

Could Karl Rove have written a better script?

It's becoming increasingly clear that Hillary isn't running as a new Democrat, she's running as as (sic) a non-Democrat. Her strategy seems to be attacking everything and everyone associated with the Democratic party, and especially its base - and using Republican talking points, at that - in order to somehow position Hillary as a modern-day Diogenes, independent, above-the-fray, alone in the wilderness, forever on the look-out for honest politics.

In other words, Hillary is Joe Lieberman.


The longer answer is that Hillary looks about ready to self-destruct. She got rattled by the loss of her exclusive connections to Hollywood, which has made clear that they will not commit solely to her. With Obama scoring big in his Tinseltown debut, Hillary understands that a major portion of her husband's contributions has just dried up. Instead of redoubling her efforts to woo the celluloid titans back to her side, she blew her stack and demanded ridiculous penance from a competitor who hadn't sinned against her.

In fact, Obama has decided to allow Hillary to look as bad as she can, issuing a classy response this evening:

My sense is that Mr. Geffen may have differences with the Clintons. That doesn’t have anything to do with our campaign… I’ve said I’ve had the utmost respect for Senator Clinton. I consider her an ally in the Senate. And will continue to consider her that way throughout the campaign…

Hillary apparently felt that the 2008 primary campaign would be little more than a coronation, and the general election a Restoration. Instead, she finds herself in the first tough election of her life, and she's starting to crack under the pressure. This reaction seems very much like the disillusionment of arrogance.

Lotsa stuff happens in the primaries, lotsa stuff gets said that is either (a) retracted later and written off as “campaign rhetoric” or (b) ignored all together. Still and even, Hillary looks pretty inept here, at best. Or worse, she looks like what I think she really is: a vindictive shrew. And that’s too bad, because I really would like to see her get the Democratic nomination. She’d be a whole Helluva lot easier to beat than a few of the other guys running. But…I’m savoring the moment, as it were. Couldn’t have happened to a more deserving gal.

Well now. It’s about time: When Tush Comes to Dove; Real women. Real curves. Really smart ad campaign.

In part, Dove's strategy is not unlike the Body Shop's old eco- and animal-friendly stance: Buy our products because you like them, but also because you're making a righteous statement. To buy Dove is to cast a vote for more "real curves" in advertising.

But there's a dirty little secret here. Because, in the end, you simply can't sell a beauty product without somehow playing on women's insecurities. If women thought they looked perfect—just the way they are—why would they buy anything?


Short-Term Grade: A. These ads are real attention getters—everyone's talking about them. On that level, they're a smashing success. Also, Dove now owns the "friend of the everywoman" angle. Smart move on their part to spot this open niche and grab it. Finally, if I can get sappy for a moment, it is sort of nice to see the unperfect have their day in the sun.

Overall Grade: D. Sadly, this is not a winning play for the long haul. If Dove keeps running ads like this, women will get bored with the feel-good, politically correct message. Eventually (though perhaps only subconsciously), they'll come to think of Dove as the brand for fat girls. Talk about "real beauty" all you want—once you're the brand for fat girls, you're toast.

Snarky enough for ya? I suspect the author (a woman) may be right when it comes down to the bottom line about the efficacy of the ad campaign, but in the end I really don’t know. I agree with her point about the beauty industry plying their trade on the backs of women’s insecurities, and I’ve always thought that sad, if not inherently evil. Thus, my “about time” comment.

I was unaware this ad campaign even existed (what with living way the hell out here in the boonies) until I saw one of the campaign’s models on the news yesterday. I’ve not seen any Dove ads on TV (you can see one here) and there aren’t all that many billboards on the highways around here. And I don’t read women’s magazines. So pardon me if I’m discussing something that may be common knowledge in the metropolitan areas of the country. It’s news here in P-Town, at least within the geezer demographic.

But…back to that model I saw on the news. I don’t remember her name, but she is a 62-year-old vivacious blond that I wouldn’t mind having on my arm…anywhere, any time. And yes, she was certainly… uh … “more plump” than your average model-spokesperson. And that’s a good thing, at the risk of repeating myself, yet again. Long-time readers know I go on about this subject from time to time and are aware I prefer the full-figured female form. I’m just glad to see someone in America’s beauty industry apparently agrees and is coming around.

Good on ya, Dove.

More on that Tony Snow/White House correspondents roundtable I wrote about yesterday, in today’s WaPo:

"If there is a flash of tempers between me and Tony, it's not about him and me, it's nothing personal," said Gregory, whose televised clashes with Snow have become legend.

Snow grinned. "What you see quite often at the briefings are sharp exchanges, but David's right: It's not personal," the press secretary agreed. "I not only like but admire everybody else sitting up here on this podium. It is a real pleasure and a privilege to work with them, to get to know them. . . . It is a wondrous thing."

Other than this, the article is chock full of anecdotes for those of you who missed the show itself, including the Crawford/400 degrees bits. And about that quote above… I wrote yesterday that Snow and Gregory got along well “for two guys that hate each other.” And yes, I did see the exchange quoted above. I just don’t believe it. Coz…politicians and reporters and even press secretaries LIE, ya know. Just sayin’.

It was such a beautiful day yesterday here in P-Town, and we’ll have a re-run today. Relatively calm winds and a high of about 70 degrees or so. Yesterday was one of those odd sort of days when one runs both the AC and the furnace. It must have been 90 degrees inside El Casa Móvil De Pennington when I got home yesterday afternoon. I tried to just grin and bear it after opening up the windows, but couldn’t. So I flipped on the AC for about an hour. And then two hours later the furnace kicked on. It feels like Spring, it does!

Today’s Pic(s): A couple of shots at the Audubon Sabal Palm Sanctuary in Brownsville, TX, (scroll down just a bit at the link) including YrHmblScrb in the most elaborate duck-blind I’ve ever seen. The blind overlooks the duck pond, which is home to not only ducks, but nearly every conceivable sort of water fowl known to man. I’m not a “birder,” but I can (and did) appreciate the solitude of the bird-watching environment. A great place for quiet contemplation, which I was given to at that period in time. “Given to” understates the case more than a bit, but ‘tis quite another story!

February, 2000.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Miscellaneous Meanderings

I’ve mentioned (in passing and otherwise) that I think the current Apple ad campaign (PC vs. Mac) is clever. Well, now…it turns out that the ads aren’t quite as original as I thought; they’re just a variation on an 11-year-old theme. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!

If you check out the link…that’s me on the left back in 1996, for all intent and purposes. Except I’m better looking.

So…is it just me, or is anyone else revolted by all the Anna Nicloe krep? Fox News is the absolute worst when it comes to this story. I quit watching Greta van Susteren along about the time she took up residence in Aruba (not that I ever watched her a whole lot to begin with), but now I see she’s hurried on down to Florida, the better to get “on the scene” coverage of the flap over the disposition of Anna Nicole Smith’s body, fer God’s Sake. And the ANS flap was the lead story on “Hannity and Colmes” last evening.

WHO THE HELL CARES? I mean, really… Sometimes it seems we have no dignity left as a culture. Sheesh.

Immediately after muttering a few epithets in the general direction of the telly last evening, I flipped the channel to C-SPAN to see what was going on and struck pay dirt. Tony Snow was moderating a roundtable discussion featuring White House correspondents, and it was pretty good. Interestingly, Snow was seated right next to David Gregory. You may have heard there’s a bit of friction between these two guys. But, Hey! Let’s let bygones be bygones…

Not surprisingly, Snow's first question went to David Gregory, who has earned a reputation as an outspoken showman in the Bush White House. Snow asked Gregory how often he wishes he could have a do-over at the end of the day. Gregory replied that he never wants his reporting to be personal and added that tempers tend to flare unintentionally in the heat of the moment. Gregory's diplomatic response set the tone for the evening—it would be a friendly, not contentious, discussion.

And so it was (friendly, not contentious), and quite entertaining, too. Snow and Gregory managed to laugh at each others’ jokes and generally seemed to get along rather well. For two guys who hate each other, that is.

One little gem: “Crawford is the best-kept secret in Washington.” That’s according to Sheryl Stolberg of The New York Times. That lil bit was revealed when she was talking about how “everyone” always feels sorry for her when she mentions she’s going to Crawford during Dubya’s annual vacation. The rejoinder, from an off-camera participant: “Yeah, except for the fact it’s always 400 degrees down there…” Well, Hell. It’s Texas! In August! What do you expect?

Ed Morrisey, on Tony Blair’s announcement about Brit troop withdrawals from Iraq:

While Blair will allow the British forces to reduce through the end of fresh rotations into Basra, the US has started to send three times as many troops into Baghdad than what the Brits have in the entire country now. The progress in Basra will get overshadowed by the surge and the battle where the sectarian insurgencies meet in the Iraqi capital.

This is the natural denouement of the Iraqi campaign, however. As the Iraqis can take over security responsibilities for their provinces, the Western powers will pull back and pull out, although the British forces will remain in smaller numbers to provide assistance to the Iraqis. The US will do the same when Baghdad and Anbar come under better control. The Brits have succeed (sic) in their mission, and they now can shift their forces accordingly. (emphasis mine)

What he said. Basra is not Baghdad nor Anbar. Blair is only doing what he can (and should) do, and what we will do, once we’re able. We’ve never said anything else.

New target for the netroots nutroots: California Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher. Right off the bat, let me say I don’t particularly care for Ms. Tauscher…simply because she voted “yes” on the non-binding resolution condemning the surge. Which, if you think about it, is reasonably “progressive,” nu? But not enough for the nutroots. Here’s a sample of the reaction to the WaPo article from one of the blogs conspiring to overthrow Tauscher, aka the reality-based community….you know, the diversity crowd:

This morning Juliet Eilperin and Michael Grunwald delievered a Valentine's box of confections in a nice Washington Post wrapper to Ellen Tauscher and, nevermind the date; it was very timely. A number of Bay Area-based activists and bloggers are determined to challenge one of the Democratic Party's most egregious corporate whores and Bush enablers in 2008 this side of Joe Lieberman.


Starting on October 10, 2002 with Roll Call 454 on H.J. Res. 114, the final resolution authorizing Bush to use force against Iraq, Tauscher didn't vote with Nancy Pelosi and other progressive Democrats– and the majority of Democrats in the House; she voted with Tom DeLay and Roy Blunt and the worst reactionary, warmongering scum in the Congress to give Bush the authority to do what he's done in Iraq.

“Corporate whore.” “War-mongering scum.” Keep it up, guys. I just love it when you talk dirty. So does the rest of America. Not. (Don’t believe me? Connecticut. 2006. Who’s your Daddy?)

And so it goes…


Today’s Pic: A rerun of sorts. Back in October I posted the view behind the altar at St. Philips Episcopal Church in Tucson. This is a view of one of the covered walkways, taken from one of the courtyards, of which there are more than a few, and all are relaxing places to just “be.”

February, 2004.

Back in a few.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Babble and (Minor) Temptation

Fascinating reading, this: How Toyota Conquered the Car World. Fascinating on a number of levels, e.g., business (marketing, management, manufacturing, and process), gear-head (history and product), and Toyota’s impact on the US auto industry. You’ll enjoy this article even if you’re familiar to the point of overload with Toyota and its concepts, such as kaizen. Good stuff, indeed.

Curious note: Word accepts “kaizen” without flagging the word as misspelled {try it!}. Toyota has even made a believer out of Bill Gates!

We ALL do it… And there’s (ahem) truth in this WaPo article:

Feldman's experiments show that stern-faced judicial proceedings about perjury are as remote from the realities of human behavior as President Bush is from the Nobel Peace Prize. For one thing, lying plays a more complex role in human relationships than the black-and-white legal view recognizes. It is also so commonplace in everyday life that putting people on trial for lying is somewhat like putting them on trial for breathing.

Experiments have found that ordinary people tell about two lies every 10 minutes, with some people getting in as many as a dozen falsehoods in that period. More interestingly -- and Libby might see this as the silver lining if he is found guilty -- Feldman also found that liars tend to be more popular than honest people. (Ever notice how popular politicians somehow change their minds on controversial issues such as the war in Iraq at the exact moment that public opinion on those issues changes?)


Now most of the lies that Feldman is talking about do not involve national security and stakes as high as war. They are mostly designed to please others -- "It doesn't look like a toupee at all," "The muffins were great," "What an adorable baby!" -- and as harmless bouts of self-promotion, as in, "Yeah, I used play lead guitar for the Police," and, "Nelson Mandela was telling me the other day . . . ."

“The check’s in the mail…” “She didn’t mean a thing to me!” “No, it doesn’t make you look fat.” And so on. Lying as a fact of life, in other words. I’ve told my share, but none lately (that I can think of. Right now. At this moment.). It’s an interesting sort of dichotomy: as I’ve grown older I’ve both softened my bluntness as a function of respecting other people’s feelings, and yet feel empowered to be truthful, even if and when it hurts. I suppose it’s my own personal brand of “situational ethics.” And in that sense I’m just the same as everyone else, nu?

Psycho-babble in the NYT:

Flaming has a technical name, the “online disinhibition effect,” which psychologists apply to the many ways people behave with less restraint in cyberspace.

In a 2004 article in the journal CyberPsychology & Behavior, John Suler, a psychologist at Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J., suggested that several psychological factors lead to online disinhibition: the anonymity of a Web pseudonym; invisibility to others; the time lag between sending an e-mail message and getting feedback; the exaggerated sense of self from being alone; and the lack of any online authority figure. Dr. Suler notes that disinhibition can be either benign — when a shy person feels free to open up online — or toxic, as in flaming.

The emerging field of social neuroscience, the study of what goes on in the brains and bodies of two interacting people, offers clues into the neural mechanics behind flaming.

Neural mechanics, my @ $ $. How about simple stupidity? Or the fact that some people are just idjits, on-line or off? Not to belabor the point, but I’ve found that people generally act the way they’re pre-disposed to act. Nice folks will be nice and a-holes will be…well…A-holes. Just sayin’.

So…I get these love-notes from Amazon about once a week (Buy! Buy now! Based on your past purchases, we know you’ll like this! Free shipping!). Today this comes in the mail. And I’m sorely tempted. A digital SLR has been on my wish-list for quite some time now and I’ve been doing the usual “analysis,” to wit: “is it really better than what I’m using now?” “what does an SLR do that my G5 doesn’t?” and, of course… “is it worth the money?” That last question always stops me dead in my tracks, especially considering that I’d spend about $1,350.00 after adding a lens and a usable storage card (read that: at least 1GB), at the very least. Still and even…I’m SO tempted!!

Today’s Pic: The other-worldly landscape of Porcelain Basin in Yellowstone. As you can tell from the (grainy, first-generation digital) pic, I was virtually alone the day I went. I don’t believe I encountered another soul during my meanderings down the elevated walkway and across the basin. Why? Because it was about 40 degrees that day. So…I could dawdle all I wanted without fear of blocking the path for others. Brilliant colors, brilliant day.

May, 2000.

And now it’s off to the laundromat. Arrrrgh!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Gutenberg's Help Desk

(hat tip: Insty) In which case: Heh.

A Holler Day

It’s a Holler Day! So go on out in the back yard and Holler!!

As noted: Today is Presidents Day.

Presidents Day is the common name for the United States federal holiday officially designated as Washington's Birthday. It is celebrated on the third Monday of February.

As the official title of the federal holiday, Washington's Birthday was originally implemented by the federal government in 1880 in the District of Columbia and expanded in 1885 to include all federal offices. As the first federal holiday to honor an American citizen, the holiday was celebrated on Washington's actual birthday, February 22. In 1971 the federal holiday was shifted to the third Monday in February.

I feel a Geezer Rant coming on. But. I shall resist. Do you have the day off today? I have a feeling a lot, if not most, of my Frequent Readers have the day off, given they’re military folks of one sort or another. Presidents Day is another one of those “Federal” holidays, like Columbus Day and Veterans Day. And by that I mean there’s no mail delivery, schools and government offices are closed, but the rest of the world gets up and goes to work. Same stuff, different day. I liked life better when we got the actual day we’re supposed to celebrate off. Sure, the three-day-weekend legislation was (and is) a good thing. Yet something is lost… At least that’s my opinion. Your mileage most certainly may vary.

So. To Jimmuh, George H.W., Bubba, and Dubya: Enjoy your Day, eh?

Today I learned something about Presidents Day I had not known before. It’s been a tradition, since 1862 (and an annual event since 1893), for a Senator to read Washington’s Farewell Address to the Senate to commemorate Presidents Day. After giving the address the selected Senator signs the little leather-bound book that records the names of all who have given the address to the Senate. Just for the record, the annual reading of the address will take place on February 26th of this year. (“The Senate will convene at 2:00 p.m. and Senator Corker (ed: R-TN) will read Washington's Farewell Address.”)

Were I a senator, and were I selected to deliver Washington’s Address on the 26th, I would emphasize the following passages:

The unity of Government, which constitutes you one people, is also now dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquillity at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very Liberty, which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee, that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment, that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the Palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion, that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.

For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest. Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of american, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the Independence and Liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts, of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.

In other words: E Pluribus Unum. Certain politicians need this reminder.

I had one particular politician in mind when I wrote the above: Jack Murtha. Bob Novak has a good column in today’s WaPo about Mr. Murtha. I quote:

After 16 undistinguished terms in Congress, Rep. John P. Murtha at long last felt his moment had arrived. He could not keep quiet the secret Democratic strategy that he had forged for the promised "second step" against President Bush's Iraq policy (after the "first step" of a nonbinding resolution of disapproval). In an interview last Thursday with the antiwar Web site, he revealed plans to put conditions on funding of U.S. troops. His message: I am running this show.

Mr. Novak goes on to argue that Murtha is indeed running the show, as improbable as that may seem. But. Beware, Jack. Don’t forget the Law of Unintended Consequences. You may be in charge today, but there’s another election in 2008. For all the bad that’s said and written about American voters, we do have long memories. And we’re watching you like a frickin’ hawk (no pun intended, but it fits).

Why it’s hard to do business in Russia:

MOSCOW, Feb. 15 — A Russian judge convicted a provincial school headmaster on Thursday for using pirated Microsoft software in school computers, but declined to impose any penalty, saying that Microsoft’s loss was insignificant compared with its overall earnings.


Cheap, pirated software is ubiquitous in Russia, even as the country grows rich from oil profits. Pirated movies and music are sold openly; trademark protections are also widely violated, although less openly, and counterfeit cigarettes, pharmaceuticals and other consumer goods are common.

How insignificant was Microsoft’s loss in this case? About $9,700.00. But, it’s not the money, as they say. It’s the principal of the thing. It’s going to be a long time, if ever, before widespread rule of law comes to the former Soviet Union. Especially in the realms of intellectual property and patent law, just to name two areas. Software piracy isn’t considered a “real” crime in Russia. I never saw a single legal copy of Windows or Office during my trips to Russia. Not one. Just sayin’.

But wait…there’s more! From the International Herald-Tribune:

MOSCOW: In a Feb. 13 story about the trial of a Russian teacher charged with using pirated Microsoft software in school computers, The Associated Press, based on a Russian TV report from the courtroom, erroneously reported that the defendant refused an out-of-court settlement from Microsoft. Microsoft said it made no such offer.

The Russian prosecutor offered to settle the case if the defendant apologized, and Microsoft's representative said the company did not object. But the defendant refused. (emphasis mine)

I’ll be danged.

Today’s Pic: SN3 is ten years old today. My, how time flies!!

These are the first pics ever taken of The Birthday Boy, and they are scans, not digital photos. The pics of TSMP and SN3 were taken at home; the pic of SN3 and I was taken in the hospital.

Rochester, NY. February, 1997.

Happy Birthday, Bob-O!!