Reach for the Stars 
Wednesday, January 30, 2008, 08:48 PM
From Gail Collins' latest column:
But J.F.K.’s grand achievement was the raising of expectations, not the follow-through. His administration was a decidedly mixed bag, during which people spent a great deal of time building nuclear fallout shelters.


She's far too liberal for my taste (although not in that quote), but she's one of the more hilarious political writers out there -- even when she's mocking what I believe in.

Humor aside, the question of whether Obama can actually deliver, a freshman senator with no previous national experience, is a valid one. I thought we already tried the "let's elect a woefully unqualified candidate with inspirational rhetoric who has little to no experience in international affairs and see how things work out." Just because this one's party affiliation is different doesn't change the fact that it's a terrible idea. You fooled me in 2000, you fooled me in 2004 -- I will not be fooled again.
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State of the Union 
Monday, January 28, 2008, 06:54 PM
I'm watching President Bush's State of the Union Address, and the one thing that strikes me is that the military staff in audience this year is less restrained in their applause. By tradition the heads of the five services attend the State of the Union address and sit in the front row. By tradition they also refrain from offering applause on political programs or statements, sticking only to issues of national pride, congratulatory remarks, or similar non-political statements.

The debate over the War in Iraq has seen an unprecedented polticization of the military. Turning warriors into heros is a byproduct of ever war, but in today's media saturated environment the problem is compounded more than ever.
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Rambo 
Friday, January 25, 2008, 01:59 PM
I couldn't help but grab completely out of context - movie advertisement style - this hilarious quote from A. O. Scott's surprisingly positive review of the latest installment in the Rambo franchise:
His face looks like a misshapen chunk of granite, and his acting is only slightly more expressive...

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On Iran 
Wednesday, January 23, 2008, 03:20 PM
The BBC has a rather complementary article on the Bush Legacy. Two of the more amusing paragraphs are here:
And although the president seems to disagree with his own spies, he can at least turn round and say that tough talk has worked - that Iran dismantled its nuclear programme at about the same time as Colonel Gaddafi of Libya fessed up to his weapons of mass destruction, which, I seem to remember, was when Saddam Hussein moved from his palaces into a hole in the ground.

Iraq as a deterrent to unruly regimes? Discuss.


The thing is, there's a time for tough talk and there's a time for moderation. Ever since the NEI came out stating that Iran had dismantled it's Nuclear weapons program, dramatically reducing the threat of military action overnight, Iran has turned internal. This has not been a good thing for their president Ahmadinejad, who is no longer able to distract the populace with rhetoric about "the great Satan" away from the hash he's making of their economy.

The argument here, and it is a rather convincing one, is that by reducing our threat to Iran (and other "rogue" regemes) we deprive the hardliners of their talking points and allow moderates to flourish. The problem is that, despite what some may say, such an approach will only work in certain situations. For example, if Ahmadinejad was an economic genius and a hardliner, his support might not be erroding quite so rapidly and tough talk might be the only option to keep him in line.
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Kristol Redeems Himself 
Monday, January 21, 2008, 02:55 PM
I'm not a big fan of Bill Kristol; some of his more extreme statements have caused me to lump him in with other conservatives who seem to do more harm than good to the cause of advancing true conservative principles. Both those on the extreme left and extreme right have a habit of stridently repeating the same, unhelpful talking points while operating in a reality vacuum (I'd include Kos in that category). Rather than using their stature to advance and advocate innovative solutions or ideas, they repeat the same unoriginal rants that their base finds so soothing.

Kristol, in his latest column over in his new home at the New York Times, puts something I've never seen before in an op-ed column: poetry. The poem, Invictus by William Ernest Henley (and recited to him in part by John McCain), reminded me once again of the pleasure of poetry and why this disappearing art should be returned to its rightful place in the high school curriculum. Because it's so beautiful, here is the poem in full:
Out of the night that covers me,
    Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
    For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of Circumstance
    I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of Chance
    My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
    Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
    Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
    How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
    I am the captain of my soul.


Kristol ends his column with these two paragraphs:
Yesterday, on “Fox News Sunday,” using his most up-to-date talking points, Romney claimed to be an outside-the-Beltway candidate, by contrast with John McCain, “who has been in Washington all [his] life.”

Romney might have paused before charging McCain with being a prisoner of Washington. In the late 1960s and early 70s, while Romney was a missionary in France and a law and business student at Harvard, McCain wasn’t living the good life here in the nation’s capital. He was “tied up at the time,” as he once reminded the audience in a Republican candidates’ debate, tied up and perhaps reciting to himself lines from “Invictus.”

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FCC Investigates Comcast 
Wednesday, January 16, 2008, 01:42 PM
As detailed by Slashdot, the Federal Communications Commission is investigating Comcast for its filtering of BitTorrent internet traffic. Essentially Comcast forges an RST packet from your computer, telling the computer you're connected to that you're no longer interested in exchanging data; Comcast also forges a packet from the computer you're connected to and sends it to you. Comcast has been known to blatantly lie in denying this Internet filtering, but the phenomenon has been sufficiently well documented that the FCC has finally taken notice.

The FCC case is currently open for comment; if you are a Comcast subscriber or if you're simply upset by the idea of a major ISP falsifying data so they can pretend you sent it I recommend you comment (click on submit a filing in the right hand links). The proceeding number is 07-52, and the form is extremely easy to use - it will take less than five minutes of your time. My own comment can be found here.
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Summing Up the Past Few Years 
Thursday, January 10, 2008, 04:51 PM
A great quote from a spectacular piece on this season's American primary politics, out of the British magazine The Economist (sometimes I think they're better at our politics than we are):
Sure, they are desperate for "change": with the economy reeling, politics gridlocked, young people dying in Iraq and the Bush administration a global byword for callous incompetence, huge numbers of Americans have long believed their country is on the wrong track. But what sort of change? And who can deliver it?

What caught my eye at first was the phrase "...the Bush administration a global byword for callous incompetence..." That perfectly sums up my biggest complaint against the Bush administration: incompetence, and their spread of it from political appointees into the ranks of the civil service through politically motivated, nepotistic appointments in jobs that didn't used to be politicized.

I was also caught by the query regarding change. Yes, there's a general consensus among many that change is desperately needed, but would wager a fair amount of money that among all the change-supporters there is a wide disparity in opinions on what that change consists of.

Executing "change" -- whatever that means -- is the second question, which brings me back to Bush administration incompetence. Certainly part of that incompetence was borne out of arrogance, but I believe a significant portion of it is the result of inexperience on the part of the chief executive. The man squandered the first 40 years of his life, and other than one and a half terms as governor had little accomplishments of note. Now we have the freshman senator Obama who, although with starkly different policies, talks about restoring faith in government, hope, and speaks against "being disagreeable" -- words and themes that seem strangely familiar (remember 2000's candidate of compassion, dignity, bipartisanship, and no nation building). To back this up is a sparse record, one made even more threadbare by his habit of missing or abstaining from politically controversial votes during his time both as an Illinois and United States senator.
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Buttons 
Wednesday, January 2, 2008, 10:13 PM
The pajama bottoms on my new Target pajama-bottoms-and-robe set have a button fly. So now, to avoid peeing on myself, I have to unbutton my pajama bottoms and then my boxers. Sweet.
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Death 
Friday, December 28, 2007, 10:18 AM
Currently on my way to southern California to attend a memorial service for the mother of a very good friend of mine, the mother of a man who I've known my entire life. What do you say in a situation like that? I've known her and her son for years and yet despite so many pleasant memories I can manage only the feeblest of words.
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Dreams and Such 
Thursday, December 27, 2007, 11:14 PM
Babe
Oh, dream about me
Lie... on the phone to me
Tell me no truth
If it is bad
There's enough in my life
To make me so sad.

Just dream about
Color fills our lives
Just dream about
Someone else tonight.

Babe
Oh, dream about me
On the phone
Talking quietly;
I wanna be yours
Oh, won't you be mine
Against red skies
For all time.

So dream about... us
When we're old
Just dream about
How I will let go.


From Moby's song Dream About Me.
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