Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Turkey, Israel and American Power

Whenever I worry about the fiasco in Iraq and what it means for the standing of America in the world, I need to remember things like the current situation between Turkey and Kurdistan. Kurdish terrorists have attacked and killed a number of Turkish troops. And the U.S. has asked Turkey not to move their army into Kurdistan (a.k.a. North Iraq)... and Turkey is complying! Whoa. Even though Turkey could tell the U.S. to take a flying leap, they ain't, probably because it's not worth it to get on the wrong side of America in an armed conflict, no matter who you are. And even if we won't go after Turkey militarily, we're still mighty enough that a country will think twice about defending itself when America asks them to.

It reminds me of Israel in the first Gulf War. Israel was getting shot at and America asked them not to respond... and Israel complied. And, to some extent, the Second Lebanon War was the same thing (except that Dick Cheney - high on paint thinner - told Israel to just go ahead and pound Lebanon).

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Ultimate Showdown Of Ultimate Destiny

My new favorite song is "The Ultimate Showdown Of Ultimate Destiny" by Lemon Demon. To see why I believe that, check out it's mad music page - especially for the lyrics. And, to get the full effect, see the official flash video.

Ironically, I heard the song *before* I saw the webpage about Chuck Norris... and the song-writers incorporated the cult about Chuck (as well as Batman, Indiana Jones and other favorites).

One reason why I love the song is that it's based on a concept I wrote about a few years ago: a screenplay/comic book idea to pit one hero vs. another. It seems that every male between 20-40 has had the same idea.

Update: Lyrics:
Old Godzilla was hopping around
Tokyo City like a big playground
when suddenly Batman burst from the shade
and hit Godzilla with a Batgrenade
Godzilla got pissed and began to attack
but didn't expect to be blocked by Shaq
who proceeded to open up a can of Shaq Fu
when Aaron Carter came out of the blue

and he started beating up Shaquille O'Neal
then they both got flattened by the Batmobile
but before it could make it back to the Batcave
Abraham Lincoln popped out of his grave
and took an AK47 out from under his hat
and blew Batman away with a rat-a-tat-tat
but he ran out of bullets and he ran away
because Optimus Prime came to save the day

this is the Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny
good guys, bad guys, and explosions as far as the eye can see
and only one will survive, I wonder who it will be
this is the Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny

Godzilla took a bite out of Optimus Prime
like Scruff McGruff took a bite out of crime
and then Shaq came back covered in a tire track
but Jackie Chan jumped out and landed on his back
and Batman was injured, and trying to get steady
when Abraham Lincoln came back with a machete
but suddenly something caught his leg and he tripped
Indiana Jones took him out with his whip

then he saw Godzilla sneaking up from behind
and he reached for his gun which he just couldn't find
'cause Batman stole it and he shot and he missed
and Jackie Chan deflected it with his fist
then he jumped in the air and did a somersault
while Abraham Lincoln tried to pole vault
onto Optimus Prime, but they collided in the air
then they both got hit by a Care Bear stare, oooh

this is the Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny
good guys, bad guys, and explosions as far as the eye can see
and only one will survive, I wonder who it will be
this is the Ultimate Showdown...

Angels sang out in immaculate chorus
down from the heavens descended Chuck Norris
who deliver a kick which could shatter bones
into the crotch of Indiana Jones
who fell over on the ground, writhing in pain
as Batman changed back into Bruce Wayne
but Chuck saw through his clever disguise
and he crushed Batman's head in between his thighs

then Gandalf the Grey and Gandalf the White and
Monty Python and the Holy Grail's Black Knight and
Benito Mussolini and The Blue Meanie and
Cowboy Curtis and Jambi the Genie
RoboCop, the Terminator, Captain Kirk, and Darth Vader
Lo-Pan, Superman, every single Power Ranger,
Bill S. Preston and Theodore Logan,
Spock, The Rock, Doc Ock, and Hulk Hogan
all came out of no where lightning fast
and they kicked Chuck Norris in his cowboy ***
it was the bloodiest battle the world ever saw
with civilians looking on total awe

and the fight raged on for a century
many lives were claimed, but eventually
the champion stood, the rest saw their better:
Mr. Rogers in a bloodstained sweater

this is the Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny
good guys, bad guys, and explosions as far as the eye can see
and only one will survive, I wonder who it will be
this is the Ultimate Showdown...
this is the Ultimate Showdown...
this is the Ultimate Showdown...
of Ultimate Destiny

A Mishaberach for the Rockies (and Red Sox)

From here.
Rabbi prays for the Rockies
By BRUCE DOLLIN Special to the IJN

As I am constantly asked to say a misheberach for our sports teams, I have searched the Jewish world over to find one and I found this one from Elaine Braun, sister of one of my colleagues back East who is a Red Sox (who?) fan. With her permission, I adapted it for the Rockies. I didn’t adapt it for the Broncos because even G-d can’t help them.

So . . .

For the starting pitchers

May he who blessed our ancestors, Walker, Bichette, Castilla and Gallaraga, rest and heal Francis, Jimenez and Morales who have been called to the mound upon reaching the World Series. May the Holy One protect and sustain them, helping them to be wholehearted in their game, to study diligently the signals from their catcher (Yorvit something), and to walk in G-d’s ways, but not to walk anyone else.

For the hitters

May he who blessed our ancestors, Walker, Bichette, Castilla and Gallaraga, bless Helton, Holliday and Matsui who have been called to the plate upon reaching the World Series. May the Holy One protect and sustain them, helping them to be wholehearted in their game, diligent in their swing, avoiding bad pitches and water bottles thrown onto the field. May they hit the long balls and may the umpires be just in ruling them home runs.

For the bullpen

May he who blessed our ancestors, Walker, Bichette, Castilla and Gallaraga, rest and heal Fuentes, Herges and Corpas, who may be called to the mound upon reaching the World Series. May they lead us back from destruction by our enemies, be they cheese steak (treif), rattlesnake (very treif) or . . . uh . . . footwear? (inedible, and therefore kosher even for Pesach). May G-d save them from all enemy, pestilence, sword, famine and grand slam. May the Holy One not abandon our starting pitchers in any case and let us say, Amen.

For the Team

Colorado Rockies

May he who blessed our ancestors, Walker, Bichette, Castilla and Gallaraga, bless the Rockies and all who loiter on Blake Street, them, their sons and the sons of their sons, along with those who establish and sustain the stands that provide hot dogs and peanuts to the wayfarer. May the Holy One continue to bless them with many pennants and even a world championship. May they not rest in peace until they win the big one. And let us say, Amen.
I don't understand the references, but I appreciate the sentiment.


Fun: Chuck Norris Facts

I am not in the cult of Chuck Norris - the man has let me down too many times. His movies have the greatest titles (e.g. Good Guys Wear Black, A Force of One, The Octagon, An Eye for an Eye) but they all suck. Immense suckitude. A hallmark of a Norris film, besides the vicious title, is to sport one three second scene that looks totally awesome.... and that is it. That scene will be proudly displayed in the trailers (probably more than once in different exposures) but you will be required to wait 90 minutes of rotten acting to see those good three seconds.

As such, Norris does not rate. A good contrast is Steven Seagal; his movies have decent bloodthirsty "Norris-esque" titles (e.g. Above the Law, Hard to Kill, Marked for Death, Out for Justice) but there's constant vicious violence in every onscreen minute. Seagal - in his early movies, the last one I've allowed myself to see is "Glimmer Man" - breaks people in half better than anybody before or since. Hands down. One scene in "Out for Justice" in particular where he slays an entire bar using a cue-ball in a hankerchief. It gives me a headache just thinking of it.

However, the cult *about* Norris is great. As opposed to the cult *of*, the cult *about* is to consider Norris the most absurdly ferocious human alive. It's based, I believe, on how cheezy his movies/TV shows are and how clumsily he attacks people. Maybe. At least that's how I appreciate the cult. This is seen in Conan O'Brian's weird Chuck Norris sketches.

I have now discovered (much later than most of humanity) a website based on this cult, called "Chuck Norris Facts" - based on evil little T-Shirt slogans about Norris' prowess. I have reprinted the ones I like below (note, I have modified some of these for elegance):

The Facts
  1. Guns don't kill people. Chuck Norris kills People.
  2. There is no theory of evolution. Just a list of animals Chuck Norris allows to live.
  3. There is no chin under Chuck Norris' Beard. There is only another fist.
  4. Chuck Norris has two speeds. Walk, and Kill.
  5. The leading causes of death in the United States are: 1. Heart Disease 2. Chuck Norris 3. Cancer
  6. Chuck Norris drives an ice cream truck covered in human skulls.
  7. Chuck Norris can slam a revolving door.
  8. Hellen Keller's favorite color is Chuck Norris.
  9. Chuck Norris once ate a whole cake before his friends could tell him there was a stripper in it.
  10. Chuck Norris-is the preferred method of execution in 16 states.
  11. Chuck Norris CAN believe it's not butter.
  12. Chuck Norris can divide by zero.
  13. A picture is worth a thousand words. A Chuck Norris is worth 1 billion words.
  14. When Steven Seagal kills a ninja, he only takes its hide. When Chuck Norris kills a ninja, he uses every part.
  15. Chuck Norris doesn't shave; he kicks himself in the face. The only thing that can cut Chuck Norris is Chuck Norris.
  16. Chuck Norris invented black. In fact, he invented the entire spectrum of visible light. Except pink. Tom Cruise invented pink.
  17. Chuck Norris has the greatest Poker-Face of all time. He won the 1983 World Series of Poker, despite holding only a Joker, a Get out of Jail Free Monopoloy card, a 2 of clubs, 7 of spades and a green #4 card from the game UNO.
  18. Nobody doesn't like Sara Lee. Except Chuck Norris.
  19. Chuck Norris has 12 moons. One of those moons is the Earth.
  20. Chuck Norris ordered a Big Mac at Burger King, and got one.
  21. It takes Chuck Norris 20 minutes to watch 60 Minutes.
  22. Chuck Norris doesn't believe in Germany.
  23. Chuck Norris can touch MC Hammer.
  24. It takes 14 puppeteers to make Chuck Norris smile, but only 2 to make him destroy an orphanage.
  25. Superman wears Chuck Norris pajamas.
  26. When Chuck Norris does a pushup, he isn't lifting himself up, he's pushing the Earth down.
  27. If, Chuck Norris would ever fight himself, he'd win.
  28. Chuck Norris did in fact, build Rome in a day.
  29. Ultimate Fighting Championship's full name is“Ultimate Fighting Championship, Non-Chuck-Norris-Division”.
  30. Chuck Norris was what Willis was talkin' about.
  31. Chuck Norris can lead a horse to water AND make it drink.
  32. Chuck Norris can judge a book by its cover.
  33. As President Roosevelt said: "We have nothing to fear but fear itself. And Chuck Norris."
  34. When the Hulk gets mad, he turns into Chuck Norris.
  35. In a fight between Batman and Darth Vader, the winner would be Chuck Norris.
  36. Everybody loves Raymond. Except Chuck Norris.
  37. Chuck Norris sank the Titanic.
  38. Kryptonite has been found to contain trace elements of Chuck Norris.
  39. Chuck Norris doesn't wear a watch, HE decides what time it is.
  40. When chuck Norris does division, there are no remainders.
  41. Chuck Norris can be seen from outer space by the naked eye.
  42. He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword. He who lives by Chuck Norris, dies by the roundhouse kick.
  43. Staring at Chuck Norris without proper eye protection will cause blindness, and foot sized brusies on the face.
  44. Chuck Norris can skeletize a cow in two minutes.
  45. The only sure things are Death, Taxes and Chuck Norris.
  46. To be or not to be? That is the question. The answer? Chuck Norris.
  47. 182,000 Americans die from Chuck Norris-related accidents every year.
  48. Jesus can walk on water, but Chuck Norris can walk on Jesus.
  49. All roads lead to Chuck Norris.
  50. In the medical community, death is referred to as "Chuck Norris Syndrome"
  51. The First rule of Chuck Norris is: you do not talk about Chuck Norris.
  52. Chuck Norris uses Tabasco sauce instead of Visine.
  53. Chuck Norris sleeps with a pillow under his gun.
  54. Only Chuck Norris can prevent forest fires.
  55. They say curiosity killed the cat. This is false. Chuck Norris killed the cat.
  56. Chuck Norris knows the last digit of pi.
  57. The air around Chuck Norris is always a balmy 78 degrees.
  58. Chuck Norris beats the odds. With his fists.
  59. Chuck Norris' pulse is measured on the Richter scale.
  60. Chuck Norris once kicked a ten dollar bill into 200 nickels.
  61. There are now five cup sizes at Starbucks: Short, Tall, Grande, Venti, and Chuck Norris.
  62. If a tree falls in the forest, and no-one else is around, Chuck Norris hears it.
  63. Chuck Norris can get Blackjack with just one card.
  64. Chuck Norris can sneeze with his eyes open.
  65. Chuck Norris doesn't go at the speed of light, he goes at the speed of Norris
  66. In an emergency, Chuck Norris can be used as a floatation device.
  67. Chuck Norris invented the question mark.
  68. As a child, Chuck Norris trick-or-treated as himself.
  69. Chuck Norris has 3 knees on each leg.
  70. Chuck Norris can cook minute rice in 30 seconds.
  71. Chuck Norris is not only a noun, but a verb.
  72. Chuck Norris invented the apple.
  73. Chuck Norris can have his cake and eat it too.
  74. Chuck Norris wrote an was just a list of everyone he has killed.
  75. Bigfoot takes pictures of Chuck Norris.
  76. Chuck Norris is allowed to talk about Fight Club.
  77. Chuck Norris won a pissing contest against a Russian race horse.
  78. Chuck Norris sneezes electricity.
  79. Chuck Norris' smile once brought a puppy back to life.
  80. Chuck Norris understands the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  81. Chuck Norris can in fact stop the beat.
  82. Chuck Norris speaks in all caps.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Childrearing in the Old Days

I've heard from old timers, thank God not my parents, who denigrate the new rules and restrictions for child safety. These "old wives" say that in their day they would put a child to sleep on his/her stomach, or not use a child seat, or feed a child grapes/peanuts/broken glass - and it would be fine! They would emphasize that "I raised my child this way" somehow assuming that their lives, and those of their immediate circle, create the entire cohort for the law of averages.

I think it's important to remember that infant mortality rates in America have fallen precipitously in the past few decades. To quote the CDC:
At the beginning of the 20th century, for every 1000 live births, six to nine women in the United States died of pregnancy-related complications, and approximately 100 infants died before age 1 year (1,2). From 1915 through 1997, the infant mortality rate declined greater than 90% to 7.2 per 1000 live births, and from 1900 through 1997, the maternal mortality rate declined almost 99% to less than 0.1 reported death per 1000 live births (7.7 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1997)
As such, even though we must respect our elders when they have opinions that reflect their years of accumulated wisdom, the 'elders' often know diddly about medicine. And when an elder is clearly confusing nostalgia with knowledge, then smile politely and whistle a tune in your brain until they stop talking and then say "Thank you" and walk away...

{2009 Update: Child labor picture from here, which captions the photo thus: "[Two girls wearing banners with slogan "ABOLISH CH[ILD] SLAVERY!!” in English and Yiddish, one carrying American flag; spectators stand nearby. Probably taken during May 1, 1909 labor parade in New York City. George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress).]"}

Friday, October 19, 2007

WAHOO! Entire Daily Show Archives Online

Ahem. I repeat: WAHOO! The Times is reporting that Viacom has decided to put the entire 10+ year, 13000 episode, archives of the Daily Show online!

I consider this a victory for Youtube. Ya see, the first thing that happened when Google bought Youtube was for Viacom to forbid any of the Daily Show clips to be shown. This was a huge let-down for anybody who spoke English and owned a computer. The Daily Show is like the official underground newspaper of the U.S.

While the Mainstream Media has been prostituting themselves to this corrupt administration - or just lying down on the job - the Daily Show has actually been reporting the important news. And the combination of the formerly free Youtube access plus the fact that the old Comedy Central Daily Show archives sucked made this move necessary and important. Wow, some good news and so early in the day.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Joey Bishop, Dead at 89

To quote the Times:
Joey Bishop, the stone-faced comedian who found success in night clubs, television and movies but became most famous as a member of Frank Sinatra's boisterous Rat Pack, has died at his Newport Beach home, his publicist said Thursday. He was 89. Bishop was the group's last surviving member. Peter Lawford died in 1984, Sammy Davis Jr. in 1990, Dean Martin in 1995, and Sinatra in 1998. Bishop died Wednesday night of multiple causes at his home in Newport Beach, publicist and longtime friend Warren Cowan said.
"Multiple causes" - that's how I want to go. If I gotta die, I want to take a few of them with me!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Women Drivers

I just hear the awesome 1960 routine by Bob Newhart about being a driving instructor. It's funny, yet it's based on the conceit that 'women drivers' are dangerous.

This is a good example of how humor is a good tool for anthropology and culture study. Because back in 1950s, it was an accepted stereotype that not only couldn't women drive, but it was implied that it was something to do with the female constitution. That they were flightly, unserious, and too emotional to ever handle the responsibility of driving.

Yet who would think that now? It's like how women can't study Talmud...

2009 Update: A Demotivator based on the routine:

Fun: Nickname Generators

There's a whole list of processes to make up a trade name. Here's the list that I know of so far. The first part of the list I got from a Palm Pilot program ("Sticks and Stones"). You enter in this info:
  1. First/Forename (FIRST)
  2. Middle Name (MIDDLE)
  3. Last/Surname (LAST)
  4. Mother's Maiden Name (MAID)
  5. First pet's name (PET)
  6. Favorite animal (ANIMAL)
  7. Town of birth (TOWN)
  8. Street/Area Name (STREET)
Conclusions from the above data:
  1. Star Wars Name = First syllable of (LAST + FIRST + MAID + TOWN)
  2. Burlesque Name = PET + MAID
  3. Soap Opera Name = MIDDLE + STREET
  4. Drag Queen Name = ANIMAL + MAID
Here are some other 'nickname' options that I've heard about. I'm not sure what the existing formulas are:
  1. Gangsta name (e.g. DJ Styxz)
  2. Pirate Name (e.g. Styxbeard)
  3. (Secret) Indian name (e.g. Dances with Noodles)
Suggestions for formulas, or other categories, are welcome.

Pic from here. Backpost finished 2009-11-26.

Republican Update: Bob Jones

In the scant few hours between when I wrote yesterday's post about the Republican candidates for 2008, Bob Jones III has come out to endorse Romney, saying:
This is all about beating Hillary. And I just believe that this man has the credentials both personally and ideologically in terms of his view about what American government should be to best represent the rank and file of conservative Americans. If it turns out to be Giuliani and Hillary we've got two pro choice candidates, and that would be a disaster.
What do we learn from this:
  • Hillary is public enemy number one to the GOP, but like their overblown wedge freakshow, it may actually be over-the-top
  • Being a pro-choice Christian is actually worse than a pro-life 'Cultist'
Hattip: TPM

Canada, the 51st State

The title is not meant to be provocative, or even a joke. As I've mentioned recently, I've been listening - pretty much non-stop - to novelty radio (there are 95 shows, most 2 hours long, 5 gigs on the hard drive). Starting at Oct 22 2005, I've reached show #34 (July 2, 2006) whose topic is "America: Good, Bad & Ugly." There are a few Canadian anti-American type songs, trying to distance themselves from American stereotypes and decrying our crass ignorance and our missiles.

And what I find strange, and what these Canadians hate about people like me, is that I don't actually consider Canada a foreign country. I think of it as a combination of Vermont-Minnesota-Montana. All three states are cold, flat, and filled with White People; all may have cities; all are strange but brother locales.

It helps that Canada actually shares phone area codes with the US; and shares part of Baseball. Yes, our national sport, where we joke about the inappropriate title of "World Series" - yet, it's the only sport where we don't bat an eyelash that it contains non-Americans. And if we decided to do that with Football or Basketball, I don't think there'd be a problem. Note, hockey doesn't count because (basically) it's like baseball in reverse (the Canadians have allowed us to join *their* league).

I make no distinction between Canadian and American actors/celebrities, friends or students. And I'm probably not alone in this. Do people care that Mike Myers, Brendan Fraser (star of "The Good American"), Matthew Perry (what a "Friend"), Kiefer Sutherland ("Jack Freakin' Baeur") are foreigners?

Canadians are just as new a country as we are so there's no need for them to have the European snobbishness to our outre power. Whlie it sounds facile, I want to reassure Canadians that the fact that we consider you Americans is an unprecedented admission by our jingoistic selves. We don't feel that way about any other country. True, we have a special connection with any place that speaks English (so that explains why we - or at least the GOP - detest Mexico, even though much of our country actually came from there), but please interpret our mental incorporation of your country into our Union as sincere flattery.

YNet to Close

Not good. According to Haaretz, the online English language version of Yediot Achronot is closing very soon. It was nice having three real English newspapers (Jpost is the third), to get a full spectrum.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

State of the 2008 Race - The Democrats

Dear latecoming random surfer, to understand this post I suggest you read the analysis section below, first, and then about the Republicans.

This is a breakdown of the top contenders, descending based on the RCP poll numbers, balanced by Money on Hand...,
  1. Hillary Clinton (48.2%) (Q3 Raised, $27,859,861; Q3 Spent $22,623,680, Total Raised $$90,935,788; Spent $40,472,775; Cash on Hand $50,463,013; Debt $2,347,486)

  2. Barack Obama (21.0%) (Q3 Raised, $21,343,292; Q3 Spent: $21,519,790, Total Raised $80,256,427; Spent $44,169,236; Cash on Hand $36,087,191; Debt $1,409,740)

  3. John Edwards (12.0%) (Q3 Raised, $7,157,233; Q3 Spent: $8,271,938, Total Raised $30,329,152; Spent $17,932,103; Cash on Hand $12,397,048; Debt $0)

  4. Bill Richardson(3.3%) (Q3 Raised, $5,358,585; Q3 Spent: $6,666,681, Total Raised $18,699,937; Spent $12,878,349; Cash on Hand $5,821,588; Debt $75,222)

  5. Chris Dodd, (?) (Q3 Raised, $1,522,061; Q3 Spent: $4,025,458, Total Raised $13,598,152; Spent $9,723,278; Cash on Hand $3,874,874; Debt $0)

  6. Joe Biden, (?) (Q3 Raised, $1,757,394; Q3 Spent: $2,635,896, Total Raised $8,215,739; Spent $6,329,324; Cash on Hand $1,886,340; Debt $128,210)
Look at those numbers and you can see who has a better machine.

Pic from here. Backpost kinda finished on 2009-11-26. I'm not sure if this is 'done' per se, but it's just lying around doing nothing, so might as well dump it back in it's old location.

State of the 2008 Race - Analysis

As many of my avid reader(s) know, I am pretty bad at predicting mass human behavior. Give me an individual and I can predict their behavior pretty well... but masses of unknown dolts? I am worse than Lotto. Can't help it, it's just an ability I lack. And I also can't help myself from MAKING predictions. All I can do is warn you that my predictions stink.

You may ask "Why, then, do you feel compelled to make these (ironically) predictably bad predictions?" Good question, voice in my head. Because while my conclusions are almost always wrong, my analysis is often right. So I want broadcast points for my deductive skills even when my inductive skills blow.


All logic should state that the next president will be a Democrat. A Democrat won in 1992, 1996, and in 2000 - and came very close in 2004 and that was a very poor candidate against a wartime, post-homeland strike, opponent. In the three subsequent years the GOP have shown themselves to be corrupt incompetent hypocrites. Their support seems to come entirely from flat-earth fundamentalist xenophobes. So logic says it will be nearly impossible for the GOP to win in 2008.

The nearest example of this election would be 1976, when a very poor Democratic candidate defeated the scandal-ridden GOP. There are lessons for both parties since it was a remarkably close election. Quoth the wiki:
Carter defeated Ford by two percentage points in the popular vote. The electoral vote was the closest since 1916; Carter took 23 states with 297 electoral votes, while Ford won 27 states and 240 electoral votes...
Despite the stink of Watergate, the GOP installed an honest-ish dolt as President and he was able to run on a clean slate. And he almost won! What undid Ford? The fact that in 1976 the American electorate actually cared that their president not be a moron:
During the second presidential debate on October 6, Ford stumbled when he asserted that "there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford administration." He added that he did not "believe that the Poles consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union", and made the same claim with regards to Yugoslavia and Romania. Ford compounded his error by refusing to retract his statement for almost a week after the debate...
Side note: burn this fact into your cerebrum - in 1976 a visibly stupid Ford wasn't (re)elected despite an impressive record of leadership and valor (WWII veteran, in the House for 24 and Minority Leader for eight, and sitting as president for 2 years); yet in 2000 an even more obviously stupid candidate, George W Bush, with a pathetic resume (drunk, drugged and unemployed until he was 40, then - after his father had served as VP and President, being elected governor in a state known for having one of the weakest executives in the Union and serving one term) came dangerously close to being elected president against an accomplished & talented, albeit irritating as hell, incumbent VP of a very popular president.

Ford lost in 1976 because he was (moron + scandal) while Bush was almost elected because he was a (moron - +scandal) i.e. minus the scandal that hung around the neck of his rival.

The GOP could win in 2008 if they extrapolate the 1976 lesson - get a competent candidate who can push the scandal of the past 8 years onto a rival and run against a weak Democrat. The Democrats need learn from Carter's shaky '76 run:
When Carter left the Democratic National Convention, he held a huge 33-point lead over Ford in the polls. However, as the campaign continued the race tightened, and by election day the polls showed the race as too close to call. Carter's decline in the polls, and Ford's surge, is usually credited to three events. First, Carter promised a "blanket pardon" to Vietnam War draft dodgers ... Second... Carter admitted to having "lusted in his heart" for women other than his wife [in Playboy Magazine]... [Third], Ford performed well in what was the first televised presidential debate since 1960.
The lessons again? (1) Don't be a crazy liberal, (b) don't be arrogant and stupid in your sanctimony, (c) Any stumble can cost dozens of points no matter how stupid your opponent is.

Primaries vs. Generals

An added problem is the decades-broken primary process. True, the primary system was developed to fix what was perceived as an even worse process (the Fat Balding Party Boss System), but in general it appears that the primaries have been worse for Democrats (see: 1972-2004) than Republicans (see: uh, 1996?). Sadly the only people who vote in the Primaries are wild-eyed freaks on the fringes of both parties, and the candidates know that. Which means Republicans bank rightward and Democrats bank left.

The candidates will need to fringe themselves up only as far as the fringe requires. In 1992, Clinton didn't have to go too far left because after having a Republican president for 20 of the past 24 years, the Left wasn't as strong and the Center was ripe. So too, now: the Democrats don't need to be so far left because the Centrists of the party are as fed-up with the past few years as the Liberals are.

The GOP is in trouble, though, thanks to Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay and Karl Christian Rove. The Rove Strategy was to take a country that is pretty centrist - as reflected in 1992, 1996 & 2000 - and pump up "wedge issues" so as to create a massive, but illusory, Red-Blue split. This grotesque polarization started with Newt's Crew who were shocked by a JFK/LBJ style Centrist Democrat in office. Their attacks on Clinton were designed not only to weaken a strong Democrat but were done so in a hyper-partisan way. And just as the Israelis, while being victims of terrorism, are blamed as aggressors for retaliation, so too Clinton was blamed for being "partisan" after he was dragged through the mud for every idiot possible thing that he maybe kinda shoulda woulda coulda did. And so in 2000 the country, which was unified in a desire for a centrist (like Clinton), was persuaded to believe that the victim of the partisan assaults (Gore) was the cause... while a mop-topped 'outside the beltway' Gucci-cowboy dunce would be a 'unfyiter not a divdinger.'

The politics of radical division was then AGGRESSIVELY pursued by Karl Christian because he knew (I think) that the "Centrist" mantle could easily be adopted by the Democrats as well as the Republicans. It was 50-50. So Karl needed an edge - the 1% or 2% that is all that will matter in a tight, close race. Karl then pumped up his rabid fringe to show up and vote (while also preventing likely Democrats from getting to the polls and forcing the Justice department to investigate talented Democratic rivals; cf. the Attorney Scandal).

Karl Christian was a success in 2004, but the price is being paid in 2008: the fringe now dominates the Republicans. Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh are the spokesmen and any deviation from their venomous blather will cost a GOP hopeful in the primaries. You need to be a jingoistic soldier for Christ or you're not a proper Republican.

Note, the fringe-voter imbalance that skews the Primaries are also reflected in any of the polls taken before the primaries - because most people don't pay attention to the race until it becomes "necessary" - which for some is right before the primary, or possibly post-Labor Day 2008.

I will continue this analysis for each party in the next few posts.

Update: Woops, I forgot the most important lesson from 1976 and that is 1980. That no matter how scandal ridden the GOP was post-Watergate, the almost complete idiocy of Carter made it possible for an even more right wing Republican to win just FOUR YEARS after the population "threw the bums out." And Reagan was so popular that he even got his nebbish Vice President to win in '88. What I would suggest, then, for Republicans is to pull a 1964 - choose an upright and outstanding candidate who can never ever win the general election but will make the GOP look good after 8 years of idiocy, and then run the A-list in 2012 so to pull of a 1980. The Democrats can help the GOP by having an idiot win in '08...

{2009 Update: moving gif from here.}

Monday, October 15, 2007

Merle Haggard Helps My Point

I said below that the main thing going for Hillary is nostalgia - and actual fondness - for Bill Clinton. And that is it. People will vote for her because many people would have voted for a third term of Bill and now they get that chance.

In a recent Time magazine interview with Joe Klein, Merle "The Fifth Duke of Hazzard" Haggard endorses Hillary. Why? Well in his words:
[Haggard is] not shy about saying that one of the biggest things Hillary has going for her is Bill,..."He cared about this country, about our problems," Haggard said, with a twinkle. "And I figure that whatever she doesn't know, he does."

This is as Cheezy as I get

As with any American with a mailbox, I receive loads of mail order catalogs. I wrote below about Harriet-Carter, and I have a feeling HC sells their customer list to make a few more bucks because once the snag a mail-order-sucker (visual: my head), they can all benefit. That's my suspicion, anyway, because why do we get so many catalogs?

A recent one that arrived is from "What on Earth" and I guess they specialize in truly useless trash instead of stuff which disguises its crumminess. For example is the Hillary Clinton Nutcracker which is about as tasteless as it sounds.

Anyhoo, back to my point (and I do have one): is where my cheesiness comes in. There are some good slogans on their T-shirts/bumper stickers. In general, as a scholar of proverbs, I am fascinated by the subject of brief, even poetic, wisdom. This is found in literature with aphorisms (often found in quote books, which I collect). In popular culture, these are found on the bumpers and t-shirts.

The cheese? I'm going to list my favorites. Sorry, gotta do it. [Text in brackets denotes that the text on the shirt is in smaller letters... a common tool in these visual/language jokes]. Language will be changed for taste.
  • God Loves You [Satan thinks you're a wuss]
  • Life is Tough [But it's tougher when you're stupid]
  • I'm not lazy, you're just bossy
  • Welcome to the Dark Side of the Force... we have cookies {there's a good pic}
  • Forget a therapist, what you need is an exorcist
  • Yet, despite the look on my face, you're still talking
  • Here I Am [now what are your other two wishes]
  • Times up. What's your point.
  • OK. Now *you're* on the list.
  • Note: I am not listening to you.
Now we will return to non-cheese.

Nobel Update: Economics

And its a bonanza for the US with added bonuses of (probably) up to three Hebrews and one Princeton. A good day for the home teams:
Leonid Hurwicz, 90, a professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota, initiated the field of mechanism design theory, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in the award citation. His work was further developed by two 56-year-old economists who are sharing the prize — Roger B. Myerson, a professor at the University of Chicago, and Eric S. Maskin, a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J.
Updated score
  • Medicine = Mario Capecchi,
  • Martin Evans, Oliver Smithies (US, UK, US/UK)
  • Chemistry = Gerhard Ertl
  • Physics = Albert Fert & Peter Grünberg (France & Germany)
  • Literature = Doris Lessing (UK)
  • Peace = Al Gore, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (US, UN)
  • Economics = Leonid Hurwicz, Roger Myerson, Eric S. Maskin (USx3)
America = 5.5
England = 2.5
Germany = 2
France = 1
UN = 1
Jews = -1 (+ possibly 3)
Possible Nazis Because Hey You Never Know With Germans Born in 1936 = 1

More notes: This is why the Nobels are better than the Olympics. The good guys win way more often in the sciences than they do in sports.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Smart Aleck Bunk

I read something right now by Steve Benen on TPM criticizing something Mitt Romney said. Now, before the current campaign, I had moderate respect for Romney - he seemed like a good New England Moderate Republican. Yet now he has all the trappings of Political Skank (i.e. someone willing to do anything to get elected). Nearly all politicians are skanks - it's part of the job and it's important to remember that - yet some are subtle about it. Romney is a joke.

So I don't mind attacks on The Mitt... as long as they make sense. However he was criticized by Benen for something that I myself have been tarred with as well. So in defending myself, I will defend Romney.

Romney said:
"This is about Shi'a and Sunni. This is about Hezbollah and Hamas and al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. This is the worldwide jihadist effort to try and cause the collapse of all moderate Islamic governments and replace them with a caliphate. They also probably want to bring down the United States of America."
Benen's response:
"...but Romney's take didn't make a lot of sense. Romney was articulating a national security strategy that conflates groups, sects, and agendas that have nothing to do with one another..."
The same charge was leveled against me when an op-ed of mine was published which equated Hezbollah, Hamas and Al-Queda. My claim was that they were alike in their desire to kill me - no matter if I was in Israel, in Saudi Arabia or in America. A whiny colleague of mine - whose claim to Middle East expertise is a PhD from Harvard in an unrelated field and (for God knows what reason) a stint as a researcher on the 9/11 commission - claimed that my link of Al Qaeda and Hamas shows that I know nothing about terrorism or the Middle East or, equally likely, high-temperature French cooking.

I believe Benen and Mr. Whiny are using the same argument against the logic shared by Mr. Romney and me. Ya see, Benen-Whiny know for a fact that Hezbollah, Al Qaeda and Hamas are different organizations. They even have different letterheads on the suicide-bomb notes (I assume). It's worse, Whiny would say, because Hezbollah is Iranian, and thus Shia, while Al Qaeda is Wahabist, and thus Sunni. And the Sunnis and Shiites are totally different! They hate each other (exhibit A: Bahgdad)! And Sunnis will actually join up with America to fight Al Qaeda *and* Shiites (see Exhibit A). So, Mr. Whiny concludes, these organizations are different and anyone who equates them knows nothing about terrorism, the Middle East, and French cooking.

My rejoinder (and Romney can join me on this if he wants) is that Benen and Whiny don't know crepe about logic. Ya see, my claim is that all three groups are alike because they all want to kill Jews, Americans, and then everyone else who disagrees with them. Who cares if they hate each other? Who cares if they have different beliefs? I'm not researching a term paper, I'm determining who's the greatest threat to my life!

An analogy from the 1940s. Nazis and Stalinists are completely different from each other. I'm sure that if in 1945 I said that the two groups were the same, the Benens and Whinys would bring up their same criticism: the two ideologies are wholly different from each other. And Stalin was even allied with us against Adolph! My response is the same: yes, they have different ideologies but they have the same goal. In that decade it was genocide and world domination. Sure, they're different, and when one became more of a threat than the other, we allied with them (Stalin vs. Adolph in 1942-45, ex-Nazis vs. Stalin in 1945-1990).

Benen and Whiny's specious criticism masks a deep un-seriousness about the issue at hand. It doesn't matter if these groups are different if the SUBJECT is "who is our enemy."

Friday, October 12, 2007

Quick Comedy Point

I try to study the nature of comedy (why? funny you should ask...). Not only have I been listening to comedy albums for 20 hours a day every day this week, but I read comedy books to relax. I have wondered, scientifically and psychologically, whether there are certain concepts that are inherently funny, such that you can use one of these concepts in a live and get a guaranteed laugh.

I remember a Dilbert comic strip that dealt with this concept. In quick Google search I came across, surprise surprise, a Wiki article on this topic! Topic: "Inherently Funny Word."

According to the Wiki, the Dilbert was 12-21-1989 and the words are: "chainsaw, weasel, prune, and any reference to Gilligan's Island."

My list?
  1. Monkeys
  2. Clowns (not an actual clown - which are just creepy - but the concept of a clown)
  3. Animals doing human things
  4. Cheese
As such, one of the funniest images should be: "a monkey in a clown suit eating cheese."

Hee hee hee.

Update: For proof of part of my point, see the most recent Onion's "What do you think?" column (the third joke).

Ann Coulter - Not Good for the Jews

Holy freakin' cow. See this transcript (originally from Media Matters) from Monday night of an interview between Ann Coulter and Donnny Deutsch (a Hebrew) on CNBC
DEUTSCH: Christian -- so we should be Christian? It would be better if we were all Christian?


DEUTSCH: We should all be Christian?

COULTER: Yes. Would you like to come to church with me, Donny?

DEUTSCH: So I should not be a Jew, I should be a Christian, and this would be a better place?

COULTER: Well, you could be a practicing Jew, but you're not.

DEUTSCH: I actually am. That's not true. I really am. But -- so we would be better if we were - if people -- if there were no Jews, no Buddhists --

COULTER: Whenever I'm harangued by --

DEUTSCH: -- in this country? You can't believe that.

COULTER: -- you know, liberals on diversity --

DEUTSCH: Here you go again.

COULTER: No, it's true. I give all of these speeches at megachurches across America, and the one thing that's really striking about it is how utterly, completely diverse they are, and completely unself-consciously. You walk past a mixed-race couple in New York, and it's like they have a chip on their shoulder. They're just waiting for somebody to say something, as if anybody would. And --

DEUTSCH: I don't agree with that. I don't agree with that at all. Maybe you have the chip looking at them. I see a lot of interracial couples, and I don't see any more or less chips there either way. That's erroneous.

COULTER: No. In fact, there was an entire Seinfeld episode about Elaine and her boyfriend dating because they wanted to be a mixed-race couple, so you're lying.

DEUTSCH: Oh, because of some Seinfeld episode? OK.

COULTER: But yeah, I think that's reflective of what's going on in the culture, but it is completely striking that at these huge megachurches -- the idea that, you know, the more Christian you are, the less tolerant you would be is preposterous.

DEUTSCH: That isn't what I said, but you said I should not -- we should just throw Judaism away and we should all be Christians, then, or --


DEUTSCH: Really?

COULTER: Well, it's a lot easier. It's kind of a fast track.

DEUTSCH: Really?

COULTER: Yeah. You have to obey.

DEUTSCH: You can't possibly believe that.


DEUTSCH: You can't possibly -- you're too educated, you can't -- you're like my friend in --

COULTER: Do you know what Christianity is? We believe your religion, but you have to obey.

DEUTSCH: No, no, no, but I mean --

COULTER: We have the fast-track program.

DEUTSCH: Why don't I put you with the head of Iran? I mean, come on. You can't believe that.

COULTER: The head of Iran is not a Christian.

DEUTSCH: No, but in fact, "Let's wipe Israel" --

COULTER: I don't know if you've been paying attention.

DEUTSCH: "Let's wipe Israel off the earth." I mean, what, no Jews?

COULTER: No, we think -- we just want Jews to be perfected, as they say.

DEUTSCH: Wow, you didn't really say that, did you?

COULTER: Yes. That is what Christianity is. We believe the Old Testament, but ours is more like Federal Express. You have to obey laws. We know we're all sinners --

DEUTSCH: In my old days, I would have argued -- when you say something absurd like that, there's no --

COULTER: What's absurd?

DEUTSCH: Jews are going to be perfected. I'm going to go off and try to perfect myself --

COULTER: Well, that's what the New Testament says.

DEUTSCH: Ann Coulter, author of If Democrats Had Any Brains, They'd Be Republicans, and if Ann Coulter had any brains, she would not say Jews need to be perfected. I'm offended by that personally. And we'll have more Big Idea when we come back.


DEUTSCH: Welcome back to The Big Idea. During the break, Ann said she wanted to explain her last comment. So I'm going to give her a chance. So you don't think that was offensive?

COULTER: No. I'm sorry. It is not intended to be. I don't think you should take it that way, but that is what Christians consider themselves: perfected Jews. We believe the Old Testament. As you know from the Old Testament, God was constantly getting fed up with humans for not being able to, you know, live up to all the laws. What Christians believe -- this is just a statement of what the New Testament is -- is that that's why Christ came and died for our sins. Christians believe the Old Testament. You don't believe our testament.

DEUTSCH: You said -- your exact words were, "Jews need to be perfected." Those are the words out of your mouth.

COULTER: No, I'm saying that's what a Christian is.

DEUTSCH: But that's what you said -- don't you see how hateful, how anti-Semitic --


DEUTSCH: How do you not see? You're an educated woman. How do you not see that?

COULTER: That isn't hateful at all.

DEUTSCH: But that's even a scarier thought.
To sum up: Coulter: "we just want Jews to be perfected." There's not much to add to this except to remind everyone that she is basically the face of the Republican Party. The GOP, according to her, stands for being against Blacks, Hispanics, Gays, and now non-Christians. Yeah, we knew this to be the case but not actually SPOKEN ALOUD.

{2009 Update: Pic from here.}

Nobel Week, Update

Score so far:
  1. Medicine = Mario Capecchi, Martin Evans, Oliver Smithies (US, UK, US/UK)
  2. Chemistry = Gerhard Ertl
  3. Physics = Albert Fert & Peter Grünberg (France & Germany)
  4. Literature = Doris Lessing (UK)
  5. Peace = Al Gore, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (US, UN)
  6. Economics = ?

America = 2.5
England = 2.5
Germany = 2
France = 1
UN = 1
Jews = -1
Possible Nazis Because Hey You Never Know With Germans Born in 1936 = 1

Notes: Good year for Germany; France doesn't win often, giving the UN money is worse than actually setting it on fire and - so far - no Jews but we get a negative number because anything given to the UN automatically works against the Jews as a whole.

Al Gore, Baby

Al Gore and bunch of UN things won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

A number of thoughts:

1. It's always good when the Peace Prize goes for something that's not directly antagonistic to Israel

2. It's nice to see that the American President-Elected who got the prize isn't a schmuck.

3. It's nice to see when the Nobel Peace Prize goes for something that actually helps people (like last year's as well).

4. While one could think, "hey maybe an Oscar and a Nobel Peace Prize in one year is worth not being [acknowledged as] President," just recall that the past 7 years have been one of bloodshed, torture and impoverishment and that a Gore-Lieberman Administration certainly would not have jackrabbited into the Iraq War, would probably have prevented 9/11, would have had a working FEMA to help with Katrina (and probably would have shored up the levees), wouldn't have bankrupted the country with misbegotten economic plans, etc. And since Gore is a decent human being, he would have wanted to be president to prevent the horrible Bush stuff, even if he didn't get to proactively do anything good.

5. Moreover, after he stepped down in 2009, Gore would have gone on to do important work - possibly on Global Warming (if he wasn't successful in tackling it as President) - and would have won a Nobel in 2016 or so.

6. Will he run for president now? I still think not (again, his Taco Grande belly is the best barometer, as it were, than his many prizes). What he can do is tilt the balance to either Hillary or Obama.

{2009 Update: Pic from here.}

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Shel Silverstein: Huuuge Sicko

As I mentioned recently, I've been listening to online novelty radio. A lot. Anyway, the show plays clips of Shel Silverstein reading his poetry/books. While he's known, fondly, for writing and illustrating The Giving Tree, he also has made grotesque things like the mildly vicious "I'm Being Eaten by a Boa Constrictor."

What is it with authors of kid's fiction from the 50s (and before) that somehow assumed that kids love horrifying stories? My three-year old son got a bunch of books by Maurice Sendak, author of the wonderful "Where the Wild Things Are" also wrote a sick story called "Pierre" about a kid who gets eaten by a lion.

I hated these books when growing up. They weren't fun, they were horrifying. When you're a kid, being eaten by wild animals was a real fear (it gets replaced by fear of gays and Muslims when you become an adult). Do kids enjoy this stuff and I was - as is not improbable - just sensitive because of high-IQ and/or high artistic creativity.

In any case, I hope they don't do this stuff in more recent books.

{2009 Update, pic from the Onion - showing that they agree with my assessment.}

Credit Where it's Due: Ted Rall

Ted Rall is a crazy left winger cartoonist. His normal mode of political discourse is shrieking overblown rhetoric at the top of his cartoon lungs. His art is bad and his logic is bad and, like, he ruins whatever decent point lies within the guano of his screed.

But, he actually had a decent, understated political cartoon the other day. So I will give him credit where it's due.

We Need a New Excuse

The Washington Post had a story last week about a bunch of veterans who were tasked with the Top Secret task of interrogating Nazis. And, no, they didn't torture.

Didn't torture Nazis? Didn't they realize they were in a war? Against Nazis?? Well, sure, they knew that. But it appears they didn't torture for two important reasons:

  1. Torture is morally wrong (and especially when torture is the hallmark of your enemy... how can you use their hated tool?)

  2. Torture DOES NOT WORK.
Here's the facts: the president has authorized torture. And against people who have largely turned out innocent. Congress seems to know that this is happening. Yet, the American people, so far, have not erupted in outrage. It looks like the President will not be impeached.

Here's the problem: HOW??!? I thought the American people have tacitly accepted torture because we were attacked on 9/11, so that allows the president to do whatever he durn well pleases to anyone he wants. Kill, torture, rape innocent people - why not? - because we were attacked. Wah wah, poor us.

Yet we were attacked in WWII, too. Remember Pearl Harbor, day live in infamy, ring a bell? No? It was like 9/11. No? It was a big deal, believe me. Anyway, we didn't turn into rabid, stupid monsters back then... so why now?

We need a new excuse.

P.S. Next time some moron says that great people don't make history, remember the difference between FDR and GWB.

{2009 Update: Great pic of the Torture Statue of Liberty from here.}

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Difference Between New York and Louisiana

Aside from the frequency of city-drowning hurricanes, it's the attitude towards Hate Crimes.

This morning, an African-American Columbia University professor found a noose hanging from her office door. New York considers this a pretty blatant hate-crime. Because, uh, a noose is a murder device that was historically used to terrorize and random innocent African Americans throughout the United States but mainly in the South. This was called "lynching" and it was considered a popular pastime for those who also like Rebel Flags and "Southern Culture."

Anyway, as you know there was a case a year ago in Jena, Louisiana where a bunch of nooses were hung in a racially divided high school that led to a year-long escalation of White-Black clashes. The people who hung the nooses were caught and were punished with the merest slap of the wrist possible. And, and, it was not considered a Hate Crime. Why? According to the Wiki:
District Attorney Walters stated that Washington had found no federal statute under which the teens could be prosecuted, just as he had found no applicable state statute."
The Bush Justice Department - whose civil rights division has been gutted in order to vigorously pursue voter fraud - was even willing to consider this a hate crime... but Louisiana does not considered it such. What's a few nooses between friends?

None of this will end well.

Nobel Week Continues: Chemistry

Score so far:
America = 2
England = 1
Germany (new) = 1
Jews = 0
Possible Nazis Because Hey You Never Know With Germans Born in 1936 = 1

America, Land of the Free, Home of the School Shootings

It appears schoolkids are rapidly overtaking postal workers as those Most Likely to Open Fire. Today, a "gunman" - wait, does 14 years old make you a gun-man? this should read "gun-boy" - opened fire in his Cleveland school, wounding a bunch of people before he was killed, either by himself or by police.

The NYTimes reports:
'The student had two guns, one in each hand, and fired them both while walking down the hallway,' Channel 19 reported. 'Three people have been shot — including two teachers.'
We need to thank my man, John Woo, for popularizing the two-gun style of mayhem... because it looks cool (and thus attracts these miscreants) but Thank God you can't hit a blessed thing that way. Whew.

{2009 Update: pic from here.}

Internet Obsession Number Five Billion

Like any red-blooded American male, I love me the Internet (or, as it's called, The Internets). True, I often treat my computer as a very large stereo system ("mp3 player" for those of you born after 1990). I was born at just the wrong time in history to still be part of the vinyl record era, so I have many important musics in that medium. But when I was growing up, Audio Tapes were the rage. So I got many of those. Then CDs were introduced. I bought a million or so. Now it's MP3s, and I have reached the zenith.

True, they'll introduce a new medium in a few years - sub-cutaneous organic protein-chain music or something - but I plan to just buy a converting program to smoosh my mp3s into the "amino3" format. This is what I'm doing with my CDs. I have about 1000 CDs and I've spent the past few years ripping them into my computer (and then re-ripping them into my Ipod).

I still haven't acquired the technology to convert those magnetic Audio Tapes into mp3s. I'm sure the devices exist, I just haven't done the research (holding aside the probable fact that I won't be able to figure out the necessary doodads). Until then, I still have lots of old music that's inaccessible: especially my old comedy tapes.

As should be blindingly obvious, I'm a fan of novelty/comedy music. The good stuff. Allan Sherman, Tom Lehrer, Stan Freberg, Ray Stevens, and the Silver Age King: Weird Al Yankovic. I have many tapes of these dudes - legitimately acquired through the teenage art of taping off the radio.

These songs are hard to find and expensive to buy. And I search the web for any snippets of these songs - which I own - in any form (wav, mp3, what-have-you). And two days ago I hit pay-dirt.

Captain Wayne's Mad Music Show is a Dr. Demento style radio show that posts its episodes ONLINE for FREE (or is that "FOR FREE"?). Free, baby, free.

I have since acquired one of the el-dorados of my searching quests: the insanely awesome Stevens and Grdnic "Mr. Wizard" sketch.

The site has a lot of good info on the whole novelty song genre (as well as having the playlists of Dr. Demento going back to the early 80s). So the favorites I mentioned above are again presented, hypertext-style: Allan Sherman, Tom Lehrer, Stan Freberg, Ray Stevens, Weird Al Yankovic.

I've been downloading all the shows (gigs galore) and it makes for a good weeks' worth of listening.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Don't Sign That Petition

From Haaretz:
ADL warns Web users not to sign petition against anti-Semitic site

By Lisa Zilberpriver

The Anti-Defamation League on Monday issued a statement warning Internet users against signing an online petition to have Google remove the anti-Semitic Web site from its search results for the word 'Jew'.

The petition, which was initiated in 2005 by an Internet user identified only as 'SMW' makes signatories' names publicly accessible. According to the ADL these have been posted to anti-Semitic Web sites which then published offensive commentary about them.

At the time of writing, the petition requesting Google ban the site from its results had 455178 signatories.

In response to the original petition, Google published a statement which appears below the anti-Semitic site when a search is performed, explaining that its searches are based on algorithms which cannot censor results.

ADL spokesperson Arieh O'Sullivan told Haaretz that his organization was aware of Google's explanation, but had requested Google respond to new allegations of signatories' names appearing on other Web sites.
I was worried about this. I hate online petitions for a number of reasons (e.g. nothing worthwhile comes from something of such little effort, online ANYTHING is dangerous), but this takes the cake. Our enemies *really* do study our behavior and know that the best way to attack us is to lunge for our sense of togetherness (petitions) and feelings of persecution.

Hat tip: EM. 2009 Update, pic from here.

Oh boy, Nobel Week

My family knows that I'm obsessed with Excellence Rankings (like the Nobels, Rhodes, and my coveted Wile E. MacArthur Super Genius Awards). Nobel week is usually in Tishrei and we begin with Medicine. Score so far: 2 Americans, 1 Briton and no clear Jewish names (not that it matters... sure).

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Puppy Shotgunning Update; Beyond Parody

Well, he did it. Bush vetoed the child health bill:
WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 — President Bush vetoed the children’s health insurance bill today, as he had promised to do, setting the stage for more negotiations between the White House and Congress. Mr. Bush wielded his pen with no fanfare just before leaving for a visit to Lancaster, Pa. The veto was only the fourth of Mr. Bush’s presidency. “Because the Congress has chosen to send me a bill that moves our health care system in the wrong direction, I must veto it,” Mr. Bush said in his veto statement, adding that he hoped to work with the lawmakers “to produce a good bill that puts poorer children first.”
Jon Stewart remarked about this the other day, that Bush has gone beyond parody. The president has rejected health care for poor children - going so far as to use a veto, which he rarely does - while claiming it's actually to *help* poor children. What can anyone do with that? It's Goebbels level propaganda; so bald-faced that it's startling.

Considering that he's the lamest duck president since Hoover, you'd think Bush'd be doing things that he'd *like* to do, regardless of the political consequences. And that may be. He really really may hate: kids, the poor, compassion, justice, and (given the previous items) God Hisself.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Hell, in Blog Form

Someone linked to this blog. This is what, I assume, hell would look like in blog form: Grammar/Syntax Errors.

P.S. This guy, and others of his ilk, are likely those mean-minded drones who troll Wikipedia, accusing people of 'unsourced references' and the like. Yeesh.

Update: This blog too, but not as much in style (the writer seems like a nice fellow) but in the same content (distilled to this response: "GET." "A." "LIFE.")

Monday, October 01, 2007

More About Bollinger

As much as I'm loath to connect to anything by Jamie "True Grit" Kirchick, it's OK here because he's largely quoting someone else:
Lee Bollinger clearly considers himself to be a hero. It was so evident in his preening, faux-heroic speech on Monday, in which the Columbia University president valiantly told a Holocaust-denying, homosexual-murdering, genocide-inciting dictator "You exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator." What courage.

Several days ago, I received the following message from Helen Suzman, the legendary South African parliamentarian who spent 36 years in office opposing apartheid, often as the only voice of reason in that body.

As a once-proud recipient of an Honorary Doctorate of Law from Columbia University, I am disgusted that its President Lee Bollinger should have provided a platform for Iranian President Ahmadinejad, who has more than once pronounced that Israel should be "wiped off the face of the earth". Does President Bollinger not know the difference between hate speech, which incites violence, and freedom of speech?

Helen Suzman
Lee Bollinger self-importantly thinks that he store down evil in the face on Monday. Helen Suzman actually made a career confronting it. A favorite anecdote concerns the hundreds of parliamentary questions she would submit every session, designed to expose the apartheid regime's abuse of human rights. A government minister shouted at her: "You put these questions just to embarrass South Africa overseas." To which she replied: "It is not my questions that embarrass South Africa. It is your answers."

Lee Bollinger has embarrassed his university, certainly in the eyes of liberals abroad like Mrs. Suzman,"once-proud" to have received an Honorary Doctorate of Law from the institution. Most recipients of honorary degrees from Ivy League universities would be hesitant to renounce such an accolade. But Mrs. Suzman is the recipient of 27 such honorary degrees from institutions like Harvard, Yale, Oxford, Cambridge, and many others. She can well afford it.
Even though Kirchick is a jackass, he's on target here.

Totally Random Gripe of the Day: Ibid

I've been going through a number of scholarly (and quasi-scholarly) pieces recently and I keep seeing in the footnotes the hated term: "Ibid." Ibid, as all you college graduates may recall, is the Latin abbreviation (or 'abbv.') that means "the same place [as the previous footnote]."

In the age of the printing press this little italic wonder was doubtless a labor-saving device. Instead of finding and inserting into the press the 60 lead-characters for "The Rise-And-Fall of the Roman Empire, page 1003" each time some pedantic author used 'em, the Copyboy Lobby (aligned with their powerful allies: Amalgamated Latin Textbook Manufacturers, William Randolph Funk-Wagnalls, Caliph Ahmad Tarabian, Col. MLA Guide, the Teachers Union, and - of course - AIPAC) introduced "ibid." No longer would the typesetters sweat for hours over a hot printing press. The labor was pushed onto the readers who would sometimes need to flip back pages to find the original citation. At times, it was quicker just to do the original research yourself rather than find what the lazy copyboys deigned to include.

But we were all taught to include 'ibid.' into our scholarly papers. It made the writer look smart: because it allowed us to use Latin (always an intellectual assault tactic), it made the reader feel stupid (because who can keep track of the citations with all those ibids?) and it could even hide shoddy research (especially if it was a Floating Ibid, often found in the first footnote of a chapter).

However, since the early 80s we've been in the computer era. Computer word processing software has what we laymen call "cut and paste." This makes ibid obsolete. I will prove my point in three steps: This makes ibid obsolete. This makes ibid obsolete. This makes ibid obsolete.

Why do we need to use ibid anymore?! It doesn't save labor for the computer. It makes writing more difficult (because sometimes we writers need to move paragraphs around before we publish, upsetting the idiot Ibid balance). And it's a disservice to the reader.

In my infamous senior thesis, I refused to abide by the Ibid system (risking the wrath of the Funks and the Tarabians as well as, of course, the dreaded Israel Lobby). Join up and unite against Ibid!

{2009 Update: pic is logo of the "Institute for Biotechnology of Infectious Diseases."}