When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

31 May 2008

Three kinds of Republicans

It seems to me there are three main factions within the Republican Party, and while we can see strengths and weaknesses in each of them, the future of the Right is far from clear.
  1. Progressive Republicans (aka: Teddy Roosevelt Republicans) - These are the Republicans who may be solid allies on many issues, but who also seem to want a Great Leader who can do Big Things. They are Crusader Conservatives - generally reliable on limited government, but willing to go off on Big Government crusades.

    Illustrative Quote: "The object of government is the welfare of the people," (Teddy Roosevelt)

  2. Goldwater Republicans - These Republicans vote for limited government, individual liberty and strong defense; they may have various opinions on social issues, but they subsume those views to the goal at hand: limiting government

    Illustrative Quote: "I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom." (Goldwater

  3. Bush Republicans - these voters may or may not care about limited government, but they're willing to accept Big Government, so long as the government does socially conservative things. (See: Mike Huckabee, Christian Democracy)

    Illustrative Quote: "Prayers can help, and so can the government." - President Bush, February 6, 2008

The Next Right: The Future of The Right (31 May 2008)

30 May 2008

Big Apple Barbecue Block Party

The one weekend a year when you can get competition-quality barbecue in New York City is almost here:

The Big Apple Barbecue Block Party runs in Madison Square Park next Saturday and Sunday, June 7-8.

Here are some Flickr photopools from years past...

...and from 2005, enrevanche does the BABBP (and Greenwich Village Idiot podcasts.)

US power blackouts: a hacker connection?

Computer hackers in China, including those working on behalf of the Chinese government and military, have penetrated deeply into the information systems of U.S. companies and government agencies, stolen proprietary information from American executives in advance of their business meetings in China, and, in a few cases, gained access to electric power plants in the United States, possibly triggering two recent and widespread blackouts in Florida and the Northeast, according to U.S. government officials and computer-security experts.

One prominent expert told National Journal he believes that China’s People’s Liberation Army played a role in the power outages. Tim Bennett, the former president of the Cyber Security Industry Alliance, a leading trade group, said that U.S. intelligence officials have told him that the PLA in 2003 gained access to a network that controlled electric power systems serving the northeastern United States. The intelligence officials said that forensic analysis had confirmed the source, Bennett said. “They said that, with confidence, it had been traced back to the PLA.” These officials believe that the intrusion may have precipitated the largest blackout in North American history, which occurred in August of that year. A 9,300-square-mile area, touching Michigan, Ohio, New York, and parts of Canada, lost power; an estimated 50 million people were affected.

Officially, the blackout was attributed to a variety of factors, none of which involved foreign intervention. Investigators blamed “overgrown trees” that came into contact with strained high-voltage lines near facilities in Ohio owned by FirstEnergy Corp. More than 100 power plants were shut down during the cascading failure. A computer virus, then in wide circulation, disrupted the communications lines that utility companies use to manage the power grid, and this exacerbated the problem. The blackout prompted President Bush to address the nation the day it happened. Power was mostly restored within 24 hours.

China's Cyber-Militia (National Journal, 31 May 2008)

Photo gallery: Uncontacted Amazonian tribe photographed

Reuters, via Yahoo News: Uncontacted Amazonian tribe photographed:
Members of an unknown Amazon Basin tribe and their dwellings are seen during a flight over the Brazilian state of Acre along the border with Peru in this May, 2008 photo distributed by FUNAI, the government agency for the protection of indigenous peoples. Survival International estimates that there are over 100 uncontacted tribes worldwide, and says that uncontacted tribes in the region are under increasing threat from illegal logging over the border in Peru.

29 May 2008

The last days of Bear Stearns

I’ve been a Wall Street Journal subscriber since college days, and was a charter subscriber at their web site, too.

With Rupert Murdoch’s ownership, I’m not sure WSJ is going in a direction that I want to follow. So I’ve recently subscribed (as an experiment) to the Financial Times, to assure myself of a steady stream of actionable news about business. Still too early to tell, but so far so good.

The links below are a reminder that the WSJ still does some things better than anybody else: it’s a three-part series, by Kate Kelly, that ran late this month on the final days of Bear Stearns as a business.
Excerpt from Day One:
Twelve hours after agreeing to sell Bear Stearns Cos. for $2 a share, Alan Schwartz wearily made his way to the company gym for a much-needed workout.

It was 6:45 a.m., March 17, and Bear Stearns's chief executive had slept little since hammering out the ugly details of his fire-sale deal with J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.

When Mr. Schwartz, already dressed in his business suit, trudged into the locker room, Alan Mintz, still in his sweaty gym clothes, made a beeline for the boss.

"How could this happen to 14,000 employees?" demanded the 46-year-old senior trader, thrusting his face uncomfortably close to Mr. Schwartz's. "Look in my eyes, and tell me how this happened!"

Two and a half months later, Mr. Schwartz still isn't quite sure. To Mr. Mintz and others, he has blamed a market tsunami he didn't see coming. He told a Senate committee last month: "I just simply have not been able to come up with anything, even with the benefit of hindsight, that would have made a difference."

28 May 2008

Retour du fils du grand saut

A misfired fuse about the size of a pen thwarted a French daredevil's third attempt to skydive from space, his team says.

When Michel Fournier's massive helium balloon launched without him early Tuesday morning, the launch team said a "freak accident" caused some equipment to strike the ground.

That triggered a small explosion and separated the balloon from the capsule and its parachutes, spokeswoman Francine Gittins told a room packed with reporters and Fournier's supporters late Tuesday afternoon.

Balloon takes off without daredevil, Calgary Herald, 28 May 2008

The sentimental mainstay of a million down-market karaoke bars

Jerome White Jr., born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, is an unlikely enka star in Japan:

...[t]hanks to the records, videos and cassette tapes played by his Japanese-born grandmother... he got hooked on a melodramatic genre of Japanese folk balladry called enka. With no idea what the lyrics meant, he started singing it in fractured Japanese when he was 5.

As far as anybody in the music industry knows, Jero is the first African American to sing this shamelessly maudlin music for a living. Enka wallows in heartache. Accompanied by over-the-top orchestration, it is usually sung by an aging Japanese performer (male or female) in a kimono. Suicide is nearly always a viable option in its ballads of unrequited love, hopeless love, cheating love and relentless rain.

Enka became popular as a bathetic balm for the hard years that followed World War II. The Japanese sponged it up as they rebuilt their country into an industrial colossus. Enka was the sentimental mainstay of a million down-market karaoke bars. Until Jero burst upon the popular music scene here in February, it was also a musical genre that had lost much of its buzz. It had the unhip odor of Elvis ballads in his years of white jumpsuits and belly fat. Most of the people who sang enka were double or triple Jero's age, as were most of the people who listened to it.

A Far Cry From Home (Washington Post, 28 May 2008)

A good question

With oil near $130 a barrel, why does Southwest Airlines stand alone in the airline industry in its aggressive use of hedging to keep fuel costs under control?

Southwest has locked in more than 70% of its jet-fuel requirements this year at a price equivalent to $51 a barrel for crude oil. By contrast, other big carriers have hedged 30% or less of their fuel needs this year. Those carriers generally expect to pay the equivalent of $85 to $100 per barrel of oil under their hedging programs.

Why Rivals Don't Copy Southwest's Hedging (Wall Street Journal, 28 May 2008)

There are some good attempts at an answer in the linked article.

26 May 2008

In The Air

How useful is it to have a group of really smart people brainstorm for a day? When Myhrvold started out, his expectations were modest. Although he wanted insights like Alexander Graham Bell’s, Bell was clearly one in a million, a genius who went on to have ideas in an extraordinary number of areas—sound recording, flight, lasers, tetrahedral construction, and hydrofoil boats, to name a few. The telephone was his obsession. He approached it from a unique perspective, that of a speech therapist. He had put in years of preparation before that moment by the Grand River, and it was impossible to know what unconscious associations triggered his great insight. Invention has its own algorithm: genius, obsession, serendipity, and epiphany in some unknowable combination. How can you put that in a bottle?

But then, in August of 2003, I.V. held its first invention session, and it was a revelation. “Afterward, Nathan kept saying, ‘There are so many inventions,’ ” Wood recalled. “He thought if we came up with a half-dozen good ideas it would be great, and we came up with somewhere between fifty and a hundred. I said to him, ‘But you had eight people in that room who are seasoned inventors. Weren’t you expecting a multiplier effect?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, but it was more than multiplicity.’ Not even Nathan had any idea of what it was going to be like.”

The original expectation was that I.V. would file a hundred patents a year. Currently, it’s filing five hundred a year. It has a backlog of three thousand ideas. Wood said that he once attended a two-day invention session presided over by Jung, and after the first day the group went out to dinner. “So Edward took his people out, plus me,” Wood said. “And the eight of us sat down at a table and the attorney said, ‘Do you mind if I record the evening?’ And we all said no, of course not. We sat there. It was a long dinner. I thought we were lightly chewing the rag. But the next day the attorney comes up with eight single-spaced pages flagging thirty-six different inventions from dinner. Dinner.”

Annals of Innovation: In The Air (The New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell, 12 May 2008)

The pot-holed highway to Hell

If anyone doubts the problems of US infrastructure, I suggest he or she take a flight to John F. Kennedy airport (braving the landing delay), ride a taxi on the pot-holed and congested Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and try to make a mobile phone call en route.

That should settle it, particularly for those who have experienced smooth flights, train rides and road travel, and speedy communications networks in, say, Beijing, Paris or Abu Dhabi recently. The gulf in public and private infrastructure is, to put it mildly, alarming for US competitiveness.

You might have expected that investing in US infrastructure would be a hot political topic this year. Well, no. Hillary Clinton spent the final week of her Indiana campaign standing on the back of a pick-up truck arguing for a temporary suspension of the “gas tax”, the fuel duty that pays for highways.

You read correctly. Faced with the emptying of the Highway Trust Fund, established in 1956 as the US entered a period of growth and prosperity, Mrs Clinton suggested cutting its source of funds (which she claimed could be made up by a tax on oil companies). It was more important to give Americans a summer break from $4-per-gallon petrol.

At times I wonder whether the world’s biggest economy has the will to solve its challenges or will end up wandering self-indulgently into the minor economic leagues. I expect it will get serious when the crisis is too blatant to ignore, but it has not done so yet.

On the pot-holed highway to Hell (Financial Times, May 7, 2o08)

Cap and trade: the way to go

“The US is very promising. All three [presidential] candidates are interested in climate change, all three want international engagement, all three favour a cap-and-trade approach [on emissions], which augurs well for the continuation of the carbon market,” said Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the parent treaty to the Kyoto protocol, in an interview with the Financial Times.

The market in carbon was worth $64bn (€40bn, £32bn) last year and is forecast to be worth $3,000bn by 2020 if the US joins it. It was set up under the Kyoto protocol, never ratified by the US, which requires rich countries to reduce their emissions but allows them to do so by buying carbon credits from emission-cutting projects in poor countries, a process known as cap-and-trade.

The main provisions of the protocol expire in 2012, so carbon traders are watching closely the tense international negotiations on a successor, which Mr de Boer is charged with overseeing. They are scheduled to finish by the end of next year.

That all three US presidential candidates are willing to negotiate a new treaty and support the setting up of an emissions market in the US – a policy vehemently opposed by Mr Bush – has come as a relief to carbon market investors.

“There is now, I believe, a global consensus that cap-and-trade is the way to go,” said Mr de Boer.

"U.S. emissions trading waits for Bush to go" (Financial Times, 26 May 2008)

24 May 2008

Memorial Day 2008

In what is becoming a Memorial Day tradition at enrevanche, for the third year running, we're republishing guest blogger C. Scott Smith's Memorial Day 2006 post.

This blog (and its author) are taking the rest of the long Memorial Day weekend off; see you next Tuesday. - bc

The date on the grave is shown as March 18, 1945 and the site at the Henri-Chapelle military cemetery is, if my memory serves, on a long rolling hilltop in the middle of farmland in Belgium about an hour from Brussels.

C-02-33 Heinlein 1

I visited it once with my mother in 1967 after a harrowing taxi ride along single-lane farm roads from Brussels. The grave belongs to my grandfather, Crayton Mack Heinlein, who was killed fighting the Germans in World War II.

Family lore, or at least that lore passed along by our often unreliable grandmother, tells us that Mack, as he was known to his friends and fellow soldiers in the 9th Infantry Division, was killed in action in the battle just before the Battle of the Bulge. This information would seem at odds with the date of death listed on his grave, since the Battle of the Bulge took place from December 16, 1944 to January 25, 1945 and Granddad was listed as having been killed in March.

I for one never really thought that knowing the correct date that he died was all that important. He was dead long before I was born and whether the date we were all told by Grandmom was the right one never really seemed to matter.

We do know, thanks to surviving letters from him, that Mack landed with his division at Normandy on D-Day plus 3 and fought across France, through the killing hedgerows of Normandy, and from there into Luxembourg and Belgium where, if Grandmother was to be believed, he died sometime before the Ardennes offensive which was launched by the Germans in their last gasp to fight their way to Antwerp and force a negotiated peace with the Allies. If the Army’s date is correct, he fought in the Battle of the Bulge before being killed.

He was almost too old to serve in the Army, having been called up at the age of 39, but he went without complaint. During the winter of 1944-45, one of the coldest on record in Europe, he lost part of both feet to frostbite (his first Purple Heart) but refused medical evacuation; once he had recovered, he rejoined his unit--where. during a short sharp firefight, he was credited with saving the life of his best friend. He was killed shortly thereafter (his second Purple Heart), the details of his death never really being made clear since no one from his original infantry platoon survived the war and the Army was confused as to the actual date and cause of his death.

I had not thought about his grave in years. and yet recently something caused me to recall that trip my mother and I took by taxi from Brussels all those years ago. We used to have a photograph that I took as an eight year-old of my mother kneeling next to her father’s grave, a young woman of 28 with tears rolling down her face and seeing her father’s grave for the very first time in her life. There was another photo that my mother took of me at that time and in it I’m standing at attention next to the grave attempting to look solemn.

Neither picture exists any longer and Mom died in 1987.

I don’t know why I started thinking about Granddad’s grave, but I did, and the thinking about it drew me to Google, that divinely inspired fount of all knowledge both useful and less than, and within about a minute I had located the web site for the American Battle Monuments Commission, and from them I was able to locate my grandfather in Belgium 61 years after his death and almost 40 years since my visit to his grave.

The Battle Monuments Commission does an incredible job of maintaining the graves of our fallen soldiers. There are over 5,000 of them at Henri-Chapelle alone. If you have the name of the fallen you can easily find his or her grave, and if you request it, they will take photographs of the grave for you and return them via email or regular international mail within days of your request.

In order to make the inscription on the cross or Star of David stand out better in a photograph, the lettering is filled in with contrasting beach sand for the photo. The sand used can only come from Omaha Beach at Normandy (the site where over 2,000 American GIs fought and died on D-Day) because, as I was told by the superintendent of the cemetery, only sand from hallowed ground can be used to touch a grave marker that marks a hallowed site.

I was going to try to write something to finish this that might serve as a final statement and fitting tribute to the man my grandfather must have been. Upon reflection, I think that there can be no better statement about who he was, what he did and what the men and women with whom he served and died with accomplished for us all than this photograph.

Crayton Scott Smith
Seattle, Washington
Memorial Day 2006

Dog-whistle politics

What the King's exact words were are in doubt, and several versions have been reported:

  • "Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?"
  • "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?"
  • "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?"
  • "Will no one revenge me of the injuries I have sustained from one turbulent priest?"
  • "Will none of the knaves eating my bread rid me of this turbulent priest?"
  • "What a band of loathsome vipers I have nursed in my bosom who will let their lord be insulted by this low-born cleric!"
  • "What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their Lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?" [3]

Whatever the King said, it was interpreted as a royal command, and four knights, Reginald Fitzurse, Hugh de Moreville, William de Tracy, Richard Brito, set out to consult the Archbishop of Canterbury. On December 29, 1170 they arrived at Canterbury. According to accounts left by the monk Gervase of Canterbury and eyewitness Edward Grim, they placed their weapons under a sycamore tree outside the cathedral and hid their mail armour under cloaks before entering to challenge Becket.[4] The knights informed Becket he was to go to Winchester to give an account of his actions, but Becket refused. It was not until Becket refused their demands to submit to the king's will that they retrieved their weapons and rushed back inside for the killing.[4] Becket, meanwhile, proceeded to the main hall for vespers. The four knights, carrying naked swords, caught up with him in a spot near a door to the monastic cloister, the stairs into the crypt, and the stairs leading up into the quire of the cathedral, where the monks were chanting vespers.

Wikipedia: Thomas Becket

Related: "Clinton Sorry For Remark About RFK Assassination" (Washington Post, 24 May 2008)

Things you never hear my wife say

"God help me, I agree with Peggy Noonan."

- Carrie, 11:00 AM Saturday

Libertarians in 2008

...The anti-government wing of the party that was launched to its forefront by Barry Goldwater in 1964, championed by Ronald Reagan, and then dispirited by eight years of George Bush is worried by Mr McCain. Could some of these voters defect to the Libertarian Party this year?

The question is less fanciful than usual. The Libertarians, now deciding who should be their presidential nominee, are usually a sideshow. Their last candidate, Michael Badnarik, took a third of a percentage point in 2004. The hopefuls this year include one who wants to move the United Nations headquarters to Somalia, one known mostly for a book about the spirituality of John Denver, a country singer, and a near-obsessive marijuana-legalisation advocate.

But this year the Libertarian nomination may be a bigger prize. Ron Paul ran a lower-case libertarian campaign for the Republican nomination, generating surprising levels of enthusiasm, votes and money. Paulites continue showing up and voting for him in primaries, despite the fact that Mr McCain has locked up the nomination. The word “libertarian” has, in the wake of that run, gained more currency and respectability.

And now Bob Barr, a prominent former Republican Congressman, is campaigning for the nomination. Mr Barr, a former anti-drug warrior and leader of the impeachment against Bill Clinton, has converted to a rightish branch of Libertarianism. His biggest worry is the expansion of federal powers since September 11th, 2001. He wants to abolish the Justice Department. He would defer to states on gay marriage and drug legalisation.

Could this be bad news for Mr McCain? Mr Barr may not get the nomination—many Libertarians may prefer someone with more years in the party—but if he does, Mr McCain should be wary. Even worse would be if Mr Paul endorsed Mr Barr (Mr Paul himself sought the Libertarian nomination in the past). As in previous elections, 2008 will be decided by close votes in a few swing states. Orthodox Republicans are dispirited by Mr McCain’s heterodoxies on immigration, global warming, taxes and other issues. They are reluctantly coalescing around him, on the basis that he is more appealing than Barack Obama.

But just enough demoralised Republicans might pull the lever for Mr Barr in states with an ornery, independent streak to give Mr McCain some heartburn.
The Right Flank (Economist, 24 May 2008)

Le grand saut

Followup to a (much) earlier post:
He has spent two decades and nearly $20 million in a quest to fly to the upper reaches of the atmosphere with a helium balloon, just so he can jump back to earth again. Now, Michel Fournier says, he is ready at last.

Depending on the weather, Fournier, a 64-year-old retired French army officer, will attempt what he is calling Le Grand Saut (The Great Leap) on Sunday from the plains of northern Saskatchewan.

He intends to climb into the pressurized gondola of the 650-foot balloon, which resembles a giant jellyfish, and make a two-hour journey to 130,000 feet. At that altitude, almost 25 miles up, Fournier will see both the blackness of space and the curvature of the earth. He will experience weightlessness.

Then he plans to step out of the capsule, wearing only a special space suit and a parachute, and plunge down in a mere 15 minutes.

If successful, Fournier will fall longer, farther and faster than anyone in history. Along the way, he can accomplish other firsts, by breaking the sound barrier and records that have stood for nearly 50 years.

20-Year Journey for 15-Minute Fall (New York Times, 24 May 2008)

22 May 2008


Fun meme over at Buck's place:
[T]he idea is to answer these questions with only a photo or other graphic, NO words allowed.
1. What is your current relationship status?

high on love
Originally uploaded by jaki good.

2. What is your current mood?

let sleeping gatos lie scaled

3. What is your favorite band/singer?

Louis Armstrong | Giants of Jazz Series
Originally uploaded by discoverblackheritage.


4. What is your favorite movie?

blade runner

5. What kind of pets do you have?

Bella Backs Up Gato

6. Where do you live?

The Neighborhood

7. Where do you work?

Originally uploaded by joaue.

8. Who do you look like?

betty sue hodges campbell age 34 circa 1964

9. What do you drive?

dollar rent a car
Originally uploaded by Atlantisa7.

10. What did you do on Saturday?

Sunrise From A Plane Window

11. What did you do on Sunday?

traffic jam
Originally uploaded by K2D2vaca.

12. What is your favorite network TV Show?

Forgotten television
Originally uploaded by autowitch.

13. Describe Yourself.

Briefcase Contents - Workday Edition

14. What is your favorite candy?

Goo Goo Clusters
Originally uploaded by kamico.

20 May 2008

The best advice I ever got

Leonard Lauder:
...[I]f you had something good to say, you should put it in writing. But if you had something bad to say, you should tell the person to his or her face.

I learned this lesson the hard way. I'm chairman of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and several years ago, I was angry with one of my trustees. I wrote a letter and signed it. But then I decided not to send the letter, and left it on my desk over the weekend. The following Monday I was out of the office, when a temp saw the letter and mailed it. The trustee got very angry and resigned from the board. To this day, writing that letter is something that I regret.
The best advice I ever got (Fortune.com)

16 May 2008

Unhappy X'ers

Workers in their 30s and early 40s, otherwise known as Generation X, are growing unhappy with corporate life and planning a retreat, says Tammy Erickson, an expert on generational work force issues.

That’s bad news for their employers, who are looking to this cohort as next generation leaders.

Why are the Xers so cross? In her blog, Erickson provides 10 possible answers.

The View From Harvard Business: Gen X Is Unhappy At Work

See Tammy Erickson's original post here: 10 Reasons Gen X'ers Are Unhappy At Work

14 May 2008

NPR's China Coverage

The news coverage of the China earthquake has been heartbreaking. The scenes on television are just unreal, almost unbelievable; disaster on this scale is hard to comprehend.

But some things are still best conveyed by radio. It can be a tremendous medium for storytelling.

National Public Radio ran a story on the quake's aftermath this afternoon that, well, completely tore me up. It took me quite a while to recover from it.

Melissa Block, on the ground in China, accompanied survivors as they frantically clawed through the rubble of their collapsed apartment building, looking for their loved ones.

The story is about 12 minutes long, and is so evocative of the horror on the ground that it is, candidly, really hard to take... but it's also one of the best pieces of radio journalism I think I've ever heard.

The ordinarily stalwart Ms. Block was not keeping it together all that well at points, and I have to say I was right there with her... the hell with journalistic (or personal) detachment in a situation like this.

The Scots-Irish, and how they vote

Josh Marshall nails it in a brief but cogent analysis of the Appalachian region. Excerpt:
It's widely accepted that Hillary Clinton does better with older voters, less educated voters and white voters. These demographics perfectly match West Virginia -- and, more loosely, the entire Appalachian region. A few key points from tonight's exit polls demonstrate the point: 4 out of 10 voters were over 60 years of age. 7 out of 10 lacked a college degree -- the highest proportion of any electorate in the country. And 95% of the electorate was white.

Basically you have a state that is made up almost exclusively of Clinton's voters. But there's a deeper historical explanation that we have to apply as well -- one nicely illustrated by the origins of West Virginia itself.

12 May 2008

Snark of the day

John Scalzi, on the occasion of a rave New York Times review of James Frey's new book:
Wait until they find out that this novel is actually a memoir.

The only man Carter could beat

The usual formula employed to describe Barack Obama is that he's our generation's John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

A worried conservative at American Thinker spells out his concerns in unusually plain language... in terms of personal charisma and likability, he might be FDR, JFK and RWR rolled into one:
Sensible McCain supporters need to begin this struggle with the following painful acknowledgement: on a personal level Barack Obama is one of the most ingratiating, likeable, least threatening, and intelligent-seeming men to run for the Presidency in the last hundred years.

There. Though I would no more vote for him than for Robespierre, I said it. It is a fact of consequence that needs to be faced.

In personal gifts relevant to political success, only three Americans during the twentieth century merit mention with Obama: Roosevelt, Kennedy and Reagan. This trio, as the historically well-schooled will recall, shared not only great political talent, but a common destiny: they all won.

So let's have no more talk of how much obviously weaker an opponent Obama is than what's-her-name. He is formidable enough, particularly for the execrable circumstances we confront.


A bit of history that seems relevant to the present situation: In 1980, back when communication was effected through messages chipped into stone tablets carried by horses, Ronald Reagan ran for the presidency against an incumbent named Carter. Carter enthusiasts breathed a collective sigh of relief when the Republican nomination was settled. They all knew their man was in trouble, but what luck! The Republicans had nominated an out-of-the-mainstream right wing extremist! The only man Carter could beat! Reagan's overall world view in fact was probably somewhat to the right of most Americans'. But in the event, Reagan won in a landslide, tremendously assisted by his ingratiating manner. There's more, of course, to why he won, but no one would dispute the importance of his manner.

10 May 2008

A good restaurant

You Guys Are Like the Gay Abbott and Costello

[Heading towards the restaurant "Good".]
Gay guy #1: Where are we going again?
Gay guy #2: It's "Good".
Gay guy #1: What's good?
Gay guy #2: The name of the restaurant we're going to.
Gay guy #1: I asked you what it was.
Gay guy #3: Oh, we are so not doing this...

--The Village

via Overheard in New York, May 10, 2008

(Good is a neighborhood place around the corner from us... and it really is. Good, I mean.)

Macs in suits

Millions of consumers are seeing the Mac in a new light. Once an object of devotion for students and artists, the Mac is becoming the first choice of many. Surging demand for the machines led Apple to predict revenues will rise 33% in the second quarter, to $7.2 billion, even in the face of an economic slowdown.

What's less obvious is that the enthusiasm is starting to spill over into the corporate market. It's a people's revolution, of sorts, with workers increasingly pressing their employers to let them use Macs in the office. In a survey of 250 diverse companies that has yet to be released, the market research firm Yankee Group found that 87% now have at least some Apple computers in their offices, up from 48% two years ago. "There's always been this archipelago of Macintosh use" among graphic artists and advertising managers, says Scott Teissler, chief information officer of Turner Broadcasting System (TWX). "My sense is that CIOs are more willing to see that expand without putting up as much resistance as in the past."


Mark Slaga, chief information officer of Dimension Data , a large computer services firm based in suburban Johannesburg, says he has received 25 e-mails recently from employees who want permission to use Macs at work. So far he has refused, because he doesn't want to hire people to provide Mac tech support, but "it'll happen someday," he concedes. "Steve Jobs doesn't need a sales force because he already has one: employees like the ones in my company."

BusinessWeek: The Mac In The Grey Flannel Suit (12 May 2008)

09 May 2008

It's not America, it's an island off the coast of America

Lawyers for Mayor Bloomberg are asking a judge to ban any reference to the Second Amendment during the upcoming trial of a gun shop owner who was sued by the city. While trials are often tightly choreographed, with lawyers routinely instructed to not tell certain facts to a jury, a gag order on a section of the Constitution would be an oddity.
Gag on 2nd Amendment is City's Aim in Guns Suit (NY Sun, 9 May 2008)

08 May 2008

The Big Mac Index

Concept of the day, courtesy of Investopedia: Big Mac Purchase Power Parity (PPP).
A survey done by The Economist that determines what a country's exchange rate would have to be for a Big Mac in that country to cost the same as it does in the United States. Purchase power parity (PPP) is the theory that currencies adjust according to changes in their purchasing power. With the Big Mac PPP, purchasing power is reflected by the price of a McDonald's Big Mac in a particular country. The measure gives an impression of how overvalued or undervalued a currency is.

The calculation of the Big Mac PPP-adjusted exchange rate looks at the price of a Big Mac in a given country and divides it by the price of a U.S. Big Mac. Let's say that we are looking at the Big Mac in China. If a Chinese Big Mac is 10.41 renminbi (RMB) and the U.S. price is $2.90, then - according to PPP - the exchange rate should be 3.59 RMB for US$1. However, if the RMB was actually trading in the currency market at 8.27 RMB for US$1, the Big Mac PPP would suggest that the rmb is undervalued.

07 May 2008


Dear Barry Campbell,

Due to the unprecedented rise in the cost of jet fuel, JetBlue will not be starting service from Los Angeles International (LAX) May 21st as previously announced. We sincerely apologize for the disruption to your travel plans and we hope that you understand this difficult decision. We have taken the liberty of rebooking your flights to and from Long Beach, CA. Your new itinerary is detailed below.

Your flight... on [REDACTED], departing New York, NY (JFK) and arriving in Los Angeles, CA (LAX) has been cancelled.

You are now confirmed on flight... on [REDACTED], now departing New York, NY (JFK) at... and arriving in Long Beach, CA (LGB)...
JetBlue really wanted me to get this message. They sent some variation of it to me five times... and then there was no way to re-route this flight via their web site; had to talk to a customer service rep.

In their defense, I have to say that the customer service agent I spoke to answered right away, was mighty nice, and was more than willing to re-route us to and from Burbank, California as opposed to Long Beach.

So we're still gonna make it to that wedding at the end of the month.

This could give new depth of meaning to "dead spots" in cellular coverage zones

Telemetry - the process of measuring critical indicators, and then relaying that information to a remote site for interpretation - has all kinds of interesting implications for improvements in the ways we manage what we measure.

Let's say the critical indicators you're measuring are a human being's "vital signs" (respirations, heart rate, blood pressure, etc.)

We've done this for race-car drivers, pilots, and astronauts for many years now, and equipment that does this kind of thing in a medical crisis is on the back of many (if not most, by now) ambulances. Smart defibrillators, which "interpret" a person's EKG and administer an electric shock to stop dangerous arrhythmias, can be found in mall food courts these days - or you can buy one for your home or office at Amazon.com for roughly the same cost as a Macbook.

Now, consumer-level medical telemetry appliances are about to proliferate. Although I hope for many more years of relatively good health, I am hopeful that when the time comes, I will be able to be fitted out with the nth generation of this gear:

The Bluetooth wireless technology that allows people to use a hands-free earpiece while making a mobile telephone call could soon alert the emergency services when someone has a heart attack, Ofcom predicts.

The communications regulator said that sensors could be implanted into people at risk of heart attack or diabetic collapse that would allow doctors to monitor them remotely.

If the “in-body network” recorded that the person had suddenly collapsed, it would send an alert, via a nearby base station at their home, to a surgery or hospital.

New wi-fi devices warn doctors of heart attacks (Times Online, 7 May 2008)

04 May 2008

Maureen Dowd, having none of it, thank you

Then came the Big Dog, crazy like a fox, for the coup de graceless. Campaigning in Clarksburg, W. Va., he said that his scrappy wife can win working-class voters, as compared with Obama’s Viognier-and-Volvo set.

“The great divide in this country is not by race or even income, it’s by those who think they are better than everyone else and think they should play by a different set of rules,” the former president said. “In West Virginia and Arkansas, we know that when we see it.”

Oh, well, at least Bill didn’t use the word uppity. And don’t you love this paean to rules coming from a man so tethered and humbled by rules that he invented an entirely new sexual etiquette to suit his needs in the Oval Office?

"This Bud's For You" (Maureen Dowd, New York Times, 4 May 2008)

02 May 2008

Question of the day

If Obama earns his party's nomination at the convention, and is elected to the White House in November, will pickup basketball games replace touch football on the lawn as an iconic Presidential activity?