Saturday, October 30, 2004

another right bites the dust

The Bush administration is suing to give Ashcroft exclusive authority over voting disputes under the 'Help America Vote Act' that was established after the republicans subverted the democratic process of the last presidential election. Talk about having the fox guard the henhouse.

In its argument that 'only the Justice Department, and not voters themselves, may sue to enforce the voting rights set out in the Help America Vote Act', the Bush administration is trying to undo a civil right that was hard won during the 60s, when the NAACP, the AFL-CIO, and the League of Women Voters fought for the right of individual voters to sue to enforce federal election law - a right that the Justice Department and the Supreme Court have upheld until now. But this administration is saying that if they do something to deny you your right to vote, they themselves get to decide whether or not they did anything wrong, and you have no say in the matter.

This is just flat-out anti-American. The Bush camp is consolidating power in the executive branch (defying the Constitutional separation of powers that was put in place expressly to avoid situations like this), slashing yet another civil right, and flaunting their scorn for the American people. It's time for this shit to stop.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

here we go again

48 THOUSAND absentee ballots that were supposed to be delivered to Florida voters have just *poof* disappeared en route.

I guess it's not that big of a deal - it's not like anyone was going to count them anyway.

thinking machines

Thinking Machine 4 lets you play chess against an artificial intelligence. The brilliant thing about it is that it lets you see what the AI is thinking as it plans its moves, how it examines various possibilities until one becomes dominant.

Thinking Machines 4

In the image above, the AI is planning its next move. The green lines represent moves you might make, while the orange represent moves the AI is considering. Thicker lines are pathways that are more travelled - moves that have a high probability of being useful in more than one possible outcome.

sitting in John's chair

When John Peel died he was in the middle of a week's vacation, during which time his Radio 1 show was guest-hosted by Siouxsie Sioux and Robert Smith. You can listen to the shows online... some good stuff there.

20 October: Siouxsie Sioux :: Tracklist :: Listen to the show

21 October: Robert Smith :: Tracklist :: Listen to the show

[via SixDifferentWays]

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

the irony is killing me - no, really

The Gadflyer's Thomas Schaller believes in the Bush administration. Here's an excerpt:

I believed then-candidate Bush when he said during the 2000 campaign that America should not nation-build, and believe him now when he says our nation was divinely chosen for this task. I believe, as the president claims, that "free societies are peaceful societies," but that the political and civil rights in oppressive, undemocratic countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are exempt from this standard. I believe Iraqis view Americans as liberators, and that once this swift, cheap war concludes the world will be more stable, our allies more cooperative, and our enemies fewer and less threatening.

I believe the best response against an Islamic fundamentalist network operating from a South Asian cave which used boxcutters to attack us is to invade a secular Arab dictator living in 11 palaces in a Middle Eastern country whose (supposed) weapon of choice was nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. I further believe that the best way to accomplish that mission was to land on air aircraft carrier in military garb and stand in front of a banner declaring it so.

I believe the president when he says he would have moved "heaven and earth" had he any "inkling" that terrorists were planning to attack America with hijacked airplanes. I believe the security briefing the president read five weeks before the attacks – which was entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike Inside United States," and specifically mentioned hijacked airplanes and New York City as a target – was an inkling-free, "historical" document.

This may be useful to you if you don't get it.

peeling away

John Peel is dead. Turns out his name is really John Robert Parker Ravenscroft, but 'The Ravenscroft Sessions' would have been a bit thick.

This guy is almost single-handedly responsible for turning me on to most of the bands I've listened to throughout my life. Marc Bolan, David Bowie, The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Birthday Party, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Joy Division, The Jam, The Specials, The Cure, The Damned, Nick Cave, The Fall, The Smiths, The Cocteau Twins... fucking hell, Wire, Gary Numan & the Tubeway Army, Sonic Youth, Jesus & Mary Chain, The Buzzcocks, Gang of Four, Adam & the Ants, Stereolab, Belle & Sebastian, The Pixies, Pavement, Elastica... there's probably hundreds more.

In the early 80's our local music shop had a connection who would record the Radio 1 broadcasts and ship them to the states... the first time I heard a lot of those bands it was on a copy of a copy of a copy of a taped radio show. Even bands from the US - the whole late 70's NYC thing - were brought to popular attention by the Peel Sessions.


... is not pleased.

Ok, so it's not Oolong, but still.

welcome to bizarro world

Pat Buchanan's 'The American Conservative' magazine is endorsing Kerry, even if it is just so the conservatives can regain control of their party four years later - if Kerry 'wins', he'll be lucky if he can even get a good start on cleaning up the mess Bush has made, and I think the conservatives are correct in their prediction that four years after Kerry we'll have a conservative president. (Another four years of Bush and we'll be a pile of smoking rubble by then, so even the conservatives are realizing they need to get someone else in there.) There's no way for Kerry to come through this clean and on top. I don't know why he even wants the job, but I'm glad he's stepping up to the plate and taking a hit for the country.

The editorial has a lot of insightful commentary, regardless of your 'side':

Bush has behaved like a caricature of what a right-wing president is supposed to be, and his continuation in office will discredit any sort of conservatism for generations... it is as if Bush sought to resurrect every false 1960s-era left-wing cliché about predatory imperialism and turn it into administration policy.

If Kerry wins, this magazine will be in opposition from Inauguration Day forward. But the most important battles will take place within the Republican Party and the conservative movement. A Bush defeat will ignite a huge soul-searching within the rank-and-file of Republicandom: a quest to find out how and where the Bush presidency went wrong. And it is then that more traditional conservatives will have an audience to argue for a conservatism informed by the lessons of history, based in prudence and a sense of continuity with the American past—and to make that case without a powerful White House pulling in the opposite direction.

George W. Bush has come to embody a politics that is antithetical to almost any kind of thoughtful conservatism.

The people who, four years ago, I thought were the wackiest and most dangerous nutjobs in the country sound like the very voice of reason compared to the Bush administration. Buchanan says vote for Kerry. Hunter Thompson is wishing Nixon was back. The lion and the lamb are engaged in some sort of clusterfuck... it's too bad that this seeming unity is really just the conservatives asking for a four-year reprieve so they can regroup, but hey, whatever gets Cowboy Fucktard out of the White House is fine by me.

[via SixDifferentWays]

Sunday, October 24, 2004

turn on the bright lights

Tonight we saw Interpol at the Crystal Ballroom, and it rocked. They are their own sound, but still it was like seeing Joy Division. It's hard to avoid comparing them with Joy Division - they're like what would have happened if Joy Division had become The Toadies or Coldplay instead of New Order after Ian's suicide. The fact that the entire band was wearing ties, some of them suits, only served to reinforce the Manchester working grunt image, but these guys are pure NYC.

I read a review of Interpol's first EP right after it came out: "It sounds like the Ramones covering 'OK Computer'." Not a bad description, really... or this one, which is a bit thick but also pretty accurate: "an accident sprung from an attempt to combine goth and mod into a new space-age clarity-resistant polymer. Their gloomy drones and spring-loaded beats coalesced into a thoroughly varnished, gleaming corridor of black mirrors, where you could only see shadows of the band, their oblique lyrics and chain-link-fence-of-sound production sounding less like a rock group and more like some uncatchable entity of music."

Last week we saw Flogging Molly in the same venue; it was like seeing the Pogues, if they weren't too drunk to play their instruments and if the mellowest song they did was 'The Sickbed Of Cuchulainn'. (Last time we saw Shane MacGowan he was so drunk he just held on to the microphone stand to support himself, and didn't move from that position throughout the whole set, which he delivered in a monotone drawl from start to finish.) The place was really moving - actually moving, as the third-floor ballroom has a suspended floor and when you get a few hundred of the celt-core leather-and-tweed set jumping up and down it's like walking on a hardwood trampoline.

Prole polls

I just saw something interesting... something I see too much of lately. Numerous news sources (including Google News) quote the CBC as reporting "Poll averages put Bush ahead". But if you follow the link, you're taken to a news item titled "Polls show U.S. election close":

With only nine days to go before the U.S. presidential election, political polls show that neither President George Bush nor John Kerry has a clear lead.

A Newsweek magazine poll found registered voters were evenly split between the two candidates, with 46 per cent support for each. Two per cent favored Ralph Nader.

The article does go on to state that the average of the last 9 polls puts Bush in the lead. However it also states that the percentage who support Bush has been dropping steadily over time (yea, for like 3 years now).

But in our soundbite culture, so many people are going to just read the headline that says Bush is winning. I see, almost daily, news items whose headlines state the opposite of their contents... not just twist the facts, we're talking fucking macramé here. I really doubt this is representative of some lapse in journalistic education in recent years; I suspect it has much more to do with the fact that almost all of this country's news sources are owned by people like Rupert Murdoch (hiss).

What's the point? As usual, one point is that if you think there's such a thing as a 'liberal media' you're a fucktard. Actually, according to recent polls, there's about a 50% chance that you're a fucktard whether you believe in a liberal media or not, though I suspect that the two groups in question are largely coincident.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

fear and loathing in 2004

Hunter S. Thompson is at it again, and the world has changed so much that he shines like a beacon of reason.

Did you see Bush on TV, trying to debate? Jesus, he talked like a donkey with no brains at all. The tide turned early, in Coral Gables, when Bush went belly up less than halfway through his first bout with Kerry, who hammered poor George into jelly. It was pitiful. . . . I almost felt sorry for him, until I heard someone call him "Mister President," and then I felt ashamed.

Later in the piece he quotes Richard Nixon...

War is an option whose time has passed. Peace is the only option for the future. At present we occupy a treacherous no-man's-land between peace and war, a time of growing fear that our military might has expanded beyond our capacity to control it and our political differences widened beyond our ability to bridge them. . . .

Short of changing human nature, therefore, the only way to achieve a practical, livable peace in a world of competing nations is to take the profit out of war.

... and asks "where is Richard Nixon now that we finally need him?"

When Dr Gonzo starts looking back fondly on Nixon - fucking Nixon, who is like Thompson's very own Lex Luthor - it's like having one of the horsemen of the apocalypse pull up next to you asking if you've seen his three brothers.

all your base are belong to neal

The folks at Slashdot somehow managed to con Neal Fuckin-A Stephenson (actually I think his middle name is 'Town') into answering questions posted by a group that encompasses the brightest minds on the planet and the biggest dumbasses in the universe. Neal's responses are well thought-out and entertaining, like his books... Cryptonomicon is currently my #1 favorite book of all time.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

female? republican? dumbass.

The United States has refused to join 85 heads of state and governments in signing a statement that endorses a 10-year-old U.N. plan to ensure every woman’s right to education, health care and choice about having children.

President George W. Bush’s administration withheld its signature because the statement included a reference to "sexual rights."

And to think that this isn't even the most ignorant backwards fuckheaded thing this administration has done. I'm having to study higher math just to keep track of how many decades this asshole has set our country back.

it didn't have to go down this way

Man, life is harsh in Hell's Kitchen... you fuck with the wrong people, you go *down*.

But it's not personal - it's just business.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

vegetarian with attitude

The Post Punk Kitchen is a vegetarian cooking show that airs occasionally on Brooklyn's Community Access Television (BCAT). (BCAT also streams their programming on the web, for those of us who don't live near Brooklyn.) I gained like 5 pounds just looking at their recipes page.

[via farkleberries]

the day of the (brain)dead

It seems some God Fearing Christians are getting their panties in a bunch (hell, I could just end the sentence right there, couldn't I?) because Halloween falls on a Sunday this year.

"You just don't do it on Sunday," said Sandra Hulsey of Greenville, Ga. "That's Christ's day. You go to church on Sunday, you don't go out and celebrate the devil."

There are so many things wrong in that short statement that I don't even know where to start.

The Uptight Right want the holiday moved to Saturday. That'll solve the whole problem. Apparently they feel it's fine to go out and celebrate the Devil on Saturday.

Given that the vast majority of Christians in general and American Christians in particular have zero fucking clue (hrmmm, another good place to end a sentence) about the context of their own holidays, I guess it's unreasonable to expect them to understand the context of holidays they don't feel are theirs, which is nonetheless pretty fucked up since modern-day Halloween is the remnants of Hallowmas, which has been a Christian tradition for over a thousand years.

The word 'Hallow' means 'sanctify', as in 'the hallowed halls'. Halloween is the evening before All Saints Day, which in turn is followed by All Souls Day. As with every other main Christian holiday, the existing version of Halloween is derived from holidays that were practiced by cultures that have been subsumed by Christianity - in this case, it was the Celtic holiday Samhain and the Roman holiday Feralia, both of which honored the souls of the dead sometime in the fall.

Most cultures have had a version of this holiday, and in most cases it was a positive event, a time to honor and remember the dead, whose souls were considered to be present. Of course, if you'd wronged someone you might have reason to be fearful of the dead - and over time, as the church became more concerned with guilt and punishment than with anything positive, this aspect of the holiday took precedence over the original intention. You've got to wonder about people who claim to be focused on 'God' and 'good' yet see evil everywhere they look.

It amazes me how much 'evil' is projected by people who consider themselves to be righteous. I once thought that the church was its own worst enemy, but now I realize that they need the existence of an extreme negative to justify their own (really quite absurd if you think about it) extreme positions. It's a self-maintaining fear-and-stupidity-generating machine.

Friday, October 15, 2004

jon stewart throws down

Appearing on Crossfire, Jon Stewart was as usual intelligent and funny. When the hosts started grilling him about his politics on the Daily Show, he tried to point out that while he himself had a comedy 'fake news' show that came on right after puppets making crank calls, the folks at Crossfire styled themselves as serious discourse when they really just put enough spin on the news to get the rabble roused.

I think it's safe to say that the Crossfire guys weren't too open to his ideas.
But, if Kerry gets elected, is it going to -- you have said you're voting for him. You obviously support him. It's clear. Will it be harder for you to mock his administration if he becomes president?
No. Why would it be harder? ... The only way it would be harder is if his administration is less absurd than this one. So, in that case, if it's less absurd, then, yes, I think it would be harder.

But, I mean, it would be hard to top this group, quite frankly.

In terms of absurdity and their world matching up to the one that -- you know, it was interesting. President Bush was saying, John Kerry's rhetoric doesn't match his record.

But I've heard President Bush describe his record. His record doesn't match his record.
I do think you're more fun on your show. Just my opinion.
You know what's interesting, though? You're as big a dick on your show as you are on any show.

You tell 'em, Jon.

BTW you can watch Stewart's appearance on Crossfire over at IFILM.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

william gibson rides again

William Gibson has begun blogging again. Why?

Because the United States currently has, as Jack Womack so succintly puts it, a president who makes Richard Nixon look like Abraham Lincoln.

And because, as the Spanish philospher Unamuno said, "At times, to be silent is to lie."

Just over a year ago he posted his last entry, citing a need to return to writing books. (Hopefully this means he's got a new book finished.)

Commenting on The Situation in the US today, Gibson writes that a few years ago he had spoken to a friend from the DoD who believed that America had learned its lesson from Vietnam and wouldn't get fooled again. Then came the planes, then came Bush, then came fascism wrapped in a flag.

One actually has to be something of a specialist, today, to even begin to grasp quite how fantastically, how baroquely and at once brutally fucked the situation of the United States has since been made to be.

Welcome back, Bill. Sorry the place is such a mess.

a google of your own

Google just keeps pouring out the innovation - today they released the Google Desktop, which does for files on your computer (including email and webpages you've viewed) what Google does for the web. O'Reilly has more information on it here. If you choose to, Google Desktop will integrate its results with those of normal Google searches, so your own files will show up as hits.

The only problem I can see is that it is closely integrated with the twin horrors of Internet Explorer and Outlook, but maybe they plan to include the capability to search for all of the malware your machine is exposed to by those two programs.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

atmospheric sound

The VLF (Very Long Frequency) radio receivers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville Alabama are listening to the sounds the earth's atmosphere makes. And they're broadcasting it live over the internet. The best times to listen are at dawn and dusk, 1200 UT and 2200 UT respectively, when the atmosphere is most active near the receivers.

The dynamic spectra of these events is interesting... the one shown above is called a 'whistler', because as a signal travels through the atmosphere it gets spread out, higher-frequency components of the signal travelling faster than lower-frequency ones. The result is that a single blip can appear to be a multi-second swoop when viewed from here at the bottom of the atmospheric well.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

when i'm 64


Today would have been your 64th birthday. Yoko is having an exhibition of your art this weekend to commemorate the date. And Mark Chapman was once again denied parole on Wednesday, which somehow doesn't really make us feel any better, but at least it keeps him from making us feel worse.

John Lennon

Thanks for the music, and for imagining a better world,

    Vera, Chuck, & Dave

PS: one thing I can tell you is you got to be free

Thursday, October 07, 2004

gotta get em all

Ths CDC has created two sets of Infectious Disease trading cards, so there's no more excuse for you to not know the difference between cryptosporidiosis and cyclosporiasis. Somehow I doubt these cards will supplant Pokemon, but it's a nice gesture. You can download the cards [pdf, various sizes] and print them out... Fun For The Whole Family.

I think they should be printing these up themselves, in 100 different languages, and air-dropping them into places this info is needed the most.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

shame, embarassment, and the american way

Can you honestly view this presentation on Bush and not want to crawl under a fucking rock and die? The guy makes me feel like my head is going to implode. MAKE THE BAD MAN STOP :|

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

maher takes a fair and balanced look at fox

Bill Maher takes a humorous look at FOX's 'fair and balanced' debate coverage [streaming Quicktime]. I watched this five times, and each time it was a little less funny when I realized that there are people in this country that actually have the perspective that Maher is parodying. So only watch it once...

Monday, October 04, 2004

to infinity, and beyond

Burt Rutan's rocket project Spaceship One won the X-Prize today after a second successful manned flight through the threshold of space. Pilot Brian Binney also broke the altitude record set in August 1963 by Joseph A. Walker, who flew the X-15. Xeni's got a good write-up on the story over at BoingBoing.

Rutan has been rototilling conventional aerospace wisdom for decades, and despite the impressive array of competitors for the prize I always assumed he'd be the one to win. The guy builds airplanes (and rockets) by throwing out everything known about flight and seeing what actually works. He's like Da Vinci meets Buzz Lightyear.

I hope Rutan was right when he said that "I strongly feel that, if we are successful, our program will mark the beginning of a renaissance for manned space flight." His team's success in the first non-government manned space flight holds a lot of promise for space exploration, technological development, and (most importantly in my estimation) less militarized skies.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

tell me about the rabbits, george

So during the debates when Bush stopped in the middle of a sentence and impatiently said "let me finish" [100KB mp3] while no one was visibly or audibly interrupting him, was he being prompted through an earpiece or was he listening to the voices in his head?

If he wasn't being prompted, what made him say that? And if he was being prompted, why did he still sound like a fucking idiot?

I can't decide if I'm more afraid that he's giving us a dumbed-down version of words Karl Rove is whispering in his ear or that the apparently cartoon-like inner workings of his head are manifesting vocally. Maybe he's channeling somebody... Homer Simpson, perhaps.

The 'debates' had a clear loser: the American people, who were given a bobblehead infomercial instead of useful information. Yeah, it might have been more useful to have a more open forum for discussion. But for me the real bummer was that usually when Bush speaks on television he's got a line of handlers behind him, and I really enjoying watching them wince when he strays from the teleprompter and says something truly idiotic. Knowing that people all over the country were wincing during the debates wasn't quite as fulfilling as seeing his own speechwriters look like they want to disappear.)