Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, June 14, 2003
Just Depends On What Your County Trips On

Michele Alliot-Marie, defense minister of France, shares "Whoa, dude, and like one time when I was dropping acid...." type stories in the Washington Post:
    "The American Defense Secretary (Donald Rumsfeld) believes the United States is the only military, economic and financial power in the world. We do not share this vision," Alliot-Marie told Le Monde newspaper in the interview published on Saturday.
Of course not. They, and by they I am not sure whether I mean Alliot-Marie and her friends and associates or the whole of France, see different things when they eat the wrong types of mushrooms with their snails, which is most of the time. In these weird moments when the walls breathe and sweat, they oten have visions of a relevant and powerful France, just like in their picturebook history texts. A free, fraternal France, where workers have to punch in at 10:30 in the morning and get to punch out at 10:42 and the economy continues to grow. Hated tourists realize they mess up the beautiful landscape and just mail money directly, without trompling through the vineyards. And then suddenly the grapes grow very large, develop eyes and a nose but no mouth, and talk through their nostrils.

Perhaps that's the vision they would like to share with us.

Friday, June 13, 2003
Law Of Averages Leaving Some Students Behind

The pièce de résistance of a piece de commentary in the Sacramento Bee is:
    "I don't doubt that Jim Sweeney loves children and had dedicated his life's career to improving education," she said. "The school district has done some wonderful things ... but (on state tests) half the students are still below the 50th percentile. That's a problem."
Sacramento City Councilwoman Lauren Hammond apparently wants all students to be above average. And she's right. For two long, the law of averages has been a TOOL OF OPPRESSION designed to WRECK THE SELF-ESTEEM of otherwise talented adolescents of all ages. To be a truly effective school administrator, you must ensure that all students achieve the same level of suckcess, which probably means lowering the double bars of the equals sign until the only standard applied is "better than nothing."

(Link seen on Best of the Web Today.)

And George W. Bush Makes Two

Word. I have a buddy who fell off of Ray Lane's own Segway once, and Ray Lane said he'd never seen that before.

Well, now my friend has company. Yahoo! has a picture of George W. Bush falling off of one, with greater style and form than he did.

(Link seen on Fark.)

James Lileks on Mortality

James Lileks, known to bloggers for his daily Internet column The Bleat, wrote a long piece in 1996 about his mother's death from cancer. Go forth and read "October at Home".

And if you want a shorter take on losing a parent to cancer, read my doggerel "But through fifth floor hospital panes...." in an old PDF edition of Prolog. It's no One True Thing, but it got published.

Thursday, June 12, 2003
Whenever I Feel Like a Paranoid Whack Job

Whenever I am feeling like a paranoid whack job, I can get some perspective by going down to Border's and picking up the latest copy of Paranoia: The Conspiracy Reader.

One quick read, and I realize I am okay. THEY are not all out to get me.

Some of THEM are out to get others, too.

New from Ralph Lauren: Evan Essence

Draw the attention of women just like Joe Millionaire with this manly scent.

No, really evanescence means "To dissipate or disappear like vapor." A cool name for a Christian technoalternapop band, but one wonders how they came up with the name. Did a member of the band hear the word and decide, "That would be a great name for a band," and learn to play a synthesizer so he or she could found the band? Or did they consult a thesaurus to find a cool, sibilant word that captures individual human existence in the greater fabric of eternity?

Wednesday, June 11, 2003
The Chicago Printers Row Book Fair, Reviewed

While in Chicago, Heather and I spent a morning at the Printers [sic, and the Chicago Tribune, sponsor of the event, should know better!] Row Book Fair on, well, Printers' Row, in Chicago. You can find the Chicago Tribune's review here if you hurry.

You want to hear my review? Here it is: What idiot would go used book shopping with 10,000 friends? (Please exclude current blogger and his esteemed spouse from your answer.) You cannot adequately peruse and handle interesting books while actively and purposefully jostling nearby extras, guarding the wallet, and annoying Howard Dean pamphleteers by telling them, "I will vote only for a candidate who frequently affirms he served in Viet Nam" (which works best if you can somehow pronounce it as two words).

However, when you're in Chicago, do visit Printers' Row on Dearborn. You will find a most exquisite shop of rare and fine editions. If you're like me, you won't afford them, but they're nice to see. You'll enjoy it much more if you think of it as a zoo instead of a book store.

Warning: Your Middle Class Assumptions Are Exposed

As I was reading a nice hefty copy of the printed Chicago Tribune last Sunday (since I was in Chicago, donchaknow), I came across a story entitled "Critics: Is broadcast TV worth saving?" with "Some question its relevance" as the subhead (if you're quick, you can see an online copy of the article here but be advised it goes to the pay archive on the 15th).

Here's what those critics say:

    Yet some critics say the system is irreparably broken and growing more irrelevant in the face of competition from cable and satellite services, even as the federal government has moved to prop up the broadcast industry.
Yessiree, free broadcast television is irrelevant because we middle class writers and critics can instead spend $50 or more a month of our extensive writin' and criticizin' salaries on the licensed luxury of paying some company to pipe entertainment into our homes. Of course, when projecting our own experience of life onto the whole wide country, perhaps we ought to take into consideration those people who cannot afford digital-quality audio and sound (except when technical difficulties interrupt service, sorry, no prorated refund). Don't the Critics normally champion the underprivileged?

Let me see if I can sum up the reasons the Critics want broadcast television to die:
  • Selling the rights to those portions of the electromagnetic spectrum would raise money that the government could then fritter away as it normally fritters away money, typically in ways the Critics like.
  • Broadcast viewers are disenfranchised because broadcasters target programs to the audiences advertisers want. That is, the broadcasters have some greedy commerce considerations.
  • Broadcasters don't act in the public interest, or in a public way that can be measured, at least by the arbitrary standards assigned according to the Critics' preferences. Acting in a public way is hard to measure, I would guess, unless of course by in a public way they mean like NPR and PBS, who properly use government money to promote a proper-thinking point of view.

    Because "accessible to anyone in the nation owning a rooftop antenna and a TV" and "Even today, most Americans get their news from broadcast TV" are not enough.
  • The Fairness Doctrine, which allowed advocacy groups to provide a counterpoint to station management (FREE AIR TIME! GET YOUR FREE NUTBAR AIR TIME HERE!), was eliminated. This probably isolated the Critics and their fellows, relegating them (but not regulating them) to unwatched, public interest minded outlets (see also NPR, PBS).

    How did the article put it at the very end, the pièce de résistance?
      "Where there is no fighting or opposition in viewpoints," said Herbert Chao Gunther, chief executive of the nonprofit Public Media Center, "there is no democracy."
    Got that? The linchpin of democracy was the unlegislated mandate called the Fairness Doctrine.
I think that about sums up this article. The FCC, an appointed body, not an elected body (as George Carlin often points out), should replace the current system, which allows any yahoo with a receiver to pick up entertainment and news broadcast for free, with a license-fee-based system that the industry loves, where that yahoo has to buy or rent the receiver (a television set) and then pay a monthly license fee of some sort to the cable company or dish company to keep the signal coming to the receiver. Apparently everyone the Critics know has a subscription system, and the Critics cannot imagine differently.

This same middle-class myopia allows policy squawkers to banshee the very thought (blasphemy!) of taxing Internet sales, not realizing (or caring, perhaps) that the duty-free world of Internet commerce unfairly burdens those who do not have a secure Internet connection and/or a credit or debit card with an artificially inflated percentage of sales taxes. But that's a rant for another day.

Headline: Sisters of Mercy plans to sell health center in Texas

Caught this headline on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Web site. Of course the article clarifies that the Sisters of Mercy Health System St. Louis, a nonprofit health conglomerate (can nonprofits be conglomerates, or is that word reserved for the greedy corporations?).

Not the, you know, Sisters of Mercy. Although it would have made the article much more interesting indeed.

I Get Spam. Can I Have Sweeping Federal Police Powers?

Seems that attentive folks, all six of us, are up in arms, legs, and, in some cases, tentacles about the new powers that the FTC wants to combat spam. That's right, to combat a nuisance, federal officials (read: federal bureaucrats) want sweeping new powers, including (as I quote from the CNet news article):
    • Let the FTC send a confidential demand to an ISP as part of an investigation and requiring the recipient to "keep such process confidential." Without it, the FTC argues, "when fraud targets are given notice of FTC investigations they often destroy documents." The target of the investigation may not be notified for up to half a year, according to this proposal.
    • Permit foreign police to obtain subscriber records and customer information from ISPs as part of an FTC investigation that is already under way.
    • Grant the FTC the power to cooperate closely with foreign police who are investigating "fraudulent, deceptive, misleading or unfair commercial conduct."
    • Immunize part of the FTC from the Freedom of Information Act by saying the FTC may choose not to disclose certain "material obtained from a foreign law enforcement agency."
    • Open the FBI's massive National Crime Information Center computer to FTC investigators. That computer came under fire in March after the Justice Department said it would no longer strive to maintain the database's accuracy and integrity.
Suh-weet, but why pull up short? Why not add these things:
  • Ability to bulldoze houses and offices of suspected spam e-mail senders.
  • Ability to stun, by electrical or blunt object means, people who open spam messages and/or fall for the "click here to remove" trick.
  • Federal prison sentences for pinheads who order pills that purport to improve their golf games.
  • All other duties and powers as desired.
After all, in the post 9/11 world, if we cannot create new powers for government agencies to abuse, the terrorists and spammers will have won.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003
Close The Loopholes So They Can Open New Ones

Missouri legislators (Republicans) are battling the Missouri governor (Democrat) over the current state budget. He's vetoed the budget bills they've sent him because those bills cut spending to match the incoming revenue. Instead, the governor wants them to increase taxes to meet the required outlay. If you've read this blog for any length of time (i.e., you're not just here because Google spit it out when you looked for EVA MENDEZ or MONICA BELLUCCI HOT PIX), you know whom I favor in this battle.

One thing worth noting in this particular bout of sensibility versus deliver-the-goods-so-I-can-get-elected-Senator-ability is that a "non-partisan" group called something like Committee for State Education Security has "coincidentally" released a report that some of the largest corporations in the state are paying nothing in corporate tax every year. No Sputnik, Sherlokov.

After all, whenever one of those large corporations ponders a move to the unspoiled wild tax breaks of Illinois for its production facilities, what's a poor bunch of legislators to do but promise tax credits, no corporate taxes, a free stadium, and free car washes for corporate executives? These same tax breaks mean that the corporations pay less taxes? Say it ain't so! Apparently it's good enough that these corporations employ workers who will pay taxes, enough so to unfairly burden those workers with the tax load until such time that the workers cannot provide statewide Meat on Streets programs to ensure every stray dog can eat New York Strip steak. When one puppy goes hungry, it's time to soak the greedy corporations.

The state government, through its successive crises, robs Peter to pay Paul, and then burglarizes Paul's house when he's out spending the money. Further proof that Keynes' balancing wheel is a little wobbly.

Regular Schedule, Defined

Hello, everyone. By regular blogging schedule, of course I meant as much blogging as I would regularly do were I to repaint my home office, which means disconnecting all computer equipment, moving all furniture, and covering the remainder with plastic sheeting and/or blue paint.

Maybe when I go back to work next week and can get used to coming home tired and unambitious, I can get back to my regular ranting. Until then....

Sunday, June 08, 2003
Back from Chicago

Ah, after a much needed vacation (from the Spanish for vaca tiempo, literally "cow time"), the beautiful wife and I have returned from three days in Chicago. You'll certainly be hearing about it.

At any rate, we should get back to a regular blogging schedule soon.

To say Noggle, one first must be able to say the "Nah."