Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, May 08, 2004
A Doctor With Perspective

At the risk of imperiling my marriage, I shall link to this piece, entitled Second Hand Joke, wherein Dr. Sydney Smith recognizes that smoking's bad, but also that trampling individual rights for abstractions such as "public health" or "the good of the individual" are worse. Read:

    ​ ​​​​Smoking is a filthy habit. It causes bad breath. It stains the fingers and the teeth. It rots the lungs and it takes the breath away. Spend a day in any doctor's office and you can quickly spot the long time smokers, such is its impact on the body. And death by tobacco is a truly horrible death, with the final days spent gasping for breath and drowning in ones own secretions while the doctors look on helplessly.

    And yet, as loathsome as smoking is, it's hard not to feel sorry for smokers. Every morning I pass small clusters of them in front of the hospital, just around the corner from the "No Smoking" sign, like high school hoodlums who smoke just a step away from school property. Some of them are hospital employees, puffing off job stress during their breaks. Others are patients, with nothing but flimsy hospital gowns and robes to protect them against the elements while they seek solace in tobacco. It seems cruel to make them smoke outside. The hospital has a special room for prayer. Couldn't they have a special room for smoking?

    But then, the world has become a cruel place for smokers. Not only must they huddle outside at work to indulge, they increasingly must also huddle outside when they're enjoying a night on the town. Over a hundred cities in the
    U.S. have banned smoking in public places such as bars and nightclubs. Last month, Ireland banned smoking in pubs. Now Scotland is under pressure to do the same, and the EU is flirting with its own ban.

    The rationale for these bans is that smoking in public is not only a nuisance for non-smokers, but a health threat. While it's true that an asthmatic non-smoker may have problems working or relaxing in a smokey bar, anti-smoking advocates have lately drastically stepped up their claims regarding the dangers of second hand smoke. A CDC official, writing in the British Medical Journal warned people with heart disease to avoid all buildings that allowed any smoking, claiming that just thirty minutes of inhaling second hand smoke could cause heart attacks. Apparently, even miniscule amounts of tobacco smoke can turn your coronary arteries from this into this.

Readings in Prosecutorial Overreach

Slate published a couple good articles on Friday dealing with prosecutors and their new cudgels with which to beat the citizenry into proper obsequiousness. Read: Read them, and weep that your legislators will forever more empower prosecutors until such time as we're all in prison, and they have to go after each other for wrongful prosecution and corruption.

Friday, May 07, 2004
Book Review: Video Fever: Entertainment? Education? Or Addiction? by Charles Beamer (1982)

As you all know by now if you've been reading these book reviews and haven't skipped over them to get to the snarky humor, I read a lot of books that are not only sociological studies, but also are artifacts of their time periods. What they say about whatever they're talking about reflects the time in which they're written as much as the subject they cover. So I picked this book for under a buck during one of those binges of used book-buying in which my my beautiful wife and I often indulge.

I read it over the course of a couple weeks during my lunches at work. I even pasted a number of Post-It notes into the book with snarky comments so I could do a longer, more reasoned evaluation of the book. However, since it's been on my desk here, just to the right of the MfBJN mainframe for a couple of weeks now, this is all you get. Sorry.

You can pretty much guess how the book's going to go from the title. Unfortunately, the book's cover doesn't have the proper soap opera score to illustrate the way you should read the title. Ideally, it would be Video Fever: Entertainment? [piano tinkle] Education? [tinkle] or Addiction [heavy chord DUM DUM!]

Charles Beamer, high school teacher, examines the video game craze as you would expect a high school teacher might. He goes to video arcades (remember them?), asks questions to which anyone not called "faculty" in a professional capacity would raise an eyebrow, and then extrapolates results from a limited statistical sample.

You know what he found?

Bad elements liked to hang out in arcades, smoke marijuana, and sometimes those bad kids stole a couple bucks from their parents' purses or wallets to play. Sometimes, games were the "only friend" of the players, and other anthropomorphic mayhem ensued. Beamer "examines" the typical player archetypes, from the preteen misfits to the 20-somethings blowing off steam. He briefly examines the benefits that video games might provide--raising a generation comfortable with that fad "computer" thing.

But he's just waiting to get into the harm video games provide. Stealing quarters from parking meters. Smoking pot (brother, have we got a surprise for you in a couple years, when people start to smoke crystallized cocaine). Antisocial superpredators--no, wait, sorry, that's what latchkey crack babies movies or GTA would later provide. As a result, the tail end of Generation X has no hope at all.

Then he examines what can be done, which devolves from a study of good family life into a screed favoring extremely strict Christian discipline. Frankly, that particular turn in an attempted even-handed sociological study couldn't have been more jarring if the author had written Iä! Iä! Shub-Niggurath! The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young!

So it's an amusing tract, almost worth the thirty-three and a third cents I paid for it (if that much). I'm not sure it's worth the hours I spent reading it, but hey, I'm jumping on that grenade for you, gentle reader, to spare you the horror.


As I mentioned, I noted some sections for extra snarkage. I'd hate to have wasted all those expensive little yellow slips with adhesive on one end, so I've included the best for you below:
  • p11:
      It's dark inside arcades and video game centers, womblike, comforting, exciting. Lights flash and flicker seductively in many colors from strange and alluring sources. Sounds of battle beckon the players to death-defying heroism, courageous exploits hardly possible in the ordinary worlds of school and home, and hours and hours of fun!
    Jeez, man, I'll admit my mother smoked cigarettes while I was gestating, so I remember the womb as dark, soft, and warm (or so I remmeber through the recovered memories). What was your mother smoking to make her womb like a freaking video arcade while you were gestating?

  • In a section called "Tricks of the Trade":
      A distributors' [sic, and from a TEACHER no less] problem that makers assist in solving is "burn-out" among players who become tired of playing the same games in the same places. One tick the markers use is to provide distributors with decals and pop-in microchips; the decals slide under the tabletop on the front of the machine, making it look like an entirely new machine, and the exchange of microchips changes the way the machine plays in a way so the playes believe it is a new game.
    You heard it here first. JAMMA is a trick! played upon poor, unsuspecting quarter-thieving, ganja-smoking teens. Except swapping the boards (not just the chips, brother) does make a new game. Of course, Beamer's technical comprehension is limited.

  • p67, introduction to the chapter "Do Video Games Harm Anyone?"
      Perceptions of experiences are more important than the experiences themselves. There are people who can find joy hidden in even the most tragic situation, and there are others who cannot be satisfied or made happy no matter what their experience of joy. We see ourselves and our experiences uniquely, and "real facts" are distorted and shaped and changed by any number of factors--how we feel about ourselves, our memory of past experiences, and our expectations of a situation.
    Just put down the epistemology and back slowly away before you harm yourself and others. "Perceptions of experiences are more important than the experiences themselves"? Jeez, whatever your mother was smoking must have been potent.

  • p135, in "Appendix B: How the Games Work":
      Home-delivery systems have been heralded as the "coming thing." Promoters say that soon (even now in some areas) it will be possible for you to shop for groceries or any other product from your home.
    Well, it took a couple years, by Cosmo and Webvan took right care of that. Note to younger readers: In the later part of the last century, two Internet companies called Cosmo and Webvan got lots of venture capital to lose trying to do just that. "Even now in some areas" would take eighteen years from Beamer's prognostication to be proven unready. Cripes, it's 2004, and I have to explain Webvan.

  • p136, the real pain sets in when Beamer describes how arcade games are programmed in Basic [sic] where a pyxel [sic] is manipulated and a byte is 1000 [sic] bits and wherein
      Two other terms now come into play, and both refer to program commands in response to a player's action. The first term is "poke." Poke is a command meaning "go to" some pyxel or matrix on the screen. When a player fires the cannons or lasers of his spaceship to destroy an asteroid or a space invader, the microprocessor understands only "Poke." On a microchip, an impulse flashes toward a number of pyxels in a direct line (a line that appears direct on the screen but actually is moving diagonally or slantwise across tiny dots) toward the edge of the screen.
      The second term is "peek." It is a command meaning "look ahead." The microprocessor is asking a microchip to look ahead of the "poke" command to see if there is anything along the line of "poke." If there is, then another subprogram goes into operation: a collision occurs, an invader is blown up, lights flash, sound blares.
    In Beamer's world, upright arcade games are written in mangled Commodore BASIC 2.0. I'd weep for Babylon, too, if I were projecting the future across these flawed sightlines.

Book Review: The Art of Deception by Kevin D. Mitnick and William L. Simon (2002)

This, the most Holy Tome of Mitnick, describes the various means through which social engineers infiltrate your company to extract sensitive information. Coupled with a bit of technical knowledge, a bit of insight into large corporate community, and two heaping tablespoons of audacity, these fellows play upon the good will of corporate insiders to get into places where they shouldn't.

Each chapter and section analyzes different techinques used and psychological traits preyed upon, with sample scenarios (often told from real-life hearsay), but you, gentle reader, should buy this book, learn from its contents, and trust no one. Granted, I started out paranoid cautious, but this book reminds you to not trust that friendly voice on the phone and to vet people you meet in person.

Of course I recommend the book. Read it now!

And just so you know how much I value this book, I paid whole paperback book club price for it!

Thursday, May 06, 2004
Perhaps This Will Make the Arab Street Feel Better

Eugene Kane writes another of his screeds in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, this one entitled "Abuse of detainees nothing new in U.S.":
    The president of the United States of America assured the rest of the world Wednesday that images of prisoners in Iraq being mistreated by their American captors were just an aberration.

    "People in Iraq must understand that I view those practices as abhorrent," Bush said on Arab television, referring to alleged abuse of prisoners by the U.S. military at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.

    "They must also understand that what took place in that prison does not represent the America that I know."

    Maybe he ought to tell it to Curtis Harris, a Milwaukee man in danger of never walking again after an encounter with Milwaukee police officers last December.
Kane chronicles an aberration, an abhorrent treatment of a detainee by police in Milwaukee. I guess he equates it with the Iraq story because he's trying to indicate that it's standard operation of The Man whether He's a cop on the beat or a soldier on patrol. Typical Kane.

Blech. I am sorry I bothered you with it, gentle reader.

Those Geniuses at MIT

According to the Boston Globe, those young geniuses at MIT have come up with a way to meld exercise with video games to make exercise "fun":
    The hot-air balloon was too low, much too low. A mountain loomed ahead, its granite wall reaching out to smash the fragile basket. Daniele De Francesco had only seconds to react. So De Francesco did the only thing he could do. He pedaled faster.

    It worked. On the TV screen in front of him, the balloon slowly rose, clearing the peak with room to spare. De Francesco even got a couple of bonuses. He snared a floating gold coin worth 50 points, as well as a vigorous cardiovascular workout.

    As a 2000 graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, De Francesco still has use of the school's Zesiger Sports and Fitness Center. That's why he's one of the test subjects for an MIT project that merges video gaming with physical fitness.

    It's called CycleScore, and it's a recumbent bicycle connected to a personal computer programmed with a simple, engaging game. CycleScore transforms the bike's pedals and handlebars into game controllers, and offers a game program that rewards steady effort and the occasional burst of speed. There's even a touch of the shoot-'em-up, as the balloonist can fire missiles at passing targets for extra points. The idea is to create a system so interesting and enjoyable that people will forget they're sweating.
Wow! He's got to have a Super Genius business card to recreate Prop Cycle, a Namco video game from 1996.

Milennium Arcade had one of those in Crestwood. In 2001, I played it several times and told everyone I was going to open a chain of health clubs where all the cardio equipment had a video game component.

I am going to be a little saddened when someone with, you know, follow-through comes along and makes money off of it. Kinda like that database with a Web front end wherein you can enter little scraps of information and links and the software will serve it up as a Web page. Something else I didn't follow up on when I had the idea in 1998.

Trust Me, I Know What I Am Doing

Count down the days with me. July 27, 2004.

Sledge Hammer! DVD set

Can't wait? Listen to the opening theme and visit these sites: Is it July yet, mommy?

(Invaluable resource: TV Shows on

Slightly Heralded Bush

Unlike this story, at least the media --the Cincinatti Enquirer anyway--caught a story of Bush's common empathy:
    Lynn Faulkner, his daughter, Ashley, and their neighbor, Linda Prince, eagerly waited to shake the president's hand Tuesday at the Golden Lamb Inn. He worked the line at a steady campaign pace, smiling, nodding and signing autographs until Prince spoke:

    "This girl lost her mom in the World Trade Center on 9-11."

    Bush stopped and turned back.

    "He changed from being the leader of the free world to being a father, a husband and a man," Faulkner said. "He looked right at her and said, 'How are you doing?' He reached out with his hand and pulled her into his chest."

    Faulkner snapped one frame with his camera.

    "I could hear her say, 'I'm OK,' " he said. "That's more emotion than she has shown in 21/2 years. Then he said, 'I can see you have a father who loves you very much.' "

    "And I said, 'I do, Mr. President, but I miss her mother every day.' It was a special moment."
Do you think John Kerry would have given her an awkward pat on the stomach?

(Link seen originally on Wizbang!, but it's everywhere by now.)

Lileks on REM

From his column in the Star-Tribune (registration required):
    I never really loved R.E.M., because I felt as if I was supposed to love it. C'mon! The guys are brainy-looking, and sometimes their lyrics make Elvis Costello's opaque blocks of text look as clear as an Irving Berlin chorus -- heck, man, you're in COLLEGE! You HAVE to love R.E.M.! It's this or Ratt! Fine. I liked them, but never loved them. Example: "End of the World As We Know It" -- it's Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" for vegan guys with goatees.
Ouch, that's got to burn the kids with van Dykes up (which were much more popular, and often were confused with, goatees). It undoubtedly bothers them as they middle age that Billy Joel has a longer, more diverse musical career than Stipes and co and is ultimately more relevant.

Of course, even when I was young (and even considered a van Dyke briefly), I preferred Billy Joel. I mean, he sang about being young when he was young, and he sang about aging as he aged. REM? One trick ponies: disaffected youth, even as they grew old. Billy Joel covered that, too, in "Angry Young Man".

Roeper's Hair Care Tips

Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times offers some hair care tips:
    I've never stolen any hotel shampoo because of course I always wash my hair with Guinness and condition it with Harp. It's been a family tradition since 1917.
Take it from the guy. he's got the metrosexual thing going on. Although it does seem like a waste of Guinness to me. Perhaps he means Extra Stout, not Draught, which is more appealing.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004
Take Two

Clap the, well, clapboard, for the St. Louis Post Dispatch has a new reason to oppose the discontinuation of emissions testing in the St. Louis area:
    In 1999, Robert Bowers, a buyer for the Office of Administration, signed a contract on behalf of the state with Environmental Systems Products, a Connecticut-based company that runs the 15 inspection stations in Missouri. The company is the largest provider of emissions tests in the world.

    Its contract runs through August 2007. Ending it early could mean the state would have to refund $40 million to company.

    With a general fund that already faces shortfalls, that could mean the death of legislation that narrowly won first-round approval in the Missouri House on Monday.
Pardon my simplistic understanding of contracts, but I don't think Environmental Systems Products paid forty million dollars to the State of Missouri for the privilege of conducting business which the state will have to refund if it revokes that privilege. I would guess that the buy-out payment is less than what the government, and buy government I mean we citizens would have to pay out to keep the program going. Not to mention our own hassles of sitting in our cars for an hour waiting our turn on the rollers.

But it's not about just payng the forty million, oh no:
    The state would also lose the $2.50 fee it collects from each $24 inspection if it ends the program. That would mean about $600,000 a year in lost revenue.
Oh, there's the loss of the ability to strip money from motorists in the St. Louis area. That hurts the state budget, which will undoubtedly be forced to cutback to roller skates from nicely-painted vans on some meals on wheels program or another.

It's good to see persistence on the part of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. They hit us with the dreaded runny nose and lost jobs attack, now it's contract "refunds" and lost state revenue. What will it be tomorrow, lack of emissions testing leads to increased ecstasy use and removes St. Louis from consideration for an NBA expansion team?

What A Novel Concept!

Something seems awfully familiar about Anne Taintor's new book:
    Whether becoming your mother thrills you or terrifies you, it's likely you'll find something to laugh about in artist Anne Taintor's new collection of collages in "I'm Becoming My Mother" (Chronicle Books, 112 pages, $12.95). Taintor takes images that promote the domestic ideals of the early 1950s and slaps one-liners - often hilarious, always unexpected - on them.
I just can't put my finger on it.

Check Out the Information-Systems-Industry-Venom Sacs on Him

Dale Franks examines the beauty in the boondoggle that is the Navy/Marine Corps Internet.

Oh, yeah, an enterprise-caliber, best-in-breed solution designed to do nothing but cause money to exchange hands. Lots of money. Taxpayer money. Beautiful.

Steinberg Stings Greene

In his current column in the Chicago Sun Times, stings Bob Greene in a simile:
    My room at the David Intercontinental looked down on the beach. The first night I couldn't sleep, so went downstairs to slog through the Mediterranean and join what looked like about 10,000 people partying on the sand. I expected young adults dancing the hora. What I found were high school students, some falling-down drunk, clutching tequila bottles. I tried assessing the mood of Israeli youth, which seems to have absorbed our core American values. "I want to be a star!'' exuded Tal Zolti, 16. Their English was good, but I started feeling like Bob Greene crashing the junior prom, and after one kid called me "Grandpa'' I decided it was time to head back upstairs.
Remember, Bob Greene resigned his position at the Chicago Tribune after having an affair with a seventeen-year-old girl (legal in Illinois, fellows!) whom he met on the job.

Me, I am disappointed. Not because I am a fan of Greene's, which I am, but because I've been polishing my own Greene zingers since I'm reading Bob Greene's America and will undoubtedly deploy those zingers in the online review.

Unfortunately, now they'll seem derivative of a real writer. Thanks a lot, Mr. Steinberg.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004
But Wait, There's More!

Instead of having a life, I have blogged a pile already tonight and I have updated Pop-Up Mocker.

More value for your blog-reading dollar. Can I have that dollar? A couple more and I could buy a Guinness.

Google Search of the Day

Apparently, you have reached the number two hit in Poland for proposal swapping my wife.

Not interested. Don't offer. Go away.

It's Still All Good

Although this story from yesterday has been retracted, I stand upon my inferences thereupon.

Viva la economie!

(Link seen on Instapundit.)

Common Sense Check

Today, in the Chicago Sun-Times, Richard Roeper takes on the American Idol racism manufactuversy. He sums it up:
    That's what happened recently when Chicago's Jennifer Hudson and two other young black women finished in the bottom three in viewer voting, while that Doogie Howser-lookin' 16-year-old, John Stevens, was among the top vote-getters, despite the fact that he CANNOT SING A LICK. (To the shock of the judges and anyone with working ears, Hudson was sent home, which turned out to be a great career break. You don't get to read a Top Ten List on "Late Show With David Letterman" unless you're making real news.)

    How could this happen? How could arguably the three most talented performers finish with the three worst vote totals? Hmmm, could it have something to do with the fact that they're black?

    A lot of people, including Elton John, seemed to think so.
Roeper's take?
    I thought the cries of racism in the wake of Hudson's ouster were emotionally cheap and intellectually lazy. (Personally, I was glad to see Stevens go because I'm a rabid anti-schmaltz-ite.) To slap the "racist" tag on millions of people because they preferred a hokey teen-boy singer to some over-emoting junior divas is quite a leap. Maybe there are just a lot of Nebraska grandmas and New York teenyboppers who voted for Stevens, while fans of the Bottom Three felt so secure about their favorites that they didn't bother to vote. I mean, if the vote two weeks ago is proof that America is racist, then last week's vote means America has learned its lesson, and isn't racist any more. Right?
I agree it's not about race, but for a different reason.

From what I understand, you vote by calling a 900 number for your favorite singer. You can vote as often as you want or your parents can afford. That sort of election process selects a special subset of viewers, a subset that has superfluous money, time, and motivation to call a 900 number.

It's not white versus black. It's idiots versus people with lives apart from the television.

Thank you. Please note, this Internet is not an idiot box because it has more than a box. It is two boxes, a big calculator with letters on it, and a unicycle with two buttons on it. That is all.

Doing It For The Children Bureaucrats

Good news: The Missouri Legislature has begun the process of eliminating emissions tests required for automobile licensing in the St. Louis area. As cars become cleaner, these tests' burden, in terms of resident money and time spent, have not yielded that many results. The sponsor says:
    Bill sponsor Rep. Jim Lembke, R-south St. Louis County, said the testing is unnecessary, unpopular and a burden to the elderly and poor. He said the program should be eliminated because 92 percent of all vehicles pass the test and the biggest polluters - motorcycles and many trucks - are exempt from the law.
Good work. Hey, I once met Lembke, back when he was running unsuccessfully for the position he now holds. He was canvassing door-to-door, and I had to hammer him a bit on conservative consistency--particularly his love of "incentives" to draw industry to Lemay, but his opposition to welfare and government handouts to individuals. But enough about me.

The bad news: opposition invokes a scattering of silly reasons to keep the program running:
    Rep. Barbara Fraser, D-University City, said ending the clean-air testing could exacerbate the symptoms of allergy sufferers and would mean the loss of 250 jobs.
Got that? A slightly runnier nose and throwing 250 hard-working bureaucrats into the private workforce. Oh, the horror, the horror!

Politicians like this think you can legislate full employment by creating enough government regulations and divisions and offices. It got us out of the Greast Depression, didn't it?

Hmm, no, I think that was the techno-military-industrial complex gearing up for WWII, not the CCC. But hey, I was less alive than the Baby Boomers were to experience it first hand. What would I know?

More From The Noggle Economic School

Command Post reports:
    The LA Times is reporting that presidential campaign spending in this cycle may exceed $1 billllllion dollars. (Thank God we have campaign finance reform.)
Hot digduggity! So that's a billion dollars of excess wealth drained from willing participants in the political process to be spent and redistributed to print and broadcast media, creative agencies, and in bars and restaurants where sales are struck. God bless America, and it's not compulsory. Unlike tax money for social programs, which are too often spent the same way.

More Unheralded Bush

Via, a story about President Bush jogging with an injured serviceman:
    Attached is a picture of Mike McNaughton. He stepped on a landmine in Afghanistan Christmas 2002. President Bush came to visit the wounded in the hospital. He told Mike that when he could run a mile, that they would go on a run together. True to his word, he called Mike every month or so to see how he was doing. Well, last week they went on the run, 1 mile with the president. Not something you'll see in the news, but seeing the president taking the time to say thank you to the wounded and to give hope to one of my best friends was one of the greatest/best things I have seen in my life. It almost sounds like a corny email chain letter, but God bless him.
You think John Kerry would trip over him and call him a son-of-a-bitch?

Who's Your Theologian?

I know I'm a couple hours short of that degree in Theology, but I recognize the problem in Hugh Hewitt's assertion:
    "For all of its history, ADL has been self-asked to live up to one of the oldest most fundamental principles of civilization. It is actually one of the Commandments as we know: 'Love your neighbor.' And all of you are yourselves showing courage, because it can be bitter, it is tough. Bigotry, hatred, fear, drive people to do things that are inexplicable, and it is hard in any community to stand up against that, but it is vital."

    John Kerry --connecting again with yet another audience. ADL is a largely Jewish organization, which is not likely to recognize John Kerry's "commandment" as one of the big 10.
Sloppy sentence, Hugh. You know and I know that the Big 10 are found in the book of Exodus, which features the little-known story of the Hebrews fleeing from Egypt. Some of the people in the Anti-Defamation League might have heard that story sometime. So it's not that the members of the Jewish organization won't recognize the ten commandments.

A more nuanced reading indicates that the members of the Anti-Defamation League will not recognize Kerry's "Love your neighbor" edict as one of the ten commandments because it's not in the ten commandments, not because the Jews don't recognize the ten commandments.

Take care with your words, brother, because someone out there will hop on it to paint you as anti-semitic, somehow turning your ill-written assertion into repeating the blood libel.

(Link first seen on Power Line.)

Monday, May 03, 2004
All Aboard, We've Been Expecting You....

It's hard to tell if the author and the sources for this piece in Time are helping Kerry, or damning him. Explaining why John Kerry sounds like an unprincipled opportunist when he's just the opposite:
    Kerry's verbal meanderings are partly a reflection of a mind that sees complexity in almost every issue. The son of a diplomat, educated partly in boarding schools in Europe, Kerry learned to look at current affairs from multiple perspectives. Says an adviser: "It's not like he's trying to shade the truth. He overintellectualizes his explanations." Asked by TIME in a March interview whether the Iraq war would be worth the costs if no weapons of mass destruction were ever found, Kerry replied, "No, I think you can still — wait, no. You can't — that's not a fair question. You can wind up successful in transforming Iraq and changing the dynamics, and that may make it worth it, but that doesn't mean [transforming Iraq] was the cause [that provided the] legitimacy to go." Kerry may in fact be right when he argues that a successful outcome does not justify an illegitimate war, but a listener has to work hard to understand his point.
You got that? No? Put a little effort into understanding it, and you'll come away with the message that John Kerry is too smart for you to understand.

Perhaps the Kerry campaign should not deploy senators whose understanding of nuance match Kerry's own:
    "If you look at his public career, it's been just the opposite. He's not been unclear on the environment, on labor and education issues," says former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey. "His reputation in the Senate is that you can trust his word. If he believes in something, he'll fight for it."
Got it?
  • Kerry's not been unclear.
    This does not say that he has been clear. Just that he is not unclear.

  • His reputation ... is that you can trust his word.
    This does not say that you can trust John Kerry's word. This says his reputation is that you can trust his word. He's got Senate cred, werd.

  • If he believes in something, he'll fight for it.
    This does not address whether Kerry says what he believes, nor whether he will fight for what he says he'll fight for, or anything, really.
Thanks for not being a cartoonish or obfuscating character, little Kerrey. No, that sort of babble conveys precisely the slippery meaning the speaker intends, and both Kerry and Kerrey know it. They just have to tell the American people that they don't, sort of, know it or mean it except when they don't not.

The Economist Speaks

More from the Brian J. Noggle "Capitalism: It's All Good" School of Economics. Take this story, which says:
    High gas prices are forcing families to shop in cut-rate grocery stores, a food industry analysis finds.

    "High oil prices, both at the pump and for home heating, depress consumers' ability to spend more," said a report by the Food Marketing Institute released at its annual trade show in Chicago yesterday.

    "It is not surprising that more shoppers are buying food today in discount stores and other low-price venues than ever before," the study said.
It's all good. As rational consumers, those who allocate their resources to fuel and to food discount stores are acting in their own best interests. The free market at work.

What about the grocers out there? Well, people are choosing low price over....what is it again a full grocery offers?

You see, the Brian J. Noggle "Capitalism: It's All Good" School of Economics sees through every little ping of "bad" news as a net positive. When the man on the radio says copper prices are going up, that's good for the miners and it's good for the people who make alternatives to copper. Copper prices going down? Good for people who want to buy or make things with copper. Gas prices going up? Good for refineries and Big Oil, as well as for people who make hybrid automobiles, mass transit, and pastimes close to home. Gas prices coming down? Good for transportation companies, consumers, and tourist destinations.

Keep that in mind when these reports come out. The news is typically bad for whomever is releasing the report (well, probably good fro whomever got paid to prepare the doomsday scenario), but it's good news for someone else, and it's probably not zero sum. It's better news for everyone when capitalism is unfettered.

Sunday, May 02, 2004
Book Review: Fielder's Choice by Michael Bowen (1991)

This book is supposed to be a whodunit. It's more a WTF?

The book is set in 1962. The backdrop: The end of the Mets' miserable season. During a ballgame in late September, Jerry Fielder, a "businessman" with a shady reputation, is murdered in the pressbox with a number of people nearby. Who could have done it? Who cares?

For starters, the first person narrator is a somewhat minor character, recounting things that happen to other people. It's kind of jarring to try to keep that bit straight. Second, it takes like 70 pages until the murder is committed. Thirdly, it's difficult to keep the suspects straight, much less the investigating characters and the partners and whatnot. Some characters call suspects by their first names, others by their last names, and at by the middle of the book, I gave up trying to keep it straight, instead, I just wanted to get through the book.

Someone did it. Or did someone else? Who knows? The Mets didn't win the pennant that year, and the scorecard for the game in question was the vital clue. A fielder's choice was marked an error. So you see, the title's a pun playing on that, not the character's name! Ha hah! The gimmick got ya!

Ha hah! I paid under a buck for it in hardback, of which the author got what he deserved: nothing!

Excuse me, I am bitter because my own masterpiece has not yet been published, and it only takes fifty pages to get interesting. Where's the justice, I ask you.

More Urban Planner Pap

Once again, highly paid academic consultants decide what's good for cities: the creative class. From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on April 29:
    Yet another theory is dumping on St. Louis' ability to create jobs, bashing the region and others like it on the most unlikely of economic measures: its lack of gays and bohemians.

    It's an argument waged by author Richard Florida, and it has set off a firestorm of debate about what makes up a vibrant economy.
Easy for someone to say, but what really makes a city? Hmm, why do people come together from their scattered hovels on the steppes? It's because the city offers:
  • Protection from nature and enemies. Better police coverage, fire protection, and better medical care than the small towns or rural areas.

  • Jobs. A livelihood that does not involve slaughtering your own pigs or scratching dirt.

  • Infrastructure. Since one's not slaughtering one's one pigs, one would prefer to not have to drive into the next town to visit the bazaar. One would also like roads, commerce, schools for the children, and other amenities that one cannot find in the wilderness.

Cities do not arise, or afall, because of gays and bohemians. The "artistic" class arises from a vibrant city.

Stupid schnucking city planners and elected officials keep shoveling money to consultants who want to elevate their cool, unemployed academic bohemian friends, all the while anticipating the day when they're highly-paid consultants with with cool artistic friends.


James Joyner has uncovered a conspiracy to keep Republicans home on November 2:
    A 72-year streak links the victory or defeat of the Washington Redskins on the eve of election day with the presidential race. If the Redskins go down to defeat or tie, the sitting president?s party loses the White House.


    The Redskins? performance has aligned with the presidential outcome in the last 18 elections ? a probability of 1 in 263.5 million, according to Dave Dolan, an assistant professor of statistics at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.
Actually, Joyner only posted the story. My keen mind discovered the conspiracy:
    I don't know what to make of this, because the professor is an academic, so he probably wants the Democrats to win, and he's from Green Bay, so he probably wants the Green Bay Packers to win when they play the Redskins on October 31 (Schedule).
Go Packers, Go Pachyderms.

Thank you, that is all. See you in the voting booth on November 2.

On Chris White's List

As some of you know, I enjoy Chris White's Top Five List, and I am a paying member of Club Top Five.

So it's with great honor that I was awarded the number nine spot on a recent Club 5 list for the topic "The Top 16 Celebrity Contributions to Humanity". My entry:
    9. Kim Basinger and Angelina Jolie -- Showed society that girls with unsightly, overweight lips can lead normal, healthy lives.
Oh, yeah, it's the equivalent of the Internet Pulitzer for humor. To read the whole list, go to Top Five and plunk down a couple bucks for membership. Unlike some Internet people, I won't post or rebroadcast copyright information, even things compiled from Internet serfs by overlord Chris White who exploit unpaid minions for to generate his own wealth. Of course, I'm not bitter, because I'm just a Club 5 member who got lucky; I'm not a contributor.

I Think Someone Has Modified The History Books

Here's a newsbit on CNet dated April 29:
    Google denies FBI link to Gmail
    Google on Thursday denied that it has had any contact with the FBI regarding the design of its Gmail Web e-mail service. The search firm's denial came after the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the FBI seeking information about whether the bureau was considering the "possible use of Google's Gmail service for law enforcement and intelligence investigations." EPIC, which gave an award last week to a California state senator who is trying to ban Gmail, announced the request immediately after Google said it was filing for an initial public offering.

    Critics immediately criticized EPIC's request as a publicity stunt and because the nonprofit likened Google's Web-based e-mail service to the FBI's controversial Carnivore wiretapping utility and the Pentagon's discontinued "Orwellian Total Information Awareness program." EPIC's request also asked whether Google had discussed licensing its search technology, in use by customers in the private sector, to the FBI "to further law enforcement investigations or intelligence gathering activities." Google spokesman Nathan Tyler replied: "I cannot confirm whether they're using our technology."
    April 29, 2004 

Funny, I don't remember the program having Orwellian right in the title.

But I'd better not draw attention to it, or it's off to Room 101 for me for questioning CNet.

Where's the Punchline?

From a story on Yahoo! news:
    A judge gave a Tennessee zoo six months to convince him that an African elephant named Ruby is adapting well to her new home after being separated from a pachyderm friend in Los Angeles last year.

    Judge George Wu ordered the report from the Knoxville Zoo on Thursday during a hearing in a lawsuit that seeks to return Ruby to the Los Angeles Zoo.
I think the judicial system's rapidly becoming a joke, and this story is but one punchline among many.

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