Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, April 16, 2005
Who Are You Going to Believe, My PR or Your Damn Lying Eyes?

Spokesperson spokes:
    The TSA won't comment on the specifics of the reports until they are released, spokesman Mark Hatfield Jr. said.

    But, he said: "When the political posturing is over, rational people will see that American screeners today are the best we have ever had and that they are limited only by current technology and security procedures that are significantly influenced by privacy demands."
Handy thumbnail translation for those of you outside of the government:

"We need more money and less oversight to increase our productivity."

When Did Alternative Weeklies Go Nuts?

Three quick hitz from the last week's Shepherd Express, which we picked up in Milwaukee but didn't actually use to find activities downtown:
  • Something Doesn’t Add Up: Did John Kerry Win?

      Five months after the election of George W. Bush on Nov. 2, 2004, something still doesn’t add up.

      Although the election results have been accepted by the majority of the country, a nonpartisan group of university-affiliated statisticians and other experts found that something may have gone very, very wrong—so wrong that the wrong man may be sitting in the White House.

      This group, USCountVotes, looked at the exit poll results taken throughout Election Day by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International. The exit polls indicated that Democratic nominee John Kerry would win by 3% of the popular vote. Nevertheless, George W. Bush officially won the national popular vote by 2.5%. This type of discrepancy is the largest to ever occur in a presidential election. Exit polls are conducted with those who have just voted—they are not a sampling of “probable” or “eligible” voters before the election.

    Five months after the election and a non-partisan but named group has analyzed the exit polls and determined John Kerry won the presidency. If only we could get the damn constitution and its means for determining the presidency out of the way. What's next for these people? In 2000, they wanted to selectively recount ballots from only certain areas; in 2004, they want to use exit polls instead of ballot counts. What's next for 2008? I'm less than eager to find out.

  • In a piece entitled "Destroying Dorothy: How a media tycoon got even with a Hollywood actress", the author poses this question:

      How much, if at all, was newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst to blame for the shocking fate that overtook the brilliant young Hollywood actress Dorothy Comingore?

    The author then spends two pages recounting what happened to Comingore, but the only evidence presented against Hearst is that she starred in Citizen Kane and that Hearst was rich and powerful. Ergo, or Ogre as the case may be, Hearst was behind it all. Because that's the only reason it could have happened.

  • But, on the other hand, I am what Media Musings columnist Dave Berkmann calls a blogosphere enforcer:

      You have to wonder—five years out, will any expression that a right-wing administration and its blogosphere enforcers object to be considered acceptable?

    I would bust Berkmann's kneecaps, digitally and metaphorically of course, were he worthy of the attention. Because columnists among real papers know they're inconsequential in 2005 unless the blogosphere either loves them or hates them. But Mr. Berkmann, I don't think of you.
Since 2000, a large number of publications have become largely unreadable, with every article and column somehow bemoaning the controlling force of the Administration in Washington. Harper's, Time, The Shepherd Express....

Funny how these sorts of publication laud more intrusion helpful participation from the Federal government in daily lives, whether through free health care that will determine who gets what care, to regulation that makes it harder for new pharmaceutical products that will help many come to market because it will harm a few, to what words the FCC will ban from television (whether it's racial epithets that are banned or swear words). Unfortunately, its the growth of this encroachment benevolent despotism that makes the occupant of the White House too damn important for daily life and for overemotionalism in daily, weekly, and monthly publications.

Friday, April 15, 2005
Hurling Epithets

When white bread isn't offensive enough, we have the following:

Cracker Bread

Summer of the Bird Attacks

Here in Missouri, we're not blessed with sharks, so the media needs to latch onto slightly more, um, mundane trends to carry it through the summer.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has seized upon just such a pattern of natural disaster with its second story in two days about marauding birds. Today's entry: Boy feels the effect of goose nesting season:
    Five-year-old Chase Standefer wanted to get a fishing lesson but instead got schooled about another type of wildlife.

    As he set foot on tiny Jolie Isle in Lake Saint Louis on Sunday afternoon with his stepfather, Robert Price, a nesting goose attacked the boy, causing a small but deep gash on his scalp.
I cannot wait for the in-depth local television news investigating if the birds around your house will attack you.

(First story about bird attacks here.)

AOL Is Funny

AOL is a funny animal. Hey, I'll admit I first got onto the Internet using AOL and that I still use AOL (I'm a Web application tester, gentle reader, so I use more browsers and operatings systems on any given day than you'll probably use in a year). But come on, some of their things are just funny.

Let's start with this scenario. You know how AOL always warns you that no one from AOL will ever ask for your credit card information, your password, and so on? Well, if your credit card information changes (such as a new expiration date), what does AOL do?

Of course! It throws up a prompt for you to enter credit card information:

AOL Billing

Why, oh why, would AOL expect its users to type their information into a prompt like this? Because they're AOL customers, that's why!

Back in the dial-up days of the mid nineteen nineties, AOL had trouble getting enough lines at its access numbers to accommodate the surging demand. Some people were leaving their computers connected when they weren't at the computer, tying up those precious lines. So AOL deployed the Idle Message, a message that popped up for every user fifty minutes after the user logged in; if the user didn't click OK to indicate they were still using the computer, AOL booted them. Many times, it kicked me off in the middle of a download. Handy.

Apparently, AOL's gotten more sophisticated and has set the message to determine when the user is not doing something. I assume such because it's called the Idle Message. I've never seen it, but I have seen this:

AOL Idle Message Off

That's right, since I have apparently turned off the Idle Message in my AOL for Broadband connection, AOL still pops up a message box to indicate I have been idle. The titlebar? Idle Message Off.

I think that AOL is trying to use paradoxes and irony to cause a rift in the space-time continuum so it can reach through to an alternate universe where its merger with Time-Warner was a good idea. It's only a working theory, though, and I might be wrong.

Thursday, April 14, 2005
Hewitt Sees Republican Coalition Crackup!

As he explains:
    ...there is rising anger among Republican activists and donors with the perceived dithering on judges in the Senate. It has been five months since the sweeping wins of November and three months since the Senate convened. But only one of the filibustered appeals court nominees has even cleared committee --a second might do so today-- and despite Majority Leader Frist's repeated declarations that he has the votes to end the filibuster, no clear schedule has been laid out that details when that vote will occur, and the MSM is doing its best to raise doubts about the reliability of Senator Frist's 50 votes. Reports of compromise discussions and senators' worries over "tradition" have become a staple of the political press.

    The result is that the GOP is in real danger of alienating a significant slice of its activist base --a base that has gladly contributed to the campaigns of new senators John Thune, Saxby Chambliss, Jim Talent, John Cornyn, John Sununu, Norm Coleman, Lindsey Graham, Jim DeMint, Mel Martinez, Richard Burr, David Vitter, and Tom Coburn because it understood the need to add Republicans if the body was going to work. They gave to the individual campaigns and to the Senate Republican National Committee, and thousands volunteered long hours throughout the last two cycles.
Hewitt pooh-poohed the thought of the Republicans losing support because of substantive issues such as fiscal irresponsibility, excessive FCC fines and, coming soon, jail time for minor infractions of "decency," McCain-Feingold, Sarbannes-Oaxley, Medicare prescriptions, whistling past the Social Security graveyard, or any of the other hubristic party-in-power lapses.

No, in Hewitt's view, what is leading to this crackup is essentially a procedural matter in government. Whereas the non-rank-and-files Hewitt wouldn't be sad to see leave the Republicans worried about the content of the party's convenant with the country, Hewitt's worried about a particular comma in the fourth paragraph.

New Design for JC T-Shirts

Beware of Conservative

Click to shop

Government-Mandated Monopoly Hurts Consumers

Note the slant of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch headline: "Lifting of limits in Dallas could cost AA"':
    A push by Southwest Airlines to lift restrictions on its flights from Love Field in Dallas could cost American Airlines at least $250 million a year in revenue, including a 39 percent revenue drop on flights between Dallas/Fort Worth and St. Louis, according to an industry report.
You know, I think this increased competition would be good for consumers, you know, the little guy. But the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is not his champion; it's the fierce cheerleader of government meddling in markets to benefit one company over another or over the citizen.

Make Yourself a Punchline

Today's lesson in how to make yourself a punchline in one lawsuit or fewer: "Woman sues store, claims she was attacked by bird":
    A Centreville woman claimed in a suit filed Wednesday in Madison County Circuit Court that a bird attacked and seriously injured her while she was shopping at a hardware store in Alton.

    Rhonda Nichols, 40, alleges in the suit that a bird flew into the back of her head while she was at the outside gardening area of the Lowe's Home Center, 1619 Homer Adams Parkway.

    Nichols is seeking damages against the store in excess of $50,000.

Cause and Effect, and Ne'er the Twain Shall Meet

Shocking new AARP study: Harder to swallow: Prices for seniors' brand-name drugs rising fast, study finds
    Wholesale prices for brand-name drugs commonly used by seniors rose an average of 7.1 percent last year, far outpacing the general inflation rate, according to a study released Tuesday by AARP.

    The association representing seniors found that the 2004 price hike marked the largest one-year increase relative to inflation in the five years that AARP has sponsored the study. The U.S. inflation rate, as measured by the consumer price index, was 2.7 percent last year.

    "I don't see how it can incite trust in drug companies when they're seeing the same drugs going up in prices, so much higher than inflation, year after year," said David Gross, senior policy adviser with AARP's Public Policy Institute and one of the study's authors. "It's not like these are different or better drugs. These are the same drugs."
What, oh what, could cause price increases?

Painkiller Bextra pulled from shelves
Chicago Law Firm Files Bextra Class Action Lawsuit Against Pfizer
Merck Announces Voluntary Worldwide Withdrawal of VIOXX®
Idaho lawsuit filed against Vioxx
Schatz & Nobel, P.C. Announces Class Action Lawsuit Against GlaxoSmithKline plc
Wyeth to Pay $5.5 Mln in Two More Fen-Phen Cases
Indian passage of patent law slammed
US' Largest AIDS Group Seeks Improved Access to Life-Saving AIDS Drugs in Mexico
Beijing court hears wrangle on Viagra patent
Connecticut mulls drug reimportation
Pharmacists fault Maine drug reimportation plan

The obvious answer, to fAARP, is greed on the part of the pharmaceutical companies, not the increased costs of business spurred by increased government scrutiny, media hysteria, and class action litigation.

Instead of using its members contributions to agitate for nationalization of the drug industry--which is the pit at the end of the slope, gentle reader--perhaps the fAARP could buy drug patents or perhaps develop some pharmaceuticals on their own.

Oh, but no. That would require actual work instead of commissioning studies, holding meetings, and having lunches.

(Submitted to the Outside the Beltway Beltway Traffic Jam.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Real Men Aren't Afraid To Wear Pink

Someone asserts: "Pretty (cool!) in pink", which not only offers a bright shirt with the caption Tough Guys Wear Pink, but also asserts:
    What do baby blankets, bridesmaids, hip-hop artists and skaters have in common?


    In case you haven't left the house or turned on MTV in the past 12 months, pink is hot for guys. And girls are hot for guys in pink.
Reminds me of my grandmother's second wedding. I was an usher, blushing with the responsibility at 19. The wedding colors included pink, and the dictum would indicate I would wear a pink shirt. Acourse, as a poor boy, I didn't own any pink shirts and didn't have the fiscal wherewithall to readily acquire one. Besides, I don't like pink. So I said I'd wear a white shirt, of which I had plenty because in those days, you damn kids, grocery store baggers wore slacks, white shirts, and ties.

"Real men aren't afraid to wear pink," my stepmother manipulated.

You see, friends, real men (of whom tough guys are but a subset) don't follow the dictations of fashion magazines and newspaper columns. Why, every time I look at the style section of FHM or Playboy, I smirk. The guys down at Tap City would beat the cosmopolitan out of me if I tried to real the suggested clothing among them, and I wouldn't blame them; t-shirts should come free with proofs-of-purchase or should cost under $10 for a brand name advertisement or under $15 for saying something clever. They should not cost $30 to display a fashionplate of an upscale store and should never be worn under a sport coat unless you're Billy Joel or Billy Jack circa 1979.

You want to know what real men do? They do whatever they want, in a burly fashion.

If they want to wear pink, no one says a word. And if they think pink clothes are fru-fru, they don't wear them contrary to the prevailing winds of fashion. And they post blog entries about it.

Other Students Strike for Higher Tuition

Professor Bainbridge reports that, like Washington University students, some UCLA students are striking for higher tuition.

Who else suspects those who strike like this are also the sorts who would never bring a child into this miserable world, so they won't have to pay ultimately for their own success?

Another Camera Triumph!

Another surveillance camera triumph, as reported in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and posted at Power Line:
    According to the criminal complaint filed Monday in Hennepin County District Court, the victim boarded the bus at 7th St. and Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis. Six to 10 young males in the back of the bus surrounded him and taunted him, making repeated references to his race (the victim is white, the suspects black). When the bus stopped at 34th and Fremont, they grabbed him and pulled him off, the complaint said. They punched and kicked the victim, breaking his wallet chain and fleeing with the wallet, which contained $17.

    He ran to a nearby convenience store and called 911. He suffered scrapes and bruises to his face, forehead, hands and back, the complaint said.

    Video surveillance from the bus shows the group dragging the victim onto the sidewalk, according to Metro Transit police.

    "It was outrageous," said Metro Transit police Capt. Dave Indrehus. "The victim in this case was totally innocent, had nothing to do with these parties."

    The video shows that other bus passengers did not try to intervene, Indrehus said. "Quite frankly, I don't know if I would blame them," he said. "You may end up becoming a victim yourself."
Remember the benefits of video surveillance:
  • It's cheap.

  • It provides evidence.

  • It puts no law enforcement personnel at risk.
Doesn't help that poor kid much, though, does it?

Also, special kudos to the police captain for praising the non-intervention of the citizens on the bus. Keep 'em docile.

Washington University Socialdents Protest Low Tuition

The absurd protest at Washington University continues with more threats from the administration and with displays of inanity by the students. In case you're not in St. Louis and haven't been following the story, the students are protesting the low tuition at Washington University, where a year of tuition for undergraduates will only be $31,100 next year.

Well, not directly:
    Instead of disbanding, the students called for a hunger strike in support of higher wages for some campus workers.
One would hope that not many economic students are participating, since they know that higher costs lead to higher prices. Or should know it. Come to think of it, any student should know it, but I regret knowing what they teach in universities instead.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Random Junk Mail Quote of the Day

From an unsolicited packet, marked DELIVERY MONITORED! to appeal to paranoid occupants like me, advertising an air purifier:
    Oxygen is nature's beneficial element. It is what makes the sky blue. It is what nature uses to get rid of everything harmful on earth.
Well, oxygen is a key component in fire.

So this thing wants to pump ozone into your house to make your household air pure; it calls ozone "activated oxygen" and pretty much implies they're throwing in an extra atom of oxygen into when you buy an atom of O2. What the hey, have another quote:
    The electronic spark ozone air purifiers use an electric spark to produce ozone. The electric spark produces oxides of nitrogen that form an acid in the air which is corrosive and toxic. The electric spark can cause explosions and it can interfere with radio and T.V. signals.
I understand explosions can also adversely impact radio and television reception by themselves.

Perhaps I should read more junk mail. It's making my afternoon.

Ding, Dong, Ditch, and Do Time

Kids arrested in Port Washington, Wisconsin, for Ding Dong Ditch.

So make sure you're always on the stoop after you ring the bell, or they'll get you for Attempted Ding Dong Ditch or Conspiracy to Commit Ding Dong Ditch. And if that's not enough, they'll make subsidiary charges like Wearing Sneakers During Commission of Ding Dong Ditch.

Because everything changed on 9/11.

Okay, I am done now.

Contract and Constitutional Law Taught By Pacers Player

Professor O'Neal explains:
    Indiana center Jermaine O'Neal said the NBA's desire to put an age limit in the next collective bargaining agreement could be driven by racism.

    "In the last two or three years, the rookie of the year has a been a high school player. There were seven high school players in the All-Star game, so why we even talking an age limit?" said O'Neal, who was drafted out of high school in 1996 by the Portland Trail Blazers.

    "As a black guy, you kind of think that's the reason why it's coming up. You don't hear about it in baseball or hockey. To say you have to be 20, 21 to get in the league, it's unconstitutional. If I can go to the U.S. army and fight the war at 18, why can't you play basketball for 48 minutes?"
Heh. And that's a mean heh.

Monday, April 11, 2005
Spot the Absurdity

No, I don't mean the obvious absurdity of Illinois distributing scratch 'n' sniff cards so authoritarian figures can reference the scent of methamphetamine ingredients. No, look beyond it and find more subtle absurdity in the following:
    The cards, when scratched, would emit the odor of anhydrous ammonia, an ingredient used in the methamphetamine production process that smells distinctively like cat urine. They would be distributed, by the Illinois State Police and the Board of Education, to teachers, school employees and day-care center employees to help them identify children who have been exposed to meth, the bill says.

    "Most people haven't smelled meth," said state Rep. Michael P. McAuliffe, R-Chicago, who introduced the bill in late February, adding, "Not too many people know about this drug, and it's everywhere."

    McAuliffe said last week that despite the rapid growth in meth use and production in Illinois, few people can detect the signs of addiction or exposure, particularly exposure to children. Many children, McAuliffe explained, live in homes where meth is produced or smoked and absorb the smell in their hair, skin and clothes.

    "The teacher might say, 'How many cats do you have at home?'" McAuliffe demonstrated. "The student could say, 'We don't have any cats.'"
Which is more patently nuts?
  • The paradox of this statement: "Not too many people know about this drug, and it's everywhere."

  • The thought of a child's teacher sniffing the child's hair and, if the teacher thinks the hair smells like this card, the authorities launch a full drug enforcement investigation, possibly culminating in no-knock raids with weapons out.

Police Call 9/11

A Best Buy customer is handcuffed and taken to jail for paying with $2 bills, and the police call 9/11:
    For Baltimore County police, said spokesman Bill Toohey, "It's a sign that we're all a little nervous in the post-9/11 world."
That's right. Overly aggressive and inappropriate police behavior threatening to cause a stain on the public trust? Just call 9/11!

(Link seen on Instapundit.)

UPDATE: John Cole had the same thought.

Sunday, April 10, 2005
Book Report: Needlepoint on Plastic Canvas by Elisabeth Brenner De Nitto (1978)

All right, so I read this book; I even bought it, although I couldn't tell you if I bought it at a garage sale or very cheaply at a used bookstore. I bought it, though, because I've done needlepoint on plastic mesh before and will do so again before they stop me. Besides, once purchased, it was on my to-read shelves and represented an easy browse to removal. So I flipped through it enough to satisfy my interia criteria for having read a book, and now I'm reporting on it.

The book includes a number of projects one can do with needlepoint taking advantage of the new plastic mesh canvas which apparently came on the marketplace at about that time; the book lists several suppliers and brand names. Now, I walk into Walmart and just buy whatever cheap sheets my Walton cousins stock. But back in the day, undoubtedly this was the hot new technology, like .NET for crafters. The introduction chapter talks about the transition from fabric canvas, and I laughed out loud when I realized that I took for granted a two-step stitch--once down through the canvas and once up--to which fabric crafters, who were used to folding the canvas for a single-step stitch, would have to adjust.

Undoubtedly, Lileks could do a number on the patterns in this book, but I won't; I will, however, comment that my mother was a Creative Circle representative, and she used to hold Tupperware-style parties to sell patterns, yarns, kits, and whatnot to housewives. This was almost thirty years ago, in the early 1980s, and I remember a certain number of craftesque gifts exchanged and some crafty things around the house and the houses of people whom I visited. Is it just me, or is the number of home-crafted things in decline? I don't know many of my generation/peerage who sew or do crafts. Acourse, we're all geeks who spin yarns called computer programs and the assorted effluvia of the IT industry, so perhaps my perspective is skewed.

So what did this book gain me? I have a listing of other stitches I can use on plastic canvases. I don't think I'll use the patterns within it, nor did they particularly fire my imagination for projects. I did, however, finish book #31 for the year, and I still have the collection of Dick Tracy cartoons in reserve for if I fall behind my desired pace.

Step 3: (Government) Profit!

So we're driving north on Interstate 39 in the middle of Illinois when there arises from the plain an almost unearthly sight. Dozens of towers break the horizon, each with spinning blades:

Wind farm near Paw Paw, Illinois

I don't remember those spires from my frequent trips up the highway, and sure enough, they're new:

Step 1: Anything innovative that moves human progress forward.
Step 2: ...
Step 3: (Government) Profit!:
    It really wouldn’t surprise many La Salle County officials if a wind farm sprung up on someone’s property in the county within the next couple years.

    So in an effort to plan ahead and gather more revenue, county development committee officials Friday agreed to add a $25-per-foot inspection fee for all towers built in the county into its proposed commercial, industrial and multifamily building code ordinance.

    “We need to do something quick-like because they’ll be here before we know it,” said committee member Richard Foltynewicz (D-Ottawa).
Because La Salle County officials have seen the construction of a wind farm in neighboring Lee County, they've gotten ahead of the curve and want to implement the tax before they actually have anything to tax.

Oh, sorry, it's a $25-per-foot inspection fee. An arbitrary number that doesn't account for the amount of time an inspector would have to spend on the site nor on the actual productivity of the wind farm or profitability of the company collecting the energy. No, it's on the height of the windmill, which makes about as much sense as taxing a company based on the number of letters in its name.

So keep that in mind, gentle reader, whereas your elected officials want you to think they share your goals for cheap, renewable energy and less dependence on foreign oil, they really do, but they have their priorities. And the top of the list is getting more of that sweet, sweet tax money that will hinder progress and which will eventually come from your pockets.

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