Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, May 21, 2005
Appropriate Sponsorship
Pop-Tarts presents: American Idols Live!

My hat's off to the marketer with the wry sense of humor and, if his employers get wise, with the new weekly unemployment check.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Book Report: A Man of Affairs by John D. MacDonald (1957)
As with a number of my other John D. MacDonald books, such as Judge Me Not and On The Run, I fully acknowledge the jonesing with (or jonsing, if I need to drop the silent e) that drives me to pay $2.00 each for John D. MacDonald paperbacks. I am glad, glad, you hear?

I bought this book at Downtown Books in Milwaukee (the place to go in Milwaukee for used books, werd) for $1.95. John D. MacDonald's other works, including the Travis McGee series, get reprinted ad infinitum so their prices are cheap. All of his works are worthwhile, though, no matter the cost. Please visit my eBay listings after I make this assertion to drive up the prices....wait--I'm not selling my copies, you damn chiselers.

This particular book represents another of MacDonald's forays into Big Business. When a junk bond/leveraged buyout king swoops into a family-run business after the patriarch dies, a self-appointed self-made man (the first person narrator) invites himself onto a Bahamas retreat where high finance and human nature collide. The narrator, Sam Glidden, wants to keep the heirs of the owner from selling the company to a corporate raider. But on the holiday in the sane where the sun and the sex are easy, can he hold to his ideals?

Crikes, this book was written almost fifty years ago. With the easy sex and the high finance, I found it easy to forget--and to follow along.

Were I less loyal to my patron saints (Parker, Frost, and Billy Joel, amen), I would find John D. MacDonald's miracles hard to discount. Each of his books, whether ignored in individual paperbacks or apotheosized in Travis McGee omnibus editions, contains the same ambiguous characters, the same lush descriptions of big business or maritime "salvage," and the same lush descriptions.

If you stumble across this paperback through a "friendly" loan, steal it. If you find it at a garage sale held by an underfed woman and her dozens of underfed children, buy it. If you can inadvertently purchase it from a reputable used boook store, buy it.

When I grow up, I want to be John D. MacDonald. Although, with LASIK surgery, perhaps I could avoid the heavy plastic glasses frames.

You're Not From Around Here, Are You?
From the Post-Dispatch story entitled UM ends suit with $10m scholarship fund:
    The University of Missouri has agreed to set aside $10 million for a scholarship fund to settle a class action lawsuit that the school violated state law for 15 years by charging tuition to in-state, undergraduate students.
That's the University of Missouri system, right? Check it out:
    Between 1986 when the University's Board of Curators broke a 1939 law by charging educational fees based on credit hours until 2001 when the legislature repealed the 72-year-old statute, Mizzou was breaking the law at its campuses in Columbia, Rolla, St. Louis and Kansas City, Herman alleged and Romines ruled in December 2002. Since then, higher courts upheld the ruling.
Somewhere in that run-on sentence, the author says Mizzou was breaking the law at the four University of Missouri campuses listed. The problem? Mizzou refers specifically to University of Missouri at Columbia. That's a specific nickname that the author applies to all UM campuses.

Word: don't use the hip local lingo if you're unclear on it.

No Dog Bites Man, But Post-Dispatch Covers It Anyway
I predicted yesterday:
    So keep an eye on it, gentle reader: when the dog bites man, it will be news in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch if it's a pit bull doing the biting, and it will be one more anecdote to drive bad legislation.
Well, translated as augury, that means watch for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to grab hold of the pit-bull-attacks story with its teeth and not let go. Kind of like, you know, a pit bull.

The Post-Dispatch does not disappoint. Here's today's entry: Dog attacks: The solution proves elusive
    While the family and friends of the victims of two pit bull attacks in St. Charles County try to understand what caused the animals to snap, experts are divided about how to prevent maulings.

    Even pit bull advocates admit the dogs have an image problem.
Get that? Even pit bull advocates admit there's a problem. But they're only copping to an image problem. Ironic, ainna, that the admission comes in an article that casts pit bulls in a bad light.

But not to worry, citizens. The government is making its plans for the pit bull purge:
    Unlike Missouri, Illinois law makes it illegal to enact breed-specific ordinances that would allow the state's cities to ban certain breeds. A bill currently in the Illinois House, however, would change the law.
Furthermore, we get column inches lauding the bans:
    Merritt Clifton, of Clinton, Wash., editor of the newspaper Animal People, disagreed and cited laws banning pit bulls in Denver and one being enacted in Ontario.

    He said that dog-related legislation had historically allowed the dog one free bite before it was deemed a dangerous animal.

    "The problem with pit bulls and also with Rottweilers is that the first dangerous incident is very often the first fatality or life-threatening injury," he said. "So that one free bite doesn't work when you've got that level of capacity to injure, and the issue is no longer whether the dog bites often but whether the dog bites at all."

    He said that pit bulls made up about 5 percent of the dog population in the United States, but that more than 50 percent of the dogs involved in fatal attacks or maimings have been pit bulls.

    Delise calculates that pit bulls are involved in 21 percent of fatal attacks, the highest of any breed.
Well, what's a newspaper to do? We don't have sharks in Missouri. But we do have menacing pit bulls. It's a twofer for a paper: it can tell harrowing stories with human victims in the man-versus-nature style, and it can goad the government to further curtailing freedom on behalf of the Little Man and/or The Children.

To be continued, undoubtedly....

Maybe They Had a Lot of Luggage
In a St. Louis Post-Dispatch story entitled Amtrak train hits tractor-trailer, we have an inadvertent argument in favor of ending Amtrak subsidies:
    Six people on the westbound train, which had a total of 23 passengers and crew on its engine and three passenger cars, were taken to Barnes-Jewish Hospital with bumps and bruises, said Kim Bacon, a spokeswoman for EMS. [Emphasis added.]
23 passengers and crew scattered among 3 passenger cars in a train that's just left the St. Louis station bound for Kirkwood, Washington, Jefferson City, and Kansas City. Maybe the majority of its passengers get on at Kirkwood. Or maybe our goverments are spending millions of dollars to move dozens of people each day. But in a scenic fashion with historical ties, so that's a bargain!

(Attempted submission, again, for the Outside the Beltway Traffic Jam.)

Protested Innocence
Headline on CNN: Groups suing FBI over monitoring of activities:
    Five civil rights, animal rights and environmental groups are joining together to sue the FBI to release records about monitoring of anti-war and other political activities by federal agents assigned to counterterrorism duties.
The FBI might monitor political groups under the trumped-up "counterterrorism" excuse. Wait a minute, which groups are suing?
    The American Civil Liberties Union said the decision to file a lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Washington came after the FBI ignored Freedom of Information Act requests for the documents. The other organizations involved are the American-Arab Anti-discrimination Committee, Greenpeace, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and United for Peace and Justice.
So we've got Arab groups, animal rights groups, and environmental groups. Groups that might be connected to rogue organizations that actually commit terrorist acts on American soil? Sounds like the groups the FBI should monitor in the name of counterterrorism.

We're not talking about the Boy Scouts of America, the Society of Technical Communications, or the United Auto Workers. And if a group called Prepared Youth of America or Tech Writers for Justice started setting fires to motels or IT companies that have crappy documentation, I wouldn't mind the FBI sniffing around them.

There Ought Not To Be A Law
Apologies to Radley Balko for misappropriating his title.

In Milwaukee, a close reading (and by "close" I mean actually reading) of a city ordinance has uncovered that every tailgate party with alcohol at County Stadium or Miller Park has been illegal and subject to citation. Instead of simply not enforcing the law (and leaving it on the books for arbitrary enforcement), the city of Milwaukee will rewrite the law:
    Ordinance 106-2.1, which was passed in 1980, is the one we've been blissfully ignoring out there. It says it shall be unlawful for anyone to drink the strong stuff in public parking lots or parking structures. The fine is $50 to $250, probably depending on how much abuse is heaped on the arresting officer.

    Schrimpf remembers reading the ordinance several years back when there was talk of building Miller Park downtown.

    It struck him that popping a cold one in a downtown parking structure or doing it in the sprawling lots around the ballpark were no different under the law. But he always thought there must be some exception for tailgating, which he himself has enjoyed.

    But there was no exception under the city ordinances, nor is there any county ordinance that says go ahead and imbibe in the shadow of your vehicle.

    "The answer is yes. It was illegal," Schrimpf said.

    So at Murphy's request, the council recently voted to allow tailgate drinking for this season as a "special event" under the ordinance. And last week the Public Safety Committee recommended to the council to make it permanent.
Granted, they're just making ball games a "special event" not subject to the prohibition, and aren't completely throwing out the "no drinking in public" law, but it's a good step in good governance.

Steinberg Disses Aaron of Free Will Blog
Neil Steinberg, Chicago Sun-Times, today:
    Sometimes this job is too easy. That whooshing noise you heard Tuesday was every pundit north of St. Louis lunging for a keyboard to heap ridicule on Gov. Blagojevich for his "testicular virility" quip.
But what about Aaron? He's not north of St. Louis. Perhaps Steinberg doesn't think Aaron is a pundit like he (Steinberg) is.

Please Step Out of the Vehicle, or Zzzzt
Tasers: or else the cops would have to shoot you for not getting out of your car:
    The two-mile pursuit ended on west 56th Street, but Martin refused to get out of the car. One deputy broke out a window and used a taser on him.
Cops wouldn't shoot the driver in the case, nor would they clap him with the billy club. Because those leave marks that look bad in photographs. Tasers, though, are nice alternatives to deadly force.

Judicial Pr0n
02-P-381 Appeals Court: JOHN DOE[1] vs. MARY MOE.[2]:
    Early in the morning of September 24, 1994, they were engaged in consensual sexual intercourse. The plaintiff was lying on his back while the defendant was on top of him. The defendant's body was secured in this position by the interlocking of her legs and the plaintiff's legs. At some point, the defendant unilaterally....
I forgot from whence I found that particular link, but I have to wonder who will be the first to demand that court cases like this be redacted from the public record to protect the impressionable minds of children.

UPDATE: I was remiss in not pointing out that I saw this story on Overlawyered.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Free Trivia Answer
Today's free answer to an unasked trivia question is:


Compare and Contrast Assignment
Your topic, today, gentle reader: Causes for Alarm.

Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails:
    Reznor said he began to grow worried about finances when he was told during a meeting with Malm and a lawyer in 2002 that there was "cause for alarm."

    The following year, he said, he asked Malm to tell him how much money he had. He said he was sent a financial statement that revealed he had at most $3 million in total assets and as little as $400,000 in cash.
Crew on the International Space Station:
    A balky Russian oxygen generator broke down on the International Space Station, but its two-man crew has a reserve air supply that would last about five months, NASA officials said Friday.

    The station's primary generator, which has been operating in an on-again, off-again fashion for months, stopped working last week and the station's crew has not been able to fix it.

    Mission managers say the unit has failed for good. Consequently, Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev and U.S. astronaut John Phillips will be relying on reserves until replacement parts arrive at the station in late August.

    Kylie Clem, a spokeswoman for NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, said the reserves would last well beyond the scheduled mid-June arrival at the station of a Russian space freighter with additional supplies.

    As it stands, oxygen supplies in a Progress cargo carrier now at the outpost will last until May 22 or May 23.

    The crew also is equipped with oxygen generators that work like drop-down emergency air supplies on commercial airliners. Supplies from those would last until early July. Beyond that, there is a 100-day oxygen supply in tanks attached to the station U.S. Quest airlock.

    Total air supply now onboard: About 140 days.
One of these situations is dire, and the other is not. Can you spot the difference?

Lileks Spreads Disinformation to Children
Lileks today:
    "You have FOUR STAR WARS?" Gnat asked. "Wow."

    There are actually five – well, six. But I sold the first one.


    "Because it was an embarrassing piece of tripe."

    "What’s tripe?"

    "It’s a kind of fish."
Everyone except Lileks, and now his daughter, knows that tripe is cattle guts.

I'm not too proud to LOUDLY CORRECT MISINFORMATION IN THE MAINSTREAMISH MEDIA! I am a BLOGGER! It's what I do to feel better about myself!

Taking the Step Down from Mechanical
More software problems with cars:
    A software problem is causing some Toyota Prius gas-electric hybrid cars to stall or shut down while driving at highway speeds, according to a published report.

    The Wall Street Journal reports that the problem involves Priuses from the 2004 model year and some early 2005 models.

    The newspaper reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has logged 13 reports of the engine shutdowns, while, a popular vehicle-information and shopping site, has had 13 individuals post complaints in a Prius forum. Some of the cars that shut down had to be towed to the shop before they could be restarted.
Well, that's the side effect of moving from mechanical engineering, which has had thousands of years of quality assurance to software engineering, which was supposed to have two weeks of quality assurance but development ran long, so it got two days, including a three hour status meeting and a two hour argument about which defects to fix before release and which to fix after the release.

(Link seen on /..)

From a story about how forfeiture laws are providing a windfall for small towns, we have this admission:
    A police officer, aided by a drug-sniffing German shepherd named Bella, parks his cruiser on the side of the expressway three or four days a week, looking for any vehicle that seems suspicious — a broken taillight, an expired license plate or simply a car that changes lanes excessively.

    That is all it takes to pull over someone who might be a drug courier. If the officer is lucky, he confiscates not only drugs but bundles of money.
Keep this in mind when your state legislature wants to add primary offenses such as seatbelt laws or cellphone use laws that allow police to pull you over for smaller and smaller reasons: they're making it easier for the police to use you as a lottery ticket.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Wants Pit Bullocide
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch might have taken an editorial stand on the whole round up all pit bulls and execute them idea: Do it!

Perhaps I'm reading a little too much into this story: Second pit bull attack injures boy:
    Frightened, exhausted and thankful — that’s how a St. Charles County man and his 13-year-old stepson described their feelings a day after surviving a viscous [sic] attack by a relative’s pit bull at their home.

    T-bone, a 3-year-old, 90-pound pit bull, was still biting Gary Wetteroff’s leg when sheriff’s deputies got to his home near St. Peters late Saturday night. The dog was trying to pull him to the ground.

    "It’s trying to kill me; kill the dog," Wetteroff yelled.

    A deputy used a Taser to try to stop the animal, but one of the electrodes missed. The second officer pushed Wetteroff against the wall near the stairwell and told everyone else to get away. He fired one round from his .40-caliber Glock, killing the dog.
The beloved family pit bull, which had earlier attacked and killed another dog, attacked a boy as he wrestled with his brother. The attack comes right after another pit bull attack in St. Charles:
    The incident was the second severe attack by a pit bull in St. Charles County in less than a week. Last Thursday, authorities said an autopsy revealed that Lorinze Reddings, 42, had been killed by his two pet pit bulls, who delivered a “sharp force and crushing injury to the neck,"[sic]
Why do I think that the Post-Dispatch has turned poochofascist? This paragraph:
    She [Theresa Williams, director of St. Charles County Animal Control] said that St. Charles County’s laws are not breed-specific in their enforcement of dangerous animals because they can come in many different shapes, sizes and forms.
Undoubtedly, the reporter asked the question and then composed this error-ridden piece to expose the whole pit bull problem in the St. Louis area with an eye to a solution: breed-specific enforcement (confiscation and extermination).

So keep an eye on it, gentle reader: when the dog bites man, it will be news in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch if it's a pit bull doing the biting, and it will be one more anecdote to drive bad legislation.

Monday, May 16, 2005
The Obvious Choice
As the Marquette Mascot thing continues (see The American Mind and Marquette Warrior for updates), I cannot help feel the deja-vu with the current process offered by the Marquette administration. It's like 1993 all over again.

Students (and now alumni) can offer suggestions, and the administration will choose the most innocuous and, oddly enough, lamest suggestions for a vote. No Warrior allowed. Then the students (and now alumni) will vote for the least stupid alternative. Granted, it's a learning experience for students who will have to face that sort of decision every election, but.

In the end, no one will be happy, but the administration will have its overly-conscious arrears covered.

So, sullenly, I'll add my suggestions, although it's certain never to turn up on the ballot even as students in 1994 never got to vote on the Marquette Fighting Octopi. Friends, fellow alumni, and gentle readers who could give less damn, here's a name I'm certain even the university president would love:

Marquette Wild

Hey, it worked for Minnesota.

Book Report: The Dick Tracy Casebook selected by Max Allan Collins and Dick Locher (1990)
I inherited The Dick Tracy Casebook from my aunt, who undoubtedly bought it at a garage sale to sell on eBay. So I got it free, which explains why I got it, since I'm not a particular fan of the comic strip.

This book collects some representative story arcs from the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Each story arc begins with one of the contemporary (for 1990--who knows what they do now) producers of the comic strip. Each one elevates, to the point of comic apotheosis, the forthcoming collection of black and white panels. Chester Gould at his greatest, this period in Dick Tracy, that period in Dick Tracy. It was a cartoon serial, for crying out loud.

As a serial, each story contains a single plotline. Given the daily nature of the serial, though, a large number of the individual panels sum up the action so far; that is, of a day's three or four panels, the panel deals with something that has already happened. Indeed, sometimes whole daily strips catch the reader up on the story so far. It gives the stories a particularly recursive feel.

The nature of the storylines also seemed, at times, a little as though Gould was trying to run the stories a little longer until he could maybe get his next idea. Two of the stories run 50 pages; at about the midpoint of the "Crewy Lou" story, the cops had Crewy Lou, but she escaped and a sudden brother decided to spend over a week trying to kill her for the dishonor to her family. And then she conks Tess Trueheart over the head and steals Dick Tracy's car and spends a week or so driving it through mountains. And so on and on.

Perhaps I'm not the comic connoisseur, but I didn't dwell over the panels. I didn't contrast the styles nor depictions of Dick Tracy at times in his career. Nor did I study the character names to determine their underlying meanings. I just read for the story, much like the book's selectors did when they first read Dick Tracy and quite unlike, so the introductions suggest, the book's selectors do now that they're doing

Get Your Geek On
Over at A Small Victory, Michele has posted a couple of radio spots for the original Star Wars.

Libraries in Jeopardy
Over at Draft Matt Blunt 2008, I dared to commend Matt Blunt for cutting the state's outlays for library information technology infrastructure.

At the University of Texas - Austin, they've gone the other way; they've removed all books from the library to turn it into an Internet cafe:
    Students attending the University of Texas at Austin will find something missing from the undergraduate library this fall.


    By mid-July, the university says, almost all of the library's 90,000 volumes will be dispersed to other university collections to clear space for a 24-hour electronic information commons, a fast-spreading phenomenon that is transforming research and study on campuses around the country.

    "In this information-seeking America, I can't think of anyone who would elect to build a books-only library," said Fred Heath, vice provost of the University of Texas Libraries in Austin.

    Their new version is to include "software suites" - modules with computers where students can work collaboratively at all hours - an expanded center for writing instruction, and a center for computer training, technical assistance and repair.
Libraries are moving from the repositories of information model to an entrance ramp to the information superhighway. As household Internet penetration continues to climb, libraries will make themselves as relevant as public television viewing points. But they get more budget and they get to convince themselves that even though they're librarians, they're not bookish.

Unfortunately, by moving to a service provider business model, so to speak, libraries marry themselves to continual, increasing costs of business. Whereas the library could alter the number of books to accommodate different fiscal realities, buying fewer in years with less revenue or more in periods when the government is flush, the move to the public Internet cafe means that costs will always escalate as the libraries need the latest technologies.

In Milwaukee, libraries are finding a cash crunch even though their budgets have gone up. Unfortunately, expenses are going up faster:
    Spending by public libraries in the Milwaukee area increased by 12% from 2000 through 2003, and more than half of the area's libraries raised operating expenditures by more than double the rate of inflation, a new analysis shows.

    The spending increases come as municipal governments - the primary source of library funding - are under growing pressure to hold down costs and taxes. But an unusual state law governing the funding of libraries makes it nearly impossible for local officials to make significant cuts in library budgets.

    "It is a bone of contention, especially in an environment where the Legislature is talking about things like tax levy freezes and spending limits," said Curt Witynski, assistant director of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, which has sought to have the law repealed.
This is the future of libraries in America; they're changing their model from performing a valuable service to the public (which most of the public, tragically, doesn't use) to offering an expensive service that most of the public will have in their own homes. Libraries are decreasing their relevance to become "hipper" and "sexier," but it ultimately will look as hip and sexy as 1920s swimwear.

Not Impossible, Just Arbitrary
Both Neil Steinberg and Richard Roeper have weighed in on the new ordnance, whoops, sorry, ordnance is against the law in Illinois, ordinance banning use of cell phones while driving.

Roeper calls the ordinance "impossible to enforce:"
    Last Thursday I was in a cab crossing Michigan Avenue. There was a temporary backup because of a truck backing into a garage just east of Michigan, and we found ourselves right next to a traffic cop. She could clearly see that my guy was gabbing away on his hands-free phone, but she didn't say a word to him about it. So I spoke up -- and he reluctantly hung up, just as he was sailing past the address I had given him in the first place.

    If cops don't care about the thousands of cabbies using hands-free phones, are they really going to direct their energies toward finding motorists using hand-held phones? Are they going to position themselves at the city limits, just waiting for an unsuspecting motorist to cross 87th Street while still on the phone?
My dear Mr. Roeper, it's not impossible to enforce, but it would take a lot of effort to enforce the new ordinance, taking law enforcement resource committments from more important things. Chicago cops won't enforce this ordinance every time they encounter an infraction, but they will enforce the ordinance when they want to. That is, when they want to stop you for something or take a look in your car, they'll simply pull you over for talking on the cell phone.

Legislation in the twenty-first century doesn't address major crimes against people and property; rape, murder, and assault have been illegal for centuries. Instead, our elected leaders have to search for new things to criminalize. They've got all day to think it up since that's their full time jobs: to examine new technologies and brainstorm about how to criminalize and/or tax it.

Who's Worse, the Fool or the Fool Who Badmouths His Country in France?
Picture this text scrolling up the screen before Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith:
    Lucas, speaking to reporters, emphasised that the original "Star Wars" was written at the end of the Vietnam war, when Richard Nixon was U.S. president, but that the issue being explored was still very much alive today.

    "The issue was, how does a democracy turn itself into a dictatorship?" he said.

    "When I wrote it, Iraq (the U.S.-led war) didn't exist... but the parallels of what we did in Vietnam and Iraq are unbelievable."

    He acknowledged an uncomfortable feeling that the United States was in danger of losing its democratic ideals, like in the movie.

    "I didn't think it was going to get this close. I hope this doesn't come true in our country."

Sunday, May 15, 2005
FCC Commissioners Don't Warn of Efforts to Over-Regulate Media
Story in St. Louis Post-Dispatch: FCC commissioners warn of effort to consolidate media:
    Two members of the Federal Communication Commission called upon the public Saturday to help their agency resist new efforts to relax rules allowing big corporations to own more television and radio stations.

    Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, the commission members, spoke before an overflow crowd to the National Conference for Media Reform at the Millennium Hotel in downtown St. Louis. More than 2,200 people from across the country are attending the three-day conference.

    The federal agency voted to relax its rules on media consolidation two years ago, but Congress and the courts intervened to stop it.

    Copps said the three Republican members of the commission, a majority, are ready to try again. He expects big media companies to bring "a lot of pressure" on the commission to allow more consolidation of newspapers and radio and television stations.
With the explosion of new media types such as blogging, podcasting, satellite radio, and coming media forms that are directly consumer-interactive such as streaming movies and Internet video, I think the major media companies will fight for a diminishing share of consumers.

However, certain segments of the FCC want to ensure that it retains the ability to regulate businesses as much as possible. Because as the audience fractures and the broadcast media become less relevant, so too the functionaries and appointees who regulate it. Unless the demonstrate some vision and leadership to intrude upon other, non-airwave media, too.

Rewriting Bush's War Rationale as Being Recast
The latest journalist to revise Bush's rationale for the Iraq War as only Weapons of Mass Destruction: Mark Silva of the Chicago Tribune:
    With American dissatisfaction over the conflict in Iraq reaching its highest level since the invasion two years ago--and the initial reasons for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein undermined by the discovery that he possessed no weapons of mass destruction--Bush has set out this year with carefully scripted tours of the recently liberated nations of Europe to cast all of these events as chapters of one great world saga.

    But the peaceful, homegrown movements of these nations bear little resemblance to what Bush has dubbed "Purple Revolution" of Iraq--named for ink-stains on the fingers of Iraqis who voted in January for a new government.

    Critics contend that the president is masking the original, and later discredited, reasons for invading Iraq with his vow to end world tyranny, a theme Bush voiced in his second-term inaugural address and has repeated across Europe.
Like Sylvester Brown, Jr., before him, Mark Silva and his unnamed critics don't remember this reason as existing prior to the war. They also seem eager to determine that the Iraq War and its democratic aftermath are unrelated to these peaceful revolutions.

Mere coincidence, perhaps, explains why these things are happening now in the age of straightforward, ultimatums-upheld foreign policy instead of in the economically-supercharged and multilateralist-triumphant 1990s where treaties were signed and discussions were held and the status quo remained.

Headline Versus Reality Dissonance
Shrieking headline: Animals in abandoned pet shop are discovered in squalid conditions.

    The Department of Agriculture is caring for 206 animals living at the Pampered Pets store in Alton Square mall while the shop's ownership is resolved in court.

    Management at Alton Square mall learned this week just how messy a business breakdown can be when pets are the merchandise.

    Matthew and Jessica Buckingham, the owners of the Pampered Pets store on the mall's second floor, defaulted on a loan and abandoned the store, said Jeff Squibb, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Agriculture. The agency regulates such businesses.
My dog, man! How long were those animals living in abandoned squalor?
    When the store did not open for business on Thursday, mall officials notified Alton authorities.

    "We arrived and found horrible conditions," said James Greer, Alton assistant chief of animal control. "When animals are unattended like that, even for a short time, things get filthy fast."
It sounds like the officials were confronted with the same amount of mess that pet store employees confront every morning, and the facts in the story imply that Thursday was the first day the store hadn't opened. The story, on the other hand, uses the appropriate words to imply the opposite.

Reflecting on Life Plus
    Two men each received two life sentences plus 512 years in prison on Friday for robbing a grocery store in St. Charles.
Wow. If Martin Luther had gotten that sentence for his 95 theses, he'd be eligible for release in 2128. Of course, in today's prosecution environment, he'd have gotten a separate count of something for each thesis.

It's good to see perspective and reasonability involved in sentencing. After all, with improvements in medical science, it's important that we as a society sentence offenders to half a milennium in prison.

Good Signs for Great Leaders
Just what we want in relationship of mobs of people to leaders: mass hysteria:
    "Everyone was screaming and jumping up and down. It was mass hysteria," claims a graduate of a women's liberal arts college in Decatur, GA, site of Sen. Hillary Clinton's commencement day address this weekend.
Will they do anything for their leader? Because that's the other sign of a too-successful Great Leader.

History Erasure Almost Complete
Professor Bainbridge points to an article that might indicate that the ruling class has almost succeeded in erasing history to its benefit:
    Who will be the Greatest American? Political giant Abraham Lincoln or Bill Clinton? Sports legend Babe Ruth or Tiger Woods? Media mogul Oprah Winfrey or Walt Disney? These remarkable people, and many more, have been named by America as some of the top 100 Greatest Americans.
The common man gets to vote for the greatest American from these choices:
    Abraham Lincoln
    Albert Einstein
    Alexander Graham Bell
    Alexander Hamilton
    Amelia Earhart
    Andrew Carnegie
    Arnold Schwarzenegger
    Audie Murphy
    Babe Ruth
    Barack Obama
    Barbara Bush
    Benjamin Franklin
    Bill Clinton
    Bill Cosby (William Henry Cosby, Jr.)
    Bill Gates
    Billy Graham
    Bob Hope
    Brett Favre
    Carl Sagan
    Cesar Chavez
    Charles Lindbergh
    Christopher Reeve
    Chuck Yeager
    Clint Eastwood
    Colin Powell
    Condoleezza Rice
    Donald Trump
    Dwight D. Eisenhower
    Eleanor Roosevelt (Anna Eleanor Roosevelt)
    Ellen DeGeneres
    Elvis Presley
    Frank Sinatra
    Franklin D. Roosevelt
    Frederick Douglass
    George H. W. Bush
    George W. Bush
    George Lucas
    George Patton
    George Washington
    George Washington Carver
    Harriet Ross Tubman
    Harry Truman
    Helen Keller
    Henry Ford
    Hillary Rodham Clinton
    Howard Hughes
    Hugh Hefner
    Jackie Robinson (Jack Roosevelt Robinson)
    Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
    Jesse Owens
    Jimmy Carter
    Jimmy Stewart
    John Edwards
    John Glenn
    John F. Kennedy
    John Wayne
    Johnny Carson (John William Carson)
    Jonas Edward Salk
    Joseph Smith Jr.
    Katharine Hepburn
    Lance Armstrong
    Laura Bush
    Lucille Ball
    Lyndon B. Johnson
    Madonna (Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone)
    Malcolm X (Malcolm Little)
    Marilyn Monroe
    Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
    Martha Stewart
    Martin Luther King Jr.
    Maya Angelou
    Mel Gibson
    Michael Jackson
    Michael Jordan
    Michael Moore
    Muhammad Ali (Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.)
    Neil Alden Armstrong
    Nikola Tesla
    Oprah Winfrey
    Pat Tillman
    Dr. Phil McGraw
    Ray Charles
    Richard Nixon
    Robert Kennedy
    Ronald Reagan
    Rosa Parks
    Rudolph W. Giuliani
    Rush Limbaugh
    Sam Walton
    Steve Jobs
    Steven Spielberg
    Susan B. Anthony
    Theodore Roosevelt
    Thomas Edison
    Thomas Jefferson
    Tiger Woods
    Tom Cruise
    Tom Hanks
    Walt Disney
    Wrights Brothers (Orville & Wilbur Wright)

Excellent! The blurring of historical achievement and current celebrity. Once the process of completely eliminating a sense of history from citizens occurs, the greatest Americans will narrow to contemporary celebrities and political figures. Wirhout a perspective on history, who will we be to challenge the thoughts and views of the Greatest Americans as they tell us what to do and think?

My, aren't I dystopian in the morning?

Prometheus Unhinged
I've been skimming David Greenberg's rather disagreeable posts at Daniel and quietly disagreed them. Little did I realize that Greenberg's excursion into the blogosphere was an anthropoorelitist study where he was Dian Fossey and we were the gorillas. He's published his findings in the peer-reviewed New York Times:
    As I checked other sites for ideas, I now realized that I didn't need only new information. I needed a gimmick - a motif or a running joke that would keep the blog rolling all week. All of a sudden, I was reading other blogs, not for what they had to say, but for how they said it.
    It's not that the readers were dim. Some forced me to refine or clarify my arguments. But the responses certainly got reductive, very quickly. And for all the individuality that blogs are supposed to offer, there was an amazing amount of groupthink - since some of them were getting their talking points from ... other blogs.

    By the end of the week, with other deadlines looming and my patience exhausted, I began to post less and less. There was a piece for Slate due, a book chapter to finish, my baby boy, Leo, to entertain and a piece to write for the Week in Review.
So you see, while he enjoyed his trips to the darkest underbelly of commentary, he had real work to do, and with regret could no longer post to the low quality standards he'd set for himself and the presumably knuckle-dragging readership and commentariat.

Nothing like a little slumming to shore up your liberal cred. Oh, I know, it's under the guise of broadening your horizons or trying something new. If you perform the task with the idea that it will confirm your preconceptions, though, you're probably right--but your horizons are no more broad, and you've really only tried the same old thing.

More at:

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