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Sunday, July 30, 2006

another reason not to see miami vice

The girlfriend wanted to see "Miami Vice", but I suspected it was a paean to the "heroes" of the drug war, so I talked her out of it and we went to see the hilarious "Clerks II" instead. MV has not been getting good reviews and I just found out today that there is another good reason not to drop one's money on this stinker:
The movie did have one thing that was extremely interesting though, the next campaign from the DRM infection folk. They are now starting to equate piracy, or their version of it, with all the things that are bad in the world. Remember the 'piracy funds terrorists' laugher a few months ago? They learned, and are doing it through the back door now, the front door got them nowhere.

Now, they are slipping the message in through 'blowoff' lines, trying to infect modern culture. There was a scene in Miami Vice where they were discussing the big bad drug dealers, and how international they were. The good guys listed all the thing the bad guys were capable of bringing into the US, Cocaine, Heroin, etc etc. They listed it as coke from Coumbia, heroin from Afganistan, X from Y and A from B. Pretty normal stuff. At the end, they added 'pirated software from China'.
Spotted via Boing Boing.

stopping the violence

I've long believed that the best way to reduce America's (and Mexico's) huge homicide rate(s) would be to end the war on drugs. Over at Alternet, Norm Stamper lays it out in "How Legalizing Drugs Will End the Violence":
Illegal drugs are expensive precisely because they are illegal. The products themselves are worthless weeds -- cannabis (marijuana), poppies (heroin), coca (cocaine) -- or dirt-cheap pharmaceuticals and "precursors" used, for example, in the manufacture of methamphetamine. Yet today, marijuana is worth as much as gold, heroin more than uranium, cocaine somewhere in between. It is the U.S.'s prohibition of these drugs that has spawned an ever-expanding international industry of torture, murder and corruption. In other words, we are the source of Mexico's "drug problem."
I have one quibble with the article, though. The author says:
Using the Brady Bill "loophole" (and congressional and presidential failure to extend the ban on assault rifles), all it takes is a phony stateside driver's license and a handful of cash to walk out with semi-automatic Uzis, AR-15s and AK-47s.
This is a myth, there is no gun show loophole. The laws that apply at a gun show are the exact same that apply everywhere else. The assault weapon ban was a feel-good law for left-wing gun haters, nothing more. See here and here for more.

Spotted via Drug War Rant.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

doot doot

Wow, the stuff you can learn from Wikipedia. I've always kind of liked the electronic music band Underworld, since first hearing them in the mid to late 90's. I've also always remembered the song "doot doot", by a group called Freur, since first hearing it in the early 80's (and never hearing it again, except from my own homemade cassette tape). I never knew until yesterday, while surfing around on Wikipedia, that the two main guys from Underworld, Karl Hyde and Rick Smith, were the same two guys who formed Freur. I'm sure most true Underworld fans already knew this, but since I've been more or less a casual fan of the band, it had eluded me all these years.

By the way, Freur was a name the group came up with under pressure, because they were originally known as just an unpronounceable squiggle symbol. This was years before Prince pulled the same trick with his unpronounceable symbol. You can see the video for "doot doot" here, not that the video is anything special, but it is a cool song.

It's things like this that make me wonder how many other connections between various people and things am I unaware of, even though I'm aware of the individual things themselves.

never peace when a war will do

How repellant and evil can the Bush administration be? Pretty evil, I think. Justin Logan points out that Dubya had a chance to gain an ally in the war on terror, but turned it down:
Finally, one is hard pressed to...explain away the reckless and shameful incompetence of the hawk faction in the Bush administration as described by the Washington Post. The Iranians approached the Bush administration directly in 2002 (after the ridiculous “axis of evil” speech!) and proposed cooperating against al Qaeda, informing the US of the identities of 290 members of al Qaeda that Iran had captured and sent back to their countries. The Iranians proposed further cooperation against al Qaeda.
Now the Neo-cons are proposing bombing Iran!

Be sure to read Logan's full post to get a taste of the attack-happy attitude of this administrations defenders.

Monday, July 24, 2006

krugman approves the killing of innocent people

Here's Paul Krugman defending the African National Congress:
the A.N.C. ... did pursue violent resistance, in which some innocent people were killed, but was remarkably restrained considering the situation
So killing the innocent is OK, as long as it's done in support of something noble, like ending Apartheid? I did not know that.

Spotted via Economist's View.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

warmongering "christians" and ecclesio-leninists

William Norman Grigg has a great post about the State-worshipping, warmongering Evangelical Christian movement and its Rockefeller-funded origins during the years prior to World War I. Excerpt:
America's might, invested in the European conflict, would be used to build a “united world,” predicted Edward Everett Hale, and “the united world is to be one empire of the Living God.” To that end, preached G. Sherwood Eddy, a world-renowned evangelist and Asia secretary for the YWCA, the generation then living had to learn to sacrifice themselves on behalf of abstractions.

The “challenge to our generation,” insisted Eddy, is “sacrificial and heroic, like the crusaders of the Middle Ages, like the battle-charge of Islam, or the communism-or-death alternative appealing to Lenin and his revolutionary followers.”

Mohammedans and Leninists strike me as the least commendable examples for Christian youth.

But then again, I've always understood that Christians worship Jesus, not the State, and I've always believed that feeding young people into the maw of the war machine was a form of child sacrifice every bit as satanic as that practiced by those who worshiped Molech.

World War I represented, in many ways, the triumph of a religious class we could call the “Ecclesio-Leninists”: Clerics who preached submission to the state and support for its wars, as the essence of Christian patriotism. The following poem published by Rev. William P. Merrill in the Christian Century just shortly after US entry into World War I could be used as the Ecclesio-Leninist creed:

The strength of the State we'll lavish on more
Than making of wealth and making of war;
We are learning at last, though the lesson comes late,
That the making of man is the task of the State.
Unfortunately, it isn't limited to Evangelical Christians; the warmongering, state-worshipping mentality has infected many members of the Roman Catholic faith, as well as other non-evangelical Christian denominations.

I know many catholics and protestants that support Bush and his wars without question (as well as many that don't). It boggles the mind that someone can profess to support life and the commandment "thou shalt not kill", unless we're talking about Iraqis and the all-mighty Bush says that killing them is the right thing to do. The fact that civilians are accidentally slaughtered by the thousands is "unfortunate".

It's one thing for the flock to be mistaken, but what about the shepherds? At the sermons in the RC churches I attend, I regularly hear the priests speak about the evils of abortion (as well they should), but the priests are silent regarding anything about war and just-war theory. This is despite the fact that JPII spoke in no uncertain terms throughout his long tenure as Pope about just that, a holy thorn in the side of both Bush's (and ultimately ignored, of course). Don't get me wrong; the priests aren't whooping up hysteria for Bush's wars, and for all I know they may be against them. But their silence on the issue is deafening.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

screw the shampoo: week 2

Well, yesterday marked the second week since I stopped shampooing and conditioning my hair. The only thing I've washed it with is the warm, fresh Lake Michigan water issuing forth from my shower head.

Nobody has recoiled in horror upon seeing me (well, no more so than usual); in fact, my hair looks and feels good, and behaves quite well. It definitely feels more "conditioned" than it ever did before, I guess because I'm no longer stripping out the natural oils.

I still have some flaking that falls off when I scratch my head, but nothing visible on the head itself. It itches less than after week 1, almost not at all. I especially like the way it looks and behaves consistently from day to day, whereas before it could be quite inconsistent between the shampoo and the non-shampoo days.

Since it's going well, I'll wait until the 4 week point before my next post about this, unless there is some major development.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

reelin' in a giant humboldt squid... the coast of San Diego. See the video here.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

screw the shampoo: week 1

Well, I've gone my first week without shampoo! I know what you're thinking: jmc, what the heck are you talking about? Did I miss the first post about this intriguing topic?

I confess that I deliberately did not mention it until now. I wanted to make sure I could make it a week before I blabbed about it.

Here's the deal: I've recently read several different accounts of normal people (i.e. who have lives and don't live on the street) who went for 6 weeks or longer without washing their hair. See here and here, for example, and for a truly hilarious account, see this piece by Jason Headley. Most of the reports are positive. After a rough start, the natural oil production adapts to the new routine and the hair looks great every day without anything touching it except water.

It's not that I spend a lot of money on the small quantities required to wash my short hair, but the routine of lather, rinse, condition, and rinse again does take valuable time in the morning, time that I could be sleeping. Plus, why should I be a slave to Procter & Gamble, forcing me like a drug addict to carry around a supply of their magical potions everywhere I go?

So my plan is simple: I will not wash my hair for 6 weeks, and report on the progress. If it works out, I'll continue the experiment indefinitely...

I will be rinsing it with water whenever I shower (which is normally once per day), but no shampoos, conditioners, gels, creams, etc. will be applied to my dome. I should point out that my usual routine has been to wash my hair about 3 times per week with Pantene shampoo, then condition with Pantene conditioner each time. My hair is only about an inch to an inch and a half long, and I get it cut about every 6 weeks or so. I'm about midway between haircuts now, so if I follow through on this thing that means I'll be getting one haircut before it's over.

How do I feel after one week as a shampoo teetotaler? I think my hair actually looks slightly better than usual. All the hairs seem to be getting along well with each other and falling into place perfectly, and they even seem a bit shinier than usual. On the downside, my scalp is a little bit itchy, and I've seen some flaking come off onto my shirt when I scratch my head. I cannot see any flakes in my hair, though. As for smell, my wife took a direct snort this morning and confirmed that there is no smell whatsoever.

I'm encouraged so far; hopefully the flaking thing will work itself out over time. Who knows, maybe the change of environment will encourage those lazy slacker follicles on my bald spot to kick into action, recolonizing the dead zone with a fresh crop of sproutlings? Ridiculous, of course, but I can dream, can't I?

british banker connected with enron scandal winds up dead

The police are treating his death as "unexplained" according to this BBC report. A little weird, don't ya think? And there's more details from this TimesOnline story:
THE body of a senior banker who was expected to give evidence at the trial of the NatWest Three was found yesterday hours before his former colleagues were due to be handed over to US marshals.

Supporters of the three former bankers said that Neil Coulbeck, who was found dead in parkland six days after he disappeared, had been under immense pressure and hounded by American investigators. The discovery came as MPs staged an extraordinary protest at Britain’s extradition arrangements with the US by voting to adjourn the Commons early.

Both Tony Blair and Robert Tuttle, the US Ambassador, tried to defuse the row by insisting that extradition terms between the two countries were roughly the same, despite the US failure to ratify a treaty agreed in 2003 and implemented by Britain.

The three men are accused of conspiring with executives of the collapsed US energy giant Enron to cheat the bank that once employed them out of £11 million. David Bermingham, Gary Mulgrew and Giles Darby are due to fly to the US today at 9.30am from Gatwick...

great news

"Bush: Florida crime rate down to lowest level since 71":
Florida's crime rate dropped for the 14th straight year in 2005 to its lowest mark since 1971 because of tougher laws, increased financial support from the Legislature and law-abiding citizens with guns, Gov. Jeb Bush said Tuesday.

"This report shows that staying tough on crime works," said Bush. "Law abiding citizens that have guns for protection actually probably are part of the reason we have a lower crime rate."
Jeb Bush is one of the few Republicans that are not so bad. He's signed some great laws for Florida, including the recent "stand your ground" law and he's got the balls to say that guns in private hands are good. Two cheers for Jeb!

syd barrett, r.i.p.

The crazy diamond shines no more, having succumbed to complications from diabetes on July 7. See this Slate article about his life.

I guess the news of his death came out yesterday, but I missed it somehow. When I was a kid my brother purchased a copy of "The Madcap Laughs", and some of those songs, recorded when Syd was half crazy (at least), have stuck with me all this time. You never know what's going to get absorbed into your musical psyche.

Monday, July 10, 2006

wow, now it's space ballet!!!

In a new article entitled "Discovery astronauts perform spacewalk 'ballet'", again linked to from Drudge (with a picture), we get treated to more drama from the current shuttle mission. It's pathetic, really, how they feebly try to garner interest in the same old same old:
... [Astronauts Piers] Sellers and [Mike] Fossum, who a day earlier said the spacewalk would be "quite a ballet," moved to another spot on the ISS to install a spare pump module to an external stowage platform...

...The astronauts then moved to the shuttle's payload bay to make a tricky equipment swap. With his feet secured on a strap on the cargo bay, Sellers at one point held the old and new cable reels simultaneously during a handoff with Fossum, who was held horizontally by the ISS's robotic arm.

Before replacing the part, the astronauts took a moment to admire the view about 350 kilometers (220 miles) above Earth.

"It's like standing in an all-around Imax (3D movie theater). It's just beautiful," Sellers said...
Glad you like the show, Piersy-boy! It's only costing about a billion dollars a year to keep these space jalopies running, so you damn well better appreciate it.

Sincerely yours,

a fellow American who gets reamed in the ass every April 15 by Uncle Sam so that you can be in the space ballet

matthew yglesias agrees with me

Matt Y. writes:
But a lot of people seem to think that American military might is like one of these power rings. They seem to think that, roughly speaking, we can accomplish absolutely anything in the world through the application of sufficient military force. The only thing limiting us is a lack of willpower.
As I wrote in 2004, over at Brooke Oberwetter's old blog:
Alas, I doubt that the neocons who are so keen on national greatness will ever learn. The above brings to mind a pet theory I've had for a few years: that when it comes to the military, conservatives sound just like leftists: it's always a lack of money or will that causes the failure, not any intrinsic flaw in the ideas behind it.
Spotted via Hit & Run.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

a tiny victory

Over at The Volokh Conspiracy, Dave Kopel enthusiastically reports "U.N. Conference Ending, Freedom Winning!!":
As of 6 p.m. eastern time, the word from the United Nations small arms conference is that the conference is concluding with NO final document, and NO plans for any follow-up conference.
Who's responsible for this wonderful outcome? Why, Bush, of course:
If a few hundred votes had changed in Florida in 2000, or if 60,000 votes had changed in Ohio in 2004, the results of the 2001 and 2006 U.N. gun control conferences would have been entirely different. There would now be a legally binding international treaty creating an international legal norm against civilian gun ownership, a prohibition on the transfer of firearms to "non-state actors" (such as groups resisting tyrants), and a new newspeak international human rights standard requiring restrictive licensing of gun owners.
While I'm as glad as anyone that this foolish conference flopped, it is simply not that case that if Al Gore had won in 2000, we would be inexorably on the path to gun confiscation. Any treaty would still have to be passed by the U. S. Senate, which has more than enough Republicans to vote it down.

While it's nice to have a president who is very pro-gun, this result is a tiny drop of goodness in a vast sea of evil that is the Bush Administration. The evil and unnecessary war in Iraq, the non-stop encroachment on the rest of the Bill of Rights, outweigh anything good Dubya has done by a long shot.

Why are they so good on this issue and so bad on everything else? Is it just because of the NRA? Stuff like this seems to throw the thuggish behavior of this administration into sharp relief because it makes it clear that they can stand up for rights when they want to, they just don't want to.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

spacewalking? no way!

Drudge's current headline, complete with photo, links to this AP story, as if it's some sort of new scientific breakthrough here in the year of 2006.
Astronauts Piers Sellers and Mike Fossum climbed out of an airlock on the international space station Saturday, starting a spacewalk to fix the complex's rail transporter and test whether a boom can be used to make repairs to the space shuttle.

The 6 1/2-hour jaunt, which began as the space station passed over Asia 220 miles below, was to be the first spacewalk for Fossum and the fourth for Sellers.
Golly gee, you mean to tell me that men are actually floating space...outside of the craft!? Let's increase NASA's budget...this is TOO COOL!

Men have been spacewalking since 1965, starting with cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov. This is what the space program has boiled down to...repeating events done decades ago, or performing worthless experiments in space that no company in it's right mind would even consider spending money on. And all the while, the compliant press (like Mr. Drudge) plays up every stupid event as if it's happening for the first time.

Friday, July 07, 2006

nature conservancy buys out fishermen

As reported in this article:
SAN FRANCISCO - For four generations, Geoff Bettencourt's family has fished the waters off Half Moon Bay by dragging heavy nets across the ocean floor to scoop up the sole and cod that feed there.

But the 35-year-old may soon sell his right to trawl the sea - not to another fisherman, but to environmentalists.

The Nature Conservancy, an international environmental group best known for buying development rights from farmers, is looking to strike similar deals with fishermen along the coast in a pilot program that it said could be repeated elsewhere.

The group has bought six federal trawling permits and four trawling vessels from fishermen in Morro Bay, about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The tactic is designed to reward fishermen for forgoing fishing methods that can damage sensitive marine ecosystems.

Financial details weren't disclosed, but each fisherman received "several hundred thousand dollars a piece," said Chuck Cook, director of the group's California coastal and marine program. Rather than punishing fishermen, Cook said, "you try to provide economic incentives for treating the habitats and fisheries well."

The Conservancy said its acquisitions represent the nation's first private buy-out of Pacific fishing vessels and permits for conservation purposes. The buy-outs are also part of its new, cooperative approach to protecting the ocean. Fishermen saw some past campaigns as financial burdens.
The heroic Nature Conservancy is the only environmental group I've ever had any respect for, taking a commendable private property-based approach to protecting natural resources.

massacre at farmhouse in iraq

Read this L.A. Times story, if you can stomach it.
"Never in my mind could I have imagined such a gruesome sight," Abu Firas Janabi said of the day in March when his cousin, Fakhriya Taha Muhsen; her husband, Kasim Hamza Rasheed; and their two daughters were slain and their farmhouse set ablaze.

"Kasim's corpse was in the corner of the room, and his head was smashed into pieces," he said. The 5-year-old daughter, Hadel, was beside her father, and Janabi said he could see that Fakhriya's arms had been broken.

In another room, he found 15-year-old Abeer, naked and burned, with her head smashed in "by a concrete block or a piece of iron."

"There were burns from the bottom of her stomach to the end of her body, except for her feet," he said.
We're going to constantly hear about how this is just "a few bad apples", so it's nothing to worry about. I believe the vast majority of our soldiers would never behave like this, but this is what Bush's war has wrought. The entire war was unjust from the beginning. Thousands of innocents have been slaughtered since it started, and that is the fact we must always keep in mind. Those who steered us toward war are 1000 times more guilty than the sickos who committed this farmhouse atrocity.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


My wife and I watched "Catwoman" last night, which we had recorded from HBO-HD. The critics hated it, and it bombed at the box office, but this was an HD version, man, so I had to see it!

Well, believe it or not I actually enjoyed it. The special effects are good - they really get the cat movements down well (some sort of CGI I assume). As for Halle Berry, I don't think anyone would have looked as good in the Catwoman getup as she did. I should also mention that there are also some real cats in the story that are used quite effectively.

The story isn't that great - evil comsmetics manufacturer resorts to murder in order to cover up a seriously defective new product they're about to launch. Seriously, how long do they think they can get away with selling a product that will destroy the skin of its users (or worse...) as soon as they stop using it? The same product gave the arch-villain her super-powers, too; suffice it to say the parts of the story don't add up very well. By the way, the story has absolutely nothing to do with any of the DC Catwoman incarnations; it's not set in Gotham City (it's set in some other fictional city), and even Catwoman's secret identity is different. With a little effort I think they could have set the story within the DC universe. I have no idea why they chose not to.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

happy independence day!

Just had to say it.

i'll be impressed when they can get michael moore to fast

One of my theories about political activism is that it's often done to make the activist feel good about himself rather than to accomplish anything useful. This usually manifests itself on the left in the form of meaningless, publicity producing stunts. The latest antic is to go on an anti-war fast. Most of these fasters are only going on a one day fast!

Why don't these overpaid entertainers do something useful like donate to or some other organization that is doing real work exposing and documenting the fundamental problems of war? Do these hijinks convince anyone who isn't already on the loony left?

Monday, July 03, 2006

i feel good about the penny

Many years ago (I think it was 1988), I recall an argument between myself and jmc about whether the penny should be dumped. I think jmc got the better of me at the time, but now the opportunity to strike back with a devastating rejoinder has arrived. Sure, it's an argument from authority, but I feel confident that jmc will be speechless.

crack found in discovery external tank insulation!

That's the headline from this Spaceflight Now headline. Man oh man, what a roundabout way to smuggle some crack cocaine from Florida to California. Is this an effort by NASA to become financially self-sufficient? If so, I applaud their efforts.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

back from vegas

Sorry for the lack of posting, but I was attending a conference in Vegas last week, and I'm still recovering...

I hadn't been to Sin City in about 4 years. My advice: if you're planning to go in the near future, do NOT stay at the Monte Carlo, which is where I stayed (and where the conference was). The main reason I say this is that just about the entire area surrounding this hotel is under construction, and the construction vehicles start work around 5:30 AM. Yes, I was awakened each day at that godawful time to the in-reverse warning beeps of those self-same construction vehicles. This construction will be ongoing for at least another year or two.

After the first night, I complained. The hotel gave me a $20/night break on the hotel bill, and comped a buffet meal, so they did try to make amends. They put me in another room facing a different direction, which was only slightly better. To make matters worse, the bathtub in the new room had a clogged drain. After a 5 minute shower the water was up to my ankles. I can't stand the idea that water that is touching my skin is also touching whatever disgusting items are clogging the drain, so after each shower I would get out and then re-wash my ankles and feet from outside the tub.

The casino itself at the Monte Carlo is actually quite nice - it's one of the least smoky I've seen, and it's not so large that you will get lost in it, like so many others. Plus, the on-site brewpub was excellent as usual (I recommend the pale ale). It's annoying, though, that the tram to the Belagio is not running during this construction period.

One more thing - if you take a cab from McCarren airport to a hotel on the strip, instruct the driver to take Tropicana blvd. and NOT the expressway. My cab driver took the expressway, which costs about $8-$10 more than the Tropicana route, and isn't any faster. Apparently a lot of these asshole cab drivers are pulling this scam, according to the honest cabbie who brought me back to the airport.

superman returns

The girlfriend and I went to see "Superman Returns" last night. It was good, but it should have been great. The main problem was that it was a virtual re-make of the original Superman movie from 1978. The plot closely resembles the original and several lines of dialog are lifted straight from the 1978 flick. One could take the movie as an homage to the original, but why didn't the director, Bryan Singer, do something new? He's clearly capable of doing great superhero movies, like the first two X-men films, but he's just fallen flat with this one.

Other complaints include the actress playing Lois Lane. She just doesn't resemble the character from the comic books. Is it really that hard to get a decent actress who looks the part? Also, the sub-plot involving Lois' son didn't really add anything to the movie and was left unresolved at the end.

I still give it a thumbs up rating, mostly because my standards for superhero movies are so low, based the fact that they seem so hard to do well. It's doing well at the box office, so maybe we can expect an original picture for the sequel.