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September 20, 2004

Media Self-Flaggelation Begins At Home 

posted by Paul Smith @ 4:18 PM
Memo to the hand-wringing execs at CBS and all the tittering masses from other news outlets: shut the fuck up. You do not get to whine about a crisis of journalistic integrity until you own up to the collossal, across-the-board failure to properly inform this country's citizenry during the march to invade Iraq. That's a real crisis, one we've all been living with for almost two years now and will endure the consequences of for some time to come.

September 18, 2004

Let's Re-Invade Vietnam 

posted by Paul Smith @ 1:15 AM
Bill Maher makes the case, for our national healing:
Plus, Vietnam doesn't have any weapons of mass destruction, any links to 9/11, or any ties to Al Qaeda—they're practically asking for it!

September 17, 2004

Exploding Jet Engine 

posted by Paul Smith @ 9:20 PM
It was likely a large bird that got sucked into the engine, tearing it apart and sending fuel spraying into the air. Apparently and not surprisingly, mid-air collisions with birds are quite common. Makes me wonder: can't they outfit the front of a jet engine with a wire mesh, enough to deflect a bird or other airborne debris from entering the engine, but thin enough not to disrupt the air flow? I imagine there are probably interesting things that happen to air when it's blowing in at around 600 miles an hour, where something seemingly inocuous like wire mesh could, say, cause small ripples that are amplified at high speeds, but it seems as if that could be designed away, changing the shape of the mesh or the spacing between wires, something to that effect.

Defeat a Kryptonite Bike Lock 

posted by Paul Smith @ 11:08 AM
It's amazing how this story has escalated, really touched a nerve. I first heard of it over at Boing Boing earlier this week, then it circulated at work (we probably have more than an average number of bike commuters), and now the front graphic story of nytimes.com.

Paging David Cross:
"There was murmuring on various Web sites, and so I decided to go home and pick up a pen and see it if works," said Benjamin Running, a graphic designer who lives in downtown Brooklyn. "Sure enough, within 30 seconds I had broken into my $90 lock. I was in awe. My jaw literally dropped to the floor. It was so easy." [My emphasis.]
Oh, shit, dude. Wow—so, what did you do about your disembodied jaw?

September 16, 2004

Are You Still Using Internet Explorer? 

posted by Paul Smith @ 4:52 PM
A little change of pace here—at right, I've added a link button for the Firefox web browser. The result of an open source software development community organized by the Mozilla Foundation, Firefox is a superior modern browser that's quickly replacing Internet Explorer on desktops all over.

To most people, their web browser is the Internet, so the idea of switching to another browser is borderline nonsensical. But the reason I'm pimping it out is simply, if you want to your computer to be secure when you browse the Internet, you shouldn't use Internet Explorer. It's not just an intellectual exercise; there are vulnerabilities in the code of Internet Explorer that, if exploited, could let some shady character out there literally take control of your computer. This is to say nothing of all the annoying worms, viruses, and spywares that Internet Explorer let pass because of its poor quality design. And that's not just me saying it; this is from a division of the Department of Homeland Security.

The Mozilla people will rightly tell you that Firefox stands on its own not just as an Internet Explorer alternative: it's faster and better at rendering HTML. Unfortunately, there are a handful of sites that, for various reasons, only work correctly with Internet Explorer: I keep a copy around solely for my car sharing reservation service (disclosure: I work at the company which runs that car sharing business), a deficiency they are actively working to resolve. I've heard reports that some banking sites won't work with anything other than Internet Explorer. But for practically 99.9% of the WWW, you will have a faster, better-looking, and safer browsing experience with Firefox. And of course it's free! (As in "beer" and "speech.")

One of my day trades is web development, which explains my nerdy excitement over a piece of software. But I think this is one of those cases where the entire Internet-using community benefits; by taking an easy step to protect your own computer, everyone's electronic security is increased.

AA Jet Makes Emergency Landing At O'Hare 

posted by Paul Smith @ 3:21 PM
Weird. There was just that report on NPR—I believe it was during All Things Considered—about how American has turned things around after a trip to bankruptcy court, mostly by having the employees make suggestions to improve the specific ways they work. And one of the changes that was highlighted was how the engine mechanics said they could be more efficient if they could have the engines mounted vertically instead of horizontally like they are on the plane. The change was implemented, it made the engines easier and quicker to service, and it's saving American millions of dollars. Of course, I have no way of knowing if these two stories are connected, but it's a coincedence worth mentioning.

UPDATE: Nope: a bird got sucked into the engine.

September 15, 2004

Credit Where Due? 

posted by Paul Smith @ 4:30 PM
Syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker notices bloggers and goes out of her way to pat them on their collective back, now that something has happened that suits her politics:
But the piece de resistance has occurred over the past several days, as bloggers questioned the authenticity of documents CBS News presented allegedly proving that President Bush received preferential treatment in the National Guard.
But, they didn't debunk the documents authenticity in any conclusive way. It wasn't until someone with first-hand knowledge came forward that the forgeries were revealed for what they are. The right-wing bloggers just threw a bunch of stuff out there and hoped some of it would stick. Questions they raised, like whether it was possible to produce proportional type in that year, were ultimately dismissed. They were simply astride the issue, a minor piece of the larger conservative bullhorn that shouts down any attempt to discredit Bush.

September 14, 2004

Outspoken: Chicago’s Free Speech Tradition 

posted by Scott @ 11:08 PM
This exhibit at the Newberry Library looks great.
This exhibit about Chicago's vibrant history of free expression includes approximately 130 objects from the collections of the Newberry Library and the Chicago Historical Society. Objects on display include artifacts, photographs, letters, magazines, newspapers, and ephemera relating to: slavery, immigration, labor relations, women's suffrage, communism, women's liberation, 1960s counterculture, presidential elections, Indian rights, Black Power, gay rights, and recent anti-war protests.
Go check out the website, exhibit starts Oct 1 and runs through mid-January. The Newberry Library has an incredible collection so this shouldn't disappoint. Maybe in 50 years, blogs will be on display. I think Zorn and Archpundit should offer to have themselves stuffed and displayed for that. Jeremy Bentham did it and he's a huge crowd magnet in London.

Great Idea 

posted by Paul Smith @ 10:43 PM
Why isn't Jon Stewart writing speeches for Kerry? (Thanks, Crumb Crisp Coating.)

Electoral Vote Predictor 

posted by Paul Smith @ 11:21 AM
If you've not made the superlative Electoral Vote Predictor a part of your daily browsing, what's the matter with you? If you haven't visited it recently, there's lots of new features to explore, including today's new addition, the cartogram, showing the U.S. map with states sized in proportion to the number of electoral votes they have.

Quote of the Day 

posted by Paul Smith @ 10:45 AM
From Burt Constable in the Daily Herald:
Flanked by two turtles, a frog, a toad, a salamander and a snake, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn on Wednesday launched those candidates' campaigns for the offices of Illinois state amphibian and state reptile, confusing those of us who were left to wonder what the heck Alan Keyes has been running for.

September 13, 2004

Senate Round-up 

posted by Paul Smith @ 9:39 PM
I've been away from Polis for a while. I'm going to ease back into it. What better way than with a news round-up of our favorite local political contest?

September 03, 2004

Balloon Bounce 

posted by Scott @ 2:49 PM
So there's really not a hell of a lot to say about the RNC. Like the DNC it was
a scripted infomercial to shift the undecided public's perception of the
beleaguered President with scattered servings of redmeat for the faithful.

Of course the whole point of these conventions is to provide a particular
party's interpretation of the stakes of the race and the quality of the other
candidate, but I don't think any objective observer could deny that the GOP
took spin to a whole new level this week. According to the GOP, Kerry and the
rest of the Dems want to create a special veto seat in Congress for the UN,
change the national language to French, and install a special Hugs Department
to combat terrorist attacks (of course after they occur).

I'm not sure who buys this sort of crap, even right leaning moderates aren't
that gullible, but my fear is that, like smear, tactics these sort of
distortions have the ability to stick, despite the fact that everyone knows
that they are b.s.. The fact is that such lies in the end work and when backed
into a corner, even a sitting President will resort to them (he's had good
practice with this of course). The reality of this depresses me.

My convention watching was exclusively with PBS. I like Jim Lehrer and David
Brooks and Mark Shields are pretty decent pundits. The main reason I stuck with
PBS was probably more because that was my only option for full coverage. While
I'm a huge news junkie, I'm also a poor grad student so cable ain't an option
(why the hell is it so expensive?!).

So yes by the end of the week I could barely hold back the urge to knee David
Brooks in the balls and Ray Suarez get creepier and creepier by the minute, but
out of some need for continuity I stuck with PBS even when the other networks
joined in the coverage.

Not known for their humor, the PBS team provided probably the best comic relief
of the week after Bush's speech with a hilarious tongue and cheek analysis of
the balloon drop. Lehrer went on for about two minutes detailing the
preparation, manufacturing, and bio-degradability of the balloons, and Brooks
chimed in that despite the mediocre performance of some the Republican speakers
the GOP balloon drop was in striking contrast to that of the DNC. Shields
suggested that though we may have to wait a few days for poll results, this
balloon factor might give Bush the edge he needs. This leaves the possibility
this elelction might be decided by the balloon bump. Did anyone else catch that
exchange? It really was pretty funny; a fitting end to such a silly week.

The Daily Show out does itself again with this amazing mini-documentary on
Bush's 1st term. [Can't find the direct link, go to the video page and
play "Bush's Words']

This is pretty funny too: Pleasure Boat Captains for Truth

No, Fuck You 

posted by Paul Smith @ 1:44 PM
Bill Clinton needs heart bypass surgery. He's already had an angioplasty, and his doctors determined the bypass was necessary. I'm hoping he went to see them in time and is in good hands.

But big fuck yous go to Fox News and Republican Congressman Vito Fossella of New York. This is how Fox ends their report:
"Who knows? It could be the result of a successful Republican convention, said Rep. Vito Fossella, R-N.Y., of Clinton's chest pains. "In all seriousness, though, I am sure the entire nation wishes the president well."
"Seriously—we hope he dies."

Everyone knows how viscerally the right despised and still despises Bill. And I'm sure most people have at some point in their lives wished that a president of the opposing party would meet an untimely end; it's a natural manifestation of partisan frustation. And that's all it is, just a focal point for disenfranchisement, certainly nothing to be said "out loud," and, you would expect, never something to come out of the mouth of an elected official, it would be beyond the pale.

Fossella's remarks—and the fact that Fox decided to give this jackass the last word on the matter—are vile and should be loudly denounced by the leadership. This ugly, chickenshit behavior, though, will likely be silently rewarded (Fossella played "good soldier" a few years back by leading the opposition to Clinton's grant of clemency to members of the FALN terrorist group), and is increasingly all we can expect from the party these days.

UPDATE: From the wires:
"He's is in our thoughts and prayers," Bush said at a campaign rally.

Bush's audience of thousands in West Allis, Wis., booed. Bush did nothing to stop them.
President Bush. Class act.

UPDATE AGAIN: AP got it wrong. No booing from the Wisconsin crowd.

Interestingly enough, Fox has massively rewritten their piece linked to above; no Fossella quote. Into the memory hole.

September 02, 2004

Miller Loses It 

posted by Paul Smith @ 12:50 AM
What the hell … ? Did Zell Miller really just tell Chris Matthews he wishes he could challenge Chris to a duel? Yeah, he did. Kevin's readers recap the incident nicely in the comments to this post.

September 01, 2004

Dave Matthews Band to Chicago: Eat Shit 

posted by Paul Smith @ 12:13 PM
I imagine that they have a giant, colored lever in their bus that they pull whenever the mood hits them.

In any case, McSweeney's puts it all into context.

I Love C-SPAN 

posted by Paul Smith @ 1:00 AM
I'm sort of idly watching C-SPAN's late nite rerun of RNC highlights, and here's Sec. of Education Ron Paige babbling on, proclaiming the success of Bush's programs. As he says something about "students are learning, teachers and principals are beaming with pride," the producers switch to a chubby little boy in his seat, head down and tuned out, blissfully pushing buttons on a Game Boy. Of course, no one in their right mind would expect an eight-year-old to sit in rapt attention to hour after hour of droning adults, but the juxtaposition was a riot.

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