August 31, 2003

Time To Come Clean

Perhaps some of you have noticed that I haven't posted here in nearly a week now. There is a reason for this, and I've been struggling with myself to decide whether or not to reveal it.

Oh sure, I could blame it on the slow news days that usually accompany the dog days of August, but there really is a lot of news out there.
White Glenn, the Emporer, Rachel, and all the various news sites have oodles of interesting stories every day about what's happening in Iraq, France, Israel, California, North Korea, Alabama, etc. Stories that I am usually interested in for all sorts of reasons, but that, for the past week, I've been unable to care enough about to even read them, much less write about them.

The problem is that I've been distracted. I can surf the blogosphere and visit all the usual stomping grounds -- even leave a comment here and there -- but after a short time I hear a voice calling me away.
I can open my Munuvian login page and prepare to leave a new entry, but after staring at the screen for a few minutes I realize that I have no stamina to type the first word. There is something else that I'd rather be doing; something that gives me pleasure, yet makes me docile, unambitious and oblivious to the enjoyment I get from blogging.

You see, my mind has turned to mush. I've been afraid to admit to this shame, but I think I owe it to all of ye who've clicked here with certain expectations, however modest, that I've been unable to fullfill the past six days.

The truth is: I am an addict.
Yep, that's right, folks. I have become addicted to Tripeaks, and I need help to break the stranglehold that that insidious little Windows card game has on my central nervous system.

I mean, it's not like Jeezball or Tetris where you play the game and then it's over. (After playing one of those for 20 minutes -- and succeeding or failing to break into the top scores -- the idea to beginning another game immediately is unthinkable.)
No, Tripeaks is a short game - takes all of about about 2 minutes - and the score, measured in $$$, is cumulative. Finish a game and your score went up, or down. So click on "deal" again, what're you afraid of? It's only another 2-minute game...

The first games are free of any meaningful progress, so go ahead, try it. You can walk away any time.
But, it's a trap, and after a while you'll be hooked. You wont notice it happening to you, 'til one day you realize that you just spent ten minutes creating some makeshift graph-paper in order to track your progress.
By then it's too late. You've surrended your afternoon to seeing if you can get from $6782 to $7000. Tommorrow you'll try for $7500. Then what; $8000? $12000? $3647265284000?

The. game. does. not. end.

So, take my advice; if you're gonna play a Windows computer game, play Tetris. Or Jeezball. Or Pipedream, even. Those are reasonably harmless recreational games (and Chips Challenge, as you may have heard, actually has some medicinal value).
But, be warned, no matter how harmless those three little card-pyramids may appear, they mask a true evil that lies within. Please, pleeeeeze, don't make the mistake that I made.

Just say no to Tripeaks!

My rehab is going well. The temptation is still strong, but I haven't played in several hours, and I'm determined to see this through and come out a happier and healthier blogger. I've even managed to clean the bathroom, do two loads of laundry and get dinner in the oven!
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna pop open a cold one and go visit my favorite blogs!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 04:12 PM | Comments (3)

August 25, 2003

Never Forgive, Never EVER Forget

Thanks to Serenity and 4now, and especially the anonymous "attacked911," we may remind ourselves of THIS.

As we increasingly become distant and forgetful of the enormity of our shock, pain and anger that day, the more we need to take the time to make ourselves remember it.

It may take a while to download, and maybe you need to view it twice to have the sound sync with the images, but your patience will be rewarded and your memory restored.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:47 PM | Comments (1)

August 24, 2003

Whose Law is it Anyway?

The Emporer has an excellent post about the Federal District Court's ruling that the granite display of the Ten Commandents must be removed from it's prominent place at the Alabama Judicial Building that includes this:

Let's take it again:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion"

Which law did Chief Justice Moore make? And how is the Fed ordering this monument removed NOT "making law respecting [i.e. 'with regards to' - M.] an establishment of religion"?

A monument to the Ten Commandments at a court house creates no law that establishes a State religeon. What it does, however, is make the point - through symbolic display - that religeon (in particular; Judeo-Christian monotheism) is the basis of our legal code.

And it is... to a degree. The first three Commandments -- having to do with strictly religeous matters (have no G-d before me, observe the sabbath, worship no idols, etc) -- are not codified into Law because they would violate the First Amendment.
Adultery, envy and most of the others, are not crimes either (though adultery was at one time in most states).

Three Commandments that are codified into Law are the one's forbidding murder, theft and perjury; but, these have been crimes in every legal code ever devised in the whole history of civilization. While it was Christianity that provided the Authority for what we consider to be justice, the framers of the Constitution provided the protection against the establishment of a Theocracy.

But, more interestingly, as Misha points out, does the Federal District Court have any jurisdiction in the Alabama State Court's displaying of the monument? There is no law that's been enacted by Congress at issue here. The monument was erected by the judicial branch of Alabama's government, and there is no law that forbids this.
What the Federal Court has done is created Law where there was none. Not only is there a Seperation of Powers issue (the legislature makes the Law, the judiciary applies them to disputes), but it also violates the tenet that the Federal Government has only the authority specifically granted to it by the Constitution.

So, regardless of the appropriateness of the monument, and the way it's so prominently displayed, and how it jibes with our idealism about the "seperation of Church and State", the only question for a Federal Court is; "Does this violate the Law as written by the Legislature, or the Constitution?"
Since the establishment clause addresses only potential Acts of Congress, not the decor of a courthouse, it seems to me that there probably really is no Federal issue involved.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 05:36 PM | Comments (1)

August 23, 2003

Liberal Interpretation

I went to college in New Haven, Connecticut: the birthplace of Pizza! (Well, at least, it's reputed to be.)
Pepe's, Sally's, Modern, and a host of other joints -- seemingly established and unchanged since not long after the earth cooled -- offer the best coal-fired brick oven apizza (pronounced ah-BEETS) in the world.

Unfortunately, none of the great pizzerias in town deliver, and none of us in the off-campus apartment had a car. So, whenever the craving for 'zah hit us we always ended up ordering from *gagh* Domino's.

"Three large pies with [insert lengthy litany of assorted toppings here -- pepperoni and jalepeno for me!]".
"to be delivered to Fitch-Warner, apartment B-4."
"D-4?" the girl on the line asked.
"No, 'B-4'."
"D-4, that's what I said!"
"No, B-4. B as in 'boy'."
"Doy? What's 'doy?'."
An inability to understand foreign words isn't the only kind of language barrier. She and I spoke the same language, but she couldn't hear me!

I just read Walter Cronkite's latest (in fact, first, I'm made to understand)column in which he addresses the Liberal bias in the broadcast and print media.
While he asserts that the bias exists, I disagree completely with his hypothesis of why that is. He wrote:

"I believe that most of us reporters are liberal, but not because we consciously have chosen that particular color in the political spectrum. More likely it is because most of us served our journalistic apprenticeships as reporters covering the seamier side of our cities -- the crimes, the tenement fires, the homeless and the hungry, the underclothed and undereducated."

I don't believe that for a second. Liberals, Conservatives, Socialists, Libertarians and all other manner of political stripe see the same problems. But they have different ideas about the solutions based on their already held ideas about liability, rule of Law, and the role -- and jurisdiction -- of the Government that might address those problems.

According to some polls [that I can't site nor link to, but I remember them occurring]: most journalists (at least those that entered the field in the past 30 years or so -- though maybe it doesn't apply to Walter's generation) say that they wanted to be journalists so that they could help to change the world.
I believe that; because that's exactly the reason that I spent a semester taking a journalism course in the year between High School and my full-time matriculation to college.

But, that's not the part of Cronkite's essay that I wanted to blog about, nosiree.
It was his citing of a dictionary's definition of the word "liberal."
At the very end of the column, Uncle Walt quips:

"Incidentally, I looked up the definition of "liberal" in a Random House dictionary. It gave the synonyms for "liberal" as "progressive," "broad-minded," "unprejudiced," "beneficent." The antonyms it offered: "reactionary" and "intolerant."
I have always suspected those fine folks at Random House of being liberals. You just can't trust anybody these days."

This is where the language barrier comes in. Liberals would be proud of themselves after reading that definition. But, the accurate definition of "liberal" and the functional definition of "a Liberal" have become two different things.

"Progressive," supposedly in the advancement of civil liberties; but nowadays more about the centralization of authority. On the issues of smoking on private property, driving an SUV, buying a cup of piping hot coffee; I am liberal, and Liberals are "progressive."

"Broad-minded," when it comes to social-engineering, I guess. On the issues of taxing (read: punishing) freedom of choice through Targetted Taxation, placing partisan interests above Liberty (too many examples to site), or acknowledging cable and talk-radio's freedom to become whatever it will by no forces other than market forces; I am liberal, and Liberals are "broad-minded."

Incidentally, definition #5 in my American Heritage Dictionary defines "liberal" as:
"Favoring civil liberties, democratic reforms, and the use of public resources to promote social progress."
That's a more accurate definition than the one offered by Random House, so long as we understand that it's private property that's referred to as "public resources", and centralized governmental authority is the "social progress."

When we debate each other we need to agree on our definitions. When we call Liberals "Liberals", we allow them to consider themselves to be "liberal," and thus to wonder why anyone is agruing with them. 'Why, you must be a Fascist!'

If we think we do - but DON'T - understand each others' nomenclature, then we only end up talking past each other, dazed and confused about why we're not being understood. The sounds seems disconnected from any meaning, and we can't even seem to hear each other.
"Irresponsibility is bad," we'll say, "BAD!"
"Dad? Whaddya mean 'irresponsibilty is Dad?!'"

The Liberal elite, lately, seem to be not at all motivated by love of Liberty, but by transparently partisan opportunism; driven by a hatred -- fueled by resentment -- toward George W. Bush and, by association, anything he says, does or might be thinking.
Everytime Bush moves toward the "center" on an issue he forces the Democrats even further to the Left; not because they want to go there, per se, but because they - by pure Pavlovian conditioning re: being an underdog in the next election - have to oppose him.
It's called "the never-ending campaign," the lifestyle of a politician.

So, it's time to take back the word "liberal" from our friendly neighborhood "Liberals," and re-christen them with a moniker that's a bit more fitting.
I suggest "Tyrant."

UPDATE: scrappleface has a neato twist on the column, though the comments get a little brutal. Hey, I love Walter the C!!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 05:38 PM | Comments (2)

August 21, 2003


(a [condensed] Whittlian exercise)

When I was about about a year-and-a-half old (I could stand and waddle, but not yet talk coherently) I was stranded by my mother.

This happened during winter. I know this because there was snow on the ground. Lots of it. If two-foot drifts don't seem all that big to you, it's because you've forgotten what it was like to be 18 months old.

My memory begins at the moment when I realized that I was alone. Distanced from my mother by what seemed to be a mile and a month... even though she was actually merely 20 feet away, or so.

40 feet away there were two men with a snowblower. The thing made the devil's own noise, and perhaps that's what got my attention. Seeing the snow arching through the distant realm of the curbside, the cavernous walls of snow, and my mother so far removed from my location in this frozen wasteland; I began to cry.
The snowblower men looked at me, as if they'd heard the sound of a toddler crying. I looked to my mother, leaning over, clasping her hands together, staring at me, laughing.
The abandonment was complete. I cried for my mother to rescue me and she laughed at my predicament.

Okay, okay, I know. She was trying to let me know -- by laughing with me -- that I was in no peril. But, as an 18 month old, I wasn't convinced.
I trusted her to understand my frame of reference, and she tried to relate to me in a way that I could not, at the time, decifer. I was devastated.

We live in a society where Trust is essential for our very livelihood.
We trust that when we cross the street that the motorist in the car isn't going to run the red light and mow us down. We trust that when we walk into a restaurant that the cook isn't stirring in a tbsp of cyanide in with the marjoram. We trust that our new brakes were installed by mechanics with the interest of our safety in mind. We trust that the State has routine inspections on the stability of that bridge over the Mianus River that we're about to drive over.

But who is it that we trust, exactly?
We trust those whom we know have an interest in building and maintaining our trust in them. Those who we benefit from and who benefit from us.
I trust my butcher, and he's never asked me to trust him. My senator asks me to trust him. Why does he? And why should I?

Those who hold government office hold it because they sought it. They also -- I think it's fair to assume -- want to keep it for the same reasons they sought it.
To keep it; they need patronage. To keep it; they need to earn that patronage.
To keep it; they need to benefit from those who benefit from them.

We want to trust our elected representatives to honor their oath to uphold, protect, preserve and defend the Constitution of the United States.
When that Trust is betrayed we have every Right to cry like toddlers who find themselves stranded in a two-foot snowdrift. Then to focus like a Nikon to see if they come to us in an energetic desire to listen and learn, or to laugh at us in the hope that their expression of -- nay, pretense of -- feeling our pain will placate our fears and/or dilute our anger.

When Trust is betrayed we know that we have to trust ourselves, and our capacity to defend the principles upon which our livelihoods are founded.
Brutal honesty is more trustworthy than fallow emotions.
Selfishness is addictive, and self-pity is a disciplined fraud. It's when your ship is most aimless that you hear the siren the clearest.
And so, my fellow bloggers, as another election cycle gets underway in the full steam of it's own hot air, I say:
Ask not what you're congressman can do for you, but you can do for your Congress!

UPDATE: The snowdrift story is true, but I love my mom! She's a gal who met the jabberwokky and walked away a champion.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:59 PM | Comments (0)

August 20, 2003

Links of the day ('cause, frankly, I got nuthin'...)

The Lemon shows us the life-cycle of a news story. The Dowd - Limbaugh frames are worth the price of admission! Perhaps time constraints are forcing Shamus to post less verbose fake-news items. But if the result is that we get these nifty
(and more originally styled) entries 6 times a month then I'm satisfied!

And of course *hush* Bill Whittle. I know, I know; everybody's already linked to it. But in case it's news to you: assume RESPONSIBILITY! Yee-haw!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:46 PM | Comments (1)

August 19, 2003

Link of the Day

OH! and Noel, over at Sharp Knife, has an excellent smackdown of Bill Richardson.
Since he's on BlobSnot I can't hyperlink the entry (Pixy? Dean? Someone needs a flashlight!), so you'll just have to read everything he ever wrote and guess what I was pointing at!! Mwah-hah-hah!!
No, it's the post of Aug 19th titled "The New Dark Age."
(Note to Noel: Put you're post titles in bold; it makes 'em bolder!)

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:38 PM | Comments (4)

and from out of the woodwork:

The law firm of Cauley Geller Bowman & Rudman, LLP has filed a class action suit against FirstEnergy of Ohio for damages resulting from the Blackout.
Read a news item HERE that provides a link to the firms website (where you can read the suit).

Operative paragraph:
The complaint charges FirstEnergy Corporation (NYSE: FE - News; "FirstEnergy") with recklessly causing the power outage that began on August 14, 2003 and darkened parts of eight American states and Canada. More specifically, the complaint alleges, among other things, that FirstEnergy, in reckless disregard of industry practice: (1) failed to have a functioning alarm that could have timely alerted controllers to trouble with its power lines; (2) failed to cut back tree limbs that came into contact with power lines, which resulted in the tripping of the power lines; and (3) failed to maintain a failsafe system that could have separated the local system from the rest of the power grid. The Complaint seeks actual damages for injuries suffered by the public as well as punitive damages to ensure that FirstEnergy never again engages in similar misconduct.

I sent them this playful e-mail:


Seeing as FirstEnergy lost oodles of revenue due to their reckless disregard for their paying customers, I'd like to join the class action suit. There's been billions of dollars in loss due to the pause is economic activity (due to our reckless choices to digitize everything from cash registers to toothbrushes), and I think it only serves FirstEnergy's customers right to take some more. But why stop there?

I had reservations for dinner at a restaurant in western Connecticut when the power went out. I think the restaurant is liable for damages to my dinner plans for recklessly not having their own generator on site.

Also, I failed to fill my gas tank before recklessly setting out on the 45 mile trip, and was unable to have gasoline pumped into my Lexus. I'd like to sue the gas station I almost stopped at for not having their own generator.
I mean, what do they think electricity is; a convenience?! It's a G-d given civil Right! Imagine what my great grandmother (had she not died 40 years ago) would think of having to read by candlelight and wash the dishes with her own hands.
(More on that note: I think we're all due Reparations from the descendents of our ancestors for not getting the electricity thang going a bit sooner. I mean, think of the billions and billions of humans who lived and died without electricity. The horror!)

Finally, since I don't have a home generator -- and didn't think to fill the tank by 4:00pm last thursday -- I'd like to recklessly sue myself, as well.

Wow! Being a bloodsucking neurophobic skidmark on the shorts of humanity is kick-a$$$$!!!
Does the pain of self-loathing go away after a while?

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:18 PM | Comments (1)

August 18, 2003

This might be more fun:

Here's another entry from Magic: The Gathering that I made when I should have been blogging.
It's addressed to Gordon DeSpain, a curious man, well-invested in magic, and the last part is addressed to a blogger who signs under the handle "Geem.".
(Strangely, the links to "Anomaly Hunters" -- and several other links for Gordon -- aren't working. I hope he's doing all right.)


I believe your premise, "Infinity Is", is arbitrary and unfounded. Einstein's equation T = t`/sq.rt. of 1-(v^2/c^2) where (t`) is rest(local) time, and describes the Relativistic time dilation (T). It's why a body cannot be accellerated to a relative velocity (v) of light (c). This prevents matter from being "disconnected" from other matter since information can't travel at a greater speed. Infinities are incoherent and therefore un-physical. All particle experiments varify this.

As far as the Galaxy and Universe teeming with Life, that may be true depending on your definition of "teeming". Consider these facts:

The Earth is a fertile place for Life to thrive. If Life is to permeate the Galaxy then it sure as hell is gonna grow here. Over and over and over...
But, so far as we can tell (and we can tell pretty good), all Life on Earth is related. This means that on this oasis -- this 5 billion year old Life supporting paradise -- Life began once. ONCE!! ...about 2-3 billion years ago. So, while Life seems very resilient here in warm bosom of home, it may not be as common in the Galaxy or Universe at large as we'd like to believe.

For intelligent creatures to arise out of that Life that may exist on other planets, a complex and unstructured chain of events has to occur.
Of all the millions upon millions of species that have lived and gone extinct over billions of years, only Homo Sapiens (again, as far as we know) has been capable of building a spaceship.

We came from tree-dwelling primates; with hands good for grasping branches rather than the paws and hooves of ground-dwelling quadropeds.
We, and our Ape cousins, began spending more time on the ground, gaining in size.
Exanding deserts forced Us out of the jungles and onto the plains, where our hands became tool makers. An omnivorous diet fed complete proteins to our brain which helped us to solve the problem of survival by allowing us to adapt to swift changes in the environment. When drought came we walked away rather than thirst and starve like our less cerebral fellow critters. Eventually we were US.

But all this intelligence and problem-solving adaptability wouldn't be put to building a technological world of computers and spaceships unless we had heavy metals readily available.
Iron, copper, gold, etc there and ready for mining.
In order to have heavy metals close to the surface of a planet you need some serious erosion of the top soil to take place. You need tectonic plates moving and pushing against each other, building mountains and changing the course of rivers. We have all that in droves on Earth; not because it's warm and wet, but because of that Monster Rock in the sky.

It's been said that an Alien visitor might consider the Earth-Moon a Duel Planetary system. The relative hugeness of our satellite isn't remotely approached anywhere else in the Solar System.
But, perhaps it can also be said, that such visitors would not be surprised at that, since they would probably have a similar body at their homeworld.

Assuming all of the conditions are met on another planet somewhere out there, there's another problem. The Galaxy is billions upon billions of years old. Species -- perhaps even intelligent ones -- are extant and extinct in a cosmic blink of an eye. If another spacefaring species were to have evolved somewhere else, AND be visiting us now...the TIMING would have to be astonishingly coincidental.

Life is certainly resilient and persistent. Also, perhaps the distinct Phyla could be the result of several different times that Life has begun on Earth. But even that would support the idea that Life would evolve pretty much according to the bio-chemical processes we've witnessed here.

As for what other different forms that Life might take, I think they certainly would be corporeal, material things, and evolve according to the laws of chemistry. (Perhaps not "organic". Silicon is as active as carbon, but not so plentiful. A planet where silicon-based Life would be created would probably mean that silicon is so much more plentiful than carbon, which isn't likely.)

Life that is not, by our experience, anything we would recognize as "alive" -- bodiless? un-"real"? -- is an interesting thought, but, since I have no way of recognizing it as alive, and know of no physical process that would produce an intelligent non-corporeal being, I can't say that I have any expectation that such a creature could exist.

You're right that my non-belief (not DIS-believe) comes from my non-experience of UFOs. I make no claim that you're UFO sightings never happened, nor that the unlikely coincidences that would put them here now haven't happened, but only that I have no evidence that they did. And so I do not BELIEVE in them. Though, if they're there, I'd really love to meet those travelers!

Carl Sagan used to say that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." Your claims of having seen UFOs are fantastic, and I'm not easily given to fantasy.

to Geem:
I didn't mean to leave an impression that I believe that it's impossible that we could be, or have been, visited by aliens. I just haven't seen the evidence that we have. And, for the reasons I blathered on about earlier, I do think it's unlikely (though any credible evidence could change that).

I fully accept that the possibilities of what is and can be that are out there among the stars -- and here at home -- may be "infinite", and I/we (humans) may not be able to comprehend those possibilties any more than my cats can understand a bran muffin recipe. But I can't BELIEVE (i.e. take it on faith, or on suspect evidence) the PROBABILITY that intelligent spacefarers have been here.

Bell, Edison, Franklin et al made amazing discoveries due in large to their imagination. (and, of course, someone who's decided that cancer can't be cured wont be the one to find the cure for cancer.) But imagination alone only gets you to see a possibility; critical thinking and scientific method are what will make it Real.

I gather we agree on these things, though...and are each merely stressing the yin and yang of it (tastes great! less filling!).

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:42 PM | Comments (1)

Navel-Gazing month continues....

Whelp, once again I'm at a loss to find anything to blog about. It's not so bad; even Steven Den Beste says he's having writer's block.
So what I'm gonna do is post a comment I made at the uncharacteristically pen-sheathed Bill Whittle's entry titled "Magic: the Gathering" back in June (during my hiatus from blogging.) Take my advice and read the entire thread of comments; it's magic!
This post was just an observation I had about the effects of the blogosphere:

About two years ago a friend and I were sitting in McSorley's Ale House decrying the growing number of crackpot internet sites. We both worried about the capacity for well-written propoganda, easily reached through search engines, to influence the under-informed or the under-critical. Any agenda driven sophist with a website and some blarney could post anything; without fact checking, references, peer review or accountablity.

One of my complaints was that I'd wasted some time at a site that claimed to have a convincing theory of Gravity, complete with excrutiating mathmatics and observational evidence. The theory basically held that Gravity was a product of Universal Expansion. The math was suspect, the observation was theoretical, and, at the end, the fella finally admitted that he probably didn't know what the crud he was talking about.
Harmless in the end. But other sites dealing with other subjects could be harmful to the unsuspecting curious and gullible.
We, of course, didn't advocate any form of regulation/censorship; we were just concerned for the future of critical thinking and fact-based debate.

But recent events seem to show us (me, anyways) that the effect of the internet -- the free exchange of ideas and debate -- is actually having the opposite effect.
It's not the garbage on the internet that seems to have been in need our communal critique; it's the garbage in the "old media." The crisis at the New York Times, and exposing Michael Moore's "documentaries" for the dishonest propoganda that they are are just two examples of the Blogosphere having real effect by throwing light on the hitherto dark corners where the media mogul roaches used to be able to rest unmolested by fact-checkers.

And even a non-daily updated site like this -- with essays and Comments threads -- serves as a great forum for admirers and dissenters and keeps us all on our toes.

So, thanks Bill for making the time and effort to write these gems.

Posted by: Tuning Spork on June 7, 2003 02:13 PM

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:23 PM | Comments (3)

August 17, 2003

I'm feeling a bit Linkish today

Keep It Simple is a boozeless "bar" in Edmonton, Canada that caters to recovering alcoholics and drug addicts. It allows smoking. The government now only allows smoking in establishments that have a liquor license. The government wont allow Keep It Simple to get a liquor license because they have no intention of serving liquor.
It's just the latest example of the contortions we have to work through when we allow the State to infringe on our Liberty and Property.
Read about it from Colby Cosh
(Link thanks to the Satanic hobo snuffer.)

The Internet serves many great purposes. The spread of information; we can look up stuff in a flash rather than schlep to the library. For business; I've sold record albums to vinylphiles from Brooklyn to Hong Kong. Fun and games, news, and research. And, of course, the Blogosphere!

But it's not to be a way to exact some petty vengeance on people you maybe don't get along with for some reason. This horror story from Venomous Kate makes my blood boil... and when it's 98 degrees in the shade, it just makes me madder!
Wrap the duct tape tightly around your head before reading that link, because you're head WILL explode, and you'll need to keep the wreckage from flying too far.
Then read the Emporer's post and comments thread for the usual high calibre discussion of C.P.S.
(Link courtesy of Wizbang via Susie. Go read them, too!!)

In lighter news, the new LEMON is posted! It gives a short overview of the Democratic presidential field, a parody of an sidebox feature with the Q: What Are We Writing In Our Weblog? (a couple of which I plead guilty to!), and a poll on the most sexy cartoon character (I voted for Tinkerbell :))

Silverblue has a great litany in a poem about his (our) fond memories of growing up in a world before video games, crass merchandising of movies and cable tv took over kids' lives.

Also, Bill Whittle has sworn by the Royal Blood that he will have his new essay, RESPONSIBILITY, up by "weeks end." Should be up at any moment now!!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 04:09 PM | Comments (6)

August 16, 2003

Feels Like A Fisking!

Another day, another drag. Things might get interesting when the California election gets close (though there's rumors that a Judge might postpone the election on October 7th due to some legal concerns).
So, here I am desperate for some news to blog about and all I find is crud about the Blackout (it's over, move on), Idi Amin (he's dead -- yay! -- move on), and other crappity crap that doesn't move me enough to rant, explore or disect.

But, I'm in an antsy mood. So I went to to look for an opinion piece to fisk. Scrolled down the long list of essayists and clicked on Roger Ebert. Chose a movie review; Blue Velvet, and took it upon myself to fisk ol' Roger's pan of this rich and entertaining film.
So, here we go:

Date of publication: 09/28/1986
By Roger Ebert

R.E.If you want to understand David Lynch, maybe the place to start is with his paintings. He paints in a style he describes as "bad primitive art," and says that one of his paintings works if you feel the desire to sink your teeth into it.

Well, whoopdy-freakin'-do, you've spoken to David Lynch about his paintings. And I thought this was a movie review.
Okay okay, it's about understanding his style. I know.

R.E.Although Lynch is a serious painter, he is much better known as a movie director, and with his latest movie, "Blue Velvet" (now playing at the Fine Arts), he finds himself at the center of a national critical firestorm. The movie is so strong, so shocking and yet so audacious that people walk out shaking their heads; they don't know quite what to make of it.

"Although"? Sounds like you're differentiating between his "seriousness" as a painter and his reknown as a director. The second sentence describes Blue Velvet as much as it does his "serious" paintings; so why the differentiationalityness, hmmm?

R.E.I am not one of the film's admirers. Or perhaps I should say, I admire its craftsmanship but am not one of its defenders. I believe Lynch is a talented director, and that in Blue Velvet he has used his talent in an unworthy way.

O, great Sage, do please tell us of the unworthiness of the Way in which he has used his admirable craftsmanship.

R.E.The movie is powerful, challenging and made with great skill, and yet it made me feel pity for the actors who worked in it and anger at the director for taking liberties with them.

Liberties; like having them apply their talent in a way that fits the story they're being paid to act out. The horror! Oh, pity the wealthy thespians forced to be shackled in the chains of their director's great cinematic skill!
Get to the real point, will ya, Roger?

R.E.Then I interviewed Lynch in New York, and I found, not a monster, but a pleasant, sincere man who was disarmingly frank about his film.

Wow, he wasn't a monster? My world is shattered!

R.E.If you have not seen "Blue Velvet," perhaps a brief description is in order.

Golly garsh gratuitass, do y'think?

R.E.The movie is a head-on collision between two popular genres from the 1940s: the insipid small-town comedy and the film noir.
In the first genre, a character not unlike Dagwood Bumstead fumbles his way through life while dogs bark at him, kids play jokes at his expense and his wife nags him a lot. Yet all is essentially sunny in his world, which is made up of picket fences, green awnings, shade trees, genial neighbors, friendly policemen and postmen who know his name. Dagwood, or whatever you want to call him, acts as if he is unaware that many males actually do have sex lives.

More verbosity than neccessary, but we get it...go on...

R.E.In the film noir, a more serious and brooding genre, ordinary people find out that evil lurks just beneath the surfaces of their lives, and that they themselves are capable of committing unspeakable acts.
A proper film noir is not usually a gangster or crime film, but the story of how evil enters everyday lives.
The genre is profoundly pessimistic; it does not show bad people doing bad things, but average people doing bad things. The implication is that we are all capable of evil.

Yadda yadda, we know already, blah blah, thanks for the round-trip to Blathertown. Is there any part of your persona that isn't bloated?

R.E."Blue Velvet" has two kinds of scenes: (1) The everyday small-town scenes, in which people go out on dates to the soda fountain and drive around town in shiny cars, and (2) the subterranean scenes in which the most unspeakable acts take place behind closed doors.
Lynch has cast as his heroes two clean-cut young performers, the square-jawed Kyle MacLachlan and the blond, perky Laura Dern. They're both about 18 or 19 years old.
One day they stumble across a mystery involving a severed human ear, and their investigation leads to one of the most shocking scenes in recent movies.

Wow, we finally got some information about the movie!

R.E.The scene: MacLachlan hides in the apartment of a local nightclub singer (Isabella Rossellini), who he suspects knows something about the ear. He watches as a perverted madman (Dennis Hopper) screams obscenities at the woman, beats her, inhales narcotic gas from a cylinder at his belt, and then rapes her. He leaves.
Rossellini finds MacLachlan in the closet, pulls a knife on him, forces him to disrobe and orally arouses him. Later, she asks him to "be a bad boy" and hit her. She is a masochist.
Although Hopper apparently holds her husband and son as kidnap victims to force her to submit to him, we realize with a shock that she has discovered that she likes to be brutalized.

Well what's so shocking about that? Women LOVE "bad boys"! Hell, they stay with abusive men for years -- getting the crap beat out of 'em -- all the while saying "but he loves me!"
Her family and her very life may be at stake, but she stays anyway. Helplessness has taken over, and has mutated her fear into submission, and then -- out of pure adaptation for survival's sake -- into pleasure.
Gawd, don't you understand women?!

R.E.In the course of the film, Rossellini is put through a more severe emotional ordeal than any movie performer since Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider in "Last Tango in Paris."
In one scene, she lies naked on the lawn of the local police chief, while strangers form a crowd. I found that her scenes had an unexpected effect.
I responded to their raw power, yes, but the more I thought about them, the angrier I got, because Lynch surrounds them with what is essentially a satire on small-town comedies.
He generates this immense and painful power, and then uses it merely as counterpoint to an immature satire.

Wow, the Clue Meter is reading zero again.
The placement of profound humiliation into an everyday and familiar setting isn't "immature satire", you bellowing sack of carbonated water; it's exactly the opposite. The superficially paradisiacal small-town of Lumberton is sincerely presented -- not as satire -- but as reality. Perhaps you're too sophisticated -- having spent too many years in hussle and bustle of Chicago -- to recognise the difference.

R.E.The more painfully a director violates the sensibilities of his audience and his performers, the more serious his intention should be.

Has it occurred to you that perhaps the director's "intention" has escaped you? Probably not.

R.E.Bernardo Bertolucci earns every moment of pain in "Last Tango in Paris" because he tells us things about the human spirit that we can respond to and learn from. Ingmar Bergman's "Cries and Whispers," the most painful film I have ever seen, requires three actresses to portray moments of incredible pain, debasement and self-revelation. It is a noble film.
Lynch shows us Rossellini naked and humiliated, and then cuts to jokes about the slogans on the local radio station.

Not every films has to "teach" us something; some can just show us something in a vivid and memorable way.
F'rinstance, Alfrd Hitchcock's Vertigo -- an all-time favorite of mine, and one which you gave five stars -- doesn't "teach" us anything about our behavior that we don't already know. But it does present it to us; brutally and hauntingly.
Vertigo and Blue Velvet are very similar in that respect; our engagement is more psychological than emotional.
My college drama coach once said that "there's a difference between 'knowing it' and 'knowing that you know it'." Lynch's film may only tell us something that we know, but it does so in a unique and engaging way. That's pretty special, if y'ask me.

R.E.The movie has received some rave reviews, but many of them seem to tap-dance around the central emotional challenge to the viewer...

Didn't I just ream yer ass on that point?!

R.E.In the New Yorker, Pauline Kael says she loves the movie, but her review is an extended plot summary, a detailed description of the movie that seems to imply that a precis is enough - she doesn't choose to discuss the issues it raises.
Dave Kehr, in the Chicago Tribune, hardly seems to have noticed the scenes I just described and devotes most of his attention to explaining the cleverness of Lynch's ironic style.
Gene Siskel says the director is "playing the audience like a piano," first shocking us, then making us laugh, as if merely causing sensation to the audience - any sensation - were by definition an admirable thing.

Okay, is this a critique of the film or of other critics?
Working backward, obviously Kehr and Siskel (rest his soul) has missed the point even more than you have, and has concentrated on lauding the style (which, as you said yourself, deserves lauding).
You reprimand Kael for saying she loved the film, but didn't address any of the issues that it (or you) have raised.
I'm guessing that she understood but refused to address (maybe publically, maybe personally) the issues it raises. You, being more eager to investigate, are willing to address the issues yet are unable or unwilling to.

R.E.Is that all a movie is, style? Some critics think so.

Didn't I just ream yer ass on that point?

R.E.They argue that a movie isn't about anything except itself.
They approach "Blue Velvet" like some kind of clever intellectual puzzle in which the challenge is to find all of Lynch's filmic references and neat little in-jokes.

Er, excuse me, but, isn't that exactly the way you're approaching it?

R.E. But wait a minute. There's a woman standing naked on the lawn here. Has this movie earned the right to show her that way? Having talked to Lynch about his film, I am inclined to believe that he takes it more seriously than many of his defenders do. It is an intensely personal film, and here's the catch: It is personal for reasons that Lynch has not put in the film. Therefore, it means more to him than it ever can to us.

...or to you, anyway.
The movie has a "right to show her that way" because that's what the movie is about. Presenting a stark and naked picture picture of who we are is at least as important as trying to tell who we should be through some grand Message.

Have you ever seen the Zapruder film, Roger? Have you stared at it in grotesque curiosity of what horrors exist in humanity's heart? It didn't seek to teach us anything. It wasn't fashioned to deliver a profound insight into our human condition. It was a recording of reality -- by a guy standing on a stoop with an 8mm camera -- and nothing more. Yet we view it again and again because it does teach us something by showing and reminding us of something we'd rather not admit.
We look at Hitler and Stalin and Pol Pot and Saddam & Sons and Idi Amin and others and call their treachery "inhuman"; but we know better.
We know from Dahmer and Berkowitz and Manson and Bundy and Speck and McVeigh that darkness of spirit is just a twist of fate away.

Then we can look at Todd Beamer or Jeremy Glick or the people who dug out those miners in Pennsyvania last year. Or we can look at all the guys who came out of their offices and directed traffic during the worst and longest blackout in history (not because they were being being paid by government but because they were bound by honor to assume responsibilty and pitch in to better the predicament of people they've never met and may never cross paths with again.

It's okay to show a snapshot of human reality and have no Message any broader than "this is us." You laud film noir for this very characteristic, yet are repelled by darkness without the redeeming light of Instruction.
Sometimes seeing the situation is all the instruction we need. Pardon me for not looking to Hollywood for directions on how to find me.

Think of David Lynch's Blue Velvet as a kind of a cross between Andy Warhol and George Lucas.
Warhol would set up a camera and film the most routine drudgery and call it a film. Tedious and true: completely real, completely artless; and who cares?!
Lucas, on the other hand, created films of amazing dazzle and energy, and very little of the ordinary. Exciting, but just fantasy...but who cares?!!

Lynch presents the tragically ordinary as art. It's a shame that you, Roger, an inordinately insightful cinemaphile, haven't yet learned -- as Pauline Kael intuitively has -- to experience a film in a personal and welcoming way that allows one to Live the experience rather than to sceptically critique it. Have you grown too cynical for your shirt?

There is more to Ebert's review that can be read HERE, but I'm gonna stop here because I think I'd only be redundant from here on out!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:12 PM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2003

Roughing It is fun!

I missed the blackout by about 300 feet. No joke!
Bridgeport had power; Fairfield (which my humble abode borders) -- and much of the Connecticut Valley and the western part of the state -- did not.
But, before I wuss out and forfeit my responsibility to rant, I must inform that last summer, after a brutal thunder storm, I was without power for 4 days.

Once the initial shock of the loss of electricity is overcome, the inconvenience has to be dealt with. Get some batteries for your flashlights, some candles to read by, and lots of ice to help preserve the perishables in the fridge.
If you have gas-heated water and oven then you're golden!

Once the inconvenience is dealt with: camping trip!!
Too hot and muggy inside? Get in the yard! Lay out a blanket and ring it with citrinella candles! Or, just put on some bug repellent and watch the bats do the rest!
The phones work; call yer friends and neighbors! Bring beer and any ice that hasn't melted yet!

Fercryin'outloud, we dealt without electricity, the internet, 24-hour cable news and central air conditioning for a hundred thousand years. The horror of a power outage is all in our minds. Access to technology is a benefit to being a human, not a Right or neccessity... it's merely a break in our modern habit.

Not only was I without power for 4 days last year, I actually lived for 15 months without electricity, gas, oil and phone -- to save a few bucks -- back in my condo days (ten years ago). I've been meaning to write a survivors guide to living in the city without power. Some day I might (h'yeah, right...).

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:50 PM | Comments (0)

August 14, 2003

Common Knowledge Sucks

I love!
Several long-standing "truths" in particular have been de-mythed (for me) tonight.

Firstly, I've heard and read from various sources (some of them reputable) that there are more people alive today than have ever lived and died before. And I believed it, too! grrrrrr!

Secondly, we've all heard the "fact" that we only use ten percent of our brains. I've always suspected this to be a crock, but until now I've heard no refutation of it.

But this is the most shocking to me, since I did a high school science project on the Coriolus effect -- and got an A!! That sinks and toilets drain and flush in opposite directions in the Northern and Southern hemisperes was a given, even canonized, in an episode of The Simpsons. Imagine my chagrin...I dare ya!

Finally (for now), it turns out that the swimming pools of our youth were NOT laced with a urine detector dye! Y'mean that all that time I could've been whizzing to my bladders content in beautiful anonymity?! Arrgh!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:26 PM | Comments (5)

August 13, 2003

Understanding Ovation

Since I don't feel like blogging about John Kerry eating Philly Swiss Cheese Steaks, or Grey-out Davis, or Stinger Missile Sting Operations, or anything else I've read about today; I'm gonna post another song lyric! WOO HOO!!!

This is called "Understanding Ovation". I wrote it in the spring of 1993 in about as much time as it takes to play (which is why is may not seem to have much of a point). The tune for it is peppy and playful... :)

"Pick up your cross, put back your sword
mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."
That's how you tell me to do the things I can't afford to do.
My love is ripe and ready for easy picking
but the waiting is so draining, and the clock is ticking.
Hurry now before I hide and seek out some chicken stew.

All I really want is to spend some time
going through your routine with you and have you go through mine
and when it's all over we'll find somewhere to dine, oh yeah.
Could you see your way through to opening up
to the idea of drinking from my loving cup.
If I'm asking too much just tell me to shut up, hey hey.

Got a history inside of me that I've tried to leave behind
I'm a mystery travelling down the passage of time
Confronting my concepts and my own expectations,
and it's getting much too late for understanding ovations.

Sneaking around with a chip on her shoulder,
not believing anything I could-a told her,
focussed on her careful conquest of the older boys.
She loved me deeply for about a month and a half.
she said "make me a woman, and then me laugh",
so I walked around the house squeaking her bath toys.

You're the only desire that I've got left...
I read it between the lines of the tremble clef.
When you're in my mind I become dumb and deaf, oh, no!
Gonna ask the 8 ball, "just what're my chances?"
gonna take notes of all the answers I get
and then learn all of them forbidden dances you know.

Got a history.... (repeat refrain) ...understanding ovations.

"Hell is for heroes," she said out of the side of her mouth
as she cleaned up the kitchen and then the rest of the house
in her pumps and skirt and jewel-neck blouse, hey hey.
She made dinner for two, but I had to leave.
she made double entendres I couldn't believe!
I guess it depends on your state of naivety..

It's been too long, I think I've overstayed,
my thoughts are clouding to rain o my parade.
Anything I might say now would be just a cliche for fun.
I'm givin' up, gonna let it all play out.
I'll learn to live with whatever happens now,
and if I have to fail again at least I know it done...

Posted by Tuning Spork at 08:54 PM | Comments (1)

August 12, 2003

We Collect Taxes for the State; pro bono

Here's something I've been mulling over all day for some reason.

J'ever notice that state sales taxes are added to our subtotals? Y'have?! Good!
If a "sale" is being taxed, shouldn't the merchant be paying it, rather than the customer? Isn't it really a "purchase tax"?

If the transaction itself is being taxed -- rather than specifically the "sale" or the "purchase" -- then shouldn't the tax be split? Let's say your State has a 6% sales tax (as Connecticut does), should the tax be 3% to the customer, and the remaining 3% to be forked over by the merchant?

Now, I know what you're thinking: "But, Sporkster (my granny calls me "Sporkster"), the merchant has to protect his profit margin regardless, and would raise the price of everything in the store to cover the sales tax. The customer pays the whole thing anyway."

Okay, fine; wrap the cost of the tax into the price. It could then at least legitimately be called a "sales tax."

But since the tax is blatantly added -- right in front of him -- to the customer's total, it is obviously, by definition, a "purchase tax" on the customer. This means that every merchant in the State is an agent of the State and being employed by the State as a tax collector!
The merchant isn't paying his own taxes to the State, he's forwarding his customers' taxes!

As a merchant, I would think hard about demanding a salary from the State for collecting my customers' taxes for It.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 06:49 PM | Comments (6)

August 11, 2003

Al Franken-Fracas?

Ooookay, here's a headline -- courtesy of Drudge -- for ya: "Fox News sues humorist Al Franken over 'fair and balanced' slogan ... "

Is there anything we can waste our time on more?
FoxNews claims:
"Franken is neither a journalist nor a television news personality," according to the complaint. "He is not a well-respected voice in American politics; rather, he appears to be shrill and unstable. His views lack any serious depth or insight."

So, we've established that he's a fringe personality, a comedian of sorts.. a tick in the wrist of fair and balanced discourse; Fine. But then we have this:

Lawyers for Fox who filed the complaint also take issue with Franken's book cover because it "mimics the look and style" of two books written by Bill O'Reilly.

First they dismiss Al Franken as a loony, unserious, fringe curiosity. Then they claim that he's libel for usurping the familiar colors of his target.

Umm, hello! Has anyone heard of "fair use" for the purpose of parody and satirical?
Isn't the very reason they are dismissing Al the same reason he gets to use the "fair and balanced" mark?

I mean, disagree with him all we want; but let's not turn the debate into a slimematch of biblical distortions.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:57 PM | Comments (21)

Davis' Recall Severability Case

I wanted to blog about an argument that Gray Davis could make to overturn the entire recall process, and found that Vikram David Amar and Alan Brownstein -- two contributers to -- had already written the essay that I was going to. Of, course, they did a lot more research than I was going to do, but they addressed the very same issues.

Under their subheading "Was the Signature Gathering Process Proper?", they point out that California's recall law demands that signature gatherers must be registered voters. This same requirement (though not a part of a recall statute) was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, in a case involving Colorado election law, in 1999.

If Davis could convince the California court that the requirement be stricken as unconstitutional, then the question over severability comes into play.
Meaning; if the court strikes a single section of a law, does the entire law fall, or only the offending section?

Philisophically, I oppose severability because bills are passed by legislatures in a finished form that has come to be after the haggling and bartering of the interested parties. A severed section might have been the only redeeming feature that gave the bill support from some key legislators, and so what remains is something on which they never would have voted "aye," and that would suck rocks.

I believe that severability amounts to a "line item veto" for the Court, and an Executive line-item veto has already been ruled unconstitutional because it puts the Chief Executive too much into the Legislative process, thus violating the principle of Seperation of Powers.

Ironically, it may be possible to overturn the entire century-old recall laws by simply arguing that the signature gathering process -- while more stringent than the recallers would like -- violates the 1st amendement Rights of non-registered voters.

While that's the gyst of what I wanted to write about, this is the paragraph in the linked essay that jumped out at me the most:

Section 11382 provides that "No vote cast in the recall election shall be counted for any candidate unless the voter also voted for or against the recall of the officer sought to be recalled." Put simply, this requirement conditions the right to vote for a successor to a recalled official on the voter's willingness to weigh in on the recall itself, by voting for or against the recall measure.

Is it just me, or is the language of the Statute put more simply than the authors' "simplification"?

Posted by Tuning Spork at 07:48 PM | Comments (1)

August 10, 2003

Oh, sweet Lemon!!

Finally, after a weeks hiatus, a new issue of The Lemon is out!!!!

It's a bit differant this time. Shamus seems to want to stretch out of a strict Onion-parody scheme and let loose with his own whimsy. If this issue is any indication, let the whimsy begin!!!

Either way, get over there and start splittin' yer dang sides, awready!!!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:27 PM | Comments (2)

August 09, 2003


Well, I've officially lost my mind! Then again, what else am I gonna do on a dreary rainy saturday afternoon?
So, without further ado, my new Df%#ilms:

Spam Trek: The Motion Picture
Spam Trek II: The Wrath of Spam
Spam Trek III: The Search for Spam
Spam Trek IV: The Spamage Home
Spam Trek V: The Spam Frontier
Spam Trek VI: The Undiscovered Spam

Posted by Tuning Spork at 06:24 PM | Comments (2)

August 08, 2003

Good Fences Make Good Governors

Well, I promised myself I wasn't going to blog about that fershlugginner California Governor brewheehaw, but, now I can't help it!
A story from Reuters published in the Washington Post quotes President Bush as saying Arnold Schwartzenegger would "make a good Governor." The entire item is two short paragraphs:

Bush Says Schwarzenegger Would Be 'Good Governor'
Friday, August 8, 2003; 1:15 PM

CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) - President Bush said on Friday he believed that Arnold Schwarzenegger would make a good governor of California.

Bush, answering questions at his Texas ranch, repeated that the California recall election was something for the people of California to decide, but when asked what he thought about the actor as governor, Bush replied: "I think he'd be a good governor."

My first thought was, "oooooooookay."
But then I thought for a bit about Bush as Governor, and how he gained the respect and praise of Republicans and Democrats in the Texas legislature. What exactly does one need to become a good Governor...?

Bush, before running, was just a businessman. Arnold's a businessman -- in the movie biz -- and y'might even say a more successful businessman than Bush.
Bush had no governmental "experience", other than as a honcho in his father's campaigns. Arnold has no governmental "experience", other than his backing and getting passed various initiatives having to do with children's issues.

Schwartzenegger insists that Experience -- in a Governor -- is less important than Leadership; and I think he's exactly right.
Leadership, let's agree (for the sake of it), is a) having core principles applied to well-defined goals, b) being able to communicate that vision in clear and vivid terms, and then c) hiring people who know how to accomplish those goals by working the System.

The ability to succeed by working with and within the System is, I think, the most important test of Leadership.
We think of "the System" as an obstacle, as we should, because it is. It's supposed to be. It slows the Process in order to check impulsiveness. A driveway of activism without speed bumps of stubbornness is potentially a runway for flights of rash ambition. We need those systemic checks because what Californians are electing is a Governor, not a Caesar.

George W. Bush obviously understands this. If Arnold Schwartzenegger does, too, then he may well be dispositioned to "be a good governor."
I think my main point here is that "experience" -- narrowly defined, as it will be in the next 7 weeks -- is for beaurocrats; but, is not neccessarily a neccessary neccessity for leadership. Yeah. That's what I mean...

Posted by Tuning Spork at 03:47 PM | Comments (3)

Blogfather on location

I found some scenes on the cutting room floor over at Pixy Misa's. The camera's were rolling when a castmember had a complaint for the director.

So waste not one more moment and check out BlogFather: Behind The Scenes!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 12:07 AM | Comments (2)

August 07, 2003

Oh, those Whacky West-Coasters...

The Washington Post reports that California Democratic unity has crumbled now that Arnold Schwarzenegger has announced that he's running for Governor.

The Lt. Gov, Cruz Bustamante, who vowed to support Gray Davis and not run, has announced that he's now changed his mind. Several other Dems are filing as well.

"Yesterday is when he [Bustamante] made the decision," his chief of staff, Lynn Montgomery, told Reuters. She added he had not informed Davis of his decision.

The exodus has left in shambles the mislaid plans of Terry McCauliff and the California party leadership to save Davis by not offering up another Democrat.

Schwarzenegger prophetically noted on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno:
"I know they're going to throw everything at me, that I have no experience and I'm a womanizer and a terrible guy."
"You all know that Gray Davis knows how to run a dirty campaign better than anyone, but he doesn't know how to run a state."

And a campaign characterized by Davis' special brand of the politics of personal destruction is promised:
"I would advise parents in California to turn off the TV for the next 60 days," Democratic official Bob Mulholland said. "If they are firing at you, we will certainly fire back."

This oughta be gooood....

Posted by Tuning Spork at 06:15 PM | Comments (3)

August 06, 2003

Justice Ginsberg's Global View

I've been surfing the blogosphere in recent days looking for something - anything - that I'd be interested in blogging about. Not much happening in the on the Iraqi front, Andrew Sullivan ran himself exhausted on the gay marriage issue, Drudge and the news sites all talked about Kobe Bryant alot. Even Emporer Misha's been relatively quite the past few days. Hell, I even checked out Instapundit for ideas! Nothing.
I ended up presenting my case for the identity of Deep Throat and blathering on and on about tobacco taxation.

But, I finally found something that piques my perspicacity (sorry), and I can hardly believe that everyone let this little item from Yahoo News pass by unmolested!!

Ginsburg: Int'l Law Shaped Court Rulings
Sat Aug 2, 9:48 PM ET

By GINA HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court is looking beyond America's borders for guidance in handling cases on issues like the death penalty and gay rights, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (news - web sites) said Saturday.

WHAT?!!!! Ex-squeeze me?! I baking powder?!! Look to the U.S. Constitution, Ruthie. You remember that, that thing you took an oath to uphold...?

The justices referred to the findings of foreign courts this summer in their own ruling that states may not punish gay couples for having sex.
And in 2002, the court said that executing mentally retarded people is unconstitutionally cruel. That ruling noted that the practice was opposed internationally.

As for executing the mentally retarded being unconstitution on the grounds of it being "cruel and unusual", that requires no look beyond our shores.

But, the Authority of the Federal government to rule on a State sodomy case requires an examination of our own Constitution -- whatever the verdict -- and not on any non-U.S. law or court decisions.
Most foreign courts have no sworn Duty to observe and protect a Seperation of government Powers, nor to respect the sovereignty of local jurisdiction. Apparantly Justice Ginsberg, and a few others on the SCOTUS, don't believe they do either:

"Our island or lone ranger mentality is beginning to change," Ginsburg said during a speech to the American Constitution Society, a liberal lawyers group holding its first convention.

Am I the only one who sees something bizarre in that sentence? An "American Constitution Society" that seems intent on undermining the purpose of the Constitution. Precious.

And "Our island or lone ranger mentality"?! Er, would that be the Independence from European rule that our forebears fought and died for? Would that be our belief that we govern by a Rule of Law, not of the whim of tyrants? Would that be our belief that governments derive their just powers only by the consent of the Governed, not by the "mentality" of unchecked -- and unbalanced -- Judges?

Justices "are becoming more open to comparative and international law perspectives," said Ginsburg, who has supported a more global view of judicial decision making.

How 'bout being more open to recognizing the limits of your Authority? A "global view of judicial decision making"?!! Who the hell are you to look to anything but the Law and Constitution of the United States -- written by the People whom it governs -- to adjudicate a U.S. case? Huh? Answer me!

Okay, the article then presents some clear-headed rebuttals from Justice Scalia and others, but since reading that calms me down, let's just skip to the final paragraphs:

Ginsburg said Saturday that the Internet is making decisions of courts in other countries more readily available in America, and they should not be ignored.

God, you're dumb. Courts in other countries don't make decisions based on U.S. Constitution law, ours does.

"While you are the American Constitution Society, your perspective on constitutional law should encompass the world," she told the group of judges, lawyers and students. "We are the losers if we do not both share our experiences with and learn from others."

What have you been smoking, Ruthie? Can you hear yourself talking? In all my years of studying law (as a hobby) I've never seen a more dumbass oxymoron that what I underlined.

And "learn from others?" We've learned a lot from other over the centuries. The framers of the Constitution learned that tyrants will tax a people into poverty to fund their glory.
We've seen how they disarm the people to secure their station, ravage village after village to subdue the People into docile servitude.
We've learned that racism can, when authority is centralized, result in genocide.
We've learned that Socialism breeds despair and hopelessness, leading only to economic mediocrity at best.
We've learned that imposing any small restrictions on the speech, assembly, media, privacy, right to due process of law, and Property will only lead to large ones.
Yep, we've learned alot from others.

But, for the sake of the issue directly at hand, just remember that it all comes down to this one: We've learned that a judiciary must be constrained to Law as written by representatives of, and accountable to, the People that it governs.

Oh, and I got a global view for you right here....

Posted by Tuning Spork at 03:02 AM | Comments (6)

August 05, 2003

Smoke Screen

Thanks to a link over at Misha's I've been able to calculate what the price of a pack of cigarettes might be today were it not for the rediculous Taxes (read: "freedom-of-Choice fines").

In 1972 the price of a pack of cigarettes was $.35 (I know that because my cousin Danny used to buy them -- for his dad *ahem* -- when we were kids.
Projecting that price through the inflation idex to 2002, the price of a pack should be $1.52.

I can't get a pack in Connecticut for under $4.45, and most places sell them for a price much closer to $5. (and in tobacco-tax-crazy New York City the cost is closer to $8!!)

It's a travesty that the local and State governments profit many times more from the sale of tobacco than the tobacco producers, yet the States sue the tobacco companies for even MORE millions and billions on top of it.

The rationale behind the lawsuits -- and also behind the taxes -- was that the States needed the money to offset the costs of medical care for smoking related illnesses. Strangely, very little of the billions won in the lawsuits was ever spent on health related services. (I'll provide a link to a report on that topic that came out a few months ago..if I can find it..)

So here's the trick: First the State offers help to pay for any medical costs that you may incur due to smoking related illness. Then the State taxes the bejeezus out of you, specifically, the smoker who's been offered this benefit, to cover these alledged costs to the State.
If I smoke one and a half packs a day, I'm paying about $100 a month in cigarette taxes to the State. I think I could get some pretty good insurance policy for less than that price, even as a smoker.

Some political blatherbots claim that they want to impose high taxes on cigarettes in order to pressure smokers to quit. What a load of rot.

First of all, taxing people for daring to exercize their Right to make a choice about their lives that is perfectly legal -- no matter how "unpopular" -- is tyranny, not Service.
Secondly, the reason they claim we need the taxes (as opposed to public service announcements, etc) to help to stop people from smoking is because nicotine is so highly addictive. "Hit 'em in the pocketbook, that'll learn 'em." But, since it's so addictive, the vast majority of smokers will only end up poorer, spending a greater chunk of their disposable - and not so disposable - income on the taxes. The Ledger-slaters know this. Cigarette tax bills are revenue bills, not healthcare bills.

Bill Clinton's favorite excuse, when calling for federal tobacco taxes, was to claim that it would keep cigarettes out of the mouths of The Children(TM).
Uuh... Excuse me, but, I am not a child. Why would I have to pay this tax?
We already card people who might be under 16, or 18, or whatever it is in your State (or has sovereignty on this issue gone the way of the drinking age, the speed limit, and "controlled substances"?). The purchasing of cigarettes by a 15 year old is already illegal, and is strictly enforced at each point of purchase.

Apply the Clintonian logic to this: It's illegal to vote in a State election without being a legal resident of that State. This is enforced at the polling place. But wait, we can make it more difficult for non-residents to vote illegally if we move all of the polling places to the geographic center of the State!
Live near the border and have to drive hundreds of miles just to vote? Too bad, homie; think of the chillllldren!

Adding another @$&%*(^@$* tax to a pack of smokes in order to enforce a the age/sale law is not only just as outrageous, it's a fraud.

Legislators like money. They don't need reasons to raise taxes, only self-righteous-touchy-feely sounding excuses.
Cigarette smokers are a perfect cash cow. Non-smokers hate smoking. Smokers are easily ridiculed and their Rights are rarely defended.

Legislators will claim to want to reduce and/or end smoking. This is so they can raise taxes, file class-action lawsuits, and maybe get a few votes from anti-smokers (as opposed to mere non-smokers) by banning smoking in "public" places. (Most of these "public" places are, of course, private property... but let's not stop the government from clouding that issue as well...)

But one thing they will not do is ban the sale of tobacco. Legislators don't want you to quit smoking. Why would they? There's no money in it for them.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:58 PM | Comments (3)

Dean or Leiberman: the Democrat base has a dilemma

There's a Democratic Party base that absolutely hates George W. Bush. You know the type; they rant slogans like "selected not elected", "Bush lied, people died", "Bush=Hitler", "SUVs kill kittens", "Sic Semper Tobaccus", "Free Castro!", "We're here; We're obnoxious smelly unemployable anti-self-defense anarcho-socialist weasels; Get used to it!" They want nothing more than to see Bush defeated.

This is a large part of the crowd that loves Howard Dean, and has now made him the face of the Democrat election season. Why Howard Dean? Because Dean, more than any other Democratic candidate (though Kusinich is a close second) has presented himself as the Anti-Bush.
Although many of his positions on several "litmus test" issues for Democrats -- such as gun rights and the death penalty -- are moderate to conservative, he was the first to flat out oppose the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He would bring the troops home, essentially gut the funding for the war on terrorism, and spend the money on a federally administered national health-care system.

But here's a curious problem that the Democrats face: Being so anti-Bush that they want him defeated at all costs in '04, they naturally gravitate toward the Anti-Bush: Dean. But, being such an Anti-Bush, Dean has little chance of defeating the President, whose job approval rating is in the 50-60% range.
The war on terrorism, the Afghanistan mission the Iraq war are all popular and well-regarded accomplishments. Unless the situation in Iraq turns significantly worse, that isn't likely to change.

The Democrats issue is -- and could still be in a year's time -- the economy and the deficit. The only Democrat running who seems to have, in any way, positioned himself to win next November is Joe Leiberman. But the Anti-Bush, Dean, has called Leiberman "Bush Lite", and claims that being Bush Lite will not defeat Bush. Presumably, being anti-Bush will.

Seems to me the Democratic Party base that votes in the primaries have to make a choice between their core motivations: a) to be so anti-Bush that they nominate Howard Dean, and b) to defeat Bush, at all cost, in 2004. Can they do both?

Posted by Tuning Spork at 06:24 PM | Comments (4)

Movie Madness Continues!

Well, Pixy Misa and Susie got us all going on the DFilms, and sooner or later I'll get bored with this...NOT!
Here's the latest -- starring JenLars -- from Your's Truly: Presidential Fun Facts!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 05:34 PM | Comments (1)

August 04, 2003

The Right to Keep and Bear Arms: if you use it, you lose it?

Bill Gates, of Charleston, S.C., was sick and tired of the danger to his family caused by gun-toting drug dealers. See HERE.

"I told the police, 'Bring the coroner and body bags the next time you come out here,' " he said. "Nobody is going to run me out of my home."

At about 4:30 am on Friday, Aug 1st, Bill and his wife were rudely awakened by gunfire on their front lawn, just outside their bedroom window. His wife, Yvonne, screamed and dropped to the floor. Bill thought maybe Yvonne had been shot. He grabbed his shotgun and fired three rounds at the punks, hitting two. A third dirtbag lay wounded from a 9mm bullet taken in the firefight between the the drug dealers.

This was only the latest in a long string of such events. Inside the home -- on a wall facing the street -- is a bullet hole from a previous gunfight on their lawn.

"The good Lord was with me that day because I had just moved my grandbaby from that couch," Yvonne Gates said. "She would have been killed because the bullet hit the couch."

This is the house that Bill grew up in. His parents owned it, and passed it on to him when they died. The drug dealing punks were on his property spraying bullets that occassionally entered the home where there are people inside. Bill Gates had every right to respond to that early morning scumfest in exactly the way that he did.
And the police seem to understand that:

While police did not publicly approve of what Gates did, they filed no charges against him Friday.
"We have no plans to arrest him," Charleston Police Chief Reuben Greenberg said. "We can't see from where we sit where a crime's been committed. People have the right to provide for their safety, and we believe that is what he was doing."

So, can someone explain the reason for what came next?

Gates, who is an avid hunter and proudly displays two large mounted deer heads among the photographs of children and grandchildren in his living room, had all seven of the guns he owns confiscated by the police until their investigation is complete.

Since when do the police have the authority to violate Bill's Constitutional Right to keep and bear arms... when no charges were even filed, and when all of his arms are legally owned? Was there even a warrant issued for the seizure of this property?

Leaving Bill and Yvonne defenseless -- and making a public declaration about their defenselessness -- against possible retaliation from the friends and colleagues of the wounded warloons makes about as much sense as... as... aw hell I dunno... selling the car for gas money.

Bill wont be taking this laying down, though;

He vows that he will be ready if friends of the three men try to retaliate, and he smiled as he said he planned to acquire a gun to protect himself.
"They better make sure they get me if they come back, because if they don't get me, I'm going to kill all of them," Gates said. >"I'm 67 and don't have that long to live anyway."

Well, I don't know 'bout that, Bill. Stick around a while longer, will ya? Some people believe that only the police should be allowed to have guns. We need every person we've got who realizes that those who are threatened have the primary right to defend themselves; not some right to be defended only by their government.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:57 PM | Comments (1)

August 03, 2003

Deep Throat Revisited

In the summer of 1994 -- at the time of the 20th anniversary of Richard Nixon's resignation from the Presidency -- there was a BBC/Discovery channel special presentation about the affair that coincided with the publishing of (and was basically a live-action version of) Fred Emery's book Watergate. Having, by that time, long suspected that Fred LaRue -- a close friend and assistent to John Mitchell -- was the anonymous Deep Throat, I watched very closely whenever LaRue was on camera during the program.

Fred LaRue struck me as a sincere, decent, reasonable, humbly able and welcoming man. He didn't seem to be a particularly ambitious personality. Calm and genteel, yet could be quite emotional at times.
Toward the end of the program LaRue visibly wept as he was obviously re-living a period of his life that he rarely discusses publicly.

My case is not expert. As far as the facts go, I only know what everybody else who's interested in this knows. I have no access to every archived Washington Post story that mentions Deep Throat. My hypothesis is gutteral and intuitive, but, I think, also happens to fit the facts.

To set off my examination of why I believe that Fred LaRue may have been the mysterious Deep Throat I'll first site a short description of LaRue written by John Dean in Blind Ambition:

"..LaRue served as Mitchell's alter-ego. A millionaire oil man from Mississippi, he had been serving in the Administration out of curiosity mingled with a sincere desire to be of help. He had no ambitions that I could discern, nor any enemies. ....At the endless government meetings, Fred would melt invisibly into the back of the room and smoke his pipe. He held no title. The standard interpretation was that his full-time job was to be Mitchell's friend -- a vital service, since Mitchell had little use for the senior officials around him."

And here's a brief Bob Woodward assessment of Deep Throat, from All The President's Men;
"Deep Throat never tried to inflate his knowledge or show off his importance. He always told rather less than he knew. Woodward considered him a wise teacher. He was dispassionate and seemed committed to the best version of the obtainable truth." but also writes "He was not good at concealing his feelings, hardly ideal for a man in his position."

Were Woodward and Dean describing the same man?

Bob Haldeman, in The Ends Of Power, wrote a short chapter in which he says that he poured over the information that Woodward and Bernstein had attributed to Deep Throat and compared it to who knew what when, and decided that Deep Throat was, in fact, Fred Fielding. I've found a couple of sites on the internet that also finger Fielding. Fielding was an assistant counsel to the President, worked with John Dean, but had no intimate knowledge of the Justice Department or the Committee to Re-elect the President (CRP).

Similarly, John Sears was also a member of the White House counsel. Len Garment, in In Search of Deep Throat, has pointed to Sears as the likely true identity of DT. But, it seems to me that DT's information was too precise and first-hand to have come from Sears, or Fielding, or anyone else in the White House other than, possibly, Haldeman himself.

Woodward and Bernstein wrote that Deep Throat occupied a "sensitive" position in the Executive Branch. Fred LaRue was John Mitchell's right-hand man, was a close friend and confidant to both John and Martha. He joined the CRP and became, to put it bluntly, the bagman. He was intimately involved in the activities of CRP's hush-money payments to Howard Hunt, et al. He was one of the few who had access to Maurice Stans' safe that held the secret funds. As the Attorney General's - and Re-election Chief's - "alter-ego"(as Dean put it), LaRue had intimate first-hand knowledge of the goings-on at Justice, the FBI, the White House, and, of course, the CRP.

But establishing that Fred LaRue was in a position to be the informant doesn't mean that he was. Maybe he wasn't the only one with all of this knowledge, as broad as it was. But let's look at what Deep Throat told Woodward and see if anyone else fits the template.

According to All The President's Men it was on June 19th, 1972 -- two days after the Watergate arrests -- that, he (who would only later be dubbed "Deep Throat"), confirmed to Woodward that Howard Hunt was involved.
This almost certainly puts DT at the CRP, as neither John Dean, nor any other WH counsel (including Fielding and Sears), had yet to meet with the President or his staff about the matter.

Deep Throat had confirmed that Jeb Magruder and Bart Porter had received at least $50,000 from Stans' safe.
The list of those who had access to the safe, and knowledge of who got paid and how much, is very short. LaRue, being the "banker", as it were, is at the top of that list.

Moreover, Woodward assures us that DT's information is reliable and first-hand, unlike another anonymous informant known as "the Bookkeeper".
"Deep Throat has been explicit in saying the withdrawals financed the Watergate bugging. But the Bookkeeper -- who suspected as much -- could not confirm it."
And perhaps DT's most famous directive to Woodward, "Follow the money," is also telling of his position; as the money had become LaRue's primary responsibility.

Woodward and Bernstein mentioned, in All The President's Men, that, while Woodward would usually take three cabs to get to the parking garage where he'd talk to Deep Throat, he sometimes walked the distance. He mentioned that it took "about two hours" to get from his apartment on P Street to the meeting site.
LaRue had an apartment in the Watergate complex and, looking at a street map of DC, it would be about a two hour leisurely walk (which we might expect at 2 a.m.) from Woodward's apartment to the parking garage of the Watergate.

Most striking to me was when Woodward, seeking more info on who knew what when, asked Deep Throat "What about Martha Mitchell?"
"She knows nothing, apparently.." he replied. Only someone having a close relationship to John and Martha Mitchell -- and knew anything about the dynamics of their relationship and home life -- would ever presume to make such a statement; especially someone as carefully precise as Deep Throat seems to have been.

LaRue recently talked to Tom Wilemon of the Biloxi, Mississippi Sun-Herald. Discussing why he adamantly denies Jeb Magruder's recent claim that Richard Nixon authorized the Watergate break-in, Wilemon wrote:

If the president had approved the plan, Larue believes that Mitchell would have told him.
"There's absolutely no way, because of my unique relationship with John and Martha Mitchell, that he would not have told me that when I was in Key Biscayne. Absolutely no way. I had dinner with the Mitchells four or five times a week. It was not just a political relationship. It was a very personal relationship."

And, perhaps, somewhat explaining how this conscientious man -- this "wise teacher" -- could willfully allow himself to get tangled up in the cover-up activities after the arrests of June 17th 1972, Wilemon quotes LaRue;

"Now, the dilemma is what effect is this going to have on the campaign," Larue said. "I felt very strongly that if Nixon were tied to this that he would probably end up losing the election. I wasn't willing to have McGovern."

LaRue wound up being the "bagman," the person who delivered a payoff to keep people quiet about the break-in, an act that would result in his being convicted of conspiracy to obstruct justice. He served a brief stint in federal prison.

LaRue pleaded guilty to an Obstruction of Justice charge in June '73, but was allowed to remain free on bond pending his sentencing after the trials of his co-conspirators because he was fully cooperating with the prosecution. He was free to talk to whomever he pleased.

The last mention of Deep Throat in All The President's Men is from a November '73 meeting -- following the revelation that there existed tapes of Nixon's conversations in the Oval Office -- about which Woodward writes:
"Deep Throat's message was short and simple: one or more of the tapes contained deliberate erasures."

That's a remarkable piece of information that narrows any field of DT contenders. Not only were there very few would have known of the existence of the "gaps", who among them could positively state that they were "deliberate erasures"?

Alexander Butterfield, who was in charge of the taping system, perhaps...but he would have had none of DT's knowledge of the CRP. Rosemary Woods (Nixon's personal secretary), but DT was definately a man. Alexander Haig (Chief of Staff), J Fred Buzhardt (Nixon's counsel toward the end), and several others close to the President at the time were all relative new-comers.

There are only two answers that seem plausible to me. One is Nixon's good friend John Mitchell, (Mitchell, being deceased, has, obviously, long been ruled out as being Deep Throat.), and the other is Mitchell's good friend Fred LaRue.

But, hey.. I could be wrong.

UPDATE: Fred LaRue has read this post, and responds -- by way a third party -- that he, in fact, never had direct access to Stans' safe. Okay, I may have wrong on that. But, it was not neccessary for Fred to have direct access, only to know what went out to whom when.
He also said that he was not Deep Throat, and he has always considered DT to be a composit character invented to tighten the narrative of, and/or spice up, the book. But, if he had to put a name on DT, it would probably be Hugh Sloan (former treasurer of CRP).

Hugh Sloan was a major "candidate", being CRP treasurer and all. But he resigned relatively early on (in March '73, as things got hot, his wife said she would leave him if he didn't quit), and he testified truthfully -- contradicting some of Haldeman's lies. Sloan would have been out of the loop long before he would have known about the existence of the taping system (never mind that there were erasures).

Hugh Sloan, in 1972, was a young man (about 30), the same age as Bob Woodward; not someone Woodward would likely consider a "wise teacher."
Also, Sloan's personality (just from the books I've read) doesn't seem to match Deep Throat's the way Fred's seems to.
[[Actually, --as I wrote that my thesis is largely intuitive-- it was the similarity of their personalities that first piqued my interest in Fred... That the evidence seemed to suggest it, too, was an interesting development!]]

Also from the aforementioned third party (who holds a position in Biloxi city government):
"I ran into him yesterday at a sidewalk cafe. He was working the crossword puzzle in the newspaper, which is part of his daily routine.
I showed your thesis to him. He read it. He read it again. Finally, I said, 'What do you think?' He sort of laughed, and said, 'Aw, this is a bunch of bs.' ..No, he was not mad. In fact, he thanked me for giving it to him."
-- Tuning Spork 6 Aug 03

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:50 PM | Comments (1)

Movie Madness

Well, Pixy Misa's movies about Susie, and his epic Blogfather saga, has me and everyone else playing director!

I made one about about the amazing similarity between the answers that Jennifer and I gave in round F of FrankJ's permalink contest. So grab a bowl of popcorn and enjoy SOAPY OPERA!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 01:07 PM | Comments (3)

August 02, 2003

Sing-along time!

More songs are up for your listening pleasure *coughcough* over at the "Music Downloads" sidebar!
Feedback is welcomed!
You can't hurt my feelings! *snortchortlecough*

Posted by Tuning Spork at 06:40 PM | Comments (1)
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