Monday, August 30, 2004

Never Enough Off-Camera Faux Pas Department

You'd think by now that Republicans would realize that, just because one's interview isn't being broadcast at that exact moment, doesn't mean that nobody's recording, or paying attention.

For example, Bob Dole, who has been brought forth by Dubya in order to defend the Swift Boat Veterans group's integrity, said that "[t]here's got to be some truth to the charges" if only because "not every one of these people can be Republican liars."

And then Wolf Blitzer, the interviewer, showed Dole a clip from the Kerry ad which pointed out that Bush attacked John McCain's patriotism during the 2000 campain. The ad featured a clip of McCain telling Bush that he should be ashamed for stooping so low.

Bob Dole didn't have to see the clip--he remembered the debate where McCain lambasted Bush. But just after Wolf faded to the clip, Bob Dole had an off-the-record, but honest answer: "He was right."

I do not understand what it is that makes honorable Republicans stick loyally to the party even when its leadership commits shameful acts. I don't understand why McCain is supporting Bush after all this. Then again, I don't know why we still support Israel, for example. All I do know is that we must vote Bush out of office, lest US politics be permanently be-Roved.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Never Enough Prairie Home Sense Department

There's never been any doubt of Garrison Keillor's politics, really, but the fact that he can wrap it all up in homespun homilies, and yet use a richness of language that is rare in the age of the soundbite, shows that there may well be hope if his message can get out.

Here is the message. Enjoy--I did!

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Never Enough Measured Decisiveness Department

Arianna Huffington has a new column on the tyrrany of the vacillating, intellectually lazy undecided voter, and it's a hoot:

According to a new poll by the National Annenberg Election Survey, 46 percent of undecided and persuadable voters say they find the [Swift Boat Veterans For Truth's] vile ads 'very or somewhat believable'.

Believable?! But then why are we surprised that the folks who are still on the fence nearly four years into one of the most disastrous and polarizing presidencies in American history find foaming-at-the-mouth accusations that John Kerry might have shot himself because it would look good on his resume 'believable'?

Damn, Arianna, as usual you rock. And it really touches on an issue that has been gnawing at me for some time. To wit, I don't have problems with principled conservatives (or principled liberals/progressives for that matter) as much as I do with the increasingly large number of people who are apathetic about politics except when swayed by the unprincipled use of attack ads. As Bill Clinton mentioned on the Daily Show recently, attack ads are used because they work. And, in my opinion, attack ads work because people do not take the time to become informed in advance.

As long as a sizeable group of people refuse to learn about anything outside their lives, politics will be an ugly affair. So the question becomes, how do you convince the "swing vote" that they have a vested interest in paying attention to news beyond the sound bites on network news and on the front page of newspapers? That sort of attention takes both time and commitment, and while it is inherently patriotic to do so, it takes an educational effort to convince them so.

There's a new mission for progressives: They need to reach beyond their little circles of people who more or less agree with them, and reach out to the masses. Air America Radio is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done. For instance, what if or Alternet found funding to start a nationwide newspaper in the vein of USA Today but with a more progressive slant? Sure, there are plenty of progressive magazines out there, but the key here is to find a relatively inexpensive way of increasing circulation while educating and encouraging people to think in bolder, more optimistic ways, and to invite action rather than passivity.

It won't happen right away, but I hope it happens sooner rather than later. America needs it.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Never Enough Pleasant Surprises Department

Salon has a great piece today comparing Bush's election prospects to, of all things, Jimmy Carter's. That's a sad comparison indeed, but it rings true--Bush's Presidency is so crummy that it'll be invoked every time a Republican candidate runs for President for the next decade or more, as a reminder of how wrong things can get if we elect one of them. It's no healthier for politics than the current election's prelediction for negative attack ads, really. But it will hopefully force the Republicans to reconsider the nature of their base and perhaps force it to recoup some sembalance of mainstream politics.

As I doubt most of my readership are willing to deal with so much as a Salon day pass sponsorship ad, I am quoting the end of the article, wherein the author briefly touches on Bush's "ownership society" speech, compares it to Carter's "malaise" speech, and then tells a story his father once told him:

Some time back, the great University of Texas economist Robert Montgomery was summoned before our Texas Legislature, then hunting subversives. According to legend, the hearing was the shortest on record. It consisted of a single question and answer. Not having ever seen a transcript, let me paraphrase:

Q.: Professor, do you believe in private property?

A.: Senator, I do believe in private property. I believe in it so strongly, I think everyone in Texas should have some.

HEH. Now you know why, despite efforts by extremist Republicans over the past few decades, I love my fellow Texans. You got to admire that much cheek combined with that much common sense.

Ah, but I ramble. I dare you to read the ad--if you, like me, pray that Bush get voted out of office, this article will cheer you up. Guaranteed.

Never Enough Fuel Technology Porn Department

OK, fine, I admit, my idea of "porn" isn't quite as restrictive as most--I don't have to have naked bodies in it, for instance--but this Washington Monthly article by Sam Jaffe is still quite masturbation-worthy in my eyes.

Why? Because it points out that there are ways to energy independence that are practical, economical, environmentally friendly, and easily implemented in the next decade or two. To wit: using new technologies to convert cellulose to ethanol, we can drastically reduce our dependence on foreign oil and make it economical to do so. Right now, ethanol is made from corn, which simply cannot be grown in enough quantities to supply adequate fuel for vehicles--not without simultaneously cutting US food production down to nothing. Using cellulose instead means any plant matter could be used. Thus, we could grow plants that are very hearty and need no irrigation or fertilizers, on land that would be useless for food crops, and then mow them to harvest the cellulose for ethanol production. The process of making cellulosic ethanol would be significantly cheaper than gasoline, let alone corn ethanol.

That's for the short term. For the long term, hydrogen fuel cells still look much more promising in terms of energy efficiency and pollutants. This is where a newly developed and inexpensive catalyst comes into play--it can strip the abundant hydrogen atoms from ethanol, making a fuel that would be pure enough for solid-state fuel cells. Make those solid-state fuel cells from ceramics capable of handling the heat, and you now have the ability to convert ethanol to hydrogen to abundant electrical power. There will be pollutants since the ethanol-based hydrogen would not be pure enough, but such pollutants would only be carbon that is already in the biosphere in the form of plants, not additional carbon from fossil fuels.

The bottom line is that this is all doable for mere billions--billions already being spent poorly by Dubya to pursue much more exotic lines of research. If John Kerry is serious about switching to a hydrogen-based economy, he and his policy wonks should read this article and give its proposal a serious consideration. For all the great ideas I've seen so far on energy alternatives, this is the first for which I've truly felt excited and inspired.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Never Enough Honest Assessments Department

"Working with computers isn?'t quite like biting the head off a live chicken, but it?s close."
--Rudy Rucker

Friday, August 13, 2004

Never Enough Security Hassles Department

It seems that overzealous security guards are still harrassing travellers for dumb reasons. This story reminds me too much of what happened to me back in 2002, when I was returning from X-Day 5. At the Columbus airport security gate I was stopped by guards because of a wall plaque.

This wall plaque, with its simulation cherry wood carved into bat wings, its dumb-looking brass demon head, and its Barbie-doll sized medieval weapons, was considered a potential weapon because I might somehow hurt someone with the tiny mace.

That's what they said. My take? They decided to harrass me because I had something freaky and spooky, plus, being transsexual and dressed in a leather coat in Summertime (hey, it gets COLD when camping!) left me looking like some sort of Trenchcoat Mafia wanna-be. Never mind that the Trenchcoat Mafia weren't involved in the Columbine shootings anyhow. Never mind that the vast majority of metalheads, goths, and similarly morbid-minded folks never commit a crime more serious than smoking pot. Never mind that the vast majority of terrorists and dangerous crazies don't look like a metalhead or goth.

FEH, I say. FEH!

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Never Enough Novel Data Collection Department

No doubt you've heard the RIAA and the MPAA complaining about how much money they lose to piracy. And there is little doubt you've heard the counter-arguments along the lines of "try before you buy".

Nuclear Elephant is attempting to collect hard data on the latter. If you ever downloaded something "illegally" from file-sharing services, and liked it so much that you purchased the item "legally", feel free to share your experience! (Where would I start?!?)

And no, no personal information is requested--you will be completely anonymous.

Why did I put the words "illegally" and "legally" in quotes, above? Because the RIAA and MPAA love to scream bloody murder about what they perceive as theft of their product, e.g. others' creative output, while engaging in practices that are technically legal but unprincipled and often unethical. But you knew all this. At least, I hope you did.

If you didn't know, you best check out and the Electronic Frontier Foundation's archive of DMCA articles.

Never Enough Eldricht Slithering Things Department

Funny, but only if you are into H.P. Lovecraft.

Well, depends on your state of intoxication, anyhow.