Sunday, February 27, 2005

"Torn" by Natalie Imbruglia. Actions by somebody else.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Purple America - US Election Results, visualised

This is a fairly cool way to visualise the red-state/blue-state "divide", though perhaps the point of this visualization is that with sufficient detail, the divide isn't as wide as it might other appear.

This one is good for understanding the swings between 2000 (with black bits in the North East) and 2004

Thanks to Robert Vanderbei of Princeton for this!

What an Ashcroft!

A news web-site in Arizona has reprinted a Washington Post article about one approach to removing obscenities from films screened on airliners.

Somehow, I think they failed.

Stopping the war

John Farley argues that the way to stop the war is to stop the funding, and the way to do that is to put congressional representatives under political pressure by making the funding of the war a bottom-line issue upon which votes will be switched.

Torture Nation

Tom Wright writes about America's growing acceptance of torture as a legitimate means of governance.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Summers on The Snake

Anne Summers wrote:

"And, of course, who would not agree when we look at lovely, laid-back Daniel O'Connor, a nice bloke whom many people cheered when they learnt that his first reaction upon learning the identity of his father was to swear."

Whoo hoo! That's a homer!

Today I received this in my snail-mail.

The problem, Bill, is that when one has to engage in detailed semantic arguments to distinguish torture from its opposite, the battle to retain one's own humanity has already been lost.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Maher, Stahl and Williams on Gannon

Ok, so perhaps this story is going to get a little more traction, courtesy of that bastion of American democracy, the late night comedy show.

And some indications that the mainstream media is getting more interested in this, courtesy of an article by Frank Rich of the New York Times, also reproduced on Common Dreams.

Cockburn + Raimondo on Gannon

Alexander Cockburn wrote:

It's early days yet, but the Gannon affair bears all the marks of being a ripe and delicious scandal with long-term potential. Perhaps because of the confluence between rightwing attitudes and sexual repression there's always been an equation in Washington between closetry and the ranker reaches of the fascist mindset. The Gannon scandal has all the right ingredients: a fake journalist (how could they tell?), with militarystud as one of his email addresses; a supposed breach in national security; intimations of gay closetry in the upper reaches of the Bush White House (and I doubt Laura Bush will prove as protective a den mother as Nancy Reagan). This weekend CBS links Gannon with Karl Rove and there have been some alleged sightings of Bush spokesman Scott McLellan in the gay bars of Austin, where there's always confusion on exactly what lies behind those manly Wranglers. What better commentator could one hope to find on this matter than a gay, anti-war libertarian. And so without further ado we usher you to our friend Justin Raimondo, who is indeed a gay, anti-war libertarian. Take a look at his uproarious resume of the Gannon Affair.


This text contains some spoilers, so please don't read this if you haven't seen the film yet!

I saw the film "Closer" this week. I was always going to like this film. After all, it has Natalie Portman in it. Not only is she in it, her character is, in part, a stripper. Ooohlala. As the character Larry says in the film, when asked by Anna "Why is the sex so important to you?". Because I'm a fucking caveman.

However, I like this film for much more than that. I like it because it says things about the melancholic nature of relationships that I understand only too well.

The production notes contain this quote from the director Mike Nichols:

"Closer concerns itself with the fact that, in love, we remember beginnings and endings and tend to edit out the middles. It asks interesting questions like 'how do we really remember things and how does life really look to us?'"

Of course, in my case, the beginnings, middles and ends are so far back in time as to be telescoped together in any case. But that aside, he does have a point.

A lot of the film deals with the question of truth and lies; honesty and deceit. Do we really want to know the truth? Are we sometimes better off not knowing the bald truth? Good questions but as in life no good answers. Larry and Anna end up together, but are they really happy? Dan and Alice explode apart, in part because of his need to know the hard truth about Alice's relationship with Larry.

I muse that there wasn't a lot of deceit in the relationship that still haunts me. Certainly not about the small things - I never caught her in a lie. I was surely deceived about the question of whether she was the one for me but that was, I think, self-inflicted. Anyway, enough of these self-indulgent musings...

The sound track by Damien Rice is excellent, particularly the song that opens the film and that the credits play out to - "The Blowers' Daughter".

Friday, February 18, 2005

Paul Craig Roberts on the pathetic US media

In this piece, Paul Craig Roberts takes the US media to task for being such lap dogs of the Bush administration.

Limbaugh looks stupid - again.

Katrina vanden Heuvel, The Nation's editor, wrote (via Media Matters):


Now, I know that Limbaugh doesn't have a lot of experience with successful relationships, but attacking someone's spouse is generally considered to be pretty low down and dirty. In fact, some would call his reckless allegations libelous--my lawyer, for example. I also know that Limbaugh suffers from a rather severe case of McCarthy-era nostalgia, but equating liberalism with communism is tired and boorish even for someone who is a big, fat idiot. I use the term advisedly.

By the way, if Rush had done any research, he would have discovered that my husband now teaches, after many years at Princeton, at NYU, not Columbia. (Kids, this is an object lesson: read books, don't take drugs.)

Joe Conason On The Gannon/Guckert Affair

Joe Conason asks why the media has been so silent about the Guckert/Gannon affair.

Update:Maureen Dowd ponders similar questions.

And so does Sidney Blumenthal.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Sex-related scandals American style

And I thought the Brits did sex-related scandals well. It appears conservative Americans do 'em even better. Enjoy!

Friday, February 11, 2005

An Atom Feed For Common Dreams

Continuing according to the Crunch Manifesto! I have added an atom feed for Common Dreams to this page.


Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Coulter On Canadian Involvement In Vietnam

Ah, too beautiful for words. Idiot.

Hirschhorn on Democracy’s Arrow

Joel Hirschhorn has written a thought provoking piece about the decline of democracy in the United States.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Degassed water does away with the need for detergent

This is pretty amazing...Richard Pashley has worked out that degassed water is a really good cleaning agent - apparently air bubbles in normal water cause dirt to clump together in sticky lumps, but this effect does not occur when degassed water is used instead.

Eclipse 3.1M3

It looks as if Eclipse 3.1M3 has some pretty cool features in it.

Generics refactoring, referencing externalized message texts, etc.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Levich dares to challenge Chomksy

In a recent CounterPunch article, Chomsky is quoted as saying:

    "The Vietnam experience, I think, is the first time in the history of European imperialism that an imperial power tried to fight a colonial war with a citizen's army."

In a later CounterPunch article, Jacob Levich wrote:

    "To begin with, it's mysterious why Chomsky limits himself to European powers. Surely his argument should apply equally to imperialists on other continents, unless he thinks Europeans are especially sensitive about colonial slaughter -- and he can't possibly think that. "

Then he wrote:

    "And once you let Asia into the equation, Chomsky's argument truly collapses."

The history of European imperialism Levich recounted aside, isn't that the whole reason why Chomsky limited himself to European imperialism? Levich can't generalize Chomsky's argument for him and then claim that his argument doesn't survive the generalization. If you change Chomsky's argument it is, ipso facto, no longer Chomsky's argument!

It would seem that Levich had enough facts to prove Chomksy's assertion incorrect - why resort to dirty pool of this kind?

[ update: retracted discussion regarding Chomsky's use of the term "European imperialism" to include American actions. I thought I could recall instances where Chomksy had previously used this rhetorical device, but wasn't able to find a quote to substantiate this assertion. Mind you there is an almost identical quote imbedded here. ]

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Bob Ellis Throws Down The Gauntlet

    The 20,000 children killed in Iraq by the Americans were only liberated into death. Their 400,000 close relatives only liberated into grief. And so too with the 70,000 adults and their 3 million close relatives and friends.

    If Gerard Henderson thinks Sunday's election was "worth it", he should ask Paul Pardoel's mother and wife why he didn't think so before he, too, died.

    And then debate me, publicly, any time. Like a true democrat would.

    [ Bob Ellis - SMH Letters - 2005/2/2 ]

Go on Gerard, you know you want to.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

A Cool Way To Read CounterPunch

This is kind of cool - an Atom feed for Counterpunch.

If you are using Firefox, there should be an orange RSS icon in the bottom right of the browser status bar. Click on this link and select the blackcubes subscription.

Assuming my currently discombobulated server is up, this action will add a "Live Bookmark" to your browser. The "Live Bookmark" contains the titles and URLs of the last 20 or so articles that CounterPunch has published. You can use the "Open in tabs" menu option to load all the listed articles into the tabs of a single browser window, thereby reducing the effort required to read all the articles.

Alternatively, add the following URL to your favourite Atom reader: . However, that probably won't work so well right now because there are currently no content or summary sections in the generated feed.

The cool aspect of this is that CounterPunch doesn't actually publish an Atom feed. This Atom feed is created by subjecting their raw HTML home page to a crude sed filter, the tidy utility and an XSLT stylesheet. I'd also like to do the same for Common Dreams or any other periodical which doesn't publish an Atom feed.

The current implementation is a major hack -- the feed doesn't even properly conform to the Atom spec yet. However, it does serve as a rough prototype for a Perl program that I want to write that will be able to generate feeds from arbitrary HTML pages. The program will be extensible by plugins that either provide useful generic text extraction capabilities or contain knowledge about how specific sites are structured, so as to enable the extraction of Atom-structured text from sites that don't publish their own feeds.

I've had a quick look for other tools out there that do the same thing but haven't found anything that does quite what I want. Haloscan provides services for post-processing already extant feeds but doesn't, as far as I know, attempt to instantiate new feeds. Anyway, I am looking for a programming problem that I can use to improve my Perl programming skills.

ps: if you have tried this once and it didn't work, it was probaby a combination of strict syntax checking in FireFox 1.0 and a broken feed syntax on my part. I have now fixed the syntax errors, so it should work better now!

pps:I have created another blog -- The Crunch Manifesto -- to document the rationale for and design of a toolset to implement this idea on a larger scale. Visit that blog to read my thoughts on this and to provide feedback or design input.

pps:I have now created an atom feed for Common Dreams. Enjoy!