Friday, November 08, 2002

IN AN N.Y. OBSERVER COLUMN attacking Gore Vidal's latest Bush conspiracy tale, Ron Rosenbaum makes a point of employing the warblogger terms "fisking" and "misting". Lexicographers, who still seem wedded to the superstition that being rendered in ink on paper is the only thing that makes a word legitimate, should take note.
DATA SECURITY AT FINANCIAL COMPANIES is increasingly being compromised by "hacking syndicates", but the financial institutions are keeping it quiet by electing not to report security breaches and even paying hush money to the syndicates, according to a Computerworld article. (Web searches turned up a pair of related reports [both in PDF format] co-authored by Tom Kellermann, the World Bank specialist quoted in the story.)
THE FIRST PART OF THE WTC's structure to fail was the columns whose fireproofing was knocked loose by airplane debris, according to the latest in-depth study, which absolves the floor trusses and the fireproofing itself from blame. (Note, you'll need GIF animation turned on to see the animated impact diagram near the top of the above story, and you'll also need to enable pop-up windows to follow the collapse-sequence links further down in the story.) Part of the evidence that the floor trusses weren't to blame is that the smoke pouring out of the buildings before they fell was coming out in differentiated, floor-by-floor streams, whereas if the floor trusses had failed there would have been undifferentiated masses of smoke issuing forth, says the chairman of the engineering firm that led the study.

This study was commissioned by Silverstein Properties to support its $7 billion insurance claim, while the insurers commissioned their own report that criticized portions of the Silverstein study, mostly those relevant to the insurance dispute. The National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is working on its own two-year analysis, will be taking both of these studies into account.
1,323-POUND TACO. Anyone have a photo?

Thursday, November 07, 2002

IN A COUPLE OF RECENT POSTS, Greg Beato has done an excellent job countering some of the more egregious bloviation that's been committed by right-leaning pundits since John Muhammad and John Lee Malvo were arrested and charged with being Snipey & Son. If immersing yourself in warblogs sometimes leaves you unable to think beyond a certain mindset -- I'll admit, it happens to me sometimes -- then Beato's blog is an excellent remedy, deftly dissecting some of the warblogosphere's faves but not embracing the sort of bogus contrary ideologies that some contenders are known for.
AS THE CHINESE COMMUNIST PARTY gets busy selecting its next generation of leaders, the WaPo has a pretty good retrospective of Jiang Zemin's years in power. The modernization of the party during Jiang's 13 years in charge, which the article says was necessary for it to remain in power, has been something of a two-edged sword -- it pulled out of people's private lives somewhat, and has embraced commerce and privatization to an extent that's surprised me, but the modernization has also seen the party get in tight with business oligarchs and become ever more efficient at repressing any hint of dissent and any bit of information that might threaten the party's control. (You might say it has actually become the sort of party that a some left-leaning Westerners are always hyperbolically accusing the Republicans of being.) As I have indicated before, I've been tending to see China (and some other Pacific Rim countries) as something of a test case for libertarians' faith that the desire for the prosperity that capitalism brings will be an important means of spreading individual liberties.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

GOTTA LOVE THOSE COMMENTS POSTERS. So Oliver Willis cautions the Dems not to think they need to move to the left, and says that 51-49 isn't an impressive mandate, and up pops some tractor salesman in his comments section:
41 - 49 is a HUGE mandate, if you compare this with the state of things before the election, and figure in the fact that this is a first-term, mid-term election during a queasy economy.

Spin on all you folks want, but America has devastated you. You have been left behind. Adios in the dust, mf, to quote the movie.

Say good bye Roe v Wade. Say goodbye NPR. Now, the long knives come out. Now, let the bloodletting begin.
No way. I'm inclined to agree with other blog commentators that the Republicans appealed to voters by looking tougher on terrorism and by facing a Democratic Party without a clear message. Trying to use this as a mandate for all that paleocon culture-war nonsense would be folly for the GOP, just as the Democrats would be nuts to take Michael Moore's advice by trying to act just like Nader. Frankly, I'm with Kathy Kinsley on this one:
I hope you Republican politicians will keep in mind that a lot of people held their noses to vote because of the war on terrorism. It doesn't mean we want you in our bedrooms, ok?
Right on.

Update: VodkaPundit -- who, like me, has an affection for divided government -- has said much the same thing at greater length. And Instantman got right in there with one of his pet issues as well.
DIGGING AROUND ON THE Web site of the Italian newspaper La Stampa, our man Cinderella spotted a piece that's either celebrating or poking fun at the old-school Marxist terrorism theorist Carlos Marighella, who in the late Sixties wrote the Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla. Cinderella's ensuing mockery of traditional far-left posturing, and the radical chic of the years since, is just another example of why he (and his blogdaddy Chapman) are worth your time, particularly if you've gotten tired of the GOP rah-rah-ing and rote fisking elsewhere in the warblogosphere.

That's not to say Cinderella can't deconstruct the dunderheads with the best of 'em -- check out his explanation of why Matthew "The Olive Garden" Engel and his Grauniad compatriots remind him of background Muzak that never challenges or surprises. (Okay, so that tends to be true of commentators all over the political spectrum, and some bloggers too, but who said I have to be fair?)
NEW YORK PIZZA.
FOLLOW-UP ON A NEW YORKER STORY: Oklahomans vote to ban cockfighting.
1:30 AM AND IT LOOKS like the Republicans have a 49-48 Senate lead, plus small leads in Minnesota and Missouri, with Thune slightly behind Johnson in South Dakota. (Or, technically, 49 to 46 + Jeffords + Landrieu in Louisiana if she wins her run-off.) Democratic votes tend to be concentrated towards the end of the counting (more votes in larger counties that take longer to compile -- which reminds me of my Student Senate campaign where I was down by 21 votes with 60 left to be counted and somehow caught up with an improbable 41-17 run, or something like that). So we're not going to learn anything 'til tomorrow.

The Virginia LaRouchie got 9% of the vote. That's not funny, even as a protest vote. The sales tax hike lost. Bedtime.
IN THE 1988 Baseball Abstract, Bill James describes how when he first started writing, he got a hate-mail letter or two a week that cheesed him off and got him unduly upset, and that now that he was popular, and read by 100 times more people, he got 100 times more letters like that, and, well, he was fed up with it and taking his ball and going home. "Breaking the wand," he called it.

I'm reminded of this, because Lileks got obnoxious mail a day or two ago, and I hope the jerk who sent him the letter doesn't spoil it for the rest of us. Judging by what he's sent me on the rare occasions I've disturbed him with a note over the last five or six years(and almost always with my real-life identity, so he doesn't know me from Adam -- I don't think he even read this site until Combustible Boy signed up), Lileks does a better job of answering his mail than Max Power does. It's an interesting phenomenon how it takes only a couple of people to befoul the pool for everybody else. There are probably only a few thousand spammers who make e-mail miserable for millions. It's not the vast mass of humanity that forces us to install the door locks, it's the 1-2% of bozos at the margin. And it might take just one bile-ful poison pen letter writer to persuade a writer I've been following and enjoying for years to give up his unpaid hobby.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

WHAT COULD BE BETTER than Corporate IT Anthems? From KPMG and Ernst & Young and AT&T and more...
IF YOU, LIKE ME, ARE a big Casablanca fan and would like to believe that Bogey was always cool, then whatever you do, don't look at this picture.
I ORDINARILY DON'T LIKE to use the blog for gushing happily about things, but I have to say that the weather here in my little corner of the world is absolutely perfect right now:
Currently at BETHESDA (3:18 p.m. EST)
CLOUDY; Temperature 47°F, RealFeel Temp: 42°F RealFeel Shade: 43°F, Humidity 72%, Winds southeast at 8 mph, Pressure N/A in.(S), Visibility 7.8 miles, UV Index 0
Is there any place I could move to where this would be what the weather is like year 'round? Probably not; the only places that don't have much seasonal temperature variation seem to be places that are either insanely cold or places that are so hot that people go around with hardly any clothing on, while the places that have decent temperatures most of the time also tend to have way too much rain. More proof, if you ask me, that there is no God, or at least not a benevolent one.
GREAT MOMENTS IN EUPHEMISM: Referring to irradiated food as "cold-pasteurized". I guess if the alternative would be years more of trying to convince people that they're not going to be turned into three-headed tree frogs by eating the stuff, I'm all for "cold-pasteurized".
THE DANGER OF being educated as an economist is that you're trained to realize exactly how futile and irrational it is to vote.

Nevertheless, I voted today, and almost immediately regretted it. (Trivia: first time I used a voting machine instead of a punchcard ballot where I had to strip the chad.)

John Warner is running unopposed, and I meant to cast a protest vote for one of his independent opponents. Except that they were an isolationist and a LaRouchie. I voted for Warner.

For Congress, the opposition parties couldn't even find a college graduate to run. Geez, I would've run if they had asked, and done at least as well, and at least I'd have something to say in the voter guide. I voted for the incumbent, but I'm putting my name in the hopper in 2004: there's a greater civic duty to run for office than to hold one's nose and vote for these buffoons.

I voted against the half-cent sales tax increase. If you're going to raise my taxes to build roads, raise gas taxes so that the pollution from the additional roads is at least partially offset from the deterrent to gas guzzling. Moreover, building more roads in the outer suburbs would just encourage more sprawl there, with no net effect on outer-suburb traffic congestion, while increasing congestion in the inner suburbs and the bottleneck bridges into DC. There's also the simple reality that there's no such thing as targeted taxes. Even if every penny from the lottery goes to education or from the sales tax goes to road-building, it just means that there's an offset in the general revenue fund that doesn't have to go to education or road-building. Feh. Let the government learn how to prioritize.
HAPPY ELECTION DAY to our readers in the United States. Even if you're not eligible to vote in our elections -- I'm not entirely certain that I am, at the moment -- you might be interested in the Iowa Electronic Markets Congressional Control Market, which describes itself as "a real-money futures market where contract payoffs will be determined by the outcome of the 2002 U.S. Congressional Elections."

Monday, November 04, 2002

YOU KNOW, I have absolutely no objection when U.S. forces target and kill al-Qaeda terrorists responsible for previous attacks. I'm even not going to complain that the CIA used a missle to do it. But isn't all this something our Secretary of State criticized Israel for?
RESOLVED:

Bill Clinton : Gary Hart :: George W. Bush : Dan Quayle


Discuss.

Sunday, November 03, 2002

IN WHAT IS A RARE EVENT for me, I actually got in my automobile and left my neighborhood for a little while today, as I had to run some errands that were not convenient to public transportation. While out motoring, I espied a Honda Odyssey minivan sporting a bumpersticker that said: "VOTE GREEN: overgrow the government". I was quite well flummoxed by this message -- was this an admission by the Green supporters that they do want to create an enormously oversized government, just as their opponents always charge? I discounted the possibility that this was actually an anti-Green sticker, since the "Vote Green" part was printed in big letters and the "overgrow the government" part was noticeably smaller. So perplexed was I that I had to think about it for 30 seconds before it clicked in my head that this was a pun combining "overthrow the government" with the concept of "overgrowing", as plants might do.

This Green slogan has been kicking around a while -- it appeared on a 1992 t-shirt that has a real patchouli-oil-and-Phish-concert sort of aesthetic to it -- but I think it's only recently spread to the more subdued-looking bumperstickers that might be spotted on a minivan in the upper-middle-class D.C. suburbs. Now we've got yet another excellent example of the Left's inability to put do any sloganeering that might actually attract people who don't already agree with them; apparently it's more important to appeal to some soccer mom's rebel-with-a-mortgage instincts than to avoid scaring away everyone who feels that the government's grown quite enough already, thank you.

I guess there's also a certain irony that a Greenie bumpersticker on an import minivan in the automotive suburbs is being picked on by a guy who lives a few blocks from his office, gets around on foot for the most part, and prefers to use public transit for longer trips. And on a blog that's run by another guy who makes a point of living in a close-in edge city and who drives a hybrid electric car. Also, who says bloggers don't do original reporting -- I had to leave my apartment and everything in order to chase down this story!
JUST GOT A PHONE CALL from the recorded voice of George W. Bush urging me to exercise my right to vote on Tuesday (and also, if I could pretty please vote for the Republicans, that would be nice too). The recorded Bush voice repeated the hoary old line that "one vote can make a difference", but considering who was speaking, you'd think he could give more specifics -- 537 votes made the difference in for his side in Florida, 366 votes made the difference for the other side in New Mexico, and so on...