Archive for January, 2008

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Magic Uprights

January 31, 2008
magic-uprights.gif

Whether it involves changing the rules midstream to provide oneself a “hit” or your opponent a “miss”, this emblem is attached to a Chamber comment that “moves the goal posts” in a debate.

For a generic example:

Netizen A claims X is true.  Netizen B claims X is false.  When confronted with overwhelming evidence that supports Netizen A’s argument, Netizen B insists X doesn’t matter because of Y.  (argument might then shift to debate validity of Y)

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Goodbye Rudy, Tuesday

January 29, 2008

Well, the Florida results are in, and Rudy’s out

The question that is undoubtedly on many people’s minds:  What the heck happened to Giuliani?  I think we’ve just witnessed a campaign roll off a hill, and I’m not quite sure what caused it.  According to most polls, Rudy was the frontrunner for most of 2007, and as late as early December still had double-digit leads over most of the other candidates, including John McCain. 

1/15-17/08 12/3-5/07 11/5-7/07
% % %  
John McCain

22

13

13

 
Mike Huckabee

16

18

10

 
Mitt Romney

16

12

12

 
Rudy Giuliani

14

26

29

 
Fred Thompson

9

11

19

 
Ron Paul

4

3

n/a

 
Other (vol.)

1

1

2

 
None (vol.)

8

7

7

 
Unsure

10

9

8

 
Newt Gingrich

n/a

n/a

n/a

 
Sam Brownback

n/a

n/a

n/a

Was it “World Wavered, History Hesitated“, or did people simply forget about 9/11?  ‘Cause he was there on 9/11.

9/11.

He was there, and he didn’t waver, remember?

Oh  what the heck, one more time… for Rudy…

9/11.

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Why Obama, Part III: Foreign Policy

January 28, 2008

For the third installment of the Chamber’s Why Obama series, I’ve picked the foreign policy issue.  The same format applies; this is right from the Obama website.   However, in the spirit of addressing a topic that arose in the comment section of Part II, I’m going to start off with a narrower focus.  For this thread, I’m going to paste a section of an Obama speech on his ideas for restoring American leadership.  (All other aspects of Obama’s foreign policy positions and statements are fair game in this discussion and can be found here, but I’ve decided to start with this particular component).  From the 4/23/07 speech:

The horrific attacks on that clear September day awakened us to this new reality. And after 9/11, millions around the world were ready to stand with us. They were willing to rally to our cause because it was their cause too – because they knew that if America led the world toward a new era of global cooperation, it would advance the security of people in our nation and all nations.

We now know how badly this Administration squandered that opportunity. In 2002, I stated my opposition to the war in Iraq, not only because it was an unnecessary diversion from the struggle against the terrorists who attacked us on September 11th, but also because it was based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the threats that 9/11 brought to light. I believed then, and believe now, that it was based on old ideologies and outdated strategies – a determination to fight a 21st century struggle with a 20th century mindset.obama08_thumblogo100.gif

There is no doubt that the mistakes of the past six years have made our current task more difficult. World opinion has turned against us. And after all the lives lost and the billions of dollars spent, many Americans may find it tempting to turn inward, and cede our claim of leadership in world affairs.

I insist, however, that such an abandonment of our leadership is a mistake we must not make. America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, but the world cannot meet them without America. We must neither retreat from the world nor try to bully it into submission – we must lead the world, by deed and example.

We must lead by building a 21st century military to ensure the security of our people and advance the security of all people. We must lead by marshalling a global effort to stop the spread of the world’s most dangerous weapons. We must lead by building and strengthening the partnerships and alliances necessary to meet our common challenges and defeat our common threats.

And America must lead by reaching out to all those living disconnected lives of despair in the world’s forgotten corners – because while there will always be those who succumb to hate and strap bombs to their bodies, there are millions more who want to take another path – who want our beacon of hope to shine its light their way.

This election offers us the chance to turn the page and open a new chapter in American leadership. The disappointment that so many around the world feel toward America right now is only a testament to the high expectations they hold for us. We must meet those expectations again, not because being respected is an end in itself, but because the security of America and the wider world demands it.

This will require a new spirit – not of bluster and bombast, but of quiet confidence and sober intelligence, a spirit of care and renewed competence. It will also require a new leader. And as a candidate for President of the United States, I am asking you to entrust me with that responsibility.

Obama goes on to propose five ways this can be accomplished, but in the interests of brevity, and to start the discussion, I’m going to address the small portion I bolded above.  There may be those out there who feel that our position hasn’t really changed, and the idea that Bush has made the U.S. is less popular globally is a myth and a concoction of the MSM.  I suppose if we’re going to address “restoring” something, we should probably get this right out of the way first.  So, to support Obama’s contention, I’m going to start with a single graphic:

osamabushkim.jpg

Poll:

· ICM interviewed a random sample of 1,010 adults by telephone from October 27-30. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. Polling was by phone in Canada (sample 1,007), Israel (1,078) and Mexico (1,010)

In other words, its not just the Mayans. From Italy to India, from Thailand to Turkey, from Germany to Greece, there’s a pretty consistent message going out.  We could use some help in this category, to say the least.  There’s a reason why international interest in who will replace Bush has reached unprecedented levels.  I’m glad that Obama speaks honestly and frankly about it, and I think he’s got the best ideas for turning this around. 

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Flame Warrior Profile: Icanhascheezburger.com Commentors

January 27, 2008

The home of “lol catz” macro images, I Can Has Cheezburger?, has become an immensely popular website.  In fact, on any given day, those of us who use wordpress.com can see that the site is listed at the #1 spot on the “top blogs” section of our main dashboard page, usually beating out the CNN Political Ticker (which is got to be saying something, given the fact that we’re in the peak of the political season). 

I find it pretty strange that a website that contains nothing more than silly pictures could become an internet sensation like this.  But if you want to see something really strange, just check out the comment section.  A sample:

Wud agree, sept eyem tinkin dat deez bootz wud bee gud bootz fur teh biskitmakin awlso. Mah kitteh nawt lyk two walk 2 mush, perfurs sleepin, butt iz gud at makin biskits on mah hed at siksoklok in teh mawnin wen he tinks iz brekfestime. Deez bootz kud mayk doze ekstrabig biskits yew get in kawfeeshopz.

It goes on and on, for hundreds of comments.  In trying to pin down the breed of netizens that I was encountering here, I was drawing a blank for quite a while.  Who are these people?  Then it dawned on me.  Icanhascheezburger.com …is Garble city hall.

Garble is a mystery: Is he a foreigner with only tenuous grasp of English? Is he on drugs? Does he suffer a serious mental debility? Is he typing wearing boxing gloves? Garble’s rampant typos, malapropisms and execrable grammar can’t be blamed solely on poor typing skills. garble.jpgGarble is all the more puzzling because if one manages to hack his way through the tangled muddle of his messages a discernable idea will often emerge. For example, in a forum discussion about a painting he might say, “Sorry the picchr the har is wrog. The culir. I liike the lips bot teh Paintng is sucs”. When someone refers to his random capitalization Garble might say something like, “oPS i HITTED THE CAPDLOCK”. Garble drives Grammarian and Nitpick absolutely nuts, but he disdains all efforts at correction, and if complaints persist he will indignantly sign exit saying, “yuor forum si stupef. bYE!” HINT: Garble may be Net Rat.

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Chamber Movie Review: Rambo

January 27, 2008

As I stated in an earlier post, I’m a fan of the Rambo franchise, so I took advantage of my day off on Friday (opening day) and caught the 2:40 showing at the local theater.  The first thing I gotta say is that I don’t go to movies that often, so I forgot how expensive this can be (the ticket was $7, and the soda/popcorn combo was $10.50), but I have no regrets.

The movie takes place in southeast Asia,  as we’re introduced to a bit of background story involving the ongoing war in Burma, followed by the revelation that John Rambo has settled down in a Thai village as a riverboat guide and snake wrangler.  It was only a few minutes into the movie when the Christian missionaries/aid workers arrive and ask him to give them a ride up the river to help the Burmese.  John reluctantly agrees after warning them that they’re wasting their time, and the story is off and running.  ( I was kind of left with the impression that Stallone went ahead and assumed that anyone that went to see this film was familiar with John Rambo’s history, as there wasn’t a whole lot of character development going on).rambo4_04.jpg

Anyway, the missionaries of course get caught, and Rambo is asked to hook up with a band of mercenaries to attempt to rescue them from a Burmese military camp (a camp that is very reminiscent of the Vietnamese camp in Rambo II, incidentally). I don’t want to be a complete spoiler, so let’s just say that, in the end, Rambo saves the missionaries (well, some of them at least) and the mercs (again, some of them) and kills about a 100 or so bad guys in the process.  Roll credits.

In short, this movie was thin on plot and thick on, um, Rambo.  In other words, it didn’t really pretend to be anything other than it was, and for a 10-minute span at the end of the film especially, it was an absolute orgy of graphic violence. ( I’m not sure if there’s a record somewhere for individual visual deaths per minute, but I’m sure this one would rank up there)  Don’t worry about shedding any tears of those on the other end of Rambo’s machine gun either, the bad guys are very bad guys.  They’re good for some rape, genocide, dead pools, killing children, torture, feeding prisoners to pigs, and even a little NAMBLA action just for good measure.  So, let’s be honest, for Rambo fans, this is exactly what we were paying for.  No one was expecting to see something akin to Saving Private Ryan, after all.  So, in that spirit, it delivered….bigtime. 

Memorable quote“Live for nothing, or die for something…your call”

Classic moment:  The look of disbelief on the mercenaries faces after witnessing Rambo single-handedly taking out a handful of bad guys with his bow and arrow, having been upstaged by the “boat man”. 

Something noteworthy:  Unlike previous Rambo films, the movie lacked a scene involving an antagonist capturing and subsequently torturing Rambo in some cruel and inventive way. 

Something I didn’t know previously: Rambo is a blacksmith. The large knife depicted in previous films was apparently abandoned, replaced by a more machete-like weapon that he was able to forge specifically for the mission.

Overall rating:  4 out of 5 (throwing) stars

star128.jpgstar128.jpgstar128.jpgstar128.jpg

Update: Thanks to Sliquid for the email on these stats. I cannot be certain of the accuracy of any of this (only one person killed in the first movie?), but it is interesting nonetheless.

click to enlarge stats for all 4 Rambo movies
click to view

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Why Obama, Part II: Homeland Security

January 26, 2008

For the second installment of the Chamber’s Why Obama series, I’ve picked the homeland security issue.  The same format applies; this is right from the Obama website:

Obama homeland security fact sheet (pdf)

The Problem

Five years after 9/11, our country is still unprepared for a terrorist attack. From improving security for our transit systems and chemical plants, to increasing cargo screening in our airports and seaports, the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission have been underfunded and ignored. The 9/11 Commission gave the government five F’s and 12 D’s on the implementation of its recommendations. Senator Obama is a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and has supported efforts to base homeland security spending on risk rather than pork-barrel politics. He has also introduced legislation to strengthen chemical plant and drinking water security and to enhance disaster preparedness.

Barack Obama’s Plan

Protecting Our Chemical Plants

Chemical plants are attractive terrorist targets because they are often located near cities, are relatively easy to attack, and contain multi-ton quantities of hazardous chemicals. While a number of plants have taken voluntary steps to improve security, there are still major gaps; and the federal government has never established meaningful, permanent security regulations. Senator Obama worked with Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) to introduce comprehensive chemical plant security legislation that would establish a clear set of federal regulations that all plants must follow. The bill requires chemical facilities to enhance security, including improving barriers, containment, mitigation, and safety training, and, where possible, using safer technology, such as less toxic chemicalsobama08_thumblogo100.gif

Keeping Track of Spent Nuclear Fuel

The nation has 103 operating nuclear power plants which annually produce over 2,000 metric tons of spent fuel that remains highly radioactive for many years. A report by the Government Accountability Office found inadequate tracking and security for spent nuclear fuel rods. Nuclear plants in Connecticut, Vermont and California have reported missing spent fuel in the last five years. Senator Obama introduced legislation to establish guidelines for tracking, controlling, and accounting for spent fuel at nuclear power plants.

Evacuating Special Needs Population in Emergencies

One of the most devastating aspects of Hurricane Katrina is that most of the stranded victims were society’s most vulnerable members – low-income families, the elderly, the homeless, and disabled Americans. Too many states and cities do not have adequate plans in place to care for special-needs populations. Senator Obama introduced and passed legislation to require mandatory planning for evacuating people with special needs.

Reuniting Families After Emergencies

After Hurricane Katrina, thousands of people struggled to contact family and friends following evacuation. Evacuees were forced to comb through dozens of databases in an effort to reconnect with loved ones. Senator Obama introduced and passed legislation to create a centralized, federal database to allow individuals displaced by an emergency to call one phone number or go to one website and post their location and condition. Family members and law enforcement officials would be able to use this same secure, centralized system to check the status of missing loved ones.

Keeping Our Drinking Water Safe

There are almost 170,000 public water systems in the United States. An attack on a drinking water system could contaminate or disrupt water service, thereby disrupting society, impacting human health and compromising critical activities such as fire protection. Senator Obama introduced legislation to provide $37.5 million over 5 years for drinking water systems to upgrade their monitoring and security efforts.

Protecting the Public from Radioactive Releases

Following reports that nuclear power plants in Illinois did not promptly notify local communities that tritium – a byproduct of nuclear generation – had leaked into the groundwater, Senator Obama introduced legislation to require nuclear plants to inform state and local officials if there is an unintentional leak of a radioactive substance. Chronic exposure to high levels of tritium can increase the risk of cancer, birth defects and genetic damage.

Barack Obama’s Record

There have been tritium leaks at other nuclear plants, though none so extensive as at Braidwood. The uproar over Braidwood prompted the Nuclear Energy Institute to outline a voluntary policy for monitoring tritium leaks and reporting such incidents. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has vowed to continue to push for federal legislation that requires reporting. “The nuclear industry already had a voluntary policy, and it hasn’t worked,” he said. Exelon’s past actions have helped to prove his point.

— Chicago Tribune, Editorial, May 25, 2006

We could kill a hundred thousand men in the deserts of the Middle East, and it still wouldn’t change the fact that a single terrorist cell here in the U.S. could strike at any number of our vulnerabilities.  Needless to say, I’ve long argued that the “fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them here” rhetoric lies in the domain of two-dimensional thinking (not to mention a desperate attempt at retrograde justification for the Iraq debacle).  I was glad to see that Obama’s plan addresses many of the gaps in our security (outlined in the pdf), including the need for the screening of all inbound cargo at our ports.  I’ve never really understood the logic behind spending hundreds of billions of dollars to fund an ongoing occupation in Iraq while basic steps to “terror proof” our homeland have been largely ignored.   Obama and I are also on the same page in recognising that while intelligence is vital to preventing terrorist attacks, we cannot allow fear to drive us to sacrifice the civil liberties that defines our country. 

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Upgrade: Site Meter & TTLB

January 25, 2008

It only took about a year, but I finally got around to adding these enhancements:

Site Meter - Lots of interesting stats about where visitors to the Chamber are coming from, how long they’re staying, and what they’re reading.  You’ll see an ambiguous number sitting in my sidebar under “other stuff”, and if you click on it, you’ll be transported to the control panel.  Have fun! (note- unfortunately, wordpress.com blogs do not allow javascript to be inserted anywhere by us lowly netizens, so the features aren’t quite as robust as they could be)

TTLB- Short for The Truth Laid Bear, it is a popular blog aggregator and ranking system.  You might have seen other blogs with something in their sidebars reading “I’m a ____ in the TTLB EcoSystem”, well…now I’m in the ecosystem.   Since I’m getting in fairly late, however, I imagine that I’ll just have to deal with the low blog cred for awhile.  Fortunately for me, the aforementioned javascript restriction doesn’t allow me to advertise it. Aw shucks.

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