Day: May 31, 2003

No Rebound –

‘Even all the boring white guys got tattoos now.’

Like an aging sitcom that keeps getting moved to a worse and worse time slot, Dennis Rodman’s celebrity is near cancellation. Rodman, by 1998 second to his teammate Michael Jordan in name recognition among basketball players, has no endorsements, no public appearances and few prospects. Rodman’s collapse is classic American overexposure. Call it the Action Figure Syndrome. From William Shatner to Mr. T, few survive being molded into 11 inches of plastic. It’s a sign that America has made your acquaintance, fallen in love and gorged on your image. And we all know what happens next in romance and marketing: boredom followed by contempt. Today, it’s a short road from the cover of GQ to a throwaway line in Conan’s monologue. NY Times Magazine

The tragedy is that Rodman, like many others, does not realize what process he is victim of.

20Q –

Play ’20 Questions’ with this site; see if you can stump it. I did on the second try, but it quibbles with the way I answered its questions, feeling misled.

Should Arab Comics Make Terror Funny?

Some pretty in-your-face humor, or at least in Ashcroft’s and Ridge’s faces. Of course, John Stossel finds this phenomenon disquieting. Of course I say go for it…

“I’m normal, people, just like you. I put my pants on one leg at a time, strap on a bomb, go to work.”

“There’s only one thing I’ve got to say about racial profiling: It’s awesome. Seriously. Look at me. I got my ass kicked all through high school. And now, people are actually scared of me.”

“No guys, that’s a lie. I’m not Iranian. I was Iranian for 23 years up until Sept. 11th and now I’m Puerto Rican because that makes life a lot easier. That’s what’s happened to the entire Middle Eastern population: they’ve all become blacks, Latinos and dark Italians…”

“Did you guys see this Dan Rather interview with Saddam Hussein on prime-time TV, right before we’re trying to kill the guy, he’s on prime-time TV, and he challenged President Bush to a debate. Did you guys hear about that? How unfair was that? Going right for our president’s weakness — speaking English.”

“We’re all going to be arrested by the FBI after the show. I hope you guys enjoyed, hope you’re enjoying the show. Hope you’ll visit me in the detainment camp.”

Thanks for the memory…

…with your DNA in tree:

Two art students are planning to grow trees containing the genetic identity of human beings.


The idea is to replace the unused “junk” DNA in trees with entire human genomes. Scientists have advised the pair that it is perfectly feasible.


The “humanised” trees would be unaffected by the change, but still carry the biological essence of the DNA donors. One possibility envisaged is that the trees could replace gravestones as a way of preserving the memory of loved ones. Telegraph/UK

Walt Whitman envisioned this a century and a half ago:

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,

If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

— from Song of Myself (1855)

Mockup Wing Is Torn by Foam in Shuttle Test –

I’ve been having a hard time understanding the foam hypothesis for the damage that caused the Columbia disaster, but in an independent experiment a 1.67-lb. chunk of foam shot from a gas cannon at around 530 mph at a fullscale mockup of a shuttle wing produced a worrisome gap when it struck a glancing blow on the very first attempt. The mockup, of fiberglass, is if anything more resiliant than the esoteric carbon fiber of the real thing. Like me, investigators were apparently skeptical before the experiment:

“Investigators have already concluded that a hole in the shuttle’s left wing let in the superheated gases that destroyed the wing, and they knew that a piece of foam struck the wing on launching. But they would not have been able to link the two convincingly without experimental evidence, and some of them had been worried that the experiments might not produce any wing damage.” NY Times

Another report says that the foam may have done its damage by dislodging a ‘T’ seal between two segments of the wing, opening up a gap along a seam. Analysis of a recorded radar echo of a piece of debris that flew off from the wing after the chunk of foam hit it suggests it is consistent with a ‘T’ shape.

Broadband A Go-Go –

In city after city, high-speed wireless access may be the next Internet revolution. But don’t go out warchalking; this is not your mother’s WiFi:

“I’ve got a Dell laptop on my knees and the wind is in my (very short) hair. I’ve got as many windows open as a beach house in summer—Google searches and instant messages to my wife; in the background, a new batch of e-mails downloads and my hometown public radio station streams on. It’s the usual cruise down the information superhighway at 2 Mb/s.

But I’m also hurtling down an actual superhighway—U.S. Interstate 4, at a very real 115 km/h. I’m in a Ford Mustang convertible, under cotton-ball clouds and a postcard-blue Florida sky. The Dell is outfitted with a prototype card that communicates with a test network set up by broadband wireless start-up MeshNetworks Inc.


(…)

Mesh is the only company to have figured out how to dynamically hand devices off from one access point to another at broadband data rates and six-lane freeway velocities. But beyond that, Mesh, along with Ricochet and other wireless point-to-point networks, are the best hope for a fully mobile future—a world where we can teleconference each other, watch news and entertainment in real time, order from online catalogs, pay our bills, and answer e-mail—anywhere, anytime, on ever smaller and sleeker handheld devices powered by ever more powerful microprocessors and software.” IEEE Spectrum

Beekeeper clears huge swarm of honeybees from downtown –

Thanks to Adam for this: swarm of more than 12,000 honeybees turned a downtown electronic walk/don’t walk sign into a makeshift beehive before the owner of a beekeeping equipment company coaxed the bees into a hive box below the traffic light.


Coincidentally, the bees had camped out Thursday just below the sixth-floor offices of Gary Johnson, the owner of Minnesota Package Bees, who was called on to help capture and remove the bees from the busy intersection.

Decked out head-to-toe in a white bee suit and mask, Johnson carried honeycomb frames up a ladder near the sign. Within minutes, thousands of bees flocked to the frames, while others hovered nearby.

No stings were reported. The bees were so engorged with honey that they couldn’t sting, Johnson said. Mpls. Star Tribune

A similarly-sized swarm in New Mexico made the news this week also.

‘Duh’ Dept:

Research funded by drug companies is ‘biased’: “Research funded by drug companies is more likely to produce results that favour the sponsor’s product, reveals a new study.

Researchers analysed 30 previous reports examining pharmaceutical industry-backed research and found the conclusions of such research were four times more likely to be positive than research backed by other sponsors.” New Scientist And lest we forget, there is a more fundamental bias in the reporting of research findings — that positive results (confirming a research hypothesis) are far more likely to be reported than negative (disconfirmatory) ones. This alone may go a long way to explain the bias in pharmaceutical-funded research, since a researcher seeking a grant is more likely to ‘pitch’ a favorable hypothesis to them.

Bush’s Basket –

Why the President Had to Show His Balls: “In the annals of infotainment, few moments match the sight of George Bush leaping from the cockpit of a fighter jet and striding across the deck of a carrier at sea. Top Gun: The Pseudo Event enchanted the public, horrified liberals, and galvanized the press. Suddenly media mavens noticed that Bush’s handlers have elevated the photo-op to pure cinema. So what else is new?


Actually there was something novel about this occasion, but it passed utterly below the radar. Discretion prevented anyone from mentioning that Bush’s outfit gave him a very vivid basket. This was the first a time a president literally showed his balls. Check it out—your subconscious already has.” — Richard Goldstein, Village Voice

Goldstein goes on to explore the implications. Thank heavens I don’t watch TV news coverage.

Cleaning Up Bush’s Image on Film:

Official, Histrionic, Account of White House response to 9-11:

Trapped on the other side of the country aboard Air Force One, the President has lost his cool: “If some tinhorn terrorist wants me, tell him to come and get me! I’ll be at home! Waiting for the bastard!”


His Secret Service chief seems taken aback. “But Mr. President . . .”


The President brusquely interrupts him. “Try Commander-in-Chief. Whose present command is: Take the President home!”


Was this George W. Bush’s moment of resolve on Sept. 11, 2001? Well, not exactly. Actually, the scene took place this month, on a Toronto sound stage.


The histrionics, filmed for a two-hour television movie to be broadcast this September, are as close as you can get to an official White House account of its activities at the outset of the war on terrorism. Globe and Mail

The New Rules of Politics

Discerning commentator EJ Dionne writes in the Washington Post: “Bush promised to change the ways of Washington. He has succeeded brilliantly, but not by creating the “new tone of respect and bipartisanship” he promised in 2000. The new tone in Washington is not bipartisan but hyperpartisan. “Bipartisanship is another name for date rape,” said White House ally Norquist, according to the Denver Post this week, as he promised to bring Washington’s new ferocity to the state capitals.


With ruthless brilliance, the White House is wielding power through the unrelenting imposition of party discipline. As a result, Bush will certainly help at least one industry in a troubled economy. All the textbooks pronouncing the death of political parties will have to be pulped and rewritten, creating who knows how many jobs.”

Essentially, Dionne opines that, in the good ol’ days, such a slim, partisan margin would result in compromise and bipartisanship, but now no matter how slim the advantage, it is now used as an opportunity to run rampant. And, I would add, even if the Democrats can take the White House in 2004 — the prospects for which look exceedingly dismal given their inchoate ineffectuality* and the deathgrip the Republicans have on the terms of the public debate — the next administration’s ability to govern democratically, such as it were, will have been immutably crippled on the domestic front by the massive Bush increases in the public debt and in the foreign relations arena by our unilateralism and squandering of the goodwill of the world community and our erstwhile allies.

*Although Howard Dean seems to be catching many people’s imagination, dismissing the rest of the Democratic field as ‘Bush lite” and speaking remarkable common sense. At least he is willing to clearly differentiate himself. If the Greens hold to their seeming dawning recognition that there really might be a difference this time around between reelecting Bush and the right Democrat and refrain from mounting a challenge from the left, we might see a real ideologically cast race.

Wolfowitz: WMD were a pretext for war –

The Bush administration focused on alleged weapons of mass destruction as the primary justification for toppling Saddam Hussein by force because it was politically convenient, a top-level official at the Pentagon has acknowledged.


The extraordinary admission comes in an interview with Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Defence Secretary, in the July issue of the magazine Vanity Fair.

It increasingly emerges not only that we are lied to — no surprise — but that it is an explicit instrument of policy to do so. Wolfowitz goes on to make explicit what I’ve said several times was the most compelling hidden agenda for the war:


Mr Wolfowitz also discloses that there was one justification that was “almost unnoticed but huge”. That was the prospect of the United States being able to withdraw all of its forces from Saudi Arabia once the threat of Saddam had been removed. Since the taking of Baghdad, Washington has said that it is taking its troops out of the kingdom. “Just lifting that burden from the Saudis is itself going to the door” towards making progress elsewhere in achieving Middle East peace, Mr Wolfowitz said. The presence of the US military in Saudi Arabia has been one of the main grievances of al-Qa’ida and other terrorist groups. Independent/UK

This is the way, then, that the invasion of Iraq did actually fit in the minds of the Bush cabal with the WoT® agenda, although their halfhearted attempts to assert that they were related were unconvincing. Not being explicit during the buildup to the war about its meeting basically longterm strategic rather than emergent defensive goals, one has to wonder about why it becomes acceptable to admit it immediately upon completion fo the war effort. Wolfowitz is no fool; I suppose he is confident no one is listening now, or that anyone who is has no power to do anything with their upset.


Related: The dysadmnistration’s disingenuousness has a Lewis-Carroll-like illogicality. Justifications seem to be cobbled together, invented on the fly, and have little coherency with one another.

Iraqi “intellectual capacity” for producing unconventional weapons was sufficient justification for the successful U.S.-led war against the country, a senior Bush administration official said today, addressing criticism that U.S. forces so far have found no illicit weapons there.

(…)

Explicitly addressing the lack of WMD stocks found in Iraq so far, Bolton said, “There has been a lot of misunderstanding as to exactly what it was we expected to find and when we expected to find it.”


Since the first Gulf War, he said, “The most fundamental, most important thing that was not destroyed [by international weapons inspectors] was the intellectual capacity in Iraq to recreate systems of weapons of mass destruction.”