Sunday, March 28, 2004

Clear skies at last

And I pulled off the ancient astronomical perfecta: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon all at once. Plus a short but bright Iridium satellite flare while I was at it.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Lyric of the moment

"Let's put our heads together
and start a new country up..."

OK, it's R.E.M. from 1986 but it still applies. And kids who were babies when Cuyahoga came out can vote this year.

I remember making my first and only trip to the South back in 1984 right after Reckoning came out and playing it over and over on a bus across Georgia... sort of a macrobiotic theory of music, playing artists as you passed through their geography. (I slept through Tennessee. This was before my tenure as a country DJ.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Wal-Mart Officially Launches 88-Cent Online Music Downloads

Any guesses on whether it's clean versions only?
Oregon county bans all marriage - Mar 23, 2004

"It may seem odd," Benton County Commissioner Linda Modrell told Reuters in a telephone interview, but "we need to treat everyone in our county equally."
Clinic workers feel threatened by protester

"I advocate for the execution of abortionists because they deserve to die," Dan Holman told the court. "They're cold-blooded murderers."

This jerk is talking about friends of mine.

A Gathering of Planets

The five brightest planets are gathering in the evening sky for a rare after-dark display...

"After sunset on March 24th, look west again. Mercury will be a little higher than it was on March 22nd, and thus easier to find. Trace the same imaginary line upward past Venus and the Moon (a dazzling pair), Mars, Saturn, and behind your back, Jupiter..."

UPDATE: And of COURSE it's been cloudy all week...

Monday, March 22, 2004

Pet lover thrives in giving 75 felines a home

"They all mean something to me," said Riegel, 33, a self-employed information technology consultant.

Riegel began a computer database to track his cats, noting each creature's acquisition date, health needs and other characteristics that distinguish, say, Thumper from Squunk...

"My friends," said Riegel, "know I'm eccentric."

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Wagner's Ring Cycle Returns to Met

Some people take this seriously. A lot more people are thinking "kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit."

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Evening Space Station Viewing this week

Now, if the sky would only clear up...

3/18 07:15:15pm
3/19 07:46:55pm
3/20 06:42:42pm (best)

UPDATE: I caught the directly-overhead pass on Saturday the 20th. Took me longer than usual to see it rising in the west (yes, it rises in the west)

Friday, March 19, 2004

Look! Up In The Sky! It's a bird! it's a plane! It's a frog!

Nor bird nor plane nor even frog, it's the Space Station again.

3/19 07:46:54pm
3/20 06:42:42pm Again, this is the best, almost directly overhead
3/21 07:14:28pm

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Howard Stern Tells Listeners to Vote Against Bush

"If you're listening to me now, the one thing I ask you to do is vote against Bush. Vote for Kerry."

Howard Stern is swapping his trademark trash talk for politics as the syndicated radio talk-show host becomes one of the Bush administration's most influential critics.

The shock jock previously supported the president and is now promoting the Democrats just as the FCC is launching a major crackdown on decency on the airwaves...

Tuesday, March 16, 2004 : G.I. Seeks Conscientious Objector Status

Shaken by a gunfight in Iraq that killed innocent civilians, a 28-year-old U.S. soldier declared the invasion "an oil-driven war" and said he won't return to the Middle East and fight.

Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejia, of Miami Beach, surrendered Monday at an air force base in Massachusetts, where he was ordered to report to his unit Tuesday at the North Miami Armory in suburban Miami.

Friday, March 12, 2004

How to make sure that Nader doesn't do it again

This whole article is a must read. I'm posting the whole thing so you can skip the Schindler's List ad on Salon.

This sounds a lot like what I've been saying for three-plus years now...

How to make sure that Nader doesn't do it again:
The Democrats need to take his issues seriously.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Seth Colter Walls

It's easy to forget that, up until the desperate final weeks of the 2000 campaign, Team Gore's official line about Ralph Nader was that they weren't "losing any sleep" over his candidacy. Nader wore this patronizing dig as if it were a badge of honor, even working it into his stump speech. "Slumber on, Al Gore!" he'd chant to the thousands gathered at his surprisingly vital rallies. To Naderites (full disclosure: I used to be one), the Democrats' inattention was seen as a kind of playground taunt, further evidence of an arrogant party elite that was unwilling to recognize sincere political passion within their own natural base. John Kerry, already thought by many to be aloof, cannot afford to sleep on this front. If he wants to be president, he'll need to actively defeat two candidates: Bush and Nader. To do so, he will need to engage Nader directly in September and October.

This contradicts conventional political wisdom. It's taken as gospel that the last thing a front-running or major-party candidate wants to do is legitimize a quixotic campaign by deigning to acknowledge its existence. (Gore's "not losing any sleep" approach was textbook in this regard, though it probably helped doom him to many a sleepless night after the election.) But Nader is not your average political Don Quixote: He starts out with high name recognition, a base (admittedly small, but large enough to matter), and a public persona based on an impressive record of accomplishment. It's not as though Kerry would risk alerting people to a little-known challenger if he were to name-check Nader during an interview.

Another lesson of 2000 is that the Democrats can't prevent Nader's candidacy from becoming a story by pretending it doesn't exist. This is the political equivalent of playing dumb, and it's far from clever. As long as he keeps polling at 6 percent in AP polls, Nader is going to draw attention from the press. (Other current polls have Nader drawing as little as 2 percent, but as everyone should be able to concede, 2 percent can turn a few blue states red.) He will likely end up on enough state ballots to pose a problem for Democrats. Moreover, if Kerry chooses not to engage with Nader, he gives Nader a de facto monopoly over defining what Nader's candidacy is all about.

Some will argue that Kerry should leave this work of engagement to surrogates and pundits. As a former Naderite, I can tell you this alone will not suffice. It would be disastrous for the Democrats to dispatch Howard Dean to Nader country as a stand-in for John Kerry. Whatever you make of the Naderites' political savvy, they aren't oblivious: They know who was savaging Kerry as a "handmaiden of the special interests" as recently as Jan. 31. Likewise, relying on opinion pieces from Gloria Steinem as your rebuttal to Nader's message (as was attempted in 2000) seems a little, well, feeble. Besides, what would shying away from Nader mean for the "bring it on," "I'm a fighter" bravado of Kerry's own political identity?

Another question certain to be raised is whether Naderites are persuadable voters, or simply lost causes (I happen to be evidence of the former). It might sound petty, but the best way to win Naderites' votes in 2004 is to take them seriously. In 2000, Nader and the Greens nailed a damning bill of particulars to the door of the DNC. Instead of responding to the claims, however, Democrats chose to mock the quality of the paper on which they had been printed (home-pressed hemp, perhaps). Forget whether you think Nader deserves a response from the new nominee; Naderites think he does. The good news is that Democrats have, at long last, begun to exhibit the tenacity of a true opposition party to the Republicans.

This is why Kerry should also move beyond the "spoiler" argument if and when he addresses the Nader threat. That Nader refuses to concede his candidacy's impact on the 2000 election is frustrating, as it's a settled issue among nearly everyone else. But the Democrats still need to get substantive. Those even thinking about voting for Nader this time around are clearly not interested in strategic voting -- they've decided to vote for someone who reflects their values, and a stern lecture won't convert them. There's a passionate, values-based message Kerry can deliver to Nader's base about "fixing" trade agreements and aggressively going after corporate crime. (One can also imagine Edwards doing wonders in this respect, should he be on the ticket.) But Kerry can't wait until late October to start.

Contesting Nader on the merits can take several forms, as long as the Democrats drop their prideful prohibition on speaking his name. For example, in states where Nader has a strong base of support, state Democratic parties should target some direct mail at Greens and liberal Democrats. Such a campaign could outline areas of commonality between Nader and Kerry on specific policies (reining in corporations who use overseas sleights-of-hand to avoid paying taxes, protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, etc.).

What is often overlooked in the debate over whether Nader is a jerk for running is the fact that he's not at all a person you'd want to lead the executive branch (though he'd make a truly ripping senior Justice Department official). I didn't realize this myself until after 2000, in part because Gore had handcuffed himself by adhering to a strategy of disengagement. Whatever else the presidency is, it's a job fit for someone who's comfortable with authority. While it's true Nader has founded many successful organizations, his model has always been decidedly collectivist and anti-authoritarian: He would empower a group of young lawyers or citizens to realize their civic potential and then decamp to organize another group of young lawyers or citizens in a different arena. He has experience in shepherding legislation, but displays a shocking inflexibility when it comes to compromise and negotiation. As a candidate, he's more than vulnerable when it comes to national security concerns. But Kerry can't make any of these valid criticisms until he acknowledges that Nader matters.

The boldest way to engage Nader, obviously, would be to debate him once during the fall. Of course this would be risky, as the 70-year-old lawyer's greatest political strength is his rhetorical ability -- but, traditionally, if you want to vanquish a nemesis you have to make peace with the idea of a final confrontation. A widely perceived victory would pay huge dividends for Kerry. Before the debate, he could challenge Bush to participate in a truly gloves-off forum. When the leader of the free world inevitably chooses to hide behind the skirt of the Commission on Presidential Debates, Kerry would be able to attack Bush as a political coward. Then, when debating Nader, Kerry could stake out middle-ground positions, putting the lie to the Bush machine's (almost certain) "big scary liberal" approach. As long as he treated Nader respectfully, he would have a decent chance of coming out smelling like a rose in liberal as well as moderate circles. Plus, you can bet Nader would use his platform to hammer Bush something fierce.

A large percentage of Nader's righteously indignant anger is focused on process discrimination in our elections ("locked out of debates," "barriers to the ballot," etc.); Kerry would take a big arrow out of Nader's quiver just by appearing on a stage and rebutting some of his positions and agreeing with select others. And then what? If the results from 2000 (and current polls) are any guide, a slender majority of the country's voters will decide whom to vote for instead of George W. Bush. Kerry needs to win about 99 percent of that vote to become president. It's an achievable task, but it won't happen without his conceding that he has more than one opponent.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Canadian Official: Human Remains May Be in Meat

"What I know from the RCMP is we can't rule out the possibility of cross-contamination," Dr. Perry Kendall said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

"I think if we could rule it out, we definitely would like to," he added.

Hey, I think I saw that one on The Sopranos once! Or was that the Ed Gein Story?

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

A wacky '70s comeback

"In May, the Topps Co. will re-release Wacky Packages with one eye on the nostaglia market and its other on kids brought up in the computer age. The company hopes its product can transcend time and the generation gap."

"Anyone who was 7 years old in 1973 who wasn't really square was into this stuff," said Greg Grant, a University of Pennsylvania research mathematician who runs an elaborate "Wacky Packages" Web site...

I would have been 9. My parents, who were teachers in 1973, will be aghast. Anyone my age will recall the banning of Wacky Packages in classrooms everywhere ("Gadzooka Bubble Gum: Annoy your teacher, chew bubble gum in class").

To this day there are products in the store that I can't look at without thinking of the Wacky Package like "Chock Full O'Bolts Coffee".

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Kerry Veepstakes?

This is rapidly becoming the expanded short list

  • Senator Bob Graham (D-FL)
  • Congressman Dick Gephardt (D-MO)
  • Governor Bill Richardson (D-NM)
  • Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN)
  • Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL)
  • Senator John Edwards (D-NC)
  • Senator John Breaux (D-LA)
  • Former Senator Max Cleland (D-GA)
  • Governor Mark Warner (D-VA)
  • Governor Tom Vilsack (D-IA)

    Hum. Looks kinda white and male to me. I can't complain about seeing my own governor there.

    Don't underestimate the importance of the Deaniacs in the Democratic Party. Gephardt would be rubbing our noses in it.

    In the grand scheme of things, though, running mates don't matter. Two words: Dan Quayle.
  • Friday, March 05, 2004

    Godzilla Stomped Out

    "Japanese studio Toho Co., which created the rubber reptile, announced Thursday that it would retire the big fella after this year's finale... Godzilla: Final Wars will feature the genetically altered dino facing off against 10 foes, new and old, on a global stage, including New York, Paris, Shanghai and Sydney!"

    Thursday, March 04, 2004

    Divorce is now an issue for GOP

    "Republican candidates in their Illinois Senate primary battle on Wednesday called on GOP contender Jack Ryan to unseal his complete 1999 divorce file from actress Jeri Ryan..."

    Insert my Tom Cruise theory here.

    Wednesday, March 03, 2004

    Oddsmaker: Johnny Sack Will Get Whacked

    I STILL need a friend with HBO!
    We finally win one

    "Vermont gave former Gov. Howard Dean a sentimental victory in his home state's Democratic presidential primary Tuesday, two weeks after he ended his once high-flying campaign for the White House..."

    Meanwhile, Dennis gets in the win column in Ohio... uh, wait a minute, that's for renomination in his house district.

    Monday, March 01, 2004

    Cheney disses Herseth Rival

    "Larry Diedrich, Republican candidate for U.S. House, will not be part of Cheney's fund-raising visit to Sioux Falls, but he said the Bush-Cheney campaign will be assisting his campaign in other ways..."

    Fourth down and long yardage...