Friday, May 28, 2004

Pope Longs for "Super Bad" America

When he's not gently nudging the world toward simpler, more medieval days, the Pope worries that America may be losing its soul.

Has His Eminence not seen the commercials for the forthcoming Soul Plane?

Has His Holiness turned a deaf ear toward American airwaves, where a handful of soulful artists have finally displaced boy bands and Brittney knock-offs from the top of the charts?

Not that I completely disagree with what the pontiff is saying here, but when I hear the Pope railing against a country gone soulless, or when I hear him decrying birth control in developing nations, I just think, "Hey, JP II -- shouldn't you be canonizing something right now?"

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Speaking From 85 Years of Experience

You could read what Andy Rooney had to say about the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal, but I recommend watching and listening by clicking on Free Video in the link above.

I'm not sure our darkest days are here, but I do think that these dangerous times are leaving a residue... a residue that will take decades to appreciate and generations to address.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Negative Numbers Even Bush Can Understand

In this week's poll, 65 percent of those surveyed by CBS News Polls say the country is on the wrong track. Significantly, this is the highest number ever recorded since the polls started in the mid-80's.

The remaining 35 percent are watching Fox News and think things are just dandy.

Republicans would be wise to heed Carl Bernstein's advice and to drop Bush like a hot potato.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Blogger Now Has Photo Hosting!

Without making much noise about it, Blogger is now offering photo hosting. To celebrate, here are Maggie and Molly resting on their fluff ball.

If He Were Alive Today, Would He Listen to Pink Floyd?

I wouldn't normally post to tell you about anything that's been stuck in my head, but a couple quotations have been lingering in my consciousness for a few days, and I've just got to get them out.

They've been jammed in there like a pop jingle, and maybe blogging them will release me from their fiendish grip.

And all you touch and all you see
is all your life will ever be.
Pink Floyd   Breathe

If you would not be forgotten,
as soon as you are dead and rotten,
either write things worth reading,
or do things worth the writing.
Ben Franklin
I confess that I'm a bit of a sucker for meaning-of-life quotes, but I've never before had the experience of being actively haunted by poetry.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

A Day When Judges Are Technology Experts

It's hard to be a judge.

Those people wearing the black robes find themselves at two critical intersections in our legal system:

  1. In most circumstances, judges are tasked with maintaining order between two radically opposed sides in an uncertain situation.

    It doesn't help that both these sides present their interpretation of the situation as correct.

  2. Typically, judges strive to arrive at legally consistent decisions -- decisions that seem based on the rule of law, somehow beyond their personal judgment and understanding.

    As irrational as it might seem, they're trying to take themselves out of the equation, settling on a ruling that is more universal than their particular foibles.
Regarding the first point, I hope that our legal system finds a way to evolve towards a less adversarial structure. Though I admire the extent to which attorneys represent their client's best interest, I cannot escape the idea that an attorney is an officer of the court: Tasked equally by the client and by the jurisdiction to assist in reaching a fair conclusion.

It's the second point -- judges striving to achieve legal consistency above personal judgment and understanding -- where I have some concerns about our federal district court judges.

Now, President Bush & Roy Moore would lament our federal legal system's trending towards progressive politics. But I'd hail that trait. My beef is with how federal judges address technological matters.

I believe that we need to change the structure of our Federal District Court system to better address matters of technical complexity, namely patent litigation and software litigation.

Federal district court has become the front line of American business concerning patents. As the USPTO has utterly dropped the ball, using an antiquated system to approve questionable patents by the bushel, and federal district courts have been tasked with cleaning up their mess.

I propose a temporary solution. For the next 30 years (at least until the USPTO figures out how to manage software patents and international cooperation), our government needs to establish a separate patent court, similar to Nebraska's Workers' Compensation Court. These courts would only sit on patent litigation cases, and the presiding judges would be experts in intellectual property law and technology.

As the caseload of these judges would be lighter than that of a typical federal judge, they would also be available to consult with standard federal district court judges on technologically complex litigation outside the patent realm. I'm uncomfortable with a judge who has to have two legal adversaries describe the database industry to him. I'd be much more content to have another judge sitting alongside him who was more familiar with the software industry.

Though the federal judge hearing a technologically complex non-patent case would ultimately provide the judgment, the federal district patent court judge would serve as an impartial resource for that judge, a way by which the judge could learn about the industry without getting that information from a biased party.

Friday, May 21, 2004

From Ivory (Hoover, really) Tower to Oakland Arena

The team that I love cheering for
(but ultimately don't care about that much)
has grabbed the coach from
the team that I really care about
(though its late-season play makes it hard to cheer for them).

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

In a Way, Each Second of These Videos = $4.5 Million

The good people at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have distilled the first 90 days of the Spirit and Opportunity missions into two 90-second video clips.

These rapid time-lapse windows provide a good sense of the sheer volume of detailed readings generated by these impressive astrocarts.

(The above links are for the Quicktime movie format. Other formats are available here and here)

Monday, May 17, 2004

A Great Day in Massachusetts

As I've mentioned time and again, I'm very much in favor of gay marriage.

However, I cannot condone the marriage of gay clones, or clones of any sort... I'm just not ready.

Source: Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters, Yahoo!

Saturday, May 15, 2004

What Do You Do When A Prediction Proves False?

Well, you change the design of your blog, as I have done.

Kudos to the Blogger/Google team and to Stopdesign for improving one of the best free services on the web.

I've decided to try Blogger's version of comments. For the time being, this means that comments submitted before today will be unavailable.


Donnie-brook Draws to a Close: Rumsfeld Should Resign Today

If Donald Rumsfeld can make it to midnight tonight, he'll emerge from the Rumsfeld Retrospective unbeaten. On May 5th, I said that Rumsfeld would resign in 10 days, and it looks like that's not going to happen... at least it's not going to happen yet.

As something of a Yellow Dog Democrat, it's easy for me to critique Rumsfeld & the rest of the Bush Administration. I find it too easy to assault the terrible decisions that they have been saddled with during these post-9/11 days. The fear that continues to grip the soul of America will ebb, but it still clouds our decision-making, 32 months after bin Laden threw his surprise punch. They woke up surprised and shocked on 9/12, just like I did.

In these circumstances, Rumsfeld et al. believed that they had to remake their positions from scratch. This It's-a-New-World mentality meant that everything -- goals, partners, strategy, morality, ethics -- was up for grabs. To their (and our credit) there were a lot of mistakes that we didn't make. There were bridges we didn't burn. We weren't paralyzed and inactive. The further we got from 9/11, it seemed that we started learning.

However, 6 months from the presidential election, it seems that every days brings fewer and fewer reasons to retain the administration that architected the post-9/11 period in America.

By November, I hope the scales of 9/11 fear will have fallen from the eyes of the majority of the electoral college. (I already know that like last time, the majority of voters will make the right decision.) I hope that whoever these "undecided voters" are, that they realize that a new administration can wash its hands of the mistakes of the old administration.

4 years ago, the incoming Bush administration decided to abruptly end Clinton's policy toward North Korea. Rather than continue this policy, which they considered appeasement, they elected to deal with North Korea harshly. With this abrupt shift as an example, I encourage you to consider all the policies that a Democratic White House would immediately and dramatically change -- no transition, just immediate change:

  • Iraq

  • Afghanistan

  • The Economy

  • Taxes

  • Our Relationship With Europe

  • How the Executive Branch Encourages America to Think About 9/11

  • The Role of the UN & The World At Large

  • Our Military

  • The Poorest Americans

  • The Patriot Act

  • How We Want the World To See America
Think about that list. Get your friends & neighbors to think about that list, because these are the issues that have contributed to the hole that we're in.

...and these are the issues about which, on January 20th, 2005, a new administration could say, "We're not going to do it that way anymore."

Friday, May 14, 2004

1 Day Left: Rumsfeld Will Resign Within 24 Hours

Having orchestrated the release of hundreds of prisoners from Abu Gharib, and having rallied the troops, Donnie's on his merry way back to Washington... only to find a "Dear Don" letter waiting for him on his desk, written in W's unsteady hand.

The Rumsfeld Retrospective is drawing to a close, and we've examined many facets of this complicated man:

Rumsfeld the Smiler (& The Claw)
Donnie the Diplomat
Rummy the Lecturer
Donnie the Father of Diet Soda
Rummy the Executive Operator
Donnie the Septuagenarian
Rumsfeld the Rulesmaker
Donald Rumsfeld: Shaolin Master
Rumsfeld the Endlessly Inspiring Public Persona
Our time is short, and it feels like we're only just beginning to look at the byzantine world of Donnie. We'd be remiss if we overlooked the Donald Rumsfeld that we celebrate today:

Donald Rumsfeld: Friend

Source: Defenselink/DoD

Rumsfeld is a humble man -- and though he is truly wicked smart, he'd be the first to tell you that he couldn't have done all this by himself.

From my vantage, Donald Rumsfeld is surrounded by an assemblage of neo-conservative hawks hellbent on moving the world just a little bit closer to Ragnarok.

Paulie Wolfowitz is to Donald Rumsfeld what Roy Cohn was to Joe McCarthy. While Donnie's in Iraq, Paul is enjoying a nice grilling from Congress. My favorite quote from Wolfowitz's inquisition? Well, it'd have to be, "Well, I would suggest, Mr Secretary, that you're not doing your job," by Senator Jack Reed. Such things are not said to people who have a job next week.

Bye, Paul. Back to Johns Hopkins with you.

I think the only people who give Douglas Feith enough credit are Robert Woodward and Colin Powell. Do you feel that chill breeze in America? That feeling that you're either unquestioningly with us or against us? That's Darth Feith.

Bye, Vader.

I could include many more members of the current administration, but I'll finish out this quartet with Richard Perle, who resigned from the Defense Policy Board in February. Perle was a major contributor to our war plans and our war footing. He surprised everyone when he was the first neocon to admit cracks in our aggressive foreign policy armor.

Richard, since you dwelt in entirely within an undemocratic veil of secrecy, we hardly knew ye.

We'll miss them all. But don't worry, we'll have to recount stories of them to our grandkids when we talk about the years immediately after 9/11, and the violent frenzy that captured America during the latter half of George W. Bush's single term.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Donnie-brook: Rumsfeld's Resignation Comes in 2 Days

The Rumsfeld Retrospective is just about to draw to a close, as Rumsfeld will resign sometime on Saturday, May 15th.

His boss sent him on a fieldtrip to Iraq while final plans for his departure are being drawn up for his exit. Meanwhile, the NY Times paints a telling picture of how Donnie continues to operate in this stressful environment.

Since it's just about time for Mayflower movers to show up at the Pentagon to help Donnie with his boxes, we have to start looking at Rumsfeld's historical legacy, and the way that he'll be portrayed by future historians.

Rumsfeld the Endlessly Inspiring Public Persona

Source: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Rumsfeld provides enough grist for the mills of 100 History PhDs. Pianist Bryant Kong points out that Bush's malapropisms are worthy only of a desk calendar, whereas Rumsfeld's peerless deconstruction of English is worthy of high art.

3 Days Left
4 Days
5 Days
6 Days
7 Days
8 Days
9 Days
10 Days

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Donnie-brook: T-Minus 3 Days & Counting...

We're rapidly approaching the close of the Rumsfeld Retrospective, when Donald Rumsfeld will be forced to resign. As the end of his term as Secretary of Defense draws near, we turn our attention to a little-known Donnie Rumsfeld.

Donald Rumsfeld: Shaolin Master

4 Days Left
5 Days
6 Days
7 Days
8 Days
9 Days
10 Days

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Donnie-brook: 4 Days Until Donald Rumsfeld Steps Aside

We're into the final 100 hours of Rumsfeld's tenure, and it's time that we at the Rumsfeld Retrospective ask what we've learned from Don Rumsfeld.

Where to start? We could begin with the example he's set on how to be a survivor, or the way he's taught us how the sheepish press can be manhandled.

Today, instead of looking at his behavioral example for these lessons, let's turn to his words. Let's turn to Rumsfeld's Rules.

Rumsfeld the Rulesmaker

Source: Clear Channel

At the end of 1974, after serving as chair of Gerald Ford's transition team and White House Chief of Staff, Rumsfeld decided to publish Rumsfeld's Rules, his advice on serving in the White House. I could go on at length concerning the contents of these Rules, but let's just highlight a couple pertenant quotes:

Be able to resign. It will improve your value to the president and do wonders for your performance.

The country cannot afford amateur hour in the White House.
Nearly 30 years after he penned and published his rules, we now get to see Rumsfeld understand their power.

5 Days Left
6 Days
7 Days
8 Days
9 Days
10 Days

Setting Rumsfeld Aside For a Moment

Though there's quite a bit of levity about the Rumsfeld Retrospective, it highlights just a single facet of a complicated and grave situation. As much fun as I might have at the Secretary of Defense's expense, I'm very aware of the sudden, violent, and lasting damage that this episode has afflicted onto our already scarred reputation.

For a broader perspective on the developing crisis, check out what Shields & Brooks had to say last Friday on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

(Thanks, Dan!)

Monday, May 10, 2004

Donnie-brook: 5 Days Until Rumsfeld Resigns

Well, it's back to work for Donnie. He started his morning with his boss visiting him at the Pentagon to look at some nasty pictures -- a great way to start a Monday.

We at the Rumsfeld Retrospective have been in flashback mode for a couple days, examining Rumsfeld's corporate history. Let's linger in the past for yet another day, as we look at the start of Donnie's public career:

Donnie the Septuagenarian

Source: Princeton University

As his 1954 Senior Year photograph will attest, Rumsfeld was young once. But there's no mistaking his age now -- he's almost 72, working like it's 2030 and Social Security has evaporated. Sure, he's still on the job when most people are refining their Bingo game, but it wasn't because he was a late bloomer. On the contrary, Rumsfeld was an early starter.

1969-70   Director, Office of Economic Opportunity, Assistant to the President, Member of the President's Cabinet (at age 37)
1971-72   Member of the President's Cabinet
1973   US Ambassador to NATO
1974   Chairman of the Ford Administration Transition Team
1974   White House Chief of Staff
1975-77   The 13th U.S. Secretary of Defense
Source: Wikipedia
Note that he's been Secretary of Defense before, when he was 43 years old. By pulling a Grover Cleveland of the first order, Rumsfeld has become both the youngest and the oldest Secretary of Defense to ever serve our country.

With this longevity record firmly intact, he can now retire at ease. In 5 Days.

6 Days Left
7 Days
8 Days
9 Days
10 Days

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Donnie-brook: 6 Days Until Rumfeld Packs Up

Boy, it's been a tough weekend for Donald Rumsfeld.

The Economist cover asks him to resign. The New York Times asks him to resign. Cheney decided to gruffly defend him, angering a bi-partian group of senators and only dipping Rumsy further into the hot water.

We at the Rumsfeld Retrospective recognize that Donnie probably wants to be far away from these proceedings on this, the Day of Rest. Therefore, we focus our attention on what were far simpler times in the life of Rumsfeld. Staying with the corporate theme of yesterday, we turn our attention to:

Rummy the Executive Operator

Source: CBS News

As the image above (with Cheney in 1975) reminds us, Donnies been around the block more than a few times, and he's learned how to survive and thrive in a variety of circumstances. Although he was President Ford's chief of staff when the above picture was taken, Rumsfeld has quite impressively leveraged his public service to corporate gain.

Rumsfeld resigned from a number of boards of directors and advisory boards when he took the post of Secretary of Defense. To name a few:

He was Chairman of the Board of Directors of Gilead Sciences from 1998 to 2001, and a member of that board since 1988.

He was a boardmember at ABB (Asea Brown Boveri) Ltd. when they had a brisk business with North Korea.

He was a boardmember at Amylin Pharmaceuticals

He sat on the board of directors at the Tribune Company prior to joining the Bush Administration. (I'm not sure whether this is apropos, given his penchant for exacting language, or ironic, given his tendency to tell half-lies through semantic oddities.)

While helping steer these corporate behemoths, Donnie also found time for smaller corporate roles, including serving as Chairman of the Salomon Smith Barney International Advisory Board and helping out at the RAND Corporation.
Love him or loathe him, he ain't lazy. Let's hope that retirement teaches him to enjoy the little things, and that he stops to smell the roses.

7 Days Left
8 Days
9 Days
10 Days

Saturday, May 08, 2004

7 Days Left Until Rumsfeld Resigns

Even for a cool operator like Rumsfeld, Friday had to be stressful. Grilled by the Senate. Grilled by the House. Worst pictures are to come. Horrific video is in there, too.

Since Donnie deserves a light weekend, we're going to shift gears today on the Rumsfeld Retrospective. Today, we focus on a Donald Rumsfeld that few people know.

Donnie the Father of Diet Soda: The Chief Executive of G. D. Searle

Source: Yahoo,,

Rumsfeld was CEO, President and Chairman of G.D. Searle & Co. from 1977 to 1985, during which time Searle received FDA approval of Aspartame (Nutrasweet).

Rumsfeld must have been something of an AWOL executive for a few of these years at Searle, because he managed to stay on at Searle while serving various terms as:

- Member of the President's General Advisory Committee on Arms Control (1982 - 1986)
- President Reagan's Special Envoy on the Law of the Sea Treaty (1982 - 1983)
- Senior Advisor to President Reagan's Panel on Strategic Systems (1983 - 1984)
- Member of the U.S. Joint Advisory Commission on U.S./Japan Relations (1983 - 1984)
- President Reagan's Special Envoy to the Middle East (1983 - 1984)
Source: Wikipedia
Of all those government "hobby" posts, maybe Rumsfeld can look to his time as Special Envoy for guidance. His resignation letter from that position probably bears quite a bit of similarity to the letter that he'll deliver in 7 days time.

8 Days Left
9 Days
10 Days

Friday, May 07, 2004

Day 8 of Donnie-brook

With less than 200 hours before Rumsfeld resigns, we focus the Rumsfeld Retrospective on the Don Rumsfeld that many of us know best: Donald Rumsfeld behind a lectern, verbally assualting a crew of reporters.

Rummy the Lecturer

Source (both): CNN

Whoever takes over from Rumsfeld at the Department of Defense will have difficult shoes to fill.

Donnie managed to be deceptive while hiding in plain sight, angry -- but never enraged, and oddly likeable while possessing all the public charm of a tobacco executive.

I hope he really enjoys the retirement that starts only 8 days from now.

9 Days Left
10 Days

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Say What?

I don't know which is more noteworthy: That Bush (the never-apologizer) apologized for Iraqi prison abuse, or that he chose this opportunity to unveil his newest abuse of English: wrongdoer.

After years of hearing Bush say "evildoer" at every conceivable opportunity, is "wrongdoer" a sign of a budding Bush moral relativism?

Donnie-brook: 9 days and counting...

With 9 days remaining before Rumsfeld is forced to resign, we continue our Rumsfeld Retrospective. Today, we look at:

Donnie the Diplomat


You can learn more about Rumsfeld's adventures in handshaking here.

10 Days Left

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

10 Days Left Till Rumsfeld Resigns

I'm going out on a limb. I commented yesterday on this, but I put it too mildly.

Because of the Iraqi abuse scandal, Donald Rumsfeld will be forced to resign within 10 days.

In the meantime, I'm going to do something of a Rumsfeld Retrospective:

Rumsfeld the Claw

Source: Clear Channel

Fear the Claw.

(CNN removed the beautiful picture that I originally had in this post. Should it reappear, it will be below)

Rumsfeld the Smiler

Source: CNN

Look at that big grin. It's almost like it doesn't hurt him to smile.

At Least One Foreign Leader Supports Bush: The CEO of Prevost Car

I think the implication here is, "How dare the President buy Canadian products?!?"

If Bush's Republican colleague Pat Buchanan had his way back in 1997, this would not be a problem.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Hurry Up and Buy Them Before They're Free!

A buddy at Google set me up with a gmail address a couple weeks ago. 1000 MB is cool, but what's amusing is the ego-stroke it gives me and others to have something before the general public. Currently, having a gmail account is the cultural equivalent of being on the VIP list at the geek nightclub.

A couple days ago, Google unlocked a feature that allows each gmail user to invite 2 other people. Previously, only people actually working at Google could dispense addresses.

Like all scarce commodities, these invitations are now for sale on eBay. We'll see how long that lasts. Looks like $50 - $100 is the going rate.


Bye-bye, Rumsfeld?

Home Field Advantage

It's approaching summer. With the NBA and NHL playoffs in full swing, it's just days until baseball is the only game in town.

Like cricket, baseball is as much a cultural ritual as it is a sport. Its minutiae have been analyzed and over-analyzed to no end. Baseball attracts statistics-minded people like no other athletic endeavor, and they find endless joy in dissecting the odd numbers of the game.

I'll spare you a broad discussion of these details. Here's a single aspet of baseball that I find enchanting: I can think of no other game in which the basic layout of the field varies wildly from venue to venue. Rob Neyer discusses these geographic quirks and how they can dramatically affect the outcome of a baseball game.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Keating Holland Cares So Much That It Hurts

When you've got to have enough programming to fill 24 hours in a day, you'll make a mountain out of whatever hill is available.

I'm a little disturbed by the amount of detail present in CNN's Veepstakes Game (assembled by Keating Holland, CNN Political Unit), where you vote on 32 possibilities for Kerry's running mate. The candidates range from Tom Brokaw to Anne Richards and their chances are detailed in four-part harmony.

Wow. As an amatuer news junkie, it's impressive and frightening to see the breadth of trivial knowledge that professional news junkies bring to their craft.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

A Commute Without Bob Edwards in the Car

I was a rather naïve college student.

At the time, I believed that the workers of the world wasted those minutes and hours spent commuting, gaining nothing and existing in a kind of seated limbo.

Then, as a .dot-com worker in 1999, I discovered NPR, the saving grace of my daily migrations. I had been wrong -- NPR (in my case, KQED) could turn a daily commute into a meditation, an opportunity to learn and grow.

I'm a donor/member of KQED, and I can see why people like Joan Kroc consider NPR in their wills -- with other talk radio dominated by Rush Limbaugh & his heirs, NPR is a bastion of thoughtfulness and tranquility. In the way it reports the news and considers the issues of the day, NPR just does the right thing.

Yet, NPR did the wrong thing in the way it treated Bob Edwards this last week. 6 months shy of his 25th on-air anniversary at Morning Edition, NPR unceremoniously demoted Edwards from host to senior correspondent. Listener backlash was met with doublespeak from the NPR brass, but with dignity from Bob Edwards, who accepted this "reassignment" with uncommon grace.

Bob's last show as Morning Edition host was Friday, and he gave a poignant interview to Scott Simon, host of Weekend Morning Edition, today.

I'm confident that NPR will put Morning Edition in the hands of a capable replacement, but I'm disturbed that their management would engage in this behavior only months after receiving the largest philantropic gift ever given to an American cultural institution. They should know better, and they should work harder to behave in a manner worthy of our respect and attention.

Guns Don't Shoot People

People teaching gun safety shoot people. In fact, they shoot themselves in the leg.