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Robust McManlyPants on Average Display » 2005 » February

February 2005


Picked up the “Dance Dance Revolution Extreme” bundle last night along
with a 2nd dance pad.  Took it home, moved the PS2 to the living
room and fired it up.  Soon, even Mr. Saturday had given it a go and did, grudgingly, admit it was fun.

Let me just say this:  the training mode is awesome.  It
actually taught me how to play the game better.  My preferred mode
is now “Light” rather than “Beginner,” and according to the Workout
Diary I burned off about as many calories as I consumed last night in
yummy swiss & onion bread. 

This game rocks me. (more…)

Ha ha!  Ten large!

A DC socialite is offering $10,000
for hard evidence – we’re talking pictures, hair, phone records, etc. –
that Gannon is/was gettin’ it on with someone in the
administration.  C’mon, you know we’re all thinking it.  We
all know it was happening.

Gods, but I wish I had a time machine.  Or a free weekend to spend in DC on someone’s tail.

Ha ha!  Tail!

(With apologies to Adult Swim’s Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, of course.)
(more…)

It had been rumored for a bit, but now it’s official
They fell to lack of funding for future products.  Their problems
were few but significant, and their games were fantastic.  I have
a heavy heart as I type this.  The people who came up with Fallout deserve better than this. (more…)

If you read Sluggy Freelance then you remember the storyline in which
Bun-Bun went around killing and collecting the powers of the various
embodiments of the holidays.  Eventually he was a murderous orange
& black personification of Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving,
Halloween, Christmas and others, practically the avatar of the classic
power-grab. 

An odd intro, I know, until you read this from the Washington Post:

The Pentagon is promoting a global counterterrorism plan that would
allow Special Operations forces to enter a foreign country to conduct
military operations without explicit concurrence from the U.S.
ambassador there, administration officials familiar with the plan said.

And why should that matter?

The plan would weaken the long-standing “chief of mission” authority
under which the U.S. ambassador, as the president’s top representative
in a foreign country, decides whether to grant entry to U.S. government
personnel based on political and diplomatic considerations.

Well, yee-fucking-haw, it’s like an episode of Wild Wild West meets West Wing
Apparently Rummy & his runnin’ crew tried this a bunch of times
under during the first term but Powell & the rest of the State
Department fought back and wouldn’t let them get away with it.

The State Department and the CIA have fought
the proposal, saying it would be dangerous to dilute the authority of
the U.S. ambassador and CIA station chief to oversee U.S. military and
intelligence activities in other countries.

Over
the past two years, the State Department has repeatedly blocked
Pentagon efforts to send Special Operations forces into countries
surreptitiously and without ambassadors’ formal approval, current and
former administration officials said.

The
State Department assigned counterterrorism coordinator J. Cofer Black,
who also led the CIA’s counterterrorism operations after Sept. 11, as
its point person to try to thwart the Pentagon’s initiative.

“I
gave Cofer specific instructions to dismount, kill the horses and fight
on foot — this is not going to happen,” said Richard L. Armitage,
describing how as deputy secretary of state — a job he held until
earlier this month — he and others stopped six or seven Pentagon
attempts to weaken chief-of-mission authority.

That’s a pretty strong metaphor, especially
from a, uh, diplomat, but maybe that just serves to emphasize how
serious of an idea this is.  The ambassador is the Executive
Branch’s personal representative in a country.  It’s not a
separation of powers issue here – diplomats are specifically tasked
with being in charge of approving, disapproving and being the boss of
any government official in any capacity in the country where the
diplomat is stationed.  To let one arm of the government – DoD –
into the country without consulting the diplomat and without giving the
diplomat veto power is to set up all kinds of shit-storm potential;
namely, what happens when everything goes completely tits-up in the
middle of some secret operation?  Fuck, you don’t even have to
wait around for something like that.  What happens when a diplomat
shows up in a country and that country’s government says, “Thanks, but
we have no real reason to trust you or work with you since your
position has been stripped of authority and your Secretary of Defense
is just going to storm the palaces whether you like it or not. 
Try not to crash on your flight home, asswipe, we sure don’t need you
here.” 

That gets right to the root of the main
problem I think I have with Bush’s foreign policy – well, okay, my
third or fourth-rank problem with it, coming after the massive and
unnecessary loss of innocent life and the $200 billion and counting
that he’s spent on a war that ultimately was fought so he could rub his
dad’s nose in it over the Thanksgiving turkey.  That problem is
this:  Bush has made it near-impossible for an American to be a
welcome sight in a traumatized region.  The war in Iraq has
stripped our military of its image as a liberating force.  I think
in the realm of global politics you’re only as trusted as your last
act.  Our last (and current) act is known to the world through
images of dead and injured children, destroyed homes and prisoners in
pyramids.  That shit isn’t exactly liberating.  For now – not permanently, I hope, but for right now – the sight of an American tank means trouble, not aid

And they want to do the same thing to our
diplomats?  Strip them of the ability to be taken seriously, to be
seen as the genuine and authoritative face of America in their
country?  They want to render them, at best, friendly people with
funny accents?  The point of an ambassadorship is to have an
American nearby who can make one phone call and be in touch with the
President, who can negotiate in good faith, advise as needed, know what
their government is up to and be trusted to have the best
intentions.  That is diplomacy – it is the active
adherence to a philosophy that before the shooting starts we will give
someone a chance to talk with us, that we will work to take the safer,
kinder, more civilized path of communicating before we let
things devolve into the chaos of conflict.  To strip diplomats of
that sort of aura of authority and good faith, that power to say I am America
to their hosts and, yes, that accountability for having approved of
anything that goes on in the country where they represent us is to
render the State Department nothing more than the PR wing of the
Department of Defense.

Oh, wait, that already happened.

Fuck, it’s not even like a case can be made
that at least the DoD are professionals who can be trusted to conduct
themselves in an according manner:

In one instance, U.S. commanders tried to dispatch Special Forces
soldiers into Pakistan without gaining ambassadorial approval but were
rebuffed by the State Department, said two sources familiar with the
event. The soldiers eventually entered Pakistan with proper clearance
but were ordered out again by the ambassador for what was described as
reckless behavior. “We had SF [Special Forces] guys in civilian clothes
running around a hotel with grenades in their pockets,” said one source
involved in the incident, who opposes the Pentagon plan.

So what’s Condi doing about it?

Debate over the issue reignited last month, as
Armitage and then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell departed and
Condoleezza Rice prepared to replace him, said an administration
official familiar with the matter. When the Pentagon refused to change
language in the execute order, that put the issue before Rice.

In
the past week, however, she has made it clear that she intends to
protect the existing chief-of-mission authority. “Rice is resolute in
holding to chief-of-mission authority over operations the way it exists
now, for a very rational reason — you need someone who can
coordinate,” said a senior State Department official.

Oh yes.  You don’t need someone to say
no, you don’t need someone familiar with the local customs to step back
and say, objectively, this is not a good idea.  You need someone
to coordinate.

Jesus H.

(more…)

Gods, but this would be beautiful.  From Reuters, via Slashdot:

TiVo Inc. (TIVO.O: Quote, Profile, Research) shares jumped more than 17 percent on Wednesday, fueled by speculation that Apple Computer Inc. (AAPL.O: Quote, Profile, Research) might make a try to buy the digital video recorder maker, analysts said.

“What we hear on the street is that Apple is interested in their
business and that they are a takeout target,” said analyst Steven Kroll
Jr. of Monness, Crespi, Hardt & Co.

Representatives for Apple and TiVo both declined comment.

How wonderful would that be?  Wonderful enough to get me to get a
Mac mini, that’s how wonderful.  Of course, I already want one for
no real reason, so it’s not like I’m short on desire. (more…)

Bascha, don’t look at this.  Just don’t.

Gods, but my eyes are like fountains of blood.  And that’s just from the background image.  Please, please make the hurting stop.

Please. (more…)

So, Salon has another story
up today about Gannon.  Fascinating stuff!  Not only was
Gannon allowed into the briefing room in defiance of all protocols, but
the White House explanation of his “vetting” has changed.  Whee!

White House press secretary Scott McClellan originally told
reporters that Guckert was properly allowed into press briefings
because he worked for an outlet that “published regularly.” But that’s
when the questions were about Talon. More recently McClellan offered up
a new rationale. Asked by Editor and Publisher magazine how the
decision was made to allow a GOPUSA correspondent in, McClellan said,
“The staff assistant went to verify that the news organization existed.” (Emphasis added.)

Nice!  But the story goes on:

To determine whether Guckert would gain entrance to the
press room, normally reserved for professional journalists working for
legitimate, recognized and independent news organizations, the press
office simply logged on to the Internet and confirmed that GOPUSA
“existed,” and then quickly approved Guckert’s access. In a White House
obsessed, at least publicly, with security and where journalists cannot
even move between the White House and the nearby Old Executive Building
without a personal escort
, Guckert’s lenient treatment was likely
unprecedented.  (Emphasis mine – RMcMP)

Ooooooooh – so all you need to do is buy a domain name on the
Internets.  Well, damn – where’s my press pass, bitches?  Oh,
and remember Eberle, the guy who owned GOPUSA and Talon News and is a
part of the Bush-Rove-Bush Houston political machine?  He got a
little piece of that action, too!

Yet, if there’s one other person who did manage to receive
the same type of kid-glove treatment from the White House press office,
it was Guckert’s boss at GOPUSA and later at Talon News, Bobby Eberle.
A Texas-based Republican activist and a delegate to the Republican
National Convention in 2000, Eberle founded Talon News after he became
concerned that the name GOPUSA might appear to have a “built-in bias.”
With no journalism background, he too was able to secure a White House
press pass, in early 2003, on the strength of representing GOPUSA,
dedicated to “spreading the conservative message throughout America.”

Now, every time I discuss this with, say, The Boyf,
and anytime I hear this discussed on, say, Bill Maher, the question
always comes up of who actually gave this the green-light? 
Someone had to.  There are rumors now that McClellan himself may
have been a, uh, friend of Gannon’s, but here’s an interesting tidbit
from the very end of Salon’s coverage:

…last holiday season, in a personal posting on GOPUSA,
Eberle thanked Karl Rove for his “assistance, guidance, and friendship.”

Oh yes, that’s right – we’ve overthought it again.  The obvious
answer, that it was Rove, remains the obvious answer.  He’s like
Emperor Palpatine with a better chef.
(more…)

I picked up a couple of The Billy Nayer Show CDs while I was ordering The American Astronaut on DVD the other day.  They arrived today, and I’ve been givin’ ’em a listen.

Weird.  Extremely weird.  I once described Julee Cruise’s The Art Of Being A Girl
to a music store cashier as “the lounge music in purgatory,” but I
think The Billy Nayer Show may take the cake.  The CDs I got, to
be specific, were The Villain That Love Built and Goodbye Straplight Sarentino I Will Miss You
Weird, weird, weird.  Like the music in the movie, sometimes it’s
big and loud and shouty and manic and sometimes it’s quiet and
restrained and deeply surreal, like the music that friend of yours used
to sit in his basement and make with nothing but a Casio keyboard and
some teen angst and at the time you were all, “Man, he really gets it,”
and now you wonder when you’ll see his stubbly face on CNN with a text
overlay that reads GRISLY DISCOVERY.  Every song, though,
regardless of what’s going on in terms of surface appearance, suggests
that there’s something more to the story, unrevealed dimensions of the
narrative they’re telling that might somehow explain it all and still
leave you wondering what the fuck

I’m not just trying to be pretentious there, either – every song is a
story.  I haven’t given them some sort of intense examination, I
just listened to it while playing out on these here interwebs, but
anytime I stopped to really listen I would realize I needed to jump
back to the beginning of the story and that there really are stories
here.  With titles like those, there have to be stories here.

Just a tip – if you buy the DVD of The American Astronaut, which is
worth it entirely on its own, it comes with a postcard you can mail
back to them to get a free copy of their new CD, Rabbit.  The two together, for $19.95, is like paying $5 for a great movie.  Or it’s like getting a free CD.  I’m just sayin’.

At any rate, if Compound folks or gaming folks or whoever folks want to watch The American Astronaut, it’s here.  Just let me know when.  Woot! (more…)

Today I learned that I could check what search terms had led someone to
this page.  Most were perfectly understandable, and of course
there were the collection of porn searches that somehow led them
here.  My favorite, though?

“obsessive compulsive disorder with passive aggressive overtones”

Hell, if that’s what you’re looking for, I’m your one-stop shop. 
I’m the mega-mall.  I’m the SuperTarget of such.  Awesome. (more…)

Oh yes.  It’s that time of year.  Woot!  Last year my
gardening efforts were haphazard and, ultimately, a failure.  This
was in part due to timing – I couldn’t garden until we’d moved in and
gotten at least somewhat settled, which meant starting two months late,
from seed, setting the plants’ developmental timetable directly at odds
with when the big, heavy rains would come during the summer – and due
in part to poor planning, as the spot where I put an initial bed last
year was the perfect spot except for all the dirt getting washed away
when it rained.

This year, though, I’m already planning.  The seeds shipped this
morning, along with the starter trays and my mini-greenhouse – a little
electric dealie for starting plants.  I’ve just read Lasagna Gardening after hearing of KJ‘s success with it, and OH MY GODS this is going to be a breeze and it is going to RAWK

Here’s the list of seeds on their way to me even as we speak:

yellow squash
zucchini squash
jalapen~o
hot Carribean Red pepper
okra
red onions
yellow onions
bell pepper (red, orange, yellow, purple – a mix of sweet peppers)
lettuce (a blend of non-iceberg salad lettuces)
onion (both red and sweet yellow)
tomatoes
spinach

Now I need to start picking up peat moss and bags of compost and see
what’s around in terms of things I can get to throw into the garden
layers other than leaves.  I need some wire to run around the beds
while they settle and to keep the cat out of them (ha! like that’s gonna work) and I need to go ahead and think about getting some beds marked off and paths laid between them. 

Soon I’ll also get the garlic bulbs to plant and the blackberry bushes and the black raspberry plant.  Aw yeah.

Who knows, it may all fail spectacularly this year, too.  But I do so love to try. (more…)

So!  A fellow North Carolinian is organizing a blog
carnival.  I do not mean a party of bloggers, I mean the
equivalent of a literary journal for blogging.  It’s called The Tar Heel Tavern,
and it’s a place to showcase the best writing, sometimes on a certain
theme, by North Carolina bloggers.  I like this idea for a lot of
reasons – it’s a way to highlight the geographic nature of online
communities, it’s a way to illustrate the diverse philosophical
communities that arise within the forced communities of geography, it’s
a way to showcase writers’ talents rather than showcasing blogs for the
sake of blogs (*cough* blogistani cannibalism such as hashing and rehashing arguments about “new media” vs. “old media” *cough*), it’s a way to get exposure to and exposure as new voices in the community.

I will confess this:  I find discussions of the “importance” of
blogs to be unbelievably dull and self-serving.  Blogs are not
important.  Blogs are no more and no less important than
hand-stapled zines in coffeeshops, high school literary journals and
flyers stapled to light posts.  The medium is not important. 
The message may or may not be important, but it’s decided on quality,
not method of delivery.

And yet, for all my loathing of the navel-gazing people do over blogs and their role in sociezzzZZZ *cough* sorry, ahem, all my loathing of that, I just spent a paragraph shooting down the navel-gazers which is, itself, navel-gazing. 

What can I say, I’ve lived in Chapel Hill and now Durham for thirteen
years.  Being more indie than indie is like everyone’s second job
in my town. (more…)

I got a new camera a couple of weeks ago, and today I took a ton of pictures.  Now, after an hour reorganizing my Gallery site, here they are:

First, The Boyf and I went to Spotted Dog in CarrboroMmm, organic greens.  Next, we went to Furniture Follies, where we bought bookshelves.  Mmm, books.  Then, we went to Bascha’s and gamed with Katastrophes & Mr. Pink Eyes & Pants Wilder & BaschaMmm, gaming.

Yay!

I also threw in some recent pictures of Bruce, for the cat-lovers.  I know you’re out there.  These are the interwebs.  It’s all about cats.  There’s no reason to feel ashamed. (more…)

Lordy, but I’ve been using this new “science” category.  NASA has come out with a denial of reports that two scientists have found what they consider conclusive signs of life on Mars:

News reports on February 16, 2005, that NASA scientists
from Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., have found strong
evidence that life may exist on Mars are incorrect.

NASA does not have any observational data from any current Mars
missions that supports this claim. The work by the scientists mentioned
in the reports cannot be used to directly infer anything about life on
Mars, but may help formulate the strategy for how to search for Martian
life. Their research concerns extreme environments on Earth as analogs
of possible environments on Mars. No research paper has been submitted
by them to any scientific journal asserting Martian life.

Damn.  Of course, there’s still debate over the origin of the
potentially Martian microbes discovered in ’96 and the Viking Labeled
Release experiments designed by Gilbert Levin back in the ’70s. 
So who knows.  I sure as hell don’t.  I made it through 10th grade biology because my lab partner was the son of a veterinarian.  I suck at things like this. (more…)

OK, so I got a “science” category.  No one can now reasonably
claim that global climate change is a fluke or a natural evolution –
and that’s now scientifically certified.  A team of researchers
has declared an end to the debate over the cause of climate change,
having studied seven million data points and determined, conclusively, that humans (and specifically greenhouse gasses) are to blame:

The strongest evidence yet that global warming has been
triggered by human activity has emerged from a major study of rising
temperatures in the world’s oceans.

The present trend of warmer sea temperatures, which have risen by an
average of half a degree Celsius (0.9F) over the past 40 years, can be
explained only if greenhouse gas emissions are responsible, new
research has revealed.

The results are so compelling that they should end controversy about
the causes of climate change, one of the scientists who led the study
said yesterday.


“The debate about whether there is a global warming signal now is over,
at least for rational people,”
(emphasis mine – RMcMP) said Tim Barnett, of the Scripps
Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California. “The models got it
right. If a politician stands up and says the uncertainty is too great
to believe these models, that is no longer tenable.”

It found that natural variation in the Earth’s climate, or changes in
solar activity or volcanic eruptions, which have been suggested as
alternative explanations for rising temperatures, could not explain the
data collected in the real world. Models based on man-made emissions of
greenhouse gases, however, matched the observations almost precisely.

“What absolutely nailed it was the greenhouse model,” Dr Barnett told
the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in
Washington. Two models, one designed in Britain and one here in the US,
got it almost exactly. We were stunned. They did it so well it was
almost unbelieveable.”

There you have it, folks.  Rush, Michael Crichton and that guy who
told Congress in the ’90s that global warming would be a good thing are
all officially morons and there’s science to back it up.  Seven
million data points.  It’ll take Bush about two seconds to
deflect, deny and marginalize it, but whatever.  There is no
arguing with it now, only ignoring it.  Anything but action in
favor of the environment is now, officially, insane. (more…)

Oh, man.  I love this one.  I am, in fact, giggling.  I
feel for the kids whose registration fees are now down the chute, but
it’s still funny.  From the Las Vegas (no!) Review-Journal, a tale of financial mismanagement:

The young Nevada man designated to chair the upcoming 2005
Young Republican National Convention in Las Vegas has been accused of
embezzling registration fees from around the country to pay off bar
tabs, personal loans and credit card debts.

Nevada’s national committeeman for Young Republicans filed a criminal
complaint Monday with the Reno Police Department alleging Nathan Taylor
received more than $25,000 in registration fees and donations through
his corporation, YRNC 2005, and spent almost all of it in the past year
for personal use.

Taylor interned in Gov. Kenny Guinn’s office during the 2003
Legislature and has worked for former Republican state Sen. Mark James
and in Las Vegas City Hall, where he worked on projects for
then-Councilman Michael McDonald.

He was actively involved with the state’s Young Republicans when Nevada
won the bid to host its first-ever national convention for the
organization.

The complaint contains an affidavit from Kriston Whiteside, president
of the UNR College Republicans, alleging Taylor asked her to write a
check from YRNC 2005 to pay for his birthday party at a bar, among
other expenses.

In a letter to Reno police, Arjun Dhingra, state chairman of the Young
Republicans, states roughly $25,000 received from 200 individuals
around the country for the July 6-10 convention at Mandalay Bay is gone.

The complaint also includes a bank statement showing withdrawals from
the YRNC 2005 account at Bully’s bar in Carson City, at a PF Chang’s
restaurant, at Shell Oil, at Mandalay Bay and twice for $200 in cash
during a 30-day period.

PF Chang’s?  That’s class, man.  Good food, but a touch
pricey for everyday eats.  No wonder he needed a little help,
right?  And I’m certain he was withdrawing money at Mandalay Bay casino
because he was going to help someone enroll in a faith-based program
teaching them how to start their own business, pull themselves up by
their bootstraps and become hard-working wage-earners, right? 
There’s no way he was going to gamble with it.

And the $200 cash withdrawals are easily explained.  OK, OK, not that easily

Perhaps that was unnecessarily catty of me.

Nah.

(Swiped from Daily Kos.) (more…)

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