Tuesday, March 25, 2003

The Sins of the Fathers
I heard a brief mention on NPR this morning of the fighting around Basra. It seems that the US war planners had expected that the Shi'a inhabitiants of that region would be eager to rise up and help the coalition forces overthrow the Iraqi troops in that area, but it just isn't happening. It turns out that the reason is that they did exactly that after Gulf War I, and were promptly sacrificed to Hussein by the international community. This time around, they are understandably wary of the same thing happening!

Monday, March 24, 2003

New from Sepang
The Malaysian Grand Prix seems to be validating the new F1 rules interpretation. Unlike in Australia, the weather couldn't be held responsible for the shakeup in the results, and that seems to leave the new rules as responsible. This week Renault managed to put both their cars on the front row, and despite speculation that they were qualifiying with unrealistically light fuel loads, ran a sold three-stop race strategy. In the meantime Michael Schumacher started third and demonstrated he is human by earning a drive-through penalty for punting Jarno Trulli in the second corner. Trulli managed to stay on track and held on to finish 5th, one spot head of MS. All in all, this season is certainly shaping up to be more interesting that last.
In other news, Paul Tracy is off to a great start in the CART (OK, one time: Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford (tm)) series, showing that being young and quick is often not as useful as being not-quite-so-young and experienced. Kurt Busch seems to be setting NASCAR Winston Cup on fire, with 3 wins and 3 seconds in the last 8 races (over two seasons). If the single-driver dominance continues in theses series, they will find themselves in the invidious position that F1 faced last year with declining audience interest in an apparently foregone conclusion. However, CART has no audience to speak of in the US anyway at the moment, so declining interest may not affect them, and NASCAR has no qualms about changing the rules in the middle of the season in the interest of "brand parity". So there probably won't be too much gnashing of teeth over these results.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

The Clock Runs Down
It's begun. Not with a bang, but with a virtual whimper. So far it appears that the current attack isn't "Shock and Awe" but just a "target of opportunity" -- apparently a location where Iraqi leaders were purportedly meeting. Certainly, the pictures of Baghdad that CBS is running aren't showing much of an attack.

Say What?
Seen via link on This Modern World. Linked here without comment.

Local Columnist Makes Good
Gene Collier has a regular column in the fluff part of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ("One of America's Great Newspapers") Despite its unusual location, he is often a cogent voice on the left. Something leapt out of his column today that I hadn't seen before (or at least recently):
Tragically, there are 100 times more lethally nuanced implications of this action than they ever envisioned, and as George W. Bush reportedly told Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware when Biden suggested he consider the nuances of this decision: "Joe, I don't do nuance."
Maybe someone who doesn't do nuance shouldn't be elected president. Oh, that's right, he wasn't.
I actually quite like the P-G. In addition to people like Collier, they also run "This Modern World" every Saturday, which I've never seen in a broadsheet before.

Veracity issues
As the drums of war beat louder, the White House seems to have less and less integrity regarding statements it has made. First the vote in the UN -- that absolutely would happen, no matter what -- was cancelled due to lack of support. Then Ari Fleischer stood up yesterday and announced that even if Saddam leaves Iraq, US, UK, and Spanish (?) forces will invade anyway. Now, accoring to an AP report on Salon, they aren't even sure that the 48 hour deadline meant 48 hours.
Presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer would not rule out a U.S. attack before Bush's 48-hour clock ran out. ``Saddam Hussein has to figure out what this means,'' he said.
It's often said that the first casualty of war is the truth, but here it seems to have been a notable casualty of the peace.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

That Speech
The President did a good job last night of not smirking (that I noticed) during his address to the nation. Even when he issued his 48-hour ultimatum, which is the sort of time when his base instincts get the better of him, he kept a straight face. However, I would have avoided mentioning oil wells as the only specific infrastructure that the Iraqis shouldn't destroy. That sort of thing just lends support to the supposedly discredited "War for Oil" scenario. And I wonder if Al-Jazeera showed footage of the American drunken revelry in the streets following the announcement -- lots of people, curiously wearing green, celebraring on what should be a somber occasion.

Monday, March 17, 2003

That Darn Budget
As I noted earlier, the (Republican) Pennsylvania legislature worked overtime to pass the new (Democratic) governor's budget in less than a week -- a process that normally takes several months. They did this over the objections of the governor, who had a constitutional requirement to submit a budget when he did, but who hadn't had enough time since the inauguration to finish the budget. Now he is faced with either vetoing his own plan, or accepting it and (presumably) having the legislature ignore the second half of his budget.
Whatever happened to the concept of a political honeymoon? Partisanship is all very well, but it seems that even twenty years ago a new chief executive would get a little while to enact his (presumed) mandate before the politics would kick in. Now at many levels -- local, state, and national -- it seems that the partisan knives are out and in use before the election dust has even settled. I know who I blame -- the VRWC -- but I am curious as to whether anyone can make a case that this effort springs from the center or the left?

Whiplash
It was a beautiful weekend here in the 'Burgh, or so I thought. On Saturday morning we packed up the kids, the dogs, the double stroller and went to a nearby park for a walk and some playground time. It was so warm that I left my coat in the car, and went outdoors in shirtsleeves. But after a few minutes we saw a grim reminder that Old Man Winter hasn't released his grip on us yet. On the lake in the park, there were still people ice fishing. That really put a damper on any feelings of impending Spring that I was having.

Friday, March 14, 2003

PA's Representatives
Shortly after moving here, I saw a reference in the local paper that described Pennsylvania as "Pittsburgh on the left, Philadelphia on the right, and Alabama in between." Lately I am starting to see what that means. First, Rick Santorum our junior Senator sponsors the "Partial-Birth Abortion" bill in the Senate. Now I hear on NPR that one of the state representatives is (one of ?) the sponsor(s) of the medical malpractice cap in the house. Throw in the odd attempt to ban the sale of French wine and spirits in the state run liquor stores, and the place starts to look like Texas.
Well, not that bad, but you get the idea.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Blair's Ultimatum
There's a lot of buzz about the new British proposal to deal with Iraq. Particularly the first condition -- that Hussein appear on television and admit he has Weapons of Mass Destruction. Calpundit seems to think this is the only important element (unless he is being ironic and I am missing it) while Adam Felber fears its the thin end of the wedge. It sounds to me like an element of a twelve-step program, admitting you have a problem and apologizing to everyone you have affected with it (or is that two steps?). It seems to me that such a requirement is rather meaningless, but would appeal to an acknowledged recovering substance abuser like Bush. So is it just a clever ploy to make sure that the US agrees to this plan if everyone else does?

Dog blogs
Following Chuck's lament about the lack of obvious blog dogs, let me throw mine into the ring. We have two 6 year old mutts from the Austin Humane Society.













Dirac

Markov

This is their first winter after a lifetime of nothing worse than spring, but they seem to be handling it OK, although the lack of a fenced yard here seems to be giving them cabin fever.

Together we can defeat the cats!

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Scientific spam
I've just received my first physics spam. Someone in either China or Switzerland has written to me to claim that Heisenberg's Uncertaintly Principle is untenable, with references and everything. I can't understand why anyone would send this out as spam, but the presence of many valid physics terms and the lack of any mention of Viagra (or similar spam terms) made Popfile give me a false negative.

Monday, March 10, 2003

What a difference a link makes
I vanished for two days, and came back to see my hit count nearly doubled. It seems that Chuck tossed me a mention and the hits just keep on coming. Well, that or I just had a really low link count before -- never can tell with statistics. However, thanks Chuck, and the rest of you.

The next senator?
Jim Capozzola is thinking about trying to become my next junior senator. Assuming he would run in the Democratic primary, he stands a good chance of getting my vote. And I do vote in primaries, just not in general elections.
Well, I'd like to vote in a general election, but missed my last (and only, thus far) chance by a strange quirk of geography.

Ne plus la meme chose
OK, this is a little late -- I've been occupied. But Ferrari not only didn't win the Australian Grand Prix, but also failed to get on the podium for the first time in umpteen races. And it looks like the new regulations helped that, with most cars not having an appropriate setup for the wet, but drying rapidly, conditions.
The weather didn't help Minardi, however, who should have benefitted from the climate, but still suffered from being Minardi -- which is to say underfunded and using year-old (or more) engines.

Saturday, March 08, 2003

Plus ca change
So for all of the interest in the change in the F1 qualifying format, we still end up with two Ferraris on the front row of the grid for this weekend's race. The most interesting development was on the part of Minardi, who took advantage of their anticipated last place start to get an extra day of work on their cars. If it rains tomorrow, that will really pay off, but Melbourne is only showing a 30% chance of rain for Sunday.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

What's in a name?
IAEA or IEAE (I found some spanish-language links). I could understand getting a bunch of vowels in the wrong order, but the President looked so proud when he rattled off the wrong acronym (I watched it twice to make sure I'd heard it correctly) that it was sort of endearing in a pathetic way.
Otherwise, there is no doubt in my mind after that press conference that President Bush doesn't like Saddam Hussein. Not one little bit. I still am not quite sure why there needed to be a press conference to emphasize that point however...
And the snide comment about multi-part questions seemed very in keeping with the Bush character.
And who is that April woman who threw such a puffball -- I paraphrase: Does your faith sustain you?
UPDATE: Uggabugga has an exhaustive (exhausting?) categorization of the President's remarks. (via CalPundit)

If This Goes On...
In shades of Heinlein, researchers in Maine have apparently announced the death of Jonah, an old mouse. A very old mouse. He was selectively inbred for longevity from Micronesian grandparents, who in the absence of predators, had naturally selected for old age rather than resistance to enemies. I heard it on NPR, but I can't find a link at the moment.

That Darn Liberal Media
I don't know who James Carney and John F. Dickerson are, but they had a fascinating column in Time this week about the Bush domestic agenda. The choicest part came near the beginning
...Bush's speechwriters were having trouble understanding what he wanted. He sent back draft after draft. The morning of the speech he was still dissatisfied. "Watch and listen closely," he chided aides, "so you'll get this right." In a Kennesaw, Ga., high school gym, he delivered a skillful, largely ad-libbed 40-minute seminar on the virtues of his tax cuts as if he had been teaching the topic for 20 years down the hall. But almost no one heard it besides the rapt audience inside the gym.
Now, pardon my skepticism, but this sounds like typical claims of the paranormal. Bush "delivered a skillful ... seminar" but no one except (presumably) true believers saw it?

Name Change
Following a suggestion from Chuck I have renamed this blog to something slightly catchier. I'd encourage everyone to update their links accordingly, but I know how many (few?) links there are out there, so it probably isn't really necessary!

Start your engines
SpeedChannel have finally locked in their coverage of Formula 1 for this year. As predicted, the deal seems to have come down to the wire, and been revealed less than 48 hours before the season kicks off, tonight. The season starts in Australia, which is one of the more US-friendly stops on the tour since the races happen in Prime Time here, whereas the European races tend to be very early in the morning. But thanks to TiVo, I don't miss many of them any more.

Blogger Revealed
On a whim I logged into Blogger using Internet Explorer instead of Netscape. Once I got past a bug that wouldn't let me log in (something in the security settings in IE) I discovered what I had been missing. In particular some addtional buttons for formatting, a larger composition screen, and a template editor that doesn't eat the contents of tags. I still don't know if the problem is in my browser or my ad-blocking proxy, but things seem to be looking up.

Local Politics
When I lived in Austin, I thought Texas politics was odd. But I also read Molly Ivins, so I assumed that the rest of the country was normal and it was just a local phenomenon. Now I live in Pittsburgh, I find that Pennsylvania is just as peculiar.
Our newly-elected Democratic governor (Ed Rendell) had to submit a budget by last Tuesday. But he didn't have time to put together the budget he wanted to, so he submitted half of his budget with a promise that the rest would be coming soon. But the Republican legislature is racing to pass what they have so far, leaving the second half of his budget, where he addresses most of his campaign promises, out in the cold. So now, two days after submitting the budget, he is busy lobbying the legislature and the population to oppose it. Details here.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Less than reasuring
Via the New York Times Op-Ed page (regsitration required), I see that Pennsylvania is the state with the worst record for disciplining serial malpractitioners among physicians. West Virginia is the state with the second worst record. Pittsburgh is essentially on the boundary between PA & WV, making me wonder about the quality of the medical care here. It is also striking that in the five months I have lived here, the news has been filled with stories about the rising cost of malpractice, which is hardly surprising given these figures.

Monday, March 03, 2003

Name that leader
Binkley quotes Paul Johnson as saying
...but it still comes as a shock to see how badly the French can behave, with their unique mixture of shortsighted selfishness, long-term irresponsibility, impudent humbug and sheer malice...
This seems to accurately describe the US since the Bush accession as well -- from ignoring or abrogating treaties that don't directly advance US self-interest (Kyoto, ABM) to fiscal irresponsibility (the tax cut) and sheer malice (as good an explanation as many for the fixation on Iraq).
This ongoing popular attack on the French has become bizarrely hysterical. I'm not sure where it is coming from, but as with a conjuror, I assume that when my attention is being so strongly attracted in one direction then there is something important and secretive going on somewhere else.

Tenterhooks
Sigh. The first cars and equipment are arriving in Melbourne for the start of the F1 season, and there still isn't a contract in place for US television. Speed Channel have it on their schedule, but apparently don't have a contract yet. It shouldn't have to come down to the wire year after year like this.