Paul Murray's weblog, with news you may have missed and my $0.02 worth on a number of topics.

"You can't make up anything anymore. The world itself is a satire. All you're doing is recording it."
- Art Buchwald

I bet you don't have a friend who's an acupuncturist

E-mail me: pmurray63 [at] (Be patient, I don't check it often.)

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Thursday, September 30, 2004
Ill-prepared. Again.
One of the frustrating things about Democrats is how amateurish they can seem compared to Republicans, who go all out for victory. Today's example:
Earlier this week, [the Bush campaign] launched a massive rapid-response effort called Debate Facts to rebut challenger John Kerry's assertions during the debates. The campaign will provide a live feed to about 5,000 conservative blogs that subscribe to its news alerts....

The new war room is equipped with 15 computers and two TVs, which will be monitored by about 25 policy wonks, communications managers and technology professionals. Using a 150-page book called The John Kerry Attack Matrix, Bush supporters will shape responses to Kerry's statements. The Bush campaign has been compiling the so-called matrix on Kerry's statements and public record since the primaries....

"It's us working to anticipate the false statements, misstatements and false claims that he will make during the debates on a number of issues, and having responses ready to go, so we can get the information up on the website," Jones said. "When he makes a particularly egregious false claim in the debate, we will send Debate Facts messages directly to the press."

And what are the Kerry people doing (emphasis added)?
The rapid-response effort by the Kerry campaign apparently won't be as comprehensive. When asked about Kerry's response operations early Wednesday afternoon, a representative said the campaign was still working on it. Amanda Michel, a member of Kerry's internet team, e-mailed members of its Media Corps -- supporters who contact newspapers, radio stations and TV shows -- telling them that the campaign would provide a response after the debate.

"Please make sure you check your e-mail the moment the debate ends," Michel's e-mail stated. "We can't provide you any more detail until the debate is over, except that all you'll need is access to e-mail and/or a telephone."

Michel also wrote that the Kerry campaign's blog will provide live commentary on the debates.

Four years ago, conservatives convinced everyone that George Bush did better than Al Gore in the first debate. They're ready to do it again tonight with John Kerry. And the Kerry people don't seem to appreciate its importance.

This stuff drives me nuts.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004
The "Africantown" brouhaha continues.
Various minorities are up in arms about the idea of a government-funded plan for economic development that targets a single racial group. The latest:
Members of Detroit's Latino, Asian and Arab communities demanded a public apology from the City Council on Tuesday, denouncing the body for embracing an economic development plan that would exclusively benefit black business owners.

During a protest rally, leaders of the various ethnic communities said they want the council to rescind the resolutions it passed supporting the plan, and they want to meet with the council to correct what they say is offensive rhetoric in a report that forms the basis of the council's plan to create a black business district to be known as African Town. The plan also would create a loan fund only for blacks.

The report, titled "A PowerNomics Economic Development Plan for Detroit's Under-Served Majority Population," says immigration has hurt blacks because Mexicans, Asians and Arabs take jobs, resources and other opportunities from blacks.

Questions for the candidates.
Editor & Publisher solicited noted journalists for questions they'd like to see asked at tomorrow night's debate. (Which is not really a debate, of course, just a joint press conference.)

I think the Kerry folks made a mistake in negotiating the terms; I would have offered two debates (which the Bush camp preferred) in exchange for the ability of the candidates to directly interact with each other.

(via Romanesko)

Are you registered to vote?
If not, and you want to know how, go here. (Apparently you may even be able register online these days.) Some deadlines are as soon as this Saturday, October 2, so act fast.

Another "red state/blue state" comparison.
The Tax Foundation issued a study that reports on which states are net gainers or losers when it comes to Federal taxes; i.e., if a state pays in more than it receives back in spending, it's a net loser, and vice versa. So what happens when a tax professor compares this data to the state's political leanings?

17 of the top 20 net gainers (collecting more than they contribute) are rural "red states" that voted for Bush in 2000.

11 of the bottom 14 (net losers, paying more than they get back) are urban "blue states" that voted for Gore in 2000.

In other words, states where the GOP does well with its "big government is bad" message are the very ones who benefit the most from it.

At least Michigan did a bit better in 2002 than 1992; we're up to getting back 90 cents on the dollar, giving us a ranking of 38.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004
Rather vs. Bush.
Not to defend Dan Rather, but this is an interesting comparsion:

Dan Rather, CBS News Anchor

1. given documents he thought were true
2. failed to thoroughly investigate the facts
3. reported documents to the American people as true to make his case
4. when confronted with the facts, apologized and launched an investigation
5. number of Americans dead: 0
6. should be fired as CBS News Anchor

George W. Bush, President of the United States

1. given documents he thought were true
2. failed to thoroughly investigate the facts
3. reported documents to the American people as true to make his case
4. when confronted with the facts, continued to report untruth and stonewalled an investigation
5. number of Americans dead: 1100
6. should be given four more years as President of the United States

(via Daily Kos)

What George Bush doesn't want you to know.
It's probably too late to change the Bush-orchestrated image of John Kerry as a flip-flopper on Iraq, but I'll try and do my part. The San Francisco Chronicle has actually looked at what Kerry said, and lo and behold:
[A]n examination of Kerry's words in more than 200 speeches and statements, comments during candidate forums and answers to reporters' questions does not support the accusation.

As foreign policy emerged as a dominant issue in the Democratic primaries and later in the general election, Kerry clung to a nuanced, middle-of-the road -- yet largely consistent -- approach to Iraq. Over and over, Kerry enthusiastically supported a confrontation with Saddam Hussein even as he aggressively criticized Bush for the manner in which he did so.

Kerry repeatedly described Hussein as a dangerous menace who must be disarmed or eliminated, demanded that the U.S. build broad international support for any action in Iraq and insisted that the nation had better plan for the post-war peace.

There were times when Kerry's emphasis shifted for what appear to be political reasons. In the fall of 2003, for example, when former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean surged to the top of Democratic polls based on an anti-war platform, Kerry's criticism of the president grew stronger. There are many instances in which clumsy phrases and tortuously long explanations make Kerry difficult to follow. And there are periods, such as last week, when the sharpness of Kerry's words restating old positions seem to suggest a change.

Yet taken as a whole, Kerry has offered the same message ever since talk of attacking Iraq became a national conversation more than two years ago.

But this is what happens when you let your opponent define you. (via Talking Points Memo)

Science marches on, but not quickly enough.
Things that are starting to matter: Why a baldness cure is taking so long.

Monday, September 27, 2004
Local weirdness.
I've lived in Detroit for all of my 41 years, but I've never heard of Nain Rouge until I stumbled across it today in the Wikipedia entry for Detroit.

Let the brouhaha and backpedaling begin.
Last Tuesday, the Detroit Free Press reported on this unbelievably bad idea:
A majority of the Detroit City Council wants to implement an economic development plan it commissioned for $112,000 that preaches racial isolation and rails against immigration in its bid to gain economic success for poor blacks.

The crux of the plan is the creation of a business district -- dubbed African Town -- that would be funded in part with city money and made up of black-owned businesses catering to a black clientele.

The report also complains that immigrants from Mexico, Asia and the Middle East are stealing resources, jobs and other opportunities from blacks and calls on city leaders to stop the economic shift.

The report does not call on the city to stop immigration -- and the city wouldn't have any power to stop it, even if it wanted to -- but the report does call on the city to level the playing field between blacks and the newcomers who it says are economically surpassing them.

I held off posting it here while I pondered what to say about it. I was thinking along the lines of "let's swap the race in this story with another one and see how it reads."

Today's Freep reports on the resulting controversy:

No proposal is complete, no financing finalized and no land identified, but there is plenty of emotion over a Detroit City Council plan to create a black business district known as African Town.

Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's administration is distancing itself from the plan; council members want to separate the rhetoric behind the plan from what they say is a need for the city to help black entrepreneurs, and Detroiters share mixed -- albeit heated -- feelings. Even the federal government is weighing in.

The outcry stems from a controversial report commissioned by council members to look at ways to improve the economic state of poor blacks through increased business ownership. But the report also rails against immigrants for taking opportunities away from blacks, says integration has failed and warns officials about nonblacks moving into the city.

The report runs counter to efforts embraced by city and state leaders to improve relations, such as fostering regional cooperation and Gov. Jennifer Granholm's Cool Cities initiative designed to attract diverse residents to urban centers.

There's also plenty of backpedaling:
"I have a problem with the whole approach to this issue," said [Council President Maryann] Mahaffey, one of the seven who voted for the plan. "I think it's wrong pitting one group against another. What we're saying is one group has been left out and we want to make sure they get a piece of it."

Council President Pro Tem Kenneth Cockrel Jr. said he doesn't support the rhetoric in the plan but voted for it because he wants to find ways to increase black wealth and entrepreneurship.

Ah yes, our City Council at work.

Make your point, Senator!
I've been expressing my frustration with John Kerry to my co-workers. Why can't he express a thought as clearly as George Bush (when he's scripted, I mean)? Well, it's not just me. Stanley Fish identifies and explains the problem much better than I could in this NYT op-ed piece.

Ironically, Bush and Kerry had the same oratory teacher and debate coach at Yale.

Sunday, September 26, 2004
Soup for you.
This is about two weeks old, but I just saw it: the man who inspired the Soup Nazi character on "Seinfeld" is going to franchise. It's an entertaining read. But check out those prices!

Thursday, September 23, 2004
Irony is alive and well.
Guess what "60 Minutes" story CBS delayed so that they instead could run the piece with the fake Bush documents? Go ahead, guess.

(Hint: “This is like living in a Kafka novel,” said Josh Marshall, who collaborated on it.)
In its rush to air its now discredited story about President George W. Bush’s National Guard service, CBS bumped another sensitive piece slated for the same “60 Minutes” broadcast: a half-hour segment about how the U.S. government was snookered by forged documents purporting to show Iraqi efforts to purchase uranium from Niger.

The journalistic juggling at CBS provides an ironic counterpoint to the furor over apparently bogus documents involving Bush’s National Guard service. One unexpected consequence of the network’s decision was to wipe out a chance—at least for the moment—for greater public scrutiny of a more consequential forgery that played a role in building the Bush administration’s case to invade Iraq.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004
You need to update Windows -- now.
A flaw was recently discovered that allows malicious code to enter a Windows PC when a JPEG is opened. Now it's no longer a theory: someone has "helpfully" posted an example of how to do it.
"Within days, you'll likely see (attacks) using this code as a basis," said Vincent Weafer, senior director of security response for antivirus-software company Symantec. "This is dangerous in a sense that everyone processes JPEG files to some degree."

Go here for information and update instructions. (If you've installed Win XP's Service Pack 2, you're already set.)

Now that's funny.
I laughed out loud today when reading an article by Terry Lawson of the Detroit Free Press about John Waters' new movie "A Dirty Shame", which received an NC-17 rating. (Summary: After receiving a concussion, suburban housewife Tracey Ullman turns into a sex addict.) Here's what got me laughing:
To acknowledge his appreciation of his longtime distributor New Line (which releases Waters' films through its Fine Line art house subsidiary) and co-chairman and Detroit native Bob Shaye, Waters appeared before the Motion Picture Association ratings board to ask them what would have to be cut to get "A Dirty Shame" an R-rating.

"They said it was impossible, that it was the 'tone' of the entire movie. Now, saying my movies have a 'tone' is like saying Britney Spears has an idea. It's an undeserved, or at least accidental, byproduct.


Sony gets a clue.
Well, I see that someone at Sony finally gets it: they're going to add native MP3 support to at least some of their portable music players. (Sony's current players don't play MP3s; you have to convert all your music files to their proprietary, DRM-protected ATRAC3 format. That's apparently what happens when part of your company sells music and movies; their obsession with preventing piracy cripples the hardware people's attempts at innovation.)

However, if you parse the Sony rep's statement carefully, you can tell that not everyone there is ready to drink the MP3 Kool-Aid: "We're discussing plans to bring flash players to the United States that support MP3 files" (emphasis added). So presumably the hard drive-based players like their much-ballyhooed "iPod killer" won't do this ... which means they still won't sell.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004
Paved with good intentions.
Rafe Coburn has this short but incisive criticism:
I think one of the reasons I'm so obsessed with missile defense is that I find that the program is emblematic about every initiative pursued by the Bush administration. Success is judged by intentions rather than by results.

He's not the first to observe this -- Fareed Zakaria made a similar point in Newsweek awhile back, specifically about Iraq -- but to see it expressed so clearly and simply is illuminating, I think.

The point of that particular post was missile defense, and he pointed to this Slate article noting that it still doesn't work yet we're still throwing billions of dollars into it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004
I've decided to make the Recently Consumed Media sidebar (movies, music, books, etc.) into a separate page, because there were times when I felt constrained by the amount of space available. The look is not final; it's what came with the template. There are many things I like about it but some that I don't, and I'll try adjusting as soon as I can figure out how to do it. (I admit it, CSS is confusing to me. I know it's more powerful than HTML, but I'm lost at it.)

What happens to the recordings?
It's sad to read about the decline of classical music at two labels, Sony Classical (née Columbia, then CBS Masterworks) and RCA Red Seal, which are now merging. Both were once giants of classical recording:
the vaults of each company hold a priceless trove of master tapes that document the work of many of the greatest musicians of the last century. More broadly, these recordings offer an overview of American musical life through the late 1970's, when both companies began to lose interest in recording the top American orchestras, and European labels like Decca and Deutsche Grammophon moved in to take up the cause.

No one at either Sony or BMG, either in their classical divisions or among corporate spokesmen (to whom journalists are immediately referred by workers terrified to talk, lest they earn an instant spot on the list of 2,000 employees expected to be sacked), has been able to say what will become of the labels' classical operations. So faintly do the classics register on the corporate radar that BMG's spokesman, when told that his company had recorded the likes of Enrico Caruso, Jascha Heifetz and Artur Rubinstein, said he was pleasantly surprised to hear it.

More reasons why Bush is not a real conservative.
Another one of those pesky facts that most people aren't aware of:
The expansive agenda President Bush laid out at the Republican National Convention was missing a price tag, but administration figures show the total is likely to be well in excess of $3 trillion over a decade.

A staple of Bush's stump speech is his claim that his Democratic challenger, John F. Kerry, has proposed $2 trillion in long-term spending, a figure the Massachusetts senator's campaign calls exaggerated. But the cost of the new tax breaks and spending outlined by Bush at the GOP convention far eclipses that of the Kerry plan.

What's the deal with Chechnya?
Late one night earlier this year I heard a BBC News segment on the radio about Chechnya; I learned more in those 10 minutes than I ever had before about the area and what the fighting is all about. That segment is not available as a Web page, unfortunately, but this Slate article is the next best thing -- better than this BBC News page, ironically.

Monday, September 13, 2004
Logical incongruity.
I see someone has updated a list that made the rounds four years ago: Things you have to believe to be a Republican today. Some of them are cheap shots, but some are so deadly accurate that it's not funny.

Friday, September 10, 2004
And now for my Larry King impersonation.
Well, not really, but I want to quickly note a few things:
  • I knew Mad magazine was still around, but I didn't realize they could still produce good satire like this Bush vs. Jesus political ad.
  • My feelings about George Bush should be clear to even casual readers ... but I have to say that the memos CBS News is showing look suspiciously like forgeries to me. I'm no forensic expert, but I've used Microsoft Word for more than a decade, and the memos (PDFs 1, 2, 3, 4) sure look like what's produced by Word's default settings -- except for the non-superscripted "th" numbering (although there is one of those, too). They don't sound very military, although I've never been associated with the military. The lack of letterhead seems odd. But given all these suspicious signs, why isn't the Bush campaign calling them forgeries? One wonders if perhaps these fake documents describe the truth in their own way.
  • Yes, it's kind of a hatchet job, but you should still read the Rolling Stone article on Dick Cheney. And if you didn't read it when I first recommended it, read Josh Marshall's more straightforward article from last year about Cheney's involvement in the administration's major screw-ups. I found myself wondering the other day how Bush's first term might have gone with a different vice president.
  • Speaking of Cheney, how about that ever so thinly veiled warning that voting for Kerry means terrorists will strike the US again? The dependable Borowitz Report has a nice take on it.
  • And still speaking of Cheney ... how lame is it to claim that the economic numbers are bad because they don't include things like eBay? John Edwards' riposte is perfect, though.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004
A priceless comeback.
So Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper are discussing the DVD release of The Passion of the Christ when ... well, I'll let the guy at TVBarn2 who saw it tell you:
I caught a bit of Ebert/Roeper over the weekend. Roeper was lamenting the fact the DVD for "Passion of the Christ" didn't have any bonus features. Without missing a beat, Ebert cut him in two by asking, "What do you want, an alternate ending?"
As someone added, it's exchanges like this that made Siskel & Ebert worth watching, but which has been in short supply in its successor.

Cue up the Weird Al song...
Warning: You may not want to read this purported spoiler about Ken Jennings on Jeopardy!

Update: Independently confirmed. TVWeek and Newsday have picked it up; the show will not confirm it.