I changed the thumbnail for the blog just now. Here's a larger version:
For comparison, here's the old one:
Yes, I'm sitting at the same table at Jack London's Pub in Carmel by the Sea, Calif. (Here's the original post.)
In this month's Washington Monthly:
About the only failure more pronounced than the president's has been the graft-filled plunder of GOP lawmakers—at least according to opinion polls, which in May gave the GOP-controlled Congress favorability ratings in the low 20s, about 10 points lower than the president's. This does not necessarily translate into electoral Armageddon; redistricting and other incumbency-protection devices help protect against that. But even if many commentators think that Republicans may retain control over Congress, very few think they should.
If government is necessary, bad government, at least for conservatives, is inevitable, and conservatives have been exceptionally good at showing just how bad it can be. Hence the truth revealed by the Bush years: Bad government—indeed, bloated, inefficient, corrupt, and unfair government—is the only kind of conservative government there is. Conservatives cannot govern well for the same reason that vegetarians cannot prepare a world-class boeuf bourguignon: If you believe that what you are called upon to do is wrong, you are not likely to do it very well.
Ma Bell, risen from near death like the hydra, now says they own your phone records and will disclose them however they see fit:
The new policy says that AT&T—not customers—owns customers' confidential info and can use it "to protect its legitimate business interests, safeguard others, or respond to legal process."
The policy also indicates that AT&T will track the viewing habits of customers of its new video service—something that cable and satellite providers are prohibited from doing.
I will now begin the process of switching our home-phone service...
I love the Straight Dope:
Q: I have asked flight attendants on airplanes all over the world. No one knows. No one even hazards a wild guess. ... Why doesn't the plastic bag inflate? Since it doesn't, what is it for?
First an inside secret: the bag does inflate, but only when you exhale.
Here's the deal. Passenger oxygen masks give you a continuous flow of oxygen (as opposed to oxygen on demand, which only flows when you inhale). The oxygen obviously can't flow into your lungs while you're exhaling, so if there weren't some way to store it temporarily it would have to be vented wastefully. The bag makes this unnecessary. When you start exhaling, your breath plus the incoming O2 flow into the bag.
Cecil Adams rocks.
Scientists find more evidence that the planet is, on average, its warmest in 400 years:
A panel of top climate scientists told lawmakers that the Earth is heating up and that "human activities are responsible for much of the recent warming." Their 155-page report said average global surface temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere rose about 1 degree during the 20th century.
Overall, the panel agreed that the warming in the last few decades of the 20th century was unprecedented over the last 1,000 years, though relatively warm conditions persisted around the year 1000, followed by a "Little Ice Age" from about 1500 to 1850.
The President still doesn't believe there's a connection between human activities and global warming in much the same way that South African president Thabo Mbecki doesn't see the connection between HIV and AIDS.
942 days, 20 hours left.
New Scientist is reporting this hour that a man died in Beijing of H5N1 bird flu fully two years before China admitted any human cases:
The case suggests that, as has long been suspected, many more people have caught H5N1 flu in China than have been reported, and for a longer time. The more human cases there are, the more chances the virus has to evolve into a human pandemic strain of flu.
"It's a very important issue that needs to be clarified urgently," Roy Wadia, a spokesman for the World Health Organization, said on Thursday in Beijing. "It raises questions as to how many other cases may not have been found at the time or may have been found retrospectively in testing."
Remember what I wrote about an hour ago that governments suppressing the press is bad for democracy? Well, I forgot to mention that it's bad for our health as well.
More on this later, but just keep in mind that oppressive regimes always attack the press before attacking the people. Keeping a free and open press is an absolute requirement of democracy.
On that theme, three stories:
As I describe these things, I can't help but to compare what the Republican officials are doing in this country to what another party's officials have done throughout the last century in places like China and the U.S.S.R. I can't understand why this doesn't bother them more. After all, our party has the reputation for collectivism; they've always argued for "small government." Paraphrasing Ralph Kiner: "If Eisenhower were alive today, he'd be spinning in his grave."
I refer here to President Roosevelt's approval rating after the Battle of the Bulge. Josh Marshall's people found a beautiful document prepared in the 1940s; Marshall himself explains why this is not simply a poke-in-the-eye for Fox News—er, Press Secretary Tony Snow:
There's a serious underlying point here about the administration's basic frivolousness in its conduct of the war.
No one thinks you can fight a war or conduct any project of great consequence by following minor oscillations in polls. But long term and imbedded trends in public opinion mean something. In this case, the public can see President Bush doesn't know what he's doing.
Having his flacks go out and compare him to great wartime leaders of the past and insult the American people in the process doesn't change that.
One of my readers just sent this in:
A small town had three shuls: Orthodox, Conservative and Reform. All three had a serious problem with squirrels in their buildings. Each congregation, in its own fashion, had a meeting to deal with the problem.
The Orthodox decided that it was predestined that squirrels be in the Shul and that they would just have to live with them.
The Conservatives decided they should deal with the squirrels in the movement's style of Community Responsibility & Social Action. They humanely trapped them and released them in a park at the edge of town. Within three days, they were all back in the synagogue.
The Reform Synagogue had several lengthy meetings, including those in which all members voiced opinions. Finally they decided to vote the squirrels in as members of the Temple. Now they only see them on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.