Saturday, June 21, 2003
Just your typical transcranial magnetic stimulator post...
A NYT piece about the electromagnetic component to creativity, and an EM-pulse generating machine that can "increase" creativity, is the most eye-opening this I've seen since Weird Science. I have been reading more philosophy lately than I usually do, and it hit me today that there's the whole physical aspect of the brain about which I know next to nothing. If anyone can suggest any books on cognitive biology, I'd appreciate it. Better yet, if anyone knows any cool stories about brain chords being severed and then the patient can't call a spoon a spoon if he's holding it in his left hand, well, tell me those stories, 'cause I assume that's all that cognitive bio is anyway.
posted by kriston at 3:51 PM........
Rick Perry: Aggie, Governor, Unconscionable Asshole
I heard yesterday on the radio that Governor Rick Perry and State Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn came to an agreement over the state budget's $189 million shortfall. Strayhorn signed the budget, and I assumed that I'd made a mountain out of a molehill--that they found a clerical mistake, or a proviso, something that would cover the gap.
Nope. Gov. Perry made up the difference by taking the money from the comptroller:
Perry vetoed House Bill 3175, which would have expanded the comptroller's line of credit used for cash management; and part of House Bill 2425, which would have allowed the comptroller to pay interest when the general fund borrowed money from other state accounts.Jesus. Strayhorn, public servant that she appears to be, played the issue off as a matter of sacrifice under a pressing deadline. (Gov. Perry has until Sunday to sign or not sign all pending legislation from the regular session.) More telling, though, was the fact that Perry and Strayhorn announced the deal in consecutive, separate press conferences. The deal itself also clarifies Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's erstwhile insistences that the budget mistake was Strayhorn's, or it was a clerical error, or there was already a proviso, dummy, if you'd just read the whole thing.
Well, now that the budget issue is sidelined, it's time to get back to important state business: namely, hacking Democratic districts to bits!
posted by kriston at 3:34 PM........
Arts and Crafts
Big furniture, not small horses. But the case for small horses has now been made.
posted by kriston at 1:14 PM........
Friday, June 20, 2003
Open Thread: Harry Potter
Introducing a new G.p Friday practice--the open thread, a la Tacitus. My uneducated impressions of HP were initially a strong disgust but have evolved into a vague disinterest, softened by a couple of decent movies. (I don't care to read the books.) So, talk amongst yourselves.
posted by kriston at 12:51 PM........
The Bureaucrats are Restless
While he's set his interns to the task of figuring out where the hell this "comptroller" came from, Gov. Perry is busy with damage control. He and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst are calling Strayhorn sensationalist and claiming that the mistake is a clerical error. Apparently, some amount of money associated with Gov. Perry's transportation bill is supposed to go to some purse in 2006, instead of 2005. (A new, dull low for sensationalism.) Then, in response, a handful of lawmakers tried to draft a quick memo to Strayhorn to clarify the erroneous part of the legislation, and Strayhorn told them to get serious. Gov. Perry could resolve the problem, of course, by adjusting the summer session to focus on the budget--Strayhorn did say, after all, that the state must have a "certifiable 'pay-as-you-go' budget by mid July or the schools won't open in September." That would, of course, contradict the Master Plan, which is to redistrict and then flush the state down the commode.
I propose that any time the Texas legislature makes front-page news for any reason, the Democrats evacuate.
posted by kriston at 12:27 PM........
Hey! FCC! Leave those rules alone!
We don't need no thought control: hundreds of thousands of angry voices were heard, and the Senate Commerce Committee adopted a bill that overrules the FCC's media propriety rules changes. The proposal to roll back the changes represents a diversity of problems with the FCC's rulings, not all of them mutual but all significant. That's positive news today, but the fact that the Senate opponents aren't focused on any specific elements, that they're not trying to roll back the total gesture of the FCC, suggests to me that when the House presses them they'll be susceptible to compromise. Maybe not: Sen. Hollings (D-SC), co-sponsor of the bill, has been quite vocal about the perils of big, bad, media deregulation.
The bill's biggest iniative is its swipe at Clear Channel. Not only is the Senate suggesting Clear Channel may not gobble up more airspace (not unlike the FCC's ruling), but Clear Channel should sell some of its holdings in the biggest markets. It's long overdue that someone deflated this bloated, cancerous sac of unchecked capitalism. (Were I a political cartoonist, Clear Channel would always be represented by Shelob, for you LOTR nerds. The fact that my political cartoons would be concerned with either Clear Channel or Shelob is why I'm not getting picked up any time soon.)
Kudos to Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) for the best suggestion of all, saying, "I would like the FCC to start all over." I assume that she also intends by that sentiment the termination of Big Media apparatchiks like Chairman Powell.
posted by kriston at 11:03 AM........
Thursday, June 19, 2003
Balance the Budget You Must
To run with the Star Wars thing, what do you think--Yoda?
In all seriousness, now, I am not terribly surprised at state Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn's announcement that she has rejected the state's submitted budget. It will be quite telling if Gov. Perry intends to use the special session at the end of June to redistrict; the fact that budgeting issues were being ignored, after all, is what initially prompted the Democrats to vacate. I imagine the only circumstances under which they would do that again would be if Republicans advocated a negligent focus for the legislature's attention.
Even if the special session goes that route, you likely won't see the Democrats absent: Earlier, they had the advantage of an imminent deadline for legislation. The summer sessions can go on basically indefinitely, so Democrats would have to think in terms of months, not weeks or days. If they do decide to play that kind of serious hardball, I really think it's hard to predict how the media will fall on the issue. I have ideas on how it would play out but I'm not going to try and speculate right now.
Then again, $189 million--that's the amount of the shortfall--might be less substantial than it sounds. It is, after all, a $117-odd billion dollar budget in question. I'm sure that given a day or so, the legislature could find a few more schools to bleed. Maybe the state is as truly stretched as they'd like us to believe, and it will take a bit of tinkering to find that money; the slapped-together way the budget was finalized seems to suggest otherwise. Those imponderables aside, the important thing will be that Perry and co. exhibit just a shred of self-restraint and make these numbers the immediate priority.
posted by kriston at 5:58 PM........
The Poorman doesn't want to hear it:
It's really not very punk rock to ask people for money to keep up your vanity site. It's not, and it's not because I just said it's not in a very authoritative manner, and that's the method by which things like this get decided. And if anyone thinks they can be more punk than punk by asking for donations just to spite me, I'll just cast you a withering glance and say "oh, how anti" and your shaming will be abject. Now, I don't know everybody's financial situation, and if you have a tip jar to help pay some of the actual costs of running the website that's between you and your readers, but there is no way on God's green Earth that Andrew Sullivan and the National Review (whose weblog consists almost entirely of pleas for readers to write the weblog for them anyway) need tens of thousands of dollars to do what lots of people - let's face it, basically anybody - would happily do just as well, and for free.I agree and not just because if I put a PayPal piggy-bank on here, it'd more likely be the target of a hammer than a quarter. I once perused a popular weblog (which will remain anonymous) whose author was requesting money to defray her legal fees after she sued her upstairs neighbors for having sex too loudly at night. This was in NYC, just to make the stupid absurd. My mental well-being required that I refuse to believe her claim that she recouped half of her expenses from readers. Keep your money to yourselves!
Now, if someone wanted to buy me a beer....
posted by kriston at 3:04 PM........
Support G.p in his quest for power!
Not asking for money--I know y'all don't have any anyways. I am participating in the New Weblog Showcase, a "contest" sponsored by The Truth Laid Bear (link goes to rules). TTLB also runs The Blogosphere Ecosystem, a metadata somethin'-or-another on which I currently rank in at #1334, somewhere toward the bottom of the "flippery fish" phylum.
Anyway, if you'd like to help out--and you do!--you can either 1) link to the post below (Lone Star Wars) and register your weblog at The Blogosphere Ecosystem; or 2) cruise over to the New Weblog Showcase, poke around, and "vote" for whomever you like.
There's not a lot of time left in the contest, which runs until Sunday, but this is probably the last week that I can be considered "new," so I thought I'd give it a shot. So, okay--pander pander pander, now go take a look.
UPDATE: It's recommended by the site's proprietor that contestants vote, too. I cast my votes for regular Yglesias hangers-around Not Geniuses, smoking advocate Norbizness, and Phoenix art crit weblog The Tears of Things. This was a quite easy decision, I'd actually been reading two of the three for a little bit (one, since its inception), and all three are roll call worthy. When I next get around to doing some housecleaning they'll be added. Anyway, pander pander pander!
NOTE: To answer your question, there's nothing to win except a best-in-show feeling, so, no, you cannot get a "cut." Punk.
posted by kriston at 1:42 PM........
LONE STAR WARS
THE REPUBLICANS STRIKE BACK
Evading the dreaded DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY, a group of freedom fighters established a new secret base in the remote state of Oklahoma. The evil lord DARTH DELAY (R -Sugarland), obsessed with finding the Killer Ds, dispatched thousands of Texas Statetroopers to the far reaches of the state.
Although the CONGRESSIONAL REDISTRICTING has been destroyed, little do the Texas Democrats know that EMPEROR ROVE is behind plans for a special legislative session to begin debate on ANOTHER CONGRESSIONAL REDISTRICTING plan even more powerful than the first dreaded attempt. If completed, this ultimate weapon will spell certain doom for the small band of Democrats struggling to restore fiscal responsibilitiy to the state...
posted by kriston at 12:20 PM........
In the lives of men and women it's the little sacrifices that count. There're countless sacrifices women make for the good of the species, for sure, but chalk one up for the guys that runs to the very core of our being. A little piece on genetic resourcefulness that explains how men have managed to overcome a distinct chromosomal disadvantage that threatened our extinction. Close call, fellas, but we made it to the next inning. (Or aeon.)
posted by kriston at 12:10 AM........
Wednesday, June 18, 2003
Via D-Squared Digest and his very intelligent commenters, a discussion surrounding a snotty Economist report on hunger in Oregon. I heard a similar (but not snotty) report on NPR several weeks ago, and I was so struck by the story that I clearly remember exactly where I was driving while I heard it. The Economist painted a splotchier picture:
If hunger is a real problem, it certainly needs defining. Some studies measure it as the inability to buy anything but cheap food, or mere uncertainty about where the next meal is coming from. Food banks, too, may create a need as much as fill one—after all, most did not exist before the 1980s, and their growth may be driven as much by supply as demand. That hunger should be an issue at all in the waddling, all-you-can-eat United States strikes even hunger-watchers as ironic. Hunger certainly exists, but its true prevalence, in Oregon and elsewhere, remains an open question. [emphasis added]Credit goes to D-Squared for picking up on the "let them eat cake" attitude. Yes, Europe, we fully realize how fat Americans are and how it needs to change. Don't let that prejudice trick you into the conservative habit on this issue of eating, i.e. discrediting the basis by which researchers collect their data, simply because you don't believe the results could possibly true. If you truly appreciate the income divide in America--The Economist claims to, conservatives won't--you understand that there are people even in Biggie-Sized, Taco Belled America that struggle for their next meals, and that what meals they do get are too often malnutritious.
George Orwell is one European who understands. Scroll a little more than half-way down and watch him take the British establishment to task for their misunderstanding of the various links between poverty, hunger, and malnutrition.
posted by kriston at 12:47 PM........
Redistricting, Redistricting, Redistricting
Even in the midst of investigations concerning DHS/DPS impropriety, Texas Republicans make it clear that what matters in Texas is the Republican agenda above all: Gov. Rick Perry called today for a special legislative session for June 30 to deal with the pressing issues of government reorganization and congressional redistricting. Go ahead and strike the government reorganization part, since most of Perry's desired measures were tacked on with other bills after the legislation expired at the end of the normal session. And forget the fact that State Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn has not yet approved the budget. That she might not approve it ought to reserve the attention of any coming special sessions. And, really, that there's no money in that budget deserves some special focus--but for the 78th session, it's all about location, location, location.
Tom Delay promised that redistricting wasn't over, and it looks like it's not. What gall. What zombie-like dedication to pursuit of gain. I expect that this time Democrats will have to stay and go toe-to-toe with this, but I would hope not every state Republican is so rank-and-file as to support such a tacky maneuver.
posted by kriston at 9:12 AM........
It would appear that Iranian expats don't want the West to sit on its hands while Iran looks toward revolution or repression. I'm curious to see how liberal internationalists like Tom Friedman and extreme hawks like Charles Krauthammer are going to weigh in on the subject.
posted by kriston at 7:39 AM........
After a miserable day at the gym earlier, I realized finally that I just can't keep smoking. I'm done, I'm out, I quit. It's actually quite difficult to write this down, which further illustrates why I just have to quit. Done. I don't remember when my last cigarette was, probably in Dallas this weekend, but there's not going to be a last pack or anything like that. I want to run, I want to play, I want to avoid health problems, I want to be consistent. I quit. May God have mercy on me at the bar this weekend!
posted by kriston at 12:23 AM........
A City on a Hill
Daily Kos reporting on UN definitions of torture and how Guantanamo Bay fits. I read a section of a 9/11 book this weekend that described how, on September 11th, many of the psychiatrically trained respondents at the scene spent more time counseling immigrants than native-born citizens, because many immigrants fled the US to escape the nightmares visited upon New York and DC that morning. Imagine how this news reflects on our character anywhere in the world that has seen the kind of trauma evidenced at Guantanamo Bay, how it must reverberate: No, not even in America....
On the topic of our declining international credibility, Kevin Drum has some sober words:
And now we have another one: were Iraq's WMDs important? I note, for example, that Glenn Reynolds has been gleefully covering the misreporting of the looted antiquities at the Baghdad Museum ("The academic community -- antiwar all along, and a bit too obviously looking for a way to make Bush and the war look bad -- shot itself in the foot, and will command much less respect on such topics in the future") but still declines to view the far more serious nonexistence of WMDs as anything more than a trivial matter.I think Republicans are going to finally have to face up as Tony Blair is taken to task at home.
posted by kriston at 12:10 AM........
Tuesday, June 17, 2003
Sue and Not U put together a Bob Dylan compilation that doesn't make me wretch. If you're like me--and the sound of his voice generally inspires convulsions, bloodclots, or suicidal tendencies--you might want to try out this recommended dosage:
1 Tangled Up in Blue
2 She Belongs to Me
3 Love Minus Zero-No Limit
4 Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues
5 Just Like a Woman
6 Don't Think Twice, It's Alright
7 Visions of Johanna
8 Masters of War
9 Girl from the North Country
10 It Ain't Me Babe
11 Positively 4th Street
12 Like a Rolling Stone
None of these songs is intolerable. Now, don't start asking me about albums or periods: I can't talk about Early Dylan, Post-Eletric Conversion Dylan, God-Fearing Dylan, his Blue Period, or the Lost Years. Until this weekend I'd only heard Like a Rolling Stone and Everybody Must Get Stoned or whatever. And I'm not suggesting that at some point over this weekend Dylan learned to sing/play guitar, nothing drastic like that.
So most of you are asking the obvious: "Good God! Why would you ever listen to Bob Dylan?" You're preaching to the choir, buddy, but it's like this: Knowing a little Dylan is like knowing a little of the Bible. You need Dylan for Jeopardy, Trivial Pursuits, wooing women (not so much like the Bible), and political references. I know a lot about the Bible and other classics, so I hope it balances out the fact that I'm only listening to the little Dylan that doesn't kill me.
posted by kriston at 6:40 PM........
Countdown to I-Day
I'm with Andrew Sullivan on this: he suggests that webloggers dedicate July 9th, anniversary of the first Iranian pro-democracy protests years ago, to Iranian news, analysis, history, whatever. I think single-issue blogging days have enormous potential for disseminating information, even if old grumplepuss Matthew Yglesias sees it as useless from a pragmatic standpoint. I don't know if I have that much to contribute other than some space and a few words; I know of a couple of Iranian artists and there are lots of expats doing work, so perhaps I'll try to cover that tip. Regardless, I think it will be a good effort, and productive for us if not for the Iranian dissidents/students.
posted by kriston at 1:22 PM........
Basic Human Rights
This news from the Paris Mujahideen raid is more heartening:
Under French law, those arrested in connection with terror inquiries can be held for four days, after which they must be released or notified of the counts on which they are being pursued and placed under formal investigation.If you live in Paris, that is. In the US it would appear that laws concerning arrest of citizens or foreigners need not be abided, considering today's federal appeals court ruling, approving of the withholding of information about all 700+ persons connected with September 11th. Painting an even grimmer picture, NYT reports on the miserable details surrounding Guantanamo, where detainees are without any rights. These details, you may note, are coming from those released from Guantanamo, meaning in no uncertain terms that the nation held them in captivity, with no counsel, in conditions worse than any US prison, without ever charging them with a crime. Did we not just hear reports of possible Coalition torture of Iraqi captives? After reading about Guantanamo, I paused to consider: Is this nations any longer the United States?
posted by kriston at 12:52 PM........
The Iranian Connection
Reuters reports that a Paris-based militant barb of the Iranian opposition network was raided. A 1,300-strong police force raided the Mujahideen compound in Paris, resulting in 167 detentions and the seizure of $1.3 million. Massoud Rajavi, founder of the Mujahideen, was not detained, but his wife, Miryam Rajavi, the leader of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), was. Miryam Rajavi has long been considered a candidate for president if the Iranian theocracy is ever removed.
This news requires some careful treading. Considering the financial ties that the EU has with the government of Iran, an eyebrow must be raised:
Diplomats said Paris may have moved against the Mujahideen -- something Tehran has long demanded -- to bring Iran into a wider search for peace in the Middle East, where Washington accuses it of supporting Lebanon's Hizbollah against Israel.No doubt that the armed resistance branch of the Iranian opposition movement would find some friction with Europe.
I am not saying I support the Mujahideen--or any other politicial militia--but I do know that Europe has long been critical of NCRI, and that is an organization that does deserve support. Sadly, I wonder if the vocal student protests erupting in Iran will bear much more fruit than Tiananmen Square. There is no Western support for Iranian opposition and there can't really be Western support for Iranian opposition, but I hope that the US carefully watches Europe over support of Iran.
UPDATE: Careful reading reveals that 9 were released immediately. Make that count 158.
posted by kriston at 12:50 PM........