Wednesday, October 31, 2001


My correspondent and young ward, Richard Bensam, reports this honest-to-god actual political scoop!

My household just got one of those prerecorded calls from the Mike Bloomberg mayoral campaign, the usual deal with a tape of him exhorting citizens to vote for him. It being Halloween and all, I was sort of hoping he'd try a Count Floyd riff -- "Ooooo, that Mark Green sure is scary, isn't he, boys and girls?" -- but no such luck. (On the other hand, can you do much better than "Mike Bloomberg for Mayor" in the spine-tingling department?)

Anyway...the interesting part of this is that we have caller ID, and saw precisely where his automated call originated from. It was from the 314 area code: eastern Missouri.

So this fellow is running for Mayor of New York City in a time of dire economic need for the city, on a platform of creating new jobs and business opportunities through his financial acumen. And yet his campaign is spending its money outside the city, outside the tri-state area...all the way over in Missouri, presumably to take advantage of cheaper labor costs, when there must be outfits perfectly capable of handling this sort of operation inside the five boroughs.

Hey, we have banks of telephone operators, we have poster brigades, we have goons for hire...and New York needs the jobs. We've shown we could do the job in the past. I say, let's support the guy who hires New Yorkers to do the scutwork for him.

Frankly, I have "issues" with our likely next mayor, Mark Green. A few years ago, when the NYC Rent Control laws were very nearly allowed to expire, Green took the intellectually dishonest, populist position in favor of Rent Control for Everyone in Perpetuity. Sure, he drew lots of cheers -- he might as well have been coming out in favor of Ice Cream for Everyone! -- but a more honest assessment would require acknowledging that rent control actually causes more harm than good to the local economy, and that the challenge for the next Mayor is to find some way to gradually dismantle rent control without causing undue hardship for those who have come to depend on it.

On the other hand, Bloomberg is a political dilettante and a craven opportunist who wants to buy his way into public service through the top echelon, without learning anything about the arcana of New York City governance from the inside and bottom first. Even with his virtual carpet-bombing of the media with glitzy commericals and an impressve portfolio of endorsements -- what a humiliation for both Giuliani and Pataki to have to endorse this transparently phony Dem-hastily-turned-Republican for the good of party unity! -- it's still amazing to me that Bloomberg is polling above 20%.

(My favorite part of the Bloomberg radio ad spot is the very end, where -- right after a slick professional announcer has finished extolling his virtues, some guy who sounds more like a Sopranos wannabe comes on to say the "Paid for by Bloomberg for Mayor" tagline. What -- they couldn't afford to pay the professional's going rate for two more seconds of studio time?)

It pisses me off that Green would ever demonstrate a Clinton-like willingness to put his finger to the wind before opening his mouth -- but this seems to have been an aberration. On balance, he's been candid and forthright far more often than not, and like Giuliani, he's not afraid to cut to the chase and call 'em as he sees 'em, even if he comes off sounding like a bit of an egotist and an ass. Those are exactly the qualities we need in the guy who succeeds Giuliani, and I intend to vote for him.


This Associated Press story nails fraudulent TV psychic Miss Cleo for violating New York telemarketing Law. C. Adrienne Rhodes, the executive director of the Consumer Protection Board, explains:
"[Psychic Readers Network] misleads customers into thinking they can get a free psychic reading. But... the "psychics" employed by Access-PRN can only be reached by dialing a 900 number at $3.99 a minute. ....This so-called 'psychic' service appears to be a scam to keep people on the telephone for as long as possible."

I predict Miss Cleo is facing stiff fines and possible jail time. Consider it a freebie.


Slate's survey of recent UK press offerings tends to confirm what Mind Over What Matters reported the day before: Despite Tony Blair's putting every ounce of his political capital on the line, public opinion in Britain is starting to turn against the war effort. Must every civilized nation suffer a grievous act of nihilistic destruction on their own soil before they appreciate the stakes in this conflict?


Last month, when KausFiles predicted that the terrorism story could well be off our personal radar screens by the time Thanksgiving rolled around -- due to the phenomenon of cultural "speeded-up information processing" -- he was thoroughly poo-poohed by the entire Blog-ocracy community for daring to gauge the limits of public sentiment against its historical attention span. Wrote Mickey Kaus on 9/12:

Media coverage of the 9/11 attack often emphasizes that it will be a "long time before America gets back to normal," etc. The opposite is likely to be closer to the truth -- we'll get back to normal all too quickly, in keeping with the tendency (often discussed in this space) for the population to process information much faster than in former, less wired times. (Don't you feel as if you've lived about a month in the past two days?) I suspect the story will be off the evening news by Thanksgiving -- a denial, in a warped way, of the attackers' disruptive goal. ...

Of course, those words were written before troops were deployed and the anthrax counterstrike started in earnest, and no one could have foreseen how they would reinvigorate and refresh the news cycle.

Still, is Mickey about to be vindicated? Is the story starting to lose its legs? Might it at least, occasionally, be positioned after the lead or "below the fold" in another month's time? The New York Daily News suggests, at least insofar as television news is concerned, maybe so!

[UPDATE: Mickey Kaus replies: Thanks very much. Still a month to go! But, seriously, while I can't quite reconstruct what I was thinking when I wrote that item, I THINK I was thinking about the emotional grief-reaction to the WTC collapse, not the subsequent military campaign. But it's hard to believe I couldn't anticipate some long-lasting military reaction. Excellent blog. I'll keep coming back. cheers]


From Harry Broertjes:
I should point out something that I don't believe any reporters, writers, columnists or commentators have mentioned so far as anthrax anxiety continues to grip the vitals of our nation. It's this:

We shouldn't give the perpetrator(s) a whole lot of credit. Whoever they are, they've got to be mightily pissed off. They wanted to assassinate the leaders of Congress, the Supreme Court, the icons of American broadcasting and miscellaneous other high-level officials in Washington. All those targets remain healthy. Who did they get instead? A few regular postal workers and a tabloid photo editor. The perps can't be happy about that. The fish they were after were a lot bigger.

Yet everyone in the country is acting as though these cases of anthrax are part of a carefully thought-out plan. What they probably are, in reality, are the results of a major screw-up.

Well, not everyone -- a few End-Time doom-and-gloomers, perhaps, but the most panicky -- discounting postal workers and a few congressman who have actually stared the threat of real bioterrorism in the face -- are those who have a visible platform in The Media. (Disclosure: Harry works for The Media.) Most of the folks I know here on Earth-Real Life -- in fact, everyone I actually know well enough that I come into contact with them daily -- is taking the Anthrax Menace in stride, and merely adjusting their Risk Assessment Barometers accordingly. Statistically, it's still far more likely that any one New Yorker will be struck and killed by a bike messenger than encounter a killer dose of anthrax in the course of their day-to-day activities. Instinctively or intellectually, we all know this here on Earth Real.

But still, it's fun to watch all those chattering cable-heads at work, ain't it!

[Breaking news] Word comes this morning that the Bronx woman -- a stockroom employee at the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital in Midtown who was among the very few known cases of inhalation anthrax -- has now become the fourth casualty of this "major screw-up." Time to ratchet up my Risk Assessment Barometer up by a fraction of a notch, I guess. Meanwhile, I've got deadlines to meet...

Tuesday, October 30, 2001


So far, Meatwad is barely whuppin' Frylock's greasy little dada tush! C'mon -- let's really show 'em who's the Coolest Aqua Teen! Vote Meatwad! Meatwad! (Scroll down about half-way to vote.)
Master Shake 148 (21%)
Frylock 257 (37%)
Meatwad 286 (41%)


I can't believe what I'm hearing tonight on NPR's Fresh Air. Literally, I cannot believe it.

New York Times correspondent Chris Hedges -- apparently, he's the go-to guy when you want a pro-Palestinian interview -- is being interviewed at considerable length this evening about, among other things, the plight of the Palestinians. No matter how he paints it, I still find it hard to dredge up much sympathy for those who would intentionally jump off a cliff and then insist that the force of gravity is to blame for their injuries. But, okay -- the Middle East is a complicated problem, and the Palestinians do have a side. I'm open to hearing it.

But tonight, Hedges is going on, and on, and on, and on ... about how we just cannot imagine how incredibly horendous it is to be living in occupied Palestinian territory, where Israeli soldiers can be seen routinely taunting, baiting and shooting 11- and 12-year-old Palestinian rock-throwing kids for sport.

That's what he said. Here's the exact quote (my transcript):

"I watched the solidiers open fire, and it was -- I mean, I've seen kids shot in Sarajevo ... the snipers would shoot kids in Sarajevo... I've seen death squads kill families in Algeria and El Salvador ... but I've never seen soldiers bait or taunt kids like this, and then shoot them for sport!"

Never mind balance. Never mind historical context. Why is interviewer Barbara Bogaev just sitting there and listening to this drivel without challenging a word of it? I thought Glenn (Instapundit) Reynold's readers might be overreacting a bit to NPR's sympathetic pro-Palestinian tone. But this is the some of the most offensive, overtly biased reporting I've ever heard.

By the way, Chris Hedges -- whose main claim to fame was having been among the group of forty reporters captured and detained by Iraqi soldiers at the end of the Gulf War -- has quite a well-documented track record for factual error, tactical ommission, careless research and wholesale disregard for the truth when it gets in the way of a good story. (Thanks to CAMERA -- the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America -- for the research!)

I wonder -- From exactly whom does NPR expect to receive donations during their pledge drive this week? I understand that a certain Saudi diplomat has a $10 million check that's looking for a home...

THE DAILY HOWLER IS BACK! . . . with a vengeance!


Tuesday's UK Guardian claims to show support for war cooling -- an exclusive poll revealing that 54% say that we should halt attacks and allow aid convoys into Afghanistan. Details of the survey show that support among [British] women has slumped by 17 points from 68% to 51%. Only a bare majority of women now approve of military action against the Taliban.

Is there anything to this story? -- or is it just another example of how to lie with polls? Surely, the Brits have not suddenly come to believe that terrorism is someone else's problem!

Monday, October 29, 2001


In what appears to be a baldfaced (and boldfaced!) attempt to curry favor with his former employer, Matt Drudge wants us to know -- in this evening's screaming above-the-masthead headline:

Here' the truth: The journalistic embarrassment called the New York Post -- which retails for 25 measley cents, last time I checked -- has an audited circulation of 533,860. That's up 22 percent over for the year ending September 30, yes. But was it a gradual, carefully engineered increase of 22 percent over several months, or did the paper possibly show a huge, sudden spike in circulation since September 11? Matt doesn't say.

Nor does he make explicit what the Post's surging circulation is supposed to mean, although the implication is transparent enough: "Despite whatever preconceived notions you may be clinging to," Matt projects between the lines, "The Post is a great old New York institution, and people are finally coming around to noticing it in droves!"

What it could also mean, of course, is that the economy of New York City post-9/11 is in such ruins that fewer people can afford to shell out fifty cents for the New York Daily News, or 75 cents for the New York Times. For the newly-unemployed, two bits for a quick read on the trip to the Unemployment Office may well be all they can handle -- and still also afford Lipton's Cup-A-Soup for dinner.

In fact, let's put those numbers in perspective. Those "top newspapers" with "flat" circulations include The Wall Street Journal, (1,780,605, actually up 1.0 percent), the New York Times (1,109,371, actually up 1.1 percent.), and the New York Daily News (734,473, up a moderately healthy 4.6 percent). Turns out, all of the other New York City papers still whup the Post's 800-point hiney when it comes to audited circulation figures. The Times still outsells the Post better than 2-to-1. The Wall Street Journal outsells the Post by more than 3-to-1.

Granted the Post is making some headway in the circulation race with that other great New York workingman's paper, the Daily News. But consider, please, that the News is actually profitable and the Post is not. The Post has not been profitable in something like 30 years. The Post still exisits at all because Rupert Murdoch is determined to own a print journalism mouthpiece in New York, and he can afford to prop up the paper with the profits from Fox News while the Post remains awash in red ink -- literally and figuratively. (If the Daily News wanted to sell an extra 250,000 copies for the hell of it, they could also adopt a policy of bribing commuters with a lower cover price. Big deal.)

But the truth is, in comparing publishing statistics, the only thing that really matters is the number of ad pages and the rate charged per column inch. Such statistics may well be out there, somewhere, but Matt Drudge conveniently hasn't taken the trouble to research them, much less provide them to readers of the Drudge Report. It doesn't take a MacArthur Fellowship award winner to know that every other New York paper has much more desirable demographics, and therefore commands a premium rate, while the Post gets little more than the dregs.

In the early 1980s, I used to freelance for a typesetting shop that prepared newspaper display advertising artwork for the now-defunct Alexander's chain of department stores in the NYC metropolitan area. Famously -- or perhaps, apocryphally -- one of the Alexander's ad salesmen related to me this story -- which was surely, in turn, retold and embellished and claimed as original by all of the major advertisers in town. But from where I was sitting, the story was this:

The Post ad salesmen were putting pressure on the Alexander's ad reps to run more display advertising in their paper. In those days, "pressure" meant #10 envelopes envelopes containing everything from expensive theater or baseball tickets to generous sums of cash with non-sequential serial numbers. But no matter how many envelopes were surreptitiously slipped into their ad reps' hands, Alexander's maintained only a token presence in the Post for years and years.

When the advertising manager of the Post finally ran out of patience and demanded an explanation, the Alexander's rep explained: "Look, I'm sorry, but we really don't want the readers of the New York Post in our stores. Your readers are our shoplifters!")

Sunday, October 28, 2001


My correspondent Jeff W. reports

When asked how I intend to dress for Halloween in the office, I said, "I'm going to put on a suit and tie and wear a Cantor Fitzgerald ID tag."


He may well be the most bitterly anti-American cartoonist in America, but aren't we fighting precisely for his right to express that side of the political spectrum?

Meanwhile, for all the criticism being heaped upon Ted Rall, why has Aaron McGruder escaped unscathed? Or is the reason so obvious that it would be impolitic to mention it?

Saturday, October 27, 2001


Wrote Milton, "Truth is strong next to the Almighty." ... "Though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so truth be in the field, we do injuriously, by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength. Let her and falsehood grapple, whoever knew truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?"

This became known as the "self-righting principle" -- the notion that, in the end, truth will win out.

Look it up ... Use it ...Wear it out!


Josh Talking Points Marshall -- whose website should definitely be rechristened "Anthrax Central" now -- brings to our attention a splendidly elegant demonstration of common sense by CNN Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, which aired a couple days ago.

All very well and good -- but surely, anyone with (a) a brain in their head, and (b) who has ever sent a greeting card or thank-you note to Aunt Clara, had already solved the mystery without Dr. Gupta's help: The traces of anthrax that have contaminated the country's mail sorting facilities have obviously leaked through the ungummed, unsealed corner edges of a very few envelope flaps. (If spores also leaked through the actual porous paper from which the envelopes were constructed, it was just a bonus!)

But leave it to overnight paranoia-king Art Bell to intuit this far-fetched explanation: The CIA, according to Bell's source -- i.e., the fevered imagination of some anonymous caller -- has developed a means to use the gummy backing of ordinary postage stamps to act as a medium for growing Anthrax spore cultures. No envelopes are even necessary! Wanna wreck a little havoc? Just moisten one of those specially-prepared stamps -- presumably with a damp sponge rather than your toungue -- and mail a hundred blank post cards to an undeliverable false destination, with no return address. Then sit back and watch the fun!

Unlikely, you say? Look at it this way: When zebras hear hoofbeats, do you imagine they're thinking horses?


On The Practice, it's Jimmy the Grunt. On NYPD Blue, it's the soft-spoken, stuttering Medavoy. The picked-on, exploited guy who's just as good, just as smart -- maybe a little smarter -- than everyone else. If only he were given the chance to prove himself more often. Instead, his co-workers depend on him for comic relief. He's the brunt of eveyone else's jokes. The outsider among outsiders. All he wants is a little respect. But failing that, he's still there, 24/7, just doing the job he was hired to do.

On the Cartoon Network's crown jewel Home Movies, it's the unselfconscious, book-smart Jason. Jason -- is me. That is, I might as well be him. And if we were doing a poll about the coolest dude on Cartoon Network, I'd be stuffing the ballot box day and night to help li'l Jason win. But unfortunately, the Unofficial Cartoon Network Adult Swim home page is running a poll on the coolest member of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force instead.

Okay, in that case -- It's Meatwad. Master Shake's shy, innocent, tagalong buddy Meatwad. Yes -- I am -- Meatwad. And thanks to a little source code cut-and-paste wizardry -- okay, thievery! -- you can vote in the Unoffcial Adult Swim poll right here, without even visiting that other site. (But please do visit that other site! Just don't forget to hit your Back button and finish reading Mind Over What Matters afterward.)

Friday, October 26, 2001


I'm telling you -- Is this guy clairvoyant, or what? Last night, as reported in this space -- see below -- overnight paranoia-king Art Bell fretted "Have you noticed that the Internet is much slower than usual lately? Could it be ... because the Government has already begun its campaign of massive e-mail tapping?

Barely 12 hours later - corroboration from an unimpeachable second source: Fox News!

WASHINGTON — The Federal Bureau of Investigation is seeking to broaden considerably its ability to tap into Internet traffic in its quest to root out terrorists, going beyond even the new measures afforded in anti-terror legislation signed by President Bush Friday...

Yeah. Seeking. That's code for backdating the Presidential Finding, right?


Starting today, let's start calling them what they really are: Anthrax-like symptoms. Okay?


Who's the most popular Friend this year?
It's official...

Joey! By a slim margin ... but of course ... who can resist that winning smile?

Sorry Phoeb, but your five-year streak is over. Whaddya expect for a gal who's pushin' 40 and is still trying to play 31 and clueless? Retire gracefully.


This morning's mail brings this personal follow-up from Barry Karr:
What an excellent way to start the day - seeing that they have put the show on hold. It is just wondeful to see that they caught the flak they deserved. Thanks!

Here's the text of his general announcement to the CSICOP ListServ:
Since I wrote to the list yesterday it seems a hailstorm of protest has erupted around the then plans for Studios USA's 'Crossing Over with John Edward' to attempt to communicate with victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in several episodes planned for the November sweeps.

I have received well over 100 e-mails from equally upset people - many with copies of letters they had written to Studio USA and the Sci-Fi Channel. It seems the story also outraged quite a number of others as well, for this morning news has been received that they will not be going ahead with the program.

By then, Studios USA publicists were being swamped with calls from reporters. And, according to one source, the company also started hearing from some station execs that carry the show ("What the [expletive] are you thinking of?!" is how one station suit said he planned to put it).

Not long after, a spokeswoman for "Crossing Over" called The TV Column to say Rosenberg "is now saying the show isn't put together" and he's "not sure when" the segments will air; it may be "later this year or next year."

A few hours later, the whole thing was scrubbed.

To all of you who wrote to us, to the Networks, and made your opinions felt on this we thank you - you were certainly part of the groundswell that helped put a stake in this black heart.

The formula is simple:
+ Skeptical Inquiry
+ Critical Scrutiny
+ Rational Discourse
x Many Voices
= The Good Guys Win!

E-mail the John Edward show
E-mail the Sci-Fi Channel


Overnight radio paranoia-king Art Bell reports: "Have you noticed that the Internet is much slower than usual lately? Could it be ... because the Government has already begun its campaign of massive e-mail tapping?

Yipe! Come to think of it, I did experience a couple of instances of packet-lag today. That's certainly never happened before ...!

Thursday, October 25, 2001


My correspondent Jeff W. reports
When asked how I intend to dress for Halloween in the office, I said, "I'm going to put on a suit and tie and wear a Cantor Fitzgerald ID tag."


Never mind. Cooler heads prevailed:
The one thing John Edward definitely crossed over was the line and the 'psychic' has shelved plans for a series of Crossing Over With John Edward episodes focusing on people killed in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Studios USA Domestic Television said Thursday that it is retreating from the plan to air the segment on broadcast syndication and cable’s Sci Fi Channel.

Citing 'a reaction that none of us expected,' the company's president, Steve Rosenberg, said that while some segments for the shows have already been taped, they will not be broadcast.

I just have one question: Why does Matt Drudge keep posting Barry Diller's mug above these 800-point headlines about the Edward show? Are we to believe that Diller himself came up with the idea and personally attempted to foist it on the saintly, sensitive John Edward against his better judgment? I don't have to be a regular devoted viewer - I don't have to ever have seen the show - to know that Edward himself routinely perpetrates a grotesque intellectual dishonesty upon the public, exploting the most vulnerable in the pursuit of personal profit. He hardly needs help from Diller to work that angle.

Or does he? James Randi recently observed:
I'm told — by very good authority — that the ratings on the new John Edward TV show are not as high as expected, and that we just might expect that it will be pulled. ...The recent WTC tragedy seems to have alerted TV producers to the obvious fact that the presentation of superstitious prattle shows little respect for those among us who are grieving. It seems very sad that they could not have recognized this fact long ago....

If only ... if only ...


What - is that wascally Taliban at it again? Nope. Just John Edward, doing his "Crossing Over thang. From the press release:
Studios USA’s 'Crossing Over with John Edward' will attempt to communicate with victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in several episodes planned for the November sweeps for the syndicated and, perhaps, cable runs of the show.

Steve Rosenberg, the studio’s domestic syndication president, anticipating concerns by viewers, says the shows 'will be done tastefully…and won't be exploitative,'

Within minutes after the story broke wide-open on Matt Drudge, I received this announcement from Barry Karr, the moderator for the Skeptical Inquirer ListServ:
Subject: Re: Words Fail Me!
"...This is one of the most disgusting events, shows, stories I've read about in a long time. David Bloomberg said it best: "What a pack of parasites..."
Barry Karr

I would like to throw this out to the list: What should a morally outraged skeptic do?

If you grew up in the late 20th Century Heartland of America, you might well have come to believe that seances were as common - and as eminently sensible - as Tupperware parties. Nearly every denizen of TubeWorld attempted to contact the dead if their show was successful enough to stay on the air for any length of time. (Odd that I don't recall ever being invited to a seance in real life.)

Those who mock "Crossing Over" should keep it in perspective, which includes the following:
My Favorite Martian
1/12/64 "Poor Little Rich Cat"
W & D: James Komack
Martin reads about a cat inheriting a fortune and he wants Tim to use the
newspaper to correct this injustice.
(Bernie Kopell, Dub Taylor, Moyna Macgill)

I Love Lucy
11/26/51: "The Seance"
I Love Lucy Episode 7 - Filmed 10/19/51
Story: Lucy and Ethel have taken up the art of the Ouija Board.
Guests: Jay Novello (Mr. Merriweather)
Based on My Favorite Husband #24 & #88 ("Numerology")
There's a wav from this here.

Hot Metal
"The Modern Promethius"
gs: Jack Watling [ PM MacNamara ], Aubrey Morris [ Nikita Kruschev ], Yvonne D'Alpra [ Mrs Tape ], Helen Atkinson-Wood [ Television Interviewer ], Eliza Buckingham [ Mrs MacNamara ], Michael Chesden [ Waiter ], Nicholas Geake [Television Announcer ], Julia Gilbert [ Assistant Stage Manager ]
The Crucible launches an all-out campaign supporting a return to capital punishment by interviewing murder victims through a seance and interviewing the brother of a state executioner who hanged himself. Spam discovers the man identified as Khrushchev is a fake, and the fellow dies during a live televsion interview.
b: 23 Feb 86

[Thanks to Tele-Tobias of TubeWorld for the references.]


The published winter season calendar for Carnegie Hall does not appear to have a PDQ Bach concert on the schedule. Nor does he appear to have relocated to either Town Hall or Lincoln Center this year.

Everything Schickele-related on the web is also grossly out of date. His publisher (Theodore Presser) has no information about the Professor's schedule after May of this year, and the Schickele Mix pages for PRI have not been updated since they were created five years ago. (Still "optimized" for Netscape Version 2!)

Last year's PDQ Bach concert struck me as surprisingly off-kilter. The Professor was so alarmingly, genuinely "late" to the performance that the timing of his signature gag wasn't funny. The performances seemed lackluster and underrehearsed.

I wonder if he just came to realize that his heart wasn't in it anymore, and it was time to call it a day?


Isn't KausFiles' descriptive text under the link for Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo due for a change? Granted, "Chandra Central" has the advantage of being quaintly nostalgic, but judging from today's fresh postings, "Anthrax Central" would be more accurate...

[Update:] Apparently, Mickey Kaus agrees. In this morning's mail:
i was thinking that myself. thanks for the prodding. cheers


My Blog title is taken from the 1992 book “Accidental Empires” by the pseudonymous Robert X. Cringely – that is, the original "proper" Cringely, not the phony who later appropriated the disputed nom de plume in a bitter custody battle with InfoWorld magazine, which still claims it as their intellectual property.

The “real” Cringely -- in describing the limitations of early low-resolution laser printers -- relates the story of how the computer pioneer Donald Knuth invented a new kind of algorithm to describe the beautiful curves and shapes of typographical letterforms. When Knuth saw his typefaces printed on a low-resolution laser printer for the first time, he apparently didn't perceive that the “jaggies” spoiled the quality of the images. He was looking “far beyond the actual letters and words to the mathematical concepts that underlay them. Had a good enough laser printer been available, the printing would have been beautiful, so that's what Knuth saw.”

The art of “mind over what matters” is one which comes to me with considerable difficulty. I selected that title as a reminder that, sometimes, to keep my priorities in their proper perspective, I have to really discipline myself – hunker down and put my mind to it – to accomplish the things that really matter.

Meanwhile, Cringely effortlessly spews out a few hundred words about Microsoft and Windows XP in this morning's New York Times Op Ed: Windows of Opportunity

Here's an archive of Cringely's recent, lengthier columns for PBS.

How did I miss hearing about this months ago? The full story is here


My correspondent, Andy, alerts me:

There are things going on in space and on the Earth that you are going to have some trouble dealing with ... The Sun is about 30% brighter than it was eight years ago. YEP! Have you heard about this??? Nope...that's why we call it the lamestream "news" media. That 30% figure is my own based on Solar cell readings. Of course, if one is observant, one should have noticed that SOMETHING is wrong with the Sun as compared to several years ago. For one thing you could glance at the Sun and even see a yellow ring around it. No more. You can't even glance at it now. It's WAY too bright. If THAT is not a cosmic change, then what would be???

My first instinct is to tell my old buddy Andy to get a grip. These days, we've got bigger things to worry about than the Sun blowing up.

But --

Let's assume, for a moment, that Andy's measurements are accurate. In that case, they should be replicable. Any amateur astronomer should be able observe the same phenomenon and obtain the same results. So never mind whether the media has covered the story. If any of what Andy says is true, surely some among the many thousands of people who fancy themselves amateur astronomers must be discussing this finding amongst themselves.

How about it? Are there some some credible astronomer-hobbyists out there who can corroborate his findings?

Note to the Usual Internet Cranks: I am not interested in reading newsgroup discussions conducted under the security of untraceable aliases, or an insular set of websites maintained by like-minded individuals who simply prop up one another with self-referential links. What I would like to do is to contact someone with a real, verifiable name, street address and phone number, who would be willing to sit for a ten- or fifteen-minute interview for full attribution, and explain the methods by which they came to replicate Andy's findings independently.

While the lamestream news media is snoozing, Mind Over What Matters stands ready to break the story wide-open! All we need is that pesky "second source" for verification.

Someone? Anyone? Contact me here

Tuesday, October 23, 2001


So we are reminded by Michael Crowley of The New Republic, who offers a far milder rebuke of House Speaker Dennis Hastert and House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt -- for bolting at the first sign of spores on Capitol Hill -- than did the New York Post, with its headline "WIMPS: THE LEADERS WHO RAN AWAY FROM ANTHRAX."

Crowley observes:

Hastert in particular made a fool of himself by flatly stating that "this stuff has gotten into the ventilation system, it's going through the tunnels." But he also made the incredibly reckless observation that he is "not somebody who's qualified in the areas of communicable diseases or contagious diseases"-- clearly, since anthrax is not a contagious disease and the distinction is enormously important for keeping the public calm and informed about the proper threat.

But a little later, in offering up a half-hearted defense of Hastert's instincts, Crowley observes further:

At a briefing yesterday, police and Pentagon officials told members of Congress that the anthrax does appear to have spread beyond the Hart building. A worker based in the Capitol who never entered Daschle's Hart office has tested positive for exposure to anthrax. This person did hug staffers in the affected office, the aide said, speculating that he or she could have trailed spores into the Capitol itself. This, says the aide, is clear evidence in support of the decision to evacuate House: "It turns out we were right."

Certainly, the business of legislating away our civil rights in the name of anti-terrorism can wait a few days. And it's unrealistic to expect anyone -- Postal sorters, Tom Brokaw's assistants, and elected representatives alike -- to knowingly expose themselves to a potentially lethal environmental contaminant as a condition of continued employment. Though this "pinprick assault" has (so far) proven to be eminently survivable -- now that we know what we're up against -- this assurance is of little comfort when you're the canary being carried into the mine shaft. (Besides, Hastert, Gephardt et al have much more serious failings to answer for than a show of bipartisanship in the pursuit of self-preservation.)

But Crowley also glosses over an important distinction -- of which the public needs to hear some straight talk from those who are qualified in the areas of communicable diseases or contagious diseases. Technically, yes, anthrax is not contagious -- in that I understand that I needn't worry about contracting it from Tom Brokaw's assistant if she wanders into my office this morning and exhales indiscriminately in my direction. But what, then, is the importance difference between "contagious" in the strictest, medical sense, and in the sense that a person who handled contaminated mail "could have trailed spores"? Either way, those who come into contact would be at some nominally increased risk -- wouldn't they?

Don't look at me. I certainly don't know -- and all I'm seeing is wild speculation. As Crowley says, "A few anthrax spores tracked into the Capitol doesn't necessarily make it a deadly environment" -- but I don't see him volunteering to test that theory on himself, either.

Thursday, October 11, 2001

It's in the transcripts. Apparently it's what he meant to say, when George Bush addressed the nation and referred to the downtrodden women of Afghanistan as --

Women Of Cover.

Let this be the first formal recognition of a brand-new cultural identitfier!