Questions

A couple of interesting (and frightening) bits here, one that calls to all the conspiracy theorists out there; another that awaits confirmation from a more reliable and established source.

First, The New Republic published a story in it’s July 19 edition about the administration’s push to catch an al Qaeda operative — any operative — by the end of July to spoil the Democrat’s party. They posted it up on their website on July 29. Then, that afternoon, guess what happened?

Editor’s Note: This afternoon, Pakistan’s interior minister, Faisal Saleh Hayyat, announced that Pakistani forces had captured Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian Al Qaeda operative wanted in connection with the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The timing of this announcement should be of particular interest to readers of The New Republic. Earlier this month, John B. Judis, Spencer Ackerman, and Massoud Ansari broke the story of how the Bush administration was pressuring Pakistani officials to apprehend high-value targets (HVTs) in time for the November elections–and in particular, to coincide with the Democratic National Convention. Although the capture took place in central Pakistan “a few days back,” the announcement came just hours before John Kerry will give his acceptance speech in Boston.

Next, the lovely and sassy Mac draws our attention to this bizarre (but strangely believable) story in Capitol Hill Blue:

President George W. Bush is taking powerful anti-depressant drugs to control his erratic behavior, depression and paranoia, Capitol Hill Blue has learned.

The prescription drugs, administered by Col. Richard J. Tubb, the White House physician, can impair the President’s mental faculties and decrease both his physical capabilities and his ability to respond to a crisis, administration aides admit privately.

… Tubb prescribed the anti-depressants after a clearly-upset Bush stormed off stage on July 8, refusing to answer reporters’ questions about his relationship with indicted Enron executive Kenneth J. Lay.

“Keep those motherfuckers away from me,” he screamed at an aide backstage. “If you can’t, I’ll find someone who can.”

… Although GOP loyalists dismissed the reports an anti-Bush propaganda, the reports were later confirmed by prominent George Washington University psychiatrist Dr. Justin Frank in his book Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President. Dr. Frank diagnosed the President as a “paranoid meglomaniac” and “untreated alcoholic” whose “lifelong streak of sadism, ranging from childhood pranks (using firecrackers to explode frogs) to insulting journalists, gloating over state executions and pumping his hand gleefully before the bombing of Baghdad” showcase Bush’s instabilities.
All I can say is it’s a good thing that Dubya is not really the man in charge, eh?

Point by point

The other day my friend Jon related to me a strange story of being dumped via e-mail.. Rather than do it face to face or via phone, the guy wrote an e-mail that listed — get this — bullet points on Jon’s perceived shortcomings.
“How rude!” was the consensus.
This morning, I came across this explanation for the e-mail dumping phenomenon: the prevalence of Microsoft PowerPoint.
[via Boing Boing]

Edward Tufte points out in his book, The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint, PowerPoint presentations sacrifice substance for style, are incredibly information-sparse, use abbreviations and syntactic shortcuts since you can’t fit that much on a slide and are really for the benefit of the speaker, not the audience. PowerPoint faciltitates getting through an unpleasant task as quickly as possible, which is a primary goal in both business presentations and breakups.

“Unwelcome”

The deficit — which was non-existent when Bill Clinton left office — is now at $445 BILLION, the highest ever in the history of our nation. Consider that we had billions in surplus when Bush took office, I’d hazard a guess that it’s also the fastest fiscal irresponsibility ever, as well. So much for having a businessman in the White House.
This figure is lower than what the administration previously predicted, so they are choosing to use it as evidence of a healthy economy:

President Bush’s budget director, while calling the figure “unwelcome,” said the new forecast for fiscal 2004 — in line with recent congressional forecasts — provides evidence that the economy is growing and tax receipts are recovering. The message echoed a new refrain in Bush’s campaign speeches, voiced repeatedly yesterday in Missouri: “We’re turning the corner, and we’re not turning back.”

So, those with a conspiratorial bent — and there are more and more of them every day of the Bush administration — might think that the White House deliberately inflated their deficit predictions knowing that it would be lower (although, still an all-time high). That way, they could trumpet that the deficit is not as high as it might have been.
Holy crap.

“The administration announces the largest deficit in the history of the United States and they claim things are getting better. That is a remarkable claim,” said Sen. Kent Conrad (N.D.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee. “It’s a little like the captain of the Titanic saying there’s good news as the ship goes down, because it’s not sinking as fast as he’d said it would.”

Get that man some Chap-Stik

For goodness’ sake, Senator Kerry, would you please keep your tongue in your mouth when you speak? You’re really grossing me out.
And another note to his handlers: a little powder might help with that Nixonian sweating problem he’s got.

Don’t leave Earth without it

I’m salivating… it’s actually happening! The Hitchhikers Guide movie!
Here’s the teaser trailer (in Real Media)…
woo hoo!!

I’m glad you’re happy

Silly me, I figured that the Science Fiction museum would marginalize the sci-fi I like, specifically Dr. Who. Surprise! An NPR photo gallery of artifacts from the museum actually includes in it’s selection of 6 photos a prop from the show, the “fun gun” from the darkly humorous “The Happiness Patrol,” an oblique commentary on the Thatcher era in Britain.

July surprise

It’s not much of a surprise if it was planned (or rumored) all along, is it?
For quite some time, people have been expecting that there would be some kind of announcement — a terror alert, a capture of some top al Qaeda official — to spoil John Kerry’s convention nomination.
Yawn. Here it is, right on schedule.

Pakistan has arrested a Tanzanian al Qaeda suspect wanted by the United States in the 1998 bombings at U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the interior minister said Friday. He said the suspect was cooperating and had given authorities “very valuable” information.

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani — who is on the FBI’s list of 22 most wanted terrorists, with a reward of up to $25 million on his head — was arrested Sunday in the eastern city of Gujrat along with at least 15 other people, Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayyat told The Associated Press.

Please note, with little surprise, that he was arrested Sunday (before the convention) but the news was released today, the day of John Kerry’s nomination speech.

Of course, there’s one thing that I’ve noticed: Osama bin Laden hasn’t materialized yet. Either this means that they’re waiting for just before the election to announce his capture, or they really can’t find him, which is frankly quite pitiful.

What they believe

A fun list of “What you must believe to be a Republican”.
I’d amend that title to read “to be a right-wing conservative”, as the poor Republican party has been overrun by these nutcases… and there are still a few Republicans who don’t feel this way.
But anyway…

Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush’s daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him and a bad guy when Bush needed a “we can’t find Bin Laden” diversion.

Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is communist, but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.

A woman can’t be trusted with decisions about her own body, but multi-national corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind without regulation.

Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton.

The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches while slashing veterans’ benefits and combat pay.

If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won’t have sex.

Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy. Providing health care to all Americans is socialism.

HMOs and insurance companies have the best interests of the public at heart.

Global warming and tobacco’s link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.

A president lying about an extramarital affair is a impeachable offense. A president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy.

Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which include banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet.

The public has a right to know about Hillary’s cattle trades, but George Bush’s cocaine conviction is none of our business.

Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you’re a conservative radio host. Then it’s an illness, and you need our prayers for your recovery.

You support states’ rights, which means Attorney General John Ashcroft can tell states what local voter initiatives they have the right to adopt.

What Bill Clinton did in the 1960s is of vital national interest, but what Bush did in the ’80s is irrelevant.

Up their sleeve

Hmm. This interesting and compelling tidbit appeared this morning on MacMinute

A report in Time magazine, which named Apple’s fourth generation iPod “Gadget of the Week,” says that there is more to the latest models of the digital music player than meets the eye. “But you should know that internally the new iPod is a ground-up reconstruction, and its really compelling applications — the ones that very well might get the goat of anyone unable or unwilling to upgrade — are still secret. All that Apple is saying is that there’s more to this than what’s being publicized.”

TV Notes, Convention Style

A few zingers from Tom Shales this morning:

You can’t have it both ways: drastically limit coverage because the conventions are now planned to be TV shows and then cry foul when something really affecting manages to happen. Katie Couric told viewers of yesterday’s “Today” show on NBC that Illinois legislator Barack Obama had “electrified” the crowd with his stunningly eloquent speech Tuesday night. Too bad NBC refused to show it. Too bad profit-mad NBC-Universal was determined to air its lame reality shows and sitcom reruns instead.

And then Couric tells us we really should’ve been there. The networks are just plain nuts.

Coverage by cable networks lasts longer but strays often from whatever is happening on the vast stage (with the vast screen behind it) in Boston’s FleetCenter. On Fox, gabby and opinionated commentators occasionally will allow a few minutes of a speech to air, but then they return to the spotlight they love so much for their own use.

Surprisingly, Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly did not manage to be the most ridiculous of that crew last night. Chris Matthews, getting a trifle desperate over on MSNBC, sank to an absurd new low when he hauled in actor Steve Buscemi, who seemed to be visiting the convention on a whim, and asked if he wasn’t outraged at seeing Sharpton because Sharpton “built his career lying about cops.”

How’s that again? Buscemi looked mystified, and no wonder. Even Matthews began to look mystified, as if an evil gremlin had popped out of his stomach and started asking nonsensically contentious questions.

Law and Order

Does the idiocy from Metro never stop?

About 6:30 p.m. July 16, Willett was eating a PayDay candy bar while riding the escalator from 11th Street NW into the Metro Center Station. Metro Transit Police Officer Cherrail Curry-Hagler was riding up.

The police officer warned Willett to finish the candy before entering the station because eating or drinking in the Metro system is illegal.

Willett nodded, kept chewing the peanut-and-caramel bar and stuffed the last bit into her mouth before throwing the wrapper into the trash can near the station manager’s kiosk, according to both Willett and Curry-Hagler.

Curry-Hagler turned around and followed Willett into the station. Moments after making a remark to the officer, Willett said, she was searched, handcuffed and arrested for chewing the last bite of her candy bar after she passed through the fare gates. She was released several hours later after paying a $10 fine, pending a hearing.

Willett said she was being unfairly punished because she made fun of the police officer after Curry-Hagler issued a second warning before the arrest.

“Why don’t you go and take care of some real crime?” Willett said she told the officer while still swallowing the PayDay bar as she rode a second escalator to catch her Orange Line train home.

The police officer ordered Willett to stop and produce identification. “I said, ‘For what?’ and kept walking,” Willett said.

In a report, Curry-Hagler said she wanted to issue a citation for eating on the Metro but the PayDay lover refused to stop.

“Next thing I knew, she pushed me into the cement wall, calls for backup and puts handcuffs on me,” Willett said.

She said Curry-Hagler patted her down, running her hands around Willett’s bust, under her bra and around her waist. Two other officers appeared, and the three took Willett to a waiting police cruiser.

At the D.C. police 1st District headquarters, Willett said, she was locked in a cell with another person. At 9:30 p.m., after she paid a $10 fine, Willett was released to her husband.

“It was humiliating,” said Willett, who is to appear in court in October. “It was a complete waste of taxpayers’ money and the officers’ time as well as mine. It was just about her trying to retaliate against me because I made a comment about how insignificant I thought the matter was.”

“I understand the intent of them not wanting people to eat in the Metro,” Willett said. “If anything, I was chewing in the Metro.”

Farbstein said Willett violated the rules. “Chewing is eating,” she said.