That’s more like it

The contribution from the U.S. has now been raised to $350 million — a tenfold increase from the $35 million pledged as of this morning.
I worry that the Bush administration didn’t jump up earlier to pump aid into the region, if for no other reason than to change some minds in the Muslim world about our philanthropic intentions. Southeast Asia has a vast Muslim population. It would be very good press for the U.S. to be seen helping the Muslim world rather than bombing it.
Nevertheless, better late than never. I don’t mind one bit having my tax dollars go toward helping people in such dire situations, whether it be on the other side of the globe or in our own country.

Even Earth changes

Let’s take a look at some of the interesting geographic consequences of the earthquake in the Indian Ocean, as collected on Wikipedia. As a result of the quake:

  • The rotation of Earth sped up slightly — a day is now 3 microseconds shorter. However, the gravitational pull of the moon slows our rotation by 15 microseconds a year, so the shorter days won’t last very long. Not that we’d notice it, of course.
  • The Earth has an extra inch of wobble in it’s rotation. Again, it wobbles up to 50 feet normally, so this is insignificant but interesting.
  • Some islands in the region may have moved position by up to 66 feet. The northern tip of Sumatra may have moved by up 118 feet. Looks like some maps will need to be revised.

Wikipedia also includes this image, which shows a much clearer before and after view of the devastation that previous images

The Hen House, guarded by Mr. Fox

Gee, we couldn’t see this coming:

House Republican leaders are urging members to alter one of the chamber’s fundamental ethics rules, which would make it harder for lawmakers to discipline a colleague.

The proposed change would essentially negate a general rule of conduct that the ethics committee has often cited in admonishing lawmakers — including Majority Leader Tom DeLay — for bringing discredit on the House even if their behavior was not covered by a specific regulation. Backers of the rule, adopted three decades ago, say it is important because the House’s conduct code cannot anticipate every instance of questionable behavior that might reflect poorly on the chamber.

Republicans, returning to the Capitol on Tuesday after increasing their House majority by three seats in the Nov. 2 election, also want to relax a restriction on relatives of lawmakers accepting foreign and domestic trips from groups interested in legislation before the House.

A third proposed rule change would allow either party to stop the House ethics committee from investigating a complaint against a member.

… Earlier this year, House Republicans rewrote a party rule so that DeLay can keep his leadership job even if he is indicted by a Texas grand jury. The grand jury has indicted three of his political associates in an investigation of campaign finances related to a House redistricting plan that DeLay helped push through in Texas.

Having created what seems to be a permanent majority, the Republicans have been changing the rules of Congress for years now to cement their position. Now they are trying to close the one loophole that might cause them trouble: ethics. It’s the one area that the Republicans as astonishingly weak in. These are people who accept huge donations from big business then do their bidding — ethics simply doesn’t come into the equation.
Dana Milbank contributes an analysis of this turn of events and takes a look at faltering government ethics, but from Republicans and Democrats.

That Christian Spirit

Holy crap. Holy, holy CRAP. Mac points out the latest dark and smelly turd of hatred to issue forth from the “Christians” at Fred Phelp’s cult in Topeka. I don’t even know what to say about this horrible, horrible group of people.


Here’s hoping that the many thousands of bloggers who are doing all they can to help disseminate information about the disaster will also find a way to neutralize the disgusting hate spewing from this group.

One more reason to skip the commercials

I’ve had a high definition television (and tuner, which is the real hurdle) for nearly 8 years now. In all that time, I’ve only seen two commercials that were broadcast in high definition.
The Hollywood Reporter takes a look at this phenomenon:

The Super Bowl, with its massive audience, is the event for which advertising agencies produce their most high-profile work each year. Yet surprisingly, with nearly six weeks left till the big game and many of those widely anticipated commercials careening toward the finish line, leading postproduction houses that support agency clients report little discussion of high-definition.

That means that while HDTV-equipped viewers tuning in to the Super Bowl might marvel at every muscle ripple beneath the players’ uniforms, they also might be jolted by grainy commercial breaks featuring letterbox spots that make advertisers look quaintly out of date.

… It’s especially strange when one considers that the commercial industry has long been a vanguard for entertainment production, showcasing new techniques and breaking directorial talent.

“There just aren’t enough people getting HDTV to make it worth the cost,” says consultant Damon Webster, a former agency executive. “You hear that the sets are selling, but it’s more than just buying the TV — you’ve then got to sign up for an HD service at extra cost.”

That last quote shows one of the problems: lack of knowledge about digital television.
To receive high definition broadcasts, you don’t have to “sign up” for any “service.” High definition television — at least, network television — comes to you free, over the air. All you need is an antenna and a tuner. You don’t have to subscribe to anything at all to see the Super Bowl in HD, it’s on your local Fox station.

Race, religion or creed

Is it legal to only hire someone of a specific religion?
Check out this Craigslist posting, which has, frankly, a disconcerting headline:

Searching for Christian Artists/Caricaturists/Illustrators

Reply to: see below
Date: 2004-12-30, 5:56PM EST

Ultrasound Entertainment is a family-fun entertainment company that is looking for a talented individual that has creative skills to illustrate ideas into pictures/sketches/drawings.

Please call Mike at 1-800-675-6000.

“Stingy” revisited

I just don’t understand our government.

The U.S. goverment offered me a phone call, a toothbrush, a paperback book and a temporary passport. No hotel, no food, no flight home. I was told that I could take out a loan if I could list three people who would vouch for me at home. The process would only take a few days. I was alone, injured (superficially – but I sure did look bad), no possesions, no money and my government offered me a book.

I know that things are much, much worse for hundreds of thousands of other people who aren’t fortunate enough to be U.S. citizens… but you’d think our government “for the people” could manage to be more helpful.

The network of humanity

It’s beginning to look like this global network of ours is coming of age: the astonishing way that websites, bloggers, and others on the internet have come together to provide information and help for Southeast Asia is really an example of ingenious humanity.
Boing Boing is documenting just some of the ways people are using the net to communicate, disseminate information, find the missing, and pull together resources.
It’s all so much more worthwhile than the everyday internet.
I think that governments could take a cue from the ingenious ways ordinary people are pulling together and creating their own tools,

The fabulous court

So, I”m watching “Party Planner with David Tutera” on Discovery, watching this very gay cutie at a high school reunion as he reunites with, frankly, his beard — the girl he went to the prom with. Anyway, I decided to Google him to learn a bit more of his cool party ideas, and Google says:
Did you mean: david souter
I had no idea that the justice swung that way.

Just another emotional Thursday

Coincidence or irony? Like most people, I get those two confused.
I went over to Target today — by the way, they seem to have opened up the paid parking for free now — to pick up a humidifier. I learned the value of one from B, and I slept much better over at his place where the air wasn’t as dry. It’s only been cold for a short time, but I’m already suffering the effects of a dry, dry winter.
When I got home, there was a package at my front door. From B.
[I’m deliberately writing this in a kind of anecdotal, chit-chat style to hide the fact that I am kind of emotional and teary eyed right now. Just so you know.]
By the time I got to the end of what he wrote on the card, I could barely see because of my watery eyes. It was a Christmas gift — very neat clock with almost industrial exposed gears, a clock I had admired at a shop in Philadelphia. As I watch the gears spin, spin, spin, I’ll be thinking of B, B, B.
I have never had good luck with love. Part of the reason is that I never really knew who I wanted to be with, what kind of person, and what qualities to look for. Now I’m still unlucky because I realize that B is the person I had been looking for all that time… and I don’t know whether I will ever find someone who makes me feel even remotely like B did.

Ann Coulter is a freakin’ nutcase

I think this says it all:

And we leave you with a belated and un-Christmasy Christmas thought given to us by none other than that the liberal-blasting, knock-you-off-your-seat Ann Coulter, as posted on her Web site last week. Stand back, people, here it comes: “To The People Of Islam: Just think: If we’d invaded your countries, killed your leaders and converted you to Christianity YOU’D ALL BE OPENING CHRISTMAS PRESENTS RIGHT ABOUT NOW! Merry Christmas.” When we asked Coulter what the response was to this little ditty, she e-mailed us: “It’s a big hit!” We bet.

“We imagine the Doctor was in distress because he’d heard this record”

imageFor some unknown reason, I’ve been looking for an audio file of a 20-year-old record for a while. The record is “Doctor in Distress,” a charity single that was produced back in 1985 when the series “Doctor Who” was taken off the air for 18 months in the UK. I remembered the song from back then when I was in the whole Dr. Who fandom culture.
Finally, today I found an MP3 version, evidently the only one extant. It’s not nearly as good as I remembered it — in fact, it’s cringe-inducing. What’s most astonishing about it is that Basia sings on it! The name of the “group” says it all: Who Cares?
Read more about “Doctor in Distress” and listen to the madness.