31 October 2006

Show Me a good candidate!

I don't vote here in Missouri, but I'm still subjected to the political ads.  This year Jim Talent and Claire McCaskill are fighting it out for a U.S. Senate seat.  Not only are their ads invariably negative, but they're both falling over themselves to prove that they want big government more than the other.  Jim Talent voted to cut Medicaid benefits!  (Good for him.)  Claire McCaskill would have voted against giving the NSA wider surveillance powers!  (Good for her.)  Talent voted against raising the minimum wage!  (Hell yeah.)  McCaskill wants to legalize human cloning!  (Bull$#!+, and even she would probably try to regulate stem-cell research more than I'd prefer.)

If I had to vote here and had to choose either Talent or McCaskill, I'd have to go with Talent, as unappealing as he is.  At least he's been rated as one of the more fiscally conservative members of Congress.  But I'd rather skip 'em both and vote for Libertarian Frank Gilmour, if only to send a message.

At least one columnist is predicting "a decisive Democratic victory" in the November elections.  And he's a former Air Force officer, so he can't be accused of being a knee-jerk anti-war liberal.  His column uses the word myriad but it's a great read anyway.  As for me, I'd like to see Republicans lose at least one of the House and the Senate.  We need more gridlock at the top and more opposition to Bush's agenda.  Even better, how about a handful of Libertarians in the House to act as swing votes?  But really I'll just be glad when this election is over.

29 October 2006

They won it at home

Just as I hoped, the Cardinals swept the Tigers in the three games in St. Louis to wrap up the 2006 World Series.  They barely limped into the playoffs after avoiding what would have been the most spectacular late-season collapse in major-league history, they had the worst regular-season record of any Cardinals team of the last seven years and they may be the worst team ever to win a World Series, but in these games everything fell their way.  Carpenter pitched a gem in Game 3, and Games 4 and 5 were both exciting Cardinals comebacks that might have been lost if not for Detroit's several fielding errors.  Anything can happen in a short series, and watching these games from the stands among devoted fans was thrilling.

Given points for being tiny and scrappy, David Eckstein was a sentimental choice for Series MVP, but in truth Scott Rolen was more deserving.  Actually, Sean Casey of the Tigers was the most valuable player of the Series, even though he was on the losing team.

Now I can start paying attention to football.  What's been going on with my Steelers?  It would be so much easier just to be a Colts fan . . .

26 October 2006

Yay! A new law from our leaders!

Don't miss Keith Olbermann's impassioned commentary on the Military Commissions Act of 2006: read the text or watch the videoRon Paul was one of only eight Republicans in the House to vote against this outrageous bill, which Bush predictably signed last week.  See how your representative voted on it.

To be fair to the bill, there seems to be honest debate about whether it is unconstitutional and whether it applies to citizens.  But, regardless of the technicalities, repugnant legislation like this makes me wish every bill automatically contained a sunset clause and had to be specifically re-approved every few years.

23 October 2006

Empty with such fullness

"The quest of reason—this can hardly be stated enough—is for the noncontradictory integration of experience."    — Nathaniel Branden

I hate contradictions but I love irony.  Is that ironic or contradictory?

22 October 2006

Unlikely heroes

The Cardinals made it back to the World Series by winning a dramatic Game 7 of an epic NLCS with a home run off the bat of Yadier Molina, who slugged only .321 in the regular season.  They're underdogs for the third straight postseason series, but tonight they won Game 1 against the Tigers by beating Justin Verlander, Detroit's best starting pitcher, with rookie Anthony Reyes, who started only because their best pitchers were needed to beat the Mets.  This year's Cardinals won only 83 regular-season games, the fewest in a full season for a World Series team since the 1973 Mets.  Now they have a one-game lead and pitchers Jeff Weaver, Chris Carpenter and Jeff Suppan coming up.  Everyone seems to expect the Tigers to win easily, but I'll pick the Cardinals in five games.  St. Louis fans deserve to win it all at home.

19 October 2006

Which is the real scam?

The American Liberty Dollar is an alternative currency backed by gold and silver and issued by NORFED, a private organization.  It's a practical protest of the inflationary practices of the Federal Reserve System, which have reduced the effective value of the dollar (which is backed only by the power of Congress to tax the crap out of us) vastly since 1913.  Inflation isn't inevitable—Lincoln paid about the same for a loaf of bread as Washington did—it's basically a hidden form of taxation that fuels federal spending and bilks private citizens, punishing savers more than spenders.

Last month government officials announced that using the Liberty Dollar is a crime.  I have the impression that NORFED was prepared for this kind of announcement, as their response was quick and clear.  Essentially, the government (at least ostensibly) was only concerned with Liberty Dollars being passed off as official, legal tender money.  But a legal tender currency is simply one that cannot be refused in payment of a debt, and Liberty Dollars have never been claimed as legal tender; in fact, NORFED has been careful to point out that they're intended for use only in voluntary barter.  Using them cannot be made illegal any more than trading baseball cards can be made illegal.  So, while the Liberty Dollar (along with the concept of legal tender) is still widely misunderstood, the government's announcement has given it valuable publicity it would never have got otherwise.

18 October 2006

Almost there

I haven't wanted a postseason team to win it all so badly since the 1993 Blue Jays, but the 2006 Athletics didn't quite make it.  At least they won a postseason series for the first time since 1990.  And they're pretty obviously the best team in baseball per dollar of team payroll.  It's hard to look at the Athletics' results and payrolls since Billy Beane became general manager in late 1997 without concluding that he's one of the best ever, up there with historic names like Branch Rickey and Larry MacPhail.

So the Cardinals are my team now.  Thanks to the generosity of O, I took the opportunity to see them take two of three from the Mets here in St. Louis.  Now they have to win just one of two in New York, with former Blue Jay Chris Carpenter pitching for the Cardinals tonight.  Looks good . . .

Happy 20th birthday to the original Nintendo Enertainment System!

10 October 2006

We're ready for bomb threats

A WUPD officer recently came into my lab to hand out little security advisories printed on bright orange paper.  I, half-seriously, mentioned that we used to have a Bomb Threat Checklist tucked under our phone which had since been lost.  He took me very seriously and promised to come back with a replacement BTC.  One of my officemates was impressed with my straight face.  Sure enough, he returned days later with a pristine BTC and a sincere sense of accomplishment.  Now, for your enjoyment, excerpts from the Bomb Threat Checklist:

Exact time of call?
Exact words of caller?

QUESTIONS TO ASK [presumably precisely in this order]
1. When is bomb going to explode?
2. Where is the bomb?
3. What does it look like?
4. What kind of bomb is it?
5. What will cause it to explode?
6. Did you place the bomb?
7. Why?
8. Where are you calling from?
9. What is your address?
10. What is your phone number?
11. What is your name?

Cracking Voice
Clearing Throat
Deep Breathing
Normal [yep, listed twice]
Familiar [my favorite]

If voice is familiar, whom did it sound like?

Street noises
PA System
House noises
Factory machinery
Animal noises
Long distance

Well spoken (educated)
Message Read by threatmaker

03 October 2006

Sweet start

Well, Frank Thomas hit two homers, Barry Zito pitched well and Huston Street closed it out as the Athletics beat the Twins in the first game of the "division series" (god, I hate the wild card).  A great analysis of the A's / Twins matchup (by a Twins fan) gives the edge to the Twins, but mostly based on the pitching of Johan Santana, who lost today and may not pitch again in the series if Oakland can close it out in three or four games.  Looks pretty good for the Athletics right now.

It seems that the experts are picking the Twins to win the series and the damn Yankees to win it all.  I sure hope they're wrong.


The baseball regular season is over, and my Blue Jays had a season to be proud of, finishing in second place just ahead of the Red Sox.  I'd rather they finish in second behind the Red Sox, but I'll take it.  More importantly, the other major "Moneyball" team, the Athletics, made it back to the playoffs after two straight second-place finishes.  They made it to the playoffs four years in a row between 2000 and 2003 but never made it past the first round; let's see if they can win it all this year.  They have enough talent to give them a good chance.  The football season doesn't really start for me until after the World Series is decided—I say this year it'll be Athletics over Padres.