May 29, 2004
— Ace Polls don't mean anything at this point and blah, blah, blah.
Everyone knows that polls showing results you don't like don't mean anything, while polls showing results you like are almost certainly accurate and a near-perfect gauge of evolving public sentiment.
President Bush leads John Kerry by 6 percentage points in the battle for Ohio, a state that could decide who wins the White House, according to a statewide Plain Dealer poll.
Ohio voters surveyed say they favor Bush over Kerry, 47 percent to 41 percent. Consumer advocate Ralph Nader draws 3 percent, though he has yet to qualify for the Ohio ballot. Nine percent say they are undecided.
Though Bush is given low marks for his handling of the economy and the war in Iraq, those who say they favor him cite his moral character and his stewardship over the war on terrorism and homeland security as reasons.
The poll, conducted May 20-25 by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, is based on interviews with 1,500 registered voters who plan to vote in November. The poll, which has a margin of error of 2.6 percentage points, is the largest presidential poll taken in Ohio this year.
47% is not 50.1%, though, which is what Bush will probably need to actually win Ohio. We are waiting for a more accurate poll that shows Bush above 50. That fact keeps this from being cowbell material.
Oh, what the hell. It's Saturday night, and the boss ("Mr. Tranh") isn't around snooping.
Little tiny cowbell for the media finally publishing a somewhat accurate poll:
May 28, 2004
— Ace I don't know if anyone else shares this kink: I've got this crazy obsession about identifying minor players from movies and figuring out where I've seen them before.
I was set off on this because I just read a cool trivial question that feeds into this obsession. We'll call this question 1:
1) Name the one human being who has been assaulted and/or killed by an Alien (from Alien), a Predator, and a Terminator.
But that set me off on a binge, so here's more:
2) Apart from the person who is the answer to 1), name three other people who've been assaulted and/or killed by both an Alien and a Terminator.
3) Apart from the person who is the answer to 1), name one other person who's been assaulted and/or killed by both a Terminator and a Predator. (This is sort of a trick question.)
4) Name two people who've met both Robocop and Special Agent Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks.
5) Name the person who's met characters named Robocop, Hannibal Lecter, and "Arnold Schwarzenegger."
6) Name one person who's been killed by Axel Foley, James Bond, and Rambo. He also got his ass kicked by Prince.
7) Name one person who's met both Special Agent Dale Cooper and Cabin Boy.
And, just for fun, name one person who has been assaulted and/or killed by both a Predator and Craig T. Nelson.
— Ace It's such absolutely must-read material that you've probably already read it.
But if you haven't, you have to.
— Ace I'm deleting the various "free rape" spam comments as fast as I can. There are dozens of IP addresses sending them.
And, here's the thing: Maybe they're using spoof IP addresses to send them. Maybe I'm actually banning readers. If I banned you, let me know by email.
— Ace Okay. For a month I've been saying, don't worry about the crappy comments interface, don't worry about the crappy archives. It will be fixed.
Well, I just learned that it's not going to be fixed, alas. The current site design by Maystar just doesn't integrate smoothly with all the Moveable Type templates. Someone could probably fix this, but I can't.
So, I can either stick with this current design and limp along with the crappy commenting and archives, or I can go with one of the default MT designs, which I don't like, but which will, hopefully, work properly.
I can either go with this design, white letters on black background.
Or I could even get crazy and go with this nutty design.
I'll do a little modification, to the extent I can, to make these designs look sorta like the current design. I can change fonts and colors and stuff, that's about the
extent of my mad skillz in this regard.
If anyone has a strong preference -- I know some hate the white-on-black thing -- I'd appreciate knowing about it, before I switch over.
Update: Don't bother commenting on possible redesigns. I'm told that I can't switch to a default as it stands, so that option isn't really open at this point.
— Ace Nothing here you can't get off Yahoo Finance, but since I read this stuff, I might as well digest it and blog it.
OPEC considers quota suspension. Trouble is, most oil-producers, except Saudi Arabia, are already pumping at capacity. However:
Suspending output quotas temporarily would make little difference to actual output but could provide the psychological impact on prices that OPEC's President Purnomo Yusgiantoro spoke of in Jakarta on Thursday.
It would also give official cartel blessing for Saudi to pump more without blatantly ignoring any new, higher quota.
This might not have a major impact on oil prices, but it couldn't help but have a sanguine affect.
Once again, Midwest factory activity surprises. "Midwest factory activity surprises" = "a bad surprise for John Kerry," since he's counting on a lingering manufacturing recession to deliver him Ohio.
And Michigan. And Wisconsin. And Pennsylvania. And Minnesota. And etc.:
Strength in the Chicago Purchasing Management index of business activity backed up that argument. The index jumped to 68.0 in May, when economists had looked for a modest pullback to 61.0 after April's already robust 63.9. The employment index also firmed, pointing to some improvement in the labor market.
"This is a very stunning report. The Chicago PMI is a volatile series and I thought you'd get some retracement and you didn't," said an impressed Joseph LaVorgna, senior U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank Securities.
The University of Michigan's final survey of consumer confidence for May showed its index falling to 90.2 from April's final reading of 94.2.
"What's affecting consumer sentiment is the geopolitical news, which is quite negative coming out of Iraq. But also the rise in oil prices is of concern to consumers as it affects their pocketbooks directly and that surely had an impact," said Kevin Logan, senior economist at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein.
On the other hand, personal spending rose with expectations, personal incomes jumped, and yet inflation remained tame:
Personal spending rose 0.3 percent in April, the smallest gain in six months, the Commerce Department said. The figure was in line with forecasts.
More importantly for the economic outlook, incomes rose by a solid 0.6 percent, the biggest gain since last November as the job market improved. The rise showed households will have the wherewithal to keep on spending in the months ahead even if gasoline prices stay high.
A key indicator of inflation in the report -- and the Fed's favored measure of prices -- came in weaker than expected with a 0.1 percent increase, easing worries in the bond market that the Fed would need to make a series of aggressive rate hikes. The annual increase in the core personal consumption expenditures index was a moderate 1.4 percent.
"This eases fears that the Fed was behind the curve," said JP Morgan senior economist Jim Glassman.
"It allows the Fed to go at a measured pace without causing people to worry they are falling behind. The inflation scares are going to be dying down," he said.
Net effect? Well, the markets are slightly down.
Runaway inflation and interest rates, the liberals' latest economic bugaboos -- now that their unemployment bugaboo has been thoroughly rubbished by events -- would seem to be a phantasmal threat at this point.
Alas, no cowbell for mixed-to-hopeful economic news.
May 27, 2004
— Ace Apparently we flipped two of his disciples -- two of the Portland-area Al Qaeda.
Ramzi Yousef, inevitably, makes a cameo. He's turning out to be as to Al Qaeda what Allen Dulles is to JFK conspiracy theories, or what the Knights Templar are to medieval/church conspiracies -- he's just always popping up somewhere along the way.
First I thought Alphabet City was cutting and pasting a professional dispatch, but no, it appears he's written this up himself.
This post is great for two reasons. For one, it's just a good backgrounder. It digests the indictment and reports all the most important facts, and then it hyperlinks the stuffings out of all the major players.
But it also demonstrates that there's no particular reason that a blogger, given sufficient discipline and craft, can't produce dispatches on par with anything from AP.
It's not that Alphabet City's backgrounder is so much better than what you'd read on AP (although it's better than what you might read most of the time).
It's rather that there's no discernable difference between a professional backgrounder and Alphabet City's.
And this kind of piece is an important part of the news. It's not talk-to-a-source original reportage (so far as I can tell; if I'm wrong, I trust I'll be corrected). But a lot of articles in the newspapers are digests of indictments and court opinions and the like. It's a big part of the function of reporters, if not their main function.
There are some genuine deep thinkers in the blogosphere. Den Beste, for one; the Volokhs; and even Mickey Kaus, when the mood strikes him, and when he can restrain himself from using exclamation points every second sentence.
So, as far as opinion and analysis, the blogosphere has produced some important players.
But it hasn't produced actual reporters, fact-finders, digesters, and backgrounders, at least not consistently. (And not to my knowledge; I'm not an expert on the blogosphere. I'm not really an expert on anything, to tell the truth.)
As the blogosphere begins producing pieces like this more consistently-- what, precisely, is left for the mainstream media?
Actual talk-to-a-source reportage will probably remain their turf alone; there's a steep entry barrier to that function. You need a lot of time and a lot of connections and a lot of time to work your connections.
Still: two out of three ain't bad. Once the blogosphere can compete in terms of both opinion/analysis essays and overview/context pieces, the reporters will be left with nothing much to do but report on actual breaking news...
...which is sort of the job they're actually supposed to be doing, anyway.
Note to self: Stop churning out slapdash buffoonery. There's a better way.
Note to self: Lean on "Deep Stoat" to tip me as to the upcoming jobs numbers.
— Ace A friend sent me this email. I can't really vouch for its accuracy, but then, I'm a blogger. I don't sweat accuracy.
Sort of like the New York Times.
Anyway, here's a list of "facts" which may either be true or false. Decide which are the true ones, and which are the fake ones.
— Ace Interview Believed to Have Taken Place Before, During, or After Abu Ghraib Abuses
But the hell with giving Salon traffic and ad revenue. Here's a fair-use excerpt of all the important stuff:
May 27, 2004 | Filmmaker Michael Moore filmed an interview with American Nicholas Berg in the course of producing his documentary film "Fahrenheit 9/11" before Berg left for Iraq, where he was taken hostage and killed, Moore confirmed to Salon in a statement Thursday. The 20 minutes of footage does not appear in the final version of "Fahrenheit 911," according to the statement.
Word of the footage reached Salon through a source unaffiliated with Moore or his film "Fahrenheit 9/11"...
In a statement released to Salon, Moore said, "We have an interview with Nick Berg. It was approximately 20 minutes long. We are not releasing it to the media. It is not in the film. We are dealing privately with the family." Moore's camp declined to comment further on any aspect of the interview. Because the footage is not in the film, a spokeswoman for Miramax Films, the production company behind "Fahrenheit 9/11," said the company had no comment.
First of all: subpoena the interview. This is a murder investigation, after all.
Second of all: I don't know what this means. Just because he was interviewed by the left-wing traitor Moore doesn't mean he was one himself; Moore interviews conservatives, too, in order to edit them into jackasses.
But the CIA theory would seem to be out the window.
Speculation: Sorry, Ilyka, I know you find this speculation about a murdered man distasteful, but I think we're moving past the point at which taste governs the inquiry.
I'd like to know who contacted who, here. My suspicion is that Berg contacted Moore, because I'm not sure anyone even heard of Berg before his death. If Moore managed to track him down because he learned of the FBI inquiry, he's a somewhat better Internet Detective than I gave him credit for.
If, on the other hand, Berg contacted Moore, I'd like to know for what purpose. The story has been that Berg was a big-time supporter of the War in Iraq. If it turns out he wasn't, well then, what we have here is a lie, and while some lies are innocent, most are not.
Nick Kronos makes the important point, which I overlooked, that the article doesn't say it's an interview with Michael Moore; it could just be an "interview" with his dad, which the dad then sent to Moore.
It does get curiouser and curiouser.
— Ace According to a quick Lexis/Nexis search, here are the top ten words (including compound nouns) the media is currently using:
4. "George W. Bush's Abu Ghraib torture chambers"
3. "a" and/or "an"
2. "Fantasia 'Abu Ghraib' Barino"
... and the Number One Most-Used Words in the Media...
1. FOUR-WAY TIE:
1) "Abu Ghraib prison scandal"
1) "human pyramids"
— Ace Must-read article for anyone who followed the Recall Saga, which is, you know, everyone.
This dumb actor is turning out to be a hell of a governor. He hasn't increased taxes, he's on track to finally pass a budget on schedule, and he's just bettered the rating of the state's bonds. And he's ruthlessly pursuing a pro-growth agenda:
The Governor then used the political capital earned in the referendum to end years of paralysis in the state legislature. He turned his attention to California's disgraceful worker's compensation system, which is in large part responsible for the state's abysmal business climate. Indeed, in recent years, premiums have increased by 50% for some employers; in 2002, workers' comp attorneys had collected $226 million, $31 million more than they had in 2001 -- all as California was losing as many as 10,000 manufacturing jobs each month.
When the legislature balked at the prospect of reform, the Governor threatened to seek another referendum. Mindful of the Governor's success in promoting the March initiatives, the lawmakers caved, and passed worker's compensation reforms. While the legislation is far from perfect, it does prohibit "doctor shopping", and mandates that disability reports rely on objective American Medical Association guidelines to evaluate the severity of an injury.
Much remains to be done, but Governor Schwarzenegger shows few signs of abandoning the conservative economic principles that have served him so well. He has hired efficiency experts to conduct state performance reviews, in order to identify structural reforms that will assist efforts to control spending. Squarely in the crosshairs are the California laws that prohibit outsourcing of state services, even when such contracting could save the state $9 billion, according to a study by the Reason Foundation. And emboldened by Arnold Schwarzenegger's success, some Democratic legislators are actually supporting Republican calls to renegotiate the obscenely expensive contracts that Davis and the Democratic legislature gave the prison guards' union -- long one of Sacramento's premier "special interests."
Not too shabby.
California is of course the most important economic actor in the country, and as California's economy strengthens, so too must the nation's.
How Abu Ghraib fits in with this poll is unclear at this point.
By the way, the GDP grew 4.4% in the first quarter
— Ace 1Q GDP growth revised up to 4.4%.
WASHINGTON (AP) - The economy grew at a 4.4 percent annual rate in the first quarter of this year, slightly faster than previously thought and fresh evidence that the recovery possessed good momentum as it headed into the current quarter.
The increase in gross domestic product from January through March reported by the Commerce Department on Thursday marked an improvement from both the 4.2 percent pace first estimated for the quarter a month ago and the 4.1 percent growth rate registered in the final quarter of 2003.
The GDP measures the value of all goods and services produced within the United States. While the latest reading was just shy of the 4.5 percent pace that some analysts were forecasting, it nevertheless represented a solid performance.
It may be revised again. I'm still looking for 4.5% or 4.6%.
Separately, the Labor Department reported that new applications for unemployment benefits dropped last week by a seasonally adjusted 3,000 to 344,000, another hopeful sign for a labor market recovery.
Although consumers and the federal government did their part to support the economy in the first quarter, the better reading on GDP for the period in large part reflected stronger investment by businesses to build up inventories, a good sign that companies are more confident about the economy's prospects.
From April to June, the economy is expected to grow at a rate in the range of 4.5 percent to 5 percent, according to some analysts.
The country has lost a net 1.5 million jobs since Bush took office in January 2001, something Kerry points to as evidence that the president's economic policies aren't working. But Bush says they are, and that the best way to create jobs is to make the economy stronger.
Hmmm. Finally someone in the media revised that "2.3 million lost jobs" figure downwards. I think we've only lost a net of 1 million jobs, though. 2.3 million minus 1.3 million equals 1 million.
— Ace The National Enquirer offers Washingtonienne $20,000 for her tawdry tale of rump-stumping.
Hey, National Enquirer-- I've got a tale, too. (Or should I say tail! Ahahaha. Now I see how Wonkette creates the Big Funny!)
My price for an interview:
Seven bucks. You spring for lunch. There's a Wok 'n Roll franchise I've been meaning to check out.
May 26, 2004
— Ace Ahem. Sounds like our incompetent army and reckless leadership sort of know what the hell they're doing:
NAJAF, Iraq (Reuters) - Militiamen loyal to rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said their leaders had told them to withdraw from the Iraqi holy city of Najaf by midday (4 a.m. EDT) on Thursday following a truce offer from Sadr.
"It was a written and a verbal order," said Ali Abu Zahra, commander of one of the Mehdi Army units that has been battling U.S. forces in Najaf.
Earlier on Thursday, Iraq (news - web sites)'s national security adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, quoting a statement signed by Sadr, said the cleric was willing to pull members of his Mehdi Army who are not from Najaf out of the holy city, and had demanded in return that a murder case for which he is wanted be suspended.
Don't read too much into that "demand." I don't hear anyone agreeing with it.
So, sounds like al-Sadr's suing for peace. Sounds like we've defeated him in detail (a term I learned from Steven den Beste), both militarily and politically, the latter accomplished by finally getting the Shi'a clerics to publicly denounce him.
How will the media play this victory?
I think I know:
— Ace Finally:
May 27 (Bloomberg) -- Police in the U.K. arrested Abu Hamza al-Masri, a Muslim cleric, who has had his U.K. citizenship removed, Sky News reported.
A police statement said a 47-year-old man was arrested during a raid at his home at about 3 a.m. London time. The arrest came after a request from the U.S. government for Abu Hamza's extradition, Sky said, citing the police statement. The man is being held in custody and will appear in a London court today, the Sky report said.
Update! Indicted on eleven counts in US, including conspiracy to kidnap charge. May get the death penalty, or at least life in prison.
That's what he looks like after being incarcerated at Abu Ghraib.
Here's what he looked like before:
That's right. We tortured, blinded, maimed, and disfigured David Hyde Pierce of the Frasier program.
Niles. We tortured Niles.
Is there no limit to our savagery?
— Ace W A S H I N G T O N -- His forces decimated and forced to retreat from Karbala, Moqtada al-Sadr today offered to retreat from all other occupied cities and buildings in exchange for a "discussion" about his ultimate fate.
Democratic Presidential Candidate John Kerry was quick to tout his own role in the surrender-negotiations. "For months, I have been lecturing Americans, at some great length and with numerous solmnolent asides, sub-clauses, caveats, and the like, about the great and pressing need at this point in time for George W. Bush to abandon his arrogant and reckless policy and finally announce what I term a 'plan' for managing Iraq," the candidate said. "Finally, George Bush heeded my advice, and announced his 'plan' on Monday. Within 48 hours, Moqtada al-Sadr was offering to surrender."
Liberal "security experts" were quick to congratulate Senator Kerry. "What a difference a 'plan' makes," said Fred Kaplan, a somewhat-girlish and incompetent "defense writer" at the amateur webzine Slate. "This just proves that we've been right all along: we should raise taxes immediately, or whatever it is we're talking about."
Indeed, al-Sadrist forces have been taking heavy casualties since the day of the speech. In Kufa, 32 insurgents were killed when point three of the 'plan' was detonated in a safehouse they were hiding in. In Karbala, Marines unleashed thousands of points and sub-points of the 'plan,' riddling dozens of Sadrists with wounds. Terrorists attempted to detonate a bomb near the entrance to the so-called Green Zone in Baghdad, but soldiers were protected from the blast by deploying 'the plan' to shield them.
"Good Gravy!" said Lance Corporal Herbert C. Reilly of the 51st Battalion. "For a year, we've been just running around with guns and grenades and radios and such. We didn't even know this miracle weapon called 'a plan' existed. If they had this 'plan' all along, why the hell didn't they deploy it into the field?" He shakes his head sadly. "I saw an Iraqi civilian get his head cut off by a terrorist bomb a week ago. I imagine that if I'd had 'the plan' on me at the time, I might have been able to perform cranial reattachment surgery and save him."
MSNBC commentator/fat kid picked last for kickball Chris "Sweet Pillows" Matthews was unstinting in his criticism. "Damn the arrogance of the Bush adminstration," he said. "If they'd only admitted earlier they needed 'a plan'! We might have never suffered a single casualty in Iraq at all."
Dispirited al-Sadr insurgents, now taken prisoner, were quick to agree. "Well-trained marines with heavy guns, Army soldiers in lethal tanks, airmen patrolling our skies in fantastically deadly aircraft-- all these I was prepared for, and ready to confront," Ahmad al-Mohammed says. "But when I heard the Americans now had 'a plan,' I surrendered immediately. What weapons can contend against such a thing? I am willing to die for Allah, but I certainly didn't sign up into an Islamist death-cult just to commit suicide."
Related: Ann Coulter's latest is definitely worth a read, if only to see her write the word "tit."
It's not quite a capitulation, since he's still making demands and the like.
In related news, Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAulliffe urged Moqtada al-Sadr to "keep the faith." "Don't give up," he exhorted the violent, chubby cleric, "not when we're so close to achieving our mutual goal."
— Ace That's long been my theory, and it's served me well over the years.
Now, I haven't seen Troy yet, and I don't particularly want to. I'm just not interested.
Still, that doesn't mean that dopey, talentless, brainless reviewers should have a free hand at criticizing the film for entirely ludicrous reasons.
Two Braincells presents an enjoyable panning of the critics' pans:
The film isn't called The Iliad for a reason, and that reason is that it's not a direct adaptation of The Iliad. Homer didn't originate the story of the Trojan war. He wrote the best-known versions of two parts of the saga in the Iliad and the Odyssey, but these are not the only source materials. The choice of Paris (i.e., the selection of the most beautiful among Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite and subsequent awarding of Helen) does not appear in the Iliad. Neither does the abduction of Helen. Neither does the Trojan horse. Neither do the deaths of Achilles, nor Paris, nor Agamemnon. Criticisms based on a supposed lack of fidelity to the Iliad would seem to miss the point in this regard.
I know nothing at all about the Iliad, but apparently I know more than critics. I wouldn't presume to comment upon the film's fidelity to the Iliad, having only read the Cliff's Notes in ninth grade. But that makes me smarter than reviewers, it seems.
This is good too:
For those further waxing wroth over the absence of the gods: you've got to be joking. Has it really been so long since Clash of the Titans that you're actually prepared to swear you'd treat the movie seriously if you'd seen Paris being wafted away in the middle of his fight with Menelaus on Aphrodite's cloud?
Note to self: Must begin making Clash of the Titans references.
And, if you've got a hankering to read through the Iliad with a snarky guide, Jamie R. provides a first-rate fisking to Homer.
— Ace Thanks for those who tipped me to this last night, and my apologies for those who were expecting a comment sooner.
Who knew that when I asked Paul Anka to guest-host the blog for a weekend it would set off a media-frenzy landing him a prominent spot on last night's penultimate American Idol 3?
Well, I knew that would happen. But who else did?
He was in good form, but I was disappointed that he didn't do any of his greatest hits, such as The Guys Get Shirts, Where's Joe?, Put Me Some Fuckin' Knowledge, and the heartbreaking ballad, Do You Like Your Jobs? (Well Do You Want to Keep Your Jobs?)
Something else was missing, too: explosive profanity.
Still, the man radiated integrity and "conscious," and there can be little doubt that when he moved, he sliced like a fuckin' hammer.
— Ace Doesn't the US military understand that "dominance" is just an illusion?!
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