Monthly Archives: September 2003


Pirate Jesus be needin’ no introduction.

38: Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, ‘n a tooth for a tooth:
39: But I say unto ye, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy starboard cheek, turn t’ him the other also
40: ‘n if any man will sue thee at the law, ‘n take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. (Aaaarrrhhh!!!)
41: ‘n whosoever shall compel thee t’ go a mile, go with him twain. (Yarrr, more grog, wench!)


Howard Dean mans the cannons and returns fire:

I opposed President Bush?s war in Iraq from the beginnin’ While Saddam Hussein?s regime was clearly vile ‘n needed t’ be disarmed, it did not present an immediate threat t’ U.S. (Blimey!) security that would justify goin’ t’ war, particularly goin’ t’ war alone From the beginnin’, I felt that winnin’ the war would not be the hard part winnin’ the peace would be This Administration failed t’ plan for the postwar period as it did for the battle, ‘n today we be payin’ the price. (Aaarrhhh, me parrot!)

Me opposition t’ the war, however, be part o’ a comprehensive view o’ America?s role in the world that I presented t’ the Council on Foreign Relations on June 25th (click here for loaded t’ the gunwales text) In that speech, I laid out four goals for American leadership in the world:

  • First, defeat the threat posed by terrorists, tyrants, ‘n technologies o’ mass destruction. (The chase is making full sail, matey!)
  • Second, strengthen our alliances ‘n ensure Russia ‘n China be fully integrated into a stable international order. (Bloody privateers!)
  • Third, enlarge the circle o’ beneficiaries o’ the growin’ world economy. (Blimey!)
  • ‘n fourth, ensure that life on our fragile planet be sustainable. (Man the guns, ye cowardly swabs!)


Ladies, gentlemen, me hearties, and scurvy dogs: The President of the United States.

Because the AIDS diagnosis be considered a Davy Jones’s Locker sentence, many do not seek treatment. (Gangway!) Almost all who do be turned away. (Aaarrrrhhh!) A doctor in rural South Africa describes ‘is frustration. (Aarhh!) He says, “We have no medicines. (Be ye ready to walk the plank?) Many hospitals tell people, ye’ve got AIDS, we can’t help you. (Bloody privateers!) Go home ‘n die.” In an age o’ miraculous medicines, nay person should have t’ hear those words (Applause.)

The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon ‘n was workin’ on five different methods of enrichin’ uranium for a bomb. (Yarrr, more grog, wench!) The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities o’ uranium from Africa. (Aaaarrrhhh!!!) Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. (Be ye ready to walk the plank?) Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. (Aaarrhhh, me parrot!) He clearly has much t’ hide. (Yaaarrrr!)

Some have said we must not act until the threat be imminent. (Yarrr, more grog, wench!) Since when have terrorists ‘n tyrants announced their intentions, politely puttin’ us on notice before they strike? (Aaaarrrhhh!!!) If this threat be permitted to fully ‘n suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, ‘n all recriminations would come too late. (The chase is making full sail, matey!) Trustin’ in the sanity and restraint o’ Saddam Hussein be not a strategy, ‘n it be not an option. (Shiver me timbers!) (Applause.)


For something more fun after that doom-and-gloom post, here’s Popular Science with a list of 18 Worst Jobs in Science. #10 is “postdoc”. Well, if I don’t want to do it I can always go to Wall Street, make lots more money than I would as a physicist, and become a Republican. Speaking of Republicans, note that the symbol for “Political Quagmire” in that link is an elephant. It’s funny because it’s true.


I read two opinion pieces about Howard Dean last night: “Republicans for Dean” by David Brooks in the NY Times, and “If Not Dean, Who?” by Richard Blow on As you might guess, they make opposite arguments; if Brooks is right, Dean’s nomination will lead to an easy victory for Bush in 2004, and if Blow is right, the nomination of anyone besides Dean will hand Bush another term. I am thinking that both are basically correct in that neither Dean nor anyone else can defeat Bush in 2004. I’ll say more about that, but first I have a few questions about the Brooks piece.

I called eight of the best G.O.P. pollsters and strategists,” he writes. Why GOP pollsters? Well, I suppose you don’t want to ask a pollster in the employ of, say, the John Kerry campaign, since you can perhaps expect a “Of course Dean is unelectable; now Kerry on the other hand…” regardless of the facts. But, it seems to me that this Vizzini-esque worry applies equally to GOP pollsters. If Howard Dean is the one they’re really worried about, why wouldn’t they say something like, “Dean could never beat Bush, so the Dems would be making a big mistake if they nominated him. [nervous laughter]” Why not ask some more apolitical pollsters or political scientists, if such animals exist? Probably because Brooks already had the phone numbers for the GOP guys.

Brooks does have some unusual theories here, like, “Democrats are behaving suicidally by not embracing what you might, even after yesterday’s court decision, call the Schwarzenegger Option: supporting a candidate so ideologically amorphous that he can appeal to these swingers.” What, Democrats aren’t ideologically amorphous enough? Everybody was saying back at the midterms that the problem with the Dems is that they don’t stand for anything, but Brooks thinks they should stand for even less. Interesting.

A final comment on Brooks, leading into why I think Bush is unbeatable: “George Bush makes many liberal Democrats froth at the mouth, but he does not have this effect on most independents.” This is certainly true. The question is, why not? This administration is very right-wing and it’s hard to believe that moderates approve of their ideology. Part of the problem is that the administration lies about what they’re doing (and the media doesn’t call them on it).

Here’s perhaps the most stunning example. 69 percent of Americans believe that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks, despite the fact that there is not one single shred of evidence to support this (and this is certainly not for lack of searching on the administration’s part). Dick Cheney goes on Meet the Press and is asked about this by Tim Russert. He proceeds to list off a bunch of bogus, discredited “links” between Saddam and Al Qaeda. Cheney is flat out lying here when he says his story has not been discredited, and Russert gives him a pass on it.

Now, I know that Americans are internationally notorious for believing in things for which there is no evidence. But given our history, I would have hoped for a little less trust in authority. The relevance to the 2004 election? If the Bush administration has enough power over the minds of 69% of Americans to convince them of a totally unsubtantiated claim like this, how can any opponent hope to compete? Why wouldn’t they be able to convince people that “[Democratic candidate] will be bad for the economy/homeland security/whatever?”

The thing about Howard Dean is that he’s the candidate least hesitant to stand up and point out that Bush is lying to us. Unfortunately, we’re told that the swing voters are like the kid in the Twilight Zone episode; they don’t like those Negative Nellys with their bad thoughts. So if the candidate doesn’t fight, Bush gets away with his lies (because it’s not like the “liberal media” are going to call him on it), and if the candidate does try to let the voters know they’re being deceived, he’s being “negative”. This problem seems intractable to me.

And that’s just the swing voters. The Democrats also have to get out their base, because we know Bush’s will be at the polls – let’s not forget that many of them actually believe he was chosen by God to be president. There’s no way the Democratic base is going to turn out for, say, Lieberman. This is more or less the point Blow is making in the piece. Bush is inspirational to his supporters (somehow, despite the smirk and the inability to speak coherent English), so his opponent won’t be able to compete without also being able to inspire people. It seems to me that Dean fits this criterion more than anyone else.


So my sample ballot arrived in the mail on Friday. Other counties use these newfangled touch-screen voting systems (of dubious security), but here in Contra Costa we use the good old “blacken the oval that appears next to your choice” method. As a Plastic headline writer noted, “That’s no butterfly – that’s a Mothra ballot.” I was impressed that they were able to fit the sample ballot on a single sheet of paper. Both sides of an 11×17 sheet of paper, but a single sheet nonetheless. (Contra Costa posts the sample ballots on their website, so once they put it up I can link to the pdf.)

Undecided? You can take this quiz which will match a major candidate to your issue positions. It’s not perfect, though; it gave me a 99% match to Arianna Huffington. (This is because it was not asking the right questions.) I also had a 100% match to Peter Camejo, the Green party candidate and my choice in 2002 by process of elimination. I wouldn’t mind voting for him again, except that splitting the vote in such a crowded and close race is not a particularly good idea, as many Nader-in-2000 voters have figured out by now. This probably means I’m voting for the unimpressive Cruz Bustamante (81% match), unless I change my mind at the last minute and vote for Warren Buffet. Oops, I mean the unimpressive Arnold Schwartzenegger (21% match, apologies to the many out-of-state Arnold fans in my readership).

Going back to Arianna momentarily, she lists on the ballot as her occupation “Author/Columnist/Mother”. I wasn’t going to vote for her, but then I read on the ballot that she has a functioning uterus! This changes everything! (There’s also a “Father” and a “Parent” to be found on the ballot. Why they think voters consider working reproductive organs to be an important qualification for governor, I have no idea.) Disappointingly, Larry Flynt describes himself as a “Publisher” rather than something more colorful. Then there’s the guy listed as a “Used Car Dealer”. I guess politics is a natural transition for him. And if I get desperate, I can vote for the candidate with the most interesting occupation: Kurt E. “Tachikaze” Rightmyer, the only middleweight sumo wrestler on the ballot.

Or maybe I’ll vote for an action star after all. Not Arnold, though – after seeing the Kill Bill trailer, I’m going to write in Uma Thurman. She clearly has what it takes to govern this state: kung fu and samurai swords.


I have that autumn evening feeling. When night falls earlier in the day, I get the same feeling I do when I sleep too late and miss most of the sunlight. An uneasy, disconnected sense. Meanwhile the fog comes in and the cold autumn air seeps through the windows. I’m hungry and should take care of dinner, but all I feel like doing is crawling under a blanket and falling asleep. To top it all off I have stuck in my head Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, Warren Zevon’s version from his final album.

I don’t get lonely much but this usually does it.

I have a CA recall update to make, but I’ll do that after dinner.


Something I wanted to mention in my previous post (but didn’t have all the info): Edward Teller was on the faculty at the Berkeley physics department from 1953 to 1974. In fact his name is still on the directory in my building. Appropriately, he used to teach a course which is now called “Physics for Future Presidents”.


Edward Teller, a physicist who played a central role in the development of the hydrogen bomb and the creation of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, died today. Registered NYTimes users can read a slightly more in-depth article here. He was not held in high opinion in the physics community, in part because of his smearing of Robert Oppenheimer which led to the revokal of the latter’s security clearance. He was also said to be the inspiration for the character of Dr. Strangelove.