Saturday, September 25, 2004

Why The Presidential Debates Suck

If you go to the PBS Now site, you can download the Memorandum of Understanding on the Debates between the two parties. Everything, right to the camera angles and the pens and paper the candidates will be using, has been agreed upon by the two parties.

The cameras are not allowed to show the audience members to the debate (mostly hand-picked by the two parties) except at the very beginning and very beginning of the debate.

The candidates (by agreement amongst themselves) aren't allowed to address eac other or ask each other questions. (If they do, the moderator is required to stop them.)

The moderator must brief the candidates in advance on the questions he will ask each of them, and apparently isn't allowed to ask follow-up questions or change the questions in response to what the candidates have said. Questions are strictly limited to narrow topics pre-agreed by the two candidates.

Since the cameras can't show any audience members (who must all agree to be completely quiet or be expelled without the cameras showing it), and are limited to pre-agreed angles of the two candidates and the moderator has to stick to questions prepared in advance, the most exciting thing that can happen is if the moderator makes a comical gesture.

Remember the first 2000 debate between Gore and Bush, in which the candidates seemed to do nothing but agree, and Bush called it "a great big love fest"?

Well, I think Jim Lehrer (who will be the moderator again for the first debate) was miniced on Saturday Night Live when Bush said something rediculous and he gave Bush a quizically look in return.

The ratings will stink, suffice it to say.

Will Global Warming and the resultinng Monster Storms be addressed in October 5th, which takes place in Miami, Florida? Nope. The candidates agreed the topic would be homeland security, and Jim Lehrer has agreed to immediately stop them if they even try to talk about other issues. The best one can hope is a tangential mention of Global Warming. Like, maybe, it's nice we're talking about Terrorism today, but Pentagon top planners have concluded that the geo-political instability resulting from the several Global climate change is actually a bigger threat, something we're witnessing in Florida right now as I write this.

The only debate I can recommend watching might be the October 8 debate, when the candidates will be asked questions from the audience members. Again, however, they won't be allowed to address each other or ask each other questions, so it will resemble a bi-partisan press conference more than a debate.

You'd think that, with the Republicans controlling all branches of the federal government, and the incompetent way they have been running the war (are they planning to bring back the draft so they can invade Iran? Sounds like it.) the huge budget deficits (the latter not a topic), the monster storms following the Republican's rejection of Kyoto, and everything else that's been going wrong, Kerry and the Democrats might be interested in shaking things up.

Apparently not so. Being a Democrat in Washington still can earn one a comfortable living, especially by providing those extremely lucrative lobbyist jobs for one's relatives. They're not too anxious to rock the boat.

We need to go back to the League of Women Voters debates. There's nothing like an uppidity suffragett to really shake things up. And in the past they did just that during the debates. Remember the debates before 1988, with the tough questions being asked by those bitchy women journalists? (Where's Babwah Walwahs when we need her?) And the wild far-right and far-left candidates they would invite to shake things up?

I'm so impressed, I think I'll become a card-carrying member of the League of Women Voters myself. That way, I'll be a League of Woman Voter, but just a voter rather than a woman voter. (I hear the Y chromosome is chronically underrepresented in their organization. At least I'll get lots of attention.... >:->).

Open Debates, which has a petition to sign if you're unhappy with the current, silly debate formats. The group has a long list of well-known supporting political groups on both sides of the political equation.

Hurricane spin machine

Well, the Republicans have already spun the Florida Hurricanes (and Ivan's 2nd coming) to their advantage, as expected. Had one or more Hurricanes suddenly changed course and headed out to sea, you can bet preacher Pat Robertson, founding of the Republican Christian Coalition and key Bush voter getter, would have explained that this was somehow an indication of divine favor for the Bushes. (He based his own earlier run for the Presidency on just such a sudden change of direction by a hurricane). They hurricanes hit Florida, so now the Republican spin machine has come up with other reasons why the hurricanes will be good politically for the Bushes. (Of course, there not, by any stretch of the imagination.)

In a Reuters article, the Republicans site the hurricanes as resulting in endless photo ops for the Bushes, and endless opportunities for the incumbent president to fly around the country promising billions in federal aid to hard-hit areas (which may, or may not, actually be delivered when the time comes.) Supposedly really good politically Bush.

Well, maybe not. Some political scientists have found that voters tend to vote against incumbents and incumbent parties in unusually inclimate years. They blame Gore's loss to Bush on an unusually inclimate 2000, Wilson's loss in the 1910s to shark attacks along the Eastern coast etc. (It was felt that the Democrats weren't doing enough to help weather victimes in both cases).

The Republicans say their sensitive to this, pointing out their own suspicions that King George I may have lost against Clinton in 1992 because it was felt King George I was not doing enough to help victims of Hurricane Andrew. They hope that by having George II flying about the country like mad promising billions in federal aid (which might, or might not, ever be handed out) will avoid the problems that George I had.

Most models show the economy may actually be more important. But newsmedia reports show the large number of hurricanes hitting Florida (five named systems and four hurricanes so far this year) are actually going to have an immediate negative impact on the US economy. It's already interrupted oil production in the Gulf, which has caused global oil prices to jump (despite George II's opening of the Strategic Oil Reserve this week). Higher oil prices usually mean inflatation, and in turn, will likely mean higher interest rates and will mean making a slow economy slower.

Of course, the Bush brothers are, in their own way, responsible for the wind and monster waves now battering the coast of Florida as I write this. George II is notorious in Europe for killing the Kyoto Global Climate Change Treaty, one of the few pathethic attempts by humanity to stop the severe Global Climate Change responsible for these monster storms.

Even experts in the Pentagon have private advised Bush is worried that severe economic problems caused by Global Climate Change could affect geo-political stability and international balance of power. Ultimately, some Pentagon advisers have concluded privately that Global Climate Change (as demonstrated by the monster storms in Florida) is a bigger threat than terrorism. (In economic terms, the storms did more damage in Florida than Osama bin Laden ever did in NYC.)

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Ivan Now Headed for Crawford (or more Hurricane Augery)

After devasting the panhandle of Florida, Hurricane Ivan has now regenerated itself over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico as a Tropical Depression. The National Weather Service is predicting that, within the next 48 hours, the storm will strengthen to a Tropical Storm and is headed straight for ... Crawford, Texas. (No joke, official map as 5PM EDT on Wednesday, Sept 22. Hurricane prediction is a difficult science, and the maps are changed twice daily. Still, prediction with 48 hours is fairly accurate, and it seems that the probability that the storm will eventually strike Texas is currently projected at greater than 30%, and their best guess as to the trajectory is that it will indeed make a bee-line for Crawford.)

Keep in mind that, between 1970 and 1994, there were only two named storm systems per year. Due to global warming, however, there are more than 15 projected for this year, Ivan being the third storm in just a few weeks to devastate Jeb Bush's Texas. The storm has regenerated, and now seems determined to do damage in the state heavily associated with the other Bush brother.

[If Ivan isn't enough for you, there is also Hurricane Jeanne, which is very likely headed back to Florida, although the NWS currently thinks it will suddenly change direction and most likely strike the U.S. further north. It's still several days off, and the NWS will probably have a better idea later in the week if and when Hurricane Jeanne will strike the U.S. The storm has already killed 700 people on various islands in the region. If it strikes Florida --- well within the realm of possibility according to NWS --- it would be the fourth hurricane in just a month to hit Jeb Bush's state].

Years ago, of course, humanity used chicken bones cracked in fire and tea leaves to augery. The idea was simple: you (or an enterprising con-man/delusion maniac) stared at the cracked chicken bones (or birds circulated in the air of what have you) until you went daffy, and then utter some prophetic-sounding platitude.

Today, thanks to modern satellite technology, we can hurricane trajectories to chicken bones, tea leaves, and other techniques of augery. Instead of trying to use patterns in tea leaves, or the cracks in bones exploded in the heat of a campfire, you can stare at hurricane trajectories until you go daffy and start to believe these things actually mean something.

I haven't stared at hurricane trajectories long enough to go daffy, so I can't claim to be an expert in hurricane augery. I leave hurricane augery and prophesy to the Republicans, who have experts like Pat Robertson, that believed that the "sudden" change in hurricane's trajectory (as if hurricanes weren't known for suddenly changing direction) was God's way of telling him to run for president of the United States.

Let's see. Prior to global warming, only two named storms (hurricanes, etc.) per year between 1970 and 1994.

This year, three hurricanes completely devastate Jeb Bush's Florida (known for vote fraud back in 2000 that lead an apathetic president to lose the World Trade Center in 2001 and then use his own incompetence as an excuse to unlease rivers of blood in 2002), and there's at least a fourth one maybe on its way, with several other systems looming out there.

And then Ivan, after mainly devasting Florida, is now projected to make a bee-line for Crawford, TX.

As I said, I leave hurricane augery and other forms of mumbo-jumbo voodoo to Republican experts like Pat Robertson, who've done it before and maybe can make some sense of it all.

Could it be that God is once again trying to send a message to the Republicans? Like, maybe, he doesn't want the Republicans to win this year, and doesn't want any more of that Republican vote-fixing in Florida like reportedly happened their in 2000 (and, like, they are reportedly trying again)?

Could it be that supposedly God-fearing George W. Bush is actually a little hard of hearing, which is why it's taken several hurricanes?

Of course, if it really were God (and that's a big if), couldn't God just use other means to cause the Republicans to lose? I mean, why the hurricanes? Why the messages with hurricanes? I know, maybe He's trying to underscore the point that Global Climate Change is real (even if Bush and his oil-buddy friends like to deny it). But, you'd think God could use subtler and more effective techniques to achieve these aims then trying to get a message through to George W. Bush, who's famously not the sharpest knife in the drawer, and reportedly likes being loyal to his crooked friends down in Texas and Florida, even when hurricanes are repeately bearing down on them.

The only way to confirm our suspicions that God was behind the hurricanes was to ask God Himself. God is reportedly notoriously camera shy, and reportedly has never granted an interview with the media, so we realize an interview with God would be a true journalistic scoop for DFW, and would probably make us even more famous and respected than Dan Rather or CBS News.

However, God has, reportedly, given interviews to delusional madmen and reportedly used various spurious spokespersons from time to time, although the credentials of many supposed spokespersons have historically been difficult and often impossible to authentic. It has been claimed that some supposed spokespersons have used forged credentials, and these supposed forgeries have remained even more controversial throughout the millenia than even the CBS forgeries, or the forged uranium Iraq documents the Bush Administration used to justify the Iraq war to the American people. Since DFW could not satisfactorily verify the authenticity of a number of supposed spokespersons living today, the only acceptable journalist standard for the inclusion of statements from such "authorities" in our report, DFW decided it could not use any such statements or pronouncements.

Instead, DFW attempted to contact God directly for this report.

God did not immediately return our messages. ;-)

Friday, September 17, 2004

Mozilla Firefox: The Browser Wars are Back

Last night I installed Mozilla Firefox. Finally someone's developed a browser that's better and more feature-rich than Internet Explorer (IE). The Mozilla folks has been around and putting out browsers for a while (it started when Netscape donated their source code to the open source project), and they haven't been plagued with the constant stream of security problems that afflicts Microsoft IE. (Just this week Microsoft put out a patch for the JPEG vulnerability in IE, which could let hackers take over your computer just by visiting a web site with a compromised JPEG image on it.)

Installation was a breeze. There are literally hundreds of plugins already available off Mozilla's website, which can be installed with the click of the mouse to further expand FireFox's already rich feature-set.

Particularily notable for blog readers are the "live bookmarks" that support RSS.

If you view DFW in Mozilla Firefox, an "RSS" icon appears at the bottom of the page, indicating that Firefox has auto-detected the RSS feed for my blog. You can add this RSS feed as a "live bookmark" to your set of bookmarks, and then move back and forth between Firefox's built-in RSS Reader and the actual blog webpages. (Which is incredibly useful, since RSS feeds typically only cover summaries of the most recent items on a blog.) Cool.

It has the history tool of IE that's been lacking in past Mozilla and Netscape browsers, as well as the cookie and pop-up privacy-management tools that I really like in Netscape and earlier Mozilla versions. Tools like the Google toolbar (easily customizable additional search engines) are built directly into Firefox. If that's enough features for you, go check out the plug-in library.

The mail reader part of Netscape and Mozilla has been made into an optional plug-in (Thunderbird), so you can install and check-out Firefox before installing its optional mail-reader.

With apparently better security and an extremely rich feature-set, it looks like Mozilla has finally built a better browser with Firebox and Thunderbird. It's no wonder that it's been steady stealing market share away from IE in recent months.