Riba Rambles:
Musings of a Mental Magpie

About the author: Elisabeth in early 2007, photo by Todd Belf
Elisabeth "Lis" Riba is an infovore with an MLS. This is her place to share whatever's on her mind, on topics both personal and political. [more]
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Friday, May 09, 2003
When's my eclipse?
Posted by Lis Riba at 12:32 PM

If you haven't heard, there will be a total lunar eclipse on May 15-16. The U.S. Naval Observatory has very generously provided a website in which you can enter your locale and it will tell you what times and locations to look. Pretty cool! [As seen on Hesiod]

Thursday, May 08, 2003
It's not easy being brief
Posted by Lis Riba at 10:10 AM

Quick note about something that's making it all around the liberal blogosphere: Congressional Democrats have noticed and are starting to speak out against Bush's stunt on the carrier. You simply must read Robert Byrd's speech -- what an orator! And Rep. Waxman has asked for a full accounting of the costs. I saw it first on Body and Soul, but lots of places have the story. This morning's Washington Post says that keeping the carrier at sea for an extra day was almost a million dollars alone. [See The Forest has reproduced the House Appropriations Committee document.]

BTW, here at work, I don't have my bookmark list (well, I can and do access my Links page, but its not the same as my very-customized copy of Opera at home. I also don't have the same time to browse the blogs, but I've discovered a few must-visit that I check regularly. Since I no longer have the time to post so much about them, I thought I should share the best news blogs with you, so you can check them yourselves.

My number one, must-see, frequently-updated site is Atrios. Lots of breaking news, good sensayuma. Very worthwhile. After that comes Hesiod, DailyKos, TalkLeft, Thinking it Through, and CalPundit. Talking Points Memo, Body and Soul, Digby and the Sideshow are all excellent writers, with a bit more depth (and requiring a bit more time to read) but they don't update as often. And I'm sure I'll think of more sites after I post this, but them's the breaks.

Couple teeny tidbits:

Three great quotes:

From Avedon:
I am tired of calling them Tax Cuts when they really are deficit hikes.
From a letter in today's NYTimes:
These articles, along with simple arithmetic, help illuminate the deception in the term "tax cut." What's really going on? It's tax shifting from federal to state, from state to town, from wealthy to middle class and from healthy to sick.
From South Knox Bubba, one by Carol Mosely Brown:
It was the black vote that decided the 2000 election - Clarence Thomas'.

Oh, and Salon has been providing lengthy excerpts from former Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal's new book, The Clinton Wars. They're long but well-worth reading to help understand the whole Lewinsky scandal. Part 1 was posted on Monday, Part 2 on Tuesday, Part 3 yesterday, Part 4 today, and just extrapolating from the URLs, this should take you to Part 5 tomorrow. Fascinating and enthralling.


And, as usual, this post went on far longer than I originally intended. Toodle-pip!

Tuesday, May 06, 2003
Two bits on gender stereotypes
Posted by Lis Riba at 12:55 PM

Just want to share two quick links to stories I've seen over the last week with some interesting angles on gender and orientation issues: Ampersand has a fascinating essay about how the prejudices of the medical community have pathologized and enforced gender stereotypes for transsexuals who wanted reassignment surgery. I wonder to what extent these points are still valid today. And Sequential Tart compares three "flaming-queen comic-book characters", pointing out parallels between the oft-criticized Rawhide Kid and a popular independent comic.

Lots of stuff going on in the newsblogs I read and many things I'd like to share, but I don't have the time here at work. [At some point, I'll have to come up with a fresh "short-list" of what I'm reading.] For now, I'll be brief. It seems two articles in the NYTimes are sparking a lot of attention today: Nicholas Kristoff revelations of administration lies about Iraqi WMDs and Krugman on last week's "Top Gun" stunt. Both worth reading.

Okay, this sounds intriguing
Posted by Lis Riba at 10:25 AM

Has anybody heard of Blöödhag? I just received an email saying that Blöödhag, an 'edu-core' speed metal band, will be playing Thursday, May 8 from 4 to 6 pm at the Allston branch of the Boston Public Library. According to the BPL's website, "They are dedicated to the promotion of literacy in a Heavy Metal format. All their songs are short speed-metal bios of some of the greatest science fiction writers of all time." Their motto is: "the Faster You Go Deaf, The More time You Have To Read."

They certainly sound entertaining, but are they any good? Since I'm at work, I haven't really been able to look at the band's website, but they sound like the kind of thing my friends would know about/be interested in.

PS: As an addendum to an earlier post, all but one of the presentations given at It's Not Just Google Anymore: Blogs and the Latest in Search Engines are now posted to the web.

I feel released
Posted by Lis Riba at 8:55 AM

Although I still have to give a short presentation on it in next week's class, last night I finished and turned in my semester project in Subject Analysis. Whew! I also bought my cap, gown, hood and tassel. This led me, when I got home, to research the history and rules of academic regalia. It's an entire heraldric system, where an astute observer can tell your degree, field and school by just looking at the hood. Fascinating subject. I found the best info at this E.R. Moore site.

Monday, May 05, 2003
Hopelessly DeVoted
Posted by Lis Riba at 1:40 PM

Two fun and interesting tidbits on the 2004 election in this morning's news:

First of all, Fox has cancelled its planned reality show "American Candidate" which would let viewers choose a grass-roots political candidate. Howie Kurtz blames the cancellation on expense and low interest from advertisers, but given Fox's general sympathy and deference to the current Resident of the Oval Office, Ian wonders whether it was killed as a political favor.

More amusingly, the Bush candidacy is being bitten by its own dirty trick. Despite a gentleman's agreement that lasted for decades to end the party conventions before Labor Day, Bush's handlers have opted to hold the GOP Convention the first several days of September, so it can flow oh-so-naturally into the September 11th anniversary. Tasteful, huh?
Well, unfortunately the GOP has suddenly realized that this puts the nomination past several states' deadlines to appear on the ballot. Now, I'd heard that Alabama was having this problem, but they're Republican enough to have already submitted bills to change the rules for him. But Wampum reports that this is also an issue in California -- the largest state in the union. If the GOP can't work something out, Bush won't appear on the California ballot and would have to be a write-in candidate. They're now scrambling to find a workaround. But I'm smiling. As they reap, so shall they sow.

BTW, the title for this post comes from Hesiod's announcement that the studios are planning to film Grease 3, given the stunning success of the original sequel.


By the way, on a more personal note, I have finished my semester project, which is due this evening at 6 PM. I had trouble sorting out all the references and links surrounding Enron, so I left that entry a sticky tangled mess. Somehow that seemed rather appropriate, given the subject. :) Next Monday I have to give a 15 minute presentation to the class about my project, and that's all folks!

Brightening your morning
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:50 AM

I feel kinda bad for horrifying my friends so much with all the pessimistic bad news over the weekend. So here are a few tidbits on the lighter side:

  • Archaeologists believe they may have found the tomb of Gilgamesh. As in, 'The Epic of...'
  • If I haven't praised the Cambridge Public Library's science fiction collection, it certainly deserves it. Impressively thorough. Well, thank Donald York, who is retiring after 38 years of service.
  • How about the Top rejected logos from Google, a Photoshopping contest (via Spike)
    Other cool Photoshop contests include What if Fox News were around during other historical events? and Prehistoric magazines [In Nomine fans should check out this one.]
  • Be forewarned, this site uses Flash and plays from the soundtrack upon opening. The teaser website for the upcoming movie The Hebrew Hammer is up. It sounds goofy and could be real dumb, but I have to confess I'm kinda looking forward to this Jewish riff on the blaxploitation formulas
  • And when in doubt and you need a laugh, wander over to the Bad Pets lists. These have never failed to crack me up! [I will not chew the young human's homework. First, because no one believes him when he says his cat ate his homework. Second, because my human doesn't enjoy cleaning the pulpy mess I spit up when I'm done chewing on it.]

Hope that cheers you up this morning.

Sunday, May 04, 2003
The word for the day is Biblioclasm
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:35 PM

Today's Boston Globe taught me a new word that I hope won't be too often used: Biblioclasm, which means "destruction of books" and dates back to 1864. The word is used as the headline for an in-depth article on the destruction of the Baghdad libraries and its historical parallels. And, though I had been following the story fairly closely (I think I still have a list of links I never got around to blogging) I learned something else new:

The speed and ferocious efficiency of the fires could have been no accident. Books burn poorly; their immolation requires the concerted effort of expert arsonists, who must have tended the fires with all the care that a poet lavishes on his lines or a scholar showers on her references. The Wall Street Journal reported on April 28 that the arsonists may have used white phosphorus, a fast-burning substance favored by military forces disposing of paper documents.

PS: You can also learn some neat new (well, old but obsolete) words by looking in the OED for all terms beginning with biblio.

We procrastinate so you don't have to
Posted by Lis Riba at 3:30 PM

Can I just say that Weblogs.Com can be an insidious temptation for somebody who likes to stay current with the news and is trying to avoid an annoying assignment. Here are some of the big stories I've found in my wanderings, all in one convenient location so you can use your time more wisely:

  • Well, it looks like a few members of the mainstream media get it regarding the USS Abraham Lincoln. The Orange County Register lists some of the choreography and lies (via uggabugga). The Madison, WI Capital Times editorializes on Bush's use of the warship as "shameless exploitation" and "Karl Rove's propaganda machine"
  • And in the blogs, Liberal Oasis contrasts the attention this got compared to the coverage given to the Democratic debate and hopes the stunt will backfire. Via Avedon, Terminus spells out the probable media reaction had Clinton pulled something like this.
  • Speaking of lies, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen has publically woken up to the administration's bait and switch regarding Iraq. "First you wanted a war because of terrorism, then because Iraq had a nuclear program. Then you wanted a war because it has poison gas and little crawling things you can't see. Now you want to bring democracy to the Middle East. You know what we use to call this when I was in retail?"
  • At least ScrappleFace can find something to laugh about in all this:
    Failure to Find Saddam Proves He Never Existed
    (2003-05-03) -- Six weeks after the invasion of Iraq, Pentagon officials are quietly beginning to acknowledge that their failure to find Saddam Hussein may be proof that the Iraqi leader never existed.

    "We hate to admit it," said one unnamed official, "One of our main reasons for going in there was regime change. You know...overthrow a brutal dictator who tortured his own people. But at this point, we're not sure there ever was a Saddam Hussein. After all, if we don't have him dead or alive...who's to say?"

    The military official said that the statues, murals and videos of Saddam Hussein are "circumstantial evidence which don't prove anything."
  • Hopefully, by now you've heard about this story that the Defense Department team has found an Iraqi radioactive waste repository "heavily looted and said it was impossible to tell whether nuclear materials were missing." And this happened after we were already in control of those areas. Heretical Ideas is "livid"; Brad deLong calls it "too stupid and too incompetent." Wasn't one of our reasons for starting this whole mess to prevent precisely these problems?? Tom Spencer says this loss makes us less safe from terrorism. Point this out the next time somebody talks about Republicans being better than Democrats in matters of national security.
  • Experts from the British Museum have finally returned from Iraq, and are reported to be " horrified at the devastation." The Times of London also claims "Washington is preventing the Iraqi antiquities staff, the most experienced in the Middle East, from conducting their own audit of what they have lost." Emma has observed that many rightwingers seem to be in denial over this. How can we patch up our partisan differences if we can't even agree on basic facts?
  • Like his brother, Florida governor Jeb Bush is trying to destroy Florida's history by trying to close the state library and marginalizing social studies and history education in the public schools. Given my earlier post about right-wing efforts to roll back progress, maybe they're using Santayana as a roadmap.
  • According to Avedon, an official State Department report on global terrorism complains that Canada allows its citizens too much protection of their civil liberties! Although this sounded plausible, I wanted to confirm it, so found the actual document.
    Some US law-enforcement officers have expressed concern that Canadian privacy laws ... inhibit a fuller and more timely exchange of information and response to requests for assistance. Also, Canadian laws and regulations intended to protect Canadian citizens and landed immigrants from Government intrusion sometimes limit the depth of investigations.
    Maybe our government needs to learn a bit more about what our Founding Fathers were fighting for.
  • Speaking of which, Peter Stone, who wrote the book to 1776 (one of my favorite musicals) died last week.
  • For ironic humor, take a look at this quote from the middle of a sports column (as discovered by Orcinus):
    The coaching profession should take notice: Grown-ups are running this country again. Whether you like the fact or not, people such as Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney are in charge, responsibility is the new chic and there is extremely low public tolerance for overserved boyish high jinks from people who are paid to be leaders.
    Think about all the evasions and excuses I've been describing in this and previous posts and ask yourself who in the administration has actually demonstrated a willingness to accept responsibility? PLA addressed this question in a series of links back in February. He talked about Bush's promise for the Responsibility Era and how it's played out in foreign policy, The 9/11 investigations, balanced budgets and funding for homeland security. The brief conclusion? To the Bush administration, responsibility for problems belongs to either Clinton or Congress.
    Isn't it convenient to know who your scapegoats are?
  • Oh, and another if you haven't heard. The Bush administration keeps finding new ways to obstruct the commission investigating 9/11. Not only won't they release material the commission has been asking for, they've reclassified previously public documents! What are they trying to hide? And again, who says the GOP is the beter party for protecting our national security? Protecting their job security, maybe.

Anyway, there's lots more that I could post, but I probably shouldn't at the moment. I've been gathering more links on strategy advice so we can win the country back from the extreme right in 2004, but I'll save those for later. And now, back to my homework. Maybe I'll also unplug my network connection while I'm at it.

Ew! (and other outrages in the morning news)
Posted by Lis Riba at 11:30 AM

Today's Boston Globe reports "When the House Committee on Ways and Means released its proposed higher education budget late last month, almost every line item was reduced, but one simply vanished. State funding for public college and university library materials, budgeted at $5 million in fiscal 2002 and $1.2 million in fiscal 2003, would be zeroed out next year under the House plan, meaning that schools could only buy books and magazines with their main operating budgets. School libraries have already been hit hard, forced to limit hours and cancel hundreds of subscriptions."

You know, before higher education was more affordable to the masses, people used quality libraries like the Athenaeum as means of educating. Once again, we're shooting our society in the foot. A letter in today's New York Times notes: "It's a sad day when you can say that Tammany Hall was more committed to schools and children than our present state, local and federal governments. Makes you wonder what the real definition of corruption is."

Speaking of the economy, DailyKos has more on the Bush administration's job record. Matt Yglesias tries to predict the probable spin, and Stephen Charest has an excellent article on how those numbers translate to real people.

This morning's Washington Post has a great quote that deserves repeating, but probably won't be: Bruce Katz, director of urban and metropolitan studies for the Brookings Institution, has charted decades of federal urban policy. "The Bush administration is fundamentally indifferent to the fiscal crisis of the cities and states."

Meanwhile, the big story in the blogosphere is Bill Bennett's gambling. For those who don't understand why some folks consider this a big deal, It's the hypocrisy, stupid! How many of the rightwingers' defenses of Bennett's gambling -- it's his own business, it's private, it's harmless, legal and only involves consenting adults -- also apply to other "offenses" that these people roundly condemn? <cough Santorum> More on this from Atrios, Atrios, Drum and Spencer (doesn't that sound like a law firm?). Marshall makes a slightly tangential point, noting that Bennett was one of the ones who made personal foibles into political fodder, so he's directly reaping what he sowed. Tom Tomorrow also raises this point.

And oh, look, he actually has broken the law! [More on this aspect from This Modern World.] And Tom Tomorrow also points out that Bennett's organization has criticized gambling, making the hypocrisy charge even more potentially adhesive.

While we're on the subject, remember all the outrage of the expense and inconvenience when Bill Clinton allegedly delayed Air Force One for a haircut? Where's the outrage over Bush taking an unnecessary jet flight to an aircraft carrier that was within helicopter range and delaying the sailors homecoming for a photo op? TAPPED has the details. [Wyethwire quotes Senator Hollings as saying "I saw President Bush on that aircraft carrier in the Pacific yesterday. Incidentally, that's the closest he's ever got to the War in Vietnam." But I digress.]

This administration seems to lie reflexively to the press about everything. They hardly even bother to pretend anymore. But they're never called on it by the mainstream press. I rarely hear these things outside the blogosphere. No wonder people are getting fed up with the regular news sources nowadays. [TalkLeft shares a different reason for disgust with the mainstream media, and how current sensationalistic coverage is destroying the innocent and undermining Constitutional protections.]

Finally, I want to close with this must-read essay by Zizka. Really really worth reading, and says a lot of stuff that needs to be said if we're to reclaim this country from the right wing control in 2004.

[This post originally written at 9am, but posting was delayed due to problems at blogger.com.]

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