The Weblog

August 2005 Archives

Priorities

Ouch.

HHH

I'm off bright and early--actually dark and early--Sunday morning to do the Hilly Hellacious Hundred. Who in their right mind could pass on the opportunity to do something called "hellacious," right?

If there is no activity on this blog for the next couple days, you might consider sending a search party to survey the ditches along the route and find me.

CNN's Meaningful Stuff

Say "No" To Base Closings

Knoxville Marathon Brings In Money

So they say:

An economic impact report by the University of Tennessee estimates that Knoxville reaped more than $400,000 from its first marathon in 30 years.

The study, prepared by the university's Retail, Hospitality and Tourism Management Department, estimates marathon participants living outside the area spent more than $255,000 in hotel stays, restaurants and transportation.

The math:
Total direct spending for the participants living outside a 50-mile radius of Knoxville was estimated at $255,483. The report used a 1.57 multiplier - provided by the Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corp. - to determine "the ripple effect" for every dollar spent, which resulted in the $401,108 total, Costello said.
For my part, I didn't spend on anything, other than the registration fee and the gas to get to the event. Guess I'm a "bad" half marathoner.

According to a survey, 78% indicate they will "absolutely" participate in a second marathon. There's a pretty good chance I will do so.

PR Stones

It extends to the grave:

Unlike earlier wars, nearly all Arlington National Cemetery gravestones for troops killed in Iraq or Afghanistan are inscribed with the slogan-like operation names the Pentagon selected to promote public support for the conflicts.

Families of fallen soldiers and Marines are being told they have the option to have the government-furnished headstones engraved with "Operation Enduring Freedom" or "Operation Iraqi Freedom" at no extra charge, whether they are buried in Arlington or elsewhere. A mock-up shown to many families includes the operation names.

The vast majority of military gravestones from other eras are inscribed with just the basic, required information: name, rank, military branch, date of death and, if applicable, the war and foreign country in which the person served.

I guess one of the benefits of never officially declaring a war is that a government gets to make up new rules along the way.

Now And Then

President Bush, on the "War on Terror":

Yesterday:

So long as I'm the President, we will stay, we will fight, and we will win the war on terror.
August, 2004:
When asked "Can we win?" the war on terror, Bush said, "I don't think you can win it. But I think you can create conditions so that the -- those who use terror as a tool are -- less acceptable in parts of the world."
I'm not sure how you define "winning" this so-called war, but I think Bush was closer to the mark the first time around. There's always going to be terrorists, especially now that we've stirred things up in the Middle East and Arabia. About the best thing we can do is to disrupt their organization and, through security measures, minimize the chance they will pull off a successful strike.

All this talk about "finishing jobs" and bringing everyone to justice [where's Osama?] is just a PR exercise.

Cemetery Desecration

Weird:

A 19-year-old man from Salisbury was supposed to be cleaning up a cemetery last week as part of court-ordered community work after he broke into an apartment building last fall.

Instead, officials said, Neil J. Goodwin Jr. invaded the tomb of a Civil War veteran, pulled apart the 142-year-old skeleton, and then played with the bones, balancing the skull on his shoulder and posing for pictures.

Apparently this type of thing isn't an isolated incident:
David L. Smith, president of the Civil War Round Table of Greater Boston, said crypt vandalism is becoming more common. The historical society is lobbying the state to strengthen laws involving vandalism of gravesites.

''It's a terrible thing, whether it is a Civil War soldier or not," Smith said. ''In effect, what this is is hurting someone who is already dead. . . . And if it is a soldier, then this shows a tremendous amount of disrespect for the people who have gone off to war and died for this country."

It's pretty bad when you can't trust people to behave in a graveyard.

Bush And The Light Bulb

Truth in humor:

How many members of the Bush administration does it take to change a light bulb?

1. One to deny that a light bulb needs to be changed;

2. One to attack the patriotism of anyone who says the light bulb needs to be changed;

3. One to blame Clinton for burning out the light bulb;

4. One to arrange the invasion of a country rumored to have a secret stockpile of light bulbs;

5. One to give a billion dollar no-bid contract to Halliburton for the new light bulb;

6. One to arrange a photograph of Bush, dressed as a janitor, standing on a step ladder under the banner: Light Bulb Change Accomplished;

7. One administration insider to resign and write a book documenting in detail how Bush was literally in the dark;

8. One to viciously smear #7;

9. One surrogate to campaign on TV and at rallies on how George Bush has had a strong light-bulb-changing policy all along;

10. And finally one to confuse Americans about the difference between screwing a light bulb and screwing the country.

Yep.

American Fattness On The Rise

According to a new report:

Adult obesity rates have risen significantly, from 15 percent in 19804 to 19.4 percent in 1997 to 24.5 percent in 2004. It should be noted that the federal government slightly lowered the threshold for what should be considered "overweight" and "obese" in 1998 to make it more reflective of maintaining good health, however, the trend of quickly rising levels of obesity are still very clear.
and
According to projections, 73 percent of American adults could be overweight (34 percent) or obese (39 percent) by 2008.
Tennessee is doing its part, ranking 5th with 25.6 percent of adults being obese. Interestingly, seven of the top ten fattest states are in the Southeast. Looks like it's a Southern thing.

High School Sex Education Needed

An Ohio mystery (emphasis added):

There are 490 female students at Timken High School, and 65 are pregnant, according to a recent report in the Canton Repository.

The article reported that some would say that movies, TV, videogames, lazy parents and lax discipline may all be to blame.

School officials are not sure they what has caused so many pregnancies, but in response to them, the school is launching a three-prong educational program to address pregnancy, prevention and parenting.

I believe the "school officials" should themselves enroll in the educational program if they believe TV or video games have caused the pregnancies.

Lost In Translation

The supposed Iraqi constitution is being written in English, then translated to Arabic? What in the world? No wonder no one seems to know where it stands. Even the First Vacationer seems a bit lost:

Q Sorry about that. Does the administration's goal -- I'll ask you about the Iraqi constitution. You said you're confident that it will honor the rights of women.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes.

Q If it's rooted in Islam, as it seems it will be, is that still -- is there still the possibility of honoring the rights of women?

THE PRESIDENT: I talked to Condi, and there is not -- as I understand it, the way the constitution is written is that women have got rights, inherent rights recognized in the constitution, and that the constitution talks about not "the religion," but "a religion." Twenty-five percent of the assembly is going to be women, which is a -- is embedded in the constitution.

At least Condi knows what's in it; perhaps she's doing the translating.

An alleged draft has been fed to the press. One doesn't have to read far before the questions begin to pile up:

Article Two

The political system is republican, parliamentary, democratic and federal.

1. Islam is a main source for legislation.

- a. No law may contradict Islamic standards.

- b. No law may contradict democratic standards.

- c. No law may contradict the essential rights and freedoms mentioned in this constitution.

2. This constitution guarantees the Islamic identity of the Iraqi people and guarantees all religious rights; all persons are free within their ideology and the practice of their ideological practices.

I don't know much about Islam, but I'd be very surprised if 1 (a) and (b) square with each other. First off, what are "democratic standards"? Even in this country, where we presumably have a tradition of striving toward such standards, is there a strong consensus that those would match "Christian standards"? You'd get a vastly different view on this depending on who you ask. Who decides? Are there clerics on the courts?

For now such questions will apparently wait, as the news media seems fixed on the federalism issue.

Blood For Oil

Apparently the culture of life is less important to a leading GOP "Christian conservative" than our culture of oil.

"A Quiet, Almost Colorless Man"

The Keith takes on Limbaugh.

Ouch.

Instant Constitution

We're less than an hour from the (second) deadline on the draft of the Iraqi constitution. And if an agreement has been reached, TV news is still unaware of it.

I know last-minute deals are quite common in some processes (e.g., labor contracts, legislation). But a national constitution? What kind of quick fixes can you make in an agreement of that magnitude?

Moreover, the way TV news has covered this the past few weeks leads me to conclude that either: (1) most reporters really don't have a keen grasp on what's going on in that country, or (2) they aren't giving us the straight scoop on what they do know.

UPDATE: Another Iraqi punt. And up until the annoucement, CNN didn't appear to know what was happening. Weird.

Things That Don't Look Very Easy

Mountain unicycling.

I suspect it would take me quite a while to learn how to unicycle on flat, smooth terrain, much less doing it off road.

T.V. News Needs More People Like Him

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CNN has a deal with Bob Costas where the latter guest hosts for Larry King. Why Costas is guest hosting for the dinosaur and not the other way around is a mystery in itself. King reminds me of one of those old college professors who maintains a faculty position simply because he has become a fixture on campus. Anyway, after reading this, I'm convinced that one of the news channels must hire Costas:

Costas, hired by CNN as an occasional fill-in on "Larry King Live," refused to anchor Thursday�s show because it was primarily about the Alabama teenager who went missing in Aruba. Chris Pixley filled in at the last minute.

"I didn�t think the subject matter of Thursday�s show was the kind of broadcast I should be doing," Costas said in a statement. "I suggested some alternatives but the producers preferred the topics they had chosen. I was fine with that, and respectfully declined to participate."

Bless him--if only more TV news hosts had the integrity to take such a stand. America would be a better place because of it.

Representative Duncan On Iraq

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It's not going to be a winner in '06:

"There is just no enthusiasm for this war," said Representative John J. Duncan Jr., a Tennessee Republican who opposes the war. "Nobody is happy about it. It certainly is not going to help Republican candidates, I can tell you that much."
I disagree with my representative on almost every issue. But you have to hand it to him for being consistent in his opposition to this war.

Cool As A Cucumber

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When I saw this I likewise thought it odd.

"Cold-blooded"--heh.

Compassionate Conservatism

It's such hard work. One can't be expected to put on the act all the time, can he?

Cool Restaurant Concept

Yum.

Someone should set up a franchise in Knoxville.

Standing Up For Iraq

Last night on Hardball with Chris Matthews they had on two women at President Bush's ranch who support the Iraq war--anti-Cindy Sheehans, if you will. One of them was apparently an Iraqi.

I thought it not a little suspicious that an Iraqi woman would just happen to be in Crawford, Texas, for this kind of thing. Then when I heard this, the staged protester alert really went off:

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this. How many years should the United States stay in Iraq and defend the side that you�re on?

LAMOTTE: I think when...

MATTHEWS: How many years?

LAMOTTE: I think when Iraqi people can be�stand up on their own, at that time.

Hmmm. When the Iraqi people stand up . . . the Americans will stand down. That sounds awfully familiar. Isn't it a real coincidence that an Iraqi just happened to use Bush's language?

Surprise! Turns out that the woman apparently isn't just your random Iraqi off the street.

FNC Viewers

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I think this offers a pretty good insight into the depth and interest level of the typical Fox News Channel viewer:

Van Susteren's "On the Record" has relentlessly followed the mysterious disappearance of 18-year-old Natalee Holloway of Alabama while on a graduation trip to Aruba in May.

Critics find it an obsession bordering on the bizarre, twisting traditional notions of news judgment and becoming Exhibit A in the media's fascination with missing people -- as long as they happen to be young, white, female and pretty.
. . .
She averaged nearly 2.2 million viewers a night in July, up 58 percent from the same period a year ago, according to Nielsen Media Research. CNN's Aaron Brown used to put up a tough fight in the time slot; now Van Susteren routinely triples his audience. She narrowly missed 3 million on July 26, her biggest audience this year.
. . .
With war and terrorism in the news, critics wonder how one missing person case can so dominate a news program. Even on the night President Bush nominated John Roberts to the U.S. Supreme Court, ''On the Record'' spent far more time on Holloway.

Her name came up 178 times during a computer search of "On the Record" transcripts from the past two months, only seven times for the same period on Keith Olbermann's "Countdown" on MSNBC. The count was 434 times for Fox's three prime-time news shows; 50 for CNN's.

Four hundred thirty-four times? And this count is at least a week old. From what I've seen, there hasn't even been any hard news to report on this case--just a bunch of suspicion and someone finding a missing belt [not even the victim's]. What can people possibly find interesting that's worth listening to the bobble heads speculate for hours about this story?

Leave it to Fox News to make a hero out of mother who's lost a child in Aruba, but a villain out of one who's lost hers in Iraq.

Worry Wart

The less enlightened among us might be lead to believe that President Bush's refusal to spend 5 minutes listening to Cindy Sheehan is a symptom of indifference. How quickly we forget:

And so, you know, I think about this every day, every single day, and will continue thinking about it, because I understand we've got kids in harm's way. And I worry about their families; and I obviously, any time there's a death, I grieve.
It may appear to you and I that Mr. Bush is spending his days fishing, biking, and attending fund raisers. What we don't see is that on the inside, our leader is grieving. He just finds it more compassionate to keep his feelings within, rather than sharing them with mourning relatives camped a mile away.

Police Officer Dies After 12-Mile Bike Ride

Tragic:

A highly honored 25-year-old D.C. police officer died yesterday after he apparently drank too much water Tuesday while training to use a bicycle on patrol, police officials said.

Doctors believe that hyponatremia, a sodium imbalance caused by drinking excessive amounts of fluid, most likely caused or contributed to the death of Officer James C. McBride, police officials said. McBride consumed as much as three gallons of water during and after the 12-mile training ride Tuesday morning, police said.

Three gallons? Last week I had a hard time drinking one gallon during and after a 24 mile ride; my stomach started hurting hurting. [I drank half of it after the ride--probably too much at once].

You can drink too much while exercising.

Caught

Not surprisingly, the saga of the fugitive couple has dominated local news the last couple days. Roane County isn't far from here; one of my bike rides goes from Farragut (West Knoxville) to the southeast corner of Roane.

[I was amused to hear one of the CNN guys refer to Roane as being "in the extreme eastern" corner of the state; there's over 100 miles of Tennessee east of Roane.]

Anyway, the capture of the fugitives illustrates once again that you don't have to be very bright to be a criminal. Note that if you are trying to elude capture by law enforcement, it's probably not a good idea to: (1) take a 100+ mile taxi ride; or (2) check into two hotels within a few hundred miles of the crime scene, when all the cable news channels are repeatedly showing your picture.

Of course you also have to question the mental soundness of someone who marries an inmate. But that's a separate issue.

RHR

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At last I have something tangible to show for my bicycle riding besides a depleted bank account.

I measured my resting heart rate today and it was 48--squarely within the "well-conditioned athletes" range. It's been a while since I last kept track of my RHR; I recall that historically it has hovered around 60. So this would be a notable improvement.

Still, it's 14 bpm above Lance Armstrong [see under "About Lance"/"Key Stats"], who is in the 32-34 range. Wow.

2,000 Miles

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At the beginning of 2005, one of my "resolutions" was to bicycle at least 2,000 miles this year.

I surpassed that on Friday.

Is 3,000 possible?

Faith-Based Loyalty

I guess you can say Mr. Bush looked deep into Rafael Palmeiro's heart, saw that it was good, so now we don't need any steroids testing.

Threatening Note

A Southwest Airlines plane gets diverted to Houston after a passenger finds a note with "threatening language."

Which makes me wonder: Does it make sense for someone intent on blowing up an airplane to place a note explaining his or her actions on said aircraft? Wouldn't you leave it where someone could read it afterwards? Seems to me that the primary suspect to leave such a note on a plane is a hoaxster, not a terrorist.

It Figures

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Rafael Palmerio's steroids brouhaha: it's Bill Clinton's fault!

VTP

The latest Volunteer Tailgate Party is up at Big Orange Michael.

4th Amendment Subway Tote Bag

Heh.

The Seasons

Ever have a hard time figuring out exactly what accounts for the four seasons?

This animation may make it a little easier to understand.

Sadly, summer is leaving us as we drift closer to the Autumnal equinox; evenings are getting shorter. Alas.

Paid Leave

This being president thing is hard work.

Ha ha:

"Spending time outside of Washington always gives the president a fresh perspective of what's on the minds of the American people," White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters Friday. "It's a time, really, for him to shed the coat and tie and meet with folks out in the heartland and hear what's on their minds."
I don't see that Mr. Bush will gain any better perspective regarding what's on the minds of the American people at his secure "ranch" than he will at the White House. What is he going to do? Host public barbecues and mingle with the commoners?

UPDATE: I'm glad Mr. Bush clarified things as he kicked off his month-long vacation:

"Make no mistake about it, we are at war."
Ironically, the person most likely to make that mistake would someone watching our commander-in-chief this month.

The Toll Rises

Thanks to our only negative mainstream news, I caught a passing reference to this.

Add to that the seven marines killed on Monday and we have 21 US soldiers thus far this week for which the "last throes" still had enough in the tank to bring their demise.

TONIGHT on MSCNNFOX: Where's Natalie: Day 88.

Not Friendly Yet

Knoxville is not on the League of American Bicyclists list of "Bicycle Friendly Communities." That's very surprising, given all the wide roads, bike paths/lanes, and bike racks around here. [Sarcasm alert.]