Thursday, June 23, 2005

Bill Frist moves from strength to strength

2005 has offered an impressive string of fumbles from Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. First was his shameful Senate-floor "diagnosis" of Terry Schaivo, his medical judgement informed by years of practice and a few minutes of videotape. Since then, he has been a prominently ineffectual leader in the Senate. He pushed for the "nuclear option" to eliminate filibusters of judicial nominees, only to be outflanked by the bipartisan group of 14 centrists who found a compromise. (Can you really be "outflanked" from the center?) This week, he said that there were no options left to get a confirmation floor vote for John Bolton. Or that was what he said until he went to talk with the President. Afterwards, he was all for the up-or-down vote again.

In general, it can be uncomfortable to watch someone flailing in ineptitude. The observer might wish that the unfortunate would catch a break, or even stop trying. But in Frist's case, it's just funny. His bold stands and maneuvers are for his own ends, designed to demonstrate to the true faithful of the GOP that he's their man for 2008. What he's really showing is no political acumen and consistently poor judgement. He's got the rope, and he seems hard at work on making a noose of it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

PR challenge du jour

From The Economist, June 18, 2005:

"Microsoft agreed to block the words 'democracy' and 'freedom' on its new internet portal in China. The company claimed that it was acting in accordance with its principle of respecting local laws."

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

I'm glad I don't pay Virginia taxes

This is so for more than the general reason.

On NPR this afternoon, I heard that the Virginia DOT has just completed a groundbreaking, year-long study, involving real-time, in-car monitoring of over 100 drivers. The results of this cutting edge research? Leading causes of accidents and near-accidents are - wait for it - drivers talking on the phone, talking with passengers, and being drowsy.

Surely there was no better use for that money and time than to expand the frontiers of human knowledge thusly.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Batman Begins... and is rad

Kerry and I saw Batman Begins last night. (I'm still not sure how we managed to just roll up and get tickets for 9:15 on opening Friday.) It was wonderful. I remember how, when the Tim Burton/Michael Keaton Batman came out in 1989, much was made of its darkness, inspired by Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. And so it was dark, certainly compared to Adam West, et al. Batman Begins goes even further in that gritty, realist view of Batman. It is a hard, and not a happy story, of how Bruce Wayne goes from seeing his parents killed to fighting crime. The movie also gives depth and character to how Bruce Wayne fights crime. He's not just beating guys up while wearing a costume; he's taking them on as an elemental of the night. There's a difference (which, for all the kicking and punching, leaves no room for "POW!" and "BLAT!"). But the script still shows that, for Batman's obsession with justice and order, he's not a sociopath.

Christian Bale is a brilliant Batman/Bruce Wayne. The rest of the loaded cast (Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, some dude you've never heard of as Dr Jonathan Crane) delivers, as well. Even Katie Holmes, whom many reviewers have been poor-mouthing for gold-digging on Tom Cruise - I mean, being too young and fresh-faced to be a hard charger in the DA's office - does a fine job.

Batman Begins is wholly entertaining and smart. (There are as few calls for suspension of disbelief as you'll find in a superhero/action-adventure flick.) Top notch.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it

Not so.

From The Economist, June 9, 2005

Anti-hurricane technology

How can you slow down a hurricane? Moshe Alamaro, a scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has a plan. Just as setting small, controlled fires can stop forest fires by robbing them of fuel, he proposes the creation of small, man-made tropical cyclones to cool the ocean and rob big, natural hurricanes of their source of energy. His scheme, devised with German and Russian weather scientists and presented at a weather-modification conference in April, involves a chain of offshore barges adorned with upward-facing jet engines. Each barge creates an updraft, causing water to evaporate from the ocean's surface and reducing its temperature. The resulting tropical storms travel towards the shore but dissipate harmlessly. Dr Alamaro reckons that protecting Central America and the southern United States from hurricanes would cost less than $1 billion a year. Most of the cost would be fuel: large jet engines, he observes, are abundant in the graveyards of American and Soviet long-range bombers.
Visit The Economist website for a picture of the hypothetical barge.

On the arrest of Chancellor Palpatine, the rule of law, and liberty

Note: If you're really afraid of spoilers for Star Wars: Episode III, read on. There's nothing significant in here.

If my memory serves, the Jedi Council sent Mace Windu to arrest Chancellor Palpatine on suspicion of being a Sith. Was there a law of the Republic against Sithery?

  • If not, it certainly casts a shadow on the Jedi as "protectors of the Old Republic". Just what were they trying to protect: the notion of the Republic created within their unelected, secretive body?

  • If so, it was a disturbing measure of illiberalism for the Republic. Was it illegal for anybody to channel anger and fear into accomplishment and power, or were those emotions illegal only when used to engineer a faux civil war?

Saturday, June 04, 2005

An inverse relationship

It seems that the more news I have, the less I post. For example, have I not written since 18 May because nothing has happened? Well, no.

  • I've graduated from SAIS with my master's in international relations, concentrating in energy and environmental policy. The most common question has been, "Does it feel good to be done?" Yes, I suppose. From before I started in August 2003, SAIS was inherently temporary, a transition to a new career. So I reckon it is good to finish, particularly since I do have a job (more below), but it's not with a strong sense of relief or elation.
  • A host of family came to visit us and attend my graduation. Beyond giving me a hearty and appreciated cheer at the ceremony on the 26th, they also did almost all the work the next day for a barbecue that, ostensibly, I was hosting. Thanks to all their efforts, we had a nice, long, relaxed afternoon, with visitors from SAIS, NR, and the hospital.
  • I made a quick trip up to Pennsylvania for my cousin Ken's 80th birthday. On the way back, I saw the Blue Angels flying over an air show.
  • Since last Tuesday, I've been on the project finance job. I'm really enjoying it. They had lots of work ready for me, which is my preferred way to start a gig. It also helps that I'm such a nerd that modeling finance in Excel seems great fun, and that I'm interested to read loan conditions over the weekend. (Not all weekend, mind you. Let's not be silly.)

So thanks for reading, particularly since I'd given you little reason to think it was even worth checking the blog.