Goose the Blog 2.0

"Oh, ha! Sarcasm: The last refuge of sons of bitches!"


Do You Think They Use Charmin?

by Wendy at 1/26/2005 11:00:00 PM

I haven't actually watched this video, but the warning made me laugh out loud (see the item under the title Caught on Camera: Elephants Using Gigantic Toilets)

What's next? Chickens wearing tiny boxing gloves?

Edit to note: Too bad, the elephant link is gone. The chicken thing still cracks me up, though.

the speech Bush should have given

by John at 1/26/2005 01:19:00 PM

While were on the subject of revising language, Juan Cole gives us the speech he wishes the President had given in the Fall of 2002.

I wrote a similar, less well-written piece for this blog back in late May 2004 (I think), and then never published it. I called it:

somewhat disingenuous

Flashback: On April 20, Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of State, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He delivered testimony concerning the abysmal human rights record of Saddam Hussein and the progress that has been made in bringing freedom to the Iraqi people. He made no mention of weapons of mass destruction or Iraqi ties to terrorism. Senator Edward Kennedy called it "somewhat disingenuous" that he had neglected to discuss the Administration's primary motivations for going to war in Iraq.

A thought experiment: Imagine it is March, 2003. President Bush has just said, on prime-time TV, that he is going to war against Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein and the Ba'athist Party from power, in order to liberate the Iraqi people. He says that there are no WMDs. He says that there are no meaningful ties to al Qaeda and no convincing evidence Iraq has been involved in terrorist attacks against US interests. He says that the war and its aftermath will cost in excess of $200 billion and result in the loss of more than 1000 American soldiers, plus thousands of hands, arms, legs, eyes, and pieces of brain. The war will also cause the death of at least 10,000 Iraqi soldiers and 13,000 civilians. He says that a side effect of the war will be an increase in the number of international terrorist incidents linked to Islamic terrorist groups, a deepening of the distrust and hatred of the United States in the Islamic world, and the alienation of the international community. Further, he cannot promise a swift victory, a pro-American democratic Iraq, a stable Iraqi nation, or even an exit strategy for the eventual removal of American troops. All he can promise is the capture or death of Saddam Hussein, his sons, and the ruling elite of Iraq, and an end to some of the human rights abuses for which they are responsible.

Would you support this war?

Would you re-elect a President who prosecuted such a war?

If you were given $200 billion and the lives of 1000 soldiers, is this how you would make America safer?

(Aside: You should see my archive of unpublished rants, comments, and other stuff that never made it to the big show. For one reason or another, I keep just about everything I write. I suppose it is in case I need it one day. At the turn of the year, I toyed with the idea of just lumping them all into one approximately chronological block and posting the whole thing. Lucky for you I didn't!)

focus group tested

by John at 1/26/2005 12:51:00 PM

partial privatization...
partial privatization...
partial privatization...
partial privatization...
private accounts...
private accounts...
private accounts...
private accounts...
private accounts...
personal accounts...(<-- right now, we are here)
personal accounts...
personal accounts...
personal choice...
personal choice...
personal choice...
joy-joy fun choice...
joy-joy fun choice!


third annual scientific Oscar® picks

by John at 1/25/2005 04:12:00 PM

Oscar® nominations were out this morning, so I started crunching numbers and came up with my Third Annual Scientific Oscar® Picks for 2005TM.

The expected accuracy of my predictions is 22.29% +- 16.43% (95% confidence interval). I think you will find that I chose some common wisdom favorites as well as a few dark horse nominees. Enjoy!


one year

by John at 1/24/2005 08:48:00 AM

It's been one year since the first post.

Also, today is the most miserable day of the year. Coincidence?


happy inauguration day

by John at 1/20/2005 11:12:00 AM

Mr. President,

Happy inauguration day! Today is the day we celebrate the peaceful transfer of power from you to, er, you. Congratulations on being the Leader of the Free WorldTM, chosen by JesusTM himself through the will of the good Christian people of the United States of America®. Democracy is a Good ThingTM.

I was thinking about your inauguration this morning, and how its $50 million cost (not counting security) was paid for by private and corporate donors who just want to show their support and wish you well. And then I was thinking about that war we are fighting over in Iraq, and how a lot of the vehicles our soldiers are driving aren't properly armored and some soldiers don't have effective body armor to protect them from bullets and shrapnel from IEDs. Also, I was thinking about how that war costs us taxpayers about $110,000 per minute (well, really, it costs future taxpayers $110,000 per minute plus interest, since we really don't collect enough taxes nowadays to afford a war this big and we have to borrow most of it).

Anyway, like it sometimes happens, putting these thoughts together gave me a pretty good idea, and I bet you can guess where I'm going with this. Why not sell Operation Iraqi FreedomTM sponsorships to corporations and wealthy private donors? What better way could there be for them to show that they support the USA® as much as they support you? I can see it now: McDonald'sTM brand armored Humvees® patrolling the streets of Mosul; The Battle for FallujahTM, brought to you by StaplesTM - that was easyTM; Interceptor Body Armor® by DuPontTM Kevlar® (Can you picture the bright red DuPontTM oval over the heart of every Marine®? I can!). We can cut costs, spread the American values of coporatism and consumerism to freedom-loving Iraqis everywhere, and provide good advertising value for our sponsors on nightly news programs and newspaper front pages around the world at the same time.

So, today is busy, I know, but you should think about it. Ask "Turdblossom" - I bet he likes the idea.

John B., Ph.D.

P.S. Don't worry - just like Condi, remember?


you can't be a sweet cucumber in a vinegar barrel

by John at 1/19/2005 11:44:00 AM

Situationists versus dispositionists at Abu Ghraib?

When you put that set of horrendous work conditions and external factors together, it creates an evil barrel. You could put virtually anybody in it and you're going to get this kind of evil behavior. The Pentagon and the military say that the Abu Ghraib scandal is the result of a few bad apples in an otherwise good barrel. That's the dispositional analysis. The social psychologist in me, and the consensus among many of my colleagues in experimental social psychology, says that's the wrong analysis. It's not the bad apples, it's the bad barrels that corrupt good people. Understanding the abuses at this Iraqi prison starts with an analysis of both the situational and systematic forces operating on those soldiers working the night shift in that 'little shop of horrors.'

Coming from New York, I know that if you go by a delicatessen, and you put a sweet cucumber in the vinegar barrel, the cucumber might say, "No, I want to retain my sweetness." But it's hopeless. The barrel will turn the sweet cucumber into a pickle. You can't be a sweet cucumber in a vinegar barrel. My sense is that we have the evil barrel of war, into which we've put this evil barrel of this prison—it turns out actually all of the military prisons have had similar kinds of abuses—and what you get is the corruption of otherwise good people.

Futher reading: Abu Ghraib, USA - "When I first saw the photo, taken at the Abu Ghraib prison, of a hooded and robed figure strung with electrical wiring, I thought of the Sacramento, California, city jail."


two from salon

by John at 1/18/2005 01:19:00 PM

Two interesting articles in Salon today, just in case you haven't got anything else to read:

1) Bones of contention
Anthropologists are in an uproar over the significance of a tiny, ancient skeleton -- nicknamed the "hobbit" -- found on an island of modern-day short people.

2) The scandal sheet
Print it out, send it to Harry Reid, or just read it and weep. Here are 34 scandals from the first four years of George W. Bush's presidency -- every one of them worse than Whitewater.


are you responsible, too?

by John at 1/15/2005 10:38:00 PM

Andrew Sullivan, who James Wolcott has called "a gay British Catholic Tory conservative 'eagle' who deplores the etiolated patriotism and willpower of the coastal elites but resides in the blue lagoons of Washington, DC and Provincetown. His sympathies keeps tugging him in so many different directions that he intellectually resembles Steve Martin in All of Me, herkily-jerkily battling with himself as if being yanked by an invisible leash," writes a lucid essay about the use of torture by the United States of America in this weekend's New York Times Book Review. Sullivan plays the "mistakes were made" gambit for the first few pages, but finally, and correctly, starts to assign some responsibility. Bush and the Bush administration are rightly held culpable, and Sullivan interestingly also finds blame for those who were perhaps too fervent in their support of the "war on terror."
Did those of us who fought so passionately for a ruthless war against terrorists give an unwitting green light to these abuses? Were we naïve in believing that characterizing complex conflicts from Afghanistan to Iraq as a single simple war against "evil" might not filter down and lead to decisions that could dehumanize the enemy and lead to abuse? Did our conviction of our own rightness in this struggle make it hard for us to acknowledge when that good cause had become endangered? I fear the answer to each of these questions is yes.

American political polarization also contributed. Most of those who made the most fuss about these incidents - like Mark Danner or Seymour Hersh - were dedicated opponents of the war in the first place, and were eager to use this scandal to promote their agendas. Advocates of the war, especially those allied with the administration, kept relatively quiet, or attempted to belittle what had gone on, or made facile arguments that such things always occur in wartime. But it seems to me that those of us who are most committed to the Iraq intervention should be the most vociferous in highlighting these excrescences. Getting rid of this cancer within the system is essential to winning this war.

not quite secret elections

by John at 1/15/2005 10:05:00 PM

It was several weeks ago that I suggested to Presidents Allawi and Bush that they hold secret elections to avoid violence in Iraq. This isn't exactly what I had in mind, but it's pretty close.

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 15 - The threat of death hung so heavily over the election rally, held this week on the fifth floor of the General Factory for Vegetable Oil, that the speakers refused to say whether they were candidates at all.

"Too dangerous," said Hussein Ali, who spoke for the United Iraqi Alliance, a party fielding dozens of candidates for the elections here. "It's a secret."

And then Mr. Ali and his colleagues left, escorted by men with guns.

So goes the election campaign unfolding across Iraq, a country simultaneously set to embark on an American-backed political experiment while writhing under a guerrilla insurgency dead set on disrupting the experiment.

With only two weeks go to before the vote, scheduled for Jan. 30, guerrillas have stepped up their attacks and driven most candidates deep indoors, and on Saturday, the authorities said they would restrict traffic and set up cordons around polling places on election day.

A result, in large swaths of the country, is a campaign in the shadows, where candidates, ordinarily eager to get their messages to the public, are often too terrified to say their names. Instead of holding rallies, they meet voters in secret, if they meet them at all. Instead of canvassing for votes, they fend off death threats.

Of the 7,471 men and women who have filed to run, only a handful outside the relatively safe Kurdish areas have publicly identified themselves. The locations for the 5,776 polling places have not been announced, lest they become targets for attacks.

The predicament for candidates was spelled out on a flier passed around town by the United Iraqi Alliance. The flier listed the names of 37 candidates for the national assembly. The 188 others, the flier said, could not be published.

"Our apologies for not mentioning the names of all the candidates," the flier said. "But the security situation is bad, and we have to keep them alive."

Some political leaders here say they are not much bothered by the candidates' lack of visibility; they point out that Iraqis will be voting for political parties, not individual candidates.

Each party has a list of candidates, who will be given seats in proportion to the number of votes each party receives. At this rudimentary stage of democracy, some say, it is remarkable enough that the Iraqis are voting at all.

"This will be an election of constituencies, not of programs like you have in America," said Adil Abdul Mahdi, the finance minister and a candidate in the United Iraqi Alliance. "The Iraqis know their people. They know who they are voting for."

But the larger issue, for many political leaders, is that the guerrilla assault to scuttle the elections has truncated political discourse and, as a result, the heart of the elections itself. If candidates can't campaign, they can't debate, and if they can't debate, voters will hardly be in a position to chart their country's destiny.

"An election is not just putting a piece of a paper in a box; it's a whole process," said Nasir Chaderji, chairman of the National Democratic Party, which is fielding 48 candidates. "We don't have that here. Candidates can't campaign because of the security situation.

"I call it the secret election."

(more here)

Secret candidates, secret polling places, secret political rallies. All we need now is a secret election day, and my plan will have been fully implemented. Let freedom ring reign!

pot: kettle black!

by John at 1/15/2005 09:58:00 PM

I'm sure those who are currently pillorying the UN for mismanagement of the oil-for-food program will be quick to condemn the following:

1) The US knew about illegal trading just before the war began in 2003, yet did nothing to prevent it:

"In February 2003, when US media first published reports of this smuggling effort, then attributed exclusively to the Iraqis, the US mission to the UN condemned it as "immoral".

However, FT/Il Sole have evidence that US and UK missions to the UN were informed of the smuggling while it was happening and that they reported it to their respective governments, to no avail.

Oil traders were told informally that the US let the tankers go because Amman needed oil to build up its strategic reserves in expectation of the Iraq war.

Last week Paul Volcker, head of the independent commission created by the UN to investigate failures in the oil-for-food programme, confirmed that Washington allowed violations of the oil sanctions by Jordan in recognition of its national interests."

2) A watchdog group has reported to the UN that the US is mishandling oil revenues in post-war Iraq:

"U.N. Controller Jean-Pierre Halbwachs, who heads the International Advisory and Monitoring Board set up to oversee U.S. management of Iraqi oil, briefed the Security Council on the issue in a closed-door meeting.

He discussed problems tracking how much oil was produced and how the proceeds were spent, and how noncompetitive contracts were awarded to Halliburton Co., formerly led by Vice President Dick Cheney, the envoys said. Several said he repeatedly used the term "weaknesses" to characterize problems with the U.S. management.[...]

The board led by Halbwachs was created by the Security Council to watch over the stewardship of Iraq's natural resources during the U.S. civil administration of Iraq, which began in April 2003 and ended last June."


on the beach

by John at 1/14/2005 03:22:00 PM

This picture is swiped from the CNN website. ESA doesn't seem to have any pictures posted, and the website is swamped anyway. Poor, poor overworked computers. They do their best.

After searching Technorati for Huygens blogs I found out that the picture was apparently taken below the haze at 16km altitude, and CNN is calling it "top.main.titan.shoreline.jpg" so "on the beach" seemed appropriate.

Update 4:32pm: NASA and ESA are now posting some images on their websites. In one picture, you can clearly see ice blocks on the surface - Titan is about half water ice and half rocky material. It is far too cold on the Titan surface for the water ice to melt or even sublimate, so there is little or no liquid water or water vapor. Speaking of that, the "shoreline" in the above picture could be the shore of an ethane lake.


by John at 1/14/2005 10:59:00 AM

I'm sure you have all been waiting breathlessly for the last few days, awaiting news of Huygens descent into the thick nitrogen/hydrocarbon atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan.

Early this morning, the probe successfully entered the atmosphere and deployed it's main chute. The ESA is now reporting that Huygens has landed on Titan, and is sending data back to Cassini.

Cassini, acting as a relay station, should begin transmitting data to Earth in about 30 minutes.

Cassini-Huygens spacecraft
ESA Cassini-Huygens home
NASA Cassini-Huygens home



by Bill at 1/12/2005 10:58:00 PM

I don't know if any of you have seen Homestar Runner, and old colleague at the PA program introduced me to it. On of my favorites is a skit regarding drawing a dragon. Check it out here.

stick that in your pipe and smoke it

by John at 1/12/2005 10:57:00 AM

Search for Banned Arms In Iraq Ended Last Month (Washington Post)

"Four months after Charles A. Duelfer, who led the weapons hunt in 2004, submitted an interim report to Congress that contradicted nearly every prewar assertion about Iraq made by top Bush administration officials, a senior intelligence official said the findings will stand as the ISG's final conclusions and will be published this spring."

There this too:

"[E]very suspected site within Iraq has been fully searched, or stripped bare by insurgents and thieves, according to several people involved in the weapons hunt... Satellite photos show that entire facilities have been dismantled, possibly by scrap dealers who sold off parts and equipment to buyers around the world." (my emphasis)

Summing up:
1) Terrorist attacks up
2) Number of deaths due to terrorism up
3) Terrorist recruiting up
4) No WMD or WMD program activities
5) Suspected WMD sites looted
6) Conventional weapon caches looted
7) No previous connection to Al Qaeda
8) Osama bin Laden still at large
8) Torture, rape, and arbitrary detention still common in Iraq
9) Violent crime in Iraq up
10) Civil war ramping up in Iraq
11) Tens of thousands of people unnecessarily dead

Oh yeah, freedom is on the march. Too bad it is bogged down in a quagmire right now.

live in fear, but survive in luxury

by John at 1/12/2005 08:44:00 AM

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Two private U.S. companies have designs on building the first luxury recreational vehicle that could withstand nuclear radiation.

Parliament Coach Corp., a privately held company in Clearwater, Florida, which converts Prevost buses into high-end RVs, has partnered with Homeland Defense Vehicles to offer consumers a luxury motor coach that can protect occupants against nuclear radiation from dirty bombs as well as biological and chemical attacks.

The idea is to offer the option on the pricey vehicles to consumers worried about terror attacks, officials for both companies said Tuesday.

"Many people enjoy the RV lifestyle, but we also live in an era when people have some level of fear about terrorism," Parliament Chief Executive Harvey Mitchell said in a statement. "These concerns about terrorism are linked to states where people with RVs like to travel."

(more here)

Preview photo of Parliament's luxury RV in combat configuration.

A family enjoys their trip through apocalypic wastelands in Homeland Defense's "Bad Boy HMT."


"History never repeats,"

by John at ">1/10/2005 01:18:00 PM

I tell myself before I go to sleep.*

Yet, when I woke up this morning it was twenty years ago. Sorry, everyone.


* Split Enz


the kleptones

by John at 1/07/2005 10:35:00 AM

Mashups are old news.

I know I came into the game late, but for a long time, I never heard a mashup that was really good.

But when I heard there was a mashup using The Flaming Lips' "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" (one of the best albums of 2002, even though I didn't hear it until 2003) I had to check it out. The album length mashup is by The Kleptones and is called "Yoshimi Battles the Hip Hop Robots." It is, predictably enough, a mash of various Hip Hop songs and "YBtPR" - the thing is, unlike most mashups, it isn't clumsy or forced - it is brilliant. And I'm no Hip Hop fan.

Last summer, The Kleptones put out another album length mashup called "A Night At The Hip-Hopera," which is a mash of Queen songs and, yes, Hip Hop (along with other samples). I finally downloaded it last night, and I am rocking out to it right now in corporately approved fashion (e.g. at low volume, in my seat, foot tapping, with little or no waving my hands in the air like I just don't care).

Check it out.


Jon Stewart wins!

by John at 1/05/2005 08:46:00 PM

CNN Lets 'Crossfire' Host Carlson Go

NEW YORK - CNN said goodbye to pundit Tucker Carlson on Wednesday, and with him likely the "Crossfire" program that has been the granddaddy of high-volume political debate shows on cable television.

CNN will probably fold "Crossfire" into its other programming, perhaps as an occasional segment on the daytime show "Inside Politics," said Jonathan Klein, who was appointed in late November as chief executive of CNN's U.S. network.[...]

The bow-tied wearing conservative pundit got into a public tussle last fall with comic Jon Stewart, who has been critical of cable political programs that devolve into shoutfests.

"I guess I come down more firmly in the Jon Stewart camp," Klein told The Associated Press.

world question center

by John at 1/05/2005 11:20:00 AM

Every year, Edge asks some scientists and other thinkers a question, and records their responses.

This year's question is "What do you believe even though you cannot prove it?"

The answers range from the technical (mathematical conjectures, anthropological evidence of human expansion, the genetic origins of autism) to the mundane (cell phone radiation does not cause cancer) to the Big Three (Life! The Universe! And Everything!).

I believe many things that I cannot prove. For instance, I believe that there is no reproducible output pattern for the optimization problem I am working on, even given inputs within a defined range. I also believe that human morality is a result of our physiological and social evolution.

What do you believe even though you cannot prove it?



by John at 1/04/2005 03:40:00 PM

I'm listening to the newish Finn Brothers album "Everyone is Here". It's pretty good, but it's going to take a few listens before I dig it fully.

That's OK, because that's the way it is with a Neil and Tim Finn collaboration. The older Finn (Tim) seems to be lyrically less sophisticated and yet, musically, favor a bigger sound than his brother. There always seems to be a few hooky songs that get you the first time, but for the rest you have to search for Neil's profound pop simplicity to make it all alright. See? I can sound like a pretentious rock critic if I try.

All this started me thinking about The Split Enz, and what might be the best album B-side in the last two generations (from way back when albums had sides), "Time and Tide", featuring the quartet "Pioneer", "Six Months in a Leaky Boat", "Haul Away", and "Log Cabin Fever." Like the B-side of "Songs from the Big Chair" (second best B-Side?) it is practically a mini concept album. Anyway, if you've never heard it before and you find it in a used record store, check it out.

Meanwhile, I'm going to dig out my old cassette and put it in my car for tomorrow's commute, hiss be damned.

P.S. As for The Shins? I listen to "Oh, Inverted World" and "Chutes Too Narrow" every damn day at work - it is like some kind of very pleasant mental disorder. I feel guilty because I have all these other very good albums that I should listen to, but I keep going back to these guys.

image over substance

by John at 1/04/2005 02:39:00 PM

From the NYT (via Boing Boing and Reason Online Hit and Run) interview with Jeanne L. Phillips, chair of the Presidential Inaugural Committee:

I hear one of the balls will be reserved for troops who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Yes, the Commander-in-Chief Ball. That is new. It will be about 2,000 servicemen and their guests. And that should be a really fun event for them.

As an alternative way of honoring them, did you or the president ever discuss canceling the nine balls and using the $40 million inaugural budget to purchase better equipment for the troops?

I think we felt like we would have a traditional set of events and we would focus on honoring the people who are serving our country right now -- not just the people in the armed forces, but also the community volunteers, the firemen, the policemen, the teachers, the people who serve at, you know, the -- well, it's called the StewPot in Dallas, people who work with the homeless.

How do any of them benefit from the inaugural balls?

I'm not sure that they do benefit from them.

Then how, exactly, are you honoring them?

Honoring service is what our theme is about.

reality check

by John at 1/04/2005 09:42:00 AM

The common wisdom says that if we pull out of Iraq, there will be a civil war. The reality is that there is already a civil war going on in Iraq, it's just that no one has called it that yet. Insurgents are killing Iraqi security forces and police at a record pace, and the US military is all but helpless to slow it. Our show of force in Fallujah last November was strategically worthless, and is indicative of our ability to actually control the violence in Iraq.

My best hope? After the elections at the end of the month, Bush declares "victory" and we get the hell out.


more on headaches

by Bill at 1/01/2005 01:55:00 PM

I was reading the most current issue of JAAPA and they had a POEM (patient oriented evidence based medicine) discussing the recent study on sinus headaches and migraines. They brought up some good issues on the study. Essentially their problem is that the study proves that there is overlap in the diagnostic criteria of the two types of HA, but not that people with "sinus headaches" might, would , could benefit from treatment with medications for "migraines". Since the diagnosis amd diagnostic criteria are tools by which treatment decisions are made, that is really the question. All they have really proved is that criteria are perhaps too vague. Also the study was not blind and it was supported by pharmaceutical companies that may have an interest in disgnosing more migraines. You can access the abstract here.