the absurd observers

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Exploding toads in Germany

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Toads start exploding in Germany around the same time as a German is elected Pope... I am waiting for Michael Moore to find a conspiracy. Or Jerry Falwell to say it is some sign from God.

Spitzer targets spyware company

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New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer on Thursday sued a major Internet marketer, claiming the company installed ''spyware'' and ''adware'' that secretly install nuisance pop-up advertisements which can slow and crash personal computers.
It is about time someone put an end to the various deceptive and annoying programs that get stuck on computers. Anyone who has had the misfortune of downloading weatherbug or other such worthless programs should be thrilled. I wonder how long until someone targets the the advertisers who use these programs rather than the software manufacturers. Once that happens, the market will get taken away and these infuriating programs will be eliminated. If there is not already a legal theory that supports targeting such advertisers, hopefully Congress will pass legislation enabling such lawsuits. After the do not call registry case, there should not be too many First Amendment problems.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

An ode to enjoying life

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The release of a report in The Journal of the American Medical Association indicating that overweight people actually live longer than normal-weight people represents an important moment in the history of world civilization. It is the moment when we realize that Mother Nature - unlike Ivy League admissions committees - doesn't like suck-ups...

The chief moral lesson I take away from this report is that Mother Nature is happy to tolerate marginally irresponsible misbehavior. She doesn't want you to go completely to seed. If you're truly obese and arouse hippos when you visit the zoo, you could still punch your ticket at any moment.

But she does want you to eat the occasional Cinnabon, so long as it isn't bigger than Delaware. She wants you to have that fourth glass of wine, and lecture the dinner table on the future of the papacy based on your extensive reading of "The Da Vinci Code." She wants a little socially productive mediocrity.

Friday, April 22, 2005

I tried to avoid the MJ case, but I failed

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All I want to point out about the Jackson case is that nothing concerning Jackson is normal. For instance, the court considered some security logs from his ranch:
The logs showed, among other things, that on Feb. 20, 2003, the boy now accusing
Jackson of molestation was hit by a golf cart driven by a relative of actor
Marlon Brando.

Marlon Brando's relative hit someone with a golf cart! If I had written that line as a non sequitor joke, I doubt anyone would take me seriously. How is this just coming out now? There could be treasure trove of ridiculous happenings in those security logs:
  1. Maybe Gray Davis's barber slipped on a banana peel left in a hallway by one of the Three Stooges grandnephews.
  2. Perhaps Gary Coleman unleashed a swarm of bees on Emanuel Lewis's agent while both were riding on parallel water slides.
  3. And, there's always the chance that Gary Busey brought 1000 bottles of peanut butter to Neverland, created a river of peanut butter that compromised the power supply of the ranch, postponing the festivities for the Tito Jackson birthday party.

I know these sound ridiculous, but not much more than Brando's reckless driving relative. Hopefully I will have a post later today with some real news, but for now, I just could not let this one go. I apologize to anyone reading this blog, who has come to count on Seth and I for hard hitting news.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Justice Kennedy123

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Tom DeLay is incredibly upset that Justice Kennedy has looked at international law when reaching his decisions, but that's not the worst of it, DeLay explains:
And not only that, but he said in session that he does his own research on the
Internet? That is just incredibly outrageous.

This statement leads to the question: what is it that is so outrageous? Is it that Kennedy uses the internet? Is it that he does the research himself? Neither possibility seems to gel with the criticism DeLay has dogmatically repeated a number of times: judges are activists and isolated from the American people.

I agree that the internet can isolate people. However, my guess is that Kennedy is not staying up all night reading slate.com, listening to celebrity prank phone calls, or downloading mp3s. The internet isolates people by stimulating them with asocial activities. Yet, even that analysis is limited, because the internet can also be very social. Maybe Kennedy is chatting online with other justices or instant messaging with some circuit court judges. My guess is that judges would have great email addresses and screen names, like "LawNerd", "RockinJustice", or "Souter2005". Maybe Kennedy is posting comments on blogs and hurling insults at the other players at his internet poker table. The point is, Tom DeLay, the fact that he uses the internet means there's a chance he's not isolated.

I think the real issue here is that DeLay doesn't want people enjoying Al Gore's invention - can't give a Democrat more exposure. If Kennedy had said he conducted research by spraying bugs with pesticide, I'm sure DeLay would want to put him on his PAC payroll. "Chart the course for Moscow boys, we're taking this legal eagle for a ride!"

I mean, how could a person avoid the internet with all those juicy stories about politicians flying to Scotland to read?

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Why Not a Second Lincoln Brigade?

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In yet another column today, Nicholas Kristof calls upon the world to do more to prevent the genoicde in Darfur. In the article he chronicles the world's history of looking the other way as genocide occurs:
When Turkey was massacring Armenians in 1915, the administration of Woodrow Wilson determinedly looked the other way. The U.S. ambassador in Constantinople sent furious cables to Washington, pleading for action against what he called "race murder," but the White House shrugged.

It was, after all, a messy situation, and there was no easy way to stop the killing. The U.S. was desperate to stay out of World War I and reluctant to poison relations with Turkey.

A generation later, American officials said they were too busy fighting a war to worry about Nazi death camps. In May 1943, the U.S. government rejected suggestions that it bomb Auschwitz, saying that aircraft weren't available.

In the 1970's, the U.S. didn't try to stop the Cambodian genocide. It was a murky situation in a hostile country, and there was no perfect solution. The U.S. was also negotiating the establishment of relations with China, the major backer of the Khmer Rouge, and didn't want to upset that process.

Much the same happened in Bosnia and Rwanda. As Samantha Power chronicles in her superb book, "A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide," the pattern was repeated over and over: a slaughter unfolded in a distant part of the world, but we had other priorities and it was always simplest for the American government to look away.


Yet it seems to me that the political calculus in Darfur is decidedly different than in these other genocides. In this instance, there are not the same geo-political risks. The Sudan is a rogue nation with a pathetic military. A well equipped army would easily end the genocide there. While the usual amoral countries of the world would criticize intervention, the political fallout would be minimal.

Which raises a new question...

If America as a government is unwilling to act for whgatever reason, it should nonetheless permit and encourage individual Americans to fund and/or create a private army to combat Janjaweed. When Sierra Leone was facing the ravages of civil war in which children were being mutilated accrrss the country, they briefly hired a small South African mercenary force that was able to put a halt to the carnage.

The Lincoln Brigade today is hailed as a noble effort to stop the spread of fascism. They faced nearly insurmountable odds. Today, the enemy is weak and American power and wealth great. If private individuals were permitted to create an army and fight against genocide, the world would be well served. If America is too self-interested to take action, it should at least permit individual americans to do so.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Frown now, go crazy later.

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According to a recent study pessimism and anxiety are signs of dementia later in life:
A study of a group of 3,500 people showed that those who scored high for
pessimism on a standardized personality test had a 30 percent increased risk of
developing dementia 30 to 40 years later.

I have two points:

(1) While there are certainly countless lessons to glean from this information, I am going to focus on an extremely narrow piece of the analysis, stretch logical principles, and then make an outrageous claim - all in this long, grammatically-challenged sentence: the trick to avoid dementia is to always be pessimistic.

Sure maybe this study just shows a correlation between pessimism and dementia, without any real conclusions. Perhaps pessimism is a symptom of early dementia. Maybe pessimism makes people demented. Maybe pessimists are simply more likely to be demented for some other reason. Their point is: who knows? And my point is: who cares?

The study says: if you are pessimistic, then you are more likely to develop dementia in 30-40 years. So, I figure, as long as I stay pessimistic, dementia is always 30-40 years away.

(2) Ha! I was just messing around with that first point. It is clear from the study that the best way to keep away dementia is to avoid pessimistic thoughts and not read the results of the study. Just messing with you again. For my second point I will not stretch logic and reason, but, instead, completely abandon all rationality.

Here's what I think this data reflects: pessimists go bonkers. They have all sorts of secret predictions about the universe, and they obsess over them. When the world doesn't end or their Soap Opera gets renewed for another 10 years or the cookie does not crumble, the pessimist loses it. Good luck is the sugar in their gas tank. So, therefore, this statistic is really just the number of pessimists whose fears are not realized. In contrast, pessimists that see their fears come to pass are left feeling depressed, pessimistic, and validated. It is clear that if one is a pessimist one ought to make sure that bad things actually do happen, otherwise, one will develop dementia. Now, thanks to this study, people can just have a fear of developing dementia that signals the development of dementia.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Eating urgency

The WSJ reported today that the maker of a Shrek "mini" candy would remove "for a limited time" from its marketing approach because that phrase created a "sense of eating urgency". The Journal concludes this move is a response to growing criticism of fat kids.

There is nothing as urgent as the need to devour sugar laden treats modeled after cartoons before they're removed from the market. I once ate 6 ice cream sandwiches because the power went out and they were melting in the freezer. I could feel the urgency. I gorged myself. I was covered in vanilla ice cream and graham crackers minutes later, somewhat dazed, wondering what had propelled me through such a gluttonous bonanza. It was the urgency. I was intoxicated with urgency - with the fear of no dessert and the nightmare of an ice creamless future. So, a sense of eating urgency could transform a person into an animal. The effects of eating urgency are real.

However, what of the danger of ignoring an "eating urgency"? In other words, if those Shrek candies truly are only offered for a limited time, then a sense of eating urgency is appropriate. We don't want to make the world so safe from false alarm eating urgencies that we miss the real urgencies. I say if one sense of eating urgency is missed in the name of protecting us from a faux urgency, and a product line of candies, ribwiches, processed pastries, or other food is gone forever and no one had the chance to stuff their face with reckless abandon, then what has become of us as a society. I implore you all to err on the side of urgent eating.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Why the Pope did not end communism

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It is important not to overstate the importance of someone's achievements when they die. This article properly puts John Paul II's role in ending communism into perspective.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The money making machine of obesity

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CNN reports that a study in California finds that obese people are a drain on the economy:
The study estimates that overweight and inactive Californians cost $21.7 billion
a year in medical bills, injuries and lost productivity.

This is preposterous. Obesity is the modern-day gold rush of real and potential profits. Sure, people have more health problems because they get fat, and maybe they injure themselves, and can't go to work. However, these criticisms are the result of a narrow perspective on fatness.

First, Obesity might be a sign of an unhealthy individual, but it is also the sign of a healthy economy. Fat people are a symbol of prosperity and consumption.
  1. Eating three slices of pizza instead of one will make you fat. Drinking four beers instead of one will make you fat. The more you eat and drink, the bigger you will get. However, the more you eat and drink, the more you spend on food and beverage. Gluttons make this economy of ours run smoothly like a piece of butter sliding across a frying pan.
  2. Watching television all day will make you fat, or at least, it won't help you trim the waistline. The more people that watch television, the more advertising dollars spent to reach that lazy-audience.
  3. Surfing the internet incessantly is not as healthy as exercising. It's not that difficult of a concept to digest. However, the more people surfing the internet, the more advertising dollars spent to reach that large-bellied audience.

Second, obesity has created a market for eliminating obesity.

  1. Atkins, the Zone, Weight Watchers, and countless other dieteers depend on fat people and others that fear becoming fat. Any celebrity that loses weight writes a book about their diet or exercise regimen. A smart businessman would sell both fatty addictive candies and diet books. The two exist in a symbiotic relationship - one always tempting and destroying the work of the other, and thus renewing the need/desire for the other.
  2. Plastic surgeons make money off of fat people. This study was published in California? I would have thought the plastic surgeons would have put a stop to this. Without fat to vacuum out of people's bellies, they would be entirely dependent on breast and calf implants.

The point is: fat people are a sign that business is good and its only going to get better. When I go to a fast food place, I don't see fat people - I only see dollar signs.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The extremism of today's conservatives

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Dahlia Lithwick properly takes to task the recent conservative opposition to an independent judiciary :

Cornyn's analogy between disgruntled defendants and angry conservatives is perfectly apt. In both cases, angry citizens refuse to accept the fact that sometimes one loses in court and childishly react by taking the law into their own hands. Whether an unhinged individual pulls out a gun or an unhinged senator rationalizes such vigilantism is merely a question of degree, not kind. In both cases, the suggestion is that the rule of law means nothing if you don't get the outcome you desired.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Donuts show signs of life

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Krispy Kreme received $225 million in financing to pay off some loans. For those of you that do not follow the donut industry, this is indeed good news. CNNMoney explained that now that these financial difficulties are adequately postponed, the company can return to its roots:
"With more liquidity and no near-term payment deadlines, we look forward to
getting back to the business of selling doughnuts and coffee," President and
Chief Operating Officer Steve Panagos said in a statement.

Normally I would not intervene with any biting sarcasm, ridiculous suggestions, or non-biting sarcasm, but when someone messes with donuts, I feel the need to be heard.

Donut companies - like pizza companies and anyone that makes chili cheese fries - have a duty to stay afloat. Why? Because America needs donuts. Donuts and America have a history together. They are the classic snack of the everyman. There very existence is ridiculous. Saying the word "donut" makes me smile. It is kind of like saying the word "jello". I think of jelly-filled, powdered, sprinkle-topped, with icing, krullers, and donut holes. There is something about donuts that can't quite be nailed down - a je ne se quois of donuts that seems comical.
Their roundness inspires metaphysical debate at breakfast tables around the country. Their synergistic relationship with coffee has propelled the bean-based hot drink well in front of the leaf-based tea drink of Europe. Donuts teach us about restraint: "I guess if I had only eaten 4 donuts, I wouldn't have ripped the elastic on my pants." Donuts teach us about diversity: "I usually only eat the jelly donuts, but I branch out to the icing variety if they have sprinkles". There is a saying: "You can't trust a man that doesn't know his donuts." It seems that only frighteningly skinny people dislike donuts, and that's probably more of a jealousy thing.

When I think of people solving problems and overcoming differences, I think of them meeting over donuts. Nothing would be as disarming as watching a rival squirt jelly onto his face as he bites into a powdered donut at a conference table. I could see Tom Delay and Ted Kennedy eating donuts together, both realizing maybe they were not too different, with jelly piled on their shirts, powder on their ties and fingers sticky from the glaze.