PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.

Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.

I have a day job. So every word of this is my opinion, not that of my employer. This offer IS void in Wisconsin. Except, of course, that some material in this column comes from incoming e-mail; such material is usually reproduced in the Sans Serif type font to distinguish it from the (somewhat) original material.

To Pay For This Column Voluntarily
Tales of Teaching 2004
Tales of Teaching 2005

July 12, 2004: P.S. A Column On Things

July 12, 2004 Vol. 6, No. 27

Table of Contents:

General News

  • As Much Enthusiasm
  • Deleting October 2
  • My Bona Fides
  • Marlow from China
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs


  • None


  • De-Lovely
  • Guest Review: De-Lovely
  • Anchorman


  • Diabetes Advice, Dern and Pournelle on Comdex, Dan Grobstein's picks

General News

As Much Enthusiasm

I was describing my excitement to a fellow teacher over two recent developments among my hobbies; my move to the automated distribution of column notification and the possibility that the musical I co-wrote in college may actually be staged, someday, at Brandeis. Since no script or score exists, I have been transcribing them for the last week, and getting a big kick out of it. Anyway, the headline records the reaction of one of my fellow teachers, who noted, "I wish you had as much enthusiasm for teaching as you do your hobbies. Are you sure you're in the right line of work?" Sometimes, I wonder myself.

Deleting October 2

I have deleted the column in which I discuss the end of my old job as a journalist. Leaving it up was part of a destructive cycle of longing and regret. You can't move forward quickly if your eyes are fixed on the rear view mirror. I am a teacher now. Nothing is going to change that. Time to move on.

My Bona Fides

The Republicans would like you to think that everyone who opposes them is an elitist. That label is frequently crap. Take me. Yes, I was a journalist (I'm now a middle school teacher), but my dad was a milkman and his dad was an immigrant and a milkman. I'm the first male in my family to complete college. I have an honest working class background. And I'm not so stupid as to fall for the GOP line of crapola about looking out for my best interests.

As Michael Moore shows George Bush saying to a room full of swells in white tie, his base is the "haves and the have mores." The real traitors to their class are the working class people who vote for Republicans in total violation of their own self-interest. Of course, when I vote Democrat it is in violation of my self-interest, but that's the difference between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats actually care about someone other than themselves, and think a cohesive society is more important than a swollen wallet. No wonder 19% of Americans think they are in the top 1% of taxpayers.

According to Congress, to be in the top 1%, you need to have $293,415 a year or more in adjusted gross income. Why do you hardly ever see this figure? Because if you did, all the confused working class people who are afraid that attacks on the "top 1% of taxpayers" will affect them personally would realize they aren't even in the ballpark. Why, next thing you know, they'd realize that only 2% of estates pay estate tax. Not death tax, estate tax. And it isn't double taxation-most of the money in estates was never taxed along the way.

And it's not The Democrat party, it's the Democratic Party. I refuse to cede the English language to a bunch of knuckle-dragging promulgators of class warfare on the right, whose vision is of a country with no middle class; one with the kind of rich-poor divide that makes Central and South America the wonderful place it is. Wake up people! Most GOP leaders would outscore rats in a maze contest only because they are tall enough to see over the partitions!

Marlow from China

Marlow's in China. Here's what she's up to:

Well, I missed the opportunity to go to a 4th of July dinner at KFC with some of my classmates because while I was out jogging today I ran across an interesting Chinese phenomenon, the mass student performance. Students from at least three colleges and one elementary school were gathered at the HaGongDa (my school) coliseum for a dress-rehearsal of some upcoming large holiday celebration. The elementary school kids were all dressed in gold and red and had jazzercise/step-class style platforms to dance on. They were probably actually the most coordinated group, which was a little scary. The college students also had interesting outfits, some were dressed as flowers or butterflies, some as "industry" (silver and red outfits with gold tubes, which later would be transformed into the bodies of dragons), and some were just pretty in pink or orange. There were fans, there were banners, there were flags, there were on-field costume changes. A couple of kids got dropped. There were maybe 3 or 4 thousand performers, and that is a conservative estimate. But there was only a handful of people in the stands. I chatted with some of the performers when they were on break. They complained about having to spend the whole day in the sun, but they were all smiles talking to me. I pretended it was a 4th of July celebration. I watched for about an hour, and that's why I missed my friends leaving, but it was interesting, and eating by myself in the cafeteria isn't the end of the world, plus the food might have been better. Really it was just interesting to see such a mobilization of manpower. There really are sooooo many people here, everywhere, all the time.

Political Notes

Don't miss this week's Sunday Doonesbury, with the punchline, "I'm Osama Bid Laden, and I approved this commercial."


Richard Dalton on the Cost of War web site:

The people behind this site have expanded the range of social improvements that would be possible if we had not squandered the bucks ($121 billion when I checked) on an unnecessary war in Iraq. My favorite (emphasis added):

"...we could have ensured that every child in the world was given basic immunizations for 40 years."

Can you imagine how many childrens' lives that would improve? Instead, we have the Iraq war. And a president that keeps saying, "Stay the course!"


The Australian contribution to the coalition that invaded and now controls Iraq is of course the judicial system exemplified by a brand new kangaroo court that recently purported to begin judicial proceedings against Saddam Hussein.

According to a published transcript of the proceedings, the alleged "judge" refused to identify himself by name. The stated excuse for the failure of the "judge" to identify himself is that he is afraid of being killed. However, if the accused does not know the identity of the judge, it is impossible for either the accused or his lawyers to determine whether the purported "judge" has a conflict of interest. If the "judge" is not impartial or even if there are questions about the impartiality of the "judge," there will be little assurance that justice is being dispensed in the court. For example, is the accused charged with killing a relative or friend of the alleged "judge?"

Second, reports indicate that in the absence of rules of evidence the "judge" will now investigate whether the accused has committed any crimes for which he should be charged and tried. In the absence of rules of evidence, the "judge" will not be able to determine what evidence will suffice to prove the alleged crime(s) and the accused will not know what evidence can be offered in his defense.

There is a solution to both of these problems as well as others which have arisen and which will arise in the future as long as the current state of anarchy continues in Iraq. That is to either move the trial to an international tribunal in a safe country outside of Iraq or to delay proceedings in Iraq until after an elected government is able to secure the country. Said government could then select a real judge unafraid to identify himself who can convene a trial according to standards (for example, rules of evidence and procedure) established by the elected government before the proceedings begin. Of course if proceedings were delayed pending developments in Iraq then one would have to consider the terms under which the proposed defendants would be allowed to apply for bail and which "judge" could even have enough legitimacy to rule fairly and impartially on a bail application.

If the international tribunal is rejected, the alternative to bail of course is unlimited detention without criminal charges and with no opportunity to seek a writ of habeas corpus. But all of that is obviously antithetical to the cause of democracy, freedom, and due process, which goals George Bush and Dick Cheney claim they have been defending with the lives of Americans.


PSACOT was not misled by the false statements by Bush, Cheney, Powell, and the CIA before the invasion of Iraq. How can it be that the Senate Intelligence Committee (per its July 7, 2004 "Report On The U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq" and "Conclusions" was misled? Neither the Committee nor any of its members were misled. All the members of the committee who chose to vote for the invasion did so for various reasons of their own unrelated to the misrepresentations by Bush, Cheney, Powell and the CIA. They now attempt to mislead their employers [the American people] about what happened.

All the Committee members by their unanimous vote for the report have now admitted that all of its members failed properly to oversee the CIA. Of course that's not the way Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) phrased it at their July 9, 2004 press conference when the committee's censored report was released.

All of the Committee members who voted to allow the invasion and did not clearly state before Oct. 10, 2002, that the intelligence was incorrect should seriously consider immediately resigning from the Committee and the Senate. They should refund to the Treasury their entire salary for the period from January 1, 2002 to July 9, 2004. After all, as Sen. Rockefeller alleged at the press conference, the pre-invasion CIA assessments of Iraq represented one of the most serious intelligence failures in the history of the country. The Committee members who voted for the invasion were responsible for that failure and for the unquestioning acceptance of the assessments by their colleagues and much of the country.


Tim Russert, right wing --yes, that's right, the effort at studious impartiality is a transparent act--host of Meet The Press, was talking to Sen. Pat Roberts (R. Kan.) on July 11, 2004. The "newsman" asked the chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence about the report his committee released two days earlier that indicated the invasion of Iraq was not necessary. Roberts attempted to justify the action by referring to his visit to the graves allegedly containing 18,000 bodies at Hilla, Iraq. One wonders why Russert did not ask whether Roberts was elected to represent the dead Iraqis or the live Kansans and Kansans who gave their lives in the service of their country in Iraq. Did it even cross Russert's insider's mind to ask: Who do you represent, the people of Iraq or the people of Kansas?


It is one thing to make a monumental mistake in good faith (whether due to "group think" or stupidity or arrogance) about the meaning of scanty intelligence. It is something worse to misrepresent (possibly in good faith) the adequacy of the information to support the conclusions reached. This is what George "Slam Dunk" Tenet did when asked whether the intelligence supported the conclusion there were WMD in Iraq.

It worse still to lie to Congress about whether the available information (inadequate as it was) was shared with the U.N. inspectors. They were trying to provide the assurances needed to avoid military action.

It is totally beyond the pale, morally reprehensible, and antithetical to basic conservative American values for an intelligence analyst to provide deliberately and knowingly false information to be used in intelligence analysis. Yet that's exactly what The Washington Post reported on July 11, 2004 ("CIA Skewed Iraq Reporting, Senate Says" by Dafna Linzer and Barton Gellman). The story was buried on page A19; the new information is buried in the last four paragraphs of the article.

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Mozilla, winsome, lose some: just as the Mozilla browser (and its lighter weight kid brother Firefox) have been getting lots of good press as a leading contender in the anyone but IE category, along comes a significant vulnerability in Mozilla on Windows. It has already been patched, which brings up the topic of Mozilla Extensions recently covered by Wired: Building a Better Mozilla.

IE, leader in noncompliance: as mentioned here recently a new page of mine exposes a CSS bug in IE (the "bowser browser"). My carping about it prompted a friend to send me a link to a collection of such IE CSS bugs and a little further poking on my part lead me to a possible solution Microsoft's abysmal support for web standards called "IE7". The fix, of course, comes not from intransigent anti-standards Microsoft but from an open source developer.

Copyrights and wrongs: regarding recent coverage here of a bill to outlaw "inducement to copyright infringement" see The Obsessively Annotated Introduction to the INDUCE Act. Wisdom from the Canadian Supreme Court on copyright: Balancing rights of creators, users

Technobits: Groups Sue to Allow Vote Recounts --- Studios Eye New Anti-Piracy Technology --- John Kerry and the Lost Kos --- more on Broadband Blimps --- U.N. Aims to Bring Spam 'Epidemic' to End --- GE builds nanotech diode using carbon nanotubes --- SpaceShipOne Back on Course --- EC for better P2P? --- translucent concrete --- old folks provide selective advantage --- Moore: pirate my film, no problem (shades of Steal this Book) --- Facetop --- VOA on the Museum of Online Museums --- Knee-Jerk Contrarian Game.





Well, it probably beats Night and Day (1946), with Cary Grant and Alexis Smith, a few brief moments of which are seen in the film. Of all the trite and hackneyed framing devices for a biopic, I guess I'd have to say "looking back on my life from my deathbed with an angel at my side," the one chosen by former Time magazine writer Jay Cocks, is among the "best."

Hey, this isn't to say that I could break the spine of this knotty dilemma (block that metaphor!); I recognize how hard it is to do a film biography, and doubly hard when the main character writes music. Still, there's probably a reason De-Lovely only opened in 16 theaters across the nation, and it's not because the filmmakers figured they could build an audience. It's because the film is, well, how do I put this, not very good. The music is good. Kevin Kline is good. Ashley Judd is good as his wife, Linda Lee. Even Jonathan Pryce, the angel walking Porter through his life, is good (OK, Jonathan Pryce is always good). The factual accuracy is way improved over what they could show in 1946, when Porter was still alive--as were qualms about even suggesting homosexuality.

The problem for me is that the whole thing just didn't seem to hang together. Reading other reviews, I see that I wasn't the only one bothered by the anachronism of black chorus members in 1920s musicals. I'm pretty sure it didn't happen that way. On the other hand, I won't pick the nit that some of the songs were played in the "wrong" key. I loved the music. I probably would have enjoyed the film more if it has just been a musical revue, "and then I wrote..."

If you love Cole Porter, or Kevin Kline, or Ashley Judd, you might enjoy the film; you'll just have a very hard time finding a theater that's playing it. Spiderman II is playing on more screens in Contra Costa County than De-Lovely lights up in the entire country. Rated PG-13 for sexual content--we've come a long way since 1946, but not far enough so that we're comfortable allowing people younger than 13 to get a hint that homosexuality exists.

Guest Review: De-Lovely

You can tell it's a moving picture; it moved Neal to review it too.

This biopic from storied producer/director Irwin Winkler (They Shoot Horse Don't They?, Rocky, Raging Bull, The Right Stuff) and screenwriter Jay Cocks (Gangs of New York, The Age of Innocence) is both fascinating and frustrating. The raw materials are terrific - the intriguing life of one of America's great composers, Cole Porter; Kevin Kline cast superbly as Porter; musical performances of Porter's finest tunes by the likes of Alanis Morisette, Elvis Costello, Natalie Cole, and Mick Hucknall (anyone remember Simply Red?); 1920s- and 30s-style fashions from Giorgio Armani contributing to a glorious visual gloss - what could go wrong? Apparently, plenty. Despite an Oscar caliber performance by Kline, De-Lovely is remarkably remote and bloodless. Cocks' "cause and effect" script - neatly sequencing Porter's life into a linear series of actions, events, and consequences - is part of the problem, never delving deeply enough into Porter's psyche and motivations to provide rationale or empathy for his behavior. The dreadful Ashley Judd, as Porter's wife Linda, doesn't help matters with a stunningly opaque performance. Porter's sour later life (resulting in part from a debilitating horseback riding accident that ultimately cost him use of his legs) undercuts much of the suave charm and appeal of the younger songwriter and bon vivant. But even with these problems, De-Lovely succeeds on one key level - it sent me home desperate to dig every obscure Cole Porter tune out of my CD collection, to learn more about a brilliant and complicated artist, and to flesh out the meager storylines offered in the film. It's hard to dismiss a film with an impact that powerful.

--Neal Vitale


The San Francisco Chronicle disliked, but did not hate, Anchorman, suggesting it was a series of skits held together with a flimsy plot. Will Ferrell suits my taste, and I love to see Fred Willard working (in this case, he's the news director). Christina Applegate was OK, not spectacular, cute but not particularly funny. Will Ferrell is funny. Hey, I lived through the 70s, and worked in television as a camera operator in a medium market television station during that era. This brings back real memories. I have heard Adam McKay, the co-writer and director call this a "medium-size fish in a small town," story, and that's about right. Ferrell and McKay write funny sketches. Someday, they may even write a movie. As it is, I laughed at the sketches and overlooked the lack of a story. Maybe you can do the same.


Diabetes Advice, Dern and Pournelle on Comdex, Dan Grobstein's picks

I have type II diabetes; if you do too, check this out:

L-arginine cream and garlic can each increase blood flow and temperature in the feet of diabetics, helping to prevent serious side effects of this disease.

For additional information and references from Betty Kamen
Find the cream here

Find the garlic oil here

Find a report on the original medical journal article here


Daniel Dern writes of Jerry Pournelle's Comdex Memories, from probably the only man not on the Comdex staff who attended every show.

Dan Grobstein: Fewer noses stuck in books and Who Should Make The Presidential Helicopter?

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