Paul Murray's weblog, with news you may have missed and my $0.02 worth on a number of topics.

"You can't make up anything anymore. The world itself is a satire. All you're doing is recording it."
- Art Buchwald

I bet you don't have a friend who's an acupuncturist

E-mail me: pmurray [at]

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Wednesday, September 25, 2002
"Why are we going to attack Iraq?" I have been asked this question by several people who know that I am a news junkie. My answer is usually along the lines of "I don't know; you'd have to ask Mr. Bush." Which is true. I still don't understand why.

Weapons of mass destruction? Sadaam Hussein would not be stupid enough to use them on us. Supporter of terrorism? I haven't seen any convincing evidence yet.

Assuming that I am of at least average intelligence, I believe this means that either:

a) there is a good reason but it hasn't been explained well, or
b) the Bush Adminstration does not want to tell us, so they are left with the weak arguments they have used publicly

I'm not a paranoid person, but I'm starting to lean toward the second of these two answers. There are people in this administration who scare me with their ideas of what America can and should do around the world.

I encourage you to read this powerful article in the London Review of Books. (via MetaFilter)

We're from Congress and we're here to help you. In case you hadn't heard, Rep. Billy Tauzin has introduced a bill designed to shove digital TV broadcasting down our throats. (Congress has already spent the money they expect to reap from reselling the wireless spectrum currently used for analog broadcasts.) identifies four reasons why Tauzin's bill is a bad idea. (via BoingBoing)

Tuesday, September 24, 2002
So if I'm so smart, how come she has the syndicated column? Molly Ivins had a interesting point, but I think she wasted a great opportunity by giving the punchline before the setup:
If you add up all the reasons the administration has advanced for going after Saddam, the only thing left to say -- "Damn right, we need to take out Pervez Musharraf right now!" Musharraf has destroyed democracy in his country, he's backing terrorists in India, our democratic ally, his CIA was hand-in-glove with Al Qaeda, his military is riddled with militant Islamists, his madrasas teach hatred of the West, his heroes are Napoleon and Hitler, and he not only has nukes, he's threatened to use them.

Musharraf is not the point of the column, the Bush Administration is; read the whole column. I'm not saying I agree with all of it, but read it for a different perspective on things. (via TVBarn)

Wednesday, September 18, 2002
Go away, Ann Coulter. This has been up for almost two weeks now, so it's not any kind of breaking news, but Eric Alterman has a great piece about what a loathsome human being (and factually wrong author) Ann Coulter is and asking how conservatives, or anyone, can possibly defend her. I really can't express my feelings any better than this article. The one thing I will never forgive Bill Maher for is contributing to her popularity by having her as a guest on Politically Incorrect.

Hopefully the first of many. The State of Washington has won its first legal case against a spammer. The law doesn't prohibit all spam, but that which is deceptive (which I would guess is about 95% of it). Here's a relevant excerpt:
NEW SECTION. Sec. 3. (1) No person, corporation, partnership, or association may initiate the transmission of a commercial electronic mail message from a computer located in Washington or to an electronic mail address that the sender knows, or has reason to know, is held by a Washington resident that:
(a) Uses a third party's internet domain name without permission of the third party, or otherwise misrepresents any information in identifying the point of origin or the transmission path of a commercial electronic mail message; or
(b) Contains false or misleading information in the subject line.
(2) For purposes of this section, a person, corporation, partnership, or association knows that the intended recipient of a commercial electronic mail message is a Washington resident if that information is available, upon request, from the registrant of the internet domain name contained in the recipient's electronic mail address.

Maybe they finally nailed it. Force spammers to be truthful and filters can do the rest. I may very well forward this to my state representative.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002
Litmus test. The Washington Post reports: "The Bush administration has begun a broad restructuring of the scientific advisory committees that guide federal policy in areas such as patients' rights and public health, eliminating some committees that were coming to conclusions at odds with the president's views and in other cases replacing members with handpicked choices." This is truly disgusting. We're not talking about political patronage here, we're talking about naming committees of foxes to establish hen-house guarding policies.
"It's always a matter of qualifications first and foremost," [HHS spokesman] Pierce said. "There's no quotas on any of this stuff. There's no litmus test of any kind."

At least one nationally renowned academic, who was recently called by an administration official to talk about serving on an HHS advisory committee, disagreed with that assessment. To the candidate's surprise, the official asked for the professor's views on embryo cell research, cloning and physician-assisted suicide. After that, the candidate said, the interviewer told the candidate that the position would have to go to someone else because the candidate's views did not match those of the administration.

Asked to reconcile that experience with his previous assurance, Pierce said of the interview questions: "Those are not litmus tests."

Monday, September 16, 2002
Baseball's Sad Lexicon. Baseball's most famous double-play combination (but not its best) recorded its first such play 100 years ago today. They would be immortalized by Franklin P. Adams ("F.P.A.") eight years later, before he was a member of the Algonquin Round Table. (LAT via MetaFilter)

Whoa. Check out the cargo airplane design that Boeing is studying.

Saturday, September 14, 2002
Crazy brave. The accountant, formerly a Marine, who found the last two survivors in the ruins of the WTC... and why you probably haven't heard of him.

Friday, September 13, 2002
The first emoticon? A Microsoft researcher has traced :-) and :-( to a September 19, 1982 posting on a Carnegie Mellon bulletin board. Update: Now we have a pre-ASCII contender for the first emoticons, dating to the mid-1970s. (via boing boing)

Thursday, September 12, 2002
One giant punch for man, one small blow against annoying idiots. Buzz Aldrin reportedly punched a man who asked him to swear on a Bible that he had walked on the moon. There's more to it, but why bother with my summary when you can read the news story.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002
Horsepucky. In an editorial, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (that's the group that moves the metaphorical clock to describe how close the world is to nuclear war) isn't buying the Bush Administration's "evidence" that Iraq is on the verge of having nuclear weapons.
The aluminum tubing story—and others to come—may be taken at face value by an insufficiently skeptical press, but the decision to go to war is simply too important to let the administration “wing it” in presenting its rationale. As Jon Stewart of the Daily Show asked recently about the administration’s attitude toward the American public, “Do they think we’re retarded?”

(via MetaFilter)

Sunday, September 08, 2002
We're from Microsoft, and we're here to help you.
Microsoft has helpfully provided a list of the "Top 10 Benefits of Windows XP Media Center Edition." LawMeme provides a fuller explanation of the benefits.

(via Dan Gillmor)

Hidden settings and more. Always time for computer humor. (via Dan Gillmor)

Friday, September 06, 2002
Keep your Social Security. I don't ask for much, but could I please have a retirement package like Jack Welsh?

Thursday, September 05, 2002
Hmmmm. This picture and the story behind it (at least as related in the caption) is one of the creepiest things I've seen in awhile. Update: I finally found the accompanying article, which explains much more; reading it made me feel a little better. Turns out the doctor really was helping, despite his creepy look in the photo. But the "how" this happened was never resolved...

Here we go again. Someone doesn't like the word "niggardly" and wants to have a teacher fired.

Nice to see they're focusing on the important things. Detroit Police serving on the security detail for the mayor have been instructed to salute him, per a long-ignored 1972 executive order.

Monday, September 02, 2002
Welcome to our (ugly) cathedral. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has a new cathedral, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Some people are complaining about the $192 million it cost, arguing that Cardinal Roger Mahony could have spent that money in much better ways (including, ahem, settling with victims of priests). My complaint is that it is ugly. In fact, the more I look at it, the uglier it gets. Fortunately, I live several thousand miles away, so this shouldn't be too much of a problem. Let the inhabitants of La-la land enjoy the "Taj Mahony" (the best nickname I've found).

The archdiocese seems rather proud of it, naturally:
Spanish architect, Professor José Rafael Moneo has designed a dynamic, contemporary Cathedral with virtually no right angles. This geometry contributes to the Cathedral's feeling of mystery and its aura of majesty.

Umm, okay. (Incidentally, that first comma is theirs, not mine. Maybe it was put there by the archdiocese's PR firm.)