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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Thursday, April 29, 2004
One for the pedants among us.
Check out Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics. (via BoingBoing)

Wednesday, April 28, 2004
MS Word and how it won.
According to Chris Pratley of Microsoft, anyway. It's a pretty good overview of how Word became the dominant word processor, although it omits some of Microsoft's other tactics and advantages -- which have been pointed out in the reader comments that follow it. (via Slashdot)

Tuesday, April 27, 2004
Did we mention that he's a war president?
For anyone who doesn't believe that the Bush team's strategy is to relate every conceivable (no pun intended) topic to fighting terror, consider this exchange between CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Bush advisor Karen Hughes (noted at Wonkette):
BLITZER: There is a clear difference when it comes to abortion rights between the president and his Democratic challenger, John Kerry. In your opinion, Karen, how big of an issue will this abortion rights issue be in this campaign?
HUGHES: Well, Wolf, it's always an issue. And I frankly think it's changing somewhat. I think after September 11th the American people are valuing life more and realizing that we need policies to value the dignity and worth of every life. . . And I think those are the kind of policies that the American people can support, particularly at a time when we're facing an enemy, and really the fundamental difference between us and the terror network we fight is that we value every life.

I haven't yet heard them relate universal broadband or sending people to Mars or cutting taxes to fighting terror, but it's early yet.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004
What you know about Columbine is wrong.
The other day a couple of my co-workers were discussing the shootings at Columbine (it was the five-year anniversary yesterday). One asked why they did, and the other responded that it was because they hated jocks and preps.

I think that's the common belief, but it's wrong, as this Slate article explains. Psychologists and psychiatrists working with the FBI are confident that they understand why it happened. In a nutshell, Eric Harris was a psychopath, Dylan Kelbold was depressed, and their complementary personalities produced what happened ... which was nowhere near as bad as what they intended.

It's an interesting read.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004
'Lost in Translation' doesn't translate well in Japan.
Now that the film has finally started playing there, it seems that some Japanese people are unhappy about how they're depicted in the film Lost in Translation. I didn't see anything that I interpreted that way, but I've never been to Japan. A few mild stereotypes, perhaps, but as a high school friend once observed, stereotypes exist for a reason -- there's usually at least a grain of truth to them.

Thursday, April 15, 2004
The part-timer was out of touch in August 2001.
As noted in the previous post, George Bush has been away from the White House for more than 40 percent of his presidency. Slate's Fred Kaplan noticed the significance of this:

In an otherwise dry day of hearings before the 9/11 commission, one brief bit of dialogue set off a sudden flash of clarity on the basic question of how our government let disaster happen.


Roemer then asked Tenet if he mentioned Moussaoui to President Bush at one of their frequent morning briefings. Tenet replied, "I was not in briefings at this time." Bush, he noted, "was on vacation." He added that he didn't see the president at all in August 2001. During the entire month, Bush was at his ranch in Texas. "You never talked with him?" Roemer asked. "No," Tenet replied. By the way, for much of August, Tenet too was, as he put it, "on leave."

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice has made a big point of the fact that Tenet briefed the president nearly every day. Yet at the peak moment of threat [August 2001], the two didn't talk at all. At a time when action was needed, and orders for action had to come from the top, the man at the top was resting undisturbed.

Sunday, April 11, 2004
Working hard or hardly working?
For a guy who wanted to be president, George Bush sure spends a lot of time away from the White House, as noted by the Washington Post:
This is Bush's 33rd visit to his ranch since becoming president. He has spent all or part of 233 days on his Texas ranch since taking office, according to a tally by CBS News. Adding his 78 visits to Camp David and his five visits to Kennebunkport, Maine, Bush has spent all or part of 500 days in office at one of his three retreats, or more than 40 percent of his presidency.

What does it say when a Republican who was on the staff of the first President Bush (James Pinkerton) is writing columns like this one?
If you knew that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had received a memo a month before Pearl Harbor entitled, "Japanese Determined to Attack the United States in the Pacific," and that he had done nothing about that information, would that knowledge change your perception of FDR as a wise war leader?

Roosevelt received no such memo, of course, but President George W. Bush got a blunt warning five weeks before 9/11 and he did little or nothing. He even presided over a stand- down in preparations, concentrating on other concerns.

He also points out how commission member Richard Ben-Veniste got Condoleeza Rice to reveal the title of the PDB, which was classified. (Full transcript.) (via Talking Points Memo)

Marriage penalty? What about the single penalty?!?
For years it has irked me when politicians -- usually Republicans -- campaign and loud and long about helping families with tax breaks. The implicit message to me as a single person is that I'm unfairly benefiting from the system. Of course, who would dare argue against "family values"?

Today's Washington Post has a piece by someone who teaches tax law, who argues that single people are unfairly forced to shoulder more of the country's tax burden:
The initial tax threshold for all singles, including those with higher incomes, should be set so that not one of them pays a tax until their income exceeds a level we regard as necessary to meet basic living expenses. This is what Congress does for that family of four; this is what voters should insist it do for the household of one. Until that time, the great majority of singles in this country can legitimately argue that, at least for tax purposes, they are treated like second-class citizens.

Read the article so that you'll be ready the next time your politicians launch into their standard noise about needing to help families.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004
Allow me to be the last person on the Web to suggest you go watch The Adventures of Seinfeld & Superman. Yes, it's a commercial (with more to come). But it's clever and amusing.

More target practice for the Bushies?
Want more evidence to support Richard Clarke? Try this from Reuters:
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has faced a steady exodus of counterterrorism officials, many disappointed by a preoccupation with Iraq they said undermined the U.S. fight against terrorism.

Former counterterrorism officials said at least half a dozen have left the White House Office for Combating Terrorism or related agencies in frustration in the 2 1/2 years since the attacks.

Some also left because they felt President Bush had sidelined his counterterrorism experts and paid almost exclusive heed to the vice president, the defense secretary and other Cabinet members in planning the "war on terror," former counterterrorism officials said.

Perhaps we'll be told that they too are all disgruntled incompetent bureaucrats who were out of the loop and are now working for John Kerry.

What global warming?
What should Republicans do when asked about global warming? Deny it exists, according to an e-mailed memo. (via LinkFilter)

Tuesday, April 06, 2004
Start saying good-bye to cheap DSL service.
What a surprise. From CNET: "Local phone companies advertising steep discounts for high-speed Internet access are beginning to assess new 'regulatory' fees that would effectively increase monthly costs by 10 percent or more for some customers."

Monday, April 05, 2004
Supporting evidence for Clarke.
I'll have my own thoughts about Richard Clarke's book Against All Enemies once my brother finishes his copy and I can read it. In the meantime, notice the evidence that indicates the basic accuracy of what he's saying:

  • Slate's Fred Kaplan on "the dogs that didn't bark": George Tenet and Colin Powell

  • AP: "Religious edicts from al-Qaida leaders and anger over the U.S. occupation of Iraq are more likely behind a rash of bombings around the world than direct orders from Osama bin Laden's organization, government officials and terrorism experts say."

  • AP: "President Bush made clear at a dinner with Prime Minister Tony Blair nine days after the Sept. 11 attacks that he wanted to confront Iraq, the former British ambassador to the United States reportedly told a magazine."

  • Washington Post: "[T]he broad outline of Clarke's criticism has been corroborated by a number of other former officials, congressional and commission investigators, and by Bush's admission in the 2003 Bob Woodward book 'Bush at War' that he 'didn't feel that sense of urgency' about Osama bin Laden before the attacks occurred."

Thursday, April 01, 2004
I say it's a hoax.
Google claims to be introducing free e-mail with 1 Gb of storage. I say it's a hoax. But I could be wrong. The NYT's John Markoff appears to believe it, as does CNET and Wired News ... but the math (1 Gb x millions of users) is simply horrendous. Plus, of all the possible days to release it ... nope, I say it's a hoax. We shall see.

Update: Now that I've seen this lame Google April fool's joke, I'm starting to think it's real.