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Read this now

Stop what you’re doing and go read Confidence. I wish I could write like that.

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Goodbye, old friend

It’s time to say goodbye to an old friend: my Powerbook G3/400 Pismo. It’s been a faithful companion, but alas, it’s shelved in favor of newer and faster machines: a dual-800 G4 tower and a Thinkpad T30. Before I consign it to the eBay boneyard, if anyone wants to make me an offer I’m open. It includes Jaguar, the DVD drive module, two batteries, two AC adapters, and an AirPort card.

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It’s getting crowded in here

I can understand the powerful temptation to throw one’s hat into the ring, but the Democratic field for next year’s presidential election is getting mighty crowded. So far, we’ve got Dean (unelectable, but I’d vote for him), Edwards (probably unelectable), Kerry (too soon to tell), Lieberman (who I might have been willing to vote for if he hadn’t proven himself to be a whore in the 2000 campaign), and the ever-popular Al Sharpton.
Now, we also have good old Dick Gephardt, Dennis Kucinich (“I’m stepping forward because someone has to say, `Hold it! Everything needs to be changed at every level of society.’ “— and we know that Big Brother’s gonna do the changing, right?) and Carol Moseley-Braun. Wesley Clark is rumored to be interested, too.
Hasn’t it occured to any of these people that crowding the field like this is bad for the overall chances of the Democratic Party? I mean, c’mon: there’s just about zero chance that Gephardt, Sharpton, Mosely-Braun, Clark, or Kucinich could get elected. All they’re doing is depriving the other candidates in the field of support. Which, given the overall caliber of those running, isn’t necessarily a bad thing… if you’re inclined to support the Republicans, that is. When a front-runner does emerge, it will be after a long process of internecine sniping; all that’s going to do is allow President Bush to stand above the fray.

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Trifecta

Yesterday I got my author copies; today it’s Valentine’s Day, which means it’s also Julie‘s birthday! Mad props to you, birthday girl. For your birthday, I’ve invited Dick Cheney over to paint– I heard he was getting a little stressed out. (Well, not really; no one knows where he is, so I guess he didn’t get the invitation.)

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We are living in a material world

Brandt said:

it’s apparent that the administration is trying to hide something in regard to Iraq. if “material breach” of U.N. Resolution #1441 is what the U.S. is striving for, then why were Blix and El Baradei not informed earlier of the U.S. Intellegence that was presented yesterday?

First off, you appear to have bought into the common misunderstanding of “material breach” (John and I already had a conversation about this.) That phrase has a specific meaning, and it’s not “Iraq gets caught holding banned weapons”. It means that Iraq is not complying with the resolution’s inspection requirements. (The exact language: Iraq is in breach if the UN “decides that false statements or omissions in the declarations submitted by Iraq pursuant to this resolution and failure by Iraq at any time to comply with, and cooperate fully in the implementation of, this resolution shall constitute a further material breach of Iraq’s obligations and will be reported to the Council for assessment in accordance with paragraphs 11 and 12 below”). Blix and ElBaradei have both said that Iraq has not complied with the inspection regime. Voilŕ: material breach!
The pre- and post-Gulf War UN resolutions don’t just ban Iraq from having WMD, IRBMs, and so on. They ban them from attempting to obtain them. So, even if the Iraqis haven’t succeeded in building their al-Hussein derivative, guess what? Material breach again.
As for why we didn’t share our intel, well, you can’t have it both ways. If we reveal intelligence to the UN, we are essentially betting that they will protect the sources of that intelligence and the methods by which it was gathered. This is a dangerous bet, particularly in the case of people inside Iraq who are spying for us– it doesn’t take much imagination to figure out what the Iraqis would probably do to anyone they suspected of leaking information to the US. Of course, as soon as the UN says “you’re in breach: we know you have $badThing at these coordinates”, the Iraqis move it, rendering us unable to strike it in the event of war. (I’m leaving aside the whole pre-inspection argument that the US and Britain were penetrating the inspection apparatus to gather intelligence– if those governments had such great intel, that argument must not have been true.)
Now, on to the argument about casualties: the reason for the buildup is a matter of two things, strategy and tactics. Both dictate assembly of an overwhelming force whenever possible: tactically for a massing of forces, and strategically as a deterrent or means of applying pressure.
Lastly, Brandt’s offhand suggestion that the evidence is manufactured is crazy. Take a look at a map, and you’ll see that Iraq has a significant number of different terrains, including some marshlands that aren’t all that different from south Louisiana (well, except for the Kurds…)

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Caution: falling productivity

Don’t plan on getting much else done once you go here.

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Spam and affiliate marketing

People will do what you incent them to do. This is a basic rule of human behavior that has, sadly, often been misapplied. For some examples, ask anyone who’s involved in sales and marketing about whether their compensation plan rewards desirable behavior.
Affiliate marketing programs, like the one offered by Amazon.com, seem like a great idea: corporations can get others to do their marketing work for them. The only problem is, these programs typically incent affiliates purely by sales numbers, so guess what? Unscrupulous affiliates will do all sorts of things to get their volumes up.
Take Vonage, for instance. They offer a flat $50 commission for each new subscriber. It’s not surprising, then, that I got spam this morning from a Vonage affiliate. Sure, the spam violates the affiliate terms of service, but so what? That violation is meaningless unless Vonage kicks the offender out without paying them. I’ve already called Vonage to complain; we’ll see what happens. My suspicion is that Vonage won’t care, as long as they’re getting the new customers.
Ever wonder why you’re getting so much spam for Symantec products like Norton Internet Security? Symantec says that it’s because people are selling pirated version of their software. I remember them having an affiliate program in the past, but I can’t find any details– perhaps the lazy web can help out here.
Amazon’s another example. If you google for any of a wide range of product names, you’re likely to find sponsored links from Amazon affiliates. Click the link, and you’re redirected to Amazon’s page via the affiliate, so they get credit if you buy anything. I don’t remember ever getting spam from Amazon affiliates, and since the affiliates have to pay for their Google text ads I don’t mind this approach as much.

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