Saturday, January 20, 2007
Come check out my new digs!
::matthew has generously volunteered his time to get it up and running and generally awesome-looking, and I will be forever grateful.
Please update any bookmarks, blogrolls, blog readers, or RSS readers you might have.
And if you don't have Multi Medium on any of your bookmarks or blogrolls or blog readers, you should. The new URL is 23% shorter, so it's that much easier to add.
Reflection in a puddle.
This probably qualifies as some kind of flag desecration, but oh well.
"...But why do you ask, Eighteen Seals Humping?"
But what's in between? Is it simply to use our desperate and clumsy flailing to attract new recruits and destabilize and radicalize the region, or does he expect to topple the United States to remove our military and economic power from the playing field? The Bush administration has certainly been playing into Osama's hands beautifully in terms of destabilization and radicalization, but is the second part realistic?
The reason I ask is, I think Osama is in for a disappointment if he believes the U.S. will implode like the Soviet Union did. I'm not saying that it's not impossible for our form of government to change, as the Soviet Union's did - but I don't believe it will happen in a way that is beneficial to al Qaeda. Yes, changes in government caused the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Iraq to collapse and break apart, but they started out totalitarian and moved towards, well, the general direction of democracy. These were countries were the absolute authority of the state was the only force holding them together.
Now consider the U.S. The 2006 midterm elections were a huge positive, but if the Bush Republicans are not permanently removed from power (whether through polls or criminal proceedings), there is always a chance that they could pick up where they left off, and gradually transform the country into a fascist dictatorship - or perhaps not so gradually, if they get another excuse to claim "emergency powers." The problem with this, from an al Qaeda perspective, is that the U.S. wouldn't actually collapse. There might be a slight possibility of revolt, but I think it would be more like Germany in the 30s, where a combination of complacency, xenophobic hysteria, and sheer disbelief allowed the Nazis to incrementally acquire absolute power.
But instead of the unifying boogeyman being Jewish, he would be Muslim. A totalitarian America would be a powerful, unhinged, and implacable enemy of Islam, unbound by any checks and balances or concern for international law. One possible scenario: All pretense of trying to turn Iraq into a democracy is abandoned, and the draft is reinstated to acquire enough troops to impose martial law there. I don't think even the neocons would be insane enough to declare war on the entire region at once, so they use bogus provocations to pick the Middle Eastern countries off one by one (possibly even using nukes), until/unless the rest of the world finally bands together to stop us, at great cost to themselves.
I scares me that I'm pretty sure I just described every neocon's most cherished secret wet dream, at least up until that last part. But to get back to my original question: Is that Osama's plan? To have the U.S. lay waste to huge swaths of the Middle East and elsewhere before getting taken down, and then swoop in to pick up the pieces and take advantage of the global power vacuum? Or does he think the U.S. will just collapse under its own weight like his last nemesis did? Or does he just not care what happens to the U.S., as long as it keeps pushing the Muslim world into his arms?
Friday, January 19, 2007
...Cheney and Gonzales have dropped the Constitution into a hole in the White House basement and are currently dancing naked around the pit, penises tucked between their legs, screaming "It rubs the lotions on its Amendments!" at the shuddering, terrified document, and there's nary a peep.Now that's speaking my language.
...The human embryo is a human organism, but is this being — microscopically small, with no self-awareness and little resemblance to us — a person, with a right to life?
Many advocates of federal financing for embryo-destructive research begin from a negative answer to that question. They argue that the human embryo is just too small, too unlike us in appearance, or too lacking in consciousness or sensitivity to pain or other critical mental capacity to be granted a place in the human family. But surely America has learned the hard way not to assign human worth by appearances. And surely we would not deny those who have lost some mental faculties the right to be regarded with respect and protected from harm. Why should we deny it to those whose faculties are still developing?
Um. Did he just argue that being an embryo is akin to having a disability? That it's shallow to discriminate against embryos simply because they're about as big as rice and don't have functioning brains?
Who the hell is this jackass?
Yuval Levin, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, is a former executive director of the President’s Council on Bioethics.Oh. Right, then. Carry on, you're doing a heckuva job.
Well, when you've had as much disappointment and humiliation as I have, you learn to accept it with a certain amount of grace.
And, of course, there'll be other people's cats...
The shadowy and mysterious Codename B. looking content and slightly belligerent.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Apparently I am not the last photographer on Earth.
I like drinking fountains, especially defunct ones.
I guess this is not exactly a surprise...
Um, seriously, I think something terrible has happened to the lifeguards...
The bad news is that everything that happens is good for the DLC.
I don't mind bipartisanship up to a point; that point being "selling out to the Republicans to such a degree that you end up on the same side." So far, it looks like the reverse is happening: Dubya and his vanity war have generated so much ill will and mistrust for the Republicans and their policies that most Americans really want the Democrats to take the wheel for a while. Even if they can't steer us away from the cliff, they can at least kick the leaden Republican foot off of the accelerator.
Thanks to last November's anti-Bush referendum, many Congressional Republicans are now beginning to recognize this shift, and are jockeying for seats on the anti-Bush, anti-war bandwagon. "Bipartisanship" now means Republicans opposing an unpopular president to save their own skins. This is especially true of those Republicans up for re-election next year - the prospect of facing the voters tends to concentrate the mind.
Where Edsall and his DLC, establishment, "Money Party" cronies come in is to push the narrative that Democrats need to push a mushy, cautious, centrist agenda to lure on-the-fence Republicans over. While this would certainly get a lot of legislation passed, most of it wouldn't be worth the paper the lobbyists printed it on.
Edsall & Co's mistake is to underestimate the extent of the shift, and to misread what America voted for last year. I believe they voted for an agenda of change, integrity, accountability, and opposition (CIAO), and will not be satisfied with half-measures. Instead of tacking and triangulating and trying to figure out what Republicans will vote for, Democrats need to push for what their constituents (their citizen constituents) want and need. The Republicans can either get on board with them or try to explain their opposition in 2008 or 2010.
The Democrats haven't had an opportunity like this in 30 years - I don't want to see them squander it with needless capitulation.
There are people that annoy me, but what annoys me doesn't really fit into any of those categories.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Utility pole! I live for this stuff.
I took a whole bunch of pictures of planes, not-exactly-trains, boats, and helicopters. This was one of the few that wasn't total crap.
I think the trees are powering up for their attack.
Welcome to sunny, scenic Jacob Riis Park! I think this is, like, the only tree.
They could make it awfully uncomfortable for Dubya and his cronies. Unless the Republican plan is to have their tame U.S. Attorneys prosecute corrupt Republicans really ineptly (but comprehensively) so they'll be immunized by the principle of double jeopardy.
Probably not a great re-election strategy, but neither is going to prison.
...Kennesaw, Ga... in 1982 passed a mandatory gun ownership law in response to a handgun ban passed in Morton Grove, Ill. Kennesaw’s crime dropped sharply, while Morton Grove’s did not.
To some degree, this is rational. Criminals, unsurprisingly, would rather break into a house where they aren’t at risk of being shot. As David Kopel noted in a 2001 article in The Arizona Law Review, burglars report that they try to avoid homes where armed residents are likely to be present. We see this phenomenon internationally, too, with the United States having a lower proportion of “hot” burglaries — break-ins where the burglars know the home to be occupied — than countries with restrictive gun laws.
Likewise, in the event of disasters that leave law enforcement overwhelmed, armed citizens can play an important role in stanching crime. Armed neighborhood watches deterred looting in parts of Houston and New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Precisely because an armed populace can serve as an effective backup for law enforcement, the ownership of firearms was widely mandated during Colonial times, and the second Congress passed a statute in 1792 requiring adult male citizens to own guns.
Daniel Pearl's mother in today's NYT:
IN late 2001, three months before my son, the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, was kidnapped, he interviewed the influential Qatari cleric Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, and asked him about suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. The sheik replied with a novel twist of logic. “Israeli society in general is armed,” he said, implying that Israeli civilians — including women and children, doctors and journalists — are legitimate targets.
If General Qanbar and Mr. Maliki plan to continue shielding militias like the Mahdi Army, this new drive will be doomed before it begins.This is not an if, it's a certainty. Maliki is only in power because Sadr allows him to be, and the Bushies either don't notice or don't care. Any move to take on Sadr is doomed to failure, especially if it depends on one of his clients for success.
The three most plausible explanations I can think of for this doomed approach are:
1) Stupidity and incompetence. This can never be ruled out.
2) Looking busy. The administration wants to look like they're taking bold decisive action while they run out the clock so Iraq becomes President Gore's problem ("How's that for an inconvenient truth? In your face, Captain Nerdboy! Heheheh.").
3) Provocation. Create a military disaster that you can blame on Iran, so you have an excuse to bomb some democracy and gratitude into them.
A few thousand troops is a small price to pay for Dubya to finally achieve his lifelong goal of nuking the shit out of somebody. I'm sure the troops will be happy to make the ultimate sacrifice so that their president can experience a momentary erection. We could call it Operation Die-agra.
MANHATTAN, N.Y.--The mermaid Azura surprised the Clean Seas Institute by announcing her people's extreme displeasure with the anti-pollution group's activities.
"Pollution provides the basis of many Mer-technologies," she said. "You know, we still haven't discovered fire down there."
She explained that the sea-people rely on "reverse-archaeology," wherein advanced societies' artifacts rain from above for use in mer-civilization.
"Your license plates accelerated our development of literacy, and your soda-can rings provided our first currency," she said.
"Abandoned cans and fishing lines have given us telecommunications," she went on.
Weakened by her sojourn on dry land, Azura accepted no questions before leaving the bewildered activists.
"We're used to resistance from big business," said Walter Hargen, a spokesman for Clean Seas. "But to be reprimanded by the fish themselves--that's taken the wind out of our sails."
Clearly, we all have some hard thinking to do.
In political news, the WWN is reporting that Hillary has named Bigfoot as her running mate, but I'm very skeptical - she hasn't even been nominated yet.
Does that mean it's good science? Probably not...
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Fun from the NYT's Tuesday Science section:
A spurge that smells like death
Rafflesia arnoldii is no shrinking violet. At up to three feet in diameter, it’s the world’s largest flower. It’s also possibly the most repulsive — it looks and smells like rotting flesh (the better to attract flies, which act as pollinators).Beware the moths, especially if you're a sad clown
But while Rafflesia may be easy to describe, it has been much harder to classify. It’s a parasite, embedding itself in vines in the understory of pristine rainforests in Indonesia, and it lacks the roots, stems, leaves and photosynthesizing machinery that would give scientists a clue as to its evolutionary background.(...)
...Dr. [Charles C.] Davis and colleagues have done more genetic research to solve the puzzle. Their conclusion, published online by the journal Science, is that the Rafflesiaceae, as this family of species is known, are nestled within the spurge family, which includes rubber plants, castor, cassava and poinsettia. “They are smack dab in the middle,” Dr. Davis said.
In some ways this is a surprise, because spurges are so well known. On the other hand, Dr. Davis said, the Rafflesiaceae “are so off on their own trip that their position within any group would require some explaining.”
“These plants flower in understory rainforest environments, which are dimly lit, so they are not easily seen by pollinators,” Dr. Davis said. “They would have had incredible incentive to increase their surface area, to maximize odor production and bring in these pollinators.”
Moths and butterflies obtain moisture wherever they can find it — in Africa, Asia and South America, even from the tears of mammals and reptiles. But until now, no moth or butterfly has been seen drinking tears from a bird.
Roland Hilgartner of the University of Ulm in Germany and colleagues observed a species of moth in Madagascar, Hemiceratoides hieroglyphica, that alights on the neck of a sleeping magpie or Newtonia bird and sticks its long proboscis between the bird’s closed eyelids. Moths were observed in this position for 30 minutes or longer, presumably drinking the bird’s tears. The finding was reported in Biology Letters.
The moth’s proboscis is about half an inch long (about half the moth’s length), with a sharp point and many tiny spines and barbs. The researchers suggest that it functions somewhat like a harpoon, because it has to go not only between upper and lower eyelids, but also through the bird’s nictitating membrane, which further protects the eyes.
Beaks? Moths with beaks?
When it comes to producing a funny television show or movie in Canada, producers here have a reliable stable of topics: French-English relations, urban-rural dynamics and anything that involves a bumbling politician or the United States.Niiice. I see the Canadian right-wing is every bit as classy as our own.
But Islam — something of a third rail of comedy throughout the Western world — did not make the list, which is one reason the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s new situation comedy, “Little Mosque on the Prairie,” is attracting such attention here. “It is a risk doing a sitcom about what can be considered a very touchy subject,” said Kirstine Layfield, executive director of network programming at CBC.
But last Tuesday’s series premiere attracted 2.09 million viewers, impressive in a country where an audience of one million is a runaway hit. The CBC had not had a show draw that size audience in a decade, according to the network.
The show follows a small group of Muslims in, of all places, a prairie town in Saskatchewan where, in the first episode, the group was trying to establish a mosque in the parish hall of a church. A passer-by, seeing the group praying, rushes to call a “terrorist hot line” to report Muslims praying “just like on CNN,” which touches off a local firestorm.
Hoping to avoid making a stir in the town, the group hires a Canadian-born imam from Toronto who quits his father’s law firm to take the job — career suicide, his father thinks. On the way, he is detained in the airport after being overheard on his cellphone saying, “If Dad thinks that’s suicide, so be it,” adding, “This is Allah’s plan for me.”
Later, a leader of the Muslim group is seen defending to a local person the plan to turn the parish hall into a mosque. “It’s a pilot project,” he says, leading the man to exclaim wide-eyed, “You’re training pilots?!”
The show’s creator, Zarqa Nawaz, said that she was not trying to bridge all of the cultural gaps, but that she hoped the program could elicit laughs on all sides and perhaps foster a better understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims.
“I want the broader society to look at us as normal, with the same issues and concerns as anyone else,” said Ms. Nawaz, who based the series loosely on her own experiences as a Muslim woman who moved from Toronto to the prairie. “We’re just as much a part of the Canadian fabric as anyone else.”
The show has generally been well received by Muslim leaders, who welcome the light touch it brings to issues that are normally debated in numbing seriousness.
“Muslims are a bit late in laughing at themselves, but we have to use humor to remedy these divisions, just like any community,” said Mohamed Elmasry, an imam and president of the Canadian Islamic Congress.
The show has been criticized for treating too lightly the threat posed by radical Islam and the imams who preach it. The newly hired imam in “Little Mosque on the Prairie,” Amaar Rashid, is clean-shaven, wears tight jeans and has the “ravishing looks of a soap-opera star,” as the columnist Margaret Wente wrote in the Toronto daily newspaper The Globe and Mail.
“If there’s an imam on Earth who resembles this one, I will convert to Islam, don the veil and catch the next plane to Mecca,” she added.
But what some see as a weakness, others see as a strength. Syed Asad Dean, chairman of the Meadowvale Islamic Center in Mississauga, a western suburb of Toronto, said portraying Muslims as moderate members of the mainstream could have a beneficial effect on young Muslims.I really hope this show gets picked up in the U.S. What I like most about it (admittedly, based on a handful of gags quoted in a news story) is that it pokes much-deserved fun at anti-Muslim paranoia. Because people who see all Arabs as potential terrorists, and who feel threatened every time they hear someone speaking Arabic are silly at best, and bigoted at worst. It sounds like this show is trying to counter that mentality by showing Muslims as just folks, who happen to dress differently and worship a different God (or the same God under a different name). I'll go out on a limb here and say that most Muslims do not hate Christians, are not plotting jihad, and are not serving some sort of sinister hidden agenda.
“More extreme Muslims are telling our youth that Canada is not interested in our community, so something like this works dead against that type of mentality,” he said. “The youth see it on television and say, hey, they recognize us and they actually made an investment to talk about us and our life in Canada.”
In the United States, only cable stations have responded so far, but CBC officials say they are hoping to pitch the show to the larger networks.
I'm not advocating a total lack of vigilance, just pointing out that if you think there's a terrorist plot unfolding before your eyes every time you see a couple of Muslims talking, then you might as well cower indoors every time it rains so that the lightning won't get you. Just use some common sense. For example, if you see a scruffy, disreputable figure furtively skulking around a skyscraper or industrial installation taking pictures... well, okay, it's probably me. But if it isn't, then use your own best judgment (no gunplay!). If you're not sure, try to distract them with chocolate or techno-gadgets.
Unfortunately, my battery ran out before I could get all the shots I wanted, and my backup battery appears to have a serious leak. I tried to get the shots with my wee backup camera, but the results were mixed. Those shots might appear in a separate post sometime, who knows.
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Excellent. I like "Onset sexual debut number."
UPDATE: Heh. I just got a spam titled "Stinky flower mystery solved." Apparently the mystery has something to do with stock tips.
Monday, January 15, 2007
It's all, like, symbolic and stuff.
I don't think there can ever be enough portraits of NYC pigeons.
Leaving the general Shea Stadium/Arthur Ashe Stadium zone, on my way to the UNISPHERE, and a rendezvous with Thers and NYMary at the Queens Museum Of Art.
As d r i f t g l a s s points out, perhaps the most significant effect of all this is to put a spotlight on the hate speech that the "personalities" on the extremes of the right have been peddling for the past decade or so. More than that, I am desperately hoping that this will kickstart the long-overdue process of identifying the Limbaughs and Savages and Coulters and Becks as the fringe-dwelling right-wing kooks they are, rather than respected opinionmakers whose words should be taken seriously and nodded thoughtfully about.
Unfortunately, as long as the media is owned by enormous, pro-Republican corporations, this kind of sea change will be a tough sell, but it is possible. For as in-the-tank as the corporate media is, it only has value as long as it has credibility. If they realize that the vast majority of the American people are utterly repelled by these creatures, they will be forced to padlock them in the mad cellar.
In addition to the delicious prospect of never being presented with Coulter or Limbaugh as Serious People To Be Listened To, I am also tickled by the thought of being able to beat the Republican Party
We're not here to start no trouble, we're just here to do the Superbowl Shuffle.
And for those of you who don't like to watch pro athletes (Gary Fencik!) attempting to rap, here's a Japanese music video of Ronald McDonald in an epic kung fu battle versus convenience store employees:
(From Japan Probe, by way of Kyklops)
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Also: The dirty hippies of the left don't get scapegoated for losing a useless war.
It's not like anyone can say that Vietnam taught us a valuable lesson about not rushing into ill-advised wars of choice.
Mr. Bush has now scaled back his strategy for victory to a strategy for the best-we-can-hope-for. So, it must be asked, what exactly is the best we can hope for?Huzzah.
“In the best-case scenario, we’ll be in Iraq for 15 or 20 years,” said Stephen Biddle, author of “Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle.” He offers the example of the Balkans, where everyone seems to have forgotten about the United States troops who have been there for years, helping keep a peace brokered in Dayton, Ohio, in 1995.
Under the best result Mr. Biddle said he could imagine, the United States would cajole or force warring Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds to agree to the standard-cookbook negotiated ending to a civil war. There would be some kind of power-sharing deal among the key combatants, yielding an uneasy cease-fire that would have to be policed for a long time by outside peacekeepers, since no warring side would trust another.
Sounds like paradise, doesn’t it? Except, Mr. Biddle said, “If I had to bet my house mortgage on a scenario, it wouldn’t be on that one.”(...)
The best America can hope for, some experts said, would be for Iraq to turn into today’s version of the Spanish Civil War.
...[T]he Spanish Civil War lasted three years, from 1936 to 1939, when the Nationalists, led by Francisco Franco, defeated the Loyalists of the Second Spanish Republic. The death toll was huge — estimates put it between 500,000 and one million. People in just about every European country were passionate about the fight: the Loyalists got weapons and volunteers from the Soviet Union, while the Nationalists received help from Italy, Germany and Portugal.
But, in the end, the Spanish Civil War stayed Spanish. The Europeans sent money and arms and even volunteers, but they didn’t let the war engulf the continent....The biggest worry in Iraq is not that Iraq will descend into a civil war — most experts say that is a done deal — but that an Iraqi civil war will not stay Iraqi. The fear is that a civil war will engulf the entire region, with Saudi Arabia and Jordan defending the Sunnis, Iran backing the Shiites, and Iraqi Kurds declaring their independence, a move sure to draw in Turkey, which has its own restive Kurdish population.
The Spanish Civil War script doesn’t bode well for Iraq itself. The death toll would be enormous, and Iraqi Sunnis, who make up only about 20 percent of the population, would face particular hardship. But such a war wouldn’t become World War III. The United States would eventually pull its troops out, the Iranians would finance the Shiites, and the Saudis would support the Sunnis, but neither neighbor would engage militarily itself.
America’s image abroad would suffer a blow, but not a fatal one, and in the end, the United States would still be the sole world power. “That’s the best we can expect,” Mr. Rose said. “Disaster in Iraq, problems in the Middle East and a several-year period to recover the losses in American foreign policy.”
Well, as long as it's just Middle Eastern cities getting nuked, that's no skin off our nose, right? I mean, it's not like we'd be culpable in any way. We simply tried to force the sweet nectar of democracy down Iraq's throat - how could we anticipate that they would be so barbaric and ungrateful as to spit it back in our faces? (Actually, I kinda wish they really had - we could use some more of that democracy nectar over here.)
The problem with Mr. Bush’s plan, said Vali Nasr, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, is that it doesn’t provide enough American troops to do much more than stay the course, to use Mr. Bush’s now-abandoned lexicon. The way Mr. Nasr sees it, 20,000 additional troops is too few to change the dynamic on the ground, but enough to escalate tensions further.
“The best we can hope for is pretty much the same thing we’ve had for the last year,” said Mr. Nasr, author of “The Shia Revival: How Conflicts Within Islam Will Shape the Future.” “More of the same for another two years, but keep in mind that it could potentially get much worse.”
That worst-case scenario is pretty scary, Mr. Biddle said. In that picture, the United States would pull its troops out of Iraq, the civil war would accelerate, and the Shiites, financed by Iran, would conquer one Sunni village after another, driving the Sunnis over the borders and into refugee camps in Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
There would be a huge refugee crisis in the Sunni Arab countries, where a dispossessed, bitter and highly politicized refugee population would appeal to Saudi and Jordanian rulers to make a last stand for Sunnis in Iraq. But since it would have taken about 5 to 10 years to get to this point, guess who, by then, would have acquired a nuclear bomb?
“In the worst case, you could be looking at a couple of nuclear weapons dropped on major cities — Baghdad, Riyadh, Tehran,” Mr. Biddle said.
That possibility makes the one that Mr. Biddle views as most likely seem almost palatable. Here it is:
“We get out, the civil war escalates,” Mr. Biddle said. “It’s funded by all sides but they don’t send their own troops across the border. The war just bumps along for 5 or 10 years and everybody eventually gets so weary that diplomacy finally gets going, and there’s a cease-fire, power-sharing deal. During that period, Iraqi oil output crashes, there’s huge instability in the region and oil prices rise. And there’s a humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq.
“That’s not a very happy scenario,” Mr. Biddle acknowledged. “But it beats the heck out of nuclear war in the Mideast.”
The problem with the Bushies and the neocons is that they never, ever look at the worst-case scenarios - except, of course, when they're evaluating what will happen if they don't blow shit up. They don't even look at the non-best-case scenarios. They look at the candy-and-flowers scenario, and become so enamored of its inevitability that they don't even bother to make plans to ensure its occurrence.
Even now, I think the administration is still swinging for the fences, hoping to hit a best-case home run, without admitting that they have barely enough power to clear the infield for a bloop single. Bush thinks he's Mickey Mantle, when he's actually Eddie Gaedel.
Detail of some sort of Con-Ed gas truck...
Reflection in a drugstore window.
Padlock. Chain. Red.
Space alien hitching a ride on a Con-Ed gas truck.