March 2007 Archives

War On Trees

Judge Phyllis Hamilton dealt a blow to George Bush's less publicized War On Trees.

Trees Vents

Federal Judge Strikes Down Forest Management Rules : A federal judge in California on Friday overturned the Bush administration’s revised rules for management of the country’s 155 national forests, saying that the federal Forest Service violated the basic laws ensuring that forest ecosystems have environmental safeguards.

The rules, issued in early 2005, cut back on requirements for environmental reviews and safeguards for wildlife, and limited public participation in the development of management plans for individual forests.

Instead, they broadened the power of forest managers to decide whether mines, logging operations, cellphone towers or other development would be appropriate uses of forest land.

In the ruling Friday, Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton of Federal District Court in San Francisco said the Forest Service had violated several laws when it changed the rules forest managers must follow when making decisions, and did so without consulting the public or considering environmental impact.

The judge issued an injunction forbidding the service from using the rules to make decisions about the national forests and grasslands, which cover 8 percent of the country.

The Bush-ites tried to use their favorite trick: “facts are what we say they are, just trust us”. Ummm, no.

Judge Hamilton said she could not determine if the rules were environmentally benign, as the Forest Service argued, or if endangered species would be unaffected, because no studies had been done.

“The agency was required to undertake some type of consultation, informal or otherwise, prior to making a conclusive determination that there would be no effect,” she wrote.

She sent the management plans back to the Agriculture Department, the parent agency of the Forest Service, to be redone, this time in consultation with the public and with the federal agencies that protect wildlife.

Tim Preso, a lawyer who argued the case for the environmental group Earthjustice, said Friday, “Basically, the importance of this decision is that the Bush administration had been trying to take all mandatory environmental protections out of forest planning process and this decision puts them back in.”

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Government in Action

Good to know Washington takes cleanup of radioactive waste seriously. Look how quickly they plan to finish the job:

The federal government created Hanford in the 1940s as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb. The site continued to produce plutonium for the nation's nuclear weapons arsenal through the Cold War.

Today, it is the nation's most contaminated nuclear site. Cleanup is expected to top $50 billion and continue through 2035.

hey, there are wars to fund, and tax breaks to give to industry, right?

Print Story: Energy Department fined $1 million:
The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday fined the federal Energy Department $1.1 million over violations of an agreement to clean up the Hanford nuclear reservation, the nation's most polluted nuclear site.

The fine involved operations at a landfill that is the primary repository for contaminated soils, debris and other hazardous and radioactive waste from cleanup operations across the site.

After first shutting down operations upon discovery of the failures, the EPA has permitted the landfill to resume operations under strict oversight.

The EPA pointed out problems in a letter to the Energy Department on Tuesday, saying that workers did not perform weekly inspections that would reduce the risk of leaks in landfill liners and that operations did not comply with tests on compacted waste for structural stability.

So in other words, compliance was voluntary, and thus non-existant. Sounds familiar.

More on the Hanford site


(I didn't realize I used this exact title before. Doh!

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links for 2007-03-31

Holiday in the Sun

astronomy dominé

Henny Youngman

“I once wanted to become an atheist, but I gave up - they have no holidays.”

No matter though, we get to celebrate any holiday we choose, in any manner we choose. I have fun with the Mithras festivals.

Take My Wife, Please: Henny Youngman's Giant Book of Jokes
“Take My Wife, Please: Henny Youngman's Giant Book of Jokes” (Henny Youngman)


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Note to self: don't buy anything from the online vendor,, especially via Amazon's marketplace storefront.

Frequent readers of B12 know I have a bit of a music obsession, and thus have a steady stream of CDs delivered to feed my iPod's insatiable hunger. 98% arrive without incident.

Slightly Sorry
“Slightly Sorry” (P.G. Six)

However, received this CD cracked (and the CD itself was labeled as Promo - i.e. given for free, with the implication, don't resell ), but the vendor refused to take responsibility for poor packaging. Fine, they're on The List.

That is all.


links for 2007-03-30

Italian Subs

Shiny Happy porklegs

I bet this was a fun conversation, three old-timers discussing the perfect Italian sub sandwich. The dead-tree edition came with photos, and suddenly my mouth began watering. I may have to pop down the street to Frank Pedota's shop sometime soon.

The pros, on sub perfection | Chicago Tribune
You need to know this about the true, two-handed Italian sub sandwich: You don't want no mayo. It'd be sacrilegious, like cursing in front of your grandma, or putting ketchup on a hot dog around these parts.

Hot giardiniera? A must. The bread? None of that soft spongy stuff.

Also know this about the Italian sub: It has been around for decades in Chicago, though the concept wasn't born here--likely it surfaced around the turn of the century in New England.

The sandwiches we see in the city's Italian neighborhoods today are not so much original creations, but grew from childhood memories of Italian-Americans. Along the way, the Italian sub became this tangible product with specific ingredients and rules (if you're from southern Italy, a dusting of oregano is required). Ask Italian sub sandwich makers why they do what they do, they'll say it's what they and their customers ate in their youth.
Recently, At Play sat down with three of Chicago's best-known Italian sub sandwich makers: Aniello “Red” Fontano of Fontano's Subs, Mike DiCosola of Conte di Savoia and Frank Pedota of Bari. Combined, the three have been making sandwiches for more than a century in Chicago

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This stinks

Next Stop: Cleaner Air

Come on, this is not good news. I already have to rip pages (with extreme prejudice) out of magazines that are doused with some foul smelling perfume, now I will have to get a nose guard to avoid billboards and bus stops! Speaking of John Waters, IIRC, he made an attempt at smell-o-vision (Odorama) as part of a film years ago. He apparently was not the first to think of the concept.

Advertisers trying selling through smelling - April 1, 2007
It's not enough to have your customers' eyes and ears--now you need to attract their noses too. This month, 100 gas stations in California will be trying technology that wafts coffee aroma at the pump in a bid to tempt its pay-and-go customers into the store for java.

Clear Channel, meanwhile, is experimenting with scented billboards. USA Today and the Wall Street Journal are set to offer “rub and sniff” newspaper ads. And some retailers are also preparing products with added smell.

Wal-Mart is rolling out experimental DVDs with “smell-o-vision,” electronic scent wafers that release the odor of a burning building, say, or a freshly fired gun, at precisely timed moments during the movie.
Depending on consumer reaction, of course, this could turn out to be a short-lived--and expensive--fad. In December, San Francisco bus shelters were equipped with chocolate chip cookie-fragranced strips for a “Got Milk?” campaign. Days later, transit authorities tore down the strips after commuters complained that they were triggering allergic reactions.


Sea floor records ancient Earth

I wonder how the Discovery Institute is parsing this news story? Probably hoping that the U.S. corporate media doesn't pick up the story. Maybe Noah planted the ocean floor evidence as part of his voyage?

Sea floor records ancient Earth :
A sliver of four billion year old seafloor shows the earliest known evidence of plate tectonics on Earth.
The baked and twisted rocks, now part of Greenland, show the earliest evidence of plate tectonics, colossal movements of the planet's outer shell.

Until now, researchers were unable to say when the process, which explains how oceans and continents form, began.

The unique find, described in the journal Science, shows the movements started soon after the planet formed.

“Since the plate tectonic paradigm is the framework in which we interpret all modern-day geology, it is important to know how far back in time it operated,” said Professor Minik Rosing of the University of Copenhagen and one of the authors of the paper.

Professor John Valley, a geologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison described the work as “significant” and “exciting”. “If these observations are substantiated it will be a significant line of new evidence indicating that plate tectonics was active and familiar as early as 3.8 billion years ago,” he said

Better bow down to the Standard White Jesus
as Timbuk3 sang

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links for 2007-03-29

Scooter Libby sentencing

Big Cock

I've tuned out FireDogLake for a while, but happened to browse this excellent suggestion today: writing a letter to the Judge in the Scooter Libby trial. White collar criminals often get too lenient a sentence, government officials even more so.

Al Kamen of the WaPo writes:

Time for fans and friends of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby to step up and make sure District Judge Reggie B. Walton doesn't hammer him at sentencing on June 5 for perjury and obstruction of justice in the Valerie Plame investigation.

“When a person is about to be sentenced in federal court,” Libby's lawyer, William Jeffress, writes in a memo to anyone interested, “it is proper and very common for the judge to receive letters from friends of the accused attesting to his character, integrity, and service to his country, community and family.”

“Many friends and admirers of Scooter Libby have asked how they may submit letters of this kind” prior to sentencing, Jeffress relates. Libby, under federal guidelines, might get 18 months to three years in prison, but Walton could alter that considerably.


Emptywheel adds:

Firedoglake - » Letters to Reggie
If you want to write letters urging Judge Walton to throw the book at Scooter,

The correct term is “upward departure from the range specified in the Sentencing Guidelines.”

You can send your letter to Judge Walton, but you should specify on the envelope that it relates to the sentencing of I. Lewis Libby.

This way they can sort the Judge’s regular mail out from the Libby Letters and the Judge’s regular business will not be disturbed.

I would not want to see you guys create havoc in his chambers.

So, if you mail, try putting
“In re sentencing of I Lewis Libby”
in the lower lefthand corner of front of the envelope. By nice to the hardworking folks in Judge Walton’s chambers.

ha ha. I can't honestly say I'm going to write Judge Walton a letter, but it is a funny thought nonetheless, and I hope plenty citizens of blogtopia (y!sctp) follows through, and Scooter gets 10 years added to his sentence instead of 6 months reduced from it.

and then Bush commuted his sentence for the Fourth of July, 2007. Idiot.

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Portugal opens major solar plant

Cool. Wheres the solar plant in West Texas? or Arizona? Where's the political willpower to make 45% of America's power consumption come from renewable energy?

Fading Moment

Portugal opens major solar plant :
Portugal inaugurates a solar power plant covering 60 hectares which it says is the most productive in the world.
...The 11-megawatt plant has 52,000 photovoltaic modules, which will produce 20 gigawatt hours of power each year. Burning fossil fuels to generate the same amount of energy would result in 30,000 tons of greenhouse gases being emitted over the course of a year.

Portugal is developing wind, solar and wave power projects as part of a plan to invest $10bn (£5bn) in renewable energy over the next five years.

Prime Minister Jose Socrates has said he wants 45% of Portugal's power consumption to come from renewable energy by 2010.

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Wal-Mart Smear Campaign

The Julie Roehm vs. Wal-Mart saga is back in the trade press

Advertising Age - Roehm: Wal-Mart Conducting 'Smear Campaign' :
Complaining of being outmanned by Wal-Mart's army of “private investigators, computer hackers, ex-CIA operatives, former FBI men and an army of public-relations operatives,” Julie Roehm is charging her former employer with orchestrating a “smear campaign” against her.

Ms. Roehm, who sued the retailer after she was dismissed last year, issued a press release today, just over a week after Wal-Mart filed its own counterclaim. In her statement, Ms. Roehm denied the substance of that lawsuit, which alleges that she had an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate and with an ad agency that led to her sacking.

Wal-Mart's 28-page complaint references e-mails between Ms. Roehm and former VP-Communications Architecture Sean Womack, who was fired along with her, that the company says is evidence of a romantic affair, something that's forbidden by Wal-Mart's ethical code. In her statement, Ms. Roehm, whose lawsuit continues, called the use of e-mail “selective.”

“When you patch together pieces of messages sent at different times, you can create pretty much any story you want,” she wrote. “As in other cases, Wal-Mart has attacked the victim.”
Ms. Roehm, who was hired from Chrysler Group to help shake up Wal-Mart's staid marketing approach early last year, suggested that her dismissal may be due to sexism at Wal-Mart. “Perhaps some did not like following or taking the advice of a woman.”

She continued, “Under cover of a counterclaim, Wal-Mart is insinuating things about my personal life and pretending I violated some code of ethics with advertisers, all to distract from the reality that it didn't want my form of progressive marketing.”

There is undoubtedly a large portion of truth to her assertion of sexism. But why would she take the job in the first place? Sounds like a nightmare assignment.

Exit Roehm Left

Draft Gets Shaft

Roehm vs. Wal-Mart

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San Fran Bag Ban

The Pope gets bagged

Strangely enough, San Fran is no plastic city, as discussed previously.

San Francisco Passes Plastic-Bag Ban | World Latest | Guardian Unlimited
City leaders approved a ban on plastic grocery bags after weeks of lobbying on both sides from environmentalists and a supermarket trade group. San Francisco would be the first U.S. city to adopt such a rule if Mayor Gavin Newsom signs the ban as expected.
The law, approved 10-1, requires large markets and drug stores to offer customers bags made of paper that can be recycled, plastic that breaks down easily enough to be made into compost, or reusable cloth.

Newsom supported the measure. The switch is scheduled to take effect in six months for grocery stores and in one year for pharmacies.

I'm positive the California Grocers Association and the American Plastic Council, and all their friends and colleagues, are strategizing at this very moment; discussing feverishly how to over-turn the bill.

As a study in coastal contrasts, Pathmark already offers cloth bags.

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Thomas Friedman is on to something, well, not including his fulsome praise for the Guvenator. Has Friedman details of the meetings Schwarzenegger had with Enron (as discussed, briefly in Smartest Guys in the Room)? Maybe Schwarzenegger has changed his opinions, maybe not. Need more data to decide.

Friedman is right on the money re: the Bush's mal-administration of everything scientific.

Thomas Friedman: How Many Scientists? :
Sometimes you read something about this administration that is just so shameful it takes your breath away. For me, that was the March 20 article in this paper detailing how a House committee had just released documents showing “hundreds of instances in which a White House official who was previously an oil industry lobbyist edited government climate reports to play up uncertainty of a human role in global warming or play down evidence of such a role.”

The official, Philip A. Cooney, left government in 2005, after his shenanigans were exposed in The Times, and was immediately hired by, of course, Exxon Mobil. Before joining the White House, he was the “climate team leader” for the American Petroleum Institute, the main oil industry lobby arm.

The Times article, by Andrew Revkin and Matthew Wald, noted that Mr. Cooney said his past work opposing restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions on behalf of the oil industry had “no bearing” on his actions at the White House. “When I came to the White House,” he testified, “my sole loyalties were to the president and his administration.” (How about loyalty to scientific method?) Mr. Cooney, who has no scientific background, said he had based his editing on what he had seen in good faith as the “most authoritative and current views of the state of scientific knowledge.”
Of all the people the Bush team would let edit its climate reports, we have a guy who first worked for the oil lobby denying climate change, with no science background, then went back to work for Exxon. Does it get any more intellectually corrupt than that? Is there something lower that I’m missing?

I wonder how Mr. Cooney would have edited the recent draft report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, written and reviewed by 1,000 scientists convened by the World Meteorological Society and the U.N. It concluded that global warming is “unequivocal,” that human activity is the main driver, and that “changes in climate are now affecting physical and biological systems on every continent.”

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links for 2007-03-28

New Criterion line

The Criterion Collection announces a new line of films.

Early Bergman (Torment / Crisis / Port of Call / Thirst / To Joy) (Criterion Collection / Eclipse)
“Early Bergman (Torment / Crisis / Port of Call / Thirst / To Joy) (Criterion Collection / Eclipse)” (Ingmar Bergman)

Early Bergman works see the light, thanks to Eclipse | Chicago Tribune : This year promises to be no less exciting for Criterion with the introduction of something new this week -- its Eclipse line.

“We've never launched a second line before,” says Criterion president Peter Becker. “We've always had a very clear mission as a company: to present films as their makers would want them seen, and expand the awareness and enjoyment of film culture. With Eclipse, we decided these were films people needed to know, and we wanted to create the cinematheque experience for the home viewer.”

With the release of “Early Bergman” ($69.95), Eclipse hopes to shed light on movies overshadowed by the major works of the directors who made them. So while most foreign film buffs know Ingmar Bergman for “The Seventh Seal” and “Wild Strawberries,” the five features here, spanning 1944-49, will be unknown to all but the most devoted and scholarly (“Torment,” “Crisis,” “Port of Call,” “Thirst” and “To Joy”). Still, the volume bears Bergman's artistic stamp: psychological intrigue, hardscrabble environments, captivating visuals.

“We wanted you to experience the early Bergman films the way you would at a film forum anywhere across the country,” Becker says. “Unless you have a cinematheque in your town, you probably wouldn't see these titles for 10 years at a time. These films are hard to find.”

Summer With Monica (Sommaren med Monika) [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.0 Import - Great Britain ]
“Summer With Monica (Sommaren med Monika) [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.0 Import - Great Britain ]” (Ingmar Bergman)

and I'd heard the following anecdote before, and it still cracks me up. Imagine the disappointment viewers must have felt, thinking they were going to see a “blue” movie, and ending up in a Bergman film! How many people left after 23 minutes? There is a little nudity in Summer with Monika, but from what I remember, there wasn't much titillation involved.
There's also the matter of setting history straight. Prior to 1957's “The Seventh Seal,” American audiences didn't know what to make of the Swedish director -- in part because American film promoters gave them the wrong idea. “Bergman's films were treated as skin flicks,” Becker says. “

'Summer With Monika' [1953] was marketed in the U.S. as 'Monika, the Story of a Bad Girl' with a butt shot on the poster.” (That same year, “Sunset of a Clown” became “The Naked Night” here.)

It's been years since I've seen any of these films, and three of the ones on Eclipse I've never seen.

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NetNewsWire beta release notes

Brent Simmons has a sly sense of humor: from the release notes of the most current beta:

Increased the limit for the feed parser from 500 items to 1000. (There does have to be a limit, because sometimes there are runaway feeds -- created by runaway scripts -- that have many thousands of items in them. Erroneously. It amounts to a denial of service attack on your aggregator.) (You can surely picture runaway feeds -- slack-jawed youth, living on the streets, up to no good, duplicating news items endlessly and pointlessly.)

You need an oversized sense of humor to be a good programmer, at least in my experience. The humorless programmers usually make lesser code. Life's too short not to laugh now and again.

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People banned from SNL

Saturday Night Live has sucked for many, many years, but for some reason I did watch this particular episode live (probably the only SNL episode I saw in the 90s, or nearly)

People banned from SNL - Infamous moments in Saturday Night Live history - Zimbio
Sinéad O'Connor was banned from appearing on SNL again after her peformance on October 3, 1992. In her second set of the show, she performed an a cappella version of Bob Marley's “War”. During the word “evil”, she picked up a picture of Pope John Paul II, ripped it up, and shouted, “Fight the real enemy!” Dave Wilson immediately turned off the “applause” cue and the audience reacted with complete silence. NBC received many complaints about this within a matter of minutes. At the end of the show, host Tim Robbins, who was raised Catholic, refused to give O'Connor the customary “thanks” for being the musical guest.

Note: To this day, NBC refuses to lend out the footage of the performance to any media outlet, and they edited out the incident from the syndicated version of the episode, replacing it with footage from the dress rehearsal taped earlier in the evening.

(SNL Sinead O'Connor War performance)
some other funny (mostly due to notoriously tight-assed Lorne Michaels) bans:

The influential alternative group The Replacements were banned from the show due to their behavior after they appeared on the show on January 18, 1986 to promote their first album with Sire Records, Tim. When it came time for them to perform their first number, “Bastards of Young,” they were intoxicated and several cast members were unsure whether they could perform. Lead singer Paul Westerberg would further aggravate circumstances when he yelled “fuck” to the crowd during “Bastards of Young”. The band went on to perform one more song, “Kiss Me on the Bus”.


Cypress Hill were banned from appearing on SNL again after their performance as the musical guest on the October 2, 1993 episode, where DJ Muggs lit up a marijuana joint on-air and the band trashed their instruments after playing their second single “I Ain't Goin' Out Like That.”

On December 17, 1977, Elvis Costello and the Attractions performed as a last-minute replacement for the Sex Pistols, who were unable to obtain passports. NBC and the show's producer Lorne Michaels didn't want the band to perform “Radio Radio”, since the song protests the state of the media. The band defied them by beginning to play their song “Less Than Zero”, stopping, with Costello telling the audience that there was no reason to do that song, and telling the band to play “Radio Radio” instead. It infuriated Michaels because it put the show off schedule, and the band were barred from performing again.
Fear was banned from playing again after the 1981 Halloween episode. With Donald Pleasence as host, the band played that night by request from Fear fan John Belushi, and they proceeded to play offensive songs (“I Don't Care About You” and “Beef Balogna” among others) and bus in “dancers”. The band also used obscene language and the dancers destroyed the set with their slam dancing onstage. The situation was out of control to the extent that the damage of studio equipment forced Dave Wilson to end the three-song performance by cutting the audio and video to a commercial as they started to play “Let's Have a War” .

Note: The episode has not been rebroadcast on NBC.

partial Fear clip

SNL should move to HBO and make themselves relevant again (or a comparable performance troupe). I wonder if any of these are available on YouTube? Probably not. If you find any, please leave reference in comments.

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Monica Goodling and the Fifth

Josh Marshall posted a reader's question re: Monica Goodling and her Fifth (of cheap Ali-G booze). The dirty secret about corporate attorneys and government lawyers is: they are not always very smart, even if they are paid vast sums of money to pretend they are. There could be a tactical error committed here.

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall March 26, 2007 10:59 PM
... A party can request a hearing (in federal or state court) to examine whether the party invoking the Fifth has done so properly. Goodling's attorney's letter does not provide a valid basis for invoking the Fifth. You can't invoke the Fifth to avoid perjury charges (or obstructing justice with the selfsame testimony). (I have the cases here, if you want them.) You can't invoke the Fifth because you think the Committee is on a witch hunt. Etc.

They shouldn't let Goodling get away with this. She either is refusing to providing testimony because she may be testifying about some crime she has previously committed (which is a valid reason for taking the Fifth) or she isn't. If she is, and a Judge so determines, then fine (and goodbye to her attorney's ridiculous GOP talking points), and if she isn't, she should be compelled to testify under subpoena.

The funny thing is she may be obstructing justice (protecting others) by refusing to testify under a bogus claim of needing to take the Fifth.

read more, including this:

Just watching this from the outside, it looks as though that is the bad act she's afraid to testify about or -- and somehow I find this more believable -- she's afraid of indictment for perjury because she has to go up to Congress and testify under oath before the White House has decided what its story is. And yeah, I'd feel like I was in jeopardy then too.

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Endangered Species Act Endangered



More pleasant news from the ideologues in the White House. Bush is a member of the Christian Taliban, don't forget, and to them, the End-of-Times is nigh, and secular, fact-based science is the devil's creation. Unfortunately, the rest of us have to live on the same planet with them, at least until the Rapture comes.

Inside the secretive plan to gut the Endangered Species Act | Salon News
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is maneuvering to fundamentally weaken the Endangered Species Act, its strategy laid out in an internal 117-page draft proposal obtained by Salon. The proposed changes limit the number of species that can be protected and curtail the acres of wildlife habitat to be preserved. It shifts authority to enforce the act from the federal government to the states, and it dilutes legal barriers that protect habitat from sprawl, logging or mining.

“The proposed changes fundamentally gut the intent of the Endangered Species Act,” says Jan Hasselman, a Seattle attorney with Earthjustice, an environmental law firm, who helped Salon interpret the proposal. “This is a no-holds-barred end run around one of America's most popular environmental protections. If these regulations stand up, the act will no longer provide a safety net for animals and plants on the brink of extinction.”

In recent months, the Fish and Wildlife Service has gone to extraordinary efforts to keep drafts of regulatory changes from the public. All copies of the working document were given a number corresponding to a person, so that leaked copies could be traced to that individual. An e-mail sent in March from an assistant regional director at the Fish and Wildlife Service to agency staff, asking for comments on and corrections to the first draft, underscored the concern with secrecy: “Please Keep close hold for now. Dale [Hall, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service] does not want this stuff leaking out to stir up discontent based on speculation.”

Many Fish and Wildlife Service employees believe the draft is not based on “defensible science,” says a federal employee who asked to remain anonymous. Yet “there is genuine fear of retaliation for communicating that to the media. People are afraid for their jobs.”

In some ways, the proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act should come as no surprise. President Bush has hardly been one of its fans. Under his reign, the administration has granted 57 species endangered status, the action in each case being prompted by a lawsuit. That's fewer than in any other administration in history -- and far fewer than were listed during the administrations of Reagan (253), Clinton (521) or Bush I (234). Furthermore, during this administration, nearly half of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees who work with endangered species reported that they had been directed by their superiors to ignore scientific evidence that would result in recommendations for the protection of species, according to a 2005 survey of more than 1,400 service biologists, ecologists and botanists conducted by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a nonprofit organization.

“We are not allowed to be honest and forthright, we are expected to rubber stamp everything,” wrote a Fish and Wildlife Service biologist as part of the survey. “I have 20 years of federal service in this and this is the worst it has ever been.”

Read more, if you can stomach it, and the draft proposal here (PDF file).

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Facts are dangerous part 324324

give or take. That hundred acres of nearly unspoiled land in Ontario is going to be worth a mint in a few more years!

Helios (Ἥλιος / ἥλιος) is Benevolent

Warming Trends: Heat Invades Cool Heights Over Arizona Desert
The so-called sky islands of southern Arizona, formerly green havens above the desert, have experienced near collapse.

But for the past 10 years or so, things have been unraveling. Winter snows melt away earlier, longtime residents say, making for an erratic season at the nearby ski resort, the most southern in the nation.

Legions of predatory insects have taken to the forest that mantles the upper mountain, killing trees weakened by record heat. And in 2003, a fire burned for a month, destroying much of the town and scarring more than 87,000 acres. The next year, another fire swept over 32,000 acres.

“Nature is confused,” said Debbie Fagan, who moved here 25 years ago after crossing the country in pursuit of the perfect place to live. “We used to have four seasons. Now we have two. I love this place dearly, and this is very hard for me to watch.”

The American Southwest has been warming for nearly 30 years, according to records that date to the late 19th century. And the region is in the midst of an eight-year drought

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The God Simulator

Being God for three minutes is fun, better than Queen for a Day anyway. The God Simulator forces a deity to make several consciously faulty decisions to end up where we are today. Otherwise, you are just relaxing in boring bliss, as are we all. Wouldn't want that.

J’raxis·Com • The God Simulator
You are eternal, omnipotent God. For the past boring eternity, You have been sitting around in darkness twiddling Your thumbs wondering what the hell You are supposed to be doing and pondering where You came from and what Your purpose is and why You look like an angry old white man. Suddenly, You are hit with the desire to do something.

(h/t PZ)

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links for 2007-03-27

At Housing Project, Both Fear and Renewal

Beautiful Autumn Day in Cabrini

I've been trying to write something about this for a while, but I give up.

At Housing Project, Both Fear and Renewal
Some people still live in hellish conditions in what remains of Chicago’s notorious Cabrini Green project.

BSG and All Along the Watchtower

The season 3 finale to BattleStar Galactica didn't disappoint (though some plot points I anticipated), and included a version of Dylan's All Along the Watchtower, imagined as if some other singer dreamed it up too.

Battlestar Galactica: Season 2.5 (Episodes 10-20)
“Battlestar Galactica: Season 2.5 (Episodes 10-20)” (Universal Studios)

Bear McCreary Blog
... I happened to catch Ron Moore in the hallway at Universal and, in a brief conversation, got everything I needed to know. I learned that the idea was not that Bob Dylan necessarily exists in the characters' universe, but that an artist on one of the colonies may have recorded a song with the exact same melody and lyrics. Perhaps this unknown performer and Dylan pulled inspiration from a common, ethereal source. Therefore, I was told to make no musical references to any “Earthly” versions, Hendrix, Dylan or any others. The arrangement needed to sound like a pop song that belonged in the Galactica universe, not our own. ...

Musically, my arrangement is almost entirely an original composition. Only the vocal melody and lyrics remain from Dylan's piece. I initially replaced Dylan's harmonica solos with an electric sitar. But why stop there? The entire arrangement evolved into an Indian sound, with the inclusion of tabla and harmonic minor scale tones. I even bought a harmonium, imported from Delhi, and laid down the drones myself.

Next month, I'm in the studio working on the Battlestar Galactica Season 3 soundtrack album (which will definitely have All Along the Watchtower on it!). Our release date will be mid-August, to coincide with the DVD release. We'll also be doing another live performance of the Galactica score around that time as well, so if you're in LA, come by and check us out. Details will be posted here on my website sometime over the summer.

(more here or here, depending when you read this)

I don't want to wait until 2008 for the next episode.

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Data management out of control

On the one hand, obviously there is a need of some kind of centralized information warehouse regarding enemies of the state. On the other, we don't seem to have one, at least one that can be relied upon with any certainty.

closed circuit

Terrorism database is ballooning, keepers say - The Boston Globe
Each day, thousands of pieces of intelligence information from around the world -- field reports, captured documents, news from foreign allies, and sometimes idle gossip -- arrive in a computer-filled suburban office where analysts feed them into the nation's central list of terrorists and terrorism suspects.

Called TIDE, for Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, the list is a storehouse for data about individuals who the intelligence community believes might harm the United States.

TIDE is the wellspring for watch lists distributed to airlines, law enforcement, border posts, and US consulates. It was created to close a key intelligence gap revealed after Sept. 11, 2001: the failure of federal agencies to share what they knew about Al Qaeda operatives.
But in addressing one problem, TIDE has created others. Ballooning from fewer than 100,000 files in 2003 to about 435,000 today, the growing database threatens to overwhelm the people who manage it.

“The single biggest worry that I have is long-term quality control,” said Russ Travers, in charge of TIDE at the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean, Va. “Where am I going to be, where is my successor going to be, five years down the road?”

TIDE has also created concerns about secrecy, errors, and privacy. The list marks the first time foreigners and US citizens are combined in an intelligence database. The bar for inclusion is low, and once a person is on the list, it is virtually impossible to get off. At any stage, the process can lead to “horror stories” of mixed-up names and unconfirmed information, Travers acknowledged.

and in a telling sign of how much erroneous data is actually contained in the TIDE database, even the wife of Senator Internet Pipes was misidentified, as Cat Stevens no less:

Senator Ted Stevens, Republican of Alaska, complained last year that his wife had been delayed repeatedly while airlines queried whether Catherine Stevens was the watch-listed Cat Stevens. The listing referred to the Britain-based pop singer who converted to Islam and changed his name to Yusuf Islam. The reason Islam is not allowed to fly is secret.

So is the reason why Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian, remains on the State Department's consular watch list.

Detained in New York while en route to Montreal in 2002, Arar was sent by the US government to a year of imprisonment in Syria. Canada, the source of the initial information about Arar, cleared him of all terrorism allegations last September -- three years after his release -- and has since authorized $9 million in compensation.

TIDE is a vacuum cleaner for both proven and unproven information, and its managers disclaim responsibility for how other agencies use the data.

If Fair Isaac can maintain a fairly reputable database of all of our credit histories, why can't the Federal Government, with vastly superior resources, compile a useful database of actual threats? Boggles the mind how poorly managed our country is since the MBA President was given office space in Washington. For that matter, why is Cat Stevens is an enemy of the state?

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Detroit in disarray

The New American Story
“The New American Story” (Bill Bradley)

Speaking of Detroit, former New York Knick and NJ Senator Bill Bradley has a new book out, and in an interview with the NYT, says,

What domestic issues would you like to see the Democrats champion, beyond representation of middle-class interests?

We fought two wars on oil in the last 15 years, and yet we are not willing to fight against oil dependence. If we simply had the same gas-mileage average as Europe does, about 43 miles per gallon, we would import no oil from OPEC. Zero.

I take it you don’t drive a mega-S.U.V.

No. I don’t like to sit up like I am driving a tractor-trailer. I drive a Chevy Impala. I need legroom in cars, and a lot of these S.U.V.’s have less legroom than I have in the Impala.

and from the WSJ last week:

New Detroit Woe: Makers of Parts Won't Cut Prices -

Navistar International Transportation Corp. has supplied diesel engines to Ford Motor Co. for almost 30 years. Yet in late February Navistar, embroiled in a financial dispute with Ford, temporarily cut off all engine shipments to its single biggest customer.
The move dramatized a broad shift in the balance of power in the struggling U.S. auto industry. The dispute involved competing views of warranty claims and price contracts. But at its core was the engine supplier's refusal to play an old Detroit game, in which U.S. car makers have deflected the pressure of global competition by repeatedly forcing suppliers to trim their own prices.

For the old Big Three of Ford, General Motors Corp. and the Chrysler unit of DaimlerChrysler AG, the case was evidence of a new reality. As the old-line U.S. industry moves into a historic restructuring, it finds itself surrounded by parts suppliers from which it can no longer easily squeeze price concessions. The reason: Many suppliers have already faced, and in many cases painfully adapted to, the harsh changing dynamics of the global auto market.

It was Detroit's relentless past pressure on the suppliers, paradoxically, that ended up leaving some in a stronger position to resist Detroit's current demands. Some parts makers went out of business. Some are on the verge of doing so -- forcing Detroit to back off its demands for fear of losing another parts source. Other suppliers, such as Delphi Corp., have sought bankruptcy reorganization, enabling them to shed unprofitable contracts, high-cost labor and excess factories.

Still other suppliers fell into the hands of private-equity investors, who eschew old habits like accepting money-losing contracts for the sake of keeping up relationships and volume.

Finally, steel suppliers have both restructured and been blessed by growing demand, which endows them with pricing power when they face off against auto makers. North American steelmakers are fewer and stronger, reducing the odds that one firm desperate to keep its mills occupied will knuckle under to price demands from car makers.

way to win friends and influence your uncle's company, Detroit.

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The Valiant Swabian

Einstein: His Life and Universe
“Einstein: His Life and Universe” (Walter Isaacson)

John Updike writes about a new bio of Albert Einstein that is going to end up on the stack in my office:

The Valiant Swabian

When youthful and frisky, Albert Einstein would refer to himself as “the valiant Swabian,” quoting the poem by Ludwig Uhland: “But the valiant Swabian is not afraid.” Albert—the name Abraham had been considered by his unreligious parents but was rejected as “too Jewish”—was born in Ulm, in March of 1879, not long after Swabia joined the new German Reich; he was the first child and only son of a mathematics-minded but financially inept father and a strong-willed, musically gifted woman of some inherited means. A daughter, Maria, was born to the couple two and a half years later; when shown his infant sister, Albert took a look and said, “Yes, but where are the wheels?” Though this showed an investigative turn of mind, the boy was slow to talk, and the family maid dubbed him der Depperte—“the dopey one.”

As the boy progressed through the schools of Munich, where his father had found employment in his brother Jakob’s gas-and-electrical-supply company, Albert’s teachers, though giving him generally high marks, noted his resistance to authority and Germanic discipline, even in its milder Bavarian form. As early as the age of four or five, while sick in bed, he had had a revelatory encounter with the invisible forces of nature: his father brought him a compass, and, as he later remembered it, he was so excited as he examined it that he trembled and grew cold. The child drew the momentous conclusion that “something deeply hidden had to be behind things.” That intimation was to carry him to some of the greatest scientific discoveries of the twentieth century, and to a subsequent persistent but unsuccessful search for a theory that would unite all the known laws of nature, and to a global fame impossible to imagine befalling any mere intellectual now.

Walter Isaacson’s thorough, comprehensive, affectionate new biography, “Einstein: His Life and Universe” (Simon & Schuster; $32), relates how, in 1931, during the fifty-one-year-old scientist’s second visit to America, he and his second wife, Elsa, attended, in California, a séance at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Upton Sinclair. He must have allowed a little skepticism to creep into his polite conversation, for “Mrs. Sinclair challenged his views on science and spirituality.” His own wife overheard and indignantly intervened, telling their hostess, “You know, my husband has the greatest mind in the world.” Mrs. Sinclair didn’t dispute the assertion, replying, “Yes, I know, but surely he doesn’t know everything.” On the same excursion, Einstein, at his own request, met Charlie Chaplin, who, as they arrived at the première of “City Lights,” said, of the applauding public, “They cheer me because they all understand me, and they cheer you because no one understands you.”

Einstein And LSD

(photo from here)

Jefferson Tap

Another incident, right down the street from me. Charges have yet to be filed, even though the incident happened over 3 months ago. Wheels of Justice grind exceedingly slow when the police are involved.

Jefferson Tap and Grille

Allegations of second videotaped attack by off-duty Chicago police | Chicago Tribune
Authorities are investigating claims that six off-duty Chicago police officers were captured on video assaulting four men in a bar, the second incident involving taped allegations of violence by off-duty officers to surface in the past week.

After the alleged Dec. 15 incident at the Jefferson Tap and Grille, one of the four men required reconstructive surgery for a broken nose and another had broken ribs, said Steven Fine, an attorney for the men.

Of course we don't know the details of what triggered the rumble, but I expect more coverage of the matter soon.

No charges have been filed in the case, a department spokesman said Sunday.

Adam Mastrucci, Scott Lowrance and brothers Aaron and Barry Gilfand were playing pool at the bar when the off-duty officers attacked them, Fine said.

Patrol officers responded to a 911 call, but allegedly left after speaking to one of the off-duty officers, Fine said.

“I don't think this is a case where the police department can say they don't know who they're looking for,” Fine said.

Security cameras inside and outside the bar captured the incident, said Sally Saltzberg, another attorney for the men.

ABC News is actively looking for it

Chicago police are investigating new allegations that off-duty officers attacked patrons inside a bar in Chicago's West Loop. It was reportedly caught on tape.

The media does not have access to this videotape yet. But prosecutors and Chicago Police Internal Affairs investigators are reviewing it.
Four businessmen claim to have been on the restaurant/bar's main floor, minding their own business shooting pool. Their lawyer, Steve Fine of Chicago, alleges that around 2 a.m. his clients were attacked by as many as six men they later found out were off-duty Chicago cops.

“They were approached by an unknown individual. Our client responded that he wasn't looking for trouble. At which point he was punched in the face. Our three other clients were approached from behind and take down,” said Finespeaks.

The Chicago Tribune reports the attacks were videotaped by surveillance cameras inside the building and by another attached to the outside. Fine says the outside camera should also show one of his clients talking to a uniformed officer who had responded to a 9-1-1 call about the incident.

“An off-duty police officer who was one of the assailants approached the police car, waved the police away. When the police left the scene, my clients continued to be beaten,” said Finespeaks.

links for 2007-03-26

Chris Weber, a Ph.D. candidate at Stony Brook (Dept of Political Science) is conducting a brief survey entitled:

Exploring the Role of Internet Advertising in American Politics

This survey is designed to help us understand what Americans like you think about internet advertising, modern campaigns, and politics. We are very interested in your thoughts on this matter and greatly appreciate your participation.

Click here to take the survey:


If you have a couple of minutes, filling out the survey would help him with his research. He's promised to share some of the findings with us.

Also, I've turned off comments on this post, per Mr. Weber's request:

Also, if possible, would you mind disabling comments for this post? It is important that people take the survey without being biased by other people’s opinions. Not everyone will be to view the same advertisement, which might create some confusion. We provide contact information at the end of the survey and strongly encourage participants to get in touch us directly to discuss the advertisements and/or survey.

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Alternative-Fuel Vehicles

Notably, Toyota and Honda aren't whining about how expensive building fuel-efficient cars is, and surprise, surprise, Toyota and Honda are selling more trucks and cars than ever.

Bush to Meet With Auto Makers Over Alternative-Fuel Vehicles - :
Mr. Bush scheduled a White House meeting Monday with General Motors Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Rick Wagoner, Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group CEO Tom LaSorda. ...

Messrs. Wagoner, Mulally and LaSorda told a House committee this month that raising fuel economy standards by 4% a year, under a White House plan, would be expensive and challenging.

Auto makers have been resistant to swift fuel economy increases imposed by Congress

4% (in other words from 20 m.p.g. to 20.8 m.p.g.) is not much of a stretch is it? Whatever happened to American engineering ingenuity? Sounds really like Detroit is looking for government tax hand-outs.

I agree with what Tom Toles said (drew?) recently:
Tom Toles 03182007 Detroit Whiners

e85 Ethanol

Auto makers intended to stress that they could make half of their cars and trucks capable of running on alternative fuels by 2012 if there is enough availability and distribution of E85, an ethanol blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline.

“If the production and distribution of ethanol can match the volumes that we've committed to building, there's an opportunity to significantly reduce gasoline consumption within our grasp,” GM spokesman Greg Martin said.

Industry officials note that only 1,100 of the nation's 170,000 fueling stations offer E85 and have argued that the distribution system is critical to getting more vehicles running on alternatives.

this is also true, there aren't that many E85 fueling stations in Chicago for instance. Of course, if sugar tariffs were reduced.....

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When Will Fredo Get Whacked?

Frank Rich takes a look at the back story behind Ali-G and the Dauphin, including some interesting factoids about Bush and his jury duty. Too bad we didn't have a national media who paid attention to details back in 1999 when it would have mattered.

Odds and Ends infrared

Frank Rich: When Will Fredo Get Whacked? :
Alberto Gonzales has been present at every dubious legal crossroads in President Bush’s career.
... Mr. Gonzales may be a nonentity, but he’s a nonentity like Zelig. He’s been present at every dubious legal crossroads in Mr. Bush’s career. That conjoined history began in 1996, when Mr. Bush, then governor of Texas, was summoned for jury duty in Austin. To popular acclaim, he announced he was glad to lend his “average guy” perspective to a drunken driving trial. But there was one hitch. On the juror questionnaire, he left blank a required section asking, “Have you ever been accused, or a complainant, or a witness in a criminal case?”

A likely explanation for that omission, unknown to the public at the time, was that Mr. Bush had been charged with disorderly conduct in 1968 and drunken driving in 1976. Enter Mr. Gonzales. As the story is told in “The President’s Counselor,” a nonpartisan biography by the Texas journalist Bill Minutaglio, Mr. Gonzales met with the judge presiding over the trial in his chambers (a meeting Mr. Gonzales would years later claim to have “no recollection” of requesting) and saved his client from jury duty. Mr. Minutaglio likens the scene to “The Godfather” — casting Mr. Gonzales not as the feckless Fredo, however, but as the “discreet ‘fixer’ attorney,” Robert Duvall’s Tom Hagen.

Mr. Gonzales’s career has been laced with such narrow escapes for both him and Mr. Bush. As a partner at the Houston law firm of Vinson & Elkins, Mr. Gonzales had worked for Enron until 1994. After Enron imploded in 2001, reporters wanted to know whether Ken Lay’s pals in the Bush hierarchy had received a heads up about the company’s pending demise before its unfortunate shareholders were left holding the bag. The White House said that Mr. Gonzales had been out of the Enron loop “to the best of his recollection.” This month Murray Waas of The National Journal uncovered a more recent close shave: Just as Justice Department investigators were about to examine “documents that might have shed light on Gonzales’s role” in the administration’s extralegal domestic wiretapping program last year, Mr. Bush shut down the investigation.

It was Mr. Gonzales as well who threw up roadblocks when the 9/11 Commission sought documents and testimony from the White House about the fateful summer of 2001. Less widely known is Mr. Gonzales’s curious behavior in the C.I.A. leak case while he was still White House counsel. When the Justice Department officially notified him on the evening of Sept. 29, 2003, that it was opening an investigation into the outing of Valerie Wilson, he immediately informed Andrew Card, Mr. Bush’s chief of staff. But Mr. Gonzales waited another 12 hours to officially notify the president and inform White House employees to preserve all materials relevant to the investigation. As Chuck Schumer said after this maneuver became known, “Every good prosecutor knows that any delay could give a culprit time to destroy the evidence.”

and Mr. Rich entreats us to keep our eye on the main course, not the fruit salad appetizer:

Do not be distracted by the apples and oranges among the fired attorneys. Perhaps a couple of their forced resignations were routine. But in other instances, incriminating evidence coalesces around a familiar administration motive: its desperate desire to cover up the corruption that soiled what was supposed to be this White House’s greatest asset, its protection of the nation’s security. This was the motive that drove the White House to vilify Joseph Wilson when he challenged fraudulent prewar intelligence about Saddam’s W.M.D. The e-mails in the attorney flap released so far suggest that this same motive may have driven the Justice Department to try mounting a similar strike at Patrick Fitzgerald, the United States attorney charged with investigating the Wilson leak.

In March 2005, while preparing for the firings, Mr. Gonzales’s now-jettisoned chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, produced a chart rating all 93 United States attorneys nationwide. Mr. Fitzgerald, widely admired as one of the nation’s best prosecutors (most famously of terrorists), was somehow slapped with the designation “not distinguished.” Two others given that same rating were fired. You have to wonder if Mr. Fitzgerald was spared because someone in a high place belatedly calculated the political firestorm that would engulf the White House had this prosecutor been part of a Saturday night massacre in the middle of the Wilson inquiry.

Cracks in the Facade has more excerpts

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links for 2007-03-25

White Stripes Reveal Icky Thump

New White Stripes album coming soon according to Pitchfork, and it includes bagpipes to piss my brother off:

Pitchfork: White Stripes Reveal Icky Thump Tracklist
White Stripes Reveal Icky Thump Tracklist

one of these days I'll see the White Stripes perform live before their act gets tiresome and they release a 4 disc prog-rock opera sung all in Gaelic and Attic Greek.

CMJ has more

Jack and Meg have emerged with their sixth album, their first for Warner Bros. (which has also taken on the band’s Third Man imprint) and, most importantly, their first with bagpipes. Those are a couple of the surprises on the ultimately straightforward Icky Thump, which will see daylight in June. CMJ was treated to a special advance listen of the 13-track record, which was recorded in a super-long (at least for the Stripes) three-week session in a super-modern studio (for the first time) and clocks in at a super-sized (relatively speaking) 48 minutes.

7 Nation Army (trippy video from Elephant)

Blue Orchid (with implied Catherine the Great imitation, from Get Behind Me Satan)

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Ronald Moore interview

Ronald Moore is a clever writer, I'm saddened that BSG is going to conclude in one more season. While Mr. Moore claims not to consciously use current events for plot devices, obviously the War in Iraq and the War on Terror and Related Abstractions influences the direction of the show.

The man behind “Battlestar Galactica” | Salon Arts & Entertainment ... I'm not naive enough to think my politics don't influence the show. I'm certain that they do, but the show's mission is not to present answers to what I think are really complicated, difficult questions. One of the mistakes TV often makes is that it tries to tackle complicated moral and legal issues and wrap them up in an hour and give you a neat, tidy message by the end: “And here's the way to solve Iraq!” I don't think that's helpful, and I don't think that's good storytelling or great to watch. Our mission is more about asking questions, asking the audience to think about things, to think about uncomfortable things, to question their own assumptions.
I like the show best when you get to a place where you're not sure who you're rooting for anymore, you're not sure whose side you're on. And you're confused and you might even be angry about what we're doing but at least it's forced you to a place of trying to define your own point of view on something.

The challenge is that TV wants to bend you and your characters to neat moral decisions and arguments. Ultimately, the forces of television want your heroes to be heroic. It wants the leading characters to make the “right” choice each week and it wants there to be a clearly defined “bad” person in the show. Or at the most, the character does the right thing and maybe at the end he looks wistfully off-camera and ponders how it might have been different. There's a certain phony-baloney quality to a lot of the moralism on TV. It does serve up pat answers to difficult questions. And when you try to make it more morally ambiguous, you immediately run into the buzz saw of “It makes the characters unlikable. There's no one to root for. The audience won't like the character if they can't say he's making the right choice and that's what separates him from his enemies.”

We set out to make a very different kind of show. The difficulty is that when you go into these morally ambiguous areas, you have to have morally questionable decisions and motives for all your characters.

read the entire interview here, complete with spoilers.

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Saturday fog with drums

Another fog-a-riffic day after being teased on Thursday with the sun of spring.

click photos to embiggen.

After Forever
After Forever almost street art, West Loop

Not Communal Property
Not Communal Property keep yer' filthy hands off of my hydrant, jack!

Side Door
Side Door of a well-trafficked Chicago restaurant

Instruction Bus 1182
Instruction Bus 1182 Canal Street.

Telling Lies
Telling Lies on Wacker Drive.

a quickr pickr post


Klein: Pwned



Howard* Joe Klein, pundit and gadfly, gets pwned by Eric Alterman. The saddest part is that Klein doesn't even realized how childish and petulant he looks in all this, especially compared to Dr. Alterman's measured tone.

Media Matters - Altercation: Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be pundits ... :
A few larger points:

1) What you see with Klein, I think, is the panic of the pundit seeing his prestige destroyed by a blogosphere that can do for pundits what academics have always done for one another (and demonstrating why few pundits' work could survive this kind of scrutiny). This includes the ability to:

a) fact-check his unsupported assertions;

b) hold him accountable for his abusive language toward those with whom he disagrees; and

c) demand some transparency with regard to his methods.

Have you noticed that every time Klein is asked to defend something he has written, he responds with a personal attack against the person making the charge? It's not just me; it's anyone. Look at the names he calls Media Matters and the bloggers generally. Note that Tom Friedman and Howard Kurtz, among others, react similarly. Pundits are used to making Olympian pronouncements and then having everyone praise their wisdom and courage, the way Walter Lippmann defined the job. Asking people whatever happened to the last 10 times you said Iraq has only six more months, or that Bush is sure to be a centrist, and they flip out and call you an ideologue or an “obsessive.”

Which reminds me: The point about Klein's prediction about Bush is not so much that it was wrong -- as were almost all MSM pundits not merely about Bush but also about Gore, whom Joe Klein called “harsh and stupid,” for his 2000 convention speech and who he said “looked like a madman” when he gave his now famously prophetic Commonwealth Club speech opposing Bush's war, about which Klein's fellow Time columnist Charles Krauthammer, a psychiatrist, said the vice president had “gone off his lithium” -- but that he insisted his prediction for Bush's future was the “only” conceivable course. In the same piece he insisted: “There will be no $1.3 trillion tax cut,” Klein promised the readers of The New Yorker. MSM pundits are always saying something is the “only” possible conclusion -- Iraq, for instance, has weapons of mass destruction -- in order to delegitimize the questions and critiques of those who would disagree. They don't usually add the personal vituperation that accompanies Klein's columns, unless they also happen to work for Time and The Weekly Standard, as both William Kristol and Krauthammer do, or Time and The New Republic, as Andrew Sullivan did.

More in this vein

My money is on Dr. Alterman.

*[corrected thanks to skippy. I was even picturing Joe Klein's smirk as I typed this entry in the morning, isn't that a lovely thought. Shudder.]

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New books in 33.3 series


One could make a pretty poppin' playlist with the albums listed at the 33 and 1/3 blog. I don't own all of the albums, of course, but enough of them to say with authority I'm anticipating closely reading (and listening) to these albums in the near future.

33 1/3: March Madness!
So, these are the 21 books we'll be signing up for publication during 2008 and 2009.

Top of mind reaction to the albums I do know:

Maggot Brain

“Maggot Brain” (Funkadelic)

My first experience with George Clinton was predicated upon flipping through albums in an Austin record store (now defunct, replaced by a Starbucks I think, or worse), and being amazed at this cover. More rock than funk at this early stage, though the weirdness and psychedelia already exist.

2. Reign in Blood
“Reign in Blood” (Slayer)
I don't listen to Slayer much these days, but I did own this album at one time, and saw the band on this tour.

3. Boys for Pele
“Boys for Pele” (Tori Amos)
I went through a phase for Ms. Amos too, which I'm apparently now over. I have a fondness for performers who follow their own muse.

4. Tusk
“Tusk” (Fleetwood Mac)
I actually only am familiar with the Camper van Beethoven version.

5. Rum Sodomy & the Lash
“Rum Sodomy & the Lash” (The Pogues)
My favorite album on this list, and one of my favorite albums period.

6. Pink Flag
“Pink Flag” (Wire)
great, angular post-punk album. 22 songs ranging from 49 seconds to 3 minutes long. I swore I would never use the word angular in referring to music, but I just did. Damn it. As penance, I'm going to listen to this album next.

7. #1 Record/Radio City
“#1 Record/Radio City” (Big Star)
Several classic power-pop tunes on this album.

8. Wowee Zowee
“Wowee Zowee” (Pavement)
Another entry on my favorite 100 album list. Literate indie-rawk. Though, two songs on here I always skip (Fight This Generation and Half a Canyon) for some reason. Probably should give a demerit for that. Also, not my favorite Pavement album, though I saw them on this tour.

9. One Step Beyond...
“One Step Beyond...” (Madness)
ska's second wave, and much more than just the quirky MTV hits from the 80s. Good accompaniment to a bike ride or photo stroll, ie full of rhythmic energy.

10. It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
“It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” (Public Enemy)
When this album came out, hip-hop was the black CNN, and the dense sound-scapes on this record rewarded multiple listenings. Chuck D still retains his integrity, but Flavor Flav is a bit of a parody these days.

11. Pinkerton
“Pinkerton” (Weezer)
Ok, but hasn't really held up over the years. Supposedly based off of Madame Butterfly. Probably an interesting book, Rivers Cuomo is a bit of a freak (though, perhaps his schtick is intentionally created, haven't decided).

12. Master of Reality
“Master of Reality” (Black Sabbath)
not my favorite Sabbath record, but still one that I play now and again. Music is all about mood after all, and sometimes Sabbath's atonal sludge perfectly fits it.

Speaking of Sabbath, I've really been digging

Sabbatum: Medieval Tribute to Black Sabbath

“Sabbatum: Medieval Tribute to Black Sabbath” (Rondellus)

which is what it sounds like: a Medieval Choir singing Black Sabbath songs, translated into Latin. Excellent, in fact. You might not think this would work (some of the classical 'tribute' albums suck, in fact), but it does. They sing After Forever and Solitude from the Masters of Reality LP.

13. Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
“Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” (Wu-Tang Clan)
just don't mistakenly buy the Al Gore/Tipper Gore censored version like I did.

14. The Gilded Palace of Sin
“The Gilded Palace of Sin” (The Flying Burrito Brothers)
perhaps an acquired taste, but I think Gram Parsons is a genius who died too soon. Never really got into the Byrds, but his first album with the Flying Burrito Brothers is a masterpiece of Bakersfield-inspired country rock.

15. Zaireeka
“Zaireeka” (The Flaming Lips)
a truly experimental record. Supposed to use different stereo systems and play the 4 discs simultaneously. What I really should do is make my own mix, but instead I end up just listening to the weirdness one disc at a time.

Allmusic writes:

A combination of the words “Zaire” and “Eureka,” Zaireeka is a term coined by Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne symbolizing the fusion of anarchy and genius. It's a perfect title; Zaireeka is the culmination of the Lips' helter-skelter brilliance. Pushing the concept of interactive listening into new realms of possibility, the work extends Coyne's infamous “parking lot experiments” into not merely one album, but four separate discs that can be played separately or in groups of two, three, and four with multiple stereos. (Properly synchronized multi-disc playback requires more than one person -- it's literally a party album.) Between combining the discs and toying with volume, balance, fidelity, etc., the options are truly limitless. No two multi-disc performances can be repeated, thanks to the space-time continuum and discrepancies from one CD player to another. Musically as well as conceptually, the Lips are defiantly experimental throughout Zaireeka; individually, each disc sounds more like free jazz than pop, although Coyne's diamond-sharp melodic sensibilities prevail even during the most chaotic moments.

There are a few other books/albums that made the final cut, but I don't know much about them.

Can you tell I'm suffering from a post-spring fever letdown? Yesterday was 68, sunny, and I made a series of excuses to be outside walking around, soaking up vitamin D, taking photographs (70 photos it looks like). From 11 am until dark, I was inside only an hour or so, in small intervals. Today, colder (currently 49), and rainy. I have so much freaking work to do, and instead here I am day dreaming about music.....

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links for 2007-03-23

Waste wasters and wasted

Don't we (as a country) have better uses for our resources?

Tunnel of Blues

Paul Armentano - AlterNet: DrugReporter: It's Been an 'All Out War' on Pot Smokers for 35 Years
Since 1972, U.S. taxpayers have spent well over $20 billion enforcing criminal marijuana laws and 16.5 million people have been arrested. It's time to put an end to this waste.

Currently, one in eight inmates incarcerated for drug crimes is behind bars for pot, at a cost to taxpayers of more than $1 billion per year.

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News Dumps

Speaking of Josh Marshall's blogging empire, here is a concrete and positive reason to donate to TPM:

New Technique Lets Bloggers Tackle Late-Night News Dumps - March 21, 2007 - The New York Sun :

A time-honored Washington practice of trying to extinguish, pre-empt, or redirect news coverage by dumping stacks of previously secret government documents on the press may be in for some changes after a headlong collision with hundreds of liberal Web loggers in the wee hours of yesterday morning.

On Monday night, the Justice Department delivered to Congress more than 3,000 pages of e-mails, memos, and other records about the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. The handover came so late that many news organizations had to scramble to try to skim a few headlines from the files before latenight deadlines.

Despite the late hour, readers of a liberal Web site,, tackled the task with gusto. They quickly began grabbing 50-page chunks of the scanned documents from a House of Representatives Internet server, analyzing them and excerpting them. The first post about the Department of Justice records hit the left-leaning news and commentary site at 1:04 a.m. Within half an hour, there were 50 summaries posted by readers gleaning the documents. By 4:30 a.m., more than 220 postings were up detailing various aspects of the files.
An attorney who helped President Clinton manage Whitewater and other scandals, Mark Fabiani, said the immediate and intense scrutiny from hundreds of sets of eyes would have experts in crisis communications reconsidering some of their tactics.

“You're right to regard it as a major development,” Mr. Fabiani told The New York Sun. “It could really change the way things get done.”

At the Clinton White House, Mr. Fabiani's preference was to release potentially damaging information right before the weekend. “My friends in the media used to call them Fabiani Fridays. … You had hard-copies of stuff. You'd put them all in a room,” he said. “We would say to people, ‘Here are six stacks. You go on through them.'” The NBC television show “The West Wing” immortalized the practice in an episode titled “Taking Out the Trash.”

Mr. Fabiani said some of that would be less effective in the face of legions of bloggers willing to pool their findings. In the Whitewater era, he said, “There was competition among the reporters.” As a result, individual journalists reviewing the records often never made it through all of them and had to run with the first interesting nugget they came across. “The stories were all over the place,” the attorney said. “No one was going to go back and retrace their steps.”

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Just Knock it Down Please

This is a neighbor I don't want, didn't want, never will want. Not that it will realistically be knocked down, but we went into this alleged luxury building, and it was horribly blase. Formica counter-tops, shag carpeting, 9 foot ceilings (or lower), ridiculous layout. You get the idea.

Chicago Business News, Analysis & Articles | West Loop apartment building on the block | Crain's
An affiliate of BlackRock Realty Advisors Inc. is putting up for sale a 28-story apartment building in the West Loop that could fetch $75 million or more.
BlackRock has hired the Chicago office of CB Richard Ellis Inc. to sell the 274-unit high-rise at 180 N. Jefferson St., according to sources familiar with the situation. Built in 2004, it is the only major downtown apartment building on the market at a time when investors are flush with cash. ... One real estate expert estimated 180 N. Jefferson could sell for $270,000 to $290,000 a unit, or $74 million to $79 million. Yet the luxury building, which features condo-like finishes, has only an 87% occupancy rate, below the 94% average for downtown luxury buildings, according to Appraisal Research.

Rent Now!

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HRC as Big Blue

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if you are one of the few who hasn't seen this remixed Apple 1984 ad, here it is for the moment:

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F.D.A. tired of bad PR

Cut Rate Drugs

The F.D.A. should have instituted such a rule years ago, but at least something is being done now. Too many instances of corruption, or perceived corruption. Now the F.D.A. (and other regulatory agencies) should decree that former agency officials cannot work for the companies they are supposed to be regulating for ten after years after leaving their position.

F.D.A. Rule Limits Role of Advisers Tied to Industry
Expert advisers to the government who receive money from a drug or device maker would be barred for the first time from voting on whether to approve that company’s products under new rules announced Wednesday for the F.D.A.’s powerful advisory committees.

Indeed, such doctors who receive more than $50,000 from a company or a competitor whose product is being discussed would no longer be allowed to serve on the committees, though those who receive less than that amount in the prior year can join a committee and participate in its discussions.

A “significant number” of the agency’s present advisers would be affected by the new policy, said the F.D.A. acting deputy commissioner, Randall W. Lutter

for instance:

The changes are intended to respond to a growing chorus of critics who contend that drug and device makers have hijacked the Food and Drug Administration’s approval process by paying those who serve on the agency’s advisory panels.

In one famous example, 10 of the 32 advisers who voted in 2005 to allow the painkiller Bextra to remain on the market and the painkiller Vioxx to return to the market despite safety worries had taken money from the drug makers. Under the new rules, their votes would not have counted and the committee would have voted to keep both drugs off the market.

and not to be a cynic, but I'm with Representative Rosa DeLauro:

Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut and chairwoman of a subcommittee that has oversight over the F.D.A. budget, said there might be undisclosed loopholes that make the new rules toothless. “I am skeptical, given their recent track record of putting political and corporate interests above science,” Ms. DeLauro said.

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links for 2007-03-22

Mac malware

This dude sounds disappointed about the lack of Mac viruses, which is a strange stance for a 'security researcher'. Or not, I suppose somebody has to pay his consultant bills.

Also, what exactly are these 'seven' Mac OS X malware instances? I'm skeptical to say the least.

Lack of Mac malware baffles experts -
Apple's Mac OS X remains almost completely free of any sort of malware threat despite several years of availability, a significant market share, and even an entire month dedicated to pointing out its flaws.

And security experts are not exactly sure why. In an article for the McAfee Avert Labs blog, security researcher Marius van Oers pointed out that Mac malware is “pretty much non-existent at the moment”.

The researcher said that out of 236,000 known pieces of malicious software, only seven affect Mac OS X.

“With an estimated OS X market share of about five per cent on desktop systems we would expect to see more malware for OS X,” said van Oers.

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Smartest Guys in the Room

Speaking of Mark Cuban, we finally watched the documentary about Enron.

The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron
“The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron” (Bethany McLean, Peter Elkind)
based on this book

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
“Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” (Alex Gibney)

Could have been updated and expanded (Skilling sentenced to 24 years, Kenny-Boy deceased, more details about Ken Lays meetings with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dick Cheney, mention of the email archive), but still a fascinating story. If one were ambitious (and had the time), one could expand the Enron metaphor to include the Iraq War debacle. The fraud relied upon a complicit media, complicit so-called experts, corrupt politicians and corrupt and venal corporate leaders. The rank and file employees gets screwed (wasted, nearly), energy prices are manipulated for short-term profit, and so on.

A film certainly worth watching.

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Cuban vs Dolan Cage Deathmatch

I don't think Selena Roberts likes “Dorkweed” James Dolan very much, and who can blame her? What's to like? Cuban may be annoying, and living in Dallas to boot, but at least he has a work ethic, and Cuban had enough sense to hire Avery Johnson as coach. As far as this year's Dallas Maverick team, I'd say they are the favorite for winning a championship.

At the Garden, There Are Messages in the Money - New York Times :

One N.B.A. big spender is the son of an automobile upholsterer. He sold garbage bags as a boy to raise money for a pair of Puma sneakers and financed his college years by teaching dance lessons to any clunky, corn-fed Midwesterner with a spare dollar.

Mark Cuban graduated from Indiana University but hardly upgraded from his peanut-butter budget, forced to share a house with a half-dozen guys when he moved to Dallas in the ’80s. He left Hoosier hoops behind, or did he? Cuban and his buddy Todd Wagner had a geeky dream: What if they could stream live games over the Internet?
Cuban is a billionaire now — self-made.

The other N.B.A. big spender grew up among the plush estates of Long Island with all the luxury perks of his father’s Cablevision monopoly: staffed yachts, catered limos and free HBO.

James L. Dolan strummed a guitar, but needed a worthy hobby. So Daddy Dolan gifted his son with Madison Square Garden. Jim Dolan doesn’t possess brilliant ideas. He has money, which, to him, is as good as intellectual capital.

Dolan is a billionaire — an inherited perch.

Money talks with different messages, though. With his team of past castoffs and foreign risks — including three undrafted players and a certain German who nearly exited as a flop a few years ago — all focused on a championship run, Cuban’s payroll is a meritocracy.

With his team of erratic, Starbury-esque superstars — some on the roster, while others have vanished into a buyout abyss — all seeking love pats for mediocrity, Dolan’s roster money is rooted in entitlement.

Cuban uses his wealth to forge a vision; Dolan wields it as a tool of vengeance.

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Rove and Fitzgerald


Loneliness is an ATM

John Kass, one of those quaint, old-fashioned Republicans who believe in rule of law, speculates as to the real reason why Patrick Fitzgerald was targeted as one of the attorneys to possibly purge.

Connecting dots and Fitzgerald's fall

How many conversations did Karl Rove--the political Rasputin of the Bush White House--have with top Illinois Republicans about U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald?

Ten? Fifty? None?

Did Rove speak directly to Big Bob Kjellander, whom Rove engineered into the job of treasurer of the Republican National Committee?

Answers might tell us why Fitzgerald, honored in 2002 as one of the top prosecutors in the Justice Department--and the fed most feared by the bipartisan political Combine that runs Illinois--was abruptly downgraded in March 2005.

According to news reports this week, Fitzgerald was downgraded in a 2005 Justice Department memo sent to the White House and was listed among federal prosecutors who “had not distinguished themselves.”

That description must have shocked the Combine because Fitzgerald has indicted and convicted bushels of politicians here.

Several other columnists, journalists and bloggers (who can tell the difference these days) decided that the Scooter Libby trial was the reason for Fitzgerald's downgrade, but Kass isn't convinced.

Partisan Hackery

We've been following this story as it has become the scandal de jour, and perhaps the scandal that the new Congress uses to corral the Bush-ites (well, we can hope anyway).

ants are our Friends

Jane Mayer writes a sketch of one of the Bush-donors who got the job, without much prosecutorial experience, but plenty of experience doing Unka Rove's dirty business.

Jane Mayer: Wind on Capitol Hill: Bullets: The Talk of the Town: The New Yorker

But last week Tim Griffin, the recently installed U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, was not enjoying his new assignment. “It’s no fun being me right now,” he said over his cell phone from Arkansas. Griffin is one of eight U.S. Attorneys whose recent appointments by the President are at the center of a political controversy that has overtaken Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and other top Bush Administration officials. They stand accused of manipulating the prosecutorial arm of the federal government for political purposes, and then misleading Congress about it. ...

Griffin, who is thirty-eight, was appointed U.S. Attorney in December. A former research director for the Republican National Committee and an aide to Karl Rove, the White House political adviser, Griffin had relatively little prosecutorial experience. Nonetheless, e-mails between Justice Department and White House officials show that Bush Administration officials pushed out Griffin’s well-respected predecessor, H. E. (Bud) Cummins, to make room for Griffin, in part because “it was important to . . . Karl [Rove], etc.” Griffin did not undergo a confirmation process before the Senate Judiciary Committee, as is required by the Constitution

In congressional hearings last month, Mark Pryor, a Democratic senator from Arkansas, raised concerns about newspaper accounts of Griffin’s political work, which, he said, has “been characterized as ‘caging’ African-American votes. This arises from allegations that Mr. Griffin and others in the R.N.C. were targeting African-Americans in Florida for voter challenges during the 2004 Presidential campaign.”


to me, seems like Mr. Griffin was rewarded especially for smearing Al Gore and John Kerry:

Few U.S. Attorneys are better equipped than Griffin to dodge incoming political artillery, because few have launched more of it themselves. As Griffin put it in a BBC documentary called “Digging the Dirt [not available for viewing in the U.S. at the moment, but transcript here],” which featured the opposition research outfit that he helped run for George Bush in his Presidential race against Al Gore, in 2000, “We think of ourselves as the creators of the ammunition in a war. . . . We make the bullets.” The documentary showed Griffin leading a team of researchers focussed on spotting inconsistencies, no matter how inconsequential, in Gore’s statements, and packaging them for the media.

In 2004, Griffin reprised the role, leading the behind-the-scenes effort to disseminate negative information about John Kerry, the Democratic Presidential nominee. As Rove’s protégé, he set up a boiler-room rapid-response operation at 129 Portland Street, in Boston. Security was tight, with guards and a buzzer system. Upstairs, thirty operatives worked in a maze of offices filled with computers and TVs. Among other things, the Republicans scrutinized Kerry’s parking violations and unearthed old gossip items and tabloid accounts of his troubled first marriage.

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Pet-Food Industry's Little Secret


None of the myriad cat foods our guys eat were on the list of recalled items, but if you've ever wondered why certain brands cost more than other brands even if the food itself looks the same: much of it comes from the same place.

Advertising Age - Recall Sheds Light on Pet-Food Industry's Little Secret : The massive national pet-food recall stemming from deaths of at least 10 pets is also letting consumers in on one of the industry's well-guarded secrets -- that some of most premium pet-food brands in the U.S. use the same manufacturer that processes dozens of low-price private-label products.
...“Branded companies for years when they used co-packing arrangements have tried to keep that their little shoppers' secret,” said Burt Flickinger, principal with the consulting firm Strategic Resource Group. “But now this whole scandal can dismantle the pricing architecture for branded products when consumers can see that branded is essentially the same stuff with a higher price point.”

“Most consumers will give them the benefit of the doubt that they must have separate formulas for expensive Eukanuba,” said Laura Ries, president of marketing consultancy Ries & Ries. “In many cases you know with private labels that those products are coming off the same belts as the branded products, and in some cases there is very little difference. ... But most people want to believe in brands, buy brands and trust brands.”

Depending on how long the story stays in the news, however, she said more consumers may “become a little more wary about spending extra for the premium brands.”

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links for 2007-03-21

Groom Reaper

I might watch John Waters' new show at least once before it is cancelled - he cracks me up.

Discussing the crazy socialized rituals that are weddings (disclaimer: I'm a serial monogamist who has so far avoided both progeny and marriage), Mr. Waters says:

Sidelines: The Groom Reaper: The Talk of the Town: The New Yorker
I don’t understand the whole process: the poor girl has to go out and buy, with her own money, some dress that she will never wear again; you go out with the man the night before and he is allowed to get blow jobs from hookers.

...This week, Waters appears in a new comedy series entitled “’Til Death Do Us Part,” on Court TV. Each episode charts the progress of a couple’s romance from the altar to the courthouse, where, several years later, one spouse is accused of murdering the other. The cases are based on real couples, and, in a macabre framing device, Waters appears each week as a narrator called the Groom Reaper. “This is a pro-divorce show,” Waters explained. “The viewer might have wanted to kill his wife right before this show, because who hasn’t? That’s why I am single. Someone thought up an ad campaign for the show—‘Stay single and stay alive’—which I love.”

ps, can you tell I'm happy The New Yorker has entered the 21st C.E., and now includes RSS feeds for their content?


Sy Hersh on the General Lavelle incident

Sy Hersh writes an interesting essay about an incident I vaguely remember reading about - the demotion (without court-martial) of Air Force General John Lavelle, the one-time commander of all air operations in Vietnam.


Symour Hersh - Authorizations: Comment: The New Yorker

... In April, 1972, the Pentagon announced that Air Force General John D. Lavelle, the commander of all air operations in Vietnam, was retiring for “personal and health reasons.” In fact, as it became clear over the next two months, he had been relieved of his command and forced to retire—demoted by two ranks—after an internal inquiry determined that he had ordered bombing attacks on unauthorized targets in North Vietnam.

Mr. Hersh concludes:

We have become inured to the vulgarity, deceit, and distrust that mark the Nixon tapes. But the Lavelle incident has a special resonance: in the midst of a disastrous and unpopular war, a President and his closest confederates authorized actions in violation of both the rules and their own stated policies. We’ll never know exactly what has been said in George W. Bush’s Oval Office, but there are parallels with the Nixon White House. One who has come to understand them is Robert Pursley, the Air Force lieutenant general who was Laird’s military assistant. Laird, who will publish a memoir next year, insists, “I did not know they were breaking the rules or lying about coördinates.” Pursley said last week that it was Laird’s office that noticed the increase in bombing missions over North Vietnam and questioned the Joint Chiefs of Staff about the authority used to justify it, which led to the Pentagon’s first, internal inquiry.

Pursley also told me, “I believe Lavelle was guilty of poor judgment, but Nixon enhanced the issue by saying, ‘Do what you need to do.’ That’s what’s wrong with us today. The President is just diminishing what holds the military together by saying forget the ethics—we’ll do whatever we have to do. It’s the stuff from which Walter Reed and Abu Ghraib are born.”

Read the whole thing here

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Live at Massey Hall

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Sure, sounds good. I prefer “electric-guitar god” Neil to “acoustic guitar” Neil, but even the latter has its moments.

Live at Massey Hall (CD/DVD)
“Live at Massey Hall (CD/DVD)” (Neil Young)

David Marchese - Salon
Given that he possesses both unrivaled stature and a legendary trove of unreleased material, it's a surprise that Neil Young waited until last year to get all archaeological on our asses. Another surprise is just how excellent his newly released archival material has proven to be. Last year's stomping, exploratory “Live at Fillmore East” -- taken from a 1970 show -- caught Young in full-on guitar jam mode. Recorded only a year later, “Live at Massey Hall” finds the ever-mercurial one having switched modes, delivering 17 songs solo, alternating between spinning flecks of silver from an acoustic guitar to sending out gentle ripples from behind his piano. If nothing else, “Massey Hall” does a thrilling job of showcasing Young's remarkable songbook. Classics like “Helpless,” “Old Man” and “Ohio” are matched by lesser-known gems like “See the Sky About to Rain” and “Journey Through the Past.”

Everything shines in the unadorned setting, with the fundamental strength of Young's compositions coming through plainly, beautifully. But aside from being a fantastic collection of songs, the album is elevated by its audio vérité feeling: Young's halting, self-deprecating song introductions; his admonition of the cameramen after their clicking shutters throw off his rhythm; the lonesome, cracked beauty of Young's singing voice. They all add up to a portrait of a young man fiercely protective of a gift that allowed him to write such searing, soulful music, and few albums in his vast catalog showcase Young's talent with such simple and forceful clarity.


Fly the Corpse Skies

For your weird news tidbit of the day, if you hadn't already heard, this one is a doozy....

BA sat corpse in first class -News-UK-TimesOnline
A BRITISH Airways passenger travelling first class has described how he woke up on a long-haul flight to find that cabin crew had placed a corpse in his row.The body of a woman in her seventies, who died after the plane left Delhi for Heathrow, was carried by cabin staff from economy to first class, where there was more space. Her body was propped up in a seat, using pillows.

The body of a woman in her seventies, who died after the plane left Delhi for Heathrow, was carried by cabin staff from economy to first class, where there was more space. Her body was propped up in a seat, using pillows.

The woman’s daughter accompanied the corpse, and spent the rest of the journey wailing in grief.

Paul Trinder, who awoke to see the body at the end of his row, last week described the journey as “deeply disturbing”, and complained that the airline dismissed his concerns by telling him to “get over it”.
The woman died during a nine-hour flight on a Boeing 747. Trinder was catching up on sleep when he was woken by a commotion and opened his eyes to see staff manoeuvring the body into a seat.

“I didn’t have a clue what was going on. The stewards just plonked the body down without saying a thing. I remember looking at this frail, sparrow-like woman and thinking she was very ill,” said Trinder.

“She kept slipping under the seatbelt and moving about with the motion of the plane. When I asked what was going on I was shocked to hear she was dead.”

The woman’s daughter and son-in-law arrived soon after and began grieving. Trinder said: “It was terrifying. I put my earplugs in but couldn’t get away from the fact that there was a woman wailing at the top of her voice just yards away. It was a really intense, primal sound.

”I felt helpless. Grief is a very personal thing; it’s not as if there was anything I could do or say.“

I can't even come up with a good joke in response: too gruesome a circumstance.

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Bush censors climate reports

Speaking about Bush crony-corruption (aren't we always?), climate change science also was a target of the heavy hand of the Assministration. Following the Bush playbook, oil industry hacks were placed in positions of authority, and manipulated every bit of data they could to obfuscate global warming reports.

Helios is Benevolent

Chris Mooney has more, as does the LA Times:

Congressional hearing heats up over changes to climate reports - Los Angeles Times

Government scientists, armed with copies of heavily edited reports, charged Monday that the Bush administration and its political appointees had soft-pedaled their findings on climate change.The accusations led Democrats and Republicans at the congressional hearing to accuse each other of censorship, smear tactics and McCarthyism.

To underscore their charges of the administration's oil-friendly stance, Democrats grilled an oil lobbyist who was hired by the White House to review government climate change documents and who made hundreds of edits that the lawmakers said minimized the impact of global warming.“You were a spin doctor,” Rep. John A. Yarmuth (D-Ky) told the lobbyist.

Henry Waxman is doing his job well:

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing was marked by an open confrontation between Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles) and the ranking Republican, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) — a rare display of direct debate in otherwise carefully choreographed hearings.

The hearing was the latest effort to challenge what the Democratic congressional majority sees as the Bush administration's unchecked use of power. In the past few weeks, Democrats have held inquiries or announced plans to examine the unmonitored use of national security letters that allow the government to spy on Americans, the dismissal of U.S. attorneys and the identifying of former covert CIA operative Valerie Plame, among other issues.

Waxman has been particularly aggressive, pursuing inquiries about intelligence in the lead-up to the Iraq war and the politics of global warming.

To support their charges Monday, the Democrats produced hundreds of pages of legal depositions, exhibits and e-mail exchanges between administration officials. The paper trail illustrated how officials with no scientific training shaped the administration's climate change message and edited global warming reports, inserting doubt in the place of definitive statements and diminishing the role people play in the planet's rising temperatures.

Waxman's committee received more than eight boxes of papers from the White House Council on Environmental Quality that he said provided disturbing indications of political interference.

“There may have been a concerted effort directed by the White House to mislead the public about the dangers of global climate change,” said Waxman, who also cited the administration practice of “controlling what federal scientists could say to the public and the media about their work.”

“It would be a serious abuse if senior White House officials deliberately tried to defuse calls for action by ensuring that the public heard a distorted message about the risks of climate change,” Waxman said.

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Battle of the Sexes

Jeez-a-sneeze, I needs more time to watch all these movies. Anyway, a couple more 'films of interest':

The Alice Faye Collection (That Night in Rio / Lillian Russell / On the Avenue / The Gang's All Here)
“The Alice Faye Collection (That Night in Rio / Lillian Russell / On the Avenue / The Gang's All Here)” (Irving Cummings, Roy Del Ruth)

The Clock
“The Clock” (Vincente Minnelli, Fred Zinnemann, Tex Avery)

Battle of the Sexes Two of Hollywood’s most deliriously stylized movies, Busby Berkeley’s “The Gang’s All Here,” from 1943, and Vincente Minnelli’s “The Clock,” from 1945, are now available on DVD. Both are Second World War romances involving soldiers on brief furloughs in New York, and their ornate flourishes embellish the tensions of life in wartime.

Busby Berkeley movies always inspire me to pretend I've ingested something psychedelic: the films I've seen are packed with grand moments of swirling cameras and twirling dancers. Famously parodied/referenced in The Big Lebowski.

Berkeley’s vertiginous musical, featured in “The Alice Faye Collection” (Fox), was filmed in Technicolor, and the gaudy palette inspired the director’s most extravagant visual inventions, starting with a musical number done in long, swooping takes running from a dark soundstage to a shipyard that is revealed to be the colossal set of a Manhattan night club where Carmen Miranda and her tutti-frutti hat hold sway. .... Several dance routines feature Berkeley’s classic geometric choreography (including the legendary one with giant bananas), but the film’s concluding “Polka Dot Polka,” which kaleidoscopically dissolves the characters into an erotic swirl of color, suggests that the freedom being fought for was largely sexual freedom.

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TPM wants to hire another muck-raker

If you have any spare coins, and are interested in supporting one of the premier political bloggers and journalists as he expands his empire, I'd jump over to TPM and throw the coins into his virtual fedora.

Okay, enough threatening....
Okay, enough threatening. Like I said, we're expanding our operations at TPM. That will include a redesign of TPM, with expanded coverage of breaking news. But what we really want to do is more reporting, more muckraking. And that's where we want your help. We want to hire at least one reporter-blogger to report directly from Capitol Hill to you every day. And we're asking for your help...

Now, over the next days and weeks I'll be sharing other details of what we've got planned. But a few quick words about what we're doing here. If you're a regular reader and you think you get value out of TPM and the reporting we do, please consider contributing. The best way to think of this is as a voluntary subscription charge. You subscribe to HBO, to the daily paper, to a few of your favorite magazines, etc. Think of this like that. We have costs just like they do. It's just that we don't make people subscribe because its intrinsic to our mission to make the information we publish available to as many people as possible. And we're going to use this money to bring you more of what you already read and enjoy in our virtual pages.

But please, do not give more than you can easily and painlessly contribute. All of our employees have salaries; they have health care coverage; we have an office, etc. As you can see in this description from Saturday's LA Times, it's far from palatial. But we're fine. This is to expand what we do. To hire more people to do more reporting.

I neglected to re-subscribe to Time Out Chicago recently, so re-directed the money to Josh Marshall's muckraking blog instead. He's done a lot of good investigative reporting work over the years. Sort of a spiritual descendent to my hero, Izzy Stone.

Contribute here

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Makeup for your intestine

I may be overly-sensitive, but this sounds like a fairly gross concept to me. P&G no doubt conducted hours of focus group work (as is their wont), but it still sounds a bit disgusting to include one's intestines as part of one's daily beauty regime.


Metamucil's New Motto: Be Beautiful on the Inside -

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Yet it isn't usually associated with Metamucil, a fiber supplement intended to relieve constipation. Procter & Gamble wants to change that.
New TV ads for the company's Metamucil fiber supplement starting today carry the tagline “Beautify Your Inside” and resemble spots selling cosmetics. One shows women applying mascara, styling their hair and putting on lipstick. The first glimpse of Metamucil, in new, bright packaging, is its reflection in the mirror of a powder compact.

Nowhere do the ads mention “regularity” or “constipation,” as the old ones did. Instead, a voiceover coos that Metamucil does more than “cleanse your body,” and explains it is useful in reducing cholesterol and fighting heart disease. “Just add Metamucil to your already diva-conscious diet, and your insides will be haute, haute, haute,” say the print ads that will start this spring, featuring a young, slim model with the caption, “Drop-dead gorgeous guts.”

“When you feel healthy on the inside, it really does affect how you project yourself on the outside, and how you really look,” says David Corr, executive creative director for Publicis Groupe, the agency that created the Metamucil ads. “Sure you want to put on a nice dress, but why wouldn't you want to tone your insides, too?”

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Barclays consumes ABN Amro

Another step towards a world with three competing corporations controlling 90% of the world's wealth.

Abn Amro

Barclays Nears $80 Billion Deal For ABN Amro -

In what would be the largest-ever banking deal in Europe, the Netherlands' ABN Amro Holding NV is nearing a deal to be acquired by Barclays PLC of the United Kingdom for more than $80 billion, according to people close to the matter.

...Talks could still fall apart as the two sides hammer out further details, these people warned. Such a large and complex deal -- a cross-border merger involving businesses that span the globe and several regulatory authorities -- could fall apart at many junctures due to small differences.

If successful, the transaction would create a global banking giant with world-wide consumer operations, including in the U.S., and businesses ranging from exchange-traded funds and fixed-income to investment banking and credit cards. Such a European giant could better compete with global banks in the U.S. and Asia.

The combined bank would have sweeping operations around the world, putting ABN Amro's LaSalle bank in Chicago and operations in 53 countries -- including a big consumer presence in the Netherlands, Italy and Latin America -- alongside Barclays's big U.K. retail and investment bank and San Francisco asset management arm. Barclays's Mr. Varley sees expansion into the so-called BRIC countries -- Brazil, Russia, India and China -- as a top priority and something that ABN Amro offers because of its holdings in Brazil.

Bigger is not always better, we'll see in ten years if this was a smart move or not.

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links for 2007-03-20

No I don't feel any safer

Do you? Let's be honest: do you really think the Administration (the same Administration that did such a shitty job before and after Hurricane Katrina) is really going to suddenly learn how to effectively staff and competently run a bureaucracy? Even one with such an important task? No, me either.

I would not be surprised if questions regarding pro-life and anti-homosexuality beliefs were more prominent on the job application than actual experience in the field. Being a Bush donor no doubt helped as well.

Das Boot

Steve Coll: A Reporter at Large: The Unthinkable: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker

October, 2005, a radiation sensor at the Port of Colombo, in Sri Lanka, signalled that the contents of an outbound shipping container included radioactive material. The port’s surveillance system, installed with funds from the National Nuclear Security Administration, an agency within the Department of Energy, wasn’t yet in place, so the container was loaded and sent to sea before it could be identified. After American and Sri Lankan inspectors hurriedly checked camera images at the port, they concluded that the suspect crate might be on any one of five ships—two of which were steaming toward New York.

Sri Lanka is a locus of guerrilla war and arms smuggling. It is not far from Pakistan, which possesses nuclear arms, is a haven for Al Qaeda, and has a poor record of nuclear security. The radiation-emitting container presented at least the theoretical danger of a “pariah ship,” Vayl Oxford, the director of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, said. It seemed plausible, if unlikely, that Al Qaeda or rogue Pakistani generals might load a bomb onto a cargo vessel.
It was also the first major defensive maneuver triggered by a shield that the United States is attempting to build as a defense against a clandestine nuclear attack. The idea, in essence, is to envelop the country in rings of radiation detectors and connect these sensors to military and police command centers, which would then respond to unexplained movements of nuclear material. The project, comparable in ambition to ballistic-missile defense, is the first of its kind in the atomic age. The plan has already attracted criticism from some scientists and defense strategists, primarily because, as with missile defense, the project promises to be expensive and would require leaps of ingenuity to overcome technical problems presented by the laws of physics.

Still, with little public discussion this “layered defense,” as it is described by its proponents, is being deployed. The federal government has distributed more than fifteen hundred radiation detectors to overseas ports and border crossings, as well as to America’s northern and southern borders, domestic seaports, Coast Guard ships, airports, railways, mail facilities, and even some highway truck stops. More detectors are being distributed each month. NEST and the Federal Bureau of Investigation maintain a permanent team to respond to events in Washington and along the Northeast Corridor; a second team trained to dismantle nuclear weapons is based in Albuquerque, and eight other teams able to diagnose radioactive materials operate on continuous alert elsewhere in the country.

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, NEST teams have been deployed about twice a year because of specific threats reported by intelligence agencies, including at least two instances, apart from the Sri Lankan episode, where they boarded a ship approaching the United States. NEST units also discreetly screen vehicles, buildings, and people at designated events such as political conventions and the recent N.B.A. All-Star Game, in Las Vegas. In the United States alone, the sensors generate more than a thousand radiation alarms on an average day, all of which must be investigated.

Read the whole thing here (for a while, at least), and shudder or cower in fear. Whatever feels best to you. Personally, I'm hiding under my desk. Thank Cthulhu for WiFi.

To be fair, I don't know if any government organization can protect us from catastrophic nuclear terrorism, but the Bush-ites are a far worse choice, based solely on their track-record, than nearly any other possibility.

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Delete delete delete

I'm pretty sure Mr. Johnson meant to write, “read over your blog posts”, but his editor is probably to blame for the typo.

The Lives of the Poets: Boxed Set (Oxford English Texts)
“The Lives of the Poets: Boxed Set (Oxford English Texts)” (Samuel Johnson)

Samuel Johnson
“Read over your compositions, and wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.”

I'm worst when posting last thing at night, or first thing in the morning. Either too full of certain chemicals, or not full enough of others, depending.

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The Hot Spot

This sounds intriguing, I'll have to add it to my pile. The movie might be worth a late night viewing too, though I'm not a fan of Don Johnson (well, except for maybe in the cult classic, A Boy and His Dog).

The Hot Spot
“The Hot Spot” (Dennis Hopper)

The Hot Spot: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
“The Hot Spot: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” (Various Artists)

ongoing · 5✭♫: The Hot Spot Dennis Hopper directed The Hot Spot in 1990, and I’ve never seen it. He hired Jack Nitzsche to write the music, and they got Miles Davis, John Lee Hooker, Taj Mahal, and some other really good musicians to play on it. It’s the only record I know of in which Miles Davis plays straight blues solos in front of a straight electric blues band
...there are a half-dozen tracks here where you have that electric pumpin’ and Miles laying down tracks that are just blues, that’s all, but put down your computer or book or whatever and listen to them, and in a quiet way, they’re cosmic.

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NAFTA redux

Luckily for Al Gore (and Hillary Clinton), politicians can evade their past decisions fairly easily. NAFTA didn't help working class folk, didn't really help the trade imbalance between North American nations, and the repercussions and modifications are apparently still percolating on the border of Mexico.

In Quiet West Texas, Residents Fight an Anticipated Trade Corridor

The idea that in a few years hundreds of diesel-puffing semi trucks from Mexico could be tooling through two small towns in this area of West Texas every day has upset residents.

The towns are on the route of a projected trade corridor from Mexico called La Entrada al Pacifico. In the proposal’s present form, La Entrada would route semis through single-stoplight Marfa, population 2,400, and neighboring Alpine, population 7,000, which has three traffic signals on two one-way streets through town.

Though, I haven't heard yet if Ms. Clinton or Mr. Gore have repudiated their strong support for NAFTA or not, so I'm probably talking out of my digestive tract again. Wouldn't be the first time, nor will it be the last.

Here's a little background on environmentalism (and NAFTA) during the Clinton years, from Joshua Frank of CounterPunch:

Other than his alleged environmental convictions, Gore was politically timid when push came to shove in Washington. During Clinton's campaign for president in 1992 Gore promised a group of supporters that Clinton's EPA would never approve a hazardous waste incinerator located near an elementary school in Liverpool, Ohio, which was operated by WTI. Only three months into Clinton's tenure the EPA issued an operating permit for the toxic burner. Gore raised no qualms. Not surprisingly, most of the money behind WTI came from the bulging pockets of Jackson Stephens, who just happened to be one of the Clinton/Gore's top campaign contributors.

Perhaps Al Gore's greatest blunder during his years as vice president was his allegiance to the conservative Democratic Leadership Council and their erroneous approach to environmental policy. Gore, like Clinton who quipped that “the invisible hand has a green thumb”, extolled a free-market attitude toward environmental issues. “Since the mid-1980s Gore has argued with increasing stridency that the bracing forces of market capitalism are potent curatives for the ecological entropy now bearing down on the global environment,” writes Jeffrey St. Clair in Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to Me: The Politics of Nature. “He is a passionate disciple of the gospel of efficiency, suffused with an inchoate technopilia.”

Then came the first of the Clinton administration's neoliberal wet dreams: NAFTA. After the passage of NAFTA, pollution along the US/Mexico border dramatically increased. And Gore should have known better; NAFTA allowed existing environmental laws in the United States to be undermined. Corporations looking to turn a profit by skating around enviro statutes at home moved down to Mexico where environmental standards and regulatory enforcement were scarce.

These follies were followed by Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt's destructive deal with the sugar barons of South Florida, which doomed vast acreages of the Everglades. Then Gore and Clinton capitulated to the demands of Western Democrats and yanked from its initial budget proposals a call to reform grazing, mining, and timber practices on federal lands. When Clinton convened a timber summit in Portland, Oregon, in April 1994, the conference was, as one might expect, dominated by logging interests. Predictably, the summit gave way to a plan to restart clear-cutting in the ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest for the first time in three years, giving the timber industry its get rich wish. Gore, again, said nothing.

(article continues here)

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True Hoop moved

Mellos Nuts

Henry Abbott, the best sports blogger, has moved his TrueHoop page over to ESPN, as promised. True Hoop :

Update all your links, feeds, direct deposit accounts, etc.

Happily, he kept the link to this page intact. I used to write about the NBA quite a lot, before so many other bloggers started covering the league, but I don't blog so much about sports these days. TrueHoop sends a dozen or more visitors here every week, I wonder if that number will jump now that the site is hosted by ESPN?

d'oh! spoke too soon. Oh well, to be expected.

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links for 2007-03-19

Cures what Eirs Ya

Too lazy to post this review of contemporary Irish whiskey yesterday, and yet wanted to capture the anecdote for my online-scrapbook-né blog né web-zine, hence here's an entry about Ireland that isn't posted on March 17th. The horror!

Wags always note Black History month is relegated to February, the 'shortest' month, but why is Irishness usually only trotted out March 17th (and occasionally on Bloomsday - June 16th)? There must be a conspiracy!

Communing With Irish Spirits - In November 1960, a few weeks after John F. Kennedy won the presidential election, celebrated Irish novelist and critic Frank O'Connor came to Washington and blasted the millions of Irish-Americans who “do absolutely nothing for Ireland.” Not only didn't they support foreign aid, but “they don't even drink Irish whiskey,” O'Connor lamented.
“Go to New York on St. Patrick's Day, and everybody is out having a glorious time of it,” O'Connor said. “The pubs are kept busy by Irishmen, and so they're all serving what kind of whiskey? Scotch.”

The worst offender, in the novelist's book, was the president-elect -- an Irish-American whose father had made a killing with a franchise importing Scotch at the end of Prohibition. O'Connor urged Kennedy to give up Scotch and take up the spirit of Erin.

Parenthetical: I wonder how well Prescott Bush and Joe Kennedy Sr. knew each other?

But even in Ireland, Irish whiskey hasn't always been poured on March 17. It wasn't long after Ireland became a free state in 1922 that the country's Senate, the Seanad Éireann, determined that there should be no drinking at all on St. Patrick's Day.

In November 1924, Irish legislators were debating the “Intoxicating Liquor Bill,” and an amendment was offered to close all pubs on the holiday. Sen. P.W. Kenny, a proponent, said: “In some circles it was looked upon as an insult to, and an absolute neglect of the Saint, if a person did not drown the shamrock in his honour.” Such ritual drinking, Kenny proclaimed, was “a direct insult to the Saint.”

Rising in opposition was Sen. Oliver St. John Gogarty, a surgeon and wit (now best remembered as the inspiration for Buck Mulligan in James Joyce's “Ulysses”). Gogarty protested that when St. Patrick came to Ireland “there was no word in the Irish language to explain the condition of sobriety.” He bemoaned the “rigidly righteous, puritanical set of cranks” who had imposed Prohibition in America. “Temperance is an excellent thing,” Gogarty said, “but human liberty is more important.”

Gogarty would eventually lose the argument, and for decades Irish pubs were closed on St. Patrick's Day.

A bit ironic, no?

As for the suggested bottles of Irish whiskey to purchase, Eric Felten writes:

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Talking About Israel

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I'm assuming Mr. Kristof is scheduled to be burned in effigy later this evening.

Nicholas Kristof: Talking About Israel
Democrats are railing at just about everything President Bush does, with one prominent exception: Mr. Bush’s crushing embrace of Israel.

There is no serious political debate among either Democrats or Republicans about our policy toward Israelis and Palestinians. And that silence harms America, Middle East peace prospects and Israel itself.

Within Israel, you hear vitriolic debates in politics and the news media about the use of force and the occupation of Palestinian territories. Yet no major American candidate is willing today to be half as critical of hard-line Israeli government policies as, say, Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper.

Three years ago, Israel’s minister of justice spoke publicly of photos of an elderly Palestinian woman beside the ruins of her home, after it had been destroyed by the Israeli army. He said that they reminded him of his own grandmother, who had been dispossessed by the Nazis. Can you imagine an American cabinet secretary ever saying such a thing?

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Ides of March 2003

Regular readers of this space know I'm a fan of Frank Rich, but I especially like today's column, written almost in the style of classic Billmon. With URL links as appropriate.

Frank Rich: The Ides of March 2003

A chronology of some of the high and low points in the days leading up to the national train wreck whose anniversary we mourn this week.

TOMORROW night is the fourth anniversary of President Bush’s prime-time address declaring the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In the broad sweep of history, four years is a nanosecond, but in America, where memories are congenitally short, it’s an eternity. That’s why a revisionist history of the White House’s rush to war, much of it written by its initial cheerleaders, has already taken hold. In this exonerating fictionalization of the story, nearly every politician and pundit in Washington was duped by the same “bad intelligence” before the war, and few imagined that the administration would so botch the invasion’s aftermath or that the occupation would go on so long. “If only I had known then what I know now ...” has been the persistent refrain of the war supporters who subsequently disowned the fiasco. But the embarrassing reality is that much of the damning truth about the administration’s case for war and its hubristic expectations for a cakewalk were publicly available before the war, hiding in plain sight, to be seen by anyone who wanted to look.

By the time the ides of March arrived in March 2003, these warning signs were visible on a nearly daily basis. So were the signs that Americans were completely ill prepared for the costs ahead. Iraq was largely anticipated as a distant, mildly disruptive geopolitical video game that would be over in a flash.

Now many of the same leaders who sold the war argue that escalation should be given a chance. This time they’re peddling the new doomsday scenario that any withdrawal timetable will lead to the next 9/11. The question we must ask is: Has history taught us anything in four years?

Here is a chronology of some of the high and low points in the days leading up to the national train wreck whose anniversary we mourn this week [with occasional “where are they now” updates].

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links for 2007-03-18

An Irish Prayer

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Another Time perhaps

Beth writes (and I'm stealing)

An Irish Prayer

May those who love us, love us;
and those who don't love us,
may God turn their hearts;
and if He doesn't turn their hearts,
may he turn their ankles
so we'll know them by their limping.

Cry For Me, Ye Irish Eyes of Green

Here's what I wrote a few years ago

As someone with plenty of Irish DNA intermingled in my slipstream, and plenty of Planxty tunes memorized, it is my solemn duty to explain why I've imbibed several fluid ounces of Jameson's today, with Guinness chasers. Maybe not.

Suffice it to say that vomiting on public streets is not really an Irish tradition worth emulating, nor is public pugilism honoring the great pagan St. Patrick. Those who choose to besmirch Ireland and Irishness by embarrassing themselves should not be allowed to stand for the whole of our sphere; Joyce, Yeats, Pogues, et al. If my meanings are not clear, blame that shamrock jammed in your ear.

Now, pour me another.

Trains Get Lost

Today, however, I've only enough for one good drink (just poured it), and don't have any beer in the house. The Vape will have to suffice, Irish greenery and all that. Some friends coming over later, we'll probably go somewhere that serves regular beer (not that vomitous green stuff), and I'll quaff a few more while brooding in a corner reciting bits of Finnegan's Wake.


links for 2007-03-17

Mayor Daley the Dictator

I've seen this man periodically standing stoically in front of City Hall. At first, I thought perhaps he was a performance artist of some sort.

Mayor Daley the Dictator

However, reading the comments thread to this Chicagoist post presented some possible explanations of Farhad Khoiee-Abbasi's issues.

including this letter, slipped under the door of several of his neighbors:

FBI Agent(s): Prostitution Business

Public Announcement (Saturday April 29, 2006)
1) Since October 12, 2004 - I [withholding name] filed for divorce (04 D 10691) in the Chrcuit Court of Cook County, my “Right to Privacy” has been violated, and
2) Since February 13, 2006 - my attorney [withholding name] announced to “Withdraw from Attorney of Record,” my “Right to Legal Representation Under the Law” has been violated, too.

Mr. Chris Saviano, FBI Agent
My two (2) rights described above have been violated by FBI agent, Mr. Chris Saviano as following:

a) By taking advantage of “minor child-custody” issue in our proceeding divorce case, Mr. Chris Saviano has been using my wife, [name withheld] as the “Sex Slave” running “Prostitution Business”, and also
b) Mr. Chris Saviano has misused his power and influence - as FBI agent - to over control our divorce Court.

As a result of (a) and (b), all the “Court Orders” have been entered in the Chamber of Honorable Judge Carole Bellows instead of “Public Fair Trial” except 10.20.2005 and 1.11.2006

Due to life-and-death situation of my family, including my wife, disabled-daughter, and myself, last week (4,24-27,2006), I went to Washington D.C. to bring it to attention of the authorities. However, Mr. Chris Saviano's gang members stopped me to access to White House, Senators, Members of Congress, Dept. of Justice, even “FBI Washington Field Office” -duty agent at 601 Fourth St./NW, Washington D.C. 20035. Fortunately, I gave a copy of this paper to Congressman Mark Green (Wisconsin) in Reagan airport.

Therefore, with this paper, I want to bring to attention of people that I “Request for Investigation” because I do not have any family member or close friend in the USA.

another commenter writes:

this situation is not a curiosity, a tourist attraction, or entertainment. this situation is the definition of a tragedy, a man who loved his daughter so much that he came to a foreign country so she would not be discriminated against for having a disability. he then descended into pool of paranoia and later broke from reality, losing his engineering job, casting off his friends and refusing to speak to coworkers, and dragging the name of a superior's relative through the mud in the process. farhad needs help and if anyone can convince him to get help, this will all be over.

In a better world, Mr. Khoiee-Abbasi's (what seems to be) mental illness would be treated (kindly)by the government. Instead, he stands day after day, stewing.

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Sonic Youth at Pitchfork


Awesome. Daydream Nation is one of my 100 favorite albums, give or take. Last year when I saw Os Mutantes at Pitchfork, the weather was extremely hot, hope the weather gods are more beneficent this year. Or not, am still going.

Chicagoist: Dreaming of a Daydream Nation
It was just announced Sonic Youth will headline the Pitchfork Music Festival's opening night, July 13, with a performance of Daydream Nation in it's entirety. Holy shit, is that awesome or what?

Daydream Nation
“Daydream Nation” (Sonic Youth)

I wonder how they'll play this song/collage?

(you might be able to play song snippets on this page. Never works for me, but I'm impatient)

Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation (33 1/3)
“Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation (33 1/3)” (Matthew Stearns)

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Al Gore has enemies


I didn't read more than a few paragraphs of Mr. Broad's broadside, but others have, and were not impressed.

How the World Works -

William Broad, a science writer for the New York Times, writes an article asserting that “rank-and-file scientists” are criticizing Al Gore's presentation of climate change science in “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Michael Mann and Gavin Schmidt, at RealClimate, and David Roberts, at Grist, take Broad apart, sentence by sentence.
Broad includes a smattering of scientists who do support Gore, and say he gets it mostly right. Which makes his article a classic example of the false objectivity so common in mainstream journalism. “Balanced quotes” from both sides, with little clue as to whom the reporter deems trustworthy.

Which brings us back to Grist and RealClimate. Mann et al. make no bones about what they believe -- indeed, Michael “hockey stick” Mann is a central player in the politics and science of climate change. But I don't mind that, because I can easily subtract for bias, if I know what it is. What I find invaluable is the added context, the background provided on the interview subjects chosen by Broad, the in-depth analysis of why they think various assertions of “scientific fact” have been misinterpreted, twisted or outright bungled.

Ten years ago, I would have read Broad's piece and thought, hm, maybe Al Gore ain't all that. Today, I read the New York Times and wonder, what does the blogosphere have to say?

Exactly: the sources of information (and counter-information) are distributed all around the world, and are more powerful than in different eras. Assertions can be fact checked and refuted much easier, for the common good, at least more often. It isn't just the blogosphere, it is also that the sources are more easily found.

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Overblown Personnel Matters

Spiral Fish Pond

Spiral, spiral, on the wall, who is the most likely to lose their job of all?

Paul Krugman: Overblown Personnel Matters

Nobody is surprised to learn that the Justice Department was lying when it claimed that recently fired federal prosecutors were dismissed for poor performance. Nor is anyone surprised to learn that White House political operatives were pulling the strings.

It is surprising how fast the truth is emerging about what Alberto Gonzales, the attorney general, dismissed just five days ago as an “overblown personnel matter.”

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Toumani Diabaté


I really hope I can go to this. Spectacular musician.

“Djelika” (Toumani Diabaté)

At the HotHouse, March 21st.
HotHouse - The Center for International Performance and Exhibition
Toumani Diabaté is one of the great figures in African music. This super-charged, traditional meets modern dance-band album unites the two sides of his remarkable musical personality - the virtuosic traditionalist and the restless innovator. Recorded in a series of all night sessions at Mali's Hotel Mandé, it packs the fruit of ten years experimentation into some of the densest, punchiest, most richly textured music you'll ever hear. ... Toumani Diabaté plays the kora, a harp unique to West Africa with 21 strings; and more than any other kora player, it is Toumani who is responsible for bringing this instrument to audiences around the world. Not only is he a performer of truly exceptional virtuosity and creativity - some one who shows that the kora can rival the world's greatest instruments; but he also plays a vital role as band leader, teacher, musical conservationist and composer at home in Bamako, capital of Mali where he was born and has lived all his life.

Toumani's music has an expressiveness and beauty that takes the powerful ancient traditions of Mali's griots to new heights and into new territories. He is at the vanguard of a new generation of Malian griots who are constantly looking for ways of modernizing this tradition while still honouring it. He founded, built, finances and directs a music school in Bamako where dozens of Malian children from different social backgrounds learn to play traditional instruments and to dance. There is no doubt that his music reflects a profoundly positive image of Africa, and makes an impact on the world market, thus inverting the usual power role between the local and global. Music, in effect, is Mali's greatest resource, as Toumani amply demonstrates.

Ketama/SongHai with Toumani Diabate on kora. A legendary fusion with Danny Tompson, Toumani Diabate and Ketama

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links for 2007-03-16

Kendra Davis Trial

Cops on Bikes

How low on the Tribune totem poll is one to be assigned to cover this court case for the wife of a former Bull role player from two seasons ago?

Art Barnum: Coffee toss by wife of ex-Bulls player unprovoked, victim says | Chicago Tribune
A Minooka woman testified Wednesday she did not provoke the wife of former Bulls player Antonio Davis into throwing a cup of coffee at her during a 2005 traffic altercation in Naperville...

Davis was arrested and charged in February 2006 after Kathleen J. Bessner, 41, of Minooka claimed Davis assaulted her Oct. 27, 2005, at Naper Boulevard and Market Drive. According to Bessner, Davis threw a cup of McDonald's coffee into her driver's-side window.

Davis, who is African-American, told police that she threw the coffee after Bessner used a racial epithet. Bessner denies using the slur.
“I was prepared to say, 'Things happen, OK,' but she looked at me very, very meanly and I saw her throw a cup of hot coffee at me,” Bessner testified. She said she used her cell phone and called 911 while following Davis to her home in a gated subdivision.

Bessner acknowledged under cross-examination by Davis' attorney, Kathleen Colton, that she had been smoking a cigarette and talking on the cell phone when the incident took place.

Colton said during her opening arguments Wednesday that Davis threw the cup of coffee on the ground, and that some of it may have gotten on Bessner. But Colton claimed that Bessner vigorously pursued the case after “she found out Kendra Davis had a great deal of money.”

Mind you, this is just the testimony from Ms. Bessner, and not Ms. Davis, but Bessner sounds like a wack-job already. “Looked at her meanly”? “Followed her to her gated community”? Who follows the car of someone who yells at you? You'd never be able to drive anywhere in less than 18 hours.

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Apple new product launch - iRack

Steve Jobs introduces the iRack, which for some inexplicable reason involves politics. Funny stuff.

(h/t dev/random)

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Hendrix and Richards

Random Jimi Hendrix YouTubery, before the copyright thugs pull the clip down....

You will see Jimi playing a guitar duet with Mick Taylor and you will hear a Jimi Hendrix recording with Brian Jones! “My Little One” Take 2 and take 1 respectively.

This is Jimi Hendrix celebrating his last birthday backstage with the Rolling Stones at the Madison Square Garden in New York City on November 27, 1969.

Background music is Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, Dave Mason and Micth Mitchell studio recording at the Olympic Studios in London in 1967

I've seen some of this footage before in a Hendrix doc I Netflixed, but not all of it. Too bad the sound isn't of Hendrix jamming with Keith Richards and Mick Taylor.

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Why Corporate Radio Sucks

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If you ever wondered why you either: never listen to radio (me), or don't often hear anything interesting and new on whatever corporate-owned radio station you listen to, here's why:

Can an Ohio Radio Station Reinvent Itself Yet Again? -
... If the new royalty rules stick, record labels will get higher fees from online radio stations, but some small labels worry about the long-term consequences. Sue Busch, head of radio promotions at Seattle's Sub Pop Records, says most radio executives she knows rarely play new, independent music, relying on business consultants to tell them which songs are likely to be most popular. The WOXY DJs, she says, play songs they enjoy themselves.
“There aren't too many radio people who will just chit-chat about music they like,” she says. “We're pretty big on taking care of people who have taken care of us.”

In a different galaxy, a galaxy where music wasn't controlled by Armani-wearing drones, I would have been a great DJ. I love making mix tapes (now CDs) for people; I made 59 compilations of 90 minute cassette tapes for playing at the Magnolia Cafe (before ASCAP/BMI shut Mag Cafe owner Kent Cole), and enjoyed my brief guest spots on a non-profit radio station in Austin playing Afro-Pop records. But the opportunities for having a free-form radio show are few, and soon-to-be-extinct if the Clear Channels have their way.

I've heard of WOXY, never listened to it though.


Power Base of one

and that's being generous by any standards of intellectual acumen.

Don't let the door hit you on the way out, Ali-G.

Killing People Is Rude

From the front page of today's WSJ:

Attacks on Gonzales Bare Weak Power Base -

The political storm brewing around Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has exposed a potentially serious vulnerability -- he lacks a significant base of support outside the White House.

Many conservatives have long questioned his moderate stances on abortion and affirmative action, positions thought to have cost him a shot at an appointment to the Supreme Court. Liberals have faulted him for his actions as White House counsel, when he composed and defended controversial Bush administration tactics for detaining and interrogating terrorism suspects.
His supreme loyalty to President Bush, whom he served as counsel in Texas, helped him become attorney general. But having a power base of one -- a now-unpopular president -- could make it more difficult for Mr. Gonzales to fend off Democratic calls for him to resign over the Justice Department's handling of the firing of eight federal prosecutors.

In recent days, his strongest asset -- his close ties to Mr. Bush -- has become a liability. Those ties have served him well since 1994, when the then-governor of Texas plucked him from a law firm to be his counsel. Democrats recently have obtained emails sent by the White House to the Justice Department. They indicate significant White House involvement in instigating and pushing a plan to rein in prosecutors who weren't pursuing the White House's prosecution priorities, including bringing cases related to immigration and voting fraud. Democrats have framed the controversy as a sign of Mr. Gonzales's lack of independence from the White House, charging that his loyalty to the president had politicized an important part of the justice system.

critics say the latest firings are different. Select prosecutors appointed by Mr. Bush himself were targeted for political reasons, they say. The shifting public explanations of the matter compounded Mr. Gonzales's problems.

Many of President Bush's supporters have kept their distance from Mr. Gonzales. Some still repeat the old joke that Gonzales is Spanish for Souter -- a reference to the appointment of David Souter to the Supreme Court by the first President Bush. Mr. Souter is viewed as a disappointment to conservatives because he sometimes aligns himself with the court's more liberal wing. When Mr. Gonzales was talked about as a possibility for the Court, conservatives rebelled, in part because they suspected he wouldn't share their views on issues ranging from abortion to affirmative action.

On affirmative action, Mr. Gonzales played a role in softening an administration brief filed in a Supreme Court case challenging the University of Michigan's admission programs in 2003. Roger Clegg, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, says his organization, which is against affirmative action, opposed nominating Mr. Gonzales to the Supreme Court in part because of his involvement in the Michigan case.

“That was a great disappointment to those of us who were hoping that the Supreme Court would close the door to racial and ethnic preferences,” he says. On “color blind” policies, Mr. Clegg says, he gives Mr. Gonzales and the administration “a B or C” grade.

Mr. Gonzales further alienated some conservatives by supporting a federal prosecutor who brought a controversial case. Johnny Sutton, a U.S. attorney in western Texas and a friend of Messrs. Gonzales and Bush, successfully prosecuted two border patrol agents for shooting a suspected drug smuggler. Some conservatives, including members of Congress, criticized the prosecutions.

Some liberals, however, don't agree with conservatives' description of Mr. Gonzales as a “stealth liberal,” citing his role in crafting antiterrorism policies. At a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who chairs the committee, accused Mr. Gonzales of being “complicit in advancing these government policies which threaten our basic liberties and overstep the bounds of our Constitution.”

In the Feb. 28 interview, Mr. Gonzales said of the criticism about his legal advice to the president on civil liberties: “Every time the courts issue a decision, we learn more. We are still feeling our way here. We need people to realize that we're not yet safe. Every day is Sept. 12.”

“I acknowledge that we have an issue and perception problem with our allies as a result of some of the events that have occurred,” he continued. “They need to understand Abu Ghraib is a fact, but it didn't happen because of administration policy.”

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Safeway Lifestyle Remodels

Dominicks on Canal

We've yet to go into one of the remodeled Dominick's stores, though originally they were supposed to have wood paneling, and other swank details. Better produce, more organics is the key to luring me in, more than marble floors.

Safeway Anticipating Boosts in Chicago, Texas From Lifestyle Remodels

Safeway is “looking for improved results” at its Dominick’s stores in Chicago and its Randalls and Tom Thumb stores in Texas as a result of its investments in lifestyle stores in both regions, the chain’s chief financial officer said here yesterday.

Speaking at the Bank of America 2007 Consumer Conference, Robert L. Edwards, executive vice president and chief financial officer for the Pleasanton, Calif.-based company, said lifestyle remodels chainwide have produced strong sales gains regardless of store size, location or the income levels of customers. Speaking of potential growth strategies, Edwards said Safeway may be considering acquisitions.

Alternative Ulster - Stiff Little Fingers

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San Francisco Ban on Plastic Bags

Chinese Herbalist

A.P. San Francisco Ponders Ban on Plastic Bags
Angered by what they see as a weak effort by supermarkets to cut use of plastic bags, six local lawmakers want the city to prohibit grocers from giving out the ubiquitous sacks blamed for eating up fossil fuel, littering streets and choking wildlife.

“San Francisco is poised to be the first U.S. city to ratchet up its response against global warming,” said Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who crafted the measure scheduled to be heard by a legislative committee on Thursday. “By doing so, we will save millions of dollars for city coffers and for our refuse ratepayers.”

Internationally, discouraging plastic bag use already has caught on in parts of South Africa, Ireland and Taiwan, where authorities either tax shoppers who use them or impose fees on companies that distribute them. Paris, Zanzibar and Rwanda are moving to ban plastic bags, while Bangladesh and at least 30 remote Alaskan villages already do.

The legislation under consideration in San Francisco would require grocery stores that do more than $2 million in sales a year to offer customers only bags made of recyclable paper, plastic that can be turned into compost, or sturdy cloth or plastic that can be used repeatedly.

The proposed law also calls for penalties against grocers who do not comply. Violators could be assessed fines ranging from $100 to $500 for multiple offenses, and the city attorney would be authorized to seek additional compensation and enforcement orders.

Mirkarimi proposed the ban, which has been endorsed by Mayor Gavin Newsom, after city leaders accused several large grocery chains of reneging on a 2005 agreement to reduce plastic bag use as an alternative to a 17-cent per bag tax.

A few years ago while we were advertising consultants to a paper bag manufacturer (since merged with other companies hence I can talk about them), we had a discussion with one of the largest national grocery chains, and learned that they (and presumedly other national chains) were resistant to making paper bags an option for consumers because they had spent years convincing shoppers that plastic bags were better and more convenient.

Plastic costs about half (fluctuates drastically depending upon resin costs, etc.) or a third of paper. Of course, paper bags hold three to five times the amount of plastic, and paper bags are more readily recycled (and reused around the house), especially if the paper bag has handles, such as certain boutique stores use (Raley's, Whole Foods, Marsh, etc.), but in many stores, you have to ask to receive paper bags. The chain mentioned above hid the paper in the back office: even if a consumer did ask for paper, the bagger would have to go and fetch them - consumers often would just say, “never mind”, and take plastic.

More and more plastic bags are manufactured in massive factories in China six or eight months in advance, and are shipped to warehouses. Paper manufacturers are no environmental mavens either, but pulp wood is more sustainable than a petroleum byproduct such as plastic bags. We use our paper bags to recycle newspapers, and as storage. On average, our paper bags are used three times.

From CNN:

Over the objections of local supermarkets, including Safeway and Albertsons, San Francisco is on the verge of passing a city law that would require supermarkets to provide compostable bags - made from paper, corn or potato starch - instead of plastic. Los Angeles officials are studying the impact of plastic bags on marine life, as a prelude to action.

Businesses are taking up the issue. The Swedish home furnishings store Ikea says that, starting March 15, it will charge 5 cents for plastic bags, and sell reusable cloth bags at cost, for 59 cents, as part of its “Bag the Plastic Bag” initiative. Ikea will donate the 5 cents that it gets for each plastic bag to the non-profit American Forests to plant trees.

What's wrong with plastic bags? Lots. They often wind up as litter, or in trees. They drift into oceans and rivers and kill fish. They can take 1,000 years to decompose. And every time we use a plastic bag, we drive up the demand for oil - which is used to make plastics.

According to EPA, which has a which has a Webpage about shopping bags, the U.S. consumes about 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps a year. Fewer than 5 percent are recycled.

The grocery store and plastics industries have launched voluntary efforts to reduce plastic bag usage, training employees to pack more goods into each bag. Hilex Poly Co., a big plastic bag firm based in South Carolina, gives its retail customers booklets called “How to Use Fewer Bags” and promotes recycling - a sign that the industry is worried about a backlash, since not many companies try to get customers to use less of what they make.

In San Francisco, Jared Blumenfeld, the city's environment director, recommended action against plastic bags after a city study found that less than 1 percent of plastic bags handed out by supermarkets are recycled. San Francisco officials first proposed a 17 cent tax, but the industry blocked that effort at the state level.)

Blumenfeld is now pushing for compostable bags because they can be collected with the food waste that the city already recycles and makes into compost.

Plastic bags are unnecessary and a “really, really huge litter issue for the city,” Blumenfeld says. It costs taxpayers $90 every time a city worker in a cherry-picker goes out to remove plastic bags from a tree.
Danny Schrager, the president of Mountain Valley Recycling, a Florida-based company that recycles plastics for Wal-Mart, says retailers and consumers should both take responsibility for the recycling of bags. He says every retailer who gives away bags should agree to take them back, and that consumers should support curbside recycling as well.

He says there's enough demand for recycled plastic to absorb a much bigger supply - his firm's resins, made from recycled plastics, can be made into shopping carts, carry baskets, trash pails and a host of other consumer products. “If a retailer provides both the supply and demand, the programs become long-term and sustainable,” Schrager says. This is called closed-loop recycling.

In a surprisingly entertaining book about packaging called “Paper or Plastic? Searching for Solutions to an Overpackaged World” (Sierra Club Books, 2005), Daniel Imhoff digs into the “paper or plastic” question to illuminate the environmental impact of each choice:

“Do we clearcut forests, grind them to chips, and pulp and bleach them with chlorine-based compounds (generally carcinogenic byproducts) to make boxes, bags and to-go cups primarily for one-time use?” he writes. That's paper.

“Or do we make a pact with demon hydrocarbon, refining ancient sunlight into light, easily compactible bottles, wraps and foams?” That's plastic.

His answer? Neither.

“Use cloth bags,” Imhoff told me. “Have a bunch of them, and keep them in your car.”

Yes, it takes a little planning but “if we can't solve these problems by making little changes, we're really in trouble.”

update: San Fran bags are officially fragged today, by 10-1 vote.

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links for 2007-03-15

Some things mean more than others

and I'm not going to tell you why. Not today anyway.

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Dems abandon Constitution

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Good to know the Democratic Party has principles: and isn't afraid of making the 'tough' decisions.

Dems abandon war authority provision - Yahoo! News
Top House Democrats retreated Monday from an attempt to limit President Bush's authority for taking military action against Iran as the leadership concentrated on a looming confrontation with the White House over the Iraq war. Officials said Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of the leadership had decided to strip from a major military spending bill a requirement for Bush to gain approval from Congress before moving against Iran.

Conservative Democrats as well as lawmakers concerned about the possible impact on Israel had argued for the change in strategy.

Yes, we wouldn't want to take away the Dauphin's toys, would we? Whatever were the Founding Fathers thinking when they required Congressional approval for wars?

The Iran-related proposal stemmed from a desire to make sure Bush did not launch an attack without going to Congress for approval, but drew opposition from numerous members of the rank and file in a series of closed-door sessions last week.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., said in an interview there is widespread fear in Israel about Iran, which is believed to be seeking nuclear weapons ...
“I didn't think it was a very wise idea to take things off the table if you're trying to get people to modify their behavior and normalize it in a civilized way,” said Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y.

Right, and why bother going before Congress first? Might take an hour or two extra, and would be following the mandate of the Constitution. Wouldn't want that to happen.

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links for 2007-03-13

As much as I love

As much as I love David Byrne, as a musician, as a producer, as a visual artist, as a discoverer of other interesting artists, the Talking Heads, as a unit, was a better band.

For the moment anyway, here are a couple of YouTube gems from a 1980 edition of the Talking Heads, live in Rome.


David Byrne
Tina Weymouth
Chris Frantz
Jerry Harrison
Steve Scales
Burnie Worrell
Dolette MacDonald
Buster Jones
Adrien Belew

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What a fracking crock-o


Salvia Divinorum

Geoff was kind (!!??) enough to point out that the mouthbreathers in the Illinois General Assembly are about to make the spiritual herb salvia divinorum a fracking Schedule 1 drug - ie, labeling it as a drug worse than morphine and cocaine, a drug with absolutely no redeeming qualities. Bleh. I'm sad to say, I expected no better.

Illinois General Assembly - Bill Status for SB0226 :

Amends the Illinois Controlled Substances Act. Provides that Salvia divinorum is a Schedule I controlled substance.

(720 ILCS 570/204) (from Ch. 56 1/2, par. 1204)
Sec. 204. (a) The controlled substances listed in this Section are included in Schedule I.
(b) Unless specifically excepted or unless listed in another schedule, any of the following opiates, including their isomers, esters, ethers, salts, and salts of isomers, esters, and ethers, whenever the existence of such isomers, esters, ethers and salts is possible within the specific chemical designation:

John J. Millner, you sir, are a complete ass with no redeeming qualities.
Biography: Master's Degree, Law Enforcement Administration, Western Illinois University; B.A., Social Justice, Lewis University; A.S., Triton College; Elmhurst Police Department, 1972-2003; former president of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police

thanks for ruining an already crappy day, Geoff! Ahem. Although, Indiana is only a thirty minute drive away, as is Wisconsin. Too bad, there was a quality herbalist down the street from me.

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Scallop Shallot Salad

notes from last night so as to enable short term memory to transition to longer term memory. Or something. Got any aspirin? Lots of fluids, I know, I know.

Scallops in garlic with Pine nuts
(photo not from last night, and actually for a different recipe altogether, but whatcha gonna do? I would have added pine nuts if we had any)

Part one
-section and de-seed grapefruit
save some pieces intact, squeeze out a 1/3 of a cup of juice from the rest and retain in a small bowl
-sweat (sauté) a shallot, diced finely, in a tablespoon of olive oil for 2-3 minutes

add to grapefruit juice
-add agave honey or similar honey to taste. Salt and pepper if you want (I didn't, but you could). Also, a splash of balsamic vinegar if you want (again, I didn't, but you could)

Part two
-prepare some simple salad items (romaine lettuce, sprouts, etc.)
-dress with grapefruit juice shallot dressing

Part three
clean and slice shitake and portobello
sauté in a little oil until mushrooms release their juice, stirring frequently.

Part four
-heat a heavy skillet until nearly smoking
-add a tablespoon or so of olive oil
-wash and pat dry several sea scallops (we made 8, 4 each), then drop into the pan
-let cook at medium high heat until a crust forms on the bottom (3-4 minutes)
-add two tablespoons of butter (I used goat butter, mmmmm, but whatever you've got will work, as long as it isn't oleo or similar shite)

reduce heat.

As butter melts, baste the scallops with it. Don't scorch the butter.
Transfer mushrooms to scallop pan, and continue basting scallops with mushrooms and butter.
turn off heat, continue to ladle butter on top of scallops.

For plating
flip scallops so crust side is up. Arrange on plate, drenched with mushrooms.
add a couple sections of grapefruit
add a spoonful of the scallop butter
cover in salad

You could add toasted sesame seeds or comparable

Drink some wine, eat a little crusty bread, have good conversation, and you'll have fun. Just remember to drink plenty of water before you go to sleep, or else you'll regret it the next morning. Ahem.

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links for 2007-03-12

Gilberto Gil for head of the RIAA

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As discussed previously in these parts, Mr. Gil has my vote to run (and change the corporate DNA) of the RIAA. Copyright law should not be used as a club to keep corporate control of content, for all time.

Expresso 2222
“Expresso 2222” (Gilberto Gil)

Music: Gilberto Gil Hears the Future, Some Rights Reserved : Gilberto Passos Gil Moreira, part musician and part policymaker, has emerged as a central player in the global search for more flexible forms of distributing artistic works.

ON Wednesday the Brazilian minister of culture, Gilberto Gil, is scheduled to speak about intellectual property rights, digital media and related topics at the South by Southwest Music and Media Conference in Austin, Texas. Two nights later the singer, songwriter and pop star Gilberto Gil begins a three-week North American concert tour.

Rarely do the worlds of politics and the arts converge as unconventionally as in the person of Mr. Gil, whose itinerary includes a solo performance at Carnegie Hall on March 20. More than 40 years after he first picked up a guitar and sang in public, Gilberto Passos Gil Moreira is an anomaly: He doesn’t just make music, he also makes policy.

And as the music, film and publishing industries struggle to adapt to the challenge of content proliferating on the Internet, Mr. Gil has emerged as a central player in the global search for more flexible forms of distributing artistic works. In the process his twin roles have sometimes generated competing priorities that he has sought to harmonize.

As a creator of music, he is interested in protecting copyrights. But as a government official in a developing country celebrated for the creative pulse of its people, Mr. Gil also wants Brazilians to have unfettered access to new technologies to make and disseminate art, without having to surrender their rights to the large companies that dominate the culture industry.

After returning to Brazil in the 1970s he made records that urged black Brazilians to reconnect with their African roots, and was an early champion here of Bob Marley and reggae. But Mr. Gil has also read widely in Asian philosophy and religions and follows a macrobiotic diet, leading the songwriter, producer and critic Nelson Motta to describe his style as “Afro-Zen.”

In person Mr. Gil is warm, calm and engaging, a slim, dreadlocked figure with an elfin, humorous quality that tends to disarm critics. As both individual and artist he has always tended to be open-minded and eclectic in his tastes; the poet Torquato Neto once said of him, “There are many ways of singing and making Brazilian music, and Gilberto Gil prefers all of them.”

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USA PATRIOT Act and Domestic Terrorism

016-2048 that's my number

The Patriot Act is ruining our country. I'm ashamed that Dick Durbin recently defended the Patriot Act. Doesn't he have more sense than that?

The ACLU parses the definition of domestic terrorist, and finds it to be alarmingly open-ended. If the government calls you a terrorist, you are one, and suddenly your civil liberties don't exist anymore, poof. Your assets and your organization's assets can be seized, even before there is any trial, and if you cannot afford a lawyer, tough. None will be provided.

American Civil Liberties Union : How the USA PATRIOT Act redefines “Domestic Terrorism”

Section 802 of the USA PATRIOT Act (Pub. L. No. 107-52) expanded the definition of terrorism to cover “domestic,” as opposed to international, terrorism.   A person engages in domestic terrorism if they do an act “dangerous to human life” that is a violation of the criminal laws of a state or the United States, if the act appears to be intended to:  (i) intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping.  Additionally, the acts have to occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States and if they do not, may be regarded as international terrorism.

Section 802 does not create a new crime of domestic terrorism. However, it does expand the type of conduct that the government can investigate when it is investigating “terrorism.” The USA PATRIOT Act expanded governmental powers to investigate terrorism, and some of these powers are applicable to domestic terrorism.

The definition of domestic terrorism is broad enough to encompass the activities of several prominent activist campaigns and organizations. Greenpeace, Operation Rescue, Vieques Island and WTO protesters and the Environmental Liberation Front have all recently engaged in activities that could subject them to being investigated as engaging in domestic terrorism.


(h/t) and Cory Doctorow adds:

In a chilling analysis of the PATRIOT Act, the ACLU points out that the new definition of “domestic terrorist” redefines any US criminal as a terrorist, exempt from due process and an open trial. .... “Terrorism” is now officially meaningless: as far as the PATRIOT Act is concerned, if you do anything the government doesn't like, you're a terrorist. When you put it that way, it seems even less likely that we'll win the “war on terrorism.”

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links for 2007-03-11


Seemingly dozens of people (well, at least 8 so far) have emailed me a link to the TamPontification donation page sponsored by Seventh Generation

At first, I was skeptical, but according to Snopes, this is really a legitimate and simple charity.

Women’s shelters in the U.S. go through thousands of tampons and pads monthly, and, while agencies generally assist with everyday necessities such as toilet paper, diapers, and clothing, this most basic need is often overlooked. You and I may take our monthly trips down the feminine care aisle for granted, but, for women in shelters, a box of tampons is five dollars they can’t spare. Here’s some good news: you can help us contribute to rectifying this situation by making a virtual donation below!

For each virtual donation, Seventh Generation will send a pack of organic cotton tampons or chlorine-free pads to a shelter in your state.

Snopes says:

We contacted Consumer Relations at paper products manufacturer Seventh Generation's headquarters in Vermont, who averred that the company is indeed pledging to donate a box of sanitary products to a women's shelter for every user who visits their Donation page, although they haven't quite worked out all the details of the program's implementation:

Yes, this is a legitimate website and for each virtual donation, Seventh Generation will send a pack of organic cotton tampons or chlorine-free pads to a shelter in your state. We determine who to send the donation to based on the number of clicks we receive in one area. Our Marketing Team is working on this initiative and will have the details worked out by the end of March.

We also confirmed this information with the Public Relations department at Seventh Generation, who said they have not yet decided on setting an end date or donation cap on the program.

Donate here, why not? Takes all of four seconds.

disclaimer: we do have Seventh Generation products in our house, but have no other ties to the company.


links for 2007-03-10

Prince and his Super Penis

I am not surprised the FCC received complaints about Prince's Super Bowl performance, though the level of media uproar was not as severe as the Nipple that Destroyed the Free World. Breasts are much more threatening to the New World Order than guitar wankery I guess.

Prince and his big dick

Naughty Super Bowl Sparks Beefs To FCC - March 5, 2007 :

This year's Super Bowl telecast generated about 150 complaints to the Federal Communications Commission, with the bulk of the beefs centering on Prince's halftime performance

Another purportedly offended viewer was concerned that the halftime show would have an unfortunate lasting effect on his son, who “hoped to be a quarterback and now he will turn out gay...Thanks CBS for turning my son GAY.”

I wonder how many are serious complaints, and how many are subversive, ironic public jokes. Either way, quite a fun read.. For the record, I enjoyed Prince's performance more than the game or the myriad of stupid commercials.

(Adage transcribed a few, so I'm copping them)

Wrote one man: “It was obscene to show Prince, a HOMOSEXUAL person through a sheet, as to show his siluette (sic) while his guitar showed a very phalic (sic) symbol coming from his below-midriff section. I am very offended and I would preffer (sic) not to have showed it to my 4 children who love football. One of them has hoped to be a quarterback and now he will turn out gay. I am actually considering to check him for HIV. Thanks CBS for turning my son GAY.”

Another man wrote that he found it “highly unacceptable . . . to find Prince stroking, manipulating and fondleing (sic) his guitar behind the curtain. This image only made him look extremely large which the rest of us feel small, and unable to perform this evening.”

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Patriot Act destroying this country

I'd be happy if every idiot in Congress who voted for the Patriot Act was thrown out of office, and furthermore stripped of their American citizenship. Sure, this would mean most of Congress would be out of a job, and in Gitmo, but is that really such a bad thing?

The Swamp - Chicago Tribune - Blogs. :

The FBI has taken unchecked advantage of the “National Security Letters'' that enable it to obtain telephone calls, emails and banking records without warrants, according to an inspector general's report to be released today that reportedly will depict far-reaching abuses of the USA Patriot Act.

FBI agents have underreported their uses of this tool they were given after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, according to the report expected to be made public before noon. As it is, the FBI had reported to Congress that in 2005 it issued a total of 9,254 national security letters involving 3,501 U.S. citizens and legal residents. But shoddy record-keeping resulted in the FBI underreporting its use of these letters by 20 percent, the report by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine is said to conclude.

At least, mouth platitudes about over-turning it, please?

Some members of Congress were briefed on the report last night. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) issued this statement: ”In late 2005, I requested that the U.S. Department of Justice investigate the use of National Security Letters and other powers granted under the USA Patriot Act. The Justice Department’s own investigation, which is now concluded, confirms the American people’s worst fears about the Patriot Act. It appears that the Administration has used these powers without even the most basic regard for the privacy of innocent Americans.

“I voted for the original Patriot Act in 2001 and I voted to reauthorize it last year, because I believe we should give the government all the tools it needs to fight terrorism,'' Durbin added. ”However, I continue to believe that the Patriot Act must include reasonable checks and balances to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans.“

It was unclear late Thursday whether the omissions could be considered a criminal offense. One government official who read the report said it concluded the problems appeared to be unintentional and that FBI agents would probably face administrative sanctions instead of criminal charges.

The FBI has taken steps to correct some of the problems, the official said.

Sen. Charles Schumer, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that oversees the FBI, called the reported findings ”a profoundly disturbing breach of public trust.“

”Somebody has a lot of explaining to do,“ said Schumer, D-N.Y.

Fine's audit also says the FBI failed to send follow-up subpoenas to telecommunications companies that were told to expect them, the officials said.

Those cases involved so-called exigent letters to alert the companies that subpoenas would be issued shortly to gather more information, the officials said. But in many examples, the subpoenas were never sent, the officials said.


National security letters have been the subject of legal battles in two federal courts because recipients were barred from telling anyone about them.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued the Bush administration over what the ACLU described as the security letter's gag on free speech.

A federal appeals judge in New York warned in May that government's ability to force companies to turn over information about its customers and keep quiet about it was probably unconstitutional.

Remember when the U.S. was a constitutional democracy? Oh, those were the days....

(link to report here - PDF file)

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links for 2007-03-09

| 1 Comment

Operation Spamalot

| 1 Comment

Praise to a governmental agency? Could it be? Yes, and an initiative with a funny name too!

S.E.C. Moves Against Spam That Pushes Hot Stocks - New York Times

The Securities and Exchange Commission has taken a step toward combating stock spam, the unsolicited bulk e-mail message that promotes cheap stocks for quick profits, which usually prove illusory.

Starting an enforcement effort it is calling Operation Spamalot, the S.E.C. suspended trading in 35 stocks that had been promoted in recent spam campaigns. The suspensions will last for 10 days. The S.E.C. said that further investigation could lead to arrests.

Spam over all has swelled during the last six months, and now accounts for more than 90 percent of all e-mail messages

Stock spam is a small percentage of the daily spam I get, but still, any reduction in spam is good.

Since you asked, 5,965 messages (65%) last month and 47,622 messages (58%) last year were identified as spam by Eudora Pro's Bayesian filter. Yes, I do get a lot of email (from mailing lists, news searches, friends and enemies, alerts from my bank, newsletters, email reminders from myself, comments from my blog); according to Eudora, I received 81,983 messages last year. No way I read them all: many get sorted into an email folder, and archived, unread. Many, I just read the title before deleting. Every personal email gets read, as do comments to my blog, but not all get responded to. There just isn't sufficient time in a day.

Bayesian email filters take advantage of Bayes's theorem. Bayes's theorem, in the context of spam, says that the probability that an email is spam, given that it has certain words in it, is equal to the probability of finding those certain words in spam email, times the probability that any email is spam, divided by the probability of finding those words in any email

works pretty well, with some notable exceptions (Bayesian poisoning, for instance)

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| 1 Comment

Another avoiding-work post. Don't tell. Ahem.

Anyway, the online research company, Hoovers Online gave us a bonus for re-subscribing: an iPod Nano. D already has a Nano of her own (4 gig model I think), and I already have a 40 Gig 4th G iPod, but I claimed this model. Ummm, because I signed for the FedEx. Or something.

Nano gift
So much smaller than my 40 GB model.

Nano Hoovers Hook Em
I suppose since Hoovers were bought by D&B, they have better cash flow. Unintentional Hook 'Em Horns sign appropriate since Hoovers is located in Austin.

My main iPod has 35 playlists because I'm a control freak (ensures a certain percentage of my library is transferred to my iPod - World Music, Jazz, Indie, newly purchased, favorite songs, music from the 33 1/3 series, yadda yadda yo. I should consolidate several lists actually, but that would take time and effort), I'm keeping the Nano simpler. One playlist, holding as many songs as possible (currently 327 tunes). Pretty rare that I'd need more than 21 hours of music in any circumstance (which is what 327 songs translates to, today).

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DHL Didn't suck

I've taken my shots at DHL over the past few years, and as you probably noticed, there is a massive comment thread slowly but steadily being built with other complaints about the maladroitness of the corporation, but my most recent DHL experience was positive.

MacBookPro Battery Explosion other side
last week, sat down at my MacBookPro in the morning, and noticed the machine was no longer sitting level on my desk. Flipped it over, and realized the battery had expanded severely enough to bend the metal casing.

MacBookPro Battery Explosion
Luckily the battery was still in warranty (received computer May 2006).

I talked to Apple around 11:01 AM (per my Now Contact record), read off my serial number to the Apple support dude (in Austin), and was told the details of the exchange. I asked if they would use a different carrier other than DHL, but it wasn't an option. However, the next day, DHL delivered the battery without incident, I chatted with the delivery guy about HD-TV while placing my old battery in the package and resealing it. Two days later, Apple sent me a note that the defective battery had been received, and I wouldn't be charged for anything. Coolness.

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Washington DC prostitutes

and their johns. Hmmm, wonder which politicians and television talking heads were a frequent client of Pamela Martin and Associates? Probably moral scolds like Joe Lieberman and Bill Frist.

Feds Seek To Gag D.C. Madam - March 7, 2007 :
Federal prosecutors want to gag an indicted former Washington, D.C. madam who has recently threatened to go public with details about her former customers. In a motion filed Monday in U.S. District Court, investigators are seeking a protective order covering discovery material to be provided to Deborah Palfrey and her lawyers. Palfrey, 50, was indicted last week on racketeering and money laundering charges stemming from her operation of the Pamela Martin & Associates escort service, which closed last summer after 13 years in business. In their motion, a copy of which you'll find below, government lawyers claim that some discovery documents contain “personal information” about Palfrey's former johns and prostitutes that is “sensitive.”

More details and copy of the filing at the Smoking Gun. For the record, I'm of the belief that prostitution should be legalized and regulated as it is in the Netherlands or other more progressive countrys. But our nation's puritanical stubbornness makes that an unlikely scenario.

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Portuguese Wine

Of Portuguese wines, I'll admit to only being familiar with port, and to stealing bottles of Lancers as a under-aged teen in Austin.

(photo by Lucas Starbuck I think)

Bill Daley writes:

A Portuguese adventure | Chicago Tribune:

Portuguese sailors gained a reputation for adventure nearly 600 years ago when they set out to explore the world. Return the favor now by discovering their country's table wines, especially the reds.

Portugal's most famous wine is a fortified one, port. Americans also may recall, with varying degrees of affection, the Mateus and Lancers roses so popular in the 1970s (and still made) or they may enjoy the crisp light vinho verdes of today. But it is the reds that hold out considerable promise for years of enjoyment.

Winemaking in Portugal extends back to ancient times, and the Portuguese had an appellation system in place centuries before the French. Unfortunately, Portugal has long been overshadowed by other wine producers such as France, Italy, Germany and, now, Spain.

“Among European wine-producing nations, Portugal has been something of a paradox,” wrote Richard Mayson in “The Oxford Companion to Wine.” He noted that the country is known more for the corks produced there than for its wines.

After decades of isolation from the rest of the world, Portugal's wine industry began coming back in the 1990s, Mayson wrote, noting regions like the Dao and Alentejo “now boast some of the most modern winemaking facilities in Southern Europe

some suggestions:

Robert Owings, owner of Vintages in Arlington Heights, Ill...:
”I warn all my customers to give them plenty of time to open up,“ he said. ”I typically open and decant them around lunchtime to serve them for dinner.“

His favorites include the $15 Adriano Red from Ramos Pinto, the ”same blend of reds that would go into port but made as a still red“; a $19 Terras de Belmonte from Abarbanel, the first kosher Portuguese wine made in 500 years; and a $25 bottle of 2000 Quinto do Crasto reserva from the Douro.


Gerhard Rohr, owner of Fine Wine Brokers Inc. in Chicago, likes Portuguese wines because they are different.
Rohr said Portuguese reds, especially those from the Douro region, have a rich, dark expression. That's because dozens of different grape varietals are permitted in the region for the production of port, he said, although the better port producers usually use just a few varieties. In any case, when it comes to red, many Douro winemakers believe in blends.

Efrain Madrigal, wine director at Sam's Wines & Spirits, said there has been an ”enormous influx“ of Portuguese wines into the United States lately. He's delighted with the quality.

One of his top picks is a $6 red blend, J.P. Tinto.

”It's a terrific value; we've sold a ton of this wine,“ he said.

Sounds like it is time for a trip to Sam's.

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Jerky Boys


There is a joke hiding here, waiting to spring out, but I'm not touching it with a 1.5 meter pole, cut or uncut.

Huge Dick

The Sun Online - TV: A jumbo tusk for scientists :
MASTURBATING an elephant in the cause of science isn’t an easy job – just ask wildlife expert Dr Thomas Hildebrandt.

Just touching a jumbo penis – they measure more than 1.5 metres (or six feet for you yankers) when aroused – can have painful consequences as German scientist Dr Hildebrandt reveals.

He said: “One guy I know got a black eye from being hit by an elephant’s penis.

”When you touch an elephant there it starts to flick backwards and forwards and it’s so strong it can knock you off your feet. It’s such a strong movement.“


It’s a messy business as he massages Jackson’s prostate gland to produce 300ml of semen per orgasm – the equivalent of a can of Coke – which has to be airlifted in giant condoms across America to Christy.

Artificially inseminating an elephant is just as messy – while a catheter is inserted into the cervix, the hapless scientist faces being [shat] on.


The programme [broadcasting on BBC2 3/20/07] will also look at the problem of getting semen from a sedated rare northern white rhino and viewers will meet killer whale Shamu who is only too happy to provide sperm samples in the name of science when his trainer shows him a special collection bag.

Wonder what the special collection bag looks like?

Joe Lieberman Escapes

(h/t, of course)

Vermont Votes to Impeach Bush/Cheney

Ellen McKay - my new hero. Misleading Congress is an impeachable offense.

Vermont Votes to Impeach Bush/Cheney
... Ellen McKay popped up and proposed the impeachment of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. ... “It became clear that no one was going home until they had the chance to discuss the resolutions and vote on them,” explained David Rosenberg, a political science professor at Middlebury College. “And being a good politician, he allowed the vote to happen.”

By an overwhelming voice vote, Middlebury called for impeachment.

So it has gone this week at town meetings across Vermont, most of which were held Tuesday.

Late Tuesday night, there were confirmed reports that 36 towns had backed impeachment resolutions, and the number was expected to rise.

In one town, Putney, the vote for impeachment was unanimous.

In addition to Governor Douglas's Middlebury, the town of Hartland, which is home to Congressman Peter Welch, backed impeachment. So, too, did Jericho, the home of Gaye Symington, the speaker of the Vermont House of Representatives.

Organizers of the grassroots drive to get town meetings to back impeachment resolutions hope that the overwhelming support the initiative has received will convince Welch to introduce articles of impeachment against Bush and Cheney. That's something the Democratic congressman is resisting, even though his predecessor, Bernie Sanders, signed on last year to a proposal by Michigan Congressman John Conyers to set up a House committee to look into impeachment.

Vermont activists also want their legislature to approve articles of impeachment and forward them to Congress. But Symington, also a Democrat, has discouraged the initiative, despite the fact that more than 20 representatives have cosponsored an impeachment resolution.

“It's going to be hard for Peter Welch and Gaye Symington to say there's no sentiment for impeachment, now that their own towns have voted for it,” says Dan DeWalt, a Newfane, Vermont, town selectman who started the impeachment initiative last year in his town, and who now plans to launch a campaign to pressure Welch and Symington to respect and reflect the will of the people.

Around the country, more and more community leaders are taking actions that our elected representatives are too cowardly to take themselves. Wouldn't it be cool if?.....


Truly scary

Winston Churchill was no perfect human, no perfect politician for that matter, but Bush the Lesser isn't even worthy of fetching Churchill's vermouth (inside joke: Churchill was famous for mixing a martini so dry the vermouth was simply in the same room as the gin, paraphrased). Bush the Lesser now considers himself better than Churchill because Jesus talks directly to the Dauphin via that earphone device and tells him to kill people, rob the poor, and so on. I'm sure the Augean Stable fools have a ready rebuttal to my false moral equivalence, but life is short enough already.

Sidney Blumenthal has the details

Libby and the White House book club | :
...President Bush held one of his private book club sessions that Karl Rove organizes for him at the White House. Rove picks the book, invites the author and a few neoconservative intellectual luminaries, and conducts the discussions. For this Bush book club meeting, the guest was Andrew Roberts, an English conservative historian and columnist and the author of “The Churchillians(sic, actually Eminent Churchillians ) and, most recently, “A History of the English-Speaking People Since 1900.”

The subject of Winston Churchill inspired Bush's self-reflection. The president confided to Roberts that he believes he has an advantage over Churchill, a reliable source with access to the conversation told me. He has faith in God, Bush explained, but Churchill, an agnostic, did not. Because he believes in God, it is easier for him to make decisions and stick to them than it was for Churchill. Bush said he doesn't worry, or feel alone, or care if he is unpopular. He has God.

Yeesh. How pathetic and childlike.

Mr. Blumentahl goes on to recount highlights (lowlights?) from the Libby Trial

Even as Scooter Libby sat at the defendant's table silently wearing his fixed, forced smile, and Vice President Dick Cheney was revealed by witnesses as the conductor of the smear campaign against former ambassador Joseph Wilson, Bush and Rove felt free to hold forth in their salon, removed from anxiety. Rove had narrowly escaped the fate of Libby by changing his grand jury testimony just before he might have been indicted for perjury. Bush, who proclaimed that he would fire any leaker found in his administration, is apparently closer to Rove than ever. The night before the Libby verdict, the president had dinner at Rove's house, and Rove sent to the reporters shivering outside a doggie bag filled with sausage and quail wings.

“Where's Rove? Where's, you know, where are these other guys?” wondered a juror, Denis Collins, standing on the courthouse steps after the Libby verdict was delivered. Collins said that he and other jurors came to think of Libby as a “fall guy,” someone who had certainly committed the crimes of which he was accused but who also was hardly acting on his own.

The opening statement of Libby's attorney seemed to augur a presentation of the “fall guy” scenario. “They're trying to set me up. They want me to be the sacrificial lamb,” Theodore Wells said, recalling Libby's words to Cheney. “I will not be sacrificed so Karl Rove can be protected.” Rove, after all, had disclosed the identity of Wilson's wife, covert CIA operative Valerie Plame, to two reporters, conservative columnist Robert Novak, who first put her name into print, and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine. Rove told MSNBC “Hardball” host Chris Matthews that Plame was “fair game.” And he offered as his motive for attacking Wilson to another reporter: “He's a Democrat.”

In a note entered as a trial exhibit, Cheney expressed his concern that his chief of staff was being thrown to the wolves while Rove was being protected. “Not going to protect one staffer and sacrifice the guy that was asked to stick his neck in the meat grinder,” the note read. Despite the dramatic opening, Libby's defense made no reference to the note during the trial. In yet another mysterious lapse, although Libby's lawyers repeatedly gave every indication to Judge Reggie Walton that both Libby and Cheney would testify, neither did. In a perjury trial, if the defendant does not look the jury in the eye and say he did not lie or that he made an honest error, it's difficult to win. But Libby never appeared as a witness on his own behalf; Cheney was not called; and the defense rested on the thin reed of Libby's weak memory and the supposed impeached credibility of journalists. The feeble defense amounted to a verdict foretold.

But why was Libby virtually passive? If Libby knew he was going to offer the barest defense, why didn't he do as Rove did, amending his grand jury testimony to reflect the truth? Why didn't Libby do as former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer did, turning state's evidence and being granted immunity in exchange for his testimony? What stopped Libby from risking indictment? What prevented him from making more than a minimal defense that invited conviction?

Libby could not plead the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination. Had he done so he would not have been able to continue in his position as Cheney's chief of staff; he would have been compelled to resign. But why didn't he testify? Why didn't he make the case of Rove's perfidy that his lawyer suggested?

more in this vein

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links for 2007-03-08

Savage Weiner


Speaking of poll-related matters, the Savage Weiner asks if he should run for President.

Media Matters - Savage to Media Matters : Stop stalking me! On Savage's website, there is a poll that asks, “Should Michael Savage Run for the Presidency?” According to the site, there are more than 2.8 million “yes” votes. Savage has said that once he reaches 5 million, he will make a decision on whether or not to run.

For the record, I voted yes, in the hope that his ego will encourage him to undertake such a project, no matter his infinitesimal chance of victory. The man is vile, from all that I've ever heard him spew. Racist, homophobic, anti-Semite, Rethuglican of the worst kind. Might even win some primary victories over mealy-mouthed McCain or Giuliani.

The Savage Weiner's latest diatribe referenced at Media Matters.

SAVAGE: Those scum-sucking vermin. Those left-wing rats, they won't be happy until we're all on prayer rugs waiting to have our heads cut off.

You ought to be happy, you liberal SOBs, that I am only a talk-show host. You ought to thank God that I have no avariciousness in my soul. You ought to thank God that I'm not power mad like you liberals, because if I ever ran for office, I can guarantee you, you wouldn't be in business too long. I can guarantee you you'd be arrested for sedition within six months of my taking power. I'd have you people licking lead paint, what you did to this country.


The Real ID Act

| 1 Comment

I've added my voice in opposition to this alleged anti-terrorism act which sounds like it was drafted by the same morons who created the Patriot Act.

EFF: The Real ID Act :
The federal government is trying to force states to turn your drivers license into a national ID. Unless you tell your state legislator to push back, the Real ID Act will create grave dangers to privacy and impose massive financial burdens without improving national security in the least.

Signed into law in May 2005 without meaningful debate, the Real ID Act states that drivers licenses will only be accepted for “federal purposes”—like accessing planes, trains, national parks, and court houses—if they conform to certain uniform standards. The law also requires a vast national database linking all of the ID records together.
... But with state legislatures and Congressional representatives increasingly turning against the REAL ID Act, you can help stop this costly, privacy- invasive mandate -- voice your opposition now:

On Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released draft regulations for implementing REAL ID, which makes states standardize drivers' licenses and create a
vast national database linking all of the ID records together. Once in place, uses of the IDs and database will inevitably expand to facilitate a wide range of tracking
and surveillance activities. Remember, the Social Security number started innocuously enough, but it has become a prerequisite for a host of government services and has been co-opted by private companies to create massive databases of personal information.

From the ACLU's Real Nightmare site

There are several reasons the Act remains controversial.

1. The Act was not passed through a true democratic process. It was slipped through Congress in May 2005 in a “must-pass” Iraq War/Tsunami relief supplemental bill, as part of a deal reached between the powerful Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R, Wis.) and the Congressional leadership. There was no time for sufficient consideration of the Act and its sweeping implications; in the Senate, there was not even a single hearing held on the Act. The result is that Real ID lacks the legitimacy that comes from having been studied, debated, considered, and directly voted upon by Americans’ elected representatives.

2. The game is not over, it has just moved into the states. Although the Act was passed by Congress, Real ID cannot go into effect without a multitude of actions in the states. State legislatures must appropriate money and, in most cases, change state laws. State executives must remake or build anew all the administrative machinery required to comply with the Act’s numerous mandates. And a lot of people at the state level do not like what they see.

3. Broad interest-group opposition. Opponents range from privacy and civil liberties organizations like the ACLU to conservative groups to immigration groups.

4. It’s a bad Act. Most fundamentally, the Real ID Act has sparked opposition because it would not be good for our country.

The opposition to Real ID is broad and deep, and despite its passage by Congress, there remains an excellent chance that it will be reversed in part or in whole.

Why is Real ID bad for our country?

Simply put, Real ID would offer significant costs and disadvantages without any corresponding advantages:

By definitively turning driver’s licenses into a form of national identity documents, Real ID would have a tremendously destructive impact on privacy.
The Act would impose significant administrative burdens and expenses on state governments, and would mean higher fees, longer lines, repeat visits to the DMV, and bureaucratic nightmares for individuals.

Yet, it would not be effective at increasing security against terrorism or bring any other benefits which would justify those costs.

Takes about 1 minute to send your thoughts to your two Senators and 1 Representative (slightly longer if you tweak the language of the form letter) - cain't hurt.

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We always expected Waxman to conduct several investigations into the corruption and incompetence of the Bush-ite regime. Here's one such instance:

Waxman Seeks GSA Chief's Testimony :
A powerful House committee chairman released new details yesterday about a widening investigation into allegations of “improper conduct” by the chief of the U.S. General Services Administration.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), head of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said his investigators had obtained information that raises “further questions” about GSA Administrator Lurita Alexis Doan's efforts to give a no-bid job to a longtime friend and professional associate.

Waxman also revealed new allegations that Doan “asked GSA officials in a January teleconference how the agency could be used to help Republican candidates,” in possible violation of federal law.

In the letter, Waxman said his investigators learned that the GSA's former chief counsel “was alarmed” that the $20,000 job Doan had given on July 25 to companies run by her friend Edie Fraser had not been put out for bidding. The job was to produce a 24-page report on the GSA's use of minority-owned and women-owned businesses.

Alan R. Swendiman, now a special assistant to President Bush, stated to committee investigators “that he had never seen any GSA administrator personally award a contract, that it was highly irregular, and that he had serious concerns about its propriety and legality.”

Waxman's letter follows a January report in The Washington Post that described the no-bid arrangement and Doan's ongoing disputes with her agency's inspector general's office. As GSA head, Doan presides over the government's largest broker of goods and services, which manages $56 billion in contracts.

The no-bid arrangement was terminated on Aug. 4 after GSA lawyers and other agency officials noted that it violated procurement rules.

Shut the door, Henry! They've been sniffing too many eggs, down at the beanery at half past twelve.

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links for 2007-03-07

Libby convicted of 4 counts


The hoary cliché is that a long jury deliberation is not good for the defendant proved to be true in this instance.

Former White House Aide Libby Found Guilty on 4 of 5 Charges - - By EVAN PEREZ, JESS BRAVIN and KARA SCANNELL: A federal jury found I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, guilty of obstruction, perjury and lying to the FBI in an investigation that originated from the leak into the identity of a CIA operative. ... Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said he was gratified by the verdict. “The results are actually sad,” he added. “It's sad that we had a situation where a high level official person who worked in the office of the vice president obstructed justice and lied under oath. We wish that it had not happened, but it did.”

The jury, which was reduced to 11 jurors after one juror was dismissed after being exposed to case-related information, found Mr. Libby guilty of four of the five counts he faced. He was found not guilty of one charge of false statements. Sentencing for Mr. Libby was set for June 5 -- he faces up to 30 years in prison, though under federal sentencing guidelines likely will receive far less.

The verdict caps a nearly six-week federal trial that enthralled the nation's capital as current and former administration officials and famous journalists testified about a key period in the summer of 2003 as criticism began mounting over the Iraq invasion and the search for weapons of mass destruction that were never found.

Mr. Libby was indicted on five counts of perjury and obstruction of justice stemming from statements he made to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and a grand jury looking into the public disclosure of the name of a former CIA operative, who is married to a critic of the Bush administration.

Mr. Fitzgerald never charged anyone with leaking the identity of Valerie Plame, the former CIA employee, despite the fact that early into his three-year investigation, he knew the original leaker was Richard Armitage, the former deputy secretary of state.

Mr. Fitzgerald pursued perjury-related charges. Under ferocious criticism, he proceeded to interview President Bush and Mr. Cheney and dragged reporters before a grand jury to testify about conversations with confidential sources, an effort which landed former New York Times reporter Judith Miller in jail until she relented. Once he indicted Mr. Libby, right-leaning activists and Mr. Libby's supporters portrayed him as a prosecutor run amok.

In an unusual twist, the prosecution case depended heavily on the credibility of journalists. Ms. Miller bolstered Mr. Fitzgerald's argument that Mr. Libby lied about learning about Ms. Plame during a phone call with Mr. Russert, the NBC television host, on July 10, 2003. Ms. Miller said Mr. Libby told her about Ms. Plame twice, well before the Russert phone call. Similarly, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, testifying under an immunity deal with prosecutors, told the jury that Mr. Libby told him about Ms. Plame during a lunch meeting three days before the call with the NBC newsman. Mr. Russert himself testified he couldn't have told Mr. Libby about Ms. Plame because he didn't learn about it until he read a July 14 article by syndicated columnist Robert Novak.

Mr. Libby's defense, as put forth by a team of top-notch defense lawyers led by Mr. Wells and William Jeffress, was that he didn't intentionally lie, but rather had “mis-recollections” that he blamed on faulty memory. Indeed, Messrs. Wells and Jeffress fiercely questioned the memory of reporters and managed to shake at least some of them, most notably Ms. Miller, who finally acknowledged that she couldn't be certain she didn't learn about Ms. Plame from someone other than Mr. Libby.

We'll see what the results mean in terms of appeals and pardons soon enough.

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Spy-Mart and friends

Well, if it was good enough for HP, why not Wal-Mart? Corporate espionage is an intrinsic part of the business landscape, for better or worse. News organizations like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal are obviously part of that landscape. Wal-Mart seems to be a little heavy handed in their tactics, as you would expect.

Wal-Mart Tapings Spark Probe - : Federal investigators are probing a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. employee's electronic interception of telephone conversations and text messages of other employees and outsiders, including a New York Times Co. reporter.

People familiar with the issue said the criminal probe targets an employee who was searching for the identities of those who had leaked embarrassing company memos to the newspaper and others. Wal-Mart has been the subject of articles by the Times and others for its health-care, wage and benefit policies.
The technician, who Ms. Williams wouldn't identify further, had programmed the company's computers to search for calls originating from or directed to a Times reporter and to record those calls. A handful of other calls also were recorded, the Wal-Mart spokeswoman said. While she wouldn't name the reporter, people familiar with the issue said Times staff reporter Michael Barbaro was the primary target of the interceptions.

Wal-Mart Chief Executive H. Lee Scott Jr. personally apologized to Janet Robinson, chief executive of the New York Times, in a telephone call yesterday. The spokeswoman also personally contacted the Times reporter to deliver the news, she said.

In a statement, the Times said: “We are troubled by what appears to be inappropriate taping of our reporter's conversations. At this point we don't know many of the key facts such as what the purpose of this taping was and the extent, if any, to which the action was authorized.”

The effort captured calls for a four-month period beginning in September and continuing until January of this year, Ms. Williams said. She added the technician used wireless equipment brought into the retailer's headquarters to capture text messages from personal digital assistants and pagers within a several mile radius of its Bentonville headquarters. She described the wireless equipment as the employee's personal gear.

Those text messages, from a variety of sources, were stored on company-owned computers and later scanned for unidentified “key words” that the employee had designated. Wal-Mart declined to identify the words.

Apple and Steve Jobs do some counter-espionage work too, but (at least seem) more deft, and aren't under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department as far as I know.

From Wired:

I was talking recently with an ex-Apple staffer who worked high up at the company for many years, often closely with CEO Steve Jobs.

The programmer, who asked not to be named, was convinced the Asteroid product was invented, a figment of Jobs' imagination dreamed up to find the source of leaks -- the old “canary trap.”

It's an espionage trick used to find the source of a leak: Feed each person in the organization a slightly different piece of information, and see who sings. The name comes from the novels of Tom Clancy; British spies called the tactic a “barium meal,” after a drink given before stomach X-rays to illuminate the digestive system.

“That's how devious they are,” the programmer said. “They wouldn't do it with a real product. There's too many details and too many legitimate ways information could leak out. But with a phony product, Steve knows what information went where. The proof is that the product hasn't come out -- and still hasn't.”

Take the iPod name. The only department in Apple that knew the name of the iPod ahead of its unveiling was the graphics department, because it designed the product packaging and advertising materials. Everyone else referred to its code name, “Dulcimer.”

And then there are the rumors of hardware prototypes disguised in big polycarbonate boxes to hide their final shape. One ex-Apple executive told me that the hardware is put in big boxes to make it easy to debug, just like a Radio Shack project box. It doesn't hurt that no one can see what the final product will look like -- especially when prototypes are shipped to outside partners for testing or development -- but that's not their primary purpose.

Some of Apple's secrecy measures get a little extreme. When Jobs hired Ron Johnson from Target to head up Apple's retail effort, he asked him to use an alias for several months lest anyone get wind the Mac maker was working on retail stores. Johnson was listed on Apple's phone directory under a false name, which he used to check in to hotels.

Apple's head of marketing, Phil Schiller, said he's not allowed to tell his wife or kids what he's working on. His teenage son, an avid iPod fan, was desperate to know what his dad was cooking up at work, but daddy had to keep his trap shut because he might get canned.

Even Jobs himself is subject to his own strictures: He took an iPod hi-fi boombox home for testing, but kept it covered with a black cloth. And he listened to it only when no one else was around.

Don't forget Microsoft's spy (allegedly) being fed archaic code by Apple.

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links for 2007-03-06

We're Wiretapping You

Totally sounds like a Buttle/Tuttle incident.


“Brazil” (Universal Studios)

We hope Belew wins his case.

Wired News: Top Secret: We're Wiretapping You ... [Wendell ] Belew's bout with the Terrorist Surveillance Program began in 2004, when he was representing the U.S. branch office of the prominent Saudi Arabian charity Al-Haramain. Formerly one of the largest charities in Saudi Arabia, Al-Haramain worked to spread a strict view of Islam through philanthropy, missionary work and support for mosques around the world. ... It could be a scene from Kafka or Brazil. Imagine a government agency, in a bureaucratic foul-up, accidentally gives you a copy of a document marked “top secret.” And it contains a log of some of your private phone calls.

You read it and ponder it and wonder what it all means. Then, two months later, the FBI shows up at your door, demands the document back and orders you to forget you ever saw it.

By all accounts, that's what happened to Washington D.C. attorney Wendell Belew in August 2004. And it happened at a time when no one outside a small group of high-ranking officials and workaday spooks knew the National Security Agency was listening in on Americans' phone calls without warrants. Belew didn't know what to make of the episode. But now, thanks to that government gaffe, he and a colleague have the distinction of being the only Americans who can prove they were specifically eavesdropped upon by the NSA's surveillance program.

The pair are seeking $1 million each in a closely watched lawsuit against the government, which experts say represents the greatest chance, among over 50 different lawsuits, of convincing a key judge to declare the program illegal.

Read the rest

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Microsoft steals Apple code

Sounds like perhaps an elaborate hoax, but if not, no wonder Bill Gates was forced into semi-retirement. Funny stuff.

The rantings of Clinton Forbes Over five years elapsed between the release of Windows XP and Windows Vista, the longest product-cycle in the history of Microsoft's flagship product. Today a former Microsoft employee, a very disgruntled former employee, revealed to Wired Magazine why the company encountered such a large number of problems delivering their latest operating-system release - Apple Computer was to blame. Clarg Creber, a member of Microsoft's Core Operating Systems Division (COSD) for eight years until 2005, spoke to Wired's Hugh MacLachlan for their upcoming April print edition.


At the time Bill Gates was 'chief software architect' and of course was still pulling the strings despite Steve Ballmer being CEO. Gates employed an 'industry research' firm, a company specializing in corporate espionage, to steal the source code of Apple's work-in-progress, OS X version 10.2. He planned to beat Apple to market with Apple's own new features. It was a very strange plan considering that Microsoft already owned over 90% of the desktop market.


after three months of posing as a systems programmer, Apple's security department discovered the Microsoft 'mole' and brought him to the attention of Apple management. Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO and long-time geek-prankster, arranged for the source-code of Apple's obsolete System 7 operating-system to be machine-translated to INTERCAL. A CD with the joke operating-system was marked with the text 'OS X 10.2 Build 9822' and left in the mole's trash can. Apparently he took the bait and delivered the disc to Gates.

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As part of the DHL web-based novella, DHL has apparently lost and or mislabeled 28 packages of human body parts. So open packages carefully!

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Nation :: Human liver, partial head sent to home : Two packages containing human body parts -- including a liver and part of a head -- meant for a medical research lab instead were delivered to a home.

The body parts, sent from China, were mistakenly dropped off Thursday at Franck and Ludivine Larmande's home by a DHL express driver who thought the bubble-wrapped items were pieces to a table the couple was expecting.

More out there “My husband started to unwrap one and said, 'This is strange, it looks like a liver,' ” Ludivine Larmande said. “He started the second one, but stopped as soon as we saw the ear.”

Kent County sheriff's deputies determined the preserved body parts were for medical research. Authorities think 28 more bubble-wrapped human organs and body parts could be dispersed across the country

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Happy Casimir Pulaski Day

Who? you might say, if you don't live in Chicago or other states with large numbers of Polish residents.

We, of course, have plenty to do today, so photos will have to amuse and excite you for now.

Emboldened snow accumulating abstraction

More photos below

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New Quicktime/iTunes

iTunes 7.1
Oh boy, more meta data to fill out when I'm bored! Or to ignore, depending.

Processes: 89

Averages: 4.35 2.87 2.32

Uptime: 17 days 23:29

links for 2007-03-05

  • here's why I'm obviously not 'serious' about my blog: I just don't care enough to spend hours (beyond the hours I've already spent) designing every single element.
    (tags: blogs MT design)

links for 2007-03-04

Ed Rosenthal update

| 1 Comment

Any sane person who has been following this case realized long ago that the Federal Government had a vendetta to take down Ed Rosenthal because he was making too much sense. They've learned the lessons of COINTELPRO well.

Judge to Decide Validity of Case Against Marijuana Advocate
A federal judge will determine if the government has been pursuing a “vindictive prosecution” against a medical marijuana advocate.

A federal judge has asked the United States attorney here to submit all trial preparation memorandums in the case against a leading advocate of medical marijuana so that the court can determine if the government has been pursuing a “vindictive prosecution.”

The judge, Charles R. Breyer, ordered the review at the request of lawyers for Ed Rosenthal, a spokesman in the effort to legalize marijuana who has been in a closely watched court battle with the government.

At a motion hearing in Federal District Court here on Friday, defense lawyers for Mr. Rosenthal urged Judge Breyer to dismiss an array of federal drug, money laundering and tax evasion charges against their client, saying an appellate court judge had overturned his conviction in a nearly identical case last year.

previous coverage
Free Ed Rosenthal Redux

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A Scanner Darkly

A Scanner Darkly
“A Scanner Darkly” (Philip K. Dick)

PKD's novel got transformed into a rotoscopic nouveau-noirish film via a room full of G5s in Austin, under the watchful supervision of Richard Linklater. See a brief description of the technique at FlatBlackFilms

A Scanner Darkly
“A Scanner Darkly” (Richard Linklater)

I watched this film a few weeks (months?) ago, before I decided to scribble down thoughts, theoretically coherent, while I'm watching the movie.

My notes, as much as I can make out anyway, follow. Well, translated into english-esque. My handwrithing was particularly serpentine. I should have learned Arabic or Sanscrit instead of Chinese.

-why animated? why make the story into a cartoon? What's the point/benefit?
-Winona Ryder's voice is extremely irritating - did they filter it? or is it just me?
-so obviously filmed in Austex, I think I could find many of the locations given a couple days. Used to drive around in my car, stereo blasting, furiously thinking 'deep thoughts'. Probably drug related, but we won't get into that in print.
-“Rotoscope a cool effect, a software technique, but without a script” - RL
-R Downey, Jr. writes out all his lines for the next day, then re-writes them illegibly, then rewrites them again as acronyms. Typically 1500 words.
-Seems like PKD would have liked this adaptation: great empathy for the drug users.

and then I started doodling in my moleskin:

Poems The taste of bitter edges and of that preoccupied smirk linger in the creases of my mouth

Poetry, your border of ideas so ill-defined
the circumbulation of entire frames of reference
Occupied as by an invading army
Coffee does you no good
Just blurs the edges even more

A Scanner Darkly Polyptych
So, was the film any good? Yes. Not quite what I expected, but worth watching. Did it linger in my consciousness, and in my subconsciousness? No, not particularly. Did it cause me to reread the original novel? Yes, actually, it did.

Sorry, Pauline Kael I'm not.

previous discussion
Wait, Keanu Reeves!

Opening soon

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Triplets of Belleville

The Triplets of Belleville
“The Triplets of Belleville” (Sylvain Chomet)

Even a second viewing was quite enjoyable. So immensely French through and through. My copy didn't have subtitles, as apparently was intended, they are not really needed. Such mournful Gallic eyes.

Highly recommended.

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Frack the Fundies

George Washington and other Founding Fathers must be rolling in their graves in dismay over the power of the Christian Taliban. Faith-based craptastic mal-organizations should not be funded by government dollars. Of course, the Supreme Court is currently packed with members of Christian Taliban too. Blech.

Court Hears Arguments Linking Right to Sue and Spending on Religion : The Supreme Court heard arguments on whether taxpayers who object to the way the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives spends its money can get into federal court.

The question for the Supreme Court on Wednesday was a jurisdictional one: whether taxpayers who object to the way the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives spends its money can get into federal court to make their case.

Whether the office or its programs actually run afoul of the Constitution was not before the justices.

But any notion that this jurisdictional question was the sort of arcane, technical issue that only a law professor could love was quickly dispelled by the intensity of the argument, one of the liveliest of the term.

The fast-paced hour ended with the clear impression that the Roberts court will soon put its own stamp on the law of taxpayer standing, with potentially significant implications for the relationship between government and religion.

The real question by the end of the argument was whether a majority would be content simply to scale back a Warren court precedent that allows taxpayers to challenge the use of public money for religious purposes or whether the court would disavow the precedent altogether and keep such suits out of federal court.

Nick Anderson Mccain Maverick

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Free Anadarko


Horse Riders in the sky

Yayyy for the Bush-ites! Those poor, poor lil oil companies have advocates (Diamond Dick Cheney, for one) in the White House who are helping the near-bankrupt oil companies screw the U.S. taxpayer. Oh wait, I'm a taxpayer. And wait, why do oil companies need financial assistance from a near bankrupt U.S. Treasury?

NYT: Oil Company Revives Suit on Avoidance of Royalties

The lawsuit could allow energy companies to avoid as much as $60 billion in royalties to the government over the next two decades.

Anadarko Petroleum, based in Houston, is suing the Interior Department to overturn regulations that force companies that drill in publicly owned waters to pay full royalties on oil and gas they produce during times of high energy prices.

Anadarko, which earned $4.8 billion in profit last year on sales of $10.2 billion, is arguing that Congress guaranteed oil companies a special incentive for drilling in deep water under which the companies could avoid paying the standard royalty on much of what they produced in the Gulf of Mexico. The Interior Department has adamantly argued that the incentives were never supposed to apply when oil prices climbed above about $34 a barrel.

The suit itself was filed a year ago by the Kerr-McGee Oil and Gas Corporation, which Anadarko acquired last year for $21 billion. But Anadarko put the suit on hold last year and began court-supervised mediation talks with the Interior Department.

On Thursday, a federal judge in Louisiana, Patricia Minaldi, declared that the mediation talks had failed and ordered both sides to start filing arguments in late May. The failure of the mediation poses a major problem for the Bush administration, which is already trying to prevent the loss of $10 billion in royalties as a result of a huge leasing error made during the Clinton administration.

If Anadarko is successful, the government would lose many more times that. The Government Accountability Office, the Congressional watchdog agency, estimated in January that the government would lose about $60 billion over 25 years.

The federal government leases millions of acres in the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas producers. Companies are required to pay a royalty of 12 to 16 percent of their sales from the leases, but the government also offers royalty holidays as an incentive for deepwater drilling....

The revival of the lawsuit could cause political problems for the oil industry, increasing hostility among Democratic leaders already angry about high energy prices and record industry profits.

In January, House Democrats overwhelmingly passed a bill that would revoke $7.6 billion in tax breaks for oil companies and would impose a stiff additional fee on all companies that refused to renegotiate the flawed leases signed during the Clinton years.

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Where’s His Right Hook?

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Drink Up

Lest anyone forget that Maureen Dowd's style is heavy with gossipy smears and jeers, Ms. Dowd offers up a half-ironic profile of Barack Obama to go along with last weeks skewering of Hillary. I know I shouldn't even bother reading these columns, but since the NYT insists upon paying a political gossip tabloid journalist, I can't help myself. This one isn't too bad, I suppose, it is true that Gore and especially Kerry were not as cut-throat as the Karl Rove robo-puppet. Will that trait win or lose an election? Probably not, but it could be a factor.

Maureen Dowd: Where’s His Right Hook? As I sit across from Barack Obama in his Senate office, I feel like Ingrid Bergman in “The Bells of St. Mary’s,” when she plays a nun who teaches a schoolboy who’s being bullied how to box.

I’m just not certain, having watched the fresh-faced senator shy away from fighting with the feral Hillary over her Hollywood turf, that he understands that a campaign is inherently a conflict.

The Democrats lost the last two excruciatingly close elections because Al Gore and John Kerry did not fight fiercely and cleverly enough.

After David Geffen made critical comments about Hillary, she seized the chance to play Godzilla stomping on Obambi.

As a woman, she clearly feels she must be aggressive in showing she can “deck” opponents, as she put it — whether it’s Saddam with her war resolution vote or Senator Obama when he encroaches on areas that she and Bill had presumed were wrapped up, like Hollywood and now the black vote.

If Hillary is in touch with her masculine side, Barry is in touch with his feminine side.

He turned up his nose at his campaign’s sharp response to Hillary and her pinstriped thug, Howard Wolfson. He told The Times’s Jeff Zeleny that he had not been engaged in the vituperative exchange because he was traveling on a red-eye flight, getting a haircut and taking his daughters to school.

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Warm Winters and Maple Sugar

Sunshine Isn't Always the Answer

As a kid in South River, Ontario, maple sugar time was a great season. Snow was melting, plenty of mud for a young boy to play in, and even all the adults in Frostpocket were acting like kids. Spring fever as we called it. Would be a real shame if global climate change irrevocably alters the rhythms of the sap flow.

Warming Trends: Warm Winters Upset Rhythms of Maple Sugar

For more than 200 years, Mr. Morse’s family has been culling sweet sap from maple trees, a passion that has manifested itself not only in jug upon jug of maple syrup, but also in maple-cured bacon, maple cream and maple soap, not to mention the display of a suggestively curved tree trunk Mr. Morse calls the Venus de Maple.

But lately nature seems to be playing havoc with Mr. Morse and other maple mavens.

Warmer-than-usual winters are throwing things out of kilter, causing confusion among maple syrup producers, called sugar makers, and stoking fears for the survival of New England’s maple forests.

“We can’t rely on tradition like we used to,” said Mr. Morse, 58, who once routinely began the sugaring season by inserting taps into trees around Town Meeting Day, the first Tuesday in March, and collecting sap to boil into syrup up until about six weeks later. The maple’s biological clock is set by the timing of cold weather.

For at least 10 years some farmers have been starting sooner. But last year Mr. Morse tapped his trees in February and still missed out on so much sap that instead of producing his usual 1,000 gallons of syrup, he made only 700.

“You might be tempted to say, well that’s a bunch of baloney — global warming,” said Mr. Morse, drilling his first tap holes this season in mid-February, as snow hugged the maples and Vermont braced for a record snowfall. “But the way I feel, we get too much warm. How many winters are we going to go with Decembers turning into short-sleeve weather, before the maple trees say, ‘I don’t like it here any more?’ ”

read more

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Cask Beer

V is for Victory

One of my favorite Chicago taverns, The Map Room, gets name checked in this WSJ article. (The Map Room also serves good coffee).

To the article's point: what do I think about beer served at 50-55 degrees F? Depends on the brew. I've had good pulls in London, Brooklyn, Austin, and in Chicago, but also horrible glasses in Chicago, Austin and San Francisco. But, every beer drinker should try cask beer at least once in their life.

Mmmmm ... Warm, Flat Beer -

To the list of British imports that includes fish and chips and the Beatles, you can now add flat beer.

Microbrewers have tried everything from chili-pepper beer to raisin-flavored beer to lure drinkers from mass-market brews like Bud and Coors. Now they're trying their hand at a British staple, cask beer, that is only lightly carbonated and served via a retro hand pump. U.S. bars, in addition to serving American cask, are increasingly stocking English brands. This comes as more Brits are shunning these traditional ales in favor of U.S.-style beers.

For some beer geeks, casks are considered a more honest drink. They are served at between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit, compared with near freezing for keg beer. Because cold numbs your taste buds, cask beer has a fuller flavor. If you're drinking a cask pale ale, for example -- cask comes in the same range of styles as regular beer -- the bitter hops flavor is even more intense than with a normal pale ale. But for those accustomed to U.S. beers like Coors or even heartier microbrews, cask ale can be too harsh.

It can also be hard to swallow for bartenders. While a standard keg takes just a few seconds to tap, serving cask is far trickier. After it comes in the door, it can take several days to get the brew flowing, thanks to a series of waiting periods required to let the beer settle. To tap it, bartenders have to slam a plastic pin through a cork stopper using a rubber mallet.

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FDA incompetence reduxed redux

The FDA and incompetence or even corruption? Who woulda thunk-it? One would almost suspect the incompetence was intentional so as to prop up the profits of the FDA's master: the pharmaceutical industry. Doing a heckuva job there, Douglas Throckmorton (deputy director of the agency's drug center).

Cut Rate Drugs

Report Blasts FDA's System to Track Drugs The Food and Drug Administration has bungled its effort to build a new system for detecting the side effects of medicines after they go on the market, delaying its implementation by at least four years, according to a report commissioned by the agency itself.

As a result, the agency must continue to rely on its existing “dysfunctional” computer system as a primary tool for tracking the safety of medications sold in the U.S., according to the November 2006 report, which hasn't been made public.

The situation is “frustrating and undermining...the post-marketing drug safety work” of its staff “because they lack some of the basic tools they need to perform their jobs, e.g. a computing system that meets their requirements,” says the report. It was prepared by the Breckenridge Institute, a research and consulting firm in Breckenridge, Colo.

The FDA's drug-tracking system, called the Adverse Event Reporting System, consists of a database and other software and hardware that amass and help sift reports of potential side effects that have been filed by drug makers, doctors and others. The data are the FDA's main way to detect drug-related hazards, and can lead to changes in label warnings or even withdrawals of drugs from the market.

But, the report says, FDA safety experts waste time -- an average of 45 minutes per day -- dealing with the inefficiencies and snags caused by the current software. The Adverse Event Reporting System is overwhelmed by the growing volume of adverse-event reports, which exceeds 400,000 a year, the report says.


Echoing other recent outside examinations of the FDA, the Breckenridge analysts say the “root cause” of the problems can be found in the culture of the agency's drug regulators. More specifically, the report largely blames a “lack of effective leadership and management” by the center's Office of Information Technology, which it says mishandled the initiative through bureaucratic infighting, flawed planning and duplicative work performed by outside contractors.

Mark Bodnarczuk, executive director of the Breckenridge Institute, said he stands by the contents of the document. After it was completed, the FDA asked him to delete much of it, he said: “What they asked me to do was gut the report, and I refused to do it.” The FDA's Dr. Throckmorton said he believes Breckenridge was asked by FDA to extend its work, at no cost, which would have “given us an opportunity to talk about those misunderstandings, those inaccuracies.

FDA contracting practices, as well as the agency's handling of drug safety, are already the focus of congressional investigations. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, and ranking Republican Charles Grassley of Iowa have sent a letter to the FDA about the computer-system issue. Mr. Baucus said the report raises ”troubling questions,“ and Mr. Grassley said the report is evidence of a ”broken-down process“ at the agency. In the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Democrats John Dingell and Bart Stupak, both of Michigan, are also examining FDA contracting.

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Ashcroft Condemns Sirius-XM Merger

Anything John Ashcroft is against, I'm for, on pretty much on any topic. I didn't really have an opinion on the Sirius XM merger, other than a sort of knee-jerk opposition to every corporate merger. But if Asscroft is bloviating against it, suddenly, the merger seems like a good idea. Who are the potential competitors to satellite radio anyway? As I see it, my iPod is, and it isn't really affected. Satellite radio's betamax/VHS style dispute probably inhibits subscriber growth: Dylan's show on one, Oprah on another.

Ashcroft Condemns Sirius-XM Merger John Ashcroft blasted the proposed merger of Sirius and XM, saying it would leave only one provider in the satellite-radio market. The former attorney general has been hired by opponents of the deal.

Ashcroft, who served as head of the Justice Department for four years until January 2005, was hired by the National Association of Broadcasters to examine the merger scenario. That group, which represents traditional radio broadcasters, has been a fierce critic of the $13 billion merger since it was announced last week.

The satellite-radio companies' main argument for the deal being approved is that, while they are the only two satellite-radio companies, they are in fact competing against the range of audio media including traditional radio, HD radio, Internet-based radio and applications like Apple Inc.'s iPod.

Corporate radio sucks: I'll admit to have been able to avoid listening to it altogether for over ten years now, maybe more.

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links for 2007-03-03

The Big Meltdown

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Oh boy, more happy news as the snow flurries begin again.

Beer Money at the MCA

Paul Krugman: The Big Meltdown

If we’re going to have a financial crisis, here’s how it will play out.

The great market meltdown of 2007 began exactly a year ago, with a 9 percent fall in the Shanghai market, followed by a 416-point slide in the Dow. But as in the previous global financial crisis, which began with the devaluation of Thailand’s currency in the summer of 1997, it took many months before people realized how far the damage would spread.

At the start, all sorts of implausible explanations were offered for the drop in U.S. stock prices. It was, some said, the fault of Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, as if his statement of the obvious — that the housing slump could possibly cause a recession — had been news to anyone. One Republican congressman blamed Representative John Murtha, claiming that his efforts to stop the “surge” in Iraq had somehow unnerved the markets.

Even blaming events in Shanghai for what happened in New York was foolish on its face, except to the extent that the slump in China — whose stock markets had a combined valuation of only about 5 percent of the U.S. markets’ valuation — served as a wake-up call for investors.

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The Silence That Kills

War Memories

I'm not really sure what Friedman is even talking about here. How about instead we have a surge of columnists who urge the world to chant, War is Over if you want it? Bombing villages, mosques and neighborhoods kill lots of innocents too. Cruise missiles anyone? I don't know, maybe I just need more coffee. Read the column yourself.

Thomas L Friedman: The Silence That Kills

No surge can work in Iraq unless we have a “moral surge,” a counternihilism strategy that delegitimizes suicide bombers.

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from last weekend.

Fennel Portobello Red Pepper Pizza
Inspired by Linda Beyerstein's post

though she made her own dough.

My sauce included fire roasted tomatoes, oregano, sliced chicken sausage, garlic, and fennel, plus a healthy amount of wine

Portobello mushrooms
and their little brothers, Crimini mushrooms
red bell peppers
cabot cheddar
fleur de la terra
grated parmesan
cerignola black olives

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Matt Gonzalez RIP

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