October 2005 Archives

Incompetence reigns supreme

Administration missing dozens of security deadlines
WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration has missed dozens of deadlines set by Congress after the Sept. 11 attacks for developing ways to protect airplanes, ships, and railways from terrorists.

How could this be? The Bush White House performing poorly? Or is it the fault of the Republicans who control the House and Senate? Take yer pick....

A plan to defend ships and ports from attack is six months overdue. Rules to protect air cargo from infiltration by terrorists are two months late. A study on the cost of antiterrorism training for federal law enforcement officers who fly commercially was supposed to be done more than three years ago.

''The incompetence that we recently saw with FEMA's leadership appears to exist throughout the Homeland Security Department,“ said Mississippi Representative Bennie G. Thompson, top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee. ''Our nation is still vulnerable.”

...Lawmakers piled on deadline after deadline for reports, plans, and regulations while the department, created after the 2001 attacks, had to integrate 22 agencies with 170,000 workers and cope with terrorist threats and hurricanes.

Those deadlines, sometimes for minor projects, distract the department from putting the most important security measures in place, specialists say. The Transportation Security Administration, for example, scrambled to try to meet a Feb. 15 deadline to ban butane lighters from airplanes, a precaution that does little to protect airliners, they said.

''You have no ability to prioritize against something like that, and it's going to take up all your time,“ said Dan Prieto, a homeland security specialist with Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. ''The urgent becomes the enemy of the important.”

Thompson said the government has yet to develop a comprehensive plan to protect roads, bridges, tunnels, power plants, pipelines, and dams. He said a broad plan to protect levies and dams might have helped prevent the New Orleans levies from being breached.

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My Morning Jacket Z

As previously discussed, the newest My Morning Jacket CD, Z, has some DRM software included. This doesn't mean shite apparently, if you own a Mac, because I'm listening to the CD right now, contrary to my first boycott-thought, and the CD plays fine. So, I suppose this turns out to be a stealth campaign by Sony to encourage people to purchase Apple computers. Great plan, Sony!

BTW, the album is good, at least on first listen.

Oh, and obviously, I'm not alone in my frustrations.

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Ending the Fraudulence

Mr. Krugman is very shrill today:

Ending the Fraudulence - Paul Krugman
...Basically, I mean the way an administration with an almost unbroken record of policy failure has nonetheless achieved political dominance through a carefully cultivated set of myths. The record of policy failure is truly remarkable. It sometimes seems as if President Bush and Mr. Cheney are Midases in reverse: everything they touch - from Iraq reconstruction to hurricane relief, from prescription drug coverage to the pursuit of Osama - turns to crud. Even the few apparent successes turn out to contain failures at their core: for example, real G.D.P. may be up, but real wages are down.The point is that this administration's political triumphs have never been based on its real-world achievements, which are few and far between. The administration has, instead, built its power on myths: the myth of presidential leadership, the ugly myth that the administration is patriotic while its critics are not. Take away those myths, and the administration has nothing left. Well, Katrina ended the leadership myth, which was already fading as the war dragged on. There was a time when a photo of Mr. Bush looking out the window of Air Force One on 9/11 became an iconic image of leadership. Now, a similar image of Mr. Bush looking out at a flooded New Orleans has become an iconic image of his lack of connection. Pundits may try to resurrect Mr. Bush's reputation, but his cult of personality is dead - and the inscription on the tombstone reads, “Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job.”

and don't forget the Frog March matter:

Meanwhile, the Plame inquiry, however it winds up, has ended the myth of the administration's monopoly on patriotism, which was also fading in the face of the war.

Apologists can shout all they like that no laws were broken, that hardball politics is nothing new, or whatever. The fact remains that officials close to both Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush leaked the identity of an undercover operative for political reasons. Whether or not that act was illegal, it was clearly unpatriotic.

And the Plame affair has also solidified the public's growing doubts about the administration's morals. By a three-to-one margin, according to a Washington Post poll, the public now believes that the level of ethics and honesty in the government has declined rather than risen under Mr. Bush.

and the litany continues, with the media:

And as for the media: these days, there is much harsh, justified criticism of the failure of major news organizations, this one included, to exert due diligence on rationales for the war. But the failures that made the long nightmare possible began much earlier, during the weeks after 9/11, when the media eagerly helped our political leaders build up a completely false picture of who they were.

So the long nightmare won't really be over until journalists ask themselves: what did we know, when did we know it, and why didn't we tell the public?

So, if the media doesn't do its job and pay attention to the mis-leadership of GWB and his cronies, who will? the Democrats? Unlikely, they seem to enjoy being in the minority party.

It's a sad commentary on the timidity of most Democrats that even now, with Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff, telling us how policy was “hijacked” by the Cheney-Rumsfeld “cabal,” it's hard to get leading figures to admit that they were misled into supporting the Iraq war. Kudos to John Kerry for finally saying just that last week.

Pathetic. I wish I could take up drinking, but I already gave up teetotalling.

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Smoke Gets in Our Eyes

Bob Herbert: Smoke Gets in Our Eyes - New York Times
There's a reason so many top officials of the Bush administration treat the truth as if it were kryptonite. More than anything else, the simple truth has the potential to destroy the Bush gang. Scooter Libby was one of the most powerful figures in the administration, Dick Cheney's most highly trusted aide and a champion of the wholesale flim-flammery that led us into the crucible of Iraq. I haven't heard anyone express surprise that he would lie in the service of the administration.

But if the federal indictment returned last week in Washington is to be believed, Mr. Libby lied with the kind of reckless disregard for his own interests that would suggest he had become unhinged. It was as if he'd waved red flags in front of the grand jury and cried, “Come get me!”


and this, unfortunately, is also very true:

The art of Bush-speak is to achieve the effect of a lie without actually getting caught in a lie. That's what administration officials did when they deliberately fostered the impression that Saddam Hussein had ties to Al Qaeda and thus was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. This is an insidious way of governing, and the opposite of what the United States should be about.

It should tell you something that the administration's resident sleazemeister, Karl Rove, who is up to his ears in this mess but has managed so far to escape indictment, continues to be viewed not as an embarrassment, but as President Bush's most important and absolutely indispensable asset.

Impeachment, now!

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Intelligent Design and Kansas

The National Science Teachers Association refuses to participate in the return-to-the-Middle-Ages movement in Kansas. Kudos to NSTA!

National Science Teachers Association

October 26, 2005, NSTA sent the following letter to the Kansas State Department of Education, requesting that the Kansas Science Education Standards not quote or refer to the NSTA publication NSTA Pathways to the Science Standards because “the draft Kansas standards fail to recognize the theory of evolution as a major unifying theme of science and the foundation of all biology.”
* * * * *
October 26, 2005
Dr. Alexa Posny
Assistant Commissioner of Education
Kansas State Department of Education
120 S.E.10th Street
Topeka, KS  66612
cc: Dr. Steve Case, KSES Revision Committee Chair
Carol Williamson, Committee Co-chair

Dear Dr. Posny:
Thank you for your August 22 letter asking us to examine the use of NSTA Pathways to the Science Standards: Guidelines for Moving the Vision into Practice, Middle School Edition in the current draft of the Kansas Science Education Standards. We appreciate the chance to review the treatment of our copyrighted material for accuracy and proper presentation.

Although the majority of the draft Kansas standards could proudly serve as a model for other states to emulate, there are significant errors regarding the theory of evolution. These inaccuracies are of such importance that they compromise the Kansas State Board of Education's (KSBE) stated vision and mission for these Standards, not to mention all of science.

Your mission statement reads, “Kansas science education contributes to the preparation of all students as lifelong learners who can use science to make informed and reasoned decisions that contribute to their local, state, national and international communities.” 

Your vision statement begins, “Science education in Kansas is intended to help students to develop the understandings and intellectual abilities they need to lead personal fulfilling lives, and to equip them to participate thoughtfully with fellow citizens in building and protecting a society that is open, equitable, and vital.  The educational system must prepare the citizens of Kansas to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”

We applaud these statements, but the standards, as currently written, will result in Kansas students being confused about the scientific process and ill-prepared both for the rigors of higher education and for the increasingly technological and scientific challenges we face as a nation.  
Therefore, despite much outstanding material contained in the standards, we have no choice but to ask the KSBE to refrain from referencing or quoting from NSTA Pathways in the KSES. Specifically, the draft Kansas standards fail to recognize the theory of evolution as a major unifying theme of science and the foundation of all biology. NSTA strongly supports this premise and calls for science curricula, state science standards, and teachers to emphasize evolution in a manner commensurate with its importance as a unifying concept in science and its overall explanatory power. This position is consistent with those issued by the National Academies, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the vast majority of scientific and educational organizations. 

However, we believe that, working together, we can resolve the issues that stand in the way of our granting permission, and we stand ready and willing to work with the KSBE to ensure that your students receive the quality science education they need and deserve.
We do not maintain that science is superior to other ways of understanding our world nor do we think that scientific inquiry is inconsistent with a theological search for answers.  Rather, there are profound differences between these ways of knowing and failure to understand them will put the students of Kansas at a competitive disadvantage as they take their place in the world. 

We appeal to the Board to reconsider its position and work with us for the benefit of your students, science teachers, and your state. 
Michael Padilla
NSTA President

Believers in Intelligent Design should also refrain from utilization of any scientific advance that is contrary to their beliefs, like flu-shots, anything genetic-related, modern biology and medicine, and even from eating foods that are the result of selective breeding (vegetables, wines, grains, etc.). In fact, believers in ID should only be able to eat things that are mentioned in the Bible (locusts, honey, etc.). Please do so, and leave the rest of us alone.

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New Linklater movie


Maybe I can sneak in as an extra?

Want Stealth With That? The 'Fast Food Nation' Film Goes Undercover - New York Times

In Austin, Tex., Richard Linklater, a filmmaker known for the whimsy of “Slacker” and “School of Rock,” is planning a big-screen adaptation of “Fast Food Nation,” the 2001 exposé book by Eric Schlosser. Filming began Monday in Texas and will continue at locations there, in Colorado and Mexico. The preparations have had the secrecy of a stealth mission. A recent call to the production office requesting information about the movie provoked a crackling pause on the telephone line. The hesitant voice finally said, “You mean ... 'Coyote'?”

In September, The Austin American-Statesman reported that the drama, written by Mr. Linklater and Mr. Schlosser and starring Catalina Sandino Moreno (“Maria Full of Grace”), is hiding under the sheep's clothing of a pseudonym. The false name - “Coyote” - was chosen, the newspaper said, to help the production gain access to franchise restaurants and other industry locations that might be off limits if the movie's true source material were known.

Fast Food Nation
Fast Food Nation
is an interesting topic to make a feature film about.

Or rather, as backdrop.
Mr. Linklater was unavailable for comment, and the co-producer Ann Carli played down the film's connection to its muckraking source material. “We're just using the fast food industry as a backdrop for a multitude of characters,” she said. “It's not a polemic. It's a character study, set in the world of the fast food industry. It's about how people grow up and make decisions to do they things they do. It's about what turns their lives.” Whether Mr. Linklater's completed film, whatever its title, proves an effective exploration of such matters remains to be seen.

And of course, there is going to be a lot of negative PR, sponsored by the fast food corporations...

...“I've got a bunch of people snooping around for info on this movie, and nobody can find anything,” said Pete Meersman, president of the Colorado Restaurant Association, who appears briefly in Mr. Schlosser's book. Although his colleague Richie Jackson, head of the Texas Restaurant Association, did not return calls for comment, Mr. Meersman said he had been in touch with Mr. Jackson. “Richie can't find anything either,” he said. “It's weird.”

When told that the film could have a pseudonym, Mr. Meersman said, “If people are willing to lie about what they're doing, they can probably talk their way into most anywhere, and that could be a problem.”

Susan P. Kezios, president of the American Franchisee Association, a trade group for franchise holders, pointed out that fast food giants are capable of fighting back. “If corporations got wind that this is happening, they could issue an order overnight to all franchisees that says, 'In order to be in compliance with your franchise contract, do not let any filmmakers in,' ” she said.

But Robert Zarco, a Miami lawyer and franchise law specialist, thinks corporations would have a hard time slowing the “Fast Food Nation” movie down. He said that a franchisee's contractual obligations must be balanced with First Amendment rights. So long as the filming does not disclose confidential and proprietary franchise system information, Mr. Zarco said, “I believe that a franchisor will have an extremely high hurdle to leap to default and then terminate a franchisee for having permitted the filming of its business location.”

Apparently, Morgan Spurlock liked what he read...

Morgan Spurlock, who directed and starred in “Super Size Me,” the 2004 documentary, said that he had seen a version of the “Fast Food Nation” script, and in an interview he praised the film's comprehensive look at this huge industry.
“You see how deep the tentacles run,” Mr. Spurlock said. “You see how big the web is.”

In the DVD of Super Size Me, there is a long interview with Eric Schlosser....

Morgan Spurlock

“Super Size Me” (Morgan Spurlock)

complete article here

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Back story of the Yellowcake


The back story of how the yellowcake made it into the President's State of the Union address, and hence led to Plame-gate, is a fascinating story of duplicitous informants and international forgery. Joshua Marshall has been covering this in great depth, such as here, here, and elsewhere, but this Washington Post article contains a decent summary of the events:

A Leak, Then a Deluge The chain of events that led to Friday's indictment can be traced as far back as 1991, when an unremarkable burglary took place at the embassy of Niger in Rome. All that turned up missing was a quantity of official letterhead with “Republique du Niger” at its top. More than 10 years later, according to a retired high-ranking U.S. intelligence official, a businessman named Rocco Martino approached the CIA station chief in Rome. An occasional informant for U.S., British, French and Italian intelligence services, Martino brought documents on Niger government letterhead describing secret plans for the sale of uranium to Iraq.

The station chief “saw they were fakes and threw [Martino] out,” the former CIA official said. But Italy shared a similar report with the Americans in October 2001, he said, and the CIA gave it circulation because it did not know the Italians relied on the same source.
On Feb. 12, 2002, Cheney received an expanded version of the unconfirmed Italian report. It said Iraq's then-ambassador to the Vatican had led a mission to Niger in 1999 and sealed a deal for the purchase of 500 tons of uranium in July 2000. Cheney asked for more information.

The same day, Plame wrote to her superior in the CIA's Counterproliferation Division that “my husband has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity.” Wilson -- who had undertaken a similar mission three years before -- soon departed for Niamey, the Niger capital. He said he found no support for the uranium report and said so when he returned.

Martino continued to peddle his documents, with an asking price of more than 10,000 euros -- this time to Panorama, an Italian magazine owned by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Panorama editor Carlo Rossella said his staff concluded the letters were bogus but in the interim sent copies to the U.S. Embassy in Rome in October 2002. “I believed the Americans were the best source for verifying authenticity,” he said. When the documents reached the State Department, according to a commission that investigated prewar intelligence this year, analysts there said they had “serious doubts about the authenticity” of the “transparently forged” documents.

By summer 2002, the White House Iraq Group assigned Communications Director James R. Wilkinson to prepare a white paper for public release, describing the “grave and gathering danger” of Iraq's allegedly “reconstituted” nuclear weapons program. Wilkinson gave prominent place to the claim that Iraq “sought uranium oxide, an essential ingredient in the enrichment process, from Africa.” That claim, along with repeated use of the “mushroom cloud” image by top officials beginning in September, became the emotional heart of the case against Iraq.

President Bush invoked the mushroom cloud in an Oct. 7, 2002, speech in Cincinnati. References to African uranium remained in his speech until its fifth draft, but a last-minute intervention by Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet excised them.

Tenet's success was short-lived. The uranium returned repeatedly to Bush administration rhetoric in December and January. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice cited the report in a Jan. 23 newspaper column, and three days later, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell demanded, “Why is Iraq still trying to procure uranium and the special equipment needed to transform it into material for a nuclear weapon?”

How could there not be a movie made of this? If I wasn't so busy at the moment, I'd work up a treatment. The rest of the article is here

The forged documents were so clumsily put together that even a cursory glance would betray their origin as other than what they claimed. Why was the U.S. government so quick to believe them? [Rhetorical question, duh]

Update, slightly more from War and Piece, including:

Just confirmed with a former US intelligence official who was briefed on it at the time that a surprising claim in this Washington Post story tonight is indeed true: that Rocco Martino was a walk-in to the US embassy Rome and tried to sell the Niger forgeries to them, months before the Italian reporter Elisabetta Burba brought them to the embassy at the direction of her editor at her Berlusconi-owned magazine. (My source thought he remembered Martino's walk in occurring in the early spring of 2002, but wasn't positive). The CIA Rome station chief reportedly threw Martino - and the forgeries - out.


One Year After Pacers-Pistons Fight

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One Year After Pacers-Pistons Fight, Tough Questions of Race and Sports - New York Times

As much as Stern, who became commissioner in 1984, could make you crazy with his bullish attitudes and unfailing buoyancy, there was no doubt that he loved his league, and cared about those who passed through it. No less a social commentator than the Berkeley academic Dr. Harry Edwards - never a wallflower when he sniffed racial injustice on the American sports scene - counted himself as an admirer, calling Stern “an honest broker of the product who, at the end of the day, respects the men who play in his league and the community from which they come.”
Given his liberal politics and his longtime relationship with the African-American community, it was a delicate balancing act to be the top N.B.A. cop, to operate a league that was trying, as Stern said, to “bridge both populations,” the predominantly corporate crowd in the premium seats that accounted for roughly 18 percent of the league's $3 billion in revenue and the younger demographic driving the licensing and merchandising sales.
Handling the fight in Auburn Hills was akin to walking the racial high wire without a net. Even as he punished the instigators to calm sponsors and fans, Stern was privately troubled by the belief that the behavioral bar was set higher for a league largely dominated by African-American players making huge sums of money. And who, as Stern put it, “are unencumbered by helmets, long sleeves and pads.”
Few modern athletes seemed to rouse negative emotions the way pro basketball players often could. Even in N.B.A. fights that were confined to the court, the sight of large black men rushing off the bench to throw punches at one another tended to evoke outcries in the media and from fans about the end of sports civilization as we know it...

But insisting that the fight was just a one-time event - “the perfect storm,” he said - was no way to acknowledge the mistakes and missteps made by the N.B.A. in particular and the basketball industry at large that had helped create the conditions for the chaos to volcanically erupt.

People I have known for many years who were at the Palace of Auburn Hills that night spoke of the anger in the air, palpable and ugly, a gladiatorial ambience that over the years had become pervasive in too many N.B.A. arenas. This was partly attributable to the intensity between physical rivals, but it was more a byproduct of a regrettable marketing scheme to create an in-your-face product that was edgy enough to resonate with the young and rebellious, those who would buy the jerseys, play the video games, create the buzz.
However, the fans paying a king's ransom for the expensive seats were much less forgiving, more easily antagonized upon the sounding of those deep-rooted racial alarms. Drunk or not, too many basketball fans had reached the point where they objectified the players, related to them as societal stereotypes and through flimsily disguised racial codes. If the imagery of large black men beating on defenseless white fans was alarming, the too-widely accepted pastime of affluent whites feeling empowered to verbally abuse half-dressed, sweaty black men should have evoked even more discomfort and disturbing American historical chapters.

The irony was that, the more the fans shelled out for their seats, the closer they got to the action, the wider the gulf between them and the players seemed to grow. The arguments over which side of the basketball divide was more to blame could be carried on ad infinitum but, when all was said and done, the sad spectacle revealed more about profiteering than it did about punches, more about how gluttonous corporations had steered the sport off course and over time created a powder keg ready to blow on a short racial fuse.

This is a book I'm looking forward to reading.

Crashing the Borders: How Basketball Won the World and Lost Its Soul at Home

Crashing the Borders: How Basketball Won the World and Lost Its Soul at Home

The NBA is partially culpable, with their long-term marketing agenda of celebrating the individual player over the team, and by the leagues insistence upon hyping the so-called gladiatorial ambience.

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Studs Terkel

A true man of letters, and a gentleman to boot: Studs Terkel.

Studs Terkel, the great chronicler of American life, particularly its underside, recently underwent open-heart surgery for the insertion of a valve. That, at the age of 93, was an exceptional procedure.

When, lying on a gurney, he came round after the operation, one of the surgeons said to him: “Don't worry, it's all over.”

“What do you mean?” Terkel shot back. “I'm officially dead?”

“No. It worked!” the surgeon explained. “You've got four more years.”

“But I don't want four more!” Terkel said. “I'll take just two.”

However, those extra years meant that Mr. Terkel was able to witness the Sox winning the World Series....

In 'Restless' Chicago, a Witness Surprised - New York Times

...Chicago is a handsome city, the place that invented the skyscraper and split the atom, but until this week it had labored under what appeared to be a twin curse, on the Sox and their more glamorous North Side rivals, the Chicago Cubs. The Sox last won the World Series in 1917, and the Cubs have not won since 1908, almost a century ago.

“I never dreamed I'd see this,” Terkel, who has seen a lot, told me. The fact is, without that heart valve, he might not have.

He continued: “I went to see the first game in 1959, the last time the Sox got to the World Series, and they won the game big and then they blew it.” The blowing of it left the Sox defeated 4-2 by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

That was a long time ago, when the White Sox still played at Comiskey Park (demolished in 1991 and replaced by the unhappily named US Cellular Field) and the stockyards were still close enough that, with the right wind, the pungent whiff of butchered meat might waft over first base.
But Chicago is slaughterhouse to the nation no more. It is also a less divided city than it was when Madison Street, the line that officially splits the city into North and South, was also a line between classes.
To the north lay generally upscale neighborhoods with their high-rises and glittering views of Lake Michigan; to the north, also, stood that most seductive of ballparks, the Cubs' Wrigley Field.
The South Side was another country, a place of racial tension, harsh home to a working-class community, African-Americans from the South, and wave after wave of immigrants seeking work in the steel mills and stockyards.

... But Chicago is changing. A tour of the South Side with George De Lama, an old Chicago Tribune friend, revealed new condos going up everywhere, shuttered public-housing projects about to be torn down, little wooden bungalows being replaced by proud brick homes, and even an attempt to jump-start a revival of the black neighborhood around 47th Street (recast on signs as the “Chicago Blues District”).
Change, of course, is Chicago's very condition. Its restlessness makes it the American city par excellence. Its economy works, drawing talent and ambition from the world over, and of course the South Side cannot be impervious to that.
In Bridgeport, the area around the White Sox's field, the political district that produced the Daley mayors (father and son), average housing prices have more than doubled to $275,000 from $133,333 in the past three years.

The ligaments of an early 20th-century industrial city can still be seen on the South Side - moving industrial views of machinery and rusting bridges and weed-strewn rail tracks - but these iron roots of a great metropolis have been overtaken by the steady gentrification economic progress brings.


Terkel stuck to nonfiction. I asked him how he'd come to the decision to have the heart surgery that, as things turned out, allowed him to witness the unthinkable: a Chicago World Series victory.

“My curiosity got the better of me,” he said. “I was curious about this operation. You know what my epitaph will be? Curiosity did not kill the cat.”

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One Step Closer to the Big Enchilada

Of all the New York Times columnists currently writing Op-Ed pieces, Rich is the one guy I'd most like to buy a drink for....

Frank Rich: One Step Closer to the Big Enchilada - New York Times

TO believe that the Bush-Cheney scandals will be behind us anytime soon you'd have to believe that the Nixon-Agnew scandals peaked when G. Gordon Liddy and his bumbling band were nailed for the Watergate break-in. But Watergate played out for nearly two years after the gang that burglarized Democratic headquarters was indicted by a federal grand jury; it even dragged on for more than a year after Nixon took “responsibility” for the scandal, sacrificed his two top aides and weathered the indictments of two first-term cabinet members. In those ensuing months, America would come to see that the original petty crime was merely the leading edge of thematically related but wildly disparate abuses of power that Nixon's attorney general, John Mitchell, would name “the White House horrors.”

A few other excerpts, beneath.

Kristoff is still a jerk

Kristoff is still a jerk

Time for the Vice President to Explain Himself - New York Times

I owe Patrick Fitzgerald an apology.Over the last year, I've referred to him nastily a couple of times as “Inspector Javert,” after the merciless and inflexible character in Victor Hugo's “Les Misérables.” In my last column, I fretted aloud that he might pursue overzealous or technical indictments.

But Mr. Fitzgerald didn't do that. The indictments of Lewis Libby are not for memory lapses or debatable offenses, but for repeatedly telling a fairy tale under oath.Moreover, Mr. Fitzgerald was wise not to push onto mushier ground. It appears he was tempted to indict Karl Rove, but he's right to refrain unless the evidence against Mr. Rove is similarly strong. If it's a borderline call, as it seems, Mr. Rove should walk.

for this paragraph, especially

First, Democrats should wipe the smiles off their faces. This is a humiliation for the entire country, and their glee is unseemly. Moreover, the situation is not that neocons are all crooks, but that one vice-presidential aide must be presumed innocent of trying to cover up conduct that may not have been illegal in the first place.

but Kristoff makes a valid point here. Cheney should resign simply to restore dignity to White House, if not for other reasons.

Mr. Libby is now accused in effect of lying to protect Mr. Cheney. According to the indictment, Mr. Libby insisted under oath that he had heard about Mrs. Wilson from reporters, when he had actually heard about her from his boss. You can't help wondering if this alleged perjury was purely his own idea and whether Mr. Cheney was aware of it.

Since Mr. Libby is joined at the hip to Mr. Cheney, it's reasonable to ask: What did Mr. Cheney know and when did he know it? Did the vice president have any grasp of the criminal behavior allegedly happening in his office? We shouldn't assume the worst, but Mr. Cheney needs to give us a full account.

Instead, Mr. Cheney said in a written statement: “Because this is a pending legal proceeding, in fairness to all those involved, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the charges or on any facts relating to the proceeding.”

Balderdash. If Mr. Cheney can't address the questions about his conduct, if he can't be forthcoming about the activities in his office that gave rise to the investigation, then he should resign. And if he won't resign, Mr. Bush should demand his resignation.

It's not that there's a lick of evidence that Mr. Cheney is a criminal. There isn't. But the standard of the office should be higher than that: the White House should symbolize integrity, not legalistic refusals to discuss criminal cover-ups. I didn't want technical indictments of White House officials because they inflame partisanship and impede government; for just the same reason, it's unsavory when a vice president resorts to technical defenses and clams up.

At the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia in August 2000, Mr. Cheney won adoring applause when he suggested that Bill Clinton's deceit had besmirched the White House. Mr. Cheney then pledged that Mr. Bush would be different: “On the first hour of the first day, he will restore decency and integrity to the Oval Office.”

Mr. Cheney added of the Democrats: “They will offer more lectures, and legalisms, and carefully worded denials. We offer another way, a better way, and a stiff dose of truth.”

You were right, Mr. Cheney, in your insistence that the White House be beyond reproach. Now it's time for you to give the nation “a stiff dose of truth.” Otherwise, you sully this country with your own legalisms.

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Who's on First

MoDo gets in another dig at the 41-43 divide:

Maureen Dowd - Who's on First? - New York Times:
Mr. Cheney, eager to be rid of the meddlesome Joe Wilson, got Valerie Wilson's name from the C.I.A. and passed it on to Scooter. He forced the C.I.A. to compromise one of its own, a sacrifice on the altar of faith-based intelligence. Vice spent so much time lurking over at the C.I.A., trying to intimidate the analysts at Langley into twisting the intelligence about weapons, that he should have had one of his undisclosed locations there. This administration's grand schemes always end up as the opposite. Officials say they're promoting national security when they're hurting it; they say they're squelching terrorists when they're breeding them; they say they're bringing stability to Iraq when the country's imploding. (The U.S. announced five more military deaths yesterday.) And the most dangerous opposite of all: W. was listening to a surrogate father he shouldn't have been listening to, and not listening to his real father, who deserved to be listened to.
Don't forget Scowcroft either.


Friday afternoon I actually had a few hours sort of free, as long as I was actually in the office (which precluded me from attending the White Sox parade, boo, hiss) so was able to read and annotate the indictment of I. Lewis Libby, including reference to Official A (which probably Rove, as discussed at TalkLeft, Firedoglake, and elsewhere), and watch the ensuing press conference. Transcript here, and saved for posterity below the fold, since the NYT Link generator doesn't seem to work for this article.

Of course, we don't know it as a fact that Fitzgerald is not done with investigation, but available evidence certainly seems to point towards further indictments coming at a later time, such as was done in the (continuing) George Ryan corruption trial.

When asked about complaints that he was partisan, Mr. Fitzgerald smiled. “I don't know - you know, it's sort of, When'd you stop beating your wife? ” he replied. “One day I read that I was a Republican hack, another day I read that I was a Democratic hack, and the only thing I did between those two nights was sleep.”

And a brief snark: I couldn't stand to watch the press conference on CNN because of their insistence on showing split screens with various other crap, like a still photo of Scooter on crutches, or the Vanity Fair photo of Ambassador Wilson and Valerie Plame. Worse, CNN projected it on some thrift-store thing, with a distracting crease mark right in the middle. I couldn't take it and flipped over to MSNBC who didn't feel the need to spruce up the conference with frivolity. This is a serious matter, after all.

Anyway, more to follow.

Health schmealth

Jackie Mason
“It's no longer a question of staying healthy. It's a question of finding a sickness you like.”


From the Department of I noticed this too

Slacker Friday - Altercation - MSNBC.com
Name: Rob BreymaierHometown: Chicago, IL

Eric,I wanted to point out an issue that irritated me regarding Joe Buck's speech about Chicago south siders waiting so long for a championship.  Near the final out last night, Buck spoke about how south siders had waited so long for their team to win the World Series.  He then named neighborhoods on Chicago's south side to add to his point.  The neighborhoods cited were all predominantly white or traditionally white neighborhoods that are have changed to mixed race neighborhoods including:

Mt. Greenwood - a notoriously “exclusive” neighborhood on the edge of Chicago's southwest side. 

Bridgeport - A traditionally Irish-American neighborhood that has more recently seen some Latino growth. 

Beverly - A traditionally white neighborhood that is now roughly divided into a white half and a black half. 

Hyde Park - A fairly admirable racial mix but unique by income and the University of Chicago. 

As if that weren't enough, Buck went on to name ethnic groups.  All were European (Irish, Italian, and Polish).  Buck entirely ignored the African American population that makes up the majority of south siders.  He also ignored the growing Latino population and the Asian population that make up significant neighborhoods on the south side.  (Chicago's Chinatown is on the south side.)  Fox also cut to Jimbo's where all of the patrons were white.  I'm not trying to call Buck a racist here.  But, even something that should be as innocent and inclusive as the World Series shows just how segregated a society we are.  How could Buck not mention African Americans in his little heartfelt speech about south siders?  What was it that made them invisible to him? 

The first apartment I lived in, when I first moved to Chicago after graduating from UT-Austin, was a loft converted building on 19th and South Halsted, squarely on the edge of the South Side...

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Wired 13.11: The Mystery of the Green Menace
Raised in New Orleans, a city once dubbed the Absinthe Capital of the World, Breaux has long been fascinated with the drink. Absinthe is a 140-proof green liqueur made from herbs like fennel, anise, and the exceptionally bitter leaves of Artemisia absinthium. That last ingredient, also known as wormwood, gives the drink its name - and its sinister reputation. For a century, absinthe has been demonized and outlawed, based on the belief that it leads to absinthism - far worse than mere alcoholism. Drinking it supposedly causes epilepsy and "criminal dementia."
Breaux has made understanding the drink his life's work. He has pored over hundred-year-old texts, few of them in English. He has corresponded with other amateur liquor historians. The more he's learned, the more he's felt compelled to use his knowledge of chemistry to crack the absinthe code, figure out exactly what's in it, puncture the myths surrounding it - and maybe even drink a glass or two.

I've tried this once, or something from the former Czechoslovakia purporting to be absinthe, at a friends house. We drank about 2 glasses, and while my head did start to spin, I don't think it was from the wormwood.

I would really like to try it again

Absinthe was first distilled in 1792 in Switzerland, where it was marketed as a medicinal elixir, a cure for stomach ailments. High concentrations of chlorophyll gave it a rich olive color. In the 19th century, people began turning to the minty drink less for pains of the stomach than for pains of the soul. Absinthe came to be associated with artists and Moulin Rouge bohemians. Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Van Gogh, and Picasso were devotees. Toulouse-Lautrec carried some in a hollowed-out cane. Oscar Wilde wrote, "What difference is there between a glass of absinthe and a sunset?" Soon absinthe was the social lubricant of choice for a broad swath of Europeans - artists and otherwise. In 1874, the French sipped 700,000 liters of the stuff; by the turn of the century, consumption had shot up to 36 million liters, driven in part by a phylloxera infestation that had devastated the wine-grape harvest.

By the early 20th century, absinthe was becoming popular in America. It found a natural reception in New Orleans, where the bon temps were already rolling. Breaux's own great-grandparents were known to enjoy an occasional glass. But the drink was drawing fire for its thujone content. "It is truly madness in a bottle, and no habitual drinker can claim that he will not become a criminal," declared one politician. The anti-absinthe fervor climaxed in 1905, when Swiss farmer Jean Lanfray shot his pregnant wife and two daughters after downing two glasses. (Overlooked was what else Lanfray consumed that day: crème de menthe, cognac, seven glasses of wine, coffee with brandy, and another liter of wine.) By the end of World War I, the "green menace" was made illegal everywhere in western Europe except Spain. No reputable distillery still made it.


Breaux wasn't the only one rediscovering the long-banned beverage. In Europe, food regulations adopted by the EU in 1988 had neglected to mention absinthe, and when they superseded national laws, the drink was effectively re-legalized. New distilleries were popping up all over Europe, selling what Breaux dismisses as "mouthwash and vodka in a bottle, with some aromatherapy oil." Absinthe had disappeared so completely for so long that no one knew how to make it anymore. Including Breaux, who continued trying to reverse engineer it in his lab.
The new absinthes became popular among hipsters, just as the drink had been 125 years before. But now the presence of thujone was a selling point. Marilyn Manson boasted of recording an album while "on" absinthe. Johnny Depp compared its effects to marijuana. "Drink too much," he said, "and you suddenly realize why Van Gogh cut off his ear."

This wasn't just idle celebrity conjecture. In a 1989 Scientific American article, an American biochemist named Wilfred Arnold hypothesized that Van Gogh's insanity (acute intermittent porphyria, he speculated) was caused by the thujone in absinthe. Based on the description of raw materials used to make the liqueur, Arnold calculated that the thujone content was a dangerous 250 parts per million. "I would advise not drinking it," he says.

Breaux rejects Arnold's methodology. "He didn't take the effects of the distillation process into account," Breaux says. "He made a WAG - a wild-assed guess." Breaux wanted to settle the thujone question once and for all. And he was uniquely positioned to do so. "Back when the original was around, they didn't have any decent analytical chemistry. And when Arnold performed his research, he didn't have any samples of the original liqueur. I have both," he says.

At the EASI lab, Breaux ran tests on the pre-ban absinthe samples, as well as on samples spiked with thujone (from the very bottle I had sniffed). This allowed him to isolate the toxic compound. He spent his free time studying the test results, and late one night in June 2000 he had his answer. "I was stunned. Everything that I had been told was complete nonsense." In the antique absinthes he had collected, the thujone content was an order of magnitude smaller than Arnold's predictions. In many instances, it was a homeopathically minuscule 5 parts per million.

Read a lot more about the science, preparation, discovery and history of absinthe here in the rest of the article.

Breaux apparently is supervising properly-made absinthe, somewhere in the Loire Valley town of Saumur, with the assistance of the Combier family. If I could find out how to buy a bottle, for a reasonable amount of money, I would. In my lifetime, I want to try all of the inebrients loved by my literary and musical heroes, at least once. In the case of absinthe, twice.


The indictment is available here (pdf) from Mr. Fitzgerald's office. No word yet on Karl Rove, but looks like Dick Cheney, Judy Miller, Matt Cooper, Tim Russert, and possibly Nick Kristof are named witnesses who would probably have testify.


Give me a break

The Onion drew the ire of the White House recently:

Protecting the Presidential Seal. No Joke. - New York Times

You might have thought that the White House had enough on its plate late last month, what with its search for a new Supreme Court nominee, the continuing war in Iraq and the C.I.A. leak investigation. But it found time to add another item to its agenda - stopping The Onion, the satirical newspaper, from using the presidential seal. The newspaper regularly produces a parody of President Bush's weekly radio address on its Web site (www.theonion.com/content/node/40121), where it has a picture of President Bush and the official insignia. “It has come to my attention that The Onion is using the presidential seal on its Web site,” Grant M. Dixton, associate counsel to the president, wrote to The Onion on Sept. 28.

Citing the United States Code, Mr. Dixton wrote that the seal “is not to be used in connection with commercial ventures or products in any way that suggests presidential support or endorsement.” Exceptions may be made, he noted, but The Onion had never applied for such an exception.

The Onion was amused. “I'm surprised the president deems it wise to spend taxpayer money for his lawyer to write letters to The Onion,” Scott Dikkers, editor in chief, wrote to Mr. Dixton. He suggested the money be used instead for tax breaks for satirists.

More formally, The Onion's lawyers responded that the paper's readers - it prints about 500,000 copies weekly, and three million people read it online - are well aware that The Onion is a joke.

“It is inconceivable that anyone would think that, by using the seal, The Onion intends to 'convey... sponsorship or approval' by the president,” wrote Rochelle H. Klaskin, the paper's lawyer, who went on to note that a headline in the current issue made the point: “Bush to Appoint Someone to Be in Charge of Country.”

Moreover, she wrote, The Onion and its Web site are free, so the seal is not being used for commercial purposes. That said, The Onion asked that its letter be considered a formal application to use the seal.

And then, the Onion's visual response...

Laura the tightly puckered

She isn't called Laura the tightly puckered for naught.

Viva! Free Speech and Viva! the internets

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Condi and those death ray eyes

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Yikes! Our new V.P. looks scary in this photo....
Condi Rice Death Ray Eyes

PhotoshopNews: USA Today accused of bad Photoshop job

It was pointed out on From The Pen web site that a recent photograph of Condoleezza Rice that accompanied an article in USA Today was poorly retouched.

The USA Today version on the right was deliberately altered to make Condi Rice look more menacing. Notice how the whites of the eyes are highlighted to make her BLACK eyes look BLACKER and HATEFUL. The doctored photo is here on USA Today’s site (they’ll probably take it down with some heat). ...

Apparently, USA Today did take some heat since at some point the image was swapped out and an Editor’s note was placed on the article that read:
The photo of Condoleezza Rice that originally accompanied this story was altered in a manner that did not meet USA TODAY’s editorial standards. The photo has been replaced by a properly adjusted copy. Photos published online are routinely cropped for size and adjusted for brightness and sharpness to optimize their appearance. In this case, after sharpening the photo for clarity, the editor brightened a portion of Rice’s face, giving her eyes an unnatural appearance. This resulted in a distortion of the original not in keeping with our editorial standards.

Click the link above to see the new photo, if you need to see a fuzzy eyed Condi.

and what was Ms. Rice babbling about anyway?

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declined on Wednesday to rule out American forces still being needed in Iraq a decade from now. Senators warned that the Bush administration must play it straight with the public or risk losing public support for the war.
Pushed by senators from both parties to define the limits of U.S. involvement in Iraq and the Middle East, Rice also declined to rule out the use of military force in Iran or Syria

No wonder! She was giving the Death Star eyes to the Syrians!


Rook's Rant: Kristol Calls For Resignations

Rook's Rant: Kristol Calls For Resignations
“[N]ot a single person who works for him seems to have the honor to leave himself.”

You'll have to head over to Rook's Rant to read Kristol's reasoning. I strongly suggest you do.

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Religious quizzes

are funny.

You fit in with:

Your ideals are mostly spiritual, but in an individualistic way. While spirituality is very important in your life, organized religion itself may not be for you. It is best for you to seek these things on your own terms.

80% spiritual.
80% reason-oriented.

Take this quiz at QuizGalaxy.com

Hmm, I suppose the difference between a “Taoist” and being just “spiritual” is the amount of effort necessary to study the texts of Daoism. I did study classical Chinese in school, I did read plenty of daoist texts at that time, and some days I do believe in energies that are ineffable, but other days I'm either a cynic or an atheist. Depends upon my brain chemistry, blood sugar level, etc.

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Driving Blind as the Deaths Pile Up

Bob Herbert: Driving Blind as the Deaths Pile Up - New York Times
Much of the nation is mourning the more than 2,000 American G.I.'s lost to the war in Iraq. But some of the mindless Washington weasels who sent those brave and healthy warriors to their unnecessary doom have other things on their minds. They're scrambling about the capital, huddling frantically with lawyers, hoping that their habits of deception, which are a way of life with them, don't finally land them in a federal penitentiary.

See them sweat. The most powerful of the powerful, the men who gave the president his talking points and his marching orders, are suddenly sending out distress signals: Don't let them send me to prison on a technicality.

This is not, however, about technicalities. You can spin it any way you want, but Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation of Karl Rove, Scooter Libby et al. is ultimately about the monumentally conceived and relentlessly disseminated deceit that gave us the war that never should have happened.

Oh, it was heady stuff for a while - nerds and naïfs swapping fantasies of world domination and giddily manipulating the levers of American power. They were oh so arrogant and glib: Weapons of mass destruction. Yellowcake from Niger. The smoking gun morphing into a mushroom cloud.

Now look at what they've wrought. James Dao of The Times began his long article on the 2,000 American dead with a story that was as typical as it was tragic:
“Sgt. Anthony G. Jones, fresh off the plane from Iraq and an impish grin on his face, sauntered unannounced into his wife's hospital room in Georgia just hours after she had given birth to their second son.”
The article described how Sergeant Jones, over a blissful two-week period last May, “cooed over their baby and showered attention on his wife.”

“Three weeks later, on June 14,” wrote Mr. Dao, “Sergeant Jones was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad on his third tour in a war that is not yet three years old. He was 25.”

Three times Sergeant Jones was sent to Iraq, which tells you all you need to know about the fairness and shared sacrifices of this war. If you roll the dice enough times, they're guaranteed to come up snake eyes.

Sergeant Jones told his wife, Kelly, that he had “a bad feeling” about heading back to Iraq for a third combat tour. After his death, his wife found a message that he had left for her among his letters and journal entries.

“Grieve little and move on,” he wrote. “I shall be looking over you. And you will hear me from time to time on the gentle breeze that sounds at night, and in the rustle of leaves.”

I hate reading the last words of soldiers, especially when they are poetic in a way that Scooter Libby's Aspen clusters can never be. I hate reading it because it makes me angry and bitter that 2000 soldiers have died who shouldn't have. I sincerely, desperately (and without hope) pray that the architects of this misbegotten war do spend some time in jail for their crimes against fellow citizens and against fellow humans. Herbert doesn't even mention the tens or hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed.

Harriet Miers Withdraws Nomination

In what isn't really a surprise to anyone, Miers has withdrawn her name from consideration.

Harriet Miers Withdraws Nomination
Harriet Miers withdrew this morning as a nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.

In announcing the decision, Miers and President Bush cited their concern with the requests of members of the Senate Judiciary Committee for documents dealing with her work as White House Counsel that the administration has chosen to withhold as privileged.

But the Miers nomination to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was in deep trouble, with little support in the Senate, open criticism from many Senators of both parties, and an outpouring of opposition from conservative activists and intellectuals.

Miers told the president in a letter of withdrawal that she was “concerned that the confirmation process presents a burden for the White House and our staff that is not in the best interests of the country.”

Bush responded that he was “reluctantly” accepting the decision.

I don't know if this is a victory for the Democrats or not, because now I'm sure Bush will nominate some mouth-breathing conservative jurist who is a member of the American Taliban.

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Chicago White Sox win the World Series

never thought this would happen, but it did. 1-0, and a four game sweep. I even went to a White Sox game this summer, a rarity. I never understood the whole Cubs Sox mutual hatred club; perhaps because I'm not a native Chicagoan. Juan Uribe was the hero of the 9th inning - two spectacular defensive plays. Jermain Dye voted series MVP - drove in the only run.

Photos below the fold

Kroger tries to purchase Albertsons

Business briefs/leads:

WSJ.com - Albertson's May Not Be Panacea for Kroger
Kroger, the nation's largest traditional supermarket chain by revenue, has put in a preliminary bid for Albertson's Inc., the No. 2 traditional grocer, people familiar with the matter have said. Together, the two chains operate about 5,000 stores and rang up $95.4 billion in sales last year, according to data from the Food Marketing Institute.

That's close to the $115.1 billion of groceries Wal-Mart sold last year, FMI data shows. But Kroger could have to sell off as many as 45% of Albertson's food stores to pass regulatory hurdles, according to analyst Robert Summers of Bear Stearns Cos., greatly trimming potential revenue of the newly combined companies.

...A deal would help Cincinnati-based Kroger in its drive to control large portions of the grocery market in big, fast-growing cities. Buying Albertson's, based in Boise, Idaho, would give Kroger a large presence in Chicago under the Jewel-Osco name and move it into New England under the Shaw's banner and Philadelphia under the Acme name. It would boost its market share in Southern California, Dallas/Fort Worth, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. Kroger has said that stores in markets where it controls a major chunk of the grocery business are generally more profitable.

“We have not found that consolidation has significantly helped grocery retailers,” says Paul Weitzel, vice president of Willard Bishop Consulting, a retail-marketing consulting firm. “A lot of the big chains went after scale to compete against Wal-Mart, and what they've found was that scale does not always mean efficiencies.”
Kroger's results have worsened for each of its past two fiscal years, with the company posting a loss of $100 million, or 14 cents a share, for the year ended Jan. 29. The company has struggled to propel sales.

Meanwhile, Whole Foods Market Inc. has become one of the nation's most successful chains by portraying itself as a healthier and more sophisticated, albeit pricier, grocer.

Aware of these trends, Kroger is rolling out high-end stores called Fresh Fare to capture upscale customers and low-priced stores under the Food 4 Less name as shoppers move away from the middle of the grocery market. It is also culling shopping data from customer loyalty cards -- a tool Wal-Mart doesn't have.

Several big grocery acquisitions fell short of expectations when buyers, eager to cut costs, homogenized stores. Safeway Inc. turned off shoppers when it replaced well-known brand names with its more lucrative store label after it bought Chicago's Dominick's chain in 1998. Safeway tried to sell the chain four years later after writing down millions of dollars in losses.

Selling 45% of Albertson's stores will roil some in-store marketing vendor contracts, especially those that have stronger relations to Kroger than Albertson's.

update: more from the Sun-Times

Judy and her job

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WSJ.com - New York Times Reporter Miller Is in Talks Over Her Job Status
New York Times reporter Judith Miller has begun discussing her future employment options with the newspaper, including the possibility of a severance package, a lawyer familiar with the matter, said yesterday.

The discussion about her future comes several days after the public rupture of the relationship between the Times and Ms. Miller, a 28-year veteran of the paper. Both the editor and the publisher of the Times have expressed regret for their unequivocal support for Ms. Miller when she spent 85 days in jail for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury investigating the unmasking of a Central Intelligence Agency operative.

I assume that Miller has already been fired, but is trying to get the NYT to continue paying her upcoming legal fees. Maybe she is also trying to have a say on who will review her upcoming book - giving herself a veto if her book is to be reviewed by an avowed staff-room enemy.

The newspaper began to distance itself from the reporter last week after the particulars of Ms. Miller's relationship with Mr. [Scooter] Libby were revealed in a first-person account of her testimony and in an independently reported piece in the Times. Those articles suggested that Ms. Miller may have misled the paper about a previously undisclosed meeting with Mr. Libby, and that the paper was negligent in not asking Ms. Miller more questions about her involvement before advancing her cause.

Over the weekend, two columnists for the New York Times wrote pieces questioning whether Ms. Miller could continue working for the paper. Ms. Miller currently is on vacation. She was released from jail Sept. 29.

In 2002, Ms. Miller was among a team of 10 Times reporters who won a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Middle East after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. She has since become a subject of controversy for her prewar reporting on Iraq's nuclear capabilities, which bolstered the Bush administration's case for an invasion.

Many of those reports, which relied in part on anonymous administration officials, turned out to be incorrect. The Times has since acknowledged flaws in the reporting and published a series of articles correcting the mistakes. Ms. Miller has said she may write a book about her recent experiences.

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41 vs 43

Jane at Firedoglake has an interesting take on the father son competition between GHWB aka 41 and GWB aka 43.

firedoglake: I'll Believe in Santa Claus Before I'll Dubya Didn't Know about TraitorGate

Although the Bush family junta will pull together when it's time to collect their checks from the Carslyle group and preserve family hegemony, I think Digby is right in observing that there is a keen competition going on between the ne'er-do-well son and his patriarchal father that is positively Shakespearean.Which has everything to do with why I'll never be convinced that Junior was not in on the attempt to smear Joe Wilson from the get-go, despite the desperate efforts of GOP playmakers to keep the focus away from him even as they offer up the head of the much-hated Cheney on a plate. But let's dial it back a bit.

Bush's rush to war was a clear indictment of everything his father stood for. Where Bush 41's war with Iraq was a carefully measured campaign that sought to build alliances, share internationally the responsibility and expense and carefully court the world of public opinion, Bush 43's war resembled a pack of drunken cowboys riding into town and recklessly shooting up the saloon.

Junior's war was a mockery of his father's efforts, and he didn't want to waste time on things like National Intelligence Estimates, an analysis of all the pre-war intelligence regarding Iraq which might have caught many of the specious claims that were waved through by partisan yahoos playing spy. Dick Durbin had to make a special request for an NIE to even be done prior to a declaration of war (p. 12 of the SSCI). National Intelligence Officers say that “ideally they would like about three months to produce an NIE;” this one was produced in less than twenty days, and its findings were never sent out for peer review or to a panel of outside experts because BushCo. said there wasn't time. (p. 13, SSCI)

Ergo, Curveball. And 2000 dead Americans.

Apparently, Joe Wilson and Brent Scowcroft were fairly good friends, which might have gotten Shrub's dander up. For all that Bush 43 plays the idiot, he really isn't. Remember, Jr. was the designated hatchet man for Bush the Smarter's administration.

anyway, read more here

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Smoking Ban

Alderman says restaurant industry stalling smoking ban consideration
Alderman Patrick O'Connor says the ordinance banning smoking in restaurants, bars and workplaces has a “good chance” of passing in a Health Committee vote scheduled for Thursday.The committee put off a vote on the ordinance earlier this month after restaurant officials asked for more time to review proposed amendments to the law.O'Connor says the Illinois Restaurant Association has tried to stall the vote.

Restaurants being smoke-free is one thing, but music venues and bars are the areas where I want to be able to avoid smokers.

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Rosa Parks, American Hero, R.I.P.

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TSG Mug Shot: Rosa Parks
Civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks was photographed by Alabama cops following her February 1956 arrest during the Montgomery bus boycotts. The booking photo, taken when Parks was 43, was discovered in July 2004 by a deputy cleaning out a Montgomery County Sheriff's Department storage room.

Rosa Parks - the definition of courage and character in human form.
Rosa Parks



Oh yeah

And Your Point Is? - New York Times
If you, like me, have been trying to figure out the point of Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation, Howard Dean has a couple of answers.Neither involves the original reason for the special prosecutor's investigation - the accusation that White House aides deliberately outed a covert C.I.A. agent. Much of Washington now figures that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby didn't violate that law....

So if John Tierney is wrong, and Fitzgerald actually does file indictments, is Tierney planning on resigning his column to work for the Weather Channel?

Personal attacks! Can you imagine President Bush's critics ever sinking to that level? Dean himself may have occasionally faulted Republicans - using words like “liar,” “brain-dead,” “corrupt” and “evil” - but he must have meant them, like Dame Edna, in a caring and nurturing way.

The other supposed reason to care about the investigation of the C.I.A. leak is that it's really not about the C.I.A. leak, anyway. As Dean explained, “This is not so much about Scooter Libby and Karl Rove. This is about the fact that the president didn't tell us the truth when we went to Iraq, and all these guys are involved in it.”
You can argue that the leakers should be fired for carelessness in revealing that Wilson's wife worked for the C.I.A., but there's been no evidence yet that they realized it was illegal because of her status as a covert agent. You can argue that Libby should be fired for stupidity because of the letter he wrote to Judith Miller, the Times reporter, that sounded like a vaguely clunky - and unsuccessful - attempt to coach her testimony.

But no one deserves to go to jail for leaking information to reporters without criminal intent. The special prosecutor was assigned to look for serious crimes, not to uncover evidence that bureaucrats blame other bureaucrats when things go wrong.
No one deserves to be indicted on conspiracy charges for belonging to a group that believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Foreign policy mistakes are not against the law.

Yes, so now breaking the law is akin to personally attacking Republicans, and therefore not worth any effort. I don't remember reading about this new prosecutorial choice, I'll have to remember it next time the tables are turned. Republicans are no longer the “Letter of the Law” party, but rather the party of thin-skins.

While we are on this subject, seems like Nicholas Kristof also believes that Fitzgerald is a big meany for bothering the nice Republicans, just when everything is starting to go their way (see previous entry, Big Oil reaps in Record Profits)

Instead, Mr. Fitzgerald is rumored to be considering mushier kinds of indictments, for perjury, obstruction of justice or revealing classified information. Sure, flat-out perjury must be punished. But if the evidence is more equivocal, then indictments would mark just the kind of overzealous breach of prosecutorial discretion that was a disgrace when Democrats were targeted.

And it would be just as disgraceful if Republicans are the targets....

But there's also no need to exaggerate it. The C.I.A. believed that Mrs. Wilson's identity had already been sold to the Russians by Aldrich Ames by 1994, and she had begun the process of switching to official cover as a State Department officer.
To me, the whisper campaign against Mr. Wilson amounts to back-stabbing politics, but not to obvious criminality. And if indictments are issued for White House officials on vague charges of revealing classified information, that will have a chilling effect on the reporting of national security issues. The ultimate irony would come if we ended up strengthening the Bush administration's ability to operate in secret.....

So I find myself repulsed by the glee that some Democrats show at the possibility of Karl Rove and Mr. Libby being dragged off in handcuffs. It was wrong for prosecutors to cook up borderline and technical indictments during the Clinton administration, and it would be just as wrong today. Absent very clear evidence of law-breaking, the White House ideologues should be ousted by voters, not by prosecutors.

Perjury, obstruction of justice, revealing classified information: to Kristof, these are petty crimes, not even worth noting in the “Paper of Record”, much less prosecuting. Let's take them off the books then, shall we, so we can concentrate on real crimes, like columnists with their heads up their digestive organs? And apologize to Lil' Kim too.

update 4:36: Eric Alterman
Kristof to liberals:  As a liberal, I say let’s let the Bush administration win again.  After all, my principles are more important than anything that actually happens in the real world.

John Tierney: “Can you tell any difference between me and Kristof?    Me neither, but at least I don’t call myself a ”liberal“ before bashing them all the time.

Kristof Weasel Word Watch:  ”seem to… We don't know… but… is rumored to be considering… would mark… would be…. seems to… My guess… it may well have been… I question… and I wonder... it would be“  Quite a case there, fella…

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Gee I wonder why

WSJ.com - Heard on the Street
Oil Firms Seen Soft-Pedaling Record Profits

The world's five biggest oil companies are expected to collectively report record-breaking third-quarter earnings of almost $28 billion beginning this week. Don't expect to hear a lot of crowing.
Energy companies are facing pressure for raking in banner profits while consumers are paying high gasoline prices and are soon expected to face high home-heating bills. The result is that many analysts believe the oil giants will soft-pedal their record earnings.
The oil giants have become cash-generating machines. The five largest are expected to end the third quarter with about $90 billion in cash on their books. The cash is piling up, even though the companies are aggressively increasing their dividends and ramping up share-repurchase programs. Oil consultant John S. Herold Inc. expects the five companies to spend $39.3 billion on share repurchases this year, up 60% from the $24.5 billion in 2004.
The cash hoards are ratcheting up pressure on the companies to do something with the money, lest they become political targets

So glad that the oil firms got all sorts of tax breaks from the Congress, especially since the U.S. budget is so well balanced. Now that Cheney is politically weakened, let's see that hidden energy report from 2000, shall we?



Bertrand Russell:
“Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.”

Amen, brother.

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Ummm, Aunt Pat

about the theremin....

Theremin Page
It is a popular misconception that the Beach Boys used a Theremin on a number of their early recordings including the very popular Good Vibrations. In fact the device they used was not actually a Theremin at all but a Theremin-style device developed by a well-known Los Angeles musician around that time named Paul Tanner. ... These photos which were taken from archival footage from the band around 1969, rebroadcast recently on VH1's “Flash Back” program, shows Mike Love using the Electro-Theremin during a live televised performance of Good Vibrations.

As you can see the device is quite different than a Theremin. Instead of waving ones hands about it's antenna the musician uses the device more like a stringed instrument, moving a finger across the board like a pedal-steel style guitar, simulating the same effect.

Hmmm, that is contrary to what is posited as fact in the movie


Theremin- An Electronic Odyssey.
(which everyone should rent, btw)

I'll have to research it more. Is it not called a theremin if the science and electronics are similar, but the shape of the object is different? I'd say it was the same, if I was interviewed.

Theremin and Brian Wilson

Oh, link originally from local Trib columnist Eric Zorn

A concert at the Harold Washington Library by New York-based  One Ring Zero was one of the public events of the Third Coast International Audio Festival, which my wife runs.
The group plays wildly inventive, Klezmer-tinged music using, among other instruments that I'd never heard of, the claviola and melodica. Partway through, without much explanation, musician Michael Hearst switched on and began to play the theremin.

And it's been years since I've seen the movie, The Song Remains the Same, wherein Jimmy Page allegedly plays a theremin-related device, as discussed in the above link, but it is already on my Netflix list.

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Mark Cuban

I was going to post about Mark Cuban's interesting new film (well, executive producer of), The War Within, and the dust-up over the subject matter, but Henry Abbott of True Hoop beat me to it. Read the Times article here.

But in a post-9/11 America, not everyone wants to embrace a suicide bomber with a crisis of conscience. Indeed, according to the screenwriters, no one wanted to produce the film until [Mark] Cuban picked it up.

An avowed risk-taker, Cuban was intrigued by the story line. But he said he views the film's protagonist through a different lens.
“I don't think this movie necessarily gave him a conscience,” Cuban said. “I think it really portrayed him as a coward. But I think what it did do was say that this guy could be the guy next door, the guy sitting next to you on the bus. Just like we hear about friends of the B.T.K. killer who say, 'We never knew.' Or Timothy McVeigh's friends. So it wasn't my sympathy for the guy. Because there was none. But it was to say terrorists don't come in turbans with long beards, talking crazy. They're the person next door.”

It is the softer depiction of Hassan that makes the movie both compelling and controversial, Cuban said.

“You had to catch yourself on what you were thinking about this guy,” he said. “Some people try to look at it from the terrorist's side. But I look at it from the American side. It's a compliment to people who came over from the same circumstances, living the American dream, and not wavering at all.”

Sad in a country that once championed free speech that one cannot even make a movie about terrorists without the neo-fascists like David Horowitz becoming indignant.

I did want to add that Cuban does seem to be one of the rare, unpretentious rich guys in the world, at least from his public persona. I happened to be living in Austin, with a subscription to the Dallas paper, when Cuban bought the Mavs, and was happy to see Dallas become an exciting team to watch. I enjoy reading his blog, watching him 'think aloud', such as over the fact that the inane dress code fiasco was announced on the same day as the monumental NBA Cares program.

Cuban is exactly right; I consume a lot of media every day, mostly (advertising) work related, but a lot of NBA news, political news, etc., and I didn't read one peep about NBA Cares. I read or skimmed plenty of articles about the dress code initiative though. Whose fault is that anyway? The NBA? or the media? Probably both.

One final point where I agree totally with Cuban: why is in-game strategy not discussed more frequently? I always enjoy the one or two plays that get telestrated, such as by the Czar, when he worked with Marv Albert. NBA action is pretty fast, and fluid, so every play cannot be analyzed, but why not use the terminology of the plays (like thumbs down, send 4, etc.) as part of the patter instead of insultingly insipid comments like “he's got to be aggressive”. As I've written about at least twice before, if I could pay extra money on my DirecTV NBA league pass to have a live game feed (courtside mike with ball bounce, sneaker squeak, whistles, crowd cheers, etc.) that didn't contain blathering idiot announcers, I would gladly pay. Couldn't this be an option?

What do we talk about before an NBA game ? Sure we talk about individual matchups. We might even talk about individual skills. But how many in the media even know that there is a play run and a defense called , with options, bailouts and audibles on almost every single possession ? And how many write or talk about them ?

Instead we get stupid ramblings like “so and so has got to step up and earn his money”. “This is where so and so has got to prove he is worth the money”.  Watching the ESPN crew with Stephen A, Greg Anthony and Tim Legler is painful. They are a cliche a second. Same soundbites every single game, just the player names are changed.

I watched a few of the 'Real Training Camp' pieces; more on that later, after I watch all the ones that interest me (which to be honest, includes about 18 or 19 teams out of the 30). Theoretically, I'd like to discuss pre-season predictions, at some superficial level at least. Last year's unpublished list was scarily prescient - I didn't pick Phoenix to make it to the Conference Finals, but I had the other three teams correct (I actually thought it would either be Minnesota, or the Mavs playing San Antonio).


Illustrator CS2 goof-a-round. Photo originally taken at the Pedernales State Park, outside of Austin

Charge! Andrew and Jeff Mullins

original here

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Benjamin Disraeli
“When men are pure, laws are useless; when men are corrupt, laws are broken.”


The gist of Frank Rich's argument can boiled down to these paragraphs:

Karl and Scooter's Excellent Adventure - New York Times
THERE were no weapons of mass destruction. There was no collaboration between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda on 9/11. There was scant Pentagon planning for securing the peace should bad stuff happen after America invaded. Why, exactly, did we go to war in Iraq?
...We don't yet know whether Lewis (Scooter) Libby or Karl Rove has committed a crime, but the more we learn about their desperate efforts to take down a bit player like Joseph Wilson, the more we learn about the real secret they wanted to protect: the “why” of the war.
For Mr. Rove and Mr. Bush to get what they wanted most, slam-dunk midterm election victories, and for Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney to get what they wanted most, a war in Iraq for reasons predating 9/11, their real whys for going to war had to be replaced by fictional, more salable ones. We wouldn't be invading Iraq to further Rovian domestic politics or neocon ideology; we'd be doing so instead because there was a direct connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda and because Saddam was on the verge of attacking America with nuclear weapons. The facts and intelligence had to be fixed to create these whys; any contradictory evidence had to be dismissed or suppressed.

Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney were in the boiler room of the disinformation factory. The vice president's repetitive hyping of Saddam's nuclear ambitions in the summer and fall of 2002 as well as his persistence in advertising bogus Saddam-Qaeda ties were fed by the rogue intelligence operation set up in his own office. As we know from many journalistic accounts, Mr. Cheney and Mr. Libby built their “case” by often making an end run around the C.I.A., State Department intelligence and the Defense Intelligence Agency. Their ally in cherry-picking intelligence was a similar cadre of neocon zealots led by Douglas Feith at the Pentagon.

This is what Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell's wartime chief of staff, was talking about last week when he publicly chastised the “Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal” for sowing potential disaster in Iraq, North Korea and Iran. It's this cabal that in 2002 pushed for much of the bogus W.M.D. evidence that ended up in Mr. Powell's now infamous February 2003 presentation to the U.N. It's this cabal whose propaganda was sold by the war's unannounced marketing arm, the White House Iraq Group, or WHIG, in which both Mr. Libby and Mr. Rove served in the second half of 2002. One of WHIG's goals, successfully realized, was to turn up the heat on Congress so it would rush to pass a resolution authorizing war in the politically advantageous month just before the midterm election.

Joseph Wilson wasn't a player in these exalted circles; he was a footnote who began to speak out loudly only after Saddam had been toppled and the mission in Iraq had been “accomplished.” He challenged just one element of the W.M.D. “evidence,” the uranium that Saddam's government had supposedly been seeking in Africa to fuel its ominous mushroom clouds.

But based on what we know about Mr. Libby's and Mr. Rove's hysterical over-response to Mr. Wilson's accusation, he scared them silly. He did so because they had something to hide. Should Mr. Libby and Mr. Rove have lied to investigators or a grand jury in their panic, Mr. Fitzgerald will bring charges. But that crime would seem a misdemeanor next to the fables that they and their bosses fed the nation and the world as the whys for invading Iraq

Can we ask for articles of impeachment to be drawn up yet?

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Steno Judy - Ted Rall

Ted Rall on Steno Judy.

Prickly City Ted Kennedy

And this Prickly City cartoon ran a few days ago in the Chicago Tribune. If you recall, in the fall of 2004 election campaign, the Tribune refused to run Boondocks cartoons of a similar nature, but about George Bush's drug use. I suppose the censorship rules are different when Ted Kennedy is the subject.

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Ms. Dowd, after laughing at the inflated self-worth of Judith Miller, has this to say about Miss Run Amok:

Maureen Dowd: Woman of Mass Destruction - New York Times

Sorely in need of a tight editorial leash, she was kept on no leash at all, and that has hurt this paper and its trust with readers. She more than earned her sobriquet “Miss Run Amok.”

Judy's stories about W.M.D. fit too perfectly with the White House's case for war. She was close to Ahmad Chalabi, the con man who was conning the neocons to knock out Saddam so he could get his hands on Iraq, and I worried that she was playing a leading role in the dangerous echo chamber that Senator Bob Graham, now retired, dubbed “incestuous amplification.” Using Iraqi defectors and exiles, Mr. Chalabi planted bogus stories with Judy and other credulous journalists.

Even last April, when I wrote a column critical of Mr. Chalabi, she fired off e-mail to me defending him.

When Bill Keller became executive editor in the summer of 2003, he barred Judy from covering Iraq and W.M.D. issues. But he acknowledged in The Times's Sunday story about Judy's role in the Plame leak case that she had kept “drifting” back. Why did nobody stop this drift?

Damn good question. Who actually is in charge of such decisions? The reporter, the editor or the publisher? You wouldn't think the reporter, in most newspapers.

Judy admitted in the story that she “got it totally wrong” about W.M.D. “If your sources are wrong,” she said, “you are wrong.” But investigative reporting is not stenography.

Yes, Judy Miller says this now: but originally she screamed, “I was proved fucking right!”

The Times's story and Judy's own first-person account had the unfortunate effect of raising more questions. As Bill said yesterday in an e-mail note to the staff, Judy seemed to have “misled” the Washington bureau chief, Phil Taubman, about the extent of her involvement in the Valerie Plame leak case.

She casually revealed that she had agreed to identify her source, Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney's chief of staff, as a “former Hill staffer” because he had once worked on Capitol Hill. The implication was that this bit of deception was a common practice for reporters. It isn't.
She said that she had wanted to write about the Wilson-Plame matter, but that her editor would not allow it. But Managing Editor Jill Abramson, then the Washington bureau chief, denied this, saying that Judy had never broached the subject with her.

Again, you'd think this infraction would be a fireable offense.

It also doesn't seem credible that Judy wouldn't remember a Marvel comics name like “Valerie Flame.” Nor does it seem credible that she doesn't know how the name got into her notebook and that, as she wrote, she “did not believe the name came from Mr. Libby.”

An Associated Press story yesterday reported that Judy had coughed up the details of an earlier meeting with Mr. Libby only after prosecutors confronted her with a visitor log showing that she had met with him on June 23, 2003. This cagey confusion is what makes people wonder whether her stint in the Alexandria jail was in part a career rehabilitation project.

Judy refused to answer a lot of questions put to her by Times reporters, or show the notes that she shared with the grand jury. I admire Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Bill Keller for aggressively backing reporters in the cross hairs of a prosecutor. But before turning Judy's case into a First Amendment battle, they should have nailed her to a chair and extracted the entire story of her escapade.

Judy told The Times that she plans to write a book and intends to return to the newsroom, hoping to cover “the same thing I've always covered - threats to our country.” If that were to happen, the institution most in danger would be the newspaper in your hand

Ouch. Now that's how the zinger is written. Maybe Ms. Dowd is still mad about having to give her seat up to Miss Run Amok after all.

Once when I was covering the first Bush White House, I was in The Times's seat in the crowded White House press room, listening to an administration official's background briefing. Judy had moved on from her tempestuous tenure as a Washington editor to be a reporter based in New York, but she showed up at this national security affairs briefing.

At first she leaned against the wall near where I was sitting, but I noticed that she seemed agitated about something. Midway through the briefing, she came over and whispered to me, “I think I should be sitting in the Times seat.”

It was such an outrageous move, I could only laugh. I got up and stood in the back of the room, while Judy claimed what she felt was her rightful power perch.

Steve Gilliard adds a little more on MoDo

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Lindemans Kriek Cherry Lambic Beer

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As my week comes to a close (and jeez what a long freakin' week - it has actually lasted 12 straight days so far), I opened a Kriek Lambic, for the first time, to sip while finishing a last couple pages of charts for a FedEx package to be sent tonight or tomorrow morning.

What a strange taste sensation!

From the Lambic wiki:

Lambic is style of beer brewed in the vicinity of Brussels, Belgium known as Payottenland, and within the city of Brussels....

Unlike conventional ales and lagers, which are brewed using carefully cultivated strains of brewer's yeasts, Lambic beer is brewed with wild yeasts which are native to the Senne valley, where Brussels is located. These wild yeasts, some eighty-six microorganisms in all, give the beer its distinctive flavor: dry and cidery, with a slightly sour aftertaste.

Lambic is brewed from approximately 70% barley malt and 30% unmalted wheat. When the wort has cooled, it is exposed to the open air and spontaneous fermentation takes place. This is only done between October and May; in the summer months, there are too many unfavorable bacteria in the air. Aged dried hops is used, so the hop taste is not very strong.

This particular lambic (Lindemans) is aged in oak, then black cherries are added, which makes the beverage seem more like some sort of soda than a beer. Quite interesting.

kriek lambic

From the website of the importer:

Lambic, or spontaneously fermented beers, are among the world’s rarest. Produced more like a methode champenoise champagne, than a typical beer, these products mature in oak for nearly two years prior to release.
...All Lindemans beers are vegan products

...Artisanal lambic breweries, such as Lindemans Farm Brewery, make their fruit beers by blending the lambic and fresh fruit before bottling producing Kriek (cherry), Framboise (raspberry), and Pêche (peach). When the brewery makes Kriek, whole fresh cherries are added to the casks, triggering a third fermentation and promoting a spritzy carbonation that gives the finished beer a champagne-like character.

and from some online beer merchant:

Lindemans Kriek Cherry Lambic Beer

“Lustrous garnet. Ripe sour cherry nose. A vibrant entry leads to a medium-bodied palate with a wonderful balance of fruity sweetness and subdued dry lambic character. Finishes with a touch of bitter cherry skin flavor.

Now after my second glass,I've decided it might be too sweet for everyday drinking. Still would drink it again: as a desert beer perhaps? Really doesn't taste much like beer at all.

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My Morning Jacket and copyright


I was so annoyed yesterday at being thwarted from purchasing the new My Morning Jacket CD due to draconian DRM procedures that I wrote the band, and their manager, a terse email. Today, I received this response:

Dear Seth,

Please forgive the delay in getting back to you. As I'm sure you know that you're not the only person to have had difficulty with “Z”. That said, as the manager, I purchased a copy of the album and had no problem loading into my Itunes and putting it on my ipod.....I too am a Macintosh user.

That said, My Morning Jacket in no way endorses the use of the “Draconian” measure and share in your displeasure.

Also, if you were to go to the “News Page” of the website, you'll see that we posted a couple of 'by passes' to the copy protection annoyance. It seems to have worked for a lot of fans.

If you do indeed purchase a copy of the album and have difficulty loading into your itunes, email Jamie [redacted] and we'll send you a burn of the album. You can also purchase the album on itunes as well.

It pains us to know that this copy control stuff is inhibiting some fans from enjoying the music....because that's what it's all about to us...the music.

Thanks for taking the time to reach out to us and we hope that we can of assistance.

Kind Regards,

My Morning Jacket's Manager

Hmm, artists who don't support their label's DRM decision? Or more precisely, their label's parent corporation's DRM policies? Who woulda' thunk it? I guess I can buy the album after all.

Update 4: 48, Bo Koster adds:

Hey Seth,

This was not our doing, it was not something we wanted, and we had no power to stop it. If it were up to us, obviously it wouldn't be there. We're sorry. Know that there is a weird fight between Apple and the record companies about itunes dominating the online sales market, and that we (MMJ and you the fan) are being used as pawns in this scuffle.

You can check our website in the “forum section” for ways around the copy protection, usually its people with PCs who have trouble not, MACs. I have a mac and didn't have any trouble for example, so you should be able to get around it and put it on your ipod.

Peace Out,


which reminded me, I blogged about this last spring: Sony Hates the iPod, also Piracy My Ass It's an Attack on the iPod.

I still have such a small number of Fairlplay songs on my computer (again, mostly freebies from Apple every Tuesday) as I did last May. Out of the 35901 songs currently in my iTunes library, only 161 have copyright restrictions (0.448%, to be exact). The rest are in the freely available MP3 format. MP3 isn't an 'open source', if I recall correctly, but it certainly doesn't have COPY/CONTENT RESTRICTED labels on it!

Update, one more email from Bo Koster

...glad to see you are reasonable in your response. MMJ is very grateful for the compassion and understanding almost all the fans have had regarding this. Seriously, it's been pretty amazing. Like I said, let's hope that this is the last time. It's not fun playing shows and having everyone say they love your record and music, when every time you open your email there are messages from those same people, only now they are pissed off people who only want to support what you do. Don't get me started on globalization, and corporatate domination and culture and society, because we'd be emailing for months.

Thanks again and take it sleazy,

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Congress Rejects Raising Minium-Wage

Katrina Vanden Heuvel's Editor's Cut: Congress Rejects Raising Minium-Wage
The nation's minimum wage has, shockingly, been stuck at $5.15 an hour since 1997. Yesterday, two proposals--from both Democrats and Republicans--were rejected in the House. The Democrats' proposal, introduced by Edward Kennedy (MA), called for an increase to $6.25 over an 18-month period. A Republican proposal provided the same $1.10 increase and added various tax incentives for small businesses. Both measures went down in flames as did the hopes of working people coast to coast that they might finally be more fairly compensated for their labor. Moreover, as Kennedy rightly insisted, it's “absolutely unconscionable” that in the same period that Congress has denied a minimum wage increase, lawmakers gave themselves seven pay raises worth $28,000.

I've lived on minimum wage before, and it wasn't easy, even for a single male, as I was at the time. You work 40 hours a week (really 50, because lunch is usually on your time) doing a crap job, and after various payroll taxes are deducted, there ain't much left to live on. Less than $200 a week to house, clothe, and feed a family is a tough, tough chore. Even raising the minimum wage to $6.50 is only a $50 increase, before taxes. There's no real reason that the minimum wage couldn't at least be pegged to inflation, or the CPI.


Mossberg on DRM

Seems like Walt Mossberg bought a CD and couldn't play it, like I almost did.

WSJ.com - Personal Technology Media Companies Go Too Far in Curbing Consumers' Activities
In some quarters of the Internet, the three most hated letters of the alphabet are DRM. They stand for Digital Rights Management, a set of technologies for limiting how people can use the music and video files they've purchased from legal downloading services. DRM is even being used to limit what you can do with the music you buy on physical CDs, or the TV shows you record with a TiVo or other digital video recorder.

Once mainly known inside the media industries and among activists who follow copyright issues, DRM is gradually becoming familiar to average consumers, who are increasingly bumping up against its limitations.

DRM is computer code that can be embedded in music and video files to dictate how these files are used. The best-known example is the music Apple Computer sells at its iTunes Music Store. Using a DRM system it invented called FairPlay, Apple has rigged its songs, at the insistence of the record companies, so that they can be played only on a maximum of five computers, and so that you can burn only seven CDs containing the same playlist of purchased tracks. If Apple hadn't done this, the record labels wouldn't have allowed it to sell their music.

DRM systems are empty vessels -- they can enforce any rules copyright holders choose, or no rules at all. Apple's DRM rules are liberal enough that few consumers object to them. In fact, obtaining relatively liberal DRM rules from the labels was the key to Apple's success in selling music. But some other uses of DRM technology aren't so benign.

Some CD buyers are discovering to their dismay that new releases from certain record companies contain DRM code that makes it difficult to copy the songs to their computers, where millions prefer to keep their music. People who buy online music in Microsoft's Windows Media format too often run into the DRM error message “unable to obtain license” when trying to transfer the songs to a music player.

Instead of using DRM to stop some individual from copying a song to give to her brother, the industry should be focusing on ways to use DRM to stop the serious pirates -- people who upload massive quantities of music and videos to so-called file-sharing sites, or factories in China that churn out millions of pirate CDs and DVDs.

I believe Congress should rewrite the copyright laws to carve out a broad exemption for personal, noncommercial use by consumers, including sharing small numbers of copies among families.

Until then, I suggest that consumers avoid stealing music and videos, but also boycott products like copy-protected CDs that overly limit usage and treat everyone like a criminal. That would send the industry a message to use DRM more judiciously.

Amen, brotha! It's bad enough that I had to repurchase CD versions of favorite vinyl records, but apparently the trend is to sell you music that will only play on 'trusted' devices.

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Copyright means no sale

I've read good things about the most recent

My Morning Jacket

My Morning Jacket CD, Z

and was prepared to purchase it. However, at Amazon, the record store for (overloaded with work) shut-in's like myself, this phrase gave me pause: [CONTENT/COPY-PROTECTED CD]. Since I rarely, if ever, listen to music other than on my iPod or my desktop via iTunes (like now), I didn't really want to buy an over-priced coaster. I wrote Amazon with my concerns, and within a few hours, Amazon wrote me back:
Such CDs limit your ability to make multiple digital copies of its content, and you will not be able to play this disc or make copies onto devices not listed as compatible. Additionally, it has been reported that, in rare cases, these CDs may not be compatible with computer CD-ROM players, DVD players, game consoles, or car CD stereos, and often are not transferable to other formats like MP3.

For this reason, we are not able to guarantee that you would be able to download this item onto your computer in order to load it onto
your MP3 player. I apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause you.

Such bullshit. I did a little research on the internets, and apparently, if I use my step-child PC, I can hold down the shift key while rebooting to (temporarily) disable the DRM, and copy the files, and make my own CD. So, it isn't that I cannot evade the DRM, it is that I don't wish to encourage artists and labels who release their music with such stupid restrictions. I own a Mac, and I'm happy with it: why should I have to purchase new equipment/software just to listen to music that I purchased?

Instead, I won't buy the album. So while it is My Morning Jacket's loss, it is also mine.

Oh well, I've bought 19 new CDs so far this month (including a great 4 disc Townes Van Zandt compilation that I'm listening to at the moment), so it isn't that I have a dearth of anything fresh to listen to, only that I wanted to add the new Morning Jacket Cd to the mix. And no, I don't always purchase that many CDs every month, but sometimes I do. Record labels don't seem to care about folks like me.

update: 10-21-05- the band responds, claims they had no input in Sony's decision.

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Reviews the Letter T

Listening to our CDs, in inverse order of artist name. Today's letter, kids, is the letter T.....

Netflixed: Weekend

Per a suggestion from Geoff, at Blog-Sothoth, I netflixed the Godard movie, Weekend.

Shipped: Weekend

Shipped on 10/19/05.

A venal Parisian couple (Mireille Darc and Jean Yanne) sets off on a sojourn to the country only to find themselves caught in the traffic jam from hell. But things go from bad to worse as they get carjacked by a man professing to be God and are later abducted by a band of anarchists. Director Jean-Luc Godard's scathing critique of the bourgeoisie is a darkly amusing allegorical tale teeming with taboos, including parricide and cannibalism.



I've seen this movie, years ago, but I'm a sucker for anti-consumerism screeds.

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Apple Introduces Aperture

Straight from the PR department of Apple comes news of an interesting new application that purports to help with Camera Raw images. I'm not sure this program, with suggested retail price of $499, is in our upcoming budget allowance, but then I've haven't seen it in action, yet.

Apple Introduces Aperture
October 19, 2005—Apple® today introduced Aperture, the first all-in-one post production tool that provides everything photographers need after the shoot. Aperture offers an advanced and incredibly fast RAW workflow that makes working with a camera’s RAW images as easy as JPEG. Built from the ground up for pros, Aperture features powerful compare and select tools, nondestructive image processing, color managed printing and custom web and book publishing.  

“Aperture is to professional photography what Final Cut Pro is to filmmaking,” said Rob Schoeben, Apple’s vice president of Applications Marketing. “Finally, an innovative post production tool that revolutionizes the pro photo workflow from compare and select to retouching to output.”

“Until now, RAW files have taken so long to work with,” said Heinz Kluetmeier, renowned sports photographer whose credits include over 100 Sports Illustrated covers. “What amazed me about Aperture is that you can work directly with RAW files, you can loupe and stack them and it’s almost instantaneous—I suspect that I’m going to stop shooting JPEGs. Aperture just blew me away.”

Unique compare and select tools in Aperture allow photographers to easily sift through massive photo projects and quickly identify their final selections. Aperture is the first application that automatically groups sequences of photos into easy-to-manage Stacks based on the time interval between exposures. In an industry first, Aperture allows photographers to navigate through entire projects in a full-screen workspace that can be extended to span multiple displays, tiling multiple images side-by-side for a faster, easier compare and select. With Aperture’s Loupe magnifying tool, portions of images can be examined in fine detail without having to zoom and pan across large files. In addition, a virtual Light Table provides the ideal canvas for building simple photo layouts, allowing them to be arranged, resized and piled together in a free-form space.

RAW images are maintained natively throughout Aperture without any intermediate conversion process, and can be retouched with stunning results using a suite of adjustment tools designed especially for photographers. Aperture’s nondestructive image processing engine never alters a single pixel of original photos so photographers have the power and flexibility to modify or delete changes at any point in the workflow. As Aperture allows users to create multiple versions of a single image without duplicating files, photographers can experiment without risk of overwriting the master image or using up large amounts of hard drive space. Aperture images can also be launched directly into Adobe Photoshop for compositing and layer effects.

Aperture features a complete color-managed pipeline with support for device specific ColorSync profiles and a set of high-quality output tools for photographers to showcase their work. Print options include customizable contact sheets, high-quality local printing and color-managed online prints. Aperture provides a deceptively simple layout environment where photographers can quickly create and order custom professional-caliber books and publish stunning web galleries. Aperture makes it easy to back up an entire library of images with a single click and streamline complex workflows with AppleScript® and Automator actions.

Pricing & Availability
Aperture will be available in November through the Apple Store®...

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Trey Buck is an asshole


Finally got around to reading Trey Buck's latest email

You seem to be considering this as some kind of a joke, which I assure you it is not. As regards to the agressive aspect, I did not give you permission to use my name, or any other element on your “web site”. You could, of course, drag this into a very unpleasant mess, but I would
suggest, for your own sake, that you do not do so.


William Buck

Yeah, ok. My response, here (scroll down). It is sad really, Trey used to be an interesting, intellectual, philosopher-poet, but now he is just a bitter derelict, pretending to emulate Bukowski, but mostly just failing at everything, and living off the largesse of his 'mother'. I have plenty of insight into why he is what he is, but it isn't really fit for discussion on a family publication like the internets. Impotence is the least of his worries, trust me. I'm torn between pitying the guy, and being angry at him for his failures - especially because he did have immense potential, when we were both young'uns. At least at that time, there weren't many people that I considered as my intellectual equal. Now I'm a little more humble about myself, but apparently Trey, even after years of alcohol and drug abuse, still has an over-inflated ego, without merit.

Oracle Porch is William Buck's cryptically titled book of poems, and I guess I wish him well regardless of how I feel about him personally. From what I've read, the New York Times Book Review isn't about to review it, but whatever. I've only published one poem in University of Texas annual poetry journal, so who am I to besmirch another's work?

For some backstory, check out this previous entry about Trey Buck and his insanity

Busy, busy busy

The downside of working from home is that sometimes 14 hour work-days become the norm for weeks on end. We even worked both Saturday and Sunday last weekend. I'm on the verge of complaining, but since I'm slurping my second vodka/Italian lemonade in as many seconds, I won't.

While I'm here, thanks to Craig's T,T and T, , I found a band website distributing their new album for free via the internets. Harvey Danger explains why, here. I downloaded the Bittorrent, haven't even decompressed the file, yet I donated $5 to Harvey Danger, because I think they are attempting an interesting experiment, one that I wish to encourage more bands to contemplate in the future. I would have gladly payed Wilco the same, especially since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was a fave for a while.

Harvey Danger:

In preparing to self-release our new album, we thought long and hard about how best to use the internet. Given our unusual history, and a long-held sense that the practice now being demonized by the music biz as “illegal” file sharing can be a friend to the independent musician, we have decided to embrace the indisputable fact of music in the 21st century, put our money where our mouth is, and make our record, Little By Little…, available for download via Bittorrent, and at our website. We’re not streaming, or offering 30-second song samples, or annoying you with digital rights management software; we’re putting up the whole record, for free, forever. Full stop. Please help yourself; if you like it, please share with friends.

Of course, the CD will also be for sale on the site, as well as in fine independent record stores across the country, in a deluxe package that includes a 30-minute bonus disc that serves as a companion piece to the record proper (retail price for the package is $11.99).
We embark on this experiment with both enthusiasm and curiosity—and, ok, maybe a twinge of anxiety. Why are we doing this? The short answer is simply that we want a lot of people to hear the record.

However, it’s important that people understand the free download concept isn’t a frivolous act. It’s a key part of our promotional campaign, along with radio and press promotion, live shows, and videos. It’s a bet that the resources of the Internet can make possible a new way for musicians to find their audience – and forge a meaningful artistic career built on support from cooperative, not adversarial, relationships.

Alright, back to the stone grinding.

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Gilberto Gil is cool

Follow up on this previous posting, we continue to read of the doing of Brazil's Minister of Culture:

Guardian | Minister of counterculture

Gilberto Gil wears a sober suit and tie these days, and his dreadlocks are greying at the temples. But you soon remember that, as well as the serving culture minister of Brazil, you are in the presence of one of the biggest Latin American musicians of the 60s and 70s when you ask him about his intellectual influences and he cites Timothy Leary. “Oh, yeah!” Gil says happily, rocking back in his chair at the Royal Society of the Arts in London. “For example, all those guys at Silicon Valley - they're all coming basically from the psychedelic culture, you know? The brain-expanding processes of the crystal had a lot to do with the internet.”

Much as it may be currently de rigueur for journalists to ask politicians whether or not they have ever smoked marijuana, the question does not, under the circumstances, seem worth the effort. Gil's constant references to the hippy counterculture are not simply the nostalgia of a 63-year-old with more than 40 albums to his name. For several years now, largely under the rest of the world's radar, the Brazilian government has been building a counterculture of its own. The battlefield has been intellectual property - the ownership of ideas - and the revolution has touched everything, from internet filesharing to GM crops to HIV medication. Pharmaceutical companies selling patented Aids drugs, for example, were informed that Brazil would simply ignore their claims to ownership and copy their products more cheaply if they didn't offer deep discounts. (The discounts were forthcoming.) Gil himself has thrown his weight behind new forms of copyright law, enabling musicians to incorporate parts of others' work in their own. And in one small development that none the less sums up the mood, the left-wing administration of President Luiz Inacio da Silva, or “Lula”, has announced that all ministries will stop using Microsoft Windows on their office computers. Instead of paying through the nose for Microsoft operating licences, while millions of Brazilians live in poverty, the government will use open-source software, collaboratively designed by programmers worldwide and owned by no one.

“This isn't just my idea, or Brazil's idea,” Gil says. “It's the idea of our time. The complexity of our times demands it.” He is politician enough to hold back from endorsing the breaking of laws, for example on music downloading, but only just. “The Brazilian government is definitely pro-law,” he grins. “But if law doesn't fit reality anymore, law has to be changed. That's not a new thing. That's civilisation as usual.” (He is not a hi-tech person himself, he says, but readily concedes that his children have “probably” done a fair bit of illegal downloading.)

Gil has lived by this philosophy - his guitar-based music has always been, in its own way, open-source, mixing the influences of bossa nova, samba, reggae and rock - and he has suffered for it, too. Tropicalia, the anti-establishment movement he helped found in Brazil in the 1960s, threatened the grip of the military dictatorship there and in 1968 he was jailed, along with his musical collaborator, Caetano Veloso, with whom he shared the status of a Latin American Lennon and McCartney. Freed after several months, he was instructed to leave the country and moved to London. His fame followed him to Europe and he went on to perform with, among others, Pink Floyd and Jimmy Cliff.

I'd love to meet Gilberto Gil, and shake his hand, for this action, among others:

The two worlds of Gil's music and his politics merged most closely when he announced that he would license some of his own songs for free downloading. Time Warner, which owned the licences in question, quickly announced that, actually, he would not. “That showed me how difficult the situation is,” he says. “An author is not the owner anymore. He doesn't exercise his rights. His rights are exercised by someone else, and sometimes the two don't coincide.”

Explaining his view, he cups his palms and traces curved shapes in the air.

Time Warner won - “for the moment” - but it is characteristic of Gil that he regards the experience as a largely positive and most certainly rather amusing one. “I think it's a good development that the minister of culture of Brazil is looking after the interests of a Brazilian artist,” he says, “who happens to be himself.”

A similar mischievousness seems to have explained the government's response when an official accused Microsoft of behaving like a drug dealer in handing out free software to make customers dependent on its products. Microsoft Brazil sued, but the administration simply ignored the case, and the company eventually withdrew it. “But this is not demagoguery,” Gil insists, if you accuse him of just being provocative. “This is pedagogy.” Eventually, in other words, the world will learn.

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Tropicalia - Excited about this exhibit

Opening this week I believe, or next weekend, at the MCA. We plan to go check it out.

The lasting impression of Tropicalia movement
Before Tropicalia grew into one of the most significant artistic and cultural movements in the history of Brazil, it was a moment.
The moment came in 1967, when a group of artists launched a quest for the meaning of Brazilian identity in an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro. One of those artists, Helio Oiticica, called his installation “Tropicalia” -- a word that, the following year, became the title of one of the most famous Brazilian pop albums featuring Caetano Veloso and others.
By the end of 1968, Tropicalia expanded into a loosely organized cultural phenomenon whose major theme was Brazil's confident eclecticism, which was producing a distinctive hybrid style in music, visual art, literature, theater, film, architecture, fashion, food and advertising. Although its heyday lasted only until 1972, when many of its greatest proponents had been imprisoned or forced into exile by the Brazilian military dictatorship, Tropicalia is influencing a new generation of artists there.

update 1018/05: Ezra Klein has more on what one of the main Tropicalia founders is up to now, namely open source!

Doh! Leakers beware

Interesting factoid from the Guardian (via Firedoglake)

Guardian Unlimited | World Latest | Inaccurate Info May Help CIA Leak Probe
Information attributed to Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff in New York Times reporter Judith Miller's interview notes is incorrect, offering prosecutors a potential lead to tracking the bad information to its original source.

Miller disclosed this weekend that her notes of a conversation she had with I. Lewis ``Scooter'' Libby on July 8, 2003 stated Cheney's top aide told her that the wife of Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson worked for the CIA's Weapons Intelligence, Non-Proliferation, and Arms Control (WINPAC) unit.

Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, never worked for WINPAC, an analysis unit in the overt side of the CIA, and instead worked in a position in the CIA's secret side, known as the directorate of operations, according to three people familiar with her work for the spy agency.

The three all spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the current secrecy requirements of Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury investigation into the leak of Plame's identity in 2003 to the media.

Ha ha. That made me chuckle for long, long seconds. Like dictionaries making fake words to protect their copyright...

as a refresher:

In her story published Sunday recounting her legal battle and imprisonment for refusing to testify earlier, Miller described her breakfast meeting conversation on July 8, 2003 with Libby and the point at which it turned to Plame.
``My notes contain a phrase inside parentheses: 'Wife works at Winpac.' Mr. Fitzgerald asked what that meant,'' Miller wrote.
``I told the grand jury that I believed that this was the first time I had heard that Mr. Wilson's wife worked for Winpac,'' she wrote. ``In fact, I told the grand jury that when Mr. Libby indicated that Ms. Plame worked for Winpac, I assumed that she worked as an analyst, not as an undercover operative.''

and that 'security clearance' Miller droned on about, turns out to be fabricated from back-of-the-comic-book advertisements among other ads for decoder rings, x-ray specs, WMDs, etc.:

At the Pentagon, officials also looked into Miller's claim that she had a security clearance while working as an embedded reporter during the Iraq war, shortly before her conversations with Libby.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said he was unaware of Miller having a security clearance. He said security clearances are covered by privacy laws, so he couldn't talk about it.

But Whitman said reporters who were embedded with military units during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars signed ground rules in which they agreed not to make public sensitive or secret information that they learned while with the unit.

``For a security clearance you have to go through any number of specific background investigative checks, and there are different agencies that do those. And depending on the level of clearance that's required, there's certain paperwork that has to be filled out and it has to be adjudicated,'' said Whitman.

He said commanders can't simply give a reporter a security clearance while in the field with the unit.

Umm, sorry, please try again....

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Antibacterial Soaps

WSJ.com - FDA Questions Use of Antibacterial Soaps
The Food and Drug Administration is questioning the use of popular antibacterial cleansers, which critics say may not only provide little benefit for healthy consumers but could carry environmental and public-health risks.

In documents made public yesterday, the agency raised concerns about the use of antibacterial soaps, wipes and washes, a class of products that includes everything from some Dial soaps to Pfizer Inc.'s Purell hand sanitizer. This Thursday, the FDA will bring the issue to an outside committee of experts, which will examine whether the agency needs to limit their use by consumers. The FDA could, for example, recommend labels that would limit the circumstances in which some products would be used, which would also restrict how they could be marketed.

The committee is looking at the use of these products by healthy consumers, as opposed to their use by those -- such as health-care providers and food-service employees -- where the benefits may more clearly outweigh the risks. The FDA documents state that it “often is not clear what contribution consumer antiseptics make relative to washing with plain soap and water.”

Any moves by the FDA could affect hundreds of products that are on store shelves: Manufacturers have introduced 253 antibacterial products in the U.S. so far this year. Last year, there were 322 new products, according to Datamonitor's Productscan Online, a new-products database. Antibacterial products generally cost about the same as their conventional counterparts, though prices can sometimes vary widely.

Some doctors have recommended against the widespread use of antibacterial products for years, arguing that they can lead to the emergence of bacteria that resist antibiotics. In 2000, the American Medical Association recommended that the FDA “expedite its regulation” of antibacterial consumer products that have been linked to resistant bacteria.

Marketing dollars should not preempt science: just because a product proves popular (due to advertising alleged 'benefits') does not mean it should remain for sale. Sounds to me like anti-bacterial soaps cause more damage then they cure.

Free Money

Knight-Rider breaks the story that the Pentagon withdrew the agency responsible for insuring accountability in Iraq, over a year ago, and hasn't bothered to replace it. After all, the U.S. has unlimited funds to spend on illegal and immoral wars. Who cares if $142 billion is audited or not? Petty change, right?

Agency charged with spending oversight in Iraq left country in '04
The chief Pentagon agency in charge of investigating and reporting fraud and waste in Defense Department spending in Iraq quietly pulled out of the war zone a year ago - leaving what experts say are gaps in the oversight of how more than $140 billion is being spent.
The Defense Department's inspector general sent auditors into Iraq when the war started more than two years ago to ensure that taxpayers were getting their money's worth for everything from bullets to meals-ready-to-eat.
The auditors were withdrawn in the fall of 2004 because other agencies were watching spending, too. But experts say those other agencies don't have the expertise, access and broad mandate that the inspector general has - and don't make their reports public.
That means that the bulk of money being spent in Iraq doesn't get public scrutiny, leaving the door open for possible waste, fraud and abuse, experts say.

..the Defense Department inspector general, whose responsibility includes reviewing the $142 billion earmarked for the military, doesn't have a single auditor or accountant in Iraq tracking spending, Knight Ridder has found.

Of course, everyone isn't so glib:

“Our Iraq presence isn't going away; the only thing going away is the people watching how the money is being spent,” said Keith Ashdown, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense. “If you don't have anyone watching it, the precedent is that the money will be wasted.”

Lynch said the Defense Contract Audit Agency - an internal group of auditors in the Defense Department - has issued 622 reports, questioning costs and referring some cases for investigation of possible fraud. But nearly all those reports are classified. Most inspector general reports are public.

In addition, there's a big difference between the inspector general's office, which looks for broad issues and fraud, and the Defense Contract Audit Agency, which looks narrowly at specific pricing and contracting issues, experts said.

The inspector general is required to make sure that programs and equipment work properly, such as the quality and existence of armor for vehicles, said former Defense Department Inspector General Eleanor Hill.

“In terms of taxpayer dollars, in terms of efficiency of running the operation, IG audits can do all sorts of things,” Hill said. “They shouldn't be absent in terms of oversight.”

Others agree.

“The IG is probably the best-equipped office to look at the broad range of problems and possible misconduct that will arise in Iraq,” said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project On Government Oversight. “It's really hard to fathom how the IG could have thought how it wasn't worth having his people on the ground in Iraq scrutinizing the situation

Link from Cursor

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Secret Snitch

Double secret probationary snitch, a 'senior cooperating witness', ie, someone of Karl Rove's stature.

- Cheney may be target of probe
A special prosecutor's intensifying focus into who outed a CIA spy has raised questions whether Vice President Cheney himself is involved, knowledgeable sources confirmed yesterday.
At least one source and one reporter who have testified in the probe said U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is pursuing Cheney's role in the Valerie Plame affair.
In addition, at least six current and former Cheney staffers - most members of the White House Iraq Group - have testified before the grand jury, including the vice president's top honcho, Lewis (Scooter) Libby, and two top Cheney national security lieutenants.
Cheney's name has come up amid indications Fitzgerald may be edging closer to a blockbuster conspiracy charge - with help from a secret snitch.
“They have got a senior cooperating witness - someone who is giving them all of that,” a source who has been questioned in the leak probe told the Daily News yesterday.

(link via Cursor, and TalkLeft has more)

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Shouldn't Judith Miller be fired

David Corn asks why Miller is allowed to break stated New York Times policy with impunity (and gives a belated apology for his earlier columns sticking up for Miller).

David Corn Sorry, Times, the Miller Mess Ain't Over

Also, as NPR's David Folkenflik reported yesterday ..., when Miller agreed to identify Scooter Libby as an unnamed “former Hill staffer” and not as a senior administration official in return for obtaining critical information on Wilson from Libby, she was violating the Times policy on anonymous sourcing. The paper requires reporters to characterize an unnamed source accurately so readers can evaluate if this source has an agenda. So why was Miller not fired or disciplined for this breach? Though she ended up not writing a piece on Wilson, she admits in her first-person account she colluded with Libby to conceal a White House attack on Wilson. At the least, Keller should issue an editor's note.

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Incompetent in Chief

In regards to the Plame matter, and its impending impact on the Bush Administration, Dan Froomkin notes:

Brace for Impact
“Fitzgerald, 45, has also questioned administration officials about any knowledge Bush may have had of the campaign against Wilson. Yet most administration observers have noted that on Iraq, as with most matters, it's Cheney who has played the more hands-on role.” - Richard Keil, Bloomberg

Yes, wouldn't want to take our President away from his precious treadmill and mountain bike trails, would we? Being President is hard.


The Gap hates Mac users

On a whim, I clicked on a Gap ad to see if there were any cheap t-shirts or something. I use Safari as my main browser, as most Mac OS X users do. This is the message I received:

We're sorry, but we do not support the version of the browser you are using.
Our site works best with the following browsers:

PC users
Internet Explorer 5.5 and above
Netscape 7 and above
Mozilla (including Firefox) 1.0 and above

Mac users
Netscape 7 and above
Mozilla (including Firefox) 1.0 and above

Right, thanks for nothing. Is it really that hard to make a web site that dominant browsers can parse? Furthermore, isn't there a Gap executive on the board of Apple Computers, Inc.?

Gap Sucks

The Gap sucks anyway. They are probably mad about that whole FAT store thing in the NYT recently.

If I go so far as to change my 'user agent', so that Safari announces that it is some other browser, like Windows IE 6, then the site loads fine, no errors.

update 11-2-05 - wrote to the Gap, complaining, and this was their mealy-mouthed response

We apologize for the difficulties you experienced on our site. Currently we support AOL, Netscape Navigator, Microsoft Internet Explorer, and Firefox for PC users. Unfortunately, we temporarily do not support ... Macintosh. If you continue to experience problems with any of the browsers that we support, please check your browser settings to confirm that they meet our requirements.

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The Times Gets Letters

Judith Miller and The Times: Pieces of a Puzzle (7 Letters) - New York Times Published: October 17, 2005

To the Editor:Re “The Miller Case: A Notebook, a Cause, a Jail Cell and a Deal” (front page, Oct. 16):So a new day has dawned in the world of American journalism.

A free press used to mean that journalists were at least relatively autonomous from the government that they covered. When journalists sought to protect the identities of their sources, it used to imply that those sources, whether from government or private enterprises, were offering crucial information that would otherwise be kept from the public.After reading The Times's coverage of Judith Miller's testimony and Ms. Miller's own account, I can only conclude that “freedom of the press” and “protecting sources” have entered into the lexicon of Orwellian Newspeak.The press is apparently free to work in cahoots with government officials to take the country to war on false premises; and the sources a journalist is willing to go to jail to protect include government officials apparently engaged in disinformation campaigns.If these are the principles that The Times stood behind, it is a sad day for the newspaper. But perhaps it is saddest of all for those of us who still think that the old ideas about the place of the press in an open society were pretty good ones.

Sara Murphy

New York, Oct. 16, 2005

and I liked especially this one:

To the Editor:
If Judith Miller investigated Judith Miller's story, even she would agree that it was full of holes and made no sense. 

Barbara Davilman

Burbank, Calif., Oct. 16, 2005

I agree with this point as well:

To the Editor:
Nevertheless, it was disheartening to learn, from Ms. Miller's own account, how severely compromised her independence as a reporter had become through her reliance on access to I. Lewis Libby and other White House sources who were using her to manipulate how The Times covered the United States' war against Iraq.

The real betrayal, however, was that The Times “limited its own ability to cover aspects of one of the biggest scandals of the day” to protect both Ms. Miller and her sources.

In my view, The Times's first responsibility in covering the news should be not to itself and its reporters, but to its readers.

Rona Shamoon

Scarsdale, N.Y., Oct. 16, 2005


I read the NYT daily, because even though there is a lot to critique about the Times obvious deference to power (in Washington, on Wall Street, etc.), there still is plenty of information to be gleaned from the paper. However, in the Judith Miller matter, the Times disgraced itself, and still hasn't explained its actions to my satisfaction.

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Judy Miller is agitated

Judith “Miss Run Amok” Miller grows agitated during a brief phone interview with the WSJ:

WSJ.com - Reporter's Account Suggests Probe's Tack
Ms. Miller's story also raises the possibility that [Scooter] Libby and his lawyer sought to discourage her from telling what she knew. If true, that could constitute evidence of obstruction of justice, experts say.

Ms. Miller initially refused to testify before the grand jury, contending that Mr. Libby's release of his confidentiality agreement wasn't really voluntary. She eventually went to jail for 85 days -- from early July through late September -- rather than appear. She finally reached a deal last month with Mr. Fitzgerald to testify about her discussions with Mr. Libby.

She describes at least two instances that might be construed as attempts to influence her testimony. Early on in the investigation, she wrote that one of her lawyers, Floyd Abrams, said Mr. Libby's lawyer was looking for assurances that she wouldn't incriminate Mr. Libby. Mr. Libby's lawyer, Joseph Tate, told the Times that Ms. Miller's account was “outrageous.” “I never once suggested that she should not testify,” Mr. Tate said in an email to the Times. Mr. Tate didn't return a call from The Wall Street Journal seeking comment.

Despite giving a lengthy first-person account, Ms. Miller left some pivotal questions unanswered. For instance, she didn't disclose whether she was asked by Mr. Fitzgerald in her first grand-jury appearance about meeting with Mr. Libby in June 2003. Her failure to disclose that meeting led to her second testimony before the grand jury after some of her notes were found. But neither her account nor the Times story discusses how the notes were found and what set off a search for them.

In a brief telephone interview yesterday, Ms. Miller said she discovered the June 2003 notes in her office after being prompted to seek out answers to another question Mr. Fitzgerald had asked her. “There was an open question about something, and I said I would go back and look and see if there was anything in my notes that would address that question,” she said yesterday.

She said she found the notebook in her office. She reiterated that she couldn't recall who told her the name that she transcribed as “Valerie Flame.” “I don't remember who told me the name,” she said, growing agitated. “I wasn't writing a story, remember?” Asked if the other source was [Karl]. Rove, she replied, “I'm not going to discuss anyone else that I talked to.”

Strange, how such a crack reporter can't remember names and sources of such an important case, a case that put her in jail for 85 days, and a case that placed her in front of a grand jury on two different occasions. Maybe that's why she's so 'agitated'

A spokeswoman for the Times said Ms. Miller was taking time off and was expected to return to the newsroom at some point.
I bet her colleagues can't wait for this day....ahem.

and some other media figures of note, have also some 'splainin' to do...

Ms. Miller isn't the only witness whom prosecutors have called. In a Time magazine story in July, reporter Matthew Cooper discussed his two appearances before the grand jury in the case -- the first related to conversations with Mr. Libby and the second, Mr. Rove. In a first-person piece, he wrote that Mr. Rove told him that Mr. Wilson's wife worked at the CIA on issues related to weapons of mass destruction but didn't name her. In his testimony related to Mr. Libby, Mr. Cooper said that the vice president's adviser told him “I've heard that too” when asked if Mr. Wilson's wife sent her husband to Niger.

Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus disclosed in a first-person piece that ran in July in the journalism magazine Neiman Reports that he provided a deposition to the special prosecutor, detailing a July 12, 2003, conversation with an administration official who said that Mr. Wilson's trip to Niger in February 2002 “was set up as a boondoggle by his wife, an analyst with the agency working on weapons of mass destruction.”
One big unknown is what columnist Robert “Dark Lord” Novak [aka Douche-bag for Liberty] has disclosed to Mr. Fitzgerald about his sources. His was the first article, published on July 14, 2003, that named Mr. Wilson's wife, Ms. Plame, as an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction, noting that “two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger.”

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Urban strolling

A few recent photos, taken in my neighborhood, the West Loop. As always, these, and others are also flickred here, or in slideshow form, here.

(below the fold)


It's Bush-Cheney, Not Rove-Libby


Frank Rich again implores us to keep our eyes on the prize: Rove-Libby's bosses.

tidbits below:

Frank Rich: It's Bush-Cheney, Not Rove-Libby - New York Times

THERE hasn't been anything like it since Martha Stewart fended off questions about her stock-trading scandal by manically chopping cabbage on “The Early Show” on CBS. Last week the setting was “Today” on NBC, where the image of President Bush manically hammering nails at a Habitat for Humanity construction site on the Gulf Coast was juggled with the sight of him trying to duck Matt Lauer's questions about Karl Rove.
As with Ms. Stewart, Mr. Bush's paroxysm of panic was must-see TV. “The president was a blur of blinks, taps, jiggles, pivots and shifts,” Dana Milbank wrote in The Washington Post. Asked repeatedly about Mr. Rove's serial appearances before a Washington grand jury, the jittery Mr. Bush, for once bereft of a script, improvised a passable impersonation of Norman Bates being quizzed by the detective in “Psycho.” Like Norman and Ms. Stewart, he stonewalled.

...What makes Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation compelling, whatever its outcome, is its illumination of a conspiracy that was not at all petty: the one that took us on false premises into a reckless and wasteful war in Iraq. That conspiracy was instigated by Mr. Rove's boss, George W. Bush, and Mr. Libby's boss, Dick Cheney.

Mr. Wilson and his wife were trashed to protect that larger plot. Because the personnel in both stories overlap, the bits and pieces we've learned about the leak inquiry over the past two years have gradually helped fill in the über-narrative about the war. Last week was no exception. Deep in a Wall Street Journal account of Judy Miller's grand jury appearance was this crucial sentence: “Lawyers familiar with the investigation believe that at least part of the outcome likely hangs on the inner workings of what has been dubbed the White House Iraq Group.”

Very little has been written about the White House Iraq Group, or WHIG. Its inception in August 2002, seven months before the invasion of Iraq, was never announced. Only much later would a newspaper article or two mention it in passing, reporting that it had been set up by Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff. Its eight members included Mr. Rove, Mr. Libby, Condoleezza Rice and the spinmeisters Karen Hughes and Mary Matalin. Its mission: to market a war in Iraq.

This is quite interesting. I've read snippets about the White House Iraq Group, but nothing in detail. When is the expose emerging?

Of course, the official Bush history would have us believe that in August 2002 no decision had yet been made on that war. Dates bracketing the formation of WHIG tell us otherwise. On July 23, 2002 - a week or two before WHIG first convened in earnest - a British official told his peers, as recorded in the now famous Downing Street memo, that the Bush administration was ensuring that “the intelligence and facts” about Iraq's W.M.D.'s “were being fixed around the policy” of going to war. And on Sept. 6, 2002 - just a few weeks after WHIG first convened - Mr. Card alluded to his group's existence by telling Elisabeth Bumiller of The New York Times that there was a plan afoot to sell a war against Saddam Hussein: “From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August.”

The official introduction of that product began just two days later. On the Sunday talk shows of Sept. 8, Ms. Rice warned that “we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud,” and Mr. Cheney, who had already started the nuclear doomsday drumbeat in three August speeches, described Saddam as “actively and aggressively seeking to acquire nuclear weapons.” The vice president cited as evidence a front-page article, later debunked, about supposedly nefarious aluminum tubes co-written by Judy Miller in that morning's Times. The national security journalist James Bamford, in “A Pretext for War,” writes that the article was all too perfectly timed to facilitate “exactly the sort of propaganda coup that the White House Iraq Group had been set up to stage-manage.”

The administration's doomsday imagery was ratcheted up from that day on. ..

a couple more excerpts 'below the fold'

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Get Brain, the Sequel

Neurogenesis is a fancy way of saying 'increasing brain cells'. And I thought the phrase, Get Brain, was just about the sex.

The Scientist :: Cannabinoids boost neurogenesis?, Oct. 14, 2005 Cannabinoids promote neurogenesis in embryonic and adult rats, and produce anxiolytic- and antidepressant-like effects, according to a new report in the current issue of The Journal of Clinical Investigation. The effects appear to contradict those seen from other studied drugs of abuse, the authors note.

“Most drugs of abuse such as nicotine, heroine, and cocaine suppress neurogenesis in these cells, but the effects of cannabinoids weren't clear. We show that cannabinoids, in fact, promote neurogenesis,” study author Xia Zhang of the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, told The Scientist.

During the study, Zhang and his colleagues analyzed the effect of the synthetic cannabinoid HU210, an agonist of the cannabinoid receptor CB1, on neural progenitor cells in the hippocampal dentate gyrus. They found that HU210 increased cell proliferation in vitro, and did so in vivo after chronic treatment. Antidepressants produce a similar pattern of cell proliferation, inspiring the authors to examine the influence of HU210 on behavior, explained Ronald Duman of Yale University School of Medicine in an Email.
Eisch added that this study also raises the question of how vasculature is involved in regulating adult neurogenesis and the correlated behavioral effects. “There is some evidence that cannabinoids can cause vessel relaxation, and thus increase blood-flow. Maybe the effect they are seeing (on neurogenesis) is secondary to an effect on the vasculature,” said Eisch. “The role of the vasculature is an issue for to everyone in neurogenesis research these days.”

(article courtesy of Pete Guither)


Jailbird Judy

She has such a cruel mouth, I wish my Illustrator skills were more polished.

Jailbird Judy

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Questions of Character

Paul Krugman lets fly with a stinger:

Questions of Character - New York Times

George W. Bush, I once wrote, “values loyalty above expertise” and may have “a preference for advisers whose personal fortunes are almost entirely bound up with his own.” And he likes to surround himself with “obsequious courtiers.”

Lots of people are saying things like that these days. But those quotes are from a column published on Nov. 19, 2000.

I don't believe that I'm any better than the average person at judging other people's character. I got it right because I said those things in the context of a discussion of Mr. Bush's choice of economic advisers, a subject in which I do have some expertise.

But many people in the news media do claim, at least implicitly, to be experts at discerning character - and their judgments play a large, sometimes decisive role in our political life. The 2000 election would have ended in a chad-proof victory for Al Gore if many reporters hadn't taken a dislike to Mr. Gore, while portraying Mr. Bush as an honest, likable guy. The 2004 election was largely decided by the image of Mr. Bush as a strong, effective leader....Right now, with the Bush administration in meltdown on multiple issues, we're hearing a lot about President Bush's personal failings. But what happened to the commanding figure of yore, the heroic leader in the war on terror? The answer, of course, is that the commanding figure never existed: Mr. Bush is the same man he always was. All the character flaws that are now fodder for late-night humor were fully visible, for those willing to see them, during the 2000 campaign.

And President Bush the great leader is far from the only fictional character, bearing no resemblance to the real man, created by media images.

Read the speeches Howard Dean gave before the Iraq war, and compare them with Colin Powell's pro-war presentation to the U.N. Knowing what we know now, it's clear that one man was judicious and realistic, while the other was spinning crazy conspiracy theories. But somehow their labels got switched in the way they were presented to the public by the news media.

Why does this happen? A large part of the answer is that the news business places great weight on “up close and personal” interviews with important people, largely because they're hard to get but also because they play well with the public. But such interviews are rarely revealing. The fact is that most people - myself included - are pretty bad at using personal impressions to judge character. Psychologists find, for example, that most people do little better than chance in distinguishing liars from truth-tellers.

More broadly, the big problem with political reporting based on character portraits is that there are no rules, no way for a reporter to be proved wrong. If a reporter tells you about the steely resolve of a politician who turns out to be ineffectual and unwilling to make hard choices, you've been misled, but not in a way that requires a formal correction.

And that makes it all too easy for coverage to be shaped by what reporters feel they can safely say, rather than what they actually think or know. Now that Mr. Bush's approval ratings are in the 30's, we're hearing about his coldness and bad temper, about how aides are afraid to tell him bad news. Does anyone think that journalists have only just discovered these personal characteristics?

Let's be frank: the Bush administration has made brilliant use of journalistic careerism. Those who wrote puff pieces about Mr. Bush and those around him have been rewarded with career-boosting access. Those who raised questions about his character found themselves under personal attack from the administration's proxies. (Yes, I'm speaking in part from experience.) Only now, with Mr. Bush in desperate trouble, has the structure of rewards shifted.


What we really need is political journalism based less on perceptions of personalities and more on actual facts. Schadenfreude aside, we should not be happy that stories about Mr. Bush's boldness have given way to stories analyzing his facial tics. Think, instead, about how different the world would be today if, during the 2000 campaign, reporting had focused on the candidates' fiscal policies instead of their wardrobes.

Why don't you tell us what you really think, Mr. Krugman? Too bad this column won't get broader ciruclation.

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Whole Foods and photographs


Apparently, as a corporate, national policy, Whole Foods doesn't allow customers to take photographs in their stores. I happened to have my camera on me because we had been taking a walk previously, so was snapping a few photographs, just to see if I could get any interesting textures for use in an art project. I squeezed off about 10, as we filled up our cart, until we got to the fish counter. A manager came running up and quite rudely told me that my actions were forbidden. Puzzled, I asked why, and after a little hemming and hawing, the guy said for competitive reasons. I rolled my eyes, but sheathed my camera. In retrospect, either that was a made up reason, or Whole Foods management is fairly dense. If I really worked for Kroger or Wal-Mart, and wanted to sneak photos of Whole Foods produce layouts, for some unknown reason, why would I use a large SLR digital camera, with flash? Why wouldn't I use a tiny spy camera, or even a video camera concealed in a backpack? Oh well, here's what I managed to get pictures of.



Fish counter



chantrelle oyster

There aren't even any good pictures in this batch.

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Another reason for impeachment

If the White House uses terrorism as a 'change the subject' distraction, that is despicable, and is one more reason to initiate impeachment hearings.

The Nexus of politics and terror - Keith Olbermann - MSNBC.com:
I suggested that in the last three years there had been about 13 similar coincidences - a political downturn for the administration, followed by a “terror event” - a change in alert status, an arrest, a warning.We figured we’d better put that list of coincidences on the public record. We did so this evening on the television program, with ten of these examples. The other three are listed at the end of the main list, out of chronological order. The contraction was made purely for the sake of television timing considerations
Are these coincidences signs that the government’s approach has worked because none of the announced threats ever materialized? Are they signs that the government has not yet mastered how and when to inform the public? Is there, in addition to the “fog of war” a simple, benign, “fog of intelligence”? But, if merely a reasonable case can be made that any of these juxtapositions of events are more than just coincidences, it underscores the need for questions to be asked in this country - questions about what is prudence, and what is fear-mongering; questions about which is the threat of death by terror, and which is the terror of threat.

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Grammar for Smart People
Grammar for Smart People

Yes, I need to refer to this book more often. It is right there on my shelf, but....

And if you happened to visit this page Wednesday evening, and found titles, but no content, it was due to me trying out the MTplugin Amputator. The plugin is supposed to fix all of my goofy ampersand references (mostly from links that are poorly built) to validate my html.

If you want your HTML or XHTML to display smoothly across browsers and platforms, you need to use a little finesse with non-ASCII characters such as curly quotes, or “ä” or “™.” If you view source on this page, you’ll see I specified those last two characters by writing “ä” and “™.” Sequences like “™” are called entity references, and their sole benefit is that they can be expressed in plain ASCII. HTML includes heaps of entity references to stand in for various accented and otherwise special characters not found in ASCII. Entity references all start with ampersands, and end with semicolons. Unfortunately, HTML and XML reserve the ampersand exclusively for entity references. Any time you use an ampersand by itself, for example within the token delimiters of GET-style URLs like this one, the HTML parser will try to read it like the start of a nonexistent entity reference. Any decent browser will catch the error and recover, but it’s still a mistake, and your HTML won’t validate. You can make your HTML clean again by replacing the ampersand with an entity reference for an ampersand. So instead of just “&”, you’d write “&”, and the browser will make the last-minute substitution

I think this ampersand overlap is a stupid rule, but there it is, and it is one of the main html errors on my page (probably due to my quoting from the New York Times so frequently). However, at first attempt, the Amputator altered my page so that nothing at all was published, other than titles. I'm sure it is some typo or misconfiguration on my part, but it's erev of Yom Kippur, and I'm being dragged out of bed early tomorrow by my significant other, so I must rest now, and steel myself for a long day listening to Hebrew (of which I understand maybe 20 words). The ironic part is that I might fast, depending on my mood, but she certainly will not.

My words to live by, Do No Harm, in this case mean going to Shul. Sigh.



Another tidbit from Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post, namely that a majority of the American people think George Bush should be impeached.

The question: “If President Bush did not tell the truth about his reasons for going to war with Iraq, Congress should consider holding him accountable by impeaching him.” AfterDowningStreet.org reports on the results “By a margin of 50% to 44%, Americans say that President Bush should be impeached if he lied about the war in Iraq, according to a new poll. . . . ”The poll was conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs, the highly-regarded non-partisan polling company. The poll interviewed 1,001 U.S. adults on October 8-9.“ The Zogby poll in June found 42 percent of respondents agreed with a very similar statement.
More on that poll

Since Bush did lie about the reasons for going to war with Iraq, impeachment proceedings should begin now then, shouldn't they? I guess blow-jobs in the White House are more of a threat to our national identity, at least to the current majority party.

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Fidgeter in Chief

White House Briefing News on President George W Bush and the Bush Administration
Let's start with President Bush himself. How is he holding up?

“He can barely stand, he's about to drop on the spot,” Bush said, with several of his trademark chuckles, when Matt Lauer asked on the “Today Show” yesterday morning.“He's doing great. He's got big, broad shoulders,” insisted the first lady.

But maybe Bush was closer to the truth than his wife. Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank's close inspection of Bush's body language in the video of the interview exposed any number of signs of strain -- including blinking and twitching.

“Only the president's closest friends and family know (if anybody does) what he's really thinking these days, during Katrina woes, Iraq violence, conservative anger over Harriet Miers, and legal trouble for Bush's top political aide and two congressional GOP leaders. Bush has not been viewed up close; as he took his eighth post-Katrina trip to the Gulf Coast yesterday, the press corps has accompanied him only once, because the White House says logistics won't permit it. Even the interview on the 'Today' show was labeled 'closed press.'

”But this much could be seen watching the tape of NBC's broadcast during Bush's 14-minute pre-sunrise interview, in which he stood unprotected by the usual lectern. The president was a blur of blinks, taps, jiggles, pivots and shifts. Bush has always been an active man, but standing with Lauer and the serene, steady first lady, he had the body language of a man wishing urgently to be elsewhere.

“The fidgeting clearly corresponded to the questioning. When Lauer asked if Bush, after a slow response to Katrina, was 'trying to get a second chance to make a good first impression,' Bush blinked 24 times in his answer.

When asked why Gulf Coast residents would have to pay back funds but Iraqis would not, Bush blinked 23 times and hitched his trousers up by the belt.

”When the questioning turned to Miers, Bush blinked 37 times in a single answer -- along with a lick of the lips, three weight shifts and some serious foot jiggling.“

Milbank also touches on Bush's habit of making inappropriate facial expressions. At one point, he writes, Bush ”seemed to lose control of the timing. He smiled after observing that Iraqis are 'paying a serious price' because of terrorism.“

And Milbank doesn't even mention the tic that has been the subject of intense speculation in the blogosphere for several months: Bush's bizarre, shifting lower jaw movement that increasingly punctuates the ends of his sentences.

Ah, yes, the famous GWB cocaine jaw. The Huffington Post has a (quicktime) compilation of the jaw movements, taken from the Miers press conference, and from the Roberts nomination. I mean, maybe there are other causes of his grinding (tooth decay, mental illness, side effects from other drugs), but it is certainly an odd affectation. I wonder if it has anything to do with the weird device on Bush's back during the 2004 Presidential debates with John Kerry?

Let us speculate

What are the odds that diesel fuel refineries will soon be crying to Congress? Even though these bills have been years (decades) in the making.

According to Robert Bryce of Salon, diesel fuel prices will soon reach $4 or $5 a gallon, which of course means everything that gets carried in 18-wheelers (about 80% of communities get goods solely delivered by truck) will be higher in price, hence inflationary pressures.

Salon.com News | Fueling our pain Alas, we can't blame Hurricanes Katrina and Rita for the looming price spike. Although 10 refineries (accounting for about 14 percent of domestic capacity) remain shut down from the storms, the coming diesel disaster will be caused by several other things that have nothing to do with the weather. Those factors include stringent new federal regulations on sulfur content in motor fuel, a global shortage of refining capacity, and soaring demand for diesel, both in the United States and around the globe.

Beginning next year, American refiners must comply with the biggest change in federal motor-fuel regulations since leaded gasoline was banned three decades ago. In January, refiners must cut the amount of sulfur in their gasoline from 90 parts per million to 30 ppm. And by next June, refiners will have to reduce the amount of sulfur in their diesel from 500 ppm to 15 ppm. These rules were designed to improve America's air quality. And while they may benefit the environment, the rules are coming into play at a terrible time for the refining industry and will thus help propel prices higher across the board for both fuels.

The primary reason for the higher prices is simple: The mandates add more complexity to the supply chain. Last year, American refineries produced 45 blends of gasoline. Add in the new requirements from the recently passed energy bill, which requires more ethanol to be used in gasoline, and those 45 blends could easily become 50 or more. Each of those blends requires segregation while being shipped, stored and sold. The same goes for diesel, where the more volatile market will be in ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD). While refiners are producing the ULSD, they will also be producing conventional diesel that meets the old 500 ppm standard. Thus, the ULSD will have to be segregated from the conventional diesel.

Add in state-specific blends of diesel, and the situation gets even more complex. California, Minnesota and Texas are all implementing regulations that will require specific diesel blends for their states. (For instance, Minnesota is requiring refineries to add 2 percent biodiesel to their product). Between these boutique diesel blends and ULSD, the industry will require more tanks and more pipes. That means more capital investment, which means higher costs.

Although the EPA has projected that the ULSD rules will add just 5 to 6 cents per gallon to the production cost of diesel fuel (and 6 to 7 cents for consumers), the truth is that no one can predict how the new rules will affect a volatile motor fuel market -- one that has been repeatedly spooked by fears of storms, shortages and sharply higher crude prices. Some economists and motor-fuel traders say they are expecting prices to fall in early 2006. They point to the recent downward trend in crude oil prices to support this position.

...Big consumers of diesel are already worried about the effect of the new low-sulfur regulation. “It's going to exacerbate shortages in an already tight market,” says Tavio Headley, staff economist at the American Trucking Associations, an industry group located in Alexandria, Va.
Refiners are busy trying to figure out how to comply with the rules. In May, Colonial Pipeline, a major shipper that carries refined products from the Gulf Coast to the East Coast, said that it would not accept any ULSD for shipment that contains more than 8 ppm sulfur. Colonial's mandate is the result of tests showing that each time ULSD gets moved from one shipper to another, the sulfur content increases. That stands to reason: the same pipes and tanks that will carry ULSD will also carry jet fuel and heating oil, which may contain up to 3,000 ppm of sulfur.

One refinery official who works at a big plant on the Houston Ship Channel, who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the media, said that in order to deliver diesel to the pipelines at 8 ppm, the diesel leaving his refinery would have to contain -- at most -- 6 ppm of sulfur. Going from 500 ppm down to 6 ppm is a reduction of about 99 percent, and getting all that sulfur out is expensive. It requires additional hydrotreaters, which require refiners to make huge quantities of hydrogen. And making that hydrogen also requires additional equipment. The new mandates are pushing “all the compliance issues back to the manufacturer,” the refinery official said. “So whatever slop happens downstream, like sulfur contamination from pipelines or tanks, the refiner has to deal with. It's simple: Manufacturing costs have to go up.”

Domestic refineries like the one on the Ship Channel are now running at about 95 percent of capacity. Adding new capacity to manufacture more gasoline or diesel will take years. Recently, the Financial Times reported that by 2007, America may need to import as much as 300,000 barrels of diesel per day in order to keep pace with demand. And while President Bush recently called for new refineries to be built in America (no new ones have been built since the 1970s), the permitting and construction process for a new plant takes years.

Wait for it....

All of these factors will contribute to the looming spike in diesel prices. But there is a wild card: The Bush administration can choose to delay enforcement of the rules. In fact, it did just that when it suspended enforcement of federal clean air rules on refineries after Katrina and Rita hit. The move was done to ensure an adequate supply of motor fuel after Katrina struck.

Hmm, ya think?

But, it turns out that since these new regulations have been in the works for such a long time, engine manufacturers have been able to retool their engines already: which means there is pressure to go ahead and reduce sulfur.

But delaying the new ULSD rules would be no silver bullet. The companies that manufacture big diesel engines are already retooling their products so that they can use ULSD. While the new truck engines will be able to burn the older higher-sulfur diesel, their fuel efficiency may suffer. It may also mean higher maintenance costs for owners of the new trucks.

(update: more data here)

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Again, what are the odds that the Supreme Court will rule in favor of environmental laws? Slim to none, by this writers estimation.

WSJ.com - High Court to Examine the Scope Of Federal Clean-Water Laws
Wading into a long-running environmental dispute, the Supreme Court agreed to decide how deeply within state lines the federal Clean Water Act extends.

In a pair of cases from Michigan, developers contend Congress never intended to regulate “intrastate” waterways with scant connection to interstate commerce. And even if it did, they say, Washington lacks the constitutional power to reach that far.

The implications are broad. “We're talking about thousands of property owners nationwide,” covering as much as 100 million acres of intrastate wetlands in the contiguous U.S., said Reed Hopper, an attorney with the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation in Sacramento, Calif., which represents one of the developers.

The high court also agreed to consider whether the federal law giving state regulators authority over federally licensed hydroelectric dams that discharge pollutants also applies to facilities that alter water flow without discharging pollutants. S.D. Warren Co. is challenging Maine's efforts to require its five dams to comply with state environmental laws.

The best known of the Michigan cases dates from the late 1980s, when developer John Rapanos began filling in part of his property near Bay City, intending to build a shopping mall. He refused to obtain a permit and ignored regulators' orders to stop until he got one. When the government brought criminal and civil charges against him, Mr. Rapanos fought back, contending the Clean Water Act covered only navigable waterways involved in interstate commerce -- not his property, which he argued lay some 20 miles away from the nearest waterway covered by the law, Saginaw Bay.


The difference could lie in the court's newest member: Chief Justice John Roberts, who presided over the private session where the court decided to take the case. At least four justices must agree before the court will hear a case. “The Supreme Court did not take the Rapanos case in 2004 but they're taking it now, and the only factor that's different is that Judge Roberts is there,” Mr. Hopper said.


Frog march matter expands

Judy Miller was interviewed by Fitzgerald yesterday, and is testifying to the grand jury again today...

WSJ.com - Focus of CIA Leak Probe Appears to Widen
There are signs that prosecutors now are looking into contacts between administration officials and journalists that took place much earlier than previously thought. Earlier conversations are potentially significant, because that suggests the special prosecutor leading the investigation is exploring whether there was an effort within the administration at an early stage to develop and disseminate confidential information to the press that could undercut former Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife, Central Intelligence Agency official Valerie Plame.

Mr. Wilson had become a thorn in the Bush administration's side, as he sought to undermine the administration's claims that Iraq had sought to buy materials for building nuclear weapons from other countries, such as uranium “yellowcake” from Niger. Ultimately, his wife's name and identity were disclosed in a newspaper column, prompting the investigation into whether someone in the administration broke the law by revealing the identity of an undercover agent.

Ms. Miller, the Times reporter, was interviewed again yesterday to discuss conversations she had with I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the vice president's chief of staff. She testified on Sept. 30 before a grand jury about conversations she had with Mr. Libby in July 2003.

Since then, her lawyers have told Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor investigating the leak of the CIA agent's identity, that Ms. Miller's notes show that she also spoke with Mr. Libby in late June, information that was not previously given to the grand jury.

Mr. Fitzgerald's pursuit now suggests he might be investigating not a narrow case on the leaking of the agent's name, but perhaps a broader conspiracy.

and the New York Times still hasn't seen fit to explain their role in the whole matter.

Lawyers familiar with the investigation believe that at least part of the outcome likely hangs on the inner workings of what has been dubbed the White House Iraq Group. Formed in August 2002, the group, which included Messrs. Rove and Libby, worked on setting strategy for selling the war in Iraq to the public in the months leading up to the March 2003 invasion. The group likely would have played a significant role in responding to Mr. Wilson's claims.

Given that the grand jury is set to expire on Oct. 28, it is possible charges in this case could come as early as next week. Former federal prosecutors say it is traditional not to wait for the last minute and run the risk of not having enough jurors to reach a quorum. There are 23 members of a grand jury, and 16 are needed for a quorum before any indictments could be voted on. This grand jury has traditionally met on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Since Ms. Miller first testified to the grand jury on Sept. 30, she has not published an article about her conversations with Mr. Libby in the New York Times, though she has given interviews to the paper and other media outlets. She hasn't publicly disclosed what she told the prosecutor.
In a memo to staffers yesterday, New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller confirmed that Ms. Miller would return to the grand jury “to supplement her earlier testimony,” and noted that this means Ms. Miller is “not yet clear of legal jeopardy.”

Mr. Keller had earlier said the paper would publish a full account of everything Ms. Miller knew, but her continuing legal exposure has prevented the Times from doing so. Mr. Keller said yesterday in his memo that once Ms. Miller's “obligations to the grand jury are fulfilled, we intend to write the most thorough story we can of her entanglement with the White House leak investigation.”

If you are at all interested in this case, and if you have read down the page this far, I'm assuming you are, then the blog, http://firedoglake.blogspot.com/ is brimming with good analysis on the entire scandal and you should pop over there and read some more.

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Reviews U

Slogging away, with the letter U, below the fold.

News from Rita

My dad writes, after visiting my aged grandparents (and my cousin who lives there with them) in rural East Texas with his two younger brothers (pictured below) to repair their roof, and whatever else:

We returned on Tues. night. after four days there. There was a big oak tree on Rachels house, in addition to the one spearing the main house. Both roofs are repaired now. After the insurance settles up, there will be some work to do, hopfully by local people.

The storm blew billions of salt march mosquitoes into the piney woods. We noticed a lot of them there. Jeff was diganosed with West Nile Virus soon after returning to Austin. Phil may have a mild case also. I won't know for about 8 days if I've avoided it. Jeff is almost over it now.

Pictures below the fold.

New Trane Album

is always cause for celebration round these parts...and in this case, looks there is two new Coltrane CDs coming to the office soonest.

From the Family Closet, a New Coltrane Album
Ravi Coltrane talks about the release of the striking new John Coltrane album, “One Down, One Up: Live at the Half Note,” and his path to the Coltrane legacy.

...Yet [Ravi Coltrane ] has also served, unassumingly, as a steward of his father's music, a background role that is both personal and increasingly public - as illustrated by the release today of the striking new John Coltrane album, “One Down, One Up: Live at the Half Note” (Impulse!) , featuring a pair of performances by the Coltrane Quartet in the spring of 1965.

“This Half Note material really comes at a summit,” Mr. Coltrane said by phone recently from Rotterdam, the Netherlands, where he was on tour. “It's the high point of a sound that the band had been cultivating, basically, since 1961. The music that was recorded there comes at the strongest point of that band, playing that sound. Right after that, they start changing and going other places.”

Fortunately for jazz fans, the Half Note album comes on the heels of more newly issued Coltrane: “Thelonious Monk With John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall,” a 1957 concert recording discovered in the Library of Congress in February and issued on Blue Note Records a few weeks ago to wide critical acclaim. As a rare document of the saxophonist's most storied apprenticeship, the recording has been heralded as a missing link in the chain of modern jazz.

One Down, One Up: Live at the Half Note

One Down, One Up: Live at the Half Note

and this also sounds intriguing:

Every year sees a crop of newly found jazz gems, but rarely are listeners treated to anything as special as this 1957 concert recording of Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane, which was accidentally discovered in an unmarked box by a Library of Congress engineer early in 2005. Until now, fans could only dream of hearing these two immortals play together beyond the three studio tracks they left behind. But here they are, hitting their stride at an all-star benefit concert, basking in the chemistry they had developed in Monk's quartet during the preceding weeks at New York's Five Spot. Coltrane's playing is a revelation. He's both an inspired accompanist and a galvanizing soloist, taking the music to new heights with his bold, brilliantly challenging, and sometimes jaw-dropping phrases, note clusters, and blasts of power. Sharing with Coltrane a newfound sense of freedom following the personal and professional troubles that had plagued them both, Monk is clearly tickled to be in the tenorist's presence, injecting humorous commentaries and otherwise asserting his eccentric genius as a pianist. The material, which was very well recorded by the Voice of America, includes Monk classics like “Epistrophy,” “Monk's Moods,” and “Evidence,” as well as a striking rendition of the standard “Sweet and Lovely.” This is music that not only bears repeated listenings, but also demands them--the ultimate definition of a classic.

Thelonious Monk With John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall

Thelonious Monk With John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall

Update to include a review from the NYT 10/10/05:

In the spring of 1965, John Coltrane's quartet played several gigs at the Half Note Club in Manhattan, some of which were recorded for WABC-FM radio. Tape traders have long known about them, and the music has circulated since the late 1960's, but generally not in complete form, and not sounding nearly as good as they do now.

On “One Down, One Up” (Impulse) - the radio recordings from two nights at the Half Note - we're about six months before the last phase of Coltrane's career, before the moment when he changed his band, stopped for the most part playing in nightclubs and made his music generally more jarring and oceanic. Here his quartet is still intact, with McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums; as far out as it may get, the internal logic of a great band holds fast.

The album includes four tightly wound performances at the club, which was on Hudson Street near Spring, across from where the Jazz Gallery now stands. Taken as a whole, it amounts to an amazing display of controlled volatility in jazz. This is not the Coltrane of million-selling appeal; it's more fervid and rattling than studio records like “A Love Supreme.” But by other measures it is the band at its peak, each member contributing an equal part to the sound, playing hard and loud and at the top of his imagination.

If there was ever a place to marvel at the connection Coltrane had with Jones - a connection that drove the band - this is it. Each of the four pieces is remarkable, but the killer is “One Down, One Up,” in which the band reduces to just saxophone and drums for a 15-minute stretch, and then reduces even further because Jones's bass-drum pedal breaks midsong.

It doesn't matter. Coltrane and Jones are singing through their instruments in their own complex, dense language, with Coltrane's rapid, jagged phrasing and Jones's layered rhythm. (To situate it stylistically within Coltrane's work, “One Down, One Up” takes the fast, nearly incantational delivery of his “Chasin' the Trane” improvisation from 1961, a few notches higher.) And though the musicians slip around each other's patterns, weaving and dodging, it's as if an identical sense of time is wiring them together.

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Pro-torture President

Bob Herbert - Who Isn't Against Torture? - New York Times
Senator John McCain, one of the strongest supporters of the war in Iraq, has sponsored a legislative amendment that would prohibit the “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” of prisoners in the custody of the U.S. military. Last week the Senate approved the amendment by the overwhelming vote of 90 to 9.

This was not a matter of Democrats vs. Republicans, or left against right. Joining Senator McCain in his push for clear and unequivocal language banning the abusive treatment of prisoners were Senator John Warner of Virginia, the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a former military lawyer who is also a Republican and an influential member of the committee. Both are hawks on the war.

Also lining up in support were more than two dozen retired senior military officers, including two former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell and John Shalikashvili.

So who would you expect to remain out of step with this important march toward sanity, the rule of law and the continuation of a longstanding American commitment to humane values?

Did you say President Bush? Well, that would be correct.

The president, who has trouble getting anything right, is trying to block this effort to outlaw the abusive treatment of prisoners.

Senator McCain's proposal is an amendment to the huge defense authorization bill. The White House has sent out signals that Mr. Bush might veto the entire bill if that's what it takes to defeat the amendment.

Yee-godz: and this guy, who grew up wanting to be President, or not, professes to be a Christian to anyone who'll listen. I suppose GWB belongs to the torturing-is-godly sect.

Bush has vetoed exactly zero bills as of today, and this is the one that he's going to pop his cherry with? Disgusting. I wish I believed in Hell, so that at least Bush would get the proper punishment that he deserves.

Last Wednesday, Senator McCain rose on the Senate floor and said:

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, states simply that 'No one shall be subject to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.' The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the U.S. is a signatory, states the same. The binding Convention Against Torture, negotiated by the Reagan administration and ratified by the Senate, prohibits cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

”On last year's [Department of Defense] authorization bill, the Senate passed a bipartisan amendment reaffirming that no detainee in U.S. custody can be subject to torture or cruel treatment, as the U.S. has long defined those terms. All of this seems to be common sense, in accordance with longstanding American values.

“But since last year's [defense] bill, a strange legal determination was made that the prohibition in the Convention Against Torture against cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment does not legally apply to foreigners held outside the U.S. They can, apparently, be treated inhumanely. This is the [Bush] administration's position, even though Judge Abe Sofaer, who negotiated the Convention Against Torture for President Reagan, said in a recent letter that the Reagan administration never intended the prohibition against cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment to apply only on U.S. soil.”

The McCain amendment would end the confusion and the perverse hunt for loopholes in the laws that could somehow be interpreted as allowing the sadistic treatment of human beings in U.S. custody.

Senator McCain met last week with Capt. Ian Fishback, a West Point graduate who was one of three former members of the 82nd Airborne Division to come forward with allegations, first publicly disclosed in a report by Human Rights Watch, that members of their battalion had routinely beaten and otherwise abused prisoners in Iraq. In a letter that he sent to the senator before the meeting, Captain Fishback wrote:

“Some argue that since our actions are not as horrifying as Al Qaeda's, we should not be concerned. When did Al Qaeda become any type of standard by which we measure the morality of the United States? We are America, and our actions should be held to a higher standard, the ideals expressed in documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.”

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Popovich and his instinct

Borrowed almost whole cloth from TrueHoop:

Last night was there was preseason game between the Heat and the Spurs...in a game that was hastily added to the schedule purely as a fundraiser for Hurricane Katrina relief. (At halftime, they presented a check for $1.1 million to the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, the Salvation Army, and Feed the Poor.)

This game was a sellout and a nail-biter, making the for the most exciting possible finish. In the end, the Heat inbounded the ball with less than three seconds left, and the score tied. In a classy move, they worked the ball to an unheralded rookie, Kevin Braswell, who was only signed a week ago and is unlikely to make the squad.

They were clearly giving the kid a thrill on the big stage, in front of 20,000 people. Braswell didn't disappoint, making a layup at the buzzer to win the game for the Miami Heat.

Here's the classiest part of all. After the game ended, the referees conferred to see if the ball had indeed beaten the buzzer. San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich rushed over there to lobby to let the basket stand. He was arguing against his team having a chance to win, and for the perfect ending to a heart-warming preseason game. That's cool. The referees did let the basket stand, and the Heat won.

Wow. Good sportsmanship is unfortunately so rare that heart-warming moments like this one, even in games that don't really count, is so unusual as to be memorable.

Kudos to Popovich for quick thinking.

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Cockburn on Feingold

Where Were They When It Counted?:
In the run-up to Bush's signing of the Patriot Act on October 25, the editorial columns of the major papers offered only nugatory comment about the dangers of the bill. While not as bad as the silence of the press over the internment of Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor, the tepid reaction of the media had disastrous consequences.

It would have taken only a few fierce columns or editorials, such as were profuse after November 13, to have given frightened politicians cover to join the only bold soul in the Senate, Russell Feingold of Wisconsin. ...

But then, when the rubber met the road and Ashcroft sent up the Patriot bill, which vindicated every dire prediction of the spring, all fell silent except Feingold, who made a magnificent speech in the Senate the day the bill was signed, citing assaults on liberty going back to the Alien and Sedition Acts of John Adams, the suspension of habeas corpus sanctioned by the Supreme Court during the Civil War, the internments of World War II (along with 110,000 Japanese-Americans there were 11,000 German-Americans and 3,000 Italian-Americans put behind barbed wire), the McCarthyite blacklists of the 1950s and the spying on antiwar protesters in the 1960s. Under the terms of the bill, Feingold warned, the Fourth Amendment as it applies to electronic communications would be significantly curtailed. He flayed the measure as an assault on “the basic rights that make us who we are.” It represented “a truly breathtaking expansion of police power.”

Feingold was trying to win time for challenges in Congress to specific provisions in Ashcroft's bill. Those were the days in which sustained uproar from Safire or Lewis or kindred commentators would have made a difference. Feingold's was the sole vote against the bill in the Senate. Just like Wayne Morse and Ernest Gruening in their lonely opposition to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964, Feingold will receive his due and be hailed as a hero by the same people who held their tongue in the crucial hours when a vigilant press could have helped save the day. Instead, as Murray Kempton used to say of editorial writers, they waited till after the battle to come down from the hills to shoot the wounded.

For this reason alone, Feingold should receive fealty from the liberals, if and when he decides to run for President in 2008.

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Feingold vs. Bush

Digging around the Nation Magazine archives, I found this snippet from an August 22nd article by John Nichols:

Feingold vs. Bush:
So far, no Democrat who is seriously pondering a 2008 presidential run has offered a coherent statement of opposition to the Bush Administration's misguided strategies. Senators Clinton of New York, Bayh of Indiana and Joe Biden of Delaware are all strong supporters of the war and of the Bush Administration's general approach, while former North Carolina Senator John Edwards has sought to straddle the issues in much the same way that his running-mate on the 2004 Democratic ticket, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, has.

If Feingold can strike the proper balance between sanity and security--grounding his push for a withdrawal timeline and a more thoughtful foreign policy in a clear commitment to do a better job of funding homeland security and developing the nation's intelligence-gathering and international-policing capacities--he could emerge as a serious contender for the 2008 presidential nomination. At the least, he ought to be able to force the debate that must occur prior to the 2008 election onto the higher ground that Clinton, Kerry and other prominent Democrats have so far been unable or unwilling to occupy.

and this from September 30th, 2005, also by John Nichols:

At a time when too many members of Congress, in both parties, are afraid to address the crisis Bush's missteps, misdeeds, arrogance and intransigence have created, Feingold broke the silence in the Senate.

“I cannot support an Iraq policy that makes our enemies stronger and our own country weaker, and that is why I will not support staying the course the President has set,” Feingold told the Senate...

“If Iraq were truly the solution to our national security challenges, this gamble with the future of the military and with our own economy might make sense,” explained the senator, who last month called for a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from that country.

“If Iraq, rather than such strategically more significant countries as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, were really at the heart of the global fight against violent Islamist terrorism, this might make some sense. If it were true that fighting insurgents in Baghdad meant that we would not have to fight them elsewhere, all of the costs of this policy might make some sense. But these things are not true. Iraq is not the silver bullet in the fight against global terrorist networks. As I have argued in some detail, it is quite possible that the Administration's policies in Iraq are actually strengthening the terrorists by helping them to recruit new fighters from around the world, giving those jihadists on-the-ground training in terrorism, and building new, transnational networks among our enemies. Meanwhile the costs of staying this course indefinitely, the consequences of weakening America's military and America's economy, loom more ominously before us with each passing week. There is no leadership in simply hoping for the best. We must insist on an Iraq policy that works.”

Feingold detailed concerns about the damage done to the U.S. military by pursuit of the misguided mission in Iraq. “The Administration's policies in Iraq are breaking the United States Army,” explained the Wisconsin Democrat, who reviewed concerns about the stress placed on soldiers and their families and about shortfalls in recruitment for the armed services.

“Make no mistake, our military readiness is already suffering,” Feingold explained. “According to a recent RAND study, the Army has been stretched so thin that active-duty soldiers are now spending one of every two years abroad, leaving little of the Army left in any appropriate condition to respond to crises that may emerge elsewhere in the world. In an era in which we confront a globally networked enemy, and at a time when nuclear weapons proliferation is an urgent threat, continuing on our present course is irresponsible at best.”

While the military is taking a hit, Feingold noted, so too is the economy. Noting that all of the cost of the war -- “every penny” -- “has been added to the already massive debt that will be paid by future generations of Americans,” Feingold asked, “How much longer can the elected representatives of the American people in this Congress allow the President to rack up over a billion dollars a week in new debts? This war is draining, by one estimate, $5.6 billion every month from our economy, funds that might be used to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina recover, or to help address the skyrocketing health care costs facing businesses and families, or to help pay down the enormous debt this government has already piled up.”
...“Bush Administration's policies in Iraq are making America weaker,” he told the Senate. “And none of us should stand by and allow this to continue.”
Truer words have rarely been spoken in the Capitol -- especially in recent years. Feingold's call deserves the attention, and the encouragement, not just of responsible members of the Congress but of the great mass of Americans who know that something has gone very wrong in Iraq -- and Washington.

Here's the solipsistic part: since I've been of age to vote (in the Reagan-Bush years), not once has the candidate I supported in the primary ever won. I hope this is the election that this string ends.

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Finally, a Dem speaks up about Iraq

Salon.com's Michael Scherer interviews Russ Feingold- Why the U.S. must leave Iraq: Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold has latched his political future to the third rail of American foreign policy. This summer, he proposed a date for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq: Dec. 31, 2006. The date raises a specter that no one in Washington -- and especially no Democrat -- has been willing to broach: that the American people should begin to prepare for a political failure in Iraq, at least a failure by President Bush's standard of establishing, before the troops leave, a fully functional, democratic Iraqi state.

That is at least a date, a specific time, even though it is over a year from now.

...Can you be any more specific about what that plan should entail? Well, I think it's [GWB aka the Worst President Ever] his job to come up with the specifics. But among the things that I would certainly be looking for would be first a recognition that the military mission and the mission of having a democratic and stable Iraq are actually different things. There is a tunnel vision in the White House which suggests we are just going to go out and find the bad guys, we are going to kill them, and we are just going to stay there until that is done. Well, that actually plays into the hands of those who are trying to radicalize the Iraqi people. ... If we don't leave, our not leaving is a big part of the political instability. So it's an absurdity to talk in terms of, “How can we leave before it is stable?” In fact, the presence of this huge American, and other [countries'], occupation of this country is what is destabilizing the country even more. It's a completely illogical conversation for people to talk in terms of what is already, many believe, almost a civil war, if not already a civil war. What we need to do is recognize that Iraqis are going to have to stand on their own. When I suggest that we withdraw the ground forces in a reasonable manner, this does not mean that we do not continue reconstruction, it does not mean that we do not continue to help the government, it does not mean that we do not have a very strong partnership with the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people on non-military issues as well as military issues.

and that ole message thing:

There is a real timidity and weakness in terms of Democrats being willing to stand up to this error of American foreign policy. I think one of the greatest errors in American foreign policy in our modern lives is the divergence into Iraq that was done by the president. It is not sufficient for Democrats to point out the dishonest way we were taken into war. Nor is it sufficient for Democrats to simply point out that what is being done now is extremely mistaken. Democrats have to talk in terms of a strategy that, if they were in the White House, they would implement to successfully finish this particular mission, but more importantly, to get back to the real focus on the terrorist networks that attacked us on 9/11.

The Democratic message shouldn't begin with Iraq. The Democratic message should begin with, “We are committed to fighting and defeating the terrorist elements that attacked us on 9/11.”
Why don't you think the Democrats have taken these steps? Why is there this confusion, this hedging?
Of what?
Fear of being accused of not being supportive of the troops, which of course is an outrageous response to reasonable questions about Iraq. But it does tend to intimidate people. Fear that somehow people will be accused of being unpatriotic. Fear that the president will say, as he almost always does, that those criticizing the Iraq war don't understand the lessons of 9/11.
I think it is President Bush who doesn't understand the lessons of 9/11. I think it's President Bush who hasn't even read carefully the 9/11 report, which clearly defines the threat we are facing. The threat we are facing is this international terrorist network that attacked us, and the amount of radicalism that may exist among Islamic peoples that can provide the recruits to fuel the international terrorist network. The president doesn't understand the difference between what is going on in Iraq and that effort.

It's fair to say, I think, that foreign policy is not the only area where Democrats have a problem right now. Where else do Democrats have to change course or strategy going into the 2006 and 2008 elections?
I think we have to simplify our themes to the point where we portray ourselves ... as what David Ignatius recently referred to as a “party of performance.” He recognized that the American people at this point, especially after Katrina and after the problems in Iraq, are looking for a party that can actually, simply do the job. Of course that relates to FEMA. But I think it also relates to foreign policy, to Iraq, to the fight against terrorism. It also relates to the issues, that if you listen to people, you will hear them talk about ... We should be willing to take a stand on the healthcare issue that is stronger than some people might be comfortable with.

Heavens to betsy, there is still life to the Democratic party after all. We'll see what happens in the next few months, but viva Feingold! Voted against the atrocious Patriot Act, voted against the Iraq war, and now calls for withdrawal. Sounds like a front runner for 2008!

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Third Way Losers

As sort of a follow-up/expansion of my previous fumbling thoughts regarding the Democrats stumbling towards permanent minority party status, Tristero, a guest blogger at Hullabaloo writes, in part:

Hullabaloo: The Third Way And The Highway
...Let's not argue with their stats for now. What they fail to take into account is that perhaps liberals may not be a dependable base for the Democratic Party.

Come 2006 and 2008, therefore, I will be donating not a dime directly to any Democratic candidate, but rather to organizations that advocate liberal causes - not radical causes, but liberal ones, I'm no revolutionary - who will then donate to candidates that they believe are both viable and liberal. If my money ultimately goes to Democrats, fine. But my money will go only to groups that are unequivocably liberal. If they funnel my money to candidates from other parties, that's fine, too.I suspect I am far from alone.

If the Democrats tack right, they may find that their liberal base is more mythological than real. The Third Way authors fail to take into account how thoroughly disgusted many of us are. We're not disgusted with politics (and Republicans are beyond disgust). We're disgusted with the Democratic leadership and their failure both to win and to articulate a compelling platform. Sure, Dean's head of the party, but it remains to be seen whether that is more than a merely ornamental appointment. So far, I'm not that excited about what I've seen.

The authors fail to understand that liberals are not, in their dismissive phrase, “Michael Moore Democrats.” I, for one, am eminently practical. I'm perfectly aware that a national politician needs to take numerous positions I disagree with if for no other reason than to appeal to people who are quite different than me. But the party hasn't done that. They've advocated positions and implemented strategies that appeal to no one except their marketing consultants. The Third Way authors assume liberals will just pony up as usual even if the party chooses a platform carefully tailored to offend no one, and therefore excite no one. Well this liberal won't saddle up for that ride. I want to see a genuinely winning strategy. But as Joe himself proved, twice, Liebermanism is not a winning strategy on a presidential ticket. It never will be. Ominously, however, that is what the authors of “The Politics of Authorization” suggest Democrats adopt.

The second flawed assumption is structural. The authors of “The Politics of Polarization” take as a given that political parties in the United States are, first and foremost power clusters, a core of pure energy onto which one slathers a gooey, sticky sweet collection of endlessly replaceable causes. Therefore, what Democrats need to do in order to win is simply pick whatever they want - hot fudge values, melted marshmallow values, walnut sauce, and sprinkles - provided marketing research certifies that enough people find them yummy.

This is not how voters perceive political alignments, at least not in modern times. Parties are perceived as comprising of people with shared social and political values. Their values are inextricably wound up in their desire to obtain political influence; a will to power analysis won't cut it, it's far too crude (as crude as a purely “idealistic” analysis would be).

My personal view is that following the DLC, centrist, Republican-lite advice is simply a blueprint for losing election after election. There is a reason that the Democrats have lost every major election since 1992 (with the exception, of course, of the Presidential election of 96 where Clinton ran against a dream candidate of snoozy-Dole), the Dems, at the leadership level, have tried morphing into Rockefeller Republicans, with predictable results. Now, Gore may have actually barely won in 2000, before the massive voter fraud, but if he had run as a liberal sooner than he did, the election might not have been close enough to steal.

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West Loop stroll yesterday


yielded these photos, among others.....


Rook's Rant writes:

One of the things I find most remarkable is this whole line about the Democrats not having a message. What exactly does that mean? Is not “having a message” an advertising agency concept? You know, selling stuff....So, let me repeat this. Running for office is not about selling products. It is about choosing the best man to be the leader of our country. You want to buy something? Go to Walmart, Target, or wherever it is you go to spend what is left of your hard earned paycheck after Haliburton.....errr I mean Uncle Karl....errr I mean Uncle Sam get’s his cut. Otherwise, screw their stances, screw their values and beliefs. Just give me someone who understands what it means to run a competent, responsible, caring government.

The only problem is that in order to elect leaders to positions where their competence is even an issue of discussion, you have to win an election. Unfortunately, in our country, you don't win elections based on the merits of your plan, you win elections by convincing the electorate you are a better person than the other 'schmoe'. The only way that this happens, certainly since the advent of radio, and especially in the television age, is by marketing you and your 'ideas' as a brand so that the majority of folks who don't bother paying close attention to the day to day details think you are the right person for the job - whatever it may be. Politicians routinely break campaign promises, without consequence, if their 'brand' is strong enough.

In my opinion, running for office in the US is exactly like selling toilet paper. This is why so many millions (billions) of dollars are spent every election cycle. In an ideal world, ideas and policies would matter more, elections would only last a couple of weeks, there would be public financing of the top several candidates, the election results wouldn't be tied to the archaic electoral college, voter registration would be simple, election day would be a public holiday, yadda yadda yadda. That isn't the case.

Instead, elections are won/lost over a long stretch of time, including right now, and the party (out of the two corrupt choices available) who defines the agenda is usually triumphant. My dream is that the Democratic party gives up trying to be a less-mean version of the Republicans, and instead try to represent the 80-90% of us who have to work for a living.

This is what I mean, in my clumsy way, by 'having a message'. Instead though, I hear DLC pundits claim that the only way to win elections is by emulating Clinton's Sister Souljah moment, I read of Joe Biden's praise for John Roberts, I note that nobody in the Democratic party establishment has the balls to call for withdrawal from Iraq (where's our Senator Fullbright?), etc. etc. etc.

Honestly, I cannot consider myself a member of that party of sycophants known as the Democrats. Granted there are a few who are worth something, but there are too many who are not.

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Our Lil Bubble Boy

Frank Rich: The Faith-Based President Defrocked - New York Times
... Like most Bush fictions, the latest are driven less by ideology than by a desire to hide incompetence. But there's a self-destructive impulse at work as well. “The best way to get the news is from objective sources,” the president told Brit Hume of Fox News two years ago. “And the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what's happening in the world.” Thus does the White House compound the sin of substituting propaganda for effective action by falling for the same spin it showers on the public.
Beware of leaders who drink their own Kool-Aid. The most distressing aspect of Mr. Bush's press conference last week was less his lies and half-truths than the abundant evidence that he is as out of touch as Custer was on the way to Little Bighorn. The president seemed genuinely shocked that anyone could doubt his claim that his friend is the best-qualified candidate for the highest court. Mr. Bush also seemed unaware that it was Republicans who were leading the attack on Ms. Miers. “The decision as to whether or not there will be a fight is up to the Democrats,” he said, confusing his antagonists this time much as he has Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.
Such naked presidential isolation from reality was a replay of his response to Hurricane Katrina. When your main “objective sources” for news are members of your own staff, you can actually believe that the most pressing tragedy of the storm is the rebuilding of Trent Lott's second home. You can even believe that Brownie will fix it. The truth only began to penetrate four days after the storm's arrival - and only then, according to Newsweek, because an adviser, Dan Bartlett, asked the president to turn away from his usual “objective sources” and instead watch a DVD compilation of actual evening news reports.
Mr. Bartlett's one desperate effort to prick his boss's bubble notwithstanding, the White House as a whole is so addicted to its own mythmaking prowess that it can't kick the habit. Seventy-two hours before Ms. Miers was nominated, federal auditors from the Government Accountability Office declared that the administration had violated the law against “covert propaganda” when it repeatedly hired fake reporters (and one supposedly real pundit, Armstrong Williams) to plug its policies in faux news reports and editorial commentary produced at taxpayers' expense. But a bigger scandal is the legal propaganda that the White House produces daily even now - or especially now.
The administration's strategy for covering up embarrassing realities with fiction reached its purest expression two weeks ago when both Laura Bush and Karen Hughes were recruited to star in propagandistic television “reality” shows. In the first lady's case, this was literally so: she was dispatched to Biloxi to appear in an episode of ABC's “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” The thinking seems to be that if Mrs. Bush helps one family on a hit reality series, perhaps no one will notice the reality that no-bid contracts and ineptitude have kept hundreds of thousands of other hurricane victims homeless indefinitely while taxpayers foot the bill for unused trailers and cruise ships. Ms. Hughes took her act on the road in the Middle East. There she conducted a culturally tone-deaf “listening tour” in which she read her lines from briefing papers and tried to win hearts and minds by posing with little Arab kids as if they were interchangeable with the little black kids in Mr. Bush's “compassionate conservative” photo ops back home. She didn't seem to know that this stunt wouldn't even fly on Fox News anymore, let alone Al Jazeera.

How did this guy get elected again?

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are still worth photographing

photos below the fold

Yikes - not good for our blackberry

Court Ruling in BlackBerry Case Puts Service to U.S. Users at Risk - New York Times A court decision Friday renewed the possibility that service to BlackBerry wireless e-mail devices might be cut off for most users in the United States.The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington rejected a request by Research in Motion, the Canadian company that makes the BlackBerry, to rehear its appeal of a patent infringement case brought by NTP Inc., the patent holder. A three-judge panel of the court ruled in August that Research in Motion had violated seven of NTP's patents.

As part of that litigation, NTP, whose only assets are wireless e-mail related patents, had been granted an injunction banning the sale of BlackBerry devices in the United States and forcing Research in Motion to stop providing e-mail services to all American customers except government account holders.

D's friend LK in Houston will really be depressed if her Crackberry stops functioning!

I guess this strategy didn't work so well:

With the backing of the Canadian government, Research in Motion has argued in court that NTP's claims do not apply to BlackBerry software because it is held only on computers near its headquarters in Waterloo, Ontario. NTP does not hold any wireless e-mail patents in Canada. It is based in Annandale, Va.

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Paul Pena RIP


Sad news: just heard that the 'star' of one of my favorite movies, Genghis Blues has died this week. Paul Pena -- star of 1999 documentary 'Genghis Blues'

Paul Pena, a San Francisco blues artist who mastered the arcane art of Tuvan throat singing, died Saturday from complications of diabetes and pancreatitis. He was 55.

Many people are familiar with Mr. Pena because of the 1999 Academy Award-nominated documentary “Genghis Blues,” which tells the story of how he took up throat singing, culminating with an eventful trip to the Central Asian country Tuva, where he won awards in a throat singing competition.

But millions more are acquainted with his work without even knowing it because he wrote the song “Jet Airliner,” which was a Top 10 hit for the Steve Miller Band in 1977.

If you haven't had the pleasure of watching Genghis Blues, I highly recommend it. The soundtrack is quite good too.

Genghis Blues

“Genghis Blues” (Original Soundtrack)

Genghis Blues

“Genghis Blues” (Roko Belic)

The movie is a happy marriage of blues music, ethnomusicality, politics, geography, anthropology, and eccentric characters. Rest in Peace, Mr. Pena.

The only other album by Mr. Pena is this one:

New Train

“New Train” (Paul Pena)

which is a sort of smooth, bluesy, album, mixture of early 70's R&B (of the Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder school), and some Hendrix-inspired blues. Good as well.

More from the SF Chronicle obit:

Mr. Pena was born to a family of Cape Verdean background in Hyannis, Mass. He proved to be a natural musician, singing and teaching himself several instruments. In the late '60s, he was in a band that opened for big-time acts including the Grateful Dead and Frank Zappa. Blues artists ranging from T-Bone Walker to B.B. King to Bonnie Raitt recognized his talents, hiring him to play guitar in their bands.
“He's like having my very own Jimi Hendrix,” Raitt once said. “There's simply nothing he can't play well.”
In 1971, Mr. Pena moved to San Francisco, where he played many gigs, frequently opening for Jerry Garcia's and Merle Saunders' bands.
His career was on a positive arc when he released an album, “Paul Pena,” in 1972. But things took a bad turn when he recorded a follow-up, “New Train,” the next year. Mr. Pena got caught up in a dispute with volatile label owner Albert Grossman, best known for managing Bob Dylan, the Band, Janis Joplin and others. Grossman refused to release “New Train.”

“That just broke Paul's heart,” said Seth Augustus, a musician who studied throat singing with Mr. Pena and helped care for him over the past several years.

The album did finally come out in 2000 -- by which time Mr. Pena was reeling from the shocks of experiencing the release of “Genghis Blues” and getting diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Told he had only a few months to live, Mr. Pena began a course of chemotherapy. Shortly after, however, his doctors said they made a mistake: It was pancreatitis, not cancer after all.

Mr. Pena became interested in throat singing when he heard a Tuvan broadcast on his shortwave radio in 1984. Later he got ahold of a Tuvan record, playing it countless times until he learned how to throat sing, which involves producing several distinct vocal-cord sounds simultaneously. In 1993, attending a throat singing performance at the Asian Art Museum, he demonstrated his own technique to Kongar-ol Ondar, one of the foremost throat singers in the world. Ondar was mightily impressed with Mr. Pena, nicknaming him “Earthquake” and inviting him to come to Tuva to participate in the annual competition.
His 1995 journey to Tuva -- where he won the contest in two categories and charmed locals who were delighted with this foreigner who mastered their art form -- is recounted in “Genghis Blues.”

More at Mr. Pena's website http://www.paulpena.com/

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Frog March Rove Trembling edition

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Oh, oh, how sweet it would be, to see Mr. Rove led away in chains....

To understand why Karl Rove is believed to be in grave danger of indictment for his role in the Wilson leaks, let's return to the earliest days of the investigation. If Rove is found criminally liable for lying, then the falsehoods that led to his downfall may well have been uttered during the weeks when his old friend and client John Ashcroft was still in charge of the leaks probe -- and before the case was turned over to the special counsel, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

During the autumn of 2003, after repeated requests from the CIA, Ashcroft finally exercised his duty as attorney general to investigate the disclosure of Valerie Plame Wilson's identity by administration officials to various journalists. Although the CIA first notified the Justice Department as early as July 30 of a potentially serious crime -- namely, a violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act -- Justice didn't open an investigation until the end of September, after the CIA informed the department that it had completed its own review of the facts.
For three months, until Ashcroft decided to recuse himself, the investigation remained under his control, despite the well-founded suspicions of Rove's involvement. Ashcroft willfully ignored his own inherent conflict in overseeing a case that might lead to an indictment of Rove, who had assisted his political campaigns in Missouri and had directed the process that led to his appointment as attorney general. Only after repeated protests from Democrats in Congress, strong editorial comment on the unseemliness of Ashcroft's conduct, and polls showing public demand for an independent counsel did he finally recuse himself from the Wilson matter.

By then, however, the investigation had already begun, and Rove, among others in the White House, was already on record publicly denying any involvement in the leaks. Indeed, those denials by Rove himself and White House press secretary Scott McClellan returned to haunt them and the president earlier this year, following evidence provided by Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper about his July 2003 conversation with Rove concerning the Wilsons.

Salon.com | Rove's nightmare

...Back then, Rove might well have assumed that the case would be buried without any undue inconvenience to him. The president had publicly predicted, after all, that the perpetrators of the leak were unlikely to be identified. There was no reason, at the outset, to think that an independent-minded prosecutor would take over from Ashcroft a few months later.

If Rove told the FBI agents the same story that he and McClellan were telling the press, then he might have set himself up for a felony charge of lying to a federal law enforcement official. And if he lied, then he need not have been under oath to have committed a crime.
-Joe Conason

Oh, delicious day. Pardon my unbridled glee at the anticipated announcement of indictments, but my strongly held belief is that Karl Rove singlehandedly has besmirched America and its reputation abroad, while simultaneously degrading the entire political climate with his constant mudslinging. Prison is the only sensible relocation available to Rove, his Florida residence notwithstanding.

a recent story in the Washington Post discussed the tax status of Rove's home in Washington. The story said that Rove is registered to vote in Texas -- apparently based on his ownership of a couple of rental cottages there -- despite the fact that he lives in Washington and is building a home for himself in Florida. In the course of the story, Elizabeth Reyes, a lawyer in the Texas secretary of state's office, was quoted saying that a person could be criminally prosecuted for voting in a place he doesn't live. When the story came out, Rove put in a phone call to the Texas secretary of state, a man described as a longtime supporter of George W. Bush and a major GOP fundraiser. Shortly thereafter, Reyes was fired. That might have been the end of things if it weren't for Comfort resident Frances Lovett, who has written a letter to the Kerr County district attorney asking for an investigation into whether Rove has been voting in Texas illegally.
- Tom Grieve

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Liar opens mouth, lies

Again - the Bush Administration plays the bait and switch game. We suspected as much at the time, but were hoping we weren't correct.

Chicago Tribune | Great Lakes plan all washed up

After a year of promises to make the Great Lakes a greater national priority, the Bush administration is pulling back from an ambitious $20 billion plan to restore and protect the world's largest source of freshwater. Three months after the plan was released for public comment, administration officials are finalizing a report to President Bush that concludes federal spending on the Great Lakes should remain “within current budget projections,” meaning no new money should be allocated.

Instead, federal, state and local officials should concentrate on “improving the efficiency and effectiveness of existing programs,” according to the draft report, a copy of which was obtained by the Tribune. Without the administration's support, Congress likely will not endorse more aggressive--and more expensive--efforts to clean up contaminated ports, fix aging sewer systems, block invasive species and improve the shoreline. Legislation calling for more spending on the Great Lakes already is bottled up in House and Senate committees.

Many of the problems facing the lakes will cost considerably more to fix. Cleaning up 31 toxic hot spots around the lakes is estimated to cost up to $4.5 billion alone. In the Chicago area, the sites include Waukegan Harbor, the Grand Calumet River and the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal.

The most expensive item on the wish list is nearly $14 billion to upgrade sewage systems in cities around the lakes. Beaches occasionally are closed following chronic sewage overflows. But financing sewer improvements is a perennial battle in Congress.

For instance, the president's budget request this year included no money to continue work on the Deep Tunnel project, a system of tunnels and reservoirs in the Chicago area that captures storm run-off and helps keep human and industrial waste out of Lake Michigan.

But after a year of debate, many of those involved in efforts to improve existing programs say more money is needed to help the lakes, the source of one-fifth of the world's freshwater. They point to other multibillion-dollar initiatives to restore the Everglades and Chesapeake Bay.

“I don't think we will bring the lakes back to health with existing budgets,” said Cameron Davis, executive director of the Alliance for the Great Lakes. “There is a significant national interest in the Great Lakes that deserves a significant national investment.”


Republicans and the Law


A continuing meme seems to be that there is a hell of a lot of criminal investigations that involve Republicans recently. One more to add to the list is Aragoncillo. Per this article, it is unclear as to how the information was acquired, or to be fair, if this even involves the Vice President, directly, or if Big Dick is being investigated just due to sloppy security practices at the White House.

Chicago Tribune | FBI Examines Computers in Cheney's Office

FBI agents examined computers in Vice President Dick Cheney's office and talked to former and current White House aides Thursday as they investigated an FBI intelligence analyst accused of passing classified information to Filipino officials.

Aragoncillo, a U.S. citizen originally from the Philippines, was charged last month with providing classified information from his FBI posting at Fort Monmouth, N.J., to former and current Philippine officials who oppose President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Philippine Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales said the criminal complaint against Aragoncillo suggests the information could have been intended to destabilize the Philippine government.

Aragoncillo was hired to work at Fort Monmouth in July 2004 and began sending classified information and documents in January, often via e-mail, according to an FBI complaint made public last month. The documents' contents have not been made public.

From May to Aug. 15 of this year, he printed or downloaded 101 classified documents relating to the Philippines, of which 37 were classified “secret,” according to the criminal complaint.

He sent some of the material to Aquino, the complaint said.


There's no reason to believe that agreeing to only pay for 10%-15% of the toxic environmental mess that General Electric caused is what is making CEO Jeff Immelt wet his pants on CNBC, but it might still be related.

WSJ.com - Regulators, GE Strike New Deal On Hudson River PCB Cleanup
Federal authorities and General Electric Co. struck a deal Thursday on dredging PCB-contaminated sediment from the Hudson River, a big step forward in the delayed Superfund cleanup plan.
Separately, the industrial, financial services and media conglomerate said it was inching up its forecast for third-quarter and full-year earnings, citing “solid growth” in orders for major equipment and services.
The cleanup deal was announced by the Environmental Protection Agency, which filed a consent decree in federal court in Albany, N.Y. (See the consent decree.)

The Hudson River dredging project, estimated to cost some $500 million, had been delayed by the EPA, citing the complexity of the project to remove toxic PCBs from the riverbed. In recent months, environmental groups have accused GE of stalling on the plan to try to evade the high costs of the cleanup project.

The dredging is now scheduled to begin in spring 2007, and Thursday's pact calls for GE to pay the government up to $78 million for past and future costs. The company has already paid some $37 million.

“This is an historic agreement that commits GE to begin dredging the Hudson River,” said EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson.

In case you forgot about the Hudson River cleanup:

GE, which is based in Fairfield, Conn., dumped an estimated 1.3 million pounds of PCBs -- a viscous liquid coolant used in transformers -- into the river from its plants in Fort Edward and Hudson Falls before the federal government banned the substance in 1977. PCBs are classified as a probable cause of cancer. The EPA seeks to dredge some 2.65 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment.

But it seems to have helped GE's bottom line:

GE said it expects to post third-quarter earnings of 44 cents a share. That matches the high end of GE's previous forecast, for quarterly earnings of 43 to 44 cents a share.
“We're very bullish on the year and the third quarter,” Chairman and Chief Executive Jeff Immelt said on CNBC

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Frog March matter day 88

Wow. Could end-game be approaching? How is that campaign to restore honor to White House coming along, anyway?

Politics News Article | Reuters.com
The federal prosecutor investigating who leaked the identity of a CIA operative is expected to signal within days whether he intends to bring indictments in the case, legal sources close to the investigation said on Wednesday.As a first step, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was expected to notify officials by letter if they have become targets, said the lawyers, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.Fitzgerald could announce plea agreements, bring indictments, or conclude that no crime was committed. By the end of this month he is expected to wrap up his nearly two-year-old investigation into who leaked CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.The inquiry has ensnared President George W. Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, and Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby. The White House had long maintained that Rove and Libby had nothing to do with the leak but reporters have since named them as sources.Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, declined to say whether his client had been contacted by Fitzgerald. In the past, Luskin has said that Rove was assured that he was not a target.

For reference, and so I don't have to retrace more steps than necessary:
Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and addendum, Day 4, Day 5 and addendum, Day 6, Day 7, day 8 and bonus, Day 9, Day 10, Day 11, Day 14, Day 15, Day 19 (Ben Sargent edition), Day 20, by which time we were all very tired of typing the same title over and over, and stopped using that particular title for a while. Not that we ignored the case, here, here, and here, for instance.

Monday brought this tidbit, which I guess would be Day 85 if my math is accurate.

Of course, there were a few from an earlier incarnation of this web zine, such as the first time we used the title, Frog March, or this, this, this, and even this from June of 2004.

Can you spell obsession? I spell it K-A-R-L-R-O-V-E

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Reviews V part 6

The solipsistic slog continues...

Chicago Smoking ban

We're all for the smoking ban. I'd like to be able to go out for a drink at 10 pm, and not stink like sour smoke the next day. As an ex-smoker, I don't gag at the smell of smoke, but the stale residue that lingers on clothing, hair, etc., irks me.

Chicago Tribune's Eric Zorn Anecdotes aside, Academic study after academic study shows no overall negative impact on bar and restaurant revenues. (also here, and here) In fact, some studies, like a recent Harvard University analysis of pre- and post-ban data from Massachusetts, show measurable positive impacts.

One of the compromises that Smoke-Free Chicago helped introduce into the Chicago proposal this week is a hardship exemption for individual bars and restaurants that can show a 15 percent revenue drop attributable to the ban.

They also decreased the mandatory smoke-free zone outside an establishment's door to 10 feet from 25 feet.

Illinois Restaurant Association leaders may wring a few more short-term concessions in the next three weeks out of aldermen who are aware of Mayor Richard Daley's call for com promise on the issue.


Those campaigning for a sweeping ban on smoking in Chicago's restaurants and bars got a lesson in City Hall politics Wednesday.

Led by the American Cancer Society, they have mounted an aggressive public relations campaign in recent months that seemed to be gaining ground. There was supposed to be a vote in the City Council's Health Committee Wednesday, and there were some predictions that the smoking ban would easily pass there and be approved by the City Council a day later.

But Wednesday morning all of that went up, well, in smoke. The vote was delayed. The most likely reason: Mayor Richard Daley still isn't comfortable with the proposed ordinance, which would impose a sweeping ban on smoking in most public places, including restaurants and bars. The mayor raised his reservations again Wednesday, without taking credit--or blame--for delaying the vote.

and no matter how interesting Alderman Natarus may be, this is not a good proposal:

There are other good ideas out there. Ald. Burton Natarus (42nd) has suggested restaurants, bars and bowling alleys be allowed to buy a “tobacco use” license, costing up to $500 a year. The license fees could be earmarked for smoking cessation programs or used to pay for monitoring the compliance with air ventilation standards.

$500 dollars isn't much money, and how does it stop smoking? I think the (unsigned) author of this article is friends with Natarus or something.

Also from the Trib's Gary Washburn:

Natarus as a Witch

Unable to reach a compromise Wednesday, the City Council's Health Committee put off a vote on an ordinance that would impose a sweeping smoking ban that included Chicago bars and restaurants.

Ald. Ed Smith (28th), the committee's chairman, reluctantly agreed to wait to see the terms of a compromise proposal from the Illinois Restaurant Association. But Smith vowed that his committee would approve and send on to the full council a final version of the ordinance by the end of this month.

The decision disappointed anti-smoking advocates who have mounted an aggressive and expensive public relations campaign and who expected the committee to send the ordinance on to the council for consideration at Thursday's meeting.

The delay also set the stage for a new round of lobbying, arm-twisting and politicking on the highly charged and controversial issue of just how far a smoking ban should go.

Smith's proposed ordinance, whose provisions were crafted by an anti-smoking coalition led by the American Cancer Society, would have barred smoking in virtually all public places, including restaurants and bars. That proposal was amended at Wednesday's meeting but not enough to win over the hospitality industry.

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Oops and Apple anticipation game

Chicago Tribune news : Local news, weather, traffic, shopping and classified
What is Apple up to? The company sent our an e-mail with a cryptic invitations to a mysterious event.
I'm assuming this typo won't last forever. Trib Typo

Anyway, is there a company that plays the hype game better than Apple?

And so spiraled the speculation Wednesday after Apple Computer Co. sent cryptic invitations by e-mail to journalists and industry types for an Oct. 12 event at a theater near its Cupertino, Calif., headquarters.

By the end of the day, only two things were certain: The Apple e-mail contained a picture of some black curtains, and the company, known for last-minute surprises during product roll-outs, had scored yet another public relations victory.

I actually hope it isn't a video iPod, because I'm not interested in getting one.

WSJ: Apple Computer Inc., in a much-anticipated effort to expand its position in digital entertainment, next week is expected to introduce a version of the iPod capable of playing video and to begin selling music videos through its iTunes Music Store, according to people familiar with the matter.

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Truth emerges from liar's mouth

WSJ.com - President Seeks Entitlement Cuts To Pay for Katrina
President Bush called on Congress to balance additional hurricane relief and reconstruction spending with “substantial” cuts in popular entitlement programs, and also said the storms showed legislation is needed to encourage construction of new U.S. oil refineries.

...Mr. Bush reiterated that he had no intention of cutting military or homeland-security programs. [Josh Bolten, Mr. Bush's budget director] said it is unlikely the administration will tamper with Social Security benefits or the new Medicare prescription-drug benefit. Mr. Bolten also appeared to shut the door on tax increases, which some Democrats favor, branding them “retrograde” steps that could slow economic growth.

Though Mr. Bush has continually cast himself as a fiscal conservative, he has yet to veto a congressional spending bill, and administration proposals for defense and homeland security have added billions of dollars to the national deficit. Some economic analysts have estimated that the deficit could balloon to $400 billion in the fiscal year that began this week -- up from the estimated $330 billion in 2005.

Yes, wouldn't want to stop wasting money in Iraq now would we? Rather balance the budget on the backs of the poor - they don't have any lobbyists anyway. I'm curious as to which of the many corporate entitlement programs the President is discussing. Or as they are called, tax breaks. Poor folks get 'entitlements', a word that sounds like it was hatched in Grover Norquist's Satanic Mills.

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Corporations get different rules to play by

WSJ.com - Tax Break Brings Billions to U.S., But Impact on Hiring Is Unclear
Nine months into 2005, U.S. companies have announced plans to repatriate about $206 billion in foreign profits under a special one-year tax break.
But it's far from clear whether the spending has spurred the job growth that backers of the break touted.
A law signed by President Bush shortly before the 2004 election allows companies to transfer profit from overseas operations back to the U.S. this year at a special low tax rate of 5.25%. Businesses often keep such funds outside the country in part to avoid paying taxes in the U.S., where the effective rate on repatriated profit for many companies is normally closer to 25%. Backers said the measure would provide an incentive to companies to invest those funds in U.S. operations.
Most companies using the break have offered only broad outlines for how they intend to use their windfall. For the most part, they say they are using the bulk of the money for tasks such as paying down debt and meeting payrolls. Direct job creation rarely appears on the list.

I'm not sure who in their right mind actually thought that this would be a miracle 'job creation' incentive. Perhaps the initiative was marketed that way to the public, but companies who received this windfall did whatever they wanted with the cash, no strings attached. Which of these companies pays the top corporate tax rate anyway? I'll hazard a guess that the number is pretty small.

Some companies are even bringing home piles of cash while continuing to downsize. Colgate-Palmolive Co., of New York, said in July that it planned to repatriate $800 million, at a time when the company also is pursuing plans to shut a third of its factories and eliminate roughly 12% of its work force, or 4,450 people, over four years. So far, 91 large companies have disclosed some profit repatriation under the break, according to International Strategy & Investment Group Inc., an investment advisory company.
If I can find the list, I'll post it as an addendum. Here are the top 10 in the meantime: Pfizer, Merck, Hewlett-Packard, Johnson & Johnson, DuPont, Schering-Plough, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, IBM, Eli Lilly, Pepsico.

Top Ten Tax repatriation beneficiaries

Some analysts contend that by offering a one-year break, the law actually encourages companies to horde profits overseas in the future, since they are likely to expect this to happen again.

Critics also question whether the money is being funneled indirectly into improper uses. Companies aren't supposed to use repatriated funds for stock buybacks, dividends, or executive compensation, but there is no requirement that companies isolate funds or show that spending on approved uses is above what the company would have spent normally.

Companies are required to file board-approved plans to the Treasury Department, mapping out how they plan to use the money for approved uses, notes Nicholas Bohnsack, associate managing director of International Strategy & Investment Group Inc., an investment advisory company. “Companies are filing reports that fall within the regulations,” he says, “but that just frees up money in another kitty.”

ISI believes increased dividend payouts and stock buybacks will be two of the top five end results of the repatriation. The other main uses will be mergers and acquisitions, capital expenditures and debt retirement, all of which are allowed under the law, ISI says.
“Since cash is fungible, there's really no way to track it,” says Christopher Senyek, accounting analyst at Bear Stearns.




Our building was broken into yesterday, and apartments on two floors were robbed. Yesterday morning I had noticed that a door to the street didn't close behind me, went back and closed it, but didn't think more of it. After hearing of the burglaries, we went down to that door, and discovered how the thieves got in. They had jimmied the handle so that the door wouldn't close by removing a screw on the push-handle plate. Still unsure if this was deliberate to gain entry, or an accident due to poor maintenance (there isn't any really - we're too small a building to have anyone on retainer) that some lucky thief noticed. Now of course everyone is in a small state of panic, with talk of installing cameras, fences, etc.

Being robbed is a definite feeling of violation, someone has been rifling through your belongings, taking whatever grabs their fancy (in this case, a law students computer with all his files, jewelry, etc.), or that is easily sellable. My main office is next to the door, I'd be devestated if someone grabbed my computer, or camera, or guitar.

photos below

NetNewsWire purchased

The best RSS reader for Mac OSX just got bought...

NewsGator - News Archive
NewsGator Technologies, Inc., the leading RSS platform company, announced today that it has acquired NetNewsWire, the leading RSS reader for Mac OS X. NewsGator also announced that NetNewsWire will integrate tightly with the NewsGator Online synchronization platform. Brent Simmons, the creator of NetNewsWire, will be joining the NewsGator team as a product architect.

The NewsGator Online platform provides a highly integrated and synchronized reading/viewing experience across multiple devices, including the web, mobile phones, televisions, and e-mail clients such as Microsoft Outlook. The recent FeedDemon acquisition extended this to the Windows desktop, and now with NetNewsWire, the premier RSS reader for Mac OS X, the platform extends to the Mac desktop as well.
[Greg Reinacker, founder and CTO of NewsGator] added, “Brent has done a great job building this product – we’re not only excited to add NetNewsWire to our portfolio, but also to incorporate Brent’s excellent design and development skills to our team. We’re excited about the Mac platform, and we will continue to invest significantly in this area.”
As part of this deal, existing NetNewsWire full-version customers will receive a free 2-year paid subscription to NewsGator Online. More details will be announced with the next release of NetNewsWire, which will include advanced features and functions from NewsGator Online.

Congratulations to Brent Simmons and his team. No wonder he was coy about the next release on the NNW mailing list....

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Mr. Beer Brewing Kit

Hey, if you (yes, you) send me one of these kits, I'll invite you over to drink the resulting home-brew on my rooftop deck. Come on, what a deal! I'll even let you control the iPod remote!

“Mr. Beer” Brewing Kit - After 5 Catalog - Martini, cocktail, tiki and wine accessories
You thought Mr. Coffee was convenient? Well, make some counter space for Mr. Beer. This ingenious easy-to-use kit gives you everything you need to brew your own tasty suds. It's the most advanced and widely acclaimed home brewing product on the market. And it's the simplest. Each kit includes a poly-vinyl chloride Keg Fermenter (2.5 gal.), one can of West Coast Pale Ale Beer Mix (makes 20 bottles), one single serving booster pouch, one pouch of easy cleanser, a set of 8 reusable bottles and caps, a Mr. Beer Recipe Booklet and easy-to-follow instructions.You can brew today and be ready to drink your first batch in just 14 days. All beer mixes are made of 100% natural ingredients with no additives or preservatives.

Hell yeah, baby.

Note: not related at all to Mr. Plow.

Link courtesy of Make Magazine's blog

Lake Michigan

Two treatments of Lake Michigan.

Our toxic society

Another in the series discussing the chemicals that live in our bodies, byproducts of our industrial culture. Our President's friend, Exxon-Mobil, is the largest producer of phthalates, by the way, so I'll expect the bully pulpit to resound with calls to ignore this 'scare story'.

WSJ.com - From an Ingredient In Cosmetics, Toys, A Safety Concern
In the 12th week of a human pregnancy, the momentous event of gender formation begins, as X and Y chromosomes trigger biochemical reactions that shape male or female organs. Estrogens carry the process forward in girls, while in boys, male hormones called androgens do.

Now scientists have indications the process may be influenced from beyond the womb, raising a fresh debate over industrial chemicals and safety. In rodent experiments, common chemicals called phthalates, used in a wide variety of products from toys to cosmetics to pills, can block the action of fetal androgens. The result is what scientists call demasculinized effects in male offspring, ranging from undescended testes at birth to low sperm counts and benign testicular tumors later in life. “Phthalate syndrome,” researchers call it.

Whether phthalates -- pronounced “thallets” -- might affect sexual development in humans, too, is now a matter of hot dispute. Doses in the rodent experiments were hundreds of times as high as the minute levels to which people are exposed. However, last year, federal scientists found gene alterations in the fetuses of pregnant rats that had been exposed to extremely low levels of phthalates, levels no higher than the trace amounts detected in some humans.

Then this year, two direct links to humans were made. First, a small study found that baby boys whose mothers had the greatest phthalate exposures while pregnant were much more likely than other baby boys to have certain demasculinized traits. And another small study found that 3-month-old boys exposed to higher levels of phthalates through breast milk produced less testosterone than baby boys exposed to lower levels of the chemicals.

Scientists are raising questions about phthalates at a time when male reproductive disorders, including testicular cancer, appear to be on the rise in many countries. Seeking an explanation, European endocrinologists have identified what some see as a human counterpart to rodents' phthalate syndrome, one they call “testicular dysgenesis syndrome.” Some think it may be due in part to exposure to phthalates and other chemicals that interfere with male sex hormones.

We know abnormal development of the fetal testes underlies many of the reproductive disorders we're seeing in men,” says Richard Sharpe of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, a researcher on male reproduction. “We do not know what's causing this, but we do know high doses of phthalates induce parallel disorders in rats.”

Of course, the industry claims that there is nothing to worry about:

Users and producers of phthalates say they are perfectly safe at the very low levels to which humans are exposed. Phthalates are among the most widely studied chemicals and have proved safe for more than 50 years, says Marian Stanley of the American Chemistry Council, a trade association.

Great, I feel better now. Wouldn't want to get science involved. Bill Moyers PBS program discussed these guys (also here, with a link to ScoreCard.org which allows you to search by zipcode to determine which chemicals are in your neighborhood).

A few more excerpts after the jump.


Tropicalia at the MCA

MCA Chicago

In conjunction with the exhibition Tropicália: A Revolution in Brazilian Culture (October 22, 2005 – January 8, 2006), the MCA presents an exciting series of concerts, performances, and film screenings. The Tropicália movement was brief but lasting, transforming Brazilian culture and inspiring generations of artists, performers, and musicians. In addition to the World Music Festival performances of Orquestra Imperial with Seu Jorge, and Dominico +2 with On Fillmore (see World Music Festival above); and the Chicago Human Rhythm Project with Vatá Tap (see Chicago Human Rhythm Project below), the MCA presents several other Brazilian performances

The flyer we got says this is Friday October 21st, but the website is unclear, but there seems to be several events going on at the MCA supporting the Tropicalia exhibit. If you don't know about Tropicália , you should learn. Some spectacular music.

There's also a gala Thursday:

Tropicália opens in high style at the opening-night gala on Thursday, October 20, at the MCA. Co-chairs Abe Tomás Hughes, II and Diana Karnas, Mona and Edward Zander, and Sandy and Jim Reynolds have planned an amazing evening with Brazilian musicians performing throughout the museum and sculpture garden.

I want to go to both, we'll see if work allows. Today is actually supposed to be a holiday: Rosh Hashana (year 5766), so not supposed to discuss work at all. Well, D isn't anyway. As the resident pagan/whatever, I can filter things to her, if need be. Tomorrow too. She was brought up in an Orthodox household, with a kosher kitchen (two sinks so as to not mix the meat and dairy, etc.), but doesn't go to such extremes these days. She still considers herself Jewish, and we usually attend the High Holiday services, but she will eat crab, lobster, shrimp, etc., just not on holy days.

Update 10-19-05
More here
and here

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Scary sentence

WSJ.com - Congress Wades Into Campus Politics
College campuses can be political hotbeds. And that has some members of Congress thinking they should get involved.
Some Republicans are pushing a measure through the House of Representatives meant to ensure that students hear “dissenting viewpoints” in class and are protected from retaliation because of their politics or religion. Colleges say the measure isn't needed, but with Congress providing billions of dollars to higher education, they are worried.
The measure's chief promoter, Marxist-turned-conservative activist David Horowitz, says an academic bill of rights will protect students from possible political “hectoring” and discrimination by their professors. “We have enough institutions in America that are political. Let's keep [universities] above that fray,” he adds.

Horowitz is just a putz. I don't know if he ever was a Marxist, except in his own mind. Congress should have better things to do than get involved in college campus politics. Whatever happened to the Invisible Hand of ideas? Thought police are not what universities need.

Members of Congress began pondering their own academic bill of rights two years ago when Rep. Jack Kingston, a Georgia Republican, introduced a bill that largely copied Mr. Horowitz's wording. Mr. Kingston, whose father and sister are professors, says he is “pro-academic.” But with taxpayers providing billions of dollars to the universities, they should be assured that professors won't “ridicule my kid when he has a George Bush bumper sticker,” he says. The Kingston measure went nowhere for two years, but in June, Republicans attached a shortened version to the Higher Education Act, which provides grants and loans to millions of college students. In hopes of heading it off, university presidents passed their own academic-rights statement. But the House education committee passed the measure anyway, over the opposition of Democrats who called Mr. Horowitz's student groups “thought police.” Faculty groups say that Congress's measure is costly and unnecessary. Florida has estimated that an academic-rights measure before its legislature would cost $4.3 million a year in staffing and legal costs. The AAUP argues that colleges already have grievance procedures and student-written teacher evaluations where allegations of ideological discrimination can be aired.

The Republicans are so incredibly thin-skinned that it would be funny, if there weren't such serious consequences to their actions.

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Tanka tales

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WSJ.com - The Cellphone Poets Of Tokyo Marry Tech, Tanka and Tradition
For years, Ayano Iida used email on her cellphone mainly to tap out quick messages to friends like “Let's get together tomorrow.”
But these days, Ms. Iida's mobile is spouting out heartfelt verse like this: “The guy who I liked/second-best, was second-rate/in the school that he/went to; and also in his/performance between the sheets.”
Ms. Iida, 26 years old, is one of a growing number of young Japanese using mobile phones to write and exchange tanka, an ancient form of unrhymed poetry whose roots reach back at least 1,300 years. Scores of tanka home pages and bulletin boards are popping up on cellphone Internet sites with names like Palm-of-the-Hand Tanka and Teenage Tanka. Japan's national public broadcaster airs a weekly show called “Saturday Night Is Cellphone Tanka,” which gets about 3,000 poems emailed from listeners' mobiles each week on topics like parental nagging and the boy in the next class.

The marriage of tanka and cellphones is all the more unexpected because tanka is so bound up with Japanese tradition. Tanka, literally “short song,” is thought to have first emerged around the eighth century. It is composed of 31 syllables arranged in a rigid, five-line pattern of 5-7-5-7-7. It's big on archaic words and has long been associated with high culture.

Courtiers of the 10th century exchanged love letters in tanka form, and the imperial family still pens tanka at the start of each year on topics like “happiness” and “spring.” Tanka are often used to commemorate pivotal moments like death: Japanese novelist Yukio Mishima wrote two tanka before he slit his belly in ritual suicide in 1970.
But young Japanese say tanka is surprisingly suited to the cellphone. It's short enough to fit on little mobile screens, and simple enough to let young poets whip out bits of verse whenever the spirit moves them.

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Landrover tune

This is still one of the most frequently googled pages on my site: “who sings the song in the Land Rover commercial?”, or variants thereof. Apparently, not everyone thinks to Google for answers to all of life's questions...

Ask Stuart Elliott: Have Land Rover Will Travel

A Reader Asks: Who is singing in the Land Rover commercial that ran in August? At the end of the commercial, he seems to holler. Also, what is the name of the song?

Stuart Elliott: The commercial, for the 2005 Land Rover LR3, features a song called “Have Love Will Travel” by a band named the Sonics. “I wouldn't qualify it as a holler,” says Scott Anderson, a spokesman for the Land Rover agency, “but it is very upbeat.” The agency is the Dearborn, Mich., office of Young & Rubicam, part of the Young & Rubicam Brands unit of the WPP Group.

Thank the godz I have a TiVo, and can skip past this ad, so the song hasn't suffered wear-out for me.

“Here Are the Sonics” (The Sonics)

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Ad skippers rule

The Ad-Averse: Finicky and Opinionated

The online marketing research firm Intelliseek released data last week suggesting that so-called ad-skippers - those who avoid ads on TV or the Internet, either by installing pop-up blockers, by recording shows and skipping the spots or by changing channels when commercials come on - behave differently in other ways as well.

The study ... found that ad-skippers were generally more interested than their ad-watching peers in online product research and more likely to participate in online discussions of products, like those on blogs or product review sites. Those who skipped ads were 17 percent more likely to research computer hardware or software online, and they posted comments on Web sites 25 percent more often.

This creates problems for marketers, said Pete Blackshaw of Intelliseek. “The same consumers they're spending money researching are now taking control of the message,” sometimes voicing opinions that are the opposite of what the marketers want to project.

In other words, folks like us, the TiVo users, users of pop-up blockers, commercial radio avoiders, and the reader of web zines, we are the ones who actively seek information that is relevant to us. You can't bamboozle us with your PR, with your cliched political talking points, and expect us to blindly believe whatever snake-oil you sell is a panacea for all. We do our own research, thank you very much.

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Think Progress » Source to Stephanopoulos: President Bush Directly Involved In Leak Scandal:
ABC’s This Week, George Stephanopoulos dropped this bomb:
Definitely a political problem but I wonder, George Will, do you think it’s a manageable one for the White House especially if we don’t know whether Fitzgerald is going to write a report or have indictments but if he is able to show as a source close to this told me this week, that President Bush and Vice President Cheney were actually involved in some of these discussions.
This would explain why Bush spent more than an hour answering questions from special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. It would also fundamentally change the dynamics of the scandal. President Bush could no longer claim he was merely a bystander who wants to “get to the bottom of it.” As Stephanopoulos notes, if Bush played a direct role it could make this scandal completely unmanageable.
Now, this would be interesting, if in fact true. If it isn't true, maybe by wishing with all of our might, Tinkerbell will make it true. Pass the beer-nuts, or whatever those damn salty snack things are.

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Thinking out loud

Philip K. Dick
"Don't try to solve serious matters in the middle of the night."

I make no pretense that I am an eloquent reviewer of movies or music, or of any arts really. Art is so subjective an experience that quantifying one's emotional response in order to persuade others is rather ridiculous. There are people who make a living being critics, who spend hours wrestling with our inexact language to convince others of the merits or lack of merits of a particular piece. I'm not one of those people: I struggled in Art History classes because the language of art criticism seems so overwrought and pretentious that it didn't (doesn't) make sense to me. Reviewers of other mediums aren't usually as bombastic, but again, I find it difficult to emulate good criticism.

That said, I still enjoy annotating and cataloguing my immediate response to music I hear, or films I watch. Partially, it's part and parcel of the entire web zine (err, blogging) motivation - to attempt to pluck some meaning out of the immense amount of information that floods my consciousness by picking out parts that interest me. In years past, this meant clipping magazine article, bothering everyone I knew with voluminous emails, scribbling in a journal, etc., but also meant that aided recall was sometimes difficult. Posting these items onto a public web page is similar, but of course, quite different. By typing up my emotional responses to the music I listen to, or the films I watch, I add these strands to the woof of my (public) life.

While on this topic, I want to expand my 'brief survey of music before the Punk movement started in the early 70's that nonetheless adhered to the spirit/ethos of Punk' (mentioned here) to include Bob Dylan's 1966 tour of the U.S. and England. Some of his backing band in the States couldn't handle the constant showering of abuse, and quit (according to an interview in No Direction Home, Al Kooper quit because the next stop on the tour was Dallas, where Kennedy was just shot, and Kooper was fearful of his own life), so The Band joined Dylan instead. Every night there was a chorus of boos and abuse thrown at the stage, but that didn't stop Dylan from instructing his accompanists to "Play Fucking Loud"


The Magnificent Seven

Netflix: The Magnificent Seven:
Fed up with being brutalized and impoverished because of outlaw raids led by a merciless brigand (Eli Wallach), the besieged citizens of a small Mexican town hire seven American gunslingers to stave off the marauders once and for all. Badass Yul Brynner heads the band of mercenaries, which includes Hollywood luminaries Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn and Robert Vaughn. Elmer Bernstein penned the film's unforgettable score.
Perhaps because I recently watched the Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven tasted like a watered down version of a good story. The 'noble' gringos save the hat-in-hand Mexican villagers, using healthy dollops of that phony cowboy gallantry I discussed, briefly. These cowboys would never torture prisoners by stacking them into pyramids. In fact, they don't even seem concerned with prostitutes, only with 'upholding honor'. While that may be a noble goal for all of us to strive for, considered historically, I don't buy it as a motivation for these guys. The 7 Samurai version seems quite a lot more realistic. Perhaps it was a matter of chemistry:
According to Eli Wallach's autobiography, Yul Brynner had a major problem with what he perceived as Steve McQueen's trying to upstage him. According to Wallach, McQueen would do things when on screen with Brynner to draw attention to his character. Examples were his shaking of the shotgun shells and taking off his hat to check the sun during the hearse scene and leaning off his horse to dip his hat in the river when the Seven cross into Mexico. Brynner was supposedly so worried about McQueen stealing his limelight in scenes that he hired an assistant to count the number of times McQueen touched his own hat when he [Brynner] was speaking.

Magnificent Seven Whatever the reason was, the Magnificent Seven resembles nothing as much as a cartoon, Reader's Digest version of the vastly superior, Seven Samurai. I note that IMDB users rate the Mag Seven almost 8 out 10, so apparently I'm in a minority for considering this a mediocre film. Oh, and the vaunted soundtrack didn't do much for me either.

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