November 2005 Archives

PriceRitePhoto are scammers

Note to self, and to anyone reading this: make sure to avoid a retailer called, PriceRitePhoto

Thomas Hawk's PriceRitePhoto story
“I will make sure you will never be able to place an order on the internet again.” “I'm an attorney, I will sue you.” “I will call the CEO of your company and play him the tape of this phone call.” “I'm going to call your local police and have two officers come over and arrest you.” “You'd better get this through your thick skull.” “You have no idea who you are dealing with.”

These are all direct threats that I received today from an individual who identified himself as Steve Phillips, the manager of PriceRitePhoto in Brooklyn, New York when I called to inquire about my order with them. My crime? Telling him that I planned to write an article about my unfortunate experience with his company regarding the camera order I had placed with him yesterday.

How are these people able to stay in business?

read more of Thomas Hawk's horror story here. Jeez!


The Boston Globe writes:

Former Powell aide details debate over interrogations

WASHINGTON -- A top aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell said yesterday that wrongheaded ideas for the handling of foreign detainees arose from White House and Pentagon officials who argued that ''the president of the United States is all-powerful“ and the Geneva Conventions are irrelevant.

In an interview, former Powell chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson also said President Bush was ''too aloof, too distant from the details” of postwar planning. Underlings exploited Bush's detachment, Wilkerson said.

He blamed Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and like-minded aides. He said Cheney must have sincerely believed that Iraq could be a spawning ground for new terror assaults, because ''otherwise I have to declare him a moron, an idiot, or a nefarious bastard.“

Cheney's office and Rumsfeld aides argued ''that the president of the United States is all-powerful, that as commander in chief, the president of the United States can do anything he damn well pleases,” Wilkerson said.

If only Wilkerson had said these things, say in 2003, perhaps we would have a corporate bureaucrat in the White House instead of a feeble-minded scion with delusions of messianic glory.

Impeachment? How about a recall vote?

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Cable's worst nightmare

Wow. Would the mouthbreathers on MSNBC survive? How about all those damn shopping channels? or freaking PAX TV. We have a satellite dish, partially for business reasons (subscribe to East Coast, Central, and West Coast networks, for instance). But if I calculated the amount of time spent watching each channel of the many, per annum, I'd say with confidence that 98% of the channels we get are viewed less than 2 minutes a year! So, could really reduce the clutter by eliminating all the dreck. Of course, the cable companies would hate this because suddenly, Nielsen (and competitors) would have much more importance than ever.

Don't know how realistic it actually is: the media corporations usually get their way (having gazillions of dollars does have benefits in our cash-and-carry political system), but I can day-dream, can't I? - FCC May Endorse Cable a la Carte, In a Policy Shift
Federal regulators are on the verge of suggesting that cable companies could best serve consumers by letting them subscribe to individual channels instead of offering only prepackaged bundles.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin is expected to announce today at a Senate forum on indecency that the FCC will soon reissue its review of cable industry “à la carte” pricing with a wholly different conclusion. While the original report concluded that consumers would pay more for individual channels, the new one concludes they could pay less.

“This report will conclude that à la carte could be in the best interest of consumers,” said an FCC official familiar with the revised report's contents. The report also finds that “themed tiers” of channels could be “economically feasible,” the official said.

This is of concern for the cable industry, partly because it opens a new front in the government's efforts to impose indecency standards on cable and satellite providers. Until now, the cable industry has resisted suggestions from Mr. Martin and some lawmakers to voluntarily offer à la carte choices or set up a “family-friendly tier” of channels suitable for children. By suggesting that consumers won't necessarily pay more for individual channels, the report calls into question the cable industry's revenue model.

Cable and satellite operators pay a monthly license fee to carry channels and pass along those costs to subscribers. The fees vary tremendously. Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN costs more than $2.50 a month per subscriber, while Time Warner Inc.'s Cartoon Network costs only about 15 cents.

Many subscribers without children might drop such offerings as Viacom Inc.'s Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. To make up that lost revenue, channels aimed at children could have higher subscriber fees. And since advertising dollars depend on potential viewership, the end result would be that many channels would have less money to spend on programming.

Or a contrary view would decry this FCC endorsement as yet another incident of creeping 'nanny-state', Christian-Talibanism.

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From my keyboard to gods ears

or however that phrase goes.

The Raw Story | Testimony from Rove's former assistant may solidify case that he misled leak inquiry, lawyers say
Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will present evidence to a second grand jury this week in his two year-old investigation into the outing of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson that could lead to a criminal indictment being handed up against Karl Rove, President Bush’s deputy chief of staff, attorneys close to the investigation say.

Rove has remained under intense scrutiny because of inconsistencies in his testimony to investigators and the grand jury. According to sources, Rove withheld crucial facts on three separate occasions and allegedly misled investigators about conversations he had with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper.

The attorneys say that Rove’s former personal assistant, Susan B. Ralston -- who was also a special assistant to President Bush -- testified in August about why Cooper’s call to Rove was not logged. Ralston said it occurred because Cooper had phoned in through the White House switchboard and was then transferred to Rove’s office as opposed to calling Rove’s office directly. As Rove’s assistant, Ralston screened Rove’s calls.

But those close to the probe tell RAW STORY that Fitzgerald obtained documentary evidence showing that other unrelated calls transferred to Rove’s office by the switchboard were logged. He then called Ralston back to testify.

Earlier this month, attorneys say Fitzgerald received additional testimony from Ralston -- who said that Rove instructed her not to log a phone call Rove had with Cooper about Plame in July 2003.

False statements are what got Scooter Libby in trouble: Fitzgerald seems to take his job pretty seriously.

More at Raw Story, including:

Two things are clear, the sources said: either Rove will agree to enter into a plea deal with Fitzgerald or he will be charged with a crime, but he will not be exonerated for the role he played in the leak.

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Pork Neck Bones

The hoser, aka my younger brother, taken a few years ago when he visited me (1998?). We were riding the bus around north Chicago, exploring various neighborhoods. Devon Avenue is an Indian/Pakastani area, with some Russian Jews (Orthodox) mixed in.

Pork Neck Bones
(click for larger version, natch)

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Larry Brown is a petulant man

Speaking of Starbury, Peter Vescey puts aside the gossip gloves for a second, and instead has a fairly astute analysis of the situation in New York...

Peter Vescey sketches Larry Brown's character

NOT yet on the job two months and already Larry Brown has revealed his true self. Still, just in case New York's sophisticated fans and picky press aren't giving the Knicks' coach their undivided attention, I offer the following self-evident truths for perusal:
For starters, the frequently told fairy tale about him being hard on point guards has been forever demystified. Brown is hard on everyone, those that play for him, anyway.

After each and every loss, sometimes even following a win, you can count on Brown to unravel at least one of his players and glorify an opponent.

“That's Larry in a nutshell,” one of his former prized pupils substantiates. “He loves everyone on the other side and hates everyone on his team, except the last guy on the roster whose hustle and attitude Larry uses as an example to motivate everyone else.”

So far, off the top of my head, Brown has professed love for Eric Snow, Larry Hughes, Baron Davis, Kevin Ollie, George Lynch and Brevin Knight.

Give Brown a little more time and a few more leading questions and Brown is bound to playa hate 99 percent of the payroll, including Allan Houston, in the same manner he's dishonorably mentioned Stephon Marbury, Nate Robinson, Jerome James, Quentin Richardson, Jamaal Crawford and Eddy Curry; I apologize if I've left anyone out.

It's worthy of note that Red Holzman, the man Brown supposedly emulates and idolizes, never spoke unfavorably about one of his players, on or off the record. If they deserved it, Holzman would let them know what he thought of their effort or execution. But once he left the locker room to meet the media, he never came close to uttering a disparaging word about the team or any individual.

Neal Walk once told me how much the players appreciated Holzman's golden silence, no matter how bad things got. As a beat reporter on deadline, I hated his refusal to give up anything moderately meaty or remotely juicy to spice up my space.

But I always respected the hell out of Holzman and disrespect coaches like Brown and Bryon Scott, and many, many others (it's “they” when their team loses and “we” after wins), who try to make themselves look good by divulging what their players did wrong and expounding on it.

“Veterans get weary in a hurry hearing their names dragged through the mud by Brown,” underlines the prized pupil. “Young guys grin or grimace but accept it, until the moment they're established.”

If Holzman were alive, I guarantee you he'd seek out Brown, one Hall of Famer to another, and try to impress upon him how disloyal his nightly exposés make him look.

It's a shame nobody living off Brown has ever been man enough to do it. Either that, or he doesn't want to listen to anybody who tells him something he doesn't want to hear.


Insanely busy today, and insanely unmotivated after the long layoff. Horrible combination - I feel like I'm sulking like Stephon Marbury after Larry Brown's latest tirade
Marbury Brown

Couldn't let this pass though:

M2 Machine Gun

Civilian Sales of Military Rifle Raise Concerns About Terrorism When American soldiers need to penetrate a tank's armor from a mile away, they count on a weapon that evolved from the garage tinkering of a former wedding photographer.

The weapon, a .50-caliber rifle created by the photographer, Ronnie Barrett, and sold by his company, Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, is also the most powerful firearm civilians can buy. It weighs about 30 pounds and can hit targets up to 2,000 yards away with armor-piercing bullets.

That kind of power has drawn the United States military, which has been buying Mr. Barrett's rifles since the 1980's and using them in combat since the Persian Gulf war of 1991. But the gun also has critics, who say it could be used by terrorists to bring down commercial airliners or penetrate rail cars or storage plants holding hazardous materials.

“These are ideal weapons of terrorist attack,” said Tom Diaz, a senior policy analyst with the Violence Policy Center, a gun control advocacy group based in Washington.

Mr. Diaz said the guns should be more regulated and harder to buy. They can now be bought by anyone 18 or older who passes a background check.
And a 1999 investigation by the General Accounting Office, the predecessor of the Government Accountability Office, Congress's investigative arm, found that ammunition dealers were willing to sell armor-piercing bullets, even when an agent pretending to be a buyer said he wanted the ammunition for use against armored limousines or “to take a helicopter down.”

I'm no gun nut, so of course, my outrage is understandable, but regardless: WTF do civilians need with .50-caliber rifles? That's a big ass gun. Those deer and ducks must have stolen all the armored vests earmarked for troops deployed in Iraq.

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Netflixed: The Miracle of Morgan's Creek

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On a Preston Sturges kick: a shame there aren't more of his movies available. After this one, we'll have seen all of the Preston Sturges written/directed movies on DVD. All were good - and several have the “Criterion Collection” treatment - ie, restored film quality, and extensive DVD extras. Worth checking out, if you like literate comedic films.

Netflixed: The Miracle of Morgan's Creek
In this daring, slapstick farce that's become a classic, Betty Hutton plays a small-town girl who attends an all-night party and suddenly finds herself "in the family way." Trouble is, she can't remember who the father might be. Directed by Preston Sturges, this hilarious comedy features Eddie Bracken as a loveably nerdy suitor who's willing to marry Hutton. Williams Demarest, Brian Donlevy and Akim Tamiroff co-star.

Miracle of Morgan's Creek
Miracle of Morgan's Creek

Hoary Chestnuts

Not sure of this jokes authorship, but it has become a frequently forwarded list. Still funny. Posted because yesterday, the so-called Black Friday, D & I eschewed shopping, of any sort, and just snuggled and watched movies all day long.

Things I Learned From Movies

1. If being chased through town, you can usually take cover in a passing St Patrick's Day parade - at any time of the year.
2. All beds have special L-shaped top sheets that reach up to armpit level on a woman but only waist level on the man lying beside her.
3. All grocery shopping bags contain at least one stick of French bread.
4. Once applied, lipstick will never rub off - even while scuba diving.
5. The ventilation system of any building is a perfect hiding place. No one will ever think of looking for you in there and you can travel to any other part of the building without difficulty.
6. Should you wish to pass yourself off as a German officer, it will not be necessary to speak the language. A German accent will do.
7. The Eiffel Tower can be seen from any window of any building in Paris.
8. A man will show no pain while taking the most ferocious beating but will wince when a woman tries to clean his wounds.
9. When paying for a taxi, never look at your wallet as you take out a note - just grab one at random and hand it over. It will always be the exact fare.
10. If you lose a hand, it will cause the stump of your arm to grow by 15cm.
11. Mothers routinely cook eggs, bacon and waffles for their family every morning, even though the husband and children never have time to eat them.
12. Cars and trucks that crash will almost always burst into flames.
13. A single match will be sufficient to light up a room the size of a football stadium.
14. Medieval peasants had perfect teeth.
15. All single women have a cat.
16. Any person waking from a nightmare will sit bolt upright and pant.
17. One man shooting at 20 men has a better chance of killing them all than 20 men firing at one.
18. Creepy music coming from a graveyard should always be closely investigated.
19. Most people keep a scrapbook of newspaper cuttings - especially if any of their family or friends has died in a strange boating accident.
20. It does not matter if you are heavily outnumbered in a fight involved martial arts - your enemies will wait patiently to attack you one by one by dancing around in a threatening manner until you have knocked out their predecessor.
21. During a very emotional confrontation, instead of facing the person you are speaking to, it is customary to stand behind them and talk to their back.
22. When you turn out the light to go to bed, everything in your room will still be clearly visible, just slightly bluish.
23. Dogs always know who's bad and will naturally bark at them.
24. When they are alone, all foreigners prefer to speak English to each other.
25. Rather than wasting bullets, megalomaniacs prefer to kill their arch-enemies using complicated machinery involving fuses, pulley systems, deadly gases, lasers and man eating sharks that will allow their captives at least 20 minutes to escape.
26. Having a job of any kind will make all fathers forget their son's eighth birthday.
27. Many musical instruments - especially wind instruments and accordions - can be played without moving the fingers.
28. All bombs are fitted with electronic timing devices with large red readouts so you know exactly when they're going to go off.
29. It is always possible to park directly outside the building you are visiting.
30. A detective can only solve a case once he has been suspended from duty.
31. If you decide to start dancing in the street, everyone you bump into will know all the steps.

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Meister Eckhart
If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is “thank you,” that would suffice.
Meister Eckhart

Oh, and William S. Burroughs adds:

Anonymous sources suck

From Tom Toles

Anonymous Sources Toles

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Kennedy assassination

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Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: JFKs death
TPM Reader JS asks ...
Have you noticed the lack of commemoration of the assassination of JFK on November 22, 1963? I find no reference to that sad, and seminal, event. Am I the only person who reads the blogs and has a personal memory of that day?

Certainly hadn't occurred to me. But now that he mentions it, yes, it did used to be a date for which there was always some build up and moments of commemoration. But now nothing...

Hmmm. Before my time, actually, if truth be known, and JFK was never one of my heroes (centrist Democratic presidents are a plague on our house, imho), but still, seems like this should be a day of some sort of eulogy. Presidents should never get shot - even ones I despise. I know my mom still gets choked up over Nov 23, 1963.

I blame the lack of public gnashing of teeth on Oliver Stone positing as fact that LBJ had something to do with the murder of JFK. Maybe that's just because I'm from Austin, and did a diss' on LBJ. Does seem a little odd.

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Morality is not the problem

VOTE IN THE AD AGE WEEKLY ONLINE POLL BACKGROUND: Ever since George Bush was reelected on a platform of “moral values,” the Democratic Party has been gnashing its teeth over whether to embrace a stronger public stance on “morality.” The word, as vague as it is loaded, has been one of great concern for advertising executives as well. Shortly after the election, industry authorities expressed concern that public sentiment was turning toward more conservative values that could ultimately curtail the use of edgy advertising creative material that is now viewed as the primary tool for cutting through market clutter. In recent weeks, Illinois Democratic Sen. Barack Obama took an unusually strong stand on the new Kaiser Foundation study that detailed how the amount of sexual content on prime-time TV has steadily increased since 1998. Sen. Obama blamed media companies for “coarsening the culture” with their content. Since his election as National Democratic Party Chairman earlier this year,  Howard Dean has pressed Democratics to take up the call for a more moral America. In his latest round of  TV and radio apperances, he is explaining that “Democrats should not be afraid to speak about moral values. We are the party of America's values.”

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: Is Howard Dean correct in saying the Democrats need to focus on a morality message?
VOTE & COMMENT for possible publication in next week's issue of the Advertising Age print edition at

(free registration required)

What an asinine question. The word, morality, is loaded with all sorts of connotations, mostly religious in nature, and mostly unfortunately mouthed by the faux Christian evangelicals so assiduously courted by Karl Rove. Even if one were to restrict one's definition of morality to what the Christian New Testament proscribes as dogma, the Bush platform of 'moral values' reveals itself to be nothing but cynical advertising chatter aimed at these same Christian fundamentalist mouth-breathers. The New Testament calls for Christians to give away their wealth to the poor, eschew marriage and family, and devote one's life to spreading the gospel of Christ. I'm not familiar with too many politicians who actually follow the precepts of Christ.

Rant against faux Christians aside, I sincerely hope that Dean and Obama are not calling for the U.S. to become a Christian Taliban-like nation, but rather to reclaim the word, morality, to mean virtuous conduct. Adequate health care for all U.S. citizens, stewardship of the earth's natural resources (aka environmentalism), freedom from starvation, want, even the guarantee to receive education, if desired, are moral concerns that the United States government should be interested in achieving. Dean better not be calling for mashups of Church and State, or we are moving to Vancouver, economy be damned.

Pastafarianism better not be ignored either.

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Sony BMG and their nefarious plan

- seems to have backfired a bit. - Sony BMG Faces Civil Complaint Over CD Software

Intensifying Sony BMG's headaches over a copyright-protection plan that went awry, the music titan yesterday was hit with a civil complaint over the software included on 52 of the company's recently released recordings.

The suit, filed in District Court of Travis County by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, alleges that Sony BMG's XCP software violates the state's recently enacted antispyware law. Mr. Abbott called elements of Sony BMG's software -- which is designed to thwart copying of the compact discs -- “a direct violation, almost word for word,” of the law, known as the Consumer Protection Against Computer Spyware Act.

Ha, that's a great quote. This is one class-action suit I'd actually join. Screw Sony.

The Texas law provides for penalties of $100,000 per violation, or each computer on which a Sony BMG CD installed its software. Any money collected would be paid to the state and not be distributed to consumers.

Also yesterday, Sony BMG was hit with the third suit seeking class-action status to arise over its copy-protection software. The suit was filed in California Superior Court, Los Angeles County, by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital-rights advocacy group, on behalf of three individuals. The new suit alleges that harm was caused not only by XCP but also by Sony BMG's other copy-protection software, which the company has used more extensively, known as MediaMax and created by SunnComm Inc.

Google Donates to Library of Congress - Google Donates To U.S. Database Of Cultural Works
Google Inc. has contributed $3 million to a Library of Congress initiative to make print and multimedia works related to the culture of other nations available online.... Its contribution, which will primarily go toward planning the initiative known as the World Digital Library, is separate from Google's own program for scanning books held in several university and public libraries.

The Library of Congress “project is aligned with our mission in general that bringing more books online and making them available and searchable is good,” said Adam Smith, a Google senior business-product manager.

The Library of Congress has made about 10 million U.S. works available online since the 1990s under a drive known as the American Memory initiative. It views the World Digital Library project as a way to tackle works related to cultures outside the U.S., including some found in its own collections and in those of other libraries. The works primarily won't be books, but manuscripts and multimedia content.

Google is going to control the entire world soon enough: how could we get some of that sweet, sweet action? Anyway, kudos to the Library of Congress for their forward-looking plan to digitize all 'public domain' works.

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Even though Cablevision, through a spokesperson, denies any plans to sell Knicks or Rangers, I don't find Dolan credible. So who knows. The Knicks do need better owners, imho. - Cablevision Gets An Offer for Teams

An investment group led by Russell Glass, a financier who formerly worked for Carl Icahn, has sent a letter to Cablevision Systems Corp. offering to buy its sports teams, the New York Knicks and New York Rangers, for $700 million, according to people familiar with the matter.
The group, which has obtained a letter of interest from General Electric Co.'s GE Commercial Finance unit to provide debt financing for the deal, said in the letter it also wants to bid for Cablevision's Madison Square Garden but didn't set a price, these people said.
Mr. Glass's letter to Cablevision, Bethpage, N.Y., dated Oct. 18, was received when the company was weighing a proposal from the controlling Dolan family to take Cablevision private and split off its entertainment assets including Madison Square Garden. The Dolan family withdrew the offer Oct. 25, but Mr. Glass's offer for the team still stands, people familiar with Mr. Glass's thinking said.

Cablevision, which is also the country's sixth-largest cable operator, hasn't yet responded to the bid, these people said. A Cablevision spokesman said: “Cablevision has no plans to sell the Knicks and the Rangers and the inquiry does not look credible to us.”

Cablevision is controlled by the Dolan family through a supervoting class of stock. James Dolan, chief executive of Cablevision, also is chairman of Madison Square Garden, the unit of the company that owns the arena, sports teams, sports networks and other entertainment assets.

When the Dolan family dropped its plan to take the company private it proposed that the company pay shareholders $3 billion in a one-time dividend. The company would likely sell debt to raise that money, but some investors and analysts believe the company should instead sell assets like the sports teams.

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Link Wray RIP

from the official Link Wray Website!
Link Wray Native-American Rock Guitar Instrumentalist has died, 76 years of age. It is with the deepest sorrow that we have to inform Links dear fans that our beloved husband and father Link Wray has deceased November 5. 2005

In respect of Links wishes, he was buried in silence and privacy from the historic protestant Church: Christians Church in Copenhagen Denmark, Friday 18th of November 2005. with attendance of his family Olive and Oliver Wray. Link passed away in their arms, safely in his home in Copenhagen, not ever aware that his heart was getting tired. This was the way he had told us, he wanted it.
Born May 2nd, 1929 in Dunn, North Carolina, Link is three quarters Shawnee Indian. At the age of eight, he learned to play the guitar from Hambone, an african-american man who was travelling with Barnum and Bailey’s circus. He noticed Link on the porch banging his Maybelle-guitar.

I wondered why I had so much site traffic to this page (where I had misspelled Mr. Wray's name, as evidenced by the URL)

Link Wray
Link Wray

also available at Netflix

Rumble! The Best of Link Wray
“Rumble! The Best of Link Wray” (Link Wray)

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Postage Stamps of Russia

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Via boingboing, a supercool gallery of Russian stamps....

Postage Stamps and Stationery of Russia and USSR

A couple samples, tons more here

Russian stamps 1969

Russian stamp 1969 space

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Not a good time to own a paper

Woodward? Google? A Plague Week - New York Times: The scariest development for the newspaper industry was the announcement (on that same Wednesday) that Google, the search engine company that wants to be the wallpaper of the future, was going live with Google Base, a user-generated database in which people can upload any old thing they feel like. Could be a poem about their cat, or their aunt's recipe for cod fritters with corn relish. Or, more ominously for the newspaper industry, people could start uploading advertisements to sell their '97 Toyota Corolla. Craigslist kicked off the trend, giving readers a free alternative to the local classified section. If Google Base accelerates the process, the journalism-school debates over anonymous sourcing and declining audience may end up seeming quaint. Google Base reverses the polarity on the company's consumer model. Instead of simply sending automated crawlers out across the Web in search of relevant answers to search queries, Google has invited its huge constituency of users to send and tag information that will be organized and displayed in relevant categories, all of which sounds like a large toe into the water of the classified advertising business, estimated to be worth about $100 billion a year.

This could be a fine thing for consumers, but for newspapers, which owe about a third of their revenues to classified advertising, it could be more a spike to the heart than just another nail in the coffin.

LARGE national newspapers like USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have already absorbed a big hit as advertising categories like travel and automobiles have moved online. According to estimates cited by The Associated Press, newspaper advertising revenues will grow less than 3 percent in the current year while online revenue, much of it coming from search advertising, will jump by more than 25 percent.

Google Base could take a bigger toll on local and regional newspapers. So far, those papers have managed to maintain their connection between their readers and the goods and services in the same market. By allowing its audience to customize content and post it for free (all the while selling ads against the audience that information aggregates), Google could all but wipe out the middle man, which could be your friendly neighborhood daily paper.

“Many newspapers have had historic monopolies in their respective markets when it comes to classified ads,” said Christa Quarles, an analyst at Thomas Weisel Partners, a merchant bank in San Francisco. “The local papers have been fairly insulated from major attack, and this could be the next big shoe to drop.”

Not the best time to be in the newspaper business. There have been plenty of newspaper folk in my family, but the era of small papers could be ending soon.

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Shining Nation on a Hill

because we used chemical weapons on civilians. Why exactly did we overthrow Hussein again?

Defense of Phosphorus Use Turns Into Damage Control - New York Times:
On Nov. 8, Italian public television showed a documentary renewing persistent charges that the United States had used white phosphorus rounds, incendiary munitions that the film incorrectly called chemical weapons, against Iraqis in Falluja last year. Many civilians died of burns, the report said.

The half-hour film was riddled with errors and exaggerations, according to United States officials and independent military experts. But the State Department and Pentagon have so bungled their response - making and then withdrawing incorrect statements about what American troops really did when they fought a pitched battle against insurgents in the rebellious city - that the charges have produced dozens of stories in the foreign news media and on Web sites suggesting that the Americans used banned weapons and tried to cover it up.

...Military veterans familiar with white phosphorus, known to soldiers as “W. P.” or “Willie Pete,” said it could deliver terrible burns, since an exploding round scatters bits of the compound that burst into flames on exposure to air and can burn into flesh, penetrating to the bone.
Firsthand accounts by American officers in two military journals note that white phosphorus munitions had been aimed directly at insurgents in Falluja to flush them out. War critics and journalists soon discovered those articles.
In the face of such evidence, the Bush administration made an embarrassing public reversal last week. Pentagon spokesmen admitted that white phosphorus had been used directly against Iraqi insurgents. “It's perfectly legitimate to use this stuff against enemy combatants,” Colonel Venable said Friday.
While he said he could not rule out that white phosphorus hit some civilians, “U.S. and coalition forces took extraordinary measures to prevent civilian casualties in Falluja.”

The Times of course stops well short of making any accusations against the military, using all sorts of weasel words to make this seem like a minor transgression. It isn't.

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Eric Alterman has been asking this question every few months for several years now...

Journalist, Cover Thyself
Tireless media critic Howard Kurtz writes for The Washington Post and broadcasts on CNN, raising conflict questions. ...Eric Alterman, a press critic and columnist for The Nation magazine, wrote in his 2003 book, “What Liberal Media?” that the rest of the news media had shied away from criticizing Mr. Kurtz, “owing to the power of the real estate he controls.”


One War Lost, Another to Go

Santorum is a putz, either if he 'stands by his man', or abandons him at the alter of public opinion....

Frank Rich: One War Lost, Another to Go - New York Times:

IF anyone needs further proof that we are racing for the exits in Iraq, just follow the bouncing ball that is Rick Santorum. A Republican leader in the Senate and a true-blue (or red) Iraq hawk, he has long slobbered over President Bush, much as Ed McMahon did over Johnny Carson. But when Mr. Bush went to Mr. Santorum's home state of Pennsylvania to give his Veterans Day speech smearing the war's critics as unpatriotic, the senator was M.I.A.

Mr. Santorum preferred to honor a previous engagement more than 100 miles away. There he told reporters for the first time that “maybe some blame” for the war's “less than optimal” progress belonged to the White House. This change of heart had nothing to do with looming revelations of how the new Iraqi “democracy” had instituted Saddam-style torture chambers. Or with the spiraling investigations into the whereabouts of nearly $9 billion in unaccounted-for taxpayers' money from the American occupation authority. Or with the latest spike in casualties. Mr. Santorum was instead contemplating his own incipient political obituary written the day before: a poll showing him 16 points down in his re-election race. No sooner did he stiff Mr. Bush in Pennsylvania than he did so again in Washington, voting with a 79-to-19 majority on a Senate resolution begging for an Iraq exit strategy. He was joined by all but one (Jon Kyl) of the 13 other Republican senators running for re-election next year. They desperately want to be able to tell their constituents that they were against the war after they were for it.

They know the voters have decided the war is over, no matter what symbolic resolutions are passed or defeated in Congress nor how many Republicans try to Swift-boat Representative John Murtha, the marine hero who wants the troops out.

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Relativity meets quotation

Hesketh Pearson
“Misquotation is, in fact, the pride and privilege of the learned. A widely- read man never quotes accurately, for the rather obvious reason that he has read too widely.”

Another reason to blog write web zines: ease of recall. In the days of yesteryear, that fine phrase, that interesting factoid, that precise turn of events was imprisoned on a bookshelf somewhere in another room, or trapped in a scribbled journal entry. Now, all is public, and easily googled.

Yellow ennui and pavement

All sorts of 'purty' shapes and colors to amuse me, and theoretically, you too....

Amoco building is taller than me yellow
Yellow, we become taller

Amoco building is taller than me
yet the Amoco building is taller than me

Ennui is just a phase, son
Ennui is just a phase, son
(Chicago Auto Show 2005)

The pavement was alive with the sound of music
The pavement was alive with the sound of music.
Taken in a train station, Amsterdam, January 1994.

(click for larger versions, duh)

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Sleeping cats
Taken a couple of years ago, but appropriate for today. D&I are both fairly sick (probably due to changes in the weather), and our cats, Cleo and the Pope, keep us company in the bed as we switch taking naps, and being 'in the office'....

Oscar Wilde

“Only the shallow know themselves.”


Randomizer 10 nanoseconds

All of the nanoseconds are selected via conquest. I haven't bothered with this in a while, and apparently I deleted my previous playlists. Oh well.

More than 80,000 held by US

Jesus Herbert!
More than 80,000 held by US since 9/11 attacks

The US has detained more than 80,000 people in facilities from Afghanistan to Cuba since the attacks on the World Trade Centre four years ago, the Pentagon said yesterday. The disclosure comes at a time of growing unease about Washington's treatment of prisoners in its “war on terror” and Europe's unknowing help in the CIA's practice of rendition.
...But it was an even less visible aspect of America's detention policy that was causing a furore in European capitals yesterday: the CIA practice of rendering terror suspects for interrogation to secret prisons in third countries. Washington faced mounting pressure yesterday to respond to reports of secret landings by private jets used by the CIA to transport terror suspects in at least six countries. “If these allegations turn out to be true, the crucial thing is whether these flights landed in the member states with or without the knowledge and approval of the authorities,” Terry Davis, the Council of Europe's secretary general, said.

...The practice has been widely condemned by human rights organisations for operating outside the scrutiny of the courts and for transporting prisoners to countries known to use torture. Spain, Portugal, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland are all reported to have served as stopovers for such flights.

The revelations have deepened disquiet about European collaboration with the more disturbing aspects of America's war on terror. This month it was reported that the CIA had situated two of its secret prisons in Romania and Poland.

The council, which has named a Swiss senator, Dick Marty, to investigate the allegations, called for cooperation with the inquiry yesterday. “This issue goes to the very heart of the Council of Europe's human rights mandate,” René van der Linden, the president of the parliamentary assembly, said in a speech to the Council of Europe's executive body.

How many of these folks are victims of bad information or of informants with agendas? How many received habeas corpus? No wonder the Bush administration is so nervous about the Pinochet investigation. If Pinochet can be prosecuted for a few murders back in the 70's, why not Rumsfeld? The U.S. Cabinet better not leave the country.

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Dilettante or not

I'm not sold on the 'accuracy' of this quiz (as opposed to the ones like this, ahem, or this one). In fact, this seems to directly contradict this result. I do believe in enjoying life at the moment, instead of waiting, but the problem is reality keeps intruding. I'd like to be able to drink wine, paint/photoshoppe and play guitar all day, but rare is the day that I am allowed to do so. I think it was the question about summering in Tuscany that labeled me....

Perhaps it is the first sentence that bothers me: the Ten Commandments are not really evil - I just like the maxim, do no harm better.


You are one of life’s enjoyers, determined to get the most you can out of your brief spell on Earth. Probably what first attracted you to atheism was the prospect of liberation from the Ten Commandments, few of which are compatible with a life of pleasure. You play hard and work quite hard, have a strong sense of loyalty and a relaxed but consistent approach to your philosophy.

You can’t see the point of abstract principles and probably wouldn’t lay down your life for a concept though you might for a friend. Something of a champagne humanist, you admire George Bernard Shaw for his cheerful agnosticism and pursuit of sensual rewards and your Hollywood hero is Marlon Brando, who was beautiful, irascible and aimed for goodness in his own tortured way.

Sometimes you might be tempted to allow your own pleasures to take precedence over your ethics. But everyone is striving for that elusive balance between the good and the happy life. You’d probably open another bottle and say there’s no contest.
What kind of humanist are you? Click here to find out.

mirrors, guitars and solipsism
(click for larger view, natch)

link via Body and Soul

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Gap Cuts Outlook for Year

Gap Cuts Outlook for Year
Gap reported quarterly profit fell 20% amid a same-store sales drop at its namesake unit in North America, results the retailer termed “unacceptable.” It cut its forecast for the year.

Of course, this has nothing to do with The Gap's decision to make their website unusable for Mac users. No, it just is because the Gap's clothing styles suck.

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David Irving arrested

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David Irving arrested Far-right British author David Irving has been arrested for Holocaust denial in Austria and has been in jail in Graz for six days, Austria's interior ministry confirmed today.

Mr Irving was arrested last Friday on a warrant issued in 1989 under Austrian laws that make Holocaust denial a crime. The charges stemmed from speeches he delivered that year in Vienna and in the southern town of Leoben.

Here is where I can get myself in trouble: I believe in the right of free speech, even when it means that scum of the earth like David Irving are allowed to publish garbage. However, I would never replace my “Free Leonard Peltier” t shirt with a “Free the Nazi Sympathizer scumbag David Irving” shirt, for any amount of time.

Agents of Repression
Agents of Repression

On a somewhat related topic, Pinochet should rot in jail for the rest of his life. I wonder if the current U.S. Administration worries about the Pinochet precedent?

Pinochet says God will forgive rights abuses
Augusto Pinochet, the former Chilean dictator, has declared that God will pardon him for human rights abuses committed during his 17-year rule, according to newly released court documents.
Asked by Chilean judge Victor Montiglio about the killing of 3,000 Chilean civilians during the military government, Mr Pinochet, 89, said: “I suffer for these losses, but God does the deeds; he will pardon me if I exceeded in some, which I don't think.”
Mr Pinochet's interrogation follows court decisions that again open the possibility that he is mentally fit to stand trial. The current investigations focus on alleged money laundering and responsibility for 15 deaths in Operation Colombo, a 1975 massacre of opponents of the military regime.

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Northwest Railway Terminal


(photo courtesy of Chicago Sage)

Rehab full steam ahead

For decades, the vintage Northwest Railway Terminal Powerhouse at 211 N. Clinton has been both heralded as the historic “cornerstone” of the West Loop Mercantile District and disparaged as a neighborhood eyesore. But although the Beaux Arts building and its distinctive nine-story smokestack have clearly suffered from over 30 years of abandonment, it now appears ready to reap the benefits of an ever-burgeoning West Loop real estate market.

The building, which was officially declared a city landmark at a Nov. 2 meeting of the city’s Landmarks Commission, is now undergoing an $11 million makeover that is expected to wrap up sometime in June of next year. The building was purchased by Structured Development last year, and the company is now planning to convert the structure into retail space and offices, according to Jeff Berta, Structured Development director of program management.
...Berta added that the company is hoping to lease the retail space to a restaurant. The project will also feature underground parking. And, he said, the distinctive smoke stack atop the building will remain intact.
Construction of the Powerhouse began in 1909, and the structure remains “the best surviving building of the once sprawling Chicago & North Western Railway Terminal Complex built in the years just before World War I,” according to a Department of Planning and Development report. The building provided power to a neighboring railway terminal for over 50 years.

I'm looking for a better photo, but here is one view. I've always thought this was an interesting building.

Northwestern power station window
(click for larger view)

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Ted Rall on Torture

I'm sure this cartoon was banned in Utah.

Ted Rall Torture
Cheney sure loves him some torture....

oh, and Cheney sure is a big fat liar (pdf)

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Choices, choices

read somewhere this fine line:
“Everything I like is either illegal, immoral, or fattening.” –Alexander Woollcott (1887-1942), American writer

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It's not easy being green

Your Blog Should Be Green
Your blog is smart and thoughtful - not a lot of fluff.
You enjoy a good discussion, especially if it involves picking apart ideas.
However, you tend to get easily annoyed by any thoughtless comments in your blog.

Uhh, yeah. Ok. I'll bear that in mind.


Sony's new name, to some Sory

As a follow up to this rant, CNET weighs in....

Sony's new name, to some: 'Sory' | | CNET

Sony's new name, to some: 'Sory'

Sony's precipitous fall from grace in the last few years is beginning to feel like a Greek tragedy.

Document Says Oil Chiefs Met With Cheney Task Force:
A White House document shows that executives from big oil companies met with Vice President Cheney's energy task force in 2001 -- something long suspected by environmentalists but denied as recently as last week by industry officials testifying before Congress.The document, obtained this week by The Washington Post, shows that officials from Exxon Mobil Corp., Conoco (before its merger with Phillips), Shell Oil Co. and BP America Inc. met in the White House complex with the Cheney aides who were developing a national energy policy, parts of which became law and parts of which are still being debated

The document, obtained this week by The Washington Post, shows that officials from Exxon Mobil Corp., Conoco (before its merger with Phillips), Shell Oil Co. and BP America Inc. met in the White House complex with the Cheney aides who were developing a national energy policy, parts of which became law and parts of which are still being debated.

In a joint hearing last week of the Senate Energy and Commerce committees, the chief executives of Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips said their firms did not participate in the 2001 task force. The president of Shell Oil said his company did not participate “to my knowledge,” and the chief of BP America Inc. said he did not know.

No wonder the executives were so adamant about not testifying under oath. Can you spell perjury?

The executives were not under oath when they testified, so they are not vulnerable to charges of perjury; committee Democrats had protested the decision by Commerce Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) not to swear in the executives. But a person can be fined or imprisoned for up to five years for making “any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or representation” to Congress.

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For the Coffee Palate

For the Coffee Palate Too Refined for a Certain Large Chain - New York Times
Starbucks raised consumer awareness, paving the way for those of us who can do better,“ said Doug Zell, 39, founder of Intelligentsia Coffee, a 10-year-old company in Chicago with 2004 sales of $9.5 million and a 2005 growth rate of 28 percent. A recent board president of the Specialty Coffee Association of America, Mr. Zell said he had little patience with anti-Starbucks hand-wringers. ”I would argue that smaller players in the 1990's who failed when Starbucks came to town drove themselves out of the business by poor execution,“ he said.

Nicholas Cho, 31, founder and chief executive of Murky Coffee in Washington, D.C., agrees that Starbucks is beatable. ”If you are in the hamburger business and you can't make a better burger than McDonald's, you don't deserve to be in business,“ he said. ”It's the same with coffee,“ added Mr. Cho, whose retail business, with expected 2005 sales of over $1 million, has expanded sixfold since its founding in 2002.

”Buying beans, roasting them, delivering service, you have to be the best,“ said Mr. Zell, noting that at Intelligentsia, espresso drinks are made by hand by baristas who undergo a certificate-granting, three-month training program. Mr. Zell compares the premium coffee business today to the wine business 25 years ago. Then, he says, most producers blended their wines and one tasted more or less like the next. ”Only when producers opened their minds to single varieties of grapes grown in particular terrains did they start producing quality wines that got customers excited,“ he said. ”That's when the wine business took off in this country.“
As Mr. Zell of Intelligentsia Coffee puts it: ”It's just fantastic that I can do what I love and make money at it. I am so grateful to be living like this and not spending my days at some desk trading securities.“

I often purchase Intelligentsia coffee (roasted nearby, but sold elsewhere), and in the summer, at least, frequent the Intelligentsia Cafe on Broadway. They do make good coffee. I personally don't care for Starbucks, I think the beans are over-roasted.

I have yet to take the tour of the Intelligentsia roasting plant, but I would like to, maybe next time an out-of-towner visits....

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The FCC is corrupt

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The WSJ wonders why the FCC hasn't issued a single fine this year. - Why Indecency, Once Hot at FCC, Cooled($)

The Federal Communications Commission levied a record $7.9 million in indecency-related fines last year, raising concerns among media companies that regulators were embracing a nanny-like approach to enforcing decency standards. Programming changes followed, among them the departure of shock-jock Howard Stern to the FCC-free world of satellite radio, taking millions of advertising dollars with him.

Well, that's one reason. Making businesses unhappy is never good policy for politicians who depend on campaign contributions. Politicians give (upper-level) bureaucrats jobs, hence bureaucrats usually strive to please their bosses.

The FCC has received more than 189,000 indecency complaints against radio and television programs through the end of September, but it hasn't issued any fines. The inaction is puzzling to FCC watchers, who expected enforcement activity to ratchet up under Kevin Martin, the new FCC chairman and an outspoken supporter of increasing indecency fines and holding broadcasters more accountable.

but here is another reason: the FCC is blatantly inflating the number of complaints.

Some people question whether the FCC's count of complaints is accurate, or whether a change in methodology for tallying complaints has inflated the numbers. Since 2003, the FCC has counted complaints generated as the result of mass mailings by interest groups such as the Parents Television Council as individual complaints; previously, it grouped them together as one. That helps explain the more than tenfold increase in complaints in 2003 to 166,683 compared with 13,922 in 2002. A record 1.4 million complaints were filed last year, many of them were about Ms. Jackson's breast-flashing Super Bowl appearance.

Since early 2004, the FCC has been noting in quarterly reports that its indecency figures “may also include duplicate complaints or contacts that subsequently are determined insufficient to constitute actionable complaints.” It isn't clear how many complaints are counted more than once.

Adam Thierer, a senior fellow at the Progress & Freedom Foundation, a think tank funded by telecommunications, technology and media companies, recently published a study of the FCC's complaint process that took note of the double-counting and suggested the numbers have been deliberately inflated for political purposes. They are routinely used in media reports and cited as a reason why more regulation and higher fines are needed.

“The numbers are driving the process,” Mr. Thierer says. “If they're becoming the news, they better be accurate.”

FCC officials acknowledge that indecency complaints are more likely to be double-counted than other types of complaints to the FCC, because they are routed to several different offices within the agency. In his statement, Mr. Martin said the FCC “does its best to cross reference complaints and eliminate any duplication.”

Just peachy. Actually, every complaint to the FCC sent from Bozell (L. Brent Bozell, president of the Parents Television Council, a watchdog group that encourages members to use its Web site to send complaints to the FCC.) should be automatically trashed.

As Eric Idle sang, the FCC are all fucks (mp3 here)

Oh, and Steve Earle sings, on his great album,

The Revolution Starts Now

The Revolution Starts Now

I used to listen to the radio
And I don’t guess they’re listenin’ to me no more
They talk too much but that’s okay
I don’t understand a single word they say
Piss and moan about the immigrants
But don’t say nothin’ about the president
A democracy don’t work that way
I can say anything I wanna say

So fuck the FCC

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David Byrne on Chavez

David's Journal: Current Reading a 2-part piece by Alma Guillermoprieto in the NY Review of Books about Chavez, the president of Venezuela. (Her book


is a wonderful account of the yearlong process leading up to carnival at the Manguera samba school in Rio.) She begins with a pile of testimonies from ordinary (not rich) Venezuelans about what he is doing for health services, senior citizens, education, food for the poor, and Venezuelan control over Venezuela. They are all enthusiastic and thrilled at the changes and programs he has instigated. Then the article deals with his occasional suppression of both the press and some movements in the congress to limit his powers. In other words, he sometimes leans towards autocracy and maybe even dictatorship.

David Bryne has some interesting thoughts re: Chavez, Venezuela, and dictators. I'm saving the post in its entirety because I can't find a direct link (and see previous post for extra excuses).


Power Mac G5 (Late 2004) 1.8GHz models stop responding randomlySome 1.8 GHz models of Power Mac G5 (Late 2004) computers may experience any of the following symptoms: • The computer may freeze when performing certain video-intensive tasks for extended periods of time, such as a full screen slideshows, QuickTime playback, or some games. • The optical drive may not eject when you've been using the computer for about two hours. • Internet Connect may become unresponsive when you've been using the computer for about two hours.
(This issue can affect either internal or external modems that use PPP as well as DSL modems that connect using the PPPoE protocol.) • Attached displays may not wake up properly after the computer, running Mac OS X 10.4, has been sleeping for an extended period of time. The computer seems to wake up, but the display doesn't. A firmware update is available to address the symptoms described in this article.

I don't have any of the specific issues listed, but I'm installing the firmware update anyway. Yes, I've had a few drinks already.....

Hevelius Kaper, to be precise, on sale at WF for $1.39 a pint. Claims to be brewed since 1679, who knows. Can't just have one....

apparently, this firmware update is not for me. I do have this particular computer, but maybe because I don't have a stock installation (upgraded my video card)? Who knows. I'm just going to have another beer.
About this G5

Firmware Denied

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'Julie Andrews Day' Declared In Chicago

and I think I'm going to plotz.

'Julie Andrews Day' Declared In Chicago
Mary Poppins stopped by Chicago's City Hall today. Julie Andrews is in town with the national tour of the musical comedy “The Boy Friend.” The show opens tonight at the Chicago Theatre...Andrews says she loves Chicago and hopes to return many times in the future. She also gave the mayor copies for his grandchildren of several children's books she's written.

Bleh! I don't know how much of a minority I am in on this, but I've never been able to watch more than about 15 minutes of The Sound of Music or Mary Poppins. So treacly. In fact, I've only really seen clips in various film school classes. I'm tolerant of good musicals (Wizard of Oz, Singing in the Rain, Spinal Tap, Busby Berkeley films likeGold Diggers of 1933, etc), so it isn't that I hate the genre - just that I can't stand Julie Andrews.

Does this make me a bad person?

I do love the various versions of

My Favorite Things

My Favorite Things

by John Coltrane, especially after he did LSD in 1964-65......

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CIA and the art of Brussels sprout earings

CIA and the art of brussel sprout earings
posted just to embarrass my little brother, if possible. He probably thinks it's funny too. Taken when he was still in high school, in my parents back yard in Austex on a T-Day visit, maybe 1995 or 1996. Scan of 3x5 print.
CIA = Culinary Institute of America, btw.

Brussels Sprouts
Brussels Sprouts - with an 's', apparently.

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Terrorist Sympathizer

I wonder if Bill O'Reilly realizes he is a putz? Could it be that he is a terrorist sympathizer for a reason? Like he's secretly being paid by Al Qaeda?

Boingboing has some details as to why O'Reilly is a terrorist sympathizer, and Media matters has the clip where Falafel Bill lays out his allegiance to the global terrorism movement.

O'REILLY: Hey, you know, if you want to ban military recruiting, fine, but I'm not going to give you another nickel of federal money. You know, if I'm the president of the United States, I walk right into Union Square, I set up my little presidential podium, and I say, “Listen, citizens of San Francisco, if you vote against military recruiting, you're not going to get another nickel in federal funds. Fine. You want to be your own country? Go right ahead.” And if Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. We're going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you, except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead.

seems to be working - check out this screen shot of the first terrorist sympathizer listed in google.....
Terrorist Sympathizer

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Visa Ad Agency

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business briefs/leads - Visa Drops BBDO, Hires Chiat\Day

After 20 years, Visa USA has dropped its advertising firm Omnicom Group Inc.'s BBDO. The credit card titan has hired Omnicom's TBWA\Chiat\Day.

Visa USA spent $363 million on ads in the U.S. last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence.
...Visa said the ad review was driven, in part, by the need to look for an agency that can offer up good creative ideas that can be implemented across different media platforms such as TV and the Internet. “It's not about just TV advertising any more,” said Susanne D. Lyons, Visa's chief marketing officer.

Nothing lasts forever. And screw television: everyone should spend less on tv, and more on OOH (which I use as the broad term for 'alternative media', including in-store, guerilla marketing, etc.

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Laptops and stickers

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I really hope John Gruber is right about this at least:

Daring Fireball: Full Metal Jacket

Better yet, compare and contrast to the exterior of your typical PC laptop: two-tone plastic, gratuitously beveled corner edges, dozens of silly extra buttons surrounding the keyboard, and so forth. The difference is that PC hardware appears not to be designed so much as decorated. There are exceptions — IBM’s ThinkPads and Sony’s Vaios are generally pretty good-looking machines. But I don’t think they look as good as PowerBooks or iBooks, and one reason is that although they’re simple, they’re not simple enough.

Epitomizing the PC industry’s lack of respect for their own case aesthetics are those ubiquitous little stamp-sized decals peppered over their laptops’ palm-rest areas. One for Windows, one for Intel (or AMD), sometimes a couple more for components like the graphics card. They’re garish and turn the surface of one’s laptop into a Nascar-style promotion board. Sure, you can peel them off, but judging from the laptops I see in coffee shops and airports, very few people actually do. Presumably these decals are part of the licensing deals struck between the laptop makers and Microsoft, Intel, et al., but why not just say no? We’ll buy your CPUs; we’ll license your operating system; but we’re not going to put your ugly fucking stickers on our computers. Apple is slated to soon start using the same Intel x86 guts as other laptop manufacturers, but I’ll eat my hat if they start boogering up their cases with “Intel Inside” decals.

I am in the market for a new powerbook. I own the original G4 laptop (titanium shell) which is getting pretty old, battered, and sad that it is so much slower than all the other laptops in the neighborhood (I'm not sitting in front of it, but I think it's 400 mghz, I know it only has 10 gigs of hd space, and 384 megs of ram, both paltry numbers). The CD slot got banged up and dented in by some young cousins in San Francisco area one Christmas, and while the DVD/CD drive still mostly works, it is unsightly. I was close to deciding to budget for one, but then Apple announced the whole Intel transition thing.

I still might get the last PowerPC powerbook, especially if the price drops. Should I put it on my Amazon wish list? (Ha)

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Reserve Chicago nightclub serves $950 cocktail
A lounge in the West Loop could have the biggest bar tabs in town. One drink plus tip --could set you back almost a thousand bucks.

“Reserve” is serving up a cocktail for $950. You get a mix of Grey Goose vodka, a cognac and vodka liqueur called Hyptoniq, pomegranate juice, orange juice, and a splash of Dom Perignon, and the special ingredient -- a one carat ruby garnish.

The restaurant says it has sold three of the cocktails since putting it on its menu a few weeks ago.

Stupid Ruby Drink

Ridiculous. I've walked past this place (858 W. Lake St.), and it didn't look like somewhere I'd enjoy entering. Now I know for sure. I thought eating sushi off of a naked chick was bad (Kizoku), but a $950 cocktail that mixes vodka, cognac and Dom Perignon is just stupid.

How about instead of blowing $1000 on a lame drink, just throw twenty dollar bills out of your Hummer as you leave the West Loop to go back to Highland Park? There's plenty of dudes hanging around Halsted at 2 AM who could use the cash.

Whatever gets ya laid, I guess.

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Skies are built for screaming

Skies full of promise
Skies full of promise
Skies full of much oblige
Skies full of much oblige

Electricty comes from other planets
Electricity comes from other planets

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Music Industry stupidity

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As previously discussed, DRM is for slack-jawed yokels.

The Ghost in the CD - New York Times After years of battling users of free peer-to-peer file-sharing networks (and the software companies that support them), the recording industry now identifies “casual piracy” - the simple copying and sharing of CD's with friends - as the biggest threat to its bottom line.

Oh yeah, that's the reason for poor sales. Not the industry consolidation into a few mega-companies with so-called bean counters running things, not the preoccupation with hit singles from the latest sensation (as opposed to cultivating bands for artistic merits while growing a fan base). I get to pontificate because I am a heavy consumer of music for the last 20 years - let me tell you, the number of albums that don't get sold because of 'casual piracy' is very small. If I make a copy of some obscure Kinky Friedman CD for a friend, or burn someone a copy of Sticky Fingers because their copy is on vinyl collecting dust, Sony/BMG executives aren't going to have to sell their houses in the Hamptons.

The issue for Sony/BMG and their peers is that they don't really want to sell music anymore - they want to retain control of the music once it is sold, sort of like software licenses. They want to monetize every play of every song they 'own', ensuring a steady revenue stream. I hope their nefarious plan fails.

The entertainment industry has complained that in the digital world, wanton piracy can bleed revenues. Along with lawsuits and legislative lobbying, infusing digital media with tricked-out code to limit how, when and by whom it is used is one way copyright holders have sought to keep control of their products. ... For its part, Sony BMG, along with First 4 Internet, the British software company that developed the D.R.M. code, issued a software patch to address the security concerns. It also publicized a convoluted “uninstall” process for the software that requires users to provide their e-mail addresses and make multiple visits to a Sony BMG Web site - a move that further angered consumers.

But the industry's mad dash to protect artists - or more accurately, its profits - may have led Sony BMG to move so aggressively, and disastrously, on the D.R.M. front.

In a PowerPoint presentation before the National Association of Recording Merchandisers in San Diego in August, Mitch Bainwol, the chief executive of the Recording Industry Association of America, underlined the urgency: “Key point: Burning and ripping are becoming a greater threat than P2P,” a reference to peer-to-peer file sharing.

That assertion was predicated on numbers compiled by the market research firm NPD Group. They showed that in 2004, only about 55 percent of consumers acquired their music by legal means: either buying a CD (51 percent) or downloading it from a paid online music site (4 percent). About 16 percent acquired music from peer-to-peer networks, according to the survey. And the remainder - 29 percent - reported acquiring their music either on CD's burned by friends or family, or by borrowing legally purchased CD's and “ripping” the tracks to their computers.

First, I question these numbers. Did they question the 29% and ask if the acquired music was something 'almost' bought? In other words, if that music wasn't 'loaned' from someone, would it have been bought? Probably not. Friends give me songs/albums, but most of the time these are things I either had no intention of purchasing myself, or have never heard of, and thus wouldn't have purchased.

Second, if the record labels weren't so greedy, and priced new albums cheaper, I'd hazard a guess that they would sell more. I'm too lazy to look up inflation numbers, but in the day of vinyl, brand new albums were $6-$7 bucks. Why are CDs twice that much? or more? The cost of the raw materials has shrunk, why has the cost of the product doubled?

Third, Sony was just stupid to give a green light to allow a virus (and that's basically what a root-kit is, or at least a route to install a future virus) to be installed on consumers computers (well, consumers who own Windows machines). Idiots.

Sony BMG seems to have failed that test when, in seeking to limit consumers to making three copies of its CD's, it embedded the First 4 Internet software, which penetrates deeply into the PC's of users with a program that introduced a real, if minor, security risk.

It all began unraveling early last month, after an American customer notified F-Secure, a Finnish antivirus company, of some files attempting to hide themselves on his computer. F-Secure deduced that the Van Zant CD had deposited a program that looked a lot like a “rootkit” - typically a dirty word in computer security circles because it describes software tools used to hack the deepest level of a computer system and hide the footprints of an intruder.

That might have been bad enough, said Mikko H. Hypponen, the chief research officer of F-Secure, but the rootkit also proved capable not just of hiding itself, but any file, folder or process on the computer that used a five-character string as part of its name.
No other file on a typical computer would have that string in its name. But if an enterprising virus writer managed to figure out the system, named his bug appropriately, and somehow got it onto the machine of a consumer whose only real sin was listening to Celine Dion's “On ne Change Pas” on his PC, Sony BMG's copy-protection software would cloak the worm.. it was clear that at least a few virus writers were attempting to exploit it.

“It was designed to be speed-bump technology,” said Mathew Gilliat-Smith, the chief executive of First 4 Internet, meaning it would slow down those seeking to circumvent the copy restrictions.
F-secure quietly contacted Sony BMG and First 4 Internet with its concerns, but on Oct. 31, Mark Russinovich, a security expert at, published his own discovery of the rootkit on his blog. Public outrage followed on the Internet as the program was further examined, the end user license agreement deconstructed, and Sony BMG's response scrutinized.

Not only that, but the EFF posted this analysis of the Sony EULA (End user License Agreement) you agree to when you listen to a Sony audio product (which isn't really a CD, by definition):

First, a baseline. When you buy a regular CD, you own it. You do not “license” it. You own it outright. You're allowed to do anything with it you like, so long as you don't violate one of the exclusive rights reserved to the copyright owner. So you can play the CD at your next dinner party (copyright owners get no rights over private performances), you can loan it to a friend (thanks to the “first sale” doctrine), or make a copy for use on your iPod (thanks to “fair use”). Every use that falls outside the limited exclusive rights of the copyright owner belongs to you, the owner of the CD.

Now compare that baseline with the world according to the Sony-BMG EULA, which applies to any digital copies you make of the music on the CD:

1. If your house gets burgled, you have to delete all your music from your laptop when you get home. That's because the EULA says that your rights to any copies terminate as soon as you no longer possess the original CD.

2. You can't keep your music on any computers at work. The EULA only gives you the right to put copies on a “personal home computer system owned by you.”

3. If you move out of the country, you have to delete all your music. The EULA specifically forbids “export” outside the country where you reside.

4. You must install any and all updates, or else lose the music on your computer. The EULA immediately terminates if you fail to install any update. No more holding out on those hobble-ware downgrades masquerading as updates.

5. Sony-BMG can install and use backdoors in the copy protection software or media player to “enforce their rights” against you, at any time, without notice. And Sony-BMG disclaims any liability if this “self help” crashes your computer, exposes you to security risks, or any other harm.

6. The EULA says Sony-BMG will never be liable to you for more than $5.00. That's right, no matter what happens, you can't even get back what you paid for the CD.

7. If you file for bankruptcy, you have to delete all the music on your computer. Seriously.

8. You have no right to transfer the music on your computer, even along with the original CD.

9. Forget about using the music as a soundtrack for your latest family photo slideshow, or mash-ups, or sampling. The EULA forbids changing, altering, or make derivative works from the music on your computer.

Yikes! bring back the 8-track!

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In a perfect world

Elected leaders wouldn't lie to their constituents with a straight face. However, Bush has gotten away with being a liar for so many years that he assumes that nobody will notice if he lies again.

Frank Rich 'We Do Not Torture' and Other Funny Stories - New York Times IF it weren't tragic it would be a New Yorker cartoon. The president of the United States, in the final stop of his forlorn Latin America tour last week, told the world, “We do not torture.” Even as he spoke, the administration's flagrant embrace of torture was as hard to escape as publicity for Anderson Cooper.
The vice president, not satisfied that the C.I.A. had already been implicated in four detainee deaths, was busy lobbying Congress to give the agency a green light to commit torture in the future. Dana Priest of The Washington Post, having first uncovered secret C.I.A. prisons two years ago, was uncovering new “black sites” in Eastern Europe, where ghost detainees are subjected to unknown interrogation methods redolent of the region's Stalinist past. Before heading south, Mr. Bush had been doing his own bit for torture by threatening to cast the first veto of his presidency if Congress didn't scrap a spending bill amendment, written by John McCain and passed 90 to 9 by the Senate, banning the “cruel, inhuman or degrading” treatment of prisoners. So when you watch the president stand there with a straight face and say, “We do not torture” - a full year and a half after the first photos from Abu Ghraib - you have to wonder how we arrived at this ludicrous moment. The answer is not complicated. When people in power get away with telling bigger and bigger lies, they naturally think they can keep getting away with it. And for a long time, Mr. Bush and his cronies did. Not anymore.


The Times, meanwhile, discovered that Mr. Libby had set up a legal defense fund to be underwritten by donors who don't have to be publicly disclosed but who may well have a vested interest in the direction of his defense. It's all too eerily reminiscent of the secret fund set up by Richard Nixon's personal lawyer, Herbert Kalmbach, to pay the legal fees of Watergate defendants.

THERE'S so much to stonewall at the White House that last week Scott McClellan was reduced to beating up on the octogenarian Helen Thomas. “You don't want the American people to hear what the facts are, Helen,” he said, “and I'm going to tell them the facts.” Coming from the press secretary who vowed that neither Mr. Libby nor Karl Rove had any involvement in the C.I.A. leak, this scene was almost as funny as his boss's “We do not torture” charade.

Not that it matters now. The facts the American people are listening to at this point come not from an administration that they no longer find credible, but from the far more reality-based theater of war. The Qaeda suicide bombings of three hotels in Amman on 11/9, like the terrorist attacks in Madrid and London before them, speak louder than anything else of the price we are paying for the lies that diverted us from the war against the suicide bombers of 9/11 to the war in Iraq.

There's more, such as

There is still much more to learn about our government's duplicity in the run-up to the war, just as there is much more to learn about what has gone on since, whether with torture or billions of Iraq reconstruction dollars. That is why the White House and its allies, having failed to discredit the Fitzgerald investigation, are now so desperate to slow or block every other inquiry. Exhibit A is the Senate Intelligence Committee, whose Republican chairman, Pat Roberts, is proving a major farceur with his efforts to sidestep any serious investigation of White House prewar subterfuge. Last Sunday, the same day that newspapers reported Carl Levin's revelation about the “intentionally misleading” Qaeda informant, Senator Roberts could be found on “Face the Nation” saying he had found no evidence of “political manipulation or pressure” in the use of prewar intelligence.

His brazenness is not anomalous. After more than two years of looking into the forged documents used by the White House to help support its bogus claims of Saddam's Niger uranium, the F.B.I. ended its investigation without resolving the identity of the forgers. Last week, Jane Mayer of The New Yorker reported that an investigation into the November 2003 death of an Abu Ghraib detainee, labeled a homicide by the U.S. government, has been, in the words of a lawyer familiar with the case, “lying kind of fallow.” The Wall Street Journal similarly reported that 17 months after Condoleezza Rice promised a full investigation into Ahmad Chalabi's alleged leaking of American intelligence to Iran, F.B.I. investigators had yet to interview Mr. Chalabi - who was being welcomed in Washington last week as an honored guest by none other than Ms. Rice.

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Ageism and hypocrisy

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Selena Roberts: The N.B.A.'s New Age Rule Will Get Old in a Hurry - New York Times

It's 19, not 18 anymore. It's one year of college, not a prom-and-done proposition now. It is an ill-conceived piece of phony feel-good legislation on every level. A year to mature, a season to grow, the N.B.A. caretakers will tell you. As if a freshman year is an introduction to adulthood and responsibility instead of beer bongs and campus gals who aspire to be Carolina Panthers cheerleaders. As if it would have been better for good-citizen LeBron James to put on a freshman 15 rather than for Carmelo Anthony to put in a cameo at Syracuse before appearing in the underground “Snitch” DVD as an N.B.A. player.

The Pacers' Jermaine O'Neal eloquently described the age limit last year as an unconstitutional rule directed at black athletes. Together, with the recent Mister Rogers dress code, the N.B.A. is precariously close to being perceived as a league trying to brush itself with a whitening system.While the National Hockey League promotes the wholesome Sidney Crosby, and the Ladies Professional Golf Association benefits from Michelle Wie's pro decision on her Sweet 16th, the N.B.A. is hoping its future stars of the baggy-jean age outgrow their hip-hop phase with a year in the hands of a college coach. Let Bob Knight teach, mold and scold them into scouts. Let Mike Krzyzewski shower them with warm hugs as he transforms them into upstanding Dukies. Let college be the N.B.A.'s fly-by farm system. As a reward, top college coaches will receive a teenage savior on their roster. But the N.B.A.'s added rule is not college basketball's gain.

...The N.B.A.'s new age requirement doesn't encourage a cozy connection between a college coach and a high school star. It only confuses the roles between diva player and diva coach.


NCAA sports are sort of a joke anyway. Why don't the Universities admit the obvious, and start paying their athletes? When I was attending the University of Texas for all those many years, the football players (and other jocks) got first dibs on all classes, especially the crowded ones, had free tutors provided them, often never actually had to attend classes, and frequently used 'proxies' to take their tests for them. Of course, none of this was officially sanctioned, but I don't recall anyone being kicked out of the program for abusing the 'student-athelete' myth. Really, why even bother pretending? The athletic programs are worth astronomical amounts of money, certainly for successful teams, but I never have heard of any of that money being funneled into classrooms.

Rant aside, the NBA should continue building a minor league farm system if that's what it takes to teach the fundamentals of team basketball, but stop with the phony '19 year olds are intrinsically better than 18 year olds' bullshite.

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Self Portrait with hat

self portrait with hat
Do I look exhausted or what? Slightly manipulated with photoshop to color burn in some contrast.

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Arrested Development

Looks like the best comedy on the air is getting canned. - 'Arrested Development' gets the ax - Nov 11, 2005

The Bluth clan of Fox's ratings-challenged “Arrested Development” is also headed for the exit after Fox cut the third-season order on the Emmy-winning comedy to 13 episodes.

...As for the demise of “Arrested,” it comes just as the acclaimed comedy came back this week after a hiatus to make room for Fox's baseball coverage. The two back-to-back episodes averaged a paltry 4 million viewers Monday, sending Fox to fifth place in the 8 p.m. hour...There is a possibility that the show will be shopped around, but its high cost is expected to be prohibitive for a cable network.
Fox said Thursday that it will pull “Arrested Development” the schedule for the remaining three Mondays of the November sweep, replacing them with a rerun of the previous episode of “Prison Break” leading into an original episode of the serialized drama.

“Arrested” [is] set to return to their time slots with original episodes December 5, following the fall finale of “Prison Break” on November 28.

Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm is a close second, but we'll miss Arrested Development.
Arrested Development cast


November 11, 2005

Flowers - I hear a sweet voice calling

Flowers - Mulvihill's Reel

Flowers - Moon Palace

11/11 was originally Armistice Day, hence the poppies. Now, it is a day to honor veterans. Even this neo-socialist liberal honors veterans, all veterans, for their service to their nation.

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Ali and Dope-a-Dope

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At the White House, Prizes for 14 Champs
Muhammad Ali and GWB

“The Greatest of All Time” stole the show when President Bush bestowed the Medal of Freedom on ...10 others in a White House ceremony yesterday. Bush, who appeared almost playful, fastened the heavy medal around Muhammad Ali's neck and whispered something in the heavyweight champion's ear. Then, as if to say “bring it on,” the president put up his dukes in a mock challenge.

Ali, 63, who has Parkinson's disease and moves slowly, looked the president in the eye -- and, finger to head, did the “crazy” twirl for a couple of seconds.

The room of about 200, including Cabinet secretaries, tittered with laughter. Ali, who was then escorted back to his chair, made the twirl again while sitting down. And the president looked visibly taken aback, laughing nervously.Was Ali making a political statement? In his remarks about the fighter, Bush ... did not mention Ali's very public opposition to the Vietnam War, which led the prizefighter to lose his boxing license for three years when he refused to serve in the Army.

As opposed to the Chimp's National Guard non-service.

Ali, dressed in a suit, barely cracking a smile, received the loudest and most sustained applause of the day. And the always quotable man who said “I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong” and “I am the onliest of boxing's poet laureates” delivered the most striking moment without speaking a word.

Still the Greatest.

Or was the boxing legend living up to another trait the president noted, his penchant for psyching out the challenger?

“Clearly, the president said a statement to Muhammad that he found humorous and his response was the 'crazy sign,' at which the president laughed,” said Craig Bankey, a spokesman for Ali. The Presidential Medal of Honor is the polite, distinguished and altogether restrained grand dame to the Academy Awards, Emmys, Grammys, Tonys, et al. It's no popularity contest -- no million-dollar Oscar campaigns to wage, no Nielsen ratings to measure, no SoundScan or iTunes to track album sales and online downloads. Simply, elegantly, it is a way of saying that, yes, kind sir and gentle lady, you've made an indelible mark. Thank you.

I've seen Ali at press conferences and events many times, and he often does the 'pretend spar' with people he respects. Obviously, the Chimp is not one of those. Perhaps all those rabid Republicans calling Ali a traitor because of Vietnam came to mind while walking up to receive a medal from the hands of a real draft-dodger chicken hawk. Ali may have difficulty speaking, but his mind is still sharp. Notice also the left hand of Ali: ready to uppercut if necessary.

As found on atrios, and elsewhere.
Video at Crooks and Liars

Riya Eases Pain of Pile of Pix

Riya Eases Pain of Pile of Pix
It's every photographer's nightmare: a folder filled with hundreds of unlabeled images. A would-be Flickr killer aims to cut through the clutter by automatically identifying faces in pictures.

The field of online photo-sharing sites is becoming pretty crowded, but a new service hopes to distinguish itself by automating the tedious job of tagging pictures by using artificial intelligence and face-recognition technology. Riya has developed software that can automatically recognize who is in a picture and tag it with their names. Currently in alpha testing, the software has proven sensitive enough to tell the difference between twins and recognize members of the same family. It can even read street signs for clues about a picture's location.

Interesting, if they make a Mac client, I'll pay attention. I have gigs of poorly labeled photos.

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Setback in Court for BlackBerry Maker

Setback in Court for BlackBerry Maker
A federal judge in Virginia said that it was “highly unlikely” he would delay a patent case against the maker of the BlackBerry device.

Doh! I guess I should have backup plans whenever I travel in the near future....

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Surprising nobody

Only the details of the severance were still in question, and I suppose they were finally hashed out: no more meat, massage and martini lunches. - Miller Retires From Times, But Not Quietly
After two weeks of negotiations over her future at the New York Times, Judith Miller, a reporter at the center of the CIA leak case, will retire from the Times, the paper said yesterday.

And rumors notwithstanding, Ms. Run Amok claims that she doesn't have a book deal, yet.

Ms. Miller has said she may write a book about her recent experiences although yesterday she said she hasn't yet prepared a book proposal or considered any offers. “I've not discussed a book with anybody,” she said. “I haven't decided what I'm going to do.”
Richard Curtis, president of the literary agency Richard Curtis Associates Inc., said, “There was stuff she knew, secrets she kept, games she played, intrigues surrounding what she knows. As the Libby case becomes protracted, what she has to say will be very valuable.”

Of course, everything out of her mouth can be considered fact, right? Or not.....

Ms. Miller said that she had already been contacted by prospective employers. “I've already had offers,” she said. “And it's only been a few hours.
Apparently the Washington Moony Times and Fox News have both tendered offers, and the National Review is considering one.

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Alleys as the unconscious

Goldblatts Blown
Alley on West Superior (black and white photo without flash, scanned)

This writer seems to have a similar view of alleys as your humble narrator:

Chicago Tribune | Danger? We can't resist the dark side

If the world didn't have alleys, Freud would have invented them.

Alleys are a literal version of the dark subconscious: Largely hidden from the world most of the time; brimming with the things from which we normally recoil; the repository for what we think we've finally -- finally! -- discarded; incubator of shadows; nesting place for grisly intentions.
... Our language about alleys betrays our unease. “I think he's OK,” we say, “but I wouldn't want to meet him in a dark alley.” The traditional slang for a harrowingly unsafe medical procedure which some desperate women feel they must undergo, a ghastly last resort, is “a back-alley abortion.”

Alleys reek with menace. Downtown, the fire escapes clamped to building backsides can resemble, in the dusky dim light, medieval torture devices, an excess of cruelly stubborn iron twisted into diabolical shapes. In the neighborhoods, alleys at night are tunnels of unknown peril; lined by the backs of houses -- the neglected, forgotten parts -- and by thrown-out couches and overfed garbage cans and flecks of glass from smashed beer bottles that wink in the moonlight like precious gems.

..And yet if you stand at the mouth of an alley, just at the point where it intersects with some saner, more public place, and you stare down that lane of unknown nastiness and sordid complication, there is this: Alleys are irresistible.

For all of their darkness and demonic ickiness, for all of the garbage and narrow nefariousness, they're also undeniably fetching.

Alleys are like the bad boys in high school, like the hoodlum girls. The rule-breakers. The ones who wear black and sneer at authority. Alleys are like geographical Goth.

Well, similar anyway. I do think alleys are evocative slices of city life - there aren't many alleys in the suburbs.
Rasta Alley Broadway
Alley on North Broadway.

Garbage - by Law
Alley in Andersenville.

(click for larger versions)

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Hybrids baby

Chicago Tribune CTA buys 20 buses to test hybrid power
With high fuel costs burning up its budget, the Chicago Transit Authority next year will test 20 new diesel-electric hybrid buses that should reduce fuel expenses, the agency's president announced Tuesday

The hybrid vehicle purchases are part of a larger $95 million order the CTA placed with New Flyer Industries Inc. for 265 buses. Those vehicles will replace existing 5300-series Flxible buses that were purchased in 1991.

With the hybrid purchases, the CTA joins a growing movement among transit agencies to use the diesel-electric vehicles to reduce emissions and save on fuel and maintenance costs. ..Transit officials point to the hybrid's cost, which is about $200,000 more than a conventional bus, as the reason why more are not on the roads.

“We would have more if the price came down,” said Mary Fetsch, a spokeswoman for TriMet, the transit agency in Portland, Ore., which has two hybrids. “That's too high a premium given our tight budget.”

The CTA will pay about $530,000 for each hybrid, compared with $341,000 for a conventional bus, agency spokeswoman Noelle Gaffney said.
...In the Seattle area, transit officials believe hybrids will pay off in the long run. King County Metro Transit received 235 articulated hybrid buses last year, according to Jim Boon, the agency's maintenance manager.

Boon estimated that the hybrids use 40 percent less fuel than a new generation conventional diesel bus. But Boon also expects to save money on maintenance. The vehicles' unique braking system reduces wear and tear on the brakes, and he believes the engine will last the life of a vehicle. Engines of conventional buses in Metro Transit's fleet typically are rebuilt after about 400,000 miles, he said.

There are few things more unpleasant than biking behind a diesel-spewing bus: having hybrids is a great step towards making a city more pleasant for commuters, not to mention all other benefits mentioned.

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Bill Clinton and childhood-obesity

President Bill Clinton’s partnership with Nickelodeon in a childhood-obesity initiative he formed with the American Heart Association is drawing fire from a consumer group that views the Viacom network as a culprit.

I don't know, this seems like grandstanding to me. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood appears to be more interested in a perfect world, one in which advertising doesn't even exist, rather than trying to compromise and actually get something done. I also suspect, without real evidence, that because Clinton is involved, the CCFC is getting the press coverage they hoped for.

Kansas School Board Approves Controversial Science Standards
The board voted 6-4 to adopt new science standards that are the most far-reaching in the nation in requiring that evolution be challenged in the classroom.

Add Kansas to the list of 'places I would never live'. Also, should we strike Kansas from the list of states that receive flu vaccines since evolutionary biology was used to create it? (parenthetical note: D & I are firm believers that flu viruses shouldn't be taken anyway, but not because we are anti-evolutionaries)

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Homer Simpson

Is there a Homer Simpson joke here? or just a tragedy?

South African woman killed by bee swarm
A South African woman was killed by hundreds of thousands of enraged bees after her vehicle hit an electricity substation that contained their hive, an emergency services group said on Tuesday. “The car crashed into an electrical substation in Johannesburg which housed a bee hive. It was 10 years old and had in excess of a million bees and they just went wild,” said Paul Nel, spokesman for Netcare 911, a private paramedic and ambulance service. “The people managed to stumble out of the car but they were just overcome by bees,” he said. The incident occurred on Monday. He said the woman died at the scene while her husband was recovering in hospital.


U.S. Postal service

I moved to Chicago right as this scandal happened. There are still problem areas in some neighborhoods, though luckily, not at the Haymarket Station.

Chicago Tribune | A cast of characters in Chicago alley history
Undelivered U.S. mail turned up all over Chicago in 1993-94, a scandal leading to a major shake-up in the postal department here. Adding fuel to this blaze was the discovery of a carrier bag in the alley behind 333 S. State St. In it were 46 unopened pieces from a state government office. A private courier found the discarded bag and reported it to police, who alerted a postal inspection service. This mail eventually got delivered -- a little late -- to Chicago's main post office only a few blocks away.

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Late Night debauch


as part of a decade-turning birthday for my partner...immediate cause of my blurry vision
Keg of Sake, mostly imbibed by your humble narrator

streets slick with sake
streets slick with sake

walking the streets at night
walking the streets at night

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Reporters May Get Hottest Tails

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Still recovering from a weekend long debauch (D's birthday celebration, one of the new decade versions), so my brain is fairly fuzzy.

However, we will be following the machinations of the upcoming Frogmarch Trial, part one, closely. - Reporters May Get Hottest Seats At Cheney Aide's Trial
After initial protests over protecting their sources, three prominent journalists ended up telling a federal prosecutor about their conversations with I. Lewis Libby, leading to the White House official's indictment for perjury, false statements and obstruction of justice.

update: couldn't resist this factoid, from the Guardian U.K.

“Do you believe the New York Times failure to fire Judy Miller has affected your credibility as a journalistic organisation?” asked one journalist [to the publisher of the New York Times, Arthur Sulzberger].

“No,” answered Mr Sulzberger before qualifying his response. “There is no question that there has been an effect on the way people are viewing the Times because of the Judy Miller situation ... this story is not over. Events are changing rapidly.”
Miller, whose reporting has been publicly slated by her paper's editor, reader's editor and one of its senior columnists, is now embroiled in intense negotiations with the paper's management over the terms of her severance.

According to the New York Observer and sources with knowledge of the negotiations, Miller is demanding the right to reply to her critics in an opinion piece and a non-disparagement agreement as condition of her departure. Otherwise she has threatened to return to work. She has been on leave since her release a month ago after spending 85 in jail days for refusing to reveal her source in the Valerie Plame case.

Given the very public criticism from her colleagues her return is regarded as more of a bargaining position than a tenable proposition. In the run up to the Iraq war Miller's reporting was widely slated for being insufficiently critical of the Bush administration's claims that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Last year the paper issued a public apology for its Iraq coverage in which three of the five articles it mentioned bore her name. Bill Keller said that when he became editor, following the Jayson Blair scandal in 2003, he told Miller to stay away from security-related stories but she continued to write them.

more excerpts below the fold


alleyway with sake eyes

Regular readers of this space may remember my little elegy for the alley, about 6 months ago. Some editor at the Tribune agrees with me:

Chicago Tribune | Uncharted territory
...weeklong salute to Chicago's alleys, all 1,900 miles of them, most of any city on the planet.

The alley? You ask. The alley??? Yes. The alley! Shaper of Chicago, home of garbage and gardens, danger and Dumpsters, the arena of kickball, hoops and gossip, of scavengers, of neighbors, of rodents.

Chicago is prettier and greener because of its alleys, with much of the messiness of city life moved around back out of sight.

“You can learn just about anything you need to know about a neighborhood in its alleys,” rhapsodizes Dee Brody, a former alley czar for one city ward.

In fact, Chicago's alleys are older than the city itself. They were laid out as part of a 58-block grid in 1830, three years before Chicago was incorporated as a town and seven before it was chartered as a city.

Today's alleys are wonderfully clean and tidy, compared with a century ago.

Bright lights, installed first in the mid-1960s, help cut down on crime, but many alleys are still dicey places to enter in the dark. The large garbage bins that began replacing the old 55-gallon drums in 1984 have drastically reduced the city's rat population -- but, while down, the vermin aren't out.

Although alleys bisect well over 90 percent of Chicago's streets and are integral parts of our lives, very little has been written about them, alley maps are rare, and when's the last time you heard a civic booster trumpeting their virtues?

Chicago: Alley capital of the world

Chicago, it turns out, has the largest network of alleys in the nation and, almost certainly, in the world. We learned this after calls to dozens of U.S. cities showed none with anywhere near Chicago's 1,900 miles. No single authority keeps comprehensive international statistics about alleys, but the scholars, urban planners and other experts we consulted knew of no other world city anywhere with as many. This chart compares four U.S. cities with extensive alley networks. (Not included are New York, which has relatively few alleys, and Los Angeles, which didn't provide a map of its 800 miles of alleys.) The distinctive alley patterns reflect the development trends in each city.

Chicago's original city plan in 1830 included alleys through every block, a pattern that continues. Today, well over 90 percent of the city's blocks are bisected by alleys.

Apparently, to be a week long series.

(click for larger version)

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The Mysterious Death of Pat Tillman

Too drunk to comment. Maybe in the morning. But, damn!

Frank Rich: The Mysterious Death of Pat Tillman - New York Times
IT would be a compelling story,“ Patrick Fitzgerald said of the narrative Scooter Libby used to allegedly mislead investigators in the Valerie Wilson leak case, ”if only it were true.“

Is there nothing that is sacred? Shouldn't the deaths of Americans be sacrosanct, even to the Bush White House?


Moto menu

Moto Fish boxes
A slice of sea bass was contained in this heated (NASA) plastic, along with a tomatillo-based sauce. Cooked while we ate some other courses. The paprika gave off a delectable aroma. Review of our meal (D's birthday celebration - I had the wine pairing, which means 18 glasses of wine, yikes, still recovering) forthcoming, but here's a snippet about Moto

Moto and the devouring of money

Moto and the devouring of money2
Your humble narrator chows down on the patent-pending edible dollar, which tasted like a Chicago Char-dog.

bamboo and shallowness of my memory
Moto wall. bamboo and shallowness of my memory

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After and Before

sunset set rouge over the river

sunset set rouge over the river

sunset set blue over the river

sunset set blue over the river

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Larry Brown in NYC

Here is the first article (that I've read anyway) of many to follow attacking Larry Brown. I wouldn't want to coach these Knicks either: with such a high payroll, expectations are much higher than the talent of the team could live up to. The Knicks might make the playoffs, barely, but they may not.

Knicks' Teacher Needs to Call Recess - New York Times
The notion of playing the right way perpetuates the myth that too many basketball experts have bought into: that basketball skills in the United States are on the decline. The truth is, N.B.A. talent is better than ever. Even the most stubborn N.B.A. old-timer concedes that today's players are bigger, more athletic and stronger. The problem is adults with authority trying to cram talent into boxes, suits and triangles. Let them play free. They have to have discipline to enjoy the freedom.

That's the lesson Larry Brown should be teaching the Knicks' young players.The Knicks' triangular hierarchy has some lessons to learn as well. Thomas has made lots of flashy moves in two seasons, but he has to pack away the smoke and mirrors and build a solid foundation. Marbury, 29 in February, will have to decide once and for all that he will submit to the will of his coach.

Finally, Brown, the N.B.A.'s ultimate teaching coach, must realize he has lessons to learn as well.I wouldn't get too carried away with catchy phrases that hearken back to yesteryear. There is no Rasheed Wallace on this Knicks team, no Ben Wallace, no Tayshaun Prince, no Rip Hamilton.Brown will be the first to tell you that without talent, “Playing The Right Way” is a classroom slogan that rings hollow.

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NBA and teamwork

The Wall Street Journal notes XOS Technologies and the essential site,, in a context of team play. Teams like San Antonio, Detroit, and even Chicago have a more balanced scoring attack.
I'm all for these statistical analyses, if it encourages 5-as-1 play: team ball is infinitely more watchable than super-star isolation basketball. - The NBA Tries to Make Teamwork a Science:
Though fans have grown used to Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or Tracy McGrady pouring in basket after basket while his pals mostly stand around and watch, there is growing evidence that savvier teamwork can take a team all the way to the top. Last year's finalists, the Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs, played a team-oriented game, with only one player between them averaging more than 20 points a game last season. And don't think the rest of the NBA hasn't noticed the success that comes from the team approach.

...New technology makes it easier to track the performance of every combination of five players that steps on the court, in a long list of game situations, from out-of-bounds plays to pick-and-rolls to zone defenses. As different player mixes yield different results, teams are beginning to quantify the elusive concept known as chemistry.

Say, for example, that after a coach inserts two particular players into a game, the opposing team has trouble scoring. Getting ready for the next opponent, the coach might flip open his laptop, punch a few keys, and see how his team did defensively in other games when the same two players were on the court together. He's able to do this because teams are increasingly turning to software that dissects plays, follows every pass and shot and tracks each player's part in every possession.

For basketball, it's something of a catch-up game. While combining video and statistical analysis has long been used to gain an edge in baseball and football, it's a fairly new phenomenon on the hardwood court. NBA teams have been slower to adopt that approach to dissecting games because it requires someone actually record every possession of every game, including which players were on the court. Los Angeles Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy says that when he took the job in 2003, the team's entire video-scouting system consisted of two VCRs.

Now, the NBA is realizing how well the approach can actually work. Software developed by XOS Technologies helps a coach see things like how the team fared in quarters when certain players were on the court together. He could run any number of different scenarios: To determine whether one player helped his fellow defenders more than another, he could isolate moments in games when the two played separately but with the same four teammates. “Coaching went from being very subjective to an exact science of what guys do,” says Mr. Dunleavy.

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Chocolate stinks


This citizen complaint would have been lodged by us, if we even knew how to do such a thing. Don't get me wrong - chocolate is a good friend of mine (even though D can't stand it), but having the smell rammed down my nostrils every second of every day is not pleasant. In fact, I've begun to despise the odor.

Blommer pumping too much chocolate into air: EPA
Smells emanating from Blommer Chocolate Co.’s downtown Chicago factory at 600 W. Kinzie St. have enticed [annoyed] rush-hour commuters for more than six decades, but now the company has been cited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for unlawful emissions of dust from its cocoa bean grinders.

A notice of violation says that an EPA inspector, responding to a citizen complaint, conducted tests in early September that found the plant was exceeding limits for the amount of light obscured by the plant’s emissions.

Blommer, which claims to be the largest cocoa bean processor in North America, makes bulk cocoa and chocolate products for other candy manufacturers.

According to the EPA notice, the plant’s emissions were substantial enough to reduce visibility at the exhaust duct by more than the 30% allowed by law. The EPA notes that “inhaling high concentrations of particulates can affect children, the elderly and people with heart and lung diseases the most.”

Clean air laws allow emissions to be more concentrated for short periods, but Blommer exceeded that standard as well, according to the EPA notice. Emissions may briefly exceed a 30% opacity limit for up to eight minutes within a one-hour period, up to a maximum of 60%.

The inspector’s report says Blommer’s emissions obscured visible light by 32.1% to 49.4% for 24 minutes during a total of 42 minutes of observation on the mornings of September 1 and 2. The Chicago plant has 11 grinders
...In 1993, Blommer paid a civil penalty of $20,000 and agreed to a cease-and-desist order after the state of Illinois alleged the company violated state clean-air laws, according to an Illinois Pollution Control Board order.

As a parenthetical note: D met with Burt Natarus, our Alderman, a couple of years ago, and the first thing out of his mouth was, “If you are here to complain about Blommer's, don't even bother”, or words to that effect. The funny thing is, she was only there to discuss the Haymarket Riot statue (more Haymarket photos here). Unless Natarus has been tapping our phones, he wouldn't know how much we have prayed for Blommers to 'turn condo', or something similar.

Natarus as a Witch

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Bob Herbert, token liberal at the New York Times, also doesn't believe that torture is a tool that our government should be using.

Bob Herbert: Secrets and Shame - New York Times: Ultimately the whole truth will come out and historians will have their say, and Americans will look in the mirror and be ashamed.

Abraham Lincoln spoke of the “better angels” of our nature. George W. Bush will have none of that. He's set his sights much, much lower.

The latest story from the Dante-esque depths of this administration was front-page news in The Washington Post yesterday. The reporter, Dana Priest, gave us the best glimpse yet of the extent of the secret network of prisons in which the C.I.A. has been hiding and interrogating terror suspects. The network includes a facility at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe.

“The hidden global internment network is a central element in the C.I.A.'s unconventional war on terrorism,” wrote Ms. Priest. “It depends on the cooperation of foreign intelligence services, and on keeping even basic information about the system secret from the public, foreign officials and nearly all members of Congress charged with overseeing the C.I.A.'s covert actions.”

The individuals held in these prisons have been deprived of all rights. They don't even have the basic minimum safeguards of prisoners of war. If they are being tortured or otherwise abused, there is no way for the outside world to know about it. If some mistake has been made and they are, in fact, innocent of wrongdoing - too bad.

As Ms. Priest wrote, “Virtually nothing is known about who is kept in the facilities, what interrogation methods are employed with them, or how decisions are made about whether they should be detained or for how long.”

This is the border along which democracy bleeds into tyranny.

Amen. Can we draw up impeachment papers yet?

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Torture is not an American value

Part the 3454th, ie, way too many entries on this topic!

Chicago Tribune | U.S. policy of `no torture, no excuses' urged
The Bush administration's policies for holding and detaining suspected terrorists came under sharp scrutiny and criticism Wednesday after disclosure that the CIA had set up covert prisons in several East European democracies and other countries. The UN special rapporteur on torture said he would seek more information about the covert prisons, referred to in classified documents as “black sites.” Congressional Democrats and human-rights groups warned that the system would damage the U.S. image overseas.

House Democrats said they will introduce a motion as early as Thursday to endorse language in the defense spending package written by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that would bar cruel and inhuman treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody, including those in CIA hands. Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, ranking Democrat on the appropriations defense subcommittee, urged the U.S. to adopt a doctrine of “no torture, no excuses” and said Congress needs to speak on the issue. McCain's amendment was endorsed last month by the Senate 90-9 over the objections of the White House, which said it would restrict the president's ability to protect the country. House Democrats said they already have 15 GOP supporters for their motion, and Republicans have told the White House they expect it to pass, an Appropriations Committee spokesman said.

Whatever happened to the Shining City on the Hill metaphor, so lovingly trotted out by President Reagan?

Human-rights groups said Al Qaeda prisoners should be brought to trial rather than held indefinitely in covert prisons in which they have no recognized legal rights.

“We think these people should be prosecuted and punished fully for the murders of thousands of people,” said Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch. “What is really clear is that this is a dead-end policy and they are close to the dead end.”

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), vice chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, has been pushing for more than a year to conduct a review of the CIA's interrogation and detention practices. He lashed out Wednesday at the administration for not being more forthcoming.

“They have made it clear that anyone who suggests that oversight is needed should be labeled as unpatriotic,” he said.

Manfred Nowak, the UN special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, said he had heard allegations of secret detention facilities sponsored by the United States but had not heard of any in Eastern Europe before Wednesday.

“Every secret place of detention is usually a higher risk for ill treatment, that's the danger of secrecy,” Nowak said from Austria, adding he wants to pursue access to all U.S. detention facilities outside its territory.

Torture, secret prisons, and the United States should never be mentioned in the same sentence, unless the U.S. is trying to stop torture, or free people from secret prison facilities.

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Drug law watch

Speaking of William F. Buckley, Denver listened to his argument about legalization of marijuana:

Denver gives adults loophole on marijuana
Denver on Tuesday became the first city in the United States to wipe out all criminal and civil penalties for adults caught possessing a small amount of marijuana. About 54 percent of voters supported a ballot measure legalizing possession of less than an ounce by individuals 21 and over. The ordinance is more sweeping than similar measures approved over the years in San Francisco, Berkeley, Calif., Oakland and a half-dozen college towns around the country. Most of those initiatives decriminalized marijuana for medical use or replaced criminal penalties with small fines or directed police to make enforcement of marijuana laws a low priority. Denver, by contrast, erased adult possession as an offense entirely.

I didn't see any of these ads, but if you recall, during a recent World Cup, Portugal banned alcohol at the stadium, but allowed marijuana, because the Portuguese officials believed there would be less violence. They were right.

In large part, that's because of the tactics activists used to promote the measure. The marijuana-liberalization group SAFER ran a provocative...campaign to cast the measure as vital for public safety.

On yard signs and billboards, online and in voter forums, campaign director Mason Tvert, 23, tried to convince voters that marijuana is a safer alternative to alcohol. He argued that street crime and domestic violence would drop if residents legally were allowed to smoke marijuana rather than down a six-pack of beer. College campuses, too, would be safer, he said, if joints replaced kegs at parties.

But of course, the government believes in legislation for everything:

City officials reacted angrily to such tactics, warning that marijuana is a “gateway” to more dangerous drugs.

I hate this argument - one could argue that alcohol is a 'gateway' to domestic abuse, or that voting for Republicans is a “gateway” to destroying ones country. Well, those might actually be true, but we'll discuss that later. Ahem.

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Buckley a spook

Wait, William F. Buckley, Jr. was in the goddamn CIA? How did I miss this bit of information?

William F. Buckley on Patrick Fitzgerald's Investigation on National Review Online
The revelation of a covert affiliation can have terminal consequences, as the interrupted career of Colonel Penkovsky (1919-1963) bloodily illustrates. Most duplicities along this line are relatively innocent, but the protections given are not only psychologically important, they are marginally life-saving.

An autobiographical illustration. When in 1951 I was inducted into the CIA as a deep cover agent, the procedures for disguising my affiliation and my work were unsmilingly comprehensive. It was three months before I was formally permitted to inform my wife what the real reason was for going to Mexico City to live. If, a year later, I had been apprehended, dosed with sodium pentothal, and forced to give out the names of everyone I knew in the CIA, I could have come up with exactly one name, that of my immediate boss (E. Howard Hunt, as it happened). In the passage of time one can indulge in idle talk on spook life. In 1980 I found myself seated next to the former president of Mexico at a ski-area restaurant. What, he asked amiably, had I done when I lived in Mexico? “I tried to undermine your regime, Mr. President.” He thought this amusing, and that is all that it was, under the aspect of the heavens

and in case you wondered: Mr. Buckley thinks the outing of Valerie Plame is a crime

The importance of the law against revealing the true professional identity of an agent is advertised by the draconian punishment, under the federal code, for violating it. In the swirl of the Libby affair, one loses sight of the real offense, and it becomes almost inapprehensible what it is that Cheney/Libby/Rove got themselves into. But the sacredness of the law against betraying a clandestine soldier of the republic cannot be slighted.


The Netflix Settlement Sucks

I got the Netflix class action notification this week, and even after a cursory glance, I wasn't going to participate, probably. However, via the magic of boingboing, I read of the details, and now for sure I'm not joining.

The Netflix Settlement Sucks
Netflix has the spectre of a class-action lawsuit on their hands in Frank Chaves v. Netflix, Inc. (San Francisco Superior Court, Case No. CGC-04-434884 ).  For complete information on this settlement as provided by the court, see

The summary of the case states that the complaint alleges that Netflix failed to provide “unlimited” DVD rentals and “one day delivery” as promised in its marketing materials. ...

According to the settlement, Netflix has reached a settlement that will provide the following remedies:
• Subscribers who were customers before January 15, 2005 will get one month of free upgraded service. That is, if you can have three discs out at a time, you get upgraded to four, for free, for one month. Subscribers who were customers before January 15, 2005, but are no longer customers, will receive a free one-month membership. But wait, there's more! If you accept the upgraded account, you will be put on that upgraded plan at the end of your free month and your bill will increase unless you cancel! It seems to me that the number of subscribers who fail to cancel, forget, or just plain don't understand will likely make Netflix more money as a result of this settlement.
• The lead plaintiff gets a $2,000 cash “bonus” from Netflix.
• And, of course, the kicker - subscribers get a rigged upgrade, the lead plaintiff gets a token amount of money, and... wait for it... The lawyers get $2,528,000

If more than 5% of Netflix customers opt out, the settlement is overturned.

The deadline to opt-out is a postmark of December 28th. Doing nothing does not opt you out! Doing nothing keeps you part of the settlement and provides you no benefits. 

How to opt out

According to the Long Form Notice posted at the settlement web site, you must send a written, signed request to opt out, and state:

1. Your name, address, email address and telephone number associated with your Netflix account.
2. Your current name, address, email address and telephone number if it's different from the above.
3. A reference to the litigation (i.e., Chavez v. Netflix, Inc. Case No. CGC-04-434884)
4. Approximately when you became a Netflix member, if and when you cancelled, and what service level(s) you subscribed to.
5. That you wish to opt-out of the class.

send your request to:

Netflix Opt-Out
5654 Geary Blvd., #210511
San Francisco, CA 94121 Justin Baeder has posted a one-page letter that can be printed and mailed (with no envelope) to make it easy to opt out, and has graciously allowed me to provide his links:

Word document found at
or PDF version found at

I hate to agree with Republicans about anything, but Class Action lawsuits are a freaking burden on U.S. Business. In the last month, I received class action notices from Apple (battery life of iPods), from Amazon (security litigation from the dot-com/dot-bomb days when I actually paid attention to the stock frenzy), from Verizon (the bluetooth fiasco), and probably others that I never even opened. Now, frequently, the underlying complaint is actually valid (especially Verizon's decision to cripple bluetooth functionality, yet advertise their phone as a 'bluetooth' phone), or at least understandable, but the company settles, pays each member of the class a pittance, but the lawyers get big bucks. The company in question has to defend itself, which also means another financial victory for their lawyers. In other words, a lose-lose proposition for consumers and businesses, but a win-win for defense and plaintiff law firms.


update: comments closed due to spam-rats. Email your comment, and I'll publish it (swanksalot @ gmail dot com)

Acid2 and Safari

WaSP : About : Acid2: The Guided Tour
Acid2 is a test page for web browsers published by The Web Standards Project (WaSP). It has been written to help browser vendors make sure their products correctly support features that web designers would like to use. These features are part of existing standards but haven't been interoperably supported by major browsers. Acid2 tries to change this by challenging browsers to render Acid2 correctly before shipping.

Acid2 is a complex web page. It uses features that are not in common use yet, because of lack of support, and it crams many tests into one page. The aim has been to make it simple for developers and users to check if a browser passes the test. If it does, the smiley face on the left will appear. If something is wrong, the face will be distorted and/or shown partly in red ... Note: some 827 people (rough estimate, contents may have settled during shipping) have written to point out that the CSS used in the test is invalid. This is deliberate, as a means of exposing the ability of user agents to handle invalid CSS properly.

Take the Acid2 test here

If you are curious as to what is being tested, here is a nice synopsis

Apparently, so far, only Safari is able to pass the test.

I'm guessing that the creators of the Gap's site didn't bother with creating a site that employs web standards.

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Chain, Chain, Chain of Cheney Fools

MoDo continues her screed:

Chain, Chain, Chain of Cheney Fools - New York Times
...One of the most confounding aspects of W.'s exceedingly confounding presidency is his apparent unwillingness to consider that anyone who ever worked for him - and was in any way responsible for any of the disasters now afflicting his administration - should be jettisoned.
This is not loyalty. This is myopia. Where is a meddling, power-intoxicated first lady when we need one? Maybe the clever Nancy Reagan should have a little talk with Laura Bush tonight at the dinner for Prince Charles and Camilla, and explain to her how to step in and fire overweening officials who are hurting your man.

Vice thumbed his nose yesterday at the notion that he should clean up his creepy laboratory when he promoted two Renfields who are part of the gang that got us into this mess.

Dick Cheney has appointed David Addington as his new chief of staff, an ideologue who is so fanatically secretive, so in love with the shadows, so belligerent and unyielding that he's known around town as the Keyser Soze of the usual suspects. At 48, Mr. Addington is a legend: he's worked his way up the G.O.P. scandal ladder from Iran-contra to Abu Ghraib.

Unlike Scooter, this lone-wolf lawyer doesn't reach out to journalists, even to use them as conduits or covers; he makes his boss look gregarious. He routinely declines to be interviewed or photographed.

Vice also appointed John Hannah as his national security adviser, a title also held by Scooter. Mr. Addington and Mr. Hannah often battled with the C.I.A. and State as the cabal pushed the case that Saddam was a direct threat to America, sabotaging Colin Powell's reputation when it “helped” with his U.N. speech. Mr. Hannah was the contact for Ahmad Chalabi, who went around the C.I.A. to feed Vice's office the baloney intel and rosy scenarios that suckered the U.S. into war.

Mr. Addington has done his best to crown King Cheney. As Dana Milbank wrote in The Washington Post, Mr. Addington pushed an obscure philosophy called the unitary executive theory that “favors an extraordinarily powerful president.” He would go “through every page of the federal budget in search of riders that could restrict executive authority.”

“He was a principal author of the White House memo justifying torture of terrorism suspects,” Mr. Milbank wrote. “He was a prime advocate of arguments supporting the holding of terrorism suspects without access to courts. Addington also led the fight with Congress and environmentalists over access to information about corporations that advised the White House on energy policy.” And he helped stonewall the 9/11 commission.

The National Journal pointed out that Scooter had talked to Mr. Addington and Mr. Hannah about Joseph Wilson and his C.I.A. wife when he was seeking more information to discredit them in the press. Mr. Addington, the story said, “was deeply immersed” in the White House damage-control campaign to deflect criticism about warped W.M.D. intelligence, and attended strategy sessions in 2003 on how to discredit Mr. Wilson.

“Further,” the magazine said, “Addington played a leading role in 2004 on behalf of the Bush administration when it refused to give the Senate Intelligence Committee documents from Libby's office on the alleged misuse of intelligence information regarding Iraq.”
Mr. Addington may as well have turned the documents over for safekeeping to Pat Roberts, because, as it turned out, the Republican chairman of the Intelligence Committee didn't want to investigate anything.

Angry at the Scooter scandal, the Addington appointment and the Roberts stonewalling, Senate Democrats did something remarkable yesterday: they dimmed the lights, stamped their feet and shut down the Senate.

Tired of being in the dark, the Democrats put the Republicans in the dark. Childish, perhaps, but effective. Republicans screamed but grudgingly agreed to take a look at where the investigation stands. But even if the Senate starts investigating again, Mr. Addington, now promoted, will have even more authority not to cooperate.

It's the Cheney chain of command.

These guys who are in charge of running our country seem to be from another planet. Ms. Dowd may not be invited to summer with the Cheney's this year.

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What's up with the Shrub

Nora Ephron wonders, again, about that weird incident with the airplane in restricted airspace, which didn't even merit a call to GWB.

...As you may recall, on May 11, 2005, a small plane made an unauthorized detour into the air space over the nation's Capitol, setting off a red alert. The Secret Service evacuated Dick Cheney and rushed Laura Bush to a bunker in the White House. The President was not there. He was off riding his bicycle in Beltsville, Maryland, and the Secret Service didn't notify him about the incident until it was over. At the time they claimed they didn't want to disturb his bicycle ride.

The internets were blazing with various explanations, maybe the simplest is that Bush isn't really involved in governing.

Nora goes on:
Nora Ephron: What's Eating George Bush? | The Huffington Post

But I've been wondering about what's going on with W ever since he emerged from his bizarre groundhog-like vacation and responded to Hurricane Katrina as if he were under water. He had no affect at all. He was almost robotic. His meager vocabulary seemed to have shrunk even further. He conveyed no feeling for the victims -- and this was early on, way before anyone realized how many poor people were involved. It was strange. ...

At the time I wondered if Bush was on Paxil or Lexapro, drugs that several of my friends are taking and that seem to have turned them into strangely muted versions of themselves. I asked my friend Rita, who's a shrink, but Rita is very careful about committing on subjects of this sort. She did point out, though, that sometimes, when the President talks, his mouth has a strange sideways twitch, which is apparently common in people who are on antidepressants. .... On the Chris Matthews Show, there was some old footage of the president from last year's presidential campaign. He was outdoors, talking to a group of people in hard hats; he was energetic, focused, confident, on top of the world. Now you could easily counter: of course he was, it was a lovely day, he was surrounded by supporters, things were going well. But the President we're seeing these days is a completely different man.

He has, of course, a lot of reasons to be depressed -- no point in enumerating them, you know what they are. But most of all, I think he's depressed because the job has turned out to be so much more onerous than he expected -- he said as much to a friend of mine in September. “You have no idea,” he said, “how hard these five years have been.” This is a fairly breathtaking remark given the number of people who, thanks to this president, are now dead as a result of his five years in the Oval Office, but never mind.

The point is that it seems possible to me that when George Bush gave up alcohol in 1986, he dealt with the depression that often accompanies sobriety by becoming an obsessive exerciser. And that's what he's essentially done ever since. He's never held anything that could be confused with a job. Owning a football team [she means baseball team] is not a job. Even being governor of Texas takes only a couple of months a year, it turns out. So he was free to exercise.

But at some point this year, something happened and the exercise regimen stopped working. Bush started becoming depressed. My theory is that a certain amount of panic ensued, and more exercise was prescribed: hence, the afternoon on the bicycle in Maryland, and the reluctance to disturb an already disturbed, irritable man. (Interestingly, the incident happened just after the President returned from a four-day trip to Europe, which had not only required him to work several hours each day but undoubtedly interrupted his exercise routine.) Then came the vacation in August, the odd, sequestered vacation, a perfect time for the President's doctor to try medication, or change medication, or adjust medication. Then Katrina and the emergence in the fall of an unenergetic, irritable, muted, unfocussed President, the man you see today.

Look it up: depression + symptoms. You'll read it for yourself: loss of energy, irritability, feeling “slowed down,” inability to concentrate.

Plenty of people have noticed that something is altered in George Bush's affect. We've speculated, on these pages, and elsewhere, that Bush is suffering the after-effects of a stroke, or of a reoccurrence of alcoholism, or that he's started snorting coke again, or perhaps he is on some sort of anti-depressent. Something certainly seems different from 1999.

Wartime sluts caused diplomatic waves

Now here is history at its finest. I don't recall ever reading about this problem, and most history documentaries are targeted at high school age children it seems. On the other hand, if you've read the superb book, Gravity's Rainbow, you might have glommed that there was some serious 'scoring' going on. Not all of the 'women of easy virtue' were prostitutes either.

Wartime “sluts” caused diplomatic waves - Yahoo! News
LONDON (Reuters) - London's “young sluts” wreaked such havoc among U.S. troops during World War Two that the British government feared Anglo-American relations would suffer, files released Tuesday showed. Thousands of prostitutes and “good-time girls” were drawn to Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square in search of young American men in uniform.

They took advantage of blackouts, which plunged London into darkness during Nazi night air attacks, to evade the police. The government was so concerned by the problem that it asked the Metropolitan Police to write a report on it in 1942.

The report described how prostitutes working in upmarket Mayfair tended to be French and caused few problems while those around Piccadilly Circus were “a lower type of prostitute, quite indiscriminate in their choice of client.”

By early 1943, with thousands of U.S. soldiers pouring in to Britain ahead of the allied invasion of Europe, the Foreign Office was growing increasingly worried.

“Our attention has been drawn to the scale on which the American troops are subjected to accosting by prostitutes and we are beginning to be apprehensive about the long-term effect it may have on Anglo-American relations,” Junior Foreign Office Minister Richard Law wrote in a letter to the police.

“If American soldiers contract venereal disease while in this country, they and their relatives in the United States will not think kindly of us after the war.”

The government organized a conference to address the issue and mulled a ban on women in certain notorious London streets, according to the police files, which have been secret for 50 years but have now been released by the National Archive.

Britain was worried the Nazis would use the issue to undermine morale by goading British soldiers into believing their wives were cheating on them.

Admiral Sir Edward Evans, head of London's Civil Defense unit, wrote to the police in September 1943 to complain that “Leicester Square at night is the resort of the worst type of women and girls...”

“Of course the American soldiers are encouraged by these young sluts, many of whom should be serving in the forces,” he fumed. “At night the square, with its garden, is apparently given over to vicious debauchery.”

Won't somebody think of the children? /church-lady voice.

Well, WWII vets don't call themselves “the Greatest Generation” because of their monastic practices.

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City wants to turn green into green

Excellent news, since we're planning on building a roof deck this spring, and already have included plans to make a green roof on our own.

City wants to turn green into green

... Grants totaling $100,000 are to help homeowners and small businesses make roofs green -- with vegetation -- to benefit both the environment and their budgets.

Applications, available online at [slow loading portal page], will be accepted today through the end of the month in a program sponsored by two city departments, Environment and Planning and Development.

Grants will be awarded competitively to owners of businesses under 10,000 square feet and residents with homes of any size. And based on the more than 60 people who attended a city seminar two weeks ago, “it looks like it's going to be very competitive,” said Michael Berkshire, in charge of green projects for Planning and Development.

The 20,000-square-foot green roof atop City Hall saves $40,000 to $50,000 a year that way, Berkshire said.
Green roofs last longer. They protect waterproofing membranes -- most roofs have one -- from ultraviolet rays and temperature change. In Germany, where roofs typically would need replacing in 15 years, green roofs are going strong after 40 years.

Grasses and flowers are as easy on the eyes as they are on budgets. They also reduce and slow stormwater runoff, lightening the burden on sewer systems. And they dial down the “urban heat island” effect, which contributes to smog and higher air-conditioning bills.
Chicago, which introduced its green roof program in 2001 with City Hall's $2.5 million project, has more than 150 roofs in some stage of development.

The city-assisted roofs will total 2 million square feet of completed greenery over the next two or three years, Berkshire said. That's not counting Millennium Park, which the city calls the world's largest green roof at 108,900 square feet.
Grant winners, who will be announced in January, can use their $5,000 in a number of ways. At about $10 a square foot, they could cover a garage or half a house.

The flyer is here (pdf), and the grant application is here

From the City of Chicago page

The City of Chicago's Department of Environment is making a limited number of grants ($5,000 each) to help residential and/or small commercial (less than 10,000 square feet) building owners with a green roof project.

An informational session on the Program will be held on Wednesday October 19, 2005 from 6:00pm-7:00pm at the Chicago Center for Green Technology. The application process will be explained followed by a general discussion on green roofs, including the permitting process and structural engineering considerations

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