May 2006 Archives


Johnny Cash

David Kamp notes that Johnny Cash's last collaboration with Rick Rubin, American V: A Hundred Highways, is about to finally be released. I have heard a few of these tracks already via that wonderful tool called the internets, but am looking forward to hearing the entire release. Supposedly, there are more tracks than are being put on this album, Kamp speculates these will be part of a deluxe edition.

JOHNNY CASH: AMERICAN V : A few weeks ago, Rubin kindly sent me an advance master of American V, which now carries the subtitle A Hundred Highways. I’ve been listening to it a lot. It’s magnificent, and, if anything, even more heartbreaking and death-stalked than the final Cash album released in Cash’s lifetime, American IV: The Man Comes Around, which gave us his shockingly frail version of Nine Inch Nails’s “Hurt.” ...

1. Help Me
2. God’s Gonna Cut You Down
3. The 309
4. If You Could Read My Mind
5. Further On Up the Road
6. The Evening Train
7. I Came to Believe
8. Love’s Been Good to Me
9. A Legend in My Time
10. Rose of My Heart
11. Four Strong Winds
12. Free from the Chain Gang Now

Two Things I miss about Texas

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beer Blue Bell Ice Cream and Shiner Bock Beer. Now, that is the breakfast of champions. Oprah used to spend big bucks importing Blue Bell Ice Cream in special air transports; I would too, if I had her wealth.

Making Texas Cows Proud
Take beer. Texans rural and urban dote on long-neck bottles of Shiner bock, Shiner lager and other suds with the distinctive tang of the Rhineland, made by the little Spoetzl Brewery hidden away halfway between San Antonio and Houston.
Perhaps less obviously, you could — you should — take ice cream. Blue Bell ice cream, to be specific, which is made in out-of-the-way Brenham and which many people consider the best in the country. So many people think so that Blue Bell, though sold in only 16 states, mostly in the South, and sold for a premium price, ranks No. 3 in sales nationally, trailing only Dreyer's (known as Edy's in some areas) and Breyers, ahead of the more widely available Häagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry's.

The 100th anniversary of Blue Bell Creameries — “the little creamery in Brenham,” as it folksily and misleadingly describes itself — will be celebrated in 2007. For most of those years, members of a German-American family named Kruse (pronounced CREW-zee) have been at the helm, exhibiting an obsession with quality and a way with words. Ask why distribution is so restricted, and the Kruses answer, “It's a cinch by the inch but it's hard by the yard.” Ask about raw materials, and they reply, “The milk we use is so fresh it was grass only yesterday.”

Seriously, these are 2 regional delicacies that don't have distribution points in the Midwest, AFAIK, so every time I visit Austex, I must partake.

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FAA takes the wind out of wind farms

Sadly, alternative energy source is getting caught up in politics. Seems like a “Not in my backyard” problem, especially for Cape Cod residents. If, in an alternative universe perhaps, we had actual political leaders who could forge consensus and create compromise, this problem could have been ameliorated years ago. Instead, S.N.A.F.U.. Plus, added bonus of getting to stop work on wind farms using the code words, “National Security”, because you never know if the terrorists support ruining one's ocean view.

FAA takes the wind out of wind farms

Critics blame politics after agency suspends projects in Midwest.

The federal government has stopped work on more than a dozen wind farms planned across the Midwest, saying research is needed on whether the giant turbines could interfere with military radar.

But backers of wind power say the action has little to do with national security. The real issue, they say, is a group of wealthy vacationers who think a proposed wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts would spoil the view at their summer homes.

Opponents of the Cape Wind project include several influential members of Congress. Critics say their latest attempt to thwart the planting of 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound has led to a moratorium on new wind farms hundreds of miles away in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Federal officials declined to reveal how many stop-work orders have been sent out. But developers said that at least 15 wind farm proposals in the Midwest have been shut down by the Federal Aviation Administration since the start of the year.

The list of stalled projects includes one outside Bloomington, Ill., that would be the nation's largest source of wind energy, generating enough juice to power 120,000 homes in the Chicago area. The developer had planned to begin installing turbines this summer and start up the farm next year.

...“This has nothing to do with wind,” said Michael Polsky, president and chief executive officer of Invenergy, a Chicago company with projects in Illinois and Wisconsin that have been blocked by the government. “It has everything to do with politics.”

Critics of Cape Wind include members of the Kennedy family, whose summer compound is on Cape Cod. Both U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and his nephew, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., have said the turbines would spoil the ocean views [oh, boo-fracking-hoo]...

Another opponent is U.S. Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), who has tried several times to block the Cape Wind project. In a 2002 letter to the Army Corps of Engineers, Warner included a handwritten note saying he often visits Cape Cod, which he called a “national treasure.”

But the project continued to move forward until late last year, when Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, slipped an amendment into a military spending bill. The one-sentence congressional order directs the Defense Department to study whether wind towers could mask the radar signals of small aircraft.

Since then, at the Defense Department's behest, the FAA has been blocking any new wind turbines within the scope of radar systems used by the military.

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A Quick Fix for the Gas Addicts


Marathon 14 gallons

Tommy Friedman's column is not going to make Rick Wagoner or Charlie Wilson's ghost very happy.

Thomas Friedman: A Quick Fix for the Gas Addicts Is there a company more dangerous to America's future than General Motors? The sooner General Motors gets taken over by Toyota, the better off our country will be.

But Friedman is absolutely right - I hadn't heard of this stupid gasoline subsidy, but it is a horrible, horrible idea. Was it cooked up in secret meetings with Diamond-Dick Cheney and his Energy Task Force cronies?

Why? Like a crack dealer looking to keep his addicts on a tight leash, G.M. announced its “fuel price protection program” on May 23. If you live in Florida or California and buy certain G.M. vehicles by July 5, the company will guarantee you gasoline at a cap price of $1.99 a gallon for one year — with no limit on mileage. Guzzle away.

As The Associated Press explained the program, each month for one year, G.M. will give customers who buy these cars “a credit on a prepaid card based on their estimated fuel usage. Fuel usage will be calculated by the miles they drive, as recorded by OnStar, and the vehicle's fuel economy rating. G.M. will credit drivers the difference between the average price per gallon in their state and the $1.99 cap.” Consumers won't get any credits if gas prices fall below $1.99.

“This program gives consumers an opportunity to experience the highly fuel-efficient vehicles G.M. has to offer in the mid-size segment,” Dave Borchelt, G.M.'s Southeast general manager, said in the company's official statement. Oh, really?

Eligible vehicles in California include the 2006 and 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban (half-ton models only), Impala and Monte Carlo sedans, G.M.C. Yukon and Yukon XL S.U.V.'s (half-ton models only), Hummer H2 and H3 S.U.V.'s, the Cadillac SRX S.U.V., and the Pontiac Grand Prix and Buick Lucerne sedans. Eligible vehicles in Florida include the 2006 and 2007 Chevrolet Impala and Monte Carlo, Pontiac Grand Prix and Buick LaCrosse.

Let's see, the 6,400-pound Hummer H2 averages around nine miles per gallon. It really is great that G.M. is giving more Americans the opportunity to experience nine-miles-per-gallon driving. And the hulking Chevy Suburban gets around 15 miles per gallon. It will be wonderful if more Americans can experience that too — with G.M.-subsidized gas.

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Live From Baghdad: More Dying

Laura Ingraham is demon-spawn. She should do some roadside reporting of her own if she believes everything is so hunky-dory. Of course, she won't, preferring to whine and gnash her teeth at the unbelievers who dare question the Dauphin and his merry band of incompetents, safely from her Scaife-funded palace.

MoDo has more:

Maureen Dowd: Live From Baghdad: More Dying
Even with constricted coverage, the tally of journalists killed in Iraq is now 71, more than the number killed in Vietnam or World War II.
...The administration and some right-wing commentators have blamed the press for not reporting positive news in Iraq. The radio host Laura Ingraham has suggested that the press is “invested in America's defeat” and has mocked TV journalists for “reporting from hotel balconies about the latest I.E.D.'s going off.”

Conservative chatterers have parroted President Bush's complaint that “people resuming their normal lives will never be as dramatic as the footage of an I.E.D. explosion.”

But now two network personalities — Ms. Dozier and Bob Woodruff — have been severely injured by roadside bombs while embedded with the military, trying to do the sort of stories the administration wants.

“One thing I don't want to hear anymore,” Steve Capus, the president of NBC News, told The Times's Bill Carter, “is people like Laura Ingraham spewing about us not leaving our balconies in the Green Zone to cover what's really happening in Iraq.”


EU Court Nixes Giving Air Data to U.S. :

The European Union's highest court ruled Tuesday that the EU acted illegally when it struck a deal giving U.S. authorities personal details of airline passengers in a bid to fight terrorism.

Under an agreement reached in 2004, European airlines are compelled to turn over 34 pieces of information about each passenger -- including name, address and credit card details -- within 15 minutes of departure for the United States.

Ummm, kind of too late now, isn't it? I guess, going forward is better than nothing, but everyone who has travelled in the last 2 years has already been added to the TIA database.

Also, the White House is very gung-ho on continuing this program.

Washington has warned airlines face fines of up to $6,000 per passenger and the loss of landing rights if the relevant information is not passed on.

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The trouble with ethanol

Jes freakin' lovely.

The trouble with ethanol

Instead of producing clean, green biofuels, industry bigwigs are pushing for coal-fired plants and relaxed regulations. And the EPA is listening.
More and more ethanol manufacturers are looking to power their plants with cheap coal instead of its cleaner and increasingly expensive competitor, natural gas, thereby potentially limiting ethanol's environmental benefits. And the Bush administration is doing its part to accelerate this trend. Under pressure from a group of senators and representatives from corn- and coal-producing states, the U.S. EPA is considering a rule change under the Clean Air Act that would relax pollution regulations on ethanol plants, clearing the way for them to burn coal with fewer restraints.

While only four of roughly 100 ethanol plants currently operating in the U.S. are powered by coal (practically all of the rest are fueled by natural gas), some 190 more are under construction or soon to be built. One energy analyst, Robert McIlvaine, president of the Illinois-based research group McIlvaine Co., predicts that “100 percent” of new ethanol plants built in the U.S. over the next few years will be coal-fired, “largely because of the exorbitant cost of natural gas right now, and the comparatively predictable future supply of homegrown coal.” A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor also points out that many ethanol manufacturers are increasingly being drawn toward coal.

In March, the EPA -- reportedly at the behest of at least one corn-state politician -- proposed changing a rule in order to let ethanol-fuel plants more than double their air emissions, from 100 tons per year of any pollutant regulated under the Clean Air Act to 250 tons per year.

“This proposal is clearly designed to usher in this wave of new coal-fired plants -- loosening the rules so that the facilities can be bigger, dirtier and cheaper,” says Greene's colleague John Walke, director of NRDC's clean-air program. Walke warns that if the EPA approves it, his group might file suit. While ethanol-fuel manufacturers can build coal-fired plants under current rules, the facilities have to be kept relatively small to meet pollution restrictions, and must undergo a rigorous permitting process.

On the other hand, a bipartisan group of 33 members of Congress led by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., threw its support behind the proposed rule change earlier this month in a letter (PDF) to EPA administrator Stephen Johnson. The Renewable Fuels Association, an industry trade group, also backs the change.

So in other words, the current hype for ethanol is being utilized by energy companies as a way to weasel out of emissions control. Great.

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Consider the Living

Bob Herbert asks, is the war in Iraq worth it? Nope.

Bob Herbert: Consider the Living : Before you head out to the barbecue this afternoon, look in a mirror and ask yourself if Iraq is something you would be willing to die for.

Pretty soon this war in Iraq will have lasted as long as our involvement in World War II, with absolutely no evidence of any sort of conclusion in sight.

The point of Memorial Day is to honor the service and the sacrifice of those who have given their lives in the nation's wars. But I suggest that we take a little time today to consider the living.

Look around and ask yourself if you believe that stability or democracy in Iraq — or whatever goal you choose to assert as the reason for this war — is worth the life of your son or your daughter, or your husband or your wife, or the co-worker who rides to the office with you in the morning, or your friendly neighbor next door.

Before you gather up the hot dogs and head out to the barbecue this afternoon, look in a mirror and ask yourself honestly if Iraq is something you would be willing to die for.

There is no shortage of weaselly politicians and misguided commentators ready to tell us that we can't leave Iraq — we just can't. Chaos will ensue. Maybe even a civil war. But what they really mean is that we can't leave as long as the war can continue to be fought by other people's children, and as long as we can continue to put this George W. Bush-inspired madness on a credit card.

Start sending the children of the well-to-do to Baghdad, and start raising taxes to pay off the many hundreds of billions that the war is costing, and watch how quickly this tragic fiasco is brought to an end.

At an embarrassing press conference last week, President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain looked for all the world like a couple of hapless schoolboys who, while playing with fire, had set off a conflagration that is still raging out of control. Their recklessness has so far cost the lives of nearly 2,500 Americans and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis, many of them children.

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Some urban stroll photos

recent snapshots from my urban milieu. Click to embiggen. If these are slow to load, blame flickr/Yahoo, not me. Ahem.

Washington Block El Washington Block El
Basically unmodified snapshot on the way home from DCAP. I thought the light interesting.

City Hall Stairs
City Hall Stairs
from the 8th floor

Banal Temple of Insurance and Law
Banal Temple of Insurance and Law
somewhere on Washington

Sappho Street Poetry
Sappho Street Poetry
Like a hyacinth in the mountains that shepherd crushes underfoot

Locked Open
Locked Open
Bridge detail, Orleans Street bridge.

Apex or Nadir
Apex or Nadir
depends upon your perspective.

LaSalle Owers
LaSalle Owers
We owe, we owe, it's off to work we go.

Shelter From the Rust
Shelter From the Rust
Experiment with moire

doorway, West Loop

Green Orange Blue Yellow
Green Orange Blue Yellow
train trestle.

(I repeat myself when under stress, I repeat myself when under stress)

Banal Walls and Clouds
Banal Walls and Clouds
experimentation with lights, shadow and Photoshop

a quickr pickr post

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Swift Boating the Planet

Topic de jour seems to be Al Gore, global warming, and Krugman participates by using the Swift Boat snowclone.

Paul Krugman: Swift Boating the Planet Al Gore and others who hope to turn global warming into a real political issue are going to have to get tougher, because the other side doesn't play by any known rules. A brief segment in “An Inconvenient Truth” shows Senator Al Gore questioning James Hansen, a climatologist at NASA, during a 1989 hearing. But the movie doesn't give you much context, or tell you what happened to Dr. Hansen later.

And that's a story worth telling, for two reasons. It's a good illustration of the way interest groups can create the appearance of doubt even when the facts are clear and cloud the reputations of people who should be regarded as heroes. And it's a warning for Mr. Gore and others who hope to turn global warming into a real political issue: you're going to have to get tougher, because the other side doesn't play by any known rules.

Dr. Hansen was one of the first climate scientists to say publicly that global warming was under way. In 1988, he made headlines with Senate testimony in which he declared that “the greenhouse effect has been detected, and it is changing our climate now.” When he testified again the following year, officials in the first Bush administration altered his prepared statement to downplay the threat. Mr. Gore's movie shows the moment when the administration's tampering was revealed.

Slate Sucks part the 3423

I suppose somebody has to read Slate, even just to marvel at the suckitude, but why? If a web-zine has such contempt for its readers, why should the readers even bother clicking through? Contempt is mutual, thanks.

One indicator of how highly a publication regards its readers is in the quality of the content. Easterbrook’s review is borderline stupid. Media Matters provides perhaps too much detail on why that’s so: if you want the short course, it’s because Easterbrook finished reviewing the film in the second paragraph and filled out the rest of the column with factual errors and some truly bizarre straw men: “If Gore is so concerned about the environment, why does he still travel by air?” “If Gore is so concerned about poor people, why does he want to lower their standards of living by decreasing the use of polluting fuels?” Plus, he says Gore is a transsexual Martian who sighs a lot, as who among us wouldn’t.
Read the whole post, including some fun comments: BTC News » Slate editor Jacob Weisberg on editing: “What?”

And the Poor Man Institute piles on


Bullshit Protector 2006

Not quite Memorial Day, but still relevant.

Bullshit Protector

Bullshit protector
Bill Moyer, 73, wears a “Bullshit Protector” flap over his ear while President George W. Bush addresses the Veterans of Foreign Wars. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)

(wiki “stub” here)

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Questions for Helen Thomas

Ms. Thomas is a true American hero. She deserved these flowers, and more thanks from all of us.

Questions for Helen Thomas: Corps Issues :
The longtime White House correspondent talks about secretive presidents, Scott McClellan versus Tony Snow and why there's no such thing as a rude question.

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Too bad Kerry didn't do this back when it mattered, say August 2004.

Kerry Pressing Swift Boat Case Long After Loss The battle over John Kerry's wartime service continues, out of the limelight but in some ways more heatedly.

..The veterans group, led by Mr. O'Neill, a former Swift boat commander who was recruited by the Nixon administration to debate Mr. Kerry on “The Dick Cavett Show” in 1971, began its campaign in early 2004 by criticizing Mr. Kerry's protests against the Vietnam War. But backed by Republican donors and consultants, they soon shifted to attack his greatest strength — his record as a military hero in a campaign against a president who never went to war.

Naval records and accounts from other sailors contradicted almost every claim they made, and some members of the group who had earlier praised Mr. Kerry's heroism contradicted themselves.

Still, the charges stuck. At a triumphant gathering of veterans in Fort Worth after the election, Mr. O'Neill was introduced as the man who “torpedoed” Mr. Kerry's campaign; the Swift boat group spent more than $130,000 for a “Mission Accomplished” celebration at Disney World. The president's brother, Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, sent a letter thanking the “Swifties” for “their willingness to stand up to John Kerry.” Even people within the Kerry campaign believed that the attacks had cost their candidate the presidency.

Yes, the charges stuck, all by themselves. The corporate media had absolutely nothing, nothing to do with these charges sticking.

Of course, plenty of disappointed and angry Democrats would like to know why Mr. Kerry did not defend himself so strenuously before the election. He had posted some military documents on his campaign's Web site and had allowed reporters to view his medical records but resisted open access to them as unnecessarily intrusive.

Mr. Kerry and his defenders say that they did not have the extensive archival material, and that it was too complicated to gather in the rapid pace of a campaign. He was caught off guard, he says; he had been prepared to defend his antiwar activism, but he did not believe that anyone would challenge the facts behind his military awards. “We should have put more money behind it,” Mr. Kerry says now. “I take responsibility for it; it was my mistake. They spent something like $30 million, and we didn't. That's just a terrible imbalance when somebody's lying about you.”

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Chicago vs Box stores

Hell yeah! The insanely profitable so-called box stores, which cause all sorts of long term problems with congestion, elimination of small businesses, and acceleration of the trend of generic-a America, I say these box stores should compensate their employees more fairly. Why shouldn't the box stores have to pay their employees something at least approaching a living wage? If the Wal-Marts of the world cannot survive without screwing their employees, maybe they shouldn't build stores in Chicago.

In Chicago, New Pay Law Is Considered for Big Stores Chicago may become the first city in the nation to require “big box” retailers like Wal-Mart and Home Depot to pay employees at least $10 an hour plus $3 an hour in benefits.

So far, 33 of 50 City Council members have signed on to the proposed ordinance — more than enough to pass it, perhaps as soon as next month.

The bill would affect only stores that have at least 75,000 square feet and are operated by companies with at least $1 billion in annual sales, allowing smaller retailers to continue with the state minimum wage of $6.50 an hour.

“This is an effort to try to preserve the middle class,” said Joe Moore, an alderman from the North Side who sponsored the measure. Mr. Moore called the notion that it would drive retailers out of the city “hogwash.”

Home Depot pays its management big bucks, why not its employees too?

From yesterday's paper (behind Select wall, sorry)

A SHOWDOWN could occur at the annual meeting tomorrow as firms that advise large shareholders and activist groups are urging shareholders to withhold votes from several directors.“ So wrote Julie Creswell on Wednesday, in her detailed front-page article in The New York Times about the compensation package of Robert L. Nardelli, the chief executive of Home Depot.

This was a showdown I didn't want to miss. Mr. Nardelli, you see, has become this year's version of Mr. Overpaid C.E.O. He's earned this status, in part, by the sheer sum of money his board has awarded him in the five years since he was recruited from General Electric to take over Home Depot: $245 million, including $37.1 million just this last year. At the same time, Home Depot's stock has fallen 12 percent, while shares of its chief competitor, Lowe's, have risen 173 percent. You've heard of pay for performance? This is the classic definition of pay for pulse.

But as Ms. Creswell's article made clear, these facts barely begin to get at the richer story that is the Home Depot scandale. There's the lead director, Kenneth G. Langone, who's never met a chief executive he doesn't want to overpay. The cozy board. The other overpaid chief executives who sit on the Home Depot compensation committee, who have every incentive to keep lining Mr. Nardelli's pockets because his good fortune will rebound to them as well. Mr. Nardelli's compensation illustrates precisely what is so offensive about C.E.O. pay: it's a rigged game. Heads I win, tails you lose.


Coal Breather blues

Energy creation is not antithetical to environmental concerns.

The Energy Challenge: 2 Industry Leaders Bet on Coal but Split on Cleaner Approach
Coal is poised to once again become the nation's favorite fuel, but its role in global warming causes concern. .... Many scientists say that sharply reducing emissions of these gases could make more difference in slowing climate change than any other move worldwide. And they point out that American companies are best positioned to set an example for other nations in adopting a new technique that could limit the environmental impact of the more than 1,000 coal-fired power projects on drawing boards around the world.

It is on this issue, however, that executives of some of the most important companies in the coal business diverge. Their disagreement is crucial in the debate over how to satisfy Americans' energy appetite without accelerating climate change.

One of those executives, Michael G. Morris, runs American Electric Power, the nation's largest coal consumer and biggest producer of heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions from its existing plants. He is spearheading a small movement within the industry to embrace the new technology. His company plans to build at least two 600-megawatt plants, in Ohio and West Virginia, at an estimated cost of as much as $1.3 billion each.

The company says these plants are not only better for the environment but also in the best interests of even its cost-conscious shareholders. While they would cost 15 to 20 percent more to build, Mr. Morris says they would be far less expensive to retrofit with the equipment needed to move carbon dioxide deep underground, instead of releasing it to the sky, if limits are placed on emissions of global warming gases.

“Leave the science alone for a minute,” Mr. Morris said in an interview at the Columbus, Ohio, headquarters of his company. “The politics around climate issues are very real. That's why we need to move on this now.”

Of course, this is the minority view. Unfortunately.

But most in the industry are not making that bet. Among them is Gregory H. Boyce, chief executive of Peabody Energy, the largest private-sector coal producer in the world thanks in part to its growing operations here in Wyoming and with aspirations to operate coal-fired plants of its own. Mr. Boyce's company alone controls reserves with more energy potential than the oil and gas reserves of Exxon Mobil.

“We're still not convinced that the technology or cost structure is there to justify going down a path where we're not comfortable,” Mr. Boyce said.

Mr. Boyce's view has prevailed. No more than a dozen of the 140 new coal-fired power plants planned in the United States expect to use the new approach.

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Cannes Landslide for Al Gore

I don't think Al Gore is actually going to run again. Frank Rich is right, the reason so many Democratic and liberal chatters and gossipers want Gore to run is based on the assumption that Hillary “Pander” Clinton is going to be the nominee otherwise, a somewhat fact-esque assumption. Rich also considers An Inconvenient Truth to be a campaign video. We shall see....

Frank Rich: The Cannes Landslide for Al Gore

Democrats still believe in Hollywood and they still believe in miracles. Witness the magical mystery comeback tour of Al Gore.

Like Michael Moore's “Fahrenheit 9/11” before it, Mr. Gore's new documentary about global warming, “An Inconvenient Truth,” has wowed the liberal caucus at Cannes (who needs landlocked Iowa?) and fueled fantasies of political victory back home. “Al Gore Takes Cannes by Storm — Will the Oval Office Be Next?” Arianna Huffington asks on her blog, reporting that the former vice president was hotter on the Croisette than Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis and Penelope Cruz. In a “fantasy” presidential poll on the liberal Web site Daily Kos, Mr. Gore racks up a landslide 68 percent, with the closest also-ran, Russ Feingold, at 15. Liberal Washington pundits wonder whether the wonkishness that seemed off-putting in 2000 may actually be a virtue. In choosing a president, Margaret Carlson writes on, maybe “we should give a rest to that old saw about likeability.”

Still, the unexpected rebirth of Al Gore says more about the desperation of the Democrats than it does about him. He is most of all the beneficiary of a perfect storm of events, the right man in the right place at the right time. It was just after Mr. Gore appeared on “Saturday Night Live” to kick off his movie's publicity campaign that long-rumbling discontent with the party's presumptive (if unannounced) presidential front-runner, Hillary Clinton, boiled over. Last week both New York magazine and The New Yorker ran lead articles quoting party insiders who described a Clinton candidacy in 2008 as a pox tantamount to avian flu. The Times jumped in with a front-page remembrance of headlines past: a dissection of the Clinton marriage.

If Senator Clinton is the Antichrist, might not it be time for a resurrected messiah to inherit (and save) the earth? Enter Mr. Gore, celebrated by New York on its cover as “The Un-Hillary.”

There's a certain logic to this. Mrs. Clinton does look like a weak candidate — not so much because of her marriage, her gender or her liberalism, but because of her eagerness to fudge her stands on anything and everything to appeal to any and all potential voters. Where once she inspired passions pro and con, now she often induces apathy. Her most excited constituency seems to be the right-wing pundits who still hope to make a killing with books excoriating her. At least eight fresh titles are listed at, including my own personal favorite, “Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian Temptation From Mussolini to Hillary Clinton.” (Why settle for Il Duce when you can go for Hitler?)

Even though the nomination of Mikey Hayden to run the CIA did not garner the sort of attention it deserved, it was a crucial vote. One that I'm sad to say, the Democratic party caved in on. There must be a file cabinet stuffed full of photos of a lot of Democrats with dead hookers in some Karl Rove warehouse. I can't explain a 78-15 tally otherwise.

John Nichols is as disgusted with the Democratic party as I am:

Hayden Hijinks :

If there actually was an opposition party in Washington, the nomination of Air Force General Michael Hayden to serve as director of the Central Intelligence Agency would have been doomed from the start.
Unfortunately, there is no opposition party in Washington.

There is, instead, a Democratic Party that, when push comes to shove regularly allows itself to be shoved.

So it come as little surprise that Hayden's nomination has sailed through the Senate, winning approval Friday by a 78-15 vote. Most Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, joined the vast majority of Republicans in rubberstamping George W. Bush's poke-in-the-eye pick to head the CIA.
a handful of Democrats did attempt to check and balance a lawless president by refusing to support his equally lawless nominee. Voting against Hayden's nomination were Democrats Evan Bayh of Indiana, Maria Cantwell of Washington, Hillary Clinton of New York, Mark Dayton of Minnesota, Chris Dodd of Connecticut, Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, Dick Durbin and Barack Obama of Illinois, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry of Massachusetts, Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Ron Wyden of Oregon.

Intriguingly, the dissident Democrats were joined in their opposition to Hayden by Senate Judiciary Committee chair Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, who has been increasingly restive regarding the administration's assault on basic freedoms.
If there actually was an opposition party in Washington, Feingold's position would be its official stance. Instead, the man who has fought a lonely battle to censure the president for initiating and maintaining an illegal domestic surveillance program, is still dismissed by most of his fellow Democrats as too aggressive, too principled, too committed to the Constitution. So it goes, as the majority of Feingold's Democratic colleagues continue to promote the nominations and the policies of a failed president who polls tell us now has the approval of less than one-third of Americans.

(rest of this sorry tale here)

Russ for President!

The list of spinelessness and shame from Raw Story

None of these “Yeas” better ask us for donations:
Yeas (Dems only)

  1. Lincoln
  2. Pryor
  3. Feinstein
  4. Lieberman
  5. Biden
  6. Carper
  7. Nelson
  8. Akaka
  9. Landrieu
  10. Mikulski
  11. Sarbanes
  12. Levin
  13. Stabenow
  14. Baucus
  15. Nelson
  16. Lautenberg
  17. Bingaman
  18. Reid
  19. Schumer
  20. Reed
  21. Johnson
  22. Leahy
  23. Murray
  24. Kohl
  25. Byrd

nor any of these who were too busy soliciting corporate donations to vote:
Not Voting - 7

  1. Boxer (D-CA)
  2. Conrad (D-ND)
  3. Dole (R-NC)
  4. Inouye (D-HI)
  5. Rockefeller (D-WV)
  6. Salazar (D-CO)
  7. Thune (R-SD)

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Don't Become Them

MoDo is serious today.

Maureen Dowd: Don't Become Them:

...I felt sickened to hear about the marines who allegedly snapped in Haditha, Iraq, and wantonly killed two dozen civilians — including two families full of women and children, among them a 3-year-old girl. Nine-year-old Eman Waleed told Time that she'd watched the marines go in to execute her father as he read the Koran, and then shoot her grandfather and grandmother, still in their nightclothes. Other members of her family, including her mother, were shot dead; she said that she and her younger brother had been wounded but survived because they were shielded by adults who died.

It's a My Lai acid flashback. The force that sacked Saddam to stop him from killing innocents is now accused of killing innocents. Under pressure from the president to restore law, but making little progress, marines from Camp Pendleton, many deployed in Iraq for the third time, reportedly resorted to lawlessness themselves.

The investigation indicates that members of the Third Battalion, First Marines, lost it after one of their men was killed by a roadside bomb, going on a vengeful killing spree over about five hours, shooting five men who had been riding in a taxi and mowing down the residents of two nearby houses.

They blew off the Geneva Conventions, following the lead of the president's lawyer.

It was inevitable. Marines are trained to take the hill and destroy the enemy. It is not their forte to be policemen while battling a ghostly foe, suicide bombers, ever more ingenious explosive devices, insurgents embedded among civilians, and rifle blasts fired from behind closed doors and minarets. They don't know who the enemy is. Is it a pregnant woman? A child? An Iraqi policeman? They don't know how to win, or what a win would entail.

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site Graphic fun

B12 as a graph looks like this:

B12 as a graph in progress

B12 as a graph in progress 2

B12 as graph

Finished graph of B12

The bottom one is the finished product of course. Websites as Graphs
I've used some color to indicate the most used tags in the following way:

blue: for links (the A tag)
red: for tables (TABLE, TR and TD tags)
green: for the DIV tag
violet: for images (the IMG tag)
yellow: for forms (FORM, INPUT, TEXTAREA, SELECT and OPTION tags)
orange: for linebreaks and blockquotes (BR, P, and BLOCKQUOTE tags)
black: the HTML tag, the root node
gray: all other tags
(via Pharyngula) I'd donate to the guy and get a higher resolution file, but his paypal link seems broken in both browsers I tried.

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New music May 2006 part 2

part two (part 1 here) of a never ending saga of new-to-me-music that blared through my speakers in May.

It Still Moves
My Morning Jacket It Still Moves
2003 release. Fits right into my current stupor, and into my recent mid-70s Neil Young universe. Tenor vocals, lots of reverb, and I think I can play the chord progression too. Not desert island disc material, but quite good.

Across the Broad Atlantic
Shane MacGowan's Pope's Across the Broad Atlantic
Perturbed that I could not see the Pogues reunion tour,

But it was Mr. MacGowan who owned the best moments, with his lurching growl, especially in “Dirty Old Town,” where the audience sang along through all four image-rich verses about kissing a girl by the factory wall and smelling the spring on the smoky wind. Turning words into syrup, he said a few unintelligible things between songs — something about Americans, something about Truman Capote and Jimmy Breslin. He drank on stage. But he appeared not to miss a word of a song.
I picked this album up, from 2002. (Chicago) Sage's description left in the comments to the post referenced echoed in my cranium: quite easy to visualize Mr. MacGowan slouched against his microphone while his band plays his songs. This particular album is a live album, the missteps are left intact, but the emotion is certainly here. If you are a Pogues fan as I am, this album is worth a listen. If not? Hmmm. Not quite as nimble of a backing band as the Pogues, and Mr. MacGowan is certainly an acquired taste, his intoxicated slur is quite pronounced here. His lyrics can bring a tear to my eye, but I may not be a typical listener. Still kick myself for missing the Pogues tour in the late 80s - I was too drunk to go. Sadly appropriate, yet sad nonetheless.

Pick a Bigger Weapon
Coup Pick a Bigger Weapon
I always like when a CD emulates a vinyl record.

And I'm here to laugh, love, fuck and drink liquor. And help the damn revolution come quicker.

I am no expert on rap music: my unfettered delight ended with Public Enemy and KRS-One et al, but this album rocks. Plus there is a song called Baby-Lets-have-a-Baby-before-Bush-Do-Something-Crazy. Amen. Well, except for the procreation part. I've been scrap-free up until now, lets keep this smoke intact, in tacit approval. Uhh, if i can live my life without leaving a trace, I'll be a'right. Not to mention the song, Head of State, which begins,

Bush and Hussein together in bed
giving H-E-A-D:head
y'all mutafuckers heard what we said
Billions made and millions dead

and goes on to describe Poppy Bush's tenure in the CIA, and Standard Oil's plan for gassing the Kurds, yadda yadda, leading to Iran.

I think The Coup is one of us.

Oh yeahhh.

Crock of Gold
Shane MacGowan Crock of Gold
Apparently not available in the US, worth owning.

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Movable Type 3.3

Movable Type 3.3 is approaching beta.

Six Apart - ProNet - What's new in Movable Type 3.3?

What's new in Movable Type 3.3?

Some new features look good

Built in Tags, with support for automatically publishing tag clouds and support for the rel=“tag” attribute. Resizable posting text areas that remember your settings and have bigger, more readable fonts. Inclusion of a range of professionally-translated language packs so that all your authors can see the MT user interface in their own language. And smart default settings that don't overwhelm authors with fields they won't use. And an improved junk management system means you spend even less time dealing with spam.

A vastly improved search now offers per-blog templates for search results. This also combines with the new tagging feature to offer tag search across blogs, per-tag feeds, or even per-keyword feeds for search results. And search result feeds are OpenSearch compatible. If you're picky about URLs or trying to optimize for search engines, you can easily choose from a range of URL schemes, or create your own without editing templates. Each of your blogs' categories can have its own custom publishing path as well.

and some, meh

All activity on your blogs is now available in an Activity Feed, customized for every user in the system. Instead of getting emails about your blog, choose whether your Activity Feed includes information about comments, TrackBacks, entries, or any combination.

Still, glancing at the feature set, looks like something I'll install, soon as it is out of beta. I'll let those who have the free time/inclination iron out the bugs.


Desmond Dekker RIP

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Israelites: Best of Desmond Dekker
Desmond Dekker

Occupying the middle ground between R&B and Reggae. Some great tracks.
Guardian Unlimited Arts | Arts news | Reggae pioneer Desmond Dekker dies, aged 64 Ska legend Desmond Dekker has died suddenly from a heart attack, his manager said today.The 64-year-old Jamaican, best known for his 1969 smash hit Israelites, collapsed at his home in Surrey yesterday morning. An energetic live performer, he was about to start a European summer tour and was booked to play in Prague next week


Memorial Day


Green Fairies

Memorial Day is a day of mourning, remembrance, sober reflection of the memory of honorable soldiers, killed in the line of duty to their country. On the other hand, Memorial Day is a three day weekend, which in the Big Potato at least, marks the beginning of summer, of summer festivals, and of seasonal events like fireworks at Navy Pier, the spectacular River Architecture cruise, barbecues in the park and on roof decks, and general debauchery.

In my mind at least, I'll be able to pay homage to both with these new acquisitions (per a tip via Geoff). I may or not be coherent for the next few days: read at your own peril....

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Technorati and the Nanny State


In the big picture, does not matter much, but I noticed that Technorati stopped indexing my site after I mistakenly added, via misdirected click of a check box, a tag which is a common euphemism for a sexual act frequently associated with the other Clinton, and also known as a Hummer. My blogging software (the essential ecto) keeps track of every tag used so facilitate re-use and consistency, apparently the use of this particular tag causes the mighty Technorati to shun one's web zine into Technoratty-purgatory. Strange, the power of language.

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A Test of Our Character

Umm, Mr. Krugman, based on who has won national election since at least 1980, I'd say no, we are not ready for political leaders who don't pander. Maybe it is changing, but most likely not. Still, Al Gore got robbed, and we are all paying the price.

Paul Krugman: A Test of Our Character Are we ready for political leaders who don't pander, who are willing to talk about complicated issues and call for responsible policies?

In his new movie,

An Inconvenient Truth

An Inconvenient Truth

Al Gore suggests that there are three reasons it's hard to get action on global warming. The first is boiled-frog syndrome: because the effects of greenhouse gases build up gradually, at any given moment it's easier to do nothing. The second is the perception, nurtured by a careful disinformation campaign, that there's still a lot of uncertainty about whether man-made global warming is a serious problem. The third is the belief, again fostered by disinformation, that trying to curb global warming would have devastating economic effects.

I'd add a fourth reason, which I'll talk about in a minute. But first, let's notice that Mr. Gore couldn't have asked for a better illustration of disinformation campaigns than the reaction of energy-industry lobbyists and right-wing media organizations to his film.

The cover story in the current issue of National Review is titled “Scare of the Century.” As evidence that global warming isn't really happening, it offers the fact that some Antarctic ice sheets are getting thicker — a point also emphasized in a TV ad by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which is partly financed by large oil companies, whose interests it reliably represents.

Curt Davis, a scientist whose work is cited both by the institute and by National Review, has already protested. “These television ads,” he declared in a press release, “are a deliberate effort to confuse and mislead the public about the global warming debate.” He points out that an initial increase in the thickness of Antarctica's interior ice sheets is a predicted consequence of a warming planet, so that his results actually support global warming rather than refuting it.

Even as the usual suspects describe well-founded concerns about global warming as hysteria, they issue hysterical warnings about the economic consequences of environmentalism. “Al Gore's global warming movie: could it destroy the economy?” Fox News asked.

Well, no, it couldn't. There's some dispute among economists over how forcefully we should act to curb greenhouse gases, but there's broad consensus that even a very strong program to reduce emissions would have only modest effects on economic growth. At worst, G.D.P. growth might be, say, one-tenth or two-tenths of a percentage point lower over the next 20 years. And while some industries would lose jobs, others would gain.

Actually, the right's panicky response to Mr. Gore's film is probably a good thing, because it reveals for all to see the dishonesty and fear-mongering on which the opposition to doing something about climate change rests.

But “An Inconvenient Truth” isn't just about global warming, of course. It's also about Mr. Gore. And it is, implicitly, a cautionary tale about what's been wrong with our politics.

Cancelled meetings

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Cancelled 8 am meetings are best, the best Jerry!
(iffen you wish, embiggening is just a click away, or two if you want to be literal)

Designated Bird Feeding Area
Stencil in front of the Haymarket Memorial statue.

Not officially endorsed by The Mayor.

We've Got it Good in Evanston
using a faux-Kodachrome technique.

History Lesson
Pillar, Evanston.

Weave and Woof
Organic Pillar, Evanston

Is Your Love in Vain original version
sculpture, Skokie, detail

Is Your Love in Vain IR
sculpture, Skokie, detail, using faux infrared technique in Photoshop. Still bad light.

Details of the under-girders of society

Celebratory Curves
Almost Blakean

a quickr pickr post

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Up Tempo NBA rules 2006 edition

Alien Hoopsters

Too busy with work (9:30 FedEx deadline and all that jazz-mo) to watch the first Phoenix-Dallas game as it played, so I’m watching it a day late. Great game, even though I know the outcome. Color me a Coach Pornstache fan. Team basketball, motion, folks who can actually make a shot, even long stretches without a plodding center clogging up the lane, please let this be a template for other teams. Not to mention the long haired Canadian point guard who reads Karl Marx, and a power forward whose tattoos read Demon Bird Moth Balls.

As added bonus, get to root against Dallas for another series; just love watching the sad-eyed laddy of the Lowlands look of Maverick's owner, Mark Cuban whenever Dallas loses. I could do without the false bravado of Jerry Stackhouse and Raja Bell, and the thuggery of Eric Dampier, but I suppose that's a typical part of the proceedings as well.

Also, Charles Barkley looks like he’s really tired. Dark circles under his eyes. Sort of weird body language too: I wonder what’s happening in his private life? No smiles, no patter, hmmm.

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Deep dark inner secrets

Working for oneself does have benefits other than not having to pee in a cup....

Interns? No Bloggers Need Apply - New York Times
“It is important that corporations make a choice as to what type of blogging they will allow,” said Alfred C. Frawley III, director of the intellectual property practice group at the law firm Preti Flaherty in Portland, Me.

While there are differences in laws among jurisdictions, from a legal perspective, he said, it is generally accepted that companies have the right to impose controls on their employees' use of computers and other equipment used for communication.

As for content — information generated within a company — the law also allows employers to set limits, even on airing the company laundry outside the office, he said. Private employees do not receive the protection of the First Amendment because there is no government action involved, he said.

“If an employee deviates from the policy, it may be grounds for termination,” Mr. Frawley said.

Viacom, the parent company of Comedy Central, now has an explicit policy. In a section on confidentiality, it states that the employee is “discouraged from publicly discussing work-related matters, whether constituting confidential information or not, outside of appropriate work channels, including online in chat rooms or 'blogs'

Though, we actually strive to avoid direct discussion of clients, ya never know what drunken throw-away comment could come back and bite us on the tuchis. So, in other words, we obviously don't do any work for the Bush White House.


Department of No Taxing Comment


Indirect response from Malcolm Gladwell to Bobo's taxless utopia where the government supplies the love and blocks of cheese. CEO Pay After reading the article in the New York Times yesterday on the hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation given over the past few years to the CEO of Home Depot, I ran across this: in 1949, the highest paid CEO in America was Charlie Wilson of General Motors, who earned $586,100 in salary, bonus and stock. That's roughly equivalent to what some of the better-compensated CEO's are making today.

But what did Wilson pay in taxes? $430,350.

and from the comments:

According to the IRS, the highest tax bracket in 1949 was 82.13% and applied to incomes over $400,000.

It went up to 92% a couple years later!

Glad that our long national nightmare of prosperity is over, thanks to the Supply Sider cultists who keep getting elected/appointed.

How much net worth does any one individual need anyway? How much is enough?

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Of Love and Money

What exactly does Republican columnist David Brooks want, anyway? A Nanny-state? Or a flat tax? Or does he even remember?

David Brooks: Of Love and Money

How does government provide millions of kids with the stable, loving structures they are not getting sufficiently at home?

More Bobo below:

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Hamza El Din RIP

A Wish Hamza El Din
“A Wish” (Hamza El Din)

Hamza El Din, 76, Oud Player and Composer, Is Dead Hamza El Din, an oud player and composer who reinvented the musical culture of Nubia and carried it worldwide, died Monday in Berkeley, Calif. He was 76.

Mr. El Din's austere, hypnotic music was based on his research into the traditions of Nubia, an ancient North African kingdom on the upper Nile, which was a cradle of civilization.

Accompanying his reedy voice with concise, incantatory phrases on the oud, Mr. El Din created a meditative music that sought a timeless purity. He performed dressed in white, with a white turban. But he was also a cosmopolitan musician who taught ethnomusicology and lived in Rome, Tokyo and California.

Also check out:

Escalay: The Water Wheel

“Escalay: The Water Wheel” (Hamza El Din)



“Eclipse” (Hamza El Din)

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Clifford Antone RIP

I've witnessed some great music onstage at Antone's over the years, including a Stevie Ray Vaughn vs. Otis Rush guitar duel (SRV won: Otis Rush bowed and exited stage right), plus bought a great number of albums at the Antone's record store.

Didn't see this show however:

Ed Ward - The Austin Chronicle: Music: Buried Alive in the Blues :
...Wow, I found myself thinking, only in Austin could I see Iggy Pop and Bobby Bland on the same evening. The best was yet to come: at one point in the show, Bobby stopped and announced, “We have a young gentleman in the audience, a very great performer, and I know he's already done his show this evening, but I was wondering if he'd like to come up here and do a number with me.” What the..? “Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like you to give a warm Austin welcome to Mister, uh, Izzy Bob!” Up popped Iggy.

“You know 'St. James Infirmary,' right?” Bland asked, and Iggy nodded. The band went into the song, and as my jaw gaped open, Iggy did a credible job of trading lines with the blues great. I'd inched forward and was standing against a pillar, and at the song's end, Iggy jumped off the stage and ran up the aisle to where I was standing. “How'd you like that?” he asked with a grin. It was amazing, I said. “Hah! Just you watch. Ten years, and I'm gonna be in Vegas, baby! And” – and here he jabbed my chest with his finger on each word – “I'm gonna be great!” Then he ran back down the aisle to rejoin his companions.

Of course Mr. Antone's obit has to have the obligatory story about his drug bust...
Rest in Peace, Mr. Antone.

The 30 years since he opened Antone's were not always a smooth ride for Mr. Antone, who served two prison terms, one in the 1980's for possessing marijuana and another from 2000 to 2002 for dealing more than 9,000 pounds of the drug and laundering money. After the first conviction he had to give up ownership of the club; Antone's is currently owned by a board of directors headed by his sister, Susan Antone, who survives him.

Mr. Antone was known for his generosity to musicians. He organized a series of benefits for victims of Hurricane Katrina and recently he helped arrange an apartment and nursing care for the 92-year-old pianist Pinetop Perkins.

Antone's Home of the Blues
Antone's: Home of the Blues

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Afternoon tea

Afternoon Tea, Holiday edition

Martin Mull “The trouble with jogging is that the ice falls out of your glass.”


Happy Birthday to Bob

Bob Dylan turns older today. Allegedly working on a new album, though not mentioned here.

Chronicles : Volume One (Chronicles)
Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan - No Direction Home
“Bob Dylan - No Direction Home” (Paramount)

Blonde on Blonde
“Blonde on Blonde” (Bob Dylan)

Bob gives good quote

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Canadian border and 9-11

I plan on going to Frostpocket and Toronto this summer, FSM-willing, and I don't have a non-expired passport.

Canadians also paying price of 9/11 security | Chicago Tribune Canadians also paying price of 9/11 security ...neighbors separated by an international border and connected by a bridge and a tunnel are fighting identification mandates in an anti-terrorism law that they fear will deliver a crippling if not fatal blow to their long, friendly and enormously profitable relationship.

Often overlooked in the white-hot debate over protecting the border with Mexico is language requiring people traveling between the United States and Canada to have passports or similar identification before they can cross the border.

That requirement, part of a law approved by Congress in 2004, does not take effect until January 2008, but the approach of the law already has dampened tourism and injected uncertainty over future conventions and events that have historically lured large numbers of Americans into Canada.

Although serious border issues with Canada are rare, the porous nature of the 3,145-mile border along the lower 48 states is such that unusual events carry outsized impact.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, the number of U.S. border guards at the Canadian border has tripled, to about 1,000, according to Jarrod Agen, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security. That compares with about 9,500 agents from the U.S. Border Patrol stationed along the 1,989-mile border with Mexico. President Bush announced plans this month to bolster the force on the Mexican border with 6,000 National Guard troops.

Even with the stiffened security on the northern border, the number of arrests from Canada are, at best, a smidgen compared with apprehensions of Mexicans. The Border Patrol reported 7,345 arrests on the Canadian border in fiscal year 2005, with fewer than 1,800 in the Detroit region. Just under 1.2 million people were apprehended at the Mexican border in 2005.
But worry they do. Mayor Francis and others complain that the perception of trouble at the border--long lines, a passport requirement that is not yet in effect, hassles from border guards--is scaring people away. A passport requirement is overkill, they say. A better and cheaper alternative would be an enhanced driver's license that could be quickly checked at the border.

Opponents of the passport requirement won a victory last week in the U.S. Senate with the approval of an amendment that would delay implementation of the security procedure by 18 months, to the summer of 2009, allowing more time to develop a less-expensive alternative.

“We're friends,” said Ambrosio, the restaurant operator who wonders if he'll ever see his longtime patrons again. “You don't check friends who have been going back across the border for 50 years. There's got to be another way


Green Roof Bonus

Excellent. Maybe we can get a taste of this money. Finally, finally, got our permit yesterday for our roof deck (walked over to City Hall).

Mayor Richard Daley, an avowed environmentalist and “green roof” advocate, plans to offer a new financial incentive to encourage landlords to plant their roofs with gardens.
The proposed pilot program is designed to draw more attention to the benefits of green roofs, said Connie Buscemi, a spokeswoman for the city's Planning Department.

Daley's plan would allocate $500,000 from a Loop economic development fund to match private landlords' rooftop investments up to $100,000 each.

Green roofs soak up rainwater that otherwise would flow into the city's sewer system, and they absorb heat from the sun, helping to reduce temperatures in the surrounding area, Buscemi said.

The special roofs also help landlords cut summer air conditioning costs, she said.

Daley helped pioneer the green-roof movement in Chicago in 2001 when City Hall's roof was turned into a garden, something that Buscemi said has reduced the rooftop temperature by as much as 70 degrees, roughly in half, on hot days. The Chicago Cultural Center is the most recent major public building to go green.

In between, more than 200 buildings in the city have been constructed with green roofs totaling 2.5 million square feet, Buscemi said. Some developers installed the greenery voluntarily, while others were required to do so because their projects received city financial assistance. Chicago has more green roofs than any other U.S. city, Buscemi said.

City plan would pay a bonus for `green roofs'

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Enter Ozone Woman

MoDo wonders if there is tension between Al Gore and Pander-ary Clinton.Maureen Dowd: Enter Ozone Woman

Two ersatz ex-presidents vie for the support of a real one.

Al Gore must want to punch Hillary Clinton right through the hole in the ozone layer.

At the National Press Club here yesterday, the New York senator finally took a passionate stand. After giving a courteous nod to her old rival Al as “a committed visionary on global warming,” she purloined his issue and his revolution, going his Earth Tones in the Balance one better by wearing a blinding yellow pantsuit that looked as if it could provide solar power to all of Tennessee.

Apologizing for, while really wallowing in, her “wonkish speech,” Hillary waxed rhapsodic about “unlocking the full potential of cellulosic ethanol” and getting “the low-sulfur diesel rule fully implemented.” She droned on numbingly about carbon dioxide sequestration, biomass liquid fuel bases, “feebate” tax incentives, hybrid plug-ins, flex-fueled vehicles, continuous reheat furnaces, renewable portfolio standards, Danish wind power, Brazilian ethanol and Kyoto greenhouse targets. (And you thought she was incomprehensible on health care.)

She got so far down in the weeds — or switch grass — that she advised her listeners about weatherizing their homes and checking their tires to save fuel. “At every gas station,” she chirped, “there ought to be a little sign which says, 'Have you checked to see if your tires are inflated to the right pressure?' ”

She made it clear who's in power and who's in Cannes when she ostentatiously promised to take her motorcade back to Capitol Hill and introduce legislation for a strategic energy fund to jolt inert government and insatiable Big Oil into action.

Her timing is cunning. This is supposed to be Ozone Man's moment in the sun. His movie, “An Inconvenient Truth,” opens today, buoyed by such raves that his supporters believe his green crusade could net him both a gold statuette and a white house.

New Music in May part 1


another in a never ending post: new-to-me music that has blared from my speakers recently...

I don't know, maybe this project is on hiatus. I can't seem to get back into the groove, and have been stuck near to the end of the “S” section for a while. Fun while it lasted, perhaps I'll have another burst of attention for the quixotic project at a later time. Part of the problem was that I kept getting new CDs for letters already finished, such as a bunch of Neil Young albums in the last few weeks.

Anyway, without further pointless preamble:

Sergio Mendes Brasilileiro

Bought on the basis of the one song I heard, and loved, “What is This?” From the liner notes -
Vai Quem Vem is once more spotlighted in “What is This?”, in which the group member Carmen Alice offers up a Bahian-style rap song, sung in English. With the rhythms played on surdos, berimbau, and other Brazilian instruments, and Sergio on synthesizer, Carmen offers up a song about her hometown Salvador neighborhood of Candial. “It's their reading of the American rap style,” says Sergio. [Well, rap style of 1991] “In Bahia, they hear everything - rap, reggae, merengue - and adapt it. Carmen's song is so raw and pure, I thought the simplicity and purity of it were really interesting. It's very Bahian.”
Spectacular song. Rest of the album is a sleek, sweet, rhythmic, danceable collection of Brazilian pop that will probably get you laid. One of these years, am going to make it to Brazil (not during carnival), eat fresh fruit, and loll on the beach.

Long May You Run
Stills Young Band Long May You Run
Always stayed away from this album because of the reaming reviews, but decided to waste my money anyway. Only have listened once, and other than the title track (featured on the spectacular compilation, Decade), have heard these only once. Somewhat better than I expected, though some cringe-inducing lyrics, such as by Stephen Stills in Make Love to You, probably cocaine and California-Cowboy related. Thanks the godz, the Eagles were never popular. Err, I mean, the song, Midnight on the Bay is making me poke my ears out. Still, on balance, not bad. B.

Landing on Water
Landing on Water
Maybe I'm a phallo-guitar-centric rocker whose opinion can be ignored, but damn, the drums are turned up way too high on this album, and are not that interesting in the first place. Bleh. The drums on Brasileiro are worth study: the drums on Landing on Water need to be mixed way down.

1986 was the year of the Drum apparently. Strangely enough, I graduated Wm. B. Travis High School that year, and out of the blue, an old classmate emailed me asking if I was attending my 20th class reunion. Sorry, Karen, probably not. I hate those sorts of kibbutzy functions: all, hey, how are you, what's new, how've ya been, blah blah blah. I'm anti-blah blah these days. Misanthrope, yes, cocktail party aficionado, no. Especially with folk like Mark Wolf and Bobby Pounds putting on the festivities. There are a few people I'd like to see, but t'aint much.

Anyway, Landing on Water's Hippy Dream is pretty fun, with lines like:

Another flower child goes to seed
In an ether-filled room of meat-hooks
It's so ugly
So ugly

Well, alrighty then. At least I bought this CD used.

Estudando o Pagode
Tom Ze Estudando O Pagode
As I've written before, one of the best-est concerts I ever attended was a Tom Ze show, supported by Tortoise. Performance Art Rock you could dance to. Anyway, his latest album is subtitled “Excercises in Induced Harmony” (sic), I think, referring to songs with more than one tonal center of reference: a play of simultaneities. Sung all in Brazilian, so who the frack knows. Liner notes provide english translation, but don't always have those handy. I do at the moment, but David Bryne is right - album art is waiting for the great leap forward now that the gatefold LP is dead.

Seriously, Tom Ze even at the age of 70 is so full-to-the-brim of interesting ideas, his CD booklet cannot contain them all. I guess Estudando O Pagode is an Dada opera, or similar. Dense and intriguing enough to merit further study: ask me in a year or two to explain it. Right now, I'm just dancing. Recommended. A-

Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
Neko Case Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
beautifully rich contralto voice, moody melancholic-tinged songs with a sharp, varied band (Sadies, Garth Hudson formerly of the Band, Calexico and others). What's not to love? A-

A Blessing And A Curse
Drive-By Truckers A Blessing and a Curse
like this line: Cocaine rich comes quick and that's why the small dicks have it all from Gravity's Gone.

Not every song is good though, perhaps will grow on me, perhaps not. Even hear some Glen Frey in the vocal inflection of Aftermath USA. Eeew. Not as good as previous DBT albums. B.

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New Firefox

If you use Firefox (and if you own a computer, you should at least have a copy), this 'alpha' release has been very stable on my computers for the week I've used it. Much faster page loads. Check it out.

Bon Echo Alpha 2 Milestone Bon Echo Alpha 2, the second development milestone of Mozilla Firefox 2 aimed at developers and testers, is now available. ... Please note: We do not recommend that anyone other than developers and testers download this Alpha 2 milestone release. It is intended for testing purposes only.
Umm, yeah. Ignore the dire warnings, unless your browser is used for super-secret spy stuff, like manipulating the records of 25 million veterans.

Personally, whenever my browser crashes (which does happen every blue moon or so), I just restart the application, and don't bother spilling milk-duds to cry Argentina on. Err, whatever.

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Sculpture stroll

Urbanus Trail Rock
Border of Evanston and Skokie

Steel Can Cry Too

Certainly Romantic
rust is life

Three Sides to Every Story
detail, sculpture

Flavor of the Month
sculpture details

Platter full of Much Obliged
sculpture details

Odds and Ends infrared
After utilizing a faux-infrared effect in Photoshop. Sculpture Garden, Skokie.

a quickr pickr post

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Nikon Signs With Flickr


Haven't noticed this happening yet, but I added the tag “nikonstunninggallery” to a few photos, but didn't notice them appearing. Probably a large number of photos in the stream bumping me out. I'll have to try sometime in the witching-hours, or pre-dawn.

Adrants » Nikon Signs Sponsorship Deal With Flickr

In a natural move, Nikon, as part of its Stunning campaign...has entered into a deal with photo site Flickr whereby any picture taken with a Nikon camera and uploaded to Flicker will display a small Nikon log next to the information section on individual photo pages. Also, photos tagged “nikonstunninggallery” will be featured on Nikon's NikonStunningGallery website and a prominent link to Nikon's site is featured on Flickr's homepage.

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new Bob Dylan Books

Oh sure, I'll probably buy copies eventually. My bookshelf would feel lonely otherwise.

Bob Dylan Encyclopedia
Bob Dylan Encyclopedia

Bob Dylan : The Essential Interviews (Jonathan Cott)
“Bob Dylan : The Essential Interviews” (Jonathan Cott)

Books of the Times | 'Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews'; 'The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia': How Does It Feel? Dylan on Everything, Everything on Dylan The life of Bob Dylan is examined in an irresistible new anthology edited by Jonathan Cott and in a heavy, utterly idiosyncratic compendium by Michael Gray.

...The mosaic of discussions found here (very first question: “Bob Dylan, you must be 20 years old now”) is many things: biography, oral history, cultural time capsule, music lesson and psychodrama. It expands upon the mesmerizing portrait of Mr. Dylan that both his memoir, “Chronicles, Volume 1,” and Martin Scorsese's documentary “No Direction Home” have lately provided.

Arranged chronologically, these interviews vary wildly. That accounts for much of their cumulative appeal. A lot depends upon who was asking the questions and how combative or cooperative Mr. Dylan happened to be feeling. “What do you think of people who analyze your songs?” he was asked at his only televised full-length news conference, in 1965. “I welcome them — with open arms,” he replied, in much the same unwelcoming spirit on display in “Don't Look Back,” the 1967 documentary he subsequently renounced.

Sarcasm is an understandable response, given what he found himself up against. Here's another sampling of the same session: Does he prefer songs with messages, like “Eve of Destruction?” A. “Do I prefer that to what?” Q. “I don't know, but your songs are supposed to have a subtle message.” A. “Subtle message???” Q. “Well, they're supposed to.” A. “Where'd you hear that?” Q. “In a movie magazine.” A. “Oh — Oh God!”

Neither book performs what would have been a vital function: providing annotations that refer back to Mr. Dylan's versions of events in “Chronicles.” (Ray Gooch and Chloe Kiehl, the New York couple who supposedly made the young Mr. Dylan their houseguest amid a cornucopia of wonders, remain elusive in the extreme.) The facts of Mr. Dylan's life exist in many variations, and “Chronicles” tried to correct the record. If he had to be pigeonholed as the voice of a generation, surely he is entitled to the last word.


Takes me way back

Sugarhill Gang - Rapper's Delight

My next door neighbor in Austex was a semi-serious break dancer; I could hear him practicing on his back porch from my bedroom window, sometimes with his posee, sometimes not. Rappers' Delight got spun a few gazillion times.

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A Folk Label Hits the Internet

I've always liked the eclectic nature of Folkways Recordings; my library contains a dozen or more releases, plus a few dozen more on vinyl. I keep meaning to browse their massive catalogue and get some CDs custom-printed. I doubt that I'll buy any from the Apple Store (don't really like to purchase from iTunes: too low-res, like to have a physical CD, yadda yadda), but this is still cool news.

Anthology of American Folk Music
Anthology of American Folk Music

A Folk Label Hits the Internet

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution, has reached a deal to market all of its vast and eclectic library on Internet services like Apple's iTunes Music Store.

Digital music downloaders, get ready to rock to “Finnish Tunes and Songs,” “Festival of Japanese Music in Hawaii (Vol. 1 and 2)” and “Stethoscope Sounds: Heart Murmurs and Lung Sounds.”

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution, has reached a deal to market all of its vast and eclectic library on Internet services like Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes Music Store. The development promises to bring to a wider audience seminal works by Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly as well as recordings from around the world and thousands of historical obscurities.

Folkways put its catalog online, including Dock Boggs, Jimmy Collier and Frederick Douglass Kirkpatrick.
“We're really a museum collection for audio,” says the label's director and curator, Dan Sheehy, an ethnomusicologist by training. “When I see CDs going out the door at our fulfillment department, I think of them as mini traveling exhibitions.”

The new marketing arrangement, with a New York-based digital distribution company called the Orchard, could upend that earnest approach. The Orchard -- owned by Dimensional Associates Inc., the private equity arm of hedge fund JDS Capital Management, Inc. -- is combing this vast treasure trove of historic recordings, seeking oddball ways to generate revenue from previously overlooked sources.

It's not just the niche appeal of its offerings that sets Folkways apart. The company's business model, dating back nearly 20 years, would seem tailor-made for the Internet age of targeted sales. Many of the 3,500 albums in its library sell just one or two copies a year, issued on CDs (and before those, cassettes) custom-recorded when a customer places an order. Folkways distributes to retail outlets about 10% of its titles, mostly American blues and folk titles by household names like Woody Guthrie. Its biggest hit, the six-volume “Anthology of American Folk Music,” has sold just north of 80,000 copies since it was reissued on CD in 1997.

Folkways rarely spends more than $30,000 promoting an album, so the company has to find marketing opportunities where it can. “We have to piggyback on trends,” says Richard Burgess, its marketing and sales director. For instance, seeking to capitalize on Bruce Springsteen's recent hit, “We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions,” the company launched a marketing program called “Can't Start a Fire Without a Spark: From Seeger to Springsteen.” “We have most of the original Pete Seeger stuff,” says Mr. Burgess. “We're out there trying to let people know we have it.”

Folkways manages to break even most years, by relying on a strategy that is often touted as a key benefit of distribution via the Internet: the ability to profitably sell small quantities of a very large number of products. On the Net, the model works because a digital marketplace often involves minuscule costs for storage and delivery; for Folkways' custom business, it works because the company doesn't actually maintain much inventory.

Moses Asch founded Folkways Records & Service Co. in 1948, with the simple-sounding mission of recording “people's music.” The label released 2,168 albums before Asch's death in 1986, showcasing seminal American blues, country and bluegrass artists; European folksingers; African drummers; Indonesian gamelan orchestras; and hundreds of other regional and international performers.

A great deal of Folkways' output has remained commercially obscure. Yet at the same time, those recordings have been incredibly influential to the people who managed to find them -- like the young Bob Dylan.

The Smithsonian Institution acquired the label from Asch's estate in 1987, on the condition that every single title be kept in print. The Smithsonian has since added collections and signed new artists, such as the influential country singer Lucinda Williams, whose first two albums were released by Folkways in the early late 1970s and early 1980s.

Lucinda Williams
Lucinda Williams

Happy Woman Blues (Lucinda Williams)
“Happy Woman Blues” (Lucinda Williams)

Classic Bluegrass From Smithsonian Folkways
“Classic Bluegrass From Smithsonian Folkways” (Classic Bluegrass from Smithsonian Folkways)

Music of Central Asia Vol. 1: Tengir-Too Mountain Music of Kyrgyzstan (Tengir-Too)
“Music of Central Asia Vol. 1: Tengir-Too Mountain Music of Kyrgyzstan” (Tengir-Too)

plus a good many others.


Justice Derailed

Bob Herbert follows our criminal justice system fairly closely, and is disheartened. The Death Penalty should be rescinded again, immediately. Especially since so many of our elected officials claim to be Christians (who are supposed to be against murder).

Bob Herbert: Justice Derailed

Indifference to injustice in the criminal justice system is so pervasive, and so difficult to counteract, as to seem part of society's DNA.

The murder happened in snow-covered Rochester, N.Y., on New Year's Day in 1996.

As the police and prosecutors told it, a 63-year-old activist named William Beason was stabbed to death in his home by a young sex hustler and ex-convict named Douglas Warney. The case was solid, the authorities said. They had a confession.

Not only were the authorities wrong, it was almost immediately clear that they were wrong.

I wrote in a column less than a month after the murder: “The closer one looks at the case, the more it appears that Douglas Warney did not kill William Beason.”

Under the headline “Slay Confession Is Full of Holes,” Jim Dwyer, who is now at The Times but was then at The Daily News, wrote:

“[Warney's] confession is contradicted by virtually all the physical evidence made public, including a trail of blood apparently left by the killer, but which did not come from Warney.”

I wondered then, and I still wonder, why so many seemingly decent people in law enforcement are willing to participate in the evil practice of sending people to prison — or, worse — who are demonstrably innocent of the charges against them.

The prosecutors who went after Douglas Warney were seeking the death penalty. It didn't matter to them:

That Mr. Warney was delusional.

That Mr. Warney said that he had killed Mr. Beason in a struggle in the kitchen, when in fact the victim had been murdered in his bed.

That Mr. Warney said he had cut himself during the attack, but a medical exam showed no evidence of a cut.

That Mr. Warney claimed to have driven his brother's brown Chevrolet to the murder scene, a car that his brother had gotten rid of years earlier.

And so on and so forth.

Talk-Show Joe

Ouch, Lieberman can't be happy to have this Krugman column run in the NYT. Especially since the assertions are not so easily rebutted.

Paul Krugman: Talk-Show Joe

The common theme in Senator Joseph Lieberman's positions seems to be this: In each case he has taken the stand that is most likely to get him on TV.

Friday was a bad day for Senator Joseph Lieberman. The Connecticut Democratic Party's nominating convention endorsed him, but that was a given for an incumbent with a lot of political chips to cash in. The real news was that Ned Lamont, an almost unknown challenger, received a third of the votes. This gave Mr. Lamont the right to run against Mr. Lieberman in a primary, and suggests that Mr. Lamont may even win.

What happened to Mr. Lieberman? Some news reports may lead you to believe that he is in trouble solely because of his support for the Iraq war. But there's much more to it than that. Mr. Lieberman has consistently supported Republican talking points. This has made him a lion of the Sunday talk shows, but has put him out of touch with his constituents — and with reality.

Mr. Lieberman isn't the only nationally known Democrat who still supports the Iraq war. But he isn't just an unrepentant hawk, he has joined the Bush administration by insisting on an upbeat picture of the situation in Iraq that is increasingly delusional.

Moreover, Mr. Lieberman has supported the attempt to label questions about why we invaded Iraq and criticism of the administration's policies since the invasion as unpatriotic. How else is one to interpret his warning, late last year, that “it is time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be Commander-in-Chief for three more critical years, and that in matters of war we undermine Presidential credibility at our nation's peril”?

And it's not just Iraq. A letter sent by Hillary Clinton to Connecticut Democrats credited Mr. Lieberman with defending Social Security “tooth and nail.” Well, I watched last year's Social Security debate pretty closely, and that's not what happened.

In fact, Mr. Lieberman repeatedly supported the administration's scare tactics. “Every year we wait to come up with a solution to the Social Security problem,” he declared in March 2005, “costs our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren $600 billion more.”

This claim echoed a Bush administration talking point, and President Bush wasted little time citing Mr. Lieberman's statement as vindication. But the talking point was simply false, so Mr. Lieberman was providing cover for an administration lie.

The Rove Da Vinci Code

Frank Rich dissects the pander-fest, on both sides of the aisle, as it relates to that peculiar institution of American political Christianity. Please let the hard rains come and wash them all away.

Frank Rich: The Rove Da Vinci Code

The ad campaign for “The Da Vinci Code” mimics the bamboozling of Christian evangelists by politicians.

IF we're to believe the reviews, “The Da Vinci Code” is the most exciting summer blockbuster since, well, “Poseidon.” But the “Da Vinci Code” marketing strategy is a masterpiece: a perfect Hollywood metaphor for the American political culture of our day.

The Machiavellian mission for the hit-deprived Sony studio was to co-opt conservative religious critics who might depress turnout for a $125-million-plus thriller portraying the Roman Catholic Church as a fraud. To this end, as The New Yorker reported, Sony hired a bevy of P.R. consultants, including a faith-based flack whose Christian Rolodex previously helped sell such inspirational testaments to Hollywood spirituality as “Bruce Almighty” and “Christmas With the Kranks.”

Among Sony's ingenious strategies was an elaborate Web site, The Da Vinci Dialogue, which gave many of the movie's prominent critics a platform to vent on the studio's dime. Thus was “The Da Vinci Code” repositioned as a “teaching moment” for Christian evangelists — a bit of hype “completely concocted by the Sony Pictures marketing machine,” as Barbara Nicolosi, a former nun and current Hollywood screenwriter, explained to The Times. The more “students” who could be roped into this teaching moment, of course, the bigger the gross.

Ms. Nicolosi remains a vociferous opponent of the film. On her blog she chastises Sony's heavenly P.R. helpers for coaxing “legions of well-meaning Christians into subsidizing a movie that makes their own Savior out to be a sham.” But you do have to admire the studio's chutzpah, if the word may be used in this context. It rivals Tom Sawyer's bamboozling of his friends into painting that fence. The Sony scheme also echoes much of the past decade's Washington playbook. Politicians, particularly but not exclusively in the Karl Rove camp, seem to believe that voters of “faith” are suckers who can be lured into the big tent and then abandoned once their votes and campaign cash have been pocketed by the party for secular profit.

well deserved shots at McCain, Clinton, Frist, Dean and Giuliani below the fold

Death Eyes

At the moment anyway, an image search of Death Eyes leads to this photo:

History here.

One could, if one were so inclined, make a joke about Microsoft's image search cutting corners. I labeled the post “Death Ray Eyes”, not “Death Eyes”.

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Useless idiot

Ah David Brooks, what ever would the left half of the blogosphere do without your inanities to gnash our teeth at?

(Daniel 4:33)

“The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar; and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles feathers, and his nails like birds claws.”

Anyway, Bobo displays his contempt for 3/4 of America:

The Big Sleep - New York Times
The first element in this calm was the rapid fizzling of the N.S.A. scandal. We have been treated in the past year to a panoply of anticlimactic frenzies. For example, we have seen the periodic flaring and the inevitable noneruption of the Valerie Plame affair. Every few weeks, perhaps coinciding with the full moon, the left half of the blogosphere will arise from its habitual state of paranoid rage and soar into a collective paroxysm of anticipatory glee over the thought of Karl Rove's imminent indictment.

Alas, the indictment never comes.

But even by that standard, the fizzling of the N.S.A. scandal is remarkable. Most Americans seem to have looked at the facts and concluded that having to open your suitcase in the airport security line is a far bigger invasion of privacy than having your phone records in a list of four trillion numbers on a computer somewhere in an agency trying to fight terror.

really, Dave? Care to resign in disgrace if the indictment does in fact arrive? Habitual state of paranoid rage - when did you become a former Nixon speechwriter? Sounds like Bobo is a little prickly after being (rightfully) ridiculed so frequently.

I'd also ask Mr. Bobo how he came up with the assertion that nobody cares about telephone surveillance. You aren't basing it on suspect polls are you? Just because the proletariat hasn't (yet) stormed the White House with guillotines, burning effigies and waterboards doesn't mean that everyone is happy to surrender all their phone records to the incompetent schmucks in the Bush Assministration who feed you information.

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Collaborative Poster: Giant Peach

I guess I got included after all. Lost interest in this group as they were too diligent enforcing the petty little rules. I am a Maslow disciple or something, even though I only remember half of the theory, or less.

Anyway, I thought this was an interesting use of photographic collaboration on Flickr, and apparently several of my images are found in it, four to be exact, out of the seven submitted.

check it out: looks pretty cool.
Collaborative Poster: Giant Peach - Image Map

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On Hashish

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Am about halfway through Walter Benjamin's entertaining collection (post-humous, of course) of his notes of experimentations with hashish and other hallucinogens, called, appropriately enough, On Hashish. Sort of like a journal, scrapbook, or even a blog!

On Hashish (Walter Benjamin)
“On Hashish” (Walter Benjamin)

Must say it is only with extreme self-control that I do not scamper down the Bridge of Smoke myself after (or even during) finishing this book. Unfortunately, doing so would probably preclude me from attending any of our planned social events for the evening, as I am by temperament an introvert, and certain substances magnify my tendencies a hundred-fold.

Geoff imagined a dinner party with Hannah Arendt and Walter Benjamin passing the pipe. I'd love to attend: wouldn't mind sitting quietly in an easy chair with a pipe myself listening to them.

Counago and Spaves has more excerpts from Harpers if you aren't convinced yet.

My favorite aphorism, so far anyway, is from Main Features of My First Impression of Hashish:

“23. You follow the same paths of thought as before. Only, they appear strewn with roses.”

Amen, Brother WB, amen.

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Doesn't really breed more confidence in our government's commitment to securing the fatherland, does it? Everyone who travels frequently (or even semi-frequently) knows that airport security is a joke, apparently so is port security. What's the point of even checking the ships altogether if there is a 48 hour warning? Sounds like what happened in the prohibition era in Capone's Chicago (advance warning of raids)

The Outfit (Gus Russo)

“The Outfit” (Gus Russo)

Some Ships Get Coast Guard Tip Before Searches:

The Coast Guard is tipping off some large ships about security searches that had been intended as a surprise.

Under intense pressure from shipping companies concerned about costly delays, the Coast Guard is tipping off some large commercial ships about security searches that had been a surprise, according to high-ranking Coast Guard officials.

The searches began after the Sept. 11 attacks as part of a major revamping of the Coast Guard and its new antiterrorism mission.

..But critics worry that the practice may undermine an important component of the layered security effort to keep terrorists out of the nation's longest border, its more than 96,000 miles of coastline.

“The purpose of the inspections is for the Coast Guard to send a message to all these ships that they might be boarded at any time, basically to make sure there's no mischief on board,” said Stephen E. Flynn, a former Coast Guard commander who is now a fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations. “If you say, 'Heads up, when you get close to port in two days we're going to board you,' that sort of defeats the purpose of the boarding.”
..Since the middle of last year, the Coast Guard nationally has boarded more than 16,000 vessels and found numerous violations, most related to safety or crew status. In 144 cases, the vessels were temporarily held back from anchoring in American ports, the Coast Guard said, without giving more details.

Shippers and carriers consider the inspections a nuisance because they delay the delivery of goods, and suggest that the notice allows them to make more efficient use of the inspection time. Critics, however, suggest that the notice also gives a heads-up to potential terrorists, who could use the time to conceal evidence, create diversions or possibly even find a way off a ship.

The Coast Guard now requires self-reporting by big shipping operators 96 hours before entry along with electronic tracking. But it is largely an honor system, and terrorists are not going to report their contents or identity, numerous experts have noted.

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The Republican God is a construct

I'd venture a guess that today's Doonesbury cartoon is going to get some Christian Taliban types angry.

Doonesbury 060520

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Make Poetry, Not War

MoDo lands a few punches at the Straight Liar Talking Express. Not sure why Kerrey (the other Kerry) even invited John McCain, except as some sort of misguided favor, or loyalty to a fellow Vietnam Vet. The New School is not the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The New School doesn't really seem to be McCain's target demographic, nor does it seem likely that any graduates were willing to be Sister Souljah-esque props in a McCain spectacle. I guess that could have been the intended point.

Maureen Dowd: Make Poetry, Not War

It was a rough crowd for agents of American imperialism.

At the New School commencement at Madison Square Garden's theater yesterday afternoon, dozens of the red-and-black-gowned graduates and some faculty were heckling, cackling, hissing, booing, jeering, whooping, bolting, turning their backs and holding up orange signs that read, “Our commencement is not your platform.” As for John McCain, he spoke about how the “passion for self-expression sometimes overwhelms our civility.”

“We're graduating, not voting,” one young man yelled.

“This is all about you,” another called out. “We don't care.”

A little while after the senator quoted Yeats about the fleeting nature of beauty, a student sarcastically called out, “More poetry.”

First, Mr. McCain and the New School's president, Bob Kerrey, were slapped around by a student speaker, Jean Sara Rohe, a 21-year-old from Nutley, N.J., who sang a lyric from a peace song and then abandoned her original remarks to talk about the “outrage” over Mr. McCain's speaking gig.

“The senator does not reflect the ideals upon which this university was founded,” Ms. Rohe said, adding: “I am young, and although I don't profess to possess the wisdom that time affords us, I do know that pre-emptive war is dangerous and wrong.”

She continued: “And I know that despite all the havoc that my country has wrought overseas in my name, Osama bin Laden still has not been found, nor have those weapons of mass destruction.”

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George Bush's coke jaw

For some reason, my snark re George Bush's Cocaine jaw is a target for spammer comments. Puhlease guys, I'm just going to delete them anyway, unless you are really clever.

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Schmap spyware redux

briefly, more discussion on the Schmap phenomenon at this Flickr page

(tipped to this discussion via someone landing on my page with the search words Schmap Spyware).

Again, from my perspective, Schmap seems like a cool use of Creative Commons, as long as there is no spyware involved, and as long as the software guide is freeware, more or less. My main complaint is that the software is Windows only, though Alexandra Moss says a Mac version will be released 'at some time in the future' /paraphrase.

More detailed analysis of the license here

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City Riverwalk

Excellent news. The signs have been up for evah!

Reflections at night

First step for city riverwalk A five-block stretch of a Wacker Drive riverwalk that Mayor Daley hopes will someday rival San Antonio's will be open to the public next month, thanks to $800,000 worth of basic amenities now being installed.

“This stretch between State and Franklin -- there's no other space like it downtown. We really want to maximize public use of it,” said Transportation Department spokesman Brian Steele.

With paving, fencing, railing, benches, and garbage and recycling bins going in along the stretch, Chicagoans will be able to enjoy the first major chunk of a riverwalk closed to the public since the $200 million reconstruction of Wacker Drive.

also some competition for the Metramarket

That Great Street

Later this summer, City Hall also hopes to open a temporary urban market in an enclosed and finished, 10,000-square-foot space at Wacker and Wabash on the lower level of Chicago's new Vietnam War memorial.

The interim market is expected to open long before August, when boats participating in the Tall Ships Festival are displayed along the Chicago River's main branch. Last year the Tall Ships were at Navy Pier.

“It could be fruit or produce. It could be crafts or wares -- similar to some of the markets held on Daley Plaza. We just have to make sure it'll be of interest to the public and something we'll be able to manage throughout the summer,” Steele said.

Daley's original plan for a riverwalk he calls Chicago's “second lakefront” called for the city to spend $40 million to $50 million in yet-to-be-secured federal transportation funds to build a river-level boardwalk from Michigan to Lake that would include 35,500 square feet of retail and restaurant space along with docks for tour boats and water taxis.

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Utah Man Not a Beer Snob

If you drink Coors Lite, you probably do have to drink 24 beers a day just to catch a buzz. It has been a long, long while since I've had the pleasure of slurping a Coors Lite, but I recall it resembling recycled beer, i.e. beer that someone already drank once. Ahem.

(click link for photos)

70,000 Beer Cans Found in Ogden Townhouse
Ryan Froerer, Century 21: “Said it was the sickest thing he's ever seen. Just unimaginable that someone could live in that.”

He couldn't even open the front door. It was blocked from inside.
“There was beer cans I would say probably this high up on the door.”

The realtor had forewarned him about the smell. “He poked his head in, the smell was so awful he couldn't go in. ”... “As we approached the door, there were beer boxes, all the way up to the ceiling.”

Inside, he took just a few snapshots to document the scene. Beer cans by the tens of thousands. Mountains of cans burying the furniture. The water and heat were shut off, apparently on purpose by the tenant, who evidently drank Coors Light beer exclusively for the eight years he lived there...

The cans were recycled for 800 dollars, an estimated 70,000 cans: 24 beers a day for 8 years.

from BoingBoing, of course.

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Flak Over 'Fast Food Nation'

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I find it quite ironic that Fast Food Nation film is going to be distributed by Rupert Murdoch's entertainment division, especially since his in-store marketing division, News America, takes billions of dollars in advertising dollars from the CPGs (Kraft, Unilever, Tyson, et al). I guess money trumps all.

Fast Food Nation
Fast Food Nation - Flak Over 'Fast Food Nation'

As “Fast Food Nation” a fictionalized movie based on Eric Schlosser's book, is set to have its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival tomorrow, an array of U.S. food companies are sharpening a campaign to rebut the allegations in the film and a new book that fast-food chains contribute to the nation's obesity epidemic and other problems.

The film, to be distributed in the U.S. as early as this fall by News Corp.'s Fox Searchlight Pictures, tells the story of an executive from a hamburger chain called Mickey's who visits a Colorado meatpacking town to determine why there's something wrong with the meat in the company's popular sandwich, the Big One. The plant is staffed with illegal immigrants who work in unpleasant conditions. Other story lines include a teenager who works at a Mickey's who is frightened by a string of robberies at nearby fast-food restaurants. Actors Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke are among the cast.

In addition, Mr. Schlosser and co-author Charles Wilson this month released “Chew On This: Everything You Don't Want To Know About Fast Food” that makes similar arguments as the earlier book, which ties fast-food to health problems, the decline of small farmers and American cultural homogenization. The new one, however, is aimed at 11- to 15-year-olds -- an important demographic for fast-food companies.

Now, more than a dozen trade groups representing producers of beef, potatoes, milk and snacks, along with restaurant groups, are fighting back with a media campaign to counter what one groups contends is the “indigestible propaganda” Mr. Schlosser is spreading. They've launched a Web site called Best Food Nation that quotes employees from Tyson Foods Inc., Cargill Inc. and other food concerns praising the quality and safety of the food supply. They're also encouraging consumers to write letters to local school boards and contact government officials to voice their support for the U.S. food industry.

Kendall Frazier, a spokesman for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, says the groups came together after hearing Mr. Schlosser had written a book geared toward young people. “We felt like there are an awful lot of factual errors in this book,” Mr. Frazier says. Mr. Frazier didn't elaborate, but asserted that “a lot of people have misconceptions about food production and what American agriculture is all about.”

The aligned groups include the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Meat Institute, the U.S. Potato Board, the National Restaurant Association and the Snack Food Association.

yeah, but only errors can be refuted, not facts, so good luck with this smear campaign....

And Mr. Schlosser discovers himself a target, and doesn't like it:

What bothers me is the use of third parties to attack me when the people who are paying for it aren't standing up and taking credit for it,“ he says of the sudden surge of criticism against him.

Chew On This : Everything You Don't Want to Know About Fast Food (Eric Schlosser)

”Chew On This : Everything You Don't Want to Know About Fast Food“ (Eric Schlosser)

and glad to hear Republicans are so gung-ho about fast food, thin out their ranks a little:

Last week, Mr. Schlosser wrapped up a book tour that took him to middle schools in cities including Berkeley, Calif., and a Chicago suburb located several miles from the McDonald's headquarters. His presentations included pictures of manure piles linked to meat processing and human organs harmed by fat consumption. Some students wore buttons saying their schools ”won't chew on this“ in support of the talk.

Conservative political groups mobilized to blunt the impact of the visits. In Chicago, the Cook County Republican Central Committee last week sent a news release to local media outlets encouraging them to attend a book-signing by the authors and ”ask a challenging question or two.“

The Leadership Institute, an Arlington, Va., organization that says its mission is to further conservative causes, recently sent a letter to the headmaster of a California school before Mr. Schlosser was scheduled to appear there, warning that his message would ”be harmful to your school and to your children,“ and that the author ”undermines and assaults American businessmen.“ Ms. Rozenich, the McDonald's spokeswoman, says the fast-food chain was not involved in either effort and does not fund either of those groups.

Benjamin Wetmore, a spokesman for the Leadership Institute, says the group wrote the letter because of ”general concern over Mr. Schlosser's anecdotes around the country.“

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Velveeta Clinton

As a follow up to my near-incoherent rant on Hillary, Arianna Huffington makes a similar point, and comes up with a good epithet for Hillary in 2008: Velveeta Clinton.

Gore isn't running for office, and already the negative campaigning has begun

Just as you could smell it on Kerry in 2004, as he ran a campaign that consistently chose caution over boldness.

And it's the same sickening scent that Hillary Clinton is wearing today: Eau de Don't Let Me Screw Up and Flush My Chances Down the Toilette.

There she was recently -- uptight, tentative, inauthentic -- trying to throw an off-handed bone to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce by implying that young people are lazy and “think work is a four-letter word.” And the minute there was some blowback, she turned around and apologized to the youthful voters whose fingers she'd slammed in the Chamber of Commerce door. And even used Chelsea as a crutch to explain her turnaround.

As a result of the soul-sapping tyranny of trying to please and placate everybody, she's become more processed than Velveeta. You can almost see every word that comes out of her mouth first being marched through the different compartments of her brain -- analyzed, evaluated, and vetted by each of them. What will the consultants think of this? How will it poll? Will working women between 25-35 in eastern Ohio think it's okay? How about likely voters in northern Oklahoma?

Her fear has caused a complete disconnect from who she really is and what she really thinks (that is, if she even knows anymore).

Read more
The Blog | Arianna Huffington: Al Gore Overcomes the Fear Factor, Hillary Succumbs

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Nope, don't think so. Not unless some drastic changes are made in her consultant's advice. Ms. Clinton believes the country is clamoring for another Rockefeller Republican D.I.N.O., but no matter how much she panders to the centrist Republicans, they'll never vote for her. Folks like D's cousin - an avowed Hillary hater Republican suburban mother of 2 - wouldn't vote for Hillary in any circumstance. Any. Since Ms. Clinton has also consistently, and inexorably pissed off the left at the same time, that leaves her with no political base. Except for Dick Morris and other toe sucking loser-crats.

So what does Bob Herbert think? Apparently, he's had a few conversations with Democratic party insiders; those same corrupt, ineffectual consultants who have lost every election since, well, since 1992, with the one exception of 1996 when the Republicans inexplicably let Bob Dole run.

Bob Herbert: Hillary Can Run, but Can She Win?

Hillary Rodham Clinton's perceived pluses as a presidential candidate are enormous. But I wouldn't crown her just yet.

If you talk to strategists in the two major parties, you will hear again and again that Hillary Rodham Clinton is all but certain to capture the Democratic presidential nomination. Many of these strategists and party bigwigs — not all, but many — speak as though there is something inevitable about Mrs. Clinton ascending to the nomination.

A prominent Democratic operative, who asked not to be identified, told me yesterday, “I do think she's inevitable as the nominee, or pretty close to it. Put it this way: she's as strong a front-runner as any non-incumbent presidential candidate has been in modern history.”

Mrs. Clinton has not said publicly that she is running for president. But those who think she has an iron grip on the nomination make a strong case. First (and for many of the strategists, most important), she has tremendous financial resources to go along with her Hollywood-like celebrity.

In addition, the Democratic primaries tend to be dominated by groups that are very favorably disposed toward Mrs. Clinton and her husband. (You've heard of him. His name is Bill.) Think labor, pro-choice advocates, environmental organizations and groups that look out for the interests of blacks and other minorities.

As these groups see the Clinton Express leaving the station, there is every reason to believe there will be a rush to hop onboard.

And then there are the qualities Mrs. Clinton would bring to a presidential run. She's smart, hard-working, disciplined and aggressive. Said one observer: “When they start campaigning, people will see that she's a better talent than a lot of the other people who will be running in this field. She'll be formidable. She should not be underestimated.”

The senator also has a very big advantage that nearly everyone points to — Bill Clinton is the most gifted and best-connected Democratic strategist in the country.

So Mrs. Clinton's perceived pluses are enormous. But I wouldn't crown the candidate yet.

There are ominous stirrings in the tea leaves.

more excerpts below. But Mr. Herbert: you offer only faint criticism of the Hillary Express, I'm less sanguine about her chances. And you forget to mention the Rethuglican special tool: electronic voter fraud.

For all of our sakes, I pray to the all mighty FSM that Hillary doesn't even run. If she does, and loses, some thug like Jeb Bush will be running our country, and Snitchens will drink himself to death live on some Sunday morning political blab fest.

What a difference a day makes


All of the work is still pending, but the 10 straight days of cloudy skies and rain have finally broken. Partaking of the s div , taken via the Bridge of Smoke, utilizing the Val Salva maneuver, also seemed to help relieve the oppressive weight of days, especially after a sound sleep. Self medication is the best! the best, Jerry!

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Saying No to Bush's Yes Men

Looks as if Mr. Friedman is no longer a water carrier for the Bush regime. Not that he ever carried large buckets, but for way too long, Mr. Friedman gave the benefit of the doubt to The Dauphin. Well, maybe mid-sized buckets.

Thomas Friedman: Saying No to Bush's Yes Men

With the Bush team, ideology always trumps reality, loyalty always trumps expertise.

President Bush has slipped in one recent poll to a 29 percent approval rating. Frankly, I can't believe that. Those polls can't possibly be accurate. I mean, really, ask yourself: How could there still be 29 percent of the people who approve of this presidency?

Personally, I think the president can reshuffle his cabinet all he wants, but his poll ratings are not going to substantially recover — ever. Americans [especially columnists from the NYT] are slow to judgment about a president, very slow. And in times of war, in particular, they are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. But I think a lot of Americans [especially columnists from the NYT] in recent months have simply lost confidence in this administration's competence and honesty.

What has eaten away most at the support for this administration, I believe, has been the fact that time and time again, it has put politics and ideology ahead of the interests of the United States, and I think a lot of people are just sick of it. I know I sure am.

To me, the most baffling thing about the Bush presidency is this: If you had worked for so long to be president, wouldn't you want to staff your administration with the very best people you could find, especially in national security and especially in the area of intelligence, which has been the source of so much controversy — from 9/11 to Iraq?

Wouldn't that be your instinct? Well, not only did the president put the C.I.A. in the hands of a complete partisan hack named Porter Goss, but he then allowed Mr. Goss to appoint as the No. 3 man at the agency — the C.I.A.'s executive director — Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, whose previous position was chief of the C.I.A.'s logistics office in Germany, which provides its Middle East stations with supplies.

From McBeal to McDreamy

MoDo slept through another deadline, apparently watching television.

Maureen Dowd: From McBeal to McDreamy

As the administration has gotten more hypermasculine and martial, prime time is getting more feminine and seductive.

I hope the N.S.A. isn't tapping my phone at The Times, or tracing my calls, or whatever it calls its maniacal military-industrial civil liberties transgressions.

I'm not worried that it'll overhear meaty — or fishy — exchanges with sources at the Bush White House. I don't have any sources at the Bush White House. If I'm talking container problems, it's ice cream, not ports. If I mention Scooter, I'm merely making plans for a Saturday Vespa picnic.

Alas, I fret that Gen. Michael Hayden and Crazy Dick Cheney will not hear anything to make all their illegal snooping and Caine Mutiny-style hunting for leakers worthwhile.

Ummm, Ms. Dowd, I'm sure your phone calls were monitored, as were all journalists that the NSA could find.

Since I don't really watch television, I have no idea what Dowd goes on about, sorry. Look elsewhere

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Business blogs

moon over boeing

At first, I thought this was another “blogging has jumped the shark because even xxx is blogging” snowclone, another entry into the Great Blog Gold Rush of 2006, but upon reflection, it seems like Boeing does understand (now) the concept/spirit behind blogging. So, more power to them.

Six Apart - Movable Type News - “Go Out And Get Better” - Behind the Scenes of Boeing's Blogs

Q: How was Flight Test Journal different from Randy’s Journal?

Byron: Flight Test was more casual and Boeing learned how compelling content drives traffic, as it was the people behind the planes, blogging about what they do and explaining how they test fly their jets. Lots of this stuff has never been discussed publicly.

Q: Okay, so Randy’s Journal is kind of the classic senior executive/thought leadership blog, Flight Test Journal was more of a first-person event blog around a specific project, and then IDS blogs are more of an intranet deployment.

We actually were going to pitch the services of Gekko Blogs to a prospective client of ours, but so far this perspective client has been unreceptive to most of our initiatives. Usually, we target larger, Fortune 500 companies who have money to spend, and a protocol of how to spend it, but a friend of ours is a neighbor of the CEO of this particular 1000 employee company, and we thought it was worth a shot. Small companies can sometimes be more nimble, quick to decide on good ideas, but they can just as easily be trouble, with unrealistic expectations, and apt to waste everyone's time.

Still have Gekko in our arsenal of ideas for the next receptive ear.

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Sam's Wine pays $300,000 in settlement

Follow up to previous posts (Sam's Wine Investigation, and Two Minds re Sam's Wines), this suit got settled for basically a case of watery domestic, and Sam's agreeing to close for 3 days in a time of year when everyone is hung-over and swearing off the booze anyway. Well, some of us.

Sam's Wine pays $300,000 in settlement

After a 17-month stalemate over the state's allegations that Sam's Wine and Spirits was extorting money from liquor distributors and operating an illegal marketing firm and warehouse, the giant liquor store has agreed to settle the case, Illinois Liquor Control Commission officials said Monday.
Sam's agreed to pay a record $300,000 fine and shut down for the first three days of 2007, state regulators announced Monday.

If the Lincoln Park retailer pays the fine on time it would end a nearly two-year investigation into its business practices. If the case had gone to hearings on the citations, regulators had promised to seek revocation of the store's liquor license. Sam's has annual sales of about $60 million at the Lincoln Park location.

Sam's President Darryl Rosen said the family-owned company is relieved to move on.

“Our position up front was that we did nothing wrong and that's still our position,” Rosen said, pointing out that the settlement language allowed the company to stop short of admitting wrongdoing. It did acknowledge the state had evidence to substantiate some of its claims.

He said the decision to settle now was an admission that the ongoing legal battle was too taxing and distracting for the company, and the risks of losing the case were too great.
According to the state's initial complaint, Sam's set up a company called Skyline Marketing Co. to extort money from liquor distributors, requiring them to make payments to Skyline if they wanted to sell their products at the store.

The state alleges that Sam's illegally paid business expenses, including some employee salaries, out of the income Skyline received from distributors. Liquor laws prohibit retailers from having marketing relationships with liquor suppliers.

Rosen maintained Monday that Skyline, which maintained its office in the store's building, had no direct ties to Sam's.

Sam's has developed a national reputation among wine connoisseurs with the volume and variety of its stock.

Since the investigation began, the Rosen family has branched out with new stores in Downers Grove and Highland Park.

The settlement calls for the store to pay $150,000 by cashier's check immediately, and another check for the same amount by Dec. 29 of this year. If Sam's fails to pay the fine, the state will suspend the firm's license for another four days, according to the agreement. Rosen said that he had already paid the first $150,000 and would pay the rest when it is due in December.

If the rest of the fine is paid, Sam's will be closed for business Jan. 1-3, 2007, according to the agreement. Coming right after the holiday rush, Rosen said those three days are not big revenue days.

glad that's settled then.

(update: d'oh! Gaper's Block stole my bit by writing it first!)

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Stress is godlessness
yet without the freedom.

Trying not to devolve into primal scream therapy

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Wrigley Names New CMO

Sweet Success: Wrigley Names New CMO Wm. Wrigley Jr. tapped Martin Schlatter Monday to fill the newly created post of vp and CMO....He will be responsible for Wrigley's global marketing, developing worldwide marketing strategy and identifying new avenues for reaching consumers.


I need a freakin vacation

Js Peter Pan
West Chicagoland somewhere, taking photos for a client, passed this.

Lilac Ball DuPage
West Chicagoland.

Lilac Ball
Two versions of the same flawed photo.

Lilac Ball Infrared
Two versions of the same flawed photo, this one using faux infrared technique.

unfortunately, not going to happen anytime soon. Photos taken west of downtown.

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MisAdministration wiki

New wiki, purportedly to keep track of all the White House wrongdoing. Check it out, add some content, blog-roll it, email it to your Republican niece, bust out some dance moves, whatever.

WikiThePresidency People For the American Way believes that a healthy democracy is an informed democracy. We have created to establish a single place for the public to both acquire and share information about Executive Branch wrongdoings.

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Smart Money Magazine is stupid

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Smart Money proves only that it employs ignoramuses.

Apple Matters | If Your iPod Could Talk, The 10 Things It Wouldn't Say

Smart Money Magazine runs a regular column called 10 Things. The title of the column in the June 2006 issue is 10 Things Your iPod Won’t Tell You.

Jane Meyer convincingly debunks all of the 10 unproven assertions, and it was as easy as plugging an iPod into your computer. Noah Rothbaum ought to return whatever pittance he was paid to crank out 2000 words of unmitigated crap.

Some enterprising soul should make a wiki of ignorant assertions made about the iPod, especially the frequent claim that if you own an iPod, you must then buy all of your music from the iTunes store. Uhh, tell that to our iPods - which probably have 2-5 songs purchased via the iTunes store (the iTunes store's wares are too low res for my ears) mingled among the thousands saved as MP3 files.

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There is more than just a hint of corruption in the American medical community. The NEJM/Vioxx story is one more piece of evidence of the influence of money over medical policy. - How the New England Journal Missed Warning Signs on Vioxx

In August 2001, a Seattle pharmacist called a radio show on which Jeffrey Drazen, the top editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, was appearing. On the air, the pharmacist, Jennifer Hrachovec, begged Dr. Drazen to update an article in the journal that touted the benefits of the painkiller Vioxx while playing down its heart risks.

Dr. Hrachovec had been reviewing data on a Food and Drug Administration Web site indicating that patients in a Vioxx clinical trial had suffered more heart attacks than the journal article about the trial reported. “It bothers me there is more data from the trial than has ever been published and the New England Journal still hasn't published an editorial or any kind of update,” she said. “My concern is that doctors are still using this and exposing their patients to higher risks of heart problems and they just don't even know that that's the case.”

Pharmacist Jennifer Hrachovec challenged Jeffrey Drazen, editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, about the Vigor study in a call to a Seattle radio show Aug. 14, 2001. Dr. Drazen was dismissive. “We can't be in the business of policing every bit of data we put out,” he told Dr. Hrachovec

Below, excerpts.

Hrachovec: “With this study in particular, it bothers me that there is more data from the trial than has ever been published and the New England Journal still hasn't published an editorial or any kind of update to let readers and clinicians using this drug and giving it to patients who they think will benefit from a better side-effect profile. My concern is that doctors are still using this and exposing their patients to higher risks of heart problems and they just don't even know that that's the case.”
Drazen: “… We can't be in the business of policing every bit of data that we put out. We think that that's the role of people who know the field. And when they think that the field has advanced to the point where something which was true at the time it came out may no longer be true … having brought that evidence to our attention in the form of a manuscript or a letter, we can judge whether there's enough new information and put it out if we believe that the re-analysis is correct.”

Three years later, Merck & Co. pulled Vioxx from the market, citing higher risk of heart attacks and strokes in some patients. An estimated 20 million Americans took Vioxx, and more than 11,500 lawsuits have been filed against Merck alleging death and other damage from the drug.

here's the direct link to financial reasons for the NEJM's reluctance to say anything negative about Vioxx:

...Although the New England Journal wasn't on trial for anything, the deposition produced a number of damaging admissions by Dr. Curfman. He acknowledged that neither the peer reviewers nor journal editors challenged the authors' heart-attack theory about naproxen as it was presented in the article. “Yeah, we signed off on this,” he said, according to a transcript of his testimony. “And I have many times had second thoughts about having done that.”

Dr. Curfman also disclosed that the journal sold 929,400 reprints of the article -- more than one for every doctor in the country. Merck says it bought most of them. The reprints brought in between $697,000 and $836,000, using per-copy price estimates provided by the journal. If the New England Journal had questioned the article's findings earlier, the impact of the reprints likely would have been blunted because any corrections or official statements on a study must be included with the reprint. Merck says that after February 2001 it included a letter with the reprints telling doctors about the additional information submitted to the FDA.

Ah Texas, oh Texas.... - Amid Solid Growth in Employment, Texas Seems Poised to Outperform the National Economy Texas, the nation's third-largest state economy, created 293,000 net jobs last year, its highest total since 1998, according to an analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. The state's 3% job-growth rate was double that of the U.S. as a whole. And Dallas Fed economist Fiona Sigalla predicts the state will create jobs at a slightly faster pace this year than last.

I dislike making specious correlations, but I wonder, does “illegal” immigration have anything to do with these economic numbers? Texas is probably one of the states with the highest number of Mexican border-crossers.....hmmmmm.

But the low cost of living here is luring other companies to the state, economists say. Texas has no personal-income tax. From March 2000 though March 2006, as home prices doubled in some coastal areas, home prices rose just 31% in Texas. The median single-family home price today in Texas is just $139,000, compared with $217,000 for the U.S. as a whole.

The low cost of living could be a long-term advantage. Home-price appreciation in Texas is expected to outpace that of the rest of the country over the next couple of years. But Texas is unlikely to ever close the gap. Unlike California or the Northeast, Texas has few of the constraints that squeeze development and push up housing prices. Thousands of relatively affordable homes are being constructed each year on the fringes of the state's major cities.

“We basically have an unlimited supply of land,” said Mark Dotzour, chief economist of the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University. “And we have a population that doesn't mind getting in their big pickup truck and driving a long ways to work each day.”

Don't know about that assertion. Unlimited supply of land, in West Texas where everyone waves at everyone because the population density is so sparse.

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business briefs/leads. - J&J to Skip Network TV's 'Upfront' Market The annual network “upfront” ad-selling season officially kicks off today, but one of the country's biggest advertisers won't be buying -- at least not now.

Johnson & Johnson, the New Brunswick, N.J., health-care products maker, has informed the major TV networks that it is planning to sit out the annual selling bazaar, the time of year when TV networks secure ad commitments for about 80% of the coming fall season's primetime ad inventory. J&J spent almost $500 million on network-TV ads last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence, although not all of that is necessarily committed in the upfront market.

J&J's decision is a sign of how the balance of power in the TV industry has shifted to advertisers, who are less dependent on network television nowadays, partly because of the growing list of media options...

The company, whose well-known brands include Tylenol and Neutrogena, has told network executives that they want to do deals on their own timetable. ..

“What we found is, if we can synchronize our business-planning cycle [with buying media time] it will benefit the brand and that is what this is all about,” says Kim Kadlec, Johnson & Johnson's chief media officer.

Good, advertisers should spend more of their budget outside of television altogether.

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America the Fearful

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Bob Herbert is tired of the fear-mongering issued in constant stream from the White House:

Bob Herbert: America the Fearful

President Bush wants Americans to remain in a perpetual state of fear so they will not notice the many ways in which their fear is being manipulated.

In the dark days of the Depression, Franklin Roosevelt counseled Americans to avoid fear. George W. Bush is his polar opposite. The public's fear is this president's most potent political asset. Perhaps his only asset.

Mr. Bush wants ordinary Americans to remain in a perpetual state of fear — so terrified, in fact, that they will not object to the steady erosion of their rights and liberties, and will not notice the many ways in which their fear is being manipulated to feed an unconscionable expansion of presidential power.

If voters can be kept frightened enough of terrorism, they might even overlook the monumental incompetence of one of the worst administrations the nation has ever known.

Four marines drowned Thursday when their 60-ton tank rolled off a bridge and sank in a canal about 50 miles west of Baghdad. Three American soldiers in Iraq were killed by roadside bombs the same day. But those tragic and wholly unnecessary deaths were not the big news. The big news was the latest leak of yet another presidential power grab: the administration's collection of the telephone records of tens of millions of American citizens.

The Bush crowd, which gets together each morning to participate in a highly secret ritual of formalized ineptitude, is trying to get its creepy hands on all the telephone records of everybody in the entire country. It supposedly wants these records, which contain crucial documentation of calls for Chinese takeout in Terre Haute, Ind., and birthday greetings to Grandma in Talladega, Ala., to help in the search for Osama bin Laden.

Hey, the president has made it clear that when Al Qaeda is calling, he wants to be listening, and you never know where that lead may turn up.

The problem (besides the fact that the president has been as effective hunting bin Laden as Dick Cheney was in hunting quail) is that in its fearmongering and power-grabbing the Bush administration has trampled all over the Constitution, the democratic process and the hallowed American tradition of government checks and balances.

Elevator to the Gallows

No time for a review, so here are a couple screenshots for fun to test my new photo-sharing site (Tabblo)

NBA Press conferences

I'm not sure if Mike D'Antoni (aka Coach Pornstache) gives good post-game press conferences because he played/coached all those years in Italy, or just because of who he is, but as I mentioned last year, it so refreshing to hear light hearted banter which avoids cliche. D'Antoni does tend to cut off a rambling question, and just jump in on a sports writer mid-sentence - another way to avoid cliche. Avery Johnson of the Mavs gives good quote sometimes, as does Gregg Popovich.

Parenthetical note, I believe this is Mark Cuban's point too, but am not sure.

Actually, as a quasi-literate guy, this would be the one thing I'd really, earnestly change about the American sports scene. Too much ink/screen pixel space is devoted to filler phrases, and meaningless speculation about nonsensical issues and trades. If you follow any sport, you read the same descriptions after every game, hear the same announcer patter (I tend to play music in the background to drown out the worst offenders - who shall remain nameless at this time), etc. Perhaps related to the sports blog phenomena - in the last couple of years, there has been a steady rise of intelligent post-game analysis, not from the traditional sports media, but from the blogs (True Hoop, et al).

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Army Concerned About HBO War Film

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Geez, you'd think the fellas in charge of the military were squeamish or something. War is by very definition a gruesome, horrendous, bloody activity, which is why our mis-Administration are all such assholes for sending brave soldiers to fight somewhere that wasn't absolutely necessary.

Army Concerned About HBO War Film Army officials are worried that a documentary about a Baghdad hospital could negatively affect public opinion about the war.

Two senior Army officers, who were granted anonymity to publicly discuss the private deliberations of Army leaders, said the secretary of the Army, Francis J. Harvey, had declined to attend the screening by HBO, scheduled for Monday night at the National Museum of American History in Washington.

High-ranking military officers, including Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, who is the Army chief of staff, and Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, the surgeon general of the Army, had been expected to attend the screening but now will not, people involved in preparations for the event said.

The documentary, titled “Baghdad ER,” chronicles two months at the 86th Combat Support Hospital, where filmmakers were given broad access to follow doctors, nurses, medics and others as they treated soldiers wounded by roadside bombs and in combat. As one nurse, Specialist Saidet Lanier, says in the film: “This is hard-core, raw, uncut trauma. Day after day, every day.”

Richard L. Plepler, an executive vice president at HBO, said the screening would take place as planned on Monday, but he said he expected far fewer people to attend than the 300 or so that Army officials told him to expect after an initial screening at the Pentagon.

“We had discussed a larger degree of participation from senior members of the Army when we first visited the Pentagon in March,” Mr. Plepler said. “One retired general who was there told us the film 'captured the soul of the United States Army.' Therefore, we're a little surprised by the change in plans.”

Our civilian leadership continually attempt to purge any and all images of the brutality of war from our fragile little minds. No matter that this film sounds like a celebration of the heroism of actual soldiers, and of the medical staffs too.

The film, directed by Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill, will be shown May 21 on HBO.

HBO has been promoting the documentary as a tribute to the heroism of the soldiers and medical personnel who are shown working under severe stress. But the producers acknowledge that its harrowing scenes could be interpreted differently.

“Anything showing the grim realities of war is, in a sense, antiwar,” said Sheila Nevins, president of HBO's documentary and family unit. “In that way, the film is a sort of Rorschach test. You see in it what you bring to it.”

Baghdad ER should be screened before every meeting of the Iran Invasion task force (the Operation Iran Liberation team) in the White House Situation Room. Play it on the Big Board.

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Al Gore on SNL

from YouTube, Al Gore's State of the Union speech. If only...
[removed from YouTube by NBC because they suck]

funny because it hurts.

update: removed from YouTube, but now available at iFilm

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Metramarket 2006

Finally, a little movement on this long awaited project, first announced in 2001.

Parking Garage Crosses
Union Pacific parking garage, will be reconfigured.

Metra Market 2006

Starting next year, Metra commuters who pass through Ogilvie Transportation Center will be able to buy everything from fresh baked goods to produce at a French-style market that is one of two anchor tenants in the long-awaited MetraMarket project. Operating under the name French Market of Chicago, Bensidoun USA Inc., an international operator of fresh-food marketplaces, has been selected to open the 15,000-square-foot market in the northern end of Ogilvie Transportation Center, said the firm's executive vice president, Sebastien Bensidoun.

“It's going to be like we do in the European markets with people selling fish, meat, poultry, baked goods, cheese and all that kind of stuff,” he said.

Bensidoun said he is one of two tenants who have agreed to lease space in MetraMarket, a 200,000-square-foot restaurant, retail and parking development slated for the blocks bordered by Washington, Canal, Lake and Clinton Streets. U.S. Equities Realty expects to announce the tenants early next week, Robert Wislow, the firm's chairman and chief executive officer, told the Metra board Friday.
Under the plan, two blocks beneath Ogilvie's elevated train tracks would become 43,000 square feet of restaurants, 70,000 square feet of retailing and ground-level parking.

At Metra stop, fresh foods to spice up ride | Chicago Tribune

previous coverage

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Ah, Frank Rich. Can I buy you a drink?

new book coming out, btw.

Frank Rich: Will the Real Traitors Please Stand Up? It's the recklessness at the top of our government, not the press's exposure of it, that has truly aided the enemy, put American lives at risk and potentially sabotaged national security.

WHEN America panics, it goes hunting for scapegoats. But from Salem onward, we've more often than not ended up pillorying the innocent. Abe Rosenthal, the legendary Times editor who died last week, and his publisher, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, were denounced as treasonous in 1971 when they defied the Nixon administration to publish the Pentagon Papers, the secret government history of the Vietnam War. Today we know who the real traitors were: the officials who squandered American blood and treasure on an ill-considered war and then tried to cover up their lies and mistakes. It was precisely those lies and mistakes, of course, that were laid bare by the thousands of pages of classified Pentagon documents leaked to both The Times and The Washington Post.

This history is predictably repeating itself now that the public has turned on the war in Iraq. The administration's die-hard defenders are desperate to deflect blame for the fiasco, and, guess what, the traitors once again are The Times and The Post. This time the newspapers committed the crime of exposing warrantless spying on Americans by the National Security Agency (The Times) and the C.I.A.'s secret “black site” Eastern European prisons (The Post). Aping the Nixon template, the current White House tried to stop both papers from publishing and when that failed impugned their patriotism.

President Bush, himself a sometime leaker of intelligence, called the leaking of the N.S.A. surveillance program a “shameful act” that is “helping the enemy.” Porter Goss, who was then still C.I.A. director, piled on in February with a Times Op-Ed piece denouncing leakers for potentially risking American lives and compromising national security. When reporters at both papers were awarded Pulitzer Prizes last month, administration surrogates, led by bloviator in chief William Bennett, called for them to be charged under the 1917 Espionage Act.

We can see this charade for what it is: a Hail Mary pass by the leaders who bungled a war and want to change the subject to the journalists who caught them in the act. What really angers the White House and its defenders about both the Post and Times scoops are not the legal questions the stories raise about unregulated gulags and unconstitutional domestic snooping, but the unmasking of yet more administration failures in a war effort riddled with ineptitude. It's the recklessness at the top of our government, not the press's exposure of it, that has truly aided the enemy, put American lives at risk and potentially sabotaged national security. That's where the buck stops, and if there's to be a witch hunt for traitors, that's where it should begin.

“fair use” excerpts continue below.

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Two things about the Teleco-gate

First, if there is a lawsuit to join, we're joining. Or should I say, we're joining!!

SBC was our local phone company until we ditched them circa 2004, D had an AT&T cellphone up until this year, and now we both have Verizon cell phones, plus our long distance provider leases their lines from AT&T (so periodically we have to fight AT&T when they bill us directly, instead of our long distance company. Total scam, but that's a whine for another day). So, where do we sign up? We're pissed at the temerity of the Telecoms. D's analogy was: if a police officer pointed someone out and said, “Kill them”, and then you did, but got caught, who is in bigger trouble? You for being manipulated to break the law by its representative, or the representative? If the NSA had bothered to follow protocol, perhaps. Not in this case apparently.

Experts question legality of phone record collection | Chicago Tribune

The furor over the National Security Agency's collection of Americans' phone records intensified Friday, with one telecommunications giant slapped with a $5 billion damage suit for allegedly violating privacy laws and the former head of another firm saying through a lawyer that his company refused to participate because he thought the program was illegal.

and secondly, whenever TIA is brought up, and the answer is “closed session, please”, you know the program still alive.

The controversies involving the NSA are sure to complicate Senate confirmation hearings on Hayden's nomination as CIA director. Hayden may find himself fielding questions about whether the administration has reconstituted a heavily criticized massive data-collection effort known as Total Information Awareness that was once run by the Defense Department. It swept up billions of pieces of consumer and personal data and analyzed them in an attempt to detect patterns possibly linked to terrorism.

Following a public outcry over privacy concerns, the department said in 2003 it was dropping the program, which was an initiative of retired Navy Adm. John Poindexter, a central figure in the Reagan administration's Iran-contra scandal.

The existence of a second covert information-gathering program suggests the administration has reconstituted at least parts of the TIA program, said former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), a former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

At least parts of the TIA program have been revived at NSA, according to a Feb. 23 report in the National Journal. Earlier in February, Intelligence Committee member Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked Hayden if several of the TIA programs had been shifted to other intelligence agencies.

“Senator, I'd like to answer you in closed session,” Hayden replied.

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Screw DRM

SelfPortrait Scratching
Playing around with the Photo Booth options on my new laptop. More fun for me probably than for you.

Oh, title refers to this little message re: Andy Warhol's MCA exhibit

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Six Degrees of Bacon

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MoDo has more tidbits about the CIA and the mess that is Goss and Dusty Foggo's tenure.

Maureen Dowd: Six Degrees of Bacon: Porter Goss's departure as head of the C.I.A. has opened the window on a whole new level of incompetence, turf wars, corruption and wackiness.

I bet you're wondering how someone like Dusty Foggo, who had his C.I.A. badge deactivated yesterday because of his role in a scandal ripe with poker parties, Dominican cigars, prostitutes, Scotch, luxury suites, bribed congressmen, defense contracts and even a rumored Teutonic dominatrix, was ever chosen to run day-to-day C.I.A. operations at such a parlous moment in American history.

It's because of Bacon Guy.

That would be Michael Kostiw, a conservative darling who was Porter Goss's first choice to be the third-ranking official at the C.I.A. He was derailed in 2004 after fellow spooks leaked word to The Washington Post that Mr. Kostiw had left the agency under a hickory-smoked cloud two decades earlier, after being caught shoplifting a $2.13 package of bacon from a supermarket in Langley, Va., near C.I.A. headquarters.

Not the pork you usually associate with Washington.

Mr. Goss, W.'s absurd choice to lead our inept intelligence agency in the battle against Islamic terrorists, was so loony he wanted to put a man in charge of C.I.A. discipline who had to be disciplined for slipping chazerai into his pants, or wherever he put the package to bring home the bacon.

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I was not sure what mesothelioma even is, or why so many lawyers are looking for clients who have it.

Looks painful though:

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer. In mesothelioma, malignant cells are found in the sac lining of the chest (the pleura) or the abdomen (the peritoneum). The majority of people with mesothelioma have a history of jobs that exposed them to asbestos, an insulation material.

There are three primary types of malignant mesotheliomas:

Epithelioid. About 50% to 70% of mesotheliomas are of this type and have the best outlook for survival.
Sarcomatoid. Approximately 7% to 20% of cases are of this type.
Mixed/biphasic. From 20% to 35% of mesothelioma cases fall into this category.

probably get it from consuming too much high-fructose corn syrup. Or not:

The primary risk factor for developing mesothelioma is asbestos exposure. In the past, asbestos was used as a very effective type of insulation. The use of this material, however, has been declining since the link between asbestos and mesothelioma has become known. It is thought that when the fibers of asbestos are inhaled, some of them reach the ends of the small airways and penetrate into the pleural lining. There the fibers may directly harm mesothelial cells and eventually cause mesothelioma. If the fibers are swallowed, they can reach the abdominal cavity, where they can contribute to the formation of peritoneal mesothelioma.

Exposure to certain types of radiation as well as to a chemical related to asbestos known as zeolite has also been related to incidences of mesothelioma.

per boingboing:
Boing Boing: Most expensive Google ad keywords listed

This list of the highest-paying Google advertising keywords is exciting for its very dullness: if there's one thing that's become clear it's that in 2006, the most aggressive users of keyword advertising are asbestos lawyers, ambulance chasers, and mortgage brokers.

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Friday Photo Fun-o


From last week. Click to embiggen, natch.

So Many Possibilities So Many Possibilities
Rust formations are abstract art in my mind. In fact, frequently more interesting, and cheaper.

Graphic Arts Finishing Graphic Arts Finishing
Alleyway, somewhere in the city limits....

Shaving is for Suckers Shaving is for Suckers
This is the face of Too-Much-Sake at Japonais.

plenty of stubble missed. And, neck-ties are for suckers as well.

Transcended by Tea
Transcended by Tea
Green tea, especially.

Accidental flash, or something. Who even knows. Like the result nonetheless.

Tale of 4 Nuts
Tale of 4 Nuts
over-saturated and all

Bird Watching urban style
Bird Watching urban style
outside of Kabuki Japanese Restaurant, 2400 Clark St.

Work Safely guilt trip
Work Safely guilt trip
construction site sign

Peeking through her keyhole
Peeking through her keyhole
Doorway under construction, Lincoln Park.

Sunday Afternoon in the Park
Sunday Afternoon in the Park
Squeezed in a few glorious hours of lounge-in-the-sun time last Sunday.

Summer is a beautiful season, isn't it? Especially the fleeting variety found in the northern climes.

Bush: No laws apply to me

The Dauphin claims all is kosher.

Bush: No laws can remain unbroken

Millions of phone records reportedly sold to NSA The Bush administration Thursday reacted defensively to news that the secretive National Security Agency, which conducts electronic eavesdropping, had obtained millions of domestic phone records

Oh, so now they paid for these records? I hope it was more than $1,000 per call, because that is the going rate

1. It violates the Stored Communications Act. The Stored Communications Act, Section 2703(c), provides exactly five exceptions that would permit a phone company to disclose to the government the list of calls to or from a subscriber: (i) a warrant; (ii) a court order; (iii) the customer’s consent; (iv) for telemarketing enforcement; or (v) by “administrative subpoena.” The first four clearly don’t apply. As for administrative subpoenas, where a government agency asks for records without court approval, there is a simple answer – the NSA has no administrative subpoena authority, and it is the NSA that reportedly got the phone records.

2. The penalty for violating the Stored Communications Act is $1000 per individual violation. Section 2707 of the Stored Communications Act gives a private right of action to any telephone customer “aggrieved by any violation.” If the phone company acted with a “knowing or intentional state of mind,” then the customer wins actual harm, attorney’s fees, and “in no case shall a person entitled to recover receive less than the sum of $1,000.”

(The phone companies might say they didn’t “know” they were violating the law. But USA Today reports that Qwest’s lawyers knew about the legal risks, which are bright and clear in the statute book.)

3. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act doesn’t get the telcos off the hook. According to USA Today, the NSA did not go to the FISA court to get a court order. And Qwest is quoted as saying that the Attorney General would not certify that the request was lawful under FISA. So FISA provides no defense for the phone companies, either.

not to mention (from Glenn Greenwald, which you should definitely read if you haven't already):

...Two additional points worth making: (1) One of the disturbing aspects of the NSA warrantless eavesdropping program was that it was seen by many intelligence professionals as a radical departure from the agency's tradition of not turning its spying capabilities on the American public domestically. The program disclosed yesterday decimates that tradition by many magnitudes. This is a program where the NSA is collecting data on the exclusively domestic communications of Americans, communicating with one another, on U.S. soil -- exactly what the NSA was supposed to never do.

(2) The legal and constitutional issues, especially at first glance and without doing research, reading cases, etc., are complicated and, in the first instance, difficult to assess, at least for me. That was also obviously true for Qwest's lawyers, which is why they requested a court ruling and, when the administration refused, requested an advisory opinion from DoJ.

But not everyone is burdened by these difficulties. Magically, hordes of brilliant pro-Bush legal scholars have been able to determine instantaneously -- as in, within hours of the program's disclosure -- that the program is completely legal and constitutional (just like so many of them were able confidently to opine within hours of the disclosure of the warrantless eavesdropping program that it, too, was perfectly legal and constitutional). Having said that, there are some generally pro-Bush bloggers expressing serious skepticism over the legality and/or advisability of this program.

Laws are for suckers is what The Dauphin is saying.

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Shoe Leather and Tears

Not to pick on Mr. Friedman when he obviously is grieving, but what is the percentage of people in today's America who have only worked for two companies? Perhaps Mr. Friedman's willful obtuseness in certain business related matters has a cause after all.

Thomas Freidman: Shoe Leather and Tears I have worked for only two companies in my whole life, and the mentors who hired me at each place both just died.

I worked for 5 companies (at least) before I turned 21. I'd be willing to wager large sums that people in my generation who only work for only 2 companies their entire life is closer to zero than 1.

anyway, if you want to read a heartfelt obituary of Leon Daniel and A. M. Rosenthal, and of a semi-mythical newspaper age, read on. I could have a few snarky replies/retorts, but I'll keep them unsaid. Friedman does manage to get in a shot at Pajama's Media.

Damn I needed a drink anyway

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Three-tiered is just another word for rip-off, or maybe price-gouging, or at best, overly-inflated profit margins. - Court Ruling Could Cut Prices For Beer, Wine America's beer and wine tab may be about to shrink.

In a little-noticed ruling last month, a federal court in Seattle struck down key parts of the state's beer and wine distribution laws that the state acknowledged resulted in higher prices to consumers. The laws, which ban volume discounts and the purchase of beer and wine on credit, were challenged by bargain-basement chain Costco Wholesale Corp.

The ruling, which is being appealed, could spill over into the rest of the country because most states have provisions similar to Washington's.

The Costco case follows a decision last year by the U.S. Supreme Court that paved the way for some consumers to buy wine directly from winemakers. Taken together, the two cases could result in lower retail prices for beer and wine. They also could presage a big shift in the complex three-tiered system that has governed the sale of alcoholic beverages in most states since the 1933 repeal of Prohibition.

...If the Costco ruling is upheld, Costco and similar big-box retailers will benefit in a number of ways, most likely at the expense of middlemen. Not surprisingly, the ruling set off alarms in the beer and wine industries. “It's threatening to distributors,” says Carlos Laboy, an analyst for Bear Stearns who follows the beer industry.

Distributorships, many of them family-owned, have profited for generations under the protections afforded by three-tier systems. During the Costco trial, several beer distributors testified that their typical profit margins on beer were about 26%. If Costco prevails, those margins are almost certain to be squeezed.

Squeeze away, baby.

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Oh goody

some new places to drill off-shore. - House Panel Backs Offshore Natural-Gas Drilling
In a major shift reflecting higher energy costs, the House Appropriations Committee voted to lift a decades-old legislative ban on exploring for natural gas off the U.S. coast.

Restrictions on offshore oil exploration were left intact, and much of the Outer Continental Shelf will still be protected by separate executive orders until 2012. But the size of the 37-25 vote surprised both sides in the energy-versus-environment debate and represents a pronounced change for a major House panel long identified with the nearly 25-year-long drilling ban.

because truth be told, these new drilling locations don't seem to be really the panacea to the so-called energy crisis after all:

Nonetheless, the politics are perilous for coastal Republicans, and critics said the economic benefits are exaggerated since substantial natural-gas reserves are already open to drilling in unprotected offshore waters.

and lets throw in some anti-environment budget cuts because we obviously value energy company profits over clean air, water, soil, yadda yadda:

Opponents vowed that the fight will continue on the House floor and in the Senate, and environmentalists have opened a second front, questioning if the Interior Department has been collecting the full royalties owed on existing oil and gas leases. A separate amendment yesterday, for example, codifies rules for how much royalty relief can be provided to the companies and requires that Interior renegotiate agreements to ensure they comply.

The debate came as the committee approved a $25.9 billion budget bill, including funding for the Interior Department for the new fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. The measure restores about $412 million that the White House had proposed to cut, but it still reflects a steady decline in funds for clean-water and land-conservation programs.

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Bush opens mouth, lies

Oh, yeah, I believe the Dauphin. Especially after reading this tidbit about the Pentagon also collecting data on everything possible for our upcoming gulag. - Bush Defends NSA Eavesdropping Program

President Bush said the government does not troll the personal lives of Americans, but didn't directly address a newspaper report that the National Security Agency has gathered millions of Americans' phone records.

So in other words, don't believe a word of this non-denial denial.

...Congressional Republicans and Democrats demanded answers from the Bush administration Thursday after a report in USA Today said the NSA secretly collected records of ordinary Americans' phone calls to build a database of every call made within the country.

“It is our government, it's not one party's government. It's America's government. Those entrusted with great power have a duty to answer to Americans what they are doing,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. telephone companies began turning over records of tens of millions of their customers' phone calls to the NSA program shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said USA Today, citing anonymous sources it said had direct knowledge of the arrangement.

The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, said he would call the phone companies to appear before the panel “to find out exactly what is going on.”

The telephone companies on Thursday declined to comment on national security matters, and would say only that they are assisting government agencies in accordance with the law.

“We have been in full compliance with the law and we are committed to our customers' privacy,” said Bob Varettoni, a spokesman for Verizon.

The White House defended its overall eavesdropping program and said no domestic surveillance is conducted without court approval.

“The intelligence activities undertaken by the United States government are lawful, necessary and required to protect Americans from terrorist attacks,” said Dana Perino, the deputy White House press secretary, who added that appropriate members of Congress have been briefed on intelligence activities.

Mr. Leahy sounded incredulous about the latest report and railed against what he called a lack of congressional oversight. He argued that the media was doing the job of Congress.

“Are you telling me that tens of millions of Americans are involved with al Qaida?” Sen. Leahy asked. “These are tens of millions of Americans who are not suspected of anything ... Where does it stop?”

The Democrat, who at one point held up a copy of the newspaper, added: “Somebody ought to tell the truth and answer questions. They haven't. The press has done our work for us and we should be ashamed. Shame on us for being so far behind and being so willing to rubber stamp anything this administration does. We ought to fold our tents.”

The program doesn't involve listening to or taping the calls. Instead it documents who talks to whom in personal and business calls, whether local or long distance, by tracking which numbers are called, the newspaper said.

The NSA and the Office of National Intelligence Director didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

NSA is the same spy agency that conducts the controversial domestic eavesdropping program that has been acknowledged by President Bush. The president said last year that he authorized the NSA to listen, without warrants, to international phone calls involving Americans suspected of terrorist links.

The report came as the former NSA director, Gen. Michael Hayden -- Bush's choice to take over leadership of the CIA -- had been scheduled to visit lawmakers on Capitol Hill Thursday. However, the meetings with Republican Sens. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska were postponed at the request of the White House, said congressional aides in the two Senate offices.

The White House offered no reason for the postponement to the lawmakers. Other meetings with lawmakers were still planned.

Gen. Hayden already faced criticism because of the NSA's secret domestic eavesdropping program. As head of the NSA from March 1999 to April 2005, Mr. Hayden also would have overseen the call-tracking program.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat of California who has spoken favorably of the nomination, said the latest revelation “is also going to present a growing impediment to the confirmation of Gen. Hayden.”

The NSA wants the database of domestic call records to look for any patterns that might suggest terrorist activity, USA Today said.

Don Weber, a senior spokesman for the NSA, told the paper that the agency operates within the law, but wouldn't comment further on its operations.

One big telecommunications company, Qwest Communications International Inc., has refused to turn over records to the program, the newspaper said, because of privacy and legal concerns.

USA Today story here.

More details at TPM Muckraker, TalkLeft, TalkLeft again, CorrenteWire, MyDD, ThisModernWorld, The Huffington Post, and no doubt hundreds more. These are just the pages I've managed to read so far.

Can we spell the word, Impeachment, yet?

Wanted to post this last week, but my site was down. Add this disturbing Pentagom program to yesterday's revelation that the NSA is recording every single telephone conversation they can get their hands on, and it is enough to make us really, really perturbed. What sort of nation are we becoming anyway? I thought the Soviet Union was our enemy, not the template for us to follow! - Pentagon Steps Up Intelligence Efforts Inside U.S. Borders On March 19, 2005, about 200 mainly middle-aged peace marchers made their way through the streets of this city, stopping outside a Marine Corps recruiting center and a Federal Bureau of Investigation office to listen to speeches against the Iraq war. Close behind, police in unmarked cars followed them -- acting on a tip from the Pentagon.

For weeks prior to the demonstration, analysts at the Army's 902nd Military Intelligence Group in Fort Meade, Md., were downloading information from activist Web sites, intercepting emails and cross-referencing this with information in police databases.

The Army's conclusion, contained in an alert to Akron police: “Even though these demonstrations are advertised as 'peaceful,' they are assessed to present a potential force protection threat.”

The Akron protest and seven others monitored by the Army that month turned out to be nonviolent. Pentagon officials later issued an apology, admitting that some of the information in military databases shouldn't have been there. But they called that a minor slip in a critical program to protect Americans.

Army memo (PDF))


A.J. Liebling
Just Enough A.J. Liebling

Newspapers “People everywhere confuse what they read in newspapers with news.”

just expand the quote to include the television blather-heads, and you've got a mantra for modern times.


Apple cellphone

Must be something to this oft-repeated rumor if Walt Mossberg mentions it in passing.

Walt Mossberg: - Personal Technology For many years, there have been two models of how to make computers and other digital devices. One is the component model, championed by Microsoft. The other is the end-to-end model, championed by Apple.

In the component model, many companies make hardware and software that run on a standard platform, creating inexpensive commodity devices that don't always work perfectly together, but get the job done. In the end-to-end model, one company designs both the hardware and software, which work smoothly together, but the products cost more and limit choice.

In the first war between these models, the war for dominance of the personal-computer market, Microsoft's approach won decisively. Aided by efficient assemblers like Dell, and by corporate IT departments employed to integrate the components, Microsoft's component-based Windows platform crushed Apple's end-to-end Macintosh platform.

But in the post-PC era we're in today, where the focus is on things like music players, game consoles and cellphones, the end-to-end model is the early winner. Tightly linking hardware, software and Web services propelled Apple to a huge success with its iPod. Microsoft, meanwhile, has struggled to make its component model work on these devices and, in a telling sign, is using the Apple end-to-end model itself in its Xbox game-console business. Now, Apple is working on other projects built on the same end-to-end model as the iPod: a media-playing cellphone and a home-media hub.

Hmmm, an Apple cellphone? Maybe why Steve Jobs has publicly criticized the telecom industry?
(from Ars Technica):

As you know from our limited success at getting our computers into the Fortune 500, Apple's never been very good at going through corporate orifices in order to get at the end users. And if we can't do it with 500 companies, you can imagine it's even harder when there are only four.“

Couldn't be any less annoying that Verizon's Bluetooth lockout.

Mossberg continues:

Schmap - Photo Inclusion Chicago

I've received the second 'notification' that photos of mine are being used by a third party, namely someone called Schmap.

Schmap - Photo Inclusion
Schmap Chicago Guide Photo Inclusion Your photo shown below have been selected for inclusion in our newly released Schmap Chicago Guide.

Who are these people? How come they don't offer to pay me? Are they selling this guide? No, I guess not. Do they plan to?

As previously blathered about, I don't currently have a working Windows machine to download this application/guide, so can't look for myself. Is it a spyware vehicle? Am I being overly suspicious? My brother's smiling mug is included at the Lithuanian Museum - do they have to credit him?

Here is a true test of my fair use loyalty. Upon reflection, I don't mind my photos being used for a freeware Chicago guide, if it is in no way malware. Of the photos chosen, only 2-3 do I really like enough to print out 'sellable' size, and odds are that I would never sell these anyway.

If these photos lead to someone having a better time in Chicago, cool. I'm happy with it.

I guess someone liked these photos. I'm just not yet used to Creative Commons, I suppose.

(Schmap selected photos below)

Domestic violence


I happened to witness the aftermath of this incident: 2 police officers escorting a woman with a big shiner out of my office's elevator, helping her carry her possessions.

According to the ChicagoCrime map, there was an arrest involved.
Case no. HM325562 |

Domestic Violence
(click for larger version)

We didn't recognize the woman (photo taken from across the street, and thus horribly pixelated, but you can still see her shiner), but apparently she was living with a resident of the building. Now that I know this guy is a woman-beater, do I nod hello at him anymore? Or spit in his eye? So foreign to my upbringing - I've been in plenty of heated arguments with various girlfriends/ex-girlfriends over the years, but never even once considered punching one in the face.

Hope I don't get sued....

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Not sure why anyone even bothers to read the Instant Pudendum, but I guess someone has to waste their time. Luckily Sean at Cosmic Variance is up to the task....

...But as a Physics Blog, we feel it’s our duty here to point out the exciting scientific consequences that our more humanistical friends have thus far missed: the possibility that Prof. Reynolds has discovered a new state of wrongness. You see, wrongness is a fermionic property. That is to say, a statement is either wrong or it is not wrong; you can’t pile on the wrongness to make a condensate of wrong. By the conventional rules, n declarative statements can be wrong at most n times. By the Pauli exclusion principle, you just can’t be more wrong than that!

I count four declarative statements in Instapundit’s two sentences. (“… prices would plummet,” “dictators would be broke,” “poor nations would benefit,” “we’d be called imperialist oppressors.”) Now let’s count how many time he is wrong.

more: The wrongness singularity | Cosmic Variance

Can I get an Amen?

The Colbert-Press Club moment was pretty funny, even if the Helen Thomas bit dragged a tad long. What is much more interesting is how much ink/screen pixel space has been devoted to Colbert's satire since.

Gene Lyons: Northwest Arkansas' News Source
In my experience, there’s no bigger bunch of crybabies in American public life than the fops and courtiers of our Washington press corps.

...Too bitter ? It’s a matter of taste. Instead of trying to amuse his live audience, Colbert used them as a collective straight man. A TV performer, he pitched his act to the C-SPAN cameras. (Google has bought the rights. You can watch on your computer and decide.)

here is just the Colbert piece, if you are one of the three folks on this planet who has not seen it yet.

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Burnout and fade away

I don't get it? How did he know?

village voice > Free Will Astrology by Rob Brezsny ARIES (March 21–April 19): “Any idiot can face a crisis,” said Russian writer Anton Chekhov. “It is the day-to-day living that wears you out.” Your main assignment in the coming weeks, Aries, will be to use your ingenuity to keep from being burned out by the subtle and minor trials of the daily grind. It won't be as dramatic a challenge as some of the epic travails you dealt with in March, but in my opinion it will be just as heroic.

I better grind me up some coffee, right quick-like!

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Time Fades Away


Time Fades Away

Pasta-damn, love me some internets. Yesterday was official Neil Young day, which reminded me of the out-of-print near-masterpiece, Time Fades Away. A friend was able to locate 7 of the 8 tracks, via various sundry sources, including some high resolution files found here

This is a live record that only came out on vinyl and is from the tour that Neil Young did right after Harvest. Everyone came to the shows wanting to hear the hits like “Harvest”, “Old Man” and prolly even the stinker “Every Man Needs A Maid” but just to be a dick he didn't play any songs off Harvest on that whole tour. Neil's punk and he's psyched to sing about Canada on this record.


Neil Young
Anyway, the story goes that soon after his back got better after he cracked his spine around 1972, Neil took to the road again, and the original plan was to take both the Stray Gators, with whom he'd recorded Harvest, and Crazy Horse. Except that Crazy Horse guitarist, Danny Whitten, was way too bad on heroin - so Neil had to fire him in the midst of the rehearsing, and Danny died of an overdose soon after. This certainly set a hell of a mood for the tour.

But the tour itself was actually good - loads of material, both old and new, both shitty and genius, a whole bunch of backing people, and even Crosby and Nash joining in sometimes and helping Neil on the harmonies (you can hear both of them propping him up on 'Last Dance' here). The reception was warm enough at first, but it was pretty hard for Mr Young to find himself in the position of a hit-churling superstar which he had accidentally transformed himself into with Harvest. Eventually the tour ended in a drunken, disillusioned mess, and when the dust cleared, people found themselves face to face with this album: nothing like the clean, glossy, mainstreamish (and boring) perfection of Harvest, just a bunch of poorly-recorded, not-too-carefully-played songs, none of which anybody'd heard before: Young's anti-commercial “antidote” to the overt commercialism of the previous album.

update: my friend found the eighth track too (albeit low resolution)


Father and Son Reunion

MoDo should know, as she's been following the Dad and the Dauphin for quite some time.

Maureen Dowd: Father and Son Reunion
After trying not to emulate his father's presidency in any way, President Bush emulated it in the worst possible way. One Bush did it by staying out of Baghdad, raising taxes and driving down the deficit.

The other Bush did it by going into Baghdad, cutting taxes and driving up the deficit.

But, perhaps inevitably, the father and son ended up in an Oedipal tango at the same spot: 31 percent.

After trying not to emulate his father's presidency in any way, W. emulated it in the worst possible way. He came out of a conflict with Saddam as a towering figure with soaring approval ratings and ended up as a shrunken figure with scalding approval ratings.

In the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll, W.'s stunning implosion landed him in a tie with his dad's low point in July 1992, four months before the public traded in Poppy for Bill Clinton. As Adam Nagourney and Megan Thee noted in their Times article today, that is the lowest approval rating for any president in the last half-century, other than Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter.

Even Hillary Clinton has a more favorable rating than W. — 34 percent. The president can draw some solace: John Kerry's at 26 and Al Gore's at 28 percent. And Dick Cheney is in the bunker at 20.

New tunes old tunes


Both of these albums sound interesting. Neil Young, politics aside, has long been a favorite of mine, even though his last few records have been bleh. Young has never really been much of a political songwriter either, so Living With War seems to have sprung from an honestly emotional, visceral reaction to our misadventures in Iraq. The Guardian UK has more, but I'm already convinced this album will rock after reading this:

...Young's gargantuan 1991 tour which took place in the wake of George Bush Snr's war against Iraq. As the ear-splitting music, designed to mimic the sound of battle, drew to its climax, they turned around to find the members of New York's leading avant-garde rock group, Sonic Youth, sitting behind them, similarly open-mouthed.

Living with War
Living with War


We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions

We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions

Personally never been a member of the Springsteen cult, I can appreciate that plenty of folks like his style of Stax-record-filtered AOR, it just never resonated for me. However, Eric Zorn's passionate review intrigued me just enough to make an exception, and purchase one Springsteen album. If it sucks, I'm blaming Zorn.

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Hail Lord Satan

Maybe only funny because I'm so sleep deprived and adrenaline-depleted, but someone from Tehran searched for the phrase, “Lord Satan”, and found this photo of The Dauphin and his driftless daughter (Jenna/not-Jenna). I'm not sure what damoon dead means exactly in his comment, but I get the gist.

Continent : Asia

Country : Iran, Islamic Republic of

State/Region : Tehran

City : Tehran

Lat/Long : 35.6719, 51.4244

Search Engine

Search Words lord satan

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Train station ennui

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Waiting for the subway to arrive. Moments drag and the hours jerk. How many sequential 70 hour weeks can a body endure? We're about to find out.

Waiting for the train
Subject turned his face away just as I snapped. Oh well. Still liked his jacket, and the fingers on the train almost were captured correctly

Train ennui Lisa Goldberg
Train ennui. Waiting for the subway, surprisingly urine free.

Station hopping shuffle
Station hopping shuffle

half-assed montage of approaching Red Line subway to Howard.

a quickr pickr post

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New Laptop


The budgetary gods and my patron saint of linguini were in happy confluence in the month of May, and thus favored me with a brand spanking new laptop. Haven't used it enough to comment on performance, but am happy to barter my old, well-loved, yet battered Titanium G4 laptop, running at 400 MgHz for this 17 inch screen beauty, running at 2.16 GHz.

Macbook Specs

Lessee, old hard drive 10 gig, new hard drive 120 gig. Advantage: new!
Old chip speed: 400 MgHz, new chip speed 2.16 GHz. Advantage: new!
Old RAM quantity: 384 Megs, new RAM quantity: 2 Gigs. Advantage: new!
blah blah blah, you get the point. Yayyyyy for new.

I even plan on installing Windows XP (shudder) aka BootCamp, so we can run our GIS software on the road, and for clients/prospects. I wonder - does this mean I have to worry about virus protection and spyware and all that crap now? Bleh. Oh well, won't be running much in all probability.

Old meet New
Old laptop being drained of data, to fill the new laptop. Painless process that took about 15 minutes from start to finish. Much easier than re-entering/installing all my old settings/software.

G4 TiBook 400
Old laptop (aka Planxty) has served well. Soon to be bartered to a friend for goods and services, or whatever I can get.

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Best Buy Improv


Even the premise of this 'event' cracks me up. Apparently, the muddled confusion worked as planned.

Improv Everywhere Mission: Best Buy

Agent Slavinsky wrote in to suggest I get either a large group of people in blue polo shirts and khakis to enter a Best Buy or a group in red polo shirts and khakis to enter a Target. Wearing clothing almost identical to the store's uniform, the agents would not claim to work at the store but would be friendly and helpful if anyone had a question.

I've been to Best Buy a few times, and I'm with this lady:

A little while later, an older woman with a handful of products walked past me at one point muttering to herself, “Everyone in this goddamned store is wearing a blue shirt and nobody knows a thing!”

Multiple tales, complete with video and photos, found here

I love the legitimate theatre /Homer Simpson voice.

Department misleading headlines


so sorry, but neanderthal-esque dudes sitting around discussing high-fives does not equal “Thinking Man's Beer”.

Miller Lite: The Thinking Man's Beer Miller Lite this week began rolling out television spots from Crispin Porter + Bogusky.

The effort abandons the innuendo and machismo of the beer-commercial genre for a slightly more thoughtful (if self-consciously low-brow) approach.

In the ads, men sit around a table and discuss manly issues, such as how long to wait before dating a friend's ex-girlfriend and if the high-five is still cool.

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Apple beats Apple

decision pending appeal, of course. - Judge Rules Apple Computer May Use Apple Logo on iTunes LONDON -- Apple Computer Inc. is entitled to use the apple logo on its iTunes Music Store, a judge ruled Monday, rejecting a suit filed by Apple Corps Ltd., the guardian of The Beatles' commercial interests.

Apple Corps, which contended that the U.S. company had broken a 1991 agreement in which each agreed not to enter into the other's field of business, said it would appeal.

Judge Edward Mann ruled that Apple Computer used the fruit logo in association with the store, not the music, and thus did not breach the agreement.

“I conclude that the use of the apple logo ... does not suggest a relevant connection with the creative work,” Mr. Mann said in his written judgment. “I think that the use of the apple logo is a fair and reasonable use of the mark in connection with the service, which does not go further and unfairly or unreasonably suggest an additional association with the creative works themselves.”

...In his brief statement, Mr. Jobs said he hoped the ruling would help rectify that situation: ``We have always loved the Beatles, and hopefully we can now work together to get them on the iTunes Music Store.''

Lawyers for Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple Computer had argued that it was conducting its business legally and that music lovers are smart enough to tell the difference between the logos. Apple Corps uses a shiny green apple as its logo, while Apple Computer has a cartoon-like apple with a neat bite taken out.

I guess the judge in this case is not a moron in a hurry.

Publishers whine:

Some Publishers of Scholarly Journals Dislike Bill to Require Online Access to Articles

A proposed law that requires taxpayer-financed research to be available online could endanger the frail business of scholarly publishing.
...“Not everybody has a library next door. I don't mean to be flippant about it, but this gives access to anybody,” said Donald Stewart, a spokesman for Senator Cornyn. “The genesis of this was his interest in open government and finding ways to reform our Freedom of Information laws and taxpayer access to federally funded work.”

so, don't take taxpayer funding then. Even though this is a bill proposed by Whiney Joe (Lieberman - R/D) and the idiot John Cornyn (R), the proposed change does make sense, to this taxpayer anyway.


Who's Crazy Now?

I'm not sure why exactly Krugman says, 'disturbing large role' of conspiracy theories (like the Diebold snafu, et al), instead the phrase seems more a tool of dismissal used by the media and their favorite conservatives (Rethugs and Democrats alike) against uncomfortable questions. Krugman, being an actual columnist, and not an internet conspiracy monger/web-zine author, of course makes the point better.

Paul Krugman: Who's Crazy Now?

It would be an abuse of the English language to call the claim that the administration misled us into war a conspiracy theory.

Some people say that bizarre conspiracy theories play a disturbingly large role in current American political discourse. And they're right.

For example, many conservative politicians and pundits seem to agree with James Inhofe, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, who has declared that “man-made global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.”

Of more immediate political relevance is the claim that the reason we hear mainly bad news from Iraq is that the media, for political reasons, are conspiring to suppress the good news. As Bill O'Reilly put it a few months ago, “a good part of the American media wants to undermine the Bush administration.”

But these examples, of course, aren't what people are usually referring to when they denounce crazy conspiracy theories. For the last few years, the term “conspiracy theory” has been used primarily to belittle critics of the Bush administration — in particular, anyone suggesting that the Bush administration used 9/11 as an excuse to fight an unrelated war in Iraq.

Now here's the thing: suppose that we didn't have abundant evidence that senior officials in the Bush administration wanted a war, cherry-picked intelligence to make a case for that war, and in some cases suppressed inconvenient evidence contradicting that case. Even so, it would be an abuse of the English language to call the claim that the administration misled us into war a conspiracy theory.

A conspiracy theory, says Wikipedia, “attempts to explain the cause of an event as a secret, and often deceptive, plot by a covert alliance.” Claims that global warming is a hoax and that the liberal media are suppressing the good news from Iraq meet that definition. In each case, to accept the claim you have to believe that people working for many different organizations — scientists at universities and research facilities around the world, reporters for dozens of different news organizations — are secretly coordinating their actions.

But the administration officials who told us that Saddam had an active nuclear program and insinuated that he was responsible for 9/11 weren't part of a covert alliance; they all worked for President Bush. The claim that these officials hyped the case for war isn't a conspiracy theory; it's simply an assertion that people in a position of power abused that position. And that assertion only seems wildly implausible if you take it as axiomatic that Mr. Bush and those around him wouldn't do such a thing.

The truth is that many of the people who throw around terms like “loopy conspiracy theories” are lazy bullies who, as Zachary Roth put it on CJR Daily, The Columbia Journalism Review's Web site, want to “confer instant illegitimacy on any argument with which they disagree.” Instead of facing up to hard questions, they try to suggest that anyone who asks those questions is crazy.

Television vs viewers


As proud, happy long-time owners of a TiVo, we read with interest:

Digital Domain: Someone Has to Pay for TV. But Who? And How?

The right to fast-forward past those commercials may be under attack.
... a new kind of television set and digital video recorder recently filed by a unit of Royal Philips Electronics at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The design appears to threaten the inalienable right to channel-surf during commercials or fast-forward through ads in programs you've taped.

A second, calmer reading of the patent application revealed that the proposed design would uphold the right to avoid commercials, but only for those who paid a fee. Those disinclined to pay would be prevented from changing channels during commercials. If the viewer tried to circumvent the system by recording the program and skipping the ads during playback, the new, improved recorder would detect when a commercial segment was being displayed and disable the fast-forward button for the duration.

As a business proposition, the concept appears dead on arrival: what consumer would voluntarily buy a television designed to charge fees for using it? data collected by TiVo, which has 4.4 million subscribers. Davina Kent, a TiVo vice president, said that when its customers watch recorded programs, they skip 70 percent of the commercials.

Of course, 70 percent of commercials are shown over, over, and over until everyone knows exactly what will happen.

Television content producers and network executives have contempt for their audience:

The television industry has not figured out how best to respond. Four years ago, Jamie Kellner, then head of the Turner Broadcasting System, remarked in an interview in CableWorld magazine that viewers who used DVR's to fast-forward past commercials were committing “theft,” then a moment later described it as “stealing the programming.” He did allow trips to the bathroom as a noncriminal exemption.

So, are we to expect arm restraints, forcing viewers to watch that damn, inane Chevrolet commercial again? How about RFID chips implanted in our foreheads, so the television only will play when our faces are pointed in rapt attention towards the glass teat? In the pre-TiVo days: did nobody wash dishes or chop vegetables while the television played in the background? Of course, we all did, and still do.

James Boyle, a law professor at Duke University, said that broadcasters offer a program knowing that only a fraction of the audience watches the commercials. Advertisers, he added, buy nothing more than “an option on a probability,” and the viewer is no more obligated to watch every commercial than a driver is obligated to read every billboard.

Exactly. If my options were: sit riveted in direct line of sight of a ultra-modern, anti-channel-surfing television, or read a book; the book wins every time.

The trickiest legal issue posed by DVR's is not ad-skipping, but something even more basic: the right to freely make a copy of a program for personal use in the first place. My assertion of an inalienable right to fast-forward through commercials would be rendered moot if the creators of the program that I am racing to rejoin were permitted to fully exercise the protections of copyright and impose control over the copying of their creative work.

The courts uphold “fair use” only when it doesn't harm the commercial value of the copyrighted work. At the time the suit was brought, skipping ads during playback on a clunky tape machine was hardly worth the considerable trouble. At the trial, survey data showed that only about 25 percent of recorded ads were skipped. In the face of testimony by Fred Rogers of “Mister Rogers' Neighborhood” on PBS, who welcomed home copying of his program, the movie studios that brought the lawsuit failed to convince the judge that VCR copying of televised movies was hurting their business.

WOULD indisputable evidence that DVR's facilitated ad-skipping make a difference if the Sony case were decided today? Paul Goldstein, a professor at Stanford Law School, thinks that it might. “If you were working with a clean slate, and everything was the same except for the ad-skipping rate — that's a compelling fact that could have made a difference,” he said.

Randal C. Picker, a law professor of the University of Chicago, pointed to the commercial availability of network programs at places like iTunes as another enormously important change to be considered by the court if a case like Sony were litigated today.

How to pay for free television is the overarching but unanswered question, Professor Picker said. Speaking as a viewer, he said: “I want the other guy to watch advertising. But we can't all not watch.”

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It's Too Late for 'United 93'

Umm, we hadn't really planned on seeing this movie anyway. Based on prior Hollywood schlock such as DC 9/11: Time of Crisis, we would probably become annoyed at all the half-truths and convenient fictions that populate this movie. According to Frank Rich, it depends how you view it, depends upon what your expectations for the film is. We'll probably still wait for the book. Err, something.

United 93

United 93

Frank Rich: Too Soon? It's Too Late for 'United 93'

“United 93” may in time look as escapist as the Robin Williams vehicle that outgrossed it last weekend, “RV.”

DON'T feel guilty if you, like most Americans, have not run or even walked to see “United 93.” The movie that has been almost unanimously acclaimed as a rite of patriotism second only to singing the national anthem in English is clinical to the point of absurdity: it reduces the doomed and brave Americans on board to nameless stick figures with less personality than the passengers in “Airport.” Rather than deepening our knowledge of them or their heroism, the movie caps an hour of air-controller nail-biting with a tasteful re-enactment of the grisly end.

But it's not a total waste. The debate that preceded the film's arrival actually does tell us something about the war on terror. The two irrelevant questions that were asked over and over — Does “United 93” exploit the tragedy? Was it made too soon? — reveal just how adrift we are from reality as we head toward the fifth anniversary of the attacks.

The answer to the first question is yes, of course “United 93” exploits 9/11. It's a Hollywood entertainment marketed to make a profit, with a smoking World Trade Center on its poster as a gratuitous selling tool and a trailer cunningly deployed to drum up pre-premiere controversy (a k a publicity) by ambushing Manhattan audiences. The project's unappetizing commercialism is not mitigated by Universal Pictures' donation of 10 percent of the opening weekend's so-so proceeds to a memorial at the site of the crash in Shanksville, Pa. Roughly 50 times that sum is needed to build the memorial (and its cost is peanuts next to the planned $1 billion extravaganza in New York).

Still, a movie that exploits 9/11 is business as usual. This is America, for heaven's sake. “United 93” is merely the latest in a long line of such products and relatively restrained at that. This film doesn't use documentary images of shrouded remains being borne from ground zero, as the Bush-Cheney campaign ads did two years ago. And it isn't cheesy like the first fictional 9/11 movie, Showtime's “DC 9/11: Time of Crisis,” in 2003. That dog, produced with White House cooperation and larded with twin-tower money shots, starred Timothy Bottoms as a derring-do President Bush given to pronouncements like “If some tinhorn terrorist wants me, tell him to come get me!” It's amazing that it hasn't found an honored place beside “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” as a campy midnight perennial.

A Taste of His Own Medicine

John Tierney discusses everyone's favorite hypocrite: the Vulgar Pigboy.

John Tierney: A Taste of His Own Medicine Now that Rush Limbaugh has managed to keep himself out of prison, the punishment he once advocated for drug abusers, let me suggest a new cause for him: speaking out for people who can handle their OxyContin.

Like Limbaugh, Richard Paey suffers from back pain, which in his case is so severe that he's confined to a wheelchair. Also like Limbaugh, he was accused of illegally obtaining large quantities of painkillers. Although there was no evidence that either man sold drugs illegally, the authorities in Florida zealously pursued each of them for years.

Unlike Limbaugh, Paey went to prison. Now 47 years old, he's serving the third year of a 25-year term. His wife told me that when he heard how Limbaugh settled his case last week — by agreeing to pay $30,000 and submit to drug tests — Paey offered a simple explanation: “The wealthy and influential go to rehab, while the poor and powerless go to prison.”

He has a point, although I don't think that's the crucial distinction between the cases. Paey stood up for his belief that patients in pain should be able to get the medicine they need. Limbaugh so far hasn't stood up for any consistent principle except his right to stay out of jail.

Poker, Hookers and Spooks


Anytime the director of the CIA is mentioned in the same sentence as sex parties, gambling and wild (defiantly non-Christian) parties, maybe even involving male prostitutes, it would be very surprising indeed if he didn't have the urge to 'spend more time with his family', right-quick-like.

MoDo has more:
Maureen Dowd: Poker, Hookers and Spooks

So much news was popping out all over Washington yesterday, it was hard to decide which way to look.

I felt I had no choice but to go with Dusty Foggo, Top Spook.

There was also the story of a Kennedy cover-up, moonlight car accident and drug abuse. Been there, done that.

And the story of a top U.S. official stuck in the cold war taunting the Russian bear. Been there, done that.

And the story of a delusional secretary of defense being confronted in public for lying about an unpopular war producing a steady stream of body bags. Been there, done that.

But Dusty Foggo? That's a name for a spy that tops Valerie Plame, or even Valerie Flame.

And when you add Dusty to Duke, you've really got something. Dusty was handpicked by Porter Goss in late 2004 to be the No. 3 C.I.A. official, astonishing many agency veterans, according to Newsweek.

Dusty turns out to be a friend of a defense contractor implicated in the federal corruption investigation of the imprisoned Randy “Duke” Cunningham, a former G.O.P. congressman. The contractor, Brent Wilkes, is now entangled in allegations of louche and lewd behavior involving limos, hookers, a poker player with a missing digit from the C.I.A. nicknamed “Nine Fingers,” and Watergate hospitality suites where more was offered than just Scotch and pretzels.

Been to the Watergate, haven't done that.

Yesterday, Porter Goss lost the job he never should have had in the first place. After John Negroponte gave Mr. Goss the ax, W. went biking in Beltsville, Md.

Slate Sucks

If you needed any additional confirmation, read about the little dust up between Snitchens, Juan Cole, and Jacob Weisberg. Slate doesn't believe in journalistic ethics, if it ever did. Too bad Doonesbury hosts his comic there.

Informed Comment Cole/Weisberg Correspondence on Hitchens

Further backstory here

Hitchens the Hacker; And, Hitchens the Orientalist And, “We don't Want Your Stinking War!

Christopher Hitchens owes me a big apology.


David Byrne wonders about fair use

I hate the whole concept of copyright-in-perpetuity and litigation between corporate entities to protect these copyrights-in-perpetuity, to be honest.

David Byrne Journal: 5.4.06: You Belong To Me ... Would I owe the photographer? The couple? Neither? What if I made a fictional film and created a scene that recreated this tableau? Which happens all the time — DPs and directors are often “inspired” by stills and paintings.

Some of this falls under “fair use”. You are allowed, within limits, to quote things and images of people that are relevant to your “discussion” — it expands and clarifies your own work. It helps the work resonate in a deeper way. A work of art, especially given that they are unique and not mass produced, is a kind of discussion too, one might argue, so the same rules apply. A CD cover, T-shirt, poster, ad for a bank or fashion photo is not the same kind of discussion.

Robert Rauschenberg, contemporary of Warhol, eventually decided to use only his own photos in his work after he was sued for clipping out some news photos and “transferring” them to canvas as part of his hybrid paintings. These photos were considerably altered, usually degraded in the process, but it seems it was still a problem. Again, the law changes what people create.

Of course, I've never sold anything that I've made, yet, even though plenty of my images (photos, paintings, whatevers) are sprinkled around the web and in people's houses. But, truth be told, I think we, as a society, are limiting what future artists can create with our insistence upon copyright above all other rights.

David Byrne has more to say on the topic

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Our Sick Society

Personally, we think high-fructose corn syrup is part of the problem with America's health. We keep hearing of children who have diabetes. Way, way too many incidences of early onset diabetes, there have to be other factors besides genetic bad luck. I haven't yet read this book, but it is on my stack.

Anyway, Krugman discusses our national ill health, without mentioning diet.Paul Krugman: Our Sick Society

A new study offers strong evidence that there's something about American society that makes us sicker than we should be.

Is being an American bad for your health? That's the apparent implication of a study just published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

It's not news that something is very wrong with the state of America's health. International comparisons show that the United States has achieved a sort of inverse miracle: we spend much more per person on health care than any other nation, yet we have lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality than Canada, Japan and most of Europe.

But it isn't clear exactly what causes this stunningly poor performance. How much of America's poor health is the result of our failure, unique among wealthy nations, to guarantee health insurance to all? How much is the result of racial and class divisions? How much is the result of other aspects of the American way of life?

The new study, “Disease and Disadvantage in the United States and in England,” doesn't resolve all of these questions. Yet it offers strong evidence that there's something about American society that makes us sicker than we should be.

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Friday is Fun Foto day


If you can read this, then, yayyy, B12 is alive! Luckily we were busy as frack, so I didn't really have blog withdrawal symptoms. Much anyway.

canoe headCanoe Head
Backyard of 33 Baldwin St, Toronto, aka Ragnarokr, circa 1972-3. Your humble narrator sucking on what looks like a squeegee that I pray was clean. Scanned from an old print.

Don't know who the gentleman on the left is, perhaps Chris Risk? Frank Tettemer? My dad in hard hat, and my uncle Phil on the right.

and of course, like all places, this area sure has changed:

Toronto a City of Neighborhoods


In contrast to areas like Yorkville or Little Italy, Baldwin Street Village breathes an air of bohemian sophistication. This culturally diverse area has seen Irish, Jewish, Portuguese, Italian and Chinese communities make their homes here. The end result of the area’s rich history is an eclectic mixture of people, cuisines and shops. You’ll find French, Italian, Japanese, Thai, Indian, Chinese, Malaysian, and Vegetarian food. Lunchtime sees a rush of suits from nearby offices, while the afternoon lull gives off a siesta vibe that can be felt along the whole street. When the sun begins to sink, twinkling lights float romantically in the canopies above enhancing the intimacy of the setting. The sound of cutlery clinking on the plates begins again, and the street remains a private, delightful entity all its own.
• Traditional Japanese cuisine at Kon-nichi-wa (31 Baldwin St.) or Fujiyama (49 Baldwin St.), Indian at Jodhpore Club (33 Baldwin St.), or Italian at Café Tuscany (45 Baldwin St.). Or grab a Chinese pastry at the Yung Sing Pastry Shop (22 Baldwin St.), and sit on the bench and ponder what else you’re going to eat.
• Chada Import Gallery (25 Baldwin St.) is crammed with exotica from around the world including jewellery, furniture, clothes and knick-knacks. Music of all kinds including albums (remember those?) are at Around Again (18 Baldwin St.).
• A margarita at Margarita’s (14 Baldwin St.) is a great way to unwind. Finish off your day with an intimate dinner. Classical French can be found at Bodega (30 Baldwin St.) and Café la Gaffe (24 Baldwin St.), or if you have Malaysia on your mind, the Mata Hari Grill (39 Baldwin St.) will take you there.

Yung Sing Pastry was there in the 70s, but not much else.

Seth and guitar 1971Seth and Guitar, 1971
Your humble narrator, circa 1971-72, Auburn, California. I still find it hard to sit still for long periods of time, but now at least my feet can touch the floor.

Scanned from a poorly preserved print. You can see plenty of imperfections in the print if you look closely, especially the Photoshop version. Perhaps medium format film.

Homage to George L. Kelling
Homage to George L. Kelling
Broken window theory in action.

WIndow, in building owned by the CTA, has had a broken window for several years now.

All Made HereAll Made Here
Bacon, Hams, Sausages, Salamis. In the West Loop, which is still predominately food processing factories.

Courtney Love fan marks territory.

May Day and police
Chicago Police came out in force to witness a few anarchists and communists speak at the Haymarket, May Day.

I watched one officer make an ironic Black Power fist for the amusement of another officer. He looked too young to be reminiscing.

World Without Borders
May Day rally

a quickr pickr post

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Shady Tricks in the NBA

couldn't post this when my internets were down, so I'm doing it now, sans my oh-so-witty commentary which probably didn't make sense. Deleted my blather anyway, there is no use living in the past any more than necessary.

The shot went up and they battled for the rebound, with the Clippers' Chris Kaman reaching up for the ball and Denver's Reggie Evans reaching low for Kaman's ....

The classless move by Evans was caught on video for the whole basketball world to see. If anyone in the NBA was surprised, they weren't paying attention to the “Collector” and his career.

From Kevin Garnett to Brian Scalabrine, players in the visitors' locker room at KeyArena sang this tune for all of the years Evans was a Sonic.

Evans' tactics push the limit on a nightly basis. His repertoire is vast -- grabbing a jock strap in order to pull it tight and then snap it, as well as nicely timing pinches to prevent a player from going for a rebound.

Evans has taken a valid part of the basketball world, the tricks of the trade, and pushed it beyond its limits.

and a little history:

Early in a game, whenever John Stockton was being run into a pick, he would try to drive his knee into the thigh of the big man trying to screen him. The pick never seemed to be set with the same authority the rest of the night.

Reggie Miller was notorious for his tricks, whether letting his elbows fly in every direction when running off picks, or throwing his feet forward on a jump shot, putting the defender in jeopardy of having his voice increase a few octaves.

Isiah Thomas was a tripper. When defending, he would take a jab step, and then when the offensive player went by, he would trip him to force a turnover.

The tricks exist throughout a game. Jake Voskuhl is known for grabbing players' shorts while running in transition.

Before the hand-check rule, defenders would grab a player on the hip by his waistband, thus holding him still while reaching around to steal the ball. Derek Harper used that trick on Nate McMillan on the opening two plays of McMillan's first playoff game.

Bruce Bowen slides his feet underneath the shooter, putting them in peril when they land.

Charles Oakley was notorious for fouling after the whistle had already blown.


update (5/11/06) basketbawful has more, including this from the master of the cheap shot, Karl Malone

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Blog hiatus

My webhost tells me to lay-off of new posts for a day or so, as they are upgrading equipment, and upgrading my database software


We will be upgrading your web server hardware and software from 10:00am May 3, 2006 to 12:00pm May 4, 2006 Pacific Time. Access to FTP may be temporarily disrupted and database updates may be lost. We suggest that you limit FTP and database activity during this period if possible.

Software Version Changes:

MySQL3.23 to MySQL4.1.14
PHP4.3.10 to PHP5.0.4
Perl5.8.3 to Perl5.8.3

See ya then. Check out the numerous archives and links over on the left hand column.

Denny Hastert is mentally challenged

After much rumination and gnashing of teeth, everybody's favorite caricature of a porcine politician, Denny Hastert (R), has boldly proclaimed a way out of the high gasoline price morass: blame Bill Clinton. Has Hastert ever had an original idea in his life?

The Swamp - Chicago Tribune - Blogs.
Hastert on gas prices: It's Bill Clinton's fault

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Organizing for an Indelicate Fight

Foie gras is not worth all the fuss, imho. Eaten it a couple of times, and meh. Add in the cruelty involved in producing it, and double meh.

Organizing for an Indelicate Fight

Animal rights activists' influence on Whole Foods Market has led a foie gras producer to file a lawsuit against the natural-food grocery chain.

FRESH from a victory in Chicago, where the City Council voted last week to ban the sale of foie gras, animal rights activists have set their sights on Philadelphia, where they are collecting signatures on a petition to ban the delicacy there. Their influence on Whole Foods Market has led a foie gras producer to file a lawsuit against the natural-food grocery chain.

In the lawsuit, Sonoma Foie Gras is charging Whole Foods with “intentional interference with contract.” According to the complaint, filed in January, Whole Foods told Grimaud Farms last fall to stop processing and distributing Sonoma's ducks and foie gras or the grocer would no longer do business with the company. Grimaud, which sells ducks to Whole Foods, will terminate its contract with Sonoma at the end of this month.

“We have a brighter future with Whole Foods than with the foie gras business,” said Jim Galle, vice president of Grimaud Farms. “We are walking away from a great dollar value, but in the long term I think a better business decision.”

Sonoma Foie Gras says that it has been unable to find another processor and that it might have to shut down. It is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. The case will begin on Friday, when a motion to dismiss will be heard.

Whole Foods declined to comment on the lawsuit, but Kate Lowery, a company spokeswoman, confirmed its ultimatum to Grimaud.

“We will not do business with them if they don't terminate their relationship with Sonoma Foie Gras,” she said.

Whole Foods has a written policy not to sell foie gras, Ms. Lowery said, “because of the cruelty,” a reference to the force-feeding of ducks and geese to make their livers grow large and fatty.

Charlie Trotter, who stopped serving foie gras in his eponymous restaurant five years ago because he did not like what he had seen on several foie gras farms, said he is not an animal rights activist but is opposed to interference from the government.

“When I took foie gras off the menu I was not trying to make a political statement,” he said. “I am certainly not gleeful about this. I am very much a libertarian.” And he added: “I don't think government should tell people not to smoke in restaurants.”

This lawsuit is ludicrous, in my mind. Whole Foods should be allowed to do business with whomever they want, and if Grimaud wants to sell their poultry to Whole Foods, they have to stipulate to Whole Foods' conditions.

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Boundaries are still being established in the blogging gold rush, and unfortunately, some boundaries are going to have to be established in court.

Advertising Age - Ad Agency Sues Blogger for Defamation

An ad agency that specialized in travel advertising is suing a Maine-based blogger for defamation after he began to post regularly about the work the agency was doing for its client, the state of Maine.

Warren Kremer Paino Advertising, New York, filed suit April 14 against Lance Dutson for copyright infringement, defamation and trade libel and injurious falsehood.

Mr. Dutson, a freelance Web designer who also does Internet advertising, says he became critical of the Maine Office of Tourism in October 2005 when he learned the office had bid for broad search terms that bumped into the interests of his clients. He also argued the Internet-advertising strategy was misguided because he said the office bid on general geographic terms such as the names of cities in Maine. Therefore, potential tourists must already be interested in the state to be led to the state's tourism Web site, he said.
According to Mr. Dutson's blog, the tourism office had tried to respond to his concerns. But in February, Mr. Dutson learned of WKPA's involvement and expanded his criticism to the agency, including a reference to it as “some big company in New York with no ties to the state, pissing away tax money.

copy of lawsuit here

Put Better Beer in Your Belly

Mmmmmm, better beer for breakfast. Err, something. And yes, I am a beer snob. Thanks for asking.

Beer slide show here, but it made me thirsty, so watch with discretion.

Put Better Beer in Your Belly Today's thirsty beer drinkers demand a higher-caliber brew than the swill served in the past. taps the world's best beers, from microbrews to imports.

“Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer,” humorist Dave Barry has written. “Oh, I grant you the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.”

As with so many other vital matters, Barry hits the mark on beer. The drink has been delighting, calming and fortifying humans since before the beginning of recorded time. Beer is, in fact, probably older than the wheel. The world's oldest written recipe, inscribed on a clay tablet in about 1,800 B.C., is for beer.
Until the mid-19th century, beer was produced locally on an artisanal scale, and consumed unpasteurized from the barrel. Then came the industrial revolution, which was not an unalloyed blessing. Advances in science made it possible to isolate a strain of yeast that results in a lighter-colored beer with a cleaner, crisper flavor. Lager has a simpler flavor and, when refrigerated, is more refreshing than ale. Developed in the Czech city of Pilsen, lager now accounts for more than 90 percent of the beer made in the world.

The industrial revolution brought other changes -- cheap glass made bottling feasible, pasteurization reduced spoilage and railroads made long-distance transportation affordable. All this led to the beer business consolidating into a large-scale national and, more recently, international industry.

America had 1,600 breweries on the eve of Prohibition, point out Tim Harper and Garrett Oliver in The Good Beer Book. By 1961, that was down to 230. In 2005, according to the trade publication Beer Marketer's Insights, 69 percent of beer consumed in America was produced by just three companies: Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Molson Coors.

Good Beer Book

Good Beer Book

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Captors Become the Captives

MoDo phones another one in. Maybe a late night out drinking and watching the Lakers lose? She does manage to eke out a couple of good lines, but read for yer'self.

Maureen Dowd: The Captors Become the Captives The country the administration precipitously grabbed and overconfidently took over has ended up trapping, draining, flummoxing and alarming the administration.

The invasion of Iraq has turned into

The Ransom of Red Chief.

The Ransom of Red Chief

The famous short story by O. Henry, published in 1910, begins, “It looked like a good thing: but wait till I tell you.”

The tale is about a couple of guys who have a bold, illicit scheme they assume will be easy, but it ends up backfiring. The idea, one confesses afterward, must have struck them “during a moment of temporary mental apparition.”

Bill and Sam are fugitives lurking in a small town in Alabama who kidnap a prominent citizen's child and ask for a ransom of $1,500. But once he is held in a nearby cave, the freckle-faced, red-haired boy turns out to be such a terror as he happily plays a violent Indian named Red Chief — attacking Bill and Sam with bricks, kicks, rocks, bites, a knife, a slingshot and a hot boiled potato — that he breaks the kidnappers' spirit.

The tormentors become the tormented, dragging the reluctant Red Chief back to his affluent father, who refuses to take the problem child until Bill and Sam cough up $250.

The story has spawned many movies using the same name, and inspired others, including the “Home Alone” flicks, in which Macaulay Culkin fights off a couple of hapless robbers, and “Ruthless People,” in which an obnoxious rich wife played by Bette Midler is kidnapped by a sweet couple who have been swindled by her philandering husband. He wants Bette dead, so he refuses to pay her ransom, and Bette and her kidnappers team up against the sleazeball

Let's (Third) Party

Like a fellow called GreenGOP remarked recently, both Democrats and Republicans are at fault with regard to environmental problems, and the alleged energy crisis that has been building for thirty years or more. When even the mighty Tom Friedman agrees with me, in principle at least, I'm a little freaked out.

In a perfect world, the US would have a multi-party system, and we'd be in a much better position, in a myriad of topics. Personally, my affiliation is more with the Green Party than the DemoRepublicrats anyway. Friedman doesn't like the Green Party because it is too liberal. Nuff said.

Thomas Friedman: Let's (Third) Party With no major party in America offering a solution to our energy needs, the situation is ripe for a third party.

What would OPEC do if it wanted to keep America addicted to oil? That's easy. OPEC would urge the U.S. Congress to deal with the current spike in gasoline prices either by adopting the Republican proposal to give American drivers $100 each, so they could continue driving gas-guzzling cars and buy gasoline at the current $3.50 a gallon, or by adopting the Democrats' proposal for a 60-day lifting of the federal gasoline tax of 18.4 cents a gallon. Either one would be fine with OPEC.

So, to summarize, we now have a Congress proposing to do exactly what our worst enemies would like us to do — subsidize our addiction to gasoline by breaking into our kids' piggybanks to make it easier for us to pay the prices demanded by our oil pushers, so that we will remain addicted and they will remain awash in dollars.

With a Congress like this, who needs Al Qaeda?

Inmate wrongly executed


Whenever I think I miss living in Austin, I am reminded that Austin is part of Texas.

Four of the nation's top arson experts have concluded that the state of Texas executed a man in 2004 based on scientifically invalid evidence, and on Tuesday they called for an official reinvestigation of the case.

In their report, the experts, assembled by the Innocence Project, a non-profit organization responsible for scores of exonerations, concluded that the conviction and 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham for the arson-murders of his three daughters were based on interpretations by fire investigators that have been scientifically disproved.

“The whole system has broken down,” Barry Scheck, co-founder and director of the Innocence Project, said at a news conference at the state Capitol in Austin. “It's time to find out whether Texas has executed an innocent man.”

The experts were asked to perform an independent review of the evidence after an investigation by the Tribune that showed Willingham had been found guilty on arson theories that have been repudiated by scientific advances. In fact, many of the theories were simply lore that had been handed down by generations of arson investigators who relied on what they were told.

The report's conclusions match the findings of the Tribune, published in December 2004. The newspaper began investigating the Willingham case following an October 2004 series, “Forensics Under the Microscope,” which examined the use of forensics in the courtroom, including the continued use of disproved arson theories to obtain convictions.

In strong language harshly critical of the investigation of the 1991 fire in Corsicana, southeast of Dallas, the report said evidence examined in the Willingham case and “relied upon by fire investigators” was the type of evidence “routinely created by accidental fires.”

Report: Inmate wrongly executed

referees and bribes

From the Referees Are Bad All Over Department

NEWS of the WEIRD - Current News The Nigerian Football Association advised its referees in March that they could accept money from teams (since “bribery” is considered part of the way of life in Nigeria), but that they should only pretend to agree to treat the briber favorably because they have a duty to call a game fairly.

Perhaps Quicken Loans or Dan Gilbert managed to spend enough to break through to Ron Garretson and get a call when the Cavs really needed it?

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Reasonable Paranoia

Robert Reich has started his own blog recently (hey, all the kool kids do it!), and glancing through it, I found this intriguing tidbit. Is Mr. Reich listening in on my phone conversations? Because I had this same thought, well nearly. I haven't yet been a former cabinet official. Other than that minor detail though....

Robert Reich: Reasonable Paranoia I was on the phone this morning with my best friend, talking about everything close friends talk about -- from personal matters to Bush's idiocy -- when I suddenly had the first real paranoid thought I've ever had. Suppose the FBI or CIA was listening in? Bush is now spying on Americans without a warrant and without any court-approved review. Why wouldn't I be someone who'd be spied on? I mean, I'm a former cabinet official in a Democratic administration, right? I'm a pretty outspoken critic of this administration, right?

In this particular phone conversation I had told my friend Bush is a dangerous fascist asshole. I'd been talking about the insanity of the Iraqi War and the likelihood that the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld troika will bomb Iran. Our conversation then shifted to personal matters. I spoke about some really private stuff concerning my family.

Now here's where the paranoia crept in: Bush now says he has the right to take any information he gets from the FBI and CIA and make it public in the interest of “national security.” He claims the right to do what he did to the former State Department official Joe Wilson in an an attempt to discredit Wilson's war criticism by leaking the name of Wilson's CIA agent wife. So he obviously believes he has the constitutional right to leak to the media whatever his spies overhear of a private conversation if the leak helps his so-called War Against Terrorism.

Do you follow the trail of my sudden paranoia? Was it possible that the really personal stuff I told my friend about my family would be leaked to the media in retribution for all the public criticisms I've leveled against this administration? Was it possible that I could be threatened with such a leak if I don't keep my mouth shut in the future?
And the mere possibility, even though remote, sent a chill up my spine. It won't make me more cautious about what I tell my friends on the phone in private and it won't make me more cautious about my public criticisms of this administration in the media. At least not consciously. Yet the fact that I had this fleeting paranoid fantasy itself alarmed me. Intimidation can be very subtle. It can catch people unaware. It is how fascism begins and how democracy erodes.

(I added a few paragraph breaks, because that's my right as an 'Murican!

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More Sanofi-Aventis questions

Sanofi-Aventis, back in the funny pages again. Whether or not this specific drug turns out to be as bad as it looks, the FDA seems to need some deep, structural and procedural changes in order to avoid future problems. - Lawmakers Ask FDA About Sanofi-Aventis Drug Lawmakers from both the Senate and House wrote the Food and Drug Administration asking about the agency's handling of Ketek, an antibiotic made by Sanofi-Aventis SA.

The two letters from Sen. Charles Grassley, the Iowa Republican who heads the Senate Finance Committee, and House Democrats Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Henry Waxman of California, focused primarily on a large study done to test the safety of the drug. The study ended up being discounted by the FDA because of concerns about fraud and other problems.

In a statement, an FDA spokeswoman said the agency will “welcome this opportunity to continue talking about the scientifically rigorous work” of the FDA. She also said agency officials are assessing reports of liver damage in people who took the drug but “still believe when used as directed, Ketek is safe and effective.” Sanofi-Aventis said in a statement it is “committed to patient safety” and will address questions from the FDA and Congress...
Mr. Grassley's letter also asks why the FDA didn't share emerging concerns about the questionable safety study with an advisory committee that examined the drug. The letter says Mr. Grassley's staffers were told that FDA scientists were instructed that “discussing issues regarding data integrity and the conduct of the safety study would not be 'productive.' ” FDA officials earlier said they believed that telling the committee about the concerns could bias its vote and hurt the continuing investigation.

The letter from Reps. Markey and Waxman notes that one FDA memo raised questions about whether Sanofi-Aventis fully disclosed information about possible reports of side effects overseas, where the drug was marketed before it was approved in the U.S. Sanofi-Aventis has said it didn't withhold information required by the FDA.

The House letter also raises an issue concerning trials to test the efficacy of antibiotics. Unlike many other drugs, antibiotics are typically compared with earlier antibiotics, rather than a placebo. To get approval, an antibiotic maker needs to prove that the new drug is about as effective as the older drug, though it can perform a bit worse than its competitor in a study and still be counted as statistically equal

Immigration Rally


The immigration rally started around 11 am, and for over three hours, folks were streaming past. Here a couple of photos. Probably more to come, haven't had time to peruse them all yet.

Immigration Rally the flag guy
Randolph and Desplaines

more below

Death by Insurance

Paul Krugman discusses insurance and the woeful US 'system' of health care. My eyes almost didn't glaze over. For my small business, covered employees cost on average $3500/year, but our deductible is $5000. Every year, we don't meet the deductible, so the money just goes into the corporate sinkhole, but then our premium goes up 10%. Bleh.

Paul Krugman: Death by Insurance
For lower-income working Americans, lack of health insurance is quickly becoming the new normal.

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