July 2006 Archives

Timothy Leary's Long Acid Trip

Neal Pollack writes an interesting book review of Robert Greenfield's Timothy Leary bio.

Timothy Leary: A Biography

“Timothy Leary: A Biography” (Robert Greenfield)

AlterNet: Neal Pollack: DrugReporter: Timothy Leary's Long Acid Trip : ...

Leary's life was one of those rare American ones with a second act. After the 1970s he moved to Beverly Hills, went on a political minstrel-show lecture tour with G. Gordon Liddy, snorted coke in the Playboy Mansion with Hugh Hefner and hung out at the Viper Room. He also developed some of the earliest interactive computer games. What lessons are we to learn from such a life? Obviously, the specifics don't apply to us ordinary mortals. And we certainly don't want to follow Leary's lead in terms of family life. As Greenfield painstakingly details, he was a serially bad husband and an even worse father. Leary's careerism, while quintessentially American, was corrosive and destructive, another warning siren against the false promises of celebrity-obsessed modernity.

Yet his life contained surprising pockets of peace, extraordinary grace notes. When Leary's famous commune in Millbrook, New York, wasn't being raided by local authorities or invaded by trashy jet-setting hipsters, people achieved transcendence there, or at least had a lot of fun. As Greenfield writes, “When Charlie Mingus heard the tap in the sink yowling, followed by banging noises, he took out his bass and began playing counterpoint.” Of all the crazy scenes in the book, that's the one I would have most liked to see, though I also enjoyed the one where Leary's wife attempts a seduction of Jerry Brown in order to blackmail Leary out of prison.

While I find Leary's writing bloated, self-absorbed and, let's face it, hippy-dippy and dated, Pinchbeck makes a far more persuasive, modern case for psychedelics.

Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism

Breaking Open the Head

is The Doors of Perception written from a skeptical East Village perspective. Pinchbeck's latest book, 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, expands on his thesis, arguing that psychedelics may be opening a portal to a transformation of consciousness that has the potential to change the world forever. I can't say whether I believe that or not, and I certainly hope the Phoenix Suns win an NBA title before this evolution happens, but Pinchbeck's skeptical, analytic reportorial approach to the subject appeals to my brain far more than Leary's musty counterculture rhetoric.

errr, umm, yes. I am of the generation of whom Leary is only known via his actions and words, and he seems like nothing more than a loud-mouthed charlatan. Without Leary's self-aggrandizement and nose-thumbing at authorities, perhaps certain substances might still be available through legal channels. Perhaps not, but from my perspective, Leary did nothing but bring negative attention to the whole mind-expansion community, with dire results. The psychedelic class of drugs is not for most people to explore, haphazardly. Leary wanted everyone to take them, and everyone shouldn't.

Still, interesting reading, and I'll add these books to my 'summer reading' list (which is now 3 stacks tall).

More Pollack here

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Lieberman 2007

The Joementum continues....
Sutton-Lieberman 2007 (click for larger version)
from the village voice

Sutton Impact -by Ward Sutton
(click for larger version)

Some member of Ned Lamont's staff probably already has this printed and stuck to the wall in someone's cubicle.

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Oh goody. Election theft with simple tools, leaving no trace. Gotta love the modern world.

From BoingBoing, we read:

Diebold voting machines can be beaten with a switch-flip

Diebold's voting machines are even less secure than previously suspected. Inspection of a Diebold machine by the open Voting Foundation revealed that all it takes to get a Diebold machine to boot a modified, crooked operating system is the flip of a switch, a task that can be accomplished in a brief moment using nothing but a screwdriver. Diebold has strenuously resisted calls for its voting machines to be fitted with paper audit-tapes that would record the votes cast for comparison against the electronic tally, and has used legal threats to keep critics from publishing memos detailing earlier flaws discovered in its machines. If you want to steal an election, use a Diebold machine.

More here. I wonder how good Joe Lieberman's relation with Diebold is? Not to mention Jeb Bush, or even, shudder, Cat-Killer Frist.

And I still wish George Soros would just purchase Diebold outright in a hostile takeover.

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Irony of the week


Wal-Mart has its first trade union - in China, as insisted upon by the Chinese government.

the NYT:

Official Union Set Up in China at Wal-Mart

Workers at Wal-Mart Stores have formed their first trade union, in China

and the Tribune:
Chicago Tribune news: Wal-Mart workers form 1st union

BEIJING, CHINA -- Workers at Wal-Mart have formed their first trade union in China, after demands from the government that the company allow organized labor in its stores, according to reports in the official news media over the weekend. Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, has long sought to bar unions from its stores, particularly in the United States. But the government-controlled All-China Federation of Trade Unions has campaigned to set up branches in China, where Wal-Mart employs 30,000 people at 60 outlets.

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Candorville book

perhaps a gift to someone you know?

Candorville book sells out (sort of)

Thanks to those of you who still had a little money left after your job was outsourced and Exxon-Mobil mugged you on your way to the unemployment office, I've just sold my last copies of the Candorville: Thank God for Culture Clash book! A new batch should arrive tomorrow, so if you ordered a book in the last few days, you should be receiving it by the end of the week.

Candorville: Thank God for Culture Clash
“Candorville: Thank God for Culture Clash” (The Washington Post Company, Darrin Bell)


A World Gone Mad

Is it too late to move to Mars? or Alpha Centauri?

Bob Herbert: A World Gone Mad

A development in Pakistan may hasten the spread of nuclear weapons.

As if the war in Iraq and the battles between Israel and its neighbors were not frightening enough, now comes word of a development in Pakistan that may well be the harbinger of a much greater catastrophe.

Over the past few years, Pakistan has been hard at work building a powerful new plutonium reactor that when completed will be able to produce enough fuel to make 40 to 50 nuclear weapons a year.

This is happening at the same time that the Bush administration is pushing hard for final Congressional approval of a nonmilitary nuclear cooperation deal with Pakistan’s rival, India, that would in fact enhance India’s bomb-making capacity. The deal would enable India to free up its own stocks of nuclear fuel to the extent that it could expand its nuclear weapons production from about seven warheads a year to perhaps 50.

Yes, Virginia, the world is going mad.

Pakistan’s initiative, which in a few years could increase its bomb-making capacity twentyfold, was first reported last week by The Washington Post. Experts at the Institute for Science and International Security, after analyzing the program, concluded that “South Asia may be heading for a nuclear arms race that could lead to arsenals growing into the hundreds of nuclear weapons or, at minimum, vastly expanded stockpiles of military fissile material.”

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Shock and Awe

Paul Krugman: Shock and Awe The hard truth is that Israel needs, for its own sake, to stop a bombing campaign that is making its enemies stronger, not weaker.

For Americans who care deeply about Israel, one of the truly nightmarish things about the war in Lebanon has been watching Israel repeat the same mistakes the United States made in Iraq. It’s as if Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been possessed by the deranged spirit of Donald Rumsfeld.

Yes, I know that there are big differences in the origins of the two wars. There’s no question of this war having been sold on false pretenses; unlike America in Iraq, Israel is clearly acting in self-defense.

But both Clausewitz and Sherman were right: war is both a continuation of policy by other means, and all hell. It’s a terrible mistake to start a major military operation, regardless of the moral justification, unless you have very good reason to believe that the action will improve matters.

The most compelling argument against an invasion of Iraq wasn’t the suspicion many of us had, which turned out to be correct, that the administration’s case for war was fraudulent. It was the fact that the real reason government officials and many pundits wanted a war — their belief that if the United States used its military might to “hit someone” in the Arab world, never mind exactly who, it would shock and awe Islamic radicals into giving up terrorism — was, all too obviously, a childish fantasy.

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Bush Administration bumper sticker

from Walter Lippmann

Walter Lippmann

“Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.”

Public Opinion
Walter Lippmann


links for 2006-07-31

Os Mutantes


It is extremely hot and humid (currently 97 F by heat index), and I haven't yet convinced D to go with me (though I bought her a ticket anyway), but am looking forward to seeing

Everything Is Possible: The Best of Os Mutantes

Os Mutantes

in their penultimate show in the US.

From The Trib, by way of the Houston Chronicle:

Chron.com | After 40 years, Brazil's Os Mutantes is on the brink

After 40 years, Brazil's Os Mutantes is on the brink- By GREG KOT
It took 40 years, but the legendary Brazilian psychedelic rock band Os Mutantes is touring North America for the first time.

The band's headlining appearance Sunday at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, one of only six shows in the U.S., promises to go more smoothly than Mutantes' first outdoor shows in Brazil.
In the '60s, the band was in the vanguard of the Tropicalia movement that revolutionized Brazilian music and culture. Os Mutantes, the youngest and most brazen of the new rebels, trafficked in outrage.

and from the Times

Os Mutantes - Review - Music - New York Times

Forty years after Os Mutantes got started in Brazil, this band played its first American concert on Friday night at Webster Hall. And for the length of its set, the psychedelic 1960’s were back: the 1960’s of playful ambitions, blithe eclecticism, virtuoso silliness and lighthearted but genuine rebellion.

Os Mutantes (the Mutants) were at the center of the late-60’s tropicalia movement, a particularly Brazilian mixture of intellectual ferment, pop novelty-seeking and try-anything experimentalism. There was defiance in it as well as joy; it emerged while Brazil was under an increasingly repressive military dictatorship.

Two of the movement’s great songwriters, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, were sent into exile; they wrote one of Os Mutantes’ best-known songs, “Panis et Circenses” (Latin for “Bread and Circuses,” alluding to the Roman emperor Nero). Tropicalia was gleefully modernistic, marveling (with many layers of irony) at the effects of mass media and global interchange. Political points were usually made obliquely, not through direct protest but by laughing at restrictions.

and from Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone : Tropicalia Legends Os Mutantes Reunite for U.S. Shows

On July 21st, Brazilian psychedelic legends Os Mutantes, once known for their outrageous multimedia spectacles, will reunite for their first tour since 1973. The shows will be the first ever in the U.S. for the group.
“Anyone calling themselves the Mutants feels like our brothers,” says Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne, who will share the stage with the Mutantes during their July 23rd performance at the Hollywood Bowl.

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Another Small Step for Earth

Nick Kristof writes:

I almost didn’t write this column, because with the Middle East in flames it’s obvious that climate change is not the most important topic of the day. But it could be the most important issue of this century.

yes, indeed. Certainly close, especially if you take a slightly longer-term view.

NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF: Another Small Step for Earth

The best argument for ignoring global warming has been that there are better ways to spend money: instead of devoting billions to curb carbon emissions and reduce the impact on sea levels in 2050, we could spend the resources developing a vaccine for AIDS or providing universal health care to all Americans.

In essence, the dangers of climate change appeared distant and uncertain, while the costs of curbing greenhouse gases were immediate and appeared substantial.

But all across the country, states and local governments have chipped away at those arguments for delay — actually, pretty much demolished them — by showing that there are myriad small steps we can take that significantly curb carbon emissions and that are easily affordable.

A leader of that effort has been Portland, earnestly green even when it is wintry gray. In 1993, the city adopted a plan to curb greenhouse gases, and it is bearing remarkable fruit: local greenhouse gas emissions are back down to 1990 levels, while nationally they are up 16 percent. And instead of damaging its economy, Portland has boomed.

This month Portland took an important additional step, by adopting a renewable-fuel standard. Beginning July 1, 2007, all diesel sold for vehicles in the city will have to be at least a 5 percent biodiesel blend. And all gasoline will have to contain at least 10 percent ethanol. This measure is not a magic bullet, but it has a negligible cost and is one more example of the creative thinking at local levels that is curbing greenhouse gases without breaking the bank.

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Frank Rich wonders why the Iraq War isn't on the evening news, lead story. Why aren't the Bush daughters over there either? Simple answer: too depressing because the US is losing, and thus not good for ratings. Longer answer, below.

(Added some links)

Frank Rich: The Peculiar Disappearance of the War in Iraq

Americans want the war in Iraq canceled, and first- and last-place networks alike are more than happy to oblige.

AS America fell into the quagmire of Vietnam, the comedian Milton Berle joked that the fastest way to end the war would be to put it on the last-place network, ABC, where it was certain to be canceled. Berle’s gallows humor lives on in the quagmire in Iraq. Americans want this war canceled too, and first- and last-place networks alike are more than happy to oblige.

CNN will surely remind us today that it is Day 19 of the Israel-Hezbollah war — now branded as Crisis in the Middle East — but you won’t catch anyone saying it’s Day 1,229 of the war in Iraq. On the Big Three networks’ evening newscasts, the time devoted to Iraq has fallen 60 percent between 2003 and this spring, as clocked by the television monitor, the Tyndall Report. On Thursday, Brian Williams of NBC read aloud a “shame on you” e-mail complaint from the parents of two military sons anguished that his broadcast had so little news about the war.

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A weekend spent in contemplation

Enchanted Sky Machine
Enchanted Sky Machine Evanston. Slightly modded in Photoshop.

Hidden costs
Hidden costs Underneath.

Wake Up and smell the crumbles
Wake Up and smell the crumbles Brick wall, perhaps intentionally decayed?

Everytime you close your eyes...
Every time you close your eyes... tree detail

V is for Victory
V is for Victory remnants of a party

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links for 2006-07-29

Drug Makers Pay for Lunch as They Pitch

I can smell the stench of corruption from here.

Drug Makers Pay for Lunch as They Pitch
Free lunches, along with pitches from drug makers, arrive regularly at doctors' offices nationwide.

I wonder how Michael Moore's movie is coming along?

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Facts are quite dangerous toys, part the 123rd.

In California, Heat Is Blamed for 100 Deaths
A searing heat wave nearly two weeks old is responsible for a toll of casualties that has no recent precedent.

see part the 122nd, for instance

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Err something like that. Is it obviously a Butthole Surfer joke? (Allmusic review)

Ana Marie Cox Joins Time.com
Time Inc. named former Wonkette blogger Ana Marie Cox to be Washington editor of Time.com.

maybe an Anus Presley joke would be more on target?
(track 7. The Revenge of Anus Presley)

Butthole Surfers / Live Pcppep

“Butthole Surfers / Live Pcppep” (Butthole Surfers)

Katha Pollit will be pleased anyway. Maybe Ms. Cox can scrawl more reviews of feminists. Does this mean that Andy “Buttoxia” Sullivan is going to share a cubical with Ms. Wonkette?
(I wonder if this infamous moment is available on YouTube yet?)

--update, apparently so!

direct link here


Know your district

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) interviewed by Stephen Colbert.
(direct link here)

Happened to channel flip into the beginning of this segment last night, and found myself laughing out loud. She had to be hip to what was going on, or else she's just a smart cookie. Could be both.

(from Scout Prime at First Draft)

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Reign of Error

Krugman wonders why our public officials are so mendacious. They have some help from the demon spawn of Rupert Murdoch who seem to have taken over the majority of the national media. Another suggestion to start self-medicating, as I see it. Fuck it, 'tis Friday, and the end is nigh....

Paul Krugman: Reign of Error The Bush administration continues to be remarkably successful at rewriting history. Amid everything else that’s going wrong in the world, here’s one more piece of depressing news: a few days ago the Harris Poll reported that 50 percent of Americans now believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when we invaded, up from 36 percent in February 2005. Meanwhile, 64 percent still believe that Saddam had strong links with Al Qaeda.

At one level, this shouldn’t be all that surprising. The people now running America never accept inconvenient truths. Long after facts they don’t like have been established, whether it’s the absence of any wrongdoing by the Clintons in the Whitewater affair or the absence of W.M.D. in Iraq, the propaganda machine that supports the current administration is still at work, seeking to flush those facts down the memory hole.

But it’s dismaying to realize that the machine remains so effective.

Here’s how the process works.

First, if the facts fail to support the administration position on an issue — stem cells, global warming, tax cuts, income inequality, Iraq — officials refuse to acknowledge the facts.

Sometimes the officials simply lie. “The tax cuts have made the tax code more progressive and reduced income inequality,” Edward Lazear, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, declared a couple of months ago. More often, however, they bob and weave.

Consider, for example, Condoleezza Rice’s response a few months ago, when pressed to explain why the administration always links the Iraq war to 9/11. She admitted that Saddam, “as far as we know, did not order Sept. 11, may not have even known of Sept. 11.” (Notice how her statement, while literally true, nonetheless seems to imply both that it’s still possible that Saddam ordered 9/11, and that he probably did know about it.) “But,” she went on, “that’s a very narrow definition of what caused Sept. 11.”

Meanwhile, apparatchiks in the media spread disinformation. It’s hard to imagine what the world looks like to the large number of Americans who get their news by watching Fox and listening to Rush Limbaugh, but I get a pretty good sense from my mailbag.

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On the Eve of Madness

Friedman visits Syria, and gets depressed. I see our unfunny joke of a President on the chatter box, and I get depressed. Is it too early to start self medicating? (No good news re Cleo yet might have something to do with that impulse)

Thomas Friedman: On the Eve of Madness We are seeing the rebirth pangs of the old Middle East, only fueled now by oil and more destructive weaponry. ...

America should be galvanizing the forces of order — Europe, Russia, China and India — into a coalition against these trends. But we can’t. Why? In part, it’s because our president and secretary of state, although they speak with great moral clarity, have no moral authority. That’s been shattered by their performance in Iraq.

The world hates George Bush more than any U.S. president in my lifetime. He is radioactive — and so caught up in his own ideological bubble that he is incapable of imagining or forging alternative strategies.

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links for 2006-07-28

The DEA Targets America

This sounds like an interesting event. I will try to attend. Though the 'non-confrontational' part doesn't sound like fun. Good arguments stir the bile, move the brain fluids. Especially against such nitwits as those who created this inane exhibit.

A Drug WarRant Challenge: Opening Eyes to the Damage Caused by the Drug War - The DEA Targets America Growing up in Chicago, I have many fond memories of the Museum of Science and Industry. I spent so many hours in that place that I have as much sense memory of parts of it as I do the house I lived in as a kid. I loved science, and the museum encouraged discovery. Sure, some of the exhibits were a little hokey, but you still had fun and learned at the same time.

It is therefore with much concern that I note that the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry will be hosting the DEA propaganda device called “Target America: Opening Eyes to the Damage Drugs Cause”, opening August 11 and running until December....

By now, most of you know about the extraordinarily offensive DEA exhibit that uses pieces of wreckage from the World Trade Center with children's toys mixed in as a means of promoting the DEA!

What you can do

1. Volunteer to help pass out flyers at the museum. If you're in the Chicago area, or plan to be there during the run of the exhibit, we need your help. No experience needed -- simply sign up to legally and non-confrontationally stand outside the museum and welcome people while giving them one of our flyers. Sign up at the Drug WarRant.net messageboard (where we'll be coordinating efforts, or email pete at drugwarrant.com.

We'll be working with chapters of Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

2. Printing Flyers. We've got enough money need right now for printing flyers, but we may need more in the future. We'll re-activate this plea for funding in that case.

There will be other expenses, and you can help out while getting fun merchandise for yourself. Just go to the Drug WarRant store. The 11x17 poster of the new graphic is $14.99 and that includes a $10 contribution toward the flyer fund. I encourage you to buy other things as well to tell the world you don't support the drug war, but the others are priced much closer to cost.

3. Writing letters. We'll have a guide to the exhibit here in the future and an opportunity to write letters to the editor on the issue.

I sprung for a poster, plan to display it in my building's hallway.

More info here as well
and loved this quote, from Newsday (via Media Awareness Project)

Newsday: Let me get this straight.

Some American kid smoking pot is to blame for the World Trade Center terror attack?

Apparently so.

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Reefer Man

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Cab Calloway sings "Reefer Man," one of his famous drug songs and one of the most popular drug songs of the day.

direct link here

Are You Hep to the Jive?
Cab Calloway

Ultimate 30's & 40's Reefer Songs
"Ultimate 30's & 40's Reefer Songs" (Ultimate 30's & 40's Reefer Songs)

(from Drug War Rant)

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Getting Things Done

There is apparently a cult, whose bible is called Getting Things Done

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

“Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” (David Allen)

Jeff Porten wrote a brief article in the current TidBits:

GTD, the Short Version -- The premise of GTD is that we all fill our lives with “open loops,” promises we make to ourselves to get something done later on. The problem is that our brains aren't built for this kind of work; if you remember you need milk only when your cereal is dry, or you need to send an email message when you're in bed staring at the ceiling at 4 AM, you can't actually fix the issue at that moment. These open loops create a sort of psychic backlog, since all you can do at that point is worry about things, not do them.

The GTD method has five steps: collect, process, organize, review, and do.

Collect simply means that you note these items in specific places; i.e., a dry-erase marker on the kitchen fridge, or a voice recorder by your bed, for the examples I mentioned above.

Process takes all of the items you've collected and determines what needs to be done next, such as “buy more milk.”

Organize puts all of these actions into “contexts,” so you'll complete them more easily; when you buy your milk you can also buy bread, but you can't usually send an email message.

Review places these organized lists back into your brain, at least enough so that you have the lists you need, when you need them.

And finally, you actually do the things on these lists, when you're ready to do them with the least effort and the most effectiveness.

We are, to be blunt, technophiles, so perhaps this technique/cult will be beneficial to us.

Part 2 is here


Ummm, facts are dangerous toys.

Record Heat Wilts Europe, Strains Power Supply and Hurts Crops
With Paris, London and Berlin experiencing peak temperatures, Europe’s heat wave this summer has already headed for the record books.

An Inconvenient Truth
An Inconvenient Truth

Peter Doran recants his anti-global warming position, err well, sorta.

...The disappointing thing is that we are even debating the direction of climate change on this globally important continent. And it may not end until we have more weather stations on Antarctica and longer-term data that demonstrate a clear trend.

In the meantime, I would like to remove my name from the list of scientists who dispute global warming. I know my coauthors would as well.

Peter Doran is an associate professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago.


Homeland Security Corruption

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Lets see, tin-pot dictator wanna-be, massive international debt funding wars of occupation, domestic spying, parades in front of military backdrops, and crony capitalism and corruption. I think we are in a third world country.

Homeland Security Contracts Abused
The multibillion-dollar surge in federal contracting to bolster the nation's domestic defenses in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has been marred by extensive waste and misspent funds, according to a new bipartisan congressional report.

..Lawmakers say that since the Homeland Security Department's formation in 2003, an explosion of no-bid deals and a critical shortage of trained government contract managers have created a system prone to abuse. Based on a comprehensive survey of hundreds of government audits, 32 Homeland Security Department contracts worth a total of $34 billion have “experienced significant overcharges, wasteful spending, or mismanagement,” according to the report.
Among the contracts that went awry were deals for hiring airport screeners, inspecting airport luggage, detecting radiation at the nation's ports, securing the borders and housing Hurricane Katrina evacuees. Investigators looking into those contracts turned up whole security systems that needed to be scrapped, contractor bills for luxury hotel rooms and Homeland Security officials who bought personal items with government credit cards.

· A Defense Contract Audit Agency review of an NCS Pearson Inc. contract to hire airport screeners uncovered at least $297 million of questionable costs, including luxury hotel rooms. ...
· A surveillance system for monitoring activity on the Mexican and Canadian borders does not work because of cameras that malfunction when exposed to snow, ice or humidity.

· Two TSA employees used government purchase cards to buy $136,000 worth of personal items, including leather briefcases.

cameras along the border with Canada that malfunction when exposed to snow or ice? Hmm, wonder if that ever happens? Or if it is ever humid near the Mexican border?

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Chicago backs higher minimum wage

Surprisingly, the usually demure alderman voted against Da Mayor's stated wish. Doesn't happen that often. As I blogged about when I first heard the proposal, or soon after, the national retailers need to continuously expand in order to satisfy their Wall Street masters, and juice their quarterly earning reports. No growth means stagnation. Companies like Wal-Mart have pretty much saturated the rural part of the US, thus have to expand into urban environments next. So, all of their bitching aside, and after the lawsuit is settled (either way), Wal-Mart and Blockbuster, and Best Buy, and similar stores will be opening in a neighborhood near you. And if they have to pay their employees a couple of thousand more dollars a year, I think it won't cause any bankruptcy filings.

Brief survey of related news articles in my RSS reader:

BBC: Chicago backs higher minimum wage

Chicago's city council approves a measure forcing major retailers to pay an increased minimum wage.

NYT: Chicago Orders ‘Big Box’ Stores to Raise Wage
A groundbreaking measure requires stores like Wal-Mart and Home Depot to pay $10 an hour by 2010.
oooh, so much money. If one worked 40 hours a week, every week, including holidays, that's almost $20,000 a year, before taxes are taken out (so, subtract about a third for payroll tax, social security, etc.), or around $13,000 a year. Lots of fun living on that in Chicago. Quick glance at the rental market - studio apartment in less desirable neighborhood, in the range of $450 a month, plus utilities. God forbid you have kids. Anyway, I think Wal-Mart can afford paying the extra dollar or two, per a cursory glance at their financials, including revenue of $321,000,000,000 last year, and gross profit of $75,260,000,000.
Tribune: 'Big-box' wage law passes
Aldermen defy mayor, anger retailers

In rare and open defiance of Mayor Richard Daley, the City Council Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a measure that will require big retailers to pay a higher minimum wage than most other Chicago employers.

Tribune: Wal-Mart focus on close-in suburbs
Passage of city bill requiring big-box stores to pay `living wage' likely to cause retail giant to turn to strategy of ringing city with Supercenters

The world's largest retailer suffered a blow on Wednesday when Chicago aldermen passed a bill that requires big-box stores, including Wal-Mart, to pay a so-called living wage. The ordinance could curb Wal-Mart's appetite to build stores in the city limits.

note the qualifier, could....

Steve Gilliard: Pay us fairly

...Now, people are wondering how you live in Chicago on $7.25 an hour, because you can't.

Walmart is being targeted because it is a shitty corporate citizen. It treats its workers poorly. Walmart hasn't come to New York because the unions made it clear they would run a unionization drive at any store they built.

When people do case studies about Walmart in the future, it's inability to adapt to the demands of urban America will be it's downfall.

Eric Zorn: Real fear is that higher pay won't be disaster ... But that's not what they're really afraid of.

What they're really afraid of is that their dire predictions won't come true.

They're afraid that the ordinance will pass as expected Wednesday, possibly by a veto-proof two-thirds majority of the aldermen, go into effect later this year and prove popular and generally beneficial.

Big stores will not close. In fact, new big-box behemoths will open in hard-luck neighborhoods. These stores will make money for their owners and provide a decent buck to their employees. Employment rates and municipal tax receipts will rise.

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links for 2006-07-27


Speaking of Presidents

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Tom Tomorrow remembers Diamond Liberal Corporation Bill Clinton much as I do. Nobody who was paying attention to politics in the 90s could ever claim Bill Clinton as anything but a Nixonian Republican.

This Modern World » Blog Archive » Same as it ever was I’ve never entirely understood the tendency of bloggers who revile the DLC and everything it stands for to simultaneously revere Bill Clinton, who is pretty much the embodiment of the DLC and everything it stands for. I mean, I understand that he looks pretty good in retrospect, when contrasted with the emotionally-stunted intellectual midget who currently occupies the Oval Office — but his decision to stump for Lieberman should nonetheless serve as a reminder that this guy will sell out progressives at the drop of a hat if it is somehow politically expedient to do so.

From the days before blogging was all the rage, I remember reading an academic paper contrasting the public statements of President Clinton with actual policy decisions, and there was a large gap between the two. The carefully constructed 'liberal' Clinton was just that, a construct worthy of PhilDickian land. Clinton the policy maker was more interested in lining the pockets of his corporate buddies. DLC Democrat indeed.

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Bill Moyers for President? Absolutely!

Deja vu all over again. I tell you what, I'd vote for the man in a second over Ms. Clinton, John Edwards, Kerry, Mark Warner, and the rest of the tweedle-dums. Feingold could be his VP....

The Online Beat: Bill Moyers for President? Absolutely!

Molly Ivins is promoting the prospect, and she's right to do so. There's just one thing: It shouldn't be a symbolic run.
Moyers would enter the 2008 race with far more Washington political experience than Dwight Eisenhower had in 1952, far more national name recognition than Jimmy Carter had in 1976 and far more to offer the country than most of our recent chief executives.

Against the candidates who are lining up for the 2008 contest, Bill Moyers and his supporters would not need to make any excuses.

After all, the supposed Democratic frontrunner is a former First Lady who ran her first election campaign just six years ago. One of the leading Republican contenders is a guy whose main claim to fame is that he did a good job of running the Olympics in Salt Lake City, while another is still best known as the son of a famous football coach. And the strongest Republican prospect, John McCain, is actually more popular with Democrats than with his own partisans.

Consider the fact that a professional body builder is the governor of the largest state in the union, and that the list of serious contenders for seats in Congress and for governorships this year is packed with retired athletes, former television anchorpersons and bored millionaires, and it simply is not that big a stretch to suggest that someone with the government and private-sector experience, the national recognition and the broad respect that Bill Moyers has attained across five decades of public life could not make a serious run for the presidency.

So, Molly, I'll see your suggestion of Bill Moyers, and up the ante to suggest that Moyers really could be a contender.

Molly's column begins:

Dear desperate Democrats,

Here's what we do. We run Bill Moyers for president. I am serious as a stroke about this. It's simple, cheap and effective, and it will move the entire spectrum of political discussion in this country. Moyers is the only public figure who can take the entire discussion and shove it toward moral clarity just by being there.

The poor man who is currently our president has reached such a point of befuddlement that he thinks stem cell research is the same as taking human lives, but that 40,000 dead Iraqi civilians are progress toward democracy.

Bill Moyers has been grappling with how to fit moral issues to political issues ever since he left Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and went to work for Lyndon Johnson in the teeth of the Vietnam War. Moyers worked for years in television, seriously addressing the most difficult issues of our day. He has studied all different kinds of religions and different approaches to spirituality. He's no Holy Joe, but he is a serious man. He opens minds -- he doesn't scare people. He includes people in, not out. And he sees through the dark search for a temporary political advantage to the clear ground of the Founders. He listens and he respects others.

Think, imagine, if seven or eight other Democratic candidates, all beautifully coiffed and triangulated and carefully coached to say nothing that will offend anyone, stand on stage with Bill Moyers in front of cameras for a national debate … what would happen? Bill Moyers would win, would walk away with it, just because he doesn't triangulate or calculate or trim or try to straddle the issues. Bill Moyers doesn't have to endorse a constitutional amendment against flag burning or whatever wedge issue du jour Republicans have come up with. He is not afraid of being called “unpatriotic.” And besides, he is a wise and a kind man who knows how to talk on TV.

(update: wondered why there were so many Google referrals to Bill Moyers for President. Apparently, we're the top search result)
Bill Moyers For President

PS, don't get confused with this Bill Moyer

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Expected but still bogus

In other words, break the law all you want, and cry 'national security' if you get caught. Fuck SBC.

Phone records lawsuit dismissed | Chicago Tribune
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against AT&T Inc. that accused the phone company of turning over customer records to the government without a court order, siding with Justice Department lawyers who invoked the “state secrets” privilege. The attorneys had argued this month that if the suit went ahead the government would be forced to confirm or deny the existence of such a relationship with AT&T, and that disclosure would compromise national security and potentially aid terrorists.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly found that the government's invoking of the privilege leaves too little information for the plaintiffs, led by the American Civil Liberties Union and Chicago author Studs Terkel, to establish that they have suffered harm through data disclosures.

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Blue Cross building to grow

(don't have any good photos in my archive, these will have to suffice for now)

Blue Cross rippled


Blue Cross crop

24 more stories coming to Blue Cross building | Chicago Tribune
In an unusual corporate expansion, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois will add 24 floors on the top of its headquarters on East Randolph Street to accommodate the health insurer's rapid growth.

At a cost of $270 million, Health Care Service Corp., parent of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, said Tuesday that construction will begin early next year at 300 E. Randolph, the dual headquarters of the Illinois Blue Cross division and Health Care Service, pending approval of various permits.

The existing 33-story building already has 30 floors above ground on prime real estate located just east of Aon Center on the northern edge of Grant Park....

The building is now 466 feet high from its base and will rise to an estimated 796 feet.

The structure was originally designed by Chicago architect James Goettsch to accommodate 24 additional stories to meet an expected need for more office space, the insurer said. Thus, the skyscraper will reach its designed height of 57 stories upon completion in 2010.

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The Immutable President

| 1 Comment

I can empathize with an urge to simplify the world - we do live on a complicated planet. However, if one wants everything to neatly fit into preconceived categories, perhaps one shouldn't run for political office, and especially one shouldn't bother being selected to the Presidency.

MoDo has more

Maureen Dowd: The Immutable President

The more things get complicated, the more President Bush feels vindicated in his own simplified vision

...The more people try to tell him that it’s not easy, that this is a region of shifting alliances and interests, the less he seems inclined to develop an adroit policy to win people over to our side instead of trying to annihilate them.

Bill Clinton, the Mutable Man par excellence, evolved four times a day; he had a tactical and even recreational attitude toward personal change. But W. prides himself on his changelessness and regards his immutability as the surest sign of his virtue. Facing a map on fire, he sees any inkling of change as the slippery slope to failure.

That’s what’s so frustrating about watching him deal — or not deal — with Iraq and Lebanon. There’s almost nothing to watch.

It’s not even like watching paint dry, since that, too, is a passage from one state to another. It’s like watching dry paint..

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links for 2006-07-26

Umm, no comment.

“The Artwork in the Age of its Mechanical Reproducibility by Walter Benjamin as told to Keith Sanborn”

Video, 1996
An attempt to problematize ownership and authorship in the age of digital reproduction. Inspired by the Walter Benjamin essay of the same name and the activities of the Situationists.

Needless to say, it's not my movie, but i'll be damned if i dont reproduce something with a name like that. besides, i usualy never take the time to enjoy a good FBI warning.


Essay here




Sleeping cats
Cleo sleeping with me as a kitten (circa Sept 27th, 2001).

Took her in this morning to a hospital in the 'burbs. Early appointment, stuck in traffic, ended up driving on the shoulder of the interstate for several miles. Sorry if I passed you recklessly. Cleo was having violent spasms at the time, and in fact had been having violent spasms every 15-30 minutes all night, starting at midnight. Each and every muscle in her too young body convulsed with extreme force while she panted and drooled, and either D or myself stroked her back and murmured nonsensical phrases of encouragement and support.

Perhaps a downside of working and living together, D and I are extremely in-tuned to our cats emotional and physical states. D especially, but me too, plus I am extremely in-tuned with D, so obviously there's a lot of synergy. In other words, we haven't slept much over the last week, so forgive me for rambling.

With the exception of our experience at our newly found vet (Dr. Phil Padrid, Michelle R., and the rest of the wonderfully kind staff at Family Pet), we wonder why cannot owners have the option to visit with their pets in ER rooms?

If it is good enough for people to enter the ER (and it should be), why not animals? Cleo visited two emergency animal hospitals over the weekend, both times when she finally saw our faces, she relaxed a bit. Up until then, the staff and doctors could not approach her to examine her, as she was scared and aggressive. If we had been allowed to sit with her, and calm her, proper diagnosis might have been sooner.

I don't envy the workers in ER rooms (people or animals), so much suffering and grief on a daily, hourly basis must numb one a bit. I know they mean well, but flinging Cleo into a oxygenated glass cage in a room with 50 other dogs, 20 strangers, and incessantly ringing phones is not kind.

At the very least, could there be a partition with the dogs on one side of the room, and cats on another? Glancing around at the cats in treatment, without exception they all cringed in fear with every dog bark.

Results later today, Cleo apparently 'knocked out' at the moment.

CAT Scan (CT) - Body
Because it provides detailed, cross-sectional views of all types of tissue, CT is one of the best tools for studying the chest and abdomen. It is often the preferred method for diagnosing many different cancers, including lung, liver and pancreatic cancer, since the image allows a physician to confirm the presence of a tumor and measure its size, precise location and the extent of the tumor's involvement with other nearby tissue. CT examinations are often used to plan and properly administer radiation treatments for tumors, to guide biopsies and other minimally invasive procedures and to plan surgery and determine surgical resectability

Some light reading D and I have been emailing each other over the last few days:

Cornell Feline Health Center--Brochure
Toxoplasmosis can also affect the eyes and central nervous system, producing inflammation of the retina or anterior ocular chamber, abnormal pupil size and responsiveness to light, blindness, incoordination, heightened sensitivity to touch, personality changes, circling, head pressing, twitching of the ears, difficulty in chewing and swallowing food, seizures, and loss of control over urination and defecation.

Free Information About Cat Toxoplasmosis

All About: Cat Toxoplasmosis

Feline infectious peritonitis - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a fatal, incurable disease that affects cats.
Department of Clinical Sciences - Neurology-Brain Tumors
Cancer affecting the brain is not uncommon in older dogs and cats
Meningitis - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes (meninges) covering the brain and the spinal cord, usually due to bacterial or viral infections elsewhere in body that has spread into the blood and into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)

links for 2006-07-25

ABA Faults Bush for Ignoring the law

One could also say the executive branch is a bunch of lawless fucks, right? Isn't one of the clauses recited during the inauguration something about 'upholding the laws of the land'? Does the Congress and the Supreme Court really care that they have been ruled unimportant?

Legal Group Faults Bush for Ignoring Parts of Bills

The American Bar Association said Sunday that President Bush was flouting the Constitution and undermining the rule of law by claiming the power to disregard selected provisions of bills that he signed.

In a comprehensive report, a bipartisan 11-member panel of the bar association said Mr. Bush had used such “signing statements” far more than his predecessors, raising constitutional objections to more than 800 provisions in more than 100 laws on the ground that they infringed on his prerogatives.

These broad assertions of presidential power amount to a “line-item veto” and improperly deprive Congress of the opportunity to override the veto, the panel said.

In signing a statutory ban on torture and other national security laws, Mr. Bush reserved the right to disregard them.

The bar association panel said the use of signing statements in this way was “contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers.” From the dawn of the Republic, it said, presidents have generally understood that, in the words of George Washington, a president “must approve all the parts of a bill, or reject it in toto.”

If the president deems a bill unconstitutional, he can veto it, the panel said, but “signing statements should not be a substitute for a presidential veto.”

.. But the panel said that “Congress as an institution or its agents” should have standing to sue when the president announces he will not enforce parts of a law.

The issue has deep historical roots, the panel said, noting that Parliament had condemned King James II for nonenforcement of certain laws in the 17th century. The panel quoted the English Bill of Rights: “The pretended power of suspending of laws, or the execution of laws, by regal authority, without consent of Parliament, is illegal.”

The panel was headed by Neal R. Sonnett, a criminal defense lawyer in Miami. Members include former Representative Mickey Edwards, Republican of Oklahoma; Bruce E. Fein, a Justice Department official in the Reagan administration; Harold Hongju Koh, the dean of Yale Law School; William S. Sessions, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Kathleen M. Sullivan, a former dean of Stanford Law School; and Patricia M. Wald, former chief judge of a federal appeals court.

Whatever happened to the momentum for impeachment? Just once, I'd like to hear an elected official utter such words, and be taken seriously by the Republicrats and Democans.

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Black and Blue

| 1 Comment

Krugman discusses the racist Rethuglicans.

Paul Krugman: Black and Blue African-Americans distrust President Bush's party; and with good reason.

According to the White House transcript, here’s how it went last week, when President Bush addressed the N.A.A.C.P. for the first time:

THE PRESIDENT: “I understand that many African-Americans distrust my political party.”

AUDIENCE: “Yes! (Applause.)”
[or not - depending upon who writes the story]

But Mr. Bush didn’t talk about why African-Americans don’t trust his party, and black districts are always blue on election maps. So let me fill in the blanks.

First, G.O.P. policies consistently help those who are already doing extremely well, not those lagging behind — a group that includes the vast majority of African-Americans. And both the relative and absolute economic status of blacks, after improving substantially during the Clinton years, have worsened since 2000.

The G.O.P. obsession with helping the haves and have-mores, and lack of concern for everyone else, was evident even in Mr. Bush’s speech to the N.A.A.C.P. Mr. Bush never mentioned wages, which have been falling behind inflation for most workers. And he certainly didn’t mention the minimum wage, which disproportionately affects African-American workers, and which he has allowed to fall to its lowest real level since 1955.

Mr. Bush also never used the word “poverty,” a condition that afflicts almost one in four blacks.

But he found time to call for repeal of the estate tax, even though African-Americans are more than a thousand times as likely to live below the poverty line as they are to be rich enough to leave a taxable estate.

Economic issues alone, then, partially explain African-American disdain for the G.O.P.

But even more important is the way Republicans win elections.

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Truck Driver Green
Vets and animal hospitals, especially of the emergency over-night kind, are especially depressing places. Not only is your own pet sick, but you can read the grief, sadness and worry on the faces of all of the other 'waiting to talk to the doctor' denizens.

Cleo is checked in to an oxygen bar (well, cubicle) until we can pick her up at 6:30 tomorrow and transfer her to another hospital with a respiratory specialist.

links for 2006-07-24

Yo Poodle

Blair rues the day Bush was elected.

The Observer | Comment | It wasn't the 'Yo' that was humiliating, it was the 'No' ... When Tony Blair offers himself as a Middle East peace envoy, he is casually rebuffed by the American President between bites on a bread roll.

Told by Bush that 'Condi is going', the normally fluent Blair is reduced to inarticulate jabbering.

'Well, it's only if, I mean, you know, if she's got a... or if she needs the ground prepared as it were... Because obviously if she goes out, she's got to succeed, if it were, whereas I can go out and just talk.'

Yeah, just talk.

It was awful for Tony Blair to be caught asking for permission to go to the Middle East. It was dire to hear George Bush saying he wouldn't let the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom go out - not even on a pointless trip. It looks even more humiliating when the French Foreign Minister is going.

youch. There's more:

The only favour done to the Prime Minister by the broadcast of his rap with George Bush has been to illustrate a little of what he has been up against over the past five years in dealing with this American President. We have been frequently told by his defenders that, whatever verbal dyslexia he may display in public, the private Bush is as smart as a whip, with a sophisticated grasp of the complexities of the geopolitical situation. Analysing the carnage unfolding in Lebanon, the view of the American President is this: 'What they need to do is to get Syria to get Hizbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over.'

The unguarded mic also picked up the American President saying he didn't want to prepare any closing remarks for the G8 Summit. 'Just gonna make it up,' he shrugs. To the Chinese premier, he remarks, 'This is your neighbourhood.' They are in St Petersburg. Continuing his conversation with the Chinese leader, President Bush goggles: 'Russia's a big country and you're a big country,' like a seven-year-old who has just discovered them in the atlas.

yes, smart as a whip - if you consider someone with a double digit IQ qualified to be President of the US. And doesn't seem to be doing any favors for Blair, who one commentator calls the catamite to the Republican Party.

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The Passion of the Embryos

| 1 Comment

Frank Rich tackles the embryonic morass, by way of Ralph Reed and other hypocrites, like Sunny Joe Lieberman, in a rambling essay. Now with more links!

Frank Rich: The Passion of the Embryos The faith-based politics enshrined by the Bush presidency suffered two landmark defeats last week.

HOW time flies when democracy is on the march in the Middle East! Five whole years have passed since ominous Qaeda chatter reached its pre-9/11 fever pitch, culminating in the President’s Daily Brief of Aug. 6, 2001: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”

History has since condemned President Bush for ignoring that intelligence. But to say that he did nothing that summer is a bum rap. Just three days later, on Aug. 9, he took a break from clearing brush in Crawford to reveal the real priority of his presidency, which had nothing to do with a nuisance like terrorism. His first prime-time address after more than six months in office was devoted to embryonic stem-cell research instead. Placing his profound religious convictions above the pagan narcissism of Americans hoping for cures to diseases like Parkinson’s and diabetes, he decreed restrictions to shackle the advance of medical science.

Whatever else is to be said about the Decider, he’s consistent. Having dallied again this summer while terrorism upends the world, he has once more roused himself to take action — on stem cells. His first presidential veto may be bad news for the critically ill, but it was a twofer for the White House. It not only flattered the president’s base. It also drowned out some awkward news: the prime minister he installed in Baghdad, Nuri al-Maliki, and the fractious Parliament of Iraq’s marvelous new democracy had called a brief timeout from their civil war to endorse the sole cause that unites them, the condemnation of Israel.

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links for 2006-07-23

The Church Lady Party

John Tierney is fairly on-target today. The Christian Taliban wing of the Rethuglicans are gambling that for all of the Nixonian Republican grumbling, being a moral scold will win elections more than being fiscally prudent. Quite a gamble, and one I hope loses, like Ralph Reed lost. Especially since most of the piety is phony money sanctimony anyway.

The Church Lady Party - John Tierney : ... Republicans are looking like moral Grinches — or, more precisely, the Church Lady, the scold who makes even fellow congregants roll their eyes. ... They’re the party whose leader defends the sanctity of embryonic stem cells against scientists trying to cure diseases. They’re the killjoy who stands up to object when a gay couple wants to marry. They’re so shocked by gambling — imagine, Americans betting money! — that the House has just passed a bill outlawing most online wagering, and federal agents have arrested a visiting British executive of a sports-betting operation that is perfectly legal in his country.

Even before there were lottery tickets at gas stations and casinos on reservations, savvy politicians realized that gambling was a vice to be denounced but mostly ignored. They generally didn’t raid bingo nights. They didn’t try to stop people from playing poker in the privacy of their homes, but that’s the hopeless mission undertaken by the righteous right.

So far, Republicans have staved off gay marriage, but over the long term it’s another losing cause. Younger voters already are turned off by what they perceive as the party’s homophobia. As the public gets used to seeing happy couples exchanging vows, the taboo against gay marriage will ease — and Republicans will be remembered as priggish wedding crashers.

But protecting a cluster of cells the size of a grain of sand is not what most voters think of as a traditional family value. Embryonic stem-cell research is so popular that even some conservative Republicans voted for the bill allowing it to be federally financed. Bush’s veto this week kept in place the ban on federal funds, pleasing religious conservatives, but they’ll never be able to stop this research.

So even though I have no moral qualms about the research, I think Bush’s veto was good public policy. But it wasn’t good politics. He tried to present it as a defense of life — he even used that old campaign ploy, posing with babies — but he couldn’t compete with the images of paralyzed adults asking for help.

As the baby boomers age, it’s not smart to be known as the party that won’t pay for medical research. It’s not smart to have Michael J. Fox and Nancy Reagan blaming you for blocking cures for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, or to be remembered as the party that ignored Christopher Reeve’s pleas before he died. No matter how moral the Church Lady tries to sound, she’ll never win an argument with Superman in a wheelchair.

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Condis Flying Dutchman

MoDo is not impressed with the Bush ass-ministration's progress in the Middle East, for some reason, including the Good Ship Condi-pop.

Maureen Dowd: Condi’s Flying Dutchman : Having inadvertently built up Iran with his failures in Iraq, President Bush is eager now to send Iran a shock-and-awe message through Israel.

As USA Today noted about summer movies, the hot trend in heroines “is not the damsel in distress. It’s the damsel who causes distress.”

Uma, Oprah. Oprah, Condi.

The more W. and his tough, by-any-means-necessary superbabe have tried to tame the Middle East, the more inflamed the Middle East has become. Now the secretary of state is leaving, reluctantly and belatedly, to do some shuttle diplomacy that entails little diplomacy and no shuttling. It’s more like air-guitar diplomacy.

Condi doesn’t want to talk to Hezbollah or its sponsors, Syria and Iran — “Syria knows what it needs to do,’’ she says with asperity — and she doesn’t want a cease-fire. She wants ”a sustainable cease-fire,’’ which means she wants to give the Israelis more time to decimate Hezbollah bunkers with the precision-guided bombs that the Bush administration is racing to deliver.

“I could have gotten on a plane and rushed over and started shuttling, and it wouldn’t have been clear what I was shuttling to do,” she said.

Keep more civilians from being killed? Or at least keep America from being even more despised in the Middle East and around the globe?

Like Davy Jones, the octopus-headed creature who had to keep sailing Flying Dutchman-like without getting to land in the new “Pirates of the Caribbean,’’ Condi had a hard time finding an Arab port in which to dock.

The Arab street, declared prematurely dead by the neocons after the Iraq invasion, is so incensed over scenes of mass graves, homeless children and Israeli ground incursions into Lebanon that Egypt spurned Ms. Rice’s bid to meet next week in Cairo. (Her only consolation is that at least the autocratic Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, is listening to the Arab street as she has been harping on him to do for more than a year.)

The Arab allies, who agreed to meet her and European envoys in Rome, clearly did not want to be used as a stalling tactic on Arab turf, with Condi miming diplomacy to buy time for Israel. Maybe, like Jack Sparrow, they can at least bring a jar of Arab turf with them.

In a twist that illustrated the growing power of Shiites and Iranians, even the Shiite Iraqi prime minister broke with the Bush stance and denounced Israeli attacks on Lebanon. Is there no honor among puppets?

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more anti-science

More anti-science from the mouth breathing Luddites currently steering our country into the mire.

NASA’s Goals Delete Mention of Home Planet : NASA’s mission statement was altered to square it with President Bush’s goal of pursuing manned spaceflights to the Moon and Mars, a spokesman for the agency said.

From 2002 until this year, NASA’s mission statement, prominently featured in its budget and planning documents, read: “To understand and protect our home planet; to explore the universe and search for life; to inspire the next generation of explorers ... as only NASA can.”

In early February, the statement was quietly altered, with the phrase “to understand and protect our home planet” deleted. In this year’s budget and planning documents, the agency’s mission is “to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.”

..But the change comes as an unwelcome surprise to many NASA scientists, who say the “understand and protect” phrase was not merely window dressing but actively influenced the shaping and execution of research priorities. Without it, these scientists say, there will be far less incentive to pursue projects to improve understanding of terrestrial problems like climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

Will the reign of error ever come to an end? Will our planet still exist?

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back up and XO still sucks

If you can read this, [insert cliche here]!! Three days seems a long time to find a blown fuse at a “Central Office”, but when corporate planning necessitates cutting back on support staff so as to increase executive compensation, these occurrences are bound to happen. The customer gets screwed, but there is such a hassle to switch providers, companies like XO Communications (my sucky telecom) feel inertia is on their side. They may be right, but we'll certainly be perusing the list of their competitors in the near future.

2004 Net Income (mil.) ($405.5) 2005 Net Income (mil.) (146,505)
I guess if you lose 400 million dollars in 2004, and lose another 200 million in 2005, you may have some problems. I see the CEO makes 1.4 million in salary, plus whatever perks a acolyte of Jack Welch can finagle.



What a gross travesty of governmental oversight. I know the Christian-Taliban in charge of our country have a deep seated animosity towards all things PBS for some reason, but this is still a fucking joke.

Soldiers’ Words May Test PBS Language Rules :

The coarse language used to discuss the horrors of war may put PBS in the Federal Communications Commission's obscenity sights.

The PBS documentarian Ken Burns has been working for six years on “The War,” a soldier’s-eye view of World War II, and those who have seen parts of the 14-plus hours say they are replete with salty language appropriate to discussions of the horrors of war.

Ok, that's bad enough, but what about this:

Most notably, PBS’s deputy counsel, Paul Greco, wrote in a memo to stations, it is no longer enough simply to bleep out offensive words audibly when the camera shows a full view of the speaker’s mouth. From now on, the on-camera speaker’s mouth must also be obscured by a digital masking process, a solution that PBS producers have called cartoonish and clumsy.

In addition, profanities expressed in compound words must be audibly bleeped in their entirety so that viewers cannot decipher the words. In the past, PBS required producers to bleep only the offensive part of the compound word.

What a collection of shit-heels! “You can't handle the truth!” So now we have to airbrush history to comply with these hypocritical, cunt-faced monkey fuckers.

Ken Burns

said he was “flabbergasted” that F.C.C. policy was being applied to documentaries, particularly when President Bush himself was inadvertently heard using vulgar language, broadcast on some cable newscasts, at the recent Group of Eight summit meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia.

He added that he hoped PBS and public television stations could unite and “stand our ground” in opposing the self-censorship sought by F.C.C. policy, but he noted that “we’ve also experienced as a family the devastating consequences, and it is not something that any station or any executive wants to see repeated.”

In March, the PBS station KCSM in San Mateo, Calif., was fined $15,000 over profanities in “The Blues.” [oh yeah, can't have musicians cursing] That fine is being appealed.

Ms. Sloan said PBS had to institute the policy after successive F.C.C. rulings steadily narrowed what is permissible. Moreover, legislation signed into law last month by President Bush increased by a factor of 10 the fines for broadcast indecency, to $325,000 a station for each instance.

That was “a real deal breaker,” Ms. Sloan said. “For many of our stations, a single fine of that magnitude would put them into bankruptcy.”

Producers are in a difficult position, [Margaret Drain, the vice president for national programs at WGBH in Boston] said. “What we’re trying to do is do our work and bring the same kind of high-quality broadcast programs to the public. We don’t want to overreact, and we don’t want to self-censor.”

As for “The War,” Ms. Drain called it “the perfect test case for the F.C.C., because who’s going to take on veterans of this country who put their lives at risk for an honest, just cause?”

“It’s not pornographic; it’s not scatological,” she said. “It’s an emotional expression of a reality they experienced, and it’s part of the historical record.”

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Voice recognition

Add to the list of 'cool things I want'.

David Pogue: Like Having a Secretary in Your PC : I’m wearing a headset, talking, and my PC is writing down everything I say in Microsoft Word. I’m speaking at full speed, perfectly normally except that I’m pronouncing the punctuation (comma), like this (period).

Let’s try something a little tougher. Pyridoxine hydrochloride. Antagonistic Lilliputians. Infinitesimal zithers.

... The software I’m using is Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9.0 (www.nuance.com), the latest version of the best-selling speech-recognition software for Windows. This software, which made its debut Tuesday, is remarkable for two reasons.

Reason 1: You don’t have to train this software. That’s when you have to read aloud a canned piece of prose that it displays on the screen — a standard ritual that has begun the speech-recognition adventure for thousands of people.

I can remember, in the early days, having to read 45 minutes’ worth of these scripts for the software’s benefit. But each successive version of NaturallySpeaking has required less training time; in Version 8, five minutes was all it took.

And now they’ve topped that: NatSpeak 9 requires no training at all.

I gave it a test. After a fresh installation of the software, I opened a random page in a book and read a 1,000-word passage — without doing any training.

The software got 11 words wrong, which means it got 98.9 percent of the passage correct. Some of those errors were forgivable, like when it heard “typology” instead of “topology.”

But Nuance says that you’ll get even better accuracy if you do read one of the training scripts, so I tried that, too. I trained the software by reading its “Alice in Wonderland” excerpt. This time, when I read the same 1,000 words from my book, only six errors popped up. That’s 99.4 percent correct.

The best part is that these are the lowest accuracy rates you’ll get, because the software gets smarter the more you use it — or, rather, the more you correct its errors.

You do this entirely by voice. You say, “correct ‘typology,’ ” for example; beneath that word on the screen, a numbered menu of alternate transcriptions pops up. You see that alternate 1 is “topology,” for example, so you say “choose 1.” The software instantly corrects the word, learns from its mistake and deposits your blinking insertion point back at the point where you stopped dictating, ready for more.

Over time, therefore, the accuracy improves. When I tried the same 1,000-word excerpt after importing my time-polished voice files from Version 8, I got 99.6 percent accuracy. That’s four words wrong out of a thousand — including, of course, “topology.”

For this reason, it doesn’t much matter whether or not you skip the initial training; the accuracy of the two approaches will eventually converge toward 100 percent.

NatSpeak 9 is remarkable for a second reason, too: it’s a new version containing very little new.

Yes, they’ve eliminated the training requirement. And yes, the new NatSpeak is 20 percent more accurate than before if you do the initial training. Then again, what’s a 20 percent improvement in a program that’s already 99.4 percent accurate — 99.5? That’s maybe one less error every 1,000 words.

Of course, still haven't managed to find time to instal Windows on either of our Mac Intel machines (D has an Intel iMac, I have this MacBookPro), afterwords, NatSpeak will probably be one of the first purchases after....

NatSpeak also runs beautifully on the Macintosh. The setup is a bit involved: you need a recent Intel-based Mac, Apple’s free Boot Camp utility, a copy of Windows XP, and a U.S.B. adapter on your headset. And you have to restart the Mac in Windows each time you want to use NatSpeak. But if you can look past all that fine print, NatSpeak on Macintosh is extremely fast and accurate.

Probably will run in Parallel Desktop too.

(p.s. - this is day 3 of our phone/internet outage. A pox on all companies who scrimp on customer support and tech support, such as XO Communications)

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links for 2006-07-22

Tristram Shandy

What a great movie.

Perhaps, being a grip/stage hand on a handful of student films at UT helped, perhaps my moment as the 'talent' in a Sam Shepard scripted (film student) scene gave me perspective, perhaps my frustration with the lack of customer service of my telecom company, XO communications (still 'borrowing internet access via my neighbor's WiFi and using cell phones as necessary) which led to self-medication starting in the early afternoon; whatever the reason, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. A movie about the tribulations of making a movie, especially one based on a historically significant novel Tristram Shandy, must not be taken heavily (or whatever the antonym of lightly is), and should probably only be absorbed with the proper mix of sobriety (none) and reverence (absolutely none). Ability to discern echoes of 8 1/2 (and countless other movies) about what a chore/delight making movies is - would be a bonus. Perhaps even a passing familiarity with the film, 24 Hour Party People would help.

Quite enjoyed the DVD extras as well. Maybe, I should actually read the damn book? Hmmm, add it to the pile indeed.

Funky film website Tristram Shandy

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman : The Florida Edition (Penguin Classics) (Penguin Classics)
Tristram Shandy

Tristram Shandy - A Cock and Bull Story
“Tristram Shandy - A Cock and Bull Story” (Michael Winterbottom)

Laughing aloud scares the cats - watch out.

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Now this cartoon is funny, though probably not safe for all work environs.

Don't say “God” while having sex with Atheists : The idea put forth is what do freethinkers yell out while having sex? Can you yell out “Oh God” during an orgasm without ruining the mood?

I originally thought I could put darker shading into this artwork using Photoshop to hide the more adult nature of it but eventually I said to hell with it. This isn't meant to be adult in the way the word is often used by obscenity hounds who think anything conveying that sex is fun has to be pornographic. It's meant to be silly and fun and if you're offended by cartoon nudity and sex, well, I think you need to grow up. There are a lot more offensive things in this world dealing with starvation, torture and death that need to be addressed before you get all bent out of shape over some boobs and dicks. The real boobs and dicks that should offend you are running our government.

Personally, I try to recite paragraphs from Dale Pendell's books, and usually fail.

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Daley in legal cross hairs

Hmmm, might create complications in Mayor Daley's re-election campaign.

Daley in legal cross hairs :
Lawyers suing over police torture try to establish what mayor knew

A day after the release of a historic report on police torture, attorneys for four men who say their confessions were coerced served federal subpoenas on the special prosecutors Thursday, seeking records of Mayor Richard Daley's testimony.

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The Price of Fantasy

Krugman asks:

Paul Krugman: The Price of Fantasy :

Does President Bush have the maturity to stand up to being accused of being a wimp?

No, I would never place Bush and maturity in the same sentence, unless expressed in the negative.

[test of neighbor's WiFi connection proceeding apace. Appalling that we're so dependent upon computers that yesterday our business basically just shut down. On a positive note, I did read an entire book, and half of another. More on that later, probably.]

anyway, back to Krugman....

Today we call them neoconservatives, but when the first George Bush was president, those who believed that America could remake the world to its liking with a series of splendid little wars — people like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld — were known within the administration as “the crazies.” Grown-ups in both parties rejected their vision as a dangerous fantasy.

But in 2000 the Supreme Court delivered the White House to a man who, although he may be 60, doesn’t act like a grown-up. The second President Bush obviously confuses swagger with strength, and prefers tough talkers like the crazies to people who actually think things through. He got the chance to implement the crazies’ vision after 9/11, which created a climate in which few people in Congress or the news media dared to ask hard questions. And the result is the bloody mess we’re now in.

This isn’t a case of 20-20 hindsight. It was clear from the beginning that the United States didn’t have remotely enough troops to carry out the crazies’ agenda — and Mr. Bush never asked for a bigger army.

As I wrote back in January 2003, this meant that the “Bush doctrine” of preventive war was, in practice, a plan to “talk trash and carry a small stick.” It was obvious even then that the administration was preparing to invade Iraq not because it posed a real threat, but because it looked like a soft target.

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troubles with technology

The storms of Thursday morning blew out our T1 line which is a Ted Stevens pipe/conduit of both our internet and telephone data. Our lame-o Telecom, XO Communications, has a severely understaffed tech department, so we were not able to report our problem (via cellphone, natch) until waiting on hold for what seemed like hours. I'd say 4 pm yesterday. They claim 24 hour turnaround, but I'm skeptical.

In other words, light posting for the next few days as we try to get everything back in working order. Weird not having access to either phone or internet.

Our neighbor has an Apple Wifi connection which she just mentioned - poor reception in our office, but still a slight reception is better than none.


update 7/22/06.

If you can read this, [insert cliche here]!! Three days seems a long time to find a blown fuse at a “Central Office”, but when corporate planning necessitates cutting back on support staff so as to increase executive compensation, these occurrences are bound to happen. The customer gets screwed, but there is such a hassle to switch providers, companies like XO Communications (my sucky telecom) feel inertia is on their side. They may be right, but we'll certainly be perusing the list of their competitors in the near future.

2004 Net Income (mil.) ($405.5) 2005 Net Income (mil.) (146,505)
I guess if you lose 400 million dollars in 2004, and lose another 200 million in 2005, you may have some problems. I see the CEO makes 1.4 million in salary, plus whatever perks a acolyte of Jack Welch can finagle.


Atheists and American

Atheists just don't get enough respect in America. We should form some lobbying group and hire a Ralph Reed type. Err, well, never mind.

IOKIYAC : I'm appalled at this astonishingly insensitive Christian bigot, Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, who basically slanders Tillman because he was an atheist.

and since I'm still young enough, by the new rules, to be drafted:

One useful thing about all this is that we atheists are going to be able to make the case, if a draft is ever reinstated, that we wouldn't be able to trust our fellow soldiers to refrain from killing us, and that we therefore must have a deferment. I know I would never allow any of my kids to go off to a war where they can't rely on the raving religious fanatics around them…and commanding them.

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links for 2006-07-20

This is what he pops his cherry with? Pasta-damn. I wonder if the White House has already counted votes and figured the veto will be over-ridden in Congress? e.g., trying to have it both ways? Stranger, more devious plans have surely been hatched by febrile politicians with approval ratings stuck in the mid 30s.
(update: apparently not. Since when did diabetes and Parkinson's become enemies of the state?)

In First Veto, Bush Blocks Stem Cell Bill
President Bush today used the first veto of his presidency to stop legislation that would have lifted restrictions on federally funded human embryonic stem cell research.


Patrick Murphy

Atrios writes:

Patrick Murphy

Continuing in my lifelong quest to put more Murphy-Americans in Congress, I also recommend supporting Patrick Murphy.

can't fault this reasoning. More Murphys, More Murphys, it's your birthday, it's your birthday.

*note, obviously I am part of the extended Murphy clan (I'm sure there are several hundred of us, living, since many of them were, at one time, Irish Catholics), though not related to this Patrick Murphy, at least that I know of.

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Local politics are fun

I had this postcard pinned up near my desk for a while, so I guess Alderman Natarus got his money's worth on the mailing. I've since taken it down (and scanned it, obviously), but the expression on Natarus' face still cracks me up.

Chuck Sudo borrows it for a Chicagoist posting about Natarus' recent, stupidly racist comment:

Chicagoist: Our Crazy Uncles in City Council It seems as though not a week goes by without an alderman doing or saying something that makes Chicago look like just another parochial, hick town. If they're not banning foie gras, or passing a smoking ban that allows bars a time frame for compliance that more resembles an exit strategy from Iraq, then they're feuding with each other on the Council floor, passing salary increases for themselves, and getting caught in the occasional compromising position.


George the Groper and Merkel

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creepy frat-boy, embarrassing the US again. Perhaps Governor Schwarzenegger aka The Gropenfuhrer gave Bush some bad advice about proper German protocol re sneaking up behind women.

(or click here)

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Animal House Summit

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MoDo notes that our little Dauphin doesn't have the class of Blutarsky. Restoring dignity to the White House, my arse. I never understood why Bush wanted to be President anyway. Has there ever been a less suited occupant of the White House in American history?

Maureen Dowd: Animal House Summit President Bush has enshrined his immaturity and insularity, turning every environment he inhabits into a comfortable frat house.

Reporters who covered W.’s 2000 campaign often wondered whether the Bush scion would give up acting the fool if he got to be the king.

Would he stop playing peekaboo with his pre-meal moist towels during airplane interviews? Would he quit scrunching up his face and wiggling his eyebrows at memorial services? Would he replace levity and inanity with gravity?

“In many regards, the Bush I knew did not seem to be built for what lay ahead,’’ wrote Frank Bruni, the Times writer who covered W.’s ascent, in his book ”Ambling Into History.“ ”The Bush I knew was part scamp and part bumbler, a timeless fraternity boy and heedless cutup, a weekday gym rat and weekend napster, an adult with an inner child that often brimmed to the surface or burst through.“

The open-microphone incident at the G-8 lunch in St. Petersburg on Monday illustrated once more that W. never made any effort to adapt. The president has enshrined his immaturity and insularity, turning every environment he inhabits — no matter how decorous or serious — into a comfortable frat house.

No matter what the trappings or the ceremonies require of the leader of the free world, he brings the same DKE bearing and cadences, the same insouciance and smart-alecky attitude, the same simplistic approach — swearing, swaggering, talking to Tony Blair with his mouth full of buttered roll, and giving a startled Angela Merkel an impromptu shoulder rub. He can make even a global summit meeting seem like a kegger.

Catching W. off-guard, the really weird thing is his sense of victimization. He’s strangely resentful about the actual core of his job. Even after the debacles of Iraq and Katrina, he continues to treat the presidency as a colossal interference with his desire to mountain bike and clear brush.

links for 2006-07-19



Mr Monkeys Vacation

(found via BartCop)

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Africa Remix Ah Freak Lya

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This sounds interesting, but unable to find a copy for sale in the States, at least at the moment. So this is a note to myself to look again in six months or so.

History Lessons: by Robert Christgau Africa Remix: Ah Freak Iya

Where usually Afrocomps look backward, this one is 21st century. And while most of the names are familiar, only five of the 16 tracks are in my collection, with all except Orchestra Baobab's improved by this cross-continental mix. Nor are the prime attractions the old reliables— Oumou's remix, Youssou's Senegal-only track. Far more striking are the radical techno-soukous by the son of a Franco guitarist, the Kinshasa rap with four names on it, Malouma's Mauritanian breakout, orthe Mariem Hassan & Leyoad wail somehow left off the Sahara comps. Things in Africa are probably no better than you think. But Afropop lives—hard, but undaunted.

Others in the 'soon to buy' list include,

Wonder Wheel

Klezmatics play Woody Guthrie
, err, almost.

Soul Jazz Records Presents Tropicalia: A Brazilian Revolution in Sound

Tropicália: A Brazilian Revolution in Sound

Gulag Orkestar


Journey into Paradise: The Larry Levan Story

“Journey into Paradise: The Larry Levan Story” (Larry Levan)

Live from Austin, Texas

“Live from Austin, Texas” (The Sir Douglas Quintet)

and even

The Rough Guide to the Music of Central America

“The Rough Guide to the Music of Central America” (Various Artists)

yes, I am a music slut. And proud. Thanks, Mr. Christgau.

(update: since Silenus also liked Beirut, I already bought that one. Whoo hoo!)


Times to Reduce Page Size

Haven't gotten used to the smaller Tribune, and now the NYT is following suit. I suppose the thugo-sphere is crowing today.

N.Y. Times to Reduce Page Size, Slash Jobs
The New York Times plans to cut 250 jobs and shrink the size of its pages in 2008, making them one-and-a-half inches narrower, the newspaper reported in Tuesday's edition.


Krugman steals Billmon's bit

Billmon did this about 3 years ago, though with links. Krugman's intern forgot to provide the source links.

Paul Krugman: March of Folly - New York Times Since those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it — and since the cast of characters making pronouncements on the crisis in the Middle East is very much the same as it was three or four years ago — it seems like a good idea to travel down memory lane. Here’s what they said and when they said it:

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Chicago and Trans Fats

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Political grandstanding aside, and ignoring the obvious health reasons for the ban, I find it odd that such items are even on an alderman's busy agenda. What's next? I'd be happy if restaurant menus highlighted which items had trans fats. I'm sure most owners would suddenly find alternative oils to use.

Chicago Weighs New Prohibition: Bad-for-You Fats A proposal would make it illegal for restaurants to use oils with trans fats, which have been tied to health problems.

Edward M. Burke, who has served on the Chicago City Council since 1969, when cooking oil was just cooking oil, is pressing his colleagues to make it illegal for restaurants to use oils that contain trans fats, which have been tied to a string of health problems, including clogged arteries and heart attacks.

If approved, nutrition experts say, the ban will be the first in a major city, following the lead of towns like Tiburon, Calif., just north of San Francisco, where restaurant owners have voluntarily given up the oils. In truth, while the proposal’s prospects are uncertain, Chicago officials have been on a bit of a banning binge these days in what critics mock as City Hall’s effort to micromanage residents’ lives in mundane ways.

The aldermen voted in April to forbid restaurants to sell foie gras. They have weighed a proposal to force cabbies to dress better. And there is talk of an ordinance to outlaw smoking at the beach.

Even Mayor Richard M. Daley, who often promotes bicycle riding and who not long ago appointed a city health commissioner who announced he was creating health “report cards” for the mayor and the aldermen, has balked at a trans-fat prohibition as one rule too many.

“Is the City Council going to plan our menus?” Mayor Daley asked.
Despite his wish to make Chicago healthier, even Mr. Burke — who appears trim, though he said that he, like most people he knows, would not mind losing 10 pounds — balked at the claim that it was the fattest city. Having seen the crowds at Walt Disney World, he said, he rather doubted that Chicago deserved the distinction.

Back at the Taste of Chicago, a spokeswoman for the festival said she was not qualified to comment on what might become of the summer event, in its 26th year, if trans fats were banished. She was also unable to say how many of the delicacies were cooked with oils containing trans fats.

Still, she pointed out, correctly, that there were booths selling fresh fruits and vegetables. Yet among the statistics city officials proudly announced as the festival closed after a 10-day run: 20,000 servings of fried dough were sold, as were 70,000 pirogies and 150,000 plates of fried cheese.


links for 2006-07-18

Frank Zappa on CNN

via Anarchy Across the Universe, we find this gem

I'll never forget Tipper Gore and by extension, Al Gore, lending their voices to this censorship project. Viva Frank Zappa!

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Atomic Balm?

D and I discussed U.S. energy options all Sunday afternoon (hey, it was pretty fracking hot outside), including nuclear.

Atomic Balm? : For the first time in decades, increasing the role of nuclear power in the United States may be starting to make political, environmental and even economic sense.

Nuclear has a few problems: public investment for private profit is another word for corporate welfare, the issue with toxic waste that can never be disposed of safely, and of the immense cost over-runs building such complex structures as nuclear plants. At least there aren't carbon emissions.

We came up with a better idea, which of course is too much of a pipe dream to be practical, and also would preclude the energy companies, as currently constructed, from being the arbiters of the solution. Namely, what if energy was produced more on the bitTorrent distributed user model? For instance, what if every household had solar panels or similar on their roof, over the entire continent, or even planet? Plus wind farms in all the desolate areas uninhabitable by humans. Every household would produce power, and any extra would be diverted onto the grid for use by everyone else. Of course, Com-Ed wouldn't be as profitable if they, and other power companies, didn't control the manufacture of energy, but they could control the infrastructure. Or not. More renewable energy would mean economies of scale, and reduction of cost, plus incentives to increase efficiency.

Dream on, right.

To John Holdren of Harvard, the essential problem with nuclear power is that it is “too unforgiving of either human error or human malice.” At the same time, Holdren points out, every source of electricity has its negatives. In the case of oil and gas, the question is whether there are enough reserves. For other fossil fuels like coal and tar sands, the question is whether our atmosphere can tolerate the emissions. For ethanol, the question is whether there is enough land to grow the necessary crops. For wind and hydropower, the question is whether there are enough good sites. Enough sunlight hits the planet to power civilization 2,000 times over, Holdren says, but solar power from photovoltaic cells is too expensive. “I can design a world that runs on photovoltaics,” he says, “but at current costs, electricity would be three or four times what it costs today.” That would wreak havoc on the world economy.

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links for 2006-07-17

At this stage of a sweltering day, I won't even pretend to have commentary. Either you've read this already, or you haven't. If you haven't had the pleasure, feel free to read over my shoulder.

Frank Rich: From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You ‘Axis of Evil’ The Bush era has not been defined by big government or small government but by virtual government. AS American foreign policy lies in ruins from Pyongyang to Baghdad to Beirut, its epitaph is already being written in Washington. Last week’s Time cover, “The End of Cowboy Diplomacy,” lays out the conventional wisdom: the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war, upended by chaos in Iraq and the nuclear intransigence of North Korea and Iran, is now officially kaput. In its stead, a sadder but more patient White House, under the sway of Condi Rice, is embracing the fine art of multilateral diplomacy and dumping the “bring ’em on” gun-slinging that got the world into this jam.

The only flaw in this narrative — a big one — is that it understates the administration’s failure by assuming that President Bush actually had a grand, if misguided, vision in the first place. Would that this were so. But in truth this presidency never had a vision for the world. It instead had an idée fixe about one country, Iraq, and in pursuit of that obsession recklessly harnessed American power to gut-driven improvisation and P.R. strategies, not doctrine. This has not changed, even now.

Only if we remember that the core values of this White House are marketing and political expediency, not principle and substance, can we fully grasp its past errors and, more important, decipher the endgame to come. The Bush era has not been defined by big government or small government but by virtual government. Its enduring shrine will be a hollow Department of Homeland Security that finds more potential terrorist targets in Indiana than in New York.

Like his father, George W. Bush always disdained the vision thing. He rode into office on the heels of a boom, preaching minimalist ambitions reminiscent of the 1920’s boom Republicanism of Harding and Coolidge. Mr. Bush’s most fervent missions were to cut taxes, pass a placebo patients’ bill of rights and institute the education program he sold as No Child Left Behind. His agenda was largely exhausted by the time of his fateful Crawford vacation in August 2001, so he talked vaguely of immigration reform and announced a stem-cell research “compromise.” But he failed to seriously lead on either issue, both of which remain subjects of toxic debate today. To appear busy once he returned to Washington after Labor Day, he cooked up a typically alliterative “program” called Communities of Character, a grab bag of “values” initiatives inspired by polling data. That was forgotten after the Qaeda attacks. But the day that changed everything didn’t change the fundamental character of the Bush presidency. The so-called doctrine of pre-emption, a repackaging of the long-held Cheney-Rumsfeld post-cold-war mantra of unilateralism, was just another gaudy float in the propaganda parade ginned up to take America to war against a country that did not attack us on 9/11. As the president’s chief of staff then, Andrew Card, famously said of the Iraq war just after Labor Day 2002, “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.” The Bush doctrine was rolled out officially two weeks later, just days after the administration’s brass had fanned out en masse on the Sunday-morning talk shows to warn that Saddam’s smoking gun would soon come in the form of a mushroom cloud.

Screw the cats

This is probably only funny because I am, umm, tired. Who knows the jokes provenance...

Mighty Mouse

Three mice are sitting at a bar in a pretty rough neighborhood late at night trying to impress each other about how tough they are. The first mouse orders a scotch, gulps it down and slams the glass on the bar. He turns to the second mouse and says, “When I see a mousetrap, I lie on my back and set it off with my foot. When the bar comes down, I catch it in my teeth, bench press it 20 times to work up an appetite, and then make off with the cheese.”

The second mouse orders two shots of bourbon, slams them down and nearly breaks the glasses on the bar. He turns to the first mouse and replies, “Yeah, well, when I see rat poison, I collect as much as I can, take it home, grind it into a powder, and add it to my coffee each morning so I can get a good buzz going for the rest of the day.”

The first mouse and the second mouse then turn to the third mouse. The third mouse lets out a long sigh and says to the first two, “I don't have time for this bullshit. I gotta go home and screw the cat.”

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Adrian Griffin tennis match

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Adrian Griffin Bulls

We've signed Adrian Griffin?

Dallas had Griff from 2001 until 2003, then Chicago in 2004-05, then Chicago 'couldn't afford' him, so he went to Dallas (they went to the NBA Finals) for the 05-06 season, now apparently back to Chicago. Weird. I thought Mark Cuban liked Griffin. Maybe Chicago is going to the Eastern Conference Finals this year, after all?

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Happy Bastille Day

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(link here)
Seems like we're soon going to have to emulate Bastille Day here in the States, and storm Washington to bring democracy back.


links for 2006-07-16

United moving to Loop

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No opinion about this move. Though did the City of Chicago really need to pay United not to move?

Reflecting upon uncertain future
(photo taken of an exterior sconce of 77 W Wacker aka the R.R. Donnelley building)

It's official: United moving to Loop
United Airlines announced Saturday that the company will make a downtown Chicago building its new headquarters site...

United said Saturday that it will move into the former R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co. building overlooking the Chicago River at 77 W. Wacker Drive in early 2007.
City and state officials offered United incentives as part of the headquarters search. United will get $5.25 million in tax increment financing from the city and $1.35 million in grants from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity for infrastructure improvements and job training, the company said at a news conference announcing the move.

Also, both the city and state will propose legislation to cap the jet fuel tax for the next five years -- which could potentially save millions of dollars for carriers at O'Hare.

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Whole Foods and Factory Organics

JOE NOCERA: A Tussle, of Sorts, Over Organics
Has Whole Foods lost its soul as it has grown larger?

A FEW weeks ago, I was alerted to a fascinating online exchange involving two people who care passionately about organic food. In one corner sat Michael Pollan, the well-known author who, in April, published “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” In the other sat John P. Mackey, the co-founder and chief executive of Whole Foods Market, which, with over 180 stores and $5.7 billion in sales, is by far the most successful purveyor of organic products in the country.

In his book, Mr. Pollan, who is also a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, spends considerable space exploring the business of growing and selling organic food. He discovers that organics have become an $11 billion business and that most organic goods are now produced on very large farms, like Cascadian Farm in Washington State.

Although the farms adhere to the organic standards established by the federal government — among other things, the land has to be pesticide-free for at least three years — they aren’t exactly the kind of small, local farms many people think they are supporting when they buy organic. The farms ship produce over long distances, prepackage their food, operate through large distribution networks and in other ways mimic the nonorganic food supply. Indeed, since 1999, Cascadian Farm has been a subsidiary of General Mills.

In writing about the organic food industry, Mr. Pollan poked gentle fun at Whole Foods for what he saw as the company’s willingness to promote to its customers “the pastoral ideals upon which the industry has been built,” even though at least some of those ideals now struck him as illusory. “I think there is a disconnect between what people think organic is and what it really is,” Mr. Pollan told me a few days ago.

Given that organic is the fastest-growing sector of the food business, it seems likely that this “industrialization” of organic food will continue, and it has caused Mr. Pollan to wonder whether this seemingly inevitable process “will cost organic its soul.” Implicitly, at least, he seemed to be asking whether the same was true of Whole Foods.

links for 2006-07-15

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Don't even need to make a joke, as the joke has been made manifest. Competence is over-rated anyway.

America's No. 1 terror target: Indiana? | IndyStar.com About three miles from the nearest town, Brian Lehman's popcorn factory near Berne has somehow ended up on the federal government's list of potential terrorist targets.

“I don't have a clue why we're on the list. We're on a gravel road, not even blacktop. We're nowhere,” said Lehman, owner of Amish Country Popcorn, which employs five people.

Nevertheless, Amish Country Popcorn is one of 8,591 places or events in Indiana that the Department of Homeland Security regards as serious potential terrorist targets, according to an inspector general's report that raised questions about the accuracy and relevance of what's known as the National Asset Database.

Indiana has about 30 percent more listed potential targets than New York (5,687) and nearly twice as many as California (3,212), putting Indiana atop the nation's list of potential terrorism targets.

What's more, the number of potential Indiana targets rose from 322 in 2004 to 8,303 in 2005.
Amish Country isn't the only odd-sounding site in the federal database.

Without divulging specifics, the list includes 77,069 U.S. sites where terrorists might strike -- including a flea market, a petting zoo, ice cream parlors, several Wal-Marts and a tackle shop

Ya gotta protect the tackle and bait shops for sure.

(via Digby)

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Musical solipsism part the 9898th

I've been running the Last-FM/iScrobbler plugin for quite some time (since August 5th, 2004), and although I frequently let the computer (unnamed) run unencumbered, I do point my playlists in certain directions, via randomizations, playlists, or my favorite selection tool, Doug Adams' applescript BlockParty. (Apparently, I wrote about BlockParty previously, per a google search. In my defense, that was over a year ago).

So, strange how certain trends percolate up the slipstream, and also strange how certain data is manipulated by methodology. A perfectly reasonable expectation is that over several months, certain artists will be played more frequently because their catalog is deeper. Dylan, Neil Young,

6 month artist stats
12 month artist list stats
6 month album stats
12 month album stats

And after all that jibber-jabber-wine-fuzzy typing, the impulse to even look at my Last-fm stats was because I noticed that I have rated every song of Dylan's John Wesley Harding album as 4 star or higher. In my iTunes universe, I try to give star ratings to every track, eventually, as many playlists are built using star rating as a data point.

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Romica Puceanu

I, ashamedly, know next to nothing about Romania, except for drinking some wine from there, and even less about the spectacular singer, Romica Puceanu. I do know that this is a great album.

Sounds from a Bygone Age, Vol. 2
“Sounds from a Bygone Age, Vol. 2” (Romica Puceanu & the Gore Brothers)

The wiki entry only says:

Romica Puceanu (1928 - 1996) was a Romanian Gypsy singer and interpreter of cântec de pahar, a style of Romanian doina with Gypsy and Turkish influences.

Yes, I can hear both. Plus a soulful, expressive voice. If you want to listen to a few mp3s of her (haven't listened to them yet, but am downloading some now), this page has several, albeit without ID3 tags, so you'll have to add them yourself.

From the liner notes of Sounds from a Bygone Age, the instruments are apparently: violin, double bass, cymbalom, kobza, accordion, plus vocals. Ms. Puceanu was a favorite of the famous Gore Brothers band because

she sang one hundred per cent Lautari music and enjoyed improvising. Puceanu was a lively, funny woman, who never turned up at the studio without her teapot - filled with cognac. When one of the sound engineers noticed during a studio take that she was holding her words the wrong way up and mentioned this to her, Romica replied: “Would I have ever sung with these men (the Gore Brothers) if I could read?”. ... The recordings with the Gore Brothers still represent the traditional “raw” withdrawn sound of the old taraf*. The arrangements are clear and minimalist, creating space befitting Puceanu's sparkling voice....And it wasn't only Bucharest intellectuals who saw in Romica Puceanu the “Billie Holiday of the East”.

Yes, and there is even a photo of Ms. Puceanu with a gardenia in her hair on the back cover.

Romica Puceanu

Highly recommended (if you are at all partial to music to drink wine to).

oh, suggested by Robert Christgau, of the Village Voice, who wrote:

Puceanu was indeed beloved in Bucharest, and playing her album twice proves she deserved to be. To call her the Gypsy Holiday or Piaf is to diminish her individuality: She's more virtuosic than either without showing off, and less pained whatever the cultural baggage of her appointed repertoire. Led by the two cousins who discovered her, the band is her other half—clean, swift, and economical—with Aurel Gore's violin determining the tone, Victor Gore's accordion dominating the coloration, and some cymbalom whiz or other tearing up the background.

*(taraf is a Turkish word designating a group of musicians)


Frogmarch Matter Civil court 2

If you are curious about the Wilson, Plame vs. Scooter, Cheney et al case, click over to FDL

Firedoglake - About Those Poison Pills… So, I spent some quality time with my highlighter, a fine point red pen, and the Wilson complaint last night.  And I had a fine conversation with a couple of lawyer friends about the complaint as well — it has been a while since I had my hands on a civil matter, and I wanted to double check some of my gut reactions to the document. 

There are a number of complex legal issues wrapped into this twenty-three page complaint filed on behalf of the Wilsons yesterday, and I want to be sure that I have a solid understanding of the legal precedents involved, so that everyone can get a good understanding of where things stand with this.  Especially with regard to the Bivens case and the issues of qualified immunity and other immunity grounds that may be argued on behalf of the defendants therein

I'm assuming TalkLeft will have some astute commentary as well, once the filing has been digested.

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Humor challenged


Ok, I read this article twice, looking for something even moderately funny that the President said, and could not find an instance. Is Mark Silva so drunk on the President's alleged charisma that the simple mention of the word “pig” is suddenly akin to Vaudeville?

Hogging the humor spotlight | Chicago Tribune - Mark Silva Bush serves up some comic relief thanks in part to a bagged boar while in Germany

Here are all of the proclamations that Mr. Silva found so hysterical:

1. “I understand I may have the honor of slicing the pig,” Bush said at a news conference earlier in the day punctuated with questions about spreading violence in the Middle East and an intensifying standoff with Iran over nuclear power.

2. “Thanks for having me,” Bush told the chancellor. “I'm looking forward to that pig tonight.”

3. “Did I think it was a clever response?” Bush said of Putin's slap at Cheney. “It was pretty clever actually, quite humorous--not to dis my friend, the vice president.”

4. “I haven't seen the pig yet,” said Bush, sidestepping the question about insights gained from his two-day visit to this rural seaside region that once rested behind the Iron Curtain in a Germany divided between East and West.

5. “I thought you were going to ask about the pig,” said the president, promising a full report from the barbecue. “I'll tell you about the pig tomorrow.”

Yeah, real fracking funny. From the buildup, you'd think Bush might have made at least one actual joke, but if there's a funny thought here, I can't discern what it is.

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Manipulation of the digitarians

I guess I've given up writing blank verse for a while. All my creative energy (what's left of it anyway) seems to be devoted to photography, and Photoshop. Ebb and flow, young man, ebb and flow.

Over Under Sideways
Over Under Sideways

bridge detail, slightly manipulated in Photoshop. A new technique: scanning found objects, and using them as layer textures in photographs. Art paper, consumer refuse, whatever looks interesting. This psychedelic layer is a drink coaster made from recycled circuit boards. Probably influenced by watching so many Syd Barrett Pink Floyd videos.

Self Portrait with iPod
Self Portrait with iPod well, I think I had an iPod.

Truth and Delusion Nocturne
Truth and Delusion Nocturne Lake Michigan. Photo actually taken in full daylight, but tried to make it look like an evening scene. Moderately successful, looks better printed full size.

Doggie Diner nocturne
Doggie Diner nocturne Armitage's finest, mid-day. Another daylight photo manipulated to look like night. The lights are a little artificial, need to perfect the technique.

a quickr pickr post

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Beer blog part 6

Stopped at Mitsuwa over last weekend, and bought a few dozen bottles of sake, and this beer:

Celebration Beer
Interesting, but a little sweet. Ingredients list vanilla beans, coriander, orange peel, nutmeg and cinnamon.

9% alcohol, sort of strange. b minus. Won't be drinking a six of these anytime soon, unless I wake up at the Kiuchi Brewery in Ibaraki, Japan.

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links for 2006-07-14

Frog March Matter - civil court edition

Ms. Plame and her husband have hinted they were preparing such a lawsuit for a while, I guess Novakula's recent nose-thumb was the trigger. Good luck to them: I'm sure the White House will attempt to quash this sooner than later. Of course, there is the little example of the Paula Jones Bill Clinton matter, but that was before the bloodless coup.

WSJ.com - Valerie Plame Sues Cheney, Libby, Rove Over Name Leak The Central Intelligence Agency officer whose identity was leaked to reporters sued Vice President Dick Cheney, his former top aide and presidential adviser Karl Rove on Thursday, accusing them and other White House officials of conspiring to destroy her career.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Valerie Plame and her husband, Joseph Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador, accused Mr. Cheney, Mr. Rove and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby of revealing Ms. Plame's CIA identity in seeking revenge against Mr. Wilson for criticizing the Bush administration's motives in Iraq.


The lawsuit accuses Messrs. Cheney, Libby, Rove and 10 unnamed administration officials or political operatives of putting the Wilsons and their children's lives at risk by exposing Ms. Plame.

“This lawsuit concerns the intentional and malicious exposure by senior officials of the federal government of … (Plame), whose job it was to gather intelligence to make the nation safer and who risked her life for her country,” the Wilsons' lawyers said in the lawsuit.

Joe Wilson's home page
Legal Defense Fund

the actual complaint is here

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Katha Pollitt is way cooler than AM Cox

As follow up to Ms. Pollitt's op-ed column yesterday, Jessica Valenti of Salon conducts an interview with Ms. Pollitt over the phone.

“Strident” and proud Columnist Katha Pollitt blasts feminism's new timidity and says, “This 'girls just want to have fun' feminism is a very shallow approach to life.”

Salon: Ana Marie Cox's review of your new collection in the New York Times Book Review riled a lot of people by using the words “strident” and “tacky” to describe feminism. What was your reaction to the piece?

You know, to tell you the truth, I didn't study the review closely -- because I'd like to maintain my cheerful disposition! But I think a review that begins “strident feminism” is pretty much declaring that we are in the land of backlash cliché. If you read my book you'll see that I support sexual freedom, I support freedom of speech, I'm not a family-values person at all, and I am not the sort of Dworkinite fuddy-duddy of Cox's imagination. I think the resentment that some younger women feel -- and I don't know how old Wonkette is, or how old she presents herself -- toward older feminists is very interesting. I don't quite understand it except as kind of a kill-the-mother thing. What is this “girls just want to have fun” feminism? It's a very shallow approach to life. And I can't think of another social movement where “strident” is a bad word.

Exactly. Since when is feminism supposed to be all sweetness and light and politeness?

Well, do black people, do Latinos, do workers go around saying, “Oh no! Our leaders are so strident! Someone just wrote a strident book defending my rights!” Even if they themselves are more moderate, they're happy! So I think it's sort of an odd combination.

Virginity or Death! : And Other Social and Political Issues of Our Time
“Virginity or Death! : And Other Social and Political Issues of Our Time” (Katha Pollitt)

(up to 742 on Amazon's best selling books as of this posting)

Tom Tomorrow adds, among other thoughts:

Okay, I think I’ve figured it out: Ana Marie Cox is the female David Brooks. Actually, that’s not quite fair to David Brooks, who’s positively insightful by comparison. Reading Ana Marie’s review of Katha Pollitt’s new book is more like reading Britney Spears’ thoughts on Noam Chomsky. “Like, whut is he so uptight about?”


This isn’t very clear writing, so just in case you glossed over her point: silly strident Katha is the sort of feminist shrew who gets upset about women voluntarily amputating their little toes in order to more comfortably wear ill-fitting designer shoes. Fun-loving Ana Marie, by contrast, is intrigued by the possibility of self-mutilation in pursuit of a fashion ideal!

What a chucklehead.


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People, places and things

Photos from around Chicago, taken in the last week or so.

(don't forget - embiggening is just a click away)

Live and Learn
Live and Learn Seekers of Treasure, Oak Street Beach

Mystery Cube
Mystery Cube mysterious cube near Fullerton

Sunset Porn number 712
Sunset Porn number 712 number might actually be greater

more snapshots below

links for 2006-07-13

You shone like the sun

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Three guesses who the 'he' is, though you probably only need one....

The Observer | Magazine | You shone like the sun ... I knock again, and hear three heavy steps. The door flies open and he's standing there. He's stark naked except for a small, tight pair of bright-blue Y-fronts; bouncing, like the books say he always did, on the balls of his feet.

He bars the doorway with one hand on the jamb, the other on the catch. His resemblance to Aleister Crowley in his Cefalu period is uncanny; his stare about as welcoming...

Oh and http://greylodge.org/gpc/?p=72, (which we read/blogged about before BoingBoing, hmmph / cranky old man voice ) links to a BBC documentary we had heard of, but never seen.

DOWNLOAD Format: MPG - Size: 373mb

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For the record

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Probably because I'm a dimwit, or due to lack of sleep, but I found this pretty funny.

For the record :
Correction: Because of a reporting error, a review of the Boston Public Library exhibit ``Journeys of the Imagination“ in last Wednesday's Living/Arts section mischaracterized a 1513 map by German cartographer Martin Waldseemuller. The map does not depict North America. It shows only part of South America and the Caribbean islands and does not indicate where they are relative to Asia.

Seems like a fairly large mistake: did anyone actually look at the map in question?

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Respecting a soldier's faith

When even the staunchly Republican editorial page of the Robert McCormick's Chicago Tribune calls out for allowing Wiccan symbols on a decorated veterans grave, you'd think the VA would be sympathetic. Apparently not.

Respecting a soldier's faith
Patrick Stewart was an adherent of Wicca--a religion based on worship of nature, whose members call themselves witches or pagans. It didn't get in the way of him serving his country with distinction in the Nevada National Guard. Sgt. Stewart was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star after being killed in Afghanistan when the helicopter carrying him was shot down.

But now that he's deceased, his Wiccan faith presents a problem. His widow, Roberta Stewart, asked the Department of Veterans Affairs to memorialize him at a Nevada veterans cemetery with a marker including his name and the Wiccan symbol--a five-pointed star in a circle. But the VA balked, on the grounds that Wiccan emblems have not been approved. All it was willing to do was install a plaque with his name.

Why the VA has resisted Mrs. Stewart's request is hard to understand. It allows 38 other religious symbols--not just for Christianity and Judaism, but Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Bahai, humanism and even atheism.

I wonder what the accepted grave mark for atheism was? Have there been any Pastafarians?

Jokes aside, I see no reason why Patrick Stewart cannot be honored in accommodation with his and his wife's wishes.

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Marfa, Texas

I've been out in this country, and there is something intriguing about the landscape.

David Byrne Journal: 7.4.06: The Landscape — Marfa, Texas Pt. 1
Past Pecos the landscape began to change — dramatic igneous formations stuck up here and there, hills appeared on both sides of the road with remnants of lava forming spiny ridges along their tops. Here were prehistoric seas, swamps, jungles and volcanoes.

Marfa is in a dry flat area in between these outcroppings that you reach after winding through various hills and canyons. In some ways it is a typical small Texan town with a beautiful old central courthouse, a train track running through the middle, grain and cattle loading facilities…but that’s where the ordinariness ends. The main street here is lined with super contemporary Spartan-looking art galleries and the offices of at least 3 art foundations. There is a “good” restaurant with white tablecloths and a tasteful bookstore and coffee and wine bar wedged in between the post office, the barbershop and the NPR station offices. ... Part of the attraction here is the local scenery — the landscape is big, harsh, desolate and spacious. The locals didn’t seem very interested, but some of us were determined to visit Big Bend National Park, which is only a couple of hours’ drive away. The Rio Grande cuts a swath through an area of mixed geology — more igneous extrusions, limestone uplifts with canyons cut through, sandstone formations, geologic folding and bending. (The Midland Odessa area is known locally as the Permian Basin, so geological terms are not as academic here as in many other places — geology will tell if there is oil underground or water for your cattle — it is destiny around here.)

David Byrne took several pictures, so make sure to click the link.

It took me a bit to get used to this homey approach to music and performance. New Yorkers are sadly more “professional” in their attitude towards their art. We usually perform for money under controlled circumstances. We see ourselves as artistes whose performances are as controlled as we can manage them. (More on control later.) The camaraderie amongst musicians does exists up here in NY, but can you imagine a house party where Madonna picks up a guitar after dinner and serenades the drunken guests with a new song, and then passes the guitar to David Bowie? Not likely, I imagine, though who knows? But amongst Texans it’s the normal course of events. When I fist encountered and participated in these campfire sings I realized the meaning and resonance of these things goes deeper — to some extent this is a way of resisting the century-old trend of produced and commodified entertainment and culture.

We tend to see our culture and entertainment as something made by “others”, by “professionals”, which we then buy, attend, consume or purchase. It has been removed from us, our own culture. It’s made by those with distant professionals with the requisite levels of skill. craft and polish. When it was discovered that there was money to be made in marketing and packaging what was once locally produced and amateur popular music (and everything else) it slowly was insinuated that it was weird and uncool to make it at home with your friends — how unprofessional! It became considered strange and unlikely to create your own entertainment and to leave the TV off (as well as being unprofitable.) But in quite a few places this never took hold — Texas, Brazil, and Spain I can personally vouch for as examples of cultures where this process of creation and performance continued being transparent and public (well, amongst friends.)

I've had this very discussion with my old boss, Keith Porlier, a few years ago. We 21st c.e. denizens are much less likely to make our own music and art, because we 'aren't good at it', ie, are not professionals. I try to talk myself out of this self inflicted doubt, but it isn't always possible.


Pando and large attachments


Actually, this suggestion from Walt Mossberg comes just in time. Have been working on a presentation using Keynote, and the file has ballooned to over 10 megs, which presents obstacles sending it to clients. Uploading to our FTP site is an option, but usually requires more explanation than just asking someone for an email address. Even though FTP is nearly as old as email, many people are not familiar enough with the technology to be comfortable downloading files without some hand holding.

WSJ.com - The Mossberg Solution How many times have you wanted to email a large attachment -- like a bunch of digital photos, an album of songs, or a hefty video -- but didn't do so because it exceeded your email provider's, or the recipient's, limits on attachment size, or because it might max out the recipient's mailbox? ... This week, we tested a new, free, application called Pando that aims to solve this problem without requiring you to use an intermediary Web site. Pando lets you email huge attachments -- up to one gigabyte each -- to anyone, without breaching email size limits, or clogging anyone's inbox. It comes in versions for both Windows and Macintosh computers, available for downloading at www.pando.com.

It sounded fishy to us, too, but Pando, from Pando Networks Inc., performed really well in our tests -- even in its current “beta,” or trial, stage. It's simple, fast, and effective, and it solves the large-attachment problem.

Pando works by merging the mechanism of email with its own small program and a modified version of BitTorrent, a back-end file-transfer system best known until now for speeding up the downloading of large, unauthorized files, like pirated movies.

My first concern with any 'free' Windows application is always spyware, but according to Pando:

Pando is 100% clean of spyware, adware and viruses. And yes, its free. Enjoy it, and if you run into problems, drop us a quick note directly from Pando by clicking the “beta feedback” link.

So, how are they making money? Not sure, yet, though the corporate blog might say, but am about to test out the program today regardless.

Mossberg continues:

Here's how you use Pando. First, you download and install the small Pando program. Then, you select the files you want to send. These can be any type of files you want, or even whole folders of files. Then, still using the Pando software, you type in the addresses of the recipients, the subject, and a message. The software then does three things: it creates a Pando Package, a small special file that instructs the recipient's computer on how to fetch the files; it sends an email containing that package file, plus any text you want; and it uploads the files to a Pando server.

On the recipient's end, an email is received in his or her normal email program containing the Pando Package as a tiny attachment (one huge 94 megabyte attachment we sent required only a 22-kilobyte attachment). The recipient just opens the Pando Package attachment, and it in turn launches the Pando software, which then downloads the files or folders you sent. The first time the recipient receives a Pando email, he or she will have to download and install the Pando software. There's a link in the email to the download site.

Once downloaded onto the receiver's computer, all Pando files can be found in a special folder that Pando automatically creates. In Windows, it's called My Pando Packages and is in My Documents. On the Mac, it's called Pando Packages and is in the home folder. The files are also listed in the handy Received list in the Pando software.

As a bonus, Pando can sometimes transmit these large files faster than your email program or Web browser could. That's because it uses a modified version of the speedy BitTorrent technology.

From the legal mumbo-jumbo

As a condition of your using the Software and the Service, you agree that you will not (a) use the Software or the Service to download, upload, use, share with others or otherwise copy or distribute music, movies, images or other content for which you have not obtained all necessary rights from the owner or rightful licensor of such content; (b) modify content identifiers (such as the title or the name of the creator of that content) in order to disguise the origin or description of any content; (c) download, upload, use, share with others or otherwise copy or distribute any content that is defamatory, harassing, obscene, invasive of another's privacy, or is otherwise illegal; (d) harm minors in any way, including without limitation by sharing or downloading child pornography; (e) upload, share with others or otherwise distribute any material that contains software viruses or any other computer code, files or programs designed to interrupt, destroy or limit the functionality of any computer software or hardware or telecommunications equipment; (f) interfere with or disrupt the Service or servers or networks connected to the Service, or disobey any requirements, procedures, policies or regulations of networks connected to the Service; (g) export or re-export the Software except in compliance with the export control laws of the United States and other relevant jurisdictions; or (h) collect any information about Pando Network's network or users of the Software or Service by monitoring, interdicting or intercepting any process of the Software or the Service;

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He Let the Dogs Out!

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MoDo on the travesty of the US government trying to weasel out of the Geneva Conventions. Whatever happened to restoring dignity in the White House? Give me a blowjob over legalizing (or attempting to justify) torture, any day.

Maureen Dowd: He Let the Dogs Out! What better time than the dog days of summer to watch a dog-torture advocate get hounded?

As three female protesters in Abu Ghraib-style orange jumpsuits and black headscarves stood vigil in the back of the Senate Judiciary hearing room, like the supernatural chorus in “Macbeth,” William Haynes was grilled about his worthiness to ascend to the federal bench when his main claim to the promotion is complicity in letting Dick Cheney dance a jig on the Geneva Conventions.

“The State Department characterizes the use of dogs as an interrogation aid as torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment,’’ Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat, said to the Pentagon general counsel. ”We publicly condemned the countries of Libya and Burma for using dogs in interrogation. In November of 2002, you recommended that Secretary Rumsfeld approve the use of dogs to intimidate detainees at Guantánamo.

“The Department of Defense’s own investigation concluded that this technique migrated from Guantánamo to Iraq and Abu Ghraib. At least two members of the armed forces have now been convicted under the Uniform Code of Military Justice for using dogs to frighten detainees. It is striking that as these soldiers were prosecuted, you were being promoted. What message are we sending our troops? And what message are we sending the world, in light of your role in promulgating abusive interrogation techniques, like the use of dogs, stress positions and forced nudity. What message are we sending if we promote you to the second highest court in the land?”

The senator added that the message would be terribly unfair: “Well, we’re going to dispatch a few privates, a few corporals, a sergeant, maybe it will get to a lieutenant, but it’ll never get upstairs. ... Apparently, upstairs there’s a promotion party. Downstairs people are being sent to prison.’’

Mr. Haynes, 48, lamely resorted to the argument that Abu Ghraib was simply a few bad apples, ”the work of the night shift, without any authority whatsoever.“

Even as the Bush administration was forced to concede, after being slapped back by the Supreme Court, that terrorism suspects must be accorded the rights enshrined in the Geneva Conventions, W. was trying to reward those who helped shred them. He nominated Mr. Haynes to sit on the Fourth Circuit court, the conservative Virginia go-to court for contentious cases on civil liberties and detention of foreign prisoners.

A group of 20 retired military officers sent a letter to Senator Arlen Specter, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, expressing ”profound concern“ about Mr. Haynes and arguing that he promoted policies that ”compromised military values, ignored federal and international law, and damaged America’s reputation and world leadership.’’

Thank You for Hating My Book

I've long enjoyed Ms. Pollitt's columns in The Nation. I might purchase her book now, just for kicks. I'm assuming she is talking about the review Ann Marie Cox, nee an Assfuckers-delight, scribbled on crayon a few weeks ago.

Virginity or Death! : And Other Social and Political Issues of Our Time
“Virginity or Death! : And Other Social and Political Issues of Our Time” (Katha Pollitt)

Thank You for Hating My Book - New York Times by KATHA POLLITT

ACTUALLY, this is good,“ my editor said when my book got panned. ”It’s a long review by a well-known person. It’s on a good page. It’s even got a caricature of you.“

True, the drawing made me look like a demented chicken — a fat demented chicken — but as he explained, art meant space and space meant respect and respect meant attention. As my former husband put it, quoting Dr. Johnson as is his wont, ”I would rather be attacked than unnoticed.“ Even in the 18th century, it seems, there was no such thing as bad publicity.

Unless, of course, it’s your own. In the days that followed, I discovered something interesting about my writer friends. Here I had thought of them as anxious and sensitive, taking to their beds, or the phone, or both, when professional setbacks came their way. How often had I had the conversation about the culture editor with a grudge dating back to the reign of Tiberius, the clueless reviewer, the publicist who stops returning your phone calls and the publisher who suggests you consider another line of work?

But that was them. My bad review was something else again: my writer friends thought it was great. It was an opportunity, a platform, a megaphone, a lemon about to be transmuted into the most ambrosial lemonade. The very things that made it bad made it good: its frivolity displayed my depth, its confusion threw into relief my steely logic, its snark showed all too clearly who the real wit was.

”Yes, it was pretty negative, and your arms looked like tree stumps,“ said one friend, helpfully. ”But so what? That just means you’re a star!“

”All the review did was tell the world you have a new book out,“ said another friend. ”It’s attention. Just watch your Amazon numbers soar.“ I reminded her that she hadn’t been so cheerful when her novel was panned by that Romanian diplomat. ”Oh, that,“ she explained. ”That was different.“ Her bad review was written by an ignorant nobody. My bad review was written by a mini-celebrity. The reviewer’s semi-fame would enhance my own. Gee, I suggested, maybe I should be sending her flowers.

Army ceasing contract with Halliburton

Speaking of corruption:

Army to End Expansive, Exclusive Halliburton Deal

WASHINGTON -- The Army is discontinuing a controversial multibillion-dollar deal with oil services giant Halliburton Co. to provide logistical support to US troops worldwide, a decision that could cut deeply into the firm's dominance of government contracting in Iraq.

Government audits turned up more than $1 billion in questionable costs. Whistle-blowers told how the company charged $45 per case of soda, double-billed on meals, and allowed troops to bathe in contaminated water.
No contractor has received more money as a result of the invasion of Iraq than Halliburton, whose former chief executive, Dick Cheney, is now vice president.

Hmmm, easy to read between the lines here, eh?

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Journal tightens rules for authors

Follow up on the WSJs article re the medical communities inherent corruption, the Tribune writes:

Journal tightens rules for authors
Doctors must disclose conflicts of interest

Despite a Chicago-based national medical journal's efforts to require contributing doctors to disclose their ties to the pharmaceutical industry, physicians don't always abide by the rules--even during a period of intense scrutiny of drugmaker-doctor relationships.

In Wednesday's weekly edition the Journal of the American Medical Association is expected to issue a correction on a February article it published about a major depression study.

“Most of the 13 authors” failed to disclose they were paid consultants to drugmakers, according to a Wall Street Journal article Tuesday.

The study warned about risks of relapsing into depression for pregnant women who stop taking prescribed antidepressants. The article arrived at a good time for makers of antidepressants, who had been under recent scrutiny about the safety of their medications when used during pregnancy, the newspaper reported.

Doctors have been under fire for allegedly allowing drug company gifts and payments to cloud their judgment when writing purportedly unbiased articles that could influence physicians' prescribing practices.

What's the solution? Perhaps penalties are in order: take away the keys to their Lamborghinis?

One such group, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said researchers who do not disclose their ties to industry should be banned for at least three years from publishing in the affected medical journal.

“The only solution is for journals to adopt strong penalties for authors who fail to disclose,” the Center for Science in the Public Interest said in a statement.

Merrill Goozner, a project director for the center, said his organization has a database that would have taken JAMA editors about “two minutes” to check on whether the doctors had conflicts of interest.


Bill Passed to Limit Internet Gambling

I guess there was no more pressing business than a partial block of internet gambling. What ever happened to the Republican ideal of “Less Gov'met'? I never have had the urge to play online poker, but I fail to see the big deal. Who is really pushing for this bill anyway, besides the Christian Taliban? Are

Bill Passed to Limit Internet Gambling
The House voted 317-93 Tuesday for legislation that would prohibit credit cards and other payment forms from being used to settle Internet wagers. It would clarify and update current law to spell out that most gambling is illegal online.

It also would allow law enforcement officials to work with Internet providers to block access to gambling Web sites. The bill would exempt state-run lotteries and horse racing.

Perhaps it is simply about protecting state revenues from 'legalized' gambling, ie, use our rackets, not theirs. Stupid, and hypocritical.

The bill's sponsors successfully beat back an amendment to strip out exemptions in the bill for the horse racing industry and state lotteries.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., sponsored the failed amendment. She said it was unfair to allow online lotteries and Internet betting on horse racing to flourish while cracking down on other kinds of sports betting, casino games and card games like poker.

If the horse provision were stricken from the bill, there's a good chance the measure would run into objections in the Senate from Majority Whip Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and others.

Under the provision concerning horse racing, betting operators would not be prohibited from any activity allowed under the Interstate Horseracing Act. That law was written in the 1970s to set up rules for interstate betting on racing. The industry successfully lobbied for legislation several years ago to clarify that Internet betting on horse racing is allowed.


links for 2006-07-12

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Syd Barrett: a true rock legend

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A little more backstory about Syd Barrett, from the Guardian UK.

Comment is free: Syd Barrett: a true rock legend
Syd Barrett: a true rock legend Joe Boyd, who discovered Pink Floyd in 66, shares memories of a man who was then at the vanguard of Britain's counterculture.

It's a grossly overused phrase, but Syd Barrett was a true rock legend, mostly because he hasn't performed live or recorded, or even been seen for more than 30 years. Barrett, whose death was confirmed today, was the first “acid casualty”, and few actually remember the man who led the most important group of Britain's counterculture in 1966 and 1967.

One man who does remember is Joe Boyd. He discovered Pink Floyd in the summer of 1966, and promoted them at the legendary UFO club on London's Tottenham Court Road, where Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd made their name. Boyd also produced Pink Floyd's first single Arnold Layne, and writes about his experiences with the group in the excellent book White Bicycles.

From Barrett's wiki:

Syd Barrett had one noted reunion with Pink Floyd, in 1975 during the recording sessions for Wish You Were Here. Barrett attended the Abbey Road session unannounced and watched the band record Shine On You Crazy Diamond — coincidentally, a song about him. At that time, Syd had gained a lot of weight and had shaved off all of his hair, including his eyebrows, and his ex-bandmates did not at first recognise him (one of the photographs in Nick Mason's book Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd appears to have been taken that day; it is captioned simply: Syd Barrett, 5th June 1975). Eventually, they realised who he was and Roger Waters was so distressed that he was reduced to tears. Members of the band also reported on their featured VH1 episode of Behind The Music that Barrett held a toothbrush and attempted to brush his teeth by holding the brush still and jumping up and down. A reference to this reunion appears in the film Pink Floyd The Wall (1982), where the character 'Pink,' played by Bob Geldof, shaves off his eyebrows after succumbing to the pressures of life and fame.

In an interview for VH1, Rick Wright spoke about the session, saying: “One thing that really stands out in my mind, that I'll never forget; I was going in to the the Shine On sessions. I went in the studio and I saw this guy sitting at the back of the studio, he was only as far away as you are from me. And I didn't recognise him. I said, 'Who's that guy behind you?' 'That's Syd.' And I just cracked up, I couldn't believe it... he had shaven all his hair off... I mean, his eyebrows, everything... he was jumping up and down brushing his teeth, it was awful. And, uh, I was in, I mean Roger was in tears, I think I was; we were both in tears. It was very shocking... seven years of no contact and then to walk in while we're actually doing that particular track. I don't know – coincidence, karma, fate, who knows? But it was very, very, very powerful.” In another interview, Nick Mason has said: “When I think about it, I can still see his eyes, but... it was everything else that was different.” In yet another interview, Roger Waters has said: “I had no idea who he was for a very long time.”

Wish You Were Here
“Wish You Were Here” (Pink Floyd)

Syd Barret 2002

And, theoretically, Johnny Depp has optioned (or is looking to option) a film script to make a biography. So get typing!

I can't help me'self - some Syd Barrett and/or Pink Floyd video from YouTube or Google Video below.

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Talk about your corruption issues. Was this built by Bechtel, or Halliburton? I forget. Something like 10 years behind schedule and multi-billion dollars over budget.

Big Dig Collapse Prompts Renewed Scrutiny

At least 12 tons of concrete collapsed onto a passing car in a Big Dig tunnel, fatally crushing a newlywed and prompting renewed scrutiny Tuesday of the costliest highway project in U.S. history. The state attorney general said he plans to treat the site as a crime scene that could lead to charges of negligent homicide.

“What we are looking at is anyone who had anything to do with what happened last night,” Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly said. “No one is going to be spared.”

The accident around 11 p.m. Monday was near the entrance to the Ted Williams Tunnel, which runs under Boston Harbor to Logan International Airport. The driver of the crushed car managed to crawl through a window to safety, but his wife died when four of massive concrete ceiling panels fell on the vehicle.

Oh, Bechtel.

The $14 billion highway project, which buried Interstate 93 beneath downtown and extended the Massachusetts Turnpike to Logan Airport, has been criticized for years over construction problems and cost overruns. There have been water leaks and at least one incident when dirt and debris from an air shaft fell onto cars.

In May, prosecutors charged six current and former employees of a concrete supplier with fraud for allegedly concealing that some concrete delivered to the Big Dig was not freshly mixed.

Amorello said the contractor was Modern Continental. Representatives of that company and project manager Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment Tuesday.

Ain't politics grand?

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Panoramic Maps of 19th century

These are very cool! Of course, I picked out places I've been, Chicago (for instance, Chicago in 1868 from Schiller Street north side to 12th Street south side), Austin (nyet), Dallas, New York, San Francisco, Sarnia (Ontario), etc. Sort of a clunky interface, but still fun to browse. Probably especially since D & I have become Deadwood Acolytes (churned through season 1 & 2 via Netflix since July 4th weekend, and halfway through season 3 now. More on that later).
Chicago 1868
(click to embiggen)

Panoramic Maps from the Library of Congress The panoramic map was a popular cartographic form used to depict U.S. and Canadian cities and towns during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Known also as bird's-eye views, perspective maps, and aero views, panoramic maps are nonphotographic representations of cities portrayed as if viewed from above at an oblique angle. Although not generally drawn to scale, they show street patterns, individual buildings, and major landscape features in perspective. The majority of items presented here are documented in PANORAMIC MAPS of Cities in the United States and Canada, second edition (1984), by John R. Hébert and Patrick E. Dempsey. Hébert and Dempsey compiled a checklist of 1,726 panoramic maps of U.S. and Canadian cities

Cartography is sort of a lost art form, to our society's detriment. Oh, search form here

I also haven't found any map this warning would be relevant for:

The Library of Congress presents these documents as part of the record of the past. These primary historical documents reflect the attitudes, perspectives, and beliefs of different times. The Library of Congress does not endorse the views expressed in these collections, which may contain materials offensive to some readers.

but I'm still looking. Again, having immersed myself in the world of Deadwood, South Dakota, circa 1876 has helped.

(from 2020 hindsight, via Backup Brain)

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Marco Materazzi vs Zinedine Zidane

Day 2, the lip readers avoid consensus:

ZIDANE INSULTS VARIED - Top Stories - WorldCup365 News

The credibility of the lip-reading profession is in tatters this morning after at least five lip-readers provided Fleet Street's newspapers with wildly different accounts of what Marco Materazzi said to Zinedine Zidane during the World Cup final.


As a kid, I owned at least 10-15 Tintin comics, and re-read them obsessively. I wonder where my copies went? I don't really remember any details of the plots, nor did I read Tintin with an adult's sensitivity to racism and jingoism. If I don't get around to Tivoing this documentary, I'll probably rent it from Netflix.

TV Review | 'Tintin and I': Hergé, Mild-Mannered Father of the Adventurous Tintin :
This P.O.V. documentary should be a treat for avid Tintin fans, who come to it with a thorough appreciation of the character and his adventures.

And although Mr. Remi rarely left his desk, much less his native country, he made Tintin a world traveler, an observer of cultures that his creator had never known firsthand. Some of the early works, like “Tintin au Congo,” were unabashedly racist. Mr. Ostergaard and the film conclude that Mr. Remi wasn’t particularly racist, even then; he was just “a bit of a sponge,” absorbing whatever attitudes were prevalent at the time. (The father of Mr. Sadoul, the interviewer, was a high-ranking official in what was then the Belgian Congo.)

The strip quickly became political, though. Tintin encountered a villainous dictator named Müsstler, which was surprising, since Mr. Remi’s mentor at the newspaper was a fan of both Mussolini and Hitler. After the Nazis invaded Belgium in 1940, they closed down the paper. Mr. Remi moved on to the Brussels daily Le Soir, but the Nazis assumed control of it, and when the war ended, he was arrested as a Nazi sympathizer.

“It was seen as treason” to have worked for Le Soir, Mr. Remi says, arguing that no one seemed to feel that way about bus drivers and waiters who also went to work every day and collected their salaries while the city was occupied.

Tintin and I

On most PBS stations Tuesday (check local listings).

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Syd Barrett RIP

Poor Syd. Speaking of casualties of the drug wars, Mr. Barrett made some spectacular music in his youth, but the stresses of modern life did him in, and he's been a recluse since the early 70s, living with mumsy, and painting.

Syd Barrett dies aged 60 News: Syd Barrett, the former lead singer of Pink Floyd and one of the key figures of the 60s, has died at his home in Cambridge.
also BBC Obit

Lost in the Woods - Syd Barrett & the Pink Floyd
Syd Barrett

The Madcap Laughs
“The Madcap Laughs” (Syd Barrett)

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
“The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” (Pink Floyd)

“Barrett” (Syd Barrett)

NME obit

(See Emily Play)

Lost in the Woods - Syd Barrett & the Pink Floyd
“Lost in the Woods - Syd Barrett & the Pink Floyd” (Julian Palacios)

Can't say the young fella doesn't have ambition. What is he - 21 years old? Of course, a lot of obstacles could occur within two years, but gotta tip one's hat to the drive of the young.

Advertising Age - LeBron James Company Plans Global Icon Status by 2008 LeBron James Company Plans Global Icon Status by 2008

By the time the United States Olympic team arrives in Beijing, China, on that day for the 2008 Summer Games, plans are in place to make basketball star LeBron James -- make that Brand LeBron -- into a global icon.

With plenty of help from Mr. James himself.

“As we're building our relationships, I don't look at it as endorsement deals,” Mr. James said Monday at the inaugural LRMR Marketing Summit at the University of Akron, the superstar's hometown. “Maybe I did when I was younger. Now that I'm trying to form a business company, I look at you guys as partners.”

LRMR Marketing is the sports marketing firm the Cleveland Cavaliers player formed with childhood friends Randy Mims, Maverick Carter and Rich Paul after his much-discussed May, 2005 split with agent Aaron Goodwin, who helped negotiate Mr. James' $90 million deal with Nike.

LRMR invited representatives from the companies that Mr. James currently has endorsement deals with -- Coca-Cola, Nike, Microsoft, Bubblicious and Upper Deck trading cards, as well as several other small marketers -- to share ideas on how to slowly but surely build the LeBron brand.

August 8, 2008 -- or 08/08/08, which was in printed material handed out at the summit as well as emblazoned on several new black Nike “Witness” T-shirts -- is the target date. The goal is to turn Mr. James into the next Pele or Muhammad Ali, athletes who transcended their respective sports on a global stage.

I guess getting an MBA isn't worth much these days anyway.

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FDA doesn't like bright lights

As follow up to previous coverage on the fake-blood 'near-controversy', mentioned here, here and here, apparently the FDA isn't too keen on letting the public know what happens. Shame on the FDA. Whatever happened to transparency in government? Oh, right, the Republicans reflexively reject it, regardless of circumstance or merit.

WSJ.com - FDA to Weigh Test Of Blood Substitute Out of Public View

The Food and Drug Administration plans a closed-door safety hearing on the Navy's proposed test of a blood substitute in civilian trauma patients even though the product's maker says it is willing to open the hearing to the public.

In a public notice, the FDA cited “trade secret and/or confidential information” for its barring the public from the hearing scheduled for Friday. Yet officials of Biopure Corp., which makes the blood substitute, say the Cambridge, Mass., company doesn't harbor any trade secrets that would prevent making the meeting of an FDA advisory committee public.

“We have no objection to holding an open hearing,” Biopure Chief Executive Zafiris G. Zafirelis said in an interview. He said his company is willing to sign a waiver saying it doesn't object to any issues or facts becoming public in such a hearing.

The Navy, the study's sponsor, declined repeated interview requests, and Biopure officials said the Navy hasn't agreed to terms under which the hearing could be public.

“Now that we know the company isn't objecting, but only the military, I am 10 times more worried than I was before” that the hearing isn't public, said Sidney M. Wolfe, director of Public Citizen Health Research Group. He termed it “suspicious” that the Navy wants the meeting closed.

What the hell does that mean, anyway? Sounds fishy to me.

Some doctors involved in the issue say the FDA is wary of a public hearing because it could prove embarrassing for the agency. While Biopure maintains its product is safe, earlier research conducted in surgery patients linked Hemopure to a relatively high rate of hypertension and serious cardiac events, including heart attacks. FDA documents show the product, which is derived from cow's blood, also has been linked to a high rate of strokes and ministrokes, compared to patients receiving donor blood.

Yet, the FDA already has allowed a nonconsent trial in trauma patients of a blood substitute made by Northfield Laboratories Inc. of Evanston, Ill. That study is nearing its completion. In an earlier surgery study, Northfield's blood substitute, called PolyHeme, was linked to 10 heart attacks among 81 patients who got the material, versus zero heart attacks among 71 patients who got blood. Northfield said its product wasn't responsible for the heart attacks.

“There's some embarrassment at the FDA over how the blood-substitute issue has been handled,” said William Hoffman, a former medical director at Biopure who now is director of cardiac-surgery critical care at Massachusetts General Hospital and who has worked on blood substitutes for years. “It's because Northfield had the same safety issue, and they let Northfield go ahead. There appear to be conflicts within the FDA about whether to go ahead” with the Navy/Biopure research.

Sounds to me like someone at the FDA (or their bosses in the White House) has a financial interest in this matter. Otherwise, why the sudden change of heart?

There are also signs that the FDA's internal stance toward Biopure's product has shifted. In the past year, according to people familiar with the events, the agency has assigned three senior agency officials to oversee the work of the original FDA reviewer of the substitute. Also, the FDA in recent weeks has disinvited two doctors, known to be critical of blood substitutes, who originally had been slated to be consultants to the advisory committee.

The FDA's stance “seems like nonsense,” said Brian Wolfman, director of the Public Citizen Litigation Group. “They have to give some specific reason causing this meeting to be shut down.”

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Nielsen to Track Commercials

Now this is going to shake up the industry a bit. Good! Spend more money in the Out-of-Home/Alternative categories instead of wasting it on television ads that nobody watches!

WSJ.com - Nielsen Plans to Track Viewership Of TV Commercials for First Time Nielsen Media Research, the firm that calculates national television ratings, plans to answer one of advertising's most pressing questions: How many people actually watch TV commercials?

In November, Nielsen will begin for the first time to provide formal ratings for commercial breaks, a move with far-reaching implications for the fast-changing media world.

Currently, Nielsen, a unit of Dutch media company VNU NV, provides ratings only for individual TV programs in their entirety. Commercial prices are based on that overall rating. The higher the rating of a particular show the more money a TV network can charge advertisers for a spot shown during that program.

Both TV networks and advertisers expect the new Nielsen ratings will show that viewership declines noticeably when a program breaks for commercials. A particularly big drop could fuel advertisers' push for changes in how ads are incorporated into shows, reinforcing demands for fewer or shorter ad breaks and lower ad rates. It could also accelerate the flow of advertising dollars out of television to the Internet and new digital media.

“Prices should go down,” says Bruce Goerlich, executive vice president and director of strategic resources at Publicis Groupe SA's ZenithOptimedia, a firm that buys advertising time on behalf of corporate clients and other marketers. “If I was a buyer, I would be taking the stance of, 'Quite frankly, what you said you were delivering, you weren't.'

The introduction of commercial ratings comes as advertisers and their agencies are increasingly focused on measuring the results of the commercials they create. Advertising has long been viewed as a game of chance, with marketers putting money into costly TV commercials without any clear idea of whether the ads drive sales of their products or yield greater recognition among consumers.

But the Internet gives marketers the ability to determine the number of people who click on an ad, sign up for a test drive at a local car dealership or choose to receive an email newsletter. Ads on other emerging media outlets, such as cellphones and video on demand, are also providing a measure of consumer response. TV, however, still commands the largest share of ad dollars. In 2005, advertisers spent about $54 billion on local, cable and network TV, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

”Proof of performance measures become one of the things that people can use to separate the wheat from the chaff,“ says Jon Swallen, TNS Media Intelligence's senior vice president of research.

Corruption in Major Depression Study

Unsurprisingly, a frequent occurrence.

WSJ.com - Financial Ties to Industry Cloud Major Depression Study For pregnant women considering whether to continue taking antidepressant drugs, a study in a February issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, or JAMA, contained a sobering warning: Stopping the medication greatly increases the risk of relapsing into depression.

The study authors -- most of them leading psychiatrists at Massachusetts General Hospital, the University of California Los Angeles and Emory University -- said their results challenged a common assumption that hormonal changes during pregnancy protected expectant mothers against depression. In their article, they predicted the findings would prompt some women to stay on their depression medication through pregnancy. That was good news for the makers of big-selling antidepressants, who have recently faced growing questions about the safety of their medications when used during pregnancy.

But the study, and resulting television and newspaper reports of the research, failed to note that most of the 13 authors are paid as consultants or lecturers by the makers of antidepressants. The lead author -- Lee S. Cohen, a Harvard Medical School professor and director of the perinatal and reproductive psychiatry research program at Massachusetts General Hospital -- is a longtime consultant to three antidepressant makers, a paid speaker for seven of them and has his research work funded by four drug makers. None of his financial ties were reported in the study. In total, the authors failed to disclose more than 60 different financial relationships with drug companies.

The work of these academic researchers highlights the role of “opinion” or “thought” leaders coveted by drug companies because of their ability to influence not only the practice of doctors, but popular opinion as well. In the case of antidepressant use during pregnancies, the industry-paid opinion leaders have become dominant authorities in the field. They help establish clinical guidelines, sit on editorial boards of medical journals, advise government agencies evaluating antidepressants and teach courses on the subject to other doctors.

One hopes Michael Moore reads this article, and manages to work it into his movie-in-progress.

Big Pharma Corruption

Headlines warned of the danger of stopping antidepressants during pregnancy, and many local television news stations broadcast, unedited, a “video news release” put out by JAMA reporting on the study. That release featured Dr. Cohen and one of his patients, Lisa Kirshenbaum of Cranston, R.I., who was a part of the study. Ms. Kirschebaum experienced a miscarriage when she went off her antidepressants, according to the video. When she became pregnant again, she took her medication and delivered a healthy baby, according to the release. The actual study, however, did not examine whether mothers delivered healthy or sick babies. It tracked only whether they suffered from depression.

The study reported financial relationships with antidepressant makers for two of the 13 authors of the study, Emory's Drs. Stowe and Jeffrey Newport. But at least seven others have relationships that were not disclosed. Among the most significant of the missing disclosures are those of the second listed author -- Lori Altshuler, director of the Mood Disorders Research Program at UCLA. She is a speaker or consultant to at least five antidepressant makers. An assistant says she is on sabbatical and unavailable for comment. Two of her colleagues -- Vivien Burt and Victoria Hendrick -- were also authors who didn't report financial relationships they have with antidepressant makers. Dr. Burt, in an interview, said “we all regret not having” disclosed those relationships and are “all genuinely interested in doing the right thing at all times.” Attempts to contact Dr. Hendrick were unsuccessful. Dr. Cohen says JAMA has imposed an embargo on his letter until the journal publishes it, so he can't discuss the contents.

Dr. Viguera of Mass General was another author, and did not disclose her speaking relationship with GlaxoSmithKline. She said the study was designed in such a way that “I don't see how any kind of relationship we have with a pharmaceutical company plays a role in that. ...I don't believe there is a conflict of interest.”

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Mushroom Drug Is Studied Anew

Now, here is an article I didn't expect to read on the front page of the Wall Street Journal's marketing section. Of all the casualties of the “Drug War”, the cessation of research into the psychedelic drugs, especially the naturally occurring kind like Psilocybe cubensis is the most unfortunate. There was lots of intriguing research done in the years before the Ronald Reagans of the U.S. government blocked all o fthem, regardless of merit. In our own personal explorations in the landscape of the mind, Psilocybe cubensis has been the most profound and powerful of the gateways.

Fresh psilocybe cubensis

WSJ.com - Go Ask Alice: Mushroom Drug Is Studied Anew In a study that could revive interest in researching the effects of psychedelic drugs, scientists said a substance in certain mushrooms induced powerful, mind-altering experiences among a group of well-educated, middle-age men and women.

Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions researchers conducted the study following carefully controlled, scientifically rigorous procedures. They said that the episodes generally led to positive changes in attitude and behavior among the 36 volunteer participants and that the changes appeared to last at least two months. Participants cited feelings of intense joy, “distance from ordinary reality,” and feelings of peace and harmony after taking the drug. Two-thirds described the effects of the drug, called psilocybin, as among the five most meaningful experiences of their lives.

But in 30% of the cases, the drug provoked harrowing experiences dominated by fear and paranoia. Two participants likened the episodes to being in a war. While these episodes were managed by trained monitors at the sessions where the drugs were taken, researchers cautioned that in less-controlled settings, such responses could trigger panic or other reactions that might put people in danger.

A report on the study, among the first to systematically assess the effects of hallucinogenic substances in 40 years, is being published online today by the journal Psychopharmacology. An accompanying editorial and commentaries from three prominent neuroscientists and a psychiatrist praise the study and argue that further research into such agents has the potential to unlock secrets of consciousness and lead to new therapeutic strategies for depression, addiction and other ailments.

In one of the commentaries, Charles R. Schuster, a neuroscientist and former head of the National Institute for Drug Abuse, called the report a “landmark paper.” He also expressed hope that it “renews interest in a fascinating and potentially useful class of psychotropic agents.”

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links for 2006-07-11



Zidane of France throws a massive head butt to his arch-rival, Materazzi of Italy, in the World Cup Final 2006. Only seen this clip 15 times, or more. Felt I should share.

and a longer clip with closeups, and British commentary.

Busy day for me, sick pet, lots of work.

Hope it isn't some neurological problem.


links for 2006-07-10

Oregon wants every mile to count

Oregon and the lure of 'information government', ie using technology to alter how government funds itself.

Oregon wants every mile to count With its gas tax stagnant, the state is experimenting with a `virtual tollway' that includes a fee per mile

Lee Younglove is motoring about town in a way that could be the future of driving in America: A state-installed GPS unit in his Subaru Outback is counting every mile he's logging, and a special transmitter in the car will tell the pump at one of two Portland gas stations how many miles he has traveled.

Soon, as part of a state experiment, he'll be paying 1.2 cents for every mile but won't be charged the state's 24-cents-a-gallon gas tax.
Later this year, the state will stop collecting the gas tax at the pump for some of these volunteers and start charging the mileage fee. Another group will pay 10 cents a mile during rush hour and fourth-tenths of a cent for each mile at other times. The fees are for in-state travel only. A third set of volunteers will be a control group, still paying the gas tax.

Results of the yearlong experiment, along with recommendations, will be presented to the Legislature three years from now so lawmakers can decide whether to impose the nation's first statewide user-fee system, aided by satellites.

The trial already has raised questions about whether Big Brother has found a new way to track motorists. But the state insists the GPS units are rigged only to count miles.

“Some people chose not to participate because they didn't want the government in any way to be tracking,” Younglove, 62, a retired information technology specialist, said about volunteers' initial meeting with state officials.

Here's the thing. I hardly drive at all, and haven't ever, really, since I was a teen. I've always biked, taken public transit, and walked to a large percentage of my destinations. D and I share a car, between the two of us, we've only put 4,000 miles on it, over 18 months (and I estimate she has used 2/3rds of the total). So, if this GPS thing became a national trend, and it did only what the Oregon officials claim it will do, I wouldn't mind because then my transportation costs would be lower. Plus, infrastructure shortfalls are affecting every state in the US. Why not make heavy users pay more?

The problem of course, is that once the device starts tracking automobiles, every government agency and insurance company is going to want to get their grubby little hands on the data.

But GPS technology is designed to identify whereabouts, and it's conceivable that insurance companies could force motorists to enable tracking features, unless a state bans it, said Lillie Coney, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Other state and federal agencies, as well as law enforcement, also could be interested in the tracking data, she said.

“Somebody could say, `I think my husband is cheating on me--can you tell me if he's in this neighborhood?'” Coney added. “Insurance companies will want to use it: If you want us to insure you, you'll have to give us your GPS information. . . . Information is currency.”

Whitty said when the Oregon Legislature officially considers replacing the tax with a mileage fee, the state transportation agency would propose measures addressing outsider access to GPS tracking information.
State officials are anticipating that GPS units will be standard on all vehicles in 10 years or so. General Motors plans to install such navigational systems on 1 million 2007 models.

“It may not be the answer,” another volunteer, William Patterson, 38, said about the GPS-aided mileage system as he drove to the bank and grocery store, “but we won't know until they experiment with it and find out.”


Afternoon Jazzbo moment

(or click here)

“Originally broadcast in 1959, this 25-minute television performance brings together Miles’ quintet of the time, along with Gil Evans and his orchestra, performing compositions culled from the albums Kind of Blue and Miles Ahead. Personnel this clip: Miles Davis (trumpet), John Coltrane (tenor saxophone), Wynton Kelly (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums), plus Jimmy Cleveland and either Bill Elton, Rod Levitt & Frank Rehak (trombone)”


and John Coltrane playing Afro-Blue

(direct link here)

John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, Elvin Jones


From Fixer over at Alternate Brain, we read of a fracking insane happening:

Mike Ferner: Has This Country Gone Completely Insane?

Has This Country Gone Completely Insane?

This afternoon, drinking a cup of coffee while sitting in the Jesse Brown V.A. Medical Center on Chicago’s south side, a Veterans Administration cop walked up to me and said, “OK, you’ve had your 15 minutes, it’s time to go.”

“Huh?”, I asked intelligently, not quite sure what he was talking about.

“You can’t be in here protesting,” officer Adkins said, pointing to my Veterans For Peace shirt.

“Well, I’m not protesting, I’m having a cup of coffee,” I returned, thinking that logic would convince Adkins to go back to his earlier duties of guarding against serious terrorists.

Flipping his badge open, he said, “No, not with that shirt. You’re protesting and you have to go.”

Beginning to get his drift, I said firmly, “Not before I finish my coffee.”

He insisted that I leave, but still not quite believing my ears, I tried one more approach to reason. “Hey, listen. I’m a veteran. This is a V.A. facility. I’m sitting here not talking to anybody, having a cup of coffee. I’m not protesting and you can’t kick me out.”

“You’ll either go or we’ll arrest you,” Adkins threatened.

“Well, you’ll just have to arrest me,” I said, wondering what strange land I was now living in.

You know the rest. Handcuffed, led away to the facility’s security office past people with surprised looks on their faces, read my rights, searched, and written up.

Mr. Ferner is contesting the charges, and might be soliciting legal funds. Did the coup d'etat already happen?

Free Mark Ferner

Obviously, I don't design T-shirts, but here is a prototype anyway.


R.D. Morgan of South Carolina asks a question that I've often wondered about myself: as automobile tires wear down, where does all the rubber go exactly? I had read, years ago ( pre-blog, so cannot find it) in a Smithsonian Magazine about a specialized rubber eating bacteria which inhabited the world's highways. Cecil doesn't mention that, but has other suggestions as to where the black cloud of rubber ends up.

The Straight Dope: When the rubber meets the road, where does it go? All over the place, bud--including maybe in your lungs. For a long time conventional wisdom had it that tire particles were too coarse to do much harm and simply wound up as one more component of urban grit. Now we know better. Asthma and latex allergies have been on the rise in recent years, and some think tire dust is why.

Tires are a mix of materials, mostly synthetic and natural rubbers but also including carbon black, oil, sulfur, steel, and chemicals added as antioxidants, strengtheners, and fillers. They also contain varying amounts of potentially hazardous metals such as zinc, nickel, chromium, cadmium, and copper. As you drive, and especially as you corner and brake, your tires continually abrade against the road surface, and to some extent wear away just due to flexing as they roll along. This tire wear takes the form of rubber left on the road, heavy particles that quickly settle on the road and shoulder, and lighter particles that become airborne.
Tire dust that doesn't make it into the air can be problematic as well. Originally deposited on the pavement, it gets washed by rain into lakes and streams. Environmental scientist Alison Draper has shown that chemicals leaching out of tire dust can kill water organisms such as algae, plants, minnows, and snails. An Italian study found that the organic components of tire debris were toxic to frog embryos and to cultured human lung and liver cells.

How much rubber gets worn off of tires? Estimates vary widely--much depends on driving habits, vehicle weight, the type of road surface, and the type of tire. In the U.S., the amount is estimated to be on the order of 650,000 tons per year. A British study finds that about 10 to 20 percent of a tire's total weight is worn off during its lifetime, which works out to about 58,000 tons a year in the UK alone. Of that, the fraction consisting of those potentially toxic metals I mentioned is surprisingly high--36 tons of cadmium, more than 1,000 tons of copper, and nearly 3,300 tons of zinc. Pollution studies in the Los Angeles basin in the 1980s concluded that more than five tons of breathable tire dust were released into the atmosphere there each day, and there's no reason to think that figure's gone down since.

One of the items-you-can-do-to-save-the-planet mentioned in

An Inconvenient Truth

An Inconvenient Truth

(or at least at its website ClimateCrisis.net) is to ensure your tires are fully inflated. Cecil Adams concurs.

... So just because tire dust isn't accumulating in huge black drifts along the roadside doesn't mean we can ignore it. What to do? One critical factor that determines how much rubber is lost from tires is inflation. Properly inflated tires create less rolling resistance than underinflated ones, build up less heat, flex less as they roll down the road, and release less latex into the environment. They also last longer and give you better gas mileage. So check your tire pressure next chance you get--not only will you be doing right by the environment, you might save a couple bucks.

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Signs of Life in Congress

One can only hope.

New York Times Editorial: Signs of Life in Congress :
Congress is vowing that it will not merely rubber-stamp presidential overreaching. Soon, Americans will get a sense of how seriously to take this newfound spine.

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Frank Rich is good today.

Frank Rich: All the News That's Fit to Bully :
The administration has manufactured and milked the controversy over the disclosure of a financial monitoring program to reboot its intimidation of the press.

TWO weeks and counting, and the editor of The New York Times still has not been sentenced to the gas chamber. What a bummer for one California radio talk-show host, Melanie Morgan, who pronounced The Times guilty of treason and expressly endorsed that punishment. She and the rest of the get-the-press lynch mob are growing restless, wondering why newspapers haven't been prosecuted under the Espionage Act. “If Bush believes what he is saying,” taunted Pat Buchanan, “why does he not do his duty as the chief law enforcement officer of the United States?”

Here's why. First, there is no evidence that the Times article on tracking terrorist finances either breached national security or revealed any “secrets” that had not already been publicized by either the administration or Swift, the Belgian financial clearinghouse enlisted in the effort. Second, the legal bar would be insurmountable: even Gabriel Schoenfeld, who first floated the idea of prosecuting The Times under the Espionage Act in an essay in Commentary, told The Nation this month that the chance of it happening was .05 percent.

But the third and most important explanation has nothing to do with the facts of the case or the law and everything to do with politics. For all the lynch mob's efforts to single out The Times — “It's the old trick, go after New York, go after big, ethnic New York,” as Chris Matthews put it — three papers broke Swift stories on their front pages. Even in this bash-the-press environment, the last spectacle needed by a president with an approval rating in the 30's is the national firestorm that would greet a doomed Justice Department prosecution of The Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times.

The administration has a more insidious game plan instead: it has manufactured and milked this controversy to reboot its intimidation of the press, hoping journalists will pull punches in an election year. There are momentous stories far more worrisome to the White House than the less-than-shocking Swift program, whether in the chaos of Anbar Province or the ruins of New Orleans. If the press muzzles itself, its under-the-radar self-censorship will be far more valuable than a Nixonesque frontal assault that ends up as a 24/7 hurricane veering toward the Supreme Court.

Will this plan work? It did after 9/11. The chilling words articulated at the get-go by Ari Fleischer (Americans must “watch what they say”) carried over to the run-up to the Iraq war, when the administration's W.M.D. claims went unchallenged by most news organizations. That this strategy may work again can be seen in the fascinating escalation in tactics by the Bush White House's most powerful not-so-secret agent in the press itself, the Wall Street Journal editorial page. The Journal is not Fox News or an idle blogger or radio bloviator. It's the establishment voice of the party in power. The infamous editorial it ran on June 30 (“Fit and Unfit to Print”), an instant classic, doesn't just confer its imprimatur on the administration's latest crusade to conflate aggressive journalism with treason, but also ups the ante.

The editorial was ostensibly a frontal attack on The Times, accusing its editors of not believing America is “really at war” and of exercising bad faith in running its report on the Swift operation. But an attack on The Times by The Journal's editorial page is a shrug-inducing dog-bites-man story; the paper's conservative editorialists have long dueled with a rival whose editorials usually argue the other side. (And sometimes the Times opinion writers gleefully return the fire.) What was groundbreaking and unsettling about the Journal editorial was that it besmirched the separately run news operation of The Journal itself.

By any standard, The Journal is one of the great newspapers in the world, whether you agree with its editorials or not. As befits a great newspaper, its journalists are fearless in pursuit of news, as tragically exemplified by Daniel Pearl. Like reporters at The Times, those at The Journal operate independently of the paper's opinion pages. Witness The Journal's schism during the Enron scandal. Its editorial page belittled the scandal's significance most of the way, resisting even mild criticisms of Enron (it was “partly a victim of its own success”) until it filed for bankruptcy. The dearly departed Ken Lay, after all, was the leading Bush financial patron; to the Journal editorialists, the “Clintonian moral climate” of the 1990's was a root cause of Enron's problems. Meanwhile, The Journal's investigative reporters had gone their own way months earlier, helping unearth the scandal. So much so that Mr. Lay tried to argue his innocence in the spring by testifying that a “witch hunt” by the paper's reporters had more to do with his company's demise than he did.

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The Liberal Inquisition

BoBo must be off his meds again if he thinks Whiney-Joe Lieberman is a kind-hearted well-intentioned man. If Brooks took even a cursory look at some articles in the NYT database re: Lieberman, acts of a 'well-intentioned' man would be hard to discover. Whiney-Joe has only one constituent, himself. Well, and maybe George Bush.

David Brooks: The Liberal Inquisition :
The war against heterodox politicians has come home to Joe Lieberman.
Sometimes history comes with previews. In the 1930's, the Spanish Civil War served as a precursor to the global conflict that was World War II. And in a smaller fashion, the primary battle playing out on the smiling lawns of upscale Connecticut serves as a preview for the national conflict that will dominate American politics for the next two years.

This isn't a fight between left and right. It's a fight about how politics should be conducted. On the one hand are the true believers — the fundamentalists of both parties who believe that politics should be about party discipline, passion, purity, orthodoxy and clear choices. On the other side are the quasi-independents — the heterodox politicians who distrust ideological purity, who rebel against movement groupthink, who believe in bipartisanship both as a matter of principle and as a practical necessity.

In 2008, heterodox politicians like John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and even Hillary Clinton are going to have to face zealous assaults from within their own parties. But for the moment that war has come to Joe Lieberman.

What's happening to Lieberman can only be described as a liberal inquisition [yes, do check out this inquisition, from Firedoglake]. Whether you agree with him or not, he is transparently the most kind-hearted and well-intentioned of men.[ oh yeah? Not the Lieberman I've been reading about for 10 years, or more]
But over the past few years he has been subjected to a vituperation campaign that only experts in moral manias and mob psychology are really fit to explain. I can't reproduce the typical assaults that have been directed at him over the Internet, because they are so laced with profanity and ugliness, but they are ginned up by ideological masseurs who salve their followers' psychic wounds by arousing their rage at objects of mutual hate.

Next has come the effort to expel Lieberman from modern liberalism. In a dark parody of the old struggle between Eugene McCarthy and Hubert Humphrey, the highly educated, highly affluent, highly Caucasian wing of the Democratic Party has turned liberalism from a philosophy into a secular religion, and then sought to purge a battle-scarred warhorse on the grounds of insufficient moral purity.

So these days, for example, one hears that Lieberman is a crypto-conservative, a Bible-Belter. In reality, of course, this is a man who has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign. He has a Christian Coalition rating of 0.

yet, this same Lieberman voted to let Supreme Court ideologue Alito onto the court. Perhaps Lieberman felt bad that he didn't kiss GWB back.

Joementum and a tongue kiss Neil the Ethical Werewolf has more on 'kind hearted' Lieberman (kind-hearted in the sense of opposite day)

But a lifetime's record is deemed not to matter any longer. For in the midst of the inquisition all of American liberalism has been reduced to one issue, the war. Just as some edges of the pro-life movement reduce all of conservatism to abortion, the upscale revivalists on the left reduce everything to Iraq, and all who are deemed impure must be cleansed away.

[ummm, again, if BoBo actually did any research on the topic, he wouldn't make such bold faced lies, but then that's half of BoBo's schtick, isn't it?]

Lieberman's opponent, Ned Lamont, has neither expertise in foreign affairs nor any specific knowledge of Iraq, and he has struggled to come up with a plan for what we should now do there. But that is not the point, for the opposition to Lieberman is not about future actions or even politics as it is normally understood. It is about impurity, the scarlet letter, and the need to expunge those who have transgressed.

Liberal interest groups that seek practical goals, like the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and the League of Conservation Voters, back Lieberman. But the netroots now seek to purge what's left of the Scoop Jackson Democrats, and to eliminate those who have had contact with the evildoers in the other party, because movements are deemed to prosper to the extent they achieve holiness unmarred.

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Follow up to any million of so-called strawman arguments, including Barack Obama's, from the cartoon, Candorville, by Darrin Bell (blog here)

Candorville Straw Man

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links for 2006-07-09

Armageddon Cooler: G and T

I have not had a good Gin and Tonic in years, but after reading this article, I have a mighty, mighty thirst.

WSJ.com - Armageddon Cooler: G&T : On a warm day in December 1961, John F. Kennedy drank Gin and Tonics in Bermuda while working out the details of the end of the world. The president was meeting with British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, discussing how to combat the growing Soviet nuclear threat. Each had his own team of Strangeloves, and all were gathered for drinks before lunch. Among them was Macmillan's chief science adviser, Sir William Penney, the physicist who had built England's first nuke. Asked how many bombs Russia would need to destroy the U.K., Penney said, “It would take five or six, but to be on the safe side, let us say seven or eight, and” -- just at that moment a steward passed by -- “I'll have another gin and tonic if you would be so kind.”

This statement, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote in “A Thousand Days,” “uttered in one rush of breath, summed up for the Prime Minister and the President the absurdity of mankind setting about to destroy itself.” For the rest of the summit, Kennedy and Macmillan used “I'll have another gin and tonic, if you would be so kind” as an all-purpose punch line.

There isn't really a recipe for making a Gin and Tonic, the only variable is what gin to use. The author of the WSJ article and myself concur: Tanqueray No. Ten. Mix with tonic water, squeeze fresh limes, and serve over ice cubes. A refreshing afternoon treat. Too bad I don't (currently) have any gin in the house.

Charles Baker explains in The Gentleman's Companion, An Exotic Drinking Book, how

the antimalarial drug quinine came to be an essential highball ingredient: “Originated to Combat Fevers, Real or Alleged, & which Later Became an Established Drink in India & the Tropical British East, & Still Later Became Accepted over Here by American Hosts Who Wanted to Impress Folk with Having Combed the Orient.” Nowadays, the quinine content of tonic is negligible. But at the time, Baker warned it was a medicine not to be overdosed: “On more than one occasion we have temporarily showed aberration on this subject, with the result that our ears rang unmercifully and next day we felt like Rameses II, réchauffé.”


My favorite gin for mixing with tonic, however, turned out to be Tanqueray No. Ten. I didn't much like Ten when I was stirring Martinis -- the bright taste of citrus peel overpowered the drier flavors. But in a Gin and Tonic, Ten is a triumph: With nothing other than gin, tonic and ice in the glass, you'd think that you had already squeezed half a lime into the mix. But go ahead and squeeze plenty of fresh lime juice in anyway, if you would be so kind, and you've got a drink worthy of anyone from a president to a chimp.

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Funk on this

Knowing me, I'll probably get something on this list by next week, and the rest by next month.

WSJ.com - Funk :
Coveted recordings on the collectors' circuit hit the mass market in new reissue While funk and soul music of the late 1960s and early '70s is most identified with cities like Chicago, New Orleans and Detroit, places like Houston and Toronto had their own flourishing funk scenes. Recordings from these lesser-known communities are now highly sought after in the collectors' market, commanding prices as high as $4,000. This summer, some independent labels are unearthing these rare recordings on three new reissues, products of years of investigation and research.

Kashmere Stage Band, Texas Thunder Soul
In the late 1960s, an unlikely group gained national renown -- the student band of Kashmere High, in Houston, Texas. The band's eight records, made from 1968 to 1978, have become coveted items for collectors and DJs. This new two-disc collection compiles 34 recordings

Various Artists, Jamaica to Toronto: Soul, Funk & Reggae
1967-1974 (Light In The Attic Records)

With the easing of Canadian immigration restrictions in 1967, thousands of Jamaicans immigrated to Toronto, generating a thriving, reggae-influenced music scene. This is the second in a series of seven records chronicling the city's Jamaican musicians.

Bay Area Funk, Vol. 2
Various Artists, Bay Area Funk 2

(Luv n' Haight Records)

The 50th release from West Coast reissue giant Luv n' Haight Records includes artists like Project Soul, whose single “Ebony” goes for about $500 on the collector's market, as well as vocalist Sugar Pie DeSanto and 12-year-old singer Little Denise Stevenson.

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Rare Art Films Surface Online

As an antidote to all the crappy music videos surfacing all over the liberal blogosphere (y!sctp), here is some art shite, instead.

For instance, here's a Stan Brakhage short.

WSJ.com - Rare Art Films Surface Online :

A groundbreaking experimental Man Ray film, made in 1923, is now available for anyone to watch free online. It isn't on the Web sites of the Library of Congress or the Internet Moving Image Archive. But you'll find it at both YouTube and Google Video, two amateur-video-sharing sites.
Increasingly, rare and avant-garde films are showing up on sites like these, best known for hosting homemade video spoofs. On YouTube, there are 1969 art videos by Nam June Paik, a 1967 student movie by George Lucas and an iconic 1930 film by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí, as well as a clip of Dalí in a chocolate commercial

People who post these films say they're only trying to increase awareness of overlooked cinematic gems, and say they receive few complaints.

Because the posters generally aren't profiting from the film clips, and aren't cutting into anyone's profits in cases where the films aren't sold commercially, lawsuits over these film clips are rare. “Is George Lucas going to spend money chasing down his grad-school films? Probably not,” says attorney Daniel Harris, who heads the intellectual-property group at the law firm of Clifford Chance in Menlo Park, Calif.

for some jumping off points, check out http://greylodge.org/gpc/?cat=26

here's another

Un Chien Andalou with modern music (original here, which might be better)

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links for 2006-07-08

FDA and Fake Blood in Trauma Trial

As follow up to this article Blood isn't thicker than money, apparently, the beat goes on... The beat of profit that is.

WSJ.com - FDA to Weigh Using Fake Blood in Trauma Trial FDA to Weigh Using Fake Blood in Trauma Trial

If the U.S. Navy gets its way, hundreds of civilian trauma patients could -- without their consent -- be given a blood substitute that has been linked in other large clinical studies to increases in hypertension, heart attacks and other serious cardiac problems.

The Food and Drug Administration has blocked the new Navy trial three times in the past year, but now is reconsidering after months of jockeying among the Navy, the agency and Biopure Corp., the Cambridge, Mass., maker of the blood substitute.

The agency has scheduled a closed-door hearing for next week on whether the Navy-designed trial can proceed. More than 900 badly hemorrhaging civilian accident victims around the country would be involved, with paramedics giving some the blood substitute, called Hemopure, and others saline solution en route to hospitals.

Such non-consent studies are rare but legal where federal regulators determine there's no practical way to obtain consent, such as when patients are in shock or unconscious. There also must be a reasonable likelihood that individual patients would benefit from the treatment under scrutiny.

Global Warming news from all over....

WSJ.com - Higher Temperatures Cited For Increase in Wildfires

Higher Temperatures Cited For Increase in Wildfires

New research suggests that higher regional temperatures have contributed to an increase in large and costly wildfires that have hit the Western U.S. in recent years.

The study, published yesterday in the online version of the journal Science, argues that unusually high temperatures in the Western U.S. have led to earlier and longer dry seasons, making it easier for large fires to erupt.

“Summer arrives earlier and lasts longer, so the vegetation dries out more” and becomes more flammable, said Anthony Westerling, who conducted the research with two of his colleagues from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, and a fourth scientist from the University of Arizona.
The Western forests are crucial to the continent's environment as they act as a sponge and absorb 20% to 40% of all carbon dioxide absorbed across the U.S. If more large fires continue to erupt, the forests may instead become a major emitter of carbon dioxide. The notion that climate change may play a big role in wildfire activity suggests that new approaches are needed to reduce the risk.

“The idea that we'll spend a little more money on fire suppression and that this could somehow counteract the trend [of wildfire activity] doesn't seem credible to me,” said Dr. Westerling. “You have to reduce future increases in temperature by having policies that reduce global emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.” Many scientists, including Dr. Westerling, believe that greenhouse-gas emissions contribute to global warming.

But Al Gore is crazy, and wore funky clothes in 1999....

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DNA Tidbit

Surprisingly, DNA is not completely understood.

WSJ.com - Science Journal

Life Events Thwart Scientists' Attempts To Draw DNA Profiles
Now there is a glimmer of an explanation for why such “failures to replicate” are common in behavioral genetics: The same gene produces different traits in different people.

Contrary to traditional understanding, genes don't lead inevitably to traits. Instead, says Darlene Francis of the University of California, Berkeley, scientists are discovering that “there is this intervening variable called life,” as she told the International Congress of Neuroendocrinology last month in Pittsburgh.

Life definitely intervenes between a gene called MAOA and the extreme aggression that researchers claimed it causes. In the late 1980s, a number of men in several generations of a large Dutch family were found to carry a mutation in the MAOA gene that made it inactive. They all had a long rap sheet of rape, attempted murder and arson. MAOA became known as the “violence gene,” headlines warned of “a violence in the blood,” and there was talk of screening everyone to identify carriers.

The link between MAOA and aggression made biological sense. MAOA breaks down brain chemicals, including serotonin. It comes in two forms, short and long. The short form, which about one-third of people have, can't do the breaking down as efficiently as the long form, disrupting the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain. The result was thought to be higher levels of aggression, as measured by a surge in activity in the brain's fear region -- the amygdala -- at the sight of an angry face. That might explain the hair-trigger tempers in that Dutch family.

In a study of 531 U.S. men, however, the violence gene didn't live up to its billing. When psychologist Stephen Manuck of the University of Pittsburgh analyzed men carrying the short form of the MAOA gene, he told the ICN meeting, only those who held antisocial attitudes, who received little parental affection as kids and whose fathers had low levels of education also had a history of aggression. Presumably, dad's low education is a marker for other traits, perhaps how he treats his kids.



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From the Department of Not Every Thought is a Good Thought.

WSJ.com - Flavor Experiment for KitKat Leaves Nestlé With a Bad Taste

Flavor Experiment for KitKat Leaves Nestlé With a Bad Taste
KitKat bars have been among the best-selling candies in Britain since they were invented here in the 1930s. Forty-seven of the chocolate-covered wafers are eaten every second in the United Kingdom, KitKat says.

So it was natural for its maker, Nestlé SA, to apply to KitKat a marketing strategy that is becoming increasingly popular at food companies world-wide: extending a popular brand into new flavors and styles. The world's biggest food company brought a hotshot executive in from Australia in 2003 to find ways to add variety to the basic KitKat brand in the U.K.

Over the course of the next year, the company rolled out a dizzying array of new KitKats. For the summer months, it launched strawberries and cream, passion fruit and mango and even red berry versions. In the winter came “Christmas pudding” and tiramisu, which contained real wine and marscapone. Even though Britons never fully embraced the Atkins diet craze, the company launched a low-carb version.

The experiments flopped. In just two years, KitKat's overall sales in the U.K. dropped 18%, to $253 million for the 52 weeks ending in April. Nestlé recently abandoned virtually all of its exotic flavors. The executive in charge of the gambit has been replaced. And Nestlé's experience has become a lesson in the perils of trying to push new versions of much-loved brands too hard. “You could call it hyperventilation,” Peter Brabeck, Nestlé's chief executive recently told reporters.

Sometimes not doing anything is preferable.

Parenthetical note: I actually love KitKat's, but haven't eaten one in years. Being a health nut has its disadvantages.


Photoshop books

Picked up (fairly recently, but just started really reading) two Photoshop books.

Ben Willmore's Studio Techniques

Adobe Photoshop CS2 Studio Techniques
“Adobe Photoshop CS2 Studio Techniques” (Ben Willmore)

and Katrin Eismann's Restoration and Retouching

Adobe Photoshop Restoration & Retouching (3rd Edition) (Voices That Matter)
“Adobe Photoshop Restoration & Retouching (3rd Edition) (Voices That Matter)” (Katrin Eismann, Wayne Palmer)

I've been using Photoshop ever since I borrowed a friend's copy of Version 2.5 on floppy disks in 1994 (at the time, she worked at Whole Foods as a 'sign maker'). So, I have some basic knowledge of what the fusilli I'm doing, but Photoshop has steadily grown more complicated (now Photoshop CS2 is sold on DVD, with more complicated copy-protection), and there is plenty for me to learn. I've always had a basic understanding of Photoshop's power, but since I've never made a dime off of my understanding of the program, I have never been motivated enough to become a true Photoshop adept. I suppose a Photoshop adept is like an athlete - in the best of situations, the conscious brain is an observer as the lizard brain, trained by repetition and instinct, performs the situational-appropriate action.

Ben Willmore's book is aimed at providing solutions to specific production experiences, written in jargon-free prose. I always tend to start in the middle of software textbooks, and so jumped right into discussion of curves, histograms and shadow/highlights. My trick will be to inhale the lesson so deeply, that next time I am enhancing color and contrast, I don't have to think much. Lots of good info here.

Ms. Eismann's book is targeted more at enhancing portraiture and restoring print photographs from the vicissitudes of time. Having some interest in the subject, since I have a large mound of 35mm photo prints collecting dust and mold, I've been pleased to learn more on the topic. Ms. Eismann's writing style is direct, but concise.

I've only read a fraction of both books so far, but would, without hesitation, recommend both to a fledgling Photoshopper and a professional pixel merchant alike.

Thank the Vermicelli I don't have to write book reviews. What tedium! Bottom line, these books are worth owning - if you own Photoshop, they are well worth having on your shelf.

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Obama vs Zorn, part two

Eric Zorn gets an earful from Senator Obama in re an earlier column:

Chicago Tribune | Eric Zorn Obama to Zorn: Don't go so easy on the prickly secularists. Am I too touchy about church/state matters?

Briefly, I'd scolded Obama for his line, “Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square.”

I said it was a false generalization about secularists, whose only real request of believers is that they not enter the public square using “because God says so” as a reason to advance or attack any policy position.

He, in turn, scolded me for focusing on 20 words out of a 4,600 word speech

I'm with you Mr. Zorn, I don't want my politicians to be religious zealots, no matter which party they belong to. If you have a prickly 'blind spot', it is probably for good reason, based on prior experience. Too frequently politicians use religion (or a conveniently altered version of religion) as a cudgel for their own self-interest. I'm not convinced that Senator Obama is in this group, but I wouldn't be surprised.

I realize I am living in a dream world, but why can't politicians honor the separation of Church and State? Of course, they can be Christians or whatever (except Wiccans, I suppose), but cannot they keep that fact to themselves as irrelevant to 'conducting the people's business'?

Perhaps I have a similar 'prickly blind spot', based on meeting too many self-professed Christian evangelicals who were smug, cruel, cold-hearted schmucks. One only need to look at Tom DeLay, or even President Bush for an example of this type of faux-Christian. Is Obama in this group of self-interested faux-Christian? Who cares. Why can't he focus on being a Senator instead of a preacher? Isn't that what he was elected to be?

As Zorn says in his previous article:

Whatever beliefs or philosophies shape your values or guide your personal conduct are of no nevermind to us.

If you think stealing is wrong because it says so in your scripture or because common sense tells you it's wrong or because the Ouija board tells you “no” when you ask it if you should swipe something, it's all the same to us as long as you don't steal.

But when all of us come together in the public square to debate laws about theft, we ask that your proposals and your proofs not rely on or require the authority of God.

Why? Because it works better that way. Because it's very hard to settle a debate between people who hear contradictory messages in the voices of their Gods.

Amen. Err, pasta-fazul!

[read the rest, here]
Upon re-reading the original column which got Senator Obama so 'het up', I count 98 words of Senator Obama quoted. So the claim of '20 words' is a bit disingenuous, isn't it? Or as the Christians call it, a lie. Isn't that some sort of no-no?

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Signal to Noise


From LifeHacker:

Ten top blogging ideas for when the well runs dry :

Writer's block, the dreaded enemy of all writers everywhere. Or not.

Blogging resource Performancing.com has put together ten different posting ideas for when your brain decides to take a quick vacation

hey, I have a better idea: don't post if you don't have anything to say! If you need to take a freaking hiatus, do so! Unless you are being paid per entry, which I guess could happen.

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Al Gore interviewed in Rolling Stone

Al Gore has some interesting things to say during a Will Dana interview in the current (print) Rolling Stone. (found the link)

Rolling Stone : Al Gore 3.0
Right now we are borrowing huge amounts of money from China to buy huge amounts of oil from the most unstable region of the world, and to bring it here and burn it in ways that destroy the habitability of the planet. That is nuts! We have to change every aspect of that.

This is not a partisan issue. I talked to a CEO of one of the ten largest companies in the United States, who supported Bush and Cheney. He told me, “Al, let's be honest. Fifteen minutes after George Bush leaves the presidency, America is going to have a new global-warming policy, and it doesn't matter who's elected.” And I think that the smartest CEOs, even in places like Exxon-Mobil, now understand that the clock is ticking, and the world is changing, and the United States is not going to be able to continue living in this little bubble of unreality.

Umm, so Gore talked to the CEO of Exxon-Mobil, off the record, right?

But Bush is insulated -- his staff smiles a lot and only gives him the news that he wants to hear. Unfortunately, they still have this delusion that they create their own reality. As George Orwell wrote, we human beings are capable of convincing ourselves of something that's not true long after the accumulated evidence would convince any reasonable person that it's wrong. And when leaders persist in that error, sooner or later they have a collision with reality, often on a battlefield. That, in essence, is exactly what happened in Iraq. But we have to keep that from happening with the climate crisis. Because by the time the worst consequences begin to unfold, it would be too late.

Apparently, Steve Jobs is giving some advertising moxie to an upcoming project.

Tipper and I are giving 100 percent of all the profits we get from both the movie and the book to a new bipartisan alliance for climate protection. It will run ads about the nature of the crisis and the way we can solve it. But the profits from the film won't begin to approach the money that Exxon has. They will have a lot of money. I am not on the board of it, but I'm giving them a lot of money, and I'm raising them much, much more. There are some real heavyweights involved in this. We have former members of the Reagan and first Bush administrations. Steve Jobs is helping to design the ad campaign. At the end of September, I'm going to start training a thousand people to take my slide show all across the country, to high schools and civic clubs and anybody who will listen. We're going to get this message out there -- and when we do, the political system will shift gears, and you'll see a dramatic change. I will make a prediction that within two years, Bush and Cheney themselves will change their position.

Rolling Stone: In two years they'll be gone!

Before they leave office. Unfortunately, they've got two and a half years left. Two and a half days is too much, in my opinion. I must confess I'm beginning to lose my objectivity with Bush and Cheney. I regret that, but I must be candid with you [laughs].

A top insurance executive at Lloyd's of London said just the other week that if we don't act now to prevent this looming catastrophe, “we will face extinction.” You know -- just a typical, long-haired hippie at Lloyd's of London.

D and I saw An Inconvenient Truth with a friend over the July 4th holiday (Trailer here). Liked the movie a lot more than I expected. Not sure exactly what I expected, but was prepared to swallow my dose of information like the castor oil it usually is, fully aware that I should take it, but not prepared to enjoy the taste. However, the movie was actually quite well paced, and the 90 minutes flew by. Strongly recommended.

And Mr. Gore: please don't run for President, just continue doing what you are doing. Apparently, he's already decided to stay on his current course.

I do think the political system as a whole is pretty toxic. I think that it may well be that the highest and best use of whatever skills I have gained is to focus on trying to change the way we Americans think about the most serious challenge that our civilization has ever faced. So that those who do run will encounter an informed, aroused and demanding electorate, one that insists that all of the candidates, in both parties, make the climate crisis their top priority.

Rolling Stone: Do you still consider yourself a Democrat?

Oh, yeah. I mean, I still consider myself a Baptist too, even though the denomination has tried to run me off with their attitude toward women and so forth! [Laughs] I will continue to play a role as a citizen, not only on global warming but also on eavesdropping and torture and civil liberties and the other vital issues of the day. I've got a full plate right now. Being a candidate for president again is not part of my plan for the next several years.

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Lamont vs Lieberman

We have been paying marginal attention to the Democratic primary fight in Connecticut, mostly because we despise Whiney-Joe for the Fox News Democrat he is. Lieberman may yet pull out a Diebold-enhanced victory, but we sure as hell hope not.

Lamont: “This is not Fox News, Sir” | Salon News ... But aside from a few minor verbal stumbles -- such as saying billion rather than million when referring to the number of illegal aliens in this country -- [Ned] Lamont gave a credible and sincere, if not necessarily inspired, performance. The novice debater even got off a few one-liners of his own, responding to a Lieberman interruption by snapping, “This is not Fox News, sir.”

Most post-debate spin has the predictability of an Israeli-Palestinian joint TV interview, but occasionally a morsel of honesty emerges from the soundtrack of leftover rebuttal points. Chatting with reporters after his prime-time moment, Lamont got it mostly right when he said, “Look, I went toe-to-toe with a former candidate for vice president who last debated Dick Cheney. I think people now know that Ned Lamont is a potential U.S. senator.” (Lamont's one annoying verbal tic was to frequently follow the pompous politician's penchant for referring to himself in the third person.)

....But the biggest boost for Lieberman's chances in the too-muddled-to-handicap Aug. 8 primary was that the senator's backup plans for an independent candidacy never emerged as a major motif Thursday night. When Lieberman announced at a Monday press conference that he would soon circulate petitions to put his name on the ballot in November in case he lost the primary, he faced the political danger that this sore-loser-man gambit would dominate his faceoff with Lamont. Instead, the topic was only raised in passing and, as a result, Lieberman did not have to spend the evening explaining why he was prepared to stand up against his party's official nominee to mount an independent campaign for reelection.

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Stinky self-regulation

Businesses that have enough political clout to 'regulate themselves' usually, if not always, take puny measures only, and problems get ignored. See for instance, chemical plants anti-terrorism measures, and apparently agri-business.

Big ag's big stink | Salon.com The Bush administration wants to let factory farms determine whether the animal excreta that ooze from their facilities into waterways should be regulated, say environmentalists, who argue that the plan, well, stinks.

Agriculture has long been a top source of water pollution in the United States, but in the past two decades the problem has grown dramatically with the proliferation of large-scale pork, poultry, beef and dairy facilities, known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). From 2002 to 2005, the CAFO industry in the United States expanded by about 22 percent -- with substantially more animals per facility, and ever larger piles of their droppings.

Today these facilities are responsible for some 500 million tons of animal manure a year -- three times the waste that humans in this country produce, activists say. According to a 1998 report from the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency, CAFO muck has fouled roughly 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and groundwater in 17 states. More recent data show that 29 states have reported water contamination from these feedlots.

wait for it...

“The court required the EPA to bring clarity to some aspects of the 2003 rules; instead they've created more confusion and new loopholes,” says Michele Merkel, a former staff attorney in the EPA's enforcement division who now works for the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project. The most worrisome loophole, she says, would allow CAFOs themselves to define what constitutes a polluting discharge and therefore decide whether a permit is needed at all.

Such flexibility flies in the face of the Clean Water Act, says Merkel, because the law prohibits all large-scale feedlots from discharging any traceable animal waste into nearby waterways and requires them to obtain permits for exemptions under certain circumstances, such as when there's runoff after a storm.

“The loophole basically renders the Clean Water Act meaningless when it comes to regulating the fecal discharge from CAFOs,” Merkel says. “It says to these massive facilities, 'Hey, figure out if you need a permit to pollute, and then come and get one.' It's appalling.”

Mmmmm, fecal matter in water supply, it's what's for breakfast...

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links for 2006-07-07

Red, red and red

| 1 Comment

Struck mute by my indifference to the atoms which make up my brain.

Silent all those years
display in the foyer of some restaurant on Church/Davis - Evanston.

Street Football
or soccer, as it is known here.


Clark and Belden
At least Southland Corp didn't tear down this existing bakery (and whatever it was prior)

a quickr pickr post

(embiggening is a click or two away)

The Treason Card

Krugman wonders how long, how long.

As others have written, why is it that the media ever listens to the righ-wing thug-o-sphere? The mouth-breathers want to destroy the national media, make it even more of a puppy than it is, while the left wing wants the media to be more diligent about presenting facts.

Paul Krugman: The Treason Card The Bush administration and its supporters still believe that they can win political battles by impugning the patriotism of those who won't go along.

The nature of the right-wing attack on The New York Times — an attack not on the newspaper's judgment, but on its motives — seems to have startled many people in the news media. After an editorial in The Wall Street Journal declared that The Times has what amount to treasonous intentions — that it “has as a major goal not winning the war on terror but obstructing it” — The Journal's own political editor pronounced himself “shocked,” saying that “I don't know anybody on the news staff of The Wall Street Journal that believes that.”

But anyone who was genuinely shocked by The Journal's willingness to play the treason card must not have been paying attention these past five years.

Over the last few months a series of revelations have confirmed what should have been obvious a long time ago: the Bush administration and the movement it leads have been engaged in an authoritarian project, an effort to remove all the checks and balances that have heretofore constrained the executive branch.

Much of this project involves the assertion of unprecedented executive authority — the right to imprison people indefinitely without charges (and torture them if the administration feels like it), the right to wiretap American citizens without court authorization, the right to declare, when signing laws passed by Congress, that the laws don't really mean what they say.

But an almost equally important aspect of the project has been the attempt to create a political environment in which nobody dares to criticize the administration or reveal inconvenient facts about its actions. And that attempt has relied, from the beginning, on ascribing treasonous motives to those who refuse to toe the line. As far back as 2002, Rush Limbaugh, in words very close to those used by The Wall Street Journal last week, accused Tom Daschle, then the Senate majority leader, of a partisan “attempt to sabotage the war on terrorism.”

Those of us who tried to call attention to this authoritarian project years ago have long marveled over the reluctance of many of our colleagues to acknowledge what was going on. For example, for a long time many people in the mainstream media applied a peculiar double standard to political speech, denouncing perfectly normal if forceful political rhetoric from the left as poisonous “Bush hatred,” while chuckling indulgently over venom from the right. (That Ann Coulter, she's such a kidder.)

But now the chuckling has stopped: somehow, nobody seems to find calls to send Bill Keller to the gas chamber funny. And while the White House clearly believes that attacking The Times is a winning political move, it doesn't have to turn out that way — not if enough people realize what's at stake.

Hastert's wealth was obtained how?

Doesn't appear as if Congress-critter Hastert is a believer that one chooses goes to Congress to be a public servant, not to become wealthy.

Hastert's wealth is grounded in land :
During his long career in public service, House Speaker Dennis Hastert has amassed a multimillion-dollar fortune through real estate holdings that belies the humble image of a former small-town high school wrestling coach.

He lives on a 127-acre homestead near Plano that includes farmland, a pond and woods, situated along a creek and adjacent to a private forest preserve. Based on the price Hastert received for a sale of adjoining undeveloped farmland in December, his land alone is now valued at more than $4.5 million. In all, Hastert's net worth has soared from no more than $290,000 to more than $6 million during his 19-year tenure on Capitol Hill that has seen him rise from the back benches of Congress to speaker of the House.

Hastert's accumulation of wealth through a series of land deals has been the subject of recent scrutiny since a private research group last month questioned his sale of land near a federally funded highway project that he championed.

His biggest payday as a real estate investor -- $2 million -- has stirred controversy because it dovetailed with federal assistance he secured for the Prairie Parkway. As part of a real estate partnership, Hastert sold land that is 3 miles from the proposed freeway. The $207 million funding was inserted into the fine print of a mammoth federal transportation bill.

He accumulated that wealth while he earned an annual salary that has ranged from $77,400 when he first entered Congress to his current salary as House speaker of $212,100 and as he put two sons through college. His wife brought home a teacher's salary until she retired about six years ago.

Hastert first began to reap substantial profits in 2002, when he moved from his Yorkville home and sold to a developer the surrounding land on Route 34, which has become a central corridor for growth in the region.

But his big winnings, responsible for most of his fortune, have come from the controversial tract associated with the freeway, land near Plano that he purchased in two transactions in 2002 and 2004. In addition to the sale of his Yorkville house, Hastert cashed in two other real estate investments during the months before the first of the two land purchases, tying his financial fortunes to the property.

At the end of 2002, just after Hastert purchased the property near Plano, property records and congressional financial disclosures indicate that his net worth stood somewhere between $1.2 million and $1.5 million, less than a quarter of his current wealth.

So, from 2002 until now, Hastert suddenly reaped quadrupled his net worth. Hmmmm. More than just a 'hint' of corruption.

Hastert entered Congress in 1987 a man of relatively modest means, worth no more than $290,000. His financial disclosure forms, which provide broad-range estimates, reported that he and his wife held assets totaling between $120,000 and $275,000. The largest: farmland from his wife's family in southern Illinois and a half-interest in a building in Plainfield, Ill., that had housed his father's Clock Tower Restaurant. He listed total debts of between $70,000 and $165,000.

The disclosure did not require him to list the equity he had built in his home at the time. But Hastert had just seven months earlier purchased a home in Yorkville for $225,000, Bonjean said. County records show that he had taken a mortgage of $140,000 when he bought the property.

Now his net worth appears to be more than $6.2 million, a figure that his staff does not dispute.

..His congressional disclosure forms show bank accounts and mutual funds with a combined value of between $20,000 and $125,000 at year-end. The same document indicates he had few debts: a mortgage on his Washington townhouse with a balance between $50,000 and $100,000 and a mortgage on his Plano residence that county records show had a balance of $520,000 as of February 2006.

An automobile enthusiast, he owns at least 10 vehicles, five of them antiques, including a 1942 Lincoln Zephyr Sedan and a 1956 Lincoln Mark II Convertible. He also keeps two 1950s open-cab Mack fire trucks, owned by his congressional campaign committee. He is not required to disclose the value of the vehicles.

From the Department of “Oh Really?”

Bloggers battle old-school media for political clout :

WASHINGTON -- When a writer for The New Republic, the 92-year-old doyen of elite Washington opinion journals, accused the nation's most prominent political blogger of using his online clout to hush up a potential scandal involving a former business partner, he knew there might be some backlash from the so-called ``new media.“

But he didn't expect death threats.

These so-called death threats: is Zengerle, he of made-up email fame, going to release these with email headers intact? Otherwise, I'm more than a little skeptical that such a thing exists. Especially since the subject isn't mentioned again in this discussion of the DailyKos/Markos Moulitsas vs. New Republic kerfuffle. Not to mention that the right wing thug-o-sphere actually is issuing death threats!

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links for 2006-07-06

More on Kenny Boy, Rest in Purgatory

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Disgraced boss Ken Lay dies at luxury ski chalet The son of a preacher from a small town in Missouri, Lay enjoyed a meteoric rise to the heights of American society. He was nicknamed “Kenny boy” by President Bush and lived a lavish lifestyle with more than a dozen homes and a personal wealth of more than $400m.

The company's collapse left 21,000 people jobless and Lay became the butt of hatred and of jokes - one ex-employee did a roaring trade in t-shirts with slogans such as “I got Lay'd by Enron”.

Former employees yesterday suggested there was some irony in the venue of Lay's death - a luxurious chalet in one of America's most expensive resorts. In Houston, callers to radio stations expressed outrage that he had been allowed to continue enjoying such conditions. Mimi Schwartz, co-author of Power Failure, a book about the demise of Enron, said there was still a great deal of anger in Houston: “People wanted to see the end of the story. The narrative people were buying into was that the story would end with Ken Lay being led away in handcuffs and shackles.”

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A Scanner Darkly opens soon!

The release of A Scanner Darkly is eagerly anticipated in my household, mostly by me, but I've already talked D into going.

A Scanner Darkly Polyptych

Beyond the Multiplex | Salon Arts & Entertainment ... Let's put it this way: “A Scanner Darkly,” a mesmerizing dark comedy adapted from Philip K. Dick's story, using the same combination of live-action footage and rotoscope animation that Linklater employed in “Waking Life,” will have particular resonance for viewers of about his age and generational predilections. If “Slacker” and “Dazed and Confused” were major cultural events in your life (along with, say, “Repo Man” and “Stranger Than Paradise” and “Blue Velvet” and “Sid and Nancy”), then this movie is for you.

That's a pretty damn good film festival right there (with the exception of the lesser movie, Dazed and Confused). I hope more folks discover Philip K Dick because of it.

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

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

“A Scanner Darkly” doesn't offer any obvious sound bites about the real world's anti-drug hysteria or our contemporary surveillance society, but its portrayal of American suburbia as a zone of physical decay, chemical addiction and ever more intrusive high-end technology could hardly seem more urgent. Arctor becomes incapable of telling whether he's making love to Ryder's character or someone else; he is ordered to spy on his best friends and betray them, only to discover that at least some of them have already betrayed him. Do these things result from widespread addiction to Substance D, or from the society that has made it necessary? And how do we tell the difference?

In its mode of Dickian paranoid gloom, “A Scanner Darkly” is among the darkest and loveliest movies you'll see this year. But I found it most effective as a depiction of sun-baked Southern California slackerdom run to seed, and that mode is both ironic and elegiac.



Via Gapersblock, we read:

Never miss another show

Tourfilter comes to Chicago. A Website started by Boston concertgoers who were tired of missing shows by their favorite artists, Tourfilter is very simple: type in your favorite bands, and the site will send you an email when the band schedules a Chicago performance.

Cool, I already wasted ten minutes looking for bands I might see, including poaching off the lists someone else set up. They don't have Tom Waits listed yet though, so we'll remain modestly excited only. Plus there is an iCal export feature.

Tom Waits to Tour!

Most excellent news!! I've always wanted to see Tom Waits perform.

Pitchfork: Tom Waits to Tour! Tom Waits will leave his lair for a rare tour this August

08-01 Atlanta, GA - Tabernacle
08-02 Asheville, NC - Thomas Wolfe Auditorium
08-04 Memphis, TN - Orpheum Theatre
08-05 Nashville, TN - Ryman Auditorium
08-07 Louisville, KY - Palace Theatre
08-09 Chicago, IL - Auditorium Theatre
08-11 Detroit, MI - Opera House
08-13 Akron, OH - Akron Civic

A Waits rarities box set, entitled Orphans, is rumored to be in the works too

The Auditorium doesn't yet list tickets as available, and this conflicts with a planned sojourn to Frostpocket, but those dates haven't been finalized yet.

(via Bandersnatch)

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Learning to draw at the ripe age of whatever the frack age I am is quite challenging. Still fun.

Sticks and Stones redux
Sticks and Stones redux


Stroll on Halsted
Stroll on Halsted

Walk On By
Walk On By

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Enron's Lay Is Dead


One always suspects foul play (orchestrated by Karl Rove to remove a potential fly in the 2006 election cycle ointment) but perhaps Kenny-boy's guilt got the better of him.

Enron's Lay Is Dead : Kenneth Lay, the former chairman of Enron who was convicted of fraud in May, has died. He was 64.

The Lay family issued a brief statement saying that Mr. Lay died early this morning in Aspen, Colo., where he once had several vacation homes during Enron's better days. Mr. Lay wasn't known to have heart problems.
When Messrs. Lay and Skilling went on trial in U.S. District Court Jan. 30, it had been expected that Mr. Lay, who enjoyed great popularity throughout Houston as chairman of the energy company, might be able to charm the jury. But during his testimony, Mr. Lay ended up coming across as irritable and combative.

He also sounded arrogant, defending his extravagant lifestyle, including a $200,000 yacht for wife Linda's birthday party, despite $100 million in personal debt and saying “it was difficult to turn off that lifestyle like a spigot.”

Both he and Mr. Skilling maintained that there had been no wrongdoing at Enron, and that the company had been brought down by negative publicity that undermined investors' confidence.

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How to Train a Woman

MoDo wanders into sexual speculation again. We read the original article, and D thought it interesting. Color me skeptical. Also, Ms. Dowd seems to pay close attention to “most emailed articles”: this is the second column in recent weeks whose topic was suggested by it.

How to Train a Woman - Maureen Dowd Women may want to mold their men to be more obedient and less irksome, but there are nagging questions about nagging:

Does it work? And can you do it while you're dating or should you wait until you're married?

In “The Break-Up,” Jennifer Aniston dumps her boyfriend because he not only won't do the dishes, but he doesn't want to do the dishes. But in “Guys and Dolls,” Adelaide advises waiting because “you can't get alterations on a dress you haven't bought.”

Amy Sutherland struck a chord with her recent Times essay — still high on the most e-mailed list — about how she successfully applied the techniques of exotic animal trainers to change some annoying traits of her husband, Scott. He became her guinea pig for methods she discovered as she researched a book on trainers teaching hyenas to pirouette, baboons to skateboard and elephants to paint.

“The central lesson I learned from exotic animal trainers is that I should reward behavior I like and ignore behavior I don't,” she wrote. “After all, you don't get a sea lion to balance a ball on the end of its nose by nagging.”

She began using “approximations,” which means rewarding the small steps toward learning a whole new behavior. “With the baboon you first reward a hop, then a bigger hop, then an even bigger hop,” she wrote. “With Scott the husband, I began to praise every small act every time: if he drove just a mile an hour slower, tossed one pair of shorts into the hamper, or was on time for anything.”

She also learned the concept of “incompatible behavior,” training an animal in a new behavior that would make the annoying behavior impossible. To keep Scott from crowding her while she cooked, she set a bowl of chips and salsa across the room.

Could it be that simple? And does it work the other way around — can men train women using exotic animal techniques?

Helen Fisher, a Rutgers anthropologist and the author of “Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love,” speculated that it might be easier for men to train women because “women are better at reading the emotions in your voice, better at seeing things in their peripheral vision, better at seeing in the dark. So just the man's tone of voice as opposed to even the words could be rewarding.”

Both sexes would be better off following the lead of animal trainers and ignoring irritating bad behavior.

links for 2006-07-05

Don't Turn Us Into Poodles

| 1 Comment

Nick Kristof wonders where all the vitriol against the media is leading. Can't be a good thing to have a press afraid of brown-shirts storming into the homes of reporters, so it's lucky that only 16 people showed up at the protest.

Nicholas K: Don't Turn Us Into Poodles

Watchdogs like the press can be mean, dumb and obnoxious, but it would be even more dangerous to trade them in for lap dogs.

With President Bush leading a charge against this “disgraceful” newspaper, and a conservative talk show host, Melanie Morgan, suggesting that maybe The Times's executive editor should be executed for treason, we face a fundamental dispute about the role of the news media in America.

At stake is the administration's campaign to recast the relationship between government and press.

One mechanism is the threat to prosecute editors or reporters, for the first time, under the 1917 Espionage Act. Perhaps more likely may be an effort to subpoena James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, two reporters for this newspaper, to compel them to disclose confidential sources — and then to imprison them when they refuse. Granted, many Americans, believing that the press is arrogant and out of control, wouldn't be bothered by that.

Two disclosures by this newspaper have sparked particular outrage: a report about National Security Agency wiretapping without warrants and one about a program to track terror financing by examining bank transfers.

The first scoop strikes me as the best of journalism, for it revealed possibly illegal behavior without any apparent risk to national security. The wiretapping was already well known, and the only new information was that it was conducted without warrants. That's useful information to citizens, but not to terrorists.

Started out on Burgundy

| 1 Comment

Abandoned Love
Abandoned Love

On the Park
On the Park Clark Street

Harvest Home
Harvest Home Lincoln Park

Meaning Added later
Meaning Added later blank slate at

Don't Try to Change My Mind
Don't Try to Change My Mind from a moving car

Weight of the World
Weight of the World Shade pine

9 great movies
9 great movies or rather, 9 great posters of 9 great movies. I've seen them all, have you?

Circles and Squares
Circles and Squares aka Mural and Motion

a quickr pickr post

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links for 2006-07-04

Shouldn't I be asleep

Box of Cherries
Box of Cherries At the Farmer's Market www.chicagogreencitymarket.org/

Not Barnes and Noble

Not Barnes and Noble
Too many of the bookstores like this are vanquished by corporatism. No doubt, I am a cause of their demise - by my absence. I used to frequent bookstores like they were a favorite whore, now, not so much. Also, I've lived in apartments that looked like this: wall to wall books and funkified artifacts.

12000 volts
12000 volts of burning, burning love. Or some such shite.

Bookman's Alley
Bookman's Alley Born not Toulouse, myself.

Sticks and Stones
Sticks and Stones first attempt. Better results sober, no doubt.

a quickr pickr post

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Driving with greasel


Mmmmm, greasel.....

Got a diesel? Try driving with greasel
In these days of eye-popping gas prices, Mike Leahy gets fuel for his Volkswagen Beetle at the Barking Dog, a pub in Bethesda, Md. Shane Sellers fuels up at a Chinese restaurant in Frederick, Md. And Ben Tonken heads to a Tex-Mex eatery in Washington.

Welcome to the world of greasel--the shorthand some use for grease and diesel. Leahy and the others are among a tiny but growing band of environmentalists and thrifty consumers who are turning to restaurants for free, used vegetable oil to fuel their diesel-engine cars.

With a little filtration and a car conversion kit, oil that once fried potatoes, egg rolls or tortilla chips is ready for its second act: air pollution fighter.

Sure, saving the world would be nice. But these folks don't really expect to. Most seem to be getting their hands greasy to prove a point: Vegetable oil, according to studies, burns cleaner than diesel fuel. What's more, it can save money.

As for performance, drivers say there's virtually no difference. Wear and tear on the engine is the same, as is acceleration and gas mileage.

When Sellers, 31, bought an $800 conversion kit two years ago, “it was just a decision on having some sort of independence and challenging the use of fossil fuels,” said the adjunct professor of art at Frederick Community College.

I almost made some joke about “Food for Thought”, but decided that it is too oily in the morning for such humor.

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links for 2006-07-03

Modern business world

T'aint that the truth. Just look at some of the comments in this DHL sucks thread from 2004 that still is quite active.

AOL Said, If You Leave Me I'll Do Something Crazy A frustrated AOL customer's recorded phone call to customer service has become the online equivalent of a top-of-the-charts single. ... A company like AOL must now submit to unceasing accountability. On the Monday after the public debut of Mr. Ferrari's call to AOL, Scott Falconer, an AOL executive vice president, sent an e-mail message to company employees alerting them to Mr. Ferrari's blog post and warned, “On any interaction, you should assume that it could be posted on the Web.”

Same thought behind political blogging actually - cannot contain the multitudes, there are just too many channels available for complaints to percolate out.


When lower-level employees of most companies get fired, if they are lucky, they might get 2 weeks severance. Often though, they just get escorted out by security. Why should corporate executives be any different? Larry Brown surely can't argue he earned consideration, nor can it be argued that he even needs the money.

The Knicks Boldly Go Where Companies Have Not NO one was surprised by the recent announcement that management of the New York Knicks had decided to fire the team's head coach, Larry Brown, after he presided over an utterly dismal 23-59 season. The surprise was over the company's decision not to pay him the $40 million remaining on his contract because, the company says, Mr. Brown violated club policy in seeking to make trades and violated the team's media policy in talking to reporters. The Knicks, in firing Mr. Brown “for cause,” are boldly going where many companies have feared to tread — and may be signaling a new willingness by corporations to start asserting their legal rights to sidestep, or reduce through negotiations, huge severance packages.

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Digital note taking

| 1 Comment

We want this, I wonder if it works with Macs? If not, I wonder if it works with the Parallel Desktops? Must check it out.

A Pen That's More Than Meets the Paper - New York Times
But recently Mr. Hultin made a small, effective change in his note-taking life: he bought a digital pen. The device looks like a slightly plump ballpoint, and works like any ballpoint. But inside this gadget are a tiny camera and an optical sensor that record the pen's motions as he writes, and a microprocessor that digitizes the words, sketches and diagrams that the optics detect.When he docks the pen in its cradle connected to a USB port, the handwritten notes flow in a digitized stream into his computer and are processed by software, reappearing almost immediately on his monitor in his handwriting. “All the notes I've written are sucked into the computer, and there they are on the screen,” he said. His pen, called io2

Logitech io2 Digital Writing System

is sold by Logitech of Fremont, Calif., for about $200.

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Can't Win the War? Bomb the Press!

Frank Rich notes how transparent all the talk of treason is. Can we have a new government yet? One that doesn't treat its citizens as dupes?

Frank Rich: Can't Win the War? Bomb the Press! If you want to learn the truly dirty secrets of how our government prosecutes this war, the story of how it vilified The Times is more damning than anything in the article that caused the uproar.

OLD GLORY lost today,“ Bill Frist declaimed last week when his second attempt to rewrite the Constitution in a single month went the way of his happy prognosis for Terri Schiavo. Of course it isn't Old Glory that lost when the flag-burning amendment flamed out. The flag always survives the politicians who wrap themselves in it. What really provoked Mr. Frist's crocodile tears was the foiling of yet another ruse to distract Americans from the wreckage in Iraq. He and his party, eager to change the subject in an election year, just can't let go of their scapegoat strategy. It's illegal Hispanic immigrants, gay couples seeking marital rights, cut-and-run Democrats and rampaging flag burners who have betrayed America's values, not those who bungled a war.

No sooner were the flag burners hustled offstage than a new traitor was unveiled for the Fourth: the press. Public enemy No. 1 is The New York Times, which was accused of a ”disgraceful“ compromise of national security (by President Bush) and treason (by Representative Peter King of New York and the Coulter amen chorus). The Times's offense was to publish a front-page article about a comprehensive American effort to track terrorists with the aid of a Belgian consortium, Swift, which serves as a clearinghouse for some 7,800 financial institutions in 200 countries.

It was a solid piece of journalism. But if you want to learn the truly dirty secrets of how our government prosecutes this war, the story of how it vilified The Times is more damning than anything in the article that caused the uproar.

The history of that scapegoating begins on the Friday morning, June 23, that The Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal all published accounts of the Swift program first posted on the Web the night before. In his press briefing that morning, Tony Snow fielded many questions about the program's legality. But revealingly, for all his opportunities, he never attacked the news media.

Far from Swift-boating the Swift reportage, he offered tentative praise. ”It's interesting,“ he said, ”because I think there's a fair amount of balance in the story in that you do have concrete benefits and you do have the kind of abstract harms that were mentioned in there.“ He noted that there had been ”no allegation of illegality“ in the Times article.

This was accurate. The story was balanced, just as Mr. Snow said. And it was no cause for a national-security alarm for the simple reason that since 9/11, our government has repeatedly advertised that it is following the terrorists' money trail, a tactic enhanced by the broad new powers over financial institutions that Mr. Bush sought and received. In November 2002, he and the Treasury secretary at the time, Paul O'Neill, even held a televised event promoting their Foreign Terrorist Asset Tracking Center, established expressly, in the president's words, to ”investigate the financial infrastructure of the international terrorist networks.“ As for Swift, Dan Froomkin of washingtonpost.com points out that it can't resist bragging on its own Web site that it ”has a history of cooperating in good faith with authorities,“ including treasury departments and law enforcement agencies, in trying ”to combat abuse of the financial system for illegal activities.“

Only a terrorist who couldn't shoot straight would assume that Swift was not part of the American effort to stalk terrorist transactions; that's tantamount to assuming that cops would track down license plate numbers without enlisting the Department of Motor Vehicles. But, unfortunately for us, terrorists are not so stupid: it's been reported as far back as 2003 (in The Washington Post) and as recently as this month (in Ron Suskind's must-read best seller ”The One Percent Doctrine“) that our enemies long ago took Mr. Bush at his word and abandoned banks for couriers, money brokers, front companies and suitcases stuffed with cash and gold. Tom Brokaw summarized the consensus of terrorism experts last week when he told Chris Matthews of MSNBC: ”I don't know anyone who believes that the terrorist network said, 'Oh my God, they're tracing our financial transactions? What a surprise.' Of course, they knew that they were doing that.“

Doonesbury on ID science


Doonesbury has more fun with the “Sunday Creationists” (those who profess belief in science and evolution, when it suits their purpose)

Doonesbury Intelligent design 060702

(which is actually a repeat)

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links for 2006-07-02

Tribute or Protest


Flags are vested with entirely too much symbolic value. But here's the thing: soldiers are sons and daughters, and should be properly acknowledged as members of communities, not just as statistics.

WSJ.com - Tribute or Protest? ... In some 16 states, flags are routinely lowered for fallen home-state soldiers. But what some see as a gesture of tribute, others consider inappropriate, demoralizing and even devious. Half-staff efforts, which have spread to states Oregon, Minnesota, California, Illinois, Kentucky and Maine -- are generating controversy a mong politicians, veterans and citizens unsure about whether and when to lower the flag.

The U.S. Flag Code, adopted in 1942, says governors may honor state “officials” after they die by lowering the flag. Critics say it is inappropriate for governors to label soldiers as officials. Some wonder whether the flag tributes are really an attempt to undermine support for the war by reminding Americans of the fatalities. And though many veterans welcome the lowered flags, others say the day for honoring war dead is Memorial Day.

During World War II, when Michigan soldiers were dying at the rate of 13 a day, there was no effort to lower flags for every one of them. “If there had been, the flag would never have been raised for the entire war,” says Bruce Butgereit, of Kentwood, Mich., who serves as national patriotic instructor of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

Mr. Butgereit says he opposes the Michigan governor's call for flying flags at half-staff because it disregards the Flag Code. He believes Gov. Granholm, a Democrat, feels “some sense of loss” when a Michigan soldier dies, but that “her motivation to order the flag lowered was purely political.”

In an interview, Gov. Granholm denies this, saying she first thought to lower flags when a state employee lost his nephew in 2003, and asked for the tribute at his state work site. That led Gov. Granholm to decide to honor all soldiers from Michigan and to do it statewide. Since her proclamation in December 2003, Gov. Granholm has ordered the flag lowered for 72 soldiers who've died. She called all 72 families in advance to tell them about the flag tribute, she says.

Nobody would, after meeting me, ever mistake me for a military person, but my seven farthing opinion is that the nation's flags should be held at half mast every day a soldier dies.

The best way to avoid this controversy would be to bring home the soldiers altogether, and thus not have a need to lower the flag at half mast every fracking day. And also, seems as if the Rethuglicans again prove how much they actually despise the real flesh and blood soldiers fighting (as opposed to the symbolic soldiers fighting in symbolic, political terms, against symbolic enemies).

Gov. Granholm says she is aware that some people think she lowers the flag to remind citizens that the war isn't going well. She says this is not the case. She hopes the half-staff flags “remind people about the costs and sacrifices of having a free nation,” she says. She asks citizens who see a lowered flag to “say a prayer, because that soldier's family is here within our borders.”

Last month, Gov. Granholm's opponent in the November election, Republican Dick DeVos, indicated through a spokesman that, if elected, he would lower the flag for “officials,” as designated by the Flag Code, but not for soldiers. A public outcry followed, with military families calling radio talk shows and writing letters to newspapers to vent their anger.

Within days, Mr. DeVos issued a statement saying he would continue the governor's flag policy -- and that his position had been misinterpreted. Mr. DeVos, son of Amway founder Richard DeVos Sr., declined to be interviewed for this article.

Some who have successfully lobbied for flag tributes have been open about their antiwar goals. Paul Vogel of Barrington, Ill., has a son who served in Iraq. Mr. Vogel is now a peace activist with Military Families Speak Out. In 2004, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat, said it was Mr. Vogel who helped persuade him to lower flags at state buildings for fallen Illinois National Guardsman. Mr. Vogel says he sees the half-staff tribute as both “anti-war” and “pro-soldier” -- and a reminder that “for a country at war, we seem benignly unaware of the cost.” He hopes the lowered flags convince Americans that “we've sacrificed enough of our 19- and 20-year-olds to this illegal war.”

Mr. Vogel's personal politics had nothing to do with the governor's decision to lower flags, says Gerardo Cardenas, a spokesman for Gov. Blagojevich. The governor was concerned about the need to honor soldiers' sacrifices “especially when the federal government is leaving millions of veterans behind,” says the spokesman.

links for 2006-07-02

Ted Stevens is retarded

From Wired, we read of some yimmer-yammer from Alaska's answer to the intellect of GWB, namely, Ted Stevens. We think he is talking about Netflix in this beginning paragraph, but we could be wrong.

27B Stroke 6 There's one company now you can sign up and you can get a movie delivered to your house daily by delivery service. Okay. And currently it comes to your house, it gets put in the mail box when you get home and you change your order but you pay for that, right. But this service isn't going to go through the interent and what you do is you just go to a place on the internet and you order your movie and guess what you can order ten of them delivered to you and the delivery charge is free.Ten of them streaming across that internet and what happens to your own personal internet?I just the other day got, an internet was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday and I just got it yesterday. Why? Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the internet commercially.

oh, there's more if you want a giggle, and an audio file if you have the time.

Net neutrality is being argued by this idiot? Here's the thing. No person can be expected to be knowledgeable about all topics, present company excluded of course. But, if you are bloviating on the Senate floor in support of some legislation, one would hope, pray even if one was a praying sort of person, that prior to raising to speak, one had at least an inkling of knowledge on the topic at hand. Senator Stevens sounds like he has never even turned on a computer, much less has an understanding of the underlying issues. I don't even think he understands the surface issues, just knows who is paying for his re-election campaign.


Enjoy this MoFo


Wittgenstein Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology, and Religious Belief
“Wittgenstein Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology, and Religious Belief” (Ludwig Wittgenstein)

Now, I've glossed a few paragraphs of Wittgenstein over the years, but I've never believed in the requirement of universal suffering as means to achieve love and happiness, later on. Why can't we enjoy ourselves, and live by a moral code which precludes harm to others?
Ludwig Wittgenstein “I don't know why we are here, but I'm pretty sure that it is not in order to enjoy ourselves.”

The Cambridge Companion to Wittgenstein (Cambridge Companions to Philosophy)


(p.s., I cannot find where this quote came from at the moment because I am too busy enjoying myself. Whoo hoo! 4 day vacation!!)

Die-Hards or Dupes

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Is entrapment a fair strategy for law enforcement?

Two Views of Terror Suspects: Die-Hards or Dupes

Videotapes of the seven men arrested in Miami did not provide evidence that they had any ties to Al Qaeda.

Is being led to commit illegal acts by law enforcement mean one is intrinsically criminal, or just easily led? The more we hear about this gang of misfits, the more suspicious we are that, left alone, no acts of terrorism would have been perpetrated. The FBI gave them an oath to swear, encouraged them to purchase weapons, and probably encouraged them to read from the Koran (they originally seemed to be more Christian than Muslim). I remember reading in the 80s of a DEA bust where the arrestee bought his materials directly from the DEA, called them 50-100 times asking for advice, and then once he finally made some MDMA (or meth, cannot remember), the DEA came swooping in and arrested the dupe.

Does anyone else remember COINTELPRO

The COINTELPRO Papers : Documents from the FBI's Secret Wars Against Dissent in the United States (South End Press Classics Series)

“The COINTELPRO Papers : Documents from the FBI's Secret Wars Against Dissent in the United States (South End Press Classics Series)” (Ward Churchill, Jim Vander Wall)

Cointelpro Papers: Documents from the Fbi's Secret Wars Against Domestic Dissent

“Cointelpro Papers: Documents from the Fbi's Secret Wars Against Domestic Dissent” (Ward Churchill, Jim Vander Wall)

The FBI frequently installed undercover agents into whatever movements they deemed 'of interest', and these undercover agents were often the members who were advocating violence.

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Velvet Elvis Diplomacy

Woah, nelly. Now this must have been some event. I'm sure the Dauphin was a little nervous with Prime Minister Koizumi's enthusiasm. I hope this 'performance' turns up on Youtube. Strange too, how the Christian Taliban of an earlier era were against Elvis' hip-wiggles, apparently so were the Iranians.

Maureen Dowd: Velvet Elvis Diplomacy Goin' to Graceland was a rare display of expertise in the psychology of diplomacy, an area where the Bush administration has been strangely tone-deaf.

Among the newspaper headlines preserved in Elvis's trophy room in Graceland, hanging next to his size-12 white leather shoes and rhinestone-studded gold lamé suit, is this gem from Aug. 12, 1957: “Rock 'n' Roll Banned, 'Hate Elvis' Drive Launched By Iran To Save Its Youth.”

Datelined Tehran, the story began: “Rock 'n' roll has been banned in Iran as a threat to civilization. 'This new canker can very easily destroy the roots of our 6,000 years' civilization,' police said, before launching a 'Hate Elvis' campaign.”

Half a century ago, Elvis was considered a wiggly threat to Muslim civilization. But yesterday, the president brought the Japanese prime minister to Elvis's gloriously campy time capsule to thank the fanatical Elvis fan for helping push democracy in the Muslim world.

Junichiro Koizumi seemed to be in an ecstatic trance. Standing near the indoor waterfall in the Jungle Room with Priscilla, Lisa Marie, Laura and George looking on, basking in the avocado glow of a 70's shag rug that covered floor and ceiling, the 64-year-old Japanese leader did Thin Elvis air guitar and Fat Elvis karate chops.

He grabbed the King's outsized tinted gold-rimmed glasses and slipped them on, as the curator who had handled them with white gloves watched in alarm. And he gamely sang heavily accented bits of “Love Me Tender,” “Can't Help Falling in Love With You,” “Fools Rush In,” “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You,” and even let loose with “Glory, Glory, Hallelujah” until finally Priscilla Presley called out, “We need a karaoke machine!” He even cast Lisa Marie in the Ann-Margret role in his own fantasy “Viva Las Vegas,” pulling her close to croon, “Hold me close, hold me tight.”

“It's like a dream,” bubbled Mr. Koizumi.

It was hard to remember anyone looking this happy in the gloomy cave of the Bush-Cheney administration, where more time is spent spanking allies than treating them.

Mr. Bush seemed out of his element. It's doubtful that W. had ever seen a round, mirrored, white fake-fur canopy bed before, much less an entire suit made of black faux fur. At one point, the president tried to cut off his overexcited guest from Tokyo, a city that loves its Elvis impersonator bars. But Mr. Koizumi would not be stopped.

remainder links for 2006-07-01

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