August 2006 Archives

JC Penney to Saatchi

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JC Penney Walks Out On DDB

JC Penney has ended its six-year relationship with Omnicom's DDB Chicago and is expected to move its $430 million account to Publicis' Saatchi & Saatchi
The loss of the account is a blow to DDB Chicago, which just last week won the $200 million Safeway business. In recent months, it has also parted with its Dell Computers and Home Depot accounts.

Choices choices

Today, I could whine about several 'events', or not post anything. I suppose this is the proverbial Solomonic middle ground - split the difference, and make it cocktail hour. Whoo hooo! Pour me another G and T!

FedEx deadline is still hours away, I'll wake up from my stupor before then, I hope.
Nice to meet ya -Shaq and Ferry

links for 2006-08-31

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Valassis Sues over buyers remorse

The funny (or whatever adjective appropriate) thing is that this isn't even a novel strategy: suing to stop a merger you yourself started. Tyson tried it a few years ago during the Tyson/IBP merger, and lost.

Must be sort of a strange, awkward meeting.
“We don't want to merge with you anymore.”
“ Yes, you must, I already ordered a special cake and issued the invitations.”
“No, in fact, if you don't let us walk away, we'll sue! For, for, for....fraud!”
“Bring it on, biatch!”

Advertising Age - Valassis Sues to Stop $1.3 Billion Takeover

Valassis is launching its second major lawsuit of the year, after earlier suing rival News Corp.'s NewsAmerica Marketing, alleging antitrust violations.
Valassis Communications today sued to end its proposed $1.3 billion takeover of Advo, accusing the nation's largest direct-mail media company of fraud.

Valassis said in a statement that its complaint, filed today in Delaware Chancery Court, accuses Advo of intentionally providing “materially false financial information” and withholding information at a time when its operating income was “materially off forecast.”

Advo in a statement dismissed the lawsuit as “baseless and without merit” and said it “can only surmise that Valassis' action is merely a smokescreen to hide the fact that Valassis is suffering from an extreme case of buyer's remorse.

Valassis announced the lawsuit after markets closed on Wednesday, but its stock plunged nearly 16% when the merger was announced July 6 and has recovered only about a third of that loss since.

The complaint was filed under seal, a Valassis spokesman said, but the company's statement said it also alleges that Advo executives knew of, but did not disclose, “significant internal control deficiencies associated with Advo's enterprise-wide order-to-cash system.”

“Advo left us with no choice,” said Valassis Chairman-CEO Alan F. Schultz in the statement. “The pertinent information we received was erroneous, projections were grossly inaccurate and we believe we were the victims of fraud.”

Yeah, whatever. Like herpes discovered during the wedding ceremony in some pre-nuptial quickie in a back room. Not that I have any experience with that.

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PCP in a tank

Why was there a tank of PCP in the courthouse? What's wrong with donuts? - PCP Leak Prompts Criminal Courts Evacuation
Liquid PCP reportedly leaked from a gallon tank, causing the evacuation of the fifth floor of the Criminal Courts Building on Wednesday.The Chicago Fire Department called a Level 1 Hazmat at 11:24 a.m. when the liquid contraband was found leaking from a gallon tank in the evidence room on the fifth floor of the building, 2650 S. California Ave., according to Fire Media Affairs Deputy Director Eve Rodriguez.

Oh, it was allegedly to be entered into evidence. Weird. That was quite the party - complete with James Brown's greatest hits blaring, no doubt.


Quicken Mac 2007

Case in point re Google board member helping Mac software or not. The precedent is not positive.

Macworld: Review: Quicken Mac 2007
feature base falls short of Windows versions.

Full disclosure, I was once a beta tester for Quicken (98?), and reported so many bugs they gave me schwag. Some of those bugs still exist in Quicken 2003 - the latest version I own (bundled, actually). If I had a month to catch up, and the services of an unpaid intern, I might switch our records to Quickbooks, but odds are long against that particular transition.

Unfortunately, there are some shortcomings to consider. First, Quicken lacks Universal Binary support for Apple’s Intel-based machines. While this won’t necessarily hamper performance, it speaks to Quicken’s track record of being slow to provide significant upgrades for Macintosh users. Quicken also doesn’t offer support for international currencies.

In addition, online banking features may fall short, depending on how much access Quicken can have to your financial institution. Some institutions offer full—or Direct Connect—access, allowing users to synch their Quicken histories with those online via an OFX (Open Financial Exchange) connection initiated by Quicken. Other institutions support a more limited Web Connect setup, whereby users log in to their financial institution and download a Web Connect file with the newest financial transactions. Quicken later accesses the Web Connect file to synchronize transactions. At the lowest level of access, you may have to download QIF files of your financial history, and then import these into the program. Intuit is pondering the retirement of QIF downloads for Windows users, and indicate it may put QIF out to pasture on the Mac too.


CodeWeavers - CrossOver Mac

| 2 Comments seems to be down at the moment, so am posting this here.

CodeWeavers - CrossOver Mac Intended for Intel Mac OS X machines, CrossOver Mac will allow Mac
users to run their favorite Windows applications seamlessly on their Mac, without the need for a Windows OS license of any kind

Still haven't installed XP on any machine - my inner financial guru doesn't want me to send money to Microsoft ($300 dollars for an OS! and a crappy one at that), so haven't made the plunge to Bootcamp or Parallel Desktop, though am researching both.

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Toxic tuna redux

Ooooh, groovy. We don't eat much tuna anymore, but we've eaten at several of these restaurants, some quite recently.

Study: Toxic tuna found in area restaurants
Some of the tuna served in Chicago's top sushi restaurants contains so much mercury that it shouldn't be eaten by anyone man, woman or child according to a study released today by the group Environment Illinois.

“Mercury contamination is a toxic threat to food safety in Illinois,” said Max Muller, an advocate for the nonpartisan environmental advocacy group, in a news release announcing the study, called Toxic Tuna.

The organization teamed up with GotMercury.Org, a Web site that offers an online mercury calculator, to test 20 samples of tuna sushi from 10 restaurants selected from the Zagat Survey dining guide.

They found the samples contained an average mercury concentration of 0.446 parts per million — about 15 percent higher than the mercury content of fresh and frozen tuna reported by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to the release.

In addition, they found that more than 10 percent of the tuna samples contained mercury levels above 1.0 ppm, which is the legal limit set by the FDA for fish sold in the United States.
In this study, the groups also found that 14 of the 20 tuna samples tested, or 70 percent, contained mercury levels that could be harmful to women and children if eaten more than once a month, according to the release.

Full report available here (PDF).

Strange, the Chicago Alderman were worried about banning Trans fats, and foie gras, but mercury drenched tuna rolls at Japonais, Mirai, Benihana, Heat, Matsuya, Ra Sush, or Sushi Wabi was never mentioned.

Also, thanks, all who voted for George Bush, and his end-of-times Republican Pollution party - because allowing industry carte blanche to pollute without burden of oversight or regulation leads directly to poisoning of food, water, air and so on. So, thanks a lot.

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Begat, Bothered, Bewildered

Lest you forget the Topic of the Moment, New Orleans, Katrina, and the incompetency of the Bush administration, MoDo wants to discuss it too.

Maureen Dowd: Begat, Bothered, Bewildered President Bush needs to restore the soul, not merely of the Big Easy, but of the White House.

New Orleans

Doing his stations of the Katrina cross, President Bush went for breakfast with Mayor Ray Nagin at Betsy’s Pancake House.

As Mr. Bush tried to squeeze past some tightly placed tables, a waitress, Joyce Labruzzo, teased him, saying, “Mr. President, are you going to turn your back on me?’’

”No ma’am,’’ he replied, with a laugh and a pause for effect. “Not again.”

It was a rare unguarded moment — showing that his towering Katrina failure is lodged somewhere in the front of his cerebral cortex — in a trip of staged, studiously happy settings, steering away from the wreckage of buildings and people so searing for anyone who loved the saucy and sauce-laden New Orleans of old.

W.’s anniversary contrition for the cameras was a more elaborate version of his famous Air Force One flyover a year ago, when he had to be shown a DVD of angry news coverage of apartheid suffering here before he belatedly and grudgingly broke off his five-week Crawford vacation.

In an interview on the Upper Ninth Ward’s desolate North Dorgenois Street, the president told NBC’s Brian Williams that, besides Camus, he had recently read a book on the Battle of New Orleans and “three Shakespeares.” A White House aide said one of them was “Hamlet.”

What could be more fitting? A prince who dithers instead of acting and then acts precipitously at the wrong moment, not paying attention when someone vulnerable drowns.

The president bristled when the anchor asked about criticism that his inept response had to do with a “patrician upbringing” and about whether he was asking the country to sacrifice enough. “Americans are sacrificing,” he said. “We pay a lot of taxes.”

oh? So 'paying a lot of taxes', whatever that means, is almost the same as hoarding tire rubber, and canceling the production of music vinyl in WW2. Just exactly the same.

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Johnny Cash died for our sins

Johnny Cash in my thoughts for some reason, so here's a few YouTube captured moments for your pleasure.

Johnny Cash hepped up on coffee, or stronger, sings Ring of Fire in 1963.

direct link here

Complete Live at San Quentin

Live at San Quentin

wiki here

(never seen these before tonight, but wore out this vinyl and cd as well as its predecessor At Folsom Prison)

I Walk the Line - Live at San Quentin

direct link

(also original version here with bad, bad sound, but synced properly. Take yer pick)

Live in San Quentin, singing title song

direct link here

City of New Orleans Johnny Cash video

direct link here

Death bed song, a cover of Nine Inch Nails - Hurt

direct link here

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links for 2006-08-30

Google CEO Joins Apple Board

The first couple of times I read this headline at various news sites, my second thought was, “Maybe now Google will release tools for the Mac OS at the same time as for the Windows OS and not months later?”

Google CEO Joins Apple Board
Apple Computer said Google CEO Eric Schmidt has been elected to the iPod and computer maker's board of directors.

My third thought was to remember that having Intuit's chairman has not helped Quickbooks for Mac evolve much, and Quicken still sucks.

Oh, my first thought? “Meh.”

A shiny nickel to the first news story that lists all eight board members. CNet, for instance lists Al Gore, Steve Jobs, Eric Schmidt, doesn't bother listing the names of

heads of Intuit, J. Crew and Genentech
and leaves off two other unnamed members. The WSJ article cited above only bothers to list Jobs, Gore and Schmidt. The Register UK lists Gore, Jobs, and inexplicably, Arthur Levinson, CEO of Genentech. Look for yourself.

If you really want to know (and obviously, if you read this far, you might be curious), per Hoovers, here are all the 8 Apple board members, with brief bios. I snipped arbitrarily, so, for instance if you don't know who Al Gore is, you might want to do a little extra research:

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Deleted scene from Wizard of Oz

Also from Eric Zorn, we found this deleted scene from the Wizard of Oz. Probably wasn't released because it would mess up the timing on that whole Dark Side of the Moon thing.

The film originally contained an elaborate production number called “The Jitter Bug”, which cost $80,000 and took five weeks to shoot, only to be cut after the first preview. In the scene, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly lion, and the Tin Woodsman are on their way to the Witch's castle when they are attacked by “jitter bugs” - furry pink and blue mosquito-like “rascals” that give one “the jitters” as they buzz about in the air. When, after its preview, the movie was judged too long, MGM officials decided to sacrifice the “Jitter Bug” scene. The reasoned that it added little to the plot and, because a dance by the same name had just become popular, they feared it might date the picture.

The Witch still refers to the bug in the final film, just before telling the Monkeys to “Fly!” Only home movies of the filming of “The Jitterbug” survive, though the song is on current versions of both the soundtrack CD and the recent anniversary edition videotape. The sequence was also incorporated into a recent stage version of the musical.

If you want to know how Dorothy thwarted the Wicked Witch's 'dancing with the stars'-style plot, you can read the script for the scene here

Video direct link here

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Penis bumb

Eric Zorn has some follow up on the recent penis pump story which made the email/blog/news rounds. Everyone could have laugh at the guy who is too embarrassed to explain the function of a penis pump in front of his mother. Turns out there is a lot less to the story. Seems like a jittery TSA security guard (or her supervisors) don't want to admit to a mistake, and instead are subjecting an innocent guy (who happens to have a heavy accent) to legal action.

Chicago Tribune | Eric Zorn

Mardin Azad Amin: The 29-year-old native of Iraq has become the subject of worldwide ridicule for an incident earlier this month in which authorities allege that he blurted out a bomb threat while passing through a security checkpoint at O'Hare International Airport in an ill-advised attempt to hide from his mother that he was carrying a marital aid in his knapsack.

...“He told them it was a pump, a pump,” O'Neill-Burke [his attorney] said. “But he has a very thick accent. It's so thick that I had to meet with him face to face before I could understand him.”

Even still, she said, Amin's “pump” sounded to her a lot like “bomb.”

“There is no `p' in Arabic, so `pump' would come out more like `bumb,'” said Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The additional facts that any fool could see that the device itself wasn't a bomb and wasn't contraband and that any fool would know that an Arab man in his 20s with a clean record is the last person in the world who'd think that talking about bombs to airport security personnel is a good way to quietly and discreetly pass through the checkpoint did not dissuade our plucky authorities.

They are not just any fools. They questioned him for several hours, arrested and charged him, and then threw him upon the mercy of the rim-shot media, which couldn't resist mocking him first for his supposed stupidity and second for having a use for this particular device.

It just wouldn't have been as much fun to mock law enforcement for its absurd and continuing overreaction to an unfortunate misunderstanding, an overreaction that continued last week when Judge Gerald Winiecki allowed the case to go forward and set the next court date for Sept. 13.

The tale of a skittish guard who confuses “bumb” for “bomb” when she hears a man describe a penis pump isn't nearly as amusing as the tale of a man who panics when a guard discovers his penis pump and tells the guard it's a bomb.

Like we've asked so many times before, do you feel safer with the Dauphin in charge? It's gotten so bad we hate to travel now.


South Park Refugees

Personally, I never understood why so-called Libertarians ever considered themselves Republicans. Republicans are not really for less government intrusion, not when it comes to social issues (gay marriage, drugs, gambling), nor really on economic issues (tariffs, “free trade”, etc.). Republicans were just using those buzzwords as marketing tools, and once they clawed their way to controlling all three branches of government, plus wide swaths of the corporate media, the Republicans didn't need to mouth those phrases anymore.

John Tierney has more on the blip that was “South Park Republicans”:

John Tierney: South Park Refugees I have bad news for the G.O.P. regarding that promising new bloc of voters, the South Park Republicans. It turns out they're not Republicans, at least not anymore.

According to Wikipedia, which would definitely be these voters’ encyclopedia of choice, South Park Republicans are young Americans who “hold political beliefs that are, in general, aligned with those that seem to underpin gags and storylines in the popular television cartoon.” The encyclopedia summarizes these beliefs with a quotation from one of the show’s creators, Matt Stone, which includes a crucial expletive I must elide: “I hate conservatives, but I really ... hate liberals.”

The term was coined after Stone and his co-creator, Trey Parker, accepted an award in 2001 from People for the American Way at a dinner in Beverly Hills. The audience, warmed up by an evening of lefty rhetoric, was startled to hear Stone and Parker announce they were Republicans.

To those dreaming of a permanent G.O.P. majority, this new bloc was evidence that it was indeed a big-tent party: you could vote with the Christian Coalition while watching a show that set records for profanity. Republicans could embrace two guys who got their break with a video of a martial-arts duel between Santa Claus and Jesus.

Some Republicans were offended by the show’s gibes at organized religion, but it seemed like a great recruiting tool because of its merciless mocking of Democrats like Al Gore, who appeared as a monster frightening the schoolchildren of South Park. In Brian Anderson’s book last year, “South Park Conservatives,” he hailed Stone and Parker for challenging Hollywood’s liberal hegemony.

Stone and Parker were never thrilled to be G.O.P. poster boys and said they weren’t sure what a South Park Republican was. They were generally reluctant to be pigeonholed ideologically, but last week they clarified it by headlining at a Reason magazine conference in Amsterdam, the libertarian version of Davos. Stone and Parker said that if you had to put a label on them, they were libertarian — and that didn’t mean Republican to this crowd.

The G.O.P. used to have a sizable libertarian bloc, but I couldn’t see any sign of it at the conference. Stone and Parker said they were rooting for Hillary Clinton in 2008 simply because it would be weird to have her as president. The prevailing sentiment among the rest of the libertarians was that the best outcome this November would be a Democratic majority in the House, because then at least there’d be gridlock.

“We’re the long-suffering, battered spouse in a dysfunctional political marriage of convenience,” said Nick Gillespie, the editor in chief of Reason. “Most of the libertarians I know have given up on the G.O.P. The odds that we’ll stick around for the midterm election are about as good as the odds that Rick Santorum will join the Village People.”

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Photograph used by NPR

The website for the Chicago NRP station, WBEZ, and its sister stations in the Chicagoland area, dabbles with user generated content, and chose one of my photos for their home page today. I'd be more excited if there was a healthy stipend included as well, but still am pleased at the honor.

They don't link directly to the photo (which is against Flickr's terms of service), but here is a clickable version if you can't stand the suspense, or you are reading this on some other date.

Green Orange Blue Yellow

oh, here's another, older version which isn't as vibrant, but gives more context.

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links for 2006-08-29

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I wouldn't call myself a railroad enthusiast, but I'm still thrilled that I don't have to worry about being arrested if I happen to see a photo opportunity, and I happen to be standing on a train platform.

Add another feather in the ACLU's cap.
Station hopping shuffle

Railroad rescinds ban on photos from Metra platforms

Faced with opposition from railroad enthusiasts, the Union Pacific Railroad announced today it would once again allow people to take pictures from Metra station platforms on the Chicago-area routes it operates.

A month ago, the Union Pacific, which operates commuter trains under contract with Metra, decided to ban photography from platforms on Metra's UP North line to Kenosha, Northwest line to Harvard and West line to Elburn. The railroad cited passenger security as the reason for the ban.

I have never really understood why photographers are assumed to be security risks. Not that a lot of the anti-terrorism bs makes sense, but especially the ban on photographs seems weakly reasoned.

The revised policy is still a bit open ended though

If railroad officials spot people taking pictures of railroad operations on public property, the employee may stop and question the photographer if he or she thinks the activity is suspicious, the railroad stated.

Union Pacific spokesman Mark Davis has said the photography ban was imposed for the safety and security of passengers. A similar ban has been in place at Ogilvie Transportation Center since the days following the September 2001 terrorist attacks, he said.

Rail enthusiasts, though, argued that banning photography from Metra platforms was a violation of their 1st Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution.

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We want to Get Things Done

As threatened, we've been quietly laboring today, trying to integrate our messes into GTD land. I have decided that KGTD is a good tool, once I figured out what I was supposed to do. Haven't gotten iCal calendar support to work yet, but we've been using Now Up To Date for so many years, that I'm not sure that iCal will be robust enough of a replacement anyway.

My main problem encountered so far is that I enjoy creating and tweaking systems rather than accomplishing tasks.

We also spent a good portion of the day exploring new office space in the area. More on that later. My back is certainly not anticipating that project.

So sorry if we haven't gotten back to you - it isn't personal.


Broken Promises

At this point, anyone who is surprised at the disparity between the bloviating of a politician and the actions undertaken subsequently is just asleep. Contemporary American politics is not about deeds, it is about public relations and marketing.

Paul Krugman: Broken Promises

In America as in Iraq, reconstruction delayed is reconstruction denied — and President Bush has, once again, broken a promise.

Last September President Bush stood in New Orleans, where the lights had just come on for the first time since Katrina struck, and promised “one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen.” Then he left, and the lights went out again.

What happened next was a replay of what happened after Mr. Bush asked Congress to allocate $18 billion for Iraqi reconstruction. In the months that followed, congressmen who visited Iraq returned with glowing accounts of all the wonderful things we were doing there, like repainting schools and, um, repainting schools.

But when the Coalition Provisional Authority, which was running Iraq, closed up shop nine months later, it turned out that only 2 percent of the $18 billion had been spent, and only a handful of the projects that were supposed to have been financed with that money had even been started. In the end, America failed to deliver even the most basic repair of Iraq’s infrastructure; today, Baghdad gets less than seven hours of electricity a day.

And so it is along our own Gulf Coast. The Bush administration likes to talk about all the money it has allocated to the region, and it plans a public relations blitz to persuade America that it’s doing a heck of a job aiding Katrina’s victims. But as the Iraqis learned, allocating money and actually using it for reconstruction are two different things, and so far the administration has done almost nothing to make good on last year’s promises.

It’s true that tens of billions have been spent on emergency relief and cleanup. But even the cleanup remains incomplete: almost a third of the hurricane debris in New Orleans has yet to be removed. And the process of going beyond cleanup to actual reconstruction has barely begun.

For example, although Congress allocated $17 billion to the Department of Housing and Urban Development for Katrina relief, primarily to provide cash assistance to homeowners, as of last week the department had spent only $100 million. The first Louisiana homeowners finally received checks under a federally financed program just three days ago. Mississippi, which has a similar program, has sent out only about two dozen checks so far.

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Flickr and geotagging

Cool, Flickr has finally integrated geotagging with the main Flickr interface. I will probably geotag quite a few of my snapshots in the future.

Great shot - where'd you take that?
Flickr's great for exploring photos by photographer, tag, time, text and group, and now it's also great for exploring photos by place.

Check it out.

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links for 2006-08-28


Bin Laden, Most Wanted For Embassy Bombings?

Always fun to read conspiracy theories in the corporate media.

Bin Laden, Most Wanted For Embassy Bombings? Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is a longtime and prominent member of the FBI's “Ten Most Wanted” list, which notes his role as the suspected mastermind of the deadly U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa on Aug. 7, 1998.

But another more infamous date -- Sept. 11, 2001 -- is nowhere to be found on the same FBI notice.

The curious omission underscores the Justice Department's decision, so far, to not seek formal criminal charges against bin Laden for approving al-Qaeda's most notorious and successful terrorist attack. The notice says bin Laden is “a suspect in other terrorist attacks throughout the world” but does not provide details.

The absence has also provided fodder for conspiracy theorists who think the U.S. government or another power was behind the Sept. 11 hijackings. From this point of view, the lack of a Sept. 11 reference suggests that the connection to al-Qaeda is uncertain.

It is a bit strange though that the Ten Most Wanted list, a marketing tool first created by J. Edgar Hoover, hasn't been updated. You'd almost think the capture of bin Laden wasn't important or something. Oh wait...


Public Service Announcement

Opinions: Tom Toles Cartoons - ( :

Tom Toles Global Warming Republicans

Scary. If I'm not dead in two years, I'm going to be pissed off if the Democrats are still pretending to be left-wing Republicans.

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News you can yuse


err, something like that.

Any Chuck Shepherd has some news of Homeland Security, or lack thereof....

NEWS of the WEIRD - August 27th, 2006

(1) Undercover investigators for the Government Accountability Office reported in July that they were able to purchase, on the open market from Pentagon contractors, surplus body armor, mounts for shoulder-fired missiles, and missile radar test devices. (Nearly 2,700 “sensitive” military items had been bought by 79 other buyers.) [Houston Chronicle-AP, 7-21-06]

(2) An FBI computer consultant, who said he was frustrated by bureaucratic delays in obtaining legitimate access to certain bureau files, was able to hack into the files surreptitiously via the FBI director's secret password, which the consultant figured out using software found on the Internet. [Arizona Daily Star-AP, 7-7-06]

(3) Indiana state homeland security officials told Vermillion County officials in July to stop using the special emergency-only highway message boards to advertise their charity fish fries and spaghetti dinners. [WISH-TV (Indianapolis)-AP, 7-27-06]

I feel much safer with the Dauphin in charge, how 'bout you?

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A Big Star May Not a Profitable Movie Make

Thank you! Reading that Julia Roberts or her ilk is in some crap movie is not a reason to see it. Only quality scripts or interesting ideas make a movie watchable. Nobody cares who is in a film if the film sucks.

A Big Star May Not a Profitable Movie Make Economists and other academics that study the movie industry say most marquee names in Hollywood are simply not worth the expense.

There really aren't any movies that have been made in the Aughts (for lack of a better term for the current decade) that I've seen because they have so-and-so actor or so-and-so director. There is too much over-hyped crap in recent memory, and my Netflix queue is too deep. I think a more likely explanation is that Hollywood stars get first dibs on interesting projects, and the better actors/directors have savvy about what will make a good movie.

Anita Elberse, an associate professor at the Harvard Business School, tried to measure the average effect of a star by analyzing casting announcements on the price of stocks on the Hollywood Exchange (, a simulated market where hundreds of thousands of users trade stocks in individual movies based on their expected box-office revenue. Prices on this exchange have been found to be fairly good predictors of a film’s box-office success.

Ms. Elberse found, for instance, that the announcement in 2002 that Mr. Cruise had dropped out of “Cold Mountain” — he had been expected to play the lead — reduced the movie’s expected gross by $10 million. The announcement that Mr. Cruise was in talks to play a leading role in “The Last Samurai” lifted the movie’s expected gross by $28 million.

Combing through 12,000 casting announcements between November of 2001 and December of 2004, related to 600 movie stars and 500 movies, Ms. Elberse found stars, on average, were worth $3 million in theatrical revenue.

Still, Ms. Elberse and other academics suspect that the box-office power of movie stars might be somewhat of a mirage. Ms. Elberse found that, even when casting announcements had an impact on the expected financial outcome of a given film, they had no discernible effect on the share price of the media companies that owned the movie studio — indicating that the participation of a star had no impact on the expected profitability of the studio.

Moreover, even if a star-studded movie does well, it does not necessarily mean that the stars are causing higher ticket sales. In fact, it seems to move the other way around: stars select what they believe are promising projects. And studios prefer to put stars in movies that they expect to be a success.

“Movie industry executives keep this perception that stardom is a formula for success, but they don’t measure it,” Mr. Eliashberg said. “They resist using analytical methods for all sorts of reasons, from being uncomfortable with numbers to the argument that this is a creative industry and not a business.”

In one study, Mr. De Vany and W. David Walls, an economist at the University of Calgary, took those factors into account. Looking across a sample of more than 2,000 movies exhibited between 1985 and 1996, they found that only seven actors and actresses — Tom Hanks, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sandra Bullock, Jodie Foster, Jim Carrey, Barbra Streisand and Robin Williams — had a positive impact on the box office, mostly in the first few weeks of a film’s release.

In the same study, two directors, Steven Spielberg and Oliver Stone also pushed up a movie’s revenue. But Winona Ryder, Sharon Stone and Val Kilmer were associated with a smaller box-office revenue. No other star had any statistically significant impact at all. So what are stars for? By helping a movie open — attracting lots of people in to see a movie in the first few days before the buzz about whether it’s good or bad is widely known — stars can set a floor for revenues, said Mr. De Vany.

“Stars help to launch a film. They are meant as signals to create a big opening,” he said. “But they can’t make a film have legs.”

There really aren't any comparable industries: Hollywood is deluded, and befuddled about what sort of film brings a good return on investment.

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Getting some things done

Triggered by an overview in two parts from the newsletter, Tidbits (which we've subscribed to since eWorld was an Apple service), we have been reading The David's book, Getting Things Done. So far (we've read out-loud to each other, alternating sections) we've completed about 25% of the book, but that is enough to get the gist of the direction David Allen suggests, and it seems amenable to our situation.

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

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

We've been working a lot this summer (60-80 hour weeks have been the norm), but have become increasingly overwhelmed with the tasks we've assigned to ourselves. Creating a new style of organization seems essential to our mental and business health. Since I'm the technician half of our team, I've been exploring software to assist us. Omni Outliner looks interesting.

We also have come to the conclusion that we need to expand our core office space. Business, personal and private spheres are all in one amorphous blob, and there are no boundaries between them. We spent several hours this afternoon categorizing the messes on our desks into 'buckets'. If all goes as planned (ha), next week we'll be very low profile, purging old materials, and pounding our lives into manageable, discrete chunks. We may add a satellite office in another location, if we can work out details like rent and so forth.

We may come up for air after Labor Day. Hope is not a plan, goes the cliché, but at least we have an inkling of an idea for clearing our minds of the clamor of unfinished tasks.


Return to the Scene of the Crime

Even the Dauphin's apologists were shocked and awed by the exposure of ineptitude in the aftermath of Katrina. Frank Rich looks at the big picture of the incompetence of the Bush administration.

Frank Rich: Return to the Scene of the Crime Everyone knows President Bush's real mission in New Orleans: to make us forget the first anniversary of the downfall of his presidency.

PRESIDENT BUSH travels to the Gulf Coast this week, ostensibly to mark the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Everyone knows his real mission: to try to make us forget the first anniversary of the downfall of his presidency.

As they used to say in the French Quarter, bonne chance! The ineptitude bared by the storm — no planning for a widely predicted catastrophe, no attempt to secure a city besieged by looting, no strategy for anything except spin — is indelible. New Orleans was Iraq redux with an all-American cast. The discrepancy between Mr. Bush’s “heckuva job” shtick and the reality on the ground induced a Cronkite-in-Vietnam epiphany for news anchors. At long last they and the country demanded answers to the questions about the administration’s competence that had been soft-pedaled two years earlier when the war first went south.

What’s amazing on Katrina’s first anniversary is how little Mr. Bush seems aware of this change in the political weather. He’s still in a bubble. At last week’s White House press conference, he sounded as petulant as Tom Cruise on the “Today” show when Matt Lauer challenged him about his boorish criticism of Brooke Shields. Asked what Iraq had to do with the attack on the World Trade Center, Mr. Bush testily responded, “Nothing,” adding that “nobody has ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attacks.” Like the emasculated movie star, the president is still so infatuated with his own myth that he believes the public will buy such nonsense.

As the rest of the world knows, the White House connived 24/7 to pound in the suggestion that Saddam ordered the attacks on 9/11. “The Bush administration had repeatedly tied the Iraq war to Sept. 11,” Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton write in “Without Precedent,” their new account of their stewardship of the 9/11 commission. The nonexistent Qaeda-Saddam tie-in was as much a selling point for the war as the nonexistent W.M.D. The salesmanship was so merciless that half the country was brainwashed into believing that the 9/11 hijackers had been Iraqis.

To achieve this feat, Dick Cheney spent two years publicly hyping a “pretty well confirmed” (translation: unconfirmed) pre-9/11 meeting in Prague between Mohamed Atta and a Saddam intelligence officer, continuing to do so long after this specious theory had been discredited. Mr. Bush’s strategy was to histrionically stir 9/11 and Iraq into the same sentence whenever possible, before the invasion and after. Typical was his May 1, 2003, oration declaring the end of “major combat operations.” After noting that “the battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September 11th, 2001,” he added: “With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States. And war is what they got.” To paraphrase the former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke, this was tantamount to saying that the Japanese attacked us on Dec. 7, 1941, and war with Mexico is what they got.

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links for 2006-08-27

Junior Needs a Spanking


MoDo wants to beat on the brat with a baseball bat, or at least encourage someone else to do it. I am not volunteering, I might not be able to control my self. Let's get George to do it.

Maureen Dowd: Junior Needs a Spanking
Somebody has got to grab the stubborn, shuttered scion wearing the “43” windbreaker and talk some sense into him.


The Old King put the Boy King over his knee yesterday and gave him a good thwack with a lobster-shaped paddle.

O.K., that didn’t happen, but don’t you wish it had?

Junior certainly deserves it, with recent attempts to blame his dad for policies that led to 9/11 and the rise of Osama and Middle East terrorism.

As with so many things about this byzantine, Shakespearean relationship between father and son, reunited here at last for a wedding, a christening and a funeral this weekend, it’s an ironic turn of events.

The son was furious when the father was painted as a wimp in the 1988 campaign, and now he and his spinners are painting 41 as a weak leader. W.’s pain at what happened to his aristocratic dad with “the wimp factor” led him to overreact in the other direction when he became president, embracing a West Texas-tough, muscle-bound foreign policy that shunned diplomacy, nuance, compromise, multilateral treaties and allied coalitions as measures that reflected impotence.

And now it has led him to scapegoat his own father, and Bill Clinton, for sending signals of weakness that encouraged the terrorists — even as many Middle East experts say it is W.’s culturally obtuse, diplomatically averse and morally simplistic style that has spurred terrorism and made the world more dangerous.

The Bush spokesman Tony Snow recently told reporters that “when the United States walked away, in the opinion of Osama bin Laden in 1991, bin Laden drew from that the conclusion that Americans were weak and wouldn’t stay the course, and that led to September 11th.”

Afterwards, questioned by furious Bush I foreign policy types, Bush II officials tried to claim that Mr. Snow was talking about President Clinton running away from Somalia, but clearly the spokesman was referring, as he originally confirmed, to the truncated end of Desert Storm.

In Crawford recently, the president also criticized previous administrations for policies that indicated that “stability is more important than form of government.”

Translation: Dad cuddled up to the corrupt Saudi monarchy and other Middle East dictators and let Saddam stay in power and was tough on Israel. I got rid of Saddam to establish a democracy and uncritically sided with Israel, a democracy.

Of course, now W. has now been reduced to pleading with dictatorial Mideast leaders to help him quell the violence engulfing Iraq and Lebanon, and with the military dictator Musharraf to help him capture Al Qaeda members.

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Czars’ Reefer Madness

Follow up on our $1billion dollars pissed away into a sample cup, via the ONDCP.

Full disclosure, I spent 10 days in Amsterdam after graduating from school, visiting museums, botanic gardens, and coffee shops. Spent about 8 of the nights in a boarding house/youth hostel, whose longer-term residents were a blend of Australians and Dutch kids doing their military/national service. The Australians are famous party hounds, the Dutch just liked to drink beer.

John Tierney: The Czars’ Reefer Madness
If America’s drug warriors ever came to Arjan Roskam’s coffee shop in Amsterdam, they would learn something about sound drug policy.

Arjan Roskam, the creator of the award-winning marijuana blend named “Arjan’s Haze,” has dozens of pictures of celebrity visitors on the wall of his coffee shop in Amsterdam. He’s got Eminem, Lenny Kravitz, Alicia Keys, Mike Tyson — but so far, unfortunately, not a single White House drug czar.

The czars have preferred to criticize from afar. In the past, they’ve called Dutch drug policy “an unmitigated disaster,” bemoaning Amsterdam’s “stoned zombies” and its streets cluttered with “junkies.” Anti-pot passion has only increased in the Bush administration, which has made it a priority to combat marijuana.

More than half a million Americans are arrested annually for possessing it. The Bush administration can’t even abide it being used for medical purposes by the terminally ill. Why risk having any of it fall into the hands of young people who could turn into potheads, crack addicts and junkies?

But if America’s drug warriors came here, they would learn something even if they didn’t sample any of the dozens of varieties of marijuana sold legally in specially licensed coffee shops. They could see that the patrons puffing on joints generally don’t look any more zombielike than the crowd at an American bar — or, for that matter, a Congressional subcommittee listening to a lecture on the evils of marijuana.

And if they talked to Peter Cohen, a Dutch researcher who has been studying drug use for a quarter-century, they would discover something even more disorienting. Even though marijuana has been widely available since the 1970’s, enough to corrupt a couple of generations, the Netherlands has not succumbed to reefer madness.

The Dutch generally use drugs less than Americans do, according to national surveys in both countries (and these surveys might understate Americans’ drug usage, since respondents are less likely to admit illegal behavior). More Americans than Dutch reported having tried marijuana, cocaine and heroin. Among teenagers who’d tried marijuana, Americans were more likely to be regular users.

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links for 2006-08-26

Anti-Drug Effort Ineffective

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One billion dollars! Let that roll around on your tongue. $120,000,000 a year isn't all that much compared to what GM or Pfizer spends, but still....

GAO: $1 Bil.+ Anti-Drug Effort Ineffective : A Government Accountability Office probe of the White House's anti-drug media campaign has found that the $1 billion-plus spent on the effort so far has not been effective in reducing teen drug use. The report recommends that Congress limit funding until the Office of National Drug Control Policy “provides credible evidence of a media campaign approach that effectively prevents and curtails youth drug use.”

The report comes at a time when Congress is poised to take up the anti-drug media campaign budget when it returns from its recess. The campaign's current budget is $99 million, the lowest since the effort began in 1998. ONDCP has asked for $120 million next year. The Senate agrees with that amount, but the House has recommended $100,000.

ONDCP has been in a no-win situation since the GAO probe began, which followed the convictions of two top agency officials for overbilling the government on the campaign. As one observer put it at the time the probe was launched, “If the GAO finds that Westat is a piece of crap, then ONDCP has wasted $42 million. If the report says Westat has somehow found the holy grail of advertising cause and effect, then the campaign is not working by that measure.”

Funded in part by Bacardi and Anheuser-Busch.

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Yelp needed

Whoa, oh wow, do I wish there was a Chicago version of Yelp. I would love to write a scathing review of the schmucks at Japonais. Wait, there is! Ha - you're going down you snooty swine!

Where Everyone Is a Critic | Chicago Tribune enables ordinary customers to tout or trash. For owners of restaurants and shops, it's no longer business as usual.

Sorry, the hot dog vendor said, no more veggie dogs. Then, as a disappointed Monica Lee ordered fries instead, his gaze drifted south and settled on her chest.

Awkward pause.

“I'm scared of you guys,” he said finally, pointing to Lee's olive-green lapel pin for, a website on which Bay Area hipsters post reviews of hot dog stands, five-star restaurants, corner bars and neighborhood hardware stores.

A few good words on Yelp can make cash registers ring. Enough dings — like, say, no veggie dogs or a rude waitress — can put a dent in business. Although the Internet is blamed for debasing public discourse with anonymous and poorly punctuated tirades, the amateur reviews posted on Yelp may be helping restore gentility and customer service to businesses all over town.

“It's something of a remedy for the anonymity of the city,” said UCLA professor David Halle, director of the university's LeRoy Neiman Center for the Study of American Society and Culture.

Cities are full of people who frequent particular places, such as restaurants, health clubs and museums, Halle said, but they rarely interact with one another. Websites such as Yelp enable them to build common-interest communities.

Japonais Restaurant

I'm actually too lazy at the moment to describe our entire experience at Japonais yesterday, suffice it to say, we walked out after only having soup (and half a beer). As a study in contrast, we ate lunch today outside at Meiji, and the service and food were impeccable. I could eat a bowl of Sakura Chawan-mushi every week.

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Edmunds main clients are auto manufacturers, and why publish data that makes your client look bad? Just not good for business, so I'd take any so-called study issued by Edmunds with a grain, peck or barrel of salt. [mmmmmmm, barrel of salt / Homer Simpson voice]

Anyway, Wired writer jggsf puts it this way:

It seems that the people who buy hybrids must all be insane. Edmunds did another analysis of the cost of buying a hybrid compared to standard vehicles, and they generalize to say that hybrids don't save money. Well, an argument is only as good as the assumptions, and here's where Edmunds' analysis falls short.

First, despite the negative generalization, Edmunds states that the Prius and Escape hybrids both pay back their premiums in fuel savings when compared to their closest models in under three years. So while these hybrids do make sense for purely financial reasons, Edmunds puts the negative spin by saying it “still takes 2.9 years for the Escape Hybrid to break even.”

This makes it sound like a long time, when most businesses would happily buy new technology that would pay back the additional cost within 3 years. If my water heater was about to die and I could pick a slightly more expensive model that saved money after less than 3 years, I'd buy it, wouldn't you?

Edmunds say the Honda Civic Hybrid takes 6.1 years to pay back the cost over a standard Civic. So comparing it to the already fuel efficient standard Civic doesn't look like a great deal. (I'll keep my Civic Hybrid for at least 6 years, so I'm not upset).

But why not compare hybrids to the standard vehicles from Ford, GM, or DCX? Why, because that makes Detroit look really bad.

Using Edmunds' formula as best I could, the Prius pays back the extra cost in less than a year and a half when compared to the Dodge Stratus. The Honda Civic Hybrid takes less than 4 years to pay back the cost over a Chevy Cobalt. And the numbers for the Escape Hybrid look even better when you compare them to your average SUV.

Auto emissions are never quantified in these studies, but it matters to us, as does noise pollution, and so forth.

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Bush and traffic

Oh, our benevolent dictator is so, so, benevolent that after hours of discussion, he allowed the commuters of DC to use their (tax-payer funded) HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes. Whoo hooo.

Bush gets DC out of a jam Before President Bush attended a Wednesday evening fundraiser for Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) of “Macaca” fame in a Washington D.C. suburb, the Secret Service had asked Virginia authorities to shut down “high occupancy vehicle” or HOV lanes so they could be used for the presidential motorcade to get to and from the fundraiser at the home of Ed Gillespie, former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Virginia officials pointed out that if they closed the HOV lanes for seven hours as would be required since you just can't easily close them and reopen them for the president's drive down, then do the same for the president's return drive, the travels of tens of thousands of people would be affected.

Such a nice King we have. Article semi-lifted from the Washington Post

On Tuesday, the Secret Service asked Virginia officials if they would be kind enough to shut down all of the HOV lanes on I-395 from 1 to 7 p.m. the next day so President Bush could get where he needed to be, according to state officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of discussing the president's travel.

The request was made ahead of a fundraiser for Sen. George Allen (R) held at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at a house near Mount Vernon -- a good hour's drive from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. during a typical rush hour.
All day because they couldn't shake the image of what closing the HOV lanes would do: Buses that normally use the high-speed lanes would have to be rerouted or canceled; commuters who hitch rides in carpools would be stranded; and thousands of cars would be added to the congested regular lanes of I-395.

An e-mail prepared by state experts who monitor traffic captures the issue:

“There will be approximately 8,600 cars using the HOV lanes over a three hour period (4 to 7 pm). This equates to approximately 20,000 to 22,000 people. If the HOV lanes are closed, according to the District's estimate the back up of traffic in the general purpose lanes will not be cleared until 10 p.m.”

In other words, a nearly endless traffic jam.

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Wal-Mart and Gay and Lesbian Group

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Hmmm, wonder how the Christian Taliban will react to this news? I'd guess not well, if the amount of complaints the fundies generated when Wal-Mart publicly supported selling liquor is any guideline.

Advertising Age - Wal-Mart Partners With National Gay and Lesbian Group
In an unprecedented push, Wal-Mart Stores has hired a gay-marketing shop, joined the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and begun discussions with activist groups about extending domestic-partnership benefits to its employees. ... Despite an ongoing review for its $578 million ad account, Wal-Mart hired Witeck-Combs Communications, a marketing shop known for its work targeting the gay and lesbian consumer market, according to Bob Witeck, president of the Washington-based firm. Wal-Mart would not confirm the assignment and Mr. Witeck declined to comment on the “nature of the relationship,” but added: “We work in more of a consulting role with most of our clients.”

Founded in 1993, the eight-person agency's client list boasts automotive brands Volvo, Land Rover, and Jaguar, in addition to American Airlines, Citigroup and at least a dozen nonprofits, such as the American Association of People with Disabilities.

Witeck-Combs, a member of the NGLCC, is also a participant in the organization's supplier-diversity initiative, or SDI, a certification program launched this year and modeled after minority- and women-supplier development programs. Corporate participants already include IBM, American Airlines, Motorola and American Express.
As part of the Wal-Mart Stores partnership with the NGLCC, Dee Breazeale, VP-divisional merchandising, Sam's Club Jewelry, has joined the organization's Corporate Advisory Council and Wal-Mart will sponsor two of the organization's annual conferences.

Mr. Nelson said Wal-Mart approached the organization four months ago, expressing interest in the supplier-diversity initiative. “The expectation is that Wal-Mart will encourage their core suppliers -- the P&G's, the Johnson & Johnson's and the Gillette's -- to also diversify their revenue streams to include LGTB businesses,” Mr. Nelson said.

He said the retailer is “working right now on providing domestic-partnership benefits” and that Wal-Mart may soon join the 261 members of the Fortune 500 that offer the benefits.
...The steps being taken by Wal-Mart are the strongest signal yet that the company may be taking a permanent stand on the side of gay rights, despite the inevitable lambasting from right-wing conservative groups, such as the Family Research Council and the American Family Association, said Nu Wexler of Wal-Mart Watch, the Washington-based coalition backed by the Sierra Club and the Service Employees.

“This partnership shows Wal-Mart is changing,” Mr. Wexler said. “It's worth noting they declined to publicize this partnership and left it up to the chamber. Wal-Mart is very eager to publicize partnerships. It's possible they fear a backlash from their conservative consumer base.”

yes, but the unspoken reality is that Wal-Mart, in order to continue expanding quickly enough to sustain growth, has to penetrate the urban environments, where the Christian Taliban are not as strong, and little nuances like living wages and gay rights are more important than fundamentalism. I wouldn't be surprised if, over the next ten years, Wal-Mart splits off a new division that focuses on urban stores, with a new name.

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Warming more severe for cities

Facts are dangerous things, part the 128th.

Warming 'more severe' for cities
Predicted rises in temperatures will hit cities harder than surrounding areas, with the elderly most at risk, a study warns.


9/11 Dust Danger

Somehow, this doesn't surprise me.

E.P.A. Whistle-Blower Says U.S. Hid 9/11 Dust Danger
A senior scientist at the Environmental Protection Agency has accused the agency of relying on misleading data about the health hazards of World Trade Center dust.

Between Rudy G and George B, the US is lucky to have survived 9/11 altogether.


links for 2006-08-25

Fish Story in Alton

aka A Man, a aplan, a dam and a Damn Fool.

Who says words are not important?

A (Terror) Fish Story - New York Times
We’ve been fascinated by the story of how Jim Bensman of Alton, Ill., went to a hearing about fish and wound up as a potential terrorism suspect.

...the Army Corps of Engineers held a meeting in Mr. Bensman’s neighborhood to talk about helping those fish swim around the locks and dams it has constructed on the Mississippi River over the years. There was a PowerPoint presentation on various options. One — clearly not the Corps’s favorite — was to eliminate a dam in East Alton. To illustrate that idea, the presentation included a picture of a dam being dynamited.

Mr. Bensman rose later to support removing the dam. Big mistake.

A local paper reported that Mr. Bensman told the Corps he “would like to see the dam blown up.”

A Corps security officer read the report. He decided that Mr. Bensman was threatening a public facility. He notified the G-men.

An F.B.I. agent then contacted Mr. Bensman, who was surprised to learn that federal investigators believed a terrorist might announce his plans at a public hearing of the Army Corps of Engineers.

When the agent said he wanted to visit his home, it occurred to Mr. Bensman that he needed a lawyer. At that point, Mr. Bensman said, the agent threatened to “put you down as not cooperating.”

Talk about over reaction. The Corps security officer who misread the newspaper article ought to be demoted, and sent back to remedial reading classes.

More here including:

...That was when Mr. Bensman got angry. “I know what Bush is doing with all these secret programs spying on the so-called terrorists, all these provisions in the Patriot Act that I think crosses the line, being able to spy on a suspected terrorist without the check and balance of a court or a judge,” he said. “That’s just something that really worries you.”

He said he also remembered that the F.B.I. had a history of spying on civil rights, antiwar and environmental activists. He said one reason he knew his caller was a genuine agent was that he could cite items in Mr. Bensman’s own F.B.I. file.

Mr. Bensman said the agent had told him that someone from the corps had asked the F.B.I. to investigate him. “I was saying, ‘What in the world?’ There is no way anyone in the corps could reasonably think I was a terrorist threat. They know me.”

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We are number 6

In my neighborhood today, I've seen whole crowds of folks running down the middle of the street, chanting, “we're number six!! we're number six!!”, and brandishing giant foam hands with six fingers. Simply amazing what this will do for city pride and Chicago boosterism.

Is Life a Caberet?

Chicagoist: Sobering
Chicago ranked as the sixth most drunken city in America. Residents who participated in the study said that they've had one drink in the past month, but weren't heavy drinkers. The disturbing news is that Chicago ranked in the top five for both binge drinkers and alcoholism. This should come as no surprise to anyone who's ever negotiated Lincoln Avenue after sunset. ... We need only look a hundred miles to the north to find the drunkest city in America. Milwaukee has the largest amount of drinkers and binge drinkers per capita, placed third in the heavy drinker and alcoholism categories, and has the fourth-most lenient state laws regarding alcohol sales and consumption. So, Forbes is basically saying that what made Milwaukee famous made losers out of Milwaukee.

The other cities in the top five are Minneapolis-St. Paul; Columbus, Ohio; Boston; and Austin. We expect to see the twin cities drop now that the Vikings have new ownership, and Boston to rise, if the Red Sox don't make the post season. If you think your city deserves to be ranked high, belly up to the bar.

I guess this means I can have a drink or two for lunch today. Wheeee!!

(note: this photo was not taken in my house, so stop saying that)

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I know I feel so much safer traveling these days.

60% of security force failed tests at airport ORLANDO -- About 60 percent of the federal security force at Orlando International Airport, or 501 people, failed a test in June to measure how well the officers detect explosives, guns, and other threats at passenger checkpoints, a newspaper reported yesterday.

Just waiting for the inevitable terrorist butt plug threat (pooty-poot ba-boomers), which will necessitate body cavity searches before boarding every flight. First class and business class exceptions will apply, of course.


Consistency is for the birds


Web zines are geared more towards immediacy, rather than polished sheets of sounds.

Essential McLuhan
“Essential McLuhan” (Marshall McLuhan, Eric McLuhan, Frank Zingrone)

Marshall McLuhan
“I don't necessarily agree with everything I say.”


Marinate your blog posts before you publish
...ease of publishing can lead to incomplete thoughts and less-than-stellar writing...

We do our short posts on the fly here at Lifehacker, but feature articles start percolating several days (if not weeks) in advance of publishing, and the “marinated” stuff always reads a bit better.

We tend to create our posts quickly, and publish the first draft, occasionally catching grammatical and other errors, sometimes not. There are a few times where posts lingered, unpublished, but what tends to happen is that these stay unpublished forever. Glancing quickly at my ecto blog database, I have 2502 entries published (since Nov 04 when I moved to movabletype), and 6 unpublished 'drafts'. These drafts have been untouched for months, years even, and will probably never see the light of day (except for the aborted Amoco building photograph sale to some biatch named Heather Esser that I will publish that once my rage subsides).

In our business life we buff our prose almost to the point of obsession. A typical (important) business letter or email goes through multiple re-writes, with both D and I as editors-in-chief.

In University of Texas days, any paper that I scheduled enough time to create a rough draft and then re-write was always better, and thank the pasta gods for blue book tests, especially the tests that I had enough time to spend some time creating a rough draft in my mind. Words are our friends.

Blogs are different beasts, and our off-the-cuff snarky style takes brief seconds to compose and publish. McLuhan was right, in this quote anyway. Of course, we are not 'professional' bloggers, so always taking the time to write clearly is not a priority.

What about you?


links for 2006-08-24

What? So the Bush White House thinking is, if nobody can study evolutionary biology, it will just fade away as a discipline? I don't buy the 'oopsy' response either. Science should be be free from ideology of any form.

Evolution Major Vanishes From Approved Federal List
Evolutionary biology has vanished from the list of acceptable fields of study for recipients of a federal education grant for low-income college students. ... If a major is not on the list, students in that major cannot get grants unless they declare another major, said Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. Mr. Nassirian said students seeking the grants went first to their college registrar, who determined whether they were full-time students majoring in an eligible field.

“If a field is missing, that student would not even get into the process,” he said.

That the omission occurred at all is worrying scientists concerned about threats to the teaching of evolution.

One of them, Lawrence M. Krauss, a physicist at Case Western Reserve University, said he learned about it from someone at the Department of Education, who got in touch with him after his essay on the necessity of teaching evolution appeared in The New York Times on Aug. 15. Dr. Krauss would not name his source, who he said was concerned about being publicly identified as having drawn attention to the matter.

Mr. Nassirian said people at the Education Department had described the omission as “a clerical mistake.” But it is “odd,” he said, because applying the subject codes “is a fairly mechanical task. It is not supposed to be the subject of any kind of deliberation.”

“I am not at all certain that the omission of this particular major is unintentional,” he added. “But I have to take them at their word.”

Scientists who knew about the omission also said they found the clerical explanation unconvincing, given the furor over challenges by the religious right to the teaching of evolution in public schools. “It’s just awfully coincidental,” said Steven W. Rissing, an evolutionary biologist at Ohio State University.

I sincerely hope someone gets fired for this, and not given the Presidential Medal of Freedom.


Danny Davis and Tamil Tigers

First, my congressman holds some sort of wack coronation ceremony for the racist and psychotic Reverend Sun Moon (see here, for instance), and now he goes on a junket to Sri Lanka paid for by the Tamil Tigers. Not really exercising the best judgement, Congressman.

Congressman's trip tied to group U.S. considers terrorists
Chicago congressman Danny Davis and an aide took a trip to Sri Lanka last year that was paid for by the Tamil Tigers, a group that the U.S. government has designated as a terrorist organization for its use of suicide bombers and child soldiers, law enforcement sources said.

Davis' seven-day trip came under new scrutiny this week following the arrests of 11 supporters of the organization on charges of participating in a broad conspiracy to support the terrorist group through money laundering, arms procurement and bribery of U.S. officials.

Congressman Davis never did respond to my letters re the Sun Moon coronation, I suppose he was just too embarrassed anyone noticed. However, I haven't gotten any more fund raising letters since then, so I suppose my “thoughts have been carefully noted”.

The Tamil Tigers is a separatist group that has been fighting since 1983 for an independent state for 3.2 million ethnic Tamils in Sri Lanka, a tear-shaped island nation of 20 million off the southern tip of India. In addition to conventional guerrilla tactics, the group has used terrorist methods, including 200 suicide bombings, in a bloody conflict that has claimed more than 60,000 lives. Though the violence between the government and the separatist group abated during the past several years, it recently surged again, threatening a renewed civil war.

Davis said he believed that the trip, from March 30 to April 5, 2005, was paid for by the Tamil federation, which in accordance with congressional ethics rules sent him a written statement of the travel expenses, more than $7,000 each for Davis and his aide, Daniel Cantrell. Davis said he knew that the group was “associated” with the Tamil Tigers but did not realize that the trip's costs were covered with funds controlled by the rebel group.

Davis said he always assumed that the organization had a connection with the Tamil Tigers.

“I knew that they were associated with the Tamil Tigers, yes,” he said.

Anyway, not a huge deal, just evidence of an incumbent who has no need to mind his Ps and Qs anymore. I don't know enough about Sri Lanka to pass judgement as to whether the Tamil Tigers are a legitimate independence-fighting army or just terrorists, so I'll let others bloviate on that subject.


Giuliani no hero

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I'm buying my dad this book. He hasn't lived in New York for decades, but I know Rudy G is one of his most despised politicians. I think Rudy G is a putz too, but my dad really doesn't like him.

Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11
“Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11” (Wayne Barrett, Dan Collins)

9/11 'hero' image undone - AM New York It's the unexamined question of 9/11: What if Rudy Giuliani wasn't quite the hero everybody thought?

For nearly five years now, we've all lived in the glow of “America's mayor,” that soot-covered father figure who rose to meet the greatest challenge of all. Rudy standing firm in the terror aftermath. Rudy guiding a rattled city back to its feet.

There was no denying this much in those early days of confusion: New York's grim-faced mayor looked a whole lot more in charge than America's deer-in-the-headlights president.

But what if Rudy's take-charge image was mostly a load of bravado and PR? What if the actual decisions he made - before, during and after the terror attacks - were directly responsible for the city's inability to deal effectively with crucial aspects of the crisis?

Well, it's about time someone opened that impolite inquiry.

Hold on tight, now! One of the most carefully guarded myths of 9/11 is about to be shattered for good.

“Grand Illusion,” the book is called. “The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11.” It is written by Wayne Barrett of the Village Voice and Dan Collins of, two of New York's shrewdest investigative reporters. Published this week by HarperCollins, “Grand Illusion” will forever alter how the world sees Rudy Giuliani's place in America's deadliest terror attacks. You can bet national political reporters will be combing though these chapters as the 2008 presidential campaign season revs up.

With dozens of exclusive and previously unreleased interviews, Barrett and Collins show how the ambitious ex-mayor has spent recent years revising his own truth of 9/11 - and profiting handsomely from it. Casting himself as a prescient terror hawk who wisely prepared his city for the inevitable, Giuliani in fact ignored repeated warnings from the experts, including his own commissioners and aides.

Ha, will have to borrow it when my dad is finished. Screw Rudy.

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Words fail me

another 'hell' day, work wise, with clients hanging up the telephone abruptly in exasperation, rejections of our services from prospective clients after long drawn out 'explorations', and so forth. August has really been quite a shite month, all in all. In an ideal world, working 80 hour weeks would give results, but we seem to be swimming in refrigerated flax oil. Not to mention, cancelled trips and deaths.
/whine mode off.

Purty photos always perk me up, here are a few from the last week....

Blue Mystique
Blue Mystique floating lilies at the Chicago Botanic Gardens. Partially treated in Photoshop, but not much. The water adds a weird perspective to the geometry of the photo.

Hermes a friends new kitten.

We are probably going to get another kitten ourselves, but not quite yet. Was fun to play with this one - so much energy contained in such a small package

Vivo interior Still Life
Vivo interior Still Life not sure why, but I liked the colors of this snapshot.

Beet Salad
Beet Salad from Vivo

(as always, embiggening just a click or two away)

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links for 2006-08-23

Bob Dylan: Technology Sucks

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Ha, as I listen to compressed digital audio on my optical speakers, Mr. Zimmerman may be right. We talked about the decline of analog equipment makers a few years ago, and my opinion hasn't changed yet. Of course, my analog equipment gathers dust, and my vinyl records remain unplayed. But still. For someone who has been a music snob™ for decades, I resisted CDs and digital equipment as long as I could, but eventually had to kowtow to the marketplace. Was just too hard to find quality vinyl new releases. Don't regret having an iPod, and a vast digital music library, because there are decided advantages, but I do miss the richer sound of vinyl.

Anyway, Bob is dismissive of current audio technology...

Bob Dylan: Technology Sucks The iconic rocker says the music industry has no right to bitch about piracy when its modern recording technology only screws up good music anyway.

Bob Dylan says the quality of modern recordings is “atrocious,” and even the songs on his new album sounded much better in the studio than on disc.

“I don't know anybody who's made a record that sounds decent in the past 20 years, really,” the 65-year-old rocker said in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine...

Noting the music industry's complaints that illegal downloading means people are getting their music for free, he said, “Well, why not? It ain't worth nothing anyway.”

“You listen to these modern records, they're atrocious, they have sound all over them,” he added. “There's no definition of nothing, no vocal, no nothing, just like ... static.”

Dylan said he does his best to fight technology, but it's a losing battle.

“Even these songs probably sounded 10 times better in the studio when we recorded 'em. CDs are small. There's no stature to it.”

Interview here

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Kashmere stage band

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The calendar year isn't over yet, but as of today, my favorite album of the year is a compilation of high school marching band music from Kashmere High School in Houston, TX, recorded by their band director, Conrad O Johnson in the years 1968 - 1974. I wish my high school band funked as hard. I'm looking at you, Beth.

In fact, I wish I knew of some contemporary bands that funked as hard. Wow. Hard not to dance in one's chair when the songs pulse out of one's speakers. We mentioned the release of this compilation a few months ago, and I bought the CD within the week, of course.

Texas Thunder Soul 1968-1974
“Texas Thunder Soul 1968-1974” (Kashmere Stage Band)

NPR/KUT-Austin recently broadcast a small article, with some song samples:

At first, judges didn't know what to make of the kids from Kashmere in their platform shoes and matching crushed-velvet suits. Their impeccably choreographed moves were more James Brown than high school big band, and the music was often an original funk composition by Johnson himself.

But KSB was soon winning national championships, and a larger-than-life reputation as undefeatable. For 10 years, even with constant changes in the lineup as kids graduated, KSB was considered by some to be not only the nation's best stage band, but one of the best funk bands -- period.

Between 1968 and 1978, KSB recorded eight studio albums. As Johnson neared retirement in 1978, the band broke up, and before long, the band was largely forgotten. But not by everyone. Kashmere's recordings became prized by hip-hop producers and DJs, who sampled them and played them in clubs.

Highly recommended.

Kashmere stage band2

Kashmere stage band1

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Photos are opinions


just not sure of what.

Don't Oil this index
Don't Oil this index industrial device, West Loop.

Haunted House Lake Cook Road
Haunted House Lake Cook Road apparently for sale, $875,000. For the lot, I suppose.

Bent Not Broken
Bent Not Broken Evanston beach somewhere

Soulsville cropped
Soulsville cropped cropped or uncropped, cannot decide.

Opinions, anyone? I'm leaning toward the crop, even though the brick adds context.


From the Chicago Botanic Garden

a quickr pickr post

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Invisible hand

T'aint deregulation grand?

Verizon, BellSouth Won't Cut DSL Bills
Verizon and BellSouth won't pass on savings that result from a change in government telecom rules to their DSL subscribers. ... Last year, the government changed telecommunications rules so digital-subscriber-line, or DSL, subscribers would no longer have to pay into a federal fund that subsidizes phone services in rural areas and for low-income consumers. ... Two companies, Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp., won't be passing that savings on to consumers. Verizon recently emailed subscribers announcing that it dropped the universal-service fee as of Aug. 14 and will impose a new “supplier surcharge” beginning Aug. 26. The new fee -- $1.20 a month for slower-service customers and $2.70 a month for faster ones -- is almost exactly what consumers would have saved with the government's change. BellSouth yesterday said it also intends to continue charging Internet subscribers its $2.97 a month “regulatory cost recovery fee.”

It appears that the two companies are pocketing the money that consumers would have saved, although both dispute that notion. Verizon says it must eventually impose the supplier surcharge on all of its roughly six million DSL customers because of increased costs for providing stand-alone Internet service, which is purchased at a premium by consumers who don't subscribe to the company's phone service.

“We know what people with market power will do. There's not a lot of competition,” says Mark Cooper, director of research for the Consumer Federation of America, a consumer-interest nonprofit group in Washington.

Gene Kimmelman of Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, agreed: “You can only get away with this when it's a tight market and not many providers. It's a back-door way of nickel-and-diming their customers.”

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Corruption - Bring In the Conservatives

Thomas Frank is a little cynical today.

Thomas Frank: G.O.P. Corruption? Bring In the Conservatives.
What happens when the machinery of the state falls into the hands of people who laugh at the function for which it was designed?

In the lexicon of American business, “cynicism” means doubt about the benevolence of market forces, and it is a vice of special destructiveness. Those who live or work in Washington, however, know another variant of cynicism, a fruitful one, a munificent one, a cynicism that is, in fact, the health of the conservative state. The object of this form of cynicism is “government,” whose helpful or liberating possibilities are to be derided whenever the opportunity presents.

Remember how President Reagan claimed to find terror in the phrase, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”? Or how the humorist P. J. O’Rourke won fame by declaring that even the proceedings of a New England town meeting were a form of thievery?

The true scoffer demands sterner stuff, though, and in the cold light of economic science he can see that government is not merely susceptible to corruption; government is corruption, a vile profaning of the market-most-holy in which some groups contrive to swipe the property of other groups via taxation and regulation. Politicians use the threat of legislation to extort bribes from industry, and even federal quality standards — pure food and so on — are tantamount to theft, since by certifying that any product in a given field won’t kill you, they nullify the reputations for quality and goodness that individual companies in the field have built up at great expense over the years.

The ideas I am describing are basic building blocks of the conservative faith. You can find their traces throughout the movement’s literature. You can hear their echoes in chambers of commerce across the land. But what happens when you elevate to high public office people who actually believe these things — who think that “the public interest” is a joke, that “reform” is a canard, and that every regulatory push is either a quest for monopoly by some company or a quest for bribes by some politician? What happens when the machinery of the state falls into the hands of people who laugh at the function for which it was designed?

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Beer blogging Baltas

Svyturys Baltas Alus, unfiltered wheat beer from Klaipeda, Lithuania.

Baltas Wheat Beer

Oldest brewery in Lithuania, traces its history back to 1784. ... Unfiltered beer made from wheat malt

Sour. Too much head, a phrase I thought I could never type. Perhaps a beer best enjoyed during a heat stroke, and fresher - Klaipeda is a long way away from the Loop.

C-, with an arbitrary half a point subtracted due to the cloudiness, which if the beer was better tasting I wouldn't have minded, but it wasn't, so it was. Got that? I will probably still drink it all, as it has been one of those days when the little yeasties are required.

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links for 2006-08-22

Public investment private profit

part the 3423th.

Debate on Big Box wages shifts to subsidies | Chi-Town Daily News Supporters of Chicago's new living wage ordinance upped the ante in their showdown with big-box retailers Tuesday, charging that accepting public money obligates a company to pay its workers a living wage.

The argument is based on a report released Tuesday by the Living Wage Coalition, an umbrella group of 35 organizations pushing for minimum wage increases, that showed Target Corp. has received $9.9 million of taxpayer money to open stores in Chicago.

“If you take the subsidies, at least give something back,” said Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) activist Denise Dixon, who compared Target's wages policy to redlining, a discriminatory practice of economic subjugation.

Target's reported squeamishness to do business in Chicago could derail plans for a $90 million shopping center, of which Target was to be the prime tenant, at 119th Street and Marshfield Avenue. As well, a $130 million commercial-residential project in Uptown would be threatened, even though company is on track to receive $53 million in city subsidies between the two locations, according to the Neighborhood Capital Budget Group.

A. living wages
B. no more box stores in Chicago.

Either result, I'm for the ordinance. Probable result, though:
C. lawsuit against the City of Chicago that drags on for a couple years, with Wal-Mart and Target eventually winning. Bleh. Spend the money earmarked for corporate lawyers instead on wages for employees.

(from Eric Zorn's frequently retitled weblog, currently called Change of Subject, I think. Titles are hard, I know I despise the title of my webzine, but my idea pool is far to shallow at the moment to come up with a better one.)



I hate reading about cases like this. Rhetorical question: is the scourge of (illegal-by-decree) drugs so horrific that we as a society have to forfeit all of our rights as citizens?

Dispatches from the Culture Wars: Do Nothing Wrong, Forfeit Your Money
...The government's case here is laughable. When they found the money, they took Gonzolez and the rental car to the police station and had a drug dog sniff it over. The dog indicated that there was drug residue on the money. But studies have shown that over 75% of the bills in circulation have drug residue on them. The cops tested this by having the dog sniff the money found in the car and then sniff a total of 7 bills from police officers, and the dog reacted to the cash found in the car, not to the cash from the police. And that's it, folks. That is the sum total of the evidence against him.

On the other hand, consider that the man had no prior record at all of drug involvement. Consider that three people testified at the trial, and produced documentation, that they had pooled their money and sent the man to Chicago to purchase a refrigerated truck for the produce business they were starting (when he got there, he found out the truck had already been sold). Consider that none of those men had any record of drug involvement either, and that the government could not impeach their testimony at all.

The worst part, other than the government won the appeal, is that there was no underlying crime even proven! So, just because the police have suspicions about how you obtained your mound of Krugerrands, they can, by law, seize them, and keep them, just because they are the police, and you are not. Unless, of course, you are a Exxon-Mobil executive. Then, you get a tax break or pat on the head, or more likely, an invitation to contribute to a political action fund.

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Joseph Hill RIP

Culture, a roots-reggae band, was led by “strangely charismatic” lead singer/songwriter, Joseph Hill.


“Cumbolo” (Culture)

Two Sevens Clash

“Two Sevens Clash” (Culture)

Joseph Hill, 57, Dies; Led Reggae Group Joseph Hill wrote the roots-reggae group Culture’s best known songs, including “Two Sevens Clash” and “Natty Never Get Weary.”

Of these two albums, I prefer Two Sevens Clash (title refers to 7/7/77, a supposed apocalyptic date). Note, later Culture albums are less interesting (Reggae-lite), so if you are interested in exploring the music of Culture, pick up early Culture records rather than more recent ones.

direct link


GM vs Media

part the 524th.

Apparently Brian Akre has a full time job reading all news articles which portray General Motors in less-than-obsequious light. GM was unable (to my recollection) to browbeat the New York TImes into publishing letters-to-the-editor-upon-demand, but apparently the Nashua Telegraph (a 27,000 circulation newspaper located in New Hampshire, if you've never heard of this particular newspaper before) didn't have a strong enough will to resist General Motors distortions of the record.

To the Nashua Telegraph's credit, they allowed the original columnist to respond.

Here's parts of Tony Paradiso's response (click link to read entire thing) Columnist does research, responds to letter from General Motors

The letter authored by Brian Akre, GM’s corporate communication minion, was titled “Columnist should do more research.” In case you missed it, General Motors took umbrage with my portrayal of its less than stellar July sales results.Needless to say, I disagree with most, but not all, of the letter’s content.

...As Mr. Akre stated, General Motors increased its market share in July. That makes one month in a row.

Citing that tidbit is known as “cherry picking” the data.

In the 1950s, GM owed 46 percent of the U.S. market. Sadly, for a generation the company has steadily lost share.

From 1994-98, current CEO Rick Wagoner ran GM’s North American operation. During that time, the company improved its profitability but saw its share decline from 33 percent to 30 percent. For that, Mr. Wagoner was promoted to president and chief operating officer.

By the first quarter of 2005, GM’s North American market share had slid to 25.2 percent, down from 26.3 percent in Q1 of 2004.

Given this, one could logically conclude that citing a one-month blip was a bit misleading.

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anti-music music companies

Yes, what a great idea: shut down guitar tablature sites where music students practice learning songs. You'd think the copyright thugs would be smarter about attacking their customers, but apparently not.

mirrors, guitars and solipsism

E-Commerce Report: Now the Music Industry Wants Guitarists to Stop Sharing

In the last few months, trade groups representing music publishers have used the threat of copyright lawsuits to shut down guitar tablature sites.

The Internet put the music industry and many of its listeners at odds thanks to the popularity of services like Napster and Grokster. Now the industry is squaring off against a surprising new opponent: musicians.

In the last few months, trade groups representing music publishers have used the threat of copyright lawsuits to shut down guitar tablature sites, where users exchange tips on how to play songs like “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” “Highway to Hell” and thousands of others.

The battle shares many similarities with the war between Napster and the music recording industry, but this time it involves free sites like, and and even discussion boards on the Google Groups service like and, where amateur musicians trade “tabs” — music notation especially for guitar — for songs they have figured out or have copied from music books.

I've been using and similar companies for years, most of the songs transcribed are not from music books, they are from musicians listening to songs closely, and making educated guesses as to chord progressions. Copyright thugs are ruining music (which has always, always been a collaborative effort).

Russia has looser rules, apparently:

Doug Osborn, an executive vice president with said his site violated no laws because its headquarters were in Russia, and the site’s practices complied with Russian laws.

Jacqueline C. Charlesworth, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Music Publishers’ Association, would not comment on the legality of specific sites, including Ultimate-Guitar, but she said she had seen no international licensing agreements that might make free United States distribution of guitar tablature legal.

and here's the dirty truth: plenty of these transcribed songs aren't even available for purchase anyway

The free tablature sites often host vibrant communities of musicians, who rate each other’s tablature and trade ideas and commentary, and Musicnotes would have to find a way to replicate that environment on its site. Furthermore, these communities often create tablature for songs that have little or no commercial value, he said.

“Less than 25 percent of the music out there ends up in sheet music because sometimes it just doesn’t pay to do it,” Mr. Reiland said. “So the fact that someone comes up with a transcription themselves just because they love that song and want to share it with people, there’s some value to that.”

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Fyodor Dostoevsky
“The second half of a man's life is made up of nothing but the habits he has acquired during the first half.”

Notes from Underground (Vintage Classics)

“Notes from Underground (Vintage Classics)” (Fyodor Dostoevsky)

Truth Puts You in Jail

Speaking of the Bush desire to revert back to the 16th century....

Bob Herbert: The Truth Puts You in Jail

For five years now Americans have been chasing ghosts and shadows, and demanding that they confess to terrorizing us. Who's terrorizing whom?

The problem with the way the United States government dealt with Abdallah Higazy had nothing to do with the fact that he was investigated as a possible participant in the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center.

He was caught in a set of circumstances that was highly suspicious, to say the least. It would have been criminal not to have investigated him.

On the morning of the attack, Mr. Higazy, the son of a former Egyptian diplomat, was in his room on the 51st floor of the Millenium Hilton Hotel, which was across the street from the twin towers. He fled the hotel, along with all the other guests, after the attack. But a Hilton security guard said he found an aviation radio, which could be used to communicate with airborne pilots, in the safe in Mr. Higazy’s room.

When Mr. Higazy returned to the hotel three months later to pick up his belongings, he was arrested by the F.B.I. as a material witness and thrown into solitary confinement. Federal investigators were understandably suspicious, but they had no evidence at all that Mr. Higazy was involved in the terror attack.

And that’s where the government went wrong. In the United States, a free and open society committed to the rule of law, you are not supposed to lock people up — deprive them of their liberty — on mere suspicion.

The government could not link Mr. Higazy to the attack, and yet there he was, trembling in a jail cell, with no reasonable chance of proving that he was innocent.

This was cruel. It was unusual. And it was a blatant abuse of the material witness statute. People arrested as material witnesses are supposed to be just that — witnesses — not criminal suspects. (The witnesses are taken into custody when there is some doubt as to whether their testimony can otherwise be secured.)

When a person is actually arrested for a crime, the government has certain important obligations, including the obligation to provide a prompt arraignment and to demonstrate that there is probable cause that the suspect had committed the offense.


Tax Farmers, Mercenaries and Viceroys

Well, in the 16th century, at least you knew the King was looking after your interests, if you were royalty. Well, sometimes.

Paul Krugman: Tax Farmers, Mercenaries and Viceroys
The Bush administration seemingly wants to go back to the 16th century, and privatized tax collection is only part of the great march backward.

Yesterday The New York Times reported that the Internal Revenue Service would outsource collection of unpaid back taxes to private debt collectors, who would receive a share of the proceeds.

It’s an awful idea. Privatizing tax collection will cost far more than hiring additional I.R.S. agents, raise less revenue and pose obvious risks of abuse. But what’s really amazing is the extent to which this plan is a retreat from modern principles of government. I used to say that conservatives want to take us back to the 1920’s, but the Bush administration seemingly wants to go back to the 16th century.

And privatized tax collection is only part of the great march backward.

In the bad old days, government was a haphazard affair. There was no bureaucracy to collect taxes, so the king subcontracted the job to private “tax farmers,” who often engaged in extortion. There was no regular army, so the king hired mercenaries, who tended to wander off and pillage the nearest village. There was no regular system of administration, so the king assigned the task to favored courtiers, who tended to be corrupt, incompetent or both.

Modern governments solved these problems by creating a professional revenue department to collect taxes, a professional officer corps to enforce military discipline, and a professional civil service. But President Bush apparently doesn’t like these innovations, preferring to govern as if he were King Louis XII.

So the tax farmers are coming back, and the mercenaries already have. There are about 20,000 armed “security contractors” in Iraq, and they have been assigned critical tasks, from guarding top officials to training the Iraqi Army.

Like the mercenaries of old, today’s corporate mercenaries have discipline problems. “They shoot people, and someone else has to deal with the aftermath,” declared a U.S. officer last year.

And armed men operating outside the military chain of command have caused at least one catastrophe. Remember the four Americans hung from a bridge? They were security contractors from Blackwater USA who blundered into Falluja — bypassing a Marine checkpoint — while the Marines were trying to pursue a methodical strategy of pacifying the city. The killing of the four, and the knee-jerk reaction of the White House — which ordered an all-out assault, then called it off as casualties mounted — may have ended the last chance of containing the insurgency.

Yet Blackwater, whose chief executive is a major contributor to the Republican Party, continues to thrive. The Department of Homeland Security sent heavily armed Blackwater employees into New Orleans immediately after Katrina.

To whom are such contractors accountable? Last week a judge threw out a jury’s $10 million verdict against Custer Battles, a private contractor that was hired, among other things, to provide security at Baghdad’s airport. Custer Battles has become a symbol of the mix of cronyism, corruption and sheer amateurishness that doomed the Iraq adventure — and the judge didn’t challenge the jury’s finding that the company engaged in blatant fraud.

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Pilgrim’s Progress of Bob Dylan

Jon Pareles discusses the new Dylan album, Modern Times.

The Pilgrim’s Progress of Bob Dylan Against a backdrop of mortality and dark visions, faith is again raised. But it's no sure thing. ... For Mr. Dylan there’s no difference now between an itinerant bluesman and a haggard pilgrim. “I practice a faith that’s been long abandoned,” he sings. “Ain’t no altars on this long and lonesome road.” .. He doesn’t pretend to be young or hip. His lyrics, and sometimes his music, are studded with quotations and allusions spanning more than a century of Americana. He magnifies every scrape, crack and scar in his voice, and he ignores the latest recording styles by sticking to handmade, realtime music. (“Modern Times” was recorded with his road band, and it suggests live after-hours rehearsals, complete with stumbles.)

Musically — and only musically — Mr. Dylan is conservative verging on classicist, holding on to rootsy forms; “Modern Times” is an album of blues, ballads and latter-day parlor songs. Philosophically he’s far more tangled. He’s variously an absurdist and a moralizer, a populist and a loner, and an iconoclast haunted by God.
In his songs faith is no panacea; it’s personal and convoluted, the reckonings of a man who’s contemplating death with no certainty of redemption. “Today I’ll stand in faith and raise the voice of praise/The sun is strong, I’m standing in the light,” he sings in “Nettie Moore,” only to follow with a twist: “I wish to God that it were night.”

There was a 19th-century song called “Nettie Moore,” about a slave sold away from the man who loved her. Mr. Dylan took its title and the first line of its chorus and also borrowed some lines made famous by Robert Johnson and W. C. Handy, surrounded them with his own images of separation and restlessness, and constructed an eccentric song; with alternating sections of 11 and 14 beats, its melody climbs painstakingly and then tumbles down. Mr. Dylan writes now as if American historical memory washes through his consciousness only to leave him more isolated.

Modern Times

“Modern Times” (Bob Dylan)




trip aborted, had some problems with customs. No orifice search or anything of that nature, just was unable to pass through the semi-permeable barriers which differentiate this nation from that. Having a golden tongue is no substitute for having proper forms and proofs.

Upon returning home, moped a bit, went on a long bike ride, with my camping gear on my back. Have an appointment with immigration attorneys later this week.

At least I was able to avoid being trapped in an airport for the rest of my meagre life.

Straight Outta Compton
“Straight Outta Compton” (N.W.A.)

And let us never talk about it again.

links for 2006-08-19

Blog shut down

D doesn't want to be bothered eliminating spam comments while I am away in Canada, so am requiring moderation on all comments as of this evening.

I sincerely doubt there will be any new content until next Wednesday (trip got cut short, boo, hiss, whatcha gonna do, not canoe apparently), so check out the many fine sites from the teeming masses of blogtopia (y!sctp) linked on the main page's left column. There may be one last page automatically created, if I can I'll bump this to the top before I leave for the airport.

Sorry all ye DHL haters , your additions to the collaborative novel will have to wait.

Oh, and here are some purty photos....

Destruction all must be destroyed before the wrath of the mighty Condo

RD659 Destruction
RD659 Destruction all must be destroyed before the wrath of the mighty Condo

Code of Thorns
Code of Thorns from my archive. Chicago Botanic Garden, I believe.

Not a Good Sign
Not a Good Sign Decided against ever eating at Dragonfly Mandarin again. Ate there last summer, and found a fly in my soup. Two strikes, never again. Though they did serve brown rice, always a plus.

What every meal needs
What every meal needs Wine and candles.

Taken at Vivo (delicious food).

links for 2006-08-18

YouTube vs iTunes

More speculation and conditionals. Watch how frequently this meme will be transcribed in today and tomorrows papers and newsmagazines.

Guardian Unlimited Business | | YouTube video policy takes on iTunes
YouTube's plan to provide “every” music video free is a “nail in the coffin” of the paid-for online content business model and potentially threatens the dominant position of Apple's iTunes, according to City analysts.The video filesharing website, where 100m clips are watched every day, is in talks with Warner Music and EMI to offer music video downloads for free. Revenue will be provided by advertising.

Apple has been the dominant driver in online music downloads because of its deals with record labels and the ease of use of the iPod and iTunes online store.

However, Apple uses proprietary technology that only allows its songs and videos to be played on its iPod devices, potentially limiting its long-term revenue potential.

This assertion is not true. We purchase compact discs, convert them to MP3 format, and play those on our iPods. We also download MP3 freebies from various web sources (Salon, Amazon, eMusic, et al), these also play on our iPods without issue. None of these MP3 files are from Apple's iTunes store.

I suppose the sticking point is whether music videos are compelling enough content to pay for. For us, most certainly not. We don't own a video capable iPod, and are not that into music videos as an art form in any case. It is fairly trivial to convert YouTube content into .mov content, which can be watched in any QuickTime compatible device, including iTunes (and thus an iPod). However, what's the point? I don't know if Apple breaks out the number of music videos downloaded and paid for, but I suspect whatever number is a small fraction of the overall iTunes store sales.

That said, I certainly would watch a few videos if they were free, and bloggable, and YouTube should do well allowing higher resolution videos to populate its database.

According to Mark Mulligan, vice-president at JupiterResearch, YouTube's popularity means it could have the scale to create a free video-based music competitor to the paid-for downloads offered by iTunes.

“Any service that YouTube puts in place is, almost beyond reasonable doubt, not going to be iPod compatible,” said Mr Mulligan.

YouTube files are supposed to be only streamed, but circumventing this is fairly simple.
It takes about 25 seconds of user time, and several moments of computer time (depending upon the speed of the computer doing the calculating) to convert a flash file from YouTube into a QuickTime movie, including using the H.264 codec.

I don't know if Mark Mulligan is just not tech savy, or if the article was slanted prior to publication.

If they develop portability - and that should definitely be on the table - then Apple could be in the unusual space of playing catch up,” he added.

If YouTube can convert its massive online popularity then it could provide a significant reason for people to buy non-iPod devices, at the moment Apple is still the best bet for portable music watching.

”Either way it is a nail in the coffin of paid-for services as the dominant online model versus ad-funded alternatives.

Lots of 'ifs' and 'coulds' here.

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Distractions or what?

| 1 Comment

We still can't figure out what was the impetus to force immediate action in the Heathrow plot against humanity. Was there any bad-to-Bush news released recently that the terror alert was supposed to distract us from? We can't understand Lieberman's election troubles re: Lamont to be of such great import to unleash the Great Heathrow Terror plot, but perhaps there is something else we've missed. Is there dirt in the recently released 9/11 tapes? Maybe the Vanity Fair NORAD tape article was a bit uncomfortable, what with all the lies and incompetence exposed in Bush and Cheney's actions on that day?

If only Jon Benet's alleged killer had been apprehended last weekend. I'm already tired of hearing about it, and it only happened yesterday. The Corporate Media devoted an enormous amount of resources to the Jon Benet story the first time around, no doubt to do so again. As Jon Stewart memorably said, paraphrased, the Corporate Media is like a bunch of 6 year olds playing soccer. Whatever the topic of the moment is, every talking head immediately runs over there, in mass.

Anyway, if there is some other 'potentially embarrassing to the Bush White House' news that you've noticed recently, we're curious to hear about it.

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links for 2006-08-17

UK Terror Plot a hoax?

Seems more and more like the British airport fiasco of 2006 was a big hoax, or a clumsy piece of political theatre, cooked up by Bush and his little dog, Toto Blair.

At least in Britain, there really is a procedure wherein the opposition party has the right to ask a few tough questions, directly to the Prime Minister. We'll probably never even get much media coverage on the matter at all on this side of the pond. Bah.

Craig Murray - The UK Terror plot: what's really going on?
None of the alleged terrorists had made a bomb. None had bought a plane ticket. Many did not even have passports, which given the efficiency of the UK Passport Agency would mean they couldn't be a plane bomber for quite some time.

In the absence of bombs and airline tickets, and in many cases passports, it could be pretty difficult to convince a jury beyond reasonable doubt that individuals intended to go through with suicide bombings, whatever rash stuff they may have bragged in internet chat rooms.

What is more, many of those arrested had been under surveillance for over a year - like thousands of other British Muslims. And not just Muslims. Like me. Nothing from that surveillance had indicated the need for early arrests.

Then an interrogation in Pakistan revealed the details of this amazing plot to blow up multiple planes - which, rather extraordinarily, had not turned up in a year of surveillance. Of course, the interrogators of the Pakistani dictator have their ways of making people sing like canaries. As I witnessed in Uzbekistan, you can get the most extraordinary information this way. Trouble is it always tends to give the interrogators all they might want, and more, in a desperate effort to stop or avert torture. What it doesn't give is the truth.

The gentleman being “interrogated” had fled the UK after being wanted for questioning over the murder of his uncle some years ago. That might be felt to cast some doubt on his reliability. It might also be felt that factors other than political ones might be at play within these relationships. Much is also being made of large transfers of money outside the formal economy. Not in fact too unusual in the British Muslim community, but if this activity is criminal, there are many possibilities that have nothing to do with terrorism.

We then have the extraordinary question of Bush and Blair discussing the possible arrests over the weekend. Why? I think the answer to that is plain. Both in desperate domestic political trouble, they longed for “Another 9/11”. The intelligence from Pakistan, however dodgy, gave them a new 9/11 they could sell to the media. The media has bought, wholesale, all the rubbish they have been shovelled.

read more, if you have a strong stomach.

(from Boing Boing), who also link to the news story that gel bras are alleged to be weaponized as well.

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Conveyor belt advertising


There really isn't much unconquered advertising space left in a grocery store. Here is one more frontier mapped.

Advertising Age - Want Your Ad to Get Checked Out?
That plain-black conveyor belt at the grocery checkout line is the next stop for ad creep.

“Conveyor belts have never been on anybody's radar screen for marketing,” said Frank Cox, president-CEO of EnVision Marketing Group, a Little Rock, Ark., firm with a patented system to print digital, photo-quality ads directly on conveyor belts. “But a store with eight to 10 checkout lanes, well, you're talking about 100 square feet of wasted ad real estate.”

Cincinnati-based Kroger Stores is the first national retailer to open checkout lines to the ads in a test in a few dozen of its stores, mainly in Northwest Arkansas; Jackson Miss.; and Memphis, Tenn. Harps Food Stores, a 52-store grocery chain based in Springdale, Ark., is also testing the system in 13 stores.
The first marketers to sign on aren't national brands, though, and for now shoppers see hometown ads with photos of local real-estate agents and insurance brokers, not the logos of Coca-Cola and Hershey.

Mr. Cox, formerly president of CJRW, an independent ad agency based in Little Rock, said he waited to knock on Corporate America's door until the system, dubbed Ads-n-Motion, had the kinks worked out. Additionally, the capital investment is high. Printers capable of printing on conveyor belts cost upward of $400,000.
Mr. Cox bought the patent for the conveyor belt ads from the inventor, Joe Molinaro, and launched EnVision in May 2005. With a sales staff of five, Mr. Cox said he's aiming first for brands in the checkout aisle, such as candy makers Nestle, Hershey, and Mars; film makers like Kodak and Fuji; and, of course, soft-drink brands Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

As part of the sales pitch, Mr. Cox said he's offering national advertisers the chance to shut out competitors at the cost of $182,800 a year for the entire 55-store footprint, which Mr. Cox claims can deliver 3.3 million impressions a month.

I could see the high cost of investment being an impediment. Though, we were once pitched the idea of creating military grade holograms, and hanging them in grocery stores. The machines would generate a 6 inch high 30 second 3-D holographic video, but cost a few hundred thousand dollars each, plus were the size of small automobiles.

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Bush Bubble Alive and Well

Re the Petulant Bush, Dan Froomkin adds:

Bush Bubble Alive and Well
He has no interest in actually arguing the merits of his approach, or substantively defending against the increasingly focused critique by congressional Democrats.

Rather, he describes his approach in platitudes, and uses inflated rhetoric to mock the made-up arguments of imaginary opponents. He counts on the skillful use of imagery and human backdrops to deliver his very simple core message -- “I am protecting you” -- without actually making his case.

He hides behind the presidency.

Exactly right. Bush expends no energy actually being a politician, e.g., creating an intellectual argument, and attempting to convince the public and other politicians of the merits of said argument. No, instead Bush thinks himself Royalty, who can rule by fiat. Can somebody please remind me why, in all honesty, Bush even wanted to be President? Seems remarkably like a job he doesn't want to do, with obligations that are either beyond him, or uninteresting to him.

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Petulant Bush

Poor lil' Bushy, folks aren't kissing his ring/sphincter enough.

Policy: Bush Said to Be Frustrated by Level of Public Support in Iraq
President Bush is concerned about lack of progress in Iraq and frustrated at the Iraqi government and people’s lack of public support for America’s mission.

Of course, Bush hasn't done anything to convince the Iraqis of the Royal Benevolence. No, we are all supposed to just trust in fairy dust.

More generally, the participants said, the president expressed frustration that Iraqis had not come to appreciate the sacrifices the United States had made in Iraq, and was puzzled as to how a recent anti-American rally in support of Hezbollah in Baghdad could draw such a large crowd. “I do think he was frustrated about why 10,000 Shiites would go into the streets and demonstrate against the United States,” said another person who attended

Right, occupiers are good for a nation's self-esteem. I'm sure if, in some future century, Cambodia had an army of occupation encamped in the Beltway in a portion of Washington, D.C., the Rethuglicans would be having parades for the Cambodians, throwing flower petals, and bits of prahok.

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Camus Comes to Crawford

| 1 Comment

As soon as I read the President was reading Albert Camus's The Stranger, I had a good laugh. Color me skeptical. Is there going to be a book report? (update, Louis Bayard imagines what the book report might be like)

MoDo agrees.

The Stranger (Vintage International)
“The Stranger (Vintage International)” (Albert Camus)

Maureen Dowd: Camus Comes to Crawford
If there was ever a confirmation of Albert Camus's sense of the absurdity of life, it's that the president is reading him.

Strangely enough, we find two famous men reading Albert Camus’s “The Stranger” this summer.

One is Jean Girard, the villainous gay French race car driver hilariously played by Sacha Baron Cohen (a k a Ali G and Borat) — the sinuous rival to Will Ferrell’s stocky Ricky Bobby in “Talladega Nights.”

Girard, a jazz-loving, white-silk-scarf-wearing, America-disdaining Formula Un driver sponsored by Perrier, is so smooth he can sip macchiato from a china cup, smoke Gitanes and read “L’Etranger” behind the wheel and still lead the Nascar pack.

Frenchie contemptuously informs “cowboy” Bobby that America merely gave the world George Bush, Cheerios and the ThighMaster while France invented democracy, existentialism and the ménage à trois.

The other guy kindling to Camus is none other than the aforementioned George Bush, who read “The Stranger” in English on his Crawford vacation and, Tony Snow told me, “liked it.” Name-dropping existentialists is good for picking up girls, as Woody Allen’s schlemiels found, or getting through the clove-cigarette fog of Humanities 101. But it does seem odd that W., who once mocked NBC’s David Gregory as “intercontinental” for posing a question in French to the French president in France, would choose Camus over Grisham.

Camus is not beach reading — or brush reading. How on earth did this book make it into the hands of our proudly anti-intellectual president?

“I don’t know how ‘L’Etranger’ made it onto his list,” Mr. Snow said. “I must confess, I read ‘L’Etranger’ 25 years ago.” The rest of W.’s reading list was presidentially correct: two books on Lincoln and the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Polio: An American Story,” by David Oshinsky. (Not a word by Merleau-Ponty.)

Debunking the theory that W. had a sports section or Mad magazine’s “Spy vs. Spy” tucked inside the 1946 classic of angst, Mr. Snow noted that he and the president had “a brief conversation on the origins of French existentialism, Camus and Sartre.” Pressed for more details by an astonished columnist having trouble envisioning Waco as the Left Bank, the press secretary laughed. “Confidential conversation,” he said, extending the administration’s lack of transparency to literature.

uhh, yeah right. Please don't mind me, I'm just giggling. Maybe the Cure got loaded on the President's iPod?
You know, the song,

Boys Don't Cry

Killing An Arab
from the album, Boys Don't Cry

Or, maybe Mr. Bush happened upon the music video during one of his afternoon YouTube excursions.

(direct link here)

MoDo goes on....

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Modern Times

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As follow up to the Modern Times teaser, Columbia Records has some pre-order specials. I suppose the wave of the future: multiple disc formats, including DVDs, and in this case, Dylan's XM Radio show.

Modern Times (Deluxe Edition With Bonus DVD)
“Modern Times (Deluxe Edition With Bonus DVD)” (Bob Dylan)

Bob Dylan :: Columbia Records

Order the CD, Vinyl, or deluxe CD + DVD edition today and get the following as an added bonus:
Theme Time Radio Hour With Bob Dylan, Baseball Sampler-- A CD of Dylan's historic performance on XM satellite radio.

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links for 2006-08-16

Deadwood rules


Now that I've assuaged some of my grief with various 'home remedies'....

You scored as Seth Bullock. You didn't want to be sheriff, but someone had to do it. You wish you didn't have such a high moral compass, because you just want to sit in the background. However, in this town someone needs to step up, and if no one else will, that only leaves you. If evil only needs the good to do nothing, you won't watch from the sidelines. (Seth Bullock is played by Timothy Olyphant)

Calamity Jane


Seth Bullock


E. B. Farnum




Cy Tolliver


Joanie Stubbs


Doc Cochran


Mr Wu


Al Swearengen


Alma Garret


What kind of (Deadwood) Cocksucker are you?
created with

I could have been Calamity Jane based on one question (both have a 69% score). E.B. Farnum is way off - what a fucker. Played with incredible oiliness by (and it took me a while to recognize this) the same actor who played the “chicken head” in Blade Runner. I really wanted to be Al Swearengen, or even Mr. Wu. Mr. Wu is who I most emulate when speaking lines from Deadwood to D, for some reason, even though most of Wu's lines are simple, Hong Kong accented variations of “Cocksucker”, coupled with violent hand motions and sketches. Calamity Jane hides her grief in a haze of alcoholism, bluster, and sexual deviance, so there's that.

I'm sorry that Deadwood is ending 4 episodes from now, because I think it is one of the better television shows I've seen in my lifetime. Seth Bullock is sort of an ass, and I wouldn't claim him as one I would model my life after, but still sort of funny, what with the “Seth” thing. There is a wiki entry re the real Seth Bullock, and others on this list.

Rent the

Deadwood - The Complete Second Season


DVDs, turn on the subtitles, and watch several in a row. Spectacular drama, inverted, nearly Shakespearean dialogue, historically accurate language, you'll soon be hooked.

Now playing, Toumani Diabate - Alla L'Aa Ke - from the album: Kaira

(from Athanae at First Draft)

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Now the toilet is clogged

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Oh, yeah, it is almost exactly the same to be a member of the U.S. White House Press Corp. and a resident of the Ninth Ward of New Orleans.

Now the toilet is clogged

First they put the White House press corps in a trailer.

And now the toilet is clogged.

What do the reporters who work closest to President Bush on a daily basis have in common with refugees from Hurricane Katrina?

The in-town “press pool,'' that small, revolving group of reporters and photographers assigned to follow the president each day on his official wanderings around the White House campus and in day-trips to destinations around town, does a lot of waiting between working.

And now that the press briefing room in the West Wing of the White House has been gutted for a potentially year-long renovation, the in-town pool has been relocated to a cold trailer -- white metal on the outside and woodlike-paneling on the inside -- parked just inside the guarded gates of the White House and Eisenhower Executive Office Building grounds on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Somehow, doesn't seem comparable, but I guess you only know what you know. Asshole.

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Cleo L RIP

Cleo was euthanized about an hour ago. We had been caring for her at home for the last couple weeks, but she was not ambulatory, nor could she see. This evening, around 4:30, she started peeing out blood, and didn't stop. We'll all miss her, including The Pope who is slinking around looking for Cleo. Thanks to all for the kind wishes, we've appreciated them.

Cleo - April 15th (ish), 2001 - August 15th, 2006.

Cats love to jump

Cleo smells flowers
Cleo smells flowers

Cleo, post catnip
Relaxing in the sun

Sleeping cats
Cleo hasn't been this small in a while, so I'm guessing this photo was taken in 2001.

Bath Time w tongue
bath time for Kookie-kats

In a world filled with grief, bitterness, and pain, pets might seem inconsequential. Trust me, they aren't. Everyone composes their personal universe with what is tangible and near, and the love for (and from) an animal is just as real as any abstracted war orphan or cancer victim one reads about, or knows. I'm probably babbling, and can hardly see my computer screen through my tears anyway, so I'll shut up now for a while.

Truck Driver Green
Cleo relaxes on the beam. Beam and green wall now gone, unfortunately. Also, if you try to use Ralph Lauren textured paint, don't try using a roller, or you will get very funky results (view image large and you'll see the roller lines).

Cleo Flat mouse
Cleo with her adopted, beloved, and now lost flat mouse.

Cleo in her Mansion
Relaxing away from the hustle and bustle of modern (cat) life.


YouTube and Plaxo

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Ru-oh. Is this how YouTube pays for its massive bandwidth? If so, expect interest in YouTube to fall away drastically. I hope not. Plaxo is not the worst company in the online world, but I tend to mark all communication from Plaxo as spam.

BoingBong- Share a YouTube video = share your friend's email with Plaxo?
While debugging why YouTube videos are not working on one of my PCs, I tried the 'Share' link to try to get to the URL. In the popup that appeared, the NoScript extension was blocking some JavaScript. Clicking on the button to enable the code revealed that the JavaScript was hosted at -- gasp -- Plaxo (no linkee for them), the company that enlists its users to send spamalicious address book related emails. So from the looks of it, when you share a YouTube video with your friends, you may be unwittingly adding your friends' email addresses to Plaxo's databases. Slick. Or, should I say, slimy. At least it appears so. There is no confirmation that this is what is happening, but it certainly does look suspicious.

Update, per “an engineer at Plaxo”, nothing to be worried about.

YouTube is using our Address Book Access Widget so their users can easily pick people from their hotmail/gmail/outlook/etc address books to send video links to. It’s completely optional and no personal info is sent to Plaxo when our JavaScript loads on YouTube’s page. Furthermore, all the data we pass through as a result of using the widget is dropped as soon as the user is done selecting contacts. Lots of other sites are also using our widget (zazzle,, etc.) so they don’t have to write their own auto-importers for the myriad address book services out there.

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Activist takes refuge in church


Political theatre, at its best/worst.

Activist refuses deportation, takes refuge in church
A prominent activist for illegal immigrants in Chicago today defied a government order that she turn herself in to the Department of Homeland Security for deportation and instead took sanctuary in a West Side church.

Saying she would not be returned to Mexico, Elvira Arellano — an illegal immigrant — said she would go with her young son to the church, Adalberto United Methodist Church, 2176 W. Division St.
“If Homeland Security chooses to send agents to a holy place, I would know that God wants me to serve as an example of the hatred and hypocrisy of the current administration,” Arellano said.

Umm, you know the answer to that already, Ms. Arellano. I despise over-simplification, but am going to indulge in it anyway: there are no real Christians in the Bush Administration. Only those who use a perverted form of Christianity as cover for their greed, venality and mendacity.

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Fake News


Just in case you ever wondered if that 3 minute pean to General Motors on your local news was an advertorial, it was. Not to mention the piece about terrorism, Ned Lamont and Joe Lieberman.

Advertising Age - MediaWorks - FCC Investigates Video News Releases The Federal Communications Commission today said it has asked 42 TV stations to explain whether they properly identified “video news releases” that they aired as being generated and paid for by outside interests....

The 42 stations were among 77 accused in April by two consumer groups, the Center for Media Democracy and Free Press, of airing the news releases -- essentially PR content akin to an “advertorial” in a magazine -- without disclosing their origins, a violation of FCC rules.

“They pawned it off as their own reporting,” said John Stauber, executive director of the Madison, Wis.-based Center for Media Democracy, who called the results of his group's 10-month look at TV stations' use of video news releases “extremely shocking.”

Video news releases (VNRs) are reports created by companies or government agencies that mimic the look and feel of a newscast, often using a spokesperson who is presented as a reporter, but all information in the report is vetted by the group paying the bill.
Though both consumer groups filed complaints with the FCC, the Center for Media Democracy did the research that led to the charges and reported that the TV stations actively disguised sponsored content from companies including General Motors Corp., Intel, Pfizer and Capital One to make the VNRs look like their own reporting.

At least on The Daily Show, you know the news is fake.


links for 2006-08-15

General Motors and advertising

One wonders what would have happened if GM didn't spend $32 billion propping up a weak company. Still, doesn't seem like purchasing all those television commercials really benefited GM - perhaps they should have allocated that money on the electric car, or perhaps at the Smithsonian.

CONTEMPLATING THE SORRY STATE OF GENERAL MOTORS Given that General Motors has spent $32 billion on advertising in the past 10 years but has nevertheless wound up reporting record losses, you have to wonder if the company should continue its advertising. ... Would you believe that GM in the past decade spent $32.9 billion on advertising in the American market? Considering that the automaker had a recent market capitalization of $10.9 billion, the past decade of GM advertising cost more than three times the value of the entire company.

Despite that, GM's domestic market share continues to decline, from a 1962 high of 51.9% of the market to last year's 26.2%. (Its market share has declined 30 of the last 43 years.)

Last year, GM lost $8.6 billion. And just last month, its credit ratings took another hit as Moody's Investors Service slashed the company's rating one notch further into junk territory and warned the company could resort to bankruptcy. “The evidence points, with increasing certitude,” Carol Loomis wrote in a Fortune magazine cover story about GM last month, “to bankruptcy.”

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Buddy Guy and buddies


Chuck Sudo of Chicagoist found a stellar Buddy Guy video:

The concerts, recorded on March 17-18th of that year, featured Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Stephen Stills, the Modern Jazz Quartet, and others. “Stormy Monday” finds Guy being supported by Bruce on bass and showcases the twisted genius of Rashaan Roland Kirk, simultaneously playing tenor saxophone and stritch (a straighter version of an alto saxophone), who nearly steals the song. Guy restrains the pyrotechnics and ends the song with a smoldering scat vocal.

(direct link here)

For the record, I saw Buddy Guy at Antone's once, he wore stone washed overalls and a jheri curl, even though it was 1992 or later. Saw him one other time at his club in the South Loop, and he wore something equally disconcerting.

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Guns on the Roof

Well, guns somewhere, not where they were supposed to be. I'd be more worried about terrorists infiltrating airport screening and baggage handling departments than with grannies with parched throats.

Guns at O'Hare are disappearing
Firearms being stolen from checked bags

Several handguns have been stolen from bags checked by police officers, military personnel and others on United Airlines flights departing O'Hare International Airport, sparking concern that the weapons are loose in what is supposed to be a secure part of the airport.

...For police officers, word of the thefts is being circulated on the Chicago police union's Web site, which warns of an officer whose weapon was stolen--one of “several cases” in “an ongoing problem”--that investigators confirmed for the union.

“United Airlines is having a serious problem with theft at O'Hare Airport,” a notice on the Fraternal Order of Police site says. “This is something to think about next time you arrange vacation or business plans. Perhaps United Airlines is not the correct choice for flights for law enforcement or military personnel.”

and we wouldn't airport security to actually, you know, secure things, because that would be 'costly'.

Although the law requires guns to be carried in locked, hard-sided cases, baggage handlers have no problem getting into such luggage, he said.

The other possibility, experts said, is that TSA screeners who X-ray or inspect bags by hand could be pocketing the guns.

“Nobody has ever really resolved a real way around it,” Laird said. “There's a real dilemma with baggage theft in the airline industry.”

Watching the bags with cameras would be very costly, he said, with hundreds of cameras needed to survey the wide area where bags are handled, he said.


Iraq War, like clockwork

Ted Rall 060810

Ted Rall :

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Aiding Our Enemies

Bob Herbert: Aiding Our Enemies
I wonder if Americans will continue to fall for the political exploitation of their fears of terrorism, or if voters will begin to show some awareness of the fact that they have been cynically manipulated.

“Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.”

George Santayana

Here we go again.

I wonder if Americans will continue to fall for the political exploitation of their fears of terrorism, or if voters will begin to show some awareness of the fact that they have been cynically manipulated, and that our current policies have been disastrously counterproductive.

The disrupted plot to blow up as many as 10 passenger jets bound for the United States was a reminder, as if we needed a reminder, that the threat of terror remains both real and imminent. And it was a reminder that the greatest danger to Americans here at home continues to be an attack by a group affiliated with, or inspired by, Al Qaeda.

That being the case, what in the world are we doing in Iraq?

There was something pathetic about the delight with which Republicans seized upon the terror plot last week and began trying to wield it like a whip against their Democratic foes. The G.O.P. message seemed to be that the plot foiled in Britain was somehow proof that the U.S. needed to continue full speed ahead with the Bush administration’s disastrous war in Iraq, and that any Democrat who demurred was somehow soft on terrorism.

The truth, of course, is that the demolition derby policies of the Bush administration are creating enemies of the United States, not defeating them. It cannot be said often enough, for example, that the catastrophic war in Iraq, which has caused the deaths of tens of thousands, was a strategic mistake of the highest magnitude. It diverted our focus, energy and resources from the real enemy, Al Qaeda and its offshoots, and turned Iraq, a country critically important to the Muslim imagination, into a spawning ground for terrorists.

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Hoping for Fear

I'm just happy when any column manages to work in the word, fecklessness.

Paul Krugman: Hoping for Fear
The story of the latest terror plot makes the Bush administration's fecklessness and cynicism on terrorism clearer than ever.

Just two days after 9/11, I learned from Congressional staffers that Republicans on Capitol Hill were already exploiting the atrocity, trying to use it to push through tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. I wrote about the subject the next day, warning that “politicians who wrap themselves in the flag while relentlessly pursuing their usual partisan agenda are not true patriots.”

The response from readers was furious — fury not at the politicians but at me, for suggesting that such an outrage was even possible. “How can I say that to my young son?” demanded one angry correspondent.

I wonder what he says to his son these days.

We now know that from the very beginning, the Bush administration and its allies in Congress saw the terrorist threat not as a problem to be solved, but as a political opportunity to be exploited. The story of the latest terror plot makes the administration’s fecklessness and cynicism on terrorism clearer than ever.

Fecklessness: the administration has always pinched pennies when it comes to actually defending America against terrorist attacks. Now we learn that terrorism experts have known about the threat of liquid explosives for years, but that the Bush administration did nothing about that threat until now, and tried to divert funds from programs that might have helped protect us. “As the British terror plot was unfolding,” reports The Associated Press, “the Bush administration quietly tried to take away $6 million that was supposed to be spent this year developing new explosives detection technology.”

Cynicism: Republicans have consistently portrayed their opponents as weak on terrorism, if not actually in sympathy with the terrorists. Remember the 2002 TV ad in which Senator Max Cleland of Georgia was pictured with Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein? Now we have Dick Cheney suggesting that voters in the Democratic primary in Connecticut were lending aid and comfort to “Al Qaeda types.” There they go again.

More fecklessness, and maybe more cynicism, too: NBC reports that there was a dispute between the British and the Americans over when to make arrests in the latest plot. Since the alleged plotters weren’t ready to go — they hadn’t purchased airline tickets, and some didn’t even have passports yet — British officials wanted to watch and wait, hoping to gather more evidence. But according to NBC, the Americans insisted on early arrests.

Suspicions that the Bush administration might have had political motives in wanting the arrests made prematurely are fed by memories of events two years ago: the Department of Homeland Security declared a terror alert just after the Democratic National Convention, shifting the spotlight away from John Kerry — and, according to Pakistani intelligence officials, blowing the cover of a mole inside Al Qaeda.

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links for 2006-08-14

Put a little oink in the tank?

I'd much rather get bubbling crude from pig farms than pristine Alaskan parkland. Black gold, pork tea. Mmmmmm.

Put a little oink in the tank? University of Illinois (Urbana-Champlain) researchers learn to extract crude oil from pig manure. Yuanhui Zhang has smelled the future of oil, and it stinks.

The pungent, earthy scent emanates from swine pens that professor Zhang's graduate students visit regularly at the University of Illinois. Holding spades in gloved hands, they collect buckets of moist pig poop and carefully drive it to a lab on the edge of campus.

Inside a white metal building nestled among corn and soybean fields, the students pressure-cook the messy muck until it becomes thick, black, energy-dense crude oil remarkably similar to the stuff pumped from deep within the earth.

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Balcony Life


Balcony Life HDR

Red pepper nearly ready for consumption

Merge of 2 Nikon D70 raw files
1. 1/30, f/22, iso 200, 70 mm
2. 1/500, f/6.7, iso 200, 70 mm

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Culture of incompetence

Unfortunately, for all of us, part 534 of a series. If the Bush Administration has made hardly any progress protecting us in the 5 years since 9/11, why could anyone make the claim that Republicans are better at 'protecting' the nation? Anyone sane, that is.

Domestic Security: Focused on 9/11, U.S. Is Seen to Lag on New Threats
A nearly obsessive focus on the Sept. 11 attacks may have prevented the government from combating new threats effectively, experts say.

The arrests overseas this week of people accused of planning to use an explosive that would be undetectable at airports illustrates the significant security gaps, they said.

While the department has hardened cockpit doors and set up screening for guns and knives, it has done far too little to protect against plastic and liquid explosives, bombs in air cargo and shoulder-fired missiles, the experts say.

The nation is still at risk from the same “failure of imagination” cited by the 9/11 commission as having contributed to the success of the 2001 attack, several argued.

“They are reactive, not proactive,” said Randall J. Larsen, a retired colonel in the Air Force who is chairman of the military strategy department at the National War College in Washington.
The vulnerabilities are clear. A failed plot in 1995, incubated in the Philippines, to bomb 12 United States commercial jets flying out of Asia, centered on the use of triacetone triperoxide, or TATP, a liquid explosive that may also have been the weapon of choice of the plotters in England. The Department of Homeland Security has evaluated technology that it says will search an individual bottle for liquid explosives, but it cannot search all the bottles in a suitcase. It also cannot reliably detect chemicals that are not explosive but become so when mixed.

The department is still evaluating technologies for foiling shoulder-fired missiles, a favored tool of rebel groups against military aircraft. One blinds missiles with an infrared laser; another option would be a ground-based antimissile system near airports.

The Transporation Security Administration has the technology to inspect small objects shipped as air cargo, but does not have the capacity to do so uniformly.

Given the long list of possible threats, and the limited budget to buy equipment to defend against them, it is essential not just to look for threats, Mr. Larsen said, but also to evaluate each one.

FSM help us all. The Republicans have been more interested in scoring political points than actually accomplishing anything. Who would have guessed?

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Happy birthday Chicago

173 years of art, corruption, and commerce. I'm sitting in the original boundaries, which means next to nothing.

Gapers Block: Today in Chicago History: August 12, 1833
On August 12, 1833, Chicago was incorporated. The population of the town at the time was about 350 people. According to the Chicago timeline from the Chicago Public Library website, the original boundaries of the city were “Kinzie, Desplaines, Madison, and State streets, which included an area of about three-eighths of a square mile.” Happy 173rd Birthday, Chicago!

Green Logo

Some examples of BP's advertising, here and here, for example. Or even at BP itself. Advertising cannot mask all of your company's flaws.

Joseph Nocera: Green Logo, but BP Is Old Oil
WALKING through an airport earlier this week, I happened to spot a BP advertisement... Just a few days before, BP, the world’s second-largest oil company, had revealed that it had discovered a dangerous amount of corrosion on a 16-mile feeder line to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline in Prudhoe Bay. The news put an immediate crimp in the nation’s energy needs — BP said it might have to shut down as much as 400,000 barrels a day, amounting to 8 percent of domestic production, while repairs were undertaken. (As of yesterday, the company was still producing about 155,000 barrels a day.) The price of oil immediately jumped. And of course, had the corrosion continued to go undetected, it could have caused an environmental disaster.

And why was the corrosion detected? Not, alas, because of BP’s routine maintenance. Five months earlier, in another part of the pipeline also maintained by BP, a spill of 200,000 to 300,000 gallons of oil had been found, making it the largest oil spill ever on the North Slope. It was only when the federal government then demanded that the company conduct a thorough inspection of the rest of the pipeline that the corrosion was discovered.

That’s not all. Six months before the discovery of the oil spill, a devastating accident at a BP refinery in Texas City killed 15 workers and injured hundreds more. In June, the government accused some BP traders of trying to manipulate the propane market in 2004, while a new $1 billion BP platform in the Gulf of Mexico tipped dangerously during Hurricane Dennis.

With each successive accident, BP officials quickly apologized. But they were equally insistent that there was nothing systemically wrong with the way the company ran its operations. “We believe in our hearts that these events are unrelated,” a BP spokesman, Scott Dean, said.

Still, it was hard not to wonder: this is the environmentally friendly oil company? Exxon Mobil, which environmentalists love to hate, hasn’t had problems of this magnitude in years, not since the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989. It sure looked as though the hundreds of millions of dollars BP has poured into its public relations efforts were nothing more than, well, public relations.

yellow Amoco building is taller than me

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Spoils of Victimhood


What an excellent question Thomas Frank asks. How is possible for the right wingers to fulminate against the government, corporations, and bureaucrats when the right wing controls all of these sectors, plus much of the media? Or more precisely, how do they do it with a straight face.

Thomas Frank: The Spoils of Victimhood “President Bush operates in Washington like the head of a small occupying army of insurgents,” the pundit Fred Barnes writes in his recent book, “Rebel-in-Chief.” “He’s an alien in the realm of the governing class, given a green card by voters.”

Let’s see: These insurgents today control all three branches of government; they are underwritten by the biggest of businesses; they are backed by a robust social movement with chapters across the radio dial. The insurgency spreads before its talented young recruits all the appurtenances of power — a view from the upper stories of the Heritage Foundation, a few years at a conquered government agency where expertise is not an issue, then a quick transition to K Street, to a chateau in Rehoboth and a suite at the Ritz. For the truly rebellious, princely tribute waits to be extracted from a long queue of defense contractors, sweatshop owners and Indian casinos eager to remain in the good graces of the party of values.

What a splendid little enterprise American conservatism has turned out to be.

How does this work? How does the right keep its adherents in a lather against government bureaucrats and Washington know-it-alls when conservatives are the only bureaucrats and know-it-alls who matter anymore?

Part of the answer is that, after their crushing defeat in the 1930’s, conservatives rebuilt their movement by adopting a purely negative stance against liberalism. They were so completely excluded from power, they believed, that in 1955 William F. Buckley Jr. famously depicted them “Standing athwart history, yelling Stop.” Writing in the middle of the Reagan years, the journalist Sidney Blumenthal gaped at the persistence of this “adversarial” mind-set long after the liberals had been routed. “Even when conservatives are in power they refuse to adopt the psychology of an establishment,” he marveled.

Here we are, 20 years later, and to hear conservatives tell it, every election is still a referendum on the monster liberalism, which continues to loom like a colossus over the land. Even Tom DeLay — the erstwhile “hammer” — becomes a martyr when addressing the faithful. “The national media has taken my own re-election as their own personal jihad,” he moaned in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February. “So we’re fighting the fight of ages.”

That conservatives continue, as Rick Perlstein writes, to “soak in [their] marginalization” four decades after the election of the last liberal president puts this victimology beyond implausible. It is more on the order of a foundational myth, like the divine right of kings, a fiction that everyone involved must accept as fact.


links for 2006-08-12

Phone Hell


I wish my suck-ass telecom used GetAHuman. Phone hell is among the worst 21st C.E. annoyances. I also wish the phone loops played better music, and varied the automated messages. One can only hear so many minutes of easy listening “jazz” constantly interrupted with a Prozac-dosed announcer proclaiming, without supporting evidence, 'your call is important to us, please continue to hold“, before the tears of rage ooze free. - Stuck in a Phone Tree: Some Companies Try To Make Escape Easier
A Web site that made a splash among consumers by helping them bypass companies' automated phone systems is now leading an effort from the corporate side to ease the problem -- and with some heavy-hitting backing.

The creator of, which lists ”cheat sheets“ for hundreds of corporate phone trees, Tuesday will announce a campaign that encourages companies to ease the aggravation of using their so-called phone trees. Companies agreeing to follow the ”GetHuman Standard“ guidelines -- which include allowing callers to press ”0“ or say ”operator“ to reach a live person, and to press ”#“ or say ”repeat“ to replay a menu -- will play a special tone, or ”earcon,“ at the beginning of the call, signaling to consumers that the company is in compliance.

Microsoft Corp. and Nuance Communications Inc., both of which sell automated-phone-system platforms and services, have agreed to support the standard as a recommended practice for their clients. is the outgrowth of a blog by Internet entrepreneur Paul English. The blog listed ways to get around a handful of phone trees and grew into a popular Web site by taking submissions from volunteers who tested different methods.

I strongly feel a better organized, more efficient, and customer oriented ”phone tree“ is a completive advantage. Those who figure it out will have greater customer retention, those who make it a hassle to communicate with their customers will lose them.

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Avoid Lowfat

Confirming my deeply and long held suspicions that low-fat diets are inherently unhealthy: - Health Journal
Want Fat With That? A Surprising Way To Make Vegetables More Nutritious

...some of the best stuff in fruits and vegetables -- certain vitamins and cancer-fighting compounds -- are “fat-soluble.” That means some fat needs to be present for the body to adequately absorb the nutrients. But studies are now showing that people who opt for no-fat dressing or who skip adding foods like avocado or cheese to a dish to avoid fat calories, are getting far less out of their salads and other veggies.

“What we're finding is that if you don't have some fat in the meal, all these wonderful” compounds are missed, says Steven Clinton, program leader for molecular carcinogenesis and chemoprevention and the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center in Columbus. “If the nutrients don't get into your system, then what good are they?”

Dr. Clinton's latest research looks at how adding avocado -- which is relatively high in unsaturated fat -- to salsa or a salad affects how well the body absorbs healthful compounds in the foods. In particular, the study looked at absorption of carotenoids, the red, yellow and orange pigments found in many fruits and vegetables that are believed to have cancer-fighting properties.

I wonder if I can add avocado to vodka tonics? Mmmm, thick and rich.


Speaking of culture of corruption

Apparently, 27 months of home arrest is good enough when the statutory sentence was 28 years in prision. Nice. Who says justice is blind? - Ex-Wal-Mart Official Gets Home-Confinement Sentence Former No. 2 executive at Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Thomas Coughlin, was sentenced to 27 months of home confinement and five years' probation for stealing money, merchandise and gift cards from the retailer. His sentence also included a $50,000 fine and $400,000 in restitution.
The 57-year-old Mr. Coughlin, a protégé of late Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, faced a maximum of 28 years in prison after pleading guilty to five counts of wire fraud and one count of filing a false tax return. He also could have been fined as much $1.4 million.

In court in January, Mr. Coughlin specifically admitted defrauding the world's largest retailer to pay for the care of his hunting dogs, lease a private hunting area, upgrade his pickup truck, buy liquor and a cooler, and receive $3,100 in cash. The items were worth a minuscule amount when compared to his $1 million-plus salary.

Wal-Mart, of Bentonville, Ark., referred Mr. Coughlin to federal prosecutors after alleging he took money, goods and gift cards valued at up to $500,000 over a period of at least seven years before he retired in early 2005.

Wal-Mart made further allegations of embezzlement and theft in a separate civil lawsuit it filed last year seeking to revoke Mr. Coughlin's multimillion-dollar retirement package. That suit alleges that Mr. Coughlin used tricks including false expense reports to buy things as varied as snakeskin boots, hunting trips and Bloody Mary mix.

Law and order Republicans, all the way, until their name comes up.

and loved this tidbit:

No mention was made in Mr. Coughlin's public filings with the court of his earlier claim that he used money obtained from Wal-Mart to pay for anti-union activism. Wal-Mart has said there was no such project.

I imagine the Wal-Mart council said, privately, to Mr. Coughlin: we'll agree to the at-home sentence, if you drop this damaging anti-union claim.

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Andrew's car is famous

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My brother's car gets 17 seconds of fame, courtesy of the Austinist.

Austinist: Finally: A Good Use For The Internet

Romans Go Home
(click image for more info)

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Nonsense and Sensibility

Paul Krugman has apparently heard of Whiny Joe. Centrist is just another word for loser, as in Delusional Loser Council member.

Paul Krugman: Nonsense and Sensibility
Not only isn't Joe Lieberman sensible, he may be beyond redemption.

After Ned Lamont’s victory in Connecticut, I saw a number of commentaries describing Joe Lieberman not just as a “centrist” — a word that has come to mean “someone who makes excuses for the Bush administration” — but as “sensible.” But on what planet would Mr. Lieberman be considered sensible?

Take a look at Thomas Ricks’s “Fiasco,” the best account yet of how the U.S. occupation of Iraq was mismanaged. The prime villain in that book is Donald Rumsfeld, whose delusional thinking and penchant for power games undermined whatever chances for success the United States might have had. Then read Mr. Lieberman’s May 2004 op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal, “Let Us Have Faith,” in which he urged Mr. Rumsfeld not to resign over the Abu Ghraib scandal, because his removal “would delight foreign and domestic opponents of America’s presence in Iraq.”

And that’s just one example of Mr. Lieberman’s bad judgment. He has been wrong at every step of the march into the Iraq quagmire — all the while accusing anyone who disagreed with him of endangering national security. Again, on what planet would Mr. Lieberman be considered “sensible”? But I know the answer: on Planet Beltway.

Many of those lamenting Mr. Lieberman’s defeat claim that they fear a takeover of our political parties by extremists. But if political polarization were really their main concern, they’d be as exercised about the primary challenge from the right facing Lincoln Chafee as they are about Mr. Lieberman’s woes. In fact, however, the sound of national commentary on the Rhode Island race is that of crickets chirping.

So what’s really behind claims that Mr. Lieberman is sensible — and that those who voted against him aren’t? It’s the fact that many Washington insiders suffer from the same character flaw that caused Mr. Lieberman to lose Tuesday’s primary: an inability to admit mistakes.

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links for 2006-08-11

oh, and might as well add this here randomizer - like the ole' internet days

Can you get to that from here

No particular reason, just asking.

Evening is icumen in
Evening is icumen in Yet another sunset porno. Partial HDR treatment.

Don't Panic we're hispanic
Don't Panic we're Hispanic from my archive of the May 1, 2006 rally.

Fat Tire Shirt

Fat Tire Shirt
Complained to the nice folks at New Belgium about some 'skunky' Fat Tire Ale I recently bought, and they sent me a check for 10 bucks, plus this t-shirt. I'm not much of a t-shirt wearer, but still, was a nice gesture.


Frostpocket 1975
Frostpocket 1975

Me and family at the age of 6, somewhere in Machar township, Ontario, posing with several family members. My aunt who is planning the canoe excursion sent it to me, adding:

[taken] near or in a corn field perhaps owned by the Seventh Day Adventist group that lived there for a while. Real go-getters - - they had a commercial bakery, maple syrup operation, cornfield, potato field, strawberries - - Really nice people - - they would harvest what they needed then invite us over to pick whatever we wanted too.

She's on the right side, vamping near my uncle Jeff with the long hair. My sister (infant), my mother and my father are the others vamping. I hope vamping means what I think it does, or I'll never hear the end of it...

a quickr pickr post

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Zenith Media Acquires Moxie Interactive

Agency news

Zenith Media Acquires Moxie Interactive

NEW YORK ( -- Zenith Media, a part of Publicis Groupe's ZenithOptimedia Worldwide, has agreed to acquire Moxie Interactive, the Atlanta-based digital advertising agency. Zenith and Moxie have worked together for five years on the Verizon Wireless account, sharing traditional and digital media responsibilities, respectfully.

Crowd control

From The Department of Questions That Have No Answer

If the liquid could be explosive, why are you dumping it in a crowd?
CNN is reporting: “Because the plot involved taking liquid explosives aboard planes in carry-ons, passengers at all U.S. and British airports, and those boarding U.S.-bound flights at other international airports, are banned from taking any liquids onto planes.”
And then they have the photo of the TSA guy dumping a tub of confiscated possibly explosive liquids into a garbage can in a crowd of people.

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Dream on Asshole

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Davey Brooks found his way into his wife's secret stash of opiates again.

David Brooks: Party No. 3
A McCain-Lieberman Party is emerging because of deep trends that are polarizing our politics.

There are two major parties on the ballot, but there are three major parties in America. There is the Democratic Party, the Republican Party and the McCain-Lieberman Party.

All were on display Tuesday night.

The Democratic Party was represented by its rising force — Ned Lamont on a victory platform with the net roots exulting before him and Al Sharpton smiling just behind. The Republican Party was represented by its collapsing old guard — scandal-tainted Tom DeLay trying to get his name removed from the November ballot. And the McCain-Lieberman Party was represented by Joe Lieberman himself, giving a concession speech that explained why polarized primary voters shouldn’t be allowed to define the choices in American politics.

If there is going to be a third party, why would it combine the worst pandering parts of both of the existing parties? If the McCain-Lieberman Party ever wins an election, I'm on record right now as saying that I shall dip my eyeballs into the juices of 37 habanero peppers (which, as I just discovered, even the hours-old juice of one stem is enough to sting one's eye for quite some time. Dumb-ass, you'd think after all the years spent living in Texas and eating spicy food, I'd know to avoid rubbing my eye after chopping habaneros. I digress.).

Back to Hop Head Brooks:

Umm, is he trying to say that that photo of Whiny Joe Lieberman and Al Sharpton floating around is a media creation of Adnan Hajj?

Looks like Lieberman is pretty upset to be next to Mr. Sharpton, doesn't it.

Whiny Joe Lieberman and Al Sharpton

Who are you going to believe, your lying eyes, or Hop Head Brooks?

Anyway, my eyeball is throbbing, so you can read the rest yourself. Believe me, there's plenty to ridicule. I just don't have the stamina at the moment. Ok, I couldn't help myself. Sorry.

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Deceit Beyond Bounds

Couldn't restrain myself from posting, even though after spending most of the morning monkeying around with MT, FTP, and CSS, I really should do a little work before the sun sets on my empire.

Bob Herbert: Deceit Beyond Bounds
The latest incarnation of the Republican Party has taken deceit in government and politics to dangerous new extremes, and it's time to call a halt to it.

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Site upgrade

Plan to upgrade my site's software to MT 3.31 today, which includes backing up the mySQL database and other wonky details that I tend to ignore most of the time. Hope this doesn't take long, but one never knows.

I leave you with the 'bad joke of the day'.

Proof Positive of Global Warming
Global Warming

(click to embiggen)

p.s. - I've turned off comments while I'm archiving everything.

2 pm, seems to be working again. Wish there was a faster way to upgrade. Part of the problem was that my ftp connection kept getting dropped, so had to break up my u/l and d/l into smaller chunks. Getting a couple of odd errors, but these seem minor. Let me know, please, if anything unusual occurs.

Am I glad I am not flying today, or for the next couple of days. If this little terrorism snafu isn't cleared up by Wednesday of next week, my trip to Canada is in doubt. If so, I may have to take up heroin because, well, you can hazard a guess. If I add up the days of actual vacation I've had since April 2000, I'd venture it to be in the neighborhood of 3 weeks. Maybe 4. Add in the few official American holidays (7-10 a year), and most Sundays, and that translates into burning the candelabra on all ends.


links for 2006-08-10

Snoop and the Gourds

Back in the bad/good old Napster days, the Gourds great cover version of Snoop Dogg's Gin and Juice was probably the most mis-identified song on the entire networks. I had over 11 versions before I finally figured out who was actually singing it. The Gourds also do a pretty fly cover of Ziggy Stardust.

Anyway, via Kottke, a video of someone playing the Gourds version for Snoop Dogg (for 59 seconds), who seems to enjoy it.

direct link here

Dem's Good Beeble
“Dem's Good Beeble” (The Gourds)

“Gogitchyershinebox” (The Gourds)

“Shinebox” (The Gourds)

“Doggystyle” (Snoop Doggy Dogg)

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Viva Russ!!

Screw the DLC and the limousine they rode in on. Feingold Says Centrist DLC Consultants 'Instill Fear in Democrats'
Democratic U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold knocked the centrist Democratic Leadership Council today, saying its strategy of hoping to win by being “a little different than Republicans” hasn’t worked. He also accused the group's adherents of instilling fear in Democrats who oppose the war.

“They are the ones that coalesced with the big corporations to pass unfair trade agreements that hurt America,” Feingold said. “It was the DLC that came up with the health care plan with the Clintons that was so complicated nobody could understand it. It’s the DLC that has cut off our ability to say things like, ‘Let’s get out of Iraq because it’s a bad idea.’”

Feingold said DLC consultants “instill fear in Democrats” by saying opposition to the war would be taken as not supporting the troops. “What I want is us to get the right answer whether it’s liberal, conservative or middle of the road,” Feingold said.

Democrats should not try to be just “a little different than the Republicans and hope that we win,” Feingold said. “I think that’s what (the DLC) brought us and it hasn’t worked.”


A gauntlet thrown down by the U.S. Treasury Department...

Boing Boing: How to fool Photoshop into opening and printing scans of money
How to fool Photoshop into opening and printing scans of money
Photoshop can recognize money and refuse to let you open a scan of a bill (the latest version will open it but not print it). But Photoshop expert Deke McClelland has a hilarious five-minute podcast about the ins and outs of scanning US currency.

Of course, I whipped out my wallet right away, peeled out a no-longer-crisp bill, and slapped it on my scanner. I hate being told I cannot do something.

--hmm, seemed too easy. The 100 dollar bill went without a hitch, and the 20 dollar bill took an extra 5 seconds, per the instructions helpfully provided by Deke McClelland (who has his name on several books on my shelf).

20 dollar bill

Benjamins back


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Sore Loserman 2006

Whiny Joe after the election of 2004 had this to say about politicians coming second (insert sexual pun of your choosing):

Ezra Klein: Lieberman on Mandates ... but there's no prizes for second place in American politics.

Uhh, yeah, unless then one runs as an Independent to try again by other means. In Lieberman's puny solipsistic mind, does he calculate that since he lost to Lamont 104,753 to 115,106, all he needs to do is persuade 20,000 Republicans to vote for him? Somehow, in the real world, you'd think about 85,000 of Lieberman's Democratic primary supporters would vote for the Democratic candidate, Lamont. In a state that reliably votes Democratic, how many Republicans does Whiny Joe think he can fellate before November? (Karl Rove has already volunteered to be first in line)

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Sonos sounds cool

Last winter we looked into getting a HD-TV/flat screen (didn't get one after all, as we then would have to replace all of our other equipment, including TiVos, receivers, DVD player), so spent some quality time at a local electronics store. During a lull time, a salesman showed us one of these Sonos systems, and it looked pretty cool, though expensive.

Mark Frauenfelder of BoingBoing really likes his Sonos:

Boing Boing: Sonos music system is fantastic
I attached one of the ZonePlayers to my Ethernet router and pressed two buttons on it. The Sonos software recognized it and prompted me to give it a name (I chose “TV Room”). I attached the other ZonePlayer to my home stereo system, pressed the buttons, and Sonos asked me to give it a name (“Living Room”). I also got a ZonePlayer 100, which has a built-in 50W amplifier, and a pair of speakers, and I put that in the kitchen and called that zone “Kitchen.”

I was expecting that there'd be more to the set-up process, but that was it. I didn't need to consult the manual to use the controller because the interface, controls, and display are very well-thought out. It's very easy to select any one of the three zones and start playing music. You can have different playlists going in different zones, or you can link zones together to play the from the same queue. You can control the volume of each Zone separately, or all at once.

Sonos ZP80 Digital Music System Bundle

Maybe if we discover gold in Frostpocket?


Algonquin Park Lake of Two Rivers

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Next weekend, am leaving for a much-needed vacation to the great outdoors, namely my ancestral home in central Ontario. Frostpocket, as it was named humorously by our nearest neighbor (2 miles away), and then ironically by the inhabitants. 100 acres of former Crown land, in Machar Township, outside of the small town, South River.

Part of the time will be spent portaging and canoeing on the rivers, streams and lakes of Algonquin Park.

Algonquin Park (Lake of Two Rivers), Ontario - 5 Day Weather Forecast - Environment Canada Algonquin Park

Algonquin Route

Here is our planned route:

Orange = regular route
Blue = day trip

Day 1: Need early start / easy day.
Parking one car at Access 2 and one at Access 3.
Enter Access 2 - canoe Tim Lake to Rosebary Lake - - camp

Day 2 & 3: Hardest route - one long portage
Down Tim River to Misty Lake

Side Trip - Day 3: Should be interesting - no gear - lunch packs only - back to campsite for dinner - could fish if interested
Misty Lake Loop to Grassy Lake Bog [swampy looking area]
And loop through McIntosh Lake - Timberwolf - Back to Misty

Day 4
Out through Petawawa River to Entry Point #3.

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Christian OS

I knew there was a good reason we stuck with Macs, even in the dark years in the mid-90s, before Darwin was incorporated into the operating system. And we are not even mentioning the Ralph Reed consultant gig at Microsloth, which paid Reed $20,000 a month before public outcry ruined his cushy sinecure.

Christian OS?
Apparently, everything is sectarian. Now I learn that Windows is the Christian OS, to my vast relief. I'll stick with my secular humanist Mac OS X, with its Darwin core and its demonic platypus mascot.

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McKinney Loses, But Not to a Conservative

Congresswoman McKinney lost too, maybe the tide is turning, and this is the year that incumbents will be thrown, deservedly, out on their arses. Tom DeLay included.

John Nichols: McKinney Loses, But Not to a Conservative U.S. Representative Cynthia McKinney in a Georgia Democratic primary was also defeated by an outspoken critic of the Bush administration -- DeKalb County Commissioner Hank Johnson -- in Tuesday's Georgia Democratic primary. And, unlike Lamont's challenge to Lieberman, Johnson's objections to McKinney's reelection focused largely on personal controversies rather than her political stances.

While McKinney was the more progressive contender in the Atlanta-area race, Johnson was no conservative.

Here's some of what Johnson said during the campaign regarding the foreign policy: “The War in Iraq is and always has been a mistake, and I have stood by this position since before Day One. The alleged weapons programs and stockpiles simply did not exist, and it is unacceptable that we are now engaged in such unnecessary and destructive conflict. The human toll is tragic, the economic burden enormous, the erosion of international respect for our country devastating. This war is a product of irresponsible and inept leadership...”

Here's what Johnson, an attorney, had to say about civil liberties: “It's true that priorities shift during war. I understand that counter-terrorism agencies need the ability to more robustly protect us during these times. But our government is carefully crafted to protect our civil liberties and privacy issues raised by President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program: ”It's true that priorities shift during war. I understand that counter-terrorism agencies need the ability to more robustly protect us during these times. But our government is carefully crafted to protect our civil liberties and our privacy. This protection depends upon respect for the Constitutional checks and balances that keep each branch of government in line. Among these checks is the requirement that the executive branch obtain a warrant from the judiciary before challenging our privacy.

“It's a simple matter of the rule of law,” added Johnson. “And no one is above the law, not the Pentagon, not the Attorney General, not the President. As a Member of Congress, I will oppose any attempts to undermine the liberties and rights that make ours a free and civil society. There is a sensible balance between vigilance and intrusion, between security and tyranny, and we can find it.

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Buffett and Hezbollah

Can't claim to know enough about Israel and Hezbollah to know if Friedman is correct.

Thomas Friedman: Buffett and Hezbollah
Israel spent the last six years preparing for Warren Buffett, while Hezbollah spent the last six years preparing for this war. Warren Buffett. The most important thing you need to know about Israel today and how it has performed so far in the war with Hezbollah is Warren Buffett.

Say what? Well, the most talked-about story in Israel, before Hezbollah started this war, was the fact that on May 5, Mr. Buffett, the Berkshire Hathaway chairman and the world’s most successful investor, bought an 80 percent stake in the privately held Israeli precision tools company, Iscar Metalworking, for $4 billion — Mr. Buffett’s first purchase of a company outside America. According to BusinessWeek, as a result of the deal, Iscar’s owners were “likely to pay about $1 billion in capital gains taxes into the Israeli government’s coffers — an unexpected windfall. With the Israeli budget already running a $2 billion surplus, the government is considering slashing value-added tax by one percentage point to 15 percent.”

In May, Israeli papers were filled with pages about how cool it was that Israel had produced a cutting-edge company that Warren Buffett wanted to buy. It was being discussed everywhere, pushing the Tel Aviv stock exchange to an all-time high.

That is where Israel’s head was on the eve of this war — and it explains something I sensed when I visited Israel shortly after the fighting started. Nobody wanted this war, and nobody was prepared for it. Look closely at pictures of Israeli soldiers from Lebanon. There is no enthusiasm in their faces, and certainly no triumphalism. Their expressions tell the whole story: “I just don’t want to be doing this — another war with the Arabs.”

Israeli soldiers were napping when this war started — that’s why they got ambushed — for the very best reasons: They have so much more to do with their lives, and they live in a society that empowers and enables them to do it. (Unfortunately, the Buffett company is in northern Israel and had to be temporarily closed because of rocket attacks.)

Young Israelis dream of being inventors, and their role models are the Israeli innovators who made it to the Nasdaq. Hezbollah youth dream of being martyrs, and their role models are Islamic militants who made it to the Next World. Israel spent the last six years preparing for Warren Buffett, while Hezbollah spent the last six years preparing for this war.

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links for 2006-08-09

Never sign again

After reading this, I will probably never sign a petition again, unless I have read the entire mission statement and fine print of the document. Even then, probably not.

Alternate Brain
Here's a scam that may be coming to a venue near you. From the Central Valley page of the S.F.Bay Area IMC. ...I also went back to Courthouse Park today to see the Republican Party project was again in full operation. They seemed to have different approaches to different groups. To white men that looked like they might be attorneys, they asked if they were registered to vote. When Latinos walked by they would throw out the legalize marijuana angle.

That's just fracked up. You'd think such deception would be illegal. Probably not if you are a Rethuglican though.

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Exported mercury returns to haunt U.S.

This loophole should be closed. More important than trans-fats or any of the other stupid legislation being developed locally, state-wide, and on the federal level. Good for Senator Obama (now, that's probably the first time I've said that, ever) for suggesting we restrict export.

Exported mercury returns to haunt U.S.
Recycled toxin goes overseas, but ends up in atmosphere

Tons of toxic mercury from U.S. recycling programs are funneled each year to loosely regulated industries in developing countries, where much of the hazardous metal is released into the atmosphere.

..But as policymakers become more aware of the dangers of mercury exposure, particularly for young children and women of childbearing age, they are focusing more attention on curbing sources of mercury pollution. Last month, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) introduced legislation that would bar American mercury exports.

“This is a problem that is impacted by things happening all over the world,” Obama said in a recent interview. “But we can make an enormous difference.”
...Another major source of mercury emissions is the chlorine industry. Although most U.S. chlorine plants now use technology that does not require mercury, the others on average release five times as much mercury into the atmosphere as the average coal-fired power plant.

Obama said he introduced the bills that would ban exports and force the remaining chlorine plants to close or switch methods in response to a Tribune series last year that documented the health risks posed by mercury-contaminated fish.

“We know there is a cost-effective alternative,” he said. “It sets the stage for us to tackle the more important issue of attacking emissions from coal-fired power plants.”

Neither bill is likely to pass this year. Obama said he introduced them now to draw more attention to mercury-related problems and to pressure the EPA and other agencies to act.

He acknowledged that questions remain about what to do with the excess mercury. Chlorine plants that already have closed or switched methods have sold their supplies to similar operations in other countries, some of which have few if any environmental regulations.

“Some of that mercury is polluting the same parts of the world where we get most of our seafood,” said Jackie Savitz, campaign director for Oceana, an environmental group that has been pressuring U.S. firms to use mercury-free technology.

mmmm, Chilean mercury bass is delicious.

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Culture Crusade of Kansas

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I never did read Mr. Frank's book, though I may have bought it for an interested party. Memory is an ulcer anyway, soon forgotten, its effects ameliorated with pharmaceutical products, or whatever necessary.

What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America
“What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America” (Thomas Frank)

Anyway, Mr. Frank is 'guest columnist' for the month of August.

Thomas Frank: The Culture Crusade of Kansas
The culture war will remain with us, both in Kansas and in the nation, because it is larger than any of its leaders, citizen activists and particular causes. The nation breathed a sigh of relief last week after the conservative majority on the Kansas school board, world famous for its war on the theory of evolution, went down to defeat in Republican primary elections. Conservative candidates for several state government posts foundered as well (but others won). It seemed as though moderation had finally returned to this middlemost of American places. Even better: perhaps the country itself had turned the corner in its long and frustrating war over culture.

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links for 2006-08-08

Tone pomes

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Some photos manipulated in Photoshop to extend luminance values, and other experiments.

Absinthe visions
Absinthe visions the Pope sneaks into the shot. Noisy light, but so is drinking absinthe.

August traffic lights
August traffic lights turn blue tomorrow...

Sunset on DaVinci
Sunset on DaVinci from my office rooftop a couple weeks ago. Don't know what happened to the sun - looks like some digital artifact.

Chocolate city
Chocolate city with apologies to George Clinton

a quickr pickr post

and no, I haven't been to Vansterdam recently, or at all, but I hear the salmon is delicious and the view spectacular. (I've read rumors that the light one sees after ingesting psilocybin is quite similar to those created by using HDR inspired techniques such as the photos posted above. Note, I don't think any of these are actually HDR photos, but they all extend the normal histogram of a typical snapshot.)

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Intimations of Recession

Oh, glorious day. Should we start hoarding gold under our mattresses?

Paul Krugman: Intimations of Recession These are the dog days of summer, but there’s a chill in the air. Suddenly — really just in the last few weeks — people have starting talking seriously about a possible recession. And it’s not just economists who seem worried. Goldman Sachs recently reported that the confidence of chief executives at major corporations has plunged; a clear majority of C.E.O.’s now say that conditions in the world economy, and the U.S. economy in particular, are worsening rather than improving.

On the face of it, this loss of faith seems strange. Recent growth and jobs numbers have been disappointing, but not disastrous.

But economic numbers don’t speak for themselves. They always have to be interpreted as part of a story. And the latest numbers, while not that bad taken out of context, seem inconsistent with the stories optimists were telling about the U.S. economy.

The key point is that the forces that caused a recession five years ago never went away. Business spending hasn’t really recovered from the slump it went into after the technology bubble burst: nonresidential investment as a share of G.D.P., though up a bit from its low point, is still far below its levels in the late 1990’s. Also, the trade deficit has doubled since 2000, diverting a lot of demand away from goods produced in the United States.

Nonetheless, the economy grew fairly fast over the last three years, mainly thanks to a gigantic housing boom. This boom led directly to unprecedented spending on home construction. It also allowed consumers to convert rising home values into cash through mortgage refinancing, so that consumer spending could run far ahead of families’ incomes. (Americans have been spending more than they earn for the past year and a half.)

Even optimists generally concede that the housing boom must eventually end, and that consumers will eventually have to start saving again. But the conventional wisdom was that housing would have a “soft landing” — that the boom would taper off gradually, and that other sources of growth would take its place. You might say that the theory was that business investment and exports would stand up as housing stood down.

The latest numbers suggest, however, that this theory isn’t working much better on the economic front than it is in Baghdad.

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The Iraq War Enablers

Bob Herbert remembers what happened longer than 6 months ago. I pray to all Noodly appendages that Ms. Clinton stays Senator of New York, and nothing else. If Ms. Clinton had paid attention to her role as one of the leaders of the opposition party, perhaps the situation in Iraq wouldn't be so dire.

Bob Herbert: The Iraq War Enablers
Hillary Rodham Clinton is just one of the many supporters of the war in Iraq who should have known better from the beginning.

So there was Hillary Rodham Clinton grandstanding for the television cameras last week, giving Donald Rumsfeld a carefully scripted chewing out for his role in the Bush administration’s lunatic war in Iraq.

Casual viewers could have been forgiven for not realizing that Senator Clinton has long been a supporter of this war, and that even now, with the number of pointless American deaths moving toward 2,600, her primary goal apparently is not to find an end game, but to figure out the most expedient political position to adopt — the one that will do the least damage to her presidential ambitions.

Mrs. Clinton is trying to have it both ways. A couple of months ago, she told a gathering in Washington: “I do not think it is a smart strategy either for the president to continue with his open-ended commitment, which I think does not put enough pressure on the new Iraqi government.” She then added, “Nor do I think it is smart strategy to set a date certain.”

Slick Willie has morphed into Slick Hilly, as the carnival of death in Iraq goes on.

Mrs. Clinton is just one of the many supporters of the war who should have known better from the beginning, and who are now (with the wheels falling off the Iraqi cart and public support for the war plummeting) engaged in the tricky ritual of rationalization.

The favored “it’s not my fault” explanation is that the war was always a grand idea, but the Bush gang was so dopey it fouled up a good thing. If only they’d sent in more troops. If only they hadn’t disbanded Saddam’s army. If only they’d turned right instead of left, or left instead of right, Iraq would be an oil-rich, free-market, democratic paradise, even as we speak.

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links for 2006-08-07


applications 8-5-06
Perhaps it might be time to do some cleanup of my Application folder.

screenshot generated from the free (OSX) software called Todos

(large version of this screenshot is somewhat readable )

(green lines around an icon means it is a running app)

The funny thing is, I don't recognize half of these applications anymore. I guess since hard disk space is so cheap compared to previous decades, one doesn't really need to care how much clutter exists on one's hard drive. I still should delete programs that I never use, just for feng shui reasons, if no other. Free my computer's qi, or something.

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Flicks of note August 2006

Don't have the self-discipline to make note every movie we watch, and memory is a fleeting gossamer thread, yadda yadda.

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls
Easy Riders, Raging Bulls

Based on former Premiere Magazine feature writer Peter Biskind's best-seller about moviemaking during the tumultuous, golden era of the 1970s, this film offers insightful comments from many of the luminaries who did their best work during that decade. Included among the high points are the scandals that rocked so many careers. Narrated by William H. Macy, with comments from Martin Scorsese, Ellen Burstyn, Richard Dreyfuss and many others.

obviously a documentary with an agenda, namely that Hollywood was a waste land in the mid/late sixties, and lacking ideas. Subsequently, for a decade or so, directors were given free reign to indulge their ideas, for good (mostly) or bad (sometimes). The beginning of the summer blockbuster ended this brief period of Hollywood greenlights for art house fare (Godfather, and especially Jaws).

Quite interesting, if a little smug and self-congratulatory. Hollywood has always been a blend of crass and high-brow, the 70s no different. Even in the Aughts (is there an official term for the years 2001-2009 yet ?), though the blockbusters get the most press, and movie reviewers have hardly any influence upon success/failure of movies anymore, there are always interesting movies being made. The past is always golden, right?

Also, unless I blinked and missed it, I didn't hear anything from Scorsese himself. Sort of strange since he is one of the self-appointed historians of cinema, and in love with the sound of his own voice. Perhaps there were some lingering animosities, unexplored in this documentary. Plenty of mention of Scorsese and his seminal works, just not interviewed directly.

Highly recommended for film buffs, and several additions to my Netflix queue were made while watching it.
4 stars.

The King of Marvin Gardens

King of Marvin Gardens

Uptight deejay David Staebler (Jack Nicholson) travels to Atlantic City, N.J., to learn more about an outlandish, get-rich-quick scheme cooked up by his manic brother, Jason (Bruce Dern). Despite David's suspicions, he plays along -- but when the plan's flaws become evident, neither Jason nor his beauty-queen girlfriend (Ellen Burstyn) heed David's protestations. Director Bob Rafelson's evocative drama costars Scatman Crothers.

mentioned in brief in Raging Bulls, but seem to have read a review elsewhere recently. Character driven movie, fairly low key, well-acted, though the climatic ending a bit predictable. A few indulgent scenes, but not to excess. Not sure of Scatman Crothers as a gangster, but only a bit part in any case.

3.5 stars.

The Matrix
“The Matrix” (Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski)

In this complex story that aspires to mythology, a computer hacker (Keanu Reeves) searches for the truth behind the mysterious force known as the Matrix. He finds his answer with a group of strangers led by the charismatic Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne). What they encounter in confronting that truth makes for a lightning-paced, eye-popping thrill ride of a movie that cleverly combines sociopolitical commentary with cutting-edge special effects.

Finally watched this much-talked about movie. A good friend of ours knew Larry Wachowski and his wife Thea Bloom when they were Chicago pagans, before fame struck. Stylish film, yes, but riddled with cliche, and ultimately just cotton candy for the eyes.

2 stars.

Casino (Widescreen 10th Anniversary Edition)

Martin Scorsese paints a colorful portrait of Las Vegas in the early 1970s as the oasis of glamour and corruption that it was. Against this backdrop, the story chronicles the rise and fall of three central characters: a play-by-the-rules casino owner with mob connections (Robert De Niro), his childhood friend and Mafia underboss (Joe Pesci) and an ex-prostitute with expensive taste and a driving will to get what she wants (Sharon Stone).

about an hour too long, and Sharon Stone began to really, really annoy me before long. I didn't like this much 10 years ago, and still don't.
2.5 stars.


Helmed by Richard Lester, this affecting drama stars George C. Scott as a San Francisco doctor who begins a schizophrenic romance with socialite Petulia Danner (Julie Christie). At a charity affair, lovely Petulia sets her cap for newly divorced Archie Bollen (Scott) -- trouble is, she's already married ... to the handsome but physically abusive David (Richard Chamberlain). The excellent supporting cast includes Joseph Cotten and Shirley Knight.

Whoa. George C. Scott was an excellent actor. Umm, this movie was sort of fun, in a retro way. In fact, I liked it a lot, but can't quite put my finger on why. Could be the uncredited appearance of Janis Joplin and members of the Grateful Dead, or the interesting cinematography of Nicolas Roeg, or just the strange mood of the entire film.

Roger Ebert's 1968 review called it the

'coldest, cruelest film I can remember, and one of the most intellectual.“

3.5 stars, because some of the film is just too hokey for the Aughts.

The Fisher King

Fisher King

Shock-jock Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges) becomes racked with guilt after a listener takes Jack's tirades to heart, resulting in a bloodbath at a New York City hot spot. Jack sinks into a depression, drinking himself nearly to death and sponging off his girlfriend (Oscar-winner Mercedes Ruehl). When Jack hits bottom, he's ready to end it all. Could a dotty homeless man (Robin Williams) whose wife died in the carnage be Jack's chance for redemption?

not Terry Gilliam's best work. Meh.
2.5 stars.


Sunday snapshots

Country Store, Restrooms
Country Store, Restrooms Choices

Flower Porn part 1905
Flower Porn part 1905 Elgin

The Shadow looks for Clinch Mountain
The Shadow looks for Clinch Mountain over-saturated and all

Andrew and George toned
Andrew and George toned family portrait, with some tone mapping

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links for 2006-08-06

Henny Penny Harridan

I don't think Hillary C is going to put MoDo on her Christmas list this year.

Maureen Dowd: Henny Penny Harridan :
When Hillary Clinton and Donald Rusmfeld square off, it is a gladiatorial contest of two masters at self-righteousness, scriptedness, infighting and belief in their own manifest destiny.

The enunciation of a clear sentence about the war in Iraq by Hillary Clinton means that there must be an election coming up.

Until now, she has been unsubtly subtle about the most urgent issue facing the country, sending signals rightward, sending signals leftward, tacking here, tacking there. Some days she seemed to be signaling whether she intended to signal.

But now, suddenly, she’s a woman of passion, a model of concerned clarity. After an eon of calculated silence on most of the big moral questions of the day, there is a calculated breaking of the silence. The enigma won’t play anymore. It’s time for the drama.

But the drama played like “The Taming of the Shrew,” with the only question being, who was the shrew?

Hillary was trying to bring Rummy to heel, and Rummy was trying to exert manly control over Hillary.

The junior senator from New York staged a drama in three acts, first sending a letter summoning the reluctant Rummy to appear before the Armed Services Committee; then hectoring him with a litany of his “numerous errors in judgment”; and finally at the end of the day, like the Queen of Hearts, delivering her climactic demand for his head.

“I just don’t understand why we can’t get new leadership that would give us a fighting chance to turn the situation around,” Senator Clinton said after the hearing, summing up a truth acknowledged by everyone except W. and Dick Cheney, and particularly felt at the Pentagon, where the deeply unpopular defense chief has gone from self-styled matinee idol to self-destructing idle martinet.

During the hearing, Hillary unmanned Rummy, as Shakespeare would say, accusing him of incompetence, impotence and improbity.

“You did not go into Iraq with enough troops to establish law and order,’’ she said. ”You disbanded the entire Iraqi Army. Now we’re trying to recreate it. You did not do enough planning for what is called phase four and rejected all the planning that had been done previously to maintain stability after the regime was overthrown. You underestimated the nature and strength of the insurgency, the sectarian violence and the spread of Iranian influence.“

She pointed out that the administration succeeds only in achieving the opposite of its aims — with the number of American troops in Iraq scheduled to increase, not decrease, and the violence and instability spreading.

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links for 2006-08-05

Love singer Arthur Lee RIP

Love singer Arthur Lee dies at 61 :
Arthur Lee, singer and guitarist of 1960s band Love, dies in Memphis after a battle with leukaemia.

I only discovered the band, LOVE, fairly recently, but they rocked in an unusually interesting universe, based on the quirky lyric sense of Arthur Lee. If you've never heard them, go ahead and listen.

Forever Changes (Thirty Three and a Third series)
“Forever Changes (Thirty Three and a Third series)” (Andrew Hultkrans)

Read this in an hour or so last winter.

Forever Changes
“Forever Changes” (Love)

(Allmusic has more info)

more obit thoughts here, which mentions

Love Story 1966-1972

“Love Story 1966-1972” (Love)

which I also bought last winter, and have played the hell out of.

Pitchfork obit

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Family visit

Andrew and George BW

Family visit. New rule, all guests must pose for a couple of photos.


Beach Closings Higher

So long, and thanks for all the fish....

Beach Closings and Advisories Rose in 2005, Council Reports The number of closings and health advisory days at beaches across the United States increased by about 5 percent in 2005 from 2004, according to a report released Thursday by the Natural Resources Defense Council. ... The council also filed a lawsuit against the E.P.A. on Thursday, in conjunction with its annual report on beaches, saying the current clean water standards were outdated. The council said the agency had failed to devise new standards as required by Congress in the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act, passed in 2000. The law included instructions for the agency to update public health standards and the way it tests for pollution in coastal areas by October 2005.

“They’re years behind,” said Nancy Stoner, director of the council’s Clean Water Project. “I’m trying to get them on a schedule to do what Congress told them to do,” she said.

Ms. Stoner said the outdated federal standards were focused largely on testing for bacterial contamination and did not track pollutants like cryptosporidium, which she said caused widespread contamination of drinking water in Milwaukee in 1993.

Thanks, GWB. Your legacy will linger on the beaches of the world, and in our bodies.

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links for 2006-08-04

DCI group redux


TPM Muckraker has more on the sleazy PR firm, DCI Group, discussed earlier this morning.

TPMmuckraker August 3, 2006 02:36 PM
The Wall Street Journal article today fingering dirty-tricks firm DCI Group did not evade our notice.

The PR firm's colorful history includes a fake grassroots movement using the personae of dead people, paying $4,000 a head for seniors who would say nice things about the disastrous Medicare discount drug card, and a disingenuous attack on Eric Schlosser's burger-bashing “Fast Food Nation.” (They also enjoy the assistance of Swift Boat Veterans' Chris LaCivitas.) Oh, and it's the former dirty-tricks HQ for James Tobin, convicted New Hampshire Phone Jammer.

parenthetical note: those DCI chaps are nothing if not tech savvy. Glancing at my site traffic today, I see at least 8 visits from the DCI domain. And I watched the video - if you don't watch it, you aren't missing much. Al Gore is really too tall to be mistaken for The Penguin, and the whole point seems to be that only a hypnotized few are bothering to watch Al Gore's movie. Everyone else is going to watch the latest X-Men movie (?????)

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I've dabbled with HDR, but only in Photoshop CS2, and no photo has yet emerged from my laboratory that I think is any good. I suppose I will try again when I have a moment to set up a tripod. Some HDR photos look extremely interesting, but some just funky, which is not usually the effect I try for. See this Flickr group (HDR) for expessions of both.

Was It Done With a Lens, or a Brush? - New York Times
a software technology known as H.D.R., for high dynamic range photography. ...H.D.R. is one of many digital darkroom techniques catching the fancy of amateur photographers. With the rising popularity of digital single-lens reflex cameras and more powerful personal computers has come a growing interest in visual experiments.

At the same time, software makers like Adobe are increasingly automating many of those processes, including H.D.R. While they may not always be straightforward, tricky digital techniques no longer require months of experience or hours of study.

Although H.D.R. photos are often compared to paintings, they are an attempt by software makers to allow photography to more accurately mimic human vision.

Dynamic range measures how great a difference between light and dark can be captured by a digital camera or film. Relative to the human eye, all photography has a limited dynamic range, and digital photography suffers even more than film.

..The H.D.R. pictures produced by Photoshop CS and Photomatix vary in much the same way as photos taken with different brands of film. The Photoshop images are technically more accurate and make details visible in all areas of the photo, regardless of their lightness or darkness.

Photomatix pictures after one mapping are far more dramatic, although sometimes at the expense of some details and an increase in image noise.

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Facts are dangerous items, part 127.
(see part 126, for example)

Sweltering summer nights are a US trend :
WASHINGTON -- America in recent years has been sweltering through three times more than its normal share of extra-hot summer nights, government weather records indicate. And some scientists say the trend is a sign of manmade global warming. From 2001 to 2005, nearly 30 percent of the nation had ``much above normal“ average summertime minimum temperatures, according to the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. By definition, ``much above normal” means low temperatures that are in the highest 10 percent on record. Yet in both 2005 and 2003, 36 percent of the nation had much above normal summer minimums.

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New media, Exxon, and Al Gore


Speaking of Al Gore and dangerous facts, apparently Exxon-Mobil hired (allegedly) a PR firm to make a humor-challenged two minute YouTube refutation of An Inconvenient Truth.

(video here)

Anyway... - Where Did That Video Spoofing Gore's Film Come From?

Everyone knows Al Gore stars in the global warming documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.” But who created “Al Gore's Penguin Army,” a two-minute video now playing on

In the video, Mr. Gore appears as a sinister figure who brainwashes penguins and bores movie audiences by blaming the Mideast crisis and starlet Lindsay Lohan's shrinking waist size on global warming. Like other videos on the popular YouTube site, it has a home-made, humorous quality. The video's maker is listed as “Toutsmith,” a 29-year-old who identifies himself as being from Beverly Hills in an Internet profile.

In an email exchange with The Wall Street Journal, Toutsmith didn't answer when asked who he was or why he made the video, which has just over 59,000 views on YouTube. However, computer routing information contained in an email sent from Toutsmith's Yahoo account indicate it didn't come from an amateur working out of his basement.

Instead, the email originated from a computer registered to DCI Group, a Washington, D.C., public relations and lobbying firm whose clients include oil company Exxon Mobil Corp.

A DCI Group spokesman declines to say whether or not DCI made the anti-Gore penguin video, or to explain why Toutsmith appeared to be sending email from DCI's computers. “DCI Group does not disclose the names of its clients, nor do we discuss the work that we do on our clients' behalf,” says Matt Triaca, who heads DCI's media relations shop.

Dave Gardner, an Exxon spokesman, confirms that Exxon is a client of DCI. But he says Exxon had no role in creating the “Inconvenient Truth” spoof. “We, like everyone else on the planet, have seen it, but did not fund it, did not approve it, and did not know what its source was,” Mr. Gardner says.

Ummm, right, plausible deniability. Especially since there have been Google ads (don't have screen shot unfortunately) leading to the video. These were removed soon after the WSJ started asking pointed questions (see below).

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Hot Enough Yet

Facts are dangerous talismans, part the 125th.
(See part 124, for instance)

Bob Herbert has more....

Bob Herbert: Hot Enough Yet?
It may be time to get serious about trying to slow the catastrophic trend of global warming.

The heat wave burned its way east from California, where it killed more than 100 people. It moved relentlessly across the nation’s midsection, sparking record-high temperatures in state after state, mimicking a heat wave that killed more than 700 people in the Midwest in 1995.

For the past couple of days it has tormented the East Coast, draining power systems and creating a hellish environment for the frail and infirm, and especially for the elderly poor struggling to survive without the blessings of air-conditioning.

You can’t blame any single weather event on global warming. But with polar bears drowning because they can’t swim far enough to make it from one ice floe to another; with the once-glorious snows of Kilimanjaro about to bring down the final curtain on their long, long run; with the virtual disappearance of Lake Chad in Africa, which was once the size of Lake Erie, it may be time to get serious about trying to slow this catastrophic trend.

(It’s also time to aggressively counter the dangerous nonsense of people like Senator James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who has been openly contemptuous of the idea that human activity has contributed to global warming, and Senator Conrad Burns, a Montana Republican whose head has always had the habit of migrating to extremely peculiar places, in this instance into the very hot sand.

(Senator Inhofe has said that “man-made global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” Senator Burns, according to a publication called “Environment and Energy Daily,” shrugged the matter off completely, saying: “You remember the ice age? It’s been warming ever since, and there ain’t nothing we can do to stop it.”)

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Lieberman and friends

Especially in politics, one is defined by the friends one keeps. Check out these statements from Joe Lieberman's multiple Republican friends.

direct link here

(from Digby)

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links for 2006-08-03

Tax Haven Abuse

I've been only partially paying attention to these hearings, but I wonder if bank privacy and Bush anti-terrorism measures have been discussed.

The Swamp - Chicago Tribune - Blogs.
“Tax Haven Abuses: The Enablers, The Tools and Secrecy”

That was the title of a hearing held Tuesday by the investigations subcommittee of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The hearing examined how wealthy Americans avoid taxes by funneling assets through off-shore locations like the Cayman Islands, Togo and the Isle of Man. Money launderers have also found them to be very handy places.

Such havens have an estimated $11.8 trillion in rich people's assets, according to one estimate. A new 401-page report [PDF] by congressional investigators says the estimated loss to the U.S. Treasury is between $40 billion and $70 billion of revenues annually.

These tax havens have been recognized as a problem for decades. As the staff's report mentioned, the same subcommittee in 1983 examined many “similar” problems.

I was struck by the word “enablers” in the title of the hearing. I wondered if the report identified the Bush administration as one of such enabler since critics have said the administration has failed to move aggressively to crack down on the use of havens by wealthy American taxpayers.

Back in July 2001, after attending another congressional hearing on the issue, I wrote an article on off-shore tax havens which mentioned the Bush administration's opposition to international efforts to make these havens more transparent. In part, there was a reluctance, stated by President Bush's first Treasury Secretary, Paul O'Neill to dictate to another nation “what the structure of its tax code should be, period.”

Conservatives also balked because of privacy concerns.

But there was no mention that I could find in the lengthy congressional report of the administration being an enabler in the tax-haven problem.

(more here)

The rich do have different rules applied to them, no doubt, and being a Republican corporate donor helps as well. Add to the 'faux Christian' file.

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House on the river bridges 8 decades

Forgot to post this earlier.
LaSalle St Bridge w sky

House on the river bridges 8 decades
Hidden world will soon become museum The fascinating and long-hidden world inside one of Chicago's stylish bridge-tender towers soon will be opened to visitors

Elegant and slightly mysterious, the bridge-tender towers that have stood sentinel alongside the Chicago River's drawbridges for nearly a century often tickle the fancy of Chicagoans and tourists who wonder what it's like inside.

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A Choice for the Rogues

Mr. Friedman is deluding himself if he thinks the Bushies actually have a plan. I think they've alrady started to 'run out the clock', hoping that Diebold isn't bought by Soros, planning on letting Jeb fix the problems leading up to the End of Times. Err, something.

Thomas Friedman: A Choice for the Rogues
Both Iran and North Korea have a very high incentive to maintain ambiguity about their nuclear capabilities when we are so ambiguous about our intentions toward them.

I seriously doubt the Bush team will succeed in curtailing the Iranian or North Korean nuclear programs until it resolves a contradiction that has been at the heart of this administration from the beginning: Is it for a change of regime or a change of behavior in Iran and North Korea? Because the Bush team has refused to make up its mind, it’s gotten neither. All it’s gotten are two better-armed rogues.

How so? Go back to the impressive deal that the Bush team did pull off in 2003 to get Libya’s leader, Muammar el-Qaddafi, to give up his crude nuclear weapons program. How did that happen?

The official Bush narrative is that Mr. Qaddafi looked at the U.S. invasion of Iraq, got frightened out of his mind, and called Roto-Rooter, a k a, the Bush administration, and said, “Oh my god, there are nukes in my basement, get these out of here!”

Wrong, argues Robert Litwak, the director of international security studies at the Woodrow Wilson Center and an expert on rogue states.

“What actually brought Qaddafi around was a tacit but clear U.S. security assurance that if he did give up his nuclear program the U.S. would not seek to oust him from power,” said Mr. Litwak. “That is what made the difference. ... If Libya gave up its unconventional weapons, the U.S. would give up its efforts at regime change.”

What has been missing from the Bush approach to Iran and North Korea is that kind of clear choice. For instance, even after the administration agreed to participate in the European-led diplomatic effort to get Iran to abandon its nuclear program, it has continued to seek funding to destabilize the Iranian regime, and it has made clear, as Condoleezza Rice said on May 21: “Iran is a troublemaker in the international system. ... Security assurances are not on the table.”

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Mels Tequila Sunrise

MoDo slums a little. Do we really care that much whether Gibson is a raving anti-semite or just a Holocaust denier? I always thought the gay mafia ran Hollywood anyway.

Maureen Dowd: Mel's Tequila Sunrise Now that he has gotten into trouble for his bigoted views, Mel Gibson has thrown himself at the mercy of the object of his bigotry.

My mom always warned me to stay away from tequila.

She would have given the same advice to Mel. She loved Mel, and always thought he would have been perfect for the role of Michael Collins, the romantic fighter for Irish independence who came to a bloody end in a roadside ambush in 1922.

Michael Collins came a cropper in County Cork, not County Quirk, as Mel Gibson did, careering along the same Pacific Coast winding yellow brick road where Robert Downey Jr. and Nick Nolte were snagged by the Malibu police in other momentous events in American history.

Mr. Gibson appears to believe that the Jews control everything. It is an ancient anti-Semitic insult. But now that he has gotten into trouble for his bigoted views, he has thrown himself at the mercy of the object of his bigotry.

He said he wants to “meet with leaders in the Jewish community, with whom I can have a one-on-one discussion to discern the appropriate path for healing.”

He added: “I am in the process of understanding where those vicious words came from during that drunken display, and I am asking the Jewish community, whom I have personally offended, to help me on my journey through recovery.”

It’s not the first time he’s gotten in trouble for intolerance. When “Braveheart” came out in 1995, Mr. Gibson ranted and raved when Frank Bruni, then the movie critic for The Detroit Free Press, asked him about some reportedly homophobic remarks he had made three years earlier to a Spanish-language magazine. The magazine quoted him as saying that he became an actor “despite” the fear that it might lead people to assume he was gay. Ecce homo! He told Frank that the arbiters of political of correctness were “tantamount to Nazis.”

Now that the volatile Mr. Gibson has pleaded for guidance from leaders of the American Jewish community, I decided to consult the only one I know. I asked Leon Wieseltier, the author of “Kaddish ” and the literary editor of The New Republic, how he would help Mel heal.

“He has been a very bad goy,’’ Leon said.

”It is really rich to behold Gibson asking Jews to behave like Christians. Has he forgotten how bellicose and wrathful and unforgiving we are? Why would a people who start all the wars make a peace? Perhaps he’s feeling a little like Jesus, hoping that the Jews don’t do their worst and preparing himself for more evidence of their disappointing behavior.

“I have always wondered why people who believe that we control the world do not have more respect for us. Take that cop who arrested Gibson. Do you think it was a coincidence that he was a Jew? We have been following Gibson’s every move since he released that movie. The other night, when our uniformed brother spotted him bobbing and weaving in his star car, we saw an opportunity and we took it. Don’t blame us. It’s what Yahweh would do.

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links for 2006-08-02

Harry Smith Tribute

A veritable rock-snob glitterati guest list.

Pitchfork: Wilco, Beck, Sonic Youth on Harry Smith Tribute

The late Harry Smith, renowned musicologist, filmmaker, and painter, will be soon receive the tribute treatment with a four-disc box set titled The Harry Smith Project: Anthology of American Folk Music Revisited, due October 24 on Shout! Factory.

The two-CD/two-DVD collection draws performances from Wilco, Beck, Lou Reed, Nick Cave, Beth Orton, Richard Thompson, David Johansen, Steve Earle, and more. In addition, it holds a new documentary on Smith's continuous influence on contemporary music, as well as three of his short films.

cool. I'll tell you how it sounds in November or so. Full tracklist here

and the expanded CD of the Harry Smith compilation is an essential rock snob box set

Anthology of American Folk Music (Edited by Harry Smith)

“Anthology of American Folk Music (Edited by Harry Smith)” (Various Artists)

Harry Smith wiki


better kinds of birth control

Much more fun than the rhythm method, or the Skeet on the sheets method....

BBC: Cannabis use 'affects conception'
Cannabis use around the time of conception may prevent women getting pregnant, a study in mice suggests.

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Facts are dangerous weapons, part 124.

(See part 123, for instance)

Even Adobe's green building was blindsided by the heat :

Adobe Systems’s San Jose headquarters is one of the most energy-efficient campuses in the country. It’s so “green'’ that the software maker earned the U.S. Green Building Council’s highest marks for becoming a lean, mean, energy-conserving machine.

Yet the killer heat wave that rolled through Northern California last week almost brought the buildings to their knees. ”It was so hot, that finally we thought, `Can we blow on this building to cool it down?’ ‘’ said Ted Ludwick, Cushman & Wakefield’s assistant chief engineer for Adobe, on Wednesday.

Adobe has employed practically every high-tech energy-saving device known to reduce energy usage and consequently, its costs. The company has sprinklers that talk to weather satellites to determine if rain is predicted or if it’s time to water. A central system tracks lights and water usage to determine what can be turned off or down to save resources.

But at 2 p.m. Monday, July 24, the triple-digit heat was at its worst and Adobe had emptied its bag of tricks.

“We used more electricity than we ever had. We hit levels we weren’t supposed to hit for another five years,'’ Ludwick said. ”We had no chiller left and we were running out of power. It was drastic. We thought, what do we have left?'’

Finally, Ludwick noticed that everyone’s blinds were open and he said, “Let’s close them.'’

It worked. ”It got dark, but every little bit helps.'’ That simple step deflected the brutal afternoon sun and reduced the demand by 300 kilowatts. If it hadn’t, the company was prepared to send employees home and use its remaining energy to run the data centers.

Our blinds have been down for days now, and I'm sure it helps reduce the air temperature in our office, a little. Miss seeing sunshine, but whatcha gonna do? My cayenne pepper on the patio is rapidly turning red, so something is happy.

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I hate the heat

Current conditions

Heat sucks
screen shot of current conditions

snowy tree
I hate the heat - single biggest reason I moved from Austin Tx, too many days like today. Bleh. Give me snow anytime.

Snow is grand

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Frist Fails to Disclose Foundation Role

However could this be? A Republican breaking ethics rules? Please bring me my fainting couch, ASAP!

Frist Fails to Disclose Foundation Role :
WASHINGTON -- Majority Leader Bill Frist hasn't been following all the Senate's rules when it comes to disclosing details about his finances.
...Frist is under federal investigation for selling other shares of HCA stock he owned last year around the time insiders were selling and when the stock price hit a 52-week high.

His foundation did not make charitable contributions in 2004 or 2003. However, but [sic] that was allowed under IRS payout rules that generally require annual donations because the foundation in 2002 made a large contribution of roughly $877,000.

That went to the Montgomery Bell Academy, a private boys' school in Nashville that Frist attended. The money, which went toward the school's endowment, has been the foundation's main charitable gift over the years.

....Frist and his siblings are vice presidents of another charitable foundation bearing their parents' names. Frist also failed to list his position with that foundation on his Senate disclosure form

Cat-Killer Frist claims ignorance, of course, which may be technically true (he does seem to have the same general IQ as the current Resident in the White House), but that still isn't a valid excuse.

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Holy Joe has long been a DINO

Cory McEnroe writes in Salon of the frequency of Lieberman's capitulation to Republicans.

How Joe went wrong | :

Lieberman's years in public life have been a steady drumbeat of disappointment for Connecticut Democrats, a liberal lot who do not share his often conservative views. End-of-life issues are just one example. In 1992, the state's Democratic voters picked Jerry Brown over Bill Clinton in the presidential primary. Lieberman, meanwhile, spent the 1990s joining cultural conservative Bill Bennett in a kind of Sherman's March through American culture, handing out Silver Sewer awards for sex and violence and denouncing such pornographic abominations as “Married … With Children.”

Tag teaming with Bennett was one of the senator's early experiments in what he calls “bipartisanship,” which often entails adopting Republican positions without leveraging any concession from the other side. Tell me how Bill Bennett moved toward the middle to accommodate Joe Lieberman. Pretty much the way Bush and Cheney moved to the center to meet Democrats on Iraq. Not at all.

Yet Lieberman's reputation in Connecticut is not purely that of an out-of-step conservative. It's much more complicated, and frustrating, than that. He's a serial raiser and dasher and re-raiser of hopes.

Gays trust him because he's voted with them on a lot of big issues, but they don't trust him because he voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. Once he even collaborated with Sen. Jesse Helms on a measure that would have stripped federal funding from public schools that counseled suicidal gay teens that their lifestyle was OK.

Women trust him because he's a reliable vote for abortion rights and don't trust him because he went off the reservation for the only significant vote (cloture) on the Supreme Court nomination of Samuel Alito. During the recent debate over requiring hospitals to provide emergency contraception for rape victims, Lieberman emitted a shockingly callous, and now famous, sound bite. He said it's never more than “a short car ride” in crowded Connecticut to a more accommodating hospital.

That's just the beginning of the catalog of gripes. Long before there were those TV love fests with Fox's Sean Hannity that so enrage lefty bloggers there were earlier love fests with none other than Pat Robertson. On the apocalyptic evangelist's “700 Club,” Lieberman complained about moral relativism, said there was too little religion in public life, and said he was pleased that people of faith were taking their principles into the political arena. In 2003, Connecticut political writer Paul Bass chronicled the scramble by the senator's staff to scrub his image from a fundraising infomercial (also starring Robertson and Jerry Falwell) for a conservative religious group with which he had been involved. His 2004 campaign for the presidential nomination was so pitched toward the conservative, moralistic, Southern elements of the party that I jokingly suggested the slogan: “He may be a Jew, but he's a better Christian than you are.”

I only hope Barack Obama takes note, and doesn't become a Lieberman for the 21st century.

(DINO = Democrat in Name Only)

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Evolution’ in Kansas

| 1 Comment

Perhaps Kansas is more complex an organism than reported by the media.

Evolution’s Backers in Kansas Mount a Counterattack
Moderates hope to gain seats on the State Board of Education and reverse teaching standards that challenge evolution.

Less than a year after a conservative Republican majority on the State Board of Education adopted rules for teaching science containing one of the broadest challenges in the nation to Darwin’s theory of evolution, moderate Republicans and Democrats are mounting a fierce counterattack. They want to retake power and switch the standards back to what they call conventional science.

Like the Red Blue state metaphor, state-level politics and culture are not monolithic.

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