September 2006 Archives

Disgraced Foley Exits

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Oh I see, he resigned to protect his fellow pederast Republicans, not because he felt any shame for his behavior. I guess since the Republican leadership knew of Foley's folly for almost a year, and did nothing, Foley didn't foresee any problems running for re-election.

Disgraced, Rep. Foley Exits in a Hurry - New York Times : Less than six weeks from a tough election for Republicans who control an already ethically tainted Congress, the more common stick-it-out approach to scandal was cast aside.

Foley, a moderate Republican whose work in Congress included protections for children against sexual predators, repeatedly e-mailed a boy working as a page in August 2005, asking for his picture, asking what he wanted for his birthday and making chatty comments about school and about another page who he said was ''in really great shape.''

The page told a colleague the e-mails ''freaked me out'' and were ''sick,'' according to transcripts posted online by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Then the AP article descends into faux 'fair and balanced territory', mentioning Bill Clinton, natch, and Barney Frank. Uhh, yeah, just the same.

Wired has more details

Rep. John Shimkus, R-Illinois, chairman of the Page Board that oversees the congressional work-study program for high schoolers, said he did investigate but Foley falsely assured him he was only mentoring the boy. The spokesman for Speaker Dennis Hastert, Ron Bonjean, said the top House Republican had not known about the allegations. Shimkus said he learned about them in late 2005.

Just as Shimkus' explanation was released, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California proposed to the House that its ethics committee investigate and make a preliminary report in 10 days. She demanded to know who knew of the messages, whether Foley had other contacts with pages and when the Republican leadership was notified of Foley's conduct.

Instead, majority Republicans engineered a vote to allow the ethics panel to decide whether there should even be an investigation.

Rep. Thomas Reynolds, head of the House Republican election effort, said Saturday he told Speaker Dennis Hastert months ago about concerns that a fellow GOP lawmaker had sent inappropriate messages to a teenage boy. Hastert's office said aides referred the matter to the proper authorities last fall but they were only told the messages were ''over-friendly.''

Reynolds, R-N.Y., was told about e-mails sent by Rep. Mark Foley and is now defending himself from Democratic accusations that he did too little

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curses to lob at Faux Christians


from Cecil Adams, we read:

The Straight Dope: Do other languages have obscenities like those of English? English obscenities are a pale shadow of the invective used in other languages. The F-word is the least of it. If there's a language that doesn't have an equivalent, I've yet to hear about it. Poles have pierdolic, the French foutre (from the Latin futuere), Soviet Georgians secems ... you get the idea.

As for fangooloo (in my neighborhood we pronounced it fongool), I'm afraid you've heard the expurgated translation. According to Kevin Beary's Florentine Locutions (1991), it's properly spelled vaffanculo, a contraction of va a fare in culo, and literally means “go do [it] in the ass,” i.e., bugger off, fuck off, fuck you. “Some Italians affirm that the ass referred to is that of one's interlocutor, while others assert that the orifice in question is not yours or mine or anyone's in particular, but rather the universal anus,” Beary says.

Vaffanculo is merely the best known of a rich tradition of Italian oaths and imprecations, although the consensus is that Spanish is the champ in this department. Herewith a few of the more printable international classics, culled from the pages of Reinhold Aman's Maledicta: The International Journal of Verbal Aggression:

Mecagum les cinc llagues de Crist, “I shit on the five wounds of Christ,” Catalan. Even more bloodcurdling is Mecagum Deu, en la creu, en el fuster que la feu i en el fill de puta que va plantar el pi, “I shit on God, on the cross, on the carpenter who made it and on the son of a whore who planted the pine.”


Jagshemash, Premier Bush

I don't think I'll read Woodward's new book, unless I find it on the remainder racks, or someone gives me a copy, but I'm certainly going to see Sacha Cohen's new movie. I'm guessing MoDo has already been to a screening.

Maureen Dowd: Jagshemash, Premier Bush For lowbrow antics and silly stunts, the Bush administration is the clear winner. As Ali G would say, respec'.

Borat Sagdiyev, the Kazakh television reporter with the bushy mustache and cheap gray suit, showed up at the White House this week with an invitation for the man he calls the “mighty U.S. warlord.”

He wanted to invite “Premier George Walker Bush,” along with “other American dignitaries” like Mel Gibson and O.J. Simpson, to a screening of his new documentary about his anti-Semitic, misogynistic, scatological trek across America, followed by a cocktail party/summit meeting, no doubt featuring Kazakh-mopolitans made with fermented horse urine.

“We’ll make discussion of cooperation between the two countries at Hooters,” Borat told a befuddled White House guard.

Borat, of course, is Sacha Baron Cohen, the successor to Peter Sellers, a wildly original and brainy Cambridge grad and observant Jew from a distinguished British family. His HBO characters, the rapper Ali G, the fashion reporter Bruno, and Borat, collide with reality, exposing prejudice and puncturing pomposity.

The real Kazakhstan dictator was honored by President Bush at a state dinner this week. Nursultan Nazarbayev may have a corrupt and authoritarian regime where political opponents have been known to die very, very suddenly, but, hey, he’s got oil and he’s an ally in the war on terror. Respec’, as Ali G would say.

So Mr. Cohen popped up as well, loping around D.C. to promote his new movie

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

The satirist held a news conference in front of the Kazakh Embassy — as real officials inside fumed — to proclaim that any protestations that Kazakhstan treats women equally or tolerates all religions are “disgusting fabrications” by “evil nitwits” in rival Uzbekistan.

Mr. Cohen is a genius at turning reality into farce, taking lowbrow humor to high places, but he has met his match in W.


links for 2006-09-30

Why I left Texas

in microcosm. Of course, who would have guessed in 1994 that Texas would export one of its worst to run the whole fracking country? Run into a ditch filled with excrement and cowering Democrats, that is.

Booman Tribune ~ Culture War? No, It's a war on Culture : Highly respected art teacher takes her kids on an approved trip to the Dallas Museum of Art. Principal urged her to take the kids. Parents signed consent forms for all the kids who went. Some kids report seeing a (gasp) nude sculpture at an art museum. So what happens to the teacher?
Yeah, she got fired.

Raw Story

An award-winning Texas art teacher who was reprimanded after one of her fifth-grade students saw a nude sculpture during a trip to a museum has lost her job.
The school board in Frisco has voted not to renew Sydney McGee's contract after 28 years. She has been on administrative leave.

I wonder who complained? If Sydney McGee's life wasn't turned upside down, it would be a funny event. As it is, just horrible. Are human bodies really that perverted that a single glance of a bare breasted Madonna (or whatever it was) is really worth firing a 28 year veteran of public school? What did the parents who signed the permission slip expect would happen? Was it a Norman Rockwell exhibit?

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Young Pippin


Late last Sunday night, we drove out to West Chicago (a town about 45 minutes west of Chicago) and picked up a kitten we've named Pippin. A friend who lives on ten acres in semi-rural Kansas rescued Pippin from the mouth of a neighbor's dog. The dog was trotting around proudly displaying his new toy, but Pippin was none the worse for wear (except for a broken tail tip). We guestimate Pippin's age to be around 8 weeks.

Our friend took Pippin to the vet two weeks ago, and the vet expressed surprise at the enormity of Pippin's testicles, remarking, “He's got big balls! They're so well defined!” Hence, Pippin's middle name, BB. Enjoy them while you can, young Pippin. They'll be snipped soon enough so you too can run for Senator on the Democratic ticket.

sad Pippin

almost stopped playing long enough to take this photo.

Pippen in the Grass
We grow our own cat grass (from seeds purchased at The Sprout People)

Pippen Toes
luckily I bathe frequently

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Torture is not an American value redux

Can't even read my normal news sites as I am too disgusted with our pro-torture government, Republican and Democrats both. I'm on board with recall petitions for all the Democrats who couldn't at least make a couple of kabuki movements and at least pretend they were in opposition to destroying the Bill of Rights and habeas corpus. Dick Durbin, Barrack Obama, Russ Feingold, Hillary Clinton and the rest of the Democratic maggots - you all reek with ineptitude. Shining City on the Hill, my ass. I suppose fund raising for re-election and lunching with lobbyists is more important to the Constitution than filibusters. Bah. Don't bother asking me for campaign contributions, I'd be more apt to respond with a gob of expectorant.

Luckily, I have a ton of work to occupy my mind with.

Jerome K. Jerome

“It is impossible to enjoy idling thoroughly unless one has plenty of work to do.”

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links for 2006-09-29

Christian Nation

Well, faux Christian nation. Cursed are the meek, and the peacemakers shall be cast out by God, and all that bullshit, right?

Letter to a Christian Nation
“Letter to a Christian Nation” (Sam Harris)

This sounds like an interesting book.
Book Publisher Tries to Stir Up Emotions to Lift Sales - Just eight days after hitting bookstores, Sam Harris's polemic “Letter to a Christian Nation” is selling so rapidly it has gone into its sixth printing, partly hyped by a marketing campaign aimed at stirring up controversy among the religious right.

The marketing reflects the provocative theme of the book, a philosophical attack on the basic tenets held by all major religions. A self-described atheist, Mr. Harris questions whether the Bible is the work of God. “The idea that the Bible is a perfect guide to morality is simply astounding, given the contents of the book,” he writes. Since being published Sept. 19, the book has reached as high as No. 2 on the best-seller list. More than 110,000 copies are now in print.

The success of the book reflects a two-pronged marketing campaign crafted by its publisher, Bertelsmann AG's Alfred A. Knopf, aimed at both preaching to the converted and trying to rile the opposition.

Armed with an ad budget of $200,000 -- sizable for the publishing industry -- Knopf is running full-page ads in publications with liberal audiences, such as the New Republic, Atlantic Monthly, the New York Times and Harper's. But the publisher also has sought to buy space in Christian publications and conservative Web sites, and it sent copies of the book to conservative outlets and commentators, such as Pat Buchanan.

“We're trying to get this book into the hands of as many conservative Christians as possible,” says Paul Bogaards, a Knopf spokesman. “They have a vested interest in hearing Mr. Harris's arguments because he's attacking the very foundation of their belief system.”

Whether the promotion in the religious community has helped spur sales isn't known. Indeed, some religious outlets refused to run ads for the book. Christianity Today, a monthly magazine, decided the book's content represents the antithesis of the publication's mission, said Brian Ondracek, the magazine's vice president of sales. Also turning down an ad was religious blog, which deemed the book inappropriate for its readers, according to Gil Student, an Orthodox rabbi who oversees the blog.

I wonder though, on a parenthetical note, do Christians support torture? Granted, I am not a Christian, and wouldn't dare speak for their beliefs, but based upon my reading of the Christian scriptures and related texts, torture should be taboo. State sanctioned murder, and tax cuts for the wealthy as well, but that's a topic for discussion some other time.

Why are all the so-called Christians in our government (I'm too disgusted to source my assertion, but I'd estimate 90% of the US Congress are Christians, and the rest are Jewish. I've never heard of any atheists or even wiccas) so gung-ho to put prisoners on crosses and puncture them with nails, or rape (or threaten to rape) prisoners, and whatever else?

Anyway, a pox on them all, faux-Christians all. No magical number of singing verses of American the Beautiful in perfect harmony will bring back any sense of respect for the assholes purportedly representing us. Torture shouldn't ever be acceptable, in any circumstance. All the wiener dog Democrats who didn't want to muss their perfectly coifed hair with the fuss of a filibuster should all be sent to live in a trench outside Baghdad. The Senators who voted for the torture bill should be run out town on a rail, covered with hot tar and the feathers of slaughtered avian flu infested chickens.

Sorry, that's sort of a long parenthetical though. Screw it.

Thousands of people have written to tell me that I am wrong not to believe in God. The most hostile of these communications have come from Christians. This is ironic, as Christians generally imagine that no faith imparts the virtues of love and forgiveness more effectively than their own. The truth is that many who claim to be transformed by Christ’s love are deeply, even murderously, intolerant of criticism. While we may want to ascribe this to human nature, it is clear that such hatred draws considerable support from the Bible. How do I know this? The most disturbed of my correspondents always cite chapter and verse.“

So begins Letter to a Christian Nation…

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Bottom of the World

From (you might have to watch an ad if you can't click directly on the MP3)

Daily Download: “Bottom of the World,” Tom Waits

A free download from Tom Waits' upcoming triple-disc release, Orphans,...a folky waltz in the classic Waitsian mode of theatrically down-and-out despair.

“Orphans” (Tom Waits)

From the album page at Anti

...What’s Orphans? I don’t know. Orphans is a dead end kid driving a coffin with big tires across the Ohio River wearing welding goggles and a wife beater with a lit firecracker in his ear.

At the center of this record is my voice. I try my best to chug, stomp, weep, whisper, moan, wheeze, scat, blurt, rage, whine, and seduce. With my voice, I can sound like a girl, the boogieman, a Theremin, a cherry bomb, a clown, a doctor, a murderer…I can be tribal. Ironic. Or disturbed. My voice is really my instrument.

Kathleen and I wanted the record to be like emptying our pockets on the table after an evening of gambling, burglary, and cow tipping. We enjoy strange couplings, that’s how we got together. We wanted Orphans to be like a shortwave radio show where the past is sequenced with the future, consisting of things you find on the ground, in this world and no world, or maybe the next world. Whatever you imagine that to be.

If a record really works at all, it should be made like a homemade doll with tinsel for hair and seashells for ears stuffed with candy and money. Or like a good woman’s purse with a Swiss army knife and a snake bite kit.

Orphans contains songs for all occasions. Some of the songs were written in turmoil and recorded at night in a moving car, others were written in hotel rooms and recorded in Hollywood during big conflamas. That’s when conflict weds drama. At any rate these are the ones that survived the flood and were rescued from the branches of trees after the water’s retreat.

Gathering all this material together was like rounding up chickens at the beach. It’s not like you go into vault and check out what you need. Most of it was lost or buried under the house. Some of the tapes I had to pay ransom for to a plumber in Russia. You fall into the vat. We started to write just to climb out of the vat. Then you start listening and sorting and start writing in response to what you hear. And more recording. And then you get bit by a spider, go down the gopher hole, and make a whole different record. That was the process pretty much the last three years.

....Each of the CD’s are separately arranged and sub-titled – “Brawlers,” “Bawlers” and “Bastards” to encapsulate the full range of Waits’ nomadic scope of musical styles.

Brawlers is packed with full throated juke joint stomp, boogies and riotous blues. It’s roadhouse Waits,..He chugs, whistles and screams. It’s primal steaming surreal blues. He channels the Stones, Beefheart, Muddy Waters and T-Rex. One new one, “Low Down” is raw garage rock with Waits’ 20 year old son, Casey on drums and San Francisco’s white trash blues icon, Ron Hacker, on guitar.

Bawlers – Lonesome ballads about the sadness at the end of the road are framed by tender songs of innocence and green hope. The plaintive hill country laments of, “Tell It To Me” and the cautionary tale, “Fannin Street” blend poignantly with saloon songs of betrayal and despair (“The World Keeps Turning”) Celtic waltzes and bitter cabaret torch songs like, “It’s Over” and “Little Drop Of Poison”, all of which explore what the heart gives and what it takes away.

Bastards – explores the strange and unusual side of Waits, who is peculiar by nature. Contained here is experimental music and scary tales. There are uncategorizable diversions into this dark side. It tunnels beneath the city with spiels, rants, mouth rhythms, including a poignant reminiscence of car ownership, a Ramones cover and a version of Daniel Johnston’s, “King Kong,” a disturbing bedtime story,(not for children faint of heart),and a poem by Charles Bukowski. It has insects, murder, drowning and insanity. Or as ma says, the full dinner menu.

Of course, I've already ordered it.

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Blowing own horn redux

My photo showcased at Gapers Block again. Cool.

Gapers Block - A site about Chicago, IL.

(direct link here)

Susie China
store front on 3248 N Lincoln Ave. Love some of the architectural details - probably meant something to the original owner.

I aged the photo in Photoshop, added a little color noise, and tone, and changed the light. I made the sky blue, but it looked unnatural, so I removed it. Mostly just was a cool store front that I've meant to photograph for a long time.


links for 2006-09-28

Republicans Want to Lose

Surprisingly, I want the Republicans to lose too.

Why Some Republicans Want to Lose - As the White House and its Republican allies on Capitol Hill work to retain control of Congress in November's elections, a small but vocal band of conservative iconoclasts say they would prefer to see their own party lose.
White House officials wouldn't welcome the stream of subpoenas and investigations that could come from Democratic-controlled congressional committees.
We could only hope the Democratic doofuses of the Senate don't frack it up (looking directly at you, alleged centrists, Barrack Obama, Harry Reid and your minions)....

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Latin Terrorists


All day I've been letting this phrase reverberate in my mind, and I cannot figure out exactly what the implication is.

White House Releases Portions of Iraq-War Critique - The four pages of findings from the National Intelligence Estimate, representing the input of 16 government agencies, follow days of criticism sparked by portions that were leaked last week. They also come in the run-up to midterm elections in which the conflict has become a defining issue. In them, analysts conclude that while the leadership of al Qaeda has suffered serious damage in Iraq and the wider war on terror, the threat from Islamic extremists has spread in numbers and geographic reach.

The NIE seeks to assess the near-term capabilities of al Qaeda and other militant Islamist groups. It said U.S.-led counter-terrorism operations have “seriously damaged” al Qaeda's senior leadership, but the group continues to spread its ideology by breaking into more diffuse cells and communicating through the Internet. The NIE said Islamists have made particular gains in spreading their influence into Europe, and warned that non-Muslim groups in Latin America and Asia who share al Qaeda's anti-American agenda could also resort to terrorist activities.

Chavez? or The Shining Path? or what? An escalation of the (phony) Drug War? Perhaps more astute parsers of government-speak could figure it out. Or not. Could just be a smoke screen.

PDF of the report available here

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Early morning meeting

Did I Tell You?
Did I Tell You? camera accident turned out somewhat interesting. Rickshaw/pedicab on N. Lincoln Avenue, north of Ashland. Photographer full of wine and unable to quickly comprehend shutter speed.

Save Our Oney
Save Our Oney hot air balloon, resting, early in the morning.

Obsessive much?

links for 2006-09-27

Comics and Religion

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Might be a good gift for someone in my household.

Up, Up, and Oy Vey!: How Jewish History, Culture, and Values Shaped the Comic Book Superhero

“Up, Up, and Oy Vey!: How Jewish History, Culture, and Values Shaped the Comic Book Superhero” (Weinstein Simcha)

NYT review

...when Rabbi Weinstein speaks of repentance, he often thinks of a young man he met decades ago by the name of Peter Parker.

Parker had been walking home after competing in a wrestling match, vain in the aftermath of his victory, and as a robber dashed past him, he did nothing. That same robber proceeded to attack and kill Parker’s uncle.

Coming upon the scene, the nephew was struck by such guilt and remorse that he resolved to spend the rest of his life fighting crime.

As any fan of comic books, including Rabbi [Simcha] Weinstein, would recognize, Peter Parker is Spider-Man, created by Stan Lee and drawn initially by Jack Kirby and then Steve Ditko. Parker’s moment of moral awakening occurred in the first issue of the Spider-Man strip, published in 1962 and discovered by Rabbi Weinstein during his own boyhood in the early 80’s.

Something else that Rabbi Weinstein came to learn much more recently was that Lee and Kirby were Jewish — born Stanley Lieber and Jacob Kurtzberg, respectively. So it seemed to the rabbi no accident that their comic resonated with a quintessentially Jewish theological theme.

That insight, among others drawn from Rabbi Weinstein’s study of the classic superhero comics, infuses a new book, “Up, Up and Oy Vey!” The volume, which has nearly sold out its first run of 5,000 copies, contends that writer-artists of the classic comics, many of them Jewish, were influenced by their religious heritage in devising characters and plots.

“I feel queasy when I read people who use pop culture to try to proselytize,” said Rabbi Weinstein, a member of the Lubavitcher Hasidic sect who is the campus rabbi at Pratt Institute. “And I didn’t want to enforce my own fantasy.

”But I knew the writers were Jewish. That’s a historical fact. And when I bought all the comics, and gave them my rabbi’s reading, I saw something there. Judaism is filled with superheroes and villains — Samson, Pharaoh. And it’s a religion rich in storytelling and in themes of being moral, ethical, spiritual.“

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Pervez Has Left the Building

New forms of media part of book tour for Pervez Musharraf, including the Daily Show....

In the Line of Fire: A Memoir
“In the Line of Fire: A Memoir” (Pervez Musharraf)

The Blog | Kevin Bleyer: Pervez Has Left the Building | The Huffington Post Pervez Musharraf, President of Pakistan, knower of Osama's whereabouts, launcher of coups, target of six assassination attempts, appeared as a guest on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

So today was an unusual day at “The Daily Show.” Bulletproof glass was installed in front of Jon's desk in the studio. There was a “sweep” of my office by what was evidently a satire-sniffing dog (and, I can only assume, a Pakistani dog, because when I asked him where Osama was, he fell suspiciously silent.) Add to that a few a snipers on the roof of our building - right above a huge banner that reads, “Welcome to Comedy Central's World News Headquarters: Not Responsible for Lost or Stolen Items.”

So you can appreciate the dissonance I feel. Traditionally, comedy relies more on hecklers than snipers. And diplomats willing to sit for an interview usually prefer the terra firma of CNN over the whoopee cushion of Comedy Central.

To be sure, the hard-to-come-by interview -- the “get -- isn't an uncommon phenomenon here at The Daily Show. We've had high-profile dignitaries, low-profile indignitaries, stars you've heard of, authors you should have read. All of whom Jon interviews with insight and aplomb. And yet, it's jarring when we, as the proprietors of a ”fake news“ talk show as likely to feature fart jokes as policy analysis, have as a guest someone who's not only a real newsmaker, but who's making the exact kind of page-one news that we're inclined to cover as one of our headlines.

I mean, it was Pervez Musharraf, for &#$@'s sake.

Don't get me wrong. We were thrilled to have him as a guest. (Did I mention: he's Pervez Musharraf, for &#$@'s sake?) We take our job, and our comedy, seriously. But for weeks we've been trying to decipher what prompts a man like him with a job like his at a time like this to swing by a horse-stable adjacent studio like ours (aside from the obvious: that most 18-to-34-year-olds get their terror updates from our show than from any other terror source). We considered a few other reasons, all equally likely:

a) He's a fan
b) He's on the hunt for Osama, and suspects bin Laden might be hiding out in our studio audience
c) He's written a memoir that needs hawking

We've since learned that a) and c) are true, though in both cases I can't help but think that he might have more pressing matters on his mind.

Like, say, b).

And while we're on that point:

Did he break news? A little.
Did he break wind? I'm not telling. You'll just have to tune in.

I wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Musharraf's book doesn't get another bump on

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Bob Wills

Probably because my formative, musical years were spent in Austin, doing drugs and listening to late night college radio, I have an inordinate fondness for Bob.

The Legends of Country Music
“The Legends of Country Music” (Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys)

Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys: Western-Swing Hype Man–Icon Invents, uh, Everything Western-swing hype man icon invents, uh, everything

Beginning down South in the early 1930s, Bob Wills turned what is technically known as “pretty much everything” into a singular sound, challenging audiences as it suavely extended an arm and escorted them to the dancefloor. Later categorized as “western swing,” Wills and His Texas Playboys' grooves sample ragtime, bluegrass, vaudeville, c&w, and swing—Ellingtonian swing.

A four-disc box set of 105 remastered tracks, Legends of Country Music: Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys casts doubt on the notion that several allegedly original pop music developments emerged only in the past 50 years; Bob was an early originator in disciplines including but not limited to hollering, waxing ironic, and rocking out.

Wills's ego was as vigorous as his liver was sickly. When he didn't go missing on a terrific bender, he usually appeared onstage in his uniform: a white Stetson on his head and a cigar between his grinning teeth. In 1975, after years of illness, he died at the age of 70. Along with Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley, Wills is a member of both the Country Music and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Consider: To whom does Jim Morrison owe “Do it, Robbie, do it”? Bob Wills. The peaceful accord between horns and electric guitars? Bob Wills brokered it. They Might Be Giants? They Might Be Bob Wills's Boogie Chillun.


Decisions Decisions

GM and Toyota Bet Big

Slightly more on the pickup push of 2006.

GM and Toyota Bet Big That Pickups Pick Up -

General Motors Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. are both about to bet hundreds of millions of dollars that even during a downturn in full-size pickup truck sales, they can attract more buyers.

Big pickup trucks make up the single largest segment in the U.S. auto industry. Some 2.4 million were sold in 2005 -- about one of every seven light vehicles. But this year sales are down 14%, hurt by high gasoline prices and a slowdown in the housing market that has caused contractors and builders to delay new purchases.

In the midst of this slump, both GM and Toyota are now launching redesigned versions of their big rigs. The Chevrolet Silverado started reaching dealerships this month, while the all-new Toyota Tundra, which is being assembled in a new plant in San Antonio, is expected in February 2007.

Created by Campbell-Ewald's office in Warren, Mich., Chevy's advertising is meant to play on patriotic sentiment. It's ground that Chevrolet has trod before with its current “American Revolution” ads.

The first commercial shows snippets of events from the last 50 years and how Americans rebounded from challenges such as the Watergate scandal and Hurricane Katrina.

Probably skips over the Bush Administration disaster though, and probably doesn't mention the 2007 impeachment proceedings.

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Facts need adjustment

because 'the science is in dispute'. Errr, well, apparently, it isn't, at least not by the scientists. Actually, facts are a danger to corporate profits, and thus must be ignored. Won't somebody please think of the profits??!! /Simpson's Church lady voice.

Helen Lovejoy Won't somebody think of the children

Global Temperature Highest in Millennia The planet's temperature has climbed to levels not seen in thousands of years, warming that has begun to affect plants and animals, researchers report in Tuesday's issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

...[ James Hansen of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies], who first warned of the danger of climate change decades ago, said that human-made greenhouse gases have become the dominant climate change factor.

The study said the recent warming has brought global temperature to a level within about one degree Celsius -- 1.8 degree Fahrenheit -- of the maximum temperature of the past million years.

“If further global warming reaches 2 or 3 degrees Celsius, we will likely see changes that make Earth a different planet than the one we know. The last time it was that warm was in the middle Pliocene, about 3 million years ago, when sea level was estimated to have been about 25 meters (80 feet) higher than today,” Hansen said.

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Aiming to Be the Truck of Patriots

Not sure whether to laugh, or sob.

Advertising: Aiming to Be the Truck of Patriots

Starting this weekend, General Motors will run ads that tap into patriotism, positioning the Chevrolet Silverado as America's [gas guzzling] truck.

Pickups are critical to the turnaround efforts at both G.M. and the Ford Motor Company, not only because of their popularity but because the profit margins they carry are many times those of passenger cars.

“G.M.’s full-size pickup line is the single largest contributor to the company’s profitability,” said John Casesa, an automotive analyst and managing partner of Casesa Strategic Advisers in New York. “It’s the backbone of the company’s North American business. It makes a real difference if sales are up or down 5 percent.”

Detroit’s automakers have long encouraged consumers to “buy American,” perhaps most famously through Chrysler’s gregarious former chairman, Lee Iacocca. The Big Three carmakers’ falling market share may be a sign that the buy American sentiment is fading.

How about the fact that “Buy American” is a joke, and just a marketing tool having no basis in reality? What percentage of Chevrolet parts are made in Detroit? What percentage of Toyota parts are made within the borders of the US? What's the effective corporate tax rate for GM? Honda?

Also, I think it is incorrect that the target market doesn't care about fuel efficiency of their trucks, simply, they've decided that engine power is more important to getting work done. If there was a fuel efficient vehicle which was able to haul shite around, it would sell too. Guys like my dad (a recently retired carpenter) aren't stupid, they would rather spend less of their income on gas, but they also have tools and materials that have to be moved, and a Prius isn't going to do it.

I wish an automotive company would spend some engineering resources and build a powerful, fuel efficient truck instead of more of the same old, same old.

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links for 2006-09-26

Axis of Sketchy Allies

MoDo does her part to restore literacy in the White House.

Maureen Dowd: Axis of Sketchy Allies Pakistan is at the heart of the Faustian deal the Bush administration has made.

It helps to plug your book at the White House.

At a news conference with President Bush, Pervez Musharraf was asked about his claim on “60 Minutes” that Richard Armitage had threatened to bomb Pakistan back to the Stone Age if it did not cooperate in routing the Taliban in Afghanistan. After coyly sidestepping the question, saying he had to save such juicy tidbits for his book’s publication next week, he shot up over 1,000 spots on

In the Line of Fire: A Memoir

“In the Line of Fire: A Memoir” (Pervez Musharraf)

General Musharraf told Steve Kroft he found the Stone Age crack “very rude,’’ and Mr. Armitage was on the defensive yesterday, explaining that he had been tough with Pakistan just after 9/11 but had not made any Flintstones threats.

The former deputy to Colin Powell needn’t apologize. That was the last time our foreign policy was on track, when we were pursuing the real enemy. It’s all been downhill from there.

The Pakistan president is a smooth operator, a military dictator cruising around the capital with his elegant wife and enormous security contingent, talking about how much he likes democracy, which he won’t yet allow.

He may have more respect for checks and balances than Dick Cheney, but that’s not saying much.

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The Sacrifice

per conservation with Geoff, I'm going to search for the Sven Nykvist influence in this film, once the Chicago USPS deigns to deliver me a copy, that is.

The Sacrifice
“The Sacrifice” (Andrei Tarkovsky)
aka Offret

Shipped: The Sacrifice / Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky opens his final film with friends gathering to celebrate Alexander's (Erland Josephson) birthday. The party is interrupted when it's announced that World War III has begun and mankind is hours away from annihilation. Alexander responds with a promise to God that he'll give up everything, including his child, if war is averted.

Apparently, even masters have problems with mechanical equipment:

The cottage burnt down while the film jammed in the camera and the crew could not reload with new in time, hence it had to be reconstructed and burnt a second time.


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EPA and your lungs

As follow up to this earlier post about the EPA wanting to kill us all slowly, this morning we read:

The Corpus Callosum: More About the EPA's Malfeasance
the EPA actually did not change the limit on the average concentration of PM2.5 particles (averaged over one year). It merely lowered the limit on peak concentration (averaged over a 24-hour period). That means that polluters can still release just as much pollution; they simply have to limit the peak discharges.

Disgusting. Remember when we were young, and idealistic, and were deluded enough to believe that government agencies actually wanted to protect the health of citizens, regardless of the cost to corporations? Ha.

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Due Process, Bulldozed

Another item for the Impeach George Bush file, via Bob Herbert.

Bob Herbert: Due Process, Bulldozed The absence of concrete evidence against Iraqi journalists who have been held without charge by American and Iraqi forces is disturbing.

Perhaps a little more than disturbing....

Until five months ago, Bilal Hussein was part of a team of Associated Press photographers that had won a Pulitzer Prize for photos documenting the fighting and carnage in Iraq.

Now he’s a prisoner, having been seized by the U.S. government.

You might ask: What’s he been charged with?

The answer: Nothing.

There was a flurry of interest last week in the case of Maher Arar, a terror suspect who was shipped to Syria and tortured before it was learned that, alas, he was not a terrorist. Mr. Hussein got a little news coverage last week, as well. People who still think there is a place in this world for fairness, justice and due process are calling on the authorities to either charge him with a crime or release him.

Mr. Hussein, an Iraqi hired by The A.P., was taken into custody by U.S. forces in Ramadi last April 12. As in many similar cases, U.S. officials have been saying — without disclosing evidence to back up their comments — that he had improper ties to the insurgents.

But neither the Americans nor the Iraqis have officially charged Mr. Hussein with anything.

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Velvia effect


I bought a new tool for Photoshop that emulates velvia film. (Velvia film -manufactured by Fuji- has rich, nearly overly saturated colors, but looks great in many instances.)

Velevate Me
Velevate Me Sunset approaches. Borderline Magic hour, might have been 70 minutes before sunset.

HDR image from my office window, then velvesized (thanks to a tip from Flickr pal, TT)

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links for 2006-09-25

Electronic Voting Machines


I renew my public request for some wealthy liberal, George Soros, Richard Branson, perhaps even Ronald W. Burkle (of Yucaipa Companies) to purchase Diebold, and change the company's penchant for secrecy into one of open source, with transparent security measures. Why should Diebold be allowed to hide behind phony intellectual property shields: we, the citizenry, are all participants in voting, we should all have oversight over the process and mechanics of voting. How about Bill Clinton, Al Gore, CC Goldwater and Robert Kennedy lead a consortium of bi-partisan investors to take over Diebold? Something obviously needs to be done.

Officials Wary of Electronic Voting Machines Officials are making last-minute efforts to limit or reverse the rollout of new machines in the November elections. ... But critics say bugs and hackers could corrupt the machines.

A Princeton University study released this month on one of Diebold’s machines — a model that Diebold says it no longer uses — found that hackers could easily tamper with electronic voting machines by installing a virus to disable the machines and change the vote totals.

Mr. Radke dismissed the concerns about hackers and bugs as most often based on unrealistic scenarios.

“We don’t leave these machines sitting on a street corner,” he said. “But in one of these cases, they gave the hackers complete and unfettered access to the machines.”

Warren Stewart, legislative director for VoteTrustUSA, an advocacy group that has criticized electronic voting, said that after poll workers are trained to use the machines in the days before an election, many counties send the machines home with the workers. “That seems like pretty unfettered access to me,” Mr. Stewart said.

and from the same edition of the NYT:

Digital Domain: The Big Gamble on Electronic Voting

Diebold declines to let Princeton researchers test the latest voting machine, which uses a standard industrial part to protect the door to its memory card slot.

Edward W. Felten, a professor of computer science at Princeton, and his student collaborators conducted a demonstration with an AccuVote TS and noticed that the key to the machine’s memory card slot appeared to be similar to one that a staff member had at home.

When he brought the key into the office and tried it, the door protecting the AccuVote’s memory card slot swung open obligingly. Upon examination, the key turned out to be a standard industrial part used in simple locks for office furniture, computer cases, jukeboxes — and hotel minibars.

Once the memory card slot was accessible, how difficult would it be to introduce malicious software that could manipulate vote tallies? That is one of the questions that Professor Felten and two of his students, Ariel J. Feldman and J. Alex Haldeman, have been investigating. In the face of Diebold’s refusal to let scientists test the AccuVote, the Princeton team got its hands on a machine only with the help of a third party.

Even before the researchers had made the serendipitous discovery about the minibar key, they had released a devastating critique of the AccuVote’s security. For computer scientists, they supplied a technical paper; for the general public, they prepared an accompanying video. Their short answer to the question of the practicality of vote theft with the AccuVote: easily accomplished.

The researchers demonstrated the machine’s vulnerability to an attack by means of code that can be introduced with a memory card. The program they devised does not tamper with the voting process. The machine records each vote as it should, and makes a backup copy, too.

Every 15 seconds or so, however, the rogue program checks the internal vote tallies, then adds and subtracts votes, as needed, to reach programmed targets; it also makes identical changes in the backup file. The alterations cannot be detected later because the total number of votes perfectly matches the total number of voters. At the end of the election day, the rogue program erases itself, leaving no trace.

On Sept. 13, when Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy posted its findings, Diebold issued a press release that shrugged off the demonstration and analysis.

I spoke last week with Professor Felten, who said he could not imagine how a newer version of the AccuVote’s software could protect itself against this kind of attack. But he also said he would welcome the opportunity to test it. I called Diebold to see if it would lend Princeton a machine.

Mark G. Radke, director for marketing at Diebold, said that the AccuVote machines were certified by state election officials and that no academic researcher would be permitted to test an AccuVote supplied by the company. “This is analogous to launching a nuclear missile,” he said enigmatically, adding that Diebold had to restrict “access to the buttons.”

I persisted. Suppose, I asked, that a test machine were placed in the custodial care of the United States Election Assistance Commission, a government agency. Mr. Radke demurred again, saying the company’s critics were so focused on software that they “have no appreciation of physical security” that protects the machines from intrusion.

and far from making me feel more secure about my rights as a citizen, Diebold wants to squelch any debate about their methods and practices.

Computer scientists with expertise in security issues have been sounding alarms for years. David L. Dill at Stanford and Douglas W. Jones at the University of Iowa were among the first to alert the public to potential problems. But the possibility of vote theft by electronic means remained nothing more than a hypothesis — until the summer of 2003, when the code for the AccuVote’s operating system was discovered on a Diebold server that was publicly accessible.

The code quickly made its way into researchers’ hands. Suspected vulnerabilities were confirmed, and never-contemplated sloppiness was added to the list of concerns. At a computer security conference, the AccuVote’s anatomy was analyzed closely by a team: Aviel D. Rubin, a computer science professor at Johns Hopkins; two junior associates, Tadayoshi Kohno and Adam Stubblefield; and Dan S. Wallach, an associate professor in computer science at Rice. They described how the AccuVote software design rendered the machine vulnerable to manipulation by smart cards. They found that the standard protections to prevent alteration of the internal code were missing; they characterized the system as “far below even the most minimal security standards.”

Professor Rubin has just published a nontechnical memoir

Brave New Ballot: The Battle to Safeguard Democracy in the Age of Electronic Voting

Brave New Ballot: The Battle to Safeguard Democracy in the Age of Electronic Voting

(Morgan Road Books), that describes how his quiet life was upended after he and his colleagues published their paper. He recalls in his book that Diebold’s lawyers sent each of the paper’s authors a letter threatening the possibility of legal action, warning them to “exercise caution” in interviews with the press lest they make a statement that would “appear designed to improperly impair and impede Diebold’s existing and future business.” Johns Hopkins rallied to his side, however, and the university’s president, William R. Brody, commended him for being on the case.

More on the subject here
Diebold Whistle-blower speaks out
Vote Flipping in GA
link to Princeton study, and 'how-to' video.

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Stuff Happens Again in Baghdad

| 1 Comment

Rhetorical question, of course, from Frank Rich. Looking forward to reading his book.

Frank Rich: Stuff Happens Again in Baghdad : Three and a half years later, have we learned anything?

It's not just about torture. Even if there had never been an Abu Ghraib, a Guantánamo or an American president determined to rewrite the Geneva Conventions, America would still be losing the war for hearts and minds in the Arab world. Our first major defeat in that war happened at the dawn of the Iraq occupation, before “detainee abuse” entered our language: the “Stuff happens!” moment at the National Museum in Baghdad.

Three and a half years later, have we learned anything? You have to wonder. As the looting of the museum was the first clear warning of disasters soon to come, so the stuff that’s happening at the museum today is a grim indicator of where we’re headed in Iraq: America is empowering the very Islamic radicals this war was supposed to smite. But even now we seem to be averting our eyes from reality on the ground in Baghdad.

Our blindness back in April 2003 seems ludicrous in retrospect. As the looting flared, an oblivious President Bush told the Iraqi people in a televised address that they were “the heirs of a great civilization that contributes to all humanity.” Our actions — or, more accurately, our inaction as the artifacts of that great civilization were carted away — spoke louder than those pretty words. As Fred Ikle, the Reagan administration Pentagon policy chief, puts it in Thomas Ricks’s “Fiasco,” “America lost most of its prestige and respect in that episode.”

That disaster might have been mitigated if our leaders had not dismissed the whole episode as a triviality. But Donald Rumsfeld likened the chaos to the aftermath of a soccer game and joked that television was exaggerating the story by recycling video of a single looter with a vase. Gen. Richard Myers defended our failure to intervene as “a matter of priorities” (we had protected the oil ministry). Lt. Gen. William Wallace, countering a wildly inflated early claim by a former museum employee that 170,000 artifacts had been destroyed, put the number of objects still unaccounted for at “as few as 17.” (The actual number was closer to 14,000.)

Oh what's a few thousand precious, historical artifacts, give or take?

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Explorations of of light and color. Most of these have richer colors than my camera captured, via the magic of Photoshop.

What Happened In There?
What Happened In There? faux chromo-solarized

Rain Comes for the Archbishop's Cat
Rain Comes for the Archbishop's Cat Rain comes in sheets on Randolph

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links for 2006-09-24

Reading the Coca Leaves

If you skip over the first few paragraphs of partisan sniping, John Tierney makes some sense. Our phony drug war continues to sap resources, domestically, and internationally, and doesn't seem to have an end in sight, nor any real success. Plants shouldn't be deemed illegal by governments.

John Tierney: Reading the Coca Leaves ... [Evo Morales of Bolivia] held up a small green coca leaf, and when he talked about international drug policies, he made more sense than anyone in the United States government.

We’ve sacrificed soldiers’ lives and spent billions of dollars trying to stop peasants from growing coca in the Andes and opium in Afghanistan and other countries. But the crops have kept flourishing, and in America the street price of cocaine and heroin has plummeted in the past two decades.

Meanwhile, we’ve been helping terrorists and other enemies abroad. The Senate has voted to send Afghanistan more money for programs to harass opium growers, whose discontent is already being exploited by the resurgent Taliban. In the Andes, American drug policies made Bolivians so mad that they elected Morales, a former leader of the coca growers, who campaigned for president on the kind of anti-American rhetoric he spouted this week.

At the U.N., he denounced “the colonization of the Andean peoples” by imperialists intent on criminalizing coca. “It has been demonstrated that the coca leaf does no harm to human health,” he said, a statement that’s much closer to the truth than Washington’s take on these leaves. The white powder sold on the streets of America is dangerous because it’s such a concentrated form of cocaine, but just about any substance can be perilous at a high enough dose.

South Americans routinely drink coca tea and chew coca leaves. The tiny amount of cocaine in the leaves is a mild stimulant and appetite suppressant that isn’t more frightening than coffee or colas — in fact, it might be less addictive than caffeine, and on balance it might even be good for you. When the World Health Organization asked scientists to investigate coca in the 1990’s, they said it didn’t seem to cause health problems and might yield health benefits.

But American officials fought against the publication of the report and against the loosening of restrictions on coca products, just as they’ve resisted proposals to let Afghan farmers sell opium to pharmaceutical companies instead of to narco-traffickers allied with the Taliban. The American policy is to keep attacking the crops, even if that impoverishes peasants — or, more typically, turns them into criminals.

Drug prohibition in Bolivia and Afghanistan has done exactly what alcohol prohibition did in America: it has financed organized crime.

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Happy Birthday to John Coltrane

John Coltrane would be 80 today, if he were alive. Wiki here.

Blue Train
“Blue Train” (John Coltrane)

At the Village Vanguard
“At the Village Vanguard” (John Coltrane)

John Coltrane Quartet - Afro Blue. Love this song. Slightly different rendition than I've heard before. Coupled with the song, Alabama, on the album, Live at Birdland, enough to make a hardened heart cry. Thanks to the innovations of digital media, I don't have to constantly flip the record over to hear these two spectacular songs in sequence.

direct link here

Miles Davis and John Coltrane play one of the best renditions of SO WHAT ever captured on film-
Live in 1958. This clip is available on two different DVDs. “Miles Davis: The Cool Jazz Sound” and also- “Jazz Masters: Vintage Collection

(direct link here)

John Coltrane live, 1965, playing “Naima”.

direct link here

Ahh, I was born too young, or Mr. Coltrane died too soon, take your pick. Transcendent talent.

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Department of blowing my own horn

Chicago Public Radio's website again chose one of my photos for prominent display. Still haven't figured out how to get paid for photography, but that is a New Years resolution. It is Rosh Hashanah today after all.

Chicago Public Radio

Chicago Public Radio 9-23-06


links for 2006-09-23

EPA wants to kill you

| 1 Comment

slowly, but still, the intent is there. The Bush White house is complicit in these murder plans, and by extension, so are the fools and dupes who voted for the murder plans, not once, but twice!

EPA tightens soot rules, but not to extent panel urged WASHINGTON -- The government yesterday announced new limits on how many tiny particles of soot people can breathe safely each day, rejecting tougher standards recommended by its own specialists. The particles are emitted from power plants and diesel vehicles.

Specialists advising the agency had said the science supports tougher standards than the EPA chose. Other air pollution specialists and advocates alleged political tinkering. New England air quality officials said the new rules do not protect public health.

The health-based limits on soot are considered an important part of the Clean Air Act, helping save 15,000 people a year from premature deaths due to heart and lung diseases.

Translated: corporate profits are much, much more important items to protect than citizens' lungs. You can always get a new lung on the black market, but once your company's stock is in the toilet, you might as well retire to your summer home in Bermuda.

And you gotta laugh (or cry) at this tidbit of bureaucratese:

EPA administrator Stephen Johnson...``Wherever the science gave us a clear picture, we took clear action,“ he said. ``There was not complete agreement” by the scientific advisory panel.

But 20 of 22 panel members said the EPA should set tougher standards .

Yes, all public health initiatives must have 100% agreement, or kittens will cry. Works for global climate change too, just ask Al Gore.

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Salad Eaters

Oh, great.

Beet Salad

(tasty salad recently devoured at Vivo)

Experts see more salad bar problems

FDA must increase produce inspections and research...Consumers should expect more bacterial outbreaks like the one involving bagged spinach because federal regulators lack the resources to do much more than react to such events after they occur, food safety experts say.

...Since 2003, the agency's food staff has declined by about 10 percent. Meanwhile, sales of fresh salads and produce-related outbreaks have more than tripled over the last 10 years.

“Unless the food part of the agency begins to get money sufficient to deal with inspections and do research to identify when contamination occurs and why, I think we could see an increase in these outbreaks,” said Sanford Miller, a former director of the FDA's food division now at the University of Maryland's Center for Food, Nutrition and Agriculture Policy.

Activists and experts said the Bush administration and Congress ignored warning signs that bacterial outbreaks were a growing problem and that more funding was needed.

I'm giving up food, and just switching to fruit of the vine (which includes hops). Maybe a steady diet of honey and locusts, with some hemp oil?

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links for 2006-09-22

Afternoon Autumn Strolls

are the best. The best, Jerry!

King of Blades and Whip
King of Blades and Whip Earwax Cafe has been around since at least the mid 90s when I last lived in Wicker Park/Ukrainian Village. Earwax has moved to a few different locations, but similar (Austin-esque) food and atmospherics. I actually missed the photo I wanted, as the tattooed man's girlfriend came back, and her tats were quite cool too.

Rainbo Club neon
Rainbo Club neon Rainbo Club also a long time resident of the Wicker Park/Ukranian Village area, though perhaps longer. I've heard (too lazy to verify at the moment) that Nelson Algren liked to get his drinks there. Neon is

Cut Rate Drugs
Cut Rate Drugs - best kind! On Milwaukee Avenue

Take Your Stand
Take Your Stand You have nothing to lose.

Acknowledgement Afternoon sun falls over the West Loop

a quickr pickr post

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Solar power in DuPage

Sounds good to me: what's the downside (if any)?
Time to go home

Sun may help keep suburbs' water running A 2-acre batch of solar panels may soon be seen by drivers on the Eisenhower Expressway under a proposal by Chicago and the DuPage Water Commission.

The photovoltaic field, which converts sunshine to electricity, would be used to help power a $12.9 million backup power facility on the city's West Side. It would be one of the largest in the Midwest, officials said.

The Water Commission wants to build the plant for the Lexington Pumping Station along the Eisenhower, with some of the electrical power potentially being produced by solar energy. Chicago would install the field of solar panels.

Since 1997, commission officials have proposed building a backup power plant to ensure that DuPage communities would still get lake water during power outages. While all of the commission's member communities--except Roselle and Willowbrook--have retained their own community wells as backup water sources, most DuPage towns' water departments now have shifted their operational capabilities to strictly handling water distribution and not supply.

Commission officials originally had recommended locating backup power at the Elmhurst pumping station. But after a vulnerability assessment in 2004, they recommended constructing backup plants at both the Lexington and Elmhurst locations.

“Nothing in our contract with our customer utilities requires the DuPage Water Commission to do any kind of backup, but the water purchase agreements say that the commission will make its best efforts to provide water,” said Robert L. Martin, the commission's general manager.

The commission voted in February to move forward with the long-proposed project at Lexington, and it subsequently entered into negotiations with city officials on the design and location of the diesel-powered generating plant.

During discussions, city officials proposed installing 7,142 solar panels, covering more than 100,000 square feet, on top of the 30-million-gallon underground reservoir next to the Lexington pumping station.

Spatz said no formal agreement has been struck yet between the city and the agency for the plant or solar field. The current agreement is being reviewed by the commission's attorneys.

Chicago officials have offered to pay half of the backup plant's cost, up to $8.5 million, commission officials said.

While the Lexington pumping station serves the water commission, the city's water system also benefits from it. And most of the other pumping stations in the city's water system have some kind of on-site power generation. According to a map provided by the commission's engineers, eight of Chicago's 12 pumping stations currently have backup power generated on-site, either by diesel or steam power.

(photo not of DuPage, obviously)

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Torture of Liberty

Am not sure where Mr. Herbert gets the statistic of “most Americans”, because nobody I know is as sanguine. In fact, we, the rabble, wish there were impeachment proceedings already being formulated by believers of the sanctity of the Constitution, currently marking time in Congress (like our good friend, Barrack Obama /sarcasm).

We could use the Hungarian model, I suppose, but the coup in Washington is still only in its formative stages, so we, the anti-Bush crowd, are keeping our powdered donuts dry at the moment.

Bob Herbert: The Torture of Liberty

I can't believe that most Americans think it is all right for our government to strip away the hallowed safeguard of habeas corpus.

After traveling to Ottawa to interview Maher Arar last year, I wrote: “If John Ashcroft was right, then I was staring into the malevolent, duplicitous eyes of pure evil ... But all I could really see was a polite, unassuming, neatly dressed guy who looked like a suburban Little League coach.”

It turns out John Ashcroft was wrong. After an exhaustive investigation, a government commission in Canada ruled definitively and unequivocally this week that Maher Arar was no terrorist. He was nothing more than a quiet family man who found himself sucked into a vortex of incompetence, hysteria and a so-called war on terror that has gone completely haywire.

He’s lucky he survived. Mr. Arar, a Canadian citizen who was born in Syria, was snatched by American authorities as he waited for a connecting flight home from Kennedy Airport in September 2002. The Americans apparently were acting on bad information fed to them by Canadian investigators.

As in the witch hunts of old, no one seemed to care whether there was any factual basis for the allegations against Mr. Arar. Without even a nod in the direction of due process, the Americans put him on a government jet and shipped him off to Jordan, where he was promptly driven to Syria, where he was tortured.

Welcome to extraordinary rendition, a reprehensible practice in which people are kidnapped by the U.S. government and sent off to countries that specialize in the evil arts of torture.

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Blue Dress

As the joke goes, we are all Monica's blue dress now.

Bee Jays

Parsing words about torture | Steve Chapman George W. Bush has a way, when asked about American treatment of alleged terrorists, of narrowing his eyes, jutting out his chin and stating emphatically, “We do not torture.” It's the most convincing declaration by a president since Bill Clinton told the nation, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”

Of course, the two actions being lied about are not quite equivalent, but we'll let that pass.

Mr. Chapman continues:

Clinton was telling the truth, in his way, because he defined sexual relations to exclude oral intimacy. Like Clinton, President Bush has used a seemingly unequivocal statement for the purpose of equivocation. Renouncing brutality turns out to be a way of embracing it.

One thing he means is that we do not torture according to his exceedingly narrow definition of the word. Under current policy, only the worst forms of torture are forbidden. That means we reject such time-honored methods as breaking fingers, applying electric shocks to tender body parts, burning skin with lighted cigarettes or beating the soles of feet with metal rods. Or, as one Bush administration official put it last year, “We are against ... torture by anyone's common-sense definition of it, not some fancy definition.”

The official policy is that while outright torture is banned, all sorts of other tactics designed to inflict pain, suffering and fear are allowed. Depriving prisoners of food, water, sleep or medical care is OK. Forcing them to stand or kneel in uncomfortable positions for long periods passes muster.

Likewise for holding someone's head under water to make him feel he's drowning (“waterboarding”). Or putting a prisoner in a cold room, soaking him with water and leaving him to shiver. Apparently, those are torture only by “some fancy definition.”

But even the policy against torture is not as firm as it looks, since the administration itself sometimes finds it convenient to go by the fancy definition. In the State Department's annual report on human rights, it condemns various governments for abusing inmates with waterboarding, sleep deprivation, forced kneeling and dousing with cold water. When they do it, it's torture. When we do it, it's an “alternative” method.

We can't even be sure how strictly the administration abides by its own rules, flexible though they are. Nearly 100 detainees have died in U.S. custody, and a study by the group Human Rights First found that at least eight of them were tortured to death. The longest prison sentence for anyone punished in these cases was five months.

Note that when Bush says, “We do not torture,” he scrupulously avoids saying, “We have not tortured.” Until 2003, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld explicitly authorized such now-forbidden tactics as stripping detainees, hooding them during interrogations, subjecting them to sensory deprivation and terrorizing them with dogs.

In a confidential report submitted to the White House, the International Committee of the Red Cross said conditions in Guantanamo Bay were “tantamount to torture.” At Abu Ghraib, guards reportedly urinated on detainees, sodomized them with objects, forced them into sexually humiliating acts and threatened them with mock electrocution.

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Bully Pulper

Molly Ivins, journalist goddess, has the strength and stamina to wade through The Dauphin's recent press conference twice in a noble effort to parse meaning where there might not be any. Jeez, bad enough to hear Bushisms once, but twice?

Anyway, Ms. Ivins writes:

Molly Ivins: President puts the bully in bully pulpit

Is it just me, or was that the worst presidential press conference in history?

So I went back and read it over. Of course, in print you don't get the testy tone; I heard it on radio and thought the man was about to blow up--not just because he was being questioned, which President Bush appears to consider an offensive action, but because people continue to refuse to see things the way he does. How can they be so stupid, he appears to wonder.

I ask: How can he be so repetitive, repeatedly using the oldest tactic of a verbal bully--saying the same thing louder, as though that would make it true?

Last Friday's Rose Garden press conference seemed so awful I thought it worth wading through it again to see what set him off. Maybe if you saw it on television, it seemed better. Perhaps his banter with reporters works better on TV. But I left with the impression that this is a spoiled man whose frustration level when someone disagrees with him is that of a 3-year-old and that he's the last person you want to see operating under a lot of stress because he doesn't handle it well.

read the whole thing here

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links for 2006-09-21


Sven Nykvist RIP


If I still had aspirations to be a cinematographer, Mr. Nykvist would be my role model. Just look at the long list of spectacular movies with his name on them. What a talent.

Light Keeps Me Company
“Light Keeps Me Company” (Carl-Gustav Nykvist)

Sven Nykvist, 1922-2006. Oscar-winning filmmaker Sven Nykvist, who was legendary director Ingmar Bergman's cinematographer of choice, died Wednesday after a long illness, his son said. He was 83. Nykvist died at a nursing home where he was being treated for aphasia, a form of dementia, said his son, Carl-Gustaf Nykvist.“

Wiki here

Mostly I knew his work with Bergman, even studying a few semesters of Swedish in the folly of my youth, but I've seen several of his other films as well.

Making Pictures: A Century of European Cinematography
”Making Pictures: A Century of European Cinematography“ (Sven Nykvist, Bernardo Bertolucci, Marcello Mastoianni)

[will add obits of interest as I find them]
Washington Post


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Government in Action

Couldn't be any corruption involved here at all, right? I mean, this is part of the 9/11 memorial? Nahhh, just another instance of government innocently funneling tax dollars into the coffers of developers, I'm sure. - Agencies May Overpay For Freedom Tower Space The federal government and New York state may be overpaying to move into the Freedom Tower, some commercial-property experts say.

The federal government's real-estate arm, the General Services Administration, said this week it has tentatively agreed to pay $59 a square foot for 16 floors in the yet-to-be-built skyscraper at the World Trade Center site when it opens in 2012. New York state government would pay the same rate for 11 floors.

A look at prices for comparable space shows the government is paying more than tenants in other Lower Manhattan buildings, even factoring in possible rent inflation over the five years it will take to build the Freedom Tower.

“I think it's high,” says Barry Gosin, chief executive of Newmark Knight Frank, a real-estate services firm, though he says any progress on the long-stymied rebuilding effort might be worth it. “At the end of the day, the benefit to the taxpayer might justify a premium investment by the state to get this project going.”

Others are more critical. “Are we getting the best bang for our buck?” asks Bettina Damiani of Good Jobs New York, a government-subsidy watchdog group. “There are a ton of public resources already going into the site to make it viable” for private business, she says. Among them: tax-exempt Liberty Bonds to finance the office towers, $2 billion in federal aid to build a transit hub, plus other state and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey money. “We have to ask: Are those viable subsidies if we have to use government entities to fill the towers?”

Average asking rents downtown were $35.18 in the second quarter, according to real-estate firm Cushman & Wakefield. “You've got a gap as high as $24 a square foot,” says Marisa Manley, president of Commercial Tenant Real Estate Representation Ltd., a New York real-estate firm. “So for a one-million-square-foot lease, you're looking at a potential $240 million subsidy over a 10-year-period. ... It's drawing away money from taxpayers. It's not a marketplace solution.”
The most recent comparable lease is one signed by Moody's Investors Service in August for the same amount of space as the federal government is taking in the Freedom Tower -- 600,000 square feet -- in the recently rebuilt 7 World Trade Center. It will pay $41.50 a square foot minus $3.80 in state and city incentives, reducing its effective rent to $37.70. It also will get 14 months of free rent and $50 a square foot in so-called tenant improvements, or inducements by the building's owner, Larry Silverstein, to outfit the space. In five years, around the time the Freedom Tower opens, the Moody's lease will increase to $46.50 a square foot.

Other recent deals in downtown Manhattan also are lower. Willis Group Holdings signed a lease in August for 205,000 square feet in One World Financial Center, across the street from Ground Zero, for $36.50 a square foot, increasing to $41.50 in 2011. BearingPoint Inc. signed a lease in August for 55,000 square feet in Three World Financial Center for $39.50 a square foot. In five years, that will kick up to $44.50.

Mercury and teeth


I thought I posted this a while ago, but maybe I didn't since I cannot find it. Glad to hear that our government is so trustworthy.... - Health Advisers Reject Report On Safety of Mercury Fillings Government health advisers rejected a federal report that concluded dental fillings used by millions of patients are safe, saying further study of the mercury-laden amalgam is needed.

A panel of Food and Drug Administration advisers did not declare the so-called “silver fillings” unsafe. But in a 13-7 vote Thursday, the advisers said the federal report didn't objectively and clearly present the current state of knowledge about the fillings.

In a second 13-7 vote, the panelists said the report's conclusions about safety weren't reasonable.
But panelists said remaining uncertainties about the risk of so-called silver fillings demanded further study. In particular, research is needed on the effect of mercury-laden fillings on children and the fetuses of pregnant women with fillings.

“There are too many things we don't know, too many things that were excluded,” said Michael Aschner, a professor of pediatrics and pharmacology at Vanderbilt University and a panel consultant. He cast two “no” votes.

Panelists also said more study was needed on whether mercury fillings give off more vapors when they're being placed or removed.
With amalgam fillings, mercury vapor is released when patients chew and brush their teeth. Significant levels of mercury exposure can cause permanent damage to the brain and kidneys. Fetuses and children are especially sensitive to its harmful effects.

comments closed due to spam rats. If you want to comment, email me, and I'll include it....

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A president who lies

Photos weren't available online, but this sentence jumped out at me:

Hungarian Police Clash With Protesters | Chicago Tribune
Protesters set police cars on fire and hurled plaster from nearby buildings at officers following Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany's leaked admission that his government repeatedly lied to the public about the economy.

Could you imagine living in a country where the citizens reacted like this to lies about the economy, or anything else? I am not wishing for quite this level of passion, but somewhere more than the US populace currently displays would be an improvement.

Wednesday's confrontation erupted after the demonstrators threatened to move in on the party building and ignored police orders shouted through bullhorns to disperse, witnesses said.

Police succeeded in scattering the protesters, then scuffled with small groups along side streets. Wailing sirens signaled the approach of police reinforcements, who blocked media access to the area. An ambulance crew was seen attending to an injured officer while other police hustled away individual demonstrators.

The protesters then regrouped, blocking a main thoroughfare with garbage containers and park benches. As the confrontation neared its third hour, police split the demonstrators into three groups and deployed water cannons to push them into different directions in a new attempt to disperse them.

The confrontation demonstrated the continued high potential for violence from radical opponents of Gyurcsany, whose taped comments set off the country's worst violence since its failed anti-Soviet revolution 50 years ago.

Gyurcsany -- whose taped comments admitting his government had “lied morning, evening and night” about the economy provoked the fury -- said he intended to weather the storm.

“I'm staying and I'm doing my job. I'm extremely committed to fulfilling my program, fiscal adjustments and reforms,” he told The Associated Press. “I know it's very difficult for the people, but it's the only direction for Hungary.”

Police were caught off guard the previous night by the fury of a few thousand people who broke away from the main demonstration and stormed the state TV building. Pushing past officers with protective helmets, clubs and shields, about 400 got inside, breaking glass and causing other damage.

The violence shook a country that for much of its last two decades had been held up as a model of progress following the collapse of communism in eastern Europe. Gyurcsany called it Hungary's “longest and darkest night” since the end of communist rule in 1989.

The public was stunned by the blunt admissions of government ineptitude during its first term and the cynicism contained in a 25-minute tape that was widely aired and published by news media over the weekend.

“We did nothing for four years. Nothing,” Gyurcsany said on the tape, made during a private talk with Socialist parliament members that was larded with crude expressions. Later he said: “We screwed up. Not a little, a lot.

”No European country has done something as boneheaded as we have. ... Plainly, we lied throughout the last year and a half, two years,“ the prime minister said.

The outpouring of rage was fueled by austerity measures implemented by Gyurcsany's Socialist-led coalition seeking to rein in a government budget deficit expected to surpass 10 percent of Hungary's gross domestic product this year -- the largest in the European Union.

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Hostage to Historical Drama Queen

I think this phrase ought to be quoted frequently:

Even the Republican columnist Peggy Noonan says that W. can be “a historical drama queen.”

MoDo has more:

Maureen Dowd: Hostage to Iran Again?

Because the president blew off diplomacy with Iraq, he is now hostage to diplomacy with Iran.

It was galling to be lectured on ethics, truth, justice, virtue and respect for human rights by a Holocaust-denying, Iraq-meddling, American-hating pipsqueak. A guy who showed up to address the United Nations without bothering to wear a tie, so casual in a disco-looking cream suit and open-necked pink shirt he looked like he would kick back later in Chelsea.

If President Bush was bland, oblique and condescending in his U.N. remarks, bypassing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak directly to the people of Iran, the Iranian leader was more blunt — referring to America and Britain disdainfully as “the occupiers.” “Not a day goes by without hundreds of people getting killed in cold blood,” he said.

Iranian leaders love nothing more than taunting American presidents, as we learned when Jimmy Carter was emasculated during the hostage crisis. And so it was with Mr. Ahmadinejad, who took W. and Dick Cheney’s refrain about how Republicans are needed to stiffen America’s will and threw it back at them.

“There is no indication,’’ he needled, ”that the occupiers have the necessary political will to eliminate the sources of instability.“

All day the White House team went through gyrations not to run into the Iranian leader, fearful to be caught in the same frame, perhaps haunted by memories of that picture of a smiling Rummy shaking Saddam’s hand in 1983. It seemed a little silly, given what a tough guy W. acts like. If he ran into the punk, he could have just told him to quit processing uranium, and moved on. Bush aides assured reporters with asperity that they were not studying the Iranian president’s route or bathroom schedule, that such a fixation would only build up a foe they were trying to cut down to size.

But it’s a little late for that, with Mr. Ahmadinejad staring from the cover of Time with a story on ”What War With Iran Would Look Like,“ and with Senator George Voinovich calling him ”Ah-mad-in-a-head’’ and “a Hitler type of person’’ at a Senate committee hearing yesterday. (Can’t pols just have little Post-its on their microphones reminding them not to compare anything to the Nazis?)

[Amen to that. Bloggers too....]

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Dumb as We Wanna Be

Ethanol as fuel is no panacea, but Friedman does have a point. Why are tariffs propping up ADM and other quasi-US corporations? Wait, don't answer that.

Friedman gets bonus points for mentioning biodiversity as an intrinsic part of the equation. Wouldn't be good for our planet's health if ethanol suddenly became the monoculture crop grown everywhere at the expense of existing forests and other agriculture.

Anti SUV(click to embiggen the Fiat 500, or the photo of it at least)

Thomas Friedman: Dumb as We Wanna Be

We'd rather power anti-Americans with our energy purchases than promote antipoverty.

I asked Dr. José Goldemberg, secretary for the environment for São Paulo State and a pioneer of Brazil’s ethanol industry, the obvious question: Is the fact that the U.S. has imposed a 54-cents-a-gallon tariff to prevent Americans from importing sugar ethanol from Brazil “just stupid or really stupid.”

Thanks to pressure from Midwest farmers and agribusinesses, who want to protect the U.S. corn ethanol industry from competition from Brazilian sugar ethanol, we have imposed a stiff tariff to keep it out. We do this even though Brazilian sugar ethanol provides eight times the energy of the fossil fuel used to make it, while American corn ethanol provides only 1.3 times the energy of the fossil fuel used to make it. We do this even though sugar ethanol reduces greenhouses gases more than corn ethanol. And we do this even though sugar cane ethanol can easily be grown in poor tropical countries in Africa or the Caribbean, and could actually help alleviate their poverty.

Yes, you read all this right. We tax imported sugar ethanol, which could finance our poor friends, but we don’t tax imported crude oil, which definitely finances our rich enemies. We’d rather power anti-Americans with our energy purchases than promote antipoverty.

“It’s really stupid,” answered Dr. Goldemberg.

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links for 2006-09-20

Patti Smith's new album

Patti Smith, rock goddess, as quoted in Uncut, October 2006

My next record's going to be a covers record. I don't want to tell you the songs, but the artists range from Jefferson Airplane and Gene Clark to Tim Buckley and Jimi Hendrix. We did a Nirvana song. My son will play on it, my daughter will play on it, Flea, Paul Simonon, Sam Shepard - hopefully I'll something with Kevin Shields. We want to do a record that pays homage to the people that I've admired and songs I love lyrically. It's Volume 1 of my “thank yous”.


Land (1975-2002)
“Land (1975-2002)” (Patti Smith)

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Crimes against humanity

Shameful is right, and how many of the perpetrators considered themselves Christians?

State-sanctioned cruelty
From the 1920s to the 1970s, tens of thousands of American women, many in the prime of their childbearing years, were the victims of this country's shameful eugenics movement.

The idea behind eugenics was to rid society of its ills by getting rid of its “less desirable” citizens. (No shock, the idea was embraced by Nazi Germany.) The theory held that if you prevented criminals, the mentally retarded, the infirm and feeble-minded from reproducing, then those defective genes wouldn't be passed along to offspring. The goal was to create a society free of genetic imperfections.

Nearly two-thirds of the states established boards to govern eugenics. (Illinois did not.) North Carolina had a particularly aggressive program. As the Tribune's Dahleen Glanton recently reported, at least 7,500 poor African-Americans and whites between 1929 and 1975 were persuaded--most were duped into believing-- that sterilization was their only option.

In many of these cases, there were questions about whether women were involuntarily sterilized not because they were “feeble-minded” but because they received welfare, or had sex outside of marriage, or simply were considered unfit to bear children. Johanna Schoen, a University of Iowa professor who exposed the eugenics program in North Carolina while working on her doctoral dissertation, said many of the women battled depression. Some said the surgery led to other gynecological problems.

North Carolina has been considering reparations for these women, following Sweden and Alberta, Canada, which made restitution payments to women who were sterilized.

North Carolina has had a difficult time even identifying women who may have been victims of the state's eugenics program. Official records there have been sealed. Women have been instructed to place their names on a list with the state's Department of Health and Human Services. But the agency doesn't have the staff to cross-check names against a list of people who were sterilized under the program.

The office has received about 70 inquiries, but it has begun to look into only a handful of the cases and the wait for a resolution is several months long. The least the state can do is expedite this part of the process.

I wish I believed in a vengeful God who would send the perpetrators to hell. Just a disgusting display of perversions of science.


Advertising everywhere

Oh boy, Imodium ads to look at while eating crappy mall food. - Clear Channel Moves Advertising Onto the Table at Food Courts :

Clear Channel Outdoor is working with Los Angeles-based Creatable Media Inc., which came up with the concept, to distribute the advertising and get it into as many malls as possible. Leading mall operators like Simon Property Group Inc. and Westfield Group are involved, and the advertisements are already in high-traffic shopping areas like Woodbury Commons near New York and Westside Pavilion in Los Angeles.
The advertisements are set into tables under clear plastic screens, safe from doodlers and spilled ketchup. The space for the advertisement is three-quarters of an inch deep, allowing room to display objects such as T-shirts or mobile phones. Since diners spend an average of 32 minutes in the food court, according to Creatable, they will have plenty of time to take in the messages.

Until now, tabletop advertising largely had been the bailiwick of local advertisers who relied on paper liners in trays. By upgrading the advertising so it is no longer disposable, the reproduction is sharper, and the image is large enough to take up almost an entire table, Creatable hopes to get more national advertisers involved. It has already won business from big companies like mobile-phone service provider Cingular Wireless and TV networks like the WB and Lifetime.

“It's ideal when you're trying to reach the younger audience when they are congregating,” says David Koppelman, director of the New York office of advertising agency MacDonald Media LLC, which bought tabletops at several malls last year to promote a World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. program.

Creatable foots the bill for replacing table tops. It also replaces colored trays with clear ones. Malls get a portion of the proceeds, but must ditch tray liners. The cost of advertising on the table tops is generally about three times higher than on paper liners. Creatable Chief Executive Vince Pierse says the tables are in 63 malls, with plans to deploy them in a total of 200 by the end of 2007.

Good thing we avoid malls at all costs...urban living does have some advantages.

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YouTube and copyright thugs

Anyone who thought about the topic for more than seven seconds realized that eventually YouTube would be fundamentally altered by the Disneys of the corporate, copyright-or-wrong crowd. There is entirely too much obviously copyrighted material on YouTube for the copyright holders to ignore forever, which is why it is so much fun for Blogislavia, especially since linking to YouTube costs zero bandwidth to the linker. - YouTube Model Is Compromise Over Copyrights (free article) Video-sharing site YouTube Inc., in a move that could defuse the threat of legal action against it, is racing to overhaul the way media and entertainment companies view unlicensed online use of their content.
YouTube is rolling out technology designed to automatically spot copyrighted material that users upload without the permission of media companies, and then to share ad revenue with those companies.

YouTube's new system, announced yesterday and set for release in the next few months, is an ambitious effort to give media companies more control over the video on the site and to address their fears that others will profit from consumers' piracy of their content. The first entertainment company to embrace the system is Warner Music Group. The two companies have agreed that Warner Music will post its catalog of music videos on YouTube and collect an unspecified percentage of the revenue from advertising appearing alongside them. The deal doesn't cover live performances captured on video cameras or other devices, because Warner doesn't own the copyrights to those recordings.

In addition, the new system will give YouTube users a legitimate way to create videos with soundtracks that use music from Warner artists. (Videos of amateurs' lip syncing or juggling to popular songs are among the most viewed on video-sharing sites.) YouTube's system will identify such videos and give Warner a share of the revenue for any ads that appear alongside these videos, if Warner opts for that rather than having the videos removed.
While YouTube's services are focused on video, the most significant challenge could come from the music industry, which remains divided on how to protect its content online. EMI Group PLC has said it, too, is in talks with YouTube. A spokesman for the world's No. 2 music company, the joint venture Sony BMG, declined to comment.

Universal appears poised to put up a fight. Universal CEO Doug Morris last week told investors that YouTube violates copyright laws by allowing users to post music videos and other Universal content. He said YouTube and News Corp.'s MySpace social-networking site “owe us tens of millions of dollars.” (Universal's Interscope Records is a partner in the MySpace Records label.) A Universal spokesman declined to comment.

“We've reached out to [Universal Music] to let them know we're willing to work with them,” said Chad Hurley, chief executive of YouTube.
YouTube currently faces legal challenges. Robert Tur, the owner of Los Angeles News Service, named YouTube in a complaint filed in July in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. He alleges copyright infringement in connection with several videos that were available through YouTube. YouTube has said Mr. Tur's suit is “without merit.” A similar case, which an adult-entertainment company, Io Group Inc., brought against a video-sharing site, Veoh Networks Inc., in June in U.S. District Court for California's Northern District, makes a similar claim. A ruling against Veoh could potentially set a precedent affecting YouTube.

YouTube and other video sites currently follow a so-called safe-harbor process, enshrined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. Under that process, they have to comply with “takedown” notices that copyright holders may send when they become aware of content uploaded without their permission. Some entertainment companies have privately expressed frustration with the process, since it requires them to track down infringing works on a multitude of video-sharing sites.

The writing is certainly on the alley-wall.

(update: Mark Cuban has more on the same topic)

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links for 2006-09-19

Clinton meet the bloggers


I'm happy to be an E list member of Left Blogislavia (well, I would like to rake in so much Google ad dough that I could retire, but heroic-dosage inspired fantasy aside...), and realistically, in a hypothetical question about flying to NYC to attend some schmooze with Ole Blue Eyes himself, I'd probably decline as well.

A-Z list blogging - what is it really about? There has been quite a bit of a dust up over who was/wasn’t invited to the Clinton blogger lunch in Harlem, particularly because, as one of my readers, Miss Wild Thing, noted, “it looked like a blizzard hit the room.”...

I think I’m describing a good chunk of you out there who are citizens of the B, C, D lists of Blogistan, of any color or gender, if you were to be invited to a political event because of your blogging.

I can think of a few dozen things I'd rather do besides hanging out with politicians. I won't bore you with an itemized list, but obviously, blogging as an activity is rather far down the page.

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Border Insecurity


Civil liberties do not extend to border crossings, apparently. By 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, any hard disk transported across the border can be searched extensively, without the need for probable cause, or a search warrant.

With a conviction for online child exploitation, Stuart Romm is hardly a sympathetic advocate for computer privacy.

Still, what happened to Romm when he crossed the border into the United States worries some legal experts. The laptop computer that he carried with him was intensively searched by customs officials. On July 24, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the search was legal.

In U.S. v. Romm, No. 04-10648, the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit ruled that customs officials can seize and search the contents of anyone’s laptop computer, even in the absence of a search warrant or probable cause.

Some attorneys say the ruling goes too far, invading the privacy of anyone who crosses into the United States. And the ruling may pose special problems for attorneys who need to keep client information confidential when they go on business trips overseas.

“What’s dangerous about this opinion is that it pushes the line for searches along the border very far toward one end of the constitutional spectrum,” says Shaun Martin, a professor at the University of San Diego School of Law. “It is one thing to turn on your computer in the airport to make sure it is not a bomb. It is another thing for customs officials to turn on your computer and to read everything you ever wrote and to look at everything you ever downloaded.”...

Technological protections won’t do much good, either. It’s possible to password-protect a computer and encrypt its files, but that might provoke an unpleasant response from customs officials. “The danger is that they will keep you in the airport or keep your computer until they can access those files,” Martin says.

The best practice may be to keep sensitive information off the laptop entirely. Yet even if the client data resides on a law firm’s servers, and a traveling attorney merely uses a laptop to connect to the servers via a virtual private network, there may be trouble. For instance, the laptop will create temporary files of any Word documents that are opened. These temporary files will be on the hard drive, and they might be recoverable through forensic examination.

Even worse, the customs official might simply demand the attorney provide the password to the law firm’s VPN.

Paparelli is aware of at least one instance in which a customs agent asked for an e-mail password so the officer could examine the individual’s e-mail correspondence. “Imagine if that were the password of a company employee, and it led the agent into a corporate network database,” he says.

Holy freaking linguini, Batman! Why wouldn't this apply to searching the contents of one's iPod, looking for contraband MP3s, for instance? Or whatever is of interest to the Imperial Army?

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IRS and phony religious orgs


Good! Religious nuttery does not mix with politics, especially from behind 'tax-exempt' status. Render unto Caesar and all that crap.

I.R.S. Eyes Religious Groups as More Enter Election Fray The Internal Revenue Service announced a renewed effort to enforce laws that limit charities' involvement in partisan campaigns.

Is FSM tax exempt?

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Republican PSA

ABC's Public Service Announcement for the Republican party still confuses many.

A Show That Trumpeted History but Led to Confusion
Many wonder why ABC spent $30 million on a 9/11 mini-series that amounted to a five-hour public service announcement. ... The network mailed copies to television critics in mid-August. It screened the first half of the film for audiences in Washington and elsewhere, and distributed thousands of copies to journalists, editorial writers, radio and television commentators and others.
Thousands of copies to right wing bloggers, and right wing media hosts (Vulgar Pigboy, et al), but none to left of center media outlets, liberal bloggers, or even to the offices of Clinton, Albright, Sandy Berger, etc. Strange on the surface, not so strange if the intent was always clear.
With millions spent on production, including two months of filming in Morocco and the building of more than 300 sets, ABC had little choice but to go forward with the broadcast.

In doing so, it likened “Path to 9/11” to other dramas that ran with little or no commercial support — “An Early Frost,” an NBC broadcast in 1985 about AIDS, and “The Day After,” an ABC drama in 1983 about the aftermath of a nuclear attack on the United States.

But the economic scale of those efforts was far smaller. An NBC executive estimated at the time that “An Early Frost” lost $500,000 in commercial revenue as advertisers stayed away — barely a fraction of the cost of “Path to 9/11.”

One person close to the project at ABC who spoke only on the condition of anonymity said the network believed that its 9/11 presentation fulfilled its purpose, and that compromises were necessary to squeeze more than eight years of history into five hours of television.

Mr. Thompson asserted that however that form of entertainment was categorized, it did little teaching about history. “ ‘Richard III’ is one of the greatest plays ever written,” he said, “but it is not very good history.”

Sorry, the Lies of 9/11 isn't really comparable to Richard III. Just ask The Dauphin, who claims to have “read him some Shakespeers this summer” (sic, no doubt)

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The Kafka Strategy

Torture is not an American value, part the way too many....

And Mr. Herbert gives the Dauphin too much credit. I smell no strategy at all, not even the Kafka kind. Can we have those Articles of Impeachment presented yet? Or do we have to wait till 2007?

Bob Herbert: The Kafka Strategy What we've seen over the past few years from Bush, Cheney & Company has been the stuff of Kafka, not Madison and Jefferson.

The president seemed about to lose it at times last week. He was fighting with everybody — tenacious reporters frustrated by the absence of straight answers about the treatment of terror suspects; key Republican senators who think it’s crazy for a great country like the U.S. to become a champion of kangaroo courts and the degradation of defendants; even his own former secretary of state, Colin Powell, who worries that the world is coming to “doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism.”

It seemed that the only people the president wasn’t fighting with were the Democrats, who have gone into a coma, and the yahoos who never had much of a problem with such matters as torture and detention without trial.

As Marvin Gaye once sang, “What’s going on?”

The people at the top are getting scared, that’s what’s going on. The fog of secrecy is lifting, and the Bush administration is frightened to death that it will eventually have to pay a heavy price for the human rights abuses it has ordered or condoned in its so-called war on terror.

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King of Pain

Off the cuff answer (this is a web-zine/blog, after all): our Dauphin has never really been in the military, never worried about being captured by an enemy, so such concerns of a soldier are abstractions, and we all know about the Dauphin's relationship to abstraction. Krugman thinks the Dauphin wants to legalize torture for an even lesser reason: petulance.

Do we really want leaders who want to join ranks with the Spanish Inquisition and other brutal groups?
(as demonstrated in a Tony Auth cartoon)

Paul Krugman: King of Pain Why is President Bush so determined to engage in torture?

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Rice sexy?

Wait, members of the Bush White House have sex? Color me skeptical.

Ted Rall:

Maybe because I just can't allow my brain to picture Ms. Rice in any such role. And yes, I'm aware that Henry Kissinger was celebrated for his affairs and dalliances, but that was during the swinging 70s, and this is the repressed Aughts.

(story here, or here)

The world's most influential diplomat and Ottawa's most eligible bachelor seem to be hitting it off.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay enjoyed a chummy — and unusual — visit to MacKay's Nova Scotia riding yesterday.
In stark contrast to the usual government visits where diplomats do business on the fly, Rice spent 23 hours in Canada, many of them in MacKay's riding of Central Nova, a languid locale that couldn't be further from the diplomatic hell holes to which she's usually dispatched.

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links for 2006-09-18

links for 2006-09-17

Walls Tell tales

Death Comes RSVP

Death Comes RSVP
A wall on Fulton Street, West Loop.

Death Comes RSVP (White and Black version)
Death Comes RSVP (White and Black version) Photoshop B&W inversion

Inversions mixture of two previous photos

click to embiggen


Progress or Regress


Paul Krugman: Progress or Regress? Why has technological and economic progress done so little for most Americans?

Is the typical American family better off than it was a generation ago? That’s the subject of an intense debate these days, as commentators try to understand the sour mood of the American public.

But it’s the wrong debate. For one thing, there probably isn’t a right answer. Most Americans are better off in some ways, worse off in others, than they were in the early 1970’s. It’s a subjective judgment whether the good outweighs the bad. And as I’ll explain, that ambiguity is actually the real message.

Here’s what the numbers say. From the end of World War II until 1973, when the first oil crisis brought an end to the postwar boom, the U.S. economy delivered a huge, broad-based rise in living standards: family income adjusted for inflation roughly doubled for the poor, the middle class, and the elite alike. Nobody debated whether families were better off than they had been a generation ago; it was obvious that they were, by any measure.

Since 1973, however, the picture has been mixed. Real median household income — the income of the household in the middle of the income distribution, adjusted for inflation — rose a modest 16 percent between 1973 and 2005. But even this small rise didn’t reflect clear gains across the board. The typical full-time male worker saw his wages, adjusted for inflation, actually fall; the typical household’s real income was up only because women’s wages rose (although by far less than everyone’s wages rose during the postwar boom) and because more women were working.

The debate over the state of the middle class, for the most part, is about whether these numbers understate or overstate the true progress achieved by typical families. The optimists point to technological advances that, they argue, don’t get reflected in official estimates of the standard of living. In 1973, you couldn’t chat on a cellphone, watch a video or surf the Internet; many medical conditions that are now easily managed with drugs were untreatable; and so on.

The pessimists point to ways in which life has deteriorated, things that also aren’t counted by the official statistics. Traffic has gotten far worse, and commutes have gotten longer. The economic riskiness of life has increased: year-to-year fluctuations in family income have grown much larger. The rat race has intensified, as families, no longer confident in the quality of public education, stretch to buy houses in good school districts — and often go bankrupt when misfortune strikes in the form of a layoff for either spouse or high medical bills.

Does the good outweigh the bad? Never mind. As I said, the ambiguity is the message.


Awake and Scream

Dream on, MoDo, dream on.


Maureen Dowd: Awake and Scream
The president should take responsibility for the hash he's made.

I wish W. would let me help crystallize him.

But, alas, I’m not one of his chosen crystallizers, because he is loath to be exposed to anyone who doesn’t agree with him. He roams the country but never strays from Bushworld, going from military bases to conservative powwows to Republican Hill allies to sworn Bush supporters to sympathetic columnists.

“It helps crystallize my thought to answer your questions,” he told conservative columnists called to the Oval Office this week. But he made it clear that his thoughts were contentedly calcified: “Let me just first tell you that I’ve never been more convinced that the decisions I made are the right decisions. I’m oftentimes asked about, well, you’re stubborn and all this. If you believe in a strategy, in Washington, D.C., you’ve got to stick to that strategy, see.”

Aside from Dick Cheney and Rummy, who don’t have all their buttons, we all long for W. to find better strategies on Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, pretty much the rest of the world and national security.

He’s facing a rebellion from big shots in his party who don’t want him to rip up the Geneva Conventions. Lindsey Graham calls it a fight over “who America is in 2006.” John McCain, who has been trying so hard to play nice with W. for the sake of his political future, said the president’s plan risks “our moral standing and the lives of those Americans who risk everything to defend our country.”

Colin Powell, his conscience about Iraq clearly stinging, agreed that “the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism” and that undermining the Geneva Conventions “would add to those doubts” and “put our own troops at risk.” (Tony Snow deemed Mr. Powell confused, which is how the Bushies dismiss those who don’t grasp their invisible genius.)

Whenever W. does something legally sketchy and morally ambiguous — from pre-emptive war to spying to torturing — he claims he’s doing it to protect Americans from terrorists. But there’s a more visceral agenda: Vice and Rummy have persuaded W. he will not carry a big stick if bound by Lilliputian legalities, tiresome checks and balances and Kumbaya international conventions. Rather than being alarmed at their battiness, the president naïvely admires what he sees as bravado.


links for 2006-09-16

  • "This afternoon when I picked Ethan up from school, his teacher turned from a conversation she was having with another mother, pulled me aside and asked a question. “Did you tell Ethan not to say the pledge?"
  • "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United Federation of Planets, and to the galaxy for which it stands, one universe, under everybody, with liberty and justice for all species."

links for 2006-09-15

Ann Richards RIP

I never met Ms. Richards, though we had mutual acquaintances and connections in Austin, and now I never will. Class act she, and was Diebolded out of governorship of Texas by a younger Karl Rove and his sock puppet.

Repost from a while ago...
I always thought this was uttered by (former Texas Governor) Ann Richards, at the 1988 Democratic Convention. Memory is a funny t'ing.

Barry Switzer:

“Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.”

Ann Richards did say (speaking of George Bush the smarter)

▪ “Poor George, he can't help it-- he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”

at the Keynote Address to the 1988 Democratic National Convention


links for 2006-09-14

Clinton and FDL

| 1 Comment

Firedoglake - Firedoglake weblog » Big Dog and the Gals

Bill Clinton Jane Hamsher Christy Hardin Smith

One: this is an interesting arc - we've been reading FDL since they were a small blog, and obviously they've moved up within the blog pecking order to be invited to hang out with Bill Clinton and his lackeys. Good for them: FDL deserves the recognition.

Two: one wonders, if the blog community (right and left) had existed in the 90s, would Clinton have been such a craven, Nixon-esque Democrat? If the national political dialogue would have included such liberal (and intelligent) voices as the FDL crowd, and others like Juan Cole and Glenn Greenwald, wouldn't Clinton have tried to triangulate on the left as well as the right? Wouldn't that have helped us all? I can't claim to have ever been a strong Clinton supporter, but I do think the man was as intelligent a politician as the 90s afforded, and he always has been interested in opinions. Prior to the prominence of the blogging millions, liberal voices were relegated to a few outlets in the corporate media (The Nation, Harpers, Rolling Stone occasionally, etc.), certainly none of the television talking heads of the 90s could be considered liberals. One of those questions we'll never have an answer to.

More FDL on the Big Dog

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steal an election

Do not attempt this at home.

Princeton researchers show how to steal an election with Diebold machines Princeton security researchers Ariel J. Feldman, J. Alex Halderman, and Edward W. Felten have taken apart one of Diebold's notorious voting machines and done a thorough security analysis of its workings. They showed that they could easily install software on the machine that would allow an attacker to steal votes from one candidate and give them to another -- they showed that this would be undetectable, and easily done. They've published a paper and an amazing, disturbing video showing how this could be done.

Henny penny! The die(bold) is falling!

Video and links to PDF and other info found at

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iTunes 7

Apple released a new version of iTunes yesterday. They've integrated the freeware, Coverflow (developer site here), which I tried earlier this year (1/28/06), but was unhappy with. However, now I really like the feature.

iTunes 7 screenshot 2

iTunes 7 screenshot
Here am creating a mix CD for a friend.

Cool-ee-o! Of course this does mean that I'm going to have to figure out how to upgrade my system to a bigger hard disc, as all this extra artwork is going to add up, and I'm already 80% full. I already have 2 internal drives (500 gigs), plus external drives. Perhaps I'll move Photoshop image files elsewhere.

Some info on new features at iPod lounge

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links for 2006-09-13

American Could Pull Ads From ABC

I certainly hope somebody (or even better, some bodies) at ABC gets fired over the whole scandal. Not only did ABC give away $40 million dollars by airing the crap-tastic docudrama, but now American Airline's ad dollars won't be spent at ABC either.

AdWeek - American Could Pull Ads From ABC

American Airlines is prepared to pull its advertising from ABC in order to protest its portrayal in the network's recently aired movie The Path to 9/11, according to a source. The carrier also said it is considering legal action against the network.

The airline spends $25 million annually on broadcast TV ads; it could not immediately determined how much is spent on ABC, but according to one source, “It's extensive.”

Roger Frizzell, vice president, corporate communications and advertising, American, confirmed that the client is mulling its legal options.

The film in both its first and second parts appears to suggest that chief hijacker Mohammed Atta was flagged as a security risk at Boston's Logan Airport by American Airlines personnel. According to the 9/11 Commission Report, that incident occurred earlier that morning, in Maine, and the airline was U.S. Airways.

Late Monday, American Airlines released the following statement: “The Disney/ABC television program, 'The Path to 9/11,' which began airing last night, is inaccurate and irresponsible in its portrayal of the airport check-in events that occurred on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

”A factual description of those events can be found in the official government edition of the 9/11 Commission Report and supporting documents.

“This misrepresentation of facts dishonors the memory of innocent American Airlines employees and all those who lost their lives as a result of the tragic events of 9/11.”

American said it would have no further comment beyond the statement at this time. But earlier in the day, it had sent a letter to those who had contacted the company with the same complaint, inspired by liberal blogger John Aravosis of Americablog [original post here - editors]. He received a letter that read:

“I think it is important for you to know that ABC had factual errors in its dramatization, and we are looking at possible legal actions as a result. . . . Please know this was a tragic incident in our company's history and we hope you will be sympathetic to our employees and our airline on this day especially. Again, we are outraged by this situation, and we alerted ABC about its gross error. It is very unfortunate.”

Frizzell signed the letter.

My impusle was (and probably still is, once I have a moment to breathe) to write directly to AA, as I am a long time AA frequent flyer member and make some white lie remark about not wanting to fly AA anymore because of the Atta allegations, and see what happens. Ok I did. Will post if I get a good response.

Loving Cup

Busy day for me (plus slept in until 9:30 - doh!), so watch this video of the Rolling Stones from their last great album instead.

Exile On Main Street [Limited Edition]
Exile on Mainstreet

Exile on Main Street
“Exile on Main Street” (Robert Greenfield)

(direct link here)

From the famous 1972 Montreux rehearsals in decent quality, though not the entire song (also sans backup singers).

Via Rock and Roll Report

Oh, and I read

The Rolling Stones' Exile on Main St. (33 1/3)

“The Rolling Stones' Exile on Main St. (33 1/3)” (Bill Janovitz)

a month or two ago, good, quickly read overview of the nitty gritty of this album's genesis and creation, and mythology.

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links for 2006-09-12

Chevron loves Republicans

Nuff said?

Chevron Could Avoid Huge Royalties From Oil Find in the Gulf A group of companies led by Chevron could avoid more than $1 billion in royalty payments to the federal government.

Actually, Chevron loves the DLC Democrats, too.

A spokesman for Chevron, Don Campbell, said Monday that “any conjecture about forgone royalties” would be “pure speculation and an academic exercise.”

The Chevron leases are the biggest, but hardly the only leases that allow oil companies to avoid royalties regardless of how high energy prices climb.

Even before Chevron and its partners confirmed the discovery last week, the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, had estimated that the Treasury could lose as much as $20 billion over the next 25 years.

On Wednesday, the House Committee on Government Reform will begin two days of hearings on how the original calculation came to be. Republicans have been eager to blame the Clinton administration, which was in office when the leases were signed.

But the Interior Department’s inspector general is expected to testify that the Bush administration may be in danger of making exactly the same move on new leases.

According to Congressional aides, the inspector general has uncovered evidence that midlevel Interior Department officials warned as recently as July that a new batch of leases could cost the government billions of dollars beyond the original misstep.

Republican lawmakers are also angry about the Interior Department’s response to the problem, which was first disclosed by The New York Times in March.

Representative Thomas M. Davis III of Virginia, chairman of the Committee on Government Reform, complained of “systematic delays” and said the Interior Department had withheld large volumes of “critical information” from Congressional investigators.

Chevron’s huge potential savings highlight a dispute about how to remedy the leases signed in the late 1990’s. The Bush administration and many Republican leaders argue that those leases are binding contracts that cannot be changed except through an agreement by the companies.

Democrats acknowledge that the contracts are binding, but support a measure that would punish companies that refuse to renegotiate their contracts by prohibiting them from acquiring additional oil and gas leases.

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Eric Alterman fired

Eric Alterman (one of the few columnists I've been reading longer than I knew blogs existed) is changing URLs. Hopefully, MediaMatters will have a better RSS feed of his column/blog than MSNBC's crappy half-assed version. I filter nearly 90% of my news through NetNewswire, sites like the former Altercation which have poor or no RSS support get less visits. Just how it is.

Altercation: 9/11: America attacked twice - Altercation - First, the bad news:  I’m fired. has decided to end its support of “Altercation,” and indeed, all of its association with yours truly as of this Friday.Ok, now, the good news:  My friends at Media Matters for America have decided that the cause of continuing “Altercation” in its current, politically independent form to be worthy of their support.  So we’re not dying, just moving.  Our new URL will be and I will also become a MM Senior Fellow.

...Whether my termination is, in fact, a product of a political decision at GE/NBC, which according to reports I read and gossip I hear, has lately taken a much firmer hand in guiding the content of both MSNBC and, I have no way of knowing. I have never even spoken with the Web site’s current editor-in-chief, nor has anyone communicated with me beyond my immediate circle of editors. Outspoken liberals in the MSM have long been an endangered species. (From the beginning, a Wall Street Journal editorial page writer attacked the site for “conferring mainstream legitimacy on Eric Alterman.”) Even less common, I suppose, are Web sites that feel free to criticize their corporate parents, the pollution they cause, the lying, incompetent, ideologically extremist and corrupt presidents they coddle, and perhaps most especially, the all-but incomprehensible choices they make when doling out cable TV news programs. It would surprise no one if this site caused some discomfort at 30 Rock, if and when they happen to notice it.

Frack the corporate media anyway.

(tip 'o the brain to Gordon)

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Junk faxes are a scourge


As I wrote a while ago, we used to receive junk faxes every day, sometimes several a day. We tried complaining to the FCC, but eventually just changed our long-time fax number. For almost a year, we didn't get any junk faxes, but as of a couple of weeks ago, the fax scum have tracked down our (unpublished) fax number, and now we've started receiving junk pages again.

Junk Fax Custom Printed

However, since then, I had read a David Pogue column which someone had added this comment:

Pogue’s Posts - Return to Sender

As with most “points of pain”, it’s also a business opportunity. Fax Recovery Systems ( will do the legal chasing for you and pay you $100 (from the $500 they collect).

I'm totally signing up.

There was also a second option

The attorny, Ron Kuby, said on his radio show (770 in New York) that there was an attorney in New Jersey that split the fines collected 50/50 with you. You have to send him the fax.

Either way, am making these frackers pay!

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Journalist with ethics

Point, counter point.

Palast Charged with Journalism in the First Degree Greg Palast ... On August 22, for LinkTV and Democracy Now! we videotaped the thousands of Katrina evacuees still held behind a barbed wire in a trailer park encampment a hundred miles from New Orleans. It’s been a year since the hurricane and 73,000 POW’s (Prisoners of W) are still in this aluminum ghetto in the middle of nowhere. One resident, Pamela Lewis said, “It is a prison set-up” — except there are no home furloughs for these inmates because they no longer have homes.

To give a sense of the full flavor and smell of the place, we wanted to show that this human parking lot, with kids and elderly, is nearly adjacent to the Exxon Oil refinery, the nation’s second largest, a chemical-belching behemoth.

So we filmed it. Without Big Brother’s authorization. Uh, oh. Apparently, the broadcast of these stinking smokestacks tipped off Osama that, if his assassins pose as poor Black folk, they can get a cramped Airstream right next to a “critical infrastructure” asset.

So now Matt and I have a “criminal complaint” lodged against us with the feds.

A personal request to readers. Many have written to ask what can be done to protect Matt and me from becoming unwilling guests of the State.

First, this ain’t no foolin’ around: Matt and I are facing these nutty charges. So spread the info. We believe that getting the word out is the best defense.

Second, call Homeland Security and turn us in. They seem to have trouble finding us. If you get a reward, you may choose to donate it to the Palast Investigative Fund, a 501(c)(3) educational foundation which supports our work and pays our legal fees.

Third, ask your local library to order our book, Armed Madhouse: Who’s Afraid of Osama Wolf? Homeland Security now reserves the right to read over your shoulder at the library; therefore, the more our agents are forced to read this subversive material, the more likely we can convince them to come in out of the cold. All kidding aside, we do ask you to request your library order the book: not everyone can afford to purchase this hardbound edition.

read Mr. Palast's entire tale here

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Journalists without ethics

Hmmm, wonder how we could get some of this action?

U.S. Paid 10 Journalists for Anti-Castro Reports The Bush administration’s Office of Cuba Broadcasting paid 10 journalists in Miami to provide commentary critical of Fidel Castro.

Sounds like pretty easy money to earn, probably tax free, right? Wouldn't want to tax income directly funded from taxpayers, right?

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Student loans

Luckily, school loan consolidation was never a problem, nor was college loan consolidation. When I went to UT, I saved by avoiding car insurance quotes. Err, something. Seriously, I did manage to put myself through school, debt free, slaving as a waitron and bookkeeper at the Magnolia Cafe South. Do I get a cookie?

(I'd assume these will change sometime today)

On a totally unrelated topic, my Google ad earnings have dropped precipitously. Perhaps I should tweak them somehow.

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Al-Qaeda and Karl Rove

Al-Qaeda warning marks 9/11 Al-Qaeda's No2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, marks the fifth anniversary of 11 September with a warning of new attacks.

Though, when the video equipment was traced, it seemed to have first been purchased through Karl Rove's office. Strange.


Promises Not Kept

I was going to ignore teh Terrorism today, but Krugman has a good point. Dead or Alive, my arse.

Steel, Ice and death

Paul Krugman: Promises Not Kept Let’s not forget that the perpetrators of 9/11 are still at large, five years later, and that they have re-established a large safe haven.

Five years ago, the nation rallied around a president who promised vengeance against those responsible for the atrocity of 9/11. Yet Osama bin Laden is still alive and at large. His trail, The Washington Post reports, has gone “stone cold.” Osama and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, are evidently secure enough in their hideaway that they can taunt us with professional-quality videos.

They certainly don’t lack for places to stay. Pakistan’s government has signed a truce with Islamic militants in North Waziristan, the province where bin Laden is presumed to be hiding. Although the Pakistanis say that this doesn’t mean that bin Laden is immune from arrest, their claims aren’t very credible.

Meanwhile, much of Afghanistan has fallen back under the control of drug-dealing warlords and of the Taliban, which sheltered Al Qaeda before it was driven from Kabul. NATO’s top commander has appealed for more troops; the top British commander in Afghanistan has said that fighting there is fiercer than in Iraq. And the numbers bear him out: since the beginning of 2006, the NATO force in Afghanistan has had a higher rate of fatalities than that suffered by coalition troops in Iraq.

The path to this strategic defeat began with the failure to capture or kill bin Laden. Never mind the anti-Clinton hit piece, produced for ABC by a friend of Rush Limbaugh; there never was a clear shot at Osama before 9/11, let alone one rejected by Clinton officials. But there was a clear shot in December 2001, when Al Qaeda’s leader was trapped in the caves of Tora Bora. He made his escape because the Pentagon refused to use American ground troops to cut him off.

No matter, declared President Bush: “I truly am not that concerned about him,” he said about bin Laden in March 2002, and more or less stopped mentioning Osama for the next four years. By the time he made his what-me-worry remarks — just six months after 9/11 — the pursuit of Al Qaeda had already been relegated to second-class status. A long report in yesterday’s Washington Post adds detail to what has long been an open secret: early in 2002, the administration began pulling key resources, such as special forces units and unmanned aircraft, off the hunt for Al Qaeda’s leaders, in preparation for the invasion of Iraq.

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union hall shooting

As mentioned yesterday, there was a bit dust up down the street Saturday night.

Crime Scene

Chicago Tribune news: 2 teenagers shot outside union hall 2 teenagers shot outside union hall

Two teenagers were shot Saturday night after a brawl at a party in a union hall on Chicago's Near West Side.

A fight broke out about 10:40 p.m. inside the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134 hall in the 600 block of West Washington Boulevard, police said. As partygoers began to leave the building, an unknown shooter began firing into the crowd of people outside the hall, police spokesman Marcel Bright said.

A 15-year-old boy was shot twice and was in serious but stable condition in Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and a 14-year-old girl was shot once and was treated in Stroger Hospital and released.

Michael Caddigan, office manager for Local 134, said investigators told him that the shooting occurred just around the corner from the hall.

Caddigan said the hall was rented to a non-profit youth group, Acknowledged Youth of the Future, for a back-to-school event.

The actual shooting seems to have been on Jefferson and Randolph, at least that was the area blocked off, with police searching bushes for gun shells or whatever, and where a blood stain was. We talked to a valet who works at Blackbird, he said he was returning from 7-11 and was across the street when he heard shooting.


Sacks in Congress

In a finding surprising to none, Congress is composed of lying sacks of [insert cliche here].

Study finds whole lot of half-truths in Congress
Members of Congress tell the whole truth only about a quarter of the time when debating major legislation on the floors of the House and Senate. ... The two meticulously sifted through the Congressional Record to identify key claims made by each side to support its case and to rebut the assertions of opponents. They also compared the claims with available data to see whether they were true, false or somewhere in between. In all, they examined the accuracy of 18 claims in 43 separate House and Senate debates.

Researchers judged the claims made in only 11 of the 43 debates to have been largely substantiated by the facts. An additional 16 were deemed to be “unsubstantiated” -- a polite way of saying they were misleading, mostly false or flatly wrong--while 16 were an artful mix of fact and fiction, they report in their new book, “Deliberative Choices: Debating Public Policy in Congress.”

I would assert this trend has worsened since 2001.

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links for 2006-09-11

Bill Hicks, Drugs and Evolution

Bill Hicks has obviously read Terence McKenna's book about mushrooms, and human consciousness.

Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge A Radical History of Plants, Drugs, and Human Evolution

“Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge A Radical History of Plants, Drugs, and Human Evolution” (Terence Mckenna)


Everyone should read it, actually.

Here's Mr. Hick's dramatization:

direct link here

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Fire fight

| 1 Comment

This was the scene as we came back from seeing our friend's band play, and after a small stop to pick up something from another friend. Initially, we could not get through to our garage.

Incident on Randolph
triple shooting on my street early this morning/late last night.

Pick up moment
These two ladies decided to strike up conversations with the police since their car was blocked by yellow tape.

Four injured after fight breaks out in West Loop

Two people were shot and two others were assaulted when a fight broke out at a dance in Chicago's West Loop Saturday night. Three people suffered minor injuries and one person was critically injured.

“The street cop responded to a battery in progress at 600 West Washington. A fight broke out inside an electrician's hall. It spilled outside and it ended up with two people being shot and two people being beaten,” said Inspector Joseph Berry, Chicago Police Department

The injured were taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Stroger Hospital. Police believe the victims may have been teenagers or young adults, but that information has been confirmed yet.

Police say a crowd of about 70 to 80 people formed on the scene initially, but officers were able to take control of the situation and transport the injured to area hospitals.

Tribune story here


links for 2006-09-10

The Unslammed Phone

My favorite color cherry red....

Maureen Dowd: The Unslammed Phone :

W. is pulling out all the stops this week to try to make people forget he was in charge when the twin towers were hit, but if he’s doing so great, why is Osama releasing new tapes while Afghanistan crumbles while Pakistan stands ready to implode while Lebanon has already exploded while Iran goes nuclear and taunts us while Al Qaeda in Iraq calls on its followers to kill Americans “by a sniper bullet, spear, explosive or martyrdom car”?
When a reporter asked President Bush a couple of weeks ago what Iraq had to do with 9/11, he blurted out the truth: “Nothing.” But momentarily dismissing that fantasy isn’t about to dissuade him from others. “One of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror,’’ President Bush told Katie Couric this week. I bet. Making up is hard to do.

practiced at the art of deception....

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Waiting for Al Qaeda

| 1 Comment

John Tierney is spot on when he points to the growth of the terrorism industry. Actual terroristic acts are few, and far in between, but the terrorism industry, and its claim on our tax dollars, waxes large. For an allegedly conservative columnist, Mr. Tierney actually has some sense, based on the last 3-4 columns he has published.

John Tierney: Waiting for Al Qaeda - New York Times :

Compared with past threats — like Communist sociopaths with nuclear arsenals — Al Qaeda’s terrorists are a minor problem. They certainly don’t justify the hyperbolic warnings that America’s “existence” or “way of life” is in jeopardy, or that America must transform the Middle East in order to survive. There undoubtedly will be more terrorist attacks, either from Al Qaeda or others, just as there were before 2001. Terrorists might strike Monday. There will always be homicidal zealots like Mohamed Atta or Timothy McVeigh, and some of them will succeed, terribly. But this is not a new era. The terrorist threat is still small. It’s the terrorism industry that got big.

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Pentagon vs. the press

part one gazillion.... I'd wager that George W the first (Washington) might have disagreed with the New Hampshire Gazette's coverage of the crossing of the Delaware, but he saved his cash.

Pentagon vs. the press | Chicago Tribune : The Pentagon is taking bids for a two-year, $20 million contract to read newspapers and watch TV news and rate the daily coverage of the war in Iraq. The “tone,” “key themes” and “messages” of coverage in the U.S. and the Arab world are to be evaluated as positive, negative or neutral.

Pentagon brass are understandably frustrated that the media do not always report the war's daily events in positive terms. “They want [war news] to be received by audiences as it is transmitted” by the military, as one public relations expert explained to the Washington Post, “but they don't like how it turns out.”

Sorry, but sometimes the truth hurts. Anyway, add to the file.

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Psychotic member

What a strange story. Seems like there is another layer, undiscussed. She apparently convinced Andrew Card of something, we just don't know what.

Ex-Congress Aide Accused in Spy Case Is Free on Bail : A former journalist and Congressional aide accused of working with Iraqi intelligence before the war was released from prison yesterday after a federal judge ruled that she could not be forced to take antipsychotic medication in an effort to make her competent to stand trial.

The ruling was a setback for the government’s case against Ms. Lindauer, who was arrested in March 2004 at her home in Takoma Park, Md. An indictment charged that Ms. Lindauer, also known as Symbol Susan, conspired to act as an unregistered agent of the government of Iraq from October 1999 until February 2004, and engaged in illegal financial transactions.
Investigators said she had tried to influence American policy by presenting herself as an agent of Saddam Hussein’s government in early 2003 to Andrew H. Card Jr., then the White House chief of staff, who was described as a distant relative.

Judge Mukasey said that for Ms. Lindauer to succeed as an agent of the Iraqi government, she would have had to influence other people. But her mental condition makes that highly unlikely, he said.

“The record shows that even lay people recognize that she is seriously disturbed,” Judge Mukasey said in a 35-page ruling issued on Wednesday. He said that a neighbor had suspected her of being mildly schizophrenic.

Prosecutors said she met with Iraqi intelligence officers at places in Baghdad, including Al Rashid Hotel, in 2002, where she accepted $5,000 in cash.

Ms. Lindauer told a television reporter after her arrest that she was innocent, and that she was an antiwar activist.

...One doctor found that Ms. Lindauer had a history of psychotic episodes going back to her childhood, possibly at the age of 7, the judge said. These include her contention that she had gifts of prophecy that allowed her to report 11 bombings before they happened, that she spoke with divine inspiration and that she was an angel.

Among her paranoid delusions, doctors said, were the notion that she was being watched by hidden cameras in her apartment, that the Egyptian government had tried to assassinate her and that men next door had videotaped her under instructions from President Bill Clinton.
Ms. Lindauer is a 1985 graduate of Smith College, where she majored in economics, and she received a master’s degree from the London School of Economics.

Her father, John Lindauer, was the Republican nominee for governor of Alaska in 1998.

Very odd.

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Folks sure are foolish

People are too trusting with their personal information. For instance: Daily Log: Sex Baiting Prank on Craigslist Affects Hundreds... On Monday, a Seattle web developer named Jason Fortuny started his own Craigslist experiment. The goal: “Posing as a submissive woman looking for an aggressive dom, how many responses can we get in 24 hours?”

He took the text and photo from a sexually explicit ad (warning: not safe for work) in another area, reposted it to Craigslist Seattle, and waited for the responses to roll in. Like Simon's experiment, the response was immediate. He wrote, “178 responses, with 145 photos of men in various states of undress. Responses include full e-mail addresses (both personal and business addresses), names, and in some cases IM screen names and telephone numbers.”

In a staggering move, he then published every single response, unedited and uncensored, with all photos and personal information to Encyclopedia Dramatica (kinda like Wikipedia for web fads and Internet drama). Read the responses (warning: sexually explicit material).

I don't understand the impulse to tell total strangers intimate details about oneself. I don't even tell friends and family every thought and experience, why would I send it to some unknown entity on the internets? As for all the idiots who ruined their marriages, well, why were they looking for action on the side anyway? If that's what you need to be fulfilled, then your marriage probably isn't so good, and maybe it should end.

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links for 2006-09-09

Greg Palast and DHS

Add to the Department of Approaching Fascism file.

Articles @ Greg Palast : Greg Palast is facing a criminal complaint from the Department of Homeland Security stemming from his filming the Hurricane Katrina investigation for Link TV and Democracy Now. The film’s producer, Matt Pascarella, is also facing the legal wrath of Big Brother. It appears the complaint is about filming a sensitive national security site owned by Exxon petroleum. It seems that photographing major Bush donors is now a federal offense.

Reached at an undisclosed location, Palast says, “Let’s not get over-excited. They haven’t measured us for our orange suits yet.”

During questioning by Homeland Security, Palast asked, “Hey, aren’t you supposed to be looking for Osama? Or for guys with exploding shoes? … We’re journalists.” At Palast’s request, Homeland Security confirmed that Louisiana is, indeed, still part of the USA but did not respond when asked if the First Amendment applies there.

Ya think they read his book?

Armed Madhouse: Who's Afraid of Osama Wolf?, China Floats, Bush Sinks, The Scheme to Steal '08,No Child's Behind Left, and Other Dispatches from the Front Lines of th
“Armed Madhouse: Who's Afraid of Osama Wolf?, China Floats, Bush Sinks, The Scheme to Steal '08,No Child's Behind Left, and Other Dispatches from the Front Lines of th” (Greg Palast)

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BP exec takes 5th

Really speaks to the gullibility of the press politicians and public. BP spent several million dollars in the US, and more elsewhere, proclaiming how green BP really was, but the reality was obviously much different. BP's profits could have been reinvested in infrastructure, but obviously it is much more fun to hobnob with Diamond Dick Cheney, shooting people in the face.

The WSJ had this article yesterday:

Already under siege by American environmental regulators and financial-market investigators, BP PLC faces a new inquisitor today: Congress.

In the first of as many as two Capitol Hill appearances in coming days, U.S. operations chief Bob Malone and other BP officials face a public grilling from politicians just ahead of U.S. midterm elections. The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hear testimony from experts and BP officials on corrosion problems at BP's Alaska oil field. The London company partially shuttered the field last month after discovering corroded pipes.

The hearing comes amid a series of embarrassing regulatory, criminal and civil probes at BP. Those include an investigation into safety problems at the company's U.S. refineries and probes into whether BP traders manipulated energy markets.

While much new evidence isn't expected this week, the intensified scrutiny risks a further public-relations backlash from consumers and politicians against BP and its chief executive, John Browne. BP's profits and stock price have risen over the past two years along with higher prices for oil, natural gas and petroleum-based fuels like gasoline. At a time of widespread anger at today's gasoline prices, “BP becomes a very convenient whipping boy” for the entire oil industry, said James Post, a management professor at Boston University.

The swirl of controversy marks a major setback for Lord Browne, who crafted for BP an image based on environmental and corporate responsibility. While many environmentalists and activist investors have been satisfied that BP matched actions with words, BP is now at risk of losing that goodwill after more than a year of safety, environmental and compliance problems in the U.S.

“I think some of the sort of emotional capital that [BP] has built up will be called in” amid the public scrutiny, said John Elkington, founder of SustainAbility Ltd., a corporate-responsibility consulting firm in London.

Lord Browne isn't expected to testify in hearings scheduled for today or at a Senate hearing on Prudhoe Bay scheduled next week before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Instead, Mr. Malone, a native Texan and newly appointed chief executive of BP's American operations, will be the senior executive answering questions from lawmakers.

In March 2005, an explosion at BP's refinery in Texas City, Texas, killed 15 workers. The company was fined heavily for safety shortcomings stemming from the accident. Regulators are still poring over details of the accident, including whether senior BP executives bear more responsibility for safety shortcomings than the company has so far acknowledged.

Meanwhile, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and Justice Department allege that the company manipulated the U.S. propane market in early 2004, a charge the company denies. Investigators are also probing the company's crude-oil and gasoline-market trading activities.

And the Trib writes:

BP exec takes 5th on oil line break | Chicago Tribune
- Rep. Joe L. Barton (R-Texas) was “very concerned.”

Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) was “frustrated” and “angry,” as well as “concerned.”

And Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) was “just baffled.”

No one, in fact, said he or she was pleased Thursday as the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigations spent hours examining a break in one of British Petroleum's Alaska oil pipelines earlier this year.

Two congressmen who weren't even members of the subcommittee came to the cavernous hearing room in the Rayburn House Office Building to express their outrage.

And BP's executives, who traveled to Washington from Texas and Alaska, couldn't do enough to express their contrition as they earnestly described the soul-searching they've done since the break dumped more than 200,000 gallons of oil onto the Alaskan tundra in March.

The only person who did not express his concerns Thursday was the former head of BP's pipeline corrosion monitoring unit, Richard C. Woollam. He invoked his 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination and declined to testify.

Anytime a mobster pleads the 5th...

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Sculpture coinkydink

Strangely enough, the sculptor who created this was next door, quoting a fence for our building with D and another condo board member. I happened to stop in to get a signature from D, and recognized this from a print out on the cover of his portfolio. Small world, small world indeed.

Harvest Home
I should have asked him what the name of the piece was....

Pat McDonald

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Two Tales of a City

Two Tales of a City Rebuilding Chicago's Architectural And Social Landscape, 1986-2005 looks like an interesting read, and has a forward written by a Flickr pal (Lee Bey).

Amazon doesn't have cover art yet, but this link does....Cover Story on Flickr

and it looks quite like the cover photo was taken in my neck of the city.


Friday Beer blogging with the Pope

Entrance Template
Entrance Template Lincoln Park

Streams of Whiskey (trucks)
Streams of Whiskey (trucks) Everyone should have at least one slow-motion shot of traffic in their (flickr) stream, right?

(title in homage to Shane MacGowan of the Pogues, et al)

Abn Amro redux
Abn Amro redux moon rise over the the good city

Having a Beer with the Pope 2
Having a Beer with the Pope 2 She was very interested in this beer

Having a Beer with the Pope
Having a Beer with the Pope but wouldn't drink any because she's a teetotaler.

a quickr pickr post

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links for 2006-09-08

Press for Truth in Chicago

In response to the ABC debacle, there is some interest in a documentary called 9/11 Press for Truth.

9/11 Press For Truth

“9/11 Press For Truth” (Disinformation)


WHAT: Chicago, Illinois screening of Press For Truth
WHEN: Wednesday, September 13 2006 07:30 PM
There will be a “talk back” with the filmmakers afterward! Doors open at 6:45 so everyone has time to buy popcorn and meet other people. Let's fill the seats of this historic theater and watch this incredible film!

(showings in other areas)
(from FDL)

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The Lunatic Center

Being safely camped out on the fringe for the last couple decades, far from the 'maddening crowd'*, I shouldn't pass judgement on the sensible technocrats and their minions. Tom Friedman is not well liked in left blogislavia (phrase apparently coined by me, even though skippy no doubt invented the snowclone), perhaps due to Friedman's initial assessment that an Iraq invasion would be all Tina Turner and no Mel Gibson. Or something. Go ahead and read yer'self. Friedman is actually referring to the Shia-Sunni middle, btw, and he still believes in the noble mission of annexing Iraq as the 51 state (or whatever number it is, after Puerto Rico and Guam are assimilated as a 2-fer).

Thomas Friedman: The Lunatic Center

We are in trouble in Iraq now not because of what the “fringes” believe, but because of what the center has been willing to tolerate.

To listen to the latest Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld speeches, you’d think that our biggest problem in Iraq is a violent minority of “extremists,” defying the democratic will of the Iraqi people. And you’d think that our biggest problem at home is a misguided group of Democratic appeasers, who want to cut and run in the great totalitarian struggle of the 21st century.

I wish it were so. Unfortunately, we are in trouble in Iraq now not because of what the “fringes” there, or here, believe, but because of what the center in both places has been willing to tolerate or unwilling to change.

We have a “center problem.”

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Name That Tune

Oooh, ooooh, I want to play this game with YLT too. I have a software program that randomly pulls songs from my iTunes library (currently 39,609 songs) and counts down a timer as you narrow down choices from 4 choices to 1 (I'd play the game more frequently if it didn't have such a obscure name I can't ever find it!! Oh yeah, Rock Star!), but it would be different to play Name That Tune using someone else's library. I'd kick YLT's ass, I'm not 'fraid of their indie cred....

Matt Allen plays Name That Tune with Yo La Tengo The veteran US art-rock group Yo La Tengo are famed for their encyclopedic knowledge of every kind of music under the sun. Matt Allen played Name That Tune with them to find out more.

I really just wanted to note the name of YLT's new album, which totally made me laugh:

Yo La Tengo's new album, I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass is released on Monday by Matador

I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass

“I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass” (Yo La Tengo)

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More Disney-fying


AMERICAblog: Senate Democratic leadership threatens Disney with legal and legislative sanctions
This letter was sent today by the entire Democratic leadership of the US Senate. This letter is such a major shot across the bow of Disney, it's not even funny. It is FILLED with veiled threats, both legal and legislative, against Disney. US Senators don't make threats like this, especially the entire Democratic leadership en masse, unless they mean it.
... Should Disney allow this programming to proceed as planned, the factual record, millions of viewers, countless schoolchildren, and the reputation of Disney as a corporation worthy of the trust of the American people and the United States Congress will be deeply damaged. We urge you, after full consideration of the facts, to uphold your responsibilities as a respected member of American society and as a beneficiary of the free use of the public airwaves to cancel this factually inaccurate and deeply misguided program. We look forward to hearing back from you soon.


Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid
Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin
Senator Debbie Stabenow
Senator Charles Schumer
Senator Byron Dorgan

If this isn't a big fuck you to ABC, I don't know what is.

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Karl Rove and smudge pots

Strange, I always considered Rove to be a demon spawn.

Book says Rove ordered office exorcism Karl Rove says he's not The Exorcist. Rove, the Bush political shaman Democrats love to demonize, enlisted a trio of clergymen to exorcise Hillary Rodham Clinton's left-wing spirit when he moved into her West Wing office in 2001, according to an unflattering new biography.

Clinton smiled and shook her head in disbelief Wednesday when asked about the tale, which appears in “The Architect: Karl Rove and the Master Plan for Absolute Power,” by James Moore and Wayne Slater.

“I'm speechless,” she finally said, heading toward a Senate elevator.

Later, Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines quipped, “If the story is true . . . they sure did exorcise any lingering competence right out of the building.”

Deal Hudson, a former Fordham University professor Rove enlisted to woo Catholic voters, told Moore and Slater that he witnessed the exorcism, which he described as “an actual liturgical ceremony.”

The Architect: Karl Rove and the Master Plan for Absolute Power
“The Architect: Karl Rove and the Master Plan for Absolute Power” (James Moore, Wayne Slater)

The Exorcist (The Version You've Never Seen)
“The Exorcist (The Version You've Never Seen)” (William Friedkin)


Wal-Mart custom stores

| 1 Comment

Am I prescient, or what?

Wal-Mart to customize stores along key customer lines | Chicago Tribune
The move is the latest strategy twist for the world's largest retailer as it struggles to revive growth rates that have fallen behind smaller rivals such as Target Corp. and after the company's first quarterly drop in profits in a decade.

They've got a long way to go before I'll ever step foot in one, but this is humorous...

In Houston, one store is adopting a Hispanic identity, in part by offering more Hispanic grocery products, a fresh-from-scratch bakery and selling 300 to 500 breakfast tacos a day.

The results relative to other Houston Supercenters include sales per square foot that are 7.6 percent higher and a higher gross margin, which means more profits per item sold.

In the Chicago area, Wal-Mart has defined a store in Evergreen Park as African-American, including offering more urban apparel, a music selection that is all gospel, rap and urban and what it describes as “ethnic hair care” products. Gross margin in that store is also far above other Chicago-area Wal-Marts, Castro-Wright said.

In March, Wal-Mart opened a new upscale store in Plano, Texas, aimed at shoppers in that affluent Dallas suburb. It includes high-end electronics, more fine jewelry, hundreds of types of wine ranging up to $500 a bottle, and even a sushi bar.

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Evacuation West Loop streets

| 1 Comment

Hey - photo opp! Kewl.

Evacuation drill to close West Loop streets | Chicago Tribune
At 9:30 a.m., Des Plaines Street will be closed between Madison and Adams Streets, according to the CTA. Other closures will include the eastbound lanes of Madison from Halsted Street to Des Plaines, and the Kennedy Expressway (Interstate Highway 90-94) exit ramps at Monroe Street and Madison.

At or after 3:30 p.m., closures will take place on Wacker Drive from Madison to Adams Streets, and along Monroe Street from Franklin to Halsted Streets, the CTA said. The Lower Wacker entrance and exit ramp at Monroe will also be closed. The CTA said it expects these closures to end by 7 p.m.

There will also be intermittent closures of Canal, Clinton and Jefferson Streets at Monroe during the drill. Traffic will be allowed to pass periodically through Monroe.

If not too busy tomorrow, might sneak and take a few photos, and try not to get arrested for aiding and abetting, or whatever.

(via GapersBlock)

update. Poopie doo photo opp. Took a photo anyway, just for fun.

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links for 2006-09-07

Nascar political suits

My joke would go here, if I could think of an appropriate one.

GOOD MAGAZINE | What Matters
In the 2006 midterms, Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Rick Santorum (R-PA), both running for re-election, have raised the most money of any candidate in their respective parties. Here are the NASCAR-style uniforms they would wear if companies were proud of their political donations, and if running for senate required a flame-retardant suit.

Funny because it's true, sad because laughter is all we have to respond with.

I may subscribe to this magazine, or at least get a couple of issues without paying while I consider subscribing.

Hillary Clinton’s top contributions by sector
1. Finance, Insurance, Real Estate $4,650,601
2. Lawyers & Lobbyists $3,533,740
3. Other $3,258,584
4. Miscellaneous Business $2,332,809
5. Communications/Electronics $1,808,119
6. Health $1,122,341
7. Construction $521,796
8. Ideology/Single-Issue $432,270
9. Labor $340,545
10. Agribusiness $211,565
11. Energy/Natural Resource $206,462
12. Transportation $118,210
13. Defense $86,050
TOTAL (as of June 30th): $33,180,949

Rick Santorum’s top contributors by sector
Finance, Insurance, Real Estate $2,812,841
Miscellaneous Business $1,373,537
Lawyers & Lobbyists $1,357,125
Health $1,258,021
Other $1,243,951
Construction $666,015
Energy/Natural Resource $651,541
Ideology/Single-Issue $563,073
Communications/Electronics $474,990
Agribusiness $399,237
Transportation $299,574
Defense $76,000
Labor $56,706

TOTAL (as of June 30th): $17,252,473

Political NASCAR suit
illustration by Serifcan Özcan

(link via Boing Boing, of course)

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Former Illinois Governor Sentenced for Graft

Whoa, so there is hope for divine justice to be meted out to the Dauphin....

Former Illinois Governor Sentenced for Graft
A federal judge today sentenced George Ryan to 6 1/2 years in prison for racketeering and fraud.

Parenthetically, I wonder what Steve Earle has to say about the trial? I never did hear of any comments, pro or con. Not to imply that one cannot be both worthy of praise, and worthy of jail. I still like the poetry of Ezra Pound for instance, even though Ezra Pound the fascist turns my stomach.


Template for Disney

Perhaps this movie was screened at ABC recently?

If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?
If Jesus Christ came back to Earth and saw the 1971 Baptist propaganda film “If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?”, He would convert to Buddhism. This astonishing little movie hits a rare trifecta of foaming-mouth lunacy: barking dogma, Cold War paranoia and Dixie-fried exploitation filmmaking at its unintentionally funniest.

..Rev. Pirkle goes even further in spotting sin. As the good pastor pontificates, drive-in theaters are “spawning houses for sex,” Saturday morning TV cartoons “teach our children crime, sex and murder,” and dancing…oh, don’t get him started on that! “Dancing is just as wrong as it’s always been,” he declares with grumpy stoicism. “It’s the front door to sex, and the thing that’s started on the dance floor is expected to end in a car or a motel room.”

Torrent here
Size: 500MB
Video: XviD @ 1169kb/s
Audio: Mp3 @ 128kb/s

Oh, you know I'm d/l it right now!

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Evacuation West Loop streets

Hey - photo opp! Kewl.

Evacuation drill to close West Loop streets | Chicago Tribune
At 9:30 a.m., Des Plaines Street will be closed between Madison and Adams Streets, according to the CTA. Other closures will include the eastbound lanes of Madison from Halsted Street to Des Plaines, and the Kennedy Expressway (Interstate Highway 90-94) exit ramps at Monroe Street and Madison.

At or after 3:30 p.m., closures will take place on Wacker Drive from Madison to Adams Streets, and along Monroe Street from Franklin to Halsted Streets, the CTA said. The Lower Wacker entrance and exit ramp at Monroe will also be closed. The CTA said it expects these closures to end by 7 p.m.

There will also be intermittent closures of Canal, Clinton and Jefferson Streets at Monroe during the drill. Traffic will be allowed to pass periodically through Monroe.

If not too busy tomorrow, might sneak and take a few photos, and try not to get arrested for aiding and abetting, or whatever.

(via GapersBlock)

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Disney screws shareholders


Digby expands (with no input from me! ahem) greatly on my earlier puzzlement re: Disney's strategy. I'm very confused as to why Disney's corporate leaders elected to throw money away via a fact-esque Leni Riefenstahl homage in a feeble attempt to prop up the Boy King's ratings while Michael Moore's movie was deemed “too partisan” to distribute.

Hullabaloo: Disney Throws Away Millions For Republican Causes ... It's evident that Disney/ABC Entertainment is anything but a bunch of lefties. If they were they would have been thrilled to distribute “Fahrenheit 9/11” instead of avoiding it like the plague. And they most certainly wouldn't have signed off on crazy anti-semite Mel Gibson's Holocaust project, for God's sake: ... Isn't that something that Disney shareholders should be just a little bit concerned about? If ABC is protecting its “Narnia” franchise, at some point you have to look at whether the price they are paying is too high. If they have thrown this kind of money away to appease the GOP for business reasons then their shareholders have just been taken to the cleaners. The old K Street project is dead and when Democrats take congress this fall they aren't going to be happy. They are on to it.

If Disney/ABC is giving away free air time for conservative projects and denying distribution to programs that don't favor the Republican Party, then perhaps somebody needs to look at whether this stuff is legal. There are laws regulating corporate giving to campaigns. By not showing advertising it seems to me that it's not impossible to make a case that this latest is a free gift to the Republican party just weeks before an important election.

Perhaps, as a commenter at Hullabaloo notes, this is the real concern? Seems a bit of a stretch since there are nearly as many corporate Democrats as there are corporate Republicans.

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Bush admits to CIA secret prisons

Not that it was much of a secret, but still angers me.

Bush admits to CIA secret prisons
President Bush admits the existence of secret CIA jails as 14 top terror suspects are sent to Guantanamo.

Mr Bush said the CIA had used an “alternative set of procedures”, agreed with the justice department, once suspects had stopped talking. ...
The US administration has faced criticism from legal experts and human rights activists over the policy on detentions of terrorism suspects.

Mr Bush also said he was asking Congress to pass urgent legislation to clarify the terms under which those fighting the war on terror could operate.

He said the laws must make it explicit that US personnel were fulfilling their obligations under the Geneva Convention.

Umm, I wish I was a believer in divine justice, because, if so, I'd at least be happy that Bush is going to burn in hellfire for all eternity. Unfortunately, he'll just get a presidential library in Austin, TX, an airport named after him in Midland, TX, and in a hundred years, historians will debate whether Bush or Harding were the worst presidents ever. I'd rather the Dauphin had to flee the country and live the remainder of his life in exile in Saudi Arabia or Sri Lanka.

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Partisan networks

Surprisingly, some Democrats want ABC-TV to allow truth to creep into ABC's planned programming. Good thing the Republicans will always, always be in power, because otherwise ABC might be making a dreadful mistake, and could find the FCC on 'speed dial' if Democrats (without ties to Disney cash - a rather large if) suddenly assert control of the FCC and other regulatory committees. Nah, will never happen.

News & Views | :

Representatives John Conyers, Jr., John Dingell, Jane Harman, and Louise Slaughter today called on ABC to fix the inaccuracies in its mini-series The Path to 9/11

Mr. Robert A. Iger
President and CEO
The Walt Disney Company

Dear Mr. Iger:

We are advised that ABC is scheduled to air a two-part mini-series entitled “The Path to 9/11” on September 10 and September 11. While we have not yet seen this program, news reports raise serious questions about its accuracy. Therefore, we request that the inaccuracies described herein be addressed immediately and that the program be thoroughly reviewed and revised for accuracy before it airs.

Among our concerns about the program are the following: first, it reportedly contains a scene in which Sandy Berger, the National Security Adviser to President Bill Clinton, declines to give Central Intelligence Agency operatives the authority to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden, and in which those operatives are outside a house where Bin Laden is located. This account has been expressly contradicted by Richard Clarke, a high-ranking counterterrorism official in both the Clinton and Bush Administrations.

Second, the film reportedly contains a scene in which the Central Intelligence Agency declines to share information about the 9/11 hijackers with the FBI and ascribes that failure to the so-called “wall,” limiting information sharing by the Department of Justice in certain circumstances, and established by the Department of Justice in an internal memorandum.

This scene is puzzling at best, and inaccurate at worst. According to a Republican Member of the 9/11 Commission, former Senator Slade Gorton, the “Department of Justice guidelines at issue were internal to the Justice Department and were not even sent to any other agency. The guidelines had no effect on the Department of Defense and certainly did not prohibit it from communicating with the FBI, the CIA or anyone else.”

These two examples alone create substantial doubt about the overall accuracy of this program. September 11th is a day of mourning and remembrance for every American. We do not believe that it is appropriate for it to be tainted by false assertions of blame or partisan spin.

To avoid that occurrence, we urge you to review this film and correct these and other inaccuracies. We appreciate your prompt attention and reply to this time sensitive matter.


Representatives John Conyers, Jr., John Dingell, Jane Harman, Louise Slaughter

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Heuristics and GTD

Who says television* is bad for you? In our hyper-sensitive GTD state, even heuristics can be applied to our new modalities.

Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart
Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart

More here
How can anyone be rational in a world where knowledge is limited, time is pressing, and deep thought is often an unattainable luxury? In our book, “Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart,” we invite readers to embark on a new journey into a land of rationality that differs from the familiar territory of cognitive science and economics. Traditional models of rationality in these fields have tended to view decision-makers as possessing supernatural powers of reason, limitless knowledge, and an eternity in which to make choices. But to understand decisions in the real world, we need a different, more psychologically plausible notion of rationality. This book provides such a view. It is about fast and frugal heuristics-simple rules for making decisions with realistic mental resources. These heuristics can enable both living organisms and artificial systems to make smart choices, judgments, and predictions by employing bounded rationality.

But when and how can such fast and frugal heuristics work? What heuristics are in the mind's “adaptive toolbox,” and what building blocks compose them? Can judgments based simply on a single reason be as accurate as those based on many reasons? Could having less knowledge even lead to systematically better predictions than having more knowledge? We explore these questions by developing computational models of heuristics and testing them through theoretical analysis and practical experiments with people. We show how fast and frugal heuristics can yield adaptive decisions in situations as varied as choosing a mate, dividing resources among offspring, predicting high-school drop-out rates, and profiting from the stock market.

(*Inside joke, we were watching an episode of Battlestar Galactica, season 2, and James Callis aka Dr. Gaius Baltar mentions something about heuristics)

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New Themes for the Same Old Songs

There is something weird about all the gnashing of teeth over Katie Couric being appointed as evening news talking head, as opposed to morning news talking head. I personally avoid both, so perhaps I missed something obvious. Maybe not, and the rending of garments is merely professional jealousy, with a dollop of sexism. Granted the sample would be skewed, but I wonder how many readers of this blog even watch the network evening news anymore. Its been years and years for me, and I only happened to watch the morning news because my neighbor's grandfather was mentioned by WIllard Scott on the occasion of his 108th birthday.

MoDo compares the Dauphin to Ms. Couric (who too frequently seems to be called by her first name only), and wonders what the hubub is about, bub.

Maureen Dowd: New Themes for the Same Old Songs

The personal fulfillment of two people — George Bush and Katie Couric — is disguised and peddled as the fulfillment of a higher ideal.

W. and Katie were both on TV at 6:30 last night, trying to prove they were a man.

Katie won, by a whisker.

The president and the anchor were on a big push this week to prove they could be the daddy at the helm, trustworthy authority figures who could guide America through tumultuous times. She wanted to prove that she was a commander; he wanted to prove that he was an anchor.

The fate of a network, and the fate of a republic, would appear to hinge on gender issues.

W., Dick Cheney and Rummy are on a campaign to scare Americans into believing that limp-wristed Democrats will curtsy to Islamic radicals and Iranian tyrants, just as Chamberlain bowed to Hitler, and that only the über-manly Republicans can keep totalitarianism, fascism and the Al Qaeda “threat to civilization’’ at bay. If they were women, their rhetoric would be described with adjectives like shrill, strident, illogical and hysterical. But since they are men, we’ll just call it Churchill envy.

”Now, I know some of our country hear the terrorists’ words, and hope that they will not, or cannot, do what they say,’’ Mr. Bush said in a speech yesterday to a military group, which was the second story on the first evening news show anchored by the first solo female network anchor. “History teaches that underestimating the words of evil and ambitious men is a terrible mistake.’’ Mr. Bush said that the world failed to heed Lenin and Hitler, and it was essential to pay attention to bin Laden.

Too bad the president didn’t take time out from clearing brush at the ranch long enough back in August of 2001 to pay attention to an intelligence paper headlined ”Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.’’ [video here]

After playing down bin Laden for years, barely mentioning him and minimizing his importance, W. has once more picked up a metaphorical bullhorn on the cusp of the 9/11 anniversary to make Osama the villain, using his name 18 times in a 40-minute speech. Once it would have made a difference to decapitate Osama, and it would still be great to do it. But it’s too late to stop Al Qaeda that way now. The organization has diffused to a state of mind, fueled by hatred of U.S. occupation of Muslim land.

W.’s plan to save his legacy and keep Congress out of Democratic hands is to absorb a misbegotten and mishandled war, Iraq, into the good wars of the 20th century, World War II and the cold war. Instead of just admitting he bollixed up Iraq, W. and his henchmen are ratcheting up, fusing enemies willy-nilly, running around giving speeches with the simplistic, black-helicopter paranoid message: All those scary Arabs are in league to knock us off and institute the rule of Allah.

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links for 2006-09-06

Profanity worries CBS affiliates

| 1 Comment

How pathetic.

9-11 show's profanity worries CBS affiliates
Some CBS affiliates are replacing or delaying a powerful Sept. 11 documentary set to air on Sunday, and broadcasters say it's proof of a growing regulatory chill in the industry after Janet Jackson's 2004 Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction.”

This is example No. 1,“ said Martin Franks, executive vice president of CBS Corp., of the decision by two dozen CBS affiliates to replace or delay ”9/11“ -- which has already aired twice without controversy -- over concerns about some of the language used by the firefighters.

Franks said it seemed ”dishonest somehow“ for the network to cover up the language because of the current regulatory environment.

Too bad ABC isn't receiving any grief for their faux documentary which apparently blames Clinton for 9/11. Gotta love our no-liberal, fact-esque media. Cursing by firefighters- bad, six hours of lies about the Clinton administration - good.

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Staining the Land Forever

Thanks, Bush voters. Not only are your guy's policies destroying American credibility abroad, Bush and his end-of-times Republican party seems bent upon destroying the homeland too. And let nobody forget mercury contaminated fish (and whatever else) is a side benefit of increased raping of public lands.

Nicholas D. Kristof: Staining the Land Forever : The Bush administration has made a systematic effort to increase the private exploitation of federal lands. A highlight of my summers is the annual backpacking trips with my children. This year I took my youngest, who is 8, through 65 miles of the Oregon Cascades, giving her the chance to suffer mosquito bites, slip on snowfields, cross raging streams on rickety logs and enjoy other wilderness thrills.

She is now a confirmed backpacker, and we’ve decided that we’re going to hike together from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail — when we’re both grown up.

This wilderness and trail system is a legacy of past presidents, beginning with Teddy Roosevelt. There aren’t many ways in which our lives today are shaped by a president who governed more than a century ago — or in which President Bush will affect our grandchildren’s grandchildren in the 22nd century — but wilderness policy is one.

Until now, the pattern has been for presidents of both parties to expand protections of natural areas, with a bipartisan record of adding to national forests and other protected areas. Mr. Bush has also added to the wilderness system here and there, but at a broader level he has reversed the trend by leading a stealth campaign to tilt the balance toward development.

“There have been systematic efforts to weaken protections for wilderness-quality lands across the public lands estate, and to make it harder to protect these places in the future,” notes Peter Rafle of the Wilderness Society.

Last month, a federal judge blocked an administration scheme to harvest timber in California’s Giant Sequoia National Monument, criticizing it as “incomprehensible.” But step back and you see that the administration’s approach is entirely comprehensible: it’s a systematic effort to increase the private exploitation of federal lands even if that means losing their character forever.

A few examples:

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links for 2006-09-05

Laughter is better than tears

Way better. Here's laughing at you, kid.
Err, something.

e e cummings
“The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.”

100 Selected Poems by E. E. Cummings
“100 Selected Poems by E. E. Cummings”


links for 2006-09-04

Great Lakes drain away

Facts are dangerous tools, especially in the wrong hands, part 128.

See part 126, for instance

See part

Great Lakes drain away

Light snowfalls, dry summer leave Lakes Michigan, Huron near historic low levels

A decade of warm winters with sporadic snowfall has failed to refill the snow-dependent Great Lakes, with falling water levels bringing the top ever closer to the bottom in Lakes Michigan and Huron.

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Rummys Dance With the Nazis

You'd think the targets of this advertising/marketing/political strategy, us - the citizens, would get sick of the monotone of the campaign. Apparently not - you know the propaganda campaign has been extensively focus-group tested, and some sector of the populace still is receptive. Will Rumsfeld survive the year as Sec of Defense?

Frank Rich has more - with links!

Frank Rich: Donald Rumsfeld'’s Dance With the Nazis A preview of the ambitious propaganda campaign planned between now and Election Day.

PRESIDENT BUSH came to Washington vowing to be a uniter, not a divider. Well, you win some and you lose some. But there is one member of his administration who has not broken that promise: Donald Rumsfeld. With indefatigable brio, he has long since united Democrats, Republicans, generals and civilians alike in calling for his scalp.

Last week the man who gave us “stuff happens” and “you go to war with the Army you have” outdid himself. In an instantly infamous address to the American Legion, he likened critics of the Iraq debacle to those who “ridiculed or ignored” the rise of the Nazis in the 1930’s and tried to appease Hitler. Such Americans, he said, suffer from a “moral or intellectual confusion” and fail to recognize the “new type of fascism” represented by terrorists. Presumably he was not only describing the usual array of “Defeatocrats” but also the first President Bush, who had already been implicitly tarred as an appeaser by Tony Snow last month for failing to knock out Saddam in 1991.

What made Mr. Rumsfeld’s speech noteworthy wasn’t its toxic effort to impugn the patriotism of administration critics by conflating dissent on Iraq with cut-and-run surrender and incipient treason. That’s old news. No, what made Mr. Rumsfeld’s performance special was the preview it offered of the ambitious propaganda campaign planned between now and Election Day. An on-the-ropes White House plans to stop at nothing when rewriting its record of defeat (not to be confused with defeatism) in a war that has now lasted longer than America’s fight against the actual Nazis in World War II.

Here’s how brazen Mr. Rumsfeld was when he invoked Hitler’s appeasers to score his cheap points: Since Hitler was photographed warmly shaking Neville Chamberlain’s hand at Munich in 1938, the only image that comes close to matching it in epochal obsequiousness is the December 1983 photograph of Mr. Rumsfeld himself in Baghdad, warmly shaking the hand of Saddam Hussein in full fascist regalia. Is the defense secretary so self-deluded that he thought no one would remember a picture so easily Googled on the Web? Or worse, is he just too shameless to care?

Mr. Rumsfeld didn’t go to Baghdad in 1983 to tour the museum. Then a private citizen, he had been dispatched as an emissary by the Reagan administration, which sought to align itself with Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war. Saddam was already a notorious thug. Well before Mr. Rumsfeld’s trip, Amnesty International had reported the dictator’s use of torture — “beating, burning, sexual abuse and the infliction of electric shocks” — on hundreds of political prisoners. Dozens more had been summarily executed or had “disappeared.” American intelligence agencies knew that Saddam had used chemical weapons to gas both Iraqi Kurds and Iranians.

According to declassified State Department memos detailing Mr. Rumsfeld’s Baghdad meetings, the American visitor never raised the subject of these crimes with his host. (Mr. Rumsfeld has since claimed otherwise, but that is not supported by the documents, which can be viewed online at George Washington University’s National Security Archive.) Within a year of his visit, the American mission was accomplished: Iraq and the United States resumed diplomatic relations for the first time since Iraq had severed them in 1967 in protest of American backing of Israel in the Six-Day War.

In his speech last week, Mr. Rumsfeld paraphrased Winston Churchill: Appeasing tyrants is “a bit like feeding a crocodile, hoping it would eat you last.” He can quote Churchill all he wants, but if he wants to self-righteously use that argument to smear others, the record shows that Mr. Rumsfeld cozied up to the crocodile of Baghdad as smarmily as anyone. To borrow the defense secretary’s own formulation, he suffers from moral confusion about Saddam.

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Censorship sucks

I've probably yammered about this before, but I'll never forgive Al Gore, Tipper Gore, Joe Lieberman, and the rest of the PMRC censorship clowns for their little stunt which led directly to me purchasing a useless Wu-Tang Clan album. Granted the Wu Tang Clan album was cheaper than expected, but not until I started listening to it did I notice that what I purchased was the censored version.

Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
“Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” (Wu-Tang Clan)

Hard to appreciate good rhythmic flow when so many words are judged as so damaging to impressionable minds that the sounds themselves must be blocked from aspiration. “The Wu Tang Clan ain't nothin' to [wordless beat]” repeated as a chorus just doesn't contain the same flame and fury. Fuck the PMRC, and all those who supported it. I should send a bill to Al Gore and ask him to reimburse me for the cost of the CD, and for the environmental cost of destroying all the censored versions of music likewise discarded.

Frank Zappa said, at the time:

The PMRC proposal is an ill-conceived piece of nonsense which fails to deliver any real benefits to children, infringes the civil liberties of people who are not children, and promises to keep the courts busy for years dealing with the interpretational and enforcemental problems inherent in the proposal's design.

It is my understanding that in law First Amendment issues are decided with a preference for the least restrictive alternative. In this context, the PMRC demands are the equivalent of treating dandruff by decapitation.

Ice T added, to his eternal credit:

Yo Tip, what's the matter? You ain't gettin' no dick?
You're bitchin' about rock'n'roll, that's censorship, dumb bitch
The Constitution says we all got a right to speak
Say what we want Tip, your argument is weak
Hey PMRC, you stupid fuckin' assholes
The sticker on the record is what makes 'em sell gold
Can't you see, you alcoholic idiots
The more you try to suppress us, the larger we get

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Much Ado About Reading

Glad to see that MoDo picked up on the idea of Bush as the Dauphin.

Maureen Dowd: Much Ado About Reading ...Sometimes the second-term President Bush seems more like Henry’s opponent, the Dauphin of France, who has no sense of the reality of battle or his troops, misunderstands the situation and treats Henry with undeserved scorn.

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links for 2006-09-02

X-Gau fired

Well, that sucks. There really isn't any tenured rock critic in print anymore. The Annals of Rock Snobbery: TWILIGHT OF THE ROCK CRIT The turbulence and ructions bedeviling the Village Voice have finally resulted in the inevitable, the firing of Robert Christgau, or X-Gau, as he is known in Rock Snob circles. Yesterday, he sent this e-mail out to his faithful:

“It is now official–Village Voice Media fired me today, ‘for taste,’ which means (among other things) slightly sweeter severance.


John Cale Paris 1919

Rock snob true confession time: although I've read about this album for years, I've never owned it. I suppose it is time to rectify the situation.

Paris 1919
“Paris 1919” (John Cale)

John Cale: Paris 1919: Pitchfork Record Review John Cale's 1973 album Paris 1919 has long been justly celebrated as the most accessible and most purely beautiful record of his storied, multi-faceted career. And despite the album's abiding eccentricities-- the literary and historical allusions, posh orchestration, and abstruse lyricism-- it has often seemed to be Cale's most personal and revealing work as well, a deeply felt meditation on loss, dislocation, and introspective yearning. For this lavish new re-mastered edition, Rhino UK has unearthed 11 previously unreleased rehearsals and alternate takes, including one completed outtake, “Burned Out Affair”, not included on the original album. This wealth of additional material nearly triples the running length of the original, and provides fascinating new insight into the deliberative construction of Cale's still-vibrant masterpiece.

By 1973, of course, Cale had already assembled a résumé that would assure his status in the avant-rock pantheon. He'd worked in the Dream Syndicate and Theatre of Eternal Music alongside La Monte Young and Tony Conrad; recorded an album with Terry Riley; produced albums for Nico and the Stooges; and-- most significantly-- had co-founded the Velvet Underground. Yet it must be noted that at this point Cale's musical legacy had not yet entirely caught up with him. His early work with Young and Conrad was (and largely remains) under-documented and clouded in shadow, while the Velvets-- and the Stooges, for that matter-- boasted a reverent cult following but had yet to earn their reputation as supremely influential proto-punk and underground rock icons.

read more here

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The Big Disconnect

Mr. Krugman looks at some of the same data as Mr. Frank, and has a slightly different interpretation, but similar conclusion: we (the non-muti-millionaire class) need some advocates in the Congress, and even, dare we say it, in the White House. Complete opposite of status quo, in other words.

Paul Krugman: The Big Disconnect Why have workers done so badly in a rich nation that keeps getting richer?

There are still some pundits out there lecturing people about how great the economy is. But most analysts seem to finally realize that Americans have good reasons to be unhappy with the state of the economy: although G.D.P. growth has been pretty good for the last few years, most workers have seen their wages lag behind inflation and their benefits deteriorate.

The disconnect between overall economic growth and the growing squeeze on many working Americans will probably play a big role this November, partly because President Bush seems so out of touch: the more he insists that it’s a great economy, the angrier voters seem to get. But the disconnect didn’t begin with Mr. Bush, and it won’t end with him, unless we have a major change in policies.

The stagnation of real wages — wages adjusted for inflation — actually goes back more than 30 years. The real wage of nonsupervisory workers reached a peak in the early 1970’s, at the end of the postwar boom. Since then workers have sometimes gained ground, sometimes lost it, but they have never earned as much per hour as they did in 1973.

Meanwhile, the decline of employer benefits began in the Reagan years, although there was a temporary improvement during the Clinton-era boom. The most crucial benefit, employment-based health insurance, has been in rapid decline since 2000.

Ordinary American workers seem to understand the long-term disconnect between economic growth and their own fortunes better than most political analysts. Consider, for example, the results of a new poll of American workers by the Pew Research Center.

The center finds that workers perceive a long-term downward trend in their economic status. A majority say that it’s harder to earn a decent living than it was 20 or 30 years ago, and a plurality say that job benefits are worse too.

Are workers simply viewing the past through rose-colored glasses? The report seems to imply that they are: a section pointing out that workers surveyed in 1997 also said that it had gotten harder to make a decent living is titled, “As usual, people say things were better in the good old days.”

But as we’ve seen, real wages have been declining since the 1970’s, so it makes sense that workers have consistently said that it’s harder to make a living today than it was a generation ago.


Rendezvous With Oblivion

In this instance, as in so many other instances, the denizens of Washington, D.C., Republican or Democrat, or their servants and masters, are the real problem impeding America and American prosperity for the 99% of us who are not multi-millionaires.

Thomas Frank has more.

Thomas Frank: Rendezvous With Oblivion Everything I have written about in this space points to the same conclusion: Democratic leaders must learn to talk about class issues again.

Over the last month I have tried to describe conservative power in Washington, but with a small change of emphasis I could just as well have been describing the failure of liberalism: the center-left’s inability to comprehend the current political situation or to draw upon what is most vital in its own history.

What we have watched unfold for a few decades, I have argued, is a broad reversion to 19th-century political form, with free-market economics understood as the state of nature, plutocracy as the default social condition, and, enthroned as the nation’s necessary vice, an institutionalized corruption surpassing anything we have seen for 80 years. All that is missing is a return to the gold standard and a war to Christianize the Philippines.

Historically, liberalism was a fighting response to precisely these conditions. Look through the foundational texts of American liberalism and you can find everything you need to derail the conservative juggernaut. But don’t expect liberal leaders in Washington to use those things. They are “New Democrats” now, enlightened and entrepreneurial and barely able to get out of bed in the morning, let alone muster the strength to deliver some Rooseveltian stemwinder against “economic royalists.”

Mounting a campaign against plutocracy makes as much sense to the typical Washington liberal as would circulating a petition against gravity. What our modernized liberal leaders offer — that is, when they’re not gushing about the glory of it all at Davos — is not confrontation but a kind of therapy for those flattened by the free-market hurricane: they counsel us to accept the inevitability of the situation and to try to understand how we might retrain or re-educate ourselves so we will fit in better next time.

This last point was a priority for the Clinton administration. But in “The Disposable American,” a disturbing history of job security, Louis Uchitelle points out that the New Democrats’ emphasis on retraining (as opposed to broader solutions that Old Democrats used to favor) is merely a kinder version of the 19th-century view of unemployment, in which economic dislocation always boils down to the fitness of the unemployed person himself.

Or take the “inevitability” of recent economic changes, a word that the centrist liberals of the Washington school like to pair with “globalization.” We are told to regard the “free-trade” deals that have hammered the working class almost as acts of nature. As the economist Dean Baker points out, however, we could just as easily have crafted “free-trade” agreements that protected manufacturing while exposing professions like law, journalism and even medicine to ruinous foreign competition, losing nothing in quality but saving consumers far more than Nafta did.

When you view the world from the satisfied environs of Washington — a place where lawyers outnumber machinists 27 to 1 and where five suburban counties rank among the seven wealthiest in the nation — the fantasies of postindustrial liberalism make perfect sense. The reign of the “knowledge workers” seems noble.

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links for 2006-09-01

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