April 2007 Archives

Wine and Beer

Cafe Bernard
Cafe Bernard
Cafe Bernard on N. Halsted

Cafe Bernard Loading Zone
Cafe Bernard Loading Zone
another shot of the outdoor cafe faux Parisian scene on N. Halsted.


one of the few remaining Schlitz signs in Chicago. Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company


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

Wood pallets are gold

Not just manhole covers, but pallets too!

Sunset and pallets in Fulton Market

Chicago Tribune: Wood pallets are good as gold to some crooks With lumber prices climbing, Chicago is sitting at a crossroads between crime and commerce.

Experts say the spiraling price of lumber has made pallets valuable enough to steal, a sharp contrast to just a few years ago when companies let them pile up in factory yards. By some estimates, nowhere in the country sees more of these timber thefts than the distribution hub that is greater Chicago.

“I would imagine it's more frequent and unreported than it should be,” said investigator Patrick Staples of the Northern Illinois Auto Theft Task Force, which last year arrested a man for swiping a trailer full of pallets worth about $2,300. “But if guys do this twice a month, they're making a good living and not getting caught.”

Bruce Scholnick, president of the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association, said the cost of wood went up as sawmills became more efficient. They were able to use more of each log for furniture or building material, leaving fewer lower-grade scraps that are turned into skids. That caused the price of wooden pallets to rise to about $5 apiece -- and criminals took notice.

and I actually agree with Brooke Beal's statement: recycling is a good thing. Too bad bottles and cans aren't worth collecting yet - think of all the garbage that would be removed from city streets.

The rash of thefts partly explains why Cosentino, of Skid Recycling, recently got out of the business, becoming a pallet broker instead. But some say the rip-offs have a positive side.

“You don't see [pallets] lying around anywhere,” said Brooke Beal of the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County. “I live in the city, and you see people push them down the street in shopping carts. Five, six, seven, 10 years ago, you would see them in the garbage.”

As the pallet association's Scholnick noted, the thefts are a reminder of the ravenous demand for his industry's product.

“When a pallet suddenly has that much value, it's good,” he said.

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links for 2007-04-30

Absinthe: The American Remix

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Hmmm, still have yet to experience a transcendent experience drinking absinthe, perhaps all that I've sampled has been 'dodgy'.

Absinthe visions

The Goods: Absinthe: The American Remix :
Americans seeking out the opaque green liqueur beloved by Oscar Wilde and his creative contemporaries now have a less dodgy option.
In praise of the opaque green liqueur beloved by his creative contemporaries, Oscar Wilde once posed the rhetorical question, “What difference is there between a glass of absinthe and a sunset?”

The prosaic answer, at least for Americans, has long been one of legality: sunsets can be freely enjoyed, but absinthe was forbidden because it contained thujone, a potentially toxic compound.

Intrepid drinkers have worked around the ban by ordering imported bottles off the Internet or smuggling them back from Eastern Europe. Now they have a third, less dodgy option: Lucid, which is being marketed as the first legal, genuine American absinthe in nearly a century.

Lucid is the debut product from Viridian Spirits of Manhasset, N.Y., founded in early 2006. According to Jared Gurfein, Viridian’s president, the company’s first order of business was to contact Ted Breaux, a chemist known for his detailed analyses of vintage absinthes.

A New Orleans native, Mr. Breaux now produces absinthes in Saumur, France, using the same recipes and ingredients — including the plant Artemisia absinthium, or grand wormwood — employed by his 19th-century predecessors.


While Lucid was awaiting regulatory approval in the United States, Mr. Breaux kept busy perfecting the production process. He uses antique copper stills, which were not built for speed. Scaling up production by a factor of 100 over the prototyping phase, Mr. Breaux said, was a challenge, especially when it came to keeping the herbal flavor consistent from bottle to bottle.

Lucid will be available starting next month, priced at $59.95 for a 750-milliliter bottle. A Web site, DrinkLucid.com, will soon post information on liquor stores that will carry the product.

I sampled the 124-proof liqueur last week, while watching the National Basketball Association playoffs. When diluted with water and a pinch of sugar, the absinthe’s taste is strong and pleasant. And the buzz has an odd way of focusing the mind — I’ve rarely been so entranced by the swish of a basketball net.

still seems a little steep for a drink, but you are welcome to buy me a bottle for May Day.

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Tom Sawyer and Web 2.0

Actually, a pretty astute description of Flickr and other Web 2.0 companies.

Mark Twain  Tom Sawyer
“Mark Twain : Mississippi Writings : Tom Sawyer, Life on the Mississippi, Huckleberry Finn, Pudd'nhead Wilson (Library of America)” (Mark Twain)

Tom Sawyer - New York Times : Tom Sawyer got it right. Why paint a fence when you can get your friends to do it for you for free? He would have been the perfect new-media mogul. Spending time and money creating content on the Internet is so hopelessly dated, so dotcom, so very, very 1.0. The secret of today’s successful Web 2.0 companies: build a place that attracts people by encouraging them to create the content — thereby drawing even more people in to create even more stuff. The poster child of this Sawyeresque business model is the photo-sharing site called Flickr. Time, May 8, 2006
The key is building the wall well so that the paint is easy to slather on.

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All the President’s Press

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Frank Rich revisits the Colbert White House Correspondents Dinner, by way of Bill Moyers' recently aired documentary. Apparently, the New York Times has decided not to attend the propaganda show next year.

You Talkin' To ME?!

Frank Rich: All the President’s Press ... This fete is a crystallization of the press’s failures in the post-9/11 era: it illustrates how easily a propaganda-driven White House can enlist the Washington news media in its shows. Such is literally the case at the annual dinner, where journalists serve as a supporting cast, but it has been figuratively true year-round. The press has enabled stunts from the manufactured threat of imminent “mushroom clouds” to “Saving Private Lynch” to “Mission Accomplished,” whose fourth anniversary arrives on Tuesday. For all the recrimination, self-flagellation and reforms that followed these journalistic failures, it’s far from clear that the entire profession yet understands why it has lost the public’s faith.

That state of denial was center stage at the correspondents’ dinner last year, when the invited entertainer, Stephen Colbert, “fell flat,” as The Washington Post summed up the local consensus. To the astonishment of those in attendance, a funny thing happened outside the Beltway the morning after: the video of Mr. Colbert’s performancebecame a national sensation. (Last week it was still No. 2 among audiobook downloads on iTunes.) Washington wisdom had it that Mr. Colbert bombed because he was rude to the president. His real sin was to be rude to the capital press corps, whom he caricatured as stenographers. Though most of the Washington audience failed to find the joke funny, Americans elsewhere, having paid a heavy price for the press’s failure to challenge White House propaganda about Iraq, laughed until it hurt.

You’d think that l’affaire Colbert would have led to a little circumspection, but last Saturday’s dinner was another humiliation. And not just because this year’s entertainer, an apolitical nightclub has-been (Rich Little), was a ludicrously tone-deaf flop. More appalling — and symptomatic of the larger sycophancy — was the press’s insidious role in President Bush’s star turn at the event.

It’s the practice on these occasions that the president do his own comic shtick, but this year Mr. Bush made a grand show of abstaining, saying that the killings at Virginia Tech precluded his being a “funny guy.” Any civilian watching on TV could formulate the question left hanging by this pronouncement: Why did the killings in Iraq not preclude his being a “funny guy” at other press banquets we’ve watched on C-Span? At the equivalent Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association gala three years ago, the president contributed an elaborate (and tasteless) comic sketch about his failed search for Saddam’s W.M.D.

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links for 2007-04-29

Rebuilt Iraq Projects Found Crumbling

The New American Century in Iraq: built to last. Or not.

Gone Away

Rebuilt Iraq Projects Found Crumbling
In a troubling sign for the American-financed rebuilding program in Iraq, inspectors for a federal oversight agency have found that in a sampling of eight projects that the United States had declared successes, seven were no longer operating as designed because of plumbing and electrical failures, lack of proper maintenance, apparent looting and expensive equipment that lay idle. The United States has previously admitted, sometimes under pressure from federal inspectors, that some of its reconstruction projects have been abandoned, delayed or poorly constructed. But this is the first time inspectors have found that projects officially declared a success — in some cases, as little as six months before the latest inspections — were no longer working properly

Well, one out of eight isn't the worst possible percentage, could have been zero out of eight.

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Big Playas in Charity

On the one hand, wealthy citizens should be applauded for donating anything to charity. On the other fist, the mission of so many charitable organizations is laughably transparent: positive PR for the organization's founder, and employment for the entourage, especially when so much of the money collected doesn't get spent on the cause the money was purportedly collected for. The charitable organization standard is that only 25% (or less) of the endowment should be spent on administrative expenses.

Big Players in Charity - WSJ.com For pro basketball player Gary Payton, having his own foundation has drawn favorable attention over the years. During his tenure at the Seattle Supersonics, for example, Mr. Payton's foundation sponsored a shopping trip to FAO Schwarz for children with cancer. Stories and photos in the local press showed how the foundation was bringing Christmas cheer to the needy.

But by one measure, the Gary Payton Foundation falls well short of being a model philanthropy. In 2005, it took in about $110,000. Just under $11,000 went to charitable programs, while $101,549 went to administrative expenses. That's a roughly 1-to-10 ratio, well below the 75% figure most philanthropy-watchers expect to see spent on charity rather than overhead.

-though, apparently all of Gary Payton Foundation money comes directly out of Payton's bank account.

Huge chandelier

Your task for the next month: pay attention to how often an athlete's charitable organization gets mentioned - the foundations are frequently just tools for marketing an athlete.

Players, teams and leagues leverage these charitable efforts to market themselves. Players often grant interviews on television, radio and in print on the condition that they be allowed to talk about their latest philanthropic work. Teams tout this work on their Web sites and in media guides that reporters reference for their stories.

Teams see player philanthropy as critical, in part because of a widening rift between athletes and fans. Players' salaries have hit astronomical levels, even as leagues have had to crack down on player misconduct. At the same time, rising ticket prices have made it harder for many fans to see games.

“The first thing about marketing a team is that fans have to relate to the players as people,” says Bernie Mullin, the chief executive of the Atlanta Hawks and Atlanta Thrashers. “We sit down with every player to find out about their lives and families to see if there's a cause that's touched their lives... It's not 100% altruistic -- we're a business,” he says.

Some players of note, and their percentages of actual dollars earmarked for charity, as analyzed by the Wall Street Journal (PDF, $, or email me for a copy)

You can tell who is really serious about making a positive change in their world, and who is really just working the PR angle.

“If I just wrote personal checks, people wouldn't know as much about what we're doing,” says Vince Carter, a co-captain for the New Jersey Nets. Mr. Carter's foundation, Embassy of Hope, sent just a third of its spending to programs in 2004, the most recent year for which records are available.

Critics note that some of these organizations provide employment for athletes' relatives and friends -- many of whom have no experience in philanthropy -- whose salaries are paid out of the foundations. Players say they prefer to hire friends and family members because they have a better understanding of the goals and are willing to work for little or no money. Steve Nash's foundation paid $27,500 salaries to its two employees, Mr. Nash's sister and Jenny Miller, the foundation's executive director and a close childhood friend. The point guard for the Phoenix Suns says it would be impossible to find anyone else to do the work for that amount of money and that the two women both share his lifelong interest in the environment.

Dikembe Mutombo Foundation (Houston Rockets) - 81.31% of expenses for charity programs (or $497,397 out of assets of $7,945,682!)

Tim Duncan Foundation (San Antonio Spurs) - 99.47% of expenses for charity programs

Dirk Nowitzki Foundation (Dallas “Choker” Mavericks) - 0% of expenses for charity programs (or $1,704 out of assets of $231,260)

Steve Nash Foundation (Phoenix Suns) - 8.62% of expenses for charity programs (grants low because foundation “just getting started”)

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links for 2007-04-28


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Optimism Toned
Optimism Toned
Cats examining my new shelf, and each other.

sometimes life seems like it is a steady stream of small disappointments. I might elaborate later, or not.

Not to mention the joys of getting sued for bogus contractual disputes.

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War On Whistleblowers

Kaiser Permanente chose to fire Justin Deal, but a Mother Jones article discusses whistleblowers like Sibel Edwards who got much worse treatment.

Office of Special Counsel's War On Whistleblowers : Then again, given the current climate for whistleblowers, false hope might be all the hope there is. A series of court rulings, legal changes, and new security and secrecy policies have made it easier than at any time since the Nixon era to punish whistleblowers; the climate has deteriorated in recent years with the Bush administration's emphasis on plugging leaks and locking down government information. Bloch's tenure—he is the first director of the whistleblower office to face a whistleblower complaint of his own—has only added insult to injury.

It's come to the point where some advocates now counsel federal employees against coming forward, period. “When people call me and ask about blowing the whistle, I always tell them, 'Don't do it, because your life will be destroyed,'” says William Weaver, a professor of political science at the University of Texas-El Paso and a senior adviser to the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition. “You'll lose your career; you're probably going to lose your family if you have one; you're probably going to lose all your friends because they're associated through work; you'll wind up squandering your life savings on attorneys; and you'll come out the other end of this process working at McDonald's.”

Fluent in Turkish, Farsi, and Azeri, Sibel Edmonds was hired in the fbi's translation unit shortly after 9/11. Just six months later, after reporting her suspicions that her department had been infiltrated by a Turkish intelligence operation, she was abruptly fired. The department's inspector general later found many of her allegations to be well founded and concluded that the fbi displayed “an unwarranted reluctance to vigorously investigate these serious allegations.” The report offered eight recommendations for improving the fbi's translation service. None were implemented. Edmonds sued the Justice Department for unfair dismissal; former Attorney General John Ashcroft mounted an unprecedented defense, invoking the State Secrets Privilege to essentially classify any information regarding the case and even barring Edmonds and her lawyer from hearing the government's arguments to the judge. The suit was dismissed and Edmonds was left with a $285,000 legal bill. “Five years of fight, and it's like, 'Why do we even blow the whistle?'” she says. “It didn't fix the system.”

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Vaporizer news from all over

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Of course, I have no idea why someone would use the Volcano to smoke illegal herbal products, especially when so many quality pharmaceutical medicines are available, according to my Tee-Vee.

Drink Up

Marijuana Policy Project - Press Releases :
Two new studies, one from the University of California, San Francisco, and the other from the University at Albany, State University of New York, provide strong evidence that technology now allows medical use of marijuana with the rapid action and easy dose adjustment of inhalation, but without the respiratory hazards associated with smoking. This is considered highly important, as the risks associated with smoke inhalation have been cited by both government officials and independent experts as a major argument against medical marijuana.

The San Francisco study, conducted by Dr. Donald Abrams and colleagues at UCSF and just published online by the journal Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, compared a commercially available vaporizer called the Volcano to smoking in 18 volunteers. The subjects inhaled three different strengths of marijuana either as smoked cigarettes or vaporized using the Volcano. Unlike smoking, a vaporizer does not burn the plant material, but heats it just to the point at which THC and the other active components, called cannabinoids, vaporize. The vapors are collected in a detachable plastic bag with a mouthpiece for inhalation. The researchers then measured the volunteers' plasma THC levels and the amount of expired carbon monoxide (CO), which is considered a reliable marker for the unwanted combustion products contained in smoke

The Earleywine study is available online at www.harmreductionjournal.com/content/pdf/1477-7517-4-11.pdf. Copies of the Abrams study are available by e-mail from MPP director of communications Bruce Mirken, Bruce at mpp.org or 415-668-640


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April weather set to break record

Facts are dangerous, part the hummdinger.

dying embers of the sun

April weather set to break record
UK Met Office figures indicate this month will be the warmest April in England for more than 300 years. This series, which dates back to 1659, is the world's longest running temperature series. ... Meteorologists say in addition, the 12-month rolling period ending in April 2007 is also set to be the warmest on record - nearly 2C above the long-term average for the period.

Wales is also likely to set a new high. The provisional mean temperature for the month is 9.7C (49.5F), 2.5C (4.5F) above the 30-year average for April.

The current spell of warm weather, set to continue across the weekend, has prompted the Department for Environment, Food and Agriculture (Defra) to issue its first “summer smog” warning for 2007.

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information is free to flow

Uphill and down. Today I noticed (or rather, Technorati noticed for me) a referral link from this site:

Deleted From Wikipedia: Flickr, Good Technology (though bugy) but shit policy ruins it.
When I clicked through, I recognized the off-the-cuff writing as mine.

Why would somebody go to the trouble of stealing this entry, and making it their own? Weird, seems like wasted effort. This entry was fairly specialized content, what with all the links to my flickr photos.


links for 2007-04-27

Roberto's Mens Clothing

Roberto's Mens Clothing and Leathers
Roberto's Mens Clothing and Leathers
on State Street, that great street

click to embiggen

Friedrich Nietzsche

“In heaven all the interesting people are missing.”


Manhole covers?

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I would actually like to witness someone stealing a manhole cover. That sounds like a difficult way to make a hundred bucks- those suckers are heavy.

From the Trib:

A jump in the price of scrap iron could explain a spree of manhole cover thefts, city officials said Thursday.

The city's Department of Water Management has replaced more than 150 manhole covers so far this month, “which represents a sharp increase,” said department spokesman Tom LaPorte.

“This is a crime, but it is also a safety issue,” he said. “These holes are a danger to pedestrians and drivers.”

Water department workers have noticed the greatest number of exposed manholes in alleys and side streets on the South and Southwest Sides. Perforated manholes are the most popular among thieves, LaPorte said, because the holes make them easier to remove.

PR in a modern world

I don't have enough data to make a judgement whether or not Kaiser Permanente did anything wrong, but their response tactics are worth study.

The setup:

Critical Case: How an Email Rant Jolted a Big HMO - WSJ.com :

On a Friday morning last November, Justen Deal, a 22-year-old Kaiser Permanente employee here, blasted an email throughout the giant health maintenance organization. His message charged that HealthConnect -- the company's ambitious $4 billion project to convert paper files into electronic medical records -- was a mess.

In a blistering 2,000-word treatise, Mr. Deal wrote: “We're spending recklessly, to the tune of over $1.5 billion in waste every year, primarily on HealthConnect, but also on other inefficient and ineffective information technology projects.” He did not stop there. Mr. Deal cited what he called the “misleadership” of Kaiser Chief Executive George Halvorson and other top managers, who he said were jeopardizing the company's ability to provide quality care.

“For me, this isn't just an issue of saving money,” he wrote. “It could very well become an issue of making sure our physicians and nurses have the tools they need to save lives.”
Earlier during the day, Kaiser had announced that J. Clifford Dodd, its chief information officer, resigned. The HMO said the timing was a coincidence and gave no reason for the executive's departure. Attempts to reach Mr. Dodd for comment were unsuccessful.

Mr. Deal, meanwhile, quickly became a cause celebre in the blogosphere and beyond. HIStalk, a popular health-care IT site, featured “an exclusive interview,” with Mr. Deal. One stock analyst says that Kaiser's tribulations could alter the competitive landscape for IT vendors.

Soon after the email leak, ComputerWorld magazine ran a negative story about HealthConnect, based on a 722-page internal Kaiser document chronicling various problems with the system including power outages, system failures and incomplete patient records.

The corporate response included:
After the message hit, Kaiser sprang into action to assess the damage and figure out a response. Since the missive was sent on a Friday, it went unread by many employees who had left for the weekend. Kaiser's IT staff scrambled to delete it before workers returned to their desks -- but with little success. By Monday, the mass mailing had reached an estimated 120,000 computers at the company. It had also leaked into cyberspace.
Andrew Wiesenthal, a physician overseeing the HealthConnect project, became worried about the buzz Mr. Deal was generating. In a counterpunch, he offered an interview to Matthew Holt, a well-known health-care blogger. A few days later, Mr. Wiesenthal joined a podcast using his cellphone in the backseat of a taxi. Of the email, he said, “Most of the things he raises are not true.”

Kaiser officials unleashed other communications tactics. To disseminate its side of the story on the Web, the company paid Google to place a special Kaiser link at the top of any page returning search results for “Justen Deal.”

In February, Kaiser launched its “KP News Center,” linked to the company's home page. When the Los Angeles Times ran a critical HealthConnect story that echoed some of Mr. Deal's criticisms, the site posted Kaiser's official response.

Interesting, we'll see if Kaiser is still paying for google ads. I wonder what the ad will link to?

Sibel Edwards should have been as pro-active as Justen Deal was: perhaps her story would have resonated more with the chattering class.

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Copywrong strikes again

Artificial Light
Artificial Light
sunset porn #4423, give or take

Fair use is the basis of 90 percent of B12's content, and we're not an aberration among the denizens of blogtopia (y!sctp).

The tale: A publisher objected to the use of a table and a figure in an blog post about anti-oxidants so the blogger was forced to remove them from her post.

Cognitive Daily: Is reprinting a figure “fair use”? :
Should she have gone to all that trouble to comply with the publisher's demands? Doesn't the “fair use” doctrine allow reviewers to use excerpts from a work in critical commentary? Unfortunately, the copyright code isn't as clear as it ought to be on this issue. It says that “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.” That seems clear enough, but here are the considerations the code lists to be used in determining whether a reproduction of a work qualifies:

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The whole thing is horribly ambiguous. While the code makes a distinction between “commercial” and “nonprofit educational,” it doesn't spell out whether this provision supersedes the others. Surely “news reporting” is a commercial activity, yet it is specified as non-infringing. If a teacher photocopies textbooks instead of making her students buy them, then surely that has a negative impact on the value of the book, even though she's working for a non-profit institution. A bad book review might have a negative impact on sales, but surely reviewers have the right to publish clips from the book to make their point.

I wouldn't even claim to have all (or any of) the answers about this contentious issue, but I'm still dismayed at the actions of the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.

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links for 2007-04-26


Happened upon a sculptor (presumedly working for Mary Brogger and/or the City of Chicago) touching up the Haymarket Riot Memorial last weekend.

Haymarket Touchup
Haymarket Touchup
prep work for the May Day rally at the Haymarket Riot memorial site

If I have time April 27th, I'd go along on this....

Gapers Block : Slowdown : April 27, 2007 : Join The Folks from the Finding Our Roots anarchist theory conference for a bit of local history from 3:30pm and 6:30pm on their Anarchy 101 walking tour of Chicago. At 3:30 Meet at The Old Cook County Courthouse where the Haymarket trial took place (Dearborn and Hubbard). This tour ends at Bughouse Square (across from the Newberry Library) with a soccer match. Then at 6:30 Meet at Haymarket Square at Randolph and Desplaines for more walking and talking. In addition to the walks there will be soapb.ox speaking actions with speeches by Lucy Parsons, Buenaventura Durruti, Emma Goldman, August Spies and Bartolomeo Vanzetti.

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Don’t Fire Gonzales


Greg Palast has an interesting theory as to why the roving bands of Rovians fired 8 US Attorneys

Don’t Fire Gonzales Greg Palast
That was two years back, while I was investigating strange doings in New Mexico and Arizona, where, simultaneously, state legislators, Republicans all, claimed they had evidence of “voter fraud.” Psychiatrists call this kind of mutual delusional behavior folie a deux. I suspected something else: I smelled Karl Rove. ... There was a multi-state con in operation. But what was it? Each of these bogus claims of voter fraud was attached to a sales pitch for a state law to tighten voter ID requirements — to prevent these ne’er-do-wells from voting twice. In Arizona, one crack-pot Republican legislator, the Hon. Russell Pearce, claimed he had evidence that five million Mexicans had illegally crossed the border to vote.

The point: Rove knew that a “challenge” operation by the Republican Party, run from his office, knocked out 300,000 voters — mainly poor ones, voters of color. His crew wanted to hike that higher.

The notable thing about this crime of voter identity theft is that it doesn’t happen. You are more likely to encounter ballot boxes that spontaneously combust. I found cases of voters struck by lightening — but out of 120 million votes cast, I couldn’t find a dozen criminal cases of a bandit stealing someone’s identity to vote.

Since the Republicans couldn’t find such criminals, they had to make them up. Force prosecutors to bring false charges against innocent voters (one did just that in Wisconsin) or at least claim they were hot on the trail of the fraudulent voters.

Iglesias, though a Republican, wouldn’t bring bogus charges. And he wouldn’t lie about active investigations that didn’t exist except in Rove’s imagination.

That was his mistake.

Rove’s right-hand hit-man, Tim Griffin, added Iglesias to the hit list of prosecutors who were cut down on December 7, 2006.

and explains why Gonzales is just the scapegoat offered up to distract us from the Rovian machinations for the 2008 election.

We’ve been here before. Gonzales is getting Libby’d. Takes the bullet for Karl Rove and the White House. If you wondered why the Republican jackals like the sinister Senator Specter piled on Gonzales — it’s because they were told to.

These guys learned from Richard Nixon. In 1973, when Nixon was getting hammered over Watergate, he threw the Senate Committee his Attorney General, a schmuck named Kleindeist. Famously, Nixon’s own Rove, a devious creep named John Erlichman, told Nixon to leave the Attorney General, “twisting slowly in the wind.”

Rove and Bush are doing the Nixon Twist on Gonzales.

Look, I have no sympathy for Alberto the Doomed. He’s guilty of a crime I employed in racketeering cases: “Willful failure to know.” It’s a kind of fraud; Alberto was going way out of his way to not know what he had to know, that Rove and the President were toying with prosecutors.

read more in the expanded new edition of Armed Madhouse.

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links for 2007-04-25

Block 37

There have been all sorts of failed developments at Block 37, but I doubt if many real estate moguls are truly superstitious about Indian graveyards or whatever.

Trying to Break the Jinx of Chicago’s Block 37 - New York Times
... “I think it’s going to be a terrific development when it’s done,” he said. “But you do wonder if this site is jinxed in some way.”

“This site” is Block 37, a square block on State Street opposite the large Macy’s downtown store that was the most prominent vacant lot in Chicago, if not the country. Over the last 20 years, the failure of the city, as well as of succeeding teams of developers, to build something on the site inspired both a book —

Here's the Deal: The Buying and Selling of a Great American City

Here’s the Deal: The Making and Breaking of a Great American City

by Ross Miller — and a BBC-produced documentary film.

One project after another fell through as some of the most high-profile developers in the city tried and failed to line up tenants and financing for a series of mixed-use projects, all of which were announced with great fanfare and then never heard from again.

Indeed, it is estimated that about $300 million in public and private funds was spent on failed development projects for the site over the years.

I walked by Block 37 last weekend, and the building infrastructure is already 10-12 stories tall.

... two local developers — Golub & Company and Joseph Freed & Associates — actually have projects under way there.

Golub’s is a 16-story, 440,000-square-foot office tower that is 80 percent leased to two tenants, Morningstar — with 236,000 square feet — and WBBM-TV, the local CBS affiliate. The architect is Ralph Johnson of the locally based Perkins & Will.

Freed’s is a 400,000-square-foot retail mall that is also to include an elaborate new subway station for the Chicago Transit Authority. The designer is Grant Uhlir of Gensler. Freed also has the rights to develop a second phase of the project consisting of 800 residential or hotel units.

Both projects broke ground in late 2005 and are scheduled to be finished next year. The combined cost is about $750 million. The city has assisted the developments by selling the land for $12.2 million, which is about a third of its market price.

I hope this part gets finished soon:

The transportation center is one of the more intriguing aspects of the project. The mall is to be built around a five-story atrium, at the bottom of which will be the new subway station.

The aim is to connect the two subway lines that currently converge downtown — the Red Line along State Street and the Blue Line a block to the west along Dearborn Street — and also provide a central departure point for passengers heading for either of the city’s two airports.

The eventual goal is for passengers to be able to check their baggage downtown and then board an express train that would whisk them to either O’Hare International or Midway Airport in about 20 minutes. Currently, the trip can take up to an hour. That level of service, however, depends on the construction of an extensive — and as yet unfinanced — program of track improvements.

Photos later.

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Sheryl Crow VS. Karl Rove

Hmmm, maybe this is what Unka Karl all 'het' up? Unka Karl has trouble imagining only using 1 square to clean his messes.

“Wildflower” (Sheryl Crow)

Saving the Earth: The Biodiesel Bus Blog - washingtonpost.com : ... I propose a limitation be put on how many squares of toilet paper can be used in any one sitting. Now, I don't want to rob any law-abiding American of his or her God-given rights, but I think we are an industrious enough people that we can make it work with only one square per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where 2 to 3 could be required.

Soon after, at the White House Correspondents Dinner (now surprisingly satire-free), Karl Rove strongly requested that Sheryl Crow and Laurie David refrain from breathing his air, even though:

To set the record straight, the other night, we approached Mr. Rove at a dinner designed specifically to encourage conversations between people from different worlds.

Here's what happened:

We asked Mr. Rove if he would consider taking a fresh look at the science of global warming. Much to our dismay, he immediately got combative. And it went downhill from there.

We reminded the senior White House advisor that the US leads the world in global warming pollution and we are doing the least about it. Anger flaring, Mr. Rove immediately regurgitated the official Administration position on global warming which is that the US spends more on researching the causes than any other country.

We felt compelled to remind him that the research is done and the results are in (www.IPCC.ch). Mr. Rove exploded with even more venom. Like a spoiled child throwing a tantrum, Mr. Rove launched into a series of illogical arguments regarding China not doing enough thus neither should we. (Since when do we follow China's lead?)

At some point during his ramblings, we became heartbroken to think that the President of the United States and his top advisers have partially built a career on global warming not being real. We have been telling college students across the country for the past two weeks that government does not change until people demand it... well, listen up folks, everyone had better get a lot louder because the message clearly is not getting through.

In his attempt to dismiss us, Mr. Rove turned to head toward his table, but as soon as he did so, Sheryl reached out to touch his arm. Karl swung around and spat, “Don't touch me.” How hardened and removed from reality must a person be to refuse to be touched by Sheryl Crow? Unfazed, Sheryl abruptly responded, “You can't speak to us like that, you work for us.” Karl then quipped, “I don't work for you, I work for the American people.” To which Sheryl promptly reminded him, “We are the American people.”

At that point Mr. Rove apparently decided he had had enough. Like a groundhog fearful of his own shadow, he scurried to his table in an attempt to hibernate for another year from his responsibility to address global warming. Drama aside, you would expect as an American citizen to be able to engage in a civil discussion with a public official. Instead, Mr. Rove was dismissive, condescending, and quite frankly a bully.

Ultimately, we were left wondering what on Earth Mr. Rove was talking about when he said “the American people.” If more than 60% of American voters, the Supreme Court, over 400 cities, the US National Academy of Sciences, numerous major US corporations, and others don't constitute the American people, then what does? The truth is, if this administration cared one iota about the American people, they would have addressed this problem long ago, and the sad reality is that this problem has been left to us, all of us, since the current administration has abandoned this issue entirely. In the absence of true leadership, we must guide ourselves. We can solve this, but we had better act fast.

(note, on Sherly Crow's blog, she claims the toilet paper quip was a joke).

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Green light at Ford

Green is certainly this year's marketing phrase. Any corporation that can is mentioning 'green' and 'environmentally friendly' at every opportunity. Industry always prefers to regulate themselves, rather then let the hoi polloi or Congress influence policy.

After the Revolution is Over

Green light on for CEO at Ford : Not long ago, it would have been folly for an auto company chief executive to admit he believed in global warming, and just as unlikely for a carmaker to attach the word “sustainability” to a job title.

But Ford Motor's chief executive, Alan Mulally, did both on Monday.

Speaking with journalists in a conference call, Mulally said, “I clearly believe the vast majority of data indicates that the temperature has increased. And I believe the correlation and analysis that it's mainly because of greenhouse gases.”

His comments came as Mulally announced a promotion for a Ford vice president, Susan Cischke, to a new job as senior vice president for sustainability, environment and safety engineering.

Cischke, who now reports to Mulally instead of to Ford's Washington office, will be in charge of creating a long-range strategy on sustainability matters.

More hype than concrete action, probably, but I still am encouraged. Even small steps are still steps. The real proof will be what positive actions result.

Representatives of environmental groups said they were glad to see Mulally's latest steps but had not forgotten Ford's past record.

“It's always good when we see a company making steps toward becoming more environmentally sustainable,” said Mike Hudema, director of the Freedom From Oil Campaign, an alliance of three environmental groups.

“But we do always have to put that in context with Ford's history, which, unfortunately on the environmental front, is not a very good one.”

Dan Becker, director of the global warming program at the Sierra Club, said Ford was good at making promises to help the environment, but “when it comes to doing them, they seem to forget or fall down on the job.”

Becker questioned whether Cischke was the right executive to focus on sustainability, saying that she had testified before Congress opposing steps the Sierra Club had proposed.

“It's as if the Yankees promoted manager Joe Torre to reach out to the Red Sox,” he said.

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Artificial Timelines

| 1 Comment

Opinions: Tom Toles Cartoons - (washingtonpost.com) :

Tom Toles Artificial Timelines 04242007

2009 can't come soon enough.

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links for 2007-04-24

FDA Was Aware of Dangers

National Exterminating Supply

The FDA takes its job very seriously, but since its main task is to protect corporations from 'excessive regulation', consumers get screwed.

FDA Was Aware of Dangers To Food - washingtonpost.com :
The Food and Drug Administration has known for years about contamination problems at a Georgia peanut butter plant and on California spinach farms that led to disease outbreaks that killed three people, sickened hundreds, and forced one of the biggest product recalls in U.S. history, documents and interviews show.

Overwhelmed by huge growth in the number of food processors and imports, however, the agency took only limited steps to address the problems and relied on producers to police themselves, according to agency documents.

Congressional critics and consumer advocates said both episodes show that the agency is incapable of adequately protecting the safety of the food supply. FDA officials conceded that the agency's system needs to be overhauled to meet today's demands, but contended that the agency could not have done anything to prevent either contamination episode.

Shorter version of FDA excuse: our job is hard, so we don't bother doing it well. Hope you don't die!

“This administration does not like regulation, this administration does not like spending money, and it has a hostility toward government. The poisonous result is that a program like the FDA is going to suffer at every turn of the road,” said Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of the full House committee. Dingell is considering introducing legislation to boost the agency's accountability, regulatory authority and budget.

In the peanut butter case, an agency report shows that FDA inspectors checked into complaints about salmonella contamination in a ConAgra Foods factory in Georgia in 2005. But when company managers refused to provide documents the inspectors requested, the inspectors left and did not follow up.

No doubt to attend an industry-sponsored event in some warm clime like Bermuda.

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links for 2007-04-22

Presidenting is hard work

Obviously, Gilbert Arenas has been paying attention to The Decider, and his quest to hire a War Czar to 'ease his load' a bit.

NBA.com NBA.com Blog: Gilbert Arenas
Obama and Me

Of course we’ll win the election. As long as he has me, we’re winning.

We’ll be co-presidents. He can handle all the big stuff like the war in Iraq and all that, and I’ll keep everybody distracted off what he’s doing. I’ll be the entertainer.

I’ll do the press conferences. I’ll play the Bush part. I’ll be the golfer, I’ll go golf for 14 hours. I’ll party for half a week. I’ll do that, I’ll have fun with that.

And then Barack can handle all that important stuff.


University selling out students

The dirty secret about colleges as an institution is that they only half-heartedly care about educating their students, they are really more concerned with making a profit. Students come and go, but cash flow is eternal.

Beer Money at the MCA

Colleges Relying on Lenders to Counsel Students
Some universities use lenders to conduct workshops required by law for many students taking out loans.

Ms. [Rachel] Jones, a 22-year-old who has $17,000 in student loans, had unwittingly stumbled upon another undisclosed relationship between universities and loan companies.

Recent investigations have largely focused on incentives lenders give universities to get coveted placement on the preferred lending lists students use to take out loans when they enter college. But colleges also give lenders crucial access to students when they are graduating, using lenders to conduct exit counseling required under federal law for students who have taken out federally guaranteed student loans.

In some cases, loan company representatives come on campus and run sessions for seniors on loan repayment. In others, colleges direct students to loan company Web sites, including Wells Fargo, Citibank and Sallie Mae. And in many cases, the loan companies are pushing a product: their consolidation loans.
Weeks after her exit counseling at Loyola, Ms. Jones is still marveling over the session. She wrote an opinion column in the student newspaper, The Los Angeles Loyolan, denouncing the workshop as “nothing more than an hourlong advertisement.”

“It just seemed really shady and underhanded the way it was run,” Ms. Jones said. “I still feel like I was duped.”
The Indiana Institute of Technology directs students to complete exit counseling through OpenNet, an online service run by Sallie Mae, the nation’s largest lender to college students. The Web sites of George Washington University and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland show that they do, too.

Before signing in, students must agree to a disclaimer allowing Sallie Mae to use their data for purposes beyond loan processing, “provided the proposed usage does not violate applicable laws and regulations or any confidentiality obligations.”

The financial aid director at Indiana Tech, Teresa M. Vasquez, said, “I didn’t know that.”

So we're to believe that no university really knew what was going on until the national media and Congress (Senator Ed Kennedy, for instance) starting asking questions? Uhh, yeah, right.

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Social Security Numbers

Nice: government incompetence discovered by 'bored browser'.

U.S. Database Exposes Social Security Numbers
The Social Security numbers of tens of thousands of people who received loans or other financial assistance from two Agriculture Department programs were disclosed for years in a publicly available database, raising concerns about identity theft and other privacy violations.

Officials at the Agriculture Department and the Census Bureau, which maintains the database, were evidently unaware that the Social Security numbers were accessible in the database until they were notified last week by a farmer from Illinois, who stumbled across the database on the Internet.

“I was bored, and typed the name of my farm into Google to see what was out there,” said Marsha Bergmeier, president of Mohr Family Farms in Fairmount, Ill.
The Census database disclosure is the latest in a string of embarrassing data-security breaches at federal agencies in the last few years. Last year, hackers illegally accessed an Agriculture Departmentdatabase containing the names, Social Security numbers and photos of current and former agency employees.

The Department of Energy, the Navy, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service also suffered data breaches last year in which personal information was lost or stolen.

She'll get a lot more hits in Google next time she gets bored.


links for 2007-04-21

Everyone leaves Detroit eventually

well, nearly everyone. D left as soon as she could. Jack White took a little longer.

Rock's Jack White Sells Detroit Home - WSJ.com
Grammy-winning musician Jack White, lead singer and guitarist of rock duo the White Stripes, has sold his Detroit home for $590,000, well below its initial $930,000 asking price. Mr. White recorded his hit 2005 album

Get Behind Me Satan
Get Behind Me Satan

in the foyer of the 5,800-square-foot home.

The 1914 house was designed by C. Howard Crane, best known for theaters on Broadway and elsewhere. The home has four bedrooms, a paneled library, a sunroom and a garden with a koi pond and fountain.

Mr. White bought the property in 2003 for $524,000, records show. Last August, he put the house on the market for $930,000 and later cut the price to $650,000. Listing agent Mike Kramar of Coldwell Banker Callan said the buyers are a retired couple from Maryland, but wouldn't identify them.
In Detroit, the average price of a home fell 23.5% in the first two months of 2007 from year-earlier levels, the Michigan Association of Realtors says.

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Pattay Thailand

Red Light Night

Do tell:

Extreme Makeover for 'Red Light' City - WSJ.com
Few cities have a raunchier reputation than the Thai beach resort of Pattaya.

This one-time fishing village, notorious as an R&R hot spot for U.S. servicemen during the Vietnam War, draws mostly male visitors from as far away as Europe and North America to its 1,000-plus girlie bars and go-go joints.

When ad agency Leo Burnett was asked to create a slogan for Pattaya, as part of its work in 2001 for the state-run Tourism Authority of Thailand, the firm came up with “Extreme City.” Some city officials thought the phrase had a negative connotation and persuaded the mayor not to adopt it.

“In the past, anyone who valued their reputation would never admit to visiting there,” says Paul Logan, a vice president for InterContinental Hotels Group Asia Pacific.

Why must everywhere be family friendly? Where are the resorts catering to me, the atheistic, childless, over-sexed type? Even Las Vegas wants to transform into Disney World. Bleh.

Luckily, it sounds like Pattay has a ways to go before Thomas Moaghan will visit:

One visitor from a market Pattaya is trying to crack, Mehmet Fakioglu of Istanbul, recently made his first sojourn here. The minerals exporter said he and his wife “were shocked at what we saw. ... In Europe, you have cities with red-light areas. This whole city is red light.” Prostitution isn't a crime in Thailand. Police in Pattaya are trying to keep flagrant solicitation away from family areas.

All over Pattaya are the contrasts of a town in transition. On the edge of the red-light district, a swank new Asian-European fusion restaurant called Mantra recently opened. Among the signature features of Accor's Pattaya Mercure are the condoms in every room's mini-bar, offered up in a red box that “matches the decor,” General Manager Erwann Mahe proudly notes. At the same time, the Mercure's dozen “family suites” feature Sony PlayStations and cartoon wallpaper.

The Hard Rock Hotel Pattaya cultivates a family-friendly image with volleyball games in what it claims is Pattaya's biggest swimming pool -- just a few blocks from a string of bars leading to “Walking Street,” the red-light district's main thoroughfare. Meanwhile, police make sweeps of streetwalkers on the beachfront, advising them to take classes in hairdressing or cooking at the “Fortune of Life Center” for vocational training near city hall.

Yet even Pattaya's boosters say there are limits to the image makeover. As city council chairman Tawich Chaiswangwong notes, “People don't come to Pattaya city to pray.”

smart man.

(Digg-enabled full access to article available at this link)


Spurs v Bulls

Sports wouldn't be as much fun if there weren't so many mathematical permutations available to argue why one team is going to beat another.

Mellos Nuts

Allen St. John: By the Numbers - WSJ.com
... To see which teams pose the greatest threat to the Mavs in their quest for a first NBA Championship, we'll use a stat called PPP (Points Per 100 Possessions). Points per game is a linchpin of basketball analysis, but it can favor a team like the Phoenix Suns, which plays a running style, while undervaluing teams that run a more conservative half-court offense (which tends to limit scoring chances by taking time off the game clock). So instead, we'll look at stats that are normalized per each 100 possessions, to show a team's average efficiency. (Since the NBA doesn't account for possessions directly, basketball analyst Ken Pomeroy devised a formula that gets an accurate estimate using field-goal attempts, offensive rebounds, turnovers and free-throw attempts.)

Offensive PPP shows that the Phoenix Suns, a big obstacle in the Mavs' path, are as formidable as their 61 wins indicate. They lead the league with 110.2 points per game and a 110 PPP (PPP stats are through April 15's games). But Dallas's first-round opponent, the Golden State Warriors, coached by former Dallas head coach Don Nelson, shows how misleading scoring averages can be. They ranked second in points per game, but 11th in PPP -- which would explain why they had only 42 wins. By contrast, the Mavs, with 67 wins, were ninth in points per game, but second in PPP with 107.6.

On defense, PPP says the league's best defensive team is in the East -- and isn't Detroit. The Chicago Bulls posted a 95.96 PPP Allowed. Just behind are the Houston Rockets with a 96.24, and the Spurs at 96.36. Despite being known as a defensive powerhouse, Detroit lies in the middle of the pack (100.31).

For a fuller picture of a team's true strength, subtract their PPP Allowed from their offensive PPP. The higher this “adjusted scoring margin” differential, the stronger the team. PPA Diff says the league's top dog will come from the Western Conference. The Spurs posted a 9.69 PPP Diff, followed by the Suns at 8.18, the Mavs at 8.05 and the Houston Rockets at 6.68. In the East, the Bulls topped the list with a much more modest 5.63 PPP Diff, ahead of Detroit's 5.01. And the defending champs, the Miami Heat, are far behind, with a PPP Diff of 0.89.

On the basis of just that formula (and ignoring discussion of group psychology, or referee interference, or other metrics), San Antonio and Chicago will meet in the finals. I'm sure the league office would love that match-up.

If that did happen, it would be the first time an NBA Final would present me with conflicted loyalties. The strike-shortened first championship by my (near) hometown Spurs over the Sprewell/Camby/Van Gundy Knicks doesn't count. Even though that was the first Knicks teams I rooted for since Walt Frazier retired (and that was only in retrospect, watching classic games), it still was the Knicks after all.

But I like these Bulls: no true offensive star, lots of ball and player movement, team defense, no national advertising spokesperson. I'm also glad the Bulls didn't mortgage their future by trading away all their young players in a gamble to add the mythical low-post scoring presence so many insist they need. I just hope the dark hints of league interference in playoff seedings is frivolous speculation, and not part of a ploy to have the Cleveland LeBrons (or the Heat) make it to the finals for television ratings purposes. Not that anyone would ever accuse David Stern of duplicity, right?

I won't be heartbroken if the Suns go to the Finals, at least they are fun to watch, and Coach Pornstache gives good post-game press conferences.

I definitely won't miss Joey “the Hammer of Newton Square” Crawford either.

Bring it on!

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Dr. Bronner Rules

alternative title, yes, Orange County really does suck.

Dr Bronner Magic Soap does not contain GHB

via the essential Drug WarRant we read of a twisted tale of police malevolence. The drummer of the Germs (yes, the legendary punk band) was arrested for felony drug possession (conviction can mean up to 20 years) by Orange County police because (allegedly) his bottle of peppermint Dr. Bronner's contained GHB.

Total bullshit of course, but the Bronner family did some testing of their own, and found the results to be questionable, at best...

“Our customers need to know now this whole soap opera is a mistake by police who tormented an innocent 50 year old man with jail. We purchased the same NarcoPouch® 928 GHB field test made by ODV, Inc. that was used by the police, and ran tests on our soaps. We confirmed that the test is useless when used on soap since every test came back positive. We also tested other common brands of soap including Johnson & Johnson's popular Neutrogena brand, as well as Colgate-Palmolive's popular Tom's of Maine brand, which gave the same false-positive tests as well.

What kind of justice system allows police to use field drug tests that deprive citizens of their God-given liberty, that test positive for something as common as soap? What kind of policies and regulations are in place on police drug-testing practices and products, such that a US citizen can be tossed in the slammer over Easter weekend for possession of soap? Police departments nationwide should immediately stop using the ODV, Inc. field test for GHB as it is not accurate when used on soaps and who knows what other common household products.”

Sounds like a good case to be made for false arrest.

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Friday YouTubery

since today is a totally fracked day already by 10 am (don't ask, I might punch you), I'm escaping into random youtubery of recently listened tunes (per this tool, natch)

One Dolan's dumbest moves was firing Marv Albert

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Phelps is slime

| 1 Comment

I'm all for free speech, but I'm very surprised nobody has assaulted the slime-ball coward Fred Phelps within an inch of his life. Of course, paying attention to him only encourages his crusade to make the Christian Taliban rule us all with fists of iron.

Group Plans To Picket Va. Tech Funerals, Anti-Gay Religious Group Known For Protesting At Services For U.S. Soldiers Killed In Iraq - CBS News : The families of those killed in the Virginia Tech massacre may not be able to grieve in peace at the funerals of those they lost....

The organization, founded and led by Fred Phelps, believes the United States has condemned itself to destruction by accepting homosexuality and other “sins of the flesh.” Phelps’ daughter, Shirley Phelps-Roper, said the Virginia Tech teachers and students who died on Monday brought their fate upon themselves by not being true Christians.

“The evidence is they were not Christian. God does not do that to his servants,” Phelps-Roper said. “You don’t need to look any further for evidence those people are in hell.”

Cho Seung-Hui, the Virginia Tech student responsible for the killings who took his own life after the shootings, was sent by God to punish those he killed, and America as a whole, for moral decline, said Phelps-Roper, while adding that she believes Cho is also in hell for violating God’s commandment to not kill.

“He is in hell,” Phelps-Roper said. “But he was also fulfilling the word of God.”

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Wi-Fi Chicago

Wi-Fi on every street corner, for a fee, sounds intriguing. Details are key, however. Something to pay attention to, even though I don't see myself using it much (except perhaps if the Apple iPhone uses Wi-Fi well)

It is only a state of Mind

Wi-Fi fight in Chicago air | Chicago Tribune
A digital wireless future is shaping up for Chicago, with two major Internet service providers -- AT&T and EarthLink -- vying to build a municipal broadband network that would operate alongside a higher-end service planned by Sprint Nextel.

Both the service proposed by AT&T and EarthLink and the one planned by Sprint Nextel would give computer users in the city wireless Internet access, whether at home, in the office or on the street, but the technology and purpose of the two systems are somewhat different.

The Tribune has learned that AT&T Inc. and EarthLink Inc. are in a competition to build a wireless network using Wi-Fi technology, and both have made written and oral proposals to the city and Hardik Bhatt, the city's chief information officer.

The proposed Wi-Fi network would have access to some 90,000 streetlight poles in Chicago to which it could attach radio antennas and transmission equipment. Sprint's WiMax network will use existing towers that are part of Sprint Nextel's wireless phone networks.


A third company, NextWLAN Corp. of Los Gatos, Calif., has also made written and oral proposals to Chicago. NextWLAN's bid is described by Carlos Rios, the firm's chief, as “admittedly unconventional.”

It would be free to Chicagoans with the lowest 20 percent of income and cost $10 a month for everyone else. Rios said that his firm's proposal is to supplement the outdoor Wi-Fi systems proposed by EarthLink and AT&T by providing an indoor wireless system.

AT&T plans to offer a free, advertisement-supported service running at lower speeds, as well as ad-free faster broadband service for those who pay. In Riverside, rates run at $7 for a day pass and $16 for a week. For a nominal fee, AT&T would also offer its DSL customers the option of using Wi-Fi when they leave home.

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links for 2007-04-20

Another West Loop condo building

Looks like another new building is going to impede our view.

YoChicago | Catalyst condos coming to Chicago's West Loop neighborhood : Urban R2 Development Co. today released some details about the development, planned at the northeast corner of Washington and DesPlaines.
The 22-story high-rise, designed by Lucien LaGrange Architects, will have 212 one- two- and three-bedroom condos, and several penthouses. Pre-construction prices range from the $220s to the $860s. ... Hopping on the spa trend growing at downtown high-rises, Catalyst will have a 3,800-square-foot spa with exercise and massage facilities. Other building features include a meeting area, a party room and 31 retail spaces - one of which will be occupied by a 24-hour Walgreens.

A garage on the second through fourth floors will hold 224 parking spots, one for each condo and two for each penthouse. The units on the fifth floor will have access to landscaped outdoor terraces on the garage's roof. All of the units either have terraces or balconies.

Well, as a bonus, the fundamentalists won't be able to hold anti-abortion rallies outside this clinic anymore.

Family Planning protest w 50 foot Giant Virgin Mary
(click to embiggen)

Oh wait, this parking lot is on the northwest corner of Washington and Desplaines, not the northeast, so maybe they will be able to still hold their neo-pagan rallies. Hmmm.

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Adults and prescription drugs

This has long bothered me as well. Why are doctors (and governments) given such vast powers over which drugs are ok for a patient? Seems like a capricious system. Competent adults should be allowed to treat themselves as they see fit (which of course they often do by resorting to other means, or alternative medicine, etc.), and not strictly as their doctor sees fit. No other profession has quite as much power as doctors do in this instance.

Glenn Greenwald - Salon

I've always been interested in the topic of prescription drug laws because -- even more than laws which prohibit adults from using recreational drugs -- it seems absolutely unjustifiable for the government to prevent adult citizens from deciding for themselves which pharmaceutical products they want to use. Put another way, it seems unfathomable that competent adults are first required to obtain the “permission” of a doctor before being “allowed” to obtain and consume the medications they think they need -- and that they are committing crimes if they do not first obtain that permission (or, worse, if they try to obtain that permission and are unable to do so).
Why should the doctor have the ability to override the decisions of the patient? Why should the doctor's permission be required before the patient undergoes the pharmaceutical treatment he chooses? That really makes no sense to me, and for that reason, I am vehemently opposed to these prescription laws.

Beyond all of that, there is even less reason for the Federal government to be monitoring what substances anyone takes. In addition to all the other reasons I listed in the post and commenters have added, I am also convinced -- reading around everywhere today on this topic -- that there are substantial numbers of people foregoing pharmaceutical treatments that they think they should have (and which even their physicians recommend) because they fear having that information registered in data bases with the government.

Adults have the right to do all sorts of things that other people, including experts in a particular field, think are stupid and self-destructive, even when the person's livelihood or even life are at stake. That is, more or less, a defining attribute of being an adult.

What is the difference between the attorney-client and doctor-patient relationship, where the former is purely advisory but the latter becomes parental? And other than consumption of medicine which can actually affect the public health (such as excessive consumption of antibiotics), why should an adult be deemed a criminal for using a particular medicine all because a doctor (for whatever reasons, including self-interest) will not give permission?

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Diebold uses Microsoft Access db


Also known as Microsoft Jet. Voter fraud in Ohio? How could that be?

That's what dreams were made for

Threat Level
Ohio Audit Says Diebold Vote Database May Have Been Corrupted

Problems found in an audit of Diebold tabulation records from an Ohio November 2006 election raise questions about whether the database got corrupted during the tabulation of election results, says a report released today (PDF).

The document, from a team of researchers tasked with auditing the November election in troubled Cuyahoga County, have called for a thorough examination of the database to determine if corruption did occur and the extent to which it may have affected the election results.

The database is built from Microsoft's Jet database engine. The engine, according to Microsoft, is vulnerable to corruption when a lot of concurrent activity is happening with the database, such as what occurs on an election night when results are uploaded and various servers are interacting with the database simultaneously. This is why Microsoft advises against using the Jet engine in a complex environment:

and when your system is fracked and corrupt, the only recourse is to deny, obfuscate and refuse to cooperate as long as possible:

According to the report, Election Director Michael Vu initially denied the audit team access to the raw vote data to examine because he said Diebold had asserted trade secrets protection over the data. By vote data, they're referring to the vote totals and election reports, not the machine source code. It's unclear why he believed the company had a right to assert such claims over such essential public records data.

The audit found more problems with the way the election was administered -- some optical scan ballots were scanned twice while others weren't scanned at all. This kind of problem isn't new to Cuyahoga. Two audit reports on last year's May primary in the county revealed severe data tracking problems by the election staff. And two Cuyahoga election workers were convicted in January of tampering with a recount in the 2004 presidential election by cherry-picking precincts for recount that they knew would match the election results. They were concerned they'd have to work overtime if the recount didn't match the results.

All of these issues led to the resignation of Election Director Michael Vu and the four members of Cuyahoga's board of elections.

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See ya later 4th Amendment

Make sure not to have any Molly Ivins columns on your laptop when you leave your house, or anything critical of Dear Leader for that matter. And especially don't have anything illegal (like time-shifted DVDs, or guitar tabs) on your laptop, cellphone, iPod, brain implant....

Monty Python Conjuring Today
(civil rights being slaughtered, by Michael Palin)

From Declan McCullagh, we read:

Police blotter: Cops OK to copy cell phone content | CNET News.com

The U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment, of course, prohibits “unreasonable” searches and seizures. In general, a search without a warrant is viewed as unreasonable.

But searches when a person is arrested are an exception to that general rule. In this case, the judge upheld the search as constitutional, saying that: “An officer's need to preserve evidence is an important law enforcement component of the rationale for permitting a search of a suspect incident to a valid arrest.”

This raises issues--especially when hard drives that can store intimate life details are growing in capacity and shrinking in size. If someone is arrested for speeding and has a laptop next to him on the seat, Crow's reasoning could mean that a law enforcement officer is permitted to seize the laptop and copy its entire contents. Homeland Security already has the authority to do that at border crossings, according to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Melamine contamination continues

The FDA is not making any friends with the manner that this pet food disaster has been unfolding. Turning a blind eye to potential poisonings of people's pets just to protect corporate profits is horrible.

The Blog | David Goldstein: Rice Protein Supplier Urges Nationwide Pet Food Recall | The Huffington Post
Agricultural products distributor Wilbur-Ellis has issued a nationwide recall of all lots of rice protein concentrate, after the Food and Drug Administration found additional samples testing positive for melamine. The company is now urging all pet food manufacturers using its rice protein concentrate to recall any pet food that may still be on supermarket shelves.

In an unfolding public health crisis already marked by inexplicable incompetence and willful foot-dragging, Wilbur-Ellis' press release would border on the comic if the implications weren't so potentially tragic:

“Last Sunday, April 15, Wilbur-Ellis notified the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that a single bag in a recent shipment of rice protein concentrate from its Chinese supplier, Binzhou Futian Biology Technology Co. Ltd., had tested positive for melamine. Unlike the other white-colored bags in that shipment, the bag in question was pink and had the word 'melamine' stenciled upon it.”


First wheat gluten was found to be contaminated with melamine, then rice protein concentrate -- and despite FDA denials, I'm hearing corn gluten may be next. But why would manufacturers intentionally spike high-protein food additives with melamine, a urea-derived chemical used in plastic and slow-release nitrogen fertilizer? Steve Pickman, a VP at MGP Ingredients, the nation's largest domestic producer of wheat gluten, explores one theory:

“It is my understanding, but certainly unheard of in our experience, that melamine could increase the measurable nitrogen of gluten and then be mathematically converted to protein. The effect could create the appearance or illusion of raising the gluten's protein level. Understandably, any acts or practices such as this are barred in the U.S. How the U.S. can or cannot monitor and prevent these types of situations from occurring in other parts of the world is the overriding question.”

It is a question the current FDA seems unwilling or unable to answer.

More at horsesass.org



wasting time using the Last.fm/YouTube pipe mashup (which finds YouTube video based on recently scrobbled songs). Might load for you, too. Click here. It isn't “real time”, but only lags about 2 hours behind, and seems to based more on “artist” than particular song. Actually, YouTube's search engine sucks in general.

anyway, here are some recent entries:

(from Don't Look Back)

Bob Dylan - Don't Look Back (1965 Tour Deluxe Edition)

“Bob Dylan - Don't Look Back (1965 Tour Deluxe Edition)” (D.A. Pennebaker)

Dread Zeppelin - Immigrant Song


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links for 2007-04-19

Follow the drum


Lingering On
Lingering On
window icons, Grand Avenue. Thai restaurant whose name escapes me at the moment. They need to get rid of the mold smell in there before we'll return.

Golden Confidence
Golden Confidence
I'm curious as to the story behind this mural as well as its artist.

One of my favorite “lost” 35 mm prints was of this mural, and a police office raising his hand to stop traffic below (negative probably gathering dust in a box in Austex). The digital revolution didn't come quickly enough for my archives. I used to work about 2 blocks from here, at the Harris Bank building, a late 70s square monstrosity.

update from Centerstage:
Roger Brown's mosaic-mural makes LaSalle Street memorable

New York has Andy Warhol; Chicago has Roger Brown. Most famous for his involvement in the Chicago Imagist movement, from the '70s through the early '90s, Brown peppered the city with paintings that fuse pop culture themes with a folk-meets-cartooning aesthetic. One of his best ventures graces the entry way to the 120 N. LaSalle building just west of city hall. The mosaic, electrified by bright blue and white pieces, illustrates the Greek myth of Daedalus and Icarus, in which Icarus' father, Daedalus, warns him to not fly too close to the sun. Icarus does, of course, his wings melting as he falls. The sight of two toga-wearing and winged men is delightfully silly and serene among such Loop seriousness. Brown's choice of topic, an illustration of a tale about greed in Chicago's corporate epicenter, is not lost

Embrace the Gloom
Embrace the Gloom
one day when I'm really bored, I'll make a composite image out of the 47 different photos of this intersection I've taken out of my office window.

Not as bored as I am now, mind you, but even more bored, in case you were wondering what I am doing raiding my archives for snow photos to post in April.

click to embiggen photo

Stamp Out Rate Hikes

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Take your pick.

Stamp Out the Rate Hike: Stop the Post Office

Stamp Out the Rate Hike: Stop the Post Office

Stamp Out the Rate Hike: Stop the Post Office

Click any of these banners to send a letter to the Postal Board of Governors, your congress-critter, and others. Your letter will probably read something like the following:

The Postal Board of Governors recent decision to support an unfair increase in periodical rates will have grave consequences for the free speech that our Founding Fathers struggled to foster when they established the U.S. mail system.

The rate increase was devised by Time Warner -- the largest publisher in the industry. If implemented, it will have an adverse effect on smaller periodicals, while easing the postal burden on the largest magazines.

This goes against more than 200 years of postal policy, which has promoted the spread of diverse periodicals in competitive markets as a means to foster a free press and inform and engage citizens.

Congress must step in to protect smaller media from new regulations that would undo this history.

Please join the call for public hearings to determine how this case was decided in such an unusual and unorthodox fashion. Before any increases occur, we must ensure they don't imperil small and independent publications and stifle public discourse in America.

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Sex God excuse

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Novel excuse for raping one's step-daughter. The guy has obviously watched one too many Ghostbuster movies. I doubt a jury will find his claim sympathetic.

Sex god possessed rape accused, court told | NEWS.com.au :
A GOLD Coast man who claimed his body was regularly taken over by an ancient Egyptian sex god appeared in court yesterday charged with sexually assaulting his teenage stepdaughter.

The 29-year-old man and his 40-year-old wife, an erotic masseuse and “spiritual healer”, allegedly had sex with and in front of the 14-year-old girl. The mother also allegedly had sex with the daughter's boyfriend.

Both pleaded not guilty in Southport District Court to nine charges including rape, carnal knowledge and maintaining a sexual relationship with a child.

Opening what he described as a “bizarre” case, Crown prosecutor Peter Nolan said the man claimed to take on the persona of Min, the ancient Egyptian god of sexuality and fertility.

Min” went into a trance-like state and took commands to perform sex acts on his stepdaughter from the accused woman, who was known as “master” and who called her daughter “the entity”, the court was told.

Mr Nolan said most of the alleged offences occurred in the garage of the couple's home, where the woman operated a massage business.

In a statement read to the court, the victim said she was convinced that Min was an “unlimited god” with “special powers” that would make her forget she had been molested as a child, cure her of a cyst and teach her how to have multiple orgasms.

“My mother told me not to be afraid. She said it would change my life forever,” she said in the statement.

(H/T Chuck Shepherd)

fyi, Min entry at wikipedia says:

Min (sometimes incorrectly transcribed as Chem) was a god and the patron of traveling caravans, in ancient Egyptian religion, known since the Predynastic Period, and even worshipped by the Scorpion King. Originally, Min was the constellation Orion, which as the most god-like constellation, put Min in charge of the sky, consequently in charge of thunder, and of rain, since they fell from the sky. Subsequently, Min was identified with Horus, who was also a God of the raised arm (a reference to the shape of Orion), and usually depicted as such.

This identification as Horus survived until the Middle Kingdom, when the two had begun to develop separate identities: Horus as a solar deity (since the sun crosses the sky), Min as a fertility deity (since rain makes the land fertile). In particular, the rendering of Orion that was Min, was one that chose to depict the 3 bright stars of Orion's belt as an erect phallus, contributing to this separation. Min's phallus is known to be exceptionally large, but rather than sexually symbolic, it represents fertility. With his many different aspects, Min was a popular god, but in later mythology was absorbed into the more significant (at the time) god Amun, since Amun was associated with the ram, viewed as a symbol of virility. This association with virility lead to Amun-Min gaining the epithet Kamutef, meaning Bull of his mother. As Amun-Min, he was often found depicted on the walls of Karnak.

Min was associated by the Greeks with their god Pan, a fertility god, whom the Greeks thought had invented masturbation, and thus they named Akhmim, his main cult centre, as Panopolis (meaning city of Pan). He was also associated strongly with the city of Coptos. In both locations he was worshipped in the form of a white bull (representing virility). Min was worshiped right through Egyptian predynastic times up to Roman times - a deity whose temples were built and rebuilt through Egypt's entire history.

As a god of male sexual potency, he was honoured during the coronation rites of the New Kingdom, when the Pharaoh was expected to sow his seed — generally thought to have been plant seeds, although there have been controversial suggestions that the Pharaoh was expected to demonstrate that he could ejaculate — and thus ensure the annual flooding of the Nile, since the Pharaoh was thought of as the manifestation of Ra (or more accurately, Atum-Ra). At the beginning of the harvest season, his image was taken out of the temple and brought to the fields in the festival of the departure of Min, when they blessed the harvest, and played games naked in his honour -- the most important of these being the climbing of a huge (tent) pole.

In Egyptian art, Min was depicted as wearing a crown with feathers, and holding his penis erect in his left hand (a masturbatory reference to fertility), whilst holding a flail (referring to his authority, or rather that of the Pharaohs) in his upward facing, and bent, right hand (cf. the constellation of Orion). Around his forehead, Min wears a red ribbon that trails to the ground, claimed by some to represent sexual energy. The symbols of Min were the white bull, a barbed arrow, and a bed of lettuce, that the Egyptians believed to be an aphrodisiac, as Egyptian lettuce was tall, straight, and released a milk-like substance when rubbed -- characteristics superficially similar to the penis.

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Coffee is swank


Gustave Flaubert (1821-80) on Coffee:

“Take it without sugar—very swank: gives the impression you have lived in the East.”

Noirish shadows of Mildred Pierce


For your netflixian consideration....

Mildred Pierce (Keepcase)
“Mildred Pierce (Keepcase)” (Michael Curtiz)

This potent mixture of melodrama and film noir was nominated for six Oscars and features a standout performance by Joan Crawford. When police interrogate restaurateur Mildred Pierce (Crawford) after finding her second husband dead, will her obsession with her selfish oldest daughter (Ann Blyth), cause Mildred to sacrifice herself to protect her child? This double-sided disc also contains the documentary Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Movie Star.

David Denby of The New Yorker writes:

Mother Load

In the early forties, Joan Crawford left the suffocating glamour of M-G-M and entered the noirish shadows of Warner Bros. Her second film there was the startling “Mildred Pierce,” from the James M. Cain novel, which is perhaps more candid about money and social status than any American movie of the period.

...Crawford is the poor divorcée Mildred, who works as a waitress, then starts a restaurant, then a chain of restaurants, and finally marries the quintessential heel, Zachary Scott, all to satisfy the snobbish demands of her daughter, Ann Blyth, who resents her mother’s common origins. Crawford’s performance is convincing and intelligent, and the bitterness feels genuine (Crawford herself was a wrong-side-of-the-tracks girl who struggled for respect). Like other good forties movies, “Mildred Pierce” starts with a murder and then works back to the roots of the crime. The director, Michael Curtiz, keeps the palette dark and rich and the psychological undertones resonant.

Haven't seen it yet, but sounds good to me. I have a deep and forbidding love for the 'noirish shadows' of 1940s Warner Bros. films. Not all are excellent, but so many are that I am always keen to see more.

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links for 2007-04-18

Waiting for Manny

I don't follow baseball very closely, but reading Ben McGrath's fascinating portrait of Manny Ramirez I couldn't help but wonder if Gilbert Arenas modeled his eccentric public persona after Ramirez. Ramirez is an oddball, no doubt, even if it isn't a conscious decision, Arenas isn't quite in the same league, but is probably more entertaining an athlete and public figure because of it. Arenas seems like he enjoys his self-created public persona as NBA quote machine, par excellence. Ramirez just wants to hit pitches, and maybe purchase automobiles.

Anyway, let's let Manny be Manny.....

The Sporting Scene: Waiting for Manny: The New Yorker

Manny Ramirez is a deeply frustrating employee, the kind whose talents are so prodigious that he gets away with skipping meetings, falling asleep on the job, and fraternizing with the competition. He makes more money than everyone else at the company yet somehow escapes the usual class resentment, and even commands more respect from the wage slaves, who suspect he is secretly one of them, than from his colleagues in business class. It’s not that he is anti-establishment, exactly, but in his carefree way he’s just subversive enough—“affably apathetic” is how one of his bosses put it recently—to create headaches for any manager who worries about precedent. Despite his generous compensation, he is sufficiently ungrateful to let it be known that he would be happier working elsewhere. He is also, for a man of stature, strangely sensitive, and although his brilliance is accompanied by sloppiness, one criticizes him, as with a wayward teen-ager, at the risk of losing him to bouts of brooding and inaccessibility.

Ramirez, now entering his seventh season with the Boston Red Sox, is the best baseball player to come out of the New York City public-school system since Sandy Koufax, and by many accounts the greatest right-handed hitter of his generation, though attempts to locate him in time and space, as we shall see, inevitably miss the mark. He is perhaps the closest thing in contemporary professional sports to a folk hero, an unpredictable public figure about whom relatively little is actually known but whose exploits, on and off the field, are recounted endlessly, with each addition punctuated by a shrug and the observation that it’s just “Manny being Manny.” When I asked his teammate David Ortiz, himself a borderline folk hero, how he would describe Ramirez, he replied, “As a crazy motherfucker.” Then he pointed at my notebook and said, “You can write it down just like that: ‘David Ortiz says Manny is a crazy motherfucker.’ That guy, he’s in his own world, on his own planet. Totally different human being than everyone else.” Ortiz is not alone in emphasizing that Ramirez’s originality resonates at the level of species. Another teammate, Julian Tavarez, recently told a reporter from the Boston Herald, “There’s a bunch of humans out here, but to Manny, he’s the only human.”

Read more here

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See all the potential revenue the US federal government is missing out on?

Health Canada markup on government-certified dope 1,500 per cent: documents :
The federal government charges patients 15 times more for certified medical marijuana than it pays to buy the weed in bulk from its official supplier, newly released documents show.

Critics say it's unconscionable to charge that high a markup to some of the country's sickest citizens, who have little income and are often cut off from their medical marijuana supply when they can't pay their government dope bills.

Records obtained under the Access to Information Act show that Health Canada pays $328.75 for each kilogram of bulk medical marijuana produced by Prairie Plant Systems Inc.

The company currently has a $10.3-million contract with Health Canada, which expires at the end of September, to grow standardized medical marijuana in an abandoned mine shaft in Flin Flon, Man.

I've always wanted to work in an abandoned mine shaft in Flin Flon, Manitoba too.

Sounds as if the Canadian government decided to price their (admitably dirt weed quality) cannabis based on street market price, that is if one were only buying nickel bags. Perhaps a government employee strolled down Yonge Street, copped, and used their experience as the basis of the pricing matrix?

Street prices for marijuana are about $10 a gram for small quantities, or about twice Health Canada's price, though bulk street purchases with few middlemen can match or better the government price. Compassion clubs charge as low as $5 a gram, the same price as government dope.

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Bill Moyers a Blogger

Bill Moyers may not be running for President, but he is now a blogger. Well, he probably won't be writing his own entries (but you never know).....

Bill Moyers Journal
Well here's a new twist, to accompany our weekly broadcast, we're launching a blog: a community of viewers seeking out new points of view, and expressing and exchanging ideas. We'll offer you some food for thought, more from our guests, fresh voices, articles of note, and invite you hopefully to reason together. From time to time, I'll be weighing in myself, so we hope you'll check back often, tune in and tell us what you think

and I'm looking forward to this:

How the administration marketed the war to the American people has been well covered, but critical questions remain: How and why did the press buy it, and what does it say about the role of journalists in helping the public sort out fact from propaganda?

In ... the premiere of BILL MOYERS JOURNAL on PBS, Bob Simon of 60 Minutes, who was based in the Middle East, talks about the reporting he was seeing and reading out of the beltway, and John Walcott and Warren Strobel of Knight Ridder newspapers (now The McClatchy Company), discuss their work burrowing deep into the intelligence agencies to determine whether there was any evidence for the Bush Administration's case for war. On Wednesday, April 25 at 9 P.M. on PBS (check local listings), watch “Buying the War,” a 90-minute documentary that explores the role of the press in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, which includes interviews with Dan Rather, formerly of CBS; Tim Russert of Meet the Press; and Walter Isaacson, former president of CNN.

Two days later on April 27, BILL MOYERS JOURNAL airs at its regular timeslot on Fridays at 9 P.M. with interviews and news analysis of underreported stories across an array of beats, including: the environment, media, politics, the economy, arts and culture, and social issues.

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Ian Curtis happy meal

How could this news tidbit not cheer you up?

Coming soon: the Ian Curtis happy meal? | News | Guardian Unlimited Music
Yo! Sushi currently offers its takeaway customers the Love Will Tear Us Apart salmon and tuna box set, a selection of sashimi, nigri, maki and salad with tangy sunomono dressing, the latter presumably ideal for ridding yourself of “the taste in your mouth as desperation takes hold”, as the song's lyric had it. The box set forms part of a menu on which every item is named after a classic song, including the Relight My Fire prawn yakisoba and the Sexual Healing salmon sashimi.

or this even:

certain artists always seem immune to the possibility of the corporate tie-in, not least the legendarily gloomy post-punk band Joy Division. That has changed with the news that sportswear company New Balance has commissioned two pairs of trainers inspired by the band.

One features the cover artwork and the catalogue number of their 1979 debut album Unknown Pleasures, while another displays the Factory records logo and the cryptic slogan One of One Made in Macclesfield. They are the work of Dylan Adair, perhaps the only man in history to listen to Joy Division and think of sports-casual footwear: he previously designed a similar trainer for Nike featuring lyrics from Atrocity Exhibition, the harrowing opening track from the band's second album Closer.

but this is simply ridiculous:

If nothing else, the products are timely. This year sees the release of Control, photographer Anton Corbijn's long-awaited Ian Curtis biopic. Rumours that it will be accompanied by a tie-in with McDonald's - involving a new jingle based on the lyrics of Decades (“portrayal of the trauma and degeneration, the sorrows we suffered and never were free ... I'm lovin' it”), and the Ian Curtis Happy Meal - remain unconfirm-ed at time of going to press.

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Blog greet blog world

I don't know if this will become a standard business practice, but interesting nonetheless. And obviously corporate DHL isn't about to jump in the fray on this page to pimp their company (though plenty of employees have).

Plugging into the word on the Web. As the power and reach of Internet bloggers continues to expand worldwide, companies are discovering that it is smart to pay attention to what they are saying and to cultivate better relationships | Chicago Tribune
the Internet and new media are rewriting the old rules of public relations for companies large and small. .... While the Internet has come to represent instant communication, there are so many messages out there about so many topics that companies risk losing control of their image, said Walker and others. This realization has brought a wake-up call to those responsible for protecting corporate images and dealing with customers.

It also has brought some opportunities for researchers who are devising new software programs to do a better job of monitoring what is said about whom on the Web. For example, researchers at Northwestern University's intelligent-information computer lab have developed a program they plan to commercialize this year that helps a business keep track of its online reputation, said Kristian Hammond, co-director of the lab.
Dell has dozens of employees combing the Web looking for comments and contacting customers who express themselves in English, Spanish and Chinese, Pearson said. It launched an “idea storm,” soliciting suggestions from customers, which resulted in, among other things, a decision to offer the open source Linux operating system with Dell computers.

Several other companies have learned to their sorrow the newfound power that angry consumers may harness on the Internet. A few years ago, after a New York City resident's locked bicycle was stolen, he decided the Kryptonite bicycle lock company, part of Ingersoll Rand Co., had ignored the problem.

yadda yadda. In all seriousness, bloggers tend to think themselves as more influential than they really are, as Thom Brodeur says:

Thom Brodeur, senior vice president for global strategy with Market Wire, a communications service, said the power of bloggers can be overstated.

“I'm not convinced that bloggers in and of themselves can completely wreck a company,” he said.

But if you get an email from Wal-Mart that looks like a press release, and you post it, consider yourself compromised just as much as the corporate media you often criticize is corrupted (ever see a hard-hitting news story about General Electric's pollution record on NBC, for instance?).

Again, Thom Brodeur:

Brodeur advises his clients to cultivate popular bloggers in much the same way they traditionally have sought to make contact with reporters for newspapers, TV and other media.

Companies can hire services to monitor their mentions online, much as they might hire a clipping service to retrieve published articles, Brodeur said, but this poses a problem for a small business.

“Do you want to pay for a service that you may or may not show up in?” he said. “You've got to make this inexpensive for small and midsized companies to afford.”

realistically, how many companies are going to devote resources detecting what a sixteen year old's MySpace says about her experience at Best Buy? Only if the reports are made into pretty graphs and colorful charts, and statistically valid, would a CFO of a large corporation bother. I smell opportunity.

That's where new technology, like Northwestern's software, can come into play. “If you think of all the ways you can say something nice or nasty about someone and enumerate them all, you can feed that into a Google search and will probably find something,” said Hammond, the NU lab's co-director. “But that could take a long time.”

To automate such searches, NU researchers made computers read online reviews to learn the many ways something can be praised or panned. This enables the computer program to ask Google and other search engines for information in a smart way to find online comments about a company.

“There are systems now that can give you charts saying you had 20 percent negative comments, 30 percent positive and the rest neutral,” said Hammond. “But that doesn't get you very far.

”We want to give you five examples of seriously negative comments -- boring design, the controls are rickety. That's something you can do something about. That's what you see people blogging about. We want to provide qualitative information, not just quantitative.“

Walker, the communications consultant, said several firms are developing software to improve a small-business manager's ability to monitor online conversations about his firm.

”We're testing technology that will suck up the data and grade the sentiment of the comments as positive, negative or neutral,“ said Walker.

Perhaps the FBI and the TIA ought to privatize their massive civilian surveillance database, release it as open source? Ahem.

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links for 2007-04-17

| 1 Comment

Padilla trial 5 years too late

After five years of imprisonment before his speedy trial, U.S. citizen Jose Padilla finally gets a chance to answer charges against him in a court as mandated by law. Five years of torture, and now he's not quite as dangerous as John Ashcroft originally claimed. Remind me what country we live in again?

Bush sucker punch in a Yale Rugby game, via Bob Harris
Bush sucker-punches civil liberties (via)

Carol J. Williams of the LA Times writes:

Five years after his arrest, Padilla finally goes to trial. Terror suspect faces life in prison on reduced charges

Cast as a murderous Al Qaeda warrior when arrested five years ago, Jose Padilla goes on trial this week on downsized charges of conspiracy to commit terrorism.

The 36-year-old former Chicago gang member originally was accused of plotting to detonate a radioactive dirty bomb in an unnamed U.S. city. In a dramatic satellite broadcast from Moscow in May 2002, then-Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft portrayed Padilla's interception at O'Hare International Airport as a government victory in averting a disaster on the scale of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The 36-year-old former Chicago gang member originally was accused of plotting to detonate a radioactive dirty bomb in an unnamed U.S. city. In a dramatic satellite broadcast from Moscow in May 2002, then-Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft portrayed Padilla's interception at O'Hare International Airport as a government victory in averting a disaster on the scale of the Sept. 11 attacks.

...information Do Campo elicited from a fearful client detailing manipulations of light and noise in the 16-cell brig unit in which Padilla was the only prisoner. He was deprived of any furnishing beyond a bare steel bunk and had no view outside his cell, obliterating all sense of time. A noxious odor pervaded the cell, he had neither reading material nor glasses, and electronically operated doors in the echoing cellblock were open and shut at all hours, the defense reported.

CHARGES: Jose Padilla, Kifah Wael Jayyousi and Adham Amin Hassoun are accused of providing money and manpower to extremist groups in areas including Bosnia, Chechnya and Afghanistan. If convicted, they could be sentenced to life in prison.

Torture Tony Auth 060917

Mr. Padilla isn't a sympathetic figure, at least before he was tortured for years, but he's been treated as if he were threatening to rape Jenna and not-Jenna with Barbara Bush's penis!

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Sex Pill Scandal

The Enzyte commercials are horrible, the product is dubious, at best, but people have purchased snake-oil for as long as hawkers have peddled it.

Cut Rate Drugs

Jim Edwards: The $100 Million Sex Pill Scandal
At 9 a.m. on March 16, 2005, about 50 armed agents from the FBI, IRS, the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, all wearing helmets and bullet-proof jackets, descended on the headquarters of Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals in Cincinnati.

The agents herded the company's senior managers into separate offices away from their employees, where they were interrogated, according to Berkeley's assistant general counsel. “I was physically pushed away by a federal agent, and denied any access to anyone being questioned,” she complained to a judge later that month....

Most people have never heard of Berkeley or its controversial CEO, Steve Warshak. But many people are familiar with Berkeley's largest brand, Enzyte, which bills itself as “the once-a-day tablet for natural male enhancement.” Enzyte is promoted heavily on late-night cable TV with commercials that feature “Smiling Bob.” In the spots, Bob grins his way through golf games and pool parties while a double-entendre-laced voiceover talks about “working with wood,” and “a big new swing of confidence.” The product itself promises “fuller, firmer erections.”

Don't laugh—Enzyte and Berkeley are serious business. At its peak the company grossed almost $250 million in annual sales and had more than 1,500 employees, making it one of Cincinnati's major employers.
Enzyte itself is made with a mixture of 12 herbal extracts, including gingko biloba and ginseng—both commonly found in a variety of “health” drinks and neither of which have demonstrated any clinical capacity to enhance male sexual performance. Enzyte's original formulation had also included yohimbe, a West African tree bark extract that the FDA warned in 1993 could be dangerous: “Serious adverse effects, including renal failure, seizures and death, have been reported to FDA with products containing yohimbe and are currently under investigation,” the FDA said. Berkeley replaced the ingredient in 2004 with “pine bark standardized extract.”

But the use of yohimbe was not the only red flag.

Initially, Berkeley's ads made extreme claims for Enzyte's powers. A December 2001 ad that ran in both Esquire and GQ said, “Over the course of the eight-month program, your erectile chambers as well as your penis, will enlarge up to 41%”—a feat that is medically impossible, said a rep for the American Urology Assn.

Warshak had a novel way of creating the ads, prosecutors say. In an e-mail to his sales vp, Warshak once gave these instructions: “Get 3-4 bottles of wine . . . then sit around and make shit up!!—That's what I do . . . but write it all down or you'll forget it the next day.” One of the things that got made up was Enzyte's Latin name, “Suffragium asotas,” which, when translated, turns out to be completely meaningless.

and apparently the industry corporate heavy hitters (Bayer, P&G, et al) are very, very interested in participating in the age-old game of parting fools and their dollars:

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Jefferson Tap redux


Jefferson Tap and Grille

Follow up on the Jefferson Tap incident in the West Loop from a few months ago.

cbs2chicago.com - Men Beaten By Cops Say Bar Didn't Help Stop Attack
Four men who were allegedly beaten up by a group of off-duty Chicago police officers at a West Loop tavern last December say the bar's staff did nothing to stop the attack and waited before they called for police or paramedics.

Barry Gilfand, Aaron Gilfand, Adam Mastrucci and Scott Lowrence, all of Chicago, filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court against At the Tracks Ltd., dba Jefferson Tap. According to the lawsuit, the bar “refused to intervene in the attack [and] initially refused to call any law enforcement to the scene or to call for medical attention.”

Although sources have said the incident was sparked when one of the four poked fun at one of the officers, who was visibly distraught over the death of his father -- a Chicago Police commander, the lawsuit made no mention of that. [umm, no duh! Hey, let's put evidence of possible mitigating circumstances in our complaint just to be nice to the other party.]

According to the lawsuit, the Gilfands, Mastrucci and Lowrence, “while finishing a game of billiards ... were attacked without provocation” by the off-duty officers.

Additionally, the lawsuit says that the bar is guilty of a violation of the state's dram shop statute, which holds an establishment responsible for any injuries someone may incur as a result of another patron of a business that sells liquor and becomes intoxicated at that place.

Not good. I wasn't there that night (thank the pasta gods), but sounds to me like the 4 men are bitter that the City of Chicago is more interested in winning an Olympic bid than investigating police brutality claims. I'm no lawyer (also thank the pasta gods), yet I don't really see how the bar is culpable for the behavior of police officers.

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Data-mining of students

Wouldn't it be funny if this turns out to be the tipping point for the citizenry to rally against the Patriot Act, NSA surveillance of citizens, and other Bush-ite Big Brother initiatives? Sort of like the draft was a large factor in students being against Vietnam war. Enlightened self-interest is the operative phrase, right?

Data-mining of students raises alarms
WASHINGTON -- Some lending companies with access to a national database that contains confidential information on 60 million student borrowers have repeatedly searched it in ways that violate federal rules, raising alarms about abuse of privacy, government and university officials said.

The unauthorized searching has grown so pervasive that the Education Department is considering a temporary shutdown of the government-run database to review access policies and tighten security.

Some officials worry that businesses are trolling for marketing data they can use to bombard students with mass mailings or other solicitations.
Students' Social Security numbers, e-mail addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, and sensitive financial information such as loan balances are in the database, which is covered by federal privacy law.

Or not. There are plenty of sheeple in schools.

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Sony Screws Customers, Again


Mike linked to this Slashdot discussion:

Slashdot | New Sony DVDs Not Working In Some Players
“It seems that the most recent DVDs released by Sony — specifically Stranger Than Fiction, Casino Royale, and The Pursuit of Happyness — have some kind of 'feature' that makes them unplayable on many DVD players. This doesn't appear to be covered by the major media yet, but this link to a discussion over at Amazon gives flavor of the problems people are experiencing. A blogger called Sony and was told the problem is with the new copy protection scheme, and they do not intend to fix it. Sony says it's up to the manufacturers to update their hardware.”

Sony is an incredibly consumer-unfriendly company, aren't they?

I don't purchase many DVDs, preferring to rent from Netflix, but if certain titles received from Netflix won't play, I“ll be annoyed.

Perhaps some ambitious District Attorney will file suit against Sony.

Remember the Sony DRM rootkit disaster? Here's our coverage of that fiasco:

Sony BMG and their nefarious plan

Sony's new name; Sorry

Music Industry Stupidity

My Morning Jacket and DRM

Copyright means No Sale

Sony Hates the iPod

Piracy My Ass; Its an attack on the iPod

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links for 2007-04-16

Who’s Watching the F.B.I.!!

Jeffrey Rosen wonders which Democratic Senator and/or Congress-critter is going to have the stones to gut the Patriot Act. I only hope one of them does, but I'm skeptical to say the least. Even Dick Durbin sounds like he isn't planning to make any noise about re-instituting the Bill of Rights or other civil liberties trampled by the Patriot Act. Meh. A pox on both their houses if not.

Jeffrey Rosen - The Way We Live Now: Who’s Watching the F.B.I.?

The information it gathers may too often be your own.

In “A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy,” Woody Allen shows up at Mia Farrow’s window on a flying bicycle and urges her to hop on. “Andrew, we’ll get killed,” she protests. “Trust me,” he replies, “it’s me, Andrew.” She looks skeptical, and he tries again. “Trust me anyhow.”

In the latest and most serious post-9/11 civil-liberties abuse to emerge from Washington, the Bush administration’s “Trust me anyhow” defense has finally collapsed. The scandal involves “national-security letters,” which the F.B.I. has secretly used to scrutinize the financial data, travel records and telephone logs of thousands of U.S. citizens and residents. In March, a report by the inspector general of the Justice Department described “widespread and serious misuse” of national-security letters after the U.S.A. Patriot Act of 2001 significantly expanded the F.B.I.’s authority to issue them: between 2003 and 2005, he concluded, the F.B.I. issued more than 140,000 national-security letters, many involving people with no obvious connections to terrorism. The Bush administration was fortunate that, shortly after the F.B.I. scandal broke, the tempest over the Justice Department’s firing of prosecutors bumped it off the front page.

Fortunately, some in the new Congress have indicated that they intend to revisit the Patriot Act. The broad outlines of the necessary reforms have long been obvious. Congress needs to restore independent review by judges in cases where the Patriot Act eliminated it, ensuring neutral oversight of secret searches. Those searches should be focused on the associates of suspected terrorists, rather than sweeping up any citizen who has information that might possibly be relevant. And Congress should restore a degree of transparency by lifting the gag orders in secret searches after a reasonable period of time.

At a hearing before the House Select Intelligence Committee last month, Justice Department and F.B.I. witnesses, sticking doggedly to their script, said that putting courts in the middle of the process would slow it down. This time, however, the “Trust me anyhow” defense had few takers. “I think self-policing has failed horribly,” said Representative John Tierney, a Massachusetts Democrat. If Congress continues to focus on the F.B.I. abuses, many Americans may come around to the same view. Unlike the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance of suspected terrorists abroad, which supposedly involved them, the F.B.I.’s domestic surveillance clearly involves us.

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Street Life with Whiskey


Street Life with Whiskey
Street Life with Whiskey

Funky light, plus post-processed in Photoshop. On LaSalle Street (outside of the tapas restaurant and hot spot, Cafe Iberico)

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links for 2007-04-15

Tubular iPod Dude

I want one!! I mean, I really want one, but can't quite justify blowing 700 bucks for something I'd only use every day. Though, I really want one of each.

(massive jpg here)

Bluebird Music Fatman iTube Valve Dock and Amp for iPod
“Bluebird Music Fatman iTube Valve Dock and Amp for iPod” (Bluebird Music)

The iPod and the Vacuum Tube Sing a Warm Duet - New York Times :
Now, to create the special rich sound that audiophiles love, manufacturers are selling docking stations for iPods and MP3 players with amplifiers based on an old but resilient technology: vacuum tubes.Most people think of vacuum tubes as relics, long replaced by transistors. But a pocket of audio enthusiasts still values the tubes’ warm tones. Guitar heroes favor vacuum tube amplifiers in their instruments, many recording engineers tend to use vacuum-tube equipment in their studios, and some listeners pay thousands of dollars for high-end tube-based stereo systems and CD players.

Now Roth Audio, a company based in Reading, England, is appealing to the inner audiophile of iPod users with its Cocoon MC4, a compact docking station and amplifier topped by four vacuum tubes that glow when the power is on. Pop an iPod into the dock, and you have an odd couple: The iPod, apotheosis of the slim, portable and digital, and the flanking vacuum tubes that are fat, stationary and utterly analog.

The Cocoon isn’t cheap: it will sell for $649, said James A. Roth, managing director of Roth Audio. But in the costly world of high-end vacuum-tube audio equipment, that’s a relatively modest price. After the tubes in the Cocoon do the pre-amplification, the audio signal goes to a solid state amplifier for additional power.

The Cocoon has audio inputs at the back for a CD player or a generic MP3 player. The docking station handles all types of iPods except the Shuffle. The units began shipping this month, Mr. Roth said.

He has already introduced another brand of vacuum-tube amplifier to the United States market: the Fatman iTube ($649), distributed by Bluebird Music in Toronto. The Fatman has a different look than the Cocoon.

“The Cocoon goes well on a desktop,” Mr. Roth said. “The Fatman is more for the living room.”

The Fatman comes in two parts: an amplifier and a separate docking station. The vacuum tubes are covered by a grill that can be removed for an elegant look, but popped back on if fingers need to be protected from the tubes’ considerable heat. The Fatman has a 27-key remote control that handles not only standard functions like play and pause, but also treble volume, bass volume and even backlighting.

The Fatman has two amber vacuum tubes, as well as a green tube. “I added that third, green tube for fun,” Mr. Roth said. “It shows you the music level. The higher you turn it up, the more it bounces up and down.”

Maybe when I get big....when I get real big

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Everybody Hates Don Imus

Frank Rich jumps into the Imus soup, and after a few mea culpas, brings out the most troubling part of the whole matter's aftermath. What exactly will be the repercussions?

Frank Rich: Everybody Hates Don Imus - New York Times :

Does that mean he should be silenced? The Rutgers team pointedly never asked for that, and I don’t think the punishment fits the crime. First, as a longtime Imus listener rather than someone who tuned in for the first time last week, I heard not only hate in his wisecrack but also honesty in his repeated vows to learn from it. Second, as a free-speech near-absolutist, I don’t believe that even Mel Gibson, to me an unambiguous anti-Semite, should be deprived of his right to say whatever the hell he wants to say. The answer to his free speech is more free speech — mine and yours. Let Bill O’Reilly talk about “wetbacks” or Rush Limbaugh accuse Michael J. Fox of exaggerating his Parkinson’s symptoms, and let the rest of us answer back.

Liberals are kidding themselves if they think the Imus firing won’t have a potentially chilling effect on comics who push the line. Let’s not forget that Bill Maher, an Imus defender last week, was dropped by FedEx, Sears, ABC affiliates and eventually ABC itself after he broke the P.C. code of 9/11. Conservatives are kidding themselves if they think the Imus execution won’t impede Ann Coulter’s nasty invective on the public airwaves. As Al Franken pointed out to Larry King on Wednesday night, CNN harbors Glenn Beck, who has insinuated that the first Muslim congressman, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, is a terrorist (and who has also declared that “faggot” is nothing more than “a naughty name”). Will Time Warner and its advertisers be called to account? Already in the Imus aftermath, the born-again blogger Tom DeLay has called for the firing of Rosie O’Donnell because of her “hateful” views on Chinese-Americans, conservative Christians and President Bush.

That said, corporations, whether television or radio networks or movie studios or commercial sponsors, are free to edit or cancel any content. No one has an inalienable right to be broadcast or published or given a movie or music contract. Whether MSNBC and CBS acted out of genuine principle or economic necessity is a debate already raging. Just as Imus’s show defied easy political definition — he has both kissed up to Dick Cheney as a guest and called him a war criminal — so does the chatter about what happened over the past week. MSNBC, forever unsure of its identity, seems to have found a new calling by turning that debate into a running series, and I say, go for it.

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Ed Rosenthal Redux Redux

The Pope gets bagged

I meant to make note of the continuing travesty regarding the Ed Rosenthal bullshite earlier today, but then Digby did it better.

Digby's Hullabaloo - Priorities

As we all naturally bless George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for keeping us safe from terrorism and street crime we must be sure to add this to the list of important things the small government conservatives have spent your tax dollars doing:
California has legalized medical marijuana. The citizens of the state have expressly said that they do not believe it should be a crime and many jurisdictions have voted to put it at the very lowest priority for law enforcement, even when there is no prescription. But the Pat Robertson U alumni of the US Department of Justice are still on the case, saving all America from the scourge of the ganja

Digby goes on to note:

Thousands of white-collar criminals across the country are no longer being prosecuted in federal court -- and, in many cases, not at all -- leaving a trail of frustrated victims and potentially billions of dollars in fraud and theft losses.

It is the untold story of the Bush administration's massive restructuring of the FBI after the terrorism attacks of 9/11.

our previous coverage of the Guru of Ganja political prosecution includes:
Ed Rosenthal update
Priorities (coincidental title, no doubt)

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Where Have All the Leaders Gone

I don't think Lee Iacocca has been dipping his modem into blogtopia (y!sctp, probably) enough. There are a large number of politically minded blogs who started in part because of the ridiculousness of both our elected leaders and of the myopic and asinine coverage afforded to our politicians by the corporate media. The blogosphere has been screaming bloody murder for several years now. Of course, only 5-10 percent of the population bothers to pay attention, but so it goes.

Besides that quibble, Mr. Iacocca is on a good rant here. Somebody ought to install ecto on his laptop for him, and show him how to use it.

Where Have All the Leaders Gone?
“Where Have All the Leaders Gone?” (Lee Iacocca)

Where Have All the Leaders Gone?
Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, “Stay the course.”

Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic. I'll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out!

You might think I'm getting senile, that I've gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore. The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack of lies. Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don't need it). The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we're fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions. That's not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I've had enough. How about you?

I'll go a step further. You can't call yourself a patriot if you're not outraged. This is a fight I'm ready and willing to have.

My friends tell me to calm down. They say, “Lee, you're eighty-two years old. Leave the rage to the young people.” I'd love to—as soon as I can pry them away from their iPods for five seconds and get them to pay attention. I'm going to speak up because it's my patriotic duty. I think people will listen to me. They say I have a reputation as a straight shooter. So I'll tell you how I see it, and it's not pretty, but at least it's real. I'm hoping to strike a nerve in those young folks who say they don't vote because they don't trust politicians to represent their interests. Hey, America, wake up. These guys work for us.

Why are we in this mess? How did we end up with this crowd in Washington? Well, we voted for them—or at least some of us did. But I'll tell you what we didn't do. We didn't agree to suspend the Constitution. We didn't agree to stop asking questions or demanding answers. Some of us are sick and tired of people who call free speech treason. Where I come from that's a dictatorship, not a democracy.

Mr. Iacocca's rant continues

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category archives


Oh, never mind. Too many errors. Maybe I'll try again after the next version gets released.

Can't call method “blog_id” on an undefined value at ...plugins/CatCalendar/lib/RebuildMore/ContextHandlers.pm line 28.

Get Some Action

I think I fracked up my category archives by installing CatCalendar (which supposedly breaks category archives into month pages). The idea seems good, I'm sure it is my lack of knowledge that is causing grief.

I should care, but I don't at the moment. If you are landing at B12 due to a google search that drops you into a category archive, the page you are really looking for is probably buried somewhere in a generic-looking link at the bottom of this page. I want to append the actual date to the link, but haven't figured it out yet. Maybe later.

Sorry. I'm sort of annoyed that Google doesn't link to specific pages often, but it doesn't, and there ya are.

You can always use the search function over on the right side of the page.



Green wash


In honor of the upcoming Earth Day, the NYT gives column inches to these idiots. Granted the story is relegated to page A9, yet valuable space nonetheless.

San Francisco Journal: In a Filmdom Premiere, a Foe for Gore Steven F. Hayward’s “An Inconvenient Truth...or Convenient Fiction?” is a point-by-PowerPoint rebuttal of former Vice President Al Gore’s global warming documentary.

Hayward doesn't have much data to criticize the science of Gore's argument, so he aims a bit lower, and just ridicules Gore:

Mr. Hayward said the point of his 50-minute movie — basically a lecture like “Inconvenient Truth,” though half as long — was to dispute Mr. Gore’s depiction of potentially devastating consequences of global warming. ... Mr. Hayward spends more than a little time in his film attacking Mr. Gore, whom he calls “an environmental extremist,” and poking fun at the style of “Inconvenient Truth,” including its hand-held camerawork, its arresting charts and its attention-grabbing props. At one point, for example, he mocks Mr. Gore’s dramatic use of a cherry picker to illustrate potentially soaring global temperatures.

“I’m going to save some energy,” Mr. Hayward says, “and use a ladder.”

These jokers are ridiculously ill-informed:

It’s very much like being a Christian in the first century,“ said Mike DeNunzio, former chairman of the San Francisco Republican Party and sacrificial lamb in the 2006 Congressional race against Representative Nancy Pelosi, who beat him with 80 percent of the vote. ”But there’s two sides to every story, and certainly we’ve been hearing one side.“

Oh yeah, just like being a Christian in 100 C.E., well except for the quibbling minor details of just about everything. If only we could throw Hayward and his ilk to the lions.....

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links for 2007-04-14

Xerox Solid Ink


Our hard-working (yet oft jammed) HP Color Laserjet 4550n has become too annoying to use anymore. Too much toner (both yellow and blue) spills (and has spilled all over the place) ending up on the printed pages, and vacuuming the internal areas of the printer every day gets tiresome. Slow to warm up, slow to print, frequent paper jams. Plus HP doesn't use true PostScript drivers, but their own variant, so at least once a week, print jobs will fail. If I recall, we spent about $3000 for it in 2001, so I feel we've gotten fair use for it.

Today we bought a Xerox Phaser 8560 ($1000, including an extra $200 for double-sided printing). If the specs are accurate (how could a manufacturer lie about their product in a marketing brochure?? Ahem), the Phaser (love that name, btw) will print a page about 3 times as quickly, at higher resolution, and includes PostScript 3.

Xerox 8560 Phaser and HP 4550
Xerox 8560 Phaser on the left and HP 4550 on the right.

As a side benefit, Xerox has invented something called Solid ink technology. The cute little movie hosted on their site (Quicktime) claims solid ink technology uses 90% less waste than comparable laser printer technology, or 5 lbs. of landfill waste vs. 157 lbs. for a typical color laser, per 100,000 pages. That's a pretty significant difference. HP includes return UPS shipping on their toner boxes to encourage (alleged) recycling of the toner cartridge, but what about environmental costs of transportation? UPS trucks aren't hybrids, at least in my neighborhood.

Ask me what I think about the Phaser in about 2 months, after I've used the printer for a while. Right now I'm psyched.

Loading ink into Phaser 8560
Loading ink into Phaser 8560

Xerox rainbow pack
Xerox rainbow pack - certainly much smaller than 4 color toners from HP.

learn more about solid ink and the environment (1.2 MB PDF)

download White Paper (360 KB PDF)

You'd think Xerox would play up the green quality of solid ink more often. If you are anything like me, if all else is roughly equal, I'll choose the more environmentally friendly product 10 times out of 10. Frequently, all else doesn't even have to be equal, just close enough (organic produce, hybrid car, recycled paper products, etc.).

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Os Mutantes returns

I wasn't blown away by their show last year, but still, was pretty good. Better sound might help.

Tropicália Essentials
“Tropicália Essentials” (Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, Os Mutantes)

Metro | Chicago
Wednesday, July 11
Tickets: $26 adv / $31 day of
18 & over
Doors: 8pm / Show: 9pm
Tickets on sale Sat. 4/14 at noon


Fall of Imus

| 1 Comment

Media Matters gets a well-deserved moment in the spotlight.

Behind the Fall of Imus, A Digital Brush Fire - WSJ.com
At 6:14 a.m. on Wednesday, April 4, relatively few people were tuned into the “Imus in the Morning Show” when Don Imus referred to the Rutgers women's basketball team as “nappy-headed ho's.”

Ryan Chiachiere was. A 26-year-old researcher in Washington, D.C., for liberal watchdog organization Media Matters for America, he was assigned to monitor Mr. Imus's program. Mr. Chiachiere clipped the video, alerted his bosses and started working on a blog post for the organization's Web site.

As a free speech absolutist, I'm slightly ambivalent about the whole dustup, though racist talk has no place on the public airwaves. Imus has a long history of saying inflammatory one-liners: that's why so many advertisers underwrote his show, right? Oh, wait, P&G had no idea what Imus said in previous years, they only payed attention to viewership numbers. Or so they claim.

Mr. Imus, who didn't respond to repeated calls seeking comment, had for years been making outrageous and frequently crude remarks about risky subjects such as race, sex and gender, a style that millions of listeners had embraced. The media executives and advertisers profiting from Mr. Imus's popularity stood by him as protests occasionally surfaced. They usually subsided after a few days.

Senior NBC executives arrived at work on Wednesday to a flood of advertisers clamoring to pull their money from “Imus in the Morning.” General Motors Corp., American Express Co., and GlaxoSmithKline PLC all followed P&G's lead. American Express's CEO Kenneth Chenault, an African-American, made the decision personally on Tuesday morning, says a spokeswoman for the financial giant.

At Sprint Nextel Corp., CEO Gary D. Forsee heard about the incident and agreed the spots should be pulled. Sprint employees had lobbied for the move, including members of an African-American Sprint employee group called the Diamond Network, says spokesman Chris Doherty. Sprint publicly confirmed its decision Wednesday.

Mark LaNeve, GM's vice president of North American vehicle sales, service and marketing, had been an occasional guest on Mr. Imus's program, appearing as recently as last Thursday. Over the years Mr. LaNeve had arranged for GM to donate vehicles to Mr. Imus's ranch for sick children. On Tuesday, as advertisers were beginning to pull out, GM said it had “no plans to make any changes at this point.” A day later GM changed its mind. Yesterday, Mr. LaNeve and another top marketing executive decided to drop the ads altogether.

Kudos to Media Matters for bringing national attention to the incident. Perhaps one of the myriad inflammatory remarks the vulgar pig-boy Rush Limbaugh utters will catch media attention with the same resonance.

In fact, Media Matters posted this yesterday:

On April 11, NBC News announced that it was dropping MSNBC's simulcast of Imus in the Morning in the wake of the controversy that erupted over host Don Imus' reference to the Rutgers University women's basketball team as “nappy-headed hos.” The following day, CBS president and CEO Leslie Moonves announced that CBS -- which owns both the radio station that broadcast Imus' program and Westwood One, which syndicated the program -- has fired Imus and would cease broadcasting his radio show. But as Media Matters for America has extensively documented, bigotry and hate speech targeting, among other characteristics, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and ethnicity continue to permeate the airwaves through personalities such as Glenn Beck, Neal Boortz, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage, Michael Smerconish, and John Gibson.

Fire 'em all - let them start their own radio network of racist assholery. If I were an advertising manager for any show that broadcasts these Rethugs, I'd be a little nervous.

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Tangled up in Seuss

I'm on the side of Kevin Ryan: I just don't see the harm in creating parodies and tributes. Copywrong police strike again.

Tangled up in Seuss | Salon News
Ryan, a 33-year-old Houston music producer and author, went into his home studio and engineered a sort of retro mash-up of two of his favorite artists, Bob Dylan and Dr. Seuss.
Ryan took the text from seven Seuss classics, including “The Cat in the Hat” and “Green Eggs and Ham,” and set them to original tunes that sounded like they were right off Dylan's mid-'60s releases. He played all the instruments and sang all the songs in Dylan's breathy, nasal twang. He registered a domain name, dylanhearsawho.com, and in February posted his seven tracks online, accompanied by suitably Photoshopped album artwork, under the title “Dylan Hears a Who.”

“Green Eggs and Ham” was set to a tune and arrangement somewhere between “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” complete with Dylan's rushed, occasionally sneering phrasing. Familiar passages are run together in impatient run-ons:

Would you eat them in a box?
Would you eat them with a fox?
Not in a box not with a fox
Not in a house not with a mouse
I would not eat them here or there
I would not eat them anywhere

All this accompanied by an up-tempo electric band, complete with the jaunty skirling of a Hammond organ.

It was clever and delightful. Ryan had immersed himself so fully in Seuss' words and Dylan's style that he managed to merge two quite different creative intelligences. Many who have heard the tracks come away convinced they're really listening to Bob Dylan.

well, I wouldn't go that far. Does sound similar though, and the Hammond organ is a deft touch. Needed to add some Mike Bloomfield guitar riffs too.

Boing Boing noticed Kevin Ryan's work, and suddenly, so did a lot of people, including Dr. Seuss Enterprises.

Only two weeks after word of the site began spreading, Ryan got a cease-and-desist demand from the Seuss lawyers, who said the site and songs infringed the company's copyrights and trademarks. Ryan complied quickly and quietly. Instead of the Dylan/Seuss tracks, visitors to dylanhearsawho.com find a brief message saying the site has been “retired” at the request of Dr. Seuss Enterprises.

If you were caught up in the momentary wonder of how someone could execute such an ingeniously perfect blending of period musical style, '60s attitude and loopy storytelling, it was tempting to see all of this as just another case of a heavy-handed corporate copyright holder -- a master of copyright war, to call on the old Dylan oeuvre -- sticking it to the little guy.


However, whether a work is “transformative” in going beyond an original with “new expression, meaning, or message,” is just one of the factors courts must consider when assessing fair use. Judges must also weigh whether a new work is created for profit; whether the original work merits protection from copying; how much of the original was appropriated to make a new work; and what market impact the appropriation might have on the original work.

In Rothman's opinion, Ryan's work flunks two essential tests.

First, it fails to be a transformative work in that there's no clear comment on or criticism of the Seuss original. “I think he's not even close to the line on this. He's far in the infringing camp,” Rothman said.

Second, “Dylan Hears a Who” appropriates too much of the original material. “It takes the entire Dr. Seuss material; it's not like taking just a few lines to make a point,” Rothman said. “One question a court would ask is, Did the defendant take more than was necessary for a parody? and here I think the answer is clearly yes.” The one factor that might weigh in Ryan's favor, Rothman said, is that “Dylan Hears a Who” did not appear to be commercial.

100 years from now, if the human race is still around, copyright thugs will have cordoned off every possible variation of creative freedom, and we will only be left with remakes of Disney movies and Brittany Spears clones.

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links for 2007-04-13

Countless White House E-Mails Deleted

Even more criminality at the White House. We're nearly numb to it, as every month some new revelation of corruption emerges.

Stuck in Reverse

Dan Froomkin has been following the matter closely:

Countless White House E-Mails Deleted :

Countless e-mails to and from many key White House staffers have been deleted -- lost to history and placed out of reach of congressional subpoenas -- due to a brazen violation of internal White House policy that was allowed to continue for more than six years, the White House acknowledged yesterday.

The leading culprit appears to be President Bush's enormously influential political adviser Karl Rove, who reportedly used his Republican National Committee-provided Blackberry and e-mail accounts for most of his electronic communication.

Why delete if there wasn't criminal behavior going on? 2008 can't come soon enough.

Said Stanzel: “I guess the bottom line is that our policy at the White House was not clear enough for employees.”

But when I asked Stanzel to read out loud the White House e-mail policy, it seemed clear enough to me: “Federal law requires the preservation of electronic communications sent or received by White House staff,” says the handbook that all staffers are given and expected to read and comply with.

“As a result, personnel working on behalf of the EOP [Executive Office of the President] are expected to only use government-provided e-mail services for all official communication.”

The handbook further explains: “The official EOP e-mail system is designed to automatically comply with records management requirements.”

And if that wasn't clear enough, the handbook notes -- as was the case in the Clinton administration -- that “commercial or free e-mail sites and chat rooms are blocked from the EOP network to help staff members ensure compliance and to prevent the circumvention of the records management requirements.”

Stanzel refused to publicly release the relevant portions of the White House staff manual and denied my request to make public the transcript of the call, which lasted more than an hour but which -- due to Stanzel's refusal or inability to provide straight answers on many issues -- raised more questions than it answered.

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Craplets away!

mac genius

WSJ technology columnist Walt Mossberg has some excellent advice on how to avoid dealing with removing craplets - buy a Mac!

Personal Technology - WSJ.com : Finally, an excellent way to avoid or minimize the craplet problem is to simply buy an Apple Macintosh computer. New Macs don't have any craplets displayed on their desktops. On a new Mac, no third-party software is automatically launched when you start the computer, and you don't need antivirus or antispyware programs because the Mac is essentially free from those menaces. So, even my year-old Mac laptop reboots roughly three times as fast as my three-week-old Sony.
Apple does include a few third-party programs on Macs, including one that, oddly, is for drawing comic-strip effects on photos. But these are tucked away in the applications folder and most are full working versions, not trials or offers.

what is a craplet you ask? Mossberg explains:

Last week, when I condemned the flood of crippled trial software, ads and offers that come loaded on new Windows Vista computers, readers reacted strongly. I received roughly 700 emails, all but a handful agreeing with me. The column was the most popular article that day on WSJ.com and was cited on numerous other Web sites.

Clearly, many people are furious about these unwanted programs and icons, which are sometimes called craplets. Many would like to smite them without going through the laborious process of uninstalling them manually, one at a time.

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The dark legacy of Carlos Castaneda


Drugs, spirituality, shamanism, murder/suicide, cults of sexuality, what's not to like?

Of course Castaneda wrote metaphorically. For his publishers to label his writing as non-fiction is ludicrous. I read several of his books a long time ago, but I didn't take the exposition of his experiences as literal truth.

Too many years have passed through and around me to be able to comment intelligently on Castaneda, but I do remember liking the first book I read (not sure which one, in retrospect), but then rapidly growing tired of his high-fructose syrup.

As far as finding skeletons of his witch-mistresses in the desert, do tell....

Robert Marshall: The dark legacy of Carlos Castaneda | Salon Books
...the don Juan books still sell well. The University of California Press, which published Castaneda's first book, “The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge,” in 1968, steadily sells 7,500 copies a year. BookScan, a Nielsen company that tracks book sales, reports that three of Castaneda's most popular titles, “A Separate Reality,” “Journey to Ixtlan” and “Tales of Power,” sold a total of 10,000 copies in 2006. None of Castaneda's titles have ever gone out of print -- an impressive achievement for any author.

Today, Simon and Schuster, Castaneda's main publisher, still classifies his books as nonfiction. It could be argued that this label doesn't matter since everyone now knows don Juan was a fictional creation. But everyone doesn't [oh really?], and the trust that some readers have invested in these books leads to a darker story that has received almost no coverage in the mainstream press.

Castaneda, who disappeared from the public view in 1973, began in the last decade of his life to organize a secretive group of devoted followers. His tools were his books and Tensegrity, a movement technique he claimed had been passed down by 25 generations of Toltec shamans. A corporation, Cleargreen, was set up to promote Tensegrity; it held workshops attended by thousands. Novelist and director Bruce Wagner, a member of Castaneda's inner circle, helped produce a series of instructional videos. Cleargreen continues to operate to this day, promoting Tensegrity and Castaneda's teachings through workshops in Southern California, Europe and Latin America.

At the heart of Castaneda's movement was a group of intensely devoted women, all of whom were or had been his lovers. They were known as the witches, and two of them, Florinda Donner-Grau and Taisha Abelar, vanished the day after Castaneda's death, along with Cleargreen president Amalia Marquez and Tensegrity instructor Kylie Lundahl. A few weeks later, Patricia Partin, Castaneda's adopted daughter as well as his lover, also disappeared. In February 2006, a skeleton found in Death Valley, Calif., was identified through DNA analysis as Partin's.

Some former Castaneda associates suspect the missing women committed suicide. They cite remarks the women made shortly before vanishing, and point to Castaneda's frequent discussion of suicide in private group meetings. Achieving transcendence through a death nobly chosen, they maintain, had long been central to his teachings.

more here, seems like a work in progress still. Perhaps Mr. Marshall is working on a book?

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Light and Yellow

When the Lights Burnt Your Eyes
When the Lights Burnt Your Eyes
LaSalle Street at night. There's a late night currency exchange that we visited to get a license sticker. While D was in line, I took this photo. Added a filter to mute the 'red' due to slow exposure, and also enhanced the street light 'twinkle'.

Self Portrait Yellow
Self Portrait Yellow
Millennium Park restroom. And yes, it was brutally cold that day. My camera was fogging up (eventually got too cold, and battery died).


click photo to embiggen

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links for 2007-04-12


Chicago Green Festival

Green Festivals - Welcome to Chicago Green Festival

Not Easy Being green

The Nation emails:

We wanted to let everyone know that the Green Festival is coming to Chicago. Previously held only in San Francisco and Washington, DC, the GF is expanding to one of America's greenest cities at the invitation of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's office.

Co-produced by Global Exchange and Co-Op America and co-sponsored by The Nation, The Green Festival brings together socially responsible businesses, environmental groups, leading thinkers on the economy and social justice, the best in organic food, and thousands of attendees for a two-day party with a very serious objective: expanding popular support for policies aimed at ecological sustainability and social justice. The Chicago Green Festival will feature more than 300 exhibiters and 150 speakers as well as a special talk by The Nation's Chris Hayes on Sunday, April 22.

April 21 (10:00am to 8:00pm)
April 22 (11:00am to 6:00pm)

McCormick Place
2301 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago

The Nation will be at booth #2008 on Saturday and Sunday. Come by to meet Nation writers and staffers and pick up free copies of the magazine and Nation buttons! Don't miss Hayes speaking on Sunday at 3:00 in Room 1 and check out other featured speakers, including Amy Goodman, Jim Hightower, Dennis Kucinich, Bill McKibben, Van Jones and Frances Moore Lappe, among many others.

McKibben will be speaking about Step It Up!, the April 14 National Day of Climate Action, and what can be done to combat the consequences of global climate change. Click here to see what Step It Up! activities are taking place near you this Saturday and read The Nation's ActNow blog for more info on the largest day of citizen action focusing on global warming in our nation's history and the largest environmental protest of any kind since Earth Day 1970.

My cousin M and her husband are in town, maybe I can talk them into going. Magnificent Mile shopping is so boring anyway.

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Kurt Vonnegut RIP


Damn it. I never got to have a cup of coffee and a couple of Pall Malls with one of my favorite authors. Mr. Vonnegut was on the Daily Show not too long ago (no YouTube because Viacom sucks), and he did look pretty ancient.

Kurt Vonnegut, Writer of Classics of the American Counterculture, Dies at 84 - New York Times
Kurt Vonnegut, whose dark comic talent and urgent moral vision in novels like “Slaughterhouse-Five,” “Cat’s Cradle” and “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater” caught the temper of his times and the imagination of a generation, died Wednesday night in Manhattan. He was 84 and had homes in Manhattan and in Sagaponack on Long Island. His death was reported by Morgan Entrekin, a longtime family friend, who said Mr. Vonnegut suffered brain injuries as a result of a fall several weeks ago.

Like Mark Twain, Mr. Vonnegut used humor to tackle the basic questions of human existence: Why are we in this world? Is there a presiding figure to make sense of all this, a god who in the end, despite making people suffer, wishes them well?

He also shared with Twain a profound pessimism. “Mark Twain,” Mr. Vonnegut wrote in his 1991 book, “Fates Worse Than Death: An Autobiographical Collage,” “finally stopped laughing at his own agony and that of those around him. He denounced life on this planet as a crock. He died.”

Not all Mr. Vonnegut’s themes were metaphysical. With a blend of vernacular writing, science fiction, jokes and philosophy, he also wrote about the banalities of consumer culture, for example, or the destruction of the environment.

His novels — 14 in all — were alternate universes, filled with topsy-turvy images and populated by races of his own creation, like the Tralfamadorians and the Mercurian Harmoniums. He invented phenomena like chrono-synclastic infundibula (places in the universe where all truths fit neatly together) as well as religions, like the Church of God the Utterly Indifferent and Bokononism (based on the books of a black British Episcopalian from Tobago “filled with bittersweet lies,” a narrator says).

Knew his death was imminent, but still am saddened. Remember writing my 11th grade honors English thesis on Vonnegut, even though my teacher (Mrs. Elaine Hettenhausen aka Ms. Hett) claimed she had never heard of him. Of course, that meant I was able to take creative liberties while writing Vonnegut's bio - I used several 'facts' which were only true in Vonnegut's novels.



Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles
“Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles” (Anthony Swofford)

Received this book as a Xmas present a couple years ago (thanks, Uncle R), so watched the film with a slightly different perspective.

Jarhead (Widescreen Edition)
“Jarhead (Widescreen Edition)” (Sam Mendes)

Cpl. Anthony “Swoff” Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal) endures the worst of war in this drama based on ex-Marine Anthony Swofford's biting memoirs about Operation Desert Storm. Swoff, his mercenary mentor, Troy (Peter Saarsgard), and the rest of the unit resort to cynicism and caustic humor in order to deal with the unbearable heat, dangerous missions and uncertain war. Oscar winner Jamie Foxx co-stars as Sgt. Sykes.

Without the voice over option, and without the written version's explanation, the movie suffered immensely, much less nuanced, less cynical, more gung-ho macho 20 year-old aggro. The book is ambivalent about the experience of being a marine, the film cut out nearly all of that self-doubt. Gyllenhaal and Foxx are good, as is Peter Saarsgard.

-chemical weapon propaganda not just used on the civilians back home, but on the soldiers too.

-“Elvis was a hero to most....”, again used somewhat ironically. Maybe Kenny “The Jet” Smith had rented this movie too?

Much less post-script of the post-war ennui in the movie, I guess for similar reasons.

(nearly incomprehensible notes deciphered from my 2006 moleskin notebook archives)

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Sometimes satire is extremely close to truth. Extremely close. How did Maureen Dowd get her job anyway?

'Most E-Mailed' List Tearing New York Times' Newsroom Apart | The Onion - America's Finest News Source
“Your reputation is everything here at the Times, and if you want get known, you've got to deliver what readers want: differences between men and women, and photos of cats,” national political reporter Adam Nagourney said. “I suppose I could be most e-mailed, too, if I sat in front of my computer all day making up cutesy names for government officials, like some redheaded Wednesday and Saturday columnists I know.”

Other mainstays of the Most E-mailed List, such as columnist Frank Rich, experience the stress of having to maintain their success every week. While there are definite perks, such as sharing a lunch table with other widely e-mailed columnists, like Paul Krugman and Thomas Friedman, Rich said that the “once laid-back and carefree” working environment of the Times' midtown Manhattan offices has been replaced with suspicion and backbiting.

“Yesterday I was working in my cubicle, and I could hear some reporters at the water cooler a few feet away talking in stage whispers about how I was 'obviously' getting my friends to e-mail my columns around to artificially inflate their ranking, and it was very upsetting,” Rich said. “Sure, some of my friends may have e-mailed them, but that's because they honestly liked them and people have the right to do that.”

Columnist Nicholas Kristof, a Pulitzer Prize–winning former editor who has covered Asia and Africa for the Times, claimed not to be aware that his work frequently appears on the Most E-Mailed list, saying he “never so much as glances” at it.

“Who cares—lists are stupid and arbitrary,” Kristof said. “Only shallow morons pay attention to them. As if an article is inherently better just because more people happen to read it. This isn't a popularity contest.”

Kristof returned Thursday from the Sudan after a six-week-long investigation of the plight of displaced house cats in the genocide-ridden Darfur region. His findings will be published in next Sunday's New York Times Magazine.

Speaking of redheaded columnists: MoDo mentions Nagourney in her 'column':

Daddies in a Panic, and Mommy, Too
The Daddy Party has been deprived of seeing its men on the stump delivering great speeches for quite some time now.

I don't buy the Republicans as a Daddy party, not unless the dad is an alcoholic, incestuous serial killer.

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Is it spring yet


Snow Globs

National Weather Service says:

Today...Light rain and snow. Colder. Snow accumulation up to 1 inch. Windy. Temperatures nearly steady in the upper 30s. Northeast winds 20 to 30 mph. Chance of precipitation 100 percent.

Tonight...Cloudy with snow likely. Snow accumulation of 1 to 2 inches. Total snow accumulation 1 to 3 inches. Blustery. Lows in the lower 30s. Northeast winds 15 to 25 mph early in the evening shifting to the northwest in the late evening and overnight. Chance of precipitation 70 percent.

2000 volts behind the Green Door

jeez. Plus since I'm kvetching, we had an electrician come look at our electric panel Monday, and since then, our refrigerator hasn't been on. The guy loosened some wire perhaps? or something. We didn't realize until last night, so guess we're going to be cleaning out spoiled food soon.

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links for 2007-04-11

Happy Feet Sucked

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How did this even get in my queue? I hope it doesn't suck like the last few animated flicks I've suffered through.

Happy Feet (Full Screen Edition)
“Happy Feet (Full Screen Edition)” (George Miller (II))

Might have been due to a marking proposal that went nowhere.

Happy Feet :

Living with his colony in the Antarctic, young emperor penguin Mumble is aptly named: While his friends use their singing skills to attracts mates, his caterwauling sends potential sweethearts waddling in the opposite direction. But Mumble is blessed with an unusual gift -- he can tap dance in a way that would make Fred Astaire jealous! Elijah Wood, Nicole Kidman, Robin Williams and Hugh Jackman lend their voices to this spirited Oscar-winning tale.

update. Nope, this sucked. Only could stomach about the first reel (20 minutes) before hitting eject. Don't bother. Animation doesn't have to be maudlin, mind numbing pap, even though most that gets made currently seems to fit that mold.

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Alterman v. Klein round 3

Advantage, Alterman.

The Politics of Pundit Prestige... : Back in the pre-Internet days of yore, political punditry was the best job in journalism and one of the best anywhere. You could spout off on anything you wanted, and almost nobody would call you on it, much less find a place to publish and prove you wrong. And once you had established yourself as “credible,” it required little work, save coming up with a few semi-memorable phrases. (George Will's chef-d'oeuvre was opining that the Reagan Administration “loved commerce more than it loathed Communism.”) With the advent of television talk shows, riches arrived in the form of corporate speaking gigs that paid tens of thousands of dollars an hour just to say the same damn thing you said on television. When Fred Barnes famously pronounced on The McLaughlin Group, “I can speak to almost anything with a lot of authority,” he was right, at least to the degree that he was really saying, “I can speak to almost anything without anyone pointing out how full of shit I usually am.”

The advent of the Internet--particularly the blogosphere--has changed all that. Now, not only are the things pundits say and write preserved for posterity; there are legions of folks who track pundit pronouncements, fact-check their statements and compare them with previous utterances on the same and similar topics. They also demand a degree of transparency about methods of inquiry and the reasoning behind conclusions drawn. While proving pundits wrong--over and over and over--has not yet cost anyone a job, it has contributed to a precipitous decline in pundit prestige. The reaction to this decline varies from pundit to pundit, to be sure, but more often than not, it bespeaks a kind of panic.
Still, the problem persists. To put it bluntly, most MSM pundits are lazy, ill informed and in thrall to the specious arguments of the powerful people they are supposed to critique. The punditocracy may not like the blogosphere's diagnosis, but there is really only one way to get it off its collective back: Work harder, do a better job. It's really that simple.

more details specifically of Klein's freakout at a dinner party here, and initial story here.

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Music to do taxes to

I have a smart playlist called Random CD #68, which is just what it sounds like: 79 minutes worth of tunes, ready to burn to CD on a moments notice. I find I end up making my own CDs when I rent a car, easier than hauling around iPod connective gear which may or may not work anyway.

Here's today's list. Can you tell I don't want to actually work on the year-end financials?

  1. John Lee Hooker- I'm Bad Like Jesse James (Live)
    Live At The Cafe Au Go-Go (And Soledad Prison)

  2. Live At The Cafe Au Go-Go (And Soledad Prison)

    “Live At The Cafe Au Go-Go (And Soledad Prison)” (John Lee Hooker)

    damn, what hypnotic menace in Hooker's voice. I saw him perform live a couple times, both at Antones, both in full electric guitar freakout mode. Great artist.

  3. Sonic Youth- Pacific Coast Highway

  4. Sister

    “Sister” (Sonic Youth)

    I especially love this song's second part, after a staccato rocking opening, the melody opens up into dreamlike vistas full of delicious feedback before bringing back the lyric (Kim Gordon chanting). Maybe because it was the first Sonic Youth album I bought, maybe just because, Sister is still my favorite Sonik Tooth release.

  5. Buffalo Springfield- On The Way Home

  6. Retrospective: The Best of Buffalo Springfield

    “Retrospective: The Best of Buffalo Springfield” (Buffalo Springfield)

    needs more Neil Young, especially since he wrote the song, but not bad.

  7. Lightnin' Hopkins- Jackstropper Blues
    All The Classics 1946-1951

  8. 1946-1951

    “1946-1951” (Lightnin Hopkins)

    on the surface, many of Lightnin' Hopkins songs sound the same. But they're not. And go ahead and play a few of his compositions if you think it is so easy. Single note blues runs are tricky sometimes.

  9. Dylan, Bob- Lenny Bruce
    Shot Of Love

  10. Shot of Love

    “Shot of Love” (Bob Dylan)

    piano tune, from a lost-in-the-weeds Dylan period. Not worth seeking out, but not horrifically bad. Faint praise for the Bob.

  11. Talking Heads- Uh-Oh, Love Comes To Town
    Talking Heads 77

  12. Talking Heads: 77

    “Talking Heads: 77” (Talking Heads)

    Wouldn't it have been cool to see these Talking Heads perform at CBGB, circa 1977? Not my favorite track on the album, never skip it though, maybe because it's the opening song. Plus the faux Caribbean steel drum break always makes me smile.

  13. James, Skip- Cypress Grove Blues
    The Complete Early Recordings Of Skip James

  14. The Complete Early Recordings of Skip James

    “The Complete Early Recordings of Skip James” (Skip James)

    another voice that oozes charisma. Falsetto, playing off his guitar riffs. Great stuff.

  15. Vances Tennessee Breakdowners- Washington County Fox Chase
    Roots N' Blues - The Retrospective (1925-1950)

  16. Roots N' Blues: Retrospective 1925-1950

    “Roots N' Blues: Retrospective 1925-1950”

    Fiddle and guitar instrumental. Toe-tapping good fun. Where's my moonshine, biatch? Listening closely, this would be a good song to learn to play on electric guitar.

  17. Young, Neil- Mr. Soul
    Year Of The Horse

  18. Year of the Horse

    “Year of the Horse” (Neil Young & Crazy Horse)

    meh. Get Weld instead, or Live Rust.

  19. Professor Longhair- She Walks Right In (Bonus Track)
    New Orleans Piano

  20. New Orleans Piano

    “New Orleans Piano” (Professor Longhair)

    Fuck George Bush, New Orleans will rise again! Man, I love this record, tracks recorded between 1948-1953, and they swing! boogie-woogie piano and sax-a-ma-phones.

  21. Shonen Knife- Secret Dance (Live In Osaka Japan 04/17/82)
    Pretty Little Baka Guy + Live In Japan

  22. Pretty Little Baka Guy

    “Pretty Little Baka Guy” (Shonen Knife)

    raw, and kind of shitty “grunge-pop” sound. I still have an unrequited crush on them though. Bought this album (the Rockville Record label version) for 99¢ when some record store was going out of business.

  23. Radiohead- Morning Bell
    Kid A

  24. Kid A

    “Kid A” (Radiohead)

    haven't heard this in a while, brings back memories (of being unemployed, unemployable, massively in debt, and then not being in debt).

  25. Timon- The Bitter Thoughts Of Little Jane
    Nuggets II British Empire & Beyond

  26. Nuggets II: Original Artyfacts from the British Empire and Beyond

    “Nuggets II: Original Artyfacts from the British Empire and Beyond” (Various Artists)

    Garage rock is my guru. This is a bit more twee than some other cuts on the seminal Nuggets collection.

  27. Waller, Fats- Honeysuckle Rose - solo piano
    The Very Best of Fats Waller

  28. The Very Best of Fats Waller

    “The Very Best of Fats Waller” (Fats Waller)

    I would have loved to blow some gage with Mr. Waller and joked until dawn.

  29. Galaxie 500- Maracas Song

  30. Uncollected

    “Uncollected” (Galaxie 500)

    reverb is an instrument too.

  31. Led Zeppelin- That's The Way
    How The West Was Won

  32. How The West Was Won

    “How The West Was Won” (Led Zeppelin)

    acoustic Zepp. Bert Jansch should get royalties on every Jimmy Page acoustic song. The DVD of these performances is excellent too.

  33. My Morning Jacket- Bermuda Highway
    At Dawn

  34. At Dawn

    “At Dawn” (My Morning Jacket)

    speaking of reverb....
    Acolytes of Neil Young, and students of The Velvet Underground.

  35. Death Cab For Cutie- Company Calls Epilogue (Alternate)
    The Death Cab for Cutie Forbidden Love E.P.

  36. Forbidden Love

    “Forbidden Love” (Death Cab for Cutie)

    shoe-gazer music. I get depressed as much as any introvert, but this band never speaks to that emotion, seems more self-indulgent than interesting.

  37. Johnson, Linton Kwesi- It Noh Funny
    Forces Of Victory

  38. Forces of Victory

    “Forces of Victory” (Linton Kwesi Johnson)

    late 70s politically tinged reggae from Britain. If you've never heard Linton Kwesi Johnson, this album is a great place to start.

  39. Blue Öyster Cult- Stairway To The Stars
    Workshop Of The Telescopes (Disc 1)

  40. Workshop of the Telescopes

    “Workshop of the Telescopes” (Blue Oyster Cult)

    from their debut album (collected on this 2 disc compilation). Not as good as Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll, but still fun.

Aren't you glad you asked? All pretty good albums, with the exception of the Death Cab For Cutie. Never made an emotional bond with this band. The sounds pass my ears, but leave no mark on my soul.


Harpers online available

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Cool. Now I can find the opium article Geoff and I half-remembered. Well, one day.

Clouds and meat

Every Harper's Magazine ever published--from June 1850 through April 2007--is now online and comes free with your regular print subscription. Gain instant access to over 250,000 pages of Harper's--with essays and fiction by Mark Twain, Graham Greene, Barbara Tuchman, George Saunders, Lewis Lapham, and tens of thousands of other writers, plus every Harper's Index.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for as little as $16.97/year:


White House Gone Wild

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: From Baghdad to New Orleans--Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White House Gone Wild ” (Greg Palast)

I have the hardback version, perhaps I'll re-gift it. Any takers? Send me postage costs via paypal, and it will be on its way.

Rove Tries to Bury Sordid Secrets of a White House Gone Wild
The House Judiciary Committee just released two emails, dated February 5 and 7, from inside Karl Rove’s office, in which the Rove-bots gloat that no US media have picked up the investigations of “that British reporter Greg Palast” found in my book Armed Madhouse. I couldn’t make this up.

They will REALLY love to hear this: On April 24, I will be releasing a whole new expanded Paperback edition of Armed Madhouse with two new chapters, one just for Mr. Rove: “The Theft of 2008″ — and another, ”Busted: the Untold Story of the Drowning of New Orleans.“

In the new Armed Madhouse: From Baghdad to New Orleans — Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White House Gone Wild you’ll find an America where Republicans sucking on Super-sized Slurpies hunt dark-skinned voters to eliminate their rights; where James Baker’s fixer in alligator boots sets up the grab for Iraq’s oil on her way to the rodeo; where educational testing profiteers terrorize our kiddies (in ”No Childs’ Behind Left“); plus, my chat with Hugo Chavez about his coming assassination. AND a killer recipe for fish curry. PLUS scores of illustrations of those intriguing documents marked, ‘confidential’ — by the State Department, World Bank — and Karl Rove.

I’m asking you to make Karl seriously unhappy by ordering a copy of the new edition TODAY

Stamp Out the Rate Hike: Stop the Post Office

here's the direct link to the paperback edition (10 bucks).

Ohh, and Mr. Palast is not British, Unka Karl.


Female Equivalent of Viagra


Better screwing via chemistry. You just know bremelanotide is going to be a blockbuster drug, if it doesn't make women's vulvas fall off, or have some other nasty side effect.

Our culture always wants to find shortcuts for every natural process.

The Search for the Female Equivalent of Viagra - New York Times : Even in the most sexually liberated and self-satisfied of nations, many people still yearn to burn more, to feel ready for bedding no matter what the clock says and to desire their partner of 23 years as much as they did when their love was brand new.

The market is saturated with books on how to revive a flagging libido or spice up monotonous sex, and sex therapists say “lack of desire” is one of the most common complaints they hear from patients, particularly women.

More recently, another potentially promising treatment for hypoactive desire has been making its way through clinical trials. The compound, called bremelanotide, is a synthetic version of a hormone involved in skin pigmentation, and it was initially developed by Palatin Technologies of New Jersey as a potential tanning agent to help prevent skin cancer. But when male college students participating in early safety tests began reporting that the drug sometimes gave them erections, the company began exploring bremelanotide’s utility as a treatment for sexual disorders.

Studies in rodents demonstrated that the drug not only gave male rats spontaneous erections, but also fomented sexual excitement in female rats, prompting them to wiggle their ears, hop excitedly, rub noses with males and otherwise display unmistakable hallmarks of rodent arousal. Importantly, the females responded to the drug only under laboratory conditions where they could maintain a sense of control over the mating game. Take away the female’s opportunity to escape or proceed at her preferred pace, and no amount of bremelanotide would get those ears to wiggle. In other words, Annette M. Shadiack, director of biological research of Palatin, said, “this doesn’t look like a potential date-rape drug.”

Women in the treatment group also were slightly more likely to have sex with their partners during the course of the trial than were those in the control group, although who initiated the romps was not specified.

Larger trials of the drug at some 20 clinical centers around the United States are now under way. Among other things, the researchers will try adjusting the dosage to see if more bremelanotide may provoke a more robust response with a minimum of unpleasant or embarrassing side effects.

For example, researchers are as yet unsure whether sustained use of bremelanotide will end up doing what the drug was meant to do in the first place, and bestow on its beaming clients a truly healthy tan.

Dinner and a movie works too.

comments closed due to spam-rats. If you want to comment, email me directly, and I'll add your comment.

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links for 2007-04-10

Sweet Little Lies

Oooh, we loves us some sweet little lies.

I wanna be a Cowboy

Paul Krugman: Sweet Little Lies
Before 9/11, the right-wing noise machine mainly relied on little lies. And now it has returned to its roots.

well, not us, but the generic us.

The COINTELPRO Papers: Documents from the FBI's Secret Wars Against Dissent in the United States (South End Press Classics Series)
“The COINTELPRO Papers: Documents from the FBI's Secret Wars Against Dissent in the United States (South End Press Classics Series)” (Ward Churchill, Jim Vander Wall)

The technique of the little lie Krugman is discussing predates the Clinton years, though previous eras didn't have corporately-owned 24 news media to trumpet each breathless tidbit of pseudoscandal. The FBI figured out how to discredit left-wing and anti-war organizations during the J. Edgar Hoover reign - arrest members of the American Indian Movement or the Black Panthers on trumped up charges, for instance. Even though the arrests were frequently thrown out for lack of evidence, the media had already been fed press releases about the alleged criminal act. Corrections and clarifications written three days later in a local newspaper are buried on a little read section, not on the front page. The frequently modest resources of an organization also had to be diverted to legal representation, not to their original mission (whatever it was).

In the 90s, the corporate media and its right-wing handlers continued to tweak the system to their advantage, as Krugman writes:

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No Fly list gone crazy

This ridiculous tale has been percolating around the blogosphere (y!sctp). If true, despicable behavior on the part of the Bush-ites.

The ironic thing is that Walter F Murphy is no knee-jerk liberal bleeding heart. I mean, he opposes Roe v. Wade, and supported the wing-nut Alito, etc.

But Professor Murphy had the temerity to participate in a public criticism of President Bush. As every American knows, peace is the enemy of the State, and anyone who speaks out against The Dauphin is also an enemy of the State.

“On 1 March 07, I was scheduled to fly on American Airlines to Newark, NJ, to attend an academic conference at Princeton University, designed to focus on my latest scholarly book, Constitutional Democracy, published by Johns Hopkins University Press this past Thanksgiving.”

“When I tried to use the curb-side check in at the Sunport, I was denied a boarding pass because I was on the Terrorist Watch list. I was instructed to go inside and talk to a clerk. At this point, I should note that I am not only the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence (emeritus) but also a retired Marine colonel. I fought in the Korean War as a young lieutenant, was wounded, and decorated for heroism. I remained a professional soldier for more than five years and then accepted a commission as a reserve office, serving for an additional 19 years.”

“I presented my credentials from the Marine Corps to a very polite clerk for American Airlines. One of the two people to whom I talked asked a question and offered a frightening comment: ”Have you been in any peace marches? We ban a lot of people from flying because of that.“ I explained that I had not so marched but had, in September, 2006, given a lecture at Princeton, televised and put on the Web, highly critical of George Bush for his many violations of the Constitution. ”That'll do it,“ the man said. ”

“After carefully examining my credentials, the clerk asked if he could take them to TSA officials. I agreed. He returned about ten minutes later and said I could have a boarding pass, but added: ”I must warn you, they=re going to ransack your luggage.“ On my return flight, I had no problem with obtaining a boarding pass, but my luggage was ”lost.“ Airlines do lose a lot of luggage and this ”loss“ could have been a mere coincidence. In light of previous events, however, I'm a tad skeptical.”

If the story is not true (as is speculated), I find it amazing that so many people find it easy to believe it is true, based strictly on previous outrageous stories that turned out to be factual (Maher Arar, Senator Kennedy, Mr. Masri, et al). We really are not far from being a tin-pot dictatorship, are we?

I also have not read of a single conservative Bush-arse-licker who was erroneously placed on the “No Fly” list; perhaps they just kept quiet so as not to embarrass Dear Leader?

Eroded Civil Liberties

Outsourcing Torture

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Partisan Agenda

Directions Requested

I read this article over the weekend, and thought it exceedingly sad. Bush is going to be President for two more years (impeachment notwithstanding), and he has no real agenda, no plans to make the country a better place, and apparently has nothing better to do than stimulate partisan bickering.

Letter From Crawford: White House Delivers a Spring Break Punch to Get Back in the Fight
CRAWFORD, Tex., April 7

Three recess appointments have helped put the White House back where it likes to be: in a robust fight with the Democrats.

On its face, President Bush’s decision to use the Congressional recess to fill three administration posts with appointees Senate Democrats had vowed to block — including a man who helped finance attacks against John Kerry’s war record in the 2004 presidential race — was a puzzler.

With Democrats in Congress pressuring him to fire Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and scale back in Iraq, and polls registering continued low approval ratings, Mr. Bush seemed to be poking a sharp stick at Congressional Democrats from weak ground — in the middle of a major clash over war financing, no less.

But the calculation behind the moves, White House officials said, was as plain as the logo on the coffee mugs for sale down the country road from Mr. Bush’s ranch here that read, “W: Still Our President.”

The recess appointments helped put the White House where it likes to be: in a robust fight with the Democrats that even the president’s most dispirited backers can get excited about. As one administration official put it, “It allows us to get our footing back, at least, on issues that resonate with the public.”

One could argue Bush has never been interested in anything that might concern regular citizens who didn't donate to his election slush funds, but pasta-damn, at least pretend to care a little, will ya? Manufacturing reasons to fight with the Democrats just to get PR is pathetic.

and Bush's loyal 32% are a classy bunch, eh?

Last month, the White House came under criticism from its own supporters for not charging hard enough at the Democrats, with Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard writing that Mr. Bush was having a “crisis of presidential leadership.”

“He’s responsible for leading — and defending — his administration and the Republican Party,” Mr. Barnes wrote. “He’s failing in both of these duties.”

The fighting spirit of Mr. Bush’s core supporters was on full display here Friday when Cindy Sheehan, the war protester, marched near Mr. Bush’s ranch. A clerk at a local gift shop told a story of the protesters flashing a peace sign at two elderly women who support Mr. Bush and had driven out to get a look at his ranch. The women responded, the clerk said, by flashing “half a peace sign.”

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Shameless self-promotion

My tossed-off snapshot of a nearby fire was selected as photo of the day over at Gapers Block.

Gapers Block 4-9-07

whoo hooo! Funny really, I didn't think much of this photo. The geometric aspect is almost interesting, but I thought the composition lacked oomph. I'm one of those introverted souls who hears self-criticism loudly, really loudly. I should work that into a t-shirt slogan: Self-Doubters Anonymous or something.

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Global Warming and National Security

urban survival 2005

Interesting bit of legislation from our senior Senator. Of course President Dumb-ass and his handlers will oppose any such action, preferring instead to twiddle their thumbs.

Will global warming threaten national security? | Salon News :
How might U.S. national security be threatened by mega-droughts, coastal flooding, killer hurricanes, food scarcity and the other ecological calamities scientists widely predict will occur if global warming continues apace?
No one knows, but Sens. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., think it's time to find out. Two weeks ago, the bipartisan duo introduced a bill that would require federal intelligence agencies to collaborate on a National Intelligence Estimate to evaluate the security challenges presented by climate change.
The bill's debut is well timed. First, it comes just before the release of a big report on the expected impacts of global warming from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Officially unveiled on April 6, the report paints a sobering picture of the increased famine, drought, heat waves, fires, storms and infectious-disease outbreaks that we can expect to riddle the globe, particularly in the world's poorest nations, if current warming trends aren't reversed. Second, it comes just as Britain has scheduled an April 17 meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss potential security threats posed by climate change -- the first time that body will consider the issue. ... Durbin, assistant Senate majority leader, has long supported a federal cap on greenhouse gases, and is now broadening his case for action against climate change. “For years, too many of us have viewed global warming as simply an environmental or economic issue,” he said in introducing the new bill at a Senate hearing. “We now need to consider it as a security concern.” Durbin characterized climate change consequences as “a clear and present danger to the United States” and “a potential threat multiplier for instability around the world.”

Hagel, a possible contender for the GOP presidential nomination, led the effort to block U.S. participation in the Kyoto treaty and continues to staunchly oppose mandatory restrictions on greenhouse gases, but he has been a leader among moderate Republicans in moving to address climate change in other, nonregulatory ways. “Sen. Durbin and I differ on policy initiatives designed to reduce the impact of climate change,” Hagel said at the hearing. “We do agree, however, on the need to assess potential impacts of the changing climate on U.S. national security interests.”

Read rest here

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The streets are alive

with the sound of puke and compromised pleasure.

Errr, well, here are some purty pitchers of my neighborhood.

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Treated bridge

Old Tyme Religion
Old Tyme Religion
bridge goes up.....bridge goes down

bridge goes up.....bridge goes down

bridge goes up.....bridge goes down

bridge goes up.....bridge goes down

click to embiggen

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links for 2007-04-09

Dead Souls

Joy Division perform the song 'Dead Souls' live at the Manchester Apollo Theatre, October 28th 1979. Filmed on a camcorder by Richard Boon and released on the 1982 Factory VHS 'Here Are The Young Men'.

Not great sound here, yet Ian Curtis was a method actor who really dug into his role. The classic version is on Substance, which is an album well worth owning, if you don't already.

“Substance” (Joy Division)

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Wal-Mart and Action Alley

We've always noticed employees of Edelman visiting our humble site whenever the topic of Wal-Mart is brought up.

Jeffrey Goldberg - Annals of Spin: Selling Wal-Mart: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker
On the second floor of Wal-Mart’s headquarters, in Bentonville, Arkansas, is a windowless room called Action Alley. In the Wal-Mart idiom, the term “Action Alley” usually refers to the main aisle of the company’s two thousand Supercenters—the stores that have upended the retail business by selling enormous quantities of groceries and imported goods at prices that competitors find difficult or impossible to match. At the “home office,” as Bentonville is known, Action Alley is the company’s war room, a communications center that was set up and is staffed by Washington-based operatives from Edelman, a public-relations firm that advises companies on issues of “reputation management.” Wal-Mart corporate culture is parsimonious except in the matter of executive compensation, but, according to a source, the company has been paying Edelman roughly ten million dollars annually to renovate its reputation.

How is that going for Wal-Mart anyway? Perhaps I'm a non-neutral observer, but sure seems as if Wal-Mart still is the topic of a ton of negatively slanted stories. Maybe they need to up Edelman's compensation?

... Today, Wal-Mart is the second-largest company in the world in terms of revenue—only ExxonMobil is bigger. Its revenues last year came to more than three hundred and fifteen billion dollars, with profits of more than eleven billion, and it has developed a reputation as a worldwide colossus that provides poor pay and miserly benefits to its 1.8 million employees. ...

Wal-Mart is traditionally a Republican-leaning company (during the past fifteen years, more than seventy-five per cent of its political donations have gone to Republicans) and has become a favorite target of Democratic politicians. Hillary Clinton, who once served on Wal-Mart’s board, recently returned a five-thousand-dollar donation because of what a campaign spokeswoman said were “serious differences with current company practices.”

Barack Obama and John Edwards have joined union-led campaigns to denounce the company for its wage-and-benefit policies. Wal-Mart is notably unfriendly to unions; in 2000, when meat-cutters at a single Wal-Mart in Texas organized into a collective-bargaining unit, Wal-Mart responded by shutting down its meat counters across Texas and in five neighboring states. It closed an entire store in Quebec, rather than see workers unionize.

The company has also been criticized for driving American jobs overseas, by demanding immense discounts from its suppliers. Senator Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat who is one of Wal-Mart’s main foes in Congress, says that the company, by forcing its suppliers to manufacture goods in China, shows that it “doesn’t stand for American values.” Wal-Mart has been the subject of numerous unflattering documentaries and books. Even Ron Galloway, the maker of a recent pro-Wal-Mart documentary, “Why Wal-Mart Works and Why That Makes Some People Crazy,” has turned against the company. Galloway told me that he now considers Wal-Mart to be a “heartless” employer. “They just instituted a wage cap for long-term employees—people making between thirteen and eighteen dollars an hour. It’s a form of accelerated attrition. They can’t expect me to defend that,” Galloway said.

Article continues, including this description of the job of Edelman Worldwide:

he job of the Edelman people—there are about twenty, along with more than three dozen in-house public-relations specialists—is to help Wal-Mart scrub its muddied image. Edelman specializes in helping industries with image problems; another important client is the American Petroleum Institute, a Washington lobbying group that seeks to convince Americans that oil companies care about the environment and that their profits are reasonable. Edelman does its work by cultivating contacts among the country’s opinion élites, with whom it emphasizes the good news and spins the bad; by such tactics as establishing “Astroturf” groups, seemingly grass-roots organizations that are actually fronts for industry; and, as I deduced from my own visit to Bentonville, by advising corporate executives on how to speak like risk-averse politicians.
(Sometime later, [Spokeswoman Sarah ]Clark suggested that I interview an employee about flexible scheduling, and she provided the name and number of one who would talk to me: Latoya Machato, a cashier at a Texas Supercenter. I called the store and asked for Machato, but was told that “cashiers can’t come to the phone during work.” I called later and was told that Machato could speak to me on her break, but would not be allowed to call long-distance from a company phone. I asked Clark if Machato could talk to me after her shift, but Clark said that that would be impossible, because the store would have to put her “on the clock,” and thus file the paperwork to get her paid an extra hour’s wage.)

Message received.

and the meat of the Edelman approach:

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No hash matzos

Oh, good. We were worried. I guess if we used an old fashioned water pipe, there would be more trouble

No hash matzos? - Yahoo! News
No hash matzos? JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Marijuana is not kosher for Passover, a pro-cannabis advocacy group says, advising Jews who observe the week-long holiday's special dietary laws to take a break from smoking the weed.

The Green Leaf Party announced on Wednesday that products of the cannabis plant have been grouped by rabbis within a family of foods such as peas, beans and lentils that is off-limits to Jews of European descent during Passover.

The Green Leaf Party, which has made several unsuccessful attempts to win election to parliament on a platform urging marijuana's legalisation, said it was issuing its advisory as a service to Jews who don't want to break ritual law.

But it said the rabbinical ban for the holiday beginning at sunset on Monday, during which many Jews eat matzos, or unleavened bread, could be a blessing in disguise.

“Logic dictates that if the rabbis say cannabis is non-kosher for Passover, it is apparently kosher during the rest of the year,” Michelle Levin, a spokeswoman for the party, told the YNet news web site.

Doesn't a hash matzo sound good?


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President Dumb Ass

Danger Look out for cars

Plug it in, fire it up, Mr. President :

Credit Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally with saving the leader of the free world from self-immolation.

Mulally told journalists at the New York auto show that he intervened to prevent President Bush from plugging an electrical cord into the hydrogen tank of Ford's hydrogen-electric plug-in hybrid at the White House last week. Ford wanted to give the Commander-in-Chief an actual demonstration of the innovative vehicle, so the automaker arranged for an electrical outlet to be installed on the South Lawn and ran a charging cord to the hybrid. However, as Mulally followed Bush out to the car, he noticed someone had left the cord lying at the rear of the vehicle, near the fuel tank.

“I just thought, 'Oh my goodness!' So, I started walking faster, and the President walked faster and he got to the cord before I did. I violated all the protocols. I touched the President. I grabbed his arm and I moved him up to the front,” Mulally said. “I wanted the president to make sure he plugged into the electricity, not into the hydrogen This is all off the record, right?”

Umm, no comment. I may hate the President's politics, but I still don't wish him to burn to death, leaving Cheney in command.

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To Life

Early Bergman (Torment / Crisis / Port of Call / Thirst / To Joy) (Criterion Collection / Eclipse)
"Early Bergman (Torment / Crisis / Port of Call / Thirst / To Joy) (Criterion Collection / Eclipse)" (Ingmar Bergman)

More on the new Bergman set, from Richard Brody of the New Yorker.
To Life Ingmar Bergman, the cinema's favorite poet of misery, struggled endlessly with the aftereffects of his harsh religious upbringing. But he was also fond of struggling with family, friends, lovers, colleagues, and himself, and the films in a new boxed set, "Early Bergman" (Criterion Eclipse), show the anguish that was present in his films from the start.


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Or should I say, Son of CREEP?

WTF is Cheney doing in the bush there? Weird.

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Birthday blues


Seth In Silly Mode

From a previous year when my birthday was a lot of fun, and I didn't want to shoot myself in the face. For some reason, I'm not listed on this page, yet.

links for 2007-04-06

Turkey and America

Sibel Edmonds, remember her? Fired by the FBI for bringing problems to the attention of her superiors. Ashcroft ordered information about her firing (and subsequent inquiry) to be retroactively classified, a most unusual step.

Seems to be some burbling going on.

Turkey and America: the Corridors of Intelligence and Geopolitics
“Turkey is not as politically stable or as secular domestically as they would have you believe”, said one long time observer of US-Turkish relations in Washington, DC. “The Turks do not have a large community across the United States like, say, the Armenians and the Greeks who have been here a long time. Because of this you see a very large Turkish presence inside Washington, DC”.

Lacking a legitimate national grassroots organization, Turkey has built a notable presence inside the corridors of power in Washington, DC by spreading cash around and buying direct access to key US decision makers in and out of the US government. It all seems legitimate enough: campaign donations/junkets for members & staff of the US Congress (FMOCs); consulting fees to former FMOCs, US military generals, US State Department employees; and promises of billions of dollars in contracts to US corporate representatives operating in Washington, DC. With so much money chasing politicians, consultants and contractors of all stripes, there's bound to be some corrupt and even criminal activity. No seasoned observer of politics anywhere is completely surprised at the occasional and well timed conviction of a white collar criminal.

But Sibel Edmonds' seems to have stumbled into the really big white collar crime ring that ties an old George Bush I family friend, Brent Scowcroft—and his American Turkish Council--in with former US Ambassador to Turkey Marc Grossman; members of the Turkish Caucus in the US Congress; Douglas Feith, (once had his security clearance revoked and was rumored to be watched by the FBI) who once greased arms sales to Turkey back in the 1990's, is a famed Zionist, formerly of the Pentagon and now at Georgetown University in Washington, DC; the Bob Livingston Group (Livingston a FMOC), who has gotten very wealthy via Turkish business; and Joe Ralston the former USAF general whose bank account has blossomed after joining Lockheed Martin and being put on the Turkish payroll as a counter-Kurdish insurgency expert. Finally, former Speaker of the US House Dennis Hastert seems a natural part of the ring whose claim to fame may become that he kept debate on the Armenian Genocide Resolution off the House floor during his tenure and was the subject of a Vanity Fair piece.

Many of us have written on Ms. Edmonds' case and after so many years find it infuriating that the FBI continues to shut her up behind a State Secret Privilege holding. Taking recent events at the Department of Justice as guides, it is probably safe to say that Ms Edmonds' is being silenced because of some sort of State Embarrassment Privilege. The Department of Justice, of which the FBI is a subsidiary, is seeing its credibility quotient crushed under the weight of Attorney General Albert Gonzales' arrogance and the adolescent antics of his staff. Meanwhile at the FBI, Director Mueller is under fire for the antics of his staff and its abuse of PATRIOT Act provisions to catch common criminals, not “terrorists.”


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Recruiters Lie

Must be tough to go to work knowing a large part of your day is going to be spent telling lies.

May Day 2006 anticipation

The New Yorker: Lauren Collins - Risk Management : In the wake of a rise in substantiated instances of misconduct by its recruiters, the United States military, it was reported last month, is considering installing surveillance cameras in its recruiting stations. The military may also want to assess the tactics that its employees use in the virtual realm. This admissions season, an Army recruiter has been e-mailing recent college graduates with the offer of hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarship money to pay for medical school, in exchange for four years of service. Nothing new there. What’s surprising is his assertion to students that they would be better off in Baghdad than in Georgetown.

a recruiter emails a possible sucker recruit

Well, consider this: there has been an average of 160,000 troops in the Iraq theater of operations during the last 22 months, and a total of 2112 deaths, that gives a firearm death rate of 60 per 100,000. The rate in Washington, D.C. is 80.6 per 100,000. That means that you are about 25% more likely to be shot and killed in our Nation’s Capitol, which has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation, than you are in Iraq.

The potential sucker recruit didn't think those numbers added up:

Kahane recalled, “After reading it once, I felt strongly that something was wrong, but I didn’t know what.” She looked up the figures and did the math herself, and found that all the statistics in the e-mail were either outdated or incorrect, and that, even if they had been correct, Mayhugh seemed to be comparing a yearly figure for Washington with a monthly one for Iraq.

(Going by Mayhugh’s numbers, there would be nearly fifteen gun murders in Washington every day. In reality, there were about three murders, of any kind, per week in 2006. In the same period, an average of sixteen American troops died each week in Iraq.)

Kimberly Thompson, an associate professor of risk analysis and decision science at Harvard’s School of Public Health, agreed, last week, to evaluate Mayhugh’s claim and found the discrepancy even starker. In her estimate, the risk of being killed in Iraq is ten times higher than the risk of being killed in Washington, D.C. “The recruiter’s e-mail message is really amazingly misleading,” she said.

It turns out, as Kahane learned with a subsequent Google search, that “D.C. is more dangerous than Iraq” is a well-worn canard. Representative Steve King, a Republican from Iowa, promulgated a variation, involving his wife’s safety, last year on the floor of the House, while Mayhugh’s paragraph was plucked, verbatim, from an e-mail that circulated in 2005. The realization that Mayhugh’s message derived—one could see, with nominal research—from a Web fallacy was dispiriting to Kahane. She had written a letter to Mayhugh, but didn’t send it. “I thought, I guess he knows the math isn’t right, so what’s the point of telling him?” she said.

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New Amsterdam

| 1 Comment

Great blogs think alike

You Belong in Amsterdam
A little old fashioned, a little modern - you're the best of both worlds. And so is Amsterdam.
Whether you want to be a squatter graffiti artist or a great novelist, Amsterdam has all that you want in Europe (in one small city).

I did spend 8 days there after graduating from UT, and I did very much enjoy the easy-going eclecticism of the city.

The pavement was alive with the sound of music
(from the train station in Amsterdam, circa January 1994.

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Our Crumbling Foundation

Bob Herbert is on to something here. In fact, rebuilding the infrastructure of the US has been a concern for a long time, a concern not quite as pressing as ending the drug war, or environmental progressivism, but certainly in the top ten “Issues the Government Should Be Concerned With”. And not just in a “throw money at corporations teetering on the edge of bankruptcy” (Ford, for instance) or “give tax breaks to logging consortiums” kind of plan, but something more substantial.

Think of all the wasted money sunk into Iraq that could have been used to invest in public transportation, for instance.

Anyway, Bob Herbert writes:

Bob Herbert: Our Crumbling Foundation
There are consequences to neglecting the nation’s infrastructure.

Fifty-nine years ago this week — on April 3, 1948 — President Truman signed the legislation establishing the Marshall Plan, which contributed so much to the rebuilding of postwar Europe. Now, more than half a century later, the U.S. can’t even rebuild New Orleans.

It doesn’t seem able to build much of anything, really. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the U.S. infrastructure is in sad shape, and it would take more than a trillion and a half dollars over a five-year period to bring it back to a reasonably adequate condition.

But, as we learned with New Orleans, there are consequences to neglecting the infrastructure. Just a little over a year ago, a dam in Hawaii gave way, unleashing a wave 70 feet high and 200 yards wide. It swept away virtually everything in its path, including cars, houses and trees. Seven people drowned.

On the day after Christmas in Portland, Ore., a sinkhole opened up like something from a science fiction movie and swallowed a 25-ton sewer- repair truck. Authorities blamed the sinkhole on the collapse of aging underground pipes.

Blackouts, school buildings in advanced states of disrepair, decrepit highway and railroad bridges — the American infrastructure is growing increasingly old and obsolete. In addition to being an invitation to tragedy, this is a problem that is putting Americans at a disadvantage in the ever more competitive global economy.


Climate change and seals

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Facts are dangerous, part the 343540. I need to make a new category for such items, don't I?

Clubbing seals is not a practice I support, but wouldn't it be ironic if global warming was the final straw?

Deadly warming cools seal hunt Hunters and animal-rights activists face off on the ice this week as Canada's annual seal hunt begins, but a succession of unusually warm winters in the Gulf of St. Lawrence already has drowned thousands of the animals.

Canadian authorities reduced the quotas on the harp seal hunt by about 20 percent after overflights showed large numbers of seal pups were lost to thin and melting ice in the lower part of the gulf off Prince Edward Island.

“We don't know if it's weather or climate. But we have seen a trend in the ice conditions in the last four or five years,” said Phil Jenkins, a spokesman for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. “The pups can't swim for very long. They need stable ice. If the ice deteriorates underneath them, they drown.”

Rebecca Aldworth, an activist for the Humane Society of the United States, flew over the area this week. “We should have seen vast ice fields but we saw only a few floating ice pans,” she said. “We should have seen thousands of seal pups but we just saw a few.”

a few previous 'Facts are Dangerous' posts:


Sweltering_summer_nights_are a US trend

Climate altering in UK

you get the idea.

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links for 2007-04-05

Trout Mask

Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica (33 1/3)
“Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica (33 1/3)” (Kevin Courrier)

I started reading the 33.3 book about Trout Mask Replica yesterday. There are certain records that are tied into one's personal history, and Trout Mask Replica is one of those hard-to-tune-out albums. I don't listen to it all that much, but when I do, I have to really listen.

I even remember the first time I heard Captain Beefheart, on a slightly-used vinyl album checked out of the Austin Public Library, circa 1988. I kept the discs checked out for a long time, eventually making a cassette copy (theft! theft!). Probably why I also associate the willful and literate eccentricity of Trout Mask Replica with the taste of LSD (even now as I write this, I have that peculiar metallic saliva Pavlovian response even though it has been 10-15 years since I've ingested any acid).

Trout Mask Replica is definitely not to everyone's taste, let's be clear.

Matt Groening writes:

The first time I heard Trout Mask, when I was 15 years old, I thought it was the worst thing I'd ever heard. I said to myself, they're not even trying! It was just a sloppy cacophony.

Then I listened to it a couple more times, because I couldn't believe Frank Zappa could do this to me - and because a double album cost a lot of money. About the third time, I realized they were doing it on purpose: they meant it to sound exactly this way. About the sixth or seventh time, it clicked in, and I thought it was the greatest album I'd ever heard.

I played Trout Mask for my blues-loving friends, who all went through the same reaction I had, and we'd sit around saying, Wow, if this is how great pop music is in 1969, just think what it’ll be like in 1984! Of course, we didn’t realize this was the best album of 1984... and it remains the best rock album I've ever heard.

I saw him perform in 1970, when he came to the Paramount Theater in Portland, Oregon, and all seventy-five weirdos in the city showed up. These were the people the hippies had rejected. I remember the lights dimmed, and then Ed Marimba came out with a plastic toy raygun, pulled the trigger a few times to make sparks, and intoned the words 'Raygun, raygun' over and over again . . . finally concluding with 'Ronnie Raygun', who was already Governor of California. Then Drumbo came out and they played a duet for a while, and finally the whole band walked on. It was the best concert I've ever seen, easily.

Trout Mask Replica
“Trout Mask Replica” (Captain Beefheart)

Speaking of 33.3 books, here is their publishing history all in one place. Perfect for building playlists.

Past, Present & Future In case anyone's interested in some tentative dates for future books, I've put together this season-by-season overview of the whole series. (Here, Spring runs from March to August, and Autumn runs from September to February. It's a crazy publishing thing.)

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Dick Dale speaks the truth

Dick Dale (and wiki) gives some his advice re how to stick it to the man (the record label consortium). Basically, he says don't bother signing a contract, make your own CDs, sell 'em at shows, build your own following and keep your own money instead of owing it to Big Daddy Coal Record label.


(Misirlou performed by Dick Dale and his Del Tones, from 1963, taken from lame-o film, A Swingin' Affair)

Better Shred Than Dead: The Dick Dale Anthology
“Better Shred Than Dead: The Dick Dale Anthology” (Dick Dale)

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Phosphates in Chicago

Sounds like Green commissioner Saduh Johnston has some work to do. I'm just happy to find out the City has such a position, he'll be hearing from us soon enough.

Green Is the Color of my True Loves Hair

Green Is the Color of my True Loves Hair actually taken of the North branch of the Chicago River.

Banned in Chicago . . . but available in stores Phosphates were outlawed in '71, but Daley isn't enforcing dad's law with dish detergents
More than three decades after Chicago banned phosphate-laden detergents to prevent foul-smelling algae from choking lakes and rivers, dishwasher soap made with the chemicals still dominates supermarket shelves.

The anti-phosphates ordinance Mayor Richard J. Daley signed in 1971 became the model for similar efforts that helped revive the Great Lakes. But though the city's current mayor, Daley's son, promotes Chicago as one of the nation's most environmentally friendly cities, his administration rarely enforces the ban.

Few phosphate-free dishwasher detergents are available at Jewel and Dominick's, which account for about two-thirds of the city's chain grocery stores. Most major labels and store brands still have phosphate levels ranging from 3.3 percent to 8.7 percent. The levels in some specialty detergents are as high as 20 percent.

State lawmakers are poised to step in where the city has failed to act. Legislation moving quickly through the General Assembly would outlaw all but trace amounts of phosphates in household detergents as of July 2010.
Saduh Johnston, the city's environment commissioner, said he wasn't aware of the ordinance until Quinn recently brought it to his attention.

“We realize it hasn't been aggressively enforced,” said Johnston, whom Mayor Richard M. Daley hand-picked three years ago to lead the mayor's green initiatives. “We would like to step up enforcement along with a statewide ban.”

Phosphates are water-softening and stain-removing ingredients added to laundry and dishwasher detergents after World War II. By the late 1960s, scientists had identified the caustic powders as major sources of phosphorus pollution that helped transform vibrant lakes into festering swamps, a process known as eutrophication.

The industry in question always wants more time to comply with any new environmental regulations:

“We've tried to market no-phosphate dishwasher detergents, but consumers flatly rejected them,” said Dennis Griesing of the Soap and Detergent Association, an industry trade group. “This compromise gives us time to complete the [research and development] on new formulas.”

By then it will have been nearly 40 years since Chicago's ordinance took effect.


Tidal Power baby

Don't corporations realize that taking baby-steps towards sustainable energy yield massive amounts of positive PR?

Gristedes - Karen Sharlot

Gristedes Will Be First Tidal-Powered Store
A Gristedes supermarket on Roosevelt Island here next week will be receiving electrical power from five underwater turbines powered by the tidal currents of the East River. The kinetic hydropower generators will make Gristedes the world’s first supermarket powered by tidal currents, said Trey Taylor, co-founder and president of Verdant Power, told SN in an interview. The Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy project has been under way since 2002 and currently has a single turbine providing supplemental electricity to the store, Taylor said.

Kudos to Gristedes (a NYC chain, pictured above in a 35 mm snapshot taken of Matthew Sharlot's wife, Karen Keohane Sharlot)

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Copywrong lecture

propaganda I'd attend the lecture, if I could
Samara Lectures: Electronic Frontier Foundation
Are You a Copyright Criminal?

Have you ever...
...watched a video clip on YouTube?

...recorded a TV show to watch later?

...viewed Facebook from a school machine?

...written fan fiction?

...forwarded an email without permission?

...posted anonymously on a discussion site?

...downloaded or edited a mash-up?

...transferred a DVD to watch on your iPod?

...made a parody of a corporate logo?

Answer “yes”, and somebody out there already thinks you're a criminal. And if it's not already illegal, they're out to ban it.

Not to mention transcribing guitar tabs

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Snow in Spring

Intensely busy day for me, but I just glanced out the window, and it is fracking snowing! It was 70 yesterday.

Two versions of the same photo, one photoshopped to strip out most colors, the other I just changed the exposure a bit. I wonder if this alley used to be a carriage house or something.

Urban Bodhi Red version
Urban Bodhi Red version
Alleyway photoshopped, almost black and white.

Urban Bodhi
Urban Bodhi
Alleyway in the West Loop

The color version draws your eye to the back of the alley (the green dumpsters), the b&w version you focus mostly on the red dumpster.

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links for 2007-04-04


Well worth listening to. I really like their previous album too. Crosshatched guitar is an apt description.

Aman Iman: Water is Life
“Aman Iman: Water is Life” (Tinariwen)

Tinariwen - Salon :
Tinariwen is made up of a handful of Tuareg rebels who decided to meld their eons-old Saharan musical tradition with the sound of electric guitars (which makes Dylan going electric seem like not such a big deal after all). Tinariwen's music is some amazing stuff, and today's exclusive song comes from the band's new album, “Aman Iman.” “Tasskiwet” features the hypnotic, crosshatched guitars that are one of the band's trademarks. The track also showcases the massed vocal arrangements that are another Tinariwen signature and that match, if not exceed, the guitar playing for sheer strange beauty.

Free MP3 here, other audio files at Tinariwen.com

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Chemical plants at risk

Fear Mongers R Us

More surprises today, apparently our chemical plants are at risk from terrorists. Who would have ever suspected? Besides everyone not being paid off by the chemical manufacturers that is.

Chemical plants at risk, US agency says :
WASHINGTON -- About 7,000 facilities, roughly half of the nation's chemical plants, are at high risk of catastrophe from either an accident or terrorist attack, the government said yesterday.

Homeland Security Department officials released rules that will require performance standards from those high-risk plants, focusing first on the 300 to 400 facilities considered to be of the highest concern.

About 70 regulators from the Homeland Security Department will begin this summer carrying out audits and site inspections, Assistant Secretary Robert Stephan said.

The rules allow the department for the first time to force recalcitrant plant operators to fall in line, either by issuing civil fines of up to $25,000 per day or in the most extreme cases shutting a plant down.

Oh, aren't we glad the adults are in charge? I mean 9/11/2001 was just a comma ago. Why rush to implement minor security measures like inspecting plants when there are corporate profits to protect?

Asked whether the federal rules would prevent New Jersey or other states from enacting stronger laws than exist today, Chertoff waved off the question as hypothetical.
“It's going to get resolved the way it always is -- someone's going to go to court,” he said.

That's a nice attitude to have for a top official.

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Food safety


What exactly is government supposed to do anyway? Give clear-cutting rights to industry? Fine television networks for showing Janet Jackson's nipple? Pathetic, you'd think food safety would be higher on the list of to-dos.

Print Story: USDA admits skipped meat plant checks for 30 years on Yahoo! News :
For three decades, U.S. inspectors visited 250 meat processing plants as rarely as once every two weeks despite federal law requiring daily inspection, Agriculture Department officials admitted to lawmakers on Thursday.

“All I can say is, it's been going on for a long time,” said Undersecretary Richard Raymond to the House Appropriations subcommittee on agriculture. “It's going to stop now.”

There are 6,000 federally inspected slaughterhouses and meat processing plants in the United States, USDA says.

The practice started under directives issued in the early 1970s, said Raymond. He told reporters afterward that daily inspections would commence “soon, damn soon.” He said the plants apparently were small operations located a long distance from an inspector's base.

Also during the hearing, Raymond said USDA would delay until June or July the implementation of “risk-based inspection” of processing plants, rather than begin in April. USDA may propose at the end of 2007 to adopt the system at slaughterhouses, he said.

Subcommittee chairwoman Rosa DeLauro repeatedly challenged whether USDA has the data needed to justify the new inspection system. “If I can help it, not on my watch,” said the Connecticut Democrat in adjourning the hearing. She said Raymond would be called to another hearing in April.

DeLauro said the infrequent inspections at the 250 plants could be a violation of meat inspection laws, which require daily inspection. “I believe you're exactly right,” replied Raymond, who is in charge of food safety at USDA.

While Raymond said he learned three weeks ago of the practice, DeLauro said “I find it very improbable” no one at the Food Safety and Inspection Service, which runs the meat inspection system, was aware of it.


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Golden Showers

Nobody expected this, right? Executives never make obscene profits after a merger. Well, except for every time.

Payout a plus for CEO, top executives :
When Tribune Co. goes private at the end of the year, its five highest-ranking executives stand to reap more than $50 million from their equity holdings alone, filings show.

Presuming the deal with billionaire investor Sam Zell concludes as scheduled, the biggest share of the payday would go to Dennis FitzSimons, Tribune's chairman, president and chief executive, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings. FitzSimons, who has worked for Tribune since 1984, controls about 673,000 shares of common stock, which would be worth $22.9 million at the $34-per-share price offered by billionaire Sam Zell.

Like FitzSimons, many Tribune executives have significant stock holdings, the result of long stints at a media giant that granted large numbers of stock options to its top brass for much of the past decade. Scott Smith, president of Tribune Publishing Co., holds stock and options worth at least $10.2 million; Donald Grenesko, senior vice president for finance and administration, controls equity worth $10.8 million, filings show.

like Ted Rall says:
Golden Shower Ted rall 070402

the rest of the group gets the golden showers.

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end of organic coffee

Oh, lovely. In the one cup, I see some logic behind insisting inspectors physically inspect a grower's operation to avoid fraudulent organic claims, in the other cup, seems impracticable to enforce when the majority of the crop is grown in a far-away country.

Tranquilize your mind

Is this the end of organic coffee? | Salon Life
Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture quietly released a ruling that alarmed organic certifiers and groups who work with third-world farmers. The decision tightens organic certification requirements to such a degree that it could sharply curtail the ability of small grower co-ops to produce organic coffee -- not to mention organic bananas, cocoa, sugar and even spices. Kimberly Easson, director of strategic relationships for TransFair USA, the fair trade certification group, puts it bluntly: “This ruling could wipe out the organic coffee market in the U.S.”

TransFair USA is not the only organization sounding the alarm. In the past week, I spoke with nonprofits, businesses and organic certifiers, all of whom are concerned that the USDA ruling will catastrophically raise costs for small-scale producers of organic goods and likely push them back into conventional commodity markets.

The USDA's controversial ruling hinges on methods of organic certification -- a process in which inspectors visit farms and walk through fields, review growing methods, and see what measures the farmer is taking to avoid pests and weeds. If the methods comply with regulations, the inspector then makes a recommendation to a certification agency; and if the farm is approved, it is certified for one year and granted permission to carry the organic label on its products. The USDA National Organic Program has overseen this process since 2002, when a patchwork of state organic standards were codified under a national regime.

Until now, however, there has been a special provision for “grower groups” that made certification practical for farmer cooperatives in the Third World, whose memberships can reach into the thousands. Because of the immense logistical demands of inspecting every farm in a large co-op, a compromise was reached: An organic inspector would randomly visit only a portion of the group's farms each year, usually 20 percent. The grower groups would then self-police the remainder through a manager who made sure they followed the rules. The following year, an inspector would return and visit another 20 percent of the farms. After five years, all farms would be inspected.

But in the ruling made public this month, the National Organic Program overturned that system, saying every farm in a grower group must now be visited and inspected annually -- as has been the practice in the United States -- rather than only a percentage.

perhaps some benevolent coffee drinker could raise money to pay for small farmer inspections?

If the ruling is unchallenged, certification costs will rise precipitously for co-ops in developing countries. Lebi Perez, training coordinator for Organic Crop Improvement Association International, a U.S. certification group active in Mexico and Central and South America, explained that it currently takes about 20 to 30 days to certify a grower group. “You have to go to the community by car, bus, mule or on foot, and access is difficult during the rainy season, because a stream might swell and you can't get across,” he said. In the best of times, inspectors visit four or five farms a day.


“We think it will now take up to a year to certify an entire group -- that's our calculation,” Perez explained. And because OCIA charges $150 to $270 per day of inspection, the farmers' financial burden will increase dramatically. For small coffee and cocoa growers who earn about $2,000 a year, that burden may become too heavy; to survive, some will be forced to drop organic certification.

Indeed, the only farms likely to afford the new inspection program will be large-scale plantations. As an illustration, consider the case of one co-op of Peruvian banana farmers, for whom the USDA ruling is especially ironic: The 1,500 growers formerly worked as tenants on a single plantation, but with agrarian reforms in the 1960s each family got a plot of the landlord's land. Had that plantation been maintained, it could have had one visit a year from an inspector. But because the property is now split among 1,500 families, inspectors will need to visit each farm on the land.

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Bending photons

Hammered Foil
Hammered Foil late afternoon, West Loop looking east.

Forced Camaraderie
Forced Camaraderie Canal and Jackson, or thereabouts.

click to embiggen

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links for 2007-04-03

Happy Feet

How did this even get in my queue? I hope it doesn't suck like the last few animated flicks I've suffered through.

Happy Feet (Full Screen Edition)
“Happy Feet (Full Screen Edition)” (George Miller (II))

Might have been due to a marking proposal that went nowhere.

Happy Feet :

Living with his colony in the Antarctic, young emperor penguin Mumble is aptly named: While his friends use their singing skills to attracts mates, his caterwauling sends potential sweethearts waddling in the opposite direction. But Mumble is blessed with an unusual gift -- he can tap dance in a way that would make Fred Astaire jealous! Elijah Wood, Nicole Kidman, Robin Williams and Hugh Jackman lend their voices to this spirited Oscar-winning tale.

update. Nope, this sucked. Only could stomach about the first reel (20 minutes) before hitting eject.

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Random snapshoterry

Speaking of indoctrination, D tells me I cannot drink a beer on the porch because it is Passover, and I must have wine instead. Something about the yeast in the beer. Whatever, there weren't any more cold ones in the fridge anyway. I asked if I could put a string around my beer (making my own eruv), but no-go. Wine tastes better anyway.

Soul Bro #1 RIP
Soul Bro #1 RIP

James Brown perhaps.

Seen while walking D to her Gyrotonic class. Looks like somebody painted these on construction paper then glued them to the wall.

Red, Yellow Black and White
Red, Yellow Black and White companion piece to the Soul Bro #1

Gears and Beers
Gears and Beers or wine, in my case.

Taken just before eating a very nice lunch at the new Mia Francesca restaurant in Wicker Park (that replaced the Soul Kitchen, home of the killer Side Cars)

click to embiggen

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Who Will Buy DoubleClick

As I've mentioned before, we own a few shares of DoubleClick since we used to work for a company that DoubleClick bought at the end of the Dot-bomb years. I mean, like 10 shares or something, worth approximately $100 or less. If Google ends up purchasing Doubleclick, what will happen? Will we get 1 share of Google? Google is currently trading at $458; DoubleClick at [unknown]. Hmmmm, what does happen in this case? Can you own less than 1 share?

Google Joins Race to Buy DoubleClick - WSJ.com :
Google Inc. has emerged along with Microsoft Corp. as a contender to buy DoubleClick Inc., presenting competition that stands to increase the final sale price of the online-advertising company, people familiar with the situation said.
Microsoft has appeared less likely to win the bidding as the potential price for the company surpassed $2 billion, according to the people familiar with the situation. But it is possible that Microsoft will counter.
... DoubleClick acts as a middleman between advertisers and ad agencies and online publishers. The New York company's Internet-based systems let advertisers deliver ads to Web sites and serve up ads for publishers when consumers view their Web pages. In addition to AOL, News Corp.'s social-networking site MySpace is a DoubleClick customer.

doh, DoubleClick was taken private. I guess the question is moot. We must have been bought out. Probably should have opened some of those letters.

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FTC and Celeb Endorsements

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Sale of Art to Minors

I say, good! I have no love for the FTC in general, but I'm on their side in this case.

If a celebrity is being paid vast sums to endorse a pimple cream, for instance, and said pimple cream actually causes faces to melt, the celeb should bear some responsibility too. The mark consumer probably wouldn't have paid $19.99 without the celeb endorsement, right?

FTC May Go After Celeb Endorsements :
Celebrities and consumers making incredible-sounding claims in ads may soon get new scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission.
The FTC, which some say has gotten more combative of late, is considering tightening the rules, which could affect everything from celebs' claims about brands on talk shows to fact-checking assertions of weight loss in ads.
.. Nevertheless, a ruling on the issue could affect many. For instance, weight-loss brand Nutri-System is running a TV campaign featuring former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino and former coach Don Shula. Marino claims he lost 22 pounds on the diet and Shula claims 32. The ads say, “Results not typical,” but it is difficult for viewers to figure out what “typical” would actually be. Text in two ads viewed by Brandweek was displayed on the screen for about a second—and was thus unreadable.

In addition to the Marino-Shula endorsements, NutriSystem's Web site carries testimonials from customers who say they lost between 30 and 101 pounds, but it doesn't say what an average user can expect. The only indication of what a “typical” result might be occurs when a customer is ready to place an order. There's a button that states: “I need to lose more than 10 lbs.”
But many echoed the sentiment of Phil Klein, a partner at New York law firm Klein & Liss, who said he didn't think disclaimers or any other type of disclosure would lead brands to reconsider using famous faces. “It's never gonna happen,” said Klein, who has represented Jay Z., Eminem and P. Diddy's licensing ventures. “If there has to be an asterisk somewhere, so be it, but pop culture drives our society. For better or worse, celebrities are our culture.”

and I'm amused by this:

So far, marketers have had little input in the process. (Nor has anyone else—the agency's only gotten three letters so far on the issue, all from private citizens.) None of the major industry lobby groups have submitted comments to the FTC on its rules review, and no individual companies have commented either. The FTC last month even extended the comment time through mid-June.

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Some ass news from the UK

African Queen: The Real Life of the Hottentot Venus
"African Queen: The Real Life of the Hottentot Venus" (Rachel Holmes)

The more things change....

Flesh made fantasy
Rachel Holmes on the Hottentot Venus - a South African showgirl with an irresistible ass.

The body of Saartjie Baartman, better known as the Hottentot Venus, has had greater influence on the iconography of the female body in European art and visual culture than any other African woman of the colonial era. Saartjie, a South African showgirl in the early 19th century, was a small, beautiful woman, with an irresistible bottom. Of a build unremarkable in an African context, to some western European eyes she was extraordinary. Today, she is celebrated as bootylicious.

Billed as the Hottentot Venus, Saartjie first performed in Piccadilly on September 24 1810. Dressed in a figure-hugging body stocking, beadwork, feathers and face-paint, she danced, sang and played African and European folk songs on her ramkie, forerunner to the tin-can guitar. Slung over her costume was a voluminous fur cloak (kaross). Enveloping her from neck to feet, it was an African version of the corn-gold tresses of Botticelli's Venus - and every inch of its luxuriant, curled hair was equally suggestive.

To London audiences, she was a fantasy made flesh, uniting the imaginary force of two powerful myths: Hottentot and Venus. The latter invoked a cultural tradition of lust and love; the former signified all that was strange, disturbing and - possibly - sexually deviant. Almost overnight, London was overtaken by Saartjie mania. Within a week, she went from being an anonymous immigrant to one of the city's most talked-about celebrities. Her image became ubiquitous: it was reproduced on bright posters and penny prints, and she became the favoured subject of caricaturists and cartoonists.

and here is a factoid not discussed much in history books of Georgian England:

Bottoms were big in late-Georgian England. From low to high culture, Britain was a nation obsessed by buttocks, bums, arses, posteriors, rumps - and with every metaphor, joke or pun that could be squeezed from this fundamental distraction. Georgian England both celebrated and deplored excess, grossness, bawdiness and the uncontainable. In Rowlandson's cartoon, amply proportioned white Englishwomen are depicted trying to plump up their already big bottoms in imitation of Saartjie, who loftily presides over them all.

Saartjie's instant celebrity owed much to a coincidence between the Georgian fascination with bottoms, the size of the derrière of Lord Grenville, and the British tradition of visual satire. The aristocratic Grenville family were famed for their huge bums. The nation was rife with speculation that Grenville would become prime minister and his Whig coalition - known as the broad-bottoms or the bottomites - take over parliament. An engraving by William Heath depicts Grenville dressed as the Hottentot Venus. In another, by George Cruikshank from 1816, Saartjie's profile is compared with that of the Prince Regent.

I wonder if Ms. Baartman makes an appearance in Pynchon's Gravities Rainbow?

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NBA greatest players

I don't think Mark Cuban will be calling Sam Smith anytime soon, except maybe to call him names.

Alien Hoopsters 6 on 6

Time to expand lists of greats | Chicago Tribune
Ten years ago, in its 50th season, the NBA selected its top 50 players of all time. Though somewhat unofficial, it has become one of the greatest honors the league has bestowed and is much celebrated and considered.

and who says sports journalists can't keep two thoughts in their head at once? First Mr. Smith writes that Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks shouldn't win a Most Valuable Player Award this year:

An aside on Nash. You'd almost hate to see him win MVP for a third straight season because Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar never did. And though Dallas should win more than 65 games, it's difficult to continue to consider Dirk Nowitzki the MVP the way he continues to disappear in big games.

One or two games should not determine the award, but great players, the MVPs, understand when it's a big game and rise to the occasion. You never saw Jordan or Magic or Larry Bird slough off a loss in the regular season. Plus, Nowitzki came up small in the Finals last year.

Though Dallas has been the team of the season, the difference is not the change in Nowitzki; it's the way coach Avery Johnson has driven the Mavericks on defense. The character of the team has changed, which is why the Mavs figure to be a better playoff team.

but then a few paragraphs later Smith wants to include Nowitzki on the list of the 60 best players ever:

And for a last one to symbolize the evolution of the NBA, I'd go with Nowitzki, who has been the front-runner to win this season's MVP award. He'd be the first truly international player to do so.

I probably wouldn't put him ahead of Dantley, Goodrich or McAdoo, but the international influence should be considered in this last decade.

Ummm, way to use a copy editor, sir.

What do I think? Steve Nash, probably, though I haven't quite decided. More interesting to me: who wins Coach of the Year? Is this the year that Jerry Sloan finally wins? Or should Avery Johnson get another? Who else is even in the running? Doc Rivers? (kidding!)

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Zell buys Tribune

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McCormick may have been a prominent Republican nut-job of his time, but he wouldn't have been a member of the current Republican party methinks. McCormick liked hemp too much.

Tribune Accepts Real Estate Magnate's Bid - New York Times
It also ends the financial stake in Tribune of two great American newspaper dynasties: the McCormicks, whose patriarch, Colonel Robert R. McCormick, founded Tribune in 1847; and the Chandlers, whose patriarch, General Harrison Gray Otis, founded Times Mirror in 1884 and who became the biggest shareholder in Tribune when Tribune bought Times Mirror in 2000. meander [sic]

The long drawn-out auction, which seemed to meander as few credible bids emerged and the Tribune raised the idea of refinancing itself, suddenly accelerated over the weekend as the company pressed Mr. Zell to at least match the $34 a share offer from Mr. Broad and Mr. Burkle.

and why is the adjective associated with Mr. Zell always "flamboyant"?

Sam Zell, a flamboyant Chicago real estate tycoon who has never run a newspaper, has won the battle of the billionaires for the Tribune Company, meeting the company's demand for a higher bid to match one from Ronald W. Burkle and Eli Broad, a person close to the talks said today.

is this all the evidence available for Zell's alleged flamboyancy? He dresses casually? In this modern age, is that really a valid critique - he doesn't wear neckties? Bah.

Mr. Zell grew up in Chicago and has lived there most of his life. But his own style is anathema to any corporate culture. He makes a point of dressing casually, in contrast to his more conservatively dressed competitors, and he is fond of whimsical touches. Outside his office is a sculpture of a man tied up in red tape. In case anyone misses the point, a label reads: "bureaucrat." On the deck outside his office he keeps two live, large non-flying ducks.

Each year he sends hundreds of friends and colleagues music boxes, with lyrics reflecting his latest insights about the real estate industry or the economy. He also owns some expensive contemporary art, including paintings by David Hockney and Frank Stella.

In 2004, The Chicago Tribune startled many people in the real estate industry by uncovering a 1976 criminal case in which Mr. Zell was charged with defrauding the Internal Revenue Service in a deal involving an apartment building in Reno, Nev. Charges against him were dropped after he agreed to testify against his brother-in-law, who went to prison.

In an interview in December 2004 with The New York Times, after The Tribune's revelations, Mr. Zell suggested that he did not have a high opinion of journalists.

"I started out as a kid thinking that reporters are out there to do good, to expose the world to the truth," he said in an interview in his office. "Over the years I've gotten a lot smarter. I've gotten a lot thicker skin."

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Sprint and Johnson and Johnson

Jeez, this sounds like a lot of money:

Goodby Scoops Up Sprint's $1.2 Billion Business
Sprint Nextel has named Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco as its new advertising agency for creative as the mobile giant looks to reinvigorate subscriber sales and its slumbering stock.

“Goodby's sterling reputation and creative talents are second to none and together we will deliver a more integrated and strategic brand execution,” Mark Schweitzer, Sprint's chief marketing officer.

The nation's third-largest mobile provider spent $1.2 billion in measured media in 2006, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

but this trumps it

J&J Puts $3 Billion Global Media Account in Play
Johnson & Johnson has put its $3 billion global media-buying and -planning account into review.

Current roster shops expected to participate include Interpublic Group of Cos.' Universal McCann, which handles a large share of the media planning and buying in North America, and its sibling Initiative; Omnicom Group's OMD, which handles planning and buying for various brands globally; and WPP Group's MindShare, which covers some planning and buying for acquired Pfizer brands in most regions outside of the U.S.

A global media review has been anticipated since J&J began the $16.6 billion acquisition of Pfizer's over-the counter drug and personal-care business in October 2006. Within the first month, J&J dropped Aegis Group's Carat -- which had the Pfizer business -- from the collective roster, furthering speculation that the company has been looking to consolidate and cut costs.


links for 2007-04-02

Guitar Notations and copyright


Speaking of music industry stupidity, forcing Olga and others to remove guitar tablature was an ignorant decision. Now, a company is trying to commercialize tablature, using transcriptions created by others. Seems like theft, but maybe there's more to it.

If I had transcribed some Velvet Underground song (for example), uploaded it to a tab site like Olga, and now some company was selling this same transcription (or more precisely, selling advertising where the tab is being displayed), I'd be pissed off.

Seth and guitar 1971

E-Commerce Report: Hoping to Move Guitar Notations Into the Legal Sunshine
A popular system for teaching and learning guitar online will enter the legitimate business realm for the first time.

Last year popular sites like Olga.net, MxTabs.net and others -- where users post tablature, usually called "guitar tabs," for rock songs -- suspended operations after the music publishing industry threatened them with copyright infringement lawsuits. Under the new initiative, MxTabs, which is owned by MusicNotes, will share an undisclosed portion of advertising revenue with music publishers, who in turn will give a portion to artists.

The effort could face a chicken-or-egg problem, in that publishers may balk if they do not see enough potential for advertising revenue, and advertisers may balk if publishers do not free enough of their music to attract a big audience. Advertising analysts suggest the revenue could be significant, but even a little is better than none.

"It's a huge opportunity, in that this is a revenue stream publishers haven't had before," said Gary L. Churgin the chief executive of Harry Fox Agency. "In a sense, the sky's the limit."

The initiative is still in the early stages, and Mr. Churgin has not yet formally asked publishers if they would like to participate. Artists are even less familiar with the agreement.

yeah, no shit the revenue stream didn't exist before: how could it? Why not just break into people's houses and steal their notebooks, and publish those too?

I like how the artist always gets the short stick in the eye:

The initiative is still in the early stages, and Mr. Churgin has not yet formally asked publishers if they would like to participate. Artists are even less familiar with the agreement.

Music publishers, of course, love the idea of making money off of consumers and music fans/students without having to do anything extra.

Mr. Robinson, whose company represents Linda Perry, a songwriter for Christina Aguilera and Pink among others, said that about 2 percent of the songs in the company's catalog have licensed guitar tablature associated with them.

For the remaining songs in Famous Music's catalog -- and the vast majority of the music publishing industry's collective catalog -- there is insufficient demand to justify the costs of publishing tablature.

As a result, guitarists who want to know how to play less mainstream songs have gone to sites where amateurs post tablature. Under this agreement, MusicNotes, publishers and artists will essentially earn money from an army of volunteers, who are creating content that the publishers are not creating on their own.

Tim Reiland, chairman and chief financial officer of MusicNotes, which is based in Madison, Wis., said publishers would receive "a very healthy split" of the advertising dollars.

"We've got lots of work here to get the publishers signed up, but we think they should," Mr. Reiland said. "We think it's a good deal."

MusicNotes bought MxTabs.net, one of the most popular guitar tablature sites, last year as it came under legal attack by music publishers. Publishers claimed that even incorrect versions of music notation violate copyright laws, since the postings represent "derivative works" related to the original compositions, to use the legal parlance.

The guitar tablature sites were typically small operations, running on little more than revenue gleaned from Google text ads. Many shut down rather than challenge the publishers in court. (Ultimate-Guitar.com, which has a New Jersey phone number but claims that it is based in Russia and that it complies with Russian copyright laws, still operates. Its advertisers include AOL, T-Mobile and Dell, among others.)

not to mention getting more data on the people who visit the site:

Ms. Marsh said the site "already has a lot of interest" from advertisers. "This demographic -- teenage boys to young adults -- is very similar to the demographic for gaming. There are a lot of advertisers who are interested in that group."

Shar VanBoskirk, an analyst with Forrester Research, said tablature sites could also join other online publishers and anonymously track the Internet travels of their users. The budding guitar players might somehow show that they were shopping for a car, for instance, or other expensive goods. Suddenly, she said, "these users are really valuable targets for sellers of all kinds."

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Now, honestly, this is unexpected news. I wonder what the loop hole is? I wonder if Steve Jobs letter had any effect, or if it was written in response to secret discussions with EMI?

Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols
“Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols” (The Sex Pistols)

EMI to Sell Much of its Music Without Antipiracy Software - WSJ.com
In a major reversal of the music industry's longstanding antipiracy strategy, EMI Group PLC is set to announce Monday that it plans to sell significant amounts of its catalog without anticopying software, according to people familiar with the matter.

The London-based music company is to make its announcement in a press conference that will feature Apple Inc. Chief Executive Steve Jobs. EMI is to sell songs without the software -- known as digital rights management, or DRM -- through Apple's iTunes Store and possibly through other online outlets, too.

EMI's move comes after months of private discussions and public advocacy by Internet and technology industry executives, including Mr. Jobs, aimed at encouraging the music industry to change its approach to licensing music for sale online. In February, Mr. Jobs took the unusual step of posting an 1,800-word essay on Apple's Web site urging major recording companies to consider dropping their insistence that music be sold over the Internet with DRM software.

Mr. Jobs contended that DRM software has been ineffective at solving digital piracy of music. That's in large part, he argued, because the vast majority of music is sold today on CDs, which generally don't contain copy-protection, making them easily sharable over the Internet through file-sharing technologies. Although he wasn't the first to suggest such a course change for the music industry, Mr. Jobs's essay spurred a vigorous debate throughout the technology and entertainment industries. Also fueling the discussion recently has been another steep drop in CD sales, which has forced the music industry to try and accelerate its digital future.

Privately most labels rejected the idea out of hand, but EMI, the world's third-largest music company by sales, was already quietly exploring the idea of dropping DRM. EMI has struggled to overcome poor results and a laggard digital strategy, potentially contributing to its willingness to take a bold stance on DRM.

But EMI temporarily shelved its plans to drop DRM after various iTunes competitors declined to guarantee significant “risk insurance” payments designed to offset potential losses from the risky move. It is unclear whether Apple has guaranteed any such fee.

still am not personally sold on the idea of digital downloads, with or without DRM, but EMI's decision is certainly a step in the right direction.

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Frank Rich on McCain Clinton

Park Life particle Man

Leaving aside discussion of Elizabeth Edwards for some other time (my two farthings, in brief, why should a diagnosis of terminal disease mean one must just go home and wait around to die? Ludicrous assertion if you ask me), Frank Rich has a pointed critique of the feathered focus group mentality of some of the front runners - McCain, Clinton, et al.

Frank Rich: Elizabeth Edwards for President
Next to Mrs. Edwards’s stark humanity, the slick playacting that passes for being “human” and “folksy” in a campaign is tinny. .... The more Elizabeth Edwards is in the spotlight, the more everyone else in the arena will have to be judged against her. Next to her stark humanity, the slick playacting that passes for being “human” and “folksy” in a campaign is tinny. Though much has been said about how she is a model to others battling cancer, she is also a model (or should be) of personal transparency to everyone else in the presidential race.

This is especially true in a campaign where the presumptive (or at least once-presumptive) front-runners in both parties have made candor their calling card: John McCain is once again riding his Straight Talk Express and Hillary Clinton is staking her image on the rubric “Let the Conversation Begin!” They want us to believe that they are speaking in a direct, unfiltered manner, but so far their straight talking, even without Elizabeth Edwards as a yardstick, seems no more natural than Cheez Whiz.

Senator McCain’s bus has skidded once more into a ditch since the Edwards news conference. He’s so desperate to find the light at the end of the tunnel in Iraq that last week he told the radio jock Bill Bennett that “there are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk.” Yes, if they’ve signed a suicide pact. Even as the senator spoke, daily attacks were increasing in the safest of Baghdad neighborhoods, the fortified Green Zone, one of them killing two Americans. No one can safely “walk the streets of Baghdad, nor Mosul, nor Kirkuk, nor Basra, nor Tikrit, nor Najaf, nor Ramadi, without heavily armed protection,” according to the retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who delivered an Iraq briefing (PDF) to the White House last week.

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The Hand Behind the Taliban

Ah yes, the Taliban. Remember them? I'm sure the family of Pat Tillman does. Bush? probably not so much. After all the Taliban has a lot of similar ideas to the Christian right of Bush's base. Plus they never tried to kill 41.

Incident on Randolph Street

Nicholos D. Kristof: The Hand Behind the Taliban :
President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan is sure of the reason why the Taliban is on the resurgence: Pakistan.
In an interview in his office, Mr. Karzai was scathing in his accusations of official Pakistani duplicity. For starters, he accused the Pakistani intelligence agencies of sheltering Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban leader, in the Pakistani city of Quetta.

“We have solid, clear information indicating that,” he said. “And I’m sorry I cannot be silent about this. As much as our friends in Pakistan may not like my saying that.”

Mr. Karzai suggested that the Pakistani government wants the Afghan government to fail, so that it can use the Taliban to turn Afghanistan into a colony of Pakistan. Speaking in English, he said: “The point that we are trying to tell the world [is] that the Taliban was a name, that there was another power behind — a very criminally intended colonial thinking behind the Taliban movement.”

One of the central mistakes of the last few years, Mr. Karzai suggested, was that the West had tried to battle the Taliban in Afghan villages instead of focusing on preventing Pakistan from financing and sheltering the Taliban. He put it this way: “Rather than concentrating on the sources of terror, on the financiers of terror, on the trainers of terror and on the sanctuaries of terror, [we concentrated] rather heavily on going about in Afghan villages, where there was no terrorism, where there was the result of terrorism, yes, but not the roots of it, not the springboard of it.”

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