May 2007 Archives

Important to keep the demand higher than supply - regulating individual use to no more than 5 g a day (which, in fairness is several joints worth, even if you are a Rastafarian)

The pavement was alive with the sound of music

Dutch Pot Shops to Fingerprint Customers

Coffee shops licensed to sell marijuana in the southern Dutch city of Maastricht will begin fingerprinting customers and scanning their IDs this summer to help prove they're following rules governing such sales. In particular, the measures are expected to help stores show they are not selling to underage customers and that they haven't sold more than the maximum permitted to a customer on a given day. “This is not something that we are doing willingly, but with pain in our hearts,” Marc Josemans, chairman of the Union of Maastricht's Coffee Shops, said Wednesday. He said shops in Rotterdam and several Dutch border cities were considering following suit.


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

Oh those Dems

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Democratic mindset of DLC-ers like Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid, et al, according to Ted Rall:
Ted Rall 070531

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links for 2007-05-31

YouTube Coming to Apple TV

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This might (might) be enough of an impetus to get an Apple TV

Apple TV

Apple TV

but probably not quite enough of one. Maybe when the price drops a few hundred more....

YouTube Coming to Apple TV

YouTube, the Internet’s most popular source for originally created content, becomes available on Apple TV next month, Apple announced today. Beginning in mid-June, Apple TV customers will be able to wirelessly stream videos directly from YouTube to their widescreen TVs. “This is the first time users can easily browse, find and watch YouTube videos right from their living room couch, and it’s really, really fun,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO.

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Last FM and CBS

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Honestly, I'm not that excited by this news. Granted maybe the “server down” issues will finally be a thing of the past, but I also am concerned that suddenly the playlists of Last.FM users will be scrutinized for possible copyright violations. Not that I'm concerned for myself, but seems like it would put a damper on the sites usefulness, such as it is.

Reefer songs

A New Tech Player Emerges: CBS Acquires Wallstrip,, And…
The UK tech scene is abuzz as CBS has acquired the London-based music site for $280 million. is a social networking site for music that connects users with similar music tastes and makes news suggestions for its users. The company’s founders have confirmed that they are staying on board and the company will remain in London. co-founder Richard Jones said, “As you can imagine, we have been approached numerous times in the past few years from all the usual suspects regarding acquisitions and so on; CBS are one of the few companies who needed no explanation of what we are doing, and we were impressed at how progressive their plans are.”

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Blog problems

Having serious problems with my blog (due to my host, Doteasy and their reluctance to host movabletype installations). Seem to also be suffering from intermittent service. Don't really know when everything will be returned to normal, but I'm guessing it will be when I find a new, more reliable host.

Mysterious and Green


Memorial Day flowers

with great respect

War Memories

Madman's Honey

Squash Flowers

Flowers at Chicago Botanic (Clerodendrum myricoides 'Ugandense')

Flowers - Mulvihill's Reel

Wildflowers at Yurt-i-stan

Water lily and Decay

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Periodicals arrive periodically

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I wonder how those meetings went between Gloria Tyson and Natarus?

USPS in Chicago
USPS in Chicago
These six New Yorkers arrived Friday, May 25th, 2007. Not quite 1 year late, but close enough. They weren't damaged, just not delivered in a timely fashion.

Sort of strange to flip through articles about the 2006 election though.


links for 2007-05-28

Apple Stores vs Sony mausoleums


Why doesn't Randall Stross name these clueless analysts who insisted that the Apple Store concept would flop, and be a huge money loss for Apple? I want to know their names so that I never pay attention to any advice they might give in the future. Just as in the political arena, if you are so insanely wrong, I make a mental note, and vow to ignore you in the future (like Wolfowitz, or Thomas Friedman, et al)

Apple store

Digital Domain: Apple’s Lesson for Sony’s Stores: Just Connect
Apple has made retail seem ridiculously easy. But why hasn’t the Windows side of the personal computer business figured it out?

RETAIL is supposed to be hard. Apple has made it seem ridiculously easy. And yet it must be harder than it appears, or why hasn’t the Windows side of the personal computer business figured it out?

Of the many predictions in the world of technology that have turned out to be spectacularly wrong, a prominent place should be made for what the pundits said in 2001 when Apple opened its first retail store in Tysons Corner, Va. “It’s completely flawed,” one analyst said, and that was the conventional wisdom. Commercial rent and furnishings would be expensive, inventory tricky and margins slim. Experienced computer resellers were struggling, and no computer manufacturer had ever found success operating its own branded stores. Analysts predicted at the time that Apple would shut down the stores and write off the huge losses in two years.

That assuredly would have been the Apple store’s fate had Steve Jobs permitted aesthetic and design considerations to trump all else. But while guiding the planning for the stores in 2000 and 2001, Mr. Jobs took on a more ambitious challenge than building freestanding museums of design that would show the Apple flag and do little else. He set out to create the conditions most likely to convert museum visitors into actual customers, and then to make those customers feel that they were being pampered long after the sale was consummated.

more details about just how poorly designed and staffed the Sony stores are, here: Digital Domain: Apple’s Lesson for Sony’s Stores: Just Connect. I've popped my head in a Sony store too, and also was not impressed.

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links for 2007-05-27

links for 2007-05-26

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Mark Karlin of BuzzFlash has an excellent, long interview with Greg Palast which you should read in its entirety, if you haven't already. And buy his book already!

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

There are lots of good bits, including:
Greg Palast, Author of Armed Madhouse, on How Rove May Have Already Stolen the 2008 Election |

BuzzFlash: You’ve written about “The Talented Mr. Griffin,” Arkansas’ new U.S. attorney, who has a history of suppressing minority voters. So how does Tim Griffin, a Rove protégé, Rove hit man, Rove op and research man, Rove suppression and voter man, end up in one of the disputed districts?

Greg Palast: Because the Democrats have no cojones. I’m going to tell you something very unhappy, okay? Again, it’s the white caucus versus the black caucus. It’s not Democrats versus Republicans. I talked to the black caucus. John Conyers, head of Judiciary on the House side, is very upset that you have a criminal who knocked black soldiers off the voter rolls as the U.S. attorney in Arkansas. The white caucus leader on the Senate side, is Patrick Leahy. His people said, well, Griffin is just there as an interim appointment, so big deal. Well, he’s interim through the 2008 election. In fact, I have another e-mail from inside the Rovian office which said if the Democrats complain, just say that Griffin is interim.BuzzFlash: The press fell for this, and Democrats fell for this, too. They won’t seek Senate appointment, and everyone went, oh, you see? They’re conceding that they wouldn’t get it. But it didn’t matter because that was the whole scheme. They are in place for 2008. Rove won.Greg Palast: Oh, it’s okay because he’s only in there for two years. It’s through the election. Like I say, this is not about Democrats versus Republicans. What you just saw was the millionaires white boys’ club -- versus the black caucus. And that’s what it’s all about. America has an apartheid electoral system and an apartheid Congress. And it’s about time we call it what it is.
BuzzFlash: Where do we stand today? Gonzales appeared before Conyers’ committee, I believe, and Conyers was, of course in a huff, as he should be, because he’s a righteous man. He sees the plot.

Greg Palast: Again, he knows what’s happening. I’m in contact with his office. He’s worked on a lot of investigations with me. It’s like the man is the entire conscience of the U.S. Congress.

BuzzFlash: Along with Henry Waxman. Let’s give him at least some credit here.

Greg Palast: Waxman is fantastic. Of course, you can’t separate New Orleans and voting, Iraq and voting, the war on terror and voting -- it’s all the same crew playing the same games. And there’s not only votes being lost, but blood being spilled. Of course, the book has a lot of funny stuff in it, because it’s so grim it’s humorous. It’s like a comic horror show. My friend calls it the clown-ocracy, because these are armed and dangerous jesters.


People ask me: Are they going to steal the 2008 election? No, they’ve already stolen the 2008 election. We still have a chance of swiping it back, but the reason I’ve expanded and put out the new edition of Armed Madhouse is to tell you how they will steal in 2008, and what to do about it. That’s one of the main new things. Plus a special chapter on New Orleans and my bust down there.

Of course, I was very flattered that the first review of the new edition of Armed Madhouse was written by Karl Rove and the Rove-bots -- it was subpoenaed by the House Judiciary Committee -- I can’t make this up. On February 7th, the Rove team, which had been writing several e-mails screaming about Armed Madhouse and “that British reporter,” Greg Palast, were gloating that no U.S. media had picked up my stories. And they had a .pdf file attached. Of course, the reason my book was subpoenaed is that it has to do with the US prosecutor firings. The prosecutor firings were 100% about influencing elections -- not about loyalty to Bush, which is what The New York Times wrote. The administration team couldn’t tolerate appointees who wouldn’t go along with crime. In the book I present the evidence that Karl Rove directed a guy named Tim Griffin to target suppressing the votes of African American students, homeless men, and soldiers. Nice guy. They actually challenged the votes and successfully removed tens of thousands of legal voters from the voter rolls, same as they did in 2000. But instead of calling them felons, they said that they had suspect addresses.

BuzzFlash: In which election cycle?

Greg Palast: 2004. And in 2006 and 2004, they challenged tens of thousands of black soldiers. They stopped their votes from being counted when they were mailed in from Baghdad. Go to Baghdad and lose your vote -- mission accomplished.

BuzzFlash: How did they do that?

Greg Palast: By sending letters to the homes of soldiers, marked “do not forward.” When they came back undelivered, they said: Aha! Illegal voter registered from a false address. And when their ballot came in from Fallujah, it was challenged. The soldier didn’t know it. Their vote was lost. Over half a million votes were challenged and lost by the Republicans -- absentee ballots. Three million voters who went to the polls found themselves challenged by the Republicans. This was not a small operation. It was a multi-million dollar, wholesale theft operation.

They’re right that I’m a British reporter, because I put this story on British TV, not on American TV, which won’t touch it. [BuzzFlash note: Palast writes for British papers and reports on the BBC, but he is a product of the San Fernando Valley and the University of Chicago, 100% American.] But our election was a complete, total fraud. This is grand theft -- no question. It’s not a dirty trick; it’s a felony crime.

I’m working with Bobby Kennedy, who is a voting rights attorney. He said, “This is not just an icky, horrible thing that people do wearing white sheets. This is a felony crime.” [paraphrase] And the guy they put in charge of this criminal ring to knock out voters is a guy named Tim Griffin. Today, Tim Griffin is -- badda-bing -- U.S. Attorney for Arkansas. When they fired the honest guys, they put in the Rove-bots to fix the 2008 election. That’s what I’m saying -- it’s already being stolen, as we speak. Tim Griffin is the perpetrator who’s become the prosecutor, and that’s what’s going down right now.


BuzzFlash: In your presentations, you often bring up the figure of millions of votes that are stolen before the election was even open.

Greg Palast: That’s right. Because people are being thrown off the voter rolls. In addition, the one thing that we’re constantly forgetting is that, while there’s this endless discussion of how they can hack the votes that turn you to vote from Democratic to Republican, there’s very, very little evidence of it. It’s there -- I don’t doubt it. But we’re not going to find it.

But one thing we know for damn sure is that they have to do something simple. The machines simply don’t work and don’t record the vote. And then there’s no fingerprints. There’s no manipulation. It just didn’t work. We had a million and a half votes in the 2006 election which just disappeared because machines didn’t work. And now you try to prove that it was deliberate.

All you have to do is look at where they didn’t work. In places like New Mexico, 88% in minority areas -- 88% in minority areas. You want to know how Diebold might have fixed the election in Cynthia McKinney’s district? Their machines don’t work in humidity. What do you have in July in Atlanta but humidity? In the poor areas. In the rich areas, they’re in air conditioned gymnasiums. That’s the games that they play. And the way that you figure it out is, you stop thinking white, and you start thinking slave.

read the whole interview (yes, it is nearly 7,000 words, but what else are you doing right now that's so important?)

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Another episode of the Julie Roehm vs. Wal-Mart soap opera. We've always felt Roehm was fired because she was a brassy woman (a yankee, no less) in a good ole boy culture, thus have a bit of sympathy for her, even if she is the raging biatch oft rumored. Though, she was originally hired by the same good ole boys for some reason, presumedly to shake things up in a staid environment.

City Hall Stairs

Fired Wal-Mart Executive Roehm Claims Ethics Rules Were Violated - :
Fired Wal-Mart Stores Inc. marketing executive Julie Roehm took aim at the retailer's chief executive and other senior executives, claiming they skirted its ethics policy, accepting travel, concert tickets and preferential prices on yachts and jewelry.
Ms. Roehm contends that Chief Executive H. Lee Scott Jr. and his family have close ties to financier Irwin Jacobs, whose companies provide services and products to Wal-Mart, according to her filing in U.S. District Court, Detroit. She alleged their ties go “beyond a business relationship” that Wal-Mart's ethics policies dictate. ... Ms. Roehm's salvo includes a fierce defense of her short tenure and challenged the company's portrayals of her in its counter-suit. She denied accepting gifts, insisted suppliers were told to bill the company for any meals, and said salacious descriptions of her relationship with Mr. Womack were false. (Read the court filing.)

She also cited an excerpt from an affidavit by Mr. Womack's wife Shelley to dispute the company's contention that she engaged in an affair. Ms. Womack testified that one email Wal-Mart cited to support its claims of an affair didn't include Ms. Roehm's name and Wal-Mart's general counsel believed it wasn't incriminating.
Ms. Roehm's casts Wal-Mart as hypocritical for accusing her of violation ethical rules while failing to enforce its policies when it comes to other senior executives. She alleged Wal-Mart looked the other way when senior executives conducted affairs with subordinates, permitted Mr. Scott's son to work for a Jacobs' company, and allowed executives who owned retail stores to negotiate with subordinates on leases for those properties.

“Many Wal-Mart executives do not abide by Wal-Mart's alleged 'firm' policy forbidding conflicts of interest,” she said in a document filed with the court late Thursday. Despite its policies against conflicts of interest and the misuse of company assets, “actions apparently speak louder than words at Wal-Mart,” she said.

Ms. Roehm and a male subordinate were fired last December after the company accused them of violating its policies against fraternization and later claimed they had carried on an affair, improperly accepted gifts and sought jobs with suppliers. Since then, she has been an advertising consultant. She sued Wal-Mart, arguing there was no valid reason for her dismissal and asking the court to award her unspecified damages and compensation including lost pay, stock options, severance, and bonus.

Turning the tables on Wal-Mart, her filing alleges Mr. Scott personally benefited from his relationship with Mr. Jacobs, the chairman of Genmar Holdings Inc. and owner of several private businesses. Without identifying any specific instances, Ms. Roehm said the CEO obtained “a number of yachts” and “a large pink diamond” at preferential prices due to the relationship.

Previous coverage
Wal-Mart Smear
Roehm vs. Wal-Mart
Draft Gets Shaft
Exit Roehm Left
Whoa That was Fast

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Fairy Fries

No architecture photos is stupid enough, but no photos of french fries either? How ridiculous can you get? What is an alleged terrorist going to do with a photo of trans-fats anyway?

Photography is not legal at Boeing either

... I was heading back to Connecticut after a weekend with the family when I took the photo. I’d eaten the fries on the way over, but couldn’t stomach another round, so I snapped two photos at the food counter, and as I was putting the camera away, two guys behind the counter started lobbing hostile, accusatory questions in my direction. “Why are you taking pictures of the food?” “I’m writing a review,” I responded, and walked away.

I went outside to take some notes and then headed back into the cabin. I observed that there were two crew members standing near me, and I heard one of them talking about me, and the photo I took. I had been turned in!

I’m of the mindset that when overzealous 9/11-hero wannabes start making ridiculous accusations, I am going to stand up and say something. If I hear you talking about me like I might be a terrorist for taking a picture of french fries, I am going to interrupt and put some perspective on the matter. So I approached the mate and told him I had a complaint about his crew. I didn’t appreciate their hostility. Yes, I was livid. Stone-cold sober, too.

Well, Gilligan didn’t like my tone, and I guess it’s my fault for escalating the situation by lobbing multiple eff-bombs at him, because the next thing I know, Gilligan’s back with two Big Fellows. I gave my name and phone number to Gilligan, and I showed him the picture of the french fries (which, by the way, are disgusting). In fact, I showed him all three of the photos that were on the camera. That should have ended it, but Gilligan demanded that I show him identification, because otherwise the police would get involved. I asked him under what authority he was demanding this of me. It’s the captain’s orders.

“Kiss my ass. I’m not showing you any ID.”

Gilligan goes to consult with the Skipper, comes back, and repeats the threat. Show me ID, or the police will be waiting at the dock.

Now, this is the part of the story where the little man on my shoulder who wants to go home and enjoy the evening whispers in my ear, “It’s not worth it, my boy.” So I take out my ID, and one of the Big Men grabs it. “He doesn’t even drive!” he sneers. “It’s a forgery!” he declares. “This isn’t you in the picture,” Gilligan announces.

Well, the ID is a New York State non-driver’s ID I’ve had forever, and it is, in fact, me in the picture. But Big Man declares that he knows better, since he was a cop for 20 years.

“That’s my ID. Take it or leave it,” I tell them. We pull in to the dock, and I stroll off the boat. No cops. End of story, almost.
more here:

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West
“Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West” (Dee Brown)

A wholly unsympathetic review of the revisionist made-for-white-man's television faux documentary, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. Oh well, at least Dee Brown is dead and won't be mortified at the crap version of his people's history.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee - TV - Review - New York Times :
Oh no, oh no, oh no. “Setting the Indian on the course to civilization best ensures his survival,” says President Ulysses S. Grant (Fred Thompson!), expositorily, on HBO on Sunday night. Gag. “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” is going to be an allegory for Iraq!

This project was doomed to overreach and to sermonize. To begin with, it’s about American Indians, who ever since Sacheen Littlefeather declined Marlon Brando’s Oscar in 1973 have scared the chutzpah out of Hollywood, forcing the showoffs who invented westerns into defensive crouches and sorry offerings that look more like cut-and-paste Sunday school atonement projects than filmmaking.Second, “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” is a television movie. The red carpet premiere and credible stars (Aidan Quinn, Anna Paquin) that HBO supplied can’t conceal that this is a movie of the week — a form as eternal, indigenous and sacrosanct as the Black Hills of South Dakota. Simple-minded, blocky, smug, uplifting, always in a major key. Easy to sing along with.
But this is trivia. The real problem with “Bury My Heart” is that it’s a movie. In the twisted and complex “Deadwood” Mr. Milch created a serialized masterwork to rival Dickens’s. He and the other HBO series auteurs have so far outstripped moviemakers in creating morally ambiguous epics that this meager entry, “based on Dee Brown’s best seller,” seems, apart from its cinematic glamour, provincial, amateurish — high school stuff.

So prepared are you — by the subject matter, by the insistently maudlin soundtrack, by the overly telegraphed performances — for a primer in how to feel good and bad that it’s almost a surprise to hear the handful of swear words in “Bury My Heart” and be reminded that this is HBO, home of moral shadows.

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Immigrants and Politics

Per the magic of DNA, I know that some of my ancestors were at Jamestown in the 1600s, and some came from Cork, Ireland in the aftermath of the potato famine.

Paul Krugman's ancestors came in the wave after....

Paul Krugman: Immigrants and Politics :

A piece of advice for progressives trying to figure out where they stand on immigration reform: it’s the political economy, stupid. Analyzing the direct economic gains and losses from proposed reform isn’t enough. You also have to think about how the reform would affect the future political environment.

To see what I mean — and why the proposed immigration bill, despite good intentions, could well make things worse — let’s take a look back at America’s last era of mass immigration.

My own grandparents came to this country during that era, which ended with the imposition of severe immigration restrictions in the 1920s. Needless to say, I’m very glad they made it in before Congress slammed the door. And today’s would-be immigrants are just as deserving as Emma Lazarus’s “huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.”

Moreover, as supporters of immigrant rights rightly remind us, everything today’s immigrant-bashers say — that immigrants are insufficiently skilled, that they’re too culturally alien, and, implied though rarely stated explicitly, that they’re not white enough — was said a century ago about Italians, Poles and Jews.

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Land of Many Names Part 6

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More photos from a recent sojourn to Austin. Flickr slideshow of all the photos found here.

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links for 2007-05-25

Meters and the West Loop

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On my block, employees of the nearby CTA headquarters park in metered spots, and don't bother putting any coins in the meter. I suppose no ticket-dispensing city employee is going to waste time ticketing a government car, but this sure adds to the problem of lack of parking.

windows need to be washed, even on brand new buildings

West Loop group plans metered parking :
West Loop business owners and neighbors say the days of park-and-ride commuting for free are over.

In an area of the city where meat supply companies exist alongside trendy bars with designer martinis, West Loop community leaders have drawn up a plan to address the parking needs of the area's diverse constituencies. The first step, they say, is to reclaim their turf from the “day trippers,” or those who commute from the suburbs and park in the neighborhood.

“We need to drive them out of the neighborhood,” Jeff Taylor, chairman of the parking committee for the West Loop Community Organization, said at a community meeting last Thursday. Taylor said the group wants to make it “practically illegal” to park long-term if you aren't a resident.

With its proximity to downtown, the West Loop has long served as a de facto parking lot for suburban commuters. Condo developments and industrial buildings converted to residential space have brought more residents, who now must compete with commuters for parking.

The West Loop group says it will continue to seek community input and involve Alds. Bob Fioretti (2nd) and Walter Burnett (27th) in writing an ordinance.

“I'm just listening and taking everything into consideration,” Burnett said. “We have to decipher what's best for everyone and not best for one person.”

Burnett said that any plan should involve the foresight to accommodate the area's expected growth, which could include as many as 1,000 new housing units over the next few years.

No Parking

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Bob Day

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happened to notice that today is officially Bob day, I'll be wearing my leopard-skin pillbox hat all morning.

Exit, Zimmerman

also notice that there is a deluxe 2-disc edition of Don't Look Back which includes:

A new work compiled by D.A. Pennebaker from over 20 hours of never-before-seen footage
Commentary by director D.A. Pennebaker and tour road manager Bob Neuwirth
Also includes:
168-page companion book including a complete transcription of the film, over 200 photos, and a new forward by D.A. Pennebaker
Collectible “Subterranean Homesick Blues” flipbook

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

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

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Pirates and Sanctions

So who takes the blame/credit for the global economy? China? or Wal-Mart? There sure are a lot of worker slaves in the developing world.

Escaped Red Guard

Nicholas Kristof: Pirates and Sanctions
China has thrived largely because of values we like to think of as American: ingenuity, diligence, entrepreneurship and respect for markets.


This is a city you’ve probably never heard of, yet it has a population of 10 million people who fill your dressers and closets. By one count, 40 percent of the sports shoes sold in the U.S. come from Dongguan.

Just one neighborhood within Dongguan, Dalang, has become the Sweater Capital of the World. Dalang makes more than 300 million sweaters a year, of which 200 million are exported to the U.S.

Keep towns like this in mind when American protectionists demand sanctions, after the latest round of talks ending yesterday made little progress. Some irresponsible Democrats in Congress would have you believe that China’s economic success is simply the result of currency manipulation, unfair regulations and pirating American movies.

It’s true that China’s currency is seriously undervalued. But places like Dongguan have thrived largely because of values we like to think of as American: ingenuity, diligence, entrepreneurship and respect for markets.

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North Shore View

I've always wanted to stroll along this part of Lake Michigan. So beautiful. However, since I don't know any multi-millionaires, I've never had the option. Might soon change. Pictures hopefully soon.

Ft. Sheridan bluff with a view | Chicago Tribune
Public access to the bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan on the North Shore is as scarce as the rare birds and plants that make the unique ecosystem their home. But an estimated $8 million restoration project under way near historic Ft. Sheridan in Highland Park includes a welcome mat for all nature lovers.The project was begun this spring and it includes a 1-mile trail at the top of the 60-foot craggy, tree-lined bluff overlooking the lake and beach—shoreline that has been off-limits to the general public for more than a century.

We're committed to opening this property up to everyone,“ said Joyce O'Keefe, deputy director of Openlands, a non-profit conservation group overseeing the project.

Plans for the 77-acre site also include restoration of the beach and three ravines, home to more than 100 species of birds, including peregrine falcons and the threatened Henslow's sparrow, and rare plants such as buffaloberry and seaside spurge.

Scheduled to open in phases over the next three years, the new Openlands Lakeshore Preserve at Ft. Sheridan will provide one of only a few views of the lake from bluffs carved by glaciers thousands of years ago.

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Too Brazen

Michael Baroody was too brazen, even for a Bushie, and withdrew his nomination. I'm sure he's sobbing into his Dom Perignon.

Candidate to Lead Consumer Agency Withdraws

A senior lobbyist at the National Association of Manufacturers withdrew his nomination to head the Consumer Product Safety Commission on Wednesday as a growing number of senators questioned both his suitability and a $150,000 departure payment that the association was preparing to give him.
Senator Bill Nelson, the Florida Democrat who earlier this month put a hold on the nomination, said in an interview Wednesday afternoon that he believed that Mr. Baroody withdrew because he did not want to make public the details of his $150,000 severance package, as several senators had demanded.

Mr. Nelson said he had asked Mr. Baroody about the package in a meeting on Monday. He said Mr. Baroody said he would consider the request from Senate Democrats to disclose both the agreement and its revisions. It was revised by the association a few days after it learned that Mr. Baroody was the top candidate for the consumer protection agency.

“When the nomination was withdrawn, I assume it was because they did not want to make it public,” Mr. Nelson said, referring to the severance agreement.

Both Mr. Baroody and the White House have refused to make the agreement public.

After he was nominated by President Bush in March, Mr. Baroody came under heavy criticism from consumer groups, trial lawyers, medical doctors and firefighters. They said that the record of both Mr. Baroody and the association against safety regulations demonstrated that he was not qualified for the job.

Mr. Baroody was the latest in a line of industry executives and lawyers put forward by President Bush to head safety agencies. Some of them have been critical of excessive regulation and have advocated rolling back numerous rules.

Some? or all? Seems like a requirement to be corrupt in order to work for Bush.

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links for 2007-05-24

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Alhambra Palace

Haven't eaten there yet, but have certainly noticed the structure, checked out the menu, and D even stuck her head inside.

Alhambra Palace

Well, the menu might be changing already:

Chicago magazine writes:

This has to be some kind of record. Eric Aubriot, after mere weeks as exec chef at Alhambra Palace (1240 W. Randolph St.; 312-666-9555), is out of there. Replacing him are Daniel Wright (Souk, Blackbird) and the Moroccan-born Bouchaib “Bouch” Khribech, chef-owner of Ravenswood’s Marrakech Expresso. No real shocker here: No one expected Aubriot to stick around, but the real question is, What to make of Aubriot, the onetime rising star of Chicago’s scene? (We at Chicago magazine wrote in 1998, “The only thing brighter than an Eric Aubriot dish is the young chef’s future.”) From the beginning, it seemed a strange marriage for Aubriot and the West Loop’s zillion-dollar felafel-teria, and Lord only knows what his true role was in Alhambra’s kitchen, but his list of increasingly brief stints (Fuse, Narra, Tournesol, Escargot, and now Alhambra) is unfortunate.


Rick Bayless and Frontera

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I've eaten here once (thanks to Sharlot), and the four of us absolutely loved the whole experience. We actually ate at the part of his restaurant that allows reservations (Topolobampo), but I think the food is related in spirit if not exactly the same from day to day. We talked about going again for my birthday, but didn't make it yet.

Seems like Bayless is a decent dude on top of all of his deserved success.

Rick and Lanie's Excellent Kitchen Adventures: Recipes and Stories
“Rick and Lanie's Excellent Kitchen Adventures: Recipes and Stories” (Rick Bayless, Lanie Bayless)

Hungry Magazine - All Things Tasty :

Bayless, a 53-year-old ageless wonder who’s ripped like a Men’s Health cover model from his regular power yoga routines, doesn’t need me to get his back. But in January, I made a call for Chicago’s top chefs to offer high-quality eats at a more affordable price in this space, and Bayless is really the only one of the big chefs that has done this.
Frontera Fresco, located on the seventh floor of Macy’s, might be the most important development in high-quality, quick-service food in Chicago. Posters in the thread questioned his integrity precisely because of this move. They didn’t particularly elaborate on their concerns, though my speculation is they see Fresco as an exercise in crass commerce.
The reality is that Frontera Fresco is one of the only spots in the country where you can find well-crafted, fresh-griddled masa flatbreads, topped with all-natural meats, aged Mexican cheeses and high-quality roasted vegetables cooked to order all for about seven bucks. Furthermore, except for Hot Doug’s, I can’t remember the last time I saw so many fashionistas, hipsters, grandmas, children, Caucasians, African Americans, Asians and Latinos all bellying up to the same counter.
After having interviewed almost every haute chef in the city, as well as chefs at many family oriented and ethnic joints in Chicago, I can say without a doubt, when you consider the grant program from its farmer’s foundation, there isn’t any kitchen in this city as committed to organic, local and sustainably farmed ingredients as Frontera. There are a surprising number of hotshot local chefs who show up at the markets for their photo-op trips, but their restaurant larder is filled with rows of Sysco or other commercial-grade food-service products.
The final criticism of Bayless leveled on the board [local food board regarding Frontera Grill’s recent nod as “Outstanding Restaurant of the Year” from the James Beard Foundation,]was that Frontera doesn’t take reservations for small parties. This of course is one of his most democratic moves, ensuring that anyone with patience and foresight can score a meal. This ensures rabid foodies can’t hoard reservations ahead of time or rich folks can’t commandeer tables for weeks on end.

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

Am about 1/3 through Greg Palast's book, and am enjoying it. Karl Rove has a highlighted copy in his office, as an aid to generating talking points in response, if an American corporate media outlet ever picks up the story.

BBC Reporter Has Rove Office Emails - Goodling/Sampson Obstruction of Justice evidence? Greg Palast :
In the opening to today’s testimony before Congress, Monica Goodling, former Department of Justice White House Liaison, testified that Deputy Attorney General Kyle Sampson lied. At issue was, says Goodling, Sampson’s denial “that he had some knowledge of allegations that Tim Griffin had been involved in vote ‘caging’ during the work on the President’s 2004 campaign.”
... The BBC reporter explained that ‘vote caging’ is a crime; Tim Griffin directed it; Karl Rove, Goodling and Sampson knew it, yet Rove demanded the appointment of Griffin as the US Attorney for Arkansas.

‘Caging’ was a 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign scheme to challenge, on false evidence, the right to vote of tens of thousand of Black voters.

Here’s how caging works: letters were sent “Do Not Forward” to voters at home addresses. When the letters were returned to sender (“caged”), the voter’s right to vote was challenged. The letters, however, were targeted at African-American homeless men, students — and soldiers send overseas — all legal voters who, because they were shipped to Iraq or for other reasons, were not at their home address. BBC obtained 50 ‘caging’ lists with 70,000 voters including large groups of servicemen.

See the BBC report here:

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Icons and Iconography

a few photos to while away seconds of your life

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Photoshop CS3 frequent crashes

for some reason, if I leave Photoshop CS3 open on my MacBookPro with no file open, and leave the machine idle long enough for the screensaver to kick in (slideshow from my photo folder), Photoshop nearly always crashes. But my G5 (non-Intel) desktop doesn't exhibit the same symptoms. Irritating more than debilitating, but happens too frequently.

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Land of Many Names part 5

After a brief respite, here are more photos from The Land of Many Names.

(complete photo set here)

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links for 2007-05-23

We're Embarrassed by him too

| 1 Comment

From a few years ago, but still funny.

Alto Voltage

Bill O'Reilly Factor : By HEATHER MALLICK From Saturday's Globe and Mail Saturday, May. 1, 2004

It's someone's fault I appeared on The O'Reilly Factor on Fox News Tuesday night to discuss a column I wrote welcoming the presence of American deserters in Canada

Mr. O'Reilly is not a smart man. He's like one of those old guys you see on the street ringing a bell and shouting about eternal damnation. He talks to his trousers. You know the type. They let wasps nest in their hair so they can lure weasels, trap 'em and eat 'em slow over the summer.

We were supposed to be discussing American deserters fleeing to Canada; instead, he went off on some wild thing about the mayor of Vancouver injecting people with heroin and unless Canada shapes up, “we” will boycott you and destroy your economy, just like “we” did to France.

I said France seemed to be doing fine. He implied that France now looked like Dresden in 1945. I hadn't heard that.

I said the United States couldn't boycott Canadian goods because it would be mutually damaging. “We're your biggest trading partner.”

“No, you're not.” (We are.) Naturally, I wanted to reply, “Yes, we are,” so that he could say “No, we're not,” and then I'd say, “Everything you say
bounces off me and reflects back on you, so there,” but I couldn't regress that far. Mr. Doyle would have been shrieking.

And then he asked me if I was a socialist, and I said, “Certainly,” and it was as if I'd said I like donkey semen in my latte instead of milk. He then went into a mad rant about lefties like Mr. Doyle and how I was a typical Globe columnist. I said, no, truthfully, I think I'm regarded as “idiosyncratic” (the first six-syllable word ever spoken on the O'Reilly show), and he erupted again.

It was like talking to a manic child who had eaten 800 cherry Pop Tarts for breakfast. He kept interrupting, so that no point could be made that could win a reply, much less a reasoned response - not so much a gabble of sound bites as a howling from Bedlam.

Amazes me that O'Reilly is still on the air, which says quite a lot about American media, doesn't it?

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Solenopsis invicta

Silent Spring
“Silent Spring” (Rachel Carson)

I've actually never read this book, yet.

Human Nature: Comment: The New Yorker :
Elizabeth Kolbert

The red imported fire ant, or Solenopsis invicta, is about an eighth of an inch long, with a ruddy-brown body covered in tiny hairs. It feeds mainly on other insects, but will eat just about anything—including electrical equipment—and is reportedly drawn to dirty laundry. A mature colony can contain as many as two hundred and forty thousand individuals and every year produces several hundred potential queens. These queens mate just once, during their “nuptial flight,” then snap off their wings and go looking for a suitable site to start a new colony.

Native to South America, red imported fire ants probably arrived in the United States in cargo ships that docked in Mobile, Alabama, sometime in the nineteen-thirties. By the late forties, they had spread into Florida and Mississippi; by the early fifties, they could be found as far away as Arkansas and North Carolina. Wherever new colonies appeared, trouble followed. The ants attacked young plants and animals, and in humans their bites produced a painful sting accompanied by white pustules. Their mounds, which grew as high as two feet, reduced agricultural yields and damaged farm equipment.

Among those who watched the progress of the ants with horror were officials at the United States Department of Agriculture. In 1957, the department decided to eradicate the insects. Its weapons of choice were the pesticides heptachlor and dieldrin, both of which concentrate as they move up the food chain. In 1958, a million acres were sprayed. Quails, woodcocks, wild turkeys, blackbirds, meadowlarks, opossums, and armadillos all began dying off. The U.S.D.A. responded by denying any problems and continuing to spray.

Among those who watched the progress of the U.S.D.A. with horror was Rachel Carson (website here). She concluded that the department had never investigated the pesticides’ toxicity or, if it had, had ignored the results. (Heptachlor causes liver damage, and dieldrin is a neurotoxin.) The department seemed equally clueless about the basic biology of the ants, which continued to spread even as the chemicals rained down. The war against the fire ants was, in Carson’s words, “an outstanding example of an ill-conceived, badly executed, and thoroughly detrimental experiment in the mass control of insects”; it became one of the inspirations for her book “Silent Spring.”

Lunchtime Snack

Parenthetic note: As a kid living in East Texas (Burkeville, to be precise), fire ant mounds were plentiful. I spent hours fascinated by their martial prowess, especially interesting when I scooped a shovel-full of ants in one colony and dropped them on a colony a few meters down the road. They always fought to the death. Firecrackers and other flammable substances added to the juvenile mayhem.

Anyway, can we import fire ants to the White House? Wouldn't it be fun to watch Cheney squirm as he's bitten thousands of times?

Six years into the Bush Administration, it’s basically the ant wars all over again. At key agencies, a disregard for inconvenient evidence seems today to be a prerequisite. A memo prepared by the Democratic staff of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in mid-March, for example, revealed that officials of the White House Council on Environmental Quality had made more than a hundred and eighty changes to a status report on global warming, virtually all of which had the effect of exaggerating scientific uncertainties and minimizing certainties. (The official responsible for most of the changes, Philip Cooney, had come to the White House from the American Petroleum Institute and now works for Exxon Mobil.) A second report issued in March—this one by the Inspector General for the Department of the Interior—chronicled numerous instances in which a high-ranking department official, Julie MacDonald, had pressured government scientists to alter findings on threatened species. MacDonald, the report pointedly noted, had “no formal educational background in natural sciences, such as biology.” (MacDonald has since resigned.) As it happened, the report on MacDonald was released the same day that the former second-in-command at the Interior Department, J. Steven Griles, pleaded guilty to lying to Congress.

Meanwhile, the Administration has done its best to gut the safeguards put in place after “Silent Spring.” When, for instance, the E.P.A. proposed new rules on mercury emissions from power plants, the proposal turned out to contain several paragraphs lifted, virtually verbatim, from an industry lobbyist’s memos. (With minor changes, those regulations are now in effect.) Just last month, the Administration proposed new rules on the retrofitting of old power plants. The more or less explicit purpose of the rules is to accommodate a power company, Duke Energy, that the E.P.A. had itself sued for violating the Clean Air Act. Also last month, the E.P.A. announced that it would once again delay taking action on two drinking-water contaminants, perchlorate, an ingredient of rocket fuel, and M.T.B.E., a fuel additive.

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Kernel Panic

Never good, especially not good when in a big time crunch.

panic(cpu 0 caller 0x001D1888): vnode_put(50847bc): iocount 1
Backtrace, Format - Frame : Return Address (4 potential args on stack)
0x253c3988 : 0x128d08 (0x3cb134 0x253c39ac 0x131de5 0x0)
0x253c39c8 : 0x1d1888 (0x3d38a4 0x50847bc 0x50847bc 0x4515408)
0x253c39f8 : 0x1d193e (0x50847bc 0x4a8e13c 0x0 0x0)
0x253c3a18 : 0x1bf228 (0x50847bc 0x61c8400 0x0 0x0)
0x253c3f58 : 0x379e23 (0x41dfdac 0x4515408 0x451544c 0x0)
0x253c3fc8 : 0x19b17e (0x5f9e274 0x0 0x19e0b5 0x3963fb8) No mapping exists for frame pointer
Backtrace terminated-invalid frame pointer 0xb029fb28
Kernel version:
Darwin Kernel Version 8.9.1: Thu Feb 22 20:55:00 PST 2007; root:xnu-792.18.15~1/RELEASE_I386
Model: MacBookPro1,2, BootROM MBP12.0061.B03, 2 processors, Intel Core Duo, 2.16 GHz, 2 GB
Graphics: ATI Radeon X1600, ATY,RadeonX1600, PCIe, 256 MB
Memory Module: BANK 0/DIMM0, 1 GB, DDR2 SDRAM, 667 MHz
Memory Module: BANK 1/DIMM1, 1 GB, DDR2 SDRAM, 667 MHz
AirPort: spairport_wireless_card_type_airport_extreme (0x168C, 0x86),
Bluetooth: Version 1.7.14f14, 2 service, 0 devices, 1 incoming serial ports
Network Service: Built-in Ethernet, Ethernet, en0
Network Service: AirPort, AirPort, en1
Network Service: Parallels Host-Guest, Ethernet, en2
Network Service: Parallels NAT, Ethernet, en3
Serial ATA Device: ST9120821AS, 111.79 GB
Parallel ATA Device: MATSHITADVD-R UJ-846
USB Device: Built-in iSight, Micron, Up to 480 Mb/sec, 500 mA
USB Device: Apple Internal Keyboard / Trackpad, Apple Computer, Up to 12 Mb/sec, 500 mA
USB Device: IR Receiver, Apple Computer, Inc., Up to 12 Mb/sec, 500 mA
USB Device: Bluetooth HCI, Up to 12 Mb/sec, 500 mA

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Viagra and Mile High Club

If I wasn't so busy with work this week, there is a joke just waiting to be sprung out here.

Life's Too Short

Viagra could aid jetlag recovery

Viagra could be used to help people flying eastwards recover from jetlag, research suggests.

A team of Argentine scientists found the drug helped hamsters recover up to 50% faster from forward shifts in their daily time cycles. However, the drug only worked in conjunction with light therapy, and only in one time direction - the equivalent to flying eastbound. The study features in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Infamous clip from the Gong Show featuring two sweet young girls eating popsicles.

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links for 2007-05-22

Chicago that Meddlin Town

The dead tree version of this collection of Chicago City Council trivia included photos, but these tidbits are still fun.

1. The council's activism on lifestyle issues has inspired The Washington Post to label Chicago “That Meddlin' Town.” But lest you think such social engineering is a modern trend, consider the Lager Beer Riot of 1855. The council, led by Mayor Levi Boone, cracked down on beer halls frequented by German and Irish immigrants, while overlooking the whiskey consumed by more established Americans. The newcomers rioted, then voted en masse in the next election, making Chicago safe again for beer drinkers.


6. In 1999, the federal prison in Oxford, Wis., was home to four aldermen, a water reclamation commissioner and a state representative. When they would pass in the halls, they would sometimes yell, “Quorum call!”

7. The only murder of a Chicago alderman occurred in 1963 when the West Side's most powerful black politician, Ald. Ben Lewis, was handcuffed and shot in the head in his ward office a day after his re-election. The killing was never solved.

8. Chicago has 50 aldermen, more than almost any other American city. New York, in a typical case of one-upmanship, has 51 council members. Los Angeles has only 15, Houston 14 and Philadelphia 17. A century ago, Chicago had 70 aldermen-- two in each of its 35 wards.

9. Aldermen are allowed to carry concealed handguns and act as “conservators of the peace” under an 1872 state law, even though handgun possession is illegal in Chicago. In 1991, Ald. Dorothy Tillman waved a nickel-plated, .38-caliber snub-nosed revolver at a raucous community meeting at Kennedy-King College on the South Side, according to witnesses. No one was hurt, and Tillman, who lost her re-election bid this spring, still refuses to discuss the incident. Ballard Powell, a supervisor at the Joliet Correctional Center who was at the meeting, told the Tribune at the time: “It's safer walking through a maximum-security prison with your eyes closed ... than being in a room with a wild alderman.”


Lords of the Last Machine: The Story of Politics in Chicago

Lords of the Last Machine

Don't Make No Waves-Don't Back No Losers: An Insider's Analysis of the Daley Machine

Don't Make No Waves -- Don't Back No Losers

Grafters and Goo Goos: Corruption and Reform in Chicago, 1833-2003

Grafters and Goo Goos

and “Fabulous Chicago” by Emmett Dedmon.

Don't forget our recently un-elected Burt Natarus.

Also, last week we met the 42nd Ward Alderman-elect Brendan Reilly at his new office (which is decidedly not swank, but they were still in the process of moving in). Very nice man, apologized to us (!!) for being late after sitting at City Council orientation for 10 hours (yikes!), sifting through various protocols and procedures, and brandishing a notebook that looked like it weighed 43 pounds.

We brought a brief agenda (our Neighbor Space application, which is bogged down in various City of Chicago bureaucratic scarlet tape; Green Roofs in the West Loop; and the EPA vs. Blommers situation), and zipped through in about 25 minutes. He scribbled prodigious notes, took copies of everything we brought and placed it in his Moleskin (? or similar-style notebook), and promised to look into the matters as soon as he was able. Such a contrast to the imperious Natarus. Glad we voted for him.

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Weekend snapshots

Ah, the lure of digital photography: take a photo on Sunday, post a printable version on Monday's blog (simultaneously print out a copy on a dye-sub printer). Remember the old days when you had to take your 35mm canisters in to be processed, wait a day or three to pick up your prints, take the prints home, and scan them? Ha.

Disappearing Dream of Yesteryear
Disappearing Dream of Yesteryear
long exposure of Green Line el on Lake Street

Yellow Truck
Yellow Truck
On Webster, I think.

According to flickr-ite pantagrapher, this construction is replacing a big beautiful, wood home. A shame. Not all progress is beneficial.

Alto Voltage
Alto Voltage
Danger! Alto

No Use in Trying
No Use in Trying
fog rolling in

click to embiggen

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Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir and Flickr

Have been reading about Flickr's inaction in a copyright theft matter for a few days now (Rebekka's wonderful photos here). The BBC picked up the story.

Yahoo 'censored' Flickr comments
Yahoo is accused of censorship on photo site Flickr in a row over an online gallery selling pictures.

Late last year photographer Rebekka Gudleifsdóttir discovered that eight of her pictures were reportedly being sold by a UK-based online gallery.

She raised the issue on Flickr but a photo and comments were deleted.

Yahoo, which had no involvement in the row over the sale of the photos, has now apologized for its “mistake”.

According to Ms Gudleifsdóttir, online gallery Only Dreemin sold 60 prints of eight of her photos, for more than £2,500, without her consent.

No-one from gallery Only Dreemin was available for comment.

Ms Gudleifsdóttir owns the copyright to all of her photos on Flickr and the website clearly states that people cannot use them without permission.

The photographer herself writes:

Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir » Blog Archive » official apology from Flickr founder
The flickr community is a very special thing, and im not going to let a bad move on the part of the people who run flickr , cause me to abandon it. Flickr has had a very positive impact on my life and my carreer as a photographer, and im quite attatched to it.
I don’t feel flickr should be held accountable for the fact that someone downloaded my photos from there for commercial use. I have been aware since day one that this is a risk of displaying your work online, and although i believed i had covered my ass by uploading my photos at 72dpi, 1200×800 pixels, this clearly IS large enough to use for making large prints. Presumably with the help of software that can convert small jpg’s into large tiff files.
Something i was not aware of before.
In light of what has happened, i have decided to limit the dimensions of my uploads to a maximum of 800 pixels across, instead of 1200.

however, just because i was aware of the RISK, does not mean i was ready to accept the fact that someone had indeed been selling prints of my work for thousands of dollars. That is a whole different matter entirely.
Just walking around in an urban area at night may put you in risk of being mugged or raped. People are aware of this risk. That doesn’t mean its their fault if they are indeed mugged or raped, and if the person who commits such a crime is known and openly admits to having done it, would anyone in their right mind tell the victim “see, they’re sorry, just move on and forget about it”

Stewart Butterfield one of Flickr's founders, issues a mea culpa:

this time, we made the wrong choice. The person who made the call is not, as has been suggested, stupid, incompetent, underpaid, under qualified, inexperienced or mean. They just made a big mistake (and feel inconsolably awful about it, by the way). We also did not have the right policies in place to prevent it from happening or rectifying it afterward. And that's entirely the responsibility of the Flickr leadership team, and myself in particular.

So, to Rebekka: Our apologies. I'm sure you did not intend to bring on the firestorm to the extent it developed, you were not in the wrong and it was our fault to suggest that you were. (I will write to her directly as well).

We're taking our well-deserved lumps on this one, but have learned a painful lesson and are doubly committed to being better stewards of this wonderful thing called Flickr. Thank you for bearing with us and we're sorry.

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Sicko coming soon


Unreliable Narrator

More positive Sicko reviews.

Andrew O'Hehir: “Sicko” | Salon Arts & Entertainment
“Sicko” purposefully does not focus on the 50 million or so Americans who don't have health insurance, as scandalous as that is, but on the horror stories of middle-class working folks who believed they were adequately covered. ... “Sicko” does not display Moore at his most cinematically inventive or imaginative. It presents a TV-documentary-style parade of episodes, characters and settings, bouncing from various American cities to Canada, Britain, France and Cuba (and yes, don't worry, we'll get to that). Moore plays a far smaller personal role in this film, appearing only occasionally in his comic-relief role as the clueless buffoon who can't seem to grasp that healthcare in all those other countries is free, or virtually so. When he's eating dinner with a group of Americans living in Paris who begin to list all the things they can have as free or nearly free entitlements -- not just healthcare but an emergency doctor who makes house calls; not just childcare but a part-time in-home nanny -- Moore puts his hands over his ears and begins singing “La la la la la.” (If you have kids or any kind of chronic family health problems, your reactions might include weeping in despair, slitting your wrists or booking a one-way ticket.)

Still, there is no mistaking the passion and political intelligence at work in “Sicko.” It's both a more finely calibrated film and one with more far-reaching consequences than any he's made before. Moore is trying to rouse Americans to action on an issue most of us agree about, at least superficially. You may know people who will still defend the Iraq war (although they're less and less eager to talk about it). But who do you know who will defend the current method of healthcare delivery, administered by insurance companies whose central task is to minimize cost and maximize shareholder return? Americans of many different political stripes would probably share Moore's conclusions at the press conference: “It's wrong and it's immoral. We have to take the profit motive out of healthcare. It's as simple as that.”

including Moore's comments at Cannes:

When asked about his potential prosecution for violating U.S. Treasury sanctions against trade with or travel to Cuba, Moore was uncharacteristically sober. “I know a lot of you have written things like, 'How dumb are they?'” he said, “but I don't take this lightly. The Bush administration may try to claim that my footage was obtained illegally. We haven't discussed this possibility yet, but actions could be taken to prevent this film from opening on June 29. I know that sounds crazy to the Americans in the room. I guess it is crazy.”

When Americans do get to see “Sicko,” Moore says, “They will understand that this was about helping 9/11 rescue workers who've been abandoned by the government. They're not going to focus on Cuba or Fidel Castro or any other nonsense coming out of the Bush White House. They're going to say: 'You're telling me that al-Qaida prisoners get better medical treatment than the people who tried to recover bodies from the wreckage at ground zero?'”

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The Queen

alternative title: Woman in a bubble.

The Queen
“The Queen” (Stephen Frears)

The Queen - Netflix :

After Princess Diana's shocking death, Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren, in an Oscar-winning role) and Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) engage in intimate talks as Britain demands the princess be memorialized in a manner beyond standard protocol. This Oscar-nominated drama for Best Picture goes behind the scenes as the queen and prime minister try to manage Diana's death on a personal level while also dealing with a public calling for royal treatment for their beloved princess.

Unfortunately, Bush has yet to experience his dramatic arc, where he realizes change is inevitable, and necessary. I remember tuning out all the breathless Lady Diana coverage at the time of her marriage, divorce and death, so don't know how much was fictionalized or how much the Royal family really hated Diana. I also find it incredibly odd that the monarchy still exists: what exactly is the point? Do citizens of the UK really care about the lives of

Not a bad way to while 90 minutes away - Helen Mirren is appropriately and wonderfully starched as the Queen. Strange to see James Cromwell (of Six Feet Under, and other things) playing the pompous ass Prince Philip. And Tony Blair's Cheshire Cat grin is spot on. I bet he wishes this film could have saved his political career as much as the movie posits Blair saved the British monarchy.

We are Not Amused
We are not amused.

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How many times has Phoenix beaten San Antonio in a playoff series since Tim Duncan was drafted? Ummm, none, right? Every time there's an excuse. This year the yammering classes thinks the reason the Suns lost a 7 game series is because two of their players were suspended for a game.

Each team has 5 players on the floor, another 7 on the bench (plus the 3 dudes not suited up sitting directly behind the bench), and only 2 rushed to the altercation out of these 20. Not even Marcus Banks, the certifiable hothead from Las Vegas ran on the floor.

Mark Cuban defended the Spurs, and the leave-the-bench rule on his blog: the reasoning being you can't measure intent, and don't want to ever escalate brawls 'cause that's when somebody gets injured.

First, let me go on the record as saying that in the event that a vote comes up to change the rules about suspensions for players leaving the bench, I will vote against changing it.

Why ? Because its incredibly simple to educate players about the rule. Its a rule they fully understand and they understand the consequences of violating the rule. That makes the NBA stronger because it removes uncertainty. Can it result in a game(s) being impacted , yes. However, that impact results from an action a player knew violated the rules and was a mistake. There is no uncertainty about it. All they had to do was not leave the bench.

Pat Burke the token Irish player on the league (on the Suns no less!) reiterated that every year the league mentions how seriously they take this rule.

On the suspensions: “I found out yesterday. I had the television on and I saw the suspension went through. It's funny, I kept it quiet (Tuesday,) but I thought all along that they were going to get suspended. We have an NBA meeting at the beginning of every year, and they tell us about the rules and the rule changes. And that's one of the biggest rules. It's cut and dry. You step over that line during an altercation and you're out.''

So wasn't as if there were other options for the league to retain credibility. Also, there were games 1,2,3,4 and 6, and Spurs won three of those too, despite getting lots of questionable calls against them (like in game six in first q sometime: phoenix gets away with 24 second violation, ball obviously didn't hit the rim, Duncan is jumping up and down making sign for shot clock violation, but nothing...). Stern has nothing to do with individual referee calls, whoever claims that is ignorant. The better team gets through, no matter what. The losers whine.

If anything, Stern would rather Phoenix advance because high scoring no defense games are better for ratings, allegedly anyway. I know watching the Nets Cavs game 5 was horrible for my eyes. I'm still traumatized.

Henry Abbott from TrueHoop writes, in part:

Mike D'Antoni really does not exude leadership in big moments. That screaming is appropriate if a car is parked on your foot, and maybe if your pants are on fire. I love the guy, but it's nuts after a measly iffy call. I could put a camera on him, and a camera on Gregg Popovich, and show you the two tapes. Anyone who watched both tapes would know that Popovich's team was better prepared to win. Winning is, on some level, an attitude -- a confidence, a poise. Phoenix gets that attitude from Nash more than D'Antoni....

There's a great Tim Duncan story from his college days. Can't remember where I heard it. But Duncan and his Wake Forest teammate Randolph Childress were talking to coach Dave Odom. Childress was looking at the ground. Duncan reached out, touched his finger to his teammate's chin, and lifted. I asked Duncan, years later, why he did that: to admonish Childress for not looking at his coach, or to lift his teammate's spirit? Duncan seemed not able to even understand the first idea. Of course it was to help his teammate out. If we knew everything there was to know about Tim Duncan, I suspect he'd be respected as one of the great teammates in the NBA. He infuses his team with confidence in so many ways. Even in his post-game press conference, he talks about how great his opponents Steve Nash, his teammate Bruce Bowen, and his opponents the Utah Jazz are.
UPDATE: Temper your urge to declare the playoffs over, the Western Conference Finals boring, or the NBA a joke. I know you may have this or that beef with this or that league official. But it's about the players. They are the ones killing themselves. The players who are left standing -- the San Antonio Spurs and Utah Jazz -- have worked like dogs to get this far, and play amazing basketball. They would appreciate your respect. (And don't tell me it's all about the money. The players who do it just for the money don't typically make it this far, and players barely get paid extra for all the work of the playoffs.) For years, these players have been eating right, getting stronger, learning to trust teammates, refining plays, perfecting their release, becoming a team, doing anything imaginable to make themselves the best teams in the NBA -- just to get here and enjoy the respect of people like you and me. You insult their effort if you do anything but celebrate it. This is going to be a fantastic series between two teams that very much deserve to be here.

The Spurs won, the Suns didn't. End of story. Next faux-pundit who claims there should be an asterisk next to the Spurs win is forever on the list of idiots.

update 7/23/07, maybe there was a slight bit of fix, by the name of Donaghy

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Mobsters still get press

| 1 Comment

The Outfit
“The Outfit” (Gus Russo)

I'm sure this detail will show up in a movie or television drama in three years or so.

Government's key witness pleads guilty in mob murder case | Chicago Tribune : The star witness in the government's case against a dozen alleged Chicago mob figures pleaded guilty Friday to taking part in a conspiracy that included 18 murders.

Nicholas W. Calabrese -- under heavy security -- admitted that he took part in planning or carrying out 14 of the murders, including that of Tony “The Ant” Spilotro, long known as the Chicago mob's man in Las Vegas, and Spilotro's brother.

The Spilotros were beaten to death and buried in an Indiana cornfield. Joe Pesci played a character based on Tony Spilotro in the movie

Casino (Widescreen 10th Anniversary Edition)


The husky, white-haired Calabrese is expected to be the key witness against his brother, Frank Calabrese Sr., and other major mob figures charged in the government's Operation Family Secrets investigation.

James Marcello and Joseph ”Joey the Clown“ Lombardo, both reputed to be major mob bosses in the Chicago area, are among the 12 defendants. They have pleaded not guilty and are being held in custody pending trial.

A federal marshal who was assigned to guard Calabrese at one time, John T. Ambrose, now is charged with leaking information concerning Calabrese's whereabouts to organized crime. He has pleaded not guilty.

Calabrese said little at the hearing. But when U.S. District Judge James Zagel asked what he did for a living, he said: ”Aside from illegal activities I was a rigger at McCormick Place,“ the large exposition hall on Chicago's lakefront south of downtown.

In his signed, 16-page plea agreement, Calabrese admitted he was a member of the 26th Street or Chinatown Crew of the Chicago mob and took orders from his brother in carrying out an array of criminal activities.

He said that included collecting debts for loan sharks.

His plea agreement said the murders he took part in were sometimes ”committed in order to protect the Outfit from individuals who were providing information about the enterprise to law enforcement officers.“ ...

After entering his plea, Calabrese was whisked out a rear door of the courtroom by marshals. He is being held in an undisclosed location to keep him safe from mob reprisals.

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links for 2007-05-19

Spam Sob Story

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Oh Mrs. Rabi Aliu, your story is so compelling, I just want to turn over my bank account info to you, and all of my personal info as well. Or not.

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Another reason not to like the Cavs

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Or more specifically, another reason to dislike LeBron “all about the dollars” James.

Cleveland Cavs reserve, Ira Newble encountered the genocide in the Sudan via a newspaper article, read up on the situation, and circulated a petition/open letter to the Chinese government. Only two team-mates refused to sign: LeBron James and Damon Jones. Opinion
... Newble, by his own admission, knew only ``a little'' about the atrocities before reading about Darfur in a newspaper.

Cited in the article he read earlier this season was Smith College professor Eric Reeves, who in mid-March received an e- mail from a professional basketball player whose name he didn't recognize.

``I couldn't sit back and do nothing,'' says Newble, 32, who hopes to visit Darfur this summer. ``It shouldn't just be about making money and living well. It's about what you can do for somebody else.''

With assistance from Reeves and Jill Savitt, director of the Olympic Dream for Darfur campaign, Newble drafted an open letter from professional athletes to China's government. Newble signed it first.

Armed with information, statistics and photographs Newble made the case to his teammates that they should sign, too. They spoke as a group first, then individually. Newble says he referred to the movies ``Hotel Rwanda'' and ``Blood Diamond,'' knowing his teammates would be familiar with the horrors chronicled on film.
Eleven Cavaliers put pen to paper.

LeBron did not. Neither did Damon Jones, who has a marketing contract with Li-Ning Sports Goods Co. Ltd., a Chinese sneaker and apparel maker.

copy of the letter posted here


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Refiners Rake It In

What's most galling is there is no real reason for the recent gas price spike. I guess having oil men running the country is not so good for the rest of us.

Refiners Cash In on High Gasoline Prices -
Record gasoline prices are changing the equation of the refining business, generating unprecedented profits for the companies that transform crude oil into fuel.

For every barrel of oil they use to make gasoline, refiners are pocketing more than $30 in profit before taxes and other expenses. That is the most they have reaped per barrel since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The major producers of gasoline in the U.S. earned about $10 billion from their refining operations domestically and abroad in the first quarter, up 50% from a year earlier.
But crude oil is still 16% below its nominal high of $77.03 a barrel reached last year, underscoring a shift in the oil industry after more than three years of flush profits. Rising demand and prices fattened the bottom lines of companies across the industry. But gasoline's current run-up is mainly boosting profits for refinery operators, while the business of pumping oil out of the ground has seen its profits plateau or fall a bit.

Refiners have been on a roller coaster since hurricanes slammed into the nation's refining belt along the Gulf of Mexico in 2005. Gasoline prices spiked above $3 a gallon. That led to a rise in what the industry calls the refining margin, or the difference between the price refiners pay for oil and the prices their fuels fetch.

Seriously, the real change is that refiners realized undercapacity serves to best fatten profits. The Enron-California lesson again. Or OPEC, or TickleMe Elmo or 16th century tulips in Holland, or whatever example you want to use.

For decades, there was too much refining capacity in the U.S., margins were crummy and many companies were closing or selling off refineries. In 1986, refiners made little more than $2 for every barrel they processed. “We used to commission studies to get rid of the refineries,” says Fadel Gheit, who formerly worked at Mobil, now part of Exxon Mobil Corp., and is now senior energy analyst of Oppenheimer & Co. “We wanted to give them away.”

Consolidators such as Valero acquired refineries on the cheap in the 1990s. The extra capacity disappeared, and when energy prices soared in recent years, so did refining margins.

As a consumer, our best interests would be to: reduce automobile use (bikes, public transit), and have more fuel-efficient cars (hybrids, et al). Or just hold your breath until 2008, or the Rapture, whichever comes first.

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Largely unsympathetic article (surprise) re Michael Moore's new polemic in the WSJ. Weinstein is a real putz, but we plan to see SiCKO this summer.

For Michael Moore, Controversy Is Marketing - : Filmmaker Michael Moore says on his Web site that his new documentary, "SiCKO," "will expose the health-care industry's greed and control over America's political processes."
Controversy has become a key ingredient of marketing Mr. Moore's work, and the backers of "SiCKO" hope that the new movie will stir up emotions and help generate the kind of buzz that made his last movie, "Fahrenheit 9/11," both a topic of national debate and an unprecedented blockbuster in the documentary genre. "Fahrenheit 9/11" had a budget of $6 million and grossed more than $100 million in the U.S. alone.
Mr. Moore's formula is simple: Pick a divisive topic and goad opponents into a public debate before the movie opens. The question is whether his new film's subject material -- health care and insurance -- will deliver the kind of heat that he generated for "Fahrenheit 9/11," a movie about the Bush administration's actions before and after the Sept. 11th attacks
... To help build buzz for "SiCKO," Mr. Weinstein brought back the "Fahrenheit 9/11" team, including political consultant Chris Lehane. Mr. Lehane is perhaps best known as an ex-adviser to Bill Clinton; he helped the former president navigate such crises as Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky.

As was the case with "Fahrenheit 9/11," the team is overlaying its traditional marketing campaign with an aggressive online outreach, including postings and chat on progressive sites like Daily Kos and screenings for bloggers. But this time it's a broader push, including conservative sites. Says Mr. Lehane: "The film has the potential to appeal to a broader audience because it is not red state versus blue state, but the little guy versus powerful corporations and a broken political system."

In a classic move to heighten the suspense of the project, Mr. Moore has largely kept a lid on the contents of the movie. Still, the drug companies have already started taking the bait. When Mr. Moore was just beginning the documentary, some of them sent out warnings to employees not to speak to the baseball-capped documentarian.

Rumors started circling in the industry after the filmmakers showed the movie to key groups such as the nurses' union and leading health-care experts. The producers of "The Passion of the Christ" employed a similar tactic by screening their movie in advance of the opening for religious groups and stoking interest among Christians. The "SiCKO" team also plans to cross-market premieres of the film with organizations with an interest in the subject. They declined to name the groups.

plus the whole 9/11 firemen treated in Cuba story:

Mr. Moore has mined other sensitivities. Details of a trip to Cuba to film part of the movie have been much discussed in the press in recent weeks. Mr. Moore took a group of 9/11 first-responders suffering from respiratory problems to Cuba, where they received treatment.

That provoked accusations that he used the workers as pawns. The U.S. government also piled in, saying it had launched an investigation into whether Mr. Moore violated a travel ban by filming in Cuba.

Shortly after receiving a letter from the U.S. Treasury Department, Mr. Moore posted a response on his Web site. People involved in the movie say the Cuba scenario has been misreported. Mr. Moore's team declined requests to clarify the details. Mr. Lehane would only say: "People will be very surprised and provoked about the motivations for the trip to Cuba and what transpired on the ground."

Mr. Moore uses his Web site to publicize daily reaction to his movie, including the latest stories on the "controversy." Recent headlines include a news agency story about how Mr. Moore is hiding the copy of his movie from U.S. authorities ahead of the Cannes screening. This week, it also featured a section on former Sen. Fred Thompson, a possible presidential candidate, who jumped into the debate by criticizing Mr. Moore for going to Cuba.

Mr. Moore responded by scolding the Republican from Tennessee, citing a report about his fondness for Cuban cigars and inviting him to debate the subject of health care. In a video response, Mr. Thompson, cigar in hand, declined to meet Mr. Moore and said he should think about a mental hospital, which he claimed was where Cuba locked up one documentary maker.

Michael Moore responds on his blog:

My intention was to keep "Sicko" under wraps and show it to virtually no one before its premiere in Cannes. That is what I have done and, as you may have noticed if you are a recipient of my infrequent Internet letters, I have been very silent about what I've been up to. In part, that's because I was working very hard to complete the film. But my silence was also because I knew that the health care industry -- an industry which makes up more than 15 percent of our GDP -- was not going to like much of what they were going to see in this movie and I thought it best not to upset them any sooner than need be.

Well, going quietly to Cannes, I guess, was not to be. For some strange reason, on May 2nd the Bush administration initiated an action against me over how I obtained some of the content they believe is in my film. As none of them have actually seen the film (or so I hope!), they decided, unlike with "Fahrenheit 9/11," not to wait until the film was out of the gate and too far down the road to begin their attack.

Bush's Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson, launched an investigation of a trip I took to Cuba to film scenes for the movie. These scenes involve a group of 9/11 rescue workers who are suffering from illnesses obtained from working down at Ground Zero. They have received little or no help with their health care from the government. I do not want to give away what actually happens in the movie because I don't want to spoil it for you (although I'm sure you'll hear much about it after it unspools Saturday). Plus, our lawyers have advised me to say little at this point, as the film goes somewhere far scarier than "Cuba." Rest assured of one thing: no laws were broken. All I've done is violate the modern-day rule of journalism that says, "ask no questions of those in power or your luncheon privileges will be revoked."

This preemptive action taken by the Bush administration on the eve of the "Sicko" premiere in Cannes led our attorneys to fear for the safety of our film, noting that Secretary Paulson may try to claim that the content of the movie was obtained through a violation of the trade embargo that our country has against Cuba and the travel laws that prohibit average citizens of our free country from traveling to Cuba. (The law does not prohibit anyone from exercising their first amendment right of a free press and documentaries are protected works of journalism.)

I was floored when our lawyers told me this. "Are you saying they might actually confiscate our movie?" "Yes," was the answer. "These days, anything is possible. Even if there is just a 20 percent chance the government would seize our movie before Cannes, does anyone want to take that risk?"

Certainly not. So there we were last week, spiriting a duplicate master negative out of the country just so no one from the government would take it from us. (Seriously, I can't believe I just typed those words! Did I mention that I'm an American, and this is America and NO ONE should ever have to say they had to do such a thing?)

I mean, folks, I have just about had it. Investigating ME because I'm trying to help some 9/11 rescue workers our government has abandoned? Once again, up is down and black is white. There are only two people in need of an investigation and a trial, and the desire for this across America is so widespread you don't even need to see the one's smirk or hear the other's sneer to know who I am talking about.

But no, I'm the one who now has to hire lawyers and sneak my documentary out of the country just so people can see a friggin' movie. I mean, it's just a movie! What on earth could I have placed on celluloid that would require such a nonsensical action against me?

Ok. Scratch that.

Well, I'm on my way to Cannes right now, a copy of the movie in my bag. Don't feel too bad for me, I'll be in the south of France for a week! But then it's back to the U.S. for a number of premieres and benefits and then, finally, a chance for all of you to see this film that I have made. Circle June 29th on your calendar because that's when it opens in theaters everywhere across the country and Canada (for the rest of the world, it opens in the fall).

I can't wait for you to see it.

To paraphrase Voltaire

Really should be “anything too stupid to be said is blogged somewhere”

Gold is not just for man
Gold is not just for man
messing around with the Merge to HDR function in Photoshop CS3. Skyline very noisy.

In the style of J.M.W. Turner, well, a little.

In retrospect, this photo's title could be misinterpreted. Occasionally my atheism slips, and I become a Gaiaist. Naming photos is a crapshoot: I pluck titles from my subconscious, or from my environment at the moment (song lyric) unless descriptive titles are obvious.

Chains for Fools
Chains for Fools
Lake Michigan, probably near North Avenue

Streets are Paved with Golden light
Streets are Paved with Golden light
my sole Looptopia photo that didn't absolutely suck, and this one is borderline. We ended up spending about 2 hours wandering from insane crowd to insane crowd. Next year will hopefully be more organized.

click to embiggen images

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links for 2007-05-18

Inventing Human Rights

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Inventing Human Rights: A History
“Inventing Human Rights: A History” (Lynn Hunt)

Inventing Human Rights: Briefly Noted: The New Yorker
In 1748, Montesquieu, in an attack on the then common use of torture, wrote, “I was going to say that it might be suitable for despotic government…but I hear the voice of nature crying out against me.” His wavering, Hunt writes, illustrates the revolutionary quality of the years leading to the Declarations of Independence and of the Rights of Man, when something inconceivable—an innate set of social and political rights—suddenly became “self-evident.” Such claims, once made, had a “tendency to cascade,” encompassing more and more groups, even as they engendered what she calls “evil twins”: ideologies that dehumanized those they disenfranchised. Hunt’s survey is fast-paced, provocative, and ultimately optimistic. Declarations, she writes, are not empty words but transformative; they make us want to become the people they claim we are.

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Flynt on Fallwell's death

Here's why I don't want to meet President Bush, even though he keeps inviting me to throw back a few bottles of Shiner Bock at his ranch

Access Hollywood | Larry Flynt On Jerry Falwell: Hustler Lawsuit Revisited On Day Of Rival's Death | Celebrity and Hollywood News :
“The Reverend Jerry Falwell and I were arch enemies for fifteen years. We became involved in a lawsuit concerning First Amendment rights and Hustler magazine. Without question, this was my most important battle – the l988 Hustler Magazine, Inc., v. Jerry Falwell case, where after millions of dollars and much deliberation, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in my favor.

My mother always told me that no matter how much you dislike a person, when you meet them face to face you will find characteristics about them that you like. Jerry Falwell was a perfect example of that. I hated everything he stood for, but after meeting him in person, years after the trial, Jerry Falwell and I became good friends. He would visit me in California and we would debate together on college campuses. I always appreciated his sincerity even though I knew what he was selling and he knew what I was selling.

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The greening of Fox

Actions count for more than press releases, but I wonder if now Diamond Dick Cheney and his evil minions and oil industry moguls will have to change their tune about “the science still being uncertain.” since their house news organ might not necessarily agree with them anymore?

The greening of Fox | Salon News :
When Rupert Murdoch, the cantankerous and conservative owner of Fox News, enthusiastically joins the fight against climate change, you know we're past the tipping point on the issue. Think landslide.
Last week, the media mogul pledged not only to make his News Corp. empire carbon neutral, but to persuade the hundreds of millions of people who watch his TV channels and read his newspapers to join the cause. Messages about climate change will be woven throughout News Corp.'s entertainment content, he said, from movies to books to TV sitcoms, and the issue will have an increasing presence in the company's news coverage, be it in the New York Post or on “Hannity & Colmes.” Yes, as Murdoch said in an exclusive interview on his climate plan, even Fox News' right-wing firebrand Sean Hannity can be expected to come around on the issue.

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links for 2007-05-17

New Scrutiny for Iraq Mercenaries

Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army
“Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army” (Jeremy Scahill)

Mercenaries in Iraq are apparently exempt from local laws against murder, if not officially, then with a nudge and a wink.

Who is Blackwater you ask?

The current investigation of the Green Zone incident could pose problems for Blackwater. Best known for protecting dignitaries like former American proconsul Paul Bremer and current U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, Blackwater has hundreds of employees in Iraq and maintains its own helicopters, airplanes and armored vehicles there.

The company was created in 1997 by Erik Prince, a Michigan native and former Navy SEAL whose father was a wealthy auto-parts supplier. Mr. Prince is a political conservative who has donated more than $100,000 to Republican candidates and campaigns since the mid-1990s, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Yochi J. Dreazen of the Wall Street Journal writes (in part):

New Scrutiny for Iraq Contractors - :

A Blackwater USA contractor's killing of an Iraqi security guard is putting new pressure on the Bush administration to prosecute private-company employees accused of crimes in Iraq, and highlighting the murky legal status of the 130,000 foreign contractors working there.
The Christmas Eve shooting is one of the few known cases of an American contractor killing an employee of the Iraqi government, and it remains one of the rare lethal shootings inside Baghdad's fortified Green Zone. Criminal charges in the case, which is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department, would be unprecedented. To date, no U.S. contractor has been put on trial for murdering an Iraqi.

The incident began when an off-duty Blackwater employee who had been drinking heavily tried to make his way into the “Little Venice” section of the Green Zone, which houses many senior members of the Iraqi government, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials. He was stopped by Iraqi bodyguards for Adil Abdul-Mahdi, the country's Shiite vice president, and shot one of the Iraqis, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials. The bodyguard died at the scene, the officials say.
Only two contractors out of the tens of thousands who have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 5½ years have been indicted for violence, and only one has been convicted. Given the aggressive tactics contractors use in both countries, where they routinely force vehicles off the road or shoot at cars that draw too close to them, Democrats and Iraqi officials say there should be more indictments and convictions.

“This is one of the biggest grey areas of the entire war effort,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D., Ill.), the sponsor of legislation requiring the Bush administration to collect and publicize detailed data about contractors. “There are almost as many contractors in Iraq as soldiers, and they seem to be entirely outside the reach of the law.”

The company has reason to tread carefully. Aides to Mr. Abdul-Mahdi say relatives of the victim are nearly certain to file a civil lawsuit in the U.S. against Blackwater, which is already embroiled in a pair of high-profile suits. In the first case, relatives of three U.S. soldiers killed in a crash of a Blackwater airplane in Afghanistan are suing a Blackwater affiliate for negligence in a Florida court. In the second, relatives of four Blackwater security guards killed in Fallujah, Iraq, are suing the company for wrongful death in a state court in North Carolina.

The Afghanistan lawsuit is being closely watched in legal circles because its outcome could help determine the extent of contractor liability in civil cases arising from their government work. The criminal investigation into the Green Zone shooting is also largely uncharted territory, since it remains unclear what -- if any -- law applies to the American contractors operating in Iraq. Congress last year passed legislation allowing contractors to be tried under the military's Uniform Code of Military Justice. But no American contractors have faced such charges, and U.S. officials concede it is unclear whether it would even be legal to use military law to try civilians.

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Treo Pome

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Dandelions Wave Goodbye
Dandelions Wave Goodbye
A Treo photo-poem, composed while waiting for a meeting.

Silence in the city
dandelions wave goodbye

discovery of a little patch of solitude
is always possible
if your motive is clear and pure

Failing by Example

One of the original Bush apologists, Mr. F.U. himself makes a good analogy today: Monica Goodling's quest to purge Democrats from all corners of the Justice Department and the de-Baathification in Iraq.

Blue Evening in Chicago

Thomas Friedman: Failing by Example
While the Bush team has been trying to limit de-Baathification in Baghdad, it was carrying out its own de-Democratization in the Justice Department.

If you want to know why we are losing in Iraq, go back and read this story that ran on the front page of The Times on Saturday. It began like this:

Mr. Friedman's intern doesn't provide the link, here's the permalink of Eric Lipton's article for posterity:

Two years ago, Robin C. Ashton, a seasoned criminal prosecutor at the Department of Justice, learned from her boss that a promised promotion was no longer hers. “You have a Monica problem,” Ms. Ashton was told, according to several Justice Department officials. Referring to Monica M. Goodling, a 31-year-old, relatively inexperienced lawyer who had only recently arrived in the office, the boss added, “She believes you’re a Democrat and doesn’t feel you can be trusted.”...

Ms. Goodling would soon be quizzing applicants for civil service jobs at Justice Department headquarters with questions that several United States attorneys said were inappropriate, like who was their favorite president and Supreme Court justice. One department official said an applicant was even asked, “Have you ever cheated on your wife?”

Ms. Goodling also moved to block the hiring of prosecutors with résumés that suggested they might be Democrats, even though they were seeking posts that were supposed to be nonpartisan, two department officials said.

And she helped maintain lists of all the United States attorneys that graded their loyalty to the Bush administration, including work on past political campaigns, and noted if they were members of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group.

Mr. Friedman continues:

What does this have to do with Iraq? A lot. One benchmark the Bush team has been urging the Iraqi government to meet is to rescind its broad “de-Baathification” program — the wholesale purging of Baathists after the fall of Saddam — which has alienated many Sunnis and hampered national reconciliation.

But while the Bush team has been lecturing the Iraqi Shiites to limit de-Baathification in Baghdad, it was carrying out its own de-Democratization in the Justice Department in Washington. We would feel that we had failed in Iraq if we read that Sunnis were being purged from Iraq’s Ministry of Justice by Shiite hard-liners loyal to Moktada al-Sadr — but the moral equivalent of that is exactly what the Bush administration was doing here. What kind of example does that set for Iraqis?

And this wasn’t only a Washington problem. Read Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s outstanding “Imperial Life in the Emerald City,” which details the extent to which Americans recruited to work for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad were chosen, at times, for their loyalty toward Republicanism rather than expertise on Islamism. “Two C.P.A. staffers said that they were asked if they supported Roe v. Wade and if they had voted for George W. Bush,” he wrote.

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Michael Baroody isn't interested in the money, rather he wants somebody to think about the children. And besides, Crony Capitalism is what got Mr. Baroody the job in the first place - why wouldn't he expect, nay demand a a little taste.

Cold Lucid Indifference

Bush Pick Gets Extra Payment From Old Job
A lobbyist for manufacturers chosen to enforce consumer laws called his severance an “extraordinary payment.”

A senior lobbyist at the National Association of Manufacturers nominated by President Bush to lead the Consumer Product Safety Commission will receive a $150,000 departing payment from the association when he takes his new government job, which involves enforcing consumer laws against members of the association.

The lobbyist, Michael E. Baroody, wrote recently to the commission’s general counsel that the severance was an “extraordinary payment” under a federal ethics rule, requiring him to remove himself from agency matters involving the association for two years. Under the rule, a payment is “extraordinary” if an employer grants it after learning that the employee is being considered for a government position and it is not part of an established compensation or benefits program.

Mr. Baroody said in the letter that the payment would not prevent him from considering matters involving individual companies that are members of the manufacturers’ association, many of whom are defendants in agency proceedings over defective products or have other business before the commission. Nor would it preclude him from involvement with smaller trade groups like those representing makers of home appliances and children’s products that have alliances with the association.

Oh really? How brazen.

The nomination of Mr. Baroody, executive vice president at the association, has provoked heavy criticism from Democrats and consumer groups. He is the latest in a line of industry officials and lobbyists to be given senior jobs by Mr. Bush at federal safety agencies that oversee matters like workplace and mine safety and transportation as the administration has sought to roll back hundreds of regulations that businesses viewed as excessive.

As a major trade organization for the largest companies in the country, the National Association of Manufacturers often has issues before the Consumer Product Safety Commission. It recently prevailed on the agency, for instance, to relax the requirements for when companies must notify the agency about defective products. The White House, Mr. Baroody and the commission would not make available the letter that Mr. Baroody wrote describing the $150,000 payment. A copy was provided by a Democratic Congressional aide who found it in Mr. Baroody’s nomination file in the Senate.

Government ethics experts said people occasionally received a severance payment when they left the private sector for a government job, but it could be problematic when the person was going to a post whose mission was to regulate the former employer. Mr. Baroody’s nomination will be before the Senate Commerce Committee next week. He is opposed not only by consumer groups but also by trial lawyers, firefighters and pediatricians. They have highlighted what they say are repeated actions taken by Mr. Baroody and the association on behalf of companies that have made consumer products less safe.

Mr. Baroody “not only represented the interests of the nation’s manufacturing firms — often in direct opposition to the interest of consumers — but led efforts to weaken the C.P.S.C. and opposed numerous initiatives to protect children and the public from unsafe products,” said Dr. Jay E. Berkelhamer, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, in a letter opposing the nomination.

So in other words, no wonder the Bush administration nominated Mr. Baroody.

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Ru-oh. Not so much for our dinky little low-traffic site, but some clever lawyer somewhere is going to use this to stifle free-speech in the future.

Web Site Is Held Liable for Some User Postings
A Web site that matches roommates may be liable for what its users say about their preferences, a panel of the federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled.

The ruling knocked down the main defense of the site. In 1996, Congress granted immunity to Internet service providers for transmitting unlawful materials supplied by others. Most courts have interpreted the scope of that immunity broadly

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links for 2007-05-16

79 fonts slut

79 Short Essays on Design
“79 Short Essays on Design” (Michael Bierut)

Sure I'm buying it. Why not, with such a great plug? I can relate to the dilemma.
Design Observer: writings about design & culture : For the first ten years of my career, I worked for Massimo Vignelli, a designer who is legendary for using a very limited number of typefaces. Between 1980 and 1990, most of my projects were set in five fonts: Helvetica (naturally), Futura, Garamond No. 3, Century Expanded, and, of course, Bodoni.

For Massimo, this was an ideological choice, an ethical imperative. “In the new computer age,” he once wrote, “the proliferation of typefaces and type manipulations represents a new level of visual pollution threatening our culture. Out of thousands of typefaces, all we need are a few basic ones, and trash the rest.” For me, it became a time-saving device. Why spend hours choosing between Bembo, Sabon and Garamond No. 3 every time you needed a Venetian Roman? For most people — my mom, for instance — these were distinctions without differences. Why not just commit to Garamond No. 3 and never think about it again? My Catholic school education must have well prepared me for this kind of moral clarity. I accepted it gratefully.

Then, after a decade, I left my first job. Suddenly I could use any typeface I wanted, and I went nuts. On one of my first projects, I used 37 different fonts on 16 pages. My wife, who had attended Catholic school herself, found this all too familiar. She remembered classmates who had switched to public school after eight years under the nuns: freed at last from demure plaid uniforms, they wore the shortest skirts they could find. “Jesus,” she said, looking at one of my multiple font demolition derbies. “You've become a real slut, haven't you?”

It was true. Liberated from monogamy, I became typographically promiscuous. I have since, I think, learned to modulate my behavior — like any substance abuser, I learned that binges are time-consuming, costly, and ultimately counterproductive — but I've never gone back to five-typeface sobriety. Those thousands of typefaces are still out there, but my recovery has required that I become more discriminating and come up with some answers to this seemingly simple question: why choose a particular typeface?

Princeton Architectural Press is about to publish a collection of essays I've written, many of which first appeared here on Design Observer. I wanted it to feel like a real book for readers — it has no pictures — so I asked Abbott to design it. He suggested we set each one of the 79 pieces in a different typeface. I loved this idea, but wasn't sure how far he'd want to go with it. “What about the one called 'I Hate ITC Garamond?'” I asked him. “Would we set it in ITC Garamond?” He looked at me as if I was crazy. “Of course,” he said.

The book is beautiful, by the way, and not the least bit slutty.

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Encyclopedia Of Ethical Failure

This sounds like a perfect opportunity for a mashup with the resources of Josh Marshall's minions at TPM Muckraker. I'm sure it wouldn't take too much effort to match the unnamed workers in the Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure (MS Word document) with a news story naming them.

At the Pentagon, An 'Encyclopedia Of Ethical Failure' - :

Government workers who are caught misbehaving often are suspended, fired or prosecuted for their misdeeds. Then, when all that is done, they face one last humiliation -- a virtual dressing down at the hands of Pentagon lawyer Stephen Epstein.

Mr. Epstein, the director of the Pentagon's Standards of Conduct Office, is mounting an ethical cleansing offensive from inside the corridors of power. His weapon of choice is the “Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure,” a hit parade he publishes on the Internet to regale bureaucrats with tales of shenanigans and shockingly bad judgment that have shot down the careers of fellow public servants across government.

Take the case of the Customs and Border Protection officer who landed a government helicopter on his daughter's grade-school playground: Despite having a supervisor's ill-considered clearance to fly there, Mr. Epstein writes, the officer was fired for misusing government property. When one Army base official was caught funneling bogus business to himself and to his girlfriend's daughter, Mr. Epstein ran the item under the headline, “One Happy Family Spends Time Together in Jail.”

With so much federal money sloshing around thanks to record defense spending, Mr. Epstein hopes to drive home the importance of ethics by publicizing wrongdoers. It's “like public executions,” he says. “We try to write the entries with a sense of humor, but the message is clear that this behavior is ruinous.”

Sometimes he takes a bit of literary license: The “Happy Family” case actually involved Michael Rzeplinski and Kirsten Davidson, who are in separate prisons after pleading guilty to conspiracy, while Ms. Davidson's mother, Connie, will serve time for submitting false claims after her daughter is released.

Those and other names don't appear in the Encyclopedia, which anyone can access on the Internet. Mr. Epstein believes it's more instructive to lay out the crimes and punishments as parables without identities or dates, or often locations.
Nearly 3,000 people, mostly Pentagon employees, have signed up to receive emails when Mr. Epstein updates the Encyclopedia on his office's Web site. Page hits aren't monitored, but the Encyclopedia has won an audience beyond the Pentagon. “It's a good source of guffaws,” says Paul McQuade, a government-contracting lawyer at the Greenberg Traurig law firm in Tysons Corner, Va.

Patrick Carney, assistant general counsel for ethics at the Federal Communications Commission, draws on the Encyclopedia for training and encourages his staff to read the document online because the “bite-size examples are more entertaining than reading the statutes” themselves, he says. In quarterly internal FCC “Ethicsgram” newsletters, Mr. Carney includes items from the Encyclopedia. “Everyone around town is looking for ways to get the word out on ethics, and Steve's material is often used,” he says.

Scandals involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former Air Force official Darleen Druyun, who was imprisoned for negotiating a job with Boeing Co. while still overseeing Pentagon contracts, have shaken confidence in Washington. Ms. Druyun's case appears twice in the Encyclopedia -- under Conflicts of Interest and Post-Employment Violations -- though it is sanitized, with all officials' names left out. Mr. Abramoff is one of the few names mentioned -- in the case of an Interior Department official who accepted football and concert tickets from the lobbyist. Mr. Epstein's lesson: Officials hiding such gifts get “a gift from the federal government that they cannot keep secret -- probation.”

The Iraq war and its contractor fraud also have provided fodder for Mr. Epstein. One Encyclopedia entry, stemming from a Washington Post article, tells of an official working for a U.S. company in Iraq who accepted more than $1 million in bribes of cash, cars, jewelry and sexual favors, steered contracts to buddies and even gushed in an email to one contractor: “I love to give you money!”

I have a strong feeling Karl Rove doesn't send Mr. Epstein a Christmas card.

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Iraq Fights Texas

S.N.A.F.U., ie more news about how much progress we've made in Iraq.

Homage to George L. Kelling

In Struggle to Rebuild, Iraq Fights Texas Firm - :
MUSAYYIB, Iraq -- The gleaming new power plant here could have been a rare example of a successful Iraq reconstruction project. Its control rooms are stocked with state-of-the-art computer systems, and its enormous generators -- equipped to boost Iraq's total electricity supply by 10% -- are ready for use.

Yet as Iraqis struggle with continual power outages, and the searing summer nears, most days this sprawling compound 40 miles south of Baghdad is nearly deserted. The buildings here are shuttered, the unused generators gathering dust. This plant wasn't derailed by insurgent attacks. It was hijacked by a bitter dispute between the Iraqi government and a Texas contractor, a clash that has roped in the U.S. Embassy and escalated into charges of corruption and incompetence.

The fight highlights the dangers of the Bush administration's stated plan to wind down the U.S. rebuilding effort here, leaving it to the Iraqi government to rebuild the country. U.S. reconstruction officials say it's already clear that the $33 billion spent by the U.S. won't restore Iraq's basic services to their prewar levels. [nice!]

Awash in oil revenue, the Iraqi government has tens of billions of dollars to spend rebuilding. But Iraqi officials have virtually no systems in place for negotiating large construction contracts, overseeing the work itself, or making payments to foreign contractors on time. That has led the Iraqis to hire foreign contractors who were inexperienced or incapable of doing the job.

The plant at Musayyib, which officials say is weeks away from being operational, has become the most prominent symbol of the paralysis. “The Iraqis have spent $300 million on this plant, and all they have is some metal sitting in the desert,” says John Dempsey, a U.S. reconstruction official during a recent visit to the plant.

Three years ago, the Musayyib plant was a symbol of something else: the optimistic, ambitious push by Iraq's first post-Saddam Hussein government, in conjunction with its American benefactors and American companies, to repair the country's infrastructure. Electricity shortages had become a major source of public anger toward the American and Iraqi governments, with insurgent attacks and production problems pushing Iraq's power supply below prewar levels.

Iraq's Ministry of Electricity signed the contract with Southeast Texas Industrial Services Inc., a privately held company that specializes in building power plants, refineries and oil-drilling sites. The project was the largest undertaken by the Iraqi government since the U.S. invasion -- a $283 million effort to build a 500-megawatt plant, plus an adjacent refinery that would process much-needed fuel for other nearby electricity plants.

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Pulaski Park

Took the company car to be serviced (7,000 miles is close enough to 10,000 miles: we don't drive much), ate at The Rabbit House aka Usagi Ya (yumm)

The name means rabbit house in Japanese, but just don't look for any on the menu; the owners consulted a feng shui master who proclaimed Usagi Ya (uu-sawg-ee yah) to be the best for the space. The warm-hued room features two platform-style pillow-stuffed tea rooms, and a 19-seat sushi bar where sushi chef Hiromichi Sasaki produces about 30 sushi and sashimi choices, plus about 40 maki and special maki rolls.

and then wandered around Pulaski Park.

Alicia Frantz Memorial
Alicia Frantz Memorial
underneath Division bridge (1300 W. Division).

I didn't know her, but I've heard of her tragic death.

Cold Lucid Indifference
Cold Lucid Indifference
Stairways plunge to their death, Pulaski Park

Apologize Pull out his eyes
Apologize Pull out his eyes

Title also cribbed from Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dude

click 'all sizes' to see larger versions of any photo

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Dallas still one of my least favorite large American cities, though to be fair, SMU is in University Park, a suburb.

Dallas Suburb Votes to Allow Land Sale for a Bush Library
The prospect of the George W. Bush Presidential Library’s being built on the campus of Southern Methodist University received a lift over the weekend when voters in this Dallas suburb passed a proposition that paves the way for the city to sell a piece of parkland to the university. The ballot proposal — passed on a vote of 1,782 to 420 on Saturday — will allow this city of some 23,000 residents to sell Potomac Park [for the tiny library]

GWB43 has shredded most of the documents of his presidency, nearly all the rest are classified. What is the library even going to hold? Harriet Miers love-notes to the Dauphin?

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links for 2007-05-15

the naked truth

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Ummm, no comment.

Too old - US naturists face up to the naked truth | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited :
The American Association for Nude Recreation is so concerned at its failure to attract young people that it is organising a conference in Florida next month to try to find ways to lower the age profile. The association fears American nudism, which has struggled to gain acceptance since the 1930s, could die out ... the Solair Recreation Club in Connecticut, the average age is 55. The club charges $500 annual membership to people over 40 but college students can strip off for a mere $150. “We don't want the place to turn into a gated assisted living facility,” said Gordon Adams, Solair's membership director.American nudism, which came from Germany, could be falling to the same pressures as have fuelled the culture wars of the last decade. As social conservatives have been in the ascendant, public nudity has been seen as morally corrupt. Several states have passed laws outlawing public nudity, including skinny-dipping. In Montana it carries a six-month sentence.

My neighbor did call the police to my house when I was in college - apparently my lack of curtains and my propensity to walk around naked really bothered his crotchety old man eyes. I'll always remember the night the officers came to my house, more annoyed at the neighbor than me. They suggested I hang up sheets or something. I was super polite to them because uhh, my roommate had left a smoking utensil in public view.

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Federal Loans for Pollution

Peachy. Congress is ever so serious about doing something about pollution, global warming, or related matters. Unless it conflicts with corporate welfare.

I'm With Stupid

Wheeeee! More pollution for everybody!

Federal Loans for Coal Plants Clash With Carbon Cuts - :

A Depression-era program to bring electricity to rural areas is using taxpayer money to provide billions of dollars in low-interest loans to build coal plants even as Congress seeks ways to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

That government support is a major force behind the rush to coal plants, which spew carbon dioxide that scientists blame for global warming.

The beneficiaries of the government's largesse -- the nation's rural electric cooperatives -- plan to spend $35 billion to build conventional coal plants over the next 10 years, enough to offset all state and federal efforts to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions over that time.

The Office of Management and Budget wants to end loans for new power plants and limit loans for transmission projects in the most remote rural areas. But the powerful National Rural Electric Cooperative Association deployed 3,000 members on Capitol Hill last week to push Congress to keep the program intact, arguing that the loans for new coal plants are needed to keep electricity cheap and reliable in rural areas.

Environmentalists have also targeted the program. They say it removes any pressure for the rural co-ops to promote energy efficiency or aggressively tap renewable resources. Rural co-ops rely on coal for 80 percent of their electricity, compared with 50 percent for the rest of the country, and electricity demand at rural co-ops is growing at twice the national rate.

Ronald D. Utt, co-author of the report and a former official at the OMB, calls the program a “remnant of the New Deal.” “Poverty is no longer a characteristic of the agricultural community as it was during the Depression . . . and as areas have grown, the basic clientele are well-to-do people who have nothing to do with agriculture,” Utt said. Many of the areas served by co-ops are densely populated and do not need help, critics say.

James J. Jura, chief executive of Associated Electric Cooperative, a co-op that has both government and commercial loans, said much of his region's growth comes from retirement and recreational developments near lakes around Branson in southwest Missouri. The town's Web site boasts of a 17-story luxury condominium complex, a new shopping mall, 17,000 hotel rooms and dozens of theaters. “No, this isn't Manhattan or Las Vegas; it's Branson, Missouri,” the site says.

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Land of Liberty


Ha. Thought crimes. We mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, but some new details emerge in Adam Liptak's column. How ridiculous. Nearly as bad as banning 77 year old musician Ibrahim Ferrer from picking up his Grammy, because Ferrer was unfortunate enough to be born in Cuba.

For the record, I have never used any illegal substance, nor have I ever gone over the posted speed limit, nor even parked in an illegal spot for even one minute. I had my first drink at 21, and also had my first sexual experience as soon as I was legally able to do so (whatever the statutory age happened to be in Texas at time). I have never illegally downloaded MP3s, software, pornography, fonts, or posted articles in full (meaning I have never circumvented copyright in any manner). I never have removed the tags from mattresses, nor jumped the turnstile on a CTA train station. I could go on and on, but perhaps this is enough to turn up on a government computer the next time the border gaurd checks me out. I'm clean, officer! Oh, and I've never even thought of doing any of these things either.

The Nation’s Borders, Now Guarded by the Net - New York Times :
Andrew Feldmar, a Vancouver psychotherapist, was on his way to pick up a friend at the Seattle airport last summer when he ran into a little trouble at the border.

A guard typed Mr. Feldmar’s name into an Internet search engine, which revealed that he had written about using LSD in the 1960s in an interdisciplinary journal. Mr. Feldmar was turned back and is no longer welcome in the United States, where he has been active professionally and where both of his children live.

Mr. Feldmar, 66, has a distinguished résumé, no criminal record and a candid manner. Though he has not used illegal drugs since 1974, he says he has no regrets.

“It was an absolutely fascinating and life-altering experience for me,” he said last week of his experimentation with LSD and other psychedelic drugs. “The insights it provided have lasted for a lifetime. It allowed me to feel what it would be like to live without habits.”

Mr. Feldmar said he had been in the United States more than 100 times and always without incident since he last took an illegal drug. But that changed in August, thanks to the happenstance of an Internet search, conducted for unexplained reasons, at the Peace Arch border station in Blaine, Wash.

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The Witness Next Door

Nick Krostof gives a little perspective on what's really important. If we had real leaders in Washington, the US would be in Darfur instead of Iraq. Even the Dauphin, in his typically clueless manner, has called the war in Darfur as a genocide, but hasn't done much to stop it. Nation bulding for thee, not for thee.

Nicholas Kristof: The Witness Next Door :

Others may lose their tempers at traffic jams on the turnpike, but Daoud Hari is just glad he’s no longer being tortured.

Mr. Hari has just arrived in the U.S. from Chad and Darfur, where he says he was beaten and told repeatedly he was going to be executed. He is one of just a handful of Darfuris — his lawyer knows of two others — whom the U.S. has accepted as refugees.

I knew Mr. Hari in his previous life, because he interpreted for me early last year. We journeyed together along the Darfur-Chad border through a no man’s land of villages that were being attacked by Sudan’s janjaweed militia. [see Who are the Janjaweed? - By Brendan I. Koerner - Slate Magazine and Janjaweed for some description of the janjaweed]

Mr. Hari helped me interview two orphan boys living under a tree, a 13-year-old girl shot in the chest, a 6-year-old boy trying desperately not to cry as doctors treated shrapnel wounds to his leg and a 15-year-old girl gang-raped by the janjaweed.

It is a different world there. It is the antipodes of New Jersey.

When our vehicle became stuck in the sand in one janjaweed area, we strained side by side to push it out before trouble arrived. We slept in the sand under the stars, we saw gruesome injuries, we witnessed people preparing to be killed, and we saw each other dusty and frightened. In that crucible, I grew steadily more impressed with Mr. Hari’s courage, for as a local person he was at greater risk of immediate execution than a foreigner like me.

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Oil Spills, What Oil Spills?

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Funny how BP seems to have so much loot profit they don't know what to do with it all, yet they still cannot afford to properly maintain their pipelines. One could almost suspect BP wanted to pull an Enron (artificially create shortages so as to be able to raise prices). I'm more interested in this than the personal sexual preferences of their ousted chairman.

yellow Amoco building is taller than me

House Presses BP on Oil Spills :
U.S. House investigators asked BP for more explanation of a finding in a report about two Alaskan oil spills.

Investigators in the U.S. House of Representatives who are looking into two spills that ended up shutting down Alaska's Prudhoe Bay oil field last year have sent a letter to the field's operator, BP PLC, asking for more explanation regarding a finding in a consultant's report. The document, put together at the request of BP, said the spills were preceded by budget cuts to maintenance and inspection of pipelines.
The letter was sent Friday by officials of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, who are set to begin another hearing Wednesday into why the spills happened. Although officials have found that corrosion led to a spill of about 200,000 gallons of crude from a pipe in March 2006 and a smaller spill from another line in August, the House investigators are looking into whether cost cuts made the lines more prone to rupture.
One of the consultants hired by BP to help it investigate the incidents was Booz Allen Hamilton, a McLean, Va., company whose March 2007 report on file with the House committee suggests: “Budget pressure eventually led to de-scoping some projects and deferring others. For example, the plan to run a smart pig in the [oil transit lines, which were the ones that ruptured] was dropped in 2004 and 2005.” A “smart pig” is a device that runs through a pipeline, taking measurements to see if the line suffers from corrosion or other defects.

In their letter to Robert Malone, chairman and president of BP's BP America Inc. unit, Reps. John Dingell (D., Mich.), chairman of the House Energy Committee, and Bart Stupak (D., Mich.), chairman of its subcommittee on oversight and investigations, said the finding contradicts BP's previous assertion that failure to pig these lines wasn't a function of any budget pressure.

The congressmen also noted BP has asked that the reference to cost-cutting be removed from the Booz Allen report, calling it “in error.” “If the sentence is removed, we would appreciate a full explanation as to why BP and the report's authors believe the sentence to be inaccurate,” said the two Michigan Democrats in their letter.

The congressmen also disclosed in the letter that they had recently uncovered a Feb. 5, 2003, email from BP they say suggests the company planned to pig the very lines that failed. However, they said, those plans appear to have been rejected by superiors. The email contains an “Authorization for Expenditure” that the congressmen said appears to be a proposal to “install permanent pig launching and receiving facilities” in several places, including transit lines where the spills later took place. But the expense request appears to have been turned down, they added, since it included a notation: “rejected ... for approval.”

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Billions in Oil Missing in Iraq

Nice. Talk about benchmarks.

Billions in Oil Missing in Iraq, U.S. Study Says - New York Times
Between 100,000 and 300,000 barrels a day of Iraq’s declared oil production over the past four years is unaccounted for and could have been siphoned off through corruption or smuggling, according to a draft American government report. ... The report does not give a final conclusion on what happened to the missing fraction of the roughly two million barrels pumped by Iraq each day, but the findings are sure to reinforce longstanding suspicions that smugglers, insurgents and corrupt officials control significant parts of the country’s oil industry.

not to mention:

“That’s a staggering amount of oil to lose every month,” said Philip K. Verleger Jr., an independent economist and oil expert. “But given everything else that’s been written about Iraq, it’s not a surprise.”

Mr. Verleger added that if the oil was being smuggled out of Iraq, there would be a ready market for it, particularly in smaller refineries not controlled by large Western companies in places like China, the Caribbean and even small European countries.

The report also contains the most comprehensive assessment yet of the billions of dollars the United States and Iraq spent on rebuilding the oil and electricity infrastructure, which is falling further and further behind its performance goals.

Adding together both civilian and military financing, the report concludes that the United States has spent $5.1 billion of the $7.4 billion in American taxpayer money set aside to rebuild the Iraqi electricity and oil sectors. The United States has also spent $3.8 billion of Iraqi money on those sectors, the report says.

Despite those enormous expenditures, the performance is far short of official goals, and in some cases seems to be declining further. The average output of Iraq’s national electricity grid in 2006, for example, was 4,300 megawatts, about equal to its value before the 2003 invasion. By February of this year, the figure had fallen still further, to 3,800 megawatts, the report says.

All of those figures are far short of the longstanding American goal for Iraq: 6,000 megawatts. Even more dispiriting for Iraqis, by February the grid provided power for an average of only 5.1 hours a day in Baghdad and 8.6 hours nationwide. Both of those figures are also down from last year.

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Blues in the Bottle

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well, somewhere anyway. I'm looking.

Blue Evening in Chicago
Blue Evening in Chicago
Lake Michigan

Any Porthole in a Storm
Any Porthole in a Storm
Prentice Women's Hospital

Face Down
Face Down
in Lake Michigan

I'm With Stupid
I'm With Stupid
Billboard pointing towards Washington. In spirit anyway.

click photo to increase your happiness

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links for 2007-05-14

Sex and Real Estate

Sounds fun. One could argue that love is a form of control, and art is a form of freedom. Merging the two can be combustible.

Sex and Real Estate
Plays about architects don’t have much of a track record in New York, at least not since Ibsen’s “The Master Builder.” In January, the Times dismissed a new play about Frank Lloyd Wright as a “dreary drama” that focussed too much on Wright’s tirades against contractors, a subject that, however easy it may be for people to identify with, doesn’t make for stirring theatre. But things might turn out differently for “The Glass House,” a new play that explores the story of Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, which was completed in 1951, outside Chicago, if only because it is a play about architecture only in the sense that “A Streetcar Named Desire” is a play about public transit. “The Glass House” explores the romantic relationship between a female client and a male architect that merely happens to have, at its center, one of the most famous houses in history. The tensions between Dr. Edith Farnsworth, who dreamed of commissioning a great work of architecture, and Mies van der Rohe, who seduced her into letting him build the house he wanted, represent the stresses of almost every client-architect relationship. “It is the story of people who were together for five years and built this wonderful house, and then they sued each other,” June Finfer, the playwright, said the other day. ... At the first reading, two weeks ago at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theatre, Hilary Lewis, an architectural historian who has written books about Philip Johnson, showed up. (Johnson is a character in the play.) So did Christy MacLear, who is in charge of Johnson’s Glass House in Connecticut. They watched Edith Farnsworth fall in love with Mies, hire him to build what would turn out to be a house of sublime beauty, and then become enraged as costs soared and the architect, with the house nearly complete, withdrew from their relationship and returned to his longtime girlfriend, Lora Marx, but not before refusing to allow Farnsworth to bring her own furniture and art into the house, insisting that they would destroy the purity of his design. Farnsworth banned him from the house, whereupon he sued her for unpaid fees, and she countersued, claiming that the building was defective. Mies won the suit, but never again visited the house.

“People say I’m a fool to build this house,” Edith Farnsworth says in the play.

“You said you wanted to advance the art of architecture,” Mies responds.

“I did, but I thought you were building a house for me,” Farnsworth says. “My house is a monument to Mies van der Rohe, and I am paying for it.”

“When you hire a great artist, you are supposed to be thrilled with what you get,” Philip Johnson tells Farnsworth. “Would you tell Picasso what to paint?”

May in the Big Spud

Some recent snapshots, some of which were actually taken in May. All were opened in Photoshop CS3 in May however. Very important detail, that. On a related note, I guess I am getting old: can't recover from a lack of sleep with as much resiliency as I used to. Next I'll be yelling, “You kids get out of my yard!!” and driving a resolute 15 miles per hour less than any posted speed limit sign suggests.

Wages of Sin and a Pink Caddy
Wages of Sin and a Pink Caddy
Pacific Garden Mission, soon to be moved elsewhere.

Stop Snitchin
Stop Snitchin
Sign reads:

Community Watch Area

Trust, Respect, and Communication are essential to healthy community; Protect your friends and neighbors from uniformed gang members and other suspicious characters.

Police Not Welcome

Placed in connection with the Haymarket Riot Memorial and May Day, no doubt. I saw an officer reading the sign with a bemused expression, no photo though.

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Bjork explains all

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“Volta” (Björk)

I've always had a crush on Bjork, from her days as part of the Sugarcubes. Some of her solo stuff leaves me cold, some is good, but she's still a cool cat.

Greg Kot conducts a fairly long interview with her, including this tidbit:

Bjork explains all : Kot: Has the Internet changed the way an artist such as yourself makes music? And what impact has it had on the album, with music fans now listening more and more to individual MP3 files rather than entire albums?

Bjork: When I wrote “Vespertine,” I wrote it thinking it would be downloaded. And I picked all the noises that sound great in the virtual reality world: harp, glockenspiel, celeste, whispering, distant swooping strings, and so on. Changing formats like that can be creative sonically. I feel overall the whole marketing machine that was built on top of a song from the ‘50s until now wasn’t meant to last. It was kinda weird anyway with the artist getting 3 percent [per album sale] and 23,948,572,093 people in an office with jobs with weird names getting 97 percent.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of people doing a great job out there but if you look at the whole picture it wasn’t in balance. With “Volta” I created sound design between the tracks to make the whole album into a journey, but the tracks can also be individually downloaded. I like both songs and albums. You don’t have to pick. If you like both, you can have both. I feel music will always win in the end. People need music. That won’t go away.

Kot: When you choose collaborators such as [Nigerian kora master] Toumani Diabate, [Congolese band] Konono No 1 and [Chinese pipa virtuoso] Min Xiao-Fen for the new album, are you looking for something specific from them, or is it a case of just being curious about what might happen, with no expectations? Have you ever been disappointed by the results?

Bjork: Usually the song rules and I am serving the song and we just try out stuff. Most of the time it works out. I only work with people anyway where there is already a bit of chemistry going on, and then you just babystep it. And that babystep that went over the line you just mildly undo it. I can’t remember being disappointed, maybe you choose to forget that stuff. But it isn’t only up to the people to be marvelous. If it doesn’t work out it is also my fault for not setting up the right situation. But mostly it is a very positive thing.

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Wilco's new album

Sky Blue Sky
Sky Blue Sky (Wilco)

Speaking of music historians and sounds of the past, Greg Kot interviews Jeff Tweedy about the new Wilco album (Amazon just emailed me that I should expect my copy by May 16th).

Chicago Tribune | Wilco's intimate “Sky Blue Sky”:
... The common ground for the current incarnation of the band — a six-piece lineup that includes founding bassist John Stirratt, drummer Glenn Kotche, keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen, multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone and guitarist Nels Cline — is the music made between 1966 and 1974, Tweedy says. The band even recorded the music on a 2-inch reel-to-reel tape machine instead of computers, which is practically unheard of in today’s production world. It requires a band to essentially record complete takes of a song rather than overdub and edit parts at will.

    Much about the album, from the way it was recorded to the artwork, evokes the casual community of recordings such as “The Basement Tapes,” an unvarnished document of the music the Band and Bob Dylan made during the late ’60s in the basement of Big Pink, a house in Woodstock, N.Y. They share a similar spirit: friends gathered in a room, making music for music’s sake, recording all the instruments and voices while playing together.

(we've discussed Tweedy's obsession with Quantegy reel-to-reel tape previously)

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Viagra Triangle

late update:

Fetman later revealed in her Playboy pictorial in the February 2008 issue that the photos in the ad were of her and her personal trainer.

Funny incident that eventually made it to the NYT Sunday paper: Burt Natarus' last bit of national press. I had never heard of the phrase, Viagra Triangle, used to describe the Rush Street area, but it is ever so appropriate. I tend to avoid the area, as I am neither buff nor on the prowl.

Divorce - Lawyers - Rush Street nightclub district - Corri Fetman - New York Times
IN a section of the Rush Street nightclub district sometimes called “the Viagra triangle,” a huge billboard rose up recently with photographs of a sexy, scantily clad woman on one side and a buff, bare-chested man on the other. The text between the photos proclaimed: “Life’s short. Get a divorce.” The ad, sponsored by a Chicago divorce lawyer, Corri Fetman, was meant to remind unhappy, restless or bored spouses that they have other options, some quite attractive. “The message is, if you’re unhappy, do something about it,” Ms. Fetman said. “It’s really no different than a motivational book that says, ‘Live the best life you can — be happy.’ ”

Lifes Short Get A Divorce
(photo: Keith Hale/Chicago Sun-Times, via Associated Press)

Chicago has always been a brassy, brawling town that relishes a dust-up. That’s exactly what the ad has sparked. In bars, shops and offices, people have been debating whether it’s O.K. to get divorced — just because you feel like it.

The billboard had been up scarcely a week before it was ordered removed last week by Alderman Burton Natarus. He said it was not the content of the ad — Mr. Natarus is known for his affection for the outlandish — but because the ad company hired by Ms. Fetman had violated a Chicago cardinal rule: It had not gone through proper channels at City Hall to get a permit.

Ms. Fetman isn’t about to back down. “We’re not going to stop,” she said. “In fact, we’re getting ready to do more racy photos.”

Still, the in-your-face add was enough to get Jeffrey Leving, a prominent Chicago lawyer, huffing with indignation. He said the ad surely persuaded some married people to shop around.

“It’s a cheap stunt that encourages recreational sex, sport sex,” said Mr. Leving, who specializes in father’s rights. “Lawyers have a lot of power to decide whether a marriage ends in divorce or not. People who are thinking about getting a divorce are very vulnerable.”

It wasn’t by accident, he said, that Ms. Fetman picked the Rush Street district for her billboard. “I know the Viagra triangle,” he said. “That’s what goes on there. I’ve represented clients in paternity cases that started in those clubs.”

It has not gone unnoticed that Ms. Fetman, 43, is a striking blonde who could play the part of temptress. A native of the Chicago area, she describes herself as “happily divorced.” She said people do not need to make excuses for wanting to get divorced. She scoffs at the notion that married people will glimpse the hot bodies in her ads and suddenly ditch their spouses.

“By the time somebody calls us,” she said, “they’ve either got somebody, or they’d like to find somebody.”

Jeff Leving sounds like a weenie, a flacid one at that. Divorce is as American as apple pie and recreational sex.

Ms. Fetman now writes an advice column for Playboy.


Earth to G.O.P.: The Gipper Is Dead

Frank Rich wonders why the Democrats don't constantly refer to FDR or other Democrats from earlier generations. After all, the Republicans basically fight each other for the privilege of fellating Ronnie Raygun's legacy of malicious ignorance.

Frank Rich: Earth to G.O.P.: The Gipper Is Dead
The Iraq fiasco actually masks the magnitude of the destruction this presidency has visited both on the country in general and the Republican Party in particular.

panicked Republicans have been either blaming the “Let’s Make a Deal” debate format or praying for salvation-by-celebrity in the form of another middle-aged white guy who might enter the race, Fred Thompson. They don’t seem to get that there is not another major brand in the country — not Wal-Mart, not G.E., not even Denny’s nowadays — that would try to sell a mass product with such a demographically homogeneous sales force. And that’s only half the problem. The other half is that the Republicans don’t have a product to sell. Aside from tax cuts and a wall on the Mexican border, the only issue that energized the presidential contenders was Ronald Reagan. The debate’s most animated moments by far came as they clamored to lip-sync his “optimism,” his “morning in America,” his “shining city on the hill” and even, in a bizarre John McCain moment out of a Chucky movie, his grin.

The candidates mentioned Reagan’s name 19 times, the current White House occupant’s once. Much as the Republicans hope that the Gipper can still be a panacea for all their political ills, so they want to believe that if only President Bush would just go away and take his rock-bottom approval rating and equally unpopular war with him, all of their problems would be solved. But it could be argued that the Iraq fiasco, disastrous to American interests as it is, actually masks the magnitude of the destruction this presidency has visited both on the country in general and the G.O.P. in particular.

By my rough, conservative calculation — feel free to add — there have been corruption, incompetence, and contracting or cronyism scandals in these cabinet departments: Defense, Education, Justice, Interior, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development. I am not counting State, whose deputy secretary, a champion of abstinence-based international AIDS funding, resigned last month in a prostitution scandal, or the General Services Administration, now being investigated for possibly steering federal favors to Republican Congressional candidates in 2006. Or the Office of Management and Budget, whose chief procurement officer was sentenced to prison in the Abramoff fallout. I will, however, toss in a figure that reveals the sheer depth of the overall malfeasance: no fewer than four inspectors general, the official watchdogs charged with investigating improprieties in each department, are themselves under investigation simultaneously — an all-time record.

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links for 2007-05-13

Red Headed Stranger


Red Headed Stranger
“Red Headed Stranger” (Willie Nelson)

I am quite happy to live in the digital age, at least now that the transition is over. There is such a wealth of quality music, found in the vaults of every obscure record label (residing in the vaults of the few music consortiums who bought the obscure labels, but that's a discussion for another time), all of which would have been more obscure and difficult to hear in the old vinyl record years. I confess to the crime of being a full-time musical historian- less concerned with what's hot at the moment, and more interested in rounding out my collection of every good or great album from every decade since electricity became commercially available (including the current decade, btw - Patti Smith's new album is in my playlist, as well as Tin Hat, Modest Mouse, Of Montreal, Yo La Tengo, et al). My mind is actually boggled by how many albums there are, in print, that I've heard about, but never heard.

This evening I cracked the seal on a Willie Nelson album, bought on a whim, and more than half the songs are great at first listen. I was familiar with only one of the included songs: Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain, one of those evocative songs that always catches my emotional attention. Something about the poignancy of the vocal.

Love is like a dying ember /

And only memories remain /

And through the ages i'll remember /

Blue eyes crying in the rain.

and cribbing from Allmusic because I'm a lazy reviewer oftentimes:

A surprise hit in 1975 on both the country and pop charts (hitting number one on the former and almost reaching the Top 20 on the latter), Willie Nelson's smash version of the 1945 Fred Rose composition “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” sent shock waves through the Nashville establishment, as did the massive success of its accompanying album, The Red Headed Stranger. At a time when pop-oriented countrypolitan records with lush, heavy arrangements were the norm, the spare, stark instrumentation of “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” was startlingly effective in its hushed, restrained intimacy.

Even when the arrangement is embellished with accordion, electric bass, and harmony vocals, the song still feels like it's just Nelson and a battered acoustic guitar, singing purely and nakedly from the heart. Nelson's performance uncovers the song's depth through his subtlety, his refusal to overplay its mournful melancholy. Matched with the lyrics, his understated vocal conveys a sense of inevitability about the fleeting nature of love and life, as well as highlighting Rose's simple, evocative imagery.

While the song's last verse holds out hope for a lovers' reunion in the afterlife, it's clear from the quiet acceptance permeating the rest of the song that the memories of love are what truly resonate with Nelson -- even the painful ones. Which means that it's ultimately irrelevant whether the lovers in the song ever do meet again, since the singer already has what he truly wants: an intensely personal memory of an intensely personal experience, one of the very few things he can take with him even to the grave. It's a thoroughly convincing illustration of the old cliché about having loved and lost and being better for it. On the purely musical side, Nelson's fluid guitar solo matches his vocals in his willingness to play around with the locked-in beat;

I moved to Austin just as the Armadillo World Headquarters was destroyed, and converted into a bank building high-rise (not sure what's there now), but I've talked to old timers who spoke of its magic, including many performances by Mr. Nelson. One of the photos on the cover of The Clash's London Calling was snapped there, if memory serves me with honor.

Rolling Stone : 184) Red Headed Stranger
Newly signed to Columbia, Nelson was feeling ambitious. “It was the first time I had 'artistic control,' ” he recalled. “So I thought I would just start writing.” Nelson had penned the song “Red Headed Stranger” years before; on a drive back to Austin after a Colorado ski trip, he fleshed out the yarn -- his wife, Connie, writing down the lyrics as they came out of his mouth. He kept the arrangements extremely spare, in sharp contrast to the gussied-up music coming out of Nashville at the time. The songs locked together to tell a tale of murder and infidelity, and the concept album became one of Nelson's biggest hits.

Mostly simple songs, minimal flash or slickness. Plus a piano number lifted from Deadwood (errr, well, in spirit anyway). Willie Nelson is a geezer with whom I would blow gage, if the opportunity arose.

If my stamina matches my ambition, there are a plethora of other classic albums from previous eras which are new to me, and might be obscure to you as well. I hope to revisit this fertile ground, or I might not. I did just discover Sly and The Family Stone, and they could get you up out of your seat if you've never danced to the music of introverted funk....

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New music distribution model

Tragedy Rocks
“Tragedy Rocks” (The Crimea)

Cool. I'll check it out, what's the downside? I'd hazard a guess that a band makes a better living giving away their albums and making more money on tours because more people attend the show (and purchase t-shirts and other merchandise with higher percentage going to the band and not the record label). Actually, Dick Dale agrees with me.

Online: Music - : A new album is building buzz on music blogs for its upbeat sound, wistful lyrics -- and unusual price.
The Crimea, a U.K. indie-rock band, is offering its second album, “Secrets of the Witching Hour,” as a free download on its Web site. In the week since its release, it has been downloaded about 25,000 times. The band's plan is to use the music as a loss leader: If the giveaway expands the band's audience, it could pay off in stronger sales of concert tickets and merchandise. Starting next month, CDs will be sold from the site.

The approach has occasionally been used by other bands before, but this album has been distinguished by strong online reviews. The group, which has been compared to the Flaming Lips, expands on its Brit-pop sound. The infectious “Bombay Sapphire Coma” features lines such as, “I want to go to the white fluffy clouds and start the happy days.”
Warner Bros. released the band's debut album, which yielded a popular song, “Lottery Winners on Acid,” and sold about 35,000 copies, predominately in the U.K. But when Warner dropped the band in the fall, the Crimea decided to self-finance this follow-up.

Album available at

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links for 2007-05-12

Queen Elizabeth is no dummy

at least compared to our dummy-in-Chief

We are Not Amused
We are not amused.

David Corn :
... The Queen began by praising the first President Bush for having seen at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union “the potential for what he called, a Europe whole and free.” She hailed the expansion of NATO and the European Union. She paid deep respect to FDR and Harry Truman for having reached out to England and Europe. “For those of us who have witnessed the peace and stability and prosperity enjoyed in the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe over these postwar years,” she commented, “we have every reason to remember that this has been founded on the bedrock of the Atlantic Alliance.” She continued:

Today the United States and the United Kingdom, with our partners in Europe and the Commonwealth, face different threats and new problems both at home and abroad. In recent years, sadly, both our nations have suffered grievously at the hands of international terrorism. Further afield, whether in Iraq or Afghanistan, climate change, or the eradication of poverty, the international community is grappling with problems certainly no less complex than those faced by our 20th century forebears.

And what is her hope for the challenge-ridden future? She said:

I have no doubt, however, that together with our friends in Europe and beyond, we can continue to learn from the inspiration and vision of those earlier statesmen in ensuring that we meet these threats and resolve these problems.

Queen E. did not say anything about Bush's ability to meet these profound and demanding challenges. In fact, she said not a single positive word about the president. She thanked him for no more than his warm words and hospitality. Instead, when referring to the troubles of today (some of which have been caused by the fellow at the head table), she nostalgically recalled American statesmen of yesteryear, noting they provide the example to follow. Was there a message here: don't look for inspiration from this White House?

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More Yurtistan

Am I boring you yet? I'm only halfway through my collection of snapshots taken last weekend.

(complete photo set here)

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links for 2007-05-11

| 1 Comment

Oh please.

Michael Moore faces U.S. Treasury investigation over 'Sicko' documentary's Cuba trip - Yahoo! News

Michael Moore is under investigation by the U.S. Treasury Department for taking ailing Sept. 11 rescue workers to Cuba for a segment in his upcoming health-care documentary “Sicko,” The Associated Press has learned.

“Sicko” promises to take the health-care industry to task the way Moore confronted America's passion for guns in “Bowling for Columbine” and skewered Bush over his handling of Sept. 11 in “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control notified Moore in a letter dated May 2 that it was conducting a civil investigation for possible violations of the U.S. trade embargo restricting travel to Cuba. A copy of the letter was obtained Wednesday by the AP.

“This office has no record that a specific license was issued authorizing you to engage in travel-related transactions involving Cuba,” Dale Thompson, OFAC chief of general investigations and field operations, wrote in the letter to Moore.

In March, Moore took about 10 ailing workers from the Ground Zero rescue effort in Manhattan for treatment in Cuba, said a person working with the filmmaker on the release of “Sicko.”

The Bushites must have went to Bizarro world PR school. Or else are just dumb-asses. Not mutually exclusive, I suppose.

After receiving the letter, Moore arranged to place a copy of the film in a “safe house” outside the country to protect it from government interference, said the person working on the release of the film.

Sept. 11 rescue workers “risked their lives searching for survivors, recovering bodies, and clearing away toxic rubble,” O'Hara said. “Now, many of these heroes face serious health issues, and far too many of them are not receiving the care they need and deserve.”

Ah, the land of the free, home of free speech, as long as one doesn't criticize Dear Leader.

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Chicago photos


Because I couldn't take Natarus' wicked glare staring at me at the top of the page. Ewwww.

Millennium Park
Millennium Park
Taken the evening before Millennium Park officially opened. This pond is about 2 cm deep, so you can walk right on top of the water if you have a heel on your shoe. Of course, plenty of people just take off their shoes altogether.

Washington Block El

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

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

Danger! Sound Horn
Danger! Sound Horn
Remnant of the late Industrial Age.

After You've Gone
After You've Gone
On Taylor Street and Loomis.

Not sure if the Jane Addams Homes are scheduled to be demolished or not, but I wouldn't be surprised.

Didn't look for these WPA sculptures as we were too hungry, and headed to Rosebud, to explore.

Formal and solemn revocation
Formal and solemn revocation
All strung out on green mint tea. From the Lake St bridge

Winter, Oh Winter
Winter, Oh Winter
Sunshine only lasts a second (caught using strobe effect on my new flash: Speedlight SB:800)

Lake Street El to somewhere else
Lake Street El to somewhere else
Lake Street El Tracks

Color photo, duotoned in Photoshop, and added a few filters for contrast.

not sure if a road can be an object, but I think so.

a quickr pickr post

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Natarus is unhinged

Natarus is sounding increasingly unhinged. No wonder he lost the election.

Natarus as a Witch

'Resident comedian' has last laugh | Chicago Tribune
At one of the last public meetings in his long tenure as Chicago's most talkative alderman, Burton Natarus could not help but get himself into a nasty shouting match with a taxi driver in the audience.

“I ought to punch you in the nose,” Natarus bellowed at cabbie Yusef Saadah from across the room as the meeting ended. “You don't even know who I am!”

“I know you. You're a loser,” Saadah shot back. “You lost after 36 years.”

“I'm not a loser,” Natarus said, sounding sincerely offended.

But moments later, as a police officer ushered Saadah from the room, Natarus stood to the side of the hallway and grinned. He explained that he had goaded the driver by falsely claiming responsibility for the loss of his city taxi license.

“I did that to entertain myself,” Natarus said after the incident at a City Council committee meeting two weeks ago.

and this is just ungracious:

Natarus, 73, says he remains baffled by his loss and he refuses to congratulate Reilly.

“I'll still be around,” Natarus told members of two community groups who gave him a plaque at a Gold Coast bar last weekend. “I lost the election. I just plain lost it. How I lost it, I don't know.”

What he definitely does not appear inclined to do is help Reilly much. On election night, Reilly called Natarus six times. Natarus would not come to the phone.

At the meeting Saturday with community activists and Division Street business owners, Natarus shot down an offer to serve on the board of a neighborhood beautification initiative because “I'd have to deal with this alderman.”

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FDA reform

A reform that has been too long in coming.


Senate Bill Would Boost FDA Powers - The Senate approved legislation that would change how drugs are regulated in the U.S., giving the Food and Drug Administration new powers to restrict medications that raise serious safety concerns.

The 93-1 vote will give the bill, sponsored by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D., Mass.) and Sen. Michael Enzi (R., Wyo.), strong momentum in eventual negotiations with the House over the measure's final language.

Congress is expected to pass a version of the bill before the fiscal year ends in September because it reauthorizes the user fees the FDA collects from the drug industry and makers of medical devices. Those fees are vital to the agency's operations.

John Dingell (D., Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, expressed “dissatisfaction” with the FDA's handling of drug-safety issues and said he favored “structural and resources changes within the agency,” as well as cultural reform. Rep. Henry Waxman (D., Calif.) has introduced a bill that largely mirrors the Senate's approach.

If it becomes law, the Senate bill, called the Food and Drug Administration Revitalization Act, could shift the balance of power between regulators and the pharmaceutical industry. It requires the FDA to monitor drugs after they go on the market and provides new funding for that job. The bill would also require companies to make public the results from many of their studies.

Too much power over public health is in the hands of for-profit Big Pharma, and to be blunt, Big Pharma's lackies in the FDA. And apparently, several Senators too:

In a victory for the drug industry, the Senate rejected an effort to legalize imports of prescription drugs. Some other elements that the industry opposed, such as restrictions on advertising, were toned down.

from the Chicago Tribune:

The Senate on Monday effectively killed a measure that would have let Americans buy prescription medicines from foreign suppliers, which sponsors said could have saved consumers billions of dollars.

By a 49-40 vote, senators approved a provision requiring the government to certify that imports are safe -- a step the Bush administration is unlikely to take. The amendment, offered by Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), was seen as a major victory for the pharmaceutical industry.

Cochran's caveat “is clearly a poison pill,” said Sen. Bernard Sanders, a Vermont Independent and a strong supporter of allowing imports.

and let us make assumptions as to what industry is a major financial donor to the senators from Illinois:

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) voted against the Cochran provision; Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) did not vote.

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Drug Dollars and Doctors

Got to pay for that house in Aspen somehow....


Suit Details How J&J Pushed Sales of Procrit -
Documents in a lawsuit filed against Johnson & Johnson by two former salesmen show how the pharmaceutical giant sought to boost sales of its blockbuster anti-anemia drug Procrit by offering contracts that fattened doctors' profits and urging its salespeople to push higher-than-approved doses. ... Some of Mr. [Dean] McClellan's documents [a drug salesman for 12 years] reviewed by The Wall Street Journal indicate that Ortho Biotech created complex purchasing programs offering doctors discounts and cash rebates on Procrit, which would increase the doctors' profits.

Procrit is an infused drug, which is administered by a doctor. Unlike pills sold by pharmacies, infused drugs offer profit opportunities for doctors, who can buy the drugs, administer the infusions in their offices, and collect the payments from insurers or the government. Drug companies can fatten the doctor's margin using discounts and rebates to lower the price.

How are these doctors any different than a street corner drug dealer? Why doesn't the DEA spend some time investigating these pushers too? Reminds me of Glenn Greenwald's question as to why doctors can over-rule patients.

Mr. McClellan's documents on the marketing of Procrit show that in 2004 -- after Amgen Inc.'s competing drug Aranesp came on the market -- J&J made offers that would allow buyers of Procrit to receive discounts off an already-reduced price as well as rebates. For example, an internal company memo calculates that a physician who bought nearly $1 million of Procrit over 15 months would get a check for $237,885 back, or 24%.

Another J&J program offered hospitals an incentive to buy Procrit and shun Aranesp: discounts on purchases from across Johnson & Johnson's product line -- including some huge-selling drugs and medical devices sold by different subsidiaries -- if the hospital used Procrit at least 75% of the time when prescribing anti-anemia drugs.

In addition, J&J created a “Right of First Refusal” contract for doctors, requiring them to allow Ortho Biotech to make a counteroffer if Amgen's Aranesp price undercut Procrit.

Mr. McClellan also alleges the company pushed doctors to prescribe a higher dose years before it was approved as safe and effective by the FDA. For years, the company focused on educating health care providers on Procrit's medical benefits, he says. But in the mid-1990s at a national sales force meeting, an Ortho executive announced that the division was moving to promote what it called “QW dosing,” switching patients from three, 10,000-unit doses a week to a single, 40,000-unit dose in cancer patients, Mr. McClellan says.

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links for 2007-05-10

President muddles welcoming Queen

So now we know what Condi does all day, when she isn't shopping for Venus in Furs boots.

Condi Rice Death Ray Eyes

President muddles his dates in welcoming Queen | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited :
[Bush the Lesser] shot a quick look at the Queen, and said: “You gave me a look that only a mother could give a child.”But by then, Mr Bush's discomfort with the pageantry that a royal visit entails was an open secret. His wife, Laura Bush, told ABC television yesterday morning that she and the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, had to use all their persuasive powers to coax him into a white tie for the state banquet scheduled later yesterday.

No wonder Condi calls The Dauphin her husband: sounds like they have some sort of open marriage thing going between the three of them. Can you imagine George Shultz and Nancy Reagan spending time convincing President Reagan to wear a white tie?

No? Me either. Bush is a petulant child, and not a world leader.

A wink is as good as a prick
Heh-heh, heh-heh, Queenie. My staff was rollin' on muh Oval Office rug when I said that you were old as dirt.

We are Not Amused
We are not amused.



More photos from Yurtistan, Upper Yurtistan and the Land of Many Names.

(complete photo set here)

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Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

Why exactly does every drama involving non-white protagonists have to include a white character? Irritated me for years.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West
“Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West” (Dee Brown)

And Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee was probably too depressing to adapt for television without tweaking it a bit. I mean, otherwise the white man is the force of evil in the world, and we wouldn't want to acknowledge genocide as part of our cultural heritage: bad for ratings. Better to make some changes to history.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee - TV - Dee Brown - HBO - New York Times
But the fact that Mr. Brown’s work has been translated into 17 languages and has sold five million copies around the world was not enough to convince HBO that a film version would draw a sizable mainstream audience. When the channel broadcasts its two-hour adaptation of the book, beginning Memorial Day weekend, at its center will be a new character: a man who was part Sioux, was educated at an Ivy League college and married a white woman.

“Everyone felt very strongly that we needed a white character or a part-white, part-Indian character to carry a contemporary white audience through this project,” Daniel Giat, the writer who adapted the book for HBO Films, told a group of television writers earlier this year.

I'll still watch the show, but too bad Dick Wolf decided to dance on Dee Brown's grave. Read the book if you haven't, harsh reality is a good antidote to fuzzy Hollywood narratives.

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Wal-Mart and Faux organics

We noted this a while ago, but now PR Newswire/Yahoo! has picked up the story, and your local newspaper will probably carry the story, somewhere not on the front page, with about 2 column inches devoted to it.


The Cornucopia Institute: Wal-Mart Slapped for Misleading Organic Consumers - Yahoo! News

Consumer fraud investigators in the state of Wisconsin released their findings this week after a three-month long investigation into allegations that Wal-Mart stores throughout the state of Wisconsin had misled consumers by misidentifying conventional food items as organic.

In a letter to Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., based in Bentonville, Arkansas, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection stated they'd found numerous instances of conventional food products improperly labeled as organic by the retail chain. Specifically, Wisconsin authorities told Wal-Mart's legal counsel that “use of the term 'Wal-Mart Organics' in combination with reference to a specific non-organic product may be considered to be a misrepresentation and therefore a violation” of Wisconsin state statutes.

of course the FDA is hesitant to act, because the FDA is only supposed to protect corporations from consumers.

While Wisconsin regulators have completed their investigation, the USDA has yet to formally weigh in on the matter, despite being notified of the food fraud problem last November.

“A six-month period without any federal enforcement action is absolutely inexcusable when the largest corporation in the country is accused of defrauding organic consumers,” Kastel stated. Cornucopia provided photographic evidence and documentation to USDA investigators last November.

see more at

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links for 2007-05-09

Land of Many Names

The family owned property near Hamilton Pool (something like 13 lots, in total, plus designs on three or four more. Feels almost like a Risk game, everyone has their armies poised to take the Ukraine! Got to build those buffer zones between the family and the not-family) has not yet been given a definitive, official name. Some names thrown about: Marfa East, The Ranch, RagnaRanch, Southpocket, and probably others. I call it the Land of Many Names, but I doubt this will catch on - too wordy and the initials don't really work either (LoMN).

I suppose each plot owner should have their own name, but the entire compound should have an overarching name as well. Naming is power, and we are all lovers of language, so am confident something will percolate out of our subconsciousness soon.

I took over 200 photos over the weekend, some of which might even be interesting. Haven't had a chance to look at many yet, but here is the first batch.

Grad Party
Grad Party
Impetus (one of, at least) for my trip.

Yurt Slab
Yurt Slab
16 foot by 16 foot pre-existing slab on my land (apparently using “4-bag” concrete). I am strongly considering placing a yurt on it. My mother sits on an edge for context.

Protector of Marfa East

Protector of Marfa East
near Hamilton Pool, Texas. Artists Honoria and Knut, I think. I forget what these things are actually called though.

Lake Park Dr and Lake Beach Dr
Lake Park Dr and Lake Beach Dr
home-made street signs lead the way

Deer Creek Ranch
Deer Creek Ranch
the turnoff to the Land of Many Names, off of Hamilton Pool Road (FM 3238). Deer Creek Ranch is an inane name, isn't it?

Lucas Starbuck BW
Lucas Starbuck BW
My cousin, flexing

Ethan and Jesse
Ethan and Jesse
playing trains

Water lily and Decay

Water lily and Decay
in my mother's back yard in Austin

embiggening of photos just a click away....

(complete photo set here)

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Renoir Baby

Jean Renoir Collection (3-Disc Collector's Edition)
“Jean Renoir Collection (3-Disc Collector's Edition)” (Lions Gate)

The Artist’s Artist: Movie Revivals: The New Yorker Throughout his long career, the director Jean Renoir (1894-1979), the second son of the painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir, displayed a fascination with all sorts of artistic creation. Most of his films feature painting, music, dance, or writing; his masterwork, “The Rules of the Game” (1939), about the collapse of Old World values on the eve of the Second World War, turns on an amateur theatrical soirée. The remarkable new Jean Renoir Collector’s Edition Box Set (Lionsgate), offering seven rarely seen works, shows how he reworked his artistic heritage with increasing depth from the silent era through the age of television.

Renoir considered his 1926 adaptation of Émile Zola’s “Nana”—presented here in a splendid tinted restoration—his first fully realized film. In the title role, Catherine Hessling (Renoir’s wife at the time) gives a gleefully over-the-top performance as the flamboyantly vulgar showgirl who becomes a cruelly capricious courtesan and drives two despairing lovers to suicide. Renoir turns the melodrama by Zola (a friend of his father) into a meticulous reconstruction of the Second Empire as well as a tribute to the world his father painted: the outdoor ball where Nana does a rousing cancan is Impressionism in motion.

speaking of over-the-top.... “cruelly capricious courtesan”.

I'm still adding the collection to my Netflix queue.

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Mossberg Profiled

I've been reading Walt Mossberg's column with great regularity for a long time (and quoting him on this blog for at least 4 years). His target audience is really more a person like my partner: she doesn't want to read overly technical expositions of the latest techno-gadget, she wants to know if it is any good. Mossberg supplies his opinion in clean uncluttered language, and as a bonus, has consistently been championing OS X over Windows XP (and Vista) for a while.

Plus he answers his own email.

Ken Auletta writes an in-depth profile in The New Yorker:

Annals of Communications: Critical Mass: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker

[Walt] Mossberg’s “Personal Technology” column, which anchors the front of the Journal’s Thursday Marketplace section, is particularly powerful when it comes to judging innovation intended for the consumer market. The opening sentence of his inaugural column, sixteen years ago, was “Personal computers are just too hard to use, and it’s not your fault,” a sentence that Mossberg has since described as his “mission statement.”

as an aside, I sincerely hope Rupert Murdoch does not get his hands on the WSJ. Aside from the rabid-dog editorial page (which I nearly always just skip), and an occasional snarky neo-con slant to some book reviews or other popular culture pieces, the Wall Street Journal is an excellent newspaper. I shudder to think what would happen if the WSJ became part of News Corp.

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links for 2007-05-08

Weekend at Bernie's Ragnaranch


Flying down to Austex this weekend to check out my new property, and have a bit of a debauch with parental units, and selected others affiliated with the clan.

southpocket aka RagnaRanch Austin
My aunt writes:

“The Ranch” [as we call it] - - is a piece of undeveloped family property located just off Hamilton Pool Road ... 5 miles before you reach Hamilton Pool. Turning off Hamilton Pool Road, you will enter a neighborhood called “Deer Creek Ranch.” ...the roads will be increasingly rough and bumpy. Don't worry - - everything from a Miata to an SUV has successfully made the trek. Just watch out for the potholes.

It's a mostly grassy - - meadow-like area surrounded by rocky hillsides - - pretty flat / easy to get around on - - areas of shade - - usually breezy.

Please bring your own folding chair or a blanket to sit upon; a flashlight if you plan to stay after dark. If you're inclined to wear flip flops - - you might want to throw a pair of walking shoes into the car for hiking around.

Because it's located in the “hill country” - - the temperature drops a few degrees after the sun goes down - - so you might want to bring a sweat jacket or some long pants.

Feel free to bring any outdoor games / toys - - acoustic musical instruments - - ipod for the boombox.

Swimming / Camping:

There are two small lakes within a short walking distance - - one is used by the neighborhood for swimming and has a small playground. The other is used mostly by turtles. There is also a small creek fed pool for a quick dip. Hamilton Pool/Pedernales River is just down the road.

There is plenty of room for anyone wanting to camp out. BYO tent and any sleeping supplies you need. Wake up to coffee & breakfast Sunday morning.

Whoo hooo! See ya Tuesday!


links for 2007-05-04

An Invisible War

| 1 Comment

No draft means the Iraq debacle is beneath the surface for most Americans.

Bob Herbert explores the topic (and expenses the NYT for the meal):

Bob Herbert: An Invisible War

Chasing Ghosts: A Soldier's Fight for America from Baghdad to Washington
Paul Rieckhoff

is frustrated by the short shrift that he feels the troops get from the media and the vast majority of Americans.

...looked across the crowded restaurant, which was not far from Times Square.

“During World War II,” he said, “we could be in this place and there would be a guy sitting at that table who was in the war, or the bartender had been in the war. Everybody you saw would have had a stake in the war. But right now you could walk around New York for blocks and not find anybody who has been in Iraq.

”The president can say we’re a country at war all he wants. We’re not. The military is at war. And the military families are at war. Everybody else is shopping.“

Mr. Rieckhoff is an imposing six-foot-two-inch, 245-pound former infantry officer who joined the military after graduating from Amherst College. When he came home from a harrowing tour in Iraq in 2004, he vowed to do what he could to serve the interests of the men and women who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan but have never fully gotten the support they deserve from the government or the public at large.

He wrote a book, ”Chasing Ghosts,“ which is now out in paperback, and he formed a powerful veterans’ advocacy organization called Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Mr. Rieckhoff is not bitter. He’s actually funny and quite engaging (and a good writer). But he has very little tolerance for the negligence and incompetence the government has shown in equipping the troops and fighting the war in Iraq, and he is frustrated by the short shrift that he feels the troops get from the media and the vast majority of Americans.

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Deeper Meanings

Asleep at the Post
Asleep at the Post
catching 39 winks at McCormick Place, shoes off.

Special Events
Special Events
no idea where this was: I was just a passenger, with a camera.

Mark Antony is a Coward
Mark Antony is a Coward
graffiti in a (now closed) hair salon window.

Apparently a phrase used by HBO to promote their show, Rome. Haven't watched an episode: life is to short to view every single HBO serial drama

No Dumping Potatoes
No Dumping Potatoes
in the West Loop

Horwich Gallery Door
Horwich Gallery Door
N. Halsted gallery. Now, that's a door. /faux Crocodile Dundee Australian accent.

click on a photo to embiggen

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links for 2007-05-03

Fiddle with Dionysus Or

Ode to Dionysus
Ode to Dionysus

(CS3 beta expired today, so am back using clunky CS2 until next week)

Fiddle About
Fiddle About
singing for their supper at the May Day Rally

Either Or
Either Or
Clouds and Church, bells and crosses

Tulips better than none
Tulips better than none
crappy framing, but such colors

click to embiggen a photo

Life During Wartime


Warning: Avert your eyes if you don't want to read personal history. Not even really mine, but tangentially it is.

and click a photo to embiggen

Was going through a sheaf of personal papers as a prelude to getting my US passport, and discovered a handful of papers my mother apparently had kept for a while. Looked up the address of the postcard addressed to my biological father (see below) at Ward 12 Agnews State Hospital, and Sun Microsystems purchased it a while ago. Funny. We own about 50 shares of Sun (worth next to nothing).

Agnews State Hospital was significant as the first modern mental hospital in California, and subsequently other State facilities, followed the example of Agnews. It embodied the distinctive characteristics of a progressive mental hospital in the early 20th century as it was intended to be a “cheerful” place with its decentralized specialized buildings for different treatment purposes and different types of patients. Its small, low-scale buildings were designed to bring light and air to patients. After World War II, new approaches to treatment had an effect on hospital operations and facilities. Among the most important new approaches were the establishment of community clinics, treatment outside of hospitals, and treatment of the developmentally disabled at State Hospitals formerly intended for the mentally ill. A watershed event was the passage of the 1971 Laterman Act, which resulted in closing of several State hospitals and restructuring of the State system

From what I've heard, the electroshock received there permanently altered his demeanor. My mom's divorce was finalized December 21, 1976, unofficially it happened years before.

I wonder if he was part of the Esalen Schizophrenic study?

The Upstart Spring: Esalen and the Human Potential Movement: The First Twenty Years
“The Upstart Spring: Esalen and the Human Potential Movement: The First Twenty Years” (Walter Truett Anderson)

at the Vietnam Vet Museum, South Loop. Some sort of teletype machine, apparently used to print dog-tags

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Speaking of corruption and corporate cronyism...

Administration Proposes New Energy Drilling
The move would end a ban on drilling in environmentally sensitive areas along the coasts of Alaska and Virginia.

Both areas have been closed to new drilling for many years. The areas off Virginia are still covered by laws that prohibit new drilling in all areas along the Atlantic and Pacific seaboards. But Congress lifted the prohibition on Bristol Bay off Alaska in 2003, and President Bush lifted an executive order in January that had blocked drilling there through 2012.
Both proposals are part of a broader five-year plan to open up 48 million acres along the outer continental shelf to oil and gas drilling. Unless Congress objects within 60 days, most of the five-year plan will go into effect, though resistance has been voiced. Starting this year, the Interior Department plans to offer leases on about 8.3 million acres in the central region of the Gulf of Mexico, which Congress specifically approved for offshore drilling late last year.

But the department hopes to open up far more than that. It would offer leases on 37 million acres off Alaska, starting as early as 2008, in vast new areas in the Beaufort Sea, the Chukchi Sea and the Cook Inlet. None of those areas have been subject to a drilling ban, but none have been tapped before.

Starting in 2011, the Interior Department would also lease out 5.6 million acres in Bristol Bay along the Alaska Peninsula, an area that Congress closed off after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. If the plan can get approval from Congress, it would offer up three million acres off the coast of Virginia, starting in 2012.

not to mention:

Some environmental advocates said, however, that the proposed protections would be inadequate and could jeopardize fishing areas.

“The Bush administration is zeroing in on the most environmentally sensitive areas for offshore drilling,” said Richard Charter, a lobbyist for Defenders of Wildlife and co-chairman of the National Outer Continental Shelf Coalition. “These areas that they are characterizing as buffer zones are woefully inadequate when you consider that the Exxon Valdez oil spill traveled hundreds of miles in a matter of weeks.”

It is not clear how much fuel lies in the areas that would be made available. Interior Department officials estimated that the entire plan could produce 10 billion barrels of additional oil and 45 trillion cubic feet of additional natural gas over the next 40 years. That would be equal to about 16 months of the United States’ current oil consumption and about two years of its current consumption of natural gas.

The oil industry’s two big trade associations, the American Petroleum Institute and the Independent Petroleum Association of America, both praised the administration plan and urged Congress to open even more areas to drilling.

Royal Dutch Shell has been particularly eager to explore and develop the areas in Alaska, and has hired a number of former state and federal officials to help build popular support in communities near the proposed drilling areas.

If the administration does lease out areas in Alaska, companies may be entitled to a special reprieve from paying royalties to the government. In passing the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Congress extended what is known as “royalty relief” for deepwater drillers to cover oil and gas produced in “frontier areas” that are far from transportation centers.

Corruption in Interior Department

Shocking, shocking.

Thorn tree

Interior Official Steps Down Over Rules Violation - New York Times
A deputy assistant secretary at the Interior Department resigned Monday, a month after the department’s inspector general issued a stinging report that said she violated federal rules by giving industry lobbyists internal agency documents and rode roughshod over agency scientists. ... Among other actions that drew the ire of wildlife biologists and lawyers, Ms. MacDonald had heavily edited biologists’ reports on sage grouse, a species that in the end was not placed on the threatened or endangered lists. Their habitat overlaps with vast parts of the Rocky Mountain West, where oil and gas drilling and cattle ranching are prevalent; listing the grouse as endangered or threatened could have curbed those industries’ access to federal lands.

In another case in the inspector general’s report, Ms. MacDonald demanded that scientists reduce the nesting range for the Southwest willow flycatcher to a radius of 1.8 miles, from a 2.1-miles, so it would not cross into California, where her husband has a ranch.

She also gave internal agency documents to industry lawyers and a lawyer from the Pacific Legal Foundation, all of whom frequently filed suit against the Interior Department over endangered species decisions.

Earlier this year, J. Steven Griles, the former deputy interior secretary, pleaded guilty to lying to a Senate committee about his dealings with Jack Abramoff, the disgraced lobbyist who is now in prison.

Bob Hollack, a wildlife service biologist in the Spokane, Wash., office who resigned last month in part after prolonged disagreements over the editing of his scientific reports, said in an interview, “It will be interesting to see what they do now — clean up some of her messes or go on doing the same thing.”

The truth is, if one were to dig deeply into most Departments of the Bush Administration, one could find similar corruption. Ms. MacDonald might have been a bit more clumsy than most, but she is certainly part of a culture of corruption.

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Photoshop CS3

Beta version of CS3 expired today! Doh! Trying to take a passport photo of myself, and having difficulty with the shadows. The white backdrop is presenting a problem.

Adobe Creative Suite CS3 Design Premium Upgrade [Mac]
“Adobe Creative Suite CS3 Design Premium Upgrade [Mac]” (Adobe)

links for 2007-05-02



Cool. I hope I'm in town for this. Sounds awesome.

Chicago at Night

May 11, LOOPTOPIA will be America’s first dusk-to-dawn cultural and artistic spectacle showcasing the vibrancy and excitement of Chicago’s historic Loop neighborhood through musical and theatrical performances, unique shopping and dining opportunities, indoor programs, outdoor exhibitions, architectural tours, artistic installations and mesmerizing light displays.

Inspired by “White Night” events in Rome, Montreal and Paris, LOOPTOPIA will feature over 75 events staged throughout the Loop including museums, gardens, plazas, cultural halls, storefronts, theatres, night clubs, libraries, cinemas, restaurants, loading docks and alleyways.

LOOPTOPIA will literally transform the entire Loop into a sensory playground with cutting edge lighting and design elements that will immerse the Looptopia visitor in amazing sights and sounds.

LOOPTOPIA’s first-year footprint roughly extends from Wacker Drive to Congress Parkway and from Dearborn to Lake Michigan. We hope to add to this area in future years.

When the Lights Burnt Your Eyes

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May Day 2007

Cops and Bikes May Day
Cops and Bikes May Day
at Haymarket May 1, 2007

May Day 2007
May Day 2007
at Haymarket Riot Memorial, and places nearby

and then a huge gust of wind blew over my tripod, and my camera hit the roof with a thud. Now my fairly new Nikon AF Nikkor 70-300 mm

Nikon 70-300mm f/4-5.6G AF Nikkor SLR Camera Lens


won't focus anymore. Doh!!

click to embiggen

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Don Nelson vs. Mark Cuban

Underdog sport teams nearly always get my vote, especially when playing an up-tempo style. Golden State vs. Dallas has the added bonus of potentially bringing out the Sad-Eyed Billionaire Geek of the Lowland Face from Mark Cuban. Score!

Plus, the next-to last NBA game I actually attended (in a corporate box no less) was in Oakland, and we had a lot of fun.

San Fran Legs

There's Bad Blood When the Warriors Play the Mavericks - When basketball coach Don Nelson of the Golden State Warriors team threw a party two weeks ago for some friends associated with his former club, the Dallas Mavericks, he greeted an old protégé with a hug and a compliment.
“You're doing a much better job than I did at keeping him away from you,” Mr. Nelson told Mavericks Coach Avery Johnson, according to guests at Mr. Nelson's Oakland, Calif., home. Mr. Johnson smiled.
The “him” Mr. Nelson was referring to is Mark Cuban, the mercurial owner of the top-seeded Mavericks team. It faces possible elimination tonight in the first round of the National Basketball Association playoffs, by a Warriors squad seeded eighth out of eight Western Conference playoff teams. A first-round Warrior triumph over a Mavericks team that won 67 of 82 games during the regular season would be a huge upset.

For the 66-year-old Mr. Nelson, it would also mean victory over Mr. Cuban, 48, in one of the nastiest personal feuds in professional sports. Mr. Nelson says Mr. Cuban still owes him $6.6 million in deferred compensation from his eight years as Mavericks coach. Mr. Cuban refuses to pay, because, he says, the NBA's second-winningest coach of all time walked out on him.

“It's like 'Desperate Housewives' in the NBA,” says Wayne Winston, an Indiana University math professor who, as a private consultant, does statistical modeling for Mr. Cuban to predict which players, and referees, offer the best chance of success for his Dallas team.

I never heard the exact reason for the feud, but this sounds plausible (and presents Cuban as the bad guy, another bonus):

But just as the Nelson-Cuban revival was peaking -- in the NBA's 2003 Western Conference finals -- it started to fall apart. With the Mavericks facing elimination by the San Antonio Spurs, the coach and owner exploded at each other over Mr. Nelson's refusal to fulfill his boss's wish to play an injured Mr. Nowitzki, according to Mavericks officials close to the team's owner.

Mr. Nowitzki had suffered sprained ligaments in his left knee in the third game of the best-of-seven series, but, with the Mavericks trailing three games to one, was cleared by team doctors to play again. Mr. Cuban confronted Mr. Nelson in the coach's office and demanded the star forward return to the court, Mavericks officials say.

Mr. Nelson refused, insisting that playing the young German with the ligament injury would jeopardize his career. The coach also confided in friends that he had promised Mr. Nowitzki's parents, when the Mavericks signed the young man at age 19, that he would look after the seven-footer in Texas like a son.

“You're just looking for excuses to lose,” fumed Mr. Cuban, according to two people who heard the blowup. Mr. Nelson threw the Mavs' owner out of his office, these people say.

and then the relationship worsened:

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links for 2007-05-01

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