May 2008 Archives

links for 2008-05-30

links for 2008-05-29

links for 2008-05-28

McCain's Arab-American problem

Something I never even thought about - Arab-Americans as a demographic group. 3,500,000 isn't a tiny number, as these things go. Hope McCain's lack of courage in the Ali Jawad matter costs him a few swing states, or more.

Not long ago, the John McCain campaign dropped a prominent Arab-American businessman from its Michigan state finance committee because of allegations that the man was an "agent" of Hezbollah. The charges, made by a right-wing blogger, were unsubstantiated, but fears of being associated with Arab terror caused Republican knees to jerk, and cost Ali Jawad his position. All politics, even national politics, is local, and Jawad's abrupt dismissal may cost McCain many votes among Southeastern Michigan's large Arab-American community. But more important, Arab-Americans across the country are looking for changes in domestic and international policy that McCain seems unwilling to pledge -- and they are concentrated in swing states that he will need to win this fall. Does John McCain have a problem with Arab-American voters?

Recent polls show a tight race between either Democrat and McCain in Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio, all states where Arab-Americans account for an appreciable percentage of the vote. Such polls have limited utility with November so many months away, but that it will be a close election in those key states seems clear. In a tight election, the votes of a well-placed minority -- Arab-American votes -- can be crucial.

Arab-Americans are a highly diverse group of up to 3.5 million persons, according to Arab American Institute figures. About three-quarters of them are Christian and a quarter Muslim. Eighty percent are U.S. citizens. Many are from families that have been in the U.S. for decades or even a century. They come from all over the Arab world, from Morocco to Egypt and Iraq to Yemen, but the traditional core of the community is Lebanese and Palestinian.

[From John McCain's Arab-American problem | Salon ]

We wrote about this a while ago, but the issue continues to be unresolved.

U.S. businesses that rely heavily on seasonal immigrant workers are grappling with a crippling labor shortage as summer nears. The reason: increased restrictions on H-2B visas, issued for nonagricultural seasonal workers.

The ski industry was the first to feel the impact of the shortage of seasonal workers. Now landscapers, hotels and restaurants are among those being hit hardest.

Anna Spalings, who along with her husband manages two Best Western Inns near Yellowstone National Park in Montana, usually hires more than a dozen housekeepers every summer under the H-2B program. This year, she wasn't able to hire any workers under the program. "Summer is the only time we make money, and if we aren't able to get all the rooms clean, we can't check people into them," she said.

The U.S. issues 66,000 H-2B visas a year, half for the fall and winter and half for the spring and summer. But in the past few years, Congress exempted from the cap foreign workers returning to the U.S. to do seasonal work. This year, efforts to extend the "returning-worker" exemption, which expired Sept. 30, got tangled up in a broader battle over immigration reform, and both sides say there's little hope this year for congressional action. Meanwhile, the cap for summer visas was reached in January.

[From New Visa Curbs Hit Seasonal Employers]

One solution (similar to what I blabbed about earlier) is to radically restructure the economic landscape in America, cut compensation of CEOs and instead pay hourly wage workers a much higher salary. Odds are slim, shall we say?

The concerns are overstated, some say. "I find it beyond belief that there's any place in the country where you can't find landscape laborers if you pay them a decent wage," said Ross Eisenbrey, vice president of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, a think tank in Washington.

Mr. Eisenbrey argues that the shortage of immigrant workers will force businesses to hire American workers -- a good thing, considering the weakening labor market and high teenage unemployment.

But many employers say they can't find Americans to do the work. In fact, employers must attest to that to be eligible for the H-2B program.

Every year, Jennifer Fraser, 34 years old, and her husband spend the summer traveling from fair to fair in California, selling barbecue, teriyaki and corn dogs from their concession stands. She says American workers are rarely interested. "This is a hard job," she said, with long days and constant travel.

She and her husband usually hire about nine H-2B workers every summer. But this year, most of their previous employees can't get visas, so the couple is scaling back on the number of food stands they're operating.

Employers who do manage to fill entry-level positions, with American teenagers, for instance, are often unhappy with having to treat children of privilege with respect and decency, preferring the old ways of treating employees like immigrants. Or something.

Still, most of the jobs involve low-skilled work in landscaping, forestry and housekeeping. Dede Gotthelf, who owns and manages the Southampton Inn and OSO restaurant on Long Island, says she usually uses the H-2B program to double her work force to 80 over the summer. This year, she has had to look elsewhere for workers to fill positions.

"We reached out right away to American college students," she said. Her daughter, who will start college in the fall, and her daughter's friends will help replace the workers from Ireland and Croatia that can't get visas this year. She says the arrangement isn't ideal: College students usually aren't available for the entire April-October season, and their work ethic sometimes isn't as good as that of foreign workers. Plus, some have "an arrogance and independence" that may not be good for business, she added.

Hands off the Great Lakes

ice satellites of love
[click to embiggen Ice Satellites of Love]

Water wars are going to replace oil wars in the future. Geopolitics isn't dead. There are other methods of getting water, but they aren't polite.

Piece by piece, a 5,500-mile wall around the Great Lakes is going up. You can't see it, but construction is progressing nicely, along with an implied neon sign that flashes, "Hands off—it's our water."

The legal pilings for a 1,000-mile segment of the wall are scheduled to be sunk Tuesday when Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle finalizes his state's approval of the so-called Great Lakes Compact, a multistate agreement designed to protect and restrict access to nearly 20 percent of the world's supply of fresh water, contained in the five Great Lakes.

After that will come Ohio, where later this week the legislature is expected to make it the sixth state to endorse the water agreement and advance a strong regional warning to chronically dry regions of the South and West that Great Lakes water is staying here.

"The Great Lakes are our Grand Canyon. It's our resource to protect, it's the backbone of the region," said Joel Brammeier, vice president for policy at the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

[From Midwest's message: Hands off our lakes -- --]

The real threat, if there is one, is corporate water resellers swooping in and bottling water for sale. Another threat is from communities just outside the Great Lakes Basin who have expanded beyond the capabilities of their region:

Robert Glennon, professor of law and public policy at the University of Arizona, said the threat of piping water to the Southwest "has always been wildly exaggerated."

"The realistic fear for the Great Lakes comes from within the region," Glennon said, pointing to communities with polluted drinking water, such as the western Milwaukee suburbs of New Berlin and Waukesha, which have a clear interest in the water compact being approved.

"We're kind of the poster child of Wisconsin," quipped Jack Chiovatero, mayor of New Berlin.

Here's why: New Berlin straddles the Great Lakes Basin, with about one-third of its 38,000 residents receiving water from Lake Michigan, and the remainder getting drinking water from wells contaminated with radium. The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the city to either clean up or find a safer source of water. Either solution is expensive.

Water rights in New Berlin are pretty much divided by Sunny Slope Road. If you live on the east side, you get Lake Michigan water, and whatever you use is eventually returned—after treatment—to the lake. If you're on the west side, you don't get lake water because without a means to return it, it works its way toward the Mississippi River. This is a situation the water compact is intended to prevent — draining the Great Lakes of water that will never be returned.

"If you have a thousand straws sipping into the lake," Brammeier said of communities outside the basin, "we don't want to go there because that could have an impact."

The sign that won't go away

Bernard Heerey's illegal billboard
[click for a larger view]

Stick it to the man, part 848.

How a Gold Coast billboard lives on despite the City of Chicago, the Illinois Supreme Court, a federal court and 2 appeals courts

How a Gold Coast billboard lives on despite the City of Chicago, the Illinois Supreme Court, a federal court and 2 appeals courts.

After Bernard Heerey bought a four-story building in Chicago's Gold Coast at the start of 1961, he rented out its bare brick wall overlooking the junction of State and Rush Streets for advertising, later expanding the size of the sign and adding a row of bright lights, all without permits.

In 1986, the city took notice and eventually ordered it down. More than two decades later, the fight goes on, and the sign remains in place, long after Heerey's death in 1999.

The epic legal battle over 1127-33 N. State St. has been waged in administrative hearings on up to the Illinois Supreme Court. It resulted in a federal trial and took two trips through the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, where representatives of Heerey's estate endured their latest legal defeat earlier this month. They have vowed to carry on the dispute.

Meanwhile, a wall that over time has displayed ads for cigarettes and liquor, Target and The Gap, now shows a bald guy and a sultry brunette modeling "artist-edition T-shirts" as they gaze toward Gibsons Steakhouse on the street below. All along, this prominent spot in the heart of the city's swankiest neighborhood has generated a nice income—it's now leasing for $99,074 a year.

[From The sign that won't go away]

There should be a statute of limitations on these things - it isn't as if there are no other billboards in the area. Also, the bulk of Heerey's estate was donated to charity - shouldn't the City of Chicago fight other things instead?

Heerey, who gave the bulk of his substantial estate to charity when he died at age 79, left the Near North Side in much better condition than he found it, said Nathaniel Grey, his longtime lawyer. Though the State Street address was valuable all along, some of Heerey's commercial real-estate deals involved tearing down "slums" and "firetraps" to make way for the affluent neighborhood of today, Grey said.

"He helped clean out the area," he said. "He was quite a guy. He worked hard. He made money."

Arizona Isn't For Lovers

| 1 Comment
The Pilgrims Didn't Have papers

Personally, I wouldn't want to live in such a place. I'm pretty 'white' (Irish, German, mongrel-blend), but my skin is such that if I'm out in the sun a lot, I turn dark brown. I'd hate to be arrested in Phoenix for the crime of being tan. Cops aren't always rational when they stop people.

To Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, these zero-tolerance traffic sweeps, which he recently stepped up in heavily Hispanic neighborhoods across the Phoenix metropolitan area, are a successful tool to root out the undocumented workers that many conservative leaders say have overwhelmed America's fifth-most-populous city just a three-hour drive north of the Mexican border. Arpaio's deputies have arrested more than 500 illegal immigrants so far this year.

"We're hitting this illegal Immigration on all aspects of it," said Arpaio, the elected Republican sheriff for the last 16 years. "We know how to determine whether these guys are illegal, the way the situation looks, how they are dressed, where they are coming from."

But to a growing chorus of Hispanic activists, civil rights leaders and Democratic politicians, Arpaio's policy represents a blatant case of racial profiling. It is an extreme example, they say, of anecdotes that have begun surfacing across the country in which local police agencies respond to the national backlash against illegal immigrants by aggressively targeting Spanish-speakers for the offense of "driving while brown."

[From Does crackdown cross line? -- --]

This clown Arpaio likes to get airtime, I've seen him in several documentaries, usually as a symbolic Agent of Intolerance.

Arpaio's critics allege that both U.S. citizens of Hispanic descent and Mexican visitors with valid visas have been caught up in the sheriff's sweeps and held for hours in special Immigration jails until they could prove their right to be in the country. And they say the sheriff's tactics are provoking fear throughout Phoenix's Hispanic community, as well as reluctance on the part of Spanish-speaking crime victims or witnesses to cooperate with police.

One class-action lawsuit already has been filed against the sheriff, and civil rights groups say they are collecting evidence for more.

"If you are of Mexican-American heritage, if you have brown skin, there is nothing you can do not to be stopped," said Mary Rose Wilcox, the only member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors who has criticized Arpaio's Immigration sweeps and the only Hispanic on the board.

"Deputies are asking for birth certificates. Do you carry a birth certificate with you? Should you have to?" she added.

Arizona's Democratic governor, Janet Napolitano, pulled $1.6 million in state funding for Arpaio's office this month because she said the sheriff's actions "were causing trepidation in the Immigration community."

Last month, Phil Gordon, the Democratic mayor of Phoenix, formally asked the U.S. Justice Department to open a civil rights investigation into Arpaio's tactics, which Gordon said included "discriminatory harassment, improper stops, searches and arrests."

As far as I see it, the only way to stem the tide of illegal immigration would be to raise the wages paid to workers who do the jobs immigrants do - restaurants, construction, landscaping, food processing, etc. - in other words, make these jobs attractive enough to US citizens so that the jobs aren't available to immigrants. Of course, if that happened, the price of goods and services would have to triple or more, and suddenly middle class people wouldn't be able to hire day laborers to mow their lawn, the cost of dining out would keep people at home (if you have to pay a dishwasher $30 an hour, how much is that omelette going to have to cost?), yadda yadda.

A non-viable solution in other words. So why not just raise the quotas of legal immigrants allowed to come to work, make it easier for people to cross the border, and stop all the nonsense?

links for 2008-05-26


City Fish Market - Seattle

City Fish Market - Seattle
City Fish Market - Seattle, originally uploaded by swanksalot. nice neon.

The "No-Knock" Warrant Redux

The Political Cat writes about the Kathryn Johnston travesty, and its aftermath:

Drug offenses are relatively minor, especially the possession, sale, use, and distribution of marijuana. Such acts hurt nobody except maybe inasmuch as they give rise to petty property crimes.

Personally, we'd rather see our tax dollars implement better training for police officers, greater community outreach, updated police labs for better forensic evidentiary procedures, more foot patrols, and programs that allow police officers to assist communities in identifying dangerous repeat offenders like serial rapists and perpetrators of violent crimes against the person. Theft sucks, getting ripped off by druggies sucks, but putting those miscreants in jail just teaches them better ways to steal and rob and not get caught the next time, and it takes away needed prison room for the psychopathic and sociopathic offenders who know how to work the system and truly fuck with the masses.

Enough already. No-knock warrants are symptomatic of the creeping (and the emphasis is on "creep") fascism that has been infecting the body of the nation for the past eight years. Time to cut out that cancer.

[From ThePoliticalCat: Politics: The "No-Knock" Warrant Redux]

Amen (or more properly, Pasta-Damn!). The Drug War is ruining our country.

Party On

| 1 Comment

Party On
Party On, originally uploaded by swanksalot. companion to this:

No idea who either of these heads represent (and am too lazy to use the inter-tubes to find out) - does anyone know?

links for 2008-05-25

Hemingway's Daiquiri

| 1 Comment
Is Life a Caberet?

I've never been much of a fan of rum. Either the rum I've had has been of inferior quality, or perhaps I've never had the mixologist skills to make a quality daiquiri. I'm intrigued by this tale however:

Lillian Ross made her career with a New Yorker profile of Ernest Hemingway that suggested his thirst was prodigious. And she made John O'Hara mad: "The most recent, and most disgusting, example of the intrusions into Hemingway's private life was made by a publication that reported on Hemingway's drinking habits, somewhat in the manner of a gleeful parole officer," complained the man who had all but invented the New Yorker-style short story. "But for Eustace Tilley to raise an eyeglass over anybody's drinking is one for the go-climb-a-lamppost department."

Truth be told, no one did more to play up the heroic magnitude of Hemingway's drinking than Hemingway himself. Whenever someone made the pilgrimage to Havana to be introduced to the novelist, Hemingway would meet him at La Florida bar, affectionately known as the "Floridita." And there, with much bravado, Hemingway would boast of the sheer quantity of alcohol he could consume in the form of Papa Dobles -- the double frozen Daiquiris made to his particular specifications.

[From Hemingway's Daiquiri -]

According to Eric Felten, the Papa Doble recipe was mistranslated for years to use lemon instead of lime:

Cocktail scholar Philip Greene (a government intellectual-property lawyer in Washington) was able to track down the source of the mistake: a recipe booklet the Floridita published in 1937 as a promotional giveaway. Like a volume in the Loeb Classical Library, the Floridita pamphlet presented its text in the original language on the left with a translation on the right. But the copy editing wasn't all it could be. For starters, the Papa Doble is listed as the " 'E. Henmiway' Special." The English recipe specifies the "juice of ½ lemon." But the Spanish original next to it specifies "Jugo ½ limón verde" -- which isn't lemon at all, but lime.

It's an error that has been repeated for decades. Nearly 10 years ago, Michael Palin of Monty Python fame filmed a television special chasing down Hemingway's adventures, and at one point he sat himself down at the Floridita bar to work his way through a succession of Papa Dobles. Mr. Palin's description of the recipe is "basically rum, lemon and sugar over crushed ice, with a Maraschino cherry." Unfortunately, not only did Mr. Palin repeat the lemon error -- he compounded it with a raft of his own errata.

Parenthetic note: I'll have to look for the Michael Palin documentary, I've seen several of those, and they are well done, and a lot of fun. Final note, perhaps the proportions are slightly different - more lime, and more grapefruit:
After meeting Hemingway over Daiquiris in 1948, A.E. Hotchner went on to drink innumerable Papa Dobles at the Floridita with the great man himself, and he paid attention to what Constante was doing. "A Papa Doble was compounded of two and a half jiggers of Bacardi White Label Rum, the juice of two limes and half a grapefruit and six drops of maraschino," Mr. Hotchner writes. That's four times the lime juice of the 1937 recipe, and far more than the scant teaspoon of grapefruit juice originally called for. I don't know which recipe is the truest, but I like the results when you split the difference, combining the two ounces of rum specified by the original recipe with a little bit of extra citrus. The texture is also important. Mr. Hotchner recounted that the Daiquiri ingredients were "placed in an electric mixer over shaved ice, whirled vigorously and served foaming in large goblets." Hemingway himself described a properly beaten Daiquiri as looking "like the sea where the wave falls away from the bow of a ship when she is doing thirty knots."
Sounds like a good experiment for Memorial Day (hopefully much better than this one, yikes) --- here's my attempt: though didn't have maraschino. Delicious actually. Papa Dobles

Drivers Adjust to $4 Gasoline

Bike the Drive 2005 1

Americans are really good at complaining, but are high gasoline prices really the worst problem our society faces?

Hating every minute of it, Americans are slowly learning to live with high gasoline prices. For a nation accustomed to cheap fuel, big vehicles and sprawling suburbs, the adjustments are wrenching

[From Teeth Gritted, Drivers Adjust to $4 Gasoline]

Higher gas prices thus have the potential to increase bike use, convince Congress that funding public transportation (subways, buses, trains) is actually a good thing, increase urban density (do we as a nation really need another strip mall at the edge of town for yet another Wal-Mart, Starbucks and Best Buy? or another suburban housing development on previously pristine land? I say no), encourage automakers to build fuel efficient cars, and probably some other policy and lifestyle choices. I'm for it, even if I may have to suffer with paying more at the pump.

Not to mention, Americans still actually have cheap gas when compared to other first world countries:

Americans spend 3.7 percent of their disposable income on transportation fuels. At its lowest point, that share was 1.9 percent in 1998, and at its highest, it reached 4.5 percent in 1981, said Ms. Johnson of Global Insight.

Still, despite the rise in energy prices, gasoline remains cheaper in the United States than in most industrialized countries. In France, for example, a gallon of gasoline costs about $7.70 at today’s exchange rates. Also, Americans pay less to drive a mile today than they did in 1980, once the impact of inflation and gains in fuel efficiency are taken into account, said Lee Schipper, a visiting scholar at the transportation center of the University of California, Berkeley.

Mr. Schipper estimates that the cost of gasoline for each mile traveled will be about 15 cents this year. That is nearly three times the low of 5.6 cents a mile reached in 1998, when fuel efficiency peaked and prices were at their lowest. But it is still cheaper than the record paid in 1980 of 17.1 cents a mile, adjusted for inflation.

The oil shocks of the 1970s and 1980s introduced the nation’s first efforts to curb consumption, including the first fuel efficiency standards and scaled-back speed limits. These had an impact on gasoline demand, which fell each year from 1979 to 1985. But then oil prices collapsed, political pressure evaporated, and many consumers lost interest in small cars.

“This is the wake-up call,” Mr. Schipper said. “We actually have a lot of choices, based on what car we drive, where we live, how much time we choose to drive, and where we choose to go. But you have built in a very strong car dependency. And when the price hits the fan, people have a hard time coping.”

For many people, higher energy costs mean fewer restaurant meals, deferred weekend outings with the family, less air travel and more time closer to home. Big-box retailers are suffering as customers balk at driving to the mall, airlines have slapped on steep fuel surcharges and carmakers have seen their sales slump. On Thursday, the Ford Motor Company announced production cuts because of sharply lower demand for sport utility vehicles and pickups.

In Los Angeles, Ron and Patricia Lowe spend more time at home on weekends, hanging out and barbecuing. They are also more likely to leave their house together now, scheduling fewer car trips and bundling their chores to cut the gas bill.

“If I go to the grocery store, and the mall and pick up some prescription, I do it in one shot,” he said.

I say again, as much as I hate to pour $60 of gasoline into my tank, perhaps for the long-term good of us all, it would be beneficial if gas prices went up to $5 a gallon.

Apartment Living

Apartment Living
Apartment Living, originally uploaded by swanksalot. air-conditioning extra, apparently

links for 2008-05-23

Real Women Have Pubes

There might be hope for the porn industry after all.

At her first shoot for amateur-porn site, 19-year-old Chloe B. stripped in front of a camera crew in her university dorm room, rubbed lotion all over her body, then sang her favorite Australian soccer team's anthem. Dirty blond, curvy, and now 23, Chloe loved the experience so much she’s come back to do more than 20 shoots with Abby Winters—a site from Down Under that emphasizes happy, healthy female models who express their sexuality by expressing themselves. Since her nude-singing session, for example, Chloe has done porn shoots while driving, cheerleading, even demonstrating how to tackle a soccer opponent, Aussie-style.

According to the site’s founder and namesake, Abby Winters, what makes her models so enthusiastic—and her porn so sexy—is her emphasis on “naturalness.” Unlike most pornography, where even amateurs get dolled up with makeup and “six-inch plastic high heels,” Winters says her models have regular clothes, no fake boobs, and plenty of pubic hair. (“Shaving is so '90s,” declares the “Be a Model” section of the site.) She only hires women between the ages of 18 and 25, and proportionate figures that promote “a positive body image” are a must. “We’re basically subverting the porn paradigm,” Winters explains. “All our models are just normal women.” In fact, before working for the site, Winters says most have never been naked in front of anyone before besides their boyfriends.

Concurrently, the role men play behind the scenes is one major difference between a nontraditional site like SuicideGirls and Abby Winters. “The shoots are all shot by young women, some of whom have been models themselves,” says Winters. Unlike SuicideGirls, which often encourages models shoot sets with SG-approved, frequently male photographers, no men are allowed on set, and models are given a lot of freedom to explore their own ideas about what’s sexy.

“They like to let us be ourselves,” says Chloe, which makes the end result “so passionate and real, and . . . the orgasms so much more intense!”

[Click to read more of village voice > Click Me: Australian Girls with Pubic Hair Reclaim Amateur Porn by Bonnie Ruberg ]

Let us hope that other sites follow Abby Winters' lead. Village Voice safe-for-work gallery of a few AbbyWinters models here

Another Level of Propaganda

Another Level of Propaganda
Another Level of Propaganda, originally uploaded by swanksalot. Milwaukee Avenue, Wicker Park

Kill the Messenger

| 1 Comment

Have to look for this film, if it is ever distributed in the US. Perhaps in 2009. Sibel Edmonds got a raw deal from the Bush Administration for just doing her job.

Kill the Messenger
This French film documents the cold, crass efforts by officials in the U.S. to bring down Sibel Edmonds, an American of Iranian and Turkish origin who was hired by the FBI as a translator after Sept. 11, 2001. Reporting the possible infiltration of Turkish spies turns her life upside down: she is interrogated, fired, and subjected to a relentless campaign of intimidation. Edmonds doesn't back down as she takes her fight to Congress, the 9/11 Commission, the media, and the Supreme Court.

[From DOXA best bets]

Watch for the film in your neighborhood.

links for 2008-05-22

Typo personalities

| 1 Comment
Great Price's (sic)
[Great Price's (sic) on Milwaukee, for instance]

I amused by the tilting-at-windmills project of these guys: proper grammar and punctuation does not mix well with advertising. Sign makers are often the worst offenders.

Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson have not wasted their lives.

They fight a losing battle, an unyielding tide of misplaced apostrophes and poor spelling. But still, they fight. Why, you ask. Because, they say. Because, they must.

For the last three months, they have circled the nation in search of awkward grammar construction. They have ferreted out bad subject-verb agreements, and they have faced stone-faced opposition everywhere. They have shone a light on typos in public places, and they have traveled by a GPS-guided '97 Nissan Sentra, sleeping on the couches of college friends and sticking around just long enough to do right by the English language. Then it's on the road again, off to a new town with new typos.

Picture a pair of Kerouacs armed with Sharpies and erasers and righteous indignation—holding back a flood of mixed metaphors and spelling mistakes and extraneous punctuation so commonplace we rarely notice it anymore. But they are 28 and idealistic. Graduates of Dartmouth College, they are old friends with a schoolmarm's irritation at conspicuous errors, and despite their mild and somewhat nerdy exteriors, they have serious nerve. Deck lives outside Boston; Herson lives outside Washington. And together, they are TEAL—the Typo Eradication Advancement League—and they are between jobs.

So they approach a cafe, a shoe store, a visitors center. They identify a typo on a sign, a label, a poster. They point out the typo. They await the reaction.

This next part varies. They are greeted warmly (sometimes). They are told to go away (sometimes). They are gently blown off (usually). "We have not yet encountered fisticuffs," Herson said. But it's always a possibility. Often they make the needed alterations themselves, with compliance from a manager or supervisor. And when ignored, they have resorted to guerrilla tactics—slipping in a stray letter here, removing an errant comma there. They have found about 400 cringe-inducing examples of bad copy mistakes—on church signs and at Rockefeller Center, on sandwich boards and at the Grand Canyon.

That is, 400 examples they have brought to the attention of the powers that be. They have gone as far as correcting graffiti. Their tour ended this week.

[From Typo personalities -- --]

Learning about the possessive and proper usage of apostrophes is akin to learning higher math (differential equations, for instance) - most students don't really pay attention to learning the details of punctuation in school, thinking, "I'll never need to know this in the real world." You wouldn't have to look very hard to find errors on this very blog/web-zine, but my errors are usually just because I'm lazy, if that's any excuse.

links for 2008-05-21

Don't Outlive Your Money

There's No Time like the present

Don't Outlive Your Money
Don't Outlive Your Money, originally uploaded by swanksalot. Don't have to tell me twice!

Obama and the Jews

| 1 Comment
1860 A.D. 1886

This might be a first, a salient point made by Tom Friedman. His insights are few, and far between, but here's what he wrote on Sunday:

Pssst. Have you heard? I have. I heard that Barack Obama once said there has to be “an end” to the Israeli “occupation” of the West Bank “that began in 1967.” Yikes!

Pssst. Have you heard? I have. I heard that Barack Obama said that not only must Israel be secure, but that any peace agreement “must establish Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people.” Yikes!

Pssst. Have you heard? I have. I heard that Barack Obama once said “the establishment of the state of Palestine is long overdue. The Palestinian people deserve it.” Yikes! Yikes! Yikes!

Those are the kind of rumors one can hear circulating among American Jews these days about whether Barack Obama harbors secret pro-Palestinian leanings. I confess: All of the above phrases are accurate. I did not make them up.

There’s just one thing: None of them were uttered by Barack Obama. They are all direct quotes from President George W. Bush in the last two years. Mr. Bush, long hailed as a true friend of Israel, said all those things.

[Click to read more Obama and the Jews - New York Times]

I've heard the whisper campaign too, but often from Hillary supporters, which is even sadder.

Popovich as Indie Coach

Abita Restoration Ale
[A toast to the New Orleans Hornets, my dark horse team for the 2008 playoffs]

Sounds about right. Popovich and Tim Duncan are a perfect mesh: content to avoid the spotlight, but yet they have more victories than anyone else.

NEW ORLEANS – Gregg Popovich walked out of the victorious locker room late Monday and into the King of Scotland. His San Antonio Spurs had just punched their ticket to Hollywood, and there was Popovich standing in a tunnel in New Orleans Arena embracing indie film star Forest Whitaker. In addition to collecting fine wine, Popovich counts art-house movies among his interests. He wasn’t going to pass on a chance to meet an Academy Award winner.

“You’re the best,” Popovich gushed as Whitaker stuck out his hand.

Whitaker thanked him. As Popovich turned to leave, one of Whitaker’s acquaintances called out to the Spurs coach.

“I love your work.”

For more than a decade now, Popovich has been content to leave the big-ticket roles to others. Among coaches, he is the critically acclaimed indie actor. He doesn’t do how-to books, commercials or $3,000 suits, yet everyone within his industry knows he ranks as one of the best.


Under Popovich, the Spurs have operated as one of the NBA’s model franchises for more than a decade now, but that counts for only so much with Stern. Larry Brown has told friends that Popovich didn’t get the Olympic coaching job because Stern didn’t like him, and while that’s a stretch this much is true: Few teams rankle the commissioner the way these Spurs do, and it’s not just because they kill TV ratings.

Popovich has long valued his team over his standing in the league. If Tim Duncan doesn’t like the dress code, then Popovich has a problem with it. If the NBA’s czar of discipline, Stu Jackson, warns Bruce Bowen about his feet without first notifying Spurs officials, then Popovich will criticize the league. If the Spurs have too short of a turnaround between playoff series then Popovich won’t hesitate to blow off the mandated media session and eat the fine so his players don’t have to come to the gym on their day off.

[From Popovich has had starring role in Spurs' success - NBA - Yahoo! Sports]

I'd like to see a Kevin Garnett vs. Tim Duncan matchup in the Finals, personally. Who cares what the media wants (I'm guessing a Lakers vs. Celtics series would draw the highest ratings, and David Stern would allow himself an extra smirk), those are two of my favorite players. Plus Doc Rivers vs. Gregg Popovich would be amusing, well, perhaps not for Bill Simmons. [bonus: Kevin Garnett vs. Tim Duncan in high-pressure games]

Working the Refs

Less Than You Would Think

Criticizing the same corporate media that gave Bush sycophantic coverage in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 (slight blip with Katrina, but overall sycophancy), 2006, 2007, and most of 2008 for an interview that from my reading was overly deferential. Way to stay classy, GW.

The White House got involved in a media feud, criticizing NBC for its handling of a recent interview with President Bush and questioning whether its cable talk-show hosts are skewing the broadcast network's point of view.

The broadside by White House counselor Ed Gillespie, in a letter to NBC News President Steve Capus, elevated a battle over network coverage that has previously pitted MSNBC's left-leaning Keith Olbermann against Fox News's conservative Bill O'Reilly. Recently, each has intensified his attacks on the other's parent company and on executive higher-ups. Fox News is owned by News Corp., which also owns Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones & Co. NBC is owned by General Electric Co.

In his letter, Mr. Gillespie describes NBC's editing of the Bush interview piece as "deceitful...misleading and irresponsible," and asked the network to air Mr. Bush's complete answers to a couple of questions. The administration's primary concern appeared to be that the correspondent, Richard Engel, suggested Mr. Bush views negotiations with Iran as "pointless" under any circumstances, when the administration's policy is that it would negotiate with Iran if it verifiably suspended its uranium-enrichment program.

[From White House Criticizes NBC Interview -]

Is it 2009 yet?

McCain and Ethics are Adverseries

Bird Houses

Lest anyone is fooled by McCain's schtick about ethics reform, pay attention to the man behind the curtain.

Sorting out the lobbying entanglements of his campaign advisers is proving to be a messy business for Senator John McCain.

On Monday, just days after it issued new rules to address conflicts of interest, the McCain campaign was furiously sifting through the business records of aides and advisers. The new rules were prompted by disclosures that led to the abrupt departure from the campaign of a number of aides who worked as lobbyists, including some with ties to foreign governments.

Mr. McCain’s political identity has long been defined by his calls for reducing the influence of special interests in Washington. But as he heads toward the general election as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, he has increasingly confronted criticism that his campaign staff is stocked with people who have made their living as lobbyists or in similar jobs, leaving his credentials as a reformer open to attack.

The process of trying to purge the campaign of conflicts that in appearance or reality might violate Mr. McCain’s stated principles or cause him political trouble has so far focused only more attention on the backgrounds of his aides and advisers.

[From McCain Finds a Thorny Path in Ethics Effort - New York Times]

Or to be more blunt, McCain is a liar, and has the ethics of a lizard (all apologies to lizards).

Thief of Bagdad

"The Thief of Bagdad - Criterion Collection" (Alexander Korda)

I've always wanted to see this movie, but just never have gotten around to it. Joe Morgenstern adds one more tick to 'should see this film' column of my imaginary list of films to be seen eventually.

I've just had my own eyes opened, once again, by "The Thief Of Bagdad," a 1940 fantasy that I've praised before. The film was shot in three-strip Technicolor, a process uniquely able to withstand the ravages of time. I thought the colors were sumptuous in an MGM DVD that's been on the market for several years, but they've been bumped up to sublime in a magnificent Criterion version to be released later this month. The two-disk set also includes commentary by Francis Coppola and Martin Scorsese, who recall their own childhood enchantment with great children's films in the process of explicating this one.

But how to find such films when you need them? The search needn't be a taxing one. If you Google "great children's films" as I did you'll find lists of lists containing enough titles to keep a kid busy until graduate school. And the striking thing about those lists is the extent of the consensus -- way beyond such obvious picks as "The Wizard Of Oz," "Mary Poppins" or "The Black Stallion" -- even though our film heritage is as vast as it is rich.

There's no way of putting the genie of overstimulation back in the bottle -- a feat accomplished with a more congenial genie and some endearingly naïve special effects in "The Thief Of Bagdad." Kids live in a world of ever-increasing excitation (as well as genuine excitement). But we can expose them to alternate visions and alternate rhythms at an age when their little noggins haven't been completely wired. We can show them the best, and then hope for the best.

[From Morgenstern on Movies -]

Actually the non-Criterion Collection version is on Netflix, so I could at least add it to my queue.

Lunar Snake

| 1 Comment

Lunar Snake
Lunar Snake, originally uploaded by swanksalot. as the evening wore on, got more expressive with my camera work. Ahem. Another view of:

links for 2008-05-17

The Hangover Artist

| 1 Comment

"Everyday Drinking: The Distilled Kingsley Amis" (Kingsley Amis)

Much more fun than being a hunger artist if you ask me.

Kingsley Amis was a hangover artist. Had he written nothing more than his description of Jim Dixon regaining consciousness after a bender, his place in literature would be secure. "He lay sprawled, too wicked to move, spewed up like a broken spider-crab on the tarry shingle of the morning," Amis writes in "Lucky Jim," his first (and best) novel. Dixon's "mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum. During the night, too, he'd somehow been on a cross-country run and then been expertly beaten up by secret police. He felt bad."

Feeling bad isn't such a bad thing, from Amis's point of view. With its "vast, vague, awful, shimmering metaphysical superstructure" of guilt and shame, the hangover provides a "unique route to self-knowledge and self-realization." In his book "On Drink," Amis recommends a raft of remedies for the Physical Hangover and then gets on to the Metaphysical Hangover, a combination of "anxiety, self-hatred, sense of failure and fear for the future" that may or may not be the result of alcoholic overindulgence. Dealing with the Metaphysical part of the equation entails reading Solzhenitsyn, which "will do you the important service of suggesting that there are plenty of people about who have a bloody sight more to put up with than you (or I) have or ever will have," and listening to Miles Davis, which "will suggest to you that, however gloomy life may be, it cannot possibly be as gloomy as Davis makes it out to be."

"On Drink" is one of three slender books Amis cobbled together from his newspaper columns on the subject in the '70s and '80s, the others being "Everyday Drinking" and "How's Your Glass?" (the British equivalent of the expression that serves as the title for this column). They are back in print at last, Bloomsbury having gathered them into one delightful volume under the title "Everyday Drinking" that's now hitting bookstore shelves. It is essential reading for any literate bibber.

[From The Hangover Artist -]

Truth Drug
{Truth Drug - click to embiggen}

There is an art to writing well about drink and drinking, and about other drugs too. Easy enough to write under the influence, ahem, but writing about the experience itself is more of a challenge.

Digg-enabled link for non-subscribers.

Oh, and my memory serves, Amis was for a time a mentor and close confederate to Christopher Hitchens. Don't really have a point, just trying to see if my fingers still capable of translating thoughts to the page. There were some doubts.

Cocktail Hour can strike at any time

Scotch and Water

I personally would choose an Irish whiskey over Scotch, but the important thing is to drink eight glasses.

(click to embiggen the cartoon)


Los Angeles Eyes Drinking Sewage

| 1 Comment
Not on Highway 61

I shouldn't be grossed out by the thought of making still suits for an entire city, but I'll admit I am, even if California has been talking about this plan for a while now.

Faced with a persistent drought and the threat of tighter water supplies, Los Angeles plans to begin using heavily cleansed sewage to increase drinking water supplies, joining a growing number of cities considering similar measures.

Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, who opposed such a plan a decade ago over safety concerns, announced the proposal on Thursday as part of a package of initiatives to put the city, the nation’s second largest, on a stricter water budget. The other plans include increasing fines for watering lawns during restricted times, tapping into and cleaning more groundwater, and encouraging businesses and residents to use more efficient sprinklers and plumbing fixtures.

The move comes as California braces for the possibility of the most severe water shortages in decades.

[From Los Angeles Eyes Sewage as a Source of Water - New York Times]

Camping on the Glacier
Could always camp out on the remaining glaciers, such as this dude on the Mendenhall Glacier
No matter, this sort of reclaimed liquid is the wave of the future, so to speak, as there isn't enough pure drinking water in areas like southern California, especially when so much water is diverted to monoculture crops.

But the idea of using recycled wastewater, after intense filtering and chemical treatment, to replenish aquifers and reservoirs has gotten more notice lately because of technological advances that, industry leaders say, can make the water purer than tap water. San Diego and South Florida are also considering or planning to test the idea, and Orange County, Calif., opened a $481 million plant in January, without much community resistance, that is believed to be the world’s largest such facility.

None of the proposals or recycling projects already under way send the treated water directly into taps; most often the water is injected into the ground and gradually filters down into aquifers.

That is what Los Angeles would do, too. But the city abandoned that idea seven years ago in the face of political opposition, and is likely to face some debate about it now.

Fran Reichenbach, a founder of the Beachwood Canyon Neighborhood Association, one of the groups that opposed the plan, said she remained unconvinced the water would be safe.

“I appreciate them trying to save us in a time of water shortage, but the fact remains the kind of toxins and chemicals that are created on daily basis cannot be tested for,” Ms. Reichenbach said, disputing industry claims to the contrary. She said the group would push for independent testing and analysis of the treated water.

Narrow Stairs

"Narrow Stairs" (Death Cab for Cutie)

I was lucky enough to watch a radio broadcast of Death Cab for Cutie at the Chicago Cultural Center. I enjoyed the show a lot, but apparently the latest album is sort of sucky, at least according to Garrett Kamps of the Village Voice.

Forget all that, because Death Cab is a good band. Here's a list of great songs this good band has written (in no particular order): "Photobooth," "405," "A Movie Script Ending," "Lightness," "Transatlanticism," "Lack of Color," "Your Heart Is an Empty Room," "I Will Follow You Into the Dark." That's a compressed list. As a songwriting and producing unit, respectively, Gibbard and guitarist Chris Walla (with help from bassist Nick Harmer) have given us the gift of unabashed, high-grade romantic pap for 10-plus years now. Not an overstatement: Theirs is the most tender body of work you're likely to encounter in the history of recorded music, full of melancholy pianos, light-in-the-loafers melodies, and percussion so earnest it's like a nervous wallflower willing his way across a junior-high dance floor with a question in his throat. Feeeeyyyyy! Which certainly turns a great many people off, and if you're one of those people, you probably already stopped reading anyway. So this is for the converted: Narrow Stairs ain't that great.

There's a little hum out there saying this is Death Cab's experimental album. It's not. It's their mediocre album. The lolling bassline and chillaxed guitar of "Your New Twin Sized Bed" sound like Jack Johnson. "No Sunlight" shoots for the uppity pulse of "Sound of Settling" (complete with snappy chorus), but the melody doesn't stick. More agreeably, "You Can Do Better Than Me" has some Phil Spector–y flourishes of sleigh bells and timpani, while "I Will Possess Your Heart" is a half-heartedly trippy eight-and-a-half-minute single that evokes Joy Division if you squint real hard. But these only sound like risks next to the otherwise solid body of work these guys have built up by playing it safe. The best tunes here are the simplest: "Talking Bird" is sparse and shimmering; "Grapevine Fires" tickles with one of those nervous beats and a harmonized chorus promising that "Everything will be all right." At least for a song or two, all those young lasses will be relieved.

[From village voice > music > Death Cab for Cutie's Narrow Stairs by GARRETT KAMPS ]

I took a bunch of photos of the band even though I didn't bother bringing my flash. Click to embiggen

links for 2008-05-16

links for 2008-05-15

Jazz Is an African Dialect

| 1 Comment

"Karibu" (Lionel Loueke)

Sounds quite interesting, I'll have to seek out some Lionel Loueke music. Larry Blumenfeld of the Wall Street Journal writes, in part:

If a film were made of guitarist Lionel Loueke's career to date, the master shot sequence would be his 2001 audition for admission into the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance, then housed at the University of Southern California. "He started playing rhythmic patterns and vocalizing off a tune's melody," recalled trumpeter Terence Blanchard, the program's artistic director, "and we were floored." Pianist Herbie Hancock and saxophonist Wayne Shorter were also members of the audition jury. "I turned to Wayne, just as he was turning to me," Mr. Hancock said. "We didn't even have to say it; we just knew: We're going to hear more from this guy."

And we have. By the time Mr. Loueke, who is 35, arrived at Joe's Pub in Manhattan in March to celebrate the release of his new CD, "Karibu" (Blue Note), he'd earned a reputation as one to watch.

[From For One Guitarist, Jazz Is an African Dialect -]

A little backstory:

Mr. Loueke's story begins in the city of Cotonou, in Benin, a small nation of roughly six million people tucked between Nigeria and Togo. His father was a mathematics professor; his mother, a high-school teacher. As a child, he soaked in everyday Beninese songs, with vocals accompanied by beats on hand drums and an occasional sanza (thumb-piano made from a gourd and metal strips). At age 17, he began playing a beat-up, borrowed guitar -- a far cry from the Godin electric with built-in synthesizer he now favors, or the hollow-body Yamaha on which he often taps out percussion.

When a friend brought him a George Benson album, he developed an ear for jazz. He left home on a scholarship to attend the National Institute of Art in Ivory Coast, where he learned to read and notate music, and, following that, the American School of Modern Music in Paris, whose jazz-savvy faculty is drawn largely from Boston's Berklee College of Music. Mr. Loueke earned a scholarship to Berklee, where he first encountered his future trio mates, Messrs. Biolcati and Nemeth.

Mr. Loueke's music is unmistakably jazz, in that it is harmonically sophisticated and flexibly swinging, informed by bebop and blues repertoire, and highly adaptive to each player's improvisations. Yet even in odd, extended meters, the music never sounds overly cerebral or complicated. Its rhythms are based on overlapping cycles, as in African music, which turn in easeful fashion. And even Mr. Loueke's furthest-flung solos are staked to simple melodies that float through nearly all his music, recalling, he says, the songs he heard as a child.

Mr. Loueke's previous recording

Virgin Forest

(Obliqsound), combined trio studio sessions with recordings of percussionists he'd made in Benin. The new CD blends influences more organically. Mr. Loueke set Hoagy Carmichael's "Skylark" to a Central African groove; he inserted paper beneath his instrument's strings for one section of John Coltrane's "Naima" to mimic a thumb-piano. Mr. Hancock and Mr. Shorter play on two tracks each; one, "Light Dark," demonstrates the guitarist's comfortable role within one of jazz's closest and most productive dialogues. But the album's truest focus is the trio's interplay, especially the connection between Mr. Nemeth's light-touched rhythms and Mr. Loueke's delicately stated lines.

I'll let you know in a week or so if these recordings are as cool as Larry Blumenfeld makes them out to be.

Digg-enabled full link to article via this link

Arriving Aliens

| 1 Comment
Superman and Terminator
Superman and Terminator are Immigrants Too

Stories like this, regardless of the social status of the detained, make me really angry. The border guards involved in this case ought to lose their jobs, at the least. Ideally, they ought to lose their citizenship as well, and be deported somewhere scary.

He was a carefree Italian with a recent law degree from a Roman university. She was “a totally Virginia girl,” as she puts it, raised across the road from George Washington’s home. Their romance, sparked by a 2006 meeting in a supermarket in Rome, soon brought the Italian, Domenico Salerno, on frequent visits to Alexandria, Va., where he was welcomed like a favorite son by the parents and neighbors of his girlfriend, Caitlin Cooper.

But on April 29, when Mr. Salerno, 35, presented his passport at Washington Dulles International Airport, a Customs and Border Protection agent refused to let him into the United States. And after hours of questioning, agents would not let him travel back to Rome, either; over his protests in fractured English, he said, they insisted that he had expressed a fear of returning to Italy and had asked for asylum.

Ms. Cooper, 23, who had promised to show her boyfriend another side of her country on this visit — meaning Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon — eventually learned that he had been sent in shackles to a rural Virginia jail. And there he remained for more than 10 days, locked up without charges or legal recourse while Ms. Cooper, her parents and their well-connected neighbors tried everything to get him out.

[From Italian’s Detention Illustrates Dangers Foreign Visitors Face - New York Times]

Is it 2009 yet?

Each year, thousands of would-be visitors from 27 so-called visa waiver countries are turned away when they present their passports, said Angelica De Cima, a spokeswoman for Customs and Border Protection, who said she could not discuss any individual case. In the last seven months, 3,300 people have been rejected and more than 8 million admitted, she said.

Though citizens of those nations do not need visas to enter the United States for as long as 90 days, their admission is up to the discretion of border agents. There are more than 60 grounds for finding someone inadmissible, including a hunch that the person plans to work or immigrate, or evidence of an overstay, however brief, on an earlier visit.

While those turned away are generally sent home on the next flight, “there are occasional circumstances which require further detention to review their cases,” Ms. De Cima said. And because such “arriving aliens” are not considered to be in the United States at all, even if they are in custody, they have none of the legal rights that even illegal immigrants can claim.

Government officials have acknowledged that intensified security since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has sometimes led to the heavy-handed treatment of foreigners caught in a bureaucratic tangle or paperwork errors. But despite encouraging officers to resolve such cases quickly, excesses continue to come to light.

One recent case involved an Icelandic woman who was refused entry at Kennedy Airport because, a dozen years earlier, she had overstayed her visa by three weeks. The woman, Erla Osk Arnardottir Lillendahl, was deported Dec. 10 after what she described as 24 hours of interrogation and humiliating treatment

Spy is such a harsh word

Blue Window
{blue window, with freaky mannequins, West Loop. Click to embiggen}

Spy is such a harsh word. I'd say research instead, or perhaps investigate.

If you are still relying on Google to snoop on your friends, you are behind the curve.

Armed with new and established Web sites, people are uncovering surprising details about colleagues, lovers and strangers that often don't turn up in a simple Internet search. Though none of these sites can reveal anything that isn't already available publicly, they can make it much easier to find. And most of them are free.

Zaba Inc.'s turns up public records such as criminal history and birthdates. Spock Networks Inc.'s and Wink Technologies Inc.'s are "people-search engines" that specialize in digging up personal pages, such as social-networking profiles, buried deep in the Web. is a search site operated by Spokeo Inc., a startup that lets users see what their friends are doing on other Web sites. Zillow Inc.'s estimates the value of people's homes, while the Huffington Post's Fundrace feature tracks their campaign donations. Jigsaw Data Corp.'s, meanwhile, lets people share details with each other from business cards they've collected -- a sort of gray market for Rolodex data.


The bad news, for those who find themselves targeted by snoops: There is no foolproof way to protect yourself from embarrassing personal-data leaks. But you can avoid many mishaps by going to the root of the leak -- that is, by keeping individual pieces of personal data from being made public in the first place. If you don't want people to find your address online, for example, don't list it in local phone books, which often provide data to online address-search services. If you don't want others to see your Amazon wish list or the photos you've stored on Flickr, visit those sites' privacy pages and adjust your settings accordingly.

Some sites use the ability to snoop as a selling point. The Huffington Post's Fundrace feature, which allows users to enter their addresses and see a map showing their neighbors' political donations, uses this come-on: "Want to know ... whether that new guy you're seeing is actually a Republican or just dresses like one?"

[From New Sites Make It Easier to Spy on Friends]

The problem with these, and related searches, is that if the subject is someone like me who has intentionally fed misinformation to various requesters for years, then all results are somewhat questionable. When some website or vendor asks for personal information, I always make some up: why should my information be used as a commodity for businesses?


Perhaps a Cyro Baptista fan?
( )

Cyro, originally uploaded by swanksalot. corner of Randolph and Desplaines

Neti Pot

| 1 Comment

"SinuCleanse Nasal Wash System, Unbreakable Neti Pot With Salt Packets" (SinuCleanse)

As gross as this was initially, I have found the Neti pot works like nothing else in alleviating nasal irritation, and has the advantage of being extremely mild and non-toxic.

About 50 million Americans suffer from rhinitis, a condition that includes a stuffy nose, sneezing and itchy eyes, mouth and throat, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. It is usually caused by allergies but also can have other causes. Many people suffer chronically from nasal and sinus symptoms, including post-nasal drip, when mucus from the nose runs into the throat.

The neti pot is used to cleanse mucus from the nasal passages, and may also help to rinse out allergens. You fill the pot with salt-water solution, tilt your head to one side and pour water into the top nostril. Gravity takes over and the water pours out the other nostril.

"People say at first that this seems weird and disgusting," says Melissa A. Pynnonen, co-director of the Michigan Sinus Center at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. "But generally, if I can get adults to do it once, they don't want to stop since it treats post-nasal drip and mucus better than anything else."

A neti pot, often made of plastic or ceramic, generally costs from $10 to $15. The saline solution can be purchased pre-packaged, or you can mix it at home. Dr. Pynnonen recommends using the pot twice daily, mixing eight ounces of lukewarm tap water with a quarter teaspoon of kosher salt and a quarter teaspoon of baking soda. She tells her patients to make the sound of the letter "k" to prevent the unpleasant sensation of water running into the throat.

Scientific evidence supports nasal irrigation for relief of chronic nasal symptoms. The Cochrane Collaboration, in a 2007 analysis, reviewed eight papers on neti pots and other types of nasal irrigation and concluded there is evidence that it is beneficial for chronic nasal symptoms, either as a sole treatment or in conjunction with standard treatments. A 2006 study on neti pots, by researchers at the University of Wisconsin, found regular use improved quality of life for allergy sufferers.

[From A Pot, Short and Squat, To Clear Your Nose Out -]

There are alternative devices (electric ones even), but the Neti pot benefits from being simple, with a long history.

The NYT had a similar article a few months ago, with a surprisingly similar title:

Seeking the advice of a masseuse and acupuncturist, Jana Warchalowski, Ms. Hakman was urged to try something she didn’t even want to think about. “Jana said she had two words for me: neti pot,” Ms. Hakman said. “I’d heard about it before. I just kept thinking, ‘No way, that’s gross.’”

But this fall, Ms. Hakman relented.

“I went out and bought a pretty little ceramic neti pot from Whole Foods,” she said. “I’ve used it every day since. Now, I can breathe again. It’s even gotten rid of the bags under my eyes.”

Originally part of a millennia-old Indian yogic tradition, the practice of nasal irrigation — jala neti — is performed with a small pot that looks like a cross between Aladdin’s lamp and your grandmother’s gravy boat. The neti pot made its way into this country in the early 1970s as a yoga meditation device, but even as yoga became mainstream, the neti pot remained on the fringes of alternative culture.


The practice gained wide exposure last spring when it was introduced on Oprah Winfrey’s show by a frequent guest, Dr. Mehmet Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon and an author of health books. Dr. Oz explained that bathing the sinus cavities in a warm saline solution can reduce symptoms of allergies, cold, flu and other nasal problems.

He called upon a chronic sinusitis sufferer, identified as Amy from Texas, to demonstrate the neti pot. “Welcome to your nose bidet,” Ms. Winfrey said enthusiastically as the woman inserted the spout of a ceramic pot into one nostril, tilted her head and let a solution of non-iodized salt and water flow up her nose and out the other nostril.

A month later, in a follow-up, Amy spoke by phone on air and reported she’d used a neti pot every day since, with happy results. She had not had a single sinus headache, she said.

[From Short, Stout, Has a Handle on Colds - New York Times]

"Himalayan Institute Neti Pot Nonbreakable - Same day shipping!" (Himalayan Institute)

Save Ten Percent with Pippin

| 1 Comment

Whole Foods having a discount…

Save Ten Percent with Pippin
Save Ten Percent with Pippin, originally uploaded by swanksalot. Six would be a lot though

links for 2008-05-13

Setback for the CCM Juggernaut

The Metropolitan Planning Group (an influential group of business and civic leaders) came out strongly against the Chicago Children's Museums plan to relocate onto public land.

"We deserve better than being presented with the proposal to relocate the Chicago Children's Museum to Grant Park as a faitaccompli without the benefit of a thoughtful planning process which would have added and provided answers to many of the issues circling this controversial proposal," said the statement co-written by MarySue Barrett, the group's president and former top Daley aide. "In the absence of those answers and a public planning process, we cannot support this plan."

A spokesman said the council has hired a lawyer to look into the long-standing court decrees banning buildings in the park. Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) and other opponents said the museum would violate those decrees, but museum officials said their largely underground design is within the law.

…there were no ideas generated or discussed on how to [create family-friendly activities at Daley Plaza] before the museum submitted its proposal, said Peter Skosey, the group's vice president of external relations.

The museum did not do enough to explain why other Chicago locations would not work, he said.

"They're asking for free public land out of Grant Park, access to funds from the Museums in the Parks and they will likely be asking for additional capital support," he said. "If they come to the public looking for concessions, we have a right to ask these questions."

Museum officials have stated they will not seek public funding for construction of the $100 million site but may seek government grants for exhibits and projects.

[From Grant Park idea panned -- --]

Billings for Hill & Knowlton just went up

Chicago's Bus Only Lanes

Instruction Bus 1182

The original article didn't mention the exact part of North Halsted affected, today John Hilkevitch confirms what the original article's tiny graphic seemed to indicate: Halsted from Lake Street to North Avenue will be one of the lanes.

It amounts to a declaration of war on automobiles, the critics say. They imply it's some sort of conspiracy to make today's very bad traffic even worse, so the only option for motorists would be to flee to public transportation or drive to work at 3 a.m. in their pajamas.

As reported in weekend editions of the Tribune, CTA bus-only lanes will be built on two North Side streets and two South Side streets for routes serving downtown under the ambitious plan to test the bus version of rapid transit in Chicago.

The strategy centers on slashing travel times on buses by 50 percent and luring drivers out of their cars.

The bus lanes will be built on Chicago Avenue from California Avenue to Fairbanks Court; on Halsted Street from Lake Street to North Avenue; on 79th Street from State Street to Ashland Avenue; and on Jeffery Boulevard from 87th to 67th Streets.

The lanes would be restricted during peak travel periods to buses only and be used in the inbound direction in the morning and outbound during the evening rush. The lanes would be open to all vehicles during non-rush periods.

[From Chicago roads may undergo bumpy transition to bus-only lanes -- --]
In theory, greater attention to public transit is a spectacular thing. I'm all for it actually, but this particular stretch of Halsted is the part of the city I see the most. Sort of hard to take alternative routes (there are trains, rivers, one-way streets, and interstates that block the grid in this area), so this may turn out to be a giant headache.
Waiting for the Bus Waiting for the bus, Halsted and Kinzie

This part of the plan sounds interesting:
Attention to operational details and technology are vital to making the bus rapid transit plan work. Bus stops will be staggered at roughly one-half mile intervals and traffic signals will extend green lights for buses.
Meanwhile, the CTA plans to construct bus rapid-transit stations with turnstile fare-collection equipment at key points along the bus lines to promote faster boarding of passengers. The stations will include waiting areas with heaters and electronic message boards reporting the arrival time of the next bus.

In the longer term, the bus stations would be augmented with "public bicycles" that commuters could use for free or a small fee, as well as the option to rent cars on an hourly basis.

The CTA must begin operating the express buses by 2010, under the funding agreement. The project would start with about 10 miles of bus-only lanes and later expand to more than 100 miles. The CTA will use about $37 million of the $153 million federal grant to buy double-long, hybrid buses that emit less pollution than traditional diesel-powered buses.

Expected benefits of the bus-only lanes include lower emissions of carbon dioxide gases because of the express buses stopping less often.

Bus Only Lanes

| 1 TrackBack
CTA streaker

The exact specific areas covered in this plan are not described, as far as I can tell, either in this article, or at the CTA home page.

CTA bus-only lanes will be built on portions of 79th Street, Chicago Avenue, Halsted Street and Jeffery Boulevard as part of the plan to speed up public transportation and entice commuters from their cars.

In addition, officials said Friday that transit stations will be built at key points along the bus lines, all set up so passengers can pre-pay fares before quickly boarding new hybrid buses through the front and back doors.

[From Officials choose 79th, Chicago, Halsted and Jeffery for bus-only lanes pilot program -- --]

I despise driving on the highway, so Halsted is a street that we use a lot. I wonder if this will impact us negatively? Bike lanes are good (though not if you have to fight off aggressive bus drivers from running you over)

Under the funding agreement, the CTA must begin operating the express buses by 2010. The project would start with about 10 miles of bus-only lanes and later expand to more than 100 miles.

As part of the pilot project, the city agreed to increase downtown parking meter rates during peak periods, charge loading-zone fees for trucks making on-street deliveries and increase the city tax that drivers pay at parking garages and surface lots downtown.

The bus-only lanes will help the transit agency achieve quicker travel times for commuters. Bus stops will be staggered at roughly half a mile intervals, and traffic-signal technology will be installed to extend green lights for buses to pass through intersections. The majority of the federal funding, $112.7 million, is designated to make changes to develop the bus-only lanes, including curb cutouts, striping, street signs and fare-collection equipment, CTA spokeswoman Noelle Gaffney said.

About $36.9 million is earmarked for the CTA to purchase new buses, and $3.5 million is to install traffic signal equipment. The agreement also calls on the city and the CTA to explore the use of combined bus-bicycle lanes throughout the bus-rapid transit network.

Initially, the bus-only lanes would revert to use by all vehicles during non-peak hours, but long-term, the lanes would operate all day, not just during rush periods, the agreement said.

Bush and Mad Cow

Quality Meats

Can 2009 please arrive sooner than expected? Bush's corrupt administration is trying to kill as many citizens as possible before they leave office.

The Bush administration on Friday urged a federal appeals court to stop meatpackers from testing all their animals for mad cow disease, but a skeptical judge questioned whether the government has that authority.

The government seeks to reverse a lower court ruling that allowed Kansas-based Creekstone Farms Premium Beef to conduct more comprehensive testing to satisfy demand from overseas customers in Japan and elsewhere.

Less than 1 percent of slaughtered cows are currently tested for the disease under Agriculture Department guidelines. The agency argues that more widespread testing does not guarantee food safety and could result in a false positive that scares consumers.

But Creekstone attorney Russell Frye contended the Agriculture Department's regulations covering the treatment of domestic animals contain no prohibition against an individual company testing for mad cow disease, since the test is conducted only after a cow is slaughtered. He said the agency has no authority to prevent companies from using the test to reassure customers.

"This is the government telling the consumers, `You're not entitled to this information,'" Frye said.

Chief Judge David B. Sentelle seemed to agree with Creekstone's contention that the additional testing would not interfere with agency regulations governing the treatment of animals.

"All they want to do is create information," Sentelle said, noting that it's up to consumers to decide how to interpret the information.[From Government asks court to block wider testing for mad cow - Yahoo! News]

Truly despicable.


Some Essential Jazz Albums

Lists are really the bane of a reviewers existence. Not only can you spend your whole day compiling lists of best so and so, and then defending why Artist X should be on the list but not Artist Y, but then some other reviewer drops a slightly different list of greatest Jazz albums, for instance. A morass of conflicting opinions and options. David Remnick of the New Yorker contributes his top 100 Jazz albums which would be a pretty excellent place to start a music library with.

While finishing “Bird-Watcher,” a Profile of the jazz broadcaster and expert Phil Schaap, I thought it might be useful to compile a list of a hundred essential jazz albums, more as a guide for the uninitiated than as a source of quarrelling for the collector. First, I asked Schaap to assemble the list, but, after a couple of false starts, he balked. Such attempts, he said, have been going on for a long time, but “who remembers the lists and do they really succeed in driving people to the source?” Add to that, he said, “the dilemma of the current situation,” in which music is often bought and downloaded from dubious sources. Schaap bemoaned the loss of authoritative discographies and the “troubles” of the digital age, particularly the loss of informative aids like liner notes and booklets. In the end, he provided a few basic titles from Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Miles Davis, and other classics and admitted to a “pyrrhic victory.”

What follows is a list compiled with the help of my New Yorker colleague Richard Brody. These hundred titles are meant to provide a broad sampling of jazz classics and wonders across the music’s century-long history. Early New Orleans jazz, swing, bebop, cool jazz, modal jazz, hard bop, free jazz, third stream, and fusion are all represented, though not equally. We have tried not to overdo it with expensive boxed sets and obscure imports; sometimes it couldn’t be helped. We have also tried to strike a balance between healthy samplings of the innovative giants (Armstrong, Ellington, Parker, Davis, Coltrane, etc.) and the greater range of talents and performances.

[From Online Only: 100 Essential Jazz Albums: Online Only: The New Yorker]

I won't bother with all one hundred, but here a few of my favorites on this list

"The Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings" (Louis Armstrong)

"The Essential Bessie Smith" (Bessie Smith)

"Money Jungle" (Duke Ellington, Charlie Mingus, Max Roach)

"The Classic Early Recordings in Chronological Order" (Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelli)

"Handful of Keys" (Fats Waller)

"Bird: The Complete Charlie Parker on Verve" (Charlie Parker)

"The Complete RCA Victor Recordings: 1947-1949" (Dizzy Gillespie)

"Bitches Brew" (Miles Davis)

"A Love Supreme" (John Coltrane)

D’Antoni to Defy Expectations

Las Vegas Showgirls

I had hoped that the Bulls would convince D'Antoni to move to Chicago to give the Bulls a kick in the pants. At least we won't get Rick Carlisle or Larry Brown either.

when D’Antoni left the Phoenix Suns this weekend to join the Knicks — trading an All-Star lineup for a roster of misfits, leaving perhaps the league’s most stable franchise for perhaps its most dysfunctional — it was not the most unlikely event of his life.

Much of D’Antoni’s biography defies conventional expectations. He is fluent in Italian and holds a dual citizenship. He has logged more court time in Milan and Treviso than in Milwaukee and Cleveland. He is a co-author of two books.

And sometime soon, he may just crush every preconceived notion about who he is, what he does and what he can accomplish in the N.B.A. At least that will be D’Antoni’s hope, and his mission, when he is introduced this week as the Knicks’ 24th head coach.

Like anyone who achieves quick fame and adulation, D’Antoni has become saddled by his own clichéd reputation. He is known as an innovator and an entertainer, an advocate of shooting the ball in seven seconds or less, an evangelist of high-octane basketball, a true believer that a fast-and-furious offense can trump a great defense.

[From Expect D’Antoni to Defy Expectations - New York Times]

I don't know if D'Antoni will ever win a championship, especially with any team that Dorkweed Jim Dolan owns, but D'Antoni certainly is an entertaining coach, a basketball mind that rewards ball movement and player movement, and that's the essence of basketball. For two or more years, the Phoenix Suns were a breath of fresh air to an increasingly stodgy NBA of isolation-happy, one-on-one basketball. The Suns weren't the only uptempo team of the last few years (Don Nelson's Mavs, Rick Alderman's Sacramento Kings), but they were consistently one of the most fun to watch. At least until they lost to San Antonio last year, and whined about the loss incessantly. We'll see how many current New York Knicks are still on the roster in two years, I'd guess less than half (David Lee, Jamal Crawford, maybe Renaldo Balkman? Who else?)

links for 2008-05-12

Platter full of Much Obliged

Platter full of Much Obliged
Platter full of Much Obliged, originally uploaded by swanksalot. sculpture details
Bonus Ruttles YouTubery, Cheese and Onions:

Is Your Love In Vain?

Click to embiggen

Is Your Love in Vain IR

Sculpture, Skokie, Illinois.

Mark Penn is Still A Loser


How could this guy siphon so much money from the Clinton campaign? Why wasn't he fired on the spot?

Clinton picked people for her team primarily for their loyalty to her, instead of their mastery of the game. That became abundantly clear in a strategy session last year, according to two people who were there. As aides looked over the campaign calendar, chief strategist Mark Penn confidently predicted that an early win in California would put her over the top because she would pick up all the state's 370 delegates. It sounded smart, but as every high school civics student now knows, Penn was wrong: Democrats, unlike the Republicans, apportion their delegates according to vote totals, rather than allowing any state to award them winner-take-all. Sitting nearby, veteran Democratic insider Harold M. Ickes, who had helped write those rules, was horrified — and let Penn know it. "How can it possibly be," Ickes asked, "that the much vaunted chief strategist doesn't understand proportional allocation?" And yet the strategy remained the same, with the campaign making its bet on big-state victories. Even now, it can seem as if they don't get it. Both Bill and Hillary have noted plaintively that if Democrats had the same winner-take-all rules as Republicans, she'd be the nominee.

[From The Five Mistakes Clinton Made - TIME]

Senator Clinton lost because of stupidity like this, probably a good thing. Running a presidential campaign is nothing like running the country, but it is the closest thing. Clinton's campaign was poorly managed, poorly strategized, poorly conducted, all in all not a good indicator of future success.

Reality Defined

| 1 Comment

"I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey into the Mind of Philip K. Dick" (Emmanuel Carrere)

By that great post-modernist, Philip K Dick:

"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." [From Philip K. Dick]

Waiting for the train

Washington stop

Waiting for the train BW
Waiting for the train BW, originally uploaded by swanksalot. couldn't decide which I liked better. Subject turned his face away just as I snapped. Oh well.

links for 2008-05-11

Catrin Einhorn has written a slightly condescending article re: the Chicago Children's Museum. One almost thinks the article was planted by Hill & Knowlton

A proposal to build a children’s museum in a downtown park here has set off a fierce debate over Chicago’s cherished lakefront.

The dispute has been particularly high-pitched, even for a city that obsesses over changes to its skyline and public spaces. The city’s planning commission is scheduled to take up the museum proposal on Thursday amid accusations of racism and race-baiting, seething editorials in the city’s newspapers and even the conjured-up spirit of a long-dead retail magnate.

[From Museum Plan for Chicago’s Treasured Lakefront Stirs a Fight]

What does that mean, exactly, obsesses over changes to public spaces? Chicago isn't Houston, Texas, where developers have famously been given free reign to do whatever the hell they want. I'd say most cities expect change to public space to engender at least discussion among interested parties before bulldozers arrive.

The article omits any mention of the alternative spots for the museum, and only gives short shrift to opponents of the move, instead mostly quoting museum officials, the Mayor, and Lois Wille (who is also for the move). Einhorn doesn't mention the tradition of Aldermanic prerogative (Aldermen historically have gotten veto power over development in their wards, Brendan Reilly is against the move, but Daley is trying to overturn this long-term tradition).

Einhorn's final jab at opponents of the move is to say:

Standing at the northern edge of the park on a recent afternoon, Ms. Figiel, the Friends of Grant Park co-founder, gazed at the section where the museum would be built. It is not stunning; rather, a grass and concrete patch at street level slopes to the park below, with the field house, a playground and a skating rink
Oh, the location isn't much, Einhorn seems to be saying, so why all the kvetching? Read the entire thing here

links for 2008-05-10

Oh That Liberal Media

Jamison Foser remembers a bit of media history that wasn't in my history books

In 1971, Edith Efron purported to expose the liberal bias of the news media in The News Twisters. The dubiousness of Efron's conclusion was matched by that of her methods, and critical reaction was harsh. But, under orders from Richard Nixon, Chuck Colson spent $8,000 buying copies of the book in order to vault it onto the New York Times best-seller list.

Even before Efron's book was published, undermining the news media was among Nixon's top priorities. In 1969, Nixon aide Pat Buchanan had proposed blunting media reports about Vietnam by accusing the networks of being biased in favor of the antiwar movement. In 1971, Nixon told top aide H.R. Haldeman, "[M]uch more than any single issue that we are going to emphasize, the discrediting of the press must be our major objective over the next few months."[i]

[From Media Matters - "Media Matters"; by Jamison Foser]

Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

The "discrediting of the press" Nixon demanded succeeded in every way he could have hoped. Longtime Washington Post reporter Tom Edsall, now of The Huffington Post, described the effect the right's assault on the media had on journalists:

The conservative movement has been very effective attacking the media (broadcast and print) for its liberal biases. The refusal of the media to disclose and discuss the ideological leanings of reporters and editors, and the broader claim of objectivity, has made the press overly anxious, and inclined to lean over backwards not to offend critics from the right. In many respects, the campaign against the media has been more than a victory: it has turned the press into an unwilling, and often unknowing, ally of the right.

But no matter how far reporters "lean[ed] over backwards" to appease the right, conservative critics were not appeased. Stoked by the Two Minutes Hate offered up daily by the likes of Michelle Malkin and Rush Limbaugh, conservative distrust of the media remains high.

And that isn't likely to change any time soon. The millions of conservatives who have spent decades learning to loathe the "liberal media" aren't going to change their minds just because much of the news media cover John McCain the way Teen Beat covered Menudo. For reasons having little to do with his reliably right-wing voting record, a sizable chunk of the GOP base has never trusted McCain; the media's embrace of him will simply confirm their doubts about both McCain and journalists rather than warming them to either.

But months of reporters' fawning over McCain will alienate many Americans who have not already tuned out the "mainstream" media. Every year, more and more people lose faith in the news media, not because of trumped-up claims of "liberal bias," but because of a clear pattern, more than a decade long, of reporters (intentionally or not) trafficking in conservative misinformation.

And yet, the corporate media still continues kowtowing to the loud-mouths on the Right instead of attempting to either be factually objective, or at least balanced.

That's what dreams were made for

That's what dreams were made for
That's what dreams were made for, originally uploaded by swanksalot. only viewable in my nightmares. Sorry.

News or Comedy

Eric Alterman confirms what everyone with a brain already knows: those who rely heavily upon Fox News for their news are woefully misinformed, especially when compared to those who rely upon the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

It can be a depressing spectacle indeed watching the sideshow that is Hannity & Colmes as it goes into overdrive attempting to smear Democratic candidates, in particular Sen. Barack Obama -- note that in a one-hour show on Monday (5/5/08), there were 26 mentions or video clips of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, and 33 mentions of former Weather Underground member William Ayers, according to Nexis. (Accounting for commercials, that's a combined rate of nearly 1.5 mentions every minute). One wonders, of course, what exactly is being seen -- is this journalism? An infomercial for conservatives or, rather, against liberals? Or, if you're not familiar with Fox News, you might wonder: Could this be satirical --- are these guys serious?

Hannity & Colmes draws an average of 1.9 million viewers per night. Unsettling, until you find out that Comedy Central's The Daily Show gets about the same -- 1.8 million. The Daily Show also poses similar questions to viewers: Am I watching satire, or -- given the often political content and the nature of the jokes, which often puncture misguided dialogue like that of Sean Hannity -- am I watching a real bit of journalism?

The Project for Excellence in Journalism has attempted to measure some aspects of the show that go toward answering these questions. In examining The Daily Show for an entire year (2007), they found that:

[From Media Matters - Put me in, coach]

Like I said, surprising to nobody, here are the findings re: The Daily Show

The program's clearest focus is politics, especially in Washington. U.S. foreign affairs, largely dominated by the Bush administration's policies in Iraq, Washington politics and government accounted for nearly half (47%) of the time spent on the program. Overall, The Daily Show news agenda is quite close to those of cable news talk shows.

The press itself is another significant focus on The Daily Show. In all, 8% of the time was made up of segments about the press and news media. That is more than double the amount of coverage of media in the mainstream press overall during the same period.

A good deal of the news, however, is also absent from The Daily Show. In 2007, for example, major events such as the tragic Minneapolis bridge collapse were never discussed. And the shootings at Virginia Tech, the most covered story within a given week in 2007 by the overall press, received only a cursory mention.

Republicans in 2007 tended to bear the brunt of ridicule from Stewart and his crew. From July 1 through November 1, Stewart's humor targeted Republicans more than three times as often as Democrats. The Bush administration alone was the focus of almost a quarter (22%) of the segments in this time period.

The lineup of on-air guests was more evenly balanced by political party. But our subjective sense from viewing the segments is that Republicans faced harsher criticism during the interviews with Stewart. Whether this is because the show is simply liberal or because the Republicans control the White House is harder to pin down.

Vanity Prez

Andy Ihnatko explains that Hillary, with the loan to her own campaign, is now akin to a vanity author: publishing a book that nobody wants, simply as an ego exercise. (Not to be confused with self-publishing, because that's a lot different).

But the Vanity authors insist that they’re writing their own checks because the massive Publishing Machine is unfair and elitist and out of touch with American tastes and needs and damn them for denying the public their chance to see what you can do.

It’s a fab delusion. It makes the whole house smell like an apple pie is baking somewhere. That’s one of the reasons why most people go that route in the first place.

Yesterday everyone found out that Hillary Clinton wrote a $6,400,000 check to her own campaign to keep it afloat until the next round of primaries.

In my mind, Hillary Clinton has become a Vanity Candidate.

She can’t convince a crucial legion of people to like her campaign enough to keep it moving forward to the next step. Like many authors, she got through some of the hurdles, but as the obstacles got progressively higher and harder, she found fewer and fewer people willing to skin their knees and cut their hands scrambling to get over them. To the contrary, her greatest allies are now reaching for the Bactine and the Band-Aids and muttering about needing to get home to paint the children or vacuum a sick relative.

[From Andy Ihnatko's Celestial Waste of Bandwidth (BETA) » Vanity Prez]

[snipped bit about Al Gore]

Hillary had that same opportunity for a display of greatness, a chance to plant an arrow in the ground that marked the moment when she truly came into her own as a national politician. Withdrawing from the race and committing her supporters and resources to Obama wouldn’t have been as conceding an election that she had already actually won by popular vote, but it still would have been hot stuff. She could have come back in eight years, even stronger than before.

But nope, she let the opportunity slide right on past her. She wrote the check and increased the rhetoric. She’s proven that in its current form, her campaign is a vanity production. A campaign based not on service but on ego, and a bad sports cliche: I can win, no matter the odds or the cost; I just have to prove that I want it a little more than the other guy.

She can’t change the numbers, so she’ll try to change the math. If she can’t change the math, she’ll try to change the process. And if she can’t change the process…well, God help any Obama supporter if she runs some numbers on how she’d fare against a Republican incumbent in 2012 and likes what she sees.

Which is a pretty big damned shame. Obama’s candidacy has the national authority and support of a new Neil Gaiman novel. Obama isn’t just in Barnes & Noble…he’s on the end-cap, with a special display including a life-sized cutout of the man with a button in his nose you press to hear one of eleven sayings.

Gold coast

John McCain, thy middle name is corruption, no matter what the Washington media would have us believe.

PRESCOTT, Ariz. -- Sen. John McCain championed legislation that will let an Arizona rancher trade remote grassland and ponderosa pine forest here for acres of valuable federally owned property that is ready for development, a land swap that now stands to directly benefit one of his top presidential campaign fundraisers.

Initially reluctant to support the swap, the Arizona Republican became a key figure in pushing the deal through Congress after the rancher and his partners hired lobbyists that included McCain's 1992 Senate campaign manager, two of his former Senate staff members (one of whom has returned as his chief of staff), and an Arizona insider who was a major McCain donor and is now bundling campaign checks.

When McCain's legislation passed in November 2005, the ranch owner gave the job of building as many as 12,000 homes to SunCor Development, a firm in Tempe, Ariz., run by Steven A. Betts, a longtime McCain supporter who has raised more than $100,000 for the presumptive Republican nominee. Betts said he and McCain never discussed the deal.

The Audubon Society described the exchange as the largest in Arizona history. The swap involved more than 55,000 acres of land in all, including rare expanses of desert woodland and pronghorn antelope habitat. The deal had support from many local officials and the Arizona Republic newspaper for its expansion of the Prescott National Forest. But it brought an outcry from some Arizona environmentalists when it was proposed in 2002, partly because it went through Congress rather than a process that allowed more citizen input.

Although the bill called for the two parcels to be of equal value, a federal forestry official told a congressional committee that he was concerned that "the public would not receive fair value" for its land. A formal appraisal has not yet begun. A town official opposed to the swap said other Yavapai Ranch land sold nine years ago for about $2,000 per acre, while some of the prime commercial land near a parcel that the developers will get has brought as much as $120,000 per acre.

[Click to read more details of McCain Pushed Land Swap That Benefits Backer -]

Sounds like the Maverick label applies to following Senate ethic rules too (i.e., McCain feels he has no need to follow what the rules dictate, especially when a donor gets free cheese as a result)

Clinton Stop

Can't quite decide which version I like better, the highly contrasted black and white treatment, or the version with over-saturated colors. I lean toward the black and white version, at least at this juncture. If you stumbled on this page looking for political news about Clinton stopping her campaign, sorry. Wrong Clinton (this one was a 19th century New York politician). Check here for the other Clinton (and her husband).

At the Clinton El Stop, Green/Pink Line.

Just a step away BW
Just a step away BW
BW version accentuates the diagonals.

Just a step away
Just a step away
I like the colors of this version though.

click to embiggen, and to vote if you have a flickr account.

links for 2008-05-09

Email Impeachment

| 1 Comment

(click image to embiggen). Misleading Congress is an impeachable offense.


Neil Young rocks Blu-ray

Is this enough a reason to get a Blu Ray disc player? GTA IV and Neil Young's mythical and vast musical archive too?

[Neil] Young said he tried to do the project on DVD, but users couldn't watch the high-resolution video and listen to the music at the same time. With Java and Blu-ray, the content can be updated and offer the best viewing and listening experience, as well as great navigation and design. "Storage is the only limit," Young said, and recommended the Sony's PlayStation 3 as the best way to view his project. Users will be able to download any archival materials, which are automatically assigned to their place in a chronological time line, Young said.

Larry Johnson, of Shakey Films (which works on all of Young's films), said Young had the concept for his latest project on paper 15 years ago. About two years ago, they put the footage all together and waited for the Blu-ray HD-DVD fight to end.

"We are cramming the disc full with every feature we can," Young said.

They started off envisioning it to be something like a video game, a "3D tumbling experience through time," he said. "You could see the history of the world and other great performances through time. It would be a nice thing to do. Hopefully we will get this approach done, but by the time we are halfway through, it will morph."

"The recording business as we know it is changing. As an artist I try to remove myself from the business," Young said. "I steer myself away from that...the commerce of distributing music will work itself out."

He added: "We are trying to give them quality whether they want it or not. You can degrade it as much as you want, we just don't want our name on it." People are taking music and doing whatever they want with it, he said. "The laws don't matter. These are people in their bedroom doing what they want. It's the new radio."

Young said you can't be "scared or paranoid about trying to survive." Sure, when the digital revolution came along, it was "like getting hit with icepicks." Now, he said, the ice is tiny, maybe a little like snow.

That said, he's clearly not a fan of MP3 quality: "Putting on a headphone and listening to MP3 is like hell," he said.

Of course, digital and multitrack recordings in the '80s didn't sound so great either. The sound was shallow, he said. Now, he said, audio quality is climbing, though he still makes all his recordings in analog. "I plan to dumb my analog to the higher level so masses can enjoy it," he said.

[From Neil Young rocks JavaOne | Outside the Lines - CNET]

The AP adds

Rocker Neil Young plans to release his entire music archive on Blu-ray discs, a sign that the discs' capabilities are building appeal among musicians as well as movie studios.
The first installment of Young's archive will cover the years 1963 to 1972 and will be released as a 10-disc set this fall on Reprise/Warner Bros. Records.

Young said the archives will be released chronologically and include some previously unreleased songs, videos, handwritten manuscripts and other memorabilia, in addition to the high-resolution audio that Blu-ray technology is known for.

Fans can download more content like songs, photos and tour information directly to the Blu-ray discs as the content becomes available.

Chuck Berry is Cool

"Johnny B. Goode: His Complete '50s Chess Recordings" (Chuck Berry)

Can't go wrong picking up some Chuck Berry, iffen you don't already have some. The blueprint of a thousand songs is chorded on these tracks, and even fifty years later, they still sound good.

Chuck Berry didn't invent rock and roll, but he may very well have invented rock'n'roll. His songs fueled and inspired the likes of Buddy Holly, the Beach Boys, the Beatles, the Who, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, and just about anybody in his wake who picked up an electric guitar. In the invaluable rock doc Hail! Hail! Rock'n'Roll, we watch in awe has Berry puts Keith Richards in his place with just a single angry glare, and watch in double-awe as Richards takes it. After all, the Stones guitarist, like countless other musicians of his generation, knows he owes virtually everything to Berry, and has admitted as much, so he gives deference where deference is due.

Berry's as worthy of hagiography as any rock legend, but he's not yet ready for a eulogy. In fact, Berry's 50-plus year career has been marked by one constant-- forward motion. Indeed, Berry's far too stubborn a man to ever give inertia the chance to slow him down, and he still spends a considerable amount of time on stage for an octogenarian. As far as the studio goes, however, Berry hasn't released a new album since 1979, and even then his songwriting had been in steady decline since the early 60s. His last (and sole number one!) hit, a live version of the juvenile novelty "My Ding-a-Ling", was released in 1972.

One perverse but still appropriate way to view Berry's erratic (or non-existent) output over the past three or so decades is as further validation of the enduring strength of the first decade of his recording career, especially the productive, world-changing last five years of the 1950s collected on the self-explanatory Johnny B. Goode: His Complete '50s Chess Recordings. It was on Chicago's Chess imprint that Berry would change the blueprint of popular music, and it's on this 4xCD collection that we can revisit the fruits of his labor.

[Click to read more of Chuck Berry: Johnny B. Goode: His Complete '50s Chess Recordings: Pitchfork Record Review]

If you want a smaller sampler of Berry, check out the Great 28.

"The Great Twenty-Eight" (Chuck Berry)

See Ya Later Katman, whoever the hell you are

Loneliness of the Long Distance Smoker
Loneliness of the Long Distance Smoker, originally uploaded by swanksalot. aka Smokers Rights

Hillary and Bill - The Movie

| 1 Comment

I hope Roger Ebert lives a long life. I never liked his television show (TV sucks as a medium for nuance, to be honest), and he writes for a shit newspaper (The Sun-Times is probably the 7th best paper available in Chicago), but his film reviews are clever, and now he's expanding his scope on a relatively new medium, his blog. To wit, how would you write a fictional movie about the the 2008 Presidential election?

But where is the story? Hearing for the first time notes of exhaustion and discouragement in Clinton's voice, I wondered what it had been like for her, month after month, state after state, pumping out the same policies, the same optimism, while she was running on empty. Hotel after hotel, early morning show after late-night show, schools, union meetings, church events, potluck dinners, being introduced by the local clone of the Chairman of Today's Event. For Obama, it was the same, with the difference that for most of the time he seemed to be winning, which must have been a consolation.

The problem with a screenplay based on these events is that there would be a merciless sameness. Where is the drama in the story of a game of 48 innings? Each mini-climax, from "Hillary's tears" to the Rev. Wright's display at the National Press Club, was hopefully examined to see if it might "change the direction of the campaign," and it never did, it only prolonged the suffering of that day's CNN "panel." When Wolf Blitzer got out of bed in the morning, were his hand and arm already extended, so that the clipboard had only to be inserted by an aide?

The ideal primary movie was Warren Beatty's "Bulworth" (1998) [Netflix]. There were other good films too, like Mike Nichols' "Primary Colors," (1998) [Netflix] based on a roman a clef about Hillary and Bill. Barry Levinson's "Wag the Dog" (1987) [Netflix], involved Clintonesque moments, had a screenplay by David Mamet, gave a phrase to the language, and was the best of the lot. But "Bulworth" was the ideal, because it had a cut-off point made of drama, not election days. Beatty plays a candidate sick onto death of uttering the same cliches. He takes out a contract on his own life, assuring that he will be assassinated in three days. That gives him the freedom to say exactly what's on his mind--what he, and any sensible person, might be thinking while pretending to believe their own platitudes.

That gave you suspense, comedy, some poignant private moments, and even a possible romance (with the newcomer Halle Berry). It was about transgression, not repetition. But the primary campaign that's now concluding has been a Groundhog loop, with no cut-off except for a victory, at which point the contest itself becomes yesterday's news.

[From Roger Ebert's Journal: Hillary and Bill: The movie]

I remember liking Bob Roberts too [Netflix], a campaign told from the other side of the aisle, but it has been numerous years since I've seen it (or any of these films, actually)

McCain Journalism Alert

Ron Hansen of the Arizona Republic notes that Senator John McCain's record as a maverick going against the GOP actually only occurs in special situations, namely when the issue at hand has a slim chance of passage. If the GOP needs McCains vote, he will nearly always toe the party line.

The presumptive Republican nominee arguably cast the decisive vote 14 times since 1999 to ensure Republicans got their way, and he had five other close cases where his vote may have made a difference, Senate records show. By comparison, McCain effectively handed Democrats a win on roll-call votes four times in the same period. On one of those occasions, Republicans could still have won if Vice President Dick Cheney had cast a tie-breaking vote.

The numbers are based on a review of Senate roll-call votes since 1999 that ended in a tie or were settled by one vote. The closest votes in that period included momentous, partisan-charged legislation, such as President Bush's tax cuts. More often, they were procedural votes on deal-breaking amendments to bills that would otherwise pass.

They partly reflect how rarely Senate votes come down to a single person, even though the chamber has been narrowly divided on party lines most of the past decade. But the votes also suggest that when McCain broke from Republicans, others often joined him, keeping the votes from being so close.

Paul Waldman adds

It's no accident that this is coming from the Arizona Republic. While the Republic is generally considered a pretty conservative paper, they have tangled with McCain a great deal over the years, mostly because they haven't been particularly inclined to simply repeat over and over that he's a StraightTalkingMaverickReformer. As a consequence, McCain has always acted as though he pretty much hates their guts. (In 2000, he wouldn't even let the Republic's reporter have a seat on the Straight Talk Express. So while the national media were whooping it up on board the party bus, she had to follow along in a rental car. And this is the largest paper in his home state.)

One thing I've noticed lately is that there are a bunch of Chicago reporters (like Lynn Sweet and Jim Warren, for instance) who have become regulars on cable TV, presumably because they know a lot about Barack Obama. But the reporters who have known John McCain the longest and know him the best -- the ones from Arizona -- are nowhere to be seen. Why do you think that is?

[From TAPPED Archive | The American Prospect]

Is primary season over yet?

links for 2008-05-08

Lost in Translation

"Uncut" (Ipc Magazines Ltd)

The June 2008 edition of Uncut contains a 52 page mini-booklet full of quirky rock music facts. I haven't finished reading the entire thing yet, but this one made me laugh out loud. The premise is simple: take 12 classic opening song lines and filter them through five phrasebooks: English-Portuguese, Portuguese-Urdu, Urdu-German, German-Japanese and Japanese-Engligh. See if you can guess the title of the song (answers below the fold, or click the link to go to the Amazon page). [changed British spelling as noticed]. Poetry is poetry, right?

1. This evening we reflect upon the difficulties of the day [original song]
2. The woman was given an agreeable assessment as to the value of her jewelry [original song]

3. The departure of my child prompted me to locate an alternative living space. [original song]

4. A response to your futile inquiry remains unobtainable.[original song]

5. My mother came to an end due to lack of mental assistance. [original song]

6. The regular arrival of fowl in your immediate proximity is baffling. [original song]

7. A thoughtful exit is compulsory, happily inform the felon.[original song]

8. My morning ablutions are preceded by worship. [original song]

9. My ancestry makes me embarrassed of rude misdemeanors. [original song]

10. I wager you were surprised by the exposure of your mischievous blueprint. [original song]

11. Michael's slenderness is to blame for my brain exploding. Hello! [original song]

12. An invitation to a well-stocked arsenal joyfully defeats mimicry. [original song]

Outdoor Gallery

Somewhere in Fulton Market, on the way to Wishbone

Outdoor Gallery
Outdoor Gallery, originally uploaded by swanksalot. Impromptu gallery hanging, wall, West Loop. Artist unknown.

links for 2008-05-07

Dispatches From Flyover Country

I may be guilty of a bit of Indiana bashing even though I should know better since I've lived in rural areas (Texas and Ontario, for those keeping track): there is always a blend of people in any region; reducing complicated political differences into a Red-Blue divide serves nobody. Lauren Bruce defends her state from the clueless political reporters:

Hoosiers have been in the national spotlight over the past few weeks, and I’ve noted that many disparaging stereotypes make it into the national media coverage of my fair state -- stereotypes that reinforce the myth of a beer-drinking, pickup-driving Republican stronghold that is hopelessly out of touch with coastal progressivism. As a life-long Indiana resident, I personally vouch for blue veins running through this state and throughout the Midwest, a fact frequently ignored in favor of maintaining the awestruck-hillbilly myth. If reporters and pundits took a look past the stereotypes, they’d see that Indiana is a lot more complex and important than they think it is.

Despite the portrayal of my home state as a white wasteland, Indiana has a long, compelling history of competing ideas and interests. Yes, it was a hotbed for the Ku Klux Klan, but it also had several integral stops on the Underground Railroad. The state housed some of the first utopian societies in the United States, and boasts an internationally known center for modern Quaker society. Indiana was home to Eugene Debs, Socialist Party presidential candidate in the early 1900s and one of the founders of the International Labor Union and the Industrial Workers of the World. Today the work force is heavily based in manufacturing, more so than in agriculture, and as such is heavily unionized. Where Indiana was once largely a white state infamous for its “sundown towns,” the African American and Latino populations are growing exponentially, and within the last decade the university in my backyard hosted among the largest percentages of foreign students in the United States. But somehow, whenever an outsider writes about Indiana, it's all corn, religion, white supremacists, pickup trucks, and, goddamn it, basketball.

[Click to read more Dispatches From Flyover Country | The American Prospect]

Prudish MILF

This Milfs is unlike many of the other MILFs found so frequently on Eric Kaldenberg's laptop. When Milfs was a child, there was only June Cleaver with a pearl necklace and heels, and even her sexuality was kept in the closet. Or was that the Beaver?

Marci Milfs went to Urban Outfitters to find clothes for her teenage son.

She was surprised to find sexually charged books that she believes have no place in a clothing store for teens and young adults.

"Porn for Women" (Cambridge Women's Pornography Cooperative)

On one end of the spectrum was "Porn for Women," a photo book showing men doing housework. On the other was "Pornogami: A Guide to the Ancient Art of Paper-Folding for Adults," a guide for making anatomically correct artwork.

"Pornogami: A Guide to the Ancient Art of Paper-Folding for Adults" (Master Sugoi)

"When I saw it, I was shocked," Milfs said.

[From HeraldNet: Mom appalled at racy books in store for teens at Alderwood mall]

Shocked I tell you, shocked that corporations use sexuality to sell products.

Milfs even tried to involve the state attorney general in her futile and frisky crusade to expose nudity in the mall and in stores around the country:
Smith said her staff brought the issue to the attention of the state attorney general's office, but the state office declined to act against the retailer.
(h/t, yet again. I think I should send Chuck Shepherd a percentage of my daily google earnings - which translates into a penny or two. Hmmm, how do you split a ha'pence?)

Passengers Behaving Badly

Sea Plane Juneau Alaska

From the Department of Give Me a Break…

You'll never look at, or reach into, an airline seat-back pocket the same after reading this.

Besides being a repository for magazines, newspapers, books, iPods and air-sickness bags, seatback pockets get stuffed with all kinds of disgusting trash, from toenail clippings to mushy meals.

One reason frequent fliers and flight attendants perceive an increase in offensive behavior may be the decline in air service -- customers seek retaliation for late flights, snippy workers, lost baggage and unavailable upgrades.

"Increasingly, passengers are certain that the airlines are not on their side and actually don't care anything about them," said Irwin Sarason, a University of Washington psychologist in Seattle who has studied passenger behavior. "In that kind of environment, it isn't too surprising that people will not exercise the restraints they normally would."

The detritus problem is exacerbated by the fact that most airplanes are only lightly cleaned between each flight. Airlines say planes get a more thorough cleaning overnight and a "deep cleaning" scheduled about every 30 days. In many cases, seat-back pockets aren't thoroughly checked until overnight cleaning crews work over a cabin. "Flight attendants will clean things they see sticking out of seat pockets in between flights, but the deep-down cleaning is reserved for later," says Philip Gee, a US Airways Group Inc. spokesman. At several airlines, including Southwest Airlines Co., flight attendants handle most of the cleanup between flights. AMR Corp.'s American Airlines and UAL Corp.'s United Airlines have cleaning crews pick up trash, fold blankets and replenish supplies between flights. United says its crews brush off seats and replace headsets, too, between flights.

[From The Middle Seat -, by Scott McCartney]

That's bad enough, disgusting even, but this complaint made me laugh. Eric Kaldenberg is obviously not a member of the Mile High Club:

Eric Kaldenberg, a Phoenix regional sales manager, was on a flight home from Las Vegas in March with a passionate couple in first class who were anything but discreet.

"It was pretty disgusting," Mr. Kaldenberg said. He says he and other first-class passengers complained to flight attendants, but no action was taken. He wrote to US Airways, which offered a form-letter apology and voucher for a discount on a future ticket, along with a suggestion that he could have asked to be reseated if the couple bothered him. "I regret your discomfort when observing inappropriate behavior of another passenger," US Airways' Customer Relations office said in the letter. His second complaint drew an apologetic phone call from a customer-service supervisor, he says. US Airways' Mr. Gee says the suggestion that Mr. Kaldenberg should be reseated "probably wasn't the correct response." The flight attendant involved "should have talked to the couple," he said.

How prudish is this guy? Complaining at the time of the activity wasn't enough, nor was writing an angry letter once he got home. He complained a third time, and probably contacted Scott McCartney so that Kaldenberg's sexual revulsion could be put on record at the Wall Street Journal.

The pornography business is a multi-billion dollar sector of the economy because so many folks do want to watch other people get it on. I mean, what is this guy's problem - did fluids get splashed onto his face? I can't say I've ever been offended by watching two happy people make out, even if the petting got a little heavy. Maybe I'm just sympathetic because D & I almost got arrested in a park near the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham, Michigan: we were kissing, passionately, with our clothes on, and a disapproving soccer mom called the police on her cellphone to report our "lewd" conduct. Feh.

Nazi Republican in Indiana

Walnuts and Wingnuts

Indiana can be a scary place. Many US States are big enough to have a rural/urban divide, but Indiana also has more than its fair share of guys like the Nazi sympathizer, Tony Zirkle. Liberals often accuse Republicans of wholesale borrowing from the fascist playbooks (with varying degrees of accuracy), but this dude isn't even disputing it. In fact, it is one of his campaign platforms. The Republican party hasn't expelled Zirkle, probably because there is a good chance he'll win. I wonder what his record as prosecutor was? What sort of cases did he bring of questionable merit?

On the face of it, Tony Zirkle looks like the perfect candidate for Congress: He attended the Naval Academy, he has a degree from Georgetown, and he went on to be a top prosecutor in Indiana, crusading against Internet pornography.

There’s only one problem — or maybe more than one, as far as the Indiana Republican Party is concerned.

Zirkle, who is seeking the GOP nomination for the state’s 2nd Congressional District, believes — among other things — that whites are victims of a "genocide," that the races should be segregated into different states and that pornography is a Jewish plot against women.

The personal-injury lawyer says he’s running for Congress to combat "the genocide of the white race" that pornography is causing — an "unholy pornocaust" against white Christian women.

"We now have a small army of male black porn stars that are sifting through five, ten, fifteen thousand women," he said. "One man can now genocide the wombs of thousands of women," infecting them with sexually transmitted diseases that leave them barren.

He calls it "Porn mule womb slaughter . . . the most effective weapon of mass destruction."

In an interview, Zirkle told he doesn't think he is too far out of the Republican mainstream. He believes the solution to STDs and out-of-wedlock births is to separate blacks and whites into segregated states, but he says that's fully in the tradition of the party.

"The original Republican party" felt the same way, he said. "Abraham Lincoln called for African-Americans to be deported back to Africa." [From The Indiana Congressional Candidate the GOP Wishes Would Go Away - Politics | Republican Party | Democratic Party | Political Spectrum]

In 2006, Zirkle captured 30 percent of the primary vote, so his views aren't out of line with a large percentage of the residents of his district. Scary. Yet, I'd still be ecstatic if the US allowed multiparty governments, like in Europe. Never going to happen, but watching Congress would be a lot more fun if fringe wingnuts like Zirkle were part of the coalition.

For the record, Zirkle claims he isn't really a Nazi, he just likes their dental plan:

Zirkle, said he "just spoke off the top of [his] head" at the Nazi gathering, where he addressed the crowd in front of a giant portrait of Hitler. He insisted he had no prior connections to the group and that he’s not a member of the Nazi party.

"What most people don’t know about me is that I’m the father of three beautiful Jewish Christian children," he said, explaining that his wife had converted from Judaism to Christianity. "I’m obviously not going to be out for gassing innocent Jews."

Yet he blames Jews for much of the plight of white women in America. "The massive number of Jews in the [pornography] industry basically brag about it," he said, asserting that "most of the early porn stars were Jewish men."

Well, for sure, Zirkle and his supporters and sympathizers are not voting for Obama, nor Clinton for that matter.

Crooks and Liars has video footage of Zirkle celebrating Hitler's 119th birthday at a convention in Chicago

Boredom is underrated

"Mencken Chrestomathy: His Own Selection of His Choicest Writing" (H.L. Mencken)

This webzine (née blog) has been boring recently, I blame the never-ending election cycle which is rapidly becoming excruciatingly boring even to political junkies like myself.

"The capacity of human beings to bore one another seems to be vastly greater than that of any other animal."

[From H. L. Mencken]


How do we solve this? Only Belushi knows

Bruce Barclay

| 1 Comment

Really baffles my mind how many sex scandals the GOP is capable of getting caught up in. Don't they learn? And nobody would even care about the added frisson of male prostitutes if the Republicans hadn't turned sexuality into an evil, and placed gay sex at the top of the crucify-able offenses.

Bruce Barclay's political career hung in the balance. The Republican commissioner of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, had been accused of rape -- by a man, no less -- and the police were bearing down. Barclay's lawyer issued a strong denial ("This accusation of rape is ludicrous It will be defended forever and is wrong."). But it was clear things were looking pretty dicey. Until... vindication! Well, sort of.

On March 31st, police, investigating the allegation of rape by the 20-year old Marshall McCurdy, obtained a warrant to search Barclay's home. They didn't find evidence of rape. But they did find videotapes of hundreds of sexual encounters with men that Barclay had filmed on high-tech surveillance cameras. The cameras were hidden inside AM/FM radios, motion detectors and intercom speaker systems, among other places. There was also one at his business office.

[From TPMMuckraker | Talking Points Memo | All Muck is Local: Sex and Lots and Lots of Videotape]

From now one, I'm assuming that all Republican Family Value types are closeted homosexuals. Though to be fair to this Barclay figure, I don't know if he was an active gay basher, or just went along for the ride so as to weild political power. In any case, Mr. Barclay had an enormous sex drive - the cameras were less than two years old.

Police say the sexual encounters were videotaped without the knowledge of the participants, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed Tuesday with Magisterial District Judge Susan Day. Court documents say cameras were installed in January of 2007. [snip] During an interview with Barclay, Henneman said he “admitted to using the cameras to record sexual encounters.” Police say Barclay saved between 100 and 500 encounters on his computer system.
and apparently, the reason Karl Rove has never been prosecuted for illicitly taping George Bush, there is no sound (or sound removed)
Laws involving videotaping individuals without their knowledge can differ based on a number of circumstances that may be involved in a particular instance. According to Cumberland District Attorney David Freed, a major distinction between what is considered a felony and what is considered a misdemeanor is whether or not the footage contains sound. “The distinction is made with the interception of oral communication and video,” Freed said. “If it does contain sound, it is a wire tap violation, and that is considered a felony of the third degree. If it is just video, it is considered a third-degree misdemeanor if there is only one violation or a second-degree misdemeanor if there is more than one, and there’s usually more than one.”
Oh wait, nobody is talking about Jeff Gannon here.

links for 2008-05-04

Delegate Count in the playoffs

(click to embiggen)


Sun Like a Drug

Sun Like a Drug
Sun Like a Drug, originally uploaded by swanksalot. sun reflecting on steel waste in a decaying dumpster

Get in Line

Get in Line
Get in Line, originally uploaded by swanksalot. reflection - guess where?

links for 2008-05-03

Natarus Is Back

Natarus as a Witch

Burt Natarus is back on the Chicago scene, doing what he did for 20 years - serve as lobbyist for developers. He's getting paid more than previously, I assume…

But after being spotted toting a briefcase in the City Hall lobby this week, Natarus said he was not just making a social visit. He waved off a question about what he is seeking from city officials, noting only that a year has passed since he left office so he is now free to lobby for whomever he wants to represent.

Sure enough, a check of city's lobbyist registry reveals that Natarus is registered to clout for Zweig Inc. and Scott Rosenzweig. According to Zweig Inc.’s website, the firm is a "Chicago real estate developer specializing in providing retail services to inner city and urban areas."

The news will come as little surprise to critics among Natarus' former constituents in the downtown ward. As an alderman, Natarus raised huge amounts of campaign cash from real estate interests with a stake in his ward, much like many of his council colleagues. In unseating Natarus, Brendan Reilly alleged that Natarus often sided with those developers against the wishes of residents.

[From Clout Street - local political coverage | Chicago Tribune | Blog]

Alleged is too mild a word, Reilly demonstrated with facts might be better. Reilly has been oodles better than Natarus, in many respects

LSD Experiment

Fun video (BBC?) demonstrating the utility (futility) of dosing soldiers with LSD. After about 30 minutes, trained soldiers became fun seekers, and not soldiers anymore. Good for morale, not so good for discipline.

Here's the source

During the Cold War, both the British and the US governments were keen to exploit LSD's unique qualities, for "social engineering". They were convinced it would be useful as a "truth drug" during interrogations – a rather prosaic understanding of the kind of visionary truth revealed by communing with one's soul.

In 1953 and 1954, scientists working for MI6 drugged servicemen with LSD without telling them what to expect; the scientists told them they were looking for a cure for the common cold. One soldier, aged 19, reported that he saw "walls melting, cracks appearing in people's faces... eyes would run down cheeks, Salvador Dali-type faces... a flower would turn into a slug." Not surprisingly, the experiment failed; MI6 reported that LSD was of little practical use as a mind-control drug. It took 50 years for the human guinea-pigs to be compensated for what they'd been put through.

[From Trip of a lifetime: How LSD rocked the world - Features, Music - The Independent]

Albert Hoffman, RIP.

Hofmann is credited with the discovery of LSD, a now-banned hallucinogenic drug. He discovered LSD by accident when he was researching medicinal plants. He made the discovery in 1938 when he was working on ergot, which is a fungus that kills grain. He isolated lysergic acid diethylamide during his work.

Five years went buy, and while working, Hofmann spilled the lysergic acid diethylamide onto his hand, thus LSD was born. He felt the effects, becoming dizzy and on a “trip.”…Sandoz took LSD and went commercial with it in 1947, using it to treat psychiatric patients.

LSD was an extremely common drug during the 1960s for normal Americans, as well as artists of all kinds.
(if the video won't load, go here)
The website claims LSD was banned after discovering that large dosages were damaging, though these claims have been thoroughly debunked (If you add large amounts of anything to cells in a laboratory, you can kill those cells. Caffeine, plastic, beer, LSD, whatever. The amount of LSD added the cells in these petri dishes was the equivalent of a human ingesting 42 kilos of LSD). No, LSD was banned because of the false connection between pleasure and morality: if something feels good, it must be sinful.

Homage to Joan Miro

Homage to Joan Miro
Homage to Joan Miro, originally uploaded by swanksalot.ó

well, sorta

An underpass in the West Loop.

Mandela on US Terror List

What a travesty. Bad enough the US wouldn't let 77 year old Ibrahim Ferrer in to receive his Grammy, but Nelson Mandela?

Nobel Peace Prize winner and international symbol of freedom Nelson Mandela is flagged on U.S. terrorist watch lists and needs special permission to visit the USA. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calls the situation "embarrassing," and some members of Congress vow to fix it.
The requirement applies to former South African leader Mandela and other members of South Africa's governing African National Congress (ANC), the once-banned anti-Apartheid organization. In the 1970s and '80s, the ANC was officially designated a terrorist group by the country's ruling white minority. Other countries, including the United States, followed suit.

Because of this, Rice told a Senate committee recently, her department has to issue waivers for ANC members to travel to the USA.

[From U.S. has Mandela on terrorist list -]

How many US Presidential Administrations have ignored this travesty? Reagan, Bush the Smarter, Clinton, and the current Bush, over 20 years of bureaucratic snafus.

As an aside, I bet it wouldn't be very difficult to dig through the morass of right wing media and blogs and discover accusations that Mr. Mandela is a terrorist, or other groundless accusations. Reagan didn't care much for Mandela after all.

BTW, remember this song?

links for 2008-05-02

FDA Pushback

Obviously there have been several frantic behind the scenes phone calls directed at the FDA. Why else would there be so much backpedaling for such a reasonable sounding proposal? Hundreds of millions of dollars a year is such a minor portion of the US budget, isn't consumer health as important as pharmaceutical profits?

A top Food and Drug Administration official rebuffed calls by congressional Democrats to support their proposals for tougher regulations on imported drugs and new fees on drug makers, in the latest round of conflict between lawmakers and the administration over drug safety.

Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, backed away from comments this week in which she seemed to acknowledge that the FDA needed an additional $225 million to beef up foreign inspections. [snip]

A group of Democratic lawmakers led by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D., Mich.) has proposed raising hundreds of millions more to finance broader drug and medical-device inspections through fees to be levied on drug and medical-device makers.

The proposal, called the "FDA Globalization Act," has drawn fire from some drug makers, as well as congressional Republicans. Mr. Dingell and his co-sponsors have been pushing the bill following a scandal over deaths linked to contaminated heparin, a widely used blood thinner, that was derived from Chinese raw materials.

Thursday, Democrats prodded Dr. Woodcock to say that their proposal would help the agency by generating hundreds of millions of dollars for more overseas inspections.

[From Democrats, FDA Official at Odds Over Inspection Plan -]

The only reason I can see for the criticism is that inspecting oversea drug suppliers will turn up all sorts of shoddily inspected plants, and a history of ignoring problems.

Telephone Dure Limite

"Dure Limite" (Telephone)

Per Tina's suggestion, I picked up an album from the French rockers, Téléphone.
Allmusic writes:
French post-punk rockers Telephone's third album passed by all but unnoticed outside of their native land, but actually racks up as their strongest album ever. That a characteristically vast Bob Ezrin production plays its own part in that is, of course, inevitable. But, even without the deep canyons of sonic bruising that he layered in, Dure Limite has a clean-kicking rock sound that kicks in with the opening title track and never lets up. Masters of the light-and-shade technique that would dominate the "alternative rock" scene of a decade later, Telephone eschew all the gimmicks that scarred so many of their contemporaries' albums, aiming instead for (and this is Ezrin territory again) a fiery brew of melodic lead guitars, purposeful harmonies, and basslines like bedsprings. The party vibe of "Ça (C'Est Vraiment Toi)," the savage riffola of "Le Temps," and, finally, the unalloyed epic fantasies of the closing "Ce Soir Est Ce Soir" all pinpoint Dure Limite among the most dynamic albums of its age, a universal storm that falters in just one department -- the band's (admittedly admirable) insistence on recording their lyrics in French. It's hard to sing along if you don't know what the words mean!

One Stop Shopping

They've been there since at least the early 90s, business must be ok…

One Stop Shopping
One Stop Shopping, originally uploaded by swanksalot. Life and Death under one roof

Trouble for the Republican Brand

Price Reduced
Price Reduced

I hold great skepticism towards all political polls: too often the questions are slanted in subtle ways, and thus the results aren't really that interesting. However, when the mouthpiece of the Republican Party (NBC and the Wall Street Journal) publicly worries about the lack of support for Republican leadership, there might be something worth looking at.

Only 27% of voters have positive views of the Republican Party, according to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, the lowest level for either party in the survey's nearly two-decade history.

Yet the party's probable presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain, continues to run nearly even with Democratic rivals Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton. His standing so far makes for a more competitive race for the White House than would be expected for Republicans, who face an electorate that overwhelmingly believes the country is headed in the wrong direction under President Bush.

"The nearly unprecedented negative mood of the country is presenting significant challenges this year for other Republican candidates," said Republican pollster Neil Newhouse, who conducted the poll with Democrat Peter Hart.

President Bush reached new lows in his eighth and final year, with 27% approving of his overall job performance, and 21% his handling of the weakened economy. An unprecedented 73% of voters believe the country is on the wrong track; only 15% say it is going in the right direction.

The numbers show an electorate more disenchanted than in the fall of 1992, the previous low in the Journal poll -- sentiments that led to the ouster of President Bush's father.

[From Support for Republicans Falls, But Race for President Is Tight -]

Regardless of how highly McCain polls at the moment, once the Democratic is settled, barring election night shenanigans or other weirdness, the election of a Democrat is nearly assured.

Plaster Cats

Wages of Sin and a Pink Caddy
Wages of Sin and a pink Caddy, South Loop, Chicago (click to embiggen)

Bob Herbert wonders what exactly was the purpose of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's speech.

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright went to Washington on Monday not to praise Barack Obama, but to bury him.

Smiling, cracking corny jokes, mugging it up for the big-time news media — this reverend is never going away. He’s found himself a national platform, and he’s loving it.

It’s a twofer. Feeling dissed by Senator Obama, Mr. Wright gets revenge on his former follower while bathed in a spotlight brighter than any he could ever have imagined. He’s living a narcissist’s dream. At long last, his 15 minutes have arrived.

So there he was lecturing an audience at the National Press Club about everything from the black slave experience to the differences in sentencing for possession of crack and powdered cocaine.

All but swooning over the wonderfulness of himself, the reverend acts like he is the first person to come up with the idea that blacks too often get the short end of the stick in America, that the malignant influences of slavery and the long dark night of racial discrimination are still being felt today, that in many ways this is a profoundly inequitable society.

This is hardly new ground. The question that cries out for an answer from Mr. Wright is why — if he is so passionately committed to liberating and empowering blacks — does he seem so insistent on wrecking the campaign of the only African-American ever to have had a legitimate shot at the presidency.

[From The Pastor Casts a Shadow - New York Times]

There must be some more drama behind the scenes directly between Obama and Rev. Wright, or else Rev. Wright has just become unhinged.

links for 2008-05-01

Towing Kurt Cobain

Towing Kurt Cobain
Towing Kurt Cobain, originally uploaded by swanksalot. another portion of this mural

Dystopian Liberty City


"Grand Theft Auto IV" (Rockstar Games)

The latest edition in Grand Theft Auto series has been receiving a lot of attention recently, including Seth Schiesel's rave from the New York Times last Sunday.

Published by Rockstar Games, Grand Theft Auto IV is a violent, intelligent, profane, endearing, obnoxious, sly, richly textured and thoroughly compelling work of cultural satire disguised as fun. It calls to mind a rollicking R-rated version of Mad magazine featuring Dave Chappelle and Quentin Tarantino, and sets a new standard for what is possible in interactive arts. It is by far the best game of the series, which made its debut in 1997 and has since sold more than 70 million copies. Grand Theft Auto IV will retail for $60.


At least as impressive as the city’s virtual topography is the range of the game’s audio and music production, delivered through an entire dial’s worth of radio stations available in almost any of the dozens of different cars, trucks and motorcycles a player can steal. From the jazz channel (billed as “music from when America was cool”) through the salsa, alt-rock, jazz, metal and multiple reggae and hip-hop stations, Lazlow Jones, Ivan Pavlovich and the rest of Rockstar’s audio team demonstrate a musical erudition beyond anything heard before in a video game. The biggest problem with the game’s extensive subway system is that there’s no music underground. (Too bad there are no iPods to nab.)

The game’s roster of radio hosts runs from Karl Lagerfeld to Iggy Pop and DJ Green Lantern. It is not faint praise to point out that at times, simply driving around the city listening to the radio — seguing from “Moanin’ ” by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers to the Isley Brothers’ “Footsteps in the Dark” to “The Crack House” by Fat Joe featuring Lil Wayne — can be as enjoyable as anything the game has to offer.

[From Grand Theft Auto IV: Dystopian Liberty City - New York Times]

I'm sorely tempted to purchase this game, especially as a sort of thumb-of-the-nose to the cultural conservatives, Hillary Clintons and Rod Blagojevichs of the Nanny State who want to ban adult entertainment, but since I don't own a PS3 or an XBox, there is a slight impediment to my late night desire. I have played past editions of the game, and the music selection has been spot on.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from May 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

April 2008 is the previous archive.

June 2008 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.


Powered by Movable Type 4.37