Categories
Sports

Fake Franchise

Hoops the Gym

There is actually a long line of fake franchise players – players conceited enough to think that because teams are foolish enough to over-pay for their services, somehow they are franchise players.

Peter Vecsey, everyone’s favorite acrid commentator, writes:

GOIN’ NOWHERE | By PETER VECSEY | :
Bottom line: Kobe has evolved into a fake franchise player . . . same as Chris Webber and Tracy McGrady and now Garnett and Jermaine O’Neal. They’re not conceited; they’re convinced they’re bad to the bone, all commanding max money – a lot more in K.G.’s (grandfathered) case.

All of ’em repeatedly failed to carry their respective teams to the Finals sans another superstar; McGrady can’t even get out of the first round with Yao Ming, as opposed to Allen Iverson and LeBron James, who reached the Supreme Court surrounded by role players.

Right. A year ago we made a list of the All Overpaid Team (high contracts, no playoff success). Who would be on it in 2007?

Lets see, off the top of my head (salary data from hoopshype):

Kobe Bryant ($19.4 Million)
Jermaine O’Neal ($19.7 M)
Kevin Garnett ($22 M)
Allen Iverson ($20.1 M)
Stephon Marbury ($20.1 M)
Shaquille O’Neal ($20 M)
Tracy McGrady ($19 M)
Steve Francis ($16.4 M)
Antawn Jamison ($16.3 M)
Paul Pierce ($16.3 M)
Ray Allen ($16 M)
Michael Redd ($14.5 M)
Pau Gasol ($13.7M)
Joe Johnson ($13.5 M)
Mike Bibby ($13.5 M)
Zach Randolph ($13.3 M)
Lamar Odom ($13.5 M)
Rashard Lewis ($15.6 – not sure if this is his new contract. Still he was second highest paid member of a horrible team, the Seattle/Oklahoma Sonics)

plus as reserves:
Jason Kidd ($19.7 M – though Kidd might be worth max money, if only he could make a jump shot)
Dirk Nowitzki ($16.3 M)

Some of these fellas did make the 2007 playoffs true (8 of these 20, but none got further than the first round. Strangely enough, these are among the highest salaries in the league (20 out of the top 30 salaries). Wonder if having a more flexible payroll would have helped their respective teams?

The question is moot /Rev. Jesse Jackson voice, as you go to the playoffs with the team you got, not the team you wish you had /fake Donald Rumsfeld voice

Nowitzki might get a pass, Dallas is a good, balanced team, and probably would have advanced against any team besides Golden State. But on the other hand, Michael Finley got a ring with Spurs coming off the bench as the second highest paid player on the league, courtesy of Mark Cuban’s largess.

Oh, and I guess Flip Saunders gets to coach, even though he made it to the conference finals. George Karl gets to be his assistant, and Pat Riley ball boy.

Categories
government health

Mad Cow Disease

A few things being done on the war on meat-related terrorism:

a comic by R.J. Matson from a few years ago (click to embiggen)


Posted by Picasa


"Animal Pharm: One Man’s Struggle to Discover the Truth about Mad Cow Disease and Variant CJD" (Mark Purdey)

indeed


"Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual" (Michael Pollan)

Categories
Music Suggestions

Rock Snob

Had a lot of fun yesterday consuming the


Rock Snob Dictionary

in one sitting. Well, I did jump up a few times and add tunes to my new iTunes playlist, Rock Snobs. I guess I am bonafide, as the playlist has several days worth of material already, and I’m not done adding yet.

A few excerpts from the book at posted at snobsite.com. Fun stuff.

At last! An A-to-Z reference guide for readers who want to learn the cryptic language of Rock Snobs, those arcana-obsessed people who speak of “Rickenbacker guitars” and “Gram Parsons.”

We’ve all been there–trapped in a conversation with smarty-pants music fiends who natter on about “the MC5” or “Eno” or “the Hammond B3,” not wanting to let on that we haven’t the slightest idea what they’re talking about. Well, fret no more! The Rock Snob’s Dictionary is here to define every single sacred totem of rock fandom’s know-it-all fraternity, from Alt.country to Zimmy. (That’s what Rock Snobs call Bob Dylan, by the way.)

Haven’t managed to see Cocksucker Blues nor Eat the Document, yet. Though apparently, some of the footage from Eat the Document made its way into

No Direction Home

Categories
Chicago-esque

Harp Maker to the World

Interesting history of an instrument that I’m mostly indifferent to: the harp. However, Harpo Marx was a maestro, and Joanna Newsom’s new album is pretty good too (and she name checks Lyon and Healy on the liner notes). One of the few mass produced items assembled in America strictly by hand. I’d love to tour the factory.

Lyon Healy Harp

City shoulders the load as harpmaker for world | Chicago Tribune

In a dim warehouse on the city’s West Side, ragged bundles of German beech and splintery Midwestern maple quietly await their metamorphosis.

The hunks of raw wood are ugly now. But months in the hands of master builders will mold them into instruments of musical elegance.

Chicago, the city of heavy industry, is also, as it turns out, the world capital of harpmaking.

Lyon & Healy Harps, on Ogden Avenue, is the foremost producer of concert harps. It is also where the modern harp was invented in 1889 and the hub from where it has spread in the last century to concert halls from Taipei to Topeka, Cape Town to Cleveland.

… The worst of them are flawless, say the company’s marketers. Beginning pedal harps start at $9,950. For a concert grand, add $10,000 more. The Prince William used by the Chicago Symphony’s Sarah Bullen is worth the price of a nicer BMW coupe.

For $179,000, one could buy a one-bedroom pied-a-terre on North Lake Shore Drive with a view of Belmont Harbor. For the same price, it could be furnished with a Lyon & Healy Louis XV Special, and nothing else.

 

slightly more:

The pedal harp was born in France and patented by Sebastian Erard in 1810. It was embraced by European romanticism and surged over the Atlantic only to suffer in the American cultural wilderness.

 

The ocean crossing was bad enough, but North America’s weather extremes posed a still harsher challenge for the harps.

So many were repaired by Patrick J. Healy and George W. Lyon–young Boston instrument dealers who had come to Chicago in 1864–that they decided to build their own. The first took 10 years and was finished in 1889.

Lyon and Healy replaced fragile French plaster parts with rugged wood construction–a decided advantage–and Chicago harps quickly supplanted their dainty European cousins. From then on, their evolution came largely at the hands of Chicago harpmakers.

Because harpists wanted to travel, materials grew sturdier. As people grew taller, harps grew larger. While concert halls grew, harps grew louder. City noise intruded on the halls, the harps grew louder still in a co-evolution still proceeding, said Steve Fritzmann, a master harpmaker and Lyon & Healy’s national sales manager.

..It is wood chosen for strength and resonance, and perfection supplied by human hands. A modern harp’s 1,400 moving pieces are glued, clamped, spun, trimmed, bent, rasped, sanded, fit, finished, gilded, assembled, strung and tuned–all by hand.

At Lyon & Healy, 129 people do this. They tried using machines to assemble parts once, Fritzmann said. The process failed.

It is easy to imagine why they tried. Harps hide far more moving parts than meet the eye. … For 18 years, Maria Valadez has worked assembling the harps’ invisible metal musculature, fitting long strings of moving joints into the harp’s neck, each built by dozens of workers to smoothly convert a harpist’s pedal movements into a command for a harp to switch keys.

Sandwiching the workings between curving brass plates one day this week, Valadez tightened dozens of tiny black screws to finish one assembly–only to find a scratch on one brass plate. It had taken a day to assemble this single package of moving parts.

She reversed direction, taking it apart just as slowly. A tiny wrench to loosen each screw, a screwdriver to continue the work. A day to build. A day to undo. The complexity is hidden, but demanding. It is everywhere, even in the sturdiest pieces.

The entire body of a harp wants to implode. When tightened, the 47 strings of a concert harp create 2,000 pounds of tension between the neck and body, the 80-pound instrument straining against a ton of potential energy eager to destroy it.

To resist the forces as it was improved, the body of the modern harp underwent a vivid evolution. It had to grow a skeleton.

Upstairs from the drama playing out on Valadez’s desk, another worker picks up a block, measures and marks it into a thin, 4-inch piece, then sands it to size on a motorized belt. When the worker finishes, he has created the backing for a rib.

The four aluminum ribs hidden inside each harp make it exceptionally strong. They permit a thinner spruce body, which reverberates more, and thus is louder.

When finished, workers hang the bodies like sides of beef from overhead hooks. Others bring feminine curves out of blocky columns turning on lathes. On the third floor, master woodcarvers peck like birds at the designs on columns and bases.

 

Categories
health

Mushrooms Back in the Lab

If we didn’t have such a large number of idiots running our country, this would have happened decades ago.

Standard disclaimer: drugs like psilocybin (or THC, salvia, et alia) are not for everyone and not for every circumstance. Eating a handful of mushrooms is not like having a martini in a hotel bar. Just isn’t. However, there are certain places and people who can certainly benefit from the experience.

Shroom as Big As Your Head

Mushrooms take a trip back to the lab – Los Angeles Times : Resting on a hospital bed beneath a tie-dyed wall hanging, Pamela Sakuda felt a tingling sensation. Then bright colors started shimmering in her head.

She had been depressed since being diagnosed with colon cancer two years earlier, but as the experimental drug took hold, she felt the sadness sweep away from her, leaving in its wake an overpowering sense of connection to loved ones, followed by an inner calm.

“It was like an epiphany,” said Sakuda, 59, recalling the 2005 drug treatment.

Sakuda, a Long Beach software developer, was under the influence of the hallucinogen psilocybin, which she took during a UCLA study exploring the therapeutic effects of the active compound in “magic” mushrooms. Although illegal for general use, the drug has been approved for medical experiments such as this one.

Scientists suspect the hallucinogen, whose use dates back to ancient Mexico, may have properties that could improve treatments for some psychological conditions and forms of physical pain.

The medical journal Neurology in June reported on more than 20 cases in which mushroom ingestion prevented or stopped cluster headaches, a rare neurological disorder, more reliably than prescription pharmaceuticals.

In July, researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore reported that mushrooms could instill a sense of spirituality and connection, a finding that scientists said could lead to treatments for patients suffering from mental anguish or addiction.

The research has been driven in part by the success of mood-altering pharmaceuticals, such as the antidepressant Prozac, which work on the same brain chemicals and pathways.

also standard media bullshit added:

Deaths have been linked to mushroom intoxication. A Ventura County teen was killed by a car two years ago as she wandered naked across the 101 Freeway after eating mushrooms.

umm, this sounds more like death by automobile, actually. If the teen was taking the mushrooms in a better setting, they wouldn’t be wandering in a freeway. Kids shouldn’t use drugs at all, but don’t really know the entire details of this accident. Maybe the teen also had a dozen shots of tequila?

to continue:

The drug “takes your thoughts through a prism and turns them around,” Sakuda said.

Her drug trip left her with a sense of peace — a serenity she hadn’t felt since her diagnosis.

“It was like rebooting a computer,” she said.


Forty years ago, the study of hallucinogens in therapy was a mainstream endeavor. The Swiss drug company Sandoz provided pharmaceutical-grade tablets of psilocybin and various researchers explored its use as a treatment for depression and other psychological problems.

Used for centuries during spiritual ceremonies by the Mazatec Indians in southern Mexico, mushrooms helped fuel the counterculture of the 1960s. Author Carlos Castaneda, while a graduate student at UCLA, wrote of his “magical time” with a Mexican shaman who introduced him to mushrooms and other hallucinogens.

In 1970, Congress made it illegal to posses hallucinogens, including psilocybin and LSD, by classifying them as Schedule I, meaning they had no legitimate medical use.

“All research was shut down,” said UCLA psychiatrist Dr. Charles S. Grob.

In the late 1990s, regulators began approving experiments again, sparked by discoveries in neuroscience that illuminated the biochemical basis of mood and consciousness. The advances focused on the complex role of the brain chemical serotonin — a neurotransmitter that passes signals between cells.

Spread throughout the brain are a variety of receptors that respond to serotonin. In some instances, a flow of serotonin can alter moods, such as depression, euphoria, anxiety and aggression. The chemical is also believed to be involved with nausea, body temperature and appetite control.

Many hallucinogens, including psilocybin, mimic the action of serotonin on various receptors. When the drugs circulate in the brain, they can amplify, distort and cross signals. Sounds have colors, and motions become out-of-body experiences.

The drugs can trigger emotionally charged states and potentially dangerous behavior. Even the most optimistic psychedelic researchers acknowledge that at best psilocybin will become a special-purpose drug administered under tight supervision because reactions vary.

In addition to the sensory effects, hallucinogens create mental states in which patients become unusually open to suggestion, Grob said.

He wanted to test whether that ability could be used to alleviate the suffering of terminal cancer patients overcome with a sense of hopelessness.

Grob modeled his study after one conducted at Spring Grove Medical Center, a psychiatric hospital near Baltimore.

The Spring Grove patients took LSD. Grob is using psilocybin, which is shorter-acting and considered somewhat less risky. The drug is produced in small quantities under special Drug Enforcement Administration permits.

Grob has given the drug to seven terminally ill cancer patients.

In Sakuda’s case, weeks of counseling planted a desire to overcome her fears and sense of isolation. Since her diagnosis, she had avoided friends and kept her feelings bottled up.

The experiment took place in a comfortable hospital room, under the close watch of a medical team. She wore eyeshades and headphones with soft music playing.

Sakuda recalled sensing her husband’s sadness over her illness and feeling a burden lifted from her.

“It is not logical. It comes to you like that,” she said.

Sakuda died Nov. 10. Her husband, Norbert Litzinger, feels that the drug made a difference. “There was a rebirth around her and it didn’t stop.”

The power of the drug extends beyond psychological effects. Dr. John Halpern and colleagues at McLean Hospital in Boston have been looking at the ability of magic mushrooms to treat cluster headaches, which affect about 1 million Americans, mostly men.

The pain can be so severe that they are known as “suicide” headaches, occurring like clockwork at the same time each day, or the same month each year. No treatment has been shown to extend remissions from pain.

Halpern examined medical records of 48 patients who had taken hallucinogenic mushrooms and reported in Neurology that the majority of them found partial or complete relief from cluster attacks.

He speculated that the drug acts on the thalamus, a brain region populated with serotonin receptors. A clinical trial is needed to establish whether the mushrooms really work, Halpern said.

“These are not people you’d expect from the drug culture,” he said. “They are lawyers, teachers, business owners. They have a painful and debilitating condition, and found meaningful relief.”

Those who have used hallucinegenic mushrooms in the U.S. to ease their headaches are all lawbreakers.

They have become part of a new mushroom underground. Many of its denizens are like Bob Wold — a 53-year-old maintenance worker and Little League coach who had never taken hallucinogenic drugs before. He knew they could be dangerous.

Wold, who lives near Chicago, said his headaches felt like an ice pick being jammed through his eye. Once, they made him drive his fist through a plaster wall at home. Another time he pounded his head against the shower tiles so hard some of them cracked.

Seeking help, Wold stumbled across a website for cluster headache sufferers touting hallucinogenic mushrooms.

A man he met on the Internet mailed Wold 20 dried brown mushrooms. The recipe called for a very light tea, not strong enough to cause hallucinations.

After that, Wold started growing his own mushrooms.

Wold has formed an organization to fund research aimed at developing a pharmaceutical version of psilocybin.

But at home, he must make sure his crop is well hidden from his young grandchildren.

Former Washington lobbyist Stuart Miller, 49, described his secret life as a mushroom user as “bizarre.”

Miller had frequent cluster headaches and carried capsules containing ground mushrooms everywhere. As he passed through security daily on Capitol Hill, or made his way through an airport, Miller worried that a search would uncover the capsules “and my career would be gone.”

He was never caught. He has moved to Mexico to care for an aging parent.

Magic mushrooms grow wild in a nearby field.

H/T

Categories
Suggestions

Leary’s Long Acid Trip

Neal Pollack writes an interesting book review of Robert Greenfield’s Timothy Leary bio.

Timothy Leary: A Biography
“Timothy Leary: A Biography” (Robert Greenfield)

AlterNet: Neal Pollack: DrugReporter: Timothy Leary’s Long Acid Trip : …

Leary’s life was one of those rare American ones with a second act. After the 1970s he moved to Beverly Hills, went on a political minstrel-show lecture tour with G. Gordon Liddy, snorted coke in the Playboy Mansion with Hugh Hefner and hung out at the Viper Room. He also developed some of the earliest interactive computer games. What lessons are we to learn from such a life? Obviously, the specifics don’t apply to us ordinary mortals. And we certainly don’t want to follow Leary’s lead in terms of family life. As Greenfield painstakingly details, he was a serially bad husband and an even worse father. Leary’s careerism, while quintessentially American, was corrosive and destructive, another warning siren against the false promises of celebrity-obsessed modernity.

Yet his life contained surprising pockets of peace, extraordinary grace notes. When Leary’s famous commune in Millbrook, New York, wasn’t being raided by local authorities or invaded by trashy jet-setting hipsters, people achieved transcendence there, or at least had a lot of fun. As Greenfield writes, “When Charlie Mingus heard the tap in the sink yowling, followed by banging noises, he took out his bass and began playing counterpoint.” Of all the crazy scenes in the book, that’s the one I would have most liked to see, though I also enjoyed the one where Leary’s wife attempts a seduction of Jerry Brown in order to blackmail Leary out of prison.

While I find Leary’s writing bloated, self-absorbed and, let’s face it, hippy-dippy and dated, Pinchbeck makes a far more persuasive, modern case for psychedelics.

Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism
Breaking Open the Head

is The Doors of Perception written from a skeptical East Village perspective. Pinchbeck’s latest book, 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, expands on his thesis, arguing that psychedelics may be opening a portal to a transformation of consciousness that has the potential to change the world forever. I can’t say whether I believe that or not, and I certainly hope the Phoenix Suns win an NBA title before this evolution happens, but Pinchbeck’s skeptical, analytic reportorial approach to the subject appeals to my brain far more than Leary’s musty counterculture rhetoric.

errr, umm, yes. I am of the generation of whom Leary is only known via his actions and words, and he seems like nothing more than a loud-mouthed charlatan. Without Leary’s self-aggrandizement and nose-thumbing at authorities, perhaps certain substances might still be available through legal channels. Perhaps not, but from my perspective, Leary did nothing but bring negative attention to the whole mind-expansion community, with dire results. The psychedelic class of drugs is not for most people to explore, haphazardly. Leary wanted everyone to take them, and everyone shouldn’t.

Still, interesting reading, and I’ll add these books to my ‘summer reading’ list (which is now 3 stacks tall).

More Pollack here

Categories
Music Suggestions

Clash News I did Not Know

Made in Medina
Rachid Taha

This album, my only exposure to Mr. Taha, is quite good. Spectacular, in fact.

Salon’s Thomas Bartlett writes:

Rachid Taha

This is the Algerian rock/pop/rai star Rachid Taha’s cover of the Clash’s “Rock the Casbah” — the verses translated into Arabic, the choruses left in English, and the whole thing decorated with the standard trappings of Arabic pop. It’s an intensely charged cover, not a simple tribute, complicated as it is by Taha’s belief that Strummer and Co. got their unacknowledged inspiration for the song from his ’80s French band Carte de Séjour, which they heard after Taha himself gave them a tape in 1981

and from Calabash Music

Rachid Taha, a man that knows the inside story! Never mind the war on terrorism, what about the war on fear, complacency, ignorance, racism, poverty and lies. That’s a struggle that Rachid Taha has been fighting for the past two decades and more, ever since he was a tear-away punk immigrant from Algeria gobbing metaphorically and no doubt literally at the good burghers of Lyon in France.

His band, Carte de Sejour (the French for ‘residence permit’), proved that rock power, punk attitude and Arabic roots could get along famously if mentored by a passionate, razor-sharp and mouthy soul like Taha. Being proudly North African on the one hand and truly rebellious on the other has always meant struggle on many fronts and Rachid Taha has spent his whole career lobbing musical molotovs at the latent and, as recent event have proved, not so latent racism of the French in the form of classic songs like ‘Voile Voile’ and ‘Douce France’ whilst berating his fellow North Africans for lack of ambition, obsession with tradition, cabaret complacency and enslavement to rai.

20 Things You Won’t Like About Windows Vista

Oh, it is fun to pile on. Especially on the Ralph Reed-loving Microslobs. Eeww, not in that way you perv!

Visual Tour: 20 Things You Won’t Like About Windows Vista
…make no mistake, the new Windows lacks a gotta-have-it feature, unless it’s the increased security that protected-mode browsing, built-in spyware protection and the new User Account Controls provide. To my way of thinking, security shouldn’t be something you have to pay for. What’s more, it seems like Microsoft is building some of the most ambitious security components of Windows Vista not for its customers, but for itself.
…Where does Windows Vista fit among many of the PC-based operating systems of today and the last couple of decades? With Beta 2 running on multiple test units, I feel comfortable predicting that Windows Vista will not outpace Mac OS X Tiger for overall quality and usability. It’s hard to beat Apple’s top-notch GUI design grafted onto an implementation of Unix variant, BSD. Mac OS X has excellent reliability, security and usability. That isn’t to say that its user interface wouldn’t gain if Apple adopted some other best ideas of the day, but Apple has the best operating system this year, last year and next year. It’ll be interesting to see what the company delivers in its 10.5 Leopard version of Mac OS X.
Meanwhile, I’m placing Windows Vista as a distant second-best to OS X. I see Linux and Windows 2000 as being roughly tied another notch or two below Vista, with XP being only a half step better than Win 2000.

Even though there are many great aspects of Windows Vista, taken as a whole, this next one could be Microsoft’s first significant operating system failure in quite some time — at least, as it’s configured in Beta 2.
Here are the 20 Vista behaviors and functionalities that could turn off Windows users. Windows newbies may not mind some of these things, but they will definitely try the patience of the millions of Windows users who’ve got real experience and muscle memory invested in Microsoft’s desktop operating system.
…Everywhere you look, Microsoft has copied things that Apple has offered for quite some time in OS X. The User Account Control features, especially with the Vista Standard log-in, look a lot like Apple’s user interface design. Too bad Microsoft doesn’t let you lock and unlock things (leaving those settings permanent) the way Apple does. More than 15 years later, Microsoft is still following Apple in operating system design and bundled materials. With some notable exceptions (including IE7+, where it copied Mozilla, and the Windows Sidebar, where it bests Apple, Google and everyone in user-interface design), Microsoft is belaboring the point by reinventing the wheel, often with an overall reduction in productivity and usability.
I have no problem with Microsoft copying Apple’s or any other company’s best interface designs. We all win when that happens, and I wish Apple would steal the best things Microsoft does right back. What’s really strange is when a company lifts good ideas and makes them worse, not better.
The bitter end
After more than 15 years reviewing Windows operating systems, I didn’t just suddenly begin hating Microsoft or Windows. (Although I have to admit, OS X is looking better and better of late.)

read more if you are interested in giggling, or if you are planning or being forced to upgrade to Longhorn/Vista in the near future (that is, once the software is actually released!)

Tags: , /, /, /

Categories
News-esque politics

Bush Opens Mouth, Lies

Oh, yeah, I believe the Dauphin. Especially after reading this tidbit about the Pentagon also collecting data on everything possible for our upcoming gulag.

WSJ.com – Bush Defends NSA Eavesdropping Program

President Bush said the government does not troll the personal lives of Americans, but didn’t directly address a newspaper report that the National Security Agency has gathered millions of Americans’ phone records.

So in other words, don’t believe a word of this non-denial denial.

…Congressional Republicans and Democrats demanded answers from the Bush administration Thursday after a report in USA Today said the NSA secretly collected records of ordinary Americans’ phone calls to build a database of every call made within the country.

“It is our government, it’s not one party’s government. It’s America’s government. Those entrusted with great power have a duty to answer to Americans what they are doing,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. telephone companies began turning over records of tens of millions of their customers’ phone calls to the NSA program shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said USA Today, citing anonymous sources it said had direct knowledge of the arrangement.

The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, said he would call the phone companies to appear before the panel “to find out exactly what is going on.”

The telephone companies on Thursday declined to comment on national security matters, and would say only that they are assisting government agencies in accordance with the law.

“We have been in full compliance with the law and we are committed to our customers’ privacy,” said Bob Varettoni, a spokesman for Verizon.

The White House defended its overall eavesdropping program and said no domestic surveillance is conducted without court approval.

“The intelligence activities undertaken by the United States government are lawful, necessary and required to protect Americans from terrorist attacks,” said Dana Perino, the deputy White House press secretary, who added that appropriate members of Congress have been briefed on intelligence activities.

Mr. Leahy sounded incredulous about the latest report and railed against what he called a lack of congressional oversight. He argued that the media was doing the job of Congress.

“Are you telling me that tens of millions of Americans are involved with al Qaida?” Sen. Leahy asked. “These are tens of millions of Americans who are not suspected of anything … Where does it stop?”

The Democrat, who at one point held up a copy of the newspaper, added: “Somebody ought to tell the truth and answer questions. They haven’t. The press has done our work for us and we should be ashamed. Shame on us for being so far behind and being so willing to rubber stamp anything this administration does. We ought to fold our tents.”

The program doesn’t involve listening to or taping the calls. Instead it documents who talks to whom in personal and business calls, whether local or long distance, by tracking which numbers are called, the newspaper said.

The NSA and the Office of National Intelligence Director didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

NSA is the same spy agency that conducts the controversial domestic eavesdropping program that has been acknowledged by President Bush. The president said last year that he authorized the NSA to listen, without warrants, to international phone calls involving Americans suspected of terrorist links.

The report came as the former NSA director, Gen. Michael Hayden — Bush’s choice to take over leadership of the CIA — had been scheduled to visit lawmakers on Capitol Hill Thursday. However, the meetings with Republican Sens. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska were postponed at the request of the White House, said congressional aides in the two Senate offices.

The White House offered no reason for the postponement to the lawmakers. Other meetings with lawmakers were still planned.

Gen. Hayden already faced criticism because of the NSA’s secret domestic eavesdropping program. As head of the NSA from March 1999 to April 2005, Mr. Hayden also would have overseen the call-tracking program.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat of California who has spoken favorably of the nomination, said the latest revelation “is also going to present a growing impediment to the confirmation of Gen. Hayden.”

The NSA wants the database of domestic call records to look for any patterns that might suggest terrorist activity, USA Today said.

Don Weber, a senior spokesman for the NSA, told the paper that the agency operates within the law, but wouldn’t comment further on its operations.

One big telecommunications company, Qwest Communications International Inc., has refused to turn over records to the program, the newspaper said, because of privacy and legal concerns.

USA Today story here.

More details at TPM Muckraker, TalkLeft, TalkLeft again, CorrenteWire, MyDD, ThisModernWorld, The Huffington Post, and no doubt hundreds more. These are just the pages I’ve managed to read so far.

Can we spell the word, Impeachment, yet?

Categories
politics

Bush: No laws apply to me

The Dauphin claims all is kosher.

Bush: No laws can remain unbroken

Millions of phone records reportedly sold to NSA The Bush administration Thursday reacted defensively to news that the secretive National Security Agency, which conducts electronic eavesdropping, had obtained millions of domestic phone records

Oh, so now they paid for these records? I hope it was more than $1,000 per call, because that is the going rate

1. It violates the Stored Communications Act. The Stored Communications Act, Section 2703(c), provides exactly five exceptions that would permit a phone company to disclose to the government the list of calls to or from a subscriber: (i) a warrant; (ii) a court order; (iii) the customer’s consent; (iv) for telemarketing enforcement; or (v) by “administrative subpoena.” The first four clearly don’t apply. As for administrative subpoenas, where a government agency asks for records without court approval, there is a simple answer – the NSA has no administrative subpoena authority, and it is the NSA that reportedly got the phone records.

2. The penalty for violating the Stored Communications Act is $1000 per individual violation. Section 2707 of the Stored Communications Act gives a private right of action to any telephone customer “aggrieved by any violation.” If the phone company acted with a “knowing or intentional state of mind,” then the customer wins actual harm, attorney’s fees, and “in no case shall a person entitled to recover receive less than the sum of $1,000.”

(The phone companies might say they didn’t “know” they were violating the law. But USA Today reports that Qwest’s lawyers knew about the legal risks, which are bright and clear in the statute book.)

3. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act doesn’t get the telcos off the hook. According to USA Today, the NSA did not go to the FISA court to get a court order. And Qwest is quoted as saying that the Attorney General would not certify that the request was lawful under FISA. So FISA provides no defense for the phone companies, either.

not to mention (from Glenn Greenwald, which you should definitely read if you haven’t already):

…Two additional points worth making: (1) One of the disturbing aspects of the NSA warrantless eavesdropping program was that it was seen by many intelligence professionals as a radical departure from the agency’s tradition of not turning its spying capabilities on the American public domestically. The program disclosed yesterday decimates that tradition by many magnitudes. This is a program where the NSA is collecting data on the exclusively domestic communications of Americans, communicating with one another, on U.S. soil — exactly what the NSA was supposed to never do.

(2) The legal and constitutional issues, especially at first glance and without doing research, reading cases, etc., are complicated and, in the first instance, difficult to assess, at least for me. That was also obviously true for Qwest’s lawyers, which is why they requested a court ruling and, when the administration refused, requested an advisory opinion from DoJ.

But not everyone is burdened by these difficulties. Magically, hordes of brilliant pro-Bush legal scholars have been able to determine instantaneously — as in, within hours of the program’s disclosure — that the program is completely legal and constitutional (just like so many of them were able confidently to opine within hours of the disclosure of the warrantless eavesdropping program that it, too, was perfectly legal and constitutional). Having said that, there are some generally pro-Bush bloggers expressing serious skepticism over the legality and/or advisability of this program.

Laws are for suckers is what The Dauphin is saying.

Categories
Narcipost News-esque

I Am Haplogroup R1B

I don’t think I ever posted the results of my DNA swab, as described here. Briefly, the National Geographic Society is conducting a rather large study, attempting to map out human history via DNA swabs. Comparatively wealthy citizens of the world pay $100 for their samples, in order to underwrite the collection efforts for less wealthy areas of the world.

Haplogroup R1B M343

Unfortunately, the cool stuff is a Flash file, hidden for participants only, including art samples of Upper Paleolithic man, explanation of the migration to England which my ancestors apparently did, etc. Very cool stuff. Here is what I’ve managed to extract.

How to Interpret Your Results Above are results from the laboratory analysis of your Y-chromosome. Your DNA was analyzed for Short Tandem Repeats (STRs), which are repeating segments of your genome that have a high mutation rate. The location on the Y chromosome of each of these markers is depicted in the image, with the number of repeats for each of your STRs presented to the right of the marker. For example, DYS19 is a repeat of TAGA, so if your DNA repeated that sequence 12 times at that location, it would appear: DYS19 12. Studying the combination of these STR lengths in your Y Chromosome allows researchers to place you in a haplogroup, which reveals the complex migratory journeys of your ancestors. Y-SNP: In the event that the analysis of your STRs was inconclusive, your Y chromosome was also tested for the presence of an informative Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP). These are mutational changes in a single nucleotide base, and allow researchers to definitively place you in a genetic haplogroup.

DNA migration Map
DNA migration Map

Entire migratory history below ‘the fold’. Some of it is beyond my understanding, but it is still fascinating.

 

Haplogroup K M9
Haplogroup K M9

Haplogroup P M45
Haplogroup P M45

Haplogroup R1 M173
Haplogroup R1 M173

Haplogroup R1B M343
Haplogroup R1B M343

 

12 Market Y DNA 2
12 Market Y DNA 2

My immediate ancestry

 

12 Market YDNA
12 Market YDNA

 

 

Your Y chromosome results identify you as a member of haplogroup R1b, a lineage defined by a genetic marker called M343. This haplogroup is the final destination of a genetic journey that began some 60,000 years ago with an ancient Y chromosome marker called M168. The very widely dispersed M168 marker can be traced to a single individual—“Eurasian Adam.” This African man, who lived some 31,000 to 79,000 years ago, is the common ancestor of every non-African person living today. His descendants migrated out of Africa and became the only lineage to survive away from humanity’s home continent.

 

Population growth during the Upper Paleolithic era may have spurred the M168 lineage to seek new hunting grounds for the plains animals crucial to their survival. A period of moist and favorable climate had expanded the ranges of such animals at this time, so these nomadic peoples may have simply followed their food source.

Improved tools and rudimentary art appeared during this same epoch, suggesting significant mental and behavioral changes. These shifts may have been spurred by a genetic mutation that gave “Eurasian Adam’s” descendants a cognitive advantage over other contemporary, but now extinct, human lineages.

Some 90 to 95 percent of all non-Africans are descendants of the second great human migration out of Africa, which is defined by the marker M89.

M89 first appeared 45,000 years ago in Northern Africa or the Middle East. It arose on the original lineage (M168) of “Eurasian Adam,” and defines a large inland migration of hunters who followed expanding grasslands and plentiful game to the Middle East.

Many people of this lineage remained in the Middle East, but others continued their movement and followed the grasslands through Iran to the vast steppes of Central Asia. Herds of buffalo, antelope, woolly mammoths, and other game probably enticed them to explore new grasslands.

With much of Earth’s water frozen in massive ice sheets, the era’s vast steppes stretched from eastern France to Korea. The grassland hunters of the M89 lineage traveled both east and west along this steppe “superhighway” and eventually peopled much of the continent.

A group of M89 descendants moved north from the Middle East to Anatolia and the Balkans, trading familiar grasslands for forests and high country. Though their numbers were likely small, genetic traces of their journey are still found today.

Some 40,000 years ago a man in Iran or southern Central Asia was born with a unique genetic marker known as M9, which marked a new lineage diverging from the M89 group. His descendants spent the next 30,000 years populating much of the planet.

Most residents of the Northern Hemisphere trace their roots to this unique individual, and carry his defining marker. Nearly all North Americans and East Asians have the M9 marker, as do most Europeans and many Indians. The haplogroup defined by M9, K, is known as the Eurasian Clan.

This large lineage dispersed gradually. Seasoned hunters followed the herds ever eastward, along a vast belt of Eurasian steppe, until the massive mountain ranges of south central Asia blocked their path.

The Hindu Kush, Tian Shan, and Himalaya, even more formidable during the era’s ice age, divided eastward migrations. These migrations through the “Pamir Knot” region would subsequently become defined by additional genetic markers.

The marker M45 first appeared about 35,000 to 40,000 years ago in a man who became the common ancestor of most Europeans and nearly all Native Americans. This unique individual was part of the M9 lineage, which was moving to the north of the mountainous Hindu Kush and onto the game-rich steppes of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and southern Siberia.

The M45 lineage survived on these northern steppes even in the frigid Ice Age climate. While big game was plentiful, these resourceful hunters had to adapt their behavior to an increasingly hostile environment. They erected animal skin shelters and sewed weathertight clothing. They also refined the flint heads on their weapons to compensate for the scarcity of obsidian and other materials.

The intelligence that allowed this lineage to adapt and thrive in harsh conditions was critical to human survival in a region where no other hominids are known to have survived.

Members of haplogroup R are descendents of Europe’s first large-scale human settlers. The lineage is defined by Y chromosome marker M173, which shows a westward journey of M45-carrying Central Asian steppe hunters.

The descendents of M173 arrived in Europe around 35,000 years ago and immediately began to make their own dramatic mark on the continent. Famous cave paintings, like those of Lascaux and Chauvet, signal the sudden arrival of humans with artistic skill. There are no artistic precedents or precursors to their appearance.

Soon after this lineage’s arrival in Europe, the era of the Neandertals came to a close. Genetic evidence proves that these hominids were not human ancestors but an evolutionary dead end. Smarter, more resourceful human descendents of M173 likely outcompeted Neandertals for scarce Ice Age resources and thus heralded their demise.

The long journey of this lineage was further shaped by the preponderance of ice at this time. Humans were forced to southern refuges in Spain, Italy, and the Balkans. Years later, as the ice retreated, they moved north out of these isolated refuges and left an enduring, concentrated trail of the M173 marker in their wake.

Today, for example, the marker’s frequency remains very high in northern France and the British Isles—where it was carried by M173 descendents who had weathered the Ice Age in Spain.

Members of haplogroup R1b, defined by M343 are the direct descendents of Europe’s first modern humans—known as the Cro-Magnon people.

Cro-Magnons arrived in Europe some 35,000 years ago, during a time when Neandertals still lived in the region. M343-carrying peoples made woven clothing and constructed huts to withstand the frigid climes of the Upper Paleolithic era. They used relatively advanced tools of stone, bone, and ivory. Jewelry, carvings, and intricate, colorful cave paintings bear witness to the Cro Magnons’ surprisingly advanced culture during the last glacial age.

When the ice retreated genetically homogenous groups recolonized the north, where they are still found in high frequencies. Some 70 percent of men in southern England are R1b. In parts of Spain and Ireland that number exceeds 90 percent.

There are many sublineages within R1b that are yet to be defined. The Genographic Project hopes to bring future clarity to the disparate parts of this distinctive European lineage.

 

 

Categories
News-esque

Eroded Civil Liberties

Truly scary story below. Soon after 9/11, I suspected I was on some list as every time I flew, I was pulled aside and given increased scrutiny. I never missed a flight, but still after 12 straight occurrences (6 flights), I started to worry. However, in my case, (knock on wood-related object), apparently, they cleared me off of the ‘suspect’ list, as I haven’t been searched for the last several flights.

Mr. Moore’s trouble sound a lot worse….
Bush's Brain
James Moore

The Blog | James Moore: Branded | The Huffington Post:

…This week last year I was preparing for a trip to Ohio to conduct interviews and research for a new book I was writing. My airline tickets had been purchased on line and the morning of departure I went to the Internet to print out my boarding pass. I got a message that said, “Not Allowed.” Several subsequent tries failed. Surely, I thought, it’s just a glitch within the airline’s servers or software.
I made it a point to arrive very early at the airport. My reservation was confirmed before I left home. I went to the electronic kiosk and punched in my confirmation number to print out my boarding pass and luggage tags. Another error message appeared, “Please see agent.”

I did. She took my Texas driver’s license and punched in the relevant information to her computer system.

“I’m sorry, sir,” she said. “There seems to be a problem. You’ve been placed on the No Fly Watch List.”

“Excuse me?”

“I’m afraid there isn’t much more that I can tell you,” she explained. “It’s just the list that’s maintained by TSA to check for people who might have terrorist connections.”

“You’re serious?”

“I’m afraid so, sir. Here’s an 800 number in Washington. You need to call them before I can clear you for the flight.”

Exasperated, I dialed the number from my cell, determined to clear up what I was sure was a clerical error. The woman who answered offered me no more information than the ticket agent.

“Mam, I’d like to know how I got on the No Fly Watch List.”

“I’m not really authorized to tell you that, sir,” she explained after taking down my social security and Texas driver’s license numbers.

“What can you tell me?”

“All I can tell you is that there is something in your background that in some way is similar to someone they are looking for.”

“Well, let me get this straight then,” I said. “Our government is looking for a guy who may have a mundane Anglo name, who pays tens of thousands of dollars every year in taxes, has never been arrested or even late on a credit card payment, is more uninteresting than a Tupperware party, and cries after the first two notes of the national anthem? We need to find this guy. He sounds dangerous to me.”

“I’m sorry, sir, I’ve already told you everything I can.”

“Oh, wait,” I said. “One last thing: this guy they are looking for? Did he write books critical of the Bush administration, too?”

I have been on the No Fly Watch List for a year. I will never be told the official reason. No one ever is. You cannot sue to get the information. Nothing I have done has moved me any closer to getting off the list. There were 35,000 Americans in that database last year. According to a European government that screens hundreds of thousands of American travelers every year, the list they have been given to work from has since grown to 80,000.

My friends tell me it is just more government incompetence. A tech buddy said there’s no one in government smart enough to write a search algorithm that will find actual terrorists, so they end up with authors of books criticizing the Bush White House. I have no idea what’s going on.

I suppose I should think of it as a minor sacrifice to help keep my country safe. Not being able to print out boarding passes in advance and having to get to the airport three hours early for every flight is hardly an imposition compared to what Americans are enduring in Iraq. I can force myself to get used to all that extra attention from the guy with the wand whenever I walk through the electronic arches. I’m just doing my patriotic duty.

Of course, there’s always the chance that the No Fly Watch List is one of many enemies lists maintained by the Bush White House. If that’s the case, I am happy to be on that list. I am in good company with people who expect more out of their president and their government.

Hell, maybe I’ll start thinking of it as an honor roll.

found via Tom Tomorrow
home of this great sticker:
Nixon V Bush - available at www.thismodernworld.com

Categories
News-esque politics

The Wiretappers That Couldn’t Shoot Straight

This outrage always seemed manufactured to me as well, perhaps because I’ve been watching the superlative serial drama, the Wire, recently.

“The Wire – The Complete First and Second Seasons” (Daniel Attias, Alex Zakrzewski, Elodie Keene)

If drug dealers (albeit fictional) from the projects of Baltimore knew in 2002 that cell phone conversations could be monitored, how can President Bunnypants declare with a straight face that ‘security was comprised’ by revealing the extent of warrantless wiretaps?

The Wiretappers That Couldn’t Shoot Straight – New York Times:

ALMOST two weeks before The New York Times published its scoop about our government’s extralegal wiretapping, the cable network Showtime blew the whole top-secret shebang. In its mini-series “Sleeper Cell,” about Islamic fundamentalist terrorists in Los Angeles, the cell’s ringleader berates an underling for chatting about an impending operation during a phone conversation with an uncle in Egypt.

“We can only pray that the N.S.A. is not listening,” the leader yells at the miscreant, who is then stoned for his blabbing.
If fictional terrorists concocted by Hollywood can figure out that the National Security Agency is listening to their every call, guess what? Real-life terrorists know this, too. So when a hyperventilating President Bush rants that the exposure of his warrant-free wiretapping in a newspaper is shameful and puts “our citizens at risk” by revealing our espionage playbook, you have to wonder what he is really trying to hide.

Our enemies, as America has learned the hard way, are not morons. Even if Al Qaeda hasn’t seen “Sleeper Cell” because it refuses to spring for pay cable, it has surely assumed from the get-go that the White House would ignore legal restraints on eavesdropping, just as it has on detainee jurisprudence and torture.
That the White House’s over-the-top outrage about the Times scoop is a smokescreen contrived to cover up something else is only confirmed by Dick Cheney’s disingenuousness. In last week’s oration at a right-wing think tank, he defended warrant-free wiretapping by saying it could have prevented the 9/11 attacks. Really? Not with this administration in charge. On 9/10 the N.S.A. (lawfully) intercepted messages in Arabic saying, “The match is about to begin,” and, “Tomorrow is zero hour.” You know the rest. Like all the chatter our government picked up during the president’s excellent brush-clearing Crawford vacation of 2001, it was relegated to mañana; the N.S.A. didn’t rouse itself to translate those warnings until 9/12.

Given that the reporters on the Times story, James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, wrote that nearly a dozen current and former officials had served as their sources, there may be more leaks to come, and not just to The Times. Sooner or later we’ll find out what the White House is really so defensive about.

Categories
politics

Who Will Stand Up for the Constitution?

Bob Herbert wonders why Bush the lesser hasn’t been arrested yet

Bob Herbert: Who Will Stand Up for the Constitution?
Why wouldn’t we expect the administration to deceive the public about the illegal spying of the National Security Agency?

Yoosdabee, the Rethuglicans were all for ‘rule of law’….

Categories
Suggestions

Harry Reid – Italian Hater, or just racist

I’ve been engrossed in Gus Russo’s book about the Chicago mob, The Outfit

The Outfit (Gus Russo)
“The Outfit” (Gus Russo)

Written in journalistic fashion (copious amounts of research, broadly described events, but no flights of purple prose), the book repeatedly sketches how upperworld corruption was an essential part of The Outfit’s business operation. Bold face names like Tom Pendergast and his protege, Harry Truman, guys like Richard Nixon, Joe (and Jack) Kennedy, various Chicago mayors (Daley the elder, Cermak, etc.), movie moguls like Louis B. Mayer and Harry Cohn, and so on all pop up as equal partners in various criminal schemes.

Surprisingly though, was a minor tidbit about Harry Reid while Gaming Commisioner in Nevada (pgs 347-349 in the paperback edition). Apparently, in the late 1950’s, after Nevada had been turned from a sleepy, two-bit cowboy town into a Rat Pack mecca by ambitious gangsters, the Mormon power-brokers decided that Italians were not to be welcomed anymore. Hence, in 1959 the Gaming Control Act which encouraged licensing to ‘savory characters’ only. However, in the first year of the act, licenses were approved for several convicted WASP bookies, gamblers, tax cheats, bribers, and murderers (such as Charles “Babe” Baron, twice arrested for murder). Italians need not apply – even squeaky clean ones like the gourmet chef, Joseph Pignatello.

Soon the Board instituted

the infamous Black Book, which listed “unsavory characters” who not only could never be licensed, but were barred for life from setting foot in a Las Vegas casino. The introductory remarks noted that the list had been devised so that certain individuals “not discredit the gaming industry”. Discredit gambling? This is the same pastime that the board’s Mormon dogma prohibits and labels immoral. All those listed were so included without formal notification, hearing, or appeal. And the reasons for their inclusion could be mere hearsay. Of the initial eleven placed in the Black Book, eight were Italian, and most had been implicated or convicted in the same sorts of crimes as the WASPs who were licensed:bootlegging and bookmaking.

…Over the years, 62 percent of those placed in the Black Book have been Italian, dwarfing the numbers of the runners-up, Anglo-Saxons (15 percent)…“The mere Italian sound of a man’s name generated considerable suspicion.” In a candid moment, board chairman Harry Reid once said, “The reasons for their being singled out are not important as far as we’re concerned.”

Does this even matter? Somehow, to me, it does. Granted, politicians are as frequently racist, ignorant, jerk-offs as the rest of us, but I dream of leaders who have higher standards then the norm. I had halfway allowed myself to respect Harry Reid, especially after recent comments like:

in May of 2005 when he said of George W. Bush, “The man’s father is a wonderful human being. I think this guy is a loser.”

Oh well, throw him back on the heap. I’m done with him.

Perhaps I’m just sympathetic to profiling, having been searched so many times at airports (12 straight times at one point, though that’s better now, I guess I’ve been taken off the list, knock on wood-like object), attacked by drunken frat boys, or whatever. I still cling to my idealism, regardless of how delusional it is. Blame the hillbilly heroin my doctor recently proscribed for back pain….