Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Duhhh...Just Say NO!

Just Say NO by Paul Krugman (Ny Times) is a great assessment of why Bush's Soc. Sec. finagling and attempts to "pull the deficit wool over the public's eyes" over Social Security is falling flat:

"In short, anyone who wants to see the nation return to fiscal responsibility, wants to preserve Social Security as an institution or both should be opposed to any deal creating private accounts. And there is also, of course, the political question: Why should any Democrat act as a spoiler when his party is doing well by doing good, gaining political ground by opposing a really bad idea? (Hello, Senator Lieberman.)

The important thing to remember is why the right wants privatization. The drive to create private accounts isn't about finding a way to strengthen Social Security; it's about finding a way to phase out a system that conservatives have always regarded as illegitimate. And as long as that is what's at stake, there is no room for any genuine compromise. When it comes to privatization, just say no.

And the public is responding with this "Duh" moment with a resounding of lack of enthusiam for the "Bush Non-Plan Specifics" regarding this fictional "crisis". In Bush Misplayed Hand E.J. Dionne (Washington Post) explains the collective problems with the Bush Message:
"American politics has been so corrupted by concepts such as "positioning" and "message discipline" that citizens don't get credit for their ability to decide issues on the merits. But when the public knows and cares a great deal about what's at stake, it is quite discerning about what's true and what's not.

That's why President Bush's troubles on Social Security cannot be explained by some alleged failure of the White House's usually impeccable communications operation. Conventional explanations fail because this is a battle over principle in which the facts matter.

So far the president has made at least four mistakes. He assumed he could convince the country that Social Security faces a crisis requiring urgent action. He thought he could accentuate the positive -- those "personal accounts" really do sound great -- without laying out what they would cost. He counted on getting good-government points by "facing up" to Social Security's long-term problems without proposing any hard steps to fix them. And he figured that some Democrats would fall his way simply because that's what has always happened before.

Where does this leave a president? Dropping his call for private accounts carved out of Social Security would allow him to win bipartisan approval for moderate fixes to make the retirement system solvent for decades. Alternatively, he could put forward a serious and detailed plan for private accounts and invite an honest and instructive philosophical face-off with the Democrats on the future of social insurance. The lesson of the first round of the Social Security debate is that the public won't bet on Bush's ideas until he reveals the cards he's holding back..."

Karen on 03.10.05 @ 05:43 AM CST [link] [ | ]

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." --Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

We've just heard that the St. Louis Cardinals have converted left handed pitcher Rick Ankiel to left fielder Rick Ankiel. A quick glance at the Cardinals' active roster confirms that news. Making the switch even more interesting is that Ankiel is out of options, and must either make the major-league roster out of spring training or be placed on the waiver wire; it's not a given that he can be sent down to the minors to develop as a hitter.

If that isn't the weirdest fucking baseball news I've heard in years, it's certainly in the top three.

Len on 03.09.05 @ 06:56 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Wish I could make it, myself.....

Just got this announcement in the email inbox. I pass it on for those of you who are politically sympathetic and who, unlike me, are not slaves to the Tyrrany of the Urgent (Ok, I'll fess up; Bush's craven cowardice and inability to brook dissent means that This Noble Effort is going to be shunted off to a "First Amendment Zone" miles away from The Imperial Presence, so I question its ultimate utility, too, but I do think the thought counts):

From: jacob flowers <jacob@midsouthpeace.org">jacob@midsouthpeace.org>
Date: Tue, 8 Mar 2005 21:16:27 -0600

Subject: [mspjc-events] Bush in Memphis- Protest Friday


Hello All,

Pres. Bush has decided to grace our city with his presence of Friday March 11, at the Cannon Center. We are organizing a protest and action Friday morning starting at 7am in the parking lot of the High Point Pinch, 111 Jackson between N. Main St. and 2nd. This is shaping up to be a very large event, there are buses coming from Nashville and Jonesboro. It is vital that we let Pres. Bush know that Memphis is not in tune with his destructive policies as they relate to Social Security and a host of other issues. We hope to see you there, signs will be available upon arrival so all you need to bring is yourself.

What: Anti Privatization of Social Security Rally

When: Friday March 11, at 7am

Where: High Point Pinch Parking Lot, 111 Jackson

Who: Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, Democracy for Memphis, TN Citizen Action, AFL-CIO, Shelby County Democratic Party, and a wide array of faith, labor, and community groups.

If you can attend please let us know so we can plan accordingly. We also need volunteers to make calls and help get people out to this event in the next few days. If you can help please contact us.

In Peace,
Jacob Flowers
Executive Director,
Mid-South Peace and Justice Center
1000 S. Cooper
Memphis, TN 38104

Len on 03.09.05 @ 09:24 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Such a wonderfully ironic twist....

It's somehow become a dogma of secular religious faith in the United States that "socialized medicine" is an unalloyed evil. Therefore, it's ironic that there's stunning proof of the superiority of socialized medicine, according to an interesting study by Phillip Longman in The Washington Monthly, and it can be found right here in the United States: the Veteran's Administration health care system (since its reformation in the mid-1990s):

Yet here's a curious fact that few conservatives or liberals know. Who do you think receives higher-quality health care. Medicare patients who are free to pick their own doctors and specialists? Or aging veterans stuck in those presumably filthy VA hospitals with their antiquated equipment, uncaring administrators, and incompetent staff? An answer came in 2003, when the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine published a study that compared veterans health facilities on 11 measures of quality with fee-for-service Medicare. On all 11 measures, the quality of care in veterans facilities proved to be “significantly better.”

Here's another curious fact. The
Annals of Internal Medicine recently published a study that compared veterans health facilities with commercial managed-care systems in their treatment of diabetes patients. In seven out of seven measures of quality, the VA provided better care. It gets stranger. Pushed by large employers who are eager to know what they are buying when they purchase health care for their employees, an outfit called the National Committee for Quality Assurance today ranks health-care plans on 17 different performance measures. These include how well the plans manage high blood pressure or how precisely they adhere to standard protocols of evidence-based medicine such as prescribing beta blockers for patients recovering from a heart attack. Winning NCQA's seal of approval is the gold standard in the health-care industry. And who do you suppose this year's winner is: Johns Hopkins? Mayo Clinic? Massachusetts General? Nope. In every single category, the VHA system outperforms the highest rated non-VHA hospitals.

Not convinced? Consider what vets themselves think. Sure, it's not hard to find vets who complain about difficulties in establishing eligibility. Many are outraged that the Bush administration has decided to deny previously promised health-care benefits to veterans who don't have service-related illnesses or who can't meet a strict means test. Yet these grievances are about access to the system, not about the quality of care received by those who get in. Veterans groups tenaciously defend the VHA and applaud its turnaround. “The quality of care is outstanding,” says Peter Gayton, deputy director for veterans affairs and rehabilitation at the American Legion. In the latest independent survey, 81 percent of VHA hospital patients express satisfaction with the care they receive, compared to 77 percent of Medicare and Medicaid patients.

Outside experts agree that the VHA has become an industry leader in its safety and quality measures. Dr. Donald M. Berwick, president of the Institute for Health Care Improvement and one of the nation's top health-care quality experts, praises the VHA's information technology as “spectacular.” The venerable Institute of Medicine notes that the VHA's “integrated health information system, including its framework for using performance measures to improve quality, is considered one of the best in the nation.
Why is the VHA so much better? That's a complex subject, but one important factor is that the free market just isn't structured to provide sufficient incentives (in terms of profitability) to induce private health care providers to make the kinds of improvements that the non-profit VHA can make:
But when it comes to health care, it's a government bureaucracy that's setting the standard for maintaining best practices while reducing costs, and it's the private sector that's lagging in quality. That unexpected reality needs examining if we're to have any hope of understanding what's wrong with America's health-care system and how to fix it. It turns out that precisely because the VHA is a big, government-run system that has nearly a lifetime relationship with its patients, it has incentives for investing in quality and keeping its patients well—incentives that are lacking in for-profit medicine.


To understand the larger lessons of the VHA's turnaround, it's necessary to pause for a moment to think about what comprises quality health care. The first criterion likely to come to mind is the presence of doctors who are highly trained, committed professionals. They should know a lot about biochemistry, anatomy, cellular and molecular immunology, and other details about how the human body works—and have the academic credentials to prove it. As it happens, the VHA has long had many doctors who answer to that description. Indeed, most VHA doctors have faculty appointments with academic hospitals.

But when you get seriously sick, it's not just one doctor who will be involved in your care. These days, chances are you'll see many doctors, including different specialists. Therefore, how well these doctors communicate with one another and work as a team matters a lot. “Forgetfulness is such a constant problem in the system,” says Berwick of the Institute for Health Care Improvement. “It doesn't remember you. Doesn't remember that you were here and here and then there. It doesn't remember your story.”

Are all your doctors working from the same medical record and making entries that are clearly legible? Do they have a reliable system to ensure that no doctor will prescribe drugs that will interact harmfully with medications prescribed by another doctor? Is any one of them going to take responsibility for coordinating your care so that, for example, you don't leave the hospital without the right follow-up medication or knowing how and when to take it? Just about anyone who's had a serious illness, or tried to be an advocate for a sick loved one, knows that all too often the answer is no.

Doctors aren't the only ones who define the quality of your health care. There are also many other people involved—nurses, pharmacists, lab technicians, orderlies, even custodians. Any one of these people could kill you if they were to do their jobs wrong. Even a job as lowly as changing a bedpan, if not done right, can spread a deadly infection throughout a hospital. Each of these people is part of an overall system of care, and if the system lacks cohesion and quality control, many people will be injured and many will die.
As a professional techno-geek, I'm pleased to see that one way of making sure that the actions of all these various players in the health care game are coordinated towards the goal of getting the patient well, is to incorporate information technology into the plan:
Why doesn't this change? Well, much of it has changed in the veterans health-care system, where advanced information technology today serves not only to deeply reduce medical errors, but also to improve diagnoses and implement coordinated, evidence-based care. Or at least so I kept reading in the professional literature on health-care quality in the United States.
Not only does the information technology developed by the VHA streamline and improve health care within the system, but the software that makes such improvement possible is free for anyone to use:
Developed at taxpayer expense, the VistA program is available for free to anyone who cares to download it off the Internet. The link is to a demo, but the complete software is nonetheless available. You can try it out yourself by going to http://www1.va.gov/CPRSdemo/. Not surprisingly, it is currently being used by public health care systems in Finland, Germany, and Nigeria. There is even an Arabic language version up and running in Egypt. Yet VHA officials say they are unaware of any private health care system in the United States that uses the software. Instead, most systems are still drowning in paper, or else just starting to experiment with far more primitive information technologies.

Worse, some are even tearing out their electronic information systems. That's what happened at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, which in 2003 turned off its brand-new, computerized physician order entry system after doctors objected that it was too cumbersome. At least six other hospitals have done the same in recent years. Another example of the resistance to information technology among private practice doctors comes from the Hawaii Independent Physicians Association, which recently cancelled a program that offered its members $3,000 if they would adopt electronic medical records. In nine months, there were only two takers out of its 728 member doctors.

In July, Connecting for Health—a public-private cooperative of hospitals, health plans, employers and government agencies—found that persuading doctors in small- to medium-sized practices to adopt electronic medical records required offering bonuses of up to 10 percent of the doctors' annual income. This may partly be due to simple techno-phobia or resistance to change. But the broader reason, as we shall see, is that most individual doctors and managed care providers in the private sector often lack a financial incentive to invest for investing in electronic medical records and other improvements to the quality of the care they offer.
The problem, simply, is that the American for profit health care model simply isn't structured to make such improvements profitable for physicians and other health care providers:
Why care about quality?

Here's one big reason. As Lawrence P. Casalino, a professor of public health at the University of Chicago, puts it, “The U.S. medical market as presently constituted simply does not provide a strong business case for quality.”

Casalino writes from his own experience as a solo practitioner, and on the basis of over 800 interviews he has since conducted with health-care leaders and corporate health care purchasers. While practicing medicine on his own in Half Moon Bay, Calif, Casalino had an idealistic commitment to following emerging best practices in medicine. That meant spending lots of time teaching patients about their diseases, arranging for careful monitoring and follow-up care, and trying to keep track of what prescriptions and procedures various specialists might be ordering.

Yet Casalino quickly found out that he couldn't sustain this commitment to quality, given the rules under which he was operating. Nobody paid him for the extra time he spent with his patients. He might have eased his burden by hiring a nurse to help with all the routine patient education and follow-up care that was keeping him at the office too late. Or he might have teamed up with other providers in the area to invest in computer technology that would allow them to offer the same coordinated care available in veterans hospitals and clinics today. Either step would have improved patient safety and added to the quality of care he was providing. But even had he managed to pull them off, he stood virtually no chance of seeing any financial return on his investment. As a private practice physician, he got paid for treating patients, not for keeping them well or helping them recover faster.

The same problem exists across all health-care markets, and its one main reason in explaining why the VHA has a quality performance record that exceeds that of private-sector providers. Suppose a private managed-care plan follows the VHA example and invests in a computer program to identify diabetics and keep track of whether they are getting appropriate follow-up care. The costs are all upfront, but the benefits may take 20 years to materialize. And by then, unlike in the VHA system, the patient will likely have moved on to some new health-care plan. As the chief financial officer of one health plan told Casalino: “Why should I spend our money to save money for our competitors?”

Or suppose an HMO decides to invest in improving the quality of its diabetic care anyway. Then not only will it risk seeing the return on that investment go to a competitor, but it will also face another danger as well. What happens if word gets out that this HMO is the best place to go if you have diabetes? Then more and more costly diabetic patients will enroll there, requiring more premium increases, while its competitors enjoy a comparatively large supply of low-cost, healthier patients. That's why, Casalino says, you never see a billboard with an HMO advertising how good it is at treating one disease or another. Instead, HMO advertisements generally show only healthy families.

In many realms of health care, no investment in quality goes unpunished.
Here's an especially galling example:
A telling example comes from semi-rural Whatcom County, Wash. There, idealistic health-care providers banded together and worked to bring down rates of heart disease and diabetes in the country. Following best practices from around the country, they organized multi-disciplinary care teams to provide patients with counseling, education, and navigation through the health-care system. The providers developed disease protocols derived from evidence-based medicine. They used information technology to allow specialists to share medical records and to support disease management.

But a problem has emerged. Who will pay for the initiative? It is already greatly improving public health and promises to bring much more business to local pharmacies, as more people are prescribed medications to manage their chronic conditions and will also save Medicare lots of money. But projections show that, between 2001 and 2008, the initiative will cost the local hospital $7.7 million in lost revenue, and reduce the income of the county's medical specialists by $1.6 million. An idealistic commitment to best practices in medicine doesn't pay the bills. Today, the initiative survives only by attracting philanthropic support, and, more recently, a $500,000 grant from Congress.
Basically, the almighty free market isn't so almighty, and alternatives need to be considered. Ultimately, a complete restructuring of the health care system might be the only truly viable solution:
VHA's success shows that Americans clearly could have higher-quality health care at lower cost. But if we presume—and it is safe to do so—that Americans are not going to accept the idea of government-run health care any time soon, it's still worth thinking about how the private health-care industry might be restructured to allow it to do what the VHA has done. For any private health-care plan to have enough incentive to match the VHA's performance on quality, it would have to be nearly as big as the VHA. It would have to have facilities and significant market share in nearly every market so that it could, like the VHA, stand a good chance of holding on to customers no matter where they moved.

It would also have to be big enough to achieve the VHA's economies of scale in information management and to create the volumes of patients needed to keep specialists current in performing specific operations and procedures. Not surprisingly, the next best performers on quality after the VHA are big national or near-national networks like Kaiser Permanente. Perhaps if every American had to join one such plan and had to pay a financial penalty for switching plans (as, in effect, do most customers of the VHA), then a business case for quality might exist more often in the private health-care market. Simply mandating that all health-care providers adopt electronic medical records and other quality protocols pioneered by the VHA might seem like a good idea. But in the absence of any other changes, it would likely lead to more hospital closings and bankrupt health-care plans.

As the health-care crisis worsens, and as more become aware of how dangerous and unscientific most of the U.S. health-care system is, maybe we will find a way to get our minds around these strange truths. Many Americans still believe that the U.S. health-care system is the best in the world, and that its only major problems are that it costs too much and leaves too many people uninsured. But the fact remains that Americans live shorter lives, with more disabilities, than people in countries that spend barely half as much per person on health care. Pouring more money into the current system won't change that. Nor will making the current system even more fragmented and driven by short-term profit motives. But learning from the lesson offered by the veterans health system could point the way to an all-American solution.

Len on 03.09.05 @ 08:06 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Extremely Too Close for Comfort

Home Grown Extremists...right in my figurative backyard...

Nicholas Kristof (NY Times) writes about his "luncheon" in Peoria, Illinois (State Prison) with Matthew Hale in this piece Homegrown Osamas:

"Before the "Rev. Dr." Matt Hale, the white racist leader, was arrested for seeking the murder of a federal judge, and long before the judge returned home last week to find her husband and mother murdered, I had lunch with him.

Mr. Hale, who is smart, articulate and malignant, ranted about "race betrayers" as he picked at his fruit salad: "Interracial marriage is against nature. It's a form of bestiality."

"Oh?" I replied. "Incidentally, my wife is Chinese-American."

There was an awkward silence.

Mr. Hale was convicted last year of soliciting the murder of Federal District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow. Now the police are investigating whether there is any link between Mr. Hale or his followers and the murders. Some white supremacists celebrated the killings, but Mr. Hale has strongly denied any involvement.

The possibility that extremists carried out the murders for revenge or intimidation sends a chill through our judicial system, because it would then constitute an assault on our judiciary itself. Throughout U.S. history, only three federal judges have been murdered, but all three murders occurred after 1978 and all at their homes..."

Karen on 03.09.05 @ 07:42 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Why Sonny Bono was a turd...

Thanks to Bono, Proust lovers in the United States can't get access to the final three volumes of the latest, greatest translation of Proust's masterwork, A la recherche du temps perdu (literally, "in search of lost time", though the classic English translation rendered the title as "remembrance of things past"), in the United States (though at least, those willing to do so can purchase the book from publishers in the United Kingdom).

In 1995, Penguin UK announced a new translation of Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time, with a different translator in charge of each of the seven volumes. This marked the first entirely fresh English-language version of the Search in decades; all previous renderings had been merely revisions of C.K. Scott Moncrieff's translation, which had appeared in the course of the 1920s. So many hands made for relatively quick work. In the United Kingdom, all volumes of the new project were published together in 2002. But readers in the United States have been left stranded midway through the novel, forced to endure two of the most Proustian of experiences: jealousy and loss.

Only the first four volumes of the new translation--from
Swann's Way through Sodom and Gomorrah--are available here. For this we have Sonny Bono to blame. Just before he died in 1998, the congressman sponsored a bill to extend the term of copyright by 20 years: According to the Sonny Bono Copyright Act, passed later that year, rights would expire 95, rather than 75, years after an artist's death. Since Proust died in 1922, only those four volumes first published during his lifetime had passed into the American public domain by the time the Bono Act became law. It will therefore be at least 2018 before readers in the United States can find the final three installments of the new translation (The Prisoner and The Fugitive, and Time Regained) in their local bookstores.

Len on 03.09.05 @ 07:13 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

I recognize that science doesn't have all the answers and doesn't pretend to, and that's one of the things I love about it. But it has a pretty good notion of what's probable or possible, and virgin births and carpenter rebirths just aren't on the list. Is there a divine intelligence, separate from the universe but somehow in charge of the universe, either in its inception or in twiddling its parameters? No evidence. Is the universe itself God? Is the universe aware of itself? We're here. We're aware. Does that make us God? Will my daughter have to attend a Quaker Friends school now?

I don't believe in life after death, but I'd like to believe in life before death. I'd like to think that one of these days we'll leave superstition and delusional thinking and Jerry Falwell behind. Scientists would like that, too. But for now, they like their grants even more.
--Natalie Angier

Len on 03.09.05 @ 07:00 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Saving Spector

Much as I complain about most GOP members -- especially those political sell-outs and shills for that empty suit of a "Fearless Leader" we have -- it's always good to have people willing to work their way across the political aisles like Sen. Arlen Spector. He appears to be a rare type of political operative (almost extinct these days) who isn't hidebound by their own Party ideology. Spector took a lot of hostile flack from the conservative right to get his Chairmanship of trhe Senate Judiciary Commitee. I only hope that he stays at it and beats this latest illness as mentioned in this piece in the Washington Post: Spector Unbound.

"President Bush would be wise to "pick up the phone" and consult with Democrats before choosing a new Supreme Court justice. "The advice clause in the Constitution has been largely ignored." If there is a vacancy on the high court, "the far right is going to come hard at a nominee if it is not a nominee of their choosing. But I think there's a much broader base in America than the far right." Changing the Senate rules to prohibit filibusters of judicial nominees -- the "nuclear option" -- could have deleterious short-term effects and run the long-term risk of eroding the rights of the minority. "If we go to the nuclear option . . . the Senate will be in turmoil and the Judiciary Committee will be hell."

What is surprising about these comments is not so much the substance as the speaker: the new Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter. If you thought that his brush with losing the committee chairmanship had chastened the legendarily contrarian Specter, if you thought his recent diagnosis of Hodgkin's disease might have tempered his approach -- well, that wasn't the Specter on display in a visit with The Post editorial board yesterday. Instead, the discussion featured Specter Unbound: the Specter who voted against Robert H. Bork rather than the one who rallied to the defense of Clarence Thomas...."

Karen on 03.09.05 @ 05:38 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Dickey's "Arabian Springtime"

I am so pleased that Christopher Dickey (Newsweek Paris News Bureau Chief and Middle East Affairs expert) spies the positive momentum of the cry of "freedom" ringing across the Middle East as he writes in this article: An Arabian Spring. Chris writes:

"...Each experiment with freedom is helping to build democratic momentum, and after so much bad news out of the Middle East, there's suddenly so much good that the Bush administration finds itself basking in vindication. The old arguments for invading Iraq—the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein's ephemeral ties to Al Qaeda—have faded into the background. "Democratization in the Middle East is the cornerstone of what Washington wants to achieve in the region," says one U.S. official....

In fact, expectations are rising much faster now than anyone anticipated, encouraged by White House rhetoric but triggered by uncontrollable events like the death of Arafat in November and the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in February. Even in Iraq, it was Ayatollah Ali Sistani, not the Americans, who insisted on elections sooner rather than later. "When you look at the streets you realize we're just playing catch-up," says one State Department official. "The people are pushing for this on their own...

"I think the Middle East is changing," ...."The Arab people want to join the rest of the civilized world. They want freedom. I have denounced the American invasion of Iraq, but I also admit that the Iraqi people are now free." He recounted the recent steps toward democracy in other areas. "And in Lebanon, the young people of Lebanon—the youngsters of Lebanon—are just fed up! Fed up. And it's a revolt, a popular revolt triggered, of course, by the killing of Hariri. We say we want a new Lebanon. We've had enough of blood, killing and assassinations. We want independence."

Indeed, that sentiment may be the strongest one sweeping the Middle East. But what does it mean, really? Democracy is not the only rallying cry, or even the most potent one. As Jumblatt is quick to say, Arabs are sick of living in occupied countries, whether the occupiers are Syrian or Israeli or, for that matter, even the well-intentioned United States of America."

Though Chris hasn't always been so optimistic-- or had a farther range of a 15-20 year optimism in viewing the potential of the Middle East and true "freedom loving" peaceful democratization of that region (or Iraq in particular) -- it is good to note the winds of change he sees from his much closer and clearer vantage point of the region than many experts or pundits have.

Karen on 03.09.05 @ 05:18 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Trivia Answers

1) This character got started in National Comics #5 (cover date: November, 1940), published by Quality Comics, and in this incarnation shared a name with a much more recent character appearing in comic books published by Marvel Comics. Both the Quality/DC and Marvel characters share the same super power (they are super-speedsters). DC Comics acquired the rights to Quality's characters in 1956, and in the early 1990's DC revived this character under a different name and made him a supporting character to DC's own super-speedster character, The Flash (i.e., the Wally West incarnation). Who is this "zen master of speed" (both names)?
The original Quicksilver, who became Max Mercury in his 1990s second incarnation.

2) What is Superman's birth name, and the names of his birth parents?
Kal-El, last son of Krypton, is the son of Jor-El and Lara.

3) Stan Lee and Jack Kirby brought Norse mythology into the modern world when they introduced their hero, The Mighty Thor, into the Marvel Universe. In what comic book (title and issue number, with a cover date of August, 1962) was Thor introduced, and who/what was the first enemy he faced?
Thor was introduced in Journey Into Mystery, #83, where he defeated the menace of The Stone Men from Saturn. [Apropos of an answer that was given this week, I'll note that Loki, the God of Mischief and Thor's recurring nemesis, made his first appearance in Journey Into Mystery #85 (October, 1962).]

4) What do the following individuals have in common: Arthur Curry (aka Orin), James Norcross, T'challa, Prince Namor, Victor Von Doom, and Ronald Reagan?
In their respective comic books or animated series, each was a head of state who somehow managed to find the time to be active as a superhero as well. Arthur Curry/Orin was the ruler of Atlantis (in the DC Universe) as well as being the hero Aquaman; James Norcross was the President of the United States and also given super powers from a cosmic storm in the 1967 animated series Super President; T'challa was King of Wakanda (a small, technologically advanced African nation in the Marvel Universe) as well as being The Black Panther, a member of The Avengers and friend of Captain America; Prince Namor was the Sub-Mariner as well as being Prince of Atlantis (in the Marvel Universe); Victor Von Doom was also Doctor Doom, ruler of Latveria (while Doctor Doom is an antagonist of The Fantastic Four, in Latveria Doctor Doom is considered a benevolent ruler, and can therefore be considered Latveria's superhero); and Ronald Reagan was featured as the leader of a technologically enhanced super-team (consisting of a number of his Cabinet members) in Solson Publications' 1987 three issue series Reagan's Raiders.

5) Who were the Original Teen Titans (the three charter members, and the two members added shortly after the team was founded)? And who are they now (i.e., under what identities are they now fighting crime, if they are)?
The original three Teen Titans were Robin I (i.e., Dick Grayson, Batman's sidekick), Kid Flash I (Wally West, Flash II's occasional sidekick) and Aqualad (Garth, Aquaman's sidekick). Shortly after the team was founded they added Speedy (Roy Harper, Green Arrow's sidekick) and Wonder Girl I (Donna Troy, Wonder Woman's occasional sidekick).

As they grew up, most of the Titans asserted their independence from their elder partners by assuming new heroic identities: Robin began his solo career as the crimefighter Nightwing, Aqualad became the Atlantean sorcerer Tempest, Speedy took a new identity as Arsenal, and Wonder Girl assumed the identity of Troia (who was presumably slain while battling a rampaging Superman robot, though in the comics few characters remain dead for long).

Kid Flash, who had given up the superhero business for a while (according to the story arc, using his powers was gradually killing him), came back to active duty as Kid Flash and assisted Flash I (Jay Garrick) in DC's first massive crossover series,
Crisis on Infinite Earths. After learning of the death of Flash II battling the Anti-Monitor during the Crisis (and also learning that, in the reconstitution of the universe/consolidation of the multiverses which ended the Crisis, his body chemistry had changed so that use of his super-speed powers was no longer killing him), Kid Flash assumed the uniform and identity of The Flash (becoming the third hero known by that name).

Len on 03.08.05 @ 09:24 PM CST [link] [ | ]

My favorite recovering lawyer is at it again....

as MadKane pens A Baysider's Ode to Queens, and has a little poetic fun at Dubya's expense.

I only wish I were so talented....

Len on 03.08.05 @ 07:12 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Get Over It!

Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) explains why the South Carolina GOP doesn't host Lincoln Day dinners:

“We don’t do Lincoln Day Dinners in South Carolina,” Senator Graham told a Lincoln Day gathering in Tennessee Saturday. “It’s nothing personal, but it takes awhile to get over things.”

Speaking as a Southerner with at least two great-great grandfathers (Cpl. Reuben Dollar, 5 MS Infantry; and Cpl. Stephen McCraw, 8 AL Cavalry) who fought in the Civil War on the Confederate side, I have this to say to Sen. Graham and his fellow SC GOPers: It's been 140 years since Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox. The South lost the Civil War, and it's a damn good thing it did. Get over it!

Oliver Willis.)

Brock on 03.08.05 @ 06:00 PM CST [link] [ | ]

How long can we stay in Iraq?

Leaving aside the question of whether the Iraqis really want us there or not, there's the problem that it appears that a majority of Americans want at least some troops brought home. Meanwhile, in a related development, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, citing increased risk of wildfires owing to one of the worst droughts in recent history, has requested the return of Montana National Guard troops and aircraft from Iraq in order to make them available to fight wildfires in the state.

Len on 03.08.05 @ 12:55 PM CST [link] [ | ]

A couple interesting items....

from the Enterprise Ethics Weblog. First, why are the services hiding the wounded?. The EEW points us to a Salon investigation which notes that the wounded from the Iraq war are being delivered to military hospitals in the dead of night, and only one reason seems to account for it:

Paul Rieckhoff, founder and executive director of Operation Truth, an advocacy group for veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, said the nighttime-only arrivals of wounded, along with the restrictions on coffin photos and other P.R. tactics, are designed to hide from the public the daily flow of wounded and dead. "They do it so nobody sees [the wounded]," Rieckhoff said. "In their mind-set, this is going to demoralize the American people. The overall cost of this war has been … continuously hidden throughout. As the costs get higher, their efforts to conceal those costs also increase."
Meanwhile, it seems that the U.S. is racing towards Third World status. The EEW also points us to an op-ed by Paul Krugman which notes, apropos of the bankruptcy "reform" bill poised to be enacted shortly, that we're seeing the first steps towards the return of "the debt peonage society":
But the underlying economic trends have been reinforced by an ideologically driven effort to strip away the protections the government used to provide. For example, long-term unemployment has become much more common, but unemployment benefits expire sooner. Health insurance coverage is declining, but new initiatives like health savings accounts (introduced in the 2003 Medicare bill), rather than discouraging that trend, further undermine the incentives of employers to provide coverage.

Above all, of course, at a time when ever-fewer workers can count on pensions from their employers, the current administration wants to phase out Social Security.

The bankruptcy bill fits right into this picture. When everything else goes wrong, Americans can still get a measure of relief by filing for bankruptcy - and rising insecurity means that they are forced to do this more often than in the past. But Congress is now poised to make bankruptcy law harsher, too.

Warren Buffett recently made headlines by saying America is more likely to turn into a "sharecroppers' society" than an "ownership society." But I think the right term is a "debt peonage" society - after the system, prevalent in the post-Civil War South, in which debtors were forced to work for their creditors. The bankruptcy bill won't get us back to those bad old days all by itself, but it's a significant step in that direction.

Len on 03.08.05 @ 12:48 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Gem o'the Day:

Over at The Kitsap Pundit, Al Hedstrom shows that he hasn't been seduced by the Dark Side of The Blogging Mystique:

Many bloggers are crowing about their influence on the political landscape and election results. Some even claim to be the new journalists of the information age. But this study tells me that those bloggers that are trying to create journalist bona fides are largely disqualified. Because they're distributors, interpreters, and activists. From another angle, they (we?) may be this way because we patronize a particular group, unsupervised and uncontrolled by standards of behavior. One need not look far to find extreme examples. Talk radio, by the way, also has a parallel track.
I'm about ready to start lobbying for a provision that any blogger putting on the airs of a journalist should be hung by her/his thumbs for a couple of weeks.

Len on 03.08.05 @ 07:42 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

Like Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson was the rare artistic innovator who managed to reap the full rewards of his innovation. Blending the showmanship of his superstar idols (Jackie Wilson, James Brown, Smokey Robinson) with the rhythmic inventions of the architects of disco, Michael Jackson made himself into an exquisite musical artist. By luck and design, the majority of Michael Jackson's most accomplished art--"I Want You Back," side one of Off the Wall, the twin peaks of Thriller: "Billie Jean" and "Beat It," the most astounding one-two punch in pop music history--connected with an unprecedented mass audience. Just as Elvis sold more than Hank Williams, Chuck Berry, and Bo Diddley combined, Michael Jackson outsold his influences. And like Elvis, Michael Jackson was destined to be a Superstar For Life.

Then things started to get weird. Time and again, Jackson would do something impressively odd--take a monkey to the Grammys, appear in public wearing a surgical mask, marry Lisa Marie Presley--which his fans, myself among them, would rationalize away. We comforted ourselves with, "It can't get any weirder than this!" But without fail, it always did.
--David Schmader [in The Portland

Len on 03.08.05 @ 07:10 AM CST [link] [ | ]

I'm Not the Only One Worried About Those Thought Police...

US News Wire reports that:

"Public Advocate volunteers will be on Capitol Hill tomorrow, Tuesday, March 8, 2005 at 11:30 a.m. mocking Sen. Charles Schumer's amendment to the Bankruptcy Reform bill that would prohibit pro-life activists from seeking bankruptcy protection.

The group's "Thought Control Police" will have a "Prisoner of Thought Control," who will be persecuted for being a politically incorrect demonstrator. The political street theatre will mock the outrageous anti-first amendment legislation that Schumer is supporting that would specifically target pro-life demonstrators, while ignoring liberals who do similar acts.

The volunteers will also be handing out monopoly style, "Go Directly to Jail Cards" that will encourage people to contact their Senator to defeat the Schumer amendment."

Karen on 03.08.05 @ 06:54 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Selachophobia Jokes

While I was meditating in Florida, I had to also shop for gifts for the daughters. This one was too good to pass up as an "Oh, soooo...ME" tee-shirt for myself. Plus, for anyone who's been following "Karen's Selachophobia Nightmares"...you know how I can't deal with those particular sea creatures. (Though this shark doesn't count as he's only a cartoon and kinda funny too.)

BiteMe (37k image)

Karen on 03.08.05 @ 06:44 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day

I washed my brain last night, and today I can't do a thing with it.

(Will Self, in the liner notes to Genius: The Best of Warren Zevon.)

Brock on 03.07.05 @ 10:22 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Weekly Trivia

We're late this week, since I was out of town over the weekend and got back late enough Sunday that I wasn't up to the task. Some comic book trivia this week....

1) This character got his start in National Comics #5 (cover date: November, 1940), published by Quality Comics, and in this incarnation shared a name with a much more recent character appearing in comic books published by Marvel Comics. Both the Quality/DC and Marvel characters share the same super power (they are super-speedsters). DC Comics acquired the rights to Quality's characters in 1956, and in the early 1990's DC revived this character under a different name and made him a supporting character to DC's own super-speedster character, The Flash (i.e., the Wally West iteration). Who is this "zen master of speed" (both names)?

2) What is Superman's birth name, and the names of his birth parents?

3) Stan Lee and Jack Kirby brought Norse mythology into the modern world when they introduced their hero, The Mighty Thor, into the Marvel Universe. In what comic book (title and issue number, with a cover date of August, 1962) was Thor introduced, and who/what was the first enemy he faced?

4) What do the following individuals have in common: Arthur Curry (aka Orin), James Norcross, T'challa, Prince Namor, Victor Von Doom, and Ronald Reagan?

5) Who were the Original Teen Titans (the three charter members, and the two members added shortly after the team was founded)? And who are they now (i.e., under what identities are they now fighting crime, if they are)?

Len on 03.07.05 @ 09:37 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Words fail me

Via the apostropher.

Jesus Bush

"ALABAMA artist Frank Bear illustrated support for George W. Bush as a follower of Jesus Christ by this work, titled 'Our Christian President.' The artist pieced together individual portraits of Jesus Christ to make the image of President Bush. Despite criticism, Bear insists the artwork is not blasphemous."

Brock on 03.07.05 @ 07:22 PM CST [link] [ | ]

From the "I wish I'd thought of that..." department...

Last week Jo Fish, the Democratic Veteran, added a new section to the sidebar on his main blog page:

I've decided that we need a new part of the Fish Pond, dedicated to any wingnut/conservative/republican pundit who will be putting aside their lives for a year or four by joining up to go to Iraq or Afghanistan and walk a post.

They'll get their name in the "Hall of Fame" and I vow not to pick on them henceforth, because they have put their money where their mouths are.

Jonah Goldberg, we're looking at you....c'mon, step out from behind the wimmin-folks skirts and be a man...other possible candidates: Doug Giles, Bill Hobbs, Glenn Reynolds...you get the picture, the list is endless...

Somehow I think that the list will be forever empty, but let's give a while and see...

Len on 03.07.05 @ 07:01 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Volunteer Tailgate Party

I've been remiss in mentioning that the latest Volunteer Tailgate Party is being hosted over at Miss Zoot's.

Len on 03.07.05 @ 06:47 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Bamboozlepalooza tour stops in Memphis

President Bush will be speaking in Memphis on Friday at the Cannon Center downtown as part of the Bamboozlepalooza tour.

If you work downtown, you can expect Poplar Ave. and Front Street to be closed from 8am to noon. And if you park in the Mud Island parking garage, be sure to get there extra early.

Brock on 03.07.05 @ 05:40 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Memphis Blog Panel

March 10, 7:30-??? (looks like it could be over as early as 10:00 AM, or as late as noon; I can't imagine it going later than noon, but who knows?). Go see Half-Bakered for the details; panelists will be Peggy Phillip (news director of WMC-TV, Channel 5 in Memphis) and "Citizen Journalist" Mike Hollihan, so the discussion should be interesting. I won't be there myself, since I've way too much to do at work, alas.

Len on 03.07.05 @ 01:57 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Where quite a bit of my money goes....

As I mentioned, I went out of town this weekend, and when I leave town and can't take The Princess with me (which is just about all of the time, because The Princess is very suspicious of strangers), I board her at the vet's, mostly because it's reasonably priced, the staff there all know her and think the world of her, I can arrange for vet care/checkups and other needful care to be done while she's there, and lastly because she actually trusts the staff there (and given her suspicion of strangers that's a very important consideration). This morning when I ransomed The Princess (with a suitably large donation to the Dr. Rusty Bell Boat Payment Fund), I spied a notice that the practice has a brand new website. So in case you might be mildly curious about where The Princess spent her weekend, now you can take a gander (warning: obnoxious midi files embedded into the pages; you might want to mute your computer sound before visiting).

Len on 03.07.05 @ 01:31 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

It only took one song, the organ-driven number one smash "96 Tears," to make ? & the Mysterians into garage rock legends. Eccentric frontman Question Mark (actually spelled "?," once he had his name legally changed) cultivated an aura of mystery by never appearing in public without a pair of wraparound sunglasses; he frequently claimed he had been born on Mars and lived among the dinosaurs in a past life, and that voices from the future had revealed he would be performing "96 Tears" in the year 10,000. On a more earthly level, the Mysterians' sound helped lay down an important part of the garage rock blueprint, namely the low-budget sci-fi feel of the Farfisa and Vox organs (most assumed that "96 Tears" had featured the former, but ? later remembered using the latter). What was more, they were one of the first Latino rock groups to have a major hit, and ?'s sneering attitude made him one of the prime suspects in the evolution of garage rock into early punk.
--The AllMusic Guide [on ? and the Mysterians]

Len on 03.07.05 @ 08:56 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Freedom's Plate

Has Freedom's Plate just gotten fuller?

Um, Could Bush be right?" muses about the effects of "Who on Earth wants to be known as the last foe of freedom?" and whether "When history lurches, where will it next land?"

The Weekly Standard's What Hath Ju-Ju Wrought! has Reul Marc Gerecht wondering "Have the Iraqi elections produced a democratic earthquake that has changed forever the fundamental political dynamics in the Muslim Middle East? Only the culturally deaf, dumb, and blind...can't see what George W. Bush's war against Saddam Hussein has wrought. The issue is not whether the basic understanding of contemporary Muslim political legitimacy has been overturned--it has--but how forcefully the regimes in place will resist the growing Muslim democratic ethic."

And Michael Duffy of Time ponders When History Turns a Corner "People power is changing the face of the Middle East, but the democracy deal isn't sealed—yet...How can you tell when history turns a corner?... Amid the flush of springlike exuberance, though, it was hard to know which events history would immortalize. ...Yet it was also right to remember that progress in the Middle East invariably moves a few steps forward—then a few steps back."

Fareed Zacharia asks What Bush Got Right about "Freedom's march: The president has been right on some big questions. Now, if he can get the little stuff right, he'll change the world.

Or...for all the perennial cynics out there...one can always go for a bit of Dr. NO in this interview with pessimism Time for a dose of Dr. No and his "The way I see it, every silver lining contains a new cloud...."

Karen on 03.07.05 @ 07:01 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Delayed Reactions

Last night CBS News did a story about Travis County (Texas) District Attorney Ronnie Earle and his office's investigation into a corporate fundraising scandal that involves U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

Public Campaign Action Fund's Daily DeLay blog has been following this and the many scandals swirling around Tom DeLay. The latest news, commentary and analysis (and a transcript of the CBS story) can be found at the Daily DeLay.

"Tom DeLay is a walking scandal," David Donnelly, political director of Public Campaign Action Fund said. "In 2002, DeLay devised a scheme that involved the eventual use of illegal corporate contributions to tighten his grip on power in Washington and to advance the big money agenda of his financial backers. Democracy itself is the casualty."

In addition, David Donnelly, the lead author of the Daily DeLay and an expert on DeLay scandals, is available for phone interviews regarding the 60 Minutes piece on Earle and DeLay, as well as any of the other issues that have surfaced regarding DeLay's ethical transgressions and pay-to-play politics.

---US News Wire---

Karen on 03.07.05 @ 05:55 AM CST [link] [ | ]


U.S. Newswire is reporting from San Franciso about more Wild Animal Escapes and the subsequent fatal shooting of two chimpanzees from "a so-called sanctuary." Chimpanzees also can carry many diseases including yellow fever, monkey pox, Ebola and Marburg virus, Foot and Mouth Disease, tuberculosis, herpes-b, and Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV); the primate form of HIV. These are following other recent tragic and preventable incident involving privately owned wild animals. Similar incidents are occurring at an alarming rate across the country.

"Last year, we rescued 39 tigers from another phony sanctuary. The man running it was convicted on 56 counts of animal cruelty and child endangerment. These places aren't sanctuaries, and it's time the government be held accountable for endangering animals and the public." Pat Derby, Director Performing Animal Welfare Society

The Captive Wild Animal Protection Coalition (CWAPC), representing more than 20 leading animal protection organizations, zoos and sanctuaries, believes keeping wild animals as pets is dangerous for people and inhumane for animals and warns that the rate of human injury and death from privately owned wild animals is increasing.

"This is what happens when there are no legally enforced sanctuary standards, and people are allowed to keep a collection of wild animals on their property and call it a "sanctuary." Both allowing people into the chimps' enclosure and working without safe capture devices was irresponsible and not in keeping with the running of a legitimate sanctuary." Vernon Weir, Executive Director ASA.

Though the Captive Wild Animal Safety Act - passed in December 2003 - provides a federally-mandated definition of an "animal sanctuary," there are still no enforceable regulations for sanctuary standards. As a result, places like Animal Haven - and thousands of other facilities masquerading as sanctuaries in the U.S. - can call themselves sanctuaries without meeting enforceable standards to protect the animals and public.

Without legally enforceable standards of care, there is no way to distinguish between animal collectors, private owners and legitimate animal rescue organizations.

"Under current laws, it is too easy for a private citizen to have a backyard collection of wild animals and call it a "sanctuary." TAOS, in collaboration with CWAPC, is working to establish sanctuary standards so that incidents like this one don't continue to happen." Eileen McCarthy, Executive Director, The Association of Sanctuaries

CWAPC is calling for the enforcement of the legal definition of an "animal sanctuary" and the establishment of peer-reviewed sanctuary standards, their adoption and enforcement as the legal industry standards.

Karen on 03.07.05 @ 05:35 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Zuni Fetish Baskets

We were in a Spring Personal Goals mode.

My sister-in-law is a most spiritually oriented (yoga, meditation, intrinsic energy) kind of person. Also, similarly left-brained/right-brained she's a realtor, a mathematics major, got an engineering degree in Professional engineering (thought she didn't bother to take the certification exam) just to be with her husband (he took the Certification exam) and help him study and take classes together. We're very close and always try to improve each other's lives and relationships with in ourselves and the family.

Our goal for this Florida weekend turned out to be personal for both of us. She's studying Indian Shaman medicine (and has helped her mom recovering from a stroke with the energizing skills) and she had a book on Zuni Indian Fetishes. We made up a "craft" project to each create our own personal "basket of life." Then we each determined our animal Fetishes that match our current personal goals and made and decorated them for our baskets. It's really a concept about being self-aware and a personal centering idea. I know how to make Indian woven basketry out of rope and yarns...and our basket turned out wonderful. I enjoyed it so much and especially our sharing this spiritual craft together…what more could two sister-in-laws enjoy better?

Here's my basket with Fetishes inside:

Zuni1 (93k image)

Here is Geri's basket - Which, for her first effort at making a woven basket, turned out Beautiful!!

Zuni2 (74k image)

The book we read was Zuni Fetishes by Hal Zina Bennett.

Karen on 03.06.05 @ 03:07 PM CST [link] [ | ]

City on a hill

Thought for the day, from Ezra Klein:

Did we really build this city on a hill so we could throw innocents off the ramparts?

Brock on 03.06.05 @ 10:52 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Blogs you should be reading

Jim Henley's Unqualified Offerings has undergone a total site redesign, including a switch to WordPress and a nifty new dog picture.

Jason Kuznicki at Positive Liberty continues to abuse the blogging medium by offering substantive, thought-provoking, essays on an almost daily basis, instead of short quotes supplemented with snarky remarks that are the standard fare from almost every other blog, including this one.

Hopefully Kuznicki will soon quit making the rest of us bloggers look bad; but until then, you really should be reading what he has to say.

Brock on 03.06.05 @ 10:48 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Things may be a bit quiet round here this weekend.

Karen's still in Florida (I believe), and I'm headed out of town for a couple computer free days. Brock's left to hold down the fort, but of course he's free to take the weekend off, too, if he wants.

At any rate, I should be back Sunday sometime. Have fun and be safe yourselves, everyone!

Len on 03.04.05 @ 01:34 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Why I wish I was a Canadian, Part 2.....

From The Winnipeg Free-Press:

Missile Counter-Attack
Axworthy fires back at U.S. -- and Canadian -- critics of our BMD decision in An Open Letter to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

Thu Mar 3 2005


Dear Condi,

I'm glad you've decided to get over your fit of pique and venture north to visit your closest neighbour. It's a chance to learn a thing or two. Maybe more.

I know it seems improbable to your divinely guided master in the White House that mere mortals might disagree with participating in a missile-defence system that has failed in its last three tests, even though the tests themselves were carefully rigged to show results.

But, gosh, we folks above the 49th parallel are somewhat cautious types who can't quite see laying down billions of dollars in a three-dud poker game.

As our erstwhile Prairie-born and bred (and therefore prudent) finance minister pointed out in presenting his recent budget, we've had eight years of balanced or surplus financial accounts. If we're going to spend money, Mr. Goodale added, it will be on day-care and health programs, and even on more foreign aid and improved defence.

Sure, that doesn't match the gargantuan, multi-billion-dollar deficits that your government blithely runs up fighting a "liberation war" in Iraq, laying out more than half of all weapons expenditures in the world, and giving massive tax breaks to the top one per cent of your population while cutting food programs for poor children.

Just chalk that up to a different sense of priorities about what a national government's role should be when there isn't a prevailing mood of manifest destiny.

Coming to Ottawa might also expose you to a parliamentary system that has a thing called question period every day, where those in the executive are held accountable by an opposition for their actions, and where demands for public debate on important topics such a missile defence can be made openly.

You might also notice that it's a system in which the governing party's caucus members are not afraid to tell their leader that their constituents don't want to follow the ideological, perhaps teleological, fantasies of Canada's continental co-inhabitant. And that this leader actually listens to such representations.

Your boss did not avail himself of a similar opportunity to visit our House of Commons during his visit, fearing, it seems, that there might be some signs of dissent. He preferred to issue his diktat on missile defence in front of a highly controlled, pre-selected audience.

Such control-freak antics may work in the virtual one-party state that now prevails in Washington. But in Canada we have a residual belief that politicians should be subject to a few checks and balances, an idea that your country once espoused before the days of empire.

If you want to have us consider your proposals and positions, present them in a proper way, through serious discussion across the table in our cabinet room, as your previous president did when he visited Ottawa. And don't embarrass our prime minister by lobbing a verbal missile at him while he sits on a public stage, with no chance to respond.

Now, I understand that there may have been some miscalculations in Washington based on faulty advice from your resident governor of the "northern territories," Ambassador Cellucci. But you should know by now that he hasn't really won the hearts and minds of most Canadians through his attempts to browbeat and command our allegiance to U.S. policies.

Sadly, Mr. Cellucci has been far too closeted with exclusive groups of 'experts' from Calgary think-tanks and neo-con lobbyists at cross-border conferences to remotely grasp a cross-section of Canadian attitudes (nor American ones, for that matter).

I invite you to expand the narrow perspective that seems to inform your opinions of Canada by ranging far wider in your reach of contacts and discussions. You would find that what is rising in Canada is not so much anti-Americanism, as claimed by your and our right-wing commentators, but fundamental disagreements with certain policies of your government. You would see that rather than just reacting to events by drawing on old conventional wisdoms, many Canadians are trying to think our way through to some ideas that can be helpful in building a more secure world.

These Canadians believe that security can be achieved through well-modulated efforts to protect the rights of people, not just nation-states.

To encourage and advance international co-operation on managing the risk of climate change, they believe that we need agreements like Kyoto.

To protect people against international crimes like genocide and ethnic cleansing, they support new institutions like the International Criminal Court -- which, by the way, you might strongly consider using to hold accountable those committing atrocities today in Darfur, Sudan.

And these Canadians believe that the United Nations should indeed be reformed -- beginning with an agreement to get rid of the veto held by the major powers over humanitarian interventions to stop violence and predatory practices.

On this score, you might want to explore the concept of the 'Responsibility to Protect' while you're in Ottawa. It's a Canadian idea born out of the recent experience of Kosovo and informed by the many horrific examples of inhumanity over the last half-century. Many Canadians feel it has a lot more relevance to providing real human security in the world than missile defence ever will.

This is not just some quirky notion concocted in our long winter nights, by the way. It seems to have appeal for many in your own country, if not the editorialists at the
Wall Street Journal or Rush Limbaugh. As I discovered recently while giving a series of lectures in southern California, there is keen interest in how the U.S. can offer real leadership in managing global challenges of disease, natural calamities and conflict, other than by military means.

There is also a very strong awareness on both sides of the border of how vital Canada is to the U.S. as a partner in North America. We supply copious amounts of oil and natural gas to your country, our respective trade is the world's largest in volume, and we are increasingly bound together by common concerns over depletion of resources, especially very scarce fresh water.

Why not discuss these issues with Canadians who understand them, and seek out ways to better cooperate in areas where we agree -- and agree to respect each other's views when we disagree.

Above all, ignore the Cassandras who deride the state of our relations because of one missile-defence decision. Accept that, as a friend on your border, we will offer a different, independent point of view. And that there are times when truth must speak to power.

In friendship,

Lloyd Axworthy

Lloyd Axworthy is president of the University of Winnipeg and a former Canadian foreign minister.

Len on 03.04.05 @ 01:31 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Just what I've been saying for years....

While poking around I stumbled across a copy of the latest issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, and in their The Chronicle Review section I read with interest a letter to the editor commenting on a recent Review piece on reforming college sports:

... I would like to suggest a solution that goes much further than that....

In point of fact, colleges, especially in Division I-A, operate a splendid farm system for the National Football League--and that is a travesty. At the very least, when a college player is drafted by an NFL team, that team ought to be required by law to reimburse the feeder college every cent that was invested in that player's college career.

Better yet, take colleges out of the picture entirely. Require the NFL to operate its own farm system. In other words, operate the way that professional baseball does....

Can you imagine the owners and executives of an NFL farm team tolerating the knid of abuse that college boosters engage in right now?
Paul Abplanalp
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
College of Optometry
Nova Southeastern University
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
I have only one major disagreement with Dean Abplanalp, and that is simply to note that collegiate sports is a splendid farm system not only for the National Football League, but also for the National Basketball Association, and that I'd take his solutions a step further and apply them to the NBA as well as to the NFL. The reimbursement option is a new idea to me; it's not optimal, in my opinion, but it'd be better than nothing (especially if the moneys reimbursed by the sports leagues freed up other money for the college's/university's main reason for being: research and education, and just didn't provide more money to cash-engorged collegiate athletic programs). But really, as a matter of fairness, we should simply abolish collegiate sports programs (or more optimally, scale them down to recreational or purely athletic levels; right now major collegiate sports represents a lower level of professional play), and establish minor league football/basketball farm systems. The advantage to this is simply that the high schoolers who are good enough to play minor league (and ultimately major league) sports can do so, and not go through the sham of pretending that they are students. If handled correctly (like, for example, how Major League Baseball handles collegiate baseball programs) this need not result in the death of college football and basketball, and would not deny a high school player who desires both a chance to earn a degree and play professional ball the chance to follow that dream as well.

This is, of course, such a sensible solution that it will simply never happen.

Len on 03.04.05 @ 08:46 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Ok. I'll cop a plea....

Been spending a few days thinking over an "accusation" by Robert Prather over at Signifying Nothing to the effect that my post on the recent Roper decision was a call to overturn the death penalty as being unconstitutional. Robert disagrees with such a call; charging that I haven't read the Constitution (actually, not true, I read it every July 4, along with the Declaration of Independence) which, after all, mentions capital punishment explicitly in (among other places) the Fifth Amendment:

No person shall be... deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law....
Stupid Len, Robert seems to be saying; how can the death penalty be unconstitutional if it's mentioned in the Constitution?

Well, there is that tricky phrase, "due process of law". As the second favorite maxim of my administrative law prof in law school has it, the question of "due process of law" entails two questions that must be answered in just about every case: is "due process" required, and if we conclude that it is, then we have to proceed to the second question of "what process is due?" And the answer to the second question can vary, quite widely, based on the importance of the issue. Perhaps I'm silly, but it seems to me that the taking of human life by the state is one of the most important issues (if not the most important) that the judicial system must contemplate. Given that importance, it seems to me that "due process" in this instance requires an extremely high degree of "factual reliability" in the determination of guilt. If in cases of mere imprisonment we believe that it is better to let 100 guilty persons go free than to convict one innocent accused, in cases where we seek to take the life of the accused it seems to me that we should be even more discerning. It is better than we let thousands (at least) of guilty defendants go free than risk taking the life of one innocent accused.

And ever since I acquired firsthand experience with the criminal justice system as a criminal defense lawyer (both as a public defender and in private practice), it's been painfully obvious to me that the criminal justice system is simply too unreliable to entrust to it determinations of life and death. That personal opinion has been backed up by a number of studies (this is by no means a comprehensive list: Justice Denied, Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, American Bar Association, Grassroots Investigation Project, Equal Justice USA, "25 Years, 25 Cases"; for a contrary view see Death Penalty--Innocence issues which argues that "death penalty opponents have lied, extensively, regarding the numbers of innocents sentenced to death...").

So ultimately, if I'm forced to answer the question "Is the death penalty unconstitutional?", I'd answer it in the affirmative: at present, the criminal justice system is so unreliable that to execute anyone pursuant to a sentence of death from a court of competent jurisdiction is a taking of a life without due process of law. Period. And that does violate the Fifth Amendment.

And I know that death penalty proponents will conclude I'm full of shit there. Tough; I think their bloodlust is sickening. We'll just have to agree to hold each other in contempt. Doesn't bother me; I've been disliked by better people than them.


Of course, I'm also against capital punishment on strictly moral grounds, so it doesn't matter if the determination of guilt in a capital case is certain; I'm still against taking the defendant's life. But if we're to have capital punishment, there is a procedural change I'd like to see enacted (it'll never happen, of course, but what the hell, I can dream)...

What I'd like to see is a death penalty statute with the provision that in the event of the execution of an innocent person, every person involved in the prosecution of that case--the investigating and arresting police officers, the charging prosecutors, the trial prosecutors, the jurors and judge who imposed sentence, the appellate judges who affirmed the sentence, and the trial level and appeals judges who deny post-conviction relief, and the Governor/President who deny a clemency petition--would themselves be executed once the factual innocence of the defendant in that case was proved.

In other words, everyone responsible for putting a defendant to death would have to put their own lives on the line in order to do so. If all of them are that confident of their decisions, then I say, go ahead and let them take the defendant's life.

I have a feeling there'd be a lot of empty cells on Death Row under such a system.

Len on 03.04.05 @ 08:06 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

Spring training camps are open. Baseball's poets are pulsating. It's always fascinated me, how serious writers are inspired by the sight of millionaire ballplayers doing calisthenics.
--Bernie Miklasz [St. Louis

Len on 03.04.05 @ 06:52 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Memphis News - the Week in Review

(As usual, Commercial Appeal links require registration or BugMeNot.)

Jan. 27 - It's reappraisal time, and notices are showing up in the suburbs. Those who live in the city will be getting their notices next week.

Mar. 1 - Angry parents are seeking the ouster of Coleman Elementary principal Victoria Matthews. Parents complain that Principal Victoria is too rough with the children and unfriendly to parents.

Mar. 1 - The town of Collierville will pay $13K for divers to repair the town's sewage lagoon. "Workers get used to the smell, which isn't nearly as bad as the lagoons they work in at chicken processing plants." There's a job I'd hate to have.

Mar. 2 - The Memphis Zoo's male giant panda Le Le may be too young to breed, according to fertility specialists, who tried, but failed, to collect a sperm sample from the sedated panda. There's another job I'd hate to have.

Brock on 03.03.05 @ 09:05 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Spring training news: The road to Opening Day...

  • Today is the day that the Cardinals and the Mets were to play their Grapefruit League opener; unfortunately rain forced the cancellation of that game. Mark Mulder will therefore (weather permitting) make his debut tomorrow afternoon against the Mets.
  • All Star third baseman Scott Rolen isn't letting the condition of his knee serve as an excuse to downshift his game. Rolen, who is suffering from erosion of the cartilage in his left knee (resulting in bone rubbing against bone), elected not to undergo surgery to correct the situation, because the recovery time from surgery would have prevented Rolen from starting his 2005 season on opening day.
  • Some quick reactions on the part of Cardinal closer Jason Isringhausen saved a number of fans from death or serious injury in an incident near Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, FL on Tuesday morning. Isringhausen, driving a Chevy Silverado, apparently attempted to negotiate a tight right turn into the players' parking lot at Roger Dean Stadium by pulling the vehicle to the left first. When his SUV veered to the left, a Mercedes attempted to pass him on the right, and as Isringhausen started his right turn the two vehicles collided. The collision with the Mercedes caused Isringhausen's SUV to veer towards a group of autograph-seeking fans standing near the entrance to the lot. Isringhausen managed to realize the gravity of the situation and swerved his SUV away from the fans.
  • Looking forward to his second season of playing first base for the Cardinals, Albert Pujols is garnering raves for his exemplary defensive play. Needless to say, the phrase "future Gold Glove award" is on a lot of lips.
  • I may have to rethink that trip to St. Louis to see the Cardinals play in their last season in Busch Stadium II; reports are that the Cardinals have already sold 2.5 million tickets for the 2005 season, even though individual game sales don't start until this Saturday. If past history is any indication, tickets for weekend games will be in pretty short supply.
  • In Cooperstown, NY, the National Baseball Hall of Fame announced the 2005 selections of the Veterans Committee for enshrinement in the Hall of Fame: none of the above. For the second straight time the Veterans Committee has failed to elect anyone in their biennial selections. Interesting to me, of the 25 players considered for selection by the Veterans Committee this year, 11 had connections to St. Louis:
    Of that 25, no fewer than 11 players have Cardinals or St. Louis ties. Elston Howard, who was born in St. Louis, is on the list. The former Cardinals are Dick Allen, Bobby Bonds, Ken Boyer, Curt Flood, Jim Kaat, Marty Marion, Roger Maris, Minnie Minoso, Vada Pinson and Joe Torre.

Len on 03.03.05 @ 08:37 PM CST [link] [ | ]

I'm not looking forward to this...

Jon Sparks, over at his Commercial Appeal blog, gives us some information on what will happen when I get the inevitable jury summons, something I'm not particuarly looking forward to. Not because I necessarily want to avoid jury service--that might be an interesting experience, especially given that all my experience with juries have been on the other side of the courtroom--but given that I have experience as a lawyer I have no chance in hell of actually serving on a jury. So a jury summons is simply going to be a week wasted.

Len on 03.03.05 @ 07:38 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Religious literature of note...

Spider-Man's Greatest Bible Stories

Len on 03.03.05 @ 07:32 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Gem o'the Day:

In other news, the Cardinals opened their spring season today with a win. Of course, by a win I mean "a win against a college team", and by the Cardinals I mean "your 2005 Memphis Redbirds", but it's baseball, right? Noted Cardinals mashers Reid Gorecki, Scott Seabol, and Mike Mahoney knocked Florida Atlantic pitching around to back a solid performance by ace Nerio Rodriguez. Any fears about their closer's new minor league contract were allayed when ace reliever Carmen Cali shut the door on his former roommatesteammates. I know some people are saying it's early, but they looked good; I expect 100, maybe 110 wins from this club, if only its recently acquired right fielder, Brandon Berger, can stay healthy.
--Dan@Get Up, Baby!, on the St. Louis Cardinals' first exhibition game against Florida Atlantic University

Len on 03.03.05 @ 01:53 PM CST [link] [ | ]

And yet more stupid Quizilla things....

It 's comforting to say that 'practice makes perfect'....
You are 'Gregg shorthand'. Originally designed to
enable people to write faster, it is also very
useful for writing things which one does not
want other people to read, inasmuch as almost
no one knows shorthand any more.

You know how important it is to do things
efficiently and on time. You also value your
privacy, and (unlike some people) you do not
pretend to be friends with just everyone; that
would be ridiculous. When you do make friends,
you take them seriously, and faithfully keep
what they confide in you to yourself.
Unfortunately, the work which you do (which is
very important, of course) sometimes keeps you
away from social activities, and you are often
lonely. Your problem is that Gregg shorthand
has been obsolete for a long time.

What obsolete skill are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

From Abby, who, as I've pointed out before, always seems to find really neat stuff on the Web.

Len on 03.03.05 @ 09:02 AM CST [link] [ | ]

And more stupid Quizilla type things....

I'm rather proud of this, even though I bear no resemblance to the "bubba" in the picture:

I am 7% Metrosexual.
Metro-What? Git Off My Lawn!
I need some advice. I need to STOP BUYING MY CLOTHS AT WAL-MART!!!! I will never land a decent woman unless I shave this nasty facial hair, and spend more then $5 on a haircut.

Credit: Chris Lawrence at Brock's old blog-home (Signifying Nothing), who's even more metrosexual than me (by 8%).

Len on 03.03.05 @ 08:39 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Stupid Meme Tricks....

I was going to ignore this one, until Bryan at Why Now? found the CGI script that automates the whole thing (link at the end):

bold the states you've been to, underline the states you've lived in and italicize the state you're in now...

Alabama / Alaska / Arizona / Arkansas / California / Colorado / Connecticut / Delaware / Florida / Georgia / Hawaii / Idaho / Illinois / Indiana / Iowa / Kansas / Kentucky / Louisiana / Maine / Maryland / Massachusetts / Michigan / Minnesota / Mississippi / Missouri / Montana / Nebraska / Nevada / New Hampshire / New Jersey / New Mexico / New York / North Carolina / North Dakota / Ohio / Oklahoma / Oregon / Pennsylvania / Rhode Island / South Carolina / South Dakota / Tennessee / Texas / Utah / Vermont / Virginia / Washington / West Virginia / Wisconsin / Wyoming / Washington D.C /

Go HERE to have a form generate the HTML for you.

Len on 03.03.05 @ 08:24 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

I hate to personalize things, but since Mr. Bush's reform is his personal obsession, I think I will. It galls me that a president who has never had to dig is handing us a shovel. Look at all the freedom that George W. Bush had because Bill DeWitt Jr. and Mercer Reynolds handled all his investments. Early on, they told him, "You just worry about coming up with funny nicknames, and you will never have to worry about money." And he came into the White House with his brow unlined.

Social Security is our little taste of this freedom. The world adds and adds. Social Security subtracts. It simplifies life. Social Security is "Social" and "Secure" instead of "Individual" and "At Risk." That's what is so maddening to people on the right, the Ayn Randers, the libertarians.

They look down on the rest of us. They think of us as slugs. We aren't living authentically until we worry as much as they do.

It's not so bad when privatization flops in places like Chile or the United Kingdom. At least in those countries there is a strong social bond. In Chile, the government has stepped in to make sure people get a little. In the Bush era, we're too atomized to do anything like that. In the United Kingdom, people have more time and freedom, since they don't have to think about their health care. They have single payer. Everything is free. In the United States, even when it's free, we have paperwork. As another friend says, "It's a full-time job for a lot of people to manage their health bills." Now we have to manage our Social Security, too?

And these extra tasks are being heaped on us as we work longer and longer hours, with longer commutes. I'm exhausted. Please: no more privatization. Unless it's something I can take care of while I drive.

But what if the existing system is doomed? Of course, being a liberal, I don't believe it. Raise the amount of payroll tax that Bill DeWitt and Mercer Reynolds have to pay, and the crisis goes away. At any rate, at this point no one knows the extent to which we may or may not be in trouble in the future. That's also the glory of Social Security: not to know.

But if Bush has his way, you and I will know, early on, whether we are in trouble. Our accounts may tank. Indeed, the full-blown libertarian version of Bush's plan would create winners and losers. For some of us there will be a sickening feeling, at age 42 or 45 or 48, that we already have blown it. We picked the wrong stock. We didn't put enough in bonds. The worst part will be that we'll know.

This is the pleasure that the winners will take: to bring home to the losers what a bunch of bunglers we are. In a life in which you or I may have failed over and over, here's another way we get to learn that yes, we've failed again.
--Thomas Geoghegan

Len on 03.03.05 @ 06:14 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Obituaries of note....

We've just received word that Rev. William H. Halloran, S.J., died on February 1 at the Jesuit residence hall of Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI, at the age of 83.

The name probably doesn't ring a bell to you, but Fr. Halloran is the last of the team of Jesuit priests and seminarians who are alleged to have performed the Catholic rite of exorcism on a 14 year old boy in St. Louis, MO, in March-April of 1949. The rite (which, according to legends I heard growing up in St. Louis, occurred mostly in a room at Alexian Brothers Hospital (now St. Alexius Hospital) in South St. Louis) is famous in certain circles for being "the true story" which inspired William Peter Blatty's novel (and William Friedkin's movie adaptation), The Exorcist.

For the popular version of the "true story", author Troy Taylor digests what we South St. Louis Catholics were taught as gospel. For a more skeptical take, CSICOP investigator Joe Nickell offers some decidedly more rational explanations.

Len on 03.02.05 @ 08:31 PM CST [link] [ | ]

I hope Billmon's the seventh son of a seventh son....

and that this wonderful post, mixing Ernest Lawrence Thayer's immortal "Casey at the Bat" and news articles on Bush's Social Security scam and its likely defeat, is an accurate prediction of Bush's ultimate [lack of] success.

Len on 03.02.05 @ 12:57 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Brock having pointed the way....

I'll go ahead and post DBV's second citation to Brian Weatherson in as many days. If you go to Brian's blog you can see a picture of Brian, his lovely and multitalented spouse/Significant Other (I don't know the exact nature of that relationship, so I apologize if I'm reading that wrong), and.... [cue drumroll]... the first World Series Trophy to be won by the Boston Red Sox in 86 years!!!

Len on 03.02.05 @ 12:28 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Sunshine & Alligators

Hmmmm...It appears I'm going to have some trouble posting while I'm enjoying the Sunshine here in Florida. The dial-up phone line connection refuses to cooperate with me...so I am high-jacking my in-law's wireless connection...which stinks for easy access to the Blog. *Sigh*

Any way...There is enough sunshine and warmth here to lull all those Alligators into a lazy, dazy stupor of relaxing on the river of life. There are two of them basking away...sleepy and dreamy...So, I can go play Golf....

Karen on 03.02.05 @ 11:04 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Racist Vixen Vipers

Seems I've been way too kind to the Vixen of Vipertude in only complaining about her obnoxiouness and dyspeptic behavior...appears the Vixen is a racist snake in the grass to boot.

Media Matters is reporting:

"Universal Press Syndicate (UPS), which syndicates right-wing pundit Ann Coulter's weekly columns, reportedly* removed a race-based attack on Hearst Newspapers columnist and White House correspondent Helen Thomas from Coulter's February 24 column, it would not have been the first time a Coulter column was cleaned up prior to publication. While the syndicate did not edit Coulter's reference to "oily Jews" in an October 20, 2004, column, at least two publications removed it before printing her column.

Prior to syndication on February 24, UPS replaced Coulter's reference to "that old Arab Helen Thomas" with "that dyspeptic, old Helen Thomas," as the weblog Crooks and Liars documented. Thomas's parents were Lebanese immigrants.

In her October 20, 2004, column, Coulter attacked Democrats as "crazy people" and wrote:

There's no consensus position, but the Democrats are pretty sure the real reason we went to Iraq was one of the following:

Bush family's connections to the Saudis,
the Carlyle Group,
something about the Texas Rangers needing more left-handed pitching,
the neoconservatives,
the Straussians,
the Jews,
oily Jews.

UPS syndicated this version of the column, and several websites, including the Heritage Foundation's Townhall.com, Jewish World Review, WorldNetDaily, and David Horowitz's FrontPageMag.com picked it up. But a Nexis search revealed only two newspapers -- the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and The Calgary Sun -- that published the column, and both removed "oily Jews" before printing it. (Media Matters for America has documented the Tribune-Review's right-wing history.) Human Events Online, a right-wing online news site, also published the edited version.
USA Today commissioned Coulter to provide conservative commentary on the Democratic National Convention in July 2004, but the paper spiked her first column, which referred to the event as the "Spawn of Satan convention," and replaced Coulter with National Review Online editor-at-large Jonah Goldberg for the rest of the convention over what the executive editor described as "editorial differences." National Review also fired Coulter as a contributing editor in October 2001 after she wrote of Muslims: "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." UPS has syndicated Coulter since 1999.*On February 28 at 4:50 p.m. ET, Editor & Publisher reported that Universal "isn't even sure the phrase appeared in the version Coulter submitted to the syndicate" and "is trying to determine what was in the Feb. 23 column Coulter transmitted to Universal."

Karen on 03.02.05 @ 10:57 AM CST [link] [ | ]

For me, sad news...

Via Pete at A Perfectly Cromulent Blog, we learn that the likelihood of the sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati getting a release on DVD is very low.

The reason? Because the show, set as it was in a Queen City radio station that had just changed its format to rock music, used a lot of that music in its soundtrack. Including snatches of tunes from artists like Elton John, The Eagles, Ted Nugent, and Foreigner. And as we know, the RIAA is trying to make you cough up licensing fees and royalties for merely thinking about songs; can you imagine what they're going to charge for royalties to put those songs on a DVD for commercial distribution?

By the time the RIAA got done extracting their several pounds of flesh, the DVDs would be cheaper if they were made of solid, 24 karat gold.

But this brings back some bittersweet memories; WKRP will always remain one of my favorite shows. Unfortunately for me, I didn't catch it much in its original TV run, which was 1978 to 1982; that period corresponded to my last year of college and all of my law school career, which was a period where not only was I not watching much TV (just like right now), I didn't have the time to watch it even had I wanted to, not to mention not having access to a TV during the law school years in that period ('79-'82). But by the time I'd gotten around to studying for the Missouri bar exam, WKRP was running in syndication in the late afternoon slot on KSD-TV in St. Louis, and part of my daily study ritual was to make damn sure that I took a break from 4:30 to 5:00 PM every weekday to get my WKRP fix.

It pretty much saved my life. And I'm suitably grateful; so much so that if they did release WKRP on DVD, I'd buy a complete collection. No matter how much it cost.

And, of course, let's not forget that WKRP was also the Gilligan's Island of the late '70's and early '80s in a very important sense. Just as Gilligan's Island posed (for many male viewers in that period) the earthshaking question: "Ginger or Mary Ann?", WKRP in its time posed the equally earthshaking question: "Jennifer Marlowe or Bailey Quarters?"

Give me Bailey. Anytime. No question.

I suspect this is related to the fact that I'd answer the Gilligan's Island question "Mary Ann". I wonder if anyone's done a research study of that? Looks to me like there's at least a master's thesis in there somewhere.

Len on 03.02.05 @ 08:37 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Why I don't have a webcam, part XVI

Digital peeping tom spies on girls through their own webcams:

Remember the man who used his webcam and free webcam software to catch a burgler? In a twist, a peeping Tom has been caught spying on girls using their own webcams, connected to their own computers. He was able to do this thanks to the Subseven trojan.

Spanish authorities have arrested the man who spied on at least one woman through her webcam connected to her computer by activating the Trojan horse program, Subseven, which had already been installed on her computer. He originally selected his target and her webcam completely at random, more than three years ago! During the times he spied on her through her webcam, his target was completely unaware that she was being spied on. In fact, she only learned that her webcam had become the digital peeping Tom’s window when the perpetrator accidentally emailed pictures of her directly to her, rather than to a friend.


Len on 03.02.05 @ 07:23 AM CST [link] [ | ]

From the 'He's getting paid to do this?' department:

In Slate, James Verini "road tests" condoms.

Len on 03.02.05 @ 06:46 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

Arthur Dent: Can we trust him?
Ford Prefect: Myself, I'd trust him till the end of the Earth.
Arthur Dent: Yes, but how far is that?
Ford Prefect: About twelve minutes.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Len on 03.02.05 @ 06:44 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Imaginary Friends

Warning: this post is for philosophy geeks only.

Over at Crooked Timber and Thoughts, Arguments, and Rants, Prof. Brian Weatherson poses a puzzle for Quineans:

If you’re a good Quinean, you want to believe the following two theses.

1. The things that best scientific theory quantifies over exist
2. Among the things that exist, there do not exist spooks or souls or certainly not imaginary friends

So it would be a little troubling if best scientific theory started quantifying over imaginary friends. But some say that’s what will happen. The Quineans will have to find some way to paraphrase away the imaginary friends without paraphrasing away the benefits, should the benefits be genuine!

Well, I'm a good neo-Quinean, so I need an answer to this puzzle. I suggest that the answer is to be found through Kendall Walton’s theory of fiction in Mimesis as Make-Believe. (Walton need not be right in all details, just right in the general outline.)

Roughly, we should paraphrase “Brock as a child had an imaginary friend, a pegasus named Peter” as something like “It is to be imagined that Brock as a child had a pegasus named Peter as a friend.”

The odd thing about the sentential operator “It is to be imagined that” is that it is only partially opaque, to use Quine’s terminology. We might call it “translucent.”

That is to say, I can quantify into some of the places, but not others. There was a boy for whom it is to be imagined that he had a pegasus named Peter for a friend. But there has never been a pegasus named Peter of whom it is to be imagined that Brock had him for a friend.

Unless there’s something deeply objectionable about translucent sentential operators (and I admit they are rather odd), this seems to be the sort of solution a Quinean should accept.

Brock on 03.01.05 @ 06:51 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Nutjob on the Nebula Jury

Alameida at Unfogged has discovered "Christian libertarian" misogynist crackpot Vox Day (whom I've previously blogged about at Signifying Nothing, here and here).

It seems that Vox Day, or Theodore Beale (his real name, apparently), is one of the 2004 Nebula jurors in the novel category. Judging from this quote, there will be No Girls Allowed at the Nebula awards:

The mental pollution of feminism extends well beyond the question of great thinkers. Women do not write hard science fiction today because so few can hack the physics, so they either write romance novels in space about strong, beautiful, independent and intelligent but lonely women who finally fall in love with rugged men who love them just as they are, or stick to fantasy where they can make things up without getting hammered by critics holding triple Ph.D.s in molecular engineering, astrophysics and Chaucer.

Brock on 03.01.05 @ 06:00 PM CST [link] [ | ]

We strive to be accurate [updated, and reposted to bring it to the top]

Apropos of the weekly trivia. Specifically, question 2: If you take the ratio of box office gross to cost of production as your measure, what is the most successful film of all time? As you know, the answer I give is the hardcore porno classic, Deep Throat, while Brock had guessed The Blair Witch Project. As I remembered how low the budget for The Blair Witch Project was, and how many thousands of buckets full of cash it had made, I felt compelled to do some (very cursory, admittedly) checking of the numbers. I'm relieved; I was correct (inasmuch as I know).

According to the Internet Movie Database, The Blair Witch Project had a production budget of about $22,000, and grossed $240.5 million; if you do the math you see that means that for every $1 the filmmakers spent making The Blair Witch Project, the film earned $10,932 (rounding up to the nearest dollar). For what it's worth, last I looked the folks at The Guinness Book of World Records gave Blair Witch the nod as "Top Budget:Box Office Ratio" for a mainstream film.

Further, the IMDB tells us that Deep Throat cost about $22,000 to make, and has reportedly grossed $600 million as of 2002. Obviously, it made a lot more per production dollar than Blair Witch, but I feel compelled to do the math: for every $1 sunk into the production of Deep Throat, the film earned $27,273 (rounded up to the nearest dollar).

UPDATE: Well, since we're striving to be accurate.... a first time commenter (at least I don't recognize the name) takes issue with this, stating:

I've seen that $600M figure for Deep Throat before, but I just can't imagine it is accurate...That would mean that over it's lifetime, Deep Throat has made more than Star Wars, a possibility that I cannot fathom...
A quick Google search shows that he's channeling LA Times columnist Michael Hiltzik, whose argument against the $600 million figure can be summed up pretty much as: "Deep Throat gross more than Star Wars? No way! NBC Universal just made up the $600 million figure to hype the recently released Inside Deep Throat, which (by happy coincidence?) they happen to be distributing." In the absence of really hard evidence one way or the other, that sounds like a reasonable position to take. For the long form argument (which is more convincing) you can follow the link to Hiltzik's column (register or use BugMeNot).

Len on 03.01.05 @ 12:53 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Picking and choosing....

Via Melanie at Just a Bump on the Beltway, we hear that (apparently yesterday) the U.S. Supreme Court ruled (5-4, of course) that execution of convicts who were juveniles when they committed their crimes is a violation of the Eighth Amendment.

The ruling continues the court's practice of narrowing the scope of the death penalty, which justices reinstated in 1976. The court in 1988 outlawed executions for those 15 and younger when they committed their crimes. Three years ago justices banned executions of the mentally retarded.

Tuesday's ruling prevents states from making 16- and 17-year-olds eligible for execution.

"The age of 18 is the point where society draws the line for many purposes between childhood and adulthood. It is, we conclude, the age at which the line for death eligibility ought to rest," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote.
Interestingly enough, the Court was influenced by the weight of public opinion--outside the United States.
Juvenile offenders have been put to death in recent years in only a few other countries, including Iran, Pakistan, China and Saudi Arabia. Kennedy cited international opposition to the practice.

"It is proper that we acknowledge the overwhelming weight of international opinion against the juvenile death penalty, resting in large part on the understanding that the instability and emotional imbalance of young people may often be a factor in the crime," he wrote.
I say "interestingly enough" because Melanie Gets It, even if most of us here in the "enlightened" United States (including a large percentage of lawyers and judges, who really should know better) don't:
This is another arena in which we stand judged in the eyes of the world: we are the only nation in the industrial west which still allows the death penalty. If Kennedy wants to cite international standards, then the court should have the death penalty illegal in toto.

Len on 03.01.05 @ 11:45 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

Strange, that movies about Satan always require Catholics. You never see your Presbyterians or Episcopalians hurling down demons.
--Roger Ebert [on the film

Len on 03.01.05 @ 06:09 AM CST [link] [ | ]

March 2005

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