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

Today's Dr. Science Question of the Day:

Dear Dr. Science,
Q. Why are lawyers paid so much?
--from Mary Pat Hough of Pittsburgh, PA

A. As part of the pact they made with Satan when they were ordained, barristers made sure they were well compensated for the loss of their souls. The transformation to parasite caused each esquire to develop a low self-image. This manifests itself in strange compulsions, such as ambulance chasing, habitual arrogance, and the desire to own an expensive briefcase. Unfortunately, these afflictions seem to resist conventional psychiatry, and lawyers are doomed to the most horrible fate of all, to just be themselves. Of course, I'm not just saying this because of that lawsuit a few years back. Or any of the divorce settlements. I'm not that small.

Len on 01.31.06 @ 02:40 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Here's one for Karen.....

Happy 75th birthday wishes go out to Ernie "Mr. Cub" Banks, one of the true Greats of the Grand Old Game....

It's a great day for a ball game.... Let's play two!

Len on 01.31.06 @ 02:37 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Yet Another Top Ten List....

this one stolen from Professor Juan Cole (links to sources at the original):

Top Ten things Bush won't Tell you About the State of the Nation

1. US economic growth during the last quarter was an anemic 1.1%, the worst in 3 years.

2. The US inflation rate has jumped to 3.4 percent, the highest rate in 5 years.

3. The number of daily attacks in Iraq rose from 52 in December, 2004 to 77 in December, 2005.

4. A third of US veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, some 40,000 persons, exhibit at least some signs of mental health disorders. Some 14,000 were treated for drug dependencies, and 11,000 for depression.

5. Increases in American consumer spending come from borrowing.

6. The $320 - $400 bilion deficits run by the Bush administration may push up the cost of mortgages and loans.

7. 58% of Americans think Bush is painting Iraq as rosier than it is. A majority thinks we should never have invaded the country.

8. The US military is at a breaking point.

9. In fact, The US and Iran are tacit allies in Iraq.

10. More money would be needed to finish the US reconstruction projects begun in Iraq.

Len on 01.31.06 @ 11:47 AM CST [link] [ | ]

How do we know Iran has a nuclear program? Well, we looked at the receipts....

[Apologies to a stand-up comic (I think) whose name is escaping my rapidly failing memory. Incipient senility is a bitch sometimes.]

Via Polar Donkey we get a pointer a most excellent guest editorial at Informed Comment: Beeman Guest Editorial: US to Blame for Iranian Nuclear Program Go read it, but the bottom line is: if Iran has a nuclear program, it's because we set it up for them (granted, that was before the ayatollahs took over, back when our puppet was sitting his fat ass on the Peacock Throne). The same way we know that Saddam Hussein once had chemical weapons--because we sold them to him.

Professor Beeman also makes the point that the Iranian nuclear facilities aren't optimal for the production of nuclear weapons, unlike the nuclear facilities of a certain ally of ours:

As the late Tom Stauffer and I wrote in June, 2003, the Bushire (Bushehr) reactor--a "light water" reactor--does not produce weapons grade Plutonium. It produces Pu 240, Pu241 and Pu242. Although these isotopes could theoretically be weaponized, the process is extremely long and complicated, and also untried. To date no nuclear weapon has ever been produced with plutonium produced with the kind of reactor at Bushire. Moreover, the plant would have to be completely shut down to extract the fuel rods, making the process immediately open to detection and inspection. (The plant IS shut down to change the fuel rods, but only every 30-40 months to provide longer and better energy generation)

By contract, the Dimona reactor in Israel--a "heavy water" reactor--is an example of a reactor that is ideal for producing weapons fuel. It produces Pu239 and the fuel rods can be extracted "on the fly." without any need to shut down the plant or alter its operation. The fuel rods are exchanged every few weeks.
A fascinating read; go check it out.

Len on 01.31.06 @ 11:44 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Funny, I don't remember seeing this, and I live nearby.....

Via Pulp Faction, we get this picture of the sign in front of a local entertainment establishment (picture opens in new window; may not be work-safe).

God, I wish I had the talent.....

Len on 01.31.06 @ 11:30 AM CST [link] [ | ]

And I'm counting my blessings....

Meanwhile, Serrabee gives me an insight into the fact that the grass may not be greener on the other side of the fence: 10 things every single girl must own.

After reading that, I've only got two reactions: 1) I'm more grateful than ever that I was born male, and 2) I'm thankful that I've retired from the dating scene (no, I'm not taken; I've just come to the realization that finding and keeping female companionship at my age isn't worth the hassle).

Len on 01.31.06 @ 11:24 AM CST [link] [ | ]

What can I do to take back that picture?

Memphis blogger Jen points us to a photo allegedly establishing that neo-Memphian David Gest (the ex-Mr. Liza Minelli) and rapper Da Brat are an item. She is skeptical:

I've seen the pictures of David Gest allegedly "making out" with "Da Brat" and I'd just like to say, what a load of malarkey. Let me be the first to call BS. I've waited on the guy several times and let's just say she doesn't seem like his type. If you get what I'm sayin.'.
I suspect some people are in need of a hobby.

Len on 01.31.06 @ 11:18 AM CST [link] [ | ]


Via William Edmondson at the Leiter Report we get this pointer to an LA Times article on rising promotion rates in the Army:

Struggling to retain enough officers to lead its forces, the Army has begun to dramatically increase the number of soldiers it promotes, raising fears within the service that wartime strains are diluting the quality of the officer corps.

Last year, the Army promoted 97% of all eligible captains to the rank of major, Pentagon data show. That was up from a historical average of 70% to 80%.

Traditionally, the Army has used the step to major as a winnowing point to push lower-performing soldiers out of the military.

The service also promoted 86% of eligible majors to the rank of lieutenant colonel in 2005, up from the historical average of 65% to 75%.

The higher rates of promotion are part of efforts to fill new slots created by an Army reorganization and to compensate for officers who are resigning from the service, many after multiple rotations to Iraq.

The promotion rates "are much higher than they have been in the past because we need more officers than we did before," said Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, an Army spokesman.

The Army has long taken pride in the competitiveness of its promotions, and insists that only officers that meet rigorous standards are elevated through its ranks.

But the recent trends in promotions have stirred concerns that the Army is being forced to lower its standards to provide leaders for combat units that will be deployed overseas.
Something immediately jumps to my mind here. The article doesn't point out whether the population of officers eligible for promotion being discussed here is that of officers in the Regular Army, or all officers including National Guard and Army Reserve officers on active duty to supplement the complement of troops needed for the Iraq occupation.

The distinction may be critical to determining the quality of the Army officer corps in the mid-to-long-term future.

If these figures are for the Regular Army officer corps, this isn't a development that fills me with confidence about the quality of the Army in the future. I don't know if the laws governing armed service officer procurement and personnel management have changed significantly since I was in the Navy, but back when I was serving the leap from O-3 (Army/Air Force/Marine captain; Navy/Coast Guard lieutenant) to O-4 (USA/USAF/USMC major; USN/USCG lieutenant commander) was a critical one. Pursuant to the laws on the books then, once you were promoted to O-4 you were pretty well guaranteed a full 20-year career if you wanted it. It was like achieving tenure at a college or university--once you got to that point, they couldn't force you out (save for severe disciplinary action--dismissal from the service pursuant to the sentence of a court martial, or possibly a massive reduction in force--not likely in the end stages of the Cold War when I was serving). Edmundson notes:
According to the LA Times's high-ranking Pentagon source, "Basically, if you haven't been court-martialed, you're going to be promoted [from captain] to major." Not a trivial incentive to re-enlist if you're among the bottom 20% that traditionally would dead-end at captain.
That's an especially non-trivial incentive if current officer personnel management laws still confer the guarantee of finishing twenty years (and the right to retired pay that entails).

In other words, it seems that the best and the brightest are bailing, while the dregs are hanging on for the job security. Not an enviable position to be in, if you're tasked with maintaining the quality of the officer corps.

If the whole officer pool being discussed here is the total of both Regular and Guard/Reserve officers, it's possible that the situation may be mitigated a bit (one would have to do a detailed analysis of retention and promotion in each component, Regular and Reserve), since at least the substandard Guard/Reserve officers can eventually be returned to civilian life; even if they have "tenure" in the Guard/Reserve they won't be dragging down the quality of the Regular Army officer corps once the present emergency has passed. On the other hand, since the War on Terra™ is, to all intents and purposes, something that has no real end in sight, that may not be much of a consolation.

Len on 01.31.06 @ 08:58 AM CST [link] [ | ]

How'd I miss that?

Following up a passing thought engendered by James Berardinelli's musings on why he doesn't attend the Sundance Film Festival anymore (no permalink, navigate to the entry for January 29, 2006), I notice that Craig Brewer's "love letter to Memphis", Hustle and Flow (a big winner in the Sundance 2005 bidding wars, IIRC) has been released on DVD. How did I miss that? I'd have thought that this DVD release would have made a bigger splash in the Memphis media or the Memphis blogosphere than it did.

I suppose I'd better do my duty and go rent it....

And interestingly enough, in the "did they invent time travel technology, and I missed that too?" department, I was amused by this from Craig Brewer's IMDB filmography:

Writer - filmography
(In Production) (2000s)

1. Step in the Name of Love (2005) (announced)
2. Black Snake Moan (2006) (post-production)
3. Hustle & Flow (2005) (written by)
4. Water's Edge (2003)
5. Resolutions of the Complacent Man (2003)
6. Pressure (2002/I) (screenplay)
7. The Poor and Hungry (2000)
Neat trick to have a film in in the pipeline on January 31, 2006, for a scheduled 2005 release.


Len on 01.31.06 @ 08:23 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Better late than never....

(then again, who am I to talk? I'm a day late throwing this link myself....)

It so happens that "today's fun packed post" turned into "tomorrow's fun packed post" (for her; it became "yesterday's fun packed post" for me--confused yet?), but as always it's worth reading: Mad Kane targets some personal verse to four filibuster holdouts (audio here).

According to the news reports I heard, it didn't work (apparently there were a lot more than four Democratic holdouts, since the cloture vote passed 72-25 (and there are only 55 Repugnicans in the Senate)), but you can't blame someone for trying.

Len on 01.31.06 @ 08:14 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Gem o'the Day:

I woke up thinking about yesterday’s cloture vote. What’s stuck with me is listening to one Republican after another talk in the Senate about the potential filabuster being ‘partisan’ politics, pandering to ‘extremist groups.’

How does that complaint work exactly? The Republicans voted as a block. Isn’t that ‘partisan’ politics? The Alito Nomination is clearly a response to the Religious Right. Isn’t that pandering to ‘extremist groups’?

Is ’spin’ all there is?
--Mickey (Dr. Abby's Dr. Dad) at 1 Boring Old Man

Len on 01.31.06 @ 07:58 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Coulda fooled me....

Chasing a pointer from James Wolcott to Dennis the Peasant, I came across this, and I'm now afraid that I'm going to be seriously depressed for at least 24 hours:

Keep in mind that it was long ago proven beyond all doubt that Little Green Footballs (no link; I don't link to Pure Evil) is a moral cesspool frequented by the heirs to the Nuremberg defendants.

SOMEWHERE in my life's journey to my present status as an overeducated, underemployed (by some standards, at least, though that's by choice and I'm very happy with my choice, thanks) geek of little consequence (and very little brain, I'm sure some--even of my loyal readership--would argue), I remember being told that Education Is An Unalloyed Good--that it fosters such things as critical thought, that it undercuts such evils as rigid authoritarianism, groupthink, and prejudice (racial or religious).

If that's really true, then how the f*ck can it be that 68% of the slime that read LGF are "very educated"?

Something really doesn't add up here....

Len on 01.31.06 @ 07:51 AM CST [link] [ | ]

I hope I'm not opening myself up to a scathing "bloglashing" from Wolcott....

but it's interesting to catch him mixing up his quiz shows here:

If Condoleeza Rice were a Jeopardy contestant, she'd still be staring at the board with a blank expression and an equally blank mind long after the vowels had been chosen, the puzzle solved, show wrapped, the studio lights dimmed, and Vanna White home doing whatever it is she does to stay shiny and peppy.
I haven't watched an installment of either Jeopardy! (once a favorite of mine, and still in my mind the Platonic Form of the game show) or Wheel of Fortune in a long, long time (in the case of Wheel, add a couple more "long"s there), but I still know the difference between them.


Len on 01.31.06 @ 07:23 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Congratulations are in order....

to Stan Schwarz's daughter Lucinda, who passed an important coming-of-age milestone by losing her first top front tooth over the weekend. Follow the link for a cute picture of Lucinda. And then continue on to read the preceding post on their family's weekend adventure: An afternoon with the Jumbo Shrimp Circus Academy, which sounds like a perfectly delightful afternoon. And some perfectly delightful pictures to go along with it (such as the picture of Stan and his lovely and multitalented spouse making a nerd fashion statement--that one's the last one on the right there; for some reason Stan seems to be denying direct links to his pics).

Len on 01.31.06 @ 07:11 AM CST [link] [ | ]

A bit late to the party....

Yesterday was A Busy Day at work--an in-early-and-hit-the-ground-running kind of day--so I didn't get my accustomed time before work and during lunch to do my usual blog-and-news reading, and then the first stop on my regular blogreading (The Hardball Times) inspired a a longer, more extensive post than I normally write (thus blowing the evening's blogreading/blogging all to hell), so this is late and you probably know it already. But if not, check out the story which broke in yesterday's WaPo about how FEMA ignored offers (tendered virtually immediately after the landfall of Hurricane Katrina) by the Department of the Interior to provide assistance to the hurricane ravaged Gulf Coast. Eventually, some Interior Department assets simply acted on their own, without FEMA's asking for the help:

Also offered were rescue crews from the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service, teams specially trained for urban search-and-rescue missions using flat-bottom boats.

"Clearly these assets and skills were precisely relevant to the post-Katrina environment," the memo said. Yet, the rescue teams and boats were not considered in the federal government's planning for hurricane disasters, the memo states.

Ultimately, many Fish and Wildlife teams did travel to the Gulf and assisted in the rescues of more than 4,500 people -- but they were "never formally tasked" for that assignment by FEMA, the document states.
Yep, Brownie, you did a heckuva job. You couldn't have been more incompetent if you were trying to be....

Len on 01.31.06 @ 07:01 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Sad news....

According to Air America Radio, we've just heard that Coretta Scott King has died.

Requesciat in Pace.

Len on 01.31.06 @ 06:36 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

George Bush is being criticized for acting like a king as he asserts extraordinary new powers for his office. So it would be clever political theater if this week he delivered his State of the Union address on paper. He could emulate Thomas Jefferson, who in 1801 mailed his speech in, arguing that the ceremony smacked too much of the British monarchy.

Today, Jefferson would weep. Tuesday night, by tradition, the Senate sergeant-at-arms will herald the president's arrival as if Bush were riding in a sedan chair. Then as the president makes his way to the well of the House of Representatives, members of Congress will pat him and moon at him and shake his hand like children trying to win a prize. Many of them will have skipped dinner to position themselves on the aisle so they can be seen touching Bush in prime time. Leaders who command this kind of sucking-up are usually the kind the president singles out as candidates for regime change.
--John Dickerson

Len on 01.31.06 @ 05:13 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Is the concept of intellectual property getting out of hand?

Maybe it's not as over the top as the RIAA's position, suing grandmothers for music piracy (for that matter, even suing deceased grandmothers if this story is to be believed). But over at The Hardball Times Maury Brown is examines the agreement between Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA). Reduced to its essentials, what this agreement does is assert ownership, by players (represented for these purposes by the MLBPA), of the association between player identities and the statistics that those players generate during the season and granting to MLBAM the exclusive license to regulate (via the grant of sublicenses) the use of associated player identities and statistics for the purposes of the creation of online games, online content, and and wireless applications. The target, of course, is fantasy baseball leagues:

On Jan. 19, 2005, MLB Advanced Media and the MLB Players Association announced a historic agreement via press release:
The five-year agreement, valued in excess of $50 million, extends beyond the 
expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement between Major
League Baseball and the MLBPA. It provides MLBAM the exclusive rights to use,
and to sublicense to others, Major League Baseball player group rights for
the development and creation of on-line games, all other online content,
including fantasy baseball and interactive games, as well as all wireless
applications including cell-phone enabled games.
The announcement sent shockwaves through the fantasy sports industry.
The reason, of course, being that the entire industry then becomes dependent on MLBAM for its very ability to exist (something which, if sustained, might put a crimp in quite a few fantasy baseball leagues in coming seasons).

But the agreement relates to an even more basic legal question:
Needless to say, not all within the fantasy sport industry agree with the sentiment of the MLBAM and the MLBPA. At its core, this agreement has set off a firestorm of debate:

Who owns player statistics?
Past precedent suggests that there really is no such thing as ownership of player statistics; basically, player statistics are in the nature of historical fact, and therefore can't be "owned" by anyone:
In [the] favor [of a party presently litigating the validity of the MLBPA/MLBAM agreement] is the 2001 case Gionfriddo v. Major League Baseball, 94 Cal. App. 4th 400 - (file type: PDF), in which former players Al Gionfriddo, Pete Coscarart, Dolph Camilli, and Frankie Crosetti, sued MLB for printing their names and stats in game programs, claiming their rights to publicity were violated prior to 1947. The standard players contract within the Basic Agreement has since been revised to read:
[3.] (c) The Player agrees that his picture may be taken for still 
photographs, motion pictures or television at such times as the Club may
designate and agrees that all rights in such pictures shall belong to the
Club and may be used by the Club for publicity purposes in any manner it
The court, however, held that the names and statistics of the players were historical facts, and therefore, part of baseball history. MLB was, therefore, allowed to use them. This case may set precedent for the ... case.
What interests me is the phrasing of the agreement, though:
The five-year agreement, valued in excess of $50 million, extends beyond the 
expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement between Major
League Baseball and the MLBPA. It provides MLBAM the exclusive rights to use,
and to sublicense to others, Major League Baseball player group rights for
the development and creation of on-line games,
all other online content,
including fantasy baseball and interactive games, as well as
all wireless
applications including cell-phone enabled games.
[emphasis added --LRC]
Interpreted literally, the emphasized language doesn't just require that fantasy league owners get a license from MLBAM. It would also seem to apply to online statistical sites like Baseball Reference, or perhaps even to online distribution of stand-alone data files like the Lahman database.

The litigation I mentioned before, challenging the MLBAM/MLBPA agreement, is CBC Distribution and Marketing, Inc. v. Major League Baseball Advanced Media, L.P. (PDF file), and is currently pending before the United States District Court, Eastern District of Missouri. It's an action for declaratory judgement in four counts. Count I asks for a declaratory judgement that CBC's business doesn't violate the Lanham Act (in this context, the Lanham Act forbids CBC from making false or misleading declarations or representations of fact which would serve to mislead or confuse CBC's customers that they are affiliated with or sponsored by Major League Baseball). Count II asks for a declaratory judgement that CBC's activities do not infringe any copyrights owned by Major League Baseball. Count III asks for a declaratory judgement that CBC's activities do not infringe any rights of publicity owned or controlled by Major League Baseball. Count IV asks for a declaratory judgement that CBC is not violating any state unfair competition or false advertising laws.

It'll be an interesting case to keep an eye on (Maury says it's scheduled for trial around about the time of the All-Star break). What fascinates me is the setup of the agreement: the agreement between MLBAM and MLBPA in effect asserts a property right in the association between the player's identity (his name, team affiliation and uniform number) and the statistics he generates:
It's not the use of the statistics, in and of themselves, that is at issue, but rather using stats in conjunction with a player's name or player number and team that is at the heart of the intellectual property debate.

In that sense it's a clever way of killing the golden goose: You can use the stats all you want, but stats without the ability to associate them to a player is nothing more than a collection of numbers that serves no purpose in a fantasy league format. For that purpose, the new agreement brokered by the MLBPA and MLBAM requires that a business be licensed to do so—for a fee.
What's ingenious about this agreement is that it's long been recognized that the commercial use of player identities (pictures, player names and uniform numbers) is a property right owned by the player (though, with a few exceptions--right now the one that immediately leaps to mind is Barry Bonds--players, as members of MLBPA grant MLBPA the authority to act as their agents with respect to licensing their likeness, names and uniform numbers for commercial use).

If the practice in the computer and board gaming industries is any sort of precedent, I'm not sanguine about CBC's prospects in getting the declaratory relief they want. If a computer game developer wants to make her computer baseball game more realistic by using team names and logos in the game, she has to get a license from Major League Baseball (I assume that MLBAM is now the entity that acts as MLB's agent in this regard). If not, she can place her computer teams in the same cities as the cities which have major league franchises, but she can't use the official team names or logos. If she wants to make her computer baseball game more realistic by using actual player identities in the game (perhaps using player pictures, labeling the various computer players with actual player names and uniform numbers, and perhaps using the real players' historical statistics to drive the simulation engine), she has to get a license for the players' identities from MLBPA as agent for the players. If not, she can use players' historical statistics in her game, but she can't use real player names nor associate those names with their real statistics.

Given that history, it's not a wild leap of legal fancy to conclude that the player has a property right in his identity, which (illustrated by the practice in the computer gaming field) is associated with his statistics in such a way that the player must issue a license to anyone wishing to exploit that association commercially. If the player owns that property right, then he can legally appoint MLBPA as his agent for managing the licensing of that right (and, as I noted, most players do so appoint MLBPA for that purpose). And MLBPA, it its agreement with MLBAM, has basically issued a license to MLBAM to "manage" the commercial exploitation of the player's property rights by sublicensing them.

Based on the factual allegations of CBC's petition for declaratory relief, it looks to me (barring some legal precedent I'm not aware of) that they're not going to prevail. The facts alleged by CBC in their petition note that prior to the MLBAM/MLBPA agreement they had in fact licensed the right to use of player identities from the MLBPA:
CBC had formerly entered into a licensing agreement with the Major League Baseball Players Association, covering, inter alia, rights to names, nicknames, numbers, likenesses, signatures, pictures, playing records and biographical data.
Paragraph 15, Complaint for Declaratory Judgment, CBC Distribution and Marketing, Inc. v. Major League Advanced Media, L.P., U.S. District Court (E.D.Mo), pending
About the only thing that might save them is an assertion of First Amendment rights--that CBC's use of "real time" player statistics is analogous to (and deserving of the same Constitutional protection as) a newspaper's or news website's publication of player statistics during the championship season.

Somewhat far fetched (after all, the Bill of Rights only applies to government action, and Major League Baseball and its associated entities isn't the government), but the law has seen stranger decisions....

Len on 01.30.06 @ 08:45 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Philosophy geek t-shirts

Via Brian Weatherson, here's a CafePress site selling T-shirts for philosophy geeks. The name of the site is apparently a reference to this paper, by my metaphysics teacher, Ted Sider.

Brock on 01.30.06 @ 06:22 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Kripke profile in NYT

With Karen off on her own blog, I guess I better start doing my fair share of the blogging here.

So, via Brian Leiter, here's an interesting profile of legendary philosopher Saul Kripke in the New York Times. Kripke is described therein as "thought to be the world's greatest living philosopher," which, since the deaths in recent years of W.V. Quine, David Lewis, and Donald Davidson, is probably true.

I only have two quibbles with the article. The first is this quote, regarding Kripke's Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language:

1980 book "Naming and Necessity," based on work he began in high school, is among the most influential philosophy books of the last 50 years, and his book-length interpretation of Wittgenstein, published two years later, is so thoroughgoing that some scholars now refer to a sort of composite figure known as Kripgenstein.

The book is not "thoroughgoing" at all; in fact it's rather short and terse. The appellation "Kripkenstein" for Kripke's interpretation of Wittgenstein is used because his interpretation is highly controversial among Wittgenstein scholars. But the arguments that Kripke attributes to Wittgenstein are so interesting in and of themselves, that philosophers want to discuss them without getting bogged down in the messy business of Wittgenstein interpretation.

My second quibble is with this quote from Richard Rorty. "Before Kripke, there was a sort of drift in analytic philosophy in the direction of linguistic idealism — the idea that language is not tuned to the world. Saul almost single-handedly changed that."

What is that supposed to mean? Couldn't they find somebody besides Rorty to summarize the influnce of Kripke?

Brock on 01.30.06 @ 06:10 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

Why is the [opposition party] response [to the State of the Union message] doomed to fall short, no matter who gives it? Consider the inherent disadvantages. First, it's a ten-minute rebuttal to an hour-long speech. By the time the opposition leader speaks, the television audience is desperate to go to sleep or change the channel to Sports Center.

Second, the contrast in settings is a killer. The State of the Union highlights all the president's majesty, as he speaks to a packed chamber of members who throng to shake his hand and applaud even his lamest lines. The rest of the year, the Founders' checks and balances are theoretically in effect—but on this night, the president looks down on Congress and the Supreme Court, sitting powerless in the well below. By contrast, the poor sap giving the official response is like a movie without a sound track—no buzz, no applause, no majesty.

With that much to overcome, an opposition party might seriously consider giving the time back, or ask to bank it for use a few days, weeks, or months later. We might try to avoid the contrast altogether: for example, by inviting Jon Stewart to give a 10-minute monologue, or letting Bill Clinton use the time to ask for contributions for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
--Bruce Reed

Len on 01.30.06 @ 07:02 AM CST [link] [ | ]

And speaking of Calvinball....

during some idle Web surfing this morning (in the cozy confines of Cafe Francisco, sipping some of their "Rebel Rouser" blend), I stumbled across several pages (all maintained by the same Calvin fan) of interest to other Calvin and Hobbes fans:

Calvin and Hobbes Items: Few and Far Between (an interesting illustrated listing of some legitimate C&H merchandise--"legitimate" because, as you know, Bill Watterson didn't want to merchandise Calvin and Hobbes.)

Calvin and Hobbes Bootleg Items: The Dark Side (an interesting illustrated listing of some illegitimate C&H merchandise, but not featuring any of the seemingly ubiquitous "Calvin pissing on a [insert logo of whatever you hate]" stickers.)

Calvin and Hobbes fan art (an interesting illustrated listing of various fan interpretations of Calvin and Hobbes in various media.)

Len on 01.29.06 @ 06:18 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Mad Kane has a miscellania post up today...

none of her poetry or filk (yet--she says in this one "Before I get to today's fun packed post", which implies that there'll be more to savor before the day is over), but she does provide some links to some political hilarity at other venues. If you are in need of some fun today, give her a gander.

Len on 01.29.06 @ 01:15 PM CST [link] [ | ]

From the "Too true to be funny" Department:

Shamelessly stolen from The Flypaper Theory

Len on 01.29.06 @ 12:41 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Several bloggers....

have pointed us to this morning's New York Times editorial which puts the smackdown on the bAdministration's specious justifications for their domestic spying operation.

Required reading this morning.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, over at KnoxViews the blogger-formerly-known-as-SKBubba draws our attention to a metaphor that I'm embarassed to say escaped my notice: how the bAdministrations shifting justifications of actions like the Iraq invasion and the domestic spying program show that Bush's favorite participant sport is Calvinball.

Len on 01.29.06 @ 12:13 PM CST [link] [ | ]

If you have a graduate degree in economics from Princeton....

I think we can safely assume you're intelligent. But over at The Leiter Reports, guest-blogger Jessica Wilson tells an amusing story of how her mother (who was the one with the Princeton economics grad degree) put those smarts to practical use:

Speaking of cards, younger readers may not know that just a short while ago women couldn't even get credit. After my mother and father divorced in '77, my mother (paid as poorly as journalists are usually paid, and with custody of 3 children, etc.) was short on cash. She had been using an Amex card for years (and had a perfect credit history, had been working, etc.), but the card was primarily in my dad's name; so she called up Amex and requested her own card. Some time later she got a letter saying, "We're sorry, but we are unable to give you credit at this time". No explanation.

Conveniently enough, my mother was working for PBS as a writer for a show called Economically Speaking. So she called Amex back and said "Hi there. I'm a scriptwriter for PBS and we're interested in doing a story on women and credit; conveniently enough you have just refused me credit. We'd like to bring down a camera crew and interview you about your reasons for doing so". (To be sure, the story wasn't actually on the drawing board; but my mother could have made it the case that it was.) The person at the end of the line said: "Let me get right back to you". One minute later they called to say "Your Amex card is in express mail, you should have it by tomorrow". Sensing a successful strategy, mama-san did the same thing with MC and Visa. In each case, she applied for the card, and was flatly turned down (no reason given). In both cases, she called and suggested that they might like to talk about it on-camera, in reference to a story about women and credit; in both cases, she not only got the card, she got it by overnight mail.

The story continues. A couple of years pass. My mom has moved from PBS to US News and World Report, where every month they brought in a speaker for a roundtable discussion with the reporters and editors. One month they bring in the president of Diner's Club. My mom is the only woman at the table. The president looks at her and says: do you have a Diner's Club card? Mom says no. He says, you really should apply for one -- we need more women with cards. So she says OK, fills in an application, and of course gets rejected. At this point she has had an Amex, MC, and Visa, respectable jobs, and perfect credit, for years. She calls up the prez, tells him what happened, and expresses her opinion that this would make a great article for US News. He says: I'm putting you on hold ... Something has gone wrong". Back in a flash: "There was a horrible mishap. Your card is in overnight mail".
Ah, the power of the press.....

Len on 01.29.06 @ 12:09 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Twenty Years After.....*

A couple of folks that I read every day (Bryan and James Berardinelli (no permalinks yet; navigate to his entry of January 28, 2006)) make mention of the 20th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion in their posts of yesterday. I had to confess mild amusement when Berardinelli wrote this in his "where I was when I heard the news" reminiscence:

I was a freshman in college in early 1986, largely insulated from the outside world as I concentrated on studying and going to classes.
Concentrated on studying and going to classes? Are you at all surprised when I mention that James is an engineer in his day job?


Frankly, I noted the date but decided not to post because my memory of that day isn't one that will redound to my credit. At the time, I was doing my bit for King and Country as an officer in the U.S. Navy (and in the interest of not further sullying anyone's reputation, I'm not going to say where and with whom I was serving then), and the Executive Officer at my duty station was renowned for his extensive collection of tasteless celebrity death jokes. He took great pride in the fact that before the workday of January 28, 1986 was over he had already managed to find (and tell the rest of us in the office) the first tasteless Challenger explosion joke.

In the interests of according due respect to the Challenger crew, I'm going to exercise unaccustomed discretion, and not repeat that joke here.

* Anyone get the allusion here? It's a bit of an obscure one, I think....

Len on 01.29.06 @ 12:00 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Kwitcher bitchin'

Via Josh Schulz (whom I have been entirely remiss in showing some linky love to recently), we get this gallery of jobs worse than yours. I think that this is my favorite (it almost caused me to blow my coffee out my nose and all over my laptop this morning):

Len on 01.29.06 @ 11:21 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Proof that President Bush is out of his fucking mind....

[Let's leave aside for the moment that this assertion implies the dubious proposition that Dumbya ever had a mind to begin with....]

Over at Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall gives us this startling news:

Sometimes the key to good politics (and good policy) is simply to say out loud what your opponents are saying amongst themselves. And that's just the case with these new health care proposals the president is set to unveil in his state of the union.

I'll leave it to the good folks over at our new health care blog to get down into all the details. But the core premise of the policies the president is about to lay out is that Americans are
over-insured when it comes to health insurance. Over-insured. Got too much insurance.

These aren't my words. These are the words used by the conservative policy-wonks who came up with the president's proposals. Just hop over to Google and start googling the phrase 'over insured' along with 'health' and 'conservative'. This what they think; and what the president thinks. It's why he's behind these ideas.

So the president thinks the problem is that people have too much health insurance. People are

I don't think that's how most Americans see the problem, do you? I'm confident that they don't.
Really confident.

But let's let them decide.
Americans are over-insured?

I'm now convinced beyond any doubt that Bush is drinking and using cocaine again. And there is no evidence that anyone can provide that is going to convince me otherwise.

Len on 01.29.06 @ 10:35 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

Listening to the coverage of the victory of the Hamas in the Palestinian elections I beginning to suspect that among those most surprised and least prepared for the results was Hamas.

Fatah has held all of the offices and was in total control since the beginning. Hamas was running its paramilitary operations and social services, but it didn't have a "shadow cabinet", members that mirrored the government offices controlled by Fatah. I don't think Hamas has people ready to take over the government.

I'm getting a definite feeling that Hamas was expecting win enough seats in the legislature to be a respectable minority party and to gain some experience in the government, but had no plans for forming a government.

This may be an example of everyone hating the election results, even the winners.
--Bryan at Why Now?

Len on 01.29.06 @ 10:18 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Gem o'the Day:

Justice Department prosecutors are not expected to try and link President Bush to either the Libby or Abramoff scandals. They realize “the President knows nothing” is a phrase with a lot of credibility with prospective jurors.
--Will Durst, "Daily Dose of Durst", January 27, 2006

Len on 01.28.06 @ 04:42 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Equal opportunity scandal?

This research suggests that it wasn't:

Although Abramoff hasn’t personally given to any Democrats, Republicans, including officials with the GOP campaign to hold on to the Senate, have seized on the donations of his tribal clients as proof that the saga is a bipartisan scandal. And the controversy recently spread to the media when the ombudsman for The Washington Post, Deborah Howell, ignited a firestorm by wrongly asserting that Abramoff had given to both. She eventually amended her assessment, writing that Abramoff “directed his client Indian tribes to make campaign contributions to members of Congress from both parties.”

But the Morris and Associates analysis, which was done exclusively for
The Prospect, clearly shows that it’s highly misleading to suggest that the tribes's giving to Dems was in any way comparable to their giving to the GOP. The analysis shows that when Abramoff took on his tribal clients, the majority of them dramatically ratcheted up donations to Republicans. Meanwhile, donations to Democrats from the same clients either dropped, remained largely static or, in two cases, rose by a far smaller percentage than the ones to Republicans did. This pattern suggests that whatever money went to Democrats, rather than having been steered by Abramoff, may have largely been money the tribes would have given anyway.

The analysis includes a detailed look at seven of Abramoff’s tribal clients, and a comparison of their giving with that of approximately 170 other tribes. (Abramoff is often said to have had nine tribal clients. But Morris omitted two of the tribes – the Pueblo of Santa Clara, whose donations were virtually nonexistent, and the Tigua Indian Reservation, because it isn’t listed in Federal lobbying files as having a lobbyist and Abramoff worked on contingency. At any rate Santa Clara’s post-Abramoff donations to the GOP were overwhelmingly higher than to Dems, so including them would have added even more to the GOP side of the ledger.)

The analysis shows:
  • in total, the donations of Abramoff’s tribal clients to Democrats dropped by nine percent after they hired him, while their donations to Republicans more than doubled, increasing by 135 percent after they signed him up;
  • five out of seven of Abramoff’s tribal clients vastly favored Republican candidates over Democratic ones;
  • four of the seven began giving substantially more to Republicans than Democrats after he took them on;
  • Abramoff’s clients gave well over twice as much to Republicans than Democrats, while tribes not affiliated with Abramoff gave well over twice as much to Democrats than the GOP -- exactly the reverse pattern.
“It’s very hard to see the donations of Abramoff’s clients as a bipartisan greasing of the wheels,” Morris, the firm’s founder and a former investigations editor at the Los Angeles Times, told
The Prospect.
Government by the Repugnican Party: the best money can buy.

Len on 01.28.06 @ 04:25 PM CST [link] [ | ]

From the "How do you know President Bush is lying? His lips are moving..." department:

From Josh Marshall yesterday:

Sometimes the symbols of reality obscure reality. Whether there are one or five or a hundred pictures of President Bush and Jack Abramoff is really beside the point. What is the point is this line from President Bush from yesterday's press conference: "You know, I, frankly, don't even remember having my picture taken with the guy. I don't know him."

Even discounting for the inherent squishiness of the language, that's just a lie.

Doesn't know him? Please. Like most successful politicians President Bush has a knack for remembering names and faces. On top of that, well ... let's set aside the fact that Abramoff was apparently a frequent attendee at White House staff planning meetings, seeded the administration with a bunch of his former employees, and so forth.

Let's just focus on a few key facts.

For the first three years of Bush's presidency Abramoff was arguably the most wired Republican lobbyist in Washington.

Bush doesn't know him?

Abramoff was a long time associate of one of the president's top political advisors, Grover Norquist and his chief political guru Karl Rove.

Bush never made his acquaintance?

Every Republican power player in Washington knew Jack Abramoff. Many of them knew him very, very well. But President Bush never knew him? Their paths never crossed?

That is simply ridiculous.

What's more, everyone asking the questions
knows it's ridiculous. The problem is that absent a 2+2=5 type statement they don't feel comfortable calling the president out as a liar.
But that's what we get from 5 years of the mainstream media's enabling of Bush's lying habit. If they'd called him out early and often (like, maybe, during the 2000 campaign), he'd have learned that he can't get away with that kind of crap. Or even better, he'd never have "won" the election to begin with.

Len on 01.28.06 @ 04:16 PM CST [link] [ | ]

For you poll junkies.....

Survey USA's latest state-by-state presidential approval numbers.

As for the summation, the President's nationwide numbers are:

Weighted average:       41% approve 56% disapprove.
Unweighted average:   43% approve 54% disapprove.

Yep. Looks like all's well in BushLand.

Len on 01.28.06 @ 04:02 PM CST [link] [ | ]

For those of you internet enabled food packaging enthusiasts...

we present for your consideration: The Original Condiment Packet Museum.

My favorites are probably the set of minimalist packets that Heinz uses for their non-ketchup condiments (I highlight Heinz Malt Vinegar here because I like that product (on fish, primarily), but they have a whole series of them):

but the entire site is strangely fascinating.

Len on 01.28.06 @ 02:25 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

And we doff our caps to you, Ben Affleck, for having invented an almost entirely new kind of Hollywood career (though we know you had lots of help). You have proved that if someone acts like a movie star often enough, and with enough sincerity, and is presented as such repeatedly to the public, and does all the things a movie star is meant to do, such as check into rehab, and make a big show of backing prominent politicians (though you don't actually vote yourself; who has the time?), and appear in magazines, and squint, and make the "sexy guy" face, and hook up with another big star in a paparazzi-friendly courtship, then -- dammit -- you can be a movie star. Even though none of your actual movies are big hits. You've almost -- almost -- managed to eliminate the movies from the equation altogether.
--Adam Sternbergh ["The Man From F.U.N.K.L.E.", fametracker.com]

Len on 01.28.06 @ 09:05 AM CST [link] [ | ]

War? What War?

At No Quarter, Larry Johnson calls bullshit on Bush and the War Red Herring:

When President George Bush is feeling political heat generated by questions about illegal domestic spying, secret overseas prisons, or prisoner torture, he seeks refuge in the solemn proclamation, "we are at war." The war excuse, which is usually accompanied by the elaboration that these excesses are necessary to protect the American people, does not hold water. If President Bush was serious about his insistence that we are at war, his Administration would be on a war footing. But, we are not.

If we were serious about this war there would be a supreme commander in charge of tracking down Bin Laden and the remnants of the Al Qaeda network. Instead, the NSC job for coordinating the war on terror has been held by seven different people since the President assumed office. General Wayne Downing, who held the post from October 2001 until September 2002, ultimately resigned in frustration after being repeatedly sand bagged and undercut by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Rather than impose order and discipline, President Bush has allowed the coordination function to atrophy.

Today there is no one individual or agency in charge of finding Bin Laden or dismantling Al Qaeda. This fact was highlighted by the recent attempt to kill Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda's real number two honcho, with a military strike inside Pakistan. That attack was carried out under the direction of the CIA. US military forces operating in the area were not directly involved. Instead of a single, focused effort to destroy Al Qaeda, the CIA and the Department of Defense are pursuing separate tracks. A case can be made for having either organization in charge. I have no dog in that fight, notwithstanding my previous employment with the CIA. President Bush, despite his tough war talk, is sadly disengaged and has been unwilling to organize his Administration to win the war.


Perhaps it is time to acknowledge that we cannot fight and win a war against an ideology or theology relying primarily on military tactics and resources.. There is no doubt that Bin Laden and other Islamic extremists share a vision of creating a new world where people will be governed by the laws of God as contained in the Quran. They are pursuing a religious crusade. Fortunately, the vast majority of muslims, both Shia and Sunni, have not embraced this vision. At least not yet.

An exclusive military response would make sense if the Islamic extremists congregated in mass formations and drilled at fixed installations. They do not. which ensures that a narrow military strategy is doomed to failure. The Islamic terrorists intermingle in civilian populations. They do not wear uniforms and are not easily identified. We may have killed some senior Al Qaeda personnel in Pakistan earlier this month, but we also killed some women and children.

This much is certain, when the United States uses military forces and kills innocent civilians (we excuse it with the euphemism, "collateral damage") Al Qaeda's public support increases. Similarly, when Al Qaeda operatives kill muslims in a prominent attack, such as the hotel bombings in Jordan last year, their popularity wanes. Recent polls in Jordan show that support for Al Qaeda has slipped from almost 80% to around 20%. There is a lesson here for us. In the long run we are better off if we win the hearts and minds of people rather than alienating civilian populations and inflaming grieving relatives.

The road to a more realistic policy starts with language. If President Bush insists on calling the effort to quash Al Qaeda a war then his actions and policies should reflect this fact. However, to call it a war while treating it as a political prop does nothing to rally the public nor isolate the Islamists. It simply creates cyncism that eats away at the body politic.

Len on 01.27.06 @ 06:45 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

At my Tennessee high school in the mid-1970s, the head football coach taught "Earth Science," which was a kind of physics without math for the slower kids. One day, several students confirmed, he declared without irony (an alien concept to him) that light travels faster downhill.
--A Slate "Chatterbox" reader, on his most memorable coach

Len on 01.27.06 @ 05:56 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Well, if you have to be batshit crazy....

If you've hung around here a while, you may have run into a mention of (or maybe even seen a comment by) reader/occasional commenter Gooseneck.

I've had my suspicions that Goose is certifiably batshit crazy (though in an entertaining way); as it turned out he's gone and confirmed that by telling us all about one of his winter pastimes: polar dipping.

Well, whatever floats yer boat....

Len on 01.26.06 @ 08:28 PM CST [link] [ | ]

It rarely pays to be a blogger....

but occasionally one gets interesting freebies.

Rachel "and the City" Hurley just got the most interesting (if not out and out most valuable) of anyone I "know" (hey, she and I have been in the same room together on at least one occasion, which is a closer acquaintanceship than I have with, say, Halle Berry): a trip to Amsterdam, courtesy of Holland.com. So go by "Rachel and the City', wish her bon voyage, and withstand the pledge drive (it's brief and relatively painless).

I've not gotten anything that nice (and probably never will; I'm not "totally famous on the internets!" and never will be), but somehow I managed to find myself on a list of recipients of a review copy of a soon-to-be-published novel:

Now, I've just got to somehow get my life under enough control so I can take the time to read it. And maybe even review it.

Now that I've broken into the ranks of Interweb book reviewers..... ;-) I'm actually hoping that I will get chosen to receive a review copy of a book that I'm really interested in reading and reviewing. I'm not going to mention the title, because I don't want to jinx myself, but trust me.... If I rate a review copy, y'all are going to be the first to hear about it.

Len on 01.26.06 @ 08:22 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Way to go!

Congratulations to Peggy Phillip's son, Charlie, on his acceptance to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Len on 01.26.06 @ 07:45 PM CST [link] [ | ]

From the "Careful what you wish for, because you might get it" Department:

An interesting observation from AP Diplomatic Writer Anne Gearan, on the victory of Hamas in the recent Palestinian election:

After making democracy a defining marker for American foreign policy, President Bush got a jolting message from Palestinian voters: Be careful what you wish for.

The United States promoted the democratic Palestinian election that now has produced an upset victory for the militant Islamic group Hamas. The election could install an organization the United States considers terrorist in place of a Palestinian leadership that, while weak, was pledged to work with
Israel and with Washington.

The administration is caught between Bush's clarion rhetoric about spreading liberty even in unlikely places and the reality that self-determination can yield results that appear counter to U.S. interests. That's a challenge the United States may have to confront someday in other places as well, including
Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Central Asia, the Balkans and — closer to home — South America.

"We in the United States have got to get used to the idea that other countries are going to have changes, and they may not be ones that" traditional Western thinking can readily grasp, said Council on Foreign Relations Mideast expert Judith Kipper.


Still, the success of religious-based candidates or parties, many of whom are hostile to Bush and opposed to American ideas, is sobering.

Muslim religious slates did far better in this month's Iraqi parliamentary elections than did the secular candidates preferred by Washington. Empowered by the U.S.-led overthrow of
Saddam Hussein, Iraqi Shiite voters could one day tilt their nation toward

The Muslim Brotherhood increased its power in Egypt's parliament nearly sixfold last year. Its lawmakers have tried to ban alcohol and some books, rid state TV of racy music videos and have violators punished with 30 lashes.

Saudi leaders regularly whisper to U.S. diplomats that open elections there would replace a government friendly to the United States with one dominated by radical Islamic politics.

Elsewhere, the Bush administration is at pains to say it is ready to work with democratically elected leaders with whom it doesn't agree, so long as they govern responsibly. That leaves Bush to try to gracefully suffer such thorns in his side as new Bolivian President Evo Morales, a leftist leader of coca growers who once vowed to be "Washington's nightmare."

Len on 01.26.06 @ 04:41 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Pet Peeve Time....

Over at the Leiter Reports, co-blogger Benj Hellie channels Steve Gilliard referencing Mark Crispin Miller in screaming bloody murder over a purported provision of the New PATRIOT Act. Let's quote Professor Miller:

What BushCo wants, according to the fine print (Sec. 605) of the new PATRIOT Act, is a permanent Praetorian Guard, or Cheka, or Gestapo. It's all too easy to come up with apt historical analogies--but not with any from this nation's history.

"A permanent police force, to be known as the 'United States Secret Service Uniformed Division,'" empowered to "make arrests without warrant for any offense against the United States committed in their presence" (what is "an offense against the United States?), "or for any felony cognizable under the laws of the United States if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing such felony" (what are "reasonable grounds"?).

I'm not making this up. See the text and URL below.
Why has this really been making my skin crawl?

If we're going to go batshit paranoid, folks (and remember, just because you're paranoid, that doesn't mean they're not out to get you), at least let's get our facts straight. Whatever its other faults (and I'm sure they're legion), the new PATRIOT Act doesn't create the United States Secret Service, Uniformed Division (USSS, UD). The USSS, UD has existed since 1977 (under that name; it actually traces its lineage back to the "protective force", first under the direction of the White House Military Aide, that has guarded the White House under one name or another (White House Police Force, Executive Protective Service, USSS, UD) since 1860).

Yes, the New PATRIOT Act does seem to extend the jurisdiction of the USSS, UD a bit (see the update to Talk Left's discussion on the matter). It doesn't create a new Praetorian Guard, though.

Len on 01.26.06 @ 01:17 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Why not filibuster the Alito nomination?

This analysis at Daily Kos makes some sense. I'm not sure I agree, but it is at least a reasoned approach.

The Short Form: if Roberts, C.J., represents the O'Connor swing vote (i.e., he'll be more centrist than Alito will be), then basically Alito replaces Rehnquist, C.J. (deceased), and the overall ideological balance of the Court remains roughly the same. That saves the showdown over the potential invocation of The Nuclear Option for a time that it really might be needed: the next nomination, when a (presumably) more liberal justice retires/dies (the most likely prospect here being John Paul Stevens).

As I say it makes sense. If I had reason to believe that the Democratic leadership was really thinking like this (as opposed to just rolling over because they do it out of habit), I would feel less apprehensive....

Thanks to The Umpire at Corked Bats for the pointer to dKos.

Len on 01.26.06 @ 12:43 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Nice try, but not close enough, I think....

According to The Raw Story, an organization called "Friends of Roy Blunt" has bought the Internet domains "roybluntsucks.com", "roybluntsux.com", and "stoproyblunt.com". Maybe a few others. To give you an idea of their intentions, roybluntsucks.com takes you to Blunt's congressional campaign page (funny; I'd have thought that pointer means that Blunt's engaging in a little truth in advertising, myself).

However, it's pretty obvious that Blunt and his cronies aren't going far enough. Some quick research at GoDaddy.com's WHOIS database shows that these domains are still available (as of the time this was posted; I hope I haven't given Blunt's supporters an idea here):

sweetjesusihateroyblunt.com (with apologies to the proprietors of Sweet Jesus I Hate Bill O'Reilly; I'm tempted to buy sweetjesusihateroyblunt.com myself. If I were still living in Missouri, I would.)

I'm sure you get the idea. I'm sure that Mr. Blunt's enemies can, by simply exercising a little creativity, come up with an appropriately insulting domain name for their anti-Blunt site.

Len on 01.26.06 @ 12:30 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Better not whistle near us....

Ten Top Trivia Tips about Dark Bilious Vapors!

  1. The book of Esther in the Bible is the only book which does not mention Dark Bilious Vapors.
  2. Dark Bilious Vapors can turn its stomach inside out!
  3. The International Space Station weighs about 500 tons and is the same size as Dark Bilious Vapors.
  4. Abraham Lincoln, who invented Dark Bilious Vapors, was the only US president ever granted a patent.
  5. It's bad luck to whistle near Dark Bilious Vapors!
  6. Dark Bilious Vapors was first grown in America by the grandmother Maria Ann Smith, from whom its name comes.
  7. Dark Bilious Vapors was first discovered by Alexander the Great in India, and introduced to Europe on his return.
  8. Only one child in twenty will be born on the day predicted by Dark Bilious Vapors.
  9. Michelangelo finished his great statue of Dark Bilious Vapors in 1504, after eighteen months work.
  10. Donald Duck's middle name is Dark Bilious Vapors!
I am interested in - do tell me about

Seen at Big Stupid Tommy

Len on 01.26.06 @ 11:33 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear - kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor - with the cry of grave national emergency... Always there has been some terrible evil to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant sums demanded. Yet, in retrospect, these disasters seem never to have happened, seem never to have been quite real.
--Douglas MacArthur

Note: Today is the 126th anniversary of MacArthur's birth.

Len on 01.26.06 @ 07:10 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Apropos the "Conservative Appeal"

Over at The Flypaper Theory, The Pesky Fly (himself a practicing Memphis journalist, though not with the Commercial Appeal) makes this perceptive comment:

The CA: Is the CA Rightist in tone and content? Not really; they did endorse John Kerry, after all. The fact is it's neither liberal, or Rightist. It's corporate, and as such it creates its own politics. Let's not forget which big radio group gave Air America its first big break: Clear Channel. And the company was honest about both their conservative politics and their reasons for picking up Air America: They are in the business of selling radio, and if there was a serious market devoted to German Toilet Tasting by golly, there would be a Clear Channel station devoted to German Toilet Tasting. Corporate Newspapers are still profit cows by any sane standard of private ownership, but now they are reared up to feed Wall Street, and that's a hungry beast. Everything that can be done to reduce cost is being done to wrench out every last drop of revenue--which, discounting product degredation--isn't necessarily a bad thing altogether. But these are all reactive, and temporary measures that do nothing to address the real problem:readership.

Readership is falling, and thanks to the new electronic media revenue models are changing--and nobody really knows into what. With TiVo etc. Broadcast media is feeling the first serious twinges of the same affliction as the model determining the cost and results of advertising goes in and out of focus. What we're seeing from the CA, with its constant reinvention, and frequent shifts in attitude is a newsprint answer to the
Bill Dance Hour: lots and lots of good fishing.

Soon, I suspect, there will be no Commercial Appeal, but rather a series of targeted journals: the triumph of the Appeal sections. This, I believe, has been part of the paper's agenda since instituting the Neighbors section 10-years ago. The Suburban Journals, CA Publisher Joseph Pepe's last gig, functioned like this. They were also a free paper, and if the daily is to survive they will eventually have to go with this model. But it will be interesting to see--when there are many appeals--how the news is framed in Midtown vs. how it's framed in Germantown.

Len on 01.25.06 @ 08:20 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Gem o'the Day:

President Bush announced plans to personally get involved in the combat against bird flu. I guess we can expect him to run the operation from the Alabama National Guard again.
--Will Durst, "Daily Dose of Durst", Jan 25, 2006

Len on 01.25.06 @ 07:46 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Josh Marshall makes an excellent point

over at Talking Points Memo, and gives us a little-voiced reason why "Hillary '08" is a bad idea:

I see there are a lot of people around the web taking shots at Hillary Clinton, or more specifically at her probable presidential candidacy in 2008.

Though I wrote five years ago that I find the whole idea of a Hillary presidential bid wildly improbable, I say the following as an admirer and supporter of Sen. Clinton. (She's my senator now, after all.)

But here's a reason for not supporting her candidacy that I don't hear often enough:
political dynasticism.


George H. W. Bush left office to be followed by two terms of Bill Clinton. He in turn was followed by two terms of Bush's son. If those two terms of the son are followed by the election of Clinton's wife, I don't see where that's a good thing for this country. It ceases to be a fluke and grows into a pattern. It's dynasticism.

Len on 01.25.06 @ 07:40 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

I'm so sick of arming the world and then sending troops over to destroy the fucking arms, you know what I mean? We keep arming these little countries, then we go and blow the shit out of 'em. We're like the bullies of the world, you know. We're like Jack Palance in the movie Shane ... throwing the pistol at the sheep herder's feet: "Pick it up." "I don't wanna pick it up mister, you'll shoot me." "Pick up the gun." "Mister, I don't want no trouble, huh. I just came down town here to get some hard rock candy for my kids, some gingham for my wife. I don't even know what gingham is, but she goes through about 10 rolls a week of that stuff. I ain't looking for no trouble, mister." "Pick up the gun." Boom, boom. "You all saw him. He had a gun."
--Bill Hicks

Len on 01.25.06 @ 07:04 AM CST [link] [ | ]

And this deserves an IgNobel prize, for sure.....

Over at the Annals of Improbable Research, we get some preliminary results answering the earth-shaking question, "Is it possible for a decade-old sandwich to remain mold-free without divine intervention?"--the question being posed, of course, is a reference to the infamous Virgin Mary grilled cheese sandwich. The results:

The results were that if the sandwich had been grilled then it would, on average, mold 47 days later, if store-bought bread would have been used it would mold 27 days later and margarine added 15 days to the time to mold. Adding cheese, however, took 15 days off the time to mold. The last 3 sandwiches did not mold and are not likely to mold ever because they are rock hard.
Nothing like some news you can use.

Len on 01.24.06 @ 08:35 PM CST [link] [ | ]

No surprise here.....

AP: Study: Army Stretched to Breaking Point

Stretched by frequent troop rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army has become a "thin green line" that could snap unless relief comes soon, according to a study for the Pentagon.

Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer who wrote the report under a Pentagon contract, concluded that the Army cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments to Iraq long enough to break the back of the insurgency. He also suggested that the Pentagon's decision, announced in December, to begin reducing the force in Iraq this year was driven in part by a realization that the Army was overextended.

As evidence, Krepinevich points to the Army's 2005 recruiting slump — missing its recruiting goal for the first time since 1999 — and its decision to offer much bigger enlistment bonuses and other incentives.

"You really begin to wonder just how much stress and strain there is on the Army, how much longer it can continue," he said in an interview. He added that the Army is still a highly effective fighting force and is implementing a plan that will expand the number of combat brigades available for rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 136-page report represents a more sobering picture of the Army's condition than military officials offer in public. While not released publicly, a copy of the report was provided in response to an Associated Press inquiry.
And the idiots still rattle their cracked sabers at Iran..... Sheesh.

Len on 01.24.06 @ 07:13 PM CST [link] [ | ]

For those of you who insist....

on being early adopters (even though being an early adopter of a Microsoft OS is, IMHO, the height of foolishness), here's a visual preview of the latest build of Windows Vista, the operating-system-formerly-known-as-Longhorn. The picture show is a feature of this article on building a Vista system today (that is, collecting the right components so your system will be ready to run Vista when it's released). Fred Langa, of the LangaList has addressed the same issue from the less geeky "buy your Vista ready system" (vice building it), if you're in the market for a new PC and wanting a Vista ready system.

As for me, I'll pass. I only very recently (within the last several months) got around to moving to Windows XP, and I'm a strong believer in the principle that one should never move to a new Microsoft OS until Service Pack 2 for that OS has been released. If past history is any basis for prognostication, I won't have to worry about Vista for another 3-4 years, minimum.

Len on 01.24.06 @ 07:07 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Music to Karen's ears....

Over at Dadahead, we get a pointer to a message board post at Democratic Underground claiming that the Bush bAdministration is bracing for impeachment hearings. Normally, I'd accuse the DU denizens of inhaling a bit too much of the "wacky tobaccy", but they point to an article in Insight magazine, which is, as cognoscenti know, a sister publication of noted Moonie soapbox The Washington Times.

Frankly, I'll believe it when I see it. About the only way that Bush is likely to be impeached is if those infamous Time magazine photos feature Bush and Abramoff sucking each other's cocks--and even then, the vote would be close, and could go either way.

Len on 01.24.06 @ 01:01 PM CST [link] [ | ]

How things change....

Over at Cherry Blossom Special, EJ spearheads an initiative to get a little truth in labeling in the Memphis Media: Petition to Rename Our Newspaper "The Conservative Appeal".

I remember when my father used to, jokingly, call our local morning paper “The Comical Appeal”. Now that I’ve seen their recent handiwork, I’ve been outraged, like many progressives in Memphis, about the Commercial Appeal’s downward spiral into a conservative rag, frequently and openly portraying itself in a way that makes it unfit even to perforate and place on a roll for appropriate usage.
Actually, I still refer to it as "The Comical Appeal".

But what I find really amusing..... Before I took my present job, I worked for the Memphis office of an IT consultancy headquartered in St. Louis. While there, one of my co-workers was an Oracle database administrator/technical instructor who, in a previous lifetime was a Memphis cop (he segued into the MPD's IT department, which is how he got his entree into the IT field), and he told me about how, when he was a beat cop, the Commercial Appeal was regularly referred to by the Memphis constabulary as "the Communist Appeal".

Len on 01.24.06 @ 12:54 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Diagnosis and prescription....

Over at Main and Central, Lurch channels his partner-in-blog, the Fixer (though he fails to give us a pointer to the original):

The calm, sedate and always remarkable Fixer makes a point about today's Democrats.
What's even more unconscionable is Barack Obama, sitting there and letting Tim Russert link the Dems to Harry Belafonte, a question Timmy would never have asked a white man.


We have idiots like Lieberman and Nelson, who suck up to the Repubs at every turn, just to protect their own positions.


...Hillary Clinton, the person who was most harmed by the Repub juggernaut...


...Harry Reid, a guy who talks a very good line but backs down when it counts.


So, I ask the Dems, do you actually think you're gonna win anything in November? Do you actually think there will be any change in the status quo at this time next year? At the rate you're going, the future looks dismal. You should all be ashamed of yourselves.

Fixer, of course, is right on. You got a quarter inch group right in the X-ring, bud. It's time for these Dems to either start bringing their guns to the knife fight or to step aside and let some Americans with testicles take up the fight.
By happy coincidence, William Rivers Pitt at truthout.org, came up with the same diagnosis, and gave us his prescription for a brilliant little protest. Details below the fold....

Len on 01.24.06 @ 12:44 PM CST [more..] [ | ]

Speaking of deserving recognition....

Our (well, my) favorite poet, Mad Kane, was tagged to provide a recipe to a blogger cookbook being published as a fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders. That deserved recognition serves as grist for Mad's poetic mill, and gives us the pleasure of both a limerick, and a filk to be sung to the tune of "My Favorite Things" (from the score of "The Sound of Music"). And yes, there's an audio version.

Len on 01.24.06 @ 12:25 PM CST [link] [ | ]

And it appears it's that time of year yet again......

As long as I'm mentioning Pete, I note that apparently A Perfectly Cromulent Blog (Pete's home on the Interweb) has been nominated for a 2005 Koufax Award in the category of Most Deserving of Wider Recognition.

My personal attitude towards blog awards is that they're a singularly silly exercise, and I (usually) neither vote in them nor do I generally take notice of them. However, given my admiration for APCB (and because, dammit, any blog that's Perfectly Cromulent is by that fact alone Deserving Of Wider Recognition), I'll suspend my apathy to the extent necessary to vote for Pete in this one.

Of course, in taking this position I'm now running the risk of alienating a number of my blog-friends and acquaintances but what the hell, I've "known" Pete longer than most, and we Cardinals fans have to stick together (that Pete seems, based on a comment or three he's left here, to have an appreciation for the music of Kraftwerk as well as for the Cardinals only cements that decision further). But, looking over the list of nominees in this category (which looks to be about as selective as the Memphis telephone directory, to judge from the number of nominees), if you don't think that Perfect Cromulence is reason enough to make a blog Deserving Of Wider Recognition, then if you decide to vote for one of the below named almost-as-equally-deserving nominees, I promise I won't get my knickers in a twist:

Apostropher (who has been seen haunting our comments)
Bark Bark Woof Woof
BattlePanda (a favorite of my co-blogger, Brock Sides, and an occasional reader/commenter here)
The Daily Howler (is the Howler really "deserving of wider recognition"? This is a site that became a daily read for me ages ago. If it's merely "deserving of wider recognition", that's a pretty clear sign that the collective brains of the blogiverse doesn't come up to the intelligence of a pile of shit)
Democratic Veteran (what I want to know is WTF wasn't Main and Central nominated?)
Driftglass (probably Karen's personal favorite)
Elayne Riggs (though it's spelled "Elaine" in the nomination list)
Facing South (part-time bloghome of the-blogger-formerly-known-as-South-Knox-Bubba, new home of "Friday Bird Blogging", and a must-read resource for folks interested in politics and culture in the South)
Happy Furry Puppy Story Time (another Kraftwerk fan, to judge from the pic of the Man Machine cover)
Lean Left
Mad Kane's Notables (Web home of The Poet Laureate of Left Blogistan (© Len Cleavelin; all rights reserved))
Newsrack (another proud member of The Rocky Top Brigade)
The People's Republic of Seabrook
Steve Bates, the Yellow Doggerel Democrat (frequent commenter at, and often cited by the proprietor of, Why Now?. That Why Now? isn't a nominee shows how ridiculous the idea of "blog awards" is)

And that's just the list of blogs that I read at least semi-regularly. I'm sure that there are others on the list that I'm doing an injustice to by not naming them.

Screw it. So many blogs, so little time. And so many other worthwhile activities in the world.

Len on 01.24.06 @ 12:19 PM CST [link] [ | ]

I'm jealous.....

Pete Vonder Haar, in Park City, UT covering the Sundance Film Festival for Film Threat, actually got to meet Roger Ebert, who is on the short list of one of the four film critics I actually would like to meet face to face:

"You're gonna need a bigger coat."

Sage words spoken by the master of movie reviewing, Mr. Roger Ebert, whom I met (where else?) at a Chinese buffet. A very nice guy, who mentioned how much he liked Film Threat. I wonder what he would've said if I lied and told him I was with AICN.
The short list I've alluded to: Ebert, of course, James Berardinelli, Mark Ramsey of MovieJuice, and Pete himself. Though I'd want to meet Pete as much (or perhaps marginally more) because he's another Cardinals fan, as I do because I enjoy his film reviews.

Len on 01.24.06 @ 10:07 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Take heart, those of you wanting a flying car.....

it looks like some demented genius in Perth, Australia, is working on your wish: Flying Car captured on Google Earth

Here's a question for you: what have the Nazi wartime test facility at Peenemunde and the Australian city of Perth got in common? Well, the first thing (and just about the only thing, truth be told) which springs to mind is that they are both next to large bodies of water. This is useful if you're going to test things which might go bang. Like V-2 rockets and - wait for it - flying cars:

So wait patiently; I'm sure commercial sales of this wonder are only a matter of time.

Len on 01.24.06 @ 09:27 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Surprised I'd find myself agreeing with him....

Listening to Air America Morning today, Rachel Maddow threw an on air reference to conservative blogger Dale Franks. Apparently, blogging übermensch N.Z. Bear organized conference calls for right-leaning bloggers with the leading candidates to take over the post of House Majority Leader (John Shadegg (R-AZ), John Boehner (R-OH), and Roy Blunt (R-MO)). Franks merited the mention because the series of conference calls led to Franks issuing an interesting "unendorsement" in the House Majority Leader's race. I'm going to take the liberty of quoting Franks's "unendorsement" extensively, because it provides an interesting insight into how things are going to be run in the House if Blunt does become Majority Leader (and interestingly enough, Blunt seems to believe, according to Franks, that "the fix is in"):

And then there was Roy Blunt.

After spending a half hour listening to him, I think...let's see...how do I put this...

I would rather lick fire ants off a stick than see Roy Blunt as Majority Leader. I'm not at the point of making a firm endorsement of either Reps. Shaddeg or Boehner, but the sun will set in a blazing red sky to the east of Casablanca before I'd want Roy Blunt as Majority leader.
Well, not that I have any say about the issue, but I'm in perfect agreement with Mr. Franks here (right down to licking fire ants off a stick), though I base that opinion on being a Missouri resident most of my life, and being a first-hand witness to Rep. Blunt's political career.... But I digress.
The first troubling thing about the Blunt conference call was the way it was handled. In the other two calls, [the conference calls with Reps. Shaddeg and Boehner] the conversation was unmoderated, and we all had chances to get our licks in. We asked candid questions and, for the most part, got equally candid answers. All of the bloggers who were there were part of the group organized by NZ Bear, and the Congressmen had no idea who was gonna be there when he got on the line.

The Blunt people put a stop to
that. They required us to email David All, one of Rep. Blunt's staffers, for permission to attend the conference call. Then, Mr. All asked us to submit our questions in writing, and informed us that the call would be moderated. Also, once we were on the line, we had to hit "*1" to be recognized before we could ask a question; otherwise, we were muted. That, though is a technical thing, which is no big deal.

When we got on the line, Rep. Blunt made a statement, part of which I found confusing, because he said that he knew most of us had already endorsed Shadegg, which was news to me. Indeed, one of the email conversations that we've had between the blogger group was whether or not we should provide an endorsement of anybody at all, and the consensus seemed to be that, while some of us might individually do so, as a group we should not. My impression was that most individuals wouldn't be providing an endorsement, either. So, this statement caught me by surprise.

Then, when Rep. Blunt opened the floor for questions, the next surprise was that the first question came from someone from GOP Bloggers. He wasn't a part of our group, i.e., the one organized by NZ Bear. How did he get on the call? This guy then proceeded to throw a softball at Rep Blunt, essentially asking him if those naughty Democrats were just dirty liars for denying that they had anything to do with Jack Abramoff, and was the Congressman going to fight back properly? Then, the next questioner was from Townhall.com. WTF? I mean, while Townhall has what is technically a blog, Townhall is nothing more than an organ of the Heritage Institute. And they weren't part of our group either. He tossed another softball at Rep. Blunt, asking why Blunt hadn't gotten support from Conservative icons. Icons like...well...Townhall. And NRO.
[Townhall's Tim Chapman has notified me that he objects to my characterization of his question. He should feel free to publicly correct me at Townhall.com. Just be sure to get the link URL to QandO right, Tim.—EDF]

So at this point it was obvious that, rather than just talking to our group, which was already organized, Rep. Blunt had pulled in
ringers, and, having asked for questions in advance—which I declined to provide, by the way—had screened them prior to the conference call. So, at this point, I'm feeling like we're being played. Unlike the calls with the other candidates, which were unscripted, Blunt had turned this into the least spontaneous event possible.

Then, Rep. Blunt just outright pissed me off. He said words to the effect that, while he understood that many of us supported someone else, and he knew we'd be writing up the call later, he hoped we wouldn't write or do something that would jeopardize our ability to work together later, and since he was gonna win—already had the votes locked up, in fact—we would be dealing with him.

OK. I admit I have a slight problem with authority. So, maybe I'm taking this wrong, but I took that as veiled threat to mean that, if we expected any access in the future, maybe we'd better think about what we wrote about him. I really don't respond well to threats. Even pleasantly veiled ones.

Huh. OK. I'll make a deal with Rep. Blunt. How's this sound? I'll go ahead and write whatever the hell I want to write. In return, if Rep. Blunt doesn't like it, then he can cry me a river. I think that sounds fair. Somehow, I managed to get along fine for the first 41 years of my life without talking to Roy Blunt, and things turned out OK. I'm not a Washington journalist. My livelihood doesn't depend on having access to powerful DC insiders. So, I think I'll be fine if I never talk to him again.

Indeed, I would
prefer it.

But this little statement brings up an interesting point. One of the later questioners (I think it was Mike Krempasky from Red State, but I'm not sure), asked, why Rep. Blunt wouldn't step down from his Republican conference leadership position, since some members might fear some retaliation from him if they publicly came out for Shadegg or Boehner. Rep. Blunt responded that he was shocked—shocked!—that anyone would think of him in that way, and besides, he had to stay in the job, keeping the wheels of the conference turning, and whatnot.

Frankly, after the thinly veiled threat he had just dropped on us, I was thinking that, if I was a Congressman, I'd be pretty careful about offending the vindictive SOB myself.

As far as I'm concerned, the Blunt call was a disaster for Rep Blunt. My dominant impression was that he was trying to stack the deck with ringers who'd throw him softball questions, so our group's ability to question him closely would be limited by squandering time on people who were not part of our group, and whose questions he saw in advance. In short, he was trying to spin us. As far as I can tell, Rep. Blunt broke just about every rule for how to deal effectively with bloggers. I don't think he could've alienated me more effectively had he intentionally set out to do so.

I mean, has the guy ever even
seen a blog? Have any of his staff?

After the call had ended, on of the attendees sent out an email, asking why he hadn't been invited to any of the earlier conference calls. Well, Sparky, the answer is that you weren't part of our blogger group, and the other candidates didn't try, like Rep. Blunt, to invite questioners that they perceived as being friendlier, in order to reduce their exposure to tough questioning. Once Rep. Blunt agreed to the conference call, he pretty much took it over, organizing the attendees as well as the technical portion, and screening questions in advance.

Also, several members of our group had hit "*1" but were never recognized to allow them to ask questions. They were still hanging when Rep. Blunt said, essentially, "Woo, look at the time! Thanks for coming by folks. Now get out!'

So, if you're a Republican Congressman, I'm not going to endorse anyone, or tell you who to vote for. But if I was one of you, I could think of about 220 Republican members that I'd vote for before I voted for Roy Blunt as Majority Leader.
What I find interesting about this is that it seems clear (at least to me) that if Blunt is selected as House Majority Leader, it's pretty much going to be business as usual for the Rethugnican majority. Blunt's manipulation of the bloggers, his stage management and spinning of the conference call, the intimidation and threatening (however veiled) of the participants--all show that he served his apprenticeship at the feet of Tom "The Hammer" DeLay, and if Blunt is selected I suspect that his leadership style (and the results) will be indistinguishable from the reign of DeLay.

I suppose the "good" news, if one can call it that, is that if Blunt-as-majority-leader is merely DeLay in a different suit of clothes, there might be a fair likelihood that Blunt himself will face an indictment in the future, and maybe we'll get to be entertained by that dog-and-pony show.

But the selection of the House Majority Leader does serve as a litmus test as to the GOP's commitment to getting their house in order. If Blunt wins (as he seems to think he will), be prepared to see "more of the same"--more threats, more intimidation, more corruption--at least through the elections (and given Democratic electoral incompetence and lack of spine, through 2008 or far into the future...).

Len on 01.24.06 @ 07:28 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Happy Blogiversary!

I want to take an opportunity to mark the one year anniversary of my former co-blogger Karen McLauchlan's entrance into the blog universe. Since then it's been an interesting year....

If you've been following things here, you know that not very long ago, Karen decided to spread her wings, leave the nest here, and launch her own solo blog, Peripetia, which promises to continue the engaging observations that marked Karen's time here. So head on over, wish her a happy first year anniversary, and join the conversation there, too.

Len on 01.24.06 @ 06:46 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

Gates, Ballmer, and Agassi say that open source is software socialism that stifles innovation. But it's the capitalists who have the tech world stuck in the mud. Microsoft's ham-fisted control over its software has done more to set back technological progress than a thousand open-source projects. When was the last time there was a truly revolutionary advance to the computer desktop that Microsoft dominates? By pocketing licensing fees, it has slowed entrepreneurship. By leveraging its monopoly over the desktop, it has prevented competitors from introducing products that would have offered an incentive for Redmond to innovate.
--Adam L. Penenberg

Len on 01.24.06 @ 06:37 AM CST [link] [ | ]

And I wonder how long Bill Gates will let this go on?

ReactOS: a from-the-ground-up, Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) implementation of a Microsoft Windows XP workalike operating system (the goal is to make it completely compatible with all Microsoft Windows XP software that's out there).

I have to admit, my first reaction to hearing about this was, "WTF?". But the ReactOS team makes a decent case for the project:

The ReactOS® project is dedicated to making Free Software available to everyone by providing a ground-up implementation of a Microsoft Windows® XP compatible operating system. ReactOS aims to achieve complete binary compatibility with both applications and device drivers meant for NT and XP operating systems, by using a similar architecture and providing a complete and equivalent public interface.

Although Free Software advocates agree that free software operating systems improve the state of the art by fostering competition, ReactOS has practical benefit for others, too; ReactOS is the most complete working model of a Windows® like operating system available. Consequently, working programmers will learn a great deal by studying ReactOS source code and even participating in ReactOS development.
Sounds like an interesting project to watch, but right now it's nowhere near as sophisticated as Linux is now (ReactOS is in version 0.2.9 right now). If you want to try it out, pay heed to the ReactOS team's warning: Please bear in mind that ReactOS is still in alpha stage and is not recommended for everyday use.

Len on 01.23.06 @ 09:29 PM CST [link] [ | ]

A new sports team is coming to Memphis....

The Dirty South Derby Girls.

Yep. Memphis is getting an "all-girl flat track roller derby team".

Be still my fluttering heart....


Len on 01.23.06 @ 08:17 PM CST [link] [ | ]

The Pesky Fly took a trip to Biloxi (and the Gulf Coast of Mississippi)....

and all we get are these definitely not-lousy photographs. And Pesky says it all at the end:

If they are worth 1000 words, this should say it all. Of 300 shots these weren't the worst. And remember---Katrina hit land 5-months ago.

Len on 01.23.06 @ 08:01 PM CST [link] [ | ]

How is Skittles™ Gum like "flirting" with a stripper in her club?

Let Steve enlighten you....

Len on 01.23.06 @ 07:15 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Still swirling in the shitter.....

The latest American Research Group numbers:

Bush Approval Ratings:

Among all Americans:
36% approve, 58% disapprove of Bush's overall job performance.
34% approve, 60% disapprove of Bush's handling of the economy.

Among registered voters:
37% approve, 58% disapprove of Bush's overall job performance.
35% approve, 60% disapprove of Bush's handling of the economy.
I've got a feeling there's going to be a lot of Rethugnican screaming of "9/11!!! 9/11!!!! Security!!!! Terrorism!!!!" in the next year. Not to mention some goosing of the terror alert system....

Len on 01.23.06 @ 06:52 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Evidence that civility is dead in this country....

Received from an email correspondent a few days ago. I just tried it, and it works, just as he says....

Have some fun with this:

Go to www.lowes.com

There's a search box in the upper left corner. Type in the word "shed". You'd think you'd get a bunch of responses, since Lowe's sells all kinds of sheds. You will only get about 4 responses: a couple of books about sheds, and a canopy kit. No actual sheds.

Now, type in the phrase "storage shed" and try again. This time you only get ONE response, for a shed floor kit. No sheds though.

Now, losing patience, type in "fucking storage shed." You'll get 12 responses, including numerous sheds.

Evidently the search engine only works when you swear at it.
Hard to teach people to be civil, when the only way to get useful results is to resort to profanity.

Len on 01.23.06 @ 06:40 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Abramoff money? What Abramoff money?

Well, some money from Sleazy Jack's clients, but not nearly as much as people think...

Via Josh Marshall, we get a pointer to an interesting piece by Mark Schmitt on Deborah Howell's defense of her claim that Abramoff steered client money to Democrats:

One point to add to Brad DeLong's, and others', dogged and appropriate insistence that the Washington Post finally correct its own and its ombuds-person's errors regarding possible Democratic beneficiaries of Abramoff-tainted cash:

To defend her modified, limited clarification that Abramoff "directed" money to Democrats from his clients, the Post's Deborah Howell cited this graphic, which features a fragment of a list that Abramoff sent the Louisiana Coushatta tribe suggesting congressional incumbents and candidates and party organizations they should contribute to.

Brad has noted that the fragment, which contains mostly names beginning with the letter C (the full document is not publicly available) proposed $4,000 in contributions to Democrats, against $115,000 to Republicans. But a look at actual donations from the Coushatta raises even more questions

The Howell fragment indicates that Abramoff asked the Coushatta to give $2,000 each to two Democrats, then-Senators Jean Carnahan and Max Cleland, as well as an amount, illegible on the graphic, to Tom Daschle, at the time still Senate Majority Leader.

The full list of contributions from Abramoff and his clients is available from the Center for Responsive Politics here. This list makes no attempt to determine wehter the contributions were "directed" by Abramoff or reflected longstanding loyalties to legislators who, like Daschle or Byron Dorgan, "have been supporting the tribes for longer than Jack Abramoff has been bilking them."

Comparing this list to the Howell fragment, one finds that neither the Coushatta nor any other Abramoff client actually gave money to Jean Carnahan, although Abramoff himself and his clients gave $3,000 to her Republican opponent, Jim Talent. The Coushatta did give to Cleland, not $2,000 but $500, while Abramoff and his tribal clients gave eleven times as much to Cleland's opponent, now-Senator Saxby Chambliss. Daschle, based on the CRP list, got nothing from the Coushatta, although other tribes did support him, while Abramoff himself and other clients backed his opponent, Sen. John Thune.
[emphasis added --LRC]
Bipartisan scandal? Riiiiigggggghhhhhttttt.....

Len on 01.23.06 @ 06:23 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Maybe they're just returning to their roots?

Over at The Hardball Times today, Maury Brown (head of SABR's Business of Baseball committee, and proprietor of the awe-inspiring Business of Baseball website) makes an excellent case that Angelos Must Go. That's Peter Angelos, owner of the Baltimore Orioles, that he's referring to. While the article's a damn fine read, this graphic pretty neatly summarizes the argument:

Pretty much declining attendance since 1997 (though there's a slight uptick in attendance since 2003). And of course it's no coincidence that 1997 was the last time the Orioles had a winning season.

But a sense of historical perspective is in order. Remember that, prior to 1954, this is the team that was the St. Louis Browns: "First in booze, first in shoes, and last in the American League". A team that won the American League pennant only once (in 1944, when they faced their stadium sharing NL rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals, in a World Series that the Cardinals won, 4 games to 2). A team that was known to throw a champagne celebration in the locker room when they won their 55th game in a season (the significance of that being, under the old 154 game schedule, that it became mathematically impossible for the Browns to lose 100 games that season).

Is Angelos mismanaging the Orioles? Or is he just paying homage to the great historical tradition of the franchise? You make the call....


Len on 01.23.06 @ 08:14 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

Army Raises Top Age for New Recruits From 35 to 42
Allows millions more who supported war not to enlist.
Ironic Times, January 23, 2006

Len on 01.23.06 @ 07:33 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Actually, for Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers fans....

the unhappiest day of the year was today. But if you don't fall into one of those categories, you may want to stay in bed tomorrow: Monday, January 23 gloomiest day of the year: academic

Watch out: Monday, January 23 is going to be the unhappiest day of the year, according to a British university researcher.

Cliff Arnall, a health psychologist at the University of Cardiff, specialising in confidence-building and stress management, told AFP the prediction was the result of some gruelling mathematics.

Post-Christmas blues, the return to work after the holidays, mounting bills to pay for the parties, the challenge of keeping New Year's resolutions, the slender prospects of fun in the weeks ahead and chilly winter temperatures for those in the northern hemisphere all add up, he said.

These factors, which he combined in a complex formula, came out showing that the Monday closest to January 24 would be the most dismal of the year.
Actually, in Memphis it looks like today was much more gloomy than tomorrow, owing to the fact that we've been dealing with steady overcast and a lot of rain today and tonight (including flood warnings), but the National Weather Service suggests that tomorrow will be only partly cloudy.

Len on 01.22.06 @ 09:34 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Bush does the right thing....

"Who'da thunk it?", as Yogi Berra would have asked (well, a Google search shows a few stray attributions to Berra, vice none to either Casey Stengel or Dizzy Dean who would be the other prime suspects).

Anyway, Elayne Riggs informs us that apparently President Bush himself intervened to clear Cuba's participation in the World Baseball Classic. As reported here at DBV (and elsewhere, of course), Treasury Department regulations (and Administration policies) prohibiting financial dealings with Cuba were threatening to scuttle the Classic, when the International Baseball Federation refused to sanction the event if Cuba was not allowed to participate.

Of course, the intervention doesn't represent a change in the U.S. policies; rather, things have been arranged so that Cuba can play without ever seeing any money from their participation:

The tournament organizer's second attempt to get a license for Cuba from the Treasury Department was successful and eliminated a thorny complication, if not a fatal jolt, to the event. If Cuba had been denied again, the inaugural classic could have been jeopardized because the International Baseball Federation had threatened to withdraw its sanction if Cuba was left out.

Instead, after Major League Baseball and the players union helped revise the application to guarantee that Cuba would not make American money by playing, the Treasury Department approved the license yesterday. If Cuba made money from the tournament, which runs March 3-20, that would have violated the United States' trade embargo against the country.

Administration officials said the reversal of the position came after the president became directly involved. As a former partner in the Texas Rangers, he knew, they said, that there were ways to organize the high-profile games without aiding the government of Fidel Castro.

"The president wanted to see the matter resolved in a positive way," said Frederick Jones, a spokesman for the National Security Council. "Our concerns were making sure that no money was going to the Castro regime, and that the World Baseball Classic would not be used by the regime for espionage. We believe those concerns have been addressed."

Aside from Cuba, the other 15 teams will make at least 1 percent of the net profits from the event, with those percentages escalating as teams advance. The champion will reap a 10 percent profit. But Cuba, a traditional international power and the gold medal winner in the 2004 Olympics, will get nothing.

While the Cubans said they would donate proceeds to Hurricane Katrina victims, it will not actually happen that way because that would mean they still would have received American money before transferring it. Instead, the World Baseball Classic will handle the money Cuba would have earned and will make the donation to make sure no money flows through Cuba.
Ah well, as long as everyone is happy....

Play ball!

Len on 01.22.06 @ 01:30 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Veerrrrryyyy interesting....
--Arte Johnson ['German Soldier', 'Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In']

Friday John Kerry (or someone writing under that name) made an appearance on Daily Kos. The other interesting point that struck me looking into this is that the alleged John Kerry dKos diary appears to have very little content actually authored by "John Kerry" (for all I know that may be normal for a dKos diary; while I read the dKos main page occasionally (depending on the press of other business), other business has been very pressing recently, so dKos has tended to slip off the daily blogaround...).

Whether this was written by the Senator or not, I do agree with the author's sentiments in his piece from Friday:

There's something that doesn't sit right with me when, on the day Osama Bin Laden resurfaced in a disturbing audio tape, cable television ends up in a game of name calling as a war protester is compared to Osama Bin Laden.

That's reason to be outraged - but even more outrageous is the fact that in a flurry of sound bites what was lost was a real discussion of the fact that more than four years after the devastating attacks of 9/11, more than four years after George Bush boasted we wanted Osama "dead or alive," more than a year after Osama Bin Laden showed his hateful face in yet another video, this barbarian is still very much alive and boasting of additional attacks against the United States.

Here's what I'd like to see debated on Hardball.

President Bush's mouthpiece Scott McClellan can claim this administration puts terrorists out of business, but yesterday's tape reminds us that instead of being out of business, Osama is still out there.
Veeeerrrrrrryyyyyy interesting... but definitely not schtupid!

Credit to autoegocrat at The Flypaper Theory for the pointer.

Len on 01.22.06 @ 12:56 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Good golly Miss Molly.....

Via The Umpire at Corked Bats, we get a link to Molly Ivins's latest gem: Not. backing. Hillary.

I'd like to make it clear to the people who run the Democratic Party that I will not support Hillary Clinton for president.

Enough. Enough triangulation, calculation and equivocation. Enough clever straddling, enough not offending anyone This is not a Dick Morris election. Sen. Clinton is apparently incapable of taking a clear stand on the war in Iraq, and that alone is enough to disqualify her. Her failure to speak out on Terri Schiavo, not to mention that gross pandering on flag-burning, are just contemptible little dodges.

The recent death of Gene McCarthy reminded me of a lesson I spent a long, long time unlearning, so now I have to re-learn it. It's about political courage and heroes, and when a country is desperate for leadership. There are times when regular politics will not do, and this is one of those times. There are times a country is so tired of bull that only the truth can provide relief.

If no one in conventional-wisdom politics has the courage to speak up and say what needs to be said, then you go out and find some obscure junior senator from Minnesota with the guts to do it. In 1968, Gene McCarthy was the little boy who said out loud, "Look, the emperor isn't wearing any clothes." Bobby Kennedy -- rough, tough Bobby Kennedy -- didn't do it. Just this quiet man trained by Benedictines who liked to quote poetry.

What kind of courage does it take, for mercy's sake? The
majority of the American people (55 percent) think the war in Iraq is a mistake and that we should get out. The majority (65 percent) of the American people want single-payer health care and are willing to pay more taxes to get it. The majority (86 percent) of the American people favor raising the minimum wage. The majority of the American people (60 percent) favor repealing Bush's tax cuts, or at least those that go only to the rich. The majority (66 percent) wants to reduce the deficit not by cutting domestic spending, but by reducing Pentagon spending or raising taxes.

majority (77 percent) thinks we should do "whatever it takes" to protect the environment. The majority (87 percent) thinks big oil companies are gouging consumers and would support a windfall profits tax. That is the center, you fools. WHO ARE YOU AFRAID OF? [emphasis in original --LRC]
Perhaps what those fools are afraid of is the Rethugnican bullying apparatus, which is quite efficient (see "swift boating") at pulling the wool over the suckers'electorate's eyes, and via The Big Lie deceiving them into supporting candidates (see "Bush, George W.") who stand for everything they don't approve of....

But as Molly notes, the only way to beat a bully is to stand up to him:
You sit there in Washington so frightened of the big, bad Republican machine you have no idea what people are thinking. I'm telling you right now, Tom DeLay is going to lose in his district. If Democrats in Washington haven't got enough sense to OWN the issue of political reform, I give up on them entirely.

Do it all, go long, go for public campaign financing for Congress. I'm serious as a stroke about this -- that is the only reform that will work, and you know it, as well as everyone else who's ever studied this. Do all the goo-goo stuff everybody has made fun of all these years: embrace redistricting reform, electoral reform, House rules changes, the whole package. Put up, or shut up. Own this issue, or let Jack Abramoff politics continue to run your town.

Bush, Cheney and Co. will continue to play the patriotic bully card just as long as you let them. I've said it before: War brings out the patriotic bullies. In World War I, they went around kicking dachshunds on the grounds that dachshunds were "German dogs." They did not, however, go around kicking German shepherds. The MINUTE someone impugns your patriotism for opposing this war, turn on them like a snarling dog and explain what loving your country really means. That, or you could just piss on them elegantly, as Rep. John Murtha did. Or eviscerate them with wit (look up Mark Twain on the war in the Philippines). Or point out the latest in the endless "string of bad news."

Do not sit there cowering and pretending the only way to win is as Republican-lite. If the Washington-based party can't get up and fight, we'll find someone who can.
[emphasis added --LRC]
Frankly, I'd back Molly for President over Hillary. Any. Day. Of. The. Week. Pity that Molly has better sense not to run.

Then again, I long ago concluded that, in this day and age, anyone who decides to run for elective office has proved, by his/her decision, that s/he is unqualified to hold it. *sigh*

Len on 01.22.06 @ 12:04 PM CST [more..] [ | ]

As if the body armor scandal wasn't bad enough....

Lurch at Main and Central points out that the helmets they've been issued aren't exactly up to snuff, either:

Did you know that the Republicans are also responsible for the poor quality Kevlar helmets our troops were issued? There’s a problem with our troops’ Kevlar helmets. Operation Helmet explains that over 65% of the injuries and deaths come from the blast and secondary shrapnel effects of bombs and IEDs.
The "360-degree" war our troops face right now deals with an enemy that uses high explosives from all quarters to inflict casualties from blast force and large primary and secondary frags from vehicles, concrete, buried cannon shells, RPG's etc. The strap suspension allows the helmet to 'rock' on the head, making violent contact with the skull in an area about the size of a ball-peen hammer. The impact, if severe enough, causes skull fractures, intracranial bleeding, and/or concussions resulting in death or disabling injuries.
Now, anyone who’s actually worn a helmet in the field and been subjected to the bonking that results from normal activity can understand that combat increases the head knocking by a factor of 10. The chinstrap just isn’t enough to stabilize the helmet, We’ve known this since WW II, and the intermediate solution was the helmet liner, with its partial webwork inside. It seems the Kevlar helmets issued today don’t have a good interior webwork. But there is a solution:
Change the unstable suspension system for a shock-absorbing pad suspension system with a stronger chin and nape strap. The pad suspension system suspends the helmet on impact-resistant highly engineered pads to provide 'standoff', comfort, and stability. The helmet does not contact the skull directly, with the pads absorbing and spreading out the blow. This upgrade prevents or cushions the trooper's head from blast/fragment impact, spreads contact over a wider area and can save lives and prevent disability.
Helmets coming out of the factory today have these shock-absorbing pads, and are being issued to the active duty Army. It seems the Marines, Navy Corpsmen, Air Force ground troops, and Special Ops helicopter crews are still issued the older helmets. It’s a matter of cost. The Republicans can’t afford to pay for all the pads systems needed, (probably because Halliburton and Bechtel are still charging $48.50 per meal served in their kitchens.)
At the link to Operation Helmet, we get a statement of purpose:
OPERATION HELMET provides helmet upgrade kits free of charge to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as to those ordered to deploy in the near future. Emails come in every day from Marines, their Navy medics and Air Force Special Ops and ground security forces asking for this added measure of protection they need, deserve and should have. In addition to providing enhanced blast protection, the helmet upgrades are much more comfortable and stable than the 'strap/sling' suspensions, allowing the trooper to concentrate on the job at hand rather than a blinding headache. A helmet is effective only when the troops will wear it!

Troops and their loved ones should not feel they aren't protected with the standard issue helmet. Our forces are issued head armor (kevlar helmets) that offers the best protection known in the Military from bullets and small frags. That was the main danger in previous combat engagements and is still an important defense now. However, new elements have entered the picture, that of IED's (roadside bombs) and other explosives which these helmets were not designed to defend against. The blast wave, large frag's carried thereon and the trooper being tumbled along the ground or inside a vehicle is producing brain injury ranging from concussion to death or permanent disability...if the blast is survivable.
Strikes me as a damn good cause to contribute to. So if you have a little extra pocket change, consider making a contribution.

Len on 01.22.06 @ 10:32 AM CST [link] [ | ]

From the Schadenfreude Department:

At Why Now?, Bryan takes a few star liberal bloggers to task for being too hard on Robert Kagan for not knowing what the capital of Australia is:

I think Duncan and the boys are being unfair.

I mean, just because Robert Kagan is a co-founder of the Project for the New American Century, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a Senior Associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who has written on foreign relations for The New Republic, Policy Review, the Washington Post, and the Weekly Standard, who lives in Brussels, Belgium because his wife is the US Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and he is paid extremely well for his "expertise", he shouldn't necessarily be expected to know that Canberra, not Sydney is the capital of Australia.

He could have been sick for that episode of Carmen Sandiego and his kids weren't available to find it on the Internet. He should at least get partial credit for spelling Sydney correctly.
But hey, probably if you took a poll, 49% of Americans would say that Sydney was the capital of Australia, while another 49% would answer "Melbourne" (I leave unanswered the question of how many of the remaining 2% would answer the question correctly). Of course, the reason that many (most?) Americans don't know which city is the capital of Australia is simple: we've never gone to war with Oz yet.
War is God's way of teaching Americans geography.
--Ambrose Bierce

Len on 01.22.06 @ 10:12 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

It’s a new year, so let’s run through those sports movie clichés one more time. First, you have to have the underdog angle: nobody wants to see a movie where the Austrians win the Olympic bobsled race, which is where we get movies like “Cool Runnings.” Next, there should be a seemingly unbeatable adversary, preferably with reprehensible character traits, even if that just means they’re insufferably cocky because they never lose. Finally, we need a team of underdogs, usually misfits and/or malcontents, who can somehow find it in themselves to band together and win it all.

Oh, and it doesn’t hurt if the whole thing is based on a true story.

“Glory Road” is the story of the 1966 Texas Western University Miners, at the time the only team in the South with black starting players, who improbably went on to beat perpetual NCAA powerhouse Kentucky – coached by four-time champion Adolph Rupp – for the national title. The Miners were given no chance of winning, thanks to the fact that black players supposedly lacked the intelligence and the heart to handle basketball on a national stage. In response, Texas Western coach Don Haskins started an all-black team against all-white Kentucky, defeating them, and forever altering the landscape of basketball.

You’d think, with a legend like this to work with, Disney couldn’t possibly screw it up. If so, you’ve obviously forgotten the truly preternatural ability to leech the very soul from everything they touch that celluloid vampire Michael Eisner and his cronies have.
--Pete Vonder Haar

Len on 01.22.06 @ 08:27 AM CST [link] [ | ]

It was never this easy when I was out fishing....

Via the email update newsletter of The Urban Legends Reference Pages we get this link to a video of a situation most fishermen would only dream of, with the fish jumping out of the water and into the boat. Interestingly enough, the ULRP rates this one as "true"; apparently there are species of Asian carp that are that aggressive. And it appears that some of them have made their way into the upper Mississippi and lower Missouri rivers near St. Louis (the linked video is from the Illinois Natural History Survey), where they display the same behavior.

Len on 01.21.06 @ 08:33 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Frustrated by automated phone response systems?

And frustrated by how some systems seem to make it just about impossible to talk to a real human being? So was Paul English. That's why he set up the IVR Cheat Sheet. Basically, it's a listing of companies, their customer service phone numbers, and instructions how to reach a human representative. For example:

Ameritrade 800-669-3900 3, 3, 0. (Former Datek Clients: 800-823-2835)

My favorite, though, is this notation in the entry for Edward Jones, a financial services company headquartered in St. Louis:

Worldwide corporate HQ in St. Louis, MO still answers 314-515-2000 with switchboard operators, who announce their name as well
You have to figure it would be a St. Louis company which would eschew the automated response systems in favor of human contact.

Len on 01.21.06 @ 08:16 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

If someone strikes your face, turn the other cheek. That way the swelling comes out even.
--Emo Philips

Len on 01.21.06 @ 09:41 AM CST [link] [ | ]

For those of you with an interest in East Tennessee....

A little while ago I received a notice that I'll share with you here:


R. Neal, the blogger formerly known as SKB, has setup a new website at:


This is a new idea for a community blog space (clog? clogspace?), where I will be blogging, and hopefully some of you, too. If you have a few minutes, play around with it and see if it works OK for you.

No content there now
[while probably true when SKB sent this, it wasn't true when I visited], but feel free to help start building it (and spreading the word if you are so inclined). Cross-posts from your own blogs are welcome.

Let me know what you think or if you have any problems or suggestions. It's still in sort of beta status at the moment, but overall I believe it is good to go and ready for some content.

There will likely be other online group/organizing features added in the future as I figure out the software.

R. Neal
Good luck to SKB and everyone associated with KnoxViews! And it goes without saying that if you're interested in issues affecting East Tennessee, you should probably make KnoxViews one of your daily reads.

Len on 01.20.06 @ 08:29 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Well, that answers that question....

Awhile back, I wondered here what uniform cap would be pictured on Bruce Sutter's plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame. After all, while Sutter garnered a World Series ring in St. Louis, he'd pitched one more season for the Chicago Cubs than he did for the Cards.

According to Baseball Prospectus's Joe Sheehan in last Wednesday's Prospectus Notebook notes on the Cardinals (premium access required), Sutter's plaque will show him wearing a Cardinals cap.

Len on 01.20.06 @ 08:20 PM CST [link] [ | ]

The next time you hear some Fundagelical complain about the "persecution" of Christians...

Send him/her here: Spot the persecution.

And then, for extra good measure, hit 'em upside the head with some Jon Stewart:

Yes, the long war on Christianity. I pray that one day we may live in an America where Christians can worship freely! In broad daylight! Openly wearing the symbols of their religion.... perhaps around their necks? And maybe--dare I dream it?--maybe one day there can be an openly Christian President. Or, perhaps, 43 of them. Consecutively.

Len on 01.20.06 @ 09:15 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Meant to get to this earlier....

A day or two ago a member of the SKEPTIC list sent this to all of us; since then I've seen it on a few blogs, and it does deserve wider dissemination: Iraqi Invasion: A Text Misadventure.

I'm sure more than a few of us here remember such games as Zork (and its progeny) and the other fine offerings of Infocom. A little familiarity with these goes a long way in appreciatiing this one.

Len on 01.20.06 @ 08:43 AM CST [link] [ | ]


A promo on XM reminds me:

Pitchers and catchers report in 16 days (well, 17 for the Cardinals).

Len on 01.20.06 @ 08:06 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Not to pick on Josh Marshall....

But I think he misses an important nuance in this post:

In the bizarre AP piece I referenced below there's this surreal passage ...
The Abramoff investigation threatens to ensnare at least a half dozen members of Congress of both parties and Bush administration officials. Abramoff, who has admitted to conspiring to defraud his Indian tribe clients, has pleaded guilty to corruption-related charges and is cooperating with prosecutors.

With the midterm elections 10 months away, Democrats have tried to link Abramoff to Republicans, the main recipients of his largesse.
At least half a dozen members of both parties.

That's quite a line. We're just on the outer edge of this investigation. And I'm certainly not willing to claim or predict that no Democrat, either in or out of Congress, will be taken down.

But to the best of my knowledge no credible claim has been made that
any Democrat is even under investigation in the Abramoff scandal, let alone facing potential indictment. At least half a dozen Republicans have been so named in press reports, with varying degrees of specificity. The sentence is a plain statement of misinformation posing as news reportage.

Then comes the next line -- that Democrats are trying to link Abramoff with Republicans. This is like when Republicans tried to link James Carville to Democrats. Link him to Republicans? He's been a professional Republican and major GOP power-player for a quarter-century.
Josh, of course, gets the main point: Then comes the next line -- that Democrats are trying to link Abramoff with Republicans. This is like when Republicans tried to link James Carville to Democrats. The Republicans are spinning like mad (and probably succeeding), trying to paint this as a bipartisan scandal. But the nuance he misses? Go look at the exact quote from the AP piece: With the midterm elections 10 months away, Democrats have tried to link Abramoff to Republicans...

Not "Democrats are trying to link Abramoff....", in the present tense, but "Democrats have tried to link Abramoff..." In the past tense. And to my mind, by stating it in the past tense in this way, the writer it subtly guiding the reader to come to a conclusion: that the Democrats have tried and failed to link Abramoff with the Republicans. As Josh points out, the Democrats are still trying to link the GOP to Abramoff, though with Abramoff singing like a canary to the Justice Department as we speak, it's more likely that Abramoff will link the Republicans to himself much better than the Democrats can.

Regardless of whether he's missed a subtle nuance or not, Josh does come to the correct conclusion:
All the factual claims noted here in this article appear to be willful distortions, or statements with omissions so great as to be meant to confuse.

How can the public know what's happening in their government when the reporters of the news seem so bent on misleading them?
How, indeed?

Len on 01.20.06 @ 07:58 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Gem o'the Day:

From Talking Points Memo:

Great Moments in Abramoff-Ain't-Such-A-Big-Deal Spin.

Honorable Mention for Ed Rogers, GOP lobbyist, from last night's Hardball (emphasis added): ". Look, this is going to come out. Nobody is going to keep it a secret. Jack Abramoff is so radioactive—I've got Jack Abramoff fatigue already. I mean, good grief, he didn't kill anybody.
Maybe that one guy in Florida."

Gotta love that.
Yep. Gotta love it when one's defense boils down to, "Well, we're more honorable than the lower rungs of the Mob."

Len on 01.20.06 @ 07:37 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

The first thing that struck me about Al Gore's rousing speech in Washington on Monday was that he never got that kind of applause when I was writing his speeches.
--Bruce Reed

Len on 01.20.06 @ 05:55 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Best. Blog. Comment. Ever.

Over at the Flypaper Theory, Jeff did a "picturepost" on this quote:

Everything that he (George W. Bush) does is history, and we are there to record history. There are often little gems where you get recognized by the president. He gives you a wink. That's a nice feeling.
- CNN Photojournalgeisha Mark Walz via MediaMatters.
That prompted Left Wing Cracker to leave this comment:
It must be hard to shoot video while having a mouthful of presidential cock.

But I think I'm going to steal Jeff's picture there for future use. I can already think of several situations it would have come in handy...

Len on 01.19.06 @ 06:27 PM CST [link] [ | ]

This morning, MadKane asks the poetic question, 'If not now, then when?'...

Meaning, of course, "where is our fillibuster of the Alito nomination?"

I hope Mad doesn't mind, but I'm going to take the liberty of quoting one (only one) of today's batch of poems (and of course there's audio), because I like it (Mad, if you object, just say the word and I'll remove it):

If Not Now, Then When?
By Madeleine Begun Kane

Will Senate Dems preserve our rights
And filibuster Sam?
How 'bout it Dems? Let's see you fight
And prove you give a damn.

Cause Democrats must do much more
Than talk and primp and bluster.
It's time for Dems to show some guts
And Sammy filibuster.
Four more poems on the Alito issue, and many more delights, at Mad's website

Len on 01.19.06 @ 01:13 PM CST [link] [ | ]

I think I'll pass.....

Sometimes it's good to get together with bloggers. Our local Memphis Bloggers Bashes tend to be very worthwhile times: good food, good drink, and interesting conversations; I've never left one thinking "Jeez, that was a waste of time."

But then there's there are the blogging conferences. So far, I've seen announcements for a number of them (BlogNashville last May was the only one that was even convenient for me to attend, and the scheduled appearance there of both Bill Hobbes and Glenn Reynolds at that less-than-dignified insurrection made doing my laundry that week much, much more compelling entertainment), and I've yet to see one that didn't have me thinking, "WOMBAT!" (For the record, I'm using that only because the expansion of the acronym is fitting; I'm definitely not using it canonically.) And it looks like BLOGGING MAN 2007 is going to the top of my "must miss it!" list. But I wish I had the acid pen of James Wolcott, if only for a few minutes, so I could put it in its proper place:

TBogg brings to our sleepy attention a forthcoming jamboree that threatens to be the singular non-event in postmodern non-history: Blogging Man 2007, being held at a bingo parlor in Reno, Nevada, brushfires permitting.

Get a load of their lineup of guest speakers. It's like a cross between a Lawrence Welk reunion and Poseidon Adventure in drydock, minus a token black blogger to lend it sham inclusiveness and Carol Lynley's bottom bearing Gene Hackman's handprints as he ably assists her up every staircase he can steer her towards.


I really don't grasp the bang-for-the-buck logic behind these dinky extravaganzas. I can understand why culture buffs would pay to attend a New Yorker Festival, say, to see/hear Martin Amis, Julian Barnes, Dave Eggers, Anthony Lane, Lorrie Moore, Zadie Smith, et al, but what is the draw in traveling hundreds of miles to observe an all-star lineup of no-name bloggers? The only semi-demi-luminary is that Republican hologram Hugh Hewitt, and he's got his own radio program, he does blog events all the time, he'll show up at the opening of the envelope; he's not exactly a great "get." What good did its lavish launch do Pajamas Media? In retrospect, it sure doesn't seem to have rustled up advertiser and media interest in that managerie. It seems to have been money pissed away. Mind you, I'm all in favor of conservative interests piddling their money away, I'm just not sure what
they get out of it, since they don't get to mingle and get their picture taken with starlets, models, and real celebrities. These people they could meet at the laundromat. And I'm really mystified as to what the "registrants" get out of it, apart from a copy of Hugh Hewitt's Blog book that will end up being left behind in the hotel room along with the free newspapers with the escort ads and the unused coupons for the all-you-can-eat chow-hound buffet.

Len on 01.19.06 @ 12:54 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Another data point....

in favor of the proposition that I'm becoming a jaded, cynical bastard. When I discovered that Michael "Brownie" Brown is now going the contrition route, my first reaction was to think, "And what angle is he working now?"

Or is it just that he's been too long away from the bAdministrations "we can do no wrong" lithium lick?

Len on 01.19.06 @ 12:29 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Take me out to the ballpark.....

Tom at Pretty War features a picture of the Facade of Busch Stadium III.

Interesting comment there from one "DanO":

Is it just me or does the new "Busch Stadium" sign seem a little tacky if not temporary looking? I guess they have to prepare for the day when AB quits paying the bill and we end up with something like Pizza Hut Park.

Len on 01.19.06 @ 12:20 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Update on the Body Armor Scandal

At Main and Central, Jeff follows up on the Army body armor story I mentioned yesterday: Point Blank War Profits. As I should have guessed, the reason for the promotion of the inferior product by the Army is as much a story of war profiteering (a fine American tradition) as anything else:

The history of the Point Blank Interceptor OTV body armor vest and the company that manufactures it is a shameful tale of the state of war profiteering in the Rumsfeld age.

The Interceptor OTV is the body armor jacket recently revealed by Defense Watch to have been identified by a U.S. Marine Corps forensics report as being responsible for the deaths of "as many as 42 percent of Marines who died from isolated torso injuries." The Point Blank vest is not only inferior in design--it leaves the shoulders and upper arms unprotected--it was fielded despite that fact that it did not pass tests of its designed capabilities.

As The Army Times reported, senior officers in the Marine Corps Systems Command knew that and bought and fielded the Point Blank body armor anyway, without telling commanders in the field about the vests' shortcomings.

And the company that manufactured the vests made a whole lot of money.
Go read the whole thing. Just be prepared to get angry. Rightfully so.

Len on 01.19.06 @ 12:14 PM CST [link] [ | ]

The Medicare Drug Fiasco....

I've been seeing various news stories/blog entries about this, but Bryan gives us the benefit of his personal experience with the fiasco.

Speaking of which, I'm curious. Can anyone explain to me why on earth anyone thought that "the doughnut hole" (source):

Under the Bush plan, a typical retiree pays a monthly premium for prescription drugs averaging $32 a month. After he or she satisfies a $250 deductible, the insurer must cover 75 percent of the next $2,000 in drug costs. The assistance then vanishes through the so-called "doughnut hole," until total expenditures exceed $5,100, at which point insurance kicks in again to cover 95 percent of additional drug costs.
is a good idea?

What is the point of not reimbursing anything spent between $2,000 and $5,100?

Makes no freakin' sense to me.

Len on 01.19.06 @ 12:03 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Do you use Microsoft LookOut! Outlook for email?

If so, there's a patch that's just been released by Microsoft to patch a critical flaw. You can download it at Microsoft's TechNet website (or if you find TechNet a bit intimidating, you can get the updates by visiting the Microsoft Update or Office Update websites as well).

Credit to David Sheets of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for pointing me to this. As for seriousness of the flaw, Sheets notes:

No widespread attacks against the weakness have been detected, but some analysts say this problem has more potential for harm than the Windows Metafile (WMF) flaws discovered earlier this month. Those flaws affected how Windows handles certain kinds of image files.

“With WMF, a corporation could block access to problem (Web) sites,” British security consultant John Heasman told SearchWin2000.com. “But, wheras all companies rely on e-mail, this has the potential to be much worse.”

Microsoft rates the security weakness as “critical,” meaning the fix should be downloaded and installed right away.
If you're a seasoned Microsoft watcher, you're already aware of how critical this one is, since Microsoft didn't wait to release it on their regular "Patch Tuesday" schedule.

Len on 01.19.06 @ 11:21 AM CST [link] [ | ]

And from the "Even a blind pig finds an acorn once in a while" department:

Secretary of State Condi Rice said last week, "There is simply no peaceful rationale for the Iranian regime to resume uranium enrichment."

Is Condi right?

Unlike Israel, Pakistan and India, which clandestinely built nuclear weapons, Iran has signed the NPT. And Tehran may wish to exercise its rights under the treaty to master the nuclear fuel cycle to build power plants for electricity, rather than use up the oil and gas deposits she exports to earn all of her hard currency. Nuclear power makes sense for Iran

True, in gaining such expertise, Iran may wish to be able, in a matter of months, to go nuclear. For the United States and Israel, which have repeatedly threatened her, are both in the neighborhood and have nuclear arsenals. Acquiring an atom bomb to deter a U.S. or Israeli attack may not appear a "peaceful rationale" to Rice, but the Iranians may have a different perspective.

Having seen what we did to Iraq, but how deferential we are to North Korea, would it be irrational for Tehran to seek its own deterrent?
--Patrick J. Buchanan

Len on 01.19.06 @ 08:55 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Yuk o'the Day:

Well, it worked for me when I was in the profession:

What does a lawyer use for birth control? His personality!

Len on 01.19.06 @ 08:48 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

The moderate Democrats have several options, but one now stands out above the rest. Governor Mark Warner has just finished a successful stint in Virginia's top job, having well managed a difficult fiscal situation and also having elected a more liberal successor, Tim Kaine, in a conservative Red State. Warner built an attractive record in a wide variety of areas, from education to mental health to the environment, and he truly made the most of the one four-year term to which Virginia's Constitution still limits its governors, consecutively. Although a certified suburban yuppie, Warner made deep inroads in rural areas by lavishing attention upon rural people and their problems. He adopted NASCAR, country music, and an antipathy to gun control. With roots in Indiana and Connecticut, not just Virginia, Warner has the wealth and the appeal to run an impressive national campaign. Southern Democrats and many DLCers have flocked to him especially in the wake of Warner's 2005 off-year triumph in November. Having praised Ceaser [sic], Brutus should note Warner's drawbacks as a presidential candidate. The rich communications mogul has only served a total of four years in public office; he has no foreign policy experience at all; and he famously broke his insistent, George H.W. Bush-like 2001 campaign pledge that he would not raise taxes. Whether Democrats or the country as a whole actually care about any of these sour notes, only the 2008 campaign itself will demonstrate.

Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana is yet another respectable, mediagenic, family-oriented moderate with presidential ambitions. In the deeply Red Hoosier state, Bayh has won two landslide elections as governor and two as senator. These eleven Midwestern electoral votes, possibly combined with the twenty from neighboring Ohio, might be deducted from the GOP and added to the Democratic column by Bayh--making a Republican presidential victory difficult mathematically. A Warner-Bayh or Bayh-Warner ticket could be well nigh unbeatable, with Warner adding Virginia's thirteen electoral votes and probably West Virginia's five. The total of forty-nine electoral votes from these four Red states (OH, IN, VA, WV) would be nearly impossible for the GOP to make up, should this come to pass. Republicans need not worry: The Virginia-Indiana pairing makes so much political sense that the Democrats will never actually do it.
--Larry J. Sabato [Professor, Political Science, University of Virginia, in "Sabato's Crystal Ball"; emphasis in original]

Len on 01.19.06 @ 07:22 AM CST [link] [ | ]


I've already gone on record as to what I think about Harold Ford, Jr. Apparently, I'm not the only Memphian who feels that way. Polar Donkey reports:

Today, Howard Dean came to Memphis and spoke to Democratic activists. Both Tennessee Chairman Bob Tuke and Dean made good speeches that were received as red meat for the activists. Its no secret the majority of Democrats are hungry for leaders that will fight and take on the mantle of being the opposition party. Fortunately, both Tuke and Dean are fighters that want to rebuild the party from the grassroots up.

Two things happened that were of particular note at the speech. The first was the difference in reaction towards the two Democratic candidates for US Senate. Dean began speaking about the Senate race and Rosiland Kurita supporters enthusiastically yelled out their candidates name. Dean happily acknowledged them and Kurita and diplomatically also mentioned how the party had another capable candidate in Harold Ford. What happened was quite telling. Stone Cold Silence at the mention of Ford. The silence was so deafening that it actually put Dean in a slightly awkward position. I don't think he was expecting such a muted response to Ford's name from a room full of Democratic activists in Ford's hometown.
The other thing that happened that Polar notes concerns our governor:
The second incident dealt with the mentioning of Bredesen's name. After addressing the Senate Race, Dean moved onto the Governor's Race and how we need to support Bredesen. The saying of Bredesen's name actually evoked boos from a few in the crowd and then moaning from almost everyone else. It seems there is a reason Bredesen has higher approval ratings from Republicans than Democrats. It was hilarious. Dean actually chuckled and pointed out that Van Hillary was an unacceptable option in 2002 and only more of same could be expected from any republican candidate in 2006.
Thank ghod for Tennessee politics; you just can't buy entertainment like this anywhere, for any price.

Len on 01.18.06 @ 09:52 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Gem o'the Day:

The idea of Republicans reforming themselves is like asking John Gotti to clean up organized crime.
--Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)

Len on 01.18.06 @ 08:51 AM CST [link] [ | ]

A point worth contemplating....

Josh Marshall, in a piece on President Bush's aggressive use of "signing statements" setting forth his "interpretation" of the bills he signs into law, writes:

...the idea seems to be here to allow the president his own version of legislative intent, to imbed what he thinks the law means into the record, presumably for future courts to take into consideration or to justify at some later point how he chooses to implement the law.

Sam Alito, twenty years, wrote that "Since the president's approval is just as important as that of the House or Senate, it seems to follow that the president's understanding of the bill should be just as important as that of Congress."

(As with John Yoo, this seems to me to be another example of how the greatest threat to our constitution may be the noodling of brainiac young lawyers who ply their wizbang 'logic' in the absence of what seems like just about any serious historical grounding in the traditions and practices of our system of government.)
[emphasis added --LRC]
Or, in the words of a judge who was wiser and more learned in the law than Sam Alito (or many of his other soon-to-be-colleagues on the Court) ever will be:
The life of the law is not logic, but experience.
--Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Len on 01.18.06 @ 08:47 AM CST [link] [ | ]

The only times I wish I lived in Southern California....

are when I realize that you just don't get to see premium snark like this in Memphis (though by living in Midtown, I've at least maximized my chances of maybe running into it):

Stan Schwarz found this on the back of a traffic control sign during last weekend's Self Realization ride (so named because their route took them past the LA headquarters of The Self-Realization Fellowship).

Len on 01.18.06 @ 08:26 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Hobson's Choice?

Over at Main and Central, Jeff brings to our attention a currently seething conflict regarding purchases of body armor for the troops in Iraq. Apparently, the Army is putting troops who buy their own body armor in a bit of a dilemma:

Two deploying soldiers and a concerned mother reported Friday afternoon that the U.S. Army appears to be singling out soldiers who have purchased Pinnacle's Dragon Skin Body Armor for special treatment. The soldiers, who are currently staging for combat operations from a secret location, reported that their commander told them if they were wearing Pinnacle Dragon Skin and were killed their beneficiaries might not receive the death benefits from their $400,000 SGLI life insurance policies. The soldiers were ordered to leave their privately purchased body armor at home or face the possibility of both losing their life insurance benefit and facing disciplinary action. [Quoting Nathaniel Helms at Soldiers for the Truth]
If you're having a bit of a problem seeing what exactly the dilemma is, you need to know that there appears to be some evidence indicating that the Pinnacle Dragon Skin Body Armor is a bit more effective in keeping its wearer healthy than the government issue body armor [passage below from Jeff at Main and Central]:
On Saturday, another soldier affected by the ban told Helms that U.S. Special Operations Command had issued a directive banning "all" commercially available armor.
The soldier reiterated Friday's reports that any soldier who refused to comply with the order and was subsequently killed in action "could" be denied the $400,000 death benefit provided by their SGLI life insurance policy as well as face disciplinary action.
At issue is the inferiority of standard military issue Interceptor OTV vests manufactured by Point Blank Body Armor to Dragon Skin and other commercially available body armor.
Last week DefenseWatch released a secret Marine Corps report that determined that 80% of the 401 Marines killed in Iraq between April 2004 and June 2005 might have been saved if the Interceptor OTV body armor they were wearing was more effective. The Army has declined to comment on the report because doing so could aid the enemy, an Army spokesman has repeatedly said.
[emphasis added by Jeff --LRC]
So the choice becomes: use your privately purchased armor, and lose your death benefits while increasing your chances that your heirs won't need them, or use the GI armor, and, keep your death benefits, and increase the chances that your heirs will need to make that claim.

Frankly, I'm glad that I don't have to make that choice. But at least it's big of the Army to maximize the troops' chances of getting to use their death benefits. [Note: the preceding was a test of your brain's firmware's ability correctly to parse the HTML "sarcasm" tag.]

And the reason that the Army is so insistent on providing the inferior armor? One of the Army's promoters of the privately procured alternative nails it down nicely:
It's Lt. Col. Charles' (Ret.) opinion that the reason the U.S. Army has chosen to outfit U.S. troops with Interceptor body armor over Pinnacle Armor SOV flexible body armor/Dragon Skin is that the U.S. Army suffers from "not invented here" syndrome. "The basic reason, as hard as this may be for your audience to understand, is not invented here: Bureaucratic turf protection because the Army people that were charged with providing this ten, fifteen years ago had a program -- it produced something beginning in 1998 I believe, 1999. But it wasn't this - and they didn't want to use this because they did not claim invention of it."
Quite credible; people familiar with military procurement are aware that the equipment and armaments developed in-house possess a "mind-share" in the consciousness of those buying the equipment that the stuff not developed in-house lacks.

It's a pity, however, that this has to become literally a matter of life and death.

Thanks to Bryan at Why Now? for the pointer to the Defense Review piece.

Len on 01.18.06 @ 08:13 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

[I]t's clear that there's a homoerotic ardor for Bush by neonconservatives that bypasses reason and reduces them to hero-worshipping mush. By any rational measure and traditional conservative standard, Bush has been a disaster: exploding the budget, burdening future generations with back-breaking debt, packing the government with imcompetent cronies (so much for meritocracy), committing the nation to an aggressive, fiction-based war in Iraq that it can't win and will weaken the country in the region, alienating traditional allies (to the point where Spain tells to bug off re its air transport sales to Venezuela), and inflating the powers of an imperial presidency to an arrogant degree that would have horrified the original editors of National Review. The Bush mystique is a cult of manhood based upon the fantasy belief that America still stands tall, proud, brave, and unopposed in the world, basking in God's love and the Western sun. Even Clint Eastwood, whose movies have gotten progressively darker, doesn't buy that masculinist myth anymore. Only warmongering pundits and bloggers do. And Peggy Noonan, still searching for the perfect Dad.
--James Wolcott

Len on 01.18.06 @ 06:49 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Hidden costs?

About a week ago, I took note of Larry Johnson's criticism of President Bush joking about his being injured "in combat with a cedar". Via Brian Leiter yesterday we get this pointer to some more apt observations inspired by Bush's lack of compassion from Accidental Blogger:

We tend to count war casualties mainly by the number of dead. Understandable - the dead are easy to count. Much more difficult to quantify is the damage done to the injured, maimed, psychologically scarred and brain damaged. Some recover enough to return to more or less normal lives but far too many don't. With advances in medical science and med-vac operations on the battle field, many more of the injured are now living with disabilities that a few years ago would have killed a majority of them. This is a double edged sword. While the number of lives being saved has increased, so has the number living with life altering debilitation of body and mind. The affected are mostly very young who must adjust to living the rest of their lives with missing body parts and diminished minds.

A growing number of U.S. troops whose body armor helped them survive bomb and rocket attacks are suffering brain damage as a result of the blasts. It's a type of injury some military doctors say has become the signature wound of the Iraq war.

Known as traumatic brain injury, or TBI, the wound is of the sort that many soldiers in previous wars never lived long enough to suffer. The explosions often cause brain damage similar to "shaken-baby syndrome," says Warren Lux, a neurologist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

"You've got great body armor on, and you don't die," says Louis French, a neuropsychologist at Walter Reed. "But there's a whole other set of possible consequences. It's sort of like when they started putting airbags in cars and started seeing all these orthopedic injuries."
This, unfortunately, is the cost of Bush's Mess in Mesopotamia that we seem to be all too willing to sweep under the rug.

Len on 01.17.06 @ 08:01 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Supreme Court upholds federalism... for now.

Just received word that the Court today upheld the Oregon assisted suicide law in their 6-3 decision in Gonzalez v. Oregon. Good to know that there at least seems to be some area where the states can legislate without the Federal government overruling them.

Even better: a 6-3 decision, so even Alito's apparent confirmation won't result in a quick overturning of that decision. As long as John Paul Stevens holds out....

Len on 01.17.06 @ 07:24 PM CST [link] [ | ]

He wuz robbed!

Somebody call The Hollywood Foreign Press Association and demand that they right this injustice IMMEDIATELY! Via Peggy Philip:

Hooray for the "Walk the Line" Golden Globe wins but nobody mentioned my husband John's excellent work as an extra for which I am still baffled...

Len on 01.17.06 @ 12:58 PM CST [link] [ | ]

From the "Unusual Snitches" department.....

Rule One: if you're going to have an affair, and if you're going to "entertain" your lover in the flat that you share with your significant other (who is not the person you're having the affair with), get rid of the fucking parrot, first (or at least put it somewhere out of earshot).

LONDON, England -- A computer programmer found out his girlfriend was having an affair when his pet parrot kept repeating her lover's name, British media reported Tuesday.

The African grey parrot kept squawking "I love you, Gary" as his owner, Chris Taylor, sat with girlfriend Suzy Collins on the sofa of their shared flat in Leeds, northern England.

But when Taylor saw Collins's embarrassed reaction, he realized she had been having an affair -- meeting her lover in the flat whilst Ziggy looked on, the UK's Press Association reported.

Ziggy even mimicked Collins's voice each time she answered her telephone, calling out "Hiya Gary," according to newspaper reports.

Call-center worker Collins, 25, admitted the four-month affair with a colleague called Gary to her boyfriend and left the flat she had shared with Taylor, 30, for a year.

Taylor said he had also been forced to part with Ziggy after the bird continued to call out Gary's name and refused to stop squawking the phrases in his ex-girlfriend's voice, media reports said.

"I wasn't sorry to see the back of Suzy after what she did, but it really broke my heart to let Ziggy go," he said.

"I love him to bits and I really miss having him around, but it was torture hearing him repeat that name over and over again.

"I still can't believe he's gone. I know I'll get over Suzy, but I don't think I'll ever get over Ziggy."
Premptive strike: Yes, this does smell of "urban legend" (save that there's a lot more detail about the names and other facts concerning the principals than most urban legends do); if anyone has evidence that it is a legend please feel free to leave a comment detailing it.

But what's making me giggle this morning is that it reminds me of a classic "Far Side" cartoon: a group of obvious gangsters are huddled around a table in a room containing a caged parrot. The leader of the gang is addressing his minions: "Ok...just so we don't forget it, lets repeat the address of our new hideout about one hundred times."

Len on 01.17.06 @ 09:20 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Just in case you don't have enough nightmares....

At Talking Points Memo, one of Josh Marshall's readers calls our attention to some sobering facts:

You know I'm one of your biggest fans, but I have to disagree with your early throat-clearing on the "Iran Question." Why? Because it really is not a question. That is how the GOP and the White House want it framed, and I'm afraid you are buying into that framing. The truth is much simpler: Iran will have the bomb if they want it. It's a done deal. There is no realistic military option. None. We're stretched too thin. There are no good sites to bomb that would insure we could deny them the bomb. Their program is too hidden and dispersed. It would be an endless campaign of bombing and lead to endless war and terror attacks on us. The question is not how to stop Iran. They will get it. The question is: Who lost Iran? How did it come to this? Who left us in the position? Who ignored the REAL threat? That's what the White House doesn't want you asking. Please don't become Joe Leiberman on this "Iran Question." There is no question. They will get the bomb and there's nothing we can do except learn to live with them and contain them, as we did the Soviets. [emphasis added --LRC]
Iran as the next nuclear power.

Remember, you Bush voters: you only have yourselves to blame.

Len on 01.17.06 @ 08:27 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Karen beats me to it....

But that was true here too, lots of the time. She has kids, so she's up earlier than me most days.

But over at Peripetia she notes that today is the 300th birthday of Benjamin Franklin. In his honor, go spend a $100 bill.


Follow the link to Karen's post for a couple links to Frankliniana. As for myself, well... it's not historical (not completely, anyway), but Franklin is probably my favorite character in the musical comedy 1776! (which I think is a highly underrated show). My favorite snippet of dialogue from that show comes when the Continental Congress has authorized an investigation of conditions in General Washington's Army, in camp in New Jersey; apparently the soldiers (as soldiers are wont to do) were spending time drinking to excess and carousing with women of negotiable virtue. During the debate leading up to the authorization for the investigation, Ben Franklin has been sleeping (apparently Franklin, who was, after all, 70 years old in 1776, did do that frequently). After the debate and vote authorizing the investigation, John Adams is selected to chair the inquiry, and permitted to select his assistants. He walks towards the snoozing Franklin, stamps his walking stick on the floor, and bellows:

ADAMS: Come on, Franklin, you're going to New Jersey!
waking with a start] Like hell I am! For what?
ADAMS: For the drinking and wenching.
springing out of his chair and walking briskly offstage] Well, why didn't you say so? Come on....
Ah, would that we had such sprightly national leadership nowadays....

Len on 01.17.06 @ 07:53 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

... I'm watching the first season of Smallville, on loan from my brother-in-law, and ... in the first seven or eight episodes, there are about a dozen cars crashed, blown up, set on fire or have something thrown through them. I don't think I would want to live in Smallville, if only because auto insurance rates for that zip code have to be through the roof.
--Tommy Acuff

Len on 01.17.06 @ 07:35 AM CST [link] [ | ]


Just saw a TV Teaser for the soon-to-be-released action/thriller Firewall, and I'm only left with one thought.

Isn't Harrison Ford getting to be a bit old to be cast as an action hero?

Len on 01.16.06 @ 09:31 PM CST [link] [ | ]

We get comments....

Mike Hollihan takes issue with my recent post on the Sam Alito Yearbook Entry:

And Hillary dumped her Yale boyfriend for Bill because she recognised Bill had the fire and determination to become President. What's your point? Some folks just know early where they want to go. Like Bill, when he got himself photographed with President Kennedy all those years ago.

Jeez. Don't y'all ever get tired of this? No. Wait. I know the answer and it's no. I've seen your counterparts from the hate-Clinton years and y'all never tire.
Well, Mike, considering your continuing sproradic mockery of Hillary, and your "Kerry Mockery Page" you tried so diligently to linkwhore during the election (and successfully, since I recall you got a link to it from A Highly Overrated Blogger Who Is Also A Law Professor At UT-Knoxville), I suppose the best response is simply: "Pot. Kettle. Black." However, to answer your question....

What's my point? My point is that every law school class has at least one member who is a pretentious asshole that's convinced of his superiority and his eventual destiny to be One Of The Greatest Expositors Of The Law, or One Of The Great Presidents In American History, and we have some evidence that Alito was "one of them". When you have to deal with them in law school, they're highly aggravating and tend to draw their share of well deserved abuse. For some (Clinton, Alito), that abuse is simply the jealousy of lesser folks who'll never achieve. Good for them. It didn't make them any easier to deal with when they were just pissant law students like the rest of us.

And yes, I'd have probably found Clinton (and probably Hillary too) just as annoying were I their law school classmate (I wasn't blogging during the Clinton presidency--who of us were?--or I might have done a similar post about Bill and his boyhood ambition way back when). I do have a very close friend who knew Clinton well as he clawed his way up the ladder of Arkansas state government to the Governor's mansion in Little Rock, and based on what she's told me of Clinton I do have reason to believe that had I been his law school classmate I'd have found him an overly ambitious, overbearing, pretentious shit, but at least he'd be a likeable, overly ambitious, overbearing, pretentious shit. On the other hand I don't have any particular reason to believe that, had I been his law school classmate I'd have particuarly liked Alito (since he'd be annoying on account of his ambition, I'd have probably mildly disliked him). Based on what I've seen of Antonin Scalia, I'm sure that he was just as bad as Clinton and Alito back when he was in law school, and he's such a pompous, insolent, conceited prick that I'd have hated his guts.

Basically, I'll take the little snark at Alito now, since it appears to be deserved, and he's going to have the last laugh anyway, since he had both the native talent and the modicum of luck required (yes, there's some luck involved here; it's much, much easier to work your way into the Oval Office than to work your way into the Supreme Court Chambers; many lawyers have passed entire careers without seeing a vacancy open up on the Court) to make his boyhood dream a reality.

Len on 01.16.06 @ 09:27 PM CST [link] [ | ]

As long as we're blogging baseball today....

My post on Dizzy Dean provoked a comment from Karen (who, as you can read below, has spread her wings and set up her very own bloghome at Peripetia):

And I thought ya was gonna post about Bruce Sutter and the Hall of Fame that ya sent me.


As you KNOW I like That Split-fingered Fast Ball of his. A true Hall of Famer!!
Actually, she doesn't know it, but Karen's raised the specter of a rather interesting discussion going on in the baseball blogosphere. Among most of the commentators I've read, the consensus seems to be emerging that Sutter was a rather undeserving selection, whose election is a result of a peculiar set of circumstances this year.

Over at Baseball Prospectus (premium content; subscription required), Joe Sheehan made the case by some statistical comparisons between Sutter and fellow relievers Rich "Goose" Gossage and Lee Smith:
There are three relief pitchers on the ballot, and the only thing I’m certain of is that not all of them belong in the Hall. Bruce Sutter, Rich Gossage and Lee Smith had careers that spanned the transition from relievers as 120-inning firemen to relievers as 75-inning specialists. Smith is the all-time leader in saves, at least for one more year (Trevor Hoffman trails by 42), and has been garnering 35-40 percent of the vote in each of his three years on the ballot. The other two have been on the ballot far longer and are two of the top returning candidates.

Let’s try something here. Sutter threw the fewest innings, by far, of the three pitchers. Let’s use Sutter’s career as a baseline, then subtract it from the careers of Gossage and Smith to see what they did above and beyond Sutter’s performance. Come on, it’ll be fun!


          W   L    G   SV      IP   H   R  ER  HR   BB  SO   ERA  PRAR   WARP
Sutter 68 71 661 300 1042.3 879 370 328 77 309 861 2.83 507 55.2
Smith 68 71 661 300 1042.3 879 370 328 77 309 861 2.83 507 55.2
Gossage 68 71 661 300 1042.3 879 370 328 77 309 861 2.83 507 55.2


          W   L    G   SV      IP   H   R  ER  HR   BB  SO   ERA  PRAR   WARP
Sutter 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 --- 0 0
Smith 3 21 361 178 247.0 254 105 106 12 177 390 3.86 202 22.2
Gossage 56 36 341 10 767.0 618 300 277 42 423 641 3.25 271 28.8

Do you see the problem here? Sutter’s career value isn’t just behind that of the other two; it’s so far behind them that to induct Sutter is to set the bar in a place that forces you to vote for Gossage, Smith and a whole hell of a lot of other guys in the next 15 years. Smith, who no one really takes seriously as a candidate, vote totals aside, had Sutter’s career and then three whole seasons on top of that of league-average relief pitching. Gossage had Sutter’s career and another ten seasons of work. Each was, at minimum, 20 wins more valuable than Sutter in their careers.

The argument for Sutter largely rests on two poles: one is the idea that he was a pioneer of sorts, with him getting credit for the split-finger fastball, the one-inning closer, or both. Well, he didn’t invent the former and the latter was a managerial decision designed to keep Sutter’s weakness--fragility--from becoming an issue.

The other argument for Sutter is “dominance,” the notion that he was a player who was a special one in his day, and that his value went beyond the numbers. Maybe that’s true, but if the other guy in the room is Goose Gossage, I fail to see how bringing “dominance” into the argument is going to help the guy who isn’t Goose.

Sutter was a very good relief pitcher who had eight effective seasons, and whose career was over at 35. He came along under a set of circumstances that focused attention on his achievements, and helped to create the perception that he was a more important figure than he actually is. He doesn’t measure up to the two relievers on the ballot, the limited standards set for Hall of Fame relievers, or the vast class of “closers” who will follow. I think Smith, whose career is shaped much differently, also falls outside the Hall. He’s the Tommy John or Jim Kaat of relievers.

There is absolutely no rational argument for having Bruce Sutter on a ballot, but not having Rich Gossage on it as well. You can vote for Gossage alone, you can vote for both or neither, but all ballots that list Sutter and not Gossage are fundamentally flawed, and reflect a lack of understanding of what the two pitchers accomplished in their careers.
Following up on that analysis, Aaron Gleeman at The Hardball Times decided to do an "apples to oranges" comparison (of Sutter with starter Bert Blyleven) and then asked a few other pertinent questions):
As Joe Sheehan so cleverly put it over at Baseball Prospectus earlier this week, if you subtract Sutter's career totals from Gossage's career totals, you're still left with a guy who pitched 767 innings with a 3.25 ERA. Considering Sutter's entire resume consists of 1,042.1 innings of a 2.83 ERA, that's pretty amazing. That's the apples-to-apples comparison between two closers. Now let's compare Sutter to Blyleven:

                    IP      ERA      SV       W       L     WARP     RSAA      WS
Blyleven 4,970.1 3.31 0 287 250 140.4 344 339
Sutter 1,042.1 2.83 300 68 71 54.5 123 168

Gossage pitched 74% more innings than Sutter, but Blyleven makes that difference look miniscule. During his 22-year career Blyleven logged a grand total of 4,970.1 innings, which beats Sutter by a startling 3,928 innings or an equally ridiculous 377%. Now, a very compelling case can be made for "closer innings" being more valuable than "starter innings" on a per-inning basis, but we're talking about a gap of nearly 4,000 innings when Sutter's entire career barely lasted over 1,000 frames.

Broken down to the most simplistic terms possible, would you rather have 4,970 innings of a 3.31 ERA or 1,042 innings of a 2.83 ERA? Would you rather have 300 saves and 68 wins or 287 wins? And even if for some reason you chose Sutter's contributions in each of those two questions, you still haven't explained why his resume is better than Gossage's (not to mention Lee Smith's).
Since I lack mathematical competence and the skill to do the high level statistical magic that gurus like Sheehan and Gleeman do, I have to rely on a few pre-digested statistics (first developed by über sabermetrician Bill James in his book The Politics of Glory: How the Baseball Hall of Fame Really Works), and summarized in the relevant players' stat cards at the awesome Baseball Reference website. These pre-digested statistics (or "Hall of Fame metrics", as Baseball Reference calls them), are: the "Black Ink Test", the "Gray Ink Test", the "Hall of Fame Career Standards Test", and the "Hall of Fame Monitor".

The Black and Gray Ink Tests are very closely related. Both are weighted statistical summaries of the number of times that a player either led his league (Black Ink) or placed in the top ten in his league (Gray Ink) in certain statistical categories; these categories are weighted so that players earn more points if they consistently lead in more important statistics (like, for pitchers, wins, strikeouts or ERA) instead of less important statistics (like games started).

The Hall of Fame Career Standards Test is designed to summarize a player's performance in such a way that one can compare him to Hall of Famers. The scale is designed so that the "average" hall of famer scores 50 points; the highest score on the scale (100) is reached only by the very best in the game. Finally, the Hall of Fame Monitor is more intended to assess active player and determine if they are likely to be inducted into the Hall (note that "likely to achieve induction" isn't the same as "deserves induction"). Basically, the career statistics measured by the HOF Monitor are weighted in such a way that an active player that has a score of 100 is quite likely to be inducted, while an HOF Monitor score of 130 or greater pretty much insures election.

Readers who are interested in the dirty details of these calculations can check the Baseball Reference Leaderboard Glossary (the Black Ink Test is defined about a bit below the halfway point; the remainder of the Hall metrics follow) where the tests are defined and formulae for calculating the scores set out.

Anyway, that being said, let's look at Bruce Sutter's Cooperstown metrics:
Black Ink: Pitching - 15 (138) (Average HOFer ~ 40)
Gray Ink: Pitching - 30 (750) (Average HOFer ~ 185)
HOF Standards: Pitching - 17.0 (381) (Average HOFer ~ 50)
HOF Monitor: Pitching - 91.0 (114) (Likely HOFer > 100)
(Overall rank in parentheses)
Certainly a good career, but note that Sutter falls far short of the Black/Grey Ink and HOF Standards metrics. He doesn't fall as far behind on the HOF Monitor, but he fails to break the magic "100" benchmark for likely enshrinement (for what it's worth, Sutter is hardly the worst on that score; though he wasn't a pitcher I'll note offhand that Phil Rizzuto, acknowledged by many commmentators to be a less than worthy Cooperstown inductee, scores only 87 on the HOF Monitor. I'm sure a bit of research could unearth even lower scores).

By way of comparison, here's Goose Gossage's metrics:
Black Ink: Pitching - 9 (246) (Average HOFer ~ 40)
Gray Ink: Pitching - 41 (577) (Average HOFer ~ 185)
HOF Standards: Pitching - 19.0 (313) (Average HOFer ~ 50)
HOF Monitor: Pitching - 126.0 (60) (Likely HOFer > 100)
Not too terribly far off from Sutter's in the Black/Gray Ink Tests and the HOF Standards measurement, but note that he does significantly break through the "likely HOFer" benchmark. And take a look at Lee Smith's metrics:
Black Ink: Pitching - 12 (177) (Average HOFer ~ 40)
Gray Ink: Pitching - 48 (508) (Average HOFer ~ 185)
HOF Standards: Pitching - 13.0 (574) (Average HOFer ~ 50)
HOF Monitor: Pitching - 136.0 (50) (Likely HOFer > 100)
I'm reluctant to admit it, because I remember Bruce Sutter's contribution to the 1982 Cardinals World Series Championship team (the last World Series the Cards won, alas), but looking at the numbers, one is compelled to conclude that Sutter's election isn't one of the better decisions that the Baseball Writers' Association of America has made...

Len on 01.16.06 @ 07:38 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Speaking of baseball birthdays today....

Happy birthday to almost-certain Hall of Famer, Cardinals first baseman Albert "the Great" Pujols, who turns 26 today.

As a premptive strike, the Birdwatch post addresses the concerns of those of you who find credibility in the "Pujols lied about his age" conspiracy theory:

There's always been talk that Pujols is older than he claims. The original basis for those claims is that Albert was really, really good in 2001. The problem though is that Pujols wasn't that good in 2000. Sure, a 930 OPS at A-ball is promising, but not if you're already 25. As Clay Davenport pointed out in 2004:
The more time a player has until he reaches 27, the more he is likely to improve. Moreover, the improvement is not linear; the average amount of improvement goes down as you get closer to age 27. A successful 20-year-old, on average, improves by more in one year than a successful 21-year-old does, and so on.
Not only that, but the year before Pujols signed his BIG contract with the Cardinals, MLB implemented a policy calling for a year's suspension for players caught falsifying their ages. I have no doubt myself that before the Cards decided to shell out the megabux for Pujols they satisfied themselves as to the bona fides about his birthday.

Len on 01.16.06 @ 05:30 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Significant days in St. Louis Baseball History:

Today is the 96th anniversary of the birth of the legendary Hall of Famer, sparkplug of The Gashouse Gang (the 1934 St. Louis Cardinals, who were World Series Champions that year): Jerome Hanna "Dizzy" Dean (note: some sources give Dean's birth name as Jay Hanna Dean vice Jerome Hanna Dean).

Not only was Ol' Diz one of the greatest pitchers of all time, he was also one of the most memorable characters the National Pastime ever produced. Dizzy pitched one game for the Cardinals in 1930 (a complete game win, in which he allowed only three hits and one run), and then made the team for keeps in 1931. In 1934 his brother Paul, also a Cardinal farmhand in earlier years, made the team along with his brother (the Dean brothers both hailed from rural Lucas, Arkansas, then squarely in Cardinals territory, so it was unremarkable that both came up in that organization). Dizzy, never modest about his own ability, was not modest about his brother's ability, either. "Me and Paul will probably win forty games." People thought he was merely bragging, but the Deans made good on Dizzy's prediction; Dizzy went 30-7, and was voted National League Most Valuable Player (Dizzy is the last 30 game winner in the National League; since that campaign only Denny McLain of the American League's 1968 Detroit Tigers has won 30 or more games in a single season in the majors), while Paul went 19-11; together the brothers won 9 more games than Dizzy predicted. Not only that, but the Cardinals went 90-63 for the season to win the National League championship, and then beat the Detroit Tigers in the World Series, 4 games to 3. For that matter, the World Series was pretty much "The Dizzy and Paul Show" (some journalists dubbed Paul "Daffy", as apparently they liked the alliteration of "Dizzy and Daffy", but in truth poor Paul was hardly the character that Dizzy was, and never really lived up to that nickname), as Dizzy won two games and Paul won two games--all the Cardinals' World Series victories in 1934 were with one of the two Dean brothers on the mound.

After being hit on the foot by a line drive by Earl Averill of the Cleveland Indians during the 1937 All Star Game, and sustaining a fracture of his big toe as a result (Dizzy's comment on being informed of the injury: "Fractured? Hell, the damn thing's broken!!"), Dizzy tried to come back too soon, and his attempts to favor the foot injury caused him to injure his arm seriously, thus ending his career too early. The Cardinals traded him to the Chicago Cubs in 1938, where he finished out the last four years of his career as a mere shadow of his former dominating self (not counting a one game, 4 inning appearance pitching for the St. Louis Browns in 1947). Despite his shortened career, Dizzy was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America voters in 1953.

After his baseball career, Dizzy made a name for himself as a broadcaster. Some memorable stories deal with Dizzy's tenure as radio broadcaster for the St. Louis Browns. My favorite: one day, Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, on a state visit to the United States, made a stop in St. Louis, and was a special guest at a Browns game that day. Unfortunately, because of delays at the other functions the Queen had to attend that day, she arrived at the game late. As is usual with such high level VIPs, her arrival caused a bit of commotion in the area of Sportsmans' Park where she was to sit, and the game was delayed while Her Highness took her seat. Dizzy, broadcasting the game that day, mentioned to his radio audience that the game was being delayed because of some fuss surrounding "some fat lady sitting in the first base side boxes". Horrified, a Browns team executive rushed up to the broadcast booth to tell Dizzy the cause of the interruption. Thus informed, Dizzy turned to his microphone and said, "Well, folks, I've just been told that the fat lady causing all the ruckus in the first base boxes is the Queen of Holland!"

Following his job broadcasting for the Browns, Dizzy broadcast national games. From 1960-65 he paired with fellow Hall of Famer Pee Wee Reese to broadcast the national "Game of the Week" on CBS. In that capacity, Dizzy and Pee Wee paired to bring us one of the great dialogues in all of sports broadcasting:

REESE: Well, Diz, I have to say... We've been watching that young man pitch a pretty good game here, and I have to ask you something. You used to be a pitcher, and you've been watching that young man pitch. Perhaps you can tell the listening audience what that boy is throwing today.
DEAN: Yes, Pee Wee, I used to be a pitcher, and I've been watching him pitch all afternoon, and I think that makes me enough of an expert to tell you that this afternoon, what that boy has been throwing is a baseball.
Below the fold; a few choice "Deanisms" with which Dizzy, in his career, enriched the history and literature of baseball. But to close the main body of this post, I can think of no better summary than that voiced by Dean's long time Cardinals teammate (including the '34 World Series Champions), Pepper Martin:
When ole Diz was out there pitching it was more than just another ballgame. It was a regular three-ring circus and everybody was wide awake and enjoying being alive.

Len on 01.16.06 @ 01:24 PM CST [more..] [ | ]

From Josh Marshall late yesterday....

we get a couple interesting posts:

Len on 01.16.06 @ 08:15 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Gem o'the Day:

How much of an honor to Martin Luther King is it when bedding stores use the holiday as a way to promote sheet sales?
--Will Durst, "Daily Dose of Durst", 1/16/2006

Len on 01.16.06 @ 08:02 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Fourth Down and Inches to My Goal

Coming up on the first year Bloggie-versary here at DBV and time to meet one of my Personal Blog Goals. I was hoping to learn enough about world of templates, HTML, using files like img. Jpeg. Gif. and understand other aspects of the Bloggie world to one day Graduate to my own Blog site.

Well, though I still basically qualify as a rank techno-dweeb – tis time for me to move forward and I’ve got a Blogger Site to call *home.*

For all I’ve learned and the bloggin issues shared here with Len and Brock and for their supervisory help and efforts -- my enduring gratitude remains.

A HUGE Thanks. :-D

[And I couldn’t have done it without you, Len!!]

So, I hope you all come visit me at my site: Peripetia.

And we can continue to share the bloggie FUN and commenting and conversations we’ve been having on the net.

In commemoration of that very first post:


Its beginning was a personal Peripetia: This is a concept that describes the point at which the main character in a drama realizes all he has known is incorrect, or in a mystery when the veil is lifted and the entire case becomes clear and the facts laid bare for resolution: Peripetia.

It was a realization there were important things to be said, voices to be heard, comments to be made -- and so I found my own voice in this mix of media and hype -- initially writing letters to the editor, having conversations via e-mail with various pundits and intellects, and morphing into the bloggosphere.

I had come across a quote on Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish (posted Dec. 22, 2004) by Donald R. May, of Townhall.com, who wrote:
"The liberal elite think their superior wisdom, and their control of education and the media, should convince us to become a bunch of pagans. They fantasize we will give up our guns, values, morals, and Constitution. They romanticize we will embrace socialized medicine, tolerate failing schools, and become mindless socialist wimps eager to be euthanized before becoming a burden on society."

My answer to Mr. May is this:
The Conservative Values Mindset think their supercilious intellect, their control of the government, the courts, the propaganda spewing media outlets, should convince us to become a bunch of cowed repentants content to be sent to the corner for some imagined wicked ways. They romanticize we will embrace a society that ignores the hungry, fails to provide for the health of its citizenry or its elders, tolerates false value quotients, abjures educational achievements and the jobs they should yield, and become mindless conservative wimps eager to revert to the Robber Baron hierarchy of the previous centuries at the bottom of the food chain while they live in a self-created wealth and luxury of stolen earnings.

We will not be silenced.


Karen on 01.16.06 @ 07:55 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

But it shouldn't have come as news to anyone that guys who make their living at 70-plus mph on skis might not always drive the speed limit and go to bed at 9 p.m., sober as a nun. (When I visited Miller two years ago, his blingiest accoutrements were a used Porsche and a very well-used Kegerator that he'd installed in his house.) While most other major sports have 12-step-ified themselves—even NASCAR, which originated with Southern moonshine runners—skiing definitely hasn't. Ski towns are full of bars, for one thing, and there's not much else to do at night. For another, flying down an icy mountain in a little rubber suit gets the adrenaline going in a way that practically demands a shot and a beer (or, for snowboarders, a little secondhand toke). That's why Bode wanted to party with the let-it-hang-out downhillers. (For confirmation, check out the weird disclaimer at the end of this article from Ski Racing, in which the magazine says it has an "unofficial policy" not to cover Miller's active nightlife.) As someone who's spent time with the U.S. ski team, I can add some advice: If you play drinking games with these guys, you will lose. (Still, they've got nothing on Dock Ellis of the old Pittsburgh Pirates, who famously pitched while on LSD. I'd rather face a hungover Miller than a pitcher who thinks I'm a huge, fanged lizard.)
--Bill Gifford [from a profile on hard partying U.S. alpine skier Bode Miller]

Len on 01.16.06 @ 06:18 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Blogroll updates

I'm terribly lazy about updating my blogroll on the sidebar, but when enough changes occur and/or new reading material accumulates, I do a big update.

The big change that prompted this round of updates was the move of P.Z. Myers Pharyngula and Ed Brayton's Dispatches from the Culture Wars to new homes at ScienceBlogs.

Then there are a few new additions, which I've been reading for some time but never got around to adding. Leiter Reports is becoming a group blog, at least for the Spring semester. I'm very excited about this. Perhaps this will take the place of the gaping hole in the blogosphere left with the utter collapse of philosophy group blog Left2Right.

And finally, I've added links to two blogs fighting the war on wingnuttery: The Poor Man and LGF Watch.

Brock on 01.15.06 @ 08:56 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Incipient dictatorship?

Over at The News Blog, Steve Gilliard weighs in with his reasons as to why he thinks Bush doesn't pose that threat. According to Steve, Bush isn't an incipient dictator, but rather a not-quite-competent CEO that's just about ready to get the bad news from the Board:

What is Bush?

People conflate some things into turning Bush into some kind of omnipotent ruler, when he can't even face a real crowd.

Claiming Bush stole the 2004 election makes people feel good, but the fact that Diebold was only used in few electoral districts seems to have been lost on people. To blithely say that the GOP can now fix elections forever is pure ignorance. There is no one standard voting machine in the US, no one standard set of rules. No one even bothered to do a study of voting trends in suspect districts.

A lot of people have to get out of a self-defeatist mindset, they have to stop looking for excuses to lose and walk away. Because like Enron, Bush is in serious trouble.

Bush is a CEO, the political version of Ken Lay. He is no more dictator than a CEO, but he assumes he has more power than he does.

Michael Moore sleeps soundly at night. No Hummer is outside his apartment with blacksuited goons waiting to take him to a warehouse to work him over? Cindy Sheehan isn't in exile, moving from place to place, right?

No, Bush deals with his enemies the way a company does: discredits them. They set their bloggers, their oppo, all their old tricks, stuff in lieu of a SLAPP suit. The act remains the same, they make shit up, they act like they have their shit together and people fall for it.

They treat Congress like a board of directors, nodding agreement and doing what they want.

Now, this can go on for years, but one day, the lawsuits pile up. The questions can no longer be dodged. They go too far. Maybe it's a yacht or a water company or the NSA listening to Americans phone calls. There is always the act which pisses off the shareholders, the lingering lawsuit which spills all the secrets.

Scooter Libby's lawyer Ted Wells, plans on dragging reporters in to save his client. By then, it will be far too late. That jury pool will be so inclined to jail him it wouldn't be funny.

Bush's problem is that the courts are about to be swarmed with cases, Congress is wondering if they're on the tapes Bush has, if their calls were tracked. Like a CEO with much to hide, he'll change the subject.

How many companies praise a CEO before they dump him?
The only thing that bothers me about that analogy is that a lot of dumped CEO's spend the rest of their careers laughing all the way to the bank. It's surprising how many companies will hire a CEO who proved her/his incompetence at some other company (as if somehow after s/he ran one company into the ground, s/he got it out of her/his system, and all will be better at the next company), and of those that don't find a new position as CEO, the generous severance package awarded to them means that, to steal a line from Lewis Black, nobody is going to look at them sadly and say, "Look at him. Used to be the CEO of a major American corporation, and now he's a heroin addict."

But then I realize, there's no monetary price we could pay that would be too much to get rid of the Shrubbery.

Len on 01.15.06 @ 06:24 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Actually, switching to Firefox did a lot to cure this....

but wandering around the 'net today, I took a little stroll down memory lane with this: Realistic Internet Simulator.

I know; it's probably old hat, but I hadn't seen it before.

Len on 01.15.06 @ 12:43 PM CST [link] [ | ]

From the Significant Dates in Baseball History department:

Today is the 115th anniversary of the birth of Ray Chapman. Chapman spent 9 seasons playing shortstop (mostly; he also filled in at second, third and in the outfield) for the Cleveland Indians, and no less an authority than Bill James suggested that had Chapman been able to play out a complete career he'd have probably been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Unfortunately, Chapman was (ironically) to achieve baseball immortality in another way: by dying. Chapman has gone down in baseball history as being the only major leaguer of the modern era to die as a result of injuries sustained during a game, namely his being hit in the head by a pitch by New York Yankees pitcher Carl Mays during the Indians-Yankees matchup on August 16, 1920 (Chapman hung on to life for 12 hours after sustaining the injury and died on August 17).

Len on 01.15.06 @ 10:06 AM CST [link] [ | ]

A good start....

Over at Newsrack, Thomas Nephew gives us a rundown on his home-state's newest legislative initiative: the Fair Share Health Care Fund Act, which was recently enacted into law when both houses of the Maryland legislature voted to overrule Gov. Ehrlich's veto. Basically, the Act requires that Maryland companies with over 10,000 employees to either pay 8% of payroll to health benefits, or make up the difference with payments to a state Medicaid fund. The purpose, of course, is to make companies like Wal-Mart recompense the state for health-care costs incurred by the large number of their employees who, lacking employer provided health-care coverage, avail themselves of the state provided Medicaid coverage). In comments, Thomas, a Tennessee native, speculates on whether a similar law might catch on here:

I'm going to be watching my home state of Tennessee to see what happens there -- if (1) Bredesen gets interested and can (2) make it work in TN, maybe Kaine can in VA.

All in all, it's probably a long shot in TN, but people there don't like free-loading megacompanies either. Plus now that they've belt-tightened the bejesus out of Tenncare, there may be some support for getting Wal-Mart and other big companies to pay for some of their folks still showing up on the rolls.
Lately, I've become disenchanted enough with local and state politics that I won't be holding my breath, myself, though it would be a great thing if it happened.

Len on 01.15.06 @ 09:30 AM CST [link] [ | ]

It's a wonder the human species propagates....

Over at The Sneeze, Steve reminds me why I'm very, very glad I don't have to ride herd on a toddler anymore.

Len on 01.15.06 @ 08:57 AM CST [link] [ | ]

I'm surprised....

that there isn't an operating system or application that has implemented this philosophy of error messaging:

Source: The Spoof PC Error Message Page; thanks to Elayne for featuring that as Friday's Silly Site o'the Day.

Len on 01.15.06 @ 08:54 AM CST [link] [ | ]

A contemporary history lesson...

Chris Kromm at Facing South makes note of the origins of the Martin Luther King birthday holiday, and how it is the result of the labor movement and working-class activism. The lesson he draws from this history:

This is the story of reform in America. Rarely does it come from the top -- it comes from thousands or millions of people, taking action in an organized way until the system can no longer ignore their demands.
For those of you who keep strict track of these things, today is the 77th anniversary of the birth of King.

And apropos of Martin Luther King's birthday, and what his life and martyrdom represents in the history of this country, I think the Umpire at Corked Bats (too long absent from that blog; welcome back!) has an apt comment:
What I will add is this: I sense that liberals are divided in this country between those who have had the rude awakening over the course of Bush's presidency that none of the progress that Progressivism won during the last century is in any sense permanent, secure or settled--and those who believe that we have forever secured victory in the battles we have already won and so the stakes just aren't as high as the more finnicky folks would think. Whether we like it or not--from the attack on Social Security to the torture of prisoners to the out-in-the-open equivocation of those currently running our country, etc etc--most of the lessons of the Twentieth Century are simply up for grabs.

For God's sake (no pun intended), we are debating evolution again.

And that brings me to say that liberals may need to become radicals again--not in the "violent revolution" way that the word is popularly recieved, but in the sense that they have to come back to their fundamentals--their roots (hence radical)--before they can make further "progress". We have to fight about the distribution of resources again--because it is not settled. We have to fight for racial justice again, not simply politeness. All the cultural sensitivity in the world will not bring back New Orleans. It is not settled. We have to fight for human rights again. Shockingly, it is not settled.

Len on 01.15.06 @ 08:11 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Apropos robotic animals....

I had to make a dash to CompUSA yesterday, and after getting what I needed, I was browsing in the games section for a bit, when I came face to face with Roboraptor:

While I'd been aware of Roboraptor and his compadres Robosapien (and check out Robosapien Version 2) and Robopet, for some reason it'd never occurred to me how big it was. I would have expected something about a foot or so long, tops. Roboraptor appears to be about 2.5 feet or so long from tip of nose to end of tail (to give you a basis for estimation, the price sign on the box is printed on a piece of letter sized paper).

Len on 01.15.06 @ 07:44 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

The last dissertation I'm directing is on video games as they compare to film. The guy is bright, so we let him do it. But he brought his games and game platform to my house to give me some experience on this medium. I lasted through 15 minutes of 'Simpson's Road Rage,' largely because my coordination is so poor. Even if I got good on the controls, what keeps me away is the level of commitment. The idea of spending hours at this boggles my mind.

My student told me that the most sophisticated games require up to 100 hours to master. In 100 hours we can watch 25 Bollywood films or 50-plus Hollywood/ foreign features or 80 B-films or 750 Warner Bros. cartoons. Depending on how fast you read, in the same interval you can probably finish reading 20-30 books. Not to mention 25-35 operas or 100-120 symphonies. And that's just for one game! On the basis of my very limited experience, and given my tastes (a big part of the issue here), the problem with video games is that they're too much like life -- too much commitment for thin and often frustrating results.
--David Bordwell [film scholar at the University of Wisconsin; correspondence with Roger Ebert]

Len on 01.15.06 @ 07:31 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Dial 911 for that 'Whaaaaambulance'...

Right after the Christmas Holiday I read this dreck from Cal Thomas:

”…Religious parents should exercise the opportunity that has always been theirs. They should remove their children from state schools with their "instruction manuals" for turning them into secular liberals, and place them in private schools - or home school them - where they will be taught the truth, according to their parents' beliefs. Too many parents who would never send their children to a church on Sunday that taught doctrines they believed to be wrong, have had no problem placing them in state schools five days a week where they are taught conflicting doctrines and ideas.

Rulings such as this should persuade parents who've been waffling to take their kids and join the growing exodus from state schools into educational environments more conducive to their beliefs.

And these two other faux debate pieces from both Cal and Bob Beckelis here and here.

Great Ideas...I don't have any problems with this - Until you get to lawsuits like the civil rights lawsuit filed by Calvary Chapel which alleges that the 10-campus University of California is "is trampling the freedom of a religious school to be religious" for failures to meet academic standards in certain course studies. UC asserts its rights to set its own admissions standards and academic standards for attendance.

But advocates (idiots) - like Mr. Thomas - want to have it BOTH ways. They want the Freedom to choose the religious instruction to the "truth, according to their parents' beliefs", but not the *consequences* of that decision when it applies to meeting academic standards in the real world.

When, using these self-selected standards, they fail to meet strict academic criteria...then they dial 911 for the Legal *Whaaaambulance.*(Hat tip to Shakespeares Sister.) And it arrives as their vehicle of choice to sue to enforce the lacking-in-credibility educational selections beyond the bounds of their religious schools even when the don’t meet the admissions standards at the university level.

It's Fine for parents to select any Religious School of their Choice and Teach their Children ANYTHING...but don't then expect the Legal system to afford a remedy for these failings to meet rigorous academic standards in educational studies. Or to bypass University level admissions standards using these religious criterion.

It's the children who WILL suffer for the choices of their parents - But *consequences* for choices are the model we live under. And choosing to be under-educated in science (or any subject) has a consequence. But apparently that is not a Price Calvary Chapel accepts for its "religious freedom."

Karen on 01.14.06 @ 02:49 PM CST [link] [ | ]

A Saturday Jaunt Down Memory Lane...

Speaking of former household “critters” – We were, weren’t we?


Here is yet another trip down the Paths of Memory Lane: Our English Spotted Rabbit: Oreo, and our “English Spotted” Mice (?) which we had to Keep cause they looked like our bunny.

coryoreo (413k image)

Cory holding Oreo.

corymice (596k image)

Cory holding the “Oreo-Spotted Mice” babies.

Karen on 01.14.06 @ 12:30 PM CST [link] [ | ]


For all the Photo-buffs and Shutterbugs out there - digg.com had this KOOL site with a revolving set of photos at this link called:


Give it a click and see how this works. Most interesting.


Karen on 01.14.06 @ 09:56 AM CST [link] [ | ]


Well, they have Robo-Dogs, Robo-Cats, Robo-Humans, so perhaps it was inevitable for this one:


banner1 (59k image)

S1jpeg (28k image)

Courtesy of Digg.com


But then again, I LIKE snakes and had several:

snakes1 (274k image)

From right to left:
Lindsey holding Casper, a Ghost Corn Snake
Lauren holding Squiggy, a Green Snake
Cory and me holding Frosty, a Snow Corn Snake

[Indy Jones, an Indonesian Tree Boa is not pictured]

But maybe I need a Robo-Snake that I never have to feed.


Karen on 01.14.06 @ 09:43 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Friday's GEM Howl picture of the week....

...is this picture and post from the Clever Photoshop of Driftglass:

base2 (30k image)

"They packed the car with crazies and crooks and cronies, and slathered with the Blood of Christ and swaddled it in flags (Stars and Stripes with a Komfy Kozy Konfederate Traitor Rag zip-in lining) to hide their stink..."

Click on the link to read in full. Too Funnie.


Karen on 01.13.06 @ 12:16 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Another Letter for the day...

Michael Kinsley has written a really POOR op-ed for the Washington Post: Give me Liberty or let me Think about it. (Click on the link to read this piece of drivel.) So, I sent him a letter:

I was very disturbed to read this absurd op-ed in the Washington Post, “Give Me Liberty Or Let Me Think About It.” I have often thought you were a rather intelligent guy – but this piece is stunning in both is ignorance of the FISA and wiretap law and it's insulting about the issues of the NSA spying program.

You write:
You can note all you want the irony of the government's trampling American values in the name of protecting them. But that irony can be turned on its head. If the cost of losing the war and the cost of winning it are measured in the same currency -- American values, especially freedom -- then giving up some freedom to avoid losing all of it is obviously the right thing to do.

It’s the *giving up* part of this that I take issue with. No Citizen was EVER Asked, Requested, Notified, Informed, or given ANY reasonable opportunity to acquiesce to the “giving up” part beyond that which is already codified in laws (FISA and other statutes) according to our processes of government. And Congress, when asked on behalf of the American people, said “NO” on this issue involving the authorizations to include extending these national security procedures to over the United States and its Citizens for the Government in seeking to prevent terrorism.

Not, that I am arguing the citizenry can’t choose to “give up” liberties, but this is a form of *Taking-without-asking* to do so outside the process for making such changes. If you wish to make some good faith argument how, within our legal process, such a Change would be put forth…have at it. But don’t pretend that is what was done in this instance.

And you further state:
The Fourth Amendment is typical of laws protecting civil liberties in that it doesn't forbid the government to invade people's privacy, or lock them up or take their property. Rather, it requires the government to be "reasonable" and to explain its reasons to someone else.

The Constitution read:
Amendment IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Yep - "reasonableness" is an element here - but related to getting a Warrant!!

No ambiguity is here, no hard to parse language or intent on that one.

Likewise, FISA was crafted to be in conformity with the Constitution and even to allowing (as reasonable exceptions) the 72-hour emergency warrantless wiretapping and for the 15 days following a Congressional Declaration of War for warrantless wiretapping.

Given the voluminous pieces and information about this Law and the things written in the past few weeks --your ignorance as to these provisions is astounding.

Further, the Oath of Office requires the POTUS to say: “I solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

And under Art III, Section 3: “…he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,”

So - this one puzzles me too:
It could have jumped through the required hoops and been wiretapping away about five minutes later.

[Again, the language of FISA allows IMMEDIATE wiretapping under its 72 hour emergency provisions and for warrantless searches for 15 days following a Congressional Declaration of War. So mis-stating this provision to provide a faux argument is hardly useful and quite insulting. Gee, was I wrong to have expected better of You?]

As for “jump[ing] through the required hoops” -- you mean following the US Laws on wiretapping and working within the Constitution? I don’t recall the ability for the President NOT to jump through the legally required *hoops* on any issues. And you write “could have” but the phrasing is “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” And “SHALL” is a legal command word…nothing iffy, suggestive, may-or-may-not about it. No “could have” as if this is *Optional* at his *Choice*. Moreover, there is no provision for the President to unilaterally change the laws, make his own laws. Nor interpret the laws, nor rewrite the laws or Constitution on his own accord.

So, what ever this pitiful excuses for this Administration and woefully inadequate and insulting arguments you are making here …it’s not for living under the Constitution in the America I KNOW, nor to follow its Rule of Law for it’s President.

Shame on YOU, Mr. Kinsley.

Time for you to go back to the legal drawing board and do THINK ABOUT IT before you write any more inane and misleading nonsense like this on the topic of NSA spying laws and 4th Amendment protections or excusing the President for violating these laws.

Karen on 01.13.06 @ 10:10 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Time to write Your Senators...

After listening to most of the Judge Alito hearings, I feel it's important to let these Senators on the Judicary Committee (and in my home state) know what troubles me about this nominee:

Senator: You ought to be terribly concerned about supporting this Judge Alito nomination.

Despite statements of merely aggressively “promoting of the views his clients" – are ethical duties to do so within the bounds of the Constitution and the Laws.

The nomination exchanges, over Presidential powers, are illustrative that this is NOT a mainstream nominee on that topic. Also, based on his own writing -his Authoring and Advocacy of the “unitary executive” theory and that a President gets to add an "interpretive signing statement” to any and all laws that pass his desk -which be accorded equal weight to the Congressional “Intent” is not in conformity to our Constitutional framework. The Constitution itself argues against such a broad assertion of Executive Legislative Interpretive Powers. Nor does the Constitution allow an *Executive interpretation* which effectively nullifies the legislation the President purports to be signing into LAW. (As in the case of the McCain amendment.)

If there is any indication how Alito would come out on an issue of *Executive Powers* - What better indication than the very arguments he *Authored* himself in advancing that very point of view?

This is a dangerous and Extra-Constitutional view on the separation of powers of our three branches of government and their functions. And to put him on the Supreme Court to give force to these views is very wrong.

On this alone – Judge Alito ought to be rejected from serving on the Supreme Court.

So - time to let your views be known (pro/con or just how this nominee seems to YOU) and write to these Senators and Congress - Before the final voting on this matter.


Karen on 01.13.06 @ 09:49 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Gem o'the Day:

The warbloggers profess to be outraged, sickened, and appalled by Mideast violence yet increasingly are giving vent to their own violent fantasies directed at domestic foes, whom they consider traitors, appeasers, etc. They fantasize about their least favorite bloggers being beheaded, or hanging liberal traitors from lamp posts should there be another terrorist attack. Sites like Little Green Footballs, Atlas Shrugs, and their ilk have a lynch-mob mentality that has gotten uglier as the situation in Iraq has worsened. They blame Cindy Sheehan (recently voted "Idiotarian of the Year" at LGF), Michael Moore, and liberal Democrats for how badly the war has gone because they don't have the courage and honesty to blame the real architects of failure: Rumsfeld, who went to war with too few troops to carry out an occupation; Wolfowitz and the rest of the neocon brain trust, who assured Americans that the invasion would be greeted with flowers and candy, and the war would pay for itself through oil revenues; the U.S. military, which didn't anticipate a strong insurgency and arrogantly ran roughshod over the Iraqi people early in the occupation, enflaming the insurgency even more; and Bush himself, who in a moment of almost sociopathic hubris, taunted the insurgency with the three words that should be chiseled in disgrace on the wall of his future presidential library: "Bring 'em on."
--James Wolcott

Len on 01.13.06 @ 06:59 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Why the United States is fucked....

From the blogger-formerly-known-as-SKBubba:

In a recent survey of Florida adults conducted by the Florida Bar Association, 41% could not name the three branches of government. Guesses included "local, state, and federal", and "Democrat, Republican, and Independent." Many couldn't explain "checks and balances" or "separation of powers", either.

OK, then.
Yep. It's not "this fading republic", as George Carlin used to say in one of his monologues. I think it fully qualifies as "this faded republic". And fast progressing to "this defunct [former] republic".

Len on 01.13.06 @ 06:43 AM CST [link] [ | ]

A propos the most recent Memphis blogger's bash....

Over at A Perfectly Cromulent Blog, Pete refers us to a follow up on one of the topics of conversation at the last Blogger's bash, and points us to this Flickr gallery of pictures of the reactions of victims being exposed to the infamous "hello.jpg" picture (and similar images) made famous by the infamous goatse.cx website (the link is to the Wikipedia article about goatse.cx; if you're really a glutton for punishment it has links to a number of (variously complete) mirrors of goatse.cx).

I do recommend that you follow the link to Pete's post; he has there a picture of porno legend Ron "The Hedgehog" Jeremy's reaction that's absolutely priceless.

Len on 01.13.06 @ 06:31 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

In the rush to return Abramoff money [lawmakers] are setting a standard they don't believe in. Acting House Majority Leader Roy Blunt's spokesman said the Missouri congressman returned Abramoff's money because it was "not given in the spirit in which it was received." What spirit did he think moved Abramoff? The MacArthur Foundation spirit? Christmas spirit? School spirit? Political money is given with strings attached. Blunt knows how the game works: That's why he's acting majority leader.
--John Dickerson

Len on 01.13.06 @ 05:20 AM CST [link] [ | ]

More Legal Opinions on the "Illegality" of NSA Spying

Via a post by ReddHedd (Firedoglake)

"Former CIA General Counsel Jeffrey Smith has presented the Senate Intelligence Committee with a 14-page brief on why the Preznit's authorization for NSA domestic spying without a warrant is illegal.

As ABC points out, Smith is a Democrat. But if you think that means he's a partisan hack who is soft on national security matters, you can think again: he is a hawk who worked with Sam Nunn (D-GA) on the Armed Services Committee as their counsel before moving over to the CIA's legal department. (ABC conveniently fails to point out that Smith has been a defense and intelligence hawk throughout his career, and sticks to the Democrat label only. Convenient.) ABC reports that:

"...Smith argues "it is not credible that the 2001 authorization to use force provides authority for the president to ignore the requirements of FISA."

He said that if the president's arguments for the wiretaps are sustained "it would be a dramatic expansion of presidential authority affecting the rights of our fellow citizens that undermines the checks and balances of our system, which lie at the very heart of the Constitution."

[But the ABC link has been moved (?)] So, I tracked down from Raw Story the 14 page Memo.

FYI Jeffrey Smith is also a Former General Counsel for the Senate Armed Services Committee (and a Hawk on these issues).

Give this memo a read through.

Karen on 01.12.06 @ 06:52 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Super-Duper Extra-Legal Presidency...

David Luban (Guest Blogging at Balkinization) has a great post refuting a host of inane arguments defending CIC and his *Supreme Executive Extra-legal Powers* doctrine:

"...Mansfield defends the monarchical executive through philosophical abstractions ("executive power represents necessity", "The Constitution mixes choice and necessity"). The article is loaded with gravitas, and Mansfield obviously wants to sound deep.

But the depth is all on the surface. Read with care, Mansfield's arguments are profoundly silly.
3. "...extra-legal powers such as commanding the military, making treaties (and carrying on foreign policy), and pardoning the convicted, not to mention a veto of legislation. To confirm the extra-legal character of the presidency, the Constitution has him take an oath not to execute the laws but to execute the office of president, which is larger." Dishonesty piled on dishonesty; three of them in the first sentence alone:
A. "extra-legal powers such as commanding the military." Not an extra-legal power, because military commanders are governed by law and were at the time of the framing. The American articles of war of 1775 and 1776 require soldiers to obey lawful orders.

B. "extra-legal powers such as making treaties". Huh? Treaties require senate advice and consent, and at that point they become law. Nothing extra-legal there.

C. "...pardoning the convicted." I suppose it's an extra-legal power, although in practice a pretty trivial one. But criminal juries also have the power of nullification, so this isn't a uniquely executive power.

D. "...veto of legislation." Not an extra-legal power, since the veto can be overridden. All the veto really means is that the President can force Congress to pass legislation by a super-majority rather than a simple majority. It's a wrinkle in the law, not a violation of it.

As for the second sentence, it conveniently mentions the oath clause and ignores the take care clause. The President shall (i.e., is required to) take care that the laws are faithfully executed.

So everything in these two sentences except "pardoning the convicted" is nonsense.

The full article is worth a read through too.

Karen on 01.12.06 @ 05:57 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Those Food Techies...

"Three of every four American adults are eating dinner at home, but preparing it from scratch is now the choice of only one-in-three, and restaurant take-out has overtaken sit-down dining. This according to the latest issue of "Food Technology" magazine and its cover story -- "What, When, and Where America Eats," a compilation of the latest trend studies in U.S. food consumption.

In 2005, the average American ate 80 meals at restaurants, a drop of 18 percent from 1985. But over the same period, the selection of take-home meals rose 72 percent to 57 meals a year. And while restaurant take-out climbs in popularity, supermarket take-out is also a force. Forty-two percent of adults are purchasing supermarket take-out each month -- a 12 percent surge in the past two years.

Here are some other interesting trends included in the feature:
-- The most popular ethnic food remains Italian. But a 10 percent surge by adults naming it their favorite has Mexican food fighting for the top spot.

-- 4 of 10 restaurant-chain chefs think portion size will be a new major trend. More than 3 in 10 expect comfort foods (i.e., meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, pot roast) to be a driver.

-- No- and low-fat foods have slimmed to single-digit growth but it’s still a $32-billion segment -- more than twice the size of the widely acclaimed organic foods category.

-- Coffee is the No. 1 consumed breakfast food -- by 53 percent of Americans. Now quick service restaurants are bringing designer brands to their menus.

-- There are more U.S. Chinese restaurants than McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger Kings combined.

-- Vegetable consumption is falling by two percent, but fresh fruit is rebounding after 14 years in decline. Fresh fruit is the No. 1 snack of kids age 2-12.

* Institute of Food Technologists, the international not-for-profit scientific association for professionals who research, regulate and make the food we eat. Founded in 1939, and with world headquarters in Chicago, IFT brings sound science to the public discussion of food issues.

Courtesy of US News Wire.

Hmmm - Comfort Food and Coffee. Works for me and ME.


Karen on 01.12.06 @ 05:31 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Reject Alito from Serving on the Supreme Court...

A small bit from a NY Time Editorial on the Alito views:

SUPPORT FOR AN IMPERIAL PRESIDENCY Judge Alito has backed a controversial theory known as the "unitary executive," and argued that the attorney general should be immune from lawsuits when he installs illegal wiretaps. Judge Alito backed away from one of his most extreme statements in this area - his assertion, in a 1985 job application, that he believed "very strongly" in "the supremacy of the elected branches of government." But he left a disturbing impression that as a justice, he would undermine the Supreme Court's critical role in putting a check on presidential excesses.

Descriptions of “unitary executive theory” can be found in numerous places but as stated by Tom Brune (Newsday): “Alito hearings to focus on presidential power”
At issue is the "unitary executive" theory, which Reagan officials promoted when Alito worked in that administration.

As Alito put it in a 2000 speech, "The president has not just some executive powers, but the executive power - the whole thing.”

That expansive view has led the Bush administration to claim the ability, since the 9/11 attacks, to carry out the war on terror without consulting with Congress or the courts on many controversial tactics, including coercive interrogations that critics charge are torture.

This isn’t just a *view* Alito endorsed…he AUTHORED the “Unitary Executive” theory. As well as the notion that *Executive Signing Statements* deserve the same consideration as Legislative History in reviewing the *intent* of the Law.

From Info Zine is this:
"…The Washington Post has reported that Alito wrote in 1986:
“Since the president's approval is just as important as that of the House or Senate, it seems to follow that the president's understanding of the bill should be just as important as that of Congress. ... [B]y forcing some rethinking by courts, scholars, and litigants, it may help to curb some of the prevalent abuses of legislative history."

A leading expert on bill signing statements and the unitary executive, Christopher Kelley is author of a dissertation on the unitary executive and the presidential signing statement ( PDF ) as well as the paper "Rethinking Presidential Power -- The Unitary Executive and the George W. Bush Presidency" ( PDF ).

Kelley said yesterday: "While other administrations have made use of bill signing statements since Reagan, the current administration is doing something unlike what others have done, citing the unitary executive an unprecedented number of times in these signing statements. Judge Alito seemed to indicate that the concept of the unitary executive simply applied to the executive controlling inferior offices, but he must know better. For instance, the 'Oath' clause of the Constitution demands that the president protect both the office of the presidency as well as the United States Constitution. To ensure the president lives up to that solemn oath, he issues a bill signing statement that may be used to refuse to defend or enforce provisions of law the president independently determines to be unconstitutional, as well as to define vague, unclear, or undefined provisions of law.

"Judge Alito, who has written on aspects of the unitary executive, clearly should know that his understanding of the unitary executive is more than his description offered during his Senate testimony."

Notwithstanding some hollow statements he has made at these hearing that he was merely aggressively “promoting of the views of my client” (an argument he now twists and wriggle away from being pinned down about like some greased pig at a rodeo) is the ethical DUTY to argue for a client within the bounds of the Law and the Constitution.

There are allowances for making a “good faith” argument that the law is incorrect or for changes to the law. – but not for advocacy that completely ignores the prevailing Law and the Constitution and this “separation” of powers that the President, as a “unitary executive,” gets to add an "interpretive signing statement” to any and all laws that pass his desk. Nor that these should be accorded any weight by a judicial reviewing Court equal to the legislative history provided by Congress’ in the passage of a bill or law.

The Constitution's framework and own History - to prevent a "Kingship" from developing from an all powerful executive- argues against such a broad assertion of Executive Legislative Interpretive Powers. Nor does the Constitution allow an *Executive interpretation* which effectively nullifies the legislation the President purports to be signing into LAW. (As in the case of the McCain amendment.)

Alito’s points of view on this are NOT Mainsteam. And the mere fact that despite having created this Extra-Constitutional view point back in the 1980's and it still fails to obtain any Judicial congnizance - show how Out of the Mainsteam this IS. But, if allowed on the SC, he's now in a position to forcefully assert this view.

This is a dangerous and Extra-Constitutional view on the separation of powers of our three branches of government and their functions.

If there is any indication how Alito would come out on an issue of *Executive Powers* - since he has refused to directly speak on this - And his comment at the hearing that, "...there are theoretical issues which have to be explored. I don't believe the Supreme Court has done that. I've not seen, in my 15 years plus on the 3rd Circuit, come to grips with the question 'What is the significance of a Presidential Signing Statement on the interpretation of a statute.'" What better indication how he would view this than the very arguments he Authored himself in advancing the legal legitimacy that very point of view?

On this alone – Alito ought to be rejected from serving on the Supreme Court.

Karen on 01.12.06 @ 08:47 AM CST [link] [ | ]

A Delicate Balance of Liberties and National Security...

Bob Herbert (NY Times): “The Lawbreaker in the Oval Office”:

“…It has become fashionable to say that this controversy is about the always difficult problem of balancing civil liberties and national security. But I think the issue is starker than that. The real issue is President Bush's apparent belief - stoked at every opportunity by that zealot of zealots, Dick Cheney - that he can do just about anything he wants (mistreat prisoners, lock people up forever without filing charges), and justify it in the name of fighting terror.

"There's an enemy out there," said Mr. Bush.

That's also true. But this is not China or the old Soviet Union. The United States should be the one place on the planet where even a devastating terror strike by Al Qaeda is unable to shake the foundations of the government, which is grounded in the rule of law, the separation of powers and a constitution that guarantees the fundamental rights of the citizenry.
President Bush and others in the administration have repeatedly argued that the president's wartime powers trump some of the important constitutional guarantees and civil liberties that Americans had previously taken for granted. They don't seem to see the irony of fighting on behalf of liberty in Afghanistan and Iraq while curtailing precious liberties here at home.

The administration should not be allowed to use war as an excuse. The U.S. is a very special place in large part because no one, not even the president, is above the law.”

Karen on 01.12.06 @ 07:48 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Sports Gem o'the Day:

From Signifying Nothing, on the anticipated announcement by USC football star Reggie Bush that he will be leaving school and turning pro:

Bush’s announcement tomorrow is a lose-lose proposition for USC. If Bush declares for the draft, they lose Bush, of course. Should he announce he is staying, it would demonstrate that someone could spend three years in school at USC and still be the dumbest guy in the country.

Len on 01.12.06 @ 07:38 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Silly sites redux....

A couple days ago, I mentioned a collection of "Chuck Norris Facts" on the Interweb. Apparently, Chuck himself has noticed them and therefore penned his own response to them. Since it looks like this page is an announcement page that may be revised in the future, I'll take the liberty of transcribing Chuck's response here:

I'm aware of the made up declarations about me that have recently begun to appear on the Internet and in emails as "Chuck Norris facts." I've seen some of them. Some are funny. Some are pretty far out. Being more a student of the Wild West than the wild world of the Internet, I'm not quite sure what to make of it. It's quite surprising. I do know that boys will be boys, and I neither take offense nor take these things too seriously. Who knows, maybe these made up one-liners will prompt young people to seek out the real facts as found in my recent autobiographical book, "Against All Odds?" They may even be interested enough to check out my novels set in the Old West, "The Justice Riders," released this month. I'm very proud of these literary efforts.
--Chuck Norris
Nice to know the guy takes it in the spirit it's intended....

Len on 01.12.06 @ 07:28 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Oh, gawd, he's one of them....

"them" meaning: one of those insufferable law nerds that knew he was destined for greatness early on.

Via Attytood, we learn that, according to the 1972 Princeton yearbook, Samuel Alito had grand ambitions way back when:

Sam intends to go to law school and eventually to warm a seat on the Supreme Court.

Don'tcha just get a warm feeling all over (ok, don'tcha get a warm feeling somewhere north of your anal sphincter) when someone achieves their boyhood ambitions? [For me, cynic that I am, it raises the question of whether any of Alito's Yale Law School classmates ever said "Bingo!" when Alito was called on in class... Explanation below the fold for you non-lawyers.]

Image from the AP via Wikipedia

Len on 01.12.06 @ 07:12 AM CST [more..] [ | ]

High Crimes and Misdemeanors...

The Nation has this very long - but excellent discussion - by Elizabeth Holtzman [who wrote up the articles of impeachment for Richard Nixon] about "The Impeachment of George W. Bush".

Here are just a few excerpts:

"Finally, it has started. People have begun to speak of impeaching President George W. Bush--not in hushed whispers but openly, in newspapers, on the Internet, in ordinary conversations and even in Congress. As a former member of Congress who sat on the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon, I believe they are right to do so.
At the time, I hoped that our committee's work would send a strong signal to future Presidents that they had to obey the rule of law. I was wrong.

Like many others, I have been deeply troubled by Bush's breathtaking scorn for our international treaty obligations under the United Nations Charter and the Geneva Conventions. I have also been disturbed by the torture scandals and the violations of US criminal laws at the highest levels of our government they may entail, something I have written about in these pages [see Holtzman, "Torture and Accountability," July 18/25, 2005]. These concerns have been compounded by growing evidence that the President deliberately misled the country into the war in Iraq. But it wasn't until the most recent revelations that President Bush directed the wiretapping of hundreds, possibly thousands, of Americans, in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)--and argued that, as Commander in Chief, he had the right in the interests of national security to override our country's laws--that I felt the same sinking feeling in my stomach as I did during Watergate.

As a matter of constitutional law, these and other misdeeds constitute grounds for the impeachment of President Bush. A President, any President, who maintains that he is above the law--and repeatedly violates the law--thereby commits high crimes and misdemeanors, the constitutional standard for impeachment and removal from office. A high crime or misdemeanor is an archaic term that means a serious abuse of power, whether or not it is also a crime, that endangers our constitutional system of government.

The framers of our Constitution feared executive power run amok and provided the remedy of impeachment to protect against it. While impeachment is a last resort, and must never be lightly undertaken (a principle ignored during the proceedings against President Bill Clinton), neither can Congress shirk its responsibility to use that tool to safeguard our democracy. No President can be permitted to commit high crimes and misdemeanors with impunity.

But impeachment and removal from office will not happen unless the American people are convinced of its necessity after a full and fair inquiry into the facts and law is conducted. That inquiry must commence now.
As awful as Watergate was, after the vote on impeachment and the resignation of President Nixon, the nation felt a huge sense of relief. Impeachment is a tortuous process, but now that President Bush has thrown down the gauntlet and virtually dared Congress to stop him from violating the law, nothing less is necessary to protect our constitutional system and preserve our democracy."

And I am really SICK of arguments that CIC only had the Nations' interests at heart and doing what is good for me. As a citizen, it is NEVER in my interest to allow the President to wilfully violate the Law and undermine our system of government.

On one level, the Alito hearings and questions about Roe v Wade have been a bit instructive on this matter as to explaining why many conservatives have legal qualms about this ruling following from the Constitution because the word "Abortion" does not appear to be written there, nor was it discussed by the Framers. Alito was asked about this point by Sen Chuck Schumer (NY):
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER: Does the Constitution protect the right to free speech?"

JUDGE SAMUEL ALITO: Certainly, it does. That’s in the First Amendment.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER: Well, why can't you answer the question of does the Constitution protect the right to an abortion the same way, without talking about stare decisis, without talking about cases, etc.?

JUDGE SAMUEL ALITO: Because answering the question of whether the Constitution provides a right to free speech is simply responding to whether there is language in the First Amendment that says that the freedom of speech and freedom of the press can't be abridged. Asking about the issue of abortion has to do with the interpretation of certain provisions of the Constitution."

And many conservatives feel that this interpretation of a "right to privacy" that led to abortion protections was something *wholly made-up* and not part of the Constitution.

But the views of requiring the President to "faithfully execute the laws" and not allowing a President to violate the Constitution or the Laws passed by Congress is not some Fuzzy, Gray-area, Beyond the Four-Corners-of-the-Document interpretative issue AT ALL. And those people who are making these arguments and absurd excuses - I find most troubling and disturbing. They are not following the system of government we do operate under. Not the Clear, Unambiguous Language of the Constitution as it is written and basics of the *Rule of Law* we live under.

The biggest threat to our Constitutional system is a position that would excuse the President's duty to the Nation, the Constitution, the Rule of Law for purely partisan political motivations. This is NOT about some amorphous "national security" concern as the over-riding Value to our entire way of American life and government check-and-balances. And the Framers were clear about this...as is the Constitution.

Karen on 01.12.06 @ 06:44 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

I’m wondering if Bush’s NSA eavesdropping plan innocently stemmed from a New Year’s resolution to become a better listener.
--Will Durst [Daily Dose of Durst, January 11, 2006]

Len on 01.12.06 @ 06:42 AM CST [link] [ | ]

About that Vote Count in Florida...

The Left Coaster has this piece about a new study:

”Historical Truth

Yet another study has been concluded which indicates that the 2000 Election really did go to President Al Gore.

Lance deHaven-Smith, in his most recent book, The Battle for Florida (University Press of Florida, 2005), looked at the electoral fiasco that is Katherine Harris' historical legacy, and came up with the conclusion that partisanship played a role in the ($)election of King George by the Court Je$ter$ of SCOTUS.
This post is adapted from an interview with deHaven-Smith in the Fall/Winter 2005 Research in Review Magazine, published by Florida State University. Emphases are usually mine.

So, what’s the overarching theme of The Battle for Florida? It essentially says that the people responsible for administering the election had a conflict of interest and that they, in a variety of ways, prevented the recount from being conducted.

One reason there was administrative sabotage of the recount was because a number of steps had already been taken to try to lock in the Republican control of Florida in the face of these demographics that are running in the other direction.

[T]he Republicans are on the losing side of a huge demographic trend in [Florida]: an increasing minority population. And they know this — it’s not a secret.

One of the things I found that hadn’t been reported anywhere is, if you look at where those votes occurred, they were in predominantly black precincts. And (when you look at) the history of black voting in Florida, these are people that have been disenfranchised, intimidated. In the history of the early 20th century, black votes would be thrown out on technicalities, like they would use an X instead of a check mark.

I would have loved to have seen the white precinct ballots.

There were 175,000 votes overall that were so-called “spoiled ballots.” About two-thirds of the spoiled ballots were over-votes; many or most of them would have been write-in over-votes, where people had punched AND written in a candidate’s name.

When you see Gore picked AND then Gore written in, there’s not a question in your mind who this person was voting for. But because of the way the vote-counting machines work, this had the opposite effect: the machines threw out their ballots.

When you go through those, they’re unambiguous: Bush got some of those votes, but they were overwhelmingly for Gore. [Y]ou can understand why African Americans would be so careful, checking off Gore’s name on the list of candidates and also writing Gore’s name in the space for write-in votes.

It’s an embarrassing outcome for George Bush because it showed that Gore had gotten more votes.

For example, in an analysis of the 2.7 million votes that had been cast in Florida’s eight largest counties, The Washington Post found that Gore’s name was punched on 46,000 of the over-vote ballots it, while Bush’s name was marked on only 17,000.

Having established the numerical data behind his premise, deHaven-Smith covers the political motivations behind the way the recount process was corrupted:

The aim was from the beginning to stop the recount. Yet if you looked at the law and if you looked at the case law, what Florida had consistently said was if you can count the votes, you must count the votes.

You cannot penalize the voters for mistakes that the administrators make or that the law may make. You really have to give the voters the advantage.

And in a further debunking of some GOP talking points and Urban Myths of the time [most recently arising in some blog comments on this topic - and you KNOW who you are!! :-)] are these few facts from the case background are below the fold.

Karen on 01.11.06 @ 06:29 PM CST [more..] [ | ]

Yuk o'the Day:

From an email correspondent:

The Center for Disease Control has issued a warning about a new virulent strain of Sexually Transmitted Disease. The disease is contracted through dangerous and high-risk behavior.

The disease is called Gonorrhea Lectim and pronounced "gonna re-elect him." Many victims contracted it in 2004, after having been screwed for the past four years.

Cognitive characteristics of individuals infected include: anti-social personality disorders, delusions of grandeur with messianic overtones, extreme cognitive dissonance, inability to incorporate new information, pronounced xenophobia and paranoia, inability to accept responsibility for own actions, cowardice masked by misplaced bravado, uncontrolled facial smirking, ignorance of geography and history, tendencies towards evangelical theocracy, categorical all-or-nothing behavior.

Naturalists and epidemiologists are amazed at how this destructive disease originated only a few years ago from a bush found in Texas.

Len on 01.11.06 @ 02:01 PM CST [link] [ | ]

The *Dahmer* Solution...

Today's Howler goes to Biobrain with this bit on how to sort out those "terrorists":

"...The terrorists we're dealing with are as cunningly brilliant and mind-bogglingly stupid as we need them to be at any given moment. That's exactly what makes them so damn dangerous and why Bush needs the illegal powers he's grabbed to protect us. They’re cowering in caves at one minute, and scouring CNN and internet message-boards for pro-terror encouragement the next. They’re everywhere and nowhere at once, and might even be right behind you at this very moment. That’s who we’re up against, and the only way to defeat them is by using the most extreme measures known to man. And George Bush is the man willing to take us there.

Sure, these FISA courts of yours could provide the exact same protection that Bush has claimed his less-than-legal options have garnered; but what kind of message does that send the terrorists? When their chief opponent isn't even willing to break a few laws to defeat them? These people blow up buildings for entertainment; and our President can't even violate a lousy statute or two? They're laughing at us already. And if the terrorists are laughing, the terrorists have already won.

So rather than trying to stifle Bush with an America-hating impeachment or some other “legal” option, I say that we have to take this to the next level. As has been argued before, rather than just a violating a little illegal search action; I say that we have Bush get busy violating some real laws. Like say we film him doing a little drive-by action on the streets of DC. Nothing like a little gunplay to get a terrorist’s attention. And if we really want to shake them up, Bush could go Dahmer and just start eating people and raping their detached skulls; perhaps even on a reality TV show or something. They’d take one look at his crazy ass and just turn themselves in; knowing that our president was an ornery cuss they just didn’t want to mess with..."

The entire piece is worth a read through.


Karen on 01.11.06 @ 12:10 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Now Showing in Washington:

Credit: Corey Anderson--American Idle, via Josh Marshall

Len on 01.11.06 @ 07:03 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Interesting.... Will the Bush bAdministration scuttle the World Baseball Classic?

From The Hardball Times and Business of Baseball Report, the World Baseball Classic may not come off after all, thanks to a little US policy that's been in place just about forever:

The International Baseball Federation (IBAF) is threatening to withdraw its sanction of the inaugural World Baseball Classic unless the U.S. government allows Cuba to take part in the tournament. IBAF president Aldo Notari informed MLB of their decision, and if the IBAF doesn’t sanction the event, it could be cancelled. MLB submitted a new application for Cuba’s entrance into the tournament with the condition that the Cuban team would donate any money it receives from the WBC to hurricane relief. As it stands, the U.S. government has not yet advised MLB of a decision.
So the ball's in Bush's court now....

Len on 01.11.06 @ 06:39 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

The crust isn’t what’s so important, but this is: pizza ought to be greasy, with lots of cheese, dripping all over your hands. You’ll never catch me eating any of that chi-chi stuff, with vegetables on it. If you want vegetables, eat a salad.
--Jim Bouton

Len on 01.11.06 @ 05:39 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Congratulations to former Cubs/Cardinals/Braves great Bruce Sutter

on his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame today. That news has me mildly curious as to what uniform he'll be wearing on his plaque.

However, there was also some devastating news. Cardinal fan favorite Willie McGee dropped from a bit over 5% of the vote last year (his first year of eligibility) to about 2.3% of the vote this year. Since a player's name has to appear on at least 5% of the votes for his name to appear on the next year's ballot, that means that, alas, our dreams of a Willie McGee plaque in Cooperstown are no more.


Len on 01.10.06 @ 06:38 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Silly sites....

I'm not going to provide competition with Elayne Riggs (I don't collect enough silly site references to make a daily feature out of it). But on the other hand, these are too good not to share.

Len on 01.10.06 @ 02:24 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Judg(ing) Alito...

Watching C-Span on the Alito nominations hearings. I keep hearing *definitional* descriptions from him, but not his own VIEWS on a lot of topics.

I am really disturbed by his biggest issue he is *tap dancing* around is this Presidential *interpretation* of legislative intent in these *Signing documents*

He refuses to say - directly - that this is a legislative prerogative -- NOT a Presidential prerogative under the Constitution. Yet in other contexts he keep harping how each Governmental branch should *stick to its own job* - avoiding this entire implication of his position on the "Unitary Executive."

Alito said something like: "...there are theoretical issues which have to be explored. I don't believe the Supreme Court has done that. I've not seen, in my 15 years plus on the 3rd Circuit, come to grips with the question 'What is the significance of a Presidential Signing Statement on the interpretation of a statute.'" As if, put on the SC bench, he would allow it as a valid one for judicial review to use these interpretation as equal to the congressional intent and legislative history.

Not liking him or his answers so far. (Ha - as if I really expected differently. What was I THINKING?) He also has done some significant backpeddaling over issues in his more objectional opinions and his membership in that Princeton group that opposed women and minorities at that school.

Karen on 01.10.06 @ 12:20 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Is *Fitzmas* rolling into a Fitzentine's Day?

truthout is reporting this today:

"Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is said to have spent the past month preparing evidence he will present to a grand jury alleging that White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove knowingly made false statements to FBI and Justice Department investigators and lied under oath while he was being questioned about his role in the leak of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity more than two years ago, according to sources knowledgeable about the probe.

Although there have not been rumblings regarding Fitzgerald's probe into the Plame leak since he met with the grand jury hearing evidence in the case more than a month ago, the sources said that Fitzgerald has been quietly building his case against Rove and has been interviewing witnesses, in some cases for the second and third time, who have provided him with information related to Rove's role in the leak. It is unclear when Fitzgerald is expected to meet with the grand jury again.

Fitzgerald has been investigating whether officials in the Bush administration broke the law and blew Plame's cover as a way to retaliate against her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a staunch critic of the administration's pre-war Iraq intelligence.

According to sources, Fitzgerald had planned to meet with the grand jury several times last month, hoping to wrap up the case specifically as it relates to Rove's involvement. But the prosecutor, who empanelled a second grand jury in November and whose term expires in 18 months, had his hands full dealing with another high-profile criminal case he is prosecuting involving Lord Conrad Black, owner of several major metropolitan newspapers, who was indicted on charges including racketeering.

Moreover, several members of the grand jury had questions involving Rove's prior testimony before the previous grand jury on four separate occasions and had requested additional information about the testimony and about the overall case, these sources said, leading to a delay in the proceedings so Fitzgerald could provide that information..."

Oh, keeping my fingers crossed to get those lying SOB's in this disgraceful White House leaking (and discussing the classified NOC status of Ms. Plame in violation of their security clearances and access.)

Karen on 01.10.06 @ 11:53 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Because inquiring minds want to know....

Steve at The Sneeze ("Half zine. Half blog. Half not good with fractions") unravels the mysteries of the Tootsie Pop wrapper:

The world may never know how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, but I can tell you how many kids appear on the wrappers... 33.
Go follow the link to see an awesome "panorama" of several Tootsie Roll Pop wrappers, featuring every Tootsie kid ever pictured on the wrappers.

Len on 01.10.06 @ 10:40 AM CST [link] [ | ]

*TAG* -- You're IT....

Drat, in all the morning madness, I *forgot* to add who I'd like to Tag for this meme: "Five Weird Things about Me.":

Dr. Abby,


Jon Rowe

and the Crew at Pesky's Flypaper Theory.


So, You're all "IT."

Karen on 01.10.06 @ 09:58 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Gem o'the Day:

You can search the Internet and verify this: before the U.S. invasion I was on record as being opposed to it. I opposed it because though the US had the means to be successful militarily, we didn’t have anything close to the means to handle what would come next. We didn’t have nearly enough understanding of that country’s language and culture, just like in Vietnam. In the U.S., our rocket science is way ahead of our social science.

And here’s the thing: I’m not any kind of expert or genius about this stuff. I’m just a regular guy, and I could see this clearly. What’s happened over there is exactly what ordinary people like me predicted would happen. If civilians like me could see this, how in the world could the politicians not have seen it coming?

Any politician who didn’t see what would go wrong in Iraq isn’t worth a
shit. Their actions are disgraceful. Please quote me on that.
--Jim Bouton

Len on 01.10.06 @ 09:52 AM CST [link] [ | ]


Bryan (Why Now?) has this GEM Funnie of the Day about the new legislation: Annoying someone via the Internet is now a federal crime.

“…If P. Lapin can't attack Muffy, International Kitten of Mystery, over Easter customs, what's the point?...”


And this will undoubtedly provoke some court cases to test its constitutionality and scope. Bring 'em on.

Karen on 01.10.06 @ 08:55 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Five VERY Weird things about me and ME...

Brock has tagged me with this meme: "Five Weird Things about Me." My Problem is not in making the list, but limiting it to ONLY five things. Hahahahha.

1) First on the TOP of my list would be my “Selachophobia.” (Known already to some of our regular readership.) I have *theories* about when it came from; have tried various ways to de-condition it; and I “read” lots of information about sharks; and even can glance at them sometimes - under some circumstances - tho’ not the Full-Mouth shots. But I’ve been known to fling magazines across the room to get me away from pictures of them. I have terrible nightmares after seeing them (and other than my *waitressing* nightmares – these are the worst.) Never swim at night in dark water (even in a swimming pool) and avoid all the famous movies with sharks as the main feature.

2) Second Top category *weirdness* is that I have these “bins” (actually glasses) of toothbrushes for our use. This started when the kids were small and getting repeated colds and flu that traveled from family member to family member - we just couldn’t shake them off.

brushes (72k image)

[Usually kept under the cabinet...not on it.]

So, you use a toothbrush ONE time, then stick it (brush-side down) into a *used bin* -- Next time ya grab a clean toothbrush (sitting brush-side UP in a glass) from the *clean bin.* So, each time you brush it’s with a disinfected and clean brush (not putting them same old cold germs back into your mouth.) The dirty brushes are cleaned in a mixture of a splash of bleach and water for five minutes, then thoroughly rinsed off and put Brush side UP in the *clean bin.* WEIRD, I know, but it does have a couple advantages – we have less colds and they seem to go away sooner, plus my brushes last longer and it avoids them snarly, worn out brushes (I throw anything old away) and feels so much CLEANER. But the look on the faces of visitors is priceless – the “what are you doing with 50 toothbrushes” look. ;-D

3) Third most strange thing about me is (like Angelica at Battlepanda ) is that I like to make things. My husband likes to call me “the Power-Tool Wife.” I also do multiple crafts like: jewelry making, metal work and welding & plasma cutting, stained glass, pottery, macramé, candle making, gardening, carpentry, sewing, cooking, baking. All fit under the rubric of my *creativity* and my need to have an outlet for that. And I’d rather make something myself than buy it from a store whenever possible. I also used to fix my own car - in pre-computerized cars days - and have changed spark plugs, changed oil, rebuilt carburetors, replaced ball joints and tie-rods, done body work.

4) Fourth weird thing is that I also like computer games and X-Box games. I am the only MOM in the neighborhood who plays Halo™ with my kids. One of my all time FAV games is Lode-Runner™ (they have a 3-D Nintendo 64 version that is great) and this 2-D version where you could build your own puzzles. It was a FUN game and we recently rediscovered this program (from replacing the power supply on that old Mac Performa computer.) The kids had a howl finding the ones where we built in their names into the puzzle.

5) Fifth weird thing about me - to my kids anyway - is my *kid language* (but being a Mom, that is actually not so weird) but it is simply HARD to get rid of speaking that way even though they are growing up. Their FAV Funnie is when I call them all “Little Pills” for being obnoxious. (As in being "Bitter Pills to Swallow".) And frightening to realize I sound like my own Mother. Hahhahaha! Plus, they think that is like SOOoooo WEIRD that I Blog here with Len and Brock. And they don’t know any other Moms who Blog. They just don’t realize How KOOL and Current their MOM is!!


Update Note: I *forgot* to add who I'd like to Tag: Dr. Abby, Bryan, Jon Rowe and the Crew at Pesky's Flypaper Theory.

Karen on 01.10.06 @ 07:54 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

Four years ago, Bill Gates dispatched a companywide e-mail promising that security and privacy would be Microsoft's top priorities. Gates urged that new design approaches must "dramatically reduce" the number of security-related issues as well as make fixes easier to administer. "Eventually," he added, "our software should be so fundamentally secure that customers never even worry about it."

Microsoft customers haven't stopped worrying. A year later, Windows was hit with several nasty worms, including Slammer, Sobig, and Blaster. The viruses caused major traffic bottlenecks throughout the world, which cost tens of billions of dollars to clean up. Vulnerabilities deemed "critical" have forced the company to release an almost unending stream of patches and fixes to the Windows operating system, Microsoft Office, and Internet Explorer.

Just last week, another problem reared its head—a security hole that could allow Windows users to become infected with adware, spyware, or viruses by simply viewing an e-mail, instant message, or Web page. When Microsoft dragged its heels on issuing a patch, the SANS Institute, an organization that tracks security threats, took the extraordinary step of recommending that users download an unofficial patch developed by a Russian programmer. (Microsoft had planned to release its fix on Jan. 10, but ultimately bowed to pressure and issued it five days earlier.)

With the company's security problems still monopolizing the news, you might have expected that Bill Gates would address the vulnerability at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Instead, he boasted how Microsoft's new operating system, Vista, would extend the company's tendrils into your living room. Sure, it might be nice to connect your computer and your television set. But is it worth it to give hackers access to your television?
--Adam L. Penenberg

Len on 01.10.06 @ 06:51 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Five Weird Things about Me

Angelica at Battlepanda has tagged me with the latest numerical blog meme, "Five Weird Things about Me." The trick to this one, of course, is coming up with things that are weird about me, but that I still want to share with the whole internet. This would be much easier if I blogged pseudonymously. Anyway, here goes:

(1) I'm an utter and complete D&D geek. I run two home campaigns, and play Living Greyhawk at least once a month. Hey, at least I'm not a LARPer.

(2) I'm a wimp about cold weather. I'll gladly go bike riding in 98-degree weather, but when it drops below 60 I wuss out.

(3) I cry at movies. The scene in Two Towers where the battle of Helm's Deep is about to begin, and they hand the teenage kid a battleaxe, and he looks at it with a look of complete fear - every time I watch that, I get all teary.

(4) My wife and I do sleep in the same bed, but we have separate covers. I've got a sheet and quilt on my half of the bed, she has a sheet and quilt on her half, and we put a bedspread on top of that. This is our unorthodox solution to the "stealing covers" problem that plagues so many couples.

(5) I rework the lyrics of popular songs to contain the names of my cats, Panther and Monkey, and I sing to them. Monkey doesn't seem to mind, but Panther hates it when I sing.

We're supposed to tag five other people, but I'll just tag my co-bloggers, Len and Karen.

Brock on 01.09.06 @ 06:30 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Ritter v Hitchens

Bob Geiger has this great post and link to the audio of the debate Scott Ritter, former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq and Iraq-war proponent Christopher Hitchens - over the Iraq conflict.

[Podcast- 1 hour and 40 min. -of the debate available at this link.]

Scott had many more *facts* of the basic background political policies and historical issues under Saddam that ultimately led to the AUMF and the current conflict. But, also, his critique of the conflict in conjunction with our American goals and values:

”…I will tell you this, as an intelligence officer who spent 12 years wrestling with difficult issues, including trying to solve difficult problems: You can't solve a problem until you first define the problem. Any solution void of a definition is no solution at all because what is it you're trying to solve? On the case of Iraq, we must take a look at how we got there. That is the foundation of our involvement and, ladies and gentlemen, it is as corrupt a foundation as you can possibly imagine.

When I speak of war in Iraq, let's personalize it for a second. Let's speak of 161,000 American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who are over there serving their nation, our nation. They're ours. They belong to us. They wear our uniform. On their shoulders, our flag is sewn. And they're willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our Constitution and this is what we must focus on.

They're not there to die for Iraqis. They're not there to die for anything other than the Constitution of the United States of America. That's the oath they took. To uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. What is the Constitution? Why is it so important? Well, ladies and gentlemen, it is the document that defines who we are and what we are as a nation, as a people. A nation of laws – the rule of law is absolute, which means due process is absolute.

You'll have people today talking about "we're there for democracy. We're there to build a nation." But let's talk about the case that was made, because the case that was made by President George W. Bush for war in Iraq had nothing to do whatsoever with bringing democracy to the Iraqi people. It had nothing to do with liberating Iraq. It had everything to do with one thing: weapons of mass destruction. Chemical weapons, biological weapons, long-range ballistic missiles, nuclear weapons.

A war, again, that was about weapons of mass destruction. This is a fact that was put forward in the letter sent by John Negroponte, then the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations to the Security Council saying that American troops have entered Iraq because Iraq has failed to comply with its obligation to disarm -- and that international law dictates that America takes the lead in responding to this crime.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, international law dictated no such thing.

International law dictated that the Security Council remained seized of the event, that the Security Council would once again have to pass a Chapter Seven resolution, which it did not. The United States invaded Iraq in violation of international law – but more importantly, in violation of the Constitution of the United States of America, Article Six of which is quite clear: When the United States of America enters into a treaty or an international obligation, that's been ratified by two-thirds of the United States Senate, that is the supreme law of the land.

Our troops took an oath to uphold and defend that Constitution and yet they went to war in violation of that Constitution. Ladies and gentlemen, this is about as un-American a war as one can possibly imagine and we must register that fact when we talk about why we're there and where we're going.

I'm not here to defend Saddam Hussein or his regime. I'm not. I'm here to defend the United States of America and our way of life and I'm here to tell you right now that if you support this war, if you support this occupation, you support a process that represents the erosion of what it means to be an American.

You represent a process that legitimizes illegal wiretaps in the name of national security. You represent a process that allows the President of the United States and his administration to deliberately falsify information when presenting it to the Congress of the United States – and I need to remind you that when you lie to the Congress in the conduct of your official duty that, sir, is a felony that constitutes a "high crime." That is what we talk about when we speak of impeachment.”

Karen on 01.09.06 @ 04:03 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Worst Selachophobia *Joke* ever...

...and isn't really a Joke - but a terrible tragedy reported from Australia:

"A woman called out "shark" as she was being mauled to death by as many as three of them off the coast of Australia, but her friends in the water didn't believe her, police said Sunday.
Sarah Whiley, 21, died late Saturday of severe injuries after being attacked near North Stradbroke Island, east of the Queensland state capital Brisbane.

Whiley was swimming with a group of friends from a church group when she was pulled underwater for about five seconds then emerged and called out "Shark!" said Queensland police inspector Peter Harding.

"Of course people at the time thought she was only joking - until they saw the blood," he told reporters on Sunday.

Harding said officers were searching for the predators and had closed several nearby beaches.
"If we found them (the sharks) I suppose we would try to retrieve them and see if they have any body parts," Harding said. "The idea is to retrieve what we can."

Hardly some *joking around* for us selachophobes - but more the fount of my nightmares and aversions to deep, dark waters. And sad tragedy for this woman and her family.

Karen on 01.09.06 @ 03:53 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Fun with the LEGO™ Designer

TOO KOOL is this great program from the folks at LEGO™: A LEGO™ Digital Designer.

You can use the program to build your very own model creations, submit them to LEGO™, and BEST of all - price them out (tho' watch out that tis a bit tricky using mutiple design sets) and they will send you the pieces to make your model design. They also have an on-line gallery of other creations that you could order (submitted by users) and a host of other LEGO™ stuff

It'a pretty nifty program and we had some FUN playing around with it this weekend. (And I am certain you true techno-wizards could figure out all the best ways to use this thing in a *snap*)

So give it a try.


Karen on 01.09.06 @ 03:34 PM CST [link] [ | ]

From the "Too True To Be Funny" Department:

Daily Intuit Sunsets
In a stirring affirmation of the viability of its long-time business model, Intuit today announced it will move to daily sunsets of its Quicken personal financial software, meaning that those using Quicken for on-line banking will need to buy a new version of the program every day. "It is the logical extension of the sunsetting policy we have been developing over the last few years," said an Intuit spokesperson. "It will enable us to focus our development and support efforts on providing the best customer experience possible for one day. We believe our customers will happily renew every day, but, if not, of course all monies remaining in the non-renewed account will immediately become Intuit's property. After all, the sun itself sets every day, so why shouldn't our customer's licensing rights do so as well?"


AOL Makes Service Cancellations Easy
Under pressure from state prosecutors to make it easier for customers to cancel their service, AOL has announced a new Instant Termination plan. "We at AOL do understand that customers can grow tired of having their credit card billed monthly even years after they first tried to cancel," an AOL official said. "This new plan is guaranteed to eliminate those continuing charges. All you have to do now is make a one-time payment equal to what you would have paid over the next 24 months, and we'll let you go. Of course, we will have to keep your credit card on file just in case we hike our rates any time in the next two years."


Federal Government Outsourced to China
Based on the great success American companies have enjoyed in offshoring the entire IT profession, it was announced today that the U.S. government will be outsourced to China. "The savings and greater efficiencies that will be achieved in this fashion make this what you Americans would call a 'no-brainer,'" said a U.S. government spokesperson in Beijing. "By eliminating such wasteful expenditures of money as social security or the elections scheduled for later this year, the American government will be able to focus its resources on its primary mission of fighting terrorism. While this may cause some distress for the President, Cabinet, Congress and other federal workers who are losing their jobs, we are certain that with re-training they can find useful employment."

From: Six Predicted Gripes for 2006 by Ed Foster.

Len on 01.09.06 @ 01:10 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Computer Glitches...

Have loads of FUN things to post and will Soon.

But I am having an attack of the Vicious Attack Internets glomming up my system - plus some of the Firefox woes Len mentioned in this post.

Between the Firefox update to 1.5, and the MS Security Update and System Package 2- nothing but troubles.

Worst of all -- I went to use *System Restore* to UNDO this mess. I wanted to see if I could isolate the issue and then reload those upgrades...and the @%!*$^# asswipes at MS did something in this package of downloads making it IMPOSSIBLE to do a System Restore prior to those downloads.

F**K! (Pardon my French, as they say) but this is the WORST.

Any Techo-Wizards out there have ideas about this?

Karen on 01.09.06 @ 12:42 PM CST [link] [ | ]

And Karen will be pleased to see this....

Though some of my thirtys-ish blogging associates may be less than pleased. From today's Ironic Times:

Good news: 50 is the New 30
Bad news: 30 is the new 10.

Len on 01.09.06 @ 12:24 PM CST [link] [ | ]

We hit the jackpot today.

Mad Kane gives us five--count 'em, five--new limericks "ripped from the headlines!"

And, as always (well, as often), audio here.

Len on 01.09.06 @ 12:21 PM CST [link] [ | ]

The Scandal Unfolds.....

Len on 01.09.06 @ 12:15 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

With ABC deleting dynamite gags from cartoons, do you find that your children are using explosives less frequently?
--Mark LoPresti

Len on 01.09.06 @ 09:05 AM CST [link] [ | ]

I have REALLY screwed up.....

As of late, owing to the press of both work related business and Real Life™ issues, and the fact that updates to the membership of the Rocky Top Brigade are passed on via the blog page linked there, and not via a mail list (as per the "good old days"), I never noticed this sad news before today.

According to the RTB page, Memphis blogger (proprietor of Mama said there'd be days like this) "CG" passed away of cancer last month (the post announcing this is dated December 16, so I assume that the sad event happened a day or few before that date). Those of you who might have read CG's blog knew that he'd had a colonoscopy and follow-up exploratory surgery last October or so, which disclosed the existence of a large (larger than expected) pre-cancerous mass in his colon. Unfortunately, that was the last post on CG's blog, and CG's widow has been unable to post on his blog to announce the sad news herself.

Apparently, though, no other Memphis bloggers check the RTB webpage regularly, either, because I've not noticed any mention of this before now, and I've caught up with my rounds of all the Memphis bloggers I read regularly.

Anyway, for those of you interested, I pass on this information from the RTB site:

If anyone wants to pass on a personal message to his wife, contact myself (Barry - innofthelasthomeinsolace@yahoo.com) or Cathy (cathy@domesticpsychology.com) for her email. I hesitate to post it out live here, for fear of spamming.
One of the greatest regrets in my life is that I never got to meet CG in person before his passing; he and I traded emails a couple times, and he left the occasional comment on DBV, but he never made it to a Bloggers' Bash, alas. His family and close friends all have my deepest sympathies.

Len on 01.08.06 @ 11:29 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Feel like going on a hunt?

The Great Scottish Haggis Hunt is on! But hurry; you've only got til 3 PM (I assume Scots time; the rules page doesn't specify) on January 25 ("Burns's night") to find yerself a Haggis. Prizes include some first rate single malt....

[Hmmmmmm... If one were to win a bottle of the single malt (which, after all would be cost-free to the winner), would that be fulfilling the goal set forth in Constitution for the Union of Tennessee Volunteer Bloggers and Big Orange Expeditionary Forces a/k/a the Rocky Top Brigade? Namely: "...the Rocky Top Brigade is hereby enjoined in the battle for truth, justice, and a good single malt Scotch whiskey for around $20."]

Len on 01.08.06 @ 11:09 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

I’m telling you, the day is coming when the studios just say “the hell with it” and start releasing movies to DVD at the same time they’re in the theatres. That way, the consumer wins. More and more, you’re seeing people asking, “Do I want to pack up the kids and spend all that money at the movie theatre, or spend 5 bucks on a rental and watch it on my entertainment system at home, which is as good as the system in my local multiplex?” It’s just about reached critical mass. Disney doesn’t care; they still get your money. The theatres are quaking in their boots at this notion, but they’ll do all right.
--Bruce Campbell

Len on 01.08.06 @ 10:58 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Legal Answers A-Plenty...

The Congressional Research Service’s Memorandum on -- “Presidential Authority to Conduct Warrantless Electronic Surveillance to Gather Foreign Intelligence Information” -- Can be found at this link.

And aside from being a thrilling legal read- contains some language illustrative of the "Legislative Intent" NOT to allow a broader Presidential power to wiretap U.S. citizens *at will* as [the President] deems necessary to protect the nation against actual or potential attack” by excluding and rejecting specific language on that issue:

"As originally enacted, Sec. 2511 contained what appeared to be a much broader exception for national security intercepts. It excluded from the coverage of Title III surveillance carried out pursuant to the "constitutional power of the President to take such measures as he deems necessary to protect the Nation against actual or potential attack..., [and] to obtain foreign intelligence information deemed essential to the security of the United States...Congress repealed this language when it enacted FISA, and inserted Sec 2511(2)(f), supra, to make the requirements of Title III or FISA the exclusive means to authorize electronic surveillance within the United States, and to put to rest the notion that Congress recognizes and inherent Presidential power to conduct surveillances in the United States outside of procedures contained in chapter 119 and 120 [of title 18, U.S. Code]" Subsection (2)(f) was intended to clarify that the prohibition does not cover NSA operations (as they were then being conducted) and other surveillance overseas, including that which targets U.S. persons."

[CRS page 17]

And in Answer to Mr. Mike’s comments on *statutory interpretation* and his *intriguing* assertions on that point - is this tid-bit about how to *read* FISA Section 1811:
"Where Congress has passed a declaration of war, 50 U.S.C. Sec. 1811 authorizes the Attorney General to conduct electronic surveillance without a court order for fifteen calendar days following a declaration of war by Congress. This provision does not appear to apply to the AUMF, as that does not constitute a congressional declaration of war. Indeed, even if the authorization were regarded as a declaration of war, the authority to conduct warrantless electronic surveillance under 50 U.S.C Sec 1811 would only extend to a maximum of 15 days following its passage."

CRS page 27

[Emphasis is mine.]

So, first you have a Non-Partisan Congressional Legal Research *opinion* that the AUMF does NOT constitute a "Congressional Declaration of War."

Further, that the *plain meaning of the statutory language* is clear: (if ya count the AUMF as a declaration of War) then 15 days following the passage of the AUMF (Oct 16th. 2002) and any authorization would therefore have *expired* on Oct 31, 2002.

And - presumable - would not even have cover 15 days after the actual campaign of *Shock and Awe* date of the Invasion of Iraq- March 20th, 2003.

Or, certainly might have presumed to expire after the *Declaration of the end of hostilities* issued on May 1, 2003, and memorialized in this Speech on May 3, 2003:
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. On Thursday, I visited the USS Abraham Lincoln, now headed home after the longest carrier deployment in recent history. I delivered good news to the men and women who fought in the cause of freedom: their mission is complete and major combat operations in Iraq have ended. Our coalition is now engaged in securing and reconstructing that country. The United States and our allies have prevailed.

Operation Iraqi Freedom was carried out with a combination of precision, speed and boldness the enemy did not expect and the world had not seen before. From distance bases or ships at sea, we sent planes and missiles that could destroy an enemy division or strike a single building or bunker. Marines and soldiers charged to Baghdad across 350 miles of hostile ground in one of the swiftest mass advances of heavy arms in history. The world has seen the might of the American armed forces.

In this victory, America received valuable help from our allies..."

Hey... the War was OVER. Victory was Declared! It's merely been ongoing *security* and *reconstruction* efforts to parcel out more of the FREEDOM - According to our illustrious ole Child-In-Chief himself.

So - Fooey on these Faux Legal interpretations to EXCUSE this Potus under the Laws and Our Constitution. Time for some Presidential Accountability to go along with that Presidential Responsibility.

Note: And I will add, yet again, time for some High Court Statutory Interpretation to settle this issue on this topic.

Karen on 01.08.06 @ 08:58 AM CST [link] [ | ]

More Constitutional De-Construction underway...

...and yet continuing Usurpation of Powers taking place under the bAdmin.

The Booman Tribune reports in this piece: Why Not Just Dissolve the Senate?:

”Much has already been written about President Bush's 17 recess appointments announced on Thursday, many of them extremely controversial. It's an old trick meant to get around those pesky Senate confirmation hearings.

Based on precedent, the appointments would expire at the conclusion of the next session of the Senate at the end of 2006. But this president, in an interpretation that can only be termed bizarre, is insisting that a one-minute ceremonial pro forma meeting of the Senate that occurred on Tuesday, January 3rd, represented the opening meeting of the second session of the 109th Congress, which he interprets as giving life to his recess appointments until the end of 2007 rather than 2006.

Largely lost amidst the outrage being expressed over the appointments themselves was an unusual twist reported without elucidation by the Associated Press and carried by hundreds of newspapers:

Under the Constitution, the president may avoid the Senate confirmation process and make appointments while the chamber is in recess. Such appointments usually are short-term, expiring at the end of next congressional session.

But because the Senate held a pro forma session Tuesday and then adjourned, the White House contends the second session of the 109th Congress has begun. Therefore, the White House believes Bush's nearly 20 recess appointments are valid until the following session, which won't conclude until the end of 2007.

You might well be excused if you did not know that the Senate was in session this past Tuesday. It wasn't covered by the media. No business was conducted. No legislation was enacted. The roll was not called. If it had been, there would have been no Senators present to answer "here."

[This procedural process] was included to prevent either chamber from blocking legislation through its refusal to meet.
In other words the White House is interpreting a procedural, entirely ceremonial, one-minute meeting of the two houses of Congress, designed to preserve the independence of the two bodies from one another, as giving the president a green light to make a two-year end run around the Constitutionally mandated role of the Senate to "Advice and Consent" in the appointment of Federal officials.
Moreover, the Bush interpretation that three-day technical adjournments between pro forma ceremonial meetings of the Senate constitute actual meetings and adjournments between which recess appointments can be made flies in the face of all precedent, as well as all mainstream interpretations of the Constitution.
Doesn't the Bush administration consider itself one that believes in a strict constructionist interpretation of the Constitution?

If the Senate allows the Bush administration's view that these are valid two-year recess appointments to prevail, they will be ceding unprecedented (and very likely unconstitutional), power to the Executive Branch -- not to mention abrogating their own right and responsibility to "advice and consent."

Perhaps even some Republicans in this most partisan of Congresses will finally stand up to this White House's blatant usurpation of the powers bestowed upon it by our Constitution. If not it may be time to ask whether we still live in a democracy.

The bAdmin making Constitutional interpretations which “flies in the face of all precedent, as well as all mainstream interpretations of the Constitution.” Extra-Constitutional views emanating from THIS President?

Shocking! Disturbing! Extraordinary! But somehow *vaguely familiar.* Where have I heard this all this before??? Hahahahha!

Karen on 01.08.06 @ 07:26 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Impeachment Issues...

Oh My Gawd...even the John Birch Society is running a Poll about Impeaching Child-In-Chief.

So far - running 67% in favor of Impeachment on a variety of issues.


[Hat tip to skippy the bush kangaroo.]

Karen on 01.08.06 @ 06:32 AM CST [link] [ | ]

A bit early, but I approve....

I've just heard that in honor of the 50th anniversary of the character, Warner Brothers Home Video is releasing the complete run of the TV series The Flash on DVD.

"A bit early" because the DVDs will be released this coming Tuesday, while the Silver Age Flash, Barry Allen (who is the Flash portrayed in the series) first debuted in the September/October 1956 issue (which likely appeared on newstands in late July or in August) of Showcase, which was DC's "test bed" comic, in which new ideas were rolled out for test runs prior to their appearance in their own magazines.

Unfortunately, a quick web search doesn't fill me with much hope that the proposed Flash movie, once scheduled for release this year, is likely to come to fruition. The latest news squibs I can find on the project suggest that it's mired in development hell right now.

Len on 01.07.06 @ 08:21 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

Don't do the right thing looking for a reward, because it might not come.
--Hugh Thompson [ex-CWO, U.S. Army helicopter pilot who saved civilians at My Lai]

Len on 01.07.06 @ 07:41 AM CST [link] [ | ]

The passing of an American hero

Hugh Thompson: April 15, 1943 – January 6, 2006

Hugh Thompson, an Army helicopter pilot who rescued Vietnamese civilians during the My Lai massacre, reported the killings to his superior officers in a rage over what he had seen, testified at the inquiries and received a commendation from the Army three decades later, died yesterday in Alexandria, La. He was 62.

On March 16, 1968, Chief Warrant Officer Thompson and his two crewmen were flying on a reconnaissance mission over the South Vietnamese village of My Lai when they spotted the bodies of men, women and children strewn over the landscape.

Mr. Thompson landed twice in an effort to determine what was happening, finally coming to the realization that a massacre was taking place. The second time, he touched down near a bunker in which a group of about 10 civilians were being menaced by American troops. Using hand signals, Mr. Thompson persuaded the Vietnamese to come out while ordering his gunner and his crew chief to shoot any American soldiers who opened fire on the civilians. None did.

Brock on 01.06.06 @ 11:53 PM CST [link] [ | ]

A question for you Firefox 1.5 users....

I'm just curious.

Since upgrading to Firefox 1.5, I've noticed a little "quirk". Sometimes when I visit certain websites (Blog*spot blogs for some reason seem particularly prone to this behavior), the website won't load; basically I'm faced with a completely blank window with the URL in the address box. If I then refresh the window, it loads just fine.

Anyone else seeing this behavior (it's not a "gotta dump it and use Opera" situation for me; just an amusing quirk)? For the record, this is running Firefox on Windows XP, Service Pack 2, completely up to date (including the patch for the recently discovered Windows Graphics Rendering Engine security hole--speaking of which, by the way, you have visited the Windows Update site and installed that patch? Right?).

Len on 01.06.06 @ 08:24 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Timothy Sandefur Takes Me to Task…

...And I might plead guilty, but first a few words:

Sandefur writes about this Argumentum ad labelum:

”I enjoyed Brayton’s comments about the “argumentum ad labelum,” whereby a person who doesn’t feel like addressing an opponent’s substantive claims can just tag that opponent with a term that somehow authorizes dismissing that person’s claims out of hand. For example, when environmental activists say that the Competitive Enterprise Institute or the Cato Institute is “industry funded,” and therefore not worth listening to. (Of course they’re “industry funded.” Who else is going to fund research on subjects related to industry?!)

But look how common this argument style is. At Dark Bilious Vapors, blogger Karen praises Brayton and in the same sentence refers to “those Un-Constitutional Americans out there for CIC’s NSA *Spying-On-American-Citizens-Without-A-Court-Warrant* Program.” Those who believe the President has the authority to conduct surveillance on telephone conversations between people in the United States and people in foreign nations without obtaining a warrant under FISA are “Un-Constitutional Americans”? Even though they have constitutional and legal arguments to support their claims? I believe those arguments to be weak ones, but they are arguments, and they are substantive, and they do deserve to be addressed squarely, not labeled as the products of people who are somehow simply unconcerned with the Constitution.”

I was using that statement -“Un-Constitutional Americans” - to respond to certain comments (see below) and to have a very specific meaning in answer to some some very particular points I’ve run across from folks who are purposely or ignorantly mis-reading and re-writing entire sections of the laws and the Constitution.

I was not using it merely apply to anyone who disagrees with me or my legal points of view. Nor would it apply to those who are citing legitimate statutory construction or putting forth some actual, good faith arguments. Nor even those who would argue to change the rules and laws or the Constitution...but for those folks who are making up out of whole-cloth these *excuses* for this what looks to be illegal/unconstitutional behavior by our Chief exec to defend this Potus from impeachment. (And also the two-faced hypocrites who Moaned about the *Rule of Law* over Clinton, but can't seem to find it in this context for Bush nor for ole Scooter Libby.) This is not a generic label like "Liberal" to apply to like a dirty-word and argument stopper. I was intending to have a very specific meaning to this phrase (even if you think it unfair or over the top.)

As examples - I’ve been coming across things over the past few days like:

“…I realize that we are fighting a war and if you constrain the President, you are asking to lose that war (which is what a lot of Liberals want). I personally want to win, simply because I don't want another 9/11 or worse. Do you? “

or this one:
”Where enacted legislation is ambiguous, the Executive gets to interpret it (or, execute it).”

or this intriguing statutory construct (from a non-lawyer) - as to how far folks will go here:
“…to the relevant section, 1811: "Notwithstanding any other law, the President, through the Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without a court order under this subchapter to acquire foreign intelligence information for a period not to exceed fifteen calendar days following a declaration of war by the Congress."

Note, again, this means a period of fifteen days surveillance, not a period fifteen days after the declaration of war.”

This would read that statement as if it was written something like: "...for any fifteen calendar day period, not to exceed fifteen days in total surveillance, following a declaration of war by the Congress." And not as it's plain language meaning suggests - fifteen days from the date of the Declaration of War - and not beyond. Adding words, commas or extra meaning not there on the face of the statutory language.

I wrote this follow-up piece on some of these issues of *Why we need some good statutory interpretation*. [Update: and I have other posts on this NSA topic here and here and here and here.]

Finally, and I’ve made this point before, it is my contention, based on reading the legals briefs filed in Bush v. Gore, that Ted Olsen was making many a legal argument for Constitutional Anarchy and to ignore the long standing legal precedents and Statutes of the State of Florida governing vote re-counts. The Supreme Court never actually answered a lot of those issues in opting for that 14th Amendment findings in its opinion and then ignoring completing the vote re-count anyway. But it was as Un-Constitutional a viewpoint as I've ever seen. And made by this Bush crowd...as they continue to behave in an Extra-Constitutional manner ever since...this NSA issue being but another one, IMHO. [Update: Glenn Greenwald has good piece calling this viewpoint the *ideology of lawlessness* and tracing this back to post 9/11 - but I see it as stemming from before Bush was ever even in the Presidency, from the Bush v. Gore arguments.]

So, I’ll repeat that it’s Time for some good Statutory Interpretations from our High Courts to answer a few of these issues and enforce the Constitution we do have and the Laws of our Country. And if this bAdministration has been willfully violating those Laws and behaving illegally, then Impeachment is not out of the question to protect our system of government. [Update: The WaPo is reporting on the first non-partisan Congressional report on this NSA program as "conflict[ing] with existing law and hing[ing] on weak legal arguments."]

I may be guilty of *Argumentum ad Labelum* -but I do think there are folks that do not want to read the Constitution as it is written, nor do they clearly understand this kind of threat to our form of Government in this rush to excuse these views of - Supreme Executive Powers during a war. And some will defend this POTUS based on a party-bias over the actual Country and Constitution, if it serves their purpose to *WIN* something at all costs.

So, what would that term be for these people? If not Un-Constitutional Americans? Or is there a term for this?

Karen on 01.06.06 @ 08:23 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Engrish week in review

I hate to be remiss and fall down on posting my Engrish GEMs of the week:

You can check IN, but ya can't Check OUT. [Been a long -cold - holiday break.]

Too Loud for my beverage tastes.

For those Pot-Luck meals.

A phone for my Factotum.

Karen on 01.06.06 @ 05:08 PM CST [link] [ | ]

The No-Brainer-Fly List...

Crooks and Liars is reporting on this ABC-13 News story about a 4yr old Houston boy who's name is on the No-Fly List:

"...But one thing he's not...is a terrorist.

It all started on a recent flight out of Bush Intercontinental. That's when mom, Sijollie Allen, was stopped at the ticket counter and told she couldn't board the plane.

"They just said, 'You're on the list' and that's why I had to get clarity," she said. "I asked if we're both on the list. They said, 'No, you're not on the list. He (Edward) is.'"

It turns out the name Edward Allen popped up on the TSA's 'no-fly' list. Unbeknownst to his parents, the little four-year-old was a wanted man. Well, sort of.

"First off, the individual was not on the no-fly list. It's a name that on the no-fly list," said IAH Federal Security Director Jim Marchand. "We have many, many people who have common names and a lot of times, that's what happens."

TSA says in some rare cases, passengers with names similar to those on the list are sometimes stopped. In those cases, passengers are instructed fill out paperwork to get special clearance But the Allens showed us that paperwork. On it, it asked for at least three forms of identification. It's ID the Allens say, four-year-old Edward simply doesn't have.

"Anytime he has to travel, he will always be stopped and he might not be able to travel, not until you get him special clearance," said Sijollie.

Continental Airlines, the carrier the Allens flew on, sent us a statement saying in part, they were just following procedure and regret any inconvenience to the family. In the meantime, the Allens are debating whether to file the paperwork, considering their child has no identification other than his birth certificate.

[Emphasis Mine.]

The reason for the emphasis highlighting this simpleton TSA *excuses* is that the Watch-List has been mis-used to target people for political motivations, like the case of Author James Moore.

Via Discourse.net is this story from Huffington Post about the facts of a "Writer writes book critical of Bush. Author then finds self on No Fly List." As Mr. Moore tells the tale:
"Mam, I'd like to know how I got on the No Fly Watch List."

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

"What can you tell me?"

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

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

"I'm sorry, sir, I've already told you everything I can."

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

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

And we know it included folks like Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy too.

Karen on 01.06.06 @ 04:37 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Scooter's Got a New Job....

Lewis Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Richard B. Cheney and assistant to the vice president for National Security Affairs, has joined Hudson Institute as a senior advisor. Libby will focus on issues relating to the War on Terror and the future of Asia. He also will offer research guidance and will advise the institute in strategic planning.

"Scooter Libby brings decades of experience to Hudson Institute that will strengthen our robust research efforts. We look forward to drawing on his expertise," said Hudson Institute Chairman Walter P. Stern.


Hudson Institute is a non-partisan policy research organization dedicated to innovative research and analysis that promotes global security, prosperity, and freedom. Hudson Institute challenges conventional thinking and helps manage strategic transitions to the future through interdisciplinary and collaborative studies in defense, international relations, economics, culture, science, technology, and law. Through publications, conferences and policy recommendations, they seek to guide global leaders in government and business. For more information about Hudson Institute, visit their Web site at http://www.hudson.org.

Courtesy of US News Wire.

Just don't give him any access to Classified Materials...eh, Hudson Institute. Traitors and liars can't be trusted.

Karen on 01.06.06 @ 01:31 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Two things I "don't get" are the appeal of Christianity and the appeal of rap....

so that means that someone had to combine the two: Baby Got Book

At least it works as a parody. If the folks who did this are Christian, it's nice to know they're the type that aren't beyond having a bit of good, clean fun with it.

Credit Anthony Rickey at Three Years of Hell for the pointer.

Len on 01.06.06 @ 12:40 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Gem o'the Day:

Len on 01.06.06 @ 12:11 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Pot. Kettle. Black.

From the Rethugnican Party of Arkansas website: Arkansas Dems. Received Money From Abramoff

Memo to Arkansas Rethugnicans: y'know, your indignation would sound better if you'd return the money y'all got from Abramoff yourselves. But nope, the Arkansas GOP is keeping the money (claiming they spent it all, and apparently can't raise $10,000 to replace it. Riiiiigggggghhhhhhhtttttt).

For these purposes, we'll ignore the important distinction Chris Kromm makes in his post at Facing South:

The Arkansas GOP was the only group in the state to get a direct, personal contribution from Abramoff. But the Arkansas GOP website, for example, attempts to discredit Rep. Blanche Lincoln (D) for taking "2,000 from Abramoff affiliated Indian tribes."

So any contribution from a Native American group that happened to get entangled with Abramoff is suspect?
I already knew from personal experience that Arkansas Republicans are as stupid as the year is long. Now we can add "hypocritical" to that description, too.

Len on 01.06.06 @ 12:00 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Death of Another Legend...

The Chicago Tribune is reporting the death of Lou Rawls from cancer:

"Lou Rawls, the Grammy Award-winning singer whose velvety baritone was one of the most recognizable voices in pop music on hits such as "Love Is A Hurtin' Thing," "Lady Love" and "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine," died today. He was 72.

Rawls, a longtime education advocate who viewed his annual fundraising telethon for the United Negro College Fund as his "proudest achievement," died of cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles according to his publicist Paul Shefrin. Rawls, who had lived in Scottsdale, Ariz., since 2003, was diagnosed with lung cancer a year ago.

Rawls' years as a recording artist included more than 70 albums, three Grammys, 13 Grammy nominations, one platinum album, five gold albums and a gold single..."

He was one of the Greats and will be missed. R.I.P. Lou Rawls.

Karen on 01.06.06 @ 11:22 AM CST [link] [ | ]

From the Files of 'Could We Be So Lucky?'

From Roger Ailes:

"...The guilty plea by lobbyist Jack Abramoff could bring renewed scrutiny of a letter sent by House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois to Interior Secretary Gale Norton urging her to block an Indian casino opposed by rival tribes represented by Abramoff just one week after the lobbyist hosted a fundraiser for Hastert's political action committee.

"Here's hoping Hastert turns up on Abramoff's menu."

Could we really be so *Lucky* as to finally get a political name change here at Dennis Hastert Corner? Oh, I hope so!!!


Karen on 01.06.06 @ 09:18 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Quote of the Day...

Not that I am a Thomas Friedman fan, but this one Hits That Proverbial Nail on the Head:

"...What's so disturbing about President Bush and Dick Cheney is that they talk tough about the necessity of invading Iraq, torturing terror suspects and engaging in domestic spying - all to defend our way of life and promote democracy around the globe.

But when it comes to what is actually the most important issue in U.S. foreign and domestic policy today - making ourselves energy efficient and independent, and environmentally green - they ridicule it as something only liberals, tree-huggers and sissies believe is possible or necessary.

Sorry, but being green, focusing the nation on greater energy efficiency and conservation, is not some girlie-man issue. It is actually the most tough-minded, geostrategic, pro-growth and patriotic thing we can do. Living green is not for sissies. Sticking with oil, and basically saying that a country that can double the speed of microchips every 18 months is somehow incapable of innovating its way to energy independence - that is for sissies, defeatists and people who are ready to see American values eroded at home and abroad.

Living green is not just a "personal virtue," as Mr. Cheney says. It's a national security imperative.
Enough of this Bush-Cheney nonsense that conservation, energy efficiency and environmentalism are some hobby we can't afford. I can't think of anything more cowardly or un-American. Real patriots, real advocates of spreading democracy around the world, live green.

Green is the new red, white and blue. "

And those Two Foxes in the Oil Hen House have sold our country out for the price of a few more sheckles to line their greedy pockets.

Karen on 01.06.06 @ 08:38 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Blonde joke....

This blonde joke is actually pretty damn clever....


Len on 01.06.06 @ 07:52 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

You'd think, as the Jack Abramoff scandal burned its way through the Republican establishment faster than the space monster's blood dissolved the Nostromo's bulkheads in Alien, that the Journal editorialists would be exercising their own fangs.

All the traditional themes that populate an outraged
Journal editorial can be counted. An out-of-control majority party; dishonest lobbyists; a president who looks the other way; kickbacks and bribes; "shells" laundering political money; influence peddling; corrupt members of Congress; self-dealing; campaign flimflammery; questionable junkets; colorful scoundrels; principals in the scam copping pleas (Abramoff and Michael Scanlon); well-known politicians and political operators being implicated; and tendrils reaching into the White House.

Alas, no scathing "Who Is Jack Abramoff?" editorial has appeared on the
Journal page. In fact, none of the four editorials retrieved in a Factiva search keyed to the words "Abramoff" and "editorial" indulge in the page's old shoot-the-wounded style. They examine the issue with tweezers. They are considered. They are thoughtful. They tut-tut. They assure readers that it's not a Republican scandal, but the inevitable product of Washington power. "Alleged crimes aside, even their legal influence peddling shows how Washington power can corrupt absolutely," said the page about Scanlon and Abramoff on Nov. 25.

The page demonstrated more outrage back in the late 1980s slamming the comparatively clean Jim Wright in a single paragraph than it has in the entire Abramoff disgrace.

Why the measured, slow, and wimpy response? Has the editorial board gone …
--Jack Shafer [on the
Wall Street Journal editorial page's tepid treatment of the Abamoff scandal]

Len on 01.06.06 @ 06:23 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Pat Robertson is an idiot, news at 11

I sometimes wonder whether Pat Robertson's plan is to say such incredibly stupid things that he makes other Christian theocrats look sane by comparison.

On the January 5 edition of Christian Broadcasting Network's (CBN) The 700 Club, host Pat Robertson suggested that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's recent stroke was the result of Sharon's policy, which he claimed is "dividing God's land." Robertson admonished: "I would say woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the EU [European Union], the United Nations, or United States of America." Although Robertson professed that "Sharon was personally a very likeable person," he nonetheless declared that "God has enmity against those who, quote, 'divide my land.' " Robertson called the 1995 assassination of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin "the same thing." A previous CBN news article, titled "Dividing the Land, Dishonoring God's Covenant," examined Sharon's decision to return control of the Gaza strip to the Palestinian Authority.

(þ Edward _ at Obsidian Wings. BTW, if anyone can explain to me the meaning of "Obsidian Wings", please do so in comments.)

Brock on 01.05.06 @ 06:14 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Speaking Up and Signing Up...

"Today, a group of prominent law professors released a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Ranking Member Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) signed by over 500 law professors in opposition to the nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito to the Supreme Court. Law professors from across the country have joined together to urge the Senate to reject Alito's nomination.

"The Supreme Court is the guardian of our rights and freedoms," the letter reads. "For decades to come, Judge Alito's one vote could work significant changes in the law affecting these rights and freedoms." From environmental protection to privacy to executive power, the letter outlines the case against Alito's nomination to the high court. "Based on his 15-year record on the bench, we believe that Judge Alito would reshape the law in ways that make our country less equal and less free," concludes the letter.

At a press conference this morning at the National Press Club, Peter Shane, professor of law at Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law and an expert on executive power, raised serious concerns about Alito's record on presidential power. "He is resolutely deferential to assertions of executive authority, while going out of his way to invent imaginary limitations on Congress's legislative powers," Professor Shane said. "In the hands of the current administration, it is this same line of thinking that has spawned unprecedented claims of executive privilege, preposterous claims of authority to engage in torture, unprecedented claims to hold U.S. citizens indefinitely as enemy combatants, and now an apparent pattern of flagrant and unapologetic violations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act."

Professor Reynaldo Valencia of St. Mary's University School of Law spoke of Alito's disturbing record on civil rights. "Each new troubling revelation regarding Judge Alito's views on affirmative action, voting rights and immigrant rights demonstrates that the confirmation of Judge Alito would not serve the interests of Latinos," said Professor Valencia.

Professors Shane and Valencia were joined by Professor David Kairys of Temple University’s Beasley School of Law and Professor Holly Maguigan of New York University School of Law. Professor Maguigan, co-president of the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) which represents more than 900 law professors around the country, also announced that SALT's board of directors voted unanimously to oppose Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court."

Courtesy of US News Wire.

Click on the link to read this Letter and current group of signatories.

Karen on 01.05.06 @ 11:35 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Those of us who have no talent (part 2)....

Apropos of an earlier post, Dr. Abby has also provided us with a link to her own favorite photos (the earlier post linked to the set of "most favorited photos", that is the pictures that other Flickr users tagged as being their favorites). Interestingly enough, a few pictures made both sets (like this absolutely awesome shot of a rainy day at the Memphis Zoo), so Dr. Abby agrees with at least some of her fellow Flickrians' photographic aesthetics.

Len on 01.05.06 @ 08:54 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Lost in Space...

Babbling Brook's mind is wandering (someone take this man's drugs away!) and appears to be lost in that vast space of fantasy land - AGAIN:

Saving The House has GEMs like:

* I don't know what's more pathetic, Jack Abramoff's sleaze or Republican paralysis in the face of it. *

* If Republicans want to emerge from this affair with their self-respect or electoral prospects intact, they need to get in front of it with a comprehensive reform offensive. *

* Tom DeLay needs to take care of his own legal problems and give up the dream of returning as majority leader. *

* They need to put the entire leadership team up for a re-vote. *

* [T]he Republicans need to get a grip on earmarks. ...To prove they're serious about special-interest spending. *

* Third, Republicans need to steal David Obey and Barney Frank's lobbying-reform ideas. ... Republicans have a chance to hijack them before the country notices. *

* [T]here should be a ban on lobbyist-paid travel. ... Former members should not be allowed to lobby on the House floor. All lobbyist contacts with government officials should be posted on the Internet. *

* [E]nforce House rules. *

* [R]build the ethics committees. *

* [R]eadopt the pay-as-you-go budget rules *

* For God's sake, Republicans, show a little moral revulsion. *

Let's see: Tackling Ethics, House Rules, Moral Revulsion, and getting Serious about Special Interest Spending? Phuleease!! From these moral degenerates? Who are you kidding!

Readopt the pay-as-you-go budget rules? Those were Clintonian rules - ya can't *readopt* what ya NEVER did in the first place.

But my all time fav is this one: "...steal David Obey and Barney Frank's lobbying-reform ideas. ... Republicans have a chance to hijack them before the country notices." This is about the only one any of these GOPhuckers IS any Good at. And We HAVE Noticed!!

"Back in the dim recesses of my mind, I remember a party that thought of itself as a reform, or even a revolutionary movement. That party used to be known as the Republican Party. I wonder if it still exists." -- Dim recesses of your mind is about ALL you've got left David Brooks. Dream-On in that lost in space fantasy land.

Karen on 01.05.06 @ 07:56 AM CST [link] [ | ]

From the 'Recipes for Disaster' department....

Apparently, over New Year's Weekend, an Orlando hotel booked a "swingers" New Year's Eve party while also taking a number of reservations for families participating in a Disney-sponsored youth soccer tournament. As one might imagine, the juxtaposition was a bit jarring for some of the participants:

Soccer families and swingers do not mix.

Especially when the parents of adolescent soccer players checked their daughters into a hotel that was hosting a New Year's Eve party for more than 200 self-described swingers, who had reserved a downstairs ballroom along with rooms on the ninth floor.

Parents who traveled from South Carolina and Clearwater to bring their 11- to 13-year-old daughters to a five-day soccer tournament said they were shocked by the parade of sexually adventurous partygoers who sashayed through the glass-enclosed atrium, sometimes flashing breasts and bare buttocks in front of their children.

They described the dress of some of the swingers at the Crowne Plaza Hotel-Airport in Orlando as "raunchy, despicable and worse than prostitutes."

"We thought we were coming to Orlando, not the Las Vegas Strip," said Mark Gilbert, the father of a 13-year-old who plays on the Clearwater Chargers, a group of 13-and-under players.

The teams booked the $92-a-night rooms for Disney's Soccer Showcase, sponsored by Disney Wide World of Sports, through the Internet from Anthony Travel. They said hotel management did not tell them about the swingers' party or try to keep the uninhibited adults away from their children.

Hotel managers would not comment Sunday or Monday.

Len on 01.05.06 @ 07:46 AM CST [link] [ | ]

This suggests a diorama that's going to send me straight to hell....

According to an article in the Lowell (MA) Sun, adults are getting into the action figure collecting game:

They are little momentos of sports, film, music and pop-culture history, 3 inches to a couple feet tall, but action figures portray a little piece of you, too.

Especially if you're a grown-up.

Once geared toward young children who sought toys related to movies or Saturday-morning cartoon fare, action figures went upscale and collectable more than a decade ago, aimed at an adult market with money to spend and a yearning for youthful nostalgia to fill.

"It's probably an 80-20 split now," says Larry Doherty of Larry's Comics in Lowell. "Eighty percent of buyers are adults, 20 percent kids."

And the figures cut a wide swath through popular figures, from Jesus to Jenna to Johnny.

Jesus comes with poseable arms and "gliding action."

The Johnny Cash figure pays homage to the late, great American recording artist.

Jenna, an 8-inch-tall action figure tribute to Jenna Jameson, who has built a small empire as a porn star, has other attributes.
Yep, if the Jesus figure and the Jenna figure are even close to the same scale.... "Now starring Jenna Jameson as Mary Magdalene in a recreation of a scene from The Last Temptation of Christ". [Yeah, yeah, I know... The Magdalene wasn't really a whore, but never let the facts get in the way of a good storyline...]

Which reminds me that I should pull my copy of The Last Temptation of Christ off the shelf and give it a read again...

Len on 01.05.06 @ 07:33 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Does this qualify as "iatrogenic"?

(Go look it up; it's good both to own a dictionary and to know how to use it. :-) )

An interesting article in the NY Times points out that the "huge stroke" suffered by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has been complicated, if not outright caused, by medical intervention intended to alleviate the smaller stroke he suffered last month:

The huge stroke suffered last night by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel, caused by uncontrolled bleeding into the brain, is likely to be devastating and nearly impossible to treat because Mr. Sharon, 77, is taking blood thinners, neurologists say.

Although Mr. Sharon was taken to surgery to try to remove the blood pouring into his skull, it was a desperate move, neurologists said.

Hemorrhages in the brain while the patient is taking blood thinners "are usually devastating events," said Dr. Matthew E. Fink, chief of the Division of Stroke and Critical Care at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. "This sounds really terrible."

Statistically, the likelihood of death is greater than 80 percent, Dr. Fink said.

"They are trying to save his life with surgery, but this is an extremely hazardous procedure," Dr. Fink said. "The goal is to save his life, but there is not much evidence that it will preserve neurological function."

Mr. Sharon was placed on blood-thinning medicines in the last two weeks to treat a different type of stroke - one that was much smaller - which he suffered on Dec. 18. In many respects his stroke yesterday was a medical complication of his earlier treatment.
It's things like this which lead me to believe that you just can't cheat fate--when it's your time, it's your time....

Len on 01.05.06 @ 07:19 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Interested in trying out Linux, but a bit confused?

I can understand; there are so many different distributions, and it's hard to know exactly where to get started.

If that's your situation, you might want to try The Linux Distribution Chooser. Basically, it's a "wizard" (you Windows users already will be familiar with that concept) that will prompt you for answers to a few basic questions. Provide those answers, and the chooser will give you a list of Linux distributions that meet your criteria, as well as a list of "also rans" that came close, but missed out on one or more of the requirements you specified.

And apparently it's pretty well thought out; I've always been a big Mandriva fan (going back to Mandrake Linux 8.0), and the chooser lists Mandriva as one of my "perfect matches". Makes me feel good about throwing some money to Mandriva for the latest version (which I'll be doing shortly; it's about that time again).

Len on 01.05.06 @ 06:22 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Significant days in music history....

As we touched on yesterday, today marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

I'll have to pull out some appropriate music later today. Unfortunately (and much to my surprise), XM Classics doesn't seem to be marking the occasion with "all Mozart, all day" programming like they did for Beethoven's birthday last month (at least when I looked right now they're playing Haydn), which would make the decision about tuning my office XM receiver a no-brainer today.

Len on 01.05.06 @ 04:58 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

Let's be careful about our definitions here. A vast array of digital technologies already exists in the home. Digital music players, DVDs, home networks, PCs, camcorders and digital cameras are all digital technologies. So in a sense, most homes today are "digital" in some sense. But the idea of a completely connected home, where your refrigerator, TV, PC, cell phone and content are all part of a networked whole, which is in turn connected to the global internet, is still a pipe dream.

All the technology ingredients exist today; though connecting the disparate pieces still isn't easy. But no one has come up with a compelling reason. I can't figure out why I would want to watch my DVDs in the kitchen while listening to music piped in from my PC. I don't know about you, but the idea of my refrigerator knowing the contents inside and ordering food automatically as I use it suggest that I actually know what I'm going to want to eat next week.
--Lloyd Case [on "the digital home", extremetech.com]

Len on 01.05.06 @ 04:47 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Purple Pretzels Awards...

Apropos of Len's post about the Child-In-Chief's Insensitivity to our wounded troops for unprescendented *whining* about his Presidential Boo-Boo acquired during another Weed-Whacking session on Hazard Duty at the Western White House...

I have played around with my Photoshop (and followed up on other bloggers who have dubbed a new Presidential Award):

purplepretzel10 (17k image)

So, for His Really, Really BIG Preznit Boo-Boo's and painful attacks of Diarrhea
of the Mouth in Public -

The Purple Pretzel

Karen on 01.04.06 @ 08:42 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned...

Rachel Maddow was all over this on her Air America show this morning. If the story appearing in Raw Story is true, Michael Scanlon and Jack Abramoff were brought down by Scanlon's spurned ex-fiancee. When Scanlon dumped her to marry Another Woman, then Emily Miller, the ex-fiancee, ratted him out to the Feds.

Memo to self: if I embark on a criminal career, give up women first (pretty easy to do, since women have pretty well given me up...).

Len on 01.04.06 @ 07:55 PM CST [link] [ | ]

A propos the Thought for the Day.....

Streaming video files of David Letterman's smackdown of Faux News turd Bill O'Lielly can be found here:

Real Player

Windows Media

Credit to Hammer of Truth for the link to the files, and to selected transcriptions.

Len on 01.04.06 @ 01:20 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Those of us who have no talent....

envy those of you who do. Two of my favorite photographers strut their stuff.

Over at her Flickr site, Dr. Abby posts her most favorited of 2005 ("Most favorited?" he asked, not expecting any sort of answer...). Some damn good shots there, including one of The Bar-B-Que Shop, one of my favorite restaurants here (and, happily, just a block or so walk from my apartment).

Meanwhile, Mad Molecule has been doing some experiments with pinhole photography. (The link is to the successful experiment; you can catch some of his first efforts in his earlier post, if you're so inclined.)

Len on 01.04.06 @ 12:47 PM CST [link] [ | ]


Must be some significance in Braille today according to Google, but this History of Braille does not give me a clue.

Also it is not something to do with Hellen Keller. Not her Birthday - nor anniversary of her death.

Anyone got any ideas? Why is Google in Braille today?

Let us know.


Karen on 01.04.06 @ 12:43 PM CST [link] [ | ]

When I saw the title....

of Mad Kane's latest masterpiece, I thought it'd be sung to the tune of Billy Joel's "Say Goodbye to Hollywood" (instead, it's sung to the tune of "Yesterday", by Lennon/McCartney). But no biggie. Go see Mad's latest: "Say Goodbye to Tom DeLay". Or if you'd rather, listen to Mad sing it herself.

Len on 01.04.06 @ 12:36 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Bush spanked for his insensitivity....

Well, at least it doesn't surprise me. Anyone who can joke about the whole WMD search thing doesn't have the sense not to joke about combat injuries. From Larry Johnson:

At first I thought this was a blog parody. I mean, really, no one could be this clueless. Right? Boy, was I wrong. Here's what President Bush had to say at Brooke Army Medical Center the other day. Remember, he is visiting U.S. soldiers who are missing arms, legs, and eyes. Some soldiers are horribly mutilated from wounds suffered in Iraq. Most of the soldiers Bush visited were not "injured", they were "wounded". You get wounds in combat. You get injured while playing football or cutting brush. This is not just mindless nitpicking on my part. This demonstrates a Commander-in-Chief out of touch with the reality of combat.

Click here: President Visits Troops at Brooke Army Medical Center


The president needs to understand what combat means. It is not tangling with a chain saw and some prickly pear brush. It involves firearms and explosives. It means watching your best friend bleed out on the battlefield. It means mind numbing fear as you prepare to enter a building that may or may not be providing refuge for a terrorist. It means killing other human beings. And for some, it leaves an emotional scar that the brave soldiers carry with them to their grave.

More importantly the President needs to understand that he now has a sacred obligation to ensure that the men and women wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan will have the full backing of their country to provide them with the medical care they need to recover their physical and mental well being. Instead, Bush talks a good game at the hospital but is not removing obstacles for key treatment for a variety of wounds, including post-traumatic stress syndrome. Key benefits and treatment are already being denied to some returning vets.

There is a silver lining, at least the President did not award himself a purple heart. But this attempt at humor, no matter how well intentioned, is offensive and insulting to the soldiers who have sacrificed their bodies in response to the orders of this Commander-in-Chief. That, in my view, is no laughing matter.
Well said, Mr. Johnson.

Len on 01.04.06 @ 12:33 PM CST [link] [ | ]

As a Public Service:

for those of you planning to come celebrate Elvis Presley's birthday, here's a link to The Official Elvis Presley Birthday Celebration Schedule.

So start making your plans.


[For those of you who aren't up on your biographical facts about the King Of Rock And Roll™, Sunday, January 8, 2006 marks the 71st anniversary of the birth of Elvis. Go crazy, folks; go crazy.]

Len on 01.04.06 @ 12:29 PM CST [link] [ | ]

What a difference some weeks make....

Oh sure, they're cute when they get to be this big:

But if I found this:

crawling across the floor of my apartment, I'd be tempted to kill it before it multiplied. (In case you haven't figured it out, the second picture is a newborn panda cub. Maybe I'm deficient in the "cuteness appreciation" endowment, but I find the looks of the newborn panda seriously spooky.)

Len on 01.04.06 @ 12:22 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Why We Need Some *Statutory Interpretation*...

And Speaking Of Statutory Interpretation --we were – weren’t we? And Impeachment.

There is yet more about the “Government inside a Government” this bAdmin has been running in its Un-Constitutional Version of Supreme Executive Powers.

Jonathan Schell has written this perceptive piece:The Hidden State Steps Forward:

"With Bush's defense of his wiretapping, the hidden state has stepped into the open. The deeper challenge Bush has thrown down, therefore, is whether the country wants to embrace the new form of government he is creating by executive fiat or to continue with the old constitutional form. He is now in effect saying, "Yes, I am above the law--I am the law, which is nothing more than what I and my hired lawyers say it is--and if you don't like it, I dare you to do something about it."

Members of Congress have no choice but to accept the challenge. They did so once before, when Richard Nixon, who said, "When the President does it, that means it's not illegal," posed a similar threat to the Constitution. The only possible answer is to inform Bush forthwith that if he continues in his defiance, he will be impeached.

If Congress accepts his usurpation of its legislative power, they will be no Congress and might as well stop meeting. Either the President must uphold the laws of the United States, which are Congress's laws, or he must leave office.

And Further, that the Executive has the Power to produce his own *Statutory and Legislative Interpretation* -- Marty Lederman (Balkinization) and Sandy Levinson (Balkinization) have an informative pieces on these issues -- but to read further, click on the "more" button.


Karen on 01.04.06 @ 12:18 PM CST [more..] [ | ]

Ah... thank heavens they're back....

For a few days, it looked like someone over at The Institute for Southern Studies hadn't paid the Internet bill. Seriously. Whenever you'd point your browser to that site (or to their excellent blog, Facing South, current bloghome of The Blogger Formerly Known As South Knox Bubba) you'd get a web page that showed that the domain name was up for grabs (i.e., that the domain name registration had expired).

Well, I'm glad they paid the bill. A week without Friday Bird Blogging is like a day without sunshine.

Len on 01.04.06 @ 08:32 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Just in the nick of time....

namely, for the celebration of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's 250th birthday tomorrow: Scientists May Have Found Mozart's Skull

Have scientists found Mozart's skull? Researchers said Tuesday they'll reveal the results of DNA tests in a documentary film airing this weekend on Austrian television as part of a year of celebratory events marking the composer's 250th birthday.

The tests were conducted last year by experts at the Institute for Forensic Medicine in the alpine city of Innsbruck, and the long-awaited results will be publicized in "Mozart: The Search for Evidence," to be screened Sunday by state broadcaster ORF.

Past tests were inconclusive, but this time, "we succeeded in getting a clear result," lead researcher Dr. Walther Parson, a renowned forensic pathologist, told ORF. He said the results were "100 percent verified" by a U.S. Army laboratory, but refused to elaborate.
Hat tip to Pete Vonder Haar for the pointer.

Len on 01.04.06 @ 08:22 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

I’m not smart enough to debate you point to point on this, but I have the feeling, I have the feeling about 60 percent of what you say is crap. [audience laughter] But I don’t know that for a fact. [more audience applause]
--David Letterman [to Faux News turd Bill O'Reilly, 1/3/2006]

Len on 01.04.06 @ 06:23 AM CST [link] [ | ]

The 'Gimme Five'...

The Abramoff Scandal as explained by the Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher:

Scanlon and Abramoff agreed to defraud their tribal clients in a scheme they joking referred to, between themselves, as "gimme five."

To read the explanation of this corrupt world of fraud and deals, click on the "more" button.

Karen on 01.03.06 @ 07:38 PM CST [more..] [ | ]

Well worth reading....

For the good and bad (mostly good) about living in Memphis, The Flypaper Theory blogger autoegocrat contributes this paean to Memphis to a dKos open thread: Several Things Kos Should Know About Memphis

Now that [the cons are] out of the way, here are the pros:

THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER - It is widest river in the world, and you just have to see it to believe it. Being born here, I can't get too far away from the river without feeling something tugging at my soul. Owing to this, I have never seen an ocean in my life. There is some deep history in the river, and you can feel it in your bones.

One year the river dropped about 20 feet below floodstage, and the waters revealed hulks of steamboats, barges, fishing boats, and the bones of slaves that had been dumped on the Arkansas side.

I spend as much of my time as I can at the river. It is a great place to think, read, write, and just be alone. If you come here, look me up (drop a note on the blog) and I will be glad to show you some of the secret places on the river that have been constant retreats for me since I was a child.

HISTORY - Our college team, the Memphis Tigers, have as their school colors Blue and Gray, representing the fact that Memphis played both sides in the Civil War. There are time capsules buried all over the place. Downtown Memphis was once a Chickasaw burial grounds, and many of the old burial mounds have been left in place. Dig around in your yard, and you might find an arrowhead or two. We have a rich city in this regard.

When I was twelve, I got a metal detector for Christmas, and with that, I found the engine block to a Ford Model "A" buried under the pecan tree in the backyard of the house I was born in. I found what I think was some kind of battery or alternator buried in the coal cellar. If you are interested in archaeology and history, this city is overloaded with buried treasure.
About the only thing autoegocrat misses (and if he's never lived anywhere else, it's understandable) is that Memphis, as far as I can tell, has more historical markers per square foot than any other American city (at least any that I've visited). I don't know how many places I've been knocking about around here, and practically tripped over not one, not two, but several (I'm sure none of you will be surprised that my mathematical skills mirror those of the Kalahari Bushmen; I count like this: "One... two... many"). I think I saw more historical markers in my first two weeks here than I'd seen in my entire life up til that point.
TREES - Memphis is the most arboreal urban area you will find anywhere. I have been told that this city has more trees per square mile than any other city in the Western Hemisphere, though I'm not sure how to verify that. Ascend one of our few tall buildings (we have three, and they do not even qualify as skyscrapers) and all you will see is trees for miles. From the sky, it doesn't look like a city at all.

SPORTS - We have the single best and most modern minor league baseball park anywhere. If you just want to enjoy an afternoon watching a ball game, there is no better venue than AutoZone Park, and the Memphis Redbirds are the only non-profit baseball team anywhere; the ticket sales go to charity and toward city improvements.
autoegocrat forgets to mention that the Redbirds are also the AAA affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, but since he's not a St. Louisan In Exile I'll forgive him for that.
DIVERSITY - We have it all. People from all corners of the Earth live in Memphis. I wave to my Latino and Indian neighbors across the drive as I go to the Palestinian market around the corner, and along the short trip I might pass a group of African children (from Rwanda, I think) wearing Muslim headscarves on their way home from school. We have a large Vietnamese community, a large Jewish community, a large Muslim community, a large Korean community, and a large and rapidly growing Latino community.

If you like being around people who are different from you, this is the place. I'm white, but thanks to having lived in Memphis all my life, I'm no jive honky. We have more than our share of rednecks, too, don't let me fool you, but they are easy enough to avoid. Spend enough time around blacks, and the rednecks will avoid you.

OPPORTUNITY - Someone worldly wise like you could turn this town upside down. Cultural trends hit this city about five years after everyone else is done with them. I can't shake the feeling that Memphis is just about to bust wide open, we've held ourseves back for so long that something's got to give. There is a tangiable sense here of a city about to give birth to itself. Like I said, I've lived here all my life, and the city has never seemed like this before. I don't know what it is, but it's coming soon.

I hope that helps. I'm not going to mention the music. If you don't know about Memphis music, then you need a booty tranplant, and if you move here, you'll get one.

Oh, and one other thing. We're sitting on a fault line and we're about ten years overdue for our regularly scheduled earthquake. We have around three minor earthquakes a week, and if you are paying attention, you can feel them. We've been waiting for "The Big One" for a long time, and when it comes, this place is going to be a bigger disaster area than NOLA ever was. When purchasing a home, the single most important question to ask is "Is it earhquake-proof?"
To put this into context, by the way, it's in part a response to a posting by Kos talking about how he's thinking of moving out of the San Francisco Bay area, and that Memphis is apparently one city that offers quite a bit of what he's looking for.

And wouldn't that be something? Having Kos himself attend a bloggers bash?

I have no doubt that the interpersonal dynamics would be worth the price of admission all by itself.


Len on 01.03.06 @ 06:56 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Argumentum Ad Labelum...

Ed from (Dispatches from the Culture Wars) has this good description of the *problems* in following the sound-byte defenses from those Un-Constitutional Americans out there for CIC’s NSA *Spying-On-American-Citizens-Without-A-Court-Warrant* Program.

“One of the things that most annoys me about political discourse in America is the tendency to substitute labels for actual argument. I blame this primarily upon the rise of talk radio, with its predominately juvenile and simplistic form of argument, and on the ubiquity of news-by-soundbite.

In today's mass media, newspapers and magazines have steadily lost readership as people turn to the primarily flashy and shallow cable news shows for their information. Rather than having a 600 to 1000 word column establishing an argument, viewers are fed a stream of 5 second soundbites.

In this kind of news environment, political discussion is reduced to a battle of the pithiest comments and the most effective catchphrases that can be stated in a few seconds time. Thus, the now almost inescapable phenomenon of what I will call the
argumentum ad labelum, where someone assumes that merely by labelling an argument as "liberal", for example, they have defeated the argument (and of course, the same type of argument is often heard from the other side as well, usually by applying the "neo-con" label to whatever argument they think they're defeating). So what does this have to do with the NSA wiretapping scandal?

We can see such an
argumentum ad labelum at work all over TV news shows as the President's defenders spread out on the talk shows to dismiss everyone critical of the NSA wiretapping as nothing more than "liberals" out to damage the President for political purposes. Some even go further and argue that those who criticize the NSA wiretapping are actually helping the terrorists. Pat Buchanan was on TV last night arguing that the New York Times had committed treason by reporting on the wiretapping program.

Well yes, of course. Anyone who objects to giving the President completely unchecked authority to order wiretaps on anyone he pleases is just a "liberal" who is "hostile beyond reason" to President Bush. But the simple fact is that there is very solid ground for criticizing the wiretap program as illegal and that criticism is not just coming from "liberals".”

And faulty legal analysis of the supposed “War Time” authority under FISA. As part of the “We are at war” argument for CIC’s claim to Extra-Constitutional-Executive-Powers by Orin Kerr (Volokh Conspiracy) creates a lame legal analysis that makes no mention of the FISA section pertaining to this specific limitation “following a declaration of war”:
FISA, §1811 reads: “Notwithstanding any other law, the President, through the Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without a court order under this title to acquire foreign intelligence information for a period not to exceed fifteen calendar days following a declaration of war by the Congress.”

Which Timothy Sandefur (Positive Liberty) correctly evaluates into the legal mix with the a few pertinent Supreme Court cases on the topic of “[t]he standard reference for discussion of the President’s inchoate authority is, of course, Justice Jackson’s famous opinion in the Steel Seizure Case, 343 U.S. 579 (1952).”

So, all you conservatives, quit trying to slay this dragon with argumentum ad labelum sound bytes and come up with some actual *legal* justification as to Why this meets Constitutional muster and Why -- if it doesn’t -- this isn’t an Impeachable Offense.

Karen on 01.03.06 @ 05:48 PM CST [link] [ | ]

This just in: large number of Fark denizens condemned to Hell....

for their participation in this particular contest: Today's Iron Photoshop ingredient: Biblical characters

I've only had time to skim the offerings, but some of them are pretty damn funny.

Len on 01.03.06 @ 03:49 PM CST [link] [ | ]


My merchandise from KlingKlang Konsum Produkt arrived today. An "Autobahn" t-shirt, and a set of Kraftwerk mousepads. Pictured above is the "Autobahn" mousepad, which will be replacing the old Three Stooges mousepad on my office desk. Took a while to get here, but then again, they were being sent from Düsseldorf.

I'm taking the rest of the mousepads home, where they'll rotate in and out of the laptop case. Perhaps I'll include a few pictures of them later.

Len on 01.03.06 @ 01:33 PM CST [link] [ | ]


Larry Johnson cuts right to the heart of the communications surveillance brouhaha:

"Definition: A Red Herring is a fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue."

Caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar, President Bush is working feverishly to divert attention from the fact that he has subverted the FISA law by claiming that the revelation in the New York Times of the NSA spying program has jeopardized national security and given the terrorists a hand. Sorry Mr. President that dog don't hunt.

The fact that the NSA has the ability to listen to electronic conversations, such as phone calls and emails, has been public knowledge since the 1970s. Al Qaeda has known this for more than ten years. The authors of the Al Qaeda training manual dealt specifically with the need to take precautions to prevent their conversations from being captured by U.S. listening posts. If we are dealing with terrorists who don't realize their conversations could be intercepted then we are after people who really must be living in a cave.

Could our National Security have been jeopardized? Yes, but only if the New York Times had divulged how the conversations were being intercepted. That knowledge would allow the targets of the intercepts to change their method of communicating. (In this case the President would be right to be upset.) But, that is not what happened. The Times did not reveal a methodology. The fact that the Government has the power to intercept conversations is why we have the FISA law in the first place. Telling the American people that the President is circumventing the law does not harm National Security in any fashion, but it could threaten George Bush's job security.

Let's be clear, Bush is upset because he has been discovered violating his oath of office.
Instead of protecting the Constitution, he has authorized procedures that violate the Fourth Amendment ostensibly in the name of saving the nation. The inconsistency and hypocrisy of the Bush Administration on this issue is breathtaking. They only scream about damage to national security when it suits their purpose. They had no qualms about outing Valerie Plame or Mohammed Noor.
[emphasis supplied -LRC]

Len on 01.03.06 @ 12:55 PM CST [link] [ | ]

From the Files of 'Really WEIRD Techno-Stuff'

...that I don't yet know what its usable purpose will become, But is some strange technology to me:

About oxygenated-fluid breathing under water but sounds like it has yet to be perfected (and a horrible way to go - even if it is a mouse):

The first real success in fluid breathing came in 1966, with Dr. Leland Clark's "liquid-breathing-mouse" experiment. Dr. Clark (inventor of the Clark electrode) realized that oxygen and carbon dioxide were very soluble in fluorocarbon liquids (like freon). Assuming that the alveoli of the lungs should be capable of drawing oxygen out of the fluid and replacing it with carbon dioxide, Clark suggested that these fluorocarbons should support respiration of animals. Performing the first tests on anaesthetized mice, Dr. Clark temporarily paralyzed each intubated animal, inflating a cuff inside the trachea to provide a seal and ensure that no air entered the lungs, and no solution leaked out.

fluidmouse (9k image)

After bubbling oxygen through the fluorocarbon, the oxygenated fluid was pumped into the animals' lungs, and recirculated (about 6 cycles of inhalation and exhalation per minute). Most of the animals who were kept in the fluid for up to an hour survived for several weeks after their removal, before eventually succumbing to pulmonary damage.

Or this one.

How to go about Inserting electronic chips under your skin:

chip2 (50k image)

"...The general excuse is for automation purposes. Examples such as unlocking a computer screen saver or opening doors that have been outfitted with electric deadbolts..."

All I can say is - OUCH - and Thanks, but No thanks.


Karen on 01.03.06 @ 11:34 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Yet Another Reason NOT to Own One of Those...

...Wormy, Diseased Apple Computers -- which I kevetch about on occasion.

Mac OS X updates disable or damage PowerBooks?:

"...we come to find out that another suit could be inbound with an open registration of complaints over what apparently occurs to some users when -- of all things -- they update to 10.3.9, 10.4.0, and 10.4.1: their PowerBooks' lower RAM slots go bad.

The current operating assumption is that the update actually makes the firmware controller or possibly the chipset get all wonky, which, in turn, may disable the lower memory slot (permanently). Has anyone out there in Engadget-land experienced this issue?

Besides airing those grievances in our comments, you can also feel free to air them to the complaints registration site, which may or may not at some point turn into a real life suit.

How ya like dem Apples?"


Bleh on that Steve Jobs and his Diseased, Wormy Apples.

Karen on 01.03.06 @ 11:18 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

To call this an imperial presidency is unfair to emperors.
--Steve Chapman

Len on 01.03.06 @ 08:23 AM CST [link] [ | ]

I didn't do a list of best blog posts of 2005....

but if I did this one would have probably been number one--because I'm a sick, evil pervert.

WARNING: If you think you might find "motorized toy porno videos" (the cameraperson's parental unit's own wording) distressing, you might want to skip this link.

Len on 01.02.06 @ 09:55 PM CST [link] [ | ]

The Joys of Attending.....

the premier engineering school in the U.S.: the morning "MIT" stood for "Mario's Institute of Technology".


Len on 01.02.06 @ 08:40 PM CST [link] [ | ]

I see that congratulations are in order....

As y'all may have noticed I took a blog vacation the past couple weeks. Since December 16 or so I haven't looked at too many blogs (I was trying for looking at none whatsoever, but a few managed to come within radar range).

I'm catching up on my normal blogrounds now, and therefore only just learned that Mad Kane won the "Best Parodies (Ongoing Achievement)" category of About.com's Political Dot-Comedy Awards. Congratulations, Mad!

And I confess that I've not been throwing Mad the usual linkage I throw her. So take some time to to go her site and just start reading. It's well worth the time.

Len on 01.02.06 @ 08:02 PM CST [link] [ | ]

I'm surprised that Kraftwerk hasn't used this image already....

This comes from a German Kraftwerk message board thread, which suggests that it heralds a new Kraftwerk album. Not bloody likely (given past history, we've got a couple years at least before a new album is released), but I still think it's a great picture. Kudos to whoever created it!

Len on 01.02.06 @ 05:04 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Ah...Oh for the *Career* Oriented...

...McSweeney's is offering this GEM of a post: Interviews With people Who Have Interesting or Unusual Jobs. [And just FYI, I certainly don't qualify for *interesting* jobs - even in my past jobs list.]

Here are the offerings:

Laura Erickson, Ornithologist

No More Plastic Birds: An Interview With Eva Amsen

Screaming at the Dentist With Wendy K.

Slinging the Dogs: An Interview With Blaine Elliott

An Interview with Krista, Activities Director for a Retirement Community

An Interview with Stephanie Parry, Former Hardware Technician

I Ran the Scrambler: An Interview with Kim Engler

An Interview with Matt Haze, Former Movie Extra

Putting an Orange-Juice-like Drink in the Hopper: An Interview with Tony Meehan

Buying Malt Liquor With Nickels

I Haul Your Booze: An Interview with a Trucker

I'm Your Trumpet-Playing Gorilla: An Interview with Brian Wishnefsky, a.k.a. Sparky the Clown

An Interview with a Certified Firewalk Instructor

An Interview with the Repo Man

An Interview with Nicole G., Former U.S. Census Bureau Employee

An Interview with Joe Bodnar, Auctioneer

Jackie Watson, on Calling BINGO

An Interview with Sara Willkomm, President of a Michael Ian Black Fan Club

Never Been to Jitterbugs, An Interview With Michele Beardsley

Just Call Me Zippy, An Interview With Amy Barich

The Sperm Bank, An Interview with Dina N.

Be Nice to Me, An Interview with Darshan, a New York City Limo Driver

Tell Me About Your Lights in the Sky, An Interview with Larry Haapanen

Saving Lives and Doing Dip, An Interview with Kari, Former Lifeguard

An Interview with Avril Watson, Former Magician's Assistant

Wearing a Shower Cap and Raking the Chips, An Interview with Tom Cooney

On the Night Shift, An Interview with Aaron Bostian, On Vacuuming, Scrubbing, and Mopping

If these Job descriptions tweak your interest...click on the link and give it a read.


Karen on 01.02.06 @ 04:44 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Impeachment Is Not a Fringe Position...

Now I could see joining this effort: ImpeachPAC:

"ImpeachPAC today announced the formation of a Citizens Impeachment Commission to make 2006 the "Year of Impeachment."

"We are honored by the broad support for impeachment from this distinguished group of true American patriots," said Bob Fertik, President of ImpeachPAC. "Impeachment is not a 'fringe' position, as the Bush Administration would like Americans to believe. With a recent Zogby poll showing Americans support impeachment hearings by a solid majority of 53%-42%, there is far more support for impeachment than there is for the War in Iraq," Fertik said.
ImpeachPAC's efforts have forced the Washington establishment to admit that the many misdeeds of the Bush administration - including the latest revelation of warantless wiretapping of American citizens - are valid grounds for impeachment. The question now facing Washington is not whether Bush and Cheney committed impeachable crimes, but whether Democrats and Republicans in Congress will fulfill their solemn Constitutional duty to investigate and prosecute those crimes, as proposed in December by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) in H.Res.635..."

[Hat Tip to skippy the bush Kangaroo.]

Karen on 01.02.06 @ 01:54 PM CST [link] [ | ]


Hmmm...a New Year and supposedly a New Resolution - But I am still slogging my way through my Last Year's Resolution -- Responsibility Experiment and the Responsiblity Month Follow-up*.

So, nothing new here, except the Same-Ole-Same-Ole as we wander into the wilderness of 2006.


Karen on 01.02.06 @ 11:53 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Lifespan Research

Now here is some science news we all might find useful one of these days:

Scientists Discover a Gene That Regulates Lifespan:

”…Genes that control the timing of organ formation during development also control timing of aging and death, and provide evidence of a biological timing mechanism for aging…

A microRNA and the developmental-timing gene it controls, lin-4 and lin-14, affect patterns of cellular development at very specific stages. … Animals with a loss-of-function mutation in lin-4 had a lifespan that was significantly shorter than normal, suggesting that lin-4 prevents premature death. Conversely, over-expressing lin-4 led to a longer lifespan. They also found that a loss–of-function mutation in lin-14, the target of lin-4, caused the opposite effect — a 31 percent longer lifespan.

According to Slack, their results are strong evidence of an “intrinsic biological clock” that runs for aging as well as for normal organ development. Included results showed the developmental programs that these genes regulate are modulated through insulin signaling, demonstrating the connection between insulin-driven metabolism and aging.

“This microRNA is conserved in humans leading to the enticing idea of being able to beneficially affect the results of aging including diseases of aging,” said Slack. Work is under way to identify other microRNAs regulators and genes they target, to determine where they function and whether they behave the same way in mice, and to see if they are altered in human diseases of aging.”

Karen on 01.02.06 @ 11:42 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Enough Can't Really Be Said...

...on this Topic, and this is great one by Armando (Daily Kos): Newsweek: Blissfully Ignorant of the Constitution:

" When the Media wonders why bloggers have a great deal of contempt for them, I like to point out stories like this one in Newsweek. This story shows such a lack of understanding of the Constitution, our system of government and history that you wonder if anyone at Newsweek could pass a citizenship test. Look how idiotically Evan Thomas and Daniel Klaidman frame the illegal domestic surveillance by the Bush Administration - done in the face of an express prohibition enacted by the Congress - FISA:
"In a perfect democracy trying to strike a balance between civil liberties and national security, there would be reasoned, open debate between representatives of the different branches of government. But human nature and politics rarely work in neat and orderly ways. In moments of crisis, presidents, if they believe in executive power (and most inevitably do), will do almost anything to protect the country. Only after the crisis ebbs does the debate begin over the proper means and ends, and by then the people and their representatives are often shocked to find what the president has done in the name of protecting them. More than four years after September 11, America finds itself debating some of the oldest issues in our history: how to balance liberty and security, how much power we should cede to the White House and whether what the historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. dubbed "The Imperial Presidency" amid Watergate is a good thing, a bad thing or something in between."

What morons. We are not debating "how much power we should cede the White House." There is no debate. The Constitution provides for that. Last I looked, no one has proposed a constitutional amendment..."

Back to Citizenship 101 for all you Un-Constitutional Americans out there...and you KNOW who you are.

Karen on 01.02.06 @ 11:32 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Slippery Slopes into Un-Constitutional America...

The WaPo is reporting this:

“…the president acknowledged concerns that monitoring overseas telephone calls and e-mails of citizens with suspected ties to terrorism may violate civil liberties. But he called his directive to the National Security Agency (NSA) after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks "vital and necessary" to protect the country…”

{Emphasis mine.}

First of all- there is no “MAY violate civil liberties” possibilities here. Either the program meets specific legal requirements under the existing Federals laws (FISA and Wiretapping cases) and the U.S. Constitution 4th amendment protections - or NOT. Either there IS a legal argument that holds Constitutional water...or NOT.

Or this defense:
” This is a limited program designed to prevent attacks on the United States of America, and I repeat limited," Bush said...

Except Newsweek is reporting “…Bush repeatedly approved of what the NSA calls a "special collection program" that eavesdropped—without warrants—on about 500 Americans a day.” {Emphasis mine.}

500 Americans a Day- that is what CIC calls* Limited*?

And claiming it's only *limited* is a smokescreen and Not a defense. It is NOT written in the Constitution that if ya only violate a few citizen's rights that makes it OK. There can be no *limited*, minor infringements of our Constitutional Rights in such a unilateral, illegal fashion by this President or any Other POTUS.

Finally, If it is “Vital and Necessary” – You Make it LEGAL and conform to the required judicial oversight required by LAW and the Constitution (and an appropriate warrant covering same for such a *search and seizure* involving US Citizens.) This is what is MISSING in this NSA program and is the illegality of the authorization from the POTUS. IF CIC had followed the judicial oversight rules as required, there is no violation.

Instead CIC is claiming no need for judicial oversight nor warrants from any court nor the FISA court as IS required. (Or in the alternative - that the Congressional authorization of military force in Afghanistan and against Al Quaeda *covered* this type *military action* of wiretapping against US Citizens - a facetious legal argument yet to be made or stand any test in any court in the US.)

IF, as CIC claims, these laws and procedures aren't just GOOD ENOUGH -What can be done is for the laws to be changed, the Constitution to be re-written. But there is a PROCESS to do so and it must be done via Congress, in the light of day, the public fully informed and with all due procedural requirements. (And sorry – it simply can’t apply retroactively to violations that already occurred.)

What is NOT allowed is for these thing to be done by Executive fiat. If the Constitution is NOT GOOD ENOUGH- as written - then be honest and rewrite IT - spelling out all these supposed SUPREME EXECUTIVE POWERS and creating this Unfettered and Unconstrained Presidency CIC suggests is *Vital & Necessary.*

And that is why I say those people that refuse to require this bAdministration and this POTUS to faithfully follow his Oath of Office to uphold the Constitution and U.S. laws - and are making excuses for this illegal wiretapping approach to National Security - are against our country and are behaving as Un-Constitutional Americans.

UPDATE: and via AmericaBlog is this NY Times Week in Review Article on American concerns over privacy and spying conducted by our government. The numbers reflect a concern that is at an all time high:
"...[A] poll conducted for Mr. Ponemon last month may show that people hold different views on commercial and government privacy issues. Conducted after The New York Times revealed the N.S.A. surveillance, it suggested great concern. Of those polled, 88 percent expressed concern, and 54 percent said they were "very concerned," he said.

"It was, 'Wow,' " Mr. Ponemon said. The 88 percent figure was more than twice the level of concern of past studies he had seen of public attitudes toward commercial privacy breaches.
The issue of government abuse of privacy in the name of security has been growing since the 9/11 attacks, said Alan F. Westin, a privacy expert and consultant who is a professor emeritus of public law and government at Columbia University. He has been tracking consumer attitudes about domestic security issues with telephone surveys since 2001, and has found a growing concern that the checks on government surveillance might be weakening.
"The essence really is a majority of the public does not believe the administration should be given a blank check," Mr. Westin said..."

Karen on 01.02.06 @ 10:46 AM CST [link] [ | ]

But what's the penalty for violating the ban?

The good folks at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, MI, have released their 31st Annual Banished Words List. To quote from the introduction to the list:

This “breaking news” just in: Lake Superior State University releases its 31 st annual List of Words and Phrases Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness.

It was during a New Year's party 30 years ago when LSSU Public Relations Director Bill Rabe and some colleagues cooked up a whimsical idea to banish overused words and phrases. On Jan. 1, 1976, with “tongue firmly in cheek,” Rabe took his first crack at it. Much to the delight (or chagrin) of word enthusiasts everywhere, the list endures into a fourth decade.
I'm very pleased to see that one of the banned phrases is Larry the Cable Guy's catchprhase, "Git-er-done!". Now if we can only get Larry the Cable Guy (at least a finalist for (if not the hands down winner of) the title of "least funny 'comedian' in the world") banned as well....

Len on 01.02.06 @ 10:25 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Verify your movie quotemeister status....

or just confirm, for your own edification, how little you know about great movie lines: The Movie Quote Quiz.

In case actually hearing the quote will help, the site provides links to audio files of each quote (it actually helped me identify one of the quotes I was trying to identify so it might just work--try it and find out).

Len on 01.02.06 @ 10:11 AM CST [link] [ | ]

From the "Too True To Be Funny" Department....

From today's Ironic Times:

Bush Administration Addresses Alarming Rise in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Returning Iraq Vets
Will redefine it so fewer will be diagnosed.

Len on 01.02.06 @ 08:35 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

A cop stopped me for speeding. He said, "Why were you going so fast?" I said, "See this thing my foot is on? It's called an accelerator. When you push down on it, it sends more gas to the engine. The whole car just takes right off."
--Steven Wright

Len on 01.02.06 @ 08:25 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Happy New Year!

First and foremost, I want to wish a happy first "anniversary" to my partner-in-crime, Brock, who marks his first full year of sharing this space with me.

And of course, I want to wish a very happy and prosperous 2006 to all our readers [yes, both of you ;-) ]. The only reason I won't be wishing that all of you get everything your hearts desire this year, is that I sincerely wish that you'll get even more than that.

And sorry I've been so silent the last couple days, but I've been doing my annual tune-in to the Sci-Fi Network's annual New Year's Eve/Day marathon showing of The Twilight Zone. And enjoying the hell out of it, I might add.

Gotta run now. Don't want to miss "Living Doll", featuring Telly Savalas as Erich Streator, the abusive stepfather, and June Foray as the voice of Talky Tina, the doll that does him in.

Len on 01.01.06 @ 07:54 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

Edmund, Lord Blackadder: Look, there's no need to panic. Someone in the crew will know how to steer this thing.
Captain Redbeard Rum: The crew, milord?
Edmund: Yes, the crew.
Rum: What crew?
Edmund: I was under the impression that it was common maritime practice for a ship to have a crew.
Rum: Opinion is divided on the subject.
Edmund: Oh, really?
[starting to get the picture]
Rum: Yahs. All the other captains say it is; I say it isn't.
Edmund: Oh, God! Mad as a brush.
--Blackadder II

Len on 01.01.06 @ 07:48 PM CST [link] [ | ]

January 2006

Archives of Blogger site
Archives: May '04-Feb '05
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