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

Won't someone take pity on this poor blorphan?

Well, since Len is retiring and Karen has moved to a blog of her own, and I don't really post often enough to support a blog all by myself, I'm left without a blog home.

If there's anyone out there that needs a new co-blogger, email me at the address on the left.

Brock on 02.10.06 @ 04:04 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Jim (The Waco Kid): Where you headed, cowboy?
Bart: Nowhere special.
Jim: Nowhere special. I always wanted to go there.
Bart: Come on.
--"Blazing Saddles"

The past 72 hours of enforced blogging silence have been wonderful. I'd forgotten that there are so many other interesting things to do. Interesting foods to eat. Entertaining movies to watch. Enlightening books to read.

And now that I've been reminded of those things to do, I'm going to go do them.

SO.... I'm retiring from the blogosphere, effective immediately. This is the last post that I'll be posting here. [If I get inspired to write something about baseball, I may post at The Birdwatch, but I have no doubt that those will be very rare occasions.]

Thanks for reading. It's been real, it's been fun, and occasionally it's been real fun. And if your path ever takes you to nowhere special, come look me up.

'til then, good bye, and good luck.

Len on 02.10.06 @ 07:56 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Technical Difficulties... please stand by....

I'm getting some weird "Internal Server Error" error messages when I try to update the site today. Along with that, I notice that some of the archive pages aren't updating correctly when that happens. I have a way of working around that, but it's a pain in the butt, so I don't want to do it often.

The hosting company's tech support has been notified, but until I get a handle on this posting will be light to nonexistent. I'm sure y'all will enjoy the holiday. :-)

Len on 02.07.06 @ 07:56 AM CST [link] [ | ]

The Onion should have gotten a patent first....

In his annual review of Sunday's Super Bowl advertising orgy, Seth Stevenson at Slate notes that Gillette's rollout of the advertising for their five-bladed "Fusion" razor was foreshadowed in a piece that came out two years ago in The Onion: Fuck Everything, We're Doing Five Blades

Would someone tell me how this happened? We were the fucking vanguard of shaving in this country. The Gillette Mach3 was the razor to own. Then the other guy came out with a three-blade razor. Were we scared? Hell, no. Because we hit back with a little thing called the Mach3Turbo. That's three blades and an aloe strip. For moisture. But you know what happened next? Shut up, I'm telling you what happened—the bastards went to four blades. Now we're standing around with our cocks in our hands, selling three blades and a strip. Moisture or no, suddenly we're the chumps. Well, fuck it. We're going to five blades.
Must be hard to be a business innovator when a satirical news source publicizes your best ideas two years ahead of you. :-)

Len on 02.07.06 @ 07:13 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

Usually, when you go to someone's house they offer you coffee. They say, "You want some coffee?" I tell them, "No thanks, I have coffee at home. But I could use a little pancake mix." I try to get things I need.
--George Carlin

Len on 02.07.06 @ 05:54 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Compassionate Conservatism

John "Buggery Buggery Buggery" Derbyshire shares his thoughts on the recent sinking of a ferry in the Red Sea:

In between our last two posts I went to Drudge to see what was happening in the world. The lead story was about a ship disaster in the Red Sea. From the headline picture, it looked like a cruise ship. I therefore assumed that some people very much like the Americans I went cruising with last year were the victims. I went to the news story. A couple of sentences in, I learned that the ship was in fact a ferry, the victims all Egyptians. I lost interest at once, and stopped reading. I don't care about Egyptians.

Progressive Gold.)

Brock on 02.06.06 @ 07:40 PM CST [link] [ | ]

From the "Too True To Be Funny" Department:

Government's lawbreaking capability compromised when people find out about it.
--Ironic Times, 2/6/2006

Len on 02.06.06 @ 12:13 PM CST [link] [ | ]

And speaking of Frey....

Over at ReelThoughts, James Berardinelli makes some interesting and well taken comparisons between James Frey (author of the "memoir" A Million Little Pieces) and Michael Moore (alas, no permalink; navigate to the entry for February 4, 2006).

That brings us to the movies. On one side, there are the documentaries: fact-based explorations of one subject or another. On the other side, there's everything else (a category dominated by, but not exclusive to, narrative features). It's easy to explain the exaggerations, omissions, and additions of "based on true story" fictional films - their primary reponsibility is not to history or the truth, but to the entertainment and/or enrichment of their audience. As I have often said, never let the facts get in the way of a good story. And that's fine as long as it's understood that what we're viewing is a fictionalized interpretation of real events.

Documentaries, on the other hand, must be truthful and fact-based. That doesn't mean they cannot have an opinion or point-of-view, but they cannot lie or distort the facts to promote that perspective. Like news pieces or articles, documentaries need to be rigorously fact-checked to ensure that they are not knowingly or unknowingly providing false or misleading information. And that brings us to Michael Moore.

Moore is guilty in the cinematic realm of being as untruthful as Frey is in the literary realm. In all of his films, but most especially
Fahrenheit 9/11, Moore wilfully and knowingly violates the tenets of documentaries, distorting the facts and employing staged events. This wouldn't be a problem if Moore's works were presented as propeganda or op-ed pieces, but they are universally accepted as documentaries. (Bowling for Columbine won an Oscar in the documentary category.)

I would never discourage anyone to discount Moore's films outright. Indeed, I highly recommended
Bowling for Columbine (despite the Charlton Heston bushwhack). Moore makes good points and challenges people to think. But he doesn't play fair, and those who view the movies need to watch them with a healthy degree of skepticism. Even back in the time of Roger and Me, Moore was not a documentarian. Many of the events depicted on screen in that picture were either staged or re-created. From the beginning, he has been in the business of propeganda. That's the thing to remember when you put one of his movies in the DVD player or sit down to a future theatrical screening of Sicko.

Len on 02.06.06 @ 09:01 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Gem o'the Day:

Ode To Press Hypocrisy
By Madeleine Begun Kane

The pundits are outraged
At Frey's memoir lies.
Too bad that Bush falsehoods
Don't get such a rise.

Apologies to Mad for stealing the whole poem. But the good news is that if you just head to the source you can find two more poems on the same subject (the Frey memoir/Oprah brouhaha), and an audio link, of course.

Also of note: Mad was a judge for HumorFeed's 2005 Satire News Awards. The winner was BSNews's Bush Sells Louisiana Back to the French (a piece so good we linked back to it last September when it came out; unfortunately in our ignorance we violated BSNews's policies on fair use quotations of their copyrighted material, for which we apologize--go read the original instead). Second place went to Confusion Road for Terri Schiavo Dies; Congress Orders Feeding Tube Reinserted (follow that link and check out the accompanying picture, which is a gem), while third place went to a favorite of mine, BBSpot, for their tech satire gem Microsoft's AntiSpyware Tool Removes Internet Explorer (another one that tickled my fancy so much that I linked to it when it came out back in May).

Congrats to all the winners, and kudos to Mad and the rest of the judging team, which performed a difficult job (the ten finalists were all deserving) in an exemplary manner. I look forward to next year's awards.

Len on 02.06.06 @ 08:52 AM CST [link] [ | ]

T minus 10 days and counting.....

Pitchers and catchers report to Cardinals spring camp on February 16.

Len on 02.06.06 @ 06:24 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

If one gives up reason in the formation of some of one's beliefs, one gives up the only access to truth we have. Humans don't have any perceptual capacity to immediately discern truth, the way we immediately discern color and shape (if the lighting is good and our eyesight is in good order). The closest we can get is to justify our beliefs. Faith is not justification, it is the suspension of all standards for justification. Faith declares that some beliefs - these important ones right at the center of my world-view that shape how I see many other things - need not be justified at all.

If one's beliefs cannot be justified, and if one's actions are shaped and motivated by one's beliefs, then one's actions cannot be justified. Oh, the actions of the faithful might accidentally be consistent with justifiable actions - but that would be pure luck, really, and could just as well have turned out otherwise.

Those who live by faith are not intellectually inferior. One could even say that it takes a certain brilliance, or at least extraordinary mental flexibility, to engage in the mental gymnastics required to apply reason in most areas of life and then suspend it entirely on other areas. So this isn't really about intellect. And to say that faith is a failure of reason or abdication of reason is just to name it, not to explain what's wrong with it. I think something stronger can be said.

Faith is a moral failing. The abdication of reason is the abdication of justification. When people stop even trying to rationally justify their actions in the world - when they decide to act from faith instead - then they might just do anything at all and call it right and good.
--George M Felis

Len on 02.06.06 @ 05:33 AM CST [link] [ | ]

In case I'm not clear on where I stand with respect to the Muslim cartoon brouhaha....

I am in substantial agreement with Norm's views here:

Since when does belief in a god trump the belief in freedom of speech as enshrined in the 'sacred documents' of Western Democracies; and doesn't the muslim world's reaction to the cartoons confirm much of the criticism the cartoons express. We don't give others with strong beliefs a free pass from criticism, or from ridicule, why is it that the muslims think their beliefs should be immune to such criticism. The idea that any religion should get a free pass from criticism is absurd. Those who claim they believe in free speech, but who accept the boycotts, the threats of violence, the intimidation as legitimate are liars. The only legitimate response to free speech is the exercise of one's own free speech. Those who attempt to destroy those whose speech they disagree with are bullies and have no place in a civilized world. It is the response of totalitarians who fear open and honest debate.
However, as noted by Josh Marshall (and, indeed, as I've experienced myself from time to time) it isn't just Muslims who claim such privilege from criticism--be honest now, have you heard more Muslims or more Christians in the United States whine about how persecuted they are? (Hint: Last year, was it the "War against Eid ul-Adha" that Bill O'Lielly and John Gibson were complaining about?)

Len on 02.05.06 @ 10:10 PM CST [link] [ | ]

I now pronounce you panda and panda...

Congratulations to Angelica and Gene of Battlepanda, who got married this past Friday.

Don't miss the Reuters photos from the honeymoon.

(Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

Brock on 02.05.06 @ 10:04 PM CST [link] [ | ]

And don't forget those wooden shoes...

It seems that someone at Pajamas Media needs a remedial geography lesson:

Danish Tulips (56k image)

LGF Watch.)

Brock on 02.05.06 @ 07:41 PM CST [link] [ | ]

He's got huge fangs!

The Children's BBC has a story on Herman, who is possibly the world's largest rabbit. The article says he weighs in at 7.7 kg (that's 17 lbs, for our metrically-challenged readers), but from this picture I wonder whether that's a typo. 17.7 kg, perhaps?

Herman the Giant Rabbit (21k image)


Brock on 02.05.06 @ 06:49 PM CST [link] [ | ]

And today, we send the happiest of happy birthday wishes....

to "Hammerin' Hank" Aaron, who turns 72.

Len on 02.05.06 @ 01:50 PM CST [link] [ | ]

A propos of yesterday's belt sander races.....

Dr. Abby's uploaded her pictures of the 2006 NEBSRA Winter Nationals to Flickr.

Go take a gander; looks like a it was an event worthy of:

The Art Schroeder Memorial Synopsis™

A great time was had by all, and nobody was arrested

Len on 02.05.06 @ 01:40 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Another Icon of my youth passes....

Elayne Riggs reminds me that Al "Grandpa" Lewis (formerly of the TV sitcom, The Munsters) is dead.

What amuses me is that, looking over Google's collection of search results on the story, the media apparently can't decide if Lewis was 82 or 95 when he died. Perhaps they should just split the difference and say he was 88.5.

Len on 02.05.06 @ 12:46 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Some good news to warm Karen's heart?

Over at TomDispatch, Elizabeth de la Vega thinks a Karl Rove indictment is forthcoming:

For Karl Rove, no news from the Plame case -- Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury investigation into the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson's identity as a CIA agent -- is definitely not good news. Seismic activity is notoriously silent, so we may not be hearing any rumblings at the moment. But speaking as a former prosecutor, I believe it highly likely that, just below the surface, the worlds of Karl Rove and Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, shifting like tectonic plates, are about to collide. As was true with Vice President Cheney's top aide, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, charged with obstruction of justice and lying to a federal agent as well as to the grand jury, Rove might not be charged with the leak itself. I am confident, however, that Rove will not leave this party empty-handed. He will, at the very least, almost certainly be charged with making false statements to an FBI agent. Here's why.

For starters, the evidence that Rove deliberately lied to the FBI is overwhelming.

Rove's elaboration not only compounded his initial lie but also illuminated the world of politics that he has been incapable of leaving behind -- a world that collides head-on with the one Patrick Fitzgerald inhabits, where politics have no place and where laws, and the highest standards of public service, prevail.

Despite his measured words, Fitzgerald revealed much about his worldview in the press conference in which he announced Libby's indictment. He said that the investigation was serious because the disclosure of classified information about a CIA officer could jeopardize national security. But equally serious -- and he repeated this more than once -- was the betrayal of government employees by their own officials.


Over and over again, in that same press conference, Fitzgerald demonstrated his belief that if you sign onto a system that has certain rules, you have to follow those rules even if it might be personally advantageous to break them. Those who tuned in saw reporters repeatedly ask him about information he could not reveal without violating the rules of grand jury secrecy or prosecutorial ethics. He was asked, for example, whether other people might be charged. He declined to answer. He was asked to evaluate the strength of the case. He declined to answer. He acknowledged how frustrating his inability to answer undoubtedly was to the assembled media, but explained that he couldn't gather information according to the rules of grand jury secrecy -- which prohibit talking about people who were investigated but not charged with a crime -- and then afterwards reveal the information anyway because it was too "inconvenient" not to answer reporters' questions.

Later in the press conference, he said simply, "All I can do is make sure that myself and our team follow the rules."

Fitzgerald's world is far removed from the world of expediency and personal advantage in which Karl Rove operates. In his carefully crafted statements during the FBI interview on October 8, Rove indicated an obvious belief that he could get away with spreading information about government employees for political purposes as long as someone else had revealed that information first, regardless of whether or not the information was disparaging or classified. He did not appear to be concerned with where the information came from, or even whether it was true.

Although it is astounding that Rove would blatantly describe such a despicable ethos (if you can call it that), it should not have been unexpected. In the world of campaign politics that Rove has so long inhabited, smears and personal attacks are designed to seem as if they were spontaneously generated. They can then wander around, undirected, until they finally curl up in America's living rooms like so many mysterious, uninvited guests. These intruders may be rude and destructive, but no one is supposed to be able to get rid of them, in part because no one is supposed to be able to sort out or pinpoint how they got there in the first place. Thus, although Karl Rove has lurked in the background of an unprecedented number of whisper and smear campaigns....
Speaking for myself, it can't be too soon before Karl "The Architect" Rove is introduced to the joys of life behind bars....

Len on 02.05.06 @ 12:24 PM CST [link] [ | ]

In the wake of the Danish cartoon brouhaha....

the deluge doesn't seem too far off. Josh Marshall has a thoughtful post on why this problem isn't going away soon:

A number of readers have written in this evening and explained that the source of Muslim outrage is not that Muslims are being stereotyped as violent. It is that there is a specific and deeply-held taboo in Islam against graphical portrayals of Mohammed. You're not supposed to draw pictures of Mohammed, to put it quite simply. And you're especially not supposed to draw pictures that are insulting of the religion or portray him in sacrilegious ways.

I know that. I already knew it. I know the whole backstory.

In isolation, in the abstract, it's certainly a taboo I'd want to respect, or at least not needlessly offend.

But all of that is beside the point. An open society, a secular society can't exist if mob violence is the cost of giving offense. And that does seem like what's on offer here. That's the crux of this issue -- that the response is threatened violence and more practical demands that such outrages must end. It's back to the fatwa against Salman Rushdie and the
Satanic Verses (which, if you're only familiar with it as a 'controversy' is a marvelously good book) -- if on a less literary and more amorphous level.

The price of blasphemy is death. And among many in the Muslim world it is not sufficient that those rules apply in their countries. They should apply
everywhere. Perhaps something so drastic isn't called for -- at least in the calmer moments or settled counsels. But at least European governments are supposed to clamp down on their presses to heal the breach.

In a sense how can such claims respect borders? The media, travel and electronic interconnections of the world make borders close to meaningless.

So liberal mores versus theocratic mores. Where's the possible compromise? There isn't any. On the face of it this gets portrayed as an issue of press freedom. But this is much more fundamental. 'Press freedom' is just one cog in the machinery of a society that doesn't believe in or accept the idea of 'blasphemy'. Now, an important cog? Yes. But I think we're fooling ourselves to reduce this to something so juridical and rights based.

I don't want to imply this is only a Muslims versus modernity issue. I know not all Muslims embrace these views. More to the point, it's not only Muslims who do. You see it among the haredim in Israel. And I see it with an increasing frequency here in the US. Is it just me or does it seem that more and more often there are public controversies in which 'blasphemy' is considered some sort of legitimate cause of action -- as if 'blasphemy' can actually have any civic meaning in a society like ours. Anyway, you get the idea.
Read the whole thing. And make sure to follow the pointer to this New Yorker piece on the recent Hamas electoral victory in Palestine.

Only in the simplistic worldview of the Little Green Fascists is this problem easily solved.

Len on 02.05.06 @ 12:10 PM CST [link] [ | ]

And from the front lines of the Rethugnican war on science....

Josh Marshall gives us a pointer to a New York Times article which tells us what the bastards are up to now:

A week after NASA's top climate scientist complained that the space agency's public-affairs office was trying to silence his statements on global warming, the agency's administrator, Michael D. Griffin, issued a sharply worded statement yesterday calling for "scientific openness" throughout the agency.

"It is not the job of public-affairs officers," Dr. Griffin wrote in an e-mail message to the agency's 19,000 employees, "to alter, filter or adjust engineering or scientific material produced by NASA's technical staff."

The statement came six days after The New York Times quoted the scientist, James E. Hansen, as saying he was threatened with "dire consequences" if he continued to call for prompt action to limit emissions of heat-trapping gases linked to global warming. He and intermediaries in the agency's 350-member public-affairs staff said the warnings came from White House appointees in NASA headquarters.

Other National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientists and public-affairs employees came forward this week to say that beyond Dr. Hansen's case, there were several other instances in which political appointees had sought to control the flow of scientific information from the agency.

They called or e-mailed The Times and sent documents showing that news releases were delayed or altered to mesh with Bush administration policies.

In October, for example, George Deutsch, a presidential appointee in NASA headquarters, told a Web designer working for the agency to add the word "theory" after every mention of the Big Bang, according to an e-mail message from Mr. Deutsch that another NASA employee forwarded to The Times.

And in December 2004, a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory complained to the agency that he had been pressured to say in a news release that his oceanic research would help advance the administration's goal of space exploration.
Quoth Josh:
It's not just evolution that's beyond the pale anymore. Bush administration campaign flacks are making NASA employees put the word 'theory' in front of references to 'big bang' in NASA publications. Lucky we can still talk about dinosaurs.

It sounds broad brush but facts, empiricism really have become an issue of the day.
The thing that has me at a slow simmer whenever I think of this is the duplicity of the PR types who misuse the word "theory" in support of their nefarious ends.

This is best seen in some of the ID debates, and basically, they get away with it because of the scientific ignorance of the general public.

In common, non-technical parlance, "theory" is used as a synonym for speculations ranging from "hypothesis" to "wild-assed guess": "My theory is that Timothy Treadwell was a paranoiac with delusions of both gradeur and persecution." Something that's not necessarily supported by facts or observations, and not really worthy of being taken seriously.

However, in strict, scientific usage, a theory is something that is much, much more than a guess. The Wikipedia entry on "Theory" summarizes the scientific meaning quite well:
In scientific usage, a theory does not mean an unsubstantiated guess or hunch, as it often does in other contexts. Scientific theories are never proven to be true, but can be disproven. All scientific understanding takes the form of hypotheses, or conjectures. A theory is in this context a set of hypotheses that are logically bound together (See also hypothetico-deductive method).

Theories are typically ways of explaining why things happen, often, but not always after their occurrence is no longer in scientific dispute. For example, "global warming" refers to the observation that worldwide temperatures seem to be increasing. The "theory of global warming" refers instead to scientific work that attempts to explain
how and why this could be happening.

In various sciences, a theory is a logically self-consistent model or framework for describing the behavior of a certain natural or social phenomenon, thus either originating from or supported by experimental evidence (see scientific method). In this sense, a theory is a systematic and formalized expression of all previous observations made that is predictive, logical, testable, and has never been falsified.
[emphasis supplied --LRC]
However, when ID proponents say that evolution is "just a theory", or creationists in the bAdministration force NASA webmasters to modify references to "the Big Bang" so they read as references to "the Big Bang theory", they're pandering to the scientific ignorance of the average American, who's likely to be bamboozled into thinking, "Evolution/the Big Bang is just a theory? Well then obviously it doesn't have much going for it...."

Placed in this context, Bush's calls for more math and science teachers, and a greater emphasis on math and science education in his State of the Union message is almost laughable. It's clear from the actions of his bAdministration underlings that the last thing he and his Religious Right "base" want is a greater understanding of mathematics and science by the American public. God forbid that the sheeple start thinking, and thereby realize what pathetic foolishness Fundagelical Christianity is....

Len on 02.05.06 @ 11:46 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Closed Captioned for the Hearing Impaired....

Or should that be, "for the critical-thinking impaired"?

Thanks to Stan Schwarz for the pointer.

Len on 02.05.06 @ 11:12 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Maybe there's hope....

A while ago I posted a longish piece quoting extensively from William Rivers Pitt, where Pitt had this to say about the Democrats' ability to make hay with the Jack Abamoff scandal:

I know you believe the Abramoff scandal is going to be your bread and butter in the upcoming midterm elections. I hate to break it to you, but you have already been outflanked. The television nitwits have flooded the airwaves with the meme that this is a "two-party scandal," despite the fact that Abramoff would have sooner lit himself on fire than give money to a Democrat. As you have been collectively incapable of setting the record straight in public, with the exception of a two-minute crunch between Howard Dean and Wolf Blitzer on CNN that left Blitzer spluttering impotently, understand that "this scandal affects both parties" is now commonly accepted fact all across the land.
However, this morning Chris Kromm tells us that maybe, just maybe, there's some hay to be made with the Abramoff scandal:
Think the Jack Abramoff scandal isn't having much impact on politics? Ralph Reed, former darling of the religious right and current candidate for the second-in-command post in Georgia, would disagree:
For a while, former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed looked almost unstoppable in his bid for lieutenant governor of Georgia. Then he got tripped up by the Jack Abramoff scandal.

In recent months, it was reported that Reed's public relations and lobbying businesses received $4.2 million from his longtime friend Abramoff to mobilize Christian voters to fight the opening of casinos that would compete with Abramoff's Indian tribe clients.

Now, Reed's little-known rival for the Republican nomination, fellow conservative Casey Cagle, is outpacing him in fundraising, and a recent poll shows Cagle could be as strong a candidate as Reed against a Democrat.
Of course, the down side of this is that it looks like Reed is going down in the primary to a more electable Rethugnican. But hey, it's some good news.

Len on 02.05.06 @ 10:55 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Brings back some interesting memories....

Of Media Girl's entry The few, the proud, the married, The Fixer at Main and Central has this to say: Makes an old vet chuckle.

As for me, it brings back memories of being a legal assistance officer at Naval Legal Service Office, Subic Bay, and being tasked to help present one of the topics in the day-long marriage seminar that the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Philippines [COMUSNAVPHIL] presented for Filipino nationals (mostly women; I can't remember there being any U.S. servicewomen getting engaged to Filipino guys while there, though I suppose anything is possible) who had become engaged to U.S. servicemembers there--attendance at such a seminar was a prerequisite for the servicemember to get permission from COMUSNAVPHIL to marry, and for the prospective bride to receive command sponsorship after the wedding.

Though, thankfully, my part in the entertainment didn't have to do with insuring years of connubial bliss between the parties. My part (well, most of it) consisted of giving the prospective Naval/Marine Corps wives a quick rundown on U.S. immigration law, and how it affected them, as well as a few other pertinent topics. Which is probably as well; with two failed marriages under my belt now, it's pretty clear that I'm a lousy candidate for teaching people how to get and stay married (other than by serving as a negative example: "Watch what I do, and then don't!!!!").

Len on 02.05.06 @ 10:37 AM CST [link] [ | ]

From the "Interesting Juxtapositions Department".....

While spending my Super Bowl Sunday morning at Cafe Francisco (having breakfast (and most likely lunch, too), putting on a caffeine buzz, and doing the Interweb thing courtesy of their WiFi access point), I noticed that they have the latest (Feb '06) issue of Memphis magazine for sale at the counter. At the very top of the cover I see this interesting combination:

A Hard Look at VIAGRA * 14 Great Date Ideas

But then I'd be amused by that, being of the age where one starts to consider Viagra™ a great date idea....


Len on 02.05.06 @ 09:43 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

The [Multiple Personality Disorder] community suffered another serious attack on its credibility when Dr. Bennett Braun, the founder of the International Society for the Study of Disassociation, had his license suspended over allegations he used drugs and hypnosis to convince a patient she killed scores of people in SATANIC RITUALS. The patient claims that Braun convinced her that she had 300 personalities, among them a child molester, a high priestess of a satanic cult, and a cannibal. The patient told the Chicago Tribune: "I began to add a few things up and realized there was no way I could come from a little town in Iowa, be eating 2,000 people a year, and nobody said anything about it."
--Robert Todd Carroll [skepdic.com]

Len on 02.05.06 @ 09:18 AM CST [link] [ | ]

And from the Weird Sports Department....

Actually, as a geek myself, while this isn't my thing, it's firmly enough in the category of geek sports (alas, no longer can we indulge in such competitions as disk drive races) that I can appreciate it: Belt Sander Racing.

In case you never have seen this spectacle live and in person (and no, I haven't, myself), they have a movie showing you what it's all about (QuickTime required, and note that it's not hosted on a streaming server; you may want to download it to your computer if you want to watch). Definitely one of those "must do once before you die" things.

Thanks to Dr. Abby (who attended this afternoon's NEBSRA 2006 Winter Nationals) for the reference.

Len on 02.04.06 @ 06:51 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

Apropos "the big game" tomorrow:

For three hours the game is the most important thing in the world. Then someone wins. Next day it doesn't mean a thing.
--Bill Russell

Len on 02.04.06 @ 06:06 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Take that, Harold Ford, Jr.....

One of the many reasons I despise Harold Ford Jr., and look forward to the election day that he loses his Senate bid (it'd be most wonderful if he loses the primary to Rosalind Kurita, but most certainly he will go down in defeat to the Republican candidate) is his vote in support of the laughingly styled "Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005". A couple items in the past several days bring this back to my attention....

Over at The Flypaper Theory, autoegocrat, in the context of a long post titled Demystifying opposition to Uncle Junior, puts Ford's support of the Bankruptcy Act in the greater context of Ford's betrayal of his constituency:

But Ford's seeming need to cut up your safety net and sell the pieces back to you does not end with Social Security. The onerous Bankruptcy Bill, which was literally written by lobbyists for the credit card industry, represents another feather in Ford's Republican hat. That bill creates a windfall for the banking and finance sector while at the same time dropping the floor out from underneath the middle class. Under the law, if you're middle class and you get overwhelmed by medical bills (the number one reason people file for bankruptcy), you must pay back every dime.

Bankruptcy protection is a much older concept than Social Security. It goes all the way back to Mosaic Law, when it was decreed that debts should be forgiven every seven years. Again, here is another example of Ford screwing around with longstanding safeguards for ill fortune in the service of his personal political ambition. The big difference here is that he isn't giving the shaft to the poor, this time he's dumping on the middle class. The Bankruptcy Bill only kicks in if you're above the median income, but under the law, if you can't pay your bills, your creditors can come take your house. In other words, if you're middle class and you get too sick, you won't be middle class for long.

The outright self-serving betrayal of not only the Democratic Party, but also his constituents, that is represented by this vote cannot be understated. Harold Ford Jr. represents the 9th District of Tennessee, in effect, the city of Memphis. Memphis has the highest personal bankruptcy rate in the nation. Memphis also has the shameful distinction of being the nation's capital for infant mortality. The coincidence of these two statistics in one place is no accident.

Poverty and infant mortality are linked together like war and death. Where you have one, you will always have the other. And the representative of a city where 40% of the people live below the poverty line (I'm one of them),
a city that is America's twin capitol of financial ruin and baby death, voted for a bill that is going to thin out the middle class in this city like a lion in a herd of antelopes.


When asked about his support for the bill, Ford's answer was just as disingenuous as it was insulting to his constituents:
"Two-fold: One, I think the real issue with regard to credit in this nation has to do with credit agencies, reporting agencies that determine your credit worthiness. If you're a college student, and you're late paying your phone bill because you have no job or because you've been flooded with credit-card requests from banks and credit-card companies alike, I believe that after you've satisfied that debt it should be erased from your credit history. Banks and other creditors base how much they will expend to you in credit and money on those numbers. The bankruptcy bill in a lot of ways just wanted to pin the blame on financial institutions. They are part of it."

And I thought that the idea of urging personal responsibility is a smart thing. The incidences of bankruptcy in Memphis and in this state are high. I've introduced legislation to to make it a law where lenders have a responsibility to share with borrowers all of their rights and all of the legal responsibility that comes with taking out a loan or borrowing money from an institution. And that banks have a responsibility to know the payback power of those they lend to. That, I think, is the better route, because, even if we didn't have a bankruptcy bill, we would still have the problem of under-educated or uneducated borrowers in this country."
Ford understands neither the causes nor the effects of personal bankruptcy, or even the very bill he voted on. His non-answer, while not addressing the question at all, is still revealing. To him, predatory lending practices are the fault of the borrowers who don't take the time to learn all the different ways they can get screwed when they're in a financial bind and need a lifeline. This is classic Republican thinking: rig the system against the poor, and then blame them for getting caught in the trap.
The day before autoegocrat penned this inspired manifesto, Brian Leiter (Joseph D. Jamail Centennial Chair in Law and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas School of Law, Austin, TX) pointed us to this masterpiece of a trial court memorandum order by the Honorable Frank R. Monroe, United States Bankruptcy Judge for the Western District of Texas in the case of In re Sosa (No. 05-20097-FM, W.D. Tex.). I think this is such a well written opinion that I'm going to take the liberty of quoting a substantial portion of it here:

On December 20, 2005 at 10:00 a.m., the Court held a Show Cause hearing as to why this case should not be dismissed for failure of the Debtors to file a Certificate of Credit Counseling. The Debtors appeared pro se but had copies of pleadings which had been filed that morning by James R. Chapman, Jr., the proposed attorney for the Debtors. Such pleadings included a Response to the Court's Order to Show Cause. Additionally, the Debtors answered questions of the Court at the hearing.

This is core proceeding under 28 U. S. C. §157 as it is a matter both arising under Title 11 and in a case under Title 11. As such, the Court has the jurisdiction to enter a final order in this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1334(a} and (b), 28 U.S.C. §157(a) and (b) (1), 28 U.S.C. §151, and the Standing Order of Reference from the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas of all bankruptcy matters.

Statement of Law

The Congress of the United States of America passed and the President of the United States of America signed into law the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (the "Act") It became fully effective on October 17, 2005. Those responsible for the passing of the Act did all in their power to avoid the proffered input from sitting United States Bankruptcy Judges, various professors of bankruptcy law at distinguished universities, and many professional associations filled with the best of the bankruptcy lawyers in the country as to the perceived flaws in the Act. This is because the parties pushing the passage of the Act had their own agenda. It was apparently an agenda to make more money off the backs of the consumers in this country. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Act has been highly criticized across the country. In this writer's opinion, to call the Act a "consumer protection" Act is the grossest of misnomers.


Simply stated, if a debtor does not request the required credit counseling services from an approved nonprofit budget and credit counseling service before the petition is filed, that person is ineligible to be a debtor no matter how dire the circumstances the person finds themselves in at that moment. This Court views this requirement as inane. However, it is a clear and unambiguous provision obviously designed by Congress to protect consumers.

Facts of this Case

In this case the Debtors admit they did not seek or request the required credit counseling services from an approved nonprofit budget and credit counseling agency before filing their case even though they talked to Mr. Chapman by telephone prior to filing and he rightfully advised them to do so. Instead they filed this Chapter 13 case on December 6, 2005, "as an emergency measure to stop foreclosure on their homestead. See Debtors' Response to Court's Order to Show Cause. The Debtors responded to the Court's question as to why they waited so long to file their case by stating that they had been working with the mortgage company to determine the exact amount that was owed but that the lien holder had refused to accept payment at the last moment and that was what necessitated the emergency filing of bankruptcy.

Mr. Sosa has now undergone his credit counseling on Friday, December 16, 2005 and filed a Certificate. No certificate has been filed by Mrs. Sosa.


One Debtor has now substantially complied with the intent of the Act by undergoing the required credit counseling. One has not but still could within the time limit if a waiver could be granted. However, because the Debtors did not request such counseling before they filed their case, Congress says they are ineligible for relief under the Act. Can any rational human being make a cogent argument that this makes any sense at all?

But let's not stop there. If the Debtors' case is dismissed and they re-file a new case within the next year, it may be that some creditor will take the position that the new case should be presumed to be filed not in good faith. See 11 U.S.C. §362(c) (3) (C). Section 362 further states that if subsection (c) (3) (C) applies, then the stay in that second case will only be good for thirty days unless the debtor (i) files a motion, (ii) obtains a hearing and ruling by the Court within such thirty-day period and {iii} proves by clear and convincing evidence that the second case was filed in good faith. It should be obvious to the reader at this point how truly concerned Congress is for the individual consumers of this country. Apparently, it is not the individual consumers of this country that make the donations to the members of Congress that allow them to be elected and re-elected and re-elected and re-elected.

The Court's hands are tied. The statute is clear and unambiguous. The Debtors violated the provision of the statute outlined above and are ineligible to be Debtors in this case. It must, therefore, be dismissed.

An Order of even date will be entered herewith. Congress must surely be pleased.
I'm sure Junior's pleased. He's done the bidding of his corporate masters, his constuency be damned.

Len on 02.03.06 @ 08:04 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Why this country is doomed.....

Because we have idiots like this in positions of authority:

But when asked why Mr. Bush had not called on the public to sacrifice to reduce oil consumption, Samuel W. Bodman, the energy secretary, said in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday that "many Americans believe they're already sacrificing by paying the prices they're paying for gasoline and heating oil and natural gas."

Len on 02.03.06 @ 01:20 PM CST [link] [ | ]

The wingnut reaction to the latest Osama Bin Laden message....

was basically, "It's proof we've got him on the run!" Well, points out James S. Lind, maybe not:

Wars, most wars at least, run not evenly but in fits and starts, settling down into sputtering Sitzkrieg for long intervals, then suddenly shooting out wildly in wholly unpredicted directions. The war in Iraq has fallen into a set pattern for long enough that we should be expecting something new. I can identify three factors – there may be more – which could lead to some dramatic changes, soon.
  • Osama bin Laden’s latest message. Most observers, including the White House, seem to have missed its significance. In it, bin Laden offered us a truce (an offer we should have accepted, if only to attempt to seize the moral high ground). The Koran requires Moslems to offer such a truce before they attack. The fact that bin Laden himself made the offer, after a long silence, suggests al Qaeda attaches high importance to it.

    Why? My guess is because they plan a major new attack in the U.S. soon. I would be surprised if the plan were for something smaller than 9/11, because that could send the message that al Qaeda’s capabilities had diminished. Could this be "the big one," the suitcase nuke that most counter-terrorism experts expect somewhere, sometime? That would certainly justify, perhaps require, a truce offer from Osama himself. Of course, al Qaeda’s plan may fail, and it may be for an action less powerful than setting off a nuke on American soil. But the fact that Osama made a truce offer should have set off alarm bells in Washington. So far, from what I can see, it hasn’t.
As if that wasn't bad enough, Lind's other two factors are worth pondering:
  • In Iraq, Shiite country is turning nasty. The Brits are finding themselves up against Shiite militias around Basra. Muqtada al Sadr has made it clear he is spoiling for another go at the Americans, saying his militia would respond to any attack on Iran. In Baghdad, the Shiites who run things are finding American interference increasingly inconvenient. We are now talking to at least some Sunni insurgents, as we should be, but that means our utility to the Shiites as unpaid Hessians is diminishing. Put it all together and it suggests the improbable Yankee-Shiite honeymoon may soon end. When it does, our lines of supply and communication through southern Iraq to Kuwait will be up for grabs.
  • We are moving towards war with Iran. Our diplomatic efforts on the question of Iranian nuclear research and reprocessing are obviously designed to fail, in order to clear the boards for military action. It will probably come in the form of Israeli air strikes on Iran, which, as the Iranians well know, cannot be carried out without American approval and support.

    In Israel, it was Sharon who repeatedly refused the Israeli generals’ requests for air strikes; he is now out of the picture. His replacement, Olmert, is weak. The victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections gave Olmert’s main opponent, Likud’s Netanyahu, a big boost. How could Olmert best show the Israeli electorate he is as tough as Netanyahu? Obviously, by hitting Iran before Israel’s elections in late March.

    In Washington, the same brilliant crowd who said invading Iraq would be a cakewalk is still in power. While a few prominent neo-cons have left the limelight, others remain highly influential behind the scenes. For them, the question is not whether to attack Iran (and Syria), but when. Their answer will be the same as Israel’s.

Len on 02.03.06 @ 11:57 AM CST [link] [ | ]

In re Cindy Sheehan's arrest....

it just came to my mind that in the case of Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971), the Supreme Court held that arresting an individual for wearing a jacket reading "Fuck the Draft" in a courthouse violated the First Amendment.

And the best part of that: the fact that Cohen didn't immediately spring to my mind upon learning of Sheehan's arrest may mean that I'm slowly recovering from the brainwashing I was given in law school.

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!!!

Len on 02.03.06 @ 11:34 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Larry Johnson nails it:

Broke Back Army:

Commander in Chief George W. Bush is firmly planted in fantasyland (or is it denial) when he claimed in his State of the Union speech that:
We're transforming our military. The things I look for are the following: morale, retention, and recruitment. And retention is high, recruitment is meeting goals, and people are feeling strong about the mission.
He’s right about one thing; he certainly is transforming the Army. He is doing to the Army what Katrina did to New Orleans. The headlines in the last two months just begin to tell the story:

The Army is accepting more high school dropouts and Category IV recruits -- those who make the lowest acceptable scores on the military's entrance exam – than ever before.


The Army is allowing more soldiers with criminal records and other behavioral problems into the ranks.


The Army has raised the age limit for new recruits from 35 to 42.


The Army is keeping low quality officers on duty.
But I think this comment to Johnson's post is spot on:
Isn't it funny how the broken Army and Marines are not a problem with the conservative media? But the day a Democrat takes office in 2009, it will suddenly become an impeachable urgency.
But since it's a Repugnican in office, we get to hear Rummy say that this is "battle hardening" the Army:

Just in case any of you agree with the Joint Chiefs of Staff (registration may be required to read that) that the above cartoon is "reprehensible", I'm sorry, but we're just going to have to disagree. For myself, as an honorably discharged veteran, the fact that Rumsfeld is still Secretary of Defense and pushing his poisonous policies which are ruining the United States Army as a fighting force is infinitely more reprehensible than Tom Toles's cartoon.

Len on 02.03.06 @ 10:49 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Gem o'the Day:

Len on 02.03.06 @ 10:13 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Um, Washington, we have a problem.....

This appears on Garry Trudeau's "Daily Dose" page at doonesbury.com today. If this is indicative of mainstream entertainment being produced in the Third World, it might be safely said that the United States has a bit of a public relations problem (spelled n-i-g-h-t-m-a-r-e) overseas:

In the most expensive Turkish movie ever made, American soldiers in Iraq crash a wedding and pump a little boy full of lead in front of his mother. They kill dozens of innocent people with random machine gun fire, shoot the groom in the head, and drag those left alive to Abu Ghraib prison -- where a Jewish doctor cuts out their organs, which he sells to rich people in New York, London and Tel Aviv.
-- from AP story on
Valley of the Wolves
Wonder how many Oscar nominations that one will get?[/sarcasm]

Len on 02.03.06 @ 07:55 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

But this movie is not about war. It is about boxing.

Yes, "Annapolis" takes the subject of a young man training to be a Navy officer in a time of war, and focuses its entire plot on whether he can win the "Brigades," which is the Academy-wide boxing championship held every spring. It switches from one set of cliches to another in the middle of the film, without missing a single misstep. Because Jake has an attitude and because Cole doubts his ability to lead men, they become enemies, and everything points toward the big match where Jake and Cole will be able to hammer each other in the ring.

I forgot to mention that Jake was an amateur fighter before he entered the Academy. His father thought he was a loser at that, too. He tells the old man he's boxing in the finals, but of course the old man doesn't attend. Or could it possibly be that the father, let's say, does attend, but arrives late, and sees the fight, and then his eyes meet the eyes of his son, who is able to spot him immediately in that vast crowd? And does the father give him that curt little nod that means "I was wrong, son, and you have the right stuff"? Surely a movie made in 2006 would not recycle the Parent Arriving Late and Giving Little Nod of Recognition Scene? Surely a director who made "Better Luck Tomorrow" would have nothing to do with such an ancient wheeze, which is not only off the shelf, but off the shelf at the Resale Store?

Yes, the Navy is at war, and it all comes down to a boxing match.
--Roger Ebert

Len on 02.03.06 @ 07:50 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Olbermann spanks Bill O'Lielly....

This is priceless (QuickTime required).

Len on 02.02.06 @ 04:58 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Why Health Savings Accounts are A Very Bad Idea: The Short Form

Steve Gilliard nails it concisely:

The concept here is that people save money for medical bills when they can't save to pay off their credit cards, right? How is this insurance?

This debate should end with ONE statistic: about half the people entitled to a 401K plan actually participate in it. This is going to leave even more people unable to pay for extended medical care.

It's hard enough to pay insurance premiums, but once you do, you can get care. However, a serious illness can blow the limits out in days. Now, you're supposed to save money for medical care?

Len on 02.02.06 @ 04:44 PM CST [link] [ | ]

As a Cardinals fan, I can't pass this up....

Our warmest wishes for a happy 83rd birthday go out to longtime St. Louis Cardinals player and manager, Albert Fred "Red" Schoendienst (longtime? In one way or another (player, manager or coach) Red's been associated with the Cardinals (excepting a roughly 4.5 season stretch he spent with the Giants and Braves) since Christ was playing low A ball).

Len on 02.02.06 @ 01:07 PM CST [link] [ | ]

I wish I were in Boston this weekend (or the following two weekends).....

for a lot of reasons, actually, but not least of which is because former Nashvillian Aaron Hurley (whose inamorata, Dr. Abby will always be the Memphis blogosphere's favorite psychologist) will be playing the part of Geoffrey in The Footlight Club's production of The Lion in Winter. If you follow the link Aaron's in the picture at the very front, on the right (if that isn't him, it means his beard has got me fooled, and I suspect that Dr. Abby will be around to correct me in comments any minute now...).

Break a leg, Aaron!

Len on 02.02.06 @ 10:12 AM CST [link] [ | ]

PoliSci 150, Introduction to Contemporary American Elections...

reduced to a single drawing:

Thanks to Jeff at The Flypaper Theory for finding this.

Len on 02.02.06 @ 09:27 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Yuk o'the Day:

WASHINGTON, DC—The Pentagon announced Monday that 80 percent of Osama bin Laden's seconds-in-command have been eliminated. "Nearly 1,600 al-Qaeda leaders ranked number two have been wiped out," Lt. Col. Mark Allison said. "That leaves only 400 of Osama bin Laden's right-hand men in the organization." Following the apparent failure to kill bin Laden's No. 2 man Ayman al-Zawahri in a missile strike on a Pakistani border town on Jan. 13, American forces intensified the search for al-Qaeda second-in-command Ahmed Al-Zahnami, or, failing that, No. 2 man Amman al-Zaharani, or No. 2 man Ahmed al-Zafarani.
The Onion

Len on 02.02.06 @ 09:09 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Yet another data point....

in favor of the proposition that the country's already gone to hell in that handbasket: Yum Brands to sponsor Kentucky Derby. Yum being the corporate parent of, among other chains, KFC, I suppose we can sit back and see how many wags refer to The Run for the Roses as "The Kentucky Fried Derby" (this reference doesn't count). It looks like the official name for this year's race will be "The Kentucky Derby, presented by Yum Brands".

It's probably about time to draw up the ever shortening list of major sports events not yet sullied by corporate naming rights. I wonder how much the naming rights for the World Series, the Super Bowl, and The Masters will go for, when they get around to those auctions?

Credit: Randy Neal for the pointer.

Len on 02.02.06 @ 08:57 AM CST [link] [ | ]

How "hoax aware" are you?

The awesome Museum of Hoaxes website has posted a four level "Hoax Photo Test" (link is to the first of the four levels), where you can test your ability to weed out real photos from digitally manipulated ones (or, probably more accurately, test your retention of what you read on The Urban Legend Reference Pages or similar websites). The procedure is simple; each level presents you 10 pictures, and you record whether your determination on each picture: Hoax or Real? Once you've answered for all 10 pictures, click the button to score it.

Have fun!

Len on 02.02.06 @ 08:26 AM CST [link] [ | ]

More on the Wikipedia-Congressional staff "scandal"...

Apropos of that tempest in a teapot, The Blogressive follows up on some of the Wikipedia edits that have been traced to Capitol Hill computers (no permalink yet, but it's the first item on the 2/1/2006 entry):

Having solved all of the nation's problems Congressional staffers have taken the time to abuse the honor system at wikipedia.org, one of the Internet's most popular websites, prompting engineers to temporarily block edits emanating from U.S. House and Senate computers. Wikipedia.org is an online encyclopedia maintained by ordinary citizens. Pages can be edited by anyone but records of revisions are kept.

Users at House and Senate IP addresses have removed unflattering facts such as broken promises on term limits, messy divorces, and even connections to lobbyist Jack Abramoff. They have also vandalized, deleted, and placed bogus information on the pages of political rivals.

Examples of the abuses are documented here. But the edits that caught the eye of the Blogressive weren't the obvious biographical enhancements or partisan attacks on political enemies. Taxpayer-funded Congressional computers and staff have made numerous nonpartisan wikipedia edits:

Added vital information on Whitney Houston's work on her husband Bobby Brown's reality TV show: "During the program, she popularized the phrase, 'Hell to the naw!' "

Added Press Secretary Scot McClellan as a related topic to term "douche." (Well, OK, that is a tad partisan.)

Corrected a misspelling on the topic "Asian Fetish."

Corrected a misspelling on the entry for the movie "The Big Lebowski."

Corrected the spelling of "mullet" on Billy Ray Cyrus's biography.

Added this tidbit to Jay Leno's biography: "He appeared in an episode of Good Times in which his character promotes getting tested for venereal diseases."

Made numerous additions and corrections on the topic "masturbation."

Properly attributed a murder to Freddy Krueger on the entry for the film "Nightmare on Elm Street."
Your tax dollars at work.


Len on 02.02.06 @ 08:08 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

In a happy harmonic convergence, Groundhog Day falls only two days after the State of the Union Address this year. Some days, I'd feel better with Punxsutawney Phil in the Oval Office - at least he doesn't lie about the weather. The Bush administration is now trying to stop NASA's top climate scientist from speaking out on the need for prompt action on global warming. As far as we know, the groundhog isn't suppressing anyone, he just calls it as he sees it.
--Molly Ivins

And if you're wondering.... You can find Punxsutawney Phil's prediction here, after he makes it. Which should be just about any minute now....

Len on 02.02.06 @ 06:34 AM CST [link] [ | ]

An era ended last Friday....

and nobody told me about it.

On Friday, January 27, 2006, Western Union stopped sending telegrams.

After 145 years, Western Union has quietly stopped sending telegrams.

On the company's web site, if you click on "Telegrams" in the left-side navigation bar, you're taken to a page that ends a technological era with about as little fanfare as possible:

"Effective January 27, 2006, Western Union will discontinue all Telegram and Commercial Messaging services. We regret any inconvenience this may cause you, and we thank you for your loyal patronage. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact a customer service representative."

The decline of telegram use goes back at least to the 1980s, when long-distance telephone service became cheap enough to offer a viable alternative in many if not most cases. Faxes didn't help. Email could be counted as the final nail in the coffin.

Len on 02.01.06 @ 01:14 PM CST [link] [ | ]

And here's an interesting new way of looking at the SotU....

Over at the New York Times, they give us a graphic showing the frequency of Bush's use of certain words in his various SotU addresses. Puts sort of an interesting perspective on them:

Len on 02.01.06 @ 12:17 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Apparently, the President is pushing the notion of "Health Savings Accounts"...

Over at The Flypaper Theory, the Pesky Fly has a good post summarizing the reasons why Health Savings Accounts are a bad idea. Extensively sourced. Well worth reading; go take a look.

Len on 02.01.06 @ 12:10 PM CST [link] [ | ]

I almost wish I were awarding prizes....

This has to count as, by far, the most interesting subject line for a spam email that I've ever received, yet: Imagine what could happen if the kings weren't able to father.

Len on 02.01.06 @ 09:06 AM CST [link] [ | ]

This says a lot....

From Andy Axel's blog on KnoxViews:

Van Hilleary on the issues:


Bob Corker on the issues:


Ed Bryant on the issues:


Harold Ford on the issues:

"Coming soon."
Rest assured, the very brief twinge of pain I'll feel at seeing another Rethugnican take over Frist's Senate seat will be more than relieved by the joy of knowing that Junior's going to have to find a real job for at least a year or so....

Len on 02.01.06 @ 09:04 AM CST [link] [ | ]

A "Jump The Shark" moment?

I withhold judgement for the time being (mostly because she'd fallen off my radarscope since last summer), but over at Corked Bats Big Poppy suggests that, in meeting with Hugo Chavez over the weekend, Cindy Sheehan has finally "jumped the shark":

The Ump and I were talking over last weekend and he suggested that Sheehan had finally jumped the shark by visiting with Hugo Chavez. Since then she has hinted that she might run for Senate against Diane Feinstein and most recently she got arrested at the State of the Union in the gallery. It is painful to watch this because she did so much good this summer, but I have to admit, I think she is losing her grip on the humility that was her most endearing trait. I hope I am wrong, but I have to agree she may be on the other side of the Shark...too bad, I loved what she was doing.
Actually, I can think of a lot of people (some who actually even read us from time to time) who thought Cindy jumped the shark from the get-go. But, as I said, I haven't been paying attention lately?

Comments from anyone who knows? Or even is pretending s/he knows? :-)

Len on 02.01.06 @ 08:39 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Congressional Indictments: Can't tell the players without a scorecard?

Well, then here's your scorecard. Courtesy of TPM Media.

Len on 02.01.06 @ 08:31 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Note to America:

when it finally comes to pass, remember this: you only have yourselves to blame:

Len on 02.01.06 @ 07:55 AM CST [link] [ | ]

And those in government wonder why we don't trust them....

Via David Sheets, technology reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Congress alters facts on Wikipedia. Well, not exactly Congress, but a member of one Congressman's staff was caught gilding the lily on behalf of the boss at Wikipedia, and apparently s/he wasn't the only one:

We all have thought Congress toys the truth at times. Now, there appears to be proof of it at Wikipedia.

The publicly edited online encyclopedia says it has instituted a one-week ban on Congress from making additions or changes to the site. The ban follows discovery that a senior staff for a Massachusetts congressman authorized changes to his Wikipedia biography that distorted facts.

According to a newspaper investigation, staff for Democratic Rep. Marty Meehan made changes to Meehan’s biography that replaced negative yet accurate information with content having a more positive slant. Among the changes: removing references to Meehan’s promise to serve only eight years.

Further review uncovered thousands of changes made to other Wikipedia entries by House and Senate staffers since last summer. Unlike the Meehan edits, however, some changes weren’t complementary. In one instance, someone from the House wrote that Republican Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia “smells like cow dung.” In another, someone removed criticism of Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware from his Wikipedia page.

Because computers have unique Internet addresses, it was easy for Wikipedia to trace most of the changes in congressional entries to House and Senate offices, although it’s not known exactly who made the changes.
Duh! Hey guys, if you're going to diddle with Wikipedia, you shouldn't be doing it from the office!

Len on 02.01.06 @ 07:37 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Come next "talk like a pirate day"....

you may want to take a look around, and check for any Navy or Coast Guard personnel before joining in the day's silliness.

Reports are that piracy is on the rise around the world, and the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard actively monitoring the situation.

"The number of reported incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in waters off the coast of Somalia has increased alarmingly ... and is becoming increasingly common," an official said. "Most of the incidents have reportedly occurred at distances ranging up to 180 nautical miles off the Somali coast, and the reported information suggests a pattern of well-organized and coordinated activities."

The U.S. Navy is attacking the issue head-on. In an attempt to make the seas safer for commerce and to thwart terrorist activities, the Navy conducts maritime security operations in various parts of the world, officials said.

"The primary focus of (such operations) is preventing terrorists from using the seas as a venue from which to launch an attack or to move people, weapons or other material that support their efforts," Naval Forces Central Command spokesman Cmdr. Jeff Breslau said. But "our maritime task forces are always prepared to respond to mariners in distress, whether they are under attack by pirates, experience engineering causalities, or have medical emergencies."

Most recently, the Navy captured a suspected pirate vessel in the Indian Ocean about 54 miles off the coast of Somalia and detained 10 alleged pirates Jan. 21.

Len on 02.01.06 @ 07:31 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

Nevertheless, I've been impressed all over again the past couple weeks with the Republicans' skill at political stone soup—making something out of nothing. In this case it's a remark by Hillary Clinton comparing Congress to a plantation. Near as I can tell, the alleged objection to "plantation" is—by analogy to the Holocaust—that any metaphorical use of the word is an insult to the real slaves and their descendants. This particular stone soup would be overheated even if the ingredients were fresh and sincere. But the fuss is obviously cynical, coming as it does from people (talk-radio jockeys, the editors of the Wall Street Journal—you know the type) who usually stalk the microphones in order to denounce excessive sensitivity and its smothering effect on political debate.

What's especially impressive is how the get-Hillary campaign was not even slowed by the discovery that Newt Gingrich had used the same metaphor back when he was somebody. A hilarious op-ed this week in the
Wall Street Journal explained that while Hillary's remark was "pandering" and patronizing ("Must blacks have their slave past rubbed in their face … ?"), Gingrich "had the good taste to cast himself as a slave who would 'lead the slave rebellion.'" Well, each to his own good taste, I suppose.

But that metaphor of a corrupt plantation seemed more familiar than just one of Newt's old ravings. And indeed the
Wall Street Journal editorial page has used it more than once. In 2001, for example, the man who now runs that page, Paul Gigot, wrote (in reference to Sen. Joe Lieberman) about "how…the black liberal establishment can punish a Democrat who strays from their plantation." The previous year, an editorial about the Massachusetts congressional delegation actually carried the headline "The Liberal Plantation."

And then (just to show what a little Googling can do), there was a small 2001 item in the
Wall Street Journal's news section about Vice President Cheney spending the weekend shooting quails at the "plantation" of a rich Republican contributor. Hillary Clinton uses the word "plantation" while Dick Cheney actually goes to one. But that's the Democrats for you: all talk and no action.
--Michael Kinsley

Len on 02.01.06 @ 06:59 AM CST [link] [ | ]

February 2006

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