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

From the Interesting Coincidences Department

I would normally have posted this yesterday, but I was away from the 'net just about all day.

We hear from a normally impeachable source (Dr. Science himself, but verified at the AllMusic Guide) that Davy Jones and Michael Nesmith of the 60's made-for-TV rock group "The Monkees" were both born on December 30 (Jones in 1945, and Nesmith in 1942).

Mathematical fact of the day: As those of you who've mastered your probability formulae know, the probability of at least two persons in four (as you remember, there were four members in The Monkees: Jones, Nesmith, Mickey Dolenz and Peter Tork) sharing the same birthday is 0.016.

Len on 12.31.05 @ 08:00 PM CST [link] [ | ]

And talk about having more money than sense....

One would think that one would have better things to spend money on than restoring one's hymen: More U.S. women getting 'revirgination' surgery

For her 17th wedding anniversary, Jeanette Yarborough wanted to do something special for her husband. In addition to planning a hotel getaway for the weekend, Yarborough paid a surgeon $5,000 to reattach her hymen, making her appear to be a virgin again.

"It's the ultimate gift for the man who has everything," says Yarborough, 40 years old, a medical assistant from San Antonio.

Hymenoplasty, a controversial medical procedure known mostly for its prevalence in the Middle East and Latin America, is becoming popular in the U.S. Although there are no hard data, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons says vaginal surgery, including hymenoplasty, is one of the industry's fastest-growing segments. Gynecologists are marketing hymenoplasty in magazines, local newspapers and online. They report business is booming.

Len on 12.31.05 @ 07:15 PM CST [link] [ | ]

I'm tempted to look in the dictionary, under "unobservant"...

According to this story from Agence France-Presse, apparently it's possible for a woman to be pregnant, and not be aware of it: New mum thought baby was kebab

A WOMAN rushed to hospital with tummy trouble, fearing she had eaten a dodgy kebab, was shocked to give birth instead, a British newspaper reported today.

Helen Smitham, 25, of Distington in northwest England, had no idea she was pregnant when she complained of feeling a bit rough – with an iffy kebab thought to blame.

Her mother rushed her to the nearby West Cumberland Hospital where she gave birth so quickly that doctors did not even have time to tell her she was expecting.

Her baby son Deaton was born on December 24 weighing four pounds and 11 ounces (2.1kg) said
The Sun, Britain's biggest-selling daily.
Then again, according to some of my sources, The Sun's credibility is something less than that of The National Enquirer, though probably a bit more (though not much) than that of The Weekly World News...

Len on 12.31.05 @ 07:10 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

I was thinking about the fact that Monica Lewinsky's famous blue dress came from the Gap. That was back in the mid-1990s—rosier days for the company. Can you imagine a White House intern now—a well-off woman from Beverly Hills who considers herself fashion-forward—buying a dress from the Gap? I can't. Maybe Banana Republic.... It's just a sign of how badly things have gone for the brand: They can't even get world leaders to ejaculate on their clothes anymore.
--Seth Stevenson

Len on 12.31.05 @ 06:31 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Year in Review (Meme)

On an inspirational idea from Dr. Abby’s blog - Here is an *Almost Year-in-Review* (since I officially missed the 1st of the year before I became a blogger) using this model:

”It suggests taking your first post from each month of the year, then taking the last section of it and posting it all in a single list…”

So, in a slightly altered form, here is my Year-In-Review List for 2005:
1) Jan: I’ve found a blog voice:

After a serendipitous meeting, some “dead ivy” conversations, and getting an invite to have an Internet Blog Voice…I’m joining Len & Brock here at DBV.
So, I hope you like my commentary and thanks to Len & Brock: This will be the start of a beautiful friendship. Blogs....away!!

2) Feb: Responsilbility Month

This being February 1st and all...its the end of my month long "Responsibility Experiment" that had been going on at my house since my New Year's resolution letter had been printed in the Chicago Tribune on January 1, 2005.

The final message is that we are a family and we are all in this together and can work and help each other to maintain our lifestyle better than if we all just go it alone. Thanks for the calls and e-mails of encouragement and support from many moms (and even a dad too) who know exactly what I am up against.

3) March: Racist Vixen Vipers

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

4) April: In Other Local News...

Now here's PROOF that there IS other NEWS happening in the world and locally which is worth reporting on. Even in our own Dennis Hastert Corner (DHC) strange tales abound:

Witchcraft, coercion alleged in lawsuit by Tona Kunz (Daily Herald) tells it all.
Well, don't say I never told ya it wasn't WEIRD living here in DHC. And it's NOT an April Fool"s Joke either. LOL

5) May: Orbits...

David Brooks has an interesting muse in today NY Times Op-ed pages: Let’s Make A Deal talking about Bill Frist and the “Nuclear Option” to destroy the Senate fillibuster.

And this list goes on…These folks are NOT about “The People’s Business” as expressed by the Majority of Americans -- but their own personal, private agendas and missions.

"Is this what you (WE) want on your (OUR) orbit?"

6) June: More Male Modeling...

The Urge to Win by John Tierney (NY Times) is an interesting follow-up on one aspect of the men’s/women’s issues and debate.

7) July: More Colorado Reunion in Winter Park

More McLauchlan Family Reunion with a couple last photos of the Bee-A-You-Ti-Full Colorado Mountains.

8) August: Willfully Wasting Wifi??

Now here is one that I can really see eye to eye with on a purely intellectual level about whether - by allowing your home Wifi to be broadcast unencrypted into the public realm or street, you ought to be “allowed” to then make a claim against anyone who might be tempted to use IT -- OR this claim that You simply Can't Steal Wifi.

9) Sept: Let the Recriminations Begin...

Government is to blame for the chaos: New Orleans damage, looting might have been less severe if there were better disaster planning, by James Pinkerton (Newsday)

If homeland security is to have any meaning, it should focus on all threats to the home front. This week, the homeland securitizers failed, big-time."

10) Oct: 'There's No Place Like Home...'

"...There's no place like home..."

Back from the "Big Apple" and hope to soon have some FAB pictures of the day trip to the Mohonk resort (Up State NY); the views from the Empire State Building; China Town and our Ground Zero visit.

11) Nov: Winning Web Designs...

This was from a while back over at Discourse.net, but caught my attention as a funnie about Webpage designing. These are things that designers fail to include in the Webpage making them *poor* quality (at least according to that author. *wink*)

And tho', as an all purpose Techno-Dweeb with minimal HTML skills, I have Absolutely NOTHING to do with how our Webpage looks or functions. (Len RULES!!!)

My only job is to add posts and keep ya'all suitably entertained around here!!! (*smile*) But I thought you might find this *amusing* any-ole-way. So, How does YOUR Webpage stack-up? Hmmmm...? ;-)

12) Dec: Here is What I REALLY Needed to Know...

The tall and the short of why caffeine works…. :-)


Karen on 12.31.05 @ 06:52 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Another Year's-End List...

...from Paul Krugman (NY Times): "A Heck of a Job, Bushie":

A year ago, most Americans thought Mr. Bush was honest.

A year ago, we didn't know for sure that almost all the politicians and pundits who thundered, during the Lewinsky affair, that even the president isn't above the law have changed their minds. But now we know when it comes to presidents who break the law, it's O.K. if you're a Republican.

Click on the "more" to read in full (because this is a real GEM) and because it is time to speak-up and vote out these Un-Constitutional Americans, the Faux-Patriots of the Mis-Rule of Law, those who favor Amuptated-Liberties as their Security-of-a-Lifetime, the El-Supremo's of Executive-Powers making all the rules up as they go along.

Karen on 12.30.05 @ 05:23 AM CST [more..] [ | ]

Census Data 2005 Anniversaries...

[The] Following is the daily "Profile America" feature for Friday, Dec. 30 from the U.S. Census Bureau:

Before closing the book on this eventful year, it's worth looking at some of the anniversaries of 2005.

Fifty years ago, the nation's first theme park, Disneyland, opened in Anaheim, California; Bill Halley and the Comets recorded Rock Around The Clock; and the first McDonald's opened.

Seventy-five years ago, the planet Pluto was discovered, and Hostess Twinkies first went on sale.

One hundred years ago, Albert Einstein published his special theory of relativity, and noted aviator and movie maker Howard Hughes was born.

A century ago, the average life expectancy for a baby girl was 51 years and for boys, 48. Now, those figures are close to 81 years for girls and 75 for boys.

-- US News Wire.

Karen on 12.30.05 @ 05:07 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Yet Another 2005 List...

Time has done a 10 best TeeVee show list.

[Which I note here as being NONE of the things I EVER watch on TeeVee with the exception of their #7: Colbert Report.]

The Colbert Report
(Comedy Central)

By rights, this spinoff of Stephen Colbert's supercilious Daily Show correspondent character should have have one good week in it, two, tops. But sharp writing and Colbert's wholehearted inhabiting of his blowhard alter ego showed that there's as much potential in mocking cable opinion shows as in the news itself. Like The Daily Show, the show is uneven -- between the pair, you've got 14 minutes of solid comedy every night -- but it's worth catching for Colbert's nightly editorial, "The Wørd," in which his bluster is counterpointed by commentary from the on-screen graphics. This is a worthy second half to a media-savvy Daily Double.

[And Note to Len: It IS one of the best shows on TeeVee and worth a look-see. ;-) ]

Karen on 12.30.05 @ 05:01 AM CST [link] [ | ]

I am Not Nearly good enough with Photoshop...

...to create these FAB effects from the contest called The Invisible World:

invglass (33k image)

The Invisible Glass

invsailing (41k image)

Invisible Sailing

Click on the link above to see many more of these GEMS. [And perhaps create your own FUN in Photoshop.]

Karen on 12.30.05 @ 04:56 AM CST [link] [ | ]

More Lists...

Still puttering through digg.com and found this list of the 25 Most Interesting Webcams of 2005.

[Of course there is a "Panda Cam." :-)]

Karen on 12.30.05 @ 04:46 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Boo- Hoooey!!

This article from the Chicago Tribune tells it all:

First Marshall Field's, now The Berghoff.

Chicago will lose another commercial and cultural icon when the 107-year-old Berghoff Restaurant, a Loop landmark, serves its last schnitzel on Feb. 28.

Herman Berghoff, the 70-year-old grandson of the restaurant's founder, and his wife, Jan Berghoff, 68, are retiring. Herman Berghoff, who's been working at the German-style restaurant since 1952, owns the building at 17 W. Adams St. and will lease it to his daughter Carlyn Berghoff's catering company.

She plans to reopen the bar this spring under a slightly different name but convert the elegant dining room to a private banquet hall, thus ending the reign of one of Chicago's oldest and most fattening restaurants.

"It's hard to believe," said Rich Melman, founder of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, a Chicago-based restaurant company, who recalls first eating at The Berghoff 45 years ago. "I feel such a personal loss for Chicago. It's like losing the Cubs or something."

Can't count how many times over so many years I've enjoyed their Sauerbraten and their own Berghoff's Draft Beer.

Boo-Hooey. :-(

Karen on 12.29.05 @ 02:30 PM CST [link] [ | ]

More Constitutional Worries Ahead...

A good piece about the trouble with this entire bAdmin views of the “Executive Powers”, the dismissive attitude of Constitutional Values, and the Alito nomination:

…So what does explain Alito's nomination, given that by any plausible account McConnell would have been a more distinguished nominee with easier prospects of confirmation? The answer, I suggest, is the belief by insiders in the Bush Administration that he would be better on the one issue they REALLY care about, which is the aggrandizement of Executive power. The events of the past two weeks, following the disclosures about literally unwarranted wiretapping and data-mining by the National Security Agency, bring into sharp focus the intent by the Administration, led by Dick Cheney, to assert almost unlimited executive powers linked to the "Commander-in-Chief" Clause of Article II of the Constitution.

To be sure, if the Administration has the commitment to Executive branch aggrandizement that I am describing, one might think that an even better nominee would have been Fourth Circuit Judge Michael Luttig. But Luttig is in fact too visible; he has written too many opinions that allow easy identification of his views with those of Justice Thomas. To this extent, Alito is more the "stealth" nominee. The Third Circuit simply doesn't have the array of relevant opinions on national security issues, not least because the Administration explicitly places as many such cases as possible in the conservative-dominated Northern District of Virginia and then the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, secure in the knowledge that it will rarely lose. But it is wildly unlikely that the justice-pickers were indifferent to Judge Alito's likely proclivities.

This makes it essential, obviously, that every member of the Senate Judiciary Committee grill Judge Alito on his views of Article II, the Commander-in-Chief Clause, and, for that matter, the Oath of Office, given that University of Minnesota Law Professor Michael Stokes Paulsen reads the Oath to license the President basically to do whatever he wishes so long as there is a good faith belief that it is "defense" of the Constitution. Quoting Lincoln, Paulsen argues that just as one can amputate a limb in order to save the life of a person, so can a President in effect ignore any given part of the Constitution, including, of course, any of the protections of the Bill of Rights, in order to save the Nation. To put it mildly, this theory of the "amputated Constitution" should give us all pause.

Had Alito been nominated two years ago, many of these questions might have sounded "academic." In the aftermath of the disclosure of memos written within the Department of Justice justifying the President's "inherent" right to torture and then, more recently, of Bush's own public claims to almost limitless executive authority following the NSA disclosures, there is nothing at all academic about them. They go to the heart of whether we can maintain ourselves as a constitutional republic…”

Judge Alito and Executive Power by Sandy Levinson (via Daily Kos).

Update: Here is yet another good piece on the problematic *logic* that informs the idiots in favor of Suspending the Constitution tilted to a view of Supreme Executive Powers during a time of War; from Larry Johnson (No Quarter):
Do you think that John Yoo, the guy who authored the Department of Justice memo justifiying torture, believes that pedophilia is okay as long as the President believes it is necessary to save the nation? That my friends, as absurd as it sounds, is the thrust of the logic underpining the arguments Woo and his buddies are making. Their assault on the traditional conservative view that the power of Federal Government should be limited is truly frightening. In the name of saving the nation they insist that international accords against torture and inhumane treatment no longer apply. They are also on board for holding American citizens in prison indefinitely without a chance to confront their accusers in court. If it is done in the name of "national security" it is okay.

It is too bad that the term "fascism" is such a hot button term, because it is a word that appears to accurately define Yoo's views on Presidential supremacy. I guess we are resigned to labeling him a neo-conservative imperialist, because he believes that the President's status as the Commander in Chief grants an inherent manifest destiny to wield unbridled power.
It would help if we could put the threat of terrorism in a proper historical perspective rather than create a fantasy land of fear. While there is no denying that the radical Muslims would like to cause us great harm, they do not have an air force with long range bombers nor do they have an armada of aircraft carriers. They also do not have submarines armed with submarine launched ballistic missiles. Their ability to attack us is greatly constrained. Even if they get their hands on one or two nuclear devices, they face significant obstacles delivering them. Let's not ignore this threat, but neither should we surrender our civil rights to it just because we're afraid.

Yet, night after night we are confronted with some thick headed TV reporters and pundits who repeat the nonsense that because the threat is new spying is justified. Enough already! We can accept the fact that terrorism is a threat that must be taken seriously but it should not be employed as an excuse to pursue any activity that is cloaked in the aura of "security". If we use the fear of terrorism to excuse torture and permanent imprisonment then we are only a hop-skip-and-a-jump to making sex with children okay as long as the President believes it will keep us safe from Osama.

Karen on 12.29.05 @ 10:18 AM CST [link] [ | ]

That 'Abused Wife' Syndrome...

...all over again with Child-In-Chief merely dusting of his litany of faux concerns to begin *listening* to the country in it's Plans for Political Recovery...

"...The idea, one senior official said, was like fighting with a spouse: "You need to give voice to their concern. That doesn't necessarily solve the division and the difference, but it drains the disagreement of some of its animosity if you feel you've been heard."
Despite the gain in polls, some advisers see trouble ahead. Bush's top aides are telling friends they are burned out. Andrew H. Card Jr., already the longest-serving White House chief of staff in a half-century, is among those thought to be looking to leave. Rove's fate is uncertain, as he appears likely to remain under investigation in the CIA leak case, people close to the inquiry said.

Some are concerned that although Bush has changed his approach, he has not changed himself. He has been reluctant to look outside his inner circle for advice, and even some closest to Bush call that a mistake because aides have given up trying to get him to do things they know he would reject.

So, CIC will continue to wheedle, cajole, prevaricate, and smooze his way back to a few percentage points increase in the polls from the battered American public that just wants someone to tell them: "It will all be alright, honey. Trust in me."

Karen on 12.29.05 @ 09:48 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Congrats to Go Around...

Though I sent an appropriate e-mail, I am remiss in posting about the birth of Dan & Paige Froomkin's welcome new addition to their family: Max Fitzgerald Froomkin.

Congrats to go around for the Frookmin Clan. (And here's hoping for Uncle Mikey to post a nice picture of baby Max...we love pictures!)

But Michael Froomkin has posted another GEM about blog Disclaimers and it is worth a Laugh today.


Karen on 12.29.05 @ 09:33 AM CST [link] [ | ]

I may not DO Lists...

...but I found a few good lists this week:

From Popular Mechanics these Top 50 inventions listed in chronological order by year.

And for all you Techno-Wizards and Geek-Wannabe's, this PC World's list of 50 Best Gadgets.

[All via digg.com]


Karen on 12.29.05 @ 09:00 AM CST [link] [ | ]

You'll All be Pleased to Learn...

...this tid-bit of some interesting "snooze."

"Snooze, You Win

According to new studies, nothing tunes up mind and body like a good nap. But there's an art to catching the right kind of z's
So what makes a power nap effective? Think of it as an investment with the greatest return in the least amount of time, a kind of super-efficient sleep that fits nicely in a high-pressure schedule: say, between business meetings or in the minutes before a game.

Napping in general benefits heart functioning, hormonal maintenance, and cell repair, says Dr. Sara Mednick, a scientist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies who is at the forefront of napping research.

A power nap, says Mednick, simply maximizes these benefits by getting the sleeper into and out of rejuvenative sleep as fast as possible.
Here's how the power nap works: Sleep comes in five stages that recur cyclically throughout a typical night, and a power nap seeks to include just the first two of them. The initial stage features the sinking into sleep as electrical brain activity, eye and jaw-muscle movement, and respiration slow. The second is a light but restful sleep in which the body gets ready -- lowering temperature, relaxing muscles further -- for the entry into the deep and dreamless "slow-wave sleep," or SWS, that occurs in stages three and four. Stage five, of course, is REM, when the eyes twitch and dreaming becomes intense.

The five stages repeat every 90 to 120 minutes. Stage one can last up to 10 minutes, stage two until the 20th minute. Extenuating circumstances, like manning the controls of a jet, aside, experts believe that the optimal power nap should roughly coincide with the first 20 minutes in order to give you full access to stage two's restorative benefits. In addition to generally improving alertness and stamina, stage two is marked by a certain electrical signals in the nervous system that seem to solidify the connection between neurons involved in muscle memory. "It's like a welding machine," says Mednick.

"When you wake up, your neurons perform the same function as before, but now faster and with more accuracy," making the 20-minute nap indispensible to the hard-working athlete looking to straighten out his putter or baseline shot.

Mednick's most recent research also shows that power naps can lift productivity and mood, lower stress, and improve memory and learning. In fact, Mednick has found through MRIs of nappers that brain activity stays high throughout the day with a nap; without one, it declines as the day wears on. Tell that to the boss next time he finds you passed out at your desk.

There is, however, a pitfall in all this sleeping around. You have to carefully time the duration of your nap in order to avoid waking in slow-wave sleep. This can produce what's known as sleep inertia. That's when the limbs feel like concrete, the eyes can't focus, the speech is slurred, the mind is sluggish. Sleep inertia can ruin your day. You must keep the nap to 20 minutes or slightly less, and if you need the extra sleep, wait until the 50-minute mark. This will safely keep you on the power side of your nap.

Getting The Perfect Nap

Everyone, no matter how high-strung, has the capacity to nap. But the conditions need to be right. Dr. Sara Mednick, who will publish a book on napping in the spring (tentatively titled Take Back the Nap!, Workman Publishing) has some helpful hints:

1 The first consideration is psychological: Recognize that you're not being lazy; napping will make you more productive and more alert after you wake up.

2 Try to nap in the morning or just after lunch; human circadian rhythms make late afternoons a more likely time to fall into deep (slow-wave) sleep, which will leave you groggy.

3 Avoid consuming large quantities of caffeine as well as foods that are heavy in fat and sugar, which meddle with a person's ability to fall asleep.

4 Instead, in the hour or two before your nap time, eat foods high in calcium and protein, which promote sleep.

5 Find a clean, quiet place where passersby and phones won't disturb you.

6 Try to darken your nap zone, or wear an eyeshade. Darkness stimulates melatonin, the sleep- inducing hormone.

7 Remember that body temperature drops when you fall asleep. Raise the room temperature or use a blanket.

8 Once you are relaxed and in position to fall asleep, set your alarm for the desired duration (see below).

How Long Is A Good Nap?
THE NANO-NAP: 10 to 20 seconds - Sleep studies haven't yet concluded whether there are benefits to these brief intervals, like when you nod off on someone's shoulder on the train.

THE MICRO-NAP: two to five minutes - Shown to be surprisingly effective at shedding sleepiness.

THE MINI-NAP: five to 20 minutes - Increases alertness, stamina, motor learning, and motor performance.

THE ORIGINAL POWER NAP: 20 minutes - Includes the benefits of the micro and the mini, but additionally improves muscle memory and clears the brain of useless built-up information, which helps with long-term memory (remembering facts, events, and names).

THE LAZY MAN'S NAP: 50 to 90 minutes - Includes slow-wave plus REM sleep; good for improving perceptual processing; also when the system is flooded with human growth hormone, great for repairing bones and muscles.

-- Christopher Ketcham (hat tip to Digg.com)

Or as I like to call my Power naps -- Short naps = SNAPS.

Karen on 12.29.05 @ 08:53 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

George, Prince of Wales, Prince Regent: Ah, Dr. Johnson! Damn cold day!
Dr. Samuel Johnson: Indeed it is, sir -- but a very fine one, for I celebrated last night the encyclopaedic implementation of my pre-meditated orchestration of demotic Anglo-Saxon.
[nods, grinning, then speaks] Nope -- didn't catch any of that.
Johnson: Well, I simply observed, sir, that I'm felicitous, since, during the course of the penultimate solar sojourn, I terminated my uninterrupted categorisation of the vocabulary of our post-Norman tongue.
George: Well, I don't know what you're talking about, but it sounds damn saucy, you lucky thing! I know some fairly liberal-minded girls, but I've never penultimated any of them in a solar sojourn, or, for that matter, been given any Norman tongue!

--Blackadder The Third

Len on 12.29.05 @ 06:16 AM CST [link] [ | ]

From the Files of "Haven't Tried This One...Yet"

One of Those CRAZEE folks over at Google wanted to have some FUN and see what an eighth of a ton (250 pounds) of Silly Putty would be like to *play with*:

sillyputty (15k image)

sillyplay (19k image)

The article is a fun description of the Silly Putty-esque Escapade that followed.

[Hat Tip to Digg.com]


Haven't tried that one yet. Though the family story is told about my eldest brother who got his *egg* of Silly Putty back when the stuff first appeared in 1957.

He had so much fun squishing and forming and bouncing the fabulous-goop that he refused to part with it or put it back in its egg container. Clutching it tightly in his hand, he even took it to bed with him.

One of the properties of this amazing polymer is its ability to "flow" when warmed up...as my brother found out.

Grasped tightly in his *hot* little hand, the Silly Putty melted and flowed right out his hand sticking the side of his head, his hair and hand to his pillowcase. The next morning my mother had to cut all his hair off the side of his head to free him from the Silly Putty. (And that pillowcase and glop of Silly Putty was consigned to the trash never to be seen again.)

But it still FUN stuff. Tho' I don't think I'll be Bulk ordering 250 pounds of it any time soon. *teehee*

Karen on 12.28.05 @ 07:52 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Amazon's Price-Drop Policy

For all the Amazon shoppers out there, here is a good tid-bit of a little advertised policy by Amazon to meet price-drops if the price of a purchase goes down within 30 days of your purchase.

Via Digg.com: Amazon's policy:

"Did you know that if the price on something you buy drops, within 30 days of your purchase date, Amazon.com will credit you the difference if you ask for it? It’s a not-advertised price drop policy that most people don’t know about and it’s saved me tons of money over the last few years."

So Amazon Shoppers, check your purchases and take advantage of this program [before they re-write the rules.]


Karen on 12.28.05 @ 07:29 AM CST [link] [ | ]

The New Holiday Sport...

Mike Musgrove (WaPo) introduces us to a potential New Holiday Sport in this article: The Computer Geeks Who Saved Christmas:

Home for the Holidays Often Means Work for Tech Professionals

"...For many folks like them, having a family reputation for tech savviness means that going home for the holidays has become the time for connecting printers and figuring out why mom's e-mail software stopped working a few weeks back. As computers have found a place in nearly everyone's home, the annual computer checkup has become almost as much of a tradition as dad putting together the new bicycle or sister-in-law getting dragged into the kitchen to make gravy or eggnog.

"It used to be that grandma wanted you to put in a new light bulb in some hard-to-reach place," said Maschal, who works for a local Web company, though in a non-techie capacity. "Now you have to come over to take spyware off her hard drive."
In families blessed with more than one alpha geek, fixing a computer is a matter of pride. When antivirus expert David Perry finds himself at home with his computer science PhD brother and his computer engineer brother-in-law, it can turn into a bit of a showdown. Correctly diagnosing the family computer's ailments becomes "the geek holiday sport" he said..."

Hmm, should this be a new reality based TeeVee Show? GEEK SURVIVAL SHOW-DOWN.

But what would the *winner*deserve? A Year's Free Holiday from fixing other family member's computer problems? But then again... to win, they would have to be the BEST (and we all know "only the BEST" is good enough for family and friends.)


Karen on 12.28.05 @ 07:20 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Was Good Advice EVER taken in this bAdmin?

I think NOT. But here is some more Good Advice from Robert Kuttner (Boston Globe):

What Bush could learn from Lincoln

"...Lincoln's priority, always, was to preserve the Union and to reduce the sectional and ideological bitterness. As Goodwin brilliantly shows, he did so by the force of his personality and the generosity of his spirit. Lincoln had an unerring sense of when public opinion was ready for partial, then full abolition of slavery, and he would not move until he felt he had the people behind him. He governed by listening and persuading.

By contrast, Bush's entire presidency is about eking out narrow victories, not about building national consensus. Even when he prevails, Bush wins by manipulation and stealth. His legacy is deepened division and bitterness.

Bush is said to live in a bubble. His tiny inner circle protects him from realities that might upset him or challenge his dimly informed certitudes. Lincoln, by contrast, had the confidence to reach out to critics and seek out widely divergent viewpoints..."

Good Advice sure to go unheeded by our Child-In-Chief.

And as far as thinking this bAdmin is ever going to ...reach out to critics and seek out widely divergent viewpoints... Ha Ha Ha Ha Haaaaa! Phu-leeease.

If there is any *seeking* to find *divergent viewpoints* by this Administration, it is to *reach out* and throttle them senseless, encase their feets in bricks of cement and toss them overboard to discuss these positions with that other famous Commander-In-Chief -- Davy Jones. [You can find Davy right next to his *locker.*]

Divergent Viewpoints are Nevah to see the Light of Day in this "We Make Our Own Reality" Based community in the White House. Bleh!

Karen on 12.28.05 @ 06:58 AM CST [link] [ | ]

More about that 21st Century need for Enlightenment II

The New Yorker had this wonderful drawing of the cross-exam of scientist for I.D. -Michael Behe - by attorney -Eric Rothschild. [And we all KNOW how that turned out as a reaffirmation of the First Enlightenment and Principles of Scientific Inquiry.]

beherothschild (22k image)

But via Huffington Blog is this other *reaffirmation* of both the *First* and the *New Enlightenment* on the meaning of the Holidays:

"...The recent debate about whether it is appropriate to say “merry Christmas” or “happy holidays” is yet another argument made by thoughtless religious people. It is yet another means to create a debate about the nature of Christmas in America. Those who advocate saying “merry Christmas” to a Jew or a Muslim are inconsiderate, thoughtless, and are advocating the superiority of their religious beliefs. Many of these people believe that the Founding Fathers were religious Christians.

They were not.

Most of them were Deists and abhorred the very teachings of Christian fundamentalists. A Deist is one who believes in the existence of a God or a supreme being but denies revealed religion, basing his belief on the light of nature and reason. Christmas was not even a national holiday until 1885.

It is amazing to me how much American religious tradition has regressed since the “age of enlightenment.” That was the period in which both the American and French Revolutions occurred.

It was a time in which the power of centralized religion was rejected.

It is also a period in which many social movements began to advance the cause of humanity here on earth. Hopefully, the rest of the 21st century will bring upon us a rebirth of the enlightenment period in the spirit of our Founding Fathers.

And when our Supreme Court Justices try to interpret the meaning of “freedom of religion” as written into the Bill of Rights, they will think about the intent and beliefs of those who were the writers of our Constitution. They were in the main Deists who rejected the dictates of organized religion."

Karen on 12.28.05 @ 06:45 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

[Reproduced in its totality because it's a damn important message. I know that none of our readers would be this stupid, but are you sure that your kids are following your good example?]

The story I’m about to tell you is absolutely real - and should not be repeated by anyone under ANY circumstances. I still can’t believe it happened this afternoon, and I hope I never hear it happen again. Identity Theft is real, and what you’re about to read will astound you.

We hit the mall this afternoon, hoping to upgrade a few gifts and catch some day-after-Christmas sales. One store was offering 50% off, and (as you can imagine) the line was quite long. I stood in line, playing games on my new cell phone, waiting for Ponzi to collect a few goodies and to checkout. Now, I’m typically oblivious to conversations that happen around me, but I couldn’t help but to catch one that was taking place between the girl behind me and someone on the other end of her phone line. This is where the nightmarish tale of information privacy truly begins.

The woman states that she needs her sibling to transfer funds ($300) between one bank account and another, but not to warn "Dad" because he might get upset if he knows why this small sum was being transfered. No big deal - I'm sure this happens all the time. I continue playing my puzzle game, happy that she's not my daughter and "managing" my finances behind my back. And then it happens (and mind you, I'm paraphrasing - but all of the following personal information was shared quite audibly for anybody to hear):

"My bank account number is [BLEEP]."
I was floored. She recited her entire bank account number to the other person, as if it was nothing more than a phone number. It gets worse.

"Then you'll need my Social Securty number, which is [BLEEP]."
My jaw dropped. I stopped playing my game, and actually felt myself compelled to turn around and inform her of the grave mistake she was making. But it gets worse.

"Then you'll need my password, which is [BLEEP]."
She did. She recited not only her bank account number, not only her Social Securty number, but the password to access this account. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. THIS REALLY HAPPENED THIS AFTERNOON! Had I, or anybody else around me, been nefarious, this would have been a dream come true. I should have stopped her when she first announced her bank account to anyone within earshot, but the girl's cavalier attitude implied immaturity (and would likely have prompted more than a nasty glance in my direction). Oh my goodness, folks - this was stupidity cubed.

You teach your kids not to accept candy from strangers. You teach friends never to click on links that come from unwarranted "PayPal" emails. You scan your computers for spyware religiously. For goodness sake, shout this story from top of the mountain so that all can hear. You NEVER share your Social Security number, you NEVER share your passwords, and you NEVER share your bank account information. And if you really need to share this data, you DON'T DO IT IN PUBLIC! Identity theft is real, and any one of these pieces of data could lead any thief to an endless goldmine. Anybody can be a victim - your finances could be comprimised in a snap. Fraud is everywhere, and it's not just online. Teach your kids to be responsible with information, please!

And she thought her father would freak over transfering $300 between bank accounts?!
--Chris Pirillo

Len on 12.27.05 @ 08:33 AM CST [link] [ | ]

High-O Silver...?

Silver Undie-Pants...

"Stinky underwear could soon be consigned to the dustbin of history.

Thanks to the invention of what manufacturers claim are the first "pong-proof pants", all student digs and walkers' rucksacks will stay smelling fresh.

Tiny fragments of silver woven into the North Face briefs help stop bacteria multiplying.

This means they can be worn again and again without getting smelly.

Courtesy of Sky News.

But me thinks I posted on this before -- way back in FEB at this link

This March issue of Scientific American had this hygenic hilarity by Phil Scott (who it is reported showers daily in NYC) about the difficulties of staying clean, healthy and fresh in Outer Space.

While stating "NASA ranks comfort well below safety and health"...the International Space Station (ISS) has a ways to go before it resembles the crew of the Star Trek Enterprise who "might shower off with sound waves and don fresh uniforms coutesy of the ships replicators." The ISS has, according to Marsha Ivins, a shuttle veteran, "it's own odor, like 12 years in a sock closet." Euhhhh!

Aside from hand washing clothes with soap and using a "water-bag system and air drying" for real astronauts, high tech hygiene of the future may include "T-Shirts woven with silver thread. The metal inhibits bacterial growth...with results (though anecdotal) promising" as these garments were encrusted with body salts but did not smell. NASA is also testing silver laced bedding, blankets and other items.


Karen on 12.26.05 @ 07:13 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Just Getting Ready...

For 2006:

cmaseve (39k image)

Courtesy of Booman Tribune


Karen on 12.26.05 @ 07:09 PM CST [link] [ | ]

TOO Cute...

...Not to Postie. [Even if it ain't Cat Blogging Friday. ;-) ]

This was in our Sunday Parade Magazine:

A Snow Manx:

snowcat (80k image)

Karen on 12.26.05 @ 06:18 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Virent Ova! Viret Perna!!

For Christmas, my wife got me a copy of Green Eggs and Ham in Latin.

Virent Ova! Viret Perna!!

Here's a sample:

Sum "Picerna" nominatus.
Famulari nunc paratus.

Est Picerna submolestus,
Nec decorus, nec modestus.

Daps plecebit hodierna!
Virent ova! Viret perna!

Dapem tuam vix probabo.
Tuos cibos non gustabo.
Non mi placent, O Picerna.
Virent ova! Viret perna!!

Brock on 12.26.05 @ 12:01 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

Dick Cheney

From trying to convince Congress to legalize torture to defending the President's right to spy on his fellow citizens to questioning the patriotism of administration critics, nobody represented the freedom-loving American spirit better than Vice President Dick Cheney, our Man of the Year for 2005.
--Ironic Times [Dec. 26, 2005-Jan. 1, 2006 edition]

Len on 12.26.05 @ 07:40 AM CST [link] [ | ]

It's a special Christmas.... my favorite kind....

i.e., one of those years where Christmas falls on a Sunday.

That's because I was raised Catholic. For Catholics, Christmas is one of the "holy days of obligation", on which the faithful are required to attend Mass regardless of what day of the week the day falls on. Growing up, I hated having to go to church on Sunday, and I never particularly liked it when a holy day required me to go during the week (however, at least when I was attending Catholic school we got holy days off, which mitigated it a bit). I really hated it when a holy day fell on Saturday or Monday--having to attend Mass two days in a row was pure torture (I note that, at least according to Wikipedia in the U.S. the Catholic bishops have eased up on that obligation for the holy days of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (January 1), the Feast of the Assumption (August 15), and All Saints Day (November 1)--for these days, if the holy day falls on Saturday or Monday the duty to attend Mass is abrogated. That's still not true for Christmas, however).

But when Christmas falls on a Sunday? Great! Only one Mass to attend. It still sucked, but not as bad as having to attend two Masses on consecutive days (thank what powers that be that even the pre-Vatican II Church wasn't so sadistic as to require you to attend two Masses that day).

Anyway, for our Catholic friends, enjoy your two-for-one Christmas special. ;-) For the rest of you--if you're a Christmas celebrant, Merry Christmas. For our Jewish friends, have a happy Hanukkah (for you Gentiles: Hanukkah starts tonight at sunset). To those of you that celebrate Kwanzaa, enjoy that holiday starting tomorrow. And for the rest of you, Happy Holidays. Drive safely, drink safely, and do them on different days.

Len on 12.25.05 @ 11:33 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

It's not that I don't like Christmas. I do. I like Christmas a great deal. It's just that I'm a twisted, bitter cynic who believes that humanity is going downhill faster than Pavarotti on a greased toboggan, and that you can't erase the life-sucking misery of the last eleven months with four weeks of candy canes, garland, and insipid music echoing in your brain until you're compelled to play nosebleed-inducing speed metal to drive the opening verse of "Winter Wonderland" from your head.
--A.J. Axline

Len on 12.25.05 @ 10:58 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Jest Fer Fun...

...try this Cute Holiday webpage:

Pimp My Nutcraker

nutcracker (13k image)

[Hat Tip to Driftglass. :-D ]

Karen on 12.25.05 @ 06:47 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Ho, Ho, Ho...

...and a Merry Christmas to ALL.

We had another wonderful family party last night to celebrate the season and as a birthday party for my niece - Angela - who was born on Christmas Eve.

Here is a picture of my family, and more party pics are below the fold.

macfam (126k image)

Lauren, Karen, Lindsey, Charlie, Cory

Posting will be sparse as so many family celebrations to enjoy, and loads of holiday cooking yet to feast on.

Hope all our readers have a cheery holiday with your loved ones and friends. All my best to you and yours.


Karen on 12.25.05 @ 05:16 AM CST [more..] [ | ]

It's Christmas Eve, and in honor of the holiday....

What better way to mark the holiday than showing a collection of some of the most....uh.... interesting Christmas themed comic book covers (and one splash page) ever conceived (as featured in the awesome superdickery.com archive of stupid comic covers).

My personal favorite:

A few more below the fold...

Len on 12.24.05 @ 08:31 PM CST [more..] [ | ]

And speaking of Baseball Prospectus....

As the hot stove league is in full swing, the BP authors are exercising a bit of creativity in finding things to write about. This month features a couple of (IMHO) inspired articles (unfortunately, BP is a subscription website, and unless you're a BP subscriber you may not be able to view these).

Back in early December, Jim Baker took a look at the pro careers of Heisman Trophy winners versus the pro careers of Golden Spikes winners:

They're giving out the Heisman Trophy tomorrow, as they are wont to do at this time of year. Not everyone is aware that baseball has an equivalent award for its collegiate stars. Obviously, it's one that suffers from being in the long shadow of the much older football award. The Heisman began life in 1935, while the Golden Spikes didn't come along until 1978.

Since everyone has Heisman fever, I thought it would be interesting to compare the winners of each award by year and see how they fared as professionals. While these awards were never meant to be predictors of professional performance, that doesn't mean we can't use them as such, what with free speech and all. Here, in chronological order, is my assessment of which of the collegiate winners won the post-award battle.


The final tally: Football 15, Baseball 11. We lose...but it’s early yet.
And yesterday Baker put together what he calls The All-Cheated-on-Their-Birthday Gifts Team:
Someone had to do it and you had to figure it was going to be me. What is that, you ask? Why, line up the all-born-on-Christmas Team, of course! What follows are the best players at each position who were born on December 25, Christmas day. You have to figure that any day with three Hall of Famers to its credit has got itself a pretty good team regardless of who else fills out the roster. At the very least, they could certainly take on the All-Boxing Day team which features Ozzie Smith and Carlton Fisk.
In case you're wondering, the all-born-on-Christmas team is:

Len on 12.24.05 @ 11:51 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Because I can't resist this kind of thing....

I'll follow Brock with "the bleme of four":

Four jobs you've had in your life: Hotel laundryman, electrical helper, lawyer (actually, plenty of jobs within that general category, but I won't bore y'all), and "professional computer geek" (as I like to put it...)

Four movies you could watch over and over: The trouble is keeping it down to four; pretty much any movie I own falls into this category--not only could I watch them over and over, but I do, regularly. But probably my favorites in that bunch are: Citizen Kane (my choice for Greatest Movie Of All Time, and my favorite by a large margin), Patton, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (I prefer the original "unenhanced" theatrical release, which I have on VHS tape, but I also own the "enhanced" version on DVD, because I'm a fucking idiot).

Four places you've lived: Well, y'all know where I live now, so I won't bother with that one. Other places I've lived: St. Louis, Missouri; Chicago, Illinois; Subic Bay, Philippines; and Springfield/Franconia, Virginia (the mailing address was "Alexandria", but I lived several miles outside the city limits of Alexandria, proper).

Four TV shows you love to watch: Tough one, because I don't watch much TV at all (the only reason I even subscribe to basic cable is to get cable broadband Internet access), and what shows I do watch tend to be "brain drain" or background noise. But if you insist (in no particular order): Iron Chef, MXC/Most Extreme Elimination Challenge, Stargate SG-1, and baseball games (St. Louis Cardinals games when they get picked up for national coverage on the Fox Saturday game of the week, or are broadcast by WGN or one of the Turner Empire stations when the Cards are playing the Cubs or Braves, or Memphis Redbirds games when the local cable outlet here broadcasts a select number of Redbirds home games).

Four places you've been on vacation: Montana (Little Bighorn National Battlefield/Billings), San Francisco, Bronx/NYC/Cooperstown, NY (my second ex was doing an NIH summer institute at Fordham, and we parlayed that into a bit of touristing while she was there--hey, it was a vacation for me), CT/RI/MA (Groton/New London/Mystic Seaport; Newport, and Boston).

Four websites you visit daily: Difficult to answer for two reasons--first, I take regular "days off" the net, so there are days I don't visit any websites, and secondly on the days I do visit websites I do tend to visit many more than four (pretty much all the sites in the "Len's extended blogroll" iframe get visited daily--or as close to daily as I visit websites). But to name four (non-blogs, just because) that come to mind: The Hardball Times, Baseball Prospectus (I finally broke down and paid for a subscription, so I want to make sure I get my money's worth), STL Today (the St. Louis Post-Dispatch website, because I am a St. Louisan in exile, after all), and Slate are all pretty sure to get a visit from me on any given day, if I visit any websites at all.

Four of your favorite foods: (in no particular order) "Barbecued" (i.e., grilled and basted with barbecue sauce) pork steaks (a St. Louis specialty...), lasagna, sushi, lamb vindaloo (when done right...)

Four places you'd rather be: This assumes "ideal circumstances" (i.e., being liberated from the necessity of being shackled to honest work to make my livelihood)--St. Louis, Toronto, London, or a privately owned (by me, of course) tropical island which features broadband Internet connectivity, a gourmet coffee outlet, a world class public library, and guaranteed 30 minute pizza delivery.

Len on 12.24.05 @ 11:00 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

Scientology, how about that? You hold on to the tin cans and then this guy asks you a bunch of questions, and if you pay enough money you get to join the master race. How's that for a religion?
--Frank Zappa

Len on 12.24.05 @ 10:03 AM CST [link] [ | ]

2005- Year in Rewind...

I don't do Year-End Reviews (especially as I can nevah remember how I got from there to here any way...Ha ha ha.)

But Dan Froomkin (WaPo) has this GEM of the Highlights from 2005: Froomkin's Year in Review.

A few samples:

"* February 18: The Scandal That Keeps on Giving

The story of the phony White House reporter who called himself Jeff Gannon just gets curiouser and curiouser every day -- and shows no sign of abating.

* March 30: An Accident or a Policy?

It is flatly un-American for people to be hauled out of a public event with the president of the United States because of, say, a political bumper sticker on their car.

But is it too much to ask the White House to say so?


* June 10: The Increasingly Unpopular President

When President Bush says "polls go up, and polls go down," he's about half right."

Click on the link above to give it a full read through. :-)

Karen on 12.24.05 @ 08:04 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Just in the St. Nick of Time...

...Elf Name Generator:

Your Elf Name Is...

Holly Eggnog Breath

What's Your Elf Name?

Courtesy of Blogthings.


All you little Xmas Elves...Go Get your Official Elf Name on the List (so ya can be sure to help Santa Tonight!!)

Karen on 12.24.05 @ 07:11 AM CST [link] [ | ]

There is no such thing as a 'Minor Infringment'...

...of Constitutional Rights.

Here is good run down of the situation concerning the "Warrant-less Domestic Survelliance" undertaken by Our Government in this CBS News article: Wiretap Debate Should Go To Courts:

"...First, we were told the program only targeted calls that had some international connection. This was supposed to give us some solace about the lack of legislative or judicial oversight for the secret spy program because the express limitation indicated that the eavesdropping efforts would be targeting domestic calls to and from Tora Bora, for example, and not calls from Toledo to Tucson. Even with this limitation the president's directive is constitutionally suspect. But, politically the "international" focus on warrant-less eavesdropping at least allowed White House operatives to say with straight faces that this wasn't some willy-nilly, spy-on-your-neighbor program.

Next, we learned from Tuesday's New York Times that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in the name of conducting its war on terror, has "conducted numerous surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations that involved, at least indirectly, groups active in causes as diverse as the environment, animal cruelty and poverty relief." The FBI isn't the NSA, of course, but the story makes you wonder. If the FBI in the name of fighting terrorism could end up eavesdropping on the Vegan Community project (as the Times reported) why wouldn't the NSA, in the name of fighting terrorism, end up eavesdropping on, say, the ACLU, especially if it didn't have to get a warrant from a judge to do so?

And, sure enough, next came word, again from the Times, that the NSA has been unable to limit its surveillance to communications that have some international context -- purely domestic eavesdropping has occurred as well without a warrant. According to the paper's report, "technical glitches" at the NSA caused its computers to believe that targets of electronic eavesdropping were outside of the United States when in fact they were not. So that call from Toledo to Tucson that wasn't supposed to be monitored by the feds without a warrant may have been monitored after all. And so much for the we're-not-spying-on-our-neighbors argument..."

And Crooks & Liars has this video of the droll lies Child-In-Chief has told repeatedly in speeches to the American people covering all types of wiretaps (whether foreign/domestic, under FISA or the Patriot Act, ALL wiretaps conducted by the government.) CIC says these NEED a court order and judicial oversight.

Yet, CIC now argues this kind of Survelliance (in violation of the FISA laws and the 4th Amendment of our Constitution) is his inherent RIGHT by virtue of his Office as President.

One commentator on CNN remarked that "It's not that the President says he's above the law...but that he says he IS the Law."

I do hope this amnesiac electorate and MSM follow this story through to the end. It's time for everyone to realize how utterly disdainful of our Constitution and American Values this CIC has been and always will be.

UPDATE: Here is yet another good compilation of the issues from various sources, MSM and commentators with their *takes* on the illegality of the secret wiretap program authorized by CIC: from Media Matters.

Karen on 12.24.05 @ 06:55 AM CST [link] [ | ]

I don't think these would go over too well at the office.

Following an adverstisement at BoingBoing, I found a site selling ergonomic mousepads in the form of women's torsos. (Safe for work, although someone might look at you funny.)

Brock on 12.23.05 @ 07:24 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Sucker for blogmemes

(Should that be "blemes?")

Via Kevin Drum, the meme of fours:

Four jobs you've had in your life: Grocery sacker, bookstore schlub, pizza delivery driver, computer geek.

Four movies you could watch over and over: The Big Lebowski, Young Frankenstein, The Fisher King (which I saw five times in the theatre), and Brain Candy (which must be one of the most underrated comedies ever).

Four places you've lived: I'm afraid I've only lived three places. Moscow, TN; Memphis, TN; and Rochester, NY. I guess I could split Memphis into two sections to make four: Midtown and the UofM area.

Four TV shows you love to watch: The Simpsons, King of the Hill, House, and Arrested Development.

Four places you've been on vacation: That's a tough one. I'm not sure whether my yearly visit with the in-laws counts as vacation or not. So I'll try to think of other places I've been on vacation. Washington, DC; New York City; Charleston, SC. And I'll add San Antonio, TX, even though my travel there is work-related, because it's so much fun.

Four websites you visit daily: Marginal Revolution, for a dose of mostly sane libertarianism; The Poor Man, for some fun wingnut bashing; BoingBoing, to see the latest in the weird and wonderful; and my latest favorite mix of liberalism, feminism, economics, libertarian-hatin', and schnauzerblogging, BattlePanda.

Four of your favorite foods: Sushi, fried tofu, amberjack, and my wife's tomato and tortilla soup.

Four places you'd rather be: Another tough one, assuming you mean places I'd like to live. Seattle struck me as a very livable city when I visited. I really like Memphis. It's a big enough city to have almost all the amenties I want, bug not so big that it's overwhelming (like NYC).

Brock on 12.23.05 @ 07:07 PM CST [link] [ | ]

First of the Family Holiday Party's

The first of the family holiday parties was last night. [Though - from the Chicago suburban traffic jams - everyone and their grandmother was on the roads last night! ;-) ]

So below the fold are a few cheery holiday pictures of part of the Fam McLauchlan.


Karen on 12.23.05 @ 02:47 PM CST [more..] [ | ]

Evolution inaction?

Len on 12.23.05 @ 02:03 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Fun with holiday lyrics....

Today, a classic:

Deck Us All With Boston Charlie
by Walt Kelly

Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla Walla, Wash., an' Kalamazoo!
Nora's freezin' on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower alley-garoo!

Don't we know archaic barrel
Lullaby Lilla Boy, Louisville Lou?
Trolley Molly don't love Harold,
Boola boola Pensacoola hullabaloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Polly wolly cracker 'n' too-da-loo!
Donkey Bonny brays a carol,
Antelope Cantaloupe, 'lope with you!

Hunky Dory's pop is lolly gaggin' on the wagon,
Willy, folly go through!
Chollie's collie barks at Barrow,
Harum scarum five alarm bung-a-loo!

Dunk us all in bowls of barley,
Hinky dinky dink an' polly voo!
Chilly Filly's name is Chollie,
Chollie Filly's jolly chilly view halloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Double-bubble, toyland trouble! Woof, woof, woof!
Tizzy seas on melon collie!
Dibble-dabble, scribble-scrabble! Goof, goof, goof!

Len on 12.23.05 @ 09:20 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Learn from experience? Not in the Pentagon....

As Fred Kaplan points out:

Do the Pentagon chiefs pay any attention to the lessons they say they've learned? Judging from reports coming out of the Defense Department's current budget and policy reviews, the answer can only be: No.

One lesson of the Iraq war, accepted by nearly everyone now, is that the U.S. military, especially the Army, doesn't have enough troops to occupy a country for very long while fighting off insurgents and trying to establish order.


And yet, according to a story by Tom Bowman in the Dec. 21
Baltimore Sun, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is planning to cut the Army's forces by 34,000 troops. That would entail eliminating one active-duty brigade and six National Guard brigades. (The latter aren't trivial; nearly half the U.S. combat units in Iraq come from the National Guard.)

Budget pressures are forcing Rumsfeld to cut Pentagon spending by $32 billion over the next five years. But why is he taking his biggest whacks against the tokens of combat power—boots on the ground—that are, by his own admission, most vital? The Sun reports:
The manpower cuts stem from a decision by top Army leaders to sacrifice troop strength in order to provide money for new weapons systems and other new equipment, said defense officials, who requested anonymity.
We don't have enough troops (and can't bring ourselves to spend enough money properly to equip the ones we do have), but we can cut back on badly needed manpower in order to buy more shiny new toys....

Actually, what's worse is that defense spending has been seriously skewed for a while:
The problem isn't entirely with the Army brass. It's with the whole back-scratching collusion that the three services—Army, Navy, and Air Force—devised decades ago to stave off their natural tendencies toward explosive internecine rivalry.

Trace the military budget back a quarter-century. You will find that each and every year, no matter what kinds of threats we were or weren't facing, the money has been divvied up in the same way—35 percent to the Air Force, 35 percent to the Navy, and 30 percent to the Army. In no year, at least since the mid-1980s, has this formula varied by more than 1 percent. (The figures do not include costs related to the war in Iraq or Afghanistan, which come out of budget supplementals.)

Far more than the other services, the Army spends a huge share of its budget—about 40 percent—on personnel. If the Army were to sacrifice its new high-priced weapons (for instance, the elaborate $150 billion Future Combat Systems program) to preserve or expand manpower, it wouldn't have much of a procurement account left.

Nearly all the big-ticket items belong to the Air Force and the Navy. These services aren't experiencing much of a manpower crunch. (Few pilots or sea crews are being killed in Iraq or Afghanistan now.) And, because of the budget-divvying accord, they can't be called on to slash their planes, ships, or submarines to keep the Army flush with soldiers.
[emphasis supplied --LRC]
Not only that, we can't find enough common sense in Washington to shitcan a program that doesn't work (and probably never will), in order to free up some badly needed cash:
How about Bush's much-cherished, but utterly unworkable, missile-defense program (fully funded by Congress at $8.8 billion): What would be wrong with transferring, say, $5 billion of that sum to buy extra armor for the troops or fund more tangible homeland security efforts?
With leadership like this, who needs enemies?

Len on 12.23.05 @ 07:57 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?
--Robert Browning

Meet "Snowzilla", the 16-plus foot snowman who's the newest celebrity in Anchorage, Alaska:

Len on 12.23.05 @ 07:42 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

I get reminders of fundamentalism's dark magical thinking every day. And it is always the little unexpected ones that slap me hardest with the reality that these people are in the grip of their mass delusion 24 hours a day. A couple of weeks ago I loaned my brother my old truck until he could get his engine rebuilt. A week later he retuned it with much sincere thanks and a smile. On the vent window of my truck is a 4-inch decal, a silhouette of two square dancers (my father-in-law, who gave me the truck, was a square dancer.) When I climbed into it the next day I noticed that the square dancers were covered over both inside and outside the glass with two layers of duct tape. After all, we cannot be riding around in trucks with demonic emblems blasting out invisible rays of Satan's "Power of the air," can we?
--Joe Bageant

Len on 12.23.05 @ 07:09 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Isn't that cheating?

To hear the AP tell the tale, it's twice as easy to hook this rainbow trout, since it has two mouths:

Double mouthed rainbow trout caught in Holmes Lake, NE, in December of 2005.

Sorry for the small picture. If this doesn't provide you with your minimum daily requirement of pictures of two mouthed fish, Google Images comes to the rescue:

This one was caught in Utah in April of 2004

while we steal this one from a sidebar item in a post in what appears to be a fishing website back in November of 2004.

None of the reports indicate how close any of these fish were to operating nuclear reactors when they were caught. :-)

Len on 12.22.05 @ 04:58 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Just in time for Hanukkah....

Dress up your bear in menorah wear:

Len on 12.22.05 @ 01:39 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Memphis Bloggers Bash, December 21, 2005

As mentioned in my brief live entry from the bash itself, we all collected and had a great time, as always.

Let's see if I can recreate the roll. Keep in mind that incipient senility for me is, as always, just about 20 minutes away, so if there's anyone I left out, it's nothing personal. Leave a comment, and I'll add your name multo quick pronto (ditto for correcting misspellings):

And what would a Bloggers Bash be without pictures? On the front page here we'll only tease you with one picture:

Mr. Mike Meets The Factotem

The rest of the pictures below the fold....

All in all, once again, a dignified insurrection fully worthy of:

The Art Schroeder Memorial Synopsis™

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

Len on 12.22.05 @ 11:06 AM CST [more..] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

As [U.S. District Judge John E.] Jones makes clear [in his decision in the Dover, PA "intelligent design" case], the Dover case is lousy with evidence of explicit religious motivation on the part of local ID proponents. But is ID, by virtue of being unscientific, wholly and inherently religious—or is there, contrary to the judge's dualism, a third category? The answer is inadvertently sprinkled throughout his opinion. Statements by ID leaders "reveal ID's religious, philosophical, and cultural content," he writes. A strategy document developed by the "Center for Renewal of Science and Culture" is full of "cultural and religious goals, as opposed to scientific ones." Proponents of ID fear "evolution's threat to culture and society," and the Dover board's collaborators have "demonstrably religious, cultural, and legal missions." Cultural, cultural, cultural. Not scientific, not necessarily religious, but cultural.

Is the pseudo-science of creationism ultimately being driven by religion? Or is this brand of religion, in turn, being driven by cultural anxieties? Is it possible to open a conversation with these folks and their kids, not in biology class but in, say, social studies?

According to Jones, the founder of the ID movement has written that evolution contradicts "every word in the Bible." Every word? You mean, including the part about not killing or stealing? No wonder so many people cling to creationism. And no wonder scientists and judges can't make it go away.
--William Saletan

Len on 12.22.05 @ 08:26 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Apologists for Law-Breakers...

Our Apologists for the Criminal Law-Breaking, Constitution bAdmin have been Bizee. Today, old Babbling Brooks takes a stab at "defending" CIC for his violations of FISA and Constitutional Protections. (Click on the "more" button to read this cock-and-bull fairy tail.)

But had to send him this note:

What kind of a FUCKED UP argument for violating the U.S. Constitution and Federal LAWS and STATUTES do you think you're making today? You certainly must remember that document (THE U.S. CONSTITUTION) Bush swore an Oath of Office to uphold with his special Bible and Prayer. And all the "faithfully execute the laws" tid-bit.

And BTW I'd just LOVE to know what law school on Constitutional LAW you attended...your bio is a bit sketchy on that minor detail.

You write: "This has had a cumulative effect on your psychology..."

The *cumulative effect* must be that ya end up a POWER HUNGRY, DICTATORIAL, EXTRA-CONSTITUTIONAL NIGHTMARE of a Commander-In-Chief who THINKS NO LAWS apply to YOU.

So go sign up for Law School 101 before you contend that these legal processes and procedures are just too cumbersome for poor ole King Georgie to follow.

and as Bryan (at Why Now) has been pointing out the horrible position this puts the actual NSA folks in:
"...Those now working as members of the National Security Agency have been placed in a terrible position by the man who supposed to be their leader.

If you are a Master Sergeant with 18 years of service you are faced with obeying an unlawful order or losing your retirement two years away. You can be charged with disobeying a direct order if you refuse to participate. You can be charged with illegal wiretapping if you do participate. The operation is classified, so you can't seek assistance from the Staff Judge Advocate [military lawyer], or anyone else. You are not protected by the "whistleblower statute", because you work for an intelligence agency. You can't resign, because your family doesn't have "friends" in the power structure to "fix it" for you. Your leader has screwed you over because of his hubris, his arrogance. He doesn't understand "duty", and has no conception of "honor", and couldn't care less about your life, family, or future.

That's why I'm more angry than those who only upset about the illegal spying on Americans. I'm angry for those who are spied upon and those who are forced to do the spying. That's why this embodiment of scum should be impeached, indicted, and sent to prison."

So - a POX on David Brooks and his faux argument for allowing the CIC to ignore our Civil Liberties in the name of fake security.

Karen on 12.22.05 @ 07:40 AM CST [more..] [ | ]

Hola from the bash!

This won't be a long post (since I'm working off my Palm PDA), but I've managed to connect here at Quetzal, and we're having our accustomed grand old time. Those of you in the local area who didn't make it can eat your hearts out.

Next time you'll know better. :-)

Len on 12.21.05 @ 08:09 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Slow blogging recently....

Basically, I spent most of the weekend (Saturday 'til Monday evening) entertaining a friend who was visiting. Now that that's over with, I've been trying (with marginal success) to catch up on online activity, as well as enjoying my vacation this week.

I know this is way too late and about ten dollars too short, but hope to be seeing a few people at the Bash tonight:

And hopefully I'll be coming up to speed again in the next few days.

Len on 12.21.05 @ 06:21 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

The Ford Falcon holds the proud title of Slowest Car Ever Built. In certain areas of the country you can go to a stoplight and find Falcon drivers who pressed down on their accelerators in 1963 and are still waiting for their cars to move.
--Dave Barry

Len on 12.21.05 @ 11:30 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Christmas EVIL...

Now WHO would be so Cruel and Horrible [and Stupid] to cause the death of a baby Penguin by stealing it from a zoo?

Yahoo News is reporting this:

"A baby penguin thought to have been snatched from a zoo as a quirky festive gift is unlikely to survive until Christmas Day, his keeper warned Tuesday.

Toga, a three-month old jackass penguin, was stolen from Amazon World on the Isle of Wight in southern England on Saturday.

Zoo manager Kath Bright said the bird, who was taken from a compound where he lived with his parents and four other penguins, would probably die of malnutrition if not urgently returned.

"Toga is very, very vulnerable. The penguin is still being fed by his parents and we don't believe it could survive more than five days," she told The Associated Press.

"The bird has already been missing for around three days and is likely to be severely dehydrated. If he isn't returned before Thursday he is likely to become so ill that even intensive care treatment won't save him."

toga (42k image)

Fooey on the Lacking-In-Christmas-Spirit Thief. Return the penguin before it dies at your hand - you evil and clumsy OAF.

Karen on 12.21.05 @ 06:25 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Back to the 'Rule of Law'

Bryan, at Why Now, has this great run down of the concerns from Senator Jay Rockefeller's when *notified* of these surveillance activities outside of FISA by our very own "King Georgie."

And this most cogent of statements:

"...The backers of "King George" claim that the only limits on the power of the President are elections or impeachment. If that is their view, the solution is obvious: Impeach the arrogant son-of-a-bitch..."

What's it gonna take to get rid of this SOB? Again - wouldn't it be so NICE to invoke the "Rule of Law" and use that to impeach this law-breaking imperialist President and his evil empire cohorts? [Plus the federal statute calls for a 5-year prison term and $$ fines for violations of FISA.]

Could we be so LUCKY that this extra-Constitutional Nightmare of an bAdminstration has finally been caught red-handed with its hand filtching from the Dictatorial-Power Cookie Jar (yet once more) and has gone TOO FAR in ignoring U.S. Laws in trumpeting "Presidential Perogatives" to violate Citizen's Rights?

Oh, let's hope for a good ole fashioned investigation and some of that long lost Congressional oversight - followed by a touch of Legalistic oversight as well. Time to hold the law-breakers accountable.


Karen on 12.21.05 @ 06:08 AM CST [link] [ | ]

A Christmas Card I DON'T want to get this year...

...in my mailbox:

"Santa Claus points a handgun at a masked terrorist on a Christmas card that John Michael Snyder, public affairs director of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, sends this year to a number of recipients.

Named Dean of gun lobbyists by The Washington Post and The New York Times, Snyder includes the president and members of Congress as addressees.

The card wishes recipients a Christmas of peace and joy and a New Year of triumph over terrorism.

The card presents Santa guarding a group of small children from a bomb-harnessed suicide killer. The bomber appears ready to cast a stick of dynamite at an image of the Infant Jesus beneath a decorated Christmas tree.

Snyder thinks the original drawing conveys a definitive holiday message in keeping with these difficult times..."

Click on this link to view the *charming* Hol-y-Day Card.

Courtesy of US News Wire.

Karen on 12.21.05 @ 05:11 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Why we do it....

The Top 10 Reasons to Work in IT:

10- I love living the Revenge of the Nerds

9- It's a nice way to avoid the social and personal stresses that go with upward mobility

8- It's the satisfaction - every time I finish the re-install and reboot cycle I feel I've learnt something new and contributed in a meaningful way to my colleagues, my community, and my culture.

7- Between the heat, the darkness, the double doors, and the noise, working in the data center is like returning to the womb every day.

6- I'm hoping to use the contacts I make working on the help desk to break into top management and show all those pretty party people who ignored me in high school who I really am.

5- I just love working with new technology - new challenges, new patches, new racks to install everyday.

4- I love having that pager on my belt - it makes me feel, you know, manly.

3- "Down, not Across" - IT just makes sense

2- I love the travel - in my last job I spent six weeks training people in Lahore, now I'm looking forward to visiting Poland.

And the number one reason for for working in IT?

1- It's the babes! stupid.

Len on 12.20.05 @ 07:49 PM CST [link] [ | ]

And from the Weird Bonuses Department:

If you thought the salaries paid to major league baseball players were ridiculous, then get a load of Roy Oswalt's bonus for winning Game 6 of the 2005 National League Championship Series:

By the third inning of the Houston Astros' pennant-clinching victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, Roy Oswalt was dreaming about a bulldozer.

The right-hander remembered what Astros owner Drayton McLane promised him in the clubhouse before the game - win and you'll get that all-purpose tractor you've always wanted.

Oswalt came through, allowing one run in seven innings in the Game 6 victory that sent Houston to its first World Series two months ago.

On Monday, McLane fulfilled his part of the bargain, presenting Oswalt with a shiny, new Caterpillar D6N XL - with a giant red bow on top of the cab.
A picture of the 'dozer (complete with bow):

Len on 12.20.05 @ 07:43 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Who's been *Naughty* and *Nice*

Well, well a Large Lump of COAL in the Thomas More Center Hol-y-Day Stocking!

They are part of the complete LOSERS in the decision from Judge Jones in the [UN] Intelligent Design legal case.

Click on this link to give it a read through.

An early Christmas treat for those *nice* Science Geeks.

Fa La La La La...La La La....LAAAAAAA!!

Karen on 12.20.05 @ 07:08 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Holiday Yuk o'the Day:

A little boy wrote to Santa Claus, "Please send me a baby sister." Santa Claus wrote back and said, "Okay. Send me your mother!"

Len on 12.20.05 @ 04:39 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

Len on 12.20.05 @ 08:33 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

The Grinch Factor
Rosa Brooks
December 16, 2005

THE WHOS down in Who-ville
Were a tolerant lot:
Who Christians, Who Muslims — a Who melting pot.
Who Hindus! Who atheists! Who Buddhists, Who Jews!
Who Confucians, Who pagans,
And even Who Druze! The Who 1st Amendment's Establishment Clause
Said, "No creches in courts," and the Whos loved their laws.
Because somehow … they worked. The Whos rarely fought,
Mostly, each Who did just what he ought.

Every Who down in Who-ville
Loved the Consti-Who-tion a lot.
But the O'Reilly, who lived up in Fox-ville,
Did NOT!
The O'Reilly DETESTED the Who Consti-Who-tion,
He thought it was some sort of liberal pollution.
Now, please don't ask why, for I really don't know.
Perhaps it had something to do with his show.
It could be that his head wasn't screwed on quite right.
Or it could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his RATINGS
Were two sizes too small.

Well, whatever it was, bad ratings or tight shoes,
He stood there one Christmas, just hating the Whos.
"They're so multicultural," he sneered, "and wherever they're from,
They lack the good sense to just launch a pogrom!
There's no Who ethnic cleansing, no Who Inquisition,
If this PEACE can't be stopped, I may lose my position.
Those sensitive, tolerant Whos! It's quite grating.
I must think of something to fix my show's ratings!"
Then he said with a smirk, "I know just what to do
To destroy all the joy in the land of the Who!

I think I can end that PC Who peace.
This year, not one Who will enjoy his Roast Beast!
"Here's just how I'll do it:
I'll tell each Who Christian
That the liberal Whos have devised a new mission
To take away Christmas!
To mock and destroy
Till no little Who Christian is left with a toy!

And when secular Whos — most likely Who Jews —
Attempt to deny it? Why,
I'll just SPIN THE NEWS!
"I'll bluff and I'll lie; I'll sow seeds of mistrust.
Soon they'll form battle lines into
Who 'THEM' and Who 'US,'
Based on which Whos prefer
To sing out, 'Merry Christmas'
And which Whos say, 'Kwanzaa!'
Or 'None of your business!'
"They'll get so confused and so MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD
That they won't even notice the way
They've been HAD!

They'll be so busy squabbling
They won't notice the war!
They won't care if Who rich
Start to trample Who poor!
"Forget torture, and terror, and taxes, and health!
They'll waste all their time on some red-hatted elf.
"And the Who Consti-Who-tion?
They'll stretch it or burn it!
If it came as a gift, they would try to return it!

"The Who Christians will think that they fight the good fight,
They won't know that they're puppets of the Fox-ville Far Right.
They'll forget all that DRIVEL about faith, hope and LOVE
And say 'Merry Christmas' with a sneer and a shove.
"But I? I will prosper! My ratings will soar,
And maybe at last they'll forget I'm a BOOR.
Then for every Who Christmas tree
A most fitting adornament:
My O'Reilly MUG on the tackiest ornament!"

… And what happened then?
Well, the rest's up to you.
But I know what I'd like this holiday season:
A little less NOISE and a little more reason.
So Who Christians! Who Buddhists! Who Muslims! Who Jews!
WHOever you are, just say NO to Fox "News!"
If you don't want to lose the whole Who Consti-Who-tion
It's time to reject the Far Right Revolution.
So turn off O'Reilly and everyone shrill,
Let's have some peace
And old-fashioned GOODWILL.

Len on 12.19.05 @ 06:56 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Dreams of Sugar-Plums...

"Along with the decorations and music, the pleasure of the holidays is enhanced by a colorful variety of citrus fruit. In the distant past, children were said to dream of sugar plums, and receiving an orange at Christmas was a major gift.

Now, online and mail-order catalogs feature boxes of perfect fruit for last-minute gifts.

We each consume more than 22 pounds of fresh citrus fruit a year including 11 pounds of oranges and 5 pounds of grapefruit, and another 7 pounds of lemons, limes, tangerines and tangelos."

Courtesy of US News Wire.

Ah -- the Good Old Days of Yore, when "receiving an orange at Christmas was a major gift."

But for our current crop of youngsters tis this more a High-tech approach to Christmas - according to this WaPo article:
"Xmas power point

...They are employing their high-tech savvy to wow their parents into fulfilling their Christmas wish lists.

Take 11-year-old Katie Johnsen of the District, who wants a virtual snowboarding game and a chocolate fondue fountain. She turned her list into a PowerPoint presentation with red and green backgrounds, a picture of Santa and links to the Web sites where the items can be bought.

"They are big operators," said Ellen Yui of Takoma Park, who has two sons. "They know how to work the system. They know how to work us big time."

This is the generation that has never known a world without the Internet. They rush home from school to talk to their friends online and flirt over text messages. They have mastered the latest communication technologies and added them to their holiday arsenal.

"Kids have figured out what to do to . . . get what they need and want. That's nothing new," said William Strauss, co-author of the forthcoming book "Millennials and Pop Culture." "What's different is kids' capabilities, the tools they have and what will work with their parents."

Yui's kids, 11-year-old Yoshi and 13-year-old Zen, changed the screensaver on her computer one Christmas to read "I love you" over and over again -- and end with a request for a video game.

This year, Zen wants a cell phone -- specifically, the sleek Sony Ericsson V600i. But it isn't sold in the United States yet, so anything that works will make him happy. He has dragged his father to a phone store "just to browse" and can recite all the features of his favorite phone by heart. It's the only item on his list -- testimony to his dedication -- and he has honed a powerful argument.

"Mom, I hate it when I come home [late] and you're disappointed because I hate making you mad," Zen said, reprising the line he gives to his parents. "And then I say, 'Can I have a cell phone?' "

Retailers work overtime during the holiday season to land one of the coveted spots on kids' wish lists. Stores depend on holiday sales for roughly 20 percent of their annual revenue. And the advertising industry has nicknamed the last eight weeks of each year the "hard eight" because of the intense competition.

Retailers have learned to tailor their marketing to kids' digital lives. The Web site for the popular teen clothing store Abercrombie & Fitch urges buyers: "Drop some major hints. Create a list, fill it with all your abercrombie wishes and we'll email it to everyone you tell us to." All parents have to do is point, click and buy.


Karen on 12.18.05 @ 10:49 AM CST [link] [ | ]

That's a 'Hemp of a Different Colour'...

"[L]awyers Bruce Ellison and David Frankel representing Alex White Plume and his family of the Lakota Nation who live on the Pine Ridge Reservation, made oral arguments in the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in front of a three judge panel to reverse efforts by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to place an injunction preventing the White Plumes from growing industrial hemp. In what has been deemed a sovereignty case that is very uniquely framed, the White Plumes planted industrial hemp on their family land for three seasons only to have it cut down and confiscated by DEA agents.

During the oral arguments it became clear that Judge Kermit Bye and Judge Arlen Beam were focused on two issues: (1) the irrationality of allowing the exempt parts of the plant to be imported into the U.S. but not allowing industrial hemp to be grown in the U.S. and (2) the lack of any rational permitting process by the DEA. While the Government's case was made, Judge Beam commented, "It seems asinine to me that they can bring in the Canadian stuff and use it but can't grow it." Beam also suggested that it did not make sense that Congress would try to make the economy of Native American tribes more enhanced by casino gambling but not allow industrial hemp cultivation.

The White Plumes assert their right to raise non-psychoactive industrial hemp as an exercise of their sovereign rights pursuant to an Oglala Sioux Tribal ordinance enacted to secure rights guaranteed by the Treaties of 1868 and 1851 signed between the Lakota Nation and the U.S. Nevertheless, the U.S. government maintains that its' asserted "trust responsibility" gives it the final authority to decide appropriate uses of reservation lands.

The federal government filed a civil suit against the White Plumes in U.S. District Court in South Dakota despite the fact that the Lakota were growing hemp for seed and fiber when they entered into the treaties with the U.S. government and that industrial hemp is legally imported to the U.S. from dozens of countries to feed the explosive US and global demand for nutritious omega-3 rich hemp foods and ecological hemp fiber products. The DEA sought a permanent injunction to prevent the White Plumes from growing industrial hemp without federal permission because the DEA has placed a de facto ban on non-psychoactive industrial hemp farming in the U.S. by treating it as if the crop were the same as drug/medical marijuana. Late last December, the court granted the government's motion for summary judgment which led to the appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

"The District Court completely ignored relevant Indian law, the treaties, the Constitution and the significance of the Myerle Papers when they granted the government's motion for summary judgment," says David Frankel, attorney and Vote Hemp board member.

"Because federal Indian law allows tribes to continue doing something today that they were doing at the time they signed treaties with the U.S. government, the Lakota have an excellent chance at reversal," says Ken Friedman, local counsel for the Hemp Industries Association and Vote Hemp who submitted their amicus brief in the White Plume case."

Courtesy of US News Wire.

A decision in the case is expected in 2006.

Here is more reading material about the White Plume case.

Karen on 12.18.05 @ 10:40 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Preserving the Rule of Law...

Much as I despise Senator McCain for his often sell-out positions to the "GOP toe-the-party-line", he has to be given High Marks for his WIN:

SCORE 1 against Torture v. SCORE 0 to the Evil Empire Torturers.

There was also this well phrased piece on this issue:
"McCain is clear on this. "The enemy we fight has no respect for human life or human rights. They don't deserve our sympathy. But this isn't about who they are. This is about who we are. These are the values that distinguish us from our enemies, and we can never, never allow our enemies to take those values away."

As Americans debate the merits of torture in an age of terrorism, the words of the Israeli Supreme Court from 1999 are worthy of consideration:

"This is the destiny of democracy, as not all means are acceptable to it, and not all practices employed by its enemies are open before it. Although a democracy must often fight with one hand tied behind its back, it nonetheless has the upper hand. Preserving the Rule of Law and recognition of an individual's liberty constitutes an important component in its understanding of security. At the end of the day, they strengthen its spirit and allow it to overcome its difficulties."
-- Pierre M. Atlas [Assistant professor of political science and director of the Franciscan Center for Global Studies at Marian College.]

Karen on 12.18.05 @ 09:46 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

Most of you, if not all of you, like me, feel inadequately educated. That is an ordinary feeling for a member of our species. One of the most brilliant human beings of all times, George Bernard Shaw, said on his 75th birthday or so that at last he knew enough to become a mediocre office boy. He died in 1950, by the way, when I was 28. He is the one who said, "Youth is wasted on the young." I turned 83 a couple weeks ago, and I must say I agree.
--Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Len on 12.18.05 @ 09:44 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Calling Out Christmas Hypocrite - Loofah Man

I (like many folks) have had things to say about the "Fake Wars On Christmas" the Hoax of Fox news and Loofah man, the Jesufacist.

Atrios had this good piece a few days ago...but the BEST is Nicholas Kristof's Op-Ed in the NY Times: A Challenge for Bill O'Reilly.

"Let us all pray for Bill O'Reilly.

Let us pray that Mr. O'Reilly will understand that the Christmas spirit isn't about hectoring people to say "Merry Christmas," rather than "Happy Holidays," but about helping the needy.

Let us pray that Mr. O'Reilly will use his huge audience and considerable media savvy to save lives and fight genocide, instead of to vilify those he disagrees with. Let him find inspiration in Jesus, rather than in the Assyrians.

Finally, let's pray that Mr. O'Reilly and other money-changers in the temple will donate the funds they raise exploiting Christmas - covering the nonexistent "War on Christmas" rakes in viewers and advertising - to feed the hungry and house the homeless.


Alas, not all prayers can be answered. Fox News Channel's crusade against infidels who prefer generic expressions like "Happy Holidays" included 58 separate segments in just a five-day period.

After I suggested in last Sunday's column that a better way to honor the season might be to stand up to genocide in Darfur (a calamity that Mr. O'Reilly has ignored), Mr. O'Reilly denounced me on his show as a "left-wing ideologue." Bless you, Mr. O'Reilly, and Merry Christmas to you, too!
So I have a challenge for Mr. O'Reilly: If you really want to defend traditional values, then come with me on a trip to Darfur. I'll introduce you to mothers who have had their babies clubbed to death in front of them, to teenage girls who have been gang-raped and then mutilated - and to the government-armed thugs who do these things.

You'll have to leave your studio, Bill. You'll encounter pure evil. If you're like me, you'll be scared. If you try to bully some of the goons in Darfur, they'll just hack your head off. But you'll also meet some genuine conservative Christians - aid workers who live the Gospel instead of sputtering about it - and you'll finally be using your talents for an important cause.

So, Bill, what'll it be? Will you dare travel to a real war against Christmas values, in which the victims aren't offended shoppers but terrified children thrown on bonfires? I'm waiting to hear."

Now let's SEE the Hypocritical Coward of the All Spin Zone - YES this means YOU Loofah Man - Take His Fake WAR on the Reality Roadshow into Heart of Darkness and demonstrate a little Christian compassion he rants and raves over for some real human suffering around the world.

As an antidote to those Blow-harders like Loofah Man is this Hats Off to Time Magazine Persons of the Year for just this sort of World Changing Good-Works and efforts to make difference in the lives of actual poor people without regard to their religious *denomination*:
The good deeds of an activist rock legend and one of the world's richest men and his wife carried the day in 2005, as Time magazine on Sunday named U2 frontman Bono and philanthropic couple Bill and Melinda Gates as its "Persons of the Year."

"And who is proving most effective in figuring out how to eradicate those calamities? In different ways, it is Bill and Melinda Gates, co-founders of the world's wealthiest charitable foundation, and Bono, the Irish rocker who has made debt reduction sexy."

The Gateses, the magazine notes, "spent the year giving more money away faster than anyone ever has."

In January, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation committed $750 million to improving access to child immunizations, accelerating introduction of new vaccines and strengthening vaccine delivery systems.

The foundation focuses on education, global health, improving public libraries and supporting at-risk families, according to its Web site. The Gateses awarded grants to schools in Texas, Colorado and Massachusetts, as well as the Lutheran World Relief program, which received $640,000 to help nomadic communities in Niger avert food crises.

Bono was one of the organizers behind this year's Live 8 concerts in nine cities worldwide. The concerts were aimed at getting the leaders of the world's nations leaders to come to the aid of impoverished Africa. They did so at the G8 summit, agreeing to double aid to Africa to $50 billion by 2010 and cancel the debts of the poorest nations.

Karen on 12.18.05 @ 09:21 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Celebrate, dammit!

Today is the 235th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven. So pull out your collection of the nine symphonies (you do have a collection of all of Beethoven's symphonies, don't you?) and give them a listen. Or at least find a recording of the Glorious Ninth (my personal favorite), and give that a listen.

If you subscribe to XM Satellite Radio, Channel 110 (XM Classics) will be all Beethoven, all day today. Another good choice.

Len on 12.16.05 @ 08:05 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

Much of the ballyhoo surrounding “Narnia,” as you may have heard, comes from Lewis’ use of Christian themes in the original book: Aslan is Christ and the children are the disciples, with Edmund as Judas (although unlike Edmund, Judas never took up arms to fight the Romans), and the girls following the New Testament female role of being the first to see Aslan’s resurrection. Still, the movie seems to have played much of this down (no references to the Trinity, for example), even if it is hard to ignore Aslan continually referring to the Pevensie children as “son of Adam” and “daughter of Eve,” or his annoying Christ-like tendency to forgive everyone, then rise from the dead.
--Pete Vonder Haar [on
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe]

Len on 12.16.05 @ 07:39 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Yet Another bAdmin 'FIRST'...

According to the WaPo the Boy-In-The-Bubble is up to yet more "Firsts"; a diverging set of precedents from the other Presidential *norms*:

"Unlike his three predecessors, including his father, Bush will not attend the four-day conference [on aging]."

And the article goes to note another typical bAdmin policy of using only "handpicked" participants for his photo-op potempkin propaganda messages:
"While the conference on aging delegates was meeting in a hotel uptown, the White House motorcade set out in the opposite direction, to Greenspring Village, a high-end gated retirement community in suburban Virginia. . . .

"The White House team handpicked the seniors who met with President Bush at the closed meeting."

and a White House and President set on clearly avoiding the purpose of the conference:
'The purpose of the conference was to develop recommendations for research and action in the field of aging and present a report with their findings to the president,' said spokeswoman Jeanie Mamo. 'The president participated at an event in Springfield, Va., to educate seniors on Medicare prescription drugs and encourage them to sign up with the program.'

'That he went to speak about Medicare in Virginia today, instead of an assembly of delegates from all over the country indicates that he's afraid to speak in anything but a controlled environment,' Binstock said during a session on improving the Medicare program, which provides health care for 43 million older and disabled Americans.'

Karen on 12.16.05 @ 07:37 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Mr. Language Wordsmith would be Proud…

Charles Madigan (Chicago Tribune) has devised a New Political Dictionary for 2006.

"Kleptublicans": A title that offers a deep bow to felonious acquisition of whatever they can get their hands on. The Kleptublicans would hold their convention in Vegas. Anyone who attended would lose watches, wallets, credit cards, just about anything of any value. Despite this behavior, they would continue to be elected. The proof behind that assumption is that, even without the label, we continue to elect people who are thieves.

"Mendacicrats": (That's men-dass-eye-crats), for their mendacities. They would hold their convention in Washington because where else would you expect it to be held? Mendacicrats would promise the sky on matters like health care and education and deliver nothing, even while claiming they were working hard on health care and education.

"Pragmaticrats": Who would be politicians who announce, "Gawd, I don't know whether this is going to work at all but if it does, I'm going for it." "We got it done!" would be their slogan. We don't have any of these yet.


Karen on 12.16.05 @ 07:12 AM CST [link] [ | ]

A Couple of Gems...

Another few GEMs from Driftglass as a play on The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and this Holiday Special: The Miracle of Cheney-Kah.

Both are worth a peek this week.

-- As an aside, via Shakespeare's Sister is this Blog Awards Notice:

Koufax Awards

Nominations for the Koufax Awards, which honor the best blogs and bloggers of the left, are now open.

Awards will be granted in 15 categories: Best Blog, Best Blog—Pro Division, Best Blog Community, Best Writing, Best Post, Best Series, Best Single Issue Blog, Best Group Blog, Most Humorous Blog, Most Humorous Post, Most Deserving of Wider Recognition, Best Expert Blog, Best New Blog, Best Coverage of State or Local Issues, and Best Commenter.

So go over to Wampum and vote for your favorite Blogs:

In the category of: Most Deserving of Wider Recognition:

I have nominated Driftglass as the most Blogspicacious Originalist for 2005.


Karen on 12.16.05 @ 06:53 AM CST [link] [ | ]

More Early Christmas Treats in My Stocking?

The ACLU says they have a *scoop* that there could be a decision in the Itelligent Design case perhaps by next week.

"...This must have been how Bob Woodward felt... Okay, I'm exaggerating just a wee bit. But I am excited to bring you the scoop that we expect Judge Jones to release his decision on the intelligent design trial early next week. Did Christmas, oops, I mean, "the holidays" come early for us? Stay tuned...."

There are also a few amicus briefs available at the National Center For Science Education webpage.


Karen on 12.16.05 @ 06:34 AM CST [link] [ | ]

The only thing that surprises me....

is that this or a variant scenario hasn't been reported earlier:

A love-struck Frenchman wooed the online girl of his dreams for six months - only to discover at their first meeting that he had in fact been chatting up his own mother, Yahoo! reports.

This nightmare scenario (for Daniel Anceneaux that is - as far as we're concerned Xmas has come early) began when the Marseilles X-Ray technician came across a fellow internet lurv-seeker called Sweet Juliette.

A shaken Anceneaux takes up the story: "Mum called herself Sweet Juliette and I called myself The Prince of Pleasure, and unfortunately, neither one of us had any idea who the other was. The conversations even got a little racy a couple of times.

"But I really started to fall for her, because there seemed to be a sensitive side that you don't see in many girls. She sent me poems she had written and told me about her dreams and desires, and it was really very romantic."
Paging Dr. Freud... Dr. Freud....

Thanks to Josh Schulz for bringing the case to my attention, though in the interim his link to The Register's story had broken, and I had to troll Yahoo! News to find the link given here.

Len on 12.15.05 @ 12:05 PM CST [link] [ | ]

I've been contemplating buying a bicycle lately....

both as a way of commuting, at least during the warmer months (I only live a couple miles from my office), and a way of forcing myself to get some more exercise. Unfortunately, at a sticker price of $1,100, I'm sorry to say that the Trek Soho isn't on my list of potential purchases. More's the pity; any cycle manufacturer who includes a convenient travel mug so one can get one's caffeine buzz while commuting and exercising is my kind of business.

Len on 12.15.05 @ 06:07 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Snow Sharks...(?)

Well, anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis KNOWS I have no natural affinity for Sharks.

But how could I resist this winter GEM:

snowsharks (4k image)

[Courtesy of the Chicago Tribune: Photos of the Day.]

Karen on 12.15.05 @ 06:02 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Coming soon to a PlayStation2 near you.....

Gotten a little bored with having to settle with playing an air guitar during your rockstar fantasies? Got a PlayStation2?

Well, then check out Guitar Hero, and kick up your fantasies a notch. Here's a video to give you an idea of what to expect.

Len on 12.15.05 @ 05:59 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Wolfram Science...

Via e-mail, this about an upcoming conference next summer:

Wolfram Science Conference, to be held June 16-18 in Washington, DC.

Stephen Wolfram's book A NEW KIND OF SCIENCE introduced us to a
new paradigm for doing science. And from this has now grown an
ever-more-energetic community that is developing the paradigm not
only in the sciences but also in technology, business, and the

The NKS 2006 Wolfram Science Conference will provide a unique
opportunity to connect with leading members of the NKS community,
to explore the exciting developments now underway, and to learn
how to apply the latest NKS ideas and methods to your own work.

In addition to a wide range of general and specialized
presentations, the conference will feature real-time computer
experiments by Stephen Wolfram and others, problem-solving
computer labs, an art gallery, opportunities for student
participation, and a variety of events intended to foster

NKS is a field that is now at a particularly exciting stage, and
there'll be a lot to discuss at the NKS 2006 Wolfram Science
Conference. Here are a few of the more ambitious questions now
coming over the horizon:
- Will algorithm mining revolutionize software development?

- Is there a core computational architecture in biological cells?

- Will generative content revolutionize the entertainment

- How will computer experiments change the face of mathematics?

- Are there business structures founded on computation

- What would an operating system for a swarm of microbots be

- What kinds of artificial physics can support quantum mechanics?

- Will artificial life arise spontaneously within the internet?

- Can one map the space of all possible economic systems?

- Will the next core computer architecture be discovered by

- Can we enumerate the morphologies of possible biological

- What pattern recognition algorithms can molecules implement?

- What does computational irreducibility mean for supercomputing?

- Is there an algorithm for telling if an object was designed?

- Will the most important nanomaterials be intrinsically random?

- Can a single rule design the complete structure of a building?

- Is there an absolute measure of elegance for programming

- What is the network analog of a recursive function?

- Can we find the simplest undecidable problem in number theory?

- What would prove the Principle of Computational Equivalence?

- What will happen if kids learn cellular automata before

- What will be the first major industry created by mining the
computational universe?

To register for the NKS 2006 Wolfram Science Conference click here.

Karen on 12.15.05 @ 05:03 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

Scandal has its greatest effect when combined with the dangerous sixth-year election in a President's second term. By the middle of the second term, voters are usually tiring of a President's many controversies, and the stresses and strains of his inevitable unpopular decisions have built up to earthquake potential. Just look at some of the post-World War II examples. Truman's sixth year (1950) produced a Republican takeover of Congress with a toxic combination of corruption, Korea, and the alleged and real march of Communism at home and abroad. Democrats got their revenge in Eisenhower's sixth year (1958), when an ill-timed autumn scandal involving Ike's chief of staff, Sherman Adams, produced a Democratic landslide in both houses of Congress. As mentioned earlier, the Nixon-Ford sixth year (1974) was the granddaddy of scandal elections. The great exception to our rule was 1998, when Democrats gained six House seats and didn't lose a single Senate seat, even though Republicans had a real chance to add as many as five to their 55-seat majority. The GOP had only itself to blame, insisting on a sure-to-fail impeachment effort against President Clinton, thus rescuing Clinton from himself by turning a sleazy Chief Executive into a sympathetic, hounded figure. There's a lesson here for Democrats in 2006: Don't interfere too much with your opponents' ongoing suicide. Voters aren't overly impressed with your honesty and integrity either, so keep your preacher's robes in storage.
--Larry J. Sabato [Sabato's Crystal Ball]

Len on 12.15.05 @ 05:02 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Torture 101 Revisted

The WaPo is reporting:

"...On a 308 to 122 vote, members of the House supported specific language proposed by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that would prohibit "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment" of anyone in the custody of the U.S. government.
"We cannot torture and still retain the moral high ground," said Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), who called for the vote yesterday. "No torture and no exceptions."

And, on topic, here is a good piece from Slate: Torture for dummies.

Karen on 12.15.05 @ 04:50 AM CST [link] [ | ]

The Not so Happy Holidays…(Part 2)

I wrote the other day about how disconnected from the joy and seasonal hopes and love some people feel at this time of year.

Here is an interesting piece from the e-mail newsletter of Bishop Spong on that topic of Holiday despair:

"D. (last name omitted for personal reasons) writes:

"I am a man without a face. All I see in this world is unfairness and I feel that my life has been filled with sadness, loneliness and depression. I've been driven to the point of suicide. I ask you: how can I accept that life is unfair and still find a reason to believe in God?"

Dear D,

The tone of your letter is so depressed that I was alarmed by it. I can speak via this medium to your content but I cannot speak to your personal situation. For that I hope you will contact a local clergyperson or trained counselor and let them help you walk through this valley.

As to your question, I do not assume that our world is ever fair. The God I meet in Jesus does not appear to do so either. Jesus is quoted as having said: "In this world you will have tribulation." The peace he promised was, in his words, "not as the world gives." When in the Fourth Gospel he is asked whether either the blind man or his parents were guilty of causing his blindness, he said that is not how the world operates. When in the synoptic gospels he talked about those who were killed when the Tower of Siloam fell, he pronounced them no guiltier than any others.

The world we live in has what we call natural disasters. They range from hurricanes to tsunamis. They do not just harm the guilty, but whoever was in their path. Job was the book of the Bible that addressed these issues most specifically. He too had no answer but to keep living in a world that will never be fair.

Jesus does not give us peace of mind. He gives us the courage to live in this evolving and transitory world without despair.

Our job is to transform the world when we can and to accept reality when we cannot. God is not the source of our despair; reality is. God is the power that gives us the ability to address reality just as it is.
I hope this helps,

-- John Shelby Spong"

Again, this time of year can both bring out the best for some people and can yet be hopelessly difficult for others. To those looking to their faith for answers...I only hope that these words of Bishop Spong can be an inspiration to anyone finding a hard path through this season.


Karen on 12.15.05 @ 04:37 AM CST [link] [ | ]

The Best or the Worst Ideas in History...

..You decide.

Old Babbling Brooks is at it again...

Today Babbles has deftly (?) presented a garbled account and rewritten the History of Capitalism and the Dark Ages (preparing, presumably, for the NEW Dark Ages we are entering.)

But, I've been meaning to post this GEM from Polar Donkey on Ethical monotheism - who I am sure would disagree with Babbles defense of Religion as the fount of all that is "Holy" and "Good" in Capitalism:

"Ethical Monotheism: The Worst Idea In Human History?

This was an interesting interview with Peter Watson, who has written a book called "Ideas: A History of Thought and Invention, From Fire to Freud," which claims to chronicle all the major ideas in the world since the invention of the hand ax two million years ago. I particularly like what he had to say about religion.

"Questions for Peter Watson
What's the Big Idea?

Not all big ideas are good ideas. In fact, most big ideas are probably terrible ideas. What do you think is the single worst idea in history?

Without question, ethical monotheism. The idea of one true god. The idea that our life and ethical conduct on earth determines how we will go in the next world. This has been responsible for most of the wars and bigotry in history.

But religion has also been responsible for investing countless lives with meaning and inner richness.

I lead a perfectly healthy, satisfactory life without being religious. And I think more people should try it.

It sounds as if you're starting your own church.

Not at all. I do not believe in the inner world. I think that the inner world comes from the exploration of the outer world - reading, traveling, talking. I do not believe that meditation or cogitation leads to wisdom or peace or the truth.

Then I don't understand why you would want to write a history of ideas, since inner reflection and dreaminess surely count at least as much as scientific experiment in the formation of new ideas.

To paraphrase the English philosopher John Gray, it is more sensible to look out on the world from a zoo than from a monastery. Science, or looking out, is better than contemplation, or looking in.

If that were true, how would you explain a novelist like Virginia Woolf, whose achievement was based on the rejection of the panoramic outward view in favor of inner sensibility?

The rise of the novel generally is a great turning in. But I don't think it has given a lot of satisfaction to people. It has not achieved anything collective. It's a lot of little personal turnings that lots of people love to connect with. But these are fugitive, evanescent truths. They don't stay with you very long or help you do much.

Karen on 12.15.05 @ 04:25 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Some 'Heck of a Good Job'

Must just be more of a “gut check” for ole Child-In-Chief cause he’s jest Sure everyone he *likes* is doing a “Heck of good Job” (Oh, Brownie… how he must MISS YA. Hahahahhaha!)

"President Bush said yesterday he is confident that former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) is innocent of money-laundering charges, as he offered strong support for several top Republicans who have been battered by investigations or by rumors of fading clout inside the White House.

In an interview with Fox News, Bush said he hopes DeLay will be cleared of charges that he illegally steered corporate money into campaigns for the Texas legislature and will reclaim his powerful leadership position in Congress.

"I hope that he will, 'cause I like him, and plus, when he's over there, we get our votes through the House," Bush told Fox News's Brit Hume.

Bush dismissed rumors that Rumsfeld will leave his post early next year. Asked if Rumsfeld will stay through the second term, Bush said: "Well, end of my term is a long time, but I tell you, he's done a heck of a good job and I have no intention of changing him."...


But while CIC is pontificating about all those GOOD WORKs of his GOPHUckers, he won’t (apparently) discuss dear Scooter’s Heck of a Good Job. Nor will he let us all "IN" on WHO else in his admin was responsible for leaking the classified status of NOC Valerie Plame - tho' Carrion Bob is "...confident the president knows who the source is."

[And BTW, CIC, the money laundering and Abramoff scandal are partly about how Delay operates in getting those Votes through the Congress - bought and paid for in advance.]

Some Heck of a Good Job.


Karen on 12.15.05 @ 04:10 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Gem o'the Day:

Senator Bill Frist has threatened to strip Democrats of the power of filibuster if they try to use it. In other words, they can have it, as long as they don’t use it. Loses a bit of its usefulness that way.
--Will Durst [entry of December 14, 2005]

Len on 12.14.05 @ 08:10 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Advances in artificial intelligence

From Life's Little Annoyances:

Last week, I called my Providence Health Insurance. I was desperate to know how long it would take for them to authorize payment for a test I needed.

Much to my annoyance, they had changed their phone tree to a voice operated system: "Please speak or say one of the following options..."


Knowing it was just a machine on the other end of the line, I clearly replied, "F--- you."

Immediately, the phone tree replied, "Oh you must want Customer Service," and connected my call.

Brock on 12.14.05 @ 08:03 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Putting Bill O'Lielly (and the rest of the Faux News Network) in his (their) place....

At The Blogressive today (entry of December 14, 2005), they take an opportunity to take Bill O'Lielly down a couple notches:

Our friends at Wonkette.com pointed out this whopper from Orlando Sentinal columnist Kathleen Parker:
"Murtha, Murtha, Murtha, Murtha, Murtha, Murtha, (Lieberman), Murtha, Murtha, Murtha. That's about how news coverage has gone the past several weeks concerning Rep. John Murtha's call to withdraw from Iraq versus Sen. Joe Lieberman's call to stand fast. And the media wonder why newspaper circulations are dropping and why Fox News dominates television ratings over the networks and other cable programs." [orlando sentinal]
Well, here's some solace for anyone worrying about the daily assault on the trurth from Bill O'Reilly and company:

"For the week of November 28th through December 4th, NBC Nightly News averaged 10.5 milliion nightly viewers, ABC World News Tonight averaged 9.1 million, and CBS Evening News averaged nearly 8 million. And Fox News? On Tuesday, December 6th, its top-rated show, The O'Reilly Factor, attracted 2.6 million viewers. Its second-highest-rated show, Hannity & Colmes, attracted 1.8 million viewers. How can you be a media professional and not know that network news still beats cable news, ratingswise?" [wonkette.com]
For a little perspective on just who the dominates cable TV, the blogressive art department whipped up this handy visual aid.

Len on 12.14.05 @ 08:01 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Why the Web is A Wonderous Thing....

Because, with a little search, you can find the answer to just about any question you'd care to ask.

Even "What is the flavor of human flesh?" Answered by someone associated with the CIA. No, not that CIA, but rather the prestigious Culinary Institute of America.

Go on and read it. You know you want to. Because Inquiring Minds Want to Know.

Len on 12.14.05 @ 08:06 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

In a way, what's most troubling about the Bush's administration's information war is not its cynicism but its naiveté. At phony town hall meetings, Bush's audiences are hand-picked to prevent any possibility of spontaneous challenge. At fake forums, invited guests ask the president to pursue his previously announced policies. New initiatives are unveiled on platforms festooned with meaningless slogans, mindlessly repeated ("Plan for Victory"). Anyone on the inside who doubts the party line is shown the door. In this environment, where the truth is not spoken privately or publicly, the suspicion grows that Bush, in his righteous cocoon, has committed the final, fatal sin of the propagandist. He is not just spreading BS but has come to believe it himself.
--Jacob Weisberg

Len on 12.14.05 @ 08:03 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Holiday Fakery...

A couple of good articles today about those FAKE-Christians like Loofah Man O'Lielly and their FAKE War-On-Christmas.

Plus their Lack of Living up to Christ's Teachings. (BIG Surprise from a Bunch of Hypocritical, greedy, intolerant, Hateful Liars like Falwell and Robertson).

Bleh on their False Spirit of the Season - they don't live up to the most important *Christian Values.*

Bah-Humbuggers the Fake Christian Soldiers are...every one of em!

Karen on 12.14.05 @ 07:40 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Today's Gem Quote...

From Maureen Dowd (NY Times):

"Never ask a guy who's in a bubble if he's in a bubble. He can't answer.

'Cause he's in a bubble.

Click on the "more" button to read this piece that fairly floats through the growing litany of Presidential Disconnects - Life in the Bubble.

Karen on 12.14.05 @ 06:35 AM CST [more..] [ | ]

Cheerful Fitzmas Thoughts...

Some folks (like me) are hoping for yet more Merry Fitzmas and still following the various blogs and stories (like this from Firedoglake) about the time line involvement of Blooming-Shit Head in the lies and deceptions.

But while we wait for Fitz to gather his facts...

The Capital Steps has been having some FUN in this piece:

"THE INVESTIGATION into the C.I.A. leak seemed almost over when the special prosecutor indicted Scooter Libby on the very last day of his grand jury's term. But Patrick Fitzgerald has convened a new grand jury, and his search for truth continues.

Take a listen to I'm So Indicted.


Karen on 12.14.05 @ 06:14 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Riddles of Existence

I would be remiss if I failed to blog about the recent publication of Riddles of Existence, an introductory metaphysics text by two of my grad school professors, Ted Sider and Earl Conee.

I haven't seen the final published copy, but if the acknowledgments are the same as those in the preview PDF I have, it's the second philosophy book that has my name in it. (The first being Ted's Four-Dimensionalism, in which I actually have an entry in the bibliography.)

Brock on 12.13.05 @ 06:07 PM CST [link] [ | ]

The not so Happy Holidays…

As reported by Reuters (via AOL):

”An employee of the Comedy Central program "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" has committed suicide, leading the network to suspend production of Monday night's episode of the program, a spokesman confirmed.

Bill Clarey, 25, took his own life over the weekend, according to the network. A former "Daily Show" intern, Clarey also worked as a receptionist at the program's offices in New York.

"Bill Clarey, a young staff member of 'The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,' passed away over the weekend. He was a wonderful and dedicated employee and all of us at Comedy Central and 'The Daily Show' are devastated by his loss. Our hearts and prayers go out to his family and friends," the network said in a statement.

Comedy Central has sent grief counselors to the "Daily Show" set to help its employees, sources said, who first learned of the suicide upon coming to work Monday. The network was scheduled to shoot a week's worth of new episodes before shutting down for the final two weeks of the year. The network will air a "Daily Show" repeat instead of the regularly scheduled episode.”

This is terribly sad and it’s a reminder of how disconnected from the joy and seasonal hopes and love some people feel at this time of year.

And whether this person had already existing issues or problems, suicide is never an easy thing for those family and friends left behind.

My condolences for the family and friends of Mr. Clarey.

Karen on 12.13.05 @ 04:01 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Today's GEM Quote...

Had to pass this funnie along to Dan Froomkin -and sent a letter to the Washington Post Ombudsman about changing the name of the on-line column -- White House Briefing:

From Digby at hullabaloo:

"Fine. Fuck it. Change the name if it bothers the "real" white house reporters so much. Call it The Whorehouse Report. It amounts to the same thing."


Thought you'd get a chuckle out of that one. :-)

Well, after the editors in charge have refused even wrist-slap Bob Woodward for his *lapses* over at the Post, you can see what side of journalistic integrity their bread is buttered on.


Karen on 12.13.05 @ 12:18 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Somehow, I don't think it'll work for me.....

the distraction factor is too great.

But you had to figure someone would try this. Follow the link to watch the How To Do Girls, Jamie Lynn and Paige, teach "Bikini Calculus: the Constant Rule" (opens in new window). According to the How To Do Girls webpage, Paige has a master's from MIT and is working on an MD/PhD, so if that's at all accurate (yeah, riiiiiigggggghhhhhtttttt.....) she should know her stuff.

As I say, I'd have probably been too distracted to learn if they'd have taught the calculus class I took in college. However, if they had, I'd have probably stayed awake at least, a task that was made very difficult by the fact that I opted for the 8:00 AM calculus class for some reason that I've since blotted from my memory.

Len on 12.13.05 @ 08:21 AM CST [link] [ | ]

The People Have Spoken....

And we're on:

Len on 12.13.05 @ 07:20 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Just for FUN...

From Pen-Elayne on the Web

(and we NOTE: Elayne must be feeling MUCH BETTER!! *smile*)

This bit on the lastest in Pillow Decor:

Sushi pillows.

353_Ebi_Side (12k image)

Yummie with a bit of Wasabi and pickled Ginger.

Click on the link above to view all the pillows on this menu. ;-)

Karen on 12.13.05 @ 07:15 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Groaner o'the Day:

Every time you turn around, King Kong is another height. In the 1933 version, he started out about 18 feet tall, then grew seven feet for the New York scenes. In the 1976 re-make, he was between 40 and 50 feet tall. The Japanese Kong movies elevated him to between 150 and 200 feet (I think), since he had to be big enough to go toe-to-toe with Godzilla. Finally, there was a cartoon that claimed he was "ten times as big as a man." I guess that means about 50 feet tall. According to published reports, Peter Jackson has placed him in the 25 to 30 foot range.

It all goes to show, there's no such thing as Kongtinuity.
--James Berardinelli [entry of December 12, 2005, "How Big Is He?"]

Len on 12.13.05 @ 06:57 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Bottle Puzzlers

Found this interesting one at Digg.com: A website of Harry Eng Bottle puzzlers.

one_gallon_jug_2_eng_1 (28k image)

Some one was having way too Much FUN in his life.

Click on the link above to see lots more of these creations. :-)

Karen on 12.13.05 @ 06:33 AM CST [link] [ | ]

The primary law of the universe is Murphy's...

As BSTommy discovers:

On the list of things that bug, irk or otherwise piss me off...

I've got this thing where, if I'm going in to browse, and I'm not looking for anything in particular, I can't walk 28 feet in Best Buy without some goof in a blue shirt stepping into my field of vision and asking if I need help finding something. I mean, I've got blue-shirted goons tripping all over themselves, falling off of bunkers, running from other departments clear across the store to ask me if they can help me find anything.

But when I go in and I'm actually looking to find something, and it's not where logic tells me it should be, and I need help finding it...the blue shirts run! I wandered around to find a blue shirt, and on the couple of occasions that I could find one, they'd turn and scurry the other way.

I think one skittered up a wall to avoid me.

Len on 12.13.05 @ 06:26 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

The tale of President Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard is a key to who he is, to his character, to his understanding of how the world works, to his core. Much of what you need to know about the President's privileged youth, his access to special treatment, his empathy (or lack of it) for less advantaged individuals is contained in this story. The fact that the President and his supporters have covered up the less-than-heroic way he got into the Guard when others were being sent to Vietnam and how he got out more than two years early when he didn't feel like showing up anymore is further evidence that this is a guy who just doesn't get it when it comes to how other Americans lived and served and died during Vietnam.

New documents at the book's web site show that Guard officials in the early '70s refused other reservists even minimal "early outs." They also lay out clearly the life or death scramble that young Texans and their families were in while trying to get their children into the safety of the state National Guard during the Vietnam war. For Bush, there was no struggle, just a stroll... into the job he wanted, the assignment he wanted and the unit closest to home.

The truth about Bush's service in the Guard is an embarrassing complication for a commander-in-chief who is in the process of sending current Guard troops to serve in Iraq right now, doing the kind of duty that the President was protected from during Vietnam.

To this day, through four political campaigns in Texas and nationwide, the President has not adequately explained the more than year-long gap in his service record when he went to Alabama -- against his commander's wishes -- to work on a political campaign, and later why he left the Guard more than two years earlier than he promised.
--Mary Mapes [in a dKos interview]

Len on 12.13.05 @ 06:23 AM CST [link] [ | ]

A touch of Engrish...

A few GEMs from the pages of Engrish:

Be sure not to *enterness* Up the Down Staircase?

I’ll take mine constructed as a jello shot glass.

Have yer *waiting baggie* handi for the upcoming *delivery*.


Karen on 12.13.05 @ 06:22 AM CST [link] [ | ]

From the Files of 'Those with WAY TOO Much Time'

...on their hands.

Now, I've been known to create some intricate doodles during my mental focusing time (to keep fidgety fingers bizee) - but this one is quite interesting:

pencils (9k image)

Pencil carving.

But have to have a good exacto-knife for that delicate workmanship.


[Courtesy of Digg.com.]

Karen on 12.13.05 @ 06:03 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Well, Not for this Bash...

...since hard stuff is not allowed at the venue for the Holiday bash.

But perhaps for Mr. Mike's next *Jello Shot* partie - Shot glasses made out of ice cubes:

shotglass (19k image)

Tho' they look awful *festive* - eh? And I think ya can eat 'em when you're done drinking.


[Courtesy of Digg.com.]

Karen on 12.13.05 @ 05:53 AM CST [link] [ | ]

It's that time of year again.....

and Forbes magazine ("Capitalist Tool") has released this year's "Fictional 15"--the 15 richest fictional characters (by their reckoning). This year's list:

Member                                 Net worth

1. Santa Claus Infinite
2. Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks $27.3 billion
3. Richie Rich $17 billion
4. Lex Luthor $10.1 billion
5. C. Montgomery Burns $8.4 billion
6. Scrooge McDuck $8.2 billion
7. Jed Clampett $6.6 billion
8. Bruce Wayne $6.5 billion
9. Thurston Howell III $5.7 billion
10. Willy Wonka $2.3 billion
11. Arthur Bach $2 billion
12. Ebenezer Scrooge $1.7 billion
13. Lara Croft $1 billion
14. Cruella De Vil $1 billion
15. Lucius Malfoy $900 million

Making their first appearence on the list are: Jed Clampett, Arthur Bach, Ebenezer Scrooge, Lara Croft, Lucius Malfoy.

Members last year who dropped off the list this year: J.R. Ewing, Jay Gatsby, Gordon Gekko, Auric Goldfinger, Charles Foster Kane.

Len on 12.12.05 @ 08:19 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Dem *Bears* is following me now....

Don't know WHY...but sometimes ya just mention a word (penis) and the next thing ya know, ya keep stumbling across it all day long....

From Improbable Research -- What's New:

"The artificial foreskin purveyor

"A dedicated program of research started in early 1999, and soon after, a research organization was set up..." So says the Viafin-Atlas company, in attempting to explain why and how it makes its product:

Viafin-Atlas are the world leaders in the manufacture of artificial foreskin for circumcised men. After 20,000 hours of research and development over five years, Viafin-Atlas proudly offer the SenSlip - the world’s first ever artificial retractable foreskin for circumcised men.

The company appears to be based in Salisbury, England. Its web site includes an informative video narrated by a woman who drones attractively. The organization's front man makes a vow: " I promise that 2% of our monthly turnover will be put aside for The Viafin Charity."

(Thanks to investigator Louisa Dalton for bringing this to our attention.)

Mr. Language Wordsmith says I Better watch out what words I write *next*.

Ha Ha Ha Ha.

So, what do you think they DID for 20,000 hours of research?

Karen on 12.12.05 @ 07:37 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Memphis Blogger Bash update....

We have a date and time, sorta: Wednesday, December 21 at 1900 (7 PM for y'all who can't deal with 24 hour time). "Sorta", because obviously we may need to do some rescheduling if we don't get the venue worked out in time.

The location is up in the air. Based on earlier discussions over at Half-Bakered, it was originally set for Quetzal, at 668 Union Avenue, across from the Commercial Appeal building (the proximity to the CA thus maximizing the entertainment potential by maximizing the likelihood that Mike Hollihan will have a mental meltdown over the latest silliness coming from our esteemed daily fishwrap. :-) ). However, since then one of Mr. Mike's commenters has brought to our attention that Quetzal is a no-smoking venue with no mixed drinks (just beer for alcoholic libations), and Mike's re-opened the venue question, in the event that there are any Memphis bloggers who would find either of those conditions too onerous for them to attend.

So head to Half-Bakered and register your preference (I have, already).

And hope to see y'all there (wherever there ends up being)!

Len on 12.12.05 @ 07:43 AM CST [link] [ | ]

The Price of The Presidential Disconnect...

"...Bush's travel schedule seems calculated to involve as little contact as possible with the country he is in. Perhaps the White House should look into the new teleconferencing technologies. If set up right, the president could soon conduct foreign policy without ever having to actually meet foreigners.
To foreigners, American officials increasingly seem clueless about the world they are supposed to be running. "There are two sets of conversations, one with Americans in the room and one without," says Kishore Mahbubani, formerly a senior diplomat for Singapore and now dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. Because Americans live in a "cocoon," Mahbubani fears that they don't see the "sea change in attitudes towards America throughout the world."

The imperial style has its virtues. It intimidates, allows for decisive action and can force countries to follow the lead. But it racks up costs. And it is particularly ill suited for the world we are entering. As other countries come into their own, economically and politically, they want to be listened to, not simply tolerated. They resent being lectured to by the United States..."

--Fareed Zakaria (Newsweek).

Karen on 12.12.05 @ 07:31 AM CST [link] [ | ]

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

So Bill O'Lielly demonstrates that his mind ain't little...

Bill O’Reilly thinks the greeting “Happy Holidays” is anti-Christian.

Or, Bill O’Reilly thinks the greeting “Happy Holidays” is common sense when addressing someone without knowing that person’s religion.

O’Reilly has taken both positions recently.
Follow the pointers to check out the details.

Len on 12.12.05 @ 07:29 AM CST [link] [ | ]

From the Files of 'What Haven't They Thought of Before'...

"...The young Soviet Union, in its effort to stamp out religion, was determined to prove that men were descended from apes. In 1926, a Soviet scientist named Ilya Ivanov decided the most compelling way to do this would be to breed a humanzee: a human-chimpanzee hybrid.

Ivanov set off for a French research station in West Africa. There he inseminated three female chimpanzees with human sperm. Not his own, for he shared the colonial-era belief that the local people were more closely related to apes than he was. He stayed long enough to learn that his experiment had failed.

Next Ivanov wrote a Cuban heiress, Rosalia Abreu. Abreu was the first person to breed chimps in captivity and had a large menagerie outside Havana. Ivanov asked if any of her male chimpanzees might be available to inseminate a Russian volunteer known to posterity only as 'G."

At first Abreu was agreeable. But Ivanov made the mistake of approaching Charles Smith of the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism for fund-raising support. Smith was something of a showman - he liked to appear in public with a chimpanzee dressed in a business suit - and went to the newspapers with Ivanov's proposal. The New York Times thundered, "Soviet Backs Plan to Test Evolution."

The resulting publicity brought the case to the attention of the Ku Klux Klan, which threatened Abreu with retaliation if she took part in Ivanov's experiment, calling it "abominable to the creator." Abreu withdrew her consent.

Before Ivanov could find another chimpanzee breeder, he fell out of favor in one of Stalin's purges and was exiled to Kazakhstan in 1931. He died a year later, in March 1932, waiting for a train home to Moscow.

We now know that, though we share much of our genetic code, chimp-human hybrids are probably impossible because the genetic material is arranged quite differently on our chromosomes. But I doubt that will stifle interest in this kind of interspecies romance..."

-- Clive D.L. Wynne: Kissing Cousins (NY Times).

Karen on 12.12.05 @ 06:59 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Off Hiking in Allegory Land...

"...But a brief foray into Criticism 101 shows that the wardrobe is big enough for everyone. Symbolism, for example, is when one thing stands for another but is not the thing itself. Psychoanalysts, for instance, have interpreted "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" as Dorothy's quest for a penis - that is, retrieving the witch's broomstick. Does that symbolism - if you buy it - make Dorothy a pervert? No, because it's hidden. That's the point. Overt and covert meaning can exist independently.

Those with a fiduciary, rather than phallic bent, might prefer the theory that L. Frank Baum's Oz stories are a Populist manifesto, with the yellow brick road as the gold standard, the Tin Man as alienated labor, Scarecrow as oppressed farmers, and so on. (And surely some Jungian theory about the collective unconscious explains why both Oz and Narnia are populated by four heroic characters fighting an evil witch.)

Yes, it's allegory land, a place that strings symbols together to create levels of meaning, which a determined scholar has actually quantified as ranging from two to seven layers. (No word on why not eight.)..."

-- NY Times.

Well, I nevah heard that Dorothy was on a mission for a substitute penis, must have misssed that turn-off in Allegory Land.


But I already recommended Narnia.

I think this film version is the best at translating the book to the Big Screen. Works wonders for me - allegories not-with-standing. :-)

Karen on 12.12.05 @ 06:45 AM CST [link] [ | ]

When in doubt, use the Swiss Army knife.....

Len on 12.12.05 @ 05:59 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

I know, I know, you heard on NPR that this case is about Georgia inmate Tony Goodman—a paraplegic confined to a 12-by-3-foot cell, who claims he was often denied the most basic hygiene and was confined to his jail cell 23 hours or more each day. But by the time a case like Goodman's makes it to the Supreme Court, no one wants to talk about the bones he's broken or the showers he was denied. Instead, the nine justices wrestle with problems of statutory construction, congressional intent, and standards of review. These and other arcane questions surrounding the constitutionality of the ADA are the bread and butter of constitutional law. Still wanna go to law school?
--Dahlia Lithwick [on the case of Goodman v. Georgia]

Len on 12.12.05 @ 05:32 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Holiday Song Lyric o'the Day:

Gods Rest Ye Unitarians

Gods rest ye, Unitarians, let nothing you dismay;
Remember there's no evidence there was a Christmas Day;
When Christ was born is just not known, no matter what they say,
O, Tidings of reason and fact, reason and fact,
Glad tidings of reason and fact.

Our current Christmas Customs come from Persia and from Greece,
From solstice celebrations of the ancient Middle East.
This whole darn Christmas spiel is just another pagan feast,
O, Tidings of reason and fact, reason and fact,
Glad tidings of reason and fact.

There was no star of Bethlehem, there was no angels' song;
There couldn't have been wise men for the trip would take too long.
The stories in the Bible are historically wrong,
O, Tidings of reason and fact, reason and fact,
Glad tidings of reason and fact!
Credit: dKos via Tom at Pretty War

Len on 12.11.05 @ 06:41 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Sounds right to me....

The Movie Of Your Life Is A Cult Classic

Quirky, offbeat, and even a little campy - your life appeals to a select few.

But if someone's obsessed with you, look out! Your fans are downright freaky.

Your best movie matches: Office Space, Showgirls, The Big Lebowski

If Your Life Was a Movie, What Genre Would It Be?

Credit: BSTommy

Len on 12.11.05 @ 06:23 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

The first New York Times-CBS News Poll since the Naval Academy pep talk, released last Thursday, found that only 25 percent of Americans say the president has "a clear plan for victory in Iraq." Tom Cruise and evolution still have larger constituencies in America than that.
--Frank Rich [New York

Len on 12.11.05 @ 06:18 PM CST [link] [ | ]

The Ballad of Cory Maye

I'm not one for jumping on bandwagons, but Angelica at Battlepanda is has issued something of a challenge for bloggers to get the word out on the case of Cory Maye, sentenced to death in Prentiss, MS. A quick summary of the case, cribbed from my favorite libertarian blogger, Radley Balko, who broke the story and is doing an excellent job covering the case:

Cops mistakenly break down the door of a sleeping man, late at night, as part of drug raid. Turns out, the man wasn't named in the warrant, and wasn't a suspect. The man, frigthened for himself and his 18-month old daughter, fires at an intruder who jumps into his bedroom after the door's been kicked in. Turns out that the man, who is black, has killed the white son of the town's police chief. He's later convicted and sentenced to death by a white jury. The man has no criminal record, and police rather tellingly changed their story about drugs (rather, traces of drugs) in his possession at the time of the raid.

This one has elements of outrage no matter what your pet issue: racism in the criminal justice system, the right to defend your home, or (my pet issue) the sick escalation of state violence in the War on Some Drugs.

Brock on 12.11.05 @ 04:13 PM CST [link] [ | ]


Click on this link to take a tour of the High-Tech art of Safety Objects-De-Art from the Museum of Modern Art (New York).

[Use the *sprouts* to click and navigate the flash-world of FAB art objects.]

Courtesy of CBS Sunday Morning Program.

Enjoy! :-)

Karen on 12.11.05 @ 09:28 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Decibels rising...

"I am growing more and more disgusted by anyone who remains a Republican anymore.

Now why do you think that is? It's because they desperately wanted to go to war.

How many stories do you have to see about this before you get it through your thick head that they purposely picked the worst intelligence to make their case because they were going to war no matter what? The CIA told the administration just ten days after September 11th that there was no connection between al-Qaeda and Iraq. A Presidential Daily Briefing on September 21, 2001 explained at length that Saddam not only did not work with al-Qaeda but considered them a threat. And Dick Cheney goes around to this day insinuating a link.

How bad do these people have to be before your conscience kicks in? I hit that threshold about three years ago when I ran screaming from the Republican Party. I am beginning to believe anyone who remains after hearing this type of evidence against the administration is simply not a good person.

That seems like an over-the-top statement, but it really isn't. In fact, there is almost no other explanation. Who supports the use of torture? Who supports the unwarranted invasion of other countries based on intelligence we knew was made up? And who thinks we should use torture to get that bad intelligence so we can start that senseless war? Bad people.

The only defense Republicans have now is that they're ignorant. If you are ignorant of these facts, I feel sorry for you but I understand you have been manipulated and duped. But if you know these facts and you still support this administration, you are as guilty as they are and you are as un-American as they are.

This not only applies to members of the public who remain loyal to the Republican Party, but applies even more so to members of Congress who remain loyal to this administration. They cannot even feign ignorance. They have put allegiance to their political party over their allegiance to the core principles of this country.

There used to be a slogan during the McCarthy era -- better dead than red. I guess the new slogan is -- better Republican than American.

Torture is un-American. Wars of aggression, besides being war crimes, are un-American. Lying to the American people and to the world so that you can invade and occupy a country that didn't attack us is un-American. Believing the Egyptian justice system is better than the American justice system is un-American. Causing the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians (those are real people, real kids, real families just like your own) and thousands of American soldiers based on lies acquired through torture is un-American.

And if you still don't get this, you sicken me.

-- Cenk Uygur (Hufington Post)

I don't know that I could go so extremely far in denouncing ALL GOP-Republicans (having so many family and friends of various political persuasions across the spectrum) but one has to WONDER at those 25%-ers who blindly swallow all the propaganda, refuse to question the bAdmin.

Who are the *hold harmless crowd* that refuse to join the growing chorus of demands for some ACCOUNTABILITY for anything. Decibels are rising for those answers.

It's not too much to ask for accountability and answers (truthful answers) to the issues on the table. Our system of government demands it and the truth will come. Better now than later.

Karen on 12.11.05 @ 07:25 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Holiday stories from Tex-ASS...

This story reported in the Dallas Observer about Texas man who spent 11 days in jail for *jaywalking*:

..."We had just got off the DART train in the West End," he told me. "We were in the legal crosswalk, and we were walking toward the Greyhound station. After we got across, there was two officers there, and we walked right past them.

"I heard one say, 'Y'all need to be on the other side of the street.' That was kind of puzzling to me. It didn't sound like a command. It was a very calm voice. I said in a calm voice, "Well, we're supposed to be over here. We're going toward the Greyhound station.'

"I heard him say, 'You longhairs are not going to fuck with me.' He attempted to grab my hand behind my back. Natural reaction, I turned around and grabbed my hand. He was pulling my hair. The other officer slammed me up against the rail.

"I did not hit them. I did not run. I didn't say anything cuss-word. Any witness coming forward will not say I did."

Interesting thing: I did speak to a couple of witnesses, and they do support Lyon's version of the story.
Here's this guy with his son, and his big offense is that he crosses against a red light. And this winds up with half a dozen transit cops spraying him with pepper spray, beating on him in front of his kid and then hauling him away in cuffs. And then they send the child off alone into the city. It's like a damn scene from Sophie's Choice.

Do we really need this to keep people from jaywalking?

Happy Holidays from The DART security police who work for the local transit authority. Bleh!

Karen on 12.11.05 @ 07:12 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Potempkin Propagandist Strike Again...

"...As breathlessly heralded by Scott McClellan, this glossy brochure was "an unclassified version" of the strategy in place since the war's inception in "early 2003." But Scott Shane of The New York Times told another story.

Through a few keystrokes, the electronic version of the document at whitehouse.gov could be manipulated to reveal text "usually hidden from public view."

What turned up was the name of the document's originating author: Peter Feaver, a Duke political scientist who started advising the National Security Council only this June. Dr. Feaver is an expert on public opinion about war, not war itself.

Thus we now know that what Mr. McClellan billed as a 2003 strategy for military victory is in fact a P.R. strategy in place for no more than six months.

That solves the mystery of why Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey of the Army, who is in charge of training Iraqi troops, told reporters that he had never seen this "National Strategy" before its public release last month..."

-- Frank Rich (NY Times)

Sheesh - and we have to have a government as shamelessly mendacious and horrible as any Stalinist Dictatorship ever was. If Child-In-Chief deserves any "legacy" it ought to be an entire Billboard display in the P.T. Barnum Hall of Fame - and those *suckers born every minute.*

Karen on 12.11.05 @ 07:01 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

According to the New York Daily News, the Yankees lost between $50 and $85 million in 2005. Now I don’t feel so bad. Personally, I lost between $25 and $30 million this past year and was a little down about it heading into the holidays. (A lot of my losses came from not purchasing lottery tickets with certain number combinations on them.) You know, if the Yankees can’t make money, what hope is there for the rest of us? Why should we even bother working? Of course, if we spent money the way they do, we’d be paying $15 for a gallon of milk, the everyman’s equivalent of the Tony Womack deal.
--Jim Baker [Baseball Prospectus]

Len on 12.10.05 @ 12:09 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Co-Opted Festivals...

To celebrate the birth of Jesus?

The Egyptians put date palm leaves into their homes to celebrate the return of the sun at the solstice. Romans honored the god of farming with evergreens and gifts during the Saturnalia, their weeklong solstice festival.

Did the Romans say "Happy Holidays" to one another?

No, the traditional greeting was, "Io, Saturnalia" (the first word was pronounced "yo"), which meant roughly, "Ho, praise to Saturn." Scholars suggest that the date of Christmas was picked in the fourth century to coincide with the Roman holiday.

Did Roman pagans complain that Christians were taking Saturn out of Saturnalia?

Perhaps, but in those days there were no conservative all-news channels. The pagans in northern Europe must have complained about their traditional Yule solstice festival. Christians not only co-opted customs like burning a Yule log, but also turned Yule into a synonym for Christmas.

They took the Yule out of Yule?

And put it into Christmas. For all we know, some Norse lumber merchants tried appeasing both pagans and Christians by marketing "holiday logs," but the term didn't stick.

Why are today's Christians having such a hard time holding on to Christmas?

In some cases because of ridiculous political correctness, like not allowing the singing of traditional Christmas carols in public schools. But it's mainly because they're up against retailers who don't want to offend their many non-Christian customers. That old seasonal admonition of good will to all means more sales.
So what's the right greeting?

If you want be safe - or sell anything - go with "Happy Holidays." Otherwise, say anything you want.

What's your choice?

Yo, Saturnalia!

-- John Tierney (NY Times)

Or as this bit from the Chicago Tribune has a Q&A of Mr. Tim Wildmon (head of the American Family Association, based in Tupelo, Miss):
"Q. What do you hope to gain with a boycott of Target?

A. That you diminish the importance of Christmas when you censor the word "Christmas" out of your promotions. What does Target think people are buying? They're buying Christmas gifts, not holiday gifts. We're not trying to hurt American companies, but something needs to be done.

Q. For many years, Christians have been decrying the commercialism of Christmas. Yet you have chosen to make retailing your battleground. Why?

A. It's about the secularization of Christmas and of our entire culture. It's political correctness run amok.

Q. Given the fact that "Silent Night" and "Joy to the World" play endlessly in every store and that Santa Claus and trim-a-tree shops are everywhere, do you really believe that the holiday is endangered?

A. Yes, because it's about exchanging our traditions for a more generic December. These changes don't happen in a vacuum. It represents an anti-Christian bias. To equate the importance of Christmas with Hanukkah or Kwanzaa makes absolutely no sense to me. About 95 percent of the people who are in your store are there for the birth of you-know-who.

This whole “War on Christmas” would perhaps not be such a crock - IF these supposed Christians were all so fired up about the *true* birth date of Christ. If they gave a rat’s ass at ALL it would be celebrated in April - at the time of the more historically accurate point of his birth. But that *Christians* chose (centuries ago) to co-opted other celebratory festivals -- Literally stealing other pageantry and holidays and claim them for Christ -- is the problem.

And, per usual, history and facts (and science) be damned with these Funda-gelical Facists.

But it’s also not about their ability to celebrate as they wish, but about making everyone else celebrate as they wish, even as to stolen holidays and traditions. But they now want to re-write more history and foster more uneducated dogma on the public.

But I can not subscribe to the Fakery and Lies and False Premises for trying to enforce a historical re-write over all the various reasons and holidays celebrated around the world and across our Nation.

Bah-Humbug on Loofah Man and all his co-horts for their fake “war.” And how shameful of them given the real horrors of WAR all around us this year and carried in the hearts by those who have lost the most dear to them. Shame on you!

I love the season, all the holidays and the traditions of my upbringing (Catholic), and I celebrate them. I also hold out the notion of a *Sharing Season* of Goodwill towards All at this time of year whatever the Celebrations and Faiths of others.


Karen on 12.10.05 @ 07:44 AM CST [link] [ | ]


I just have to say I saw Narnia yesterday and it was ALL it should be.

Very well done and true to the story and feeling of the book. People may compare it to LOTR, but it never was similar, except as a magical fantasy story. And if you recall that it was written for a children's level (as LOTR was NOT - except maybe the "Hobbit" was equally *children's level oriented* than LOTR), then you will see why these two stories are not meant to be compared.

But most interesting to me is all this *Christian*/*Biblical* comparison. I NEVER felt that reading these books nor does it really strike me in this movie...except the basic Good v Evil (as Christ is the good v Satan the evil), and the supposed allegories to the Easter Resurection. (And I Know what Lewis said about this bit.)

But it's more a magical realm with about as much "biblical" as reading Greek Mythology of fauns and centaurs, and minotaurs. NOT biblical really at all. But funny that they try to *sell* it that way. (And there is Father Christmas...true to the story line.)

I do recommend it as faithful to the feel and sense of the books, and a good rendition of a childhood favorite (without added pro-forma Hollywood cutsie references or throw away lines to tart it up.)

It is the story as told in the book.


Karen on 12.10.05 @ 07:09 AM CST [link] [ | ]

The Search Continues...

...for a new approach to the Snooze Anchor chair:

"... TV and newspaper moguls are trying a less authoritarian news format. Brian Williams, who broke out of android status with his brilliant coverage of the administration's attention deficit disorder during Katrina, blogs to show he's a man of the people. Anderson Cooper knocked off Aaron Brown by emoting during Katrina, and being fetching enough to make People's Sexiest Man Alive list.

Les Moonves, head of CBS, is looking for pizazz. "On the one hand," he told The Times's Lynn Hirschberg, "we could have a newscast like 'The Big Breakfast' in England, where women give the news in lingerie. Or there's 'Naked News,' which is on cable in England. I saw a clip of it. It's a woman giving the news as she's getting undressed. And then, on the other hand, you could have two boring people behind a desk. Our newscast has to be somewhere in between."

-- Maureen Dowd (NY Times)

Karen on 12.10.05 @ 05:51 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Normally, I don't give a shit, but this year....

Jen calls my attention to the Grammys. Normally, I don't pay any attention to the Grammys, but this year I'll have a slight eye on the awards: Kraftwerk's Minimum-Maximum has been nominated for "Best Electronic/Dance Album".

If they don't win, it'll only prove what I know: There's no such thing as a just God.

Speaking of Kraftwerk, my copy of the Minimum-Maximum DVD arrived a couple days ago.


Len on 12.09.05 @ 08:21 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Think you want an honest boss? Think again....

Via The Memphis News Diva, this interactive Interview With an Honest Boss.

Len on 12.09.05 @ 08:04 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Shamelessly stolen....

From Jeff at The Flypaper Theory, who asks "But When Will We Get Ring Tones?":

Len on 12.09.05 @ 07:47 PM CST [link] [ | ]

The serious side of 'the War on Christmas'....

From Larry C. Johnson this morning:

If you've paid attention to the right wing flapping about the so called "war on Christmas" (i.e., the apparent plot of politicians and merchants to substitute the phrase "Happy Holidays" for "Christmas") you are getting an inkling of the future of Iraq. With the likes of Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity railing against those who don't want to bow the knee to Jesus, we are getting a taste of what life in the new Iraq will be like. The religious extremists in our country, who insist that there is no compromise when it comes to Jesus, capture perfectly the mentality of the folks who are poised to take the reins of power in Baghdad. Note, even some of the President's most stalwart supporters among evangelical Christians have made quite a show of throwing away the "Holiday" card sent by the White House. Welcome to the American Taliban.

Len on 12.09.05 @ 12:13 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Gem o'the Day:

Initial estimates for the George W. Bush Presidential Library at Southern Methodist University are around 100 million dollars. Seems like a lot of money for a shelf.
--Will Durst

Len on 12.09.05 @ 12:10 PM CST [link] [ | ]

The latest fad?

Creating fake blogs for people thrust into the news...

I don't know why nobody thought of doing it for John Roberts. Near as I can tell, the Harriet Miers blog was the first one. But now I've just stumbled across The Right Honorable Samuel A. Alito, Jr. blog and the Patrick J. Fitzgerald blog.

All the more reason to conclude that Blogger Was Not An Unalloyed Good Thing.

Len on 12.09.05 @ 11:59 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Happy Holidays, wingnuts! (Part II)

Since Bill O'Reilly has promised to "bring horror" to those who "diminish and denigrate" Xmas, here's a bit more Xmas denigration:

One particular Christmas season a long time ago, Santa was getting ready for his annual trip but there were problems everywhere. Four of his elves got sick, and the trainee elves did not produce the toys as fast as the regular ones so Santa was beginning to feel the pressure of being behind schedule. Then Mrs. Claus told Santa that her Mom was coming to visit; this stressed Santa even more.

When he went to harness the reindeer, he found that three of them were about to give birth and two had jumped the fence and were out at heaven knows where. More stress.

Then when he began to load the sleigh one of the boards cracked and the toy bag fell to the ground and scattered the toys. So, frustrated, Santa went into the house for a cup of coffee and a shot of whiskey. When he went to the cupboard, he discovered that the elves had hid the liquor and there was nothing to drink.

In his frustration, he accidentally dropped the coffeepot and it broke into hundreds of little pieces all over the kitchen floor. He went to get the broom and found that mice had eaten the straw it was made of. Just then the doorbell rang and Santa cussed on his way to the door. He opened the door and there was a little angel with a great big Christmas tree.

The angel said, very cheerfully, "Merry Christmas Santa. Isn't it just a lovely day? I have a beautiful tree for you. Isn't it just a lovely tree? Where would you like me to stick it?

Thus began the tradition of the little angel on top of the tree.

(Cribbed from here.)

If Bill O'Reilly wants to come to my house with his chainsaw and hockey mask, I say "Bring it on!"

Brock on 12.09.05 @ 10:41 AM CST [link] [ | ]

I could not resist this one...

From the Photoshop FUN of Corey Andersen:

Dennis Hastert and Jerry Falwell purchase Holiday Inn chain, rename it Christmas Inn

christmasinn (85k image)

I think I drove past one of these *Christmas Inn* (Express) places recently in Dennis Hastert Corners.


Karen on 12.09.05 @ 09:28 AM CST [link] [ | ]

More Signs of the Imminent Apocalypse: Part 353....

Holy Mother of Jesus, It's A Virgin Mary Funyun!

Further comment would be superfluous.

Len on 12.09.05 @ 08:32 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

You won't be reading reviews of the dystopian sci-fi flick Aeon Flux (Paramount) in the papers today because it wasn't screened for the press—and, given that it cost the GDP of a small country and that Charlize Theron and the director, Karyn Kusama (Girlfight), are critics' darlings, this could mean but one thing: A stinker. A weapon of mass destruction. A planet-killer.

Folks, I'll never understand studios.
Aeon Flux is not that terrible. It's certainly more fun than a lot of films that get lovingly showcased. As Aeon Flux (yes, that's the character's name), Theron wears a black Spandex stocking with a generous breach for cleavage, and Kusama photographs her as a tantalizing art object: elongated enough to compete with all the impressive modernist columns, and with enough wriggly curves to vanquish them utterly. If she clearly doesn't perform the most acrobatic stunts, there's no non sequitur when she lands—her endless legs spread wide, her palms flat on the ground, her eyes sparkling with amusement. She digs this action heroine thing. A few months ago, Bill Maher expressed his disapproval with the poster of North Country—Theron with her face smudged and hair tied in a kerchief—by announcing, "All right, Charlize, we get it, you can act. Now you can go back to being beautiful." He'll be a pig in shit at Aeon Flux.
--David Edelstein

Len on 12.09.05 @ 08:15 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Too Funnie...

Mr. Mike has a great suggestion that for the upcoming Holiday Bloggie Memphonian Bash:

"Tell Karen to hurry up and send along a "Blogging Barbie" or some other doll-type stand in and we'll photograph it at the bash for her! So she can be there in spirit."

Well Cookie Jill has JUST the Thing...

coulterdoll (26k image)

The Vixen of Vipertude Doll

Just be sure to Bring yer scissors...Ann needs a new haircut.

Hahahahahaha!! *evil grin*

Karen on 12.09.05 @ 07:15 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Couldnt Agree More...

...with this commentator to The Daily Dish:

EMAIL OF THE DAY: This hadn't occurred to me, but it fits like a glove:

"The only observation I felt your essay lacked is this: Torture is the tool of the slothful. The main attraction to those who defend the use of torture is how easily and quickly a suspect can be broken. Unlike other forms of interrogation, torture requires only a small amount of training, no particular understanding of the suspect, and scant concern for the veracity of what is revealed. It requires only the willingness to do to another human being what one would not do to an animal. Understanding torture as the lazy person’s tool makes it a bit more comprehensible why the Bush Administration would be the first in American history to defend the practice."

The same slothfulness that forced the 9/11 Commission to give this administration a failing grade when it comes to the difficult but thankless task of making the country safer.

Karen on 12.09.05 @ 05:01 AM CST [link] [ | ]

How Not to *Win Friends and Influence People...*

of all Faiths and Persuasions this holiday season:

"...I was planning to write something about loving this time of year, because it’s when we as a nation come together and show generosity and good will towards men no matter what our religious or cultural differences. It’s a theme that plays throughout all the holidays – from Christmas to Kwanzaa to Chanukah to Festivus. But it goes beyond that. Even for those of us with an undefined faith or no faith, you can’t help but be nice, or maybe help out a homeless person by bringing him some food and a hot drink.

That’s what “Happy Holidays” is all about. It is not just about tolerance for everyone’s religion or lack of religion, but it is highlighting that no matter what you believe, it is the season of giving.

But apparently if I want to take part in that, or any entity does, by saying “Happy Holidays,” it’s tough luck for us, because ‘tis the season for the Christian Majority.

So, instead of saying Happy Holidays this year, I’m just going to say “Go F* *k Yourself!” Screw taking part in the season’s spirit, because apparently I’m not welcome. So enjoy your CHRISTMAS TREES on my public property, and your CHRISTMAS sales at stores that used to try to reach out to me, and CHRISTMAS cards from politicians, and the rest of the season that apparently only belongs to you. Me? As a member of the “worst element” of this “overwhelmingly Christian country,” I’m going to act my part and go kick a homeless person, maybe take candy from a baby, and quite possibly walk an old person into the middle of heavy traffic and leave them there.

Yes, indeed, Go F* *k Yourself, All, and to All a Good Night!

-- Eric Schmeltzer (Huffington).

Anyone got any Nog? I think I need a strong one after that. *smile*

Karen on 12.09.05 @ 04:54 AM CST [link] [ | ]

How not to Get Fingered for an 'Erroneous Rendition'...

"...The background here is that the CIA seems to be having a little problem with what the agency terms "erroneous renditions." That's when you pick up an innocent guy and — oops! — send him off to a foreign country for some of that "enhanced interrogation" stuff.

In practice, terrorism suspects are often rendered to countries such as Egypt and Syria, which are known not merely for enhanced interrogation (like "waterboarding") but for what we might call "super-sized interrogation": electric shocks, pulling out fingernails, all that old-fashioned stuff. And if you carefully parse Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent legalistic assertion that "the United States has not transported anyone, and will not transport anyone, to a country when we believe he will be tortured," it's apparently still cool to render suspects to countries where they will be tortured, as long as "we" don't "believe" the acts legally constitute torture, or as long as U.S. authorities are not absolutely, 100% convinced that a detainee "will" be tortured.

But back to the case of the innocent college professor. It appears that U.S. intelligence agents at some point picked up a guy they identified as an Al Qaeda member. He was duly interrogated (you guess how). And when interrogators demanded that he cough up the names of other terrorists still at large, the suspect got revenge by rattling off a list of everyone who'd ever annoyed him, including one of his old college professors, who had really burned him up by giving him a bad course grade.

This is the kind of news calculated to send chills up a professor's spine. The law school where I teach employs a grading curve, so giving low grades to some students is inevitable. But if one of the students who gets a bad grade from me ends up as a terrorism suspect in the hands of the, ahem, authorities, how long will it take before he fingers me?

-- Rosa Brooks: Grading on the terrorist curve

Karen on 12.09.05 @ 04:48 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Media is Hiding the GOOD News...

I see one of my favorite public editors, Don Wycliff (Chicago Tribune) has been BIZEE - scouring the Tribune archives (Oh Joy) at work on ferreting out the answers to a reader’s complaint about all that FAB Economic NEWS supposedly hidden by the MSM.

This is a bit of a long post on that piece: Downplaying Bush's big economic hits and my own bits on that “Media is liberal” canard of a conservative yowling whine that emanates periodically from the wing-nutters camp.

So click on the “more” button to read further.

Karen on 12.09.05 @ 04:32 AM CST [more..] [ | ]

Constitutional amendment wankery

It takes a rare sort of deluded narcissist to sit around coming up with Constitutional amendments, but they're out in force in this Marginal Revolution comments thread.

Brock on 12.08.05 @ 08:23 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Happy Holidays to all the wingnuts!

Via Robert Farley, Bill O'Reilly has truly lost his mind.

I am not going to let oppressive, totalitarian, anti-Christian forces in this country diminish and denigrate the holiday and the celebration. I am not going to let it happen. I'm gonna use all the power that I have on radio and television to bring horror into the world of people who are trying to do that.

Well, since there's nothing we here at DBV would like more than to make it onto O'Reilly's enemies list, here's a bit of holiday denigrating:

The Restroom Door Said Gentlemen
(to the tune of "God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen")

The Restroom Door Said "Gentlemen", so I just stepped inside
I took two steps and realized I'd been taken for a ride
I heard high voices, turned, and found the place was occupied
by two old nuns, three old ladies, and a nurse -- what could be worse?
Two old nuns, three old ladies, and a nurse!

The Restroom Door Said "Gentlemen", it must've been a gag
'cause when I walked right in there, I ran into some old hag
She sprayed me with a can of mace and slapped me with her bag
I could tell this just wouldn't be my day, what can I say?
This just wasn't turning out to be my day!

The Restroom Door Said "Gentlemen", and I would like to find
that crummy little creep who had the nerve to switch the signs
'cause I've got two black eyes and one high heel up my behind
Now I'll never sit with comfort and joy -- boy o boy!
No, I'll never sit with comfort and joy!

(Shamelessly stolen from this collection of Xmas jokes.)

Brock on 12.08.05 @ 08:09 PM CST [link] [ | ]

John Lennon, conservative?!?

Via Scott Lemieux, here's the most self-deceived music criticism you'll ever read -- and that's saying something -- in which the NRO's Ned Rice claims that John Lennon's leftism was "ambiguous." I'm not kidding:

But what of that series of contradictions known as John Lennon's personal politics? Would Lennon today be considered a conservative, a liberal, or more of an Arnold Schwarzenegger type? The answer might surprise you, especially given John's place on the (almost certainly mythical) Nixon's Enemies List.

What's next? Reading Arthur Danto in The Nation arguing that Wango Tango is actually a plea for universal health care?

Brock on 12.08.05 @ 07:56 PM CST [link] [ | ]

A peek into the mind of the Civil War South

BoingBoing links to a UNC transcription of a schoolbook from the Civil War South, The Geographical Reader, for the Dixie Children.

"Lesson X. Races of Men" is exactly what you would expect from that period, but I found this passage from quizzes at the end of the book rather surprising:

     Q. How do the Indians live?

     A. By hunting and fishing.

     Q. Where did they once live?

     A. In all America.

     Q. What has become of them?

     A. The white people drove them away and took their lands.

     Q. Are they all gone?

     A. A few of them live in some places but do not seem much happy.

     Q. Was it not wrong to drive them away and take their lands?

     A. It was, and God will judge the white man for it.

     Q. May not some of the wars we have had, have been such judgments?

     A. Very likely.

That's not a sentiment I would have expected a Southerner of the period -- and an apologist for racism, slavery, and secession -- to express.

Later the author, Marinda Branson Moore, almost has a crucial insight into the real cause of the war.

     Q. If the people of the United States had always elected good men for rulers what would have been the result?

     A. We should have had no war.

     Q. Why?

     A. Because every man would have been willing to treat others justly, and there would have been no cause for war.

     Q. Are these judgments for our sin alone?

     A. They are partly for our sins, and partly for the sins of our forefathers.

So close, and yet so far.

Brock on 12.08.05 @ 07:25 PM CST [link] [ | ]

New Dark Ages

Bryan, over at WHY NOW, has a post on some local Mega-Churches and their decisions NOT to have Christmas celebrations on, well...Christmas.

I just got my e-mail update from Bishop Spong with his response to this Mega-Church growth and the ushering in of our new DARK AGES:

"SXL from the Internet writes:

"After watching a Tom Brokaw special on the growth of Evangelicals and their huge churches, I am rather appalled that their "love" for humanity does not include homosexuals, people that get abortions or gay and lesbian couples who want to marry! How can people believe in such a narrow minded, limited God? Are they really growing as powerful as they were pictured? "

Dear SXL,

I think that we have in recent years entered a "New Dark Age" in the Western world. It is marked by the rise of religious systems that seek to build security by encouraging prejudice against a designated victim. Both evangelical fundamentalism and the kind of ultra-conservative Roman Catholicism that is at present installed in the Vatican are publicly defined by their visceral and uninformed hostility toward homosexual persons. What the heretic was in the Middle Ages, the black in the days of slavery and segregation, and the Jew in Nazi Germany, the homosexual has become in the religious hysteria of our day. This kind of behavior is always a response to fear and to a rapidly changing world.

Security-providing religion, which always requires a victim, is like a drug that carries us over the rough places of life. It is certainly not the wave of the Christian future.

Protestant 'mega churches' are usually built on the charisma of the founding or transforming pastor. These leaders are usually sincere people who, even if they are not well informed, have a flair for showmanship. Life, however whether they like it or not, is not made secure simply by identifying the enemy and claiming the certainty of an infallible Pope or an inerrent Bible. Pain and tragedy invade the lives of even the most self-assured people of faith. The cult of the individual leader also enters a crisis when time forces a change in leadership. Many religious institutions do not make this transition well.

Beyond that I think we ought to recognize that truth and unity cannot ever be built on identifying a victim that creates the illusion of unity because there is a common enemy. When these institutions say that God hates the same things that the worshiper hates, everyone should be very suspicious.

Dark Ages do not last forever. Ten years from now this phase of our religious history will surely be over.

The contemporary scientific and medical data that suggests that homosexuality is a perfectly normal
but minority aspect of our humanity, that it is a given and not a chosen aspect of life, will have challenged these prejudices so deeply as to make them seem not only quaint but ignorant.

Remember that less than one hundred years ago we were still persecuting left-handed people as evil, deviant and unnatural. In the meantime I share your enormous embarrassment that the Christian church is today the major voice in the Western World in the persecution of those members of our society whose only 'sin' is that they were born with a sexual orientation different from the majority. Someday we will be terribly ashamed of the Christian leaders in our generation.

-- -- John Shelby Spong

Well said.

But until the end of these New Dark Age ascending, we still have this Much Ado About Nothing "War on Merry Christmas" crap: 'Holiday' Cards Ring Hollow for Some on Bushes' List:
"What's missing from the White House Christmas card? Christmas.

This month, as in every December since he took office, President Bush sent out cards with a generic end-of-the-year message, wishing 1.4 million of his close friends and supporters a happy "holiday season."
Religious conservatives are miffed because they have been pressuring stores to advertise Christmas sales rather than "holiday specials" and urging schools to let students out for Christmas vacation rather than for "winter break." They celebrated when House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) insisted that the sparkling spectacle on the Capitol lawn should be called the Capitol Christmas Tree, not a holiday spruce..."

Home Boy Denny has the GOP *line* for EVERYTHING. Bleh!

But the article also goes on to point out that:
"...Diversity has been a hallmark of White House greeting cards for some time, according to Mary Evans Seeley of Tampa, Fla., author of "Season's Greetings From the White House." The last presidential Christmas card that mentioned Christmas was in 1992. It was sent by George H.W. and Barbara Bush, parents of the current president.

Seeley said the first president to send out true Christmas cards, as opposed to signed photographs or handwritten letters, was Franklin D. Roosevelt. "Merry Christmas From the President and Mrs. Roosevelt," said his first annual card, in 1933.

Like many modern touches, the generic New Year's card was introduced to the White House by John and Jacqueline Kennedy. In 1962, they had Hallmark print 2,000 cards, of which 1,800 cards said "The President and Mrs. Kennedy Wish You a Blessed Christmas" and 200 said "With Best Wishes for a Happy New Year."

Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson continued that tradition for a couple of years, but it required keeping track of Christian and non-Christian recipients. Beginning in 1966, they wished everyone a "Joyous Christmas," and no president has attempted the two-card trick since.

Seeley dates the politicization of the White House Christmas card to Richard M. Nixon, who increased the number of recipients tenfold, to 40,000, in his first year. The numbers since have snowballed, hitting 125,000 under Jimmy Carter, topping 400,000 under Bill Clinton and rising to more than a million under the current Bushes, with each president's political party paying the bill.

The wording, meanwhile, has often flip-flopped. Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter put "Merry Christmas" in their 1977 card and then switched to "Holiday Season" for the next three years. Ronald and Nancy Reagan, similarly, began with a "Joyous Christmas" in 1981 and 1982 but doled out generic holiday wishes from 1983 to 1988. The elder President Bush stayed in the "Merry Christmas" spirit all four years, and the Clintons opted for inclusive greetings for all of their eight years..."

So, all of this is merely a stupid *war of words* and Much Ado About Nothing...til these Dark Ages can be overcome and put behind us.

The New Enlightenment can't get here TOO SOON for me.

Karen on 12.08.05 @ 09:13 AM CST [link] [ | ]

The Tombstone Generator

The Dog Tags Generator

Both inspired by The Church Sign Generator (hence the inscription on the tombstone).

Credit: it was Gooseneck who pointed me to the Tombstone Generator. From there, I chased a pointer to find the Dogtag Generator on my own.

Len on 12.08.05 @ 07:50 AM CST [">link] [ | ]

A Burden for Us All...

"...As it stands now, the United States is incapable of defeating the insurgency with the forces it has in Iraq. So it is beyond preposterous to think that Iraq can be pacified in a year or 18 months or two years by a fledgling, underequipped Iraqi Army and a hapless police force riddled with brutal, partisan militias.

What's more, the U.S. military itself is in danger of cracking under the strain of this endless Iraq ordeal. Troops are being sent into the war zone for their third and fourth tours, which is hideously unfair. The more times you roll the dice, the more likely snake eyes will pop up.

Even with lowered standards, the Army can't meet its recruitment goals. And the National Guard and Reserves have been all but exhausted by the war effort.

The combination of troop shortages, declining public support for the war and the Republicans' anxiety over next year's elections all but ensures some substantial reduction in U.S. forces in Iraq over the next eight to 12 months.

And yet the hawks say we must continue the fight. Well, wars fought with one eye on the polls and one eye on the political calendar get lots of people killed for nothing..."

-- Bob Herbert (NY Times)

Karen on 12.08.05 @ 07:44 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Today's GEM quote:

"...[C]onservatives have not effectively addressed the second-generation issues. Technological change has really changed the economy, introducing new stratifications. Inequality is rising. Wage stagnation is a problem. Social mobility is lagging, and globalization hurts hard-working people. Global warming is real (conservatives secretly know this). The health care system is ridiculous. Welfare reform is unfinished. Conservatives have not addressed these second-generation issues as effectively as their forebears addressed the first-generation ones..."

NOW, guess who wrote that ditty...

[See below the fold. And the final bit is the most salient, unless things can be turned around by some opposition candidate.]

Karen on 12.08.05 @ 07:28 AM CST [more..] [ | ]

25 years ago today....

Requesciat In Pace, John.

Len on 12.08.05 @ 07:11 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Call for a Bash....

"Industriously quirky" Memphis blogger Mike "Mr. Mike" Hollihan has put out the call for an end of year Bloggers' Bash. Right now, we're in the preliminary discussions, trying to come up with a suitable venue. Go to Half-Bakered and put your two cents worth in.

If you're a Memphis blogger, you're cordially invited. Further details in this space as events warrant.

Len on 12.08.05 @ 06:57 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

Propaganda is the only word for the Pentagon's recently exposed secret efforts to plant positive stories in the Iraqi press. There is, to be sure, precedent for the U.S. funding democratically-minded foreign journalists, both clandestinely through the CIA and openly through agencies like the National Endowment for Democracy and USAID. Covert funding is both ethically indefensible and, in most cases, practically counterproductive. In the Cold War context, however, such efforts were often aboveboard and directed toward supporting courageous independent media and opposition voices in repressive countries.

In the Iraq cash-for-flacks scheme, on the other hand, the Pentagon did something simply stupid and wrong by hiring a propaganda-making firm called the Lincoln Group to cultivate an impression of grass-roots support for the American occupation. In this greenhouse, the gardeners did not just water and fertilize the seedlings; they handed out plastic flowers and hoped no one would notice they weren't real.
--Jacob Weisberg

Len on 12.08.05 @ 05:44 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Late to the party again....

Three days ago, December 4, marked the 49th anniversary of one of the great impromptu jam sessions in history:

"The Million Dollar Quartet". From left to right (if I'm getting my ID's correct): Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley (seated), and Johnny Cash.

Len on 12.07.05 @ 08:49 PM CST [link] [ | ]

A Little Q&A with Dear Condi...

faf has done it AGAIN (we don't know HOW, but we have our *ideas*) by snagging yet another FAB Interview of the Year with Condi-Scension Rice:

"FB: Secretary Rice, right now America's takin a lotta heat from the European Union on account of our policy of sending prisoners to foreign countries to be tortured. Question: what's wrong with good ol fashioned American torturers? Aren't we just shippin their jobs overseas?

RICE: First of all, we don't send prisoners off to be tortured, Fafnir. We just transport prisoners to countries where torture happens to be legal and where they happen to end up getting tortured.

FB: Well that explains everything then! It's all just a wacky misunderstanding, like that episode a Three's Company where Jack sends Janet off to Uzbekistan to get boiled alive by the secret police.

RICE: I'd also like to point out that whenever we send a prisoner to a country that routinely tortures prisoners, that country promises us NOT to torture them.

FB: And then they get tortured anyway!

RICE: Yes, they do! It's very strange.

FB: Over and over again, every time! That's gotta be so frustrating.

RICE: Oh it is, it is.

FB: So the first tirme you kidnap a prisoner an send him to Saudi Arabia you're like "don't torture this guy" an they're all "we totally won't" an then they go an torture him an you're all "ooh Saudi Arabia I told you not to torture him!" an they're all "oh we're sorry, we promise next time" an then you go "well you better" an you send em the next guy an they torture him too an you go "oh man Saudi Arabia you did it AGAIN!"

RICE: The president believes in the value of patience, Fafnir. He's not going to let a few dozen innocent torture victims come between him and his favorite third-world dictators.

FB: See after the first coupla hundred times that happened I woulda registered a complaint with customer service..."

Click on the link above to give it a full read through.


Karen on 12.07.05 @ 01:19 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Christmas season movies

Over at ReelThoughts, James Berardinelli graces us with his baker's dozen of Christmas seasonal flicks (no permalink; scroll to the post of December 6, 2005). Of the über-Christmas movie of all time (at least in the hearts and minds of Americans), he has this interesting observation:

For those who appreciate sentimental movies, where else to start but It's a Wonderful Life? Personally, I don't consider this to be a Christmas movie, but I can understand why it has been pigeonholed into the category.
Actually, my one "can't miss it" Christmas movie isn't really what most people would think of as a Christmas movie: The Thin Man. Probably bespeaks a serious psychological abberation on my part to choose a murder mystery as my all-time favorite Christmas movie, but (1) hey, it's a lighthearted screwball comedy, (2) it is set during the holiday season, and (3) the Christmas morning scene of Nick and Nora Charles enjoying their presents in the living room of their hotel suite is one of the most delightful ever filmed:
Nick Charles: I'm a hero. I was shot 2 times in the Tribune.
Nora Charles: I read where you were shot 5 times in the tabloids.
Nick Charles: It's not true. He didn't come anywhere near my tabloids.
Though the Christmas party scene set the previous night is certainly another of them, too:
Reporter: Say listen, is he working on a case?
Nora Charles: Yes, he is.
Reporter: What case?
Nora Charles: A case of scotch. Pitch in and help him.
As long as I can give a viewing to The Thin Man and the Chuck Jones version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! my holiday will be complete.

Len on 12.07.05 @ 08:30 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Winter fun....

Consider this a holiday themed post of sorts: Calvin and Hobbes Snow Art Gallery. Hilarious stuff. I shouldn't condone the copyright infringement, but it's nice to have a "one stop shop" of the various snowman related strips.

Hat tip: Josh Schulz

Len on 12.07.05 @ 08:12 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Gem o'the Day:

President Bush released a “Plan For Victory” in Iraq. Apparently the three-year lease on the “Plan For Abject Failure” finally ran out.
--Will Durst, December 6, 2005

Len on 12.07.05 @ 08:01 AM CST [link] [ | ]

'Duke' is still for sale to the highest bidder....

but at least this time you could participate, and the sale won't get you any undue influence in the Pentagon.

According to Josh Marshall, the IRS attached all of convicted felon Randy "Duke" Cunningham's ill gotten gains, and they're being stored in a warehouse pending a sale at auction (proceeds, I assume, going to pay off Duke's indebtedness to the IRS).

Your chance to own your own piece of American political history....

Len on 12.07.05 @ 07:47 AM CST [link] [ | ]

64 years ago today....

The USS West Virginia and USS Tennessee burn in Pearl Harbor; 7 December 1941

Len on 12.07.05 @ 07:37 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Speaking of those ‘Abuses’ likely to occur without having Christian Values….

I had read about this new Intelligent Design class offering from the Un. of Kansas a while back, and remarked to my hubby that this was about as good an idea to offer the *appropriate* place for a discussion of the Intelligent Design concepts in the realm of the humanities and world religions.

I was actually expecting to see more of this type of approach from Universities and schools. This is a better way to try teaching I.D. (if at all) than putting it in a science classroom. [Sorry, I.D. ya just are NOT Science.]

But then, a few days ago, this was all the news from Kansas:

”The University of Kansas withdrew its course on intelligent design Thursday, but it failed to satisfy critics who say e-mails from the class professor show him to be anti-religious.

The course was pulled from the spring semester at the request of Paul Mirecki, head of the university’s Religious Studies Department, who proposed the course and was to teach it.

Mirecki came under fire last week after e-mails he sent to an Internet discussion site for student atheists were publicized.

Thursday’s decision to pull the class came after more e-mails surfaced this week. In the latest e-mails, Mirecki repeatedly criticized fundamentalist Christians and Jews and mocked Catholicism. He urged students to aggressively take on proselytizers. He also made references to attending students’ parties and often referred to himself as “Evil Dr. P.”…”

Well, Mr. Mirecki was not very *politic* in his approach to this class or to the e-mails he sent on this topic. But hardly justifying the physical beating he received from a couple of these “Christian Values” folks.

The Ironic Times has provided this handy pie chart…

southchart (5k image)

…which, even if Kansas isn’t really technically qualified as a *Southern State,* seems to fittingly describe “What’s Wrong With Kansas” on the nose.

[Though, I fully expect to get beaten senseless by a few Christian Kansans the next time I drive into their State - just for mentioning this…]

Karen on 12.07.05 @ 07:34 AM CST [link] [ | ]

The maiden posting of the "Carnival of the Liberals" is out....

over at Brainshrub. Looks like a real good selection of postings from some stalwart Web progressives:

Go check Brainshrub for the winning posts.

Len on 12.07.05 @ 07:13 AM CST [link] [ | ]

I may be a loser when it comes to love/sex....

But, in my defense, I haven't sunk this low. Yet...

Reply to: pers-113736716@craigslist.org
Date: 2005-11-26, 1:48AM CST

He likes to describe himself as kind, average good looks, close to 6' tall, ... yada yada yada ..

That's what you get:

Monkey man, 5'4", long arms down to his knees, short legs, big belly (cant see his toes), bold, oily scalp, sweats all the time, watches only kid's cartoons (4 - 6 hrs in a row), eats like a pig, and he is so BROKE ..

He has not had sex in 6 years (surprise!!), and his tiny little piss tool is about 3 inches total ... saw him naked, started laughing, and ran ................

Watch the initials M.B.! Maybe next time I post a picture :)

Len on 12.07.05 @ 07:05 AM CST [link] [ | ]

More 'Christian Nation' Canards...

Clearly someone who has missed out his "Constitution 101" and never read Jon Rowe on this topic of *Natural Rights" and the age of Enlightenment is Carlos Alberto Montaner in this bit of sophistry: Natural Rights: Darwin vs. God:

The whole philosophical and juridical structure that supports liberal democracy hinges on the existence of a superior being from whom emanate the ''natural rights'' that protect individuals from the actions of the state or from the will of other people. If the premise of God's existence disappears, the theory of the existence of natural rights is automatically eliminated and the door is flung open to all kinds of abuses.

But, as our Brilliant Thinker, Jon, has pointed out so often in his essays on the formation of our Constitution [and blogged Here:
"...The fact is the Ten Commandments were an historical legal code -- for the Old Testament Jews. And for much of Western History, Christendom did indeed incorporate the Decalogue into its civil code. And this resulted in theocratic tyranny, exactly the type of thing that we rebelled against when we Declared our Independence in 1776.

For instance, examine exactly what the Ten Commandments say and then ask how we might derive a "civil norm" from each. In the First, the God of the Hebrew scriptures forbids worship of any other God but He. David Barton, a shining star of the religious right and propagator of the "Christian Nation" theory, in an affidavit supporting the public display of the Decalogue, proudly gives us examples of colonial civil laws, dating back hundreds of years before the Founding, based upon the First Commandment (and other parts of the Bible) that give the DEATH PENALTY for worshipping "any other god but the Lord God."

This is quite frankly the antithesis of the theory of religious liberty that founds our nation. Also laughable is the attempt to draw some kind of connection between the Ten Commandments and the Declaration of Independence. If anything, these two theories need to be reconciled with one another.

For instance, the theory of religious liberty that founds this nation is part-and-parcel of the natural law of the Declaration of Independence, which many people regard as the organic law of the United States. According to such theory all men -- even those who would worship no God or twenty Gods, in the words of Jefferson and Madison, have unalienable Free and Equal Rights of Conscience and hence the right to worship openly as they please. This is the polar opposite of those colonial civil codes, based on the Ten Commandments, that demand the Death Penalty for worshiping "False Gods."

and check out this latest post about those "Natural Rights" posted Here.

So - we need to send Mr. Montaner [and all his ilk] back to remedial education classes in both Religion 101 and Constitution 101.

[And thanks Jon - for all the great work on following the threads of these issues from our Founding Fathers and our Constitutional underpinings.]


Karen on 12.07.05 @ 06:58 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Damn you, Pete....

Over at A Perfectly Cromulent Blog, Pete Vonder Haar mentioned his nearly emasculating experience with the latest hit by the Black Eyed Peas, "My Humps".

I've had reason to mention the Peas in this space before. Basically, the Black Eyed Peas have, for some reason come to be what I call "a bear", after the schtick by Lewis Black:

It's like if a friend of yours tells you there's a bear wandering around, shitting all over town. You say, "Nah, can't be," but the next day there's the bear, following you around...
For some reason, whenever I see/hear a reference to the Peas, then for the next month or so I'm seeing and hearing them everywhere.

And it appears that Pete, by his mention of the Peas, has just started another cycle.

At least this time the first references to the Peas after Pete's have been entertaining. Over at Slate, Hua Hsu has posted an analysis of "My Humps" that I find interesting:
"Taste has no system and no proofs"—this much we know. But some 40 years after the critic Susan Sontag made this and other observations on the good, the bad, and the in-between, the times have a-changed: Irony and camp have recast taste as an ethical shell game and we feel no guilt celebrating things that are, in the parlance of VH1, Awesomely Bad. But are there still songs that qualify as "bad"? Consider the Los Angeles hip-hop quartet the Black Eyed Peas. Their current single, "My Humps," is one of the most popular hit singles in history. It is also proof that a song can be so bad as to veer toward evil.


This is what makes "My Humps" such an inscrutable pop moment. It's not Awesomely Bad; it's Horrifically Bad. The Peas receive no bonus points for a noble missing-of-the-mark or misguided ambition (some of the offended have responded with parody videos and snickering anecdotes about how the group uses Hitler-approved microphones). "My Humps" is a moment that reminds us that categories such as "good" and "bad" still matter. Relativism be damned! There are bad songs that offend our sensibilities but can still be enjoyed, and then there are the songs that are
just really bad—transcendentally bad, objectively bad.

As a piece of music, "My Humps" is a stunning assemblage of awful ideas. The song's playful pogo and coke-thin, ring-tone synth line interpolate Sexual Harassment's 1982 left-field electro hit, "I Need A Freak". But where the original trafficked in something icky, sinister, and darkly sexual, the Peas' call-and-response courtship fails to titillate—in fact, it's enough to convince one to never, ever ogle again.
And speaking of the parody videos, check out this masterpiece by a guy with three toy robots, a buttload of D-cells, a video camera, video editing software, and way too much time on his hands.

If "My Humps" is the start of another bear cycle, I can only hope the amusement factor continues to remain high. However, if a search of Google video is any indication, that's a forlorn hope. Seems that there's a small but devoted cult of mostly teenaged girls that are producing their own "My Humps" videos and then posting them on the web. Most of them appear to fall into the "silly teen girls making fools of themselves dancing" genre, though there are more "lip-synching heads" videos out there than I'd like to admit (I'll give this one an honorable mention, though, since the girl on the left resembles my own daughter so closely that I did a double take at first).

Len on 12.07.05 @ 06:45 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

Actually, reading your post, I think back to our lawyer at The Oleo Strut coffeehouse in Killeen, Davis Bragg - native Texan, grad of Baylor Law - whose house was so waaaaaaaay far back from the country road that I commented about that to him, to which he said "yes, it's out of range." That's what it takes to be a liberal in Texas.

"The War of Northern Aggression"????? How about "The War to Save the Union from Southern Treason" - a battle we still fight, now that the "Jaybirds" and the rest of the unreconstrcted Southern traitor scum are the modern Republican Party. My great-great-great-grandfather, Quaker abolitionist and founding member of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, has been spinning in his grave the past 30 years that these sons of Carribean pirates masquerading as "Southern aristocracy" have been dancing around pretending to be "patriots."

Texas: the biggest social swamp in America, founded by back alley assassins (Jim Bowie), drunken corrupt hillbilly liars (Davy Crockett), and failed morons fleeing their history ahead of their creditors (Steven Austin). That the place is still run by bank robbers and murderers is no surprise. Thank God I was removed from that dung heap before my brains were damaged.

Texas: the one state that should be EXPELLED from the union for 160 years of crimes against humanity. We'd immediately raise tha national IQ average by 50 points.

native-born Texan and not proud of it

Len on 12.07.05 @ 06:22 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Our Favorite Torturers...

Maureen Dowd (NY Times) has a GEM today about Condi's *parsing* of the concepts of a U.S. Government that does NOT Torture (or so they claim...) in this piece: Torturing the Facts:

"... "The United States government does not authorize or condone torture of detainees," she said.

It all depends on what you mean by "authorize," "condone," "torture" and "detainees."

Ms. Rice also claimed that the U.S. did not transport terrorism suspects "for the purpose of interrogation using torture." But, hey, as Rummy likes to say, stuff happens.

The president said he was opposed to torture and then effectively issued regulations to allow what any normal person - and certainly a victim - would consider torture. Alberto Gonzales et al. have defined torture deviancy downward to the point where it's hard to imagine what would count as torture. Under this administration, prisoners have been hung by their wrists and had electrodes attached to their genitals; they've been waterboarded, exposed to extreme heat and cold, and threatened with death - even accidentally killed.

Does Ms. Rice think anyone is buying her loophole-riddled defense? ..."

Karen on 12.07.05 @ 05:49 AM CST [link] [ | ]

We learn from Reuters....

that the ten Marines killed in Fallujah last week were killed during a promotion ceremony, not while on patrol.

Ten U.S. Marines killed near the Iraqi city of Falluja last week had been at a promotion ceremony and were not on foot patrol as initially reported, the U.S. military said on Tuesday.

The Marines were in a disused flour mill on the outskirts of the city to celebrate the promotion of three soldiers, a military statement said.

As the ceremony ended, the Marines dispersed and one of them is thought to have stepped on a buried pressure plate linked to explosives that caused the devastating blast.
The significance of this, as noted by Steve Gilliard:
Which means that the Marines couldn't secure a place they thought was safe and the resistance had a very good idea of when and where a large group of Marines would be. They might not have known about the ceremony, per se, but they knew they could kill a group of Marines in that spot.

Len on 12.06.05 @ 12:10 PM CST [link] [ | ]

New, from Ford....

Credit: General J.C. Christian, Patriot

Len on 12.06.05 @ 11:49 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Great moments in business branding....

This one not stolen from Engrish, though frankly I'm shocked they haven't caught up with it yet:

As the photo itself tells us, assign credit (or blame) to Boners.com (in this instance, the website name providing a delicious double entendre....).

Len on 12.06.05 @ 08:55 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Public Service: Yet Another Holiday Traditions Post....

Let's further your education, and today learn a little about Santa's opposite number: Krampus

Every comic book hero worth his salt has an archenemy. Batman has the Joker, James Bond has Dr. No, Luke Skywalker has Darth Vader, and Santa Claus has Krampus.

Wait a minute, Santa has an archenemy?

Krampus is one of those quirky survivals of a pagan tradition that preceded Christianity. Much like Santa himself. Or Jesus. Oops, did I say Jesus? Never mind.

Santa Claus is a Christianization of a handful of traditional winter solstice figures, who morphed into St. Nicholas after the Catholics swarmed into Austria.

Santa was most heavily influenced by the Norse Thor, who had a long white beard and cheerfully rode a flying chariot. The enemy of good in Norse mythology was Loki, a figure usually depicted as falling somewhere in the range between Satan himself and Carrot Top.

Loki was a devil-trickster figure with big horns. (Of course, most Norse gods were wearing horns on their hats if they didn't have them growing out of their heads.) While the noble Thor was a good candidate for transformation into a Christian saint, Loki was not so much. But old gods never die, they just fade away. The lingering afterimage of Loki became part of the template for Krampus.
Go follow the link for the rest; it's highly entertaining....

Len on 12.06.05 @ 08:47 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Time to explore the Memphis Public Library's holdings?

Even though my "must read" list is pretty extensive right now, Josh Schulz mentioning his working his way through Patrick O'Brien's "Aubrey/Maturin series" (think: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World if you follow movies more closely than you follow books) has got me thinking that I should start working my way through the series myself (I thought about it after seeing the movie, and again after purchasing the movie for my DVD collection, but haven't gotten around to it yet). Unfortunately for the heirs of O'Brien's literary estate I'm not really inclined to purchase the whole series (so many books, so little bookshelf space), but this is the Memphis Public Library's chance to reverse its uninspiring first impression.

Len on 12.06.05 @ 07:23 AM CST [link] [ | ]

The latest on the Bill O'Lielly 'enemies list'....

From The Blogressive (entry of 12/5; no permalink as of the time I've posted this):

How can you thank you Bill for your lower gas prices? Avoid sites on his long awaited "Media Operations that Traffic in Defamation" list. O'Reilly finally delivered on a threat to post a list of sites that don't like him. Snarky bloggers have been sending him e-mails begging to be included, but his list only includes The New York Daily News, the St. Petersburg Times, and MSNBC. We aren't sure how his arch enemy, www.mediamatters.org, which serves as a clearinghouse for his factual errors and general stupidity almost daily, missed the cut and you'd think www.sweetjesusihatebilloreilly.com and www.oreilly-sucks.com would have earned honorable mention on their names alone.

Len on 12.06.05 @ 07:13 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Tim Noah asks the burning (to me) question.....

With our recently hitting the landmark of 1000 executions since the Supreme Court greenlighted the death penalty after a hiatus, and with Ah-nuld giving serious thought to commuting the death sentence of Crips founder Stanley "Tookie" Williams, Tim Noah in Slate asks a pertinent question: why has the press forgotten all about President Bush's most shameful public moment, his mockery of Karla Faye Tucker in an interview with Tucker Carlson.

The ugliness of a sitting governor mocking a prisoner's plea to spare her life horrified Carlson, especially after he looked up the transcript of Karla Faye Tucker's appearance on Larry King Live and discovered that nowhere did it show the prisoner asking Bush to stay the execution. It horrified a lot of other conservative journalists, too, including George Will, Richard Brookhiser, and the editorial page of the Manchester Union Leader in New Hampshire.

What Bush said to Carlson was so obviously awful that he had no choice but to deny he ever said it, however unconvincingly...


A subsequent report, long after the election, that Laura Bush had dressed down her husband for his wisecrack to Carlson reduces to the vanishing point the probability that Carlson "misread" or "mischaracterized" Bush. Why scold someone for something he never said?

But then something peculiar happened. With the passage of time, reporters decided to forget the incident had ever happened. I can find no evidence that the anecdote has been reported anywhere during the past two years.


It's almost as though the press has decided that the story is too ugly to repeat,
even though it's obviously true. But at a time when the topic of governors and clemency is in the news, it's simply poor news judgment not to bring it up.

Len on 12.06.05 @ 06:55 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Silly quiz with no results to post on the 'net....

Test your knowledge of superheroes and cleaning supplies: Superhero or household cleaner?

Len on 12.06.05 @ 06:47 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

Emily Bazelon just wrote about a memo Alito penned on whether there should be any constitutional protection for an unarmed teenage boy shot and killed by a police officer as the youth fled a crime scene. Alito's personal position—that there was no constitutional protection from such conduct—was more extreme than some other Reagan administration lawyers, the Supreme Court's eventual ruling in the case, the dissenters on that Supreme Court, and more than 85 percent of police departments at the time. It's hard to conceive of someone who loves police powers more than the police. But that someone may be our next Supreme Court justice.
--Dahlia Lithwick

Len on 12.06.05 @ 05:15 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Don't do as I do, do as I say....

James Wolcott raises an interesting point: how many of the defenders of increasing visibility of religion in the public sector are really sincere believers?

Wielding a sword of truth and a surgical scalpel of reason (he's quite ambidextrous), NRO's John Derbyshire pierces the fatty deposits of bad faith in the postures of religious piety by certain conservative eggheads.

His takeoff point is a recent essay-review by Gertrude Himmelfarb of Darwin in The New Republic, about which he has incisive things to say, particularly regarding her scientific illiteracy. But the chief item of interest is the attitude toward religion by Himmelfarb's husband and the co-godfather of neoconservatism (coequal with Norman Podhoretz), Irving Kristol.

Citing and quoting from an excellent article by Ronald Bailey on the neocon campaign to discredit Darwinish (I remember being puzzled when such pieces began popping up in Commentary amid the usual battle cries and attacks of gout), Derbyshire writes:


"We seem to be in Straussian 'noble lie' territory here. Sample:

"'Kristol [Himmelfarb's hubby] agrees with this view. "There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people," he says in an interview. "There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn't work."'

"Translation: 'We cognitive elites know religion is a crock, but it helps keep the bubbas in line, so we must pretend to be in sympathy with it.'

After resident idiot Cliff May sticks in his two cents, Derbyshire retorts:
"BOOB BAIT [John Derbyshire]
Cliff: No, don't buy that.

"Look through that Bailey piece again:

"'A year ago, I asked Kristol after a lecture whether he believed in God or not. He got a twinkle in his eye and responded, "I don't believe in God, I have faith in God." Well, faith, as it says in Hebrews 11:1, "is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." But at the recent AEI lecture, journalist Ben Wattenberg asked him the same thing. Kristol responded that "that is a stupid question," and crisply restated his belief that religion is essential for maintaining social discipline. A much younger (and perhaps less circumspect) Kristol asserted in a 1949 essay that in order to prevent the social disarray that would occur if ordinary people lost their religious faith, "it would indeed become the duty of the wise publicly to defend and support religion."'

"Here we have a guy who plainly doesn't believe in God, but who thinks that well-padded intellectual elitists like himself ought to evade the issue in public for fear of demoralizing the proles and perhaps jeopardizing some padding thereby. I can't think of anything nice to say about that; and in fact, the only things I CAN think of to say would not be suitable for a family website...

"These are the people who are pushing 'intelligent design' in the conservative movement. Not only am I glad and proud to have spoken out against this preposterous hoax, I wish I had done so more forthrightly."

On a more vulgar level, I think the same dynamic is at play in the entire "War on Christmas" sham perpetrated by Fox News and rightwing talkshow hosts. They rant on and on about how Christianity is the kick-toy of the Hollywood left and snobby liberals and the ACLU, how Nativity displays are being vandalized by Nation readers disguised as wild raccoons, pound the anchor desk to demand prayer be restored to public schools. And yet how religiously observant are most of these blowhards? How often does Rush Limbaugh attend services? Or does he spend every Sunday on the golf course? Would John Gibson or O'Reilly mouth off to any of their Jewish friends (assuming they've accumulated some over the years), "Look, pal, I have no problem with Hanukah, just remember this is a Christian country, we're the majority, the majority makes the rules, what we say goes, so don't get bent out of shape when someone wishes you a Merry Christmas--and tell George Soros that goes double for him"? It's easy to swagger in front of a microphone, and I suspect most conservative demagogues practice a strange form of hypocrisy: talking shit in public that they would be wary to do in private. (Most hypocrites do the opposite, talking trash one on one that they would never say over the sanctity of the airwaves.)

Mind you, I have no proof, but I imagine that the Fox Newsers, like Kristol and co., profess and promote religious faith must more than they practice it. They caricature liberal elites for "looking down" on religion while they themselves only pretend to look up to it, like Noel Coward imagining himself a nun. They approve of religion in part because, you know, it gives the little people something to do and makes them more manageable.
[edited slightly; quotes from Derbyshire indented to make attribution clearer --LRC]

Len on 12.05.05 @ 08:24 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Hell hath no fury like a (former?) monopoly scorned....

Via Josh Marshall, we get this pointer to the WaPo:

Hours after New Orleans officials announced Tuesday that they would deploy a city-owned, wireless Internet network in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, regional phone giant BellSouth Corp. withdrew an offer to donate one of its damaged buildings that would have housed new police headquarters, city officials said yesterday.

According to the officials, the head of BellSouth's Louisiana operations, Bill Oliver, angrily rescinded the offer of the building in a conversation with New Orleans homeland security director Terry Ebbert, who oversees the roughly 1,650-member police force.

City officials said BellSouth was upset about the plan to bring high-speed Internet access for free to homes and businesses to help stimulate resettlement and relocation to the devastated city. Around the country, large telephone companies have aggressively lobbied against localities launching their own Internet networks, arguing that they amount to taxpayer-funded competition. Some states have laws prohibiting them.
That's corporate citizenship for you.

Len on 12.05.05 @ 08:14 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Gem o'the Day:

President Bush says he has a strategy for victory. You know what? So do the Chicago Cubs. Every spring. Custer had a strategy too.
--Will Durst

Len on 12.05.05 @ 06:48 PM CST [link] [ | ]

And the Good Coffee News...

...Just keeps topping-off that cup.


Study Suggests Caffeine Can Help Liver

"Coffee and tea may reduce the risk of serious liver damage in people who drink too much alcohol, are overweight or have too much iron in the blood, researchers reported yesterday.

The study of nearly 10,000 people showed that those who drank more than two cups of coffee or tea per day developed chronic liver disease at half the rate of those who drank less than one cup each day...."

Karen on 12.05.05 @ 06:38 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Today's Quote of the week

"Boys have a lot of Huck Finn in them -- they don't, on average, learn as well as girls by sitting still, concentrating, multitasking, listening to words..."

-- The Disappearing Act.

It's actually a very interesting piece on the phenonmenon of men dropping out of school and as this bit explains:
"...Now we're seeing what's wrong with the system for millions of boys. Beginning in very early grades, the sit-still, read-your-book, raise-your-hand-quietly, don't-learn-by-doing-but-by-taking-notes classroom is a worse fit for more boys than it is for most girls. This was always the case, but we couldn't see it 100 years ago. We didn't have the comparative element of girls at par in classrooms. We taught a lot of our boys and girls separately. We educated children with greater emphasis on certain basic educational principles that kept a lot of boys "in line" -- competitive learning was one. And our families were deeply involved in a child's education..."

Give it a read through.


Karen on 12.05.05 @ 06:16 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Truly a case of not getting the 'MEMO'...

"But the Bush administration seems to be losing sight of the fact that the rules also say the majority party of the moment may not use its powers to strip citizens of their rights, politicize the judicial system or rig the election process to keep itself in office.

There are sections of the Justice Department that are supposed to be dedicated to enforcing the laws that protect the rights of all Americans, not just Republican officeholders and the people who give them money. The Civil Rights Division, for example, has enforced anti-discrimination laws, including the sacred Voting Rights Act, since the 1960's, under more Republican presidents than Democratic presidents.

But The Washington Post's Dan Eggen reported last week that the Justice Department has been suppressing for nearly two years a 73-page memo in which six lawyers and two analysts in the voting rights section, including the group's chief lawyer, unanimously concluded that the Texas redistricting plan of 2003 illegally diluted the votes of blacks and Hispanics in order to ensure a Republican majority in the state's Congressional delegation. That plan was shoved through the Texas State Legislature by Representative Tom DeLay, who abused his federal position in doing so and is now facing criminal charges over how money was raised to support the redistricting.

The Post said the lawyers charged with analyzing voting rights violations were overruled by political appointees, and ordered not to discuss the case. The Justice Department then approved the Texas plan, which had been under review because the voting law requires states with a history of discriminatory election practices to get electoral map changes approved in advance..."

-- NY Times Op-ed

[emphasis mine.]

Karen on 12.05.05 @ 06:00 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

Tony La Russa teams, insofar as their benches are concerned, are often hampered by his love of defensive multi-tasking at the expense of hitting ability. While there’s much to be said for versatility, the lines between "useful" and "novelty act" are often blurred.
--Dayn Perry [Baseball Prospectus]

Len on 12.05.05 @ 11:07 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Over at Our Obligatory Blog....

Stan Schwarz blogs about a lecture he attended at Caltech on Thursday: The Peak of World Oil Production: Thanksgiving Day, 2005. Sobering stuff, even if the speaker (Ken Deffeyes) isn't quite correct at pinning down the date we reach peak oil production, the inescapable conclusion is that (1) we're going to reach it soon (if, indeed, we haven't already), and (2) not long after we reach it, we're gonna be Fucked Like We've Never Been Fucked Before (and not in the pleasurable sense of that word).

Len on 12.04.05 @ 10:59 AM CST [link] [ | ]

From one of the troops....

Over at Main and Central, blogger Bulldog has posted an interview ("20 questions") with a buddy who just returned from Iraq. Fascinating reading:

A good friend of mine, we'll call him V, just returned from being deployed to Iraq. I'm gald he made it back safely. He has granted me my request to interview him. I have tried to be as sensitive as I can concerning Operational Security and have tried not to make my questions overly political. I will not release his name nor any other identifying information specifically because of OpSec and because he is still enlisted and falls under the UCMJ. So, without further adieu, The Interview appears below...

1. What branch of service? Rank/rate? MOS? Was your actual Duty MOS the same as your Primary MOS?
V: ARMY; E-6 Staff sergeant; 11B30 11C30 12B30 13B30 - all combat arms; we didn't get a duty MOS as we were operating as a security force (MP's).

2. How long have you been in the military, both active and reserve or Guard if applicable?
V: A total of 21 years and some change (8 years active duty as a combat engineer - 12B).


8. Is there a feeling among the troops on the ground over there that the administration really cares about them? How do 'stop-loss' orders and the unwillingness of folks to enlist affect morale, if at all?
V: The troops on the ground don't feel like the Administration cares at all. The stop loss doesn't affect the troops in a sense of doing the job ... it affects them in the sense of re-enlistments and the willingness of assisting on recruiting.


12. Was the debriefing adequate considering your mission? If not, what could have been done better in your opinion?
V: No. The Army could have set us up to meet with councelors and ensured the troops had a place to return to. I myself was in a hotel and jumped into a lease to avoid a big hotel bill.

13. Were you provided sufficient medical care prior to, during, and upon return from your deployment? If not, what was lacking?
V: NO, prior to deploying, it's your word that you are in good health. I was never given an adequate exam prior to shipping out, during deployment you are looked at by someone with little medical experience, and upon return I was told to go to the VA hospital.
Very informative and enlightening; go check out the whole interview.

Len on 12.04.05 @ 10:47 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Dubious 'Honors' (?)

Only in Chicago...

Victims of Prostitution Reveal Truth about 'The Players Ball' [an annual celebration in Chicagoland honoring pimps.]

The "No. 1 International Pimp of the year" award is given to the man who has made the most amount of money prostituting women. This year's "Players Ball" is at the Mariella Banquet Hall in Maywood.

A coalition of state representatives, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, the Mayor of Maywood, and survivors of prostitution are having a press conference to protest this event. The Mayor and Rep. Yarbrough will call for a boycott of Mariella banquet hall."

The pimps in attendance at the Players Ball are alleged to be those who profit from and commit sex trafficking, physical and sexual assault of adults and minors, kidnapping, money laundering, tax evasion, and racketeering. The Players Ball honors these behaviors and practices and allows criminals to operate flagrantly and arrogantly in our community.

Survivors of prostitution will expose the crimes that these "players" commit against women and children to earn profits.

The survivors will also push for passage of the Predator Accountability Act in Illinois that gives victims of trafficking and pimping the right to sue their abusers for monetary compensation for the abuse they endured and of the Federal End Demand for Sex Trafficking Act of 2005.

Courtesy of US News Wire.

Karen on 12.04.05 @ 10:35 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Holiday 'Cheer' (?)

"After a period of 13 eventful years, prohibition ended on this day in 1933, and Americans were able to legally have a drink once again.

While alcohol is legal, its use involves personal responsibility. With the holiday season underway, this is a time for more parties and more driving than usual -- as well as increased hours of darkness and bad weather.

That combination is why this is National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month. Across the country, more people are killed each year on the highways than the entire population of many towns -- nearly 43,000.

More than one-third of these deaths occur in accidents where the people involved have blood alcohol levels above the legal limit."

Courtesy of US News Wire

Karen on 12.04.05 @ 10:28 AM CST [link] [ | ]

For those 'Must Have' Gifts under the tree...

...Don't forget this one from Engrish:

Mastery of Life's Little Secrets...


Karen on 12.04.05 @ 10:18 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Two more Op-Eds (for the road)

The Chicago Tribune has two more good op-ed pieces today. One GEM from Clarence Page about the Fake "Iraq Good-News" Department:

"When I heard that our government has secretly paid Iraqi reporters and newspapers to report good news about the war, it only made me wonder how bad the real news must be.
A Senate committee is looking into Los Angeles Times reports that our military has been paying the Lincoln Group, a Washington "strategic communications" firm, to translate articles written by our military and place them in Baghdad newspapers, sometimes for a fee and without revealing the true source of the stories.

Lincoln operatives have posed as freelance reporters or advertising executives to deliver their "stories," the Times reported. Knight Ridder later reported that Lincoln paid about a dozen Iraqi journalists, called the "Baghdad Press Club," as much as $200 a month to produce positive pieces.
The episode also illustrates how reluctantly the administration is learning a painful public relations lesson, he said: "Once you lose your credibility, it's a long hard road to get it back...."

And this other GEM from Steve Chapman:
"Desperate plan to stay the course:

When President Bush went to the Naval Academy the other day, he spoke in front of a sign that could have been an answer on "Jeopardy." It had the words "Plan for Victory." The question: What did the Bush administration fail to do when it invaded Iraq?
At this point, the administration's arguments have the ring of desperation. They're the equivalent of telling a man who picks up a beehive and gets stung by dozens of bees that whatever he does, he must not let go of the hive.

Karen on 12.04.05 @ 10:00 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Iraq: What they said Then and Now (cont.)

Here is the fourth part in the Chicago Tribune series on the bAdministration's case for the Iraq war:

The once and future threat
The White House argued that Saddam Hussein's refusal to obey UN demands posed not only present but also future dangers to America.

"In the lingering debate over war in Iraq, much attention has focused on the Bush administration's faulty claim that Saddam Hussein had stockpiled weapons of mass destruction. This nation's shared hindsight, though, tends to overlook a corollary White House argument evidently tailored to skeptics who, in 2002 and early 2003, saw no urgent reason to confront Hussein.

You don't have to accept our concern about today's Iraq, the argument essentially went, to appreciate the threat it may pose tomorrow to our nation, our interests overseas and our allies in the region. The longer Hussein refuses to obey United Nations directives to disclose his weapons programs, the greater the risk that he will acquire--or share with a hungry terror group--the weaponry he has used in the past, or the even deadlier capabilities his scientists have tried to develop.

Boiled to its essence, this argument was: We need to wage a pre-emptive war. That belief hinged not only on weaponry Hussein allegedly possessed at the time, but also on what his rebukes to the United Nations said about what he aspired to achieve. In making their case for war, White House officials threaded their major speeches with warnings about Hussein's options if, year after year, the world allowed him to continue flouting those UN resolutions...."

Click on the link above to give it a full read through.


Karen on 12.04.05 @ 09:44 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Dumbest justification for farm subsidies ever

From today's Commercial Appeal (registration or BugMeNot required), in an article entitled Cotton: A fraying future:

U.S. cotton producers say they are being penalized for being among the most sophisticated, efficient producers in the world, and they chafe at the notion that their prowess should be impeded because people on hand-worked plots in Africa can't compete.

Hmm... American cotton farmers received $4.2 billion subsidies in this year, because foreign farmers are the ones who can't compete. Yeah, right.

Oh, and that $4.2 billion goes to 22,000 cotton farmers. That's $191,000 per farmer.

Another "missing the point" moment in the article:

"It costs less to raise soybeans and corn. When you hear farmers get paid too much down South, it's because of the cost of producing cotton," said Rudi Scheidt, former president and chairman of Hohenberg Bros. here.

If it costs less to raise soybeans and corn, and the market return on them is better, then that's what U.S. farmers ought to be growing instead of cotton!

Brock on 12.04.05 @ 09:44 AM CST [link] [ | ]

the Real 'Education' of the Bushies...

A Strategy for No 8th graders left behind?

Or is that how to get more Remedial Educational Spin from the bAdmin on Iraq...and this ditty from ole Babbling Brooks himself:

"...There was a vast gap between the eighth-grade level of some public statements and the graduate-school level of private White House conversations. It was about this time that a bewildered newcomer to the Bush administration interrupted an interview to ask me why I thought there was such a big difference between the probing and realistic President Bush he would see in the Oval Office, and the pat and repetitive Bush he would see at press conferences and on TV.

The president's Annapolis speech last week marks the start of the third phase of the Bush administration's efforts to function amid the fog of the Iraq war. John Burns and Dexter Filkins wrote that the speech was a watershed; for once the Iraq Bush described matched the Iraq his generals confront every day. I'd add that the speech was a watershed because more than ever before, the views the president expressed in public resembled the views he holds in private.

I think of this as the Khalilzad phase, because our current ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, is more intimately involved with all the Iraqi factions than any American has been before, and is taking more sophisticated information back to the White House.
I still wouldn't say deliberation is this administration's strong suit. Nor is it really possible for anybody to fully understand reality in Iraq, where nothing is as it seems and the myriad of local conditions often don't cohere into one national picture.

But just as our troops and the Iraqis have learned to fight better, the White House has learned to think and communicate better. These days one at least has the sense we are putting our best team on the field - whether it is too late is another proposition lost in the shadowlands.

"the White House has learned to think and communicate better..."?


Obviously those remedial 8th graders the Child-In-Chief THINKS he is speaking to. And the folks who think a Snazzie Stage Set with Lots of Repetitions of the Words *PLAN FOR VICTORY* is really a PLAN just cause the Bushies Say it's SO.


Or as Maureen Dowd put it her piece from yesterday:
"...The Bush warriors are so deluded, they're even faking their fakery.

This week, the president presented a plan-like plan for "victory" in Iraq, which Scott McClellan rather pompously called the unclassified version of their supersecret master plan. But there would be no way to achieve victory from this plan even if it were a real plan. If this is what they're telling themselves in the Sit Room, we're in bigger trouble than we thought.

Talk about your unknown unknowns, as Rummy would say.

The National Strategy for Victory must have come from the same P.R. genius who gave President Top Gun the "Mission Accomplished" banner about 48 hours before the first counterinsurgency war of the 21st century broke out in Iraq.

It's not a military strategy - classified or unclassified. It's political talking points - and not even good ones. Are we really supposed to believe that anybody, even the most deeply delusional Bush sycophant, believes the phrase "Our strategy is working"?..."

Well, if only the bAdmin realized they aren't speaking to grade-schoolers - Then we might get some intelligent conversation about the situation and WHAT to do to deal with this mess and bring our troops home safely.

Karen on 12.04.05 @ 09:37 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

Like America's evangelicals, we should have taken Bush at his word in 1999, when he smugly asserted: "Nobody needs to tell me what I believe. But I do need somebody to tell me where Kosovo is." Unfortunately, too few of us failed to state that what he was offering us--a core of ignorance and incompetence, especially in foreign affairs, shrouded by faith in Jesus--was inadequate for presidential decision making. As a consequence, America not only got a President to whom God supposedly confides, but also a President who permitted a cabal led by Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and a handful of Zionist neocons to show him where Iraq is. Now--given his debacle in Iraq--it should be obvious to all Americans that even confiding with God doesn't compensate for Bush's brain....

But while the American public has allowed its views to be influenced by facts--even if belatedly--President Bush has not. And that's...why Americans should pay no attention to his "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq." It's based upon pure faith! His record as a candidate and as President richly supports the conclusion that no set of facts can compete with the faith Bush places in his faith....
--Walter Uhler

Len on 12.04.05 @ 09:32 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Late to the party again.....

Back in August, I posted excerpts from a piece by LTG William Odom, "What's Wrong With Cutting And Running?". LTG Odom, Reagan's National Security Agency head, examined 10 supposedly intolerable consequences that warhawks claimed would result from a withdrawal from Iraq, and noted that all of them were already happening.

On Veteran's Day, Odom published a sequel to his earlier piece: Want stability in the Middle East? Get out of Iraq!. where he argues:

U.S. withdrawal from Iraq is the precondition to winning the support of our allies and a few others for a joint approach to the region. Until that has been completed, they will not join such a coalition. And until that has happened, even we in the United States cannot think clearly about what constitutes our interests there, much let gain agreement about common interests for a coalition.

By contrast, any argument for "staying course," or seeking more stability before we withdraw -- or pointing out tragic consequences that withdrawal will cause -- is bound to be wrong, or at least unpersuasive. Putting it bluntly, those who insist on staying in Iraq longer make the consequences of withdrawal more terrible and make it harder to find an alternative strategy for achieving regional stability.
Compelling reading; don't miss it.

Len on 12.02.05 @ 12:43 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Stupidest statement of the year?

It's certainly the stupidest statement I've read in a long, long time:

One of the most basic laws in the universe is the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This states that as time goes by, entropy in an environment will increase. Evolution argues differently against a law that is accepted EVERYWHERE BY EVERYONE. Evolution says that we started out simple, and over time became more complex. That just isn't possible: UNLESS there is a giant outside source of energy supplying the Earth with huge amounts of energy. If there were such a source, scientists would certainly know about it.
If you don't understand why that's such a stupid statement.... I feel sorry for you, but the answer is below the fold...

There's much more hilarity over at Fundies Say The Darndest Things. Enjoy....

Len on 12.02.05 @ 11:46 AM CST [more..] [ | ]

I don't pay attention to Wonkette....

But this was too good not to link to.

As Brian Arner points out: It's pretty bad when you have to lower the goalposts at photo ops.

Thanks, Brian, for the pointer to Wonkette, too.

Len on 12.02.05 @ 07:45 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Tis the season to celebrate....

and Mad Kane is celebrating, among other things, Randy "Duke" Cunningham's conviction for conspiracy and tax evasion (also, "An Ode to Bob Woodward" and a limerick about GOP liars and the l'affaire Plame; audio version available, too).

Also, congrats to Mad for her upcoming appearance on WFUV's "Cityscape" show in New York City (Saturday, 12/3 at 0730 (that's 7:30 AM for those of you who didn't do your bit for King and Country *grin*) Eastern Standard Time, 90.7 on the FM dial in the NYC area, if you're there; apparently you can also hear it via internet stream off the WFUV website or via archived audio stream if 0730 Eastern is too early on a Saturday for you to get up). As long as I'm mentioning Mad's celebrity status, I'll let her know (since she does read This Humble Blog occasionally) that I see her poems and limericks regularly on the Bush Watch website.

And from the interesting coincidences department: WFUV shares the same broadcast frequency as KWMU in St. Louis, and both are NPR affiliated public radio stations connected with urban universities (WFUV: Fordham, and KWMU: the University of Missouri St. Louis, one of my almae matres (if I'm correctly remembering my HS Latin, which is a dubious assumption)). Actually, given that public/community/non-commercial radio stations tend to be segregated towarde the lower end of the FM broadcast spectrum, that's not such an interesting coincidence as I'm making it out, but what the hell. Why have a blog if you can't stretch a point into incomprehensibility from time to time? :-)

Len on 12.02.05 @ 07:25 AM CST [link] [ | ]

The Strategy for that Elusive *VICTORY*

More interesting debate over the Iraqi *timetables* and *redeployment*:

"...The trouble is, all three of Bush's arguments against a timetable are highly dubious. Take the first one: that setting a deadline would "send a message to the world that the United States is a weak and unreliable ally." Given that nearly every country whose troops remain in Iraq — including the U.K. — has signaled an intention to draw down or withraw their forces in 2006, it's hard to know which allies the President is talking about. If anything, setting a date for withdrawal could send a powerful message to allies in the region to take greater responsibility for helping to tame the insurgency, by making clear that the U.S. does not intend to bear the sole burden for Iraq's security indefinitely. And last month a cross-section of Iraqi leaders, backed by the Arab League, called on the Administration to set a timetable for withdrawal — signaling that the allies the U.S. is most worried about leaving in the lurch are actually endorsing the idea.

If Bush is off-base about the message a timetable would send to our friends, he is even less persuasive about what it would signal to America's enemies. He argues that setting a deadline would "vindicate the terrorists' tactics of beheadings and suicide bombings and mass murder — and invite new attacks on America." While al-Qaeda would likely hail a U.S. pullout deadline as proof they had humbled the U.S., they're just as likely to use the continued U.S. presence in Iraq as a rallying point for luring more recruits to join the insurgency. Setting a deadline for withdrawal wouldn't on its own sap the jihadists' strength, but neither would it enhance their existing desire to attack the U.S. homeland. They're hardly lacking in motivation: — witness the carnage in London and Amman and Bali and everywhere else the terrorists have struck while the U.S. was staying the course in Iraq. And a timetable could even have the opposite effect on the psychology of Zarqawi and his minions, by undermining their stated intention of pinning down the U.S. military in an endless, bloody guerrilla war.

Bush's last argument against a timetable is probably his strongest — that setting a fixed deadline will encourage the insurgents to wait "long enough," conserve their energies until U.S. troops withdraw and then unleash hell all over again. Even some timetable advocates, such as the New York Times' Nicholas Kristof, have expressed the same concern. But as former Council on Foreign Relations president Leslie Gelb — who supports a "flexible" withdrawal plan — has argued, the idea that the hard-core insurgents would simply stop fighting if the U.S. outlined a plan to withdraw over a period of years is nonsense: doing so, Gelb points out, would allow the U.S. and Iraqis to consolidate and build public loyalty. Meanwhile, there's considerable evidence to suggest that at least some of the groups that currently make up the "nationalist" wing of the insurgency might be more inclined to lay down their arms and join the political process if they had some assurance that the U.S. really does intend to leave Iraq eventually..."

-- Romesh Ratnesar (Time): Why Bush is Wrong About an Iraq Timetable.

Karen on 12.02.05 @ 06:47 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Business as usual, bAdministration style:

From the WaPo:

Justice Department lawyers concluded that the landmark Texas congressional redistricting plan spearheaded by Rep. Tom DeLay (R) violated the Voting Rights Act, according to a previously undisclosed memo obtained by The Washington Post. But senior officials overruled them and approved the plan.

The memo, unanimously endorsed by six lawyers and two analysts in the department's voting section, said the redistricting plan illegally diluted black and Hispanic voting power in two congressional districts. It also said the plan eliminated several other districts in which minorities had a substantial, though not necessarily decisive, influence in elections.

"The State of Texas has not met its burden in showing that the proposed congressional redistricting plan does not have a discriminatory effect," the memo concluded.

The memo also found that Republican lawmakers and state officials who helped craft the proposal were aware it posed a high risk of being ruled discriminatory compared with other options.

But the Texas legislature proceeded with the new map anyway because it would maximize the number of Republican federal lawmakers in the state, the memo said. The redistricting was approved in 2003, and Texas Republicans gained five seats in the U.S. House in the 2004 elections, solidifying GOP control of Congress.
[emphasis supplied --LRC]
As Josh Marshall said: "Let's sigh and pretend we're surprised..."

Len on 12.02.05 @ 06:46 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Time to blame Clinton, I suppose....

Randy Neal (the blogger formerly known as South Knox Bubba) over at Facing South takes note of an AP story:

NEW ORLEANS - Government engineers performing sonar tests at the site of a major levee failure confirmed that steel reinforcements barely went more than half as deep as they were supposed to, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official said Wednesday.


Baumy said the Corps cannot explain the disparity between what its 1993 design documents show was supposed to be there and what they've found.
However, the Corps may not have been entirely candid with us. As SKB notes:
One surprise is that this is a surprise. NBC News reported back in September:
NBC News has obtained what may be a key clue, hidden in long forgotten legal documents. They reveal that when the floodwall on the 17th Street Canal was built a decade ago, there were major construction problems — problems brought to the attention of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

So, how can the Corps now say they "can't explain the disparity" when they were told about the problem ten years ago as the floodwall was being built? What's worse, it sounds like the problems boil down to the fact that nobody wanted to spend the money to do the job right.

Len on 12.02.05 @ 06:36 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Today's GEM...

Ah another Fret Free Friday (Hmmm...haven't had one in a QUITE a WHILE.)

And this Paul Krugman article is an absolute GEM:

"Bullet Points Over Baghdad:

The overthrow of Saddam Hussein was supposed to provide the world with a demonstration of American power. It didn't work out that way. But the Bush administration has come up with the next best thing: a demonstration of American PowerPoint. Bullets haven't subdued the insurgents in Iraq, but the administration hopes that bullet points will subdue the critics at home.

The National Security Council document released this week under the grandiose title "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" is neither an analytical report nor a policy statement. It's simply the same old talking points - "victory in Iraq is a vital U.S. interest"; "failure is not an option" - repackaged in the style of a slide presentation for a business meeting.

It's an embarrassing piece of work. Yet it's also an important test for the news media. The Bush administration has lost none of its confidence that it can get away with fuzzy math and fuzzy facts - that it won't be called to account for obvious efforts to mislead the public. It's up to journalists to prove that confidence wrong..."

Too bad for the Times *select* feature but if ya have the chance to read it in full, it's a good one.


Karen on 12.02.05 @ 06:30 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Gem o'the Day:

From Letters to the Editor of Stars and Stripes, the newspaper for American forces overseas:

War based on a lie

Weapons of mass destruction? I'm still looking for them, and if you find any give me a call so we can justify our presence in Iraq. We started the war based on a lie, and we'll finish it based on a lie. I say this because I am currently serving with a logistics headquarters in the Anbar province, between the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. I am not fooled by the constant fabrication of "democracy" and "freedom" touted by our leadership at home and overseas.

This deception is furthered by our armed forces' belief that we can just enter ancient Mesopotamia and tell the locals about the benefits of a legislative assembly. While our European ancestors were hanging from trees, these ancient people were writing algebra and solving quadratic equations. Now we feel compelled to strong-arm them into accepting the spoils of capitalism and "laissez-faire" society. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy watching Britney Spears on MTV and driving to McDonald's, but do you honestly believe that Sunnis, Shias and Kurds want our Western ideas of entertainment and freedom imposed on them? Think again.

I'm not being negative, I'm being realistic. The reality in Iraq is that the United States created a nightmare situation where one didn't exist. Yes, Saddam Hussein was an evil man who lied, cheated and pillaged his own nation. But how was he different from dictators in Africa who commit massive crimes again humanity with little repercussion and sometimes support from the West? The bottom line up front (BLUF to use a military acronym) is that Saddam was different because we used him as an excuse to go to war to make Americans "feel good" about the "War on Terrorism." The BLUF is that our ultimate goal in 2003 was the security of Israel and the lucrative oil fields in northern and southern Iraq.

Weapons of mass destruction? Call me when you find them. In the meantime, "bring 'em on" so we can get our "mission accomplished" and get out of this mess.

Capt. Jeff Pirozzi
Camp Taqaddum, Iraq
Thanks to The Fixer at Main and Central for the pointer.

Len on 12.02.05 @ 06:24 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

The lyrics to "Stairway to Heaven" are horrible, nothing more than nonsense words enlivened by cliche. If I ever wrote "There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold," my editor would cancel my contract. Just because "Stairway to Heaven" still turns up as the number one rock song of all time doesn't mean it's any good. Bear in mind that "Car 54, Where Are You?" is still in syndication and Republicans still keep getting elected to the White House.
--Jimmy Gutterman [on the plethora of surveys naming "Stairway to Heaven" as the greatest rock song of all time]

Len on 12.02.05 @ 05:58 AM CST [link] [ | ]

As if we didn't have enough junk sports out there....

But chessboxing?

What I want to know is what kind of drugs does one have to be swallowing, inhaling, snorting, injecting, or absorbing rectally in order to come up with a demented idea like chessboxing?

Len on 12.01.05 @ 07:17 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Here's one for Dr. Abby....

if she's not too busy to read this humble blog. I send this to her, since she's the biggest Google Maps (er, now Google Local) applications fan that I know.

Here's a link to a web based Risk™ game based on Google Maps: GMRisk

From GMRisk FAQ:

Q What the hell is this?

A For some reason I decided a bit after the API for Google Maps came out that it would be awesome to be able to play Risk on it. About a month later it became apparent that everyone using the API was doing it for more useful things, such as gas price tracking and ::cough:: hotornot placement. I've always been a gamer and thought this was the perfect step.

Len on 12.01.05 @ 01:40 PM CST [link] [ | ]

Damn, I didn't notice that, either.

From Bryan at Why Now?:

If people were really upset with Saddam's WMD program, why haven't they been condemning the Reagan administration for providing him with the chemicals and biological samples he used to create the programs. Ask Rumsfeld about it, he was Reagan's representative to Saddam when these decisions were made.

If you were paying attention you would note that Saddam is being tried for an atrocity unrelated to WMDs, so he will be convicted and executed to prevent any testimony about potentially embarrassing American complicity in the WMD programs.

Len on 12.01.05 @ 11:57 AM CST [link] [ | ]

A pleasant surprise....

According to The Business of Baseball report in today's Hardball Times:

Busch Stadium Demolition Ahead of Schedule

With an intial deadline of late June, 2006, the demolition of Busch Stadium appears to be ahead of schedule by as many as three months. The south section of the stadium has already been taken down and it’s expected that half of the job will be finished by early January, 2006. The south end of the stadium needs to be take down because a street will be constructed that will eventually be the northern boundary of new Busch Stadium. And with the demoltion ahead of schedule, the St. Louis Cardinals are saying they’ll have everything ready, including the new stadium, for opening day on April 10, 2006.
Since it's ahead of schedule, I suppose it'd be asking too much for the work to date to be coming in under budget.

I know... kvetch, kvetch, kvetch....

Len on 12.01.05 @ 11:25 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Happy 88th birthday wishes go out to.....

Former St. Louis Cardinals/Browns all-star shortstop (and St. Louis Browns/Chicago White Sox manager) Marty "The Octopus" Marion.

Yes, I know, his canonical nickname is "Slats", but Baseball Reference lists "The Octopus" as another of his nicknames, and that sounds cooler today. Live with it.

Len on 12.01.05 @ 10:17 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Fifty Years Ago Today....

This morning, walking from my car to the office, I noticed that the "marquee" on Memphis Area Transit Authority busses (the sign announcing what route that bus follows) were flashing "THANKS, ROSA" in addition to the bus route information.

Today is the 50th anniversary of Rosa Parks saying, "I don't think I should have to stand up" to a bus driver, and thereby changing the course of race relations in the United States.

Len on 12.01.05 @ 09:45 AM CST [link] [ | ]

The 'Gift of Speech' that Keeps on Giving....

Driftglass has posted this GEM of the WEEK with his usual genius take on the Child-In-Chief's latest RE-Hash of "Let me count the ways to say: Stay The Course" Speech.

"Bush's annual, "Let's Wait Some More" speech.

Oh Great, it's fucking leftovers.


bushterra (35k image)

Click on the link to give it a read through in full. Well worth the effort.


Karen on 12.01.05 @ 07:44 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Iraq: The Case Then and Now (continued)

The Chicago Tribune has published the third article in its series on the case for the war in Iraq:

" Iraq did not have nukes and, by the outbreak of war, evidently did not have an active program to produce them.

Saddam Hussein's nuclear capabilities, though, had deeply troubled U.S. intelligence agencies since President Bill Clinton's second term.

On July 9, 2004, the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a devastating report on the dismal quality of prewar intelligence on Iraq. "This was a global intelligence failure," charged committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.).

At the time, news coverage focused on the report's condemnation of the intelligence community and that community's ability to unwittingly mislead policymakers in Washington by clinging to its preconceptions while dismissing conflicting data.

But buried in the mind-numbing, 524-page report's third chapter--"Intelligence Community Analysis of Iraq's Nuclear Program"--lay a startling assertion. Between late 1997 and late 2000, four major U.S. intelligence studies had assessed Iraq's nuclear ambitions. Those four assessments said Iraq apparently had not reconstituted the nuclear program that had been neutralized after the Persian Gulf war. The studies concurred that, while Iraq continued what the Senate report called "low-level, clandestine, theoretical research and training of personnel" to reconstitute its nuclear program, Baghdad would need five to seven years--even with foreign assistance--to produce enough weapons-grade fissile material to build a bomb..."

That's just for a start -- but click on the link to give the article a full read through.


Karen on 12.01.05 @ 07:36 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Thought for the Day:

Today's Wall Street Journal editorial page title damns all to hell Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., who yesterday pleaded guilty to taking bribes from defense contractors and resigned from Congress (see "Duke of the Beltway," Nov. 29).

Two-thirds of the way through its spanking of Cunningham the Journal reaches back 16 years to assert a moral equivalence between him and Jim Wright, the disgraced speaker of the House who was driven from office in 1989 by his own scandal. The page writes:

Mr. Cunningham's graft doesn't mean that all Republicans are corrupt, any more than former Speaker Jim Wright's machinations meant all Democrats were on the take.
The peculiar juxtaposition of "Cunningham's graft" to "Wright's machinations" suggests that the two pols' misdeeds are somehow equivalent. But comparing Cunningham's offenses to Wright's is like comparing a Brink's job with the looting of a Pez dispenser. Cunningham confessed to "evading taxes and conspiring to pocket $2.4 million in bribes, including a Rolls-Royce, a yacht and a 19th-century Louis-Philippe commode," as the Washington Post reports today. He faces 10 years in prison.

Wright, on the other hand, made a sweetheart deal with a printer to publish a book of speeches that netted him $55,000. Wright wrongly lobbied the savings and loan regulators to go easy on two bank owners who ultimately went to prison for, among other things, fraud. Wright's printer buddy put wife Betty Wright on the payroll where she did little or no work. These transgressions and others committed by Wright never translated into jail time. So, where's the equivalence? Why bring Wright up now? Does the page have a guilty conscience about its central role in toppling him?
--Jack Shafer

Len on 12.01.05 @ 07:36 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Wendie Jo Sperber...

The Chicago Tribune is reporting the death of actress Wendie Jo Sperber from breast cancer:

"...A Los Angeles native, Sperber appeared in dozens of television shows and movies, including all three "Back to the Future" films.

Her publicist first said Sperber was 46, but later said she was 43 based on an Internet resource. The Associated Press in September reported Sperber's age as 47.

Sperber also had roles in Steven Spielberg's "1941," Robert Zemeckis' "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," and Neal Israel's "Moving Violations" and "Bachelor Party." Her television credits include "Murphy Brown," "Private Benjamin," "Will & Grace" and "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter."

After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997, the actress became an advocate for cancer care. In 2001, she founded the weSPARK Cancer Support Center, which provides free emotional support, information and social activities for individuals and families affected by cancer.

Sperber helped unveil and promote a breast cancer stamp for the U.S. Postal Service in 1998, Geffen said..."

R.I.P. Wendie Jo Sperber.

Karen on 12.01.05 @ 07:28 AM CST [link] [ | ]

Here is What I REALLY Needed to Know...

The tall and the short of why caffeine works:

Caffeine is the most widely used stimulant in the world, consumed in coffee, tea and soft drinks by hundreds of millions of people to get started in the morning and as a pick-me-up during the day. That people like the jolt they get from caffeine is no secret, but what caffeine does in the brain has been unknown.

Now a team of Austrian researchers using advanced brain imaging technology has discovered that caffeine makes people more alert by perking up part of the brain involved in short-term memory, the kind that helps focus attention on the tasks at hand.

And Americans seem most in need of concentrating their thoughts, since their average daily consumption of 236 milligrams of caffeine, equivalent to more than 4.5 cups of coffee, is three times the world average.

"Almost all of us drink coffee or something with caffeine in it and we know why, because we want to be more awake or feel better," said Dr. Florian Koppelstaetter of the Medical University Innsbruck in Austria. "We wanted to know what effect one to two cups of coffee would have on short-term memory."

Reporting Wednesday at the Radiological Society of North America meeting in McCormick Place, Koppelstaetter said functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, was used to measure brain function in 15 healthy volunteers before and after drinking coffee.

The findings revealed increased activity in the frontal lobe, where working memory is centered, and the anterior cingulum, which controls attention, in volunteers after they consumed 100 milligrams of caffeine, the equivalent of about two cups of coffee. These areas showed no increased activity when the subjects drank the same fluid without caffeine.

"The increased activity means you are more able to focus," Koppelstaetter said. "You have more attention and your task management is better."

Short-term memory lasts about 30 to 45 seconds and stores a small amount of information for a limited amount of time. It's the kind of memory used to look up a telephone number and remember it long enough to dial it. Long-term memory, on the other hand, stores an unlimited amount of information for an unlimited amount of time.

"What is exciting is that by means of MRI we are able to see that caffeine exerts increases in neuronal activity in distinct parts of the brain going along with changes in behavior," Koppelstaetter said..."

--By Ronald Kotulak (Chicago Tribune).


Karen on 12.01.05 @ 07:15 AM CST [link] [ | ]

December 2005

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