Friday, September 30, 2005

Friday Random Ten

A little more diversity in the random 10 this week. I like the list, though the People Like Us radio show is over an hour long (great stuff, by the way - unfortunately the person behind People Like Us is taking a break from her show this fall).

1) Macy Gray - Screamin'
2) Bjork - Vokuro
3) Holly Figueroa - Lay Them Down (Live in Chicago)
4) Johnny Cash - I Walk The Line
5) Devil Doll - Queen of Pain
6) Lloyd Cole - Baby
7) The Style Council - Long Hot Summer '89
8) Jesse Sykes and The Sweet Hereafter - Oh, My Girl
9) People Like Us - radio show on WFMU 8/3/2005
10) Lillian Miller - Kitchen Blues

Thursday, September 29, 2005

In his own words

Tom DeLay (R-Texas), quoted in the Washington Post, October 9, 1998:
I believe that this nation sits at a crossroads. One direction points to the higher road of the rule of law. Sometimes hard, sometimes unpleasant, this path relies on truth, justice and the rigorous application of the principle that no man is above the law.

Now, the other road is the path of least resistance. This is where we start making exceptions to our laws based on poll numbers and spin control. This is when we pitch the law completely overboard when the mood fits us, when we ignore the facts in order to cover up the truth.

Shall we follow the rule of law and do our constitutional duty no matter unpleasant, or shall we follow the path of least resistance, close our eyes to the potential lawbreaking, forgive and forget, move on and tear an unfixable hole in our legal system? No man is above the law, and no man is below the law. That's the principle that we all hold very dear in this country.

Tom DeLay (R-Texas, quoted from Late Edition, CNN, November 29, 1998:
I think it would be a travesty to the Constitution for us to lower the standards for breaking the law by not voting impeachment. It boggles my mind people would think that committing a felony is not impeachable, and therefore, I think the members, by conscience, will vote for impeachment.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Delay Indicted

This just in. Looks like Mr. Delay will have to step aside for a while. I don't know if the prosecutor has a purely political motivation for this or not (I suspect not), but we can expect to hear many retorts and much belly aching from Republican wingnuts about this one over the coming weeks. The fact of the matter is that the prosecutor got a number of men and women serving on the grand jury to agree to press charges. This is how the system works and now it's up to the court system to take over and decide. Such things happen to both Democratic and Republican lawmakers and it always comes down to the court which, if they have any respect for the Constitution and our state laws, Republicans will respect and withhold their most vituperative remarks - but don't bet on it. Political figures often talk tough about legal punishment for criminals until the spotlight is turned on themselves.

Dickie's Quickies

More on Paul Weller. As an anonymous reader pointed out, his new album + DVD combo is available from an American label. Yep Roc is also offering people who pre-order the new CD before October 11th a free CD-R of "B-sides not available in the U.S." Weller's video for his new single, "Come On/Let's Go" is now up on his website. Finally, his Euro label is offering a listening party for the new album online (at his website - see above) this Friday at 6PM. I assume that means 6PM London time, which is 10AM here in Seattle.

Update: According to an Anonymous comment, the Yep Roc site, linked above, has 2 versions of the video "From The Floorboards Up" on it as well as the new single.

National Geographic has some great pictures of a Giant Squid in the wild. It's the first such pictures known.

BBC reports that students in England will no longer be able to buy junk food. This is the British government's response to a campaign by Jamie Oliver to upgrade the quality of food in British schools. With all of the talk of obesity these days, this only stands to reason.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Office 2003 Service Pack 2 released

I just went by the Microsoft Update site and found out that Microsoft released a new Outlook 2003 junk filter, Office 2003 Service Pack 2, and Visio 2003 Service Pack 2. It made for 85 MB of downloads (only 45 MB if you just have Office 2003). Be prepared for a reboot.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Friday Random Ten

Plus one because it was apropos for starting the weekend.

1) Beth Orton - She Cries Your Name
2) Jamie Lidell - When I Come Back Around
3) David Holmes - Gone (From "The K&D Sessions)
4) Asian Dub Foundation - Tomorrow Begins Today
5) Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings - Stranded in Your Love
6) Voicedude - Christmas Goodies (Ciara vs. Mark Maxwell) (mash-up)
7) U2 - Original Of The Species
8) Yusef Lateef - Love Theme From "Spartacus"
9) James Brown - Funk Bomb
10) Artie Barsamian & His Orchestra - Soode Soode (belly dancing music)

Bonus: Ozomatli - Saturday Night

Dickie's Quickies

SunRocket, my VOIP provider has raised $25 million from a venture capitalist firm. My guess is that the VCs are seeing an opportunity to raise quick money by selling out in a couple of years to a larger firm, or buying up smaller ones in consolidation. For them, it's a win-win sitch either way. From SunRocket's perspective, they need the money. Their business is quickly growing, but more competition is entering the market rapidly. They've had some technical glitches in the past few months in part tied to their growing number of customers, so this money will need to go towards infrastructure as well as marketing.

The Saudi government, according to the NY Times, is warning the U.S. that Iraq may disintegrate. If that happens, so does the neocon "strategy" of "bringing democracy to the Middle East" any time, soon.

Here's an interesting perspective on the Bush Administration and the way they've run the country.

Of course, part of the point of fiscal responsibility, after all, is that disasters do happen and the government should have fiscal leeway to respond to them. But the US today has no leeway at all, thanks to this president and his party. The “compassion and resolve of our nation” are amply demonstrated by a whopping huge expenditure, the costs of which are to be imposed on future generations of American taxpayers. Or more accurately, coming during a week which also saw the annual rate of growth in the current account deficit hitting nearly $750 billion, (more than 6% of GDP), the President’s latest act of “compassionate conservatism” puts the rest of the world on notice that it is going to have to stump up even more credit for this Argentina of the northern hemisphere. One wonders whether these particular creditors’ goodwill is likely to prove as durable as the levees of New Orleans.


I'm not going to post a lot today. In fact, I'm going to spend most of the day off line. My grandmother, Frieda, died last night. My father's mother was living with the parents where she was cared for closely during a protracted illness which included Alzheimer's. Over the last several years, she never really suffered. She had moments of lucidity and, when those failed, her disease mostly left her with happy and sometimes impish thoughts. Her health had been in steady decline in recent weeks. She'd been sleeping 20 hours or so per day, eating much less, unable to walk, and was less coherent. In some ways, Frieda's passing is a relief for my parents as well as herself. They were straining to keep her at home and had only recently been considering other arrangements - a decision they agonized over. Their efforts have been admirable.

There are many fond memories of Frieda that I carry with me. She was a kind and intelligent woman with a good sense of humor who enjoyed life a great deal. Most of the memories seems to be bouncing around in my head in a jumble right now. One very happy one that I have is my visit back to Michigan for my brother's wedding. Frieda was still coherent then, the ravages of her illness had not yet shown their signs. Shawn got to meet Frieda during this time. As usual Frieda was polite and carried herself with the Midwestern/Southern dignity she often displayed. She liked Shawn and, after my brother's wedding, even offered to give Shawn the dress that she wore to the ceremony after Shawn commented on how beautiful Frieda looked in it. We drove Frieda from the church to the banquet. I offered to dance with Frieda during the grandparent's turn on the floor, but she wasn't up to it. Instead, I accompanied my other grandmother, Geneva, to the dance floor and was honored to do so.

I was happy that Shawn got to meet both women when they were healthy. They've been important figures in my life. Geneva is still alive and doing fairly well, though her health has taken a downturn as well since the death of her husband, my grandfather, Roger. It will suffice for now to say that Frieda will be missed a great deal. Though I have not lived in Michigan for over a decade and not seen much of her since I left, I find a sadness in myself over another person who was close to me missing from this world.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Dickie's Quickies

Paul Weller is offering fans an opportunity to buy his new album, "As Is Now" before it's October 10th release date (11th in the States). What's extraordinary is that fans are also being allowed to buy the album as an mp4 digital download along with 2 videos (the ones made thus far) also as part of the download AND that the download will unlock on October 3rd so that digital buyers can listen to the album 1 week before it hits the stores. In addition, buyers can purchase just the CD, a limited edition CD + DVD, just the downloads, the CD + download versions, or the limited edition CD + DVD + download versions. Prices range from $9 (British Pounds) to $21 (BP). This is a great way to market albums. It creates word of mouth and is consumer friendly in a number of ways. To purchase the downloads, one has to first download the Tell Jack download manager from Weller's label, V2 (Virgin subsidiary). Link to buy.

In other listening news, I'm playing around with It's a social interaction, music site. Users download a plug in for their music player (iTunes, Foobar 2000, Real, other) and hit play on their player. The plug in transmits back to the track artists and song titles. Users can then go to the site and enter tags for the songs they've listened to a la Flickr. As time goes on, pairs users us, suggesting other users that you might want to explore their tastes. If available, they offer songs by artist for streaming and they offer to sell the albums (based in the UK). The benefits are that users can share musical tastes and discoveries and chat with other users online in the forums. The company, meanwhile collects data on listening habits, keeps track of most played tunes, sells "tag" information, etc. In the licensing agreement, they promise to never reveal personal data and, in fact, users choose how much of that they want to share.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

"Apollo on Steroids"

That's how NASA chief, Michael Griffin, described the agency's new plans to go to the moon.

"Think of it as Apollo on steroids," Griffin said as he unveiled the agency's lunar exploration plan during a much-anticipated press conference at its Washington, D.C.-based headquarters.

I'm sure some Congressional committee will get around to investigating this lunar drug use as soon as they're done with baseball.

George Bush bigger spender than LBJ?

According to Nick Gillespie at Reason Magazine, this is indeed the case:

For that, look to discretionary spending—which is made up of defense and all other non-entitlement spending. When you stick to discretionary spending, a slightly different, but hardly better, picture emerges. Richard Nixon, for instance, cut total discretionary spending 15.2 percent, the first George Bush cut it by 3.2 percent, and Bill Clinton by 8 percent in his first term (all three accomplished this by reducing defense spending). Other than that, it's always been onward and upward. Even Ronald Reagan boosted discretionary spending in both of his terms—by 8.2 percent in the first and 7 percent in the second.

Those figures come by way of the American Enterprise Institute's Veronique de Rugy, who has calculated that George W. Bush has boosted total inflation-adjusted discretionary spending in his first term by 35.1 percent. To put that in context, chew on this: LBJ—the Texas legend who created the Great Society and, for all intents and purposes, the Vietnam War—only boosted discretionary spending 33.4 percent. What's more, the gap between Bush and LBJ will only grow. De Rugy notes that the final outlays for fiscal year 2005 (the last budget signed in Bush's first term) aren't in yet. As a result, she has to use mid-session review numbers, which are invariably smaller than the final amounts. And, she says, the number for FY2005 "does not take under consideration the numerous supplemental passed this year, and the new spending triggered by the Katrina disaster."

Isn't Bush the son of another ex-president who calls Texas home? Yet here he is, the prodigal, spendthrift son not of George Herbert Walker Bush but of Lyndon Baines Johnson, prosecuting an increasingly unpopular war and spending money like it was water. All that's missing for the transformation to be complete is for Bush to show us the scar on his stomach, pull his dog up by the ears, and start holding cabinet meetings in the bathroom.

That ought to make fiscal conservatives cringe. Unless, of course, they are the type of fiscal conservative who is so partisan that s/he will just find any rationalization to justify these actions and say it's still better than Democrats would have done.

Dickie's Quickies

The Seattle Times reports today that monorail foes appear to be ahead in a couple of races for seats on the Seattle Monorail Project Board. That doesn't bode well for the future of the project, though it doesn't hurt to have a skeptic or two on the board. The Stranger's employees think only one of them will win. Meanwhile, in the comments section to my post on the monorail, someone pointed out the 2045 org and it's pro-monorail stance, which is a good read. If you're from Seattle and pro-monorail then perhaps you should give it a looksie.

You know when I was most pro-monorail? When a proposal was floated to have a large monorail system that also connected to the Eastside communities. Heck, I'd even be more pro-light rail if such a plan were in action. And therein lies my problem with all of this. Some people live on the Eastside and work in Seattle and vice versa. Transportation is a headache for everyone around here. We need a regional, comprehensive plan that includes Seattle, the Eastside communities, and some regions of southern Snohomish County. If such a plan were proposed and checked out financially with taxpayers (including businesses) paying for the plan, then I think we'd see it pass. This piecemeal crap of a monorail and a light rail and only thinking of Seattle city proper isn't going to do much for anybody in the long run. The rest of the region will still face the problems it currently has and few will benefit. Can we have some goddamn leadership here?!!? Cooperation, negotiation, trust, and risk taking, puleeze!

MozillaZine reports the release of Firefox 1.07, which addresses the security concerns reported recently.

The Wall Street Journal Online reports today on a NJ record store which sells CDs. No story there except if the buyer returns the CD within 10 days, the store will refund 70% of the purchase price. The idea being that the buyer takes the CD home and rips it while the store gets a cut of the sale regardless. I'm sure the RIAA is going to pitch fits about this, but really, how different is this from NetFlix or Blockbuster? Aren't these guys just renting the CD for a few days? Don't Ask, don't tell.

Finally, my favorite songwriter/novelist turned politician, Kinky Friedman, has a new animated commercial on his website promoting his run for governor of Texas. Why the hell not? It's in Quicktime or Windows Media.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Zombie Walks Seattle

Well, they've happened in San Francisco, Houston, and Vancouver. It was only a matter of time before someone in Seattle organized a zombie mob walk. Of course, we've got to play catch up in the cool/hip department, so Cleo has organized three. Details!

FBI recruits to investigate porn

From the Washington Post:

The new squad will divert eight agents, a supervisor and assorted support staff to gather evidence against "manufacturers and purveyors" of pornography -- not the kind exploiting children, but the kind that depicts, and is marketed to, consenting adults.

"I guess this means we've won the war on terror," said one exasperated FBI agent, speaking on the condition of anonymity because poking fun at headquarters is not regarded as career-enhancing. "We must not need any more resources for espionage."

Update: Image grabbed from Boing Boing, but it/they are fabulous!

Seattle Monorail

Full disclosure: I voted twice to study the monorail project in Seattle. When it came time to vote for funding, I voted against the monorail. By the counts of monorail supporters that means I voted twice for it and once against it, but that is not the case. Seattle has not had 4 votes for the monorail. What they have had are votes to study it and votes to fund it.

Why did I vote to study the monorail? Because our traffic in the area is a mess. Politicians either don't trust the voters to tell them the true costs of the programs, they lag behind on producing them so the costs go up, or their accountants just can't come up with sound figures. Pick one of the three preceding reasons or draw up one of your own, but the fact remains that the region faces serious transportation issues and is unwilling to address them. A vote to study the monorail, to my mind, was then a vote to show politicians that they have support for showing backbone and going forth to look at bold ideas.

Only, the city council, in it's arrogant wisdom, refused to even study the monorail. After a first vote, the council decided they would continue down the path of light rail, which no one sees as a panacea, but rather as part of a solution, and not bother to listen to voter's intent. So, a second vote was held and once again, I voted to study the monorail as part of a transportation solution, as a reason to give city officials to grow some backbone and look into new ideas, and to tell the Seattle City Council to stuff their arrogant ways.

This time the council got it and commissioned a study of the monorail. The report came out and a vote was scheduled. My experience with monorails goes back to Detroit's boondoggle - The People Mover. Granted, it's a poor reference point. Detroit's monorail project was vastly different from the one proposed in Seattle. The People Mover is a shorter route, only caters to business districts and not neighborhoods, and Detroit is not a city with a traditionally reliable mass transit nor large mass transit ridership. The Seattle proposal would accommodate neighborhoods as well as businesses, it was a longer route (14 miles versus 3 miles), and Seattle is generally favorable to mass transit as well as having a reliable system.

However, when I looked at the numbers for building costs, maintenance costs, and ridership, I did so with a skeptical eye. I really wanted a monorail for the city. It's a really cool idea. Vancouver, B.C. has one and it's got a pretty good ridership. Plus, a monorail would be a tourist attraction that could tie downtown hotels with Seattle City Center's parks and meeting rooms, among other things. Truly, as an idea without concern to costs and ridership, it was visionary. Unfortunately, when I read the articles and compared the costs and ridership projections to Vancouver's model, I found holes in the Seattle proposal. The building and maintenance costs were too low. Ridership estimates were too rosy. Costs would be supported by what seemed to me to be unrealistic increases in car tab tax revenues. Federal and state funds were not forthcoming. Sadly, I felt that it was not in Seattle's best interest to build their monorail...not without a better funding package and more realistic estimates. I voted against it.

To it's credit, Seattle voters passed the initiative. It was a bold move. It suggested to city leaders that if they weren't willing to take on the job of leadership, it's voters were. Not only that, but voters were also willing to fund the initiatives. While Tim Eyeman and others elsewhere in the state framed this as Seattle being frivolous tax and spenders, the fact of the matter was that it was costing the rest of Washington nothing. Seattle was addressing it's transportation issues and were willing to pay for it. Despite my skepticism in the numbers, which remained, this was personal responsibility on Seattle's residents. Mr. Eyeman was being an ass, as usual, and a demagogue. He used his view of Seattle's light rail and monorail initiatives to win 2 tax rollbacks in the state. That was irresponsible behavior - defunding the state without finding other revenue streams.

As time went on, I moved out of Seattle. I watched from outer Monrovia as the city produced hopeful headlines on the monorail. The views were going to be great! The art was going to be terrific! The path around Seattle Center was going to offer stops at the EMP and Key Arena! People were excited, but costs were rarely discussed. Eventually, the news began to change. Once bids were sent out and real figures began to arrive it turned out that it was too costly as originally envisioned. The views were going to be good, but not as good. There would be more columns than expected. The art, well, it wasn't even discussed anymore. The tax revenues were way behind what they were estimated to bring in even if the cheaters were caught.

A few weeks ago the final cost was announced to voters. In order to build the Seattle Monorail, voters were going to have to take on debt financed over 50 years ballooning the $2-3 billion plan to over $11 billion. That's around $8 billion in interest alone. All of a sudden voters began to feel cheated. The state auditor called for voters not to back the plan. Mayor Nickels withdrew his support and last week called for a third vote (remember, 2 of the votes were to study the monorail) on the monorail. He asked the commission to submit a plan by tomorrow or city hall would draw up it's own ballot initiative. Today's Seattle Times reports that among other options, the monorail commission is considering shortening the route by not detouring around the EMP and Seattle Center. They are also considering shortening the route altogether which would pull it out of some major neighborhoods.

In some ways, this makes me very sad. I wanted to see a bold initiative rise up organically and take root when it came to resolving Seattle's transportation woes. I didn't believe in the costs, but I believed in the vision. I truly hoped it would bring about a new hope for the city and to demonstrate to it's own leaders as well as those elsewhere in the state and nationally, that people are willing to take on the hard choices.

A part of me still believes that this last point is true. I hope that Seattle voters don't see their optimistic visions for transportation crushed by this setback and replaced by the cynicism that seems to gridlock the rest of the state. Nickels, rather than lead in this discussion, has decided to put forth another vote on the topic. That's too bad as it indicates to me that Seattle's representatives still are not ready to lead when it comes to transportation. It seems to me that the original monorail votes were a mandate to lead, but rather than take it that way, Seattle's City representatives have chosen to be cowered by voters. Listen, Greg, in a representative democracy, you're expected to make choices - tough ones, even - rather than put everything to a vote, otherwise, why do we have a council and a mayor's office in the first place? I can hire someone to run pothole and traffic light fixes for a lot cheaper than your salary.

There is an argument yet to be made for the monorail, but I don't hear anyone standing up to make it. It's a reasonable one, too. It goes something like this: "The costs of the monorail are not fully discovered by looking at the dollars to construct and maintain it. What about the savings realized by drivers not sitting in longer lines in traffic? What about the savings realized from cleaner air? What about the savings realized for riders who get from start to destination quicker? How do we measure these savings when we talk about what the monorail will cost over 40 or 50 years?"

At this point, it doesn't seem like this argument will be made. I don't know if anyone even has the studies and figures to begin to address these issues. Sadly, it seems that come November, faced with limited time to make the decision, limited information on which to base that decision, and overwhelmingly negative numbers for financing construction and maintenance, Seattle's voters will kill the monorail vision they gave birth to. Now, who will pick up the political pieces from here and use them to offer a bold, but fiscally justifiable plan for a better transportation solution? That's what I'm waiting to see next from my perch in outer Monrovia.

Dickie's Quickies

Hm, several things popped up in the news today. First of all, RIP Simon Wiesenthal.

Also in the BBC today is how they have determined through review of their CCTV tapes that the subway bombers made trial runs. This stands to reason. What this adds to their knowledge is questionable. Presumably, while law enforcement is guarding the subways, other cells will target other locations. Presumably, other cells also make trial runs, but not necessarily. Will this enable CCTV monitors to prevent another attack either on the subways or elsewhere? Why didn't it prevent the first one? It will be interesting to see if anything relevant comes of this new knowledge.

Back in the U.S., the FDA sent out an email last week announcing that their new acting director of Women's Health would be - wait for it - a veterinarian trained in animal husbandry. Three days later, another announcement was sent out saying that the acting director would be Theresa A. Toigo, who had been in charge of the FDA Office of Special Health Issues which works with patient advocates on issues such as cancer and AIDS. Sounds like the agency realized it was making a major political mistake and back tracked immediately. Perhaps the veterinarian was more favorable to the administration's views on emergency contraception which is what caused former director, Susan Wood, to step down. For the record, Wood has come out in favor of Toigo's appointment.

In an unrelated story, the Italians have produced a sex chair. Truly, a piece of furniture that's function is equaled, if not surpassed by it's beauty.

In software news, Opera has announced that their browser will now be offered free and without adware. Congrats! Now web surfers have another choice and that is a good thing.

I've been reading up on Microsoft's planned release of Office 12. This FAQ on CNET raises the same question with me as I have had since I read other bloggers talking about it: What's the hype all about? From the FAQ:

Office 12 is Office like you have never seen before.

Followed by this line later:

Office 12 users will immediately notice big changes to the look of Office programs, particularly Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

It seems to me that what's going on here is a new GUI. To my mind, that's nothing to get excited about. Admittedly, I'm more of a function over form utilitarian. As long as I can find my way around a program and it's not too clumsy, then I'm happy with it. Microsoft says it's addressing the fact that many features people asked for were already in the suite. This sounds like a training issue to me. The fact of the matter is that MS Office, indeed, office suites of any flavor, are mature products. They are chock full of capabilities and sans a truly new development (like a Power Point program, for instance), there is nothing new under the sun. One Note certainly didn't light a fire under most people. I suspect that this new GUI won't either, but I'm willing to be proved wrong. How many changes to "the look" of the product can take place before businesses get smart and stop updating as frequently? Of course, they could take the route of other mature products and just change the file formats in order to make them incompatible...

Monday, September 19, 2005

Silly quiz

OK, I had ignored thie quiz below being passed around on the feminist blogs. It is repleat with stereotypes of the worst kind. For instance, I think I'm much more balanced that this:

***You Are 30% Boyish and 70% Girlish***

Even if you're not a girl, you're very feminine.
You're in touch with your feelings, and your heart rules you.
A bit of a emotional roller coaster, one moment you're up and the next you're down.
But no matter what, you try to be as cute and perky as possible.

How Boyish or Girlish Are You?

Who are Microsoft's customers?

You might think that Microsoft's customers are the average user, but an article that appeared last week might make you reconsider that position. I can't find a link on the Seattle Times site where I originally read it, but here's one. I'll post the article below, in case it disappears:

Microsoft Corp. is working on a system that will prevent consumers from skipping over commercials while watching TV programs and movies transmitted on the Internet.
"We believe in the advertising model," Microsoft executive Blair Westlake told a TV conference last week in England. "We're working on technology to distribute content that doesn't allow for fast-forwarding."
The TV and advertising industries are wrestling with how the traditional commercial TV business model will adapt to the growing popularity of personal video recorders. Many consumers prefer to skip the ads included in programming they have stored to hard disks.
The Microsoft technology, still in its early stages, would function as a streaming rather than a downloading system. Consumers couldn't fast-forward through the ads because they wouldn't be stored to a hard disk, Westlake said.

OK, a streaming system that doesn't allow the end user to skip commercials. That's horrible. It says to me that Microsoft considers it's customers to be the media providers and advertisers and not the end users. Since the late 1970s, VCRs have been available in US households and it hasn't done a great deal of damage to the economy. We now get commercials on DVDs that we can generally skip and that has damaged neither DVD sales nor other areas of the economy. Heck, there are commercial filtering programs for the internet (Microsoft uses a pop-up blocker for IE, for instance) and that hasn't seemed to hurt the economy. Let consumers make the choice as to how they are going to be inundated.

So, why do I care? Well, because in the next year or two I'm planning on expanding and reconfiguring my home network. I want to add a centralized media container and back-up center. I also want to update the hardware on our Office PC and perhaps add another box or two for other chores. I've been a loyal Microsoft customer for a number of years. I use Office and Windows XP Pro. Until the last year I used IE (and am interested in IE 7). I have not used Media Player much, especially as it has grown, preferring other media players without DRM. And therein lies the crux of my problem - Microsoft's use of DRM. I've been reading carefully the plans to integrate hardware and software solutions via Intel and Microsoft for DRM.

In some respects, I don't have a problem with DRM. I'm not one of the people who has P2P and downloads one, let alone tens or hundreds of files from the internet. I prefer to pay for my music and videos, supporting further productions and artists. However, once I pay for my music or video, I want to be able to share it as I see fit with a limited number of friends and family - like loaning the CD to a friend (something I'm currently able to do). In other words, once I buy it, I want to use it as I see fit.

The news report above is part of a larger trend of the computer industry to work with media producers to "manage the market" (note: not their customers, because the customers are themselves and advertisers - consumers are merely a commodity). By doing so, they are interested in taking from me the rights I've enjoyed - legally, according to U.S. court rulings - for well over 30 years, now. With Microsoft participating in this seizure of property rights, I'm being forced to reconsider their products.

Which do I care about more? My ability to use my legally purchased media as I see fit or, as a fairly competent computer user, my ability to run programs and my operating system? I think that there's a real opportunity for some other OS maker to step in and fill the void here. Whether it's Linux, Apple, Unix, or some other variation we have not yet seen, but some system that provides a convenient, user friendly experience that doesn't seek to preclude currently enjoyed rights for the media we choose to own. I whole heartedly agree with this post from another blogger:

So I think this should be a call to arms to Apple and the OSS cadre. You've got 2 years or so to become a completely credible alternative. If you can manage it then you can do us all a favour and blow MS out of the water. Because everyone who currently uses XP is going to be faced with the same choice I am. And that's the perfect moment to say "'I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more" and just switch.

(tip to Om Malik for link to the blog posting, which reminded me to write about this)

Sunday, September 18, 2005

On being a leader

From Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek:

Whatever his other accomplishments, Bush will go down in history as the most fiscally irresponsible chief executive in American history. Since 2001, government spending has gone up from $1.86 trillion to $2.48 trillion, a 33 percent rise in four years! Defense and Homeland Security are not the only culprits. Domestic spending is actually up 36 percent in the same period. These figures come from the libertarian Cato Institute's excellent report "The Grand Old Spending Party," which explains that "throughout the past 40 years, most presidents have cut or restrained lower-priority spending to make room for higher-priority spending. What is driving George W. Bush's budget bloat is a reversal of that trend." To govern is to choose. And Bush has decided not to choose. He wants guns and butter and tax cuts.

...Hurricane Katrina is a wake-up call. It is time to get serious. We need to secure the homeland, fight terrorism and have an effective foreign policy to advance our interests and our ideals. We also need a world-class education system, a great infrastructure and advancement in science and technology.

For all its virtues, the private sector cannot accomplish all this. Wal-Mart and Federal Express cannot devise a national energy policy for the United States. For that and for much else, we need government. We already pay for it. Can somebody help us get our money's worth?

Tip to War and Piece for the article.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Video for "George Bush don't like black people'

You've probably heard the song by now, either downloaded or shared. The Legendary K.O.'s riff on Kanye West's words and song in response to the government's inactions in the wake of hurricane Katrina is terrific stuff. Now, there's a video for it.

Friday, September 16, 2005

With friends like these..

Pakistan's "President" General Musharraf said today that women in that country were willing to get raped in order to gain asylum in foreign countries.

“You must understand the environment in Pakistan,” Mr Musharraf told the paper. “This has become a money-making concern. A lot of people say if you want to go abroad and get a visa for Canada or citizenship and be a millionaire, get yourself raped.”

This story is reported by AFP and The Times in London and a few other places, though I cannot locate the Washington Post story.

Pilaf and Squash

Wednesday night, Shawn was working late and I was busy as well. Neither of us had time to actually consider dinner during our days. As usual, I got home first and sent a message to Shawn about what she wanted for dinner. She threw out a bunch of quick ideas and then fessed up: she didn't know. To her credit, Shawn offered to stop off and pick something up on the way home, but with so much food in the house, I thought that was a waste of money. I didn't feel like cooking, but the garden has left us with plenty and we should respect that. So, this is what I through together.

The dinner could take longer to cook, but it needed to be easy. Oh, and Shawn stipulated that it needed to be a bit bland as her stomach was bothering her lately. A rice pilaf sounded like the ticket for the grains. Anyone can make this dish with their own equipment. We have a rice cooker and the directions for 1 cup of long grain rice were followed.

Apricot-Pine Nut-Browned Butter Pilaf

3 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup shallots or onion, chopped
1 cup long grain white rice
1 1/2 cups stock (or whatever your cooker calls for)
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped

Take 1 tablespoon butter and melt it in a skillet over medium heat. Add to it the shallots and cook for 5 minutes or until softened. Add the rice and cook for about 5 minutes or until it turns opaque, but do not let it brown. Stir the pan often. When done, scrape the rice and shallots into your rice cooker along with the stock and set the cook cycle.

While the rice is cooking, melt the butter in a skillet (it's OK to use the same skillet if you wipe it clean first) over medium heat. Add the pine nuts. Cook, stirring, until the pine nuts are browned a bit and the butter has also browned a little, but hasn't turned deep brown or black. Keep in mind, the nuts will continue to cook when taken off of the heat, so best not to darken them too much. When the rice cooking cycle is over, add the nuts and butter along with the apricots. Stir the rice to mix it up and fluff it. Let this sit for 10 minutes. Serve.

We have a lot of zucchini, so I've been coming up with ways to use it. This is a perenial problem for the Northwest in general and our house in particular. One of my favorite easy ways is to stuff the zucchini.

I take a large patty pan squash. In the top of it, I cut along the edge, putting my knife in deeply, but not through the bottom. Then I make slices in one direction through the circle I just made. Turning the squash 90 degrees, I do a crosshatch cut. For the stem, I just cut around it as I'm going to discard it. What I'm doing is making small, rectangular pieces of squash which I dig out and saute. Pulling out the pieces, I put them in a bowl and discard any seeds that come out with them. I discard the portion with the stem. Then I smooth out the shell of the squash and remove any more seeds with a spoon. You don't want to make the shell too thin so as the walls will break when you're cooking.

Next, I take the squash bits I've cut out and cut them into approximately the same sized pieces. I melt a tablespoon of butter over medium heat, then add the squash. Cook, stirring for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, I add about 1/2 cup of corn kernals (fresh, frozen, canned), 1/2 teaspoon of thyme (though oregano, marjoram, or basil can also be used), 1/4 teaspoon salt and stir together and cook for another 5 minutes of so. You want to soften the zucchini pieces.

While the pieces are cooking, steam the shell over some water in a pan until it is softened. Preheat the over to 375 degrees. When the shell is done, pull it out of the pan and put it into a baking pan.

Take the sauteed squash bits and corn and put them back into the squash shell. Put about 1/4 cup of grated parmesan on the top of the squash. Place the pan into the over and cook until the cheese melts (5 - 10 minutes).

At this point you're done. You can adjust this recipe so many ways. Add garlic, for instance, or different herbs, or rice, or anything you fancy or have on hand.

Served with the rice pilaf, it made for a quick and tasty meal.

Random Top Ten - Bonus Edition

I swear, for the past few days I've listened to music and was pleasantly surprised to hear my player was finally playing some selections other than the standard fare that gets listed here. So I approached today's post with glee. Then, my player betrayed me:

1) Ministry - I Wanted To Tell Her
2) Beth Orton - I Wish I Never Saw The Sunshine
3) Everything But The Girl - Almost Blue
4) Lloyd Cole - Love Ruins Everything
5) Paul Weller - Thinking Of You
6) Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Little Dawn
7) Neil Young - Down By The River
8) Laura Love - Happy Little Song
9) Alison Moyet - Bye Bye Blackbird
10) Bloc Party - This Modern Love

See? Nothing wrong with these, but many have appeared on these Random posts before. Ugh. Well, since I haven't posted this in a while, I decided to give the player a shot at another ten. Slightly improved, perhaps the player just needs to warm up:

11) Thievery Corporation - The Supreme Illusion
12) Bjork - Pleasure Is All Mine
13) Pere Ubu - We Have The Technology
14) Human League - The Dignity Of Labour Part 4
15) Patti Smith - Trampin'
16) Lou Reed - Guilty (spoken)
17) DJ Prosper - Adjudant Gereux
18) Lata Mangeshikar - Mere Ghar Aayi Ek
19) Afro Celt Sound System - Lagan
20) Jorge Reyes - Las Nueve Direcciones

Dickie's Quickies

Singing lesbians to rescue opera house. I don't write the headlines, but when they are as good as this one, I'm happy to share them.

In the sick joke category, I present Katrina: The Gathering. Hopefully, geek readers will see the humor and the political will exercise their righteous anger. In the meantime, everyone give what they can.

Oh, speaking of Katrina, here's a nifty website where you can keep track of the government contracts awarded for it. Note the several Halliburton-related entries.

Bruce Schneier links to a Florida story about DUI cases being thrown out of court due to a breathalyzer manufacturer's refusal to disclose how their product works. I think Bruce is correct in his criticism of the manufacturer, but it sure has sparked a LOT of comments on his blog today.

The Seattle Times today reports on a story about how New Orlean's residents, attempting to escape their flooded city, were blocked from taking one bridge by the police of neighboring Gretna Parish. Notes the article that the escapees were mostly black and the parrish is mostly white. Two other things of note: most of the evacuees were black and the parish of Gretna is mostly white and the original story was ignored by much of the mainstream media after being reported by eyewitnesses in a socialist journal (link to original story). Tell me this wasn't about racism and classism.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

UBUWEB is back!

Thanks in large part to the good folks at WFMU, UBUWEB is back. Find a treasure trove of obscure and avant garde mp3s at the site including the likes of John Cage, Allen Ginsburg, William S. Burroughs, People Like Us, Glen Gould, and many more. They are free for your downloading amusement and entertainment. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

SQL Server 2005 September CTP

You can now download the September CTP (Community Technology Preview) in any of the 5 editions from here. Fair warning: The Developer's edition is a 900 MB download.

Books Online stand alone for this September CTP is available here.

Shawn's new PC

Shawn's new PC arrived yesterday via FedEx. Wow! She got a Toshiba R200 notebook. It weighs in at under 3 lbs. Part of the weight reduction came from the lack of a built in CD/DVD drive. She's going to get an external drive for that function. It's got Windows XP Pro, 512 MB of RAM, Wireless G/B capability, and a 60GB hard drive.

She spent a chunk of last night setting it up. I spent a chunk of last night working with the office PC. I thought we'd get Shawn's new PC hooked up into a workgroup so we could share files and so on. However, when I went to start to do that, I realized that my computer could no longer see the network connections. I tried XP's network diagnostic tool and received several "Unable to connect WMI to \\.\root\cimV2" errors. Ugh...after some Googling, I ended up dumping the WMI repository, then re-registering the dlls involved. That got rid of that error, but I was still not seeing the network connections nor was my Wizard for home office networking coming up. More Googling revealed that A) a Verizon installed software might interfere with windows, so I removed that and B) I might have had to contact Microsoft support and pay them to provide me with a hot fix for a recently discovered, but known bug.

Well, that was unacceptable to me. Microsoft states on their site that under some conditions fees associated with support calls may be reversed, however the user doesn't know until s/he calls support. I didn't want to waste my time. I did some more Googling and found lots of references to the problems, but not a fix. Finally, I went to The Elder Geek forums and did a search for networks not being seen. They provided a link to Microsoft's support network (yes, I had searched there first, but found no joy) that seems to have assisted me in fixing the problems. I won't know for certain until Shawn brings her computer home tonight for me to try out.

Before embarking on this epic, I played around with the latest release of Thunderbird last night. It's a pretty nice update. Most of my extensions worked, though none of my themes did. I finally exported all of my Contacts from Outlook and imported them into Thunderbird (a tedious task and the clean up took a little while). I've moved some of my RSS feeds over to Thunderbird as well and am using it to read various blogs. Thus far, it's working out pretty well. If I use it a lot and like it, I'll move my other email addresses into it and consider using it instead of Outlook. The main thing holding me back from jumping into it right away: lack of a calendar integrated into the program (I know, it's coming, but it isn't here yet). I'd also like to see more fonts and I wish that we could manage RSS feeds with folders a little more easily. Other than that, great stuff.

Dickie's Quickies

Google Blog Search is out! It's got a clean interface and fast results. They've only been indexing since the end of July, so results reflect the last month and a half of blog material. Pretty nice.

The BBC is reporting today that retail sales for August were down - way down. They were heading that way before Katrina hit. Gasoline prices are the primary suspect. Anyone who has contact with someone involved in the retail world could have relayed this tale. The economy is not as strong as our leaders would like us to believe.

However, House Majority Whip Tom Delay would like you to believe that U.S. leaders in Congress have done a great job! Declaring in the Washington Times that Republicans have done so well at cutting spending that they have achieved an "ongoing victory" (nonsensical term) and that there is no more fat to trim from the budget! Fiscal conservatives should be feeling their brains explode when reading Delay's comments. I'll let the article speak for itself:

"This is hardly a well-oiled machine," said Rep. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican. "There's a lot of fat to trim. ... I wonder if we've been serving in the same Congress."
American Conservative Union Chairman David A. Keene said federal spending already was "spiraling out of control" before Katrina, and conservatives are "increasingly losing faith in the president and the Republican leadership in Congress."
"Excluding military and homeland security, American taxpayers have witnessed the largest spending increase under any preceding president and Congress since the Great Depression," he said.

That's right, dear readers. The country traded big government Democrats for big budget Republicans and found that we're in worse financial shape for it.

Since we're spending money left and right anyhow and since the war in Iraq is going so well (not to mention Afghanistan), some US leaders, according to the Washington Post, are putting on a little slide show aimed at convincing allies that we should have an excursion into Iran. If you'll recall, dear reader, the Iraq excursion's failure to find so-called "weapons of mass destruction" has been blamed on faulty intelligence at the CIA (which is code for cooked intelligence). This time, rather than continue to tick the CIA off, administration officials have dispensed with the intelligence community altogether. Choice quote:

The presentation has not been vetted through standard U.S. intelligence channels because it does not include secret material. One U.S. official involved in the briefing said the intelligence community had nothing to do with the presentation and "probably would have disavowed some of it because it draws conclusions that aren't strictly supported by the facts."

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

March of the Penguins touted by Conservatives

Social conservatives, that is. The NY Times reports that the movie March of the Penguins has become a hit with social conservatives. In it, they see:

"March of the Penguins," the conservative film critic and radio host Michael Medved said in an interview, is "the motion picture this summer that most passionately affirms traditional norms like monogamy, sacrifice and child rearing."

Set aside the discussion about the fact that there is no tie what-so-ever established between penguin and human behavior. What the social conservatives fail to point out is that the penguins in the film are serial monogamists - they take a new mate each year and stay with that one for the breeding season. Oh, and naturally, there's the issue with the gay penguins from the Central Park Zoo that they've forgotten about as well. Still, go see the film. I hear that it's very good. Just don't read human foibles into their behavior. It's enough that anthropomorphize our domestic pets.

Yet more on Katrina

Pat Robertson, never one to miss an opportunity to tell Americans that God hates them, has declared that Katrina was caused by Ellen Degeneres. Someone heal us of this idiot.

Over the weekend, CNN sued the government for the right to shoot images wherever they liked in the areas affected by Katrina. On Saturday, the Bush administration acknowledged the first amendment and announced that they would not challenge CNN in court. Now comes a report, via War and Piece, that some members of the Army are refusing reporter's rights to take pictures or even report on what they are seeing. Either these military personel still think they're in a war zone (and who could blame them? Dead bodies lying around, toppled buildings, smashed vehicles, fires...oh, did water get into this desert?) or the Bush folks think that they have found a clever way to dance around the issue.

War and Piece also reports on a Wall Street Journal online story which outline government documents showing the federal government's failures in it's response:

FEMA's official requests, known as tasking assignments and used by the agency to demand help from other government agencies, show that it first asked the Department of Transportation to look for buses to help evacuate the more than 20,000 people who had taken refuge at the Superdome in New Orleans at 1:45 a.m. on Aug. 31. At the time, it only asked for 455 buses and 300 ambulances for the enormous task. Almost 18 hours later, it canceled the request for the ambulances because it turned out, as one FEMA employee put it, "the DOT doesn't do ambulances."

FEMA ended up modifying the number of buses it thought it needed to get the job done, until it settled on a final request of 1,355 buses at 8:05 p.m. on Sept. 3. The buses, though, trickled into New Orleans, with only a dozen or so arriving on the first day.

The part of the plan that authorizes OSHA's role as coordinator and allows it to mobilize experts from other agencies such as NIH wasn't activated by FEMA until shortly before 5 p.m. Sunday [September 11th]. The delay came despite repeated efforts by the agencies to mobilize...

Thunderbird 1.5 Beta 1 is out

Mozilla just released the latest, developer's version of their email program, Thunderbird. Note I did say "developer's version". That's because this one is expected to have a few bugs and may not work with all extensions. If that doesn't bother you, then download it here. If it does, the Beta 2 is scheduled for early October with a final version due by the end of next month.

The Rumbling Edge has the latest in upgrades and improvements. I'm looking forward to trying out the inline spell checking and the podcasting support. If it were easier to transfer my Outlook contacts over to Thunderbird, I'd probably stop using Outlook altogether.


Amanda has a wonderful rant on her blog about Bush and the way the media portrays him. However, I think she's a tad too simplistic in her explanation of why the media has chosen to treat Bush with kid gloves. I tried to post a comment to her blog about this, but something wasn't working, so I'll post it here:

The media annoy me, too, when it comes to the Shrub. It's easy to understand why they do it, though. It's part Frat boy syndrome (FBS) which you so elegantly describe above, but it's also part economics.

It's the media's job to deliver eyes to their advertisers. That's how they earn money. At first they fawned over the Shrub because he was new, people (even opponents) were hopeful, and because he's a tyrant when it comes to calling on reporters (much like Reagan was, only worse). A large portion of the public seemed to like him (nearly 50%), so the media made an effort to deliver that public to their advertisers.

Like political machines, whenever there's been a whiff of scandle, the media has floated a trial balloon about the story. If the trial balloon fails to excite, the media do not follow it. Katrina was different and may have broken the mold since it excited people of all political leanings. Time will tell if the so-called media backbone stays in place. One thing's for sure - it'll be lost again once the next person is elected.

Security, Security

VoIP provider, Packet8, exposed thousands of customer's email addresses. They were in a spreadsheet that was attached to a monthly newsletter. The newsletter is an opt in type and apparently the spreadsheet contained the email addresses of all of the newsletter's recipients or, about a third of Packet8's customers. The director of communications with the company tried to brush it off with this line:

"It was a one-time fluke. I do not expect it to happen again," said Citelli.

This was a bad mistake. If someone got a hold of the list, as the article notes, it exposes those customers to potential phishing attacks. Also, as the article correctly notes, there are many software companies that offer scanning software to prevent this sort of thing. Amazing...when the Internet is your business and you don't put in the failsafes that should be standard when operating on the Internet.

The Register reported today that seven in 10 discarded hard disk drives have porn on them. That's the good news! The bad news is that the company that determined this found out by purchasing the disk drives on eBay. Of course, the disks also contained spreadsheets, email, credit card info, etc. Repeat after me: encrypt, erase, destroy.

Monday, September 12, 2005

FEMA head Brown resigns

Who didn't see this coming? Well, perhaps the people in the Astrodome didn't see it...or the people in other states affected...or the dead...

Time to recall the President

Bill Maher says it's time to have a good old California style recall election. Pretty funny, yet tragic stuff. Via Crooks and Liars

The drive to NOLA

The drive to NOLA
Originally uploaded by ioerror.
This from a photoset on Flickr by Boing Boing associate, Jacob Applebaum.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Dickie's Quickies

Some quick notes. Seeing as how I spend a great deal of time promoting the Firefox browser, I would be remiss if I didn't note that a security flaw was reported yesterday. Unlike the IE folks, however, the Mozilla Foundation offered a fix hours later (rather than weeks, months, years). All of the info is here including links to manually apply the work around or to apply a patch.

For those of you who are P2P aficionados (I am not, but I support their cause), Shareaza 2.2 was released today. Have fun! (Warning - that's a direct link to the download).

The Painted Anvil has what they claim is the best in Classic Pin-Up and Comicbook "Girly" Art. To which I say, "Let us be the judge of that!" And I encourage readers to take their time making up their minds.

Spyware Warrior reports on a new Spyware scam. It's online and it basically uses a browser page which imitates the Windows Security Center. A pop-up comes on the screen warning that the user is infected with spyware and then lists links to 3 (and probably 4) known spyware programs. Note: that is "spyware programs"; not "anti-spyware programs". Those linked programs will install the nasty CWS spyware programs which are difficult to remove (to say the least...I've done it on 2 machines and it was hours and bloody fingers later each time).

Oh and it's World Naked Gardening Day! Have fun, kids, and mind the holly bushes. (Link is NSFW).

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Virginia Nurses Association supports medicinal marijuana

Yep, in a press release the association is calling for the legalization of cannabis for medical purposes.


Last week some liberal bloggers got themselves in a twist over the fact that Pat Robertson's charity group, Operation Blessing, was the second link (under the Red Cross) for donations for hurricane relief. Although I despise Robertson and his politics, I ignored the blog postings because there just wasn't any substance behind them other than picking on Robertson (rightfully so) for said politics. Hey, I thought, any money and assistance that can get to those victims in any way possible is fine by me.

I was wrong. According to this piece in the New York Daily News, Robertson has misused the charity in the past. Perhaps worse yet is he donates money from the charity to The 700 Club, which promotes his political agenda.

After having this pointed out to them, FEMA has removed Robertson's charity from the list. There, I pointed out something they got right...of course, it took a lot of complaining and they were a little late in doing it.

Photo Ops

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, about 1,000 firefighters sent from other states and cities to assist in the aftermath of Katrina were diverted to Atlanta for training. I'll quote the story in pieces below, but it's worth the whole read:

Instead, they have learned they are going to be community-relations officers for FEMA, shuffled throughout the Gulf Coast region to disseminate fliers and a phone number: 1-800-621-FEMA.

On Monday, some firefighters stuck in the staging area at the Sheraton peeled off their FEMA-issued shirts and stuffed them in backpacks, saying they refuse to represent the federal agency.

Federal officials are unapologetic.

would go back and ask the firefighter to revisit his commitment to FEMA, to firefighting and to the citizens of this country," said FEMA spokeswoman Mary Hudak.
The firefighters - or at least the fire chiefs who assigned them to come to Atlanta - knew what the assignment would be, Hudak said.

"The initial call to action very specifically says we're looking for two-person fire teams to do community relations," she said. "So if there is a breakdown [in communication], it was likely in their own departments."

One fire chief from Texas agreed that the call was clear to work as community-relations officers. But he wonders why the 1,400 firefighters FEMA attracted to Atlanta aren't being put to better use. He also questioned why the U.S. Department of Homeland Security - of which FEMA is a part - has not responded better to the disaster.

"They've got people here who are search-and-rescue certified, paramedics, haz-mat certified," said a Texas firefighter. "We're sitting in here having a sexual-harassment class while there are still [victims] in Louisiana who haven't been contacted yet." The firefighter, who has encouraged his superiors back home not to send any more volunteers for now, declined to give his name because FEMA has warned them not to talk to reporters.

But as specific orders began arriving to the firefighters in Atlanta, a team of 50 Monday morning quickly was ushered onto a flight headed for Louisiana. The crew's first assignment: to stand beside President Bush as he tours devastated areas.

The emphasis on this last bit is my own, but the inclusion of this information by the newspaper was clearly meant to have impact. It is the last paragraph in the article which details complaints from firefighters from around the country who want to help victims. Instead, they're being used as community-relations officers and photo-op background people. Of course, this isn't the first time that a photo-op has taken precedence over rescue efforts. Then again, what else would anyone expect from a government agency that has gone into damage control for it's own image rather than pressing harder for more assistance. They've even taken a page from the Pentagon and banned reporters from taking pictures of the bodies still lying in the stricken areas. The media is suing to get that corrected. From the LA Times report on the FEMA ban:

NEW ORLEANS — The U.S. agency leading Hurricane Katrina rescue efforts said Tuesday that it does not want the news media to photograph the dead as they are recovered.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, heavily criticized for its slow response to the devastation caused by the hurricane, rejected journalists' requests to accompany rescue boats searching for storm victims.

An agency spokeswoman said space was needed on the rescue boats.

"We have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media," the spokeswoman said in an e-mail.

Dickie's Quickies

When I subscribed to cable television one of my few regularly watched shows was the Countdown With Keith Olbermann. His program is often witty, often intelligent, and sometimes poignant. When it comes to politics there are times when Olbermann nails a subject on it's head and let's the politicians and pundits know exactly how a lot of people feel about their antics. Apparently, there was just such a moment the other night as Keith laid into politicians in Washington (Democrats and Republicans alike) regarding the response to hurricane Katrina. Here's a link to the video. I'm sure some in Washington are still stinging from the blistering remarks.

In other political news, Michael Bérubé reports that Senator Rick Santorum believes that victims of the hurricane who remained in the area should be prosecuted. Along with Dennis Hastert's remarks from the previous week, this sets up Congressional Republicans for a possible hat trick of stupidity in comments following the storm (if I were to include all of the stupid remarks from DHS employees to Barbara Bush, it would be a hockey score of unbelievable dimensions). Bérubé goes on to note that Santorum has the gall to take such a stance while he receives tax payer subsidies of nearly $40k/year to send his kids to a private, fundamentalist charter school.

The AP reports that FEMA waited at least 5 hours after Katrina made landfall before requesting 1,000 National Guard troops Homeland Security Employees. The first mission of the employees? Make the government appear to look good.

Christopher Hitchens, who has been criticized for being an apologist for the Bush Administration's stance on the Iraq War, has some biting words for the way the Katrina relief has been handled. A choice quote:

For example, a few piles of bottled water wouldn't have come amiss if there's going to be suddenly too much water but none of it drinkable. Elementary things like that. He didn't do that. Then he did a fly-by from his holiday retreat, and then he got there too late and then he said something completely idiotic. So I really can't see there is any forgiveness for that. And remember also, that he did interrupt his holiday not very long ago to pay attention to something that was none of his business at all as President. Namely, the alleged living condition of an actually dead woman named Terri Schiavo.

On a completely different note, Antony and the Johnsons won the Mercury Prize for Best Album of the Year by a British group or artist for their lovely album, I Am A Bird Now. Good for them. They deserve it.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Someone gets it

Much to the dismay of my friends in or associated with the Democratic Party, I've been saying for years now that they need candidates for President that are charismatic. Kerry, Gore, Dukakis, Mondale? All losers and none of them very inspiring. The Seattle Times today reprints a story from The Washington post about Montana's governor, Brian Schweitzer and it sounds like he understands what is needed to win that job:

"Be likable, be self-deprecating, don't be a know-it-all using a lot of big words," said Schweitzer, 50, who mixes plain speaking with blue jeans, a bolo tie and cowboy boots.

"In politics, it doesn't matter what the facts are," he said. "It matters what the perceptions are. It is the way you frame it."

There's a reason that Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan attracted many of the same voters as well as why Bush attracted a fewer amount of those same people. Schweitzer seems to understand this.

Take heart, my Democratic friends (or not) because I'm going to say something else that I've repeated for years: the power, Constitutionally, in our government ultimately lies in the hands of the legislative branch where charisma plays an important, but truncated role in elections. Better still, said power really lies in the state's legislative branches. Conservatives, especially social conservatives, have understood this for years. Liberals would do well to follow that example instead of relying on big institutions like the courts to do their bidding. After all, the worries expressed by liberals now are that the courts might overturn Roe v. Wade. If the states had passed constitutional amendments or legislation securing a woman's right to privacy and abortion, then the battle for the next Supreme Court justice would not be so dire.

Sunday, September 04, 2005


It's already begun. The Bush Administration is seeking to blame state and local officials for what has happened in the aftermath of Katrina. I wonder if the media will let them get away with it. To be sure there is more than plenty of blame to go around - much more. In this Washington Post article, it is clear that a power struggle at differing levels of government delayed responses to the crisis. However, it is disingenuous at best for Michael Chertoff, head of DHS, to make this statement:

In a Washington briefing, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said one reason federal assets were not used more quickly was "because our constitutional system really places the primary authority in each state with the governor."

This from a man who on NPR last Wednesday stated that he had no reports of people living without food and water or being stranded in New Orleans. This same man went on to blame the victims, stating that if they went to proper distribution centers, then they would get food and water. Perhaps someone should remind Chertoff of the interview? Perhaps someone should remind him of his duties as DHS director:

In the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other large-scale emergency, the Department of Homeland Security will assume primary responsibility on March 1st for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation. This will entail providing a coordinated, comprehensive federal response to any large-scale crisis and mounting a swift and effective recovery effort. The new Department will also prioritize the important issue of citizen preparedness. Educating America's families on how best to prepare their homes for a disaster and tips for citizens on how to respond in a crisis will be given special attention at DHS.

That's not to let local officials off of the hook. This needs to be investigated and people need to be held accountable at all levels of government. Still, given Mayor Daley's report yesterday, and his is one of many, it is clear that DHS and FEMA failed as well. They need to stop trying to shift responsibility and take their lumps.

To be sure, the task presented these folks was daunting. An area of the country approximately the size of England was affected. Hundreds of thousands of people have suffered losses. Relief in earnest now seems to be getting through, though it has been and continues to be delayed. Still, this sort of thing is just one of the major reasons that these people have jobs in the first place. Protecting our citizens should always be the highest priority. DHS seems to acknowledge thus in the statement above, even if the director now finds it inconvenient to do so now.

Senator Mary Landrieu (D - Louisiana) has stepped up to the plate to criticize the President's photo op:

But perhaps the greatest disappointment stands at the breached 17th Street levee. Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe. Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment. The good and decent people of southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast -- black and white, rich and poor, young and old -- deserve far better from their national government.

The report seems to confirm what Laura Rozen reported on her blog as written to her by Dutch viewer Frank Tieggler:

There was a striking dicrepancy between the CNN International report on the Bush visit to the New Orleans disaster zone, yesterday, and reports of the same event by German TV.

ZDF News reported that the president's visit was a completely staged event. Their crew witnessed how the open air food distribution point Bush visited in front of the cameras was torn down immediately after the president and the herd of 'news people' had left and that others which were allegedly being set up were abandoned at the same time.

The people in the area were once again left to fend for themselves, said ZDF.

And then Dana Milbeck reported this about the photo op:

From there, Bush went to tour a Biloxi, Miss., neighborhood and tried to direct victims to the Salvation Army. "Do you know where the center is down here?" he asked them.

"There's no center there, sir," a worker interjected. "It's a truck."

"A truck?" Bush continued. "Isn't there a Salvation center down here?"

"It's wiped out sir," the worker said. "Wiped out."

Clueless. Still, one must not forget that Senator Landrieu was on CNN last week praising the President's and Congress' response to the crisis and that she was chewed out by Anderson Cooper on the air for playing politics instead of seeking real assistance. (Transcript here). So, for the Senator to now criticize the President is also for her to try to shift blame for her tepid response onto the Administration and ignore her own responsibilities.

Like I said, all responsible should be held accountable regardless of level of government or party affiliation.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

More on Katrina

The BBC News has quotes from articles published in papers around the world, many sympathetic.

Crooks and Liars
has the now infamous Kanye West video featuring his comments during the fundraiser for Katrina last night including, "George Bush does not care about black people." Whether or not you care to agree with West, he speaks for a lot of people. They also have a video from Fox News from last night in which Sean Hannity tries desparately to put a positive spin of some sort on the relief efforts, but Sheppard Smith and a crying Geraldo Rivera (in what appears to be a sincere moment!) rebuff him.

Laura Rozen continues to do a fantastic job of reporting on her blog. She reports on the good ($219 million donated so far in the states) and the bad (the Feds rejecting assistance offered by Mayor Daley, of Chicago, for instance). Essential reading for me when I want to find out about this.

Blumenthal on Katrina

Yet another article on how the current administration could have predicted the results of Katrina if they had listened to their own or other's reports. This one is by Sydney Blumenthal.

In response to this potential crisis, four leading environmental groups conducted a joint expert study, concluding in 2004 that without wetlands protection New Orleans could be devastated by an ordinary, much less a Category 4 or 5, hurricane. "There's no way to describe how mindless a policy that is when it comes to wetlands protection," said one of the report's authors. The chairman of the White House's Council on Environmental Quality dismissed the study as "highly questionable," and boasted, "Everybody loves what we're doing."

Friday, September 02, 2005

Another time killer

Play with this for a little bit. It creates cool designs in a neo-spiral graph way.

View the English language in color as the terms relate to each other. Javascript.

LameToy Character Generator.

The Art of Jeff Jordan … gallery

The Art of Jeff Jordan … gallery Pretty amazing work to be had there. Check it out.

New Orleans' Mayor: "Get off your goddamned asses and let's do something"

The man's been frustrated. The man's been angry. This morning, in an emotional interview New Orleans mayor Ray Nagins let's the world know why he's "pissed off" at the federal government's response. Link to Boing Boing which has 2 links to the interview. If you download it, it's a 12 MB download. Well worth it though as I think Nagins speaks for many of us and he does so bluntly.

It's like FEMA has never been to a hurricane

Those words from Colonel Terry Ebbert, director of Homeland Security in New Orleans. The whole NY Times article here. Quote from Mr. Ebbert:

Col. Terry Ebbert, director of homeland security for New Orleans, concurred and he was particularly pungent in his criticism. Asserting that the whole recovery operation had been "carried on the backs of the little guys for four goddamn days," he said "the rest of the goddamn nation can't get us any resources for security."

"We are like little birds with our mouths open and you don't have to be very smart to know where to drop the worm," Colonel Ebbert said. "It's criminal within the confines of the United States that within one hour of the hurricane they weren't force-feeding us. It's like FEMA has never been to a hurricane." FEMA is the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

NOLA Weblog

When you read the NOLA weblog, you cannot help but be moved by posts such as this:

Story: Doctors, patients and staff are stranded at Baptist Hospital (extended campus of Memorial Hospital). My brother, Dr. Bryant King, is stranded there and has been sending occassional text messages to let us know the situation.

Yesterday, he explained that management at the hospital decided to selctivley withold food and water from patients. Doctors are being forced to decide who gets to live and who will starve to death. The hospital is surrounded by 8ft of flood water; There is no more electricity, food or water. Windows are broken out and people are starving.

There has been very little press about this hosptial, but conditions are deplorable and they need to be evacuated. My brother asked that we please get them out of there. Please let the press know that Baptist Hospital (2700 Napolean Blv) is BEGGING FOR HELP!!!

Note: This, sadly, is not an isolated posting. There are others regarding hospitals.

All Things Considered and Chertoff

Last night, I listened to NPR to hear how they were reporting on the hurricane disaster. The World program was on when I tuned in. A Dutch reporter relayed his views on New Orleans which pretty much were in line with what I've been hearing on radio and reading on the web (blogs as well as news sources). What surprised me, however, was the reporter's absolute astonishment that there were no, as in zero, federal officials that he could find on the ground there. He described a situation that was in disarray.

Needless to say, this was disconcerting. One area about a Federal government that most people can agree is a legitimate purpose is disaster relief. In fact, the current administration, in running for re-election in 2004, touted it's preparedness programs as a shining example of their capabilities. In the wake of the World Trade Center attacks, the Bush administration noted that they had made significant progress in preparing communities for the worst.Here we have a disaster whose effects have been predicted for years, including a report produced by FEMA in 2001. This was a disaster that forecasters were able to predict with such accuracy that tens of thousands were able to flee the area in advance. And yet, many are dying, dehydrated, suffering, and desperate several days after the initial disaster and no federal officials are in site. Is this an example of the response we can expect from a terrorist attack? How about an earthquake (equally unpredictable)?

After listening to The World, I tuned into NPR's All Things Considered. It was not particularly uplifting. The head of FEMA, Chertoff, was interviewed on the program. When confronted with some of the information that an NPR reporter had gathered in New Orleans, Chertoff dismissed reports of lack of supplies and miserable conditions as "hearsay". He stated that he could "not argue" with what the reporter had said, but that he had received no such reports about these things himself. Perhaps Chertoff has been too busy to turn on the news, read a paper or an internet blog such as this one by Michael Barnett (from New Orleans)? This would be understandable, but to declare you have not seen any reports about this is to either lie or demonstrate your agency's incompetence. Furthermore, Chertoff went on to claim that the victims were at fault for not reporting to designated centers for supplies, but as the Barnett link above notes, people in the Superdome waited three days to have supplies dropped to them and many of those supplies were destroyed because they were literally dropped. After Chertoff went off of the air, the NPR reporter was brought in for a second interview. I could hear the outrage in his voice as he described conditions in the Superdome. His voice quivered with anger and disgust and, based on what he said, rightfully so.

Where is the leadership? Where are the government officials? Why is the response taking so long and is lacking so greatly? As noted below (in the Schiavo case), this government can act swiftly when it wants to do so. This is shameful. I encourage readers to listen to the programs linked to above, but be prepared for a disheartening feeling once you've finished.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Matt Welch on Katrina response

Ouch, Matt Welch just posted a good point about the response by government to Katrina.

When doctors yanked Terri Schiavo's feeding tube on March 18, it took Congress all of three days to fly back to Washington, hold an extraordinary session, and pass a law affecting the life and death of one human being. George Bush "returned from vacation in Crawford, Texas to sign the bill into law at 1:11 a.m that morning."

It's been three days since Katrina began ruining New Orleans and killing untold thousands of her residents (many of whom presumably could not evacuate, because there was no transportation) ... and Congress is only now getting around to talking about replenishing the rapidly draining FEMA budget. There are few disasters that are true National Emergencies, but the eradication of one of our most unique cities, and the preventable deaths of who knows how many thousands, strikes me as one of them.

Google OS (??) : Gizmodo

Gizmodo is reportedly showing screen shots of a nascent Google Operating System. It's a light weight system for Linux that offers a file manager, email tools, and a browser. It's a bit buggy at the moment, but it hasn't been released widely yet either. It is doing pretty well at plug and play components, though not yet perfect. This could provide the Linux folkx with something to cheer about and give Microsoft some real competition in that market.

Let's hope it's not a hoax.

Orhan Pamuk goes on trial in December

This from the Turkish Daily News (subscription required or go to BugMeNot):

Prominent Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk is scheduled to be tried in December for controversial remarks about the so-called Armenian genocide and could end up serving three years in jail, his publisher said on Wednesday.

Pamuk, the widely translated author of such internationally renowned works as "The White Castle" and "Snow," triggered a public outcry when he said in an interview with a Swiss newspaper in February that "1 million Armenians were killed in these lands and nobody but me dares talk about it."

As a result, Pamuk, who earlier this year won the prestigious peace price of the Association of German Publishers and Booksellers, received several death threats and a local official ordered the seizure and destruction of his works.

The reclusive author has since refused to speak to the press.

A prosecutor in Istanbul indicted the 53-year-old Pamuk on grounds that his remarks amounted to "public denigration of the Turkish identity" and has demanded a prison term of between six months and three years, Iletisim publishing house said in a statement.

The trial is expected to start on Dec. 16, it added.

Armenians claim up to 1.5 million of their kinsmen died in orchestrated killings nine decades ago during the latter years of the Ottoman Empire, the precursor of modern Turkey.

Turkey argues that 300,000 Armenians and thousands of Turks were killed in what was civil strife during World War I, when the Armenians rose up against their Ottoman rulers.

Friends will note that I happen to love Pamuk's books, particularly His Name Is Red. He is one of the really terrific writers of literature today. I just picked up Snow again and began reading it (I lost my copy in Phoenix last Xmas). The stories are compelling and the poetic language is incredible. He infuses the tales with a mixture of Western and Persian references (a lot of the latter are lost on Western readers). It would be a terrible thing if this man was locked up for speaking his mind. It's not as if he were fomenting revolt after all. It would be a terrible act of censorship by an allegedly friendly state.

Where is the leadership?

Wes Clark is asking just that question today on a blog in regards to Katrina. It's a good read and it's right on the money.

Katrina and the Waves of idiocy

First of all, let me point out something that should be intuitively obvious, but apparently is a little too fine a point for many out there: Katrina, as tragic as this disaster is, is not comparable to the tsunami that struck Asia late last year. Tens of thousands more died in the latter disaster and it affected a much larger area over several nations. Not even close.

The Bush Administration, however, seems to think it is comparable to their policies in Iraq. Hey, if looting was good enough for Baghdad, then by damned it should be good enough for Americans. Not that I have a tremendous problem with the looting, mind you. People are looking for ways to survive and it makes sense that they would loot for food and supplies (looting for televisions is just more misguided idiocy). It's the late and tired response I see coming from the federal government that bothers me. Then again, what should one expect when the head of FEMA's previous job was as an attorney and he has no background in disaster relief.

As Laura Rozen notes in her round up of blogs and newspaper columns, this is the same Administration that gutted the Clinton programs and cut aid to places like New Orleans for shoring up their levees and preparing for disaster relief. Where did that money go to? Well, some of it went to defense. One might ask if defending one's self against natural disasters that do occur is more prudent than spending money on man-made disasters that might occur (such as missile attacks), but that would probably get one labeled as "unpatriotic" or some such nonsense.

In Fiscal Year 2006, Louisianan's will spend 78.4 million dollars on Cold War boondoggle missile defense. They will spend 1.7 billion for the war in Iraq. Mississippi will spend 42.9 million on missile defense and 918.7 for the war in Iraq. This would have paid for the levee repair with change.

Still, as nutty as our government is, they can't touch the idiocy proposed by the fundamentalists that back them. I present three examples. First, Matt Szabo reports on a preacher in LA who attempts to tie Katrina to historical racism:

… it is no a coincidence that it is exactly 50 years from the time of (inaudible) lynching and murder. That it is not a coincidence that the storm’s name is a sister. Katrina. For she represents the collective cries of mothers who have lost their sons (applause) to the brutality (louder applause) and the murderous grip of this racist white supremacist American culture (frenzied applause).

Second case of idiocy comes from Amanda as she shares an email that she received from an anti choice group which declares that satellite photos of Katrina look like a fetus:

In this picture, and in another picture in today's on-line edition of USA Today*, this hurricane looks like an unborn human child. Louisiana has 10 child-murder-by-abortion centers - FIVE are in New Orleans

They go on to say "Repent America!" which is apropos as that group is my third case of idiocy to report. See, Repent America is a group that claims on their site that Katrina was wrought on New Orleans due to their tolerance for human rights:

"Although the loss of lives is deeply saddening, this act of God destroyed a wicked city," stated Repent America director Michael Marcavage. "From 'Girls Gone Wild' to 'Southern Decadence,' New Orleans was a city that had its doors wide open to the public celebration of sin. From the devastation may a city full of righteousness emerge," he continued.

So, how does that explain Mississippi or Alabama? I suppose the former is because of their gambling casinos (nowhere mentioned in the Bible, by the way) and the latter? Maybe God just got Alabama because no one gives a fuck about them anyhow.

While this idiocy is bad enough on it's surface, it's the understated message that really bothers me about such pronouncements. These examples show just how low some people are willing to sink to promote their cause. To take a tragedy affecting many thousands of lives and manipulate it for your self serving ends is a disgusting act of co option and cowardice. If you feel so strongly that your position if strong and righteous, then you need not use the dead, dying, poor, and desperate to prop it up.