Friday, June 30, 2006


Viagra Rings

Some people think clowns are scary. Other people think clowns improve fertility.

Condom commercial on YouTube. Pretty funny, but I bet she does the umbrella and not him.

HPV vaccine was approved yesterday and was approved for children as young as 11. Excellent news! Nice to see that the FDA did something right this time. Now, where the fuck is EC without prescriptions?!!?

Thursday, June 29, 2006


Anti-smoking activist, Michael Siegel, takes on the Surgeon General's press release, fact sheet, and comments on the report released yesterday. Apparently, the conclusions in the 727 page report weren't sensationalist enough for the Surgeon General, so like his leader, he embellished the report with his own conclusions. Keep in mind, Siegel wants to ban smoking indoors and such. However, he doesn't see any reason for a government official to lie or mis-state the scientific evidence.

In fact, after reading the press release, I was fully expecting to find in the report some conclusions and supporting documentation related to an acute heart attack risk and increased lung cancer risk associated with brief secondhand smoke exposure. I was shocked to find that there was no mention of such a relationship; no conclusions, no documentation. Instead, the report appropriately presented the scientific evidence of acute effects of secondhand smoke on vascular function as supporting the biologic plausibility of the observed effects of chronic exposure on heart disease. There was no suggestion in the report that a brief exposure does or even could increase heart disease risk. Nor was there any suggestion (much less scientific evidence) that a brief exposure is enough to cause lung cancer.

Unfortunately, I'm forced to reach the conclusion that tobacco control organizations are simply unable to accurately communicate secondhand smoke science to the public. They are widely distorting the science to create a more sensational and emotional impact on the public. When this phenomenon goes all the way up to the level of the Surgeon General's office, you know you've got a serious scientific integrity problem.

Beaver Delay

From TPMmuckraker:
Who wants a beaver? Everybody likes beaver, even women. The best thing about it, it's a shaved beaver!

- Tom Delay

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The little utility that could

I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again - I'm proud of my utility, the Snohomish County Public Utility District (PUD). Like everyone, there are times when I complain about prices and so forth. But this utility just won a case against Enron when the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) ruled that the PUD did not have to pay $120 million for canceling it's contract with the corrupt energy provider. (OK, time for acronym mania!). The FERC ruled that the PUD entered into the contract not knowing that Enron was committing fraud to obtain insanely inflated energy prices.

In order to win this battle, the Snohomish PUD took on a battle not only against Enron, but also against the FERC. When the PUD wanted transcripts of audio tapes to use as evidence in court against Enron, the FERC at first balked at providing them. Only when the FERC came under pressure from Congressional members (including Senator Maria Cantwell) and the courts did the FERC relent. Once the transcripts were provided, the PUD (which had refused to settle the case under Enron's terms) released them to the public. Only then was the extent of the real scandal exposed. We could finally read what those rat bastards had to say about scamming "grandmothers" in California for over-priced energy and how they went about doing it. In addition the PUD uncovered accounting books and other evidence of the fraud. Their investigative work in this case was tremendous and they deserve to be congratulated for fighting the battle rather than rolling over. The FERC should also be commended on their ruling, despite having to be drug into doing the right thing tooth and nail. In the end, they did the correct thing.

Praise to PUD! Lest dear reader wonders if we're going to see rates fall, let me put that to rest. The answer is not likely. The PUD wanted to apply the amount to lowering our rates. However, since the salmon on various rivers is coming under federal protection, the damns which provide our energy needs will have to be re-designed and other environmental improvements will be needed. The money, which has been set aside, will instead go to those improvements. Still, we would have been required to make those improvements anyhow and if we didn't have this settlement, then it would have been even more costly.

No worries. I'd rather see the money go towards the salmon - a northwest cause - rather towards paying Enron's investors. As much as I hate to see many of those investors suffer, they were defrauded by the same crooks that defrauded us. Two wrongs wouldn't make any of this right, but the FERC ruling has made at least part of the equation better.


Mark Morford has an amusing column today comparing the latest music/videos from Paris Hilton and Christina Aguilera. Snip:
You think: It is a pink Chihuahua versus a poodle with fangs. It is a stale marshmallow peep versus rum-filled vanilla cake. Isn't it all just fascinating, in an entirely shallow and meaningless sort of way?
Links to the videos on YouTube are also included. FWIW, I agree with Morford that Aguilera's is a nice, if surprising, work of pop music. I suspect if Joss Stone were to take on that sound that she'd kick Christina's ass.

Reason magazine reports on the Michigan Supreme Court's insane ruling on marijuana use and legally driving. In essence, the court ruled that any element left in the system of a person is enough to suspend the license and force him/her into rehab or prison. Even if the psychoactive elements are long gone. So, if you smoke a joint one day and a month later get pulled over and have blood work done, then you could get a license suspension and forced into treatment. Nevermind that enforcement of this is an open ended question, the fact that it's being discussed at all is ludicrous. Check this line from Jacob Sullum's fine article:
Given variations in metabolism and laboratory standards, marijuana smokers can never be sure whether they're legally permitted to drive in Michigan. The statute as interpreted by the Michigan Supreme Court therefore does not give people enough information to know when they are violating it--a basic requirement of due process and the rule of law.
Congress began to learn last week about the industry of trafficking in personal information and how little privacy we really have anymore. Will they impose reasonable controls? Not likely since most members don't have a clue about the topic.

Laura Rozen blogs about the Swift data investigation and how it has been a known and reported upon entity since at least 2002 when it appeared in a report (PDF link) to the U.N. Laura's post is a fine and short read. Check this clip:
There is a level of hatred that has emerged in our society, and one can sense that some are looking for cues from politicians and other sources about where to channel that rage, and the politicians and other places are readily providing those cues. While the underlying issues are real, I don't believe the immigrants, the NY Times, and the Dubai port owners are fully the authentic targets of the simmering rage (look how it gets turned on and off, as the rage against the NYT will likely be forgotten for other things in a couple weeks), but that people have been cued to direct their anger there. But what is the real reason for that anger, particularly on the right, and why does it seem to be growing, when the right controls most everything and looks to continue to for a long time? And surely it's hard to miss that much of this anger is actually frustration of the conservative right with Republican party rule, that is being directed at convenient targets on the perceived left (the NYT), immigrants and foreigners such as the Dubai owners?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Fans of The Clash, Big Audio Dynamite, and Generation X might be interested in Carbon/Silicon. Though they haven't yet made a splash in the US, they are making some waves in the UK. The band features Mick Jones and Tony James as the main writers. Their website features plenty of downloads ( listening to War on Culture right now and it's fab) as does their fan site. The music is rock and roll, but it's not as blistering as the earlier acts. Still, it's fine quality. I'd recommend a spin, but with mp3s that's not necessary. *Sigh* what we gain in convenience we lose in aesthetics.


First came Katrina. Now, the city of New Orleans is being run over by marauding trannies. It's like a subplot out of a Burroughs book...or a John Waters movie. Check out this snip from the article:

The transvestites first appeared in March when they raided Magazine Street like a marauding army of kleptomaniacal showgirls, said Davis, using clockwork precision and brute force to satisfy high-end boutique needs.

They first hit Vegas March 31 while Ogle was working.

“They come in groups of three or four. One tries to distract you while the others get the stuff and run out the door. It’s very simple,” Ogle said.

Next door at Winky’s, Bonga heard people screaming inside Vegas, then saw a blur of cheap wigs and masculine legs in designer shoes streak past her door.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports on a lawsuit that a man won over his faulty penile implant. Faulty? As in it would not decline...for 10 years. And to think, the Viagra folks are excited about a 4 hour stiffy.

Speaking of the Viagra folks, Rush Limbaugh was caught importing illegal Viagra (that obtained overseas with a false prescription). Note: I don't have a problem with Rush obtaining the drug. If the authorities want to pick on someone in this case, then it should be the physicians who knowingly falsified the prescriptions.

On a more serious note, the military is honoring our dead soldiers by screwing over their widows on benefits. The article is really about the typical bureaucratic crap faced by millions who deal with our government: wrong/misplaced records, frustrating procedures to correct mistakes, poor information, etc. I'm sure that Ann Coulter thinks that this is another case of liberal infallibility, but this shouldn't be a partisan issue. In other words, shame on the Congress for not getting into this sooner and a pox on all of those who are not properly funding the VA.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


Last night, the co-signer and I went to see the Rat City Rollergirls roller derby event. It was really fun and good family entertainment. Seriously. It was an interesting crowd watching spectacle. Lots of different types of people gathered together to watch a sport that really died after the 1970s only to be revived in the last couple of years. It was good entertainment.

I got there at the end of the first half (after working all day). The event was sold out, but I wasn't the last person arriving. Hanger 27 at Magnuson Park is spacious enough to easily handle the event complete with beer garden, merchandise booths, bleachers, track, scoreboard, video screens, a very good lighting rig, and food court. My first stop was the beer garden as it was a hot day and I was a tad tired from work. I had a beer and then followed it up with a "Roller Rita" which did not spare the tequila. Perfect.

We took our seats before the second half. Not having a favorite team, I just wanted to kick back and watch the spectacle of something I'd only ever seen on television before. I've got to say it again - it was fun. The girls skating were a variety of ages and body types. This wasn't just skinny chicks or Amazon women showing some leg for the boys. There were petite girls as well as large ones. They all had their rolls on their respective teams. Also, they all worked their collective asses off skating around the ring in shifts of 2 minutes each and battling each other for position.

Lest one think that this is theater, these women skated and fought hard. I saw some really hard knocks and some bruising falls. One woman was clipped in front and took what appeared to be a really painful blow to her breasts. The set up allows for people to sit ring side and there is only a short, flimsy barrier to mark the track boundary. This meant that on occasion one of the girls would be knocked off of the track and onto the ring side spectators. As they say on the ticket stub: Roller Derby is dangerous.

That said, what could be more wholesome entertainment than seeing women skating around in skimpy (read: camp) uniforms during a full contact sport? Really, you've got to see it. A band plays a warm up gig. A DJ spins rock music throughout the event. Cheesy announcers making classic, 70s-era inspired comments, mascots, the score whore, the cacophonous echo of the hanger. It all adds up to good times. I'm tempted to go see them next month at the Seattle Storm game, but the co-signer tells me that we've got a wedding to go to that night..


The House and Senate debated a time line for U.S. troops pulling out of Iraq as a pre-election move to show that the Democrats are divided (therefore, weak) and reckless. Today, the White House announces that they've developed such a plan, although they claim their deadlines are flexible. Of course, the deadlines are not flexible at all and have been long in the making to influence the upcoming election.

The Washington Post has an article on Curveball and the alleged Iraqi mobile biological labs. Apparently, the CIA's senior person in Europe warned that the "intelligence" was probably false. At least now we know why Tenet got the medal of honor (even though many Republicans despised him): he lied and continues to lie to cover for the administration. With so much theater coming from these second rate actors, perhaps we should assign an acerbic theater critic to report on them rather than our second rate political reporters dictation experts who missed the skeptical calls before the war.

More on the scandal surrounding Representative Jerry Lewis of California. It seems his former staffer turned lobbyist had special financial arrangements with a company seeking earmarks from Lewis' committee. Oh, and yea, Lewis' daughter worked for the staffer as well. Well, one might say, what were the daughter's credentials? I mean, if she is qualified, then where is the scandal? She's a former wedding planner and has been paid nearly half of the money that the PAC that was formed by the former staffer has raised.

Miami Seven

What a bunch of maroons! Seriously - the Justice Department is making a big deal of these guys?!!? The Miami Herald tells us that the seven were followers of the Moorish Science Temple of America whose prophet was Noble Drew Ali. Check out some of Noble Drew Ali's quotes here.

I'm sure that their religion is just as fine as any other - seriously. But the guys that Gonzales was making a big deal about are the Keystone Cops of terrorists. They were hardly big players. Perhaps they deserved surveillance. Perhaps they deserved some interrogation. But did they deserve a press conference and media blitz? Nope.

What we ultimately have are our hired Keystone Cops, our Keystone Government, our Keystone Media, and the Keystone Terrorists putting on a display of National Theater/Propaganda in a sort of Doppleganger Doppleganger scenario that only a fear mongering politician would buy into.

Saturday, June 24, 2006


Spot a pattern? Navy exposes the personal information of 28,000 personnel. The FTC exposes the personal information of 110 citizens. The USDA is offering free credit monitoring for the 26,000 citizens who had their data exposed. In a similar effort, the VA is preparing to do the same for the millions of vets who had their personal information possibly exposed and Congress says the initial estimate of such costs is $160 million.

Common Cause says 17 states are at risk for voter fraud in November. Note to CC - your effort is noble, but the implementation of the paper back up is the key here. Depending upon how it's done, a clever programmer could hack the program so that both the electronic count and the paper confirmation are frauds.

The U.S. government has been caught tracking bank records. This is yet another example of the Bush administration attempting to expand presidential authority at the expense of citizen rights. (You still remember that they work for us, don't you?) Daniel Solove presents a template for news stories on government data gathering (and it's amazingly accurate). Oh, and Cheney and Bush are feigning being pissed at this revelation while I really think that it was a well planned leak to bolster the upcoming elections.

How's that war in Iraq going, boys? If only they'd report the "good" news.

Anyone else skeptical about the news about the Miami Seven? No money. No guns. No boots. No bombs. Sounds like they were playing GI Joe or paint guns on the weekends. It's still early, but I wonder if the case against these guys will fall apart like most of the domestic terrorism cases.

In lighter news, a woman in England was convicted of murder after claiming that the death was accidental. She claimed that she shot the man after a gun went off while she was dancing to a Shania Twain song.

Want to play a really tough game? Take this quiz and determine whether or not the quote was from Hitler or Coulter.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Customer interraction

Customer: Do you carry Rose's Lime Juice?

Me: No. If it doesn't have alcohol in it, then we don't carry it. Don't you realize - this is a sin store? We sell sin.

Customer: Well, I just wanted to see sin pucker. (bats eyes and smiles)

Me: (smiling broadly) I'm not going to go there. I want to keep my job.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Pet Peeve and more quickies

First, the pet peeve: This may come as news to many people out there, but today, the Summer Solstice, a day that has been honored by festivals and rites for millennia is not the longest day of the year. It's still 24 hours in length. Yes, it has the longest amount of daylight minutes in the year, but it is not the longest day. Each day is 24 hours in length.

The Boston Globe reports that emergency contraception sales in Canada have nearly doubled since it was made available without a prescription. Officials think that many Americans are crossing the border to get the pills, which makes perfect sense from a supply and demand perspective. Though not mentioned in the link above, Mexico is seeing a similar increase in sales.

Speaking of supply and demand and Mexico, a lot of articles have gone out this week about how the number of meth labs being found and closed in the U.S. has greatly fallen. I link to one example which was very similar to the one in the Seattle Times. Law enforcement considers this a huge win, however I expect to see further articles detailing how meth use has not fallen. As this link from Oregon shows, production has been outsourced to Mexico. Expect further stories on the alleged meth crisis, how it is out of control, a Mexican meth scare prompted by deaths from a bad batch, and more. In other words, a continuation of the typical tactics used by law enforcement and politicians to justify the war on drugs. For those of you old enough, we heard these same arguments made about LSD, heroin, cocaine, crack, and, incredibly, marijuana.

Remember the ad run against Al Gore in 2000 featuring a young girl picking daisies when China attacks with nuclear weapons? It was a take off on Lyndon Johnson's ad from 1964 against Barry Goldwater. Well, the man behind the ad is facing child molestation charges in Texas and one of his accusers is the girl from that ad.

More Republican corruption. Laura Rozen offers up an article on the Duke Cunningham, Jerry Lewis, Dusty Foggo. Bill Lowery, and Brent Wilkes cabal. More here, here, here, here, and here. This story has tentacles that reach into many companies and areas as well as Congressional Representatives.


Herman Goering's Mercedes is up for sale on eBay.

This guy has an Underpants Archive. The dude saves underpants and he has a particular fondness for the kind with graphics from kid's shows and cartoons. NSFW as he sometimes stretches the limits of said underwear, knowaimsayin.

I think that I've mentioned this before here, but in any case, the rhythm method causes the destruction of more potential humans than condom use and abortion.

Menopause beer.

Fisting as an act of Faith (in the Christian God, that is).

The RIAA are sending cease and desist orders to teens placing videos of themselves dancing to music on YouTube because the kids haven't paid a licensing fee for the songs. Idiots. They cannot recognize free, viral marketing when they see it. One wonders how they see this as a loss of some sort. The kids aren't going to start paying licensing fees after all. At best, they'll stop making videos (and that would be a good thing, IMHO) or they'll find a different distribution method.

While the blog was down a tragic accident occurred. Former porn star and always geek, Asia Carrera, had a death in the family. Her husband was traveling home from Nevada when he got into a car accident. He was dead on the scene. Asia now finds herself a single mother of one with another on the way. Information on the details plus how you can donate a few dollars to help her through this daunting period are here. I actually came across Asia's website quite by accident in the mid 90s. I was searching for information on the continent while bored at work one night. Of course, seeing what the site was did not deter me. For the next year to year and a half, I went back to the site on a regular basis - primarily to the chat room. Hers was the first chat room I had used. I enjoyed the conversations there. This was not your usual group of people nor was it a stereotypical porn chat room (no sex chat allowed in public). The range of people on there went from geeks to finance people to the just curious to fans and to Asia herself. I spoke with her about her website and the PCs she used (she runs the thing to this day and does her own programming). We also chatted about investments and Warren Buffet. I haven't been back in years, but hearing the details of her recent tragedy really struck me. If you wish, take the time to check out the site and info - the link above is safe for work.

A flaw in PayPal is being exploited to defraud people.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


"I learnt so much working with Bing. He was frightening! He had so much power."

- Les Paul

Rox and I have a disagreement over Bing Crosby. According to his son's biography, Bing was not only a strict father, but he was an abusive shit as well. Whether or not that is true, how many other artists whose work is considered great fall into that category? And this is where I part with Rox because I think Bing's work was great.

Sure, Sinatra replaced Bing as the great crooner of the day. A Warner Brother's cartoon featuring Porky Pig as a farmer and "Bing" and "Sinatra" as crooning roosters handily pointed out that Sinatra was a looker. But, I would argue that Sinatra was just that - a looker. Bing certainly didn't have that kind of charisma, but Bing was a better crooner and a better singer. Sinatra, in fact, turned away from being a crooner.

Bing Crosby had one of the great voices of his era. He could sing the pop standards, croon, and the man could swing if he wanted to do so. Sure, his duet with David Bowie on Little Drummer Boy might make some people cringe (neither person's performance was particularly good), but his version of White Christmas is a classic.

Want another classic? Check out Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings. Recorded in two sessions with no rehearsal, Bing walked into the studio and asked Bregman what he was looking for in the performance then turned out a hard swinging, orchestrated album. This was Bing moving into Sinatra's territory. By this point in his career, Sinatra had renounced his early crooning style and moved into his more famous Dorsey influenced sticatto style. Bing, on the other paw, retained his trademark laid back persona. On this album, Bregman's arrangements are bright and brassy. One might think that they'd overpower Bing's vocals (Bing worried about it as well), but for every spark that Bregman's arrangements throw at him, Bing holds his own and takes it in stride. The result is an album that highlights both Bregman's orchestrations and Crosby's ability to adapt his style to any situation. An amazing record.

Sinatra may be loved and respected (and rightfully so), but I'd venture that without Bing Crosby's trailblazing efforts Sinatra wouldn't have had a career. Before Sinatra came along, Bing Crosby had done jazz, had developed the crooning style, and had been on radio and in movies. As Les Paul notes in the quote above, Bing was the foundation. Sinatra took that foundation into new and exciting areas, but Bing was his teacher.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Connie Sings!

Oh my...below is the video of Connie Chung singing her goodbyes on the set of her MSNBC program that was canceled. I respect the fact that she did this in such a mocking way. Beware: clunky lyrics and out of tune singing are ahead and, um, pay no attention to the "choreography".

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Back in blogging

Well, readers have noted, this blog has been in disrepair for some time. What happened? At first I thought it was a Blogger problem and it sort of was - just not the one I suspected. When I went to look at the Blogger Help forum in Google Groups, I found out that Blogger was having some serious problems. I assumed that my difficulties were associated with those problems, but as it turned out that wasn't the complete story.

Eventually, I posted my story to the help forum after many of the other issues seemed to be cleared up. This morning, someone suggested that I save my template, then choose a generic one and see if, after I republished, all of my posts would reappear. They did. It was my template that had gone awry. Another poster to the forum noted that I was probably missing a close tag and that was causing further problems. In fact, I was missing not only the close tag, but many other bits for the right hand column of this blog. But, how? Seeing as I made only one minor change and it wasn't in any portion anywhere near the end of the blog?

This is where Blogger comes into play in this screw up. When I went to make the minor change (adding the Amnesty International banner in the left hand column), Blogger didn't load my complete template. The Blogger error was that it truncated the code which precipitated the problems. My errors were that I didn't preview the changes before saving the template and republishing AND that I didn't know that I should be aware of this Blogger problem and scroll to the end of my code to check for such an error (you can always back away without saving the changes, hence saving your code, or re-load the page).

The good news was that the people on the forum were helpful. The extra special good news is that I'm anal about backups. In fact, I had a backup of the template that I burned to DVD just days before any changes were made. It was easy to drop in the Amnesty International code (and make another back up) before copying over the template code and reviving this here bloggy thing. So, back in it's time for some breakfast.

Thanks for your patience and for the emails from those who were concerned. They warmed my heart.

You will be assimilated

The immigration debate is SO 1980s. In fact, I remember this debate taking place in the middle of that decade before Ronald Reagan signed the bill to update the immigration laws. Many of the same arguments made then are being made today. In fact, scrolling through the histories of past waves of immigration will reveal virtually the same arguments being made time and again. All of which is to say that either we're not learning from that history or that we're insane as far as immigration is concerned (I vote for the latter since I think that the borders should be opened for people to move across at will to any country with the possible exceptions of criminals). The Washington Post had a good editorial that addresses some of the more ignorant, fear-mongering, issues raised (time and again). Clip:

Only 7 percent of the children of Latino immigrants speak Spanish as a primary language, and virtually none of their children do. Just as they did a century ago, immigrants largely come knowing little English. But they learn, and their children use it as a primary language. The United States is not becoming a bilingual nation.

A key indicator is the rise of the English-language Latino publication market. National magazines such as Hispanic Business (circulation 265,000) and Latina (circulation 2 million) are published in English. So are regional publications in cities including New York, Houston and Los Angeles. The reason is simple: English is becoming the language of Hispanic American commerce and culture. Just as few Jewish-interest magazines are published in Yiddish, in a generation most Latino-interest publications will probably be in English.

The family has long been the core social unit in America, and immigrants share that value. Census data show that 62 percent of immigrants over age 15 are married, compared to 52 percent of natives. Only 6 percent of Latino adults are divorced, compared with 10 percent of whites and 12 percent of African Americans. Latino immigrants are more likely to live in multigenerational households rather than just visiting grandparents a couple of times a year.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Follow the bouncing ball of corruption

OK, remember how Rep. Jerry Lewis - R, CA, is under investigation? He has close ties with former representative Bill Lowery who, if you'll recall, lost his seat in the House to former representative, now prisoner, Randy 'Duke' Cunningham. One of Lowery's employees at his lobbying firm is a former staffer for Rep. Lewis. Her name is Letitia White and she is also under scrutiny by prosecutors.

Apparently, while employed with Mr. Lewis, Ms. White was an ardent supporter of defense contractor Trident Systems, Inc. Upon leaving Mr. Lewis' employment, Ms. White set up as a lobbyist. Her first signed client? Trident Systems, Inc. who left two other lobbyists and paid an initial $360,000 to Ms. White for her assistance. Who did they need to lobby? Why, Mr. Lewis, of course. For her work, Ms. White got Trident an earmark contract worth $2 million in 2005.

Ms. White probably helped Trident win more contracts. She left Mr. Lewis and went to work for Lowery's firm in January 2003. Oddly enough, in December of 2003 Ms. White and one Mr. Karangelen bought a townhouse together behind the Library of Congress for a flat one million dollars. Mr. Karangelen is one of the owners of Trident. He and his wife stay in one half of the house while Ms. White shares the other half with her husband. Neither Ms. White nor Mr. Karangelen list the house as their primary residence. No word yet on how the cost of the price of the house was split.

Not criminal, yet, but it sure smells fishy. I swear, you just can't make this shit up. Washington, D.C. corruption and nepotism is rampant and ugly and it affects the spending priorities of our country. When the novel on this topic is thoroughly vetted, we're going to need multiple flow charts to demonstrate the ties of corruption. Go to Harper's and TPMmuckraker for the full details.


Does anyone else think that the quagmire being created in Somalia is looking a lot like Afghanistan in the 80s? Is this just another effort on Bush's part of fixing what he feels as his father's errors? It could make Bill Clinton's problems in that country look like a victory if it goes the way of Afghanistan (either yesterday or today).

Reporting that the CIA set up a station in Iraq in 2002, Ken Silverstein in Harper's also has this line:
Several other former CIA officials I spoke with said that everything they have heard from colleagues at the agency points to an early decision to go to war.
And then, later, this:
“They say everyone else was wrong,” said this former official, “but we conditioned them to be wrong. We spend [tens of billions of dollars per year] on signals intelligence and when we reach a conclusion, the people who spend less than that tend to believe us. They weren't wrong, they chose to believe us. The British, Germans, and Italians don't have all those overhead assets, so they rely on us. Historically they have been well-served, so they believe us when we tell them the earth is round. The French have their own assets—and guess what? They didn't go with us.”
But the last 3 paragraphs are the most damning. Go read the article and shiver when you get to this predictable line:
The White House is trying to keep the ball in the air though November [to get through the mid-term elections] and if it falls apart afterwards they can say ‘we did our best.
The Washington Post had a great article explaining how the inability of getting access to Plan B caused one person to have an unwanted abortion. Thanks, pro-family nuts!

Tennessee, that bastion of the progressive movement (cough, cough!), requires people who want marriage certificates to have social security numbers. Originally it was designed to assist in future child care payments, but it now has the added benefit of preventing immigrants from having their marriages recognized in Tennessee. To be clear here, we're not just talking illegal immigrants, but rather all immigrants - legal or not. Keeping the gays out from being married? Check. Keeping the immigrants from marriage rights? Check. Whose next? More pro-family nuts! (hat tip to Tennessee Guerilla Women)

The Pentagon has decided to give up their ruse and dump the portions of the Geneva Convention that it doesn't like. Specifically, the parts about torture (take that, McCain!). Even though the treaty was signed and ratified by Congress and the Pentagon is not a representative body of legislators. In defense of this position, the Pentagon spokesperson stated that the department was just following the policies set down by the President when signing legislation. (OK, I made that last bit up, but readers will recall that when Bush signed the McCain anti-torture legislation, he also had a signing statement that basically said he could ignore the legislation at will. Hence the Pentagon is just codifying this position in the new Field Manual for soldiers).

Read excerpts of Stephen Colbert's commencement address at Knox College in Illinois.

Headline (wait for it...the pun will kick in in a moment) on the BBC site today: More severed heads found in Iraq. I had no idea that they were entertaining the troops.

Recent reports showed that was the second largest online music retailer in Europe behind iTunes. Now, the music industry is in a full on press to claim that the site is illegal and must be shut down.

Blogger down - sort of

If you're reading this post, then you're probably doing it through an RSS feed reader. Congrats! That's the only way anyone has been able to read my posts for several days now. It seems that Blogger (a/k/a Google) has been having problems for several days. Near as anyone can tell, it all began last week. Paul Thurrott posted a frustrated comment on June 1, 2006:
Blogger has been inaccessible for at least 48 hours, which is outrageous. It's finally back up, but WTF.
At the time, I wasn't affected. Three days later, on June 4, 2006, I made a post to my blog. Afterwards, I went to look at the blog and respond to comments only to find that none of my posts appeared. In addition, the right hand margin of my blog was missing my archives headings as well as some banners for programs. The first thing I did was to check via the Blogger dashboard to make certain that my older posts were still available - they were. Next I attempted to republish the entire blog. This had no effect. My browser cache is cleared each time I close the browser, so that wasn't the problem, but for kicks I tried the old clearing the cache and reload thang anyhow. Still, no fixy for Dicky.

For the first time I began to turn to Blogger help. I checked the status page which was less than helpful (a problem had been found and resolved before my problem appeared). I browsed around looking for answers. There were none. So, for another first - I contacted Blogger Help via email and got a very unhelpful automated reply suggesting that I do all of the things that I had currently done.

Not for the first time, but maybe the second time, I went to the Google Group dedicated to Blogger. This is the official Blogger help group. Lo and behold, many people were having problems. Photos weren't being uploaded for 5 days. Some folks were in the same sinking ship that I was in and so on. With all of the commotion and confusion on the site, someone who went by the name of "Blogger Employee" finally posted the following message:
Hi there,

As many of you have noted, some users are currently having trouble
uploading images. We're aware of this issue and are currently
investigating the matter.

Additionally, please note that some users have also reported trouble
with publishing in general. We're looking into this issue as well, and
will keep you updated on the situation.

We greatly apologize for the inconvenience and greatly appreciate your

Blogger Employee
Nice note and I appreciate that someone within the organization took the time to at least ACKNOWLEDGE their user's problems. But, unfortunately, there is very little information here. No indication even as vague as "server problems" is listed to salve the wounds of the users that are a little more tech savvy. Even so, at least it was a crumb from the Queen - we could survive another day on that crumb.

Which brings me to today. My blog still isn't working properly and the complaints continue to come into the Google Group. Apparently, according to the status page (as bereft of proper information as the post above from Blogger Employee), a photo posting problem had been tracked down and Blogger was to be fixed for that last night. For those of us with no ability to publish, no word has been sent from on high.

And therein lies the real problem with Blogger's relations: communication. The irony being that Blogger is a communications tool used by millions of people, but that they seem to be friggin' stingy on actually communicating with their users. How hard would it be to actually post some useful information on the status page? How painful would it be to compose a "we're sorry and we're still trying to track it down message"? Surely some employee in the vast Google empire could take the time to acknowledge the issue and offer up an even vague technological description as well as assurances that they are working round the clock to resolve it.

That is asking too much, apparently. Instead, the Blogger folks are treating their customers as pets or serfs and feeding them information only so much as to stifle the current rebellion. They can't even be bothered to just say "Working on it!" on a regular basis. That's a shame. In the long run it's going to cost them customers, too.

Having worked in the technology field for some time and being an observer both in and out of such companies, I understand how one might not want to divulge too many details. Such things can overwhelm some customers while in other cases it just brings out the smarmy smart asses who want to prove that they could have it fixed in 2 minutes. However, it must be understood that even given that fine line to walk, one must still communicate with the customers. Give them some hope, as it were. When you have people like Robert Scoble co-authoring books on the topic of blogs and the importance of communications internally and externally and using blogs as the basis of that communications, you'd think that the good folks at Blogger would understand this. They might even enthusiastically embrace it! They might try to be better at it than any other company around in order, if nothing else, to promote their own product. But such are the apparently Utopian visions of a poor blogger who, having been abandoned by his partner, is considering switching services or giving up altogether after being swallowed by the cynicism of the Blogger rulers.

OK, that last bit was too much. It was sarcasm. Still, folks, c'mon. Talk to us. If you do, I think you'll find the majority of your users to be patient and sympathetic.

As noted in the earlier portion of the post, RSS readers will still see this post after it's published. One of the quirks of the problems that Blogger is having is that the Index is still published and the RSS (or ATOM) feed is still supplied from the Index. Readers who go the old fashioned route by visiting this site will have to wait until Blogger resolves it's hardware issues. No word on when they might resolve their customer service issues. If it takes as proportionately long as the hardware problems, then the customer service issues might prove more damaging in the long run.

Sunday, June 04, 2006


As I was driving into work yesterday, I listened to This American Life on public radio (KUOW). It's one of the best programs currently on the radio, but I rarely take the time to hear it. Trapped in a car on the way to the store provided a good opportunity and it is one that I am very grateful for. Why? Because I got to hear this story. It is a tale that begins with a joke, then traces the history of the joke to a WWII shipwreck off the coast of St. Lawrence, Newfoundland. The story follows the truth beyond the shipwreck and the joke and tells of how that experience affected the life of a black soldier who was rescued that night. I did not have a dry eye after hearing this wonderful, heart warming tale.

Want some fun? Try looking over one person's compilation of the sexual peccadilloes of the family values crowd. It's exhaustive and exhausting.

A reporter's first hand account of living in Baghdad. He's an Iraqi. He's Sunni. He's not in the green zone and he's not with U.S. troops. Clip:
The reasons people are killed for are absurd to the point of being funny. On the top of my list is wearing shorts. Teenagers in my neighbourhood have been killed for that unforgettable crime and probably it is the reason why two sportsmen who play for the Iraqi Tennis team and their trainer have been murdered...

So people I give you the future of Baghdad. Districts will become tightly controlled fortresses that are ethnically/religiously homogeneous. Outsiders are only let in after being inspected and checked. I really want to go back to Kadhimiya but only after I get my fake Shia ID.
An excellent article - How To Lose The War On Terror. Clip:
Talking and listening, then, are more than a metaphorical construct, a repetition of the Sermon on the Mount, or a faith-based reconciliation program by another name; it is, rather, an attempt to palliate fears, put the individual back at the center of history, and negate the intellectual apartheid that robs words of their content. It is also an attempt to deny the efficacy of those in the West who would refuse Islam the richness of its diversity at the same time that it rejects Islam's rhetoric of the West's collective guilt.

"We know that in war innocent people will die, because this is the nature of war," Grand Ayatollah Fadlallah told us. "But this does not excuse responsibility or negate the requirement that we do everything that we can to save the innocent. This is an ideal that the United States and the West has and this is the ideal that we also have. It is a basis for the beginning of an understanding, because it is this belief that separates us from our enemies in the world and inside of our own societies."
Amnesty International has begun a human rights campaign for the Internet. Noting that human rights now extend to the Internet via the right to free expression, open information, and anonymity in the face of torture and persecution and more, the group is hoping to launch and international campaign to urge companies and governments to ensure these rights. It's going to be a long, uphill battle, but it's a worthwhile one. Sign the online petition. Join the fight.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Olbermann takes on O'Reilly again

Normally, when Keith Olbermann takes on Bill O'Reilly on his program Countdown, it's usually in the spirit of fun or ridicule or ratings. However, yesterday's broadcast was one during which Olbermann gets his righteous groove on and smacks down (rhetorically) O'Reilly and an egregious error he made on the air - twice since October.
the victims at Malmedy, were **Americans**, gunned down while surrendering -- by **Nazis** in 1944 -- and again, Tuesday Night and Wednesday Night -- by a false patriot who would rather be loud than right.
Crooks and Liars has the video.


This from WSBTV:
Worried about the safety of her family during a stormy Memorial Day trip to the beach, Clara Jean Brown stood in her kitchen and prayed for their safe return as a strong thunderstorm rumbled through Baldwin County, Alabama. But while she prayed, lightning suddenly exploded, blowing through the linoleum and leaving a blackened area on the concrete. Brown wound up on the floor, dazed and disoriented by the blast but otherwise uninjured. She said 'Amen' and the room was engulfed in a huge ball of fire. The 65-year-old Brown said she is blessed to be alive. Firefighters said its likely she was hit by a bolt of lightning that apparently struck outside and traveled into the house yesterday afternoon. She was found lying on the floor by her 14-year-old granddaughter. Fire officials think the lightning likely struck across the street from the couple's home and traveled into the house through a water line. The lightning continued into the couple's backyard and ripped open a small trench. A family member said he will no longer assume it is safe to be indoors during a lightning strike. Dime-sized hail and wind gusts of up to 45 miles-per-hour moved across coastal Baldwin County. As much as three inches of rain fell in some areas in three hours.
Dear Devout Woman,

Glad to hear you still feel "blessed to be alive". We're sorry that you didn't get the memo. The safe word was changed last week from "Amen" to "Jehovah". Once again, we're very sorry for the damage, but as you know, a little suffering goes a long way in this life. Chin up! (except, of course, when praying).

Pat Robertson's Angels


*Sigh* It seems that the Washington State Legislature will have to step in to prevent pharmacists from practicing medicine by over ruling a legal prescription written by a doctor for her patient. For a group that is supposedly against abortion, this tactic makes no sense. Of course, that's not what the group is really against. If they were (and if they understood the medicine that they allegedly want to practice), then they wouldn't be against Plan B and would strongly promote birth control pills and condoms. What they are really against is contraception in total and this sort of thing provides them with a loophole to avoid prescribing not only contraception, but any number of treatments where they disapprove of the derivation of said treatment. So, for instance, if a cure for prostate cancer were to appear tomorrow thanks to stem cell research, some pharmamentalist could refuse to fulfill the prescription. Wake up, people!

In other health news, Switzerland, which adopted a liberalized drug policy ten year's ago reports an 82 percent drop in heroin usage. Bill Burroughs argued this exact case for years - that prohibition actually increased drug usage and a trend towards harder drugs. Anti-drug use folks like to point out the spike that usually follows the initial liberalization, but the long term benefits have now been measured and point towards a drop in harder drugs. Note: I tend towards a libertarian position when it comes to drug laws.

Rolling Stone's article on how the 2004 election may have been stolen by Republicans is pretty damning and deserves a read. Clip:

The issue of what happened in 2004 is not an academic one. For the second election in a row, the president of the United States was selected not by the uncontested will of the people but under a cloud of dirty tricks. Given the scope of the GOP machinations, we simply cannot be certain that the right man now occupies the Oval Office -- which means, in effect, that we have been deprived of our faith in democracy itself.

American history is littered with vote fraud -- but rather than learning from our shameful past and cleaning up the system, we have allowed the problem to grow even worse. If the last two elections have taught us anything, it is this: The single greatest threat to our democracy is the insecurity of our voting system. If people lose faith that their votes are accurately and faithfully recorded, they will abandon the ballot box. Nothing less is at stake here than the entire idea of a government by the people.

Voting, as Thomas Paine said, ''is the right upon which all other rights depend.'' Unless we ensure that right, everything else we hold dear is in jeopardy.

Somalia becomes a new front in the so-called War on Terror. The resulting U.S. policy sounds a lot like past U.S. policies used in Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq. Hey, it worked so well the first time, let's try it again! Clip:
Now the US is backing the same warlords who humiliated them the last time. Among the beneficiaries of Washington's new policy is Hussein Mohammed Aidid, the son of Mohammed Farah Aidid, on whom the Americans had once placed a bounty of $1m (£535,000). Aidid died 10 years ago.
Scary: fish stocks in England are hit by a deadly, rare virus. Counts show that 50,000 rainbow trout are dead.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


I really don't get why some in the mainstream press are fawning over the Bush administration's announcement that they will enter into negotiations with Iran. The NY Times and the Washington Post are acting like this is a major step forward - exactly the line that the Administration is pushing. How lazy can you be, folks? Have you learned nothing over the last 5 years?

First of all, the Bush Administration offered up one obstacle: that Iran must halt it's nuclear efforts immediately. It's a precondition that the Iranians have already refused and it's been demanded by the Bush folks from day 1. It's a precondition that, unless the Iranians get some pushing from their allies, is designed to make certain that the talks will fail. As with Iraq before, the Bush cons will claim that they stood with the rest of the world and tried to talk some sense into the Axis power, but it was unreasonable to the world's modest demands.

Secondly, the Times and the Post both got burned by their coverage and lead up to the Iraq war. The Bush cons are following the same game plan that they used to lead the country into Iraq with regards to Iran. They'll say that they want negotiations and talks all the while preparing to ramp up to a barrage of air strikes. One would think that these papers would recognize this and present a more skeptical position, but then that would suppose that these papers were anything more than mouthpieces much of the time. As Stephen Colbert noted, they don't make the news, they take dictation.

OK, after bashing the Post a bit on the Iran story, I'm publishing a link to their story on Fatherland Security funding for states and cities. New Yorkers are outraged as are the people of Washington, D.C. There is some reason to question the priorities, though, frankly, I think much of the spending on these grants has been an enormous boondoggle that wreaks of pork barrel spending waste. It's hard to justify Louisville getting a huge grant increase while these two cities take even larger cuts. Then again, it's an election year and New Yorkers and D.C. residents are not likely to vote Republican, so why not cut them and try to boost your base? Is that cynical? Maybe, but it's also realistic. Here's some choice quotes:
In addition to Washington and New York, the grant decisions included a 46 percent drop for San Diego, where several of the Sept. 11 hijackers lived; a 61 percent decrease for Phoenix, where an FBI agent suspected that terrorists were taking flight training; and a 30 percent reduction for Boston, the point of origin of the two jetliners that crashed into the World Trade Center.

...Undersecretary for Preparedness George Foresman told reporters that although the program was formed with anti-terrorism objectives in mind, the money is meant to improve readiness for "an act of terrorism or an act of Mother Nature."

Yet one of the big losers was hurricane-ravaged New Orleans, whose grant award dropped from $9.3 million to $4.6 million.

Frankly, this department's funding needs to be reigned in, focused, and depoliticized. But that's not going to happen for a while. No one should get used to feeding at this trough.

In related news, Wired has a great article by a reporter who crashed the wiretapper's convention. Clip:
He sneered again. "Do you think for a minute that Bush would let legal issues stop him from doing surveillance? He's got to prevent a terrorist attack that everyone knows is coming. He'll do absolutely anything he thinks is going to work. And so would you. So why are you bothering these guys?"
In much lighter news, it's refreshing to think that Halle Berry is wearing her Storm costume when having sex.