Friday, December 28, 2007

Fisk on Bhutto

Really should read the whole thing, but here's a chunk:
...George Bush announced on Thursday he was "looking forward" to talking to his old friend Musharraf. Of course, they would talk about Benazir. They certainly would not talk about the fact that Musharraf continues to protect his old acquaintance – a certain Mr Khan – who supplied all Pakistan's nuclear secrets to Libya and Iran. No, let's not bring that bit of the "axis of evil" into this.

So, of course, we were asked to concentrate once more on all those " extremists" and "terrorists", not on the logic of questioning which many Pakistanis were feeling their way through in the aftermath of Benazir's assassination.

It doesn't, after all, take much to comprehend that the hated elections looming over Musharraf would probably be postponed indefinitely if his principal political opponent happened to be liquidated before polling day.

So let's run through this logic in the way that Inspector Ian Blair might have done in his policeman's notebook before he became the top cop in London.

Question: Who forced Benazir Bhutto to stay in London and tried to prevent her return to Pakistan? Answer: General Musharraf.

Question: Who ordered the arrest of thousands of Benazir's supporters this month? Answer: General Musharraf.

Question: Who placed Benazir under temporary house arrest this month? Answer: General Musharraf.

Question: Who declared martial law this month? Answer General Musharraf.

Question: who killed Benazir Bhutto?

Er. Yes. Well quite.

You see the problem? Yesterday, our television warriors informed us the PPP members shouting that Musharraf was a "murderer" were complaining he had not provided sufficient security for Benazir. Wrong. They were shouting this because they believe he killed her.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Saturday, December 08, 2007

You Say Sharon Jones, We Say Party!

The Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings show is tonight in Seattle at Neumo's. It's sold out! I'm excited to see them. We got our tickets back in September. It's going to be so good for the soul (take that any way you like).

No new Sharon Jones clips so here's a totally unrelated clip that features my current favorite Canadian band, You Say Party We Say Die! Enjoy:

Friday, December 07, 2007

Flooding


Flooding
Originally uploaded by B.D.'s world
Flooding outside the back door at work. That's our trash can floating in the water about 20 feet from the back door. Apparently the water was lapping at our loading dock on Monday, the 3rd.

Special commentary from Olbermann

A classic video from Keith Olbermann:



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Now playing: Holly Figueroa - Running
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Gitmo Manual

Bruce Schneier reports that a 2003 Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedures manual has been leaked onto the Internet. As Schneier notes it's got some interesting security holes in it.

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Now playing: Pink Martini - Ojala
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Retail

"What is Co-in-troe?" That's how he pronounced it. "He" being a customer in his mid 30s, about 6 feet tall, a little extra baggage, dusty brown hair cut in a way that says "I manage people who are better programmers than I am", glasses, burgundy shirt, and tan pants.

"Cointreau is an orange liqueur," I reply. I take him to the shelf location and point it out to him. A woman follows us. They have matching rings.

"How do you pronounce that again?" After pronouncing it for him, he echoes it back to me then turns and says it to his wife again as if he's contemplating some deep mystery of foreign languages.

The wife is wearing a black sweater. Her hair is also brown, though darker than her husband's. She has it shoulder length, pulled back behind the ears, and there is a wave in it. She's also in her 30s. She's wearing jeans. She looks excited. "That's the stuff we need then!" She smiles and shares a look with her husband that tells me that they are making a new recipe and trying it out for fun.

"Cointreau" he says again. "What is the difference between Cointreau and Grand Marnier? What do they make margaritas out of?" For the record, he pronounced Grand Marnier with the commonly accepted American butchering of the name.

"Grand Marnier is an orange liqueur made with brandy. It's flavor comes off as sweet, but warming. Cointreau uses no brandy, but when they make the liqueur they use both orange essence and orange rind in the process which adds a hint of bitter orange flavor. The effect is that it's less warming and sweet than Grand Marnier, but more of a natural orange flavor. It's still sweet, but not as cloying. Both can be used to make a margarita. Triple Sec is also an orange liqueur used to make margaritas. It uses no brandy and is more of a candy orange flavor. Sweet, not warming." By the recognition in their eyes I could tell that Triple Sec was the answer to what margaritas are made with.

"Let's get this one," says the wife pointing to the Cointreau. "It's what the recipe calls for. What do you recommend for vodka?"

"What kind of drink are you planning on using it for?"

"Cosmopolitans," she replies, pronouncing the entire name where most people would say "Cosmos" and trust me to know that they are referring to the drink and not the flower. The husband is now the one tagging along. The wife has taken the lead. I infer that this was all her idea and he's another player in her fun game.

"Well, since you're looking at a drink with fruity flavors I don't recommend spending a lot of money on the vodka. You want something that's good and won't give you a hangover, but spending a lot of money on it is wasted. If you were looking at making a martini, then I recommend something more pricey. However, for Cosmos I recommend Vikingfjord. It's one of the better vodkas that I sell and it doesn't cost a ton of money. It's distilled 6 times which means it doesn't have a lot of impurities. It's made from potatoes. Good quality stuff at a reasonable price."

The wife gets a look of glee in her eye. She's made up her mind. "Let's get this one."

"Sold!" agrees the husband.

The wife reaches for a fifth, then pauses and turns to her partner in the game. "Should we get the big one?" she asks, referring to the half gallon sized bottle. Both are on sale so the half gallon is a better bargain.

"Let's get the small one," replies the husband.

"I don't know," she says. "I'm thinking maybe I should just go for it and get the big one."

"The small one will do. If we want more we can always come back."

It's at this point that I suppress my smirk. When the wife first asked for the big bottle, the thought crossed my mind to say "Size queen!" but I suppressed it and shoved it far into the back of my mind. Now it occurred to me that I was hearing the whole conversation played aloud for me. Here was the woman looking for the "big one". Here was the man saying, in essence, "Size doesn't matter. It's adequate and will do the job. You don't need a big one. You've got me and I can always bring you more. Don't worry about it....really." He was hoping that she would settle for the little one. I was cracking up inside contemplating this. Then, he gives into her crazy whim.

"Oh, let's just get the big one. If we like it, then we won't have to come back for more and if we don't we can always find something else to do with it. Come ooon! Live a little and have some fun!"

He nods his acquiescence. They thank me and move to the counter completely unaware of the interpretation I had of their conversation. I came home that night and told my partner about the whole thing.

"That's hysterical." she said. "I never would have thought about it that way. You should write about it in your blog."

And so it goes.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Hollywood trip


Hollywood 010
Originally uploaded by B.D.'s world
Well, we're back from Hollyweird. A whole set of photos of the neighborhood, downtown, and our hotel can be found here.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

I'm leaving town for this?!?

We're off to Hollyweird for a few days. I love the rain and clouds in Seattle, but the change of scenery will be nice. The co-signer has a conference to attend on Monday and Tuesday. We'll be out together today exploring the area. Tuesday night we'll be attending a show with Jill Sobule and Julia Sweeney (sp?) which should be a joy. I'll try and post pictures of some sort when I return.

We'll be back Wednesday afternoon. Our friend next door is keeping an eye on the place and checking on our cats frequently (especially Chaiyo who suffered from the trauma of going to the vet yesterday).

Funny thing is, when we get to LAX today, the weather is supposed to be rainy and a high of 59 degrees. In other words, Seattle fall weather.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

New word

Well, new to me anyhow: "Vegequarium".

Scene: Cute man and woman, both in their early 30s, chatting at a coffee house. Both are highly educated professionals. They have some minor shared event like a class they had in college on the east coast and ran into each other on the west coast. Both are very outgoing and are also clearly attracted to each other. They are doing their best to engage conversation, listen to each other, be humorous, demonstrate their maturity, and their attractiveness. She is discussing having guests to her new home this Thanksgiving for the first time. He suggests a free range, organic turkey.

"I don't think I can do that," she says. "I'm vegequarium. I mean, I'm vegetarian, but I eat seafood. My parents are vegetarian, but I found that I love seafood and couldn't give it up. I've never eaten beef and tried pork only once."

There you have it boys and girls, "vegequarium". A mash up of "vegetarian" and "aquarium".

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Now playing: Radical Face - Glory
via FoxyTunes

Monday, November 05, 2007

Quickies

A new study from Canada suggests that file sharing networks have no effect on CD sales. This isn't the first study to suggest that.

Birgitte Andersen and Marion Frenz crunched government-sponsored research data, and concluded: "Among Canadians who engage in P2P file-sharing, our results suggest that for every 12 P2P downloaded songs, music purchases increase by 0.44 CDs. That is, downloading the equivalent of approximately one CD increases purchasing by about half of a CD."

Across the whole Canuck population the picture is ambivalent. They write: "Analysis of the entire Canadian population does not uncover either a positive or negative relationship between the number of files downloaded from P2P networks and CDs purchased. That is, we find no direct evidence to suggest that the net effect of P2P file sharing on CD purchasing is either positive or negative for Canada as a whole."

The San Jose Mercury News reports that, according to U.S. Census data, 70% of the people from California reporting a Mexican heritage are U.S. citizens. That should, but won't, put to rest the myth of the hordes of illegal aliens overwhelming the state.

The Google Phone software platform has been officially announced. Of course, Google wants to sell ads to people on these phones. Will the user pay for the data transfer for those ads? Will the ad buyer pay for that? What incentive does the user have to get an ad-filled phone?

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Now playing: blaine l. reininger - Throatsinging
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Wine buy

At Pete's Wines in Bellevue: Latitude 46 - Vindication. This blend of Merlot (70%), cabernet sauvignon (26%), and syrah (4%) is a delicious delight. Normally priced at $30 per bottle, you can snap some up for $13.99 at Pete's. I'm not sure that the wine is worth $30, but at $13.99 it's a steal. Grab it while you can.

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Now playing: Zero 7 - In The Waiting Line (Dorfmeister Vs MDLA Dub)
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings

The video for 100 Days, 100 Nights is out. In Seattle on December 8th at Neumo's. Catch them while they're still playing the smaller clubs. Absolutely fantastic.


Medical Marijuana

Drew Carey has gotten together with the libertarians at Reason to produce a series of videos on a variety of topics. His latest, video number 2, is on medical marijuana and it is an excellent way to spend 10 minutes.





In related news, DEA Administrator Karen Tandy is stepping down.
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Now playing: Lord Creator - Claudette
via FoxyTunes

(In)Security

Two essays on security are interesting. First, from Guardian Unlimited, comes this essay on the pervasive closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras in London and the effect that they have on the culture. From the editorial:

The Stockbridge shopkeeper would say that shouldn't matter. But it does matter because, even beyond the compelling civil liberties arguments, the explosion of CCTV fundamentally alters a population's relationship with its public spaces. Those who are most aware of being watched respond in ways that only render them more vulnerable to sanction: teenagers hoist up their hoodies, demonstrators cover their faces on marches. Much more insidious is the way that our misplaced confidence in an omnipresent witnessing eye apparently makes us feel absolved of any responsibility to intervene ourselves.

Britain has become a witness culture, inured to watching and being watched. Be it Big Brother or posting friends' antics on YouTube, our leisure time has become increasingly infected with the imperative to expose ourselves and others. No activity, no individual, is deemed valid without an audience.

So maybe acquiescence to a constant mechanical witness should not come as such a surprise. But it bears repeating that that winking eye in the corner is singularly failing to keep us safe. And it has corrupted our sense of public and private to the extent that, every evening, we can go home to help ourselves to a piece of a stranger's life while, on the street, we feel no compunction to help at all.

Next, from Bruce Schneier comes this excellent essay on what he terms is The War on the Unexpected. Basically, playing on the fears of people to report anything different and the effect that has on our culture, our security, and our political system.

For some reason, governments are encouraging this kind of behavior. It's not just the publicity campaigns asking people to come forward and snitch on their neighbors; they're asking certain professions to pay particular attention: truckers to watch the highways, students to watch campuses, and scuba instructors to watch their students. The U.S. wanted meter readers and telephone repairmen to snoop around houses. There's even a new law protecting people who turn in their travel mates based on some undefined "objectively reasonable suspicion," whatever that is.

If you ask amateurs to act as front-line security personnel, you shouldn't be surprised when you get amateur security.

We need to do two things. The first is to stop urging people to report their fears. People have always come forward to tell the police when they see something genuinely suspicious, and should continue to do so. But encouraging people to raise an alarm every time they're spooked only squanders our security resources and makes no one safer.

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Now playing: Fadhili Williams Mdawida - Wee Jane
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Slow Cooker soup

My slow cooker is a neglected kitchen appliance. Like my pressure cooker, I love to use it, but don't think of it often enough. Part of the problem is my habit of not considering a meal in advance, or when I do that not breaking free of my cooking habits. After all up until a few years ago I never owned a pressure cooker so why would I consider using it for my meals (except for risotto which is infinitely easier to make in a pressure cooker)? I've owned the slow cooker for much longer, but it requires that advance planning that I am unaccustomed to doing.

Saturday offered me the perfect time to consider the slow cooker. I was hanging out at home after work and had to consider dinner alone. In fact, I was vacillating between a quick and easy meal and a more involved one. I settled on the fast meal, but while deciding what to do I opened my copy of Slow Cooker Cooking by Lora Brody. For a couple of weeks I've been toying with using some of my dried beans and making soup. Lora's book offered a recipe for white beans in a soup that was flavored with rosemary, thyme, fennel, and garlic. It was perfect for making a batch of food to be eaten throughout the week.

On Saturday night I made olive oil infused with rosemary in the slow cooker. Just add olive oil and chopped rosemary, turn on low and walk away for a long time. While it cooked I made my rice and stir fry dinner. Once done, strain the oil and store in a sterilized jar in the refrigerator. Then I set the beans in some water to soak over night.

The next morning, I put the beans in the slow cooker along with a chopped onion, 1 28 ounce can of tomatoes and their juices chopped, 3.5 cups of broth, garlic, rosemary, parsley, thyme, carrot, salt and pepper. Turning the cooker on high, we made breakfast and then did yard work. About 5 or 6 hours later the beans were soft, but not mushy. I added some cooking greens (recipe calls for spinach) and turned off the cooker after a little bit.

At this point the cook boils some pasta and adds it to the soup to finish it. We had a birthday party to attend, so we put that off until we got home last night. It made for a quick evening meal. I boiled the pasta, reheated the soup, then added both to bowls. We topped the soup with a little drizzle of rosemary flavored olive oil and a scraping of fresh Parmesan cheese. Served with a side salad, it made for a tasty meal. We both went for seconds.

When storing this dish, I decided to keep the pasta separate from the soup. Pasta when it is part of a soup like this can sometimes get too soft and tends to continue to absorb some of the moisture. Your soup can soon look like stew. We'll combine the two as needed for meals or combine them right before storing extras in the freezer.

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Now playing: Basil Rathbone - The Masque Of The Red Death
via FoxyTunes

Quickies

They were put off for a while, but things appear to be reaching a boiling point in Turkey with regards to the PKK and their Iraqi cohorts. I've been expecting this for quite some time. I wonder if the US will try to turn this into a win for themselves by getting the PKK to focus on Iranian territory more and ignore Turkey for the time being?

Iraq's government has decided to remove immunity for foreign security forces. It's about time and it comes on the news that the Blackwater folks received immunity from prosecution from our State Department officials.

More on Iraq: Their largest dam is in danger of collapsing, according to U.S. officials. The Iraqi's insist that the danger is not imminent and that they are addressing it. A 65 foot wave could swamp Mosul.

The UK pound hit a 26 year high against the dollar. It still has a ways to go before it sees the highs of 1980 and 1981, but we're close enough that we can begin discussing them again. For those old enough to remember, those years weren't exactly bell weather, celebratory years for the U.S. economy. Reagan and Thatcher may be praised by some these days, but many of us remember those as grave years. Nice job, Bush and Co!

Texas - you know, conservative Bush country - has just produced a report (668 pages long, mind you) that declares that the state produces too many reports. The producers of this latest report want to assure folks that their work is vital:
For the report to be effective, it must be ongoing
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Now playing: Tom Middleton - Shinkansen
via FoxyTunes

Pet peeve

OK - just ran across another pet peeve, the phrase "HIV virus". It's redundant. What the hell do people think the "V" in "HIV" stands for?!!? I AM so glad that they bothered to tell me that it's a Virus virus, lest I be confused that it's a Virus bacteria or a Virus parasite. This one is so widely used that I'm afraid we're stuck with it for a while. I heard a radio host correct a researcher about a month ago in order to clarify the topic. The researcher said something to the effect of "When studying HIV in patients..."

The host, interrupting: "You mean the HIV virus, which causes AIDS?"

The guest, a bit dazed, "Um, yes, HIV, which causes AIDS."

The host continued to use the redundant phrase and eventually the researcher did as well. Ugh...

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Now playing: The Gloaming - goldbricking
via FoxyTunes Publish Post

Monday, October 22, 2007

You are corn

This new video from Boing Boing TV is a report on a documentary about corn and how pervasive it is in the American diet. I found it pretty fascinating. Similar material was reported in The Omnivore's Dilemma.




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Now playing: Aretha Franklin - Chain Of Fools (Unedited Version)
via FoxyTunes

Friday, October 19, 2007

It's been some time since I published a Friday Random Ten. In fact, one might say that I've been rather random about posting them. Oh, well, that's what happens when hard drives crash and carry your music away. Anyhow, here's an updated one:

Mark Ronson - Stop Me
Quantic - When You're Through
Nina Simone - Consummation
The Gossip - Eyes Open
Sandee - Notice Me
Carla Bruni - Before the World Was Made
Tone, Inc - Con Mi Sombra
Tuxedomoon - The Waltz (live)
Wire - Outdoor Miner
Paul Weller and Andy Lewis - Are You Trying To Be Lonely

Note: I'm trying out publishing this list from GoogleDocs. Here's hoping it works!


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Two customers

A young couple came into the store. They approached the counter separately. They were definitely "together" but they were probably on an early date and still going Dutch. The guy gets to the counter first and I ask to see his ID. I'm sure that he's over 21, but he's under 30 so I check it. He looks surprised that I asked (he's only 25). I tell him, "I like to look at pictures."

Thinking he didn't hear me correctly he asked what I said and I repeated the pictures comment. He starts laughing nervously. I smile, thank him for the ID. Next I tell him a story about making that same comment to a couple of guys in the store and one of them replied, "Well, so do we, but not that kind." This puts him more at ease and he laughs harder.

The girl comes to the counter. I don't ask her for her ID as she's getting it out of her wallet before I ask. The guy says, "He needs to see your ID!"

She looks annoyed with this statement. "I know. I'm getting it out."

"He likes to look at pictures. He's gonna love that one because it's hot!" He says this with a tad too little cheese and a tad too much excitement in his voice.

She doesn't reply. Instead she turns towards me and rolls her eyes slightly. He cannot see that response. She definitely is annoyed with him.

Time for me to loosen up the mood a little. "Oh, I only like to look at pictures of the boys. For the girls I actually read the license." She was 26, by the way.

She thought that was a very funny comment and laughed. He laughed too, albeit nervously. He made a hasty exit. "I'll wait by the car for you." This made her laugh harder.

"Thanks for the laugh. You may have made my night," she said to me on her way out the door.

"No problem. Take care and make the best of it."
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Now playing: Heaven 17 - Honeymoon In New York (B.E.F.)
via FoxyTunes

Game Launcher in Windows Vista won't launch

A little over a week ago I purchased a game via MSN games for the PC for my partner. She played for several hours when we first got it. She played the next day as well. I played it a little and then ignored. She went back to it last night and it didn't work.

This morning, while tracking down a separate problem with a different program, I noticed an entry in the Windows Vista error log for the game. I promptly ignored it and hoped that she had gotten to play. Alas she reported to me this morning that it wouldn't work under her login nor mine.

I attempted to launch the game and got an error message indicating that the Game Launcher would not launch and was closing. Hm...I Googled the problem and noted that a lot of other people were reporting the same problem, but did not have a solution. I sent an email off to MSN and to the game's manufacturer asking for a solution or a clue to find it.

I tried an uninstall and noticed that it had a repair function. Cool, I thought, I'll do that. All that did was give me a window to find the install package. I pointed to the directory with the install package and I got another error saying that it couldn't find the package. It asked for another directory. For kicks, I tried the programs directory. That didn't work either. Finally I decided to just uninstall and reinstall. Both completed successfully, but I still got the error message regarding the Game Launcher.

Then I recalled that in order to correct the other program's problem I had changed a setting in Windows Vista that may have caused this problem. So, I've got Windows Vista Ultimate and this worked for me. It may work for you. Go to Start>Computer and right click to Properties. Click Advanced System Settings and when the dialog box pops up asking for permissions to run the program click "Continue". Click the "Advanced" tab. Under the Performance heading click settings. Go to the tab labeled Data Execution Prevention. Make certain that the radial button for the following heading is on: "Turn on DEP for essential Windows programs and services only". If it is not, then click that on and click Apply. This will require a system reboot to apply the changes. After that, my program worked fine except for one thing: it won't fire from inside the Games menu. I created a shortcut and left it on the desktop as clicking the executable file works fine. Probably another uninstall reinstall will fix that. In any case, the program works fine now.

Also of note: Simply clicking "Run this program as administrator" did not resolve the issue. Only following the steps above did the trick. Now, how did I get DEP turned on for all programs? I did it myself while trying to track down the problem with Ad-Aware 2007 (still haven't found that problem yet, but I'm pretty sure it's within the program). The result of turning DEP on for all programs was that my error log was reporting that several different programs were failing to run as expected. So, tracked that down...now back to Ad-Aware which is hanging whenever it gets to the GUID scan of the registry. Hm, perhaps running it in XP compatible mode would do the trick? Reminder: if it doesn't reset the control back to the way it was before moving on to the next "solution".

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Now playing: Rufus R. Jones - Boogie Man
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Bush sought eavesdropping before 9/11

That's the claim from this article in the Washington Post. The standard refrain from the Liar and Thief is that "everything changed after 9-11". Hence, their insistence that after the terrorist attacks they had to eavesdrop on phone conversations in order to protect the public. Telecos have gone along with this reasoning not only complying with the presidential request, but also seeking immunity from lawsuits after the program was revealed. Note: the program violated the Telecommunications Act, or that's what the lawsuits claim.

In the article, the former CEO of Qwest, who was convicted of insider trading, claims that members of the current administration approached him shortly after taking office about such eavesdropping. He claims that he refused and that the government retaliated for his refusal by denying his company millions of dollars in contracts.

None of this comes as a surprise to those of us paying attention to the direction of this government. Even if the charges are not true, we are prone to believe that they are valid based on prior actions, lies, and hubris of officials of the government. It's at times like these when I really wish we had something more of a parliamentarian system. I suggest to you that the government no longer represents a majority of the people in this country and that it has not done so in a long time. Under a parliamentarian system we might be able to bring down such a government as it has become illegitimate. Under the current system we'll just have to muddle through it, as painful as that will be. A couple of relevant quotes from the article:
A former Qwest Communications International executive, appealing a conviction for insider trading, has alleged that the government withdrew opportunities for contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars after Qwest refused to participate in an unidentified National Security Agency program that the company thought might be illegal.

In the court filings disclosed this week, Nacchio suggests that Qwest's refusal to take part in that program led the government to cancel a separate, lucrative contract with the NSA in retribution. He is using the allegation to try to show why his stock sale should not have been considered improper.

Nacchio was convicted for selling shares of Qwest stock in early 2001, just before financial problems caused the company's share price to tumble. He has claimed in court papers that he had been optimistic that Qwest would overcome weak sales because of the expected top-secret contract with the government. Nacchio said he was forbidden to mention the specifics during the trial because of secrecy restrictions, but the judge ruled that the issue was irrelevant to the charges against him.

Nacchio's account, which places the NSA proposal at a meeting on Feb. 27, 2001, suggests that the Bush administration was seeking to enlist telecommunications firms in programs without court oversight before the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon. The Sept. 11 attacks have been cited by the government as the main impetus for its warrantless surveillance efforts.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Quickies

TPM has a post up about the shameful treatment of troops returning from Iraq:

The 2,600 members of the Minnesota National Guard recently ended a 22-month tour of duty in Iraq, the longest deployment of any ground-combat unit in the Armed Forces. Many of its members returned home, looking forward to using education benefits under the GI bill.

For example, John Hobot, a platoon leader, said, "I would assume, and I would hope, that when I get back from a deployment of 22 months, my senior leadership in Washington, the leadership that extended us in the first place, would take care of us once we got home."

It's not working that way. The Guard troops have been told that in order to be eligible for the education benefits they expect, they had to serve 730 days in Iraq. They served 729.


Scroll down this Congressional Quarterly report to read how one Republican Senator attempted to get Homeland Security to give him dirt on political foes. This was before it was called Homeland Security. To their credit, the FBI provided minimal assistance. From the article (referring to former CIA chief George Tenet and Republican Senator Richard Shelby):

Tenet got back at Shelby in a little-noticed passage in his memoir.

He recounted how, in December 1996, shortly after President Bill Clinton nominated his national security advisor Anthony Lake to be CIA director, Shelby approached him after a committee briefing. (Tenet was then deputy director.)

“George, he drawled,” according to Tenet, “if you have any dirt on Tony Lake, I sure would like to have it.”

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Now playing: Gotan Project - LunĂ¡tico
via FoxyTunes

Friday, October 05, 2007

You don't look Chinese

She was about 5 feet tall. Her hair was black and cut very neat and short. She was an older, Asian woman. She walked right to the sherry and port section of the store.

A man walked in and stepped just a foot inside. He was older, Asian man. His hair was gray under a nice tan hat. His entire outfit was tan from jacket to shirt to pants to shoes. "I'll wait for you in the car!"

The woman did not turn. In fact, she appeared not to hear him at all. She just stared at one portion of the sherry section. The man crumpled his lips tightly. "I said, I'll wait for you in the car!" He began to turn and leave.

"No, come here. I'll only be a minute."

"I'll just be in the car."

"Come here," she repeated. "I'll just be a moment. You can carry it to the car for me."

The man shakes his head. He's clearly annoyed. Also clear is that this is how they relate all of the time. It's their pattern. Still, like most people, he's a creature of habit and will play his role as expected. He walks inside and approaches his wife.

"I usually get this one, but I wonder if I should..?"

"Oh, for god's sake, just pick one and let's go."

"But this one is more expensive. I wonder if it's any better?"

The man approaches the shelving closer. He squints through his glasses as he attempts to read the prices. There's only a difference of 64 cents in the price. He reaches for the more expensive one. "Come on. Let's go."

"Wait. It's more expensive, but that doesn't mean it's better."

"It's not much more expensive." He turns to me and asks, "Is it better?"

I nod. She was comparing a no name Italian sherry to Taylor and Taylor, while not very good, was probably better.

"OK, he says it's better. Now, come on." He walks up to the counter. She stands her ground. He looks as if her lack of movement is causing him pain. "Come oooon" he says, voice growing tired, annoyed, louder.

I follow him to the counter. We stand together. He smiles at me, asks how I'm doing. We exchange pleasantries. He turns to his wife.

"Oh, geez, woman. This is fine. Let's go."

"I'm just trying to decide." She hasn't budged from her spot other than to pick up a bottle of the stuff she normally gets. She's reading the bottle looking for some sign, something that will confirm that it's better or worse than the Taylor. There is no such sign. Nothing will help her make that decision. What if she doesn't like the Taylor and finds that they just wasted $4.52? Could she give it to someone? That would be rude, giving someone bad sherry you don't like.

"Will you come along?!!?" the man pleads again.

She finally turns and begins to walk to the counter. "Thank god. Is this OK?"

She makes no motion to indicate that the Taylor is indeed "OK". In fact, there is no response in either her actions or her face. She looks completely unconcerned about his pleas. She's still thinking over her choice. When she reaches the counter she tells her husband, "I was just trying to decide which would be better to cook Chinese food with."

I intervene. This is something I know about. I prepare Chinese foods on occasion. Recipes call for a dry sherry and the Taylor is a dry sherry. The other sherry is not dry. "The one that he's got would be better," I say.

The man perks up. "This one will be better?" I nod. "There! He says this one will be better. Let's get out of here. Fine. How much with tax?"

The woman looks at me with still no sign of emotion. She's calculating a response. She turns to her husband. "For Chinese food? He says this one will be better for Chinese food? What does he know about Chinese food? He doesn't look Chinese."

This from a woman who has no accent of Asian origin in her speech at all. This from a woman, I smile inside as I think about this, who, instead of going to one of the numerous markets in the area and buying a Chinese wine to cook with is looking at an Italian product for her Chinese cooking. Yet, she's worried that I'm not Chinese enough to cook Chinese food.

"Can we just take this and get out of here?"

She nods, more out of resignation than approval. The woman then turns to me and asks if we have any boxes that she may take. I direct her to the pile and she walks away.

"Oooh, we don't need any..." and the man trails off. He realizes that this is a lost cause. He pays for the sherry and shrugs his shoulders. We chat while his wife looks over the empty boxes. While he waits he decides to buy a miniature bottle of Gallo merlot to try it out. His wife eventually settles on 2 boxes and says, "Now we can go."

Before leaving, he smiles and thanks me. She smiles as well and whispers "Thank you" and they leave.

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Now playing: Muslimgauze - Exit Afghanistan
via FoxyTunes

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Now playing: Andy & Paul Weller Lewis - Are you trying to be lonely?
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Am I?

Am I the only person who thinks of mashing the Broadway/Vegas musical "Stomp" with the Larry Craig scandal? I imagine three or four men prancing into stalls. Once dropping trousers they seat for a brief moment in pause. Then, the feet start a tappin', building into a rhythm accompanied by a musical crescendo into a full fledged, lower third, dance number. At some point the doors to the stalls open and the men inside "come out" singing, dancing, and prancing like the fops that senators are (despite their pretensions).

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Ungrateful

I'm standing in line at Starbucks and a woman gets in line behind me. She's wearing a low cut black top that barely covers her ample cleavage, black pants and shoes to match. Her hair, dark brown with eyes to match, is in what I would call a corporate style. She looks harried. She interrupts the man working behind the counter heating up a bagel for another customer who waits patiently at the front of the line.

"Excuse me," she begins, her voice sounding anxious, "I'm here about a lost wallet." At this point the woman holds up a card and some sort of letter. I recognize the logo on the business card - she's a Microsoftie.

The man looks over her material.

"Someone called me about my wallet. I lost it," she says.

The man smiles and says, "I'll check on it." He approaches the employee at the cash register, who partly overheard the conversation and begins to answer before he finishes his inquiry.

"It's in the safe. We'll have to set the timer."

The man returns to the woman and informs her of this and that "We have a timer on the safe. It'll take about ten minutes to open."

The woman's eyes get big and she's angry. "I don't have TIME for this. No one told me about this when I called."

Rather than telling the woman that her bitching wasn't going to open the safe any faster, rather than explaining to her that it was her fault that she left her wallet at the store, rather than explaining to her that proper manners should inform her that she should be grateful to get the wallet AND any of it's contents back, rather than reminding her that graciousness is a virtue and kindness is a gift we should give to everyone, the man chucked all of that aside, relied on his good nature, good training, his own manners and lack of completely knowing her situation and smiled and said, "I'll check with the manager" at the exact same time the employee at the cash register made the same suggestion to him.

The manager was running the espresso machine. He told his employee that the wallet was on a shelf in the office. The woman showed her business card and letter again, dancing with her feet as if she had to use the toilet. She bolted out the door and did not say "Thank you."

I'd have been happier if the wallet were in the safe.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ridiculous

If anything, this article proves that stupidity regarding no tolerance laws and immaturity in attitudes regarding sexuality isn't the exclusive provenance of the United States. No, Canada is also idiotic about these things, too. From the article:
A good example is a current case in northern Alberta where an 18-year-old
man is charged with possession of child pornography and distribution of child
pornography.

The allegations are that a 17-year-old girl took a series of nude
photographs of herself and e-mailed them to the man’s cell phone and he later
showed them to other people.

Sources say the girl’s father got wind of what had happened and stormed
off to the local police detachment. The resulting investigation led to an arrest
and charges.

Legal experts say there is nothing criminal about two people in a
consensual relationship sharing X-rated photos, even if one of them is under 18,
as long as the older person is relatively close in age and not in a position of
trust.

But, as soon as you start sharing the pictures with others, you
have technically become a child porn distributor.

And, under the law, a person convicted of distributing or transmitting
child porn faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a minimum of one
year in jail.

Even a conviction of possession of child pornography carries a minimum
penalty of 45 days behind bars.

So, why are prosecutors pursuing this? Why is the father such an idiot that he reports this to the local police? Why did police charge the man? Why did the young man do something so foolish as share the pictures (and if he did it without her consent, then he is a cad)?

This is war?

From The Independent this morning:

US soldiers are luring Iraqis to their deaths by scattering military
equipment on the ground as "bait", and then shooting those who pick them up, it
has been alleged at a court martial. The highly controversial tactic, which has
hitherto been kept secret, is believed to have been responsible for the deaths
of a number of Iraqis who were subsequently classified as enemy combatants and
used in statistics to show the "success" of the "surge" in US forces.

The revelation came in court documents, obtained by The Washington Post
, related to murder charges against three US soldiers who are alleged to have
planted incriminating evidence on civilians they had killed. In a sworn
statement, Captain Matthew Didier, the officer in charge of a sniper platoon,
said: "Basically we would put an item out there and watch it. If someone found
the item, picked it up and attempted to leave with the item, we would engage the
individual as I saw this as a sign they would use the item against the US
forces."

This is infuriating. How do they know that the people picking up the weapons are insurgents? What if they were picking them up to turn in to the Americans? Is this a reasonable tactic? What if they left similar weapons in the U.S.? How many people would pick them up? How many would turn them in? Who are the idiots who think this is legit and how do those people think that this tactic is going to win over the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people?

Hobbled, but not gone

I was taking a small hiatus from blogging. My parents came out for a visit, so we needed some time to get the place in shape. The following weekend we ended up playing tour guides and chefs for the parents (it was a nice visit). The week after that I began a new position at work. Busy, busy, busy...

The desktop computer showed no respect for this hectic schedule. A week and a half ago it decided to die on us. The hard drive failed after I did a reboot. Kaput! I have a fairly recent back up of all of the drive, which is the good news. The bad news is that it's still 2 - 3 months old. I foolishly hoped that the S.M.A.R.T. system built into the hard drive would provide me with some notice that this was coming. After all, that system worked wonderfully well on my secondary HD that failed months before. Doh!

I've gotten a recovery utility and we'll see if I can't get some files off of the thing before I give up on it and turn it into....drum roll, please...a back-up server. The motherboard and other components are still useful, if old. I figure that I'll load XP on a new drive (if necessary - I haven't ruled out a bad cable yet) and use it as a back up source. In the meantime I'm on one of our notebook PCs, which discourages blogging by the sheer pain of typing on such a small unit (though I am getting used to it).

What else is happening? Not much. The parent's visit was nice, short. We went shopping on their first full day in town. They got us Xmas and birthday presents early. We took a ferry ride the next day and then went to The Oceanaire Room for dinner that night (by request, the parents ate there last visit and liked it so much that they wanted to go back). On their last day in town we kept it low key. It was a gorgeous, sunny day. We sat under the gazebo and chatted. The co-signer made Crab Louis salads while I improvised a fish dinner with red snapper and a sauce made with tomatoes, olives, capers, garlic, basil, and a dash of cinnamon (actually went a little too heavy on the cinnamon). My father seemed to really enjoy it.

My new position at work? Assistant manager at a store in Bellevue. It's a little more money, some extra responsibilities, a step up, and a single location to work from. The store is going to have a Costco moving in next to it, so the board is expecting traffic to increase significantly. That's good news.

The co-signer has bought a new car: 2008 Honda CRV. She's in Snoregon picking it up, but will be back tonight to show it off. She's excited as it's the first new car she has ever owned. I'm happy and excited for her.

The new Devil Doll album is out. It's been getting heavy play in our home and on the road. It relies a little more heavily on the rockabilly sound which is just fine by me.

We went to Town Hall in Seattle on Saturday night and caught the Ambient Showcase of the Decibel Festival. I really wish we could have gotten to more of the festival this year, but it wasn't in the cards. Still, the ambient showcase was great. The opening act was Seattle artist Rafael Irisarri. His set was a little too busy for me and more than a tad cliched. He's a developing artist, but we'll have to see if he breaks into his own sound at some point. Biosphere was on next and he was a definite step up. His set was filled with layers of sound provoking many different thoughts. He relied on more noise and industrial elements in his music. Up last was Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins) and Harold Budd. Frankly, the old guys kicked ass when it came to music. Guthrie had some technical difficulties with his PC. While those were being ironed out he improvised some work on his guitar demonstrating the style that fans of the Cocteau Twins were so fond of (and bringing a new appreciation of the work to me). After the glitches were fixed (reboot!) he got on with his solo material which was quite beautiful. Harold Budd came out and did a solo set next beginning during a chord that Guthrie kept looped in. Budd's music was typical of his later work: leaning more on his classical training while still keeping a tight focus on tone. Then Guthrie and Budd played together for a while which really showed a close working relationship and a good friendship. Very nice indeed. As a fan of Budd's music for some 25 years, it was a great pleasure for me to see him perform. I was one of the first out of my seat for the 2 standing ovations. Peaceful, lyrical, gorgeous.

Next show that we've got tickets for is Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. Old time soul sound. Completely different and a ways off yet (December).

Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday Random Ten

01) Keith Mansfield - Je Reviens
02) Diane DiPrima - Ave
03) Michael Franti and Spearhead - I Know I'm Not Alone
04) Cabaret Voltaire - Warm
05) Laura Veirs - Cool Water (live)
06) Aretha Franklin - Chain of Fools (unedited version)
07) Alka Yagnik & Hema Sardesi - San Sanana
08) Sun City Girls - It's Ours
09) Mott the Hoople - Bastard
10) Carbon/Silicon - Psychofish

Notes: Track 2 is poetry from Giorno Poetry Systems, Track 3 is just a damn fine spiritually uplifting tune, Track 4 is an oldie electronic tune from a very influential band, Track 5 is taken from the NPR broadcast, Track 6 is available on the CD re-release and it is better, Track 10 is Mick Jones (The Clash) and Tony James' (Generation X) new band whose album will be out later this year.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Senator Craig - Idaho

Anyone else think that Republican gaydar equipment was probably built by Haliburton and distributed by one of it's subsidiaries via a defense contract? Foley, Craig, Allen? They're just testing the latest beta...

Monday, August 27, 2007

Gonzales resigns

While I've waited for this moment for months, I'm not exactly celebrating.

I'm troubled by the thought that the former head of Fatherland Security would now be in charge of the agency that oversees the merits of Fatherland Security's intrusions into the lives of Americans.

On the other hand, we're talking about the same incompetent person who "oversaw" Katrina efforts and instigated bans on liquids at airports.

His one qualification: he's more skilled at political theater than the great Gonzo.

(sorry to sully a Muppets name...that really is uncalled for)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Oops, they did it again

But are we surprised? Snippet:

So, I will end the suspense about the boss’s identity. The administrator is Nicole R. Nason, who took over on May 31, 2006, after she was appointed to the post by President Bush.

And it is she who put the big hush on one of the government’s most important safety agencies. I found this out recently when I asked to talk to an N.H.T.S.A. researcher about some technical safety issues in which he had a great deal of expertise. Agency officials told me I could talk to the expert on a background basis, but if I wanted to use any information or quotes from him, that would have to be worked out later with a N.H.T.S.A. official. The arrangement struck me as manipulative, and I declined to agree to it.

It seems that Ms. Nason has adopted a policy that has blocked virtually all of her staff — including the communications office — from providing any information to reporters on the record, which means that it can be attributed.

As an alternative I was told I could interview Ms. Nason on the record (instead of the expert on the subject of my article). I declined, failing to see how her appointment as administrator — she was trained as a lawyer — made her a expert in that subject.

When I said I would like to talk to Ms. Nason on the record about her no-attribution policy, she was not available.

The agency’s new policy effectively means that some of the world’s top safety researchers are no longer allowed to talk to reporters or to be freely quoted about automotive safety issues that affect pretty much everybody.

The administration continues it's obsession with censorship. For the record, Mr. President, we own the government. We own the agencies which you censor. We pay for them. We pay their research costs and we pay the salaries of the people who do the research. We deserve unfettered access to them and that "we" includes the free press, one of the democratic watch dogs in a functional republic. You seem to prefer a dysfunctional and undemocratic republic to which I say sir, "We own your ass, too."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Love this!



Originally uploaded by emilie margaret
I saw this via Feministing. Very cool.

Crab and corn chowder

Last night the co-signer had to make pickles. She had begun the task the day before with a lot of cucumbers (about 8 pounds). The cukes were sliced and were sitting in cold areas to crisp for a little while. We ran out of time on Sunday to deal with them, so we waited until yesterday to can and pickle them.

While the co-signer dealt with the pickles, I was asked to come up with a chowder recipe for some crab we had in the refrigerator. We bought a 1 pound can of crab meat at Trader Joe's in Issaquah about a week before and had used some of it in salads last week. We still had about three fourths of the pound left. Cooking it a little in soup seemed prudent since it was a little old.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 rib of celery, chopped
2 pounds of potatoes, skinned (if larger; not if baby) and sliced into 1 inch pieces
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 quart stock
2 cups corn (we used a can from Trader Joe's)
3 cups milk
three fourths a pound of crab meat
Worcester sauce
Brother Bru Bru's hot sauce
salt
pepper
cayenne pepper
sweet paprika

Melt the butter with the olive oil over medium heat. When hot add the onion, celery, potatoes, and cumin seeds. Cook until the onions begin to soften. Keep an eye on the pan and stir as necessary so as not to get anything stuck on the bottom. Add the stock, bring to a boil, then turn to low and put a lid on it. Cook until the potatoes are just softened. Add the corn, milk, crab, and a couple of dashes each of Worcester and Brother Bru Bru's. Next, add salt, pepper, and a dash of cayenne. Heat on medium low until just heated through - about 5 minutes. Add a pinch of sweet paprika and ladle into bowls.

This turned out very well. The one thing that the co-signer would change is to mash some of the potatoes up in the soup to make it thicker. Another method to thicken it would be to add flour after the onions have softened, cook for a couple of three minutes, then add the stock.

For a side dish, the co-signer toasted some bread with garlic powder and butter. Once toasted slightly, she topped each slice with basil, tomato, and mozzarella (fresh). She then put that back into the oven until the mozzarella melted. Yummy!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Friday, August 17, 2007

Real ID - Real Demands

I never liked the federal government tying legislation in the states to requirements for receiving funding. When Ronald Reagan and the congress did that to federal funds for highways by demanding that in order to receive such funding states must raise the drinking age to 21, I was appalled. Some conservatives give a pass on this sort of feel good legislation and most Democrats see it as appropriate, but my view of the Constitution is that such matters should be left to the states. The federal government is blackmailing the states in cases like this
.
So, what to make of Fatherland Security's Chertoff blackmailing states over their objections to RealID? From the CNN article linked:
Americans may need passports to board domestic flights or to picnic in a national park next year if they live in one of the states defying the federal Real ID Act.

...The cards would be mandatory for all "federal purposes," which include boarding an airplane or walking into a federal building, nuclear facility or national park, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told the National Conference of State Legislatures last week. Citizens in states that don't comply with the new rules will have to use passports for federal purposes.

"For terrorists, travel documents are like weapons," Chertoff said. "We do have a right and an obligation to see that those licenses reflect the identity of the person who's presenting it."

...Many states have revolted. The governors of Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Washington have signed bills refusing to comply with the act. Six others have passed bills and/or resolutions expressing opposition, and 15 have similar legislation pending.

...Chertoff said there would be repercussions for states choosing not to comply. "This is not a mandate," Chertoff said. "A state doesn't have to do this, but if the state doesn't have -- at the end of the day, at the end of the deadline -- Real ID-compliant licenses then the state cannot expect that those licenses will be accepted for federal purposes."
Not a mandate, but there are repercussions such as citizens of those states who, in a federal system, do not wish to comply with the idiotic mandate of Congress and the Executive branch having to carry passports in order to enter their national parks, their federal buildings, or board airlines?!!? Fuck that; it's blackmail. This shit really needs to end.

Friday Random Ten

The Meters apparently cast a spell on my mp3 edition:

01) Chicks on Speed - Wordy Rappinghood
02) Oum Kalthoum - Nasra Avite We Farha Haniya
03) The Meters - Dry Spell
04) Johnnie Taylor - Little Bluebird
05) Das Primeiro - Mana Maria
06) Carbon Silicon - Mystery
07) Rufus Thomas - Sophisticated Sissy
08) Gotan Project - Notas
09) Bjork - Oll Birtan
10) The Meters - People Say

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Junior Senior

New album out in the U.S. (finally!) this week. Check out the new video:


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Fundamentalists

The very dangerous concept behind all fundamentalism is that the followers of a principle are the sole keepers of the Truth. That means all truth regarding their beliefs. There is no possibility that their beliefs are mistaken and anyone who argues such is a heretic. It is an inevitable fact of the fundamentalist's life that heretics are dangerous and need to be snuffed out rather than debated. What's the point of debate, after all, when the other is already known to be wrong? What's the point of engagement or even discussion? In the most extreme cases (redundant, I know, as we're talking extremely extreme), fundamentalists resort to violence, including murder. To pit degrees of fundamentalist attitudes against one another is a fool's game as all fundamentalism must be opposed or ostracized for it's detrimental effects on human development, human nature, and democratic ideals.

However, we find ourselves in strange times in this world. These times are not without precedent, of course, and we have failed to fully learn the lessons. Yet, I hope we are moving forward. Still, I read a fair number of people in the United States and parts of Europe raging against the Islamic fundamentalists. While these people also rail against fundamentalists in their own country, there seems to be a certain outrage beyond the norm reserved for Islamic fundamentalists. It's almost as if the Islamic or Muslim fundamentalist is worse than the Christian one. As I stated - this is a fool's game.

There are often cries coming forth about why the liberal or moderate members of Islam are not speaking out against the fundamentalists within their community. The assumption of such commentators is that there is no debate within those communities just because they haven't seen one posted by their mainstream media. However, these commentators rarely, if ever, stop to consider that their media services do Islam a disservice. After all, this is the same mainstream media that presents Israeli public opinion as shades of gray in the forms presented by the government there when, in fact, if one reads a variety of newspapers there one can see a broad array of opinions available to it's citizens. Do we really expect the mainstream media to represent Islamic communities any better?

The problem with all of this bashing and focus on one community rather than on fundamentalism in general is that it is perceived as racist. When that happens potential discussion with allies within the targeted community and the ability to combat fundamentalism altogether is thwarted. The same could be said about terrorists and terrorism, as we have learned from the Iraq war - terrorists just being fundamentalists of a different sort - but that is not my focus here. Rather than engaging the moderates within a community by targeting the community's fundamentalists as being especially vile that community will tend to band together to protect it's own instead of standing against the fundamentalists within it's ranks.

Christopher Hitchens is one such commentator who has gone on about the Islamic fundamentalists. To be fair Mr. Hitchens has also railed against Christian fundamentalists - his latest book is about the dangers imposed on this world by religion - but he has set aside a particular screed against Islamic fundamentalists. Others, also well meaning, have taken up this line of thought as well, including Andrew Sullivan and Dan Savage. I don't have a problem with the majority of their criticisms and I know that all three of these people (indeed, I admire all 3) oppose fundamentalists of all stripes. However, they do tend these days to focus on the followers of Islam rather than fundamentalists all around. The result of which can lead to stir up racist tendencies within some readers (racism, ironically, also being a fundamentalist screed). Take, for instance, commenter number 3 to a recent post by Dan Savage in The Stranger Slog:
I'm sorry, but I can't accept the notion that Christian and Islamic fundamentalists are exactly the same in terms of their danger to civil society.
This same person goes on to argue in comment number 9:
@6 - oh, please. No, you don't have to list the outrageous things Christians do. But if you do, then please, make another list of the outrageous things Islamic fundamentalists have done throughout the world, and compare and contrast. I maintain that there is a difference in their nature - insane though Christian fundies may be, in recent times they have largely resorted to civil means of achieving the insane ends they seek. How often do you hear of American TV preachers putting a literal bounty on their political opponents' heads, or mobs of Southern Baptists stoning a 17-year-old to death in the streets and cheerfully taping the whole thing on a cell phone, as happened in Iraq recently?
For the record, I countered this post by pointing out the bounty posters for abortion clinic doctors posted by Christian fundamentalists. I could have also noted the bombings of clinics, the protests at funerals of homosexuals and military personnel by Westboro Baptist Church members, any number of hate crimes against homosexuals, blacks, and women committed by people who describe themselves as Christian fundamentalists, and so on. I also mentioned Pat Robertson asking for the assassination of Hugo Chavez. All of which was dismissed by the commenter in a later post.

One of the dangers of flaming up these latent racist tendencies is how they feed on ignorance and get perpetuated. Take, for instance, that last bit quoted above about the stoning of the 17 year old girl. The commenter is implying that it was Islamic fundamentalists who were behind the stoning. As others have noted, including today's Seattle Times, it was a different religion behind the stoning. In fact, recent bombings and killing in Iraq have been thought to have been followers of Islam retaliating for the actions of Yazidis in stoning the girl.

Unfortunately, the commenter doesn't apparently know or understand the distinction between the 2 religions. No, s/he only knows that its those people in Iraq (or India, as in Savage's original post) that's doing it and apparently they are more backward than our own backwards-assed folks in America. I don't blame Savage, et al, for bringing up incidents like these and I cannot blame them for the ignorance that their readers sometimes spew in their comments, but I'd like to see more people discussing the opposition to fundamentalism as a whole and less focusing on fundamentalism coming from another part of the world. Moderates can and will win the debate, but only if they tone down the pointing of the finger at other cultures and work with activists within those cultures to foster change throughout the world.

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings


People have probably heard the Dap Kings though they may not have heard of them. The musicians serve as the backing band on Amy Winehouse's popular album, Back To Black, with the hit song, Rehab. As fine a song as that one is and as decent a singer as Winehouse is, she doesn't hold a candle to Sharon Jones. Sharon is the real deal with better chops, more experience and more soul. When she sings with the Dap Kings you can feel the notes wrap around the horn section, urge the guitar licks to new heights, and groove with the bass player. Sharon's first 2 albums were a revelation. With the current popularity of Ms. Winehouse, there is hope that the next album will explode in sales and Jones will get the recognition she so rightly deserves.

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings have released their first single from the new album for download for free from their MySpace page. After the release in October the band will be touring the U.S. For my Seattle friends, they'll be appearing at Neumo's on December 8th and, yes, I have purchased tickets already. It will be a helluva show. Check out some live video action on YouTube.

Not exactly surprising, but...

From the LA Times:
Administration and military officials acknowledge that the September report will not show any significant progress on the political benchmarks laid out by Congress. How to deal in the report with the lack of national reconciliation between Iraq's warring sects has created some tension within the White House.

Despite Bush's repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government.

(Emphasis added)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday Random Ten

The symmetry edition:

01) Chains of Love - Erasure (12" Mix)
02) Those Dancing Days Are Gone - Carla Bruni
03) Uh-Oh Plutonium - Anne Waldman
04) Before Today - Everything But The Girl (Adam F Remix)
05) Plane That Draws A White Line - Alias & Tarsier
06) Stoned Soul Picnic - Jill Sobule
07) Boul N'Bai - Sida
08) Masikulu - Konono No.1
09) Mera Man Tera Pyasa - Mohammed Rafi
10) Come Close (J-Dilla's Closer Remix) - Common feat. Erykah Badu, Q-Tip, and Pharell Williams

Bonus: Chains of Love - Joe Turner

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Bondoddity

It seems odd to me. Lots of articles on Barry Bonds breaking Hank Aaron's home run record mention his possible steroid use. That's fine and it's legitimate to debate whether or not it's an issue. However, there's one thing that the article's don't generally mention and it's the reason that Aaron's legend will never dull in the wake of Bonds: the era in which Aaron did it.

In 1974, Aaron was still among the few black players playing baseball. While the league had been integrated for a long time and many had come before him, it was dominated by white players. Also, in 1974 we were in the middle of a black cultural rise. Sure, there were plenty of black artists, intellectuals, and sports heroes before the civil rights movement of the 60s, but after the laws were passed and law enforcement went into action, after the death of King, Jr., after the rise of the Black Panthers, after Jimi Hendryx, Marvyn Gaye, Bill Cosby, Aretha Franklin, and many more too numerous to name, black culture was not only being promoted, but celebrated.

I remember watching live as Hank Aaron hit his home run that broke Babe Ruth's record. Ruth's legend stood, as it should, but here was a black man in an America that had just come through a decade of pushing for civil rights for black folks and people were cheering him. Aaron not only represented himself, his team, and baseball, but also how many in this nation felt about moving on and having a future together. Aaron's record felt like a small part of us had healed. At least, that's the way it felt to me when I was 10 years old. Of course, it was a very small part and there would be much to test that feeling in years to come.

Bonds, whose achievement is great, is not Aaron and will never have that moment. For one thing, Bonds isn't as approachable as Aaron. He's not as friendly and likable. But also, the times have changed. That's not to say that the healing is over or that there aren't more challenges ahead. But we have come a long way. While Aaron's feat felt like a major cultural moment, Bonds feat felt like just another sports record broken. The asterisk should be focused on the possible steroids use. Rather, the asterisk should be focused on the cultural impact in an era. That great impact belongs to Aaron and no one - not Bonds, nor A-Rod - can take that away.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Sunday

Another lovely day off. The co-signer and I went to Gold Bar, which is just about 15 miles east of our home. We ate at a diner in town and then went on a 6 mile hike at Wallace Falls. We decided to take a different route than we had last year. This time we took the easier, but longer, Railroad grade route to the lower falls. Then we took the Woody route up to the medium falls. We rested a little here and there along the way, but kept moving much of the time.

Before we left I was cleaning out my backpack when I noticed that I had some Emergen-C packets in there that I had forgotten about. Those came in handy. We poured them into our water bottles at the halfway point and drank it on the way back.

Once home we set about using up the flat of blueberries I had purchased. The co-signer made a blueberry buckle. I made blueberry vodka. I've got to finish with those this morning. I'm going to freeze a bunch of them and might set aside a few for more buckle later in the week.

We made a simple dinner of creamed corn flavored with fresh basil, vegetarian baked beans, and Boca burgers. We watched Ice Age 2 - a rental that we picked up - and went to bed where I read 2 more chapters of the latest Harry Potter book to her.

All in all, a lovely day. Back to the mine today. Tomorrow I'm going to can apricot jam.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Friday night

Friday was a good day off. I spent the early part of the day researching SQL Server 2005 and data warehousing. When I'd need a break I'd turn to email and exchange some conversation and music with my old friends, Archie and John. There's an old 80s album by Shriekback that has never seen a proper CD release. I had found a copy made from the European vinyl release (the better version as the U.S. was released without the band's input on the remix) and shared it with the guys. Archie was particularly excited as he wanted to play around with some new sound cleaning software.

That afternoon I met the co-signer and we headed across the lake to meet with Miss Sophiakitty. (I'm sorry for the pseudonyms, but neither wish to have their names mentioned online). We went down to the Zig Zag Cafe where I met Murray, the bartender, for the first time. He made a drink for us using some Estonian bitters that a friend brought back from Europe as a present. It was quite good, as are all of Murray's drinks.

After drinks and appetizers we wandered the Market looking for a place to dine. Several spots had long lines, which is to be expected at the height of tourist season. Surprisingly, Etta's Seafood was able to sit us as a walk in right away. Well, "surprisingly" until we saw their prices. Etta's has raised their prices to the level of Anthony's Homeport. That's too bad as it will make me think twice before dining there again. However, I should note that the meal was wonderful. Miss Sophiakitty and I each enjoyed the basil ravioli with lovely cherry tomatoes and chevre (though, there weren't many raviolis on the dishes). The co-signer enjoyed the pork loin with carrot succotash (quite tasty, that). We shared a bottle of Chinook Rose with dinner and it turned out to be a delightful match for the meals. For dessert we enjoyed a piece of the banana cream pie (which I had never had before), split 3 ways - which was perfect. As lush and tasty as this pie is, it's just too rich and too large a serving to be enjoyed by one person.

The co-signer and I dropped off Miss Sophiakitty at her place, then headed back across the lake. We stopped in Bellevue at the Lincoln Square Cinemas. I wanted to spend some time on my day off alone with my love and this would be it. The movie I wanted to see, Talk To Me, didn't begin until 10:25. Usually that's a really late show/night for me, but I decided to go for it. The thing is, if I have a reason to be entertained and awake, then I have no problems staying up. I bought the tickets and we headed over to The Parlor to kill the hour before the film. In order to stay awake, I had a coffee drink.

Talk To Me was well worth the time. Don Cheadles turns in a terrific performance as Petey Green, an ex-con from Washington, D.C. who pursues a career as a DJ in the 60s and 70s and goes on to become a city institution. In fact, the entire cast does a great job. It's a wonderful mixture of comedy and drama. The early part of the film is much comedy based on an odd character attempting to work within a straight laced community. The film takes a turn when, in 1968, Martin Luther King is shot and riots break out in D.C. Petey Green (this is based on a real story) took to the airwaves to argue for anger without destruction. It was a turning point in the man's life and his career.

If there are problems with the film they stem from 2 sources. First, it's a film and as such it cannot begin to tell the tale of a man's life the way a book can do that. As such, we get hints and shortcuts around stories rather than a full fleshed portrayal of a rounded human being. Glimpses are generally not acceptable when trying to view history. However, we're talking about distilling a man's life - 59 years - into 2 hours and therefore glimpses are what we're going to get. Secondly, the film does rely on some stereotypes. Petey's wife, for instance, while being magnificently played, is a character who relies more on stereotypes than depth (this is due to the script; not actress Traji P. Henson). Early on, Petey himself seems to rely primarily on his demeanor and outfit, though the writers drop a moment of self doubt in once in a while, we never really get to peel off the facade and understand the origins of that emotion. As the film develops, it gets better at dealing with this stuff, but only marginally so. Again, this is in part due to the limitations of film. Perhaps the writers should have limited the scope of the time line of Petey Green's life that they were going to focus on?

Having said all of that, Talk To Me is a thoroughly enjoyable movie. Don Cheadles performance is worth the price of admission. The fact that the other actors keep up with him is the payoff. Despite my misgivings laid out above, it's an entertaining piece of work filled with moments that will make you laugh and others that will induce tears. How good is this film? When was the last time outside of a children's film that you can recall audience members breaking out in applause at the end? That's how good it is.

One more complaint: Why is this film only playing in 3 theaters in the Seattle metro area? The co-signer and I are perplexed about this. If it is because the film is being perceived as a "black movie", then why isn't it playing in more theaters in areas with larger black populations? Because it's an east coast based story is the distributor worried that it won't have legs on the west coast? I don't know what the reasons are, but this film deserves to be seen by a larger audience and the distributor is shorting the people in Seattle. Sure, we're seeing ads for the flick, but it's not easily accessible and that's a damn shame.

After the film we met a nice couple outside of the theater. I was waiting for the co-signer and the wife in the couple was waiting for her husband, both emerging from the restrooms. She and I were reading the poster board, promoting the story in the theater hallway. We recognized each other because the 4 of us were the last ones to leave the theater (this is common for the co-signer and I as we tend to sit through all of the credits, if nothing else, to enjoy the music).

"Wonderful film" said the woman.

"Indeed. I liked it a whole lot. Great acting, good story."

"We lived on the east coast during that time and I never heard of the man."

"I'm from the Detroit area and I've never heard of him either."

Eventually, our spouses joined us. We spoke briefly and then went our separate ways. I suspect that if the evening had been younger, we might have joined each other for dinner and had a good time discussing the film and getting to know one another. Still, allowing that possibility was a lovely way to cap a good day off.