May the end of year cliche blogging commence!

As near as I can remember, these are the records that I acquired this year:
  • LCD Soundsystem -- All My Friends EP
  • Various -- Amandla! A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony
  • Johnny Cash -- American V: A Hundred Highways
  • Various -- Ann Arbor Soul Club
  • Glenn Gould -- Bach: The French Suites
  • Don Dorsey -- Bachbusters
  • Amy Winehouse -- Back to Black
  • Fritz Reiner + Chicago Symphony Orchestra -- Bartok: Concerto for Orchestra and Hungarian Sketches
  • Emerson Quartet -- Bartok: String Quartets
  • The Bar-Kays -- The Best of the Bar-Kays, Volume I
  • The Bar-Kays -- The Best of the Bar-Kays, Volume II
  • Old Crow Medicine Show -- Big Iron World
  • Duke Ellington -- Blues in Orbit
  • Anonymous 4 -- Chant 1000: A Mass for the End of Time
  • Ella Fitzgerald -- The Duke Ellington Songbooks
  • Sonny Clark -- Dial S for Sonny
  • Sleater Kinney -- Dig Me Out
  • Duke Ellington and John Coltrane -- Duke Ellington & John Coltrane
  • Duke Ellington -- Duke Ellington: The Private Collection
  • Foo Fighters -- Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace
  • Sidney Bechet -- The Essential Sidney Bechet
  • Duke Ellington -- Far East Suite
  • The Fratellis -- Flathead EP
  • Amy Winehouse -- Frank
  • Sonny Rollins -- Freedom Suite
  • Justin Timberlake -- FutureSex / LoveSounds
  • Dexter Gordon -- Gettin' Around
  • Anonymous 4 -- Gloryland
  • Various -- The Indestructible Beat of Soweto
  • Art Blakey -- Jazz in 3/4 Time
  • Glenn Gould -- J.S. Bach: The Goldberg Variations (Zenph Re-Performance)
  • Mark Knopfler -- Kill To Get Crimson
  • Ween -- La Cucaracha
  • Manu Chao -- La Radiolina
  • Lester Young -- Lester Young Trio
  • Leonard Bernstein + New York Symphony Orchestra -- Mahler: Symphonies #1 and #10
  • The Cribs -- Men's Needs, Women's Needs
  • Various -- Mississippi Delta Blues Jam, Vol. 2
  • The Beastie Boys -- The Mix-Up
  • Wayne Shorter -- Night Dreamer
  • Philippe Herreweghe + Collegium Vocale Gent -- Schutz: Opus Ultimum Schwanengesan
  • Daniel Barenboim + Chicago Symphony Orchestra -- Wagner: Overtures and Preludes
  • The Beach Boys -- Pet Sounds
  • Daniel Barenboim + Yehudi Menuhin + Pierre Boulez + New Philharmonia + BBC Symphony Orchestra -- Bartok: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 3 and Rhapsodies 1 & 2
  • Milt Jackson -- Plenty, Plenty, Soul
  • Van Cliburn + Fritz Reiner + Chicago Symphony Orchestra -- Schumann: Piano Concerto in A Minor, Beethoven: Piano Concerto #5
  • Various -- Scratchology
  • Leonard Bernstein + New York Philharmonic -- Shostakovich: Symphonies #5 & 9
  • The Flaming Lips -- The Soft Bulletin
  • The Rance Allen Group -- A Soulful Experience
  • Ornette Coleman -- Sound Grammar
  • Gnarls Barkley -- St. Elsewhere
  • Clifford Brown -- Study in Brown
  • The Beastie Boys -- To The 5 Buroughs
  • Various -- Unfunkked
  • Sonny Rollins -- Way Out West
  • The Flaming Lips -- Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
  • Joanna Newsom -- Ys
  • Ohio Players -- 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection

As you can see, I went a little bit nuts.

Like last year, let's make it a meme. Regular readers are encouraged to respond in comments or on blogs of their choosing.


The perils of small blends

A warning: The 2007 Midleton Very Rare Irish whiskey is in no way the equal of the 2006 blend, except, of course, in price. Snap up the 2006 bottles if you see them.


The perils of channel surfing

"This is something that you may not learn in school. It's nice that you can get it in a music video." -- Some idiot on VH1.


All I want for Christmas...

A newly discovered hunk of space rock has a 1 in 75 chance of slamming into the red planet on January 30, scientists said Thursday.
The asteroid, known as 2007 WD5, was discovered in late November and is similar in size to an object that hit remote central Siberia in 1908, unleashing energy equivalent to a 15-megaton nuclear bomb and wiping out 60 million trees.
If the asteroid does smash into Mars, it will probably hit near the equator close to where the rover Opportunity has been exploring the Martian plains since 2004. The robot is not in danger because it lies outside the impact zone. Speeding at 8 miles a second, a collision would carve a hole the size of the famed Meteor Crater in Arizona.|CNN|



About three months ago I bought a pair of Grado SR-60 headphones with the idea that I'd hook them up to my stereo when listening to music at night. My thinking was that my apartment walls are thin and my neighbor the med student usually has the lights off by 9pm and is out the door in the morning by 7am, and that I could therefore use sensitivity and politeness as excuses for buying some choice gear.

The only problem was that the Grados are so good that I couldn't bear to leave them lying there next to my stereo while I walked out the door listening to my iPod through those horrid ear buds. So before too long the SR-60s were more or less permanently attached to my iPod. Which, while great from a listening perspective, tended to undermine my sensitivity and politeness rationale. You see, the Grado's have an open design, meaning that when I'm rocking out everyone near me is treated to a tinny version of my music. Not a problem when walking down the street, but a rude way to ride the bus, let alone an airplane.

So now I'm in the market for reasonably good closed design headphones. Ideally, I'd like to spend only about $50, but I'd spend more for sound comparable to the Grados'. Also, I'd like to have them in my hands by Monday, so the brand has to be one I can find in the Detroit metro area.

For what it's worth, I happened to be at Target last night and gave the Bose TriPort's a listen. The sound seemed pretty good, though maybe so heavy and full that it verged on mushy. But the cost was more than I'd ideally like to spend, and they felt and looked extremely flimsy.

So, any suggestions?

Russell Means secedes from the US

Russell Means, an activist with the American Indian Movement, met with the US State Department today and announced that the Lakota nation was renouncing its treaties with the US and essentially seceding.

Unfortunately, Russell Means is not an elected official of the Lakota nation and does not appear to speak for anyone but himself.

"I want to emphasize, we do not represent the collaborators, the Vichy Indians and those tribal governments set up by the United States of America to ensure our poverty, to ensure the theft of our land and resources," Means said, comparing elected tribal governments to Nazi collaborators in France during World War II.

Rodney Bordeaux, chairman of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, said his community has no desire to join the breakaway nation. Means and his group, which call themselves the Lakota Freedom Delegation, have never officially pitched their views to the Rosebud community, Bordeaux said. |Lakota group pushes for new nation - Argus Leader |


Torture Myths

While it isn't scholarly, Darius Rejali has a short article in the Union Leader where he responds to five common views about torture that he thinks are mistaken.

It’s surprising how unsuccessful the Gestapo’s brutal efforts were. They failed to break senior leaders of the French, Danish, Polish and German resistance. I’ve spent more than a decade collecting all the cases of Gestapo torture “successes” in multiple languages; the number is small and the results pathetic, especially compared with the devastating effects [on] public cooperation and informers. |The Five Myths about Torture - Union Leader|

There and back again

I have to say that I don't share Ross Douthat's skepticism about the upcoming Hobbit movie. It might be that from a sci-fi/fantasy lit perspective The Hobbit is "a tasty appetizer" while The Lord of the Rings is "a rich-beyond-belief main course." But so what? The link between literary merit and suitability for film is anything but direct. From where I sit, The Hobbit's comprehensible and contained narrative is a point in its favor on the book to film tip.

Also, all true geeks of a certain age know that what really needs to be worried over is whether Jackson's Hobbit will stand up to the animated masterpiece.

Oh my

At least four top White House lawyers took part in discussions with the Central Intelligence Agency between 2003 and 2005 about whether to destroy videotapes showing the secret interrogations of two operatives from Al Qaeda, according to current and former administration and intelligence officials.

The accounts indicate that the involvement of White House officials in the discussions before the destruction of the tapes in November 2005 was more extensive than Bush administration officials have acknowledged.

Those who took part, the officials said, included Alberto R. Gonzales, who served as White House counsel until early 2005; David S. Addington, who was the counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney and is now his chief of staff; John B. Bellinger III, who until January 2005 was the senior lawyer at the National Security Council; and Harriet E. Miers, who succeeded Mr. Gonzales as White House counsel. |NY Times|

In the universe that I used to live in, this would be a huge, huge, huge scandal.

Addendum: For some perspective, consider the role John "Death Squad" Negroponte is reported to have played:
Newsweek reported this week that John D. Negroponte, who was director of national intelligence at the time the tapes were destroyed, sent a memorandum in the summer of 2005 to Mr. Goss, the C.I.A. director, advising him against destroying the tapes.


Speaking of environmentalists...

This is well covered in other blogs, but sits astride our recent topics like a necrophiliac pornographer.
In a 1998 book decrying American culture, Huckabee was no seeker of common ground. He drew stark lines, equating environmentalists with pornographers and homosexuality with pedophilia and necrophilia. He also declared that people who do not believe in God tend to be immoral and to engage in "destructive behavior." He drew a rather harsh picture of an American society starkly split between people of faith and those of a secular bent, with the latter being a direct and immediate threat to the nation.

Without raising any questions of conscience

Yesterday, while being lectured on the virtues of turning off unnecessary lights, I found myself thinking about carbon taxes. One of the reasons that I don't find appeals to personal environmental virtue very compelling is that I hold the heretical (for a radical) view that the various environmental problems that face us can best be addressed through market based solutions. The basic problem, as I see it, is that free markets have failed to appropriately distribute environmental costs because those costs are treated as externalities rather than included in transaction prices. The solution therefore lies in regulations which correct these failings of free markets.

A question, then, is what to think of environmental nagging. On the one hand, widespread sensitivity to the environmental impact of our choices is likely to enhance the political prospects of the sorts of reforms that I favor. On the other hand, self-righteous prigs are annoying as fuck. It's a pickle.


Monday 'find content for the tag' blogging

This is neat:
You can accept or reject these particular evolutionary explanations as you like. But the underlying message is worth taking home: Much of what now passes for "natural selection" isn't exactly natural. It's social. As such, it deserves no presumptive respect as a validator or promulgator of objective fitness. Nor does the discovery of a genetic basis for this or that trait prove it's more than a social construct. In the era of cultural selection, many genes are a social construct. Which makes them no less real.

GOP horserace blogging

As the Huckernaut continues its explosive rise in the polls there only seems to be one thing standing in the way of the candidacy of the other man from Hope. The support of Joe Lieberman.

Just kidding!

Seriously, though, the conventional wisdom is that no matter how many votes he gets, Mike Huckabee can't possibly win the GOP nomination. The thinking is that Huckabee's insufficient orthodoxy in matters of voodoo economics means he'll never win the support of the big donors and so won't be able to build an organization capable of running a viable campaign.

Well, I don't know. Huckabee has amply demonstrated a generalized incompetence that should allow him to go to those big donors, hat in hand, and explain that any heresies he might have uttered had merely to do with the fact that he didn't know what the aich eee double hockey sticks he was talking about and golly would he be happy to take a no tax pledge if only he could get some of that dope stupid cheddar.

Besides, what's the alternative for the money men? Romney? Well, I guess we all know that he can be bought. What we don't know, and what would bother me if I were a plutocrat, is what it would take for Romney to stay bought. Also, suppose that you were a forward looking GOP strategist and had resigned yourself to the loss of the presidency in 2008. In that case, you'd have to be asking yourself what you could do now to repair your coalition for the 2010 and 2012 campaigns. The answer isn't going to be, "Nominate a Mormon."


HOF horserace blogging

Another consequence of the Mitchell report is that any chance Mark McGwire had to increase his vote totals this year is as lost as the innocence of the East German women's swim team. Between that and the fact that Tim Raines is the best player coming on to the ballot, this is looking like a good year for the players who've been hanging around just below the 75% thresh hold for awhile.

I made a chart.

As you can see if you've got really good glasses or a high quality display, all the trends point to Goose Gossage going into the Hall. Jim Rice also looks pretty strong, but you have to wonder why he lost support last year.

For historical context, here's another chart.

And here's a piece of trivia: The last time that no player received enough support to be elected to the Hall of Fame was 1996.

I get silent when I'm drugged up

Andy Pettitte's idea that HGH isn't a performance enhancing drug if you only use it to heal faster is clearly bunk, but his statement yesterday is pretty interesting.
In 2002 I was injured. I had heard that human growth hormone could promote faster healing for my elbow. I felt an obligation to get back to my team as soon as possible. For this reason, and only this reason, for two days I tried human growth hormone. This is it -- two days out of my life; two days out of my entire career, when I was injured and on the disabled list. I wasn't looking for an edge. I was looking to heal.

Looking to heal faster, obviously, is looking for an edge. And every pitch Pettitte threw that he wouldn't have thrown without HGH leaves a mark in the record book where it otherwise would have remained blank. Still, I'm curious to see what kind of traction Pettitte gets with this. Lots of sports fans are going to see something to admire in Pettitte's desire to get back to his team.

Relatedly, it seems to me that the Mitchell report tends to confirm a view that I've held for awhile. Namely, that the use of performance enhancing drugs is so widespread that the playing field is effectively level.



[Origin: 1875–80; from Greek zōio meaning animal and nósos meaning sickness]

In the study of pathology, zoonosis refers to any disease of animals that is communicable to humans.

The word zoonosis is unfamiliar to most people. But it helps clarify the biological reality behind the scary headlines about bird flu, SARS, other forms of nasty new disease, and the threat of a coming pandemic. It says something essential about the origin of HIV. It's a word of the future, destined for heavy use in the 21st century. |Link|


Blasting the cannons of truth through each man of this earth

"By and large, 90 percent of the people on the Nobel Committee are into child pornography and molestation, according to the latest scientific studies." -- Michael Savage


Jesus and Satan are brothers?

If you are wondering what this Hucakbee hullabaloo (or Huckabaloo!) is all about, this anti-Mormon propaganda piece lays it out:

This is a total hit piece, so I wouldn't be surprised to discover that it is a wild distortion. And yet... I find myself hoping that this is indeed what Mormons believe, because it is really funny. Also, it casts Satan in a sort of Prometheus role. Neat!

(via TNR)


Still funny, though

I often take great comfort in the fact that studies have shown that writing often and well seems to help stave off Alzheimer's. But it only helps, as illustrated by the fact that Terry Pratchett has been diagnosed with early Alzheimer's.

Bummer. But he's taking it very well (click the link for his full statement), but in true instaBellman style, I'll highlight this:
I know it's a very human thing to say "Is there anything I can do", but in this case I would only entertain offers from very high-end experts in brain chemistry.

Truly hope is lost

Posting continues to be light (and frivolous) while I am traveling. I hope to get back home this weekend and read a friggin' newspaper or something, but, as this chart points out, there is no hope.

Click here for the full chart!


Hieronymus Bosch action figures

Totally awesome:

(thanks to Scott for the link!)


Solidarity for as long as it's convenient

The lights of Broadway went dark Saturday when members of the International Association of Theater and Stage Employees, Local 1, went on strike against the League of American Theatres and Producers.

Partric Verrone, president of the Writers Guild of America, West and Michael Winship, president of the Writers Guild of America, East, Sunday sent a joint letter of support to James Claffey Jr., president of the IATSE local.

"Just as you have stood with us in our current strike against the motion picture and television studios and networks, so, too, do we stand with you as you seek the fair and respectful contract that you have earned and deserve," they said in the letter. |Nov. 11|

A crippling strike that had shut down most Broadway shows in the heart of the holiday season ended late Wednesday night as striking stagehands finally hammered out a new contract with theater owners and producers.

The strike, which had entered its 19th day and drained millions of dollars in revenue from the theater district, was settled after a 12-hour bargaining session that had begun Wednesday morning between the League of American Theaters and Producers and members of Local 1, representing about 3,000 stagehands. |Nov. 29|

Hair and makeup artists, set decorators, grips, prop specialists, and hundreds of others who work in television and film production marched through the heart of Hollywood on Sunday morning urging an end to the five-week-old writers strike.

Their mission: to draw attention to the predicament of the thousands of people who work in television and film, and the businesses that serve them. They are not on strike but fear their livelihoods are at risk anyway.

"We are here today to remind the leadership of those locked in this struggle that real people, real men and women and their families are being damaged," said rally organizer Chris Griffin to the crowd and media assembled at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. "Each day this strike is prolonged, our futures become more precarious."

Although these so-called "below-the-line" workers are not part of the negotiations, most are out of work until the strike is over and productions begin again. Many are starting to compete for work in film and reality television, which are still in production, unlike most scripted television.

The strike's toll on thousands of production workers who aren't members of the Writers Guild of America has deepened friction with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), which represents below-the-line workers.

The breakdown Friday of talks between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers prompted a scathing denunciation of the guild's leadership from IATSE President Thomas C. Short.

"I don't believe the WGA ever intended to bargain in good faith," said Short, who has repeatedly clashed with guild leaders in the last year. "And they are destroying a lot of lives in the process." |Dec. 9|



[Origin: 1930–35; from Yiddish 'tumler', one who makes a racket, stir]

A male entertainer, as formerly employed by resorts in the Catskill Mountains, who combined the duties of a comedian, activities director, and master of ceremonies to keep the guests amused throughout the day.
2. Any lively, prankish, or mischievous man.

On the home front...

... I am losing the war against Christmas.


Anatomy of a scab

Question: If, during the writer's strike, a writer donates a screenplay to a production company in return for nothing other than a screenplay credit, is that writer crossing the metaphorical picket line?



Fears that hold so still you can study them

I'm sitting in the big blind with five nine off and the guy in first position -- who happens to be the big stack -- comes in with a small raise and the table folds around to me. I call, figuring it's a cheap opportunity to build my table image as a player who gives action. What do you know, the flop comes five five seven rainbow and I'm looking at a set. I check and the big stack goes all in.

What's the right play? Well, he probably doesn't have a five which means that I don't have to worry about being out-kicked. So it's either a pure bluff, an open ended straight draw, or a pocket pair. Of all that, the only hand better than mine are pocket sevens. Of all the hands he might have, it's only with the straight draw that I'd consider making the bet he did. But that's my game and this guy has been over-betting strong hands and folding to raises all night. And, anyway, why would he raise pre-flop with six eight? So I put him on pocket sevens. And yet I make the call. And of course he's holding hockey sticks. As it happened, I sucked out a nine on the river to take the hand.

I'd like to be able to explain my call by saying that, in the long run, sticking to the principle of never folding a set will be a more successful strategy than sometimes folding. And that may even be right. But the honest truth is that I called because I just couldn't bring myself to let go of the best hand I'd seen in awhile.

Here's my question. Did I make a read on this guy or not? On the one hand, there's no denying that the little voice inside my head said that he was sitting on sevens. On the other hand, Aristotle assures me that if I'd really believed that he had the nut set then I would have folded.

Did you know...

...about this?


Dubious Distinctions: Tyrants and Sycophants

Arthur Silber suggests that the Democrats are morally worse than the Republicans.
[T]he Democrats are now worse than the Republicans... The Republicans proudly assert their support of our aggressively interventionist foreign policy... The Republicans also proudly and repeatedly confirm their support for a dictatorial executive branch, indeed... The Republicans stake this criminal territory for themselves, they do so without apology, and they act accordingly.

Meanwhile, the Democrats say that they now oppose the invasion and occupation of Iraq. But they consistently and adamantly refuse to recognize the criminal nature of what the U.S. has done. At worst, they will say that the invasion of Iraq was a monumental "blunder," and that the invasion and occupation have been executed "incompetently." They cannot and will not say that we have committed a crime of historic proportions. ...

In a similar manner, the Democrats say they oppose an authoritarian executive branch, and that they oppose the incipient dictatorship at home.

Despite these protestations, they permitted the Military Commissions Act to pass -- and they have provided no indication whatsoever that they propose to repeal it. The Democrats helped pass the FISA bill several months ago -- an act that significantly increases the government's surveillance powers.

At every opportunity, the Democrats either fail to mount any serious opposition or they actively support the further means to a more oppressive government...

So which is worse? Those who support evil, but insist they believe it is good? Or those who support evil while claiming, at least some of the time, that they actually know it is evil?

|The Barren, Deadly Wasteland that Is Now Our Life - Once Upon a Time|

I'm not sure I agree with Mr. Silber's conclusion that the Democrats are somehow worse than the Republicans.

Certainly the hypocrisy (and impotence) of the Democrats is disheartening, but how can you claim that is worse than a party that is openly and cheerfully evil?

Am I missing something important here?

In internet years, I'm about 90 years old

I'm just saying that, yeah, the internet pipes are fat enough to contain all the "You Tubes" one could possibly want. But in the brief period between the conception of the internet browser and the new, media-rich internet, there was a time when good old-fashioned reading had a glorious resurgence.

And just like that, it was gone. And I miss it. And I don't go to Talking Points Memo nearly as often since they started posting half their content in videos. Also, Josh Marshall is no Rocketboom girl, whatever her name was.


A ruling bureaucracy was created instead, insulating the vanguard from the proletariat

Two notable events from April 18, 1991: (1) At or around 8:00pm I was accidentally dosed with LSD; (2) I stayed up the rest of the night to finish a term paper. The title was "Theory and Practice: A Comparison of Lenin's Pre-Revolution Ideas and the Policies of War Communism." Here's an excerpt from the concluding section:
Soviet agricultural policy under War Communism was motivated both by practical and ideological considerations. Grain requisitioning became a necessity to feed the cities when the old system of distribution broke down. The persecution of the Kulak and other members of what Lenin called the "petty-bourgeoisie" was called for in State and Revolution. The Bolsheviks attempted to ground their grain requisitioning in theory by taking the surplus generated by the Kulaks, but in reality the definition of Kulak became so stretched as to be virtually meaningless and requisitioning committees often ignored distinctions between rich and poor peasants anyway.

Both more cogent and more dull than the literature on LSD would lead one to expect.


A note about "Conservapedia"

This blogger is continuously astonished at how his suspicions about social conservatives are confirmed over and over again. Via eggsyntax:
Wikipedia is "The Free Encyclopedia." What's on the mind of Wikipedia its readers? Here are the top ten most viewed pages on Wikipedia:

Main Page [30,090,900]
Wiki [904,800]
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows [413,400]
Naruto [401,400]
Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock [396,000]
United States [330,000]
Wikipedia [329,400]
Deaths in 2007 [321,300]
Heroes (TV series) [307,500]
Transformers (film) [303,600]

Conservapedia is "The Trustworthy Encyclopedia." What's on the mind of its readers? Here are the top ten most viewed pages on Conservapedia:

Main Page‎ [1,906,729]
Homosexuality‎ [1,572,713]
Homosexuality and Hepatitis‎ [517,086]
Homosexuality and Promiscuity‎ [420,687]
Gay Bowel Syndrome‎ [389,052]
Homosexuality and Parasites‎ [388,123]
Homosexuality and Domestic Violence‎ [365,888]
Homosexuality and Gonorrhea‎ [331,553]
Homosexuality and Mental Health‎ [291,179]
Homosexuality and Syphilis‎ [265,322


Funny thing

I was watching Meet the Press (or maybe it was Face the Nation) this morning and they replayed Senator Clinton's gaffe from a few debates ago where -- as I'm sure you recall -- she failed to say that NY Governor Spitzer's plan to provide driver's licences to illegal aliens would lead to the destruction of the American way of life. I thought she gave a good answer, so good that it made me feel a lot better about the possibility of a Hillary Clinton presidency. Thus, I conclude that her candidacy is doomed.


Dept of corrections

From last December:
Speaking of exclusion from the Hall of Fame, Steve Garvey is down to two years of ballot eligibility. He was named on only a quarter of ballots last year, and has never been named on more than 43%, so it's looking like he won't make it into the Hall of Fame. It's a shame. |link|

It turns out, though, that last year was Garvey's last on the ballot. Oops.

And it is a shame. Especially when you look at the list of players coming on to the ballot over the next two years. Ricky Henderson is a first ballot lock in 2009, but nobody else looks likely to make the Hall, let alone on the first ballot. Tim Raines is probably the next strongest candidate, and he doesn't meet barely even meets my lax standards. With that kind of competition, there might have been room for Garvey.

By the by, while tooling around baseball-reference.com I noticed a stat I hadn't seen before -- HOF Monitor. Here's the description:
This is another Jamesian creation. It attempts to assess how likely (not how deserving) an active player is to make the Hall of Fame. It's rough scale is 100 means a good possibility and 130 is a virtual cinch. It isn't hard and fast, but it does a pretty good job.

Follow the link to see the rules for assigning points. Steve Garvey scored 130.5 points.

This post has been edited by its author.



cash advance

via post-graduate-reading-level blogger Neal.

First against the wall (presumably to be shot)

From Ogged, we consider the quetion of who should be "first against the wall when the revolution comes." Ogged chooses John Yoo, and I admit that his reasons are sound ("... I genuinely hate him..."). Personally I find it difficult to hate over politics. Perhaps it's a weakness.

I guess I would go with Fred Phelps. What about you, dear readers?


Wingnuts debunking wingnuts

Bill Kristol thinks that Joe Lieberman would make a great Veep candidate for some republican. It would do all sorts of things, including "scramble the political chess board." In response, Ramesh Ponnuru is making sense:
Lieberman for Veep?

I'm not sure what the case for putting him on the ticket is. To prove that Republicans are willing to reach out to Democrats whom most Democrats hate? To show that Republicans are the hawkish party? I think people already know that.


You can't irrigate the desert with the tears of Amy Winehouse

Because of the salt. Obviously.

Anyway, I never do this, but Dave3544 tagged me with a meme and since I'm not going to get around to that for awhile, I thought I'd throw up a random ten. Here you go:
  1. I Wanna Be Free – Loretta Lynn
  2. I Don’t Want Anything – Lezli Valentine
  3. Epistrophy – Thelonious Monk
  4. Kool Keith’s A#! – Princess Superstar
  5. This Woman – Desmond Dekker
  6. Nowhere To Stand – k.d. lang
  7. Doin’ Time – Sublime
  8. Sitting on Top of the World – Mississippi Sheiks
  9. A-Tisket A-Tasket – Chick Webb & His Orchestra featuring Ella Fitzgerald
  10. Breaking The Law – Judas Priest

Bonus Track: Just Over in the Gloryland – Anonymous 4

Quote of the month

"There's also the question of who would control the weather."



I'll give you agreeable, woody, and complex...

In 2001, Frederic Brochet, of the University of Bordeaux, conducted two separate and very mischievous experiments. In the first test, Brochet invited 57 wine experts and asked them to give their impressions of what looked like two glasses of red and white wine. The wines were actually the same white wine, one of which had been tinted red with food coloring. But that didn't stop the experts from describing the "red" wine in language typically used to describe red wines. One expert praised its "jamminess," while another enjoyed its "crushed red fruit." Not a single one noticed it was actually a white wine.

The second test Brochet conducted was even more damning. He took a middling Bordeaux and served it in two different bottles. One bottle was a fancy grand-cru. The other bottle was an ordinary vin du table. Despite the fact that they were actually being served the exact same wine, the experts gave the differently labeled bottles nearly opposite ratings. The grand cru was "agreeable, woody, complex, balanced and rounded," while the vin du table was "weak, short, light, flat and faulty". Forty experts said the wine with the fancy label was worth drinking, while only 12 said the cheap wine was.

The blogger goes on to make some points about subjectivity that sound about right, but I don't think they are necessary to explain the horseshit that is wine and food criticism.

Did you know...

... that Japan is now the world’s second-largest producer of single-malt whisky? It might be true!


Since that 'mission accomplished' banner didn't work out...

All over the conservative b-sphere, there's a renewed sense of hope about Iraq, as the result of the actions depicted in one picture, summed up in this comic:

And I know, I know, their point is that there are some muslims there helping out with that there cross. But really.

Semiotically speaking, it's a picture of christian conquest!


This's a hidden secret where classics come from

In other news, not yet Dr. Warner makes an important observation in the ongoing toilet-seat wars:
It seems that I hear a lot more women complaining about this than men. It has just become assumed that men should carry the burden of lowering the seat when they’re done. And if they don’t, it’s just gross. Why is that? It seems like men would have just as strong of a complaint of gross-ness when having to raise the seat.

True enough. But is this really where the grossness complaint comes from? When this topic was last discussed in these parts Deer commented that:
These analyses fail to factor in the "cost" of going to the restroom in the middle of night, attempting to sit down on the toilet which has been left in the "up" position, falling into the toilet, thus having one's ass covered in toilet water (not to mention splashing toilet water all over the floors and walls), thereby necessitating a middle of the night shower.

And I guess I'd have to grant that this is a lot grosser than touching the toilet seat in order to lower it -- even when we're talking about the toilet seat at my swinging bachelor pad.

But I have to say that I've never quite understood where this particular problem comes from. While the great majority of my trips to the bathroom are for the purposes of micturition and so need not involve sitting upon the toilet, I have also, on occassion, been required by various biological processes to recline upon the commode. By my best estimation this has occurred no fewer than 15,000 times. And yet I have never once become soggy for lack of a seat. Perhaps I have unrivaled skills in this arena, but my considered judgment is that anyone can achieve similar results by exercising a modicum of care. Which leads me to the conclusion that if the argument from grossness is just about avoiding this consequence, then it doesn't prove very much.

But I think it's about more than that.

In fact, I think the not-yet-Dr. puts her finger on the core issue when she makes plain that we really are talking about the allocation of a burden. Lifting or lowering a seat may not be a difficult task, but when it comes to the allocation of work it isn't always the intensity of the effort that matters. Whoever does it, the task of raising or lowering the toilet seat has some grossness associated with it. Perhaps it is too much to say that the task itself is degrading, but one doesn't have to listen too intently to the rhetoric of women -- particularly the imagery of sitting bare assed in toilet water -- to hear that part of the issue here is a fear of degradation.

By leaving the seat up a man renders the toilet a device which is not usable by a woman. By habitually leaving the seat up a man creates an environment in which the normal thing for a toilet to be is a device which is not usable by a woman. Which, other things being equal and the argument from grossness notwithstanding, wouldn't be that big a deal. It's a toilet seat for cripes sakes. But other things aren't equal, and so the toilet becomes yet another part of the world which is more suitable for the uses of men than the uses of women.

Except that the toilet is not just another part of the world. The toilet is a peculiarly intimate appliance, and as such the practices and conventions which surround it take on disproportionate importance. Except, that is, if you happen to be a dude. If you're a dude then you have the privilege of not thinking about any of this, the privilege of treating it as something below your notice, the privilege of forgetting several times a day that you have the power, through inaction, to render the domestic environment manly.

Which should bring us back to the allocation of burdens, the fear of degradation, and the question of what it might mean for men to exercise a modicum of care. But this post has already strayed a little further into didacticism than I would have liked, so instead, here's a quote and a picture:

Excrement may be regarded as the corpse of nourishment, what remains when the vital elements in food have been exhausted. In this respect, excrement is a representation of death that we ourselves produce and that, indeed, we cannot help producing in the very process of maintaining our lives. Perhaps it is for making death so intimate that we find excrement so repulsive. --Harry Frankfurt


The Writer's Strike

Really, DR isn't "busy," he just didn't want to cross a picket line. Any picket line.

Anyway, there is one reason to be enthusiastic about the strike: It's an occasion to for Ze Frank to return to v-blogging.

Also, I found this post by Fake Steve Jobs to be pretty entertaining. Here are a couple excerpts:
I guess we can't blame these writers. They've all got big stupid houses in Los Angeles and Hawaii, plus Porsches and Land Rovers and way more money than they ever deserved and they got it all for producing what history will view as probably the worst bulk of absolute fecal matter that has ever been passed off onto the world. Honestly these guys have run the biggest scam I've ever seen. Now they're clinging to that fat stupid system that has served them so well.

Obtain a clue, people. You're sitting there fighting over residuals and terms of this and that when what you should be doing is leaving the system altogether and helping to build the next one. But you can't do that because you can't get off the heroin of network money. You're hooked to a lifestyle. For all your groovy talk and hip little soul patch beards, you're the most risk-averse people in the world. You're lifers. I mean, you belong to a fucking union! How fucked up and 20th century is that?


"Heroes" thread

Sorry for the geek out, but I'm missing my normal opportunities to chat about this while I am traveling, so here goes. As the kids say, SPOILERz ALERT:

ITEM: I totally saw the Kensei = Adam thing coming, the moment he swore eternal vengeance on Hiro. I'm just sayin'. Anyway, my next prediction is that Kensei turns out to be a hero after all. Why? Well, mostly because of bad writing. But also because, who else is going to cut out his own heart, which Kensei did in the story, except for some dude who can live forever?

ITEM: So, Kensei must be a Patrelli family ancestor, right? Cause Claire has the same ability...

ITEM: So, Peter took his new girlfriend to the future, and then traveled back to the present without her. That means, he can't change the future, because if he does, he erases the future in which she, uh, is. Am I right?

I believe that children are the future... of terrorism!

Nov. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Al-Qaeda is recruiting British children to carry out a terrorist attack on home soil, the head of the U.K.'s domestic security service said.

"Children" gives the wrong idea, because the youngest age the article mentions is fifteen years old.

But, it reminded me of a story about DR: At one point his mom called the cops, convinced that DR was doing drugs in his room because she found a spoon in there. And, as we all know, spoon use equates with heroin use, even when the spoon is covered in peanut butter.

I shudder to think what kind of interactions kids are going to have with their parents when the parents start suspecting them of being in league with Bin Laden.


What's up with the light posting?

Perhaps there is a mathematical explanation. It might, for example, have to do with Benford's Law which "states that in lists of numbers from many real-life sources of data, the leading digit is 1 almost one third of the time, and larger numbers occur as the leading digit with less and less frequency as they grow in magnitude, to the point that 9 is the first digit less than one time in twenty" (source).

A more likely explanation, though, is that I'm pretty busy these days and probably will be through at least April. I'll try to avoid ten day lapses between posts, but I can't make any promises. And the math would seem to imply that the when posts aren't daily the likely gap will be ten to nineteen days.

By the by, it occurred to me that if the Benford's Law article were a hoax I wouldn't be able to tell, so I asked a couple of mathematicians of my acquaintance about it. The response? "Pretty interesting."


I don't wanna play anymore...

"You euthanized your faithful companion cube faster than any test subject on record. Congratulations!"



This is really cool. A whole series of pictures of statues at the moment they shatter:

Check out the series here




A quick deterioration or breakdown, as of a situation or circumstance.

Hey, I came up with a new motto for the the Catholic League

"Christianity: An idea so fragile that it is threatened by a fantasy movie for kids!"

Sentences: the taken-for-granted miracles of storytelling

Akandi shook his head, putting aside the sudden realization that hundreds of years of UFO sightings and tales of alien abductions were probably real, and what lay behind them were a race of augmented and gene-tweaked lemurs.

Source: Cusp, Robert A. Metzger, p. 239.

nb: The title of this post is stolen from an entirely different source.



Some people say that the Values Voters Straw Poll is meaningless, but all I know is that the wingnut down the street replaced his Bush bumper stickers with Mitt '08 paraphernalia this weekend. Notably, it made me less inclined to key his car.

Unrelated addendum: Speaking of wingnuts...


Card check revisited

No, not really. I'm still working on that post. In the meantime, I think this is the worst television commercial ever made. Oddly, the comments over at YouTube are uniformly positive. Goes to show, I guess.


By the way

I didn't mention this in the comment thread to my post about the Soaring Eagle Casino, but two facts came to light last weekend about the organizing campaign there:
  1. There's very little evidence that the average worker knows anything about the organizing campaign.
  2. In organizing the Soaring Eagle, the Teamsters seem to have violated an agreement among the various Michigan unions laying out how the several casinos in Michigan were to be organized.

As to the second, I'm not quite sure that I care. On the one hand, I don't really think the Teamsters are the ideal union to organize casinos. On the other hand, as stupid as turf wars are, it's also pretty stupid to leave workers unorganized because they happen to be on another union's turf.

As to the first, if an organizing campaign hasn't progressed to the point where all the workers have heard about it, I can't quite understand the point of filing for an election. Unless, that is, you're trying to win a turf war by planting the flag.

Liberal talk radio can't cut it in Austin

This morning, Air America radio was replaced by Tejano music on KOKE Austin. Apparently the station was sold. After taking a look at the ratings, it turns out that maybe I was the only person in Austin listening.

To be fair, Air America kind of sucks. It was just one of many talk radio stations I listen(ed) to while driving, joining a couple sports stations, the usual conservative suspects, and an all-catholic-ministry station.



Here's a line of thought that occurred to me. An iPhone costs about $400. Adding an iPhone to an existing service plan costs about $20 per month. Right now I have two cell phones, one provided by work and the other for personal use. My personal cell phone, which I barely use, costs me about $50 per month. If I were to buy and iPhone and have my employer add it to my account, the cost to me would be $20 per month. So if I got an iPhone and cancelled my personal account, I'd save about $30 per month. So the iPhone would pay for itself in a little over a year.

Pretty awesome.

Except: You can't add iPhone service to a business plan.


In the nick of time, Congress acts!

I hate to embrace any republican talking points, but they have a good one here: Identifying a 90 year old event as genocide is not the poper business of the U.S. Congress.

Here are just a few things Congress should be doing instead of damaging our relations with Turkey over something very few living people remember:

* Address genocide going on right now.

* Engage in oversight of the executive branch.

* Stop a war.

* Stop the next war.


Is there aught we hold in common with the greedy parasite?

Big weekend plans for me. Gambling. Country Music. Good times. And all because AFT-Michigan is hosting an organizer training this weekend at the Soaring Eagle Casino.

There's only one small problem:
The National Labor Relations Board has issued a formal complaint against the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort alleging an unfair labor practice interfering with Teamsters' efforts to organize casino workers. According to federal documents, a hearing has been scheduled for Oct. 17 in Mt. Pleasant. A location for the hearing as not yet been set. Teamsters Local 486 has been attempting to organize the casino workers.

The leaders of the Saginaw-based local filed an unfair labor practice charge against the casino, charging that casino managers threatened that casino workers would be subject to adverse consequences if they went to an organizing meeting, and that workers were told to stay away were handing out leaflets.|link|

In more recent news, the Teamsters filed a request with the NLRB earlier this week asking that an election be held. I think I heard on the radio that they're actually voting this weekend, but that timeline seems pretty quick. At any rate, they wouldn't file unless they expected to win so we shall see what we shall see.


I got a bedazzler so my outfit's tight

Well, I guess it's too late to demonstrate, once again, my uncanny ability to predict the duration of strikes in the auto industry. It's a lucky thing, because I think I might have gotten this one wrong. The news this morning, after all, was that the sides were so far apart that they couldn't even agree who was allowed to sit at the bargaining table. What's more, Chrysler is the smallest of the big three, making it the company that the UAW is most likely to think that it can beat. Add in Chrysler's recent transition to a private ownership and attendant speculation that a major motivation for going private was to insulate the company from shareholder pressure in upcoming labor disputes, and it sure looked like a recipe for one hell of a strike.

Except that it wasn't. Instead:
A new expression is making the rounds here in the nation’s automotive capital: “Hollywood strike,” as in, “just for show.”
The brief walkouts appear to have emerged as a way for both union leaders and company managers, at a time of deep troubles in their industry, to prove to their constituents that they got the best deal they could under the circumstances, without the damage of an all-out war.|NY Times|

But who knows. Maybe if I had actually found the time to write a blog post during the strike I would have seen to the heart of the matter. I'll tell you one thing, it sure was a good idea to create a 'uaw on strike' tag.

Being a post in which the finest art confronts the cold calculations of science

Rank among female baboons is hereditary, with a daughter assuming her mother’s rank.

News of that fact gave great satisfaction to a member of the British royal family, Princess Michael of Kent. She visited Dr. Cheney and Dr. Seyfarth in Botswana, remarking to them, they report: “I always knew that when people who aren’t like us claim that hereditary rank is not part of human nature, they must be wrong. Now you’ve given me evolutionary proof!” |NY Times|

The Big Baboon

The Big Baboon is found upon
The plains of Cariboo:
He goes about with nothing on
(A shocking thing to do).

But if he dressed up respectably
And let his whiskers grow,
How like this Big Baboon would be
To Mister So-and-so!

Hilaire Belloc



I didn't get home from work in time to watch the penultimate episode. Maybe some good poker was played at that stage. But the last episode? Shit poker all the way through.


I want to be a cowboy

The skies were empty at a charity air show after participants were escorted out of the area by F-16 fighter jets sent up because President Bush was in town.

The president's security no-fly air zone was extended Sunday and included the Hagerstown, Maryland, event, but at least four pilots of antique airplanes who were supposed to join the charity show were apparently unaware of the Federal Aviation Administration restrictions. They were intercepted by F-16s and escorted out of the area, federal officials said. |CNN|

Unlike China, the United States enforces the hightest standards when it comes to food safety

Topps Meat Company LLC announced today that because of the economic impact of the second-largest beef recall in U.S. history involving more than 21.7 million pounds of ground beef products, it is forced to close its Elizabeth plant and go out of business effective today. The company has been in business since 1940. |source|

How did this happen? Well, first George Bush was elected president. Second, the USDA cut back on inspections. Third, the standards slipped at Topps. Fourth, lots of people got sick. Fifth, the state of New York Department of Health launched the investigation which led to the initial recall. Sixth, the USDA finally got into gear, took a close look at Topps, and ordered a recall so large that the company went under.


Till Armageddon no shalam no shalom

When I was a freshman in college back in the eighties, I took an introductory survey course in the humanities. One of the books we read was Into That Darkness, Gitta Sereny's biography of Franz Stangl. This was, of course, at the height of the canon wars, so I suppose that Bloom and Hirsch would have been scandalized to see that book on the reading list. Truth be told, I probably would have sympathized with them. As much as I enjoyed the book, the central question it posed seemed faintly ridiculous. Could the Holocaust happen here? Could decent people, step by tiny step, lose all human moral sense? Of course not.



Via Marc Cooper's math, I see that the average Republican voter is to the left of the average congressional Democrat regarding the Iraq war.


Great moments in wikiped

According to the Wikiped Galactica...
In the phrase “rox0r your b0x0rz,” b0x0rz may not refer to boxers (i.e. underwear) but might refer to boxes (in computer slang: computers, though boxen or b0x3n may be more commonly used in this context). The more naïve interpretation "rocks your boxers" is still meaningful, however, as the sentiment is much the same and is often used to carry a connotation that one was 'rocked' so hard they felt it in their boxer shorts. This is also similar to the phrase "to scare one's pants off".[citation needed]



[from Hawaiian ’a-'a]

Basaltic lava forming very rough jagged masses with a light frothy texture.


Soccer coaching advice

When things are going well it's a good idea to mix things up. For example, lots of successful coaches will try to extend a winning streak by switching goalies for a tough game. It's a winning formula!


A tiny little dot caught my eye

Yesterday I picked up At War with the Mystics from The Flaming Lips. I got to about the middle of track four before I felt it necessary to take the cd out and cleanse my palate with Dig Me Out. Has anybody actually listened to this record all the way through? Should I give it another try, or just write this purchase off as a mistake?

In other yesterday's musical purchases news, despite including a pretty interesting version of Tocata and Fugue in D Minor, Bachbusters seems to have grown cheesier over the years. Perhaps what's needed here is a drug induced haze.

Lastly, a question. Are there really people out there who haven't gotten around to giving Futuresex / Lovesounds a listen?


Taking out the trash, a beginner's primer

  1. Remove the bag from the trash can and tie it off.
  2. Transport the (tied off) trash bag to the appropriate receptacle/curb.
  3. Replace the liner in the trash can.

Advanced trash taker outers can set more ambitious goals, such as separating out recyclables. Those goals, while laudable, should not be pursued at the expense of getting the basics right.

Paging Machiavelli

Young Prince Yglesias needs a lesson.
I noticed this absence of actual numbers, too, and all I can say is . . . what's the deal? When I saw Petraeus not including the numbers, I suspected something nefarious. But the Pentagon numbers that contradict Petraeus don't show them either, so it probably isn't nefarious. But it is damned odd. |Yglesias|

The upshot of relying on charts that don't include numbers, as Yglesias notes in his post, is that newspapers like The Washington Post, find themselves writing things like, "The charts are difficult to compare" instead of things like, "Somebody is lying." Maybe it's all innocent, but it's plausibly nefarious.


The nation is a car, and we the people are the driver

I don't know about all y'all, but today's news that UAW is launching a nationwide strike against GM caught me by surprise. I mean, I knew that the negotiations were on, and that UAW had set a deadline, but I didn't think Gettlefinger had the balls to pull the trigger.

How long it will go on is a guessing game. Here's a little bit of data:
The union, which pays workers $200 a week in strike pay if they take shifts on the picket line, has nearly $900 million in its strike fund, enough to cover a two-month walkout.

G.M., meanwhile, had a 65-day supply of vehicles at the end of August, about normal for summer, and it had already announced plans to reduce production in the final three months of the year because of slowing sales. |NY Times|

And the only fact I can think to add is that a whole lot of GM's production is outside the USA nowadays. On the other side of the coin, I think the UAW is going to be able to raise truck loads of money for its solidarity fund when it comes down to it.

All of this only matters, though, if what we're looking at here is an existential throwdown. My gut is that it isn't. I think GM wanted to prove to the UAW that it isn't afraid of a strike. And I think Gettlefinger wanted to prove, partly to GM but mostly to the UAW rank and file, that he is a dog who knows at least one trick other than rolling over. So I'm betting that this is all over pretty quickly -- probably within a day or three.

Update:: Tentative agreement reached.

Will the real opposition party please stand up?

Matching up on some reading I ran across this statement by Barnett Rubin, Director of Studies at the Center on International Cooperation:

[T]he Democratic Party presidential candidates and Congressional Leadership sometimes seem afraid of challenging the administration too directly for fear of being seen as soft on terrorism... If I were a politician, for instance, I might say something like this:

The Bush-Cheney administration has surrendered much of Afghanistan to the Taliban and much of Pakistan to al-Qaida. They have turned most of Iraq over to Iran, creating the very danger over which they now threaten another disastrous war; they have strained the U.S. Armed Forces to the point of exhaustion, turned the Defense Department over to private contractors, the Justice Department over to the Republican National Committee, and the national debt over to foreign creditors, while leading a party whose single most basic belief is supposed to be that individuals must take personal responsibility for their actions. And they dare to lecture us on national security? |Bush-Cheney Threaten U.S. Security: Where's the Accountability? - Informed Comment: Global Affairs|

Bush doesn't disappoint me because I always suspected he was a spoiled frat boy pretending to be a statesman, but I am disappointed at the paltry attempts of the Democrats to curtail Bush's disastrous reign.

Looking at the scorecard, Bush has won every single round against the Dem's even since the 2006 election, so who's the stupid one?

Bush is a lame duck and his brain has left the building, when will the Democrats get up the courage to challenge him?


A very serious Friday

This is a few years old, but well worth reading. Chock full of interesting bits it is.
And while it's a small point, the Empire's manners and decorum speak well of it. When Darth Vader is forced to employ bounty hunters to track down Han Solo, he refuses to address them by name. Even Boba Fett, the greatest of all trackers, is referred to icily as "bounty hunter." And yet Fett understands the protocol. When he captures Solo, he calls him "Captain Solo." (Whether this is in deference to Han's former rank in the Imperial starfleet, or simply because Han owns and pilots his own ship, we don't know. I suspect it's the former.)



Dan Rather's lawsuit is not about George Bush, dummy

For several years now, there has been a sort of unity amongst liberal political institutions and media outlets, including MoveOn, various blogs, Air America radio shows, and so on. We've all been united in one despairing cry:


Truly, when it comes to liberal voices, George Bush has been one hell of a uniter.

A couple things are changing now, however. Bush is on his way out. Democrats control congress, at least in theory. We're beginning a primary season. And because of all of this, our differences become a little more stark. And people and groups that seemed reasonable last year now seem to be totally nuts.

One example of left-wing nuttiness is this blog post by Richard Greene, host of Air America's evening show, "Clout."

Let's Support Dan Rather

Congratulations, Dan Rather!! Since MONEY is THE only thing that the mainstream media corporations measure, hitting CBS and Viacom with a $70 million lawsuit is, finally, speaking their "single bottom line" language.

That George Bush got to lie about his military service, steal his job and then keep his job and Dan Rather, a courageous journalist for decades, lost his and was disgraced for telling the truth about the man who lied and stole and ultimately defrauded the nation into war, is a national obscenity. In fact, CBS and Viacom bear significant responsibility to America for the $500 Billion plus, plus, plus foreign policy disaster where they, and the rest of the mainstream media, suspended THEIR journalistic ethics, surrendered their national role and became, instead, cheerleaders for our MIA Commander in Chief and his disastrous foreign policy.

Perhaps America should join Mr. Rather and file a lawsuit against CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox for THAT! We will be cheering for you, Dan!

Rather is filing a lawsuit saying that he wasn't actually responsible for the incorrect information. He's not at all claiming that the story about Bush was true. He's basically saying, "I'm just a talking head, so please give me money." This lawsuit is just going to give wingnuts another opportunity to push actual issues to the sideline with a hysteric round of bashing the MSM for it's alleged anti-Bush slant.

So, let's not support Dan Rather. Sure, he got a raw deal, but his reputation (and his personal fortune) are the least of our worries.

Don't tase me bro

Speaking of important issues, the video of Andrew Meyer being arrested and tasered is certainly disturbing and the implications for free speech and citizen safety are appalling.

My personal view is that tasers are too dangerous to be used on non-violent subjects because tasers do, from time to time, kill perfectly healthy citizens and until Taser International can explain the exact mechanism of why people are killed (and how to prevent accidental deaths), the devices should not be used on non-violent citizens.

But the free speech issue is also quite troubling. A Vanderbilt student sums up my view when they state that the actions of the police interfere with the very nature of free expression and open debate that are hallmarks of the University system.
While neither exceeding his time allotment nor ignoring line protocol, both of which Meyer seems to have done, are appropriate or respectful actions at a lecture event, his transgressions clearly pale in comparison to those of the officers.

It is clear from the video that the police escalated the nature of the conflict by forcibly grabbing a non-physically threatening Meyer as they attempted to remove him from the auditorium. His resistance was completely understandable. By the time the officers used the stun gun on him, Meyer was pinned to the ground and clearly outmanned.

Meyer was arrested for resisting an officer and disturbing the peace, giving police a more palatable way to describe Tasering a student for over-questioning a senator.|Taser incident threatens campus culture - Inside Vandy|

None of these issues are new, they've just been brought center stage by the footage of Mr. Meyer screaming like a stuck pig while he's being shocked.

A recent comment from a police chief encapsulates the law enforcement view:

"It's simple. If you do what you're told and you comply, you won't be Tased."

-Richard Leighton, police chief in St. Johnsbury, Vt., where two men who were shocked with stun guns in a 2005 incident won a $10,000 settlement after claiming police used excessive force. |Mlive.com|(emphasis added)

While law enforcement obviously takes an authoritarian stance on issues of disobeying a police officer's orders, I think law enforcement needs to exercise more judgment and discretion in determining whether a protest is political and non-violent and police should refrain from interfering with lawful dissent.

"I'm interested in changing the policy so that Tasers are not used on non-violent people, particularly protesters taking a dignified stance. I see the points police make in using Tasers as an alternative to lethal force. But it seems like they're lowering the threshold so they can use [Tasers] for a wide variety of uses."

- Jonathan Crowell, who was shot with a Taser during a peaceful demonstration in Brattleboro, Vt. |Mlive.com|(emphasis added)


Posts concerning important issues will resume before too long

Unless it's already been too long. Anyway, in the mean time, WTF?


This is how a lot of bad movies start...

VILLAGERS in southern Peru have been struck by a mysterious illness after a meteorite made a fiery crash to Earth in their area.

Around midday Saturday, villagers were startled by an explosion and a fireball that many were convinced was a plane crashing near their remote village, in the high Andes department of Puno in the Desaguadero region, near the border with Bolivia.

Residents complained of headaches and vomiting brought on by a "strange odour," local health department official Jorge Lopez told Peruvian radio RPP.

Seven policemen who went to check on the reports also became ill and had to be given oxygen before being taken to hospital, Mr Lopez said.

Rescue teams and experts were dispatched to the scene where the meteorite had left a crater 30m wide and 6m deep, said local official Marco Limache.

"Boiling water started coming out of the crater and particles of rock and cinders were found nearby. Residents are very concerned," he said.


It looks like it ended up in water, so I'm guessing the heat and motion just kicked something nasty (but terrestrial) into the air rather than brining a zombie plague from beyond the depths of space.


O.J. Simpson held without bail

Will he be able to assemble another legal "dream team?" Discuss in the comments. I'll start, by suggesting that the answer is... no.


Two truths and a lie

Item: Ex-Pamela Anderson husbands Tommy Lee and Kid Rock nearly came to blows at the MTV video music awards and have been offered $1 million to settle their differences in the ring.

Item: Pamela Anderson recently became engaged to a man after he agreed to pay off her gambling debts in exchange for sexual favors.

Item: Pamela Anderson's fiance is the man behind the Paris Hilton sex tape.

Bad boys bad boys, whatcha gonna glue

I don't know. Why can't all cops be like this?



Are not my ways equal?

Greetings from the land of moderately priced digital cable!
  • What the hell is broccolini? Also, Anthony Bourdain seems like kind of an asshole. So I guess he probably gets along great with Tom Coleccio.
  • Speaking of Top Chef, this is fucked up.
  • UFC is waaaaaaay better than WEC. But thanks for trying Versus. You done brung me through the wilderness.
  • Did you know that David Lynch has had his name removed from the Dune credits? The film is now brought to you by Alan Smithee.
  • Speaking of Alan Smithee, the free movie offerings on *On Demand* have really expanded since the last time I had access to the Digital Starter Package.
  • Apparently the M*A*S*H revival is only taking place on Super Basic Cable. Who'd'a thunk?
  • Don't be fooled by the lame advertising campaign. The women's World Cup is awesome.


Burning salt water for fuel

No kidding. This dude can (allegedly) "burn" salt water by exposing it to an RF energy field. The radiation weakens the chemical bonds and releases the hydrogen, igniting the hydrogen in the process. Even if we never use burning salt water for heat, just freeing the hydrogen in this manner sounds pretty cool to me.

Of course, there's the Vonnegutesque Ice-9 angle:
"This is the most abundant element in the world. It is everywhere," Dr. Roy said of salt water. "Seeing it burn gives me chills."


Perhaps it will "reincarnate" as an Olympic medal

From a few days ago:

ELK RIVER, Minn. - The high demand and soaring prices for scrap metal appeared to be the reason a 7-foot statue of Buddha, covered in copper-laden bronze, was stolen from an outdoor temple shrine at the Thai Buddhist Center of Minnesota, police said.

Police Chief Jeff Beahen said a 45-year-old Elk River woman was arrested Friday night, and a male family member was being looked at as another suspect in the theft.

The statue, valued at $10,000, was stolen Wednesday night, and a detective issued a statewide alert to police and scrap dealers Thursday with a photo of the stolen statue.

Early Friday afternoon, a recycling company in Monticello called the detective, saying they had taken in two pieces of scrap they believed to be from the statue.

Police recovered the right shoulder and right hip of the statue, each weighing about 60 pounds, and with the help of the recycler were able to identify the woman who had brought them in.

"There are another 10 pieces or so, and I hope the other recycling companies are as diligent in talking with us," Beahen said.

The statue was specially made in Thailand for the center.

"It's too bad," said temple member Jay Cramer. "The whole community is real sad. It's a sacred piece."

But Cramer said there was some relief in knowing that the statue was stolen for money and not because of bigotry.

Anyone even a little familiar with Buddhism, and especially Zen Buddhism, has probably heard the story about the firewood Buddha. There are several versions of this story, but they all climax with a sacred, revered wooden Buddha statue (or several) getting chopped up by a senior monk to be used as firewood in an extreme time of need, much to the chagrin of the other resident monks (another, similar story has the head abbot peeling the gold off of a sacred Buddha statue to give to a poor man). The moral of these stories, of course, is that Zen has nothing to do with statues, scriptures, scrolls, saints...or even Buddhas. The act embodies typical, paradoxical Zen "counter-knowledge," in this case committing a sacrilegious act which is, in fact, the essence of Buddhahood. If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him, indeed (or, if you're the Taliban, blow him the hell up with yer anti-aircraft artillery).

The Elk River sangha's sadness at the loss of their Buddha is natural, true. And as a good Buddhist knows, sadness is a manifestation of suffering brought on by attachment. It's nice to hear Cramer take some comfort knowing the statue was stolen for money and not religious intolerance, but I am curious to know whether this organization has pressed or will press charges, what the economic situation of the statue-knappers truly is...and, whether or not the firewood Buddha story is being recounted this week in Elk River.

Crazy talk

We are organizing and regularizing what amounts to a Sunni militia. If we could do with the Shiite militias what we are now doing with the Sunnis (who already have plenty of weapons) the war would essentially be over now.

That's Mario Loyola, from an email posted at the fever swamp.


That's a nice way to put it

With one important exception: through the 18th century, the most celebrated singers were castrati, boys altered before puberty who grew into men with powerful high voices. Un-altered tenors rarely got higher than an A without singing falsetto. Many of their roles were decidedly unheroic, like the slightly wimpy Don Ottavio in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.” But the style was one of grace and agility. |link|


Lessons learned

  • The refrigerator at my office will comfortably hold 11 cases of beer.
  • One good way to improve rapidly at Guitar Hero is to set up your rig at the office.
  • You don't really need very many chips at the final table of an online poker tournament, because chances are that the other players are idiots.


Don't everybody volunteer at once

(sorry for lack of attribution... i ended up downloading the image in a glut of surfing, and now I can't find the source blog).

Morning in America

With Bush's approval ratings still hovering near Nixon-era lows, no end in sight for Bush's quagmire in Iraq, and war with Iran on the horizon, the Republicans are getting a bit anxious about the next election. None of their candidates really seems to be able to pull together a coalition of voters.

The answer to their prayers might be a synthesis of proven experience and egomaniacal chutzpah.

The Big O

Oprah Winfrey has already done plenty for Barack Obama, lending her influential endorsement and organizing major fundraising efforts, including an event on Saturday at her California home. But she may go even further. The Washington Post reports today that the TV superstar is in talks with Obama's advisors to take on a more active role in the campaign, possibly delivering stump speeches and more openly campaigning for Obama in the media.

Discussion question:

Is Oprah the cultural juggernaut everyone says she is? Will she send forth her arcane and hypnotic commands, shaping or subverting the will of America's ladyfolk? Will Obama crush Hillary and the hapless republicans beneath Oprah's fabulous heel?

Or is this more of a Sean Penn, Alec Baldwin level thing?


It's the day after Labor Day, and you know what that means

The 2008 Presidential campaign begins today!


Princess Diana is Maggot's Meat

The news media insists on reminding us that Princess Diana has been dead for ten years.

Really, who gives a rat's ass?

People are being blown up every day in Iraq, Cheney is pushing us towards another disastrous war (with Iran this time), our government is in meltdown, opium production is at record highs, the ice caps are melting, the standard of living is declining...

Who has the time to care that some privileged princess died in a car crash a decade ago?

I hope the media can get a clue as to what deserves coverage and what is yesterday's news.

Good news from Texas

I try not to think about the more controversial death-penalty cases in Texas, because paying attention always leads to a bout of profound depression when the sentence is carried out. But I couldn't help myself: I've been following the news of Kenneth Foster, who was to be excecuted even though he didn't commit, or even meaningfully participate, in murder.

So, this is a relief:
The state proceeed to execute its 400th offender, as well as two more this week. The 403rd, Kenneth Foster, was set to be executed today—just a few hours from now—but Mr Perry has just announced that, on the parole board's recommendation, the sentence will be commuted to life. Close call, Mr Foster.

Baby steps are all one can hope for in Texas right now, and this was a baby step. But for Foster, it means life. For those who aren't as familiar with Texas-style justice, George Bush would not have commuted the sentence if he were still governor, and he might have even mocked Foster to boot.


Quote of the morning

You know ... I don't know anymore who's going to win the Republican nomination. But I *do* know it will be a really old mean-looking dude in a really bad tie.



Noted for future discussion

Bishop is spot-on, and I’m always puzzled that people think that if Democrats win in red states that they necessarily did so because they converted the red portions of those states. As I have written for the Prospect, though Steve Jarding and other good consultants like him deserve credit for improving the margins for Democrats in rural areas, there just aren’t enough votes there. All these supposed “rural Democrat” winners like Mark Warner and Webb won because thanks to improved support and turnout from urban and inner suburban areas. If the “rural renaissance” is a useful rhetorical fiction for Democratic candidates and their consultants, fine, but it is a fiction nonetheless.


Ireland's biggest secret!

While slaving away in the pleasant Irish summer, my colleagues and I happened across Ireland's biggest secret. It concerns this new skyscraper going up in central Cork:

Across the base of the skyscraper are some silly advertisements:

But the final panel revealed the secret!


Bots still don't get irony

Researchers recently announced that through the use of data mining techniques, they've taught a computer program to recognize wordplay and simple jokes.
"The ability to appreciate humor is an enormous increment in subtlety," said researcher Tom Mantei from the University of Cincinnati's College of Engineering in a statement. "You need to know a lot to 'get' humor — a computer does not find it easy."

That's what UC doctoral student Julia Taylor and professor Larry Mazlack have discovered in their project on data mining. They reported on their progress with the project at the American Association for Artificial Intelligence conference in Vancouver this week... |New robot thinks knock-knock jokes are funny - Ars Technica|

Which reminds me of the time a priest, a rabbi, and a computer programmer walked into a bar...

Workplace safety, a fun argument

Honestly, I heard this on NPR. Because I'm a philosonerd, I'll render the argument schematically.
  1. No mine worker would willingly enter a mine unless it were operating safely.
  2. The miners in Utah willingly entered the mine.
  3. Hence, the Utah mine was operating safely.

It seems to me that figuring out where this argument goes wrong turns on the question of how best to understand the degree of freedom of the workers. If you think that the choices workers make about where to work and under what conditions are best described as being uncoerced and fully informed, then I think you have to say that the first premise is false. Which is to say that if you hold the view that becoming a coal miner is the sort of thing which might be freely chosen by someone who understands the risks, then you ought to acknowledge that people sometimes freely choose to do unsafe things. If, on the other hand, you tend to think that the choices made by workers are subject to coercion or are not made in full knowledge of the facts, then the second premise falls under suspicion.
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