When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

31 October 2006

RINO Sightings at Inside Larry's Head

RINOs have been spotted in Mr. Bernard's Neighborhood.

Trick or treat!

Autumn in New York

The recent storms, with their 50mph+ winds, knocked down most of the leaves that had started to turn.

Still, in this picture of Abingdon Square Park early on a Sunday morning, can't you tell that's it's fall?

Abingdon Square Park Scaled

This autumn in New York
Transforms the slums into Mayfair
Oh, autumn in New York
You'll need no castles in Spain

Yes, lovers that bless the dark
On the benches in Central Park
Greet autumn in New York
It's good to live it again

(lyrics: Vernon Duke)

30 October 2006

Project Valour-IT needs your help

Project Valour-IT (Voice-Activated Laptops for OUR Injured Troops) is part of Soldiers' Angels, a volunteer group on an important mission: outfitting severely injured Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines with laptops that can be used with adaptive devices, so that they can communicate with their families and friends via the Internet.

These folks are good at what they do. They've got the cost down for the complete rig to $800 - that'll buy a laptop setup for a wounded vet. But unfortunately, demand for these units is outstripping supply right now, and there's a fund drive on.

Bloggers are teaming up to raise $180,000 to buy laptops for our wounded troops, and we at enrevanche are doing our part.

Although I've never served, and I'm not part of the milblogger community, I have some good friends who are Navy family, and enrevanche, for the duration, has signed on with Team Navy (if they'll have me), as so far there's no team for former defense contractors (which is just as well, as we'd probably absorb all the money in time and materials cost overruns... okay, bad joke.)

In fact, every cent that Valour-IT raises goes to buy equipment; time and services are being donated by some very generous geeks.

If you have a spare $800 (or some multiple of this) to give, that's wonderful: you've just bought a new laptop for a wounded soldier.

Even if you don't, though, surely you've got $20 or $50 or $100 or so that you could contribute to the cause?

You may well have personal misgivings about what's going on in Iraq right now, but I hope you don't have a problem with offering some support and respect and love to a wounded veteran.

There's a donation button at the top right-hand side of your computer screen. Please give generously.

(And if you're a blogger, please join the team here.)

Project Valour-IT (Voice-Activated Laptops for OUR Injured Troops)

Hat tip: Chapomatic.

28 October 2006

Drill-down demographics

It's Neighboroo.

Slice and dice demographic information and view via a Google Maps interface.

Not just for politics, of course, but:

My ZIP, your ZIP, red ZIP, blue ZIP.

detailed view 10014.png
Um... my ZIP.


Hat tip: Gothamist.

"Where's a good angry mob when you need one?"

In the midst of an otherwise boring article about how movie producers try to deliberately foment outrage in order to boost ticket sales (duh!), this unintentionally hilarious lament from a movie producer who claims that religious conservatives are increasingly harder and harder to bait:
[Mark Urman of ThinkFilm] is now distributing “Shortbus,” an unrated movie with hard-core sex, and he says he has been shocked by the lack of resistance to it from the religious right.

“They see you coming,” he said...

Well, yes, that is one (usually-intended) side effect of putting hard-core sex in a movie.

Negative Publicity Is The New Hype - New York Times, October 27 2006

Mene, Mene, Tekhel, Upharsin

Corporate America is already thinking beyond Election Day, increasing its share of last-minute donations to Democratic candidates and quietly devising strategies for how to work with Democrats if they win control of Congress.

The shift in political giving, for the first 18 days of October, has not been this pronounced in the final stages of a campaign since 1994, when Republicans swept control of the House for the first time in four decades.

Though Democratic control of either chamber of Congress is far from certain, the prospect of a power shift is leading interest groups to begin rethinking well-established relationships, with business lobbyists going as far as finding potential Democratic allies in the freshman class — even if they are still trying to defeat them on the campaign trail — and preparing to extend an olive branch the morning after the election.
Democrats Get Late Donations From Business (New York Times, October 27, 2006)


27 October 2006

Liberation technology: mobile phones and third-world politics

Until recently, killers in Burundi found it easy to cover their traces; they just tossed the bodies into a river where crocodiles would eat them up. But in August residents of Muyinga province acted fast when they saw fresh corpses drifting downstream; they used their mobile phones to contact NGOs, who in turn tipped off the United Nations, whose soldiers got to the scene fast enough to recover some forensic evidence.

The use of mobiles as a tool of “empowerment”, even in the poorest and worst-governed parts of the world, is not always so grisly. The cruder kinds of electoral fraud, relying on poor communications between the capital and the boondocks, are now much harder. Even with minimal resources, monitors can count the voters and conduct exit polls—and then phone their findings to a radio station before the authorities stuff the ballot boxes. Such methods have helped make elections a bit cleaner in places like Ghana and Kenya. Meanwhile, in Europe's darkest corner, Belarus, text messages call youngsters to surreal acts of resistance, such as (to take a recent example) gathering to eat ice cream.
Mobiles, protests and pundits (The Economist, October 26, 2006)

I approved this attack-ad remix

Get your wonk on:
With just days to go until Election Day, the back-and-forth of political mudslinging is in full effect, as it always seems to be during this part of an even-numbered year. And nowhere is the phenomenon more prominent than in the plethora of negative campaign ads targeting every point along the political spectrum.


In honor of this realization, asap sifted through heaps of this season's best (worst?) negative campaign ads and turned them into a 3-minute original audio montage -- an asap attack ad remix, if you will.

[MP3 Link]

And now, October Surprise flambée...

...courtesy of the New Jersey Supreme Court, who, all by their lonesomes, just revived the gay marriage issue and *may* have handed the Religious Right the precise issue and hook that they desperately need to revitalize The Base and get out the vote.

The New Jersey court decision that gay couples are entitled to the same rights as heterosexual couples was bad news for social conservatives -- the bad news they were hoping for.

"Pro-traditional-marriage organizations ought to give a distinguished service award to the New Jersey Supreme Court," said the Rev. Richard Land, head of the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Land and other conservative religious leaders predicted that the court's 4 to 3 ruling, which was handed down Wednesday, would boost turnout of social conservatives in the midterm elections, particularly in the eight states that have constitutional amendments against same-sex marriage on the Nov. 7 ballot.

"I have to think there are Democratic strategists out there thinking the words of the old Japanese admiral: 'I fear all we've done is wake a sleeping giant,' " said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a Washington-based advocacy group. "They were coasting into an election with a Republican base with dampened enthusiasm. This brings it all back home to the base, what this election is about."

Religious Conservatives Cheer Ruling on Gays as Wake-Up Call (Washington Post, October 27, 2006)

26 October 2006

Flatbed or cat bed?

If one of the laptops is in use, the Lexmark All-In-One (printer, copier, scanner) will do just fine as a cat perch for Mister Gato.

Catbed or Flatbed? scaled.jpg
Copier cat.

Be sure to check out The Modulator's Friday Ark tomorrow, and don't miss the Carnival of the Cats this Sunday at Watermark.

Capitalism's next stage

The rise of big business is one of the seminal events in American history, and if you want to think about it intelligently, you consult historian Alfred D. Chandler Jr., its preeminent chronicler. At 88, Chandler has retired from the Harvard Business School but is still churning out books and articles. It is an apt moment to revisit his ideas, because the present upheavals in business are second only to those of a century ago.

Until Chandler, the emergence of big business was all about titans. The Rockefellers, Carnegies and Fords were either "robber barons" whose greed and ruthlessness allowed them to smother competitors and establish monopolistic empires. Or they were "captains of industry" whose genius and ambition laid the industrial foundations for modern prosperity. But when Chandler meticulously examined business records, he uncovered a more subtle story. New technologies (the railroad, telegraph and steam power) favored the creation of massive businesses that needed -- and in turn gave rise to -- superstructures of professional managers: engineers, accountants and supervisors.
Capitalism's Next Stage - Robert Samuelson, The Washington Post, October 26, 2006

Samuelson thinks that we may be at the end of "managerial capitalism."

I think he's onto something. To quote Alfred Chandler, "All I know is that the commercializing of the Internet is transforming the world."

Hakuna macaca

“If George Allen can find a video of Ronald Reagan praising him, he’s welcome to use it.”

25 October 2006

Michael Yon: Censoring Iraq

In a counterinsurgency, the media battlespace is critical. When it comes to mustering public opinion, rallying support, and forcing opponents to shift tactics and timetables to better suit the home team, our terrorist enemies are destroying us. Al Qaeda's media arm is called al Sahab: the cloud. It feels more like a hurricane. While our enemies have "journalists" crawling all over battlefields to chronicle their successes and our failures, we have an "embed" media system that is so ineptly managed that earlier this fall there were only 9 reporters embedded with 150,000 American troops in Iraq. There were about 770 during the initial invasion.

Many blame the media for the estrangement, but part of the blame rests squarely on the chip-laden shoulders of key military officers and on the often clueless Combined Press Information Center in Baghdad, which doesn't manage the media so much as manhandle them. Most military public affairs officers are professionals dedicated to their jobs, but it takes only a few well-placed incompetents to cripple our ability to match and trump al Sahab. By enabling incompetence, the Pentagon has allowed the problem to fester to the point of censorship.

Censoring Iraq: Michael Yon, The Weekly Standard, October 30, 2006

The word of the day is MAWG

MAWG n. middle-aged white guy.

Citations, subject labels, and comments can be found on the Double-Tongued Word Wrester web site.

Free basic care for the uninsured may lower hospital costs

Unable to afford health insurance, Dee Dee Dodd had for years been mixing occasional doctor visits with clumsy efforts to self-manage her insulin-dependent diabetes, getting sicker all the while.

In one 18-month period, Ms. Dodd, 38, was rushed almost monthly to the emergency room, spent weeks in the intensive care unit and accumulated more than $191,000 in unpaid bills.

That is when nurses at the Seton Family of Hospitals tagged her as a “frequent flier,” a repeat visitor whose ailments — and expenses — might be curbed with more regular care. The hospital began offering her free primary care through its charity program.

With the number of uninsured Americans reaching a record 46.6 million last year, up by 7 million from 2000, Seton is one of a small number of hospital systems around the country to have done the math and acted on it. Officials decided that for many patients with chronic diseases, it would be cheaper to provide free preventive care than to absorb the high cost of repeated emergencies.
Ahhhhh... someone's finally starting to get it.

The failure to provide basic, preventive care for the uninsured costs everyone more in the long run, especially hospitals, who are legally obligated to provide treatment for anyone who shows up at the ER door.

In other words, providing subsidized health care for the chronically ill poor is an economically sound decision, and an eminently defensible fiscally-conservative position.

To Lower Costs, Hospitals Try Free Basic Care For The Uninsured; New York Times, October 25 2006

24 October 2006

Fantasy Congress

Rotisserie-league baseball? Hell, the season's almost over.

Fantasy football? Passé, my friend.

It's time for Fantasy Congress.
We The Creators of this site, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish Fantasy Congress for the United States of America.

In this game, we give you the power to draft and manage a team of members from the U.S. Congress. Enjoy our gift to you, o great nation: the power to play politics.
Hat tip: deVille.

23 October 2006

I love New York, reason # 2.718

At the Anarchist Physicist Convention

Hobo #1: It's the motherfucking Law of Thermodynamics.
Hobo #2: Fuck you.

--57th & Lex

Overheard by: Ray Kugler

via Overheard in New York, Oct 22, 2006

RINO Sightings @ Searchlight Crusade

The October 23, 2006 edition of RINO Sightings is up over at Searchlight Crusade.

That's a great blog, by the way. In addition to the political and cultural stuff, if you dig into it and read some of the archives every day, you can get an excellent education on mortgage banking in a couple of weeks; if you ever intend to buy a house, you could do worse than give it a read.

Carnival of the Cats #135...

Carnival of the Cats #135 is up at Catcall.

22 October 2006

David Brooks: Thinning The Herd

David Brooks (behind the TimesDestruct firewall, I'm afraid) explains to Republicans, one more time, one big reason that they're going to take a pasting in a few weeks: they've been so busy pandering to The Base that they've alienated the moderate, "empiricist" (his term, not mine, but a good one) branch of the party.

[Republican moderates] are looking for orderly places to raise their children. They are what you might call antiparty empiricists. They distrust partisans and can’t imagine why anyone would be sick enough to base an identity on a political organization. They don’t expect much from government but a few competently delivered services, and they don’t like public officials who unnerve them.

The Republicans used to do well in these areas, but now it’s as if they are purposely trying to antagonize the married moms at the pseudo-New Urbanist outdoor cafes. The deficits alarm them. Tom DeLay was a perfectly designed Northeastern alienation machine. As insular Democrats know little about what life is like in flyover country, so insular Republicans know little about how people think in the suburban Northeast, where blue New York Times delivery bags dot the driveways each morn.

The big issue is Iraq, but the core problem with suburban voters is not the decision to go to war; it’s the White House’s reaction to the mess afterward. As Robert Lang, the superlative suburban specialist at Virginia Tech, notes, when people mess up a project in an office park, there are consequences. But Donald Rumsfeld never gets fired. Jerry Bremer and Tommy Franks get medals.

This is not how engineers and empirically minded managers behave. The people in these offices manage information for a living, and when they see Republicans denying obvious trends, or shutting out relevant data, they say to themselves, “Those people are not like me.” [emphasis added - bc]

Thinning The Herd - David Brooks, New York Times, October 22, 2006

By the way, don't you find it interesting that "The Base" is how "Al-Qaeda" is typically translated into English? I do.

21 October 2006


In my continuing quest to be enrevanche@everywhere, I'm testing out the new blogging platform from SixApart, "Vox."

Check it out: enrevanche.vox.com

(The public launch of Vox is on October 26th, but if you want an invite and you can't wait a few more days, drop me a line.)

Man-Mur Barber Shop: Tonsorial excellence in Raleigh

Continuing in our series of service-blogging posts about the Triangle area of North Carolina:

The best $12 old-school haircut in Raleigh (complete with straight-razor neck shaving) can be found at Man-Mur Barber Shop on Hillsborough Street, over by the NC State University campus.

manmur 21 oct 2006
Craptacular cellphone camera shot of Man-Mur Barber Shop

Man-Mur, sandwiched in between a coffee shop and a shoe store that seems to specialize in sandals and clogs, is the kind of place where the TV mounted on the wall alternates between CNN and Country Music Television, and the barbers are happy to keep up a running commentary on either.

Conversations occur between and across barbers, customers, ideologies and party lines, and there's a comforting rhythm and regularity to the place; when the phone rang this Saturday morning as I was getting a trim, every barber in the place sang out "1 PM!" before the guy closest to the phone picked it up.

Sure enough, he said "1PM, you're welcome" and hung up.

I accused him of being psychic, and he laughed and said, for years, when the phone rang on a Saturday morning, he just picked it up and said, "1PM, $12, yes he's working." (The Saturday closing time, the cost of a haircut, and the answer to "is my favorite barber there?" Man-Mur is not open on Sundays.)

That $12 buys you a careful and fine haircut, and for an additional $6 they'll do a hot-lather facial shave or a beard trim.

Haircuts there have been $12 for as long as I can remember.

Highly recommended.

Man-Mur Barber Shop (Google Maps link)
2708 Hillsborough St
Raleigh, NC 27607
(919) 832-4170

20 October 2006

SEforA: Scientists and Engineers for America

A new group, currently in its infancy but growing quickly, seeks to influence US politics by providing support for sound, evidence-based, scientifically-defensible policies.

Meet Scientists and Engineers for America:
Scientists and Engineers for America (SEA) influences targeted elections at all levels of government to renew respect for evidence-based debate and decision-making in politics.


We envision a future where wise science and technology policy can help every American live in a safe and clean environment, enjoy quality health and education, and benefit from a strong system of national defense. SEA is the only national organization dedicated exclusively to electing leaders who share this vision.


The scientists, engineers and concerned citizens who comprise SEA are united by shared values and beliefs. Scientists and Engineers for America believes in:

Good Government

Scientists know how to test theories, how to tell fact from fiction, and how to hold one another accountable. Smart leadership and policy should depend on similar processes.

Open Debate

Vigorous and evidence-based debate improves government policies, just as it improves scientific theories. Excessive secrecy protects ideologues and incompetence.

Competent Leadership

Public officials serve their communities well when their own deeply held convictions are informed by and tested against objective data.

Political Participation

An educated, questioning, and engaged citizenry is essential for successful Democracy.

While the issues and candidates we support change from election cycle to election cycle, these enduring principles guide all of SEA's work.

I've joined, and contributed some seed money; if you care about scientific literacy in this country, I urge you to (at least) sign up for their mailing list, and maybe throw them a few bucks as well.

Darwin Online

The Complete Works of Charles Darwin, Online.

WELCOME to the largest collection of Darwin's writings ever assembled. For a basic, non-academic, entryway click here. For a complete list click contents.

This site currently contains more than 50,000 searchable text pages and 40,000 images of both publications and handwritten manuscripts. There is also the most comprehensive Darwin bibliography ever published and the largest manuscript catalogue ever assembled. More than 150 ancillary texts are also included, ranging from secondary reference works to contemporary reviews, obituaries, published descriptions of Darwin's Beagle specimens and important related works for understanding Darwin's context.
I sure hope Sissy knows about this.

19 October 2006

Not quite as warm as a MacBook

While I'm down in North Carolina this week, Mister Gato is keeping my laptop desk warm for me.

Mister Gato keeps a vigil; From Barry

He's plenty warm, of course, but not as warm as a MacBook.

Be sure to check out The Modulator's Friday Ark tomorrow, and don't miss the Carnival of the Cats this Sunday at Catcall.

18 October 2006

"Grammar-based" peptide fights bacteria

As a language geek, I can't tell you how much I dig this story:

Using grammar rules alongside test tubes, biologists may have found a promising new way to fight nasty bacteria, including drug-resistant microbes and anthrax.

Studying a potent type of bacteria-fighters found in nature, called antimicrobial peptides, biologists found that they seemed to follow rules of order and placement that are similar to simple grammar laws. Using those new grammar-like rules for how these antimicrobial peptides work, scientists created 40 new artificial bacteria-fighters.

Nearly half of those new germ-fighters vanquished a variety of bacteria and two of them beat anthrax, according to a paper in Thursday's journal Nature.

Grammar-based peptide fights bacteria - Yahoo! News

Get your flu shots now

Flu vaccines are becoming available, and the flu season is fast approaching; it's a smart move to get your flu shots now.

On Monday, I got a flu vaccine and a pneumonia vaccine at the same time, for the princely sum of $50, at a local drugstore here in Raleigh.

Having a bit of a reaction to the Pneumovax, unfortunately:

Other side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention. However, check with your doctor if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome:

    More common

      Redness, soreness, hard lump, swelling, or pain at place of injection

    Less common or rare

      Aches or pain in joints or muscles; fever of 101 °F (38.3 °C) or less; skin rash; swollen glands; unusual tiredness or weakness; vague feeling of bodily discomfort

They don't list "feeling as if you've been hit by a truck," but that's the one I woke up with this morning, along with pain at the injection site and a low-grade fever.

Blogging will be light.

Islam 101: Sunni or Shi'ite?

For the past several months, I’ve been wrapping up lengthy interviews with Washington counterterrorism officials with a fundamental question: “Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?”

A “gotcha” question? Perhaps. But if knowing your enemy is the most basic rule of war, I don’t think it’s out of bounds. And as I quickly explain to my subjects, I’m not looking for theological explanations, just the basics: Who’s on what side today, and what does each want?

The news is not good. According to Jeff Stein, the national security editor of the Congressional Quarterly and the interlocutor responsible for the NYT op-ed quoted above, most intelligence and law enforcement officials--and members of Congress--don't know the basics: who are the players, and what do they want?
To his credit, [one clueless Senator who couldn't answer when asked] asked me to explain the differences. I told him briefly about the schism that developed after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, and how Iraq and Iran are majority Shiite nations while the rest of the Muslim world is mostly Sunni. “Now that you’ve explained it to me,” he replied, “what occurs to me is that it makes what we’re doing over there extremely difficult, not only in Iraq but that whole area.”
Um, yeah.

Can You Tell a Sunni From a Shiite? Jeff Stein, The New York Times, October 17, 2006

Morlocks to the left of me, Eloi to the right, here I am...

Humanity may split into two sub-species in 100,000 years' time as predicted by HG Wells, an expert has said.

Evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry of the London School of Economics expects a genetic upper class and a dim-witted underclass to emerge.
Human species 'may split in two' (BBC Science News)

In other news, evolutionary theorists at the LSE need to get out more. "Expects... to emerge?"

16 October 2006

RINO Sightings: Crime and Punishment edition

RINO Sightings, the Crime and Punishment edition, are now up at Politechnical.

No static at all: Understanding Triangle (NC) FM radio

Never let it be said that we don't do service journalism (service blogging?) at enrevanche.

Helpful hints for NC visitors:

When in the Triangle area of North Carolina, everything worth listening to on FM radio can be found at 91.5 FM or below on your dial, including two (!) very fine jazz stations:

88.1 - WKNC, NC State's student radio station
88.7 - WXDU, Duke University's student radio station
88.9 - WSHA, Shaw University (jazz format)
89.3 - WXYC, UNC's student radio station
89.7 - WCPE, privately-funded classical radio station
90.7 - WNCU, NC Central University (jazz format)
91.5 - WUNC, North Carolina Public Radio/NPR news/talk

All else on the FM dial is dross; a programmed, formatted morass of pop, country, Christian and "urban contemporary" bullshit... the same stale wasteland that commercial radio everywhere has become, essentially.

Since the student radio stations (KNC, XDU, XYC) are relatively low-output and you'll only be able to pick up one or at most two of them, depending on where in the Triangle you are, you now have all the information you'll need to program the presets on your rental car's radio.

Computerworld reviews Google Docs and Spreadsheets

Computerworld reviews Google Docs and Spreadsheets, formerly known as Writely, and concludes "good concept, but far from ready for prime time":
Looking for a free word processor and spreadsheet? Google's newly released Docs & Spreadsheets suite that offers just that, but in this case you get what you pay for. While the number-crunching power of Spreadsheets is adequate for simple workbooks, the Docs program (formerly Writely, acquired by Google earlier this year) is so underpowered we wouldn't recommend it for even casual use.

We tested the program pair with Internet Explorer 6 and 7, Opera 9, and Firefox 1.5. While our testing of Google Spreadsheets left us generally pleased... Google Docs didn't impress us. Furthermore, we encountered so many performance problems that we hesitate to use the programs in any but the most desperate circumstances.

For example, we were repeatedly stymied by a "Network error" message that prevented us from saving our work or even performing a spell check (since Docs must save the document first). Likewise, "Unable to connect to the network" left us frustrated and at a dead end. Worrying about whether your documents and spreadsheets will be available and hoping they won't disappear or be corrupted is no way to work.

I've been using "Google Docs and Spreadsheets" since the Writely days, and while I wouldn't be quite as harsh in my assessment as the Computerworld reporter, I have to agree that I'd never rely on these applications for primary use.

Still... it is very, very clear to me that network-delivered applications are the future, and that the tottering baby steps being taken now are in no way indicative of what offerings are going to look like in a few years.

By the way, if you're looking for an amazingly terrific free word processor, spreadsheet, and office application suite, the newest version of OpenOffice (2.04) just became available.

15 October 2006

Now what you hear is not a test

When those of us who grew up with rap saw signs that it was turning ugly, we turned away. We premised our denial on a sort of good-black-girl exceptionalism: They came for the skeezers but I didn't speak up because I'm no skeezer, they came for the freaks, but I said nothing because I'm not a freak. They came for the bitches and the hos and the tricks. And by the time we realized they were talking about bitches from 8 to 80, our daughters and our mommas and their own damn mommas, rap music had earned the imprimatur of MTV and Martha Stewart and even the Pillsbury Doughboy.

And sometimes it can seem like now, there is nobody left who is willing to speak up.

Why I Gave Up On Hip-Hop, Washington Post, Lonnae O'Neal Parker, Sunday, October 15, 2006

Carnival of the Cats #134...

...is now up at the House of the (Mostly) Black Cats.

14 October 2006

Shaking in his platform shoes

Oh, I bet Kim Jong Il has got (to quote Max Cady) that all-over fear right about now:

UN Security Council to impose sanctions on North Korea (CNN)

Here's an irresistible detail on Kim from Mr. Buckley:
It is widely noted that for all that [Kim Jong Il] thinks of himself as a leader with a divine afflatus to bring to his people and the world the fruits of Juche (the North Korean variant of Leninism, with a little Ayn Rand mixed in), he is himself a man of total self-indulgence, devoted to porn, Scotch and Daffy Duck cartoons.


Richard Hell writes a New York Times op-ed valedictory for CBGB's, the pioneering NYC live music club that's closing this weekend after 30+ years of enduring, history-making grottiness down on The Bowery.

On practically any weekend from 1974 to 76 you could see one or more of the following groups (here listed in approximate chronological order) in the often half-empty 300-capacity club: Television, the Ramones, Suicide, the Patti Smith Group, Blondie, the Dictators, the Heartbreakers, Talking Heads, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, and the Dead Boys. Not to mention some often equally terrific (or equally pathetic) groups that aren’t as well remembered, like the Miamis and the Marbles and the Erasers and the Student Teachers. Nearly all the members of these bands treated the club as a headquarters — as home. It was a private world. We dreamed it up. It flowered out of our imaginations.

How often do you get to do that? That’s what you want as a kid, and that’s what we were able to do at CBGB’s. It makes me think of that Elvis Presley quotation: “When I was a child, ladies and gentlemen, I was a dreamer. I read comic books, and I was the hero of the comic book. I saw movies, and I was the hero in the movie. So every dream I ever dreamed has come true a hundred times.” We dreamed CBGB’s into existence.

Rock and Roll High School, The New York Times, October 14, 2006

I went to CBGB's, of course, right after I moved to New York, long after it had ceased to be relevant, like every other idiot tourist and newcomer who had grown up on Talking Heads and Patti Smith records.

It was a complete and utter toilet, as described faithfully by Mr. Hell in his Times op-ed; I've been in (much) nicer men's rooms at football stadiums.

But it still had a tiny scintilla of magic left, just as the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ seemed to hold on to a little cachet, long years after The Boss stopped playing little clubs and blew town.

I wouldn't mind seeing Patti Smith close the place down tomorrow night, but I'll be on a plane to North Carolina.

Reportedly, CBGB's is going to be dismantled brick by brick and reassembled in Las Vegas, where canny owner Hilly Kristal plans to reopen.

While the club is closing, CBGB-labeled fashions can still be bought, and a NYC storefront will allegedly be maintained for this purpose (we'll see how long that lasts in the era of rising rents and effortless international e-commerce.)

They're building luxury condos down on The Bowery these days, you know.

And the beat (ahem) goes on.

New on the blogroll

...as the election draws nigh, some new Liberty Links:

Freedom Democrats - Libertarian-oriented Democrats.

The Liberty Committee and More Liberty (blog) - more fine work from Ron Paul and friends.

13 October 2006

Wow, not so juicy

My Blog Juice

TNR: Neo-McCain

Nowhere has McCain's willingness to question his own previous assumptions been more dramatic than on foreign policy. When he first arrived in Washington, he was essentially a realist, arguing that U.S. military power should only be used to protect vital national interests. Since the late '90s, however, he has joined forces with neoconservatives to support a crusade aimed at overthrowing hostile and undemocratic regimes--by force, if necessary--and installing in their place democratic, pro-American governments. Unlike many Republicans, he enthusiastically backed Bill Clinton's intervention in Kosovo. Moreover, he was pushing for Saddam Hussein's forcible overthrow years before September 11--at a time when George W. Bush was still warning against the arrogant use of American might.

And therein lies my McCain dilemma--and, perhaps, yours. If, like me, you believe that the war in Iraq has been an unmitigated disaster, then you are likely disturbed by McCain's early and continuing support for it--indeed, he advocates sending more troops to that strife-torn land--and by his advocacy of an approach to Iran that could lead to another fruitless war. At the same time, he has shown an admirable willingness to reevalute his views when events have proved them wrong. The question, then, comes down to this: Is John McCain capable of changing his mind about a subject very close to his heart--again?

The making of an überhawk: Neo-McCain, by John Judis, The New Republic, October 9, 2006

Microcredit pioneer wins Nobel Peace Prize

Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for pioneering the use of microcredit, the extension of small loans to benefit poor entrepreneurs.

The Nobel Committee said Yunus and the bank he founded had used the innovative program to ''create economic and social development from below.''

''Yunus and Grameen Bank have shown that even the poorest of the poor can work to bring about their own development,'' the committee said in its citation.

Grameen Bank provides credit to ''the poorest of the poor'' in rural Bangladesh, without any collateral, according to its Web site. Its model of micro financing has inspired similar efforts around the world.

Microloan Pioneer and His Program Win Peace Prize

An absolutely brilliant choice by the Nobel committee. Microcredit (and microfinance in general) is an idea whose time has come, and everyone on the political spectrum from the soft-left European socialists to the American hard right can agree that giving the desperately poor access to capital to improve their lot is a Good Thing.


12 October 2006

Libertarians are the new swing vote

The Cato Institute has just published a new study on the importance of the libertarian (small "l") vote in the American electorate.

The main theme of political commentary in this decade is polarization. Since the battles over the impeachment of President Clinton and the Florida vote in 2000, pundits have been telling us that we're a country split down the middle, red vs. blue, liberal vs. conservative. Political analysts talk about base motivation and the shrinking of the swing vote. But the evidence says they are wrong.

Not all Americans can be classified as liberal or conservative. In particular, polls find that some 10 to 20 percent of voting-age Americans are libertarian, tending to agree with conservatives on economic issues and with liberals on personal freedom. The Gallup Governance Survey consistently finds about 20 percent of respondents giving libertarian answers to a two-question screen.

Our own data analysis is stricter. We find 9 to 13 percent libertarians in the Gallup surveys, 14 percent in the Pew Research Center Typology Survey, and 13 percent in the American National Election Studies, generally regarded as the best source of public opinion data.

For those on the trail of the elusive swing voter, it may be most notable that the libertarian vote shifted sharply in 2004. Libertarians preferred George W. Bush over Al Gore by 72 to 20 percent, but Bush's margin dropped in 2004 to 59-38 over John Kerry. Congressional voting showed a similar swing from 2002 to 2004. Libertarians apparently became disillusioned with Republican overspending, social intolerance, civil liberties infringements, and the floundering war in Iraq. If that trend continues into 2006 and 2008, Republicans will lose elections they would otherwise win.

The libertarian vote is in play. At some 13 percent of the electorate, it is sizable enough to swing elections. Pollsters, political strategists, candidates, and the media should take note of it.

Emphasis added because I just couldn't help myself.

Hat tip: Sully.

Thursday catblogging: The Pasha

If it's Thursday at enrevanche, that must mean that Mister Gato is ready for his closeup.

Here, Mister G. perches on a couch cushion, doing his best imitation of a duck decoy:

Gato Cushions 001 scaled
I could be bobbing on the waves and ripples of a gentle pond, but I rather prefer the couch.

And here he tries to pose for the camera, but he just. can't. keep. eyes. open...

Gato Cushions 002 scaled
Wake me when it's time for supper.

Be sure to check out The Modulator's Friday Ark tomorrow, and don't miss the Carnival of the Cats this Sunday at The House Of The Mostly Black Cats.

11 October 2006

Big fun in Seattle

Carrie is having big fun in Seattle with Scott. Check out her appreciation of the public library downtown, complete with pictures:

Our haas is a very very very Koolhaas.


Plane vs. building, again

A little before 3PM Eastern time today, a small, single-engine aircraft struck a high-rise apartment building on Manhattan's Upper East Side.

While initial reports were troubling, confusing, and wrong (thanks, Chap, for teaching me that "initial reports are always believed and almost always wrong") it seems from all evidence as of about 5PM today that this was just a terrible aviation accident, not an act of terrorism.

New York City's response was incredibly fast. This was miles uptown from us, but we had extra cops on the street in the West Village in a very few minutes, and around the accident site itself, police officers, paramedics and firemen were in place within a few minutes.

I'm glad that our city's first responders are so well prepared.


Fontifier: Turn your handwriting into a digital font

Fontifier lets you use your own handwriting for the text you write on your computer.
It turns a scanned sample of your handwriting into a handwriting font that you can use in your word processor or graphics program, just like regular fonts such as Helvetica.


You'll need a printer, a Sharpie, a scanner, and $9. Works like a bandit.

"Barry Campbell" font

Hat tip: Lifehacker

Drag-and-drop Dubya

Write your own Presidential address, and then hear a Digital Dubya deliver it.

Hat tip: Charlie Suisman @ Manhattan Users Guide

Reliable numbers on H1B visas, offshoring of jobs not available

A sobering report issued last month by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Industrial Performance Center criticized the U.S. government's ability to develop sound economic policy due to the extreme lack of data available concerning the offshoring of American jobs. The MIT report was released just three days after the Washington State Democratic Congressional delegation requested the U.S. immigration service to issue an annual report on the H1B visa program.

U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, along with U.S. Representatives Adam Smith, Jay Inslee, Jim McDermott, Rick Larson, Norm Dicks, and Brian Baird, requested the annual report in a letter to Emilio Gonzalez, Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is part of the Homeland Security Department. Since 1998, the law has required that an annual H1B visa report be issued to Congress. According to the letter, however, it has not been issued to Congress in more than three years.
Source: WashTech Labor News.

If outsourcing and offshoring jobs is a net win for our economy, as globalization advocates (and I count myself in their number, incidentally) insist, then why on earth is our government apparently afraid of releasing the numbers?

Good God, please don't tell me that Lou Dobbs and Pat Buchanan know what they're talking about.

10 October 2006

An appreciation of Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift

Over at Mountain Philosopher, John deVille writes an appreciation of Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, a Franklin County (NC) classmate of his youth who went on to become a Navy JAG officer (attorney.)

It so happens that Lt. Cmdr. Swift was appointed to represent Salim Hamdan in Hamdan v Rumsfeld, 126 S.Ct. 2749 (2006), in which the Supreme Court recently held that military commissions set up by the Bush administration to try Guantánamo detainees "violate both the UCMJ and the four Geneva Conventions."

Charles had been tapped for the tough duty of defending Hamdan in the spring of 2003. As he told Esquire Magazine: "The guy who gave me the job said he wanted fighters."

They got the right guy.

Civilian attorney Neal Kaytal actually argued the case in front of the Court but it was Charles who had gotten it that far. Hamdan, a Yemeni national (with a fourth-grade education who claims he never joined Al Qaeda and never fought anyone), was Osama bin Laden's former driver and was charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism. The case was about the nature of the military commissions set up by the Bush Administration to try the Guantanamo detainees. Specifically, Swift and his co-counsels argued that the commissions violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the four Geneva Conventions.

The Supreme Court agreed with Charles Swift.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Lt. Cmdr. Swift was recently passed over for promotion to Commander.

Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift: Defender of the US Constitution (Mountain Philosopher)

Update: Chap (in a related post at Mudville MilBlogs) thinks that the Hamdan case is unlikely to have affected Lt. Cmdr. Swift's chances of promotion.

WFB on electoral schadenfreude

Voting is what you do every two years—and then, mostly, repine, wondering whether democracy really does anything for you beyond giving that little throb of tactile pleasure in recording your enthusiasm for one candidate or—and this pleasure is very keen—your loathing for another candidate. That last is a vital contribution to democratic hygiene, effected by candidates who arouse every hate gland in your withered frame, thereby offering a pure draught of remedial youthful joy, and you leave the voting booth humming “John Brown's Body.”
-- William F. Buckley, Vote for Lieberman?, September 26, 2006, National Review

Related: The (surprising) history of the song John Brown's Body, which was *not* originally written about the famous abolitionist, and which of course eventually became The Battle Hymn Of The Republic ("Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!")

09 October 2006

How random is the iPod's "Shuffle" feature?

My first iPod loved Steely Dan. So do I. But not as much as my iPod did. By 2003, among the 3,000 or so songs in my iTunes library, I had about 50 Steely Dan tracks. Yet every time I shuffled my music collection "randomly" to mix the tunes, it seemed that the Dan was weirdly over-represented. Only two or three songs after Rikki Don't Lose That Number, I'd hear Kid Charlemagne. Then, 20 minutes later, there would be Pretzel Logic. Where was the logic in this? I didn't keep track of every song that played every time I shuffled my tunes, but after a while I would keep a sharp ear out for what I came to call the LTBSD (Length of Time Before Steely Dan) Factor. The LTBSD Factor was always perplexingly short.
Oh No, Not Steely Dan Again (Steven Levy, The Guardian, October 7, 2006)

I have quite a lot of Steely Dan on my 8G iPod Nano, too, but *my* iPod's favorite artist seems to be Louis Armstrong, so I've got the MTBS (Mean Time Between Satchmo) effect, even though the number of Armstrong tracks is not quite as high as some other artists (I've got complete Charlie Parker and Bud Powell box sets on there, for cryin' out loud.)

08 October 2006

Carnival of the Cats #133

...is up over at Curiouser and Curiouser.

"M" as in...

So Carrie is getting ready to take a short working vacation in Seattle, and will be visiting with an old friend we haven't seen in a while.

She already seems to be getting into the spirit of things. As she was giving her information to the car service driver who'll be delivering her to Islip Airport tomorrow, she gave her middle initial as "M... as in 'Madonna.'"


Kiss a cop, flush a toilet, drink a beer

A letter from Iraq (Time.com)

NYT: Foley Case Upsets Gay Republicans’ Tough Balance

A key Republican Party strategy, pandering to social conservatives (especially the evangelical Religious Right) is creating a storm of ugly hypocrisy in the wake of the Mark Foley scandal.

Some gay Republican staffers on the Hill may have finally had enough.

Conservative blogs and Web sites pointed out that gay staff members played principal roles in investigating the Foley case, suggesting that the party was betrayed by gay men trying to hide misconduct by one of their own. In the meantime, a group of gay activists, angered by what they see as hypocrisy by gay Republicans, have begun circulating a document known as The List, a roster of gay Congressional staff members and their Republican bosses.

“You can see where it would be easy for some people to blame gays for something that might bring down the party in Congress,” said Brian Bennett, a gay Republican political consultant. He was a longtime chief of staff to former Representative Robert K. Dornan, Republican of California, who regularly referred to gays as Sodomites.

“I’m just waiting for someone in a position of authority to make this a gay issue,” Mr. Bennett said of the Foley case.

The presence of homosexuals, particularly gay men, in crucial staff positions has been an enduring if largely hidden staple of Republican life for decades, and particularly in recent years. They have played decisive roles in passing legislation, running campaigns and advancing careers.

Known in some insider slang as the Velvet Mafia or the Pink Elephants, gay Republicans tend to be less open about their sexual orientation than their Democratic counterparts. Even though the G.O.P. fashions itself as “the party of Lincoln” and a promoter of tolerance, it is perceived as hostile by many gay men and lesbians. Republicans have promoted a “traditional values” agenda, while some conservatives have turned the “radical gay subculture” into a reliable campaign villain. And there are few visible role models in the party; Representative Jim Kolbe of Arizona is the only openly gay Republican in Congress.

Foley Case Upsets Gay Republicans’ Tough Balance - The New York Times

OK, people, for the last time...

...there is no good barbecue in New York City.

Update, Sunday morning: However, if you're in NYC and interested in learning how to fix good barbecue yourownself, this looks mighty promising:

We'd like to invite you to The Baron's School of Pitmasters! - A first for New York City and a benefit for St. Mark Sports Association

Paul Kirk, the legendary Baron of Barbecue, co-owner of NYC's R.U.B. Restaurant, Barbecue Guru, Ambassador of Barbecue, Order of the Magic Mop, Certified Barbecue Judge, Kansas City Barbecue Society Board of Directors, Inductee into the KCBS Barbecue Hall of Flame, Author of numerous cookbooks and 1990 Chef of the Year Greater Kansas City ACF Chapter is coming to New York City to teach the Baron's School of Pitmasters.

  • When: Saturday October 21, 2006 - Rain or Shine.
  • Where: The Water Taxi Beach, 2nd Street and Borden Ave, Hunter's Point, Long Island City, Queens, New York...

BBQ Class: Paul Kirk's School of Pit Masters Sponsored by R.U.B Restaurant

07 October 2006

Good to be home again

Earlier this week, electricians visited our apartment to bring us into the mid-twentieth-century, wiring-wise; the entire 110-year-old building is being rewired and brought up to code, and we now, mirabile dictu, have enough oomph in the amperage department to run the toaster oven *and* the hairdryer at the same time, should we so choose.

And we have a dedicated 20-amp circuit just for an air conditioner. You can't imagine how luxurious that feels. (12,000 BTU window-unit air conditioner: already on order, scheduled to arrive next week. They're cheaper in the fall, you know.)

At any rate, this all involved punching a lot of holes in some very old plaster, installing conduit and wiring, and then doing a fair bit of rework with plaster, sheetrock and all the trimmings, so Mister Gato and the Chow Chows spent some time at "camp" this week.

And Carrie and I spent a couple of days moving furniture, cleaning up, and so forth, and while we had the furniture moved out of the living room for the electricians to work there, we even managed to put down the FLOR carpet tiles we've had sitting in the hall closet since last December.

in the new home office scaled
Your humble correspondent, in the renovated living room/home office (note new carpet)

We were very pleased to be able to retrieve everyone on Friday morning and bring them home. Gato was especially chuffed to discover that, despite the changes in the apartment (does anything discombubulate a cat more than rearranging the furniture? You might as well toss him in a sack and move him across town under cover of darkness) we had not done away with His Box.

taking care of business scaled
Taking care of business atop a much-loved Box

The Chows were very glad to learn that the bed was still in the same place.

The pleasure of a well-made bed
It would not be inappropriate to bring us pig ears now.

Everyone's happy.

Mister Gato and his Staff scaled
"This is satisfactory, but a little more to the left with the chest-scratching, please."

Lots more animal-blogging to be seen at The Modulator's Friday Ark, and don't miss the Carnival of the Cats this Sunday at Curiouser and Curiouser.

More fun with quick and dirty pseudoscientific online personality testing

My Personality

Openness To Experience

(click the bars on the graph, or this link, to take the test yourself)

Their summary: You are sociable, outgoing, energetic, and lively. You prefer to be around people much of the time. Stressful and frustrating situations can often be upsetting to you, but you are sometimes able to get over these feelings and cope with these situations. A desire for tradition does not prevent you from trying new things. Your thinking is neither simple nor complex. To others you appear to be a well-educated person but not an intellectual. People see you as tough, critical, and uncompromising and you have less concern with others' needs than with your own. You set clear goals and pursue them with determination. People regard you as reliable and hard-working.

My summarized version of the detailed analysis: I tend to be neurotic and anxious, extroverted, crave new experiences, love ideas, am helpful but simultaneously suspicious of the motives of others, don't mind confronting or intimidating people or otherwise throwing my weight around, and generally do whatever it takes to get the job done. Essentially accurate in most important respects.

Hat tip: Fiona.

Buck O’Neil, RIP

Buck O’Neil, a star first baseman and manager in the Negro leagues and a pioneering scout and coach in the major leagues who devoted the final decade of his life to chronicling the lost world of black baseball, died last night in Kansas City, Mo. He was 94.
Buck O' Neil obit (New York Times)

Ken Burns' "Baseball" documentary made Buck O'Neil more famous than he had ever been when he was well into his 80s. Happily, O'Neil found his involvement as the living historian of Negro League Baseball revivifying and rejuvenating. More from the Times obit:
For O’Neil, baseball represented a lifelong joy. “Nowadays, whenever us Negro leaguers put on the old uniforms for autograph-signings and such, you can just see the years peel away,” he wrote in his memoirs. “I’ve seen men lose 50 years in just a few hours. Baseball is better than sex. It is better than music, although I do believe jazz comes in a close second. It does fill you up.”
Hot Midwestern travel tip: If you're ever in Kansas City, Missouri and looking for something to do, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (which shares space with the American Jazz Museum) down on 18th and Vine, just off The Paseo, is absolutely worth your time. In many ways this museum was O'Neil's baby; he was a founding member and chairman of the board of directors from the museum's inception.

Carrie and I spent a lovely afternoon enjoying the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (and the Jazz Museum) and urge you to check it out.

By the way, O'Neil's continuing exclusion from the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY is inexplicable and damn nearly criminal.

06 October 2006

Cheaper than antihistamines in the long run...

...and also much harder to cook into homemade meth:

Hypoallergenic kittycats.

"If you see the smoke, run away from it"

Spot of trouble in the old hometown last night. Explosion and chemical fire, creating toxic smoke cloud, requiring evacuation of thousands of residents.
The blaze at Environmental Quality Co. on Investment Boulevard started shortly before 10 p.m. Past midnight, people were still walking underneath a black plume that had covered the downtown Apex area -- too close to send in police to warn them, Town Manager Bruce Radford said.

"If you see the smoke, run away from it," Radford said.

Police and other emergency officials went door to door warning residents. About 100 homes in the Briarcliff neighborhood, one of the town's oldest, near Apex Middle School, were evacuated to the Apex Community Center next to the town hall on Hunter Street. Officials activated the "reverse 911" system, calling everyone near the fire.
All the home folks are okay, as far as I've been able to determine.

Thousands Flee Apex Fire (Raleigh News and Observer)

05 October 2006

The Commitment Device

Steven Levitt, one of the authors of Freakonomics, is a recreational poker player who occasionally plays in tournaments. Last weekend, he found himself sitting at a table with a middling pile of chips, with the required departure time for McCarran Airport drawing ever closer... and so he adopted a strategy of going "all in" on every single hand from there on out, so as to either win or lose quickly enough to make his plane.


I was in Las Vegas yesterday celebrating my 10 year anniversary with my wife Jeannette, who loves me but not nearly as much as she loves poker. So even though this blog is about my anniversary and about commitment, it is not about the sort of commitment you might suspect.

Rather it is about what economists call a “commitment device,” which is when someone locks himself/herself into a course he/she wouldn’t otherwise want to have to follow, but as a result the person benefits.

The idea of a commitment device is counter-intuitive. How can it make you better off to lock yourself in so that you have fewer options to choose from? Aren’t more choices always better than fewer? If there is no strategic interaction, more is always better, but when you are competing against someone else, limiting your options can be helpful. A classic example is an attacking army burning the bridges behind them so that they have no easy way to retreat. It commits the army to fight harder and might lead the opponent to retreat, avoiding a battle altogether...
Read on for a fascinating tale of how this worked out.

As for Levitt's meditations on his anniversary, yesterday was my eighth wedding anniversary, actually...

Our commitment device is working just fine, thanks.

Love you, Carrie.

04 October 2006

The humor alert code is "orange"

Wednesday One-Liners Are on Red Alert

Hobo: If you see an unattended bag or package, please report it to the nearest New York Police Officer or MTA worker. If one is not around, tell me. I'll open that shit up.

--4 train, Fulton St


British tourist: But there were two Empire State buildings, right? That fell?

--WTC site


Lady to nervous woman: Can I ask you a question? I ain't a terrorist or nothin'. I'm from New Haven.

--111th & Broadway


British bloke: You mean they don't have any missiles here, in Manhattan?

--Grand & Broadway

via Overheard in New York, Oct 4, 2006

Very funny ads

Gregory Johnson's excellent Resources for Life newsletter points us to another "best television ads" collection on the Web: veryfunnyads.com.

Two of my favorites: Learn Another Language (rated G for "Gato") and My Mom Said I Could (mildly NSFW and very French.)

RINO Sightings

RINOs have been spotted over at Digger's Realm.

03 October 2006

State of mind

Here's the best description of my worldview that I think I've ever encountered. It comes from Bill Emmott, the editor-in-chief of The Economist, who apparently first heard it described by an Australian winemaker.

An attitude that is known by winemakers: the hope that this year's wine will be better than ever, mixed with a fear that it might be ruined by too much sun, too much rain, or some other calamity.

-- Bill Emmott, from an article in The Economist, Sept. 11, 1999

What about Bob?

Douglas Rushkoff is asking anyone who has appreciated the writings of Robert Anton Wilson to consider kicking in a few bucks: Mr. Wilson is terminally ill and flat broke, and in danger of not making the next month's rent.

I know that there are a lot of demands on everyone's time and money.

If you've ever enjoyed any of Mr. Wilson's thought-provoking fiction or essays, however, now would be a good time to make a donation, to make the final days of a worthy and worthwhile man under Hospice care a little easier and more worry-free.

How to donate:
Any donations can be made to Bob directly to the Paypal account olgaceline@gmail.com.

You can also send a check payable to Robert Anton Wilson to:

Dennis Berry c/o Futique Trust
P.O. Box 3561
Santa Cruz, CA 95063.
Related: Robert Anton Wilson home page

Throw Denny From The Train

John deVille tips us that, in this morning's Washington Times, the lead op-ed calls for Speaker Hastert to resign over the Rep. Foley "inappropriate e-mails" scandal (gosh, remember back in the day, when Congressmen used to actually schtup the underage pages, not just type dirty to them?)
House Speaker Dennis Hastert must do the only right thing, and resign his speakership at once. Either he was grossly negligent for not taking the red flags fully into account and ordering a swift investigation, for not even remembering the order of events leading up to last week's revelations -- or he deliberately looked the other way in hopes that a brewing scandal would simply blow away. He gave phony answers Friday to the old and ever-relevant questions of what did he know and when did he know it? Mr. Hastert has forfeited the confidence of the public and his party, and he cannot preside over the necessary coming investigation, an investigation that must examine his own inept performance.

A special, one-day congressional session should elect a successor. We nominate Rep. Henry Hyde, also of Illinois, the chairman of the House International Relations Committee whose approaching retirement ensures that he has no dog in this fight. He has a long and principled career, and is respected on both sides of the aisle. Mr. Hyde would preside over the remaining three months of the 109th Congress in a manner best suited for a full and exhaustive investigation until a new speaker for the 110th Congress is elected in January, who can assume responsibility for the investigation.
Resign, Mr. Speaker (lead editorial, Washington Times, 3 October 2006)

Arrivederci, Denny. Nice knowin' ya.

Turn the page

John Tierney (behind the TimesDestruct firewall, dammit) wants to do away with the Congressional Page system.

The justification for the page program is that it gives teenagers an insider’s glimpse of how Congress works. But why disillusion them at such a tender age? If they stayed in school, they could maintain their innocence by reading the old step-by-step textbook version of how a bill becomes law. By going to Capitol Hill, they see how the process has changed:

1. A bill is introduced to build highways.

2. A congressman receives a donation from a constituent who wants to open a go-kart track.

3. The congressman persuades his committee chairman to slip in a $350 million “earmark” for an “alternative sustainable transportation research facility” in his district.

4. The chairman quietly adds similar earmarks for all members of the committee.

5. The bill is passed unanimously.

6. The president complains about the “wasteful spending” but signs it into law anyway.

7. The congressman attends a fund-raiser at the new go-kart track.

What lesson has the page learned? That Congress is the closest thing in modern America to a medieval court: an enclave governed by arcane ancient rules of seniority, a gathering of nobles who spend their days accepting praise and dispensing favors to supplicants.

Your Page, M'Lord (John Tierney, New York Times, October 3, 2006 - TimesSelect)

Once my wife wakes up (it's before sunrise as I post this) we'll have to get her take on the page system... although I don't think she was herself a page, she did intern in Senator Bob Dole's office back in the Late Pleistocene era.

02 October 2006

Kos: The Libertarian Democrat

Kos makes his best case for "The Libertarian Democrat" over at Cato Unbound:
Like me, these were people who didn’t instinctively reject the ability of government to protect our personal liberties, who saw government as a good, not an evil, but didn’t necessarily see the government as the source of first resort when seeking solutions to problems facing our country. They also saw the markets as a good, not an evil, but didn’t necessarily see an unregulated market run amok as a positive thing. Some of these were reluctant Republicans, seeking an excuse to abandon a party that has failed them. Others were reluctant Democrats, looking for a reason to fully embrace their party. And still others were stuck in the middle, despairing at their options—despondent at a two-party system in which both parties were committed to Big Government principles.
I confess that I am unpersuaded by his argument, and that I don't think this strategy is likely to siphon many libertarian-conservative votes away from the GOP.

I will also freely confess, however, that I am having a hard time seeing any reason why someone with a generally libertarian philosophy would vote Republican... the current crop of Republicans, anyway.

The Insecure American

Pressured by foreign competition and impatient domestic investors... employers broke the post-war "work contract" with employees under which they had shared the gains and risks of the post-war economy. As a result, more of the risks were shifted onto employees. Under the old contract... "workers received job security, guaranteed benefits, and good pay,” while "employers got loyal, productive workers who invested in skills specific to their jobs and didn't jump ship when times were tough." Under the new contract, set unilaterally by employers in a labor market in which private-sector unions are about as weak as they were in 1906, workers have no job security, they pay more for their health insurance, and they face lean retirements on 401(k)s. A 1980s memo from the CEO of General Electric stated the new contract's terms: "The only job security is a successful business. If loyalty means that this company will ignore poor performance, then loyalty is off the table." Peter Drucker expressed the underlying dynamic in a chilling image: "Companies built to last like pyramids are now more like tents."
The Insecure American (The Atlantic Unbound, September 21 2006)


Carnival of the Cats #132

Carnival of the Cats #132 is up at Pet's Garden Blog.

01 October 2006

Even if you're paranoid, that doesn't mean they're not watching you

If you think you're being watched, you probably are.

As more news creeps out about the complicated scheme Hewlett-Packard Co. used to spy on executives, board members and reporters to find out who was leaking information to the media, one might wonder: Is someone, right this very minute, watching my keystrokes? Or reading my e-mail? Doing background checks on me even after I'm hired? Noticing when I come and go based on my key card?

How about all of the above -- and more.


"Technology has provided a capability that we never had before to check up on employees like never before," said Manny Avramidis, senior vice president of global human resources at the American Management Association. "It's within an organization's right to monitor anything you do during work time using work tools."

Welcome to surveillance culture, private-enterprise style.

Every Move You Make (Washington Post, October 1, 2006)

Mr. Pink's Healthcare Horror Story

Bob's insurance also rejected covering the meds (the doctor didn't call it in). BUT, I didn't care. I KNEW I would get reimbursed given my past success with reluctant insurance companies. And, even if I didn't succeed, it didn't matter because Bob needed this medicine (as I'm sure the children needed theirs). So, I said, "I'll sort it out it later with my insurance company; I'll pay the full price now."

The total was $770.00!!!! If insurance had covered it, the total would have been only $40.That was an eye-opening experience for me. Since we haven't paid full-price retail for any prescription drugs in decades, I had no idea what current prices were. More importantly, I had no idea what the uninsured are expected to pay (when they clearly can't).
Mr. Pink's Healthcare Horror Story