Monthly Archives: April 2006

Pump Prayers

I don’t know what to make of this:

WASHINGTON, April 26 (UPI) — A U.S. Christian group has grown tired of escalating gasoline prices and is set to stage a national prayer rally to lower the numbers at the pumps.

Various Christian clergy from around the country will convene around a Washington, D.C., gas station Thursday at noon to pray. For those who can’t attend, a live Internet site and toll-free prayer line have been established.

In a release, the Pray Live group said many people are "overlooking the power of prayer when it comes to resolving this energy crisis."

Apart from sending a message to God, the rally had a message for humanity, said Wenda Royster, the group’s founder.

"It is our hope that seeing and hearing some of the nation’s most powerful preachers gathered around a gas station and the United States capital as a backdrop, will remind everyone who is really in charge of our world — God," Royster said.

The Web site is at praylive.com. The toll-free phone number is 888-PRAYLIVE.

And if that works, maybe they can pray for the end of world hunger, universal peace — naaaah!  Let’s only pray for important things, right?

The “Five Weird Habits” Meme

Mannion did it.  So did Shakepeare’s Sister.  So will I.

MY FIVE HABITS THAT COULD BE CONSIDERED WEIRD:

(1)  When reading or considering something, I stroke my goatee just like scientists in the 19th century did.  Except I don’t have a goatee.  I just stroke my chin in an affected way.  Except that I’m usually not aware that I’m doing it.

(2)  I can’t accept a compliment unless I solicit it.  Don’t know why — I just get embarrassed.

(3)  I speak in cartoon-ese.  Yup, I might occationally "boink" someone on the head.  Or, if I get "boinked" on the head, I’ll let out an angry: "Aarrrrrgh!".  Then, of course, I’m always saying the word "Yikes!".

(4)  I rarely tie my shoes, unless I’m going to be around people for a while (and even then…).  Don’t know why.  I have weird feet anyway, and never feel comfortable in tied shoes.

(5) I idiot-check my pockets, even when I don’t need to.  Guys know what I’m talking about.  It’s the macarana-like dance you do, where you place your hand on the outside of each of your pockets to make sure you have your wallet, keys, etc. before you go out.  The thing is, I do it even when I take the trash to the curb (something for which I do not need my wallet or keys).

Casa Blanca No Habla Espanol?

DATA POINT ONE

Bush today:

When the president was asked at a Rose Garden question-and-answer session whether the anthem should be sung in Spanish, he replied: "I think the national anthem ought to be sung in English, and I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English and they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English."

DATA POINT TWO

The White House webside en espanol  [Note: Spanish is the only language in which the White House website is translated]

“Winnie The Pooh Has A Really Big, Heavy Head”

Winniepoohhead The following is an interview with Crystal Nettles, who recently left Disneyland after five years working in costume, playing such characters as Pluto and Eeyore:

Is there a social hierarchy at the park? Like, the princesses in the parade are cool, and they look down on people in Goofy costumes, or maybe the costume people are cooler?

Well, they had a problem with the face characters—people whose faces are showing, like the princesses—thinking they were better than the full costume characters. But now, when they start, the face characters do a full day in a character suit, so they can see what it’s like.

Do you choose what character you play?

When you audition, they take your measurements. Then you’re assigned a character based on your height, and what suit looks good on you.

Are any characters considered really lame, and everybody is like, “God, don’t make me play that guy”?

Well, some of the characters hurt. Like, Winnie the Pooh has a really big, heavy head. Smaller people play him, because of his stature, and that head can hurt after a while. Other characters aren’t safe to take into certain areas: you’ll get beaten up.

Beaten up, literally? Where would that happen? 

Well, like areas that are really crowded with kids. You take certain characters in there, and they’ll go crazy. Usually it’s just that they’re overzealous, they jump on you or push you down. And because you can’t see well—like with Princess Atta [from A Bug’s Life], you’ve got like a three-inch mouth hole to see through—you can run into people. Sometimes teenagers will get violent; they’ll kick you. It happens all the time, and it can get really bad. I’ve known people who were on disability because of injuries they got. Certain characters really get kicked around.

Which characters? 

Well, Winnie the Pooh, and especially Eeyore, for some reason.

Why would anybody beat up Eeyore?

I know! He’s so depressed already. People are evil. Wait, no, don’t say that I said that. I’ll sound mean.

No, you’re right. Beating up Eeyore is evil. Everybody says Minnie Mouse is played by a guy. Is that true?

Not usually. You need somebody with slim legs for that costume, and guys have bigger calves. It’s all about the height, so it’s more likely the female characters will be played by women and the taller male characters will be guys. But it varies.

You know about the “furry” subculture, right? People with a fetish for cartoon animals? 

[Laughs] Yeah.

Do any of them work at the park? 

Well . . . there was one guy who, uh, led people to assume he was into that.

How? 

Apparently he wore a dog collar, and a tail sometimes. But he wasn’t really blatant. He didn’t have, like, strategically placed holes in his costume or anything.

What about the guests? Did anybody ever try to pick you up? 

Well, when I did face work, sure. That was mostly just husbands, goofing around. But there are season-pass holders who will basically just come there and stalk you.

I’ve heard stories about the costumed characters pinching or groping people. Does that really happen?

We have very strict guidelines about when and how we can touch people. They have to approach us; we can’t just go up and hug them or whatever. There was a photograph where one of the face characters was tickling a kid, and because of the angle and because when you’re tickling, y’know, hands go everywhere, it looked bad. So now there’s no tickling. If they want a picture with us, we can put an arm around their shoulder, but—you can lose track of how far those giant fingers extend, and it can look like you’re touching the chest. A lot of times, people see us as a free ticket: they’ll tell the park we hit their kid, or did something else we didn’t do, and they think they can get a free ticket that way. Usually the park goes along with it, because they want good publicity.

How do you cope with the heat in those suits? 

There’s no cooling system or air conditioning in the suit, so . . . you learn to deal with it. Some suits are better, like the Buzz Lightyear suit has a big chest plate that acts as a vent. And with Eeyore, if you move up and down fast, you get a breeze that way. But on a 100-degree day, we’re roasting.

Do people faint?

Sure. Usually people know they’re dehydrated and they make it backstage in time. But once Frollo, the villain from Hunchback of Notre Dame, fainted in front of the guests. Everybody had to surround him with laundry bags from backstage—so the guests couldn’t see—and remove his costume.

I imagine you’d get a lot of rashes from those suits. Lots of fungus.

Well, I didn’t completely trust the detergent they use . . . if they were using detergent. And the costumes weren’t washed every day. So I didn’t take any chances. I wore the full under-dressing, padding and gloves. I didn’t want any part of the suit touching me. But I was breaking out all the time anyway. That’s why I finally left.

Do you miss the job? 

I loved my time there, honestly. I’d like to go back and maybe work seasonally. I do really miss the kids. But I don’t miss the drama.

Hookers and Congress …and Watergate? — That’s So 1970’s!

WatergatehotelphotoBillmon:

I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the news (from Harper’s via TPM Muckraker) that Porter Goss, director of the CIA, may be implicated in a hooker service for corrupt (and horny) congressmen paid for by defense contractors and run out of — you really gotta love this part — the Watergate Hotel.

So what are we supposed to call this new scandal? Watergategate?

According to the Harper’s article, this scandal involves "pictures" as well, prompting DC gossip blogger Wonkette to gloat:

Best. Scandal. Ever.

Friday iPod Random Ten

EdmundfitzHaven’t done this in a while:

  1. Jive Talkin’ – Bee Gees
  2. In Your Eyes – Peter Gabriel
  3. Luka – Suzanne Vega
  4. Mess Around – Ray Charles
  5. Taurus II – Mike Oldfield
  6. Live and Let Die – Paul McCartney
  7. It’s Too Late – Carole King
  8. Schadenfreude – Avenue Q
  9. What Child Is This – Vince Guaraldi
  10. The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald – Gordon Lightfoot

Gas Profit Guzzlers

ChevronpricesOne day after Exxon Mobil announced huge profits, Chevron announced that its first-quarter profits were a record $4 billion.  That’s an increase of 49% over last year.

Fat bastards.

UPDATE:  The folks at The American Street think they know why gas prices are going up:

Kelliegas_1Kellie Pickler, who’d performed the ballad “Unchained Melody” during Tuesday night’s episode became the latest “Idol” wannabe to be ousted, sending oil prices soaring to a record $74 a barrel. “The market had been worried about Kellie,” Deborah White of SG SIB Commodities in Paris noted. “An underwhelming Elliott Yamin performance next week just might send it over $80.”

Porn Stars To Perform On Legitimate London Stage

You have to hand it to Fox.  They’ve taken the "reality show" genre and come up with some pretty unique ideas.  Most realities shows suck, but this — well, it could be very amusing:

NEW YORK (Reuters) — A new television reality show invites porn stars to test their serious acting abilities in London’s theater district, raising the question: Debbie can do Dallas, but can she take on Chekhov’s "The Cherry Orchard"?

"My Bare Lady" will cast four leading ladies from U.S. porn studios in a classic piece of drama to be performed in London’s West End. Their experiences undergoing a crash course in acting and appearing before a discerning British audience will air in three episodes on the Fox Reality cable and satellite channels this fall.

"It’s a wonderful tale of redemption," said David Lyle, general manager of Fox Reality. "Do they want lines that are a little more challenging than ‘Oh, here’s the pool guy …’?"

Judicial Da Vinci Code Cracked

A London judge, who ruled in the copyright infringement case involving Dan Brown’s "The Da Vinci Code", stuck an encoded message of his own within his 71-page judgment (in favor of Brown).

The code has been cracked.

RELATED:  Judges are not averse to being humorous.  This website catalogues some of the more interesting/weird/humorous works from those who sit on the bench.

Anatomy Of A Photo Op

The captions below each picture are taken verbatim from AP and Reuters (but the emphasis is mine).

Hastert1

U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) speaks at a news conference on gas prices at a gas station in Washington, April 27, 2006. Hastert drove home his points by leaving the news conference in a pair of hydrogen-powered cars. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Hastert2

House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Ill., left, sits in the passenger side of a hydrogen powered alternative fueled vehicle, drive by General Motors engineer, Mike Miller, after a news conference at a local gas station in Washington, Thursday, April 27, 2006 to discuss the recent rise in gas prices. Hastert and other members of Congress drove off in the Hydrogen-Fueled cars. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Hastert3

House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Ill., center, gets out of a Hydrogen Alternative Fueled automobile, left, as he prepares to board his SUV, which uses gasoline, after holding a new conference at a local gas station in Washington, Thursday, April 27, 2006 to discuss the recent rise in gas prices. Hastert and other members of Congress drove off in the Hydrogen-Fueled cars only to switch to their official cars to drive back the few blocks back to the U.S. Capitol. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

What A Pissing Contest About Book Sales Says About Approaches To Truth

It started yesterday with this report on Drudge, proclaiming that Crashing The Gate, the newly-released book by lefty bloggers Markos Zuniga ("Kos" of Daily Kos) and Jerome Armstrong (of MyDD), was doing terribly in terms of book sales.  According to Drudge’s source, Nielson’s Bookscan, CTG has sold only 3,630 copies.

In response, Kos pointed out that Bookscan only tabulates books sold in certain major retail outlets, and doesn’t track many independent book store sales — and doesn’t track online sale (like Amazon.com) at all.

But that didn’t deter author and rightwing blogger Roger Simon from crowing about the Drudge "revelation":

Although it underscores what we already knew – that Glenn Reynolds (whose book is selling much better) has remarkable respect in the blogosphere for his integrity and intelligence – I must say I am surprised at the relatively pathetic sales figures for Markos Zuniga’s book "Crashing the Gates."

Reynolds’ book is selling better?  Nope, and Simon failed to give any evidence for it.  He just … wrote it, as if it was, you know, verified and supported fact.

Fortunately, he was properly taken to task for it, using the same methodology as Drudge used:

As of this morning, for Reynolds’ An Army of Davids (February 2006), Bookscan reports 1716 retail sales and 2609 “discount” sales, for a total of 4325.

As of this morning, for Armstrong and Kos’s Crashing the Gate (March 2006), Bookscan reports 2598 retail sales and 1804 “discount” sales, for a total of 4402.

In other words, despite the fact that it’s been available for four fewer weeks, Kos and Armstrong’s book has now clocked Bookscan sales in excess of Reynolds’. Notably, several hundred more full-price sales. This is leaving aside the fact that Kos and Armstrong’s book is currently at #40 on Amazon, whereas Reynolds’ is at #801.

So there it is.  Kos and Armstrong’s book is outselling Reynold’s, yet Simon and the rest of rightwing echo chamber has, for the past 24 hours, been crowing the opposite.  [Tbogg reminds us how, generally, lefty blogger-authors are outselling righty blogger-authors in Amazon sales.]

Is this merely a pissing match between competing sides of the blogosphere? 

No, it isn’t.

Glenn Greenwald (whose unreleased book is #1 at Amazon.com, by the way) explains:

These twin items by Drudge and Simon — equally baseless, fact-free and misleading on their face — were mindlessly recited as fact by countless Bush followers all day yesterday. The always fact-free Powerline dutifully recited the claim that CTG "has sold an astonishingly low 3,630 copies," and even repeats Simon’s fantasy-driven fiction "that Glenn Reynolds’ book is selling well." Right Wing News drools: "it’s really nice to see Kos’s book nosedive into the pavement." The Bush zombie at BlogsFor Bush echoes the script: "I’ve stopped laughing long enough" to note that "there is no mention of the pathetic book sales of Kos’s book on the site’s front page." And PunditGuy, after celebrating the "failure" of CTG, says this:

Kos claims that Drudge’s numbers aren’t on the up and up. What-ev-eh.

Doesn’t that pretty much capture the whole sickness? "There are facts that suggest that what I am saying is not actually true. What is my response do that? ‘What-ev-eh.’" As in: "Some people claim there are facts that show that things in Iraq are not going really great. Something about civil war, sectarian hatred, anarchy, widespread violence, a total lack of security. What-ev-eh."

Glenn gets to the meat of the issue, and this is why he is widely considered one of the best writers on the Internet:

Don’t they have somewhere lurking in their brain any critical faculties at all? For the sake of one’s own integrity and reputation if nothing else, who would read an undocumented assertion on Drudge — no matter how much of an emotional need they feel for it to be true — and then run around reflexively reciting it as truth, writing whole posts celebrating it and analyzing it, without bothering to spend a second of time or a molecule of mental energy trying to figure out if it’s really true?

***

The way in which it became an instantaneous certainty that CTG is a failure (and Glenn Reynolds’s book is a grand success) — a "fact" that will endure in those circles forever, literally — reflects a process that repeats itself over and over, with a whole range of issues. That is the process that led us into Iraq and not only kept us there, but ensured that we remained immoveably wedded to policies which were so plainly producing nothing but horrendous failure. Being able to pick and choose what facts you want to believe based upon which ones feel good or vindicate your desires can be emotionally satisfying, but there is no more destructive and dangerous mental approach than this for determing how the world’s sole superpower will be governed.

Indeed.  Heh.

POSTSCRIPT (4/28/06):  Simon retracts and graciously apologizes for his factually incorrect post.

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

A new report says that FEMA is beyond repair:

Crippled by years of poor leadership and inadequate funding, the Federal Emergency Management Agency cannot be fixed, a bipartisan investigation says in recommendations to be released Thursday.

….Describing FEMA as a "shambles and beyond repair," [Republican Senator Susan] Collins said the overall report "will help ensure that we do not have a repeat of the failures following Hurricane Katrina."

Under Bill Clinton and the leadership of James Witt, FEMA was recognized as a model government agency — effective and efficient.  So much so that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote:

"FEMA has developed a sterling reputation for delivering disaster-relief services, a far cry from its abysmal standing before James Lee Witt took its helm in 1993. How did Witt turn FEMA around so quickly? Well, he is the first director of the agency to have emergency-management experience. He stopped the staffing of the agency by political patronage. He removed layers of bureaucracy. Most important, he instilled in the agency a spirit of preparedness, of service to the customer, of willingness to listen to ideas of local and state officials to make the system work better."

But when Bush got his hands on the agency, he allowed it to reverse course.  He installed a director of the agency with no emergency-management experience. He permitted the staffing of the agency by political patronage. He added layers of bureaucracy.

He killed FEMA so badly that there now exists a bipartisan consensus that it should be put out of its misery and rebuilt from the ground up.

Net Neutrality Loses In House

It happened:

Internet carriers would have a free hand to charge the likes of Google Inc., Yahoo Inc. and eBay Inc. extra for faster delivery of services to consumers under a bill approved by a House committee Wednesday.

The vote, 42-12, brings a two-tier Internet one step closer to reality despite the wishes of a broad coalition of Web site operators and public interest groups that insist the fees will crush innovation.

The Web companies had hoped to amend Wednesday’s legislation, thereby enshrining the status quo of "network neutrality," the catchphrase that has come to represent a system in which all Internet traffic is treated equally. But the effort failed when an amendment introduced by Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., was defeated 34-22 in a largely party line vote earlier in the day.

I’m telling you people, net neutrality is something you want preserved.  Fortunately, there’s still a fight in the Senate about this, and prospects look better.

The Elusive O

Some rightwing Christian nuttery is simply too good not to pass on. 

Via Sadly, No, via TBogg, we’re treated to the musings of a blog called the "Edicts of Nancy", and her unique theories:

The Left continues to tout the existence of the elusive female orgasm, despite all biological evidence to the contrary. As I have often said, if The Lord intended for us to have such things, He would have given us penises. But regardless of what the facts and common sense say, liberals continue to pursue their great white whale — and I don’t mean Michael Moore (Ha! That joke never gets old!). I’ve often wondered what motivates them to pursue this specious black-is-white reasoning. For the longest time, I assumed that it was merely another entitlement program created to pander to one of their key constituencies. Today I have my answer: Pure, unalloyed hatred of America. Evidently ladyquakes are the carrots moonbats are using to lead the women of Our Christian Nation over a moral cliff.

Shoot.  She’s onto us.

Yes, it’s true.  We (male) lefties fabricated the idea of female orgasms, only to pull you gullible woman onto our America-hating side.

I’m not sure if "Edicts of Nancy" is a parody site or not, but if it isn’t, it’s really funny.

Exxon Records Huge Profits …Again

Read about it here.

I watched The Daily Show last night, as host Jon Stewart talked with Kimberly Strassel, a Wall Street Journal senior editorial page writer.  She was on to discuss the gas prices, and the reason for it.

What Stewart wanted to know was, quite simply, why gas prices were so high.  Strassel, clearly defending the oil and gas industry, explained about how the problems in the Middle East were creating a supply problem.  That, and increased demand, were driving up prices. [SIDEBAR:  Josh Marshall snarkily writes: "It’s hard to figure why blowing up the Middle East hasn’t had the intended effect of lowering gas prices.  Weird."]

Stewart understood that; so did I.

Then Strassel went on to talk about how congressional requirements of ethanol funding was leading to high gas prices, and Stewart stopped buying it (calling it, in a good-natured way, "bullshit").

Finally, Stewart asked the question that has been bothering me.  He started off by saying that he understood the whole concept of supply and demand, but what he didn’t get was why energy companies were reporting huge PROFITS now (as opposed to income).  Why, Stewart wondered, can’t energy companies keep their profit margin constant?

His guest stammered, but didn’t really respond (Stewart graciously and self-effacingly "saved" her, by owning up to being a layman who didn’t understand these things).

So, the question remains unanswered.  And even this answer doesn’t make much sense to me.

By the way, very often you hear people say, "Well, when you adjust for inflation, the gas prices back during the crisis in the Carter era were far worse". 

NOT TRUE. 

As this graph shows, when adjusted for inflation, the price of a gallon of gas back in the Carter era was $3.00 (actually, fractions of a penny below that).  Right now, the average price is $2.96.  And it is expected to rise.

Tin Soldiers And Nixon’s Coming

Nearly 25 years after the Kent State massacre, Neil Young still isn’t one to mince words, as he demonstrates in his unsubtly-titled new song: "Impeach The President":

Let’s impeach the president for lying
And leading our country into war
Abusing all the power that we gave him
And shipping all our money out the door

He’s the man who hired all the criminals
The White House shadows who hide behind closed doors
And bend the facts to fit with their new stories
Of why we have to send our men to war

Let’s impeach the president for spying
On citizens inside their own homes
Breaking every law in the country
By tapping our computers and telephones

What if Al Qaeda blew up the levees
Would New Orleans have been safer that way
Sheltered by our government’s protection
Or was someone just not home that day?

Let’s impeach the president
For hijacking our religion and using it to get elected
Dividing our country into colors
And still leaving black people neglected

Thank god he’s racking down on steroids
Since he sold his old baseball team
There’s lot of people looking at big trouble
But of course the president is clean

Thank God

I guess it’s okay.  It would be better if he wasn’t the vocalist though.

Bush Is Pro-Life? Uh, Not So Much

Remember when Bush cut his vacation short (the only time he did it) to fly back to D.C. in the middle of the night so that he could sign a bill hastily drafted by Congress to save Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman in a persistent vegetative state? 

It was a national debate which pitted the pro-life religious right with the pro-death-with-dignity everybody else.

Well — right now — there is a woman in a Texas hospital named Andrea Clark.  Like Schiavo, she is being kept alive by machines.  But whereas Schiavo’s legal guardian and husband wanted Schiavo to die with dignity, Clark’s family and legal guardian are opposed to pulling the plug.

But early next week, the Texas hospital will pull the plug anyway, based on the decision of one single physician, and against the family’s wishes.

How can the hospital get away with this?

It’s all due to something called the Taxas Futile Care Law, signed into law in 1999 by then-Texas-governor George Bush.  Essentially, it allows an ethics committee of a hospital to terminate terminal care even against the wishes of the family and the patientRead more.

More Kellie

Getting ready for work this morning, I had the local Fox affiliate on in the background.  Joining the Fox crew in the studio was voted-off American Idol finalist and North Carolina native Bucky Covington.

And shortly before 8:00, live from Hollywood via satellite, they conducted an interview with Kellie Pickler, who had only had one hour of sleep last night (and it showed).

It was a reunion of sorts for Bucky and Kellie.  For those interested, their conversation went a little something like this (a rough transcript based on my recall):

BUCKY:  Hey, Kellie!  How awhr ya?

KELLIE:  Buuuuuuuckeeee!  Heeeeey!

BUCKY:  Well, ah jes wanner terl yer kewl ter hawdick mer y’all dergy-do.

KELLIE:  Aaah, that’s sway-eeet!  Yer knew, cerl dawl jes mah hergandaw free-ay-o-derrrl.

BUCKY:  Der kawl y’all mer dogey?

KELLIE (laughing):  Aaaah, that’s sway-eeet!  Dogey drawl yer mawl seeeeger trawler oger.

And so on.

Honest to God — I had no idea what they were saying.  I felt like I was watching Jodie Foster in "Nell".

American Idol Update: Albemarle Calling

Kellie_1

Yup.  I’m a fan — I think she’s — well — you know.  Just sweet and humble and ditzy and real.

But in the talent department, she just didn’t have the stuff anymore.

For kicks and grins, I went to the Kellie Pickler fan site (the biggest one I believe — there are many) to see the initial reactions.

First of all, I noticed that Kellie fans over these past few weeks have been encouraged to wear a Hot Pink Ribbon in support of Kellie.  Excuse me, but that’s kind of in bad taste. 

Let’s see.  There are ribbons to promote AIDs awareness, breast cancer awareness, and teen suicide awareness, among other causes.  Oh, yeah.  And for Kellie Pickler.  (All together now — "one of these things is not like the other").

Thank God for the elders in the Town of Albemarle NC, Kellie’s hometown.  In the Albemarle website, we are again encouraged to wear the "Hot Pink" Ribbon in support of their native daughter.  But we’re given the following admonition:

The color is " Hot Pink " and shouldn’t be confused with the " Baby Pink " used for Breast Cancer Awareness.

Yeah.  Heaven forbid people think you’re supporting breast cancer awareness when you meant to be showing your support for a TV talent show contestant.  I mean, that would be embarrassing!

But I digress.

Anyway, the initial reactions from Kellie fans:

KellieROX15 writes:

Kellie off???  I can’t believe it.  I am bawling as Im typing this and Kellie is someone I look up to and I lover her to death.  Im going to need some support because my friends hate Kellie and where cheering for her to go tonight. I will get yelled at at school tommorow by them. I seriuosly didnt expect Kellie to leave. It was a schocker and I think i took it harder thatn Kellie cause Im bawling.

Then, at the bottom of her post, she has a photo montage of Katharine McPhee.  I’m not joking.

Ah, fickle youth.

Michael6k goes berserk:

Noooooooooo!  I am almost speechless. What happened? Kellie is way better and has been far more consistent than Paris. This is terrible. Ahhh!

Jessy89, who describes herself as a "New Kellie Fan", responds to Michael6k:

I Know I cried my meyes out and im still crying

Apparently, she was crying so much she can’t see the keyboard.

Anyway — it was fitting, I thought, that the show ended with Kellie kind of rambling on.  Cute and fitting.  But Kellie fans don’t agree.  Casper14, for example, writes:

…and kellie didn’t even get to sing!!! i say we all write fox and tell them that they should let her sing next week to make up for it!!! god i’m pissed!!!

Some are trying to put on a happy face.  Amanda434 sez:

Kellie did not deserve to leave tonight! But at least now she’ll be home for when her dad comes home…..

From prison?  Is he getting out soon?

But most are devestated, like Lauren:

Man guys this is awful! I don’t know if I will be able to go to school tomorrow!!!!!!

And then there’s sour grapes:

Yeah, I’m definitely done with idol. Besides.. the top 24 is a good deal. It’s just the name, and personally I’d be ashamed of the name idol if the show’s rigged.

and

UGGHHHH!!!!! IM SOOO MAD/SAD!! Im actually crying!!!! the second she said ‘thanks to my kellie fans[us]’ the tears came flowing!! They’re still going!!! OMG!!!! I HATE THAT SHOW!!! No way she coulda got the lowest votes! ITS SOO FIXED!!!!! UGGGHHHH!!! chris better not win!!!

Well, enough of that.

Anyway, the local TV news affiliate just teased with the story.  Oh, boy — they’re taking us live to Albemarle for reactions.

But …Kellie done good.  Nothing to be sorry about.  We’ll be hearing from her soon, at least locally.

P.S.  How classy of her to thank the backstage crew?

P.P.S.  BTW, to show how I can be both ignorant and an asshole at the same time….

I was getting really annoyed with that Andrea Bocelli guy as he was singing.  "Why doesn’t he open his friggin’ eyes?" I kept wondering. "He’s trying to be all emotive, and he just looks dorky.  He looks like he’s blind or something!!"

Oh.  Oops.

Net Neutrality Again

Look, I know it’s a boring issue, but it is important.

Fortunately, via Digby, there’s a good analogy which explains the issue quite well:

What the telecoms are trying to get away with is like this: suppose you ran a business, and your product was delivered by FedEx, with your customers paying FedEx for it.  Now suppose FedEx came to you one day and said, "You are making a nice profit off our delivery service.  Besides what your customers pay, I also want you to pay us for it, or else your deliveries are going to be a lot slower, if they make it there at all."

That’s what proposals floating around Congress will do.  They would allow telecoms to charge fees to content providers, and not just content receivers.  You, the content receiver, already pay Time Warner (or whoever) to access, say, Google.  Now Time Warner (and the telecoms) want to charge Google to provide that content to you.

So what?  Well, the "so what" is that the Internet is the great equalizer.  I can access a small jewelry business just as easily as I can access a huge one, and they have equal access to me.  But with the proposed legislation out there being discussed, Time Warner could strike a deal with the larger jeweler, allowing their content to be delivered faster to your computer, while the small jeweler suffers (or gets no access to customers at all).  And before you know it, the Internet, once open and free (once you’re on it) is in the hands of a few telecom companies.  In effect, the content gets placed in the hands of those who own the pipes.

Learn more and write your Congressperson and sign the petition.

One Billion Words In The English Language

The Associated Press headline proclaims "English Language Hits 1 Billion Words" and the first three paragraphs of the article read:

A massive language research database responsible for bringing words such as "podcast" and "celebutante" to the pages of the Oxford dictionaries has officially hit a total of 1 billion words, researchers said Wednesday.

Drawing on sources such as weblogs, chatrooms, newspapers, magazines and fiction, the Oxford English Corpus spots emerging trends in language usage to help guide lexicographers when composing the most recent editions of dictionaries.

The press publishes the Oxford English Dictionary, considered the most comprehensive dictionary of the language, which in its most recent August 2005 edition added words such as "supersize,""wiki" and "retail politics" to its pages.

Wow.  That’s a lot of words, you’re thinking.  (You’re also trying to figure out how many words you probably know).

But . . . not so fast, hombre.  The next graf spoils the party:

Oxford University Press lexicographer Catherine Soanes said the database is not a collection of 1 billion different words, but of sentences and other examples of the usage and spelling.

And if you go to the actual Oxford English Corpus website, you learn this:

Because the corpus is a collection of texts, there are not one billion different words: the humble word ‘the’, the commonest in the written language, accounts for 50 million of all the words in the corpus!

And you see this screenshot of a small snippet of the database, showing twenty instances of the word "sublime":

Corpus_concordance

And for all we know, there may be more than twenty appearances of the word "sublime" in the database.

So there aren’t one billion English words.  It’s just that the database used to catalogue and monitor English usage has collected one billion words, a far different (and less interesting) story.  And even then, most of the one billion words are repeated dozens, hundreds, thousands, or even millions of times.

Now go back to the top of this post and read the AP headline.  Deceptive, isn’t it?

Dracula Sucks

Another Broadway musical about Dracula, the third vampire-based musical attempt in four years, is getting crucified by the critics.

This time it is "Lestat" — an Elton John-Bernie Taupin creation — based on the Anne Rice novels.

In a review headlined "Vampires, the musical kiss of death," The Washington Post’s Peter Marks said the fixation with singing vampires had to stop. "Give the bloodsucker a ballad, and it’s his show that joins the walking dead."

"The only thing distinguishing this musical from its late, unlamented predecessors is that the lead vampires play for the, er, other team," he said. "’Lestat’s’ contribution to art and equality is demonstrating that a gay vampire with a two-octave range can be just as dull as a straight one."

The New York Post’s verdict was "Bloody Awful" and Newark, New Jersey’s The Star-Ledger said it was "just deadly."

***

Describing "Lestat" as a "musical sleeping pill," The New York Times critic Ben Brantley said: "The closest ‘Lestat’ comes to so-bad-it’s-good camp is in a subplot that might be called ‘Claudia Has Two Daddies."’

"Claudia is the little orphan girl brought home as a peace offering to the sulking Louis by Lestat, who turns her into a vampire after finding her destitute on the streets of New Orleans," he wrote.

In a review headlined "Undead ‘Lestat’ sucked of life," Newsday’s Linda Winer said: "The undead can’t catch a break on Broadway these days….. The curse continues with ‘Lestat."’

Yikes.  That’s harsh.

OTHER THEATRE NEWS:  Rent turns ten years old on Saturday.  The New York Times covers it.

Rove Indictment Imminent?

Could be.  Larry O’Donnell wrote:

Karl Rove’s return to the grand jury today could mean the end of the Rove investigation or the beginning of the Rove prosecution. It depends on who asked Rove to return. If Fitzgerald asked Rove to return to the grand jury, that means Fitzgerald thinks he doesn’t have enough for an indictment.

If Rove asked to return to the grand jury, that means Rove’s lawyer, Bob Luskin, believes an indictment is imminent and is sending his client back to make a final desperate attempt to avoid indictment.

Well, as it turns out, Rove volunteered to testify and was not subpoenaed.  Rove’s decision followed a recent conversation by his lawyers with Fitzgerald.  All this, according to NBC News’ David Shuster.

Ohboyohboyohboyohboyohboyohboyohboyohboyohboyohboy Ohboyohboyohboyohboyohboyohboyohboyohboyohboyohboy

The Worst Song In The World

Badmusic CNN readers responded in droves, and the results are in:

5. "Seasons in the Sun," Terry Jacks (No. 1 for three weeks, 1974): "A melody you couldn’t play for your dog combined with inane lyrics" (Chris K.); "An all-time piece of dreck" (Darrell); "Having to listen to it is a season in hell" (Bonnie D.).

4. "I’ve Never Been to Me," Charlene (No. 3, 1982): "I want to punch out my radio when it comes on the air" (Larry W.); "Even the mush department at Hallmark would puke" (Eric and Linda); "I’m thinking that in her case, ‘Me’ probably wasn’t such a fun place to go to" (Brenda K.).

3. "You Light Up My Life," Debby Boone (No. 1 for 10 weeks, 1977): "How can anything so insipidly slow light up anything?" (Bob B.); "[It] sounded like it was thrown together on a rainy afternoon by a lovestruck adolescent" (Jan R.); "The musical equivalent of being keel-hauled" (Michael R.).

2. "Muskrat Love," The Captain and Tennille (No. 4, 1976): "A song about aquatic rodents doin’ the wild thing? Eeeeeew!" (Garland E.); "The name says it all" (Stacy D.); "I would pay good money to have its lyrics, tune, and even the fact of its existence erased from my memory" (Dave C.).

And the No. 1 worst song as voted on by CNN.com users:

1. "(You’re) Having My Baby," Paul Anka (No. 1 for three weeks, 1974): It wasn’t even close; Anka’s hit beat out "Muskrat" by more than 50 votes, a veritable landslide under the circumstances. As our correspondents raved: "How can a person not be annoyed by lyrics like, ‘You’re a woman in love and I love what it’s doin’ to ya’?" (Shauna M.); " ‘What a lovely way of sayin’ how much you love me’ — If that isn’t the most egocentric solipsistic revolting line of all time" (Stu S. and Andi S.); "I don’t know a woman alive who doesn’t cringe when it comes on the radio. I’m sure it’s banned in most countries around the world" (Gord P.).

Good — er, I mean bad — choices.

What about some others?

Other songs with sizable constituencies — at least 1 percent of the vote — included Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods’ "Billy, Don’t Be a Hero," Paper Lace’s "The Night Chicago Died," Starship’s "We Built This City," Richard Harris’ "MacArthur Park," Morris Albert’s "Feelings," the Starland Vocal Band’s "Afternoon Delight," the Archies’ "Sugar, Sugar," Billy Ray Cyrus’ "Achy Breaky Heart," Maria Muldaur’s "Midnight at the Oasis," America’s "A Horse with No Name," the Ohio Express’ "Yummy Yummy Yummy," Los Del Rio’s "The Macarena" and Don McLean’s "American Pie."

(If neither "Honey" nor "We Built This City," two songs that inspired this story, hit the top five, perhaps it was because readers were already satiated with them.)

Hey, I like "Midnight at the Oasis".

Greenwald #1

I’ve often quoted and linked to blogger and First Amendment lawyer Glenn Greenwald on this site, noting (several times) that his blog’s contribution to the NSA wiretapping story is inestimable.

Looks like Glenn is doing well in the regular media as well.  His book — How Would A Patriot Act? — is ranked number #1 on Amazon.  (It was ranked #50,925 yesterday).

Experts Agree

…well, most of them.

Global warming behind 2005 hurricanes

The record Atlantic hurricane season last year can be attributed to global warming, several top experts, including a leading U.S. government storm researcher, said on Monday.

"The hurricanes we are seeing are indeed a direct result of climate change and it’s no longer something we’ll see in the future, it’s happening now," said Greg Holland, a division director at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

Holland told a packed hall at the American Meteorological Society’s 27th Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology that the wind and warmer water conditions that fuel storms that form in the Caribbean are "increasingly due to greenhouse gases. There seems to be no other conclusion you can logically draw."

His conclusion will be debated throughout the week-long conference, as other researchers present opposing papers that say changing wind and temperature conditions in the tropics are due to natural events, not the accumulation of carbon dioxide emissions clouding the Earth.

Many of the experts gathered in the coastal city of Monterey, California, are federal employees. The Bush administration contends global warming is an unproven theory.

Kind of makes you feel good that Bush is suspending environmental regulations, doesn’t it?

See, this is how it’ll work.  Gas prices go up.  In order to increase the flow of gas, President allows big gas companies do ignore environmental regulations.  Global warming escalates.  More hurricanes.  More Katrinas.  Gas prices go up.

And the circle goes ’round and ’round.

Mick Jagger To Headline In A New Sitcom?

26jaggSounds bizarre, but it’s true.  He signed a deal with ABC.

Now before you start kvetching, the idea doesn’t sound that bad.  Jagger will be the focus of the sitcom, and it will be named after him (it is tentatively titled "Let’s Rob Mick Jagger"), but he won’t necessarily have a lot of on-screen time:

As [producer Rob] Burnett outlined the tale in a telephone interview, he and [his partner Jon] Beckerman "wondered if there was a way do a serialized comedy — something like a comedy version of ‘Lost’ or ’24.’ "

Hatched in numerous meetings, the concept centered on a janitor for a prominent New York building, to be played by the character actor Donal Logue. Down on his luck, the janitor sees a celebrity on television wallowing in his wealth during a tour of his new Manhattan penthouse. Enlisting a crew of similar ordinary but frustrated accomplices, the janitor conceives a plot to rob the big shot’s apartment, a story line that would unfold over a 24-episode television season.

Okay.  Kudos for innovation.  We’ll wait and see.

Get Ready To Hear The Phrase “Snow Job” A Lot

Yup.  It’s official — breaking now. 

Fox News bobblehead and occasional Rush Limbaugh substitute host Tony Snow has agreed to take Scotty McClellan’s position as White House spokesman.  CNN has the full story.

I like this part:

GOP sources said that before agreeing to take the post Snow had sought and received assurances from Bolten and other senior White House officials that he would be an active participant in major policy debates and would have a significant say in hiring in the press and communications operations.

Yeah, right.  You’re in for a big surprise, Tony, if you think they’re going to let you buck the system.

REACTIONS:  Sully wonders how Snow is going to reconcile his new position with Snow’s recent attacks on Bush (i.e., huge deficit-running government spending).

Powerline is happy because Tony Snow reasds their blog.

And Media Matters scrutinizes Snow’s disregard for things like, oh, facts.

Yglesius:

I thought this notion that Tony Snow might be made White House press secretary was, you know, a joke. A joke about Fox News being a GOP propaganda outlet, about Snow’s lack of ethics, etc. Apparently, no one was kidding. It’s honestly pretty surreal.

As a professional journalist, Tony Snow understands the importance of the relationship between government and those whose job it is to cover the government.

Yes, I’m sure having worked at Fox, he’s well aware of the special relationship between government and the media who “cover” the government.

American Idol Update: The Love Songs

Tv_tivoGuess what?  If you set your TIVO to record "American Idol", but a thunderstorm knocks out your cable box (unbeknownst to you), your TIVO won’t record "American Idol".

Yup.  I missed it.  I have no idea what happened.  The entertainment section of the Chicago Tribune writes:

Love is fickle. Love songs are even fickler.

Just ask Kellie Pickler, who torched another song on "American Idol" on Tuesday night, despite the coaching of popera star Andrea Bocelli.

Judge Simon Cowell’s scathing review of her "Unchained Melody" was so long that producers were forced to cut him off. "It was so monotonous, so bland, there was no heart, no warmth from your vocal, you really were like a robot during that performance," he said as music started to play.

"I haven’t finished!" he snapped.

Taylor Hicks was equally flat and hesitant. But Elliott Yamin and Chris Daughtry drew midsong cheers from the audience. Yamin’s "A Song For You" moved judge Paula Abdul to tears. "You are this handsome, evolved performer," she said. "You are an American idol! You are!"

Now, going into last night, I would have said that Kellie and Elliot are the weakest.  Based on the Trib  review — which is all I have to go on — it looks like Kellie may be the next to go.

But I didn’t see it.  So what did y’all think?

Feminism Is Dead!

Tabor_1The good news comes from Renew America columnist Nathan Tabor, who also happens to be running for NC State Senate in our district.

Let’s take a closer look.

After years of holding America a virtual hostage, old-fashioned radical feminism appears to be just about dead.

Hostage to what?

But don’t take my word for it.

We weren’t planning to.

No less a feminist authority than Maureen Dowd, the New York Times columnist who has never met a Bush — or Bush policy — that she’s actually liked…

Guess opposition to Bush makes her a "feminist", right?

…. has all but written feminism’s obituary in her book, Are Men Necessary? 

A book which Nathan has no doubt read.

Dowd notes that feminism "lasted for a nanosecond, but the backlash has lasted forty years."  I would take issue with that statement. Feminism has been thwarting America’s growth and vitality for years — but, finally, a number of women are rejecting it for the silliness it is.

Yup.  Having all these damn women in the workplace is only slowing America down, people!

Dowd writes, "It’s the season of prim, stay-in-the-background First Lady Laura Bush, not assertive two-for-the-price-of-one First Lady Hillary. Where would you even lodge a feminist protest these days?"

Didn’t know you had to fill out forms, but okay.

The signs of the decay of feminism can be seen far beyond Pennsylvania Avenue.

Apparently, Nathan hasn’t read Phyllis Schlafly’s latest column: "Does Feminism Control The Bush Administration?" in which she writes: "We are more than five years into the Bush presidency, but it appears that Bill Clinton’s feminist policies are still in force."

In cities across the U.S., women are chucking the corporate world and embracing Barney’s world instead.

Where they belong, dammit!

Seriously, Nathan.  Are you one of those emasculated paranoid men who think that "feminist" women are out to get you?  Feminism, at least as we understand it, means being able to enter the corporate world or become Mommy.  Or both.  It isn’t one or the other — it’s about options.

And speaking of options and the supposed "death of feminism", what say you to the fact that women are outpacing men when it comes to law school applications?  Does Barney teach at our major educational institutions now?

They have found fulfillment where their grandmothers did — in the home, raising their children, offering love and support to their husbands.

Nathan knows whereof he speaks.  His lovely wife Jordon, for example, supports her husband by writing to websites, assuring the public that "Nathan is very straight…"Suzannetabor

Many do not consider domestic work a drudgery — rather, they see it as a comforting alternative to the 24/7 career life.

Unlike Suzanne Tabor (pictured here), Nathan’s mom, the CFO of Physicians Pharmaceuticals.

But what has brought about this seismic shift in American life? Feminism may, in fact, be responsible. Young women have seen the fallout from feminism and, as a result, they want no part of it.

That fallout being . . . what?  Nathan is being sooooo cagey.

Public opinion polls generally show that younger women flinch at the thought of being called "feminists."

Cite?  Link?  No, I didn’t think so.  Guess we will have to take Nathan’s word for it after all.

They may have been raised in the broken homes spawned by the nation’s divorce culture, and they don’t want their own children to suffer the fate that they did.

Feminism is to blame for the decline of marriage?  We thought it was boys kissing boys.

In essence, they suffered parental loss early in their lives because their mothers were rarely home long enough to be a nurturing force.

And fathers — well, they’re not supposed to be a nurturing force.  Everybody knows that!!

Instead of tugging on their mothers’ apron strings, they were left to tug on the telephone cord that connected them to their working mothers’ offices. They felt a distance from their mothers that no amount of therapy could adequately address.

And that’s why there’s a high divorce rate.  Gotcha.

In one noteworthy case, a poll commissioned by Faye Wattleton, former head of the pro-abortion Planned Parenthood, showed the generation gap which feminism caused. Wattleton asked women whether keeping abortion legal was a major concern, and they said "no."

Okay.  No link again, but we know Nathan is lying here.  So we did some research.

Sure enough, he is lying.  Out of his ass. 

In Wattleton’s study, 3,000 women were given a list of 12 concerns for women, and asked to say which ones should be a top priority for the women’s movement (so, it wasn’t a yes/no inquiry). 

Here are the results, directly lifted from Part One of the Report (PDF format):

Womanpriorities 

Now, there are a few things to note about this.

The #1 top priority (tied) is "Equal Pay for Equal Work".  That’s an odd priority if women have supposedly "found fulfillment where their grandmothers did — in the home, raising their children, offering love and support to their husbands". 

The same could be said for other high-ranked priorities, like "child care", "taking time off from work to care for family members", "increasing the number of women who study math, science, and technology", and "getting more women elected into political office".

So women are now preferring to stay home?  Not according to the one study that you cite, Nathan.

Secondly, half of the women in the study still thought that "keeping abortion legal" should be a "top priority".   Hardly the rejection of abortion that Nathan claims.

Yes, keeping abortion legal is a lower priority than other issues, and according to the study, 25% of the women thought it shouldn’t be a priority at all. 

But why?  Was it, as Nathan argues, is a rejection of feminism? 

Nope.  Wattleton herself explained to CNN:

[W]omen in the poll told us that they did not believe that the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade, or legal abortion. So, perhaps this is a reflection of women wanting to be more conservative about this issue and more thoughtful about it, but also not fearing that it will be overturned.

So there it is Nathan.  Women aren’t concerned about abortion rights …because they already have abortion rightsThat’s why it is ranked low compared to things women don’t have, like "equal pay for equal work".

Now that that’s settled . . . remember earlier when Nathan claimed — without citation — that "younger women flinch at the thought of being called ‘feminists’"?

That’s addressed in the Wattleton poll, too:

Feminist

So when Nathan says that women flinch at the word "feminist", he means that that 64% of them regard the word as "positive".

But wait.  Nathan said that "younger women" flinch at the word "feminist".  Uh, okay…

Youngerwomenfeminist

So 72% of younger women find the moniker "feminist" to be positive, more than middle-aged or older women.

Ah, Nathan.  You should be a politician.  You’ve got your lies down so pat.  So unabashedly false.

But let’s return to Nathan’s column.

Years of Planned Parenthood’s preaching about the alleged necessity of abortion-on-demand have failed to convince the younger generation, who realize that sisters, brothers, cousins, friends, and potential mates are missing because they were aborted by their misguided mothers. Younger women tend not to see abortion as a right — but rather as a profound wrong.

Oh, Nathan, Nathan, Nathan.

South Dakota’s recent decision to ban virtually all abortions demonstrates that radical feminism’s clarion call to kill the unborn is no longer being heeded. The U.S. Supreme Court — which has its share of pro-feminist holdovers — may still claim that abortion should be the law of the land, but elected representatives in South Dakota have proven that it doesn’t have to be.

They’ve proven nothing.  All they’ve proven is that it is possible to pass laws which violate the Constitution.

Recent national public opinion polls also show quite clearly that Americans support legal abortion in only rare circumstances — in fact, most people believe it should be banned in 99 percent of all cases.

Oh, Nathan, Nathan, Nathan.

Feminist icon Molly Yard, who was marching for abortion well into her golden years, must be turning over in her grave.

Wow.  Nathan Tabor, talking smack about recently deceased women.  How manly.  How virile.

Young women simply don’t relate to Eleanor Smeal, Gloria Steinem, and the other "founding mothers" of the modern feminist movement. They see such women as out-of-touch, angry, and unfulfilled. They admire women who can keep a household together under trying circumstances.

Nathan, from his vantage point in Kernersville, North Carolina, has his finger on the pulse of young women today.

They may have iPods and Blackberries, but they still believe in the value of hearth and home.

Why would a child-raising, stay-at-home, apron-string wearing Mom need an executive powertoy like a Blackberry?

And they definitely believe that men are necessary.

Nathan knows it, too.  Every night when Nathan comes home from a hard day of demagoguery, Jordon looks deep into his eyes and sighs, "Nathan, you’re just so . . . necessary."

More On The Bush Approval Drop

The graphics tell it all. 

Only four states (Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska and Utah) give Bush a higher-than-50% approval rating, compared with thirty-one states at the time of his re-election:

Bush_approval_drop_0406

Okay, the graphics don’t tell it all.  But this does.

Bush, Former Oil Man, Orders Probe Into Gas Gouging

Story here.

Up next: Fox Orders Investigation Into Henhouse Slayings

UPDATE:

Back in 2000:

President Clinton proposed to use the strategic oil reserves to offset high gas prices.  This is what then-governor Bush said:

"The Strategic Reserve is an insurance policy meant for a sudden disruption of our energy supply or for war. Strategic Reserve should not be used as an attempt to drive down oil prices right before an election. It should not be used for short-term political gain at the cost of long-term national security."

Today:

Bush orders the Department of Energy to stop filling the Strategic Petroleum Oil Reserve “in order to get more fuel on the market and help reduce gas prices.

ANOTHER RELATED UPDATE:

Elizabeth Dole makes a funny:

"Democrats have decided to play partisan politics with gas prices in a flailing attempt to distract from the growing economy."

Joe in DC at AMERICAblog responds:

"To Dole and the GOP, pointing out the pain being caused to American families by skyrocketing gas prices is partisan politics. Because to them, everything is politics. To American families, $3.00 a gallon (and rising fast) is a very harsh reality—that’s something the GOP has really been missing."

32%

Further proof that rearranging the deck chairs won’t stop the Titanic from sinking.

Only two modern presidents have had lower ratings:  Jimmy Carter fell into the high 20’s, and Nixon, just before he resigned, was in the low 20’s. 

Clinton, by the way, never went below 43%.  That was his lowest approval rating, and it happened briefly and early in his presidency (1993). 

In Clinton’s second term, he never went below 50% in any poll.   By comparison — since his re-inauguration in January 2005, Bush has never been above 50%, in any poll (even Fox News).

Bubba’s World

S. Carolina legislature considering a bill to make sale of sex toys a felony.

I can’t get my head wrapped around this one.  Talk about a victimless crime.  Look, even if you are a member of the "moral" "majority", is this an issue that really needs addressing?  You’ve got gay marriages, prostitution, etc.  — so much to choose from.  What exactly is the societal harm in sex toys?

Note that the proposed law doesn’t make it a crime to possess sex toys — only to sell them.

Fortunately, the bill was drafted by a lone state legislator, Representative "I-Have-Nothing-Better-To-Do-Than-Obsess-Over-Other-Peoples’-Sex-Lives" Davenport.  He wasn’t even able to find a willing co-sponsor for the bill. 

The Internet Freedom Fight

The cool thing about the Internet is that nobody owns it.  Sure, you may have to pay for access to the Internet, and once on it, you may pay for various servies — but the Internet itself exists within its own realm, with little regulation and virtually no ownership by government or private corporations.  It’s a totally egalitarian world.  This has been known as "Network Neutrality", one of the guiding concepts of the Internet since its inception.

Think about that for a second, while I tell you how that may change.

Congress is planning to turn over control of the Internet to a handful of telecommunications companies (AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner, etc.).  Up to now, these companies provided the portals onto the Internet, but — by law — they couldn’t censor or regulate what you see or do.  But, if they telecoms get their way, they will be able to do that.  Want to visit certain sites?  You may have to pay AT&T to do it.  They may also create "premium lanes" where faster services are given to themselves and "customers" willing to pay premium prices.  They may force you to use their browsers, rather than browsers of your choice.  And so on.

The bottom line is this:  The Internet, as we now know it, may be a vast wasteland of mindless everything (including this blog), but it’s everybody’s vast wasteland of mindless everything.  That can change.  Read more and get active.

UPDATE:  From SaveTheInternet.com, here’s what may happen if "net neutrality" is gutted:

  • Google users—Another search engine could pay dominant Internet providers like AT&T to guarantee the competing search engine opens faster than Google on your computer.
  • Innovators with the "next big idea"—Startups and entrepreneurs will be muscled out of the marketplace by big corporations that pay Internet providers for dominant placing on the Web. The little guy will be left in the "slow lane" with inferior Internet service, unable to compete.
  • Ipod listeners—A company like Comcast could slow access to iTunes, steering you to a higher-priced music service that it owned.
  • Political groups—Political organizing could be slowed by a handful of dominant Internet providers who ask advocacy groups to pay "protection money" for their websites and online features to work correctly.
  • Nonprofits—A charity’s website could open at snail-speed, and online contributions could grind to a halt, if nonprofits can’t pay dominant Internet providers for access to "the fast lane" of Internet service.
  • Online purchasers—Companies could pay Internet providers to guarantee their online sales process faster than competitors with lower prices—distorting your choice as a consumer.
  • Small businesses and tele-commuters—When Internet companies like AT&T favor their own services, you won’t be able to choose more affordable providers for online video, teleconferencing, Internet phone calls, and software that connects your home computer to your office.
  • Parents and retirees—Your choices as a consumer could be controlled by your Internet provider, steering you to their preferred services for online banking, health care information, sending photos, planning vacations, etc.
  • Bloggers—Costs will skyrocket to post and share video and audio clips—silencing citizen journalists and putting more power in the hands of a few corporate-owned media outlets.
  • Vatican Reluctantly Enters 20th Century

    Too bad it’s the 21st century.  The story:

    The Vatican is preparing to publish a statement on the use of condoms by people who have Aids, a senior Roman Catholic official has said.

    Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan told La Repubblica newspaper that Pope Benedict XVI asked the Vatican’s council for health care to study the issue.

    The Vatican says abstinence is the best way to tackle HIV/Aids.

    But last week, a retired archbishop backed the use of condoms for married couples to prevent Aids transmission.

    Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, who used to be Archbishop of Milan, said that in couples where one partner had HIV/Aids, the use of condoms was "a lesser evil".

    Endorsement of condoms for married couples with AIDS.  Well, that’s a step forward I guess.

    On Science And Tongues

    EinsteintongueHow did the blind man catch the ball?

    With his tongue.

    Okay, he caught the ball with his hands, but he "saw" the ball with his tongue.  And that’s how he was able to catch it.

    The tongue, as it turns out, is an excellent input device.  By equipping a blind man with helmet-mounted cameras and sonar, and sending the signals to the tongue, scientists are able to give him the ability to detect the presence of objects in front of him. 

    With the proper high-tech rigging, the tongue can act like a compass.  If you detect a pop-rock "pop" on the right side of your tongue, that means that an object is 90 degrees to your right.  The stronger the sensation, the closer the object.  With the proper equipment, a blind man can walk effortless through doorways and avoid obstacles in unfamiliar places.

    The innovation as other implications as well.  Deep sea divers can dive in pitch black water.   Military men can have a sort of 360-degree "night vision" while simultaneously having unobstructed "regular vision".

    Read more, and appreciate the wonders of the human tongue.

    Renew America Snippets

    Great moments in right wing punditry abound at Renew America.  These are actual quotes from columnists there, from the past few days:

    Barbara Stock on immigration: "These illegal immigrants say they are coming here for a ‘better life’ just as the people on the Titanic were doing. But there are two major differences between the Mexican immigrants and those doomed souls on the Titanic. Those coming here in 1912 were entering America the correct way…"

    Marie Jon on the Bush legacy: "President Bush, to borrow an old phrase from the makers of Star Trek, has ‘gone where no man has gone before.’"

    Sher Zieve on terrorism:  "I have to question if this most-recent Osama tape was actually made by the ‘man himself’ or some enraged Democrat."

    Curtis Dahlgren in an imaginary conversation with his long-dead grandmother: "Hi Gramma! Sorry I missed your funeral. I think it was a school day."

    Curtis Dahlgren again, telling his long-dead grandmother what’s been happening since she died: "Well, we now have same-sex marriages you know."

    Cynthia A. Janak on the reason for high gas prices: "I guess I have more research to do after I finish writing this article."

    What’s In A Name?

    Noting the rise of video podcasts, conservative "journalist" and blogger Michelle Malkin has put together a "conservative Internet broadcast network".

    The name of this venture?  Hot Air.

    Yup.  Good title.  There’s even a regular segment called "Vent with Michelle Malkin".

    The irony is reaching epidemic purportions.  It is Maklin, more than anyone else, who screeds daily about the "angry left".  And now she’s the webmistress of a "venting" videoblog?

    This Isn’t News Anymore

    Just another data point.

    A former high-ranking CIA officer says that thye Bush administration ignored evidence that Iraq lacked WMDs:

    Tyler Drumheller, the former highest-ranking CIA officer in Europe, told "60 Minutes" that the administration "chose to ignore" good intelligence, the network said in a posting on its Web site.

    Drumheller said that, before the U.S.-led attack on Iraq in 2003, the White House "ignored crucial information" from Iraq’s foreign minister, Naji Sabri, that indicated Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction.

    Drumheller said that, when then-CIA Director George Tenet told President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other high-ranking officials that Sabri was providing information, his comments were met with excitement that proved short-lived.

    "[The source] told us that there were no active weapons of mass destruction programs," Drumheller is quoted as saying. "The [White House] group that was dealing with preparation for the Iraq war came back and said they were no longer interested. And we said ‘Well, what about the intel?’ And they said ‘Well, this isn’t about intel anymore. This is about regime change.’ "

    Drumheller said the administration officials wanted no more information from Sabri because: "The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming, and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy."

    Watch for Drumheller to get swiftboated now.  [UPDATETold ya!]

    Here’s part of the transcript:

    BRADLEY: According to Drumheller, CIA Director George Tenet delivered the news about the Iraqi foreign minister at a high level meeting at the White House.

    DRUMHELLER: The President, the Vice President, Dr. Rice…

    BRADLEY: And at that meeting…?

    DRUMHELLER: They were enthusiastic because they said they were excited that we had a high-level penetration of Iraqis.

    BRADLEY: And what did this high level source tell you?

    DRUMHELLER: He told us that they had no active weapons of mass destruction program.

    BRADLEY: So, in the fall of 2002, before going to war, we had it on good authority from a source within Saddam’s inner circle that he didn’t have an active program for weapons of mass destruction?

    DRUMHELLER: Yes.

    BRADLEY: There’s no doubt in your mind about that?

    DRUMHELLER: No doubt in my mind at all.

    BRADLEY: It directly contradicts, though, what the President and his staff were telling us.

    DRUMHELLER: The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming, and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy, to justify the policy.

    UPDATE:  Josh Marshall talks with Drumheller and gets the scoop.

    RELATED:  Yet another retired general calls from Rumsfeld’s resignation.  That’s eight now, for those of you keeping score.

    And You Thought It Was Over

    Yup, they’re making another Star Trek movie.  The 11th one since 1979.  The eleventh.  (I stopped paying attention after, like, the sixth one).

    It’s unclear which "generation" the movie will focus on.  The original cast is pretty much a non-starter: Doohan (Scotty) and Kelley (Dr. McCoy) are dead.  Shatner is 75 and fat, but could play Jabba the Hut (ooops — wrong series!).  Plus, his character is dead.  Nimoy is also 75.

    The "Next Generation" movies have generally been lackluster, and who gives a crap about Deep Space Nine, Captain Janeway, or Scott Bakula.

    Still, somewhere on this planet, geeks are rejoicing.

    Mystery Booms

    MysteryboomgraphicIs it a sign of the apocalypse?

    Earlier this month in San Diego, there was a large boom, the ground shook, and windows rattled.  But it wasn’t an earthquake, or a sonic boom from a supersonic plane.  In fact, nobody is sure what it was.

    It isn’t the first time this has happened.

    It happened in Maine in February. 

    It happened in Alabama in January (see graphic). 

    And last December, it happened in North Carolina, as well as the Gulf Coast and Whitby, England.

    What’s going on? 

    Seeing as how these events happened on the coast, here’s one explanation — "Seneca Guns":

    The Guns of the Seneca are loud and largely unexplained booming sounds heard along the shores of Seneca Lake and nearby Cayuga Lake, the two largest of upstate New York’s Finger Lakes. Their sound has been described as being like distant, but inordinately loud, thunder while no clouds are in the sky large enough to generate lightning. Those familiar with the sound of cannon fire say the sound is nearly identical. The booms are occasionally sufficient to cause shockwaves that rattle plates. Early white settlers were told by the native Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) that the booms were the sound of the Great Spirit continuing his work of shaping the earth.

    Other similar phenomena are found in coastal North Carolina, also called Seneca Guns, and in the Ganges valley of India, called Barisol Guns, as well as other sundry parts of the world. North Carolinians say their booms are the sound of pieces of the continental shelf falling off into the Atlantic abyss (but there is no geological evidence to support this).

    One oft-advanced explanation is natural gas from decaying vegetation trapped beneath the lake bottoms suddenly bursting forth. This is plausible, since Cayuga and Seneca are two of the world’s larger and deepest lakes. However, the most frequent objection to this explanation is that such gas bubbles often burst into flame upon contact with the air and no such visible phenomenon has ever been reported in conjunction with the Guns of the Seneca. A more likely explanation is the explosive release of less volatile gases generated as limestone decays in underwater caves.

    Current residents of the area around the lakes, given to less grandiose but no less picturesque descriptions than the Haudenosaunee and early white settlers, refer to the eruptions as "lake farts".

    But even if the explanation can be attributed to "Seneca Guns", it begs the question: why the sudden rash of booms now?

    Emilymark.net

    I spent some of this weekend building a website for a friend.  Please check it out and leave comments here.  Or, if you know and see Emily, let her know.  Or leave a comment on Emily’s message board.

    I’m not looking for compliments — I’m looking for bugs and/or ways to improve it.  Is it legible?  Is it too slow to load?  Does the design suck?

    Yes, I know some of the pages are blank right now.  But other than that, what needs improvement?

    RELATED:  A good serious article on good web design — the author points out what’s wrong with The White House website, and redesigns it.