Monthly Archives: June 2007

Vintage Computer Ads

Via Neatorama, they have some pretty amusing old-timey computer ads up at Computerworld.  Two of my faves:

Penril_modem_111771

Just for comparison’s sake, a typical cable modem today can transfer about 600,000 bps (buts per second).

System_mbytes_51677

Comparison: today, you can get a 4 gigabyte (roughly 4,000 megabytes) flash memory card for $49.99.

Vintagecomputerad

Actual Transcript Of My Conversation With Anna, The Automated IKEA USA Online Assistant

Img_ikea_chatTalk to her here:

Welcome to IKEA. How can I help you?

Hi

Welcome to IKEA. How can I help you?

What’s up?

I’m fine, thank you for asking.

What is your name?

You are talking to Anna, the IKEA USA Online Assistant. My job is to answer your questions about IKEA

What do you do?

I work on this website to help people with any questions or queries they might have about IKEA’s products and services.

Do you get paid?

A very good question, but one that I’m afraid I’m unable to answer at this point in time.

Are the hours long?

I’m very sorry, but I can’t really talk about things like that at this time.

Can I work at IKEA?

If you are out-going, dedicated, customer-service oriented and interested in working as part of a team, contact the IKEA store near you for possible openings, or have a look at the jobs on the IKEA employment section of this site. Click on ‘Jobs Search’ to find a listing of vacancies in all US stores.

What does IKEA do?

How is IKEA different from other furnishing stores? We offer a wide range, good design and function, and also low prices. That’s our business idea.

Low prices? Like, how low?

I think you’re confused or trying to ask me a question, but I need more than that to give you a proper answer. Please try again.

You’re not much help!

I’m sorry, it’s possible I may have misinterpreted what it was you said. Please try and ask your question in a different way.

Forget it.

As you wish. I will forget it, but, would you like to ask me something else about IKEA?

Your hair is messy

I’m really not sure what you’re trying to say. Please ensure your questions and comments are relevant to IKEA.

Ok. Does IKEA know your hair is messy?

The IKEA business idea is: "We shall offer a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them."

Does IKEA know that you eat squirrels?

I don’t have a favorite food. I’m an IKEA Online Assistant, here to help customers with queries about our products and services.

Do you have a boyfriend?

I’m an Online Assistant designed to help customers of IKEA. Having a romantic interest isn’t a possibility.

Ok. Then do you have a girlfriend?

That’s not at all relevant to IKEA. Please ask me something else.

Aha! You have a girlfriend!

You can find all products on the HÅVE product line in the page I am now opening for you.

You’re changing the subject.

A good education is important, but I’m not here to talk about that. Let’s talk about IKEA instead.

You’re an idiot.

I am sorry you feel that way, but I am just a computer program. My knowledge is improving every day, through dialogues like this one. Please ask as many questions about IKEA as you like.

No thanks. Goodbye, loser.

Bye, then! It was very nice talking to you!

Net Authority

Computer1When these prisses (pictured at right) get through banning things on the Internet, there will be no Internet left:

The Net Authority is an organization dedicated to the removal of offensive material from the Internet. The online world is teeming with pornography, depravity, blasphemy, and all kinds of hate propaganda. It is our mission to define a set of guidelines to which all information posted on the Internet must adhere, and to hold responsible those who would knowingly break those guidelines.

Our primary initiative towards that end is the maintenance of a continually growing database of Internet offenders—websites that knowingly violate the Internet Acceptable Use Policy.

Here’s their Internet Acceptable Use Policy:

Posting information or content in any form on the Internet constitutes acceptance of and agreement to the Net Authority Internet Acceptable Use Policy.

1. Thou shalt not post pornographic material.

There is a common misconception that pornography is limited purely to images or textual descriptions of an explicit sexual nature. This is not the case. Anything that can evoke impure thoughts in the mind of the beholder is pornographic.

2. Thou shalt not post hateful material.

Any material that promotes or inspires hatred or violence towards any other person or group of people is strictly forbidden.

3. Thou shalt not post blasphemous material.

Any material that would lead one astray from the righteous path of the one true God must not be permitted on the Internet. These days children are gaining access to the Internet at younger and younger ages—a time when they are most vulnerable and susceptible to blasphemous viewpoints and suggestions.

4. Thou shalt not post materials of an offensive political nature.

5. Thou shalt not post materials concerning bestiality, including interracial relationships.

God did not intend for different species or races to intermingle sexually. Any content that contradicts this natural law, directly or indirectly, is strictly forbidden.

Wow.  No inter-race intermingling?

So let’s see what’s been banned so far, according to their database (what follows is just my cut-and-paste from their website:

CNN

Added: 06/27/2007 – 00:04:04

This website has been investigated by Net Authority, and has been found to be in violation of the Internet Acceptable Use Policy by posting the following kinds of content:

  • Pornographic material
  • Hateful material
  • Blasphemy
  • Offensive political material
  • Bestiality and/or interracial relationships

Be cautioned! This website contains strongly offensive material and is not suitable for young children. Click the link below at your own risk:

http://www.cnn.com/

Hillary for President

Added: 06/26/2007 – 17:57:26

This website has been investigated by Net Authority, and has been found to be in violation of the Internet Acceptable Use Policy by posting the following kinds of content:

  • Pornographic material
  • Hateful material
  • Blasphemy
  • Offensive political material
  • Bestiality and/or interracial relationships

Be cautioned! This website contains strongly offensive material and is not suitable for young children. Click the link below at your own risk:

http://www.hillaryclinton.com/

The History Channel

Added: 06/26/2007 – 07:27:16

This website has been investigated by Net Authority, and has been found to be in violation of the Internet Acceptable Use Policy by posting the following kinds of content:

  • Pornographic material
  • Offensive political material
  • Bestiality and/or interracial relationships

Be cautioned! This website contains strongly offensive material and is not suitable for young children. Click the link below at your own risk:

http://history.com/

Library of Congress

Added: 06/24/2007 – 17:12:25

This website has been investigated by Net Authority, and has been found to be in violation of the Internet Acceptable Use Policy by posting the following kinds of content:

  • Pornographic material
  • Hateful material
  • Blasphemy
  • Offensive political material

Be cautioned! This website contains strongly offensive material and is not suitable for young children. Click the link below at your own risk:

http://www.loc.gov/

Fox News

Added: 06/22/2007 – 11:46:54

This website has been investigated by Net Authority, and has been found to be in violation of the Internet Acceptable Use Policy by posting the following kinds of content:

  • Pornographic material
  • Hateful material
  • Offensive political material

Be cautioned! This website contains strongly offensive material and is not suitable for young children. Click the link below at your own risk:

http://www.foxnews.com/

The Los Angeles Police Department

Added: 03/04/2007 – 09:22:49

This website has been investigated by Net Authority, and has been found to be in violation of the Internet Acceptable Use Policy by posting the following kinds of content:

  • Hateful material
  • Blasphemy
  • Offensive political material

Be cautioned! This website contains strongly offensive material and is not suitable for young children. Click the link below at your own risk:

http://www.lapdonline.org/

Gays In The Military: A Change In The Offing?

Today, the Service Members Legal Defense Network released a Pentagon statement that “includes the first language from Pentagon leaders suggesting that lesbian and gay service personnel should continue to use their skills in support of national security efforts, even after facing dismissal under the law.” The statement reads:

These separated members have the opportunity to continue to serve their nation and national security by putting their abilities to use by way of civilian employment with other Federal agencies, the Department of Defense, or in the private sector, such as with a government contractor.

A good sign, but as Think Progress notes:

The Pentagon still will not call for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Since the policy was instituted in 1993, at least 11,000 servicemembers, hundreds of whom had key speciality skills such as training in Arabic, have been forced out of service. With our currently overstretched armed forces, the military could lure as many as 41,000 recruits if gays could serve openly.

With the State Department facing a dearth of Arabic translators, yesterday, Reps. Tom Lantos (D-CA) and Gary Ackerman (D-NY) urged the Department to hire bilingual gays expelled from the military as a result of DADT:

We are writing to urge the Department of State to take a specific step — the hiring of our unfairly dismissed, language-qualified soldiers — so our nation might salvage something positive from the lamentable results of this benighted policy. … under-investment in critical foreign languages presents an urgent and immediate threat to our national security, a threat that cannot be ignored while we train new foreign-language experts.

The Best Thing About The Bush Presidency

It’s created a whole generation of progressives.

According to a new poll for the New York Times, CBS News, and MTV the 17-29 year olds lean Democratic.

Sixty-two percent of the 17-29 year olds support a single-payor health care system, while 47% of the general electorate does.

Seventy-seven percent of them plan to register to vote for next year, and by a 45%-25% margin they plan to vote in a Democratic primary or caucus rather than Republican. As for their actual vote for president, by a 54%-32% margin this age group plans to vote for the Democratic candidate.

Overall, 38% have a favorable view of the Republican Party, but 55% of them do not. Their feelings about the Democratic Party are inverse: 58% favorable, 36% unfavorable. 52% of them say the Democratic Party comes closest to sharing their moral values, while only 36% of them say the Republican Party does.

And the only presidential candidate among this group who has a better than 2-1 margin between favorable and unfavorable views is Barack Obama: 41% of 17-29 year olds view Obama favorably while only 19% view him unfavorably.

Cheney Flip-Flops, But Still Says He’s Not Subject To Executive Order

Dick Cheney’s office is abandoning a justification for keeping classified docouments from the auditors of the National Archives.  Cheney had tried to claim he is separate from the executive branch, but they will no longer pursue that defense, senior administration officials now say.  That original claim had been met with widespread derision from the right and the left:

White House spokespeople have been struggling to answer questions about the argument without repeating, amplifying or embracing it.

Blogs, comics and pundits feasted on the neither-fish-nor-fowl argument, with Jon Stewart joking on “The Daily Show” Tuesday night that the vice president may be “half she-wolf.”

Does this mean the Veep’s Office will comply with the Executive Order requiring oversight and audits of classified material?  Nope:

In a letter to Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), Cheney Chief of Staff David S. Addington wrote that the order treats the vice president the same as the president and distinguishes them both from "agencies" subject to the oversight provisions of the executive order.

Addington did not cite specific language in the executive order supporting this view, and a Cheney spokeswoman could not point to such language last night. But spokeswoman Lee Anne McBride said the intent of the order, as expressed by White House officials in recent days, was "not for the VP to be separated from the president on this reporting requirement."

In other words, Cheney has gone from a laughable defense to, essentially, no supportable defense at all.  The Executive Order at issue, which you can read in plain English here, does not make a distinction between agencies within the executive department (on the one hand) and the president/vice president. 

Here’s the key paragraph, Section 5.2(b)(4):

Under the direction of the Archivist, acting in consultation with the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, the Director of the Information Security Oversight Office shall:

    (1) develop directives for the implementation of this order;

    (2) oversee agency actions to ensure compliance with this order and its implementing directives;

    (3) review and approve agency implementing regulations and agency guides for systematic declassification review prior to their issuance by the agency;

    (4) have the authority to conduct on-site reviews of each agencys program established under this order, and to require of each agency those reports, information, and other cooperation that may be necessary to fulfill its responsibilities.

And what is "agency"?  Here’s the key definition, under Section 6.1(b):

(b) "Agency" means any "Executive agency," as defined in 5 U.S.C. 105; any "Military department" as defined in 5 U.S.C. 102; and any other entity within the executive branch that comes into the possession of classified information.

Where does the argument come from that the Executive Order is supposed to treat the vice-president’s office differently from other executive agencies?  Nowhere.  It comes out of thin air.

RELATED:  Speaking of something fishy, the final installment of Jo Becker and Barton Gellman’s four-part series on Richard Bruce Cheney has been put up at the Washington Post‘s Web site.  Here’s something to make you feel all warm anf fuzzy about the Veep:

Law and science seemed to be on the side of the fish. Then the vice president stepped in.

First Cheney looked for a way around the law, aides said. Next he set in motion a process to challenge the science protecting the fish, according to a former Oregon congressman who lobbied for the farmers.

Because of Cheney’s intervention, the government reversed itself and let the water flow in time to save the 2002 growing season, declaring that there was no threat to the fish. What followed was the largest fish kill the West had ever seen, with tens of thousands of salmon rotting on the banks of the Klamath River.

Characteristically, Cheney left no tracks.

UPDATE:  Won’t this be fun?

CAPITOL HILL (AP) A Senate panel is demanding some documents from the White House and from Vice President Cheney’s office.

The Judiciary Committee today issued a subpoena for documents related to President Bush’s program involving eavesdropping without warrants.

The subpoenas also name the Justice Department and the National Security Council.

Ann Coulter Should Be Sodomized With A Cactus

Yeah, I know that’s harsh, but the woman is vile, even by right-wing pundit standards.  Her personal attacks on people are simply the basest of the base.

Yesterday on ABC’s Good Morning America, Coulter said, “[I]f I’m gonna say anything about John Edwards in the future, I’ll just wish he had been killed in a terrorist assassination plot.”

She has previously called Edwards a “faggot.” In 2003, she wrote a column claiming that John Edwards drove around with a bumper sticker saying “Ask me about my son’s death in a horrific car accident.”

Last evening, why spewing more bile on Chris Matthews Hardball, Coulter had an on-air confrontation with none other than Elizabeth Edwards, a woman who managed to take the high ground.

Think Progress has the transcript:

MATTHEWS: You know who’s on the line? Someone to respond to what you said about Edwards yesterday morning. Elizabeth Edwards. She wanted to call in today, we said she could. Elizabeth Edwards, go on the line. You’re on the line with Ann Coulter.

E: Hello Chris.

M: Do you want to say something directly to the person who’s with me?

E: I’m calling — you know, in the south, when someone does something that displeases us, we want to ask them politely to stop doing it. I would like to ask Ann Coulter to — if she wants to debate on issues, on positions — we certainly disagree with nearly everything she said on your show today — but it is quite another matter for these personal attacks. The things that she has said over the years, not just about John but about other candidates, lowers our political dialogue precisely at the time that we need to raise it. So I want to use the opportunity, which I don’t get much because Ann and I don’t hang out with the same people…

C: I don’t have enough money.

E: …to ask her politely stop the personal attacks.

C: Okay, so I made a joke, let’s see, six months ago, and as you point out, they have been raising money off of it for six months since then.

M: But this is yesterday morning, what you said about him.

C: I didn’t say anything about him, actually, either time.

E: But that — Ann, Ann, you know that’s not true, and once more, this has been going on for some time.

C: And I don’t mind you trying to raise money. It’s better this than giving $50,000 speeches to the poor just to use my name on the webpages. But as for a debate with me, yeah, sure. Yeah, we’ll have a debate.

E: I’m asking you politely to stop, to stop personal attacks –

C: How about you stop raising money on your web page then? No, you don’t have to because I don’t mind.

Get that?  Coulter is excusing her ugly attacks by arguing that Edwards raises money off of them.  In Coulter logic, it goes something like this: if you can raise money to campaign for an election, then I can badger you about your dead son.

It goes on, with Coulter again try to change the subject and deflect any comment about the level of her disgusting rhetoric:

E: I did not start with that. You had a column a number of years ago where you suggested — wait till I finish talking please…

C: Okay, the wife of a presidential candidate is calling in asking me to stop speaking.

M: Let her finish the point. Let her finish the point.

C: You’re asking me to stop speaking? “Stop writing your columns. Stop writing your books.”

M: Ann, please.

E: You had a column several years ago which made fun of the moment of Charlie Dean’s death and suggested that my husband had a bumper sticker on the back of his car saying, “Ask me about my dead son.” This is not legitimate political dialogue.

C: This is now three years ago.

E: It debases political dialogue. It drives people away from the process. We can’t have a debate about the issues.

C: Yeah, why isn’t John Edwards making this call?

M: Well, do you want to respond? We’ll end the conversation.

E: I haven’t talked to John about this call. I’m making the call as a mother. I’m the mother of that boy who died. My children participate — these young people behind you are the age of my children. You’re asking them to participate in a dialogue that is based on hatefulness and ugliness instead of on the issues, and I don’t think that’s serving them or this country very well.

[Applause]

M: Thank you very much Elizabeth. You wanna respond? You have all the time in the world to respond.

C: I think we heard all we need to hear. The wife of a presidential candidate is asking me to stop speaking. No.

M: No, she asked you to stop being so negative to people individually.

C: Right, as opposed to bankrupting doctors by giving a schyster Las Vegas routine in front of juries based on science — wait, you said I’d have as long as I would have, then you instantly interrupt me.

M: Go ahead, go ahead.

C: As I was saying, doing these psychic routines in front of illiterate juries to bankrupt doctors who now can’t deliver babies, and to charge a poverty group $50,000 for a speech. Don’t talk to me about how to use language.

M: Elizabeth?

E: …the language of hate, and I’m going to ask you again to politely stop using personal attacks as part of your dialogue.

C: Okay, I’ll stop writing books.

E: If you can’t write them without them, that is fine.

M: Why do you call out Hillary’s chubby legs in your book? Why do you — this may fall under the category of personal attacks, I don’t know, but why do you do that? Why do you talkabout Monica Lewinsky’s chubbiness? If she were skinny, would it have been okay?

C: Um, I don’t know, read the sentence.

E: I read the whole sentence. I couldn’t feel the context.

C: Well you have to give it to me and I could explain.

E: Why do you make fun of Hillary’s chubby legs?

C: I don’t know, you’re going to have to give me the sentence.

M: It’s in the afterword of your book, I just read it this morning.

C: Then read the sentence.

M: We’ll be back and read the entire sentence. We’ll come right back. I don’t know why we’re reading — the full intellectual context will be coming in just a moment.

Fortunately, Coulter’s star is finally fading, even among the right.  As TRex blogs:

“Godless” has sold fewer copies than any other Coulter screed, prompting some to negatively speculate about her long-term shelf-life:

Said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism: “You do wonder whether she’s destined for `Dancing With the Stars’ at some point.”

Several conservatives criticized Coulter for her Edwards remarks. Fellow columnist Michelle Malkin lamented that Coulter had tarred the work of people at the Washington conference. She called Coulter’s humor “tired old shtick.” Tim Graham, director of media analysis at the Media Research Center, said some conservatives envy the attention she gets and dislike how she distracts from legitimate arguments.

“If you got the sense that she was saying things you thought she believed, it would help,” he said.

Get a good look at her bony ass this time around, kids, because it may be the last time you see her for a while. Ah. Skanks for the memories, Annie. See you on cable access!

Lots more blogosphere reaction here

Glenn’s Book

51tuynjb29l_aa240_In November 2005, I read a post by a what-was-then-new voice in the progressive blogosphere, that of former civil rights and constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald.  The blog was called "Unclaimed Territory".  We had a few nice email exchanges at the time, initially prompted by the fact that we both went to NYU Law School in the early nineties and had a couple of classes together (he was a year behind me). 

He is a very elucidating writer, a thorough researcher, and is gifted with incredible analytical skills.  Everything I’m not.

Glenn’s star quickly rose, as anyone who reads him (and his readers number in the millions now) can understand.  In 2006, he won the Koufax Award for best new blog.  In early 2006, he broke a story on his blog regarding the NSA scandal that served as the basis for front-page articles in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers, all of which credited his blog for the story.

In May 2006, Glenn published his first book, "How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values From a President Run Amok," which critiqued the radical theories of executive power used by the Bush administration to justify everything from lawbreaking powers to the use of torture to indefinite detention of American citizens. The book was an instant bestseller, rising to No. 1 on Amazon’s Best Seller List and remaining there for almost a full week. The book also debuted at No. 11 on the New York Times Best Seller list, and remained on the list for the next two months.

He has sinced moved his location to Salon (who hired him) and is widely recognized as one of the most important voices of the progressive left.

His second book, "A Tragic Legacy: How A Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed The Bush Presidency" goes on sale today.  Already, it is #26 at Amazon.

Buy it.

Everything I Know About Life I Learned From Nathon Tabor

Hard to believe that this guy can’t get elected to the North Carolina legislature, considering his overwhelming mastery of crime and its solutions:

If schools, courthouses, and municipal buildings don’t post the command, "Thou Shalt Not Steal," it stands to reason that children would grow up believing that stealing isn’t all that bad.

To Nathan, every societal problem can be solved by posting the Ten Commandments everywhere.  Because, as the Bible tells us, Moses came down from the mountains with those tablets, and everything was hunky-dory afterward.

Listen, Nathan.  I, like most Americans, understand that shoplifting from Walmart is wrong.  We KNOW this, and we didn’t need the Ten Commandments to come to this conclusion.  Our parents taught us.

And frankly, the presence of security cameras, plus those signs that say "Shoplifters Will Be Prosecuted" carry more weight than what you’re suggesting.

Just sayin’…

The Two Free Speech Cases

This, a post by Marty Lederman, nails the inherent contradiction in the two Free Speech cases handed down yesterday by the Supreme Court:

A friend writes to note the striking contrast in the way the Chief Justice views the "reasonable" interpretation of the ambiguous expression in today’s two Free Speech Clause cases:

From Wisconsin Right to Life: “Because WRTL’s ads may reasonably be interpreted as something other than an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate, they are not the functional equivalent of express advocacy,” the Chief wrote. In defining what qualifies as “express advocacy,” "the court should give the benefit of the doubt to speech, not censorship."

From Morse: : ”The message on Frederick’s banner is cryptic. But Principal Morse thought the banner would be interpreted by those viewing it as promoting illegal drug use, and that interpretation is plainly a reasonable one.”

There’s simply no way to reconcile this, in my view.  I happen to believe that the conservative judges simply voted the outcome they wanted, rather than apply coherent and consistent legal rules.  They liked the Right to Life message, so the Wisconsin Right To Life people win.  They didn’t like Frederick’s "Bong Hits For Jesus" banner, so Fredericks loses.

Prof. Volokh is very big on free speech issues, especially when it comes to schools and students.  He, too, sees a problem with Morse

Justice Alito, joined by Justice Kennedy, joined the majority opinion but only

on the understanding that (a) it goes no further than to hold that a public school may restrict speech that a reasonable observer would interpret as advocating illegal drug use and (b) it provides no support for any restriction of speech that can plausibly be interpreted as commenting on any political or social issue, including speech on issues such as the wisdom of the war on drugs or of legalizing marijuana for medicinal use.

…But what does this purported distinction between the speech in clause (a) (restrictable) and the speech in clause (b) (not restrictable) really mean? The trouble is that "speech that a reasonable observer would interpret as advocating illegal drug use" often also "can plausibly be interpreted as commenting on any political or social issue."

…So I think that this distinction is logically unsound, even in this very case. And this unsoundness also makes it hard to see how the distinction will play out in the future. For instance, say that a school argues in favor of restricting anti-gay speech on the grounds that it poses a threat to gay students’ "physical safety" by contributing to a culture in which gay-bashing is encouraged and gays are made to feel insecure. (Justice Alito’s opinion stresses that the new exception for pro-drug speech is justified by the fact that such speech jeopardizes students’ "physical safety," presumably through its persuasive effects.) And say a student wears a T-shirt saying "straight pride," or "homosexuality is an abomination."

Is this a "comment[] on any political or social issue," and thus immune from constitutional punishment, or is this something that a reasonable observer can interpret as advocating (or at least celebrating) hostility towards gays, hatred towards gays, personal insults of gays, or even attacks on gays? I would think it clearly was plausibly interpretable as "commenting on a political or social issue," but "advocating illegal drug use" is also so interpretable. "[C]an plausibly be interpreted as commenting on a political or social issue" doesn’t mean what it literally seems to mean. So what then does it mean, and how would it play out as to anti-gay speech?

Lyle Denniston concludes:

Between the Roberts opinion, the concurrences, and the dissent, the Justices are deeply divided about standards for regulating student speech, and Morse makes only a modest beginning on settling on some new standards. The dominant thrust of the principal opinion appears, in potential, at least, to be toward a considerable expansion of school officials’ authority over student expression. No longer is it necessary to regulation, for example, to find that the expression disrupts school life, or that it is crudely and profanely offensive, or that it is an utterance done during assigned or immediately supervised school work. If it is close enough to the schoolhouse gate, it appears to be subject to regulation — at least when it is perceived, by school officials, as promoting a drug-use message.

Facebook vs. MySpace

Social networking analyzed by a UC Berkeley PhD student.  Bottom line of her thesis?  While MySpace continues to be the social networking destination for kids on the fringe who may or may not have any interest in college, Facebook appears to be growing into a site filled with college-educated, "upper"-class users:

Most teens who exclusively use Facebook are familiar with and have an opinion about MySpace. These teens are very aware of MySpace and they often have a negative opinion about it. They see it as gaudy, immature, and "so middle school." They prefer the "clean" look of Facebook, noting that it is more mature and that MySpace is "so lame." What hegemonic teens call gaudy can also be labeled as "glitzy" or "bling" or "fly" (or what my generation would call "phat") by subaltern teens. Terms like "bling" come out of hip-hop culture where showy, sparkly, brash visual displays are acceptable and valued. The look and feel of MySpace resonates far better with subaltern communities than it does with the upwardly mobile hegemonic teens. This is even clear in the blogosphere where people talk about how gauche MySpace is while commending Facebook on its aesthetics. I’m sure that a visual analyst would be able to explain how classed aesthetics are, but aesthetics are more than simply the "eye of the beholder" – they are culturally narrated and replicated. That "clean" or "modern" look of Facebook is akin to West Elm or Pottery Barn or any poshy Scandinavian design house (that I admit I’m drawn to) while the more flashy look of MySpace resembles the Las Vegas imagery that attracts millions every year. I suspect that lifestyles have aesthetic values and that these are being reproduced on MySpace and Facebook.

Let me add my two cents: MySpace really is lame.

The Extraconstitutional Beast

Following the revelation that Cheney believes he is not part of the Executive Branch of government (and therefore not subject to rules and oversight when it comes to classified information), legislation is being sponsored in both houses of Congress whicih will cut off all funding to the Vice President — at least until he comes forward and says what branch of government he is in.

Pretty good.

Meanwhile, Carpetbagger notes what a problem this is causing for the Bush White House, trying to weasel their way out of this bizarre thing:

The White House has had almost a week to come up with some semblance of a rationale for Dick Cheney arguing that he’s not part of the executive branch. There are some clever spin doctors in the vaunted White House communications office and some creative lawyers in the WH counsel’s office; surely someone will come up with something vaguely coherent, right? Wrong.

The explanatory task fell to White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, whose skin reddened around her neck and collar as she pleaded ignorance during the daily briefing: “I’m not a legal scholar. . . . I’m not opining on his argument that his office is making. . . . I don’t know why he made the arguments that he did.”

“It’s a little surreal,” remarked Keith Koffler of Congress Daily. “You’re telling me,” Perino agreed.

"You can’t give an opinion about whether the vice president is part of the executive branch or not?” Koffler pressed. “It’s a little bit like somebody saying, ‘I don’t know if this is my wife or not.’"

***

At my favorite point, Perino said, “I think that everyone is making this a little bit more complicated than it needs to be.” Moments later, when a reporter asked why she “can’t give an opinion about whether the Vice President is part of the executive branch or not,” Perino responded, “I think it’s a little bit more complicated than that.” In other words, as far as Perino was concerned reporters were making this controversy more complicated and less complicated simultaneously.

A reporter eventually said, “[Cheney] can argue he’s part of both, but he can’t possibly argue that he’s part of neither. And it seems like he’s saying he’s part of neither.” To which Perino responded, “Okay, you have me thoroughly confused.”

It was the only thing she got right the whole day.

There’s a moment in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when an obnoxious Frenchman is taunting Arthur and Galahad. After a series of abusive comments, Galahad eventually asks, “Is there someone else up there we could talk to?”

I thought about that yesterday. At one point, Perino said, in response to one of many Cheney-related questions, “I don’t know that to be true, so I’m not commenting on it.” Helen Thomas responded, “Can you send someone out here who can?”

Meanwhile, Dana Milbank reports today in the Washington Post that Cheney argued, back in 2001, that he was exempt from oversight because he is part of the executive branch.

Cheney has refused to comply with an order governing the care of classified documents; his office concluded that the order does not apply because he is not “an entity within the executive branch.”

That’s quite opposite the argument Cheney made in 2001, when he said that a congressional probe into the workings of his energy task force “would unconstitutionally interfere with the functioning of the executive branch.” Cheney has, in effect, declared himself to be neither fish nor fowl but an exotic, extraconstitutional beast who answers to no one.

Presidential Scholars Scholar President

God bless them, indeed:

While meeting with a group of high school seniors from the Presidential Scholars program in the East Room of the White House, President Bush received an unexpected surprise: a letter signed by 50 of them urging Bush to halt “violations of the human rights” of terror suspects held by the United States.

More:

According to AP, "The White House says Bush did not expect the letter but took a moment to read it and talk with a young woman who’d handed it to him."

White House spokesman Dana Perino said Bush let the student know "the United States does not torture and that we value human rights," a statement seemingly contradicted by Bush’s signing statement which gave him power to largely ignore a Congressional ban on torture spearheaded by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

Sorkin Back To Broadway

Farnsworthwlogo Live From Studio 60, which kind of grew on me (especially these last episodes), has not been renewed.  Apparently, Aaron Sorkin’s creation just didn’t find its audience, unlike the critically-acclaimed The West Wing and the cult fave SportsNight.

But there is good Sorkin news.  The Farnsworth Invention, his first new play since A Few Good Men in 1989, opens later this year on Broadway.  From Playbill:

The Farnsworth Invention concerns the battle for the patent for the invention of the television set. The race pitted a young genius, Philo T. Farnsworth, who came up with the idea as a high school student, against David Sarnoff, the head of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA).

To be directed by Des McAnuff.  Cast unknown yet.  Scheduled for a November opening.

Farnsworth must have been on Sorkin’s mind for some time.  I recall a scene from SportsNight (which must have aired in 1998 or 1999) in which one character, plated by William H Macy, talks about Farnsworth:

Sam Donovan: Do you guys know who Philo Farnsworth was? He invented television. I don’t mean he invented television like Uncle Milty, I mean he invented the television.

In a little house in Provo, Utah. At a time when the idea of transmitting moving pictures through the air would be like me saying I’ve figured out a way to beam us aboard the Starship Enterprise.

He was a visionary and he died broke and without fanfare.

The guy I really like though was his brother-in-law, Cliff Gardner. He said to Philo, “I know everyone thinks you’re crazy, but I want to be a part of this. I don’t have your head for science, so I’m not gonna be much help with the design and mechanics of the invention. But it sounds like in order to do your testing, you’re gonna need glass tubes.”

See, Philo was inventing a cathode receptor, and even though Cliff didn’t know what that meant or how it worked, he’d seen Philo’s drawing and he knew they were gonna need glass tubes and since television hadn’t been invented yet, it’s not like you could get ‘em at the local TV repair shop. “I want to be a part of this”, Cliff said, “and I don’t have your head for science. How would it be if I taught myself to be a glassblower? And I could set up a little shop in the backyard. And I could make all the tubes you’ll need for testing.”

There oughta be Congressional medals for people like that.

I’ve looked over the notes you’ve been giving over the last year or so, and I have to say that they exhibit an almost total lack of understanding of how to get the best from talented people.

You said before that for whatever reason, I seem to be able to exert authority around here. I assure you, it isn’t because they like me. It’s because they knew two minutes after I walked in the door that I’m somebody who knows how to do something. I can help. I can make glass tubes. That’s what they need.

Sorkin’s writing is a godsend for people like me who like a steady feast of trivial knowledge.

“I Got Your Satisfaction Guaranteed ….In My Pants!”

16107550876The "Case of the Judge’s Missing Pants" opinion — abridged:

"Yes, the sign says ‘Satisfaction Guaranteed’, but that doesn’t mean the dry cleaner must do whatever the customer wants, no matter how fuckin’ insane.  A ‘reasonable customer’ standard applies."

You can read the opinion here (pdf).  The story starts on page 5.

The background news coverage can be found here:

A judge ruled Monday that no pair of pants is worth $54 million, rejecting a lawsuit that took a dry cleaner’s promise of "Satisfaction Guaranteed" to its most litigious extreme.

Roy L. Pearson originally sought $67 million from the defendants, claiming they lost a pair of trousers from a blue and maroon suit, then tried to give him a pair of charcoal gray pants that he said were not his.

Pearson arrived at the amount by adding up years of alleged law violations and almost $2 million in common law fraud claims. He then lowered the amount he was seeking to $54 million.

But District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff ruled that the owners of Custom Cleaners did not violate the city’s consumer protection law by failing to live up to Pearson’s expectations of the "Satisfaction Guaranteed" sign once displayed in the store window.

Roy Pearson, the plaintiff, is a judge himself, a $96,000-a-year gig as an administrative law judge for the District government.  And — if you ask me — kind of a prick. $54 million because the dry cleaner might have lost your pants (you’re not sure?!!?)????

The judge said Pearson must pay the Chungs’ court costs and she will consider a request by the Chung family for attorneys fees and sanctions against Pearson.  Personally, I think Pearson should be disbarred for litigation abuse.

Hilzoy agrees that this Pearson guy is a litigious prick:

I read around, and chanced to find a copy of Pearson’s divorce proceedings. They’re not nearly as outrageous as this case, but they did suggest a person who was willing to use his knowledge of the law to bully other people by filing odd and excessive complaints. As the decision in the current case states:

"The trial court in Fairfax County made specific findings that the litigation was disproportionately long, despite the relative simplicity of the case, and that Mr. Pearson “in good part is responsible for excessive driving up of everything that went on here” and created “unnecessary litigation.” Mr. Pearson therefore was ordered to pay $12,000 of his wife’s attorney’s fees. Mr. Pearson appealed, and the Virginia Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s finding."

This guy seems to be a serial abuser of the judicial system. Having to pay the attorney’s fees for the dry cleaners might make him think twice about doing this again to some poor unsuspecting waitress or gas station attendant who rubs him the wrong way.

Pictured above: the people that Judge Pearson sued

Like the saying goes, it’s 99% of the lawyers that give the rest of us a bad name….

The Rhetorical Shift

They’re not al Qaeda, but the news calls them that anyway:

As E&P has noted in the past week, the U.S. military has increasingly referred to insurgents in Iraq as "al-Qaeda fighters" or "Qaeda militants." When and why this is happening is not certain, although linking the insurgents to those who attacked us on 9/11 would appear to have certain benefits in the court of public opinion.

In the past, however, both military and outside observers have long stated that so-called "foreign fighters" or members of the group Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia have made up only a tiny fraction of those who are actively battling the U.S. occupation.

Blogging at Salon.com this weekend, Glenn Greenwald has a lengthy take on this issue. "What makes this practice all the more disturbing is how quickly and obediently the media has adopted the change in terms consciously issued by the Bush administration and their military officials responsible for presenting the Bush view of the war to the press," he concludes.

On Sunday, however, Mike Drummond from the Baghdad bureau of McClatchy, observes, "U.S. forces continue to battle Shiite militia in the south as well as Shiite militia and Sunni insurgents in Baghdad. Yet America’s most wanted enemy at the moment is Sunni al Qaida in Iraq. The Bush administration’s recent shift toward calling the enemy in Iraq ‘al Qaida’ rather than an insurgency may reflect the difficulty in maintaining support for the war at home more than it does the nature of the enemy in Iraq.

Greenwald:

What is so amazing about this new rhetorical development — not only from our military, but also from our "journalists" — is that, for years, it was too shameless and false even for the Bush administration to use. Even at the height of their propaganda offensives about the war, the furthest Bush officials were willing to go was to use the generic term "terrorists" for everyone we are fighting in Iraq, as in: "we cannot surrender to the terrorists by withdrawing" and "we must stay on the offensive against terrorists."

But after his 2004 re-election was secure, even the President acknowledged that "Al Qaeda" was the smallest component of the "enemies" we are fighting in Iraq:

A clear strategy begins with a clear understanding of the enemy we face. The enemy in Iraq is a combination of rejectionists, Saddamists and terrorists. The rejectionists are by far the largest group. These are ordinary Iraqis, mostly Sunni Arabs, who miss the privileged status they had under the regime of Saddam Hussein — and they reject an Iraq in which they are no longer the dominant group. . . .

The second group that makes up the enemy in Iraq is smaller, but more determined. It contains former regime loyalists who held positions of power under Saddam Hussein — people who still harbor dreams of returning to power. These hard-core Saddamists are trying to foment anti-democratic sentiment amongst the larger Sunni community. . . .

The third group is the smallest, but the most lethal: the terrorists affiliated with or inspired by al Qaeda.

And note that even for the "smallest" group among those we are fighting in Iraq, the president described them not as "Al Qaeda," but as those "affiliated with or inspired by al Qaeda." Claiming that our enemy in Iraq was comprised primarily or largely of "Al Qaeda" was too patently false even for the President to invoke in defense of his war.

But now, support for the war is at an all-time low and war supporters are truly desperate to find a way to stay in Iraq. So the administration has thrown any remnants of rhetorical caution to the wind, overtly calling everyone we are fighting "Al Qaeda."

Top 1000 Films Evah

Over the next five days, the Guardian is publishing their list of the top 1000 films ever, in alphabetical order.  Keep checking back.

So far, they’ve only done A through some of C.

No "All About Eve".  But then again, this isn’t limited to just American/English films. 

On the other hand, "American Pie" and "The Brady Bunch Movie" made the list.

Supreme Court Roundup

Two seemingly contradictory cases on the First Amendment from the Supreme Court today.

On the one hand, it is permissible to regulate student speech (at a public parade) when it references drugs.  So, the First Amendment be damned.

On the other hand, the same coalition of Justices think we cannot restrict issues ads (a McCain-Feingold regulation) because that would place a burden on free speech.  So yaaaay First Amendment.

Do you get the sense that the conservative-majority judges are merely deciding the cases based on whether they like the outcome, rather than some consistent legal doctrine?

I haven’t read the cases yet, but something tells me that if the student in the first case was protesting abortions, then it would have been baaaaaaad to regulate his speech.

UPDATE:  The student speech case is interesting.  The facts are simple.  Joseph Frederick was 18 when he unveiled an 14-foot paper sign on a public sidewalk outside his Juneau, Alaska, high school in 2002.  The sign said "Bong Hits For Jesus".  Principal Deborah Morse confiscated it and suspended Frederick. He sued, saying his free speech rights were violated.

The Supreme Court said "no", his rights were not violated.  Apparently, thyey saw the message as advocating drug use, which is contrary to the school’s educational mission.  (The student said he was not advocating drug use, or indeed advocating anything.  The reason for the sign, he said, was to be absurdist and the only "message" he was conveying was his right to convey messages).

SCOTUSBlog makes this observation:

The Chief Justice’s opinion, too, indicates that the case would have come out differently if the banner had "convey[ed] any sort of political or religious message," such as that involved in "political debate over the criminalization of drug use or possession," rather than (in the Court’s view) mere "student speech celebrating illegal drug use."

Debate, political and religious messages — protected. "Celebration" of illegal activity (drug use, anyway) — no go. That’s the upshot.

So if the sign had read, "Torture Jesus Like He’s A Gitmo Detainne", it could not have been confiscated.  But since it says "Bong Hits For Jesus", the student has no First Amendment Rights.

The majority today seems to suggest that the school has an interest in promoting its viewpoint and quashing dissent…to preserve order.

Horrible, horrible decision.

Bizarre.

LATE UPDATE — "WHAT DIGBY SAYS" EDITION:

So the Supremes took a strong stand for the First Amendment today and stood up for the right of little guy corporations, aggrieved rich guys and voiceless conservative special interests to influence elections with misleading advertising. The first amendment is sacred and shouldn’t be tampered with for any reason. God bless America.

Well, not exactly. The words "bong hits for Jesus" aren’t covered because they could be construed as promoting something that some people think is bad. (At least if you are under eighteen years old.) I’m awfully impressed with the intellectual consistency of the Roberts Court so far, how about you?

I think we need to start thinking about how to deal with the new era of wingnut judicial activism. If anyone actually thought the Warren Court was activist for trying to right long standing social inequality, they haven’t seen anything until they see what John, Clarence, Nino, Sammy and Tony do to expand the rights of rich people and corporations while turning back the clock on everything else. It’s going to be a generational battle. I hope everyone realizes this.

Fisking Noonan

Mark Noonan at Blogs for Bush:

Yep, we conservative Christians are just a bunch of hijackers

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – Sen. Barack Obama told a church convention Saturday that some right- wing evangelical leaders have exploited and politicized religious beliefs in an effort to sow division. "Somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and started being used to drive us apart. It got hijacked," the Democratic presidential candidate said in remarks prepared for delivery before the national meeting of the United Church of Christ.

"Part of it’s because of the so-called leaders of the Christian Right, who’ve been all too eager to exploit what divides us," the Illinois senator said.

"At every opportunity, they’ve told evangelical Christians that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their church, while suggesting to the rest of the country that religious Americans care only about issues like abortion and gay marriage, school prayer and intelligent design," according to an advance copy of his speech.

Given that Obama’s religion performs rituals which are supposed to unite in holy matrimony people of the same sex, I think there might be something more to our opposition to liberalism than some sort of sick desire to just divide people. You know, Senator, it just might be liberalism’s insistence upon such things as gay marriage which is driving the wedge?

Liberals’ insistence?  Take a look at what constitutional amendments are appearing in state legislatures, Noonan.  You don’t see a bunch of gay people trying to pass gay marriage laws.  You see Christian homo-bigots trying to pass laws restricting marriage to men and women only.

Maybe we Christians were just minding our own business until we discovered that the left was hijacking America?

L:aughable that Noonon employes the phrase "minding our own business".  Simple question, Mark: If two women who living four blocks away from you, who you don’t know about, want to live together in matrimony, how does this become "your business"?

Some times it is useful to approach issues with an open mind and consider different points of view – you should try it, Senator.

Hahahahaha.  Yes, by advocating marriages among gay people, it is Senator OBAMA that has a closed mind!  Snarf, snortle.

We’re getting rather tired of this run-around, anyways. This is the way the left/right dialogue goes on moral issues:

Liberal: "Hey, we’d like to have gay marriage."

Two Thousand Year Old Faith: "That is an interesting concept but we believe that it might not be in the best interest of all concerned to rush into such a thing."

That’s what they said about the abolition of slavery, Two Thousand Year Old Faith.

And can you explain WHY it "might not be in the best interest"?  And can you explain who these "all concerned" people ARE?

L: "We’re filing a lawsuit tomorrow claiming that the equal protection clause requires that gay people be allowed to marry."

TTYOF: "Look, we’ve checked carefully on this and it seems that in our faith and in the long-standing traditions of our society, there is no provision for same sex marriage. We love our bothers and sisters who have a deep-seated inclination towards homosexuality, but to say that two men or two women can be married is a direct contravention of laws both human and divine on what makes a marriage."

Oh, I see.  YOUR faith.  YOUR traditions. 

They said the same thing about abolition of slavery, Noonan.

L: "You bigots!!!"

Well, ain’t it so?

What we are tired of is the left introducing novelty into society and then saying we’re being devisive when we’re unready to immediately accept the latest leftwing fad as the last word on what is right and wrong.

Gay people aren’t a novelty.

Oh, and conservatives said the same thing about the abolition of slavery, and women voting.  And desegregation.  Did I mention that?

What I say to Senator Obama is: could you please stop dividing us? Stop dividing us into "rich" and "poor". Stop dividing us into "black" and "white".

He’s not.  Although you, Mr. Noonan, just got through saying there are different rules for "gay" and "straight" when it comes to marriage.  How is THAT not dividing?

Stop dividing us into the host of liberal boxes that you toss people into – we are all the children of God, and when some of us disagree with you, it isn’t because we hate you or your cause, but because we believe differently from you.

That’s fine.  Nobody is asking you to get gay married YOURSELF.  But your beliefs do not trump the rights of others.

Moron.

RELATED:  More stupid punditry …on global warming.

Must-Reads On Cheney

From the Washington Post:  Part I and Part II.  The articles focus on the incredible growth of power of Cheney, and his influence.

From Part One:

Waxing or waning, Cheney holds his purchase on an unrivaled portfolio across the executive branch. Bush works most naturally, close observers said, at the level of broad objectives, broadly declared. Cheney, they said, inhabits an operational world in which means are matched with ends and some of the most important choices are made. When particulars rise to presidential notice, Cheney often steers the preparation of options and sits with Bush, in side-by-side wing chairs, as he is briefed.

Before the president casts the only vote that counts, the final words of counsel nearly always come from Cheney.

Part Two relates to the use of torture:

Geneva rules forbade not only torture but also, in equally categorical terms, the use of “violence,” “cruel treatment” or “humiliating and degrading treatment” against a detainee “at any time and in any place whatsoever.” The War Crimes Act of 1996 made any grave breach of those restrictions a U.S. felony [Read the act]. The best defense against such a charge, Addington wrote, would combine a broad presidential direction for humane treatment, in general, with an assertion of unrestricted authority to make exceptions.

The vice president’s counsel proposed that President Bush issue a carefully ambiguous directive. Detainees would be treated “humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of” the Geneva Conventions. When Bush issued his public decision two weeks later, on Feb. 7, 2002, he adopted Addington’s formula — with all its room for maneuver — verbatim.

In a radio interview last fall, Cheney said, “We don’t torture.” What he did not acknowledge, according to Alberto J. Mora, who served then as the Bush-appointed Navy general counsel, was that the new legal framework was designed specifically to leave room for cruelty. In international law, Mora said, cruelty is defined as “the imposition of severe physical or mental pain or suffering.” He added: “Torture is an extreme version of cruelty.”

The vice president’s lawyer advocated what was considered the memo’s most radical claim: that the president may authorize any interrogation method, even if it crosses the line of torture. U.S. and treaty laws forbidding any person to "commit torture," that passage stated, "do not apply" to the commander in chief, because Congress "may no more regulate the President’s ability to detain and interrogate enemy combatants than it may regulate his ability to direct troop movements on the battlefield."

That same day, Aug. 1, 2002, Yoo signed off on a second secret opinion, the contents of which have never been made public. According to a source with direct knowledge, that opinion approved as lawful a long list of specific interrogation techniques proposed by the CIA — including waterboarding, a form of near-drowning that the U.S. government classified as a war crime in 1947. The opinion drew the line against one request: threatening to bury a prisoner alive.

There will be a part three and part four.

I’ve excerpted the analysis of Anonymous Liberal:

There’s enough stuff in the first two installments alone to fill 100 blog posts, easily. But since I don’t have that kind of time, I want to focus on a few meta-observations.

(1) Conspicuously absent from nearly every important scene described in these articles is the President himself. Time and again we see the Vice President making decisions, attending meetings, and handling situations that really should be handled by the President personally. We also see the Vice President continually limiting or otherwise manipulating the information and advice that reaches the President’s ear. We see him secretly intercepting memos intended for other cabinet officials, keeping key officials out of the loop on important decisions, and using other officials to disguise the provenance of advice originating from his office. The portrait that emerges is of a man with utter disdain for process and an almost messianic certainty in his beliefs, a man who has used his immense knowledge of the workings of the executive bureaucracy and his close relationship with a pliant, inexperienced president to effectively control national policy on all issues related to the "war on terror" for the last six years. Cheney really is the man behind the curtain.

More blow the fold…

The “Silent No”

From Buzzfeed:

Culture Buzz: The new way to say "no" is by simply not responding. The Silent No is perfect for business, romance, and family situations. It lets you stay positive in face-to-face encounters and avoids the awkwardness of sharing bad news. Did a loser ask you on a date? Having second thoughts about a business agreement? Or just too busy to deal with all the people who want something from you? Don’t respond and they will eventually get the message.

If this is a cultural trend, then I hate it.  It’s cowardly and weak.

Blogging From 1914

A good idea for blog: blog from history.

Naomi Klein is blogging the diary of her grandmother, Dora Lurie, a Lithuanian stranded while travelling in Europe when World War I broke out.  Unable to return to her country, Dora and her companions became U.S. citizens.

The title of the blog is, appropriately enough, "Stranded".

Counting To One Million

Not sure why, but this guy is counting to one million, live, on his webcam.

It will take him quite a while.  He started Monday and he’s up to 55,000.  He’s not doing it non-stop — he sleeps, answers viewer questions, and so on.  A few radio interviews.

It’ll take him about 3 months.

Oooh.  He just started up again.  He wants to know out another 1,000 (from 55,000 to 56,000) before another interview.

They’re Getting Smarter

They now have highly-sophisticated arson capabilities:

High-wire squirrels torch man’s home twice in 8 days

If you think Alan Turcott has bad luck, just think of the squirrels in his neighborhood.

For the second time in eight days, Turcott’s Blue Island home caught fire when squirrels knocked high-voltage wires loose from a utility pole and onto his three-story house, fire officials said.

"This is unbelievable," Blue Island Fire Chief Robert Copp said. "I’ve seen where squirrels have shorted things out or blown a fuse, but nothing like this before."

Two scorched squirrels were found after the fires, confirming the critter cause, Copp said.

It appears they transferred power from one line to the next as they bounced across the wires June 9 and 17.

"It’s like a battlefield around here," Turcott said as he pointed to his plywood-patched home. "I think it’s a total loss. It’s just a big nightmare."

Be afraid.  Be very afraid.

Cheney Needs A Civics Lesson

Unbelieveable.

Executive Order 12958, amended and endorsed by Bush, requires the National Archives to oversee a uniform system within the executive branch for protecting classified information.  Under that order, the Information Security Oversight Office of the National Archives is charged with the task of inspecting federal agencies and the White House with making sure that safeguards regarding classisfied information are taking place.

As part of that process, the Oversight Office knocked on the door of the Vice President’s Office, back in 2004.  They were sent away.

Why?

Because according to the Office of the Vice President, the Vice President is "not an entity with the executive branch" of government.

What a completely moronic statement.  The Vice President is only second in line to the keys to the kingdom.  What branch of government is his office in?  The legislative branch?  The judicial branch?  No!  It’s a branch unto itself, FREE AT LAST from constitutional oppression and nasty things like, oh, you know, laws.*

And if he’s NOT part of the executive branch, does this mean Cheney and his staff cannot claim executive privilege?  Ever?

The Vice President’s office’s refusal to comply with the executive order and the National Archives’s request prompted the National Archives to file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office. But the Justice Department has not followed up on the Archives’s request.

And when the Information Security Oversight Office went to the Justice Dapartment, what did Cheney do?  He tried to eliminating the agency’s existence!!

Waxman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has the details and documents.  He is urging the White House not to pursue this:

I question both the legality and the wisdom of your actions. In May 2006, an official in your office pled guilty to passing classified information to individuals in the Philippines. In March 2007, your former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, was convicted of perjury, obstruction of justice, and false statements for denying his role in disclosing the identity of a covert CIA agent. In July 2003, you reportedly instructed Mr. Libby to disclose information from a National Intelligence Estimate to Judith Miller, a former New York Times reporter. This record does not inspire confidence in how your office handles the nation’s most sensitive security information. Indeed, it would appear particularly irresponsible to give an office with your history of security breaches an exemption from the safeguards that apply to all other executive branch officials.

This isn’t the first time Cheney and his office have tried to avoid government oversight:

  • In 2001, Vice President Cheney headed a task force to develop a national energy policy. After GAO sought to learn the identity of the energy industry officials with whom the Vice President’s task force met, Vice President Cheney sued the Comptroller General to prevent GAO from conducting oversight of his office.
  • Vice President Cheney has refused to comply with an executive branch ethics law requiring him and his employees to disclose travel paid for by special interests.
  • Every four years, Congress prints the "Plum Book," listing the names and titles of all federal political appointees. In 2004, the Office of the Vice President, for the first time, refused to provide any information for inclusion in the book.
  • The Vice President has asserted "exclusive control" over any documents created by the United States Secret Service regarding visitors to the Vice President’s residence. This has the effect of preventing information about who is meeting with the Vice President from being disclosed to the public under the Freedom of Information Act.
  • An Executive Order issued by President Bush in November 2001 provided the Vice President with the authority to conceal his activities long after he leaves office. Executive Order 13233 took the unprecedented step of authorizing former Vice Presidents to assert privilege over their own vice presidential records, preventing them from being released publicly.

Essentially, the Vice President’s Office is the black hole within which the Bush Administration itself can conduct busines without accountability and oversight.

*  While it is true that the Vice President has powers that are within the legislative branch (i.e. braking ties in the Senate), his office clearly falls within the Executive Branch, as the government itself acknowledges.

Citizen Kane Still Number 1

Ten years ago, the American Film Institute members voted on and ranked the top 100 American films of all time. 

This year, they did the same thing, taking a new vote:

In the CBS special "AFI’s 100 Years … 100 Movies — 10th Anniversary Edition," "Citizen Kane" held the same No. 1 billing it earned in the institute’s first top-100 ranking in 1998.

It’s actually a good movie for those millions who have never seen it.  Rosebud is his sled.  Oh, shit.  Spoiler alert!

There were notable changes elsewhere, though, with Martin Scorsese’s 1980 masterpiece "Raging Bull" bounding upward from No. 24 in 1998 to No. 4 on the new list and Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 thriller "Vertigo" hurtling from No. 61 to No. 9 this time.

Charles Chaplin’s 1931 silent gem "City Lights" jumped from No. 76 to No. 11, while the 1956 John Ford-John Wayne Western "The Searchers" took the biggest leap, from No. 96 all the way to No. 12.

"City Lights" is one of my all-time favorite films, and I’m glad it got the hugh bump.  I’ve never seen The Searchers though.

Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 epic "The Godfather" ranked No. 2, up one notch from 1998, switching places with Michael Curtiz’s 1942 favorite "Casablanca," which dipped from second-place to third.

Both 1967’s "The Graduate" and 1954’s "On the Waterfront," which ranked Nos. 7 and 8 respectively in 1998, fell out of the top 10, "The Graduate" coming in at No. 17 and "On the Waterfront" finishing at No. 19.

The other five films in the new top 10 also were among the original 10 best, though they shuffled positions: 1952’s "Singin’ in the Rain (No. 5 now, No. 10 in 1998), 1939’s "Gone With the Wind" (No. 6 now, No. 4 in 1998), 1962’s "Lawrence of Arabia" (No. 7 now, No. 5 in 1998), 1993’s "Schindler’s List" (No. 8 now, No. 9 in 1998) and 1939’s "The Wizard of Oz" (No. 10 now, No. 6 in 1998).

Any new films this time around?

Older films that did not make the cut on the 1998 list broke into the top-100 this time, led by Buster Keaton’s 1927 silent comedy "The General" at No. 18. Others included 1916’s "Intolerance" (No. 49), 1975’s "Nashville" (No. 59), 1960’s "Spartacus" (No. 81), 1989’s "Do the Right Thing" (No. 96) and 1995’s "Toy Story" (No. 99).

Yay for "The General", another classic.  Not sure about "Toy Story" though.

Films that dropped out of the top-100 this time included 1965’s "Doctor Zhivago," which had been No. 39 on the 1998 list; 1984’s "Amadeus," which had been No. 53; 1977’s "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," which had been No. 64; 1990’s "Dances With Wolves," which had been No. 75; and 1927’s "The Jazz Singer," which had been No. 90.

What?  So "Toy Story" gets on, but NOT "Close Encounters"?  WTF???

Who Takes Longer To Train….

…a Starbucks barista or a member of the Iraqi police?  From NPR:

For now, these men get only eight days of training and at the end of it, they get to keep their gun and their uniform.

According to Aravosis, it takes seven days to complete training as a Starbucks barista.

Which explains a lot.

Meanwhile:

The U.S. military on Thursday announced the deaths of 14 American troops, including five killed in a single roadside bombing that also killed four Iraqis in Baghdad.

Elsewhere in Iraq, a suicide truck bomber struck the Sulaiman Bek city hall in a predominantly Sunni area in northern Iraq, killing at least 13 people and wounding 70, an Iraqi commander said.

The U.S. deaths raised to at least 3,545 the number of U.S. troops who have died since the war began in 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

The Ten Commandments Of Driving

The Vatican, in perhaps a slightly sacreligious way, has issued a Ten Commandments For Drivers to combat road rage:

1. You shall not kill.

2. The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm.

3. Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events.

4. Be charitable and help your neighbor in need, especially victims of accidents.

5. Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin.

6. Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so.

7. Support the families of accident victims.

8. Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the appropriate time, so that they can undergo the liberating experience of forgiveness.

9. On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.

10. Feel responsible toward others.

While not biblicly-based, these are all reasonable and commonsensical.  But why limit it to ten?  Other good suggestions from Mustang Bobby at Shakesville:

1. No talking on cell phones. Ever.

2. You paid for the turn signal. Use it. Then remember to turn it off.

3. The “fast lane” means more than 35 mph on an interstate highway.

4. Not everyone is a fan of 120db rap music that is loud enough to vibrate the moulding off the car next to you. Close your windows and deafen yourself. (My next career is to open a hearing-aid shop. I’ll make a fortune.)

5. Today’s cars are marvels of modern engineering. Therefore, if you make a right turn onto a side street at a speed in excess of 15 mph , it will not tip over.

6. Owning a 4×4 dual-wheel Ford F-350 Super Duty pickup truck with monster tires when you work as a CPA in Miami doesn’t mean you’re a stud. It means you have size issues. Likewise, putting a spoiler and a hood scoop on a Subaru is the equivalent of a teenaged boy stuffing a sock in his pants.

7. When you’re stuck in traffic, the other line does not move faster. It just seems that way.

8. Applying make-up while driving is dangerous. And that goes for women, too.

9. Try being conscious while driving. It makes things easier.

10. Some people were just meant to take the bus.

The Bloomberg Effect

So NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was a lifelong Democrat before he ran (and won) as a Republican in 2001, is now leaving the GOP to start a bid as the "independent" candidate for President.  As a man literally made of money, he can mount a huge campaign.  No, he’ll never be president, but he can become a Naderesque spoiler.

But a spoiler for who?  Will Bloomberg take votes away from the Dems of the GOP?

This Pollster.com poll is illuminating, looking at a Clinton-Guiliani matchup both with, and without, a Bloomberg third party candidate:

State Clinton Giuliani Spread Clinton Giuliani Bloomberg Spread Difference
Alabama 41 53 R+12 39 46 11 R+7 D+5
California 49 44 D+5 45 40 10 D+5 0
Iowa 47 41 D+6 42 37 11 D+5 R+1
Kansas 41 53 R+12 36 47 8 R+11 D+1
Kentucky 44 47 R+3 41 42 10 R+1 D+2
Massachusetts 52 42 D+10 47 37 9 D+10 0
Minnesota 50 41 D+9 48 37 7 D+11 D+2
Missouri 46 47 R+1 44 39 10 D+5 D+6
New Mexico 50 44 D+6 45 41 8 D+4 R+2
New York 56 38 D+18 49 32 15 D+17 R+1
Ohio 49 46 D+3 47 41 8 D+6 D+3
Oregon 48 44 D+4 44 38 11 D+6 D+2
Texas 37 54 R+17 34 48 10 R+14 D+3
Virginia 44 48 R+4 40 45 9 R+5 R+1
Washington 44 47 R+3 42 41 11 D+1 D+4
Wisconsin 47 46 D+1 44 40 10 D+4 D+3
Average D+1.73

Obviously, while there is a slight overall effect which favors Democrats (i.e., Bloomberg will pull votes from Republicans overall), the breakdown is a little more complicated on a state-by-state basis.  For example, Virginia carries with it many electoral votes, enough to swing an election, and the Bloomberg effect might make it swong Republican (just as the Nader effect theoretically gave Florida to Bush in 2001).

It’s early in the season, but this could become a major factor in the 2008 elections.

Not A Good Day For Rudy In SC

We’re used to corrupt Republican politicians who solicit bribes, take kickbacks and have online sex with boys, but now they have cocaine dealers in their midst?

[South Carolina] State Treasurer Thomas Ravenel was indicted on federal drug charges Tuesday and was suspended from office by Gov. Mark Sanford.

Ravenel, 44, and Michael L. Miller of Mount Pleasant are charged with one count each of conspiracy to possess and intent to distribute cocaine.

What’s worse — he’s the South Carolina campaign manager for Rudy Giuliani.

Digby Outted

Anyone who knows anything about the political blogosphere knows of Digby, the witty writer of Hullabaloo.

Many is the time when other bloggers (including myself) have written posts with the title "What Digby Says" and simply linked to, well, what Digby said.  Insightful and witty, with the ability to focus on with laser-beam accuracy on the issues of the day (and usually in less than 100 words!) — that’s Digby.

Of course, for years, nobody knew who Digby actually was!

But yesterday, Digby made a public appearance at a Take Back America conference, with other blogger all-stars.  He speaks well, too.

Uh, did I say he?

Video from the Gala Dinner at Take Back America 2007 in Washington, DC – June 19, 2007. The blogosphere’s most famous unknown makes herself known, and accepts the Paul Wellstone Citizen Leadership Award on behalf of the entire progressive blogosphere.

What Digby says indeed.  Her speech, like her posts, is noteworthy, as Greenwald notes.

Red vs Blue

Some interesting facts about red vs blue states:

The Commonwealth Fund report, "Aiming Higher: Results from a State Scorecard on Health System Performance," examined states’ performance across 32 indicators of health care access, quality, outcomes and hospital use. Topping the list were Hawaii, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. Bringing up the rear were the Bush bastions of Kentucky, Louisiana, Nevada, Arkansas, Texas, with Mississippi and Oklahoma. The 10 worst performing states were all solidly Republican in 2004.

***

Minimum wage levels also vary significantly from state to state. Unsurprisingly, many of the "bluest" states lead the way in exceeding both the previous ($5.15 an hour) and recently passed ($7.25) federal requirements, with Washington, Oregon, California, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut mandating wages as high as $7.93. Only one of the 21 states (New Hampshire) mired at $5.15 an hour voted for George W. Bush in 2004. (Click here to view a map of the minimum wage by state.)

Not only do blue states fare much better in health care, minimum wage, and education, but they also fare better when it comes to supposedly "conservative" principles of law & order, and "family values":

8 of the top 10 states with the highest murder rates are squarely in Red America. 7 of the 10 states with the lowest murder rates were in the Kerry column. (Interestingly, six of those states have no death penalty statute.) The 10 states with the highest divorce rates in 1998 all went for Bush in 2004. Red states constituted 9 on the top 10 in terms of out-of-wedlock births. And the Bible Belt has the greatest percentage of births to women under age 20, with the worst 15 states nationwide all among in the GOP ranks. By almost any measure of societal breakdown that so-called Republican "values voters" decry, it is Red State America where moral failure is greatest.

Makes you wonder why values voters vote GOP.

The Booming Economy Myth

Yes, the stock market is playing with all-time highs.  Yes, unemployment is low.

But

7 in 10 Americans believe the economy is getting worse — the most negative reading in nearly six years.

Only one in three Americans rate the economy today as either excellent or good, while the percentage saying the economy is getting better fell from 28% to 23% in one month.

What gives?  Are Americans stupid?

Hardly.  For most Americans, "economy" isn’t a function of the Dow Jones, the GNP, the trade deficit, or macro-figures like that.  It’s their wallet and checkbook.  If the nation’s CEOs are getting record high pay and salary, of COURSE that’s going to make the economic figures look good.  But if average shmucks like me and you are struggling to make car payments, mortgages, or simply filling our gas tank, those are economic variables that are not reflected in the Dow Jones industrial average.

Or a better example: Unemplyment may be down, but is that because people have to take on two jobs in order to make ends meet?

So be wary when someone throws big numbers at you in the election year, saying how "great" the economy is.  America’s economy may be strong, but that just means that a small number of Americans (and corporations) are doing extremely well, while the rest of us are treading water or sinking.

Scalia Doesn’t Cite International Law; Cites Hollywood Instead

This guy is an idiot:

Senior judges from North America and Europe were in the midst of a panel discussion about torture and terrorism law, when a Canadian judge’s passing remark – "Thankfully, security agencies in all our countries do not subscribe to the mantra ‘What would Jack Bauer do?’ " – got the legal bulldog in Judge Scalia barking.

The conservative jurist stuck up for Agent Bauer, arguing that fictional or not, federal agents require latitude in times of great crisis. "Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. … He saved hundreds of thousands of lives," Judge Scalia said. Then, recalling Season 2, where the agent’s rough interrogation tactics saved California from a terrorist nuke, the Supreme Court judge etched a line in the sand.

"Are you going to convict Jack Bauer?" Judge Scalia challenged his fellow judges. "Say that criminal law is against him? ‘You have the right to a jury trial?’ Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer? I don’t think so.

"So the question is really whether we believe in these absolutes. And ought we believe in these absolutes."

Unfortunately, there IS an absolute at play here, and that’s the law.  The law is the law.  And — assuming that Jack Bauer is not a fictional character on television — the real world answer is "YES, you are going to convict Jack Bauer".  He broke the law!

Carpetbagger gets deep into it:

I’ll spare you the tirade on why torture is morally indefensible, and why torture doesn’t provide useful information anyway, and why relying on fictional characters to justify real-life crimes is patently ridiculous, but will instead focus on two points.

First, Bauer-like scenarios don’t happen.

We’ve all watched ‘24′ and rooted for Jack Bauer as he breaks all the rules in a desperate attempt to save lives.

The problem with this scenario (as many others have pointed out) is that it makes a number of assumptions that are empirically dubious. First, the ticking-bomb scenario assumes not only that we have knowledge of an imminent attack, but also that we have the right guy in custody, i.e., a person with information that can prevent that attack from happening. In real life, our intelligence is never even close to that good. Intelligence, as the WMD fiasco makes clear, is far from an exact science. A significant percentage of the people we’ve detained as suspected terrorists have turned out to be people who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Should someone who may or may not be a terrorist and may or may not know anything useful be tortured based solely on intelligence “chatter” about an upcoming attack? This is much closer to the type of situations that actually present themselves in real life.

Second, Bauer-like scenarios offer the wrong lessons.

The grossly graphic torture scenes in Fox’s highly rated series “24″ are encouraging abuses in Iraq, a brigadier general and three top military and FBI interrogators claim.

The four flew to Los Angeles in November to meet with the staff of the show. They said it is hurting efforts to train recruits in effective interrogation techniques and is damaging the image of the U.S. around the world, according The New Yorker.

“I’d like them to stop,” Army Brig. Gen. Patrick Finnegan, dean of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, told the magazine.

Finnegan and others told the show’s creative team that the torture depicted in “24″ never works in real life, and by airing such scenes, they’re encouraging military personnel to act illegally.

“People watch the shows, and then walk into the interrogation booths and do the same things they’ve just seen,” said Tony Lagouranis, who was a U.S. Army interrogator in Iraq and attended the meeting. “The kids see it, and say, ‘If torture is wrong, what about ‘24′?” Finnegan said.

Apparently, it’s not just the kids — dangerous Supreme Court justices have come to the same conclusions.

It’s amazing how quickly the "rule of law" goes out the window with conservatives.  Just as it was before the 2006 elections, it is the party of lawlessness, the party of arrogance, the party where rules don’t apply to them.

Clintons Can’t Act Their Way Out Of A Paper Bag…

…and their supporters have lousy taste in music.

This is a send-up of the "Sopranos" final episode, starring (for real) Hillary and Bill:

It’s part of her silly "fun" campaign to have regular Americans (you know, people like you) help decide what her campaign song should be. The winner, as it turns out, is this Celine Dion song, "You and I".

For those of you wanting a reason to not vote for Hillary, I think we just found one.

They Followed Us Home Anyway

Why did we invade Iraq?

Um, let’s see.  The WMDs right?

Uh, not so much.

Oh, then it was to bring peace and stability and democracy and love and understanding and warm fuzzy kissybear hugs to the people of Iraq?

Nope.  Guess not.

Oh, thaaaat’s right.  It was so all the other countries in the Middle East would see Iraq as a model country, and they would stop fighting amongst themselves, right?

Grrr.  Wrong again.

Wait!  I got it!  We were fighting the bad guys over there so we that they wouldn’t come here!

Oh, dammit:

Large teams of newly trained suicide bombers are being sent to the United States and Europe, according to evidence contained on a new videotape obtained by the Blotter on ABCNews.com.

Teams assigned to carry out attacks in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Germany were introduced at an al Qaeda/Taliban training camp graduation ceremony held June 9. 

A Pakistani journalist was invited to attend and take pictures as some 300 recruits, including boys as young as 12, were supposedly sent off on their suicide missions.

The training camp is in Afghanistan — the country where our soldiers were before most of them were pulled out to go into Iraq.

Question: Has Bush does ANYTHING in the war on terrorism that has actually made things better rather than worse?

RELATED:  A must-read primer for those not entirely following this Iraq thing by David Green, professor of political science at Hofstra University.

“Mommy’s In The Rug”

This sounds like the beginning of a horror movie:

A pregnant woman vanished from her home, leaving behind broken furniture, a pool of bleach on the floor and just one witness – a 2-year-old son who told police, "Mommy’s crying … Mommy’s in the rug."

Nobody knows what the 2 year old means by that.

Paul Potts To Perform Before The Queen

Potts_177996aFollow-up to this post from last week….

Paul Potts won:

Singing mobile phone salesman Paul Potts woke up £100,000 richer today after winning television show Britain’s Got Talent, and revealed that he will spend part of his prize money clearing debts and improving his teeth.

Paul Potts, 36, won over the nation with a performance of Nessun Dorma in the final of the hit ITV1 talent show, watched by 12.1 million viewers.

The former Tesco shelf-stacker from Port Talbot, South Wales, will now perform in front of the Queen at the Royal Variety Performance.

Potts said that his win had not yet sunk in but that he was planning to pay off his £30,000 debts – although he was not 100-per cent sure about giving up his day job.

Potts spent £12,000 on singing lessons before deciding his dream was not meant to be. He began stacking shelves in Tesco but had to quit work because of a spell of ill health.

Doctors treated him for appendicitis and removed a benign tumour, while Potts also broke his collarbone.

He landed a job at Carphone Warehouse after battling back to health and married a woman he met on the internet.

There’s been a little controversy over this guy, as some are claiming that he is not really all an "amateur".  And it’s true — he has had a gig or two with the Bath Opera House, although that does not appears to be an amateur company.

More to the point, he gave up his career in 2003, after having broken his collarbone in a motorcycle accident, a tragedy which also put him in to debt.

He’s an amateur, and it’s a Cinderella story:

From an interview:

Speaking to The Observer, the singer denied the allegations. ‘I have never worked as a professional singer. I have poured everything I could earn into a few lessons, but everyone taking part in this television show has had some training,’ he said yesterday.

‘My four performances with Bath Opera a few years back were all amateur. I am angry about this because I have never earned anything, although I did get petrol expenses a couple of times.’ His story is confirmed this weekend by the singing teacher who gave him lessons until Potts was forced to give up in 2003 because of illness. Potts adds that he has always been open about a trip to Italy to improve his voice. He had saved up to sing for Luciano Pavarotti in a masterclass, but had no tuition from the great tenor.

The Sippy Cup Saga

3e79651b85627d9517b37f0a34f54ba0I don’t know if you caught the story last week, but there was an incident at the Reagan National Airport. 

A mother by the name of Monica Emmerson claims she was threatened with arrest for trying to carry her child’s sippy cup with four ounces of water through a security checkpoint (the allowed limit is three ounces). 

She claims that the security people harassed her, and that she accidentally spilled the water on the floor.

Here’s what happened in Monica’s words:

"I demanded to speak to a TSA [Transportation Security Administration] supervisor who asked me if the water in the sippy cup was ‘nursery water or other bottled water.’ I explained that the sippy cup water was filtered tap water. The sippy cup was seized as my son was pointing and crying for his cup. I asked if I could drink the water to get the cup back, and was advised that I would have to leave security and come back through with an empty cup in order to retain the cup. As I was escorted out of security by TSA and a police officer, I unscrewed the cup to drink the water, which accidentally spilled because I was so upset with the situation.

"At this point, I was detained against my will by the police officer and threatened to be arrested for endangering other passengers with the spilled 3 to 4 ounces of water. I was ordered to clean the water, so I got on my hands and knees while my son sat in his stroller with no shoes on since they were also screened and I had no time to put them back on his feet. I asked to call back my fiancé, who I could still see from afar, waiting for us to clear security, to watch my son while I was being detained, and the officer threatened to arrest me if I moved. So I yelled past security to get the attention of my fiancé.

"I was ordered to apologize for the spilled water, and again threatened with arrest. I was threatened several times with arrest while detained, and while three other police officers were called to the scene of the mother with the 19 month old. A total of four police officers and three TSA officers reported to the scene where I was being held against my will. I was also told that I should not disrespect the officer and could be arrested for this too. I apologized to the officer and she continued to detain me despite me telling her that I would miss my flight. The officer advised me that I should have thought about this before I ‘intentionally spilled the water!’

"I missed my flight, needless to say after being detained for over 40 minutes. After the officer was done humiliating me, I was advised that I could go through the security check point in an attempt to catch my flight. The officer insisted that my son and I be rescreened despite us both being detained and under her control the entire time."

The story was seized on as an example of how the TSA is just a bunch of meanies.

Except for one thing.  It looks like Monica (who is a member of the Secret Service, by the way) was lying.

The TSA fought back today, releasing video of what actually happened.  You can also read the official report of the incident (pdf format).

Yes, Monica. Airports do have security cameras.  And it is quite clear (to me) that you did not "accidently spill" the water; you did it deliberately.

Sorry, honey.  The laws apply to you, too.

Trojan Pigs

18adcol600This woman makes a good point:

"We always find it funny that you can use sex to sell jewelry and cars, but you can’t use sex to sell condoms,” a spokeswoman for Ansell Healthcare, which makes LifeStyles condoms.

She’s talking about a new commercial for Trojan condoms, which Fox and CBS have refused to air.

In a commercial for Trojan condoms that has its premiere tonight, women in a bar are surrounded by anthropomorphized, cellphone-toting pigs. One shuffles to the men’s room, where, after procuring a condom from a vending machine, he is transformed into a head-turner in his 20s. When he returns to the bar, a fetching blond who had been indifferent now smiles at him invitingly.

Now, if this was a commercial for beer or woman’s makeup or cell phones or — well — just about anything, I doubt anyone would have done so much as raise an eyebrow.  But because it involves (oh my God!) condoms, and the apparent suggestion that these young people are going to have sex, then we have to call in the morality police.

Silly.  Very silly.

UPDATE:  I missed this:

In a written response to Trojan, though, Fox said that it had rejected the spot because, “Contraceptive advertising must stress health-related uses rather than the prevention of pregnancy.”

If that’s so, can someone explain to me why Fox allows advertisements for Viagra?

Why is it okay to allow advertisements for something which enhances sex, but NOT for the prevention of pregnancy?

Anyway, maybe there is an EFFECTIVE condom ad that won’t upset Fox.  My proposal?  This one from France:

House Interim Staff Report on RNC Emails

House investigators have learned that the Bush administration’s use of Republican National Committee email accounts is far greater than previously disclosed — 140,216 emails sent or received by Karl Rove alone — and that the RNC has overseen “extensive destruction” of many of the emails, including all email records for 51 White House officials.

The Presidential Records Act requires the President to “take all such steps as may be necessary to assure that the activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies that reflect the performance of his constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties are adequately documented … and maintained as Presidential records.” To implement this legal requirement, the White House Counsel issued clear written policies in February 2001 instructing White House staff to use only the official White House e-mail system for official communications and to retain any official e-mails they received on a nongovernmental account.

The evidence obtained by the Committee indicates that White House officials used their RNC e-mail accounts in a manner that circumvented these requirements. At this point in the investigation, it is not possible to determine precisely how many presidential records may have been destroyed by the RNC.

They are sooooo busted:

The number of White House officials given RNC e-mail accounts is higher than previously disclosed. In March 2007, White House spokesperson Dana Perino said that only a “handful of officials” had RNC e-mail accounts. In later statements, her estimate rose to “50 over the course of the administration.” In fact, the Committee has learned from the RNC that at least 88 White House officials had RNC e-mail accounts. The officials with RNC e-mail accounts include Karl Rove, the President’s senior advisor; Andrew Card, the former White House Chief of Staff; Ken Mehlman, the former White House Director of Political Affairs; and many other officials in the Office of Political Affairs, the Office of Communications, and the Office of the Vice President.

White House officials made extensive use of their RNC e-mail accounts. The RNC has preserved 140,216 e-mails sent or received by Karl Rove. Over half of these e-mails (75,374) were sent to or received from individuals using official “.gov” e-mail accounts. Other heavy users of RNC e-mail accounts include former White House Director of Political Affairs Sara Taylor (66,018 e-mails) and Deputy Director of Political Affairs Scott Jennings (35,198 e-mails). These e-mail accounts were used by White House officials for official purposes, such as communicating with federal agencies about federal appointments and policies.

There has been extensive destruction of the e-mails of White House officials by the RNC. Of the 88 White House officials who received RNC e-mail accounts, the RNC has preserved no e-mails for 51 officials. In a deposition, Susan Ralston, Mr. Rove’s former executive assistant, testified that many of the White House officials for whom the RNC has no e-mail records were regular users of their RNC e-mail accounts. Although the RNC has preserved no e-mail records for Ken Mehlman, the former Director of Political Affairs, Ms. Ralston testified that Mr. Mehlman used his account “frequently, daily.” In addition, there are major gaps in the e-mail records of the 37 White House officials for whom the RNC did preserve e-mails. The RNC has preserved only 130 e-mails sent to Mr. Rove during President Bush’s first term and no e-mails sent by Mr. Rove prior to November 2003. For many other White House officials, the RNC has no e-mails from before the fall of 2006.

There is evidence that the Office of White House Counsel under Alberto Gonzales may have known that White House officials were using RNC e-mail accounts for official business, but took no action to preserve these presidential records. In her deposition, Ms. Ralston testified that she searched Mr. Rove’s RNC e-mail account in response to an Enron-related investigation in 2001 and the investigation of Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald later in the Administration. According to Ms. Ralston, the White House Counsel’s office knew about these e-mails because “all of the documents we collected were then turned over to the White House Counsel’s office.” There is no evidence, however, that White House Counsel Gonzales initiated any action to ensure the preservation of the e-mail records that were destroyed by the RNC.

It’s A Family Affair

CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) has released a devastating report on government nepotism — how Congresspersons are using their positions to financially benefit their family members.

Highlights:

  • 24 have relatives who lobby Congress (10 Democrats and 14 Republicans);
  • 19 used their campaign committees or PACs to pay a family business or a business that employs a family member (9 Democrats and 10 Republicans);
  • 17 used their campaign funds to make campaign contributions to relatives (11 Democrats and 6 Republicans);
  • 15 used their positions to benefit a family member or a family member’s client (3 Democrats and 12 Republicans);
  • At least 7 paid offspring who ranged from school-age to college-age (all Republicans)
  • Some examples:

    • Rep. Randy Forbes’s (R-VA) campaign committee paid his three children over $45,000.
    • Rep. Paul Kanjorski’s (D-PA) campaign committee and leadership PAC have paid his own company (which he co-owns with his brother) over $40,000 in rent and his campaign committee paid two of his nephews over $70,000. In addition, two companies which are partly owned by Rep. Kanjorski’s family members have received over $9.4 million in earmarks.
    • Rep. Zoe Lofgren’s (D-CA) campaign committee has paid her husband’s two businesses almost $350,000, mostly for event management, accounting and fundraising services.
    • Rep. Chris Cannon’s (R-UT) campaign committee paid six of his eight children over $60,000. In addition, Rep. Cannon has used his position to assist his brother’s clients.

    None of this is, technically speaking, illegal, but it is the hope of CREW that changes should be made in the law to prevent this sort of thing.

    Read the full report here (PDF format).

    Mike Gravel Wants Your Attention

    Former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel is seeking the Democratic nomination for the 2008 Presidency.  You probably haven’t heard of him — he’s been overshadowed by Clinton, Obama, Edwards, Richardson, and — well — just about everybody else.  Still, he’s a legitimate candidate (he’s been in all the Dem ’08 debates) with strong anti-war creds.

    Now to the heart of this post.  Here is one of Gravel’s latest campaign ads:

    In another campaign ad, Gravel walks through the woods, picks something up, walks off camera, then the video cuts to him sitting alone at a fire. The entire rest of the video might as well be the TV Christmas yule log. It’s nothing but branches burning.

    You gotta hand it to him.  While people are trying to figure out exactly what these ads MEAN (if anything) and/or if Mike Gravel is (oh, I don’t know…) batshit CRAZY, one thing is clear: there’s a little buzz about Mike Gravel as a direct result of these political ads.  And that’s pretty smart campaigning for a guy nobody heard of.

    UPDATE:  Gravel’s Press Secretary Shaun Alexander Colvin explains the ads:

    "It’s a personal statement rather than a usual political statement that you get from candidates. This message and this candidate are not just about rhetoric and promises or about being verbose. It’s about a candidate looking you in the eye. He’s laying himself out, exposing himself, showing who he is."

    "He’s a man who’ll look you in the eye. He could’ve been standing in the park making political statements and promises and such, and he’s doing just the opposite. His message is out there. He’s articulated it for a year. He’s standing by his word. And giving you a chance to see who he is."

    "The beginning part of it is very interpretational. In metaphor, it would be the rock in the water and the ripple effect of the senator and his message and who he is, a man with an idea, who is little by little, day by day communicating that message.

    "We are seeing a ripple effect from here in our offices in Arlington to communities across the country for his platform on Iraq and economic fairness. That metaphor is how a man spreads his message."

    Replacing Ethnic Women With “Good Americans” (White Christian Men)

    Bradley Schlozman, a Bush political appointee to the Department of Justice, reportedly tried to remove many female minority attorneys (who came on board under Democratic presidents) and replace them with — his alleged words — "good Americans".

    An anonymous phone call in 2005 led to an internal investigation, which resulted in these words from the Inspector General:

    Schlotzman

    The full report is here.  The report also says:

    "Bradley J. Schlozman is systematically attempting to purge all Civil Rights appellate attorneys hired under Democratic administrations . . . Schlozman told one recently hired attorney that it was his intention to drive these attorneys out of the Appellate Section so that he could replace them with ‘good Americans’"

    And here’s the irony: this all happened within the DOJ’s Appellate Section of Civil Rights Division!!!

    Was there fallout?  Apparently not — until now.  TPMmuckraker writes:

    It’s unclear if the Department’s inspector general ever pursued the allegations from the December, 2005 letter at the time. But the office certainly is now. In a letter to the judiciary committee chairmen last month, Glenn Fine and Office of Professional Responsibility counsel Marshall Jarrett announced that their joint probe into the U.S. attorney firings had been expanded to include hiring practices in the Civil Rights Division. Schlozman has been accused of recruiting Republicans for career spots and then asking them to scrub mentions of their GOP bona fides from their resumes.

    To be continued… no doubt.

    Why Will Nobody Listen To Me About Killer Terrorist Squirrels?

    I wrote about them on December 2, 2005.

    I wrote about them on November 2, 2006, and again on November 7, 2006.

    And again on May 10, 2007.

    What do I have to do to get people to pay attention to this impending global threat?  Make an Academy Award-winning documentary?

    An aggressive squirrel attacked and injured three people in a German town before a 72-year-old pensioner dispatched the rampaging animal with his crutch.

    The squirrel first ran into a house in the southern town of Passau, leapt from behind on a 70-year-old woman, and sank its teeth into her hand, a local police spokesman said Thursday.

    With the squirrel still hanging from her hand, the woman ran onto the street in panic, where she managed to shake it off.

    The animal then entered a building site and jumped on a construction worker, injuring him on the hand and arm, before he managed to fight it off with a measuring pole.

    "After that, the squirrel went into the 72-year-old man’s garden and massively attacked him on the arms, hand and thigh," the spokesman said. "Then he killed it with his crutch."

    How long will it be before it is "too late"?

    Squirrels

    And In The End, The Love You Take….

    Sixfeetunder_1With the general disappointment over the last episode of "The Sopranos" (I’m not a watcher, so I have no comment), the folks at MSNBC compiled a list of the "best" and "worst" endings of movies, TV shows, and books:

    BEST ENDINGS:

    Movies:

    • The Godfather
    • Notorious
    • The Lady Eve
    • The Wild Bunch
    • The Third Man
    • The Usual Suspects 
    • McCabe and Mrs. Miller
    • The 400 Blows
    • Midnight Cowboy
    • Blazing Saddles
    • Some Like It Hot
    • Kiss Me Deadly
    • Yojimbo
    • Bambi Meets Godzilla
    • Planet of the Apes
    • The Lives of Others 
    • Blade Runner [director’s cut]
    • Carrie

    GoodbyeBooks:

    • The Great Gatsby
    • Light in August
    • The Grapes of Wrath
    • Charlotte’s Web
    • For Whom the Bell Tolls
    • The Dead
    • Love in the Time of Cholera
    • Blood Meridian
    • Portnoy’s Complaint
    • A Handful of Dust

    Television:

    • The Howdy Doody Show
    • Six Feet Under 
    • St. Elsewhere
    • Newhart
    • Mary Tyler Moore Show

    WORST ENDINGS:

    Movies:

    • The Village
    • Signs
    • Clue
    • Eyes Wide Shut
    • Planet of the Apes [the remake]
    • Blade Runner  [theatrical release]
    • Wedding Crashers
    • Rosemary’s Baby
    • Godfather III

    Books:

    • Huckleberry Finn
    • Portrait of a Lady
    • Great Expectations 
    • Atlas Shrugged   
    • It 

    Television:

    • Twin Peaks
    • The X-Files 
    • Seinfeld
    • 24 [this season’s final episode]

    I’m unfamiliar with a lot of these, but I have to agree with the best endings of "The Usual Suspects", "Bambi Meets Godzilla" (youtube’d below), and TV’s "Newhart" show (the ending to end all endings).

    By the way, the best ending in music?  The Beatles’ "A Day In The Life".

    Got any to add?

    But Who’s Counting?

    WaPo:

    BAGHDAD, June 15 — The full contingent of new U.S. forces being sent to Iraq — what military leaders call a "surge" of troops to improve security and stability in the capital — was completed by Friday, with 28,500 additional troops now posted in the country, a U.S. military spokesman said.

    Uh, make that 28,495 additional troops:

    BAGHDAD, June 15 – Five American soldiers died in Iraq, the U.S. military announced Friday, a day after extremists fired shells into Baghdad’s Green Zone during a visit by the State Department’s No. 2 official.

    I Got A Crush On Obama

    With almost half a million views on YouTube, this thing is majorly viral.

    This morning, the mainstream media is even covering it.  The austere New York Times included:

    CREATOR: Ben Relles, Leah Kauffman and Rick Friedrich.

    ON THE SCREEN: A sexy young woman watching the 2004 Democratic National Convention on C-Span falls for Senator Barack Obama and then calls him on the phone. In mock MTV fashion, she starts singing a rapturous urban ballad about her crush on him. She slinks around various locales in New York City, including the subway, the park and her office, suggestively sidling up to images of Mr. Obama while proclaiming her adoration for him.

    SCRIPT: “Hey B., it’s me. If you’re there, pick up. I was just watching you on C-Span (sigh). Anyway, call me back … won’t you pick up your phone, ’cause I got a crush on Obama. …

    You’re into border security/let’s break this border between you and me/universal health care reform/it makes me warm. You tell the truth, unlike the right/You can love but you can fight … I got a crush on Obama."

    THE BUZZ: The video plays on the sex appeal of the candidate, a terrain considered off limits by political campaigns in their own commercials. By using theatrical devices common in R & B videos — like the woman leaving a breathless message on the phone — the video has a campy appeal while also giving a nod to the issues in a playful manner. While overtly salacious, the video is unlike to raise any objections from the Obama campaign.

    Leah Kauffman is the performer.  And no, the Obama campaign has nothing to do with this.  The video has led to its own website/blog.

    And here’s what the buzz is about:

    Obvious Answers To Stupid Questions

    Q: Can you clean a computer keyboard by putting it in the dishwasher, without ruining it?

    A:  No:

    Studies show that computer keyboards have more bacteria than toilet seats. But it’s hard to clean all those keys. So some people advocate an extreme solution: Throw your keyboard in your dishwasher.

    At first glance, this seems insane. But the computer-keyboard-in-the-dishwasher advice is all over the Internet. And don’t we wish it were true?

    Yes, but (as the article goes on to say), it’s probably not.  Unless you have a specifically-designed dishwasher safe keyboard.

    New Words

    The folks at wordspy.com are always on the lookout for new words and phrases popping up in the English language.  Here are some of the latest:

    • password fatigue n. Mental exhaustion and frustration caused by having to remember a large number of passwords. (Citations)
    • Streisand effect n. The widespread dissemination of information caused by an attempt to suppress that information. Also: Barbra Streisand effect. (Citations)
    • exergaming n. An activity that combines exercise with video game play. —adj. Also: exer-gaming. —exergame n. —exergamer n. (Citations)
    • ungoogleable n. A person for whom no information appears in an Internet search engine, particularly Google. —adj. Also: unGoogleable, ungooglable, unGoogle-able.
    • microblogging pp. Posting short thoughts and ideas to a personal blog, particularly by using instant messaging software or a cell phone. Also: micro-blogging. —microblog v., n. —microblogger n. (Citations)
    • bullycide n. The suicide of a child that occurs after that child has been bullied or harassed. (Citations)
    • hypermiler n. A person who attempts to maximize gas mileage by using driving techniques that conserve fuel. —hypermiling pp. —hypermile adj (Citations)
    • eco-anxiety n. Worry or agitation caused by concerns about the present and future state of the environment. (Citations)
    • ecosexual n. A single, environmentally conscious person with a strong aesthetic sense. Also: eco-sexual. —ecosexuality n. (Citations)