Monthly Archives: April 2010

Fun Facts About The Oil Spill Off The Louisiana Gulf Coast

The sea of oil spewing from the mangled pipeline is already larger than 31 nations.

This initial oil well explosion, which killed 11 men, occured when a contractor was cementing the well.  Who was the contractor?  Our old friend, Halliburton.

As of now, the oil spilled equals about half of the Exxon Valdez.  In another ten days, at the current rate of spillage, it will surpass the Exxon Valdez spill.  And it may be months before the sea of oil stops growing.   

Almost certain to be effected are two wildlife refuges, which apparently are not refuges at all anymore.  (More here)

Gulf_amo_Apr27 

Also… a flashback to a few weeks ago:

 

Arizona Moving To Modify Its Anti-Immigration Law

From Arizona Central:

About Obama’s Plan To Do Offshore Drilling

In the wake of the biggest old spill catastrophe since Exxon Valdez, it looks like plans to do more off-shore drill-baby-drilling is on hold:

As some Democratic lawmakers call on President Obama to suspend his plans to expand offshore oil drilling, the White House today said that there will be no new domestic offshore drilling until the investigation into the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is complete.

"All he has said is that he's not going to continue the moratorium on drilling but… no additional drilling has been authorized and none will until we find out what happened here and whether there was something unique and preventable here," White House senior adviser David Axelrod said on "Good Morning America" today, defending the administration's policy.

Axelrod said no new drilling in domestic areas will go forward until "there is an adequate review of what happened here and what is being proposed elsewhere."

Hmmmm.  Yes.  Seems like a reasonable response to what was a bad idea in the first place.

Meahwhile, Bill Maher tweets:

Whathesaid-300x122 

Agreed. 

Some Excitement in Raleigh

This happened Wednesday.  Girlfriend freaks as a tornado forms right in front of their car.    Boyfriend keeps his cool, gives sound advice about the possibility of getting into a ditch at the side of the road, and rolls down the windows to equalize the air pressure inside and outside the car.  But the girlfriend freaks anyway.

Self-Defense

By GF and BFF does Krav Maga training.  Krav Maga is a hand-to-hand self-defense system originally developed in Czechoslovakia, and modified in Israel.  It involves wrestling, grappling and striking techniques, and is mostly known for its extremely efficient and brutal counter-attacks.  It's the kind of the thing that elite special forces use all around the world.

As for me, this is what I do:

Punch_them_in_the_neck
Also, I'm working toward certification in "Hey, your shoe's untied". 

ALSO:  My favorite flower of my GF and BFF is the tulip, so I'm going to post this graphic which is going viral:

Tumblr_l0kr3ivHU11qbs8kyo1_500

Hey Sarah — How’s The Oily Drilly Thing Working Out For Ya?

That seems to be the refrain as the news goes from bad to worse:

NEW ORLEANS — Government officials said late Wednesday night that oil might be leaking from a well in the Gulf of Mexico at a rate five times that suggested by initial estimates.

In a hastily called news conference, Rear Adm. Mary E. Landry of the Coast Guard said a scientist from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had concluded that oil is leaking at the rate of 5,000 barrels a day, not 1,000 as had been estimated. While emphasizing that the estimates are rough given that the leak is at 5,000 feet below the surface, Admiral Landry said the new estimate came from observations made in flights over the slick, studying the trajectory of the spill and other variables.

Unofficial estimates by observers think it is possible waaay worse, about twenty times the original estimate:

This, and other radar images that SkyTruth is getting, confirm what we've seen on the NASA/MODIS images so far, and support our conservative calculations showing that in the first week of this spill at least 6 million gallons have entered the Gulf. That's a spill rate of at least 850,000 gallons (20,000 barrels) per day, 20 times larger than the official Goast Guard estimate of 42,000 gallons per day.

And if those numbers mean nothing to you, maybe this asssessment will hit home:

The Exxon Valdez tanker spill totaled 11 million gallons. We could exceed that in just a few days, if we haven't already.

Oilslick

Political impact?  You betcha:

The oil slick will hit the coast tomorrow.

 

What Does Facebook Publish About You?

There's been some controversy about the new Facebook changes, and its impact on your privacy.  I touched on it here in this post.

Basically, Facebook made the decision to make some aspects of your Facebook profile available to, well, anything on the Internet — and vice versa.  For example, if John Smith posted a video from Youtube on Facebook — say, a "Single Ladies"/Mayberry mash-up — then Facebook could be making that posting public knowledge, so that Youtube (if it wanted) could program its website to say "John Smith posted this video on Facebook".

In more technical terms, Facebook has developed an API which allows programmers at others websites — any website, really — to pull chunks of data from your Facebook profile (your statuses, groups you belong to, things you have "liked", your pictures, etc.) and incorporate it into their own website.

It's not a new concept.  It's really just cross-posting.  Many people for example crosspost their tweets to become Facebook statuses or vice versa.  The only difference is that it covers more than statuses, and it allows people to reach in and grab that information, rather than you publishing it at places of your choice.

It's really NOT a big deal in my view because — and this is key — the API only grabs things from your profile that you have made available to everyone on Facebook (i.e., things not limited to your "network" of friends and family).  All you need to know is that if something is available to everyone (even non-friends) on Facebook, it is now potentially available to people who aren't even ON Facebook.

But this still leaves many Facebook users uneasy, in part because they don't know what things are open to the public.  So how do you find out what information Facebook is sharing about you? 

Fortunately, there is a handy-dandy little website which uses the Facebook API feature, and shows you just what Facebook is making public.  Simply go here and follow the instructions.  It's a non-Facebook site that grabs everything that Facebook is sharing about you.

If you think something is being made available by Facebook that you don't want to be made available, then go into your Facebook account, and adjust your privacy settings.

Third Time A Charm? Don’t Bet On It

As I am writing this, the Senate is voting on financial reform legislation.  This is the third time in three or four days that the Senate has held this vote, and each time, the Republicans have universally voted "no".

Important to understand, however, is what the Senate is actually voting on.  They are voting on merely whether to have a debate on financial reform legislation.  That is what Republicans are saying "no" to.  A debate — not an actual bill, but a debate about whether to have a bill and what it should contain.

I'll update this post if I hear what the results are, but I am guessing the Republicans will — again — vote "no".

UPDATE:  yes, it's a no.

UPDATE #2:  The Senate Dems are going to try again this evening.  Ezra Klein notes that the Democratic leadership is considering a new procedural approach, which I call the "Kentucky Derby" ploy:

Word is that the Democrats might make the Republicans actually filibuster FinReg tonight. That is to say, stand on the floor and talk and talk and talk. And if the Democrats are serious about forcing the Republicans to really filibuster the bill, this is the right week for it: The Kentucky Derby starts Friday, and Kentucky's senior senator, Mitch McConnell, would surely prefer to attend. Given that his members are already talking about breaking ranks, McConnell may find himself eager to get this kabuki dance over with a little bit early.

UPDATE #3:  GOP caves.

Breaking: Flight to DC Receives Threat; Lands In Greensboro

AP:

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Officials say a Continental Airlines flight from Houston to the Washington area has been diverted to North Carolina after a threatening message was written on a bathroom mirror.

The Transportation Security Administration says Continental Flight 3006 was headed for Dulles International Airport in Virginia on Wednesday when it was directed to land at Piedmont Triad International Airport near Greensboro "out of an abundance of caution."

The TSA said the plane was met by law enforcement officers after taxiing to a remote area of the airfield

 

Breaking: Flight to DC Gets Bomb Threat; Lands In Greensboro

AP:

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Officials say a Continental Airlines flight from Houston to the Washington area has been diverted to North Carolina after a threatening message was written on a bathroom mirror.

The Transportation Security Administration says Continental Flight 3006 was headed for Dulles International Airport in Virginia on Wednesday when it was directed to land at Piedmont Triad International Airport near Greensboro "out of an abundance of caution."

The TSA said the plane was met by law enforcement officers after taxiing to a remote area of the airfield.

Journalistic Error

According to Gawker, the Washington Post was debating which cover story and art to feature on its online page.  It was either going to be this:

500x_custom_1272401661188_washpost2 

or this:

500x_custom_1272401663767_washpost3

Apparently, somebody messed up, because for a few hours yesterday (until somebody fixed it), the online Washington Post looked like this:

500x_custom_1272401669137_washpost1
Ooopsy. 
 

And That’s The Deal My Dear

I'm probably making more of this Arizona anti-immigration law than I ought to.  As I wrote before, the thing just won't survive all the constitutional challenges that are sure to come in court.

But on the off-chance that the Arizona law survives legal battles, it's still facing another tough opponent:

Colombian-born pop star Shakira will meet with the mayor of Phoenix this week to help campaign against a new Arizona law cracking down on illegal immigration, a member of the mayor's staff said on Tuesday.

The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter will speak with Mayor Phil Gordon, a strong critic of the new law, and other city officials on Thursday afternoon, a spokesman for the mayor said.

Shakira, best known for her hit singles "Hips Don't Lie" and "Whenever, Wherever," was also expected to meet with families who could be affected by the Arizona law.

NOW you've done it, Arizona!  You've rankled the sensibility of Shakira and her mighty ass.

May God have mercy on your soul.

Arizona To Feds: Help Enforce Our Own Draconian Law

This is pretty ballsy:

The Arizona agency tasked with training 15,000 law officers to enforce the state's controversial new illegal immigration law has asked federal authorities for assistance, but administration officials say it is unclear whether the government will help.

Lyle Mann, executive director of the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, says federal assistance is "critical" to what he describes as an unprecedented effort to prepare officers as soon as this summer to enforce the law, which gives local police authority to identify and arrest illegal immigrants.

The request was made to the United States Department of Homeland Security's division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Frankly, the response should come from the U.S Civil Rights Division, warning Arizona's task force about the consequences of engaging in civil rights violations.  As for the Department of Homeland Security, they shouldn't spend a dime on this.  Maybe the cost of a stamp for return postage, containing a letter saying "Dear Arizona, Bite me."

Nice Going Dumbass

It goes without saying that you shouldn't cheat on your fiancee.  Period.

But when your fiancee is a princess?  And by that I mean, an actual princess?

Well, that takes a special kind of stupidity to cheat on her.  Hope this guy likes his life as an associate in a law firm.

In Which I Get Caught Up In Some Illegal Activity (Part III)

Part I here.

Part II here.

There's not much to add to the continuing saga.  Except that, as of this morning, I was still receiving phone calls from the recipients of various FEDex packages, wondering about the check.

One package went out yesterday — which is AFTER I put the hold on "my" FEDex account last week.  I had words with FEDex about that, believe you me.

Also, it seems that the latest batch of packages don't have a $2900 (or so) check from "South Motors Infiniti" in Miami Florida, but rather, a $2900 (or so) check from "Vincennes University", which is located somewhere in Illinois.  Obviously, it really doesn't matter what's on the checks.  They are fake.

However, having spoke to 8 or 9 of these FEDex package recipients, one thing is coming into focus: these people have all been contacted about jobs, after responding to an ad or listing at monster.com or on Craigslist.  The details are sketchy, but apparently they respond to some employment ad, and then they receive an email saying they will be sent a check with which to purchase a computer, and to be sure to deposit it.  And at the same time (within a day or two, before or after), they receive "my" check via FEDex.

So now there seems to be something linking all these scam victims together.  They were all jobhunting.

And the email the receive?  It's from a guy named Eric Fleming, and his email address is enquiries.verco.eric at gmail.com.  I suspect that "Eric Fleming" is not the name of the person behind the scam.  It's probably just a compromised email, just like the FEDex account isn't mine.  Or it could be a totally fictional email name.

Perhaps when one applies for the job online in response to the job ad, they are asked for (and perhaps give) their social security number.  And then they get this bogus check (plus an email urging them to deposit it).  If they deposit that check, information about the checking account gets back to the bad guys, who also have a social security number.  Now they are off to the races.  I imagine you can do a lot of damage with a bank account and social security number.

Anyway, when I get these calls, I tell the people not to cash the check.  Most of them are suspicious anyway, thank goodness.

And from today's USA Today:

Usatodayecriminals 

Sh*tty Deal Or No Sh*tty Deal?

CSPAN's getting a little blue today:

Language aside (and really, who gives a shit what language they use?), it's remarkable substantively.  These Goldman Sachs guys are…. well…. shits.

And apparently, they are getting their asses handed to them.  John Cole blogs:

I’m watching this on C-Span3 while I work, and this just does not feel like the normal dog and pony show. Goldman is getting absolutely fucking killed. Claire McCaskill is close to lining these people up against a wall.

Our Senators are pissed for a change.

The Arizona Immigration Law

There's no way in hell Arizona's new immigration law passes constitutional muster.

The “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act”  requires that police officers determine the immigration status of a person “where reasonable suspicion exists” that the person is in the country illegally. The officer must then verify the suspects immigration status with the federal government.

As many have noted, the most obvious and provocative question raised by this provision is, “What do illegal immigrants look like?” Theyre probably Hispanic, but so are 30 percent of Arizonas residents. So unless the law authorizes the stopping and questioning of any person who looks darker than the average Caucasian, there needs to be some other criteria that set apart illegal aliens from lawful residents.

But so far, no one has come up with any. When asked what other factors an officer might use to single out an unlawful resident, Arizona governor Jan Brewer replied, “We have to trust our law enforcement.”

Thats not a constitutionally acceptable answer. For one thing, the Constitutions equal protection clause forbids the government from differentiating between anyone in the United States — including illegal aliens — on the basis of race. The new law, on its face, doesn't make racial distinctions, but its supporters havent articulated any other grounds for suspecting that someone is an unlawful resident. It is, therefore, vulnerable to the argument that it essentially criminalizes walking while Hispanic.

There is also, of course, the Fourth Amendment, which perserves that the "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…".  Any law which could result in the random stop of an Hispanic resident — a citizen of Arizona — is on its face, unconstitutional.

But more than that, Brewer's reply to "trust our law enforcement" is also a very bad answer.  Law enforcement, under the new law, can be sued for failing to stop a suspected illegal immigrant.  That puts them in a bit of a pickle.

A lot of people, even on the right, have spoken out against the new law.  And while it may dominate the headlines, I am less concerned.  There's no way — no way in hell — this law will survive a court challenge.

UPDATE:  Byron York tries to defend the law in today's Washington Examiner and fails.  Here's an example:

Bzzzzzzt!  Sorry.

Police have "lawful contact" all the time that doesn't involve detention of an individual.  In fact, I suspect that most of the people that officers come in contact with, lawfully, during any individual day are not "in detention".  Crime victims, accidents victims, or just people they meet while walking the beat — the coffee shop owner, for crying out loud — these are just some of the people that police officers have lawful contact with all the time.

If Arizona lawmakers wanted police to check the immigration statuses of those already in custody or under detention — and only those people — they could have easily written that statute to explicitly say so.  But the Arizona law, as written, does not say that.  It uses the words "lawful contact" — a much more broad term covering a wider range of behaviors.

Besides, another provision of the statute makes mincemeat of York's argument.  “A person is guilty of trespassing,” the law provides, by being “present on any public or private land in this state” while lacking authorization to be in the United States — a new crime of breathing while undocumented.  So in essence, if an officer comes across (i.e., has lawful contact) with someone breathing, who could reasonably be an illegal alien, he can and must stop that person.

By the way, there is yet another reason why the law is unconstitutional.  The supremacy clause.  Simply stated, it means that the federal government controls federal issues, not the states.  Immigration is a federal matter.  End of story.

Let the boycotts begin.

In Which I Get Caught Up In Some Illegal Activity (Part II)

Part I here.

Apparently, somewhere in the neighborhood of ten FEDEX packages have been sent out in my name.  This morning alone, I have received three phone calls from people all over the country asking why I sent them a check.  These checks are in the name of South Motors Infiniti (which is the name of a car dealership in Miami, Florida), and are in the amounts of $2500-3000 each.

After speaking with FEDEX's fraud department, my bank's fraud department, and the local FBI (who referred me to the U.S. Secret Service), this much, at least, is clear:

  1. Someone opened a FEDEX account in my name about a week and a half ago.  They had my address, cell phone number AND my debit card number.  When they opened the account, they gave an email address which is NOT mine (The email is in the form of LASTNAME_FIRSTNAME @ YAHOO.COM; I know the name, but I won't share it; FEDEX assumes it is probably fake anyway).
  2. They sent out ten FEDEX packages under "my" FEDEX account to various people throughout the country (some of whom have called me).  According to FEDEX, at least some of the packages came from a FEDEX drop-off box in Daphne, Alabama.  The shipments are charged to me.  (Don't worry – my bank is on top of this now)
  3. According to the Secret Service agent I spoke to, the targets of the scheme are the people who receive these checks.  The perpetrators hope that the recipients will cash or deposit the checks, thereby revealing their bank account numbers.  "My" FEDEX account serves merely to cover their tracks.

It's not clear why the perpetrator or perpetrators chose these particular people as victims.  But the victims I've talked to come from Chicago, South Carolina, Texas, etc. and seemingly have no connection to each other or South Motors Infiniti.  And certainly no connection to me.

Anyway, the lesson of the day is this: If you receive a big check in the mail from someone that you don't know, don't treat it as a windfall and cash it.  You're probably being set up.

Yeah, I know — that's common sense.  But apparently these schemers are counting on enough people not having any.

Happy Earth Day

PORT FOURCHON, La. – The oil rig that exploded, caught fire and then sank 36 hours later could lead to a major oil spill, officials said Thursday… The well could be spilling up to 8,000 barrels of crude oil a day, the Coast Guard said, and the rig carried 700,000 gallons of diesel fuel. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry added that crews saw a one mile by five mile sheen of what appeared to be a crude oil mix on the surface of the water….. read the whole thing.

ALSO….

The Associated Press reports what many Americans have suspected for years: “The nation’s oil and chemical plants are spewing a lot more pollution than they report to the Environmental Protection Agency — and the EPA knows it.”

AP says that records, scientific studies and interviews “suggest pollution from petrochemical plants is at least 10 times greater than what is reported to the government and the public.”

How come? The United States is using outdated measuring devices, not the lasers, solar technology and remote sensors used by European countries.

1,000 Things I Didn’t Know About Women

Well, according to Esquire, which is running an all-about-women issue this month, there are a thousand things I supposedly don't know about women.

I feel I might have to fact-check some of these.  Here's one thing I do know — you probably can't lump all women into a generic category and say "women are ______".  But that's not going to stop Esquire, I suppose.

Below the fold, there are 100 things I (supposedly) didn't know about women, as culled by The Best Article Every DayGood reading for any woman, or any regular person who knows a woman.

Back To Business As Usual at Massey Mines

This is downright Dickensian.  Or if that is too antiquated for you — it's downright Norma raeish.

Charleston, W.Va. — Two weeks after the horrific explosion that killed 29 coal miners in southern West Virginia, it’s business as usual for the owner of the project.

Massey Energy, the Virginia-based coal giant that runs the Upper Big Branch Mine, has denied time off for miners to attend their friends’ funerals; has rejected makeshift memorials outside the mine site; and, in at least one case, required a worker to go on shift even though the fate of a relative — one of the victims of the April 5 disaster — remained unknown at the time, according to some family members and other sources familiar with those episodes. In short, the company might be taking heat for putting profits and efficiency above its workers, but it doesn’t appear to have changed its tune in the wake of the worst mining tragedy in 40 years.

“They told my husband, ‘You’ve got a job to do and you’re gonna do it,’” said the wife of one Massey miner, referring to the funerals he’s missed this month for friends who died in the blast. “What else are we gonna do?”

***

That threat of job loss — be it spoken or simply understood — has created a culture of fear in some corners of Southern West Virginia, where coal is the only real industry, and Massey is king of the hill. Indeed, in certain areas there’s simply no queen.

“The bad thing here is that Massey owns [the Upper Big Branch] mine, and they’ve got a lot of subsidiaries — little tiny outfits just all down the river,” said Denny Tyler, an electrician who has contracted with Massey and now runs a website advocating for the end to mountaintop removal. “If you get fired from one, you’re not working anywhere on Coal River. … Its a fear thing.”

In another case rankling some residents near the Upper Big Branch, a mourner this week tried to hang a wreath at the entrance to the mine. Massey wouldn’t allow it, according to several sources, and the women left in tears. Though trivial, the episode has further solidified the image of Massey as a company that bullies its workers and local communities.

[Emphasis mine]

Porn on the iPhone

Apple keeps a very close eye on its app store, and it rejects anything “controversial” or “pornographic”. For example, it banned a cartoonist Mark Fiore’s app, and reversed that decision only after Fiore won a Pulitzer. And it recently banned a bunch of “overt sexual content” from second-tier publishers, while retaining apps from Playboy and Sports Illustrated.

Here are Steve Job’s latest remarks on the controversy:

Fiore’s app will be in the store shortly. That was a mistake. However, we do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone. Folks who want porn can buy and [sic] Android phone.

“You know, there’s a porn store for Android,” Jobs said. “You can download nothing but porn. You can download porn, your kids can download porn. That’s a place we don’t want to go, so we’re not going to go there.”

I don't have a dog in this fight, not owning an iPhone, and I'm not especially vexxed one way or the other about porn on cell phones.

But I do find it odd that Steve Jobs is taking it upon himself to regulate what people do with his product.  Why not ban certain words from being texted?

It just seems to me that cell phones nowadays are essentially mini-computers, and can you imagine Dell or Hewlett-Packard making computers which restrict Internet content?

(Anyway, I'm told that you can get porn on iPhones anyway, merely because iPhones have Internet access).

Philadelphia Democrat “Outs” Her Opponent… As A Straight Man

Is Gregg Kravitz, a Republican candidate running for the Pennsylvania State House, only pretending to be gay in order to win over LGBT voters?  His Democratic opponent thinks so:

Josephs-kravitz-split-cropped-proto-custom_2The longtime Democratic incumbent in a Pennsylvania State House race is accusing her primary challenger of trying to win votes by keeping his heterosexuality in the closet.

"I outed him as a straight person," Rep. Babette Josephs said during a fund-raiser, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, "and now he goes around telling people, quote, 'I swing both ways.' That's quite a respectful way to talk about sexuality. This guy's a gem."

Josephs contended that her challenger, Gregg Kravitz, had said he was gay, then brought a "girlfriend" to an event and now says he is bisexual — a ploy, she says, to get the votes of the district's LGBT voters.

"He's said so many things to so many different people that I am puzzled," said Josephs, a widow. The issue, she said, is Kravitz's credibility.

Kravitz — whose campaign sent the audio of Josephs' remarks to the paper — denied the charges that his bisexuality is a beard.

"My sexuality is not a qualification for office," Kravitz said. "I bring it up only in the context that it's important for the LGBT community to have a seat at the legislative table."

He also said he doesn't recall using the phrase "I swing both ways" and said he hasn't discussed his sexuality with Josephs.

Josephs, 70, has been a supporter of gay rights since she was elected in 1984, according to the Inquirer, working to add sexual orientation to a hate-crimes bill.

Strange times.

Understanding The New Facebook Changes

"Oh my God.  More Facebook changes?"

I'm sure that's the thought of anyone who logged on to Facebook in the past 24 hours and saw some announcement about "new" things that Facebook is doing.  For most of us, we're happy with the way Facebook is right now thank you very much, and the only change we really want is a "dislike" button.

But these changes are different.

In fact,as I understand it, they're not changes to Facebook, but to the web.  In other words, Facebook's tentacles are reaching out into the Internet as a whole.

For example, I will soon be able to have a Facebook "like" button on this blog.  And if someone reads it, and registers a like, their Facebook profile will reflect that.  In other words, Facebook is making the entire Internet a social website, with their new platform.

…Or something like that.

RELATED:  Many Facebook apps collect data on you.  Facebook, in the past, has required them to dump that data within 24 hours.  That's another Facebook change — the "dumping" will no longer be required.

So now might be a good time to clean up and remove unwanted Facebook apps.  And since Facebook has changed a lot over the past year, here's a reminder of how to do it:

  1. Click on "Account" at the top-right of the screen.
  2. Click "Application Settings"
  3. Change the "Show" drop-down box to "Authorized." This will show all the applications you've ever given permission to.
  4. In the resulting list, click the "X" button on the far right next to each app you want to remove to delete it.
  5. On the pop-up box that appears, click "Remove" then click "Okay" on the next box confirming the app was deleted.

Understanding The New Facebook Changes

"Oh my God.  More Facebook changes?"

I'm sure that's the thought of anyone who logged on to Facebook in the past 24 hours and saw some announcement about "new" things that Facebook is doing.  For most of us, we're happy with the way Facebook is right now thank you very much, and the only change we really want is a "dislike" button.

But these changes are different.

In fact,as I understand it, they're not changes to Facebook, but to the web.  In other words, Facebook's tentacles are reaching out into the Internet as a whole.

For example, I will soon be able to have a Facebook "like" button on this blog.  And if someone reads it, and registers a like, their Facebook profile will reflect that.  In other words, Facebook is making the entire Internet a social website, with their new platform.

…Or something like that.

RELATED:  Many Facebook apps collect data on you.  Facebook, in the past, has requied them to dump that data within 24 hours.  That's another Facebook change — the "dumping" will no longer be required.

So now might be a good time to clean up and remove unwanted Facebook apps.  And since Facebook has changed a lot over the past year, here's a reminder of how to do it:

  1. Click on "Account" at the top-right of the screen.
  2. Click "Application Settings"
  3. Change the "Show" drop-down box to "Authorized." This will show all the applications you've ever given permission to.
  4. In the resulting list, click the "X" button on the far right next to each app you want to remove to delete it.
  5. On the pop-up box that appears, click "Remove" then click "Okay" on the next box confirming the app was deleted.

Lost Seasons 1-5 In Eight Minutes And 15 Seconds

So you can maybe enjoy the last few episodes, if you haven't seen Lost.

And if you're not confused enough… (click to embiggen)

Ff_lost11_all_f

And Wired has lots of other fun stuff for Lost fans…. including this interview.  it appears that we're not going to get all the answers….

Cuse [producer]: But there’s still going to be plenty of room for debate when the show is over. We are going to take a stab at providing a conclusion, and one that we hope will be satisfying on a character level. The bigger questions, we recognize, are not answerable. We feel that demystifying some of the things we do on Lost is like the magician showing you how the trick is done, and we don’t want to do that.

Carroll [interviewer/physicist]: Is there a worry that there exists questions for which any possible answer is not as interesting as the question would be before you knew the answer?

Lindelof [producer]: Absolutely. I assume that as a physicist, you say, “Force equals mass times acceleration,” and you can explain why. But when you spend time with a 3-year-old, you quickly find out that one question just begets another—there’s a “why” in the wake of every “why”—and the only way to end the conversation is to say, “Oh look, a Chuck E. Cheese!” The show is doing its best to say, “Oh look, Chuck E. Cheese!” For example, we’ve now given the viewers as much as we’re willing to say about the numbers, and we’re moving on. The characters are going to ask “What is the island”, and “Why are we here”, but more importantly, “How is it relevant to me.” They’re not sitting around in smoking jackets talking about the theoretical notions that we are, as audience members.

Cuse: I think there’s this essential human desire to have a unified field theory. Everyone is like, “I want to unlock the single secret to Lost.” There isn’t any one secret. There is not a unified field theory for Lost, nor do we think there should be, because philosophically we don’t buy into that as a conceit.

Lindelof: As much confidence as we have in the story we’re telling, we are also comfortable saying, “But what do we know?” This is our best version of the story of Lost, and it’s the definitive one. The worst thing we could ever do is not end it, or go with some bullshitty ending like a snowglobe or a cut to black. That was genius on The Sopranos, but The Sopranos isn’t a mystery show. For us, we owe our best version of a resolution here.

Cuse: These heady questions are ultimately unanswerable, and we know the audience is hoping that those things are going to be answered. The great mysteries of life fundamentally can’t be addressed. We just have to tell a good story and let the chips fall where they may. We don’t know whether the resolution between the two timelines is going to make people say, “Oh, that’s cool” or “Oh, fuck those guys, they belly-flopped at the end.” But the fact that we’re nervous about it and that we’re actually attempting it—that is what we had to do. We had to try to make the dive.

Spock No More

Lenoard Nimoy announces his retirement from acting, which forecloses any notion that he might appear in the new franchise of the remade Star Trek series.  He did so in classy style:

"I want to get off the stage. Also, I don't think it would be fair to Zachary Quinto," Nimoy told the newspaper. "He's a terrific actor, he looks the part, and it's time to give him some space. And I'm very flattered the character will continue."

 

The Sun…. Up Close

NASA launched a sun probe last February.  It was an important mission, purporting to help our understanding of the Sun in the same way the Hubble helped our understanding of deep space.

Some cool images (looped here) have come back from the probe.

[NOTE: If it isn't showing up, go here]

What you are seeing here is a solar flare that erupted on March 30.  These are important to understand, because such flares can cause electronic disruption on Earth.

Answering The Question

Over at The Corner, Ramesh Ponneru writes:

Do the "bodily integrity" and "privacy" [rights] of which Obama speaks include a right to buy high-salt foods?

I've never heard Obama speak of a right to "bodily integrity", so let's just dismiss that as a strawman.

And you don't have a privacy right to buy high-salt food, unless you have warped idea, or no idea, of what privacy is.

But Ponneru's larger argument is whether or not we, as Americans, have a right to buy things that are bad for us.  And the answer is, of course, SURE WE DO.  Cigarettes, alcohol, candy — it's all there.  The thing about THOSE commodities is that we know what we are getting.  Not so much with things like "rat feces in hot dogs" or "high salt content in food".

The problem is that most Americans are unable to limit their salt intake because most of our salt intake comes from processed foods.  We can't take it out once it is in there.

The FDA plan to limit salt in processed foods actually gives us more choices and more freedom to control our own diet.  For people who want less salt, there it will be.  And for people like Ponneru who want lots of salt in their food?  Hey, Ponneru is more than welcome to have it.  Salt itself isn't being banned.

He's also welcome to add rat feces to his hot dogs, too.  I don't care.

Supreme Court Justices Unprepared To Enter 21st Century

Recently — like Monday — the Supreme Court settled a First Amendment case involving videos depicting animal cruelty.  Animal cruelty is illegal throughout the country, but the Court essentially held that the First Amendment makes it impossible to legislate against depictions of animal cruelt.  (This makes distinct from child molestation, which is not only illegal, but depictions of it are also illegal, despite the First Amendment).

But another First Amendment case is before the Court this term.  And it is unique in that it is the Court's first foray into new communications technologies.  The First Amendment was written in a time or speech and press (books, newspapers).  The Court has done pretty good at applying those principles to the Internet.  But now, we're getting into texting, too, and that's essentially what the case of City of Ontario v. Quon is all about.  The case asks whether police officers had an expectation of privacy in personal (and sexually explicit) text messages sent on pagers issued to them by the city.

Unfortunately, if the oral arguments Monday were any indication, the Court is not quite up-to-speed on this whole "texting" thing (NOTE: The "facepalm" graphics are mine):

The first sign was about midway through the argument, when Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. – who is known to write out his opinions in long hand with pen and paper instead of a computer – asked what the difference was “between email and a pager?”

Picard-facepalm 

Other justices’ questions showed that they probably don’t spend a lot of time texting and tweeting away from their iPhones either.

At one point, Justice Anthony Kennedy asked what would happen if a text message was sent to an officer at the same time he was sending one to someone else.
 
“Does it say: ‘Your call is important to us, and we will get back to you?’” Kennedy asked.

Picard-facepalm

Justice Antonin Scalia wrangled a bit with the idea of a service provider.

“You mean (the text) doesn’t go right to me?” he asked.

Then he asked whether they can be printed out in hard copy.

“Could Quon print these spicy little conversations and send them to his buddies?” Scalia asked.

Picard-facepalm 

Oy vey, oyez.

RELATED:  Pew study shows that 1 in 3 teenagers send over 100 txt messages per day.

Text-teen-statistics

In Which I Get Caught Up In Some Illegal Activity

Okay, all you Seventh Sense readers (both of you).  I'm in the midst of a mystery/enigma/scam, so please weigh in with your thoughts.

Last night I received a call from what sounded like an Hispanic teenage girl.  The first words out of her mouth were, "Who is this?"

I said, "I'm Ken.  Who is this?"

She said, "I'm Gina.  Why you send me chick?"

I almost hung up, thinking it was a wrong number, drunk caller, whatever.  But I stayed on, trying to figure out what was going on.  After a few minutes, I was able to discern that Gina was telling me that I had sent her a check — a check for $2,900 (or therebouts) — and she wanted to know why.

Fortunately, Gina's mom got on the phone.  Her English was more coherent, and she told me the whole story.

That afternoon, her 16 year old daughter Gina, received a FedEx package.  Inside the package was a check made out to Gina for $2900 and change.  The check, I was told, came from me and it was made out to Gina.

"What makes you think it came from me?" I asked.

"Because your name, address, and phone number is on the FedEx label as the sender" she said.  "That's how we got your phone number to call you."

"Okay.  Then you tell me my name and address." 

And she did.

Now, at the point I am very concerned.  Maybe this is a scam and I should hang up.  But maybe someone got my checkbook and was writing checks.  So I started asking about the check.

"No, no, no," she said.  "The check is not yours.  It's from South Motors Infiniti.  It says so on the check.  But the Fedex package, which was sent on April 14, has you as the sender."

She went on to explain that she was able to determine, via the Internet, that South Motors Infiniti was a car dealership located in Miami, Florida.  Both she and Gina lived in Chicago, and had no dealings with South Motors Infiniti in Miami.  I assured her that I had no connection to South Motors Infiniti in Miami either, nor did I have any connection to her daughter in Chicago.

At this point, I still wasn't sure whether this was a scam.  But clearly, this woman I was talking to wasn't very trustful of me either.  We were both being cagy of each other.  Neither one of us wanted to give out more information than necessary.  She asked if I worked at a car dealership, or worked in Miami, and I said no, I was an attorney in North Carolina.  But other than that, she never asked me for any personal information, I never offered any personal information, and I never asked her for any.

She went on to explain that she had called South Motors Infiniti in Miami, and they claimed to know nothing about it.  They told her that the check was probably some sort of fraud.  But — at least the way she conveyed it to me — they didn't seem too concerned about it.  Which is odd since it was their check from (presumably) their bank account.

I inquired about the Fedex label bearing my name as sender, but there wasn't much to say.  It wasn't handwritten; it was computerized.  I wondered aloud if the Fedex label couldn't have been a computer glitch, but even that doesn't make sense.  I haven't sent anything via Fedex in years.  And Gina's mom pointed out that a Fedex computer glitch still doesn't explain the check.

Anyway, Gina's mom said she was going to send me a copy of the Fedex label and a copy of the check (since she had my address anyway), and said she was going to contact the FBI (which I said was a good idea).

And that's basically the mystery.

Now, to be honest, I presume my name, address, and phone number is public information, accessible by a rudimentary Google search.  And no private information (my bank account number, etc) appears to have been compromised.  So I can't really claim this is "identity theft" (but I am taking precautions anyway).

But if this is a scam or some illegal activity — and tend to think it is – I can't figure out what it is, or who is the victim, or how/why my name is involved.  Any thoughts?

Ronald Reagan and James Dean

This video is a condensed version of a televised play starring Ronald Reagan and James Dean, an odd duo if there ever was one.  Reagan plays a physician, forced to defend his home and family from Dean, a teenage lawbreaker seeking medical treatment for an injured friend.

This footage, released today, has not been seen in over 55 years.

When Stupid Meets Stupider

The brain trust that encompasses the Georgia State House Judiciary Committee held hearings today surrounding a proposed Georgia state law seeking to ban forced microchip implantation in humans.  That's right — forced microchip implantation in humans.  Because this is a huge problem?  Well, apparently, some of the lawmakers actually believed that this might come about as a result of ObamaCare, so the Georgia state lawmakers want to nip this in the bud.

Sidenote: The GOP has some sort of strange obsession with microchip implants.  Georgia is the fourth state to work on a law regarding this. A few months ago, a Republican lawmaker from Virginia tried to ban microcip implants because they were — I'm not making this up — the sign of the antichrist.

Anyway, the Georgia hearings got a little surreal when a woman got up to testify.  TPM picks up the story:

The Journal-Constitution reports that things started getting weird when a woman who described herself as a resident of DeKalb County told the committee: "I'm also one of the people in Georgia who has a microchip." Apparently no lawmaker took this as a warning sign, and she was allowed to continue her testimony.

"Microchips are like little beepers," the woman told the committee. "Just imagine, if you will, having a beeper in your rectum or genital area, the most sensitive area of your body. And your beeper numbers displayed on billboards throughout the city. All done without your permission."

"Ma'am, did you say you have a microchip?" state Rep. Tom Weldon (R) asked the woman.

"Yes, I do. This microchip was put in my vaginal-rectum area," she replied.

No one laughed. State Rep. Wendell Willard (R), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, asked her who had implanted the chip.

"The Department of Defense," she said.

Willard thanked the woman for her input, and the committee later approved the bill.

How did they know she was lying?

Supreme Court Strikes Down Ban On Animal Cruelty Videos

In 1999, Congress passed a law banning the sale or display (i.e., on the Internet) of animal cruelty.  The law was passed in response to "crush videos" — i.e., videos of women in high heels stepping on kitten's skulls (yes, there is a fetish for everything nowadays).

It's hard not to applaud such a law, which received wide bipartisen support.

Shortly after it was passed, Robert Stevens of Pittsville, Va., was found guilty of violating the law, and was sentenced to three years in prison for videos he made about pit bull fights.

The case worked its way up through the courts, based on this one simple question:  Was the federal law making it a crime to depict animal cruelty in commercial expression substantially overbroad?

The First Amendment prohibits the government from passing laws which violate one's right to free speech.  There are exceptions — death threats to the president, for example — but when Congress passes such a law which curbs speech, the law must be narrowly tailored to ban the specific action — i.e., it can't be too broad.  That was the argument that Stevens made.

A federal judge rejected Stevens' First Amendment claims, but the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled in his favor.  I blogged about this case back in October.

And now the Supreme Court has affirmed the Third Circuit, 8-1.  The Court noted that it had previously withdrawn “a few historic categories” of speech from the First Amendment’s shield, but concluded that “depictions of animal cruelty should not be added to the list.”  The decision nullified a 1999 federal law passed by Congress in an attempt to curb animal cruelty by forbidding its depiction.  That law, the Court said, sweeps too broadly.

I think that is the correct decision.  Obviously, video depictions of animal cruelty are repugnant, but the law in this case is not very well-defined.  After all, a hunting or fishing video would conceivably violate the law.  So the Court struck down the law.

The sole dissenting judge was Justice Alito, who thought that, rather than striking down the law as facially invalid, the case should go back to the lower courts to determine if Steven's videos were constitutionally protected (and leave the law in its place).

Anyway, until Congress goes back to the drawing board and writes a better law, animal cruelty videos are legal once again.

FDA To Regulate Salt

This is the kind of thing that will send the teabaggers off the edge: the communist-fascist-marxist government is coming to take your salt away:

The Food and Drug Administration is planning an unprecedented effort to gradually reduce the salt consumed each day by Americans, saying that less sodium in everything from soup to nuts would prevent thousands of deaths from hypertension and heart disease. The initiative, to be launched this year, would eventually lead to the first legal limits on the amount of salt allowed in food products.

The government intends to work with the food industry and health experts to reduce sodium gradually over a period of years to adjust the American palate to a less salty diet, according to FDA sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the initiative had not been formally announced.

***

The FDA, which regulates most processed foods, would be joined in the effort by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees meat and poultry.

Currently, manufacturers can use as much salt as they like in products because under federal standards, it falls into the category deemed "generally recognized as safe." Foodmakers are merely required to report the amount on nutrition labels.

But for the past 30 years, health officials have grown increasingly alarmed as salt intake has increased with the explosion in processed foods and restaurant meals. Most adults consume about twice the government's daily recommended limit, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

My view?  This is the kind of thing a government should be doing.  I don't know how much salt is in the food I'm eating — particularly when I go out to eat, but I do know that, in excess, it's bad for you.  So why not limit the amount?

And if people want more salt, there's still the salt shakers and salt packets.

The salt industry is not amused:

Morton Satin, director for technical and regulatory affairs at the Salt Institute, which represents salt producers, said regulation "would be a disaster for the public." He said that the science regarding sodium is unclear and that consumption does not necessarily lead to health problems.

Hmmmm, where have I heard that before?

Cancerlink
UPDATE:  Yup, teabaggers are going off the edge.  Right on cue.

Americans Distrust Government

The Pew Research Center released a report yesterday showing that more Americans distrust their government now that at any point in the last half century.

This is the lede chart:

606-1

While this might reflect badly on Obama, and spell bad news for Democrats in the upcoming elections, I think this is more of a "dog bites man" story.

Traditionally, mistrust in government is always down during Democratic administrations.  Take a look at this, also from the Pew Report:

606-5 
Yup.  People even trusted the government more under Nixon.

I suspect this may have to do with the fact that Democratics actually try to do things, and people get nervous about change.  When you take that and add to it the Republican "fear and noise" machine (Fox News, etc.), I am not surpirsed that government distrust is quite high now.

A recent NBC/WSJ from January found essentially the same thing, but it was better able to parse out the reasons why:

And why isn't the public trusting the government? That Jan. 2010 poll found that 93% said there's too much partisan fighting between Democrats and Republicans; 84% said special interests have too much influence over legislation; 74% said the government isn't doing enough to regulate Wall Street; 61% said Democratic majorities are trying to push through legislation without bipartisan compromise; an equal 61% said Republicans are trying to block any Democratic legislation without bipartisan compromise; 58% said the federal government is doing too much; and 47% said Obama is failing to provide the kind of leadership needed on the economy and health care.  

In other words, it is not necessarily a Democratic problem, but a general feeling that there is too much partisanship and influence by special interests.  In other words, a pox upon both the Democratic and Republican houses.

The one thing to note from the NBC/WSJ poll is the stat that 74% don't think government is doing enough to regulate Wall Street.  This bodes well for Democrats, as Obama is gearing up to engage in some serious Wall Street financial regulations, and the Republicans are back to their old game of obstructionism.  If Republicans keep it up, they may bear more of the blame for government mistrust, and that could impact the 2010 elections.
 

Double Down Not As Unhealthy As You Might Think… Or Is It?

Dj-kfc-articleInline In case you've been on another planet recently, you've probably heard about Kentucky Fried Chicken's latest culinary offer, the "Double Down" — a chicken, cheese, bacon, and mayonnaise sandwich where two boneless pieces of chicken serve as the bread.

It's not the type of food to please the culinary folks at the New York Times, or even the culinary folks at The Onion.

But is it really unhealthy for you?

What a stupid question — of course it is. 

But Nate Silver, statistician extraordinaire, decided to create a measuring unit called the DD (standing for "Double Down") and see how the Double Down compared to other fast food chicken and burger items (1 DD is the amount of fat, sodium and cholesterol in one Double Down). 

The results? 

The Double Down fared better than many chicken sandwiches, and was even better than a Big Mac.

The-unhealthiest-fast-food-sandwiches-8152-1271694786-2 

The real problem with the Double Down, Silver continues, is the calories.  It has a LOT, especially for a fast food item so small.

4533302279_a1fc855031_o 

When calories are factored in, the Double Down is even worse than a Triple Baconator.  But here's the thing: you can eat a Baconator and then never eat for another 24 hours — a Double Down is a tiny thing that will leave you hungry.

Silver's conclusion:

So, is the Double Down the most gluttonous fast food sandwich ever created? It depends on how you measure it. At the margins, consuming one Double Down almost certainly isn't as bad for you as a Triple Baconator, a Thickburger, or even a fully-loaded Chipotle burrito. But while those products should, in theory, fill you up for at least half the day, the Double Down might leave you hankering for seconds. It's a high bar to clear, but it's the closest thing to pure junk food of any "sandwich" being marketed today.

Third Party Comes To North Carolina

It always warms my heart when I read and hear about Tea Partiers rebelling against the Repubican Party and forming their own third party.  Nothing would ensure the future of the Democratic Party more than having conservatives divide their loyalty between the Grand Old Party and the Raging New Party.

Which is what makes me concerned about this:

North Carolina Democrats' votes against health care push labor to form party

RALEIGH, N.C. — A political rebellion is brewing inside an old funeral home near the state Capitol here. Frustrated liberals and labor organizers are taking aim at the Democratic Party, rushing to gather enough signatures to start a third party that they believe could help oust three Democratic congressmen.

Less than two years ago, this same funeral home was a command post for the grass-roots army that propelled Barack Obama to victory in this conservative swing state. Here is where supporters distributed signs and stickers, sorted lists of registered voters and rallied with a Johnny Cash cover band.

Now, some of Obama's supporters are mounting a defiant strike against the president's party.

So the unions are giving voice to progressive activists across this state who say they feel betrayed by Reps. Larry Kissell, Heath Shuler and Mike McIntyre, Democrats who sided with Republicans against the health-care bill.  And I can relate to their anger.

But a third party is not the answer for one simple reason:

The nascent third party, North Carolina First, could endanger the Democratic congressional majority by siphoning votes from incumbent Democrats in November's midterm election, potentially enabling Republican challengers to pick up the seats.

The better solution is simply to elect better Democrats.

Alabama Thinking Hits Connecticut

Another story about teach Darwin in public schools.  It's not unusual to see this in a red state, but Connecticut?

Mark Tangarone, who teaches third, fourth, and fifth grade students in the Talented and Gifted (TAG) program at Weston Intermediate School, said he is retiring at the end of the current school year because of a clash with the school administration over the teaching of evolution.

“Under normal circumstances, I would have retired in two more years. However, I feel that because of an unacceptable administrative action, I can no longer continue teaching in Weston,” Mr. Tangarone said.

Mr. Tangarone, a 17-year veteran of the Weston school system, claims that a program he wanted to teach about Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln was rejected by the school administration because it involved teaching evolution — the scientific theory that all life is related and has descended from a common ancestor.

“I find it hard to believe that in this day and age that a teacher such as myself can be ordered to eliminate the teaching of Darwin’s work and the theory of evolution,” he said.

Schools Superintendent Jerry Belair acknowledged Mr. Tangarone had tendered a letter of retirement, but denies it had anything to do with the teaching of evolution.

“This is a personnel matter, not a curriculum issue,” said Mr. Belair. He said Weston schools routinely teach evolutionary concepts in kindergarten, third grade, eighth grade, ninth grade, and 10th grade.

***

Contrary to Mr. Belair’s assertions, however, Mr. Tangarone said he was told by the school administration that evolution was an inappropriate subject to be taught to intermediate school-aged students.

In 2008, Mr. Tangarone created a TAG program called “AustralAsia” to celebrate the bicentennial anniversary of Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln, who were born on the same day in the same year.

Part of the program involved Darwin’s journey to Australia and Asia, where he discovered natural anomalies such as seashells on mountaintops. Mr. Tangarone said he also planned for a discussion with the students about Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Before implementing the program, Mr. Tangarone submitted an outline to Mark Ribbens, then principal of the intermediate school, for review and approval. (Dr. Ribbens left the school district in 2009.)

In an e-mail to Mr. Tangarone dated Sept. 8, 2008, Dr. Ribbens rejected the basic program, citing for the most part, the teaching of evolution:

“While evolution is a robust scientific theory, it is a philosophically unsatisfactory explanation for the diversity of life. I could anticipate that a number of our parents might object to this topic as part of a TAG project, and further, parents who would object if evolution was part of a presentation by a student to students who do not participate in the TAG program.”

He further stated, “Evolution touches on a core belief — Do we share common ancestry with other living organisms? What does it mean to be a human being? I don’t believe that this core belief is one in which you want to debate with children or their parents, and I know personally that I would be challenged in leading a 10-year-old through this sort of discussion while maintaining the appropriate sensitivity to a family’s religious beliefs or traditions.”

Right.  The kids are in a Talented and Gifted Program at the school, so let's do everything we can to make them dumber.

Bachmann’s Latest Whopper

Us_rep_michele_bachmann Last night on CNN:

But today, the federal government literally owns banks, the largest insurance company in the United States.

Words have meanings, and apparently Bachmann doesn't know the definitions of the word "own", "bank", or "insurance company" — it's hard to tell exactly which (perhaps all three!!)

And she definitely doesn't know the meaning of the word "literally".

The only thing that she could possibly be referring to is the Federal Reserve, although that's not really a bank, much less "banks" plural.  Also, it's been around since the early 20th century.

Now, as a result of the TARP bailouts, the federal government certain owns a stake in banks, but it's not very much — 6 percent of Bank of America and 7.8 percent of Citigroup as of early 2009, for example.  But this is a good thing — it's making money for the federal government and lowering taxpayer burden.

Bachmann went on to say stupider things, but Think Progress has it covered.

The Best Article Every Day Take On “Lost”

I agree with this author:

As last night’s episode of ‘Lost’ showed, this season really is giving us a lot of answers. And even if the show isn’t giving us all the answers we want/need, at least we can now feel a forward momentum driving us towards the end. There are only five episodes of the show left, can you believe it?

The show can’t possibly answer all of the questions, small and big, that have come up since the show started in 2004. I think they’ll answer enough of them for most fans, but you and I both know that 37 seconds after the season finale ends, some people are going to go online and complain. That was a lame ending! They didn’t even answer the question I wanted them to answer! I wasted six years for this?!

I won’t be one of those people. They’ve answered the question of the numbers enough for me, and several other mysteries don’t bother me. Unless the show ends in a WTF ‘Sopranos’ fade-out, I’ll just go with what the writers give us. Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t want some questions answered:

1. What is the island? This is the big question, right? Although I have some problems with Jacob touching everyone and bringing them to the island and causing them so much pain supposedly under the guise of “good,” the show seems to be a good vs. evil battle between Jacob and Smokey. The “candidates” were brought to the island to see who would replace Jacob. How this will happen remains to be seen, but the larger question is what is the island?

Last night Michael said that the dead people are the ones providing the whispers we’ve been hearing since the show began. They can’t move on. That sounds rather Purgatory-ish, but didn’t Cuse and Lindelof at some point say that it wasn’t? Maybe it’s a spaceship and there are aliens involved or maybe it’s just, you know, an island. Albeit one with a giant frozen wheel that can make it disappear.

Chances this will be answered: Excellent.

2. Who are the skeletons? No, they’re not Nikki and Paolo. I have no idea who the skeletons in the cave are. Since we’ve jumped back and forth in time so many times and it’s hard to keep track of who was in what year and why, there really haven’t been any big clues. A lot of fans think the skeletons are Rose and Bernard.

Chances this will be answered: Excellent.

3. What happened to Rose and Bernard? We know where Rose is in the alternate timeline, but where are she and Bernard on the island? Didn’t we see them last a while back, older and living happily in the woods? I think Rose and Bernard have always been supporting players, but they’re supporting players that also happen to be two of the biggest fan favorites on the show.

Chances this will be answered: Excellent.

4. What’s up with Walt, Aaron, and Christian? Locke tried to get him to go back to the island, but he was busy with school and his life. He’s older now, but we need to find out what his part was in all of this. Why did the guys on the boat want him? Why could he see certain things, why/how did he visit Locke after Locke was shot by Ben, etc.

We’ve seen Michael now, but no Walt. Will the writers just assume that fans will be happy that the last time we saw the kid explains his story? And what about Aaron? He was major before but now he just seems to be a “Claire is going to kill Kate because she raised her kid” plot point.

Chirstian Shepard? Still not exactly sure what happened with him. Still dead? Taken over by the Smoke Monster? A ghost?

Chances this will be answered: Fair.

5. What’s the whole story with Ben Linus and Charles Widmore? We know what happened decades ago and we know that they’re enemies. But what exactly is their battle about and what does Widmore intend to do with the island? Is Widmore actually good because he wants to get rid of the Smoke Monster or is that just part of the plan? How does Eloise fit into all of this? And Annie?

I know a lot of this has been answered already, but I need more, because I think this is one of the more interesting aspects of the show.

Chances this will be answered more thoroughly: Very good.

6. What is the sickness? Sayid has it and it looks like Claire has it too. What is it exactly and how do you get it/get rid of it?

Chances this will be answered: Good.

I think if we went back and watched the entire series again, we’d see 3000 inconsistencies. So hopefully fans will be just accept what happens and enjoy the overall story. What’s the big question you want answered?

I, too, would like to know what happened with Rose and Bernard.  In fact, there were dozens of people who survived the original Season One plane crash.  We've only been following a handful.  Where is everybody else?  It's not clear to me, but then again, much of Lost isn't clear to me.

Finally, Some Accountability Against Financial Firms

Breaking News:

Washington, D.C., April 16, 2010 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged Goldman, Sachs & Co. and one of its vice presidents for defrauding investors by misstating and omitting key facts about a financial product tied to subprime mortgages as the U.S. housing market was beginning to falter.

The SEC alleges that Goldman Sachs structured and marketed a synthetic collateralized debt obligation (CDO) that hinged on the performance of subprime residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS). Goldman Sachs failed to disclose to investors vital information about the CDO, in particular the role that a major hedge fund played in the portfolio selection process and the fact that the hedge fund had taken a short position against the CDO.

"The product was new and complex but the deception and conflicts are old and simple," said Robert Khuzami, Director of the Division of Enforcement. "Goldman wrongly permitted a client that was betting against the mortgage market to heavily influence which mortgage securities to include in an investment portfolio, while telling other investors that the securities were selected by an independent, objective third party."

UPDATE:  I wonder how Goldman Sachs is trading today….

Api
heh.

Dances With Wolves: The Musical

Well, why not?

A Broadway-aimed musical is being developed from the novel "Dances With Wolves," which tells the culture-clash story of a Civil War-era U.S. Army lieutenant who bonds with the native Sioux nation as white people push into the American Dakota frontier.

Matt Murphy, a producer on Broadway's Memphis, Impressionism and Thurgood, told Playbill.com that he has acquired the stage rights to Michael Blake's 1986 book, which is better known as an Academy Award-winning 1990 film that starred Kevin Costner (it won Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, among other Oscars). Murphy is putting together a writing team to adapt the novel into a musical for the Broadway stage. He expects the score to have music inspired by folk, Appalachian, Civil War and Native American music.

My one request: please don't have an actual dance number where someone dances with wolves.  (Jazz paws!)

A10181

The Mysterious Fireball

The fireball was seen across parts of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin, and appeared around 10pm last night.

Not a UFO, just a meteor.  Very cool videos though:

Poll Of Tea Party Activists And Supporters Reveal Things We Know And Things We Believed

And speaking of polls, Digby has a nice summary of the VERY comprehensive poll of teabaggers conducted by the New York Times and CBS, both of whom have excellent write-ups of their own (with graphics, etc.).  The bottom line is that they are pretty much what you think they are — Republicans, except they're a bit angrier and a bit more racist and a bit more to the right.  CBS:

Eighteen percent of Americans identify as Tea Party supporters. The vast majority of them — 89 percent — are white. Just one percent is black.

They tend to skew older: Three in four are 45 years old or older, including 29 percent who are 65 plus. They are also more likely to be men (59 percent) than women (41 percent).

More than one in three (36 percent) hails from the South, far more than any other region. Twenty-five percent come from the West, 22 percent from the Midwest, and 18 percent from the northeast.

***

Nearly three in four describe themselves as conservative, and 39 percent call themselves very conservative. Sixty percent say they always or usually vote Republican. Forty percent say the United States needs a third party, while 52 percent say it does not.

And….

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Nothing too surprising in any of that so far. 

But a couple of things stand out. 

They love their guns. More than half — 58 percent — keep a gun in the household.

They're ego-centric:

Regardless of your overall opinion, do you think the views of the people in the tea party movement generally reflect the views of most Americans?

84% of the self-identified teabaggers said yes. Only 25% of the general public agreed.

Of course, they live in a self-imposed bubble (aided by Fox news), so it's not surprising.

What's more, they are ill-informed:

Where are they getting their information? 63% of them get their TV news from FOX. 53% believe that Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity are news shows.

And many of them don't even think about the things they think about.  Writes the New York Times:

And nearly three-quarters of those who favor smaller government said they would prefer it even if it meant spending on domestic programs would be cut.

But in follow-up interviews, Tea Party supporters said they did not want to cut Medicare or Social Security — the biggest domestic programs, suggesting instead a focus on “waste.”

Some defended being on Social Security while fighting big government by saying that since they had paid into the system, they deserved the benefits.

Others could not explain the contradiction.

“That’s a conundrum, isn’t it?” asked Jodine White, 62, of Rocklin, Calif. “I don’t know what to say. Maybe I don’t want smaller government. I guess I want smaller government and my Social Security.” She added, “I didn’t look at it from the perspective of losing things I need. I think I’ve changed my mind.”

Okay, well get back to us when you figure out what you want.

Another example of how they don't think about what they think about? 

Asked to volunteer what they don't like about Mr. Obama, the top answer, offered by 19 percent of Tea Party supporters, was that they just don't like him.

Riiight.  Because they can't say "skin color" and they know it.

UPDATE:  Steven Benen notes more contradictions, writing:

If you were to make a Venn Diagram of the issues Tea Party members care about, and the issues Tea Party members are confused about, you'd only see one circle.

These folks claim to be motivated by concerns over taxes, but Tea Partiers tend not to know anything about the subject. They claim to be angry about the Affordable Care Act, but they don't know what's in it. They claim to hate expensive government programs, except for all the expensive government programs that benefit them and their families.

It's inherently challenging to create a lasting, successful political movement predicated on literally nothing more than ignorance and rage. In the case of Tea Partiers, we're talking about a reasonably large group of people who seem to revel in their own ignorance, but nevertheless seek an active role in the process.

and Jed Lewison notes:

According to a new poll from CBS and the New York Times, 92% of tea partiers are scared that America is moving towards socialism — but in a strange twist, most of them seem to like it.

Despite the fear that socialism is coming to America, 62% of tea party supporters also support Social Security and Medicare. In fact, nearly half of them either benefit from Social Security or Medicare or have somebody in their immediate family who does. And about one-third are directly beneficiaries at least one of the programs, compared to about one-fifth of the population at large.

And CBS News notes that the majority of Tea Party supporters (18% of Americans are Tea Party supporters, according to the poll) say "their taxes are fair".  Now that's really odd, considering that the "Tea" in "Tea Party" stands for "Taxed Enough Already".

Read the Complete Poll on Tea Party Members (PDF)
Read the Complete Poll on What Tea Partiers Believe (PDF)

Also….

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Consumer Protection Alert: Wii Fit

This could happen to you:

London, Apr 14 (ANI): Amanda Flowers, a catering worker in Manchester, needs 10 sex sessions a day – courtesy a fall from her Wii Fit board which turned her into a sex addict.

Even the slightest of vibrations, from mobile phones to food processors, turns her on, reports The Daily Star.

She said: "It began as a twinge down below before surging through my body. Sometimes it built up into a trembling orgasm."

A doctor diagnosed her with persistent sexual arousal syndrome due to a damaged nerve.

Probably not, though.