Damn the science, snowmobile ahead. Bush admires Teddy Roosevelt, but he seems to ignore TR's conservationist ideas when industry demands otherwise.
More science: stacking Federal science advisory committees with those who follow Administration "litmus tests" is against the spirit of the law establishing those committees, but has that stopped the Bush Administration? Hell no.
Indeed, the applicable statute for all this--the Federal Advisory Committee Act--specifically requires that committees be balanced and 'not inappropriately influenced by the appointing authority'. It would be a good idea for HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson and the White House Personnel Office to read the law, and then follow it.
Verizon intends to appeal the court ruling that ordered them to release the name of their music-downloading customer to the RIAA. Consumer groups applaud: "This ruling stinks, the law has gone way too far and it's time to fight it all the time [in] every place with all your energy," said Consumer Federation of America Research Director Mark Cooper.
Get paid overtime? Not if the Bush Administration has its way. By the way, the Dept. of Labor Wage and Hours Division has not yet put this announcement on its website (at 1930est). Am I paranoid?
Administration officials said last week that Mr. Bush was considering a proposal that would require Medicare beneficiaries to join some type of government-subsidized private health insurance plan to obtain coverage of prescription drugs.
Under the proposal, as described in government documents, drug benefits would be available to elderly people who enrolled in private plans, like health maintenance organizations and preferred provider organizations, and there would be "no prescription drug coverage" for people in traditional fee-for-service Medicare.
Now, I know a Medicare recipient, and I know full well how being forced to join an HMO to get prescription drugs would go down with her. This dog won't hunt, at least not if the Democrats and the gutsier Republicans have any brains.
Mr. Herbert expresses my doubts about Mr. Bush very well. Bush talks the talk, but then reduces or even ignores the funding necessary to follow up on his promises. Example: the states were promised billions of dollars for Homeland Security; they've barely gotten any money at all. I didn't hear a word in the SOTU about helping the states respond to their respective budget crises. And why is no one asking "what good do federal tax reductions do if state taxes go up at the same time? Isn't the net effect no difference at all?"
Get up outta that chair! Extended computer use may make you susceptible to deep vein thrombosis! Don't ski, either! Skin cancer may result! On the other hand, eat chips! The chemical in fried foods thought to be carcinogenic turns out not to be so! Where's the Doritos?
There's an interesting interview with a retired Lt. Col. Ralph Peters in American Heritage this month. I've seen it cited several places around the web. Normally I'm mildly skeptical about retired Lieutenant Colonels, because in 20 years if you're good you should get up to full bird, but in this case he started out as a grunt and got a battlefield commission, so his bona fides seem sound. He has some interesting thoughts about American military power, and he doesn't seem to be coming down on either the hawk or dove side of the current debate, which is refreshing.
News Flash! The State of the Union Drinking Game is HERE!
Edited to Add: the one mentioned on NPR's ATC is here.
For those of you keeping score at home, here's a cribsheet for what was promised in last year's State of the Union and what's been delivered.
"You are a member of the Settlement Group if you are a person (or entity) in the United States or its Territories and Possessions who purchased prerecorded Music Products, consisting of compact discs, cassettes and vinyl albums, from one or more retailers during the period January 1, 1995, through December 22, 2000. The number of claims filed will determine the actual amount of the individual refund but will not exceed $20.00 per claimant."
Yes, that means you can collect up to $20 if you fit that parameter. Go to the linked site and file a claim.
"Lifetime Achievement" for "Unearthing the lost treasures of the web?" I'm deeply honored, e, but you overstate the amount of time I've been doing this by decades. And holy cow, am I in good company! Nonetheless, it is with great pride and dignity that I accept this award on behalf of all the idiot savant serfs and landless peasants who do all the grunt work, while I sit back and sip Grand Marnier. I'd like to especially single out Google for special mention; I couldn'ta done it without ya!
The Ruminator graciously points me towards Collectorz, a site which will create a database of your music or movies through your insertion of each CD or DVD into its drawer. It does a lookup to get the data from a database, then loads it into a file with your name on it. It looks to be pretty slick, and it has a lot of capabilities I haven't fully read up on yet. More musical news: hot spots in your brain! That's why you get songs stuck in your head! Yet more music: six music retailers are banding together to sell downloads.
Superbowl ads: Was I the only one who thought Budweiser wrote off the entire female half of the population with the misogyny displayed in every one of their ads? I loved the FedEx ad. One that hopefully will fade from memory quickly was the Dodge beef jerky ad; disgusting doesn't quite do it the injustice it deserves. I might actually buy one of those Hanes tagless shirts, though, if I ever wore undershirts. (There, Faith; am I living up to that award yet?)
In case you wondered what the hell happened (and is still happening off-and-on) to the Internet Saturday and Sunday, here's the scoop.
I just went through my e-mail inbox (4 possible incoming accounts) and deleted 2,775 messages. It's all very well to get reminder notices about things, but they tend to pile up. Bleah.
I'm going to the same place to see the same thing for the 12th or 13th consecutive year tomorrow. I speak of Super Bowl XXXVII, of course. And, as usual, I'm in charge of chips and dip. Think we're in a rut? However, on the chips front there is wonderful news! Doritos has re-introduced their basic unflavored toasted corn chips! No more off-brands to avoid the awful flavoring of the Nacho Cheese style for me; I can go back to basics--Pace Picante Salsa and Doritos corn chips! Pass the beer!
Oh, and I'll take Tampa Bay out of sheer sentiment; they were so awful for so long that they almost deserve a win.
In a follow-up to an earlier post, the cold weather apparently compelled the Bushies to increase funding for heating oil for the poor. And the sound and fury about the TIA apparently convinced the Senate to demand a detailed report by the Bush administration on the program's goals and how it would be used; all work would have to stop unless the report is given to the Senate within 60 days. That means the Senate suddenly recognized civil liberties, after 16 months of watching Ashcroft and his acolytes usurp them. Maybe now they'll revisit some aspects of the Patriot Act (yeah, right).
Suppose the Raiders decided to go public? Here's the (satirical) red herring. Speaking of red herrings, here's a top-ten list of most annoying spam messages of 2002. I don't know about you, but I got a bunch of each type on the list.
There's something to be said for raising a hue and cry in the Senate: Bush rescinded his plan allowing emergency services for Medicaid patients to be curtailed. More of the same: Senator Grassley (R-IA) is attempting to curb the TIA through legislative amendment.
$3 million to investigate the September 11 attacks? How much did Ken Starr spend on Whitewater and the rest? About $55 million? Hmm. From that AP story: "By comparison, a federal commission created in 1996 got two years and $5 million to study legalized gambling." Interesting priorities the Bushies have.
Most federal agencies require public comment on impending regulation before it's implemented. Typically those comments had to be submitted via letter or by attending public hearings, but soon you'll be able to do so online. You can do so at regulations.gov. Participating agencies include HHS, FCC, EPA, USDA, Labor, Transportation, GSA, and the National Archives. Hopefully there will be more to come.
"Mr. Daniels suggested that in the new budget, Mr. Bush would propose long-term limits on spending for Medicare, the health insurance program for the elderly and disabled. The budget director called this 'a serious attempt to modernize Medicare.'" I call it malfeasance. Every working American pays into that system, and is entitled to a return on his contributions. In another attack on the average American, this time the small investor, the SEC has issued rules for corporate accountants and lawyers which are far less stringent than had been initially proposed.
The big news today in the Internet arena is that the RIAA won a case requiring Verizon to disclose the name of a customer accused of downloading music via its pipes. Count on appeals. Many more links can be found here. How can this be, you ask? Well, here's the pertinent section of the Digital Millenium Copryight act (17 USC 512):
h) Subpoena To Identify Infringer. -
(1) Request. - A copyright owner or a person authorized to act on the owner's behalf may request the clerk of any United States district court to issue a subpoena to a service provider for identification of an alleged infringer in accordance with this subsection.
My Dad wintered over at McMurdo Sound in Antarctica back in 1961-1962, so the idea of building a road between there and the Scott-Amundsen base at the South Pole is intriguing. By the way, at current exchange rates, the 12.5M pounds translates to about 20.2M US dollars; pretty cheap road construction costs, these days.
By Ellen Goodman, 12/22/2002
At first the letters just trickled in to the United Nations Population Fund. A dollar here, five dollars there. It was enough to buy a few birthing kits or cure one 14-year-old mother of the silent plague of fistula.
Of course it didn't begin to make up for the $34 million that the Bush administration denied the international family planning group. But the trickle didn't stop either. It grew all fall until an astonished woman at the UNFPA decided to invest in an electronic letter opener.
This is an idea that comes with an address, a place where we can offer aid as well as dissent, a dollar as well as a message of connection to the women of the world:
Note: I have asked Ms. Goodman for permission to reprint the entire column; it's disappeared into the Boston Globe's premium archives. I haven't had a response yet. If I get a positive reply, I'll post it.
Number of records thumbed, read, transcribed onto paper and then into Excel worksheet: 345
Number left out due to a) embarrassment at ownership or b) inability to properly classify (compilations from Warner/Reprise I got hold of somehow?): 15
Knuckles worn to bone from writing/typing: 10
Estimated date of conversion to music pages on website: January 2004 (if I see any more of this stuff before then, I may throw up).
In case anyone wondered, when the needle gets a lot of fuzz on it, records still skip. This just happened to me with Neil Young's After the Gold Rush. Fortunately, it was on side two. (Thanks to kd for reminding me of this album.)
In other musical notes, I have discovered that my third copy of Airplane's Worst of... is still in reasonably good shape.
I'm now thinking that when I get rich I'll just replace the turntable and get the Sansui 5500 receiver fixed, rather than trash the stuff. The Pioneer speakers (88s, as I recall; the big 80-watters) still work just fine with this gadget. I was able to blow out a lot of the New Year's Eve firecracker racket with a History of Eric Clapton, which Amazon doesn't recognize. It's a nice compilation, from his early work with the Yardbirds to Derek and the Dominos to Delaney & Bonnie.
In its continuing assault on the poor, the Bushies now allow states to limit their use of emergency rooms. Oh, and all those vets Bush likes to talk to? Well, guess what? Some of them have just been denied enrollment in the VA medical system.
Ok, so I'm late today. I was working, dammit! I was also writing a little. Look for the post(s) for Hawai'i. If you're interested in your own state politics, you could do worse than take a look at that site periodically; it's a massive group blog, and it looks to be an interesting project. If your state isn't fully represented by a blogger, sign up to participate.
The Administration is of the party strong for individual responsibility, but it appears that it doesn't like to take any: regarding smallpox vaccinations, "...the Bush administration has rejected appeals to create a compensation fund for patients who suffer complications from the vaccine's well-known side effects." And does anyone else find it a little hypocritical for George Bush, Yale legatee, to object to preferences in admissions at the U of Michigan?
Remember John Le Carré? He's written an interesting essay for the London Times, very pro-Saddam removal but anti-Bush/Blair.
Here's a laudable goal with huge logistical difficulties: create a "catalog of the world" using museum collection databases. I can't wait!
David Broder looks at mandates emanating from the Administration and concludes that big government is back. Read the section about driver's licenses, including Ridge's threat to withhold highway funds if states don't comply with what the Feds want. Part of that big government, Poindexter's TIA system, is attuned to symbolism: the all-powerful eye has been removed from its website.
All you concert-goers, got any ticket stubs lying around as mementos? Scan 'em and go here to post them along with the story behind them.
Speaking of ticket stubs, I now have one from a theater in which I just saw The Two Towers. I could pick a zillion holes in it, but then I've read the books about twenty times, so I think I was destined to be disappointed with the liberties Jackson took with the story line. Having said that, I thought it was a pretty good movie; the battle scenes were excellent, the love story which was so derided by the purists seemed pretty unobtrusive, and Smeagol/Gollum was remarkable.
If you live in the Northeast or Midwest, you may already know this. The Federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which provides cash to help the poor pay for heating oil, has had its budget reduced by $300M. On January 11, 2002, President Bush signed the FY 2002 Labor/HHS/ED appropriations bill. It provided $1.7 billion in regular funding for LIHEAP. The Administration's budget request for LIHEAP remains at $1.4 billion in regular LIHEAP block grants for FY 2003. I don't know whether this is general cost-cutting, a decision that the poor should eat or stay warm but not both, an attempt to pay for higher defense spending, or a reversal of the Administration's views about global warming trends (hey, if the earth is getting warmer, we don't have to pay as much for heating oil, right?). Whatever it is, it's expected to have terrible effects on many of its recipients, according to ABC's World News Tonight last evening. Addendum: the Fed's website is about as non-informative as any governmental site I've ever seen.
Here's an Op/Ed from our local paper which nearly perfectly expresses my view of the Bush Administration in fancier language than I normally use, but the author's a law professor, so that's to be expected.
220 miles southeast of me, there's a rather spectacular event continuing; it's been going on for 20 years now. I refer to the eruption of Kilauea, of course. It's covered land (including a lot we used to own), roads, and archaeological sites, and it shows no sign of abating. I was last over there about 12 years ago, and it's an amazing thing to see. Molten rock flowing into the ocean creates huge steam clouds, kills fish, and gives one a sense of how impervious nature is to what humans try to accomplish.
Inside: Invasion of rodents and avians!
We had what Mom termed a "very zoological" afternoon yesterday. It began with my filling the bird feeder, which I'd been neglecting for a week or so. This prompted a flurry of activity on the part of several cardinals and many Java Sparrows. A couple of the cardinals apparently got disoriented, and within seconds of one another they crashed into our ground-to-ceiling windows. One of them seemed to hit head-on, for he/she landed on its feet on the ground and stood there for about ten minutes, nearly unmoving. This behavior fascinated the bird-dog Tigger; she stood in the classic pointer position at the door, staring unblinkingly until the bird managed to recover its senses and woozily walk (not fly) away. Meanwhile, a small mouse or rat discovered the feeder and kept making hit-and-run forays into its trough to nibble. Exciting stuff, huh?
Let us all now praise ethical men (and women): the House has repealed a whole set of rules meant to force honesty upon themselves.
Let us also now praise the Bushies, whose "Anything But Clinton" philosophy seems to have come back to bite them in the backside when it comes to Korea. Here's an interesting New Yorker article with some of the backstory behind the "Axis of Evil" phraseology and the (lack of) thought which went into its use.
I've found a couple of new toys in the past couple of days. One allows you to identify your geographic location by latitude/longitude, and locate other websites in your vicinity. The others have to have entered their website info into the database, but still...it's kinda fun. Go to GeoURL and follow the instructions. Further explanation can be found here. They even give you a button to put onto your page (see below left).
The second and much more practical one is an Excel-to-HTML converter; suppose you've got a spreadsheet of CDs or MP3 files you'd like to put onto your website, but you really don't wanna be bothered with retyping all that info into an HTML table. Presto! Go to MathTools, register, and select the tool you want. I've tested the "Excel to Web Table Converter" option; it works like a charm.
Judicial nominations are an attempt to subvert politics for the lifetime of the judges; let there be no doubt about it.
A liberal fantasy? On the contrary, the ever-candid Clint Bolick, a former Reagan Justice Department official and conservative activist, told The Post this week that "everyone on the right agreed in 2000 that judicial nominations were the single most important reason to be for Bush." The worst-kept secret in Washington: Judicial appointments are the tribute Bush pays to his political base.
"The closet fear of a lot of Democrats was that this [new department] was a union-busting activity..." That's in response to Transportation Security Administration head James Loy's decision to block attempts to unionize his agency. So the Democrats were apparently correct in their attempts to get organizing guarantees built into that legislation.
Some of us know Netflix; now there's a similar operation for books. It has pretty good prices and very few restrictions; a pre-paid return mailer is supplied!
In the wake of the Lott fiasco I'm astonished at the Administration's willingness to reopen those wounds by renominating Judge Pickering, at the dinner hour, no less (scroll down to "Dinner party"). Lost in the Pickering discussion was the fact that Bush also renominated Priscilla Owen, who was rejected by the Judiciary Committee as well, for what the Democrats view as anti-abortion leanings.
Oh, the hell with it. I'm gonna go watch golf from Maui. Mr. Woods is not here; he's still recovering from knee surgery. There was a funny quote from him the other day: if he spends any more time on a stationary bike he'll come back for the Tour de France instead of the PGA Tour; if I were Lance Armstrong, I'd be concerned.
If you're disposed to dislike Dick Cheney, this article may confirm your feelings. And as long as I'm Cheney-bashing, try this: "...had today's plan been enacted last year. Vice President Dick Cheney would have saved $326,555 on 2001 taxable income of $4.3 million, according to Bloomberg." That's from an analysis of the Bush plan in the NYT.
Once again, the Administration wants to hide what it's doing, this time with the Homeland Security department. Fortunately, a federal judge thinks it can't do that, although an appeal is likely. In other Homeland Security news, it now has the responsibility for improving cybersecurity, but apparently at the expense of privacy (again).
If you want an enlightening experience, go to Blogrolling and do a search to see who's linking to you. You may be surprised to discover a few sites you aren't in the habit of visiting. I know I was. Hey, people, if you drop by, say hello!
As expected, Bush has proposed a $674B economic plan; no surprise there. It benefits his wealthy friends; no surprise there either. One of the things he said that is flat-out misleading: 50% of Americans hold stock, therefore they'll all benefit from dividend tax elimination. Guess what, George? The vast majority of American investors hold their stocks in tax-deferred plans like IRAs and 401(k) plans, so those dividends aren't taxed to the individual in the first place. In the second place, the number of companies paying dividends has dropped dramatically over the past 20 years, as more companies (particularly high-tech ones) have opted to keep their cash and reinvest it in the companies. "In the mid 1970s, one-third of the companies that went public paid a dividend, according to finance professors Eugene Fama and Kenneth French.[Dividend computer file] By 1999, only 3.7 percent of the new publicly traded companies paid a dividend." Even companies who've been around for quite a while don't always pay dividends; according to a Business Week story from Oct. 10, 2002 only 350 of the 500 companies in the S&P500 do so. Bush's plan was written by and for political reasons, not for economic ones. He gets to look like he's a common-sense man, eliminating double taxation on dividends, while ignoring the fact that every dime you and I spend at Target or Tiffany is subject to double taxation, assuming you live somewhere that charges a sales tax.
For something entirely different, we've got lawyers with blogs, pundits with blogs, and moms and dads with blogs; now there's a plastic surgeon with a blog. Clever, I calls it.
Here's a short primer on how lobbying works in DC. Hollywood, by the way, plans to exercise its lobbying power once again, this time to require TV manufacturers to install a digital broadcast "flag" into new equipment. This software "would allow content owners to track and/or designate which movies -- or any programming, for that matter -- could be copied, how often, and by whom." Damn the consumer/customer, apparently.
Adobe is rolling out new software to help you with image management, for about $50. Apple, too, has a possible new product: wanna buy a Mac with a shell which changes color? And here's a subculture I didn't know anything about: bootleg music trading.
An American Empire? The idea causes me to cringe, but an article on the NYT Magazine cover today argues that's what we've got, like it or not. It deserves contemplation. A sample:
The disagreeable reality for those who believe in human rights is that there are some occasions -- and Iraq may be one of them -- when war is the only real remedy for regimes that live by terror. This does not mean the choice is morally unproblematic. The choice is one between two evils, between containing and leaving a tyrant in place and the targeted use of force, which will kill people but free a nation from the tyrant's grip.
The latest Angolan fraud letter includes this rather ominous sentence: "The help I need from you is clearing the box containing the funds from the security company, after which, it will be deposited in an account in your name, with my name as next of kin." Hmm. Oh, and speaking of ominous, go read this. I don't ordinarily read Kos, but I ran across a link to this somewhere. He had a substitute blogger who's created a "future history" of 2003. It's subversive, it's naughty, and it's a damned riot.
Continuing in the ominous vein: guess what? You, O American citizen, may soon be subject to INS observation as you enter or leave the country of your birth. That's the gist of a new proposed regulation. Can you say police state? And as long as I'm viewing with alarm, try this one: mass DNA collections are already in use by some police departments (and a national databank has been proposed) in an attempt to help criminal prosecutions.
Administration secrecy is the subject of a five-page story in the NYT today; it's interesting, although there's nothing I can see which hasn't been reported before. This passion for secrecy has a major impact on many things, including basic research. Universities are turning down Fed funds because of the Administration's strings; this isn't in the public interest.
There has been a push out here for years to legalize some form of gambling; the argument from those in favor is always the same: lots of revenue for the state to tax! Yippee! The arguments against are always the same, too: the social costs are too high, and besides, we don't need gambling (or gaming, as those in the industry prefer) to draw people to Hawai'i. Today's lead editorial in the NYT has a nice turn of phrase regarding the subject: "...by the gambling lobby's alluring "something-for-nothing" sales pitch, the fiscal equivalent of a comped buffet." I'm anti-gambling as an industry, although I've put my $10 into NCAA pools for years (shh...that's technically illegal, so don't tell). Time had a series a few weeks ago about what has happened (and not happened) on Indian reservations after the industry was permitted to locate there; it's pretty astonishing.
The Administration economic plan for every contingency appears to be a) tax cuts for his contributors and b) exhortations to the rest of us to shop, either in retail stores or in the stock market. "Bush said investors should take heart in the new year..."
Somebody at the WashPost website has a sense of irony, or maybe it's really disdain for the city's politicians. On the main Politics page are these two stories, one below the other: "Williams Aims to Grow D.C.", a story about the Mayor hoping to "recruit" 100,000 more folks to live there, followed by a slightly smaller headline which reads "D.C. Cuts Funds For Education, Literacy Efforts." Obviously, doing the second makes the first less likely.
I used to live 10 miles outside Washington; I wish the guy luck. The only job I'd want to have in or around the city would be one where I could leave town from June to August. Summer there is the most oppressive I've ever endured, even worse than that of Phoenix. At least in Arizona that old gag about it being a dry heat has some truth behind it; in Northern Virginia ain't no such thing as "dry" after April or so, if memory serves.