August 31, 2003

Sunday music

In homage (or a sacrifice) to Hurricane Jimena (350 miles away at 12:00pm HST), I went looking through my collection for "Stormy Weather." I found it on Portrait of Sinatra, a two-disc collection of recordings done while he was on the Columbia label. Say what you will about his personality and temper, the man could really sing.

Posted by Linkmeister at 01:23 PM | Comments (0)

Compassion, com-smash'em

Does the President's claim to be a "compassionate conservative" have any merit?

...some religious supporters of Mr. Bush say they feel betrayed by promises he made as a candidate and now, they maintain, has broken as president.

"After three years, he's failed the test," said one prominent early supporter, the Rev. Jim Wallis, leader of Call to Renewal, a network of churches that fights poverty.


At issue is Mr. Bush's willingness to demand financing from Congress on his signature "compassionate conservative" issues, like education reform and AIDS, with the same energy he has spent to fight for tax cuts and the Iraq war.

Critics say the pattern has been consistent: The president, in eloquent speeches that make headlines, calls for millions or even billions of dollars for new initiatives, then fails to follow through and push hard for the programs on Capitol Hill.

On one central piece of such legislation, the so-called faith-based bill to help religious charities, Mr. Bush, after two years of objections from Democrats, retreated this spring and agreed to strip the bill of provisions specifically related to religious groups. Instead, it now largely offers tax incentives to encourage giving to charities of all kinds.

On a proposal this summer to extend a $400-a-child tax credit to low-income families, Mr. Bush at first demanded that Congress appropriate the money, then backed off in the face of opposition from his conservative allies in the House, most notably the majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay of Texas. The issue is now bottled up in a dispute between the House and the more moderate Senate, and several Republican senators have called on Mr. Bush to step in and break the impasse.

Financing for another item on Mr. Bush's compassion agenda, the national volunteer program called AmeriCorps, faltered this summer under similar opposition from Mr. DeLay. Although Mr. Bush forcefully called for expanding that Clinton-era program in his 2002 State of the Union address, he was largely silent last month amid objections to a $100 million emergency infusion that it needed to maintain its current level of operations. The House rejected that spending, leaving AmeriCorps with an uncertain future.

So who's in charge here? Tom Delay (he of Texas redistricting fame) or President Bush? Tax cuts, pre-emptive wars and favors to his energy and defense industry contributors seem to be much dearer to his heart than the "compassionate conservatism" upon which he ran. Could it be he finds it easier to co-opt just enough Democrats (see Zell Miller) than to fight his own party? Or was that claim just a ploy to make him seem acceptable to the swing voters?

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:49 AM | Comments (0)

August 30, 2003

Not again, dammit

I've seen this movie before. I've replenished my battery supplies and checked the canned tuna/deviled ham cupboard, inspected the back yard for hanging plants, and tried to reassure my mother about Hurricane Jimena; who's gonna reassure me?

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:08 PM | Comments (9)

August 29, 2003

Why is there air?

As expected (see below), the energy industry just got a summer present in the form of relaxed rules for pollution control devices:

...the Bush administration signed a rule that will allow thousands of power plants, refineries, pulp and paper mills, chemical plants and other industrial facilities to make extensive upgrades that increase pollutants without having to install new antipollution devices. The rule, for which industries have lobbied the administration for two years, could save them billions of dollars. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that more than 17,000 plants will be affected.

The Administration has been getting a free pass from the electorate while destroying, modifying, or ignoring environmental legislation for a long time. And it goes on: today, EPA says it "...lacks authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles..."

Maybe this will get people a little riled up. Everybody breathes, after all, not just inhabitants of the blue states. California, Massachusetts and New York already have plans to sue; expect more lawsuits to follow.

(Apologies to Bill Cosby for ripping off his album title for the post)

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:11 AM | Comments (0)

August 28, 2003

Women lose again

Up is down and down is up: Abortion accusations block financing for yet another AIDS group, despite this admission: "State Department officials acknowledge that they have no evidence to suggest that Marie Stopes is involved in forced abortions or involuntary sterilization..." Doesn't matter. Stopes works with the UN Population Fund, and that organization has been deemed evil because it works with the Chinese government; its funding was cut earlier this year. Guilt by association is ok, huh?

Here's the real hypocrisy, though:

The official praised the AIDS program that will no longer receive State Department funds as "good work" and "very useful." The project is run by a consortium of seven groups, including Marie Stopes, and offers AIDS counseling and supports health care services for thousands of people in several countries including Angola, Congo, Rwanda and Eritrea.

The State Department gave $1 million to cover the first year of the project and offered to finance the six other relief organizations involved in the program for a second year if they agreed to end their partnership with Marie Stopes (My emphasis).

The groups, known collectively as the Reproductive Health for Refugees Consortium, declined the government's offer, saying they would not divide the organization because of "baseless allegations." The groups include the International Rescue Committee, CARE, the American Refugee Committee, the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, John Snow International and Columbia University's department of population and family health.

"We were disappointed that for reasons of solidarity with Marie Stopes that they should refuse our money," said the State Department official. "We had hoped they would show more humanitarian statesmanship than that."

So submitting to State Department blackmail would have been "statesmanship." These guys spin more than my Whirlpool dryer.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:45 AM | Comments (3)

40 Years Ago Today

Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool, Aug. 28, 1963; click to enlarge

I have lots of things I can thank my parents for, but here's one I still feel aggrieved about: on August 28, 1963, they did not allow me to go with them to the March on Washington. It's hard to imagine now, but there was a lot of concern about whether the crowd might become "unruly;" Mom and Dad figured they could take care of themselves, so they attended, but they were worried about whether a 12-year-old me would stick with them or get lost in the crowd. Because of that, I missed seeing Dr. King give the "I Have A Dream" speech. I've regretted that ever since I realized the importance of the moment. (Note: Mom points out that, while she doesn't really remember, it's entirely possible that, as a twelve-year-old boy, I might not have wanted to go. Could be, could be.)

Update: Billmon has a wonderful essay on the same subject.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (0)

August 26, 2003

Infamy revisited

Today, 25 years and 3 months after I moved here, I finally went out to the Arizona Memorial. The official photos are here; I only took a couple, which I'll post later (or I won't...they may be junk, after all). You enter the visitors center and take a ticket; that gets you into a movie theater which shows a half-hour documentary film of what led up to the attack, and some astonishing newsreel footage from both American and Japanese sources. Once the film ends, you file out onto a landing, where you climb aboard a boat (capacity about 60) which takes you on a short trip from the shore out to the Memorial itself. It's a very somber place. There is a wall at one end, in a space called the Shrine Room, which has carved into it the names of all 1,177 crewmen who died on or shortly after December 7, 1941. Looking at it, I was strongly reminded of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington. Each has the same stark simplicity: a list of names of the dead, carved in stone (white here, black in DC). There's a difference, though: the Arizona names don't elicit the sense of futility that the Vietnam names do, at least for me.

I'm glad I went.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:14 PM | Comments (1)

August 25, 2003

I've seen those!

Here's an example of "if it bleeds, it leads:" Eli Lilly and Amylin issued a joint press release today about positive results they'd achieved for diabetes with a new drug called exenatide. For Reuters, the important thing was that exenatide is derived from the saliva of that ugly critter known as a Gila Monster.

Blogging from Kabul sounds like an experience I could do without. Maybe 25 years ago. Let's see, that would be 1978; two years before the Soviets invaded. Yup, about then.

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:27 PM | Comments (3)

Hate speech

If you read political blogs, you'll have noticed an emerging theme: are the Bush haters as numerous or as full of bile as the Clinton haters? It's no contest. The Bush haters are nowhere near as virulent nor as willing to believe (and perpetuate) lies about their object of derision as the Clinton haters were (and nowhere near as well funded, either, although the article doesn't address that). Mr. Neiwert has done a helluva job itemizing the distinctions between the two. What are his qualifications for doing this kind of study? Well, from his sidebar: "David Neiwert is a freelance journalist based in Seattle. His reportage for on domestic terrorism won the National Press Club Award for Distinguished Online Journalism in 2000. His freelance work can be found at, the Washington Post, MSNBC and various other publications."

It's well written and it agrees with my observations; what more can one ask?

(Via Atrios).

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (3)

August 24, 2003

English Rock

I don't know if I'll have time to listen to this today, because I have company; my lawyer cousin, her lawyer husband, and their teenage son are visiting Hawai'i for the first time since my Dad's funeral (10 years ago this week). Nonetheless, (and this is no commentary on my cousin and her family!), a little Bad Company sounds like fun. The band was another in a long list of supergroups (see CSN, Cream, Derek and the Dominos, etc.). Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke came from Free, Boz Burrell from King Crimson, and Mick Ralphs from Mott the Hoople. This was the first and by far the best album the group released (although the compilation album 10 from 6 might be as good, since it contains half of this album as well). It's more-or-less definitive guitar rock, with power chords from Ralphs and growling vocals from Rodgers.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:49 AM | Comments (1)

August 23, 2003

How green is our President?

More evidence of this Administration's coziness with industry at the expense of the environment:

Through a recent Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, environmentalists discovered that timber industry lawyers had dictated a five-point plan for altering the Northwest Forest Plan and related policies. The change outlined in April 2002 would allow more logging as a condition of dropping several industry lawsuits.


Partin, of the American Forest Resource Council [a Portland-based timber industry group], acknowledged that his group has gotten pretty much everything it asked from the Bush administration. But he says that's only right. (My emphasis)

Want some more? EPA is about to issue a rule which will exempt hundreds of industrial plant owners from having to upgrade pollution controls as they upgrade their equipment. This is the famous "new source review" process, which has been litigated by industry for years. Apparently, industry beats clean air.

The new rule says that as much as 20 percent of the cost of replacing a plant's essential production equipment — a boiler, generator or turbine — could be spent and the owner would still be exempt from installing any pollution controls, according to people involved in the deliberations. (My emphasis)

Look, I want the economy to grow. I also want forests to grow, and I want clean air. I see no reason why those objectives must be mutually exclusive. I want elected representatives to represent all the people of this country, not just the ones with the deepest pockets and the ones with vested interests in continuing to do what they've been doing for years with disdain for the land, the air, and their neighbors. This Administration has exhibited no interest in representing any of the former, and despite all the rhetoric, I don't expect that it will.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (1)

August 22, 2003

Old crimes, new crimes

Science labs had different experiences in the blackout, from the serious to the silly. Viruses had to be contained and experiments safely halted at Newark's Public Health Research Institute, while attendees at a meeting on Long Island were playing hooky in Manhattan and bought used bikes to get back. (Note to editor: bicycles are pedaled, not peddled, unless they sold the two-wheelers after use).

Where was the self-parking car when I was getting my first driver's licence?

Y'all know, I'm sure, that the newest findings seem to indicate that the Iceman was a murder victim; now comes further confirmation of that theory. Blood from two different people has been identified on an arrowhead near his body. Talk about a cold case!

More criminality: in NYC, charges can now be filed solely against DNA, whether the individual from whom it came is in custody or not. This is to avoid statute of limitations problems. I'm reserving judgment.

Lastly, for the baseball fans, there's a wonderful interview with the woman who wrote last year's biography of Sandy Koufax here.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (1)

August 21, 2003

Bush to TFA: Drop Dead

Yet another betrayal. Why anyone believes a single statement from George W. Bush continues to mystify me:

In 2002, the President in his State of the Union address called for increased national service and then illustrated what he meant by visiting a Teach for America school in Atlanta. "I am proud to stand up and talk about the best of America and Wendy Kopp," the President said. "I hope young Americans all across the country think about joining Teach for America."


On July 11, [2003] however, a form letter arrived in the Teach for America offices from the Corporation for National and Community Service. "We regret to inform you," it said, "that your application was not selected for funding."

So despite Mr. Bush's praise and Mrs. Bush's attention, a good program which attracts young men and women to teach disadvantaged kids is shuttered, at least for this fiscal year. There's not an honest bone in the man's body.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (6)

August 20, 2003

Notes from the periphery

Here's how MS-Word can betray you and here's how to save yourself.

Mobile camera phone blogging made a big splash during the blackout, according to Wired News.

Here's an embarrassing theory: humans lost their body hair to get rid of parasites! Obviously there was no People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals around at the time; can you imagine the campaign? "We're destroying the head louse's habitat! Put down those depilatories!"

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:50 AM | Comments (1)

August 19, 2003

Power from the people

Quote of the day:

The White House continues to throw billions into fixing Iraq's power and water infrastructure but ignores the US's own massive problems. Perhaps the United States should consider invading itself.

That's from a discussion of Prop 13 and what it and its descendants have wrought nationwide.

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:25 PM | Comments (0)

Vote early and often

You may have heard of (and your state may have considered buying) E-voting systems, whereby your vote is made via touchscreen or a similar electronic method. This is called "direct-recording electronic" voting, and the Feds are ponying up $3.9 billion to states to speed up the conversion from punched-card and/or levered systems. The problem is, a study by Johns Hopkins University researchers has shown that the security for these systems is pretty lax, they can be hacked, and there's no paper audit trail.

With such security questions floating around, legislators say they're asking tough questions of the entire electronic voting industry. And, basically, what those questions boil down to is trust.

Should Americans trust the results of federal-level tests on voting systems?

With critics like Dill and Rubin, that's easy to answer, said Doug Lewis, executive director of the Federal Election Commission.

"They want their view to win out, no matter if it's fact or fiction," he said.

For legislators and voters, Lewis is a bit more hopeful. "At some point in this society, you have to trust the institutions that are in charge of it," he said.

Mr. Lewis, that might be a hard sell to American voters who remember the spectacle of thugs invading the offices of Miami-Dade election workers to disrupt vote-counting in 2000. With electronic fiddling, nobody even risks assault or trespass charges. (Link via TalkLeft.)

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (2)

August 18, 2003


Got hair cut. Set appointment to get driver-side car window repaired. Paced off length/width of house for new replacement-cost evaluation of homeowner's policy. Discovered I need to know the length of the stem on wheel casters before I can replace the rusted ones on our TV stand. Also learned that the ballast in our kitchen overhead fluorescent lamps is so old they don't make replacements with that amperage any longer. Oh, yeah; paid $2.00 a gallon for gas.

Wasn't that exciting?

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:45 PM | Comments (6)

Go fish

If you go to this site and click on "Aquariums," then click either of the two photos in the middle of the resulting page, you'll see what we have hanging in the family room directly over our television. Ours is the five-gallon size; it looks like the one on the right. Mom bought it in 1982 as a 35th wedding anniversary gift to my father. It was bought in desperation on the anniversary date; she had no ideas at all, but wandered into the store thinking she'd find some little thing to give him. Right. The damn thing was in a cardboard box, of course, and it weighed a ton, even without water. A corner of the box tore a hole in the seat cover of my car as I was taking it out of the car when I got home, as I recall. Ah well; it looks really nifty with fish swimming around inside. Judging from his current asking price, we got a bargain; Mom thinks she paid about $150 for it back then. Forget stocks and bonds, buy art.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (3)

August 17, 2003

Better Raitt than never

Today's musical selection is one of those "I was a fan 20 years before the rest of the world caught up" kind of albums: Bonnie Raitt's Give It Up. Raitt went on to win Grammies (finally), but that was a long way down the road. This album was her second release. It offers a wonderful mix of rock and blues, including the self-penned "Give It up or Let Me Go", Jackson Browne's "Under the Falling Sky," and (probably my favorite) Eric Kaz' "Love Has No Pride." I remember being absolutely astonished (this was 1972, remember) to find a tuba as a featured instrument on the title track, played by a guy charmingly named Freebo. I bought The Bonnie Raitt Collection a while back when I had no working turntable; it's a great introduction to Bonnie, but for the full flavor you need to go back to the individual albums from which those songs were drawn. "Give It Up" is a good start.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:16 AM | Comments (5)

August 15, 2003

Yeah, right...

When you hear Mr. Bush proclaim

"We’ll have time to look at it and determine whether or not our grid needs to be modernized. I happen to think it does, and have said so all along."
don't believe it.

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:01 PM | Comments (2)


From Josh Marshall comes a link to a remarkable website which records the history of the 1965 and 1977 blackouts. I remember the 1965 one; I was living outside DC at the time, and it was amazing to think that only a few hundred miles away 30 million people were completely without electricity. Go, browse; it has links to the original Life magazine account (including an article by Loudon Wainwright, father of the singer), engineering reports, Federal Power Commission reports, and all manner of interesting material. The site is called The Blackout History Project, and I suspect the author will be updating it with data from yesterday's events as they become available.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (2)

August 14, 2003


The Republicans have really gone over the top here: they have contracted some of their fundraising efforts to an Indian (that's the sub-continent, not American) call center.

If you think that's a bad idea, you might want to let the Democratic National Committee know by going to its site and clicking the "contact us" button.

(Via CalPundit).

Update: Turns out the story is from January, 2003; it would be interesting to know if the RNC continues to outsource the work.

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:41 PM | Comments (2)

August 13, 2003

To the best of my recall-lection

This one's from yesterday's ABC News' The Note: why on earth would you run for office with records like these? If you didn't care enough to vote for others...

Schwarzenegger voted in the 1992 presidential primary and general elections, but did not vote in either the primary or the general in 2000.

Bill Simon did not vote in 13 of the past 20 elections — a fact that plagued him during his 2002 gubernatorial run against Gray Davis.

A scientific explanation for why songs stick in your head, featuring Graham Nash and Neil Diamond.

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:37 AM | Comments (2)

August 12, 2003

Program, git yer program!

A while back I found a site called Neoconservatism Online, which had the kind of propaganda you'd expect from a site with that name. The site has disappeared; all you find now is a bunch of popups from telling you the domain is available. Fortunately for my purposes, I had copied what I wanted from it before it died. I felt like I needed a scorecard for the neo-cons, since the ideology isn't necessarily immediately discernible from what you read. Anyway, from that site, I give you a partial list of the players as self-identified on that site:

Linda ChavezCommentaryEthics and Public Policy Center
Mona CharenThe Public InterestAmerican Enterprise Institute
Paul GreenbergThe American EnterpriseCenter for the Study of Popular Culture
Charles KrauthammerThe New CriterionEmpower America
Michael MedvedThe National InterestThe Hudson Institute
Frank Gaffney, Jr.First ThingsProject for the New American Century
Jonah GoldbergThe Weekly StandardAmericans for Victory Over Terrorism
David Horowitz
Michael Barone
John Leo
Michael Ledeen
Jeff Jacoby
Hilton Kramer

This is by no means a complete list, but if you get as confused as I do when reading something from a source I don't immediately recognize, it serves as a reference. Use it in good health, copy if you like.

(Note: If anyone wants to "view source" and explain why I've got all that blank space between the text and the table, feel free.)

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:05 PM | Comments (4)

August 11, 2003

The Bushies' Dictionary

This column from the Sunday Seattle Post-Intelligencer deserves broad dissemination. I found it over at Peace Tree Farm.

We think in language. Language significantly affects the content of our thoughts. Thus, reshaping popular language provides a powerful tool to "win the hearts and minds" of the public. Political conservatives figured this out decades ago, but no one has employed language to influence public opinion more intentionally or cleverly than the Bush administration.
  • Anti-American describes someone who suggests perhaps the United States is losing popularity, trust and allies around the world as a consequence of its own words and deeds.
  • Civil service reform means "flexibility" to replace civil service protection with cronyism and patronage.
  • Conservative describes what was once regarded as right-wing extremist. See also "moderate."
  • Privatization justifies the notion that corporations are more likely to serve the public interest than publicly owned utilities, schools and prisons.

There's plenty more where those came from: go read.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:20 PM | Comments (2)

Scientifically speaking

Are we headed toward Democratic science vs. Republican science? On issues of climate change, it looks like it. And "Republican science" is an oxymoron at best, or a slanted and politicized policy at least. The articles cite a new report which goes into chapter and verse about Administration interference, disruption, or outright denial of scientific consensus.

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:16 PM | Comments (1)

Gettin' pretty chilly

Remember NGO Watch? I posted something about it back on June 20. It's an outfit formed by AEI and The Federalist Society to monitor NGO activity, particularly as that activity "interferes" with American policy. Well, now comes an article by an organization called OMB Watch, which "was formed in 1983 to lift the veil of secrecy shrouding the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which oversees regulation, the budget, information collection and dissemination, proposed legislation, testimony by agencies, and much more." The article:

...provides a review of recent proposals and actions that have taken place limiting nonprofit speech in each of the three areas (attacks on nonprofit advocacy, limits imposed by government on other nonprofit speech, and changes made by nonprofits resulting from fear of how laws such as the USA Patriot Act are being implemented) described above. It does not address an important corollary concern--limiting access to information. Without access to information or by government controlling the flow or type of information, it will inevitably affect the ability of nonprofits to do their work. For example, when the government stacks the deck of scientific advisory committees by selecting people with strong ideological biases to serve, it undermines the value of good science that our sector relies on. These stacked advisory committees also squelch the substantive work undertaken by many nonprofits.

The link takes you to the Executive Summary of the article; a full copy is available in either PDF or WORD format. The Administration doesn't brook disagreement with its ideology lightly; the summary cites several examples of slightly veiled threats to non-profits which don't conform to the Bushies' idea of good government, including the National Head Start Association, "Parent Centers" for children with disabilities, and 501(c)(3) charitable organizations which (gasp!) lobby Congress.

Go read. Form your own opinion of this kind of behavior by the current US government, which is, after all, "of, by, and for the people." (Thanks to Skippy for the OMB Watch link).

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (0)

August 10, 2003


Today's a little pickin' and fiddlin' sort of day, since I woke up late (0800!) So I think I'll drag out The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. This album is a fine example of the band's work; it includes their only top ten hit, "Mr. Bojangles," but there's also an early version of Kenny Loggins' "House at Pooh Corner" and a mess of wonderful banjo/mandolin/gee-tar work. This one's a studio album; I also own the live Stars and Stripes Forever double set. This music is portrayed as the sort of stuff a group of mountain folk might play while settin' on the porch on a lazy afternoon, but it's a lot more. Somebody pour me some sun tea and grease up the rockin' chair. Outta the way, cat! You might lose a tail!

Update: I have no idea whether hearing the news of the death of Gregory Hines influenced my choice today. One of Hines' influences was Bill Robinson, the man about whom "Mr. Bojangles" was written.

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:53 AM | Comments (7)

August 09, 2003

Link-strewn reminiscences

Back in my Navy days (1972-1974) I was stationed at the Naval Communications Station Japan (now called NavTelComSta Far East) as a radioteletype operator. There were four shifts of 22 radiomen each, working in four distinct rooms. The one immediately inside the cyber-locked door was the main Fleet Center, where the IBM 360/20 stood, spitting out punched paper tape messages for distribution to the appropriate addressee via a tape distributor. There were often as many as 50 different addressees per message; 30 or more might be ships in port (the whole Submarine fleet) and shore activities (the Supply Depot, the Public Works Center). Each addressee was identified by a unique routing indicator (ours was RUYNSHH). On the right was a bank of teletype machines, with one keyboard and three tape readers. This configuration ran along the right side of the room for about 25 feet; with as many as 10 guys trying to navigate the space (2 feet between the keyboards on either side) it got pretty crowded. Each tape reader was assigned to a different send channel; for a busy ship like the Oklahoma City (7th Fleet flagship at the time; here's a cruise book which gives an idea of WESTPAC tours back then) there were three transmission channels and two for reception. We usually were communicating with no fewer than 8 ships.

A little beyond this section, there was a bank of 12-15 teletype printers with no input capability; this was called the "broadcast" section of the shop, where all unclassified messages to 7th Fleet were monitored. This was easily the most boring job on the shift, as all the operator was required to do was watch to see if the radio frequencies suddenly "dropped" and the messages became garbled. If they did, he reported it to the Chief of the Watch (actually, to his assistant) and the word got passed up to the techs upstairs.

The next room was called "Local Delivery;" that was where messages routed to all the ships in port and the shore activities ended up. All messages came in over the tape readers and were slapped onto three printers, each loaded with mimeograph paper (yep, this was before copiers were in wide use). Once the message was printed, it would be handed off to a routing clerk, who would determine from the number of addressees how many copies were required and pass it over to the poor schmuck running the mimeo machine. Everybody hated this job, because your fingers came out blue (and stayed blue) from the mimeo ink for days afterwards. I never thought of writing a poem about the stuff.

Once the requisite number of copies was made, they would be passed along to a mail clerk, who would count the copies for each ship or shore command and slot them into a huge wooden mailbox (same as you'd see in a corporate mailroom). I'll bet we ran out of rubber fingers once a week.

The next room you entered was the message center; this was the room where all outgoing messages were routed, typed up on teletype paper and paper tape, proofread, and sent (via tape distributor) to the IBM 360/20 at the front of the house for transmission to the rest of the world. This was the only part of the section where competitive pride could really take hold; every operator wanted to be the fastest, most accurate tapecutter on the shift.

The last room was the file room; in all my working life I've never met anyone who liked to file, and doing the job of the operator back there was when I first recognized that fact. Each outgoing message had to be filed in one of those vertical dual-post files by date-time-group. This was complicated by the fact that the Navy uses ZULU or GMT for all its message traffic to convey a standard time for the entire world.

If you look over here, you'll see some images of things I wore or used while in the Navy. It became second nature to read the coded paper tape; some teletype perforators printed the letters on the tape, but nobody ever used those.

Posted by Linkmeister at 01:31 PM | Comments (5)

August 08, 2003


Ashcroft seems to think that judges just aren't sentencing criminals harshly enough; he's now ordering US attorneys to report cases where the jurists use their own judgment rather than follow sentencing guidelines. What this essentially does is move the decisions to appeal from local prosecutors to DOJ. Even Rehnquist argued against the amendment allowing this when it was being debated.

In his memo to prosecutors, Ashcroft quoted approvingly from a May 5 speech by Rehnquist in which the chief justice said it was up to Congress to set sentencing policies.

The memo did not quote another section of the same speech in which Rehnquist said that gathering information on sentencing practices could help Congress make decisions, but also "could amount to an unwarranted and ill-considered effort to intimidate individual judges in the performance of their judicial duties."

Somehow Ashcroft's selective argument surprises me not a whit.

More selective arguments: Treasury insists "not so," but Executive Order 13303 apparently indemnifies US oil companies from lawsuits while working in Iraq.

...lawyers for various advocacy organizations said the two-page executive order seemed to completely shield oil companies from liability — even if it could be proved that they had committed human rights violations, bribed officials or caused great environmental damage in the course of their Iraqi-related business.

I keep thinking I can't be further surprised by the venality, then I'm proven wrong once again.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (1)

August 07, 2003

Gimme the re(meaow)te


I was told cats can't watch television because their motion perception is so fast that they see the bright dot scanning the screen and no picture. However, friends insist that their cats get quite excited when a cat appears on television. What is the truth?


Every cat lover who reads New Scientist will probably write in to you with their favourite stories but the simple answer is that cats can watch TV. A cat's motion perception is not so fast that it can track the beam that scans across a TV display or computer monitor, or fast enough to see a series of separate still images if you take your cat to the movies. The screen is being refreshed at more than 50 times per second, which is too rapid for humans or cats.

However, that does not mean a cat will interpret a TV picture in exactly the way we will. Images on flat screens lack many cues for depth perception, notably the relative movement of objects at different distances when we move our heads, and the cat may find the whole experience puzzling. You can expect cats to respond most strongly to the same cues that signal a prey in the wild: small objects, preferably with eyes and ears, moving in a jerky fashion or running away.

For some of those letters, go here.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:19 AM | Comments (4)

August 06, 2003

Media or Medusa?

It occurs to me that had the Episcopalians been clever with their scheduling, they could have buried the vote on Bishop Robinson under the avalanche of Kobe Bryant coverage.

A couple of pertinent essays: they were both written during the Jayson Blair/Howard Raines fiasco at the Times, but the sentiments fit the current situation as well.

From Time magazine: the press is too smug.

...many big-media journalists are now cautious, well-paid conformists distant from their audiences and more responsive to urban elites, powerful people and megacorporations — especially the ones they work for. Hence the bland news anchors who verge on self-parody; magazines so commercial they're practically catalogs; timid pack journalism (We love dotcoms too! I mean, we never believed in them either!); local newscasts shilling for their corporate parents ("Up next: the hottest Survivor finale parties! Plus, the rest of the news!"); saturation coverage of trials-of-the-minute and movies we know will be lousy but will have big opening weekends. Yes, people watch and buy all this stuff. That doesn't mean they respect it. They see a profession that acts excited about a lot — Laci Peterson, The Matrix Reloaded, political horse races — but cares about nothing.

This one's from new media;

Unfortunately, the business right now resembles a herd of sheep. Many editors assign pieces more to impress their fellow editors than to serve the needs of the public. When I read the pile-on of attack pieces about the New York Times, I hear a distant baaa.

Add to it the fact that it's August, traditionally a slow month for news, and what do you get? Legal analysts on ESPN and religion analysts on the major networks and cable.

Posted by Linkmeister at 01:19 PM | Comments (0)

August 05, 2003

Dollars and Sense

You know that Howard Dean made the covers of Time and Newsweek, but Business Week has a pretty flattering profile too; it calls him a fiscal conservative and says all those "liberal wacko" ideas about him are hooey.

So now Treasury has been politicized; it's reneging on a commitment to tell the Senate which Saudi institutions and individuals have been investigated for ties to al-Qaeda. Paul Krugman has another example of Treasury data being fudged. If you can't trust the numbers, how do you make informed decisions?

If you've ever tried to do medical trials research on the web, this idea will give you hope. A subscription to a medical journal will set you back a ton of money ($1000-$5000 a year), and even a one-time view can cost as much as $50 with no certainty that the article you're paying for will be the one you need to read. Thus a new outfit that wants to publish new research articles in open-source on the web has garnered a lot of interest. Cross your fingers.

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:19 AM | Comments (0)

August 04, 2003

"Feets, don't fail me now!"

Er...there are ten finalists in the "World's Most Beautiful Feet" contest. The "entries" can be seen at or Why enter, you ask? Well,

The Grand Prize winner will spend seven nights at a SuperClubs all-inclusive Caribbean resort of their choice. A professional photographer will also create a portfolio of the winner's feet, to start them on a foot-modeling career. The winner will be announced Sept. 22, along with the contestant who will be awarded the "Feet in Most Need of a Pedicure" title.

Next year I'll try to get advance notice of this contest, in order to put out a call for entrants ahead of time.

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:31 PM | Comments (8)

August 03, 2003

We're in, ergo we're right

A former Pentagon staffer has written an op-ed for the Houston Chronicle which seems to confirm what many have thought about the PNAC and AEI alums in the Pentagon and at State. She observed three "themes:"

  1. Functional isolation of the military professionals
  2. Cross-agency cliques
  3. Groupthink

Regarding the latter, she says:

The result of groupthink has been extensively studied in the history of American foreign policy, and it will have a prominent role when the history of the Bush administration is written. Groupthink, in this most recent case leading to invasion and occupation of Iraq, will be found, I believe, to have caused a subversion of constitutional limits on executive power and a co-optation through deceit of a large segment of the Congress.

It's quite an indictment; go read. One hopes the country survives this sort of arrogance.

Posted by Linkmeister at 07:44 PM | Comments (1)

Jazz it up

Today's musical selection is difficult. I'm in a jazz mood, so do I play Joni Mitchell's Court and Spark, or do I go for Les McCann's Live at Montreux? If you go by the Amazon reviews, it's a simple choice: Mitchell's album is universally praised, while McCann's is pretty much panned. One of the McCann reviewers gripes about the recording quality, to which I say, "Yo! Idiot! It's recorded live! What the hell do you expect?" I like "Compared to What" because of the piano work; the lyrics are dated, but so am I.

(Kudos to Billmon for reminding me of the McCann album through his quotation of some of the lyrics.)

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:58 AM | Comments (1)

August 02, 2003

Questions and answers

What's under your kitchen sink, in your garage, in your bathroom, and on the shelves in your laundry room? Do these household products pose a potential health risk to you and your family? Take heart, harried homeowner/renter! The National Library of Medicine has a database just for you!

Talk about laughing out Internet Pundit Fantasy Camp has launched. Early registration recommended. (via South Knox Bubba).

As mentioned below, Senator Daschle is indeed blogging his road trip through South Dakota.

And finally, over at the Ruminator's place I found a link to Politopia, which promises custom-made government if you'll just take its quiz.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:30 PM | Comments (2)

August 01, 2003

Pass the popcorn

The current issue of Sports Illustrated has a list of its 50 Greatest Sports Movies; unfortunately, if the list is online, I can't find it on the website. SI's top ten:

1. Bull Durham (1988) - Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon.
2. Rocky (1976) - Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire.
3. Raging Bull (1980) - Robert DeNiro, Catherine Moriarity.
4. Hoop Dreams (1994) - Documentary.
5. Slap Shot (1977) - Paul Newman, Michael Ontkean.
6. Hoosiers (1986) - Gene Hackman, Barbara Hershey.
7. Olympia (1936) - Documentary (Leni Riefenstahl film about the 1936 Olympics).
8. Breaking Away (1976) - Dennis Quaid, Dennis Christopher.
9. Chariots of Fire (1981) - Ben Cross, Ian Charleson.
10. When We Were Kings (1996) - Documentary (Ali-Foreman, 1974).

The Palm Beach Post has a competing list. Its top ten:

1. Rocky
2. Raging Bull
3. Bull Durham
4. Hoosiers
5. Caddyshack (1980) - Ted Knight, Bill Murray.
6. Brian's Song (1970) - James Caan, Billy Dee Williams.
7. Field of Dreams (1989) - Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones.
8. Hoop Dreams
9. Breaking Away
10. A League of Their Own (1992) - Tom Hanks, Geena Davis.

Like all of these lists, this one's subjective; the Post's has 100 films, so if you didn't see your favorite, odds are it's on the list somewhere. Maybe at some point SI will put its list online (I can't imagine why they didn't; if somebody finds it on the site, please let me know).

Updated: the balance of SI's list can be found by clicking "MORE."

11. Bang the Drum Slowly (1973) - Michael Moriarty, Robert de Niro.
12. Dogtown and Z-Boys (2002) - Documentary.
13. A League of Their Own
14. The Freshman (1925) - Harold Lloyd, Jobyna Ralston (silent).
15. The Endless Summer (1966) - Documentary (ed. note--haunting guitar theme music)
16. North Dallas Forty (1979) - Nick Nolte, Mac Davis.
17. Brian's Song.
18. Caddyshack.
19. Downhill Racer (1969) - Robert Redford, Gene Hackman.
20. Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962) - Anthony Quinn, Jackie Gleason.
21. Pumping Iron (1977) - Documentary.
22. The Set-up (1949) - Robert Ryan, George Tobias.
23. The Hustler (1961) - Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason.
24. Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993) - Max Pomeranc, Ben Kingsley.
25. Horse Feathers (1932) - The Marx Brothers.
26. The Bad News Bears (1976) - Walter Matthau, Tatum O'Neal.
27. National Velvet (1944) - Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Rooney.
28. Eight Men Out (1988) - John Cusack, David Strathairn.
29. Rollerball (1975) - James Caan, John Houseman.
30. The Rookie (2002) - Dennis Quaid, Rachel Griffiths.
31. Baseball--A Film by Ken Burns (1994) - Documentary.
32. Vision Quest (1985) - Matthew Modine, Linda Fiorentino.
33. Fat City (1972) - Stacy Keach, Jeff Bridges.
34. Everybody's All-American (1988) - Dennis Quaid, Jessica Lange.
35. Million Dollar Legs (1932) - W.C. Fields, Jack Oakie.
36. Jerry Maguire (1996) - Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding.
37. The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick (1971) - Arthur Brauss, Erika Pluhar.
38. Field of Dreams.
39. The Harder They Fall (1956) - Humphrey Bogart, Rod Steiger.
40. The Longest Yard (1974) - Burt Reynolds, Eddie Albert.
41. Remember the Titans (2000) - Denzel Washington, Will Patton.
42. The Pride of the Yankees (1942) - Gary Cooper, Teresa Wright.
43. Fists of Fury (1971) - Bruce Lee, Maria Yi.
44. The Deadliest Season (1977) - Michael Moriarty, Kevin Conway.
45. Grand Prix (1966) - James Garner, Eva Marie Saint.
46. Any Given Sunday (1999) - Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz.
47. It Happens Every Spring (1949) - Ray Milland, Jean Peters.
48. The Bingo Long Travelling All-Stars & Motor Kings (1976) - Billy Dee Williams, Richard Pryor.
49. Phar Lap (1983) - Tom Burlinson, Ron Liebman.
50. Best in Show (2000) - Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:23 AM | Comments (9)


If you're looking for basic information about a relative who served in World War II, you should check out the World War Two Memorial website. There's a lot of information there about the memorial itself, which is scheduled to be opened May 29, 2004, but for historical purposes the more important item is that it combines four databases into one searchable one. If you have a family member who fought or served on the homefront (Rosie the Riveter, Red Cross work, etc.), he or she may be listed; if not, you can add him/her. It even allows photos to be displayed.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:15 AM | Comments (1)