Digging through the stacks again, I came across Rosie, by Fairport Convention. This was their ninth album; former members Richard Thompson, Sandy Denny and Linda Peters contributed but were not credited as part of the band. I'm not as negative about it as AllMusic's reviewer; it's got some bouncy stuff, but nothing particularly spectacular. Nonetheless, it's got a couple of interesting songs with "traditional" roots. For some reason, it's the only FC album I own. It looks like there's a boxed set; what say you, N in Seattle?
Why have the 'traditional family values' folks erected a wall of silence around the Gannon scandal?
They were livid over SpongeBob Square Pants' participation in a video advocating tolerance, and fuming about Buster the Bunny's visit to a lesbian household. So where's the outrage from the Christian right over the Jeff Gannon Affair? Despite a chunk of time having passed since the Gannon Affair was first uncovered, Christian right organizations are still cloaked in silence. As of February 24, there wasn't any news about the Gannon Affair available on the Web sites of Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, the American Family Association, or the Traditional Values Coalition. As best as I could determine, no special alerts about the Gannon Affair have been issued; and no campaigns have been launched to get to the bottom of the matter.
Curious about this wall of silence, I phoned several Christian right groups on Tuesday, February 22, hoping to find someone who could comment on the Gannon Affair.
Read the column to find the specifics of the responses he got; most of them were of the "nobody here wants to talk about that" variety. If you're unclear on the Gannon scandal, AMERICAblog is the primary news resource. A brief précis: Gannon is a former male prostitute who worked for a phony news organization and was allowed into the White House sans security check in order to throw softball questions to administration officials.
Ok, this is totally out of control. I currently have 100 invitations available. Anybody want one?
I just got back from lunch with Bunny and her husband. They're here for their annual vacation. We met at Compadres and scarfed up fish tacos and enchiladas (half-price day on enchiladas, no less! No, I didn't know that when I suggested the restaurant). It's always fun to see bloggy friends.
Wow! Dan Froomkin laid out all the contradictions in what Bush says is his view of himself as a democratic leader:
It was an amazing moment: After the introductory comments, Andrey Kolesnikov, a correspondent for the Russian business newspaper Kommersant, got up and said -- albeit not so succinctly, and not in English -- Hey, no wonder you guys see eye to eye! You're both authoritarians.
This prompted Bush to launch into a possibly unprecedented defense of himself as a democratic leader. He did it by describing his view of the country.
And while Putin didn't challenge what Bush said, there have been some news reports of late that suggest that things may not be as black and white as Bush said.
"I live in a transparent country.
Cadre grows to rein in message; Ranks of federal public affairs officials have swelled under Bush to help tighten control on communiques to media, access to information, Newsday, Feb. 24, 2005; Administration Paid Commentator; Education Dept. Used Williams to Promote 'No Child' Law, Washington Post, Jan. 8, 2005; Groups raise concerns about increased classification of documents, GOVEXEC.com, Oct. 27, 2004.
"I live in a country where decisions made by government are wide open and people are able to call people to -- me to account, which many out here do on a regular basis.
High Court Backs Vice President; Energy Documents Shielded for Now, Washington Post, June 25, 2004; Mr. President, will you answer the question?, NiemanWathchdog.org, Dec. 3, 2004; Bush Says Election Ratified Iraq Policy, Washington Post, Jan. 16, 2005 (in which Bush says: "We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections.")
"Our laws and the reasons why we have laws on the books are perfectly explained to people. Every decision we have made is within the Constitution of the United States. We have a constitution that we uphold.
How U.S. rewrote terror law in secrecy; White House group devised new system in aftermath of 9/11, New York Times, Oct. 24, 2004; In Cheney's Shadow, Counsel Pushes the Conservative Cause, Washington Post, Oct. 11, 2004; Slim Legal Grounds for Torture Memos; Most Scholars Reject Broad View of Executive's Power, Washington Post, July 4, 2004.
"And if there's a question as to whether or not a law meets that constitution, we have an independent court system through which that law is reviewed.
Recount 2000: Decision Sharpens the Justices' Divisions; Dissenters See Harm to Voting Rights and the Court's Own Legitimacy, Washington Post, Dec. 13, 2000; Scalia Won't Sit Out Case On Cheney; Justice's Memo Details Hunting Trip With VP, Washington Post, March 19, 2004.
"So I'm perfectly comfortable in telling you our country is one that safeguards human rights and human dignity, and we resolve our disputes in a peaceful way."
Torture at Abu Ghraib, the New Yorker, May 10, 2004; Ground War Starts, Airstrikes Continue As U.S. Keeps Focus on Iraq's Leaders, Washington Post, March 21, 2003.
Could there be hope for the press after all?
I just installed Firefox ver 1.01.
The open-source project released Firefox 1.0.1 to fix, among other bugs, a vulnerability in the Internationalized Domain Names (IDN), a standard for handling special character sets in domain names that lets companies register domain names that appear to be the same in different languages.
The IDN vulnerability allowed an attacker to create a fake Web site on a non-Microsoft browser in order to pull off a phishing scam. A spoofed link would seem to be a legitimate URL in the address bar of affected browsers. But instead of taking the victim to the trusted site, the link would lead to a phony Web site with a domain rendered as the same address under the IDN process.
The updated browser will display the IDN Punycode in the address bar, preventing URL spoofing. Punycode is the encoding of Unicode strings into the limited character set supported by the Domain Name System and IDN.
From the Particles section of Making Light comes this photo exhibition:
What about a Catapult?, starring Aragaron, Boromir, Elrond and Gandalf.
Now that was a switch. Ordinarily when I walk into a waiting room which has a television, I see either CNN's Headline News or Fox News. Not this time. I was in line at the neighborhood Satellite City Hall renewing my automobile registration this afternoon, and there on the screen was Peter Pan! That was a surprise.
It was kind of fun to see that (particularly since I got there in time to see the "I Can Fly" sequence), but I wonder how many kids wait in line there to pay their property taxes, water bills, or get the registration sticker?
This project cries out for a blog: visiting each one of Vermont's 251 towns, cities, villages, gores and grants. (What's a gore? Not the former VP; read the story in the LAT). So I did a Google search, and lo and behold, there is one!. There's login info to the Times story at the blog, too.
I'll bet there are similar projects in other states; I have a softcover book from the 60s which contains columns written for Arizona Highways about towns in that state. Does your state have one?
If you're late to the latest outrage, here's the scoop, complete with photo. Apparently AARP is now a military-hatin' gay-lovin' organization. At least, that's what Karl Rove and his band of clowns (the same ones who were behind the Swift Vets) would have you believe. Now, I was once a member of AARP until I forgot to renew; my mother still is. I have my doubts that an ad like this (go look at the photo, it's unbelievable) will cause them to turn the other cheek. For one thing, many of its members are veterans who know better.
Everyone else in the blogosphere from CJR to Billmon to TalkLeft to Digby has discussed Hunter Thompson's death, so I won't, except to say that I read most of what he wrote for Rolling Stone back in the 1970s. Billmon's post, however, reminded me that most of Thompson's articles were accompanied by illustrations from Ralph Steadman. Steadman has not yet commented on his collaborator's death, but his site is worth a look anyway.
With all the news about steroids, you might think there's not a lot of good news about baseball this year as spring training begins. Well, you'd be wrong. As evidence, I offer the section of the Washington Post devoted to the area's new team, the Nationals (or Nats, as some are calling them). Day One, for example:
For the 29 other teams in baseball, reporting day is one of mindless formalities. All players are really required to do is show up and have their name checked off a list; often, teams are satisfied with a phone call saying, "I'm around."
But for the Nationals, reporting day carried an air of import. As of Tuesday, baseball's return to the District after a 34-year absence has a focal point, a headquarters, a collective face. The team will not work out formally until Thursday, will not play an exhibition game until March 2 and will not open their inaugural season until April 4. But no more does Washington have to worry that its dream will end tragically before any real players get on the field.
"It's like, wow, this is really going to happen," said veteran pitcher Seth Greisinger, a McLean native who now lives in Arlington and is trying to win a spot on the Nationals' roster. "Everyone up [in the D.C. area] thought [the deal] was going to break down. That's what D.C. was always known for. Everybody I know back home has already bought their tickets."
I used to live in Annandale, Virginia, 10 miles outside DC. While I was there the city had just lost the original Senators to Minnesota and been handed an awful expansion team, which itself departed for Texas not so many years later. All these years some civic boosters have been trying to get a new team, and they finally succeeded this year when the Montréal Expos were moved out of the increasingly empty Stade Olympique and down to Washington. Reading the Post's sportswriters as they discuss this new team is enjoyable; there's a feeling of giddiness about the whole thing. I'm happy for the neighborhood.
"There was hope of a secular Iraq, even after the occupation. That hope is fading fast."
So concludes Riverbend, in yesterday's post. How does she arrive at that conclusion?
It’s not about a Sunni government or a Shia government- it’s about the possibility of an Iranian-modeled Iraq. Many Shia are also appalled with the results of the elections. There’s talk of Sunnis being marginalized by the elections but that isn’t the situation. It’s not just Sunnis- it’s moderate Shia and secular people in general who have been marginalized.
The list is frightening- Da’awa, SCIRI, Chalabi, Hussein Shahristani and a whole collection of pro-Iran political figures and clerics. They are going to have a primary role in writing the new constitution. There’s talk of Shari’a, or Islamic law, having a very primary role in the new constitution. The problem is, whose Shari’a? Shari’a for many Shia differs from that of Sunni Shari’a. And what about all the other religions? What about Christians and Mendiyeen?
They try to give impressive interviews to western press but the situation is wholly different on the inside. Women feel it the most. There’s an almost constant pressure in Baghdad from these parties for women to cover up what little they have showing. There’s a pressure in many colleges for the segregation of males and females. There are the threats, and the printed and verbal warnings, and sometimes we hear of attacks or insults.
You feel it all around you. It begins slowly and almost insidiously. You stop wearing slacks or jeans or skirts that show any leg because you don’t want to be stopped in the street and lectured by someone who doesn’t approve. You stop wearing short sleeves and start preferring wider shirts with a collar that will cover up some of you neck. You stop letting your hair flow because you don’t want to attract attention to it. On the days when you forget to pull it back into a ponytail, you want to kick yourself and you rummage around in your handbag trying to find a hair band… hell, a rubber band to pull back your hair and make sure you attract less attention from *them*.
Remember how proudly George and Laura Bush spoke of women's reaffirmed rights in Afghanistan? And how we invaded Iraq (the latest stated reason, anyway) to bring "justice and freedom" to the country? Do those paragraphs above imply "justice and freedom" to you?
Read it and weep.
If you haven't seen this clip yet, you should. Click here. It's a WinMedia File that lasts about 10 minutes.
I've been watching "Lost" since it started. Part of it is sheer parochial fun; trying to identify the Hawai'i locations the production company uses (mostly in the flashbacks). But I haven't been as hooked on a television program since the heyday of "Hill Street Blues." I think it's the ensemble aspect of it that interests me, in addition to the supernatural edge. And what the hell is a polar bear doing on a tropical island, anyway?
The Skeptics' Circle is a biweekly carnival for bloggers who apply critical thought to questionable stories. Subjects include frequently repeated urban legends, quackery, pseudoscience, misinterpreted or denied history, analyses of misleading media, and any other articles or essays that fight misinformation with facts.
The minutes of the first meeting are here. Good educational fun.
Update: One more: I Ate my IPod Shuffle. Apparently, Apple originally compared its new itsy-bitsy product to a pack of chewing gum, and it inspired this guy to write a poem. It's hilarious.
In light of these remarks from Chairman Greenspan, it's instructive to read this article by Greg Anrig, Jr., pointing out that on Social Security, Alan Greenspan (Maestro, as Woodward's book called him) has no clothes.
Over the past two decades, Greenspan has repeatedly argued that Reagan's "ironclad commitment" should be broken. Year after year, he has said that the benefits promised to future retirees are unaffordable, that the retirement age should be delayed further, and that other ways of reducing benefits should be considered. And yet in 2001, Greenspan endorsed the Bush tax cuts, which mainly benefited the highest income Americans. If made permanent, those tax cuts would amount to more than three times the size of Social Security's projected shortfall over the next 75 years, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. In Greenspan's view, the Social Security benefits that his own commission promised to future retirees are not affordable, but tax cuts for the wealthy are.
Yes indeed. It was Greenspan who chaired the commission in 1983 which recommended raising payroll taxes to build up the surplus in Social Security funds just to ensure that the babyboomers' retirement needs would be met.
Maybe that title should be taken away.
The Kyoto protocol took effect today without the United States, which just happens to be one of the major contributors to the climate change problem. Here's a point which will undoubtedly not change the Bush Administration's (or the US Senate's) mind, but might give a few of them pause:
Those who remain in denial about the seriousness of global climate change must now defend a truly ludicrous position. They must argue that the rest of the world is suffering from a mass delusion, a fantasy so powerful that over a hundred nations have independently fallen for the same alarmist myth; and furthermore that the 35 developed nations facing binding commitments under Kyoto have voluntarily agreed to measures that would severely damage their economies all for nothing.
Good luck persuading any sensible individual with that argument.
Further reading: Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay, originally published in 1841.
Whatever I think of the blogosphere's excesses in attacking Jeff Gannon (the phony White House correspondent) and Eason Jordan of CNN, I think this behavior by a Tulsa newspaper is outrageous. The paper has sent a "Cease and Desist" letter to a local blogger demanding that he
immediately remove any Tulsa World material from your website, to include unauthorized links to our website, and cease and desist from any further use or dissemination of our copyrighted content.
As far as I know, "fair use" (definition here) allows bloggers, authors, and even songwriters to publish excerpts from copyrighted articles. The Tulsa World's behavior is way outside the lines, and if successful could chill all manner of commentary and criticism. Shame on the paper.
Update: If you're unclear on the Jordan story (as many were, since the media barely covered it until after the fact), here's a good rundown of what happened.
That's the cover for the first-ever Hawaiian music Grammy winner. It was somewhat of a surprise, since it's A) a compilation and B) instrumental. Out here it was surprising given that the competition was so well known and so well thought of. I don't think anyone's complaining much, though; it's taken twenty years to get Hawaiian music into the Grammies at all.
The Carnival of the Godless is interesting. It's a compilation of links to blog or forum posts which:
...must be from a godless perspective and address something such as atheism, church/state separation, the evolution/creation debate, theodicy, philosophy of religion, etc. There is a huge amount of wiggle room in the post subject and we will consider every submission carefully for inclusion.
"From a godless perspective" does NOT mean that you must be an atheist to send in a submission. There are plenty of theists who blog from a godless perspective. We welcome their posts. We will even consider posts criticizing godlessness in general, or atheism in particular. We recognize that there are some damned interesting theists out there who will have written relevant posts. We only ask that you do not submit a post that is just a short linking post, but rather something that shows off yours or someone else's writing ability.
The folks who have participated so far seem to be from the scientific part of the blogosphere, but that's just a rough guesstimate on my part. Version 3 is here, with links to the previous two.
Senator Diane Feinstein in the San Francisco Chronicle:
Half of all American workers today are not covered by retirement plans. For them, Social Security is it.
More than 4.3 million people receive Social Security benefits in California, including 860,000 of them with no other source of income. We have the highest cost of living in the nation. When we produce new jobs, more than likely they are part-time and minimum wage without adequate pension and retirement benefits. Keeping Social Security intact has become more important than ever.
If you want to transfer old media (VHS, vinyl, cassette, reel-to-reel) to newer media (DVD, CD), here are a slew of links to tutorials/programs which will tell you how. Given my 300-record vinyl collection, this is a treasure-trove of information.
Arianna Huffington plumps for Congressmen Leach and Tierney's plan to form a war profiteering committee to look into the horrible mismanagement of reconstruction funds for Iraq. Given that some $9B is unaccounted for and plenty left unspent, I'd say there's a lot to investigate. They're looking for co-sponsors. Let's hope they get them quickly.
I know trackback spam has been a problem, but I just got an authentic ping dated December 5, 2002. What the heck?
More than 200 scientists employed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say they have been directed to alter official findings to lessen protections for plants and animals, a survey released Wednesday says.
More than half of the biologists and other researchers who responded to the survey said they knew of cases in which commercial interests, including timber, grazing, development and energy companies, had applied political pressure to reverse scientific conclusions deemed harmful to their business.
Bush administration officials, including Craig Manson, an assistant secretary of the Interior who oversees the Fish and Wildlife Service, have been critical of the 1973 Endangered Species Act, contending that its implementation has imposed hardships on developers and others while failing to restore healthy populations of wildlife.
Isn't that nice? Commerce über alles, and to hell with the fish and game.
There's a local news anchor who mimics early Andy Rooney. Every night at the close of the newscast he has some oddity he introduces, saying, "Did you ever wonder...?" Well, if you've ever wondered how a Wikipedia article is compiled, watch this movie. It's about 8 minutes long.
In other tech news, Bloglines has been acquired by Ask Jeeves.
Oh, and this one has special meaning to me, since my knee has felt very tight (although fully usable) since my regrettable accident a few years ago. It explains one reporter's experience with knee replacement surgery.
From a longtime friend of my mother's:
My husband has a long record of money problems -- he runs up huge credit card bills. At the end of the month, if I try to pay them off, he shouts at me, saying I am stealing his money. He says to pay the minimum amount and let our kids worry about the rest since they will have jobs in the future, but already we can hardly keep up with the interest amounts alone.
He has been so arrogant and abusive toward our neighbors that most of them no longer speak to us. The few that do are an odd bunch, to whom he has been giving a lot of expensive gifts, running up our bills even more. Also, he has gotten religious in a big way, although I don't quite understand it. One week he hangs out with Catholics and the next with people who say the Pope is the Anti-Christ.
And now he has been going to the gym an awful lot and is into wearing uniforms and cowboy outfits -- I just hate to think what that means. Finally, the last straw. He's demanding that before anyone can be in the same room with him, they must sign a loyalty oath. It's just so horribly creepy!
Can you help?
Signed, Lost in DC
Stop whining, Laura. You can divorce the jerk any time you want. The rest of us are stuck with him for four more years!
Sometimes your paranoia is your own worst enemy. A study appearing in the February 1 issue of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes shows that there are considerable misconceptions about HIV/AIDS among the African-American population.
Nearly half of the 500 African Americans surveyed said that HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is man-made. The study, which was supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, appears in the Feb. 1 edition of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.
More than one-quarter said they believed that AIDS was produced in a government laboratory, and 12 percent believed it was created and spread by the CIA.
A slight majority said they believe that a cure for AIDS is being withheld from the poor. Forty-four percent said people who take the new medicines for HIV are government guinea pigs, and 15 percent said AIDS is a form of genocide against black people.
Dear God. Some of this attitude is probably a residual effect of what we now know about the Tuskegee experiment, but this acceptance of conspiracy theory is having a serious impact on public health.
Black women made up 73 percent of new HIV cases among women in 2003, and black men represented 40 percent of new cases, according to the most recent federal figures available.
The Public Health Service has its work cut out for it.
Want to see the Super Bowl ads again? Trying to determine which one you thought was best/worst? Here you go.
Personally, I didn't think any of them were particularly memorable. As to the game, other than Terrell Owens catching nine passes and thus shutting up all those folks who thought he wouldn't play, I didn't think much of it either. It seemed to me that the Eagles completely mismanaged the clock at the end of the game. You're down 10 points and you're huddling? You're letting the play clock wind down to a few ticks before you take the snap? I don't know what they were thinking, and in all the post-game gibberish on ESPN the only guy I heard mention this was Tom Jackson, and that briefly. To me, that killed their chances as much as McNabb's interception at the end.
Every year for the past 13 or 14 years I have been attending a Super Bowl watchfest at the same place, and my responsibities are always the same: bring chips and dip. Here's this year's concoction:
Heat cream cheese, soup and gelatin, mixing till fully combined. Stir in balance of ingredients and chill.
My sister came up with this one a long time ago, and it's time I tried it out on the mob.
Here's a question for Mr. Bush: if your (asinine) plan for private accounts went through, would the payouts from those accounts be taxable income?
...while the retirement account might be “money that the government can never take away,” the government usually “takes away” some of citizens' income through taxation. Would retirees' withdrawals from their retirement account be treated as taxable income, just as withdrawals from 401k plans and IRAs (with the exception of Roth IRAs) are taxable income? For today's retirees whose income exceeds a certain threshold ($25,000 for an individual, $32,000 for a married couple filing a joint return), their Social Security benefits are subject to income tax — so the principle of taxing benefits is already established.
Whaddya bet the answer's yes?
ESPN never ever shows Division III basketball, so imagine my surprise to find Beloit playing Grinnell on the tube this afternoon (4:00pm HST). So what, you say? Well, back in 1967 when I was applying to college from my high school in Northern Virginia, I sent off applications to both those schools. I never attended either, but what are the odds two small Midwestern schools would suddenly appear on my radar all these years later via ESPN?
What if I'd attended one or the other? Anyone else ever play that game?
Under the White House Social Security plan, workers who opt to divert some of their payroll taxes into individual accounts would ultimately get to keep only the investment returns that exceed the rate of return that the money would have accrued in the traditional system.
Under the proposal, workers could invest as much as 4 percent of their wages subject to Social Security taxation in a limited assortment of stock, bond and mixed-investment funds. But the government would keep and administer that money. Upon retirement, workers would then be given any money that exceeded inflation-adjusted gains over 3 percent.
That money would augment a guaranteed Social Security benefit that would be reduced by a still-undetermined amount from the currently promised benefit.
In effect, the accounts would work more like a loan from the government, to be paid back upon retirement at an inflation-adjusted 3 percent interest rate...
Well now. Sounds like a real good deal to me.
Update: Brad DeLong explains further.
If you've ever wondered what the origins of the "Social Security won't be there for you" meme are, it seems to have started in 1983 with a short paper (15-page PDF) from the Cato Institute called "Achieving a Leninist Strategy," we now know. In case you've forgotten, here's Cato's ideal view of America:
The Jeffersonian philosophy that animates Cato's work has increasingly come to be called "libertarianism" or "market liberalism." It combines an appreciation for entrepreneurship, the market process, and lower taxes with strict respect for civil liberties and skepticism about the benefits of both the welfare state and foreign military adventurism.
Hmm. Despite that bit about "foreign military adventurism," I haven't heard too many of that crowd squalling about Iraq. For that matter, I haven't heard them making noise about Ashcroft and the Patriot Act, either.
Leading Republicans countered that the confirmation of Mr. Gonzales would mark a great day in American history, since he would be the first person of Hispanic descent to head the Justice Department.
These guys always pull this crap. Why don't they recognize that compelling personal stories don't mean squat compared to his or her past performance on the job? When they hire staff people do they specifically look for kids who grew up in barrios or ghettos, or do they look for people who've shown the ability, the honesty and the integrity to do the damn job they're interviewing for?
It helps to understand this if you've read Nathaniel Philbrick's "In the Heart of the Sea," but it's not required. Ask a 19th Century Whaling Expert. Easily the best anachronism I've read this year. Don't miss the comments, particularly the one from a columnist from "Whale Central Station".