March 31, 2007

Don't mix and match

If you plan to put new energy-saving fluorescent bulbs into light fixtures, I suggest you not install them into ones that require multiple bulbs. The main bathroom has a four-bulb unit, and I just replaced two burnt-out regular bulbs with two of the new variety. There's a split-second time lag between the time the switch is flipped and the time the new bulbs light, and it's really disconcerting to have the two old incandescent ones in this thing light immediately and the other two come on a half-second later.

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March 30, 2007

Sci-Fi awards nominees

For the science-fiction or fantasy reader, Patrick and Teresa have compiled a list of all the nominees for the 2007 Hugo and Campbell Awards.

If you want knowledgeable commentary from fans of the genres, read the comments (177 at last look).

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March 29, 2007

Beyond me

In the GEICO caveman commercial in which he's talking to the therapist, when his phone rings and he determines the caller is his mother, why is the punchline "I'll put it on speaker?"

I don't get it.

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Where's Wes Clark?

Yesterday, for no discernible reason, it dawned on me that of all the people who have declared themselves running for President on the Democratic ticket in 2008 (Clinton, Edwards, Obama, Biden, Kucinich, Richardson, etc.), there's one name noticeably absent: General Wes Clark.

According to the always-reliable Wikipedia, the following have actually filed papers with the Federal Election Commission stating their intentions to run:

  • Senator Joe Biden of Delaware
  • Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York
  • Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut
  • Former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina
  • Former Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska
  • Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio
  • Senator Barack Obama of Illinois

Given that this campaign has started a full year earlier than most, I wonder if the General has concluded that he'd get lost in the crowd.

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March 28, 2007

Lost, Season 3, Episode 14



Hurley begins to suspect that Sawyer may be involved in an island mystery surrounding two fellow survivors, and Sun learns the truth about her past kidnapping attempt by The Others.

And from my newspaper's teaser I'm told we get flashbacks about Nikki and Paolo. Do you suppose those two have been sitting around for months saying "When do we go to work?"

Ryan's The Transmission Lost blog.

Update: Well now. Reminded me of the last line of Poe's "The Black Cat": "I had walled the monster up within the tomb!"

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Looking at the floor around the barber's chair after you get out of it doesn't send you into clinical depression, does it?

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The evil that we face

What's the NRA been up to lately? Take a look at this pdf file of a recent pamphlet it's published. The graphics are great, although they're very reminiscent of Soviet-era government-sanctioned art.

Found at Drum's place.

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Fungus questions

This is of no particular interest to anyone who doesn't have to eat what I prepare every night, but I'd sure like an answer to it. Why is it that when I'm serving up something (cheeseburgers, steak) that I want to augment with sautéed mushrooms I invariably forget to put the mushrooms on the plate and have to go back to get them after delivering said plate?

A secondary question: why do I almost always say "marshmallows" when I mean "mushrooms?"

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March 27, 2007

Sauce for goose but not for gander?

I feel very badly for Elizabeth Edwards. I feel equally badly for Tony Snow. But I had a similar thought to this one stolen from Garance Franke-Ruta at Tapped, the final paragraph of an item commisserating with Tony Snow about the metastization of cancer to his liver:

Note that there's no word here on whether or not he should "drop out" of the White House. Bush said he can't wait for Snow to resume his duties, and appears to be counting on him staying on the job, if his health permits it.

Exactly. Nobody should suggest that someone with cancer should stop doing what he or she wants to do as long as he or she can, and it's offensive that people do. Neither Ms. Franke-Ruta nor I have heard any calls for Tony Snow to quit his White House job, but there have been many such calls for John and Elizabeth Edwards to drop theirs.

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Snarky humor

Dan Froomkin picks the editorial cartoons so I don't have to: Tony Auth, Jeff Danziger, Tom Toles.

Toles in particular espouses "vigilance, Grasshopper."

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March 26, 2007

Knock it off

I've seen hand-wringing by some that John Edwards surely couldn't focus on being President while his wife has a terminal illness, including a question on that point from Katie Couric on 60 Minutes last night.


There are thousands of Americans whose spouses are terminally ill; do they all stop working at the first diagnosis and go into permanent care-giver mode? Of course not. They may need to adjust their lives to fit with the treatment schedule, but they don't give up on careers, on life, or on anything else.

In addition, we've had Presidents whose own health might have suggested to outsiders that they should have quit or never run for the office; did FDR or JFK or Ike do so? Certainly not.

Let's have no more of this pundit projection. It's insulting.

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March 25, 2007

NCAA tournament

It's odd not to feel some kind of rooting interest in this year's tournament. Even though we lived in Westwood for nearly two years (before the dynastic years) I just can't seem to get attached to UCLA, and there aren't any obvious Cinderella teams left.

Maybe I'll root for Oregon because it's so rare that a PAC-10 team other than UCLA is still playing.

Florida-Oregon preview

Georgetown-UNC preview

Update: That didn't work out well.

Update 2 If you miss 22 of 23 field goals in a fifteen-minute stretch of the second half and overtime, there's no way you should win. What a collapse on UNC's part.

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March 23, 2007

A noble sentiment

I often disagree with David Ignatius of the WaPo, but he's dead on in this op/ed column writing about the disdain the Bushies have towards the career civil servants who work for the Feds. He discusses the (almost-innumerable) instances of ideology overriding competence we've seen from this Administration, from the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq to the politicization of the CIA under Porter Goss to the ultimate example of Katrina, and then he says this:

The Republicans have made a bed of political arrogance; let them sleep in it for a good long while.


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March 22, 2007

Everybody's blogging at me

Hey, did you know that Al Gore has a blog?

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March 21, 2007

Lost, Season 3, Episode 13

Titled "The Man from Tallahassee," the official synopsis reads:

Ben tries to talk Locke out of his destructive plan by offering him some island secrets. Meanwhile, Kate’s reunion with Jack does not go off as planned when she discovers he has made a deal with the Others.

I don't trust the synopses we see in the promos ABC runs; last week's big reveal was what Jack's tattoos meant. This after promoting the episode as "answering many of your questions." Excuse me, but learning what the damned tattoos meant wasn't high on my list of questions.

Here's Ryan's The Transmission post for tonight's episode.

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Authors you reread or seek out

Here are mine (subject to change at any moment):

  • Mystery (detective): Rex Stout (Nero Wolfe's creator)
  • Mystery (police): Dell Shannon (Luis Mendoza's creator)
  • Science Fiction: Isaac Asimov
  • Fantasy: Tolkien
  • Biography: David McCullough
  • History (World War II): William A. Shirer
  • History (20th century): Stephen Ambrose
  • History (general): Barbara Tuchman
  • Suspense: Helen MacInnes
  • Thriller: Robert Ludlum

I'm not going into classic literature because I can't pick among so many.

There are an awful lot of runners-up in those categories, but right this minute that's who I'd pick. How about you?

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March 20, 2007

There stands Bush, like a stone wall

President Bush and Senate Democrats clashed angrily this afternoon, as the president said he would not allow his key aides to testify under oath about the dismissal of United States attorneys, while the Democrats insisted they would settle for no less.


The current White House counsel, Fred Fielding, offered this afternoon to make Mr. Rove and Mr. Miers available for private interviews — but not sworn testimony — before Congressional investigators.

But Democratic leaders immediately turned down the offer, demanding that President Bush’s aides testify under oath.

Gosh, if you won't testify under oath, then you'll forgive me if I think you might be trying to hide something, won't you?

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March 19, 2007


I was listening to American Routes last night on the radio. Spitzer's topic this week was America's Hippie Heritage.

Along with their spiritual forefathers, the beatniks and folkies, our hippie generation latched on to great music before them--from old-time country and bluegrass, bebop, blues and more--and created their own versions. We're joined by Maria Muldaur who recalls making jug-band music in the West Village in the '60s. Also, we speak with bass player Jack Casady, a founding member of the Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna.
(Both links are to .ram files.)

Casady gave me an immediate epiphany. Spitzer played the opening bars of White Rabbit and asked Casady how he got the bass line. Casady immediately said "Maurice Ravel." Sure enough, if you listen to it, it's an absolute copy of "Bolero." Funny how I'd never noticed that before.

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March 18, 2007

What a crock

Something's wrong with my crockpot: I put a 3-pound brisket of corned beef in it at 7:00am this morning, cooked it on low for 10 hours as the cookbook said, and had to turn it up to high for the last hour, then microwave it for 10 minutes to get it even close to done. Fork tender, hah.

I need to use it more frequently to determine whether its element just doesn't heat as well as it should or whether I need to adjust cooking times/temps when I use it.

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Go Hens Go!

It's a pity that the Delaware Fighting Blue Hens lost to Michigan State in the NCAA Women's tournament this afternoon. I'd have loved to keep hearing that team name for another week or so.

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March 17, 2007

An appreciation

James Michener would have been 100 years old last month. Christopher Reynolds of the LA Times had a wonderful essay about the man and his work which just appeared in our daily newspaper.

Yet for all the fame and wealth that came his way, I'm here to argue that the author hasn't gotten the credit he deserves.

This man — who was born on or about Feb. 3, 1907, and died in 1997 — may have taught more Americans more about the rest of the world than any other writer in his century. And once that teaching made him rich, he plowed the money back into charity, perhaps as much as $100 million, with the lion's share going to the University of Texas at Austin, home of the James A. Michener Center for Writers.

I own sixteen of his books. I concur with Reynolds; as a reader, I learned about the rest of the world through Michener's books. Yes, they were big; yes, they were character-heavy and sometimes confusing; and yes, the writing style wasn't lyrical. But when I read "Iberia" he made me want to see Spain and Portugal. His descriptions of the tells in "The Source" prompted me to want to study anthropology when I went off to college. When I was dating a girl from Johannesburg I read "The Covenant" to learn the bigger picture about her country, the one beyond the headlines full of apartheid and racism.

He was an observer and a storyteller, and he made points subtly. As Reynolds says about "Tales of the South Pacific,"

This book of interconnected stories also marked the beginning of Michener's long exploration of what happens when cultures connect, or fail to. One of the central elements in "South Pacific," though many forget it now, was the journey of nurse Nellie Forbush, who starts out scorning miscegenation and winds up joining a multicultural family.

He had an influence, and what more could an author ask?

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March 16, 2007


So who's well traveled? Put your percentage results or links to your map in the comments. If you've got a good travel story, put that in there too.

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March 15, 2007

Aha! Other shoe appears!

Well, in answer to my question below, here's an e-mail from DOJ staffer Kyle Sampson (who just resigned) to a deputy WH Counsel named David Leitch which indicates some 80-85% of the US Attorneys are (or are estimated to be) loyal Bush people.

As reported earlier on ABC News, here is the email that shows that the whole U.S. attorney purge scheme originated with Karl Rove. It was released this evening by the Justice Department.

In the email, which has the subject line "Re: Question from Karl Rove," Kyle Sampson, who was then at the Justice Department, discusses with then-deputy White House Counsel David Leitch the idea of replacing "15-20 percent of the current U.S. Attorneys," because "80-85 percent, I would guess, are doing a great job, are loyal Bushies, etc."

It would seem to be a safe assumption that virtually every department in the entire Federal government has been infiltrated by Bush people whose loyalty isn't primarily to the American public and the jobs they were hired to do.

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Lost, Season 3, Episode 12

Er, um. Claire is Jack's half-sister? Locke has a devious plan? Jack's playing catch with Tom? And why do they keep killing people who might be able to tell them what's going on before they can extract any information?

More at The Transmission.

Aside: We were watching Broadway's Best at Pops while waiting for "Lost" to come on, and we couldn't remember what show "Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better" came from (I'd turned off the computer, so I couldn't Google). Turns out (I shoulda known!) it's from "Annie Get Your Gun." I said last night that I could almost hear Doris Day singing it; turns out she did, with Robert Goulet as Frank.

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March 14, 2007

Where's the other shoe?

In light of what appears to be political interference with the US Attorneys' activities, my question now is "if eight of them got fired for non-compliance with Rove's political demands, how many acquiesced and are now doing his bidding?"

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:14 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Nice assessment, General

From a depressing article in Rolling Stone:

This is a dark chapter in our history. Whatever else happens, our country's international standing has been frittered away by people who don't have the foggiest understanding of how the hell the world works. America has been conducting an experiment for the past six years, trying to validate the proposition that it really doesn't make any difference who you elect president. Now we know the result of that experiment [laughs]. If a guy is stupid, it makes a big difference.

That's General (ret) Tony McPeak, having the last word at a roundtable discussion which also included such luminaries as Juan Cole, Richard Clarke, Paul Pillar, and Zbigniew Brzezinski. The topic was more or less "How bad can Iraq get?"

Consensus: awful, from internal strife to regional warfare.

Via Kevin Drum.

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March 13, 2007


According to the local gossip column, several "Lost" actors performed at a Honolulu Theater for Youth play-reading benefit recently. Jorge Garcia portrayed "the titular character in 'Ferdinand the Bull,' in which Daniel Dae Kim played a matador. Instead of a customary bullfight, the scene hit the right chords when the actors shared a lovely waltz."

Hurley as Ferdinand?

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US Attorney firings issue heats up

Now we learn that the White House wanted to fire all 93 US Attorneys in 2005 and replace them with (presumably) more pliable ones who'd investigate "voter fraud" more aggressively. ("Voter fraud " is Republican code for "allow more people inclined to vote for Democrats" onto the voting rolls.)

The dismissals took place after President Bush told Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales in October that he had received complaints that some prosecutors had not energetically pursued voter-fraud investigations, according to a White House spokeswoman.


Gonzales approved the idea of firing a smaller group of U.S. attorneys shortly after taking office in February 2005. The aide in charge of the dismissals -- his chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson -- resigned yesterday, officials said, after acknowledging that he did not tell key Justice officials about the extent of his communications with the White House, leading them to provide incomplete information to Congress.

Josh Marshall is/has been all over this issue; go there for the latest.

Gonzales just held a very short press conference in which he basically said he didn't know about the internal workings of the Justice Department (the Department he's head of).

Has there ever been a more corrupt Administration?

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March 12, 2007

Pricing structures

I just ordered a new 90-day supply of BP pills. It occurred to me that by using the mail-order system my health care provider offers I get a discount: if I walk in to renew, it costs me $45 for these pills; if I call in the refill and have it mailed to me, it costs me just $30.

Does this make any sense? There's a lot more product handling going on when the customer requests mail order than when the customer walks in to the pharmacy, so shouldn't the pricing be exactly the opposite?

Just a random thought.

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P&G is Satanist after all

Freakin' brand extensions. We've been a Crest household for years and years, mostly using the regular flavor paste. Apparently some time back I bought tubes of the tartar protection variety, and we got used to it. The other day I picked up a couple of 8.2 oz. tubes of the regular stuff again, and we've discovered it leaves an odd aftertaste neither of us likes.

Why can't they leave well enough alone?

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March 11, 2007

Why I read Making Light

Because of the comments.

Where else can you find sonnets, villanelles and knitting, along with comments on the post content itself?

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March 10, 2007

Previously unknown mystery series

Need another mystery series to get locked into? Try the "In Death" series by J. D. Robb (complete list here). Two warnings: 1) there are over 20 of them so far; 2) Robb is Nora Roberts, about the most prolific romance/suspense writer currently on the planet. The result of not following the first warning is that you'll get hooked on the series; the result of the second is that you might be tempted to try some of Roberts' other books (which I've done; many of the post-1995 ones are pretty good reads).

The "In Death" series' main character is Eve Dallas, a cop in 2050's New York. The futuristic aspects are (mostly) not a big part of the books; they're really police procedurals, and they're reasonably good examples of the genre. They're not the 87th Precinct (the site of Ed McBain's wonderful books), but they're good enough. Roberts' skill seems to me to be characterization, and Dallas, her main foil/lover Roarke, and the other cops are or become people the reader cares about.

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March 09, 2007

PBS Promotion spot

You know the promotional spot for PBS which has the father and daughter sitting on her bed, with him reading "Little Red Riding Hood" to her? Several PBS personalities appear to continue the story, with twists relevant to their shows. It includes one of the "This Old House" guys telling them that if they'd just installed a certain kind of lock that bad old wolf couldn't have gotten into the house, Charlie Rose and Jim Lehrer adding their news-related bits, "Arthur" inserting something, and then it closes with Bernadette Peters (did I ever mention I love Bernadette Peters?) telling the little girl goodnight.

In the midst of these people is a pretty blonde woman. Who is she? I don't recognize her, and I thought I knew most of the PBS stars.

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March 08, 2007

What have we done to our own soldiers?

Via Shakespeare's Sister comes this Salon article about women soldiers in the glorious war (if necessary, watch the ad):

The female soldiers who were at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, for example, where U.S. troops go to demobilize, told me they were warned not to go out at night alone.

"They call Camp Arifjan 'generator city' because it's so loud with generators that even if a woman screams she can't be heard," said Abbie Pickett, 24, a specialist with the 229th Combat Support Engineering Company who spent 15 months in Iraq from 2004-05. Yet, she points out, this is a base, where soldiers are supposed to be safe.

Spc. Mickiela Montoya, 21, who was in Iraq with the National Guard in 2005, took to carrying a knife with her at all times. "The knife wasn't for the Iraqis," she told me. "It was for the guys on my own side."

And some of this, I'll remind you, was happening before military recruiting fell off to the point that standards were lowered to get warm bodies.

The Army granted more than double the number of waivers for felonies and misdemeanors in 2006 than it did in 2003, the year of the Iraq invasion, according to just-released Pentagon data. Such waivers allow recruits with criminal records, medical problems or poor aptitude scores to enlist despite problems that otherwise would bar them from service. Most are so-called "moral waivers," which include some felonies, misdemeanors, and drug and traffic offenses. Such waivers grew in the Army from 4,918 in 2003 to 8,129 last year.

It's unconscionable that women should be forced to carry protection against their own so-called buddies. The Salon article even points to several cases of women dying of dehydration because they didn't drink enough liquid. Why? Because they were afraid to go to the latrines after dark.

This war must stop. It's failed the Iraqis, it's failed the American public, and it's failed the soldiers fighting it.

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March 07, 2007

Lost, Season 3, Episode 11

"Enter 77"

Locke, Sayid and Kate investigate a strange structure and its mysterious inhabitant.

A mysterious inhabitant? The polar bear? Alex? The French lady? Or something or somebody entirely new?


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March 06, 2007

Pardon me, Mr. President

Libby guilty on four of five counts.

The jury rejected Mr. Libby’s claims of memory lapses as it convicted him of obstruction of justice, giving false statements to the F.B.I. and perjuring himself, charges embodied in four of the five counts of the indictment.

The best place for analysis is Firedoglake, as it has been throughout this investigation and trial. I'd imagine the servers there are getting hammered, so have patience.

Expect a pardon to be issued on a Friday afternoon shortly before or after sentencing, which is scheduled for June 5.

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March 05, 2007

Couldn't happen to more deserving people

Between the ongoing disaster in Iraq, the military hospital sins of omission, and the burgeoning U.S. Attorney firings fiasco, the White House and its enablers are more and more being shown to be not just incompetent but actively negligent.

Good. Good not for the soldiers whose treatment has been a disgrace, nor for the attorneys who got fired for political reasons, but good for the country to see how uncaring and oblivious this Administration is and has been to the common good.

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:51 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Coffee meets monitor

This qualifies as the best line in a blog post I've seen in days. Touting a folkie MySpace page he just ran across, PZ Myers says the following:

Listen if you've long had a lingering suspicion that you were born into the wrong phylum...

Ah, biologists.

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March 04, 2007

Tired, I am

I'm instituting a new rule for myself:

If you expect to be useful the following day, do not start a 400-page book at 11:30p.m. If it's any good at all you're liable to be up till 2:00a.m. or later, and the dog wants breakfast at 7:15.

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:31 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 03, 2007

Whose bright idea was this?

It's not exactly Coca Cola and New Coke, but it seriously annoys me that Frito-Lay discontinued its old chip-shaped barbecue-flavor snacks in favor of these new Honey Twist things. I don't like the mouth feel at all, and besides, I have good memories of the old ones.

Back in 1969 I was living on Guam, attending the U of Guam in the morning and bowling almost all afternoon, Monday through Friday, every week. The Guam Memorial Hospital had a small alley (maybe eight lanes), and it was nearly always empty. It didn't have a snack bar, but it did have canned snacks. I got pretty good at the bowling (I think my average was about 180; at $0.25 per game, it was cheap enough to practice), but I got really good at bowling while drinking beer ($0.50/can). Of course, at some point while drinking beer I'd get hungry, and of the snacks available, I liked the 12 or 16-oz. size Frito BBQ chips. I'll bet I ate two or three cans of those a day (hell, maybe the finger-holes on the ball are still stained with the barbecue dust; I still have that 16-pound thing, so I should check).

I left Guam in 1970, and I'll bet I didn't eat another container of those Frito chips for 30 years. About five years ago I found some on the shelves at the local Safeway and bought a bag. The first taste instantly brought back a zillion memories.

Then they went and changed the shape from chip to twist. Why, Frito-Lay, why?

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March 02, 2007

Gimme them papers, yo!

Way back in November of 2001 I was griping about an Executive Order setting new guidelines for historians and their access to Presidential papers. Finally, nearly six years later, the House has introduced legislation attempting to reverse that order.

Bush issued the order after the White House held up the release of 68,000 pages of Ronald Reagan Presidential Library documents in 2001. Under the previous system, the president, former presidents or designees had 30 days to review documents and lodge objections. Bush added reviews by the families of former presidents to the process, and removed the 30-day deadline. He also broadened the rules to encompass vice presidential papers.

The head of the National Security Archive (private, not governmental) says waiting time for Reagan's papers has gone from 18 months pre-Order to 6 years today.

Some professional archivists and historians are urging Southern Methodist University to reject Bush's desire to locate his Presidential library there unless the Order is overturned.

Unless the order is overturned, scholars said Thursday, Bush's library - expected to be built at Southern Methodist University - may be deprived of much of the substance that would make it a meaningful source of information.

Archivists and historians are urging SMU to reject the Bush library unless the administration changes its policy. University officials say procedures regarding disclosure of presidential papers should be left to policymakers.

"We have to ask ourselves whether a presidential library existing under this order, at SMU or wherever it ends up, is but an empty shell of what such a library should be," Steven Hensen of the Society of American Archivists told lawmakers at a hearing of a House oversight committee.

Good. It took a House controlled by Democrats to set this in motion. The President has no right to bury papers from his Administration in perpetuity; the documents don't belong to him, they belong to the office and thus to the American people. Let's hope the bill succeeds.

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March 01, 2007

All for naught

Does anyone else feel guilty when eating the first meal after seeing the dentist for regular cleaning?

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