December 31, 2007

What are you doing, New Year's Eve?

I like Diana Krall's version of the song.

Anyway, I will be home, off the roads, ministering to my very anxious dog and cursing our state legislature for its lack of courage when the subject of banning private fireworks comes up.

How about you?

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December 30, 2007

Huckabee and forced-pregnancy

Huckabee thinks abortion providers should be sanctioned:

MR. RUSSERT: And what would happen to doctors or women who participated in abortion?

GOV. HUCKABEE: It's always the, the point of trying to say, "Are you going to criminalize it?" That's not the issue.

MR. RUSSERT: Well, if it, if it's illegal, it would be.

GOV. HUCKABEE: It would be. And I think you don't punish the woman, first of all, because it's not about--I consider her a victim, not a, not a criminal. You would...

MR. RUSSERT: But you would punish the doctor.

GOV. HUCKABEE: I think if a doctor knowingly took the life of an unborn child for money, and that's why he was doing it, yeah, I think you would, you would find some way to sanction that doctor. I don't know that you'd put him in prison, but there's something to me untoward about a person who has committed himself to healing people and to making people alive who would take money to take an innocent life and to make that life dead.

Hmmm. Notice he prefaces this by saying "if it's illegal." What he doesn't say is that he would probably be quite happy to make it illegal.

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December 29, 2007

(Il)legal arguments

Dahlia Lithwick of Slate has compiled the Bush Administration's Top Ten Dumbest Legal Arguments of 2007. As you might expect, Alberto Gonzales gets his own place on the list.

Among the others: waterboarding isn't torture, the VP's office isn't part of the executive branch, and executive privilege covers every topic anyone ever discussed with the President.

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Looking at today's bowl game schedule, it occurs to me that the only people not happy with the NFL's decision to allow CBS and NBC to simulcast today's Patriots-Giants game must be the managers at ESPN. The pro game is scheduled for 8:00pm EST, the same time that the Penn State-Texas A&M matchup in the Alamo Bowl kicks off. So there ESPN was, thinking that it had the only primetime football broadcast on this Christmas week Saturday, and suddenly the NFL backed down in its fight with the big cable companies to get its network into the basic package they offer to their customers.

Oh well. A network which bills itself as "The Worldwide Leader in Sports" should know all about winning and losing, right?

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December 28, 2007

Christmas gifts

I gave some neat things for Christmas and I got some neat ones too. I particularly like the absolute utility of my new Gorillapod, a flexible tripod for digital cameras.

My Christmas book is The Second Civil War: How Extreme Partisanship Has Paralyzed Washington and Polarized America. It's by Ron Brownstein, formerly of the LA Times, now political director of the company which publishes The Atlantic, National Journal, and The Hotline. It concludes with recommendations for how to get past said polarization, which will be interesting. My inner totalitarian says the obvious solution is to pull the FCC licenses for Fox News and Clear Channel, put the entities which put Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage et. al. on the air out of business, and send a whole slew of Republican Congresspeople to re-education camps, but I realize that's not practical.

Let's see. What else did I get? New denim shorts and new t-shirts. Update: Oh, and a Magic Bullet.

I gave one niece some gift cards and a pre-fab shoe stacker for the bedroom she's refurnishing, the other niece some plumeria earrings, my sister some spooky books and a nice top, my brother-in-law a couple of shirts and a Hawaiian CD, and Mom a 2008 appointment book (a long-standing tradition, that one), a shirt, a couple of CDs (The Chieftains' Bells of Dublin and Ella Fitzgerald's Very Best of the Gershwin Songbook) and a koa bookmark from Martin & MacArthur.

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December 27, 2007


I'm appalled (not surprised, unfortunately, but appalled) that nearly all the Presidential candidates seem to think that Bhutto's assassination is something which should be exploited for political gain.

One of Obama's advisors used it to question Hillary Clinton's judgment.

McCain used it to tout his foreign policy experience.

Paul Krugman says Enough!

This isn’t about you; in fact, as far as I can tell, it isn’t about America. It’s about the fact that Pakistan is a very messed-up place. This has very bad consequences for us, but it’s hard to see what, if anything, it says about US policy.

This is a tragedy for Pakistan and an even worse tragedy for the family:

"a mother has lost her third child and a sister her last sibling. A husband is flying to the province of Sindh to bury his wife, and three children have lost their mother."

It doesn't help the situation for politicians to be leaping around saying "I'm the one America needs in these terrible times!" It's grotesque.

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It's all good for Republicans

Virtually immediately upon the news that Benazir Bhutto had been assassinated the cable gasbags began speculating on which Republican candidate the murder would help most.

Gotta fill that 24-hour news cycle with something; it might as well be baseless prognostication.

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December 26, 2007

Boxing Day links

Via Avedon, a link to Jo Walton's story of Joseph's perspective on the Christmas story. It's beautiful and human.

Elsewhere in her post, a link to Mark Evanier's wonderful story of hearing Mel Tormé sing "The Christmas Song" at the Farmers Market in Los Angeles one day in December a few years back.

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December 25, 2007

The inner life of ovens

We have a Whirlpool oven with a control panel covered by a plastic membrane. When I want to preheat it, I press the "Bake" button; it defaults to 350 degrees. If I want a different temperature I press the "Up" or "Down" arrows next to the "Bake" button to get the desired temperature, then press the "Start" button. Sometimes there's a glitch in the controls, and no matter that I press "Down," the temperature reading starts moving up. This is annoying.

Today, getting ready to cook the roast beast, I wanted to preheat the oven to 325 degrees. I pressed the "Bake" button and then the "Down" button. It promptly started upward toward 500 degrees. "Okay," I said, "we'll try this again." I turned it off, waited a minute or two and tried again. The same thing happened. This went on for about five minutes.

"Alright," I thought, "I'll use the Westinghouse roaster." Fortunately I'd cleaned it after Sunday's turkey dinner. I went over to it, plugged it in, and set the (dial) control to 325. The light lit up to show it was preheating.

I decided to give the oven one last shot. I pressed the "Bake" button and tried the "Down" button. It started down and I stopped it at 325 degrees and pressed the "Start" button.

If that oven could talk, I imagine it muttering to itself "What? He's gonna use that? I'm 2005-era technology, and he's gonna use that miserable thing? Why, it's 50 years old! Dammit, that's just wrong! Here, boss, try me again -- I promise I'll work this time."

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For your inner five-year-old

funny pictures
moar funny pictures
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Yes, Virginia

Merry Christmas to All!

Note: This entry was originally published December 24, 2003.


From the Editorial Page, New York Sun, 1897

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in The Sun, it's so." Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O'Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus?Thank God he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!!

From The People's Almanac, pp. 1358-9.

Francis P. Church's editorial, "Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus" was an immediate sensation, and became one of the most famous editorials ever written. It first appeared in the The New York Sun in 1897, almost a hundred years ago, and was reprinted annually until 1949 when the paper went out of business.

Thirty-six years after her letter was printed, Virginia O'Hanlon recalled the events that prompted her letter:

"Quite naturally I believed in Santa Claus, for he had never disappointed me. But when less fortunate little boys and girls said there wasn't any Santa Claus, I was filled with doubts. I asked my father, and he was a little evasive on the subject.

"It was a habit in our family that whenever any doubts came up as to how to pronounce a word or some question of historical fact was in doubt, we wrote to the Question and Answer column in The Sun. Father would always say, 'If you see it in the The Sun, it's so,' and that settled the matter.

" 'Well, I'm just going to write The Sun and find out the real truth,' I said to father.

"He said, 'Go ahead, Virginia. I'm sure The Sun will give you the right answer, as it always does.' "

And so Virginia sat down and wrote her parents' favorite newspaper.

Her letter found its way into the hands of a veteran editor, Francis P. Church. Son of a Baptist minister, Church had covered the Civil War for The New York Times and had worked on the The New York Sun for 20 years, more recently as an anonymous editorial writer. Church, a sardonic man, had for his personal motto, "Endeavour to clear your mind of cant." When controversial subjects had to be tackled on the editorial page, especially those dealing with theology, the assignments were usually given to Church.

Now, he had in his hands a little girl's letter on a most controversial matter, and he was burdened with the responsibility of answering it.

"Is there a Santa Claus?" the childish scrawl in the letter asked. At once, Church knew that there was no avoiding the question. He must answer, and he must answer truthfully. And so he turned to his desk, and he began his reply which was to become one of the most memorable editorials in newspaper history.

Church married shortly after the editorial appeared. He died in April, 1906, leaving no children.

Virginia O'Hanlon went on to graduate from Hunter College with a Bachelor of Arts degree at age 21. The following year she received her Master's from Columbia, and in 1912 she began teaching in the New York City school system, later becoming a principal. After 47 years, she retired as an educator. Throughout her life she received a steady stream of mail about her Santa Claus letter, and to each reply she attached an attractive printed copy of the Church editorial. Virginia O'Hanlon Douglas died on May 13, 1971, at the age of 81, in a nursing home in Valatie, N.Y.

(Thanks to Barricks Insurance for the text.)

A footnote: The original letter Ms. O'Hanlon wrote appeared on The Antique Road Show a while back; I got the picture there. It was appraised at between $20,000 - $30,000.

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December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

Turkey yesterday, wrapping today. (No, not the carcass; what do you take me for?)

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December 23, 2007

Think of the people!

News item:

Kmart stores, owned by Sears, will be open through 10 p.m. Christmas Eve. Target Corp. lengthened its hours in late November, opening from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. On Dec. 24, Target will be open for 11 hours until 6 p.m. Wal-Mart, which operates many of its supercenters 24 hours a day, will close at 6 p.m. Dec. 24 and reopen at 6 a.m. Dec. 26.

If you had any doubt that the real religion in this country is shopping, those hours should allay it.

What about the employees who have to work those shifts? Are they allowed any time for their families?

This is going too far.

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The naughty-nice algorithm

There is, in fact, a nonsupernatural Santa. It's a transnational corporation with one mission-critical fulfillment goal: Every kid who celebrates the holiday gets a toy on Christmas eve.

Sez who? Wired News, that's who. There's a wonderful chart and timeline at the link, and here's an interview with Adam Rogers, a gleeful sort who's an editor with the magazine. He's got a theory and he backs it up.

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December 22, 2007

This really works as advertised

I am not a cake or cookie maker. When I find something that allows me to bake them with minimal cleanup, I'm impressed.

The silicon baking sheet is such a tool. We saw it in a Signatures catalog and thought $4 was cheap enough that adding it to our other order wasn't extravagant.

I tried it out last night on some Pillsbury Turtle Supremes, a walnut-caramel-chocolate chip confection. Twenty minutes later I had 12 big cookies cooling on the silicon sheet. Five minutes after that I was able to lift them off the sheet with no sticking. With a little soap and water, it was absolutely clean in less than a minute, and the cookie sheet I had put it on had no stains, no sugar residue, no nuthin'.

Who knows how long it'll last, but if it gets me through Christmas cookies this year I'll be happy.

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December 21, 2007


I'm embarrassed. I was looking up Winter Songs at iTunes in order to contribute to this thread about the Solstice over at Making Light. I noticed Joni Mitchell's "River" among the collection that came up as an iTune Essential. I didn't remember the song at all, and wondered why it was included.

I was promptly corrected with a posting of the opening stanza:

It's coming on Christmas
They're cutting down trees
They're putting up reindeer
Singing songs of joy and peace

Ok, I was wrong. But then I learned that the song was on Mitchell's album Blue, which I own and have since its initial pressing back in 1971.

Can you say "mortified?" I thought so.

Here's Ms. Mitchell performing the song.

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It's Awards Season!

Josh Marshall threw open nominations for The Golden Dukes, a new annual award given for:

great accomplishments in muckiness including acts of venal corruption, outstanding self-inflicted losses of dignity, crimes against the republic, bribery, exposed hypocrisy and generally malevolent governance.

The awards are named in honor of Congressman-turned-inmate Randy "Duke" Cunningham. It's been a heady few years for Muckraking, what with the meta-Abramoff scandal and so much more. But here at TPM we still believe that Duke is the iconic modern scandal. Few so well combine outlandish corruption, national security, sex, and sheer cartoonish ridiculousness.

The awards are broken into six categories:

  • Best Testimonial Trainwreck
  • Outstanding Achievement in Improbable Forgetfulness
  • Outstanding Achievement in Corruption-based Chutzpah
  • Best Scandal -- Local Venue
  • Best Scandal -- Sex and Generalized Carnality
  • Best Scandal -- General Interest

See the nominees here.

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December 20, 2007

Spelling correction

Dear bloggers: If you plan to use a Spanish word for testicles as a euphemism for courage, please spell it properly.

It's cOjones, not cAjones.

This has been another in a series of pointless educational posts.

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December 19, 2007

A spot for spare shekels

What's this all about? The short answer is, Pretty Bird Woman House is a women's shelter on the Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota which has lost its building due to arson, and it needs $70K to acquire a new site. Without a building it isn't eligible for federal funds.

For the longer version, go read this story at Shakespeare's Sister's place.

Here's Pretty Bird Woman House's blog.

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December 18, 2007

Well played, Senator

I know it's a soundbite world our speechmakers live in, but sometimes they get off really good ones: Here's Senator Kennedy yesterday on the floor of the Senate, denouncing the FISA bill and its provision for retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies (since pulled, thanks to Senator Dodd's filibuster efforts).

Think about what we’ve been hearing from the White House in this debate. The President has said that American lives will be sacrificed if Congress does not change FISA. But he has also said that he will veto any FISA bill that does not grant retroactive immunity. No immunity, no new FISA bill. So if we take the President at his word, he is willing to let Americans die to protect the phone companies.

What was it Holmes said to Watson after the doctor made an uncharacteristically sarcastic remark about a silly thing Holmes said? "A hit, Doctor; a distinct hit."

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December 17, 2007

R.I.P., Dan Fogelberg

He died Sunday, December 16, 2007 of prostate cancer. He was 56.

Somehow I never heard a lot of his music. I don't know why. Listening to this song -- "Same Old Lang Syne" -- makes me sorry I never did.

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December 16, 2007

Christmas music, new and old

Mannheim Steamroller has a new CD called Christmas Song. The Amazon reviews are mixed.

One of the best oldies I've heard recently is Christmas Portrait: Special Edition, by The Carpenters. The Amazon reviews are uniformly top-of-the-line. Two of the more interesting tracks are medleys: one of Here Comes Santa Claus/Frosty The Snowman/Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer/Good King Wenceslas and the other Winter Wonderland/Silver Bells/White Christmas. Since I think Karen Carpenter had one of the most emotive voices of the 70s, I like this. This one was released in 1986, presumably when Richard Carpenter was culling through tracks on tapes years after Karen died.

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December 15, 2007

Work, work, work

Usually I can emulate Tom Sawyer and get some help putting up the Christmas tree and decorating it. Not today. All the family elves were busy elsewhere, so it was me and me alone wrestling with a 5-6 foot sheared Noble fir.

Other than getting the damned plugs wrong and having to reroute a string of lights, I think it came out okay. There are some holes where more ornaments would be nice, but until I dig into the next group of boxes, that's what we've got.

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December 14, 2007

1968 and all that

It really wasn't the hippies that gave us Republican rule, no matter what Brokaw and his father say: it was race. Specifically, it was the Democrats becoming the party of civil rights that finally tipped the South into the Republican Party, which may have been a winning strategy for the party politically, but which has morally corrupted it ever since.

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By the sea, by the sea

If you've been dreaming of snorkling around coral reefs during a future vacation, hurry, for they may be dead by 2050.

"There is a dire future for coral reefs around the world if we continue the way we are going," said Canada-based United Nations University professor Peter Sale, one of the Science [magazine] paper's 17 authors from seven nations.

In a press briefing this morning, scientists told the media that changes to the climate are unfolding a thousand times faster than anything that has occurred in the last 420,000 years.

“The science speaks for itself. We have created conditions on Earth unlike anything most species alive today have experienced in their evolutionary history, " University of Maine marine science professor Bob Steneck, a co-author of the paper, said.

"Corals are feeling the effects of our actions and it is now or never if we want to safeguard these marine creatures and the livelihoods that depend on them."

As a resident of an island which has coral reefs all around it, this is a big deal. The water and the beaches are mainstays of our economy in Hawai'i, and we're not alone. Australia (see article linked above) derives $6.8 billion from tourism, and without reefs its Gold Coast would be in serious trouble.

This was one of the topics on Science Friday today; you can listen to the program here if you missed the live broadcast.

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December 13, 2007

Steroids in baseball? I'm shocked, shocked!

Newsday has a very good article on the Mitchell report of his investigation into steroid use in baseball.

Those players include Lenny Dykstra, Todd Hundley, Chris Donnels, Mark Carreon and Josias Manzanillo. Lo Duca also is connected with Radomski, as is former Yankees reliever Ron Villone, according to the report. In all, there are 12 past and present Mets named.

Eighteen past and present Yankees are on the list. Former Yankees Kevin Brown, Mike Stanton, Rondell White, Glenallen Hill, Chuck Knoblauch and David Justice are among those implicated in the report.

In total, the report names 88 players, both past and present, including seven MVPs. The report is 409 pages followed by four appendixes, including copied checks and FedEx receipts.


After Mitchell details each player's steroid use, he states how he tried to contact them so they could explain, defend or deny the charges, but no active player except Jason Giambi spoke with Mitchell. At his news conference Thursday, Mitchell said, "The players were largely uncooperative, for reasons that were largely understandable."

Here's a link to the Mitchell Report itself. It's a 6.48mb .pdf file.

Mitchell's conclusions:

1. The use of steroids in Major League Baseball was widespread. The
response by baseball was slow to develop and was initially ineffective. For many years, citing concerns for the privacy rights of the players, the Players Association opposed mandatory random drug testing of its members for steroids and other substances. But in 2002, the effort gained momentum after the clubs and the Players Association agreed to and adopted a mandatory random drug testing program. The current program has been effective in that detectable steroid use appears to have declined. However, that does not mean that players have stopped using performance enhancing substances. Many players have shifted to human growth hormone, which is not detectable in any currently available urine test.

2. The minority of players who used such substances were wrong. They
violated federal law and baseball policy, and they distorted the fairness of competition by trying to gain an unfair advantage over the majority of players who followed the law and the rules. They – the players who follow the law and the rules – are faced with the painful choice of either being placed at a competitive disadvantage or becoming illegal users themselves. No one should have to make that choice.

3. Obviously, the players who illegally used performance enhancing substances are responsible for their actions. But they did not act in a vacuum. Everyone involved in baseball over the past two decades – Commissioners, club officials, the Players Association, and players – shares to some extent in the responsibility for the steroids era. There was a collective failure to recognize the problem as it emerged and to deal with it early on. As a result, an environment developed in which illegal use became widespread.

4. Knowledge and understanding of the past are essential if the problem is to be dealt with effectively in the future. But being chained to the past is not helpful. Baseball does not need and cannot afford to engage in a never-ending search for the name of every player who ever used performance enhancing substances. The Commissioner was right to ask for this investigation and report. It would have been impossible to get closure on this issue without it, or something like it.

5. But it is now time to look to the future, to get on with the important and difficult task that lies ahead. Everyone involved in Major League Baseball should join in a wellplanned, well-executed, and sustained effort to bring the era of steroids and human growth hormone to an end and to prevent its recurrence in some other form in the future. That is the only way this cloud will be removed from the game. The adoption of the recommendations set forth in this report will be a first step in that direction.

You hate to call a report of this magnitude anti-climactic, but there have been rumors about most of these players for several years.

What I find most interesting is Mitchell's suggestion that no disciplinary action be taken and no attempts at criminal action be pursued. He may well be right, but I'll bet there are a bunch of moralistic crusaders who will be screaming for the heads of some of these guys.

Update: Here's a list of players named in the report.

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December 12, 2007

Universal health care, achieved!

In a story on ABC News last night their medical correspondent Dr. Tim Johnson put a dollar figure on the various Democratic health care plans of $60-$110 billion a year. Yikes, right?

Well, for contrast, the budget for defense spending has been trending upwards of $400 billion a year under George W. Bush. Search the historical tables for the term Defense. In 2001 the defense budget (in billions of dollars) was $304,759; in 2002, $348,482; in 2003, $404,778; in 2004, $455,847; in 2005, $495,326; in 2006, $521,840; and in 2007, $571,869. Also bear in mind that those numbers don't include funding for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, already at $600 billion and rising.

So can we afford to spend $110 billion a year on universal health care? Sure. From the Census bureau we can figure about 200 million households in the US; raise each one's taxes by $50/month and you get $100 billion. Say you raise taxes by only $30/month ($60 billion) and get out of Iraq, cut out DOD spending on archaic weapons systems, and you can probably get there. Then go to work on rationalizing health care expenditures (Medicare has administrative costs of 3%; private healthcare's admin costs run close to 20%).

Easy. What's next?

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December 11, 2007

Satire, well used

I don't know who set up this website, but whoever it was knows how to write (Gosh! Could it have been -- writers?).

While the WGA's members can clearly stage rallies, concerts and mock exorcisms, maintain unity in a large and diverse workforce, gain the support of a majority of the general public, prompt a sharp dip in our stock prices, derail half a dozen major movies and force us to refund advertisers' money after they learn that they'll be getting "American Gladiators" instead of "Chuck," we question their ability to get things done.

Be sure to read the FAQs.

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December 10, 2007

An idea that died aborning, I'm sure

I was reading Jeralyn's post about Brokaw's "1968" program yesterday and discovered a link to a Rolling Stone music trivia quiz tailored to that specific year. I scored 35 out of 40, but that wasn't what caught me. One of the (multiple-choice) questions was "Who was the lead singer for Big Brother and the Holding Company?" and one of the four possible answers was "Joni Mitchell."

Boggle. Can you imagine Joni Mitchell fronting Big Brother?

What other unlikely lead singer/band combinations can you think of?

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December 09, 2007

Programming Note

Monday night at 9:30pm on PBS we'll get to see the following:

Bob Dylan: Live in Newport 1963-65

This program includes unreleased Bob Dylan performances filmed by Academy Award-winning director Murray Lerner at the Newport Folk Festival, 1963-1965, capturing full performances of some of Dylan's greatest songs. His 1963 and 1964 performances made him popular with the Newport crowd, but in 1965, he decided to "plug in," resulting in a mixed response of cheers and boos.

Songs include: "Blowin' in the Wind," "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Chimes of Freedom," "Like a Rolling Stone" and "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" during appearances at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963, '64 and '65.

Check your local listings.

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December 08, 2007

Good grief

I don't often think "Kids today," but during the news segment last night reporting on the commemorations of the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, the pretty young news reporter repeatedly called all the dead of that day "soldiers."

The US Army lost 16 men, mostly at Schofield Barracks. The US Army Air Force lost 217 at Hickam and Wheeler AFB. All but 48 of the other 2,388 people killed that morning were US Navy or US Marine personnel, thus sailors.

The poor girl looked to be born and raised here, too.


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December 07, 2007

Excess packaging

We just got a box from Signals which had two Christmas gifts in it -- two items made of cloth.

The items were in a box about 2 feet long, 1 foot wide, and 6 inches high, which was ridiculously large. Worse, the items were surrounded by a zillion stryofoam peanuts.

I imagine there's a standard packaging procedure at Signals, but this is wasteful and dumb.

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Christmas music suggestions

If you're looking for new Christmas music or different arrangements of old Christmas music, start about here in an Open Thread at Making Light.

Fred Clark has a thread about Christmas music going too.

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December 06, 2007

Elusive stuff, that cleaner

Anybody wonder how the Library of Congress cleans its vinyl records, CDs, and DVDs? Like this:

Cleaning Solution for Audio Records, CDs, and DVDs

The following cleaning solution is used by the Library of Congress for cleaning acetate, lacquer, shellac, and vinyl records as well as CDs and DVDs. It has not been compared for its effectiveness against commercial products.


Preparation and Directions for Use

  1. To prepare 4 L (~ 1 gal) of solution, place 2 mL of Tergitol™ 15-S-7 Surfactant into a suitable container (glass, stainless steel type 304 or 316, fiberglass-reinforced polyester, polyethylene, or polypropylene) and fill with deionized water. This results in a 0.05% solution.
  2. Store the solution in a non-food refrigerator to avoid degradation and transfer what is immediately needed to a spray bottle for manual cleaning or other container for mechanized cleaning.
  3. Store the pure Tergitol™ in its original container (preferably under nitrogen) and in a non-food refrigerator to avoid degradation that causes an undesirable color and odor.
  4. To manually clean records, CDs, or DVDs manually, spray the solution onto the surface, and wipe with an eyeglass or other similar soft wipe to remove contaminants. ALWAYS FOLLOW CLEANING WITH A THOROUGH RINSING WITH DEIONIZED WATER TO REMOVE ALL TRACES OF DETERGENT: LEAVING DETERGENT ON THE OBJECT MIGHT FACILITATE DEGRADATION OF THE OBJECT. Finally, wipe the object dry using a soft, nonabrasive, lint-free cloth.

Trouble is, Tergitol seems to be available only through chemical supply companies.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:27 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 05, 2007

Not the Kremlin after all

Back in January of this year I wrote a bit about a new Executive Order decreeing that all Federal agencies henceforth must have political appointees at their head. Then in February I revisited the issue because Paul Krugman had discovered that this had been a goal laid out by the Heritage Foundation in 2001 as Bush was being inaugurated.

The blueprint for Bush-era governance was laid out in a January 2001 manifesto from the Heritage Foundation, titled “Taking Charge of Federal Personnel.” The manifesto’s message, in brief, was that the professional civil service should be regarded as the enemy of the new administration’s conservative agenda. And there’s no question that Heritage’s thinking reflected that of many people on the Bush team.

How should the civil service be defeated? First and foremost, Heritage demanded that politics take precedence over know-how: the new administration “must make appointment decisions based on loyalty first and expertise second.”

Second, Heritage called for a big increase in outsourcing — “contracting out as a management strategy.” This would supposedly reduce costs, but it would also have the desirable effect of reducing the total number of civil servants.

Well, now comes news that the Democrats in Congress are moving to strike down that Executive Order.

It is a single sentence, on page 147 of the annual appropriations bill funding the White House, listed under the title "Additional General Provisions."

The 18-word clause eliminates the money to pay for political appointees in each federal agency whose jobs are to approve any new regulations. By cutting the money for the positions, Congress would effectively repeal President George W. Bush's 11-month old initiative.

Good. The reason the Civil Service Act was passed in 1883 was to end the revolving door of appointees moving in and out of government service as new Administrations took over and to fill the ranks of Federal jobs with qualified people rather than political friends (Mike Brown, can you hear me now?). Interestingly, the final impetus for the Act's passage was President Garfield's assassination by a "frustrated office-seeker." I remember reading that description of Charles Guiteau in history books and not quite comprehending what it meant at the time. As it turned out, Guiteau had not been given a job when Garfield came into office, and he was angry about it.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:32 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 04, 2007

NPR Democratic Debate

NPR used the time normally allotted to Talk of the Nation to host a debate among seven of the Democrats running for President (Governor Richardson was attending the funeral of a serviceman killed during the Korean War. Richardson was responsible for getting his remains returned to the U.S.). I listened to it live and thought it went very well, and so did the NYT's Caucus blog. You can listen to the debate from a link at the NPR story above.

There were only three topics discussed: Iran, China, and Immigration. Because of that, and because it wasn't televised (nor was there a studio audience), it was very civil, very relaxed and a lot more in-depth than the ones we've been seeing on the tube. The immigration discussion made me remember once again why I'm a Democrat; there was none of the nativist rhetoric we heard just last week at the Republican debate. Instead, there were very thoughtful and pragmatic answers from all of them.

NPR fact-checked the event concurrently (you may have to scroll down and even click the "older posts" link at the bottom of the page).

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Pitch Perfect

It may be a little embarrassing to admit, but amateur electric guitarists don't always properly tune their instruments. Aha! Gibson just launched the first self-tuning guitar.

Robotics technology developed by German company Tronical Gmbh in partnership with Gibson Guitar Corp. enables Gibson's newest Les Paul model to tune itself in about two seconds.

For users who purchase the add-on technology, the guitar recognizes pitch. Then, its processor directs motors on its six tuning pegs to tighten or loosen the strings accordingly. Tronical has offered its "Powertune System" online and through retailers in Germany since March, according to the company's Web site.

From Tronical's website comes the answer to my initial question:

Q: How does it work?

A: Frequency detection by piezo bridge, micro miniaturized motorized machine heads tune the strings automatically within seconds.

Q: How do I install it on my guitar?

A: No milling, no drilling, no extra holes or screws, no additional weight! System can be easily installed and removed traceless at any time. Please consult Assembly Poster (Downloads).

Q: Well, Ok, but unless I own a Fender Standard Stratocaster, Vintage Stratocaster, Stratocaster Plus, or Gibson SG, Les Paul Standard and Custom, or a Flying V, Epiphone Les Paul or an equivalent model, I can't use it, correct?

A: So far, correct.

So I'll still have to tune my Rickenbacker 360 by hand, but I suspect Tronical's working really really hard to change that.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:42 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 03, 2007

An embarrassment

Not to equate the Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans Committee with the United States Supreme Court, but the 2007 results of the Vet Committee do resemble the result of Bush v. Gore in 2000: Both bodies were stacked against the guy who should have won.

How else does one explain Bowie Kuhn being elected and Marvin Miller being denied? The former Commissioner of Baseball gave us night games during the World Series, fought with Charlie Finley of the As, and had no other discernible impact on the game. Marvin Miller, on the other hand, achieved "more lucrative and revolutionary gains, taking the average salary from $19,000 to $241,000 and pitching a virtual shutout against the owners when he went head-to-head."

The veterans panel has been changed twice since 2001, when charges of cronyism followed the election of glove man Bill Mazeroski. The original 15-member panel was expanded to include every living member of the Hall, but that group failed to elect anyone in three tries.

It was replaced by three separate panels -- one for players, one for managers and umpires and one for executives and pioneers, leaving Miller's fortunes largely in the hands of the same group he once fought in collective bargaining and the courts.

He did not come close, receiving only three of 12 possible votes. Under the previous system, Miller received 63 percent of the votes earlier this year while Kuhn got 17 percent -- a reversal noticed by Miller's successor at the players' union, Donald Fehr.

"Over the entire scope of the last half of the 20th century, no other individual had as much influence on the game of baseball as did Marvin Miller," Fehr said. "Because he was the players' voice, and represented them vigorously, Marvin Miller was the owners' adversary. This time around, a majority of those voting were owner representatives, and results of the vote demonstrate the effect that had.

"The failure to elect Marvin Miller is an unfortunate and regrettable decision. Without question, the Hall of Fame is poorer for it."

Amen, brother.

Murray Chass has more.

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:52 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

I don't understand Republicans

Overheard on NPR's Talk of the Nation, Steve Scheffler, president of the Iowa Christian Alliance, saying that the Bush Administration had fought the "War on Terror" with honor.

Two words, Mr. Scheffler: Abu Ghraib

Two more words: Extraordinary rendition

One final word: Guantanamo

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December 02, 2007


If you plan to have any dealings with anyone in the State of Hawai'i for the next couple of days, prepare to listen to your conversationalist rhapsodize about the University of Hawai'i football team for a few minutes before getting down to business.


UH defeated the University of Washington 35-28 last night in a thrilling come-from-behind victory, scoring the winning touchdown with 0:44 seconds left in the game, then intercepting the Huskies' last gasp pass in the end zone with :03 left.

That left UH as the only undefeated team in all of Division 1 college football, awaiting a call from the Bowl Championship Series nabobs. Assuming they get it, they'll be only the third non-BCS conference school ever to get into one of the big games (Utah in 2004, Boise State in 2006, and now Hawai'i).


Update: UH will be playing Georgia in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on January 1 at 8:30pm ET.

Complete Bowl Schedule here.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:38 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 01, 2007


Just heard on The Splendid Table, Jane and Michael Stern extolling the virtues of the Anchor Bar in Superior, WI, which has "hand-formed" hamburgers.

Well, the ones I make are hand-formed too. So there!

My mind boggles at the idea of making hamburger patties with biscuit cutters or something.

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