June 30, 2009

Legislature shoots citizens

Well, that may be a little bit of hyperbole, but telling Internet retailers that they must collect Hawai'i General Excise Tax and rebate it to the state has had the predictable result:

Amazon.com Inc. has informed its marketing affiliates in Hawaii that it is ending its business with them in order to avoid collecting sales tax in the state.


In an e-mail sent to Hawaii affiliates on Tuesday, Amazon said it would end its accounts with them effective June 30. "We were forced to take this unfortunate action in anticipation of actual enactment because of the uncertainty and timing of a veto, and the possibility that a veto could be overridden," Amazon wrote.

Sucks to be you, Hawai'i bloggers with Amazon affiliate accounts. You'll just have to pay your (probably Mainland-based) web hosts out of pocket, rather than with the small commissions you earned from sales through that program.

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A reminder: if you're parking on a hill, turn your front wheels toward the curb. To the right if facing downhill, to the left if facing uphill. See diagram (scroll halfway down).

Why, yes, I see this done incorrectly nearly every damned day.

Now get off my lawn.

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June 29, 2009

Old-time music

Tiring day getting the car detailed ($100 + tax) downtown, so let me point you to an interesting website.

The Kingston Trio sang a lot of different folk songs back in the 1950s and 1960s. Jim Moran has taken up the task of finding YouTube performances by the Trio and then finding other versions on YouTube for comparative purposes. This may sound a little eccentric, but it's fascinating. One of the most interesting to me is The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. I'll bet you thought Roberta Flack originated it, didn't you? Not so. Her version may set the standard by which all others are judged, but it was first sung by Peggy Seeger, who also happened to be the person who inspired Ewan MacColl to write it. Seeger's version was followed by ones by the Trio, Johnny Cash, and -- wait for it -- Elvis Presley. Only then did Roberta Flack record it.

If you know your way around folk music, this site will fascinate you. If you don't, it will educate you. Check it out.

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June 28, 2009

Summer music

NPR has a must-listen list of summer songs which is streamable. It's good, but I object to one thing. It has several songs named "Summertime," but none of them are performed by Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company.

I can fix that!

The opening notes of the guitar intro make this song immediately recognizable, at least to me.

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Taxes solve everything!

Dear Senator Collins,

Why do you and your party always look first to tax policy to achieve things? This might have some impact on health care for individual Americans, but it will have zero impact on insurance companies' habit of denying or rescinding coverage and refusing procedures even for the customers they do deign to accept.

The idea of a government-run health insurance program to compete with private plans is troubling even to potential Republican backers of a health care overhaul like Senator Collins.

Ms. Collins said she would like to see the legislation “put more emphasis on health promotion, disease prevention, end of life care,” as well as tax credits for small businesses and self-employed Americans to ease their access to health insurance.

If I can't get a private insurance company to accept me because I've been taking blood pressure medicine for five years, what good is a tax credit?

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June 27, 2009

Ah, romance

Forget the stadium messageboard method, this is the new paradigm for cyber-connected lovers.

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Octogenarian detectives? Sure, why not?

Check out Christopher Fowler's Bryant & May series. The two gentlemen are detectives in London's Peculiar Crimes Unit, which is a dumping ground for cases which the regular Metropolitan Police don't want to try to solve. They've been doing this since London was suffering under the Blitz.

It's charming. Bryant's the eccentric, May is the solid dependable one, but both are intelligent. The best part for me is that you learn things along the way. In Book Two, for example, London's underground rivers play a major role. What? You didn't know London had underground rivers? Have a look.

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June 26, 2009


Jeepers. It was a cliffhanger (219-212), but the US House today voted in favor of reducing carbon gas emissions and at least making a stab at saving the planet.

Now the Senate, and it's gonna be even harder to do, since there are more climate change deniers there.

Baby steps. Upon reflection, it's a lot larger than a baby step. It's a leap forward across the first abyss; there are still several ahead, but it's a damned good start.

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Have crime writers been wrong?

Autopsy results to determine the cause of Michael Jackson's death won't be quickly forthcoming. From the LA Times LA NOW blog:

Results of the autopsy could take weeks and will include, as is common practice, toxicology to determine what drugs if any were in Jackson's system.

Weeks? That surprises me. Have police procedural authors been wrong for fifty years? Typically any delay in getting those results in books has been attributed to a backlog of subjects; in the case of a high-profile death like this the novelists have all suggested a quick turnaround.

Yes, this is a macabre thought; my mind works that way sometimes.

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June 25, 2009

Incestuous politics, Hawai'i style

Former City Council member Ann Kobayashi files papers to run for the Honolulu City Council seat left vacant by the death of Duke Bainum.

Kobayashi was badly beaten in the 2008 mayoral race for the city; she left her Council seat to run.

Oh, goody. I think this is more "I need an income" than it is a true desire to work for the good of the city. While she was in there from 2003-2008 she was almost always fighting with somebody on the Council, and she was invariably on the other side of the Mayor's positions on everything. Not to say the Mayor's right all the time (ha!), but she has never shown any willingness to get along with anyone.

Also running: Mark Matsunaga (son of former Congressman Spark); Heidi Bornhorst, daughter of former Councilwoman Marilyn Bornhorst. I know nothing bad about either of them, but I suspect they're gonna get votes on name recognition, not on the quality of their candidacies.

Could we have some new names and ideas, please?

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Brief notes

I don't care about Mark Sanford's affair. I care about the number of people in his state who have been harmed by his refusal to accept federal funding for the continuance of unemployment benefits and school repair.

I don't care that the White House press corps is full of spoiled children who are objecting to a blogger getting to ask a question of the President at his press conference the other day.

I don't care that a bunch of unreconstructed and wrong-forever neocons object to President Obama's statements on Iran's election.

That's about all I don't care about today. Thank you for listening.

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June 24, 2009

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Swedish journalist Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was published in 2005. After translation from Swedish to English by Reg Keeland, it was published in the UK and the US in 2008 and has won several awards and much acclaim.

I finished it last night. It's quite a tale. It opens in a courtroom where a magazine publisher/journalist has just had a libel judgment go against him (QB VII, anyone?). He published a story which attempted to prove that a Swedish industrialist was guilty of corruption, but his evidence collapsed around him and he's been ordered to pay a large fine, lawyers' fees and court costs. At loose ends, he is approached by the attorney for a (different) wealthy retired Swedish tycoon who asks him to write an authorized biography of the tycoon and his huge family (there's a family tree provided in the front papers of the book, which should give you an idea of the size), with the promise that once the book is done the journalist will be paid well but will also be provided with ammunition to take down the man who sued him.

Journalist Blomkvist decides to do the job, and he quickly learns that what the industrialist really wants is a solution to a forty-year-old mystery: how and why did his then 16-year-old niece disappear? The family lived and still lives on an island, and on the day of the niece's disappearance all access to it was blocked by a fuel-truck accident. Blomkvist, a mystery fan, concludes this is similar to an Agatha Christie "locked-room" problem, and he sets out to solve it.

Unbeknownst to Blomkvist, prior to hiring him the attorney and the industrialist had begun investigating his background through a private security firm, and its principal investigator was a 25-year-old misanthropic woman (Lisbeth Salander, the girl of the title). Blomkvist sees the report she compiled on him and concludes he needs her talents to help him investigate.

Salander is by far the more compelling of the two characters. She's got a mother in a nursing home, a Goth look, a thoroughly-justified hatred of the Swedish welfare system as it pertains to guardianship of adult women, and a talent for computer hacking. If Blomkvist is a stock character, Salander is not. She's mean, tough, and vengeful.

There are horrific reasons for the niece's disappearance, as it turns out, and members of the family are the perps. That mystery is solved (not entirely satisfactorily, from my point of view), but it takes a lot of good investigation and legwork, all well told. The libel judgment remains to be avenged. At this point the book only has about fifty pages to go, and most of them are taken up with unraveling financial transactions. The industrialist, who is indeed a corrupt and criminal man, gets his comeuppance.

The book ends with a sudden, surprising and unwelcome burst of introspection on Lisbeth's part.

It's an excellent book. Larsson passed away from a heart attack in 2004, but he left behind two more manuscripts with Lisbeth as principal. The Girl Who Played with Fire will be published this summer, and the third is in the works. I look forward to reading them.

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June 23, 2009

Spock in the White House

Or so says Matt Yglesias. During the Prez's press conference today, answering a question about public health plans:

OBAMA:...here’s a public option that’s not profit-driven, that can keep down administrative costs, and that provides you good, quality care for a reasonable price as one of the options for you to choose, I think that makes sense.

QUESTION: Wouldn’t that drive private insurance out of business?

OBAMA: Why would it drive private insurance out of business? If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care; if they tell us that they’re offering a good deal, then why is it that the government, which they say can’t run anything, suddenly is going to drive them out of business? That’s not logical.

Later, Jake Tapper of ABC prefaced a follow-up question by asking if Mr. Obama had unleashed his inner Spock. Obama quickly said, "Is that in reference to my ears?"

He's an engaging guy.

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June 22, 2009

Put me in coach, I wanna play...Right field?

Christine Lavin and Peter Paul & Mary sang that when they played softball, right field was their position.

Thinking on it, when I was a little kid, we always put the lousiest player out there too. It wasn't until we got into organized ball that we learned that we needed the kid with the good arm there, and that left field wasn't quite as critical a defensive position.

I think our faulty reasoning was brought on by the observation that there were very few left-handed hitters in our sandlot games and that correspondingly few balls would be hit out to right, so kids with good skills weren't needed there.

Prompted by this comment at Making Light

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June 21, 2009

Cash on Dads

Some fathers are a little more, um, troublesome than the ones Judy Collins sings about below:

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Judy Collins sings "My Father"

Collins doesn't get as much respect as she deserves. Here's one of her best songs.

Happy Father's Day.

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June 20, 2009

New Poll supports Single-Payer

Maybe these results will help get the Blue Dogs to see reason (I've given up on bipartisanship, and so should Obama and the Dems).

Americans overwhelmingly support substantial changes to the health care system and are strongly behind one of the most contentious proposals Congress is considering, a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

The poll found that most Americans would be willing to pay higher taxes so everyone could have health insurance and that they said the government could do a better job of holding down health-care costs than the private sector.


The national telephone survey, which was conducted from June 12 to 16, found that 72 percent of those questioned supported a government-administered insurance plan — something like Medicare for those under 65 — that would compete for customers with private insurers. Twenty percent said they were opposed.

Republicans in Congress have fiercely criticized the proposal as an unneeded expansion of government that might evolve into a system of nationalized health coverage and lead to the rationing of care.

But in the poll, the proposal received broad bipartisan backing, with half of those who call themselves Republicans saying they would support a public plan, along with nearly three-fourths of independents and almost nine in 10 Democrats.

Look. This is not going to be easy to pay for. But, Democrats, when a majority of your constituents (and the opposition's!) even say they'd be willing to pay higher taxes to get it, it should be done.

Another thing: we keep getting these poll results that say Americans are worried about deficits. What most Americans don't understand (I think) is that if the economy is perking along at a 3% growth rate, deficits are more than manageable. See the Clinton years as a prime example.

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I've got a hammer, that must be a nail

Listening to Mitch McConnell babble on today's Republican radio address, I was once again struck by how few solutions they have for America's problems. On health care, it's tort reform so doctors don't get sued for malpractice. On the economy, it's tax cuts. On foreign policy, it's blow things up in whatever country is not doing what we want.

I also get really tired of Republicans using the word "bureaucrats" as though no large organization but the government employs them. Apparently insurance company functionaries who deny health coverage to people are steely-eyed executives or something, not bureaucrats.

One-trick ponies, that's what they are.

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June 19, 2009

It's funny but it's true!

Via Digby

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Cookie dough recall announced


Nestlé USA recalled its Toll House refrigerated cookie dough Friday after health officials linked the dough to infections from the bacteria E. coli in as many as 66 people in 28 states.

The Food and Drug Administration advised consumers to throw out any Nestlé refrigerated cookie dough they may have. Although cooking may kill the bacteria, handling the raw dough could spread the contaminant to hands and cooking surfaces.

Nestlé is telling consumers to return cookie and brownie dough products to grocers for a full refund.

It's been about 40 years since I did this, but there was a time when I'd forget to cook those tubes of cookie dough and nibble on them straight from the fridge.

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:40 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

On Health Care Reform

Obama's a cautious man, which serves him well in some things. Health Care reform is not one of those things. I'm afraid it's gonna get watered down to nothing, and when that happens the Dems will lose a lot of their current majorities in both houses. Then we'll look back and say "with those kinds of majorities, we should have been able to do what we know we should have done. Why didn't we?" And the answer will be, "because our illustrious representatives were terrified of the minority party and the insurance industry."

Mr. Obama, now the sausage-making is beginning in earnest in Congress. You have millions of people on your mailing list, and they need to be mobilized to inform their Senators and Representatives that a public single-payer health plan is what America needs.

This e-mail I just got from you asking for donations to help fight for health care reform doesn't cut it.

Update: Also see Digby:

If the Democratic Party cannot get this done with a large majority, an economic crisis that is making hundreds of thousands of average Americans lose their insurance, and a president who ran explicitly on the issue and has a large mandate for reform, then they are in danger of creating a huge hole in their coalition that will be very difficult to repair. Health care is the big one.

The disappointment at failure will be immense, and not just among grassroots activists, but among the public at large if Obama doesn't fulfill this promise. There is no good political reason not to do this right and every reason to avoid doing it wrong.

That's right. Disappointment is too polite a word. Disgust might be more apt. I could see progressive voters lapsing into cynicism and staying home from voting booths in 2010 and beyond if the Dems don't get this done.

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:21 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 18, 2009

An Online Poll!

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has put up a poll at his website, asking how important is it that a single-payer health care plan be one of the options available to Americans.

So far the "extremely important" votes are winning, but there have been fewer than 750 participants at this writing (2100HST, June 18). Go. Make your voice heard!

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

WaPo Fail

When I lived in the DC suburbs I delivered the Washington Daily Star, the afternoon competitor of The Washington Post. The Star was a pretty good paper, but the Post was the paper in town. We all know about Woodward and Bernstein and their work (from the city desk, mind you!) on Watergate. But it did much more than that over the years.

From what I've seen of it, since the GW Bush Administration it has concluded that its editorial stance should be "whatever Government wants, Government should have." What else could a reader conclude after reading all the pro-Iraq columns from its editor, Fred Hiatt, and its stable of conservative writers like Charles Krauthammer and George Will?

Today, the Post put one more black mark up against itself: it fired Dan Froomkin. Froomkin was one of the few columnists at the paper or its website who regularly criticized the Bush Administration for its policy actions, and he continued to do so when Obama took office. He was a must-read for me for every day. Now he's gone.

Here's what he said:

"I'm terribly disappointed," he said. "I was told that it had been determined that my White House Watch blog wasn't "working" anymore. Personally, I thought it was still working very well, and based on reader feedback, a lot of readers thought so, too... I also thought White House Watch was a great fit with The Washington Post brand, and what its readers reasonably expect from the Post online.

"As I've written elsewhere, I think that the future success of our business depends on journalists enthusiastically pursuing accountability and calling it like they see it. That's what I tried to do every day. Now I guess I'll have to try to do it someplace else."

The Post gets stupider every week.

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June 17, 2009

Pre-existing condition? Get Outta Here!

Yep, health care insurance companies have our best interests at heart. A definition: rescission -- The act of annulling, abrogating or revoking an agreeement.

The LA Times reports:

An investigation by the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations showed that health insurers WellPoint Inc., UnitedHealth Group and Assurant Inc. canceled the coverage of more than 20,000 people, allowing the companies to avoid paying more than $300 million in medical claims over a five-year period.

It also found that policyholders with breast cancer, lymphoma and more than 1,000 other conditions were targeted for rescission and that employees were praised in performance reviews for terminating the policies of customers with expensive illnesses.


Late in the hearing, Stupak, the committee chairman, put the executives on the spot. Stupak asked each of them whether he would at least commit his company to immediately stop rescissions except where they could show "intentional fraud."

The answer from all three executives:


That, ladies and germs, is why we need a single-payer health care plan.

Via Kevin Drum

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Us too!

It's amazing to me how members of the Republican Party hate "the victim card" until they think they're victims themselves. Comparing yourselves to marchers in Tehran? Really?

I expect Senator Ensign will affirm his own victim status any minute now.

Self-awareness is apparently not cultivated among party circles.

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June 16, 2009


It's a small thing, but it's amusing.

The high in Honolulu Monday was 92 degrees. It was the hottest June 15 since the National Weather Service started keeping track and the 8th straight day we've broken or tied a record. But was it really that hot?

Seems that NWS sent somebody out with a calibration thermometer to do a routine check of the official thermometer at the airport and discovered it read two degrees higher than the test equipment's reading.

Oh well. Surf's up!

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:59 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 15, 2009

Best comment on Iran's elections so far

I'm with TBogg:

thousands of political bloggers who have never lived outside of the city in which they were born and who have absolutely no experience in Middle East affairs will now tell you what this all means, how this will impact the region, and what to expect by drawing upon their extensive background in World of Warcraft and a hardly used MCSE certification.

The guy's got a way with words, doesn't he? I'd never have thought of the MCSE cert.

All the bandwagon-jumpers might bear in mind that even should Ahmadinejad be removed by a popular uprising or by the clerics who really run the country, Moussavi is not exactly a Jeffersonian Democrat. Remember how hard Bush and Rice pushed for popular elections in the Palestinian territories and how appalled they were when Hamas won in Gaza? Be careful what you wish for.

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June 14, 2009

Summer "driving season"

$2.939/gallon for regular unleaded * 6.808 gallons = $20.01


What's the price per gallon where you live?

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Twitter and Iranian elections

If you want to watch information flowing at its fastest, open up Twitter, log in, and search for #iranelection (there's probably a link to it in the right sidebar of your Twitter home page). I don't vouch for any of it, and salt mines are a necessity when reading the Tweets, but it's amazing to see. I logged in and within 30 seconds what I'd seen on the screen had been overrun with 22 additional Tweets.

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June 13, 2009

Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy

Have publishers fired their copyeditors? In the latest Eve Dallas book from J. D. Robb, Dallas is discussing the victim of a murder and what was taken from her body: "It's professional, but the jewelry's amatuer hour. So why? Just because you can? Just because you want? Souveniers, mementos?"

Amateur and souvenir are not even homophone errors; an automated spell-checker would have caught them. Aaargh!

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Lazy Saturday

I haven't even started the laundry yet this week. Took books back to the library, picked up some fresh corn at Safeway, came home.

I hope y'all were more productive.

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June 12, 2009

Mystery reference

I thought I'd heard of most of the good mystery/crime novel websites, but I haven't seen Stop, You're Killing Me before. How does it bill itself? It

is a resource for lovers of mystery, crime, thriller, spy, and suspense books. We list over 2,800 authors, with chronological lists of their books (over 32,000 titles), both series (3,200+) and non-series. Use the alphabetical author and character links above Top or the special indexes in the left column. And it’s perfectly fine with us if you print our pages for your private use, especially for a trip to your local library or bookstore.

The series feature is especially useful if you've just found a new author and then discovered you read the 13th book in the series without realizing it was part of a long-running storyline.

Here's an example: I have several of the earliest Lucas Davenport novels by John Sandford sitting in my to-be-read pile. This list of all of them will keep me from inadvertently picking up a duplicate at a bookstore or the library.

Check it out.

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:16 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 11, 2009

This will be memorable

The Prez was in Green Bay today to make a health care speech, and a little girl was there with her dad.

At a town hall meeting, Obama took a question from a man who said [sic] the he was there with his daughter who was “missing her last day of school for this.”

“I hope she doesn’t get in trouble,” her dad said.

“Oh no,” Obama said to laughter. “Do you need me to write a note?”

He wrote the following:

“To Kennedy’s teacher–Please excuse Kennedy’s absence… She’s with me,” he wrote, and signed his name.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:12 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 10, 2009

Thanks again, NRA & Right-wing Radio

Two weeks ago Dr. Tiller was murdered for his belief that women deserved medically-necessary abortions.

Today an 89-year-old white supremacist shot and killed a security guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC.

This guy was a real loony. He served 6 1/2 years in prison in the 1980s for threatening to blow up the Federal Reserve Board HQ in DC.

Hmm. Guess that Homeland Security report about right-wing extremists a month or so ago was accurate after all, despite the howling from their sympathizers that their colleagues were being victimized and hounded by the authorities.

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:33 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 09, 2009

Terrorism works

At least, if I were a member of the forced-pregnancy brigade, that's the message I'd take away from Dr. Tiller's family's announcement today that the clinic he ran will close permanently.

For rank hypocrisy, this is hard to beat:

“We are thankful that Tiller’s clinic will not reopen and thankful that Wichita is now abortion free,” Troy Newman, the president of Operation Rescue, which moved to Wichita because of Dr. Tiller’s clinic, said in a written statement. “It is our sincere prayer that threats to open another third-trimester abortion clinic in Kansas will not come to fruition so that the healing process for this state and community can begin.”

Still, Mr. Newman said, “we have worked very hard for this day, but we wish it would have come through the peaceful, legal channels that we were pursuing.”

On the other hand, give this jerk points for honesty:

The president of the Kansas Coalition for Life, Mark S. Gietzen, who since 2004 had arranged for daily volunteers to stand outside the clinic and call out to the women going in, said his group might turn its efforts to abortion centers in the Kansas City region now, or perhaps to North Dakota.

“It looks like our prayer was answered,” Mr. Gietzen said of the clinic’s closing.

Yes, Mr. Gietzen, your long terrorist campaign succeeded. All it took, finally, was the murder of a good man who asked nothing more than to continue to provide a service hundreds if not thousands of women need.

Posted by Linkmeister at 07:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Nice work, Ms. Maddow

Or at least her graphics team. Enhancing her story about the latest Republican attempts to obstruct Judge Sotomayor's confirmation hearing schedule was a graphic in the corner which read "Poutrage."

Yep, that's about right. They're like little children who can't get it through their heads that the President and the Majority in the Senate won the elections pretty handily last November, so they're going to pout.

Please hold your breath and turn blue too, will you boys?

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June 08, 2009

The case against elected judges

Supreme Court: If you try to buy a judge, that judge must recuse himself if the buyer has a case in front of his court.

Basically, a guy in West Virginia didn't like the decision handed down against him in lower court, so he indirectly contributed $3M to the political campaign of a judge he thought would be on his side when the case came up before the State Supreme Court. Indirectly, because he spent most of the cash on attack ads against the judge's opponent.

His judge won and, no surprise, twice voted in the guy's favor, throwing out the fraud case the guy had lost.

Now the US Supreme Court says that's a situation that's ripe for corruption, so judges have to take themselves off cases brought by or involving their political contributors. Seems straightforward to me, but not to the usual suspects. Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas all thought judges were far too incorruptible for such a circumstance to occur.

If this sounds like a John Grisham novel, it inspired one. Review here.

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June 07, 2009

Crazed DJ

On the radio in the car on the way down the hill, back-to-back:

Bread's It Don't Matter to Me

Marty Robbins' El Paso

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What happens to hose bibb handles? Are they like socks in dryers?

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June 06, 2009

June 6, 1944

The BBC has a huge array of stories and photos marking the 65th anniversary of the Allied invasion at Normandy.

One of the images I remember from The Longest Day is a view from one of the German pillboxes on the heights above the beaches looking out to sea that morning; the horizon is filled with ships and LSTs. Whether entirely accurate or not, to the average German soldier I'll bet it looked something like that. Here's a photo of a part of the fleet.

The guy who was in charge of logistics for Gulf War I in 1991 was widely and rightfully praised, but he'd probably be the first to say it was small beans compared to Operation Overlord.

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June 05, 2009

Annals of incoherent legislation

Our illustrious City Council recently passed a law which bans cellphone use while driving. I'm in general agreement with the intent, but they tried to carve out a few exceptions, and one in particular might affect me.

Drivers can legally make 911 emergency calls while driving. Patrol officers, however, won't know the difference between that and an illegal call. So drivers who are ticketed will have to show their cell phone bill to a judge proving they were making a legitimate 911 call at the time listed on the ticket.

Okay, but what about those of us who use prepaid cellphones and thus get no bill? Do I suck it up and pay the $67 fine?

The cops are theoretically going to ticket you if they see you with a "handheld electronic device" held up to your ear; hands-free devices are okay. You're presumed guilty and will have to prove your innocence, which is not the way the American legal system is supposed to work.

I can't wait for the first case of a cellphone-wielding driver being tased because he didn't stop to accept the ticket.

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June 04, 2009

Tiananmen Tank Man photo emerges

This is one of the most iconic photographs of the 20th century. It shows a lone man standing in front of a line of tanks in Tiananmen Square on June 5, 1989.

Now, twenty years later, a new photo of the same man has surfaced. It was taken just minutes before the above photo was taken. He can be seen in the left background, moving out into the square toward the tanks.

The stories of the photographers at those links are remarkable.

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President Obama in Cairo, unfiltered

As I was winding down last night I had the bedside radio tuned to the local jazz programming, which is followed by the BBC at 10:00am GMT (midnight here). About 15 minutes into the news, they cut away to Cairo and I heard a familiar voice. They broadcast the first 15 minutes or so of the President's speech, enough time for me to go out and turn on C-Span in hopes it could be found live on one of those channels. Sure enough, it was.

It's a long speech, although at 55 minutes it's no longer than the high school and college classes I took a million years ago. You can read the text, but seeing and hearing it gives you a much better feel for both the speech and its reception in the hall.

Update: Daniel Levy has some good analysis at TPM.

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June 03, 2009

The Beatles Rock Band

I've not gotten into the Guitar Hero and Rock Band ethos, but the cinematic for the new (September 9 release) Beatles adaptation could tempt me to change my mind.


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June 02, 2009

How did abortion become the single issue?

Fred Clark tells you.

The founding myth of this new, stridently political faith says that this politicizing arose in reaction to the Roe v. Wade decision acknowledging the legal right to abortion. After "activist" judges "legislated" from the bench, evangelicals recoiled in horror and rose up, in Falwell's phrase, to "take back America."


In 1973, most evangelicals regarded opposition to abortion as a Catholic Thing -- and therefore vaguely suspect, as though it might lead to praying to Mary or something. But throughout the 1970s and into the '80s, that changed. The person most responsible for that change was Francis Schaeffer. He persuaded evangelicals to adopt this issue and to get so angry about it that it would come to replace even evangelism as their hallmark concern and their pre-eminent defining characteristic. The language, the rhetoric and arguments, the moral reasoning, political tactics and activist strategies of the anti-abortion movement over the last 30 years all originate with Francis Schaeffer.

Fred goes on to explain who Schaeffer was and why his son's appearance on MSNBC and in this Huffington Post essay is so interesting.

Fred explains the background behind the adoption of abortion as the defining issue for evangelicals in a way I've never seen before. Go read it.

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June 01, 2009

New Republic subscription mail

I just got a suggestion from TNR that I would really enjoy subscribing to the publication. It starts out describing what I'd call a hit piece on Arianna Huffington:

Most people know about Huffington’s evolution from right to left. Less well known is that one passion has remained consistent across her various ideological incarnations: an utter contempt for the press. Isaac’s explanation of the Huffington worldview is devastating. Don’t miss it.

Um. With "journalism" as practiced by you guys, her contempt, if that's what it is, might be well placed. Your publication, after all, just published a widely-scorned and rightfully-demolished column by Jeffrey Rosen which used anonymous quotes to smear Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.

I'll pass on subscribing, thanks.

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