April 30, 2010

Nice company you keep, Mr. Case

Remember Sue Lowden? She's the Republican candidate for Senate in Nevada who advocated chickens for checkups a few weeks back. She's now trying to say she wasn't serious; that anyone who looks at her website will see what she really wants to do about health care reform.

Okay. Let's see what she wants to do:

First, Congress should immediately pass and implement meaningful, national medical liability reform.


In addition, I support allowing Nevadans and all Americans to purchase health insurance across state lines . . .

Hmm. That sounds familiar. Where have I seen those ideas recently? Oh, yeah. Those are the same ideas that Ed Case recently advocated. Ed's running for the vacant District One seat in Hawai'i as a Democrat, but he agrees with one of the loonier Republicans around.

Why is that, Ed?

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Breaking news

The Hawai'i State House passed a bill legalizing civil unions this afternoon, on the last day and nearly the last hour of the session. The State Senate had passed it in January, but it was tabled and thought to be dead for the session when the House refused to bring it up on a voice vote that month.

The bill to legalize same-sex civil unions passed the state House by a 31-20 vote today in the last hours of the 2010 legislative session.

Despite a crowded gallery, there was no reaction from spectators.

HB 444 now goes to Gov. Linda Lingle, who has not said whether she supports or opposes the measure. If Lingle vetoes the bill, House lawmakers would need 34 votes to override.

The long-stalled House Bill 444 was revived by Majority Leader Blake Oshiro. Unlike a previous vote to postpone action on the bill, House leadership allowed for members to have a roll call vote to show where they stood on the issue.

That last was a big deal; when they voted to postpone in January nobody knew who to lobby.

I have to admire Majority Leader (and my district Rep.) Oshiro's tactics. There was no advance publicity suggesting he was going to do this, so there were no wailing crowds of fundies screeching that the bill's passage would be the end of marriage as we know it. The television news showed a few gay couples outside the Capitol hugging, but no big mobs.

Now it's up to our second-term retiring Governor, who's a moderate Republican. She's out of town so there's been no statement from her. One of the guys running for her job is her Lieutenant Governor, and he's already said "This bill should not be allowed to become law." Not a surprise; he's angling for the religious vote and has been for years.

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April 29, 2010

I gotta pick?

Look at this listing of sports on TV today. See the Dodgers game starting at 4:00pm? Notice the "VB" game between Hawai'i and Stanford at 4:30pm. That's the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championship Men's Volleyball semifinal match. The MPSF is the best volleyball conference in the country, and Stanford is the #1 seed. Hawai'i is the #4 seed.

What to watch, what to watch.

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Party of No says "No Fair!"

The Senate Republicans are displeased with Senator Reid.

In the wake of the superheated debate over health care reform, Reid and his confidants have used fierce rhetoric to portray the Republicans as tools of Wall Street who spread lies about the financial regulatory reform bill as a way to protect well-heeled donors. Meanwhile, Reid has been forcing the Republicans to vote again and again on the regulatory reform bill, hoping to jam at least one GOP senator into flipping to the Democratic side for fear of coming off as entirely obstructionist.

The tactic seems to be working; Republicans on Wednesday allowed debate to proceed on the bill. But hard feelings persist.

You know, when Senator McConnell says legislation will guarantee permanent bailouts when in fact it does the exact opposite he's telling a lie, so it seems to me that Reid and his cohorts should employ "fierce rhetoric" when saying so. After all, McConnell was the same guy who said the public option in health care reform "may cost you your life." If that's not fierce rhetoric (and another lie) I don't know how it's defined.

What's really going on here is that the Republicans have put themselves in the position of defending Wall Street, perhaps the only institution in the country despised more than Congress. Some of the smarter ones are starting to realize that's not politically a good place to be.

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April 28, 2010

I don't think you've got the right guy here

From: "Ben Bernenke"

Subject: Attention Beneficiary,Contract fund credit from Federal Reserve Bank Board. We received the instructional letter to credit $10.5 million to your account. We wish to let know that all charges are waived for the sucess of this contract fund to be credited into your account.Your respond is required to enable us credit your account. without any further of delay and you are also required to get back to us with the reconfirmation of your banking particulars for we to know if what we have in file is correct and to avoid crediting your fund to wrong account.Congratulation to your contract fund.Please be fast on this matter.Thanks and god bless you. Regards,Ben S. Bernanke Chairman Federal Reserve Bank New York
Well now. In the "From" line Bernanke's name is spelt wrong. In the closing his name is correct but his title is wrong. I also suspect that the Fed Chairman knows about the separation of church and state and thus would not use "god bless you" in any business correspondence. And finally, I sure hope that, faceless government bureaucrat though his secretary may be, he or she has a better command of grammar than is on display here.

Darn. I could use $10.5M, too.

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April 27, 2010

For Arizona

Not that the Republican party there will appreciate it. If nothing else, the singer's Jewish, fer cryin' out loud!

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April 26, 2010

Interesting price differentials

I just got back from the Singer showroom and repair place. The cost for replacing a belt (labor included) on the Hoover Wind Tunnel vacuum cleaner? $39.95.

The fixed price for repairing a Classic Singer (50 years old + up) sewing machine? $225.00

Our machine was built in 1926. My mother's mother purchased it used for $50 in roughly 1949. It looks much like this one.

We decided not to have the Singer rehabbed right now, since we don't have a crying need to sew things. Sometime in the future, though . . .

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Errands (not gerunds)

Off to the vacuum cleaner/sewing machine repair place. Have a Random Ten from last night.

Guitar Town—Emmylou Harris
Martha My Dear—The Beatles
Under The Falling Sky—Bonnie Raitt
Boom, Like That—Mark Knopfler
The Load-Out—Jackson Browne
Operator—Jim Croce
I Hope—Dixie Chicks
Come See About Me—Diana Ross & The Supremes
Kitty's Back—Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
I'm A Loser—The Beatles

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April 25, 2010

World-building or no?

In a discussion of crime/mystery series and whether they are "closed" or "open", where "closed" means the characters don't grow; they don't marry, age or have children and "open" means the opposite, I had a thought:

Ed McBain, Rex Stout, John D. MacDonald and other long-term series authors are practicing what's called "world-building" in the SF community. The difference is that the crime worlds they build are ones the reader recognizes; there's no need for a bunch of definitions.
Tolkien had to define hobbits, Ents, Nazgul and Orcs before the reader could understand who the protagonists are. In crime stories the reader already knows what private investigators, cops and attorneys are; there's no need for further explication. Furthermore, action in fantasy or much "hard" science fiction takes place in a world or on a planet much different from the one on which the reader lives, with its own limits and peculiar characteristics (What's the atmosphere like? Do the inhabitants need to wear space suits?). In crime stories that's not an issue.

Nonetheless, I think crime authors do engage in world-building. For McBain, the characters of the 87th Precinct have personal lives distinct from the mean streets they work on. How many of us have lived in the world Detective Carella does, wooing and marrying Teddy, a woman who can neither speak nor hear?

Similarly, I've never met anyone who lives like Stout's Nero Wolfe, a vastly-overweight man who rarely leaves his home, has an orchid greenhouse on the top floor of his Manhattan (!) brownstone, and employs a man of action such as Archie Goodwin.

MacDonald's Travis McGee lives in a slightly more recognizable world, although maintaining and living on a houseboat in Ft. Lauderdale is still a little quirky.

The authors have created characters who all work in a world we recognize, but their worlds are sufficiently different from the majority of their readers that some time must be spent defining them.

Agree? Disagree?

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Tom Petty and some woman he calls an "Honorary Heartbreaker." Watch what Stevie does with her eyes.

I always wonder how these combinations of members of different bands come about. Does one of 'em call the other and say "Have your people call my people," you think?

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April 24, 2010

Arizona's new Immigration law

Yesterday Janet Napolitano's replacement as Governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer, signed a law which essentially says Arizona's law enforcement personnel can stop anyone who looks like an illegal immigrant and ask them for their identity papers. From Article 8 of Arizona SB 1070 (.pdf):

For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or agency of this state or a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this state where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the united states, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person.
Here's a bit of amusement from an otherwise disgusting and probably unconstitutional bill: "This act may be cited as the 'Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act'." Seems to me that it should just be called the Driving/Walking/Existing While Mexican Act.

Given that Arizona is roughly 30% Hispanic, I wondered if there exists an Arizona Hispanic Republican group and what they think of this.

Not much. Other than the peculiar reference to "Republican" Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a slap at Obama for not acting on immigration policy within his first 90 days in office, it might as well have been written by a bunch of Democrats.

It is unfortunate that our own members of the Republican Party believe that we have to trample on our Constitution in order to “enforce our laws.” We believe that Pearce is easing the requirements for “probable cause” and his attempt in expanding our government. What Pearce’s bill proves is that he does not have the answer for illegal immigration within the confines of the American Constitution, and in fact he is not solving the problem by creating more problems.

We believe United States Hispanic citizens have a right to be safe in their person from illegal searches and seizures, and we believe Pearce’s efforts are violating that. SB 1070 is a direct slap in the face to Hispanic Americans who have fought and died for several American wars because this new law can be abused by authorities to pull us over with mere “reasonable suspicion”.
Goodness gracious! Hispanic Republicans want equal treatment under the law! What can they be thinking?

I really don't understand the kind of thinking that can keep a group of people in a party which has proven itself hostile to the group's interests at every turn. I don't understand it when the group is poor or disadvantaged white Americans, I don't understand it when it's gay Americans, and I don't understand it when it's black or Hispanic Americans. How long does it take to figure it out?

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April 23, 2010

For Hawai'i District One voters

This is a letter to the editor of the morning paper, expressing dismay at its endorsement of Democrat Ed Case for Congress in the upcoming special election. What's surprising is who wrote it: Dick Port, former Chair of the Hawai'i Democratic Party. Port reminds us of an episode Case would like to have us forget: his refusal to allow Patsy Mink's husband to serve out her term after she died in office. Instead, Case argued that he'd gain seniority in the House if he was elected ahead of the regular election in 2002. He was elected. Five years later he resigned to run for Senator Daniel Akaka's seat, giving up that seniority to try to displace a man who already had 16 years of seniority in the Senate. He lost and has been out of office for three years.

I don't like Ed Case either. My reason is pretty simple: while in Congress he was a prime example of a Blue Dog Democrat. He says that health care reform must include tort reform, and he's in favor of companies selling health insurance across state lines, two of the biggest Republican positions in the recent debate. Essentially, I don't trust him to vote with the progressive Democrats when his vote might be needed.

I intend to vote for Colleen Hanabusa, who's been an able State Senator for several years. I disagree with her on a few things, but as far as I'm concerned she's a lot more likely to vote with the Obama Administration and the progressive Democrats than Ed Case would be.

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Unconscionable doesn't come close

News item: WellPoint routinely targets breast cancer patients

Shortly after they were diagnosed with breast cancer, each of the women learned that her health insurance had been canceled.


The women paid their premiums on time. Before they fell ill, neither had any problems with their insurance. Initially, they believed their policies had been canceled by mistake.

They had no idea that WellPoint was using a computer algorithm that automatically targeted them and every other policyholder recently diagnosed with breast cancer. The software triggered an immediate fraud investigation, as the company searched for some pretext to drop their policies, according to government regulators and investigators.

For this behavior, WellPoint's CEO Angela Brady got a 51% pay hike in 2009, to $13.1M.

Hotpoint cares more about its customers than WellPoint does.

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April 22, 2010

Ethical failure, agency version

Well now. The US Senate is about to disclose e-mail evidence showing that "executives from Standard & Poor's and Moody's Investors Service acknowledge compromising the integrity of ratings to win business from big Wall Street firms." And:

Another e-mail to be unveiled at Friday's hearing features a Standard & Poor's employee angrily complaining to a Morgan Stanley banker about ratings agencies being played off of each other.

"How many millions does Morgan Stanley pay us in the greater scheme of things? How many times have I accommodated you on tight deals? Neer, Hill, Yoo, Garzia, Nager, May, Miteva, Benson, Erdman all think I am helpful, no?" the employee said, naming all the Morgan executives who'd received accommodative ratings.

It's always nice to be vindicated (see below).

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Fair and balanced, huh?

Gosh, I'm shocked.

In recent years, at least twenty Fox News personalities have endorsed, raised money, or campaigned for Republican candidates or causes, or against Democratic candidates or causes, in more than 300 instances and in at least 49 states. Republican parties and officials have routinely touted these personalities' affiliations with Fox News to sell and promote their events.
Now, some of these folks (Bolton, Gingrich, Huckabee) are former politicians or Republican Administration employees, so that's not a real surprise, but Fox's news anchors doing it seems to blatantly ignore the supposed rules of journalistic objectivity.

Details at the linked post.

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April 21, 2010

The US Senate and its folkways

We know about the filibuster, the usage of which has spiked dramatically since the Dems took over effective control of the Senate in 2006.

Holds, however, are less well known. Republican Senators are currently using (or abusing) the practice to keep some 217 nominees to various positions within the Administration from getting confirmation votes on the floor of the Senate. (Figures as of 3/29/2010.)

So, yesterday, Senators McCaskill and Whitehouse got annoyed and attempted to move the process forward. They demanded unanimous consent to proceed to floor votes on some 97 nominees. They didn't expect to get it, but by doing so they started the clock running on a 2007 Senate rule which requires Senators placing anonymous holds on nominees to report their action to the Congressional Record within six legislative days.

I don't know whether it will result in any votes, but I'll give the Senators credit for forcing the issue.

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April 20, 2010

Lost, Season 6, Episode 13

Blurb: Alliances are forged and broken as Locke and Jack merge their camps.


Alan Sepinwall

EW pre-episode folderol

EW Instant Recap

EW upon-further-reflection Recap

Including tonight, there are only six episodes left. I'm still unclear on how they can possibly wind this up; there's been precious little explanation even this late in the final season. If I was in the habit of carrying around worry beads, I'd be fingering them.

Well. Connections are finally being made in the Sideways universe: Sun's recognition of Locke on the gurney next to her own; Jack's sense that he might know Locke as he's about to operate on him.

Desmond telegraphed his manipulative plans to the audience when he insisted Claire go see his lawyer "friend," didn't he? And that scene when Claire reveals Christian was her father too really showcased Jack's acting ability, I thought. He managed to play stunned but not overcome.

The island universe is starting to make a little more sense too; at least Sawyer's goals are clear; I thought Claire came aboard the boat a little too easily, but maybe I underestimated Kate's powers of persuasion. Jack has apparently taken on the "Man of Faith" role that Locke held for so long, but then he's almost immediately blown up. I admit to wondering if there's anything sinister behind unLocke's "You're with me now." Could Jack have died in the explosion and come back to life as another of unLocke's minions? Surely not!

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April 19, 2010

Music Monday, apparently

In the Shape of a Heart -- one of the most poignant break-up songs I've ever heard. From the 1986 album Lives in the Balance. Performed on the long-running German television program Rockpalast.

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Hard to believe this was 2006

Emmylou Harris and Mark Knopfler in Sweden on their "All the Roadrunning" Tour.

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April 18, 2010


Say what you will about Manny Ramirez, he has one helluva sense of the dramatic. With one man on base and the Dodgers down 1-0 in the bottom of the eighth he pinch-hit for the pitcher and promptly hit the ball into the left-field pavilion to put the Dodgers ahead 2-1. Broxton came in and retired the Giants on eight pitches in the ninth, so the Dodgers won two of three from their rivals to the north.

ESPN tells me that's only Manny's second pinch-hit homer in eighteen major league seasons. The first was last year on Manny Bobblehead night.

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April 17, 2010

Into the 21th century

I am now the proud possessor of a Gearhead OM3500U optical mouse; it's no longer listed under the Products page at the website, which I assume means it's been discontinued. No wonder I got it for $9.99!

It seems to work fine; my only gripe is that it takes up a USB port and has a 3-foot cord. I'd really like a 4-foot cord. On the other hand, no mechanical track ball to get sticky and fail, so that's good.

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April 16, 2010

The Big Short

I finished reading Michael Lewis's The Big Short the other day. It succeeded in worrying me greatly, because until today nobody on Wall Street has appeared to get the message that their misbehavior and stupidity in causing the worst recession since the 1930s should be punished.

That's fine and I hope it works, but the ratings agencies (Moody's, S&P, and Fitch) should also be put under the microscope. The way those firms are compensated (the issuer of the security pays them) creates a conflict of interest. Here's how:

If Goldman Sachs wants to issue a security made up of millions of lousy mortgages, it goes to one of the agencies to get that security rated. It pays for that service. Goldman wants the highest rating possible in order to make the security as attractive as possible to its customers, who are typically institutions like pension funds and mutual funds. If the agency finds that the security isn't worthy of the highest rating, Goldman could simply take its business to one of the other agencies in order to get that high rating. Unless all the agencies colluded, they could be played against one another. Goldman could say "Moody's, unless we get the highest rating we're going to take our business over to S&P; since you're paid for each security and we issue a zillion per year, that's a ton of fee revenue you'd lose unless you do what we want."

The obvious solution is to change the method of compensation the ratings agencies receive. I don't know whether it would make sense for the government to contract with them to rate securities, but at least that would put a middleman between the issuers and the agencies. If it was done that way, the agencies would have to be objective or face the loss of the contract.

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April 15, 2010

April 15

“Taxes are the price we pay for civilization” -- Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes


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April 14, 2010

Vlad? Is that you?

From my email (with "undisclosed recipients" as the addressee!)

From the assassin

To whom it may concern.

This is may come to your notice as a joking matter and to us it is a very serious issue that paid us so much money. We are assassin and someone around you hired us to assassinate you do his personal reason and since past six weeks now we have been following all you movements both going out and coming in. every of your data is with us both your address infect everything thing that concerning you and don't ask how did we get your email, well last weekend we are with you to accomplish the assignment in other to get you down. You was at out target and one funny thing that when we wanted to shoot you and something came to the hearth of the shooter and said, his should not shoot this man because you did not do any evil to the personal that hired us. We assassin all over the world always listing to our spirit and when our spirit tells us to kill we obey the spirit by killing the person, well god is on your said and we decided to open up this matter with you.

The day we discussed the deal with the executor, he did not know that every of our discussions between us was on tape record. Well, if you most know he paid us well to kill you, if you feel that this is joke maybe we shall give you special gift by kill any of your beloved one for you to believe us. This matter that we are disclosing to you is done anywhere in assassin community and we don't give notice before killing the person and is not late to kill you if you don't believe us, but before taking your life, one of you beloved one will go down before you. The executor has been giving us pleasure to kill you so the he will take over your position and don't ask the position because is well known to the person ok. The time we gave him is over and we said we should let you know this first, listen very carefully do not try to involve any police in the matter because if you do. Even the last person among us most accomplish the deal and you most die before the last man standing. We know this most interest you to know the person that sent us and we are not going to tell you his name and the only information we are going to give you concerning the person is the recording tape. You just have only 72hrs to communicate with us and if you like call the police or not, both your movements and telephone communication is monitoring by our communication specialist. If you want the tape and it well cost you just usd$45000 and after the payment into our account we shell direct you have to receive that, through phone communication and for now no phone conversation in this matter.

The assassin is waiting.

Jeepers. If it had been signed by Vlad Taltos I'd be a little concerned; as it is . . .

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April 13, 2010

Lost, Season 6, Episode 12

Blurb: Hurley agonizes over what the group's next move should be; Locke is curious about the new arrival in his camp.


Alan Sepinwall

EW pre-episode bafflegab

EW Instant Recap

Desmond pretty clearly has feet in both worlds. It appears his Sideways role is to nudge the rest of the Losties into remembering what happened on the island. Certainly that was his intent in prodding Hurley to find Libby at the mental institution.

But. That sure didn't look like a gentle nudge when he smashed Sideways-Locke into the ground with his car; the look on his face implied revenge to me, not a polite reminder.

Hurley taking a leadership role was interesting, as was Jack's willingness to let himself be led. The look Jack and unLocke exchanged was knowing on unLocke's side, bitter on Jack's.

If I'm not mistaken, we now have Jin and Sun within 50 yards of each other, so that long-awaited reunion can't be too far off, can it?

Michael's stuck on the island, whispering, as are all the other people whose behavior precludes their departure. Seems like a pretty pat explanation for those whispers, but there aren't all that many episodes left.

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April 12, 2010

Ballads by Barbra

Streisand released a new CD in 2009, produced by no less a musical luminary than Diana Krall. Love is the Answer is full of beautiful songs from the 20th century American songbook; what's startling is that Barbra has never recorded any of them before. Jacques Brel's "Ne Me Quitte Pas" (If You Go Away), it turns out, is made for her voice, as is "Make Someone Happy." Hearing her version of "The Wee Small Hours" won't make you forget Sinatra's performance, but it can stand side-by-side with it.

Krall plays piano on several cuts, but she lets Streisand sing unaccompanied, which I'd say is wise. Krall's voice is fine, but Streisand's has no equal.

Full track listing at Amazon.

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April 11, 2010

What good are social networks?

Well, if you suddenly realize you know basically zilch about a topic, you can look into your friends list and see if you know an expert who can make a recommendation.

In my case, after all the Civil War Heritage hooha this week, it occurred to me that I've never read anything remotely definitive about Reconstruction. So I looked up Professor David Noon of Lawyers Gun & Money and asked him what the most reputable source was, and he was kind enough to recommend Forever Free, written by a man felt by historians to be the best authority on the subject.

I wouldn't have known where to start without Facebook.

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April 10, 2010

Dear President Obama

Since everyone else is giving you advice about your next Supreme Court Justice selection, I have no compunction about doing the same.

I hope that, fifteen months into your first term, you have recognized that those people politicians used to call politely "my friends across the aisle" are in fact no friends of yours, and you will get very few if any of their votes for anyone you select for such an important position. I also hope you recognize that it is unlikely you will have 57 Democratic Senators (and the two Independents, although counting on Lieberman for a vote is like counting on the Nationals to win the pennant this year -- that is, iffy) after this fall's elections.

I hope you recognize that no matter who you pick the Republicans are going to fight him or her with all they've got. That being the case, go all in. Pick a good strong qualified liberal to replace Justice Stevens. I like the way this woman argues (2-minute video). Her name is Pamela S. Karlan, and she's currently a professor at Stanford Law School.

Now, there are probably other qualified liberals available; I'm not suggesting Professor Karlan should immediately rise to the top of your list. But I do think you should pick someone with Ms. Kaplan's willingness to call BS on faulty reasoning by the current members of the Supreme Court.

Hat tip, Tapped.

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April 09, 2010

Does anybody know?

In the ongoing coal mine disaster in West Virginia, the hope now is pinned to the four men somehow getting into a safety chamber (here's an example; I don't know if it's the specific model used at the Upper Big Branch mine).

Something I've wondered about since I first learned there were such chambers in the mine: do these things have dedicated telephone landlines? That would seem to be an obvious feature, but I've heard no mention of it in all the news coverage, and the sales brochure for the model shown in that picture doesn't include it either.

I can only include there's some logistical reason behind the lack of communication capability, but I'd love to know what it is. Seems to me a phone cable could be run down the shaft and along the tunnel to the installed chambers; sure, explosions might destroy it, but shouldn't you try?

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April 07, 2010

T'is a puzzle

Why Newt Gingrich still gets a forum to yap is beyond me. He's a former Speaker of the House thrown out of the job by his own side, a serial adulterer and a lousy novelist. Give him credit, though; he's one of Amazon's most prolific reviewers. But Republicans and the media both still listen to his blathering, even when he's lying through his teeth.

This time it's the "16,000 IRS agents" who will become "health police" to ensure everyone who doesn't buy health insurance will pay the penalty for not doing so. This despite the fact that claim has been debunked by FactCheck.org and by PolitiFact.

Good thing I'm not King Henry.

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April 06, 2010

Lost, Season 6, Episode 11

Blurb: Desmond wakes up and realizes he is back on the island.


Alan Sepinwall

EW pre-episode blather

EW Recap

So sideways-Desmond can "see" what happened at the island and with Penny when he's undergoing an MRI. MRI, of course, is the initialization for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Desmond (on-island) has been through a major electro-magnetic storm and survived when he flipped the fail-safe key in The Swan station; apparently Widmore knows that, since he (Widmore) wants to test Desmond again to be sure he can withstand another event. The implication seems to be that there's going to have to be yet another cataclysmic event like that to resolve things.

Sometimes I think the final two-hour episode of "Lost" is going to consist of all the Losties sitting around drinks at a circular table in a bar somewhere in LA. They'll be explaining their behavior throughout all six seasons to one another. That's the only way we fans are going to get all the answers.

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Land titles

Idle curiosity: from whom did Superman acquire the property rights to the Arctic land on which he built the Fortress of Solitude?

The concept of the remote hideaway was first introduced in Action Comics issue #241 in 1958, ten years after the United Nations was established. Could he have gotten the deed from the UN?

I can just imagine an episode of the comic in which Superman is sued for access to the mineral rights by Canada, Russia, or some other nation with a claim to part of the Arctic landmass.

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April 05, 2010

Sports news

Well, blah. The Dodgers gave up 11 runs to the Pirates (the Pirates?!?) and lost their Opening Day game. We'll see if Butler can redeem the day (athletically-speaking) by defeating Duke this evening.

Oh, and if you weren't paying attention, the UConn women won their 77th straight game yesterday setting up a Women's Final Four championship match against Stanford on Tuesday, April 6. April 6 also happens to be the exact date of UConn's last loss two years ago, to, you guessed it, Stanford.

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April 04, 2010

Opening Day Doggerel

Spring is sprung
The grass is riz
I wonder where
the birdies is?

Spring is sprung
The lineup's new
Who'll win out
Among the few?

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April 03, 2010

A small (school) surprise

Butler, home to 4,200 students, defeats Michigan State, home to 42,000 students.

For a while in the second half I thought nobody was ever going to hit a field goal again, but each team finally did. It sure wasn't pretty. Look at the box score: Butler shot 30.6% from the floor, MSU shot 42.9%. From the three-point line they weren't any better: Butler shot 23.8%, MSU 36.4%. So how did Butler win? Free throws (Butler, 17-24 for 70.8%; MSU 10-18 for 55.6%) and turnovers (MSU gave it up 16 times, Butler only 8).

Now the Bulldogs move on to play the winner of Duke - West Virginia. I'll pick WVU, just for fun.

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How much did your first job pay?

Reading the NYT article today which pulls the curtain back on internships and the abuses thereof, I'm reminded of the first actual job I had which got me a paycheck, complete with deductions for federal and state taxes and social security withholding. That was in 1967. Before that I'd had newspaper delivery jobs where I paid for the papers, keeping a cash commission based on how much I collected.

That was a whole lot of fun: going door-to-door to my customers' homes trying to persuade them to pay for something they'd already received. It wasn't so bad in the DC suburbs: people valued the evening paper. But the weekly throwaway (15¢!) I delivered every Wednesday morning in Westwood for a year or two was virtually impossible to get paid for; on the bright side, I learned the 15-times table really really well.

Anyway, that first paying job was as a janitor in my high school three days a week after class. For the work I got paid $1.65 an hour and was quite pleased.

What was your first job and how much did you earn?

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April 02, 2010


When I was growing up Catholic in the 1950s we ate no meat on Fridays, which meant in many of the places we lived we ate a lot of fish sticks. Nowadays, living in Hawai'i, we can get fresh fish; I haven't had a fish stick in at least thirty years.

As I understand it, the Church relaxed its rules on fasting and abstinence from meat after Vatican II, but we've still got the no-meat rule in our heads. We're not absolutists, but most of the time I find some kind of fish to cook on Fridays.

Today? Crumb-topped Swordfish1. Mom used to make this for company, but by adjusting the quantities it can be cut down to a meal for two, three or four.

  • 2 tablespoons salad oil
  • 2 pounds swordfish steaks
  • Juice of 1 lemon (3 tablespoons)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 cup (1/2 pint) commercial sour cream
  • 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Coat baking dish with salad oil.
Arrange swordfish in the dish in a single layer.
Sprinkle fish with lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
Cover with the chopped onion, then add a layer of the parsley.
Spoon sour cream over the top.
Sprinkle with bread crumbs; dot with butter.
Bake in a moderately hot oven (375°) for 25 minutes.

1 I note that there's no attribution for this recipe on that site. It's word-for-word from The Sunset Magazine Cook Book, October 1960, Lane Book Company, Menlo Park, Ca. I know this because we have a copy of that cookbook, and it falls naturally open to the page on which this recipe appears.

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April 01, 2010

There's a place whose name I know

How's this for intriguing?

. . . never was there a race so different from all his fellows as Man. He was extinct barely seventeen millennia after he strode boldly out into the galaxy from this, the planet of his birth—but during that brief interval he wrote a chapter in galactic history that will last forever. He claimed the stars for his own, colonized a million worlds, ruled his empire with an iron will. He gave no quarter during his primacy, and he asked for none during his decline and fall. Even now, some forty-eight centuries after his extinction, his accomplishments and his failures still excite the imagination.

That's on Page One of Mike Resnick's Hugo/Nebula Award winning story Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge, which I happened to notice while reading Wikipedia's list of works which won both awards.

Having once studied anthropology, the name Olduvai Gorge piqued my interest, so I went looking for further info. Here's part of what Wikipedia says about the novella: "The alien archaeologists sent there study humanity's rise and fall in the legendary home of its emergence in East Africa. In the course of the story the aliens learn about the cruelty and glory of human history."

Well, how can I resist that? My library doesn't have it, but fortunately Subterranean Press has put the entire thing online.

Postscript: I have now read it. It's . . . disturbing.

Further reading: Richard Connell's The Most Dangerous Game.

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