September 30, 2010

"Bankrupting America" ad

You may have seen a new television ad from an outfit calling itself "Bankrupting America," picturing a guy in a suit with a shovel digging a hole. The voiceover says America is indebted to the tune of $13 trillion, nearly as much as our GDP. It exhorts viewers to defeat members of Congress who vote for spending programs, with no specifics. The line at the bottom of the ad says it's paid for by something called "Public Notice."

So who's that? Well, the website says it's a non-profit "dedicated to providing facts and insight on the economy and how government policy affects Americans’ financial well-being." That's it. There's no list of funders in the "About" page.

Ah, but back in March one of Josh Marshall's beady-eyed researchers noticed a column in US News and World Report announcing the formation of the organization. TPM interviewed the founder, one Gretchen Hamel. Who might she be, you ask? Ah, well. She's a former PR flack who "served as the Bush administration's top spokesperson on trade issues, and as press secretary for the House Republican Conference."

Hmm. I guess that's sufficient information to figure out just which members of Congress Bankrupting America would like to have elected and which defeated, don't you agree? It would be interesting to know whether it's funded directly by the RNC or indirectly by one of the scores of right-wing billionaires (Scaife, Koch, etc.) who back the Republicans, but either way I now know I can sneer at those ads with justification.

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Here's that US Religious Knowledge test

15 Questions about world religions.

I got all of them correct, but I admit that I got one wrong when it was quoted on network news the other night, so I knew better when I actually took the test this morning.

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September 29, 2010

Small government fanaticism at work

Even before the Tea Party candidates are coronated, their Senate minions who are already there are doing their work:

Nearly nine months after the earthquake, more than a million Haitians still live on the streets between piles of rubble. One reason: Not a cent of the $1.15 billion the U.S. promised for rebuilding has arrived.


It took until May for the Senate to pass a supplemental request for the Haiti funds and until July for the House to do the same. The votes made $917 million available but did not dictate how or when to spend it. Without that final step, the money remains in the U.S. Treasury.

Then came summer recess, emergencies in Pakistan and elsewhere, and the distractions of election politics.

Now the authorization bill that would direct how the aid is delivered remains sidelined by a senator who anonymously pulled it for further study. Through calls to dozens of senators' offices, the AP learned it was Sen. Tom Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma.

"He is holding the bill because it includes an unnecessary senior Haiti coordinator when we already have one" in U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Merten, Coburn spokeswoman Becky Bernhardt said.

The bill proposes a new coordinator in Washington who would not oversee U.S. aid but would work with the USAID administrator in Washington to develop a rebuilding strategy. The position would cost $1 million a year for five years, including salaries and expenses for a staff of up to seven people.

So Coburn thinks the Ambassador should spend all of his time working with US AID. Now, even if that made sense, I'd imagine the people who staff the Embassy in Port-au-Prince already have a lot to do with little time to focus on specific contracts with AID, so the additional seven people requested by the State Department would seem to be necessary.

Apparently not to Senator Coburn, who himself has a payroll which exceeds $2 million a year. He begrudges paying a senior Haiti Coordinator and his/her staff $1 million a year, all the while paying out $1,284,172 to 51 people on his own staff for the fiscal period 10/31/09 to 3/31/10.

I love the smell of hypocrisy in the Senate.

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September 28, 2010

Oh look, a new President!

Senate rules really need to be overhauled.

Sen. Jim DeMint warned his colleagues Monday night that he would place a hold on all legislation that has not been “hot-lined” by the chamber or has not been cleared by his office before the close of business Tuesday.


“Hot-lining” is a process by which the two Senate leaders poll their caucuses to see if anyone objects to passing a bill. If no one raises an objection, than the bill is fast-tracked for passage. DeMint apparently plans to honor his existing promises to allow legislation to be hot-lined, but he has told the entire Senate that they have until close of business today to get his approval for other legislation or else he will block that bill — even if it enjoys overwhelming support.

If I were a member of "the world's greatest deliberative body," as the Senate likes to call itself (the origin of the phrase is lost in time, as far as the Internet is concerned), I think I'd be a little ticked off at DeMint's usurpation of my right to vote.

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September 27, 2010


What next to read? That's the question I'm posing to myself today. I have the final book of "The Hunger Games" trilogy, "Mockingjay," on the library shelf. I also have the latest Anna Pigeon book, "Burn," on that shelf. If I want non-fiction I have "Winner Take All Politics" there as well.


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September 26, 2010

Media narratives

I flipped on ESPN a few hours ago thinking it would be showing Baseball Tonight and I could catch the scores. Instead it was SportsCenter and there were Chris Berman, Tom Jackson and others bloviating about Michael Vick, the Eagles quarterback who spent a couple of years in jail for funding a dogfighting ring. They were all applauding his leading the team to a win over the Jaguars today. Fine. But then I heard Berman say "He's turned his life around and become a good man."

Excuse me? He spent a couple of years in jail for a crime, got out and went back to his career. The crime was pretty nasty, but it pales in comparison to some of the other things some NFL players have done. After all, Vick didn't kill anyone while driving under the influence, as both Leonard Little and Donte Stallworth have done. Neither has he been accused of rape, as Kobe Bryant and Ben Roethlisberger have been.

Ultimately, Vick didn't rape anyone, he didn't kill anyone, and he's not some terrible evil monster. He was guilty of having a perverse understanding of dogs as a vehicle for entertainment and sport. He had the money to fund this entertainment, and the friends to prod him along if doubt ever crept in. That earned him six felony charges and nearly two years imprisonment, theoretically teaching him the lesson that didn't get through when he was growing up in Newport News: dogfighting's horrible.
Right. Presumably he's resolved not to do that anymore.

To me, "turning your life around" should be reserved for renouncing the booze or drugs after you drove drunk and killed someone, or after you nearly died from an overdose of Quaaludes. You've turned your life around if you've kicked a crystal meth habit which sent you from the top of your profession to the gutter.

You haven't turned your life around when you've served a couple of years in jail for felonies whose commission can easily be avoided in the future.

The words Berman used form a false narrative about Vick. It's probably not something Berman's consciously doing, but it's doing it nonetheless.

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Wash, dry, fluff, fold

I lead such an interesting life.

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September 25, 2010

What goes around comes around

Jon Stewart and his crew are brilliant researchers and editors. Here they juxtapose statements from Gingrich, Hastert, et. al. from the 1990s and early 2000s with statements made by the Republicans at their "Pledge to America" rollout yesterday.

Guess what? Yesterday's remarks are nearly word-for-word duplicates of the old ones!

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Postcards From the Pledge
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party
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September 24, 2010

Photo tool

One of the things one has to think about when thinking of closing a Yahoo account is the 200 pictures one has at Flickr. I wondered whether Migratr would allow me to swap the pictures from Flickr to Picasa.


An additional benefit is that importing pictures from Flickr puts them in a folder on your desktop, so not only can you then export them to a different photo-sharing service, you can also easily back them up to a CD, flash drive, or other storage device.

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September 23, 2010

Game over

Dems put off vote on expiration of Bush tax cuts.

So, in order to appease 36-40 Blue Dog Democrats who were likely to lose their seats in this election anyway, the rest of the Democrats have gracelessly fallen on their swords.

I realize I'm just an amateur political consultant, but giving up your biggest weapon because some of your infantry thinks it might backfire on them makes no sense.

As if your base wasn't already discouraged!

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September 22, 2010

High cost of health care

One tube of blood. Eight tests for cholesterol, kidney function, liver function, and PSA (prostate specific antigen).

Total cost: $391.40

Insurance: $305.90

My Co-pay: $ 85.50

Note: this has nothing to do with the colonoscopy. This is just the annual exam.

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Does nobody know how to play this game?

Say you're a House Democrat in a swing district, one that's not overly wealthy or disproportionately poor. Say you've got a credible opponent running against you in November. Say you need a big issue to separate yourself from that opponent.

Then why in the name of all that's sensible would you not want to make the point that you're on the side of the 98% of the people who would retain their tax cuts from 2001 and 2003? That the Republican party, by demanding that those tax cuts be extended to everyone, is first last and always on the side of the richest 1% of the country? That the Republican party howls about deficits until it comes time for their friends in that 1% group to help pay them down, at which point the deficit doesn't matter?

This is Politics 101. Make yourself look like a caring person who wants to help your constituents; make your opponent look like a person who cares only about his donors and their wealthy buddies.

As Steve Benen says, Hold. The. Damn. Votes.

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Song from yesteryear

This has to be one of the most underrated songs in the entire S&G catalog.

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September 21, 2010


Down here I mentioned I'd really like to read Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson's Winner-Take-All Politics, because it told the tale of how big business figured out how to lobby the Feds.

Well, it arrived at the library a week or so ago and it turns out I was the first one in the state to have it on hold, so it's now in my greedy little hands.

Cool, huh?

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September 20, 2010

Glad that's over with

The colonoscopy was done, painlessly. The results were excellent: not a polyp or any other growth in sight. "Come back in five years" the doctor says.

Oh, good. That almost makes up for a lousy night. When the label on the glop says you should start seeing results within the first hour of drinking the first glass, and instead that first result doesn't occur until 9:00pm, that means you're in for a long evening. I didn't get done with the gallon jug until 1:30am.

Props to the anesthesiologist; he plugged that needle into my hand and within about five minutes I was completely out. I woke up about an hour and fifteen minutes later, woozy but ambulatory. I put my clothes back on, picked up the paper confirmation of the findings, and went out to the second-floor elevator lobby to wait for my sister. While waiting I called Mom to tell her the good news, and then my sister showed up on the floor below, so I was suddenly carrying on a phone conversation and one with my ride at the same time. That got amusing.

Anyway, my sister had a Big Mac, fries and a Coke waiting for me. I used restraint and waited till I got home to eat.

All in all, as expected, the procedure is easy enough; it's the prep that's horrible.

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The picture alone is worth the $5

Wil Wheaton. Jon Scalzi. And a chimera.

Oh, and a downloadable collection of short stories, for the unbelievably-low suggested price of five bucks.

Why have you not clicked over there yet?

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September 19, 2010

Damned scope prep

I'm starving to death in advance of drinking a gallon of this stuff.

For best results, no solid food should be ingested during the 3 to 4 hour period prior to the initiation of GaviLyte- C.
Now that's just annoying.

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September 18, 2010

Blogger Alert!, the widget which has allowed you to maintain your blogroll without getting into your main blog template, is going away, perhaps as soon as this weekend. See this thread at their support service site.

Because we're now finally in the process of shutting down Blogrolling we won't be working on a fix for this. If you still have the widget code on your site, you should remove it now.

Best of luck and sorry for the hassle.

I asked
What's the time frame for closure? I'm signed into it right now, opening links and copying them one-by-one to a text file. Not fun.
and was told:
We're talking about it now. It might be this weekend, probably not tonight.

My hope is that we'll be able to turn off "RPC" (the thing that publishes the blogrolls) but keep live so you can get in and get your data.

So if you use the service, get in while you still can and copy your links! What I did was open each link in a new tab and copy the URL to a text file. I still don't know whether I'm going to copy the links into my main blog index template or create a separate "Links" page I can keep open in a separate tab, but one way or another I wanted to get my links while I still could. I suggest you do the same.

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September 17, 2010


I've spent one evening in New York City in my entire life, so my view of the place is skewed by books, magazine articles, movies and television. That's why a story like this boggles me. I read these paragaphs in a story about the storm that hit the city yesterday

Buildings and houses were severely damaged, thousands of customers lost electricity and many commuters were inconvenienced.

But destroyed were thousands of trees — trees torn out of sidewalks, others flung 30 or 40 feet through the air, still others shorn of branches, cracked in two.

and thought, "thousands of trees? Where are they?" When I think of NYC I think of concrete canyons and jam-packed sidewalks.

I need to go see the city.

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Oh joy

Mattingly to Replace Torre as Dodgers Manager

I've got nothing in particular against Mattingly. He was certainly a great player. He's had no managerial experience, though. Yeah, yeah, everybody's got to start somewhere, but this is starting at the top level without paying any dues and learning the trade. I'm not sure he's the right guy for this job.

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September 16, 2010

Avoid this

If you fill a mug with Cream of Celery soup and put it down on a tilted tray, it may spill into your lap.

Doing so makes a helluva mess. It also means you have to find a Plan B for lunch.

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September 15, 2010

Elected Democrats, listen up!

Updated below

John Scalzi "goes off" on the Democrats.

But if the GOP do take the House, it won’t be because Americans actually prefer the current Republican platform, which can be summed up as “let’s forget 2008 ever happened,” but because the Democrats have been so woefully incompetent on so many levels.


Where the Democrats have shown complete incompetence is in how they went about their legislative agenda (i.e., like unherdable brain-damaged stoats), and how they’ve allowed the GOP — and its crazy nephew from the attic, the Tea Party, as well as its bullhorn Fox News — to frame everything they’ve done as one step short of eviscerating live kittens and feeding noisily on their carcasses on live TV.

Read it in its glorious entirety. I have nothing I can add to it except perhaps this: When Steny Hoyer, the Democrats' House Majority Leader, says this when asked about forcing a vote on letting tax cuts expire for the rich while keeping them for the middle class:

"I'm always, as you know, prepared to discuss alternatives so that we can move forward,"
he makes Scalzi's point even more salient. Making Republicans vote in a way that shows the only constituency they care about is the wealthiest 1% of the population is a slam-dunk. The Democrats can frame this election as "who'd you rather have in office, the party who cares about the little guy or the party that cares only about the rich?" Why on earth would you not want to do that, particularly in an election where your prospects look dim?

Update: Hoyer clarifies:

"I [am] willing to talk to others about their positions," Hoyer says in a statement. "Unfortunately, the reports of my answer implied a willingness to support an extension of Bush policies. That is incorrect. Neither the adverse effect on the deficit, nor the lack of positive economic benefit, justifies such actions. As a result, I said: 'that, [the willingness to talk] does not mean that you take actions which you don't believe are appropriate.'"

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September 14, 2010

Catching Fire, Book Two of The Hunger Games

I wrote about starting "The Hunger Games Trilogy" here. I read the first book and was impressed with the world-building and the heroine.

I finished the second (Catching Fire) overnight and am now even more impressed, although the world author Suzanne Collins has built is unreservedly appalling. I've read an awful lot of dystopian novels from Orwell and Huxley to Atwood and King, but I've never found one that gave me the shudders before. The sheer nastiness of the ruling center goes well beyond 1984's uncaring state and The Handmaid's Tale's theocracy. In this society there's an added spitefulness and vengefulness toward its citizens those other books didn't have.

There are 38 35 people ahead of me on the library's waiting list for Mockingjay, the third book (and 216 waiting over all). I hope they hurry.

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September 13, 2010

Franklin Adams's poem, updated

With all due respect to Mr. Adams and his poem,

Polyethylene Glycol Electrolyte

are the saddest of all possible words.

It's the glop you have to drink before going in for a colonoscopy.

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September 12, 2010

Is my TV wrong?

What is this? Donovan McNabb is wearing a Redskins uniform this year?

It's all the science fiction I read, surely. It's displacement of some kind.

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September 11, 2010

Boehner and the Lobbyists

From the NYT.

The Boehner for Speaker campaign offers donors who give the maximum amount special perks, like “meetings with Leader Boehner and much much more.”

But his lobbyist friends and former aides said these incentives did not mean too much, because they already had plenty of access to Mr. Boehner. They just now want to see him as the speaker of the House.

An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought.

That was said by Lincoln's first Secretary of War, Simon Cameron. From what Wikipedia tells me, that statement was straight from personal experience, but he was the buyee, not the buyer.

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September 10, 2010

Top ten cover songs

My friend Kuff dug into his iTunes library to find his Top Ten cover songs. He even went to the trouble of finding YouTube videos of them when possible.

He does this kind of thing every Friday, and I've been taking up his challenge and leaving my lists in his comments each week.

Here's my list (at 0930 this morning -- this afternoon it might be a completely different list).

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September 09, 2010

Jones and the Book

While I'm very glad I live in a country where I and my fellow citizens are free to express ourselves in a myriad of ways including book burning, I do wish my fellow citizens would exercise good sense in their self-expression. I get the feeling that Mr. Jones down there in Gainesville is threatening to burn the Koran solely for provocative reasons. He may have deep feelings about Islam, but he has to know that threatening to burn its holy book serves no practical purpose other than annoying a huge swath of people, not just the 1.3 ~ 1.6 billion Muslims often cited, but millions of non-Muslims who find his actions repugnant.

How do we teach judgment?

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September 08, 2010

How did American incomes get so unequal?

So asks Tim Noah, in a scheduled two-week series of articles which began last Friday. 1915, he writes,

. . . was when the richest 1 percent accounted for 18 percent of the nation's income. Today, the richest 1 percent account for 24 percent of the nation's income. What caused this to happen? Over the next two weeks, I'll try to answer that question by looking at all potential explanations—race, gender, the computer revolution, immigration, trade, government policies, the decline of labor, compensation policies on Wall Street and in executive suites, and education. Then I'll explain why people who say we don't need to worry about income inequality (there aren't many of them) are wrong.
It looks to be quite an interesting series. It's always useful to learn just how you've been shafted, don't you agree?

Here's another provocative paragraph:

During the late 1980s and the late 1990s, the United States experienced two unprecedentedly long periods of sustained economic growth—the "seven fat years" and the " long boom." Yet from 1980 to 2005, more than 80 percent of total increase in Americans' income went to the top 1 percent. Economic growth was more sluggish in the aughts, but the decade saw productivity increase by about 20 percent. Yet virtually none of the increase translated into wage growth at middle and lower incomes, an outcome that left many economists scratching their heads.
Not just economists. At age 29 with my newly-minted Bachelor's degree in hand I started my "career" in 1980 as the Data Processing Manager for a startup health club in Honolulu, making about $12,000 a year. After nine years working there I left in 1989 making all of $22,800 a year.

So much for the boom, huh? I'm sure there are a whole lot of stories like that out there; that one's personal.

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September 07, 2010

Great moments in Newspaper Layout

In today's paper, you have to read into the story about yesterday's Navy - Maryland football game to learn the outcome. The headline doesn't quite cover it.

This is not the end result the paper's layout designers had in mind.

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September 06, 2010

Right-wing loons go off on Labor

Roy Edroso does the heavy lifting here.

Michelle Malkin opened the Labor Day festivities by celebrating "Big Labor's Legacy of Violence."

Malkin predicted that on Labor Day President Obama and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, with whom he would be spending it, would "cast Big Labor as an unassailable force for good in American history." She might have left off "unassailable," as she didn't mention any good that had come from unions, choosing to focus instead on "the union movement's violent and corrupt foundations."

The long struggle for workers' rights has been violent -- think of Federal troops mowing down railroad workers in the 1894 Pullman Strike, or the Ludlow Massacre, or the Ford Hunger March, or any other of a host of other attacks on unions.

Roy has a lot of additional excerpts from the right-bloggers, most of them equally insipid.

I do wonder if any of those folks have ever worked more than an eight-hour day with no overtime, have ever worked more than five days in an average workweek, or have ever missed a paid holiday. Their ideological blinders are impressive in a sad sick sort of way.

Here's a song from Woody Guthrie memorializing all the dead labor organizers of the 20th century.

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September 05, 2010

Tax cut lapses

Ed Andrews hears the Republican argument against letting the Bush tax cuts expire for those making over $250K per year and finds it thin.

Hassett re-launches the Republican factoid that about half of all business income reported on individual returns goes to people in the top tax brackets. The counter-factoid is that 97 percent of people who report business on their personal returns don't make enough money to be affected by the higher rates.


In any case, what Republicans call "small business income" covers many things: income from limited partnerships (real estate, oil and gas or a chain of fast-food franchises); earnings from professional corporations for doctors, dentists and lawyers; income from trusts; rental income from vacation homes and commercial real estate. These aren't necessarily family businesses or risk-taking entrepreneurs. A lof of these taxpayers are simply high-income professionals or very wealthy people who earn streams of income from many different investments. There's nothing wrong with those people, but nothing particularly sacred about them either.

I've worked in small businesses my entire career except for that three-year stretch working for a defense contractor in the 1970s. Not once have I ever worked for a small business that even came close to paying out over $250K in net income to its owner. The business itself might have had much greater net income, but it was plowed back into the business. Even when I've been self-employed as a sole proprietor and worker bee I never came close to that number. When you hear Republican politicians wail and gnash their teeth about the evil done to small businesses by allowing those tax cuts to lapse, ignore them. They're playing to their base at the Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business.

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September 04, 2010

The Hunger Games Trilogy

Who's read this? Apparently it's gotten into the YA books mainstream without my knowledge.

Wikipedia synopsis:

The Hunger Games trilogy takes place in an unidentified future time period after the destruction of North America, in a nation known as "Panem." Panem used to consist of a rich Capitol, located somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, and thirteen surrounding, poorer districts which cater to the Capitol's needs. As punishment for a previous rebellion against the Capitol wherein the thirteenth district was supposedly destroyed, every year one boy and one girl from each of the remaining twelve districts, between the ages of twelve and eighteen, are selected by lottery and forced to participate in the "Hunger Games." The Games are a televised event where the participants, called "tributes," must fight to the death in a dangerous outdoor arena until only one remains. The winning tribute and his/her corresponding district is then rewarded handsomely. It is required viewing for everyone in the districts.
Well. With a premise like that, how could anyone resist? I've just started reading Book One, The Hunger Games. It starts off with a bang, as the 16-year-old heroine's 12-year-old sister is selected as one of the tributes. The heroine stands in for her and the story begins.

Book Two, Catching Fire, is on my library TBR shelf, and Book Three, Mockingjay, is on my "hold" list. It was just published on August 24.

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September 03, 2010


It's always amusing to read game stories from newspapers in each side's hometown papers. Case in point: here's the LA Times coverage of last night's USC - U of Hawai'i football game: the headline is "USC wins shootout but defense is full of holes."

Here's the Honolulu Star-Advertiser's coverage of the same game: the headline is "The Warriors ran out of time in playing catch-up to the Trojans."

Both headlines are accurate. If the Warriors had been more effective on offense in the first quarter (they settled for two field goals on two different occasions when the ball was inside the SC five-yard line) they could have won the damned game. As it was, they got 588 yards of total offense, including 459 passing yards.

After the first field goal (three passes from inside the three-yard line?!?) my screaming at the coaches was in mid-season form, but then the passing game got going. And if you'd told me beforehand that UH would get 129 yards rushing against USC from its pass-first run-and-shoot offense I'd have said you were dreaming.

All in all, a game that might have been won, but one that showed the team has promise for the rest of the season.

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September 02, 2010

Yet another lie

The list of general lies needs an addition. Beyond

  • The check is in the mail
  • I'll respect you in the morning
  • I'm from the government and I'm here to help you,
next should be "Of course there won't be any environmental impact". This is usually said by a resource-extraction company's spokesperson, although local politicians may also say it. It's often heard when new drilling/mining projects are proposed.

There's a reason it belongs on the list of big lies.

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September 01, 2010

Saigon, Parts Two & Three

Part Two of the USS Kirk's story aired this morning on Morning Edition.

Part One below

Part Three here, later this evening.

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What, another?

birthday cake


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