Come to think of it, menthol sounds like a good idea

Today’s Super Bowl ad is not for the detergent itself but for a spinoff stain-removing product called Tide to Go. And while once there was a thing called Tide, a visit to Tide.com finds 39 different kinds of Tide: Coldwater Tide, Tide With a Touch of Downy, Tide With Bleach, Tide With Bleach Alternative, Tide With Febreze, floral scents, “mountain” scents and original scent. Recent eco-conscious variations include concentrated Tide and Tide for use with “high efficiency” appliances. All that’s missing are sugar free-and menthol.


Staying right on top of things with the polls

Poll: McCain, Clinton lead nationally

(AP/Raw Story)


The folks over at iFixIt are the first to issue an illustrated report after having completely torn-down their HDD-based MacBook Air. Some photos and notes from their efforts follow.


If at first you don't succeed

MIAMI — The retrial of six construction workers accused of conspiring to join forces with Al Qaeda and blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago began on Friday, seven weeks after the jury in the first trial deadlocked on those defendants and acquitted a seventh.

In opening statements, prosecutors and defense lawyers hewed to essentially the same arguments they made in the first trial, the outcome of which was widely regarded as a significant defeat for the government.


And who's their daddy?

Last month, Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen said, “In Afghanistan, we do what we can. In Iraq, we do what we must.”

Today in a Senate hearing, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) asked Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher about Mullen’s comment and “whether or not we’ve neglected Pakistan and Afghanistan because of our overemphasis on Iraq.”

Boucher, however, refused to prioritize Afghanistan or Iraq. He instead compared having to choose between Iraq and Afghanistan to Feingold having to choose between one of his children:

Boucher: Sir, I mean, which of your kids do you like best?

(Think Progress)

We love 'em all. Only let's not let them have the car keys.

What, they're voting in Maine too?

Yeah. For a while, it seems.

AUGUSTA, Maine—Mitt Romney took an early lead in presidential preference voting by Maine Republicans as the first returns were counted Saturday from the party's municipal caucuses, which GOP officials said were heavily attended across the state....

Republican caucuses were being held in about 410 Maine municipalities, most on Saturday. A few dozen towns, especially in northern Maine's Aroostook County, held caucuses Friday, and a few more were set for Sunday and later this month.

The Maine Democrats hold their presidential preference votes at municipal caucuses Feb. 10.

(Boston Globe)

Why rush it, eh? Anyway, there's nothing much on TV.

So what's the rush?

The Christmas tree the city of Haverhill [MA] put up to celebrate the December holiday was still standing proud and decorated in the middle of downtown into February.

(Boston Globe)


I'm buying stamps

Gerald Ford, Yoda, and "Year of the Rat" are the choices.

I can't make up my mind.

Update: What's so bad about rats?

I thought this was a visual medium

Brazil's annual explosion of samba and sexual titillation began Friday....

(AFP via Raw Story)

And...? And...?
Their performances have come to symbolize Brazil's carnival, with lithe dancing queens dressed in little more than a few sequins and feathers atop floats featuring immense allegorical scenes.

OK, allegorical is good.


Oh come on, BBC, let's not be cynical

Poland 'agrees' to host US shield


At least somebody's doing something

Laura Bush promotes healthy living

...Mrs. Bush is the ambassador for the Heart Truth, a campaign to educate women about the risks of heart disease and the steps to prevent it.

(Boston Globe)

Although, sorry, whenever I see the words "Bush" and "educate" in the same sentence I sort of reflexively cringe.

Signs of intelligence in Iraq

Increased Iraqi oil revenues stemming from high prices and improved security are piling up in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York rather than being spent on needed reconstruction projects, a Washington Times study of Iraq's spending and revenue figures has shown.

U.S. officials and outside analysts blame the collapse of the country's political and physical infrastructure for Baghdad's failure to spend the money on projects considered vital to restoring stability in the country.

(Washington Times)

"Considered" is the operative word there. By the Bush administration.

Yeah, bunky, maybe those Iraqis are a whole lot smarter than we thought.

Stuff I stopped reading right there

“McCain has done more to hurt the Republican Party than any elected official I know of,” said Tom DeLay...

(Progressive Populist)

I get all teary-eyed, myself

All those years licking Bush’s boots, and this is what you get in return- attempts to cut Medicare during an economic downturn during an election year where Republicans poll lower than herpes and Ann Coulter is promising to campaign for Hillary over McCain. Anymore compassionate conservatism and the GOP will be relegated to permanent minority status, with nothing but a few religious nuts, a couple warmongers, and Hugh Hewitt. Wouldn’t that just be terrible?

(John Cole, Balloon Juice)

A high, high, very high geek-quotient cartoon

Whoa, NYTimes busted by Spiiderweb™

OK, AFP too. But still.

ISLAMABAD (AFP) - The bodies from a missile strike that killed several militants [next post down] have been buried and it was impossible to confirm or refute if a top Al-Qaeda operative was among them, the army said Friday.

Right. Impossible. But...

...a Western official said there were "very strong indications" that he had been slain.

OK then. Very strong. The demise of the "operative" ("senior commander," says the Times) was reported by an Islamist website - which, by the way, seems to have been pretty happy about the whole thing.

An announcement on the Al-Fajr Information Centre website on Thursday said that "we announce the good news to the Islamic world: Sheikh Abu Laith al-Qassimi al-Libi has fallen a martyr on the soil of Muslim Pakistan."

Meanwhile Major General Athar Abbas of the Pakistani army, which has no idea (wink wink) where those missiles came from, they were just flying around up there and then they came down or something, says...

"We cannot negate nor confirm because the moment it happened, they removed the bodies and buried them. So, how would anybody confirm who got killed?"

How indeed.

That's what happens, kid

WASHINGTON — An American missile strike in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal areas killed a senior commander of Al Qaeda who had been involved in planning attacks on United States and NATO troops in Afghanistan, American officials said Thursday.


You play around with those missiles long enough, sooner or later somebody will get hurt. And, Pakistan?

The American missile strike this week could signal an escalation in American covert action aimed at killing terrorist leaders and dismantling their networks in the tribal areas.

Covert? Not too.

Confucius (no I'm not a Confucius guy, I just happened to run across this the other day) said:

“If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success."

The fear, the fear

Two Egyptian college students arrested near a Navy weapons station in South Carolina last year were carrying low-grade fireworks, as they claimed, not explosives as charged by federal prosecutors, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has determined.



File under Times I'm Really Glad I'm Not a Journalist

From Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times:
LOS ANGELES -- Like most journalists, I'm waiting with bated breath to see if there are any more fireworks between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton at tonight's CNN Democratic presidential debate.

Whereupon Ms. Mitchell, protesting all the while it's "silly" and not "some sort of schoolyard game," fills us in (on Rezko, the snub, the "black vote," and, of course the Bill).

I might watch.


Sleeping teacher faces axe


A whole lotta "mights," and "evidence"

There's that secret satellite, secretly about as big as a school bus, it seems, that is secretly but not too secretly about to fall out of orbit and land nobody knows where, in one or nobody knows how many pieces, nobody knows exactly when...

Now the question is, should there be concern over this particular object?  The answer is maybe, but probably not.  Yes, it is re-entering in an uncontrolled manner when normally this type of satellite would be intentionally destroyed over the ocean far from prying eyes.  The only reason that this particular object (and for that matter any satellite) would pose significant threat would be if it contained a radioactive power supply, such as the Snap series.  There has been some discussion on the amateur mailing list over whether or not this satellite has such a power supply.  Some have indicated that since solar panels can’t be seen it might indeed use one.  Others have responded that since the satellite went into safe mode shortly after launch, the solar panels might not have deployed and that could be the reason for their absence.  And in either case, there is evidence (and significant incentive) for the US to have secured any radioactive material within a protective shell that could survive re-entry, if only to keep the materials from falling into the wrong hands.

(Wired: Danger Room)

...but, as one commenter notes, not to worry: FEMA is on the job.

If the chickens don't get you the dumplings will

Dozens of Japanese people say they have fallen ill after eating Chinese-made dumplings, prompting Tokyo officials to launch an inquiry.


Oh yeah, that one

Two more Western reports say that international efforts are failing to make Afghanistan a stable state.
The Atlantic Council says that Nato is not winning in Afghanistan and Oxfam warns that the country faces a humanitarian disaster.

On Wednesday, the Afghan Study Group said more Nato troops were needed to take on the Taleban.

Canada says that its soldiers will not stay in Afghanistan unless Nato deploys more troops in the south.

In the latest violence, the deputy governor of Afghanistan's Helmand province has been killed in a bomb attack on a mosque, officials say.



"Great Escape" guy escapes

Jimmy James, a British flier in World War II obsessed with escape plots during his five years in German captivity, most prominently the breakout portrayed in the movie “The Great Escape,” died Jan. 18 in Shrewsbury, England. Mr. James, who lived in Ludlow, England, was 92....

On the night of June 5, 1940, Flight Lieutenant James, the co-pilot of a Wellington bomber, was on the way to a mission over Germany when his plane was shot down by antiaircraft fire over the occupied Netherlands. He bailed out about 25 miles south of Rotterdam but was captured and taken to the prisoner-of-war camp Stalag Luft I on the Baltic coast of Germany.

Mr. James made at least seven unsuccessful attempts to tunnel out of that camp. Then he was transferred to Stalag Luft III, about 90 miles southeast of Berlin. By the time he was liberated by American troops in Austria in May 1945, a few days before Germany surrendered, he had tried to escape at least 11 times from P.O.W. camps and a concentration camp and had succeeded twice, only to be recaptured.


They won't get him this time though, would be my guess.

Whoa, bunky, am I missing something or is this just toooo bizarre?

HONG KONG — Since Imperial times, Chinese governments have relied on neighbors to inform on each other as a way to preserve social control.

But with China now becoming wealthier and its citizens more mobile, the government is now embracing the extensive use of street-by-street surveillance technology — and the United States government is becoming less sure that American companies should be playing a central role in the effort.


Yeah, because they've got plenty of work to do already making surveillance stuff for right here at home.

“It remains extremely important to have such controls in place so that our country’s exports do not enable governments abroad to repress the fundamental freedoms that we cherish here at home,” said Representative Edward J. Markey, the Massachusetts Democrat who presides over the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet.

Meanwhile, from a CBS story of five years ago:

(CBS) Times Square. The best place in the United States to lose yourself. Pretty anonymous, right?

Think again.

As many as 200 surveillance cameras are observing every move you make.

That's nothing compared to Washington, D.C., where the chief of police says that he potentially has access to an unlimited number of cameras.

(CBS News)

Somebody better tell Markey to pull his had way down over his eyes. And wear shades.


Imagine that

The new report finds that soldiers who had concussions were more likely than those with other injuries to report a variety of symptoms in their first months back home, including headaches, poor sleep and balance problems. But they were also at higher risk for the stress disorder, known as PTSD, and that accounted for most of the difference in complaints, the researchers concluded. Symptoms of the disorder include irritability, sleep problems and flashbacks.


Guy gets smacked upside the head, makes him gumpy. Who woulda thunk?

We haven't even begun to see the total bill for this misbegotten war.

But you have to eat it in the back room

The former Hillary Rodham was born in Chicago in 1947 and raised in Park Ridge through her high school gradation in 1965, before going off to Wellesley College and then Yale Law School, where she met future husband Bill Clinton.

But Park Ridge, where the median income is more than $73,000, has never embraced Hillary in much of a public way.

There is a "Hillary Burger" (with olives) at the Pickwick Restaurant and her picture hangs prominently in the two local high schools, Maine East and Maine South, both of which she attended.

(Reuters via Boston.com)

Park Ridge is not exactly a Democratic stronghold. She's lucky she got olives, is my guess.

Pretty much says it all

Avedon's post at The Sideshow this morning...
So, Edwards dropped out of the race, and I still don't like Hillary and Obama all that much. And I don't think changing the physical shape or color of a president is going to do much for you and me, let alone all those people who can't even vote in this election. So what do I do, now?

It's well worth reading all.

Which pretty much leaves me in the lurch for Tuesday. I'd be tempted to vote for McCain - on the grounds I don't want to see Romney even on the same side of the Mississippi as the White House, let alone running in a one-on-one to live there. But voting for McCain would require me to be a registered Republican for about 90 seconds, and that might be too steep a price to bear.

So Clinton, probably, not that it appears she needs much help. And not that I'll do it with much enthusiasm.

Ted Kennedy's endorsement carries a lot of weight with me, and Obama is right when he says, sorta, what's most important is not what's happened in the past, it's what happens next. That said, the candidate best equipped to deal with what happens next is Hillary.

So tell us how you really feel about Willard

McCain beats Romney handily, Giuliani is set to endorse McCain tomorrow, the Terminator is praising McCain and Nancy Reagan is gonna lend the mantle of Saint Ronnie to McCain, and Romney has been such an utter douchebag with his big money attack ads and phalanx of bootlicking supporters that Huckabee is going to stay in the race just to screw Romney. And if anyone deserves a right and proper screwing, it is that smarmy SOB Multiple Choice Mitt.

(Balloon Juice)

Oh go ahead. Don't hold back.

He's kidding, right?

The press rarely writes about such computerized campaign techniques. It’s too complicated, too technical, too … boring. It’s a hard story to cover because campaign aides don’t wish to talk about this seamier side of politics.

(Scholars & Rogues)

Politics has a seamier side? Gitouddahere.

Yes it does, this guy says, and it's data mining. Selling politicians, he seems to think, is not like selling soap. (One you wash your hands with....)

Me? I don't have time to worry about data mining, myself. I'm too worried about fire. I'm just saying, bunky, you start using fire, next thing you know you'll be burning things.

I don't know

They are younger, more diverse, and less rigid in their party loyalty. More of them are women. And they are coming out in droves.


Would I know a drove if I saw one? Is it anything like a huff? Or a high dudgeon? Or even a low dudgeon? I have no idea. How do they work? When you get where you're going can you say you drove a drove?


I don't know how this is gonna work...

but it can't be any worse than this CNN feed I'm watching right now from Rudy's Orlando HQ. Talk about a forlorn-looking bunch. They're just sort of wandering around aimlessly while on the podium a guy - no! two guys! say "testing 1 2 3 4." I don't know if that's all that's gonna happen there or if there might be more.

Meanwhile all this is happening in Windows which is why I don't know if it's gonna work - some Windows blog writer thing which I figure I might as well try out as long as I'm, you know, here.

Which is just my way of saying "testing 1 2 3 4," only not.

Ooops, a whole bunch of guys just got up on the stage. Rudy's not one of them. The guy speaking is the Atty Gen of Florida, who is trying to sound cheerful.


The conventional wisdom is that the I-35W bridge, aged and due for major maintenance, collapsed because of neglect. Surely the inspectors missed something, or their higher-ups delayed needed repairs, until the 40-year-old span plunged into the Mississippi, the popular belief goes. State officials and engineering executives all over the country have joined the chorus, arguing that the collapse — in which 13 people died and more than 100 were injured — demonstrates the need for expanded maintenance budgets. On Tuesday, the treasurer of Massachusetts said that his state should raise and spend $600 million on bridges to “avoid a future Minnesota incident.”

But the Safety Board reported on Jan. 15 that the problem in Minnesota was not age or money. The design of the bridge that collapsed was no good from the day it opened, the board reported. An engineer in the mid-1960’s had specified gusset plates, the big sheets of steel that tie the girders together, of half-inch thickness when they should have been an inch, the board said.


What's going on in New Hampshire?

Doesn't look good to Black Box Voting.

Both candidates' money should be returned because the state of New Hampshire failed to secure the recount ballots. The above video shows state officials' responses when asked who is responsible for the chain of custody breakdown, and shows specific wards and towns with ballot box chain of custody breaches.

Doesn't look good to me either.

See for yourself (YouTube).


Why does "behead" mean to take a head off while "bejewel" and "bedeck" and a whole lot of other "be-" words mean to put stuff on?


Everything's up to date in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If lawmakers pass an economic-stimulus package, it could mean you'll get a check in the mail. Some families could get thousands of dollars. But the FBI is warning that some people are using the story to steal.

Scammers, pretending to be IRS agents, are calling unsuspecting people, asking for Social Security numbers and other personal information so a refund check can be sent.


Even a little ahead of date sometimes.

Alright! Republican candidates finally get down to the issues

PENSACOLA, Florida (CNN) – Mitt Romney's failure to eat fried chicken with the skin on is nothing short of blasphemy here in the South, according to GOP rival Mike Huckabee.


Or maybe it's just CNN. Getting down to issues, I mean. Whatever. Huckabee's right, of course - you can't take the skin off fried chicken. It's just not right.
Huckabee admitted that he hasn't eaten fried chicken in a while because of his weight loss program, preferring it broiled or baked instead.

Oh. Well, that's not right either.

I like mine fried in bacon fat but then, hey, I'm a Yankee so I don't know.

Hot librarian action

Noticed by our Seattle Bureau:

If you just can’t get enough of the Dewey decimals or if you go bananas for books, chances are you have a Librarian Action Figure.

(Shakespeare's Den)
Librarian action figure: Three words you never thought you'd see together.

Shakespeare's Den becomes the first "shopping" site to make the YAME official work avoidance list, but not the first Shakespearean site (see Shakespearean Insulter). And we have a Bellydancing Librarians link lying around here somewhere but we can't find it right now.

Maybe we can find it and post it on a less exciting day.

How to get tossed out of church for, um, attending church??

On a quiet Sunday morning in June, as worshippers settled into the pews at Allen Baptist Church in southwestern Michigan, Pastor Jason Burrick grabbed his cellphone and dialed 911. When a dispatcher answered, the preacher said a former congregant was in the sanctuary. "And we need to, um, have her out A.S.A.P."

Half an hour later, 71-year-old Karolyn Caskey, a church member for nearly 50 years who had taught Sunday school and regularly donated 10% of her pension, was led out by a state trooper and a county sheriff's officer.

(Wall Street Journal)

Turns out the unfortunate Ms Caskey was being "shunned" by the pastor's decree. Her fault? Questioning the pastor's authority. Apparently it's all part of a movement among "some conservative Protestant pastors to bring back church discipline," the Journal reports.
Some say that contemporary churches have grown soft on sinners, citing the rise of suburban megachurches where pastors preach self-affirming messages rather than focusing on sin and redemption.

Just mentioning.

Yes, it matters

Ted Kennedy's endorsement of Obama counts with me, reducing my reservations to little more than vague hunches based on 30 years of working in and around Chicago and being marginally involved with Illinois politics myself from time to time. Obama edges Clinton on my board for now.

But on Feb. 5 I'll vote for Edwards - first because I want to see him stay in the race, and second because he's the first and so far only of the three who's taken a stand on the telcom immunity provision in the pending FISA bill. He's against it. He's right. If Clinton and Obama want to claim the right to lead, they should do a little leading. Now.

So there. I don't know no more - at least for a week or two, and then we'll see.

Update: For the record, Firedoglake is reporting both Clinton and Obama will be in the Senate and vote "no" on cloture on the pending FISA bill, the version that includes telcom immunity.

On the desktop, something old is new

Symphony, the Lotus productivity package (word prossessing, spreadheets, presentations) has been around a while. I used a DOS version of it - at least of the word processing and spreadsheet parts - in the early 80's. Eventually it was, of course, eclipsed by Microsoft Office (wasn't everything?) but it never entirely went away. Its latest incarnation is as a free download from IBM that runs in Windows XP or Vista and in Linux. The download is labeled beta so I imagine it may still have a few kinks in it but I have a copy on the way right now: We'll see.

IBM's web site proclaims support for Mac OS X is underway. As Mac ports of this sort of thing tend to take time I'm not holding my breath. But credible versions of the OpenOffice.org suite (one running in X11, one in Java) are available for the Mac (and versions are there for Windows and Linux as well) and Apple's own iWork productivity package (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) is excellent, so there are plenty of office software options to go around.

This is good news for several reasons, not the least of which is that it could save a whole lot of people a whole lot of cash. I'm still trying to decipher the most recent Office update but I'll be fooling around with Symphony soon too. We'll see how it works.


The FISA impass, such as it is, in two paragraphs

But the reality is that current law already protects telecom companies who take these sorts of actions. All they have to do is come to court and show the judge that they were either acting pursuant to a warrant (see 18 USC § 2520(d)(1)), or a request by competent law enforcement authorities (though those are few and far between, it would seem) such as the Attorney General that the information served a valid national security purpose (see 18 USC § 2520(d)(2) and 18 USC § 2518(7)).

The telecom giants, though, didn't do that. Though they retain some of the highest priced legal counsel available, only one telecom company bothered to actually check with their lawyers before rolling over for the the Bushies, and that company -- Qwest -- reached the conclusion that the informal request made of them was insufficient legal cover under the law, and declined to cooperate unless more and better assurances were forthcoming. For his trouble, by the way, Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio found his company suddenly out of the running for millions of dollars worth of federal contracts, not to mention finding himself just as suddenly facing federal insider trading charges that could land him in prison. Surprise!

OK, four. I lied. Too.
In August, this very bill was so important to Bush that he threatened to veto anything else, and to force the Congress to stay in session until they gave him the custom-built law he wanted.

Now, Congress offers to extend the very same [FISA] law for 30 days, and Bush threatens to veto it. Yes, the same one he practically wrote himself, when he stomped his feet and held his breath back in August. Now that bill isn't good enough for him. And what's the difference between now and August? In August, we hadn't yet found out the details of how and the extent to which the "administration" had asked the telecoms to break the law on their say-so.

(Kagro X writing at Daily Kos)


WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Bush administration is attempting to re-energize its terrorism-fighting war efforts in Afghanistan, the original target of a post-Sept. 11 offensive. The U.S. also is refocusing on Pakistan, where a regenerating al-Qaida is posing fresh threats.

There is growing recognition the United States risks further setbacks, if not deepening conflict or even defeat, in Afghanistan, and that success in that country hinges on stopping Pakistan from descending into disorder.

(Ventura County Star)


I'm not supporting Hillary Clinton for president, but the more the usual suspects resort to their usual tactics, the more I warm to the idea her winning.

(the left coaster)

Secretly, I'm ducking, dude

A large U.S. spy satellite has lost power and could hit the Earth in late February or March, government officials said Saturday.

The satellite, which no longer can be controlled, could contain hazardous materials, and it is unknown where on the planet it might come down, they said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the information is classified as secret.


Oh, Jon

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) — Police faced a difficult if not impossible task Thursday as they tried to stop the spread of pornographic video and photos of two high school girls, images that were transmitted by cell phone to dozens of the girls' classmates and then to the wider world.

District Attorney James B. Martin said at least 40 Parkland High School students believed to have received the images would not face prosecution as long as they show their phones to police by Tuesday to ensure the images have been erased.

But students at the school said the distribution was far more widespread.

"Most people got it and kept passing it along for fun to everyone in their phonebook," said Jon Gabriel, 16, a junior who said he received and deleted the images....


Them chickens ain't hatched yet

The boomers, having singlehandedly invented higher education, marriage, child bearing, home remodeling, and mortgage banking, are turning their attention to geezerhood. Look out.

Writing in the Washington Post this morning some kid named Marc Freedman - Freedman heads up some sort of think tank, which ought to give you a clue right there - goes all retro-Aquarius on retirement: "But what work will boomers do? How will the largest, healthiest, best-educated and longest-living generation in American history...."

Whoa, bunky. Slow down there. Longest-living? Ya think?

Freedman, "a late boomer on the verge of turning 50," (OMG!) proposes re-educating geezers who are...well, let him explain it:
Just as the GI Bill helped millions of soldiers go from military life to civilian life 60 years ago, we now need an education-focused GI Bill: Boomers who pledge significant second careers in areas such as teaching and nursing...

Significant, that is, as opposed to, well, you know, the "retail sector," by which he means saying "Welcome to Wal-Mart," or "Would you like fries with that?" Don't need no GI Bill for that (nor think tank neither).

Meanwhile there are plenty of people where I work - more every day, it seems - who are verging on 50 and need jobs now. Some of them are displaced teachers and nurses. Oh well.

It's not that I disagree with everything this Freedman guy has to say. There are a lot of old guys around who still have something to contribute, and some of them actually are. Or are trying to, at least. And hey, I've been thinking about starting a think tank myself. (I should live so long.)