Romantic Gestures

Midwest Bureau Cub Reporter Paul Knue notes this collection of romantic images from Magnum at Slate ["for YAME's big Valentine's Day edition," he says, which edition is heretofore and forthwith, etc.] and adds, "My best romantic tip: chocolate."

Me, I'm swearing off

It's a symposium on kissing held on Valentine's Day. But it's closed to the public.

Consider it a victory for romantics everywhere.

[From Kissing romanticism goodbye :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Lifestyles]

Bordering on the deranged

One might have expected Republicans to act at least slightly chastened in these early days of the Obama administration, given both their drubbing in the last two elections and the economic debacle of the past eight years.

But it’s now clear that the party’s commitment to deep voodoo — enforced, in part, by pressure groups that stand ready to run primary challengers against heretics — is as strong as ever. In both the House and the Senate, the vast majority of Republicans rallied behind the idea that the appropriate response to the abject failure of the Bush administration’s tax cuts is more Bush-style tax cuts.

And the rhetorical response of conservatives to the stimulus plan — which will, it’s worth bearing in mind, cost substantially less than either the Bush administration’s $2 trillion in tax cuts or the $1 trillion and counting spent in Iraq — has bordered on the deranged.

[From Op-Ed Columnist - Failure to Rise - NYTimes.com]


Big news from...ahem...down under

The standard strength of toilet seats is slated to triple, after the national safety watchdog Standards Australia found the maximum unsupported weight capacity of 45 kilogrammes was not enough.

Toilet seats will soon have to pass flex and rigidity tests at 150 kilogrammes -- "a precautionary measure to accommodate the increasing size of humans," a Standards spokeswoman said.

[From Aussies' sporting image hit by need to supersize toilets, coffins]

Cheaper than a movie

While car purchases plummeted and designer clothes mostly stayed on the racks, sales of condoms in the U.S. rose 5% in the fourth quarter of 2008, and 6% in January vs. the same time periods the previous year, The Nielsen Co. reports.

[From Human Nature : Sex Is Cheap]

Fully loaded, bargain price

Mufti recently paid a visit to the Sitara Market on [Peshawar's] western edge, and was able to pick up a ruggedized U.S. military laptop for $650. The laptop, which looks like it is part of a vehicle diagnostics kit, came with clear U.S. military markings. According to the story, the laptop also stored "identities of numerous military personnel and information about weaknesses and flaws in American military vehicles being employed in the war in Afghanistan."

[From Military Laptops For Sale on Pakistan's Black Market | Danger Room from Wired.com]

Sounds French to me

Blackwater Worldwide is abandoning its tarnished brand name as it tries to shake a reputation battered by oft-criticized work in Iraq, renaming its family of two dozen businesses under the name Xe.

The parent company's new name is pronounced like the letter "z."

[From The Raw Story | Blackwater to change name to 'Xe']

Dubya finally figures out how to dodge Vietnam, goes to Canada

Not even a month after leaving office, former president George W. Bush has joined the lecture circuit. However he hasn't strayed far his from presidential style: Bush has banned the public and media from his first post-presidential speaking event, and he's scheduled to speak in what a political science professor says is friendly territory.

That is the element that stands out: Bush won't be speaking in the United States.

His Mar. 17 speech, to be given before the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, a pro-business group, is expected to draw a private audience of 1,500.

[From The Raw Story | No public, no press, no United States: Bush's first speech since presidency scheduled abroad]

(You can keep him, eh.)

But what are they going to sell, Office?

Microsoft, apparently, plans to open a chain of retail stores to compete with the Apple stores.

"We're working hard to transform the PC and Microsoft buying experience at retail by improving the articulation and demonstration of the Microsoft innovation and value proposition so that it's clear, simple and straightforward for consumers everywhere."...

[From AppleInsider | Microsoft to open new retail stores like Apple]

...says Microsoft COO Kevin Turner, simply and straightforwardly.

 Today's best storefront...

Photo: Phil Compton

And they will stamp their little feet and hold their breath until their faces turn blue

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - For many Republican governors, the $789 billion U.S. economic stimulus package is the equivalent of cod liver oil: they'll take it, but don't expect them to like it.

[From Republican governors at odds on stimulus cash | Politics | Reuters]


Candy is dandy, but ...

HUNTSVILLE, AL - Only a few days remain until Valentine's Day, and the normal gifts like flowers, cards, and candy are flying off store shelves. However, there's a different kind of gift that's popular this year, but it's only available at your local gun store.

"The tasers are selling really well," said Tim Knox.

[From Pink Tasers Become Popular Around Valentine's Day - WHNT]

You're the jury

Of course, they're all guilty...except for the guy from HGTV, which sponsored your favorite cub reporter on a coast-to-coast bicycle ride a decade ago. (If only YAME would be so benevolent!) But Time lets you vote on the degree of guilt of the rest of these rouges. No date has been set for the hangings.

-Paul Knue

A man without shame runs a 21st Century gauntlet

Parnell, limping as he fled on foot, jaywalked across Independence Avenue, stealing anxious glances at the pursuing pack of cameras as his lawyer urgently worked his cellphone to locate their getaway car. The fleeing peanut tycoon had to backtrack when his entourage was blocked by a fence on the Capitol grounds, eventually finding their Suburban near the U.S. Botanic Garden. Only when the cameras had given up the chase did Parnell smile and accept a congratulatory pat on the back from a colleague.

[From Dana Milbank - Mr. (Tainted) Peanut Pleads the Fifth - washingtonpost.com]

Besides, Clif Bars are disgusting.

-Paul Knue

Microsoft discovers "consumer functionality"

"Clearly smartphones are not just for business users anymore," Reith said. "Microsoft needs to work with the developer community to get more consumer applications out there."

Microsoft's executives have gotten the message that consumer functionality is hot. And Andy Lees, head of Microsoft's mobile business unit, told the Journal that the company is about to put more emphasis on multimedia and other consumer functions like music and photos.

[From Microsoft readies smartphone assault on Apple | Wireless - CNET News]

Who would have guessed? What's next, a ZunePhone?

A career we hadn't considered yet

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Two big communications satellites collided in the first-ever crash of two intact spacecraft in orbit, shooting out a pair of massive debris clouds and posing a slight risk to the international space station.

"We knew this was going to happen eventually," said Mark Matney, an orbital debris scientist at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

[From Satellites collide; debris poses a risk - The Boston Globe]

Orbital debris scientist. Maybe that's what I should be when I grow up. As long as it doesn't involve messing around with any actual orbits or anything like that. Or debris.

Otherwise, it sounds pretty cool.

And who wants to watch a bunch of feet racing?

(02-11) 20:29 PST -- Like banishing beads and masks from Mardi Gras or removing the red carpet and gold statues from the Academy Awards, the banning of floats, beer and nudity at this year's Bay to Breakers will take all the fun out of it, many longtime revelers say.

City leaders and sponsors of the 98th annual wacky footrace announced several major changes Wednesday that detractors say will turn the over-the-top, only-in-San Francisco party into a 12K footrace like any other race in any other city in the world.

[From Beer, nudity banned in Bay to Breakers race]


Lots of boaters are unhappy with plans to use Monroe Harbor as the rowing venue for the 2016 Olympics should Chicago win the Games, but you won't hear many complaints.

The Chicago Yachting Association, an umbrella group for 15 yacht clubs in the Chicago area, has asked members to keep a lid on it, noting in a memo obtained by the Tribune that yacht clubs "are vulnerable to retribution."

In Chicago? Surely you jest.

Mayor Richard Daley's office and the Chicago Park District have made it clear "that they do not wish to talk about issues that may be confrontational until after October 2009"...

[From Boat owners warned: Don't make waves over Olympics rowing plan -- chicagotribune.com]


Da Plane

Photo: Lynn C.

Who says these guys don't know how to invest?

The eight CEOs testifying Wednesday before the House Financial Services Committee about how their companies are using billions of dollars in bailout funds may find that the hot seat is merely lukewarm. Nearly every member of the committee received contributions associated with these financial institutions during the 2008 election cycle, for a total of $1.8 million. And 18 of the lawmakers have their own personal funds invested in the companies.

[From OpenSecrets |]

You were expecting a present, honey?

Markets opened lower yesterday over skepticism about the Obama plan, and the sell-off accelerated after Geithner failed to provide many details of how key components of the bank rescue would work....

"It's like getting a beautifully wrapped present that you open and find out it's an empty box inside," said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial, a Chicago financial services firm. "There was so much build-up, but it's still a skeleton of a plan."

[From US unveils massive bank rescue, unnerves Wall Street - The Boston Globe]

If that's the way you feel, we'll take our box back.


In the well-acted “Frost / Nixon,” a nice journalistic coup—David Frost’s pushing Richard Nixon into semi-confessional mode, in 1977—has been elevated to a great transformative moment in history, which, alas, it was not.

[From Curious Cases: The Current Cinema: The New Yorker]

I thought it was pretty boring then, in fact, and no way am I interested in sitting through it again.


The contrast in priority with the last comparable American stimulus package is simply breathtaking. Funded by the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935, Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration made the arts a priority. Federal Project Number One -- home of the Federal Writers Project, the Federal Theater Project, the Federal Music Project and the Federal Art Project -- was, believe it or not, the largest of the WPA's endeavors.

Its mission was to give more Americans the chance to experience what Roosevelt called "a fuller life." Its legacy -- from invigorating murals to landscape paintings to the careers of Arthur Miller or Orson Welles -- is everywhere you look.

In less than 75 years, the arts have gone from the single largest priority in a government stimulus package to a toxic joke, with a popular special amendment keeping them out. It is a stunning turnaround.

How did it happen?

[From In economic stimulus package, arts deserve place in line | The Theater Loop - News from America's hottest theater city]

Are those guys still on the air?

Fox News Channel has hit a new low.

A GOP press release was turned into a series of graphics and passed off as the network's own research -- so exactly that the graphics even included the Republicans' original typo.

[From The Raw Story | Fox News passes off GOP press release as original research as Huffington Post comes of age ]

One of the nice things about not having a TV is that I rarely watch TV news except when there's a story of special interest, and then I normally just stream it on the web. True, I miss a lot of hot babes that way but otherwise, not so much.

Couldn't happen to a nicer sleeze

A new poll shows that Independent Senator Joe Lieberman, who left the Democratic Party after losing the Senate primary to businessman Ned Lamont in 2006, would "get crushed" if challenged by Connecticut's State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal in 2012.

[From The Raw Story | Poll: Lieberman would 'get crushed' by Connecticut AG]

Now we're getting serious here

Marvel Entertainment will begin selling digital “In-Motion” comic books through iTunes, it was announced yesterday at the Digital Media panel at New York Comic Con....

The Comic Con panel offered a preview of an Astonishing X-Men motion comic based on the recent Joss Whedon run, with more original content planned in the future, according to Brian Michael Bendis. Bendis, along with frequent collaborator Alex Maleev, will do a new Spider-Woman motion comic starting in February, which will be the first in-continuity title produced specifically for the new digital medium.

[From NYCC 09: Marvel To Sell Digital Comics Through iTunes]


The builder

-Noted by our Midwest Bureau

Come here often?

Friendly guy to two cute girls speaking French: Hi, where are you girls from?

Girl #1: We are from Switzerland.

Friendly guy: Oh, so you speak Swedish?

Girl #1: No, we speak French.

Friendly guy, slowly: So then, you come from France?

Girl #2: No, we come from the French-speaking part of Switzerland.

Friendly guy, confused: Oh, okay. So uh, how long did it take you to drive here?

--Burger King, W 42nd St

[From Overheard in New York | The Voice of the City]

I'm not watching and I'm glad

If as you watch this [stimulus bill] debate you're beginning to feel like the country is riding an express train to Stupidville, you're not alone. Instead of having an honest discussion about what measures will actually arrest the economic crisis, we have to watch United States senators blathering on about how many times large numbers of currency notes could circle the earth, or working out Jesus-related problems in long division. They are no doubt certain that their fantastically clever arguments will turn the political tide in their favor, which makes it all the more exasperating.

[From Good Work, If You Can Get It | The American Prospect]

Does a Big Economy Need Big Power Plants?

Not necessarily. Our Midwest bureau notes the following:

...if I said, “Many people need to run lights and motors, Wii’s, and air conditioners, so we’d better build more giant power plants,” you’d probably say, “Of course! That’s the only way to power America.”

[From Does a Big Economy Need Big Power Plants? A Guest Post - Freakonomics Blog - NYTimes.com]

"In other important news," reports Bureau Chief Phil Compton, "the YAME NewsMobile's departure on a fact finding trip to Florida has been delayed for at least a day due to a leak in it's transmission (the NewsMobile's, not Florida's, which as far as I know is fine...).

"See my next expense account for details..."

-Midwest Bureau

We can hardly wait.

A winter thought...

Photo: Phil Compton

Wait - hot fudge sundaes are dessert?

ABC's Charles Gibson portrayed spending and stimulus as opposing concepts in a question to President Obama: "And as you know, there's a lot of people in the public, a lot of members of Congress who think this is pork-stuffed and that it really doesn't stimulate. A lot of people have said it's a spending bill and not a stimulus."

That formulation -- "it's a spending bill and not a stimulus" -- is complete nonsense; it's like saying, "This is a hot fudge sundae, not a dessert." But nonsensical as it is, it has also been quite common in recent news reports.

[From Media Matters - Media Matters: Fundamentally flawed stimulus coverage]

I don't know about you, Bunky, but I'm getting back under the bed

When the Pentagon needs to handle the deadliest biowarfare threats, it turns to the labs of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Maryland. It's the only place in the American military complex equipped to handle the worst of the worst diseases -- those that have no cure and are transmissible by air. Which makes it extremely unnerving, that the place had to suspend biodefense research on Friday, "after discovering apparent problems with the system of accounting for high-risk microbes and biomaterials."

[From Top Army Biowar Lab Suspends Research After Toxin-Tracking Scare (Updated Again) | Danger Room from Wired.com]

Hey, as long as they're having a good time

Administration officials were greeted with sarcasm and laughter Monday night when they briefed lawmakers and congressional staff on Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's new financial-sector bailout project, according to people who were in the room.

The laughter was at its height when Obama officials explained that the White House planned to guarantee a wide swath of toxic assets -- which they referred to as "legacy assets" -- but wouldn't be asking Congress for money.

[From Administration Officials Met With Laughter At Bailout Briefing]

Move over, Comedy Channel - here comes CSPAN.



(Click image to make it bigger.)

Culinary secrets

A British citizen held at Guantanamo Bay who the Pentagon accused of plotting to build a dirty bomb had actually been reading a satirical article re-posted from Rolling Stone, according to a British newspaper report....

"Written by Barbara Ehrenreich, the publication’s food editor, Rolling Stone journalist Peter Biskind and scientist Michio Kaku, it claims that a nuclear weapon can be made ‘using a bicycle pump’ and with liquid uranium ‘poured into a bucket and swung round,'" the Daily Mail wrote Sunday.

[From The Raw Story | CIA made Rolling Stone satire into dirty bomb plot: report]

25 More Things I Didn't Want To Know About You - TIME

Very few things have drawn more backlash than the recent eruption of Random Lists of 25 Things. And very few things have been as wildly popular. Talk about work avoidance:

"Assuming that it takes someone 10 minutes to come up with their list, this recent bout of viral narcissism has sent roughly 800,000 hours of worktime productivity down the drain."

Apparently I was wrong. Facebook users actually love reading 25 things about themselves. I never expected to receive so many emails defending a person's right to read about how much his high school biology lab partner hates goat cheese.

[From 25 More Things I Didn't Want To Know About You - TIME]

No, my list of 25 things does not follow. Sorry.

-Paul Knue

Obama goes bipartisan for real

President Obama returned to the campaign trail Monday morning, a tad belatedly in my opinion, to sell his recovery and reinvestment plan. He went to Elkhart, Ind., which didn't actually vote for him in November. This was smart bipartisanship, not the silly kind we've been seeing in Congress, where Democrats put ineffectual Republican ideas in the stimulus bill, and cut good ideas, but still get few or no GOP votes.

[From Obama goes bipartisan for real - Joan Walsh - Salon.com]

Honest political discussion, genuine bipartisanship. Dick Cheney must be spinning in his grave.

-Paul Knue

Aft and Fore

Photos: Lynn C.


THE flies in the men’s-room urinals of the Amsterdam airport have been enshrined in the academic literature on economics and psychology. The flies — images of flies, actually — were etched in the porcelain near the urinal drains in an experiment in human behavior.

After the flies were added, “spillage” on the men’s-room floor fell by 80 percent. “Men evidently like to aim at targets,” said Richard Thaler of the University of Chicago, an irreverent pioneer in the increasingly influential field of behavioral economics.

[From When Humans Need a Nudge Toward Rationality - NYTimes.com]

Where is the bottom of this pit?

In a continuing investigation that has prompted consumer warnings and recalls by some distributors, the F.D.A. has determined that dozens of weight-loss supplements, most of them imported from China, contain hidden and potentially harmful drugs. In the coming weeks, the agency plans to issue a longer list of brands to avoid that are spiked with drugs, an F.D.A. spokeswoman said.

[From F.D.A. Finds ‘Natural’ Diet Pills Spiked With Drugs - NYTimes.com]

Gotta love Pixar

A favorite for this year's short subject Oscar. For a look at the other nominees, see this story in Vanity Fair.

Another Madoff scandal

Miles Brown, New York City Board of Health: When we were tipped off, we performed a spot inspection of Madoff’s and found multiple tubs of butter on the premises, as well as a hidden walk-in freezer loaded with stick margarine and black-market old-formula Crisco—the kind with trans fats. Which, as you know, are illegal in this city.

[From Victims of the Madoff Bakery Scandal Speak Out | vanityfair.com]

Here's a little known but Very True Fact: Madoof was booted off the tiny Cincinnati Stock Exchange a couple of decades ago, when officials noticed suspicious trading activity. Now if the SEC and NYSE had been paying attention...

-Paul Knue

A little thaw

Busy day, blah blah, gotta run

But hey, we're looking at either a late January thaw or an early spring here with the next three days in a row forecast to max out above freezing.

Or, of course, it might be just a fluke. But what are the odds?

Stimulating the prisons

Bristol and other cash-strapped county jails are increasingly embracing the immigration business, capitalizing on the soaring number of foreign-born detainees and the millions of federal dollars a year paid to incarcerate them. Bristol County alone has raked in $33 million since 2001...

"That money is a tremendous boost for us," said Plymouth County Sheriff Joseph D. McDonald Jr., whose jail houses 324 immigrants, up from 44 a decade ago, bringing in $15.6 million last year. "We aggressively try to market ourselves to get as many of those inmates into our doors as we can."

[From Jailed immigrants buoy budgets - The Boston Globe]


Party's over

Shepard Fairey, famous for his iconic red, white and blue "Hope" posters of President Obama, was arrested Friday night on his way to a Boston museum event beginning his first ever solo exhibition.

Two warrants accusing Fairey, 38, of tagging property with graffiti were issued Jan 24 after police determined he tagged a few different properties in downtown Boston, Boston police said.

[From The Raw Story | Obama 'Hope' poster artist arrested for graffiti]


...of the current film, New in Town :

Big cities are bad! Small towns are good! The End. Roll credits. Yer darn tootin'.

[From Nothing novel about 'New in Town': Rutland Herald Online]


Photo: Lynn C.

One seriously compulsive guy

I invented a desk in which the books I had to study were arranged in order at the beginning of each term. I also made a bed which set me on my feet every morning at the hour determined on, and in dark winter mornings just as the bed set me on the floor it lighted a lamp. Then, after the minutes allowed for dressing had elapsed, a click was heard and the first book to be studied was pushed up from a rack below the top of the desk, thrown open, and allowed to remain there the number of minutes required. Then the machinery closed the book and allowed it to drop back into its stall, then moved the rack forward and threw up the next in order, and so on, all the day being divided according to the times of recitation, and time required and allotted to each study.

[From Curators' Favorites: Museum Online Collections from the Wisconsin Historical Museum]

From Wisconsin, no less. Must be the weather.