Toothpick city

Very cool: More than a million toothpicks, CNN says, went into San Francisco model.

–Noted by Paul Knue

How much to just hum a few bars?

In the first file-sharing case to go to trial in the United States, a Minnesota jury has ruled that a 32 year old woman must pay the music industry $1.92 million dollars for illegally making 24 songs available for sharing from her hard drive.

Longest day

Somewhere behind all those clouds is a whole lot of sun.

Cold War is tourist attraction

Sure, suburbanites pay for military-flavored wilderness jaunts in other countries, notably the U.S. But the Russian tours offer a dash of intrigue and play out against a backdrop of neo-Cold War stirrings.

"Let Steroids Into the Hall of Fame"

Like it or not, chemical enhancement is here to stay. And it is as much a part of the national game as $5.50 hot dogs, free agency and Tommy John elbow surgery.

I refuse to answer on the grounds that Jon Stewart might find out

The AP reports,
“Justice Department lawyers told the judge that future presidents and vice presidents may not cooperate with criminal investigations if they know what they say could become available to their political opponents and late-night comics who would ridicule them.”

The world changed in 1959: Who knew?

Consider: It was the year when the microchip was introduced, the Food and Drug Administration held hearings on the birth-control pill, IBM marketed the first business computer, a passenger jetliner took the first nonstop trans-Atlantic flight, and America joined the Russians in the "space race." It saw the rise of free jazz, "sick comics," the New Journalism, and indie films; the birth of Motown, Happenings, and the Generation Gap; the Lady Chatterley trial that overthrew the nation's obscenity laws; the U.S. Civil Rights Commission's first report, which sparked the overhaul of segregation laws—all this bursting against fears of a "missile gap," the fallout-shelter craze, and the first U.S. casualties in the war in Vietnam.

–Paul Knue


You thought the FBI had lost its touch?

MIAMI – Newly released FBI files show agents across the country and at the highest level of the agency investigated "Deep Throat" — the 1972 porn movie, not the shadowy Watergate figure — in a vain attempt to roll back what became a cultural shift toward more permissive entertainment.

Well aren't you sorry now?

Safe Seats

Photo: Phil Compton


Yearning to be free...

From TIME:

Throughout recent history, there have been moments like this, when ordinary people step outside of their ordinary lives and take hold of their destiny. Or try to. Sometimes they succeed (Berlin), more often they fail (Beijing), but, in time, they will be free.

–Paul Knue

Business as usual

At the NYTimes, Joe Nocera is not impressed, concludes:

[Obama's bank regulation] plan places enormous trust in the judgment of the Federal Reserve — trust that critics say has not really been borne out by its actions during the Internet and housing bubbles. Firms will have to put up a little more capital, and deal with a little more oversight, but once the financial crisis is over, it will, in all likelihood, be back to business as usual.

...If Mr. Obama hopes to create a regulatory environment that stands for another six decades, he is going to have to do what Roosevelt did once upon a time. He is going to have make some bankers mad.

No Twitter-gasm in the Danger Room

From Wired:

...This afternoon, I emailed UCSD professor Babak Rahimi, the author of “Internet & Politics in Post-revolutionary Iran” and someone who is in Tehran right now covering the events. I asked what he thought of my hunch that we in the Western press are over-hyping the impact of Twitter. Here’s what he said:

“I very much agree with you. The Twitter factor is present, but not as significant as, say, cell phone or social networking sites… [granted, it's hard to separate these out -- nms] I just wonder (or worry) how the U.S. media is projecting its own image of Iran into what is going here on the ground.”


Worm sandwiches

More of the same, trying stuff out.

I'm just trying this to see what happens

Not to panic. It's just that the iPhone software has updated and I'm
playing around with new solutions.

How to Make Golf Exciting

Golf on TV is far more interesting than basketball baseball* on TV -- or basketball baseball* anywhere, unless you are playing. But that's the case with any sport. Anyway, this is kinda funny.

As the 2009 U.S. Open Golf Championship gets underway, Slate V has uncovered a secret PGA scheme to boost TV ratings: add basketball announcers to the telecast....

–Paul Knue

*(Uh...that was baseball on TV, not basketball. Basketball can be OK, especially college basketball. Baseball is just plain boring.


Noted, and amen.


"Very, very concerned"

Banks Target Proposed Consumer Protection Agency
by Paul Kiel, ProPublica - June 17, 2009 8:35 am EDT

Today is the big unveiling of the administration’s fix to the financial regulatory system, and you can get the broad outlines of the proposal from the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal (or the 85-page document itself (PDF)). One central aspect of the plan is a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency, a watchdog that will supposedly prevent the lending abuses of the last several years from recurring. The new agency will “oversee mortgages, credit cards, debit cards, gift cards, and consumer and payday lending, as well as deposit accounts and related services, including overdraft protection,” says the AP. In the case of mortgages, for example, the agency is expected to require that lenders offer a standard “plain vanilla” loan alongside whatever more exotic packages they cook up. The agency might also oversee auto and student loans, but that’s not quite clear yet.

What is clear is that the banks don’t like it. The new agency would take some powers away from the Federal Reserve to regulate financial products and doing so “cannibalizes regulatory expertise,” as one industry representative puts it. The industry also warns that close oversight “could raise the cost of a range of financial products.” The head of the American Bankers Association says: “We’ve very, very concerned about it.”

So you can expect some intense lobbying on Capitol Hill as the new proposal moves through Congress, where the banks have shown their muscle before.

© Copyright 2009 Pro Publica Inc.

Speaking, once again, of the blindingly obvious...

A group of U.S. senators this week asked the Federal Communications Commission to step in and examine whether exclusive relationships between wireless carriers and handset makers are in the best interest of customers.

Of course it's not in the best interest of customers, as anyone but a U.S. senator (and possibly an FCC commissioner) can plainly see. As, for example, from the same story...

The senators also asked the commission to decide whether the agreements place limitations on a consumer’s ability to take full advantage of handset technologies, such as the ability to send multimedia messages (MMS) or the ability to "tether" a device to a computer for internet use.

This particular requests comes amid word that AT&T, despite the hefty service and data fees it charges iPhone customers, won't be able to provide iPhone 3G S customers with those two services from the onset of their new wireless contracts.

All the world is speeding up except, Bunky, at AT&T Wireless, where RSN means "in the next several years."

“Some actions are so flagrant that they can’t be accidental,” Mr. Holt said.

When no news makes news, it looks like this:

WASHINGTON — The National Security Agency is facing renewed scrutiny over the extent of its domestic surveillance program, with critics in Congress saying its recent intercepts of the private telephone calls and e-mail messages of Americans are broader than previously acknowledged, current and former officials said.

Let us not pretend surprise.

"Overhaul" is not exactly the right word

As lawmakers on Capitol Hill hammer out legislation to overhaul the nation's health care system this year, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says that a single-payer option is not on the table.

(NPR, Morning Edition, 6/16)

"Perpetuate" is more to the point. Or "knuckle under to."

I don't know why I'm so bent out of shape over this health care issue. I already have single-payer health care and I like it just fine. I wouldn't have it any other way, thank you very much (and thank you). I'm betting you would too.

According to polls – some polls, at least – about 65 percent of the public thinks they would be fine with single-payer, and a majority of doctors think so too. So why is this not a done deal?


Just keep hoping, dude

The Obama administration is fighting to block access to names of visitors to the White House, taking up the Bush administration argument that a president doesn't have to reveal who comes calling to influence policy decisions.

Despite President Barack Obama's pledge to introduce a new era of transparency to Washington, and despite two rulings by a federal judge that the records are public, the Secret Service has denied msnbc.com's request for the names of all White House visitors from Jan. 20 to the present.



Makes sense to me

–Paul Knue

Move over air guitar. Bring on the air sex.

You can't make this stuff up.

View highlights from the Air Sex Championship.

Noted by Paul Knue

For the chronically indecisive...

Hunch, a site that launches for the public Monday, will consider your quandary by getting to know you, asking you a series of questions and then spitting out three decisions.

–Noted by Paul Knue

"Jeb Bush in 2012 not such a crazy idea"

No, it's not just another summer blockbuster horror movie, it's an actual "MSNBC host" who seems to think somehow reminding everybody just how bad little Georgie screwed up is going to get Jeb, Jeb!, elected. Read it and weep.

“But when all is said and done,” Watson concluded, “after the 2010 election — get this — I predict that all roads will eventually lead us back into the Bush. Jeb Bush, that is, as he emerges as the new GOP front-runner.”

“I know you think the idea is crazy,” admitted Watson, “but remember the media loves the story of the good son trying to make up for the bad son. … Stay tuned.”

[From Raw Story » MSNBC host: Jeb Bush in 2012 not such a crazy idea]


Photo: Phil Compton

Good question

As Lily Tomlin says, "No matter how cynical you get, it's almost impossible to keep up."

The truth of Tomlin's observation struck me when I read that lobbyists for America's charity hospitals are campaigning to kill reform legislation that would require charity-care hospitals to provide – get this – charity care. I sat there blinking for a while, thinking: you mean they don't?...


First things sooner or later

I'm just testing here, a setting having to do with how Blogger works with editing software, is all. Has to do with the carriage return. Nothing much to see. Move along.

Although I also notice a notice that a "scheduled outage" will occur at 12:00 PDT today (6/15). I'm hoping - I really am - that all that really means is the blog will stop working for a while, and then start again. When again, I have no idea.


Letter from Tehran: The day after

And so the revolution begins. Perhaps.

In the streets, the mood is incredibly tense and eminently explosive.

[From Letter from Tehran: The day after | Salon ]

–Paul Knue

Dowd goes all fuzzy over HDTV

Women are faking it in bedrooms all over America.

“When my husband says, ‘Can you believe how much better this is?’ I say, ‘Yes, honey, it’s amazing,’ ” one woman told me. “I really don’t see that much difference, but he’s so happy, I just pretend to.”

[From Op-Ed Columnist - Pixilated Over Pixels - NYTimes.com]

Dude, I don't have a TV and even I can tell you HDTV is better. Two whole letters better. That's twice as good. What's with this "gauzy," anyway?

Clearly not my fault

From Limbaugh:

All you exercise freaks, you’re the ones putting stress on the health care system.

[From Political Irony › Limbaugh blames health care problems on “exercise freaks”]

See? I'm just sitting here, is all. And I'm still working on perfecting my get-me-rich exercise system, which I plan to call "Aerobics While You Sleep."

But we can hope

President Obama has said that the new cyberdefense strategy he unveiled last month will provide protections for personal privacy and civil liberties. But senior Pentagon and military officials say that Mr. Obama’s assurances may be challenging to guarantee in practice...

[From Cyberwar - Privacy May Be a Victim in Cyberdefense Plan - Series - NYTimes.com]

Yoo blames torture on...lawyers?

In a Wall Street Journal editorial, John Yoo, the OLC’s former Deputy Assistant Attorney General, explained that the Bush administration’s torture techniques were initially designed to outwit crafty defense attorneys.

“The first thing any lawyer will do is tell his clients to shut up,” writes Yoo. “The [Khalid Sheikh Mohammeds] or Abu Zubaydahs of the future will respond to no verbal questioning or trickery — which is precisely why the Bush administration felt compelled to use more coercive measures in the first place.”

[From Raw Story » Ex-Bush attorney Yoo ordered to testify in Padllia case]

Ehrenreich: Too poor to make the news

THE human side of the recession, in the new media genre that’s been called “recession porn,” is the story of an incremental descent from excess to frugality, from ease to austerity....In some accounts, the recession is even described as the “great leveler,” smudging the dizzying levels of inequality that characterized the last couple of decades and squeezing everyone into a single great class, the Nouveau Poor, in which we will all drive tiny fuel-efficient cars and grow tomatoes on our porches.

But the outlook is not so cozy when we look at the effects of the recession on a group generally omitted from all the vivid narratives of downward mobility — the already poor, the estimated 20 percent to 30 percent of the population who struggle to get by in the best of times.

[From Op-Ed Contributor - Too Poor to Make the News - NYTimes.com]

Maher: "Not what I voted for"

Sorry folks, but this President is not fighting for real health care reform. It’s nibbling that leaves insurance companies still running the show. And the banks, the banks that brought us to financial ruin and then got bailout money, are laughing at us about how easy it was to get back to ‘business as usual’. And scientists keep saying that if we want to keep living, you know, on Earth, it’s kind of essential we reduce carbon dioxide by 40% in the next ten years. Obama’s bill calls for 4%.

[From Suburban Guerrilla » Blog Archive » Bill Maher Has Some Advice for Obama]