Friday, June 29, 2007

One of the All-Time Great

Photographs in the history of photography:

(click to enlarge!)

Even more poignant if you've read the Washington Post's recent series on "The Cheney", as the newest branch (the fourth, if you're keeping track) of our government is now being called.

By the way, I have some misgivings about posting this photo. A few notes:

1. By all means, please check out this photograph in its original context at the New York Times.

2. The copyright to this photo is owned (I presume) by either (or some contractually defined combination of): (a) the aforementioned New York Times, champion of liberty, stalwart of journalism, servant of democracy, mainstay of American values, and purveyor of the finest news and information service heretofore ever conceived by the mind of man (I am only partly kidding; I love the New York Times and what it represents), or (b) the renowned and excellent photographer Mr. Stephen Crowley, of whom, though I've never met the man, or indeed heard of him before today, it must be said: you, sir, are a genius.

3. As I of all people must certainly be aware, federal law provides for severe penalties for copyright infringement, both criminal and civil.

4. I trust that the New York Times and/or Stephen Crowley will most certainly apprehend that my posting of this photograph has not been undertaken by me for financial (or other) gain, or indeed any other nefarious purpose, but is done purely for the enlightenment of my readers (such as they are) and mankind in general, and, further, that both the New York Times and will
readily agree that this is a high and noble purpose (and therefore, will refrain from suing me or otherwise entering into recriminations against my person, financial resources, and/or credit rating).

5. And if the New York Times and/or Stephen Crowley, and/or its or his respective agents, representatives, heirs, or assigns would be so kind as to post an appropriate comment prior to undertaking any of the aforementioned suits or recriminations, I will then, in addition to feeling duly honored in attracting their august attention, immediately remove it with no hard feelings.

Just not funny anymore.

It rains here every day. Like every single day. It clears up sometimes, for a few hours, but it never really stops. Sometimes it is a light, gentle rain, with only scattered cloud cover. But mostly not. Mostly, there are very dark clouds that block out 95% of sunlight, and these pour monster amounts of water, at once, for hours at a time.

Even during those few moments when rain isn't actually falling (during these brief respites, the sun will sometimes come out), it is so humid that you can, like, feel the air. Certainly you can smell the air. Because everything smells swampy and moldy, all the time. Like when you're at the lake, but not the main part of the lake, the backwater part, where the little tar-paper shacks are, instead of the big houses with their own marinas.

That's what it smells like here, all the time. Everything not under a roof (and some stuff that is) is constantly soaking wet, inundated. Under the 10 inch grass (never dry enough to mow, though I've seen a couple of lawn-zealot peeps in my neighborhood actually mowing while it was raining), my lawn is a sodden mud puddle, and has been saturated since May. (At the curb, you can actually see the standing water, like, slightly overflowing into the gutter, like the curb itself is holding a big shallow muddy pool. One of the oddest sights I have ever seen, lawn-wise.)

At first it was funny. A while back my mom was joking with me, saying I've been thinking about how much you must hate all this rain we've been getting. That was FOUR weeks ago, and it has rained every single day since then.

It isn't funny anymore. Make it stop.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

I need to stop reading so many blogs...

I mean, I find a good news story to post about, and then I find that some dude like hilzoy has already written much better things about it than I was going to. Happens all the time (witness my long list of unfinished "save as draft" posts buried somewhere in the depths of the blogger dashboard).

But this one is funny enough to re-post, with appropriate credit. There's a very funny article in the SF Chronicle about how the Republican Party, noted champion of immigration, used an HB1 visa to hire a Canadian to "fill the role of 'political director'" in its California operation. An HB1 visa is granted to allow legal status to a non-citizen in circumstances where that person possesses skills that cannot be otherwise found in another person within the applicant pool.

Which might lead you to believe that this new official (one Christopher Matthews) was some real-deal political whiz, right? Wrong. Mr. Matthews has "no experience in statewide politics".

the California GOP was also in dire need of a COO. So who, amongst the nation's 300+ million citizens did they hire to fill that post? Well, none of them. Actually, they hired some Australian guy (one Michael Kamburowski). But obviously this guy was some real politico-financial whiz, right? Wrong. According to his resume, Kamburowski has been largely unemployed for the last 6 years, with stints as an "aspiring actor" and as a real estate salesman in Punta Cana Dominican Republic (according to his boss at ReMax Island Realty, he never sold nor leased any properties, despite being given exceptional leads ("coffee's for closers!!!), stating "I don't know what he was doing. I wouldn't give him my company to run, I can tell you that.").

In addition to his, um, spotty resume, Kamburowski was also "ordered deported in 2001, [and] jailed three years later for visa violations" by Homeland Security. It is still not proven that Mr. Kamburowski is in the United States legally. He is suing the U. S. Immigration Department for $5 million dollars. One month after he (according to the ReMax guy) "ran away without mentioning anything to us", Mr. Kamburowski was hired as California GOP COO, who heralded him as a "national issue management specialist".

So, what does this tell us? Either: (1) Mr. Kumburowski has a lengthy pedigree from fundamental Christian educational institutions, or (2) the Justice Department has extended its hiring practices much further than had previously been believed. Or both.

By the way, hilzoy's post has a highly amusing anecdote right at the end.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Gremlins in the WH email system

You might've read about the "lost" emails of Karl Rove, et al, which were sought as part of the Alberto R "Judge" Gonzales fired-U.S. Attorneys inquiry. I don't need to detail my thoughts on this issue. Faithful readers of this blog (numbering 2, as of last count) will readily discern how I come down on the matter.

But check out my comment over on Balkinization. My apologies; I've been having some beers out on the patio, and I'm just giggling a bit at my own (perceived) cleverness. It's the second comment down.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Too big. Just. Too. Big.

That's how I feel about the quote below. I first read it in an excerpt from Mark Danner's book The Secret Way to War (about the infamous "Downing Street Memo") in The Washington Post. Danner first got the quote from journalist Ron Suskind, who published it in an article in the NYTimes Magazine which I previously linked to in a different post. The quote was given to Suskind by an "unnamed Administration official", who Danner claims is actually Karl Rove. This quote has been... well, actually, just go ahead and read it first:
“The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…. and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.’”
So I first read this about 2 years ago, and it has never really left my head since then. This quote was probably one of the reasons I started this blog several months ago. Since that time, I've gotten a lot of things off my chest, but one of the things I haven't yet done is post my thoughts about this. The reason is just what the headline says. It is just too big. I can't organize my thoughts about it, or even list them all.

Maybe someday I will be able to. But now, having read this, I don't think I probably ever will. The link is to a commencement address delivered very recently by the same Mark Danner to the University of California at Berkeley Department of Rhetoric. It is rather long, but essential. And it is so thorough, so eloquent and forceful, that I feel it will be very difficult to find anything whatsoever to add to it.

Now, where's that "DELETE BLOG" button I always see and am afraid I'm accidentally going to click?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Feliz Cumpleanos!

A pic of J.S.'s birthday.

That sopapilla was also tasty.

Interesting Marketing Ploy

This pic (click to enlarge) was taken during my visit to watch the Yankees a few weeks ago in Arlington. If you drive a Lexus, you get free valet parking at the ballpark. I guess that's not a good reason to buy a car that you don't want or can't afford, but if you're a baseball fan and you're vacillating between getting a Lexus and a Mercedes, this might be a good selling point for the Lexus.

After all, even regular parking there costs a minimum of $12, and you have to walk very far unless you're an early arriver.

Going to the game was a good time. It was an weekday afternoon game, the first of a doubleheader, because the previous night's game was rained out. This created some ticket difficulties, which the MANY Yankees fans attending the game (I estimate the ratio of attending fandom at 65/35 in favor of the Yanks) were none too happy about. See, due to some crazy (and unfair) scheduling, this was the only time the Yankees were scheduled to be in town all season, and this day's game was the last scheduled game. So, in order to avoid having to either cancel the game entirely, or make the Yankees fly in for a single game later in the season, they had to have a doubleheader on this day. And because it was scheduled on such short notice, they had to make the tickets for the scheduled game allow fans to attend both games. AND, they had to make up the tickets for the rained out game. They did this by allowing everyone holding a ticket to exchange that ticket for a ticket to any other scheduled game. And since it was the Yankees, and since they wouldn't be coming back the rest of the season, virtually ALL the ticketholders elected to attend the next day's doubleheader. And let me tell you, there was a massive amount of displaced NYers standing in very long lines outside the stadium at the ticket booths. These lines were still very long in the middle of the 3rd inning.

City of Colleyville, Texas

I have recently been looking into changing my housing situation. As a human living in America, it is shameful that at my present age I do not own my own home. Or so I'm told. I'm also told that it's shameful that I'm not yet married and don't have any rugrats, but that is for another day.

So, if I were to buy a house, where would it be? Right down the street from my current residence is a place called Colleyville. It has narrow windy roads, overhung by huge trees. The houses are on big lots (by suburbaplex standards). Most are behind stone walls or iron gates. They sell for an average price of $374,000 (more than 3x the Texas average). ReMax currently lists 13 residential properties in Colleyville at prices of $2,000,000 or more. Incredibly, 5 are spec houses and 2 are vacant lots! (who in their right mind builds a spec house worth more than two million dollars?!)

Houses in Colleyville are inhabited by persons whose household income averages $125,000, and who are 91% white, 1.3% black (of black persons, it is estimated that more than 90% are current or former professional athletes).

According to the city's official website, "White collar professionals make up a high percentage of the population." (They could have left out the "collar").

In the year 2005, there were 0 murders, 1 robbery, 1 rape, and 13 instances of auto theft.

So what does this tell us? Colleyville is a nice place to live, but most likely a place that does not want me for a resident.

David Chase is cackling with glee

Or, so says this commentator. One of the best Sopranos Closure articles I've seen thus far.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


testing the blog post functions of the stupid slow and crappy treo 755p (supposedly the best device sold by sprint).

can I put a link?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Eugene Robinson: Seer

He has a good guess on how Bush's administration will be remembered.

Starts like this:

George W. Bush, Hero of Albania! At least there's one place in the world where they show the Decider some love.

That was a wonderful reverse-Borat moment Sunday, with the joyous townspeople of Fushe Kruje yelling "Bushie! Bushie!" and Albania's prime minister gushing over the "greatest and most distinguished guest we have ever had in all times." The crowd pressed in for autographs, photographs, a presidential peck on the cheek. Years from now, in his dotage, Bushie will feel warm all over when he recalls those magical hours in Albania. How they adored him!

Outside of greater Tirana, however, the president's stock as an apostle of freedom continues to fall -- and rightly so.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Sopranos talk

I don't think there's any way David Chase could have ended the show that would have satisfied everyone. The way he did end it certainly has a lot of detractors. Get Off My Lawn is amongst them, and I left a long-winded comment over there with some of my thoughts on the ending. Here are some other random thoughts on the last episode:

1. I've read some reviews in the major newspapers, and most of them refer to The Sopranos as the "best television series in history" or some variant. I think I probably have to agree with this. Out of 86 episodes, there were some I didn't like, but as a whole, there's nothing that beats it in terms of innovation, depth, complexity, unpredictability, and unconventionalism. These are things that should be highly prized in entertainment.

2. I don't know that I have a whole lot of evidence or argument for this, but I think the stray cat is Christoper reincarnated. This thought just struck me, and I couldn't get it out of my head.

3. Robert Iler (A.J.) is really a good actor. His character frequently annoys, but it is supposed to.

4. It really made me nervous how Tony walked around like he didn't have a care in the world during the "going to the mattresses" phase. I mean, at one point he is sitting on Janice's balcony, out in the open, with his back turned to the railing.

5. I had a prior obligation last night, so I tivoed the show. It was kind of late before I had free time, and I almost went to bed without watching it. So glad I didn't, because there is no possible way I would have made it through the day without hearing someone talk about what happened.

6. Was most if not all of A.J.'s whole depression/suicide thing a calculated effort to get a cushy entertainment industry job and a spanking new BMW M3? I love how they showed him afterward, in his familiar couch potato lounging position, laughing at Karl Rove and George Bush. After all of his venom and hand-wringing about the deplorable state of America and all the suffering in the world, give the guy and M3 and a hot model girlfriend, and he reverts right back to being a spoiled, self-centered layabout.

7. Tony, too, hasn't changed a bit since the first episode. Witness his left turn during the talk with A.J.'s therapist, where he goes right back to complaining about how his mother never loved him. After all that's happened, after all the change going on around him, for Tony, it's still, really, all about Tony.

8. I've got to remember to check iTunes tomorrow to see whether "Don't Stop Believing" has once again rocketed up the most-downloaded list, as it did in the infamous incident where Kristin and Talon sang along to it in an episode of Laguna Beach.

9. Is The Sopranos greater than The Godfather trilogy? The Godfather has some elements lacking in The Sopranos, but I think overall the answer -- nostalgia aside -- has to be yes. If the ending hadn't been so unbelievably great, I might be waffling more on the question.

10. But the ending was so unbelievably great. The "cut to black" was way more shocking (and far more satisfying) than anything else Chase could have realistically done. Would it have been more shocking for all 4 of them to get de-mapped in a bloody hail of gunfire? I don't think so. Would it have been more satisfying if Tony had decided to quit the mob, disavow goo-mahs, melt down all of his firearms, and retire to raise ducks in his backyard, so that he could be a better father and husband? I don't fucking think so.

11. In the minutes leading up to the final scene, I kept getting to places where I expected a fade-out, you know, like "ok, this is the ending, right here." For example, when Tony is out back, staring at the trees and the sun. Or when Carmella came out to tell him about the dinner plans, I thought the last image would be Tony with his arm around her, there, in the backyard. Blessedly, no.

12. When I was sitting there, mouth agape, staring at the soundless credits, I kept thinking it must be a trick. At the end of the credits, there'll be more footage. Something else will happen. But then it just rolled into a promo for the next show, and that was that. Amazing.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Iran will kill your children

You know, I used to like Rudy Giuliani. But this guy sets up to be even worse than GWBush. If he is elected president, you will likely see us invade Iran. Why? Because Iran has nuclear weapons.

Rudy had this to say in the debate the other night in response to the question of whether we should consider the use of nuclear weapons against Iran:
I think it could be done with conventional weapons, but you can't rule out anything and you shouldn't take any option off the table.

And during the debate the other night, the Democrats seemed to be back in the 1990s. They don't seem to have gotten beyond the Cold War. Iran is a threat, a nuclear threat, not just because they can deliver a nuclear warhead with missiles. They're a nuclear threat because they are the biggest state sponsor of terrorism and they can hand nuclear materials to terrorists.
Ummm, hello? I'm not sure what universe Rudy Giuliani is living in, but IRAN DOES NOT HAVE NUCLEAR WEAPONS. They are in the early stages of enriching uranium. Which is a hell of a long way from having the ability to make a nuclear bomb. And the missile technology to "deliver a nuclear warhead"? You've got to be fucking kidding me. Even the Chinese don't have that yet.

To foist this lie on the public -- that Iran already has nuclear capability -- is waaay beyond the pale. You thought GWBush and his crew were dishonest in making the case for war against Iraq? This kind of outright lying is far beyond anything they did. Heaven help us if this bloodthirsty fuckhead is elected.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Good thing we have an extra half billion dollars lying around

The president of Colombia is in D.C. today. He is speaking with U.S. officials about the amount of his country's annual handout.

The Democrats in congress recently cut Colombia's little stipend by about 10%, to $530 million. They also seek to reduce the percentage of this amount that will be allocated to the War on Drugs and to increase the amount allocated to poverty relief and social programs.

According the the SF Chronicle, "Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., who chairs the Appropriations Committee's State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, which produced the draft bill, said the idea is to put less emphasis on spraying coca fields and more emphasis on bringing drug traffickers and other criminals to justice."

So... I just want to make sure I get this right. We want to spend less money spraying herbicides throughout the Colombian countryside (i.e., destroying crops), and spend more money bringing "drug traffickers" (i.e., farmers) to justice. Sounds good to me.

In other news, China, the EU, and other importers of American tobacco products, today announced plans to put less emphasis on spraying American tobacco fields, and more emphasis on bringing tobacco farmers and cigarette company executives to justice.

Accountability? No, thank you.

The guy pictured is named Billy Donovan, coach of the 2-time defending National Champion Florida Gators NCAA basketball playing team. He deserves our support, and pity. Lots and lots of pity.

He has been sorely mistreated. The Orlando Magic, a big bunch of meanies, tricked and railroaded him into signing a $27.5 million contract to coach their NBA basketball team. The poor sap had only 9 weeks following his NCAA championship during which to decide if, where, and when he would next coach basketball. After speaking (against his will, we can assume) with several professional NBA basketball teams and at least one other college program, he was wickedly coerced into signing a contract with the Magic, and then forced (at gunpoint, presumably) to hold a press conference announcing same, during which he (under merciless pressure, no doubt) beamingly told the assembled masses and assorted members of the media, that he was proud and elated to be hired for his dream job.

The following day Donovan, back in Gainesville and out of the reaches of the evil Magic henchmen, sought to repudiate said contract before the ink was even dry. Upon hearing this, various jock-sniffing media members rushed to express support for Donovan in his time of despair. Donovan then lawyered up, and entered into protracted negotiations with his Magic oppressors to void said contract.

This morning, Donovan held a press conference announcing his successful extrication from the nefarious clutches of the Magic. Though I did not watch this, and a transcript is not yet available, I can predict with 99% certainty that the reasons presented by Donovan for his scurrilous about-face will include the following: "the comfort and well-being of my family" "in my heart, I know my true calling is to shape the character of the young student-athlete basketball playing men" and "my undying loyalty, allegiance, and love for the great University of Florida". We will be led to believe that, during the 9 weeks Donovan took to reach his decision to join the Magic (at a salary of $5.5 million/year), he was completely unaware that: (a) his true calling is in the young-men-character-development line, (b) loyalty and devotion to good ol' UofF is/was VERY important to him, and (c) he does, in fact, have a family.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Two Encouraging News Items

Both from court decisions, although you might call this one a "court" decision. The only two detainees held at Guantanamo Bay to be charged with crimes have both had all charges against them dismissed. The reasons for these dismissals are complex, and I have not researched the matter in detail, but I believe it has something to do with the cockeyed way in which the GWBush administration first sought to strip such detainees of their rights by labeling them as "enemy combatants", combined with the way in which Congress later (at Bush's urging) sought to strip such detainees of their rights by labeling them as "unlawful enemy combatants" after Bush's first attempt was deemed unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, along with the fact that these two schemes don't quite match up. There's some other stuff, but the more I read about it, the more my head hurts.

I describe this item as encouraging with the following caveat: I certainly do not -- and would not -- take any pleasure from seeing an actual terrorist, or an actual terrorist sympathizer, avoid prosecution or punishment for actual misdeeds against this country, its citizens, or its property.

But this caveat only holds IF the person accused of such misdeeds actually did them (or in the case of prosecution if there is probable cause to believe that the person actually did them). These, of course, are the standards our criminal justice system has used for the 200+ years of its existence. I have seen no convincing argument as to why these standards should now be changed (lowered) in the prosecution and punishment of the modern day class of criminals known as "terrorists".

The second item needs no caveat. Our parental friends at the wise and puritanically omniscient FCC have been unequivocally bitch-slapped by the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. According to this most excellent court opinion (of which I have read every marvelous word set forth in its 50+ pages), broadcast networks cannot be fined for "fleeting uses" of words like "fuck" and "shit".

You may recall that Nicole Ritchie and Bono used such words during separate nationally televised awards ceremonies a couple of years back. The FCC in its infinite nanny-like wisdom, took great offense at these occurrences, and sought to smite the evildoers at Fox Broadcasting for so crudely defiling the virgin ears of Michael Powell, et al. They did so by seeking to impose gigantic fines on Fox Broadcasting, in direct contravention to 30 years of FCC policy regarding such incidents, and announced that, henceforth, all fucks and shits would be punishable by license revocation and bankruptcy.

Fox Broadcasting, that great and awful incarnation of degeneration and societal decay, took umbrage at such high-handed tactics, and smote back -- with a lawsuit instituted and propelled ever onward with great force and furious anger by an army of the cleverest and unrelenting team of lawyers ever assembled; ever, since the 2000 election, at least. This shrewd and tireless legal juggernaut inevitably prevailed, and indeed could not have done otherwise considering the fact that the ranks of FCC lawyers arrayed against them had undoubtedly been diligently and faithfully stocked with brothers-in-law, political hacks, and cronies of all stripes -- in other words, the best and brightest that law schools like Pat Robertson's Regent University have to offer.

In a cool bit of irony, the 2nd Circuit based part of its opinion on the fact that GWBush and VP Dick Cheney have used, respectively, the words "shit" and "fuck" publicly, in episodes captured by the news media and later broadcast to the world. Money quote: "Similarly, as NBC illustrates in its brief, in recent times even the top leaders of our government have used variants of these expletives in a manner that no reasonable person would believe referenced “sexual or excretory organs or activities.” See Br. of Intervenor NBC at 31-32 & n.3 (citing President Bush’s remark to British Prime Minister Tony Blair that the United Nations needed to “get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit” and Vice President Cheney’s widely-reported “Fuck yourself” comment to Senator Patrick Leahy on the floor of the U.S. Senate)."