February 29, 2012

News Corp to No One

Murdochs and their minions habitually and as a matter of business operations bribed officials at every level of the British government.

That makes News Corp a criminal syndicate- an illegal private intelligence and propaganda service operating as if it was above the law.  That these crimes occurred alongside News Corp's fawning, lying and pompous crowing of pseudo-patriotism should fill any real patriot with total disgust - but of course their core skill is to feed on people's genuine love of country, and even of God in their utter cynicism, for their own rapacious profits.

Criminals, con men, and war profiteers, liars, dividers of friends and families - Murdoch made a business of spitting on justice, learning, ethics, tolerance, reason, science, and art. That is News Corp. That is Fox News. That is one of the most poisonous business operations in the world.

There are a million people in prison in America that haven't done a millionth of the damage to the nation.

February 28, 2012

Women begin to question GOP's "You and Your Children Will Be Our Slaves!" message


Flow Chart: Writing With A Pencil

February 27, 2012

Will I Destroy You?

(c) 2012 Jamie Bollenbach

February 26, 2012


Obama now has the Republicans attacking him for wanting to send kids to college.

Wife says:  "What?!  How do they expect to win the election?"  Good question.

I don't know whether to order popcorn or oxycontin.

The average Republican...

...apparently can't tell the difference between an anti-intellectual mullah and an oligarch.  I'll take the latter every time.

That particular choice shows how bereft the Republican Party has become.  Forget William F. Buckley or Milton Friedman - there is simply no credible intellectual influence or activity remaining in the GOP.  Thoughtful conservatives like John Taylor simply have no candidates who understand them or (much less) would enact the sensible policies they advocate.

My Republican friends are shaking their heads in disbelief, like this guy and this guy.  It's not Santorum's repugnant religious bigotry that concerns them, although it does limit his electoral appeal.  But his deficiencies as a thinker and leader are really obvious, and total presidential incompetence is bad for business.  Congress can limit a President's ideological excesses, but it cannot supply executive ability.

Obama has been a competent executive and politically moderate, the exact opposite of the Republican caricature of him.  It would nice for the country - if only to maintain the pretense of choice - if a credible alternative were presented by the minority party.

I was going to stop there, but it occurs to me that an intellectually defensible conservative stance - one that places a high value on limited, simple regulation and personal responsibility - has never been represented by a modern president.  Bush had a Republican congress and used it to pursue an imperialist agenda funded with massive deficit spending, as did Reagan.  Bush Sr. increased taxes and focused on military adventures of various kinds.  All these guys were friends of a military-industrial complex that is - by design - hostile to conservative ideals of limited government and personal liberty.

At some point, the ideal is so remote and incapable of realization that it has no relevance to the political process.  Which leaves the Republicans dually committed to oligarchs and religionists, despite strong guidance to the contrary.
No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. 

February 25, 2012

So just relax

Military leaders and corporations probably will not be so stupid as to add high levels of programmed autonomy to catastrophically strong weapon systems and critical industrial sectors.


Thank you

Dawkins acknowledges limits to certainty.

Now, let's unite and crush our enemies.


February 23, 2012

Just a coincidence, probably

Dr. Kapital tweets:

"Thank you, China."

In your guts you know he's nuts


Sorry, men, but it had to be done. Extremism in defense of liberty, eternal vigilance, and all that jazz.


Long night in the net

Philly goaltending not yet optimal... 3 on 5 goal?  Ouch.


Could be a game changer

Santorum gets Planet Zeeba endorsement (Bat Boy unavailable for comment).

And the weird thing is that the actual Santorum quotes are the craziest part in the article.

February 22, 2012


Farewell to Marie Colvin, who showed us what courage really is.  This is why we fight.

February 21, 2012

In praise of madmen

London Chess Club, 1912.  Young German guy walks in, looking for a game.  George Thomas, a British master with a ripping mustache obliges him.  Thomas loses in 18 moves on a queen sacrifice, in one of the most celebrated miniatures in chess history.

After winning the game, Lasker (not the World Champion Emanuel, the other one, Edward) went on to write the diverting Chess for Fun and Chess for Blood (link), which also has some good clues on living the right way, e.g., "I do not blame anyone for wasting his time the way he likes it best; although, of course, it is my own private opinion that my own time wasting plan, which includes a moderate dose of Chess, is the best."  Edward was limited in his chess career, however, because he was working full-time as an engineer, inventing (for example) the breast pump.

Thomas was also not without merit - eventually a British champion in both chess and badminton, he spent World War I with the 6th Hampshire Regiment in Mesopotamia.  The madman Bill Wall elaborates with this Sir George Thomas miscellany.

"But wait," you say, "is that game score accurate?  Has anyone ever gone through the different accounts of the game and checked to see if the move order is correct?  Has anyone taken the trouble to consult primary sources and verify that the game occurred exactly as  represented above?"

Why yes, as a matter of fact, someone has.  The madman Edward Winter has done exactly that.  There were a number of things that needed to be sorted about this game, and he has sorted them out.  And, in 2010, he appended, triumphantly, the ultimate confirmation of his cherished hypothesis.

Life would be so much less interesting without people like this.


You don't get it

He is a billionaire. This is America. He can talk all he wants. Too bad the rest of us no longer have that privilege.


Well, when you put it like that, it makes perfect sense.

"One of (Dominique) Strauss-Kahn's lawyers has said that the former French presidential hopeful never knew that the women at orgies he attended were prostitutes.

"He could easily not have known, because as you can imagine, at these kinds of parties you're not always dressed, and I challenge you to distinguish a naked prostitute from any other naked woman," Henri Leclerc told French radio Europe 1."

French politics are so refreshing.

February 20, 2012

I have no idea what's gotten into McCartney...

...but I'm on board:

February 19, 2012

Ride to the sound of the cannon

"Lakers fans are realists, while Clippers fans are optimists," clinical psychologist Nancy Lee says, based on her professional interactions with followers of both franchises...

"Clippers fans are largely nontraditional renegades who identify with the underdogs."


February 18, 2012

That beautiful devilish pod underneath, clinging as a fierce child against its mother's belly, carries all the conventional bomb explosive force of World War II and everything which came before. One B-58 can load that concentrated firepower and convey it to any place on the globe, and let it sink down, and let it go off and bruise the stars and planets and satellites listening in. 

 - General Curtis Lemay

Pen reviews

From the estimable Jake Parker... The Grinch

February 16, 2012

Stuff I Didn't Know Last Week

Bjorke Ingels is an under-40 Danish architect with a bold and original vision. He borrowed Danish sea water and Denmark's beloved 'Little Mermaid" statue for the 2010 Shanghai Expo.

His plan for a public pier in St. Petersburg, FL, makes me smile.

Also, he has lovely ideas about housing.

X: tell J. Maybe the future will be even more beautiful than I expected.

February 15, 2012

Santorum Searches for Own Gusher in Oil Country

Is that real headline in the New York Times even legal?

February 13, 2012

Two views of climate change


February 12, 2012

Well that's a relief

Doctors Clear Peyton Manning To Let 300-Pound Men Slam Him Into The Ground As Hard As They Can


The Sun is there, with unmarked bills


Deep thought

Wonder when Facebook will become mandatory...

February 10, 2012


Man, nothing's darker than Shakespeare in a foul mood.  From Pericles, Act IV:

Pandar.  Boult!

Boult.  Sir?

Pandar.  Search the market narrowly; Mytilene is full of gallants. We lost too much money this mart by being too wenchless.

Bawd.  We were never so much out of creatures. We have but poor three, and they can do no more than they can do; and they with continual action are even as good as rotten.

Pandar.  Therefore let's have fresh ones, whate'er we pay for them. If there be not a conscience to be used in every trade, we shall never prosper....

Bawd.  Thou sayest true: 'tis not our bringing up of poor bastards,—as, I think, I have brought up some eleven—

Boult.  Ay, to eleven; and brought them down again. But shall I search the market?

Bawd.  What else, man? The stuff we have, a strong wind will blow it to pieces, they are so pitifully sodden.

Pandar.  Thou sayest true; they're too unwholesome, o' conscience. The poor Transylvanian is dead, that lay with the little baggage.

Boult.  Ay, she quickly pooped him; she made him roast-meat for worms. But I'll go search the market.

The 'bastards' are likely the illegitimate children of the brothel.  'Little baggage' are prostitutes.  'Pooped' = defeated or overcame in this context, probably means she gave him syphilis.  What a Transylvanian is doing in London, er Mytilene, I have no idea.

Oh, this is comedy, by the way, child prostitution and social diseases played for laughs.  It was a hit in its day.

Some notes on the brothel scenes here.  Nicholl argues, brilliantly, that the virgin Marina who falls in with these monsters is based on the French bride in the lawsuit, who had to move into a bawdy house following a dispute with her father.  Since the guy running that bawdy house wrote the first two acts of Pericles, it's not a stretch.  Her name was Maria.

February 08, 2012

Goalies rule, part 2

Andrew Macdonald Ilya Bryzgalov bids to restore the reputation of Philadelphia goaltending, but Nabby steals the show.

Effin jet lag...


I'm sorry, I can't hear you over the sound of how awesome Barack Obama is

Obama walked into the State Dining Room at midday Tuesday and encountered 14-year-old Joe Hudy and the compressed-air cannon he invented to launch marshmallows as part of a science fair. 

“The Secret Service is going to be mad at me about this,” the president said, but he didn’t care. He asked Hudy to hand over the gun, told onlookers to step aside, pumped up the compressor — and shot a confection across the room Thomas Jefferson used as his office. Under the watchful gaze of an Abraham Lincoln portrait, the projectile narrowly missed a window and smacked into a wall near the entrance to the Red Room.


February 07, 2012

The Republican Religious Division in Action

re: tonight's Romney battering.

I think it's evidence of a deep Republican religious division for those in the party who are not the usual cynical quasi-libertarians.   A quiet division, but one going to get more prominent. It will be spoken of in dog-whistle terms, much like the race baiting. As the GOP has operated successfully by igniting bitter division for decades, they mistrust the value of other persuasive techniques and will continue - now amplified by hundreds of millions of  unrestricted dollars.

Santorum, as a rather dickish northern Catholic conservative - is a golden oldie, here.  Gingrich is epically dickish-  evangelical by proxy of his Southern-ness.  He is very popular with people who are just like him.  Romney, who is simply a dick, is with a really pretty small though successful religion with something of an unshakable creep factor.  He has not yet gotten 50% anywhere in his own party- and Santorum has.  Pity the actual Southern Baptist. Actually, don't pity him, because he's likely to be at home in November canning peaches for the Apocalypse instead of voting. 

So it's going to get worse for a while. Note that Romney is not simply a practitioner- if you're comparing the religious issue to Kennedy- but a former Mormon Bishop.  Politicized Mormonism and  Republican Christianism are not really reconcilable, and I don't mean on ideological terms, although that's true too, but in terms of people being willing to submit to one another's authority for the sake of political organization.  
Many people, particularly social Darwinist religious zealots, are not going to want to share power with apostates and infidels of comparable beliefs if mutually exclusive details, at least not at the highest levels.

If I'm right, the race is not likely to settle down soon. States will gravitate more towards their largest  religious orientation, clouding the process.  And  Romney was damaged tonight, badly, by failing to dominate when he was expected to do so- a severe failure in front of Republicans, who commonly harbor a tropism for top-dog power.

Finally, what are the Republicans going to say about the President they haven't already, even if it's backed with hundreds of millions of dollars?  I don't see a new line of attack that's likely to stick (the Obama is Hitler thing has fizzled out a bit for a very large number of obvious reasons), barring, of course, a standard mishandled major catastrophe of one flavor or another.

Too good not to steal

February 06, 2012

Movin' on up

I almost tweeted to my follower yesterday that, Brady having broken a Montana record, we might have to reassess his place in history.  Ok, let's reassess:

Name / Super Bowls / Wins / Losses / Avg SB Passer Rating / Super Bowl MVPs
Montana / 4 / 4 / 0 / 127.8 / 3
Brady / 5 / 3 / 2 / 97.6  / 2

Montana was obviously better.  I'm certain this analysis will silence everyone in Boston who thinks otherwise.

I also ran the Immortality Screen again today.  It now looks like this:
Number of times, from 1975 to 2011, in the playoffs, QB achieves Passer Rating >= 112 and Pass Attempts >= 10:
6 - Montana
5 - Aikman
4 - Brady, Favre, Manning(E), Manning(P), Warner
3 - Bradshaw, Brees, Hostetler, Kelly, Rodgers, Theisman
Not exactly an original observation, but Eli is extremely good.  He's now even with big brother on this screen, and the only other people up there are Hall-of-Famers, or sure to be.

Assuming Peyton is headed for retirement, there are four guys on the list with a chance to move up further and threaten Montana and Aikman:  Manning(E), Brady, Brees, and Rodgers.  Rodgers stood still this year.  Brady and Brees each picked up a game.  Eli picked up two, with outstanding performances vs. Atlanta and Green Bay in January.

Eli is 30 years old.  Rodgers is 28, Brees 33, Brady 34, Peyton 35...Montana retired when he was 38.

The Lodger

Charles Nicholl, The Lodger Shakespeare:  His Life on Silver Street

Biographies of Shakespeare tend to go one of two ways, depending on how the biographer decides to handle the paucity of direct information about the man.  Some maintain an anti-speculative discipline, confining themselves just to the few salient facts, but embellishing with lots of background material.  We might, for example, know he went to grammar school - so these books will give you a rundown on what grammar school was like in those days.  It is a bit like describing a fish by carefully delineating its aquarium - you know a lot, but not what you want to know.  Bryson's book is the best of this type I've seen lately.

I was educated in this tradition.  My Shakespeare teacher, the late, lamented Ann Imbrie, took us through the rhetorical devices taught in English grammar schools and briefed us on what life in London was like, but ultimately held the text as the primary source of insight.  Sure, Malvolio might be based on a particularly obnoxious waiter at the Pig & Bosom, but we don’t know that, and chances are most of Shakespeare’s audience wasn't in on the joke either.

But only a few biographers are willing to hold to such an austere standard of evidence.  They look at a tantalizing clue like the 1602 diary entry of a law student that reports the joke about William the Conqueror coming before Richard III, and they can’t leave it alone.  All right, it’s not a fact, exactly, but must we ignore it entirely?  Surely it's telling us something?

Speculation becomes irresistible.  Some of the resulting conceptions – such as Greenblatt’s Will in the World - are inspired.  But once a biographer has gone down this slippery slope, it takes nerves of steel to avoid going over the precipice.  Most Shakespeare biographies end up as odd mixtures of slim evidence and robust fantasy – entertaining perhaps, but bringing us closer to the biographer than the subject.

The exercise is defensible, I suppose if there really is no hope of coming face to face with such a distant, enigmatic figure.  That elusiveness might not be so disturbing if Shakespeare had written the way Emily Dickinson did – locked in a room and exploring just his interior world.  But Shakespeare was just the opposite:  we know hardly anything about him, yet he seems to know everything about everything. The chief problem of modern Shakespeare studies is therefore, in my opinion, how we explain his astonishing scope (and he valued scope).  A grammar school kid from Stratford turns into not just the greatest poet and dramatist in the English language, but one whose defining characteristic is his exttraordinary breadth of knowledge, from botany to French politics, from high court fashion to the workings of the London underworld.

Charles Nicholl addresses this issue in his brilliant and powerful biographical essay, The Lodger Shakespeare:  His Life on Silver Street.  I call it an essay rather than a biography because it covers only a few years of Shakespeare’s life, the troubled ones after the death of his son Hamnet, when he produced some of his greatest works (e.g., Othello and the Scottish play), and also some of his most mysterious and confusing (e.g., Measure for Measure).

Nicholl, fresh off a well-received biography of Da Vinci, uses as his point of departure a small claims lawsuit from 1612, in which Shakespeare was a witness.  The suit itself is somewhat trivial – a married man is suing his stingy father-in-law to get him to pay his promised dowry.  The father-in-law is employing the “just say no” defense, which he sticks to throughout the proceeding.    The documents associated with the suit – first discovered in 1909 – include firsthand testimony taken from Shakespeare, and give extensive details on the lives of people with whom he associated during this period.  The defendant – one Christopher Mountjoy – was Shakespeare’s landlord in London at the time the marriage was arranged, and Shakespeare acknowledges in his testimony that he had a role in arranging the union.

Shakespeare was renting a room in a house on Silver Street in The City (both house and Street are now long gone, although a nearby churchyard has been preserved).  From here Nicholl starts tracking people down – the motto on the frontispiece is:  “Every contact leaves traces” (from, as every schoolchild knows, Edmond Locard’s 1923 Manuel de Technique Policiere).  He investigates relationships, notes births, deaths, and weddings, even uncovers affairs.  In this last area he is aided immeasurably by the clinical notebooks of one Simon Foreman, a dodgy, horny, and successful astrologer/medical practitioner.  Forman’s confidential notebooks give extensive detail – and there is a lot of detail to be had - on the intimate goings-on at the Mountjoy residence.  Within a few pages we have a remarkably vivid picture of a group of people Shakespeare was spending a lot of time around.

The power of the book develops gradually, through an accumulation of small bits of evidence.  We learn that Shakespeare is lodged above a tire-making shop.  This is an important detail:  a tire, in those days, was a bit of fashion headwear, handmade, expensive, and in great demand among the rich.  The Mountjoys, French immigrants in London, make them and have top customers.  Records survive showing that James' wife, Queen Anne of Denmark, was a customer of the Mountjoys:

There, on her head 

So Shakespeare is living in the same house as the people who are making fashion accessories for the queen and plenty of other high-end people in London.  And, of course, for acting companies (costumes were their biggest expense).  And, of course, for prostitutes.  Shakespeare was getting more real life over his morning bread and beer than Bacon was getting in a month.
In these ways a certain dodgy glamour attaches to the Mountjoys' shop, above which Shakespeare sits writing his mirthless comedy about a city obsessed and corrupted with sex - a city he calls 'Vienna' but which is really London.
The Mountjoys themselves are, like everyone else, living on the edge of survival.  Threats include: wars, anti-immigrant violence, regular violence, plague, sexually-transmitted diseases, other diseases, unwanted pregnancies, and God knows what else.  Life expectancy in London was about 35 in those days, according to Wikipedia, "for the richer ones."  40% of the population were dead before their mid-teens.  Let those who worry nowadays about their waistlines and 401(k) balances lend an ear to Mistress Overdone:
[W]hat with the war, what with the sweat, what with the gallows, and what with poverty, I am custom-shrunk.  
That's not hyperbole, that's 1603, explains Nicholl - "the continuing war with Spain, the plague, the bout of executions further to Jesuit-linked plots against King James (the 'Main' and 'Bye' plots), and the slackness of trade in the deserted city."

So the landlord's daughter marries the apprentice, and they fall out with the father, and move into a nearby bawdy house, because there's not a lot of options for impoverished French couples in London.  And Shakespeare maybe has something to do with this, because the guy running the bawdy house wants to be a playwright.
In Wilkins, he finds not only intimations of literary talent, not only the chafing ambition of the unpublished writer - he finds a man who knows this seedy brothel world from the inside, a man who lives this world which the other writers only look in on.
Wilkins starts writing plays around the time he meets Shakespeare, including the first two acts of Pericles (according to modern textual analysis), then does an unauthorized book version, probably pissing off Shakespeare and getting blackballed, after which his creative output stops and he spends the rest of his life beating prostitutes and constables, if court records are to be believed.  So how did Shakespeare know so much about prostitution and the underworld?

Before it's over Nicholl has explained large chunks of Measure for Measure to you, given new depth to the character of Shylock, and offered fresh readings of a dozen or so speeches based on verifiable facts of Shakespeare's life during these years.  The book, constructed as it is from minutiae, sometimes bogs down in it, and the reader will be tempted to skip a bit.  But Nicholl knows his game, and he is explaining these things to you because you need to know.  You'll be skipping back later when you realize what a marvelous web he has woven.

It is hard with just ink and paper to bring forth a man, much less a man as bright and worldly as Shakespeare.  But Nicholl shows us something of his methods and character.  He gives us a strong sense - for a few key years at least - of what The Stratford Man was like.  We will never truly know him, of course, but this is far closer than I ever thought I'd get.

February 05, 2012

I can't get behind that, man

The CIA’s drone campaign in Pakistan has killed dozens of civilians who had gone to help rescue victims or were attending funerals, an investigation by the Bureau for the Sunday Times has revealed.  (link)

So, the price of freedom would be...our humanity?

Our Sunday morning music

7 year-old guest blogger reports:  "This video is insane!  You should check it out."

For comparison, Shirley Bassey at the Albert Hall may be seen here.

February 03, 2012

The Increasingly Poor Decisions of the organization formerly known as the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation

  • Renames self Susan G. Komen For The Cure 
    • Emphasis added.  In other news I am renaming myself The Front For The Win
    • About 21% of their budget goes to actually looking for a cure
  • Finds the perfect fund raising partner
  • Ends funding for stem cell research, a promising area for the development of a cure for breast cancer
  • Decides to stop grants to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screening
  • Decides to resume grants to Planned Parenthood
  • Crucial handgun sales tie-in (this might not be true, but it's too good not to use)
  • Renames self Komen Diddy
  • Makes spectacle of self in Oscars cocaine binge
  • Begins speaking darkly of "the Jewish question"
Whiskey.  Tango.  Foxtrot.

February 02, 2012

Be on the lookout...

...anyone “overly concerned about privacy” or attempting to “shield the screen from view of others” should be considered suspicious and potentially engaged in terrorist activities.


Goalies rule