December 30, 2005

Krugman's Year That Was

While we ordinarily try to avoid the dirty scrum of politics here at Eisengeiste, we will link to Paul Krugman's scathing review of the Bush administration's annus incompetus.

An Apology

The National Enquirer (required weekly reading in our household) recently published the following apology. Since they unaccountably put it on page 30, we thought we would give it additional exposure by reprinting it here in full for the gi-normous Eisengeiste reading audience:
"A cover story we ran entitled 'Teri Hatcher—Amazing Bedroom secrets' was based on an interview sold to us by an experienced freelance journalist who we now believe never actually conducted the interview. … Ms. Hatcher has never engaged in sexual relations with men in a van parked on her property, nor does she leave her child alone in her house while having 'steamy romps' with men in a 'passion wagon.' … We also published a story suggesting that Ms. Hatcher … had become 'desperately thin' and was 'wasting away.' … We now know that during the past seven years, her weight has fluctuated by only three pounds—a result of healthy diet, moderate exercise and a good metabolism. Ms. Hatcher is fit and looks great, and her healthy appearance is nothing new."
From the excellent Wikipedia article on The Enquirer: "Celebrity stories broken in the Enquirer have generally been proven true; for example, it was the Enquirer that uncovered in 2001 that the Rev. Jesse Jackson had an illegitimate child. Details of the Monica Lewinsky affair would normally have been untouched by the mainstream press had the details not been already made public knowledge by the Enquirer. The Enquirer was also regarded as having, by some distance, the best media coverage of the O.J. Simpson murder trial, even by academics studying the case and regular news pundits."
"Chronic-WHAT-cles of Narnia" spreads like frosting

Time to Patch the OS...

Microsoft acknowledged the release of exploit code that could allow an attacker to execute arbitrary code when someone visits a Web site that contains a specially crafted Windows Metafile (WMF) image. Security authority Secunia labeled the vulnerability "staggeringly unbelievably incredibly totally critical and the fate of humanity depends on its supression."

Ok, I made that last part up

Flight Tracker

Shows you where all U.S. commercial flights are right now.

December 28, 2005

Something Funny

It's been done before, but rarely this well.

"Chief Security Officer Wade believes he has accounted for all the fugitive cane toad babies. He and his men have killed over 18,000 tadpoles in the Area 6 Sewage Corridors. Adjunct Sanitation Engineer Burroughs has been assisting in draining each sewage corridor to help in the process. This is why the restrooms have been going offline recently. This is also why security guards are posted in each restroom to assure no cane toads escape from out of the toilets. We understand your need for privacy, but the fate of mankind outweighs this need."

Where the Hell is Svalbard?

If you look at this map, you can see, way north of Norway, on a line with northern Greenland, is a place called Svalbard. Yes, people live there, and yes, battles have been fought over it. The FAQ is here.

Kryptonite for the Evangelicals

This book demonstrates that the Bible evolved over time and that many of its key sources were copied and re-copied, with errors introduced at each stage of the process. I heard an excellent interview with the author, a former evangelical, and his arguments were clear and well-presented. He got a 'question' via e-mail from some fundamentalist accusing him of making a fetish of textual analysis. His response was basically: you're the folks who worship a book, sorry this is inconvenient for you.

This is the second fatwa-worthy book he's written. His previous one, Lost Christianities, details the many versions of the religion that went by the wayside and the political struggles that went into the formulation of the original Christian consensus.

If you'd like a different and highly readable take, I'd highly recommend the translation of the gospels done by the eminent scholar Richmond Lattimore back in 1979.

December 27, 2005

Some Miscellaneous Notes on Arctic Expeditions

Based on my conversation tonight with the Laird and the First Sea Lord, I submit the following:
  • In his position at the Admiralty, [Sir John] Barrow was a great promoter of Arctic voyages of discovery, including those of John Ross, William Edward Parry, James Clark Ross, and John Franklin. Point Barrow in Alaska is named for him. He is reputed to have been the initial proposer of St Helena as the new place of exile for Napoleon Bonaparte following the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
  • Fergus Fleming has writte a very good book on Barrow.
  • Sheila Nickerson's book about disappearances in the far north is here, along with evidence of Internet immortality (some reviews date to the late 90s!).
  • Details on Frobisher here. But Baffin looks like he had a pretty good run at it, too.
  • Lots on "poor Franklin" here. "Franklin was of a breed of imperial officers who believed in the subjugation of nature by civilisation, carrying silver plates and crystal decanters with him on the expedition. Perhaps the inevitable compromises of this strategy led to insufficient essentials, as well as an unwillingness or inability to learn survival techniques from the natives. Their ships were locked in the ice for two winters, a much longer time than they anticipated. It has also been suggested that the party died of lead poisoning or food poisoning from the canned food they were carrying with them. There is some evidence that they resorted to cannibalism. The most likely cause of death of most of the party, from the descriptions the Inuit gave of their end, was scurvy. In the end, it may have been a combination of bad weather, poisoned food, poor planning and bad health."
  • But the man who impresses me most in this saga is Ross. After disgracing himself he goes back and sails "past Lancaster Sound to a previously unexplored area, where their ship became stuck in the ice. The crew was stranded for four [fucking] years, during which they explored the regions to the west and north, with the help of local Inuits. On one of these explorations, Ross found the magnetic north pole on the Boothia Peninsula. In 1832, Ross and his crew abandoned their ship and walked to another shipwreck which had been abandoned by a different expedition many years earlier. A year went by before a break in the ice allowed them to leave, on that ship's longboats. They were eventually picked up by a British vessel and taken home." In 1850 Ross went looking for Franklin, but didn't find him.
  • Of course, the Vikings were there first (scroll down a bit).


By request of the Sea Lord, the giant Dirt Man of the Diamond Center Mall. Actually this was an attempt to creat the world's largest snowman. However, breakup being what it is, snowmen devolve into dirtmen, or poopmen, or worse. This pic was taken either in 1983 or 1987. Everything else in between is a blur.


"The O RLY owl has recently began to irritate some people so much, that the simple posting of the O RLY owl on some message boards will result in the banning of the sender's IP address."

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The Tale of the IAYPA Tape

Ok, season's over, why pollute the IAYPA stats with meaningless final game performances?

The Honor Roll

1. B. Roethlisberger (7.5) - Only 252 attempts (Manning had 451) but he made them count with the highest YPA in the league and only 7 interceptions. He played hurt, he threw the ball deep effectively, and he didn't turn it over. A perfect example of a professional foot-ball quarter-back.

2. P. Manning (7.2) - I predict someday people recognize what a fine quarterback Peyton Manning is.

3. M. Hasselbeck (6.7) - Like the Lord, Hasselbeck cometh like a thief in the night. He's been in the top ten most of the year, but crept steadily up these ratings during the second half, edging out Trent Green, Jake Plummer, and Tom Brady (all at 6.6) for the Bronze.

See You Next Year (Not)

1. Kyle Orton (3.3) - Lowest YPA with an INT percentage (3.7%) well above the league average. What's to like?

2. B. Favre (3.9) - Not as good as his 9th-worst pass rating (70.5) suggests. Always a risk taker, Favre this year led the league in interception percentage while achieving a below-average YPA of 6.4.

3. J. Harrington (4.1) - Detroit, the home of management-in-denial, brings you a guy who got nothing done this year. He started badly, played badly in the middle, and finished badly. Bonus points for costing Mariucci his job.

What Happened?

1. D. Bledsoe (5.8) - Finished in the top 10 in pass rating (BFD), but dropped to 13th in IAYPA after spending most of the season in the top 10. Still a fine player, but he gets into some ugly streaks.

2. D. Culpepper (4.5, TKO) - It's one thing to play badly, another to play badly, get indicted for lewd behavior, get hurt, then see your team come on strong in your absence with Brad Johnson at the helm. John Madden used to talk about what a great player Culpepper was. The statistical evidence of superior skill is ... not immediately apparent.

I've been getting a lot of letters on this, so here is what you've all been wanting to know: Chris Simms (5.4) beats out Eli Manning (5.1), though Manning had roughly double the attempts. Expect both men to play for a long time - they're playing average football in their rookie years, which ain't easy.

December 26, 2005

Commander Pappy the Great

John Calvert Foose
Born October 27, 1926 in St. Mary’s Hospital, returned to his Lord December 25, 2005 at 12 noon in St. Mary’s Hospital.
He was preceded in death by his father, A.M. Foose; mother, Ruby Calvert Foose; and wife, Ann Elizabeth Davis Foose who passed away at the age of 39, leaving 6 children. His grateful children honor his commitment, as a single father, to raising them, with extraordinary support from his parents, brothers, and sisters-in law.
A veteran of WWII who served with the U.S. Army, he was on a troop ship with the 1st Cavalry Division headed for the invasion of Japan, when the atomic bomb was dropped in August 1945, and Japan surrendered. He spent two years in the Army of Occupation in Hokkaido, Japan.
He attended St. Joseph Elementary and Junior High School, graduating from Marshall High School in 1944. He graduated from Marshall College in 1951 with a degree in Chemistry. He was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.
He started working for the C&O Railroad in 1953 and retired as Chief Chemist and Head Environmental Officer in 1988.
He was a life-long member of St. Joseph’s Church and a volunteer at the Nazareth House. He was a Boy Scout leader for many years and volunteered at the Veterans Hospital. He was Past Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 9738. He was an avid bowler and he loved gardening and photography and was a fine baker.
He is survived by a special friend, Elinor Miller of Bellefonte, Kentucky, a classmate from elementary school. The pleasure they took in their companionship and travels together was a source of joy to them and to their families.
He is further survived by his children, John, Francis, Ann Hannon, Michelle and her husband Vonn Marsch, Matthew and his wife Robin, Karl and his wife Michelle, and grandchildren: John Robert Hannon, Dustin and Shawn Foose, and one special puppy, Zac. He was also “Pappy” to Stephanie and Greg Nethercutt, and their children Cheyenne, Elizabeth, and John.
Brothers and Sisters-in-law: Alphonse Maurice & Evelyn Foose, Columbus, Ohio, Karl & Rosemary Foose, West Palm Beach, Florida, and Francis & Dolores Foose, Huntington, West Virginia.

All Hail the Commander

John Foose, my father-in-law, passed away on Christmas day at about noon, EST. He was attended by his daughter, Michelle, his son, Francis, and his girlfriend, Eleanor. Full obit to follow.

December 25, 2005

Yeah, But Can He Play in the Clutch?

NFL Record, Most Touchdowns, Single Season: 27 - Priest Holmes, and, as of yesterday, Shaun Alexander. If he scores in Green Bay next week, he gets the record all to himself.

I love that record. Sure, it depends on your offensive line, and what other options your coach has in the Red Zone. But it's just the most basic thing. It annihilates all criticism:

"Shaun Alexander is overrated."

"No one in the history of the game has scored more touchdowns in a season than he has."

Not John Riggins, Larry Csonka, Marcus Allen, Earl Campbell - none of them has scored as many times in a season as Shaun Alexander.

My Assessment of the Seahawks:
  • Running Game: A (see above)
  • Passing Game: A (top-ten IAYPA)
  • Defense: B but improving. Football Outsiders has them ranked dead average, but they're getting better (average points against last four games: 10)
  • Special Teams: I dunno, but Football Outsiders says they're average.
  • Last loss: Week 4.
This is so great.

December 24, 2005

A Christmas Ghost Story

South of the Line, inland from far Durban,
A mouldering soldier lies--your countryman.
Awry and doubled up are his gray bones,
And on the breeze his puzzled phantom moans
Nightly to clear Canopus: "I would know
By whom and when the All-Earth-gladdening Law
Of Peace, brought in by that Man Crucified,
Was ruled to be inept, and set aside?

And what of logic or of truth appears
In tacking 'Anno Domini' to the years?
Near twenty-hundred livened thus have hied,
But tarries yet the Cause for which He died."

- Thomas Hardy

December 23, 2005

Another Garland

As every schoolchild knows, G.K. Chesterton was a popular author and raconteur in early 20th-century England, a close friend of the estimable Hillaire Belloc. Shaw called them Chesterbelloc, and Belloc wrote this magnificent defense of Chesterton after he had been critized by an Oxford Don.

(Chesterton also had a cousin who was instrumental in far-right politics in England between the wars, Wikipedia covers him too.)

Anyway, here is Beerbohm, doing Chesterton, doing Christmas:
One [error about Christmas] is that Christmas should be observed as a time of jubilation. This is (I admit) is quite a recent idea. It never entered into the tousled heads of the shepherds by night, when the light of the angel of the Lord shone about them and they arose and went to do homage to the Christ child. It never entered into the heads of the Three Wise Men. They did not bring their gifts as a joke, but as an awful oblation. It never entered into the heads of the saints and scholars, the poets and painters, of the Middle Ages. Looking back across the years they saw in that dark and ungarnished manger only a shrinking woman, a brooding man, and a child born to sorrow. The philomaths of the eighteenth century, looking back, saw nothing at all. It is not the least of the glories of the Victorian era that it rediscovered Christmas. It is not the least of the mistakes of the Victorian era that it supposed Christmas to be a feast.

A Christmas Garland

A few years ago I was reading through a book of Roberston Davies' newspaper book reviews from the 40s and 50s (the wonderful The Enthusiasms of Robertson Davies). He recommended a peculiar book I had never heard of before, Max Beerbohm's A Christmas Garland. It consists of Christmas stories, written by Beerbohm in the style of his contemporaries - people like Joseph Conrad, G.K. Chesterton, Rudyard Kipling, and Thomas Hardy.

Without further ado, here is Beerbohm, doing Kipling, doing Christmas:
"Wot wusyer doin' hup there?" asked Judlip, tightening the grip.

"I'm S-Santa Claus, Sir. P-please Sir, let me go."

"Hold him," I shouted, "He's a German."

"It's my dooty to caution yer that wotever yer say now may be used in hevidence against yer, yer old sinner. Pick up that there sack an' come along o' me."

The captive snivelled something about peace on earth, good will to men.

"Yuss," said Judlip. "That's in the Noo Testament, ain't it? The Noo Testament contains some uncommon nice readin' for old gents 'n young ladies. But it ain't included in the librery of the Force."

December 22, 2005

"That snowman's big -- big news!"

"That snowman is gonna put this town on the map!"

The story of that big snowman (now called "Snowzilla) in Anchorage is at the top of today.

December 21, 2005

Origins of Frog-on-Frog Violence

This lady explains the bullfrog cannibalism thing:

"Cannibalism may seem purely destructive, but it can, in fact, be quite beneficial. Clearly, a voracious cannibalistic species would rapidly eat itself out of existence. When cannibalism occurs in response to overcrowding, for example, it can increase the species’ chances for survival. A population rising too rapidly without restraints can eliminate its own food supply. During a harsh winter or drought, when food is scarce it is clearly to a species’ advantage for at least some of the population to remain well fed and healthy even at the expense of others. Among species that produce many offspring, such as frogs, cannibalism of siblings helps ensure that some young develop into adults, thus continuing the species. Cannibalism appears to be an inherited trait in some species."

The wikipedia article is excellent. Citizens for Responsible Human Food Consumption might want to study this for talking points.

Seahawks Backfield, Left Line, Picked for Pro Bowl

The left side of the Seattle O-line will be going to the Pro Bowl (Jones, Hutchinson), as well as Hasselbeck, Alexander, and, for the first time in his 12-year career with the Seahawks, Mack Strong. Huzzah!

Maria Cantwell to Stevens: F.U., Old Man

Senate blocks ANWR rider.

Also, Cheney flies back from Iraq especially to screw over Americans who have nothing. Merry Christmas, you syphylitic old Ayn Rand sphincter.

Secret Judge: See Ya

How bad is the secret domestic NSA surveillance?

A judge from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which busily (and inavariably) hands out secret warrants for secret investigations based on helpful suggestions from individual agents, has resigned in protest at this imperial abuse of presidential authority.

December 20, 2005

Judge Says: No

On December 20, 2005, [Federal judge] Jones ruled that the Dover mandate was unconstitutional and barred intelligent design from being taught in public school science classrooms.

A Viceroyal Request

There is an item, slightly more newsworthy than the Memphis DVD release scoop, in today's Anchorage Daily News about a large snowman.

In this context, I believe the Viceroy has a photograph, a shocking photograph, a most horrible, grisly, wicked, and despairing photograph, of the most soul-deadening snowman ever made, at least twice this size, in the parking lot of the Dimond Mall, and it is his duty to report with an image the hard facts: what did this "giant snowman" look like?

Uncovering, Investigating, Getting Results

The Memphis Eyewitness News Team must be very proud.

December 19, 2005

We All About the Hamiltons

Stop the presses! There was actually something funny on Saturday Night Live:

Lazy Sunday

Let the World Tremble

With all the things we hear nowadays about Asian species coming into our country and unbalancing our ecosystems, it's nice to know that America can still give as good as it gets. Take the humble bullfrog, for example. They've conquered our continent, and now they're moving on Canada, France, Venezuela, and beyond.

Why are bullfrogs so tough? Well, the ability to lay 10x more eggs than competing species helps. But I'm guessing it also has to do with all the intramural battles they fight:

"Studies of bullfrog intestines reveal the amphibians eat just about anything they can fit into their mouths: birds, rats, snakes, lizards, turtles, fish, other frogs, and especially each other. In southern Arizona the most common vertebrates found in bullfrogs are other bullfrogs..."

These Colors Don't Take Considered Responses to Actual Conditions

Cheney in Iraq. And there was much rejoicing.

December 18, 2005

Moa on the Kea

Well, I found Kea: Bird of Paradox for sale on The Internets and got a copy. This is the definitive book on the parrot I've mentioned before, which lives only on the south island of New Zealand. Some salient points:
  • Isolated from other gene pools for millenia, New Zealand is an evolutionary alternate reality. Jared Diamond says it "is as close as we will get to the opportunity to study life on another planet."
  • Before humans arrived, New Zealand was dominated by birds. One that evolved into a classic mammalian niche was the Moa, which was perhaps as large as an ostrich, but much heavier. Specialized predators evolved to eat it, notably Haast's eagle. Sporting a ten-foot wingspan it was "probably the largest eagle that ever lived" (went extinct 1,000 years ago, the Moa lasted a few centuries longer). Given the carnage this thing and other airborne predators caused, it is not surprising that the kea, which started out as a parrot, evolved into an intelligent and versatile scavenger.
  • First civilized man to record the existence of the Kea: Captain Cook.
  • Today, "the kea has evolved a level of intelligence and flexibility that rivals that of the most sophisticated monkeys."
  • "Truly omnivorous" and "enormously resilient, keas feed on nearly any accessible resource" including: roots, bulbs, stems, fruit, berries, nectar, pollen, grasshoppers, beetle grubs, other insects, carrion, garbage, and sheep. Yes, sheep.
  • "This flexibility is the hallmark of what has been called an 'open program' species - one that specializes in learning and in applying its skills in new ways to new circumstances."
  • The kea got into the sheep business after the American Civil War. During the war wool prices had been high (since the southern U.S. was blockaded), and they crashed when it was over. On New Zealand's south island, "9 out of 10 runholders in the Marlborough District were virtually bankrupt." To save money, they fired the shepherds and let the sheep run unsupervised. Additionally, they tossed the dead ones into uncovered pits. These two trends were like opening a buffet line for the intelligent and opportunistic kea. "In March of 1884 the sheep inspector at Queenstown reported that keas had attacked a flock...and killed 200 sheep in a single night."
  • Keas wreck stuff. A single kea got into a guy's house through the chimney and destroyed everything.
  • Their social structure is nonlinear. "That is, if bird A dominates bird B and bird B dominates bird C, that does not guarantee that bird A will also dominated bird C."
  • They'll mess with feral cats by pulling on their tails.
  • They mob falcons that attack them - no observer has seen successful predation by a falcon on a kea.
  • Keas play all the time, which the authors believe reinforces their behavioral flexibility. "The prevalence and intensity of their play is unique among birds."
  • "Demolition is strongly socially facilitated..." If one kea is pecking at something, a bunch more will come out of nowhere and just start whaling on it.
  • They steal food from each other, the only parrot in which this behavior has been documented. This includes social spoofing - a subadult will approach a feeding bird in a submissive pose, then jump in and grab its food.
  • They wreck cars. A couple of hikers left their soft-top Jeep unguarded. A band of keas cut through the top, chewed up the seats, and tore out all the wiring.
  • People who live near keas "wire their garbage cans down and anchor them with concrete blocks, cover their television antennas with PVC piping, and close off chimneys and other attractive openings with chicken wire."

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"What does not destroy me makes me stronger. Awk!"

December 17, 2005

Eerily beautiful...

... computer animation of all commercial flights over the course of one day.

In this case it was put togther by the artist Aaron Koblin as part of a series of visualizations entitled (appropriately) Flight Patterns

A friend of a friend who works air traffic control says they have something similar in the FAA offices as part of their public tour.

Which led me to start thinking that perhaps the NEA could be saved by merging with the FAA, until I realized the current administration wants to privatize that too...

Apart from that, Everything's Fine

From today's Washington Post:

"So a Holocaust-denying, virulently anti-Semitic, aspiring genocidist, on the verge of acquiring weapons of the apocalypse, believes that the end is not only near but nearer than the next American presidential election. (Pity the Democrats. They cannot catch a break.) This kind of man would have, to put it gently, less inhibition about starting Armageddon than a normal person. Indeed, with millennial bliss pending, he would have positive incentive to, as they say in Jewish eschatology, hasten the end."

Cato Institute Fellow a Little Too Fond of Free Markets

On Thursday, Bandow resigned from the Cato Institute after confirming a report by BusinessWeek Online that said Abramoff paid him for writing between a dozen and 24 articles over nearly a decade. The Washington think-tank's Web site Friday referred to Bandow as a "former senior fellow."

Murder 1st / White Victim

"The shameful truth is that had Williams' four victims been black, the overwhelming likelihood is that he would still be alive today, one of the many anonymous convicted murderers who occupy our state prisons.

"The fact that not a single person has been executed in this state for killing an African-American is consistent with studies across the country that show the death penalty is reserved primarily for those who kill white people."

December 16, 2005

Scientists: Mona 9% disgusted

...And 2% angry.

Well. That's settled, then.

Slavery in Tacoma

FBI: A moroccan girl is enslaved by her relatives, beaten, withdrawn from school and forced to work at a Tacoma espresso stand, 14 hours a day without pay.

As far as I know, this is the first case of espresso-related slavery. And I should add, that if guilty, the couple who did this should do long, hard time.

Now for the Important News

Wikipedia has an excellent, thoughtful article on the "Ha! Ha!" guy. Britannica eat your heart out.

The NSA Scandal - Presidential Crime and The Shriveling of Freedom

The early ACLU reaction is to consider the Bush NSA unleashing as potentially illegal and deserving formal criminal investigation. This is, I believe, an appropriate response. This is MASSIVELY illegal, and I fear little will happen. (The previous sentence was written immediately before the following happened:)

UPDATE: NYT: Specter will hold Judicial Committee hearings.

"And McClellan said Bush ''is going to remain fully committed to upholding our Constitution and protect the civil liberties of the American people. And he has done both.'" The Press Secretary was then strangled internally by his own outraged colon. (OK, I Made that last bit up).


From today's ACLU press release :
"Eavesdropping on conversations of U.S citizens and others in the United States without a court order and without complying with the procedures of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is both illegal and unconstitutional. The administration is claiming extraordinary
presidential powers at the expense of civil liberties and is putting the
president above the law. Congress must investigate this report
thoroughly. We also call upon Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to
appoint a special prosecutor to independently investigate whether crimes
have been committed.

"The Patriot Act already provides law enforcement a wide array of
surveillance powers and it vastly expands the Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Act. These disclosures show that the kinds of safeguards
many members of Congress are trying to build into the Patriot Act are
urgently needed."
I have assumed for years that the NSA was doing something like this; I "forget" who mentioned it, but there was a discussion where a retired NSA guy was quoted who said sure we do this, but there's a six-month backlog for translation.


It's easy to shrug this off as inevitable in an information age where the government already struggles with too much information. (One of the big issues is that feds have been buying up all the massive private databases worldwide they can - only American citizens have had some legal protection against this ).

But the implications are absolutely staggering; all that's protecting our privacy and independence at this point are old government habits of protecting privacy, not the technology, not the will of the information collectors, and now, if this blows over, not the law.

It's too easy to see this as the inevitable result of technology. Yet the essential threats to basic freedoms by the collection of information have been the same since long before William the Conquerer's Domesday book (recall that he killed something like 10% of the population he was counting.) Centralized secret information is almost inevitably used to centralize political power and supress dissent - from William to the KGB to the COINTELPRO anti-dissent operations of the FBI under Nixon in 1960s and 1970s. I can all but guarantee that unrestrained NSA monitoring - especially if automatic - of Americans' email, cellphones (quickly becoming the dominant phone system) will be used against lawful political dissent. The temptation will be too great. It was the huge COINTELPRO abuses that created a lot of the current law that the NSA is almost certainly breaking.

Of course, this may blow over: automatic computer monitoring is now normal, and becoming expected. But this is the tremendous cultural blow. This is where substantive American freedom (not the Bush magic incantation version of the word, as the Laird puts it) our ability to choose the course and direction of our own lives, is really dying. It's shriveling up in credit reports, in key words, in knowing you're being watched and recorded in what may soon be a majority of the things you do, and if it is by machines rather than men, so much the worse, for with things there is no appeal to reason. Like a cop told me once - pay your ticket, the computer never, ever forgets.

I may see something of this in my students, who by and large seem quiet and resigned and acquiescent, at least compared to what I think American college students should be. Relentless information gathering is a part, absolutely unbridled marketing and the insane relentless avalanche of commercial messages is a part. Trangressions never omitted or forgotten would be another.

I wonder if we have already lost our belief in being let alone.

The Strong Report

The Seahawks' Mack Strong has a report: just the sort of report you would think the Strong Report would be like.

December 15, 2005

Interesting Artist

I think I would like William Wray's urban landscapes even if he hadn't worked on Ren and Stimpy.

Hip Chick Flicks

I propose a new category of movie, the Hip Chick Flick. This is a movie that combines Chick Flick sentiment with Art House themes, personnel, and narrative apparatus. Examples might include The Joy Luck Club or Aimée & Jaguar.

I propose two essential tests: 1) Would Terry Gross like this movie? 2) Does the very premise make me want to puke?

Terry Gross kind of annoys me. It's odd to hear a grown-up say "it's fun to watch oral sex being discussed on the evening news," in a society where it's discussed in all media virtually constantly. Deep Throat came out in 1972, for God's sake. Richard Corliss notes that 800 million porn videos are rented in the U.S. each year, and, opines Paul Fishbein of Adult Video News, "I don't think that it's 800 guys renting a million tapes each." And yet Terry's giggling like a Saudi librarian at Chippendale's show.

Which brings us to Brokeback Mountain, the quintessential Hip Chick Flick. I will never, ever, ever, watch it. With a Tomato-ometer rating of 87% and Golden Globe nominations up the, er, wazoo, its critical reputation is assured. But I notice Andrew Sarris cannot bring himself to like it, and watching him work out his feelings is definitely cheaper and probably more entertaining than the movie itself.

Before you make any assumptions about homophobia or repressed homosexuality, or whatever, let me further confuse the issue by pointing out that I watched a special showing of Wilde, at the Castro Theater, with a personal appearance by Stephen Fry. Or, I should say, I tried. I lasted about 20 minutes.

I'm pretty sure Terry Gross sat through the whole thing.

Rasputin's Quote of the Day is excellent.

Widespread, Illegal, Warrantless NSA Surveillance of US Citizens

Read this over-cautious article from the NYT, exposing the NSA's DOMESTIC warrantless surveillance of Americans, without even a required-to-approve warrant from the secret FISA court. I say over-cautious because -and this would only be reasonable speculation, which is a higher standard than the NSA has to use - it's almost certain the program is much larger and more commonly applied than the article's tone wants to suggest, and there is no reason to credit the idea that the Bush administration is not using it to monitor political enemies.

It would be one thing if this adminstration did not lie and avoid scrunity and hoard power as a matter of policy irrespective of 9/11.

I think this because FISA court requirements are to say the least extremely loose. Why avoid them as a matter of course? Why avoid using the FBI, when all they have to do most of the time is send a national security letter assuring the court that the agent thinks the ransacking of records is really important?

This is much worse than the Patriot Act, which at least retains some semblence of a legal structure, although it guts much of the substance of impartial judicial review. The NSA is apparantly operating against Americans without anything but self restraint.

Thank the next Republican you run into for this good heaping helping of a real U.S. police state. With the primary use of Patriot Act powers already directed towards ordinary crime, this practice makes the 4th Amendment essentially meaningless.

December 14, 2005

First Sea Lord...

... should sue these guys.

Funny and entertaining, but clearly highly derivative of his prior work.

And for now we'll let the New York Times slide. I believe their made up news is covered under the "anti-parody" clause of fair use.

What Did McNabb Do In His Prior Life?

Now an NAACP leader is denouncing him. He is a traitor to his race, apparently, because he doesn't run as much as he used to. Perhaps the NAACP should be briefed on the effects of cracked ribs and hernias...

Unqualified Endorsement

Michael Palin's Himalaya is a treat, and not just because he sings 'The Lumberjack Song' to a Bhutanese monk (although that's reason enough).

Along the way he meets the Dalai Lama, whose people tell him he was an elephant in his previous life, and will be reborn as the daughter of a rich family in the West. Later on he meets an elephant and tells it solemnly, "you will be reborn as a television presenter."

The most striking moment for me - a ship rendering yard in Bangladesh, where ships are torn down by hand by desperately poor workers. And... it's going out of business because of lower-priced Chinese competition.

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I'm Fine With That

"[Iran's insane President] launched a fresh attack on Wednesday, dismissing the Holocaust as a "myth" and saying the Jewish state should be moved as far away as Alaska."

Really, if that's the solution, let's go for it.

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk on Alaska's mountains white?
And did the holy Lamb of God
On Palmer's pleasant pastures light?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our frozen soil?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Amid this dark Satanic oil?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my charriot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
On Alaska's cold and barren land.

Latest anti-missile test a complete and rousing success!

Except for the fact that it didn't actually shoot anything down.

Not to Be Outdone...

South Carolina challenges Kansas for "dumbest state" title. Swamp rabbits unavailable for comment.

Cal Berkeley is rapidly emerging as the hero in this.

December 13, 2005

A True Legend

I do not know the word 'quit'. Ether I never did, or I abolished it.
-Susan Butcher

Susan Bucher was diagnosed with Leukemia this month and is in Seattle undergoing treatment. If there is anyone who looms larger in Alaska sports history, they don't come to mind (except for perhaps her lead dog "Granite".

Butcher won the Iditarod 4 times, an achievement matched by only one other musher. She finished every race except one, when a moose charged and killed several of her dogs, the lead dog among them. My aunt made booties for her dog teams. I remember Rick Swensen reducing himself to "Clown" status by suggesting that women had a built-in advantage on the Iditarod because of their extra body fat.

Susan Bucher is a true champion who loves her sport and her dogs more than Rick Swensen loves his "Friday Juice". If she has anything to say about, she'll win her health battle too. I'll be sending my good thoughts into the ether just the same, as will all of Alaska.

2006 Drug Releases

Obfuscitor - Temporarily relieves symptoms of comprehension in pharmaceutical consumers

Novakicillin- Exacerbates leakage

Omega Blockers: Mitigates recurrent apocolypses.

Seecialisliss- Lowers Excessive Spam

Chumputab- The Unearned Trust Supressor

XXXunix - The Once-A-day Porn Enhancer for Unix Users

Cocainutol - Indications: Surpresses social anxiety and fear of judgement while conducting para-moronic foreign policy. Side effects may include moronic foreign policy.

Joliepitor - Reduces High Blood Fidelity

Rumsfeldicor- Attacks Everything That Did Not Cause the Cancer

Sandmien - A restful prescription sleep aid weighing 15 pounds which gently but suddenly drops on your head.

Nixsixnits- Provides a Cooling Blast of Liquid Nitrogen to Relive Scalp Mites Who Illegally Bomb Cambodia

Leadership Quiz

Your administration is deeply unpopular both at home and around the world. Do you:
  1. Re-focus on a domestic agenda, trying to win the hearts and minds of your people through a renewed commitment to better governing in your own country?
  2. Call in the best military minds in the country and re-think your approach to the Iraq War, combining innovative counter-terrorism tactics with meaningful institution-building and hard work to restore the trust of the disaffected world community?
  3. Tell Canada to fuck off.
No, really, they did. Here are some choice excerpts from the speech delivered by U.S. "diplomat" David Wilkins, whose accent, by the way, appears to have been purchased from the Dumb Hick Department down at Central Casting:
  • "I understand political expediency, but the last time I looked, the United States was not on the ballot for the Jan. 23 [Canadian] election."
  • “It may be smart election-year politics to thump your chest and criticize your friend and your No. 1 trading partner constantly, but it is a slippery slope, and all of us should hope that it doesn’t have a long-term impact on the relationship.”
  • "Just think about this. What if one of our best friends criticized you directly and incorrectly almost relentlessly? What if that friend's agenda was to highlight your perceived flaws while avoiding mentioning your successes? What if that friend demanded respect but offered little in return? Wouldn't that begin to sow the seeds of doubt in your mind about the strength of the friendship?"
So remember Canada, shape up. Or else.

Uma Thurman Vs. Gun-Toting Santa Claus

A thorough review of our blog traffic at sitemeter indicates several positive trends:

1) When we were deluged in May with people seeking pictures of Britany Spears, we peaked in visits, but the taste of the searches has improved VASTLY.

2) The improvement, however, has nothing to do with our writing. It has everything to do with

a) Gun-Toting Santa b) Uma Thurman

So to the world our blog is a war between those seeking Uma Thurman and those seeking Gun-toting Santa. But as diverting as gun-toting Santa Claus is, I mean c'mon. It's Uma.

Ammo-sexuals are welcome to opt for Santa and his gun. It was recently a free country.

Fiddle de Dum, Fiddle de Dee

...Diebold's CEO is his-to-ree.

Well, someone knows when to resign. Hint, hint.

December 12, 2005



[Josh Marshall's analysis is here.]

December 11, 2005

Speaking of Arguing Lunatics

Israel getting ready to attack Iran.

Note the subtle hint here: "Israel's defence minister Shaul Mofaz on Friday said Israel must prepare solutions 'other than diplomatic' in the face of Tehran's persistent advancement of its nuclear programme..."

Here's a recap of the crazy shit Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said recently.

Killer Instinct

"What is the thing that has been lacking from previous Seahawks teams?"

Eleven and two.

"What is the best record in the NFC?"

This team had failed to win a playoff game since 1984.

"What is the Seattle Seahawks?"

Now it's time for Double Jeopordy, where the scores can really change.

A Great Fark Headline

"Pope denounces materialism from balcony of marble, gold-domed building in midst of jewel-encrusted religious icons while wearing giant gold cross..."

Tookie, Murder, and Other Academic Abstractions

As the governor prepares to approach a life-or-death decision for which he prepared by taking steroids, lifting weights, going to parties, and starring in muscle movies, I got to thinking about murder.

First of all, L.A.'s doing a steady 500 murders a year - not too far off the pace the Iraqi insurgency is setting for killing Americans. Still, it's good news if you compare it with the 658 in 2002, 854 in 1994, or even higher rates of the 1980s. About 60% are gang related, and the LA Almanac reports gang membership at in L.A. at a suspiciously precise 48,289 (is it on the census forms, or what?).

Everyone talks about it but no on knows much about it. We failed to note the passing in June of Eric Monkkonen, who did a great service by studying the history of murder in America. This LA Times piece is worth a look. Key points:
  • remains a crime committed mostly by men in the heat of passion, ''to assert manliness, power, or territory."
  • He also found convincing proof that violence is endemic to American culture. Over two centuries, New York's murder rate was more than five times as high as London's [and higher] even after taking out murders with guns... ''The United States has tolerated a homicide rate much higher than all of the rest of the Western world except Russia," he told the Los Angeles Times recently in an unpublished interview.
  • He also showed that murder rates dipped in LA after WWII, contradicting theories that soldiers would bring their violent skills home with them.
Superstar best-selling pop economist Steven Levitt thinks abortion has something to do with it, but it turns out he may have done his study wrong.

As the stars come out for Tookie, and LA and the prison system brace for riots if clemency it not granted, it raises the stakes on what already is a pretty bad set of options: 1) Grant clemency and appear to give in to pressure and give special treatment to the founder of the Crips; or 2) Don't grant clemency and perpetuate a death penalty system that is racist and frequently kills innocent people.

David Hackett Fischer once attacked Hegelian logic on the grounds that "an argument between two lunatics is unlikely to result in a triumph of reason." Looks like we'll have a nice test case here.

December 10, 2005

Rest in Peace, Richard Pryor

Sadly, if not surprisingly, Richard Pryor is dead.

It was almost exactly 30 years ago (December 13, 1975) that Richard Pryor hosted the seventh episode of Saturday Night Live. (The episode for which the NBC censors insisted on a seven-second delay of the broadcast.) I found the complete transcript here. I remember watching this broadcast when I was just 12. For better or worse, it was a formative viewing experience that I won't ever forget.


The Monologue, in which Pryor relates the time a "white dude" gave him acid at a party: "Everything is cool. White dude gave me some stuff I'm gonna be trippin'! You know, I ain't goin' no place without my luggage."

Police Line Up, Pryor with a three white men: a doctor, a businessman, and a boy scout. "Well, I, I couldn’t see him too clearly, but, uh, I’m sure it’s the one in the handcuffs. "

Racist Word-Association Interview, with Chevy Chase, which we can all pretty much quote from heart.

Existentialist Breakfast Cereals

Honey Bunches of Alienation

Frosted Shredded Illusions

Reason Bran

Dialectical Puffs

Lucky Charms Of Zero Efficacy

Completely Unadorned Loops

Absence of Faith Nuts

Apple-Crisp Despairy-Os


Nut N' Whatsoever

December 09, 2005

A Brief History of the Apocalypse

Here. It's been a good fund-raiser, that's for sure.

The Highly Attenuated List of Republicans Who Still Like Freedom

A bullshit compromise on the Patriot Act - which would make permanent certain dangerous sections, and extend others, was substituted for a more reasonable proposal and will go the Congress for a vote, probably next week. It's running into the real threat of a filibuster.

But three Senate Democrats and three Republicans issued a statement saying they were "gravely disappointed" that Specter and others agreed during House-Senate negotiations to drop "modest protections for civil liberties" that were included in a version the Senate had passed unanimously this year. They predicted the Senate will reject the compromise bill.

The six were Republican Sens. Larry Craig of Idaho, John Sununu of New Hampshire and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Democrats Richard Durbin of Illinois, Kenneth Salazar of Colorado and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. Feingold vowed to launch a filibuster, which would scuttle the Patriot Act extension unless 60 senators opposed his effort. Some Republicans said Democrats would be foolhardy to block an "anti-terrorism" bill on the eve of an election year.

Also criticizing the bill Thursday were Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.; Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the Judiciary Committee's ranking Democrat; and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.

My paraphrase of the Patriot Act: It's a free country until otherwise posted. Or not posted.

Meanwhile the ACLU - which is concentrating a lot less on Christmas pageants and a lot more on being one of the last organizations to fight hard, smart and stealthy for basic American liberty these days, is suffering some internal turmoil in the midst of organizational success. I'm concerned.

December 08, 2005

Bummer, Man

They waited 'til I was 44 to invent chess-boxing! I would have a contender, I'm telling you right now. In my day I could kick the ass of every chess master in town, and I could bamboozle a Blackmar-Diemer gambit on the finest boxers in the nation. it really too late? Stallone's doing a Rocky movie, after all...

Probability of Spontaneous Annihilation of Earth

From this week's Nature (Tegmark and Bostrom, Nature 438, 754):

Fears that heavy-ion collisions at the Brookhaven Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider might initiate a catastrophic destruction of Earth have focused on three possible scenarios: a transition to a lower vacuum state that propagates outwards from its source at the speed of light; formation of a black hole or gravitational singularity that accretes ordinary matter; or creation of a stable 'strangelet' that accretes ordinary matter and converts it to strange matter. A careful study concluded that these hypothetical scenarios are overwhelmingly more likely to be triggered by natural high-energy astrophysical events, such as cosmic-ray collisions, than by the Brookhaven collider.

Given that life on Earth has survived for nearly 4 billion years (4 Gyr), it might be assumed that natural catastrophic events are extremely rare. Unfortunately, this argument is flawed because it fails to take into account an observation-selection effect, whereby observers are precluded from noting anything other than that their own species has survived up to the point when the observation is made. If it takes at least 4.6 Gyr for intelligent observers to arise, then the mere observation that Earth has survived for this duration cannot even give us grounds for rejecting with 99% confidence the hypothesis that the average cosmic neighbourhood is typically sterilized, say, every 1,000 years. The observation-selection effect guarantees that we would find ourselves in a lucky situation, no matter how frequent the sterilization events.

You'll be relieved to hear that the authors believe the annihilation rate to be no more frequent than every billion years-- based on natural phenomena. They make no promises about the frequency of intelligent species developing and annihilating their planets.

Congress to Hold Hearings on College Football

Bloomberg columnist Scott Soshnick wonders why they're talking about the Championship selection process, and not academic achievement. Me too.

December 07, 2005

One Venti Union

The National Labor Relations board says Starbucks repeatedly broke the law by busting the IWW's organizing attempts in New York. Wobblies are newly active in Seattle and Portland and S.F, and making inroads in businesses like bookstores and coffee shops.
(CEO) Schultz himself stopped in at one of the New York stores this past summer, according to (IWW Organizer) Gross, who was in the store at the time. "I challenged him to sit down and talk," Gross says. "He said 'no' and walked away, visibly nervous."

Schultz might have good reason to be nervous: the nonunion company has more than 100,000 employees. ...Vancouver's 10 Starbucks are organized.
And a Double Tall No Foam Half-Caff there for Big Bill Haywood.

I Know What You Mean, My Iranian Brother

Houshang Qajar, 53, said crisis management was nonexistent in Iran... "We need competent managers. That is what our country lacks."

Our Time Has Come

The Laird has led the way: the Seattle PI says it's okay. We can say things like:

Seahawks Rule! Without that slight whiff of northwest irony.

Try it.

Be obnoxious: you're on top. Tell Cowboys fans that coach Bill Parcells is overrated.

Don't let up when it comes to the New Yorkers. Ask them how long Jeremy Shockey practices his victory dances?

Live large. This is your time. Shutouts on "MNF" allow for lunacy. Eight wins in a row allow for logic to leave the building.

Your rivals have lost their best comeback line, "but you're a Seahawk fan."

Having the best playcaller, best running back, best offensive line and a really solid quarterback can get you giddy.

Have you dreamed? He you envisioned Rocky Bernard sacking Indianapolis Colts Peyton Manning and forcing a fumble at Ford Field. Does Lofa Tatupu pick up the fumble and carry it into the end zone?

In the Interests of Piling On

"I have talked with three significant historians in the past few months who would not say it in public, but who are saying privately that Bush will be remembered as the worst of the presidents."

In one of the commentaries on this entry, someone points out a Frontline piece by Fred Greenstein that tries to identify the qualities of an effective president:
  • Public communication
  • Organizational capacity
  • Political skill
  • Vision
  • Cognitive style - (strategic intelligence)
  • Emotional intelligence - (objectivity, and the ability to use rational analysis rather than emotional response)
Greenstein's work is cited by, of all people, Karl Rove. Rove proposes the following alternative criteria:
  • The Will to Power
  • The Lust to Expand
  • A Ruthless Efficiency
Ha ha, I'm kidding. The comment's author sums up Rove as follows:
  • Strategic vision & direction
  • Clarity of goal - Rove: " There has to be a clarity about the goal, if not always clarity about the method. For the clarity of vision doesn’t necessarily always lend itself to a clarity of direction, which is the second great characteristic – consistency of purpose but a willingness to change strategy in moments of crisis."
  • A good legacy left them by their predecessors
  • Emotional Intelligence -- Rove interprets this to mean internal self confidence and freedom from doubt
  • A strong support team of qualified advisers
  • A readiness to act and a comfort in decision

Great Moments in Intelligent Design

An unnamed non-evolutionary force spontaneously creates the giant nocturnal cliff-dwelling woolly flying squirrel of Pakistan, which subsists primarily on pine needles.

Eisengeiste Intelligent Design Re-Cap:
I think that's all of them, anyway...

Call Me When He Does a Stalingrad Movie

For our lady readers, Viggo Mortensen has co-created a hauntingly beautiful book about a friend's developmentally-disabled older brother.

A Point of State Pride

One of the sirens from O Brother Where Art Thou? is Christy Taylor, who was born in Anchorage, Alaska. Her other films look...interesting.

December 06, 2005

Turing Test for Potential Wax Anderoid

Listening to John McCain on "Fresh Air" I am once again tempted to believe in his existence as an autonomous biological entity. But when I cast my mind back to the betrayal of John Kerry, membership in the Keating Five, and a variety of his ultra-right positions, I always have to return to the default assumption that he is in fact a wax anderoid. Isn't that always the safest and most reasonable position to take in evaluating national political figures-- go down the list and see if it doesn't work. (McCain is now saying he would never look back in anger at Bush smearing his adopted daughter as the product his consorting with a black prostitute. No actual human could say that.) Incidentally, we can thank Linda Tripp and Ken Starr for solid evidence of Bill Clinton's membership in the biological community, since they carefully documented the emission of his precious bodily fluid (incidentally, Starr should think about getting into the porn industry, becauase parts of that report are HOT!)

Anyway, my central point is not the obvious one that most of our elected leaders are made of wax and controlled remotely by advanced electronics. Instead, I submit that, given their ubiquity, we may rationally choose to accept our waxen brethren on the theory that, if their output is sufficiently similar to that of biological humans, that's good enough. This modified Turing Test would allow a vote for John McCain on the theory that, if he's wax anderoid, at least the person holding the RC is smarter and more creative than most.

Oops.... McCain just failed the test:

"The reason I have the popularity I have is because I don't say things with a wink and a nod ... I campaigned for President Bush for reelection because I know the transcendent issue for the election of 2004 was who is best equipped to win the war on terrorism, and I sincerely believe that person is President Bush."

Give the Devil His Due

Tom Brady is a cover boy once again.

I've never been a fan of Tom Brady. But I'll tell you this. In a world where mediocre media-made sports celebs pick up awards they've done nothing to earn, this guy is real.

Brady is always among the top 10 quarterbacks in my IAYPA statistics. That may not sound so great, but it's a volatile group. Guys have good games and jump in, then bad games and fall out. Brady's always there.

Brady has done this while leading the league in passing yards, which is amazing. As a rule of thumb, the best IAYPA performances come from people who don't throw all the time. If the defense knows you're going to pass, they can call a pass defense, which makes it harder for the QB to complete passes. IAYPA leader Roethlisberger has less than half as many attempts as Brady. Chris Palmer and Peyton Manning are other quarterbacks who excel in IAYPA despite having to pass a lot.

Brady also ranks 7th on the League's misguided pass rating system, which emphasizes completion percentage.

The man's only 28 years old, but I think if you're honest about it, Brady's already a Hall-of-Famer. He's demonstrably better player than people like Namath or Bradshaw. He's Namath with mobility and multiple rings, Bradshaw with better brains and fewer picks.

I could show you statistics, but think about what you want a quarterback to do:
  • Lead the football team.
  • Pass the ball effectively.
  • Evade pressure and make rushing yards if possible.
  • Don't throw interceptions.
  • Play effectively in the clutch.
  • Win championships.
  • Be a role model.

So, from the Hall of Fame, I would put down Montana as your straight "A" student, and maybe Staubach and Young as other guys who do well on this list.

And you can add Tom Brady. Sports Illustrated has it right.

There's No Pleasing Some People

The conservative Christian group Focus on the Family has closed all its Wells Fargo accounts because the San Francisco bank contributed to a gay rights group that promised to use the funds to "fight ... the anti-gay industry."

"We absolutely made a $50,000 grant to GLAAD, and we're absolutely proud of our support for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community," said Chris Hammond, spokesman for the banking giant, which gives about $2 million a year to gay and lesbian organizations.

We almost missed it

Or was it just me?

It was born of my malapropism, and the President in Exile was the first among us to recognize its unsurpassable significance; yet I believe we all shared in fathering The Hyperbolic Chamber, appropriated by The Onion this past spring.

December 05, 2005

Seahawks Hit the "Send" Key

Peter King's sole comment on Seattle in today's Monday Morning Quarterback: "Big night for proving something, Seahawks."

Um, does 42-0 over the defending NFC champs, on the road, in the snow, prove anything to you Peter?

Alaska Could Be Normal Someday

But not today. Neil Bush and the Reverend Moon are raising money for a tunnel to Russia. And Mr. Swank is getting a new cyclotron. They don't get much of this sort of thing in the Lower 48, for some reason.

December 04, 2005

More Refreshing Republican Shame

"[San Diego] has quietly dethroned itself and dropped the self-proclaimed title "America's Finest City" from its official Web site.

" 'We couldn't stake that claim anymore,' said Gina Lew, the city's director of public and media affairs. 'We were taking too many hits.' "

Great Moments in Intelligent Design

Only God in his wisdom knows why he designed highly intelligent, playful, destructive, carnivorous, sheep-pecking alpine parrots.

This book implies that they evolved, which is, of course, heresy.

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Exile Shouts Out for Long-Neglected Humor Resource

Until today I've assiduously avoided the Sea Lord's headline blog, so doing saving hundreds of hours of work time at the computer. Now I have given in to weakness. It's horrendously, addictively funny. My nominee for hall of fame:

University of Michigan Scientists Identify Gene That Causes Dissatisfaction with Mechanistic Determinism

PS: Happy B-day to the Laird.

Noir Francisco

Have the spirit of Herb Caen mix you up a dry Manhattan and take a look at this site from the Museum of the City of San Francisco with a great pictorial history of the city in 30s and 40s, a perfect resource for the Rebar for Tootsie Rolls world. It includes the German-American Bund, an ACTUAL San Francisco nazi organization (!!) in the late 1930's, here valiantly protested by Musicians Local 6. The old Nazi building is still there, at Polk and Turk.

Thank god, there are very, very few Nazis left in San Francisco. Fresno, on the other hand...

This an actual menu from Sally Rand's Nude Ranch at 859 Farrell st, the only place I can think of where being an urban cowboy makes perfect sense.

Rebar for Tootsie Rolls: And A Bloody Mary Xmas To All

The smoldering city blocks of London in the Blitz were like spent matches compared to what was happening in my skull after an evening getting stripped and revarnished on Fijian Mai Tais with some cowflop-brained actor named Reagan and his slutty wife Jane at Charlie Low's Forbidden City, and as I stumbled out the door at 4 am with a "bon soit" from Charlie and my hat down stuffed my trousers and fifteen paper tropical umbrellas decorating my lapels from the attentions of an animated Austro-Chinese chippy named Helga Li who was now hanging off my arm like a bouquet of lilies from a sea-tossed chum bucket, a huge black and green '36 Dussenberg rolled up alongside us, matching our speed, if you didn't count the lampost collisions. One of the suicide doors swung open, and the light from the car smacked Helga in the face, showing the slight scar she'd received fighting off opium pirates in the Java Straight.

The hand from a silhouetted figure beckoned: "Need a Lift, Mack?"

"Do I know you, Bub, or is that just a sort general name you use for people?"

I noticed oil -or was it blood?- dripping off the Dusie onto the street just as an lowland organutan in a black suit and club tie leapt out of the far side of the car and jumped over the hood, pulling out a blackjack while another dark shape of goonitude made a grab for Helga, who simply stabbed him in the abdomen with a pearl-handled dagger. While Goon 2 writhed and bled and screamed an aria from what sounded like La Boheme, Orangagoon took a swing with the blackjack when I grabbed that arm and shoved it down on the running board while breaking it with my foot and then crammed a mai tai umbrella up his left nostril. He was lucky I was drunk and out of practice ripping off arms and beating people when drunk. Panting on the car's floor he reached for the gun he no longer had because Helga had lifted it deftly and put the barrel against the throat of the driver -

"Wait, wait, I'm Marbles, FBI!! FBI!! I'm a fed, godammit!" he flopped his arm around like a dead salmon with gold cufflinks.

"Hey look, Baby, A G-Man," I said. I tossed the little umbrellas at him, which was entertaining because he was too scared to brush them off. "Where's your camisole?" I'd heard the rumors.

"Gee, a G-Man. Maybe I should ashcan this spent tuna tin of federal fish paste." Helga had some kind of Kong-poo or some such training she'd picked up in Stockholm or Mau-Mau that made her both as deadly as a Bowery wolverine and as svelte as an ballerina otter, but instead she simply pistol-whipped him.

A huge blue police van rolled up like a barrel of the total absence of laughs, and without so much as a how-dye-do, I noted the extremely distinct sound of the complete edition of the .45 Thompson novels indent themselves on the remaindered bookshelf of the Dusenberg bookshop of action-adventure detectivec novels. But I wasn't sticking around to see how this one turned out, shifting into 1st with my hand still wrapped around my 4lb blackpowder Navy and Helga bending low enough on the running board to look down her dress, stomping on the go juice like a a African hissong cockroach working with an collection agency, and roared down


Wells-Fargo Alaska Apologizes - But Not for Helping Papa

The state office of Wells-Fargo apologizes for a fundraising letter for the far-right Pacific Legal Foundation for attacking the Department of Fish and Wildlife, if not actual fish and wildlife, which the PLF cheerfully continues.

But they haven't apologized for funding PLF's long support of abusive, religious fruitcake daughter-raper Papa Pilgrim (you may recall him as the darling of the Alaska right wing).

Wells Fargo Alaska has supported the (Pacific) legal foundation for the past five or six years, said Junge. During the group's fundraising campaign this autumn, Wells Fargo Alaska matched every contribution up to $15,000, Junge said.

Perhaps someone should be contacted with this concern.

36 Innocent...Tops!

An innocent German man grabbed by the CIA ( definitely not named Berthold Brownshirtenschitz) was tortured in Afghanistan and has set off another stink about renditions. AP is reporting:

CIA officials have said "renditions" - the capture and transfer of a suspect for interrogation - are among the best ways to deal with potential terrorists.

The CIA and other intelligence agencies have captured an estimated 3,000 people, including several key al-Qaida leaders.

One official told the (Washington) Post that about three dozen names are being investigated for what the agency calls "erroneous renditions." Others say it's fewer.

I idly wonder whether due process might have been set up over the last 1000 years for some kind of reason. When you add in that over half the people we put in Guantanamo were eventually let go, with I'm sure no lasting resentment of any kind, it might be worth suggesting some type of neutral judging guy might use some principles we've all worked out over a long time to evaluate people accused of doing bad things, so the United States of America stops running around torturing innocent people.

FEMA Says Man Up

Before-and-after pictures of a house FEMA says is not damaged enough to qualify for aid.

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December 03, 2005

Cheers to the Birthday Boy!

Yes, thats right, Blues Fan, Rocker and general loveable goof-ball, Ozzy Osbourne turns "old" today! So here's a big shout-out to him.

Oh yes, also, the Laird transitioned to 42 today. Lets all raise a glass to them both, equal in stature, (The Laird, significantly taller and better at math). Happy Birthday Laird!

December 02, 2005

New Donkey Defends the Moose


Rebar for Tootsie Rolls: In the Deepest Darkness of the Dark Despair of Deadly Desparation

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The Krauts
were holding onto France like a gawky teenager in a bad moustache who'd shot his way on set and kidnapped Marlene Dietrich, and security was tighter than an Scottish tax accountant's daughter's frilly netherthings, but with pluck and luck and a baker's dozen of the zippy pills the fly-boys used we had made it all the way up the Seine and were now drifting past Notre Dame in just the sort of late morning fog that got Monet all up and artisty. But we were here to destroy an infernal machine, a radium-powered electronic existentialist thinking brain Himmler's boffins had cooked up to demoralize France by proving the futlity of moral action in a godless universe. We had to find it and fast, before the ambiguity of free action turned into the giant Gallic shrug of fatalistic indifference, and the Nazis cemented their evil grip on power with the finest available Argentinian gripping cement.

The passage across the churning grey Channel had not been easy, dodging U-Boats, E-Boats, and the supersecret (and highly intriguing) XXX-Boats, and as we creeped up on the French coast in a stolen herring boat under the very nostrils of Fritz, the black hair swirling about Regina Ottoman's burnished ivory countenance had saved us from a double-date with death and torture by perversely reminding a certain Squarehead navy lieutenant of his late mother, a stunning blond Prussian crypto-flapper who accidently started WWI by suggesting to Bismark she thought Belgium was lovely this time of year and wouldn't it be nice if they had the whole country to themselves?

The diesel of the old boat idled like John Rockefeller with a sinus infection. As the morning's vaguely croissant and wine vomit odor of Paris drifted towards the Left Bank, I propped a foot on the greasy oak railing and smoked up an entire case of Luckys, all to create an even thicker cloud of smoke under which Regina (in her black rubber and yellow chiffon dive suit), Blendy the Brit commando with the gammy leg and Claude the cheerful maquis electronic-brain expert, slipped out of the mealy herring-hold of the canal boat and into the Seine, roughly disguising ourselves as sea lions by holding furs above our heads and barking like terrier auctioneers.
But our cover was blown. We had interupted a group of Blintzepasteriekorps German officers who were lunching on the catholic grass with the division's newest attempt at a type of Adolph Hitler desert pastry to supplant the Napoleon, which basically the same but 2 feet high and stuffed hard with sweetened organ meats.

No warning: just as I tightened my rainjacket belt, tossed back a pint of Smedley Moot's 98 Percent Violent Rye and jumped in, a raking of Wermacht 20mm cannon fire across the water turned our F/V Petite Chu-Chu into a flying mass of fish-stinky matchsticks, and the report of the boat's explosion echoed off the flying-butressed walls of Notre Dame itself, interuppting to the annoyance of the priest a particularly sordid confession from Jean-Louis De Marchand, the biggest pimp, Vichy collaborator, antique tapestry and heroin dealer this side of the Rhine.
Bits of herring from our blown-up hold fell on Col. Frist 's croquet party, played there Nazi-style, with land mines. The officers tried to bat away the smoking herring as it fell, but the fish bits sleeted on them just like the appalling Kipper Incident that fatally demoralized the entire Massachusettes stag film industry back in '38. But how the Hun bunmakers fled, the shouts of their fleeing punctuated by an occassional mine explosion.

We stopped barking. The cannon started.

Claude shrugged - not easy to do in a wetsuit - and indicated to follow him under le water. I went reluctantly, knowing my Lucky would be extinguished but not our ultimate fate, and I looked up as the cannon rounds poked bubbly fingers of death into the pie of the river's surface. My underwater swimming had hardly improved since my last trip across the Atlantic in a leaky kayak tethered to a slow flying boat. I could barely see past the brim of my fedora, and all I could fixate on was the southern end of a North-bound Regina, but that served well. Curious Parisian fish shrugged and sipped little glasses of Dubonet, holding their cigarettes in an unusual, somewhat effete manner between their fins.

Perhaps my fedora-mounted oxygen tank was malfunctioning.

We slipped into a little cave and popped out into a dark, dank antechamber, lighting a flare. The place seemed to have last been used as Charlemange's compositing pile. Regina slipped behind a crypt and changed into a little white number with big red polka dots. In her long black hair, sculpted white neck, eyebrows shaped so perfectly you could trim hedges with them, holding a Sten gun with a a 900 round per minute rate of fire propped on one hip, she looked stunning.

"Gaah." I said.
"Stunning, Miss O." said Blendy, who was busily sharpening something.
"Mais oui, ho ho, vive la difference! You are a vision, mon cherie. " said Claude.

"Only as I am alive, and willing to die for freedom, for liberty, for equality." She said. "But we are not here for romance. We are here for Fromance. France. Sorry."

Gorgeous. Adorable. Deadly.

As I pulled out a suit and fresh fedora from the stash left by the Maquis behind a huge can of military-issue butter cookies from the Franco-Prussian war, Blendy abruptly tried to amputate his bad leg with a knife. He screamed quietly.

"Aren't you being a little dramatic?" said Regina. "British commandos! Always trying to cut off something! Here, stop that, stop that..." she gently pushed Blendy's knife away and used a large swastika flag as a bandage on the wound, giving him a shot of the new wonder pennicillin with a horse needle. I was somehow jealous.

The screaming this time was less quiet.

"I suppose that you are tired of life and are wishing us to get over all killed, non?" said Claude, cheerfully. I offered Blendy a swig of "Old Miss' 150 Proof Canal Water."

"Thanks, guv. Hrrrrraaaaagghghghgh." Commando vomit was no different than civilian. Some tough guy.

We got moving. Beside our torches, only the damp grey light from the occasional sewer grates broke through the deeply dank darkness to drive daggers of deadening despair into our guts, which churned with dreariest dread. Foot after meter, mile after kilometer, until the sewers became the catacombs, the vast Paris underground hamper of the medieval dead, skulls and skulls and bones and bones and the untold stories of thousands of lives lying lastingly untold.

"Who wants cucumber sandwiches?" asked Claude, unfolding a wax paper bundle.

The answer was a burst of gun fire that cracked loud and drilled more skulls right through than Kate Smith's version of "Mammy."

"HALT!" And a quick gunshot, 9mm.

One round, right through Blendy's skull- at least the one he'd been holding in his hand while preparing to make a labored Hamlet joke. We scattered and dove for cover.

"You are nicked, what, Olt Bean? Kome out mit your handersuppen!"

Fritzy Nazinheimer had the drop on us. We were spilt in five, hiding behind different funerary piles, or rather pyres for the ones that were already on fire from my dropping a cigarette on a late rennaissance silk merchant.

"My gun's jammed, oh!," Regina realized her mistake.

"Too bad, Amerikanzer Bobby-Sox Gibson girly-tomato das nice piece of ze tiny furniture! Perhaps you vill let ze men play now!"

Now he'd cheese'd her off. Miss Ottoman hated that particular phrase.

Regina started hurling skulls at the German, and as they hit the stone floor they made a sound like tipping a bisque-fire rack in a compulsory Rhodesian pottery class. (I say that in regard of a specific incident I'd been drinking years to forget.)

But hidden as he was behind a huge pile of Plague victims, Krauty McBismark was a tough target.

Regina kept throwing skulls: Pop! tinkle Pop! tinkle Pop! tinkle. Ludwig Van Lumpinshortz answered with the tinny fire of his Luger.

"Yaaaahhh!!" She yelled, tossing a 12th century Sorbornne music major with considerable force. The skull didn't break, but hit the large pile of skulls and rolled down, hitting several with a final descending minor third. She hurled a Gypsy girl and a pikeman and a juggler and two Left Bank whores at the same time.

"Even the dead resist you!" She yelled, drilling a Florentine jeweler into Fritz's chest like Binks Whittening, the famous Yale quarterback.

She bought us time.

The German, thoroughly rattled, fired until he ran out of ammo. Brilliant, honeyknees, I thought. Regina had planned exactly this. Henreich Hammerpants ran out from behind the pile of bones and threw his Luger in frustration at me, which I caught, then I reached into my pocket for a 9mm round I'd picked up off the floor , reloaded as he was running away and shot him in the ass.

He fell on an entire pyramid of orphans, their little bones scattering like kittens on cocaine.

Blendy ran over and threatened Fritz with the broken humerus of a 14th century Jewish goat tanner. "Where is the Electro-brain? Where is the Electro-brain!? ElektrischescomputercGehirn??!!" Blendy pressed the shards to his neck.

I held the empty gun to his face, staring him in the bloodshot green eyes. "Where?!!"

"Nein! Nein!" His buttocks writhed in pain.

"You are being very foolish. We have ways of making you talk, " said Claude, with a big smile. "Ahhh, I have always wanted to say that." He wrapped a kindly arm around Bernie Bratwurst's shoulders.

"Listen, Monsieur Nazi, you see that scar-faced, limping, angry looking Brit? He keeps insisting we strangle you with the nazi flag he has wrapped around his gammy leg, and cut up your remains for eel bait. Icky, icky. And the Americain- oui. Look at his eyes. He is a famous Chicago gangster, and his famous viciously naughty gang of nasty mobsters wants a trophy for their jazz dance hall. Mais, oui, vous. Stuffed and mounted cabbagehead. And the pretty girl, yes? Very pretty, and Oui? She wants to you to die very slowly by tearing your balls off and stuffing them up your how-do-you-say ah.. arsehole. Oui, oui, it is violent, non? I can not promise you what will happen if we have to argue about what to do with you all day. Now be a good fellow and tell us where it is.."

Bertholdt Brownshirtenschitz took a breath and spilled, spilled like the dam above Johnstown, spilled like a chocolate malt on Jean Harlow's best angora sweater. He even drew us a map.

The radium-powered existentialist thinking machine was very close, in a subterranean room underneath the Paris Opera House, which was currently mounting a curious German version of Porgy and Bess, retitled Einfach Hans und Frau wer auf einem Bauernhof schlecht sind - Simple Hans and Woman Who on a Farm Are Bad, famous in occupied France for their version of "Summertime" sung by a chorus of the 33rd Panzergrenadiers.

We left Fritzy hog-tied in a canoe and floated him down the sewers as he hummed "Deutchland Uber Alles," behind the tape over his mouth. In half an hour we were there, there at the Paris Opera's secret prop barn in an alley behind the Avenue De L'Opera, and we emerged from the stinky danky dampness into the street.

"What's that noise?" Asked Regina, fixing her lipstick.

"It sounds like...," I said

"Shh." Said Blendy.

"Ici!" said Claude. "Quick! Here! " He opened an ornate, dilapidated wooden door. I pulled out my stolen Luger. Very popular, this gun. Might be able to trade it to Crumples when I got back to San Francisco for a half payment on my bar tab.

We entered. There it sat, a vast grey machine towering three stories with blinking red and green and white lights like an axis Christmas Tree of doom, with a swastika where the star should be. It clattered like a thousand literary crickets on a thousand Royal typewriters getting paid by the word. The lights danced through the open door onto a puddle on the cobblestones, the mirror image scattered into rings by the tall leather boots strapped snugly around Regina's left leg, a leg so shapely she'd been paid $78 by a guy in San Jose making novelty lamps to use it as a model.

We crept around the side, staring up at the infinity of blinking lights and switches, watching punctuated paper cards sucking through enormously long plexiglass vaccum tubes into distant card receptacles, where a machine placed them into a clattering reader, and and array of automatic chutes and buttons buzzed and bleated and hosed until it came to a basket where it spit out a folding stack of yellow paper on a kind of teletype machine, producing a string of aphoristic french sentences.

"Claude?" said Regina. He picked up a printed sheet, twiddling his moustache. The sweet grin on his face turned over like oversailed rental sloop at the Nantucket Rum regatta.

"It says...that all hope is a cancer of the suffering and weak."

"Let's take out this overgrown player piano," I said, taking out my Zippo to burn the paper. I lead on, following the most active vaccum tube back to it's source.

"There," Regina whispered, her lips so close to my ear I started thinking about something else entirely. She pointed to hunched figure in a sloppy german uniform, guzzling an illicit Coke and tossing the bottle into a huge pile of other bottles. He was intent on a tiny green screen and kept checking a dog-eared copy of Also Spake Zarathusa, typing on a keyboard into a card puncher, and crumpling one up four times for every card that went up the chute.

The sweaty pale young man with the bad teenage moustache and skin as cratered as the land the Battle of the Somme on Guy Fawkes Night, suddenly turned his head and noticed us and screamed, apparantly to himself, "Steuern Sie wechselnde Löschung!! Steuern Sie wechselnde Löschung!!," which Regina translated as "Control Alternate Deletion!! Control Alternate Deletion!! "

No time to figure that insane gibberish out. Like a vicious leopard leaping to gut a fluffy bunny with the sharp claws of freedom, I sprung across the room and grabbed the engineer by the throat, hooking his neck with my gun arm, and gave him a kind of death noogie.

"Sprekensie Anglais, Muchacho? Or would you prefer to say your final thoughts in Berlinian?" I asked.

"Unkle! Unkle!" he cried, whimpering like Goering's pommeranian. Blendy started preparing the plastic explosive, which in a moment of brutal whimsy he'd shaped like little Winston Churchills. "Don't hurt me - my brain is delicate for this business. You are .... Canadians, yes?

"Yeah, sure. From the Moosejaw Special Air Service."

"I'm Korporal Yobbs. What is it you want?,"

"I'm ready to blow the place, chaps," said Blendy, poking a Winston with a red and green wire.

Yobbs was aghast. "No, no the machine is...beautiful!" I smacked his face with the Luger.

Regina was looking at the keyboard and the piles of philosophy books that were getting sucked up into that damn fool electric brain contraption with Yobb's retyping them in some kind of crazy number language. Claude, the robot expert, came over and started typing.

"What is wrong with this machine? Nothing is happening."

Yobbs stayed quiet. I smacked him with the butt of the Luger. "Answer the cheerful Frenchie!"

"...The button...hit the red button...," he spluttered, blood trickling down his cheek and draining into the crater of a formerly huge chin zit. Claude hit the giant button, mounted behind the green oscillascopic screen. Generators slowed, the deafening clattering died, the lights stopped blinking. The device stopped was dead. I hit him again.

"Bad move, Stinky."

"Nein! Nein, no more! I mean hit der red button again." Claude did. The overhead lights dimmed and the ungodly contraption, shaking the ground, roared to life.

We waited about three hours.

"Bon! There we go!" said Claude. He began typing, checking the screen. "Oui, it is the correct program. Ahh, will complete it's calculations next Thursday. Merde! We'd better destroy it while we can."

"Almost ready," said Blendy.

Regina, who'd been thumbing through a little Schopenhauer, suddenly spoke up. "Claude, hold on, I have an idea."

It was typically brillant for my sexy little cupcake. Claude and Regina made the adjustments. Blendy disarmed the Churchills. We left quietly, taking the awkward little german with us, and slipped quietly back to the coast on a moonless night where the submarine HMS Unconscionable was waiting to take us back to London.

Back in a classy hotel in London a couple weeks later, I was relaxing with a bourbon-enhanced tea and gin and reading the Times. And there was the proof our plan worked.

"Correspondents in Paris report the publication of a most curious book - "Eighty Simple Provencal Recipes and the Utter Futility of Being." The French french culinary community believes it to be an amateurish attempt to undermine the culture by the SS."

Regina emerged from the bath naked as a homeless hermit grab and combing her long black hair. Draping herself over my shoulder and smelling like a field of cinnamon daisies, she saw the article.

I whistled. She smiled.

"It worked. "

Her plan to scuttle the radionic brain's "program" by switching the cards of Husserl with the Joy of Cooking had succeeded, and we knew the Nazis would have to abandon the ElektrischescomputercGehirn. The existentialists were intellectually safe from everything but bad cooking. The French French would continue to fight.

I took the Luger out of my pocket and sighted it. Walk in with Regina and I bet Crumples would let me slide on the tab.

(the complete Rebar for Tootsie Rolls is at