Dependable Erection

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Howard Dean

One quick photo of the doctor at Devine's in Brightleaf Square before i retire for the night. More on this event tomorrow.

Update - Work has been excruciatingly busy the past two days, and my internet connection, while not broken, is limping along. I hope to have more photos posted this evening, along with my thoughts on Dean's appearance, and the SOTU.

In the meantime, check out this Kos diary, and find additional photos here, here, and here.

Continue reading Howard Dean

What Dave says

Maria Cantwell, are you listening?

Continue reading What Dave says

Democrats or 3rd party?

A couple of posts down i described some initial thoughts about how to react to Dems who voted for the establishment of a monarchy yesterday, including supporting primary challengers for those Senators up for reelection.

Bernie Weiner has obviously thought this through to a far greater extent than i have, over at Crisis Papers.

As I see it, we have two options in dealing with this deficient, bumbling, weak-kneed crew. 1) We get rid of them, work to take over the party from the grassroots up (similar to what the Republicans did after the Goldwater debacle of '64), and eventually bring some coherence and dynamic initiatives back into the party. Or, 2) We give up on the Democrats as an embarrassing joke, and begin thinking seriously about joining with others, similarly disenchanted with the political choices offered, and found a viable third party.

. . .

That kind of activist movement, whether coordinated or run on the fly by individuals, takes a tremendous amount of energy, courage, money, and clear-headed planning. It may require a decade or so to even begin to see demonstrable results. Can the Democratic Party afford the luxury of the decade or more it might take? Can the country handle the amount of Bush-like corruption, authoritarianism, wars, torture, moral lassitude that will transpire during that period while the foundation is being laid for a new, re-energized Democratic Party?

. . .

I think it's not necessarily too late to make the attempt to reform the party from within. But it is late, and it will require a humongous amount of toil, sweat, and lots of tears to turn this supertanker around and then bring this party back to speed and coherence and courage. We must first make the Democrats into a true party of opposition, and then convince the American people that it's capable of governing.

. . .

If it can't accomplished within be a refurbished, restructured Democratic Party, the thinking goes, then perhaps it's time for building a new, citizen-based party from the bottom up -- one that is less beholden to corporate and traditional power- and -financing sources, and therefore more free to speak out and act boldly in support of systematic reform and an adherence to policies and programs that make moral and political sense.

What might some of those principles be? Here are a few, which could apply as well to a renovated Democratic Party, if some of the old baggage can be jettisoned: war only out of of necessity, never a choice; more devotion to most peoples' actual needs (affordable health-care, improving public schools, infrastructure repair, clean air and water, enforcing safety regulations in mines and other workplaces, etc.) and less to giving even more tax breaks to the already wealthy and rapacious corporations; more fiscal responsibility in budgeting; paying down the humongous deficit; paying serious attention to reality (including science) and less to mere belief and political fantasy; going after terrorists without fatally compromising our morality or civil-liberties, etc.

If there were to be a new, viable third party in 2008, it's possible that this potential alliance could field candidates for President and Vice President -- assuming somebody of great character and political savvy emerges to help lead the way. But if the 2008 scenario unfolds something like what is described above, and if we've been busily building a grassroots alternative party from the ground up -- getting candidates elected on the local, district, state and congressional levels -- this new movement will be able to flex its growing political muscle by forcing the Democrats more toward a progressive agenda, all the while it prepares a future national slate of electable candidates for President and Vice-President.

. . . I have a long-term affinity for the Democratic Party, that relationship is not set in cement and I have no animus toward the establishment of third parties, though starting one up requires much more difficult work than taking over an existing institutional party. My aim always is to work toward enactment of forward-thinking, progressive legislation and policies, which can be most effectively accomplished by getting honest, dynamic, progressive candidates elected. I believe, along with many others, that a party, Democratic or otherwise, has to be serious and (eventually) electable to justify putting lots of my time, energy and money into it.

. . .

So who would make up the core of this party? I would guess that the base of a party -- for want of a better name, let's call this entity the New Democratic Party (NDP) -- could be constructed from elements within the Progressive Democrats of America, Green Party, the Change to Win union coalition, angry Guard and military troops and veterans, peace groups, and other similar disenchanted organizations and individuals.

This new alliance might also attract a wide variety of distressed Libertarians and traditional Republicans horrified at how their party was hijacked from them by rightwing extremists. These disenchanted conservatives, unable to bring themselves to vote for Democrats, might be willing to join together with liberals on civil-liberties and sound money-management grounds -- or as a vehicle to defeat the dangerous forces that have captured their party, which would provide an opening for their more moderate conservatism to fight for power in a reconstituted Republican Party.

As you can see, this proposal is the merest outline of the possible. My main objective here is to get some discussion started about the advisability of both staying with and reforming the Democratic Party, and testing the political waters for a third-party movement. If there is genuine and widespread acceptance to either idea, then it will be time to brainstorm about how best and most effectively such a movement can be actualized.

Points to ponder.

Continue reading Democrats or 3rd party?

More Howard Dean

NOTE: This message is being sent on behalf of Troy McLean, the host of the Watch Party at Satisfaction in Durham, NC. You are receiving it because you have said that you will be attending the event.

All individuals who RSVP'd for the Toward a More Perfect Union - State of the Union Watch Party are advised to arrive at 6:30 pm. Dean will speak at approximately 8 pm. Find yourself a table enjoy the company of fellow Democrats and great food. Parking will be tight so you are encouraged to car pool. There is parking at Brightleaf, Howerton-Bryan Funeral Home on main street directly next door to BrightLeaf, Duke Street, And potentially at DSA if there is no school event in progress. Event will exceed capacity of Satisfaction, Devine's and The Federal. Come early. This is the greatest problem we could have.

Dean will speak at both Satisfaction and Devine's. But not the Federal.

Brightleaf Square owners have decided that the overflow crowd expected tonight are not welcome to hang out in the courtyard. Police representatives conveyed in no uncertain terms last night that the Brightleaf Square courtyard is private property, and that if the owners ask that it be cleared, they will clear it. I think personally that this is an unfortunate decision on the part of Brightleaf mamagement. Each and every person who comes to town tonight to hear what Howard Dean has to say deserves that opportunity. Assuming that we are hooligans, riff-raff, or otherwise undesirable characters ignores the reality that we are, each of us, actual and potential customers of the businesses that lease space at Brightleaf Square. Each of those business has competitors in other parts of town. Why should those businesses alienate potential customers because of the shortsightedness of the property managers?

Continue reading More Howard Dean

19 - 0

That's the important number from yesterday's vote to keep debate open on the Alito nomination.

19 Democrats voted to end debate and bring the nomination to the floor, where Alito is certain to be confirmed. No Republicans voted against their party.


And that's why we're heading for a "unitary executive" in this country, more colloquially known as a monarch. You know, l'etat c'est moi, and all of that.

Now, here's the list of Senate Dems who voted in favor of establishing the monarchy yesterday:
Akaka* - HI
Baucus - MT
Bingaman* - NM
Byrd* - WV
Cantwell* - WA
Carper* - DE
Conrad* - ND
Dorgan - ND
Inouye - HI
T Johnson - SD
Kohl* - WI
Landrieu - LA
Lieberman* - CT
Lincoln - AR
Nelson* - FL
Nelson* - NE
Pryor - AR
Rockefeller - WV
Salazar - CO

The ones with the asterisks (Akaka, Bingaman, Byrd, Cantwell, Carper, Conrad, Kohl, Lieberman, both Nelsons) are all up for re-election this year. What's the best way to let them know that they've betrayed our democracy?

(Look, it goes without saying, or it should anyway, that the Republican party as it now exists, is dedicated to the destruction of the democracy. Perhaps they've decided it's the only way we can compete with the Chinese in the long term, or maybe it's as simple as figuring out the profit margins are higher without competition from a second party. It goes without saying, or it should anyway, that working for, or contributing to, a Republican candidate earns you the one-way ticket to hell. Jane has already said what needs to be said about so-called Republican moderate Lincoln Chaffee and his supporters in the choice movement. We'll deal with Chaffee and his fellow traveller Olympia Snowe shortly).

Following the last two election debacles, the only weapon in the Democratic Party's arsenal has been the filibuster. Having more than 40 votes to keep debate open on destructive bills, or nominees, means nothing without the willingness to use it.

Let's be frank. Alito lied to the Senate about recusing himself from cases in which he had a financial stake when he was confirmed to the federal bench. He continued to lie to the Senate about the case during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings. We can expect that Republican Senators will put politics above country and support a liar if he advances their agenda. But shouldn't we expect that Democrats, who are the opposition party, after all, to hold their opponents to a higher standard? Didn't the Republicans, barely a decade ago, turn the entire country upside down over a lie? We now know that it wasn't the lying, it was the partisan politics. So when do the Democrats learn that refusing to play the partisan game doesn't make it go away, it just means you keep losing? The bully is going to keep taking your lunch money and kicking your ass on the playground until, like Ralphie and Scut Farkas, you turn around and bloody his nose.

So, there are 17 Dems up for re-election in the Senate this year. (How come, if the Republicans are in the majority, it always seems like the Democrats are defending more seats?) Of those, 7 (Clinton, Dayton, Feinstein, Kennedy, Menendez, Sarbanes & Stabenow) voted to keep debate open yesterday. The 10 above voted for cloture. Now, there's always the argument that we need to take back the Senate in order to get anything done; that as long as the Republicans have the majority, all we can do is stand around and watch. Not true, of course, but our Democratic Senators certainly act that way. And what will they get in return? Are the Republicans really going to give Maria Cantwell a pass in Washington on her re-election? No, they're not. They're calling her a "hyper-liberal" and running a strong well-financed conservative candidate against her. And yet, Cantwell has now burned a serious bridge to her base. She won't be getting any money from me, nor i suspect from a lot of progressive Dems. Now, maybe she's got enough money to finance her own campaign. If so, good luck to her. But at what point do Senators like Cantwell start to figure out that it's only Democrats who run "independent" campaigns and call for "bi-partisanship?"

If a Republican calls for bi-partisanship, he is really saying to Democrats, give me your lunch money, twinkie. Democrats who echo this call for bi-partisanship are replying, hey, i wasn't hungry today, anyway.

Can we run primary opponents against all 10 pro-monarch Senate Dems this year? Probably not. But Lieberman has already gotten himself a good one. That's a start. Show Ned Lamont some love, and send a message to Lieberman and the rest of the chickenshits who sold out our kids yesterday.

As for Lincoln Chaffee and Olympia Snow, two so-called Republicans for Choice, their votes today (especially Chaffee, who has said he will vote against Alito's confirmation) are meaningless. Yesterday's vote was the only one that counted. Independent pro-choice organizations like NARAL, for whom i've had a great deal of respect in the past, risk losing their credibility and their support by continuing to endorse thee politicans. We know where they stand, and loyalty to the party is more important in their calculus than the rights of women to be in control of their own bodies. Snow and Chaffee need to have big red targets painted on their backs that read "enjoy that Senatorial pension, sucker, you're going home."

In other words, it's OK if we don't take the Senate back this year, as long as we begin the process of moving the Democratic party in the right direction. This means supporting those 7 Senators up for re-election who did the right thing yesterday, replacing a few targetted pro-monarch Democratic incumbents with partisan fighters, and defeating a few "moderate" Republicans who lend a patina of respectability to what is now clearly a front movement for those who would turn the USA into Gilead.

Continue reading 19 - 0

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Howard Dean

Howard Dean is coming to Durham on Tuesday, for the Democrats' State of the Union viewing party at Satisfaction Restaurant.

I'll have as much info, details and photos as you can stand over the next 3 days.

Continue reading Howard Dean

Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Angier Ave., Durham, NC - 1.28.06


Continue reading Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Friday, January 27, 2006

Friday afternoon garden blogging


Continue reading Friday afternoon garden blogging

Thursday, January 26, 2006


last night i posted about Treasury Secretary Snow's comments on the upcoming budget. It sounds like the new budget is a program for moving the US into permanent third world status. I also referenced how China is now the world's 4th largest economy (ahead of Britain and France) and rapidly catching up to Germany, Japan and the US.

I may have underestimated how long it will take.

Watch this film.

Continue reading Wow

Jon Carroll gives away a story

When I am an old guy, I will sit on a cross-country train and ask children to bring me things. I will flirt with their mothers and say outrageous things. I will also flirt with their fathers, because why not? Plenty of flirt for all. I will demand unusual things, like mustard and feathers. I will suggest that this is my last train trip, that I am suffering from an unspecified disease, that I am going to my son's funeral, that I am about to meet my high school sweetheart after 60 years. I will get the mustard and feathers, and I will say, "What would I do with these? Take them away." And then everyone would have a story about the old guy and the mustard and the feathers, so I will have given them something they could not have gotten any other way.

Read the whole thing here.

Continue reading Jon Carroll gives away a story

I like Johnny Damon . . .

. . . i really do. i think he plays the game the way it's supposed to be played.

But man, did he say some asshole things yesterday:

I'm very proud to be an American. My father served in the military. When it was asked if I would represent the country, there was no hesitation. I'm proud that we get to live in this land where there's freedom, where we can even have these baseball tournaments.

For the record, Johnny, a lot of us have fathers who served in the military. Not a lot of us are blessed with the athletic ability to play the game at the level you do, which i suspect has a little bit more to do with why you were asked to be on the team than your father's military service.

For the further record, the World Baseball Cup has been played 36 times since 1938, including 4 times in post-revolutionary Cuba, as well as Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) and the Dominican Republic in 1969. So, type of government is not really a qualifying feature of holding an international baseball tournament.

Later in the article, writer Ron Blum notes that "(w)hile the Yankees prevented catcher Jorge Posada from playing for Puerto Rico, Damon said they haven't tried to block his participation."

So much for personal freedom.

Continue reading I like Johnny Damon . . .

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

We are so fucked . . .

Treasury Secretary John Snow:

I am confident you will see a budget which is quite austere, a budget that's going to have a lot of Cabinet agency heads, government agency heads scrambling to manage in a more constrained resource environment.

Once upon a time a Treasury Secretary would not have been "confident" the next budget was going to be an austerity budget, that Americans were going to have to get used to living in the third world. No, the secretary would have been sorrowful, perhaps, or regretful. In a just world, maybe even ashamed.

But now, we're proud of the fact that fewer kids will be going to college, that enforcement of our health, environmental, and civil regulations is going to essentially disappear, our elderly can choose between heat, medicine or food, and that if you're stuck on the lower rungs of the economic ladder, you may as well learn to enjoy the view, cause you're sure as hell not going anywhere soon.

Meanwhile, in other parts of the world:

China's economy was elevated to the world's fourth biggest, overtaking France and Britain, after the government announced robust economic growth of 9.9 percent in 2005.

Fueled by booming investment and active consumer spending, China's gross domestic product (GDP) rose to 18.2 trillion yuan (2.3 trillion dollars) last year, the National Bureau of Statistics said.

The 2005 growth rate, which took inflation into account, followed an expansion of 10.1 percent in 2004 and 10 percent in 2003. The performance also matched the average growth rate of 9.9 percent recorded between 1993 and 2004.

Statistics bureau director Li Deshui characterized China's economy in 2005 as "fairly good.

"The stability of the economic performance was strengthened to some extent and progress was seen in more balanced development," he told a briefing in Beijing.

China has now jumped from sixth to fourth on the list of the world's biggest economies, overtaking France and Britain.

In 2004, France's economy totaled two trillion dollars and Britain's was worth 2.14 trillion dollars but they recorded far slower rates of growth than China last year.

Britain announced on Wednesday economic growth of just 1.8 percent in 2005.

So, while the US government pisses away 2 billion dollars a week in Iraq, it neglects security and infrastructure needs at home, decides that an unskilled and uneducated workforce is fine for the 21st century (because all we're going to need are cannon fodder and wombs anyway, right?), and basically pisses away what remains of its foreign policy credibility blustering about Iranian nukes, the Chinese are now what, 5 years? 10? away from becoming the largest economy in the world, and then what? We'll all have jobs making cast resin models of the Great Wall and the Forbidden Palace for all the tourists visiting China?


I'm confident that this is the worst bunch of people to ever run this country. I'm less confident that we'll be able to take it back before they fuck it up permanently.

Continue reading We are so fucked . . .

Will Bunch rocks

Ed Rendell and Bob Casey Jr. are truly "the Sunshine Boys" of Pennsylvania, past their prime, living in a bright decade where "can't we all just get along" was a mantra." That was then. This is now, a time when there's a battle going on for the heart and soul of this nation.

And as repulsive as you may find it, you have to pick a side.


Continue reading Will Bunch rocks

Open Letter to Sen. Reid

Dear Senator Reid,

I live in a state that is represented in the Senate by two Republicans. My voice remains unheard when it come to the nomination of Judge Alito to the Supreme Court.

Therefore, I am writing to let you know that I support, indeed encourage, you to do whatever is necessary to prevent the appointment of Judge Alito to the Court. As the Judge will likely have the 51 votes needed for his confirmation, this means that the Democrats have only the filibuster option in the arsenal.

Use it, please. Even if unsuccessful, those of us here in the red states who are fighting the good fight need to know that you are willing to go the distance with us. Don't allow the Republicans and their media allies to continue to depict Democrats as spineless and unprincipled. There's a time to stand up, and this is it.

Thank you,
Barry Ragin

Continue reading Open Letter to Sen. Reid

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Noted without comment

Size Does Matter in Bats' Evolution
The study offers evidence that males — at least in some species — make an evolutionary trade-off between intelligence and sexual prowess, said David Hoskens, a biologist at the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the University of Exeter in England and a leading authority on bats' mating behavior.

"Bats invest an enormous amount in testis, and the investment has to come from somewhere. There are no free lunches," said Hoskens, who did not participate in the study.

. . .

If female bats mate with more than one male, a sperm competition begins," Pitnick said. "The male who ejaculates the greatest number of sperm wins the game, and hence many bats have evolved outrageously big testes."

Promiscuity is known to make a difference in testicle size in some other mammals. For example, chimpanzees are promiscuous and have testicles that are many times larger than those of gorillas, in which a single dominant male has exclusive access to a harem of females.

Continue reading Noted without comment

Monday, January 23, 2006

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die

According to Steve Parker.

His biases and gaps are kind of apparent (only 50 some albums from the 50's? no Giant Steps or Charlie Parker? No Mississippi John Hurt or Dock Boggs?), and you can nitpick some of his selections (One hit wonders The Only Ones over the Fleshtones? XTC's Skylarking and Apple Venus (1), but not Drums and Wires or English Settlement?), but a good jumping off point for a lot of different discussions about the history and meaning of pop music over the past half century.

Continue reading 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die

How much for the little girl?

How much for the little girl? The women? How much for the women?

So the Mets finally dumped underachieving righthander Kris Benson on the Baltimore Orioles for a middle of the pack reliever (Jorge Julio) and a 25 year old prospect (John Maine). No big deal. that kind of trade happens 5 times a week in the baseball off-season; hardly worth commenting on.

So why was Omar Minaya (Mets general manager) compelled to add this comment?

Mets general manager Omar Minaya said Benson's wife, Anna Benson, was not a factor in the trade. A model and an actress, she has posed topless and publicly discussed intimate details about their sex life.

Anna Benson showed up for a Saturday news conference wearing a black Baltimore Orioles jersey, but said she was not happy about the trade. The Mets signed Kris Benson to a three-year deal after acquiring him from Pittsburgh.

"I kind of feel like we were misled about this as a family," Anna Benson said. "It was a free-agent year. He could have signed anywhere."

She also showed up at the Mets' holiday party in December, where Kris Benson dressed as Santa Claus, in a low-cut Santa costume, a move that upset some in the organization.

Publicly discussed detals about their sex life? That's a euphemism for what Anna really had to say - If Kris cheats on her, she'll bang each and every one of his teammates.

I mean, when was the last time a team had to deny that a player's wife was a motivation for trading him? Probably not since the Peterson - Kekich affair back in 73

Maybe it's just Anna's general idiocy; or maybe it's her more specific idiocy when she tries to play politics.

I wonder what the Orioles could get if they traded Benson, Anna, and kept Benson, Kris?

Continue reading How much for the little girl?

Whatever happened to . . .

Whatever happened to the conservatives' favorite bumper sticker during the Clinton years, anyway?

Continue reading Whatever happened to . . .

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Arrrrrr! - redux

You know they’re shooting a porno flick?

The rumors started swirling last June, when a slew of beefy actors and comely actresses showed up at the Pier in St. Petersburg to film a TV movie aboard the HMS Bounty.

Those who weren’t lugging cameras and cables were decked in full-blown pirate garb, which didn’t faze Bounty officials in the least. Lots of pirate films shoot scenes aboard the historic tall ship. In fact, the Bounty crew had just rented the boat to Disney for use in the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean sequels.

But this time, as families, fishermen and tourists passed throughout the Pier, people began to suspect that this pirate movie was not like the others. (Link NSFW)

You know what they’re doing there, right? workers would whisper.

The Tampa Bay Times has also seen fit to run a photo gallery of the movie shoot on their website. Now why would anyone want to click through on that?

Continue reading Arrrrrr! - redux


U.S. Navy Seizes Pirate Ship Off Somalia

Continue reading Arrrrrr!

Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Wayside Baptist Church, Hillsborough, NC 1/12/06


Continue reading Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Saturday, January 21, 2006

David Horowitz is still an asshole . . .

even if the rest of the country is unaware of it.

Horowitz, you may recall, is the former 60s student Stalinist reborn in the 21st century as a crusader for the so-called Academic Bill of Rights. Citing anecdotal evidence of left-wing bias on America's campuses, Horowitz recently convinced the state legislature of Pennsylvania to hold hearings to learn all about the crisis.

Oddly, no evidence of the crisis emerged during the hearings. In fact, Horowitz was force to backtrack on one of his more hysterical complaints, that a professor at Penn State forced his students to watch Fahrenheit 9/11 in the runup to election day 2004.

Still more odd, however, is the lack of coverage Horowitz' retraction has gotten.

Recently, though, in Oregon, we have another sterling example of pro-business bias in the Academy attempting to censor scientific research. Since the researcher's conclusions, if validated by further study, would lead to the adoption of policies antithetical to logging industry concerns, it's apparently perfectly legitimate for pro-industry academics to attempt to muzzle the findings.
A group of professors at Oregon State's College of Forestry unsuccessfully tried to get the prestigious journal Science to hold off on publishing a study that concluded that leaving forests alone is the best way to help them recover from wildfires.

Editor Donald Kennedy, the former president of Stanford, said those who dispute the findings can respond to the study once it is published instead of using what he called censorship. The study was scheduled for Friday's edition of the journal.

An Oregon State graduate student, Daniel Donato, 29, led researchers in examining lands burned by the 2002 Biscuit wildfire in southwest Oregon, where the Bush administration and others at OSU had promoted logging as a means of restoring forests quickly.

Donato's team concluded logging slows forest recovery. They found that logging after the Biscuit fire destroyed seedlings and littered the ground with highly flammable tinder.

Oh where is our savior David Horowitz when we need him?

Continue reading David Horowitz is still an asshole . . .

Early springs

You can tell from the picture a couple of posts down that it's been a pretty mild winter so far in Durham, NC. John Valentine puts the mildness into easily understood terms.

January's spring means T-shirts and jeans on the clothes line by Saturday after breakfast will be dry by Sunday dinner.

January's spring means someone will leave the house for school in flip-flops and mittens.

January's spring means, yup, it is getting lighter. At the end of this month we've earned an extra 50 minutes of daylight, a full half hour in the evening.

January's spring means two stores on Ninth Street will have bright signs out front offering "Sleds for Sale" at the same time two other stores are having sales on T-shirts. The first sets of broccoli and lettuce are due in next week.

And when you're done with John's piece, scroll down the page to read Rick Cornell's tribute to Bryan Harvey.

Continue reading Early springs

Friday, January 20, 2006

Speaking of bad logos

a little while back, i was talking about Burton Albion's run through the FA Cup, and how they had a wonderful drawn match against Man U at home. i happened to mention that i thought BA had perhaps the world's worst logo. Well wouldn't you know that i found another contender for the title, right here in Durham? On US 70, heading towards the airport.

Alas, this logo is so bad, the company it advertises is no more. In fact, even the building is gone. But fortunately, the sign remains, reminding thousands of us every day, that some things were never meant to be anthropomorphized.


Continue reading Speaking of bad logos

Friday garden blogging


Continue reading Friday garden blogging

What's your beef?

So let me see if i understand this. The US has a case of Mad Cow in the system in December of 2003, prompting most of the countries that we sell beef to, to cut us off. Japan especially, which bought almost a billion and a half dollars worth of dead cows in 03.

It takes us two years to get the Japanese, not to mention the Koreans, Singapore, and Hong Kong, to start buying US beef again.

So what do we do?

We ship some veal with the spinal columns still attached in direct violation of our trade agreement. Less than 6 weeks after we reopen the market.

And our excuse is, we sell that product domestically, to our own people.

Jesus Christ, i'm giving up beef again.

Continue reading What's your beef?

Cuba is in!

"Working closely with World Baseball Classic Inc. and the State Department, we were able to reach a licensable agreement that upholds both the legal scope and the spirit of the sanctions," Treasury spokeswoman Molly Millerwise said.

"This agreement ensures that no funding will make its way into the hands of the Castro regime. The Treasury is pleased to now be able to issue this license and looks forward to seeing all of the teams showcase their talents on the international stage."

Details here.

Because heaven forbid any money should make it's way to the Castro regime. Why, there might not be enough for Halliburton and the rest of the Bush cronies otherwise.

Anyway, despite Treasury hack Millerwise's spin, this is great news.

Continue reading Cuba is in!


SusanG over at dKos is running a series of conversations with Daniel Ellsberg, whose early 70s release of the Pentagon Papers was a crucial event in completing the turn of American pubic opinion against the war in Vietnam.

The first installment is up now. It's a worthwhile read, especially if you're too young to remember what it was like 33 years ago. She'll be running 5 more parts of the conversation over the next week or so. Read it.

Continue reading Ellsberg

Thursday, January 19, 2006

They gave it a go

Quality shows, and in the end, the part-timers at Burton Albion proved no match for the big boys at Manchester United, going down 5-0 in their FA Cup 3rd round replay. There'll be no shame when the Brewers return to their day jobs and go out for a pint after work tonight.

Man U coach Alex Ferguson, quoted in the Guardian, wasn't merely being generous with his praise:
All the credit should go to Nigel Clough and Burton," said Ferguson. "Nigel has done a fantastic job and he should be proud of them. We've had top European teams and Premiership clubs come here and put one up front, pack the midfield and bore the pants off everyone. Sometimes they get a result, sometimes they don't, but at least Burton came here with two up front. They played with belief and confidence and they showed that teams in the Conference are capable of playing good football."

This was a match for all of us who play in softball beer leagues, who throw the frisbee with other 40 somethings, who put on the pads at 1 am to skate in hockey rinks all over the world.

Good job, men.


Continue reading They gave it a go

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


What the Rude One says.

Continue reading Alito

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

B. Franklin - Printer

Happy birthday, Ben.

Continue reading B. Franklin - Printer

FA Cup

I love this story in the Guardian about tonight's FA Cup replay between Nuneaton Borough of Conference North. and Middlesbrough of the Premiership, about 120 places above them.

It is a pre-match routine which might not appeal to Mark Viduka or Gaizka Mendieta, but spending the day producing shower cubicles and the evening working as a chiropodist seems to Nuneaton Borough's Michael Love a perfectly normal way to prepare for tonight's FA Cup third-round replay at Middlesbrough.

Love's 13-hour shift highlights the disparity between Nuneaton's part-timers and their Premiership opponents, though the chasm was not evident 10 days ago when the Conference North club secured a draw through Gez Murphy's late penalty.

. . .

It is a match which Love, in particular, intends to savour. Eight years ago he was in the Stevenage team that drew 1-1 with Newcastle to earn a replay at St James' Park, though a metatarsal injury in the first meeting meant that he travelled to the north-east only as a spectator. "I went to clear the ball and as Keith Gillespie took it off me I kicked the bottom of his foot," the left-back recalls. "Gillespie went on and crossed and [Alan] Shearer scored. I carried on but when [Giuliano] Grazioli equalised just before half-time I jumped on him and felt the bone snap.

"That put a dampener on it really and that's why the games against Middlesbrough mean a lot more to me. I thought I'd had my bite of the cherry; you think it's once in a lifetime that you'll play against the likes of Shearer, so for it to happen again is unbelievable."

. . .

Fame of sorts has followed, with Love's face the new screensaver of choice at the factory where he spends four days a week assembling shower units. Not that he has had time to dwell on his Match of the Day appearance; while Middlesbrough's players were putting their feet up yesterday evening he was telling his clients to do the same as he began his part-time job as a chiropodist. "It's hard work at times finishing at the factory and then going out to work again," he says. "I'll often start at eight in the morning and finish at nine at night. But I do enjoy it. It's just a case of making that transition where I can get enough clients and do it full-time."

Best of luck tonight, Mike. Enjoy the match.

Update: 'Boro-5 Nuneaton-2. Let's hear it for the amateurs.

Dressing-room tensions and disappointing results have turned Steve McClaren into an insomniac but Middlesbrough's manager should have slept soundly last night.

While McClaren was left to temporarily forget his Premiership woes and dream about a fourth-round tie with Coventry, Roger Ashby, Nuneaton's manager, returned to the Midlands well beaten but still able to feel immensely proud of his team of plumbers, builders, teachers and driving instructors.

Guardian football.


Continue reading FA Cup

"Harry Belafonte - Patriot"

Singer Harry Belafonte, probably best known to the younger generation as the voice that calls out "Day - O!" at Yankee Stadium and other sporting events, spoke here in Durham the other day as part of Duke University's celebration of the life of Martin Luther King. As expected, the assholes in Young Americans for the Freedom to do Things the Way we Tell You To had some issues with Harry (you can google the link yourself, i'm not going to sully my words). Seems the marketplace of ideas, which to most conservatives is more likeable as an abstract concept than as part of their reality, isn't an adequate tool when it turns out that people really want to hear progressive and even radical ideas.

It doesn't seem, though, that Harry had anything particularly radical to say during his speech at Duke Chapel on Sunday.
Killing is our easiest tool. When you look at the president who has led us into a dishonorable war that has caused the deaths of tens of thousands of people, many our own sons and daughters, I ask myself what Dr. King would have asked...

"It is an act that has driven fear and terror into the hearts of the American people. What is the essential difference in quality of our humanity for those who would do the cruel and tragic deed of flying an airplane into a building and killing 3,000 innocent Americans and those who would lie and lead the nation into a war that has killed hundreds of thousands?

"Excuse me, fellow citizens, if the line for me becomes a little blurred."

. . .

A cancer survivor soon to turn 79, Belafonte said that if he could choose his epitaph, it would be, "Harry Belafonte, Patriot."

Continue reading "Harry Belafonte - Patriot"

Monday, January 16, 2006


Al Gore (you remember him, right? won the presidential election back in 2000?) had a few choice comments in a speech to the American Consitution Society today, on the occasion of celebrating the birth of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.

Some excerpts:

On this particular Martin Luther King Day, it is especially important to recall that for the last several years of his life, Dr. King was illegally wiretapped-one of hundreds of thousands of Americans whose private communications were intercepted by the U.S. government during this period.

The FBI privately called King the "most dangerous and effective negro leader in the country" and vowed to "take him off his pedestal." The government even attempted to destroy his marriage and blackmail him into committing suicide.

This campaign continued until Dr. King's murder. The discovery that the FBI conducted a long-running and extensive campaign of secret electronic surveillance designed to infiltrate the inner workings of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and to learn the most intimate details of Dr. King's life, helped to convince Congress to enact restrictions on wiretapping.

. . .

A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government. Our Founding Fathers were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not men. Indeed, they recognized that the structure of government they had enshrined in our Constitution - our system of checks and balances - was designed with a central purpose of ensuring that it would govern through the rule of law. As John Adams said: "The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men."

An executive who arrogates to himself the power to ignore the legitimate legislative directives of the Congress or to act free of the check of the judiciary becomes the central threat that the Founders sought to nullify in the Constitution - an all-powerful executive too reminiscent of the King from whom they had broken free. In the words of James Madison, "the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."

. . .

As a result of its unprecedented claim of new unilateral power, the Executive Branch has now put our constitutional design at grave risk. The stakes for America's representative democracy are far higher than has been generally recognized.

These claims must be rejected and a healthy balance of power restored to our Republic. Otherwise, the fundamental nature of our democracy may well undergo a radical transformation.

For more than two centuries, America's freedoms have been preserved in part by our founders' wise decision to separate the aggregate power of our government into three co-equal branches, each of which serves to check and balance the power of the other two.

On more than a few occasions, the dynamic interaction among all three branches has resulted in collisions and temporary impasses that create what are invariably labeled "constitutional crises." These crises have often been dangerous and uncertain times for our Republic. But in each such case so far, we have found a resolution of the crisis by renewing our common agreement to live under the rule of law.

The principle alternative to democracy throughout history has been the consolidation of virtually all state power in the hands of a single strongman or small group who together exercise that power without the informed consent of the governed.

It was in revolt against just such a regime, after all, that America was founded. When Lincoln declared at the time of our greatest crisis that the ultimate question being decided in the Civil War was "whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure," he was not only saving our union but also was recognizing the fact that democracies are rare in history. And when they fail, as did Athens and the Roman Republic upon whose designs our founders drew heavily, what emerges in their place is another strongman regime.

. . .

There is a final reason to worry that we may be experiencing something more than just another cycle of overreach and regret. This Administration has come to power in the thrall of a legal theory that aims to convince us that this excessive concentration of presidential authority is exactly what our Constitution intended.

This legal theory, which its proponents call the theory of the unitary executive but which is more accurately described as the unilateral executive, threatens to expand the president's powers until the contours of the constitution that the Framers actually gave us become obliterated beyond all recognition. Under this theory, the President's authority when acting as Commander-in-Chief or when making foreign policy cannot be reviewed by the judiciary or checked by Congress. President Bush has pushed the implications of this idea to its maximum by continually stressing his role as Commander-in-Chief, invoking it has frequently as he can, conflating it with his other roles, domestic and foreign. When added to the idea that we have entered a perpetual state of war, the implications of this theory stretch quite literally as far into the future as we can imagine.

This effort to rework America's carefully balanced constitutional design into a lopsided structure dominated by an all powerful Executive Branch with a subservient Congress and judiciary is-ironically-accompanied by an effort by the same administration to rework America's foreign policy from one that is based primarily on U.S. moral authority into one that is based on a misguided and self-defeating effort to establish dominance in the world.

Go read it after you read Dr. King's letter from the Birmingham jail, linked below.

Continue reading Speechifying

Letter From a Birmingham Jail

You may well ask: "Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling, for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: "Why didn't you give the new city administration time to act?" The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant 'Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we stiff creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dark of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross-county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you no forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness" then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country's antireligious laws.

. . .

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fan in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with an its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn't this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn't this like condemning Jesus because his unique God-consciousness and never-ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber.

I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: "An Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth." Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely rational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this 'hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to 6e solid rock of human dignity.

You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At fist I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self-respect and a sense of "somebodiness" that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best-known being Elijah Muhammad's Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro's frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible "devil."

I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the "do-nothingism" of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle.

If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as "rabble-rousers" and "outside agitators" those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black-nationalist ideologies a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent-up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides-and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: "Get rid of your discontent." Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist.

Read the whole thing here.

Continue reading Letter From a Birmingham Jail

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Filibustering Alito

Anybody read DHinMI's front page piece over at dKos today?

Here's the grafs that jumped out at me:

Therefore, while there seems to be sound reasons to expect Alito to join the right wing radicals on the Supreme Court, if one accepts that Roberts will be an O'Connor-like swing vote--I'm not sure that's correct, but if one accepts the theory--then the swap of Rehnquist and O'Connor for Roberts and Alito is largely a wash. Alito may be marginally worse that Rehnquist, but Roberts, as Chief Justice, may be about the same as O'Connor, but with the higher status as Chief Justice.

If this is the Democrats' calculation, then one can see a reason to not provoke a possible launch of the Nuclear Option. We're less than a year away from what appears a likely Democratic gain in the Senate, possibly even a transfer of control from the Republicans to the Democrats. The idea behind preventing the Nuclear Option has always been, as already mentioned, to maintain that one-use filibuster of an odious Supreme Court nominee who would alter the balance on the court. If the combination of Roberts and Alito is seen as maintaining the status quo of the court, then it's the next nomination by Bush, should he get that opportunity, that would be more likely to tip the court. Thus, with octogenarian John Paul Stevens and septuagenarian Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the calculation may be to hold the filibuster in reserve should it be needed to prevent an Alito-like zealot from replacing one of the liberal justices.

It seems to me that failure to attempt a filibuster of Alito makes taking back the Senate a whole lot less likely, especially if Bob Casey gets the nomination in PA over Chuck Pennachio. The Democratic establishment (Schumer, et al) wanted to run Casey as the anti-abortion candidate against the pro-choice Specter. But Arlen has just given the anti-abortion side a good reason to vote for him,by successfully shepherding Alito through committee and if Casey wins the nomination, why should the pro-choice crowd even want to vote? It's that kind of cynical politics that makes so many people who aren't party activists or even dedicated voters throw up their hands and say "why should i bother?"

One sees the parallels between a group of lobsters in the pot discussing whether or not the temperature has yet reached the point at which it's time to do something, and the Democratic leadership trying to figure out whether or not to filibuster Alito.

(update) - D'oh. Santorum is up for re-election this year in PA, not Specter. I knew that. Syupid is as stupid does, i guess.

Continue reading Filibustering Alito

Friday, January 13, 2006

Friday garden blogging


Continue reading Friday garden blogging

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Maxwell's Silver Hammer nominee

George Bush hits the nail on the head today in New Orleans:

I will tell you the contrast between when I was last here and today is pretty dramatic," said Bush, who last visited the stricken city on October 10-11.

"New Orleans is reminding me of the city I used to come to visit," he added as he sat next to New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.

Bush obviously wasn't booked on the Rude Pundit New Orleans tour.

Continue reading Maxwell's Silver Hammer nominee

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Greensboro Cops - who knew?

Pam has this story up at Pandagon about some evil doings in the Greensboro police department.

A good old boy police chief in Greensboro, NC thought it was a cool idea to target black officers for investigation, form a clandestine unit to do so, and keep a cute little “black book”/dossier on them that he didn’t bother to tell city officials about.

Do you think he might have thought that he was doing something a tad wrong?

Greensboro. The Land That Time Forgot.

Continue reading Greensboro Cops - who knew?

Intelligent Design

From Live

When female worker ants of the species Temnothorax albipennis set out for food, they often find another ant to make the journey with. If the second ant doesn't know where to find food, the leader teaches her through tandem running.

The process is slow. The follower pauses every once and a while—creating a gap between it and the leader—to search for landmarks. When she''s ready to continue, the follower catches up and taps the leader on the hind legs.

Getting directions from a lead ant helped the followers find their way to food much more quickly—on average 201 seconds with help versus 310 seconds without. But showing the way is costly for the lead ants, which can move nearly four times faster on their own.

It takes longer partly because the followers make large loops as they go, probably in search for landmarks to find their way back with.

So why do the leaders take the time?

"They are very closely related nest mates and their society as a whole will benefit," study leader Nigel Franks of the University of Bristol told LiveScience.

In fact, the follower's return path was generally faster and straighter than its leader's before the tandem run. Often, the followers learn the path so well that they become leaders and help spread the time-saving information throughout the colony.

I wonder when the Kansas school board will start requiring that ants teach each other that evolution is only a theory.

Continue reading Intelligent Design

More Baseball

Dave Zweifel has a good piece in the Capital times out of Madison WI today.

What hasn't been widely noticed is that the large Cuban national population in Florida, a backbone of Jeb Bush's political support in the all-important Miami area, is stridently opposed to Cuba's participation in the games.

The president is loath to upset those anti-Castro Cubans and cause brother Jeb some political problems by overturning his Treasury Department's decision.

The baseball decision is just one in a series of increasingly harsh actions this administration has taken against Cubans. As many from Madison involved in humanitarian activities have come to know, it's hard even to get medicine and other supplies to the country these days because of the rift with Castro.

One would think that a country like ours could rise above playing petty politics with baseball games no less. But that's obviously becoming more than one can expect.

And Tommy Lasorda, who managed the Dodgers for a couple of decades, and led a collection of minor leaguers and college players to the gold medal at the 2000 Olympics in an upset of Cuba, says in an interview with the Japan Times that Cuba's participation in the tournament is "vital" and their continued exclusion would be "tragic." There's a lot of concern that if the WBC collapses, baseball's hope for returning to the Olympic Games in 2016 is a lost cause.

To bring up a saying from the dark depths of my childhood memories, this is an administration that would cut off its nose to spite its own face.

While we're talkin' baseball, congratulations to Bruce Sutter on election to the Hall of Fame. Bruce is only the fourth reliever to get this honor (after Hoyt Wilhelm, Dennis Eckersley, & Rollie Fingers, all of whom spent some time as starters), and one of the pioneers in the closer role.

Now, i have to say i'm not a big fan of what the "relief specialist" has done to the game of baseball. My baseball formative years are the 1960s, and i can't imagine Gibson, Drysdale, or Marichal warming up in the bullpen before a game thinking to themselves, "I'll go 6 innings, hold the other team close, and give my guys a chance to win." They went out knowing they were going to shut the other guys down. And guess what? They had to. Want to know the most remarkable thing about Gibson's 68 season? It's not the 28 complete games out of 34 started (8.9 innings per game average!), the 1.12 ERA, the 268 strikeouts against 267 baserunners allowed. No, the amazing thing is that despite all of that, he still lost 9 freakin' games. Take away the 13 complete game shutouts, and Gibson is a 9-9 pitcher with a 1.85 ERA for the rest of the year. Keeping your team close and giving them a chance to win was a .500 proposition for Gibson in 1968, just as it's been for Jeff Weaver throughout a disappointingly mediocre career. The only difference is that Weaver thinks his mediocrity is worth another raise this year.

Continue reading More Baseball

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

More World Baseball Classic

Over the weekend, prospects for a successful World Baseball Classic went downhill about as fast as a fifth of tequila in Bode Miller's dressing room. The really bad news comes from IBAF President Aldo Notari, who said that IBAF will withdraw its sanction if the US continues to deny the Cuban team permission to enter the US to play in the tournament.

Of course, ESPNDeportes is basically the only news outlet to pick up on the story.

"Without Cuba, IBAF will withdraw its approval of the event," Italian Notari stated. "And if the IBAF does that, national federations will not be able to register their teams for the World Baseball Classic."

Notari made this statements in Chicago, where he is taking part in the NCAA's Trainers' Convention. He talked to "Dogout", a radio show broadcast by Radio 1120 AM in Puerto Rico.

Producers of the show allowed access to the interview, which will air on Monday.

"There is an article in the Olympic Charter saying it clearly: any kind of discrimination on political, racial or religious grounds is unacceptable," said Notari before flying to Lausanne, Switzerland.

"IBAF cannot endorse a tournament in which Olympic rules are not being respected, without leaving the Olympic movement altogether," he added.

Now, you may be surprised to learn, as i was, that the IBAF has sponsored a more-or-less biennial baseball World Cupsince 1938. The event has been hosted by Cuba 10 times, including 4 times since Castro's revolution in 1959. (1971, 1973, 1984, 2003) The US began participating in 1969, and finished second to Cuba in both 69 and 70, when the tournament was held in Dominican Republic and Colombia, respectively. In 1973, two separate tournaments were held, one in Nicaragua, and the other in Cuba. It's hard to decode the details from the sketchy info at the IBAF site, but seeing as how Mexico and Puerto Rico were the only teams to participate in both events, i'll hazard a guess that a US boycott had something to do with it. The 73 Nicaragua games drew such baseball powerhouses as Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, and Costa Rica, whose appearances at other World Cups have been notoriously few. Americans may have been too distracted by other events during 1973
to have paid much attention to the World Baseball Cup shenanigans.

Cuba, as may be expected, has dominated this event, winning 25 times, including the last 9. The US has won twice, including one of the 1973 events (the other was won by Cuba). The US finished 3rd at the 1984 event, held in Cuba, and has competed in the same tournament with the Cubans a total of 13 times since 1969, including the 2003 games, which were held in Cuba. Since the split 1973 events, Cuba has participated in each Cup except for 1974, held in the US, and 1982, held in South Korea.

Meanwhile, editorial opinion around the US continues to blast the Bush administration's shortsightedness, with the NY Times (subscription required), Kansas City Star, Florida Sun-Sentinel, The Chattanoogan, and others weighing in.

In an earlier post, i alluded to the idiotic statements of Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart. Diaz-Balart represents Miami in the US Congress, and has wondered aloud why the rest of the world ignores the plight of brown people in Cuba in allowing Cuba's participation in international events, after South Africa was denied the right to participate in the Olympics and other international sporting competitions during the apartheid era.

Here's the difference, Mr. Representative. During the 1970's, the United Nations, the International Olympic Committee and other sanctioning bodies all voted, democratically, to apply sanctions against the apartheid government of South Africa. These bodies all recognized that the white minority government was engaged in systemic and fundamental violations of basic human rights, and was not fit to participate in commom activities with the rest of the world.

By contrast, the US embargo against Cuba is routinely condemned by the rest of the world as an unwarranted act of aggression against a nation that has not committed any justifying acts. If Mr. Diaz-Balart has not succeeded in his quest to get the rest of the world to recognize his complaints, and in fact, except for a relative handful of Cuban exiles in the Miami area and the neo-con cabal that manages US foreign policy, virtually nobody else in the world sees Cuba in the same light, it might be worth his while to critically reflect on his obsession. Of course, if he wants to keep at it and prove his idiocy, it's no skin off my teeth.

Meanwhile, let's play ball, huh?

Continue reading More World Baseball Classic

Monday, January 09, 2006

Kodak unveils new logo

One of the world's oldest and most successful brands attempts to shed its last century image and affiliation with a dying technology by coming up with a new logo.

I'd love to see the ones that got rejected by Senior Management.


Continue reading Kodak unveils new logo

The FA Cup

Can you name an English soccer team?

OK, besides Manchester United?

Two years ago, i couldn't either. So i had no appreciation for the nature of what transpired this past weekend during the 3rd round of England's FA Cup.

Here's the background. The FA Cup has been contested annually since 1880. It is open to all English football clubs, at every competitive level, and the winner gains entry into the following year's prestigious Champions League competition featuring the best sides in Europe. This year, something like 750 teams entered.

The nearest thing like it on the American sports scene is the NCAA basketball tournament held over 3 consecutive weekends in March and April. In that tournament, the champion of the Atlantic Sun or Horizon conference can find themselves drawn against a team from one of the powerhouse conferences like the Atlantic Coast or the Big East. So the FA Cup is like that, only more so.

See, in England, everybody plays football. So pretty much everybody's on a team. And all these teams get to enter the Cup.

Now, there aren't any brackets or seeding committees to deal with, either. What happens is that the teams playing in the top flight of competitions get byes through to later stages of the tournament. There are four nationwide competitive leagues in England, the Premiership, the Championship, League One, and League Two, from top to bottom. The Premiership is where you find teams like Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, and, of course, Manchester United. Rosters on these clubs are chock full of players who are starters for their countries in international competition. Below these are the regional conferences and various local affiliations. During the course of regular league competition, teams that finish in the top two or three in their league can be promoted up to the next level of competition, while teams that finish in the bottom places can be relegated down a division. Entry point into the competition is based on a team's place during that year.

So, there are 6 rounds of qualifying play before the actual tournament proper begins. At that point, the 48 teams from League 1 and League 2 enter the competition against the remaining 32 teams from the various conferences. Don't forget, most of the conference teams are made up of weekend players who have full time jobs, kids, rent, all of the other distractions that make up a life for someone who isn't a top level professional athlete.

The first two rounds of the competition proper reduce the surviving teams down to 20, at which point the 44 teams from the Championship and Premiership are drawn into the tournament.

So, let's take a brief look at Nuneaton Borough AFC, who play in the Conference North, and are still alive in the competition. Nuneaton entered the tournament in the 2nd qualifying round, and won their home match with AFC Telford on September 25, in front of 1174 fans. Their 3rd round qualifier against Chelmsford City FC (who sit mid-table in the Ryman League Premier Division) ended in a 1-1 draw at home, with just under a thousand in attendance. Nuneaton won the replay 4 days later on October 12 2-1 at Chelmsford, with 379 fans attending. That won them a fixture against Tiverton Town FC, who are a mid-level team playing in the Southern Premier League. Once again, the first home match ended in a draw, and the replay, at Tiverton, saw Nuneaton advance 1-0, in front of a crowd of 885. In the first round proper, Nuneaton picked up a match against Ramsgate FC, who play in the Ryman First Division, and had themselves won matches in the Preliminary, First, Second Third and Fourth qualifying rounds. Nuneaton won that match, 2-0 on November 4, as attendance climbed to 2100+. This earned them a fixture with Histon, an upper table club who play in the Conference South, with a shot at promotion at the end of the year. The first leg played at Nuneaton ended in a 2-2 draw on December 3. Nuneaton took the replay 2-1 at Histon, with almost 3100 attending.

This past Saturday, Nuneaton got their reward, as Premiership club Middlesbrough, currently 16th in the top flight but still alive in UEFA Cup competition in Europe, visited for the 3rd round draw. 6000 fans turned out for this game as Nuneaton, who sit around 100 places below Boro, earned a 1-1 draw, and a replay at Middlesbrough for the right to take on Championship side Coventry in the fourth round.

As The Guardian describes it:
Mark Viduka and Yakubu Aiyegbeni led the attack against a Nuneaton central defence of the 39-year-old semi-retired Terry Angus and the 32-year-old club captain Neil Moore. The two forwards may yet be spared a repeat performance if Angus cannot take next Tuesday off work.

"You might look at it overall and say a draw is fair enough," said Angus. "If I get there, work permitting, we'll give it a go in the replay. We've got a game plan and we'll go for it."

So, hopefully that gives a bit of perspective on the accomplishments of some of these teams this past weekend. Nuneaton holding Middlesbrough to a draw is kind of like your church league over-30 roundball team taking Duke to double-overtime. League 2 Leyton Orient took out Premier side Fulham FC 2-1, which is kind of like the Stetson Hatters beating Carolina.

But for the biggest, most inspiring match of the weekend, look to the Brewers of Burton Albion FC, home of great pale ale and the worlds worst logo. Remember at the top of the piece i asked you to name an English soccer team? Well, Conference North Burton, who played a local Cup competition earlier in the season before 119 family members, drew Manchester United as their 3rd round opponent in a home fixture. Nearly 6200 fans packed the Pirelli Stadium, as Burton held the Red Devils to a 0-0 draw, and earned a replay on the 18th at Old Trafford. That's like your church league team taking the San Antonio Spurs into overtime.

And that's an inspiration for every one of us who strives to compete, at any level, in any endeavor. The Burton-Man. U game is being rebroadcast tonight (Monday 9 January) at 8 eastern time on Fox Soccer Channel. I'll be watching.

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Continue reading The FA Cup

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Another weekend in Iraq

12 Thought Dead After Copter Crash in Iraq.

Five U.S. Marines killed in western Iraq.

What would Patrick Henry do?

Continue reading Another weekend in Iraq

Saturday, January 07, 2006


Poor Tom DeLay. First, he thinks he's always acted in an ethical manner. But then he has to give up his House leadership position anyway.


"The situation is that Tom's legal situation doesn't seem to be reaching clarity," Rep. John Kline of Minnesota said in an interview.

Right, John. You get the Maxwell's Silver Hammer award for hitting the nail on the head.

As the Indigo Girls once said:
I woke up with a headache like my head against a board
Twice as cloudy as I'd been the night before
I went in seeking clarity.

Continue reading Clarity

Friday, January 06, 2006

Lou Rawls dies at 72

My friend John shares this story about Lou and Tobacco Road:

A couple years ago, I had a long phone conversation
with songwriter, John D. Loudermilk. Among his most
famous songs is "Tobacco Road" -- performed by Lou

Loudermilk told me that his inspiration for "Tobacco
Road" was "Marvin's Alley" in East Durham.

This little lane was just east of the Angier/Alston
intersection. Loudermilk told me he delivered
telegrams and money orders to homes, with shades
drawn, along Marvin's Alley.

During a visit to Marvin's Alley, I bumped into
someone who owned much of the block.

Artis Plummer describes himself as a "Black Cherokee"
who played for the Cleveland Buckeyes in the Negro
League. He's around 80 years old and has stories to

He said Marvin's Alley was one of Durham's early White
slums. Eight houses lined the south side of the street
(sharing one water meter) and five houses lined the
north side (sharing another water meter).

Today the one-block dead end is called Morven's Place.
Past the dead end was the Gulf Oil depot. Just south
this street was an old hosiery mill (now standing
empty on Holman Street). The mills owned Marvin's
Alley and its houses.

Since, Marvin's Alley was private property, the police
would not drive down the street. According to Mr.
Plummer, every place on the block was a gambling
house, liquor house or a house of prostitutes.

Loudermilk was "born on a kitchen table on 8th Street"
(Iredell Street) near present-day Magnolia Grill in
Old West Durham.

He wrote "Tobacco Road" in 1962. It became a #5 hit
for the Nashville Teens in 1964 during the peak of the
civil rights movement in America.

"Tobacco Road" was also performed by David Lee Roth
and Edgar Winter. But, perhaps the most famous version
of the hit song was performed by Lou Rawls, who died
today at 72.

~John Schelp
Old West Durham

Continue reading Lou Rawls dies at 72

Friday garden blogging

Garlic looks nice for early January:

Continue reading Friday garden blogging


From the BBC:

My Lai massacre hero dies at 62

Hugh Thompson Jnr, a former US military helicopter pilot who helped stop one of the most infamous massacres of the Vietnam War has died, aged 62.

Mr Thompson and his crew came upon US troops killing civilians at the village of My Lai on 16 March 1968.

He put his helicopter down between the soldiers and villagers, ordering his men to shoot their fellow Americans if they attacked the civilians.

"There was no way I could turn my back on them," he later said of the victims.

Mr Thompson, a warrant officer at the time, called in support from other US helicopters, and together they airlifted at least nine Vietnamese civilians - including a wounded boy - to safety.

He returned to headquarters, angrily telling his commanders what he had seen. They ordered soldiers in the area to stop shooting.

But Mr Thompson was shunned for years by fellow soldiers, received death threats, and was once told by a congressman that he was the only American who should be punished over My Lai.

A platoon commander, Lt William Calley, was later court-martialed and sentenced to life in prison for his role in the killings.

President Richard Nixon commuted his sentence to three years' house arrest.

Although the My Lai massacre became one of the best-known atrocities of the war - with journalist Seymour Hersh winning a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on it - little was known about Mr Thompson's actions for decades.

In the 1980s, Clemson University Professor David Egan saw him interviewed in a documentary and began to campaign on his behalf.

He persuaded people including Vietnam-era Secretary of State Dean Rusk to lobby the government to honour the helicopter crew.

Mr Thompson and his colleagues Lawrence Colburn and Glenn Andreotta were awarded the Soldier's Medal, the highest US miltiary award for bravery when not confronting an enemy.

Mr Thompson was close to tears as he accepted the award in 1998 "for all the men who served their country with honour on the battlefields of South-East Asia".

Mr Andreotta's award was posthumous. He was killed in Vietnam less than a month after My Lai.

Mr Colburn was at Mr Thompson's bedside when he died, the Associated Press reported.

Mr Thompson died of cancer. He had been ill for some time and was removed from life support earlier in the week.

Continue reading Heroes

Blast from the past

The Lamb.

If anything, the lyrics make even less sense than they did 32 years ago. But it still sounds great.

Continue reading Blast from the past

Out of Action

If i'd known what i was in for the past 3 days, i'd probably have passed on the surgery. Especially since the painkillers made my fingers about 3 times normal size, and i couldn't type for shit.

Continue reading Out of Action

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Oral surgery

Wisdom teeth. i hear it's a young man's game.

Well, i hope the drugs are good, anyway.

Continue reading Oral surgery

Sunday, January 01, 2006

So, uh, what's up with the name?

This is the post which should have started this blog, but i was playing around last week when the Carolina Theater email came in and the blurb about Breakfast on Pluto was too good not to memorialize, and then the next thing i knew i was posting all kinds of stuff pre-launch, so, anyway, that's the story.

So what's up with this dependable erection, anyway?

If you drive from Durham to Hillsborough, North Carolina, on US 70, as i do, every day on my commute, after you pass the Wayside Baptist Church at the fork where the bypass splits off from the business highway (look close for the Cemetery and Athletic Field sign, which used to be right on the highway but has now been moved a hundred yards away to the edge of the woods), a quarter mile down the road on the right is the Durham Division of the Seegar's Fence Company. You can find Seegar's fences all over Durham and Orange counties. They have lots of government and private contracts. Their green and white tags, once you start paying attention, are seen on chain link fences around storage depots and junk yards, parking lots and warehouses.

And, as they note demurely, they have been providing dependable erection since 1949.

Meditate on that for a moment, if you will. Over 55 years of dependable erection.

That is a record for Cal Ripken to envy. Dependable erection 5 days a week (6 during the boom years) for well over half a century.

Anybody who could boast of performance like that would be proud, and justifiably so.

As a goal, it's lofty. But it may yet be attainable by mere mortals. And so, inspired by the epic erectors of Seegar's Fence, Durham Division, this blog rises to meet the future, steadfast, argent, strong, and dependable, since 2005.

Continue reading So, uh, what's up with the name?