Monday, April 30, 2007

A Post For My Anonymous Critic

Dear App and Really App,

This is, I guess, a somewhat red-letter day. After right at seven months of blogging, I got my first hate comment. If you want to know what I’m talking about, read the comments on the last post. App/Really App didn't leave a link, so other than what Sitemeter tells me, I don't know who he or she is. A/RA, Google and the Pentagon do know.

App has done me a favor. He’s (I've decided App's a guy) provided the impetus to do a follow-up post on the other side of my disgust for our government’s absolutely stupid treatment of the detainees at Guantanamo. This post will set out a view that I thought about while writing the post that App doesn’t like. I’ve actually been thinking about it a bit while driving, not walking, down the streets of greater Atlanta today.

Just before I came home to read App’s criticisms of my views, I spent an hour at the neighborhood pub talking to a friend that is a policeman. My policeman friend is not a liberal/commie/pinko like I am.

A bit of disclosure, most of my friends and relatives initially think I’m a bit of a LCP (see last paragraph). I think of them, to an extent, as being just this side of the Attila family tree. Over the years, we’ve jibed at each other, but then we talk, that First Amendment stuff that App seems to disapprove of, at the end of the day, week, month and year, we find out we are closer to agreeing about many things than we thought at first. Yeah, that talking rather than yelling will get you in trouble – you might learn something. Here's some guilt. The post yesterday yelled. Not my normal style. Probably, had I been more compelling, App might have not felt complelled to yell back.

So anyway, I told my cop friend about the article that led to the post. He shook his head, not in a dismissive way. Rather, in a “can you believe that stuff” way. (I’m using no expletives or bad language in this post.)

I then went on to lay out what you will read in this post and what, were I and App to talk about, we might come to agreement about. App, leave a link. It won’t hurt.

I’m a big boy, figuratively, not literally. The old cliché is “war is hell.” I know for thousands of years people have been killing, maiming, torturing and coercing other people to get an upper hand in conflicts.

I spent much of the last four years giving our government the benefit of my doubt about Iraq, not Afghanistan, that one made and makes sense. From what I can see now, our government lied to us, not once but many times. I think we need to get the, oops no swearing, out.

Leaving that conclusion out, and assuming for the sake of the post that we should have invaded Iraq, the Bush Administration, leading or being lead by the Military is/are the most inept and duplicitous prosecutors of a war that I know of, and I have a major in History. Forget the strategic and tactical errors.

Let’s bore down to the detainees and others that didn’t get to Guantanamo.

Here we’ll take a side trip first. Another friend, referred to in a previous post as Big Rick, in another conversation enabled by that pesky First Amendment, while I was ranting about the Justice Department’s efforts to afford no protection to detainees, and while they were at it, to stack the deck against what turns out to be about 300 now innocent people, not my conclusion, that of the State Department, stopped me and asked me “do you want to know how hot dogs are made?’

To cut out the point of the story, he was asking me what App yelled in his comment. “You people want to be free and safe, but don't want to hear or take any of the actions necessary to keep you/us safe.”

I told Big Rick, and now tell App, that I know about what happens to keep us safe. No, I don’t take those actions. I have friends and family members that have. I respect them for having done so.

Here’s the payoff. Torture and coercion are real parts of war. I may not like that; but, I’m enough of a realist to know that that is the case. What is not part of war is for our government to keep a bunch of guys in a minimally humanitarian environment, and I think I’ve way over described the environment, for as many as five years, while going out of its way to describe them as “the worst of the worst,” try to, and succeed in getting Congress to finesse a definition of torture and coercion that protects the military and intelligence services from the consequences of what they did to these people ( the Administration wouldn’t have had to worry about this stuff had it done what its predecessors had done in the past, do it and keep your mouths shut), try to get the lawyers that represented them fired by their bread and butter corporate clients, and then, finally when they found out, apparently some time ago, that they had made a bit of an “oops,” complained about those darned (not a swear word) other countries that won’t take back the people we, how’s this for a benign statement, “in error,” swooped up. (Having read that, I’m pretty sure that is a real live sentence, just a bit long and obtuse.)

President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Attorney General Gonzalez, Secretary of State Rice and the people that work for them have gone way out of their way to do stupid and unnecessary things to harm people down in Guantanamo and us civilians with First Amendment rights, not privileges App, up here in the States.

So talk with me App, no yelling. I can take it.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

There Is No Clever Title For This

An aside, I did a post asking what to read other than The New York Times, nationally, for news. Hedy said to try The Washington Post. Not quite right-wing; but, All The President’s Men made an impression on me back when.

So I just did. Damn you Hedy; and, that’s only the first bad word.

Fill in forty or fifty expletives of your own choice for what I might otherwise have to type.

Here’s the headline:

"82 Inmates Cleared But Still Held At Guantanamo"

We, you, me, our piece-of-shit government, can’t get rid of them because no one will take them. The “worst of the worst” include about twenty percent of the approximately 385 detainees there, who are, by our piece-of-shit government’s lights, now magically, after five years, innocent. Read that word again. INNOCENT.

I really want to bang this out, to get it out of me. I’ll go slower and try to cut down on the bad words.

“Since February, the Pentagon has notified about 85 inmates or their attorneys that they are eligible to leave after being cleared by military review panels. But only a handful have gone home, including a Moroccan and an Afghan who were released Tuesday. Eighty-two remain at Guantanamo and face indefinite waits as U.S. officials struggle to figure out when and where to deport them, and under what conditions”

“Of the roughly 385 still incarcerated, U.S. officials said they intend to eventually put 60 to 80 on trial and free the rest. But the judicial process has likewise moved at a glacial pace, largely because of constitutional legal challenges.” How’s that for another nice percentage. They started out with 680 people there. They want to give all but ten to twelve percent of them a cardboard suitcase, a shiny suit and shoes and a sawbuck and put ‘em out on the sidewalk. Only the bus that goes back home won’t pick them up.

Oh, those nasty constitutional legal challenges. I felt another bad word coming on. I’m better now. Now I know why the Justice Department has taken the approach it has and that I have railed against in a few posts. They just want to get rid of the opposition so that they can focus on getting those countries that we lifted these people from to take them back. Well no, that doesn’t make much sense. Then what the hell does? Sorry.

"’In general, most countries simply do not want to help,’ said John B. Bellinger III, legal adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. ‘Countries believe this is not their problem. They think they didn't contribute to Guantanamo, and therefore they don't have to be part of the solution.’" Poor John III and Condi, they have the Men Who Came to Dinner and their relatives won’t take them back after dessert. I know there are a lot of dumb references here; but, it’s better than swearing.

I’m probably going to swear big time after this copy and paste:

"’It often takes us months and months, or even years, to negotiate the human rights assurances that we are comfortable with before we will transfer someone to another country,’" said Bellinger, the State Department's legal adviser.” HUMAN RIGHTS ASSURANCES? If this were an Email, I’d be breaching Netiquette with all these capital letters. No cursing. This man works for the same government that worked a deal with the Australian guy last month to let him go if he promised he wasn't tortured, and wouldn't sue the U.S. based on being tortured, which of course he wasn't. The same Administration that went round and round with Congress about the subtle differences between torture and coercion, not that either was ever employed.

There’s more garbage spewed by our government in the article, but enough is enough.

Here’s my solution:

We have something like 300 now “OK's of the maybe bads” stewing on the tip of Cuba. If you count up the military’s general officers, Cabinet Officers, and assistants, GWB, Dead-eye Dick, you gotta total that number. Most of them have a valet, a driver, a nanny, a cook, you know those menial positions that everyone who runs roughshod on whims needs to make life comfortable. Bring up the newly OK guys, with their guards (don't want these OK guys to get any ideas) spread them out among our elite. Most of the menials there now are probably wetbacks anyway. Send them south. Let Fidel and Raul worry about them. Mr. Bellinger and Condi can be counted on not to abuse the new OK guys' human rights, can’t they? Maybe our government elite types can teach these guys how people in the land of the free and home of the brave.............whatever. I suppose we’ll need a few extra guards for the Cheney residence. Not for the staff, for Dead-eye.

I’m going off to think of more bad words. Fuckers.

So What Should I Read, Watch And Listen To?

No one called me on this; but, it came to me that when I quote something in the news in a post to rant about, it tends to be, that's too mild, it IS a quote from the

My daily news comes from the Gray Lady, the AJC (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution), National Public Radio and WSB the local news radio station.

They all skew left (if I count that WSB's national and international news comes from CNN). I read and watch other stuff. I watch FOX stuff, rarely, but usually not early enough to get real news, I'm left with the pundit shows.

So, my question to my readers, what should I read and/or watch on a daily basis to get what some of you might consider to be unbiased reportage, and others of you might consider to be an antidote for the left leaning stuff I listen to and read?

Only In California

Pay to go to jail? A few jails in California are offering “pay to stay” programs.

When Pasadena started it’s program in the 90’s “’[o]ur sales pitch at the time was, ‘Bad things happen to good people,’ said Janet Givens, a spokeswoman for the Pasadena Police Department. Jail representatives used Rotary Clubs and other such venues as their potential marketplace for ‘fee-paying inmate workers’ who are charged $127 a day (payment upfront required).” The New York Times, in today’s online edition.

Yep, for between $82 and $127 a day you can get a nicer cell, moisturizer, shampoo, and most importantly, segregation from the non-monied normal inhabitants of the joint. You can bring your cell phone, but not your laptop.

The land of O.J. and the Menendez brothers has put its unique stamp on the DUI/DWI crowd.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

With Thanks to "Ten Years Running Blind" Sorry about my inability to do the link correctly. Fermi, I have other talents.

The link is to an piece at by a Christian guy that wants to fight, figuratively, with the Christians that he sees as having co-opted his faith - those that hate abortion and homosexuals to the exclusion of all the other tenents of his faith that he feels are lost in the media perception created by the guys he wants to fight with, again figuratively.

I grew up as a Lutheran, Missouri Synod Lutheran if you please, which was an important distinction for conservative Lutherans back then, for reasons I don't remember now.

What I do remember is that people in the church didn't seem to care much about how their faith translated into good in the here and now.

Living in the South for most of my adult life, I've focused my ire, in a religious context, on Southern Baptists and their fellows. From the outside, they seem to me to have a preoccupation with making sure that everyone else is subject to the same morality, by way of law, that they espouse, but don't quite follow. The social consequences of their moral edicts don't seem to bother them.

Anyway. If you are a Christian, read the link. Even if you aren't, read it. Pay attention to what the guy says, you could do worse as a way to live your life.

Oh, the title. If you want to read what a Christian guy that seems to live his faith in the here and now has to say, try

I got the link from his blog. The title of his blog is Ten Years Running Blind. I have a feeling he's talking about the past because he seems to have his eyes wide open these days.

Truth, Justice And The American Way

OK, that's Superman. It certainly doesn't apply to the Justice Department which is asking the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to dramatically reduce lawyers' contact with Guantanamo detainees.

The Feds would like to end contact, they still argue that detainees don't have a right to have a lawyer represent them. But softies that they are, they're willing to have a lawyer visit a detainee once prior to a decision by the detainee to hire the lawyer to defend himself. After "signing up," a detainee could have his lawyer visit him three times.

Oh, communication other than the three visits? The Justice Department wants to "permit a team of intelligence officers and military lawyers not involved in a detainee's case to read mail sent to him by his lawyer." NYTimes, online, April 26, 2007.

We aren't done yet. The lawyers defending the detainees have security clearances. Justice wants to be able, apparently without court approval or review, to deny the defense lawyers access to the secret evidence used by the military panels to determine in the first place that the detainee was an enemy combatant.

What's the rationale for all this? Lawyers are telling the detainees what's happening in the world and telling news organizations what's happening to the detainees "caus[ing] 'intractable problems and threats to security at Guantanamo.'" NYTimes, online.

This is the same Justice Department that, until he resigned earlier this year, employed Charles Stimson who suggested that corporations which were represented by lawyers who defended detainees should part ways with the lawyers.

Where's Superman when you need him?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

What I Don't Get About Web Advertising

I long ago quit “seeing” banner ads on a web page. The skill to me is about the same as not seeing the ads on a page in a newspaper or a magazine (I confess to seeing the underwear ads when I was a young boy). I focus on what I went to see. Saturday and Sunday newspapers are the most challenging. My first task is to sort out and throw away all the advertising.

After banner ads, web advertisers went to blinking ads, animation ads, pop over and unders. Interstitial ads (when you click to go to a story, you get an ad page first that you have to exit from to get to the story and then, even more annoying, when you click back to the main page, you get the story again, where the software had placed the interstitial, so you have to click twice, if that makes any sense).

Lately, there’s the dreaded moving pop over that has no exit option. Other than these %*%&%$# &% &(^& ads, I don't really see what all of these companies are paying big bucks for me to see.

Maybe I shouldn’t say it; but, I Don’t Buy From These People. Not that I am a very good consumer; but, if you annoy me, I’m unlikely to patronize your business.

Then there is Google’s Ad Sense. I know some of you have those innocuous little rectangles on your blog. I hope they bring you revenue; but, I don’t see them. I’ve never clicked on one. Don’t plan on ever clicking on one.

Even when I’m looking for a product or service using Google, I seldom click on the paid results. The advertiser’s site is usually a few results below and I click on it. Why make them pay Google?

Apparently Google and Double Click, now Google/Double Click make billions from those ads that I don’t see and I, for the life of me, don’t understand it. Who clicks on these things to the tune of advertisers paying billions of bucks for the placements?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

My Five

Yesterday's post asked you which five songs moved you. Here are mine.

Abide With Me
Henry F. Lyte

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
the darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

This one probably needs a little context. When I was a little kid, during Advent we went to church on Wednesday nights. At the end of the service, the lights were turned off and the people sang the first verse of the song without accompaniment.

I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
Hank Williams

Hear the lonesome whiperwill

He sounds too blue to fly
The midnight train is whining low
I'm so lonesome I could cry

I've never seen a night so long
When time goes crawling by
The moon just went behind a cloud
To hide its face and cry

Did you ever see a robin weep
When leaves begin to die
That means he's lost the will to live
I'm so lonesome I could cry

The silence of a falling star
Lights up a purple sky
And as I wonder where you are
I'm so lonesome I could cry

Days of Future Passed
Moody Blues

Not "a" song, but the album is all of a piece. One of the first concept albums.

Pictures At An Exhibition

Another beautiful album, now available on CD.

My Guitar Gently Weeps
George Harrison

I look at you all see the love there that's sleeping

While my guitar gently weeps
I look at the floor and I see it needs sweeping
Still my guitar gently weeps

I don't know why nobody told you how to unfold your love
I don't know how someone controlled you
They bought and sold you.
I look at the world and I notice it's turning
While my guitar gently weeps

With every mistake we must surely be learning
Still my guitar gently weeps
I don't know how you were diverted
You were perverted too
I don't know how you were inverted
No one alerted you.

I look at you all see the love there that's sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps
Look at you all . . .
Still my guitar gently weeps.

With this song it's more the music than the words.

There's nothing here by Eric Clapton because I couldn't choose just one.

Monday, April 23, 2007

What Do You Love To Hear?

Just before starting this post, I was listening to God, that of music that is. Clapton, to my mind. Others will differ. Within the genre there's Stevie Ray, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, the list goes on.

There's this list thing going on of thinking blogs, posts that answer questions posed by other bloggers, memes in guises, though I cannot approve of the word meme.

Here's the invitation: but, first another prologue. I like music; but, I am terrible at remembering who played what, when; and, if I could remember either, just what the title is. I am a lover of music without a type. I want music that moves me by words, music or preferably both. Voices alone are good.. Stevie Nicks. Willie Nelson. Elvis. Sinatra. Hank Williams. Unique all. Just notes: Les Paul. Chet Atkins. Moody Blues and Jethro Tull in some of their stuff. Rimsky-Korsakov. Miles Davis. Lead Belly.

Genres can be and are, Big Bands, Dixieland, Blues, Jazz, Rock, Country (though in that category, it has to be really special), Classical, Western Swing, Mountain, Shape Note. No Opera, sorry just can't appreciate it. There may be a Hip Hop song I've liked, I doubt it.

OK, the point of the post. Give me five songs that are the best. Don't care what your reasons are. You can give them if you want to. For whatever reason, what five songs, above all others move you? Though, Louie Louie, My Boyfriend's Back, Dead Man's Curve and similar opie, require copious explanation.

I'm not listing mine just yet.

Pot 'n Kettle

I just listened to a few minutes of a "debate" between Sean Hannity and Al Sharpton from last weekend at an event hosted by the Reverend.

The two media hos debated which political hack was the sleaziest, Hilary Clinton who just got eight large from someone named Timberlake, I'm betting that's not the spelling, who's a rapper that made his money with songs with lots of bad words, including one which used nigger twenty-four times according to Hannity as he shouted it repeatedly; or, according to Sharpton, President Bush who hosted Sean "Puffy" Coombs in the White House, another fine example of today's artists.

I think I've used this ending to a post before; but, a pox on both their houses.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Time To Leave

As reported by the New York Times, online, Bahaa al-Aaraji, an Iraqi legislator associated with Shiite cleric, Moktada al-Sadr, said Americans troops should stay in Iraq no longer than two more years; but, he qualified his time-table by saying that the Iraqi security forces had to be well-trained before the Americans left.

“’In order to drive out the occupation, we need to build up the security forces; then we can have a timetable,’” said Abdul Mehdi Mutairi, one of Mr. Sadr’s top political officials.

These “Sadrists,” according to the article, play a political game of denouncing all things American while cooperating with the Baghdad pacification program.

“[al-Sadr] has become a great improviser, the Miles Davis of the war.

He publicly courts anti-American Sunni nationalists while his Mahdi Army militia kills Sunni Arabs. He denounces Shiite groups backed by Iran while he is said to be hiding in Iran and taking instructions from clerics there. He promotes Shiite unity while Mahdi fighters battle other Shiite groups in cities across the south.” Again, NYTimes, online.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is also a Shiite, won’t set a deadline for U.S. withdrawal. He stopped building a wall between Sunni and Shiite areas in Baghdad at the request of Sunni who said it would isolate them. At the same time, Arab leaders pressured him to step up reconciliation efforts to include Sunni insurgents if he expects regional, largely Sunni Arab, support as reported by the China Daily, online.

The Sunni insurgents of course keep on killing, Shiites, Americans and other Sunnis. Sunni leaders have pretty much boycotted Iraqi politics. San Francisco Chronicle, online.

The Kurds? They’ve pretty much solidified their hold on the north and are for the most part sitting out the conflicts in the south.

In the meantime everyone is trying to kill everyone else. We have become enablers of this craziness.

I think, all this will continue to happen as long as we are there. It may well continue to happen when we depart. If that’s the case, the only difference will be Americans aren’t a part of the death tolls. But, maybe if we leave, not in two years or when security is achieved, now, the players, Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds and their respective supporters in the region will have to figure out what to do with the mess a bit more quickly.

Staying doesn’t seem to be leading to any positive result. It’s time to go.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Darker Side Of Search In China

Earlier this week Wang Xiaoning and his wife, Yu Ling, sued Yahoo making claims under the U.S. Alien Tort Claims Act and Torture Victims Protection Act. Wang is serving a ten-year sentence in China for "incitement to subvert state power." He had distributed online several journal articles calling for democratic reform and a multiparty system in China and alleges that Yahoo identified him as the author of the articles to the Chinese Government.

There are a lot of factual and legal issues that appear to make Wang's suit against Yahoo an uphill battle; but, a quote of a Yahoo official commenting on the case struck me:

"'Companies doing business in China are forced to comply with Chinese law,' said Jim Cullinan, a Yahoo spokesman. When government officials present the company with a lawful request for information about a Yahoo user, he said, 'Yahoo China will not know whether the demand for information is for a legitimate criminal investigation or is going to be used to prosecute political dissidents.'”

The spokesman is right, so far as he goes; but, is it fair to accuse Yahoo of pursuing profit on the backs of, by our standards, innocent Chinese citizens? Put another way, should Yahoo and Google and MSN pull out of China until China quits its efforts to repress free speech?

Are the search companies wrong to do business in a country with which the U.S. Government maintains relations, despite knowing of its human rights violations?

Is more good done by the companies' infrastructure in China that allows access to some of what can be found on the Internet?

Finally, is the "problem" short term in that, given time, China won't be able to hold back its people from what they have seen and heard from the rest of the world.

Richard Nixon, with Henry Kissinger at his side, opened China's "door" going on forty years ago. Since then it has never been fully shut. The real uphill battle is being fought by the Chinese Government, trying to selectively close the door to some things and some ideas. Wang may just be collateral damage.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Sea Change At The Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court announced a decision today which finds a federal law banning "late term" "partial birth" abortion to be constitutional. You can read the Opinion here.

I'm not going to deal with the issue of abortion. But, this decision represents the clearest example to date of the legal and political results to be seen due to the recent change in the make up of the Supreme Court. Until the death of Chief Justice Rehnquist and the retirement of Justice O'Connor, Justice O'Connor had for some time been the Court's "swing vote" on controversial matters. The appointment of Chief Justice Roberts to replace Chief Justice Rehnquist did not change the voting "blocks" on the Court. Both skew conservative. The appointment of Justice Samuel Alito however, to replace Justice O'Connor, a conservative for a moderate, has made Justice Anthony Kennedy the Court's swing vote between the conservative and liberal blocks. Where he lands in a case will often decide the matter.

Thus it should be no surprise that Justice Kennedy wrote the Court's majority opinion today. Going forward, we will see Justice Kennedy in the majority in most, if not all 5-4 opinions.

This sentence from his opinion, regardless of the merits of the case, troubles me: "…[R]espondents have not demonstrated that the Act would be unconstitutional in a large fraction of relevant cases." The following is dry and stuffy so feel free to quit now. I'm not going to go into the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court as it relates to different subjects' constitutionality and the tests for whether a law "facially" or "as applied" unconstitutionally infringes on a constitutional right. The comment is probably the result of the Court's determination that it would apply a rational basis rather than strict scrutiny test with respect to the Government's interest in regulating the procedure. And that is perhaps one of the telling results of the opinion. I think that the Supreme Court is quite open to chipping away at Roe v. Wade. Given this willingness to bless restrictions on abortion, you will see a lot of laws passed which do just that.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

My Own Awards

This award may be short lived; but, I'm continually fascinated by what Sitemeter says people search for on Google that bring them to me. Two awards today.

The first and most recent search that found me, makes no sense:

"colander expands wireless Internet signal"

Yes, I used the word colander in a recent post. I've spoken of the Internet and wireless in posts. But not all three in the same post. I didn't bother to go and find out which post Google thought was relevant to the idiotic search query. Pictures of people sculpting tinfoil to their heads are flashing in my brain, though the colander I mentioned without describing it, was plastic.

My other award goes to the person that wanted to know "do iguanas eat frogs." I did a somewhat rambling post recently that started with a veterinarian and ended with Anheiser-Busch. In the middle it talks about frogs and iguanas. The person, though clicking on my blog spent no time there. So, to answer the question, yes, iguanas are frog predators, something actually set out in the post, based on real live Internet research.

Google, having bought DoubleClick, coupled with other things, is starting to worry me.

An Award

Yes, I got an award - "Thinking Blogger." I get to put a sticker on my blog (if I can figure out how to do it) and everything. Well, not everything, that's pretty much it.

Someone got the idea of creating "[t]he Thinking Blogger Award [as] an effort to build a network of blogs linked together outside of the usual search engines." Fermicat, the author of Cosmic Cat elected me and four others as her "Thinking Bloggers.''

Having looked through the other blogs she lists, and a few listed by the blogger that elected Fermi, the main criterion for selection appears to be writing posts that aren't about the relative merits of Howard K. Stern and Larry Birkhead as fathers for what's her name's daughter, Snoop Dogg (unless you use him to make a point in a serious treatise about society, and you mention Imus in it) or everyday events in your boring life, unless you can make them poignant or funny. Another common trait is their insistence on using correct punctuation, syntax and other fast disappearing conventions. They write in paragraphs, people. Imagine it.

Fermi's review of my blog included the words "interesting," insightful," "humor," "very high quality" and "thoughtful." OK, the last two were descriptions of the people that leave comments, not about me. I guess I need to thank the little people that got me to where I am today.

Thanks Fermi. But now the hard part, I'm supposed to elect five thinking bloggers. You'd think in the Blogosphere, that would be an easy task. How many thinking bloggers could there be? Six? Well, if you look at my "Recommended" sidebar, you'll see that there are lots of choices.

I don't think it's cheating to name them in the anointed five, so I'm going to give them a

1. Collective Best. See Recommended Sidebar. I read all of these people all the time. For the most part, they are the "very high quality, "thoughtful" people whose coat tails I grabbed to get this honor. If you haven't read them, or haven't read them lately, do so. Now. They include some left-leaners (I don't think anyone that skews way right reads me. Ryan, other than your unfortunate gun habit, you don't qualify as right-wing.), libertarians, futurists, downright funny people, a hasbian,some contemplative, gentle people and one scientist and cat person.

Now, in no order of ranking, some people I've started to read recently and who would have soon been placed in the Recommended Sidebar:

2. Letters I Wish I'd Sent written by Bob Johnson. Bob is a Canadian living in Calgary. For the past month or so he's been running for President of the United States. Bob is smart, funny and a really good writer. He vowed yesterday to write better, but less, so you'll have to live with just his quality, if he keeps his vow which I've got a buck against as he had a post this morning.

3. Second Effort by Curmudgeon who writes from "an undisclosed location" in Chicago. Curmudgeon is a lawyer. I didn't want to include him in this list as he's gotten several other awards lately; but, you can't ignore talent. He often says he's not political or controversial; but, when he takes on a subject that is, he tends to write a post that is a mini-tour de force. He's funny too. One fatal flaw, he's a Cubs fan so he obviously has some deep seated self-loathing problem.

4. This Woman's Journey by Monica. I've just very recently started reading Monica and have been struck by her passion and the, not poetic (though she writes some poetry), but flowing nature of her posts. Cadence, not in the Sousa sense of the word, but read her and tell me if you agree.

5. Dooce by Dooce. Actually her name is Heather Armstrong. She makes a living writing her "mommy blog" about her husband and their daughter and dog. Not my typical fare; but, she is very, very good at writing. Whatever she is telling you about, she puts you there with her. Funny stuff.

Those of you elected, on the large assumption for some of you, that you actually read this, you're supposed to elect five and only five thinking bloggers of your own, with a link back to this post (continuity of network and stuff like that).

Once again Fermi, thanks, this time for telling me how to add the links in the body of the post. Now I have to figure out how to add the cool sticker.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Beer And Taxes

Since it's that time of year, I got this in an Email forward today:

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this: The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing. The fifth would pay $1. The sixth would pay $3. The seventh would pay $7. The eighth would pay $12. The ninth would pay $18. The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that's what they decided to do. The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until on day, the owner threw them a curve. "Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20." Drinks for the ten now cost just $80. The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men - the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his "fair share?"

They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from every body's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay. And so: The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings). The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings). The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28% savings). The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings). The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings). The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings. "I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man," but he got $10!" "Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than I!" "That's true!!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!" "Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up. The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Choosing Pastimes

I don’t get much immediate feedback/satisfaction from my job. I’m usually doing a bunch of things that have different endpoints. When you finish any one thing, you just move on to the next thing.

Coveting satisfaction I’ve gravitated to hobbies and recreation with short-term results. Some might think these choices are the result of a short attention span.

In high school, for a bit in college and for a couple of years, about ten years ago, I played pool. There’s great satisfaction in seeing and executing a series of shots.

I got hooked on photography for a while. See something. Compose. Decide on exposure. Shortly after, feel good that what I saw appears in the slide.

Golf which I thought of, wrongly as it turns out, as a big un-level pool table gives the same quick satisfaction, unfortunately given my skill level, less often. Think about where you want to go. Decide which club, if you hit it correctly, will take you to where you want to go. Swing. Damn, it worked. Even less often, string four (very, very seldom three) shots together on a hole, or two or three pars in a row. Life doesn’t get much better.

Posting on the blog in a way is similar. No real pressure. Write something relatively short, yep that reads pretty good. A positive comment or two and all’s right with the world.

I’m going to play pool this afternoon with a friend. I haven’t played in a year or two. Once I find my cue, I hope to experience some of the old magic.

Friday, April 13, 2007

CBS, The Goose And The Ganders

Leslie Moonves, the President and CEO of CBS Corporation said yesterday that the firing of Imus, CBS's Golden Goose, "is about a lot more than Imus." CBS had dumped Imus, he said because Imus "has flourished in a culture that permits a certain level of objectionable expression that hurts and demeans a wide range of people. In taking him off the air, I believe we take an important and necessary step not just in solving a unique problem, but in changing that culture, which extends far beyond the walls of our Company."

Though his statement carries a publication date and time of about 11:00 a.m. yesterday and GM, Sprint/Nextel, Staples, Proctor & Gamble, TD Ameritrade and Bigelow Tea had pulled their ads on CBS, resulting in the loss of millions of dollars in ad revenue, earlier in the week, I take Mr. Moonves at his word that the firing was all about getting "objectionable expression" off of the airwaves and not about money.

That being the case, I assume that CBS will be doing something soon about the formats on its Ganders, four "Urban" and "Urban Adult" radio stations it owns, two in Atlanta and two in Charlotte, that play racist, misogynistic, anti-police, anti-family, anti-education urban music.

This is a no-brainer right? If Moonves is a little slow about changes, Rev. Sharpton and Rev. Jackson will be on him right away calling the same corporations, urging them to pull their ads again, right?

When pigs learn to fly.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Why Some People Get Paid To Write

The link will take you to an opinion piece in the Kansas City paper by a black writer. He talks about the real tragedy of the Imus circus. As the title says, some of us deserve to get paid.

36 Seconds Shouldn't Bother Me, Should It? That's what Sitemeter listed for the domain that was the 2,755th person that has visited my blog at 11:55:07 a.m. this morning. Every now and then I see how many people, and generally where they're from, have hit me. As of about 6:15 p.m. today, I'd had 24 visits, including someone from getting an early start on his or her lunch hour, right?

Here's what Sitemeter had for "Detail" for the visit:

IP Address

140.185.55.# (The Pentagon)

The Pentagon

North America
United States (Facts)
38.7909, -77.0947

English (United States)en-us
Operating System

Microsoft WinXP

Internet Explorer 6.0Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1; DoD OGC; .NET CLR 1.1.4322; InfoPath.1)

version 1.3

1280 x 1024
Color Depth
32 bits
Time of Visit

Apr 12 2007 11:55:07 am
Last Page View

Apr 12 2007 11:55:43 am
Visit Length

36 seconds
Page Views

Referring URL
Search Engine
Search Words
statements obtained by torture
Visit Entry Page

Visit Exit Page

Out Click

Living Next Door To Alice
Time Zone

Visitor's Time

Apr 12 2007 11:55:07 am
Visit Number


Just some secretary surfing. They thought they'd do some light reading, so they did a Google search on "statements obtained by torture." That brought the off duty (right?) employee to my post awhile back titled "Torture: Kind Of Bad. Coercion - OK."

So, lawyer that I am, I decided to test my theory that our friend at the Pentagon was surfing during the lunch hour. I Googled "statements obtained by torture." I'm less happy. Here's me:

Rather Than Working: Torture: Kind Of Bad. Coercion: OK.
It will not use statements obtained by torture. It will use physical evidence obtained by torture. Coercion? No problem, coerce away, the statements and - 60k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

This result, unfortunately for my theory, was found midway through the tenth page of results. I guess our, now my, Pentagon friend was working when he or she clicked on my blog.

But s/he was only there for 36 seconds. Can't do much reading in that little time. How fast can you cut and paste, for later more leisurely reading? Just tried it. Quite fast, thank you.

OK, so far I've written this with a somewhat humorous intent.

Some righteous outrage: What the hell is a Pentagon employee spending time searching Google for people talking about statements obtained by torture for? I'm not a terrorist. I'm not a threat to the security of the United States. If I were, I certainly wouldn't be stupid enough to post my thoughts on Blogspot. The Pentagon has no rational reason to worry about the fact that I think its coercion, or whatever it wants to call it, is violating the Constitution.

I'm going to stop now. I haven't really thought this through and the more I think, the more pissed I'm getting.

If you go back to the detail section, you'll see that my new friend "out clicked" to thomaslb's blog, "Living Next Door To Alice" which is in my "Recommended" sidebar. If any of you in the sidebar want me to take you out of the list, let me know (the Email address is in my Profile). I think thomas and I need to start reading The Patriot Act.

One positive thing, I guess, the NSA, CIA or whomever isn't sharing Predator info or the results of their warrantless searches with the Pentagon, otherwise, my new friend wouldn't be using Google.

Enough Already

The soft news industry had an interesting convergence this week.

Cable TV "news" and radio talk shows have been obsessed with Don Imus and the Rutgers womans' basketball team. MSNBC has fired Imus. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson want him gone from CBS radio.

The Reverends Sharpton and Jackson of course have a bit of a pot and kettle problem given Tawana Brawley, Heimetown and Jackson's scholarship for the Duke University accuser, now determined to have been less than truthful, the other story this week. It's too easy to take a shot at them for their attacks on Imus.

But Snoop Dogg has weighed in on Imus' defense of himself and his statement seems to go right to the heart of the differing treatment of a Sharpton or Jackson for their past "indiscretions" than an Imus for his stupidity. When asked why it's OK for him to use the 'ho word, Snoop said:

"'It's a completely different scenario,' Snoop told VH-1. " "'[Rappers] are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports. We're talking about hos that's in the 'hood that ain't doing sh--, that's trying to get a n---a for his money. These are two separate things. First of all, we ain't no old-ass white men that sit up on MSNBC going hard on black girls. We are rappers that have these songs coming from our minds and our souls that are relevant to what we feel.'"

We have a double standard for judging stupid remarks by "old-ass white men" and professional race-baiters in this country. Reverends and rappers are allowed to make a living dividing the races. A long-in-the-tooth former disc jockey that needs a haircut, suffers the same fate as the stupid white guys that came before him: Fuzzy Zoeller's fried chicken comment about Tiger Woods lost him a Kmart sponsorship, George "Macaca" Allen lost a Senate seat, Jimmy the Greek saying black men are bred to be better athletes got fired by, I think, CBS. The list is longer.

All of our candidates for President are weighing in on the controversy. Obama wants CBS to fire Imus. Clinton characterized Imus as going "way over the line." Pandering to a different base, Guliani and McCain criticized Imus but were willing to forgive. None of the candidates has criticized Sharpton or Jackson since charges have been dropped against the lacrosse players. Jackson even managed some innuendo in his comment about the dismissal: "I hope that all involved will be safe and will outlive their scars. It came to a rather dramatic and mysterious close. We can hope that the young people involved will not be permanently scarred and damaged."

I've only heard Imus a couple of times over the years. Didn't like him. I've heard Sharpton and Jackson for too long. All of them, plus Snoop should shut up. The Country needs to get back to what's important: why hasn't the kid with the hair gotten voted off of American Idol? I know it's a big story because NPR did a segment on it this morning.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Did Pacman Get Justice?

One of the papers I read in the past day or so had a bunch of pictures of NFL players who have had recent run-ins with the law.

This morning’s USA TODAY reports that the Tennessee Titan’s, Adam “Pacman” Jones, “facing felony charges in two states” has been suspended for the ’07 – ’08 season. The Cincinnati Bengals’ Chris Henry,” arrested four times in three states since 2005,” has been suspended for half of the upcoming season.

The owner of the New England Patriots said “I hope this sends a message to people in our league for how to conduct themselves. We have to be careful. People in America can’t relate to overindulged athletes not acting responsibly.” His statement nicely juxtaposes the two competing issues – punishment for crime by the government and protection of profit by professional sports leagues.

Neither player has been tried or convicted on any of the charges. Roger Goodall, the NFL’s commissioner, invoked the league’s “conduct detrimental to the game” power. Warren Sapp, an Oakland player, reacted “Oh, that ‘we can do whatever we want’ rule.”

I’m waffling on which side to take in this. The lawyer in me wants to read the NFL’s player agreement “conduct detrimental” clause. My inner lawyer also understands the New England owner’s “send a message” stance. He doesn’t want anything happening to slow down the money train. I shake my head and roll my eyes somewhat at both Sapp’s naiveté (you signed the contract didn’t you Warren?) and the owner’s disingenuous labeling of the players as “over-indulged” (who does he think was the supplier of the excess indulging?).

I’ve read a lot lately about the “thuggery” problem in professional sports. Most sports writers and cable “news” show hosts are middle-aged white guys. They are put off, to put it mildly, and alienated, to put it strongly, by 20 year old millionaires who sport dredlocks, tattoos and assorted “bling.” The pundits’ audience, mostly middle-aged white guys, and the writers’ audience, guys, from twenty to fifty something, also react negatively to the “thugs” due to a varying combination of generation, culture and wealth differences. To some extent, for some of the audience, substitute race for the word culture in the last sentence.

So, the title to this post is misleading. Justice has nothing to do with the issue. Pacman will receive justice down the road when he goes to court. Right now, the issue is what does professional sports do with its spoiled kids. For decades it did nothing. As with “performance enhancing” drugs, it has done nothing until seeing an issue with potential negative impact on revenue. From the leagues’ points of view the problem is framed by money. “What do we have to do to keep these kids out of the media?” First, publicly wap a couple. Pacman would have made $1.29 million this season. Henry is going to be out $435K. Sorry guys, but you are the medium for the message to your fellow delinquents. Next, set up some counseling and support programs for the rookies according to the article. After that? Once a year hold a meeting where police tell the players they can go to jail for doing the things they do (part of the NFL’s newly announced thuggery policy).

My conclusion: Corporate America makes a poor, and late to the party, parent. Society needs to wap some parents upside the head. then set up some real counseling anf support programs for them to make up for what their parents, the thugs’ grandparents didn’t do for them.

Monday, April 09, 2007

"Judge Gone Wild"

I am happy to report that Bellsouth/Cingular/SBC/AT&T wireless internet is quite fast in the DFW Holiday Inn.

Other than overcast skies and a ten degree drop in temperature, Hotel Row at DFW looks remarkably like Hotel Row at ATL or in any other big city. I've always liked the Dallas skyline but I won't see it this trip as my meetings are in Bedford, next door to the airport.

I'm watching Fox News, Greta Van Susteren. She doesn't apparently do a lot of preparation for her interviews. She interviewed Joe Francis, the man behind the Girls Gone Wild videos. Joe is on his way to Florida to turn himself into U.S. Marshals pursuant to a U.S. District Court warrant.

Joe got into a bit of trouble when seven under-aged girls sued him when their escapades were included in one of his videos.

Greta and Joe just couldn't get over that he was being sent to jail in connection with a civil case. Here's a hint for Greta next time she gets perplexed by a legal question: Google. The query "girls gone wild jail" brought up an ABC News story from last Thursday that explained that Joe had been found in contempt for failing to appear at an emergency hearing about his reneging on a settlement reached during a mediation. Most judges, especially federal judges, don't look kindly on that sort of behavior.

Greta was also perplexed when Joe said the Judge was putting him jail until he agreed to pay the plaintiffs more money. A bit of web surfing uncovered that the Judge has ordered Joe to pay the plaintiffs' lawyers' fees in connection with the hearing he didn't attend.

I guess Greta's to be forgiven as I'm sure she's distracted because there's a hearing tomorrow where Anna Nicole Smith's baby's DNA results will be announced. That was the lead story on the show, her head was probably still wrapped up in all of that.

Oh, the title of this post. Joe Francis had a good line in another interview about his take on the Judge in his case. He called him a "judge gone wild."

Sunday, April 08, 2007

"Alton, well I'll just wait till after the tasting."

Two readers commented that they wanted to know what I was going to say to or about Alton Brown at the end of a post yesterday about him and coffee.

The actual plan was to do a paragraph or two in yesterday’s post berating Alton for suckering me into going to a store called Cool Beans where I suckered myself into spending a lot of money, as it turns out, unnecessarily. But the post was long enough as it was, so I quit while I was ahead.

(For those that didn’t read the comments to the coffee post, Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, at $39.00 a pound, is, well, pricey. Good coffee, but too mild for my taste.)

That was pretty much it.

Now that I’ve explained that, I suppose I could critique Good Eats.

Before that I suppose I should do some prologue, as is usual:

"Prior to his cooking career, Brown received a degree in
drama from the University of Georgia. He then worked in cinematography and film production. In that field, he is probably best known for his work as the director of photography for the R.E.M. music video "The One I Love." He also worked as a steadicam operator on the Spike Lee film School Daze."

Courtesy of Wikipedia.

I like the show, but less than I did a few years back. The show’s main hook is a geeky, scientific approach to cooking. I didn’t see as many molecule models in high school as I see on the show. It gets a little old.

The other theme is gadgets, lots and lots of gadgets. According to Alton, the only “unitasker” in a kitchen should be the fire extinguisher. He doesn’t really believe that, as evidenced by the probably twenty or so pots and pans that hang over the stove and the admittedly kind of cool “pushpop” measuring thing he uses to measure and plop:


Mayo. Molasses. Shortening. Peanut butter. Honey. Cooking with the really sticky stuff? – that’s when The Plunger becomes The Hero. Pile in the gooey ingredients to the perfect measure (cups, ounces, tablespoons, metric, whatever), and then squoosh out every last particle into your bowl by pushing on the base – no waste. The big guy is a 2-cupper, with Junior sidekick weighing in at 1 cup. Shipped as a two-item set, Plunger and Plunger Jr."

Senior and Junior are $13.88 for both. I didn’t look for S&H.

I do have the exact same colander he uses on the show.

And I want an electronic scale though I have no use for it.

I also want a “Pasta Express” shown on a late night infomercial. This handy item looks like a coffee press, it just costs more. You boil some water and pour it in and, magically it seems, in just about the same time pasta cooks in a pot, you have pasta cooked in the Pasta Express. After all “The Pasta Express features thermal conductivity, which allows the pasta to get thoroughly cooked while inside;” and that’s a direct quote from the website. When I saw the infomercial, I swear, my body contained no artificial substances, illegal substances or any combination of hops, malt, barley or yeast. I know this has nothing to do with Mr. Brown; but, like the scale and two plunger set, it is something that I want, but won’t buy.

For today, here’s my order of purchases, first a coffee conical burr grinder (yeah, I know I didn't talk about it, but I want one), then an electronic scale, only then the Express.

So, to sum up this review of Good Eats, I still watch it. That’s more than I can say for Emeril or Rachael Ray, without even mentioning Iron Chef, America.

An Easter Homily

From the Sermon On the Mount:

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

The Gospel According to Matthew.

The Beatitudes provide a philosophical basis for an Augustinian view of Christianity that I’m not comfortable with. “Don’t worry about your suffering now, you’ll get yours later on in Heaven.” I know that isn’t all to be learned from them, or even an accurate interpretation; but, that “lesson” is often all that is taken from them. This attitude gives license to the powerful and creates acquiescence in the masses. Coupled with the “render unto Caesar” rule, people get the idea that they are stuck with government that is anything but godly.

My libertarian mindset and conservative fiscal viewpoint are having a hard time accommodating these socially liberal sentiments because to change, money and regulation would have to be applied.

Well, the Sunday morning Homily is supposed to make you think. I’m thinking, I’m just not done yet.

(Impetus for this post provided by posts this morning by Lifehiker, Hedy and Becky (Girl In...). See Sidebar.)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Alton Brown And A Pound Of Coffee

Before we get to AB, as he’s known, and the caffeine, some prologue is in order.

I really like coffee. Don’t tell me that McDonald’s makes good coffee. Don’t tell me that any diner, restaurant, fine or basic, makes good coffee.

I drank drek for years. Taste, OK, caffeine, oh yes.

When I was a partner at a pretty fancy law firm, one of the best things about my office was that it was about twenty feet from the kitchen. Yes, a kitchen. Not a break room. Not only did we have a real live kitchen; but, next door, off the lobby we had a wet bar that opened on to the lobby for events. Without talking about leather, mahogany, oak and artwork, you have an idea of why lawyers cost so much. (So as to differentiate, King & Spalding, a white stocking firm here in town, lives next door to a Ritz Carlton hotel downtown. Its lawyers can place an order from the kitchen of the hotel for lunch.)

So, back then I drank drek. It was close, and it was an excuse not to continue doing what I was being paid to do. As coffee goes, it wasn’t bad, every bit the equal of a restaurant.

One day, the office manager bought or rented an amazing machine to replace the coffee station. You picked your own flavor of coffee from a rack. The coffee was in a little plastic “shot cup” which you put into a hole in the machine. The machine punched a hole in the top and bottom and shot hot water though it and into your cup. Not yet real live coffee, but very close.

I lived in Miami for most of the Eighties. Café Cubano. While in law school, I was a clerk (intern) at a small law firm downtown. As the newbie, one of my duties when getting off the train was to stop and get the stuff. Every block in downtown Miami has a storefront that sells it. All you have to do is hold up a finger and say “uno.” A real barista would do things with the machine and give you a Styrofoam cup that had espresso, sugar and infused milk in it, Café Cubano. With it you got a few plastic shot cups. Warning, unless your Mothers Milk came with sugar and caffeine, a little shot cup is all the caffeine you need for a four or five hour period. Drugs have their attractions, but they aren’t the equal of this wonderful way to start the day.

Big Tony, who I’ve mentioned in a previous post, is Cuban. Tony introduced me to homemade espresso. Not at all hard to do despite what you see on TV and see at Starbucks or Caribou. All it takes is a little pot metal thingy that has a water reservoir at the bottom and a tube running up from it to bubble over the grind above it. A baby percolator. Add some sugar and hot milk, or skip the milk, and you have a kick ass shot or two of espresso. One more very important element, use Bustelo coffee. It makes a big difference.

We aren’t to Alton Brown yet, nor to the pound of coffee. Patience.

When I left the fancy law firm, one of my vows was to cut down on the eight or ten cups of coffee that I drank each day. One of the few vows I’ve kept in my life. Here’s how I did it. There is no mechanism for making coffee in my office. But, modern existence does require a caffeine infusion shortly after waking up. Mine comes, don’t boo or hiss, by way of QuikTrip, a convenience store/gas station chain in the Southeast. A big cup of Columbian or French blend is about a dollar and it is as close to real coffee as you are going to get short of paying way too much at Starbucks or Caribou.

We are getting close to AB and the pound.

On the weekend, starting the day requires a paper, not online, newspaper and coffee. I used to supply the latter part with a Mr. Coffee; but, a few years back, I bought a coffee press and started buying real live coffee beans. What I buy varies. Colombian. French Roast. Mostly though, Millstone or Starbucks. Good but still not what should be.

OK. Here we start with Mr. Brown and the pound of coffee.

I TiVo Good Eats, Alton’s show on the Food Network. This last week he did a show on espresso. I won’t go into the whole thing; but, he, if you didn’t know, lives and films in Atlanta. He did a segment in the espresso show about buying the right beans at a place called Cool Beans in Marietta.

This morning, after reading the paper and drinking some Colombian coffee, I decided to check out Cool Beans. (Fermi, it’s just off the Square in Marietta.) Cool Beans is a smaller, funkier and better Starbucks or Caribou. It has about 25 or 30 types of beans for sale. I perused. Some were the typical Colombian, French Roast, Kona. I saw “Jamaican Blue Mountain.” I’d heard of Jamaican and Blue Mountain and decided to get a pound. The barista weighed it out as I pulled out a credit card. “That will be $39.00.”

I am not poor or a cheapskate; but, I’m not a spendthrift. I had in my subconscious head a number in the high teens. Think about this with me.

I couldn’t just say never mind. Some manly thing I guess. So I had this very nice blue bag of coffee that had hand written on it “Jam. Bl. Mtn.”

I came across Tony this afternoon and told him about my purchase. He suggested that the price might include a “happy ending.” My thought was that it had an ounce of grass nestled in the middle. We both agreed that it better be pretty good tomorrow morning.

Alton, well I’ll just wait till after the tasting.


I just finished listening to a montage of the songs from the Wizard of OZ on WABE, 90.1, in Atlanta. At moments, I was happy; but, I was left with annoyance. A bar, two or three of a song, and then a change, when I wanted to hear more. WABE calls the show "Light Classics."

My critical response, light or not, finish what you start.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Happy Easter

The picture shows last year's participants in a little known Augusta National tradition - the Easter Egg Hunt. As you can see, most of the participants are waiting for the signal to converge on the lighter green grass area (otherwise known as the 16th Green) where the eggs are placed. HAPPY EASTER!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Most Beautiful Place On Earth

Well, probably not, unless you play golf or love the game:

The link will take you to the main page of the Masters Tournament website. There you will see a live shot of Amen Corner, the 11th, 12th and 13th holes at Augusta National.

This time of year I wish that I were a ridiculously rich old guy (the noveau riche and any kind of woman need not apply) so that I could be a member, wear a green jacket and wander around this place. I wouldn't wear one of the floppy hats they favor though, they make me look too much like Gilligan.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Newly Recommended

I've been reading a blog for the past month or so, Letters I Wish I'd Written, by a Canadian who announced today that he is running for President of the United States. The campaign has legs given his stance on the Karmulastan issue.

See the Recommended sidebar. Check him out, some good stuff.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


RTWNews Service, in its short history, now several hours, has prided itself in its fair, balanced, accurate and complete reporting. Given this brief history, it has not had the chance to be accused of being unfair or unbalanced; but, RTW is deeply chagrined by charges, yes substantiated charges, that it has not been accurate and complete in its reporting.

RTW, like it parent company,, has readers that don’t post comments. RTW, in a past life, met some of these readers, and they continue to be acquaintances (given the necessity of objectivity, RTW cannot admit to friendship). These readers, by way of phone calls, and even in person, provide comments on RTW’s reporting efforts (eg. “Dude, you are way off on that one.).

Two readers, shortly after the publication of “On Pace,” set out below, with only brief thought, pointed out several problems with the article (yes, it’s an article, not just a lowly post, given RTW’s aspirations).

RTW is not authorized to divulge its readers’ exact identities; but, given the non-response of one and the “whatever” look of the other, it feels justified in identifying them as “Big Rick” and “Big Tony.”

Big Rick said, “Dude, Damon didn’t get traded, he was a free agent. Blah, blah, blah.” It turns out that BR is correct. Mr. Damon did indeed sign with the Yankees sans the predicate step of having been traded for Mr. Coco Crisp. It further turns out, that at a very contemporaneous time Mr. Crisp, who played not for the Yankees, but rather the Indians, was traded to the Red Sox in, and we stress “a multi-player deal,” exactly, almost, as reported by RTW.

Big Rick, in a fit of pique, went on to complain that RTW’s reporter was way too involved in this Internet thing and provided evidence for his conclusion – said reporter is way behind on his reading (which he trades with Big Rick) – hence, Big Rick finds himself lacking reading material more often than he would like, and to make matters worse, finds himself annoyed that all those books he has lent RTW’s reporter are just sitting on the floor, unread, next to the reporter’s couch. RTW intends to discuss this matter with its reporter.

Big Tony, who seldom reads RTW as it tends to stray past the one page limit of his patience, pointed out the same inaccuracy in the article and went on to note that RTW missed reporting a number of very important aspects of Renteria’s (remember him?) “on pace” start this year. Renteria is on pace to hit 486 RBI’s as well as tie, and subsequently win, 162 games by way of a homer. RTW upon reflection, feels these are important omissions on its part and vows to work harder in the future.

RTW has issued a written warning to its reporter, placing it in his permanent file. Its reporter again tried to reach Mr. Crisp for comment. Mr. Crisp is MIA, at least according to the reporter, and unavailable for comment.

On Pace

Atlanta, GA. RTWNews Service.

Atlanta Braves shortstop, Edgar Renteria, 6'1', 172 lbs., having hit two home runs in yesterday's opening day win over Philadelphia, is on pace to hit 362 dingers for the year, which would break the current record held by some guy who allegedly took performance enhancing drugs. The svelte infielder hit fourteen round trippers last season. His agent has said nothing about the obvious financial implications of this pace on Renteria's prospects going into his option year in 2009.

Boston Red Sox officials, who traded Renteria following the 2005 season to free up salary to sign the hard-hitting Johnny Damon, offered no comment on their outcast's amazing start. Damon, who was then traded to the Yankees (as part of a multiplayer deal including someone named Coco Crisp), only hit 24 home runs in the 2006 season and went 0 for 2 in New York's opener, said something about letting his hair grow to kick-start his lackluster start to this year's campaign.

Mr. Crisp, despite a diligent search of several grocery store cereal aisles, could not be reached for comment.

Copyright 2007, Ratherthanworking News Service.

Monday, April 02, 2007

"The President Would Be A Fool...."

Here's a blatantly copied post by thomaslb at Living Next Door To Alice (see Recommended sidebar). He's absolutely right; but, given that Bush is incapable of acting in a politically astute manner, Bush will ignore his advice.

"If you want to read for yourself the text of H.R. 1591, the bill that would tie emergency war funding to a phased troop withdrawal redeployment, you can find it HERE .It's amazing how non-specific it is. It gives the president $200 million dollars to give to Pakistan, Jordan, and anybody else he wants to. He has to report to congress who he gave it to, but other than that there are almost no strings attached. They just trust him to spend it responsibly.Here's the bit about troop redeployment:

(2) COMMENCEMENT OF PHASED REDEPLOYMENT FROM IRAQ- The President shall commence the phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, with the goal of redeploying, by March 31, 2008, all United States combat forces from Iraq except for a limited number that are essential for the following purposes: (A) Protecting United States and coalition personnel and infrastructure. (B) Training and equipping Iraqi forces. (C) Conducting targeted counter-terrorism operations.

That gives Bush an awful lot of leeway. He could make the argument that "protecting infrastructure" is what they're doing already. It sounds to me like we're still going to kill anybody we want, and we're still going to have our hands on the oil spigots, and the puppet Iraqi government must still dance when we pull the stings. The president would be a fool to veto this. It gives him everything he wants. Again."

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Value Of A Public Forum

This will be the third post in a row on the same thing, but probably the last.

In reading the comments to my first post on David Hicks, I got to thinking that beyond the basic problems the “trial” presents with coercion, torture, due process and the like, the biggest damage the process is doing is reducing confidence in the justice system.

Ron Davison at talks about the necessity for transparency in government. The need is especially great in the courtroom. Just where does that word, court come from? “Court is an English word known since 1175, from Old French curt, from Latin cohors (‘enclosed yard,’ and by extension, perhaps associated with
curia ‘sovereign's assembly’, those assembled in the yard; company, cohort, from com- ‘together’ + stem hort- related to hortus ‘garden, plot of ground’.” Wikipedia. Courts are places where people gather, places for public discourse, pronouncements, government communication with citizens. When people are brought before the court, it is by nature a public process. As it evolved, a person was thought be entitled to due process in public. The king’s soldiers could come get you in the dead of night, but the king had to present his case against you in daylight in front of your peers. The transparent process created a public acceptance that the process, and the result, was fair.

Now the Hicks case, in and of itself, is neither a testament to or a cause for damnation of plea bargaining. Plea bargaining is a reality in any justice system. But, the Guantanamo process under which Hicks was tried is a perfect example of how not to administer justice so as to maintain confidence in the justice system. No one but the participants know who did what to whom.

Did the government torture or coerce Hicks? We don’t and probably won’t know because the issue could not be brought up in his defense. Is Hicks a depraved terrorist that the government somehow just slapped on the wrist? The process, or lack of process will never let us answer that question with any degree of certainty. The list of questions that will not be answered because of the non-public forum is long.

In a society that chooses its leaders, it is essential that the governed be able to make informed decisions about those leaders’ conduct. We have public meetings, records and courtrooms. When leaders act to raise a curtain in front of citizens, there is to my mind a rebuttable presumption that they are up to no good. Add the amazingly light sentence Hicks got to the presumption and I am left with conclusion that the government has something to hid. I have less trust, make that almost no trust, in the government. That isn’t a good thing.

The king in Guantanamo is picking up people in the dead of night, keeping them, and us in the dark, and emerging into the “light,” announcing that justice has been served – we just aren’t going to talk about it. Most of us aren’t overly concerned with Hicks or his fellow detainees. Maybe it’s overly dramatic, but I remember the old poster:

First they came for the
Socialists, and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Socialist.
Then they came for the
Trade Unionists, and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the
Jews, and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me, and there was no one left
to speak up for me.

Publicity and due process do their parts to ensure that you and I aren’t left alone in the middle of the night to face the king’s soldiers.

Intelligent Search? Not Yet. is an interesting hour and a quarter video on AI and search.

Worst - An Update

One of David Hicks' lawyers is quoted by The New York Times online regarding his client. “He says that if he is the worst of the worst, and the person who should be put before a military commission first, then the world really hasn’t got much to worry about.”