Friday, June 30, 2006

Apple PVR on the way?

We'll see...


Who's on first in Gitmo?

Stephen Colbert asks himself the tough questions.


Thursday, June 29, 2006

The real-life Jerri Blank

A 50-year-old Florrie made a name for herself in the early '70s by traveling to high schools and pretty much assaulting assembled students with her tales of 25 years of hard living on the street as a drug addict and whore. Basically, she ranted and raved (and chain smoked) at them, telling her serpentine and labrynthine hard-luck story using any old thing that popped into her head, with the goal of disuading them from ever trying "stuff" (or maybe her whole point was to rope teens into the cultish Synanon program she spoke so highly of -- the jury's still out on her true aim). Regardless, all of this was captured in the 1970 PSA/scare film The Trip Back, which nearly shared a title with her memoir The Lonely Trip Back. It was all so manic, nonsensical and hilarious that it formed the basis of Strangers With Candy -- central character Jerri Blank was also a (semi-) reformed drug addict and hooker who found herself back in high school (though not addressing the students, but as one). But I'd say that Florrie's 27-minute tour de force has provided at least as much entertainment as Strangers With Candy's 30-episode run. And since the pretty great Strangers With Candy movie hits select theaters this week, I figure it's time I gave Florrie her due.


How long 'til the shut down the courts?

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that
President Bush overstepped his authority in ordering military war crimes trials for Guantanamo Bay detainees, saying in a strong rebuke that the trials were illegal under U.S. and international law.


Scamming the scammers

Wild story about scamming a Nigerian scammer.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

More reasonable band names.

"Earth, Wind & Warmness"
"The Danged"
"They Are Not Giants"
"Somewhat Mischevious by Nature"

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Ask This

What is the deal with "signing statements?" The story seems to have disappeared, but the questions about their meaning, much less their legality remain.


Monday, June 26, 2006

San Francisco magazine reviews Bar Tartine

Yay for T!

In its early months, Bar Tartine generated quite a bit of buzz. Too much for its own good. The kitchen and the staff were overwhelmed, and the rhythms and the flavors of the restaurant were off. Prueitt and Robertson have since hired a new chef—Tracy McGillis, most recently of Incanto—and addressed the sloppiness of the service. The result is a restaurant that functions more smoothly than it once did, with food that strives for less but offers more.


So freakin' FUNKY!

Where will we get our Omega-3 acids?

Stein believes that when the cells which are partly responsible for visual perception - the magnocellular neurones - are deficient in omega-3s, they don't form as many connections with other cells, and don't pass on information as efficiently. Their impaired development explains, for example, why many dyslexic children find that letters appear to jump around on the page.

So at first sight the government's investigation into the idea of giving fish oil capsules to schoolchildren seems sensible. The food standards agency is conducting a review of the effects of omega-3s on childrens' behaviour and performance in school. Alan Johnson, the secretary of state for education, is taking an interest. Given the accumulating weight of evidence, it would surprising if he does not decide to go ahead. Already, companies such as St Ivel and Marks and Spencer are selling foods laced with omega-3s.

There is only one problem: there are not enough fish. In March an article in the British Medical Journal observed that "we are faced with a paradox. Health recommendations advise increased consumption of oily fish and fish oils within limits, on the grounds that intake is generally low. However ... we probably do not have a sustainable supply of long chain omega 3 fats." Our brain food is disappearing.


Thursday, June 22, 2006

A prototype of a 3D desktop based on "piles"

I'm not sure if the metaphor is powerful enough to warrant this sort of virtualization, but it's a great demo.


Friday, June 16, 2006

Mark Crispin Miller writes to Salon

[The combination of authoritarians and theocrats] is a terrifying development -- although not insurmountable, unless we let ourselves be blinded and/or paralyzed by fear. Since the last Election Day, that terror has silenced nearly every sector of what ought to be the opposition, including most top Democrats, the press, a lot of principled conservatives -- and outlets like Salon. In his dogged effort to explain away the massive evidence of fraud by the Republicans, Manjoo has based his case not on the facts but, finally, on denial -- as he himself made very clear in his review of Fooled Again. "If you want to improve how Americans vote, here's one piece of advice," he wrote:

Don't alienate half the country by arguing, as Miller does here, that the president and his followers -- whom Miller labels "Busheviks" -- think of their political enemies as "subhuman beings" and believe they must "slaughter" their opponents in the same way that religious fanatics slaughter their holy foes. Even if you believe this to be true, and even if it is in fact true, shut up about it; this sort of unhinged rhetoric can't help, and can only hurt, our capacity to solve the problem of voting in America [emphasis added].

That an American reporter would make such a statement, and that any liberal magazine would publish it, suggests how thoroughly we have repressed all memory of what America was once supposed to mean. "Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day," wrote Thomas Jefferson in 1816, in a spirit of scientific progress and republican self-liberation. "Even if it's true, shut up about it," Farhad Manjoo wrote in 2005, in the spirit of Bill O'Reilly. Luckily, Manjoo was not a major player when the colonies were trying to get their act together, or we'd all be subjects of the House of Windsor.


Three out of ten ain't bad...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Comcast adds ESPN2 HD for the World Cup!

Channel 724 or 725 in the Bay Area! Mine's a bit weird right now (724 doesn't work, and 725 doesn't have any guide info), but I'm hopeful.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006


I heard this on the radio this morning, and thought it was a nice bit of repartee. Turns out it's just Dubya being his usual idiot self.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Borat is coming!

Trailer here:


How hard is it to cancel AOL?

Too hard.


Thursday, June 01, 2006

RFK Jr. looks at the 2004 election

Yeah yeah. I know you're thinking that this is old news, but the problem is that for most people, this was NOT news. Here are some tidbits that got my teeth clenching:
After carefully examining the evidence, I've become convinced that the president's party mounted a massive, coordinated campaign to subvert the will of the people in 2004. Across the country, Republican election officials and party stalwarts employed a wide range of illegal and unethical tactics to fix the election. A review of the available data reveals that in Ohio alone, at least 357,000 voters, the overwhelming majority of them Democratic, were prevented from casting ballots or did not have their votes counted in 2004 -- more than enough to shift the results of an election decided by 118,601 votes. (See Ohio's Missing Votes) In what may be the single most astounding fact from the election, one in every four Ohio citizens who registered to vote in 2004 showed up at the polls only to discover that they were not listed on the rolls, thanks to GOP efforts to stem the unprecedented flood of Democrats eager to cast ballots. And that doesn't even take into account the troubling evidence of outright fraud, which indicates that upwards of 80,000 votes for Kerry were counted instead for Bush. That alone is a swing of more than 160,000 votes -- enough to have put John Kerry in the White House.

Over the past decades, exit polling has evolved into an exact science. Indeed, among pollsters and statisticians, such surveys are thought to be the most reliable. Unlike pre-election polls, in which voters are asked to predict their own behavior at some point in the future, exit polls ask voters leaving the voting booth to report an action they just executed. The results are exquisitely accurate: Exit polls in Germany, for example, have never missed the mark by more than three-tenths of one percent. "Exit polls are almost never wrong," Dick Morris, a political consultant who has worked for both Republicans and Democrats, noted after the 2004 vote. Such surveys are "so reliable," he added, ''that they are used as guides to the relative honesty of elections in Third World countries.'' In 2003, vote tampering revealed by exit polling in the Republic of Georgia forced Eduard Shevardnadze to step down. And in November 2004, exit polling in the Ukraine -- paid for by the Bush administration -- exposed election fraud that denied Viktor Yushchenko the presidency.

But that same month, when exit polls revealed disturbing disparities in the U.S. election, the six media organizations that had commissioned the survey treated its very existence as an embarrassment. Instead of treating the discrepancies as a story meriting investigation, the networks scrubbed the offending results from their Web sites and substituted them with "corrected" numbers that had been weighted, retroactively, to match the official vote count. Rather than finding fault with the election results, the mainstream media preferred to dismiss the polls as flawed.

To stem the tide of new registrations, the Republican National Committee and the Ohio Republican Party attempted to knock tens of thousands of predominantly minority and urban voters off the rolls through illegal mailings known in electioneering jargon as "caging." During the Eighties, after the GOP used such mailings to disenfranchise nearly 76,000 black voters in New Jersey and Louisiana, it was forced to sign two separate court orders agreeing to abstain from caging. But during the summer of 2004, the GOP targeted minority voters in Ohio by zip code, sending registered letters to more than 200,000 newly registered voters in sixty-five counties. On October 22nd, a mere eleven days before the election, Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett -- who also chairs the board of elections in Cuyahoga County -- sought to invalidate the registrations of 35,427 voters who had refused to sign for the letters or whose mail came back as undeliverable. Almost half of the challenged voters were from Democratic strongholds in and around Cleveland.

There were plenty of valid reasons that voters had failed to respond to the mailings: The list included people who couldn't sign for the letters because they were serving in the U.S. military, college students whose school and home addresses differed, and more than 1,000 homeless people who had no permanent mailing address. But the undeliverable mail, Bennett claimed, proved the new registrations were fraudulent.

By law, each voter was supposed to receive a hearing before being stricken from the rolls. Instead, in the week before the election, kangaroo courts were rapidly set up across the state at Blackwell's direction that would inevitably disenfranchise thousands of voters at a time -- a process that one Democratic election official in Toledo likened to an "inquisition." Not that anyone was given a chance to actually show up and defend their right to vote: Notices to challenged voters were not only sent out impossibly late in the process, they were mailed to the very addresses that the Republicans contended were faulty. Adding to the atmosphere of intimidation, sheriff's detectives in Sandusky County were dispatched to the homes of challenged voters to investigate the GOP's claims of fraud.

Despite the widespread problems, Blackwell authorized only one investigation of registration errors after the election -- in Toledo -- but the report by his own inspectors offers a disturbing snapshot of the malfeasance and incompetence that plagued the entire state. The top elections official in Toledo was a partisan in the Blackwell mold: Bernadette Noe, who chaired both the county board of elections and the county Republican Party. The GOP post was previously held by her husband, Tom Noe, who currently faces felony charges for embezzling state funds and illegally laundering $45,400 of his own money through intermediaries to the Bush campaign.

State inspectors who investigated the elections operation in Toledo discovered "areas of grave concern." With less than a month to go before the election, Bernadette Noe and her board had yet to process 20,000 voter registration cards. Board officials arbitrarily decided that mail-in cards (mostly from the Republican suburbs) would be processed first, while registrations dropped off at the board's office (the fruit of intensive Democratic registration drives in the city) would be processed last. When a grass-roots group called Project Vote delivered a batch of nearly 10,000 cards just before the October 4th deadline, an elections official casually remarked, "We may not get to them." The same official then instructed employees to date-stamp an entire box containing thousands of forms, rather than marking each individual card, as required by law. When the box was opened, officials had no way of confirming that the forms were filed prior to the deadline -- an error, state inspectors concluded, that could have disenfranchised "several thousand" voters from Democratic strongholds.

The most troubling incident uncovered by the investigation was Noe's decision to allow Republican partisans behind the counter in the board of elections office to make photocopies of postcards sent to confirm voter registrations -- records that could have been used in the GOP's caging efforts. On their second day in the office, the operatives were caught by an elections official tampering with the documents. Investigators slammed the elections board for "a series of egregious blunders" that caused "the destruction, mutilation and damage of public records."

On Election Day, Noe sent a team of Republican volunteers to the county warehouse where blank ballots were kept out in the open, "with no security measures in place." The state's assistant director of elections, who just happened to be observing the ballot distribution, demanded they leave. The GOP operatives refused and ultimately had to be turned away by police.

In April 2005, Noe and the entire Board of Elections were forced to resign. But once again, the damage was done. At a "Victory 2004" rally held in Toledo four days before the election, President Bush himself singled out a pair of "grass-roots" activists for special praise: "I want to thank my friends Bernadette Noe and Tom Noe for their leadership in Lucas County."

By midmorning, when it became clear that voters were dropping out of line rather than braving the wait, precincts appealed for the right to distribute paper ballots to speed the process. Blackwell denied the request, saying it was an invitation to fraud. A lawsuit ensued, and the handwritten affidavits submitted by voters and election officials offer a heart-rending snapshot of an electoral catastrophe in the offing:

From Columbus Precinct 44D:
"There are three voting machines at this precinct. I have been informed that in prior elections there were normally four voting machines. At 1:45 p.m. there are approximately eighty-five voters in line. At this time, the line to vote is approximately three hours long. This precinct is largely African-American. I have personally witnessed voters leaving the polling place without voting due to the length of the line."

From Precinct 40:
"I am serving as a presiding judge, a position I have held for some 15+ years in precinct 40. In all my years of service, the lines are by far the longest I have seen, with some waiting as long as four to five hours. I expect the situation to only worsen as the early evening heavy turnout approaches. I have requested additional machines since 6:40 a.m. and no assistance has been offered."

Precinct 65H:
"I observed a broken voting machine that was not in use for approximately two hours. The precinct judge was very diligent but could not get through to the BOE."

Precinct 18A:
"At 4 p.m. the average wait time is about 4.5 hours and continuing to increase?. Voters are continuing to leave without voting."

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