Sep 05

Time Out

Meditations on Punishment

So I’m sitting here drumming my fingers waiting for dK (undergoing a little maintenance right now), taking a little time out- an experience I have once likened to Azkaban (I’d be happy to link you, but I can’t do that Dave) and I’ve been thinking about punishment.

It’s really horrible not to be able to chat with your friends.

That is in fact one of the reasons I’m most excited about this new project.  It’s not that I don’t love all y’all, but the concept of exchanging ideas with pyrrho and Armando again has me all tingly.

One thing I’ve noticed in the past is how quick Admins are to go for that ultimate weapon- banishment.  It’s is quick out of the holster and solves lots of problems.


Takes away all your character ever had or ever will.

But it’s just a character folks.  Insubstantial photons floating to your eyes, hypnotizing in their dance.  It is no more real than a d20.  Surprising some folks obsession with the game.

I’d like to propose a new paradigm.

As my examination of the controls confirms, there are any number of ways an Admin can make your life miserable.  I’m not here to argue about what sort of punishment fits the crime but about entirely new terminology-


Misbehavior results in suspension of privileges, up to and including suspension of all ability to interact permanently- banishment.

But there is a whole range of lesser punishments for lesser offenses and the metaphor I have in mind is the ‘Time Out’.

Getting to into it with someone?  You’re both very naughty and need some time to think about how to work and play well with others.

Now Armando or pyrrho might argue that it’s too much cucumber fucking sandwiches and tea and there are implementation problems about what punishment fits to be sure. And I’ve always been in favor of a good spanking which might lead people to consider me strict.

In plain language I’m proposing that punishments be time limited at first and permanent only after persistent assholery.

But I’m not the boss and it’s just an argument.

Sep 05

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Sep 05

Quote for Discussion

So, some of you may know that every once in a while, I throw up a diary on Daily Kos called “Quotes for Discussion”.  Sometimes the quote is from a play or a book, sometimes it is from the news or from history, and sometimes it is just the lyrics to a song or a bit from a comedian.

Anyways, I was thinking of doing it more regularly as a feature here.  But does anyone at all besides me have an interest in that?

For your pleasure, here’s the lyrics to my song of the week, “Naomi” by the great Neutral Milk Hotel:

Your prettiness is seeping through
Out from the dress I took from you, so pretty
And my emptiness is swollen shut always
Always a wretch i have become
So empty, please don’t leave me

I’m watching Naomi, full bloom
I’m hoping she will soon explode
Into one billion tastes and tunes
One billion angels come and hold her down
They hold her down until she cries

I’m tasting Naomi’s perfume
It tastes like shit and I must say
She comes and goes most afternoons
One billion lovers wave and love her now
They could love her now and so could I

There is no Naomi in view
She walks through Cambridge stocks and strolls
And if she only really knew
One billion angels could come and save her soul
They could save her soul until she shines

So pretty

Sep 05

Stalin the Statesman

Via Yglesias, comes a review by Andrew Bacevich of a revisonist history of Stalin. I find the review to be brilliant. I am curious to see what others here will think. Here is a piece:

In brief, the story that Roberts tells goes like this: Josef Stalin, uncontested leader of the Soviet Union from 1927 until his death in 1953, deserves to be remembered as a great statesman-indeed, as the greatest of the age. Although Stalin made his share of mistakes, especially in the early phases of World War II, he learned from those mistakes and thereby grew in wisdom and stature. Among allied chieftains, he alone was irreplaceable. He, not Churchill and not Roosevelt, was the true architect of victory, “the dictator who defeated Hitler and helped save the world for democracy.”
. . . THERE ARE at least three problems with this depiction of Stalin as great statesman and man of peace. The first problem relates to the nature of the Grand Alliance, which Roberts misinterprets. The second relates to the nature of statecraft, which Roberts misunderstands. The third relates to the moral obligation inherent in the craft of history, which Roberts abdicates. The misinterpretation, the misunderstanding and the abdication all work to Stalin’s advantage, adding luster to his reputation. Yet none of the three is persuasive or acceptable.

. . . If World War II produced a master of statecraft, then surely it was Roosevelt. He won the most at the least cost. Alone among great powers, only the United States emerged from the war stronger than when the war had begun. Fate dealt Roosevelt a strong hand-far stronger than Churchill’s-and he played it well. As a consequence of victory, Washington too acquired an empire of sorts, but this empire helped sustain American prosperity and bolstered American security. Hardly less significantly, FDR succeeded by 1945 in restoring popular confidence in basic institutions, muting the impact of the Great Depression. To his successors Roosevelt bequeathed widely shared expectations that the “American Century” was meant to continue indefinitely, as it has, despite periodically ill-advised policies and reckless misadventures. The contrast with Stalin’s legacy could hardly be greater. (Whether or not the American Century can survive the folly of George W. Bush remains to be seen.) . . .

Reactions will be appreciated. But be sure to read the entire review.

Sep 05

Midnight Cowboying: What You Will Drive in Ten Years

The way you drive today will not be the way you travel in 10 years. Unfortunately, there will no be Jetson cars, lifter technology is still in its infancy. But by around 2012 a transformation will begin to happen to our infrastructure that will be a much needed breath of fresh air.

Follow me while I futurize:

Excess Nightime Grid Energy Could Power More Than 70% Of Electric Vehicles

According to a recent U.S. Department of Energy study, there is so much excess energy on the U.S. grid nightly that if every light-duty car and truck in America today used plug-in hybrid technology, 73 percent of them could be plugged in and “fueled” without constructing a single new power plant. So much for the myth that electric vehicles will cause more emissions.

The Portland Press has a great article on the potential benefits of harnessing this excess energy and making the switch to plug-in vehicles. Apparently, each night there is a large amount of renewable power generation capacity that sits idle. Tapping into this source by plugging in our vehicles at night would harness a vastly unused portion of the U.S. grid. From the article,

“Studies have shown that plug-in hybrids produce at least 67 percent fewer harmful emissions than a standard gasoline-powered car. Even when accounting for emissions from the production of electricity, national studies have shown greenhouse gas production would fall by almost 40 percent if plug-in hybrids became commonplace. Plug-in hybrids could easily be expected to get over 100 miles per gallon of gasoline, and owners would do most of their refueling at home where the equivalent cost of electricity is about $1 per gallon.”

The most interesting thing about this revelation is that the infrastructure is already there. We don’t have to worry about supporting plug-in vehicles with refueling stations or special sources of energy. Every home is a source of fuel. The grid is more than happy to accommodate the extra load. Seems like a pretty good way to reduce oil consumption, drop emissions, and save a buck.

Of course, we will need to get the predators out of the “free market” of electrical supply that create rolling black outs for profit. If we power our vehicles at night, we can power our personal transportation and commercial trucks for freight.

I know, I can hear the hecklers in the back, HYBRIDS SUCK! True, they do. Today.

But check this out:

Texas startup says it has batteries beat
By GRANT SLATER, Associated Press Writer…

AUSTIN, Texas – Millions of inventions pass quietly through the U.S. patent office each year. Patent No. 7,033,406 did, too, until energy insiders spotted six words in the filing that sounded like a death knell for the internal combustion engine.

An Austin-based startup called EEStor promised “technologies for replacement of electrochemical batteries,” meaning a motorist could plug in a car for five minutes and drive 500 miles roundtrip between Dallas and Houston without gasoline.

By contrast, some plug-in hybrids on the horizon would require motorists to charge their cars in a wall outlet overnight and promise only 50 miles of gasoline-free commute. And the popular hybrids on the road today still depend heavily on fossil fuels.

“It’s a paradigm shift,” said Ian Clifford, chief executive of Toronto-based ZENN Motor Co., which has licensed EEStor’s invention. “The Achilles’ heel to the electric car industry has been energy storage. By all rights, this would make internal combustion engines unnecessary.”


EStor’s secret ingredient is a material sandwiched between thousands of wafer-thin metal sheets, like a series of foil-and-paper gum wrappers stacked on top of each other. Charged particles stick to the metal sheets and move quickly across EEStor’s proprietary material.

The result is an ultracapacitor, a battery-like device that stores and releases energy quickly.

Batteries rely on chemical reactions to store energy but can take hours to charge and release energy. The simplest capacitors found in computers and radios hold less energy but can charge or discharge instantly. Ultracapacitors take the best of both, stacking capacitors to increase capacity while maintaining the speed of simple capacitors.

Hebner said vehicles require bursts of energy to accelerate, a task better suited for capacitors than batteries.


EEStor’s founders have a track record. Richard D. Weir and Carl Nelson worked on disk-storage technology at IBM Corp. in the 1990s before forming EEStor in 2001. The two have acquired dozens of patents over two decades.

Neil Dikeman of Jane Capital Partners, an investor in clean technologies, said the nearly $7 million investment in EEStor pales compared with other energy storage endeavors, where investment has averaged $50 million to $100 million.

Yet curiosity is unusually high, Dikeman said, thanks to the investment by a prominent venture capital group and EEStor’s secretive nature.

“The EEStor claims are around a process that would be quite revolutionary if they can make it work,” Dikeman said.

Previous attempts to improve ultracapacitors have focused on improving the metal sheets by increasing the surface area where charges can attach.

EEStor is instead creating better nonconductive material for use between the metal sheets, using a chemical compound called barium titanate. The question is whether the company can mass-produce it.

So all we need is to miniaturize and then create a mass production method, and we have vehicles that can be ran off our current power grid for trips up to 500 miles. And that’s just this generation. As the plates and capacitors get smaller and more dense (picture processor boards here people, these dudes were with IBM), the length of the trip on the charge will only get longer and longer.

Until one day, you will just charge it for a few hours and be able to drive it for days.

All electric, the death of fossil fuels.

And that is how we will drive in the future. Cleanly and greenly and freely. Especially when we get wireless energy, and you never have plug the bastards back in.

Trust me, 15 years tops.


My Top 5 Favorite Things Today:

1) The first photograph ever taken – 1826 

2) Go Solar, Room By Room, For Under $600

3) SIMS Torture Test

4) Robotic Monkey Arm

5) Hipster Olympics

This is my neighborhood, and yes, it is hipster central. Conclude what you will from that.

Sep 05

Remarkable NY Times Analysis on Bush’s Iraq Trip

In a remarkable news analysis piece — not an editorial — David E. Sanger of the New York Times takes down President Bush’s Iraq visit with a series of haymakers.

Mr. Sanger begins by pointing out that Mr. Bush is trying to shift focus from the many failures of Iraq’s central government, to apparent shifts of allegeance among local leaders in Anbar province. 

From there:

News Analysis

Bush Shifts Terms for Measuring Progress in Iraq

Published: September 5, 2007

— snip —

By meeting with tribal leaders who just a year ago were considered the enemy, and who now are fighting Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a president who has unveiled four or five strategies for winning over Iraqis – depending on how one counts – may now be on the cusp of yet another.

— snip —

It was the White House and the Iraqi government, not Congress, that first proposed the benchmarks for Iraq that are now producing failing grades, a provenance that raises questions about why the administration is declaring now that the government’s performance is not the best measure of change.

The White House insists that Mr. Bush’s fresh embrace of Sunni leaders simply augments his consistent support of Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

But some of Mr. Bush’s critics regard the change as something far more significant, saying they believe it amounts to a grudging acknowledgment by the White House of something these critics themselves have long asserted – that Iraq will never become the kind of cohesive, unified state that could be a democratic beacon for the Middle East.

— snip —

The scathing analysis continues for many paragraphs.  Mr. Sanger implies, by indirection, that Mr. Bush is cutting off Mr. Maliki.  By flying into Anbar province and not into Baghdad, Mr. Bush is as much as admitting that the central government is finished, and the American government gets to make that decision.

Mr. Sanger notes that Mr. Bush is quick to heap praise in superlatives upon the new favored Iraqi leaders.

Mr. Bush, of course, has had similar public praise for just about every Iraqi leader he has met, even a few leaders now disparaged by White House officials as unreliable, powerless or two-faced.


Sep 05

Mission Statement

Passion, politics, poetry, prose and ponies. Silliness, snark and a serious effort to frame the future. A river of words, thought, philosophy and action that nourishes and transforms the political cultural and social landscape through which it passes. That is the spirit behind this “place”.

In practice…write whatever the hell you want! There are no rigid restrictions here, it is a salon and a laboratory and a place to create a new reality. A reality based on compassion, empathy and caring for the people and the planet, while acknowledging the harsh realities of the world we live in and the difficulty of the tasks ahead. The complexities of greed, corruption and the petty politics of ‘human nature’ in the face of climate crisis and seven billion souls…will not be overcome by black and white solutions or electoral processes, but by becoming the change we wish to see and helping others to do the same. Not through top down enforcement, but through people working together, a model of cooperation, not competition. 

In other words…Hey Kids! Let’s put on an evolution! This is a place for each of us to do our 1/seven billionth of that together, and hopefully speed the process of change along through a synergy of our ideas, intentions and actions. Now let’s get out there and change the world!

~♥~ written by buhdydharma ~♥~

Sep 05

Overnight News Digest

(3 am. Time for content. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

All the news that fits.

Random Chatter

dK is experiencing technical diffculties.  I can’t make my networking obligations which include-

* Pre-Whoring OND in TC and TDS/TCR.
* Participating in TDS/TCR.  Sorry PerfectStormer.

I can post comments but not see them.  I have three untitled diaries I can’t edit.

How is your evening?

So I’m going to test the code, because I can.

Apparently, it works.

Dang.  Any one able to demote me?  I mean’t to appear in the recent list.  Might have to delete.  Don’t get too attached to your comments.

Screw that- have fun.  Hi andgarden.

Ha, my prayers were answered.  Be careful what you wish for.

Final Notes

dK is still on and off, I’ve tended for 3 hours and I’m done until tomorrow.

Normally I’d put up something like this on auto post for 7:30 am.

Help appreciated.

From Google News U.S.

Lawmakers Seek Bipartisanship on Iraq
By DAVID ESPO, The Associated Press via The Washington Post
Tuesday, September 4, 2007; 5:38 PM

WASHINGTON — After a month at home with constituents, nearly a dozen members of the House issued a call Tuesday for bipartisan cooperation in Congress to stabilize Iraq and “bring our troops home” after more than four years of war.

The letter, signed by six Republicans and five Democrats, many of them political moderates, contained no specific timeline for withdrawing U.S. forces and took no position on earlier calls to limit future funds for the war.

Instead, it urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, to “work together to put an end to the political infighting” that has marked congressional debate on the conflict thus far.

From Google News World

Pakistani army hit as suicide bombers kill 25
By Omar Waraich and Saeed Shah in Rawalpindi, The Independant
Published: 05 September 2007

Suspected suicide bombers brought carnage to the heart of Pakistan’s military establishment yesterday as twin explosions near the army headquarters in the garrison town of Rawalpindi left at least 25 dead and 70 injured.

Body parts, blood and shredded clothes were spread around the sites of the blasts. Both exploded in market areas in the morning rush hour next to the national military headquarters in Rawalpindi, adjoining the capital Islamabad.

The bomb that caused most of the casualties went off on a bus carrying defence employees to work; the second was on a motorcycle and killed at least one colonel according to eyewitnesses.

Analysis: Pakistani militants strike at heart of power
Today’s bombings have put President Musharraf under huge pressure, says Zahid Hussain, Times Correspondent in Islamabad
From Times Online
September 4, 2007

It is clear that the Pakistan army was the target of both today’s suicide bomb attacks. The bus was carrying soldiers, and army personnel were also killed in the second attack nearby.

This is not in itself a surprise, as the army has for some time been the main target of the Islamic militants. The families of the 100 victims of the siege of the Red Mosque have publicly threatened to carry out suicide bombings against the military in revenge for their deaths.

What is more alarming is that this time the militants have struck not at army patrols in the tribal regions of northern Pakistan but in the highest security area, inside the heart of the army’s headquarters in Rawalpindi.

Bush Meets With Howard in Australia
By TOM RAUM, Associated Press Writer via The Guardian Unlimited
Wednesday September 5, 2007 12:46 AM

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) – President Bush briefed one of his few remaining staunch war allies, telling Australian Prime Minister John Howard Wednesday about his Iraq visit and his conviction that the U.S. troop buildup is working.

The two leaders exchanged pleasantries before talks at the Commonwealth Parliament Offices within sight of Sydney Harbor. “You told me it was beautiful,” the president observed.

Bush was spending much of Wednesday with Howard ahead of a 21-nation Asia-Pacific summit later in the week. Bush was also to meet with Australian troops.

205mph but still three minutes late
Patrick Barkham, The Guardian
Wednesday September 5, 2007

The sun shone brightly, Eurostar 9021 flashed along by the Thames and, at last, we could blame the French. For 13 years, our neighbours have relaxed on 186mph trains on their side of the Channel tunnel and arched a Gallic eyebrow at the branch line trundle through the green fields of Kent.

Yesterday, the first passenger train to take the new £5.8bn, 68-mile high-speed British track from the tunnel into the revamped St Pancras International was all set to smash the two-hour mark between Paris and London until track maintenance at Calais forced it to slow down.

Despite a hold-up that, for once, was France’s fault, the train reached speeds of up to 205mph and set a record for the fastest rail journey between the capitals of two hours, three minutes and 39 seconds. Things going faster and getting better is a curiously old-fashioned idea, but this was a genuine taste of the near future: the magnificently restored St Pancras station opens for international passengers on November 14. Eurostar has promised scheduled journey times of 2hr 15 minutes on the 306-mile route to Gare du Nord – 20 minutes quicker than the fastest services currently running from London Waterloo – with basic fares frozen at £59 return.

Britain’s Brown faces Iraq questions
The Associated Press via The International Herald Tribune
Published: September 4, 2007

LONDON: Prime Minister Gordon Brown was facing questions Tuesday on the future of British forces in Iraq, as he held a monthly news conference the day after troops completed a withdrawal from their last base inside Iraq’s southern city Basra.

Brown, who has refused to set a timetable for any significant drawdown of Britain’s 5,500 soldiers, faced reporters at his Downing Street office for the first time since Parliament’s summer break.

But a latest survey, published in the Times of London on Tuesday, shows Brown’s lead slipping – putting his Labour party only one percentage point ahead of the Conservatives – 37 percent to 36 percent.

Rafsanjani election ups political stakes in Iran
· Rightwing efforts to thwart former president fail
· Victory lays ground for clash with supreme leader

Robert Tait in Tehran, The Guardian
Wednesday September 5, 2007

One of Iran’s most illustrious politicians, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, dramatically increased his influence yesterday by winning control of a powerful clerical body in a development that could change the course of the country’s leadership.

Mr Rafsanjani, a conservative pragmatist and former president, was elected head of the experts’ assembly after overcoming a determined rightwing effort to block him. He received 41 votes, while his opponent, hardliner Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, who ran as the “stop Rafsanjani” candidate in an election triggered by the death in July of the assembly’s previous chairman, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Meshkini, received 34.

Mr Rafsanjani’s election sets him on course for a possible power struggle with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The assembly can dismiss the supreme leader – although this has never happened – and choose a new one.

Conquering sectarianism: Can Ulster be a model for Iraq?
It has emerged that Martin McGuinness held secret talks with Sunni and Shia factions in an attempt to pass on the lessons of the peace process.
David McKittrick reports, The Independent
Published: 05 September 2007

In a way there is hardly a better figure than Martin McGuinness to take the lead in an extraordinary session of Iraqi peace talks which, it has just emerged, secretly took place in Helsinki.

The 16 representatives of Sunni and Shia factions who for four days, sat together in uneasy proximity, know that Mr McGuinness, now Northern Ireland’s number two public figure, was an IRA commander.

So when he told them that violence should cease and that inclusive dialogue was the way ahead, they listened. In addition, they agreed a set of principles as a basis for further talks.

From Yahoo News- THE TOP STORY

Advisers tell Bush to stand pat on Iraq
By MATTHEW LEE and ANNE GEARAN, Associated Press Writers
1 hour, 1 minute ago

WASHINGTON – President Bush’s senior advisers on Iraq have recommended he stand by his current war strategy, and he is unlikely to order more than a symbolic cut in troops before the end of the year, administration officials told The Associated Press Tuesday.

The recommendations from the military commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker come despite independent government findings Tuesday that Baghdad has not met most of the political, military and economic markers set by Congress.

Bush appears set on maintaining the central elements of the policy he announced in January, one senior administration official said after discussions with participants in Bush’s briefings during his surprise visit to an air base in Iraq on Monday.

From Yahoo News Top Stories

Great global shift to service jobs
By Mark Trumbull and Andrew Downie, Christian Science Monitor
Tue Sep 4, 4:00 AM ET

Boston; and São Paulo, Brazil – The life story of Brazilian Valdir de Santos, who has gone from farmhand to taxi driver, is in essence the career path of workers around the globe.

For the first time in human history, more people are laboring in service trades than in food production, according to data gathered by the International Labor Organization (ILO), an agency affiliated with the United Nations.

As recently as 1996, agriculture accounted for 42 percent of world employment, with another 21 percent of workers in goods-producing industries and 37 percent in services. By last year, the ILO says in a report released over the weekend, 42 percent were in services, 37 percent in agriculture, and 22 percent in industry.

Even 40 years later CIA briefings to stay secret
2 hours, 44 minutes ago

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency may refuse to release documents from 40 years ago to the public to protect long-held secrets, a U.S. appeals court ruled on Tuesday.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the CIA did not have to give up the documents under the Freedom of Information Act aimed at opening up government activity to the public.

Larry Berman, a California political science professor, had sought two documents, one from 1965 and another from 1968, known as the President’s Daily Brief (PDB), in which the CIA briefed then President Lyndon Johnson.

Coming months vital for U.S. Iraq strategy
By Dean Yates, Reuters
Tue Sep 4, 9:35 AM ET

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – The next three to four months will be vital to determine if violence in Iraq can be cut further and security maintained with fewer American troops, the number two U.S. military commander in Iraq said on Tuesday.

Lieutenant-General Raymond Odierno said last week had seen the lowest number of violent incidents against civilians and security forces across Iraq in the past 15 months.

U.S. President George W. Bush, on a surprise visit to Iraq, raised the prospect of troop cuts after meeting top commanders at a desert air base in western Anbar province on Monday.

Sen. Craig reconsiders choice to resign
By JOHN MILLER, Associated Press Writer
5 minutes ago

BOISE, Idaho – Sen. Larry Craig is reconsidering his decision to resign after his arrest in a Minnesota airport sex sting and may still fight for his Senate seat, his spokesman said Tuesday evening. “It’s not such a foregone conclusion anymore, that the only thing he could do was resign,” said Sidney Smith, Craig’s spokesman in Idaho’s capital.

“We’re still preparing as if Senator Craig will resign Sept. 30, but the outcome of the legal case in Minnesota and the ethics investigation will have an impact on whether we’re able to stay in the fight – and stay in the Senate.”

Craig, a Republican who has represented Idaho in Congress for 27 years, announced Saturday that he intends to resign from the Senate on Sept. 30. But since then, he’s hired a prominent lawyer to investigate the possibility of reversing his plea, his spokesman said.

From Yahoo News Most Popular, Most Emailed

Goldberg defends Vick in `View’ debut
Associated Press
Tue Sep 4, 2:34 PM ET

NEW YORK – So much for the sedate alternative to Rosie O’Donnell on “The View.”

Whoopi Goldberg used her first day on the daytime chat show Tuesday to defend football star Michael Vick in his dogfighting case.

Goldberg said that “from where he comes from” in the South, dogfighting isn’t that unusual.

From Yahoo News Most Popular, Most Recommended

Livestock breed extinction concerns U.N.
Associated Press
Tue Sep 4, 4:08 PM ET

INTERLAKEN, Switzerland – The rate at which livestock breeds are disappearing is “alarming,” a senior official at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said Tuesday, warning that precious genes could be lost forever.

One rare breed is becoming extinct every month because farmers – particularly in Asia and Africa – are importing high-yield animals such as Holstein-Friesian cows and White Leghorn chickens, the agency’s Assistant Director-General Alexander Mueller told an intergovernmental livestock conference.

As a result, unique genetic material that could protect farm animals from future threats posed by disease and climate change might disappear, he said. “In this situation, the world cannot simply take a business-as-usual, wait-and-see attitude.”

Mattel announces third Chinese toy recall
22 minutes ago

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Toymaker Mattel Inc on Tuesday announced a third recall of Chinese-made toys, saying it would take back more than 800,000 units globally with “impermissible” levels of lead.

The latest recall involves three Fisher-Price toy models and eight Barbie brand playsets. No Barbie dolls were included.

Mattel in the last five weeks already had announced two recalls of millions of Chinese toys due to excessive amounts of lead paint and other dangers.

Rangers flee Congo gorilla park fighting
By EDDY ISANGO, Associated Press Writer
Tue Sep 4, 4:55 PM ET

KINSHASA, Congo – Rangers and 300 villagers abandoned a gorilla reserve in eastern Congo as government soldiers battled troops loyal to a renegade general in sections of the park, officials said Tuesday.

Sporadic clashes have erupted around the densely forested region bordering Uganda and Rwanda since Thursday, when fighting resume between Congo’s army and former Gen. Laurent Nkunda’s troops.

Nkunda’s men seized three gorilla monitoring posts in the Virunga National Park on Monday and park officials said rangers vacated another post Tuesday, abandoning the part of the park where the gorillas live.

From Yahoo News World

At home, Korean ex-hostages face tough questions
By Robert Neff and Donald Kirk, The Christian Science Monitor
Tue Sep 4, 4:00 AM ET

Seoul, South Korea; and Washington – The ordeal of Korean Christian aid workers at the hands of Taliban captors in Afghanistan has provoked bitter questioning over whether Korean authorities should have negotiated to win their release.

The 19 who arrived Sunday at Incheon International Airport face a barrage of criticism amid a national outpouring of relief that their harrowing saga is over.

Despite repeated official denials, most Koreans assume the government paid a sizable ransom to win the release of the 17 women and two men, most of them young nurses, after two men in the original party of 23 people were killed by their captors. Two other hostages, both women, were released Aug. 13, ostensibly over health concerns, just as Korean officials were opening talks before the Taliban made good on threats to kill more of them.

China denies its military hacked into Pentagon network
By Tim Johnson, McClatchy Newspapers
Tue Sep 4, 4:53 PM ET

BEIJING – China denied charges Tuesday that its military had hacked into a Pentagon computer network, the second time in a week that the nation has fended off accusations of cyber-attacks from within its borders.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said the latest charges “reflect a Cold War mentality.”

Britain’s Financial Times reported in its U.S. edition Tuesday that Chinese hackers had broken into a Pentagon computer network in June, leading to a shutdown of a system that serves the office of Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

No proof Iran running 3,000 centrifuges: diplomats
By Mark Heinrich, Reuters
Tue Sep 4, 5:36 PM ET

VIENNA (Reuters) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s statement that Iran has 3,000 centrifuges running is not backed up by evidence, diplomats familiar with U.N. inspections said.

Ahmadinejad said on Sunday that Iran had 3,000 working centrifuges. With 3,000 centrifuges running smoothly in unison at supersonic speed for long periods, Iran could refine enough uranium for an atom bomb in about a year, nuclear experts say.

“There’s no evidence,” a diplomat said, when asked whether Iran had mastered the technology to get 3,000 centrifuges running effectively together.

Bush Gets a New Kind of Iraq Briefing
1 hour, 18 minutes ago

Every day President Bush gets briefings on Iraq from his advisors. He gets intelligence reports first thing in the morning from his Director of National Intelligence. He gets updates from his National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and his Iraq czar Gen. Douglas Lute. He even gets a nightly three- to four-page memo on Iraq from his staff at the National Security Council.

Monday, during his surprise visit to the al Asad air base in Iraq’s Anbar province, Bush got a different kind of briefing from Capt. Lee Hemming, a Marine helicopter pilot in Anbar.

In a cement building sheltering them from the 110-degree heat outside, Hemming stood in a flight suit in front of Bush and a roomful of Marines. The captain was nervous, careful and spoke very much as if he had spent a lot of time memorizing what he was going to say. Holding a long metal pointer up to a wall map, he told Bush what his unit’s mission is and what they’ve seen in their area of operations. Bush followed along, nodding, and for a while it looked as if the event would turn out to be the usual dog-and-pony show the Defense Department puts on for VIPs.

New York’s cabbies to strike
Tue Sep 4, 7:08 PM ET

NEW YORK (AFP) – Start spreadin’ the news: New York’s City cabbies announced on Tuesday they will strike for 48 hours to protest city-mandated installation of global positioning devices on their hacks.

New York’s notorious cross-town traffic may get even slower for 48 hours on Wednesday and Thursday, unless the city revokes an order to install GPS transponders and other electronics at a cost of 1,200 dollars per car.

Cabbies will protest New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission mandate to install Global Positioning System locators to keep track of them, as well as touch-screen monitors allowing passengers to pay by credit card.

Thousands without power as California sizzles
Tue Sep 4, 1:41 PM ET

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Around 40,000 homes across California were without power Tuesday as searing temperatures roasted the region and drained the electricity grid, authorities said.

Around 11,000 residents were still suffering from power outages across Los Angeles while a further 29,000 households were without electricity in the areas surrounding the metropolis, utility companies said.

Los Angeles and parts of southern California have been in the grip of a ferocious heatwave in recent days, with temperatures topping 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) in several districts.

Texas buys Crockett’s last known letter

By LIZ AUSTIN PETERSON, Associated Press Writer 38 minutes ago

AUSTIN – Just two months before he perished defending the Alamo, Davy Crockett described to his daughter and son-in-law the land he treasured enough to die for its independence.

“I must say as to what I have seen of Texas it is the garden spot of the world,” the famed frontiersman and former congressman from Tennessee wrote. “The best land and the best prospect for health. …”

The Texas Historical Commission announced Tuesday it bought the letter, which is believed to be the last that Crockett penned before he and about 200 other Alamo defenders were killed by Mexican forces led by Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.

From Yahoo News Politics

Thompson to run ad during GOP debate
By JIM KUHNHENN, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 4 minutes ago

WASHINGTON – As a veteran actor, Fred Dalton Thompson knows something about entering a stage. It’s all about the buildup. The former Tennessee senator plans to announce his official entry into the Republican presidential contest on Thursday. But he’ll pique interest first on Wednesday with an ad aired during a GOP presidential debate in New Hampshire that Thompson will otherwise skip.

By then he will have taped an appearance on NBC’s “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno, which will air about an hour after the debate ends in many U.S. households. Come midnight, he’ll post a 15-minute video announcement on his official Web site.

The face time with Leno and the debate ad on Fox News Channel are the coquettish moves of a candidate who has already proven his aptitude using the media, from television to the Internet. While his main rivals – Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and John McCain – parry debate questions, Thompson will pretty much control his own message.

Giuliani calls for more disaster prep
By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 47 minutes ago

PEARL, Miss. – Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani called Tuesday for less federal control and more regional training to prepare U.S. communities for terrorist attacks and other disasters.

Visiting Mississippi, portions of which were devastated in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina, Giuliani pledged to prepare every community for such a disaster. And for those caused by man, as well.

“When you’re preparing for a natural disaster, you’re preparing for a terrorist attack,” Giuliani said as he stood before a backdrop of firefighters’ helmets and coats.

Congress tackles student loans as new abuses cited
By Kevin Drawbaugh, Reuters
Tue Sep 4, 4:59 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – With Congress poised to act within days on reforming the $85-billion student loan industry, Sen. Edward Kennedy released a report on Tuesday alleging more instances of marketing misconduct among lenders and colleges.

The Massachusetts Democrat, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said the panel’s investigative report details improper ties among lenders, universities and alumni groups focused on winning preferential treatment for lenders.

“The findings of the report underscore the urgent need for reform of the student loan system,” he said in a statement.

US commander hints at Iraq troop reduction in 2008
2 hours, 57 minutes ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US military commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, hinted he may recommend a reduction of US troops there by March next year, in an interview released Tuesday.

“There are limits to what our military can provide, so, my recommendations have to be informed by — not driven by — but they have to be informed by the strain we have put on our military services,” Petraeus said in the interview with ABC television in Baghdad.

Asked if troops could be drawn down in March 2008, the general said: “your calculations are about right.”

Sep 05

Fuck you all

Shit, I’ve always wanted to do that.

I’m fucking pissed that I’m one UID above 59. You folks got owned by Open fucking Left. Fuck that! Y’all are much cooler. 

Ok, so I have to

Be excellent to each other… or else.

Well buhdy, I’ll try, even though you suck!

Sep 05

Distraction, Disruption, Delay

As of this first week in September 2007, I am not confident that the Democratic nominee will win the 2008 presidential election. Rather, I have been growing increasingly more pessimistic the party’s will make the vote even close.

Right now, the Republican Party’s 2008 strategy appears to be distraction, disruption, and delay. And despite the enthusiasm and optimism found on left-leaning blogs, a collectively small community, in the greater electoral playing field, I see signs of the Republicans’ 3d strategy working.


In 2000, the traditional media dwelt on fictionalized “character flaws” of Al Gore. These little sounds bites — “boring”, “wooden”, “dull”, “invented the Internet”, “liar”, etc. — were shaped with the help of Republican noise machine. Through endless repetition, they wormed their way into popular culture and into the homes of the voters. The same little vicious sound bites materialized again in 2004. From Howard Dean’s oft-repeated “scream” to the swiftboating of John Kerry, the Republicans’ tactic of introducing that little nagging doubt in the voter’s mind is repeated.

So, it should come as no surprise that in 2008, the doubting mosquito is once again buzzing in peoples’ ears. Bzzzzz. John Edwards gets expensive haircuts. Bzzzzz. Barack Obama is inexperienced. Bzzzzz. Hillary Clinton has high negatives. Just enough doubt buzzes repeated past the ears of the voters. For the most part, Chris Dodd seems largely ignored by the right, and the other Democratic candidates are ridiculed by many on the left to render them nonthreatening.

The negative buzzing distracts away from the positive message of change each Democratic presidential candidate is trying to convey. The buzzing of nagging doubts will undoubtedly grow louder and louder over the next 14 months.


In the 100th Congress, the Republicans have proved to be good at disrupting the agenda of the Democrats. The Democrats, for some reasons I’ve never been able to figure out, seem to believe that their “colleagues” across the aisle will play the game by the same, time-honored rules. What I think the Democrats are slow to recognize is not only are the rules changing, but the Republicans keep changing the game board.

For some reason, the Democratic leadership, at least in Congress, feel that 2008 is their year. It is as if they are counting their chickens before they hatch. But what if 2008 doesn’t come exactly as planned, then what happens? For example, dday writes on Daily Kos about “the Republican dirty trick that would change the way California apportions its electoral votes at the last minute and give up to 20 EVs to the Republican nominee in 2008.” What if the initiative passes? Or, take the problems with election fraud that happened in Ohio in 2004 and Florida in 2000. There hasn’t been a sustained investigation in Congress to insure votes cast in the 2008 general election will count and that those voters eligible to vote in the election will be able to do so.


Lastly, with all the jostling for who gets to go first in the primaries, the Republicans have been able to show to the voters Democratic discord and delay the Democratic presidential candidates from campaigning in important swing states. This narrative of disharmony and delay that is shaping up in the traditional media can be seen in this blog entry at the Chicago Tribune, Democratic disarray gives GOP Florida headstart:

The stunning decision by Democratic candidates to boycott Florida if it holds an early presidential primary potentially gives Republicans a head start in the largest electoral swing state.

Both major parties in Florida face sanctions because of the Jan. 29 primary set by state law. But Democrats have pledged to avoid campaigning in states that violate party rules, while Republican candidates still have incentives to establish direct contact with Florida voters.

The result may be a wide-open field for Republicans over the next five months to establish momentum for the general-election campaign while Democrats bicker among themselves.

So through control of the Florida state legislature and governorship, the Republicans once again are disrupting the Democrats in the Sunshine State. The Democratic presidential candidates are not only delayed, but most voters will receive only two messages put forth by the traditional media: 1) the Democrats are in disarray and 2) the Democrats are punishing the voters of Florida, while the Republicans are courting them.


Of course, none of my ‘analysis’ is new and I could certainly be accused of buying into the negatives offered by the 3d strategy. But since this is a spankin’ new blog, I thought I’d share what was on my mind without worrying too much of what y’all would think of me.

So, I guess it all comes down to this question. When it comes to the 2008 election, how many chickens do the Democrats see in this picture?

Sep 05

Profiles in Literature: Emily Dickinson

Greetings, literature-loving DocuDharmists (do we have a name for readers yet?), and welcome to the latest installment of my series on writers great and small, ancient and modern, popular and obscure.  Last week we spent time with the grand dean of Czech literature, Karel Capek, and watched him weave his humanistic philosophy through a dizzying mix of comedy, science fiction, and drama.  This week’s subject stuck mainly to one genre – lyric poetry – but she used her deceptively simple lines to open a world of equally dizzying complexity.

If you think you know everyone’s favorite New England agoraphobe, think again!  Let’s jump back to 19th century Amherst for tea and sympathy with one of America’s leading poetic voices.

I can wade grief,
Whole pools of it, –
I’m used to that.

Mention the name Emily Dickinson, and you’re likely to hear a few vague biographical comments about a shy woman who never left her house, a recluse who became a sensation long after her death.  As with her contemporary Walt Whitman, the myth looms larger than the person, and it still informs the reading of her poetry, often written on scraps of paper shoved in bedroom drawers, undiscovered during her lifetime.

The real Emily Dickinson was a bit more complicated, although certainly no well-traveled socialite.  Daughter of a U.S. Congressman, Dickinson did spend most of her life in her family’s home, but she also briefly attended a nearby Women’s Seminary, was a close student of botany with a reputation during her lifetime for her immense knowledge and skill of gardening.

Most of her poetry was discovered and published after her death, although even then fame was not forthcoming.  Readers and critics were slow to pick up on Dickinson, in part because English-language poetry was going through a period of radical redefinition; Walt Whitman had exploded through America with his powerful free verse, and soon Ezra Pound and T.S.Eliot would be laying the groundwork for the highly experimental 20th century. 

It didn’t help that her publishers were toning down her work.  Confused by her innovative use of punctuation and her occasionally strange syntax, well-meaning family members and editors “corrected” her writing, removing all the idiosyncratic dashes and capital letters that we now expect and love (brilliantly parodied by Francis Heaney in the anagram poem “Skinny Domicile”).  Another generation passed before readers saw the raw Dickinson, thanks to the efforts of a later editor, Thomas Johnson, and a later poet who advocated on her behalf, Conrad Aiken

Nowadays Dickinson is the undisputed queen of American poetry, and perhaps the most popular of all our native poets, male or female.  Why does she seem to appeal to readers on a much more basic level than any other American poet?  Part of it has to do with her use of meter and rhyme, which lends her verse a “catchier” sound than most.  Let’s take a quick look at how she does it…

(If reliving high school poetry scansion isn’t your idea of a good time, you’re welcome to skip to the next section.)

Like many great poets in the English language, Dickinson writes predominantly in iambs (da DUM!)  Though it’s the rhythm most closely associated with everyday speech, other iambic poets like Shakespeare bring a lot of variation to keep it from sounding redundant; Dickinson exploits the repetition to lend her verse a snappy, memorable lyric quality.

Her most common and successful pattern is known as ballad meter, which consists of alternating four-foot iambic lines with three-foot iambic lines.  In other words:

da DUM, da DUM, da DUM, da DUM
da DUM, da DUM, da DUM

The miracle of Dickinson’s verse is that she can stick to this rigid design without it ever sounding like the stilted lines that so many of us would-be poets produce when trying to get the rhythms just right.  Dickinson’s roll off the tongue with unforced naturalness (there’s only one subtle variation in the following quatrain):

She sweeps with many-colored brooms,
And leaves the shreds behind;
Oh, housewife in the evening west,
Come back, and dust the pond!

Dickinson is by no means the only poet to use this form, but she is its undisputed master.  This ability to harness rhythm and rhyme so artlessly is what makes her the lyric poet par excellence, and one of the reasons her lines stick in your brain like the catchiest of song lyrics.

Pop Quiz: Which poem excerpts in this diary use ballad meter?

The first published volumes of Dickinson’s poetry were organized loosely according to “themes”: Life, Nature, Love, Time and Eternity, and The Single Hound (the latter is a reference to this poem).  It’s true that these themes appear often in her poetry, although the too-narrow categorization obscured other areas of interest that occur throughout her life and work.

So I’ll take a slightly unusual tack and not talk about the areas of her poetry that she’s famous for.  Most readers are already familiar with her rides with death, her debauchees of dew, her prudent microscopes, and her publicly croaking frogs.  Let’s spend some time exploring the other Dickinson, who puzzled out the strange relationship between language and experience, who wrestled with metaphysics through Donne-like paradoxes, and whose religious convictions found their most interesting expressions when they were peppered with doubt. 

I want to explore the Dickinson that made curmudgeonly critic Harold Bloom, not usually known for his hyperbole, write this:

Emily Dickinson had the inner freedom to rethink everything for herself and so achieved a cognitive originality as absolute as William Blake’s.

That’s a strong claim towards a poet sometimes derided for the very catchiness that makes her so memorable, and I want to explore this “cognitive originality” more in depth. 

In the Beginning was the Word:

Poets write poetry (obviously) so it’s no surprise that many poets write about poetry as well, especially the ability – or inability – of poetry to capture experience.  This gap between language in life isn’t unique to literature: how many times have we stood gaping at the beauty of the natural world and repeated that hoary cliché, “I just can’t put this into words”?  Dickinson feels our pain:

Nature is what we know
But have no art to say

The world of experience, especially as applied to the outdoors, finds only an imperfect translation in poetry.  What’s ironic here is that Dickinson is nonetheless well-known for having been among the best of translators: her precise illustrations of the natural world are one of the reasons for her enduring popularity.  Unlike Symbolist poets, who were popular around the time she was being published, Dickinson is never vague in her descriptive language: her ideas may be difficult to understand, but her images are striking for their clarity and precision:

An everywhere of silver,
With ropes of sand
To keep it from effacing
The track called land.

But something is always out of reach, a feeling that words cannot capture.  This limitation of language was a common trope in 19th century poetry, but unlike many of her peers Dickinson also understood that the reverse is equally true: language is rich and boundless, and sometimes beyond the ken of the person using it:

Could mortal lip divine
The undeveloped freight
Of a delivered syllable
‘Twould crumble with the weight.

Language here is more than an imperfect vessel of experience: it has an independent life far more complex than the experience it’s attempting to translate.  For 21st century readers raised on Saussure or Derrida, this isn’t surprising, but the Dickinson predates them both.  In Western thought, language – especially the written language – has always had a certain stigma attached to it. 

One side of that stigma is religious, with a long Western tradition of lamenting the inferiority of human language since the whole Tower of Babel debacle.  Another side came from the association of language with civilization (and thus in opposition to nature), which lead philosophers like Rousseau to argue that written language, the most artificial of all, was therefore the least genuine. 

But Dickinson understood that the Word carries its own power, and she upbraids those who treat it as an inferior art while granting it a level of independence that would make 20th century semioticians smile:

A Word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.
I say it just
Begins to live
That day.

From Word to Thing … to Beyond:

She doesn’t stop there.  Dickinson acknowledges not only the gap between signifier and signified – to use the 20th century terms, but also the gap between the thing perceived and the thing itself (the connections between Dickinson and Kant are just beginning to be explored): 

Perception of an Object costs
Precise the Object’s loss.
Perception in itself a gain
Replying to its price;…

The Object, like the Divine, is beyond direct contemplation – it has to be filtered through merely human experience.  But despite her religious convictions Dickinson’s sympathies often lie with this imperfect human world:

…The Object Absolute is nought,
Perception sets it fair,
And then upbraids a Perfectness
That situates so far.

The distance between the demands of the Absolute (or the Divine) and the fallibility of our mortal coils casts an occasional dark shadow over her religious verse.  In general Dickinson expresses her faith exuberantly, if not naively.  Her Christianity, a combination of Puritanism and transcendentalism with a healthy dose of earthy nature-lovin’, situates salvation as a difficult but worthy goal of the well-lived life:

Glee!  The great storm is over!
Four have recovered the land;
Forty gone down together
Into the boiling sand.

Ring, for the scant salvation!
Toll, for the bonnie souls, –
Neighbor and friend and bridegroom,
Spinning upon the shoals!…

But doubt is a more powerful artistic theme than faith, and some of her most powerful poetry allows for that discomfort of not-knowing, or even of disapproval.  The poem above continues,

…How they will tell the shipwreck
When winter shakes the door,
Till the children ask, “But the forty?
Did they come back no more?”

Then a silence suffuses the story,
And a softness the teller’s eye;
And the children no further question,
And only the waves reply.

Notice we’ve come full-circle back to the limits of language: only silence and the sound of waves can express the feeling that the Saved will have for the Unsaved.  Of course there’s an irony here, since she’s nonetheless using words to describe that silence.  So we return to our original critique of language: how can words express what is beyond the power of words to express?

Contemplating the Absolute:

There are ways to do it, of course.  Dickinson’s approaches to discussing the ineffable are indirection and paradox: on occasion her metaphysical musings remind one of John Donne more than any of her contemporaries.

For example, she is constantly amazed by the expansive endlessness of the soul, which is nonetheless a tiny and contained part of the tiny and contained human being:

There is a solitude of space,
A solitude of sea,
A solitude of death, but these
Society shall be,
Compared with that profounder site,
That polar privacy,
A Soul admitted to Itself:
Finite Infinity.

“Finite Infinity”, she writes: the paradox of the interior life more expansive than the exterior life, which nonetheless contains it.  In poems like these, Dickinson isn’t merely playing games with the language (although she does recognize and exploit language’s capacity for paradox); the ideas themselves are difficult to resolve.

The Soul is one target of major inquiry in her poetry – the Great Beyond is another.  Whatever paradoxes we may encounter when turning inwards are nothing compared to the promised hereafter:

My life closed twice before its close;
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A third event to me,

So huge, so hopeless to conceive
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of Heaven,
And all we need of Hell.

I’ve read this poem a thousand times, and it’s among my favorites… but I’d be lying if I said I understood it.  The language is simple and straightforward, but the ideas are elusive: why does Immortality offer a third “close” (which isn’t death, but after death)?  Why is parting what we “need” of Hell, which seems counterintuitive? 

And yet her words resonate like Thunder (“So huge, so hopeless to conceive”), and the poet sometimes derided for her tuneful, catchy lyrics leaves us all in her wake.  Like a snake charmer she hypnotizes us with her music, but there’s never any doubt who’s in charge. 

That shy woman of Amherst may not have traveled around the world or rubbed elbows with the great minds of her generation, but few people have simultaneously charmed us and challenged us, and her popularity with contemporary readers is well-deserved.  For the seductive power of her words, Emily Dickinson is practically a force of nature: 

To pile like Thunder to its close,
Then crumble grand away,
While everything created hid –
This would be Poetry


– The Dickinson Electronic Archives (a personal favorite, “Emily Dickinson: Cartoonist“)
The Complete Poems (1924 edition) at
– website of the Emily Dickinson Museum
Emily Dickinson at kirjasto
– The Daily Dickinson (poems and discussions for every day of the year)

All images are in the public domain, courtesy wikimedia commons.  Excerpts are taken from the 1924 edition of the Collected Poems as a matter of personal convenience, but I’d recommend a later edition if you’re looking to buy a collection of her poetry.  Cross-posted at Progressive Historians and Dailykos.

Thanks for reading!

Sep 04

Not Funding The Iraq Debacle

Direct from the The Great Orange Satan:

Heck, I'd be happy if just the Democrats would follow their words with action this Magical September. We don't need Republicans to follow suit.

Republicans need 60 votes in the Senate to pass any funding bills, while Democrats can single-handedly squash any efforts in the House. If Republicans don't compromise on a withdrawal timetable, there's no impetus to pass a funding bill.

And without funding, there's no war.

Way to make me look dumb, Kos. And shut me up quick. I thank you for it.


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