All purpose vertically integrated publishing empire for cynicism, hopelessness and misanthropy. Mild nausea is common when using this product. Other symptoms may include, but are not limited to: dizzyness, headache, homicidal rage and yellow discharge. Rarely, users may begin to hear voices urging them to kill. If this occurs, discontinue use and seek psychiatric attention. Do not read when pregnant or nursing; the author thinks that's gross.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Weird Part Deux

Even More Weird

Spork Robbery
So it appears a man was robbed with a spork.

That's got to be a bit embarassing.

Unless of course, it was *my* spork, which is made of metal and just short of six feet tall.

Source: AZCentral

Jerks and Prison
So this one jerk found out that an ATM was only deducting 1/1000th of the money he took out of the machine from his account.

He promptly withdrew thousands upon thousands of dollars.

Then the man wasted all the cash, and, well, things caught up with him.

BEIJING -- It seemed like a gift from heaven in a country where very little is free. When security guard Xu Ting went to an ATM in the southern city of Guangzhou on a Friday night in the spring of 2006 and withdrew $140, he noticed that it only deducted 14 cents from his account. Over the next eight hours, he made 170 more withdrawals, pocketing upward of $24,000.

During the next several months, he lost some of the money to a thief on a train, tried to start up a company that failed, and gambled most of the rest on thousands of lottery tickets that turned out to be losers. With little cash left, he got a job.

Then a routine police ID check led to his arrest.

Xu's disappointment at how little the windfall had changed his life was nothing compared with what happened next. He was ordered imprisoned for life by a Chinese court late last year. The crime: bank robbery.


"We are not saints," said an anonymous posting on a popular website,

Xu's father, 50, says his son can hardly be expected to follow the sort of mores he did growing up. When Chairman Mao led the nation, most people were scrupulously honest and society shared a common sense of purpose.


Supporters say Xu's bank is partly to blame for not maintaining its ATM. They also note that the bank never actually suffered a loss, since the $24,000 was refunded by the ATM manufacturer. "The analogy in Xu's case might be to someone finding money on the street and not turning it in," said Wu Yichun, Xu's lawyer. "This should be a civil, not a criminal, case."
First of all, you think Chariman Mao is the example to hold up? Yeesh. Sure, he might not have taken the money from the ATM, but he probably would have been busy murdering thousands of people in the town next door anyway.

As for the civil vs. criminal thing, the guy's absolutely right. His client is a douchebag, not a bank robber.

Source: The LA Times

Fox Does Air the Terminator Show..
So Fox News, going off of an obscure cotton candy academic publication on the potential future use of robot drones by terror orgs, published an article themselves.

On how terrorists might turn Roombas into weapons.

Accompanied by a picture of another killer robot... a Dalek from Doctor Who.

I swear I am not making this up.
Like many liberals, I’ve never had a high opinion of Fox News, but even I was willing to believe they tried to adhere to some journalistic standards. And apparently, they do - except that they’re using the same standards as The Onion.

Yesterday, Fox posted a scaremongering story entitled Scientist: Terrorists May Use Robots in Future Attacks. The story relies on the incredibly lazy “journalism” of simply reporting on a press release and embellishing it with a few facts the reporter no doubt gathered by typing the word “robot” into Google.

But personally, my favorite part of this story is the accompanying photo (shown here). Apparently, the robots the terrorists are going to use to kill us are none other than the Daleks, the brutal, ruthless mutant cyborgs developed by Terry Nation in 1963 for the BBC science fiction show Doctor Who. It’s a wonder Fox News didn’t call for the arrest of Nation’s heirs, not to mention the show’s current writing and production team, as terrorist sympathizers.
A little knowledge is a very dangerous thing.

Source: Scholars and Rogues
Fox News (the original piece, at least until they yank it)

Stephen King Musical
Seriously. He's gotten together with John Mellencamp to make a musical.
King, who has written numerous best-selling novels, has written the script for "Ghost Brothers of Darkland County," with music by John Mellencamp.

The play will open at Atlanta's Alliance Theatre in April 2009, with the object of getting it ready for
a Broadway run.

The Alliance, which announced the project on Tuesday, described it as "a sultry Southern gothic mystery with a blues-tinged, guitar-driven score."

The story is set in the fictional town of Lake Belle Reve, Miss., and centers on the deaths in 1957 of two brothers and a young girl and the legend that grows out of the tragedy.

Peter Askin, whose New York credits include "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," will direct.
It will no doubt tell the story of how being a writer/painter/artist/musician leads to certain doom.

Like Cell/Hearts in Atlantis/Lisey's Story/The Dark Half/Salem's Lot/Stationary Bike.

I'm sure I missed a few.

Source: AZCentral

Call Animal Control Early, Call Often
Otherwise your pet might get eaten by a 16 foot snake.

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) -- A 16-foot python stalked a family dog for days before swallowing the pet whole in front of horrified children in the Australian tropics, animal experts said Wednesday.

The boy and girl, aged 5 and 7, watched as the scrub python devoured their silky terrier-Chihuahua crossbreed Monday at their home near Kuranda in Queensland state.

Stuart Douglas, owner of the Australian Venom Zoo in Kuranda, said scrub pythons typically eat wild animals such as wallabies, a smaller relative of the kangaroo, but sometimes turn to pets in urban areas.

"It actively stalked the dog for a number of days," Douglas said.

"The family that owned the dog had actually seen it in the dog's bed, which was a sign it was out to get it," he added.

"They should have called me then, but (the snake) got away and three or four days later, I was called and went around and removed it" after the dog had been killed, Douglas said.

By the time Douglas arrived, all that could be seen of the dog was its hind legs and tail.
There's a great picture of the adorable snake eating the dog.


The snake I mean. Not the dog. Especially not the half-eaten dog.


Obama MegaPost


So I originally was going to write a long, smokingly-angry post about Obama. I wasn't at all happy with our designated 'Change' candidate at the time, and the media seemed to be glossing over his many potential pitfalls.

But then the LSATs dominated my life, and it got put on the back burner, and something strange happened.

He got a lot better.

There's simply no way I, or any other rational being, can look at the last few weeks of Obama vs. Clinton and not think he's come off the better candidate. Clinton's endless series of smear jobs, clumsy attacks, and tone-deaf rhetoric make her look bad, and the Democratic party look worse. Her complete lack of a coherent campaign strategy, hiring of Mark Penn, a bush-league Karl Rove, her total lack of control over her husband (who himself seems to want to sink this campaign with cheap racist shots or conflation of the WTC attacks with Iraq)... it's just pathetic.

So the longer it went on, the less urgently I felt the need to write about Obama.

The fact remains though, I should be honest with myself, and even if he's the best of three candidates, that doesn't make him a good person, or a good politician. So I'll go ahead and write up what I had, from a slightly less inflammatory perspective.

Follow the Money
The thing about Obama is that most of his supporters seem to think he's some kind of RFK crossed with Jesus, a messianic figure who brings goodness and light to everything he touches.

But of course, he is also a Chicago politician. You don't have to be a political scientist to know what that means: Follow the Money.

The most serious accusations against Obama all revolve around a man named Tony Rezko. Rezko was/is a major land developer in Chicago, with ties to all the most important of the local politicans, as well as a former governor.

He's also under indictment for bribery, corruption, extortion, etc.

Not to mention being a world-class slumlord.

Obama didn't escape Chicago politics without becoming very friendly with Mr. Rezko.

When Obama became president of the Harvard Law Review, Rezko interviewed him for a job working for one of Rezko's companies. Obama turned down the job, but instead accepted more indirect employment at the law firm representing a series of Rezko's not-for-profit partners in the series of transactions to build and rehab low income housing that are now the subject of federal indictment in Chicago which US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald described as "pay to play on steroids."

Obama was an attorney with a small Chicago law firm -- Davis Miner Barnhill & Galland -- that helped Rezmar get more than $43 million in government funding to rehab 15 of their 30 apartment buildings for the poor.

Resko got millions of dollars to build and rehab low income housing and according to the government, embezzled the money. The people in those houses had no heat, no water. They lived in squalor--many in Obama's State senate district. You could assume constituent complaints would have come in and Obama's law firm did the legal work for those government contracts and grants. Yet he denies knowing about it.
That is indeed audacious, Barack, but Hope isn't the word I'd use.

It gets worse, of course.
During this period, Rezko was mentoring him and raising money for him and hosting parties to introduce Obama to influential people.

When Obama ran for the U.S. Senate, Rezko held a June 27, 2003, cocktail party in Rezko’s Wilmette mansion, picking up the tab for the lavish event. Obama’s campaign staff has said it has no records to show who attended that party, or how much it cost.

As an aside, Obama told the press that the total amount raised by Rezko for him over his career was only about $60,000, when the amount given by Rezko has been reported at $162,000 and change, and if you count the money Rezko bundled for him it goes even higher.

After he was elected to the Senate and while he was anticipating a large sum of money from his soon to be best selling book, Obama found his dream home. There is an extensively detailed post over at MyDD explaining the timeline of this purchase and just how "insider" it was. It's a real eye opener. Read to the end past all the maps and statistics.

There was a slight hitch in that Obama could not quite afford the asking price for the house which was situated on a large lot. According to MyDD, Michelle Obama used her position on the Chicago Landmarks Commission to facilitate the subdivision of the lot.

Barack Obama, for his part, went to Rezko for "advice" about how to buy a house he cannot afford and "poof" Rezko's wife pays full price for a portion of the property and Obama gets a discount on the house. A while later, he bought back 1/6 of the lot from her for 1/6 of the price she paid for it. How is that different from an interest free loan equal to the amount paid for that 1/6 of the lot? According to MyDD, Obama pays for the landscaping of the Rezko lot and may have been using it to park his cars because his neighborhood does not allow on street parking, in which case how is this different from rent free occupancy of the land?
There's some dispute over the discount angle. But the fact remains, Obama is involved in shady land deals with a man who himself is, err, a shady land developer/scumbag landlord/political corruption figure.

Obama for his part has tried pretty hard to bury the story, but it's certainly suspicious.
U.S. Sen. Barack Obama expressed regret late Friday for his 2005 land purchase from now-indicted political fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko in a deal that enlarged the senator's yard.

"I consider this a mistake on my part and I regret it," Obama told the Chicago Sun-Times in an exclusive and revealing question-and-answer exchange about the transaction.

In June 2005, Obama and Rezko purchased adjoining parcels in Kenwood. The state's junior senator paid $1.65 million for a Georgian revival mansion, while Rezko paid $625,000 for the adjacent, undeveloped lot. Both closed on their properties on the same day.


The transaction occurred at a time when it was widely known Tony Rezko was under investigation by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and as other Illinois politicians befriended by Rezko distanced themselves from him.

In the Sun-Times interview, Obama acknowledged approaching Rezko about the two properties being up for sale and that Rezko developed an immediate interest. Obama did not explain why he reached out to Rezko given the developer's growing problems.
So Obama approached a known criminal suspect and slumlord for help getting the house he wanted. He considers it a mistake.... NOW.

He's even returning Rezko's campaign money.

Well... SOME of it.
Obama and Rezko have been friends since 1990, and Obama said the Wilmette businessman raised as much as $60,000 for him during his political career. After Rezko's indictment, Obama donated $11,500 to charity--a total that represents what Rezko contributed to the senator's federal campaign fund.
Cute, huh? He returns anything with Rezko's name on the check's signature line, but keeps the rest he laundered through 'friends'.

Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Of course, ABC thinks the figure might go a lot higher than 60k.
The Obama campaign says it has given away more than $85,000 in Rezko-linked contributions since Rezko was indicted on federal fraud and extortion charges in the fall of 2006.

An review, however, has identified an additional $100,000 in contributions made to Obama from Rezko's associates that have not been returned, including $19,500 in contributions from Rezko's wife and employees of Rezko's business enterprises. The review includes individuals who have been linked to Rezko in news reports, court documents and public records.


The Chicago Sun-Times, which published its review last June, found that "Obama has collected at least $168,308 from Rezko and his circle," and earlier this week the Los Angeles Times reported that it had found that Rezko and his associates had given "Obama more than $200,000 in donations since 1995."
It's just like a cancer, isn't it? No matter how much they cut, there seems to be more to find.

Source: ABC News

That hardly looks good.

This looks worse of course.
Now comes the revelation: the Chicago Sun Times reported that Obama is mentioned in the federal criminal case against Rezko.

Obama is not named in the Dec. 21 court document. But a source familiar with the case confirmed that Obama is the unnamed “political candidate” referred to in a section of the document that accuses Rezko of orchestrating a scheme in which a firm hired to handle state teacher pension investments first had to pay $250,000 in “sham” finder’s fees. From that money, $10,000 was donated to Obama’s successful run for the Senate in the name of a Rezko business associate, according to the court filing and the source.

Rezko, who was part of Obama’s senatorial finance committee, also is accused of directing “at least one other individual” to donate money to Obama and then reimbursing that individual — in possible violation of federal election law.
That is from the infamous Tribune, of course, so take with a grain of salt. They're not the Post, or Fox, but still a bit seedy.

Source: Firedoglake

Now, taking fairly obvious kickbacks and bribes is certainly bad enough. But what if you were taking them from a reprehensible son of a bitch?

Then you'd be taking them from Tony Rezko.
A review by the Los Angeles Times shows that Rezko, a businessman long active in Chicago politics, played a deeper role in Obama's political and financial biography than the candidate has acknowledged.

For example, Rezko, his employees and business associates -- such as his consultants, lawyers and their families -- have provided Obama more than $200,000 in donations since 1995, helping fuel his rapid ascent in Illinois and U.S. politics. Although Rezko is not Obama's largest bundler, he was there at the start and at critical moments along the way, helping support the candidate when few others were.

In addition to being a campaign benefactor, Rezko also surfaced when Obama and his wife purchased their house on Chicago's South Side in 2005. On the day the Obamas bought their house, Rezko's wife, Rita, bought an adjacent lot from the same sellers, part of which Obama later bought back.

Rita Rezko's purchase, at the $625,000 asking price, came just as the Obamas successfully bid in a slow market to buy the house for $300,000 below the asking price, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The Obamas secured their brick Georgian Revival-style home on June 15, 2005, for $1,650,000. Later, the Chicago Tribune reported, Rezko paid $14,000 to build a fence, required by city ordinance, along the new property line.

Obama says there was nothing improper in these transactions. The housing deal came after it was known that Rezko was under scrutiny by federal authorities.


"Everybody in this town knew that Tony Rezko was headed for trouble," said Jay Stewart of the Better Government Assn. in Chicago. "When he got indicted, there wasn't a single insider who was surprised. It was viewed as a long time coming. . . . Why would you be having anything to do with Tony Rezko, particularly if you're planning to run for president?"


"Everybody in this town knew that Tony Rezko was headed for trouble," said Jay Stewart of the Better Government Assn. in Chicago. "When he got indicted, there wasn't a single insider who was surprised. It was viewed as a long time coming. . . . Why would you be having anything to do with Tony Rezko, particularly if you're planning to run for president?"


The criminal case against Rezko appears to center in part on his efforts to provide contributions to Illinois Democratic Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich in exchange for appointments to state boards and commissions. The federal investigation, dubbed Operation Board Game, produced allegations that Rezko and others sought to squeeze kickbacks from firms doing business before state boards. One oversees public schoolteacher pension investments. Another authorizes permits for hospitals.

Just a few years ago, Rezko was hobnobbing with the emir of Qatar, squiring him to Springfield and Chicago. He sold to a British billionaire -- but still helps manage -- what would be the largest undeveloped swath of land left in downtown Chicago, 62 acres along the Chicago River. He even became partners in a planned power plant in Iraq.

Obama has said repeatedly that he did nothing in exchange for Rezko's early and consistent support.

But in 1998, then-state Sen. Obama wrote to state and city officials urging them to provide funding for New Kenwood LLC, a company formed by Rezko and Allison Davis. Obama wrote the letters, first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, on Illinois Senate stationery, saying: "This project will provide much needed housing for 4th Ward citizens."
Ahh, that wonderful needed housing. Without heat.

Source: The LA Times

It gets cooooold in Chicago in winter.
For more than five weeks during the brutal winter of 1997, tenants shivered without heat in a government-subsidized apartment building on Chicago's South Side.

It was just four years after the landlords -- Antoin "Tony'' Rezko and his partner Daniel Mahru -- had rehabbed the 31-unit building in Englewood with a loan from Chicago taxpayers.

Rezko and Mahru couldn't find money to get the heat back on.

But their company, Rezmar Corp., did come up with $1,000 to give to the political campaign fund of Barack Obama, the newly elected state senator whose district included the unheated building.

Obama has been friends with Rezko for 17 years. Rezko has been a political patron to Obama and many others, helping to raise millions of dollars for them through his own contributions and by hosting fund-raisers in his home.

Obama, who has worked as a lawyer and a legislator to improve living conditions for the poor, took campaign donations from Rezko even as Rezko's low-income housing empire was collapsing, leaving many African-American families in buildings riddled with problems -- including squalid living conditions, vacant apartments, lack of heat, squatters and drug dealers.
Ahh, good thing they had Barack Obama to watch out for them and secure that much needed housing, huh?
Rezko and Mahru had no construction experience when they created Rezmar in 1989 to rehabilitate apartments for the poor under the Daley administration. Between 1989 and 1998, Rezmar made deals to rehab 30 buildings, a total of 1,025 apartments. The last 15 buildings involved Davis Miner Barnhill & Galland during Obama's time with the firm.

Rezko and Mahru also managed the buildings, which were supposed to provide homes for poor people for 30 years. Every one of the projects ran into trouble:

• Seventeen buildings -- many beset with code violations, including a lack of heat -- ended up in foreclosure.

• Six buildings are currently boarded up.

• Hundreds of the apartments are vacant, in need of major repairs.

• Taxpayers have been stuck with millions in unpaid loans.

• At least a dozen times, the city of Chicago sued Rezmar for failure to heat buildings.
Yep. A very good thing Obama was there.

Who needs heat when you've got Hope?

Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Who needs a politican who'll stand up for you?
Barack Obama and Joann Larkins live less than a mile apart in Chicago's predominantly black South Side, but they inhabit very different worlds.

What connects her squalid flat and his colonnaded mansion is Antoin "Tony" Rezko, the former Obama donor and friend, who goes on trial for corruption next month - and was denounced as a "slum landlord" by Hillary Clinton in a dramatic and bitter exchange during last week's Democratic presidential debate.

Mr Obama’s past ties to the Syrian-born property developer, a well-known figure in Chicago politics for his financial largesse, have prompted new questions about the sound political judgement and clean ethics that he touts in his run for the White House.


Mrs Larkins, 51, lives just seven city blocks away, in a district where posters advertise "dirt cheap properties" and "foreclosure advice". She moved there almost a decade ago, taking a subsidised apartment with her 20-year-old daughter and one-year-old grandson in a building that had fallen into neglect when run by Mr Rezko.

The family boiled water on the stove and draped plastic sheeting across the windows in an effort to keep warm during the city's bitter winters, as the heating was not working. Rubbish piled up uncollected and repeated requests for basic repairs were ignored.

"It was a terrible place to live: there were a lot of drug dealers and people fighting and getting shot," Mrs Larkins, a widow who receives invalidity benefit, told The Sunday Telegraph.

"The owners never took any interest in the place; they just wanted the rent money. We had to call the city just to get the garbage collected."

The 44-apartment complex was one of 30 low-income housing projects run by Mr Rezko and his partners with funds from the city during the 1990s. By early this decade, many were boarded up as bills and mortgage payments went unpaid, but Mr Rezko moved into the fast-food business, while tenants like the Larkins struggled with the legacy of his management.

Mr Rezko was also one of the first to spot the skills of Mr Obama, offering the then Harvard law graduate a job in 1991 and becoming an early financial supporter of the new state legislator, whose inner-city constituency included 11 of his housing projects.

Although Mr Obama makes much of his roots as a community activist in Chicago's poorest districts, he has said he had "no inkling" that there were problems with Mr Rezko's operations. But the signs should have been easy to spot, according to John Bartlett, of the Chicago-based Metropolitan Tenants' Association.

"The problems with Rezko were far from hidden. They were so bad that the city has had to take him to court. Anyone who wanted to look into Rezko's activities could have learned about them," he said.
There's really not anything else to say. Great job, Senator Obama. Great job.

Source: The Telegraph

Back at Firedoglake:
Was it simply enough that Obama didn't make waves about the lack of heat and deplorable conditions in the Rezko buildings situated within Obama's state senate district? I don't know. But I was struck by a comment Obama made in the debate on of the debates to the effect of "you know how Illinois politics are" or some such. Followed later on by "Nobody's hands are perfectly clean in politics. That is true. I mean, there a distinction, though, between not taking PAC and federal lobbyist money and having that as a major way of driving your campaign and having some ancillary involvement."

At the time, I wondered to myself, "where did that come from?"
Where indeed. Favors like that are almost never free.

Source: Firedoglake

So Obama is fairly well wrapped up with Tony Rezko, aka a total scumbag. His wife appears to have abused her position on a city board to help land her own dream home.

Is that it?

Well, no, not exactly. Chicago politics means playing ball after all.

Or in this case, poker.
Add to that this golden oldie from the Chicago Tribune.

Nowhere was Obama's ability to navigate Springfield's subcultures on better display than at The Committee Meeting. That was the code name for Wednesday night poker games attended by about a dozen lawmakers and lobbyists. Obama was a regular, and his stingy betting became a running joke with those at the table.


An exception to his disciplined routine was the poker game held inside the headquarters of the Illinois Manufacturers Association, the big business lobby whose legislative goals often were at odds with those of liberals like Obama.

Handed a cigar and cocktail on the way in, players left a few hundred dollars richer or poorer. Obama played liked he legislated, "slowly, deliberately, cautiously," recalled Jacobs.
So was involved in a goddamn cliche, the corrupt poker-game with lobbyists in a smoke-filled room.

Or maybe the room didn't have smoke. That part I can't confirm.

Still, does it look good for politicians to sneak off in the dead of night to 'gamble' with lobbyists?

I sure as hell don't think so.

This practice, in fact, has been seen before.
One of the things that came out about Abramoff et al. was that they would invite Congress critters to play poker and wine and dine in a hotel suite that the lobbyist paid for, and then let them win. It was a way of passing money to them without leaving a paper trail. The Chicago events were hosted at the HQ of a lobbying organization, I think it's fair to assume that the cocktails and Cohibas were provided by the hosts and the article makes a point of saying that he was a stingy better and a cautious player--directly suggesting that he seldom lost. And what kind of message are you sending joking about the game being a "Committee Meeting"?
Not a great message, that's for sure.

Source: Firedoglake

Michelle's Dirty Too
So, I mentioned that Barack Obama's wife, Michelle, was also involved in the dirty house deal, and seems to have used her position to help land it.

Just how involved?

Sitting on the Commission of Chicago Landmarks board, Michelle knew of a permit, waiting for review and approval to sell, for a designated Historical Georgian revival home built in 1910 with four fireplaces, glass-door bookcases fashioned from Honduran mahogany, and a 1,000-bottle wine cellar owned by a doctor in Kenwood. The Commission is supported not only by donations and taxes but also by charges for permits. It's a pretty extensive process, and they want a complete history of the house and property when a permit is requested. Once the Board approves a permit, the application goes to the city planning or zoning commission if more than a simple sale is involved.

The doctor who owned the Kenwood home wanted more than the Obamas could afford. As Barack has stated in numerous press interviews, buying the home would be a stretch. Barack contacted his patron Tony Rezko, despite knowing he was under investigation at the time, in order to see what could be done so the Obamas could afford their dream house. Sub-division was likely the agreed-on solution. In order to divide the lot, which the doctor purchased as one entity, he would have to:

-- Hire an approved architect and general contractor, who had been involved in renovations and sub-divisions in Kenwood previously
-- Have the lots surveyed and new plot plans drawn

-- Re-start the Landmark Commission permit approval process

-- Hold a public hearing (required).

-- Have the lots surveyed and new plot plans drawn

-- Re-start the Landmark Commission permit approval process

-- Hold a public hearing (required).

On page 51 of the Commission on Landmarks Ordinances, one finds a justification for the doctor agreeing to subdividing the land.

The applicant bears the burden of proof that the existing use of the property is economically infeasible and that the sale, rental or rehabilitation of the property is not possible, resulting the property not being capable of earning any reasonable economic return.

Pages 51 and 52 of the Landmark ordinances show how many proofs and other forms of extensive documentation are required in order to subdivide the land. Can any rational person believe the doctor would have been willing to go along with having his property sub-divided, and all the work and time involved, without compensation and assistance? Who paid for this?
Who indeed! Who could have arranged for a lot of under the table money to help the Obamas out? I wonder... do they know any shady figures with lots of cash?
All that needed to be done, in the name of the doctor, on the Kenwood property was completed by March 2005, and the house was finally listed. Michelle Obama resigned her seat on the Chicago Commission on Landmarks at the same time. Barack and Michelle closed on their new home in June of 2005, for $1.65 million dollars, $300,000 less than the asking price, and most likely using the proceeds of their Condo for a down payment, while taking out a mortgage for $1.32 million from Northern Trust. Tony Rezko's wife purchased the newly divided sub-plot for the full price of $625,000 and closed on the same day.

The City of Chicago requires parking permits, or people must rent space at parking garages for around $30 per diem. There is no overnight on-street parking. The Obamas had no yard to park on, and most likely parked on Rezko's property.
Mowed the grass on his property too. Nice of them.

Nice to see how seriously Michelle took her public responsibilities too. The very DAY she got her corrupt deal, she quit.

Lovely. Especially since she portrays her career arc as some kind of sainthood candidacy.
In 1996, she left the Public Allies to help create a student volunteer program at The University of Chicago. By the time of this interview, she was the Executive Director of Community Affairs for The University of Chicago Hospitals. This is how Michelle portrays her change of career:

She was devastated when her father died from MS complications. "That's when I started analyzing my life, sitting in a firm," she recalls, adding that in that same year she also lost one of her best friends from college to cancer. She soon left the firm to pursue a much lower-paying path in the public sector.
Yep. Nothing to see here. What charity.
2004 was a year flush with success for the Obamas: the autobiographical book sales increased; the DNC speech had been well received; Obama won his US Senate seat; and Michelle received a recent promotion to a $316,962-a-year position as Vice President at The University of Chicago Hospitals. Their income was over 1.67 million dollars, with anticipation of even greater gains ahead.
Yep. She's out there, healing the lepers.


So in conclusion, Obama's message and his motives don't mesh that well. He's clearly been a man out for power, property and influence from the get-go.

Pretty traditional for a major political figure, really.

Still, at the end of the day, if it's between a greedy, grasping Obama, a clumsy, inept Clinton, and St. John McCain, who says it's fine if we're in Iraq for another TEN THOUSAND YEARS... I'll take Obama.

Call me a cynic, but competence is what we need most now. If he can keep his graft to a few million here and there, the cost-savings over Bush, just from corrupt contractors and no-bid deals, will be enormous.

The deeper you dig, the scummier he looks. In a perfect world, Clinton would have run a sterling, clockwork perfect campaign. These allegations would have destroyed Obama, and a Clintonian juggernaut would have lead to the Republicans being crushed under her heel in the fall.

This isn't a perfect world. There is no excuse for running such an emotional, racist, scattershot campaign. This country is on the verge of complete economic and military collapse, and if McCain was to get the job, I'd sincerely recommend switching your money to Euros and asking the EU for asylum.

As sick as it is, being an asshole, like Obama certainly is, can't compare to the risks of McCain in the White House.

Weird Update

Progress toward Madness

I Want One
So an engineer boffin has come up with an implantable screen to wear under your skin, powered by the glucose in your blood. He sees it as a future cell-phone/portable device interface, as it's even touch sensitive.


Jim Mielke's wireless blood-fueled display is a true merging of technology and body art. At the recent Greener Gadgets Design Competition, the engineer demonstrated a subcutaneously implanted touch-screen that operates as a cell phone display, with the potential for 3G video calls that are visible just underneath the skin.
The basis of the 2x4-inch "Digital Tattoo Interface" is a Bluetooth device made of thin, flexible silicon and silicone. It´s inserted through a small incision as a tightly rolled tube, and then it unfurls beneath the skin to align between skin and muscle. Through the same incision, two small tubes on the device are attached to an artery and a vein to allow the blood to flow to a coin-sized blood fuel cell that converts glucose and oxygen to electricity. After blood flows in from the artery to the fuel cell, it flows out again through the vein.

On both the top and bottom surfaces of the display is a matching matrix of field-producing pixels. The top surface also enables touch-screen control through the skin. Instead of ink, the display uses tiny microscopic spheres, somewhat similar to tattoo ink. A field-sensitive material in the spheres changes their color from clear to black, aligned with the matrix fields.
Yeah yeah, it's gruesome. So what? Some people would say having your eye peeled like a grape then blasted with a UV laser is gruesome, but it gave me perfect vision and let me chuck my glasses. This would let me, err, freak people out and more easily get nagged by my mother.


I still want one.


Morbid Auction
Ok, here's something even more gross than the tattoo thing.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - It is billed as the best pop culture collection ever assembled -- ranging from the gun used to kill the assassin of U.S. President John F. Kennedy to the Wicked Witch of the West's hat from "The Wizard of Oz."


He said the Colt Cobra revolver used by Jack Ruby to kill Oswald in 1963, just days after Oswald was arrested for assassinating Kennedy, could fetch several million dollars alone. The initials of detectives who handled the gun are scratched on it.

"The whole world saw that unfold live and here's the very gun and the hat that Jack Ruby was wearing," said Ettinger, adding that the tag tied to Oswald's toe to identify his corpse and a lock of his hair were also to be auctioned.


Other items to be auctioned include a Federal Bureau of Investigation badge that belonged to the bureau's founder J. Edgar Hoover, a wig worn by Elizabeth Taylor for "Cleopatra," and the leather jacket worn by actor Brandon Lee when he was accidentally shot and killed while filming "The Crow."
Ok, so, why isn't Ruby's gun in a museum? For that matter, who lifted the jacket off of Brandon Lee's cooling body?

This is sort of sick.

Source: Raw Story

World of Goo
Neat looking game where you build structures out of living blobs.



Themes in Cuisine
Japan always innovates when it comes to the weirdest stuff imaginable.
TOKYO (Reuters) - At Edelstein boarding school, the schoolboys wear lip-gloss, the headmistress has a weakness for homoerotic comic books, and there is only one subject: how to serve female visitors.

Welcome to Tokyo's first schoolboy cafe, the latest in a flurry of eateries in Japan where customers and waiters role play themes from manga comics.

In keeping with the schoolboy theme, waiters with manicured hands and soft voices pretend to be teenage students, chatting and flirting with well-dressed Japanese women playing the roles of benefactresses visiting the school.


"I'm in the flower arrangement club," whispers one girlish, long-haired waiter at the cafe, looking up from the book of German poetry he is reading.
All's not sweetness and light, however.

Sakamaki, the schoolboy cafe manager who has tapped that market so successfully, is already onto her next idea: a cafe modeled along 1920s Japan. That would match another big trend among Japanese youth -- nostalgia for pre-war Japan.
If I was in South Korea, I'd be on the lookout for the new lip-gloss wearing vanguard of the Second Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

Source: Reuters

Some nifty lost comic weirdness from Marvel over the years.

Source: Fish1000.Biz

Republican Values

Not Just Greed

Bill Orly
So Bill-O, fresh off of threatening to lead a lynch mob against Michelle Obama if there was 'evidence', is now comparing Arianna Huffington, Republican Apostate, to... Hitler. Hitler and the KKK.

Summary: While discussing comments posted to an item on The Huffington Post, Bill O'Reilly said of the website's founder, "Arianna Huffington, I have no respect for that woman. I think that she is hurting the country." O'Reilly asked: "[W]hat's the difference between the Ku Klux Klan and Arianna Huffington?" and later stated: "I don't see any difference between Huffington and the Nazis."
This from the man who's amazed black people can eat at a restaurant without screaming obscenities, and who wants to lead an ideological purge against uppity black women.


Source: Media Matters

Republicans Are Bad For Children
...and other living things.
Today, the Children’s Defense Fund Action Council released its 2007 Nonpartisan Congressional Scorecard. CDF reports some positive news, particularly that average scores for members of Congress “improved from the previous three years with more Members scoring 100 percent than in 2004, 2005 or 2006.”

Many, however, did not fare so well. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) received a 10 percent rating — the worst in the U.S. Senate.

Source: Think Progress

Another Plagiarist
Right-wingers do love to steal other peoples' ideas, don't they?

The latest huckster is Tim Goeglein, a top White House staffer, who also writes a column for a newspaper. Naturally, he's also the liaison to their faith-based theocracy program.

Also, by 'writes', I mean, of course, 'steals'.
WASHINGTON - A Fort Wayne native and White House official acknowledged Friday he copied large portions of an essay that appeared in a Dartmouth College publication and presented them as his own in a News-Sentinel column.

"It is true," Tim Goeglein wrote to The Journal Gazette in an e-mail. "I am entirely at fault. It was wrong of me. There are no excuses."

He said he wrote to the author of the essay, Jeffrey Hart "to apologize, and do so categorically and without exception."

Nancy Nall, a former News-Sentinel columnist who writes a blog from her home in Michigan, detailed the nearly word-for-word similarities of eight paragraphs of Goeglein's 16-pargraph essay about college education, which appeared in the News-Sentinel on Thursday, and Hart's column, which was written about a decade ago.


Goeglein has worked in the Bush White House since 2001 as the Bush administration's liaison to religious organizations. He formerly worked for then-Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind.
Ahh, more of those famous Heartland Values.

This is hardly the first time either. From the Post, regarding the efforts of Nall and her readers to see how far back this goes:
Since then, one of her readers found passages in Goeglein's Nov. 5 column about Hoagy Carmichael that appears lifted from a Jonathan Yardley essay published in The Washington Post on Sept. 3.

Another reader found Goeglein's July 23 column on John Wayne's centenary containing passages from an article by Bruce Bennett published in the New York Sun on June 20. That same reader then found similarities between Goeglein's July 5 column and an article by Robert R. Reilly published in Crisis Magazine on June 13.

Sources: The Washington Post
Journal Gazette

Good Fences and All That
So the much-vaunted 'Border Fence' that Bush was pushing turns out to have gone completely to custard.

Actually it's so bad, it probably started out that way.
GAO investigators said that Boeing's software could not process large amounts of sensor data. The resulting delays made it hard for operators in a Tucson command center 65 miles to the north to lock cameras on targets. Radar systems were also triggered inadvertently by rain and other environmental factors. Cameras had trouble resolving images at five kilometers when they were expected to work at twice that distance, Stana said.


A nongovernment source familiar with the project said that the Bush administration's push to speed the project during last year's immigration debate led Boeing to deploy equipment without enough testing or consultation.
So we have an intruder alarm system that works at half the distance intended, meaning huge gaps, and triggers false positives whenever it rains.

Wonderful! This fence should help ensure that more illegal immigrants sneak into the country.

That will mean more delicious tacos for me. Everybody wins.

Source: The Washington Post

Finally for Budding Fascists
A Playmobil Security Checkpoint!

No, really.

The comments at Amazon are classic.
Educational and Fun!, February 27, 2008 By Zampano (New York City) - See all my reviews

Durability: Fun: Educational:
Thank you Playmobil for allowing me to teach my 5-year old the importance of recognizing what a failing bureaucracy in a ever growing fascist state looks like. Sometimes it's a hard lesson for kids to learn because not all pigs carry billy clubs and wear body armor. I applaud the people who created this toy for finally being hip to our changing times. Little children need to be aware that not all smiling faces and uniforms are friendly. I noticed that my child is now more interested in current events. Just the other day he asked me why we had to forfeit so much of our liberties and personal freedoms and I had to answer "well, it's because the terrorists have already won". Yes, they have won.

I also highly recommend the Playmobil "farm fencing" so you can take your escorted airline passenger away and fence him behind bars as if he were in Guantanamo Bay.

El Presidente On the March

All Hail the Uniter

Yet Another Cover Up
You wonder how many there could be, don't you? Well, at least one more. It turns out that the 9/11 Commission Report seems to have been whitewashed to protect.. Saudi Arabia.

In January 2000, then-FBI Director Louis Freeh and CIA Director George Tenet attended regular briefings as Malaysian intelligence conducted surveillance of a “terrorist summit meeting” in Kuala Lumpur. Among the attendees were Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, two men who would later allegedly hijack American Airlines Flight 77 and crash it into the Pentagon.

A week after the Malaysian summit, al-Mihdar and al-Hazmi traveled to the United States. According to the 9/11 Commission report, they arrived in Los Angeles on Jan. 15 and “spent about two weeks there before moving to San Diego.” (9/11 Commission report, p. 215, chapter 7). The footnote for this item shows that the Commission relied on a different FBI report, “‘Summary of Pentbom Investigation,’ Feb.29, 2004 (classified version), p.16.”

But the FBI timeline contradicts this claim, placing the alleged hijackers in San Diego with specific details. According to the timeline, the two men resided in Apartment 152 at Parkwood Apartments, San Diego, from Jan. 15 through Feb. 2, 2000.


In other words, according to the only public account, both Al-Mihdhar and Hazmi were in San Diego, not Los Angeles, contrary to the Commission’s report.

Why did the Commission use an alternate source for the whereabouts of the two men, when the FBI’s own timeline said they were in San Diego by Jan. 15, the same day as their arrival in the US?

Paul Thompson, author of the The Terror Timeline: Year by Year, Day by Day, Minute by Minute: A Comprehensive Chronicle of the Road to 9/11--and America's Response, has been wading through the FBI timeline since its release. His preliminary analysis can be found at the website of the History Commons (formerly known as the Center for Cooperative Research).

Thompson believes that the possible motive for the Commission to alter the dates is to obscure official Saudi ties to the hijackers.

He points to the redaction of the name of a person who is a known employee of a Saudi defense contractor, Omar al-Bayoumi, who lived at the same location.

“We know it’s Bayoumi,” said Thompson, “because after 9/11, the Finnish Government mistakenly released a classified FBI list of suspects that showed Bayoumi living in apartment #152 of Parkwood Apartments.” That information is available here.

“But also important is that it strongly suggests that the hijackers already had a support network in Southern California before they arrived,” Thompson continued.

“In the official version of the story now, the hijackers drift around L.A. listlessly for two weeks before chancing to come across Bayoumi in a restaurant [according to Bayoumi’s account],” Thompson added. “Whereupon he's an incredible good Samaritan and takes them down to San Diego, pays their rent, etc.”

”But from the FBI's timeline, we now know the hijackers started staying at Bayoumi's place on Jan. 15 – the very same day they arrived,” Thompson says. “So obviously they must have been met at the airport and taken care of from their very first hours in the US. That's huge because the FBI maintains to this day that the hijackers never had any accomplices in the US.”
So basically, the 9/11 Commission ignored FBI evidence of yet more Saudi involvement in the WTC attacks to protect our oil-peddling friends from the Arabian pennisula.

Nauseating, isn't it?

Source: Raw Story

According to the ACLU, the list of suspected terrorists employed by the Bush junta today is now 900,000 names long.
More that 900,000 people are currently listed as suspected terrorists on the US government's "do not fly" list, and that number will grow to beyond 1 million by summer, says the American Civil Liberties Union.

"If there were a million terrorists in this country, our cities would be in ruins," Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU's Technology and Liberty Program, stated in a press release from the group. "The absurd bloating of the terrorist watch lists is yet another example of how incompetence by our security apparatus threatens our rights without offering any real security."
What Barry fails to realize here is that the Bush people use a different definition of 'terrorist'. To them, anyone who raises questions about their policies, votes Democratic, etc, could well be a terrorist.

Their poll numbers certainly terrify them.

Source: Raw Story

Agriculture Undersecretary
So it appears there might be one way to get a Bush crony to do their job: credibly threaten them with jail.
A federal judge decided Wednesday not to hold a Bush administration official in contempt over court orders requiring a federal environmental study on the effects of a chemical fire retardant.

U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy had threatened to send Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey to jail after the U.S. Forest Service was slow in responding to court orders, suggesting the agency was trying to skirt environmental law.

Although Molloy was critical of the agency, he said it ultimately filed the necessary documents. He added the threat of contempt helped spur the agency into action.

"It would be inappropriate under the circumstances to hold (Undersecretary) Rey or the Forest Service in contempt," Molloy said.

During testimony on delays in preparing the environmental study, Molloy noted the Forest Service took 2 1/2 years to comply with his order. He called it a "systematic disregard of the rule of law."

Testimony found similar studies usually take about 1 1/2 years. Molloy said the agency took a full year just to form a task force to get started on the environmental assessment.

"That's pretty unreasonable, don't you think?" Molloy said. "Nothing happens for a year? That's not complying with the rule of law, is it?"
Well, this is a bit if progress.

If only a bit.

Source: Raw Story

Turkey in Iraq
So Turkey is now involved in an actual invasion in Northern Iraq. A NATO ally is invading Iraq... and we're doing nothing.

Oh well.
Turkey insisted Thursday that its offensive against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq will continue "as long as necessary," while US President George Bush mounted pressure on Ankara to wrap up its incursion quickly.

As US Defence Secretary Robert Gates held talks in Ankara, Turkish warplanes bombed separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) positions in northern Iraq and intensive fighting was reported on the ground near a major rebel base.

Seven Kurdish rebels were killed during clashes Wednesday, bringing to 237 the number of separatist fighters killed in a week of fighting, the Turkish army reported Thursday.

In Washington, Bush said the incursion, launched on February 21, should be "limited and... temporary in nature."

He urged the Turkish military "to move quickly, achieve their objective and then get out... as quickly as possible."
That's nice! Keep your invasion brief, would ya, fellas?

So much for that Iraqi Sovereignty thing.

Source: Raw Story

Yet more from our good friends in Saudi Arabia.
A married university professor has been sentenced to 180 lashes and eight months in prison for having coffee with a female student.


When the man arrived at the meeting place, the girl was alone, and he was arrested for being in a state of khulwa - seclusion - with an unrelated female.

The professor, who has not been named, was reported to be a married man in his late 50s with children.

Contact between unrelated men and women is prohibited in Saudi Arabia, where religious police patrol public places to enforce Islamic law on behalf of the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

Abdullah al-Sanousi, the professor's lawyer, said his client had upset some of the commission's trainees on a course that a number had failed.
How lovely.

I know I've said this before, and I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but... why the hell are we helping these people? These religious nuts are our NATURAL ENEMY. We should be doing everything reasonable to grind this theocratic nightmare into the dustbin of history.

Source: The Telegraph

Thursday, February 28, 2008

American Civilization

An Excellent Idea

Yes, this is a post about a bleg. (Begging on a Blog == Bleg). Yes, there are about a thousand of these and most of them have worthy causes.

I think this is indicative of a far larger problem though.

She was only 14 years old when she was an eighth grader, a cheerleader, a young, vibrant girl with her whole life ahead of her. She was only 14 years old, when she enjoyed her last year of life as a normal, healthy girl.

She was only 15 years old, when she started chemotherapy for Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare form of childhood cancer that attacks the bones. She lost her hair, had the cancerous bone in her pelvis removed, and then her lungs started to deteriorate.

She lived through her 16th year with an oxygen bottle her closest companion, as her lung function approached a mere 20% of normal capacity.

In May of 2007, she was only 17 years old, when she finally had a double lung transplant, to replace lungs killed by interstices lung disease, brought on by the chemotherapy which saved her from the bone cancer.

When her health insurance is canceled later this year, it will be canceled with the simple explanation that she has reached her "lifetime maximum benefits."
Maximum Lifetime Benefits, another of the charming euphemisms come up with by our healthcare for profit system.

It might as well be called 'Maximum Lifespan Benefits'.
UPDATE II - Insurance companies are constantly canceling insurance for the people who need it most, like Brittani. And then the insurance they are able to get to replace their canceled policy is usually terrible, restricting care, curtailing choice, and ultimately subject to cancellation, or "rescission," to use the industry term, once the insured person starts to make actual use of the policy.

"Blue Cross is one of several California insurers that have come under fire for issuing policies without checking applications and then canceling coverage after individuals incur major medical costs. The practice of canceling coverage, known in the industry as rescission, is under scrutiny by state regulators, lawmakers and the courts.
. . . .

Victims of cancer and other serious medical problems often are unable to get new coverage once their insurance has been rescinded and they may go without treatment when they need it most. Suddenly swamped by medical debt, some people have lost homes and businesses. -- Source, L.A. Times"
Honestly, why couldn't we have a Democrat with a spine, who would simply go out on stage at a debate and say, "You want to know a difference between myself and my opponents? I'm going to kill private health insurance. That's right. I'm going to make a single payer system and nationalize Aetna, Blue Cross, etc. There's not a damn thing they can do about it."

People hate their health insurance providers so much, that mythical candidate with a backbone would win by 30 points, guaranteed.

I guess the lobbyist checkbooks are just too hefty.

Source: Justice For None

A Shocker
This one shocked me, that's for sure. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously, on the side of workers -- and the Bush administration wanted it that way.
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that individual participants in the most common type of retirement plan can sue under a pension protection law to recover their losses.

The unanimous decision has implications for 50 million workers with $2.7 trillion invested in 401(k) retirement plans.

James LaRue of Southlake, Texas, said the value of his stock market holdings plunged $150,000 when administrators at his retirement plan failed to follow his instructions to switch to safer investments.

The issue in the LaRue case was whether the Employee Retirement Income Security Act permits an individual account holder to sue plan administrators for breaching their fiduciary duties.

The language of the law refers to recovering money for the "plan" rather than for an individual, raising the question of whether a participant can sue solely for himself.

Justice John Paul Stevens, in his opinion for the court, said that such lawsuits are allowed. "Fiduciary misconduct need not threaten the solvency of the entire plan to reduce benefits below the amount that participants would otherwise receive," Stevens said.
In other words, if someone is negligent with your money, you can sue to recover it. SHOCKING

Employers were of course opposed to this, but, eh, who cares.

Source: Yahoo News

Military-Idiot Complex, the Moron Triangle
So the Seattle Times has been doing some stories about how, gee, campaign contributions lead to disgusting political favors.

Big surprise there.
Heath and military affairs specialist Hal Bernton found a disturbing trend in awards that representatives in the Pacific Northwest were handing out: Money was going towards manufacturing products that would never be used, or that nobody asked for to begin with.

One such product was Microvision Corporation's "Nomad," a helmet with a mounted computer display, meant to flash maps and relevant data to a soldier in combat. In 2001, Senator Slade Gorton (R-WA), who would later join Microvision's board, earmarked $8 million for the development of the "Nomad."

Democratic Senator Patty Murray, his successor, would appropriate a total of $11.5 million more to buy the helmets.

"Junk," one Army commander called the helmets, which have never seen combat; a contractor called Rockwell Collins was awarded the contract instead, but Senator Murray awarded Microvision $6 million for the purchase of their product anyway.
Ahh, bipartisanship! It sure gets things done.

Source: Raw Story

Florida Sucks
Seriously. They still qualify as a state?

A small fire took out the electrical grid for most of the state, including several nuclear reactors!
MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- Florida authorities are investigating how a small fire and a switch failure at an electrical substation outside Miami triggered a power failure that affected millions of people.

When a nuclear power plant sensed the disruption, it shut down. In turn, the state's power grid triggered rolling blackouts Tuesday across the state.

More than 2 million people lost power at the peak of the outages, but electricity quickly was restored to most parts of the state.

Authorities said no injuries were reported.
Olivera said Turkey Point's two nuclear reactors and a natural gas-powered generation unit automatically shut down when the plant's systems detected a fluctuation in the power grid.

"In a fraction of a second, the demand was far greater than the power plants that were online generating electricity could handle," he said. "When you have that kind of imbalance, we have a system that kicks in and it starts turning people's lights off, essentially balancing the demand with what's available."
So the official Floridian solution to demand exceeding supply (because a short is dumping all the current on a small line into the ground) is to CUT PRODUCTION, THUS CAUSING A BIGGER DEFICIT IN SUPPLY, THUS CAUSING THEM TO CUT SUPPLY, THUS CAUSING A BIGGER DEFICIT...

Yeesh. We're lucky this process didn't continue all the way back through time, until they were hunting and gathering for berries.


More Mad Cow
It's baaaaaaaaack....
Canadian officials confirmed a new case of mad cow disease Tuesday, the second such case in two months and the 12th since the disease was first discovered in Canada in 2003.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said no part of the carcass entered the human food or animal feed chains. The cow was detected in Alberta under a national monitoring program that targets cattle most at risk for the disease, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy.


U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Chuck Conner said Canada's latest case would not affect trade with the U.S. "This is no cause for concern," Conner said.
Right, unless you really want to AVOID dying in one of the most horrifying manners imaginable.

Source: Raw Story


But Fascinating

Tilda Swinton
Oh so delightfully creepy. She may be, as Colbert puts it, 'from a Future Earth where the sun has been extinguished and albino people live deep underground, with the only source of energy being charged particles emitted by their iridescent hair', but, I like her a lot.

She carried Constantine (the movie obviously) all on her own, and she's a wonderfully creepy White Witch, aka Satan, in the Narnia movies (aka, C.S. Lewis Proves Muslims Worship the Devil).

I didn't realize it was her in Michael Clayton, which I need to see now. She's also slated for an upcoming return as the White Witch in Prince Caspian, and she's going to star in Marilyn Manson's pic about Lewis Caroll.

This is too awesome.

Source: IMDB

Garfield Minus Garfield
What do you get when you remove Garfield from the Garfield comic?

Well, a much better comic for one thing. A fascinating look at the descent into madness of one Jon Arbuckle.

Source: Garfield Minus Garfield

Mary Worth Farked
A Fark photoshop thread dedicated to eternal meddler Mary Worth.

Very much not safe for work.


Dark Matter Goliath
So astronomy boffins have now found the largest object in the universe.

Feb. 22, 2008 -- The most colossal structures in the universe have been detected by astronomers who tuned into how the structures subtly bend galactic light.

The newfound filaments and sheets of dark matter form a gigantic features stretching across more than 270 million light-years of space--three times larger than any other known structure and 2,000 times the size of our own galaxy.


"If we were able to see the dark matter from Earth it would be a very complex network of filaments and sheets," Van Waerbeke told Discovery News.

That sort of cobwebby structure matches computer models which predict that the visible matter in the universe--clusters and super clusters of galaxies--are just the small lights in much vaster clusters of dark matter. All of it is expanding and in some places still connected by filaments of dark matter--rather like very stringy Mozzarella cheese pulled from a hot pizza.

"They're picking up these really large filaments," said astronomer Bhuvnesh Jain of the University of Pennsylvania. The filaments are 10 to a 100 times less dense than the clusters where filaments meet and things like galaxies collect, he explained.


Source: Discovery Channel

Un-Blinded Me With Science
So an Irish man who lost his sight in an accident has, via surgery involving a donated tooth, regained his vision.

Yes, you read that correctly.
An Irishman blinded by an explosion two years ago has had his sight restored after doctors inserted his son's tooth in his eye, he said on Wednesday.

Bob McNichol, 57, from County Mayo in the west of the country, lost his sight in a freak accident when red-hot liquid aluminium exploded at a re-cycling business in November 2005.

"I thought that I was going to be blind for the rest of my life," McNichol told RTE state radio.

After doctors in Ireland said there was nothing more they could do, McNichol heard about a miracle operation called Osteo-Odonto-Keratoprosthesis (OOKP) being performed by Dr Christopher Liu at the Sussex Eye Hospital in Brighton in England.

The technique, pioneered in Italy in the 1960s, involves creating a support for an artificial cornea from the patient's own tooth and the surrounding bone.

The procedure used on McNichol involved his son Robert, 23, donating a tooth, its root and part of the jaw.

McNichol's right eye socket was rebuilt, part of the tooth inserted and a lens inserted in a hole drilled in the tooth.
Mwahahaha. They said he was mad! MAD! But who's mad now?!
"Now I have enough sight for me to get around and I can watch television. I have come out from complete darkness to be able to do simple things," McNichol said.
There's a website up with some pictures. They're a bit gruesome.

Source: Raw Story


They're Ugly and Mean and Nobody Likes Them

Bound to Be Full of Pop-Up Books
So the GW Bush Library site has been selected.

Over the objections of much of the faculty of the university that will host it. Also, religious leaders. And, err, just about everyone really.

Southern Methodist University will be home to George W. Bush's presidential library, officials formally announced Friday after a yearlong approval process that some faculty and religious opponents failed to derail.


Some Methodist ministers also joined the fray, launching an online petition drive that garnered about 11,000 signatures from those opposed to SMU hosting the library, museum and institute. The group said some Bush administration policies — going to war with Iraq, torturing foreign prisoners — conflict with church teachings.

Despite Friday's announcement, one of the petition organizers said the fight is not over.

The Rev. Andrew Weaver said that although a Methodist mission council gave SMU permission last year to lease land for the project, delegates from a larger church body must vote on that decision. There also could be a lawsuit, he said.

"It's David vs. Goliath, but the first time that fight went on, David did win," said Weaver, a New York research psychologist who graduated from SMU's Perkins School of Theology.
Haha... hilarious.

Mr. 19% strikes again!

Source: Raw Story

More Broken Promises
El Presidente strikes again.
Despite a 2002 promise from President Bush to put citizenship applications for immigrant members of the military on a fast track, some are finding themselves waiting months, or even years, because of bureaucratic backlogs. One, Sgt. Kendell K. Frederick of the Army, who had tried three times to file for citizenship, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq as he returned from submitting fingerprints for his application.


The long waits are part of a broader problem plaguing the immigration service, which was flooded with 2.5 million applications for citizenship and visas last summer — twice as many as the previous year — in the face of 66 percent fee increases that took effect July 30. Officials have estimated that it will take an average of 18 months to process citizenship applications from legal immigrants through 2010, up from seven months last year.

But service members and veterans are supposed to go to the head of the line. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President Bush signed an executive order allowing noncitizens on active duty to file for citizenship right away, instead of having to first complete three years in the military. The federal government has since taken several steps to speed up the process, including training military officers to help service members fill out forms, assigning special teams to handle the paperwork, and allowing citizenship tests, interviews and ceremonies to take place overseas.

At the same time, post-9/11 security measures, including tougher guidelines for background checks that are part of the naturalization process, have slowed things down.
Of course, being an El Presidente patented promise, it came with no follow-through and no money.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which checks the names of citizenship applicants against those in its more than 86 million investigative files, has been overwhelmed, handling an average of 90,000 name-check requests a week. In the fiscal year that ended in September, the F.B.I. was asked to check 4.1 million names, at least half of them for citizenship and green card applicants, a spokesman said.
So of course, in the end, the solution is to actually weaken our security.
Over all, 312,000 citizenship or green card applications are pending name checks, including 140,000 that have been waiting more than six months, immigration officials said. This month, immigration authorities eased background-check requirements for green cards, saying that if applicants had been waiting more than six months, they could be approved without an F.B.I. check, and approvals could be revoked later “in the unlikely event” that troubling information was found.
Thus making the entire background check/naturalization process, err, pointless.

Gah. Or we could, you know, HIRE PEOPLE AND FIX THE PROBLEM.

Source: The New York Times

A Very Creepy Cult
I already wrote about the head of HUD, who has a creepy photo shrine to himself and El Presidente in the lobby of his buildings.

Then there's this, from a bio of Josh Bolten.
Bolten may be polite but he isn't by any stretch buttoned down. He's a big music buff, including country music, and plays guitar. He recites poetry, sometimes at great length. He keeps a copy of the best-selling children's book Walter the Farting Dog on his office's coffee table. His wall collection of Bush photos, typical throughout the White House complex, is unique. The pictures focus exclusively on Bush's hands at key moments in his presidency. Not a single photo of Bush's face can be found. "Josh is extremely eclectic," explained Card. "His knowledge base is much, much broader than just policy or budget numbers."
Eclectic doesn't begin to describe this. This is idolatry.

Isn't that a sin for Christians and Jews? (Bolten is Jewish, GW is supposedly a Christian.)

Source: Stanford

Lawrence v. Texas
So the homophobic D.A. in Texas who fought all the way to the Supreme Court for the right to burst into your home in the dead of night and see if you were having state unapproved sex has turned out, in fact, to be a sleazy, racist ass in addition to a homophobic bigot.
Last December, as part of a federal civil rights lawsuit into how justice is meted out in the county, he turned over the (partial) contents of his government e-mail account. And what a batch of e-mails it was. Black ministers called for the Republican to resign because of racist material, including a cartoon depicting an African-American suffering from a “fatal overdose” of watermelon and fried chicken. There were adult video clips and love notes from Rosenthal to his secretary, his mistress during a previous marriage. “I love you so much,” Rosenthal says in one. “I want to kiss you behind your right ear,” he says in another. “Go spend time with your family,” she admonishes him back.
It hardly needs to be said that he's a Republican.
In the wake of the e-mail revelations, local GOP leaders forced him to abort his re-election bid. Then, on Feb. 15, after Lloyd Kelley, the attorney in the civil rights case, brought a lawsuit accusing him of drinking on the job and “incompetence, or official misconduct,” Rosenthal resigned. But his problems may not be over. As eye-opening as his e-mails were, it’s the ones that disappeared that might cause him more trouble yet. Rosenthal deleted thousands of e-mails (even going so far as to delete them from the trash folder) that investigators in the civil rights case wanted; his actions could lead to obstruction of justice charges (the messages were destroyed after he had received a subpoena for them, he admitted in court). And during a contempt of court hearing earlier this month, Rosenthal appeared to contradict his sworn statements about the e-mails, leaving him open to perjury charges. The hearing was abruptly adjourned at the request of his lawyer and is scheduled to resume March 14. If found in contempt, the former top prosecutor could wind up in jail.
He's now blaming much of his erratic behavior on pill popping.

Ahh, the Limbaugh defense.

Source: Pandagon

Dollar Collapse
Thanks to our Republican overlords and El Presidente, the dollar has fallen to another all-time low against the Euro, and will no doubt fall further.
Feb. 28 (Bloomberg) -- The dollar traded near a record low against the euro after the yield advantage on two-year German government debt over Treasuries widened to the most in more than five years.

The U.S. currency headed for a second monthly loss versus the euro and reached a 24-year low against the Australian dollar on speculation Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke will elaborate on plans to cut interest rates in testimony to the Senate today. The yield premium on two-year German bunds over similar-maturity U.S. debt widened to 1.41 percentage points today, the most since October 2002.

``I am super-bearish on the dollar,'' said Masanobu Ishikawa, general manager of foreign exchange at Tokyo Forex & Ueda Harlow Ltd., Japan's largest currency broker. ``The yield differential is buffeting the dollar and favoring the euro.''

The U.S. currency traded at $1.5103 per euro at 6:40 a.m. in London, after touching $1.5144 in New York yesterday, the weakest since the euro's debut in 1999. The dollar dropped to 106.32 yen from 106.49 yen yesterday, when it fell to 105.96, the lowest since Feb. 7. It may decline to $1.52 a euro and 105.80 yen today, Ishikawa forecast.

Oh well. It was a nice civilization while it lasted.

I for one want to be the first to welcome our new Sino-European Financial Overlords!

Source: Bloomberg

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Health Care With Pirates

A Musical Adventure

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Rapid Fire

Various Items of Note

Stewart and the Oscars
Some of Jon Stewart's Oscar night jokes. For example:

"Normally when you see a black man or a woman president, an asteroid is about to hit the Statue of Liberty."

"Tonight we look beyond the dark days to focus on happier fare - this year's slate of Oscar-nominated psychopathic killer movies. Does this town need a hug? No Country For Old Men, Sweeney Todd,There Will Be Blood. All I can say is: thank God for teen pregnancy."

Source: The Times Online

Pesky Pakistan
So Pakistan ordered YouTube taken off the interwebs for 'blasphemy' or some such, and their ISP complied. Only they did it badly, and due to a flaw in the way the interweb works, the block propagated worldwide, resulting in Youtube getting taken offline.
On Sunday, YouTube became unreachable from most, if not all, of the Internet. No "sorry we're down" or cutesy kitten-with-screwdriver page, nothing. What happened was that packets sent to YouTube were flowing to Pakistan. Which was curious, because the Pakistan government had just instituted a ban on the popular video sharing site. What apparently happened is that Pakistan Telecom routed the address block that YouTube's servers are into a "black hole" as a simple measure to filter access to the service. However, this routing information escaped from Pakistan Telecom to its ISP PCCW in Hong Kong, which propagated the route to the rest of the world. So any packets for YouTube would end up in Pakistan Telecom's black hole instead.
Is there anything religion in government can't ruin?

Source: Ars Technica

So a guy makes his living as a photographer and posts watermarked samples online. A magazine steals his work, crops out the watermarks, and uses them as stock photos. When questioned about it, they make up a nonexistent person, forge a receipt, and claim that person sold them the photos. They can not produce the person, the original files, or any evidence of any kind.

They chose... poorly.


So the energy utility in Madison has a bit of a probably with nosy jerks in their employ.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A landlord snooped on tenants to find out information about their finances. A woman repeatedly accessed her ex-boyfriend's account after a difficult breakup. Another obtained her child's father's address so she could serve him court papers.

All worked for Wisconsin's largest utility, where employees routinely accessed confidential information about acquaintances, local celebrities and others from its massive customer database.

Documents obtained by The Associated Press in an employment case involving Milwaukee-based WE Energies shine a light on a common practice in the utilities, telecommunications and accounting industries, privacy experts say.

Vast computer databases give curious employees the ability to look up sensitive information on people with the click of a mouse. The WE Energies database includes credit and banking information, payment histories, Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, and energy usage. In some cases, it even includes income and medical information.

Experts say some companies do little to stop such abuses even though they could lead to identity theft, stalking and other privacy invasions. And companies that uncover violations can keep them quiet because in many cases it is not illegal to snoop, only to use the data for crimes.
Honestly, don't they realize how bad this makes them look? Put a stop to it. Fire the people responsible. It's not that hard.

Unless you really WANT some brutally draconian privacy laws passed, in which case, fine, make your bed. See if I care when you have to lay in it.

Source: The Associated Press

A discussion of the pop culture phrase 'I Drink Your Milkshake!' and its proper usage.

Source: New York Magazine

ID Thieves
So apparently an ID thief stole the identify of a seven-year old kid. They've been using it for six years for employment purposes, to duck paying taxes.

The IRS actually told the kid, or more likely his parents, that he owes 60,000 in back taxes. Apparently they're not too bright at the Revenue Service, failing to realize that, under US law, it would have been illegal for a 1 year old to be drawing such a paycheck to start with.

Yeesh. What the hell kind of background checks do these employers/IRS types run?

Source: Raw Story

They Have to Be Kidding
So it seems that the Director of National Intelligence's underlings are so happy with their performance eliminating terror from the real world using color coded charts that they're ready to move into the world of videogames.

Well, ok, to be a bit more fair, they think that you could use a social game environment to organize real world activities.

Or, you know, a chat room. Or email. Or web pages. Or pigeons with little paper messages tied to their legs.

Of course, if you really want to leave a billing trail and have all of your activities potentially monitored by the company running the game, by all means.

Source: Wired

Jack Thompson
So good old anti-videogame crusader and general nuisance Jack Thompson is in big legal trouble in Florida. It seems that the Florida Supreme Court is sick and tired of his 'frivolous and inappropriate filings' and is going ahead with a plan to essentially ban him from practicing law without another laqyer to vouch for him; sort of a set of legal training wheels.

This guy is non-stop hilarity. He actually thinks this is a good thing for him too.

Source: Daily Tech

Good Night, Ulysses
So NASA and the ESA have been operating a probe mission to study the sun's magnetic field for the last seventeen years. The probe is appropriately named Ulysses, after the Greek explorer.
WASHINGTON - The joint NASA and European Space Agency Ulysses mission to study the sun and its influence on surrounding space is likely to cease operations in the next few months. The venerable spacecraft, which has lasted more than 17 years or almost four times its expected mission lifetime, is succumbing to the harsh environment of space.

Ulysses was the first mission to survey the space environment above and below the poles of the sun. The reams of data Ulysses returned have forever changed the way scientists view our star and its effects.

"I remember when we got those first pictures of Ulysses floating out of the space shuttle Discovery's payload bay back in October of 1990 and thinking we had a great five years ahead of us," said Ed Massey, Ulysses project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "I never dared think that we would be receiving invaluable science data on a near continuous basis for more than 17 years. Ulysses has set the bar on solar science data collection quite high."

Science findings and discoveries from the mission were numerous and unprecedented. Examples include taking the first direct measurements of interstellar dust particles and interstellar helium atoms in the solar system and the discovery that the magnetic field leaving the sun is balanced across latitudes.


Since its Jupiter flyby in 1992, Ulysses has been in a six-year orbit around the sun. Its long path through space carries it out to Jupiter's orbit and back. The farther it ventures from the sun, the colder the spacecraft becomes. If it drops to 2 degrees Celsius (36 degrees Fahrenheit), the spacecraft's hydrazine fuel will freeze. This has not been a problem in the past because Ulysses carries heaters to maintain a workable onboard temperature.

The spacecraft is powered by the decay of a radioactive isotope. Over its 17-plus years, the power has been steadily dropping. The spacecraft no longer can run all of its communications, heating and scientific equipment simultaneously. "We expect certain parts of the spacecraft to reach 2 degrees Celsius pretty soon," said Richard Marsden, ESA project scientist and mission manager. This temperature drop will block the fuel pipes, making the spacecraft impossible to maneuver.

We'll see you around, little probe. Thanks for the hard work.

Source: NASA

P.S. Normally I'd make some sort of diatribe here against the luddites who don't want to use any probes in space that run off of radioactive decay, which would limit our scientific exploration to the inner solar system and so forth. Those people are complete morons, and Ulysses shows why; but this is not the place to mock their slope-foreheaded ignorance.

I'll save that for the next time.

Big Ideas, Little Foresight
So it seems that Haiti's deforestation problem is growing even worse, and may be completely beyond the point of no return.
GRAND COLLINE, Haiti (AP) - Far from the spreading slums of the Haitian capital, past barren dirt mountains and hillsides stripped to a chalky white core, two woodcutters bring down a towering oak tree in one of the few forested valleys left in the Caribbean country.

Fanel Cantave, 36, says he has little choice but to make his living in a way that is causing environmental disaster in Haiti. And these days, he and his 15-year-old son, Phillipe, must travel ever farther from their village to find trees to cut.

"There is no other way to get money," the father said, pushing his saw through splintering wood that will earn him as much as $12.50, depending on how many planks it produces.

Such raw economics explain the disappearance of Haiti's forests, a process that has led to erosion that has reduced scarce farm land and left the island vulnerable to deadly flooding.
Ahh, but surely the United States could intervene with a half-baked plan to save the natives from themselves, right?
U.N. experts say just 2 to 4 percent of forest cover remains in Haiti, down from 7 to 9 percent in 1981. And despite millions invested in reforestation, such efforts have mostly failed because of economic pressures and political turmoil.

For example, the U.S. Agency for International Development embarked on an ambitious $22.8 million project in the 1980s to plant some 30 million trees that could provide income for peasants. But the project focused on trees that can be made into charcoal for cooking, and nearly all were eventually cut down.
Oops. The Quiet Americans strike again.

Meanwhile, smaller groups try to hold back the ocean with buckets, but that's not working either.
Compared to the USAID's failed plan, smaller programs have had more luck by focusing on fruit trees, which farmers are more likely to preserve to sell the fruit. And smaller organizations are able to work with individual farmers and tailor planting to the needs of specific areas.

"People aren't excited about, 'Hey let's go plant trees.' They're excited about, 'How can I feed my family? How can I make ends meet?'" said Scott Sabin, executive director of Floresta.

But many who are dedicated to restoring Haiti's forests have grown pessimistic. Despite small successes, prospects are grim for implementing such programs on a grand scale.

"Everything has been studied and all the solutions are already known," said Mousson Finnigan, the head of the Organization for the Rehabilitation of the Environment. "But when it comes to implementation, it becomes a place where everybody's fighting for the money. They're not fighting for results."
So in the end, the tragedy of the commons plays out on a grand scale.
"In Haiti we destroy instead of produce," acknowledges LeClaire Bocage, 38, who sells 110-pound sacks for $6.25. "They're going to tell the poor to stop cutting down trees. But what will we do to make a living?"
Never fear, though, Haiti! We have another plan for you to help us out, err, help yourselves.
It may be too late to restore Haiti's lost forests, said John Horton, an environmental specialist who has overseen Haiti projects for the Washington-based Inter-American Development Bank. He suggested planting crops that can stabilize the soil and be sold or used for bio-fuels. Others promote raising money through carbon credits from overseas firms emitting greenhouse gases elsewhere.

"They need cash crops, they need food, they need energy immediately," Horton said.
Yes, grow biofuels instead of food! Or plant trees to soak up our carbon (which other people will just burn down again).

Sigh. Man... I just... Yeah.

Source: My Way News

What to Do With Pesky Heathens
From the Skeptic's Annotated Bible:
2:8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.
2:9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.
That'll teach those heathens! Slavery and death!

Err, wait a second. That's not good...

Source: The Skeptic's Annotated Bible