Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Boy Already Said the Proper Thing . . .

. . . but surely Molly would appreciate this: The collective IQ of Texans was just cut in half.

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Well, That Didn't Take Long, Did It?

Joe Biden's unique blend of articulate cluelessness and self-impressed sophistication may have already sunk his laughable Presidential campaign. But the fact he is so conceited that he actually thought he had a chance to win may something like this virtually predictable, didn't it?

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Weather, Water, Energy 1-31-07

Another UN org is begging the new General Secretary to call an international "climate summit" of world leaders to deal with the findings of the IPCC report coming out Friday (but being leaked already here). At first I doubted anything good would come from a meeting with Bushnev in it, but then I realized they were talking about "world leaders." . . . I realize that doesn't make you think of Australia's PM either, but the folks in Sydney are looking at a really scary future, as in "if residents do not cut water consumption by more than 50% over the next 20 years, the city will become unsustainable." . . . Dems here in the US, many dimes late and many dollars short, are finally calling for serious action on global warming, as this story indicates. Is it me or is it significant that the first three quoted are women? . . . And, again, the states are getting it much better and quicker than our federal "leaders," as these articles from the "I" states, IA and ID, and MN show. . . . Lots of good stuff at Grist today, including posts on palm oil, idiots and ethanol, and space mirrors. Go and spend some time. . . . Speaking of good stuff, here's a nice piece on the realities and cons of carbon offsets, background and problems, including this good bit of advice: The best schemes were those that built capacity, in other words, they generated further emissions reductions in their own right. "Simply taking a straight CO2 number and thinking that you are solving the problem is a bit naive," Scott told AFP. "It is not enough, you have to look at the question critically." Hmm, looking at questions critically, hmm, hmm . . . nah, too hard. Is "Survivor" on?

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Rest in Peace, Molly Ivins

Just saw on NBC Nightly News that she passed away after a long battle with cancer. She was one of the best.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Taibbi's latest...

...Last week, Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi wrote a harsh-but-somewhat-heartfelt column about Hillary's beyond-generic entrance into the race.

Hillary Clinton announced her run for president last week. Now it was her turn to slip the "national conversation" line four sentences into her first speech as a national presidential candidate. You have to wonder what it says about a political candidate when she runs out of her own ideas less than fifty words into her national sojourn.

Actually, it took less time than that; the very first lines of her speech ("I'm in. And I'm in to win") were a cheap ripoff of Disney teenie idol Corbin Bleu's "Push It to the Limit" lyrics. Think about that: In preparation for what was clearly the biggest and most important speech of her life to date, Hillary Clinton sat down, plucked the inspirational top from a crappy teenie boy-band song, and then plunged right into a student-body-right regurgitation of DLC focus-group campaign gobbledygook, rhetoric that was still bruised and squashed quite flat from the pounding it took on the Kerry campaign trail two years ago. This was her way of introducing the future President Clinton's "new ideas" to the world.
You get the feeling he could always bite somebody's head off, James Wolcott-style, without really trying or caring. But there's also this blurb that shows that he's not doing this as a writing exercise:

What's so tragic about Hillary's political evolution is that her decision to morph into a caricature of a Washington stuffed suit seems so clearly a conscious decision on her part, a way of overcompensating for the abuse she took when she first arrived on the Hill over a decade ago to push her health care plan. Whether you love her or hate her, Hillary is a compelling story and an iconic figure in the history of modern feminism. Hers was a journey marked by intense public humiliation and the most savage kind of abuse. En route to her current status as a favorite for the Democratic nomination she has had to navigate, publicly, all the most dangerous minefields that exist for the modern professional woman -- the dilemma of whether or not to put her husband's career over her own, the burden of having to work overtime to be taken seriously in a male-dominated professional environment, the specter of abuse and discrimination by closed-minded people who see strong women as a threat to older traditional values, being rewarded for one's success by sexual humiliation at the hands of a husband more attracted to youth and feminine vulnerability than loyalty, strength, and achievement, and so on.

Had Hillary embraced head-on her undeniable role as an unwitting martyr/archetype for the modern professional woman, had she opened up her campaign by actually showing us what her private thoughts have been throughout all of these trying times, and what she might think the meaning of her journey has been or could be, she would have instantly established herself as an extraordinarily interesting and compelling story, at the very least. Instead, Hillary is clearly so spooked by the experience of not being taken seriously by the Beltway establishment that she's gone overboard in the direction of being a typical Inside-Baseball, full-of-shit Washington hack, spraying cardboard cliches like machine-gun fire. She's Joe Biden without the plugs.

This is what makes Taibbi good. RS is leaning on him like he's the new Hunter S. Thompson, and as long as he keeps doing stuff like going out on a boat with Sean Penn, et al, immediately after Katrina, and brilliantly inserting himself and his world into columns, he'll keep right on reminding them of HST. But the thing about Taibbi is, like HST, just when he's on the brink of a major take-no-prisoners rant, he comes back down to earth just long enough to tell you why what he's saying matters, and why he's not just blowing smoke. Fear and Loathing on the '72 Campaign Trail is a bit heartbreaking as you witness HST slowly devolving from optimism and excitement to "This is going to end very badly," and taking it very very hard. Taibbi does the same somewhat in his writing.

This week, he takes on, among others, the equivalent of a helpless kitten to anyone with minor verbal prowess and the ability to grasp facts...the media in general and Fox News in particular, in regard to Obama-madrassa complete and total fabrication.

The way our national media is currently constructed, a lie of this magnitude broadcast on a major network becomes an irreversible blow within, I would guess, about 24 hours after it appears. There are rare cases of an unsourced hoax blowing up quickly enough that it won't stick to a politician -- the John Kerry mistress story is a good example -- but for the most part, once the lie is out there, it's there to stay. This is especially true given the nature of the audience for outlets like Fox and Hannity. Unless you force a Hannity or a John Gibson to apologize by ripping his own still-beating heart out on national television, their audiences will assume that any "retraction" comes with a grain of salt, that the original report was true.

Years after George Bush himself admitted that there is no link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, I continue to meet people who believe just the opposite -- that the original implications furthered by the White House and the talk-radio preachers were true, and that the no-link concession was something somehow forced on Bush and the likes of Fox by hyper-cautious media lawyers and lefty journalists who, it is assumed, harbor some secret allegiance to Saddam Hussein and/or the cause of Islamic terrorism in general.

...

Now we're seeing the same thing with the Obama story; it is lingering, even after it has been totally discredited. Emboldened by a generation that has refused to punish their libelous behavior, these guys now just take whatever "facts" they like and run with them. Hannity is one culprit. Michael Savage, a spineless little fuckhead who should be torn apart by hyenas, responded to the debunking of the Obama story by telling his listeners that Obama "will not reply" to the original Insight report, a blatant lie. He added, for good measure, that "assuming the world is still here" after a Clinton-Obama administration, Obama would then run for president with "Saddam Hussein's younger grandson" as his running mate.

The very fact that the liars are allowed to continue their trade unpunished is a sort of endorsement of their original versions of the "truth." I have absolutely no doubt that many Americans believe deep down in their gullible hearts that if people like Hannity and Limbaugh were really liars, they would be pulled off the air, or punished for some reason. They see that a Michael Savage can be yanked from a lucrative job for gay-bashing, but there appears to be no punishment at all for unchecked, intentional lying, which is at least as serious an offense for a journalist.

...

If the press is serious about saving itself as a social institution, it has to start policing its own business. We all have to encourage the likes of Barack Obama to hire the meanest lawyers on the planet and to file the hairiest lawsuits imaginable against the Hannitys, Gibsons, and Savages of the world. We have to impress upon the victims of these broadsides that choosing to ignore that style of libel is a betrayal of the public trust and an act of political cowardice that the rest of us end up paying for in spades. That's the ugly truth: Until one of those monsters goes down in a fireball of punitive litigation, we are all fucked. And it's not going to happen anytime soon.
Go read both posts. Trust me, I didn't take all the good stuff...there's still plenty left to read.

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Back in the USSR, Boy

When the Bolsheviks were establishing Party dominance over the government in the immediate post-Revolution days in the new Soviet Union, the way they took complete control of the existing government was by placing Party functionaries in every administrative office, overseeing administrators and requiring everything hew to the Party Line. Nothing that didn't fit the ideological "truth" that eventually led that nation to the glory it has today was allowed to happen or be released. Sort of like this.

People stab at historical analogies for the Bushnev Regime, but nothing shows better what Krugman called the "revolutionary party" aspect of this Politburo, complete with its party czars and Pravda media, than Georgi's actions to bring neutral, objective management to heel in DC. If you liked what they did to the scientists trying to inform policymakers about global warming, you ain't seen nothing yet. They aren't anywhere near the level of brilliance and extraordinarily competent extremism of Lenin or Stalin, but they have already rivaled anything Brehznev and his hapless, nation-destroying cronies could ever dream up. Cheneyov couldn't fit the type any better if he tried, because, well, whatever he actually tries, he screws up totally. Like Bushnev and the other Busheviks. History's judgment that Georgi keeps invoking will be that these guys have been our Commies, complete with all the corruption, incompetence, and self-delusion that those morons put their country through for all those unfortunate decades. The only question is, how much more can they do before (or if) they can be stopped?

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Weather, Water, Energy 1-30-07

Shocked! SHOCKED!! Bushnev and his Politburo boys have been lying to the American people about the science behind global warming and censoring government scientists who know the truth? But . . . but Jim Inhofe was overseeing everything so wouldn't he have kno . . . ? Never mind. . . . Some good news, though. Looks like scientists (the unshackled kind) have developed an enhanced, drought-tolerant maize that might give underdeveloped nations a chance to survive and eat. . . . We all know the IPCC is meeting on climate change, but so is the AU (African Union), semi-desperate to deal since it's clear they're going to get hammered. And they're, you know, already hammered. . . . Maybe it's because of what the IPCC is going to say about what climate change is going to do for hunger and thirst. (Hint: not good). . . . Yet another meeting, this one of coal industry types, hearing the need to get serious about climate change and figure out how to work within the regulations that will be needed. . . . If they don't, the Great Barrier Reef may be gone. ("Shade cloths," however, may save at least part of the day.) . . . Put down any food or drink before you read this. The US has sent a "clean energy" delegation to China and India to talk about hawk technologies that could reduce carbon emissions. Maybe they should send a delegation to DC. Before you get excited, though, it looks like a PR move to sell this "Asian" partnership that lets Bushnev claim he's doing something as an alternative to Kyoto. IOW, fuggedaboutit. . . . Especially when, as this article notes, Europe is actually the model that we and anyone else should be considering, already having the experience and the dedication to get it done right. In a bit of understatement, it notes that Congress may be a "tough sell." Huh. . . . Finally, in case you were still in a good mood, the NY Times has a great article on the persistent and dramatic underfunding of the feds' efforts in researching renewable energy systems. Very good overview of the history and the current problems of implementation of the effort, but here's what I want you to note, the first sentence:

Thirty years after it was founded by President Jimmy Carter, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory at the edge of the Rockies here still does not have a cafeteria.

No, not the sadness of the cafeteria crisis. "Thirty years after it was founded by President Jimmy Carter . . . ." Thirty years after. Think what shape we'd be in now, how much we could just blow off the Middle East, how much better, efficient, and advanced our economy would be if we had just listened to that President universally denounced for his poor performance in office. Folks, I may not be alive to see it, but The Boy may be. After all the ice has hit the fan, those still with any sense of history at all will sing praises of Carter heard for few other presidents. Hopefully all the morons who voted the other way in 1980 and who won't want to be reminded of their idiocy will have all been living on what used to be called our coasts.

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They say up is up? Then up will be down.

Memo to Mr. Bushnev: simply acknowledging issues doesn't count if you refuse to take realistic solutions into account simply because your opponents have already laid claim to them.

You finally acknowledge that alternative energy sources would be a good thing to find right about now...and commie liberals are talking about wind and solar power...so coal power units go up all over Texas.

You finally acknowledge that health care is an issue...and commie liberals are talking about universal single-payer health care...so you decide we don't have enough privatization (you even fooled the media on that one)!

You finally acknowledge that global warming might not be a liberal plot...and commie liberals are talking about carbon footprints and efficiency appliances and hybrid cars...so you turn to giant mirrors in the sky. And you call it "global climate change." Brilliant.

Up will always be up. You can't actually solve problems (not that you actually want to) by insisting that up is down simply because commie liberals have already claimed the right answer. Part of me is amused by watching you try, but a much bigger part of me just gets horrified. So stop it.

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A big Good Nonsense welcome...

...to our new contributor...Shep! Shep, you have very high standards to live up to. Not just any left-leaning blog can generate most of its traffic from people googling telenovelas. You're in rarified air now.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Random 10!

From Favorites List...
1. Get 'em High - Kanye West (w/Talib Kweli, Common)
2. Everyday (live) - Dave Matthews Band
3. Around My Way - Talib Kweli
4. Another Travelin' Song - Bright Eyes
5. Chali 2na Comin' Thru - DJ Nu-Mark (w/Chali 2na)
6. On Mercury - Red Hot Chili Peppers
7. The Other Side - David Gray
8. It's All Over Now, Baby Blue (live) - Bob Dylan
9. Statesboro Blues - Taj Mahal
10. Come Away with Me - Norah Jones

From All Songs...
1. Brace Yourself - Howie Day
2. Wave of Mutilation - The Pixies
3. It's Alright (live) - Big Head Todd and the Monsters (didn't even know I had this song!)
4. Ann - The Stooges
5. Creep - TLC (seriously?)
6. Climbing Up the Walls - Radiohead
7. Dire Wolf (live) - Grateful Dead
8. I Shall Be Released - The Band
9. All Down the Line - Rolling Stones
10. Nice to Know You - Incubus

Man...not at all impressed with that Random 10...oh well...

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Weather, Water, Energy 1-29-07

The world is waiting for the Friday issuance of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's report that has galvanized most of the non-cork brains in the world. You know, temps going up 2.5-10.4 degrees F (the letter we nonconformists use). What's most interesting about this is that the protest of the report right now comes not from the usual ostriches but from scientists who insist that, because the report hasn't dealt with the difficult-to-model ice cap melts, the change will be harder and faster than the report allows. The critics argue that the IPCC is hurting the world by consciously taking a conservative perspective. Sounds like a climate report done by Kevin Drum.

The criticism mirrors what we've been saying here lately, that the nonlinear nature of what's happening means that, absent a history that tells us what to expect, we really can't predict. Things could be worse than the IPCC says, despite the tendency to think they're exaggerating. Here are a couple of quotes.

They "don't take into account the gorillas -- Greenland and Antarctica," said Ohio State University earth sciences professor Lonnie Thompson, a polar ice specialist. "I think there are unpleasant surprises as we move into the 21st century."

Michael MacCracken, who until 2001 coordinated the official US government reviews of the international climate report on global warming, has fired off a letter of protest over the omission.

The melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are a fairly recent development that has taken scientists by surprise. They don't know how to forecast its effects in their computer models. But many fear it means that the world's coastlines will be swamped much earlier than most predict.

Think they're wrong? Well, new data also show mountain glaciers are melting faster than in the past and than predicted, and this French guy says things like "The major risk is that of the speed of climate change" and " If we were in a very stable world it would not be so bad if it were a bit hotter or a bit colder. But the risk is of a very quick transition that we can have from one world to another, because it is very destabilising at every level, including socially and politically." In any case, it's certainly gotten the international money men's attention, the World Economic Forum at Davos, where environmental issues are finally getting necessary attention (h/t Grist). And E.O. Wilson says we will see an accord on climate action, mainly because evangelicals are coming around . . . um, okay. Does he have any idea how many evangelicals there are in TX, where the top leadership is dadgum proud of its refusal to acknowledge global warming (h/t Grist)?

"Absolutely," Gov. Rick Perry replied when asked recently by the Star-Telegram whether there is scientific doubt that human activity causes global warming. "I am not going to put the state of Texas in a competitive economic disadvantage on some science that may or may not be correct."

State Rep. Phil King said: "I think it's just bad science. I think global warming is bad science." The Weatherford Republican has responsibility for electric-utility issues in the House.

I really do think the judgment of history will be that this country never should have agreed to take TX into the Union. Certainly they'll wonder why on earth we put two disastrous bravado-types from there in the White House in one generation. Guess that says nothing good about the rest of us, doesn't it? What's the saying, "Fool me once . . . uh, fool me . . . uh. . . ." (This is a good point to remember the next time we report national surveys about US opinions about climate change--one giant dumbass state filled with determined morons can skew tons of results.) At least the experts believe that underdeveloped nations, which would have to include TX, will the be ones really badly hit by the changes. I love how they've forgotten the citizens of those nations have feet and know how to use them. . . . Meanwhile, governors, Dems AND Repubs, are taking reality seriously in non-TX states. MT is dedicating itself to "green" coal, whatever that is; WI is creating a global warming task force and an energy independence office; and SC (with the REPUB!!!, don't tell Bushnev or Inhov) is appointing a global warming commission to figure out how to deal with it.

Let's talk water issues a little. Turns out that the weather-stricken Aussies are putting serious effort into recycling waste water (purified supposedly). Their PM has overnight turned into a national resource. . . . Meanwhile, here at home, the Army Corps of Engineers has announced that there are 146 levees nationally that have an "unacceptable risk" of failure in a major flood. Want to know if your levee is one of them? Sorry, secret info. Don't want people getting scared. It's best for you not to know. . . . Tired of depressing news? Feel like a period on a nice Hawaiian beach would be just what you need? Um, better do it sooner rather than later. . . sorry.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Weather, Water, Energy 1-28-07

Quick hits for your weekend:

  • Now we're really screwed. Tony Blair thinks the world is about to make significant headway against global warming. His opinion is bad enough, but listen to why he thinks so. The US, he says, is about to make a "quantum shift" in its approach to the crisis. Uh, Tony, the master in whose lap you sit still has two years before he's gone. If you think two years is "quantum," it explains a lot about how you thought Iraq would be such a piece of cake.
  • Those of us who don't live in the colder states don't really have a good idea how important winter is to economies in those states. This story will give you a better idea. Now multiply that times climate change.
  • China has finally owned up to its miserable record on environment, including climate change factors, with its own experts ranking it 100th out of 118. Now that they're apparently in a 12 Steps program, let's hope they really do walk their new talk.

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Find Berlin Niebuhr a Dog! (Part One)

The Boy and I think it is time that berlin niebuhr and his wife finally get back into the world of pet ownership. The Boy says berlin hasn't quite recovered from having to put his last dog to sleep, but um...that was over 15 years ago. Time to get back on the horse! So...let's start the search!


Candidate #1: Golden Retriever



Advantages

  • Affection for people
  • Tolerance for children (which might come in handy years from now, if we ever get around to giving them grandchildren!).
  • They're so cute as puppies!
  • They don't yap like my dog (Kayle).
  • According to wikipedia, they're "great therapy dogs to use in ... retirement homes." And well...let's just say that berlin is closer to retirement than college.
  • They're very obedient.
  • They get along well with other dogs...important because berlin and Mrs. berlin's best friends have two of them.
  • They have their own weekly magazine!
Disadvantages

  • According to wikipedia, they're "unruly" as puppies...which wouldn't be good considering Mrs. berlin loves antiques.
  • You do have to clean up after them...or just watch where you step...especially when mowing.
  • They can get pretty big...and Mrs. berlin is pretty small.
  • They do eventually die.

Stay tuned for another candidate...but in the meantime...


...how can you say no to this face?

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

We also like Teddy Roosevelt...

...this quote of his, at least.

[The President] should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole.

Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.

To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.
This comes from a Greenwald post about the respect a "wartime president" should receive, partially in reaction to the repeated mention of Bushnev as "our commander-in-chief", and partially in reaction to the Dougy Pantload's hand-wringing about that darn disrespectful Democrat Party...

And yet the Democrats for the most part sat on their hands, refusing to applaud, never mind rise in favor of such statements from a wartime president.
Because you know Republicans would have been standing on their seats and clapping for John Kerry...

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Friday, January 26, 2007

We do, however, like Al Gore.

Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson continues the lovely run of recent political writing by RS (though...Taibbi seems to have disappeared) with this nice tale of why Gore should run, and why he would (or could) win.

Gore's biggest opponent for the nomination would likely be Hillary Clinton -- and no one in the current field of Democrats is better situated to capitalize on her weaknesses than Gore. In September 2002, just before Clinton and every other Democrat who hoped to run for president voted to authorize the war in Iraq, Gore gave a no-holds-barred speech inveighing against the invasion. "The chaos in the aftermath of a military victory in Iraq," he warned, "could easily pose a far greater danger to the United States than we presently face from Saddam."

At the time, recalls Carrick, Washington insiders dismissed the speech as sour grapes. "The Democratic establishment all said, 'Oh, Al's just out there doing this because he's bitter. This just proves he's never going to run again.' But they all proved to be wrong and he was exactly right. There's nothing more powerful than that."

Thanks to his vocal opposition to the war -- and his decision to back Howard Dean's anti-war candidacy in 2003 -- Gore has all but sewn up the backing of the party's "Netroots" activists. Eli Pariser calls Gore "a close friend of MoveOn," and Markos Moulitsas, the founder of DailyKos, is equally unabashed in his support. "More than any other Democrat over the last four years, Gore has actually delivered," says Moulitsas, one of the Internet's most influential organizers. "If Gore enters the race, it's his nomination for the taking." In an online poll of 14,000 activists held in December by DailyKos, sixty percent voted for Gore. By comparison, Clinton received just 292 votes.

Gore's deep ties to online activists could neutralize Clinton's greatest advantage: her fund-raising prowess. Gore retains a network of big-dollar donors from his 2000 campaign, and many of the party's biggest funders are reportedly sitting on their checkbooks, waiting to see if he enters the race. "If Howard Dean could raise $59 million on the Internet," says Carrick, "the mind boggles as to what Al Gore might do." Joe Trippi, who managed Dean's campaign, believes Gore could raise as much as $200 million on the Internet: "Gore may have more money than anybody within days of entering the race."
Run, Al, Run!

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We don't like people who kick dogs.

For those of you who are tired of hearing "Yeah, you were right...but you were right for the wrong reasons," Lance Mannion has a post for you. Dog-kickers, backstabbing department heads, awful contractors, liberals, Bushnev, and the look-down-their-nose media. Good times.

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Betty La Fea (Ugly Betty) Mas Bella Update XXIX

Not going to dwell on how "La Fea Mas Bella" in its neverending quest to drag out and pollute the story of "Betty La Fea" has completely ruined the return of the heroine and the reaction of her colleagues when they see her by only doing a part of her transformation. In the original, it was a complete recapitulation of her initial entrance to the firm, with people not recognizing her until she spoke. Now, they're just so happy, happy to see her, losing the cohesion. Fine, fine. Whatever. Ratings over narrative. We understand. Instead, thought I'd catch you up on a few items in the "Ugly Betty" world. For one thing, the show is now such an international hit that it is about to start in Asia Pacific and South Africa. For another, want more detail on the versions of "Betty La Fea" done in other nations? Well, try here and here. Finally, here's a recent and very good feature done on the show with a lot of interesting details and that gets the "class" element of the show very well. And it's got some nice quotes, including this concluding one from the star, America Ferrara: "Just last week, I got to read a letter from a young girl. She wrote into CosmoGirl. . . . She said, 'Thank you for putting America Ferrera on the cover.' She said, 'When I watched "Ugly Betty," it was the first time in my life that I felt beautiful.' . . . I knew then, if that was just one life, and I'm sure there were others that were affected by it, then ("Ugly Betty") definitely has done its job." God, I hope she doesn't go Britney or Lindsay.

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Uh-oh, Coffee Sellers

Caffeinated doughnuts. Everything you need in the morning and holdable in just one hand. Ready to sell your Starbucks stock yet?

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Weather, Water, Energy 1-26-07

Sometimes you just wish you didn't know stuff or find it out. Here's a very recent Pew Research Center poll of Americans showing that 23% of us still don't even believe global warming is happening and over half not attributing it to human activity (h/t Grist). Dems were better than Independents were better than Repubs (shock), who remain determinedly ignorant--the pattern holds based on education levels but only college grad Dems accept the human component of the crisis at majority levels and they're not close to European opinion (aka reality) on the question. Less than half of the respondents, including Dems, felt that it should be a top priority for Congress or the (cough) Pres. Do you see now why I get so pissed off at this MisterRogers "moderation" and "objective balancing" that dominates our media and our "leaders" on this? Meanwhile a Financial Times poll in Europe finds that 86% of those folks see that humans have responsibility and 45% see global warming as affecting them or their families in their lifetimes. 90% of Japanese say that "environmental criteria influence their lifestyle." So tell me. Whom do you think historians will write up as the people who screwed civilization and the course of human history? Honest to God, we are the planet's flat-earthers. What a legacy for our kids and grandkids. (Not betting on the great grandkids anymore.) . . . Looks like the Aussies will be with us, though, although its "citizen of the year" just called out the government that honored him, saying "There's no doubt this government's been dragging the chain." He seems to think his nation has been "the worst of the worst." No way, citizen man. You'll be eating our dust for decades. Their idiot PM's response to the insult: "Does it embarrass me? No it doesn't," Howard told commercial radio. He really must be the most blissful man alive, like the people who answered that Pew poll. . . . As we noted yesterday, some states at least have a clue. Here's more on that Climate Change Caucus going on in MT that we've mentioned before. Of course, this is a state that lives on coal sales. Good luck, guys. . . . Meanwhile, Turkey is watching its reservoirs dry up, harvests threatened, and improvement even more scarce from the future. Are they confused about what's happening? They say it's "global weather change." Shh, don't wake up the Americans.

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FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING!! Play hard, sleep hard.


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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Dream Jobs

84% of respondents to a national survey have indicated that, surprise, they don't have the job of their dreams. And what would a dream job consist of? Having fun beats making a difference in society by more than two to one. Cops and firefighters were the happiest with their jobs. "Accomodation and food services" tied "manufacturing" for least dreamy jobs. Where do these dream jobs live?

Among major U.S. cities, workers in Boston had the highest incidence of feeling they have their dream jobs, at 37 percent, followed by Sacramento at 26 percent, San Francisco at 23 percent, Philadelphia at 22 percent, Salt Lake City at 20 percent, and Dallas and Portland, both at 19 percent.

Cities with the least number of workers in dream jobs were San Diego at 7 percent, Phoenix and Detroit at 10 percent and Atlanta and Miami at 11 percent.

I'm shocked that "blogger" didn't come up in this. Maybe if we actually got paid for this . . . .

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Weather, Water, Energy 1-25-07

They just don't get it. Okay, the Australia PM has finally signed onto climate change, maybe, you know, because politics there clearly indicate that the public is getting tired of his act in opposition. Get this quote from idio . . . Mr. Howard: "I regard myself as a climate-change realist. That means looking at the evidence as it emerges and responding with policies that preserve Australia's competitiveness and play to her strengths." Please. Realist, my ass. What if the reality and climate don't allow AU to “preserve its competitiveness”? What then? This gets at my current sore point about how politicians and their apologists are framing this, as if climate change will allow them to direct what's going to happen, as if we even know what's going to happen enough to plan for anything other than everything being unpredictable. In the last 3 decades we've gone from "climate change? that's extremist" to "climate change, but by humans? that's extremist" to "climate change by humans but drastic changes in economies and lifestyles beyond our technology to control? that's extremist." Sense a pattern here? Paths stop, I know, but isn't it time to ask who's "extreme" here? Those who have consistently seen what's happening or those who refuse to (sorta like those who knew Iraq would be a disaster and those . . . never mind, that didn't happen). Could "nothing unusual's going on" be right? Sure. But we don't have previous records of this under these known conditions (such as today's CO2 levels). Could "yes, but it won't be that bad" be right? Well, maybe, but we've been working with that supposition for several years now. It's a little old and worn now. My point is, yes, the Kuntslers and other "extremists" portray futures beyond our willingness to grant. Therefore, they must be wrong. I agree. Maybe they are, but what if they're being too optimistic? This never gets considered, probably because it doesn't fit the "two sides, reasonable middle, rational center" construct that guides so much reporting and rhetoric on this. But the other end of this nonlinear, ahistorical situation is not necessarily Kuntsler. It's open-ended, it could be anything, because WE DON'T KNOW. Consider these quotes from a couple of other articles today:

"It is very likely that the ecology of the Arctic will change dramatically over the next decades. These changes will occur and are occurring to an ecosystem that we know very little about," said Richard Bellerby, a researcher at Norway's University of Bergen.

According to the director of the Norwegian section of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Rasmus Hansson, the change "is happening so extremely fast, much much faster than we have seen in thousands and thousands of years. It could have an unpredictable result."

Pascale Delecluse, deputy director of research at Meteo France, says models are also crimped by a newly-discovered phenomenon called "positive feedbacks."
These, in essence, are vicious circles. For instance, warming will thaw the permafrost in northern latitudes, releasing methane that had been stored for millennia in the frozen soil. The methane, a potent greenhouse gas, thus stokes the warming.
Other likely feedbacks include saturation of the oceans, whose plankton also absorb CO2, and loss of snow and ice cover in high latitudes and altitudes (snow and ice reflect the Sun, so when they disappear, the uncovered ground warms quickly, thus melting more snow on neighbouring ground).
"Most scenarios work with the state of the Earth as we know it today. Models are still incapable of factoring in the effects of feedbacks," admits Delecluse.


We have no mental constructs ready to explain and manage the future world these folks are describing. No human who could leave a record has lived through CO2 levels and the other things that we're doing. Do I think things will be even as bad as what Kuntsler predicts? No. BUT I'M JUST GUESSING. And so is anyone else who pretends they can predict. Those who use evidence-based models are likely closer, but as the quotes reveal, those folks really sound more confused than anyone. So, when Howard or Bushnev or any "reasonable" MisterRogers type expounds on "balancing" and not sacrificing our way of life as we deal with climate change, keep in mind that they are worse than fools. . . . And as proof, turns out Bushnev's global warming plans, by emphasizing ethanol, will actually likely add to greenhouse gas emissions. C'mon. Not really surprised, are you? . . . Also, if we actually reduce gasoline use, poof! there goes the funding of our highways. . . . OTOH, some people do get it. Alaska actually have a climate impact assessment commission doing planning to be prepared to address the problems as they come and be proactive in meeting in them. So let's leave on that message of hope. Maybe someday the whole nation will have leadership.

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Headline of the Day

Bush's Focus on Iraq Gives China `Golden Moment' to Flex Power

You know, Bushnev is right. His full legacy won't be completely known for decades. But bad news, Georgii.

It's going to be a lot worse than people can even imagine right now.

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Random Entertainment Notes

We’ll do it in berlin niebuhr-esque bullets...

  • Isaiah Washington goes to rehab for...using offensive words. Didn’t know Slur Rehab existed.

  • A very healthy return for Veronica Mars this week. The previous episode (which aired, like, 2 months ago) was the best of the season, and this was probably a close second. Do not underestimate the strong contribution the Mac character (Tina Majorino) makes to this show. This was easily the most amusing episode of the season, and it’s not a coincidence that she had more of a role in this episode than the rest of the season combined to this point. Her deadpan humor and social awkwardness go right in line with Veronica’s, but when one of Veronica’s fake personas gets them into awkward situations while ‘on the case’, Mac’s honest reactions to these situations (like the thought of posing nude for an anti-fur calendar) are a fantastic contrast to Veronica’s.

    They decided to stretch out the “Logan + Veronica” thing for at least one more week, which was both exciting and disappointing. It further reaffirmed that they care about each other to an insane degree, which is nice, and their chemistry is quite strong after a season and a half of this, but it just delays the inevitable breakup (though according to the previews for next week, it might not have delayed it very long).

  • While I’m loving VM again, I still don’t really know what to do with Studio 60. Monday’s was one of the best episodes of the season, and it was still almost every bit as frustrating as it was enjoyable.

    Good: All of Steven Weber’s scenes. He’s great. The boardroom scene with Ed Asner was quite good (other than the shaky plot device of having the newspaper on the table, pointing the way to Mr. Macao), and I'm actually really liking the "soldier curses on live TV" plotline. The “man to man” conversation with Mr. Macao.

    Good: Amanda Peet and Bradley Whitford continue to have great chemistry.

    Bad: The stalker-esque moves Whitford’s Danny took toward winning over Peet’s Jordan was, in a word, creepy. In two words, horribly creepy. I was actually glad when those attempts didn’t actually win her over because that would have been unrealistic and lazy.

    Good: The two new writers (Lucy and Darius) have been very good for Studio 60 as a whole. Two very good characters.

    Good: No horrible skits to watch in this week’s episode.

    Bad: Two horrible skits (Militant Fruit of the Loom and Husky Gymnast? Are you kidding me?) were still prominent, though they were only discussed and not actually shown. Either way, ugh.

    Good: The chemistry between Matthew Perry and Sarah Paulsen continues to improve.

    Bad: Their relationship continues to be completely stagnant and unrealistic (though bonus points go to Paulsen’s character for basically telling Matt to poop or get off the pot).

    I guess two steps forward and one step back is still a net gain, though. Bottom line is, I will continue to watch, I will continue to be encouraged by the strong aspects of the show, and I will continue to grow tired and frustrated by the weak aspects. I sure am showing some strong will there, aren’t I?

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2004 Election Rigged!!

After reading this amazing news about the rigged 2004 election (via C&L) in Brad Blog...

Two election workers in the state's most populous county were convicted Wednesday of illegally rigging the 2004 presidential election recount so they could avoid a more thorough review of the votes.

A third employee who had been charged was acquitted on all counts.

Jacqueline Maiden, the elections' coordinator who was the board's third-highest ranking employee when she was indicted last March, and ballot manager Kathleen Dreamer each were convicted of a felony count of negligent misconduct of an elections employee.

Maiden and Dreamer also were convicted of one misdemeanor count each of failure of elections employees to perform their duty.

...

[Special prosecutor Kevin] Baxter said he intends to speak with Maiden and Dreamer before their scheduled sentencing on Feb. 26 to see if they wish to make any statements that might influence the sentence.

"We'd like to listen to them if they had anything to say, if anyone else was involved with this. We still haven't been able to determine that," he said.
...I rushed to the main news outlets to see what was being said about it there. I mean, what news could possibly be bigger than confirmed fraud in the election of the most powerful person in the world?

Headlines from CNN.com: “‘Grey’s Star’ in Counseling after Anti-Gay Slur” and “Road Video Shows Crashes, China’s Bad Drivers.”

Headlines from MSN.com: “Zapping dry sponges in microwaves leads to fires” and “WP: Can Obama appeal to blacks?”

Headlines from MSNBC.com: “The real news behind State of the Union kisses” and “Odor and out? Aroma cell phones unveiled.”

Headlines from foxnews.com (boy, I feel dirty for clicking here): “New Jersey: Please Don’t Eat the Squirrels” and “Chavez: Castro Not Dying, ‘Almost Jogging’.”

Top Stories from Google News: “PS3 coming to NZ in March” and “Soccer unites Iraqis at UAE pitches, unlike home.”

Strange. No mention whatsoever. Didn’t see that coming at all. I won't mention which "progressive" blogs on which I saw nothing about this either. I mean, it only hints that the '04 "conspiracy theorists" might have had something after all...but what does that matter...

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Weather, Water, Energy 1-24-07

I'm not going to give Bushnev's DOA global warm . . . actually, didn't hear much about that, just giveaways to his pork buddies in oil and biofuels, anyway, not giving his vaporness any oxygen. The best analysis of the SOTU is David Roberts' at Grist. . . Don't think much about the general non-"greenness" of computers, their energy use in particular, but corporations are apparently putting pressure on computer makers to get their efficiency up and climate impact down. Interesting article. . . . Headline of the Day: "Biggest threat to U.S. drinking water? Rust" The pipes, the pipes are calling!! Sorry. Couldn't help myself. . . . This headline was very upset about losing the HOTD contest, but it's hopeful news: "Portugal wants renewables to meet nearly half of its electricity needs" Essay question: Compare and contrast to the US President's SOTU Address and determine which nation's leader is the poothead. . . . Alabama is right at the top (that is, bottom) of yet another list, water quality AND efforts to protect it. . . . Experts are warning that the climate change we face will exacerbate the influences that have increased terrorism and global unrest. (Osama's even using it as recruiting material.) Kind of "duh" but not something generally included in all these "oh, let's show both sides and come out somewhere in the middle" crap we get from the "reasonable people" who turn out not to have even considered these sorts of factors into their chablis-driven analyses. (Boy, I'm turning into Glenn Beck.) But even "moderate" change will drive these other nonlinear flows in directions we aren't even talking about. Good to know somebody won't be shocked. . . . Finally, frogs might not really sit in gradually warming water, at least not now that they've heard the famous fable and feel really stupid about it, but the analogy is still good for so much of the human reaction to the slo-mo, long-term rollout of problems that face us like climate change (and prison reform and health care reform and shift from African-American to Hispanic minority dominance and . . . ). This sums it all up really well (and notice who's figured it all out):

Yet in a world where millions of individuals are unable to quit smoking or avoid obesity, action to curb global warming seems a tall order, partly since it will affect future generations hardest.

And, like the fabled boiled frog, people may find it hard to tackle an invisible threat.

"Our evolutionary biology ... equips us to respond far more easily and naturally to a threat from a snake, or a fang, or a claw or a spider than from a threat that can only be understood by the use of abstract reasoning," Gore said in a presentation in Oslo in 2006.

"It's not impossible, but it does take more time," he said.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Weather, Water, Energy 1-23-07

VT is doing some serious planning for conservation and the energy savings it will bring. Good presentation of what's possible, but you sorta wonder about this liberal haven: if VT is just now getting around to this, what on earth have the other states (not) been doing? . . . Looks like geothermal might actually be able to deliver some respite, according to a new MIT study covered at Grist, which also claims that Pelosi is getting Dingell (D-General Motors) on the same page regarding climate change as the sane world (one of those see it when you believe it things). . . . Speaking of sorta sense, Greenland is cutting back on polar bear quotas due to the difficulties the creatures are having getting to their usual ice in the warming, and Canada isn't automatically loading up the big guns as killer whales migrate further north in search of food as their climate changes as well. . . . Here's some unfortunate news. Turns out that aerosol pollution ends up slowing winds, which ends up affecting cloud formation, which ends up reducing rainfall. The result for CA, in particular, could be a 2-5% reduction in water supply each year. I forget, do they have fires out there? . . . The big news, of course, is that a coming report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change not only narrows the odds that we humans can claim credit but that things will be worse in the future, even if we took action, not that we will. Here's the buried money quote:

As confident as scientists are about the global warming effects that they’ve already documented, they are as gloomy about the future and even hotter weather and higher sea level rises. Predictions for the future of global warming in the report are based on 19 computer models, about twice as many as in the past, Solomon said.

Oh, wait, no. This is it:

The future is bleak, scientists said. “We have barely started down this path,” said chapter co-author Richard Alley of Penn State University.

And, no, sorry, won't be saying anything about anything Bushnev says about global warming. He's never fooled me once, much less . . . won't fool me again. . . . Major business leaders clearly get it. They just can't stop themselves and want the government to bail them out. "It must be mandatory, so there is no doubt about our actions," said Jim Rogers, chairman of Duke Energy. Actually, this is a perfect example of why government grows and democracies become more authoritarian in resource scarcity, as we've discussed here before. More government isn't needed just to enforce the triaging and sacrifice that will be needed. It's also needed to provide the conditions so that those who go along with the necessary sacrifice won't get taken by others, and the others think the same thing. IOW, it's needed to guarantee trust that won't be there without an enforcer and so the actions required can be done. Classic "tragedy of the commons" stuff (whether the commons ever really existed historically or not). It's always fun to watch free marketers admit that "pursuit of one's own self-interest" might just take you over a steep, high cliff. . . . And here's why we won't do anything, from no less than the Christian Science Monitor. On its face, it's a fine objective article on the importance of "sound science" in the climate change deliberations. In fact, it's proof that the media still don't get it, even a very good paper like CSM. Here's its effort at reasoned discourse:

But Congress can't go down that path out of blind panic. It is, in effect, asking Americans to buy an insurance policy. Its provisions must not be driven by polls or hyperbole, but by sound science and a careful regard for the remaining unknowns.

Sounds very moderate and thoughtful, right, just like Kevin Drum. Here's the problem: The Monitor acts as if there’s something to balance. There’s not. The “uncertainty” isn’t between “pain” or “painlessness”—it’s over how much and how fast the “pain” and the “uncertainty” are. The writer just doesn't understand that it could be even worse than even the worst “pain” people are saying. It's very likely nonlinear and ahistorical (at least human history). WE DON’T KNOW. So actions have to be based on preventing the far ends of the “pain” scale, hoping they’re enough, and living with the benefits if we’re wrong. “Balancing” and “careful regard” will just create “split the difference” policy, “sorta do something” but “don’t go crazy,” at a time when we should be marshalling everything we have to head off the worst. I'm not advocating going back to the old days—that’s impossible and I couldn’t hack it anyway. Serious problems with hand axes. I am advocating having as clear a view of every moment as possible as it comes and being prepared to tack into it the best we possibly can, adjusting to every new, “uncertain” thing that comes along and recognizing that, while the models turn out extreme, they may be extreme in too optimistic a direction, too. That’s not “hyperbole.” It’s our reality and the Monitor clearly still doesn’t get it. And if, even with this editorial on the need for attention, it still doesn’t fully get it, how will the people who might make a difference? And, if that's not enough, just remember who's giving the SOTU tonight.

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Hmm...this could be fun...

...I've been trying hard not to get my hopes up about this, but...DAMN.

WASHINGTON - Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald used his opening statement in the CIA leak trial Tuesday to allege that Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff lied and destroyed a note showing Cheney's early involvement.

Fitzgerald said Cheney told his chief of staff, “Scooter” Libby, in 2003 that Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA and Libby spread that information to reporters. When that information got out, it triggered a federal investigation.

“But when the FBI and grand jury asked about what the defendant did,” Fitzgerald said, “he made up a story.”
...Also, the trial will show, apparently, that it was Cheney who first told Libby that Valerie Plame was a CIA agent, and that Cheney wrote detailed notes of what Libby was to say in a crucial meeting with a reporter (Judy Miller? He didn't say.)

...As I typed this, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter came on camera to wonder why Cheney is not an unindicted co-conspirator and that Cheney is "a notch about Spiro Agnew as worst vice president in American history." The anchor said she wouldn't "quibble" with the assessment.

With this news, we would have to speculate that the impeachment of Dick Cheney in the new Democratic House is a very, very real possibility. There are significant pros and cons, politically, but it may prove an effective way to keep the White House in check without tearing the nation apart. Perhaps this explains the Negroponte/Condoleezza Rice manuevers, to clear the decks for a new VP.
I had done well in distracting myself from Fitzgerald's investigation and the Libby trial...but I guess I have to admit now that my hopes are officially up.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Barenaked Ladies: A Primer

As underrated a band as there has been in a long time.

1. Be My Yoko Ono, Gordon (1992). When I was in high school, a friend of mine came home from visiting relatives in St. Louis, and he was giddy about this funny new band over whom his cousins were obsessing. They were silly and witty, and they sang a lot of songs that, well, you tend to enjoy when you’re a nerd in high school. They weren’t Weird Al or Doctor Demento or anything...they were more like They Might Be Giants. They looked like nerds, and they acted silly, and it was a lot of fun. At some point throughout high school and my freshman year at Mizzou, I ended up with all of their albums to that point, and on pretty much any road trip I took, Gordon (their debut album) and Rock Spectacle (one of the more entertaining live albums ever) always got played. They kept me awake and entertained. “Yoko” is one of their silliest songs, as the title would suggest. It showed off both the wit and intelligence of this young band.

2. You Will Be Waiting, Maybe You Should Drive (1994). What hooks hardcore fans is the diversity of BNL's song material. Yes, they’re fun and silly. They’ll always have the “Be My Yoko Ono”’s and “If I Had $1,000,000”’s. But it’s songs like this one that earn them lifelong devotion from fans. This song has never been a live staple of theirs, and it sure wasn’t ever on the radio, but it’s just a perfectly-written little song about pains in a relationship. “I’m so sick of fighting /And that effigy you’re lighting / Looks an awful lot like someone whose name I just can’t quite place / Though you say it’s not supposed to be me / Or any entity / Still through the flames and smoke I see / I recognize that face / But I know, you will be waiting / Oh I know, you will be waiting / Oh I know, you will be waiting / Waiting there for me.” Certain songs hit me hard when they go unnoticed by others. Put this one in that category.

3. The Old Apartment, Born on a Pirate Ship. Their first main radio song in the United States...the first one I ever heard on the radio in Oklahoma, anyway. Songs like this and “Enid” simultaneously display the vulnerability, random loyalty and...immaturity (and slight dark side), of most guys aged 14 to, well, whenever, in relationships.

4. If I Had $1,000,000, Rock Spectacle (1996). One of the better, most accurately descriptive live albums of the ‘90s, Rock Spectacle introduced a lot of people to the exhibition that is a live BNL performance. Skits, improvised songs, lots of silliness, and the omnipresence of more poignant, emotional songs like “What a Good Boy” or “Jane.” However, the touchstone of any BNL show is, of course, the closer, “If I Had $1,000,000.” It’s a fun singalong, it has silly lyrics, and the crowd throws macaroni at the band on the “We wouldn’t have to eat Kraft dinner” line (well, they did before the band requested they stop because, well, it hurt and it got stuck in the instruments).

5. Call and Answer, Stunt (1998). Stunt was the album that changed everything for the status of Barenaked Ladies. “One Week” was far and away their biggest hit, and it was followed by “It’s All Been Done,” which was possibly their second-biggest hit. Plus, there was the irony of the song, “Alcohol,” which basically made fun of frat boys who love getting drunk and trying to get laid ("Alcohol, my permanent accessory / Alcohol, a party-time necessity / Alcohol, alternative to feeling like yourself / O Alcohol, I still drink to your health")...and became one of their most popular live songs as those frat boys, not in on the joke, couldn’t get enough of it. They officially became a household name after Stunt went crazy, and they started playing bigger venues.

But the one song on the album that probably packs the biggest punch was “Call and Answer,” a song about putting together a broken relationship. It starts with this: “I think / It’s getting to the point where we can be ourselves again / It’s getting to the point where we have almost made amends / I think / It’s the getting to the point that is the hardest part.” And it ends with this: “But I’m warning you / Don’t ever do / Those crazy, messed up things that you do / If you ever do / I promise you / I’ll be the first to crucify you / Now it's time to prove that you’ve come back here to rebuild.” This comes across as straight out of the Beatles' playbook. For their first few albums, the Beatles always had a song, likely written by Lennon, that showed a little-explored dark side, songs like "Run for Your Life" or "You Can't Do That," songs that said "I can be cute and funny all you want...but don't cross me." With songs like "The Flag" (from Gordon) and "The Old Apartment" and "Call and Answer," BNL manages to tread lightly over the same territory.

6. Helicopters, Maroon (2000). Maroon is the perfect Barenaked Ladies album. One of the best albums in the last decade. The two aspects of their bipolar personality (silly and serious) are at their highest levels of quality here, and every song is fantastic. If you like silly, it doesn’t get much better than “Pinch Me” or “Too Little Too Late” or “Never Do Anything” or “Humor of the Situation.” If you like serious, try “Baby Seat” or “Helicopters.” If you like both aspects of the BNL personality, then you find that this is the pinnacle of BNL’s career, musically, creatively, emotionally, and lyrically.

God...so many good songs here. I should have written an entire post about just Maroon. “Go Home” is an upbeat directive to a guy whose stubbornness is costing him a relationship: “Let me tell you, if you’re feeling alone / ‘Stead of whining and moanin’ / Just get on the phone / Tell her you’re coming home / If you need her, you should be there / And if you scream in your sleep / Or collapse in a heap / And spontaneously weep / Then you know you’re in deep / If you need her, you should be there / Go home.”

“Baby Seat” is a more intense directive toward a father struggling with maturity: “You left Billy with the kid / And all those selfish things you did / With Billy / You left your hometown in the spring / And turned your back on everything / You thought your life would just go by without a pause to wonder / Don’t be silly / You can’t live your life in the baby seat / You’ve got to stand on your own / Don’t admit defeat.”

“Sell Sell Sell” is a fun song about an almost-over-the-hill actor. “Conventioneers” is about two co-workers hooking up at a convention and not knowing how to act around each other when they get back. The album ends with a light (honestly) song called “Tonight is the Night I Fell Asleep at the Wheel” and a hidden track called “Hidden Sun,” written and sung by Kevin Hearn, the band’s keyboardist (among other instruments), who had contracted leukemia after the recording of Stunt. He was undergoing treatment and was absent through most of the touring for Stunt, but he was feeling good enough to contribute on Maroon.

The roller coaster of sentiment (fun, sad, silly, depressed...and let's face it, this is what life is actually like) reaches its emotional peak, however, with “Helicopters.”

This is where the helicopters came to take me away
This is where the children used to play
This is only half a mile away from the attack
This is where my life changed in a day
And then it changed back

Buried in the din of rotor noise and close explosions
I do my best to synthesize the sounds and my emotions
This is where the allies bombed the school, they say by mistake
Here nobody takes me for a fool, just for a fake

Later at the hotel bar, the journalists are waiting
I hurry back to my guitar while they're commiserating

And I'll be leaving soon
I'll be leaving soon

Just as soon as we were on the ground, we’re back in the jet
Just another three day foreign tour we'd never forget
It's hard to sympathize with all this devastation
Hopping 'round from site to site like tourists on vacation

And I'll be leaving soon
I'll be leaving soon

I can't help anyone cause everyone's so cold
Everyone's so skeptical of everything they're told
And even I get sick of needing to be sold

Though it's only half a month away, the media's gone
An entertaining scandal broke today, but I can't move on
I'm haunted by my story and I do my best to tell it
Can't even give this stuff away, why would I sell it

Everybody's laughing, while at me they point a finger
A world that loves its irony must hate the protest singer

So I'll be leaving soon
I'll be leaving soon

No explanation of the lyrics is needed, seeing as the song was released about a year or so after Columbine; however, the way the lyrics are used in a more universal way, describing anything traumatic that becomes a news sensation and is immediately dropped for the next news sensation, makes the song more poignant. And Stephen Page’s high-and-low vocals hit hard. The best song on Barenaked Ladies’ best album.

7. Get In Line, All Their Greatest Hits, 1991-2001 (2001). Further proof that BNL can make a catchy, fun, extremely melodic song in their sleep. This is basically a throwaway song, pulling the old “Add some new material to a band’s greatest hits, so the hardcore fans will want to buy it even though they own all the albums already” trick, but it’s good. And sadly, it makes All Their Greatest Hits worth getting. Then again, if I’d had iTunes at the time, I wouldn’t have had to fall for their trick, now would I?

8. Upside Down, Everything to Everyone (2003). After taking some time off from the physical toll of lots of touring and the emotional and mental toll of Hearn’s battle with leukemia and the fact that they’d been together nonstop for going on 15 years, the band joined to record E2E. All band members contributed to the writing process, more than in albums past, and the result was a wider variety of sounds than what was seen on Maroon or Stunt. The results were also mixed. I never got into songs like “Maybe Katie” or “Celebrity” or “Another Postcard” or “Shopping,” but there are still plenty of highlights. After all, good bands’ worst albums are still pretty damn good. With a fun beat and interesting time signature, “Upside Down” is probably the most indicative song of the album as a whole.

I almost selected “War On Drugs” for this slot, but I wanted something more upbeat, and honestly...“War On Drugs” is about the saddest song I’ve ever heard (other than “The Drugs Don’t Work,” anyway).
In the dream I refuse to have
She falls asleep in a lukewarm bath
We're left to deal with the aftermath again

On behalf of humanity
I will fight for your sanity
How profound such profanity can be

Won't it be dull when we rid ourselves
Of all these demons haunting us
To keep us company

Won't it be odd to be happy like we
Always thought we're supposed to feel
But never seem to be

Near where I live there's a viaduct
Where people jump when they're out of luck
Raining down on the cars and trucks below

They've put a net there to catch their fall
Like it'll stop anyone at all
What they don't know is when nature calls, you go

They say that Jesus and mental health
Are just for those who can help themselves
But what good is that when you live in hell on earth?
Just an amazing song, but it’s just too damn sad for this list. So “Upside Down” it is.

9. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (w/Sarah McLaughlin), Barenaked for the Holidays (2004). I’m not even remotely a fan of Christmas music. It was the worst part about working weekends at Barnes & Noble...8 hours of crap Christmas music every shift for a month each year. However, I discovered two things I could stand—Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown Christmas album, and this one song from BNL’s holiday album. The harmonies, instrumentation, and arrangement of a song you’ve heard a million times is the perfect representation of what Barenaked Ladies can be as pop artists. I guess it’s the exception that proves the rule about Christmas songs, I guess.

10. Vanishing, Barenaked Ladies Are Me (2006). And finally, we reach last year's Barenaked Ladies Are Me. Like E2E, Are Me was an extremely collaborative process; Ed Robertson and Stephen Page (the band’s primary writers) unleashed a wealth of songs into the process as always, but Kevin Hearn added some, and bassist Jim Creegan made probably his biggest contribution to the writing process since Born on a Pirate Ship. The result was well over useable 20 songs (actually, the writeup for this album on Wikipedia is quite good if you want more details). The band took advantage of emerging web capabilities (and a friendly, flexible record label) to release lots of different versions of the album in different forms. At your local music store, you can buy a 13-song version of Are Me, followed by (on February 7) a 12-song follow up called Barenaked Ladies Are Men. Online, you can download the mega-27-song version, as well (which is what I did). Along with this, they took fan interactivity to an impressive level, unleashing a “remix” contest in which fans could download individual tracks and mix them themselves; also, if you take a look at their website, they’re currently showing the winner of a user-submitted video contest for the song “Wind It Up.” They've been on the forefront of music-computer technology for a while now.

What you get from such an expansive work like Are Me is a) a lot of songs that are of exactly the style you expect from BNL, and b) a lot of creative departures. One of those departures is a Kevin Hearn contribution (he wrote and sang it) called “Vanishing.” “Isn’t that the necklace he found behind your ear? / He’s floating upside-down below a chandelier / Wishing he had the power to make you reappear / He’s a magician / Hoping, wishing / And you’re the one vanishing.” This isn’t anything groundbreakingly creative, but it doesn’t have to be that to be a great song, and this pretty quaint, quiet number is one of my favorites on the album so far. Plus, it shows that the more open songwriting process that BNL has undertaken recently has both gotten better and proven that there’s plenty of energy left in this band. Few bands express everything in the spectrum of song-worthy emotions quite as well as Barenaked Ladies, so as they creep toward their third decade together, here's to hoping they keep it up.

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Weather, Water, Energy 1-22-07

Quick hits again tonight:

  • Maybe they'll make it to the PM's house. The drought in Australia has driven snakes, some poisonous, into suburban gardens, yet one more thing that doesn't seem to get built into the models that ends up worse, not better, than we would predict.
  • Stateline has a really nice summary article on "homegrown energy" efforts in the states and the grades that the states are getting. Get up-to-date.
  • Brazil's not the only place with a rain forest. Canada has one, too, and they're getting serious about protecting it.
  • More proof global warming doesn't exist. Why, it's snowing in AZ!! Why, that might only happen if the climate were changing. Why, that . . . sorry.
  • Paleoclimatologists are getting more and more data out of the extreme northeastern Canadian arctic. And it's not good.
  • Newsweek has a long and generally good article on the nuclear "renaissance" in light of growing acceptance of the carbon-based fuel problem thing. Covers the history well, covers the buyoffs of Bushnev and the other Repubs who are greasing the skids well, covers the continuing problems with its use that, despite all the familiar claims to the contrary, are still there. We may be forced into it at some point, due to cupidity and stupidity, but right now there are still better options once the subsidies and insurance protection are removed.
  • A Tale of Two Wind States. DE is embracing a wind power future while KS, you know, is KS.
  • Some days, it's just one dam story after another. Did you know that over half the nation's dams are privately owned, with owners who mostly don't give a dam? (Okay, I'm done.) The dams are getting old, not being maintained, and pose a substantial threat to tons of people in their paths, not to mention the need to manage water effectively in the future (h/t Grist). Surely we need to start . . . wait, what's that? Is Britney wearing panties??? (Actually, NY does seem to waking up to the need to regulate. Surely that will lead to no good.)

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My Kind of Woman

A dream come true for 99% of men in this country, a wife who could get this headline:

Thanks, honey
Wife induces labor so husband can go to Bears game


But you just have to wonder . . . what if the Bears had lost???

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Weather, Water, Energy 1-21-07

Quick hits for your weekend enjoyment (?):

  • Finally, some definitive research done on the impact of global warming on species, matching field data to lab data and verifying the "unnatural" lab results. Even mild warming can adversely affect some species. Particularly remember this quote: "Biologists usually don't know enough about a species to assess this risk." This is what the "aginners" throw out to justify their claims that warnings are shrill and unsupported. But note that, in this case, when tests can be done, turns out the scientists were, omigod, right. Their predictions match results. Of course, we're not the ones who needed to be convinced of that, were we?
  • Don't deny yourself the takedowns of Bushnev's coming SOTU address and the excerpts of Hell or High Water over at ClimateProgress.
  • Also, head over to Scientific American for their latest material, which includes articles on new developments in fuel cells, the clues to climate change in accumulated leaf litter, and the update of UN warnings on climate change, which will surely be listened to this time . . . sorry. But you need to stay up-to-date. That old "Noah" thing, you know.

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

You too can talk like our President!

You know that game you might have played at some point (if you're a guy, anyway), where you can make anything funny by adding "...in bed" to the end of any sentence? "She seems nice...in bed." "He's hilarious...in bed." "I need to remember to go out and buy Turbo Tax...in bed." Okay, it doesn't always work, but still.

Well, apparently there's a Bushnev version of the game too. Just add "...without raising taxes" to the end of anything. "We've got to fix Social Security...without raising taxes." "We need to spend more on Iraq...without raising taxes." "We need to get people some health insurance...without raising taxes."

Weighing in on the debate about how to provide health-care coverage to the more than 46 million Americans who lack it, Bush said his approach would emphasize private health insurance coverage — rather than expanding government-provided programs, as some Democrats advocate.

Health care is emerging in opinion polls as a top concern among many Americans as the costs of private insurance soar, putting a burden on both workers and companies.

“Our challenge is clear,” Bush said in his weekly radio address. “We must address these rising costs, so that more Americans can afford basic health insurance. And we need to do it without creating a new federal entitlement program or raising taxes.”
I've got to say...the Bushnev version isn't nearly as funny. I don't know if he thinks it's his only remaining position that Americans actually like (possible), or if he's just that beholden to all large companies and corporations of all kinds (likely), but...it pretty much ruins any chance of actually fixing any problems in the next two years. But hey...why start now...

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Another 100 Hours Report Card

C&L has a nice few links on the Dems’ 100 Hours agenda. Quick summary: House = success, Senate = possible suck. Of course, according to Republican logic, the fact that it only took the Democratic House 42 hours instead of 100 means it was a complete and total failure (via Oliver). Seriously. I’d say that’s grasping at straws, but that would be an insult to straw-graspers everywhere.

Anyway, from the Hill article...

“I’m becoming aware of the difficulties of the U.S. Senate in trying to pass a bill dealing with one issue,” freshman Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said yesterday, urging the Senate to follow the lead of his former House colleagues and approve a clean minimum wage increase.

Republicans, however, are seeking tax and regulatory sweeteners for businesses to ease the impact of a phased wage hike to $7.25 per hour. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has indicated that he will back the business breaks, remarking last week that a filibuster-proof margin for a stand-alone minimum wage increase may be achievable, but, “I’m not sure I want to do that.”
This is where politics in general starts to suck. What Reid is saying is actually a bit admirable there...he doesn’t want to compromise the quality of the bill just to avoid a filibuster. And considering Joementum is holding Dems hostage already (via Avedon), they really don’t have a majority anyway. It’s nice that the House is doing such strong, efficient work here, but as I said when Mizzou almost (but didn’t) beat Kansas in Lawrence on Monday night, while there’s a smidge of comfort in moral victories, we needed an honest-to-god, actual victory here, and I’m not sure we’re going to get it.

Meanwhile, it’s funny how your attitude changes when you don’t have the gavel anymore.

"This filibuster is nothing less than a formula for tyranny by the minority," argued Frist...
Who knew Republicans were so disengenuous? Hold on while I go look for some pearls to wear, so I can clutch them vigorously...

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Weather, Water, Energy January 19, 2007

Avedon Carol has a phenomenal catch over at The Sideshow, quoting Kissinger's explicit confirmation that we are in the Middle East for the oil, just like James Baker did our first time into Iraq, despite the denials and outrage of the Busheviks and their Pravda mouthpieces. I've never understood why they couldn't just admit it. It's not the only reason, although that was a good way to frame the counterattack on those who dared to raise it. "How dare you say the only reason we went to Iraq was for oil??!!" But, historically, great nation wannabes have rarely apologized for seeking to maintain/obtain the resources necessary for their "greatness" whereever and whenever they needed to. We don't have to agree with that, but it was defensible. But it was also likely a loser, or at least something Bushnev would have to compromise on, and we know how zealot ideologues love that, don't we? Still, it's nice to have someone admit it upfront, even if only in Middle Eastern media. We can depend on our media here to give it all the attention it deserves, can't we . . . huh, can't we? . . . Good news: A new heat pump that uses 50% less energy than the usual ones. . . . Bad news: A commodity expert says that the push to $100 barrel oil has only "corrected" and will be back soon enough. Fill up those tanks. . . . The Friends of the Earth head says this will be a "crunch year" for our issues here. Windows opening for action, flows coming together. The problem with the "windows" model is that it doesn't do enough to explicate the a--holes running around trying to close them back down as fast as they start rising. Hopefully he's right this time (h/t Grist). . . . Looks like Canada is taking the future with clean energy tech seriously, putting its money where it's mouth is. . . . Looks like US corporations are ready to join enviro groups in trying to get Bushnev's attention to take the clean energy tech seriously. Two years off, at best. Then maybe President Gore will take off like Canada. . . . Meanwhile, the most insane city in Bushnev's insane home state is planning an 18-lane highway, giving the world a giant finger while tearing out full speed at a brick wall. Houston really is a disaster so they have it coming, but it does give you all the perspective you need to understand what the chances of a "president" from that area doing something important really are. . . . Finally, a sadly "objective" report from Scientific American on the American Meterological Society meeting in San Antonio, giving far too much sympathy to those poor, poor "global warming's not really going on much" "experts" who lament the lack of respect and civility among their tuned-in colleagues. It's a nice example of our frequent failure to discuss the ego boosts and needs revealed by the “aginner” stance. I'll admit I’m often hesitant to adopt the “common” view simply because humans run in herds and it makes sense to be skeptical of fads and trends. It can be amusing and ego stroking, especially if the promoters are being jerks about it. But there does come a point where the evidence is so overwhelming that the “aginner” stance is objectively indefensible and becomes a self-deluded and -impressed way of asserting one’s superiority and “heroism” in the face of the overpowering peer pressure that takes the weaker minds. Those people should be treated just like “the wild-eyed fringe or lackeys” because they are just as harmful and dangerous in the ultimate consequences of their actions. You see it in the determined “moderation” of people like Drum and his acolytes who refuse to just once and for all stop giving the benefit of the doubt to people who consistently not only don’t deserve it but use the “moderation,” the “bipartisan,” the “let’s hear the other side” as proof that people with evidence clearly on their side are wrong. It’s all fun and intellectual game until somebody loses an eye, until an Iraq or Iran happens, or reactionary judges are installed for life, or an entire city is all but abandoned, or real science is driven from classrooms, or the Constitution is overridden, or until the whole planet is needlessly suffering from the delays and inaction caused by people thinking there’s a “middle ground” on climate change simply because credentialed “aginners” continue to tut-tut and perform their chosen roles as superior beings. When the car is speeding at the cliff, it’s time to stop arguing that some roads curve.

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Betty La Fea (Ugly Betty) Mas Bella Update XXVVIII

Okay, I'll admit it. I had the whole "Alex" storyline on "Ugly Betty" being part of mystery for next year's season, to replace the whole "did the dad kill Fay?" mystery this year. I knew Rebecca Romjin was coming on, but I figured it was plastic surgery. It was, only not for Fay, as I assumed. Turns out the brother is now the sister (or do genes take priority over private parts? . . . not sure I ever thought I would write a sentence like that . . . .). It amused me to see someone so much taller than Vanessa Williams so I imagine the first time Romjin towers over Betty (America Ferrera), the effect will be milked for all its worth. So, I'll admit they got me. Salma (!!!) and the guy who did "Betty La Fea" as well as "Ugly Betty" have me hooked in enough to be trying to figure out exactly how they're going to work "Alexis" into the enterprise. Will they stretch the boundaries of tv into transsexual incest? (And I thought I would write a sentence like that???) If not, who will they be hooking Alexis up with because there's no point in bringing in someone with Romjin's body if they're not going to be thrusting it at someone. I've never really gotten that much into her, the old "do you want Loni Anderson or Jan Smithers?" conundrum from "WKRP in Cincinnati" days, but she's off to an interesting start. Looks like they've got me the rest of the season.

Speaking of the guy who did "Betty La Fea" and is doing "Ugly Betty" (I need to learn his name once and for all), do we think he's really still involved with the disappointment that "La Fea Mas Bella" is turning into? Can we mark its decline to his departure? Would they have sold out the original as much as they have if he had still been involved? Purely rhetorical, don't worry.

And speaking of Ferrera, did you catch this? Congresswoman Hilda Solis saluted her on the floor of the House of Representatives yesterday for her Golden Globe win. The official reason? For "breaking down barriers for Latinos in prime-time television . . . . I commend America and everyone involved in Ugly Betty for helping break down stereotypes and provide a role model for young Latinas." Not to mention every warm, sweet, bright young fea of every type who can now blow off every slight and idiot comment or look with a quick "What Would Betty Do?" America can be proud, and America can be proud.

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FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING!! I remembered!

I'm actually posting this on a Friday morning for once! Of course, I'm half-worried I've used this picture before, but oh well...it's a good one...it's, like, artistic or something...

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

My turn...

I'll make my random observations in bullet points!

  • Good luck to Jane at FDL. A while back, berlin niebuhr suggested that she should be the face of the liberal blogosphere. She's been an extremely impressive fighter for the lefty cause, and we wish her the best. Kudos to Digby, the best blogger around, for being a pal to Jane and FDL as well.
  • And speaking of Digby and Jane...who needs a cheap cure for cancer, anyway?
  • Greenwald covers the Abu "Stonewall" Gonzalez hearing. I too am "concerned" and "disturbed" by what I see. Ugh. And I don't know if I've mentioned this before (maybe once or twice, ahem), but that Russ Feingold...he's quite a guy.
  • I can't tell you how many hits we've gotten in the last three days simply because Ugly Betty won a Golden Globe. Don't know if that's impressive or depressing. Maybe depressive.
  • Meanwhile...the Pirates made a trade that I actually don't disagree with, and...honestly, my brain doesn't know how to deal with that. Does not compute. Granted, they had to give up one of the three good prospects in their system (and how in the hell, after almost 15 years of high draft picks, do you have one of the worst minor league systems in baseball? Just wondering), along with their closer, but they got the power-hitting lefty first baseman they coveted. I would have made this move too...something I haven't been able to say for quite a while.
  • And finally, I have this to say about The Office: I don't know if it's my favorite comedy on TV, but considering that it's the only show we make sure to watch every time on the day it airs (we DVR everything else and watch it whenever the moment strikes us), and we chose to watch it tonight over Scrubs, I'd say the odds are pretty good it's #1. Not all that great its first season, but some time last season it hit its stride, and at this point it has everything that Cheers had when it became the greatest sitcom ever (non-animated sitcom, anyway). It's got what seems like a decade-long will-they-won't-they love story (if it's still going this time next year, it's gone on too long...but it's not tired just yet), it's got an unbelievably funny supporting cast, any one of which can carry a running subplot with ease (granted, Ed Helms jumped the shark today, but I doubt he's sticking around too much longer), about 90% of each episode takes place in the place of business, and it continues to get better with every episode. And when a lot of our other favorite shows are either holding steady (Veronica Mars, My Name Is Earl), in a slight decline (Scrubs), or in a West Wing-esque freefall (The Butterfly's been very disappointed in Gilmore Girls this season), we are very pleased to have a show to look forward to this much. The only other show I get this anxious about watching each week is Real World-Road Rules Challenge. Just kidding. Sort of.

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