Friday, March 30, 2007

ohmyVegasness ...

Edited trip diary coming very soon ... previews though ... I had $200 on the table for one hand; I played a $100 money bet; I taught two people how to play Blackjack; I have a new fave casino/should I move to Vegas?; winning is everything.

In the meantime though, Kerri (a fellow SHSHS alum) found this AOL commercial featuring another classmate. This is Kelly Rowen, who I used to have a crush on in fact.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Desert Island CDs (assume that iPods don't exist)

OK, I've made this list so many times in my life and amended just as many. But
as I sit here listening to the RENT (film) soundtrack I know that the stage version will always be on the list. That's not meant as a slight against the film version, but the magic captured on the initial recording is unlike anything I've ever listened to. More on this later Thursday or Friday ... I'm off to Vegas and the blog is just off.

In memoriam ...

Many years ago the Internet was touted as the magic bullet that would democratize the world. Reality has proven far different from uptoic/myopic dreams, but that doesn't mean that the dreamers were wrong.

Bill Simmons went from a sports fan in Boston with a Web site to the No. 1-read writer on And though many have accused him of selling out, he still remembers the fans. He posted this e-mail today on his NCAA tournament blog.

And one last e-mail from an anonymous reader in North Carolina ...

"I wanted to write you without my name or anything, just as a student of UNC. Our loss last night was tough -- some might say heartbreaking. But what's worse is that it may overshadow the death of a true Tar Heel. Jason Ray, our mascot, died this morning. He was the very first person I met at UNC. He was helping freshmen move into the dorms as a part of Intervarsity (a Christian ministry on campus). The elevators were all jammed up, so he helped me cart a refrigerator, futon, and all my other stuff (and girls have a lot of stuff) up NINE floors in the 100 degree heat. And he did it happily. We became friends and I spent a lot of time around him. He let me wear the ram head one time because I thought it'd be funny (even though I'm sure he wasn't supposed to). You've probably gotten a lot of e-mails about yesterday's game, but could you maybe mention Jason in your article, if only for a second. The world deserves to know who this person was. I don't just want him to be a 'UNC mascot dies' blurb on He was such a good person. A true friend. What every Tar Heel should aspire to be."

To the anonymous writer of this e-mail, I say, thank you. You've honored your friend, and brought honor to your university and yourself. Long live the digital democracy.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Why anal retentive is VERY BAD

I am now going to bed, just 90 minutes after I had expected to. Earlier this week I downloaded an update for iTunes and it reset my preferences to scan for my library on my HD instead of my external HD (where I keep everything). Somehow this fucked things up and I've spent the last two hours restoring it, ironically from songs that are already on the external in my iTunes library folder. I wish I could have let this go. I am letting go about 20 songs that are just gone and need to be re-imported from the CDs.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Irony police (scroll down to the last paragraph):

The Buzz: Coaches have no power in the NHL; they can't even criticize players without feeling threatened over their employment.

The BACKHAND: Bunk. Detroit coach Mike Babcock publicly ripped into Dominik Hasek, arguably his best chance for winning a Stanley Cup this season, after Hasek took a dive Tuesday night in a game against Calgary. The refs did not blow the whistle on Hasek's dive, allowed play to continue, leading to Kristian Huselius burying the GWG over a flopped-out Dominator; thus costing the Red Wings two points and maybe even a shot at the President's Trophy in what is a wonderfully tight race for the top regular-season effort. Afterward, Hasek claimed "interference" but Babcock would have none of it and ripped into his star for perpetrating embellishment, something that goes on all to often in hockey.

Meanwhile, New York Islanders coach Ted Nolan dropped captain Alexei Yashin to the fourth line after Yashin lost Vinny Lecavalier of the Tampa Bay Lightning for a pivotal goal in a game with playoff implications for both teams. Said Nolan: "Whether it's our captain or not, you have to perform. At this time of the year, there are no excuses.

"He's been back (from injury) now for [six] games. Losing a guy on the second goal, that's inexcusable at this time of year. You can lose certain people, but we have to play with a certain urgency, with some grit, and whoever doesn't won't get too much ice time."

Hasek and Yashin both have a coach notched on the coach-killer list (ironically, it was Hasek who did in Nolan in Buffalo a decade ago). Hats off to Babcock and Nolan for refusing to demand anything less than what a player is paid to deliver.

Jim, I love ya as a hockey writer and wish you were still at the Buffalo News. But that's NOT irony. It's just a coincidence.

Catch all

It's late and I can't get by on 6 hours in a night as well as I used to, so a quick run down of what's fueling the hypocrisy index and what's killing common sense and our ability to trust anything.

• Cardinal Roger Mahony, head of the archdiocese of Los Angeles, employs an verbal magician as his legal counsel. Four victims of alleged sexual abuse learned that he told his superiors in the Vatican that a videotape showed their alleged abuser, Father Lynn Caffoe, engaging in criminal conduct. Then six months later he said publicly that the tape showed no evidence of sexual activity, according to the lead story in Tuesday's Los Angeles Times.

Mahony's lawyer, J. Michael Hennigan, says that no contradiction exists because at the time the diocese was under court order not to talk, according to the L.A. Times story. He continued to say that the statements "were not intended to be a description of the content of the files, which we were not allowed to do." They served as "an index, a chronology."

What the fuck does that fucking mean? And one HUGE thing bothers me about this story ... why is there no independent reported statement in the story either confirming or refuting Hennigan's claim that they church wasn't allowed to talk at the time. And even if the church wasn't what the fuck is a chronology of what happened that has a bold-faced lie?


I tend to swear, kinda like a sailor/truck driver/pirate/reporter all in one. But not many things make me blurt out an F-bomb in my current office. I work with teens for fuck's sake. But this item from the Casey Journalism Center daily summary of stories about children/youth/education did ...

"Allergy Nation"
April 2007, Child Magazine, Pamela Kruger
A New Jersey mom whose 2-year-old son is allergic to peanuts recently clashed with her health club after discovering another child in the "nut-free" childcare room eating peanut M&M's – which the manager had given him. "I told the manager, 'That M&M could kill my kid.' He just rolled his eyes, says the mother, who promptly quit the club. Across the country, such clashes are occurring with striking regularity. Schools are declaring themselves nut-free, creating nut-free classes and lunch tables, or banning peanut butter and jelly altogether. [I should get a refund from Newhouse, because I can't come up with the words to express how much this ________s me.] Some schools enforce policies by inspecting lunch bags and asking parents to send in ingredient labels, prompting a backlash from those who see political correctness run amok or an overreaction by anxious parents. It's not unusual to hear about parents who have tried to sabotage food-allergy policies [that would be me, if I had kids] and children who have been teased or bullied by their nonallergic classmates. In the past five years, the Department of Education has ruled against schools in 14 civil rights complaints from parents of allergic children. Fueling the discord are surprisingly large gaps in knowledge about food allergies, which are leading to mistrust and misunderstanding among parents and making living with this newly rampant childhood diagnosis a high-anxiety experience. It's the risk of death, of course, that can send parents into paroxysms of fear, but the statistics on that are inconclusive.. Among researchers and practitioners, there's a recognition that some schools and parents are overreacting. Yet food-allergic children and their parents are wrestling with some terrifying unknowns: There's no cure for food allergies and no sure way to predict the severity of a child's allergic reaction on any given day.


Finally, more evidence that the Bush administration hates science ... (and I don't want to be a conspiracy theorist, but for some reason this L.A. Times story isn't on

Altered climate
reports spark stormy hearing ;
A paper trail shows how nonscientists inserted doubt into U.S. reports on global warming.

BYLINE: Nicole Gaouette, Times Staff Writer

SECTION: MAIN NEWS; National Desk; Part A; Pg. 10

LENGTH: 1142 words


Government scientists, armed with copies of heavily edited reports, charged Monday that the Bush administration and its political appointees had soft-pedaled their findings on climate change.

The accusations led Democrats and Republicans at the congressional hearing to accuse each other of censorship, smear tactics and McCarthyism.

To underscore their charges of the administration's oil-friendly stance, Democrats grilled an oil lobbyist who was hired by the White House to review government climate change documents and who made hundreds of edits that the lawmakers said minimized the impact of global warming.

"You were a spin doctor," Rep. John A. Yarmuth (D-Ky) told the lobbyist.

Republicans targeted a NASA director who testified about administration pressure, accusing him of political bias, of politicizing his work and of ignoring uncertainties in climate change science.

And they disputed his contention that taxpayer-funded scientists are entitled to free speech. "Free speech is not a simple thing and is subject to and directed by policy," said Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah).

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing was marked by an open confrontation between Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles) and the ranking Republican, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) -- a rare display of direct debate in otherwise carefully choreographed hearings.

The hearing was the latest effort to challenge what the Democratic congressional majority sees as the Bush administration's unchecked use of power. In the past few weeks, Democrats have held inquiries or announced plans to examine the unmonitored use of national security letters that allow the government to spy on Americans, the dismissal of U.S. attorneys and the identifying of former covert CIA operative Valerie Plame, among other issues.

Waxman has been particularly aggressive, pursuing inquiries about intelligence in the lead-up to the Iraq war and the politics of global warming.

To support their charges Monday, the Democrats produced hundreds of pages of legal depositions, exhibits and e-mail exchanges between administration officials. The paper trail illustrated how officials with no scientific training shaped the administration's climate change message and edited global warming reports, inserting doubt in the place of definitive statements and diminishing the role people play in the planet's rising temperatures.

Waxman's committee received more than eight boxes of papers from the White House Council on Environmental Quality that he said provided disturbing indications of political interference.

"There may have been a concerted effort directed by the White House to mislead the public about the dangers of global climate change," said Waxman, who also cited the administration practice of "controlling what federal scientists could say to the public and the media about their work."

"It would be a serious abuse if senior White House officials deliberately tried to defuse calls for action by ensuring that the public heard a distorted message about the risks of climate change," Waxman said.

One example showed how a report originally said the U.S. National Research Council had concluded that "greenhouse gases are accumulating in the atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures to rise and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise."


Edits by ex-oil lobbyist

Philip Cooney, the oil lobbyist who became chief of staff at the Council on Environmental Quality, changed that to read: "Some activities emit greenhouse gases that directly or indirectly may affect the balance of incoming and outgoing radiation, thereby potentially affecting climate on regional and global scales."

James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said the edits confused public understanding of the issue. "If we push our climate system hard enough, it can pass tipping points," he said. "That is not a situation we want to leave for our children."

Hansen decried political interference in climate change science. "Scientists shouldn't be hired to parrot some line."

But he also said the real weapon against scientists was the budget. Last year, he said, the administration slashed climate change budgets retroactively by 20%.

Cooney, now with Exxon Mobil Corp., came to the White House in 2001 after more than 15 years with the American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry lobby group. His last post there was leader of the climate team.

Waxman quoted an internal API document that identified climate change as the group's highest priority. He said a key API tactic was to spread doubt about climate change science, exaggerating scientific uncertainty and downplaying the role of humans in climate change.

"What bothers me is that you seem to take the exact same approach in the White House," Waxman told Cooney.

Cooney, soft-spoken but increasingly red-faced as the hours went by, repeatedly stressed that his job was to align reports with administration policy, as reflected by a 2001 National Academy of Sciences report that indicated some doubt about climate change models.

He denied his aim was to sow doubt or that he had any loyalty to the oil industry, even as lawmakers pointed to some 181 changes he made to one document, which Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said "had the effect of emphasizing or exaggerating the level of uncertainty surrounding global warming science."

"How is what you were doing ... any different than the work of the so-called scientists during the whole tobacco debate when they were sowing doubt about whether there was any link between tobacco and lung cancer?" Welch asked.


Republican rebuttals

Republicans, in turn, came down hard on Democrats and Hansen, often sparking verbal fisticuffs.

Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) raised Hansen's work on "An Inconvenient Truth," the documentary on Al Gore's global-warming efforts, as evidence of Democratic sympathies. Hansen is a registered independent.

Several Republicans criticized Hansen for comparing administration efforts to limit and monitor scientists' speech with similar efforts in Nazi Germany.

Issa said he hoped Hansen wasn't influenced by money tied to a prize named after John Heinz, a former Republican senator and deceased husband of Teresa Heinz Kerry, the wife of Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.).

Waxman turned to Issa, who sat beside him. "I think the gentleman's smearing Dr. Hansen," Waxman said.

Issa stared, started to speak, but Waxman cut him off, repeating himself.

"Are you recognizing yourself?" Issa asked, using the formal phrase to see if Waxman was allotting himself time to speak.

"Well, I recognize you," Waxman shot back as the crowd laughed. "I think you're smearing him. Do you want to comment on that?"

Issa offered his rebuttal, noting that Hansen "clearly disliked" the Bush administration and the lawmakers moved on.

Friday, March 16, 2007

My number one language pet peeve

This is in a story in today's Buffalo News:

Conklin looked more composed then Florida’s Ed Belfour, who made his franchise record-tying 22nd start.

It's "than" when comparing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Truth trumps fiction every fucking time

This is an e-mail from a friend:

I had to share this excerpt from the highlights of a La Salle faculty senate meeting:
As a result of our increasing concern regarding the apparent growth in the number of committees on which faculty are asked to serve, the Senate began the process of reviewing the number of University, School, and ad hoc committees in existence. The Committee on Committees is currently compiling information and will undertake an assessment of the entire committee structure to determine if any consolidation can be done to reduce faculty obligations without impeding current committee work and commitments.

The whole not believing this to be real phenomenon will pass, followed by nausea, then uncontrollable, stomach and throat-hurting laughter, then disgust. then bemused resignation.


Monday, March 12, 2007

Who says that the NYTimes is liberal leaning?

March 12, 2007

A Bill Democrats Should Like

The Bush administration’s new farm bill, one of the more sensible pieces of legislation to emerge from this administration in quite a while, faces its first big Congressional test this week. The House Budget Committee will vote on a budget resolution that, while non-binding, establishes spending priorities and sends a powerful signal to the authorizing committees about where the House leadership thinks the money ought to go.

In the case of the farm bill, the Bush administration has already made its own preferences crystal clear. It proposes a strict cap on payments to individual farmers as part of a larger effort to hold down traditional subsidies. It seeks to help smaller and younger farmers and poor rural communities.

And it includes the most generous conservation program ever offered by this administration: increasing spending by $7.8 billion over 10 years on land conservation and investing an additional $1 billion a year in a bold new program to develop renewable fuels other than corn ethanol from farm crops.

All this represents a significant break from past farm bills, which have traditionally provided heavy subsidies for big growers of corn, wheat, soybeans, cotton and rice who are concentrated in a handful of states. Half of all farm spending, which amounts to about $12.5 billion annually, now flows to just 22 Congressional districts.

The problems with this system are legion. At home, it drives small farmers out of business and compromises the environment. Abroad, it penalizes third-world farmers and jeopardizes trade talks.

John Spratt, the South Carolina Democrat who runs the Budget Committee, will be under heavy pressure from the farm lobby to preserve the old system. But this is one administration program that the Democrats can and should support. Mr. Spratt and other House leaders would be doing the environment, small farmers and the cause of free trade a great favor by embracing it.

--I agree with this as well.

Hope for the newspapers and journalism and THE FUTURE

In my capacity as an editor at a teen newspaper, I often end up serving as a sounding board for our student writers/artists regarding their futures. It's one of my favorite unofficial parts of the job; I think in large part because I never had anyone to indulge the tempestuous vectors I envisioned for my own seemingly limitless opportunities that had one thing in common--they all led to unseen (interpreted at the time as dark) horizons.

Well, one student, Selina, recently blew my mind (not surprising or uncommon for our students, her especially). Below is a fragment of an e-mail about her possible career plans ...

... I'm very confused though about what I want to major in and do as a career. I don't want to major in journalism, really, because it seems strange to me. It seems like you are a journalist because of your interest in other things, not just because of an interest in the style of journalism. Know what I mean? But that's just my opinion.

"It seems like you are a journalist because of your interest in other things."

It's not often people encounter Truth with a capital "T" but this was most certainly one of them. Thanks, Selina.


Monday, March 05, 2007

Shame and pride

I love the United States. The seeds the Founding Fathers sowed more than 225 years ago are what laid the ground work for a malnourished Korean kid abandoned in Seoul to be able to be rescued by a white couple living in Northeast, PA. (The ironically named Northeast, because it's located in the northwestern corner of the state).

But when the country I love so disappoints me by betraying the ideals that helped it endure the problems of a society's and planet's evolution, I am bitterly stung. Seeing what George W. Bush has done to this country (obliterating civil liberties, ignoring the environment, bankrupting our international standing) has literally sickened me during the past six years. And to twist the knife he and others like him have called me and others like me, traitors. Well, my fellow traitors and I were too quiet for too long. It took six years of him sabotaging the world's future before we figured out how to take back some power. At least he finally told him myopic minions to stop calling us the terrorists.

Anyway, I digress somewhat. The main point of this post is to recognize that no matter how many small victories the people who love this country's noble ideals have made, the hard work remains to be done. And it's in our ability to successfully accomplish this work that the future will judge us.

Thankfully, the New York Times wrote a perfectly on-target editorial Sunday to remind us of what needs to be done. We must NEVER lose newspapers.

March 4, 2007

The Must-Do List

The Bush administration’s assault on some of the founding principles of American democracy marches onward despite the Democratic victory in the 2006 elections. The new Democratic majorities in Congress can block the sort of noxious measures that the Republican majority rubber-stamped. But preventing new assaults on civil liberties is not nearly enough.

Five years of presidential overreaching and Congressional collaboration continue to exact a high toll in human lives, America’s global reputation and the architecture of democracy. Brutality toward prisoners, and the denial of their human rights, have been institutionalized; unlawful spying on Americans continues; and the courts are being closed to legal challenges of these practices.

It will require forceful steps by this Congress to undo the damage. A few lawmakers are offering bills intended to do just that, but they are only a start. Taking on this task is a moral imperative that will show the world the United States can be tough on terrorism without sacrificing its humanity and the rule of law.

Today we’re offering a list — which, sadly, is hardly exhaustive — of things that need to be done to reverse the unwise and lawless policies of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Many will require a rewrite of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, an atrocious measure pushed through Congress with the help of three Republican senators, Arlen Specter, Lindsey Graham and John McCain; Senator McCain lent his moral authority to improving one part of the bill and thus obscured its many other problems.

Our list starts with three fundamental tasks:

Restore Habeas Corpus

One of the new act’s most indecent provisions denies anyone Mr. Bush labels an “illegal enemy combatant” the ancient right to challenge his imprisonment in court. The arguments for doing this were specious. Habeas corpus is nothing remotely like a get-out-of-jail-free card for terrorists, as supporters would have you believe. It is a way to sort out those justly detained from those unjustly detained. It will not “clog the courts,” as Senator Graham claims. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the Democratic chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has a worthy bill that would restore habeas corpus. It is essential to bringing integrity to the detention system and reviving the United States’ credibility.

Stop Illegal Spying

Mr. Bush’s program of intercepting Americans’ international calls and e-mail messages without a warrant has not ceased. The agreement announced recently — under which a secret court supposedly gave its blessing to the program — did nothing to restore judicial process or ensure that Americans’ rights are preserved. Congress needs to pass a measure, like one proposed by Senator Dianne Feinstein, to force Mr. Bush to obey the law that requires warrants for electronic surveillance.

Ban Torture, Really

The provisions in the Military Commissions Act that Senator McCain trumpeted as a ban on torture are hardly that. It is still largely up to the president to decide what constitutes torture and abuse for the purpose of prosecuting anyone who breaks the rules. This amounts to rewriting the Geneva Conventions and puts every American soldier at far greater risk if captured. It allows the president to decide in secret what kinds of treatment he will permit at the Central Intelligence Agency’s prisons. The law absolves American intelligence agents and their bosses of any acts of torture and abuse they have already committed.

Many of the tasks facing Congress involve the way the United States takes prisoners, and how it treats them. There are two sets of prisons in the war on terror. The military runs one set in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay. The other is even more shadowy, run by the C.I.A. at secret places.

Close the C.I.A. Prisons

When the Military Commissions Act passed, Mr. Bush triumphantly announced that he now had the power to keep the secret prisons open. He cast this as a great victory for national security. It was a defeat for America’s image around the world. The prisons should be closed.

Account for ‘Ghost Prisoners’

The United States has to come clean on all of the “ghost prisoners” it has in the secret camps. Holding prisoners without any accounting violates human rights norms. Human Rights Watch says it has identified nearly 40 men and women who have disappeared into secret American-run prisons.

Ban Extraordinary Rendition

This is the odious practice of abducting foreign citizens and secretly flying them to countries where everyone knows they will be tortured. It is already illegal to send a prisoner to a country if there is reason to believe he will be tortured. The administration’s claim that it got “diplomatic assurances” that prisoners would not be abused is laughable.

A bill by Representative Edward Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, would require the executive branch to list countries known to abuse and torture prisoners. No prisoner could be sent to any of them unless the secretary of state certified that the country’s government no longer abused its prisoners or offered a way to verify that a prisoner will not be mistreated. It says “diplomatic assurances” are not sufficient.

Congress needs to completely overhaul the military prisons for terrorist suspects, starting with the way prisoners are classified. Shortly after 9/11, Mr. Bush declared all members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban to be “illegal enemy combatants” not entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions or American justice. Over time, the designation was applied to anyone the administration chose, including some United States citizens and the entire detainee population of Gitmo.

To address this mess, the government must:

Tighten the Definition of Combatant

“Illegal enemy combatant” is assigned a dangerously broad definition in the Military Commissions Act. It allows Mr. Bush — or for that matter anyone he chooses to designate to do the job — to apply this label to virtually any foreigner anywhere, including those living legally in the United States.

Screen Prisoners Fairly and Effectively

When the administration began taking prisoners in Afghanistan, it did not much bother to screen them. Hundreds of innocent men were sent to Gitmo, where far too many remain to this day. The vast majority will never even be brought before tribunals and still face indefinite detention without charges.

Under legal pressure, Mr. Bush created “combatant status review tribunals,” but they are a mockery of any civilized legal proceeding. They take place thousands of miles from the point of capture, and often years later. Evidence obtained by coercion and torture is permitted. The inmates do not get to challenge this evidence. They usually do not see it.

The Bush administration uses the hoary “fog of war” dodge to justify the failure to screen prisoners, saying it is not practical to do that on the battlefield. That’s nonsense. It did not happen in Afghanistan, and often in Iraq, because Mr. Bush decided just to ship the prisoners off to Gitmo.

Prisoners designated as illegal combatants are subject to trial rules out of the Red Queen’s playbook. The administration refuses to allow lawyers access to 14 terrorism suspects transferred in September from C.I.A. prisons to Guantánamo. It says that if they had a lawyer, they might say that they were tortured or abused at the C.I.A. prisons, and anything that happened at those prisons is secret.

At first, Mr. Bush provided no system of trial at the Guantánamo camp. Then he invented his own military tribunals, which were rightly overturned by the Supreme Court. Congress then passed the Military Commissions Act, which did not fix the problem. Some tasks now for Congress:

Ban Tainted Evidence

The Military Commissions Act and the regulations drawn up by the Pentagon to put it into action, are far too permissive on evidence obtained through physical abuse or coercion. This evidence is unreliable. The method of obtaining it is an affront.

Ban Secret Evidence

Under the Pentagon’s new rules for military tribunals, judges are allowed to keep evidence secret from a prisoner’s lawyer if the government persuades the judge it is classified. The information that may be withheld can include interrogation methods, which would make it hard, if not impossible, to prove torture or abuse.

Better Define ‘Classified’ Evidence

The military commission rules define this sort of secret evidence as “any information or material that has been determined by the United States government pursuant to statute, executive order or regulation to require protection against unauthorized disclosure for reasons of national security.” This is too broad, even if a president can be trusted to exercise the power fairly and carefully. Mr. Bush has shown he cannot be trusted to do that.

Respect the Right to Counsel

Soon after 9/11, the Bush administration allowed the government to listen to conversations and intercept mail between some prisoners and their lawyers. This had the effect of suspending their right to effective legal representation. Since then, the administration has been unceasingly hostile to any lawyers who defend detainees. The right to legal counsel does not exist to coddle serial terrorists or snarl legal proceedings. It exists to protect innocent people from illegal imprisonment.

Beyond all these huge tasks, Congress should halt the federal government’s race to classify documents to avoid public scrutiny — 15.6 million in 2005, nearly double the 2001 number. It should also reverse the grievous harm this administration has done to the Freedom of Information Act by encouraging agencies to reject requests for documents whenever possible. Congress should curtail F.B.I. spying on nonviolent antiwar groups and revisit parts of the Patriot Act that allow this practice.

The United States should apologize to a Canadian citizen and a German citizen, both innocent, who were kidnapped and tortured by American agents.

Oh yes, and it is time to close the Guantánamo camp. It is a despicable symbol of the abuses committed by this administration (with Congress’s complicity) in the name of fighting terrorism.


And here's an amazing story in Sunday's Los Angeles Times about a 24-year-old woman who is doing something more heroic than anyone I've ever met. And someone who would make the Founding Fathers prouder than probably any President in the last 100 years. Again, we must NEVER lose newspapers.

A Darfur tree is her newsstand

People walk miles to read the sharp reports that 24-year-old Awatif Ahmed Isshag pens and posts outside her home.
By Edmund Sanders
Times Staff Writer

March 4, 2007

EL FASHER, SUDAN — For Awatif Ahmed Isshag, covering Darfur is the story of her life.

Nearly a decade ago, at 14, Isshag started publishing a handwritten community newsletter about local events, arts and religion. Once a month she'd paste decorated pages to a large piece of wood and hang it from a tree outside her family's home for passersby to read.

But after western Sudan plunged into bloodshed and suffering in 2003, Isshag's publication took on a decidedly sharper edge, tackling issues such as the plight of refugees, water shortages, government inaction in the face of militia attacks, and sexual violence against women.

Her grass-roots periodical has become the closest thing that El Fasher, capital of North Darfur state, has to a hometown newspaper. More than 100 people a day stop to check out her latest installments, some walking several miles from nearby displacement camps, she said.

"I feel I have a message to deliver to the community," said Isshag, now all of 24 years old.

The petite reporter is an increasingly common sight around town, her notebook and pen in hand as she interviews local people for her articles. Last week she roamed El Fasher asking people how they felt about the International Criminal Court's recent accusations against two war-crimes suspects in Darfur.

Critics have attempted to intimidate her and force her to shut down. Instead, Isshag is expanding this month with a new printed edition, enabling her to circulate for the first time beyond the neighborhood tree.

"She represents the only indigenous piece of journalism in Darfur," said Simon Haselock, a media consultant with Africa Union in Khartoum. "She's got energy and drive. It's exactly what they need."

Readers say her magazine, called Al Raheel (which roughly translates as "Moving" or "Departing"), is one of the only places they can read locally produced stories about issues touching their lives.

"It's the best because this magazine shows what is really happening in Darfur," said Mohammed Ameen Slik, 30, an airline supervisor who lives nearby.

Isshag complained that despite international attention, the suffering of Darfur remained vastly underreported inside Sudan. There are no television stations in the area, and most newspapers operate under government control or are based hundreds of miles away in Khartoum.

"The local media don't cover the issue of Darfur," she said. "We hear about it when one child dies in Iraq, but we hear nothing when 50 children die" in Darfur.

Through articles, essays and poems, Isshag frequently blames the government for failing to protect the citizens of Darfur.

A recent story titled "What's Going On in El Fasher?" compared the government's tightening security vise in the city to checkpoints in Lebanon. A thinly veiled poem told the story of a sultan who blithely tried to reassure his long-suffering subjects.

Isshag said government officials had so far largely dismissed her as "just a young girl."

But during a recent trip to Khartoum, she received an anonymous phone call from someone who warned her to "stop writing" and "take care of your education" instead.

She shrugged off the threat.

"I'm not afraid," she said. "Journalism is a profession of risk. I'm not doing something wrong. I'm doing something right."

Her passion for giving voice to the region's victims stems in part from her own family's losses. A cousin walked for three days to escape attacks by Arab militias, known as janjaweed, after her village was burned down. Her grandfather died in a displacement camp near Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state. About a dozen other relatives still live in the camp, unable for security reasons to return home.

Darfur's crisis began in 2003 after rebels attacked government forces. Government officials are accused of responding by hiring the janjaweed to attack Darfur villages and terrorize civilians. The government denies supporting the militias. More than 200,000 have died in the conflict, and 2 million more have been displaced.

An advocate for women's education, Isshag credits her parents for allowing her to avoid being tied down by housework and pursue her interest in writing.

But she occasionally uses her columns to lecture other women on pet peeves. A recent "For Women Only" article lambasted those who took off their shoes on the bus. "It's wrong," she said with a laugh.

Isshag hopes to complete a master's degree in economics at the University of Khartoum and one day to lead a development company, building schools and houses in her long-marginalized homeland.

But for now she's focused on improving the magazine.

After a local Khartoum-based newspaper profiled her, Isshag received a new computer and printer as a gift from a well-wisher in Qatar. She's also looking into launching a website.

She said she would never charge readers for the paper or turn it into a business.

"I don't care about the money," she said. "I would fast to get the story."

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Best day ever? (like seriously)

So how meta is this posting going to be? (And is the act of asking that post-modern?)

I was trolling for the holy grail of mp3s/youtube videos tonight--a bootleg recording of Rilo Kiley and Debbie Gibson singing Lost In Your Eyes, which happened at a show I went to in 2005. I entered my standard search terms into Google: Rilo Kiley and "deborah gibson." (OK, this time I changed it up to formalize Gibson's name.)

Well, the usual suspects of reviews and stuff come up. Then some hits from this blog come up, which isn't new. But then there was this ...

LA Observed: Friday Buzz, 6.16.06

... the Hollywood Bowl and misses Fairfax farmer's market karaoke, has found that he belongs in Los Angeles--where Rilo Kiley and Deborah Gibson meet." ... - 27k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

So of course I HAD to click on that and what did I find ... but this ...

New (to me) blog with catchy title
My So-Cal'd Life tells "how an unchallenged suburban kid from western new york who grew up loving Star Trek, joined the University of Arizona marching band and enjoys blackjack, documentaries and non-fiction sections in bookstores, Broadway musicals, Harry Potter, Entertainment Weekly, the Hollywood Bowl and misses Fairfax farmer's market karaoke, has found that he belongs in Los Angeles--where Rilo Kiley and Deborah Gibson meet."

italics are mine.

--I made an appearance on, which is a great blog about Los Angeles politics/media and such. it's one of the city's best-known and best-written and best-reported blogs. it's run by Kevin Roderick a former L.A. Times staff writer and also someone who posted L.A. Youth to his site!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Be careful what you wish for

Last month I was sure that I saw Jenny Lewis at a Lily Allen show. I even made eye contact during the people plowing through us (we were standing next to each other) section of the show. But I choked and didn't say anything. I have spent parts of the last month trying to decide whether I wanted to be sure it was her. If I found out it was for sure and that I didn't talk to her, then I'd feel like an even bigger gutless heel. But if I found it wasn't her, then I'd feel like a moron for not knowing any better. ARGH!!!!!

Well, there's no doubt anymore ...

This guy ... I should be he.

I wanna grow up and not live like a kid anymore (Toys R Us or otherwise)

Here are pix of the new apartment:

The kitchen, duh! Note the new cabinetry and the sparkling new appliances and the marble tile flooring (also new).

The sink. Note the button on top of the nozzle that I'm pushing to change the standard faucet pour into a showery spray. Ahhhhhh. Also, this picture doesn't do it justice but the nozzle pulls out of the faucet, like a detachable showerhead. NOICE.

Brand new, energy-saving, front-loading washer. I think this is something that's actually nicer than my parents.

Not sexy, but it's the marble floor and also the hardwood (laminate) floors. Eat your heart out crappy wall-to-wall.

The living room and the roommates. Andrew is lying down on the couch and Curtis is staring at him.

More living room. Note the kitchen table with chairs in the background. And a coffee table and two couches and general open floorage.

Another perspective on the living room. Note the nice DVD rack and kick-ass audio hook up to the television. Someday a DLP shall be mine.

Bedroom. Snore. Btw, those are Egyptian cotton sheets, 300 thread count and a 400 thread count comforter.

The bookshelf/CD wall shelving unit. The red thing on the left is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And on the right you can see the laptop on my first desk since living in Syracuse.

These reflected images give you a better sense of how the bedroom is laid out.


The $40 coup de grace. I got this wire pantry rack at Target for $39.99. Can you believe it? It's awesomeness.