Friday, August 10, 2007

Rep. David Davis Dogged Again

While the GOP faithful paid out big bucks at a fundraiser for Rep. David Davis at the Bristol Motor Speedway yesterday, protesters braved the soaring temperatures to tell Rep. Davis his vote against tougher sentencing on dogfighting was a terrible move.

The always entertaining writing of DeMarCaTionVille features the event and story in the Kingsport press. Wonder if other news agencies in the 1st District will pick up the story that has been dogging Davis?

The Editor says Rep. Davis has been nipping at her heels over the dogfighting No vote he made as well. They called her this week after tracking her blog. Davis' legislative director, Richard Vaughn, says he is eager to talk about the problem.

DeMarCaTionVille also has a hilarious bit from Jay Leno from last Friday, as Jay tears into the Johnson City minister busted for .... well, being pretty dang naughty in public.

And yes oh yes, if you are not reading DeMarCaTionVille yet - my advice is to start and make it a regular stopping place on your web travels. I sure have!

UPDATE: Michael Silence posts another news report on the protest:

"It should have been a vote against dogfighting and making it more of a felony instead of a misdemeanor,“ said Greeneville veterinarian Vickie Howell, one of the protesters. "It’s kind of a black eye for the state of Tennessee and the 1st District."

UPDATE II: Another newspaper, this one from Oak Ridge, also chastises Rep. Davis:

"The Upstate’s freshman congressman has distinguished himself as a proponent of the status quo."

Camera Obscura - Neil Gaiman, Masters of Sci-Fi, Whedon Interview

Some quick TV notes for you to start off this Friday.

All day on Turner Classic Movies is a Vincent Price marathon. Many great performances and films are presented, including the weird "The Tingler" and his version of "I Am Legend", called "The Last Man On Earth." Tonight will bring some of his best known movies, the Roger Corman adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe stories as well as "The Abominable Dr. Phibes". (Phibes was the "Saw" series of it's day.)

I also love the marketing ploy used in "The Tingler" (the first movie to feature an LSD trip scene) as random theatre seats in movie houses across the country were fitted with honest-to-Pete electric shock gizmos. At certain times during the film, your seat would buzz and vibrate with a light shock and those in the seats would usually scream and jump up, which started some truly chaotic moments in the theatres.

Yeah, you could not do that today. Lawsuits would follow. The audience always got plenty of shocks in movies from producer William Castle, who would often provide a 'nurse on duty' during his movies, or offer you free life insurance in case you died of fear during his movies. Castle was the man who coined the advertising line "Just keep telling yourself, It's Only A Movie! It's Only A Movie!!"

Another TV treat is getting a very brief lifespan on ABCs on Saturday nights at 10 pm, "Masters of Science Fiction." This week's episode is based on a story by Howard Fast ("Spartacus") and is set in the war zones of Baghdad. Terry O'Quinn stars. The next two (of only four episodes) feature dramas based on the works of Heinlein and Harlan Ellison. NPR has a fantastic review of the show.

NPR also has a tasty segment
on the delicious comedy show Robot Chicken, which starts it's third season on Adult Swim on August 12th. The geek in me is always impressed by the rapid-fire pop culture assault that RC provides in 10 and 15 minute bite-sized chunks.


More proof I am a geek:

A week or so ago, I got an early birthday present. It's yet another t-shirt to add to my gigantic collection of clothing from movies and television. The shirt is simply the punchline from an online comic strip, PVP, from 2005 as a father and son debate Episode 3 of the "Star Wars" saga. (click to embiggen)

And the shirt is shown here.

Speaking of Joss Whedon, a jam-packed interview from the just completed San Diego Comic Con has plenty of details about his work on Buffy and Angel and Firefly and future projects. I have always had my own tag line for the man, taken from Marvel Comics -- "Make Mine Whedon!"


Comic books continue their massive influence on Hollywood with the opening this weekend of the fantasy adventure "Stardust" written by one of the most popular comics writer and novelist in many years, Neil Gaiman. It's a more intense and scary version of "Princess Bride".

The reviews are very strong for the movie. It stars Michelle Pfieffer, Robert De Niro, Peter O' Toole, Claire Danes and Ricky Gervais. Director Matthew Vaughn, whose previous movie "Layer Cake" I have mentioned many times here before, may be about to take over another comic book to movie project for marvel, Thor. Get all the details on Vaughn and "Stardust" and "Layer Cake" here.

And if you haven't read any of his work, his novel "American Gods" is a fine place to start.

Now please excuse me -- I have TV to watch and other geek habits to employ.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

FISA, CSPAN and the Facts

Many of the problems with the new expansion of previously illegal warrantless surveillance are provided clearly and plainly in a discussion on CSPAN with Glenn Greenwald and former Reagan appointee Dave Rivkin. For one thing, Rivkin has that faulty memory so famous among Reganites about the cabinet-level officials indicted in the 1980s.

I saw this yesterday and was impressed with how well Greenwald lays out many key issues -- such as the new law does not require a person being 'listened to' actually be a terrorism suspect. And a point I've been hitting on too, that until this law was passed, the President and his staff have been conducting illegal surveillance. Years of breaking the law just don't seem to matter. And there is the retroactive protection of phone companies who illegally provided records to the illegal program.

It's a very intense discussion, including the call-ins. Here is a snippet, but the entire 48 minute discussion can be accessed here at CSPAN's archives and is must-see TV--

UPDATE: A very interesting article in Salon (reg. required) takes a look at the expanding technologies available for surveillance and the many ways it is used under the current administration. Check it out.

Here is a brief excerpt:

"Military, intelligence agency and police work is also coming together in numerous "fusion centers" around the country in a joint program run by the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security that has received little public attention. At present, there are 43 current and planned fusion centers in the United States where information from intelligence agencies, the FBI, local police, private sector databases and anonymous tipsters is combined and analyzed by counterterrorism analysts. DHS hopes to create a wide network of such centers that would be tied into the agency's day-to-day activities, according to the Electronic Privacy Information Center. The project, according to EPIC, "inculcates DHS with enormous domestic surveillance powers and evokes comparisons with the publicly condemned domestic surveillance program of COINTELPRO," the 1960s program by the FBI aimed at destroying groups on the American political left."

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Internets Destroying The World, or Idiocracy Revisited

It's not just the tech -- it's the people who use it -- destroying the world with their non-sanctified, unpaid views and opinions. Well, it is more that traditional media companies -- newspapers, radio, television, recording and film companies -- are losing business and consumers of their products.

That is the core of a book, titled "The Cult of the Amateur: How the Democratization of the Digital World Is Assaulting Our Economy, Our Culture and Our Values" by one Andrew Keen.

Damn that urge for Democracy!!

A review of the book via Sports Media America says:

"... the proliferation of Web technology and its wide and easy access to any Joe or Jane has created a rudderless, authority-less media environment responsible for the following primary ills:

1. A general and alarmingly casual disregard for facts (i.e., the truth about certain things)

2. A democratized approach to learning (e.g., Wikipedia), wherein those with expert opinion (and conventional credentials) are being pushed aside by an army of amateur thinkers and journalists

3. The rapid (and continuing and probably inevitable) financial decline in traditional media such as newspapers and magazines

4. The absolute destruction of the music business as we once knew it

5. The potential destruction of the film business

6. A compromised society-wide morality (especially among the younger, cut-and-paste generations) that fails to recognize theft of intellectual property as a criminal act (Keen dubs this scene a kleptocracy)

7. An onslaught of exposure to pornography that is warping minds and further fueling an atmosphere where sexual deviance and predatory activities are fostered."

(Thanks to Sparkwood & 21 for this account of the book.)

And don't forget the Evils of learning to read, of speaking without being a hired representative, and thinking for yourself. Add in the devious unprofessional handling of music, politics and documentation .... well, here we are, in a digital handbasket in a large pipeline heading to Hell.

A Webwalk From The Serious to the Not So Much

So much good reading, fascinating and provocative and informative, and on a wide range of topics. A brief tour is offered herein.

Failure dogs the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Bush threatens to veto bill for assistance. (via Facing South) --

The failure is seen everywhere: The tens of thousands of people still living in "temporary" FEMA trailers because insurance companies and the government failed to compensate homeowners. The 100+ public schools still closed in New Orleans. Lack of housing that has driven up rents 100-200% across the Gulf Coast, unaffordable to many. The lack of any meaningful effort to restore Louisiana's stunning wetlands, the best defense against future storms.

So one can only imagine the rage that is greeting this week's news that President Bush plans to veto a $21 billion bill for flood control and coastal restoration, passed 381-40 this week with broad bipartisan support in the U.S. House. The bill's programs are national but of special importance in southern Louisiana, where it would fund a 72-mile levee and floodwall system and put $1.9 billion -- a fraction of what's needed -- towards coastal restoration."
If you're paying millions of dollars to writers and consultants to create information opposing the scientific findings related to global warming, that is not an imaginary conspiracy -- it's called paid propaganda. (via KnoxViews)

... learn how their propaganda campaign has successfully fooled 64% of Americans into thinking there is "a lot of scientific disagreement on climate change."

Did you know that today is an almost formal state holiday?? Anyone? .... Bueller? Well it is and no, until I read ACK's post sharing the information, I simply did not know that today is Emancipation Day. The Greeneville Sun covers the story:

Organizers of the event estimate that a few hundred individuals, some of whom came from out of town to attend, were on hand for the annual African-American historical celebration that marks the emancipation by then-Tennessee Military Governor Andrew Johnson of his personal slaves."

Angelia reports that gives 1st District Congressman David Davis a 'thumbs down."

Is that a monkey under your hat or are you just happy to see --- Oh My God! It is a monkey under your hat!!

Um. Well. I know it's not meant to make me laugh but I, for one, am utterly helpless before the headlines and stories heralding the game that is sweeping through Ohio, Illinois, and Kentucky. Yes, it is a Carnival of Cornhole.

Friends in the know confirm the game has captured tons of fans. That was after I sent them some info directing them to the American Cornhole Association website. (thanks, Sysm!)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Plot Against Chocolate

This is just wrong.

Chocolate in its purest state - the "liquor" made from ground, processed cacao beans - must contain between 50 percent and 60 percent cocoa butter, also known as cocoa fat.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, Chocolate Manufacturers Association and 10 other food industry groups want more flexibility in those rigid standards. They seek broad permission to add ingredients, use different techniques, employ new shapes and substitute ingredients - something the standards currently don't allow.


"Manufacturers already can use vegetable fats instead of cocoa butter - they just can't call it "chocolate." Hundreds of people have filed comments with the FDA, with the overwhelming majority seeking to keep it that way, according to an Associated Press review of the file.

"But the shift would make chocolate cheaper to produce, since cocoa butter can be four or more times the cost of shea, palm oil and other vegetable fats.

"If you're able to replace cocoa butter with another fat, even at the 5 percent level, you're saving lots and lots of money, especially if you are a major manufacturer of chocolate bars," said Bernard Pacyniak, editor in chief of Candy Industry magazine. ... But Gary Guittard, the president of California's Guittard Chocolate Co and others question that and said any change would debase the very nature of chocolate.

"This incremental degradation of foods over the years - it's a degradation that comes from wanting to make it for less money. We're always trying to make a little more money, and that I think is the problem," said Guittard."

Do NOT mess with the chocolate. If you outlaw real chocolate then only outlaws will have real chocolate for sale.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Dude! The Party's in Iran!

An international crowd showed up for a rave just outside of Tehran, Iran -- proof enough that plenty of people will party no matter the danger or risk.

Iran's drive to enforce Islamic morals netted revellers from Britain and Sweden after police swooped on a "satanic" concert organised over the internet.

"Most of the detainees came from rich families and included people from Iranian backgrounds who had travelled from Britain and Sweden ..."

How the heck did they get past the borders?

Of course, some say this is a U.S. plan:

Last Wednesday's raid occurred during a government-backed "social security" campaign in which police have arrested or cautioned thousands of women whose dress or headscarves have been deemed insufficiently Islamic. While such offensives occur periodically, this year's has been carried out with unusual intensity over a prolonged period amid accusations that the US is trying to topple the Islamic regime through a "soft revolution".

If so, then this may be the best plan yet out of Washington. I mean, gosh, we all know that Culture Wars from within America are the most dire threats imaginable -- just listen to FOX News and most talk radio.

Let's appoint Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton to join an international rave cartel (based in Amsterdam) and make Iran and Iraq and the rest of the troubled middle east into a bona fide Destination Democracy where party doesn't mean nuthin' but a good time.

Leaving behind stacks of CDs, caches of liquor and drugs, and maybe some glo-stix has got to be a lot safer than losing hundreds of thousands of weapons.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Congress Expands Secret Spying Plans

I posted the following over at KnoxViews today, a somewhat cautious post as I was entering the group blog thing for the first time there. I was and I am seeking some other opinons on the last-minute approval of an even larger federal secret surveillance program by Congress. I am fairly disappointed by the passage, though I wonder if it's worth bringing up. So I offer the post here, to see if anyone has a comment other than Trust The President.

I've never made a blog entry here, but this particular blog seems like the best forum to take my questions about what happened in Congress this weekend.

I'm referring to the passage, demanded by President Bush, of continuing to expand some questionable surveillance programs. I admit to having hopes they would be able to adjourn without voting on the bill, but realizing it would likely pass since this President seems to get from Congress whatever he wants or ignores them whenever he wants.

The always outspoken critic of the administration, Glenn Greenwald, writes about some of the same things the passage brought to my mind, but I have others too for your consideration.

Why was this bill not fought and debated as intently as the recent Iraq War funding debate? Was that just theatrics after all?

Why are Democrats (those who voted Yes are listed in Greenwald's article) caving to the President? Or was it caving in at all? Is this why Congress' approval ratings are so low?

I know the FISA bill has a limited lifespan, but once policies are made into law, they seldom end. I'm just not very happy with this approval and have been hoping that Congress would provide less approval, even if that means stalling the entire legislative agenda.

Not that I consider aggressive intelligence-gathering bad, far from it. But it sure seems like both the intelligence groups and the Attorney General's office have done a truly botched job in the last 6 years - so how can Congress justify expanding the roles of both groups?

UPDATE: Russ McBee has some thoughts on the passage of the bill, and more info on how it changes the spying rules is here at MetaFilter.

And one more thing to consider -- these changes in surveillance authority, would they be tolerated by Conservatives if the Attorney General was appointed by a Democrat president?