Friday, May 26, 2006

friday random ten

Photo by Ryan McManus

"Sistine Chapel Ceiling" - Adorable
"Headlights" - New Model Army
"The Libertine" - Patrick Wolf
"Roadrunner" - The Modern Lovers
"El Justiciero" - Os Mutantes
"That's How It Goes" - Brothers and Sisters
"Poika" - PMMP
"A Secret" - Postal Blue
"Wolfpack" - Syd Barrett
"Five Spot Blues" - Thelonious Monk

Video bonus: Neutral Milk Hotel - "Ferris Wheel On Fire"

Thursday, May 25, 2006

happy happy joy joy, part two

Lay, Skilling convicted in Enron collapse

Former Enron Corp. chiefs Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling were convicted Thursday of conspiracy to commit securities and wire fraud in a case born from one of the biggest business scandals in U.S. history.

The verdict put the blame for the demise of what was once the nation's seventh-largest company squarely on its top two executives. It came in the sixth day of deliberations following a trial that lasted nearly four months.

Lay was also convicted of bank fraud and making false statements to banks in a separate trial related to his personal banking.

Lay was convicted on all six counts against him in the trial with Skilling. Skilling was convicted on 19 of the 28 counts against and acquitted on the remaining nine.

happy happy joy joy

the complete calvin and hobbes online

(via pharyngula)

net neutrality action today

save the internet

The House Judiciary Committee is going to “mark up” Representatives Sensenbrenner and Conyers’ good Net Neutrality bill this morning (watch the Committee vote via the Web). Many in the committee have been pressured by the big telcos to vote down the net neutrality provisions.

These are the members to contact on the bipartisan bill. Urge them to support the Sensenbrenner-Conyers “Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act of 2006″ (HR 5417) in the Judiciary Committee today — and to support it without amendment. Saying without amendment is key. Here are the members who need to hear from you right now:

Marty Meehan (D-Mass. 5th)
Phone: (202) 225-3411
Fax: (202) 226-0771

Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y. 9th)
Phone: (202) 225-6616
Fax: (202) 226-7253

Howard Berman (D-Calif. 28th)
Phone: 202-225-4695
Fax: 202-225-3196

William Delahunt (D-Mass. 10th)
Phone: (202) 225-3111
Fax: (202) 225-5658

Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas 18th)
(202) 225-3816 phone
(202) 225-3317 Fax

Bobby Scott (D-Va. 3rd)
Phone: (202) 225-8351
Fax: (202) 225-8354

Chris Van Hollen (D-Md. 8th)
Phone: (202) 225-5341
Fax: (202) 225-0375

Maxine Waters (D-Calif. 35th)
Phone: (202) 225-2201
Fax: (202) 225-7854

Mel Watt (D-N.C. 12th)
Tel. (202) 225-1510
Fax (202) 225-1512

Robert Wexler (D-Fla. 19th)
phone: (202) 225-3001
fax: (202) 225-5974

Howard Coble (R-NC 6th)
phone: (202) 225-3065
fax: (202) 225-8611

Elton Gallegly (R-CA 24th)
phone: (202) 225-5811
fax: (202) 225-1100

Bob Goodlatte (R-VA 6th)
phone: (202) 225-5431
fax: (202) 225-9681

Steve Chabot (R-OH 5th)
phone: (202) 225-2216
fax: (202) 225-3012 (fax)

Dan Lungren (R-CA 3rd)
phone: (202) 225-5716
fax: (202) 226-1298

William Jenkins (R-TN 1st)
phone: (202) 225-6356
fax: (202) 225-5714

John Hostettler (R-IN 8th)
phone: (202) 225-4636
fax: (202) 225-3284

Mark Green (R-WI 8th)
phone: (202) 225-5665
fax: (202) 225-5729

Ric Keller (R-FL 8th)
phone: (202) 225-2176
fax: (202) 225-0999

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

the kleptocracy continues

Business Week

President George W. Bush has bestowed on his intelligence czar, John Negroponte, broad authority, in the name of national security, to excuse publicly traded companies from their usual accounting and securities-disclosure obligations. Notice of the development came in a brief entry in the Federal Register, dated May 5, 2006, that was opaque to the untrained eye.

Unbeknownst to almost all of Washington and the financial world, Bush and every other President since Jimmy Carter have had the authority to exempt companies working on certain top-secret defense projects from portions of the 1934 Securities Exchange Act. Administration officials told BusinessWeek that they believe this is the first time a President has ever delegated the authority to someone outside the Oval Office. It couldn't be immediately determined whether any company has received a waiver under this provision.

The timing of Bush's move is intriguing. On the same day the President signed the memo, Porter Goss resigned as director of the Central Intelligence Agency amid criticism of ineffectiveness and poor morale at the agency. Only six days later, on May 11, USA Today reported that the National Security Agency had obtained millions of calling records of ordinary citizens provided by three major U.S. phone companies. Negroponte oversees both the CIA and NSA in his role as the administration's top intelligence official.


The memo Bush signed on May 5, which was published seven days later in the Federal Register, had the unrevealing title "Assignment of Function Relating to Granting of Authority for Issuance of Certain Directives: Memorandum for the Director of National Intelligence." In the document, Bush addressed Negroponte, saying: "I hereby assign to you the function of the President under section 13(b)(3)(A) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended."

A trip to the statute books showed that the amended version of the 1934 act states that "with respect to matters concerning the national security of the United States," the President or the head of an Executive Branch agency may exempt companies from certain critical legal obligations. These obligations include keeping accurate "books, records, and accounts" and maintaining "a system of internal accounting controls sufficient" to ensure the propriety of financial transactions and the preparation of financial statements in compliance with "generally accepted accounting principles."

trust me on this

U.S. Public Widely Distrusts Its Leaders

Three out of four (75%) said they trust government less than they did five years ago, just 5% said they think corporations do right by the consumers they are in business to serve, and only 25% feel the reporting is fair and accurate in the newspapers they read or the nightly broadcast network news they watch on television. Nearly 60% said they believe the “state of honesty in America” today is in poor shape (18% said it is in the worst possible shape).

via BlondeSense

wednesday morning reads

occams hatchet - "Just say 'NO' to suicide bombing"??? WTF?!?

Juan Cole - Critique of US Policy in Iraq

Betsy L. Angert - Immigration. Walls at The Borders. Barriers or Buttresses?

Many Native Americans Still Hold Traditional Beliefs About White Man

WASHINGTON, DC—Despite more than four centuries of the erosion of their native society, a large majority of First Nations peoples still maintain their culture's traditional beliefs about Caucasians, which were handed down by previous generations, according to a study released by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs Monday. "Our research revealed that most Native Americans view 'the white man' as a deceitful, avaricious, exploitive mass murderer, just as their ancestors did," BIA Interim Assistant Secretary James Cason said. "It remains unclear why, in an age when so much of their culture has been lost to time, this tradition remains as strong as ever." In light of the findings, the BIA announced a new program to preserve traditional beliefs through educational material in reservation-school textbooks and poster campaigns in liquor stores.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

tuesday morning briefs

Thieves took sensitive personal information on 26.5 million U.S. veterans, including Social Security numbers and birth dates, after a Veterans Affairs employee improperly brought the material home, the government said Monday.

UPDATE - Dan Froomkin
Frank James blogs for the Chicago Tribune: "In one of those perfect Washington ironies, today was the first meeting of President Bush's newly created Identity Theft Task Force.

"With today's report that a Veterans Administration employee may have just created the mother-of-all-identity-theft opportunities by losing a computer disk with the sensitive personal information of millions of veterans and their spouses, the task force may need to tackle the federal government's problems first."

The task force was created by a May 10 executive order , after a presidential photo op , and it's headed by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Writes James: "At the end of today's task force meeting, the closed meeting was supposed to have been opened to TV cameras so the attorney general's remarks could be carried on live TV. But that plan was scrubbed."

Paul Krugman - Friday was a bad day for Senator Joseph Lieberman.

Slideshow of the Katamari Damancy runners in the Bay to Breakers race. (via Boing Boing)

Monday, May 22, 2006

music discovery machines


Take a minute and think about your 10 favorite albums of all time. How did you discover them? Maybe you made an impulse buy at the record store counter, or you found a tape in a rental car. But it's more likely that you heard most of them through your friends, or a glowing review in a magazine, or catching a hit on the radio, or because you were already following the catalog of a producer or label or artist. In other words, you got a recommendation. If you had the time, you could work your way through your record collection and explain how you made each purchase.

So how about predicting what you'll do next? Since the mid-1990s, online music recommendation or music discovery tools have studied our tastes and told us what to buy. And in the past year, several startups have launched with new, more ambitious software that someday may understand us better than we know ourselves.

The idea that a computer could judge music, let alone recommend it, strikes some as repugnant; yet many customers are drawn to the idea of finding records thanks to the Web's promise of perfect information. In the same way that your one true love could be working at a bank in Santa Fe, and the two of you may never meet, there are bands out there that would become your lifetime favorites-- if only someone would hand them to you.


Music discovery tools could boost sales industry-wide-- as much as tenfold, depending on who you talk to-- and they're our best and, really, one of our only tools for tackling the marketing phenomenon known as the "Long Tail," where consumers wade through millions of niche and obscure albums thanks to the limitless shelves of online stores. Every day, bedroom musicians give away their Creative Commons-licensed mp3s, and digital distibutors snatch up forgotten back catalogs. San Francisco's IODA inked a deal to digitize 60,000 releases from China; how could any human wade through it all to find the best albums?

But how far can these tools go? Can they create maps of our sensibilities and tell us exactly what we want to hear-- night and day-- for any mood?

Read the whole article.
My page

Number of U.S. Inmates Rises 2 Percent


WASHINGTON - Prisons and jails added more than 1,000 inmates each week for a year, putting almost 2.2 million people, or one in every 136 U.S. residents, behind bars by last summer.

The total on June 30, 2005, was 56,428 more than at the same time in 2004, the government reported Sunday. That 2.6 percent increase from mid-2004 to mid-2005 translates into a weekly rise of 1,085 inmates.

Of particular note was the gain of 33,539 inmates in jails, the largest increase since 1997, researcher Allen J. Beck said. That was a 4.7 percent growth rate, compared with a 1.6 percent increase in people held in state and federal prisons.

Prisons accounted for about two-thirds of all inmates, or 1.4 million, while the other third, nearly 750,000, were in local jails, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Beck, the bureau's chief of corrections statistics, said the increase in the number of people in the 3,365 local jails is due partly to their changing role. Jails often hold inmates for state or federal systems, as well as people who have yet to begin serving a sentence.

"The jail population is increasingly unconvicted," Beck said. "Judges are perhaps more reluctant to release people pretrial."

The report by the Justice Department agency found that 62 percent of people in jails have not been convicted, meaning many of them are awaiting trial.


The racial makeup of inmates changed little in recent years, Beck said. In the 25-29 age group, an estimated 11.9 percent of black men were in prison or jails, compared with 3.9 percent of Hispanic males and 1.7 percent of white males.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

51st Eurovision Song Contest

Finnish monsters rock Eurovision

A Finnish "horror rock" group who dress in monster costumes have pulled off a surprise win at the 51st Eurovision Song Contest in Athens.

European viewers voted for Lordi's song Hard Rock Hallelujah in a show that is normally associated with catchy pop and big ballads.

A late summer tour with GWAR is unconfirmed at press time.