April 2004 »




Here are some things that are going on. In San Francisco, the Giants' baseball stadium has gone WiFi:

Baseball fans bored by the slow pace of a game or wanting more statistics and information will be able to connect computer devices via wireless computer networking, or WiFi, at San Francisco Giants home games this year, the team announced on Tuesday. The Giants' stadium is, after all, called SBC Park, for telecommunications giant SBC Communications Inc.

"We've created, if not the largest, one of the largest hot spots in the world," said Larry Baer, the team's chief operating officer. "We're the first professional sports facility to provide people universal WiFi connectivity."

The article doesn't address security at all, which is surprising. After the Day Everything Changed, security at stadiums and arenas became a really big deal. Are Giants fans going to have to stand in airport-style lines while people ahead of them turn on their laptops for the rent-a-cops?

Meanwhile, in krazy konservative Grand Rapids, MI, the city that gave us Acting President Gerald Ford and where my dad was born, police have begun infiltrating anti-war protests and physically intimidating protesters:

When opposition to the war in Iraq began to mount last year, Grand Rapids Police sent undercover officers to anti-war meetings and rallies, collecting intelligence about the aims of activists, the department's chief confirmed.

"We are living in a different time now. It's a different day," said Grand Rapids Police Chief Harry Dolan.

War opponents say their surveillance came closer to tyranny than protection from terror. In one case, they say, police threatened the job of a protester and said they would arrest her if she identified undercover officers she knew from her work as a Spanish interpreter at the Kent County Courthouse.


Undercover officers called her over to their car, Puls recalled. The man on the passenger side took her hand, then squeezed it hard enough to force her to tell them her full name, she said.


Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell said he is "very concerned" about the alleged incident involving Puls. Heartwell said he recognized the need to investigate threats against public safety but warned of "the tightrope you walk" when police conduct undercover operations.

This does not surprise me. Grand Rapids has always had a big inferiority complex because of its proximity to Detroit and Chicago, and I can very easily see its police deciding that the next terrorist attack would involve peace activists taking out the Gerald Ford Museum.

Lastly, a study has been released which shows no effect of file-sharing on sales of popular music and only a slight negative effect for niche records.

Songs that were heavily downloaded showed no measurable drop in sales, the researchers found after tracking sales of 680 albums over the course of 17 weeks in the second half of 2002. Matching that data with activity on the OpenNap file-sharing network, they concluded that file sharing actually increases CD sales for hot albums that sell more than 600,000 copies. For every 150 downloads of a song from those albums, sales increase by a copy, the researchers found.

"Consumption of music increases dramatically with the introduction of file sharing, but not everybody who likes to listen to music was a music customer before, so it's very important to separate the two," said Felix Oberholzer-Gee, an associate professor at Harvard Business School and one of the authors of the study.

Oberholzer-Gee and his colleague, University of North Carolina's Koleman Strumpf, also said that their "most pessimistic" statistical model showed that illegal file sharing would have accounted for only 2 million fewer compact discs sales in 2002, whereas CD sales declined by 139 million units between 2000 and 2002.

"From a statistical point of view, what this means is that there is no effect between downloading and sales," said Oberholzer-Gee.

For albums that fail to sell well, the Internet may contribute to declining sales. Oberholzer-Gee and Strumpf found that albums that sell to niche audiences suffer a "small negative effect" from Internet piracy.

They don't track things like concert ticket or merchandise sales, however, which is where small artists and likely to gain a lot from file-sharing. If you're on a major label and only sell 100,000 copies, you're making nothing from that record -- you're probably losing money, in fact. However, if file-sharing gets people interested enough to sell more tickets and t-shirts, you're getting a pretty sizeable cut of some significant new money.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Orange America ... Sporting Events ... Technophunk ... Permalink




Watching other pro-gay rights folks debating whatever civil unions are an acceptable alternative to marriage rights, I feel like an underling watching Napoleon promise parts of Waterloo to his lieutenants. Maybe I missed a memo. Did we win something? Has a legislature come down on our side lately? One certainly hasn't in Victory Central, aka Massachusetts, where the Supreme Judicial Court ruled the state must grant gay marriages by May 17 but the legislature just completed the first of three phases necessary to amend their Constitution and ban gay marriage. Has the federal government come to our aid? Not unless pushing a federal amendment to delegitimize both gay marriages and civil unions counts, which it doesn't.

Where's the push for federal recognition of Vermont's civil unions and California's gay marriages? The first would require legislation (paging Rep. Tammy Baldwin, Tammy Baldwin to the gay courtesy phone), the second would require a court challenge (paging Rosie O'Donnell, Rosie O'Donnell to the joint tax return courtesy phone). Is anyone planning to do anything about this?

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Politics ... Permalink ...
Comments (1)



Reuters is reporting that Condi Rice will now give sworn public testimony to the 9/11 Commission, and that George Bush and Dick Cheney will both give private testimony to the full panel. The commission has agreed to issue a written statement that this does not constitute an executive privilege-nullifying precedent. Josh Marshall notes that this manuever is ridiculous:

Setting aside the logical problems with viewing this as a separation of powers issue (namely the fact that the commission is not an arm of congress) jurists decide what's a precedent, not some slip of paper a cornered White House extracts from people it appointed.

The Bush Administration probably doesn't know any better, however. Eagle-eyed observers might recall that the Supreme Court's decision in Bush v. Gore also ludicrously declared that it could not be used as precedent. The Court is made up of jurists, of course, but not the ones who will one day decide if that opinion stands as precedent or not.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Politics ... Permalink




Condi Rice lies about the Constitution:

Rice said in a TV interview that she wants to testify publicly, but is constitutionally barred from doing so, a senior administration official said Sunday afternoon, before the program aired.

Wrong. Executive privilege means that she cannot be compelled to testify before Congress. She most certainly can voluntarily testify before Congress. However, the 9/11 Commission is not part of Congress, it is a joint effort, created by but independent of the executive and legislative branches.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Politics ... Permalink



The "late-term" abortion law, which bans most abortions after the first trimester, is heading to court in three separate cases.

The simultaneous litigation centers on the ban of what lawmakers defined as "partial-birth" abortion and what doctors call "intact dilation and extraction" -- or D&X.

In the procedure, generally performed in the second trimester and occasionally in the third, a fetus is partially delivered and its skull is punctured. An estimated 2,200 to 5,000 such abortions are performed annually in the United States, out of 1.3 million total abortions.

Amazingly, this is how the law got passed in the first place:

The high court struck down a similar Nebraska law almost four years ago because it lacked an exception for procedures done to preserve a woman's health. Anticipating this problem, Congress declared that "a partial birth abortion is never necessary to preserve the health of a woman" and is "outside the standard of medical care."

The cases are being heard in New York, Nebraska and California. I'd expect the District Courts to offer opposing rulings, at which point the Supreme Court would get involved. Roe has been basically safe from this Court for a while, but another Bush term could give him the opportunity to change that.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
The World at Large ... Permalink




This story is probably only of value to the nerds in the audience, so consider yourself forewarned.

Sometime last month, the new across-the-hall neighbors installed a wireless network -- a completely unsecured wireless network. With my trusty TiBook sitting idle on the coffee table, I happened to notice that the AirPort icon was all lit up. I tried to get on the Web, with no phone line connected, and it went through lickety split. It was unsecured, it was fast and it was free. And I have no scruples.

Jump forward to a week ago. After a month of wondering when they were going to get wise to both my and Emily's laptops tapping their network all the damn time, the network suddenly stopped working. And this wasn't the sort of momentary outage that happens to every Internet connection, it was down from early afternoon until sometime in the middle of the night. I assumed they'd turned on MAC filtering and our computers could no longer join the network. For the non-nerds out there, every network interface on your computer has a unique address, no matter how or if it is connected to the Internet. Computers can be denied access to a network if they don't have a MAC address that's on the approved list. Faced with this, we decided to just shell out the $30/month for SBC DSL; they had a special going which gives 384Kb-1.5Mb downstream for that price if you sign a year-long contract, which is pretty good.

The next morning, their network came back and I felt kind of dumb, but whatever. It wasn't going to last forever. The really dumb part came today.

Click to read more

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Technophunk ... Permalink ...
Comments (2)



I became a TA at the beginning of this semester and already I'm about to go on strike. Basically, the state is offering us a new contract that includes no cost of living raise, and introduces a payment into our currently free health insurance. Also, no domestic partner benefits. We're still operating under the old, expired contract, which is better than anything we can hope for in the new one. I have no idea why we're talking about striking, given that we can't possibly gain anything from a new contract.

In an effort to get the word out to the undergrads -- who, frankly, don't care and have no influence -- the TAA has been leafletting trees and putting up "informational pickets" all over campus. We'll see what happens. I tend to think we should just ride out the old contract as long as we can, because the state isn't going to want to lock us out.

[+/-] My girlfriend, Emily, and I went to see Death Cab For Cutie in Milwaukee on Friday. It was "Free Ticket Friday" at the Rave, which meant you got two free drink tickets when you bought your ticket to the show. It turns out that since the last time I was at the Rave, drinks have gone from $6 to $9. Also, parking has gone from $12 to $20, so we parked eight blocks away in a Marquette University ramp.

The Rave actually contains three separate venues, and unbeknownst to us, another show was going on in the big ballroom while our show was in the medium-sized, theatre-style room. It appears that parking was all fucked up because ironic hair-metal flash-in-the-pan the Darkness was upstairs. Because of the resulting time spent walking from the car, we missed opening act +/-. I was only sort of nonplussed by this; I like their latest album, You Are Here, but I wasn't interested in paying that much extra to park next to the building. When Death Cab came out, frontman Ben Gibbard chastized us for missed their "amazing" set. And then, on the way home, "Trapped Under Ice Floes (Redux)" was stuck in my head for the entire drive.

[Benjamin Gibbard] Death Cab's tour is actually a co-headlining affair with Ben Kweller, whom I'm neither familiar with nor terribly interested in. As it happened, Death Cab played first, but didn't quite announce themselves clearly. When they got to "Photobooth," Emily said they shouldn't be playing Death Cab covers when they're on a Death Cab bill. Then I corrected her and we laughed. I tend to be of the opinion that their most recent album, Transatlanticism, is their best, and my favorites from that record, "The New Year" and "The Sound of Settling," were the highlights of the set.

When it became clear that the Darkness had taken the stage upstairs, due to the slight sound leak through the ceiling, Gibbard challenged them to a riff-off, which they appear not to have accepted. Score one victory by default for indie rock.

[MP3 links removed as of 2004.04.12.]

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Music ... Permalink




Political Animal has this from subscription-only Roll Call:

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) has begun quiet discussions with a handful of colleagues about the possibility that he will have to step down from his leadership post temporarily if he is indicted by a Texas grand jury investigating alleged campaign finance abuses.

...Republican Conference rules state that a member of the elected leadership who has been indicted on a felony carrying a penalty of at least two years in prison must temporarily step down from the post.

Are you fucking kidding me? This story isn't leading everyone's news, why?

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Politics ... Permalink




Richard Goldstein gets right to the monkeywrench those gay weasels are trying to throw into our precious, sacred, fundamental, civilizing institution of marriage:

Inquiring minds want to know--so I consulted the journalist's oracle, Lexis-Nexis. Feed this database any combination of words and it will spit up every mention of them in the media. I entered gay marriage and pets, expecting perhaps a dozen hits, but the number exceeded the system's 1,000-citation capacity. When I narrowed the search to the past two months, nearly 500 pieces popped up. Most of them contained earnest warnings about people tying the knot with their pets. Perhaps you are among the many readers who have written to the local paper about the rough beast slouching toward Bethlehem (Pa.) to be betrothed.

Among those Goldstein cites as having associated man-man marriage with man-pet marriage are Nicholas DiMarizio, the Bishop of Brooklyn; Pat Robertson, the man who blamed the attacks of September 11, 2001, on the ACLU; Jerry Falwell, the man who agreed with him; Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia; Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA); state Rep. Bob Letourneau (R-NH); Attorney General Jon Bruning (R-NE); and Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO).

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
The World at Large ... Permalink



About a year and a half ago, many of the campus-area bars in Madison, under pressure from the city, got together and stopped advertising drink specials on Friday and Saturday nights. Before this, it was pretty easy to find someplace selling your favorite drink at two for a dollar on any given weekend.

Now, some UW students are suing:

A class action lawsuit was filed today in Dane County Circuit Court accusing 24 downtown Madison taverns and the Madison-Dane County Tavern League of conspiring to fix prices on beer and liquor.

The suit, filed by a Minneapolis law firm on behalf of three University of Wisconsin-Madison students, says taverns that agreed to eliminate weekend drink specials - a step strongly urged by Chancellor John Wiley - committed felony violations of both state and federal antitrust law, regardless of their intent. It also accuses UW-Madison of participating.

The suit maintains that the victims of price fixing - basically anyone who patronized the downtown taverns on Friday or Saturday nights and paid full price - are entitled to triple damages under antitrust law.

As it happens, I have patronized certain downtown taverns on Friday or Saturday nights, so go, lawsuit, go!

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Around Madison ... Permalink



I saw a four-hour, five-band rock concert last night at the Barrymore Theatre. Thursday was the headliner, but despite recently coming around to them a bit, I initially decided to give the show a pass. It was a school night, after all, and their primary supporting act was the reprehensible Andrew WK. Then at some point he dropped off the tour and one of my favorite indie rock acts, Piebald, replaced him. So, okay, for $15, now I'm in.

Click to read more

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Music ... Permalink




Showcasing the kind of political savvy that allowed the Bush team to come from ahead to lose in 2000, political genius Karl Rove appears to have OK'd this piece of brilliant strategy:

Starting Tuesday, the most important Sept. 11 Commission hearings yet will scrutinize counterterror efforts of two presidential administrations, but a star witness will not be there.

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice refuses to testify under oath, insisting that presidential advisers need not answer to legislative bodies.

Rice's no-show will leave the floor to a former subordinate on Wednesday, ex-counterterror guru Richard Clarke, who lambastes the White House in a new told-you-so book for failing to take seriously his warnings about al-Qaida in early 2001.

In other news, entrepreneurial visionary John Gotti is still dead.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Politics ... Permalink




After a solid week of build-up in the lefty blogs and several days of promotion during CBS's basketball coverage, the 60 Minutes interview with former anti-terrorism czar Richard Clarke finally aired last night. Some highlights and comments:

Mr. CLARKE: Well, Rumsfeld was saying that we needed to bomb Iraq. And--and we all said, 'But no, no. Al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan. We need to bomb Afghanistan.' And Rumsfeld said, 'There aren't any good targets in Afghanistan, and there are lots of good targets in Iraq.' I said, 'Well, there are lots of good targets in lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with it.'

STAHL: You wrote you thought he was joking.

Mr. CLARKE: Oh, initially, I thought when he said there aren't enough targets in--inn Afghanistan, I thought he was joking.

STAHL: Now, what was your reaction to all this Iraq talk? What did you tell everybody?

Mr. CLARKE: Well, what I said was, you know, invading Iraq, or bombing Iraq after we're attacked by somebody else--you know, it's akin to what did Franklin Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor. Instead of going to war with Japan, he said, 'Let's invade Mexico.' You know, it's very analogous.

STAHL: Yeah, but didn't they think that there was a connection.

Mr. CLARKE: No, I--I think they wanted to believe that there was a connection, but the CIA was sitting there, the FBI was sitting there, I was sitting there saying, 'We've looked at this issue for years. For years we've looked for a connection, and there's just no connection.'

This is the most damning piece of the interview, in my opinion, and good on CBS for not burying it. It's not "news," per se -- in fact, CBS itself reported as far back as September, 2002, that Rumsfeld issued a memo hours after the attacks asking aides to "Judge whether [info is] good enough hit S.H. at the same time." What this interview does do, though, is bring the Rumsfeld reality into stark relief at a time when people are more willing to accept it.

Mr. CLARKE: It was a serious look. We--we got together all the FBI experts, all the CIA experts. We wrote the report, we sent the report out to CIA and down to FBI and said, 'Will you sign this report?' They all cleared the report, and we sent it up to the president, and it got bounced by the national security advisor, or deputy. It got bounced and sent back saying, 'Wrong answer.'

STAHL: Come on.

Mr. CLARKE: Do it again.

STAHL: 'Wrong answer'?

Mr. CLARKE: Do it again.

STAHL: Did the president see it?

Mr. CLARKE: I have no idea to this day if the president saw it, because after we did it again it came to the same conclusion. And frankly, Lesley, I don't think the people around the president show him memos like that. I don't think he sees memos that he wouldn't like the answer.

The fact that the White House's response to this charge is basically to claim that "wrong answer" wasn't what they said -- much like their "imminent threat" claims -- this is going to hurt, too. They've got nowhere to go here.

Mr. CLARKE: I blame the entire Bush leadership for continuing to work on Cold War issues when they came back in--in power in 2001. It was as though they were preserved in amber from when they left office eight years earlier. They came back, they wanted to work on the same issues right away--Iraq, Star Wars--not new issues that--the new threats that had developed over the preceding eight years.

This is something commentators have begun to harp on lately and I think it's the absolute lynchpin of the attack on Bush's defense strategy. Not only do they not know what they're doing when it comes to international terrorism, they patently refuse to contemplate in any terms other than those handed down by the University of Chicago in the 1970's. The budget for fiscal 2005 proposed by the Bush Administration includes over $10,000,000,000 for a missile defense system that doesn't work and probably never will and $46,000,000 for port security. ABC News smuggled nuclear material through the Port of New York two years ago. Are we really worried about people who destroyed the World Trade Center with box-cutters lobbing missiles at us from 8,000 miles away?

STAHL: You think he risked people's lives?

Mr. CLARKE: I think the way he has responded to al-Qaeda, both before 9/11 by doing nothing, and by what he's done after 9/11 has made us less safe, absolutely.

STAHL: Don't you think he handled himself and hit all the right notes after 9/11? Showed strength, got us through it. You don't give him credit for that?

Mr. CLARKE: He gave a really good speech the week after 9/11.

STAHL: You don't give him credit for anything? Nothing?

Mr. CLARKE: I think he's done a terrible job on the war against terrorism.

Yeah, "getting us through it" was really the important thing. Because the world was going to end if George Bush didn't tell us to keep shopping.

STAHL: (Voiceover) [White House security official Hadley] also says Clarke was wrong when he said the president pressured him to find a link between Iraq and 9/11.

Mr. HADLEY: We cannot find evidence that this conversation between Mr. Clarke and the president ever occurred.

STAHL: Now, can I interrupt you for one second? We have done our own work on that ourselves, and we have two sources who tell us independently of Dick Clarke that there was this encounter. One of them was an actual witness.

Mr. HADLEY: Look, the--I--I stand on what I said.


posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Politics ... Permalink




"No Smoking" signs are a rare sight in Wisconsin nightclubs. Before Friday night, every time I'd been to Milwaukee's Cactus Club, the small stage area had been filled to capacity with smoke. This time there were signs all over the place -- turns out Kori Gardner, the Mates of State vocalist/organist barely seen here, is about halfway pregnant. As far as I could tell, all but one person stuck to the rules.

[Mates of State] This was the third time I've seen Mates of State live and they always deliver. If I ever get my best of 2003 post finished, it'll have their latest, Team Boo, at #9. The whole thing is terrifically catchy, but I key on "Whiner's Bio" for some reason.

[Crime & Judy] I'd never seen Crime & Judy before, but one of my students said they rocked. I kind of liked them. They've got dual lead female vocalists and a violinist, both of which are pluses in my book. It's kind of like that dog. if Anna Waronker's voice had a more strident sound. They had some problems keeping in tune while singing in unison, but pretty good other than that. "Kill Me Goodnight" is from their recent live EP, Vendetta Chants.

[Jail] Jail opened the show, and is my girlfriend's brother's band. We almost missed part of their set, because we were waiting for the extremely slow food service at Palomino and the Cactus Club was closer than ever to starting on time -- Jail's set started at about 10:30, scheduled for 10:00. "Bullets Flying" is my favorite song from their debut, Décor, but they didn't play it on Friday, so here's one they did -- "Annex the Doubt."

[MP3 links removed as of 2004.04.03.]

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Music ... Permalink




Josh Marshall connects the dots on the 9/11 Commission whitewash, finding the missing link in Richard Clarke's interview with 60 Minutes:

Now we know about Rice and Hadley, her deputy. But how about Zelikow? He's a former NSC official from the first Bush administration and a close associate of Rice's. The two of them even wrote a book together.

He was in the key meetings where the warnings -- seemingly ignored -- about al Qaida came up. He seems like someone you'd want to talk to to find out what they were warned about and why they didn't take the warnings more seriously.

Well, you don't have to look far to find him. He runs the 9/11 Commission. Zelikow is the Executive Director of the Commission, which means he has operational control of the investigation under the overall management of the two co-chairs Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton.

I can only hope we can look forward to filing "Zelikow" next to "Liddy."

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Politics ... Permalink



I found this at Megan Thomas Bradner's blog, but I don't know if it originated there. The idea is to randomize everything on your MP3 player and then list the first 20 selections. Mine came out like this:

  • "It's Been Eight Years" by The Radio Dept. from Lesser Matters
  • "Aurora" by Veruca Salt from the "Tank Girl" soundtrack
  • "The Man Who Sold the World" by Nirvana from MTV Unplugged in New York
  • "Dope Nose" by Weezer from Maladroit
  • "Let's Play Guitar in a Five-Guitar Band" by Minus the Bear from Highly Refined Pirates
  • "She'll Come Back to Me" by Cake from Fashion Nugget
  • "...Dust" by Elvis Costello from When I Was Cruel
  • "Charming" by No Knife from Fire in the City of Automatons
  • "Never Be Alone" by the Get Up Kids from Guilt Show
  • "User Friendly" by Marilyn Manson from Mechanical Animals
  • "Bubbles" by System of a Down from Steal This Album!
  • "Losing the Streak" by Jail from Décor
  • "Lip Service" by Elvis Costello from This Year's Model
  • "Normal" by Foo Fighters from Times Like These
  • "Coma White" by Marilyn Manson from Mechanical Animals
  • "Sheets" by Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks from Pig Lib
  • "Ambulance Driver" by Superdrag from In the Valley of Dying Stars
  • "Pervert" by Nerf Herder from How to Meet Girls
  • "i do not want this" by nine inch nails from the downward spiral
  • "Disappear" by Letters to Cleo from Go!

I've got a total of 3455 tracks on the player at the moment.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Music ... Permalink



I am a big TV dork. I've got dozens of tapes of various shows I have enjoyed over the years, waiting on a shelf for the lazy afternoon on which they are called to duty. But lately something has changed. In the last two fall programming slates, only two shows -- Fox's doomed-from-the-start Firefly and Arrested Development -- caught my interest. Cable filled some of the slack for a little while, but I got rid of that last fall because it just wasn't worth the money. With The West Wing successfully turned into unwatchable, uninspired melodrama, I'm down to six shows in which I have an active interest.

So now it's mid-season time, and the networks have decided that I am once again a desired demographic. They've launched four new shows (plus a fifth on NBC's snobby cousin, Bravo) which all look good enough to check out. Thanks to the miracle that is Bittorrent, checked them out I have.

Click to read more

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
TV ... Permalink ...
Comments (2)




File under "Incredibly Stupid:"

Fox TV's award winning, hit series 24 is noted for its innovative use of time and its fast-paced, exciting stories. Now IDW Publishing will break new ground by releasing a 24 comic book one-shot mirroring the show's dynamic use of the time element.

Two pages of printed story will equal one hour of time elapsed in this 48-page one shot. Handling the clock and the story will be J.C. Vaughn and Mark L. Haynes of Battlestar Galactica fame. Art will by by noted CSI: Miami artist, Renato Guedes.

As implied, IDW publishes a variety of comics based on action-related TV programs; they started with CSI about a year ago. The idea of a 24 comic is not stupid on its face, but the idea of a comic that completely inverts the show's format is. The show is basically as decompressed as you can get in motion picture storytelling. After accounting for commercials, 60 minutes of story happen in 43 minutes of real time. Most shows compress at least a few days worth of story into those 43 minutes. This comic is going to give you 60 minutes of story in two pages, probably about a dozen total panels. If you're not familiar with reading comic books, that's a few minutes worth of reading, assuming the pages are caption-heavy.

Why not do a 24-issue series in which each full issue is one hour? Why not ease off the "24-hour" part and do a 48-page special that covers just one hour? This format is just plain dumb. End nerdrant.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Comics ... TV ... Permalink



There's a discussion going on at Skate Jesus about cellphone ringtones. Apparently everyone in the world but me has a phone that rings with the theme from a terrible 80's TV show.

Now, I find crazy ringtones kind of obnoxious, but if that's what you like, fine. But according to this admittedly subjective press release, ringtones were a multi-billion-dollar industry as of a year and a half ago. So, honestly, who the hell is paying for ringtones? I mean, is that not the most ridiculously self-indulgent thing you can think of? OK, there's probably something more self-indulgent -- using the United States military to avenge your father's attempted murder, for instance -- but I can't come up with anything that applies to such a large part of the population.

Given the state of the American economy right now and the unbelievable proliferation of needless and expensive phone technology, I can't help but think this is the most accessible example of the widening gap between American haves and have-nots.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Technophunk ... Permalink




Instead of just announcing his refusal to recuse himself from the Sierra Club's case against Dick Cheney, Antonin Scalia has released a 21-page letter (PDF) which reminds me of nothing so much as the 18-page letter Ken Starr sent to Brill's Content after that magazine's premiere issue took his office's illegal leaks to task.

At one point, Scalia states, "If it is reasonable to think that a Supreme Court justice can be bought so cheap, the nation is in deeper trouble than I had imagined." It's clear that Scalia is ignoring the actual issue at hand, probably willfully. No one is concerned that Scalia was "bought" with a duck-hunting trip. The concern is that Scalia and the plaintiff are personal friends. I was called for jury duty last fall, and they were striking jurors simply for knowing defendents. Scalia and Cheney, ideology aside and politics aside, are friends. Scalia's argument that Cheney doesn't stand to suffer personal harm if ruled against is laughable -- if the Court rules against Cheney, it will be tacit confirmation of many things the population has believed about Cheney since he resurfaced in 2000. And the argument that Scalia, despite his arch-conservatism, is a man of principle and not a dangerous partisan -- an argument severely damaged by Bush v. Gore -- is no longer something I'm willing to abide.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Politics ... Permalink



Given The Onion's occasional hiatuses, the site I've consistently visited on a weekly basis for the longest is Glenn McDonald's The War Against Silence, a column-qua-record review that rarely fails to fascinate me. McDonald is a superb writer, a master of modifiers who would likely vex Elmore Leonard to no end.

He puts a new column up every Thursday, and this week's strikes me as really significant. It's a review of electro-avant garde duo Trans Am's new Liberation, a blatantly political record, though largely devoid of audible lyrics. The idea that Trans Am wants to get across allows McDonald the opportunity to discuss not just the current political environment vis-à-vis vocal dissent, it allows him to wonder about the very nature of political and civic thought in art. The column itself provides a terrific companion piece for the one dated September 20, 2001, the first to be written after the attacks. Then, McDonald seemed shaken, nervous and angry in a way he was uncharacteristically muddled about. Now, the nerves have settled and the anger has crystallized. Like many of us on the left, he understands how the past two and a half years have pushed out-groups further out and allowed in-groups to go so far in that they have superceded the structures they once occupied.

McDonald's taste in music is often superficially similar to mine, though I will never understand his love of Tori Amos and Alanis Morissette, but the way he writes about music is far more enthralling than the music he writes about. I only wish there were somebody doing such a terrific job of dancing about architecture.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Music ... Orange America ... Permalink




Having ditched cable TV last summer, I have managed to get through this college basketball season without seeing more than five minutes of any single game. That's just how I like it. The college basketball regular season holds no interest for me. All it's ever managed to do is bump SportsCenter and foul up traffic near campus. But I like the tournament for some reason.

I'm picking Stanford to go all the way, and I'm picking St. Joseph's to finish #2, just because Billy Packer said their undefeated regular season was meaningless.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Sporting Events ... Permalink




Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) commissioned a report on the various "misstatements" and distortions to leave the mouths of the top five White House officials regarding the Iraq takeover. It's now available and comes with a convenient searchable database of these statements. [Via Eschaton]

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Politics ... Permalink



The White House is now demanding that John Kerry name the foreign leaders he was misquoted as claiming endorsements from:

White House spokesman Scott McClellan accused him of "making it up" three times on Monday, the day after the secretary of state, Colin Powell, had called on Kerry to name names.

"Either he is straightforward and states who they are, or the only conclusion one can draw is that he is making it up to attack the president," said Mr McClellan.

I can only assume the White House similarly believes that Dick Cheney didn't actually meet with an Energy Task Force, and that he is only making it up to attack the country's energy policy.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Politics ... Permalink




It's hardly an original position in the bloggers' realm that the American system of democracy is flawed in a variety of fundamental ways. It is also in no way novel to suggest myriad solutions to these problems, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. However, I'd like to think the hypothetical practicality of what I'm about to say will set me apart.

So, eight changes. Eight things that can be accomplished legislatively, right now, in the United States. Let's begin.


Click to read more

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Politics ... Permalink




Condi Rice and Donald Rumsfeld both hit the tube this morning to repeat, again, the Administration's talking points on Iraq.

Rumsfeld, on Face the Nation:

Well, you're the--you and a few other critics are the only people I've heard use the phrase `immediate threat.' I didn't. The president didn't. And it's become kind of folklore that that's--that's what's happened.

OK, so, never an imminent threat. Got it. Condi?

We all believed that it is an urgent threat and I believe to this day that it was an urgent threat.� After 12 years of refusing to account for his weapons, of refusing to account for his activities, after 12 years of defying the international community, shooting at our pilots in no-fly zones, threatening his neighbors, sitting in the world's most dangerous region, it was an urgent threat.

Thanks for clearing that up.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Politics ... Permalink




Atrios wonders if another major attack on the United States before November will help or hurt the Bush election effort. I think the key variable is when it happens.

If it happens tomorrow, it'll probably hurt him enough that he won't be able to come back. He'll get a big initial spike, but if voters have seven and a half months to think about two major attacks being carried out on his watch -- and let's be honest, they wouldn't catch anybody following this attack, either -- "dangerously incompetent" is the conclusion they're going to come to.

But if it happens in late October, which I think is a lot more likely, he will coast into a second term. The short term reaction will be so irrational, again, that most voters will honestly feel like a vote for Kerry is a vote for terrorism. It's inevitable. Even I, a man who generally feels like he is far smarter than everybody else, wrote on September 13, 2001, about nervously watching the first planes to take off from Green Bay as they gradually flew out of sight. I may not have ever thought Bush did anything right, but that doesn't mean I wasn't affected deep down in my lizardbrain.

And, of course, all this talk of "voters" assumes that elections would even be held in such a situation. There's been a lot of not quite facetious talk about the Administration suspending elections, but I think this is the only circumstance in which they could legitimately get away with it. After the attack, they announce that we can't possibly hold elections so soon and that they will be held at some date in the future. And then they simply aren't.

The good news is that Spain is getting on with it, which would make such an action look even worse than it already would on the world stage. The bad news is that the Madrid attacks were obviously timed to coincide with the elections.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Politics ... Permalink




The fiasco-in-waiting that is electronic voting has been covered pretty extensively -- see blackboxvoting.com and the accompanying book. Now that it's been implemented, we're starting to see the expected rotten fruit. But...

California legislators said on Thursday they want to stop the use of all paperless electronic voting machines in the state, fearing the same type of fiasco that plagued Florida in the 2000 election.

State Sens. Don Perata (D-Oakland) and Ross Johnson (R-Irvine), the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate election committee, sent a letter to Secretary of State Kevin Shelley urging him to decertify all paperless touch-screen voting machines before the general election.

The March 2 primary "was a test-flight of widespread use of these machines. I think it's fair to say the test flight crashed and burned," said Perata. "None of us want California to be the sequel to Florida."

Newsflash, California: You just elected a Nazi-loving bodybuilder with no relevant experience or expertise to your state's highest office. You're already the new Florida.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Politics ... Permalink



So, what the hell is this, anyway?

This is an experiment. I'm trying to meld the zine style of the old etchouse.com with some more traditional blogging elements. All the old stuff will still be around, but in new forms. Instead of a 1500-word Capital Ideas, for instance, you may get a series of short vignettes. You'll also get a lot more infofiltering action as I and others direct you to fun stuff elsewhere on the interweb.

Plus, you get to play along, as I have acceded to the wiles of Movable Type, which means commenting is now available. Everybody wins! And as I continue to learn about MT, CSS and RSS, things can only get better!

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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