Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Oh. My. God.

Google Earth. Get it. Now. Never sleep again. No time to blog. Must get back to google earth.

Learn more.

Pretty Sneaky, Sis.

Call me crazy‚…but near the end of last night‚’s speech, did it sound to you like President Bush implied that anyone who flies an American flag on Monday will be showing support for the war in Iraq? This line made me scream at the television. I wouldn’t say that I bleed red white and blue, but you would hope a man could put up an American flag on the 4th of July without joining the Republican party or endorsing neo-con policies.

As for the speech – it reeked of political panic. Invoking 9/11 five times to make the case for Iraq is just plain offensive at this point. More thoughtful reaction can be found at Slate, Juan Cole, and a great piece in the Los Angeles Times.

Monday, June 27, 2005

I've got Grokster on my Scotus!

The last day of the term brought some high profile rulings at the Supreme Court: There were split decisions on two cases dealing with the display of the Ten Commandments, Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper may soon be facing some jail time, expect higher prices for cable internet, and don't blame yourself for those illegal downloads - it was the software that made you do it.

Best Coverage of the Day Award: CNet is all over the Grokster case.
Runner Up: Wonkette. "Supreme Court Swings Both Ways on Hot Church-State Action"

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Tim Russert Scores Free Tickets to Live 8

Guess who followed Donald Rumsfeld on Meet the Press? Make way for Bono! Awwww yeah... Bono went one-on-one with Tim Russert (aka, lil' Big Russ) this morning for a lengthy chat on global poverty, AIDs, Africa, debt relief, and who's a better producer: Brian Eno or Daniel Lanois? U2's frontman is doing the media rounds to promote higher financial commitments to African aid at the upcoming G8 summit in Scotland. I know this is where I am supposed to ironically insult Bono for his save-the-world attitude, but I have to admit the man is damn good at his job (move over Barack, there's a new heart throb in town). Bono has become quite savvy with his politics - and he openly admits that the US cannot and will not be scorned into giving more money. His new plan of attack: Love. He heaped the love on Bush - claiming the President wants to help out, but his advisors just won't let him. It's just so fun and easy to blame Rove.

Big Bird and Armstrong Williams walk into a bar...

Frank Rich writes about the current attacks on public broadcasting in the NYT Week in Review. His argument: Republicans are not looking to destroy public radio and television - they actually want to subsume them into their media propoganda machine.

Friday, June 24, 2005

In the future, there will be an open bar!

But your liver will be periodically scanned.

I attended the opening reception for Wired Magazine's NextFest last night. It's billed as a showcase for visionary technology from scientists, researchers, and entrepreneurs. There was definitely some cool stuff - a hybrid train locomotive, a robotic arm that changes your records (old skool, meet new skool), and brain fingerprinting. It's a fun event, and I highly recommend it for those of you in Chicago this weekend. My favorite display had to be Paro, a robotic baby harp seal (you heard right). This thing responds to your touch, wiggles around, and basically breaks your heart. Apparently it is designed for human interaction and has been used to reduce anxiety among Japanese elderly. It can recognize sound, so it will learn to respond to any name you give it. Let's just say my cat's job security is in serious jeopardy.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Take My House, Please

Oh, it's on at the Supreme Court. Decisions are starting to come in fast and furious as we near the end of the term (and the end of Rehnquist?) Today, in a 5-4 decision, the justices ruled that the city of New London, CT can seize a residential neighborhood to make way for a new business development. Up to now, legitimate grounds for takings have been limited to more traditional ideas of what constitutes a "public good": bridges, highways, lighthouses, etc. Now, if the city council thinks the tax revenue from a new Walmart would serve the community more than your tree-lined street of family homes, you're out of luck. It's a fascinating case and I've only glanced at the full decision, but it's seems that the conservatives on the bench were in the dissent on this. It's not everyday I get to say, "You go, Scalia!"

Oh, the problems of the first world.

The New York Times goes for the Pulitzer today with a piece on how to fly in style. You see, it turns out that when you're dressing for that flight to LAX, it might not be smart to be smart looking. You may suffer the indignity of being screened by the TAA. So that Hermes Belt - leave it at home - it's considered a lethal weapon (they told you that outfit would kill, but geez). And your Hugo Boss jacket might get caught in the x-ray machine (no! not my Boss!). Permission has now been granted en masse to dress like a slob on the plane. So next time Grandma waxes nostalgic about how airports used to be filled with ladies and gentlemen, all in their Sunday best - just shove the Gray Lady's Style Section in her face. I dare you.


For the last few days, I have been suffering from a bad case of blogger's block. Nothing seems blog worthy, and I just can't muster either the wit or wisdom necessary. So as I ate my bowl of cereal this morning, I was delighted to find that the Chicago Tribune came out with their annual list of the 50 Best Magazines. Now what could be a better blog topic? Everybody loves a list. Everybody loves to criticize lists. And the Tribune made some terrible, awful choices. So I get to work and what do I find? Gawker is all over the story. Not only do they rip the list to shreds, but then they diss my home town in the process. Damn... that is so cold. But it gets worse. Salt in the wounds as Gaper's Block quickly blogs about the Gawker post. Now all I've got is a post about a blog about a blog about the list. Man, I got no mojo.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Seriously, I really think they might be different from you and me.

Are you rich and damn tired of feeling guilty about it?

A lot of magazines come across my desk at work. My new favorite has to be Money. It's like Sassy for yuppies. It has one mission: hard hitting coverage on the plight of the upwardly mobile. This month there are some great tips on how to avoid paying your fair share of the tax burden (p. 44 and 54), how to get rich in real estate without leaving home (p. 66, really!), and a guide that tells you which BMW can be considered a justifiable indulgence (p. 110). And I read it cover to cover.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Four Horsemen Named Editors

Just imagine the all staff meetings.

What is up with the Atlantic Monthly? For the second time this year, their cover story tells the dark tale of our not-so-distant future - as told from the perspective of someone further in the future (yes, this confuses me too). You may remember Ten Years Later, Richard Clark's sunny picture of coming catastrophic terrorist attacks, which appeared in the Jan 2005 issue. This time it's Countdown to a Meltdown, James Fallows' look back from the year 2016 at the collapse of the American economy. Next month's guest editor: Buck Rodgers.

The Man is trying to mess with my radio!

Carl Kasell and Peter Sagal prepare for Senate hearings on federal funding for public radio.

As public broadcasting experiences a new round of political attacks, it's time to sign another petition. Hopefully we won't be receiving emails about this one for the next 20 years. For all you die hard pubradio fans out there, I came across an interesting article in Current, a public broadcasting trade newspaper. It turns out that in 1967, Congress was planning to pass the Public Television Act - a bill that totally omitted funds for public radio. The article tells the behind the scenes story of how radio was lobbied for, and eventually included in the final bill that created the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Move along, no substantial macroeconomic implications to see here.

What do you do when you really really want that perfect house, but just can't afford it? One option is to take a mortgage that has nice low fixed payments for the first few years before being hit with an adjustable rate. Well join the club, buster - you've got friends. The New York Times is reporting that this type of loan is so popular that by 2007, $1 trillion of our nation's mortgage debt will transfer to adjustable rates. Depending on what interest rates do, mortage bills for some people may nearly double. How many homeowners out there are ready for that possibility?

The Economist also chimes in with a look at global housing prices in this week's edition (via The Housing Bubble)

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Do you remember our national nightmare of peace and prosperity?

It's all coming back to me.

I just started reading The Survivor, the new political biography of Bill Clinton by John Harris of the Washington Post. Oh, how we used to love him so (you have to recall, this was years before we met Barack). The early chapters chronicling the 1992 primaries have been a trip down memory lane for me, taking me back to my political adolesence. I was a young idealist and the "seven dwarves" were all we had to choose from: Tsongas, Simon, Clinton, Brown, Wilder, Kerrey, and Harkin. What was a young college sophmore at Santa Cruz to do? Oooh how I hated that Tsongas from the get go. Wanted so much to root for Rhymin' Simon, but please - I was 19. Never really knew exactly who Wilder was (or is). So I went with the natural choice of someone in my demographic: Moonbeam Jerry Brown!!! Man, that was a wild ride. After all the other chumps threw in the towel, it was left to JB to make Clinton work off all those big macs. I even attend a rally for Brown, featuring the left wing stylings of Mr. Jane Fonda himself, Tom Hayden. We fought hard, but Clinton wanted that coffee bad and he knew how to close the deal. Anyway - the moral of this story is that in the spring of 92, Clinton was far from my idea of a first choice for the nomination. It wasn't until well after the convention that I found myself feeling any real enthusiasm for the campaign. Now, we tend to look back as if we loved him at first sight. Not so. We saved that for a skinny kid with a funny name from the south side of Chicago.

Why settle for 3/5ths when you can shoot for zero?

Rep. Candice Miller is calling for a new constitutional amendment. Her proposal would limit the census to count only citizens of the United States. The result would change Section 2 of the 14th Amendment, which currently doles out House seats on the basis of "the whole number of persons in each state". The end result would be a major re-apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives and votes in the electoral college, with CA as the biggest loser. You may recall that a similar debate over who gets counted caused a bit of a stir back in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Monday, June 13, 2005

You've been ruining everybody's lives and eating all our steak.

Do you love sidewalk cafes? If so, I have some bad news: my summer plans include destroying your way of life.

I hate sidewalk cafes. First of all, I hate eating outside. It's windy, there's bugs, its dirty and hot - I generally believe no enjoyment can from the experience. And then there's the issue of the sidewalk. You, my friend - as you enjoy your $18.95 entree on the same patch of pavement where Patrick the local junkie relieved himself early this morning - you are in my way. I am a pedestrian and I would like to pass. Unfortunately, your dinner party, the waitress, the busboy, and all those tables and chairs seem to be in my path. You see, I was taking a walk and I thought I would use the sidewalk. What? Oh, you say this fine establishment has a permit from the city of Chicago and you claim it is following all the rules and regulations? Okay, I'll let it go this time. But remember, I have a lot of free time this summer and I plan to bring your reign of terror to an end. Until then, enjoy the meal - and I hear the bbq southwest sushi is to die for!

A Reminder from the Management

We Have The Technology

Project New Porch: Day 4

Saturday, June 11, 2005

If You Build It....

In the NYT Op-Ed today, John Tierney observes that most big city mayors in America seem to think their main responsibility is to transform their cities into great entertainment centers. Tierney mainly focuses on NYC and Bloomberg's attempt to get a west side stadium built, but this syndrome has afflicted our good mayor as well. Mayor Daley gets alot of credit for cleaning up the city - but my question is, for who? River North, Navy Pier, and now Millenium Park are all great for getting Chicago mentioned in travel magazines, but are we - the good denizens - any better off for it? (yes, I did just diss our beloved Millenium Park. I love the Bean too, but lets all just admit the park is part of a larger problem) And sure, there are economic benefits from stadiums, tourist attractions, and convention centers. But in Chicago, you just know that most of the money never makes its way into the public coffers.

And remember, vote Daley.

Blogging and Radio: Like Chocolate and Peanut Butter

I'm happy to report that Thurday's panel discussion on Odyssey about the blogosphere was a great success. As you recall, our guests were Eugene Volokh from The Volokh Conspiracy and Henry Farrell from Crooked Timber. Henry Farrell enjoyed the conversation so much he....blogged about it! Thanks to both of them for helping us with the show.

You can listen to the blogosphere show here.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

My Life, The Story. Chapter 1

This is the first in a series of excerpts from my autobiography, written at the age of 12. The original spelling, punctuation, and grammar is reflected in the text.

I was born on February 19th at the Evanston Hospital. When I was little I was very serious and had a dry sense of humor.
My favorite toy was a small stuffed animal named Floppy. He was a brown dog with white ear. He was missing an eye. I used to sleep with Floppy every night. I finally out grew Floppy and then came Joe. Joe was a big gorilla. He protected me from monsters at night.
When I was young one of the things I liked to do was watch cars go by. I would sit in my frontyard and watch for cars I would like to own when I grew up.

Wow! I think it's fair to say I was a prodigy. I always wondered why Papa used to call me "little Johnny Steinbeck". I really captured the changes we all go through when we move from a small town to the big city. We outgrow our innocence and treat our first love like a toy, only to dump them as soon as we realize everyone is laughing because they're wearing an eye patch. The next thing you know you're sleeping with a big gorilla named Joe and dreaming about that new 'Benz.

Project New Porch: Day 2

Watch that first step.

Bloggers Killed the Radio Star

Blatant Plug Alert!

Eugene Volokh (The Volokh Conspiracy) and Henry Farrell (Crooked Timber) will join Gretchen Helfrich on Odyssey today to discuss exactly what, if anything, the blogosphere is contributing to society. Jump here to find out if your public radio station carries Odyssey, or listen to the live stream at noon CDT at the Chicago Public Radio website.

Update: You can listen to the audio here.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Portrait of the Blogger as a Young Man

So I recently found an autobiography I wrote for a school assignment when I was 12. It's called, My Life: The Story, and it's a fantastic read. I don't usually blow my own horn, but "toot toot". Earlier tonight, my wife was so affected by my prose that she was moved to tears (she has a bit of an accent, so her sobs can easily be mistaken for mocking laughter). Looking through this literary treasure, I couldn't help but notice that my teacher gave me a C. Total bullshit. Everyone's a critic. Anyways...over the course of the next week or so I plan to bring you some choice excerpts.

No Amnesty from the Amnesty Debate

Ted Barlow over at Crooked Timber posts an open letter to the New Republic about their article on Guantanamo and the Soviet Gulags. TNR's slant was that when you look at the stats, Amnesty International goofed when it called Guantanamo the "Gulag of our times". Barlow argues that it doesn't matter if the analogy is full of holes and, by criticizing Amnesty, TNR is essentially giving support to the Administration's defense of the goings on at Gitmo. As you may recall, I strongly disagree.

Tear Down This Porch!

Room with a view.

Chicago has seen a number of back porches collapse in the last few years, some resulting in fatalities. Thankfully, the condition of my back porch is intentional. In reaction to these incidents, the city has increased building inspections, and landlords - like mine - are making sure they are up to code. In our case - we'll be getting a brand new open air porch to replace the old enclosed one that had a 15 degree slant to one side. Nice.

Rich in Tradition, Modern in Style....

.....priced to bubble.

This is for some new condos for sale in the neighborhood.

Monday, June 06, 2005

The Second Rule of Housing Bubble

Deep Throat who?

So this last week one of best kept political secrets of our time was finally let out of the bag. No matter! The editors at Time stuck to their guns and went with more urgent breaking news for their cover story: the housing market! I don't know if any of you have heard the news, but apparently people are making a killing just by buying and selling overpriced real estate! But seriously, there is a little side story about the changes taking place on one block down the street from me, here in Chicago.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Mishandling the Mishandling

Now that I trashed the Gulag comparison peddled by Amnesty International, allow me run to the defense the Koran allegations that have been causing such a fuss. In a perfectly timed Friday evening announcement, the Pentagon now admits that guards at Guantanamo have mishandled the Koran. Their version of the story is far less fiendish, but it still won't help with the public image of Guantanamo. Accidentally urinating on their holy book may not be the best way to win the hearts and minds of the Islamic world.

The Lazy Left

When President Bush called the recent Amnesty International report on conditions at Guantanamo "absurd", I was initially outraged. What made the Administration so upset about the report was that it referred to Guantanamo as "the Gulag of our times". This line grabbed headlines and public attention, but a closer look shows the comparison does not hold up. I find that I have to side with the administration...(wait, I think I just barfed in my mouth)... Comparing the Guantanamo to the Gulags is actually absurd. This is the kind of lazy rhetoric that gets the left into trouble. Amnesty International, along with every American, should be concerned with what is happening at Guantanamo. But it undermines the effort to attack the Administration with such an outrageous overstatement. On Friday, the New Republic had a web-only article comparing the stats of the Soviet Gulags to Guantanamo. Here are some of the highlights.

Individuals Detained:

Gulag: Approximately 20 million passed through the Gulag. The population at any one time was generally around two million.
Guantánamo: 750 prisoners have passed through the camp. The current population is about 520.

Number of Camps:
Gulag: 476 separate camp complexes comprising thousands of individual camps. By the end of the 1930s, camps were located in each of the Soviet Union's twelve time zones.
Guantánamo: Five small camps on the U.S. military base in Cuba.

Reasons for Imprisonment:
Gulag: Opposition to the Soviet regime's forced collectivization, including efforts to hide grain in cellars; owning too many cows; need for slave labor to complete massive industrialization and mining projects; political opposition to the Soviet system; being Jewish; being Finnish; being religious; being middle class; being in need of reeducation; having had contact with foreigners; refusing to sleep with the head of Soviet counterintelligence; telling a joke about Stalin.
Guantánamo: Fighting for the fundamentalist Taliban in Afghanistan; being suspected of links to Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

Deaths as a Result of Poor Treatment:
Gulag: At least two to three million. Mass burials were often employed to keep death rates secret (camp commanders sometimes received permission to remove gold fillings before burial). In some particularly brutal periods, camp commanders simply executed thousands of prisoners. But deaths due to overwork were much more common. It is estimated that 25,000 gulag laborers died during the construction of the White Sea Canal in the early '30s. One convoy of "backward elements" destined for the Gulag in 1933 included about 6,000 prisoners; after three months, 4,000 were dead. "The survivors had lived because they ate the flesh of those who had died," according to an account cited by Anne Applebaum in her book, Gulag.
Guantánamo: No reports of prisoner deaths.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Reveal

Tom Cruise knew it was Mark Felt all along.

And you thought the lines for were bad for Star Wars....

Daniel Squadron writes a short but interesting piece in the NY Times Op-Ed about those dreaded security lines at the airport. As you may have noticed, passengers with first class tickets get to go to the head of the security lines. I have seen this myself, but the implications didn't hit me. Increased security equiptment and personnel are paid for, in part, by the surcharge we all pay on our tickets. It's a flat fee... that is a fee we all pay equally. The service provided, however, does not see all passengers the same.


Sean Carroll at Preposterous Universe brings to our attention a list of the Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries as compiled by the website Human Events Online. They are as follows:

The Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels
Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler
Quotations from Chairman Mao, Mao Zedong
The Kinsey Report, Alfred Kinsey
Democracy and Education, John Dewey
Das Kapital, Karl Marx
The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan
The Course of Positive Philosophy, August Comte
Beyond Good and Evil, Friedrich Nietzsche
General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, John Maynard Keynes

It's worth taking the jump to the site - the honorable mention list is just as good.