Go backstage with the haunted "GHOST LIGHT"        


Every exit is an entrance somewhere.
--Elizabeth Carena in GHOST LIGHT

Tumbling down Third Rail Projects' rabbit hole and through their looking glass in the Bessie-winning Then She Fell has long been my most cherished experience of this magical company. But now comes GHOST LIGHT, a worthy challenger, with the immersive dance/theater troupe smoothly roaming the innards of Lincoln Center's Claire Tow Theater, the hidden workings of a show and the psyches of some theater folk who remain unaware that they left their mortal bodies quite some time ago.

Well, the show must go on!

Yes, this work really puts the ghosts in "ghost light," that convention of leaving one light--a single bulb in a wire cage--burning on an unused, darkened stage. As we follow various players through stairwells and a warren of backstage spaces, we eye characters from multiple, imaginative viewpoints--gazing down at them from balcony or stair railings, glancing sideways from the wings at a rehearsal, tucked at the end of a corridor as actors and stagehands dramatically, distractedly and hectically dash in and out of doors with minutes to showtime. That last bit, by the way, is a brilliant farce of fluid, split-second coordination of people and props--a signature for co-directors/choreographers Zach Morris and Jennine Willett. Supported by an excellent collaborative cast and creative team, these two have outdone themselves.

For fans who love the fascinating thingy-ness of TRP's productions--the busy, often quaint decor that colors and flavors their unusual sites--the wonderful set designer Brett J. Banakis has got you covered. But don't expect to have much time to linger and study these intricate visual details. Except for some props you might be handed from time to time, you will mostly be focused elsewhere or hustled past stuff. You will be distracted by noises and voices and music from unseen sources. Two intermission-less hours will fly by as fast as some of this theater's specters.

One character--I think it was the wistful, elegantly-coiffed actress played by Jessy Smith--pondered the possibility that people who have died are truly gone only when no one's left who remembers them. Insight into characters is the least original or interesting aspect of this work; Morris's writing isn't nearly as dreamily graceful or as daring as his and Willett's movement ideas can be. But I did take note of this particular statement and its broader implications.

How often do we encounter a work of art and wish we could make that experience stay with us forever? Keep it fresh, maybe share it--just as we received it--with others? (Why I write....) GHOST LIGHT, in its way, pays tribute to the art and artists passing through our lives, people whom we only think we know and whom we can't hold onto--except in memory. Yes, a wealth of technology can document these artists and the work they do. But, really, human-to-human, heart-to-heart, all of it filtered through your senses and sensibilities, embraced by memory, passed down to others--that is how culture has always been preserved and lovingly transmitted, even if imperfectly.

Cast: Donna Ahmadi, Cameron Michael Burns, Elizabeth Carena, Alberto Denis, Joshua Dutton-Reaver, Julia Kelly, Roxanne Kidd, Josh Matthews, Rebekah Morin, Marissa Nielsen-Pincus, Tara O'Con, Edward Rice, Jessy Smith, Niko Tsocanos, Carlton Cyrus Ward and Ryan Wuestewald

Original music and sound: Sean Hagerty

Co-composer: Isaiah Singer

Collaborating musicians: Craig Akin, Nick Auer, Johnny Butler, Mike Lunoe, Ben Magnuson, Alicia Rau, Isaiah Singer

Sets: Brett J. Banakis

Illusion design: Vinny DiPonto

Costumes: Montana Levi Blanco

Lighting: Eric Southern

GHOST LIGHT's stated end date is August 6. However, if this show is anything like previous TRP productions, it will have extended life by demand--and it should. Come out of the New York summer heat; the A/C's fine! For general information on GHOST LIGHT, click here. For important audience guidelines, click here. For tickets, click here. Don't be late!


Claire Tow Theater
Lincoln Center Theater
150 West 65th Street, Manhattan
(map/directions)

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          100 Days        
Friday will mark the 100th day of the presidency of Donald Trump, and commentators up to and including the President himself are busily marking that milestone.  The idea that a President should accomplish great things during his first 100 days in office goes back, of course, to Franklin Roosevelt, who was sworn in on March 4, 1933, and whose first hundred days therefore extended into the month of June.  To review exactly what FDR did during that extraordinary spring, I turned to one of my favorite childhood books, The American Past, by Roger Butterfield, a beautifully illustrated survey of the nation's history from the Declaration of Independence through Hiroshima--that is, from the first great crisis of our national life through the third one.  Rather than waste time paraphrasing, I shall simply quote.

"On March 9 Congress met in special session and passed Roosevelt's Emergency Banking Act [declaring a bank holiday to stop a financial collapse] in four hours.  On March 10 he sent up an economy bill to cut federal salaries and veterans' benefits; Congress passed it March 11.  On March 13 Roosevelt asked for legal beer [preliminary to repealing the 18th Amendment], and Congress quickly complied.

"On March 16 Roosevelt proposed the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA), to end farm surpluses [and a catastrophic fall in farm prices] by paying farmers to produce less.  On March 21 he offered his relief program, including the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), to give $500 million to the states for direct relief; the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), to put 250,000 jobless young men to work in the forests at $1 day; and the Public Works Administration (PWA), to lend and spend $3,300 million [sic-$3 billion] for building projects. . . .

"On March 29 he recommended a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to protect investors against dishonest stock fluctuations.  On April 10 he proposed the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).  On April 13 he called for the Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC) to slow down mortgage foreclosures.  On April 20 he took the United States off the gold standard [effectively devaluing the dollar, as the French franc and British pound had already been devalued.]  On May 17 he asked Congress for the biggest New Deal agency of all--the National Recovery Administration (NRA)--to put industry under self-imposed 'codes of fair competition' [and recognize the right of labor to organize for the first time.\ In June he accepted a Congressional plan for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to insure all bank deposits up to $5,000 [the Glass-Steagall Act.] On June 16, exactly 100 days after Congress convened, all of these measures (and many more) had been enacted."

Wow.

The GI generation ranged in age from 8 to 29 during this frenzy of activity, much of which was designed either to give them immediate help in the form of a job or public assistance (the PWA, the CCC, and the FERA), or to protect them against the financial catastrophes that had struck their parents (the FDIC, the AAA, and the SEC.)  This was only the beginning of the most extraordinary period in the history of American government, which extended all the way through the Second World War.  By the time that war was over the GIs ranged in age from 21 to 41, and it is no accident, obviously, that for the rest of their lives they respected what the federal government could do and looked to it for security and, when necessary, assistance.  Today, the GIs range in age from 92 on up, and their influence, sadly, is at an end.

This unbelievable flurry of activity had short- and long-term roots. In the short run, the economic catastrophe of the Great Depression had left 25% of the population unemployed and was now collapsing the entire banking system.  As a result, Roosevelt had won the 1932 election by a landslide and disposed of majorities of  313 to 117 in the House and 60-36 in the Senate.  Moreover, more than a few of the Republican members belonged to that now-extinct species, Republicanus Liberalis, and voted for much of the New Deal legislation.  But one reason so much far-reaching legislation could pass so quickly was that the ideas behind it had been percolating among progressives for decades.  Roosevelt's own Missionary Generation (born 1863-1883) deeply believed in the idea that reason and science could moderate economic injustice, help to plan the economy, and secure a better world.  This was their chance and they took it.  Another reason, as I discovered writing No End Save Victory, was that the Missionary generation had been educated (and educated their juniors) in the economical use of the English language, and these laws were, by contemporary standards, extraordinarily short, simple, and clear.

Turning to the present, I suspect that many other readers will not have been able to read that list of legislation without noticing how much of it has become a dead letter.  The most notable casualty of our time was the Glass-Steagall Act, which unleashed financial institutions and allowed them to create a new financial catastrophe in 2008.  It has not been restored.  No effective mortgage relief was passed for those who lost their homes in that crisis.  Labor's right to organize has been under attack for decades and the percentage of unionized workers has been cut more than in half.  The family farmers whom the AAA was passed to help have become a politically insignificant fragment of the population.  We no longer seem to want more of the public power that the TVA provided.  We have nothing like the PWA, and eight years ago, at the height of the new economic crisis, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey blocked  a third rail tunnel under the Hudson River--a decision that is now having catastrophic consequences for New York commuters.  Nor do we have any national service program comparable to the CCC--instead we force young people to mortgage their futures by taking out student loans.   (My GI parents, by the way, received superb educations at the University of Wisconsin  during the 1930s for about $1000 a year in today's dollars.)

These changes are not accidental.  The Republican Party has been eagerly unwinding the New Deal since the Reagan era, and the Democratic Party has done very little to stand in the way.  The question before Donald Trump, in fact, is how quickly and exactly how he can finish the job and return us to the free-market economy and concentration of wealth that the nation experienced in the late 19th century.  (Just this morning, a professor at Claremont McKenna University praised the President for trying to take the Republican Party down this path on the op-ed page of the New York Times.)   What has held him back, it seems to me, are two things.  The first is a debate within the Republican Party about how far to go in that direction, which is in turn related to a debate on fiscal responsibility.  A significant number of House Republicans really do not want to increase the federal deficit, which has been a check on plans for new tax cuts.  But yesterday, the Administration marked its first hundred days by unveiling sweeping new tax cuts will balloon the deficit again (as under Nixon, Reagan, and Bush II), claiming that economic growth will provide the lost revenue (as it never does.)  Several prominent Re[publicans immediately fell into line, and Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform--one of the architechts of our new gilded age--went into ecstasy.

The second obstacle is a different debate about how much crueler it is possible to be to the lower half of the population, much of which voted for Trump.  Because the Administration was unwilling to deprive as many Americans of health care as the Freedom Caucus wanted, they could not repeal the ACA at all.  But the momentum for repeal is far from halted, and that caucus has now produced a version of repeal that they can accept.  This will in any case be less important to our future than the tax plan.

We live in a destructive rather than a creative period in the history of American government.  Among my own Boom generation who grew up in the world the New Deal created, right wingers have eagerly dismantled it while left wingers, with very rare exceptions, haven't cared.  We have lost the belief in a national mission to plan and create a fair and robust economy.  We have not been able to reach a consensus on immigration, which had already been achieved by essentially blocking itt 1924.  Income inequality has reached the levels of the1920s and our political campaigns are now so expensive that it is easier for the wealthy to control our politicians. The question before us is not whether we can reverse course, but whether the situation can stabilize before even greater inequality and another economic crash make things much worse.  The damage has been done, our legacy has been squandered.  As I argued back in July 2010, Barack Obama lost the last chance to reverse course in the first year of his Administration.  (As if to ram the point home, the press is now reporting that ex-President Obama is about to accept a $400,000 fee for an address on Wall Street.)  A conservative majority now controls the Supreme Court, and is likely to get bigger during the next four years.

Donald Trump still faces the nation with a crisis because of his manifest incapacity for the biggest job on earth.  The interview he did last week with the Associated Press has gotten remarkably little attention, perhaps because no one wants to face the implications of his incoherent ramblings and unprecedented grandiosity.  He and his team are also threatening us with major wars.  But there have been no 100 days comparable to those of the New Deal because he is not reversing course on economic issues, but rather continuing down the path the country has been on for most of the last 40 years.  Our politics aredominated by corporate power, while the lower economic half of the population has no confidence in the leadership class and has been divided on racial lines.  Yet history suggests that it may still last, in broad lines at least, for many years to come.
          Politics and Religion: Psychotherapy’s Third Rail        
I cannot advise my colleagues too urgently to model themselves during psycho-analytic treatment on the surgeon, who puts aside all his feeling, even his human sympathy, and concentrates his mental forces on the single aim of performing the operation as skillfully as possible. Sigmund FreudSilence is collusion. Sheila KitzingerA ...
          In Our Hot, Choked City, Third Rail’s Lungs Resonates        
Just don’t read the program first. by Thomas Ross

If you see Third Rail Repertory Theatre’s production of British playwright Duncan Macmillan’s Lungs—and you should—don’t read the program first. If you’re already interested in seeing the play, you probably know at least two things about it: It’s a long dialogue between a woman and a man about having a baby, and it’s supposedly about climate change.

If the reason you go to the theater is to see experimental forms, fine: The play examines many years in the relationship between that man and woman, presented as though any time they weren’t talking about having a child has been edited out. There are no “scenes,” no set dressing, no visual indicators that time is passing—it’s basically a YouTube supercut of every time these people talk about kids.

For almost 90 minutes with no breaks, actors Cristi Miles and Darius Pierce impressively embody the emotionally athletic process of trying to feel, grow, and lead a life with someone. They’re exceptionally moving, funny, and not entirely likeable. Director Rebecca Lingafelter keeps things moving at a varied pace, never letting her actors snowball during what could be mile-a-minute monologues. Miles, especially, stammers and shakes in one moment, only to sink into stasis the next—dragging the viewer’s heart along for the bumpy ride.

And if the reason you go to the theater is to revel in leftist politics, Lungs might rankle. The ecological angle can get heavy-handed (especially in the play’s awkward epilogue, where the form finally goes off the rails), but it exerts a familiarly uncomfortable weight on the play’s two main characters. When his reusable-bag liberalism slips into classism, Pierce is stomach-turningly vulnerable. Of course, Portland’s theatergoing audience of mostly well-to-do liberals will see in these characters not only passions, but foibles and doubts they recognize in themselves. (For instance: Opening night came at the end of a smoke-choked, over-100-degree week that saw Portland break records for energy use.)

It’s Lingafelter’s directorial focus on the emotional that makes all this work. Far from a political tract on climate change, the play spends most of its moral energy dancing around a collaborative definition of love in a globalist context of creating, saving, and taking lives. Lungs is neither experimental for experimentation’s sake nor politically didactic, but you’d never guess that from the overwrought, unnecessarily extensive notes in Third Rail’s program, or the meaningless art-speak quotes from Macmillan in Lingafelter’s otherwise clear-eyed director’s notes.

There is no greater risk to a work of art than an artist’s explanation of it. Authority is a lie: Meaning isn’t made by artists, just like a life isn’t made by mothers and fathers. A work of art—like a child, an international climate agreement, or an emotion—is made meaningful by those who choose to engage with it. Choose to engage with Lungs. Especially if you need a reminder that you’re not the only one sweating, sucking smog, and wondering how to live a good life.

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          How drunk in subway tunnel survived touching third rail        
This drunk was nearly fried. The deranged drunk man who caused the latest round of “Summer of Hell” subway problems Thursday morning when he walked on the tracks actually put his hand on the third rail — but it was moments after power had been cut because of his tunnel stroll, officials said. Tom Donnelly,...
          Politics and Public Health—Engaging the Third Rail        
imageNo abstract available
          Man falls on Red Line tracks at Park Street; hits head        

T workers, cop tend to man as they await firefighters, EMTs. Photo by KrisKream.

First responders rushed to Park Street shortly after 5 p.m. The man did not come in contact with the third rail, but was knocked unconscious.

Power was shut on the southbound tracks to let firefighters safely get him ready for transport to a local hospital. He was brought upstairs and handed over to EMTs around 5:40 p.m. BFD gave the OK to the T to turn the power back on, as people continued to pour into Red Line stations at rush hour.

Park Street itself became so overcrowded that, as a BFD commander was leaving the scene, he asked the T to turn on fans in the station to try to reduce the sweltering conditions.


          Horror Headlines: Monday July 15th, 2013        
In Real People News: 

I had no idea there was a thing called "the third rail" on the NYC subway system rails. I wish someone had warned me though, because this guy in Brooklyn died after being electrocuted when he pissed on it. I rode the subway for 13 years. I'm lucky to be alive.

An Oklahoma man is under arrest after a woman caught him looking into her house while he was hiding in her septic tank. How does that even work? I always thought those were underground. I need some sort of diagram to even understand how this happened.

News Bullet: 

Three new characters have been confirmed for the second season of A&E's "Bates Motel". It looks like Norma is going to get a new boyfriend, a new friend in town and a brother who shows up in town. Chances are they'll all be dead before the end of the season but for now let's just sit back and drink in all the love I feel flowing in this post. God that feels good inside you doesn't it?

Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, the guys who wrote the "Friday the 13th" remake have apparently gotten in bed with the folks at New Line for a new horror flick that they are apparently calling a "potential franchise starter". No other details are available but they've also said the film won't be found footage and won't be micro-budget. They didn't say it won't be awful though. So ya know, that's still on the table.

Elijah Wood is producing a horror-comedy film called "Cooties". Rainn Wilson, Alison Pill, Jack MacBrayer, Jorge Garcia and Nasim Pedrad have all been added to the movie about a group of rabid kids who terrorize their teachers. I assume all of these people will be teachers, or this will be the worst "teen" casting since "Scream 4".

Paul Reiser, the poor man's Richard Lewis, has been added to the cast of "Life After Beth". John C. Reilly and Aubrey Plaza are also in the film about a man who tries to reconnect with his girlfriend after she comes back from the dead. No joke here. Paul Reiser is awful at everything he does and must be stopped. If you say "Mad About You" was great I will slap the taste out of your mouth. If you say you don't know what "Mad About You" is I will slap the taste out of your mouth.


          Parliament votes for CHF850m to cover transport cash flow crunch        

GenevaLunch News Bern, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – Projects such as the third rail line between Vaud and Geneva, considered urgent in the region but far down the long 20-year list of Swiss transport projects, will now be able, in exceptional cases, to get advance funding. The lower house of the Swiss parliament Tuesday joined the upper house in […]

Parliament votes for CHF850m to cover transport cash flow crunch © GenevaLunch News, See license terms.


          Breakfast links: Waterfall        

Metro chasing waterfalls

Flooding from intense rain temporarily closed the Cleveland Park Metro station. Metro says the water did not damage the tracks or third rail, however. (Christin Fernandez, Post)

Battle in the sidewalks

Neighbors in the DC neighborhood of Hawthorne are battling over sidewalks. This happened in 2009, and those on a street which got a sidewalk say it didn’t destroy the neighborhood. (Washingtonian)

FBI will not come cheap

Maryland and Virginia are both committed to shelling out millions of dollars to bring the new FBI headquarters to their state.  The money would pay for transportation and infrastructure improvements at each site. (WBJ)

Garvey on the Pike

Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey says she wants to “fix the transportation” and “slow down a bit” on the pace of building of affordable housing along Columbia Pike in her State of the County address.  (ArlNow)

Wanting more in NoMa

A proposed NoMa development doesn’t include enough benefits to the community, say zoning commissioners. Offered so far: streetscape upgrades, affordable units, and partial funding of a new Metro entrance. (WBJ)

Where the bikes go

DDOT put GPS trackers on some Capital Bikshare bikes and found regular members tended to take much more direct routes than casual users who tended to take meandering routes and stayed near the Mall.  (Mobility Lab)

Where the trains go

VRE is looking to build additional train storage along New York Ave. But could this facility stymie development in the area? (Gateway to the City)

Desegregating deductions

Black middle class homes have not appreciated as quickly as their white counterparts. Could restricting the mortgage interest deduction to only houses in integrated neighborhoods reverse that inequality?  (Post)

For all the infrastructure in China

In 20 years, China has spent almost 9% of its GDP on building infrastructure to move people and products vs. 5% of Western Europe, the US, and Canada. (BBC)

Top image: Photo by @JordanUhl

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          A Profile In Implicit Fashiness: Selite        
Dear readers of AltRight.com: This is the first of what I hope is a series of interviews which will take you behind the proverbial curtain and introduce you to your extended Alt-Right family. The subjects will be personalities and content creators from our movement who are steadfast in their love for our people and our cause. Best regards, Trey The following is a profile on one of the most talented podcasters in the Alt-Right movement. Some have said that if Julius Evola and Coco Chanel would have had a love child then the result of the impassioned right-wing love affair would have been him. Selite is a writer and panelist on Alt-Right Politics and has released a new interview podcast titled Selite’s Wochenschau; both of which can be found here on AltRight.com. Mr. Selite, what is so great about the Alt-Right, and why did it attract you? The Alt-Right first attracted me as a refugee from traditional NationalReview tier conservatism. Like a lot of people in this movement, I think the Ferguson Riots, the Obama DOJ’s seeming endorsement of BLM, and the Muslim invasion of Europe led me towards White nationalism. The hollowness of most mainstream conservatives to address these issues, and the living in dysfunctional multiculti major cities made me realize that a more radical solution was the only option if my children and grandchildren would ever have a chance of a better future than my parents or grandparents. I find the Alt-Right to be so much more refreshingly open and honest about so many issues than other political ideologies. We are the only “adults” in the current political environment right now– you don’t see many other people maturely discussing the coming displacement of the White majority, much less other major issues like the automation revolution and the absolute lack of morality in society. Come for the racism, stay for the discussion. You were a proud member of the U.S. Armed Forces. Would you please describe your service for our readers? I served in the Marine Corps after high school for four years. I volunteered for an elite unit and was honored to serve overseas with some high-caliber Marines who were excellent role models and really instilled in me lasting values like perseverance, humility, integrity, and masculinity. The military is a great character-builder for young men and the benefits are excellent if you’re just starting out your professional career. However, it also delayed my red-pilling for a while, as it’s the closest you can come to a “colorblind”, merit-based organization in contemporary America.  I’ve spoken about this before on my show, but if we were to live in a multi-ethnic nation, the only way it could manage a semblance of national unity would be to adopt a semi-fascist stratocratic government. Tell us what doing an AltRight podcast is like from a creator’s perspective. It’s an amazing creative outlet. I’ve gotten a little bored of politics since Trump was inaugurated, so doing the Wochenschau allows me to talk about issues that I’m not as well versed on and is an amazing learning experience.  Doing absolutely absurd skits is a ton of fun as well– I have always been writing sci-fi/horror fiction stories since I was in high school, and performing & publishing them for a receptive audience is really gratifying.  I hope that a lot of fellow goys will start releasing some of their own creative content– even if it isn’t explicitly fashy. We have a very talented and passionate community and I would love to see more goys publish their works and market them to our community.  How much work goes into creating your podcasts? On average, I’d say it takes about 7 hours of work for a 2.5-3 hour show, about an equal 1:1 ratio of time spent recording vs. time in post-production. I’m still an amateur and new to Audacity (my primary recording & mixing software). Writing scripts can take anywhere from 1-2 hours. They’re much more work than I anticipated. I’m envious of people like Enoch, Spencer, and the Third Rail guys who can riff for hours far more articulately and concisely than I can. Tell us about how you came to be called Selite. What does the name mean? I used to be degenerate and partake in “the devil’s cauliflower”. I also used to like the game Sniper Elite, where you played as an Allied OSS sniper in WW2. I adopted the nom de guerre “Stoner Elite” early on in my shitposting career as an homage to my prior days being dazed and confused.  Contracting it to “Selite” was easy if I wanted to keep my followers… plus it sounds a lot better in podcasts than a Nazi who smokes weed. If I may ask a personal question, have your political beliefs caused any strain on your relationships with family, friends, etc.? I haven’t told most of them about my views. I think my father and a couple of military buddies know. In general, I try to keep it pretty low key. The only people who have disowned me are Jews after I called them out on their tired “fellow white people” shtick. In general, I would recommend everyone keep quiet about being alt-right if they wage-cuck for a living—the atmosphere is still very hostile towards our ideas. Why is it unfair to call people in the Alt-Right “White supremacists?” I think it’s fair to distinguish White nationalists from White supremacists; the distinction being that the former advocates “nationalism for all” and the latter stands for subjugation of non-White races. A lot of Alt-Righters will happily self-describe as White nationalists, which is very nice, and ideally we could just adopt a live-and-let-live policy, rigidly enforce our borders, let Mexico be Mexico, withdraw from our overseas commitments, and adopt courteous but detached relations with other peoples. However, I doubt that will be possible—it’s kind of like being the sole ANCAP libertarian in Liberia.  You might adopt the non-aggression principle, but somebody else will just kill […]
          Chinese firms win Indian high-speed rail study bid        

A consortium led by Chinese and Indian railway companies has been chosen to conduct a feasibility study on a 1,200-kilometer high-speed railway line between New Delhi and Mumbai, indicating that Chinese railway firms are making rapid strides in the lucrative Indian market. The consortium, led by Third Railway Survey and Design Institute Group Corporation, a subsidiary of China Railway Corporation, Continue Reading

The post Chinese firms win Indian high-speed rail study bid appeared first on Bulgarian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce.


          Tin Can Alley        
The third sequel in a movie franchise is seldom the charm.  They
are either big and ponderous (Matrix Revolutions), descend into
parady or camp (Superman III) or devolve into pure schlock
(Jaws 3D).  Iron Man 3 is none of these while possibly being all
of them.  In fact, IM3 plays like a third Robert Downey, Jr.
franchise, a third rail to his Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes
annunities - call this one Tin Can.

Jim Favreau, director of the first two Iron Man movies, looks like he
may have eaten his way out of that job as he reprises his role as a
corpulent Happy Hogan.  He is replaced by Shane Black, author of
the original Lethal Weapon movie.  In fact, IM3 plays more like the
fifth installment of Lethal Weapon than a sequel to IM2.  The villian
is a Euro-Trash industrialist (Guy Pearce) and the final
confrontation takes place on a dirty oil tanker with Downey
and Don Cheadle firing bullets instead of repulsor rays.

As I noted in my review of Iron Man 2, seldom has there been a
better match of actor and role than Downey and Tony Stark/Iron
Man.  The age old question: does the man make the suit or does the
suit make the man, applies to IM3 as Downey spends way too much
time out of his full metal jacket.

~(no)rave!

          Comment on And the Kombucha Goes On… by Flavorwire » The Third Rail: An Ancient Chinese Hangover Secret        
[...] however, has grander plans for the ancient, fungus-based drink. Unlike the Chinese monks who first passed around this fermented tea, Kombuchman brings to [...]
          Mark Milligan : Friday on the Third Rail - Comic Book Resources        
Mark Milligan : Friday on the Third Rail - Comic Book Resources
          Drum and Bass Twitter List        

Drum and Bass Twitter

DNB Twitter List

Get right up and personal with crazy frequent updates from your favorites. About as close as you can get online without actualy knowing or meeting them o.O

Producers
4 Hero – www.twitter.com/4hero
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Bcee – www.twitter.com/stevebcee
B Complex – www.twitter.com/matusbcx
BHX Industries – www.twitter.com/gavinblane
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Blal – www.twitter.com/alex_blal
Blame – www.twitter.com/blame720
Blu Mar Ten – www.twitter.com/blumarten
Blu Mar Ten (Michael) – www.twitter.com/mickeytee
Blu Mar Ten (Leo) – www.twitter.com/leoblumarten
Bop – www.twitter.com/b_o_p
Breakage – www.twitter.com/JamesBreakage
Bungle – www.twitter.com/djbungle
CABLE- www.twitter.com/iamcable
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Camo & Krooked – www.twitter.com/CamoKrooked
Cause 4 Concern – www.twitter.com/MarkC4C
Chase & Status – www.twitter.com/chaseandstatus
Chris Renegade – www.twitter.com/ChrisRenegade
Chris.SU – www.twitter.com/su4chris
Circa – www.twitter.com/JackCirca
Clipz – www.twitter.com/Clipzy
Commix (Guy) – www.twitter.com/GuyCommix
Commix (George) – www.twitter.com/georgelevings
Concord Dawn – www.twitter.com/ConcordDawnNZ
Counterstrike – www.twitter.com/CS_Algorythm
Craggz – www.twitter.com/craggzcraggz
Cyanide (Quadrant) – www.twitter.com/lessthanhero
Cyantific – www.twitter.com/cyantificNHS
D Bridge – www.twitter.com/dbridge
Dan Marshall – www.twitter.com/danmarshall
Dan Miracle – www.twitter.com/danmiraclevlv
Danny Byrd – www.twitter.com/dannybyrd
Data – www.twitter.com/D4TA
Dillinja – www.twitter.com/Dillinja
DJ Die – www.twitter.com/dieclearskyz
DKay – www.twitter.com/dkay2010
D Minds (Al) – www.twitter.com/aldminds
Drumsound – www.twitter.com/BenDrumsound
Dylan – www.twitter.com/dylanuk
Ed Rush – www.twitter.com/Ed_Rush
Ed Solo – www.twitter.com/EdSolo
Ego Trippin – www.twitter.com/egotrippindnb
Enei – www.twitter.com/EneiGiant
Evol Intent – www.twitter.com/Evol_Intent
EZ Rollers – www.twitter.com/EZRollers
Fanu – www.twitter.com/FanuJanne
Fierce – www.twitter.com/DannyFierce
Focus – www.twitter.com/KevinFocus
Fresh – www.twitter.com/djfreshdnb
Futurebound – www.twitter.com/BrendanFB
Future Engineers – www.twitter.com/FutureEngineers
Genotype – www.twitter.com/Justinredz
Goldie – www.twitter.com/MRGOLDIE
Greenfly – www.twitter.com/lozgreenfly
Gremlinz – www.twitter.com/gremlinzdj
Heist – www.twitter.com/JimHeist
High Contrast – www.twitter.com/linkcontrast
High Rankin – www.twitter.com/highrankin
Icicle – www.twitter.com/Iciclemusic
ICR – www.twitter.com/ICIRI
IllSkillz – www.twitter.com/IllSkillzAT
Implex – www.twitter.com/Implexaudio
Influx – www.twitter.com/InfluxDNB
Instra:mental (Al Bleek) – www.twitter.com/bleekyfreeky
Instra:mental (Kid Drama) – www.twitter.com/DamonDrama
John B – www.twitter.com/johnbbeta
Jubei – www.twitter.com/PaulJubei
June Miller – www.twitter.com/mark_junemiller
Justice / Mjazz – www.twitter.com/mjazzjustice
Kabuki – www.twitter.com/iamkabuki
Khanage – www.twitter.com/KhanageOffkey
Kiat – www.twitter.com/jonathannah
Klute – www.twitter.com/Kluteuk
Kryptic Minds – www.twitter.com/krypticminds
Landslide – www.twitter.com/timlandslide
LAOS (Abe) – www.twitter.com/DJAbrahamLAOS
LAOS (D-Bex) – www.twitter.com/LAOS_DBEX
Lemon D – www.twitter.com/lemondevalve
Lenzman – www.twitter.com/Lenzman
Logistics – www.twitter.com/logisticsdnb
Lomax – www.twitter.com/NickHillLomax
London Elektricity – www.twitter.com/londonelek
Lynx – www.twitter.com/stevelynx
Lynx & Kemo – www.twitter.com/lynxandkemo
Madcap – www.twitter.com/madcapdj
Makoto – www.twitter.com/humanelements
Marcus Intalex – www.twitter.com/marcusintalex
Marcus Visionary – www.twitter.com/MarcusVisionary
Martyn – www.twitter.com/MARTYN3024
Masheen – www.twitter.com/Masheen
Mathematics – www.twitter.com/mathematicsnyc
Mav – www.twitter.com/mavscientific
Mayhem – www.twitter.com/mayhemSLR
Method One – www.twitter.com/method1
Mosus – www.twitter.com/mosus
Mutated Forms – www.twitter.com/mutatedforms
Mutt – www.twitter.com/muttdnb
Naibu – www.twitter.com/Naibu
NC17 – www.twitter.com/NCseventeen
Nero – www.twitter.com/NeroUK
Netsky – www.twitter.com/netskymusic
Ney Faustini – www.twitter.com/neyfaustini
Nymfo – www.twitter.com/DeejayNymfo
Noisia – www.twitter.com/Noisia_nl
Noisia (Enser) – www.twitter.com/ensernoisia
Noisia (Nik) – www.twitter.com/niknoisia
Noisia (Thijs) – www.twitter.com/noisiathijs
Nu:Tone – www.twitter.com/nutone
Outrage – www.twitter.com/outragebeats
Pascal – www.twitter.com/pascalplayaz
Paul SG – www.twitter.com/paul_sg
PBK – www.twitter.com/pbkniko
Pendulum – www.twitter.com/PendulumMusic
Pendulum (Elhornet) – www.twitter.com/elhornet
Pendulum (Gareth) – www.twitter.com/GarethPendulum
Pendulum (Rob) – www.twitter.com/rob_swire
Pete Rann – www.twitter.com/PeteRannMusic
Phace – www.twitter.com/flophace
Phobia – www.twitter.com/jamesphobia
Physics – www.twitter.com/PhysicsDJ
Phantasy – www.twitter.com/djphantasy
Proket – www.twitter.com/ProketRu
Psidream – www.twitter.com/Psidream
Qumulus – www.twitter.com/Qumulus
Radicall – www.twitter.com/radicallpl
Raiden – www.twitter.com/RaidenOffkey
Randomer – www.twitter.com/rohanrandomer
Random Movement – www.twitter.com/Random_Movement
Redeyes – www.twitter.com/redeyesdj
Reguez – www.twitter.com/Reguez
Resound – www.twitter.com/resoundsound
Rockwell – www.twitter.com/Tom_Rockwell
Roni Size – www.twitter.com/ronisizebristol
Sable Gray – www.twitter.com/sablegray
Sabre – www.twitter.com/sabreonline
Saburuko – www.twitter.com/Saburuko
Sappo – www.twitter.com/djsappo
Scheme Bounce – www.twitter.com/schemeos
Seba – www.twitter.com/seba46
Shimon – www.twitter.com/ShimonAudioporn
Shock One – www.twitter.com/therealshockone
Shy FX – www.twitter.com/shyfx
Sigma – www.twitter.com/sigmahq
Sinistaar – www.twitter.com/sinistarrdnb
Skitty – www.twitter.com/skittyjungle
Sol.ID – www.twitter.com/souleyedee
Sonic – www.twitter.com/sonicspacerec
Soul Intent – www.twitter.com/Soulintentdnb
Source Direct – www.twitter.com/PhilSource
Spectrasoul – www.twitter.com/davespectrasoul
SPL – www.twitter.com/SPLSamuel
Spor – www.twitter.com/Spor_DnB
SPY – www.twitter.com/SPYDNB
Squire – www.twitter.com/Squire81
Stranjah – www.twitter.com/Stranjah
Stunna – www.twitter.com/stunnachi
Sub Focus – www.twitter.com/subfocusmusic
Subterra – www.twitter.com/TimSubterra
Subwave – www.twitter.com/Subwave_Moscow
Syncopix – www.twitter.com/SYNCOPIX
Synkro – www.twitter.com/SYNKRODUB
Sunchase – www.twitter.com/Sunchase
TC – www.twitter.com/TC_DNB
TC1 – www.twitter.com/AntTC1
Tech Itch – www.twitter.com/techitchLA
Teebee – www.twitter.com/DjTeeBee
Telemetrik – www.twitter.com/telemetrik
Texel (Quadrant) – www.twitter.com/texel
Theory – www.twitter.com/marktheory
Tidal – www.twitter.com/tidal003
The Burbs – www.twitter.com/theburbs
The Upbeats – www.twitter.com/theupbeats
Third Rail – www.twitter.com/TheDarkJudgez
Total Science – www.twitter.com/totalscience
Trei – www.twitter.com/TREI_Music
Trisector – www.twitter.com/trisector
Ulterior Motive – www.twitter.com/ulterior_motive
Unquote – www.twitter.com/unquote_ru
Vaccine – www.twitter.com/Vacccine
Vapour – www.twitter.com/vapour36hertz
Vicious Circle – www.twitter.com/ViciousCircleUK
Wilsh – www.twitter.com/wilshydread
Xample – www.twitter.com/Gavxample
XRS – www.twitter.com/xrsland
Zero T – www.twitter.com/zerotdnb
Zinc – www.twitter.com/djzinc

DJs
Absolute Value – www.twitter.com/DJAbsoluteValue
AK1200 – www.twitter.com/ak1200
Alleycat – www.twitter.com/djalleycat
Andy C – www.twitter.com/ANDYC_ram
Bailey – www.twitter.com/BaileyDrumNbass
Bassline Smith – www.twitter.com/basslinesmith
B Traits – www.twitter.com/BTraits
Crissy Criss – www.twitter.com/CrissyCriss
Dieselboy – www.twitter.com/djdieselboy
DJ Lee – www.twitter.com/djleeatlas
DJ Rap – www.twitter.com/djrap
Doc Scott – www.twitter.com/docscott31
Doctor S Gachet – www.twitter.com/drsgachet
Dymond – www.twitter.com/djdymond
Fabio – www.twitter.com/fabioradio1
Flight – www.twitter.com/djflight
Friction – www.twitter.com/FrictionShogun
Hype – www.twitter.com/hypehypehype
Kenny Ken – www.twitter.com/KennyDJKen
Kid Hops – www.twitter.com/kidhops
Loxy – www.twitter.com/Loxy01
LTJ Bukem – www.twitter.com/therealLTJbukem
Marky – www.twitter.com/djmarky
Missrepresent – www.twitter.com/Missrepresent
Profile – www.twitter.com/djprofile

MCs / Singers
2Shy MC – www.twitter.com/2SHYMC
Bassline MC – www.twitter.com/BasslineMC
Bassman MC – www.twitter.com/BassmanMC
Deeizm – www.twitter.com/deeizm
Dynamite MC – www.twitter.com/DynamiteMc
Five Alive – www.twitter.com/FiveAliveMc
Jakes – www.twitter.com/jakeshench
Jenna G – www.twitter.com/j3nnag
Kirsty Hawkshaw – www.twitter.com/kirstyhawkshaw
Liane Carroll – www.twitter.com/lianecarroll
Manikular – www.twitter.com/manikular
MC Chickaboo – www.twitter.com/MCChickaboo
MC Conrad – www.twitter.com/THEREALMCCONRAD
MC Coppa – www.twitter.com/coppaworld
MC DRS – www.twitter.com/mcdrs
MC Justyce – www.twitter.com/mcjustyce
MC Lowqui – www.twitter.com/LowQui
MC Messinian – www.twitter.com/MCMessinian
MC System – www.twitter.com/MCSYSTEM
MC Wrec – www.twitter.com/JonWrec
Messy MC – www.twitter.com/Messymc
Miss Drop – www.twitter.com/Miss_Drop
Riya – www.twitter.com/Riyamusic
Ruthless MC – www.twitter.com/Ruthless_Mc
Shabba – www.twitter.com/shabbadan
Skibadee – www.twitter.com/McSkibadee
Stamina MC – www.twitter.com/staminamc
Verse – www.twitter.com/BenVerse

Labels
Basswerk – www.twitter.com/basswerk
Blindside – www.twitter.com/DanBlindside
Breakbeat Kaos – www.twitter.com/breakbeatkaos
Bulletproof – www.twitter.com/jaybulletproof
Camino Blue – www.twitter.com/caminoblue
Clayton Hardware – www.twitter.com/cliggahardware
Deep Soul Music (DSM) – www.twitter.com/deepsoulmusic
Digital Soundboy – www.twitter.com/DigitalSoundBoy
D-Style – www.twitter.com/D_Style
Formation Records – www.twitter.com/FormationRecs
Good Looking Records – www.twitter.com/goodlooking_org
Grid Recordings – www.twitter.com/GridRecordings
Horizons Music – www.twitter.com/Horizonsmusic
Hospital Records – www.twitter.com/hospitalrecords
Hospital Shop – www.twitter.com/hospitalshop
Innerground – www.twitter.com/Innerground
Jerona Fruits – www.twitter.com/JeronaFruits
Critical Recs (Kasra) – www.twitter.com/kasranoize
Hard Leaders (Carl) – www.twitter.com/carlleaders
Lifted Music – www.twitter.com/LiftedMusic
Medschool Records – www.twitter.com/medschoolmusic
Metalheadz – www.twitter.com/metalheadzmusic
Nerve Recordings (Paul Reset) – www.twitter.com/paulreset
Ram Records – www.twitter.com/ramrecordsltd
Red Mist Recordings – www.twitter.com/hazeredmist
Reinforced – www.twitter.com/reinforced
Renegade Hardware – www.twitter.com/hardwarehq
Riley @ Hospital Records – www.twitter.com/nhsriley
Samurai Music – www.twitter.com/preshasamurai
Scientific Wax – www.twitter.com/scientificwax
Shogun Audio – www.twitter.com/ShogunAudio
Technique Recordings – www.twitter.com/TechniqueRec
Timeless Recordings – www.twitter.com/brillotimeless
Tony Fordham (Good Looking Recs) – www.twitter.com/glopsycho
True Playaz – www.twitter.com/realplayaz
V Recordings – www.twitter.com/vrecordings
Viper Recordings – www.twitter.com/ViperRecordings
Valve – www.twitter.com/vlvmusic

Clubs / Promoters
2Tuff (Washington) – www.twitter.com/2TuffDC
Aperture (Cardiff) – www.twitter.com/Aperturefamily
Bassment (Reading) – www.twitter.com/bassmentdnb
Cargo (London) – www.twitter.com/cargo_london
Compression (San Francisco) – www.twitter.com/CompressionSF
Detonate (Nottingham) – www.twitter.com/DetonateUK
Direct Drive (New York) – www.twitter.com/directdrive
Essence of Chi (London) – www.twitter.com/essenceofchi
Exit Festival (Serbia) – www.twitter.com/exitfest
Fabric (London) – www.twitter.com/fabriclondon
Fizzy Friday (London) – www.twitter.com/FizzyFriday
Herbal – www.twitter.com/Herbalbass
Innovation (UK)- www.twitter.com/innovationdnb
Junction (Cambridge) – www.twitter.com/TheJunctionCamb
Koncrete Jungle (USA) – www.twitter.com/konkretejungle
Locus (Bristol) – www.twitter.com/LOCUS
Matter (London) – www.twitter.com/matterlondon
Medium (London) – www.twitter.com/MEDIUMTWITS
Moondance (UK) – www.twitter.com/Funkimoondance
Plan B (Brixton) – www.twitter.com/planbbrixton
Pure Science (Kent) – www.twitter.com/PureScienceHQ
Respect (LA) – www.twitter.com/respectclub
Run (Bristol) – www.twitter.com/RunBristol
Science (Helsinki) – www.twitter.com/sciencehki
Slammin Vinyl (UK) – www.twitter.com/SlamminVinyl
Spoonfed (Cambridge) – www.twitter.com/spoonfedDNB
Stealth (Nottingham) – www.twitter.com/stealthclub
Stray – www.twitter.com/stray_uk
Swerve (London) – www.twitter.com/swerveuk
The Arches (London) – www.twitter.com/TheArches
Turbulence (Newcastle) – www.twitter.com/turbulencecrew
Warning (Cambridge) – www.twitter.com/WarningHq
We Fear Silence (London) – www.twitter.com/WeFearSilence
World of Drum & Bass (UK) – www.twitter.com/WODNB

Support Services (Agencies / Mgmnt / Press / Mastering / Distribution etc…)
Andrew Attah (d&b photography) – www.twitter.com/bazil83
Backdrop PR – www.twitter.com/BackdropPR
Beau Intense (Masterpiece) – www.twitter.com/beauthomas
Dan Donnelly – www.twitter.com/dannydonnelly
DubStudio – www.twitter.com/DubStudio
ESP Agency – www.twitter.com/ESPagency
Finyl Tweek (formerly Heathmans) – www.twitter.com/finyltweek
Groove Connection – www.twitter.com/grooveconnection
Infectious PR – www.twitter.com/infectiouspr
ithinkitsnice – www.twitter.com/ithinkitsnice
Reprise Agency – www.twitter.com/HowardReprise
Shane @ Finyl Tweek – www.twitter.com/ShaneTheCutter
SRD – www.twitter.com/_SRD
ST Holdings – www.twitter.com/stholdings
Subvert Central Mastering – www.twitter.com/SCMastering
Trickartt – www.twitter.com/trickartt
Urban Agency (USA) – www.twitter.com/urbanagencyusa

Magazines
DJ Mag – www.twitter.com/djmag
iDJ – www.twitter.com/iDJMag
Knowledge Magazine (Colin) – www.twitter.com/kmag_colin
Knowledge Magazine (Rachel) – www.twitter.com/rachelknowledge
Mixmag – www.twitter.com/Mixmag
XLR8R – www.twitter.com/XLR8Rmag

Radio
1Xtra – www.twitter.com/1Xtra
Annie Mac – www.twitter.com/anniemacdj
Annie Nightingale – www.twitter.com/aanightingale
Bassdrive – www.twitter.com/bassdrive
D-Code – www.twitter.com/dcode831
Gerard DriveBy – www.twitter.com/gerarddriveby
Mary Anne Hobbs – www.twitter.com/maryannehobbs
Nerm – www.twitter.com/n3rm
Pyro Radio – www.twitter.com/Pyroradioposts
Rinse FM – www.twitter.com/RinseFM
Shockin B – www.twitter.com/ShockinB

Shops
Beatport – www.twitter.com/beatport
Blackmarket – www.twitter.com/bmsoho
Chemical – www.twitter.com/TomAtChemical
Juno – www.twitter.com/Junorecords
Redeye – www.twitter.com/redeyerecords

Websites / Forums
Breakbeat.is- www.twitter.com/Breakbeatdotis
Del Dias (Drum & Bass Arena) – www.twitter.com/aeiddias
Dogs on Acid – www.twitter.com/OfficialDOA
Drum & Bass Arena – www.twitter.com/officialdnba
Hypaculture (Asia Pacific Drum & Bass) www.twitter.com/hypaculture
Khal (Dogs on Acid) – www.twitter.com/khal
Kongkrete Bass – www.twitter.com/Kongkretebass
Liquid DnB – www.twitter.com/liquiddnb
Mixcloud – www.twitter.com/mixcloud
Philly DnB – www.twitter.com/PhillyDnB
Roll Da Beats – www.twitter.com/rolldabeats
Soundcloud – www.twitter.com/SoundCloud
Subvert Central – www.twitter.com/SubvertCentral
The Risky (Drum & Bass Arena) – www.twitter.com/TheRisky
Toronto Jungle – www.twitter.com/torontojungle

P.S Don’t forget to sign up for Hypaculture (where we first saw this list)  www.twitter.com/hypaculture

AND a huge thanks to the original creator of this list,  Blu Mar Ten


          Cats 'n' jam        
Two Kittens Stop NYC's Subway In Its Tracks For 90 Minutes [ AP via Fox NewsLatino ]

Bonuses: Didja know that cats are also "furry felines"? And how much food was left over for the furry felines after the track workers got through withit?

Quote:
The furry felines, one black and the other white with gray stripes, were finally found on the tracks and rescued about seven hours later.

How they got there was a mystery. But they were seen running dangerously close to the high-voltage third rail.

Their owner rushed to a subway station with cat food for transit workers dispatched onto the tracks to use to try to corral them.


Image...

Statistics : Posted by J Kaufman • on Fri Aug 30, 2013 2:15 pm • Replies 0 • Views 2080



          Love Is Not Enough        
Following is the transcript for the 25th Dispatch From the Endocene, which can be heard at ExtinctionRadio.org 43 minutes in.  The artwork is by Arthur Rackham, whose depiction of trees rendered them veritable sentient characters in his illustrations of fairy tales.


Thanks as always Gene, and welcome Listeners, to the 25th Dispatch From The Endocene.  The transcript and pertinent links will be found on my blog, Wit’s End, under the inspirational title, “Love is Not Enough”.


Last fall, the organization Conservation International launched a glitzy campaign to save the world with a sophisticated video series featuring wealthy superstars like Robert Redford and Julia Roberts.  After I did a little research about the actual lifestyles of their environmentally conscious celebrities, I wrote a post excoriating their monumental hubris.  It struck me as amazing that people who travel on luxury jets and own multiple mansions and vehicles can simultaneously believe that while THEY can buy their way out of responsibility, they have no shame in telling everybody else to consume less and respect Mother Nature.

Robert Redford is described in an interview as having a life-long love affair with the American West and is quoted:  “I love to explore and love to drive”.  Isn’t that perfect?  That must be why he built the Sundance Resort in Utah, where countless affluent airheads fly in annually for the Film Festival, and even more prosperous tourists take private planes to ski down the slopes of the mountains, denuded of trees.  Apparently he had to kill them to save them.


Harrison Ford, another spokesman for Conservation International, said “There's nothing better than seeing a herd of elk right outside the window of my house in Wyoming.   My land gives me an opportunity to be close to nature, and I find spiritual solace in nature, contemplating our species in the context of the natural world.”  Apparently he finds no irony in adding “All of my planes are great to fly, and that's why I've got so many of them.  I have a Citation Sovereign, a long-range jet; a Grand Caravan, a turboprop aircraft capable of operating on unimproved strips; and a De Havilland, a bush plane. I have a 1929 Waco Taperwing open-top biplane; a 1942 PT-22 open-top monoplane trainer; an Aviat Husky, a two-seat fabric-covered bush plane; and a Bell 407 helicopter. I also have more than my fair share of motorbikes - eight or nine. I have four or five BMWs, a couple of Harleys, a couple of Hondas and a Triumph; plus I have sports touring bikes.”


Trust-fund baby Edward Norton probably feels he is helping the earth by promoting healthy soils in the campaign, and no doubt feels he needs a Mercedes and a couple of Range Rovers because, hey, he has several mansions scattered around the world and besides, he also has a hydrogen-fueled BMW.


A comical vanity enables us to reconcile our supposed love for nature with helping ourselves to whatever abuse of it that suits our wishes - and it seems to apply to just about everyone, not only the 1%, to one degree or another.  I was reminded of this when the professional activists got into an excited dither because Leonardo DiCaprio used the occasion of his Oscar win to pontificate about climate change.  Meanwhile, he has bought an entire island off the coast of Belize with the intention of “restoring” it - while building an extremely high-end eco-tourist resort.  His reason?  He said, “As soon as I got there, I fell in love.”


Never mind that any benefit to the local flora and fauna will be more than obviated by the construction.  Plus, in perpetuity, the destination will generate emissions from travel.  Likely much of it will be by even more impactful private jet - since hardly anyone who can afford to spend $2,000 per night, or to purchase one of the 48 opulent vacation villas valued between 5 and 15 million, surely can’t be expected to fly commercial with the hoi polloi.  Mr. DiCaprio apparently sees no conflict in choosing to work with a builder who is a former partner at Goldman Sachs, and his architect was quoted:

“The goal was to create something that wasn’t contrived — a tiki hut or some image of a Hawaiian getaway — but rather the history of the place, the Mayan culture, with a more modern approach,” Mr. McLennan said. “We want to change the outlook of people who visit, on both the environment writ large and also their personal well-being.”

[update:  I have learned that Leo felt it was just essential for him to go to Greenland to see the melting ice for himself.  No doubt this raised so much awareness, that dozens upon dozens of people have given up flying, thus offsetting his emissions.]


According to the [oxymoronic] Center for Responsible Travel “The ecotourism market is large and growing, with eight billion ecotourist visits a year worldwide.  Ecotourism is travel that minimizes negative impact on a location and seeks to preserve its natural resources.”

Does anyone but me see how ludicrous this is?  There seems to be a peculiarly common human ability to be utterly blind to one’s own self-justifications - much like hunters, whether contemporary or ancient, offer a prayer to whatever god or spiritual entity they believe in before they shoot, bludgeon, or stab their prey - as though that means the animal they kill is any happier about dying.


I wonder if the people who colonized Pedro González Island in the Pearl Archipelago off of Panama thanked the spirits for their prey.  Scientists have just discovered that settlers arrived there 6200 years ago and for perhaps 8 centuries remained, “…farming maize and roots, fishing, gathering palm fruits and shellfish and hunting…opossums, agoutis, iguanas and large snakes - the major predators”.  Oh and the dwarfish, tiny deer they hunted to extinction.  The scientists discovered that:


“Some deer bones had cuts indicating butchering, such as disarticulation and slicing meat from the bone, or had the marks of human teeth. Others had been burned or smashed to get at the marrow. Antlers and long bones were often cut for making everyday tools and ornaments. Hunting appears to have been indiscriminate, including adults as well as juveniles.”


“The number of deer bones decreased in the youngest layer of the midden, and those of older adults were absent, suggesting that the species was becoming scarcer and life expectancies lower. No deer bones were found in later layers left by pottery-using people after 2,300 years ago, indicating that the species had become extinct on Pedro González by then.”


Islands are often illustrative microcosms, analogous to the whole of planet Earth.  They become hot-beds of biodiversity, as they are cut off from outside competition - and when humans arrive their species are especially vulnerable to extinction.  No matter how much the people love the animals and plants they encounter, too often it doesn’t stop them from overwhelming the ones they value the most.  Native Americans, north and south, had no horses and few domesticated animals, because their ancestors ate them all soon after they migrated to the continent.


This is a pattern that repeats throughout history, around the world, writ both large and small.  I’ll give you a current example.  Wilderness enthusiasts have already bought out all the berths on the lavish new cruise ship “Crystal Serenity”.  The first luxury liner of its size to navigate the northwest passage, it is scheduled to depart next August.  A mere $22,000 is all that was required, unless you wanted a penthouse for $120,000 -  based on double occupancy - plus insurance up to $50,000 per person in case an emergency evacuation is required.  So now for the very fist time, thanks to ice melting from global warming, 1,070 passengers and at least an equal number of crew can pollute the pristine arctic ocean with their shit, piss, vomit, and fuel emissions AND add to the underwater cacophony that has already made it difficult for orcas to feed and right whales to communicate.  The passengers will no doubt love the view of the collapsing glaciers from their privileged vantage on the deck.


It’s not only the famous and fatuous who think they are so special that the rules they would impose on everyone else don’t apply to them.  Each and every human is convinced that their needs are sacred and must be fulfilled - and that the definition of their needs is determined by their own desires, without regard to the requirements of other forms of life.  In an earlier Dispatch I mentioned the delicate alpine wildflowers being trampled to extinction by mountain hikers and bikers.  It turns out that prickly cactus are no safer.

Smugglers posing as hobbyists travel through the American west and elsewhere in the world, using satellite coordinates to mark the locations of especially rare, endangered - and therefore more expensive - specimens.  Like other illegal wildlife products, the internet has facilitated the trade, and the numbers are staggering.  Collecting is endangering the very survival of many prized varieties, as they are plucked from deserts in Chile, Uruguay, Argentina and Mexico.  Customs officials can’t keep up with the volume of material.   Some hunters steal or trade in the market for money, but there wouldn’t be any money in it if there weren’t people who feel what The Atlantic called a “spiritual affinity”, an “obsession”, a “passion” and, yes, love - some for the tremendous size of the iconic saguaro, and others for the seldom but spectacular blooms of more diminutive varieties.  The article notes that cacti are particularly vulnerable to what humans call “love”, because they they “…tend to grow slowly, live a long time, reproduce infrequently, and concentrate in one area.”


This conviction that each person carries within them - that their priorities are exceptional and that the rules don’t apply - leads to absurdities such as taking air travel off the table at the climate negotiations in Paris.  Nearly everyone who participated, obviously, had flown there.  Flying is the third rail of climate activism - the organizations with a mandate to avoid catastrophic climate change won’t touch it, because there is no way to reduce emissions by even the unrealistic thresholds agreed to by negotiators without drastically reducing if not eliminating the exceptionally high impact of airplane emissions.


About a year ago at the American Geophysical Union conference, James White from the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research gave an inspired lecture about abrupt climate change.  I’m going to paraphrase his compelling description of a tipping point.  His analogy begins with an explorer traveling downstream by canoe on the Niagara River .  He can hear an immense roar in the distance, but doesn’t recognize it as being the massive falls.  The current becomes faster and more irresistible, and by the time he realizes that he is going to cascade over the immense verge plunging to certain death, it is too late to paddle to the shore.  The time to have done so was behind him.

In other words, tipping points are by definition seen only in hindsight.  They aren’t recognized ahead of time, or even as they occur, except possibly by a few odd Cassandras, who are borderline insane by normal standards. 


Probably one of the foremost scholars on ecological tipping points is Anthony Barnosky of UC Berkeley.  He was lead author with 22 colleagues of a pivotal study published in Nature, warning of impending tipping points in reductions to biodiversity.  Their point of reference in 2012 was the time frame of “within a few generations”.  Now he and his wife Elizabeth Hadley, also a paleobiologist from Stanford, have published a book, titled “End Game - Tipping Point for Planet Earth?”.  This time around, according to a review in Newsweek, they have upped the ante and warn that the world will tip into environmental and social catastrophe within 20 years.  Interestingly, the snarky reviewer inquires:

“Do we really need a wake-up call? Another one? Because the world arguably woke up to the Barnosky message long ago. The canon of eschatological literature is old and long. The trouble is that we've stopped listening to the warnings. Indeed it sometimes seems as though the louder the alarm clock, the more inclined we are, these days, to roll over and hit the snooze button.”


He then describes the Barnosky/Hadley juggernaut to effect their research:

“There is more than a touch of missionary zeal in the way they have travelled the world, sometimes with their two young daughters strapped into baby carriers (the authors are Californian, after all), in order to attend international conferences in Africa, measure the retreat of the Himalayan pika, or record the blood toxicity of Costa Rican bats. Each chapter is prefaced with another illustrative tale from this adventurous and enviable life, to jolly along the science.”

So despite their long-held conviction that earth cannot sustain the current level of population and consumption, they have two young children and travel around the world to prove it.  That makes sense, right?


The review ends with the following:

“When tipping points are reached, the change can be violent as well as sudden, like the moment that water reaches boiling point. Endgame may amount to a triumph of hope over experience, but you cannot fault the authors' determination to try to warn us.”


Can’t we? They warn us, but they do not heed their own warnings.  I think that is quite likely because, deep down, they know that the tipping point for maintaining the healthy, thriving, magnificent panorama of life has already been passed, some time ago.  The exquisitely complex tapestry of life is unraveling, it is inevitable and irreversible - scientists now know that marine animals are dying of domoic acid from toxic algae, that corals are already doomed by acidification, that climate chaos will worsen, that we have poisoned the air, water and soil.  It’s risible that they justify their travel and grant money by claiming more research is needed, and continue the farcical pretense that the tipping points await perpetually in the future.


I recently re-connected with an old friend, I’ll call her Meredith.  She has retired as an agricultural studies teacher for high school students, and now that our children are grown and we have more time on our hands, we’ve been catching up once a week, having lunch together and taking our dogs for walks in the woods.

Meredith is the product of an ultra-conservative background, and is even a Donald Trump supporter - but in that increasingly common bizarre confluence of far right and far left, I discovered that she’s a bit of a catastrophist too.


In her case, the suspicion that the future will be less than rosy derives from her concern about agricultural pesticide and growth hormone use.  She thinks that the government agencies aren’t doing anything to protect the public from toxic accumulations in our food, and thinks not only are humans being poisoned but so is the rest of nature.  A recent exposé about how a senior researcher at USDA was hounded out of his laboratory for reporting on the relationship between chemicals and the disappearance of pollinators like bees and butterflies corroborates her fears.


Unlike most people who are oblivious to the phenomena of shifting baselines, Meredith has also noticed the incremental deterioration of the landscape.  She grew up on a dirt road, riding horses every day, and the subsequent development which has obliterated the fields and woods she once roamed as a child has led her to conclude that there are far, far too many people in the world - and that we are bumping up against implacable limits.


I can’t explain why but Meredith ate a tuna fish sandwich every day for lunch since she was a kid, and she found out her mercury levels are trending through the roof.  So when I said that there is some pollution you can see, and some you can’t, she readily agreed.  Thus it wasn’t much of a leap for her when I said that all the fallen trees and broken branches she noticed around her home and in the woods around mine during our walks was the result of invisible airborne ozone and acidic depositions in the soil and water.

She told me that she first noticed trees in decline around her house about five years ago, and initially worried that it was a result of discharge from a water softener she had installed.  But then she quickly added that she realized the trees far away from the septic system were just as sickly.  I was surprised to find someone whose observations mirrored mine, because I am usually scoffed at.  At the end of our conversation she said ruefully that she had long suspected something was very wrong with the forests, but hadn’t wanted to articulate it.  Because it’s really scary, and depressing.  I told her I cried almost every night for months when I first realized the trees are all dying.


Last fall a census by Yale foresters demonstrated that even without pollution, humans have removed half of earth’s trees already, and we are losing 15 billion trees every year.  At this rate, they calculate there would be NONE left in 300 years.  Much of the loss is due to logging, but even before that, humans burned forests to improve hunting and foraging.  People set fire to Madagascar’s forests 1,000 years ago, turning it into grassland for pasturing cattle.  Worse still, researchers have found that even without logging and burning, the hunting of large mammals that is occurring in places like the Amazon and Africa would eventually doom the forests even if they’re not cut, because those animals are essential to disburse the seeds.  Without them the rest of the ecosystem system will collapse.


Meanwhile the concentration of nitrous oxide, a byproduct of burning fuel and agricultural fertilization, and a primary precursor to ozone, is skyrocketing.  Air pollution is already linked to heart disease, cancer, emphysema and asthma - now doctors are finding it is connected to the obesity epidemic and Alzheimer’s.  How could we expect it to be any less injurious to trees that absorb it year after year?  Several decades ago, there was widespread concern about the health of forests and then, a memo went out to the foresters that the problem had been solved, long-term fumigation and monitoring experiments were cancelled, and much of the funding evaporated.  Yet, a few experts persisted and in 2012 a report was published which analyzed 4,057 plots from national and regional forest health surveys.

Titled “Susceptibility of Forests in the Northeastern USA to Nitrogen and Sulfur Deposition: Critical Load Exceedance and Forest Health”, the abstract states:

“We observed significant negative correlations between critical load exceedance and growth and crown density; we observed significant positive correlations of exceedance with declining vigor, with crown dieback and crown transparency. These results indicate that significant detrimental responses to atmospheric deposition are being observed across the northeastern USA.”


“…projected emissions of acidifying S and N compounds are expected to have continuing negative impacts on forests. Atmospheric S and N deposition have contributed to acidification of soils and surface waters, export of nutrient cations, and mobilization of aluminum in soils, which can be toxic to plants and other biota. When exports of nutrient cations are greater than inputs to an ecosystem, soil nutrients may decrease to inadequate levels, a condition known as cation depletion. Cation depletion may result in a wide range of forest health problems: reduced growth rates and increased susceptibility of forests to climate change; pest and pathogen stress, which results in reduced forest health, reduced timber yield, increased mortality; and eventual changes in forest species composition.”

“Twenty-one tree species in the northeastern USA exhibit detrimental impacts from atmospheric deposition.”

So, it’s not all in my imagination.

If only love remains - whatever that means - it’s not, and has never been, enough.  Not when, like its close cousin hope, it is an intellectual construct that merely serves to enable humanity to rationalize the destruction of the rest of life on this exceptional, extraordinarily and perhaps even uniquely glorious planet.

Thanks for listening.

Bonus for readers:  click here to see pictures of newly discovered ancient oaks in a forgotten castle park in England.  And then ask yourself why trees that huge aren't found everywhere.

          Double Single Bed #4: Deep Mortises        

Here’s an outline drawing I did for one of the headboards.

The post caps, curved top rail, & varying stile widths help break up the straight lines from my original design. Thanks to my wife and a few other LJ’ers for the ideas. (I’m definitely not a right-brainer.) The stiles fit into mortises on the top & bottom rails.

I didn’t foresee any problems at the time. Do you?

I cut the top and bottom headboard rails to size, cut the bottom rail tenons, fitted them to the post mortises, and marked the curves. I ripped the stiles & sent them through the planer for final sizing. So far so good.

How to cut mortises for the stiles, though? Hmmm. Here’s an idea: cut 2.5 inch deep mortises in top rail, cut curve with the bandsaw, clean up mortises, fit stiles, done. This was a GREAT idea, until I learned that the mortising machine clearance was only 4.5 inches.

FRACK. Now what? We came up with four options:

(1) Rip the top rail lengthwise, down the center, cut the deep mortises, & glue back together. Status: rejected; didn’t want to spend the time to glue it back together & clean it up. Too much work.
(2) Cut curve on bandsaw first, then mark & drill mortises. Status: rejected; seemed overly challenging, end of rail still wouldn’t fit under mortiser.
(3) Skip the curve and just use narrower rails. Stauts: rejected; didn’t want to make the design any more bland.
(4) Drill out mortises with forstner bit, cut curve on bandsaw, then hand chisel to finish. After drilling out 2×2.5 inch deep mortises and attempting to clean them up manually, I decided this was WWAAYY too much work. Status: Rejected; schedule constraint. During this process, I re-learned how to re-install the chuck into the drill press.
(5) This was my wife’s idea (she’s not the engineer): Cut off the top 2 inches of the rail and make a smaller, third rail. This way, the the curved rail will fit under the mortiser. GENIUS; this was the fix. To cut the deep mortises, I found it much easier to clean out most of the material using the drill press / forstner bit & use the mortising machine for the final cut. Status: approved.

For the bottom rail, I cut a 0.25 inch dado along top edge to receive the stile tenons. This was much easier than cutting a bunch of tiny motrises. We aligned them manually during glue-up to ensure correct spacing.

Only after I was satisfied with the design & how everything fit, I cut the rail tenons and mortises in the posts. Here’s a partial dry fit.

One note regarding the timeframe for this project: My wife and I built a king size bed frame in the same manner (bed bolts / solid headboard) a few years ago; we started in June, finished in December. For this project I needed to have two frames built, finished, & assembled in about three weeks.

Lessons Learned:
  • Start with 4 (not 6) inch top rails
  • Cut the curve first, mark & cut mortises after. This way, there is less material to remove, less cleanup work, & more time to do other things

          Government suppresses better transport options for Auckland        

A newly-revealed un-redacted report into options for Auckland freight movement shows the Government has been actively trying to suppress more efficient and cost-effective options to construct a third rail line, says Labour’s Transport spokesperson Michael Wood.

“While Auckland’s congestion gets worse by the day, the Government has been caught out trying to cover up the very strong case for investment in a third main rail line on the Southern line.


          Can you really die from peeing on the third rail?        
A man heading home from a night of bar-hopping reportedly died from electrocution Monday after urinating on the third rail of the G train tracks in Brooklyn. Well, at least according to the New York Post, which credits unnamed sources with saying that “a drunken man was electrocuted and killed relieving himself on the third rail  Read More
          Can you really die from peeing on the third rail?        
A man heading home from a night of bar-hopping reportedly died from electrocution Monday after urinating on the third rail of the G train tracks in Brooklyn. Well, at least according to the New York Post, which credits unnamed sources with saying that “a drunken man was electrocuted and killed relieving himself on the third rail  Read More
          How Hard Is It To Die Of An Electric Shock?        
Being both an electrical engineer and a person with questionable judgement, the occasional high-voltage zap is something I've learned to accept as an unavoidable occupational hazard.  I've suffered dozens of 120-volt AC (wall-outlet-level) shocks, occasionally even directly through the chest cavity (traveling from one hand to the other), as well as more low-voltage and DC shocks than I could easily count, with no noticeable ill effects.  The highest voltage I've been bitten by, so far, was a 9000VAC neon-sign transformer, which zapped me (again, through the chest cavity) during an unfortunate attempt to build high-voltage capacitors out of empty malt liquor bottles and salt water in college (note to budding scientists: if science requires empty malt liquor bottles, that doesn't necessarily mean you have to drink all the malt liquor yourself before getting started).  Aside from firing every muscle in my upper body at once and leaving me sore for days, that one didn't hurt me either.  From these experiences, I can draw two possible conclusions:

  1. The human body is more resistant to electric shocks than I'd previously been led to believe.
  2. Unlike you puny humans, I cannot be killed by electricity.
In the interest of figuring out which of those it is (smart money's on #2, obviously), I decided to look into what exactly it takes to deliver a lethal electric shock to an average-sized adult human. 

Conventional wisdom about electric shocks is that "it's the current, not the voltage" that hurts you.  That's true, at least in the strictest physical sense; voltage is just a measure of potential energy, while current is a measure of the actual number of electrons using your body as a transmission line.  A reasonable analogy would be getting a rock dropped on your head; while the rock had to be up above you (giving it gravitational potential energy) for it to happen, what actually made it hurt is that the rock got dropped from up there and hit you in the goddamn head.  Same deal with electricity; all the voltage in the world doesn't mean a thing if it isn't driving any current, just like the mere act of someone holding a rock above your head isn't going to give you a concussion.  So yeah, you generally need to run some current through your body to do damage, which begs the question "how much?"  And that's where things get complicated.

This otherwise well-intentioned public service announcement from Electric Six critically misunderstands the voltage/current distinction.

Every EE undergrad knows Ohm's law, which states that V=IR, where V is voltage (in volts), I is current (in amps) for some reason, and R is the resistance of your circuit to having current passed through it, in units called ohms.  So to figure out how much current is passing through something, you just take the voltage across it and divide by the resistance.   It's a simple, handy equation that will tell you what's going on in nearly any electrical circuit (until you start throwing semiconductors into the mix, at which point it all goes to hell, but that's neither here nor there), providing you actually know the value of R.  When you're working with basic circuits (generally containing resistors that have their values printed on the side) that's a no-brainer, but it gets weird when you start trying to add more complex elements like "the sack of meat and water that is a human body" to the mix.

The most basic possible electrical circuit.  A voltage V is applied to a resistance R, the value of which decides how much current (I) will flow through the circuit.  Nobody knows why the symbol for current is I so don't ask. 

The resistance "seen" by a high voltage trying to pass current through your body can vary wildly, depending on the path it takes, how wet your skin is, damage to the skin already caused by current, and lots of other factors.  The inside of your body, being mostly water and electrolytes, has a pretty low resistance (<500 ohms), so the resistance of the entire "meat-resistor" is going to depend in large part on the skin resistance.  While a totally dry-skinned person should in principle have a resistance in the 100,000 ohm neighborhood (meaning it would take 100,000 volts to drive an amp through you), natural moisture on the skin usually brings that down to something in the neighborhood of 1,000-5,000 ohms in most situations (it varies by as much as 2-3X by person), and fully wet skin can cause it to be even lower.  So a reasonable, low-end estimate for the resistance of a human body is probably about 1000 ohms.  Keep that in mind during the next part.

As Edison so ably demonstrated back at the turn of last century, low-frequency alternating current (AC, the kind that comes out of our walls) is by far the most likely type of current to electrocute you.  That's because the frequency of the wall current (either 50 or 60 Hz, depending on where you live) is close enough to your heartbeat frequency to scramble your sinoatrial node (the heart's pacemaker) without much trouble, a condition known as fibrillation.  When your heart stops due to fibrillation it's not going to start again without a defibrillator or some very good CPR; basically, you're pretty screwed.  As a result, you really don't need much of this stuff to die; the "death current" is generally considered to be in the range of 0.1 to 0.2 amps.  To put that in perspective, that's 100-200V if we use our 1000-ohm estimate of the resistance of a body.  The standard home line voltage in the US is 120V, so that's more than capable of delivering a lethal shock under the right conditions.  Oddly enough, AC current above 0.2 amps usually isn't lethal, since that much current will cause all your heart muscles to "clamp," preventing the heart from going into fibrillation by just plain stopping it until the shock ends.  Obviously stopping your heart is bad and will eventually kill you, but if the shock is short-duration your heart will probably restart normally afterward without the need for CPR or anything

DC current, which is "always on" and has no frequency associated with it, will have a much harder time killing you but can still get the job done.  The end result is similar; enough current = stopped heart.  In this case the clamping (seizing of all the heart muscles) effect we also see at high AC currents is the culprit; too much DC voltage will stop your heart, which as most people know will eventually make you die.  Fortunately, it takes way more DC current to cause clamping than it does AC current to induce fibrillation; typical fatal DC currents are usually about a factor of two higher than AC (so 0.2-0.5 amps), meaning the associated voltage has to be about twice as high assuming identical skin resistance.  Clamping, as I previously mentioned, is also a reversible condition; if you can get yourself off the circuit before your heart is off long enough to do damage, it'll probably restart and you'll be fine. Even so, a modest DC voltage (a good example is the 48V power applied to certain types of microphones) is perfectly capable of murdering you under the right conditions.

The Neumann U87 patiently awaits its prey

So what are "the right conditions"?  Obviously the electricity is going to need to pass through the heart to stop it, so you need to put your body in the circuit in a way that that's possible (having the current run from one arm to the other is a good way to do it).  Contact area is important; if you're touching a live wire with a fingertip, the total resistance of the circuit formed by your body is going to be much higher than if you grab it with the entire palm of your hand, meaning the shock is much less likely to be lethal.  Similarly, since most of your body's resistance comes via the skin, being wet or damp will bring your total resistance down considerably, reducing the "kill voltage" needed to produce a fatal current.  Conversely, if there's some other source of resistance in the circuit besides your body (a thick pair of rubber gloves, for example) that's going to increase your electrocution-voltage threshold by a lot.  Finally, there's duration to consider; as we know, clamping will take a little while to kill you, and even fibrillation takes a few seconds to take effect, so if you can pull yourself off the source of the shock within a second or two you'll probably be OK.  Interestingly, this is where low voltages can be more lethal than higher ones; voltages (both DC and AC) between 50-500V will usually cause your muscles to contract when shocked, which can result in you involuntarily gripping something that's slowly electrocuting you.  Higher voltages, as I've empirically discovered, tend to just cause all the muscles near the contact site to fire uncontrollably, which usually has the useful effect of throwing you out of the circuit almost instantly. 

So that's the easiest way for electricity to kill you.  Beyond just stopping your heart though, it can also cause nasty internal burns at even sub-lethal currents.  The reason for that is that as current passes through a resistor (or meat-resistor in this case), it loses electrical potential energy, or voltage. This energy gets lost in the form of heat, which means whatever the current is passing through will heat up.  Even currents of less than 50% of the "death threshold" can dump enough heat under the right conditions to cause internal burns.  Interestingly the shorter the path taken through your body the more severe the burn, since the same amount of energy is being distributed as heat over a smaller distance.  When you go to really high currents (like the electric chair or subway third rail) you're going to die of organ failure caused by being literally cooked from the inside out long before your heart ever gets a chance to go into fibrillation or clamping.  In extreme cases, like lightning strikes, it's possible to be completely vaporized from the resistive heat alone.

So to bring this back around to the personal: why didn't my 9000V shock kill or injure me?  My meat-resistance was probably extremely low due to both hands being covered in highly conductive salt water, so even the short time I was connected to the power supply should have caused some really nasty internal burns even if it didn't get a chance to stop my heart.  The thing that saved my life was that the power supply was current-limited; it had a resistor inside with a value set so that the total output current, even in a full short-circuit condition, could never exceed 0.03 amps.  That's not enough current to do much more than tickle a little even in the most idiotic of circumstances (like this one), so I really wasn't in any danger.  So the question of whether or not I can be killed by electricity will, unfortunately, remain unanswered until the next time I do a dumb thing involving malt liquor and high voltages.

The majority of the specifics of this one came from here, although I did a lot of googling around to figure out the exact mechanism by which DC current kills.
          Comment on What to do about Gary Ott, Hourglass Appreciation Night and Our Schools Now by Kate Sturgeon        
I'm a week late, but just listened to last week's show. Re the campign to raise taxes to fund education: I will support that when the third rail of education, tax deductions for large families, is included in the discussion. Education has been funded on the backs of fixed income seniors and singles, as well as small small-sized families, while ignoring the true 'users of the system.' Do the math: ONE family has six children. Those six then go one to have their own six. 36 are now on the public dole. Those 36 decide to go smaller and only have four per family: 144 are now in public education, with very minimal funding from their original source (parents of each family), and maybe even attending the same school district. Orrin Hatch is correct when he said "The public wants every dime they can be given. I mean face it, once you get them on the dole they're going to take every dime they can." Utah education funding proves this in spades. Please include tax deductions in the discussion, Jim and Dan, and you may find more public support for other education funding scenarios.
          Martin Amis' 'Zone Of Interest' Is An Electrically Powerful Holocaust Novel        
When I picked up Martin Amis' new novel, The Zone of Interest, it felt as though I had touched a third rail, so powerful and electric is the experience of reading it.
          Kathleen Speranza: Dancing On The Third Rail        

Kathleen Speranza is a painter from Massachusetts. She earned her BFA from Boston University and her MFA from Yale. She teaches painting and drawing at Rhode Island School of Design.

Her current obsession is portraits. Portraits of flowers. And according to Kathleen, flower paintings are sometimes akin to stepping on the third rail. There are so many stereotypes that go along with this subject that tackling it can be dangerous. Particularly for a female painter.

But Kathleen, I think, is fluent in the language of color. She understands their subtleties and arranges them masterfully on her canvas. Allowing each its place so that the subject sings.

I am completely fascinated by, the topic of color so I grill Kathleen on her palette organization, her interest in the Munsell Palette and when she chooses to use it.

We talk about life, and yes, having one informs our art. As much as we’d like to lock ourselves in an ivory tower and paint 24/7, it just doesn’t work. We circle back to this topic a few times - as it relates to taking a break so that we have the opportunity to distil the stimulus into a painting. Maintaining an art practice after having a child, and how that actually makes you a better painter. We get into a little aside on artists who have more than one kid and how bad ass we think they are.

This episode is just chock full of wonderful bits of wisdom. I don’t want to list them all; I just want you to hear it from Kathleen herself, but one last jewel I want you to keep an ear out for: Kathleen’s insights on asking for help and how she became comfortable with frustration when she paints.


          NYCTrust Radio No. 21        
All Night Rider – Mixed by Little Dynasty A mix of mostly 60’s Garage & some R&B too. 1. The Road – She’s Not There 2. Sandy Nelson – Pipeline 3. Sandy Nelson – Freak Beat 4. Johnny & The Hurricanes – Sand Storm 5. The Third Rail – No Return 6. The Hombres – […]
          The Tar Sands Disaster        
BY THOMAS HOMER-DIXON
New York Times
March 31, 2013



IF President Obama blocks the Keystone XL pipeline once and for all, he’ll do Canada a favor.

Canada’s tar sands formations, landlocked in northern Alberta, are a giant reserve of carbon-saturated energy — a mixture of sand, clay and a viscous low-grade petroleum called bitumen. Pipelines are the best way to get this resource to market, but existing pipelines to the United States are almost full. So tar sands companies, and the Alberta and Canadian governments, are desperately searching for export routes via new pipelines.

Canadians don’t universally support construction of the pipeline. A poll by Nanos Research in February 2012 found that nearly 42 percent of Canadians were opposed. Many of us, in fact, want to see the tar sands industry wound down and eventually stopped, even though it pumps tens of billions of dollars annually into our economy.

The most obvious reason is that tar sands production is one of the world’s most environmentally damaging activities. It wrecks vast areas of boreal forest through surface mining and subsurface production. It sucks up huge quantities of water from local rivers, turns it into toxic waste and dumps the contaminated water into tailing ponds that now cover nearly 70 square miles.

Also, bitumen is junk energy. A joule, or unit of energy, invested in extracting and processing bitumen returns only four to six joules in the form of crude oil. In contrast, conventional oil production in North America returns about 15 joules. Because almost all of the input energy in tar sands production comes from fossil fuels, the process generates significantly more carbon dioxide than conventional oil production.

There is a less obvious but no less important reason many Canadians want the industry stopped: it is relentlessly twisting our society into something we don’t like. Canada is beginning to exhibit the economic and political characteristics of a petro-state.

Countries with huge reserves of valuable natural resources often suffer from economic imbalances and boom-bust cycles. They also tend to have low-innovation economies, because lucrative resource extraction makes them fat and happy, at least when resource prices are high.

Canada is true to type. When demand for tar sands energy was strong in recent years, investment in Alberta surged. But that demand also lifted the Canadian dollar, which hurt export-oriented manufacturing in Ontario, Canada’s industrial heartland. Then, as the export price of Canadian heavy crude softened in late 2012 and early 2013, the country’s economy stalled.

Canada’s record on technical innovation, except in resource extraction, is notoriously poor. Capital and talent flow to the tar sands, while investments in manufacturing productivity and high technology elsewhere languish.

But more alarming is the way the tar sands industry is undermining Canadian democracy. By suggesting that anyone who questions the industry is unpatriotic, tar sands interest groups have made the industry the third rail of Canadian politics.

The current Conservative government holds a large majority of seats in Parliament but was elected in 2011 with only 40 percent of the vote, because three other parties split the center and left vote. The Conservative base is Alberta, the province from which Prime Minister Stephen Harper and many of his allies hail. As a result, Alberta has extraordinary clout in federal politics, and tar sands influence reaches deep into the federal cabinet.

Both the cabinet and the Conservative parliamentary caucus are heavily populated by politicians who deny mainstream climate science. The Conservatives have slashed financing for climate science, closed facilities that do research on climate change, told federal government climate scientists not to speak publicly about their work without approval and tried, unsuccessfully, to portray the tar sands industry as environmentally benign.

The federal minister of natural resources, Joe Oliver, has attacked “environmental and other radical groups” working to stop tar sands exports. He has focused particular ire on groups getting money from outside Canada, implying that they’re acting as a fifth column for left-wing foreign interests. At a time of widespread federal budget cuts, the Conservatives have given Canada’s tax agency extra resources to audit registered charities. It’s widely assumed that environmental groups opposing the tar sands are a main target.

This coercive climate prevents Canadians from having an open conversation about the tar sands. Instead, our nation behaves like a gambler deep in the hole, repeatedly doubling down on our commitment to the industry.

President Obama rejected the pipeline last year but now must decide whether to approve a new proposal from TransCanada, the pipeline company. Saying no won’t stop tar sands development by itself, because producers are busy looking for other export routes — west across the Rockies to the Pacific Coast, east to Quebec, or south by rail to the United States. Each alternative faces political, technical or economic challenges as opponents fight to make the industry unviable.

Mr. Obama must do what’s best for America. But stopping Keystone XL would be a major step toward stopping large-scale environmental destruction, the distortion of Canada’s economy and the erosion of its democracy.

Thomas Homer-Dixon, who teaches global governance at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, is the author of “The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilization.”

          Comment on (0) About This Site by rialto-now        
From one blogger to another keep up the good work. The Facebook site Third Rail Politics sent me to your site and I must say we'll done keep those feet to the fire.
          CURSES, ENERGY AND THE LAWS OF ATTRACTION        

Are curses real?

Curses are energy, just as we are energy, and evil energy sent from a mind, can do serious damage, a two-edged unseen sword that cuts both ways, just as prayers offered can have a strong non-local effect, and as well rebound goodness upon the sender. 

I made the mistake of cursing my neighbors, one angry day, furiously wishing intensely that they suffer, specifically by falling down their stairs and breaking a leg.

I fumed in impotent fury, after  I  learned that they  called 911 to my door with a complaint about 'a man shooting off a gun', and I had later, in quiet retrospect, exploded visciously , in a malevolent force, that I sent their way.

I was  guilty, of course,  air-pellet gunning down pesky squirrels on my soon to be harvested dwarf fruit trees,  but when Blue Bullies With a Badge Inc. exploded onto my property, with their weapons drawn., one could hear audible laughter from those rednecks, yonder, who watched wearing underwear and open bathrobe robes with their door half open.

God works in mysterious ways, but if you want to see the Devil, right quick, just call 911.

I  purposefully wished harm, sending a quiet seething curse towards those ornery redneck neighbors, harm in a curse that has since returned to me, two-fold .

I am a slow learner, sadly, as I belatedly learned, in one of the hardest ways, about  the unknown laws of attraction,  a poignant and harsh object lesson that taught me that the human mind is part of the quantum physics energy of the Universe , and it also clarified unknown truths about dark force entities.

I  spitefully invoked  'Dark Force Entities',-using that title-name-, to creatively- and evilly- try to get 'even', by flexing a combination of  my growing psychic prowess, to send strong and focused intentions of sinister vendetta,  never realizing,  that I had already approached and firmly touched the third rail.

Powerful, intense curses  not unlike effective repeated prayers- which call for assistance from LIGHT,-  call upon the spirit world's dark, gangster fringe element to respond to  a request for a curse, an evil intent for another's injury, a directive for always in- attendance demons to quickly effect .

Demons, it  sadly seems, loom and surround us all, at  times,  specializing in softly whispering negativity, to our minds.

It is therein only the recognition and vectoring away these of these negative whispered 'thoughts', that can ultimately win you the battle for being 'ruler of your own mind'..

The war, within everyone, however,  silently rages on for mastery of one's secret and hidden soul..

There is also another  inverse law of demonic attraction :

"The Dark Side",  is also attracted to those with LIGHT, to seek ways to extinguish it.

Omni-prevalent in overhead UFOs,  mean small dark grey pilots, and Dracos reptilians, much like   demons, are  very highly psychic as well as innately malicious, and they are  telepathically sensitive to a human mind's  energy,  especially of intense and sustained malice and anger.

Negative thought beings, of many ilks are willing and capable to carry out "curses",  and are, much like the  human sender of a curse,  spiritually sinister.

"Like attracts like" appeals to this varied crime family ensemble': sinister human earthbounds, E.T.s and powerful demonics, all of who constitute the gangster fringe element, of the unseen spirit world.

The demonic gradations of evil power : the ability to create negative miracles, and the ability to 'walk-into' a human being's muti-layered psyche, are  varied but similar. 

But eminently stronger than aliens or demons, are  Devils, exquisitively diabolical and brilliant.

Household demons seem more animalistic and much less intelligent.

May God keep us safe from Devils.

I had, however, fired a demonic weapon, one that unknowingly was tacitly programmed to return to me, the site of the curse's origin, to claim yet another unsuspecting human prize and energy luncheon dish.

My leg, in swift karmic retribution, within a month, was soon badly broken, shattered, with ligaments and  torn from a hit- and -run driver's fender, a knee and leg now filled with multiple painful, internal metal brace-works and screws, a leg that often plagues me.

What was my method of sending out that  curse?

I seethed, with those neighbors in mind; I left my house, and I stared at their house, and I mentally focused rage at and towards them.

It was a foolhardy experiment, raw malice combined with an evil feeling, that felt oddly satisfying. I had previously experienced evil one's  presences.

I had suffered a prolonged spate of nightmares and startling poltergeist phenomena, after seeing a UFO flotilla of overhead ship assemble at zenith over my head one night.

Suddenly, I  more than suspected that dark ones, perhaps the very pilots within those craft were around me, unseen and  impishly omnipresent, an indigestible probability,  that contradicted all that I had ever learned.

I had unknowingly attracted them to me by intense and prolonged reading, researching  others'experiences with alien nonhuman negative thought entities, and then an impressive overhead sighting happened to me with concurrent subsequent vivid "nightmares", soon after  that astounding, jaw-dropping  overhead UFOs sighting!

Untoward spiritual 'lessons', were self- chosen.

I learned, too late, that your energy goes, where your attention goes, and thus with aliens,  an ironic and counter-intuitive 'Law of Attraction' road-sign, I had sped passed and overlooked, suddenly occurred!

When you pay attention to the paranormal, I assure you, IT then pays attention, to YOU..

An ensemble of round, red-glowing bottoms of "craft", like red balloons, had slowly assembled and formed from several directions overhead at zenith, a squadron of ten craft, that shifted color from red to violet all at once, and then fled in pairs, across the night sky, in a 'flash', like minnows in a pond.

Soon after this experience, wild and vivid (-imposed-) nightmares and  household poltergeist mischief,  both symptoms of the evil unseen, seemed at this moment to  signal me.

More than raw wonder about them, my mind-set was now to "test them".

My excuse was that I was  incensed at the neighbors and resented the threatening visages of the police, and what angst they had put me through.

How "evil" would it be, to test their 'power' as  'reality' of their bizarre and unseen omnipresent presences?

With focused malice,I  sent them out, with orders to attack.

And as a special sign to me, to break a leg of the one who had, in squirrel empathy, sent the police to my door with a  911 message that a crazed man was shooting off a rifle at people.

It was a horrid encounter, a singularly unpleasant officer, and a close brush with incarceration. 

I cursed those loud and often drunk  neighbors with an effective, focused, curse,  rage bristling with malice, a loathing, purposeful curse, and said it aloud.

A foolhardy and blind apprentice in a deadly dark art,  I, as well, was  soon be a victim,  a clear, unwritten law of attraction.

I asked that this curse send negative thought entities/ demons/E.T.s to cause the complaint callers to fall down the stairs and, as a specific sign to me, to break their legs.

I seethed in focused raw malice towards them, visualizing their falls and slips on the stairs of their home,  in an awful revenge, no one could ever, rightfully, suspect me of.

Focused malice was sent in bidding retribution. 

How could unseen phantoms, remotely deliver such a curse?

Within a few days, the offending neighbor and his even more offensive SISTERS were limping on crutches, each one had a leg hidden in  pen-autographed white casts; I stared fish-eyed , from my nearby porch.

I later learned that they fell (drunk?)  slipped in staircase falls in their house!

I was overwhelmed by denial, naive agog-ness and foolish amazement in goose-pimply disbelief, a very slow growing  realization of awe, and fear, nonetheless .

I remained a slow learner.

An EM Ambulance  showed up, a week later, I subsequently  found out, when an elderly friend of those neighbors ALSO took a fall,  on the property , up on their stairs!

Unknown to me, I was to be next, to be amidst the cross-hairs, of demons.

Curses attract demons who  with negative energy, jump onto humans, whose astral energies are attacked, to cause disease and misfortune. 

Without arms or legs, how were they able to push three people down a flight of stairs?!.

I was to re- learn, engaged in later banishment throes, another  harsh lesson,  a 'law' also unknown to me, at that time:

A witch/ wizard, or ordinary person, who harbored a sincere malice, can  easily project/ send out that energy of focused hatred, and with a verbalized curse, summon and deliver demonics, overly- eager to attack.

But, aS well, the curse also tacitly gives the demon an unspoken contract, a promissory, spiritual permission, to  RETURN BACK to the sender, a boomerang, law of curses, back  upon the very one who sent it!

Even worse, on its return, the dark side demon feels entitled to perceive the 'sender', as its own personal possession, a proprietary rule of attraction!

Laws of attraction were now out of control.

Weeks or a month later, I was knocked down, struck by a hit and run driver, my shattered kneecap and leg repaired with many pieces of internal brace work and joined  with many screws holding them all in place, a contrivance which often pains me.

Although I heartily embrace the light these days and do deeply repent my single field experiment curse, 'they' visit often, in bidding retribution. 

it's all I can do to catch some unimpeded sleep, with the lights on, all night.

I have since learned, that, for millennia, as a precaution, seeking  safety, curses were NEVER directly sent out by the Black Arts practitioner, but were much more carefully administered, because of those unspoken 'laws of attraction'.

Traditionally, a summoner applying an effective curse, always used an apprentice, a human helper who would actively evoke demons and perform related evil metaphysics.

This was , of course, for the wizard's own personal safety, as ONLY the wizard well knew this secret 'proprietary rule' of demons and curses, within the laws of attraction.

In this ruthless pursuit, it appears, that Wizards stuck around for a long while;  apprentices, came and went.

 


          Is Bush Smarter Than a Fourth-Grader?        

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Don't Know Much About History: Hillary Clinton just asked supporters to choose her campaign song, but Republican candidates already agreed on theirs. Perhaps the next debate will feature a barbershop quartet of Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul, and Mitt Romney singing:

Don't know much about history/ Don't know much biology/ Don't know much about a science book/ Don't know much about the French I took.

To be fair, the Republican race is a particularly difficult kind of history test. In order to pass, a GOP candidate must persuade Americans to miss the '80s, fear the '90s, and start the current decade over without Bush. For some, like Romney and Giuliani, traveling back to the Reagan era has the additional benefit of rewinding past all the positions they've taken in years since.

Once again, Republican candidates and the American people are headed in different directions. The National Assessment of Educational Progress reported yesterday that while political leaders are doing their best to ignore history, young people are doing much better at it.

The educational standards movement appears to be paying off. Between 1994 and 2006, the number of fourth-graders performing at or above basic level in U.S. history jumped from 64 percent to 70 percent. Civics scores went up, too. Jay Mathews of the Washington Post points out that scores even rose among high-school seniors, who hadn't improved in any subject in the past eight years.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings was quick to attribute the progress to No Child Left Behind, glossing over the inconvenient fact that fourth-grade history scores rose slightly faster between 1994 and 2001 than in the years since NCLB was passed. In any case, if young Americans are making progress on these two subjects, Spellings' boss deserves the credit. At last, President Bush may have found the perfect excuse for his failures at home and abroad. The Imperial Presidency isn't a way to abuse power—it's a way to teach civics. Never mind Iraq's failures as a war—it has been a great history lesson.

If anything, the Bush administration might well be accused of teaching to the test. The NAEP report says that to perform at basic level in history, fourth-graders must be able to "interpret a presidential quotation." Give Bush credit—he has been quizzing those kids every day.

While Mickey Kaus may be despondent about where the Senate is headed on immigration, he should take heart that the next generation aces the issue. On the civics test, 75 percent of all fourth-graders correctly answered that noncitizens can't vote. If Monica Goodling were still around, those 9-year-olds would be made U.S. attorneys.

The nation's eighth-graders showed no progress on civics, but we can't fault Bush for trying. Consider this question from the eighth-grade test:

Teresia is a small country that has been invaded by its neighbor Corollia. The king of Teresia is a long-standing United States ally who has been living in exile since the Corollian invasion. Teresia is an important exporter of uranium; it sends most of its supply to members of the European Union. The king appeals to the United States and the United Nations for military help in driving Corollia from his country.

Identify two pieces of information NOT given above that you would need before you could decide whether or not the United States military should help Teresia. Explain why each piece of information would be important.

C'mon, kids! How many countries does the president have to invade before you start getting the right answer?

Only 13 precent of eighth-graders had an "acceptable" response, which is even lower than the president's own ratings. Just 3 percent of the responses were "complete"—so Bush is not the only one.

Bush can take some comfort as well from the sample answer in the NAEP report. That particular eighth-grader outperformed Bush by asking to know more about Corolla's motives and allies. But the student didn't ask anything about whether Teresia was really exporting uranium.

Of course, President Bush may be a great teacher, but how would he do on the test? The past six years have trained him well for one measure of basic fourth-grade achievement: "Students should know that the world is divided into many countries." Bush has spent enough time around the Coalition of the Unwilling to know that.

But other NAEP standards might be harder to meet. In civics, fourth-graders at the basic level should be able to "recognize that the president is an elected official" (somewhat more difficult since 2000) and "identify an illegitimate use of power" (which may have been Lynne Cheney's real objection to these standards all along).

The advanced achievement level for fourth-graders is harder still: "Given age-appropriate examples, they should recognize differences between power and authority and between limited and unlimited government." And there's just no getting past the section, "What Fourth-Graders Know." A "proficient" fourth-grader can name the two political parties. But to be considered "advanced," a fourth-grader must be able to "identify the legislative branch." By that standard, this administration could be stuck in grade school for a long time. ... 3:57 P.M. (link)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Hear Me Roar: These are tough times for the newspaper business, so editors everywhere should be grateful to Slate's parent company, the Washington Post, for an ingenious cost-saving measure—the reusable headline. Saturday's Post carried a story entitled, "Giuliani Tries To Clarify Abortion Stance." No matter how many times Giuliani addresses the subject, it's the only headline any newspaper will ever need.

The savings don't stop there. Today, the Post's Dan Balz was able to recycle Saturday's lede for his curtain-raiser on tonight's debate: "Much of the focus [is] likely to be on former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and his continuing effort to extricate himself from a controversy over his position on abortion."

This weekend, Giuliani was busy clarifying his abortion stance on Fox News Sunday. "Let's start with abortion and any confusion that remains about where you stand," Chris Wallace began. The more Giuliani tried to extricate himself, the more he had left to clear up.

Wallace asked, "Most Americans would feel passionately one way or the other. Why are you so indifferent to such a deeply held issue?" Giuliani insisted, "I'm very, very passionate about the issue." He proved how much he cares about abortion by repeatedly referring to the landmark case as "Roe against Wade." Moments later, when Wallace asked him if he'd be upset if Roe were overturned, Giuliani showed all the passion of Mike Dukakis. "I don't think it's a question of being disappointed or being happy about it," he said. Vive l'indifference!

On Friday, Giuliani tried to recast his views on abortion and guns as a profile in courage. On Sunday, he once again made clear that he was brave enough to pander. He promised not to change the pro-life Republican platform. He affirmed his support for abortion limits he used to oppose. He promised conservatives what they want most on abortion—strict constructionist judges. And as an example of what he means by judges not legislating from the bench, he praised the D.C. Circuit's recent decision to overturn a 1939 Supreme Court precedent on the Second Amendment.

Giuliani did manage to clarify one issue on Sunday. In fact, he offered what may be the single most definitive statement of his campaign so far: "I'm not a woman."

Wallace wasn't even trying to clear up any confusion on that score. Giuliani just wanted to show that his passions on the abortion issue only go so far:

"I believe abortion is wrong. I believe, as a personal matter, if it were my personal choice — and of course, it will never be my personal choice. I'm not a woman."

It's hardly news when a thrice-married man clarifies his stance that he is not a woman. But Giuliani went further, volunteering that he will never be a woman. Fox viewers can rest assured: Some options are off the table.

Yet just a few sentences later, Giuliani threw even that certainty into some doubt, telling Wallace:

"If you said to me, as a woman, 'I have an equally strong view of this as you do' … I would support that."

The strict constructionist reading of "If you said to me, as a woman" is clear: Giuliani thinks he's a woman. Another flip-flop! But a more liberal interpretation might reach the opposite conclusion: Giuliani thinks Chris Wallace is a woman.

No wonder Giuliani is losing the Republican base. He has done so many Inner Circle productions, he thinks "fair and balanced" is Rosalind in As You Like It—a man playing a woman playing a man playing a woman.

Either way, Giuliani's second point is as confusing as the first. Giuliani says he would happily defer not just to Chris Wallace but to any other woman who has "an equally strong view of this" as he does. Yet as Wallace demonstrated at the outset of the interview, it would be hard to find anyone in either gender as indifferent to the subject as Giuliani.

Despite his incredibly bad week, Giuliani still leads national polls. But in the more sophisticated political-futures markets, Giuliani shares are in free fall. Between Thursday and Monday, he dropped from 31 to 27 on Intrade, while McCain jumped from 23.5 to 29.5.

If this is clarity, the Giuliani campaign can't afford much more of it. On Mother's Day, the mayor made clear he is not now nor never will be a woman. Within hours, his stock plunged 5 percent. ... 12:59 P.M. (link)

Friday, May 11, 2007

Multiple Choice: In 1960, JFK went before the Greater Houston Ministerial Association to put the Catholic issue behind him. Today, Rudy Giuliani spoke at Houston Baptist University in yet another attempt to put the abortion issue behind him. JFK wanted to prove that in America, there is no religious test to become president. As he labors to explain his ever-changing heart on choice, Giuliani seems determined to prove that there is no history test, either.

Giuliani is not alone. Mitt Romney doesn't want a religious test or a history test. His about-face on abortion is even less convincing than Giuliani's. Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee, and Tom Tancredo, who don't believe in evolution, want to prove there's no science test. All the Republican candidates are supply-siders, hoping to prove there's still no math test.

As a last resort, Giuliani now wants to turn his abortion stand into a badge of honor. The press will give him credit for setting up a showdown with social conservatives. Today's Times gave the Giuliani campaign the headline they want: "Can the G.O.P. Accept Giuliani's Abortion Stance?" But Giuliani's abortion stance is such a muddle, the issue is not whether a pro-choice candidate can win in a pro-life party. It's whether a campaign predicated on leadership can survive a candidate who has already said he was for Roe before he was against it.

Emily Bazelon made a good case for why voters have a right to judge Giuliani's presidential bid by his disastrous home life. Here's another reason: His presidential bid is rapidly starting to mirror his disastrous home life. Giuliani seems to have the same attitude toward his abortion positions that he has shown toward marriage—who's counting?

The Times offers a helpful interactive timeline of "Giuliani on Abortion." In 1989, he was for public funding. In 1993, he called choice a constitutional right. In 2000, he opposed a ban on late-term abortions. Last month, he divorced himself from his previous stands on public funding and late-term. This month, he sought to annul his position on choice as a constitutional right. Now he's of three minds: Abortion is "morally wrong," women should be able to make their own choice, and so should conservative judges.

Giuliani's decision to buck his party on abortion would be refreshing and courageous, if he hadn't already tried so hard to have it both ways on the issue. He tells conservative audiences not to worry about his pro-choice record because he personally "hates" abortion and will appoint judges like Scalia, Roberts, and Alito. He boasts that during his tenure as mayor, abortions dropped 16 percent—but doesn't mention that abortions nationwide dropped 15 percent over the same period or that New York City still has an abortion rate three times the national average.

The Giuliani campaign trotted out the perfect man to vouch for the mayor's credentials: Steve Forbes, who was pro-choice in his first presidential bid and pro-life in his second. "Thanks to Giuliani's success on welfare reform, where rolls were cut 60%, the abortion rate in New York City fell faster than the national average," Forbes told RealClearPolitics. "Rudy may be pro-choice—and I happen to be pro-life—but the policies he pursued help the pro-life cause."

Welfare reform has done a great deal to promote work, demand responsibility, and reduce poverty, but even ardent proponents like me have trouble crediting it with short-term reductions in abortion. Most conservative welfare reformers had the opposite worry—that a concerted effort to reduce illegitimacy might cause a spike in abortions. During the 1996 welfare reform debate, Senate Republicans rejected House plans to deny benefits to unwed teen mothers and cap benefits for mothers who had additional children on welfare for that very reason—Catholic conservatives feared those provisions would make abortion go up. A plan to reward states for reducing out-of-wedlock births was rewritten to deny the bonus to states where abortion rates increased at the same time. Of course, Giuliani urged Clinton to veto the 1996 welfare reform bill, so don't be surprised if he now claims his moral opposition to abortion as the reason.

Why does the choice issue so often manage to turn grown men into pretzels? Conservative doubts over Giuliani's abortion position were hardly a surprise attack. Yet judging from his halting response so far, the same man who knew just what to do on 9/11 would have been stumped for months if al-Qaida had simply sent him a NARAL questionnaire.

Charles Krauthammer says the fault is with Roe, not Giuliani. But that's letting him off the hook too easily—akin to Giuliani saying, "the court made me do it, and the justices I appoint may or may not undo it." Rich Lowry of the National Review offered a more persuasive explanation of Giuliani's troubles with the issue: "One of the big ironies for him is he doesn't care about abortion." If Giuliani had the courage to say that, we might start to believe him. ... 3:23 P.M. (link)

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Mood Ring: If malaise, like revenge, is a dish best served cold, the Bush administration is keeping Republicans exceedingly well-fed. In the latest Newsweek poll, the president matched Jimmy Carter's record low with a 28 percent approval rating. It took Richard Nixon a quarter-century to have Seven Crises. For George W. Bush, seven crises is a pretty good week.

Republican presidential candidates are trying their hardest to look on the bright side. At last week's debate at the Reagan Library, the field mentioned optimism more often than bin Laden. Giuliani chanted the word four times—three times in a single answer. Bush's favorite word, resolve, didn't come up once.

Republicans may be right to miss Reagan—not because his policies worked, but because the country has so soured on their party that only an actor could still put on a happy face. That's the role many Republicans have scripted for Fred Thompson. They don't much care what he stands for, provided he can cheer Republicans up.

If that's his goal, Thompson got off to an odd start in an address to Orange County conservatives this weekend. Jonathan Martin, who covers Republicans for the Politico, said Thompson's speech was "low key and at times meandering." Robert Novak, conservatism's biggest grump, called it "a downer." (Ironically, the best part of Thompson's speech was his joke that he'd spent the whole night trying to keep Novak from seeing his notes.)

Far from helping Republicans escape their despair, Thompson couldn't stop reminding them of it. "We've had our ups and our downs," he said, insisting that the party's post-Watergate gloom wasn't as bad as it seemed at the time. He warned that we're "even hearing that old malaise talk we used to hear," then indulged in some, noting that there's "some concern that maybe we're slipping away like all the great powers have."

Thompson echoed another actor-turned-politician by repeatedly borrowing Arnold Schwarzenegger's trademark tic, "and things of that nature." He closed his speech by inadvertently giving a good impression of Reagan's famous "Highway 1" closing statement in the second 1984 debate. In Thompson's rambling story, a group of sixth-graders in North Hollywood asked him why he went into politics. The question made him think back to Washington, Lincoln, the Revolutionary War, and our common heritage. The answer: not clear.

But the award for most surprising performance by an anecdote in a supporting role goes to two other historical cameos in Thompson's speech. In a rare turn for the 2008 Republican campaign trail, Thompson praised Wendell Willkie, the Republican nominee who lost the 1940 election in a landslide but became one of FDR's most important allies.

More remarkably, Thompson went out of his way to stick up for perhaps the greatest wimp of the 20th century: Neville Chamberlain. The Bush administration has spent the last six years trying to tie Democrats to Neville Chamberlain. Don't even ask how he got there, but Thompson was working off a different set of talking points. He didn't defend Chamberlain's record, but he did paraphrase Churchill's eulogy to say, "Neville Chamberlain marched in the ranks of honor."

Perhaps that was Thompson's indirect way of saying something nice about Bush. The next line in Churchill's eulogy fits Bush even better: "It fell to [him] in one of the supreme crises of the world to be contradicted by events, to be disappointed in his hopes, and to be deceived and cheated by a wicked man." More likely, Thompson was just making the noble point that compared with politicians today, Churchill was a class act.

In any case, it's a modern political first: Fred Thompson could go down in history as the only presidential candidate in either party to put in a good word for Neville Chamberlain.

Could this be the future of conservatism? Will Republican candidates try to prove they're not the next George W. Bush by leaving open the possibility of being the next Neville Chamberlain?

In 2000, Bush invented compassionate conservatism to distance himself from Newt Gingrich. The GOP's challenge is even greater in 2008, but Thompson may have found the answer: appeasement conservatism. With a Republican Party that loses elections as gracefully as Willkie and loses wars as pre-emptively as Chamberlain, America will forget the Bush presidency ever happened. ... 1:54 P.M. (link)

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Animal Farm: As if the GOP needed any more bad omens, this week the Philadelphia Zoo became the latest to join a national trend—giving up on elephants. Now the press can start looking for the next sign of the Republican apocalypse: gun owners turning in their pickup trucks and riding donkeys to work.

Perhaps because zoos represent the world the way man would have made it, they have long been a leading political indicator. In retrospect, China's seemingly innocent gift of pandas to the United States three decades ago should have been an obvious warning of its desire for global economic hegemony. Last week, we had to beg our Chinese bankers to let a panda cub that was born right here in America stay a couple more years at the National Zoo. When the T-bills come due for our national debt, they may not be so forgiving.

All of Europe seems to have swooned for Knut, an adorable polar bear cub in the Berlin Zoo who has become the German Al Gore: Reports of his death were premature, and he's  a constant reminder of the urgency of climate change.

The pachyderm sent packing in Philadelphia is a female called Dulary, which sounds more like the name of a bad Clinton impersonator at right-wing conventions. The elephant's new home is a 2,700-acre sanctuary in Tennessee that for all we know may be Fred Thompson's campaign headquarters.

To most Republicans these days, the place must sound like heaven. It has a Kaus-like fence to keep out unwanted immigrants. The only people allowed to visit are big donors.

According to a Humane Society official, "The Elephant Sanctuary represents the future of enlightened captive elephant management"—a concept very much on the minds of every Republican presidential candidate. The Republican field could learn a great deal from the Tennessee program, especially its "non-invasive research on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder." If only the sanctuary had done some nontraumatic research on post-invasion stress disorder.

The sanctuary even has its own YouTube—the Elecam. Experts there believe that the best strategy to revive the ailing captive elephant population is to replace human contact with video teleconferencing. Apparently, the Romney campaign has adopted the same strategy.

Tonight, Republican candidates will gather to debate the GOP's future at the Reagan Library, the ultimate elephant sanctuary. The party is ailing, and the captives are restless. Don't be surprised if the field heeds the words of the Elephant Sanctuary Web site: "Our [elephants] are not required to perform or entertain for the public; instead, they are encouraged to live like elephants." Let Reagan be Reagan! ... 5:05 P.M. (link)

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Wonks in the Palfrey: Something caught my eye when ABC News reported that one of the next clients D.C. madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey will out is the head of a Washington think tank. Perhaps it's the dark secret I've spent years trying to conceal: I'm the head of a Washington think tank.

That's how it is on a dark night in a Think Tank Town that doesn't know how to keep its secrets. Thousands of my fellow propeller heads aren't worried that our names will turn up on Palfrey's list, because our idea of an escort service is the GPS system in our cars.

Palfrey told ABC that the client in question runs a conservative think tank. That takes most of us out of the running, but it begs the question: What does it mean to be a conservative in the sexual-fantasy business?

Until the Bush years, we think-tankers could only dream of being mired in scandal. In high school, nerds don't get sent to the principal's office unless they threaten to blow up the building. Washington is the same way: Wonks get the white papers; hacks get the indictments. Hacks routinely make the gossip pages; wonks can't even make Wonkette. TV crews film hacks taking out their garbage and emerging from federal courtrooms; wonks are the bald spots in the audience at seminars on C-SPAN.

Don't get me wrong—wonks have a rich fantasy life. Only a few go so far as Lynne Cheney, who penned steamy sex scenes as a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. The rest of our daydreams are more prosaic—like matching budget authority and outlays, or revising the definition of poverty, now hopelessly out of date. When we're feeling especially frisky, wonks close our eyes and imagine the Alternative Minimum Tax being fixed.

President Bush has no use for wonks, and hacks have grabbed the headlines in most Bush scandals. But the sheer volume of scandal in the Bush administration has made it possible for even a few eggheads to get a piece of the action. Paul Wolfowitz used to be a classic Washington academic—dean of a public-policy school and charter member of a neoconservative think tank. But at the World Bank, he has pulled off the rarest of feats—a wonk sex scandal, which is just as you'd expect: a dull morass of committee meetings, personnel classifications, and contracts.

When Claude Allen, Bush's domestic-policy adviser, was arrested last year for refund fraud, Jacob Weisberg wrote that no one should be surprised: "The more we hear about what Allen is accused of, the less it sounds like kleptomania and the more it sounds like an application of Bush economic policy."

Now that a doctrinaire deputy secretary of state, a discredited military theorist, and the head of a conservative think tank have made the madam's list, we shouldn't be shocked, either. The medium is the massage: Over the past six years, the Bush administration has turned conservatism into a booming fantasy business.

Back when Randall Tobias was just a hypocritical ideologue, and not yet a casualty of scandal, a congressman accused the former corporate executive of "tycoonitis." The next name to drop may be a case of think-tank-itis—one implausible fantasy leading to another.

The Bush administration and the Palfrey scandal share the same moral: Be careful what you wish for. Neoconservatism was a thriving, vibrant, ideological movement until Bush actually did what they dreamed of. The supply-side theory that cutting taxes would boost revenues and shrink government was such a perfect fantasy that conservatives can't stand the inconvenient reality that it doesn't work.

Republicans' biggest problem is not that Washington is mired in one scandal after another, or that the Bush administration has become one long letter of resignation. The real problem is that GOP-primary voters keep demanding that candidates indulge the same economic and international fantasies, when Americans have had enough of politics as a fantasy business.

In the clash of civilizations between ideology and thought, reality was destined to emerge the loser. As the ivory towers of politics, think tanks play an unlikely role. Politics is the art of the possible; ivory towers are monuments to the impossible. Mainstream think tanks bridge that gap because the arcane, inertial business of government doesn't lend itself easily to castles in the air.

But if think tanks require a certain suspension of disbelief, ideological think tanks require something more miraculous: the suspension of reality whenever it's at odds with belief. The dreamer looks at the world as it might be and asks, "Why not?" The ideologue looks at the world as it is and says, "No, it's not."

As we've now seen far too often, the result is scandalous. It's bad enough when ideology is a substitute for thought. But when the pressures of reality are too great, ideology becomes something worse: thought's masseuse. ... 2:28 P.M. (link)

Monday, Apr. 23, 2007

Misfire: George H.W. Bush is famous for saying, "Read my lips," but the three words that best captured the way America felt during the first Bush administration were a catch phrase from Dana Carvey—"not gonna happen." The country faced a host of daunting social and economic problems, from rising crime rates to shrinking incomes to deep divisions that burst into view in South Central Los Angeles. But what troubled people most was that no matter how urgent the problem, the answer from Washington was always the same: "not gonna happen."

One Bush later, we find ourselves in the same grim mood today. We face a series of monumental challenges—Iraq, climate change, a vanishing social contract. Such problems would be breathtakingly difficult in any era but seem virtually impossible in this one. Glaciers move faster than our politics, and both are receding.

We have good reason to feel this way. Nothing happened after Hurricane Katrina. Nothing new ever seems to happen in Iraq. Even when something appears to happen, such as last week's decision on abortion, we know better: Nothing's happening when the same issues never go away.

But last week's response to the Virginia Tech tragedy made it official: Not-Gonna-Happen Days are here again. Across the political spectrum, commentators reached the same conclusion. Whatever they think ought to be done to prevent future tragedies, they're unanimous on one point: We're not going to do it.

Even in the ivory towers, where the laws of political gravity don't apply, the dreamers were silent. For its online feature, Think Tank Town, the Washington Post asked a variety of scholars, "How can policies be improved in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings?" All the posts had more or less the same headlines: "The Real Problem Transcends Policy," "Gun Control Doesn't Fit This Crime," "Not Every Tragedy Has a Solution," "Evil Is Always With Us." Another post concluded, "There is not much we can or should do." Another warned not to pass new laws because existing ones might be the culprit. No scholar proposed much of anything on guns.

Granted, most of the scholars in the Post survey come from center-right think tanks and have ideological biases toward doing nothing. But they're not the only ones the Post asked. The center-left think tanks on the Post's list—like Brookings and the Center for American Progress—didn't even bother to show up.

Those of us who work in think tanks are supposed to come up with ideas with little or no chance of passage. Yet in this age of policy ennui, even people who get paid to be hopelessly unrealistic can't suspend disbelief on guns.

I grew up in gun country, and I know what it's like to be strafed by the NRA. I understand why Democrats from red states don't want to risk the next election on an issue of little interest back home. But over the long haul, it is a substantive and political mistake to duck the issue altogether. Guns are a cultural issue but also a crime one—and both parties should have learned over the years that they dodge any crime issue at their peril.

The substantive case for common-sense gun crime and safety measures is clear enough. When Clinton signed the Brady Bill in 1993—after seven years of talk that it would never happen—the NRA said the new law was pointless. In the years since, it has kept handguns out of the hands of tens of thousands of criminals, stalkers, and troubled individuals. If Virginia had properly interpreted the law, it probably would have stopped Cho from buying the guns that wreaked havoc at Virginia Tech.

When the 1994 crime bill banned the manufacture of high-capacity ammunition clips, the NRA once again went ballistic. The bill wasn't as tough as it should have been, because NRA sympathizers in Congress grandfathered existing clips. But the ban kept more clips from flooding the market. The best testimony to its impact is how much gun manufacturers tout that it has lapsed. TopGlock.com offers "new Glock factory magazines that are legal under the repeal of the 1994 Assault Weapons bill." The 15-round clip Cho used with his Glock semiautomatic pistol is on sale for $19.72. TopGlock advertises the clips on a "sunset" page (to mark the law's sunset), which you can access by clicking on the ad for ammunition clips that's just above the tribute to the victims at Virginia Tech.

The political case for not running for cover on guns is equally straightforward. Unlike most politicians, voters are not ideological about crime. They don't care what it takes, they just want it to go down. The Brady Bill and the clip ban passed because the most influential gun owners in America—police officers and sheriffs—were tired of being outgunned by drug lords, madmen, and thugs.

When Democrats ignore the gun issue, they think about the political bullet they're dodging but not about the opportunity they'll miss. In the 1980s, Republicans talked tough on crime and ran ads about Willie Horton but sat on their hands while the crime rate went up. When Bill Clinton promised to try everything to fight crime—with more police officers on the street, and fewer guns—police organizations dropped their support for the GOP and stood behind him instead.

The current political calculus is that guns cost Gore the 2000 election by denying him West Virginia and his home state of Tennessee. This argument might be more convincing if Gore hadn't essentially carried the gun-mad state of Florida. In some states, the gun issue made it more difficult for Gore to bridge the cultural divide but hardly caused it. Four years ago, Gore and Clinton carried those same states with the same position on guns and the memory of the assault-weapons ban much fresher in voters' minds.

Not so long ago, in fact, Republicans were the ones who feared the gun issue. At his first campaign stop en route to the 1996 Democratic convention, Clinton stood with police officers to promise that in his second term, he would expand the Brady Bill to cover people with histories of domestic violence. Republicans in Congress were so afraid guns would hurt them in the suburbs, they sent Clinton the Brady expansion a few weeks later.

In those days, Rudy Giuliani was still in favor of tough gun-crime laws, either because he believed in them as a former prosecutor or because they were wildly popular. Giuliani's politics have changed, but contrary to conventional wisdom, the politics of guns have not. If gun laws were a true third rail, Michael Bloomberg—who wants to be president as much as any candidate in the race—wouldn't be seizing the opening to launch a national crusade around them.

Voters aren't the obstacle to banning high-capacity clips or closing the gun-show loophole; they support those measures by broad margins. The real hurdle is finding leaders who are willing to get tough on crime, no matter where they find it—and who have the standing to prove they know the difference between hunters and criminals. Bill Clinton wasn't a lifelong hunter, like Mitt Romney. He didn't need to be. He was a Bubba.

In recent years, Democrats have suffered a Bubba shortage. But Democratic Bubbas are making a comeback in the South, Midwest, and West. As they gain confidence, they will realize, as Clinton did, that real Bubbas look to cops for approval, not the NRA.

As it happens, one Bubba is in a unique position to lead a hard-headed look at gun laws and gun-crime enforcement: the new senator from Virginia, Jim Webb. Webb is one of the most independent-minded senators in memory and an outspoken man of principle. With an aide who was arrested for bringing a loaded gun into his Senate office, he has an unassailable pro-gun record. Moreover, the state Webb represents is deep in grief over a tragedy that underscores points that both the NRA and gun-control proponents have made—that our gun laws have too many loopholes and that existing laws need to be better enforced. Webb could even lead the effort hand in hand with his Republican colleague, Sen. John Warner, who voted against the assault ban in 1994 but stood with police officers in opposing its repeal in 2004.

A thorough look at gun laws might not lead in predictable ways. But the gun debate desperately needs what Webb and Warner could bring—a preference for independence over ideology, and the moral authority that comes from rejecting the politics of "not gonna happen" in favor of trying to find ways to prevent senseless crimes from happening again. ... 2:25 P.M. (link)

Monday, Apr. 16, 2007

The Gap: While Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama offer Democrats a choice of glass ceilings, George Bush has left Republicans desperate to keep from falling through the glass floor. Making history is not an option when being made history is the party's foremost concern. So while the GOP could nominate its first Mormon or its first big-city mayor, the party seems more intent on finding its second Reagan.

For that role, Fred Thompson seems a casting director's dream. Like Reagan, he softens his conservatism with a dose of practiced charm. Republican strategists think he's the perfect combination – a man's man with the Q Score to appeal as well to women.

The gender gap is often seen as a Democratic strength: More women vote, and women tend to like Democrats better. In practice, it takes two to tango. Democrats did well in 2006 by winning back men; Bush won in 2004 by cutting his losses among women.

So far, Republican hopefuls are having a tough time with gender balance. McCain is a guy's guy, standing up for a war that most women oppose. Giuliani has women's clothes and a comb-over. Romney has a gap with both genders: Women think he's the next Thomas E. Dewey, the little man on the wedding cake; men think he's proof we were right never to trust The Dry Look.

For such a confused party, Fred Thompson seems like a knight in shining loafers. Not only can he play the tough guy in Tom Clancy movies, he's the affable D.A. on "Law & Order" – the show Michael Kinsley famously called "The Secret Vice of Power Women."

Conservatives pushing Thompson's candidacy routinely tout his crossover appeal. In a glowing column last month, former Wall Street Journal editorial editor John Fund wrote, "Fan blogs for 'Law and Order' note that since the show is especially popular among women, a Thompson race could help close the GOP's 'gender gap.'"

The "Law & Order" vote is more contested than you might think. If Michael Bloomberg doesn't run, Thompson's co-star Sam Waterston could win the nomination for the independent Unity08 ticket. Waterston's predecessor, Michael Moriarty, says he is running for president as a Libertarian. Since Jerry Orbach is dead, Democrats would be lucky to get S. Epatha Merkerson or Benjamin Bratt.

Of course, Republicans haven't considered the dark side of a Thompson run. Under the fairness doctrine, whenever one of Thompson's movies or shows airs on television, stations will have to grant opponents equal time. The result: no more "Law & Order" reruns with Fred Thompson. In fact, with so many past and present cast members in the race, even a show as prolific as "Law & Order" could be driven out of syndication altogether. If that happens, the Power Women backlash could destroy Republican prospects for decades.

The show itself isn't doing so hot, either. For its 17th season, L&O was moved to its worst slot – Fridays – and saw ratings plummet. Republicans who think Thompson is coming to the GOP's rescue might look again: He may be jumping from one sinking ship to another.

But those aren't the only risks Republicans run with Thompson. The real problem with choosing Fred Thompson to lead the GOP across the gender gap is more profound: Even Republican women don't seem to like him.

In two recent polls, Thompson has a gender gap, all right, but in the wrong direction. He does OK with men, but is trailing badly with women. In last week's Los Angeles Times poll, he's running first among religious conservatives, a strong second among men, and a poor third – 20 points behind frontrunner Giuliani – among women. In a Zogby poll, Thompson did twice as well among men as among women. At only 6% among women, he was at the back of the pack, tied with Ron Paul.

From Mike Kinsley to John Fund, pundits agree that women love "Law & Order." But the polls also seem to agree that women don't love Thompson. In other words, the gender-gap argument for his candidacy has it backwards: Fred Thompson does worst among those who know him best – women.

Five years ago, when he broke the story of women's obsession with the show, Kinsley noted that his wife had no interest in watching current episodes:

She couldn't tell you what night it's on and has no view about what this country is coming to when a man like Fred Thompson can be plucked from the obscurity of the United States Senate and entrusted with the responsibility of running the prosecutor's office on Law & Order.

Kinsley was right about Thompson, but wasn't giving his wise and powerful wife enough credit. She was so far ahead of the curve, she was skipping the Thompson episodes on purpose. Never underestimate the power of Power Women, as Fred Thompson is about to find out. ... 5:02 P.M. (link)

Monday, Apr. 9, 2007

Cherchez Lapin:From missile defense to concealed weapons, Republicans have long sold themselves as the party to turn to for security. Mitt Romney is no exception. During a telephone question-and-answer session in Iowa last week, one caller told Romney, "You sound like a guy who sells home security systems."

Every presidential candidate is a traveling salesman, but Romney's rootlessness makes him more Willy Loman-esque than others. Last week, his sales prowess and slickness were both on display: He raised more money than any other Republican, then promptly bought himself seven figures' worth of bad publicity by overselling his hunting past.

Romney is a nomadic creature, so his past is an elusive prey. To find out whether he'd ever applied for a hunting license, the Associated Press had to ask officials in four states: Michigan (where he grew up), Massachusetts (where he went to graduate school and served as governor), Utah (where he went to college, ran an Olympics, and owns a ski home), and New Hampshire (where he is running for president and owns a lake house).

The nationwide hunt came up empty: Romney didn't apply for any hunting licenses, and not one of his vacation homes is a hunting lodge.

But the Romney campaign should not lose heart. Perhaps this photo will bring back hunting memories from the year he lived in France. Or this one.

Indeed, to repair his image with gun lovers on the right, Romney might want to promise that he will never let hunting in America go the way of hunting in France. Not only are licenses required, but it takes weeks—and 225 Euros—for a foreigner to get one. Predictably, one French hunting Web site warns Americans: "War or defense weapons forbidden."

Like the British, the French used to hunt rabbits with ferrets. Today, the award-winning rabbit chaser is the Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen. The one problem for Romney: The Petit Basset's small stature, long ears, and furry coat run the risk that a novice hunter might not be able to tell dog and bunny apart.

Le Club de Griffon Vendeen says that for a long time, Petit Bassets were "semi-crooked," but are now "naturally endowed with all moral qualities which presuppose the passion for hunting."  These days, Romney would kill for a review like that.

The honest excuse for not hunting rabbit since he was a teenager is that Romney was too busy running for president. Obviously, he didn't realize that the worlds of rabbit-hunting and vote-hunting have more in common than one might think. The home page of the American Rabbit Hound Association reads like every political journalist's analysis of the 2008 presidential race. The ARHA divides competitive hounds into four categories: "Big Pack,"  "Little Pack,"  "Gun Dogs," and  "Progressive Pack." Romney's no Gun Dog—he's running with the Big Pack of McCain and Giuliani, in hopes of facing whichever competitor emerges from the Democrats' Progressive Pack.

This weekend, the Little Pack showed that when there's blood on the trail, hounds in the Big Pack had better watch their backs. Little Pack member Mike Huckabee, desperate to escape the beta male rut, contrasted Romney's gun pander with what he termed Giuliani's "real gutsy move" to defend public funding for abortion. In truth, Huckabee was shooting with both barrels, implying that Romney's a liar and Giuliani a principled liberal.

When Romney was a little boy, he must have seen the Warner Brothers classic, Duck! Rabbit! Duck!, in which Daffy Duck writes Elmer Fudd a license to shoot rabbit, and Bugs Bunny gives him license to shoot everything else. The cartoon was the second in a trilogy that began with Rabbit Seasoning and ended with Rabbit Fire. It's easy to see why Duck! Rabbit! Duck! might have made the biggest impression on Romney, if not some of his future rivals: According to Answers.com, "This is the only cartoon in the trilogy where Bugs Bunny does not crossdress."

On Friday, Romney tried to defend himself by comparing himself to another itinerant millionaire, Jed Clampett, who struck oil when he shot the ground. But to get back on track, Romney needs to look for modern inspiration. A fellow Has-Been recommends this YouTube clip. Like Romney himself, the video may not be endowed with a French hound's moral qualities, but the passion for hunting is never in doubt. ... 4:44 P.M. (link)

Friday, Apr. 6, 2007

Disarmament: If you had to pick the issue most responsible for the two most consequential Republican victories of the last two decades—1994 and 2000—it might well be guns. In 1994, many Democrats lost their seats for supporting an assault weapons ban. In the 2000 primaries, Bill Bradley made gun control a central issue, and Al Gore paid the price that fall: The gun-owning half of the electorate supported Bush 61-39; households without guns went for Gore 58-39.

Although Democrats shied away from the gun issue in 2004, it still cost them. Twelve days before the election, John Kerry went goose hunting in Ohio, which the press dismissed as a desperate photo op. The same day, Dick Cheney called Kerry's new camouflage jacket "an October disguise" and told Ohio voters that "the Second Amendment is more than just a photo opportunity." Ohio gave Republicans the election—and Harry Whittington learned Cheney was willing to put his muzzle where his mouth was.

In 2008, Republicans may finally run out of ammo. By electing a Republican administration that once promised it a desk in the Oval Office, the NRA took guns off the agenda—which also made the group's scare tactics less credible than ever. During their time in the Senate, the Democratic front-runners have cast precious few votes on gun issues.

Meanwhile, the sharp drop in violent crime in the last decade and the absence of a Washington gun debate in this one have largely taken gun policy off the front pages. Of late, the courts are the only ones making gun headlines. If the Supreme Court eventually agrees with the D.C. Circuit that Washington's handgun ban is unconstitutional, the NRA might win the battle but lose the war. It could become a lot harder to block crime-fighting measures like closing the gun show loophole if the NRA can no longer convince anyone that the Second Amendment is under siege.

But Republicans' biggest problem in making this a wedge issue in 2008 is that when it comes to guns, their likely nominees are not as in-your-face as Cheney. John McCain has spent his life around guns but has worked valiantly to try to stop criminal purchases at gun shows. In 1994, Rudy Giuliani bravely spoke out in favor of the assault weapons ban. So far, he hasn't changed his story to claim it was part of a secret plan to elect a Republican Congress.

This week, Mitt Romney may have cooked his own goose by insisting that going hunting twice in his life makes him a "lifelong hunter." If Romney believes that, there's a camouflage jacket in Ohio that John Kerry would like to sell him.

Romney's two hunting trips were 44 years apart—with cousins in Idaho at age 15, and with Republican governors last year at 59. At that pace, his aim must already be pretty bad now— but stay away from his next outing at age 103.

His campaign made matters worse by touting Romney's NRA membership. It turns out he has been a lifelong member since he joined last year.

Like so many hunting stories, Romney's keeps getting better. Yesterday, he told Republicans in Indianapolis that he has gone hunting on other occasions, just not for big game. "I'm not a big-game hunter," the Indianapolis Star quoted him saying. "I've always been a rodent and rabbit hunter. ... Small animals and varmints."

No wonder conservatives feel bagged and plucked. Suddenly, conservatism has lost its mojo, and its license.

A year ago, Dick Cheney didn't let a few quail stop him from hunting the biggest game possible, a 78-year-old lawyer. Ronald Reagan wasn't elected because America was haunted by the portrayal of its impotence in a movie called The Rabbit Hunter.

In the old days, Republican presidents lived to go after big game, not ground squirrels. Reagan had the Soviet bear. Both Bushes had Saddam Hussein. America fell in love with teddy bears because a cub was the first big game Teddy Roosevelt didn't kill.

Those days are gone. The United States may face great challenges ahead, from energy independence to competing with India and China to winning the war on terror. But if Romney is any indication, the future of conservatism is limited to shooting BBs at varmints.

For years, the NRA has told its members to vote Republican, or the Democrat will take their guns away. Twice-in-a-lifetime Romney gives Democrats a once-in-a-lifetime chance to fire back: At least our nominee will never brag about hunting rodents. ... 2:22 P.M. (link)

Wednesday, Apr. 4, 2007

I Dream of Genie: When Steve Forbes endorsed him last Wednesday, Rudy Giuliani appeared to return the favor by dropping his longtime opposition to a flat tax and embracing Forbes' pet idea. As the New York Times reported, Giuliani said that if there were no federal income tax, "maybe I'd suggest not doing it at all, but if we were going to do it, a flat tax would make a lot of sense." It looked like a pawn-for-pawn swap, one dubious cause deserving another.

Everyone knew Giuliani's supply-side stance was a head fake meant to fool social conservatives. "We're going to talk for a long time about the ways we plan to reduce taxes," Giuliani told Iowans on Tuesday. As he explained to the Des Moines Register, "That's a way of appealing to Republicans who may have somewhat different views on social issues."

But now it turns out that Giuliani was conning Forbes as well. As Jason Horowitz blogs in the New York Observer, Giuliani said this weekend that he was just kidding about the flat tax:

"I didn't favor it, I said something academic," Giuliani said at a press conference in Florida on Saturday, in response to a reporter asking him why he had switched from opposing a flat tax to favoring it. "What I said was, and it was not a joke, but it was half-jocular, was if we didn't have an income tax...what would I favor?

"First I would favor no tax," he said laughing and turning to his wife Judith, who duly smiled back. "That would be my first position. My second position would probably be a flat tax."

But, he said, the tax "would probably not be feasible."

As an economic conservative who spent his last campaign professing to be a social conservative, Forbes is no stranger to head fakes. But Giuliani just taught him a lesson in kabuki conservatism: Always get it in writing!

Every campaign has its share of flip-flops and the occasional flip-flop-flip. Giuliani has invented a new form—the Flip-Flop-Flat.

Instead of retracting his previous statement, the former prosecutor introduced a new loophole for his defense, explaining his comments as "academic." Giuliani wasn't endorsing a flat tax in reality; he was endorsing it in theory—which, serendipitously, is the only place a flat tax might work. The risk is that a rival campaign will launch a 10-second attack ad of Giuliani mouthing words that would strike fear in the hearts of conservatives everywhere: "I said something academic."

But Giuliani didn't stop there. His flip-flop then went where no Romney has gone before, into a parallel universe where political gravity does not apply. Lawyers call it "arguing in the alternative"—making a second and seemingly contradictory argument, in case judge and jury don't buy the first. As an example of this kind of reasoning, Wikipedia cites Bart Simpson: "I didn't do it, no one saw me do it, you can't prove anything!"

Romney has learned the hard way that flip-flopping is a messy business, because the flip-flopper has to make up an excuse for changing his mind, when everyone knows the real reason is politics. Arguing in the alternative is flip-flopping without the flap. Giuliani claims he wasn't actually embracing a flat tax; he was saying that if there were no federal income tax, he might embrace it.

Giuliani uncorks a political genie: With his first wish, he would get rid of the income tax. His second wish would be for a flat tax. And since neither of those is feasible, his third wish is that we forget his first two.

A conventional flip-flopper is limited to two positions: his old one and his new one. Giuliani seems to be a political polytheist, who thinks a man can have as many positions as he wants. He even refers to them that way, as "my first position" and "my second position." Then there is his third and current position, which does not smile upon the other two.

Perhaps to distinguish himself from the other two Republican front-runners, Giuliani has found a third way between flip-flopping and straight talk. He calls it half-jocularity. That's not a bad description. He wasn't joking (which is why nobo

          Rudy's Choice        

Friday, May 11, 2007

Multiple Choice: In 1960, JFK went before the Greater Houston Ministerial Association to put the Catholic issue behind him. Today, Rudy Giuliani spoke at Houston Baptist University in yet another attempt to put the abortion issue behind him. JFK wanted to prove that in America, there is no religious test to become president. As he labors to explain his ever-changing heart on choice, Giuliani seems determined to prove that there is no history test, either.

Giuliani is not alone. Mitt Romney doesn't want a religious test or a history test. His about-face on abortion is even less convincing than Giuliani's. Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee, and Tom Tancredo, who don't believe in evolution, want to prove there's no science test. All the Republican candidates are supply-siders, hoping to prove there's still no math test.

As a last resort, Giuliani now wants to turn his abortion stand into a badge of honor. The press will give him credit for setting up a showdown with social conservatives. Today's Times gave the Giuliani campaign the headline they want: "Can the G.O.P. Accept Giuliani's Abortion Stance?" But Giuliani's abortion stance is such a muddle, the issue is not whether a pro-choice candidate can win in a pro-life party. It's whether a campaign predicated on leadership can survive a candidate who has already said he was for Roe before he was against it.

Emily Bazelon made a good case for why voters have a right to judge Giuliani's presidential bid by his disastrous home life. Here's another reason: His presidential bid is rapidly starting to mirror his disastrous home life. Giuliani seems to have the same attitude toward his abortion positions that he has shown toward marriage—who's counting?

The Times offers a helpful interactive timeline of "Giuliani on Abortion." In 1989, he was for public funding. In 1993, he called choice a constitutional right. In 2000, he opposed a ban on late-term abortions. Last month, he divorced himself from his previous stands on public funding and late-term. This month, he sought to annul his position on choice as a constitutional right. Now he's of three minds: Abortion is "morally wrong," women should be able to make their own choice, and so should conservative judges.

Giuliani's decision to buck his party on abortion would be refreshing and courageous, if he hadn't already tried so hard to have it both ways on the issue. He tells conservative audiences not to worry about his pro-choice record because he personally "hates" abortion and will appoint judges like Scalia, Roberts, and Alito. He boasts that during his tenure as mayor, abortions dropped 16 percent—but doesn't mention that abortions nationwide dropped 15 percent over the same period or that New York City still has an abortion rate three times the national average.

The Giuliani campaign trotted out the perfect man to vouch for the mayor's credentials: Steve Forbes, who was pro-choice in his first presidential bid and pro-life in his second. "Thanks to Giuliani's success on welfare reform, where rolls were cut 60%, the abortion rate in New York City fell faster than the national average," Forbes told RealClearPolitics. "Rudy may be pro-choice—and I happen to be pro-life—but the policies he pursued help the pro-life cause."

Welfare reform has done a great deal to promote work, demand responsibility, and reduce poverty, but even ardent proponents like me have trouble crediting it with short-term reductions in abortion. Most conservative welfare reformers had the opposite worry—that a concerted effort to reduce illegitimacy might cause a spike in abortions. During the 1996 welfare reform debate, Senate Republicans rejected House plans to deny benefits to unwed teen mothers and cap benefits for mothers who had additional children on welfare for that very reason—Catholic conservatives feared those provisions would make abortion go up. A plan to reward states for reducing out-of-wedlock births was rewritten to deny the bonus to states where abortion rates increased at the same time. Of course, Giuliani urged Clinton to veto the 1996 welfare reform bill, so don't be surprised if he now claims his moral opposition to abortion as the reason.

Why does the choice issue so often manage to turn grown men into pretzels? Conservative doubts over Giuliani's abortion position were hardly a surprise attack. Yet judging from his halting response so far, the same man who knew just what to do on 9/11 would have been stumped for months if al-Qaida had simply sent him a NARAL questionnaire.

Charles Krauthammer says the fault is with Roe, not Giuliani. But that's letting him off the hook too easily—akin to Giuliani saying, "the court made me do it, and the justices I appoint may or may not undo it." Rich Lowry of the National Review offered a more persuasive explanation of Giuliani's troubles with the issue: "One of the big ironies for him is he doesn't care about abortion." If Giuliani had the courage to say that, we might start to believe him. ... 3:23 P.M. (link)

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Mood Ring: If malaise, like revenge, is a dish best served cold, the Bush administration is keeping Republicans exceedingly well-fed. In the latest Newsweek poll, the president matched Jimmy Carter's record low with a 28 percent approval rating. It took Richard Nixon a quarter-century to have Seven Crises. For George W. Bush, seven crises is a pretty good week.

Republican presidential candidates are trying their hardest to look on the bright side. At last week's debate at the Reagan Library, the field mentioned optimism more often than bin Laden. Giuliani chanted the word four times—three times in a single answer. Bush's favorite word, resolve, didn't come up once.

Republicans may be right to miss Reagan—not because his policies worked, but because the country has so soured on their party that only an actor could still put on a happy face. That's the role many Republicans have scripted for Fred Thompson. They don't much care what he stands for, provided he can cheer Republicans up.

If that's his goal, Thompson got off to an odd start in an address to Orange County conservatives this weekend. Jonathan Martin, who covers Republicans for the Politico, said Thompson's speech was "low key and at times meandering." Robert Novak, conservatism's biggest grump, called it "a downer." (Ironically, the best part of Thompson's speech was his joke that he'd spent the whole night trying to keep Novak from seeing his notes.)

Far from helping Republicans escape their despair, Thompson couldn't stop reminding them of it. "We've had our ups and our downs," he said, insisting that the party's post-Watergate gloom wasn't as bad as it seemed at the time. He warned that we're "even hearing that old malaise talk we used to hear," then indulged in some, noting that there's "some concern that maybe we're slipping away like all the great powers have."

Thompson echoed another actor-turned-politician by repeatedly borrowing Arnold Schwarzenegger's trademark tic, "and things of that nature." He closed his speech by inadvertently giving a good impression of Reagan's famous "Highway 1" closing statement in the second 1984 debate. In Thompson's rambling story, a group of sixth-graders in North Hollywood asked him why he went into politics. The question made him think back to Washington, Lincoln, the Revolutionary War, and our common heritage. The answer: not clear.

But the award for most surprising performance by an anecdote in a supporting role goes to two other historical cameos in Thompson's speech. In a rare turn for the 2008 Republican campaign trail, Thompson praised Wendell Willkie, the Republican nominee who lost the 1940 election in a landslide but became one of FDR's most important allies.

More remarkably, Thompson went out of his way to stick up for perhaps the greatest wimp of the 20th century: Neville Chamberlain. The Bush administration has spent the last six years trying to tie Democrats to Neville Chamberlain. Don't even ask how he got there, but Thompson was working off a different set of talking points. He didn't defend Chamberlain's record, but he did paraphrase Churchill's eulogy to say, "Neville Chamberlain marched in the ranks of honor."

Perhaps that was Thompson's indirect way of saying something nice about Bush. The next line in Churchill's eulogy fits Bush even better: "It fell to [him] in one of the supreme crises of the world to be contradicted by events, to be disappointed in his hopes, and to be deceived and cheated by a wicked man." More likely, Thompson was just making the noble point that compared with politicians today, Churchill was a class act.

In any case, it's a modern political first: Fred Thompson could go down in history as the only presidential candidate in either party to put in a good word for Neville Chamberlain.

Could this be the future of conservatism? Will Republican candidates try to prove they're not the next George W. Bush by leaving open the possibility of being the next Neville Chamberlain?

In 2000, Bush invented compassionate conservatism to distance himself from Newt Gingrich. The GOP's challenge is even greater in 2008, but Thompson may have found the answer: appeasement conservatism. With a Republican Party that loses elections as gracefully as Willkie and loses wars as pre-emptively as Chamberlain, America will forget the Bush presidency ever happened. ... 1:54 P.M. (link)

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Animal Farm: As if the GOP needed any more bad omens, this week the Philadelphia Zoo became the latest to join a national trend—giving up on elephants. Now the press can start looking for the next sign of the Republican apocalypse: gun owners turning in their pickup trucks and riding donkeys to work.

Perhaps because zoos represent the world the way man would have made it, they have long been a leading political indicator. In retrospect, China's seemingly innocent gift of pandas to the United States three decades ago should have been an obvious warning of its desire for global economic hegemony. Last week, we had to beg our Chinese bankers to let a panda cub that was born right here in America stay a couple more years at the National Zoo. When the T-bills come due for our national debt, they may not be so forgiving.

All of Europe seems to have swooned for Knut, an adorable polar bear cub in the Berlin Zoo who has become the German Al Gore: Reports of his death were premature, and he's  a constant reminder of the urgency of climate change.

The pachyderm sent packing in Philadelphia is a female called Dulary, which sounds more like the name of a bad Clinton impersonator at right-wing conventions. The elephant's new home is a 2,700-acre sanctuary in Tennessee that for all we know may be Fred Thompson's campaign headquarters.

To most Republicans these days, the place must sound like heaven. It has a Kaus-like fence to keep out unwanted immigrants. The only people allowed to visit are big donors.

According to a Humane Society official, "The Elephant Sanctuary represents the future of enlightened captive elephant management"—a concept very much on the minds of every Republican presidential candidate. The Republican field could learn a great deal from the Tennessee program, especially its "non-invasive research on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder." If only the sanctuary had done some nontraumatic research on post-invasion stress disorder.

The sanctuary even has its own YouTube—the Elecam. Experts there believe that the best strategy to revive the ailing captive elephant population is to replace human contact with video teleconferencing. Apparently, the Romney campaign has adopted the same strategy.

Tonight, Republican candidates will gather to debate the GOP's future at the Reagan Library, the ultimate elephant sanctuary. The party is ailing, and the captives are restless. Don't be surprised if the field heeds the words of the Elephant Sanctuary Web site: "Our [elephants] are not required to perform or entertain for the public; instead, they are encouraged to live like elephants." Let Reagan be Reagan! ... 5:05 P.M. (link)

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Wonks in the Palfrey: Something caught my eye when ABC News reported that one of the next clients D.C. madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey will out is the head of a Washington think tank. Perhaps it's the dark secret I've spent years trying to conceal: I'm the head of a Washington think tank.

That's how it is on a dark night in a Think Tank Town that doesn't know how to keep its secrets. Thousands of my fellow propeller heads aren't worried that our names will turn up on Palfrey's list, because our idea of an escort service is the GPS system in our cars.

Palfrey told ABC that the client in question runs a conservative think tank. That takes most of us out of the running, but it begs the question: What does it mean to be a conservative in the sexual-fantasy business?

Until the Bush years, we think-tankers could only dream of being mired in scandal. In high school, nerds don't get sent to the principal's office unless they threaten to blow up the building. Washington is the same way: Wonks get the white papers; hacks get the indictments. Hacks routinely make the gossip pages; wonks can't even make Wonkette. TV crews film hacks taking out their garbage and emerging from federal courtrooms; wonks are the bald spots in the audience at seminars on C-SPAN.

Don't get me wrong—wonks have a rich fantasy life. Only a few go so far as Lynne Cheney, who penned steamy sex scenes as a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. The rest of our daydreams are more prosaic—like matching budget authority and outlays, or revising the definition of poverty, now hopelessly out of date. When we're feeling especially frisky, wonks close our eyes and imagine the Alternative Minimum Tax being fixed.

President Bush has no use for wonks, and hacks have grabbed the headlines in most Bush scandals. But the sheer volume of scandal in the Bush administration has made it possible for even a few eggheads to get a piece of the action. Paul Wolfowitz used to be a classic Washington academic—dean of a public-policy school and charter member of a neoconservative think tank. But at the World Bank, he has pulled off the rarest of feats—a wonk sex scandal, which is just as you'd expect: a dull morass of committee meetings, personnel classifications, and contracts.

When Claude Allen, Bush's domestic-policy adviser, was arrested last year for refund fraud, Jacob Weisberg wrote that no one should be surprised: "The more we hear about what Allen is accused of, the less it sounds like kleptomania and the more it sounds like an application of Bush economic policy."

Now that a doctrinaire deputy secretary of state, a discredited military theorist, and the head of a conservative think tank have made the madam's list, we shouldn't be shocked, either. The medium is the massage: Over the past six years, the Bush administration has turned conservatism into a booming fantasy business.

Back when Randall Tobias was just a hypocritical ideologue, and not yet a casualty of scandal, a congressman accused the former corporate executive of "tycoonitis." The next name to drop may be a case of think-tank-itis—one implausible fantasy leading to another.

The Bush administration and the Palfrey scandal share the same moral: Be careful what you wish for. Neoconservatism was a thriving, vibrant, ideological movement until Bush actually did what they dreamed of. The supply-side theory that cutting taxes would boost revenues and shrink government was such a perfect fantasy that conservatives can't stand the inconvenient reality that it doesn't work.

Republicans' biggest problem is not that Washington is mired in one scandal after another, or that the Bush administration has become one long letter of resignation. The real problem is that GOP-primary voters keep demanding that candidates indulge the same economic and international fantasies, when Americans have had enough of politics as a fantasy business.

In the clash of civilizations between ideology and thought, reality was destined to emerge the loser. As the ivory towers of politics, think tanks play an unlikely role. Politics is the art of the possible; ivory towers are monuments to the impossible. Mainstream think tanks bridge that gap because the arcane, inertial business of government doesn't lend itself easily to castles in the air.

But if think tanks require a certain suspension of disbelief, ideological think tanks require something more miraculous: the suspension of reality whenever it's at odds with belief. The dreamer looks at the world as it might be and asks, "Why not?" The ideologue looks at the world as it is and says, "No, it's not."

As we've now seen far too often, the result is scandalous. It's bad enough when ideology is a substitute for thought. But when the pressures of reality are too great, ideology becomes something worse: thought's masseuse. ... 2:28 P.M. (link)

Monday, Apr. 23, 2007

Misfire: George H.W. Bush is famous for saying, "Read my lips," but the three words that best captured the way America felt during the first Bush administration were a catch phrase from Dana Carvey—"not gonna happen." The country faced a host of daunting social and economic problems, from rising crime rates to shrinking incomes to deep divisions that burst into view in South Central Los Angeles. But what troubled people most was that no matter how urgent the problem, the answer from Washington was always the same: "not gonna happen."

One Bush later, we find ourselves in the same grim mood today. We face a series of monumental challenges—Iraq, climate change, a vanishing social contract. Such problems would be breathtakingly difficult in any era but seem virtually impossible in this one. Glaciers move faster than our politics, and both are receding.

We have good reason to feel this way. Nothing happened after Hurricane Katrina. Nothing new ever seems to happen in Iraq. Even when something appears to happen, such as last week's decision on abortion, we know better: Nothing's happening when the same issues never go away.

But last week's response to the Virginia Tech tragedy made it official: Not-Gonna-Happen Days are here again. Across the political spectrum, commentators reached the same conclusion. Whatever they think ought to be done to prevent future tragedies, they're unanimous on one point: We're not going to do it.

Even in the ivory towers, where the laws of political gravity don't apply, the dreamers were silent. For its online feature, Think Tank Town, the Washington Post asked a variety of scholars, "How can policies be improved in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings?" All the posts had more or less the same headlines: "The Real Problem Transcends Policy," "Gun Control Doesn't Fit This Crime," "Not Every Tragedy Has a Solution," "Evil Is Always With Us." Another post concluded, "There is not much we can or should do." Another warned not to pass new laws because existing ones might be the culprit. No scholar proposed much of anything on guns.

Granted, most of the scholars in the Post survey come from center-right think tanks and have ideological biases toward doing nothing. But they're not the only ones the Post asked. The center-left think tanks on the Post's list—like Brookings and the Center for American Progress—didn't even bother to show up.

Those of us who work in think tanks are supposed to come up with ideas with little or no chance of passage. Yet in this age of policy ennui, even people who get paid to be hopelessly unrealistic can't suspend disbelief on guns.

I grew up in gun country, and I know what it's like to be strafed by the NRA. I understand why Democrats from red states don't want to risk the next election on an issue of little interest back home. But over the long haul, it is a substantive and political mistake to duck the issue altogether. Guns are a cultural issue but also a crime one—and both parties should have learned over the years that they dodge any crime issue at their peril.

The substantive case for common-sense gun crime and safety measures is clear enough. When Clinton signed the Brady Bill in 1993—after seven years of talk that it would never happen—the NRA said the new law was pointless. In the years since, it has kept handguns out of the hands of tens of thousands of criminals, stalkers, and troubled individuals. If Virginia had properly interpreted the law, it probably would have stopped Cho from buying the guns that wreaked havoc at Virginia Tech.

When the 1994 crime bill banned the manufacture of high-capacity ammunition clips, the NRA once again went ballistic. The bill wasn't as tough as it should have been, because NRA sympathizers in Congress grandfathered existing clips. But the ban kept more clips from flooding the market. The best testimony to its impact is how much gun manufacturers tout that it has lapsed. TopGlock.com offers "new Glock factory magazines that are legal under the repeal of the 1994 Assault Weapons bill." The 15-round clip Cho used with his Glock semiautomatic pistol is on sale for $19.72. TopGlock advertises the clips on a "sunset" page (to mark the law's sunset), which you can access by clicking on the ad for ammunition clips that's just above the tribute to the victims at Virginia Tech.

The political case for not running for cover on guns is equally straightforward. Unlike most politicians, voters are not ideological about crime. They don't care what it takes, they just want it to go down. The Brady Bill and the clip ban passed because the most influential gun owners in America—police officers and sheriffs—were tired of being outgunned by drug lords, madmen, and thugs.

When Democrats ignore the gun issue, they think about the political bullet they're dodging but not about the opportunity they'll miss. In the 1980s, Republicans talked tough on crime and ran ads about Willie Horton but sat on their hands while the crime rate went up. When Bill Clinton promised to try everything to fight crime—with more police officers on the street, and fewer guns—police organizations dropped their support for the GOP and stood behind him instead.

The current political calculus is that guns cost Gore the 2000 election by denying him West Virginia and his home state of Tennessee. This argument might be more convincing if Gore hadn't essentially carried the gun-mad state of Florida. In some states, the gun issue made it more difficult for Gore to bridge the cultural divide but hardly caused it. Four years ago, Gore and Clinton carried those same states with the same position on guns and the memory of the assault-weapons ban much fresher in voters' minds.

Not so long ago, in fact, Republicans were the ones who feared the gun issue. At his first campaign stop en route to the 1996 Democratic convention, Clinton stood with police officers to promise that in his second term, he would expand the Brady Bill to cover people with histories of domestic violence. Republicans in Congress were so afraid guns would hurt them in the suburbs, they sent Clinton the Brady expansion a few weeks later.

In those days, Rudy Giuliani was still in favor of tough gun-crime laws, either because he believed in them as a former prosecutor or because they were wildly popular. Giuliani's politics have changed, but contrary to conventional wisdom, the politics of guns have not. If gun laws were a true third rail, Michael Bloomberg—who wants to be president as much as any candidate in the race—wouldn't be seizing the opening to launch a national crusade around them.

Voters aren't the obstacle to banning high-capacity clips or closing the gun-show loophole; they support those measures by broad margins. The real hurdle is finding leaders who are willing to get tough on crime, no matter where they find it—and who have the standing to prove they know the difference between hunters and criminals. Bill Clinton wasn't a lifelong hunter, like Mitt Romney. He didn't need to be. He was a Bubba.

In recent years, Democrats have suffered a Bubba shortage. But Democratic Bubbas are making a comeback in the South, Midwest, and West. As they gain confidence, they will realize, as Clinton did, that real Bubbas look to cops for approval, not the NRA.

As it happens, one Bubba is in a unique position to lead a hard-headed look at gun laws and gun-crime enforcement: the new senator from Virginia, Jim Webb. Webb is one of the most independent-minded senators in memory and an outspoken man of principle. With an aide who was arrested for bringing a loaded gun into his Senate office, he has an unassailable pro-gun record. Moreover, the state Webb represents is deep in grief over a tragedy that underscores points that both the NRA and gun-control proponents have made—that our gun laws have too many loopholes and that existing laws need to be better enforced. Webb could even lead the effort hand in hand with his Republican colleague, Sen. John Warner, who voted against the assault ban in 1994 but stood with police officers in opposing its repeal in 2004.

A thorough look at gun laws might not lead in predictable ways. But the gun debate desperately needs what Webb and Warner could bring—a preference for independence over ideology, and the moral authority that comes from rejecting the politics of "not gonna happen" in favor of trying to find ways to prevent senseless crimes from happening again. ... 2:25 P.M. (link)

Monday, Apr. 16, 2007

The Gap: While Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama offer Democrats a choice of glass ceilings, George Bush has left Republicans desperate to keep from falling through the glass floor. Making history is not an option when being made history is the party's foremost concern. So while the GOP could nominate its first Mormon or its first big-city mayor, the party seems more intent on finding its second Reagan.

For that role, Fred Thompson seems a casting director's dream. Like Reagan, he softens his conservatism with a dose of practiced charm. Republican strategists think he's the perfect combination – a man's man with the Q Score to appeal as well to women.

The gender gap is often seen as a Democratic strength: More women vote, and women tend to like Democrats better. In practice, it takes two to tango. Democrats did well in 2006 by winning back men; Bush won in 2004 by cutting his losses among women.

So far, Republican hopefuls are having a tough time with gender balance. McCain is a guy's guy, standing up for a war that most women oppose. Giuliani has women's clothes and a comb-over. Romney has a gap with both genders: Women think he's the next Thomas E. Dewey, the little man on the wedding cake; men think he's proof we were right never to trust The Dry Look.

For such a confused party, Fred Thompson seems like a knight in shining loafers. Not only can he play the tough guy in Tom Clancy movies, he's the affable D.A. on "Law & Order" – the show Michael Kinsley famously called "The Secret Vice of Power Women."

Conservatives pushing Thompson's candidacy routinely tout his crossover appeal. In a glowing column last month, former Wall Street Journal editorial editor John Fund wrote, "Fan blogs for 'Law and Order' note that since the show is especially popular among women, a Thompson race could help close the GOP's 'gender gap.'"

The "Law & Order" vote is more contested than you might think. If Michael Bloomberg doesn't run, Thompson's co-star Sam Waterston could win the nomination for the independent Unity08 ticket. Waterston's predecessor, Michael Moriarty, says he is running for president as a Libertarian. Since Jerry Orbach is dead, Democrats would be lucky to get S. Epatha Merkerson or Benjamin Bratt.

Of course, Republicans haven't considered the dark side of a Thompson run. Under the fairness doctrine, whenever one of Thompson's movies or shows airs on television, stations will have to grant opponents equal time. The result: no more "Law & Order" reruns with Fred Thompson. In fact, with so many past and present cast members in the race, even a show as prolific as "Law & Order" could be driven out of syndication altogether. If that happens, the Power Women backlash could destroy Republican prospects for decades.

The show itself isn't doing so hot, either. For its 17th season, L&O was moved to its worst slot – Fridays – and saw ratings plummet. Republicans who think Thompson is coming to the GOP's rescue might look again: He may be jumping from one sinking ship to another.

But those aren't the only risks Republicans run with Thompson. The real problem with choosing Fred Thompson to lead the GOP across the gender gap is more profound: Even Republican women don't seem to like him.

In two recent polls, Thompson has a gender gap, all right, but in the wrong direction. He does OK with men, but is trailing badly with women. In last week's Los Angeles Times poll, he's running first among religious conservatives, a strong second among men, and a poor third – 20 points behind frontrunner Giuliani – among women. In a Zogby poll, Thompson did twice as well among men as among women. At only 6% among women, he was at the back of the pack, tied with Ron Paul.

From Mike Kinsley to John Fund, pundits agree that women love "Law & Order." But the polls also seem to agree that women don't love Thompson. In other words, the gender-gap argument for his candidacy has it backwards: Fred Thompson does worst among those who know him best – women.

Five years ago, when he broke the story of women's obsession with the show, Kinsley noted that his wife had no interest in watching current episodes:

She couldn't tell you what night it's on and has no view about what this country is coming to when a man like Fred Thompson can be plucked from the obscurity of the United States Senate and entrusted with the responsibility of running the prosecutor's office on Law & Order.

Kinsley was right about Thompson, but wasn't giving his wise and powerful wife enough credit. She was so far ahead of the curve, she was skipping the Thompson episodes on purpose. Never underestimate the power of Power Women, as Fred Thompson is about to find out. ... 5:02 P.M. (link)

Monday, Apr. 9, 2007

Cherchez Lapin:From missile defense to concealed weapons, Republicans have long sold themselves as the party to turn to for security. Mitt Romney is no exception. During a telephone question-and-answer session in Iowa last week, one caller told Romney, "You sound like a guy who sells home security systems."

Every presidential candidate is a traveling salesman, but Romney's rootlessness makes him more Willy Loman-esque than others. Last week, his sales prowess and slickness were both on display: He raised more money than any other Republican, then promptly bought himself seven figures' worth of bad publicity by overselling his hunting past.

Romney is a nomadic creature, so his past is an elusive prey. To find out whether he'd ever applied for a hunting license, the Associated Press had to ask officials in four states: Michigan (where he grew up), Massachusetts (where he went to graduate school and served as governor), Utah (where he went to college, ran an Olympics, and owns a ski home), and New Hampshire (where he is running for president and owns a lake house).

The nationwide hunt came up empty: Romney didn't apply for any hunting licenses, and not one of his vacation homes is a hunting lodge.

But the Romney campaign should not lose heart. Perhaps this photo will bring back hunting memories from the year he lived in France. Or this one.

Indeed, to repair his image with gun lovers on the right, Romney might want to promise that he will never let hunting in America go the way of hunting in France. Not only are licenses required, but it takes weeks—and 225 Euros—for a foreigner to get one. Predictably, one French hunting Web site warns Americans: "War or defense weapons forbidden."

Like the British, the French used to hunt rabbits with ferrets. Today, the award-winning rabbit chaser is the Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen. The one problem for Romney: The Petit Basset's small stature, long ears, and furry coat run the risk that a novice hunter might not be able to tell dog and bunny apart.

Le Club de Griffon Vendeen says that for a long time, Petit Bassets were "semi-crooked," but are now "naturally endowed with all moral qualities which presuppose the passion for hunting."  These days, Romney would kill for a review like that.

The honest excuse for not hunting rabbit since he was a teenager is that Romney was too busy running for president. Obviously, he didn't realize that the worlds of rabbit-hunting and vote-hunting have more in common than one might think. The home page of the American Rabbit Hound Association reads like every political journalist's analysis of the 2008 presidential race. The ARHA divides competitive hounds into four categories: "Big Pack,"  "Little Pack,"  "Gun Dogs," and  "Progressive Pack." Romney's no Gun Dog—he's running with the Big Pack of McCain and Giuliani, in hopes of facing whichever competitor emerges from the Democrats' Progressive Pack.

This weekend, the Little Pack showed that when there's blood on the trail, hounds in the Big Pack had better watch their backs. Little Pack member Mike Huckabee, desperate to escape the beta male rut, contrasted Romney's gun pander with what he termed Giuliani's "real gutsy move" to defend public funding for abortion. In truth, Huckabee was shooting with both barrels, implying that Romney's a liar and Giuliani a principled liberal.

When Romney was a little boy, he must have seen the Warner Brothers classic, Duck! Rabbit! Duck!, in which Daffy Duck writes Elmer Fudd a license to shoot rabbit, and Bugs Bunny gives him license to shoot everything else. The cartoon was the second in a trilogy that began with Rabbit Seasoning and ended with Rabbit Fire. It's easy to see why Duck! Rabbit! Duck! might have made the biggest impression on Romney, if not some of his future rivals: According to Answers.com, "This is the only cartoon in the trilogy where Bugs Bunny does not crossdress."

On Friday, Romney tried to defend himself by comparing himself to another itinerant millionaire, Jed Clampett, who struck oil when he shot the ground. But to get back on track, Romney needs to look for modern inspiration. A fellow Has-Been recommends this YouTube clip. Like Romney himself, the video may not be endowed with a French hound's moral qualities, but the passion for hunting is never in doubt. ... 4:44 P.M. (link)

Friday, Apr. 6, 2007

Disarmament: If you had to pick the issue most responsible for the two most consequential Republican victories of the last two decades—1994 and 2000—it might well be guns. In 1994, many Democrats lost their seats for supporting an assault weapons ban. In the 2000 primaries, Bill Bradley made gun control a central issue, and Al Gore paid the price that fall: The gun-owning half of the electorate supported Bush 61-39; households without guns went for Gore 58-39.

Although Democrats shied away from the gun issue in 2004, it still cost them. Twelve days before the election, John Kerry went goose hunting in Ohio, which the press dismissed as a desperate photo op. The same day, Dick Cheney called Kerry's new camouflage jacket "an October disguise" and told Ohio voters that "the Second Amendment is more than just a photo opportunity." Ohio gave Republicans the election—and Harry Whittington learned Cheney was willing to put his muzzle where his mouth was.

In 2008, Republicans may finally run out of ammo. By electing a Republican administration that once promised it a desk in the Oval Office, the NRA took guns off the agenda—which also made the group's scare tactics less credible than ever. During their time in the Senate, the Democratic front-runners have cast precious few votes on gun issues.

Meanwhile, the sharp drop in violent crime in the last decade and the absence of a Washington gun debate in this one have largely taken gun policy off the front pages. Of late, the courts are the only ones making gun headlines. If the Supreme Court eventually agrees with the D.C. Circuit that Washington's handgun ban is unconstitutional, the NRA might win the battle but lose the war. It could become a lot harder to block crime-fighting measures like closing the gun show loophole if the NRA can no longer convince anyone that the Second Amendment is under siege.

But Republicans' biggest problem in making this a wedge issue in 2008 is that when it comes to guns, their likely nominees are not as in-your-face as Cheney. John McCain has spent his life around guns but has worked valiantly to try to stop criminal purchases at gun shows. In 1994, Rudy Giuliani bravely spoke out in favor of the assault weapons ban. So far, he hasn't changed his story to claim it was part of a secret plan to elect a Republican Congress.

This week, Mitt Romney may have cooked his own goose by insisting that going hunting twice in his life makes him a "lifelong hunter." If Romney believes that, there's a camouflage jacket in Ohio that John Kerry would like to sell him.

Romney's two hunting trips were 44 years apart—with cousins in Idaho at age 15, and with Republican governors last year at 59. At that pace, his aim must already be pretty bad now— but stay away from his next outing at age 103.

His campaign made matters worse by touting Romney's NRA membership. It turns out he has been a lifelong member since he joined last year.

Like so many hunting stories, Romney's keeps getting better. Yesterday, he told Republicans in Indianapolis that he has gone hunting on other occasions, just not for big game. "I'm not a big-game hunter," the Indianapolis Star quoted him saying. "I've always been a rodent and rabbit hunter. ... Small animals and varmints."

No wonder conservatives feel bagged and plucked. Suddenly, conservatism has lost its mojo, and its license.

A year ago, Dick Cheney didn't let a few quail stop him from hunting the biggest game possible, a 78-year-old lawyer. Ronald Reagan wasn't elected because America was haunted by the portrayal of its impotence in a movie called The Rabbit Hunter.

In the old days, Republican presidents lived to go after big game, not ground squirrels. Reagan had the Soviet bear. Both Bushes had Saddam Hussein. America fell in love with teddy bears because a cub was the first big game Teddy Roosevelt didn't kill.

Those days are gone. The United States may face great challenges ahead, from energy independence to competing with India and China to winning the war on terror. But if Romney is any indication, the future of conservatism is limited to shooting BBs at varmints.

For years, the NRA has told its members to vote Republican, or the Democrat will take their guns away. Twice-in-a-lifetime Romney gives Democrats a once-in-a-lifetime chance to fire back: At least our nominee will never brag about hunting rodents. ... 2:22 P.M. (link)

Wednesday, Apr. 4, 2007

I Dream of Genie: When Steve Forbes endorsed him last Wednesday, Rudy Giuliani appeared to return the favor by dropping his longtime opposition to a flat tax and embracing Forbes' pet idea. As the New York Times reported, Giuliani said that if there were no federal income tax, "maybe I'd suggest not doing it at all, but if we were going to do it, a flat tax would make a lot of sense." It looked like a pawn-for-pawn swap, one dubious cause deserving another.

Everyone knew Giuliani's supply-side stance was a head fake meant to fool social conservatives. "We're going to talk for a long time about the ways we plan to reduce taxes," Giuliani told Iowans on Tuesday. As he explained to the Des Moines Register, "That's a way of appealing to Republicans who may have somewhat different views on social issues."

But now it turns out that Giuliani was conning Forbes as well. As Jason Horowitz blogs in the New York Observer, Giuliani said this weekend that he was just kidding about the flat tax:

"I didn't favor it, I said something academic," Giuliani said at a press conference in Florida on Saturday, in response to a reporter asking him why he had switched from opposing a flat tax to favoring it. "What I said was, and it was not a joke, but it was half-jocular, was if we didn't have an income tax...what would I favor?

"First I would favor no tax," he said laughing and turning to his wife Judith, who duly smiled back. "That would be my first position. My second position would probably be a flat tax."

But, he said, the tax "would probably not be feasible."

As an economic conservative who spent his last campaign professing to be a social conservative, Forbes is no stranger to head fakes. But Giuliani just taught him a lesson in kabuki conservatism: Always get it in writing!

Every campaign has its share of flip-flops and the occasional flip-flop-flip. Giuliani has invented a new form—the Flip-Flop-Flat.

Instead of retracting his previous statement, the former prosecutor introduced a new loophole for his defense, explaining his comments as "academic." Giuliani wasn't endorsing a flat tax in reality; he was endorsing it in theory—which, serendipitously, is the only place a flat tax might work. The risk is that a rival campaign will launch a 10-second attack ad of Giuliani mouthing words that would strike fear in the hearts of conservatives everywhere: "I said something academic."

But Giuliani didn't stop there. His flip-flop then went where no Romney has gone before, into a parallel universe where political gravity does not apply. Lawyers call it "arguing in the alternative"—making a second and seemingly contradictory argument, in case judge and jury don't buy the first. As an example of this kind of reasoning, Wikipedia cites Bart Simpson: "I didn't do it, no one saw me do it, you can't prove anything!"

Romney has learned the hard way that flip-flopping is a messy business, because the flip-flopper has to make up an excuse for changing his mind, when everyone knows the real reason is politics. Arguing in the alternative is flip-flopping without the flap. Giuliani claims he wasn't actually embracing a flat tax; he was saying that if there were no federal income tax, he might embrace it.

Giuliani uncorks a political genie: With his first wish, he would get rid of the income tax. His second wish would be for a flat tax. And since neither of those is feasible, his third wish is that we forget his first two.

A conventional flip-flopper is limited to two positions: his old one and his new one. Giuliani seems to be a political polytheist, who thinks a man can have as many positions as he wants. He even refers to them that way, as "my first position" and "my second position." Then there is his third and current position, which does not smile upon the other two.

Perhaps to distinguish himself from the other two Republican front-runners, Giuliani has found a third way between flip-flopping and straight talk. He calls it half-jocularity. That's not a bad description. He wasn't joking (which is why nobody else laughed), but he didn't mean it (which is why nobody believed him).

In a way, the episode sums up the apparent strategy of his campaign. When Giuliani pays lip service to supply-side economics but not social conservatism, he's trying to convince the right that half a joke is better than none. ... 4:35 P.M. (link)

Friday, Mar. 30, 2007

Always Look on the Supply Side of Life: No matter what else comes out about Rudy Giuliani's three marriages, it's hard to imagine a stranger union than the one he announced this week, with multimillionaire conservative presidential wannabe Steve Forbes.

Giuliani has dressed in drag before—nothing wrong with that!—but this may be the most ill-fitting set of clothes he has donned in a long time. Giuliani grew up in Brooklyn and on Long Island; Forbes is from the landed class in New Jersey. Forbes gave $37 million of his own money to his first campaign; Giuliani kept pocketing $100,000 speaking fees even after launching his exploratory committee. Giuliani married his third wife three years ago; Forbes has been married to the same woman for 35 years.

The two men are cut from different policy cloth as well. As mayor of New York, Giuliani built a reputation for trying ideas that worked, like cutting crime through better policing. As a magazine publisher and presidential candidate, Steve Forbes did the opposite—championing ideas that fail, like supply-side economics.

Like Forbes, Giuliani is a one-note candidate—but they're completely different notes. The Onion teased Giuliani for running for president of Sept. 11; Forbes ran for president of April 15, the national day of remembrance for taxes.

As a candidate, Forbes had one idée fixe—the flat tax. Over the years, that has been his economic policy, his social policy, and, at times, his foreign policy. Steve Forbes viewed the flat tax the way George W. Bush views Iraq: You're either for it or against me.

Until this week, Giuliani was one of the flat tax's most outspoken Republican opponents. Back in 1996, as the New York Times pointed out yesterday, Giuliani took to the airwaves to attack the Forbes flat tax as "a disaster." This week, Giuliani stood alongside Forbes and offered up a reverse double pander, declaring that he'd rather not have a federal income tax at all, but if we must have one, it ought to be a flat tax.

Giuliani didn't even try to hide the motives behind his strange, new arranged marriage. In conjunction with the Forbes endorsement, his campaign started running ads on conservative talk radio touting his support for "supply-side policies." He told Larry Kudlow, "I regard myself as a supply-sider for sure."

Never mind that in eight years, Giuliani's supply-side revolution managed to reduce the top personal income tax rate in New York City by nine-tenths of 1 percent. The campaign's theory is obvious: Giuliani can't win the nomination as a social liberal, and Mitt Romney is already running as the social flip-flopper. So, Hizzoner will run as an economic flip-flopper instead.

The trouble with this theory is that even Steve Forbes doesn't believe in it. In 1996, Forbes ran a campaign like Giuliani's—as a pro-choice supply-sider. He lost everywhere but Delaware and Arizona. When he ran the next time, Forbes turned himself into such a pro-life enthusiast he accused Bush of hedging on whether abortion would be a litmus test for judges and his running mate. (He lost again, anyway.)

Forbes writes in the Wall Street Journal that he supports Giuliani because he's the "real fiscal conservative" in the race and "will inspire the next generation of the Reagan Revolution." Of course, if Giuliani is as much of a supply-sider as Reagan was a fiscal conservative, he'll triple personal income taxes the way Reagan nearly tripled the national debt.

As they suffer through one of the most unpopular presidencies of all time, it's easy to understand why Republicans long for the days of Reagan, who won successive landslides. But supply-side alchemy isn't what conservatives miss about the '80s; if anything, Bush has outdone Reagan in that regard. What Republicans really miss is the Mr. Magoo spirit of the Reagan years, when America was made of Teflon instead of Velcro, and no amount of ideological bad driving could crash us in the ditch.

Steve Forbes is proof that Magoo-like vision doesn't always bring Magoo-like results. In any case, waiting for Magoo won't bring back America's Teflon. Neither will always looking on the supply side of life.

If Republicans want to restore strength to the presidency, they need to speak honestly and forcefully about how to restore strength to the country, not pretend that the Laffer Curve will suddenly start to work the third time around. It was easy to mock Giuliani for running to be president of 9/11. But that made more sense than what he's doing now—running for president of 1981. ... 8:25 P.M. (link)

Rackets:Giuliani's new friend Steve Forbes is harmless compared to old ones like Bernard Kerik. His campaign's new pander to conservative talk-radio: Giuliani Partners tried to keep the government from restricting sales of OxyContin.

Brackets: The Florida Senate was planning to move the state's presidential primary from the second week of March to the first Tuesday in February – Super Tuesday – joining California and other states afraid that by the time their residents vote, the race will already be over. But last week, the Florida House voted to move the primary to the last Tuesday in January. The reason: so many primaries are moving to Super Tuesday, even a big state like Florida might not make a splash.

Now other Super Tuesday states feel betrayed by Florida's defection, and may jump ahead as well. New Hampshire officials, angry that caucus goers now get to go first in Nevada as well as Iowa, have threatened to jump ahead of everyone else. When the Democratic National Committee set out to "fix" the calendar, it offered states bonus delegates to hold their primaries in late spring. Instead, if this game of leapfrog continues, primary votes and caucus goers may pick the nominees by New Years.

For now, the jockeying among big states suggests that if Iowa and New Hampshire haven't already determined the winner, Florida and California may be the 1-2 punch that does. In an eerie coincidence, that's exactly what will decide the winner of the GOP's NCAA pool. Going into last weekend, Rudy Giuliani led John McCain by nearly 3-1. But victories by UCLA and Georgetown vaulted McCain back into contention, and he now trails Giuliani by just 860 to 840 – 65.8% to 60.2%. The race for Republican bragging rights could come down to tonight's semifinal between UCLA and Florida. McCain has UCLA to win the title, so if the Bruins make the final, he'll pass Giuliani once and for all.

When the tourney started, we took McCain to task for brackets that seemed hopelessly conservative. His picks turned out better than history would suggest – guessing right on seven of his Elite Eight. As the Washington Post noted this morning, this year's tourney had the fewest upsets since seeding of 64 began in 1985. Last year saw 11 upsets; this year, only three.

But by rewriting McCain's brackets to make him pick all the second seeds, Slate kept alive his chance to win it all. Without Slate's intervention, McCain would be done scoring by now, saddled with North Carolina and Kansas in Monday's championship game. Instead, a win tonight by No. 2 UCLA or No. 2 Georgetown will hand McCain the crown. The only way to avoid the curse of the frontrunner is to bet on the underdog now and then. ... 9:59 A.M. (link)

Thursday, Mar. 22, 2007

Sweet and Sour 16: If you got knocked out of the running in your office pool last weekend because you picked a few upsets, now you know what 2008 will be like for most presidential candidates. March Madness lasts three weeks and will be over the first Monday in April. In the 2008 presidential primaries, January Madness will last three weeks and be over the first Tuesday in February.

Like everything else in life, the presidential race is just another set of brackets. But before you start betting your fortune on political futures, you might want to check how well long shots are faring against the odds.

Last week, I filled out NCAA brackets for the Republican candidates, based on the particular strategies they've chosen for their campaigns. What does this have to do with their actual prospects? Nothing! But then, neither does most coverage of the presidential race you'll be forced to read this year. Even so, one weekend of basketball proved what all those dark horses will spend the next nine months traipsing through Iowa to learn: If you're one of the bottom seeds when the tournament begins, you probably won't still be around when it ends.

So far, this year's NCAA tourney has been a front-runner's paradise. If you picked the favorite to win every game, you're in the upper quarter of the millions who've entered the NCAA pool at ESPN.com. If you picked every underdog, you can stop checking—your Cinderella run is over.

Long shots Duncan Hunter and Ron Paul went against the grain on every pick and had all four No. 16 seeds reaching the Final Four. They guessed just five of the first 32 games correctly, and even those 5 upset winners lost in the next round. Out of a possible 1680 points, their bracket will end up with just 50. If ESPN had a leaderboard for losers, Hunter and Paul would be virtually guaranteed to finish with the worst bracket in the country.

The superfecta entry of also-rans—Brownback, Huckabee, Gilmore, and Thompson—followed the home-state version of the same uphill strategy, picking their local underdogs to go all the way. Thanks to Brownback's Kansas Jayhawks, this entry still has one team left in its Fin

          Trunk Call        

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Animal Farm: As if the GOP needed any more bad omens, this week the Philadelphia Zoo became the latest to join a national trend—giving up on elephants. Now the press can start looking for the next sign of the Republican apocalypse: gun owners turning in their pickup trucks and riding donkeys to work.

Perhaps because zoos represent the world the way man would have made it, they have long been a leading political indicator. In retrospect, China's seemingly innocent gift of pandas to the United States three decades ago should have been an obvious warning of its desire for global economic hegemony. Last week, we had to beg our Chinese bankers to let a panda cub that was born right here in America stay a couple more years at the National Zoo. When the T-bills come due for our national debt, they may not be so forgiving.

All of Europe seems to have swooned for Knut, an adorable polar bear cub in the Berlin Zoo who has become the German Al Gore: Reports of his death were premature, and he's  a constant reminder of the urgency of climate change.

The pachyderm sent packing in Philadelphia is a female called Dulary, which sounds more like the name of a bad Clinton impersonator at right-wing conventions. The elephant's new home is a 2,700-acre sanctuary in Tennessee that for all we know may be Fred Thompson's campaign headquarters.

To most Republicans these days, the place must sound like heaven. It has a Kaus-like fence to keep out unwanted immigrants. The only people allowed to visit are big donors.

According to a Humane Society official, "The Elephant Sanctuary represents the future of enlightened captive elephant management"—a concept very much on the minds of every Republican presidential candidate. The Republican field could learn a great deal from the Tennessee program, especially its "non-invasive research on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder." If only the sanctuary had done some nontraumatic research on post-invasion stress disorder.

The sanctuary even has its own YouTube—the Elecam. Experts there believe that the best strategy to revive the ailing captive elephant population is to replace human contact with video teleconferencing. Apparently, the Romney campaign has adopted the same strategy.

Tonight, Republican candidates will gather to debate the GOP's future at the Reagan Library, the ultimate elephant sanctuary. The party is ailing, and the captives are restless. Don't be surprised if the field heeds the words of the Elephant Sanctuary Web site: "Our [elephants] are not required to perform or entertain for the public; instead, they are encouraged to live like elephants." Let Reagan be Reagan! ... 5:05 P.M. (link)

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Wonks in the Palfrey: Something caught my eye when ABC News reported that one of the next clients D.C. madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey will out is the head of a Washington think tank. Perhaps it's the dark secret I've spent years trying to conceal: I'm the head of a Washington think tank.

That's how it is on a dark night in a Think Tank Town that doesn't know how to keep its secrets. Thousands of my fellow propeller heads aren't worried that our names will turn up on Palfrey's list, because our idea of an escort service is the GPS system in our cars.

Palfrey told ABC that the client in question runs a conservative think tank. That takes most of us out of the running, but it begs the question: What does it mean to be a conservative in the sexual-fantasy business?

Until the Bush years, we think-tankers could only dream of being mired in scandal. In high school, nerds don't get sent to the principal's office unless they threaten to blow up the building. Washington is the same way: Wonks get the white papers; hacks get the indictments. Hacks routinely make the gossip pages; wonks can't even make Wonkette. TV crews film hacks taking out their garbage and emerging from federal courtrooms; wonks are the bald spots in the audience at seminars on C-SPAN.

Don't get me wrong—wonks have a rich fantasy life. Only a few go so far as Lynne Cheney, who penned steamy sex scenes as a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. The rest of our daydreams are more prosaic—like matching budget authority and outlays, or revising the definition of poverty, now hopelessly out of date. When we're feeling especially frisky, wonks close our eyes and imagine the Alternative Minimum Tax being fixed.

President Bush has no use for wonks, and hacks have grabbed the headlines in most Bush scandals. But the sheer volume of scandal in the Bush administration has made it possible for even a few eggheads to get a piece of the action. Paul Wolfowitz used to be a classic Washington academic—dean of a public-policy school and charter member of a neoconservative think tank. But at the World Bank, he has pulled off the rarest of feats—a wonk sex scandal, which is just as you'd expect: a dull morass of committee meetings, personnel classifications, and contracts.

When Claude Allen, Bush's domestic-policy adviser, was arrested last year for refund fraud, Jacob Weisberg wrote that no one should be surprised: "The more we hear about what Allen is accused of, the less it sounds like kleptomania and the more it sounds like an application of Bush economic policy."

Now that a doctrinaire deputy secretary of state, a discredited military theorist, and the head of a conservative think tank have made the madam's list, we shouldn't be shocked, either. The medium is the massage: Over the past six years, the Bush administration has turned conservatism into a booming fantasy business.

Back when Randall Tobias was just a hypocritical ideologue, and not yet a casualty of scandal, a congressman accused the former corporate executive of "tycoonitis." The next name to drop may be a case of think-tank-itis—one implausible fantasy leading to another.

The Bush administration and the Palfrey scandal share the same moral: Be careful what you wish for. Neoconservatism was a thriving, vibrant, ideological movement until Bush actually did what they dreamed of. The supply-side theory that cutting taxes would boost revenues and shrink government was such a perfect fantasy that conservatives can't stand the inconvenient reality that it doesn't work.

Republicans' biggest problem is not that Washington is mired in one scandal after another, or that the Bush administration has become one long letter of resignation. The real problem is that GOP-primary voters keep demanding that candidates indulge the same economic and international fantasies, when Americans have had enough of politics as a fantasy business.

In the clash of civilizations between ideology and thought, reality was destined to emerge the loser. As the ivory towers of politics, think tanks play an unlikely role. Politics is the art of the possible; ivory towers are monuments to the impossible. Mainstream think tanks bridge that gap because the arcane, inertial business of government doesn't lend itself easily to castles in the air.

But if think tanks require a certain suspension of disbelief, ideological think tanks require something more miraculous: the suspension of reality whenever it's at odds with belief. The dreamer looks at the world as it might be and asks, "Why not?" The ideologue looks at the world as it is and says, "No, it's not."

As we've now seen far too often, the result is scandalous. It's bad enough when ideology is a substitute for thought. But when the pressures of reality are too great, ideology becomes something worse: thought's masseuse. ... 2:28 P.M. (link)

Monday, Apr. 23, 2007

Misfire: George H.W. Bush is famous for saying, "Read my lips," but the three words that best captured the way America felt during the first Bush administration were a catch phrase from Dana Carvey—"not gonna happen." The country faced a host of daunting social and economic problems, from rising crime rates to shrinking incomes to deep divisions that burst into view in South Central Los Angeles. But what troubled people most was that no matter how urgent the problem, the answer from Washington was always the same: "not gonna happen."

One Bush later, we find ourselves in the same grim mood today. We face a series of monumental challenges—Iraq, climate change, a vanishing social contract. Such problems would be breathtakingly difficult in any era but seem virtually impossible in this one. Glaciers move faster than our politics, and both are receding.

We have good reason to feel this way. Nothing happened after Hurricane Katrina. Nothing new ever seems to happen in Iraq. Even when something appears to happen, such as last week's decision on abortion, we know better: Nothing's happening when the same issues never go away.

But last week's response to the Virginia Tech tragedy made it official: Not-Gonna-Happen Days are here again. Across the political spectrum, commentators reached the same conclusion. Whatever they think ought to be done to prevent future tragedies, they're unanimous on one point: We're not going to do it.

Even in the ivory towers, where the laws of political gravity don't apply, the dreamers were silent. For its online feature, Think Tank Town, the Washington Post asked a variety of scholars, "How can policies be improved in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings?" All the posts had more or less the same headlines: "The Real Problem Transcends Policy," "Gun Control Doesn't Fit This Crime," "Not Every Tragedy Has a Solution," "Evil Is Always With Us." Another post concluded, "There is not much we can or should do." Another warned not to pass new laws because existing ones might be the culprit. No scholar proposed much of anything on guns.

Granted, most of the scholars in the Post survey come from center-right think tanks and have ideological biases toward doing nothing. But they're not the only ones the Post asked. The center-left think tanks on the Post's list—like Brookings and the Center for American Progress—didn't even bother to show up.

Those of us who work in think tanks are supposed to come up with ideas with little or no chance of passage. Yet in this age of policy ennui, even people who get paid to be hopelessly unrealistic can't suspend disbelief on guns.

I grew up in gun country, and I know what it's like to be strafed by the NRA. I understand why Democrats from red states don't want to risk the next election on an issue of little interest back home. But over the long haul, it is a substantive and political mistake to duck the issue altogether. Guns are a cultural issue but also a crime one—and both parties should have learned over the years that they dodge any crime issue at their peril.

The substantive case for common-sense gun crime and safety measures is clear enough. When Clinton signed the Brady Bill in 1993—after seven years of talk that it would never happen—the NRA said the new law was pointless. In the years since, it has kept handguns out of the hands of tens of thousands of criminals, stalkers, and troubled individuals. If Virginia had properly interpreted the law, it probably would have stopped Cho from buying the guns that wreaked havoc at Virginia Tech.

When the 1994 crime bill banned the manufacture of high-capacity ammunition clips, the NRA once again went ballistic. The bill wasn't as tough as it should have been, because NRA sympathizers in Congress grandfathered existing clips. But the ban kept more clips from flooding the market. The best testimony to its impact is how much gun manufacturers tout that it has lapsed. TopGlock.com offers "new Glock factory magazines that are legal under the repeal of the 1994 Assault Weapons bill." The 15-round clip Cho used with his Glock semiautomatic pistol is on sale for $19.72. TopGlock advertises the clips on a "sunset" page (to mark the law's sunset), which you can access by clicking on the ad for ammunition clips that's just above the tribute to the victims at Virginia Tech.

The political case for not running for cover on guns is equally straightforward. Unlike most politicians, voters are not ideological about crime. They don't care what it takes, they just want it to go down. The Brady Bill and the clip ban passed because the most influential gun owners in America—police officers and sheriffs—were tired of being outgunned by drug lords, madmen, and thugs.

When Democrats ignore the gun issue, they think about the political bullet they're dodging but not about the opportunity they'll miss. In the 1980s, Republicans talked tough on crime and ran ads about Willie Horton but sat on their hands while the crime rate went up. When Bill Clinton promised to try everything to fight crime—with more police officers on the street, and fewer guns—police organizations dropped their support for the GOP and stood behind him instead.

The current political calculus is that guns cost Gore the 2000 election by denying him West Virginia and his home state of Tennessee. This argument might be more convincing if Gore hadn't essentially carried the gun-mad state of Florida. In some states, the gun issue made it more difficult for Gore to bridge the cultural divide but hardly caused it. Four years ago, Gore and Clinton carried those same states with the same position on guns and the memory of the assault-weapons ban much fresher in voters' minds.

Not so long ago, in fact, Republicans were the ones who feared the gun issue. At his first campaign stop en route to the 1996 Democratic convention, Clinton stood with police officers to promise that in his second term, he would expand the Brady Bill to cover people with histories of domestic violence. Republicans in Congress were so afraid guns would hurt them in the suburbs, they sent Clinton the Brady expansion a few weeks later.

In those days, Rudy Giuliani was still in favor of tough gun-crime laws, either because he believed in them as a former prosecutor or because they were wildly popular. Giuliani's politics have changed, but contrary to conventional wisdom, the politics of guns have not. If gun laws were a true third rail, Michael Bloomberg—who wants to be president as much as any candidate in the race—wouldn't be seizing the opening to launch a national crusade around them.

Voters aren't the obstacle to banning high-capacity clips or closing the gun-show loophole; they support those measures by broad margins. The real hurdle is finding leaders who are willing to get tough on crime, no matter where they find it—and who have the standing to prove they know the difference between hunters and criminals. Bill Clinton wasn't a lifelong hunter, like Mitt Romney. He didn't need to be. He was a Bubba.

In recent years, Democrats have suffered a Bubba shortage. But Democratic Bubbas are making a comeback in the South, Midwest, and West. As they gain confidence, they will realize, as Clinton did, that real Bubbas look to cops for approval, not the NRA.

As it happens, one Bubba is in a unique position to lead a hard-headed look at gun laws and gun-crime enforcement: the new senator from Virginia, Jim Webb. Webb is one of the most independent-minded senators in memory and an outspoken man of principle. With an aide who was arrested for bringing a loaded gun into his Senate office, he has an unassailable pro-gun record. Moreover, the state Webb represents is deep in grief over a tragedy that underscores points that both the NRA and gun-control proponents have made—that our gun laws have too many loopholes and that existing laws need to be better enforced. Webb could even lead the effort hand in hand with his Republican colleague, Sen. John Warner, who voted against the assault ban in 1994 but stood with police officers in opposing its repeal in 2004.

A thorough look at gun laws might not lead in predictable ways. But the gun debate desperately needs what Webb and Warner could bring—a preference for independence over ideology, and the moral authority that comes from rejecting the politics of "not gonna happen" in favor of trying to find ways to prevent senseless crimes from happening again. ... 2:25 P.M. (link)

Monday, Apr. 16, 2007

The Gap: While Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama offer Democrats a choice of glass ceilings, George Bush has left Republicans desperate to keep from falling through the glass floor. Making history is not an option when being made history is the party's foremost concern. So while the GOP could nominate its first Mormon or its first big-city mayor, the party seems more intent on finding its second Reagan.

For that role, Fred Thompson seems a casting director's dream. Like Reagan, he softens his conservatism with a dose of practiced charm. Republican strategists think he's the perfect combination – a man's man with the Q Score to appeal as well to women.

The gender gap is often seen as a Democratic strength: More women vote, and women tend to like Democrats better. In practice, it takes two to tango. Democrats did well in 2006 by winning back men; Bush won in 2004 by cutting his losses among women.

So far, Republican hopefuls are having a tough time with gender balance. McCain is a guy's guy, standing up for a war that most women oppose. Giuliani has women's clothes and a comb-over. Romney has a gap with both genders: Women think he's the next Thomas E. Dewey, the little man on the wedding cake; men think he's proof we were right never to trust The Dry Look.

For such a confused party, Fred Thompson seems like a knight in shining loafers. Not only can he play the tough guy in Tom Clancy movies, he's the affable D.A. on "Law & Order" – the show Michael Kinsley famously called "The Secret Vice of Power Women."

Conservatives pushing Thompson's candidacy routinely tout his crossover appeal. In a glowing column last month, former Wall Street Journal editorial editor John Fund wrote, "Fan blogs for 'Law and Order' note that since the show is especially popular among women, a Thompson race could help close the GOP's 'gender gap.'"

The "Law & Order" vote is more contested than you might think. If Michael Bloomberg doesn't run, Thompson's co-star Sam Waterston could win the nomination for the independent Unity08 ticket. Waterston's predecessor, Michael Moriarty, says he is running for president as a Libertarian. Since Jerry Orbach is dead, Democrats would be lucky to get S. Epatha Merkerson or Benjamin Bratt.

Of course, Republicans haven't considered the dark side of a Thompson run. Under the fairness doctrine, whenever one of Thompson's movies or shows airs on television, stations will have to grant opponents equal time. The result: no more "Law & Order" reruns with Fred Thompson. In fact, with so many past and present cast members in the race, even a show as prolific as "Law & Order" could be driven out of syndication altogether. If that happens, the Power Women backlash could destroy Republican prospects for decades.

The show itself isn't doing so hot, either. For its 17th season, L&O was moved to its worst slot – Fridays – and saw ratings plummet. Republicans who think Thompson is coming to the GOP's rescue might look again: He may be jumping from one sinking ship to another.

But those aren't the only risks Republicans run with Thompson. The real problem with choosing Fred Thompson to lead the GOP across the gender gap is more profound: Even Republican women don't seem to like him.

In two recent polls, Thompson has a gender gap, all right, but in the wrong direction. He does OK with men, but is trailing badly with women. In last week's Los Angeles Times poll, he's running first among religious conservatives, a strong second among men, and a poor third – 20 points behind frontrunner Giuliani – among women. In a Zogby poll, Thompson did twice as well among men as among women. At only 6% among women, he was at the back of the pack, tied with Ron Paul.

From Mike Kinsley to John Fund, pundits agree that women love "Law & Order." But the polls also seem to agree that women don't love Thompson. In other words, the gender-gap argument for his candidacy has it backwards: Fred Thompson does worst among those who know him best – women.

Five years ago, when he broke the story of women's obsession with the show, Kinsley noted that his wife had no interest in watching current episodes:

She couldn't tell you what night it's on and has no view about what this country is coming to when a man like Fred Thompson can be plucked from the obscurity of the United States Senate and entrusted with the responsibility of running the prosecutor's office on Law & Order.

Kinsley was right about Thompson, but wasn't giving his wise and powerful wife enough credit. She was so far ahead of the curve, she was skipping the Thompson episodes on purpose. Never underestimate the power of Power Women, as Fred Thompson is about to find out. ... 5:02 P.M. (link)

Monday, Apr. 9, 2007

Cherchez Lapin:From missile defense to concealed weapons, Republicans have long sold themselves as the party to turn to for security. Mitt Romney is no exception. During a telephone question-and-answer session in Iowa last week, one caller told Romney, "You sound like a guy who sells home security systems."

Every presidential candidate is a traveling salesman, but Romney's rootlessness makes him more Willy Loman-esque than others. Last week, his sales prowess and slickness were both on display: He raised more money than any other Republican, then promptly bought himself seven figures' worth of bad publicity by overselling his hunting past.

Romney is a nomadic creature, so his past is an elusive prey. To find out whether he'd ever applied for a hunting license, the Associated Press had to ask officials in four states: Michigan (where he grew up), Massachusetts (where he went to graduate school and served as governor), Utah (where he went to college, ran an Olympics, and owns a ski home), and New Hampshire (where he is running for president and owns a lake house).

The nationwide hunt came up empty: Romney didn't apply for any hunting licenses, and not one of his vacation homes is a hunting lodge.

But the Romney campaign should not lose heart. Perhaps this photo will bring back hunting memories from the year he lived in France. Or this one.

Indeed, to repair his image with gun lovers on the right, Romney might want to promise that he will never let hunting in America go the way of hunting in France. Not only are licenses required, but it takes weeks—and 225 Euros—for a foreigner to get one. Predictably, one French hunting Web site warns Americans: "War or defense weapons forbidden."

Like the British, the French used to hunt rabbits with ferrets. Today, the award-winning rabbit chaser is the Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen. The one problem for Romney: The Petit Basset's small stature, long ears, and furry coat run the risk that a novice hunter might not be able to tell dog and bunny apart.

Le Club de Griffon Vendeen says that for a long time, Petit Bassets were "semi-crooked," but are now "naturally endowed with all moral qualities which presuppose the passion for hunting."  These days, Romney would kill for a review like that.

The honest excuse for not hunting rabbit since he was a teenager is that Romney was too busy running for president. Obviously, he didn't realize that the worlds of rabbit-hunting and vote-hunting have more in common than one might think. The home page of the American Rabbit Hound Association reads like every political journalist's analysis of the 2008 presidential race. The ARHA divides competitive hounds into four categories: "Big Pack,"  "Little Pack,"  "Gun Dogs," and  "Progressive Pack." Romney's no Gun Dog—he's running with the Big Pack of McCain and Giuliani, in hopes of facing whichever competitor emerges from the Democrats' Progressive Pack.

This weekend, the Little Pack showed that when there's blood on the trail, hounds in the Big Pack had better watch their backs. Little Pack member Mike Huckabee, desperate to escape the beta male rut, contrasted Romney's gun pander with what he termed Giuliani's "real gutsy move" to defend public funding for abortion. In truth, Huckabee was shooting with both barrels, implying that Romney's a liar and Giuliani a principled liberal.

When Romney was a little boy, he must have seen the Warner Brothers classic, Duck! Rabbit! Duck!, in which Daffy Duck writes Elmer Fudd a license to shoot rabbit, and Bugs Bunny gives him license to shoot everything else. The cartoon was the second in a trilogy that began with Rabbit Seasoning and ended with Rabbit Fire. It's easy to see why Duck! Rabbit! Duck! might have made the biggest impression on Romney, if not some of his future rivals: According to Answers.com, "This is the only cartoon in the trilogy where Bugs Bunny does not crossdress."

On Friday, Romney tried to defend himself by comparing himself to another itinerant millionaire, Jed Clampett, who struck oil when he shot the ground. But to get back on track, Romney needs to look for modern inspiration. A fellow Has-Been recommends this YouTube clip. Like Romney himself, the video may not be endowed with a French hound's moral qualities, but the passion for hunting is never in doubt. ... 4:44 P.M. (link)

Friday, Apr. 6, 2007

Disarmament: If you had to pick the issue most responsible for the two most consequential Republican victories of the last two decades—1994 and 2000—it might well be guns. In 1994, many Democrats lost their seats for supporting an assault weapons ban. In the 2000 primaries, Bill Bradley made gun control a central issue, and Al Gore paid the price that fall: The gun-owning half of the electorate supported Bush 61-39; households without guns went for Gore 58-39.

Although Democrats shied away from the gun issue in 2004, it still cost them. Twelve days before the election, John Kerry went goose hunting in Ohio, which the press dismissed as a desperate photo op. The same day, Dick Cheney called Kerry's new camouflage jacket "an October disguise" and told Ohio voters that "the Second Amendment is more than just a photo opportunity." Ohio gave Republicans the election—and Harry Whittington learned Cheney was willing to put his muzzle where his mouth was.

In 2008, Republicans may finally run out of ammo. By electing a Republican administration that once promised it a desk in the Oval Office, the NRA took guns off the agenda—which also made the group's scare tactics less credible than ever. During their time in the Senate, the Democratic front-runners have cast precious few votes on gun issues.

Meanwhile, the sharp drop in violent crime in the last decade and the absence of a Washington gun debate in this one have largely taken gun policy off the front pages. Of late, the courts are the only ones making gun headlines. If the Supreme Court eventually agrees with the D.C. Circuit that Washington's handgun ban is unconstitutional, the NRA might win the battle but lose the war. It could become a lot harder to block crime-fighting measures like closing the gun show loophole if the NRA can no longer convince anyone that the Second Amendment is under siege.

But Republicans' biggest problem in making this a wedge issue in 2008 is that when it comes to guns, their likely nominees are not as in-your-face as Cheney. John McCain has spent his life around guns but has worked valiantly to try to stop criminal purchases at gun shows. In 1994, Rudy Giuliani bravely spoke out in favor of the assault weapons ban. So far, he hasn't changed his story to claim it was part of a secret plan to elect a Republican Congress.

This week, Mitt Romney may have cooked his own goose by insisting that going hunting twice in his life makes him a "lifelong hunter." If Romney believes that, there's a camouflage jacket in Ohio that John Kerry would like to sell him.

Romney's two hunting trips were 44 years apart—with cousins in Idaho at age 15, and with Republican governors last year at 59. At that pace, his aim must already be pretty bad now— but stay away from his next outing at age 103.

His campaign made matters worse by touting Romney's NRA membership. It turns out he has been a lifelong member since he joined last year.

Like so many hunting stories, Romney's keeps getting better. Yesterday, he told Republicans in Indianapolis that he has gone hunting on other occasions, just not for big game. "I'm not a big-game hunter," the Indianapolis Star quoted him saying. "I've always been a rodent and rabbit hunter. ... Small animals and varmints."

No wonder conservatives feel bagged and plucked. Suddenly, conservatism has lost its mojo, and its license.

A year ago, Dick Cheney didn't let a few quail stop him from hunting the biggest game possible, a 78-year-old lawyer. Ronald Reagan wasn't elected because America was haunted by the portrayal of its impotence in a movie called The Rabbit Hunter.

In the old days, Republican presidents lived to go after big game, not ground squirrels. Reagan had the Soviet bear. Both Bushes had Saddam Hussein. America fell in love with teddy bears because a cub was the first big game Teddy Roosevelt didn't kill.

Those days are gone. The United States may face great challenges ahead, from energy independence to competing with India and China to winning the war on terror. But if Romney is any indication, the future of conservatism is limited to shooting BBs at varmints.

For years, the NRA has told its members to vote Republican, or the Democrat will take their guns away. Twice-in-a-lifetime Romney gives Democrats a once-in-a-lifetime chance to fire back: At least our nominee will never brag about hunting rodents. ... 2:22 P.M. (link)

Wednesday, Apr. 4, 2007

I Dream of Genie: When Steve Forbes endorsed him last Wednesday, Rudy Giuliani appeared to return the favor by dropping his longtime opposition to a flat tax and embracing Forbes' pet idea. As the New York Times reported, Giuliani said that if there were no federal income tax, "maybe I'd suggest not doing it at all, but if we were going to do it, a flat tax would make a lot of sense." It looked like a pawn-for-pawn swap, one dubious cause deserving another.

Everyone knew Giuliani's supply-side stance was a head fake meant to fool social conservatives. "We're going to talk for a long time about the ways we plan to reduce taxes," Giuliani told Iowans on Tuesday. As he explained to the Des Moines Register, "That's a way of appealing to Republicans who may have somewhat different views on social issues."

But now it turns out that Giuliani was conning Forbes as well. As Jason Horowitz blogs in the New York Observer, Giuliani said this weekend that he was just kidding about the flat tax:

"I didn't favor it, I said something academic," Giuliani said at a press conference in Florida on Saturday, in response to a reporter asking him why he had switched from opposing a flat tax to favoring it. "What I said was, and it was not a joke, but it was half-jocular, was if we didn't have an income tax...what would I favor?

"First I would favor no tax," he said laughing and turning to his wife Judith, who duly smiled back. "That would be my first position. My second position would probably be a flat tax."

But, he said, the tax "would probably not be feasible."

As an economic conservative who spent his last campaign professing to be a social conservative, Forbes is no stranger to head fakes. But Giuliani just taught him a lesson in kabuki conservatism: Always get it in writing!

Every campaign has its share of flip-flops and the occasional flip-flop-flip. Giuliani has invented a new form—the Flip-Flop-Flat.

Instead of retracting his previous statement, the former prosecutor introduced a new loophole for his defense, explaining his comments as "academic." Giuliani wasn't endorsing a flat tax in reality; he was endorsing it in theory—which, serendipitously, is the only place a flat tax might work. The risk is that a rival campaign will launch a 10-second attack ad of Giuliani mouthing words that would strike fear in the hearts of conservatives everywhere: "I said something academic."

But Giuliani didn't stop there. His flip-flop then went where no Romney has gone before, into a parallel universe where political gravity does not apply. Lawyers call it "arguing in the alternative"—making a second and seemingly contradictory argument, in case judge and jury don't buy the first. As an example of this kind of reasoning, Wikipedia cites Bart Simpson: "I didn't do it, no one saw me do it, you can't prove anything!"

Romney has learned the hard way that flip-flopping is a messy business, because the flip-flopper has to make up an excuse for changing his mind, when everyone knows the real reason is politics. Arguing in the alternative is flip-flopping without the flap. Giuliani claims he wasn't actually embracing a flat tax; he was saying that if there were no federal income tax, he might embrace it.

Giuliani uncorks a political genie: With his first wish, he would get rid of the income tax. His second wish would be for a flat tax. And since neither of those is feasible, his third wish is that we forget his first two.

A conventional flip-flopper is limited to two positions: his old one and his new one. Giuliani seems to be a political polytheist, who thinks a man can have as many positions as he wants. He even refers to them that way, as "my first position" and "my second position." Then there is his third and current position, which does not smile upon the other two.

Perhaps to distinguish himself from the other two Republican front-runners, Giuliani has found a third way between flip-flopping and straight talk. He calls it half-jocularity. That's not a bad description. He wasn't joking (which is why nobody else laughed), but he didn't mean it (which is why nobody believed him).

In a way, the episode sums up the apparent strategy of his campaign. When Giuliani pays lip service to supply-side economics but not social conservatism, he's trying to convince the right that half a joke is better than none. ... 4:35 P.M. (link)

Friday, Mar. 30, 2007

Always Look on the Supply Side of Life: No matter what else comes out about Rudy Giuliani's three marriages, it's hard to imagine a stranger union than the one he announced this week, with multimillionaire conservative presidential wannabe Steve Forbes.

Giuliani has dressed in drag before—nothing wrong with that!—but this may be the most ill-fitting set of clothes he has donned in a long time. Giuliani grew up in Brooklyn and on Long Island; Forbes is from the landed class in New Jersey. Forbes gave $37 million of his own money to his first campaign; Giuliani kept pocketing $100,000 speaking fees even after launching his exploratory committee. Giuliani married his third wife three years ago; Forbes has been married to the same woman for 35 years.

The two men are cut from different policy cloth as well. As mayor of New York, Giuliani built a reputation for trying ideas that worked, like cutting crime through better policing. As a magazine publisher and presidential candidate, Steve Forbes did the opposite—championing ideas that fail, like supply-side economics.

Like Forbes, Giuliani is a one-note candidate—but they're completely different notes. The Onion teased Giuliani for running for president of Sept. 11; Forbes ran for president of April 15, the national day of remembrance for taxes.

As a candidate, Forbes had one idée fixe—the flat tax. Over the years, that has been his economic policy, his social policy, and, at times, his foreign policy. Steve Forbes viewed the flat tax the way George W. Bush views Iraq: You're either for it or against me.

Until this week, Giuliani was one of the flat tax's most outspoken Republican opponents. Back in 1996, as the New York Times pointed out yesterday, Giuliani took to the airwaves to attack the Forbes flat tax as "a disaster." This week, Giuliani stood alongside Forbes and offered up a reverse double pander, declaring that he'd rather not have a federal income tax at all, but if we must have one, it ought to be a flat tax.

Giuliani didn't even try to hide the motives behind his strange, new arranged marriage. In conjunction with the Forbes endorsement, his campaign started running ads on conservative talk radio touting his support for "supply-side policies." He told Larry Kudlow, "I regard myself as a supply-sider for sure."

Never mind that in eight years, Giuliani's supply-side revolution managed to reduce the top personal income tax rate in New York City by nine-tenths of 1 percent. The campaign's theory is obvious: Giuliani can't win the nomination as a social liberal, and Mitt Romney is already running as the social flip-flopper. So, Hizzoner will run as an economic flip-flopper instead.

The trouble with this theory is that even Steve Forbes doesn't believe in it. In 1996, Forbes ran a campaign like Giuliani's—as a pro-choice supply-sider. He lost everywhere but Delaware and Arizona. When he ran the next time, Forbes turned himself into such a pro-life enthusiast he accused Bush of hedging on whether abortion would be a litmus test for judges and his running mate. (He lost again, anyway.)

Forbes writes in the Wall Street Journal that he supports Giuliani because he's the "real fiscal conservative" in the race and "will inspire the next generation of the Reagan Revolution." Of course, if Giuliani is as much of a supply-sider as Reagan was a fiscal conservative, he'll triple personal income taxes the way Reagan nearly tripled the national debt.

As they suffer through one of the most unpopular presidencies of all time, it's easy to understand why Republicans long for the days of Reagan, who won successive landslides. But supply-side alchemy isn't what conservatives miss about the '80s; if anything, Bush has outdone Reagan in that regard. What Republicans really miss is the Mr. Magoo spirit of the Reagan years, when America was made of Teflon instead of Velcro, and no amount of ideological bad driving could crash us in the ditch.

Steve Forbes is proof that Magoo-like vision doesn't always bring Magoo-like results. In any case, waiting for Magoo won't bring back America's Teflon. Neither will always looking on the supply side of life.

If Republicans want to restore strength to the presidency, they need to speak honestly and forcefully about how to restore strength to the country, not pretend that the Laffer Curve will suddenly start to work the third time around. It was easy to mock Giuliani for running to be president of 9/11. But that made more sense than what he's doing now—running for president of 1981. ... 8:25 P.M. (link)

Rackets:Giuliani's new friend Steve Forbes is harmless compared to old ones like Bernard Kerik. His campaign's new pander to conservative talk-radio: Giuliani Partners tried to keep the government from restricting sales of OxyContin.

Brackets: The Florida Senate was planning to move the state's presidential primary from the second week of March to the first Tuesday in February – Super Tuesday – joining California and other states afraid that by the time their residents vote, the race will already be over. But last week, the Florida House voted to move the primary to the last Tuesday in January. The reason: so many primaries are moving to Super Tuesday, even a big state like Florida might not make a splash.

Now other Super Tuesday states feel betrayed by Florida's defection, and may jump ahead as well. New Hampshire officials, angry that caucus goers now get to go first in Nevada as well as Iowa, have threatened to jump ahead of everyone else. When the Democratic National Committee set out to "fix" the calendar, it offered states bonus delegates to hold their primaries in late spring. Instead, if this game of leapfrog continues, primary votes and caucus goers may pick the nominees by New Years.

For now, the jockeying among big states suggests that if Iowa and New Hampshire haven't already determined the winner, Florida and California may be the 1-2 punch that does. In an eerie coincidence, that's exactly what will decide the winner of the GOP's NCAA pool. Going into last weekend, Rudy Giuliani led John McCain by nearly 3-1. But victories by UCLA and Georgetown vaulted McCain back into contention, and he now trails Giuliani by just 860 to 840 – 65.8% to 60.2%. The race for Republican bragging rights could come down to tonight's semifinal between UCLA and Florida. McCain has UCLA to win the title, so if the Bruins make the final, he'll pass Giuliani once and for all.

When the tourney started, we took McCain to task for brackets that seemed hopelessly conservative. His picks turned out better than history would suggest – guessing right on seven of his Elite Eight. As the Washington Post noted this morning, this year's tourney had the fewest upsets since seeding of 64 began in 1985. Last year saw 11 upsets; this year, only three.

But by rewriting McCain's brackets to make him pick all the second seeds, Slate kept alive his chance to win it all. Without Slate's intervention, McCain would be done scoring by now, saddled with North Carolina and Kansas in Monday's championship game. Instead, a win tonight by No. 2 UCLA or No. 2 Georgetown will hand McCain the crown. The only way to avoid the curse of the frontrunner is to bet on the underdog now and then. ... 9:59 A.M. (link)

Thursday, Mar. 22, 2007

Sweet and Sour 16: If you got knocked out of the running in your office pool last weekend because you picked a few upsets, now you know what 2008 will be like for most presidential candidates. March Madness lasts three weeks and will be over the first Monday in April. In the 2008 presidential primaries, January Madness will last three weeks and be over the first Tuesday in February.

Like everything else in life, the presidential race is just another set of brackets. But before you start betting your fortune on political futures, you might want to check how well long shots are faring against the odds.

Last week, I filled out NCAA brackets for the Republican candidates, based on the particular strategies they've chosen for their campaigns. What does this have to do with their actual prospects? Nothing! But then, neither does most coverage of the presidential race you'll be forced to read this year. Even so, one weekend of basketball proved what all those dark horses will spend the next nine months traipsing through Iowa to learn: If you're one of the bottom seeds when the tournament begins, you probably won't still be around when it ends.

So far, this year's NCAA tourney has been a front-runner's paradise. If you picked the favorite to win every game, you're in the upper quarter of the millions who've entered the NCAA pool at ESPN.com. If you picked every underdog, you can stop checking—your Cinderella run is over.

Long shots Duncan Hunter and Ron Paul went against the grain on every pick and had all four No. 16 seeds reaching the Final Four. They guessed just five of the first 32 games correctly, and even those 5 upset winners lost in the next round. Out of a possible 1680 points, their bracket will end up with just 50. If ESPN had a leaderboard for losers, Hunter and Paul would be virtually guaranteed to finish with the worst bracket in the country.

The superfecta entry of also-rans—Brownback, Huckabee, Gilmore, and Thompson—followed the home-state version of the same uphill strategy, picking their local underdogs to go all the way. Thanks to Brownback's Kansas Jayhawks, this entry still has one team left in its Final Four, but that's their only team still standing. The other three candidates' home teams have all gone home empty-handed. Favorite son, favorite loser: Their ESPN rank matches their standing in national polls—in the bottom two-tenths of 1 percent.

Along with Brownback, the second-tier candidate with the clearest niche might be Tom Tancredo, whose fervent opposition to immigration strikes a chord with many conservatives. Apparently, top basketball players don't choose colleges the way Tancredo did—the farther from the Mexican border, the better. All the congressman's finalists bowed out in the first round. Tancredo's bracket would be doing better if his campaign were based on fear of illegal immigrants from Canada. For now, his ESPN ranking is stuck in the bottom six-tenths of 1 percent.

No matter how much the second tier stumbles, however, the front-runners can't seem to put this race away. John McCain's bracket hardly lit up the scoreboard this weekend, although he's in good shape to soldier on in later rounds. I thought that by picking all the No. 1 seeds to make the Final Four, he was being too conservative, so I gave him all the No. 12 seeds in the opening round and a Final Four of No. 2 seeds instead. So far, it looks like I was wrong—he wasn't being conservative enough. All four No. 12 seeds lost, all four top seeds survived, and one second-seed (Wisconsin) tumbled. Most of the few upsets McCain picked let him down—Georgia Tech didn't beat UNLV, Gonzaga lost to Indiana, Duke failed to make the Sweet 16 by losing the opener to VCU. As a result, McCain's ESPN rating matches his last showing in the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll: 24 percent.

Rudy Giuliani, the runaway early front-runner in the polls, is also the runaway early leader in the brackets. He picked every favorite except Texas Tech and landed at 69 percent in the ESPN rankings. But his current lead is far more vulnerable than it looks. If No. 2 seeds make a comeback this weekend, McCain will pass Giuliani, and Rudy may be looking to make a deal with Brownback.

The wild card in the race, as always, is the elusive Mitt Romney. By any objective standard, Romney's campaign is off to a shaky start—and his brackets are no exception. His dream final—Boston College vs. BYU—didn't make it through the first weekend.

But there's one reason not to count Romney out: He's still revising his picks! His campaign wonders how anyone could jump to the conclusion that Romney would have chosen BYU, his alma mater, over Xavier, a Catholic school from a swing state. Of course, he was for Xavier all along. And far from picking Boston College for the Final Four, Romney insists he spent his entire governorship in Massachusetts trying to ban same-sex sports.

After a great deal of soul-searching that helped clarify his lifelong support for intelligent design, Romney now has Kansas beating Tennessee for the title. His campaign warns that may not be the last word. In matters of conscience, it always pays to check the final score. ...  9:59 A.M. (link)

Wednesday, Mar. 14, 2007

The Road to Minneapolis: You can't blame John McCain for trying to have a little fun on the campaign trail. This week, his campaign Web site focused in on an issue voters across the spectrum care about: March Madness. If you're bored with your office pool or have used up all your picks at ESPN, the McCain site offers another outlet for your predictions. In return for your e-mail address, you can go bracket-to-bracket with John McCain. The winner gets a McCain fleece.

Politicians usually go to great lengths to avoid picking sides in sporting events, unless their home team is involved. If the 2008 World Series comes down to two swing-state teams like Minnesota and Florida, neither nominee is likely to use the presidential debates to predict a Twins or Marlins sweep. So, give McCain some credit for putting his picks on the table.

What does McCain's bracket tell us about the campaign he's running? It would be hard to come up with more conservative picks. McCain has all four No. 1 seeds going to the Final Four. That's never happened in NCAA history, and it's a classic front-runner strategy sure to lose the office pool. His longest shot in the Elite Eight is a third seed, Washington State; the rest are first or second seeds. The Arizona senator doesn't even choose his home-state Wildcats to knock off top-seeded Florida. Straight talk, or a savvy play for Florida's Super Tuesday primary? You make the call.

McCain's picks aren't crazy. Of his few upsets, some are good bets, like thuggish Duke over traditional underperformer Pittsburgh. His biggest sleeper, Washington State, is a favorite of sportwriters, too. The biggest risk in McCain's bracket is that he doesn't take more such risks. He needs more gambles like the two he makes (along with Duke) for the Sweet 16: Louisville over Texas A&M and Southern Cal over Texas. The second is gutsier than the first, but along with the first-round departures he foresees for Texas Tech, North Texas, and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, those picks share a common, endearing bias reminiscent of McCain's 2000 campaign: Always mess with Texas.

Of course, it's always possible McCain made safe picks not because he's conservative but because he's just being polite. When you invite thousands of supporters to take part in a friendly contest, the sporting thing is to let your guests win. Nobody likes a candidate who can't handle losing a bet with his own friends, which may explain why you won't be able to go head-to-head with Rudy Giuliani's brackets anytime soon. McCain's top-seed-heavy bracket is perfectly designed to avoid the rudeness of trouncing his guests as well as the political embarrassment of finishing dead last.

Here at Slate, we want candidates to take more risks, and we don't think John McCain should have to take these risks alone. So, as a special service to demoralized conservatives, we've filled out brackets for all McCain's Republican challengers, in a manner that's consistent with the overall strategy of their campaigns. We've also filled out the bracket McCain should have picked, if he weren't playing it safe. Since we're not allowed to make campaign contributions, the prize for the winning campaign will be one they either don't need or won't accept: a McCain fleece.

Here are the entries, in reverse order of candidate seedings:

Ron Paul/Duncan Hunter: These two are the play-in game of the Republican primaries. One will survive just long enough to get whomped by the fron-trunner. Their joint strategy: Pick every No. 16 seed, and pick the winner of the play-in game to win it all. Based on a coin flip, we assigned Niagara to Paul and Florida A&M to Hunter. News flash: Duncan Hunter has already lost.

Tom Tancredo: For most dark horses, the strategy is to pick every long shot. But as the anti-immigration candidate, Tancredo takes a single-issue approach. In every matchup, he picks the team farthest from the Mexican border. Like Tancredo's campaign, an Albany-Gonzaga final isn't likely. But at least he'll improve his chance to be McCain's running mate by nixing every school from Texas.

Sam Brownback/Mike Huckabee/Tommy Thompson/Jim Gilmore: At this stage, it's hard to tell these four candidates apart. Besides, we don't have time to flesh out the obvious, if uphill, Huckabee strategy—always choose the skinnier team. So, we lumped them together in one entry, with a Final Four made up of the top team from each candidate's home state: Kansas, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Virginia. No 12th-seed like Arkansas has ever made the Final Four. Still, these four amigos still have a better chance of winning the pool than the nomination.

Newt Gingrich/Fred Thompson/Chuck Hagel/Jeb Bush: Won't make the Thursday deadline. March Madness is like anything else: You must be entered to win.

Mitt Romney: It's a good thing we just saved an entry. On this issue, like every other, the Romney campaign will want two. That wouldn't be fair, so we've filled out Mitt's brackets by hand. The teams he has winning the first round go on to lose in the second, then miraculously come back to win in the Sweet 16, only to lose in the Elite Eight and make the Final Four. He takes Boston College over Brigham Young in one semifinal, then changes his mind and has BYU beating BC in quadruple-overtime in the final.

John McCain: If Romney's slogan is the same as Ernie Banks' ("Let's play two!"), McCain's ought to be the same as Avis: "We're No. 2—we try harder." We let him keep most of his picks but gave him every No. 12 seed in the first round and sent every second seed—not first—to the Final Four. He'll thank us when UCLA beats Georgetown for the championship.

Rudy Giuliani: As the current front-runner, Giuliani—not McCain—should be the one picking every top seed. We assigned him the favorite in every contest, but to put his odds of winning the contest in line with his chances of capturing the nomination, we made exception for his temperament. He's sure to win—provided Bobby Knight and Texas Tech take the title. Every NCAA tournament has its Cinderella story, and every Cinderella has an evil stepmother who doesn't show up at her graduation. ... 4:46 P.M. (link)

Thursday, Mar. 8, 2007

Spoiler Alert:For months, the right wing has been sending out distress signals, hoping to attract a hero to rescue conservatism and save the world. Yet just when it seemed the movement's future couldn't look any bleaker, the last best hope for conservatism is dead.

No, it's not who you think. Newt and Jeb are fine; Ann Coulter is in rehab; and Vice President Cheney is in an undisclosed, secure, and jury-free location. But this week will still live in conservative infamy, because  Captain America has been shot. If anti-government wing nuts want a superhero, they'll have to settle for Duncan Hunter instead.

Unlike President Bush's domestic policy adviser, Think Tank Town, the Washington Post asked a variety of scholars, "How can policies be improved in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings?" All the posts had more or less the same headlines: "The Real Problem Transcends Policy," "Gun Control Doesn't Fit This Crime," "Not Every Tragedy Has a Solution," "Evil Is Always With Us." Another post concluded, "There is not much we can or should do." Another warned not to pass new laws because existing ones might be the culprit. No scholar proposed much of anything on guns.

Granted, most of the scholars in the Post survey come from center-right think tanks and have ideological biases toward doing nothing. But they're not the only ones the Post asked. The center-left think tanks on the Post's list—like Brookings and the Center for American Progress—didn't even bother to show up.

Those of us who work in think tanks are supposed to come up with ideas with little or no chance of passage. Yet in this age of policy ennui, even people who get paid to be hopelessly unrealistic can't suspend disbelief on guns.

I grew up in gun country, and I know what it's like to be strafed by the NRA. I understand why Democrats from red states don't want to risk the next election on an issue of little interest back home. But over the long haul, it is a substantive and political mistake to duck the issue altogether. Guns are a cultural issue but also a crime one—and both parties should have learned over the years that they dodge any crime issue at their peril.

The substantive case for common-sense gun crime and safety measures is clear enough. When Clinton signed the Brady Bill in 1993—after seven years of talk that it would never happen—the NRA said the new law was pointless. In the years since, it has kept handguns out of the hands of tens of thousands of criminals, stalkers, and troubled individuals. If Virginia had properly interpreted the law, it probably would have stopped Cho from buying the guns that wreaked havoc at Virginia Tech.

When the 1994 crime bill banned the manufacture of high-capacity ammunition clips, the NRA once again went ballistic. The bill wasn't as tough as it should have been, because NRA sympathizers in Congress grandfathered existing clips. But the ban kept more clips from flooding the market. The best testimony to its impact is how much gun manufacturers tout that it has lapsed. TopGlock.com offers "new Glock factory magazines that are legal under the repeal of the 1994 Assault Weapons bill." The 15-round clip Cho used with his Glock semiautomatic pistol is on sale for $19.72. TopGlock advertises the clips on a "sunset" page (to mark the law's sunset), which you can access by clicking on the ad for ammunition clips that's just above the tribute to the victims at Virginia Tech.

The political case for not running for cover on guns is equally straightforward. Unlike most politicians, voters are not ideological about crime. They don't care what it takes, they just want it to go down. The Brady Bill and the clip ban passed because the most influential gun owners in America—police officers and sheriffs—were tired of being outgunned by drug lords, madmen, and thugs.

When Democrats ignore the gun issue, they think about the political bullet they're dodging but not about the opportunity they'll miss. In the 1980s, Republicans talked tough on crime and ran ads about Willie Horton but sat on their hands while the crime rate went up. When Bill Clinton promised to try everything to fight crime—with more police officers on the street, and fewer guns—police organizations dropped their support for the GOP and stood behind him instead.

The current political calculus is that guns cost Gore the 2000 election by denying him West Virginia and his home state of Tennessee. This argument might be more convincing if Gore hadn't essentially carried the gun-mad state of Florida. In some states, the gun issue made it more difficult for Gore to bridge the cultural divide but hardly caused it. Four years ago, Gore and Clinton carried those same states with the same position on guns and the memory of the assault-weapons ban much fresher in voters' minds.

Not so long ago, in fact, Republicans were the ones who feared the gun issue. At his first campaign stop en route to the 1996 Democratic convention, Clinton stood with police officers to promise that in his second term, he would expand the Brady Bill to cover people with histories of domestic violence. Republicans in Congress were so afraid guns would hurt them in the suburbs, they sent Clinton the Brady expansion a few weeks later.

In those days, Rudy Giuliani was still in favor of tough gun-crime laws, either because he believed in them as a former prosecutor or because they were wildly popular. Giuliani's politics have changed, but contrary to conventional wisdom, the politics of guns have not. If gun laws were a true third rail, Michael Bloomberg—who wants to be president as much as any candidate in the race—wouldn't be seizing the opening to launch a national crusade around them.

Voters aren't the obstacle to banning high-capacity clips or closing the gun-show loophole; they support those measures by broad margins. The real hurdle is finding leaders who are willing to get tough on crime, no matter where they find it—and who have the standing to prove they know the difference between hunters and criminals. Bill Clinton wasn't a lifelong hunter, like Mitt Romney. He didn't need to be. He was a Bubba.

In recent years, Democrats have suffered a Bubba shortage. But Democratic Bubbas are making a comeback in the South, Midwest, and West. As they gain confidence, they will realize, as Clinton did, that real Bubbas look to cops for approval, not the NRA.

As it happens, one Bubba is in a unique position to lead a hard-headed look at gun laws and gun-crime enforcement: the new senator from Virginia, Jim Webb. Webb is one of the most independent-minded senators in memory and an outspoken man of principle. With an aide who was arrested for bringing a loaded gun into his Senate office, he has an unassailable pro-gun record. Moreover, the state Webb represents is deep in grief over a tragedy that underscores points that both the NRA and gun-control proponents have made—that our gun laws have too many loopholes and that existing laws need to be better enforced. Webb could even lead the effort hand in hand with his Republican colleague, Sen. John Warner, who voted against the assault ban in 1994 but stood with police officers in opposing its repeal in 2004.

A thorough look at gun laws might not lead in predictable ways. But the gun debate desperately needs what Webb and Warner could bring—a preference for independence over ideology, and the moral authority that comes from rejecting the politics of "not gonna happen" in favor of trying to find ways to prevent senseless crimes from happening again. ... 2:25 P.M. (link)

Monday, Apr. 16, 2007

The Gap: While Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama offer Democrats a choice of glass ceilings, George Bush has left Republicans desperate to keep from falling through the glass floor. Making history is not an option when being made history is the party's foremost concern. So while the GOP could nominate its first Mormon or its first big-city mayor, the party seems more intent on finding its second Reagan.

For that role, Fred Thompson seems a casting director's dream. Like Reagan, he softens his conservatism with a dose of practiced charm. Republican strategists think he's the perfect combination – a man's man with the Q Score to appeal as well to women.

The gender gap is often seen as a Democratic strength: More women vote, and women tend to like Democrats better. In practice, it takes two to tango. Democrats did well in 2006 by winning back men; Bush won in 2004 by cutting his losses among women.

So far, Republican hopefuls are having a tough time with gender balance. McCain is a guy's guy, standing up for a war that most women oppose. Giuliani has women's clothes and a comb-over. Romney has a gap with both genders: Women think he's the next Thomas E. Dewey, the little man on the wedding cake; men think he's proof we were right never to trust The Dry Look.

For such a confused party, Fred Thompson seems like a knight in shining loafers. Not only can he play the tough guy in Tom Clancy movies, he's the affable D.A. on "Law & Order" – the show Michael Kinsley famously called "The Secret Vice of Power Women."

Conservatives pushing Thompson's candidacy routinely tout his crossover appeal. In a glowing column last month, former Wall Street Journal editorial editor John Fund wrote, "Fan blogs for 'Law and Order' note that since the show is especially popular among women, a Thompson race could help close the GOP's 'gender gap.'"

The "Law & Order" vote is more contested than you might think. If Michael Bloomberg doesn't run, Thompson's co-star Sam Waterston could win the nomination for the independent Unity08 ticket. Waterston's predecessor, Michael Moriarty, says he is running for president as a Libertarian. Since Jerry Orbach is dead, Democrats would be lucky to get S. Epatha Merkerson or Benjamin Bratt.

Of course, Republicans haven't considered the dark side of a Thompson run. Under the fairness doctrine, whenever one of Thompson's movies or shows airs on television, stations will have to grant opponents equal time. The result: no more "Law & Order" reruns with Fred Thompson. In fact, with so many past and present cast members in the race, even a show as prolific as "Law & Order" could be driven out of syndication altogether. If that happens, the Power Women backlash could destroy Republican prospects for decades.

The show itself isn't doing so hot, either. For its 17th season, L&O was moved to its worst slot – Fridays – and saw ratings plummet. Republicans who think Thompson is coming to the GOP's rescue might look again: He may be jumping from one sinking ship to another.

But those aren't the only risks Republicans run with Thompson. The real problem with choosing Fred Thompson to lead the GOP across the gender gap is more profound: Even Republican women don't seem to like him.

In two recent polls, Thompson has a gender gap, all right, but in the wrong direction. He does OK with men, but is trailing badly with women. In last week's Los Angeles Times poll, he's running first among religious conservatives, a strong second among men, and a poor third – 20 points behind frontrunner Giuliani – among women. In a Zogby poll, Thompson did twice as well among men as among women. At only 6% among women, he was at the back of the pack, tied with Ron Paul.

From Mike Kinsley to John Fund, pundits agree that women love "Law & Order." But the polls also seem to agree that women don't love Thompson. In other words, the gender-gap argument for his candidacy has it backwards: Fred Thompson does worst among those who know him best – women.

Five years ago, when he broke the story of women's obsession with the show, Kinsley noted that his wife had no interest in watching current episodes:

She couldn't tell you what night it's on and has no view about what this country is coming to when a man like Fred Thompson can be plucked from the obscurity of the United States Senate and entrusted with the responsibility of running the prosecutor's office on Law & Order.

Kinsley was right about Thompson, but wasn't giving his wise and powerful wife enough credit. She was so far ahead of the curve, she was skipping the Thompson episodes on purpose. Never underestimate the power of Power Women, as Fred Thompson is about to find out. ... 5:02 P.M. (link)

Monday, Apr. 9, 2007

Cherchez Lapin:From missile defense to concealed weapons, Republicans have long sold themselves as the party to turn to for security. Mitt Romney is no exception. During a telephone question-and-answer session in Iowa last week, one caller told Romney, "You sound like a guy who sells home security systems."

Every presidential candidate is a traveling salesman, but Romney's rootlessness makes him more Willy Loman-esque than others. Last week, his sales prowess and slickness were both on display: He raised more money than any other Republican, then promptly bought himself seven figures' worth of bad publicity by overselling his hunting past.

Romney is a nomadic creature, so his past is an elusive prey. To find out whether he'd ever applied for a hunting license, the Associated Press had to ask officials in four states: Michigan (where he grew up), Massachusetts (where he went to graduate school and served as governor), Utah (where he went to college, ran an Olympics, and owns a ski home), and New Hampshire (where he is running for president and owns a lake house).

The nationwide hunt came up empty: Romney didn't apply for any hunting licenses, and not one of his vacation homes is a hunting lodge.

But the Romney campaign should not lose heart. Perhaps this photo will bring back hunting memories from the year he lived in France. Or this one.

Indeed, to repair his image with gun lovers on the right, Romney might want to promise that he will never let hunting in America go the way of hunting in France. Not only are licenses required, but it takes weeks—and 225 Euros—for a foreigner to get one. Predictably, one French hunting Web site warns Americans: "War or defense weapons forbidden."

Like the British, the French used to hunt rabbits with ferrets. Today, the award-winning rabbit chaser is the Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen. The one problem for Romney: The Petit Basset's small stature, long ears, and furry coat run the risk that a novice hunter might not be able to tell dog and bunny apart.

Le Club de Griffon Vendeen says that for a long time, Petit Bassets were "semi-crooked," but are now "naturally endowed with all moral qualities which presuppose the passion for hunting."  These days, Romney would kill for a review like that.

The honest excuse for not hunting rabbit since he was a teenager is that Romney was too busy running for president. Obviously, he didn't realize that the worlds of rabbit-hunting and vote-hunting have more in common than one might think. The home page of the American Rabbit Hound Association reads like every political journalist's analysis of the 2008 presidential race. The ARHA divides competitive hounds into four categories: "Big Pack,"  "Little Pack,"  "Gun Dogs," and  "Progressive Pack." Romney's no Gun Dog—he's running with the Big Pack of McCain and Giuliani, in hopes of facing whichever competitor emerges from the Democrats' Progressive Pack.

This weekend, the Little Pack showed that when there's blood on the trail, hounds in the Big Pack had better watch their backs. Little Pack member Mike Huckabee, desperate to escape the beta male rut, contrasted Romney's gun pander with what he termed Giuliani's "real gutsy move" to defend public funding for abortion. In truth, Huckabee was shooting with both barrels, implying that Romney's a liar and Giuliani a principled liberal.

When Romney was a little boy, he must have seen the Warner Brothers classic, Duck! Rabbit! Duck!, in which Daffy Duck writes Elmer Fudd a license to shoot rabbit, and Bugs Bunny gives him license to shoot everything else. The cartoon was the second in a trilogy that began with Rabbit Seasoning and ended with Rabbit Fire. It's easy to see why Duck! Rabbit! Duck! might have made the biggest impression on Romney, if not some of his future rivals: According to Answers.com, "This is the only cartoon in the trilogy where Bugs Bunny does not crossdress."

On Friday, Romney tried to defend himself by comparing himself to another itinerant millionaire, Jed Clampett, who struck oil when he shot the ground. But to get back on track, Romney needs to look for modern inspiration. A fellow Has-Been recommends this YouTube clip. Like Romney himself, the video may not be endowed with a French hound's moral qualities, but the passion for hunting is never in doubt. ... 4:44 P.M. (link)

Friday, Apr. 6, 2007

Disarmament: If you had to pick the issue most responsible for the two most consequential Republican victories of the last two decades—1994 and 2000—it might well be guns. In 1994, many Democrats lost their seats for supporting an assault weapons ban. In the 2000 primaries, Bill Bradley made gun control a central issue, and Al Gore paid the price that fall: The gun-owning half of the electorate supported Bush 61-39; households without guns went for Gore 58-39.

Although Democrats shied away from the gun issue in 2004, it still cost them. Twelve days before the election, John Kerry went goose hunting in Ohio, which the press dismissed as a desperate photo op. The same day, Dick Cheney called Kerry's new camouflage jacket "an October disguise" and told Ohio voters that "the Second Amendment is more than just a photo opportunity." Ohio gave Republicans the election—and Harry Whittington learned Cheney was willing to put his muzzle where his mouth was.

In 2008, Republicans may finally run out of ammo. By electing a Republican administration that once promised it a desk in the Oval Office, the NRA took guns off the agenda—which also made the group's scare tactics less credible than ever. During their time in the Senate, the Democratic front-runners have cast precious few votes on gun issues.

Meanwhile, the sharp drop in violent crime in the last decade and the absence of a Washington gun debate in this one have largely taken gun policy off the front pages. Of late, the courts are the only ones making gun headlines. If the Supreme Court eventually agrees with the D.C. Circuit that Washington's handgun ban is unconstitutional, the NRA might win the battle but lose the war. It could become a lot harder to block crime-fighting measures like closing the gun show loophole if the NRA can no longer convince anyone that the Second Amendment is under siege.

But Republicans' biggest problem in making this a wedge issue in 2008 is that when it comes to guns, their likely nominees are not as in-your-face as Cheney. John McCain has spent his life around guns but has worked valiantly to try to stop criminal purchases at gun shows. In 1994, Rudy Giuliani bravely spoke out in favor of the assault weapons ban. So far, he hasn't changed his story to claim it was part of a secret plan to elect a Republican Congress.

This week, Mitt Romney may have cooked his own goose by insisting that going hunting twice in his life makes him a "lifelong hunter." If Romney believes that, there's a camouflage jacket in Ohio that John Kerry would like to sell him.

Romney's two hunting trips were 44 years apart—with cousins in Idaho at age 15, and with Republican governors last year at 59. At that pace, his aim must already be pretty bad now— but stay away from his next outing at age 103.

His campaign made matters worse by touting Romney's NRA membership. It turns out he has been a lifelong member since he joined last year.

Like so many hunting stories, Romney's keeps getting better. Yesterday, he told Republicans in Indianapolis that he has gone hunting on other occasions, just not for big game. "I'm not a big-game hunter," the Indianapolis Star quoted him saying. "I've always been a rodent and rabbit hunter. ... Small animals and varmints."

No wonder conservatives feel bagged and plucked. Suddenly, conservatism has lost its mojo, and its license.

A year ago, Dick Cheney didn't let a few quail stop him from hunting the biggest game possible, a 78-year-old lawyer. Ronald Reagan wasn't elected because America was haunted by the portrayal of its impotence in a movie called The Rabbit Hunter.

In the old days, Republican presidents lived to go after big game, not ground squirrels. Reagan had the Soviet bear. Both Bushes had Saddam Hussein. America fell in love with teddy bears because a cub was the first big game Teddy Roosevelt didn't kill.

Those days are gone. The United States may face great challenges ahead, from energy independence to competing with India and China to winning the war on terror. But if Romney is any indication, the future of conservatism is limited to shooting BBs at varmints.

For years, the NRA has told its members to vote Republican, or the Democrat will take their guns away. Twice-in-a-lifetime Romney gives Democrats a once-in-a-lifetime chance to fire back: At least our nominee will never brag about hunting rodents. ... 2:22 P.M. (link)

Wednesday, Apr. 4, 2007

I Dream of Genie: When Steve Forbes endorsed him last Wednesday, Rudy Giuliani appeared to return the favor by dropping his longtime opposition to a flat tax and embracing Forbes' pet idea. As the New York Times reported, Giuliani said that if there were no federal income tax, "maybe I'd suggest not doing it at all, but if we were going to do it, a flat tax would make a lot of sense." It looked like a pawn-for-pawn swap, one dubious cause deserving another.

Everyone knew Giuliani's supply-side stance was a head fake meant to fool social conservatives. "We're going to talk for a long time about the ways we plan to reduce taxes," Giuliani told Iowans on Tuesday. As he explained to the Des Moines Register, "That's a way of appealing to Republicans who may have somewhat different views on social issues."

But now it turns out that Giuliani was conning Forbes as well. As Jason Horowitz blogs in the New York Observer, Giuliani said this weekend that he was just kidding about the flat tax:

"I didn't favor it, I said something academic," Giuliani said at a press conference in Florida on Saturday, in response to a reporter asking him why he had switched from opposing a flat tax to favoring it. "What I said was, and it was not a joke, but it was half-jocular, was if we didn't have an income tax...what would I favor?

"First I would favor no tax," he said laughing and turning to his wife Judith, who duly smiled back. "That would be my first position. My second position would probably be a flat tax."

But, he said, the tax "would probably not be feasible."

As an economic conservative who spent his last campaign professing to be a social conservative, Forbes is no stranger to head fakes. But Giuliani just taught him a lesson in kabuki conservatism: Always get it in writing!

Every campaign has its share of flip-flops and the occasional flip-flop-flip. Giuliani has invented a new form—the Flip-Flop-Flat.

Instead of retracting his previous statement, the former prosecutor introduced a new loophole for his defense, explaining his comments as "academic." Giuliani wasn't endorsing a flat tax in reality; he was endorsing it in theory—which, serendipitously, is the only place a flat tax might work. The risk is that a rival campaign will launch a 10-second attack ad of Giuliani mouthing words that would strike fear in the hearts of conservatives everywhere: "I said something academic."

But Giuliani didn't stop there. His flip-flop then went where no Romney has gone before, into a parallel universe where political gravity does not apply. Lawyers call it "arguing in the alternative"—making a second and seemingly contradictory argument, in case judge and jury don't buy the first. As an example of this kind of reasoning, Wikipedia cites Bart Simpson: "I didn't do it, no one saw me do it, you can't prove anything!"

Romney has learned the hard way that flip-flopping is a messy business, because the flip-flopper has to make up an excuse for changing his mind, when everyone knows the real reason is politics. Arguing in the alternative is flip-flopping without the flap. Giuliani claims he wasn't actually embracing a flat tax; he was saying that if there were no federal income tax, he might embrace it.

Giuliani uncorks a political genie: With his first wish, he would get rid of the income tax. His second wish would be for a flat tax. And since neither of those is feasible, his third wish is that we forget his first two.

A conventional flip-flopper is limited to two positions: his old one and his new one. Giuliani seems to be a political polytheist, who thinks a man can have as many positions as he wants. He even refers to them that way, as "my first position" and "my second position." Then there is his third and current position, which does not smile upon the other two.

Perhaps to distinguish himself from the other two Republican front-runners, Giuliani has found a third way between flip-flopping and straight talk. He calls it half-jocularity. That's not a bad description. He wasn't joking (which is why nobody else laughed), but he didn't mean it (which is why nobody believed him).

In a way, the episode sums up the apparent strategy of his campaign. When Giuliani pays lip service to supply-side economics but not social conservatism, he's trying to convince the right that half a joke is better than none. ... 4:35 P.M. (link)

Friday, Mar. 30, 2007

Always Look on the Supply Side of Life: No matter what else comes out about Rudy Giuliani's three marriages, it's hard to imagine a stranger union than the one he announced this week, with multimillionaire conservative presidential wannabe Steve Forbes.

Giuliani has dressed in drag before—nothing wrong with that!—but this may be the most ill-fitting set of clothes he has donned in a long time. Giuliani grew up in Brooklyn and on Long Island; Forbes is from the landed class in New Jersey. Forbes gave $37 million of his own money to his first campaign; Giuliani kept pocketing $100,000 speaking fees even after launching his exploratory committee. Giuliani married his third wife three years ago; Forbes has been married to the same woman for 35 years.

The two men are cut from different policy cloth as well. As mayor of New York, Giuliani built a reputation for trying ideas that worked, like cutting crime through better policing. As a magazine publisher and presidential candidate, Steve Forbes did the opposite—championing ideas that fail, like supply-side economics.

Like Forbes, Giuliani is a one-note candidate—but they're completely different notes. The Onion teased Giuliani for running for president of Sept. 11; Forbes ran for president of April 15, the national day of remembrance for taxes.

As a candidate, Forbes had one idée fixe—the flat tax. Over the years, that has been his economic policy, his social policy, and, at times, his foreign policy. Steve Forbes viewed the flat tax the way George W. Bush views Iraq: You're either for it or against me.

Until this week, Giuliani was one of the flat tax's most outspoken Republican opponents. Back in 1996, as the New York Times pointed out yesterday, Giuliani took to the airwaves to attack the Forbes flat tax as "a disaster." This week, Giuliani stood alongside Forbes and offered up a reverse double pander, declaring that he'd rather not have a federal income tax at all, but if we must have one, it ought to be a flat tax.

Giuliani didn't even try to hide the motives behind his strange, new arranged marriage. In conjunction with the Forbes endorsement, his campaign started running ads on conservative talk radio touting his support for "supply-side policies." He told Larry Kudlow, "I regard myself as a supply-sider for sure."

Never mind that in eight years, Giuliani's supply-side revolution managed to reduce the top personal income tax rate in New York City by nine-tenths of 1 percent. The campaign's theory is obvious: Giuliani can't win the nomination as a social liberal, and Mitt Romney is already running as the social flip-flopper. So, Hizzoner will run as an economic flip-flopper instead.

The trouble with this theory is that even Steve Forbes doesn't believe in it. In 1996, Forbes ran a campaign like Giuliani's—as a pro-choice supply-sider. He lost everywhere but Delaware and Arizona. When he ran the next time, Forbes turned himself into such a pro-life enthusiast he accused Bush of hedging on whether abortion would be a litmus test for judges and his running mate. (He lost again, anyway.)

Forbes writes in the Wall Street Journal that he supports Giuliani because he's the "real fiscal conservative" in the race and "will inspire the next generation of the Reagan Revolution." Of course, if Giuliani is as much of a supply-sider as Reagan was a fiscal conservative, he'll triple personal income taxes the way Reagan nearly tripled the national debt.

As they suffer through one of the most unpopular presidencies of all time, it's easy to understand why Republicans long for the days of Reagan, who won successive landslides. But supply-side alchemy isn't what conservatives miss about the '80s; if anything, Bush has outdone Reagan in that regard. What Republicans really miss is the Mr. Magoo spirit of the Reagan years, when America was made of Teflon instead of Velcro, and no amount of ideological bad driving could crash us in the ditch.

Steve Forbes is proof that Magoo-like vision doesn't always bring Magoo-like results. In any case, waiting for Magoo won't bring back America's Teflon. Neither will always looking on the supply side of life.

If Republicans want to restore strength to the presidency, they need to speak honestly and forcefully about how to restore strength to the country, not pretend that the Laffer Curve will suddenly start to work the third time around. It was easy to mock Giuliani for running to be president of 9/11. But that made more sense than what he's doing now—running for president of 1981. ... 8:25 P.M. (link)

Rackets:Giuliani's new friend Steve Forbes is harmless compared to old ones like Bernard Kerik. His campaign's new pander to conservative talk-radio: Giuliani Partners tried to keep the government from restricting sales of OxyContin.

Brackets: The Florida Senate was planning to move the state's presidential primary from the second week of March to the first Tuesday in February – Super Tuesday – joining California and other states afraid that by the time their residents vote, the race will already be over. But last week, the Florida House voted to move the primary to the last Tuesday in January. The reason: so many primaries are moving to Super Tuesday, even a big state like Florida might not make a splash.

Now other Super Tuesday states feel betrayed by Florida's defection, and may jump ahead as well. New Hampshire officials, angry that caucus goers now get to go first in Nevada as well as Iowa, have threatened to jump ahead of everyone else. When the Democratic National Committee set out to "fix" the calendar, it offered states bonus delegates to hold their primaries in late spring. Instead, if this game of leapfrog continues, primary votes and caucus goers may pick the nominees by New Years.

For now, the jockeying among big states suggests that if Iowa and New Hampshire haven't already determined the winner, Florida and California may be the 1-2 punch that does. In an eerie coincidence, that's exactly what will decide the winner of the GOP's NCAA pool. Going into last weekend, Rudy Giuliani led John McCain by nearly 3-1. But victories by UCLA and Georgetown vaulted McCain back into contention, and he now trails Giuliani by just 860 to 840 – 65.8% to 60.2%. The race for Republican bragging rights could come down to tonight's semifinal between UCLA and Florida. McCain has UCLA to win the title, so if the Bruins make the final, he'll pass Giuliani once and for all.

When the tourney started, we took McCain to task for brackets that seemed hopelessly conservative. His picks turned out better than history would suggest – guessing right on seven of his Elite Eight. As the Washington Post noted this morning, this year's tourney had the fewest upsets since seeding of 64 began in 1985. Last year saw 11 upsets; this year, only three.

But by rewriting McCain's brackets to make him pick all the second seeds, Slate kept alive his chance to win it all. Without Slate's intervention, McCain would be done scoring by now, saddled with North Carolina and Kansas in Monday's championship game. Instead, a win tonight by No. 2 UCLA or No. 2 Georgetown will hand McCain the crown. The only way to avoid the curse of the frontrunner is to bet on the underdog now and then. ... 9:59 A.M. (link)

Thursday, Mar. 22, 2007

Sweet and Sour 16: If you got knocked out of the running in your office pool last weekend because you picked a few upsets, now you know what 2008 will be like for most presidential candidates. March Madness lasts three weeks and will be over the first Monday in April. In the 2008 presidential primaries, January Madness will last three weeks and be over the first Tuesday in February.

Like everything else in life, the presidential race is just another set of brackets. But before you start betting your fortune on political futures, you might want to check how well long shots are faring against the odds.

Last week, I filled out NCAA brackets for the Republican candidates, based on the particular strategies they've chosen for their campaigns. What does this have to do with their actual prospects? Nothing! But then, neither does most coverage of the presidential race you'll be forced to read this year. Even so, one weekend of basketball proved what all those dark horses will spend the next nine months traipsing through Iowa to learn: If you're one of the bottom seeds when the tournament begins, you probably won't still be around when it ends.

So far, this year's NCAA tourney has been a front-runner's paradise. If you picked the favorite to win every game, you're in the upper quarter of the millions who've entered the NCAA pool at ESPN.com. If you picked every underdog, you can stop checking—your Cinderella run is over.

Long shots Duncan Hunter and Ron Paul went against the grain on every pick and had all four No. 16 seeds reaching the Final Four. They guessed just five of the first 32 games correctly, and even those 5 upset winners lost in the next round. Out of a possible 1680 points, their bracket will end up with just 50. If ESPN had a leaderboard for losers, Hunter and Paul would be virtually guaranteed to finish with the worst bracket in the country.

The superfecta entry of also-rans—Brownback, Huckabee, Gilmore, and Thompson—followed the home-state version of the same uphill strategy, picking their local underdogs to go all the way. Thanks to Brownback's Kansas Jayhawks, this entry still has one team left in its Final Four, but that's their only team still standing. The other three candidates' home teams have all gone home empty-handed. Favorite son, favorite loser: Their ESPN rank matches their standing in national polls—in the bottom two-tenths of 1 percent.

Along with Brownback, the second-tier candidate with the clearest niche might be Tom Tancredo, whose fervent opposition to immigration strikes a chord with many conservatives. Apparently, top basketball players don't choose colleges the way Tancredo did—the farther from the Mexican border, the better. All the congressman's finalists bowed out in the first round. Tancredo's bracket would be doing better if his campaign were based on fear of illegal immigrants from Canada. For now, his ESPN ranking is stuck in the bottom six-tenths of 1 percent.

No matter how much the second tier stumbles, however, the front-runners can't seem to put this race away. John McCain's bracket hardly lit up the scoreboard this weekend, although he's in good shape to soldier on in later rounds. I thought that by picking all the No. 1 seeds to make the Final Four, he was being too conservative, so I gave him all the No. 12 seeds in the opening round and a Final Four of No. 2 seeds instead. So far, it looks like I was wrong—he wasn't being conservative enough. All four No. 12 seeds lost, all four top seeds survived, and one second-seed (Wisconsin) tumbled. Most of the few upsets McCain picked let him down—Georgia Tech didn't beat UNLV, Gonzaga lost to Indiana, Duke failed to make the Sweet 16 by losing the opener to VCU. As a result, McCain's ESPN rating matches his last showing in the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll: 24 percent.

Rudy Giuliani, the runaway early front-runner in the polls, is also the runaway early leader in the brackets. He picked every favorite except Texas Tech and landed at 69 percent in the ESPN rankings. But his current lead is far more vulnerable than it looks. If No. 2 seeds make a comeback this weekend, McCain will pass Giuliani, and Rudy may be looking to make a deal with Brownback.

The wild card in the race, as always, is the elusive Mitt Romney. By any objective standard, Romney's campaign is off to a shaky start—and his brackets are no exception. His dream final—Boston College vs. BYU—didn't make it through the first weekend.

But there's one reason not to count Romney out: He's still revising his picks! His campaign wonders how anyone could jump to the conclusion that Romney would have chosen BYU, his alma mater, over Xavier, a Catholic school from a swing state. Of course, he was for Xavier all along. And far from picking Boston College for the Final Four, Romney insists he spent his entire governorship in Massachusetts trying to ban same-sex sports.

After a great deal of soul-searching that helped clarify his lifelong support for intelligent design, Romney now has Kansas beating Tennessee for the title. His campaign warns that may not be the last word. In matters of conscience, it always pays to check the final score. ...  9:59 A.M. (link)

Wednesday, Mar. 14, 2007

The Road to Minneapolis: You can't blame John McCain for trying to have a little fun on the campaign trail. This week, his campaign Web site focused in on an issue voters across the spectrum care about: March Madness. If you're bored with your office pool or have used up all your picks at ESPN, the McCain site offers another outlet for your predictions. In return for your e-mail address, you can go bracket-to-bracket with John McCain. The winner gets a McCain fleece.

Politicians usually go to great lengths to avoid picking sides in sporting events, unless their home team is involved. If the 2008 World Series comes down to two swing-state teams like Minnesota and Florida, neither nominee is likely to use the presidential debates to predict a Twins or Marlins sweep. So, give McCain some credit for putting his picks on the table.

What does McCain's bracket tell us about the campaign he's running? It would be hard to come up with more conservative picks. McCain has all four No. 1 seeds going to the Final Four. That's never happened in NCAA history, and it's a classic front-runner strategy sure to lose the office pool. His longest shot in the Elite Eight is a third seed, Washington State; the rest are first or second seeds. The Arizona senator doesn't even choose his home-state Wildcats to knock off top-seeded Florida. Straight talk, or a savvy play for Florida's Super Tuesday primary? You make the call.

McCain's picks aren't crazy. Of his few upsets, some are good bets, like thuggish Duke over traditional underperformer Pittsburgh. His biggest sleeper, Washington State, is a favorite of sportwriters, too. The biggest risk in McCain's bracket is that he doesn't take more such risks. He needs more gambles like the two he makes (along with Duke) for the Sweet 16: Louisville over Texas A&M and Southern Cal over Texas. The second is gutsier than the first, but along with the first-round departures he foresees for Texas Tech, North Texas, and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, those picks share a common, endearing bias reminiscent of McCain's 2000 campaign: Always mess with Texas.

Of course, it's always possible McCain made safe picks not because he's conservative but because he's just being polite. When you invite thousands of supporters to take part in a friendly contest, the sporting thing is to let your guests win. Nobody likes a candidate who can't handle losing a bet with his own friends, which may explain why you won't be able to go head-to-head with Rudy Giuliani's brackets anytime soon. McCain's top-seed-heavy bracket is perfectly designed to avoid the rudeness of trouncing his guests as well as the political embarrassment of finishing dead last.

Here at Slate, we want candidates to take more risks, and we don't think John McCain should have to take these risks alone. So, as a special service to demoralized conservatives, we've filled out brackets for all McCain's Republican challengers, in a manner that's consistent with the overall strategy of their campaigns. We've also filled out the bracket McCain should have picked, if he weren't playing it safe. Since we're not allowed to make campaign contributions, the prize for the winning campaign will be one they either don't need or won't accept: a McCain fleece.

Here are the entries, in reverse order of candidate seedings:

Ron Paul/Duncan Hunter: These two are the play-in game of the Republican primaries. One will survive just long enough to get whomped by the fron-trunner. Their joint strategy: Pick every No. 16 seed, and pick the winner of the play-in game to win it all. Based on a coin flip, we assigned Niagara to Paul and Florida A&M to Hunter. News flash: Duncan Hunter has already lost.

Tom Tancredo: For most dark horses, the strategy is to pick every long shot. But as the anti-immigration candidate, Tancredo takes a single-issue approach. In every matchup, he picks the team farthest from the Mexican border. Like Tancredo's campaign, an Albany-Gonzaga final isn't likely. But at least he'll improve his chance to be McCain's running mate by nixing every school from Texas.

Sam Brownback/Mike Huckabee/Tommy Thompson/Jim Gilmore: At this stage, it's hard to tell these four candidates apart. Besides, we don't have time to flesh out the obvious, if uphill, Huckabee strategy—always choose the skinnier team. So, we lumped them together in one entry, with a Final Four made up of the top team from each candidate's home state: Kansas, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Virginia. No 12th-seed like Arkansas has ever made the Final Four. Still, these four amigos still have a better chance of winning the pool than the nomination.

Newt Gingrich/Fred Thompson/Chuck Hagel/Jeb Bush: Won't make the Thursday deadline. March Madness is like anything else: You must be entered to win.

Mitt Romney: It's a good thing we just saved an entry. On this issue, like every other, the Romney campaign will want two. That wouldn't be fair, so we've filled out Mitt's brackets by hand. The teams he has winning the first round go on to lose in the second, then miraculously come back to win in the Sweet 16, only to lose in the Elite Eight and make the Final Four. He takes Boston College over Brigham Young in one semifinal, then changes his mind and has BYU beating BC in quadruple-overtime in the final.

John McCain: If Romney's slogan is the same as Ernie Banks' ("Let's play two!"), McCain's ought to be the same as Avis: "We're No. 2—we try harder." We let him keep most of his picks but gave him every No. 12 seed in the first round and sent every second seed—not first—to the Final Four. He'll thank us when UCLA beats Georgetown for the championship.

Rudy Giuliani: As the current front-runner, Giuliani—not McCain—should be the one picking every top seed. We assigned him the favorite in every contest, but to put his odds of winning the contest in line with his chances of capturing the nomination, we made exception for his temperament. He's sure to win—provided Bobby Knight and Texas Tech take the title. Every NCAA tournament has its Cinderella story, and every Cinderella has an evil stepmother who doesn't show up at her graduation. ... 4:46 P.M. (link)

Thursday, Mar. 8, 2007

Spoiler Alert:For months, the right wing has been sending out distress signals, hoping to attract a hero to rescue conservatism and save the world. Yet just when it seemed the movement's future couldn't look any bleaker, the last best hope for conservatism is dead.

No, it's not who you think. Newt and Jeb are fine; Ann Coulter is in rehab; and Vice President Cheney is in an undisclosed, secure, and jury-free location. But this week will still live in conservative infamy, because  Captain America has been shot. If anti-government wing nuts want a superhero, they'll have to settle for Duncan Hunter instead.

Unlike President Bush's domestic policy adviser, who writes comic books, I rarely have the chance to read them. And I'm certainly not suggesting that the late Captain America  was a conservative—I don't want a bunch of his grieving superhero friends to come torch my house. But from the cheap seats, the civil war that Marvel Comics cooked up to kill Captain America looks eerily like the current plight of the Republican Party.

In the post-9/11 era, the world could use some superheroes, so it's no surprise that the superhero world is wrestling with the same themes. Last year, the government in Marvel's fictional universe proposed the Superhuman Registration Act, which would require every superhero to register his powers with the authorities or be sent to the fantasy version of Guantanamo Bay. Libertarian superheroes rose up in revolt over the government's superpower grab. In the forthcoming five-part series, Captain America is arrested for leading the resistance and shot to death on the steps of the federal courthouse in New York.

Could there be a more poignant image of the current state of real-life conservatism? From the Patriot Act to the federal deficit, the specter of big government has America and traditional values on the ropes. Now that President Bush has been unmasked as something else, the right wing desperately awaits a hero with Reaganesque powers who is faster than a speeding terrorist and able to leap Berlin Walls in a single bound.

Instead, where do conservatives find themselves? Bleeding to death, watching a registration-happy New York City prosecutor skip past them up the steps on his way to put conservatism away for good.

The parallels don't end there. Last year, like their real-world counterparts, anti-government superheroes in the fantasy world found themselves mired in a civil war that blew up in their face. The death toll from the war ruined their standing with the public and lifted the pro-government, pro-registration forces to power. The deadliest battle in the Marvel civil war took place in the summer of 2006 in Stamford, Conn.—strangely echoing the Lieberman-Lamont Senate primary. The motto: "Whose side are you on?"

In both worlds, the anti-government crowd's worst nemesis is a former defense secretary—in the Marvel universe, Rumsfeld's counterpart is Tony Stark, alter ego of Iron Man. The superheroes' disastrous civil war leads to something whose very name will strike fear in real and fantasy conservatives alike: the Initiative. Like universal health care, it is spreading to every state.

Conservatives should look on the bright side: Getting killed off might be the best move their movement has made in a long time. Spokesmen for Marvel Comics acknowledge that Captain America may well make a comeback. In fact, it's clear Marvel iced the superhero for the same reason Ann Coulter  spews venom like a supervillain. As one comic-store owner told the Daily News, "I'd rather they didn't kill him—but it's going to mean great sales."

Like conservatism itself, Captain America's alter ego, Steve Rogers, once spent decades in suspended animation, frozen in North Atlantic ice. Thanks to global warming, the late captain and the conservative movement will have to find a different ruse this time. Conservatives can only hope that in the words of another superhero who turned against them, Arnold Schwarzenegger, they'll be back. Just as art imitates life, fantasy sometimes imitates conservatism—but usually, it's the other way around. ... 4:10 P.M. (link)

P.S. Marvel's five-part series on the death of Captain America in 2007 has the same title the Weekly Standard will use to bury Bush in 2008: "Fallen Son."

Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2007

The Big Hair: On Tuesday, the Boston Globe uncovered a 77-slide PowerPoint presentation outlining the Romney campaign's strategy. Dan Gross is right: Mitt Romney doesn't just flip-flop like a CEO, he even uses a CEO's favorite tool to walk you through it.

The Globe says that top Romney strategist Alex Castellanos helped draft the document. Judging from the Globe excerpts, Romney has another CEO's weakness: overpaying consultants to assert the obvious. The PowerPoint offers such clichés as "Own the future" and "Does he fit the Big Chair?" It fusses over the candidate's too-perfect hair, describes John McCain as a "mature brand," and suggests Massachusetts-bashing as "Primal Code for Brand Romney."

But by far the best part of Romney's strategy is his campaign's primal code for Brand Mormon. As the Globe explains:

"Enmity toward France, where Romney did his Mormon mission during college, is a recurring theme of the document. The European Union, it says at one point, wants to 'drag America down to Europe's standards,' adding: 'That's where Hillary and Dems would take us. Hillary = France.' The plan even envisions 'First, not France' bumper stickers."

According to his campaign, Mormonism is not some new-fangled, outside-the-mainstream religion. It's Romney's lifelong crusade against heathen France.

While John McCain was squandering his youth in a losing battle against Communists—started by the French—Mitt Romney had a mission worth fighting for: He was going door-to-door on foreign soil, storming the French Bastille before they destroy our way of life. The man has spent his life training to fight Joan of Arc. Other Republicans may attack Hillary, but only Romney will burn her at the stake.

The clunky bumper-sticker slogan in the PowerPoint might have worked better for another campaign—such as "Frist, not France"—but give Romney his due. Considering its politics, Massachusetts ought to be overrun with French types. But with Romney as governor, Massachusetts natives of French descent like John Kerry and E.J. Dionne spent most of their time in Washington—and Romney's Massachusetts remains the most Irish state in the nation, far surpassing Ronald Reagan's California.

Romney is smart to run against France, which may be the only opponent weak enough for him to beat. There's just one problem. In the defining moment of Romney's political career—the Salt Lake City Olympics—he helped France win more medals than it has anytime in the 80-year history of the Winter Games. Mitt Romney not only didn't stop the French from going downhill—he let them beat us at it.

Here, free of charge, are some facts for the opposition PowerPoint on Romney. At his 2002 Olympics, France won 11 medals, including four golds. For a man whose slogan is "First, not France," that's a lot of time watching the French strut atop the world stage to "La Marseillaise."

Before Salt Lake City, the most medals France had ever won was nine—both times at Winter Games the French themselves hosted (1968 at Grenoble and 1992 at Albertville). In the three other Winter Olympics held on U.S. soil—Lake Placid in 1932 and 1980, Squaw Valley in 1960—the French won a grand total of five medals. That means Mitt Romney handed France more than twice as many medals in one Olympics as the other three U.S. Winter Olympiads combined.

And that's not counting Salt Lake City's

--------


New York Aug. 4. 1928

My dear Jeanie:--

I called up this evening at 7 P.M.
figuring that you'd be at dinner, but again
out of luck, it seems that you over there
are also afflicted with the hot spell, for the
propriator told me that all guests went
down to the lake to escape the heat, but
I was happy indeed to hear that you're
getting along fine.1

The heat last night was the most severe
of the season, the city streets were deserted
and I went moonlight bathing, the beach
presented a strange spectacle at mid-
night thousands bathing in the tall waves
of the ocean while tens of thousands were
sleeping on the sands.2

./.


2.

But I enjoyed night bathing
immensely refreshing myself without
the fear of getting sunburned.

As I sat later on the beach thinking
of you a longing betook me as I heard
an orchestra at some building on the
boardwalk play the beautiful tender
strains of Lehar's Merry Widow waltz, I
would have given part of my life to hold
you in my arms just that moment.3

This evening I visited your folks
Everybody is O.K. Rose and the kids were
there, when Shirley saw me coming she
said Maah Shamah go she says to me
gimmie an Jean. Ain't she smart?
I argued with Sally for not writing
to you oftener.

./.




3.

As soon as I will be through with
this I'll go for another dip in C.I. but
there will be little moon if any cause
heavy clouds are gathering now.

If these clouds should bring rain
it would be a relief especially to my
suffering East side neighbors.4

I'm sure that you have already received
the candy package that I mailed you
Thursday morning, this morning I mailed
you some magazines.

If I didn't know you all through
Id get sore but I know that you
at heard didn't mean what you wrote
me that you [were] in a way happy to hear
from me
I know that you were all
happy, and I'm only writing to make
you happy, and nothing would be
too big for me to offer for your happiness.

./.


4.

If you meant to tease me please
don't repeat that, enough about that.

What other news can I write you?
Ma went tonight to sleep at Roses house
that she may be early on the beach
tomorrow with her, and by the way if
it interest you to know Rose bought a
nice black size 50 bathing suit but
it is a little tight.

As I am not writing this at home
(to your luck) I have no poem to add
I cannot memorize what I had in thought
to write and my books are at home.6

So my dear I am closing with
an earnest plea that you may write
a nice long long letter, and remain

Your Ever faithful

Harry

-------------

Matt's Notes

1 - When Papa wrote this letter, my grandmother was vacationing at the Viola House in Lake Huntington, New York. As we’ve discussed before, my grandmother, like many other Jewish New Yorkers of the Twentieth Century, would spend a bit of every summer at a Catskill Mountain “Borscht Belt” hotel like the Viola.

2 - According to the New York Times, the heat wave of August 1928 was the most severe in 46 years. It would kill at least fourteen people.

3 -



4 - If Papa wound up going back to Coney Island on the night of August 4th as he intended, he would have been caught in a sudden, severe thunderstorm and a resulting 600,000-person stampede for shelter. Oddly, three people would die that night of electrocution: one was a policeman who touched a fallen power line; the second was a swimmer who was struck by lighting; the third was a 16-year-old named Gertrude Neidenberg who fell from the Ocean Parkway subway platform and landed on the third rail.

Here’s a creepy thing: Ms. Neidenberg lived at 36 Attorney Street in Manhattan, just a few doors down from Papa apartment at number 96. It’s grotesquely ironic, but she was literally one of Papa’s “suffering East side neighbors” for whom he hoped the rain would provide some relief.

5 - Remember that my grandmother had been trying to cool Papa’s ardor for three years at this point, so I'm sure she meant to disorient him when she said she was only “in a way” happy to hear from him. I should point out, though, that qualified compliments and other minor jabs like this were not a stretch for her -- they were part of her everyday conversation, and Papa had probably been on the receiving end of them since he first met her.

6 - Papa quoted a love poem by Robert Burns in his August 2, 1928 letter and a one by Robert Browning in his July 31st letter.

--------------

References:


-----------

Audio Source: The Merry Widow Waltz (1907) recorded by the Victor Dance Orchestra. Via Archive.org.

Papa, as we know, was a huge opera fan, so he would have known the "Merry Widow Waltz" quite well.  Here's a video clip of the scene in "The Merry Widow" in which it appears (via YouTube):




          The Third Rail        
A new MP3 sermon from Reformation Orthodox Presbyterian Church is now available on SermonAudio.com with the following details:

Title: The Third Rail
Speaker: Joseph Fowler
Broadcaster: Reformation Orthodox Presbyterian Church
Event: Sunday - AM
Date: 6/28/2015
Bible: Luke 20:19-26
Length: 39 min. (64kbps)
          Christianity from the Atheist's Point of View        
Preface:
I thought that in today's world of being P.C. I should do what few feel comfortable doing and grab the social "third rail". For anyone unfamiliar with that term, it was derived from subways/electric trains. The third rail is the rail that is electrified and is deadly. The social third rail is referring to subjects that tend to kill your social life, the two biggest being politics and religion. So today, I grab the third rail and talk about religion. I want to stress that this article is not in any way a scientific report, nor is it designed to bash any specific group. I went at this with the desire to just talk about things I have observed and the kind of questions, moral, philosophical, etc. that it raised for me. I hope you enjoy reading and as always, like, share, +1, comment and discuss!



There are a number of Christians who have made their opinions about atheists known, and I think it would be a good way to foster some understanding between the two groups if Christians were able to get an "insider's" point of view on atheism.

Atheism, at its heart, isn't that complex of an idea. Atheism at its most fundamental level is simply the belief that there is no deity (ie: God, Zeus, Ra, etc.). I want to stress that this is all it is. The concept is a very open format, how DO you go about "practicing" this idea? Well, this is where the disagreement begins.


Three types of atheist

In my my experience I've met several different types of atheists and I'll describe a bit about each and how/why they behave they way they do. This list is in no way complete, it's only meant to illustrate a few types that have stood out to me. I've chosen the names based on what I feel best describes them.

The high school militant atheist
Where to find them: High School
I call them militant atheists because they are the most aggressive looking, but in practice are pretty easy to ignore. These are mostly teenagers that are desperately trying to find a path in life and have read too many Richard Dawkins quotes. The main appeal of atheism to these kids is that their parents don't like it. They'll also be huge believers in anarchy (specifically the type that glorifies destruction and chaos). This combination of beliefs is one of the old cornerstones of teenage angst screw everyone, there's not a god and no law, I'll make my own world my way! In many cases this way of life is only temporary and they'll grow out of it. They're generally poorly educated on what the people they've quoted actually said and, like poorly biblically educated Christians, will cherry pick only what they need to make as many viscous statements as possible supporting their ideals. How do you deal with them? Just politely ignore them, don't fight them, just ignore them.

The combative athiest
Where to find them: debates
These folks are typified by being highly educated and very focused on proving they are absolutely right. I have some sympathy for them because they are honestly not doing it to be mean, they just do what they think is right (like most people). A prime example is Richard Dawkins, he will argue someone into the ground, doing everything he can to try and get you to understand his point. I enjoy reading his books, but I also take it with a grain of salt. He has good things to say, but you have to make sure you don't get caught up in the rhetoric. Don't confuse the combative atheist with a scientist, scientists only follow the evidence to their conclusions. I want to stress that there is a huge difference between someone like Neil deGrasse Tyson and Richard Dawkins. Mr. Tyson is not bothered with religion unless it is used to try and attack science, Mr. Dawkins deliberately goes after religion for his own moral reasons.

The quiet atheist
Where to find them: anywhere
These are the folks who don't say anything about being atheist, they just go about their lives and don't bother with making their beliefs known. There's two reasons for this: first, they may believe their personal feelings are theirs and theirs alone and they shouldn't inflict their ideologies on others who may not want to hear it. Second, persecution. Persecution against atheists is very real, whether its done through pity or hate it is there. Such persecutions range from attempted conversions, to verbal attacks, or even as small and simpe as a look of disdain. The quiet atheist has learned that to avoid the discomfort of the next door neighbor offering a prayer for your finding the light of Jesus, just don't say anything.


Atheism is not organized

It isn't. We're not the catholic church. With a simple, one sentence idea "There is no God" comes immense flexibility in its execution. Many of them have the similar feelings to Christians about wanting to know the world they live in, but since God  is not the answer, they turn elsewhere for info. The vast majority turn to science. Why? Because if science says something, they have to prove it, they have to document it, others will tear it apart to try and find deception and when they can find none, only then will it be accepted. What stronger way is there to be proven right than your detractors admitting that they can not a flaw in your claim? The person who is trying their hardest to prove you wrong, must admit that in their honest efforts, reviewing the facts, they can not prove you wrong. That aside, there are atheists who just plain don't bother with it, they just carry on with their lives. There is no central organizing system that tells atheists how to behave or what to do, it's all up to the individual. The same can be said about any religious body, catholics, baptists, evangelicals, each group uses the same bible yet interprets and acts on it in different ways. There are organizations for atheists out there, but they tend to be filled with combative atheists.

The actions of one atheist is not indicative of all, just as the same can be said about Christians. To cite extreme examples on both sides, one of the arguments I hear against atheists is that of Stalin. On the other side there's the crusades, Spanish inquisition, Salem witch trials. Both sides of the argument have plenty of examples but that's not the focus of this article.

There is a large spectrum of atheists and they are trying to figure out what to do. I remember hearing someone say "Atheists pick and choose their morals" (Pope Benedict XVI), well, there's some truth to that, but the same can be said for anyone alive. Morals are partially taught and partially inherited (I will write an article on that some other day) and it is up to each of us to choose which ones to follow. Atheists are honest with this idea where I have found some dishonesty among the Christians.

How do I see Christianity?

Now that I've said all of that, I can finally get to what the title of the article SAYS I'm going to talk about.

Preface
Before I start, I want to give a few simple details about where my opinions are coming from. I grew up in the bible belt where the number of churches could compete with the number of gas stations. I've never been a believer in any religion, but up until a few years ago I would have put myself at 75% atheist 25% theist (now I am 100/0). As a child, I would be honest with my beliefs whenever asked, so I have experienced some persecution across different age groups. I bear very little ill will to anyone who has done that to me because it's all in the past and people change.

The religion
I will freely admit that I have not read the whole bible. Now that isn't for lack of trying, I've sat down with one several times and made a serious attempt at it. However, after one page I find myself desperate to stop. The material is dry and I imagine its because I'm spoiled by the wealth of fascinating literature I've read over the years. However, I CAN claim to have read the gospel of Judas, I found it to be interesting and left me wondering if it affects that context of the crucifixion story. As a whole, I find a disconnect between the religion and the practice of the religion. The bible says many things that I find morally questionable, things concerning the treatment of others, violence, gender disparity just to name a few. I also find it rather intriguing that there are so many translations available, yet they all seem to be very different. How strange is it that the bible is said to be the word of god when we humans keep re-translating it and changing the words and thereby changing the meaning. I would think that to best understand what was written, one would study the culture that the particular chapter came from, study the language, and then read it. It is fairly well established that each chapter was written in a different time in a different language and so a different mindset must be applied to each chapter. I also find it intriguing that while the bible was considered to be written by god, then why are the gospels named after the people who wrote them? If Mark wasn't written by mark, rather by god, why not call it "God[ch:verse]"? Now, while you may think that I am trying to bash the bible, I want to emphasize that I'm only pointing out things I find inconsistent with the idea of the religion. A thorough read of the bible will yield many good morals. Loving your parents and neighbor, kindness and charity, working together, all admirable traits, all worth teaching. My favorite is a line by Jesus of Nazareth in which he tells a group of people that they must sell all of their belongings and give everything they own to charity. If more people would do that, the world would be a better place, but that's a lesson that has fallen by the wayside.

As a whole, the religion is much more strict than is practiced today, parts of scripture are ignored because it would conflict with laws or because our sense of morals has evolved past that, which leads me to my second subject:

The people
The people who practice the religion are a wide and varied bunch, some are genuinely good, some are morally grey people, some are truly bad folks who hide behind their beliefs as a way to either justify their actions or to use as a tool for their own ends. Of all the people who do this, I find the pastor/preacher/priest to be one of the strangest from a moral perspective. What does it say about a congregation when the person who is charged with spreading the word of God is taking home a yearly salary that would pay the salary of 2 or 3 teachers? I once met a man who was a single father, he was the pastor for a small church and yet he was able to pay in cash a brand new $70,000 Mercedes Convertible. I fully understand and embrace the idea that someone should be compensated for their full time work, but isn't it a bit morally ambiguous to preach that one should be humble and charitable when the person in question is probably earning more than anyone else in their congregation?
I have met a lot of people who do good things, but for the wrong reason. Doing something good is nice, but when it is done with ulterior motives then it is no longer good. Case in point: a child gives her food to a hungry boy at lunch, a teacher notices and give her a piece of candy as a reward for such a kind gesture as the young boy she gave the food to is in a poor family who can't afford meals. The next day, the young girl gives her lunch to the boy again and this time looks at the teacher expecting her candy. This same concept can be applied to members of a congregation that do constant charitable acts (giving, volunteering, etc.). Are they doing it to be nice or are they doing it to be rewarded in their afterlife? The prospect of eternal paradise after death is a very tempting thing and with the christian culture's MASSIVE obsession with death, such behaviours can be expected. I wish to be clear, this is not an all inclusive statement, but more of a self reflective tale of caution. I only wish to give you, the reader, an idea to evaluate yourself with as I have done in years past.
Now on the topic of ulterior motives, I want to touch upon something that I've heard many people say about their churches: Church Cliques. Like public school, I have learned that churches have cliques too and I would claim that these cliques can be more damaging than what one might find in a high school. From the stories I have heard, the ones who are usually the most corrupt are the ones in charge of various organizations within the church. Their power within the organization usually means that if anyone wants anything done, they have to buddy up with a particular board member that can make it happen. Politics at its finest. Again, this isn't all board members/leaders, but this is what I have heard from most that I have talked to on this subject.
The second strangest part of people who are religious is: leaving. As I live in an area where there are 3 churches in 1/2 a mile's distance from my home and another 6 in 2 mile's distance, I've had a great deal of time to observe people leaving after services. What I've noticed is interesting, a great majority drive like they're trying to get the hell out of dodge. They will cut each other off in the parking lot, sit absolutely bumper to bumper, and the moment the tires hit the street, they're flooring it, usually going 15-20 over the speed limit. It raises the question, if they wanted to leave so badly, why did they go in the first place? The running for it really does indicate a desire to not want to be there, so I have to ask. It also raises the question, if they are there because "they have to be there" (ie: paying lip service), isn't that more dishonest than just saying "no, I don't want to go because I'm not a big believer?" Years ago, I had a girlfriend who wanted me to attend church with her even though I wasn't religious, I told her I couldn't. She complained, she was angry, but I told her the truth, I could not go because it would be a lie. I was not a believer and I will not lie about who I am. What does that say about me versus those who DO pay lip service? Does it make them superior because at least they were there or am I for my honest and resolution to not lie?
The number one strangest thing I've noticed about Christians is their ability to be mean or rude and justify it to themselves by saying God will forgive them. I see this daily, be it on the road, in the classroom, in the supermarket. How do I know they're Christian? Could I be wrong? Possible, but I can honestly say I don't know a single person who wears crosses just because they like the look, nor do I know anyone who decorates their car with religious memorabilia as a vehicular fashion statement. I've seen and read situations where some one is in the hospital and the whole family gathers there to pray. I know this is offensive, but I find that whole process rather absurd. If the family really believed in the power of god to heal someone, then why are they in the hospital? The doctors are the ones doing the actual work, the scientists are the ones creating new medicines, equipment, and techniques to save lives sometimes with the religious groups protesting outside the gates. On the road, I have found an inverse correlation between the amount of christian paraphernalia on the vehicle and how polite the driver is (using blinkers, proximity awareness/consideration, adherence to speed limit, obeying traffic lights/signs). These kinds of behaviours relate to my last major section:

Oddities
There's little things, instances where the religion or the people do things that just cause me to do a double take and whether its bemusement, fear, or revulsion, it draws my attention. First there's the issue of holidays. Its very well established that the Christian religion has taken their major worship celebrations from other religions. They celebrate Christmas, but we all know Jesus wasn't born on December 25, Easter wasn't really the day Jesus was resurrected, but that day is celebrated anyway. Why? Simplicity. As the religion grew, they had to make their celebrations easy to remember, so they matched them up with existing celebrations (winter solstice and vernal equinox). Its not a bad thing, it just means that we need to be real with our holidays, Christmas isn't really a Christian exclusive holiday, many religions have a winter solstice celebration, same with the vernal equinox. Next is the relationship Christians have within its sects. There is a general agreement that they are all Christians, but I have seen a my Christ is better than yours kind of attitude which always perplexed my, if all Christian sects worship the same things then why not unite into one organized group? I understand that people wish to practice their religion in different ways, but even in the catholic church, different priests will run their services according to what they feel is important. Finally  large churches. I understand that some churches grow huge because the church goers enjoy the services put on by the leader (pastor/priest/reverend/etc), but in the bible Jesus of Nazareth tells people that their prayers should be done in private and not in large congregations. Isn't the idea of a mega church directly against how the founder of the religion instructed its believers to practice it?


Final Thoughts

All in all I've made many observations through my life trying to understand a wide array of traditions and quirks that make up the Christian faith. From the, at times, dangerous actions of the fundamentalists, to the indifference of those who simply pay lip service, Christianity is made up of a dense and complex spectrum of people. I don't believe that the religion is inherently good nor bad, it has many examples of great leadership and true good peppered in with acts of evil committed by the same God to the same degree. I have come to see that people will take from it what they desire reaffirming the idea that the hardest lessons are the ones we must learn ourselves. And while I have, by my own means, gone through my own self improvement, it is far from me to dictate what will work for everyone. If I were to make any kind of request to the Christian faith as a whole, I would request that they take time to step into the shoes of those who do not believe as they do to try and understand why others believe what they believe.
          GOP, Welfare, and Political Segregation        
Hello again! I hope you all have had fun since we last talked!

Today I feel like grabbing the third rail of social interaction, I'm going to talk about politics. I count myself as an independent centrist with some democratic/left-wing leanings, but like many who call themselves a republican I too would like the government a bit further out of my day to day life. In fact, there's MANY things about the republican party I agree with.

So, why am I not a republican? Simple: The republican party I want hasn't existed since the 1800's. I am a big believer in self reliance, I believe each person is responsible for their own actions and that 99% of their successes and failures are on their shoulders. So when I watch the news and I see republicans talking about laws that limit the freedoms of 52% of the population I am a little more than bothered. When I see republicans talking about trying to make laws that say the united states' official religion is Christianity they're trampling on the rights of 76 million people (according to 2008 statistics).

I want everyone to know that through my eyes they have the right to practice religion (or not) as they see fit, yet when see people say "this is a christian country, the founding fathers said so." I have to trot out the first 10 words of the first amendment to the bill of rights.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..."

Everyone like to say the next words "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." But, they forget the first amendment says fairly clearly that the government CAN NOT support a religion. So the idea the country is a christian country is not a true one. The accurate statement is: "This country is predominantly christian." So if you're a practicing satanist, you have the right to say a prayer to him in school right next to the person saying the christian prayer and the person saying a prayer to Zeus.

The republican party has been branded the "rich white man's party" and for good reason, the party's ideals have been hijacked by extremists. We rail and shout at muslim extremists but when pastors that advocate the murder of non believers are allowed audiences with the leaders of the country and have the power to get people elected, it is time to step back and check your priorities.




I will say it out loud, right here and now: the republican party has lost its way. No longer is it the party about restricting government power and spending, it is the party of christian extremist trying to turn these United States into a christian version of Saudi Arabia.


Moving on


Welfare is a tough issue to discuss in government, should we have it, how much should it cost, how much should it yield? I support welfare, but not in the traditional sense. There are people out there who genuinely need help and this country has made a mission of making sure everyone gets a fair shot at success. I support those in dire need receiving some government assistance, but for a limited time and it is only usable once every several years. There's many problems that can be solved through social programs with the goal of providing information rather than products. A common issue for those at the bottom of the class ladder is access to information regarding sex and disease. A program to encourage safe sex or abstinence can help a great deal simply by communicating that sex has a high probability of leading to children and that there are consequences. STD's too can be mentioned, show people what could happen if they aren't safe of don/t see a doctor from time to time. A program like this, aimed at teens can reduce the number of women dependent on welfare because they can't find a better job due to having to take care of kids. This isn't condoning sex, it's admitting that sex is out there and people should be careful. Preventing 1000 pregnancies could result in up to 1000 fewer people needing welfare services and further reducing the strain on the system.

The nastier side of welfare is the dependency, too many have grown up on it and are used to it and see it as a way of life. Welfare is easy to abuse, especially since there's so many asking for it. It is easy to loose someone in the system and let them collect money they should not be collecting. Its easy to cheat the system too, I once watched someone use a food stamp card at Sams to buy a 56" plasma screen TV. She got around it by including some food in her purchase.

The moral of the story I'm going for here is: yes, we need some welfare, but we need to update and overhaul the system if we're going to make it sustainable. So, don't downright dismiss it if you don't like and don't don't champion it if it isn't going to work correctly or is easy to abuse.

One last bit concerning the "Affordable Healthcare Act". I can see how it is intended to work. Millions of people don't have insurance, when they go to the hospital, they can't pay the bill wich is then hoisted upon the government to pay. This costs MILLIONS AND MILLIONS every year. I looked into insurance for myself, I found some for under $100 a month and it covers all of my needs. If you're spending money on internet and cell phones and cable TV (Data phones coming around $100/mo avg., Cable/internet for about $150/mo avg). Then your priorities are backwards. You need to entertain yourself AFTER you've taken care of yourself. There is no reason you should sacrifice your health insurance for cable TV. GO THE F*** OUTSIDE AND VISIT THE PARK! PLAY A SPORT, RIDE A BIKE, GET OFF YOUR A**!
I am proud to say that even though I make less than $1,000/mo I still have the ability to pay for health insurance because I don't spend it on frivolous things like cable TV. Get insurance and stop leeching off the government, if we can do that, then we can reduce the cost of medicaid to the taxpayer.



Finally...


I want to talk about political segregation for a minute. I have seen in the last few years so many people sling derogatory terms at others for no reason or crime other than simply not belonging to their preferred political party.

Libitards, Repugnacans, and a few I won't mention just for the strength of words. I can not tell you how frustrating it is when I see a good idea being drowned out by partisan bitching. It could be an idea that fixes the entire social/class system of the country, but just because a democrat came up with it, it HAS to be evil (according to the republicans). A new way of saving money in the government and reducing spending AND taxes has been devised but it's an evil plan by the republicans to defund everything and return us to the days of the old west where we shot everyone for everything! (according to the democrats). I find it deplorable that people are looking for a reason to segregate each other. Don't think I mean by race, this applies to any and all skin colors.




All in all, I just wanted to advocate some social responsibility. Don't treat others like trash just because they don't agree with you on how to run the country. Be responsible for your self and your health before you burn your money on sitting and watching TV. And PLEASE be responsible when deciding on your political affiliations, what one politician does does not mean others will follow suit. Voting straight ticket only serves to give crazy people the opportunity to do real damage*.



*Such as electing a home school mother who has no degree in education or core studies (math/science/history/language, yet worked in accounts receivable for a small oil company) to the state board of education because she campaigned on getting rid of "obamacare" when Texas school funding (derived from sales tax) and curriculum has nothing to do with federal level healthcare. It's true, I swear it!
          NEA Continues Support for Charter Schools        

NEA Continues Support for Charter Schools
by Jim Horn

Every year American public school educators send approximately a billion and a half dollars to the National Education Association and over half that amount to the American Federation of Teachers.  The NEA’s latest policy statement on charter schools should make every teacher wonder why she is sending in those hundreds of hard-earned dollars every year to help NEA and AFT misleaders to put a stake in the heart of public schools. 

The corporate lawyers who write NEA policy have been dissembling, dodging, and weaving for a long time on the subject of charter schools. With this new policy statement, it is clear that that has not changed.  

What has changed is the mass of qualifiers that NEA has added, ostensibly to earn the organization’s continued blessing for charter schools.  If, however, the corporate governing bodies do not abide by NEA’s list of wishes, then that could trigger an NEA response that must have the charter industry quaking at the thought:

Unless both the basic safeguards and process detailed above are met, no charter school should be authorized and NEA will support state and local moratoriums on further charter authorizations in the school district.

Now mind you, this does not mean that NEA headquarters will do anything or even threaten anything on its on if the charter industry ignores NEA’s latest dissembling.  What NEA will do, however, is to not stand in the way of any NEA affiliate that wants to tie its membership onto the tracks for the billionaires’ corporate charter locomotive to flatten.  Where is the NEA and AFT leadership?  They are, of course, at the corporate education table, even if they have to sit underneath it and beg for bones to be thrown to educators.

Based on past experience, we may expect the multi-billion dollar charter industry to summarily ignore NEA’s pathetic statement on charters, which is delivered without demand, without promised repercussions, and with zero fanfare.  NEA’s new statement signals a policy that continues down the dead-end Democratic Party’s Third Way, which has surely earned the label of Third Rail by now—following the 2016 election.  NEA’s policy on charter, in fact, is one that would never cause a Clinton to cluck. 

And what happens if, by some miracle, NEA’s entire fanciful list of conditions is met, thus making meaningless calls for moratoriums unnecessary and any further pretense of charter outrage irrelevant?  Not much.

Now the NEA statement supports “prohibitions against for-profit [charter] operation.”It is reasonable to ask, then, if for-profit charters are prohibited, will the billions of public dollars that are now going to the charter industry stop flowing into privatizers’ pockets.

Not at all.  In fact, the majority of charters have always been of the “non-profit” variety, with only 13 percent of the nation’s 7,500 charters run by for-profit companies.  Insisting that all charters become “non-profit” will only guarantee that that state and local education dollars will continue to fill the coffers of the charter industry, which thrives by claiming “non-profit” status for their segregated cultural sterilization schools based on the KIPP Model. 

It matters not to a school system that must fire its librarians to make payroll if, in fact, monies now being diverted to charters go to a charter operator’s bank account that is designated as “non-profit.”  In fact, the “non-profit” status guarantees many tax advantages for the big donors and operators who view the paternalistic “no excuses” charters as the urban education final solution.

Which brings us to the greatest weakness of the NEA policy on charter schools.  If all the items of NEA’s wish list were realized, and that is a huge “if,” the charter industry’s corporate colonization of urban schools by the 6,500 non-profit charters now in operation would continue unabated.  If all of NEA’s fanciful wishes were met, hundreds thousands of children and thousands of their missionary teachers would continue to suffer daily indignities and ongoing dehumanization from white corporate school managers who pretend that callous brutality is justified as a means to an end that always boils down to performance on standardized tests and behavioral grade cards.

We have to wonder when the remaining members of AFT and NEA will join those hundreds of thousands of educators who have already stopped their enabling of NEA’s corporate education habit.

          NJ Transit        
Saturday was a day that required me to be in multiple locations. More specifically, the girlfriend and I had a holiday party in Succasunna, and my high school friends were getting together for dinner in Little Italy in downtown Manhattan. I decided to drive out to Succasunna, stay for the beginning of the party, and use NJT to get me to Little Italy. The girlfriend was spending the night at the house where the partywas held, so I would go back and sleep in Succasunna.

It took a bit of Research to figure out that the closest train station operating on the weekend was in Dover, NJ. Their iternary planner does not handle a walk or drive of more than a mile to a bus stop or train station. The third rail terminates after that station, requiring diesel locomotives to operate trains beyond that station. It is a 15 minute drive to the station, so while not being the closes train station, it was still reasonably close, especially for a rural area.

I got to the train station and learned that all parking spots in the lot required either a permit or had 12 hour meter. I'm talking an old fashioned analog quarters only meters. However, the lot is closed from 2am to 6am and all day on Sunday. This is a source of anger, because I will be returning after 2 am.

I walk to a liquor store and use the ATM. I then ask the clerk where I can park past 2am. He tells me to park on a side street. This proves to be quite easy. I'm still angered at the town arbitrarily closing of the parking lot while trains are running, especially the metered parking spots. However, its no longer an issue of urgency to me.

I go on the platform and see no ticket machines. I go to the station and see that a ticket agent is working on a Saturday at 6pm. There is a line and my train will soon be here. However, everyone else on the line has the same problem I do. I ask the person in in front of me in line about ticket machines. He say there are none. I comment about the parking regulations and he replies, "this is not a customer friendly station".

When I am next in the queue I approach the window. I place my bank card on the counter and say, "Hoboken." She informs me the machine is not reading cards. I am thankful I just went to the ATM at this point. I place $20 dollars down on the counter and say, "Hoboken." She produces a ticket. I take the ticket and change and thank her.

The train comes and I get on. At Newark Broad Street I transfer to Hoboken. At Hoboken I take the Path, then a Taxi.

Dinner comes and goes. A good time is had by all. I return to Hoboken Terminal. I am confused by the available trains and what I thought the schedule said. I decide to buy my ticket and then ask questions. I ask the conductor of the next departing train if i can change at Secaucas to the Dover train. He thinks for a moment and says yes. I get on the train and detrain one stop later at Secaucas.

At Secaucas, I initially think I cannot get on my train because I cannot find a scheule for my train line on the platform. This is expecially problemsom because I was expecting to get on the last train to Dover until 7am. My fears are relieved when I go upstairs and find out how large Secaucus Junction is. It is not the usual setup of several platforms parallel to each other that most multi line train stations have. Different tracks are at different levels. There are turnstiles with card readers blocking access to the platform I need to get on. They do not accept my card.

The station attendant tells me I need to buy an "access card" to get down. He punches in the cheapest ticket he can in the machine, a one stop Senior/Disability ticket that costs $1.50 and has me pay for it. This ticket works.

I had to wait a bit for my train. I wandered between the waiting area that is too hot and the platform outside in the below freezing weather. The train arrived and I got on.

Before the last stop the conductors herd us all into one car so they only have to operate one set of doors. This doesn't bother me. The fact they that the conductor herding from the front and the one herding from the back can't agree on which car to herd us into does. We get out, and as I am walking along the platform I realize I have left my book on the train.

I flag down a conductor and he opens the door. He says he is pretty sure he saw an old guy in a red vest carrying it. We check the train to be sure. I run down the platform, find the guy and get my book.

The drive back to Succasunna was not without events. I could not find one street and went to a Dunkin Doughnuts to ask for directions. No one was at the counter. Seeing a large wad of ones in the tip cup made me realize I could have easily absconded with the register drawer. I of course did not. I decided to relieve myself in the bathrooms, which, surprisingly for a Dunkin Doughnuts, required no key. When I came back I saw a man waiting at the counter. I informed him I was waiting a while and asked him for directions. He told me how to find the street I was looking for and went to knock on the kitchen door. I walked out and got back in my car.

Other than having to stop twice for deer in the road I made it back to the house where my girlfriend was staying for the night a few minutes after 04:00. Yes deer in the roads. This is the part of Jersey where the backyard landmines are deer, as opposed to the geese and dog droppings in small parks more civilized places tend to have. Since the parks I refer to are about the size of backyards in this part of Jersey, the analogy is fair.

I am contemplating writing to NJ Transit and town of Dover about my experience. I think one or two ticket machines would be beneficial to the station, and reduce the need for a station attendant on Saturdays and weekday afternoon evening. I have to research the Secaucus Junction transfer fee, and if it was really necessary to take that route. Finally, I must verify that the Dover Station parking lot is operated by the town of Dover, as is the case with LIRR parking lots. I will then air my concerns about the parking lot closing from 2am to 6am and on Sundays.
          The Third Rail - 1967 - Id Music        

The Third Rail: "Id Music"
Epic, 1967
(Psych Pop/Bubblegum)

Track: "Run Run Run"


DOWNLOAD THIS ALBUM (50.44 MB) .zip


The single "Run, Run, Run" hit #53, but that is the highest The Third Rail would ever climb on the charts. This is an album I nearly overlooked due to it's overwhelmingly poppy demeanor. The production of the record is outstanding, and should almost be seen as a stereo-type for how bubblegum pop should have been produced. All-in-all this is a fun album, good for a few listens at the very least. Song highlights include "From a Parachute," "Dream Street," and "The Shape of Things To Come." If you ever need help putting a smile on your face, this is the album to reach for.

*The last 4 tracks on this are bonuses from the Revola re-release.
          Another Conversation We Need To Have About 84 Lumber's Super Bowl Ad        
84 Lumber did not just touch the third rail for companies -- which is to stay as far away from a public conversation about politics as possible -- it body slammed it with all its might.
          Cracked Third Rail Open Thread        
Via @urbanbohemian

Another spectacular Metro commute. This time, it was reportedly a cracked third rail north of the NOMA station.

Scarily, Metro was working on the third rail in this area this past weekend. It's starting to seem like the more "rebuilding" Metro does, the more Metro breaks.

What was your experience this morning?

          Ads Attack Emanuel for Failure to Support Immigrants        
The progressive blogosphere lit up this week with news that Democratic Party Leader Rahm Emanuel (5th Congressional District- IL) supports the SAVE Act (HR4088), legislation that takes an enforcement-only approach to immigration reform- with no path for the undocumented to gain legal status.

To the left is a copy of the Spanish newspaper ad published in Hoy on November 15th, 2007, that asks the question, Why is Congressman Emanuel Betraying our Friends and Families? Read the full text in English, or download a copy in Korean. The ads were paid for by Blue America and approved by the Illinois Coalition.

Immigrant advocates and netroots activists were already shocked by Emanuel's remarks in last week's Chicago Tribune article, where he called immigration "the new third rail of politics." This came just months after the Congressman pledged to move a comprehensive reform bill forward last spring. Listen to the NPR story here.

The ad urges people to Call Congressman Emanuel now at (773) 267-5926 and tell him, "Stop being afraid to fight for immigrants, and start acting like a real leader." Send a fax or email to your Representative, saying NO to SAVE.

For more information about these ads, contact Catherine Salgado at csalgado@icirr.org. For more on the "rubber chicken campaign" that ICIRR launched during the Yearly Kos convention, click here.
          Eat Fish Fry, Support Randy Bryce #StacheSolidarityFishFry        
Long time readers of this blog will remember that a few years ago, Serb Hall, the go to place for Friday night fish fries, had a management change and were now trying to bust the union there.

Randy Bryce and I came up with a unique way to send a message to management that we were not going to accept that, the Solidarity Fish Fry:
Something has to be done to help our brothers and sisters out.

But that something is not what some of you might suspect.

Usually the response to this sort of action would be to go to Serb Hall and protest their unfair labor practices and/or to boycott the place.

I do want you to go to Serb Hall, but not to protest or hold a rally.

I want you to go to Serb Hall and enjoy a fish fry. But I want you to go and make sure you ask to be seated in one of the union waitress sections. Ask for Patricia, Sandra, Mary Ann, Victoria, and/or Michelle. If the hostess tries to tell you their sections are full, tell her you'll wait until there is an opening.

And while the board had taken away their gratuities, the union won them back through arbitration. So after you have enjoyed your meal, please make sure you leave a healthy tip. The waitresses will appreciate it and it will send a clear message to the board that they would do well to rethink their policy.

And tell them Cog Dis sent ya.
Every Friday for about six months, Randy and I could be found at Serb Hall with scores of friends and allies, union and non-union, eating fish fries, enjoying the solidarity and camaraderie, and supporting the union. Unfortunately, it didn't work out the way that we had hoped. We were able to force management into arbitration, but they declared an impasse and ended up breaking the union. So all the unions and the Milwaukee Area Labor Council stopped holding meetings and events there. It's turned into a ghost town ever since.

And even though things didn't work out the way we wanted, people missed the Solidarity Fish Fries. It had become a support group for all of us as much as it was for the union members at Serb Hall.

Well, boys and girls, it's baaaaaaack!

Given that my union brother and friend, Randy Bryce, is running to dethrone Lyin' Paul Ryan, he's gonna need all the help he can get. Ryan is sitting on a king's ransom of money and feels so secure in his gerrymandered seat that he is willing to dance on the third rail of taking away health care from 23 million people, tens of thousands of whom live in his district.

Randy is off to one helluva start with that awesome video, a slew of TV appearances, both nationally and locally and a breathtaking groundswell of grassroots support from around the district, the state and the nation.

Now is our time to be the change we want to see and work - and eat - to help get Randy into Congress, thus the first ever Stache Solidarity Fish Fry!

Join Randy and I for the a fish fry at Clifford's Supper Club in Hales Corners, on Friday, August 11, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm.

(Fun fact: We will be in the same hall that my beautiful bride and I got married in 18 years ago. Expect us to do a lot of reminiscing.)

The details for the Stache Solidarity Fish Fry are the event page on Facebook:
Please join the Ironstache, Randy Bryce, and our hosts for a great Friday Fish Fry to support his campaign to defeat Paul Ryan.

Please arrive at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, August 11, 2017, at Clifford's Supper Club, 10418 W. Forest Home Ave. Dinner will be served at 6:00 p.m., with a short program during the meal.

There are limited seats available so get your tickets now! Please note that RSVP'ing on Facebook does not reserve your seat - you must purchase your ticket at https://secure.actblue.com/donate/randybrycefishfry.

$25 of your ticket goes to pay for your all-you-can-eat fish fry, including 1 beer or soda, tax, and tip (although we encourage additional tipping for the workers at the restaurant!) and the remaining $25, $75, or $125 is a contribution to the Randy Bryce for Congress campaign.

Please note, this venue is not disabled-accessible. We apologize for that and we will be having additional events at disabled-accessible spaces.

Questions? Please email info@randybryceforcongress.com or call (262) 260-9366.

Kid Friendly

You can order your tickets here but please be advised that you might experience a little sticker shock at the prices. As noted above, it does cover a lot of things, not the least, support for Randy.

So come and break cod with us and support Randy as he goes on to recall and replace Lyin' Ryan! All are welcome, both old friends and new!
          Reply #5125        
Congrats Kapla.

2 7 24 hmm

Are those the numbers of the upcoming contenders of the Belmont Stakes?

I got two more free plays.

Any more free plays and I might have to slit my wrists, then walk in front of an oncoming bus, then put my tongue on the third rail in the subway.
          By: coffee@home: Intelligentsia Los Inmortales and El Machete « Man Seeking Coffee        
[...] the risk of sounding like a total Intelligentsia schill – having recently touted both Culture and Third Rail - I’ll go ahead and give my plug for these two fine coffee from [...]
          The Aurora Shooting Wasn’t “Shocking”—It Was Inevitable, Given Our Lax Gun Laws        

The words of sympathy from our nation's leaders in response to the horrific events in Colorado last night are welcome—and we all share the sentiments. But I disagree with one word that both president Obama and former Gov. Romney used to describe the tragedy—the word shocking. The one thing this horror is not is shocking. After the litany of mass shootings we have had over the past years, we should by now be braced for this tragedy, not shocked by it.

No one should be shocked, just as we should not have been shocked by the killing of seven at Oikos University in April; or the school shooting in Chadron, Ohio, in February; or the Arizona shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others—killing six—in 2011; or the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007; or the Columbine shooting more than 13 years ago. It depends on which study you choose, but there are about 10,000 gun murders in the United States every year. According to USA Today, there are on average 20 mass shootings per year. And according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, every day in America, guns claim 84 lives and wound nearly 200.

Yet somehow, gun control in this country has become the third rail of politics. Perhaps that is partly due to the fact that the public seems to care less and less. According to Gallup, in 1990 almost 80 percent of Americans said that laws covering the sales of firearms should be made more strict. By 2010, that number was only 44 percent. In fact, starting in 2009, the majority of respondents said gun laws should either remain the same or be made less strict.

And I am tired of hearing that the Second Amendment as a bar to useful measures—it isn't. There is no constitutional right to buy submachine guns or silencers or uniquely hazardous bullets without background checks—or at all. 

So let's act, not just wring our hands. It is time to ban all military-style semi-automatic assault weapons, ban assault clips holding more than 10 rounds, and require that new guns have micro-stamping technology so bullets left at crime scenes can be traced. These are simple, moderate steps.

This tragedy is not shocking—it is a reminder. A stark reminder of our inability to do what so many other nations have done: Put in place meaningful gun control.


          San Diego Landfill-A Wasted, Mostly Buried Resource        
This is the report I promised you back in December 2010. I might be more ashamed to be turning it in so late, were I not laden with multiple brain injuries and their attendant cognitive limitations, speech difficulties (fairly severe dysarthria which sometimes makes it difficult for me to talk clearly on the telephone or in dictating to my speech recognition software,), etc., perhaps I could have produced this report much earlier, even though I knew nothing of the subject matter. Basically, I am a medically retired former federal employee, who had time on his hands to research these wonderful relatively new waste management technologies, called conversion technologies (CTs). Still, given my lack of knowledge in Solid Waste Management, it took much longer than I thought it would, because I seriously misjudged the enormity of information I had to sort through/digest, starting with waste disposal and landfilling in general, and my trouble Goggling properly for the necessary information within the Environmental Services Department (ESD) San Diego City Government, plus finally, my own computer-based difficulties that are, I am sure, at least partly, a result of those brain injuries.

First, I'm not, nor have I ever had been, a Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) professional or a lawyer. Nor have I been a person employed in the fields of cultural affairs, naturalism, or a practicing labor economist. I am just a private medically retired city resident, who has only gotten my knowledge of this industry through Goggling various sources of information regarding waste disposal, and cities', municipalities', and waste management authorities' respective attempts to deal with their own MSW issues, and my own personal experience as a federal government employee user of waste disposal at one mass-burn Waste to Energy (WtE) facility.

Because some of these suggestions could be considered controversy or sensitive by some, I'm also sending this to Mayor Sanders, all other San Diego City Councilmembers, all in-County City Mayors and City Councils that I can reach via e-mail, and because it could affect the overall waste management plan for the County, all San Diego County Supervisors, most in-county and several out-of-county State Senators and Assemblymen, even though this is a redistricting year, as well as reporters and other MSW interested parties who can help do some reporting on this topic, and help sell the concept, not only for San Diego, but also for the rest of the state. Where used, URLs have been shortened using Bitly.com, a free URL shortening software product, that does not require downloading (the shortened link will automatically take you to the correct webpage).

Second, I recognize that there's been a lot of recent controversy regarding the possibility of contracting-out the city landfill function, and whether it was a contractable function, so I e-mailed my good friend from my days as the Security Director, Naval Ocean Systems Center, subsequently renamed, when the command's missions were redefined again, into the Space and Naval Systems Center, San Diego (SSC SD). During my 10 years of tenure there at NOSC/SSC SD as the Security Director from 1989 to my strep throat-induced medical incapacitation in 2000, we were frequently required to examine all of our internal functions for the possibility that those functions were not inherently governmental, and then if not, determine if the function could be contracted-out. This was part of the The Federal Activities Inventory Reform Act (FAIR), P.L. 105-270, OFPP Policy Letter 92-1, "Inherently Governmental Functions" (09/23/92).
Based on this type of periodic review, we had quite a few functional areas in the command which had been contracted-out, to include building sanitation (trash collection, floor sweeping and mopping, carpet vacuuming and occasional shampooing), grounds maintenance (grass cutting, general trash pickup, bush and tree trimming), waste hauling, a good portion of the command's software programming and related information technology (IT) services via the overall IT services contract, but also in my own Security Office, one IT contractor who helped program some unique, custom-developed software (which reorganized our locks and keys into some semblance of logical order), a major part of the badge and pass (employee/visitor badge and vehicle decal issuance) operation, classified document (documents which contained national security information) destruction, key and lock control, locksmith services (changing on a yearly, or on a as-necessary basis, combinations on security containers used to stored classified documents, the complete plant property triennial inventory, and all contact guard services. We also had thousands of contractors on-site, performing valuable research and engineering services, some of whom, in addition to having a security clearance and “a need-to-know” for the classified information on which they worked, were allowed to act as physical custodians of classified documents, as if they were permanent government employees on-site. These contractors all had security clearances and access to those selected classified documents to the security clearance level of their contracts, as a condition of employment, as part of their respective contracts. Given that the federal government was, in these cases, entrusting classified documents to contractors (individuals employed by private for-profit entities), as is routinely done when any federal classified contract is awarded for development or production of, say, the nation's most advanced fighter or bomber, all the way down, in terms of sophistication, to seemingly the most minor of classified services (like classified photography services or document duplication, for example) [admittedly though, through a whole different process, which is part of the overall Federal contracting process], I find it hard to believe that the city landfill function is an inherently governmental function. I believe these services are legitimately a function that could be contracted-out, as did my friend from work who was in charge of the Functional Review process in the command's Internal Review Office. Similarly, I see no “Inherently Governmental” distinction for the city employees performing the MSW curbside pickup services. In fact after a great amount of Googling the term “People's Ordinance of 1919”, I found the city attorney's ruling on this topic, confirming that, in response to the Environmental Services Department's question of whether the People's Ordinance of 1919 requires City employees to collect residential and small-business refuse generated within the City, thereby precluding the city from hiring private contractors to perform these refuse collection services. The short answer from the then city attorney, Mr. Aguirre, was “No”. As further confirmation of my recommendation in this matter, Reason Foundation's Local Government Privatization 101, in Table 1, shows that both waste collection and waste disposal are two of the top three services privatized to For-Profit entities, according to a survey preformed by the International City and County Management Association. In this same article, following a list of more than 15 potential service areas, says that “But more important, the question of "what can local governments privatize" is in many ways the wrong question to ask, as privatization is a policy tool that should be considered in most instances. A better question is "where can't local governments apply competition or privatization?." Virtually every service, function and activity has successfully been subjected to competition by a government somewhere around the world at some time. When asked what he wouldn't privatize, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush replied: "police functions, in general, would be the first thing to be careful about outsourcing or privatizing. This office. Offices of elected officials ... and major decision-making jobs that set policy would never be privatized.” Quoting from the article, “Governor Bush used competitive sourcing more than 130 times, saving more than $500 million in cash-flow dollars and avoiding over $1 billion in estimated future costs.” Furthermore, the California Republican Senate Caucus Study on Privatization, Briefing Report: Privatizing California's Local Governments, cites some interesting examples of city governments services that can be improved through privatization, and in the Infrastructure, Public Works, and Transportation section, says that:
“A decade ago, California voters approved Proposition 35, also known as the Public Works Project Act of 2000. This proposition granted local governments greater freedom to pursue partnerships with the private sector on infrastructure projects. As such, the infrastructure arena is amongst the ripest areas for employing a range of creative privatization techniques.”
Quoting from the first two paragraphs of Reason Foundation's Local Government Privatization 101 :

"It is not a government's obligation to provide services, but to see that they are provided."
former New York Governor Mario Cuomo

"Privatize everything you can."
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley (advice to an incoming mayor)


Manhattan Institute-This Works: Managing City Finances
, Authors William Eggers of the Manhattan Institute and Center for Civic Innovation Chairman Stephen Goldsmith, the former mayor of Indianapolis, outline the strategies needed to continue to reinvent urban governments; injecting competition into city services; making government performance-based; making use of information technology; improving asset and financial management; enhancing human capital; and creating institutions to drive continuous improvement.

And then there is every privatization advocate's Poster Children, that being “Privatizing City Hall: Sandy Springs and the New Georgia Contract Cities”, a subparagraph under Reason Foundation's Local Government Privatization 101 cites the following: “Sandy Springs, Georgia was the first. Fed up with high taxes, poor service delivery and a perceived lack of local land use control, 94 percent of Sandy Springs' nearly 90,000 people voted to incorporate as an independent city in 2005. What makes Sandy Springs interesting is that instead of creating a new municipal bureaucracy, the city opted to contract out for nearly all government services (except for police and fire services, which are required to be provided directly by the public sector under Georgia's state constitution). Originally created with just four government employees, the city's successful launch was facilitated by a $32 million contract with CH2M-Hill OMI, an international firm that oversees and manages day-to-day municipal operations. The contract value was just above half what the city traditionally was charged through taxes by Fulton County. The city maintains ownership of assets and maintains budget control by setting priorities and service levels. Meanwhile the contractor is responsible for staffing and all operations and services. According to Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos, the city's relationship with the contractor "has been exemplary. We are thrilled with the way the contractors are performing. The speed with which public works problems are addressed is remarkable. All the public works, all the community development, all the administrative stuff, the finance department, everything is done by CH2M-Hill," Galambos said. "The only services the city pays to its own employees are for public safety and the court to handle ordinance violations." Sandy Springs recently successfully rolled out its own police and fire departments. Counting police and fire employees, the city of 90,000 has only 196 total employees. Nearby Roswell, a city of 85,000 has over 1,400 employees. Furthermore, Sandy Springs' budget is over $30 million less, and by most accounts provides a higher level of service.

The "Sandy Springs model" seems to be gaining steam. The city's incorporation was perceived as such a success that four new cities—Johns Creek, Milton, Chattahoochee Hills and Dunwoody—have been formed in Georgia since 2006 employing operating models very similar to Sandy Springs (though severe revenue shortfalls in 2009 prompted the two smallest to scale back their contracts). And in 2008, city officials in the recently incorporated Central, Louisiana (population 27,000) hired a contractor to deliver a full range of municipal services—including public works, planning and zoning, code enforcement and administrative functions—as part of a three-year, $10.5 million contract.
Sandy Springs and other contract cities demonstrate something very powerful from a public administration standpoint: there's hardly anything that local governments do that can't be privatized, so there's no reason policymakers shouldn't think big on privatization.”

Perhaps most importantly with respect to MSW, NSWMA-Privatization: Saving Money, Maximizing Efficiency, And Achieving Other Benefits in Solid Waste Collection, Disposal, Recycling fully explores why MSW privatization is perhaps the best choice for most local governments. Finally, Reason Foundation's Annual Privatization Report 2010: Local Government Privatization provides on page 12, an update on San Diego's attempt to implement the result of the approval of Proposition C in 2006 and the resounding defeat of Proposition D in 2010, of which you are well aware. Part 9 of the same document, page 28, details the latest update on the solid waste and recycling privatization efforts around the country.

But I digress, as privatization could be its own separate report.

Perhaps San Diego's current landfill and all associated municipal solid waste (MSW) issues initially began, I believe, when the city voters passed the People's Ordinance of 1919, by an astounding a 85%-15%,which established a precedent of offering no-fee residential trash collection service. The City's own Environmental Services Department (ESD) Collection Services webpage says that: “the city of San Diego has been providing trash collection services to the public over 90 years” effectively saying that the ESD has been responsible for all MSW collections since the law was passed in 1919. Changes to the system have been proposed at least twice during the last two decades, but voters have decided to pretty much leave things as they are now for residential households. Certainly, the best summary of this situation can be obtained by reading the City Attorney's Memorandum of Law of 16 July 2010 to the Mayor and City Councilmembers. Earlier, the KPBS video of 31 July 2009, entitled Free Trash Collection Could End for San Diego City Residents articulated the idea that free trash collection to residential customers in the city is not the norm in city government around the state or even the county and is considered the “Third Rail” in local City politics, splitting City Councilmembers, because they fear the anger of voters if they support additional taxes to cover this cost, rather than continuing to charge the General Fund for these services, and that charging residents a fee to cover this is the only fair means of avoiding using the General Fund for this cost.

I personally tend to side with Judge Larry Sterling (retired) when he says that, in response to comments regarding free trash pickups for property owners:
On the “free” trash collection issue, all property owners are paying their property taxes and a portion of those taxes were specifically designated for trash pickup via the “People's Ordinance” adopted by initiative in 1919, a direct order from the public. The voters did not command the birth of the dysfunctional Historic Site Board, or the Planning Department, the Development Department, subsidies to the San Diego Unified School Districts babysitting program, or even the Library Department. They did command the creation and operation of the trash pickup and for perfectly good public health and safety reasons. The voters of San Diego wisely wanted all trash picked up and disposed in a uniform and timely manner. Charging double for trash pickup guarantees that those who operate on the financial margins will dump their trash in nearby canyons, on vacant lots, and along our roadsides. There they will become unsightly fire and public health hazards. And much more expensive to pick up. Not only that but the people the mayor is proposing the double charge are already paying for their own streets. Does the mayor want all those streets deeded to the city? Although Judge Sterling did not directly say so, this possibility of trash being deposited in canyons, vacant lots, or along roadsides, is what is known as an unintended consequence of any potential changes to the law!
Judge Sterling continued:
The citizens pay into the general fund therefore there is no such thing as “free trash pickup.”
It is true that the lazy, sorry city amended its own ordinance some time back to prohibit additional “hold harmless” agreements to go off the public right of way to pick up trash. Who knew that? Probably passed on the consent calendar and done without fanfare or wide notice.
It is also not correct to say that the city is not required to pick up that trash. The city is not REQUIRED TO GO ON THE PRIVATE PROPERTY to pick up trash absent a hold harmless agreement. The city is still required to pick up the trash if the resident takes it to a public street.
Where are the savings exactly?

And nearby homes will suddenly find the streets in front of their houses crowded with dozens of trashcans from nearby “private” streets from which the trash has been collected by the city for over 70 years.
It is a sad thing to travel through San Diego and see the streets unrepaired, the traffic islands filthy, dilapidated and abandoned news racks trashing our sidewalks, unpainted city light poles, traffic signals that are not operating, and the city parks and other buildings ill maintained. There are fifty major reforms that I can think of myself that would save the city money or increase its income rather than abandon its basic health and safety duties like picking up the trash.
Given correct management and mayoral leadership, city staff could be driven to do more for less, not less for more. That is exactly what every other enterprise has to do to survive. Why are the city managers exempt from such exertions?


DISCLAIMER: As anyone who writes on a given subject, I will admit to a few biases. First, as most of my former work colleagues will tell you, I have a strong inclination towards using streamlining and technology as a means of solving problems in government, at least the portion of government of which I am most familiar (federal). My second bias is based on my service to the U.S. Navy as Security Director of SSC SD, mentioned above, where I was ultimately responsible for, among other things, the lifecycle management (management, annual inventory and destruction) of all classified (Confidential, Secret and Top-secret) general security classified documents and suddenly inheriting 13 thousand pounds of classified computer hardware (multiple-platter hard drives and other data-retaining electronic devices) when the Anti-Submarine Warfare Department shifted all their classified computer processing off of older Digital Equipment Corporation-brand mini-computers and the Security Office had to dispose of that equipment. Because the command had previously been almost solely concerned with tens of thousands of classified paper documents, and had consequently been using disintegrators (large machines with multiple spinning rows of knife blades which cut paper into very small particles) to destroy all these classified paper documents, and having no readily available method of destroying metal or other classified hardware, and acting on a tip from a former supervisor of one of the previous classified destruction contracts, we contacted the Plant Manager for the City of Commerce, CA WtE facility, who after hearing what we were looking for, readily agreed to accommodate our need for personal verification of hardware destruction. I and a couple of my security supervisors loaded two trucks with box after box of this heavy hardware/material and proceeded to drive to the plant. Following a demonstration of the plant's capabilities for emissions monitoring (I was and still am concerned with our air quality and the environment), we proceeded to dump some of the hardware into the available charging shoot, which led straight to the plant's furnace (federal security regulations do not allow one to simply dump classified material into an open pit and merely hope for a later claw pickup and burning in the furnace, like one usually does with MSW). After a nice long break to check whether the emissions monitors had spiked (which of course they hadn't significantly moved), and being reassured by the plant manager that this was not unusual (he intimidated that we were not his first customers requiring classified destruction), we just started dumping the computer hardware in as fast as we could carry it to the charging shoot. This classified material/hardware destruction effort was so successful, that we subsequently modified the command's entire classified destruction contract to eliminate the disintegrators as government-furnished equipment and, when asked by the potential contract bidders, told them that we had recently used that City of Commerce WtE facility as our disposal site. The successful bidder of the subsequent contract re-award also bid to use this City of Commerce WtE facility, not only saving the command significant money but also allowed the command to permanently shut-down the disintegrators and associated bailing machine which had been fouling the area both inside and around the building where they were housed with extremely fine paper dust particles, really too small to capture or preclude from being generated, from a practical standpoint.

Fast forward to 2008, after my strep-throat-induced series of brain injuries, resulting in my forced medical disability retirement, when I read either an environmental blog or Science Daily article on a waste-to-energy technology involving IST Energy's Green Energy Machine (GEM) technology and how this CT was being used in Boston, MA to power an entire office building using the buildings' own waste, admittedly mostly paper (although I believe the technology has been further improved and commercialized from when I first saw it). The thought of a possible CT operation dealing with San Diego's MSW while also possibly offering a closer site for the classified disposal requirements of SSC SD, (although I was medically retired from that Point Loma Research and Development facility) got me working somewhat more aggressively, hoping to find a way in which to effect this. During your 2 May 2009 community meeting in Scripps Ranch, I noticed that one of your priorities in the City Council was greater efficiencies in the ESD for curbside MSW pickup, so I notified Ms. Batten, your Scripps Ranch field Representative, of my admittedly limited knowledge on the subject of CT, but subsequently e-mailed her with the information I had read, and proceeded to both attempt to gain additional information on the subject matter, and even attempted to set up a meeting date with Mr. David Montella, then InfoSciTec (IST) Executive VP, Technology Solutions, now IST Energy, who was already going to be in San Diego on 8 October 2009 for other business, if we could meet at my house (rather than looking for another meeting site, which would have required transportation for me (having lost my license to drive a car because of my brain injuries) and anticipating the need for several attendees, both from your staff, potentially from the staff of Congressman Duncan Hunter (admittedly looking at the possibility of a federal grant for a demonstration project), as well as the City's Environmental Services Department (ESD). I also ended up inviting representatives of Visiam as well as Startech Environmental Corporation (Startech) . Unfortunately, neither of the three companies representatives could attend, nor could representatives of the ESD, your office, or Congressman Hunter's office. My guess is that because I had clearly signed each e-mail to these respective companies with a statement which admitted that I had absolutely no authority in the matter, but was only a concerned citizen, likely led the companies to write-me-off as a dead-end business lead. Later, Ms. Dolce of Congressman Hunter's field office was tasked with following-up to see if any significant activity had occurred or any plans have been made during the meeting. I had to admit to her via e-mail, that no meeting had taken place, but I had received a call from the West Coast representative of Startech to extol the virtues of their gasification solution, and how much cleaner electricity from gasification was compared to coal burning, just before her (Ms. Dolce's) call to me.

Not one to casually admit defeat, I started contacting all of the other CT providers I could find around the country in an attempt to try to determine which one was best. Some of those companies I contacted included W2 Energy Corporation, Waste2Tricity, ILS-Partners , which has now partnered with Pyromex Group, and looked at the CT offerings of S4 Energy Solutions (a collaboration of Waste Management, Inc. and InEnTec, [a spinoff of technology developed jointly by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Battelle-operated Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL)] , EnerSol Technologies, Inc., Westinghouse Plasma Corp..(a division of Alter NRG Corp), Jacoby Group Geoplasma, and contacted several integrators of these thermal conversion and anaerobic conversion technologies, both in the US as well as in Europe. I found the AITKIN COUNTY, MN PLASMA GASIFICATION STUDY assessment of whether to move forward with a full feasibility analysis regarding a potential CT solution in the International Falls, MN area. Subsequently, I also discovered Fulcrum Bioenergy , with whom Waste Management has now entered a strategic partnership. and Sun Energy Group LLC In total, I literally spent 3 yrs. (admittedly part-time, as a brain-injury person trying to perform other household tasks) reviewing the history of waste disposal from the basic of burn cans in one's backyard (as I had experienced with paper/cardboard growing up), vacant lots dumping, county dumps, cities and waste agencies as diverse as New York City; Puerto Rico; St. Lucia County, FL; Hawaii; Los Angeles city/county; Santa Barbara city/county, and reviewed various references on the subject, feeling like I should have earned at least an Associates degree in Solid Waste Management, if it exists. It was about this time that I realized that the City of San Diego was broke, and really unable to purchase or invest in any equipment, even if such investment would help solve the MSW situation. The response to one of my many inquiries, from Plasco Energy Group, referred me to an international competition held by the Salinas Valley Solid Waste Authority (SWSWA), in which the authority had already begun to study the potential for CT of MSW starting in 2005, apparently when the communities that make up the Authority resisted further landfilling. I found the Authority's entire process of looking for a public-private partnership for MSW destruction, establishing a Conversion Technology Committee (CTC) to recommend long-range diversion goals, it's two-phase approach to contracting for such a solution (first, a Request for Qualifications, [RFQ]), and then a Request for Proposals (RFP), to be very instructive. Also, the CTC actually took field trips to selective/referenced MSW CT sites around the world to witness firsthand those operations (pages 7-28 of HDR's slide presentation). In looking at some of the proposals for the SWSWA, led me to Urbaser S.A , EBARA-TwinRec Gasification and Ash Melting Technology, a Japanese CT technology which has been used in several applications in that country as well as Interstate Waste Technologies and Entech Industries . Subsequently, I also discovered PyroGenesis Canada, Inc. a CT firm which has recently been awarded a contract with the U.S. military, Recovered Energy, Inc. , WPP Energy Group , Ze-gen , Zeros, Global Energy Solutions, Bull Moose Energy, FutureFuelCorp.

Also, Mr. Mathews, SWSWA General Manager/Chief Administrative Officer and his staff, particularly his Diversion Manager, Ms. Susan Warner, were very helpful and tolerant of my incessant calls and e-mail questioning on how they achieved what they did. I believe that CA State Sen. Anthony Cannella and CA Assemblyman Louis Alejo, can be very proud of the work that SWSWA has achieved, in setting a standard for the rest of California to strive for.

The city of San Diego's planning for future MSW handling was the hardest for me to find, as its name didn't initially seem to apply. The Long-term Range Management Operational Strategic Plan (LRMOSP), put together with the assistance of Bryan A. Stirrat and Associates (BAS) lays out many waste diversion options for the City. Similar to the SVSWA's CTC is the establishment of a Resource Management Action Committee (RMAC) which is tasked with recommending short-term and long-term diversion goals. I was able to find minutes from RMAC Phase I meetings 1 through 5 on the Web, but nothing since. So if further decisions have been made since then in Phase II, I'm not aware of them.

Center on Policy Initiatives OnlineCPI's Petition titled KEEP MIRAMAR LANDFILL PUBLIC argues that “Turning the public's business over to private operators-whose goal is profit rather than the public good-puts quality and safety at risk and often cost the community much more in the long run” and continues later with “There are significant risks in operating the landfill for profit, rather than for the public good, including environmental damage, added expenses and the loss of community services funded by landfill revenue.” I personally believe that with proper contractural monitoring and oversight, landfilling (what is left of it, when CT is applied to the MSW) can not only be safely done by a qualified CT contractor while also benefiting the public sector (San Diego) financially.

As far as the landfill itself is concerned, Online CPI:Miramar-A Public Asset that benefits all San Diegans, states that the Miramar landfill brings in about $6 million more than it cost to operate, and that these surplus funds pay for vital services in other/related areas. However, the report of the Grand Jury of 2008-2009, Time for Repeal of the People's ordinance of 1919, would seem to imply that the cost to the city's General Fund for all Municipal Solid Waste(MSW) curbside pickup and disposal in the landfill is in excess of $50 million/per year, if not greater. However, how much of that cost is related to operation of the Miramar landfill itself is not defined.
But, the financial analysis performed by BAS, as part of the city's LRMOSP, chapter 4.3.1, says “For 2009, the annual budgeted expenditures in the General Fund are $40.5 million. The General Fund portion of the ESD funding provides for weekly residential refuse collection, refuse container management, underground tank management, asbestos and lead management, hazardous materials, and other related services.”

Furthermore, chapter 4.4.4, Overall Financial Picture, of the LRMOSP says that in summary, “While the city has implemented cost-cutting measures and increased efficiencies to extend the lives of the funds. However, given the overall trends of the funds, the success of recently implemented waste reduction and diversion efforts, and the impacts of the economic crisis, the Recycling Fund is currently projected to be in a deficit in Fiscal Year 2010, and the Refuse Disposal Fund is currently projected to be in a deficit in future years.”

So in summary, it appears that the landfill is far from a moneymaker, and is in fact, is a significant drain on the General Fund, which will only increase over time. Unfortunately, the waste reduction and diversion efforts implemented by the ESD, while probabl important for the environment and potentially lengthening the life of the landfill, have only made the landfill less financially self-sufficient.

Sierra Club San Diego Chapter in their letter on privatization of the landfill, addresses several potentially important issues. Not being qualified to review all of these legal citations, I will have to leave their letter to the City attorney to decide what is correct, but I believe that both the Online CPI and Sierra Club documents miss the major point of discussion, and that is, in spite of using the best landfilling processes available, like making the landfill more dense by compacting it to industry standards, using full cost accounting on an as-needed basis to determine ESD expenditures, using alternate daily covers, leachate recirculation, achieving International Standards Organization (ISO) certification, the city is still rapidly running out of landfill space in Miramar's West Cell, and with no other city-owned landfill to which we can retreat, city residents will likely be forced to start paying for their waste disposal at distant, and more expensive, non-city-owned landfill sites, even though tax increases which had been proposed in the past, have been soundly defeated, I believe a different tact is necessary to continue disposing of our MSW. The situation seems even more bleak when one considers that as the local economy recovers, total MSW will likely increase in volume. The key to reducing this volume, I believe, is as BAS has indicated in the LRMOSP, is the use of CT to drastically reduce the massive volume of MSW currently destined for the landfill.


I also contacted Dr. G. Fred Lee, of G. Fred Lee & Associates, a noted authority on landfill sitings, risks,and inadequacies and, and when asked: ”What I'm interested in knowing is whether applying any of the various current MSW conversion technologies available (biological or thermal conversion, or even older waste-to-energy [WTE] solutions), in your mind, has any significantly less negative impact on the environment following this conversion when disposing of the remains/non-salable product into a landfill? As and admitted untrained observer/novice, I tend to believe that such conversion might go a long way towards minimizing any deleterious effects on the environment. “ Dr. Lee responded with this: ”These MSW conversions approaches can be conducted with little or no impact on the environment/public health. However the siting and operation of these technologies with full environment/public health protection make them far more expensive than the typical Subtitle D landfilling as allowed today in California and under the US EPA regulations. The basis issue is that the politics are such that administrations are unwilling to cause the public to experience paying double to triple the cost of MSW management.”

The presentation “Health Risk of Landfilling Versus Combustion of municipal solid waste: An Illinois Comparison”, of which Drs Lee and A. Jones-Lee co-authored work was referenced, the abstract states in part “Risks of either technology [landfilling versus combustion] fall within the regulatory precedents for acceptability during the operational phase (30 years) and the early closure phase (40 years), but the ultimate releases of leachate from the landfill generate potentially large risk over time interval beyond this horizon.”. This statement would seem to indicate that, in the long run, the choice between landfilling versus combustion is an easy one in favor of some form of combustion.

Even the 2006 National Latino Congreso Resolution 3.15 (Floor Submission)-- Conversion Technologies and Zero Waste resolved that:

WHEREAS, The California Integrated Waste Management Board indicates that over 40 million tons of waste are land filled every year just in California, despite a 50% recycling rate; and

WHEREAS, landfill space is at a premium and disposal rates are estimated to increase; and

WHEREAS, the siting of landfills and solid waste disposal facilities is a major Environmental Justice issue, and eliminating the need for disposal reduces the impact on communities with nearby disposal facilities impacting their quality of life; and

WHEREAS, conversion technologies are processes capable of converting residual post-recycled solid waste and other organic feedstocks into useful products, alternative fuels, and clean, renewable energy, and offer strategic energy, economic, social and environmental benefits; and

WHEREAS, biofuels derived from solid waste and excess biomass via conversion technologies and can be a clean, renewable fuel source that reduces our dependency on fossil fuels; and

WHEREAS, the use of conversion technologies can contribute solutions to California's critical waste disposal and environmental problems, and result in substantial environmental benefits for California, which include reducing the amount of waste disposal in landfills, production of renewable energy, and reduction of air emissions including greenhouse gas emissions; and

WHEREAS, conversion technologies can create "green collar" jobs with good wages and benefits through increased private investment;

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT THE 2006 NATIONAL LATINO CONGRESO:
1. Support the enhancement and expansion of waste reduction and recycling programs nationwide, and the adoption of zero waste goals to eliminate the concept of waste;

2. Conserve natural resources and reduce the amount of hazardous materials in the waste stream by supporting and promoting preferable purchasing programs, product redesign, advanced disposal fees and other manufacturer responsibility measures as well as enhanced collection and recycling infrastructure;

3. Urge state and local communities throughout the country to invest in landfill alternatives, such as conversion technologies, which create "green collar" jobs and make use of abundant biomass and organic waste resources in an environmentally beneficial manner; (emphasis added)

4. Lobby lawmakers at the State and Federal level to provide clear permitting pathways for the development of conversion technologies, and properly define and incentivize the development of these technologies based on sound science ad their life-cycle environmental impacts and benefits in relation to other solid waste management options.
In looking around the state for evidence of other waste disposal issues, the article BioEnergy Producers Association-AB 222 Gutted by Senate Environmental Quality Committee states that five Democrats on the Senate Environmental Quality Committee yielded to "environmental" opposition orchestrated by lobbyists for the traditional waste industry, and stripped the bill of its RPS [renewable portfolio standard] and landfill reduction provisions--the two major elements necessary to finance the construction of these projects. During the following week, the Committee's staff published further amendments that would have made it even more difficult to permit and operate these facilities than it is under existing statute.
The Bioenergy Producers Association report titled “California's Waste Conversion Technologies-Ensuring an Environmentally Clean and Abundant Future states "the Bioenergy Action Plan was created years ago and was available for review yet nothing has changed or have been done." So Senators Joe Simitian, Fran Pavley, Lori Hancock, Ellen M. Corbett, and Alan S. Lowenthal,(your names were the only ones on an old Facebook page, which incorrectly compared CT to incineration [a technique that the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) has been known to subscribe, regardless of the science that shows otherwise] so it would appear that you are the members of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee who defeated AB 222). As intelligent as I assume you are, how could you possibly fall for this sophomoric and shallow rhetoric delivered by the Californians Against Waste (CAW) when they address the issue of Conversion Technologies, and say that “Conversion Technologies do not “Recycle”. I have read AB 939 and other related legislation, and I cannot find any wording that mandates that recyclers must sell their recycling residue (scrap aluminum, glass, metal) to manufacturers of such initial products.*

Insert something saying that Eight Great Myths of Recycling shows that
To suggest that they must would seem to impose a business model on the beverage industry that was rejected in the 1960s. Furthermore, this seems to impose a completely different standard on the state's recyclers, whereby they are not allowed to seek the highest price for their recycled products.

In fact, the Executive Summary of the Draft Conversion Technologies Report To the Legislature of March 2005, at the board meeting of 15-16 March 2005, Agenda item 23, Attachment 1 says: ”Visualize millions of tons of yard trimmings and wood that cannot be composted, of low value paper and plastic residuals from material recovery facilities (MRF) for which there is no recycling market demand, and of agricultural residues that can no longer be burned in the fields. All of these materials are either landfilled today may be headed for landfills tomorrow. Now imagine a future where unwanted materials destined for landfills instead are converted into high-value products such as energy, ethanol and other fuels, and citric acid and other industrial products. That future could revolve around a new generation of “conversion” technologies that have potential that help solve vexing environmental problems and could help achieve California Environmental Protection Agency's Strategic Vision and goals, including continuous improvement and application of science and technology and ensuring the efficient use of natural resources. ... The California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) has been researching conversion technologies because, although California has achieved a 47 percent statewide diversion rate and has a current composting infrastructure that processes 10 million tons annually, more than 39 million tons of material was disposed of in landfills in 2003. Of the amount disposed of in landfills, nearly 80 percent is organic material (paper, wood, green waste, food waste, etc.)”

Later on in the Environmental and Public Health Impacts section, page 33, the following information is provided: “While biological processes have gained widespread acceptance for various feedstocks,thermochemical processes have met with resistance from the environmental community and the public. Some of this resistance has stemmed from the perception that pyrolysis and gasification processes are variations of incineration. Some commenters have stated that federal law includes gasification and pyrolysis as part of the definition of incineration. ... The federal definition does not include gasification or pyrolysis. According to the University of California researchers, thermochemical conversion technologies differ widely from incineration in several key respects: the volume of output gases from a paralysis reactor or gasifier is much smaller per ton of feedstock processed than an equivalent incineration process. While these output gases may be eventually combusted, the alternative processes provide a intermediate step where gas cleanup can occur. Mass burn incineration is limited by application of air pollution control equipment to the fully combusted exhaust only....
Today the level of dioxin air emissions from combustion of MSW in the US has decreased from 8900 g-TEQ per year in 1987 to 12 g-TEQ per year by 2000, a decrease of 99.9 percent. The MSW combustion industry represents less than 1 percent of the dioxin/furan (emphasis added)

I ask you Senators, why didn't you at least publicly challenge the authors of the draft UC Riverside study on CT, on their study conclusions and opinions on why California should not be pursuing these CT opportunities, as part of the overall statewide RPS goals and landfill reduction provisions before choosing politics over hard science conducted by the state's own university system?

I can only assume that you have become enamored by the idyllic nature of the The Story of Stuff but before you pat yourself on the back, you should read a four-part critique of Ms. Leonard's work starting here. For those who believe that recycling is a noble goal, you should read the Eight Great Myths of Recycling . Furthermore, Dr. Milton Friedman, our nation's Nobel prize-winning economist, further destroys some of the basic tenets of Ms. Leonard's thesis regarding capitalism's effect on native peoples as he shows why people everywhere will strive for freedom and prosperity in this video Freedom to Choose.


As the Draft CA Integrated Waste Management Board Conversion Technologies Report to the Legislature, February 2005, Executive Summary says: “Thermochemical Conversion Technologies are technically viable options for the conversion of waste streams, including post-recycled municipal solid waste (MSW). This conclusion is based on the peer-reviewed information from the Evaluation of conversion technology processes and product report prepared by UC Riverside and UC Davis, the Life Cycle and Market Impact Assessment of Non-combustion Waste Conversion Technologies prepared by RTI International, and the independent evaluation of emissions from dozens of facilities worldwide. Thermochemical conversion technologies possess unique characteristics that have potential to substantially reduce the amount of material that is landfilled.” *Similarly, the Conversion Technologies Processing Municipal Solid Waste and Biomass, Final Report June 21, 2009 concludes with “Independently verified emissions test results show that thermochemical conversion technologies are able to meet existing local, state, federal, and international emissions limits. Today, there are advanced air pollution control strategies and equipment that were not available even 10 years ago. It is obvious from the results that emissions control of thermochemical conversion technologies is no longer a technical barrier. That said, it is recommended that facilities and agencies provide both continuous and periodic monitoring to keep the public informed and ensure ongoing compliance. Thermochemical technologies can process a wide variety of feedstocks than biological processes, and can have a greater effect on landfill reduction. Thermochemical technologies can also produce a larger variety of products than incineration, which can displace the need for non-renewable traditional sources of energy and fuel. Other indirect effects include eliminating diesel fuel truck trips and reducing landfill gas emissions.”

According to the UC-R Issues Report on Thermal Conversion Technologies, ...“Currently California is annually landfilling approximately 35 million tons of MSW. When factoring in the substantial decrease in waste generation resulting from the recession, the progress in recycling has been totally offset by population growth and increased per capita disposal.

It is unrealistic to believe that the post-recycled fraction of municipal solid waste that is being placed in California’s landfills can be significantly reduced through source reduction, traditional means of recycling and composting alone.

The state’s population is expected to grow by some 10 million people over the next 25 years. If the legislature fails to achieve final passage of AB 222, California will landfill more than one billion tons of municipal solid waste during that time--and a major opportunity to advance energy independence, reduce AB 32 GHG emissions and advance the production of Low Carbon Fuels will be lost.”


But, perhaps you were merely persuaded by the zero-waste advocates to defeat this effort to handle our existing MSW problem in the state. Personally, I can't tell you how many old toothbrushes I threw-away in my youth because I had no more need for yet another shoe polish welt brush.
But as Mr. Rick Brandes, formally of the US EPA, said at the Cooperation, Not Conflict: Municipal Solid Waste Management in the 21st Century in March-April 2010,

“Having recently retired after 31 years working on waste management regulations and policy at the US Environmental Protection Agency, I’d like to voice a massive frustration on the state of municipal solid waste management policy in this country.
In one camp are the “zero wasters.” They see a world where real integrated materials management means all
materials are contained in a continuous use/reuse cycle: organics to composting and soil enhancement, recyclables returned to use either in closed or open loop recycling systems, metals and glass back to new metals and new glass, and paper back into paper. They see the public as ready for a massive change to a more sustainable lifestyle, trashwise. And, incineration is viewed as the enemy of zero waste, not a complement.

In the other camp are the “energy recoverers.” They see a practical, realistic world, where real integrated materials management is driven by market forces, where recycling occurs when it makes market sense and energy is recovered from the bulk of the remainder of the non-recyclable municipal wastestream through mass-burn incineration or advanced thermochemical conversion. They see it as a decision on whether to landfill or recover energy, not whether to incinerate or recycle. They see the public as most likely to do what they are currently doing—and that doesn’t include a big change in lifestyle, trashwise.
It’s not like there are no alternative strategies. There are many, many ways to beneficially use this trash mountain of ours. Augment soil. Generate power. Make paper and save trees. Reduce bauxite mining. Recover even more metal out of the ash. Make park benches and roads. Produce ethanol and biodiesel. Use all alternatives where they make sense. Use different waste management strategies in different places. Do more of some of these things in some places and less of them in other places. But don’t editorially gun people down when they don’t do what you think they should do. Give communities the best available information, and they will probably do what is best for them. Let them make their trash more valuable.

About the only thing we can say right now is that there exists a massive lack of consensus on what constitutes an effective integrated materials management strategy. That has to change.”

Even former Gov. Schwarzenegger said the following in apparent agreement with Mr. Brandes'
position regarding available means for handling waste
“Environmentalists must stop letting the perfect become the enemy of the possible.”
- Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger

State Sen.Pres. Pro Tem Daniel Steinberg, I know you're a better man than the letters referenced in this blog, would indicate, sir. As California State Sen.Pres. Pro Tem, I believe that your office should have the goals and needs of the entire state in mind when taking action, yet your office could have greatly reduced the opportunity for CTs to be employed at the SVSWA by submitting those letters. May I very respectfully suggest that, if you have not done so already, please retract these letters submitted on your behalf by Kip Lipper, as it would appear to a layperson, that your office is trying to reinterpret the regulations that specifically carve-out MSW gasification as a qualifying renewable energy technology, and such duplicitious at the least, or at it's worst, Machiavellian behavior may lead California citizens/voters to think that you do not support the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006,(AB 32) .Perhaps you should consider shortening your leash on Mr. Kipper, to avoid further such problems.or it's further implementation for land-use planning, as you have been advocating doing here, here, here.
Quoting portions of the letter from Mr. Roberti, President of the Bioenergy Producers Association, and a former Senate President Pro Tem himself, to you, ”Does it makes sense for this state to continue to place 35 million tons of post-recycled waste in landfills every year, when they could potentially support the in- state production of 1.6 billion gallons of ethanol and 1250 MW of power? Of course not.”
The logic of utilizing our post-recycled waste streams as a feedstock for renewable energy production is so clear and universally recognized, everywhere but in California, that the short-sighted view of a minority of members of our party is already becoming the subject of ridicule.”
When I asked Mr. Mathews of the SVSWA: “Since Salinas Valley have become the CA leader in the move towards better MSW management, might the SVSWA be willing to help create and lead a state-sanctioned group on MSW management, CT legislation, etc., if commissioned by the Governor on a pay-as-you-go basis for meetings/telephone/videos setups, etc.? (In my former life [pre-brain injury] as the Security Director of the major Naval full-spectrum R&D laboratory here in San Diego, I was lucky enough to be invited to join a group of security professionals which reviewed all types and kinds of security issues at our respective research laboratories and engineering centers. We met face-to-face twice a year at a member facility whose director would give the group a tour and a location to sit down to discuss our issues for a couple of days. This went on for several years and I found it very beneficial.) With current video teleconferencing technology, face-to-face meetings could be obsolete, or at least unnecessary. I would hope that sometime in the future, San Diego would be able to benefit from such a regular/periodic meeting of like-minded MSW professionals. Mr. Mathews responded as follows: “We would be interested in forming a working industry group to discuss and advance new waste management technologies. “
Perhaps as possible recompense for seemingly abandoning the state's CT advocates, so to speak, Sen.Steinberg might you consider sponsoring no-cost legislation whereby Governor Brown designates the SVSWA, the County of Los Angeles, or City and County County of Santa Barbara, as the initial head of a working industry group, perhaps titled the “California Conversion Technology Working Group” (CACTWG) and that such working group members pay their own expenses for establishing needed video teleconferencing equipment and such, and that the working group only be required to report to the California Energy Commission (CEC) once or twice a year on its meetings and such. I would suggest that, initially, that these three entities be designated as members, and that other waste management associations of cities/counties be included at the discretion of the Working Group head until formal meeting rules have been established.
Also in talking about the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006,(AB 32), why are you, Assembly Speaker Perez, and Gov. Brown continuing to push it, and continuing to further the destruction of the California economy. I was intending to highlight how Eric Bays,a University of Oregon student, prepared a document A Logical Argument Against Man-Made Global Warming For the Layman, laying out in his conclusion on page 32 (that even I can understand) that “1) the IPCC is a political body, not an objective scientific body. It's conclusions are untrustworthy. 2) There is still scientific debate about global warming.3) Computer climate models are unreliable. 4) Earth's temperature has been warmer in the past. It is not hotter than normal. 5) Changes in energy from the sun drive climate change on Earth, not carbon dioxide. Therefore, global warming has not been proven.” I was also going to refer you three to The Great Global Warming Swindle. Even Reason Magazine, a nonpartisan research body, produced a report titled Misled on Climate Change-Policy Study 399, the Executive Summary, on the first two pages, details how there is an internal contradiction in the IPCC's own claims. The contradiction is over whether poor countries will suffer greatly from global warming or if they will be much better off than they are today, because apparently both claims are asserted in the IPCC report. But I'm afraid I'm probably too late to make a difference, because if Gov. Brown hasn't taken to heart California Watchdog's numerous articles on global warming such as Study Discredits Global Warming, AB 32 , which details the Climategate fraud. Maviglio Eclipses Global Warming Logic discusses when Democratic strategist Steve Maviglio took to using the Ad Hominem fallacy attack against Dakin Sloss, President of California Common Sense, an open government, nonprofit organization brought into a press conference to defend Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, against charges that the assembly had manipulated budget numbers to make him look bad. Maviglio accused Sloss of, among other things, of being a “climate change denier”. As John Seiler so systematically summarized following his discussion of the latest Climate Warming Refuted and following with Climate Warming Laws: “If we have any sense, we'll repeal all of the legislation that's based on man-caused global warming, beginning with ex-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's AB32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. That's its actual name, before the “global warming” propaganda was changed to “climate change” It mandates draconian reductions in greenhouse gas of 25 percent by 2020. It's killing 1 million jobs. No wonder California's unemployment rate is 12 percent, almost 3 percentage points higher even than the dismal US rate. And earlier this year, Gov. Jerry Brown made matters even worse, by signing into law a mandate that renewables must comprise 33 percent of electricity production by 2020.” After discussing the text of state Sen. Joe Simitian's bill, SBX12, Mr. Seiler goes on to say ”California probably will be the last place to give up the man-made global warming – excuse me, “climate change” -- superstition. It's especially popular among Simitian's billionaire Silicon Valley constituents, who fund most of the state's politics....”
          Here are the answers to whichWMATA week 106        

On Tuesday, we featured the 106th challenge to see how well you knew the Metro system. Here are the answers. How'd you do?

This week, we got 27 guesses. Fifteen got all five. Great work, Peter K, Justin..., J-Train-21, dpod, Stephen C, Solomon, Andy B, ArlFfx, AlexC, MZEBE, DavidDuck, JamesDCane, We Will Crush Peter K, Peter K is a nice guy don't be hatin' on him, and Greg Jordan-Detamore!

Image 1: Largo

The first image shows the southern entry plaza at Largo station. This station is flanked by parking garages and has a Gull II canopy. This canopy type is only present at the three stations opened in 2004. Neither Morgan Boulevard nor NoMa have parking structures, so that leaves Largo as the only possibility. 

25 got it right.

Image 2: Navy Yard

The second image shows the New Jersey Avenue entrance canopy at Navy Yard. Until recently, this entrance was covered with scaffolding to protect it from the construction of the adjacent building, Insignia on M. There is a Courtyard by Marriott in the background (at New Jersey and L), which may have helped you figure this out. Other clues include the bevy of newer buildings characteristic of the ever-growing Navy Yard area and the wide cross-section and brick median of M Street SW. 

25 guessed correctly.

Image 3: Cleveland Park

The third picture was taken at Cleveland Park. There are a few stations in the system with "Park" in their names, but only two of them are underground Arch I stations. The Arch I stops are located along the Red Line section that was opened in 1981 and 1984, from Woodley Park to Medical Center. We can discount Woodley Park, because from this perspective you'd be able to see the rest of the station's name (Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan). 

But even without using the word "Park", this has to be Cleveland Park because it's the only Arch I station that has an escalator and stair at the end of the mezzanine. At Woodley Park, it's a pair of escalators, which is the case at most of the Arch I stations.

26 knew this one.

Image 4: Shady Grove

The fourth featured station was Shady Grove. The picture is taken from the northern end of the platform, looking west toward the loop track at Shady Grove Yard. A parked train and other yard infrastructure is visible, which should have tipped you that this was a station near a rail yard. The visible loop track has third rail as well, which means you can discount it being a freight track. 

The other stations near yards are all farther from the yards and loop track than Shady Grove, so you could have eliminated those stations. Crabbs Branch is the watercourse that runs in a culvert under Shady Grove station, and it's visible here to the left of the rail yard. 

24 figured it out.

Image 5: West Hyattsville

The last image was taken near West Hyattsville. You can see the Green Line guideway at upper left, which should have helped you narrow this down to an elevated station. The sign is located adjacent to the path that connects Chillum Road to the Northwest Branch Trail and West Hyattsville station. 

This was definitely the hardest picture this week, with only 17 coming to the correct conclusion. 

Great work, everyone. Thanks for playing! We'll be back in two weeks with week 107.

Information about contest rules, submission guidelines, and a leaderboard is available at http://ggwash.org/whichwmata.

Comment on this article


          Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?        
For a watchman, he has remarkably few clothes. Or weapons.
Auguste Rodin, The Age of Bronze, 1876
“If you meet a thief, you may suspect him, by virtue
of your office, to be no true man; and, for such
kind of men, the less you meddle or make with them,
why the more is for your honesty.”


— William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

Francine McKenna of re: The Auditors recently expressed her dismay that the Big Four accounting firms have continued to be noticeably remiss about engaging reputable accounting firms to audit their own in-house broker dealer arms. The litany Ms McKenna recites of well-known and less-than-well-known failures and deficiencies public accounting firms have been accused of by the PCAOB and the SEC concerning audits of third party broker dealer clients is certainly eye-opening, and it does not give the casual reader much confidence they are sufficiently capable and diligent in this area. However, Ms McKenna’s central concern is a different one: in order to provide legally mandated audits of their own broker dealer units, the Big Four must hire unrelated third party audit firms, and the firms they have hired are tiny, no-name, no-account nobodies.

This, on its face, appears to worry Ms McKenna, and it is reasonable to presume it should worry the rest of us who are less informed about the ins and outs of public accounting than she. However, while I profess absolutely no expertise or credentials in the area of public accounting, I do have an insight into the facts of the matter which may allay some of Ms McKenna’s and her audience’s concerns.

For one thing, as a lawyer who read her post inquired, the curious among you Delightful People might wonder why public accounting firms have broker dealer subsidiaries in the first place. Well, the answer to that—notwithstanding the corporate doublespeak Ms McKenna cites from the firms in question—is quite simple: they like to do investment banking. They like the fees, they like the prestige, and they are often thrown into situations where clients do hire them to provide capital raising or M&A advice. In particular, the Big Four accounting firms have over the years developed a huge and thriving business providing financial due diligence, accounting, and audit services to private equity firms in connection with the latter’s frenetic buying, managing, and selling of companies. Private equity firms, the cognoscenti among you may recall, are paragons of corporate outsourcing, and because they normally consist of three ex-investment bankers, a part-time bookkeeper, and the bookkeeper’s dog, they must employ an army of outside lawyers, consultants, and advisors every time they want to do a deal. Chief among these, of course—save the ineluctable lawyers—are accountants, since virtually none of the private equity professionals are qualified accountants, either (nor can they be bothered to take time from dealmaking to tot up balance sheets, income statements, or other such trivia).1

Private equity firms are occasionally willing to hire accounting firms as deal advisors in addition to their accounting duties because 1) what the hell, they’re already neck deep in the numbers anyway, 2) they may owe the accounting firms some love for the last ten deals which blew up and for which the PE firm accordingly stiffed them on their accounting fees (“We’ll make it up to you next time”), and 3) they’re normally much cheaper than real investment bankers. So Big Four accounting firm partners are always wheedling and cajoling their financial sponsor clients to let their pet investment bankers “do something,” and sometimes the PE guys let them. By the same token, relationship managers at public accounting firms are always looking to soak their corporate audit clients for additional fees, and the occasional corporate client decides to use his audit firm’s in-house bankers to raise some financing or do some small acquisition or divestiture, often for similar reasons to the PE guys.2

* * *

Now the trick is, of course, that if you decide to offer M&A advice or capital raising services to anyone, including PE firms and corporate clients, the redoubtable SEC requires you by law to register as a broker dealer. This is based on the notion, as I have explained elsewhere, that such services normally entail recommendations concerning the purchase and sale of securities, which is the third rail of financial market regulation in this country. Unfortunately, the law currently makes no distinction between a small band of semi-retired corporate development guys who advise on one or two deals per year and a globe-straddling colossus like Goldman Sachs. The former can just as well operate out of a suitcase. The latter not only advises on billions of dollars of M&A and raises billions of dollars of capital for its institutional clients, but also maintains client accounts, handles funds, and does all sorts of other security-related things for a much broader range of retail and institutional clients. Both are, de jure, “broker dealers,” and both require annual audits.

But if all you do is agency business like advising institutional clients on M&A and raising private debt or equity funds from institutional clients, the types of things which the SEC wants to check you are doing or not doing are relatively few and uncomplicated. For example, they want to know whether you are taking custody of or handling client funds at any point (normally no) or, if you are raising funds from institutional investors, you have controls in place to make sure they are indeed qualified for the deals you offer. They want to make sure you have written policies and procedures and adequate capital to support the business you conduct. But the financial complexity of a pure agency advisory business is very low. You have fee revenue, compensation expense, unreimbursed marketing and T&E expense, and other general and administrative expenses. The balance sheet and retained capital you require to run such a business is minimal. From an auditor’s perspective, it is a pretty darn simple business to audit.

And this, as I understand it, is what the broker dealer units of the Big Four accounting firms do. They are not taking custody of client funds, investing money on behalf of customers, or maintaining large sales and trading platforms which operate across multiple geographies and markets. Notwithstanding the size and complexity of the Big Four, their broker dealer platforms have got to be pretty trivial. Accordingly, it makes sense that they have chosen to hire pissant little audit firms to satisfy their SEC-mandated requirements because 1) their businesses are simple enough to be adequately audited by a couple CPAs operating out of a strip mall and 2) the strip mall CPAs are going to be a hell of a lot cheaper than a larger firm. This latter point is important since it is likely—and Ms McKenna confirms it in the case of PwC—that most of these broker dealer arms are either losing money or making a pittance.

Now if this is not true, and Ernst & Young is running a hedge fund like MF Global inside its broker dealer or selling restricted biotech warrants to unqualified widows and orphans, then obviously none of the above is true or adequate. But if that is the case, I think E&Y and the SEC have a much bigger problem than Ms McKenna has tentatively identified.

Related reading:
Francine McKenna, When Big Four Audit Firms Need an Audit They Choose Cheap (Medium, October 14, 2014)
Francine McKenna, Update: The Shoemaker’s Children… The Big Four And Their Own Broker-Dealers (re: The Auditors, October 27, 2014)
In Loco Parentis (April 13, 2014)

1 This is in sad contrast, regular readers of these scribblings will recall, to private equity firms’ endemic reluctance to hire M&A advisors like Yours Truly for the combined reasons that 1) PE professionals believe they can do deals themselves and 2) doing deals, unlike accounting, is fun.
2 In the UK and Europe, where I understand public accounting firms have a closer historical and statutory advisory relationship to their clients, they actually maintain a relatively robust position in the advisory league tables for mid-sized and smaller deals, unlike their poorer American cousins. When it comes to big public deals, however, investment banks dominate there as they do here.

© 2014 The Epicurean Dealmaker. All rights reserved.


          The Curious Case of Dr. Dao        



The Curious Case of Dr. Dao
There were no winners here



By now we've all heard of the events on United Express Flight 3411 wherein a passenger refused to deplane to accommodate some deadheading crew and was eventually dragged off the aircraft by Chicago law enforcement officers. The passenger, Dr. David Dao, suffered some injuries including two broken teeth and had to be treated in a hospital following his forceful removal from the aircraft.

As this is an aviation blog, and before I bury the lede too far, I'd like to look at this event from the aspect of what the pilots could or should have done. The answer is much less than you might expect given that the airplane was parked at the gate and that there were no safety concerns. In spite of what a few keyboard warriors hanging around my blog may assert, federal law concerning pilot authority is quite clear on the limits to a pilot's responsibility and authority.

But before I dig into that, let's review the story as it stands so far, shall we?

The incident was captured on various personal devices for our enjoyment and the internet predictably blew up on cue. Many hot takes were given, much outrage was expressed, and many gallons of ink were spilled as everyone who could form an opinion, valid or not, did so. Here are just a few.

Everyone has gotten in on the act


The entire sovereign nation of China, one of United's largest destinations by customer count, wasted no time in ginning up the indignation sirens claiming that Dr. Dao's shabby treatment was a result of racial animus against persons of Chinese descent. This had to be revised to accusations of a general anti-Asian bias when it was revealed that the good doctor is of Vietnamese extraction. (The incident was nothing of the sort, and it would be nice if racism wasn't the knee-jerk go-to explanation for everything under the sun.)

Economists have weighed in on the economics of offering money to entice people to give up their seats. There's a good reason that economics is called the dismal science, as my head hurts after reading about all the game theory that applies. Perhaps United should have just upped the ante of cash offered. Eventually someone would have taken the deal.

Legal eagles have offered advice concerning the fine print that is contained in the contract of carriage which all passengers agree to when purchasing a ticket. One aviation lawyer I found believes that the airline was justified in removing the doctor as his opinion is that no property right is created through the purchase of a ticket. Another lawyer blog believes otherwise stating that United did not correctly follow its own directives. In the end, it will come down to precedent, case law, and the legal interpretation of words such as "boarded" and "oversold". The doctor has hired a competent lawyer and is planning on suing everyone in sight. My personal view is that while United may win the legal battle, it long ago lost the PR war.

From a law enforcement point of view, three officers from the Chicago Department of Aviation, were the ones who removed the doctor from the plane. The doctor resisted their efforts and in the process of this resistance hit his face on an armrest resulting in his injuries. At least one of the officers has been placed on leave for not following standard operating procedure (SOP). While I have no doubt that an investigation will determine whether SOP was followed or not, it seems to me that if a 69 year old man can't be removed from an airplane without being bloodied then perhaps they were doing it wrong. On the other hand, resisting law enforcement is never a good idea.

Civil libertarians of course see this as one more road sign along the route to the coming police state. I'm not so sure that this incident is reflective of an improper use of law enforcement. After all, should you plant yourself on a couch at Macy's at closing time and refuse to move, you will likely be escorted off the property by some form of law enforcement given enough time. United for its part has forsworn the future use of law enforcement to remove passengers. I think I can safely predict a new class of delay as passengers refuse to disembark for this reason or that and nothing gets done.

For some homespun humor and common sense about the incident we turn to Mike Rowe who points out that a simple appeal to reason would have quickly resolved the problem.

Lastly, many are pointing out that the good doctor himself has a somewhat shady past involving drugs and sex which cost him his medical license for a while. Even the doctor's story as to why it was important for him not to be removed was not quite true. So what does this have to do with anything that happened on the airplane? Absolutely nothing. Nothing, that is, unless you are a lawyer trying to paint the doctor as a quick witted grifter who intentionally acted out in search of a pay out. It will be left to the lawyers, judges, and jurors to sort that one out.

Pilot's Authority


The pilots of United were quick to point out that this incident actually took place on a Republic Airways owned and operated flight hoping to avoid association with the affair. That's some facile reasoning as the airplanes are branded with the United brand and the Republic employees are clothed in United uniforms. But the pilots probably shouldn't be so defensive. The pilots on that plane likely had zero input into any of the events that transpired. They may not even have known what was going on until the police arrived.

This of course brings us back to the topic of what the pilots could or should have done. There may have been a time in the distant past where pilots were expected to exercise authority over every aspect of the operation. Think back to, say, a Pan Am Model 314 making its way around the Pacific Rim in 1939. Back then the captain was the chief customer service agent and company representative. He had to be. There was no one else around.

Today things are different. Ticket agents, operations agents, boarding agents, customer service agents, ground operations supervisors, and the big kahuna, complaint resolution officials control nearly all aspects of airline customer service while the airplane is parked at the gate. They decide who goes on and who gets pulled off. The pilots do not.

 Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) are quite clear on this matter. Here's the relevant text:

 Â§91.3   Responsibility and authority of the pilot in command. 
(a) The pilot in command of an aircraft is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that aircraft. 
(b) In an in-flight emergency requiring immediate action, the pilot in command may deviate from any rule of this part to the extent required to meet that emergency.

In case you were wondering, the term "operation of that aircraft" does not include who gets denied boarding while parked at the gate. Do pilots have any input into this process at all? Yes, but only from a safety or security point of view.

For instance, should a flight attendant inform me that a customer appears to be inebriated during boarding, it is my responsibility to make sure we don't fly with an inebriated passenger, which is a violation of FARs. However I have been given zero training in recognizing the signs of inebriation. Perhaps the passenger has a medical condition or just took a pill to help with anxiety. I don't have the slightest way to tell.

Fortunately, the airline has hired and trained individuals who do have the expertise to make such a call. In fact all airlines expect their hired and trained experts to handle such customer service issues. Any pilot who came charging out of the cockpit to throw a passenger off for anything other than a clear safety issue would quickly find himself in the chief pilot's office making arrangements for an unpaid vacation or the target of a discrimination lawsuit or both.

In the case of a mis-boarded passenger as was the case here, pilots have little or no input. Oh sure, pilots can offer an opinion, but customer service issues are the purview of customer service agents. And once law enforcement arrives to remove a passenger at the direction of ground operations, pilots again have zero official input.

In Conclusion


United airlines unwittingly touched the third rail of customer dissatisfaction by becoming a lighting rod for an ocean of pent up frustration concerning airline passenger treatment (to mix metaphors). This frustration is no doubt heavily contributed to by the goons running the TSA, but it is the airlines' problem to solve. All airlines should do themselves a big favor by using this unfortunate incident to take a good look in the mirror and to ask themselves why their customers are so ready to grab the pitchforks when it comes to customer service. Incidents like this don't help.





          WE ALL FALL DOWN by Michael Harvey        
Michael Harvey's sequel to THE THIRD RAIL is WE ALL FALL DOWN, in which PI Michael Kelly wears out a great deal of shoe leather trying to save the citizens of Chicago. An unidentified perpetrator may have released a biological weapon in the city's subway system. When people begin to sicken and die, a highly trained team of brilliant scientists is called in to identify the substance (is it a strain of anthrax?) and try to find a way to contain it. Kelly is a student of Thucydides, who wrote eloquently about the Plague of Athens in his classic work, "History of the Peloponnesian War." Kelly wonders whether, twenty-four hundred years later, a modern, man-made plague will decimate Chicago.
          Albert Herter │The Quin-Cunx Aspect        

Albert Herter at Koenig & Clinton


Albert Herter at Koenig & Clinton
Albert Herter at Koenig & Clinton
Artist: Albert Herter
Venue: Koenig & Clinton, New York
Exhibition Title: The Quin-Cunx Aspect
Date: June 3 – September 1, 2017
Albert Herter at Koenig & Clinton
Albert Herter at Koenig & Clinton
Full gallery of images, press release and link available after the jump.
Images:
Images courtesy of Koenig & Clinton, New York
Press Release:
Koenig & Clinton is delighted to inaugurate our new Bushwick location with the gallery’s first exhibition of Brooklyn-based artist, Albert Herter. On view are 45 vividly colored works on paper that have been culled from six discrete series that were drawn over the course of the past year.
In keeping with his previous series, Herter’s most recent work features compact and elaborate scenes filled with de-constructed figures that have been staged in a surreal space. Ornate compositions commonly include two or three bodies enmeshed in dialogue or in confrontation. Amidst the dense scape of detail, boundaries between figure and ground, human and nature, threaten to disappear.
From a distance, Herter’s detailed freehand ink and watercolor drawings might resemble those of Old Masters drawings. Closer inspection grants passage through a portal into the interior lives of the cast. Mechanically hinged and dramatically costumed, Herter peels back the surface to render subcutaneous drives and expose competing desires of his characters. Rabelaisian excess reveals the swift accumulation of jouissance.
Determined yet vulnerable, Herter’s troupe initially resemble marionettes that are incapable of grasping their own strings, and yet latent potentials seem to lurk in the very framing of the engagement. The frozen scene is one moment of many in which a wide array of vectors move around and through the figure as actors are transformed into actants.
On Saturday, July 15, Wetware will present a long-format sound performance. Roxy Farman and Matthew Morandi’s collaborative response to Herter’s works on view begins at 6PM.
Albert Herter (b. 1980, San Francisco) holds a BFA in new genres from the San Francisco Art Institute, where he focused primarily on video, installation, and performance. His work has also been the subject of solo exhibitions at San Francisco City Hall and Partisan Gallery, San Francisco. Herter has participated in group exhibitions at: JOAN, Los Angeles; Art in General, New York; Derek Eller, New York; Spiral Gallery, Los Angeles; and Arthouse, McAllen, TX. A pairing of the artist’s drawings and writings were recently published by Comfortable On a Tightrope and Museums Press under the title “In the Curtyard: Orchestrated Reduction of the Fantasm”. His drawings have also been featured in The Third Rail and Lacanian Ink. In addition to his artistic practice, Herter is a practicing Lacanian psychoanalyst. He lives and works in Brooklyn.
###
Artist Statement: In the OrchORd
“…(Lacan’s) first formula for the fantasm indicates that it is located in a strictly imaginary dimension: a ← a. Secondly, Lacan points out that the prevalence of an image for a subject corresponds to a lack in the symbolic system. Even though I have no time to develop this now, the idea can already be found in Lacan’s work that when a lack arises in the signifying chain, which can be written as barred A, that an image, an imaginary-level element can become prevalent. Thirdly, and as an example of what I just said, let us take a look at the first way in which Lacan accounts for the figure of the superego. At that time, he said, exactly, that when there is a lack in the symbolic chain that arises from the imaginary level, the obscene figure of the superego appears.” –Jacques-Alain Miller, The Axiom of the Fantasm
“Man is always given whole, in an image of his creation that he cannot situate in time’s passing. Of necessity, this image is total: man has tools, he works, he imposes sexual restrictions on himself; he has a horror of sexually derived or excremental defilements which is hard to express, just as he has a horror of death and the dead. We shall see, moreover that his aversions are ambiguous, that they allow for reversals. In theory, we must envisage the transition from animal to man as a drama, which we can take as having lasted and as having had ups and downs, but whose unity we must grant. In the beginning there is necessarily, if not a quick drama, then a set of coherent peripeteia; we will never be able to say what happened, but we know the outcome of this drama had the value of an irrevocable decision. This is the true sense of a lasting effect, which extends through time to us, and is till the motive of the activity we pursue.” –Georges Bataille, The Accursed Share Volume II
Aggression is always interspecial and it was an evolutionary boon because it acted as a territorial spacer.
Ritual and sign as a means to avoid slaughter.
Surface aggression, like the face of the mandrill displaying color and form that appear to carry meaning, to be meaningful as such. The pomp revolves around an axis, fixed lines that count as zero but which, only by their being, define and produce the field and all the action which will unfold upon it. The word came and marked the land and made it into a territory. It marked the bodies and fractured them into anatomy.
Satirical portrayals of the occasion when the imaginary realm of meaty effervescence was pierced by the symbolic.
The orchard is a microcosm or model of a synchronal space, a slice of spacetime without narrative depth or history. It is a flash when a certain contingent word was infused with a charge of libido and became axiomatic.
–Albert Herter

          Single-payer plan benefits citizens        
Raising taxes has been the third rail of American politics. Large segments of our political establishment, including Hillary Clinton, oppose the Medicare-like single-payer health care system advocated by Bernie Sanders because it entails raising taxes. What is largely ignored is that the country as a whole would save significant sums by doing away with the
          THE (CURIOUS CASE OF THE) WATSON INTELLIGENCE Comes to CoHo Season 22        

From the Victorian age to the 21st century, 'Watson' is the perfect partner. Mr. Watson was on the other end of the wire when Alexander Graham Bell sent the first communication by telephone. Dr. Watson accompanied each step and anticipated every need of fiction's greatest detective. Watson's the name of IBM's natural language-processing supercomputer, winner of the famous Jeopardy! match in 2011. And Josh Watson is the IT guy with a friendly fix for crashed technology and broken hearts, uncommonly trustworthy and aiming to please. All the Watsons want to give you what you need, but do you want what you need in a partner? The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence is an emotionally-intelligent drama that follows a time-travelling love triangle between the head, the heart and the machine.

The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence premiered in November 2013 at Playwrights Horizons in New York. A revised production was presented at Chicago's Theater Wit in October 2015. Since then, it has received multiple productions throughout the United States. This will be the first in Portland.

SPECIAL EVENTS

Wednesday & Thursday, September 6 & 7 : $5 Previews
Friday, September 8 : Opening Night, post-show celebration in CoHo lobby.
Sunday, September 10 : Conversation with Cast & Creative Team, post-show panel
Sunday, September 17 : Post-show panel (guests tbd)
Sunday, September 24: Post-show panel (guests tbd)
Madeleine George's plays, including Hurricane Diane, The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence (Pulitzer Prize finalist, Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Award), Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England, Precious Little, and The Zero Hour, have been produced at theaters around the country. She was a founding member of the Obie-winning playwrights' collective 13P (Thirteen Playwrights, Inc.), and is a resident playwright at New Dramatists.

Madeleine is the recipient of a Whiting Award, the Princess Grace Playwriting Fellowship, and two MacDowell Fellowships, and she holds commissions from the Sloan Foundation/Manhattan Theatre Club, the Big Ten Theatre Consortium, and the Children's Theater Company in Minneapolis. She is currently the Mellon Playwright in Residence at Two River Theater in Red Bank, New Jersey.
http://www.madeleinegeorge.com/

THE PRODUCTION TEAM Sarah Ellis Smith as Eliza
Gavin Hoffman as Merrick
Eric Martin Reid as Watson


Philip Cuomo - Director
Tyne Clifton - Assistant Director
Peter Ksander - Scenic & Lighting Design
Elyse Grimaldi - Costume Design
Rosie Lambert - Stage Manager
Liz Young - Sound Design
Amy Chiao - Props Master
Jessica Dart - Dramaturg

ABOUT THE CAST

Gavin Hoffman is happy to be back at CoHo, where he co-produced and directed 'night, Mother, and appeared in Body Awareness. Portland credits include Duncan McDougall in Astoria Part 1, Joe in Great Expectations, Ligniere in Cyrano, Iago in Othello, and Karl/Steve in Clybourne Park at Portland Center Stage; Ted in American Hero, Harry in The Understudy, and Dieter in The Monster-Builder at Artists Repertory Theatre; as well as roles at Lakewood Theatre, Shaking the Tree, Profile Theatre, and Third Rail. He has guest-starred on The Big Easy (USA) and Leverage (TNT), co-starred in Grimm (NBC) and appeared in Portlandia. He is the recipient of four Drammy Awards, a graduate of PCPA. and has a BFA in acting from Ithaca College. He is a proud member of Actors' Equity and SAG-AFTRA.

Sarah Ellis Smith is making her Pacific Northwest debut with CoHo. Previous credits include work with the New Orleans Shakespeare Festival at Tulane, Swine Palace (Baton Rouge, LA) and Gainesville Theatre Alliance in Georgia. Favorite roles include Rita (Educating Rita), Helena (A Midsummer Night's Dream), Cordelia (King Lear), and Nora (A Doll's House). She founded Compleat Stage, a non-profit organization in Louisiana focused on multidisciplinary collaboration and arts education. In addition to her work in theatre, Sarah's most recent film and TV credits include Into the Badlands (AMC), American Horror Story (FOX), Treme (HBO) and The Host (Chockstone Pictures). Sarah holds an MFA from Louisiana State University and a BA from Brenau University.

Eric Martin Reid is a graduate of the Professional Actor's Training Program at the Dell'Arte International School for Physical Theatre. He went on to study Advanced Meisner Technique with Laurel Vouvray at the Actor's Avenue Studio. Eric has worked onstage with theatres including Insight Out, Sojourn Theatre, Sowelu Theatre, Imago and Coho. TV and Film credits include Guest Star on NBC's Grimm, Leverage, and a couple of turns in Portlandia. As a writer and first time director, Eric's short film Kidz won Best Comedy at the 2014 NW Short Film Festival.

For 22 years, CoHo Productions has pioneered artist led co-production as a model of creating theatre. Each season, CoHo solicits scripts and project proposals from Portland's community of theatre professionals and selects three to produce in partnership. The artistic vision is democratic, reflecting the tastes of the Portland theatre community from the ground up. Seasons are diverse and unpredictable; the sole quality nurtured and insisted on is excellence. Copyright © 2017 CoHo Productions, All rights reserved.
The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence

by Madeleine George

Directed by Philip Cuomo

September 8 - 30

Thursday-Saturday at 7:30pm, Sunday at 2pm
Featuring Performances by Gavin Hoffman, Sarah Ellis Smith, and Eric Martin Reid Sarah Ellis Smith as Eliza in The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence
Photo Credit Owen Carey. CoHo Theater
2257 NW Raleigh St.
Portland, OR 97210
(503) 220 - 2646 www.cohoproductions.org TICKETS $32 Single Ticket
$25 Single Ticket +65/-30
$20 Thrifty Thursday Ticket


          LUNGS by Duncan Macmillan Opens 8/4 at Third Rail        

How exactly does one decide to bring a child into this world - with the oceans, and the climate, and the, you know, everything else? Surely the kid's Eiffel Tower-sized carbon footprint is reason enough not to.

But what if baby grows up to solve the world's problems? Then again, what if baby grows up to be a mass murderer? Or what if...? And what if...? If...?

What begins as an odd question for a couple in line at Ikea soon becomes much more as they grapple with existence itself as a moral question, in Duncan Macmillan's timely and startlingly funny Lungs.

Duncan Macmillan's plays include: People, Places And Things (National Theatre, Headlong, West End); 1984, co-adapted from George Orwell's novel and co-directed with Robert Icke (Headlong, Nottingham Playhouse, Almeida Theatre, West End, UK & International tours); Every Brilliant Thing (Paines Plough, Pentabus Theatre, Barrow Street Theatre, International tours); Lungs (Studio Theatre Washington DC, Paines Plough & Sheffield Theatres, various productions worldwide); 2071, co-written with Chris Rapley (Royal Court, Hamburg Schauspielhaus); Atmen (Schaubühne Berlin); The Forbidden Zone (Salzburg Festival, Schaubühne Berlin, Barbican); Reise Durch Die Nacht, adapted from Friederike Mayröcker, created with Katie Mitchell and Lyndsey Turner (Schauspielhaus Köln, Theatertreffen Berlin, Festival d'Avignon); Wunschloses Unglück, adapted from Peter Handke (Burgtheater Vienna); and Monster (Royal Exchange).

The plays in Third Rail's season encompass a range of human experience viewed from shared and diverse perspectives, and tackle essential questions of our time. Lungs brings the global issue of climate change to an intimate level that many will recognize: two people trying to map out their lives while the uncertain future looms.

In discussing his writing process for Lungs, Duncan Macmillan has said, "I think I was interested in the conversation and not how it was going to be staged." In fact, the play's stage directions have been called "radically minimalistic." Third Rail's audience will experience a production that rises to the challenge using immensely creative scenic, lighting, sound, and costume design, and provides a springboard for more conversations with an interactive lobby installation.

Questions of the monumental impact of procreation on the environment and in relationships, and of personal responsibility swirl throughout Lungs.

More information about Third Rail can be found at thirdrailrep.org.
Dates: Aug 4 - Aug 26, 2017, Thursday-Saturday at 7:30pm, Sunday at 2pm.

Location: CoHo Theatre, 2257 NW Raleigh Street, Portland, OR 97210 [Editors, please note venue for this Third Rail production.]

Tickets Available: By phone at 503-235-1101 or online at thirdrailrep.org.

Prices: Single tickets $25 - $45 (plus online service fees). Admission included for Third Rail Members (monthly fee of $30.75)


          JAW: A Playwrights Festival Full Schedule Announced        

The 19th annual JAW: A Playwrights Festival is Portland's chance to preview spanking new scripts while they're still in development, enjoy a host of Press Play performances and dig deeper with Community Artist Labs presented by JAW featured artists. The JAW Big Weekend is July 28-30 in various locations at The Armory. JAW is always FREE and open to the public. More information about JAW is available at www.pcs.org/jaw.

This year's JAW staged readings include Kate Attwell's Testmatch, examining women's sports, mangos, and the ever-present legacy of colonialism; Small Steps by Briandaniel Oglesby, a comedy traversing 50 million miles and a million years; Mfoniso Udofia's In Old Age, part of a nine-play cycle about Nigerian American immigrants that explores the true nature of love and forgiveness; and Tiny Houses, Stefanie Zadravec's comic riff on Pandora's Box that follows the ripple effect on several women who suddenly realize they can disrupt the status quo. Surrounding the staged readings, attendees can also enjoy Press Play events such as a site-specific dance performance and an indie gaming event. Community Artist Labs offer opportunities to build skills in adapting works of fiction, theatricalizing found text, and creating devised theater (attendance for labs is by lottery).

2017 JAW FESTIVAL SCHEDULE

Friday, July 28, 2017

All Day Press Play Event: ZoomUganda Display Studio Lobby

8:00 p.m. JAW Kickoff: Readings of Short Plays by JAW Promising Playwrights Ellyn Bye Studio

Saturday, July 29, 2017

All Day Press Play Event: ZoomUganda Display Studio Lobby

12:30 p.m. Community Artist Lab: New Worlds for Old Stories Admission by Lottery

3:00 p.m. Press Play Event: Street Dance Battle with Michael Galen Main Lobby

4:00 p.m. Staged Reading: Tiny Houses by Stefanie Zadravec U.S. Bank Main Stage

6:00 p.m. Press Play Event: PIGSquad Pop-up Gaming Main Lobby and Mezzanine

8:00 p.m. Staged Reading: Testmatch by Kate Attwell U.S. Bank Main Stage

Sunday, July 30, 2017

All Day Press Play Event: ZoomUganda Display Studio Lobby

12:00 p.m. Community Artist Lab: Theatricalizing Found Text Admission by Lottery

12:00 p.m. Community Artist Lab: Creating Devised Performance Admission by Lottery

3:20 p.m. Press Play Event: Rachel Slater and Sara Parker's Site-Specific Dance Main Lobby

4:00 p.m. Staged Reading: In Old Age by Mfoniso Udofia U.S. Bank Main Stage

7:00 p.m. Press Play Event: A Little Bit Off's Clown Performance Main Lobby and Mezzanine

8:00 p.m. Staged Reading: Small Steps by Briandaniel Oglesby U.S. Bank Main Stage

2017 JAW STAGED READINGS
Staged readings are free and open to the public. No reservations required. Seating is general admission. Post-show conversations with the playwrights are held after most readings. Please Note: Staged readings are part of the play development process and do NOT represent completed scripts.

Tiny Houses
by Stefanie Zadravec
sATURDAY, jULY 29, 4:00 P.M.
On July 17, 2014, Malaysian Flight MH-17 rained down upon a tiny, war-torn Eastern Ukraine village after being targeted by a surface-to-air missile launched by pro-Russian Separatists. Bodies and objects alike become fodder for those trying to escape the circumstances in which they were born. Tiny Houses is a comic riff on Pandora's Box that explores the ripple effect on several women who suddenly realize they can disrupt the status quo.

Testmatch
By Kate Attwell
sATURDAY, jULY 29, 8:00 P.M.
Present day: A rained-out women's cricket match between India and England leaves tensions bare and, as the rainy day drones relentlessly on, no one can play nice anymore. Then: The British East India Company rules in 18th century West Bengal, as two members of the Royal Cricket Team, ardent players of the game, debate the rules of engagement, the problem of the women, the trouble with mosquitoes, all against the backdrop of a country that they are destroying through famine. And before that? ... Testmatch is a new play about women's sports, mangos, cricket, and the ever-present legacy of colonialism, written for an all-female cast.


In Old Age
By Mfoniso Udofia
sUNDAY, jULY 30, 4:00 p.M.
Isolated within the walls of her derelict New England home and suffering the residual pain of years of abuse, an ancient woman, Abasiama Ufot, makes an unlikely spiritual connection with an elder stranger, Azell Abernarthy. Just as life takes a new turn, Abasiama and Azell learn the true nature of love and forgiveness.

Small Steps
By Briandaniel Oglesby
sUNDAY, JULY 30, 8:00 P.M.
Finally fed up with the bot-and-disappointment-filled world of online gay dating, Skip Powers volunteers to go to Mars. And NASA says ... "you'll do." This is a comedy that traverses 50 million miles and a million years.

JAW PRESS PLAY EVENTS
Press Play events engage JAW audiences before and after staged readings.

ZoomUganda display
july 28-30, all day, Studio Lobby
ZoomUganda shares the journey of 12 girls given 12 cameras and 24 hours in which to tell their own stories through their own lenses. Directed by Portland-based Julie Resnick, ZoomUganda empowered its participants to stand in the centers of their world and share their perspectives. Sponsored by local nonprofit the Harambee Centre, which connects people in the US with the peoples and cultures of the African continent.

In the Groove: Street Dance Battle
with Michael Galen and AN All Star Crew
sATURDAY, jULY 29, 3:00 P.M., Main Lobby
A crowd-judged, 5v5, all-star street dance battle showcasing different styles of street and club dance. Michael 'MANTIS' Galen is a versatile freestyle dancer, teacher and choreographer who has trained, battled, performed and taught all over the West Coast and Brazil. Galen's specialties include B-boyin', House, Locking, Stepping, and Hip Hop party dancing.

PIGSquad Pop-up
sATURDAY, jULY 29, 6:00 P.M., Main Lobby and Mezzanine
Try out board games and computer games created by local designers. The Portland Indie Game Squad is dedicated to supporting the health and continued expansion of game developers and enthusiast communities in the Pacific Northwest and online.

Rachel Slater and Sara Parker
Site-Specific Dance Performance
sUNDAY, jULY 30, 3:20 p.M., Main lobby
Portland-based dancers Rachel Slater and Sara Parker have created a site-specific dance performance for The Armory's Main Lobby. Rachel Slater's credits include work with Tere Mathern, Franco Nieto, Tracey Durbin, Jim McGinn and Éowyn Emerald & Dancers. Sara Parker has recently performed with artists such as Tere Mathern, Netta Yerushalmy, Pamela Geber-Handman and Sharee Lane.

A Little Bit Off's Clown Performance
sUNDAY, jULY 30, 7:00 p.M., Main lobby and mezzanine
A Little Bit Off will bring their acrobatic clowning and physical comedy talents to JAW with a part-devised, part-improvised clown performance. Co-founded by Amica Hunter and David Cantor, A Little Bit Off began as a theatrical collaboration between two acrobatic clowns dedicated to bringing wonder and laughter to the audiences of the world.

COMMUNITY ARTIST LABS
Admission is free but attendance is limited and determined by random lottery. To enter the lottery email clarah@pcs.org by July 25 with a list of the lab(s) that are of interest.

New Worlds for Old Stories: An Introduction to Adaptation

With Literary Manager Benjamin Fainstein

saturday, July 29, 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., Attendance by Lottery

This playful lab will steer participants through a crash course of adapting works of fiction for the stage. Through a series of creative activities, attendees will learn what questions to ask themselves when building fictional worlds and explore the delicate art of changing the shape of someone else's work with both enthusiasm and ethics. This lab welcomes imaginative writers of all experience levels.

Theatricalizing Found Text: or, Adapting a Story through Movement

With JAW director Margot Bordelon

Sunday, July 30, 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., Attendance by Lottery

In this lab, participants will read a short story and investigate how the piece might live theatrically. A series of small group physical exercises will explore - both literally and abstractly - the characters, relationships and environments in the story. Attendees will experiment with how much language is necessary to communicate the ideas of the piece and how much can be communicated through movement. Participants should come ready to move.

Creating Devised Performance
With JAW Playwright Katie Attwell

Sunday, July 30, 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., Attendance by Lottery

This lab explores the collaborative theater making process: making work on your feet, together. Participants will look at ways to create theater that is built collaboratively, from practical work in the room and not necessarily from the page first. Participants will explore "sources" - Where can a piece of theater come from? Anywhere? Yes! - and how to turn those sources into something for the stage. Space, movement, objects, text, identity, speech, silence, and found materials will be considered as equal fodder for creating work. Come dressed comfortably and ready to move - at least a little.

JAW: A Playwrights Festival
Since launching in 1999, JAW: A Playwrights Festival has created a space for playwrights to have complete creative control and the resources to work on whatever they want to develop in their scripts. Each year, playwrights are chosen from nearly 200 submissions nationwide to collaborate with directors, dramaturgs, actors and other theater professionals from across the United States. Of the 76 plays that have received workshops at the festival, 68% have gone on to receive world premiere productions at regional theaters, including New York Theater Workshop, Steppenwolf Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theatre and Portland's own Third Rail Repertory Theater. Thirteen JAW plays have received fully staged productions at Portland Center Stage at The Armory, giving Portland a strong national reputation for not only incubating new work, but helping to see that work to successful fruition.

JAW COMPANY

Portland Center Stage at The Armory's Associate Artistic Director Rose Riordan is the JAW Festival Director. Joining her are JAW Festival Co-Producers Kelsey Tyler and Brandon Woolley; JAW Literary Manager Benjamin Fainstein; JAW Festival Company Manager Will Cotter; Education and Community Programs Associate Clara-Liis Hillier; Education and Community Programs Coordinator Eric Werner; and the hardworking staff and volunteers of Portland Center Stage at The Armory who bring their talents and energies to JAW each year.

LOCATION: All JAW events happen at The Armory, 128 NW Eleventh Ave., Portland, Ore., 97209

ACCESSIBILITY: Portland Center Stage at The Armory is committed to making its performances and facilities accessible to all patrons. Learn more at http://www.pcs.org/access/.

AGE RECOMMENDATION: Most JAW events are recommended for high school age and up.

Portland Center Stage at The Armory

Portland Center Stage at The Armory is the largest theater company in Portland and among the top 20 regional theaters in the country. Established in 1988 as a branch of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the company became independent in 1994 and has been under the leadership of Artistic Director Chris Coleman since 2000. Around 150,000 visitors attend The Armory annually to enjoy a mix of classical, contemporary and world premiere productions, along with a variety of high quality education and community programs. 11 productions are offered each season, in addition to roughly 400 community events created - in partnership with 170+ local organizations and individuals - to serve the diverse populations in the city. As part of its dedication to new play development, the company has produced 23 world premieres and presents an annual new works festival, JAW: A Playwrights Festival. Home to two theaters, The Armory was the first building on the National Register of Historic Places, and the first performing arts venue, to achieve a LEED Platinum rating.

JAW: A Playwrights Festival is supported in part by The Kinsman Foundation, Oregon Cultural Trust, National Endowment for the Arts, Don and Mary Blair, and Ronnie S. Lacroute. Additional support is provided by Regional Arts & Culture Council and Oregon Arts Commission. Portland Center Stage at The Armory's 2017-2018 season is funded in part by Season Superstars Tim and Mary Boyle, and Lead Corporate Champion Umpqua Bank. Further support comes from Season Sponsors: Regional Arts and Culture Council, The Wallace Foundation and Oregon Arts Commission, a state agency funded by the state of Oregon and the National Endowment for the Arts. Mark Spencer Hotel is the official hotel partner. Portland Center Stage at The Armory was selected as a participant of the Wallace Foundation's Building Audiences for Sustainability Initiative, a four-year effort with a nationwide cohort of 26 performing arts organizations.


          Proscenium Live Free Festival of New Work Arrives from Portland Shakes & Proscenium Journal        

Portland Shakespeare Project and Proscenium Journal, in association with Artists Repertory Theatre, present the third annual Proscenium Live Festival of New Work. All performances are free and begin at 7:30pm on Artists Rep's Alder Stage.

The 2017 festival will offer new plays each night featuring five outstanding playwrights. Full-length plays will be presented on Friday, August 4 and Saturday August, 5; three short plays commissioned by Portland Shakes and Proscenium Journal will be offered on Sunday, August 6. The three-night festival features new plays written by award-winning playwrights Steve Rathje , C.S. Whitcomb, Aleks Merilo, Susan Mach and Patrick Wohlmut and are performed in a staged reading format featuring more than a dozen of Portland's most talented actors on Artists Rep's Alder Stage.


The festival is supported in part by an Ozy Genius Award, awarded to Steve Rathje by Ozy Media, and by Portland Shakespeare Project.

Proscenium Live Festival of New Work 2017

VENUE: Artists Repertory Theatre, Alder Stage, 1516 SW Alder St., Portland

DATES: August 4-6, 2017

PERFORMANCES: Friday - Sunday @ 7:30pm

PLAYS:

August 4 @ 7:30pm Signs by Steve Rathje. Directed by Michael Mendelson.

August 5 @ 7:30pm Santos by C.S. Whitcomb. Directed by Michael Mendelson.

August 6 @ 7:30pm A Maiden of Venice by Aleks Merilo. Directed by Josh Rippy.
Coyote Play by Susan Mach. Directed by Josh Rippy.
Patchwork Dreams by Patrick Wohlmut. Directed by Brenda Hubbard.

TICKETS: FREE - General admission seating, no reservations

PROSCENIUM LIVE FESTIVAL OF NEW WORK 2017 SCHEDULE

August 4 @ 7:30pm: Artists Repertory Theatre's Table|Room|Stage Oregon Play Prize Winner
Signs by Steve Rathje

Directed by Michael Mendelson

Cast: Chris Harder*, Crystal Muñoz*, Sarah Overman*, Claire Rigsby, Joshua J. Weinstein*

Signs is a surrealistic comedy about love, purpose and the little things that seem to matter so much to us. April reads horoscopes. Lydia writes horoscopes. April reads them devoutly, using them to guide her life choices. Lydia just makes them up, using the money she makes from them to support herself while she completes her novel. When April comes in contact with Lydia, the all-too-familiar force who has been transcribing April's fate through her horoscopes all along, the story turns upside down.

Steve's recent play Signs is winner of the $10,000 Oregon New Play Prize and is being developed and produced at Artists Repertory Theatre. Signs was also a finalist for the National Eugene O'Neill Playwrights Conference. Steve's plays have been published by Samuel French, Inc. and Dramatics Magazine, and have been produced at Portland's Fertile Ground Festival of New Works, the International Thespian Conference, Stanford University, and more. Steve won first place in Stanford's Bocock/Guerard Fiction Writing Prize for his new play The Placebo Addict, and has also been recognized by the International Thespian Playworks Competition and YoungArts. Steve studies Psychology, Symbolic Systems, and Creative Writing at Stanford University.

August 5 @ 7:30pm

Santos by C.S. Whitcomb

Directed by Michael Mendelson

Cast: Claire Aldridge, Bobby Bermea*, Michel Castillo, Anthony Green, Matt Sepeda, Julana Torres, Lolly Ward*, Danielle Weathers*, Mamie Wilhelm

Santos is a new play set in Pasadena, California, circa 1968. Rafael Santos, in his heart, is

Don Quixote, but in the real world is just trying to get cast as a bandito bit player while teaching high school drama and keeping his family together. A comedy with a side of tango.

C.S. Whitcomb wrote last year's Proscenium Live offering Dracula's Father (Stoker). Whitcomb was commissioned by Portland Shakespeare Project to write Lear's Follies, presented in 2012. Recently produced in Portland have been her plays Seven Wonders of Ballyknock (Lakewood Theatre) and Holidazed (with Marc Acito, Artists Repertory Theatre). She has been nominated for the Angus Bowmer, Emmy, Drammy, Edgar Allan Poe and Writers Guild Awards. She has written roles for Jason Robards, Ellen Burstyn, Anjelica Huston, Martin Sheen, Gena Rowlands and many others. Her play Parnassus on Wheels will be produced at Lakewood Theatre beginning in January 2018.

August 6 @ 7:30pm: Three new plays, commissioned by Portland Shakes and Proscenium Journal
A Maiden of Venice by Aleks Merilo

Directed by Josh Rippy

Cast: John Corr, Chris Kazamar*, Claire Rigsby

In the walled Jewish Ghetto of Venice, a girl comes of age with only her money-lender father to guide her. When her father lashes back at men who have persecuted him, she is forced to choose between love, faith, and the debts we owe to family. A Maiden of Venice an adaptation of Shakespeare's most controversial play, told from the point of view of the Shylock's daughter, Jessica.

Aleks Merilo is an award winning and internationally produced playwright from Palo Alto, CA. His script, The Snowmaker, was winner of the Playwrights First Award, Winner of The Chameleon Theatre Circles New Play Contest, and Playhouse on The Square's New Works @ The Works Festival, and was a finalist for the Oregon Play Prize. His play, The Widow of Tom's Hill, played Off-Broadway at 59E59, where Broadway World called it "A truly distinctive piece of theater." His play, Exit 27, was called "The best original play to be produced this season" by the Houston Chronicle, and was voted best new play by Broadway World, Houston. He has an MFA in playwriting from UCLA, and lives in the Pacific Northwest. He is represented by the Robert A. Freedman Dramatic Agency. Aleksmeriloplaywright.com.

Coyote Play by Susan Mach

Directed by Josh Rippy

Cast: Bobby Bermea*, Lauren Hanover*, Steve Rathje, Samson Syharath, Danielle Weathers*, Mamie Wilhelm

Coyote Play (Working Title) is a contemporary re-imagining of the French-Romanian playwright Eugene Ionesco's Rhinoceros, an absurdist piece which examines the normalization of Fascism.

Sue Mach's plays have been produced by Theatre for the New City in New York, Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble, Portland Repertory Theatre, Icaras Theatre Ensemble, Artists Repertory Theatre, Third Rail Repertory Theatre, and CoHo Theatre. Her plays Angle of View, A Noble Failure, and The Yellow Wallpaper have all been finalists for the Oregon Book Award. She won the Oregon Book Award for The Lost Boy.

Patchwork Dreams by Patrick Wohlmut

Directed by Brenda Hubbard

Cast: John Corr, Robert Hamm*, Sarah Overman*, Steve Rathje, Lolly Ward*

Penny is a Patchwork: an automated, obedient servant created from the bodies of deceased people. But when an accident results in the development of consciousness, Penny becomes something much more complex, problematic, and potentially terrifying - not just to others, but to herself.

Patrick Wohlmut's writing has been produced by several companies in Portland. His play, Continuum, was a winning commission from Portland Center Stage and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and was featured at PCS's JAW Festival in 2011. It went on to be produced by Playwrights West - of which Patrick is a member emeritus - in 2012. His play, The Waves, was written for Southwest Stageworks at Wilson High School via the Teen West Project and was performed there in February 2014. He has also been a contributing writer to two productions at Shaking the Tree Theatre: 2011's The Tripping Point and 2014's Masque of the Red Death. He lives in Southeast Portland with his wife and two children.

*Member, Actors' Equity Association, the professional union of actors and stage managers.

ABOUT PORTLAND SHAKESPEARE PROJECT

Portland Shakes is a nonprofit theatre company in residence at Artists Repertory Theatre dedicated to educating, enriching and entertaining audiences by producing classical works and contemporary works associated with classical material. Since its founding in 2010 by Michael Mendelson and Karen Rathje, more than 4,500 people have enjoyed the company's productions of William Shakespeare's As You Like It, King Lear, The Taming of the Shrew, The Tempest, Twelfth Night and The Turn of the Screw, as well as a many audience enrichment and education events. More information at portlandshakes.org

ABOUT PROSCENIUM JOURNAL

Proscenium is the first free literary journal dedicated to publishing plays. Proscenium publications are free of charge and readily accessible online, allowing playwrights to share their work with a large, web-based audience. Proscenium Journal's mission is to support emerging playwrights, make new plays easier to discover, and make theatre easily accessible to new and wider audiences.

Proscenium Journal: Supporting playwrights. Encouraging discovery. Making theatre accessible. More information at prosceniumjournal.com.


          Mazzy Star : Ghost Highway Bootleg CD 2005        
Ghost Highway serves up two 1994 portions of Mazzy Star recorded in the moment, one from a live show and one from a radio session. We get a nice mixture of favourites from 1993’s So Tonight That I Might See and early versions of tracks that would later surface on other albums. CD released by FM In Concert.

Hope Sandoval, David Roback, The Winter of ’94 and a year after the release of the sublime “So Tonight That I Might See”, Mazzy Star find themselves still touring and promoting the album, some of the songs featured here are from that album such as Into Dust, Bells Ring the title track and the hit single Fade Into You. Whilst songs like " Flowers in December " would turn up on the next album released a whole two years later. Four of the selections are from the critically acclaimed first album  " She Hangs Brightly " issued in 1990, including the Sylvia Gomez penned  " Give You My Lovin "  and the obscure German band  " Slapp Happy " cover of  " Blue Flower ".
Mazzy Star is best known for the song "Fade into You" which brought the band success in the mid-1990s and was the group's biggest mainstream hit, earning extensive exposure on MTV, VH1, and radio airplay.

Roback and Sandoval are the creative centre of the band, with Sandoval as lyricist and Roback as composer of the majority of the band's material.

HOPE SANDOVAL

Hope Sandoval (born June 24, 1966) is an American singer-songwriter who is the lead singer for Mazzy Star and Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions. Sandoval has toured and collaborated with other artists, including  "Massive Attack", for whom she sang "Paradise Circus" on the 2010 album "Heligoland", and "The Spoils" on the 2016 eponymous single.Sandoval performed with the band  " Opal " in the late 1980s a longside David Roback and long-time Roback collaborator Kendra Smith. After Smith's abrupt departure during a tour of the UK (hurling her guitar to the floor at the Hammersmith gig), Sandoval took over lead vocals. At the end of the tour, Roback and Sandoval began writing together and formed the alternative rock band Mazzy Star.

DAVID ROBACK

Roback was born and raised in Los Angeles and attended Palisades High School, graduating in 1975. He and his brother Stephen Roback, a bass guitarist, formed a band called the Unconscious, which also
included Susanna Hoffs, who would go on to become the lead singer of the all-girl band " The Bangles ".Roback was active in the Paisley Underground music scene in L.A. in the early to mid-1980s as the leader of the band  "Rain Parade" which was immensely popular on the L.A. club circuit. Shortly after the release of the band's first album "Emergency Third Rail Power Trip", in 1983, Roback left Rain Parade to join Rainy Day, a collaborative effort with a number of L.A. musicians in the Paisley Underground.
After releasing their self-titled album, Roback formed Opal (which was initially called "Clay Allison"), with vocalist/bassist Kendra Smith, formerly of "The Dream Syndicate".
After one EP and one full-length album Kendra Smith was replaced by Hope Sandoval but this lineup never released an album as "Opal".
Roback changed the name of the band to Mazzy Star in 1989.

Tracks:

1. Flowers In December
2. Ride It On 
3. Into Dust
4. Give You My Lovin’ (Sylvia Gomez)
5. Fade Into You
6. Halah
7. Ghost Highway ( David Roback)
8. Blue Flower 
9. Flowers In December
10.Bells Ring
11.Blue Flower (Peter Blegvad/ Anthony Moore)
12.Halah
13.So Tonight That I Might See

1-8 Recorded The Metro Chicago 12th November 1994
9-13 Recorded at KROQ Los Angeles 10th December 1994

"Flowers In December"

 

Before I let you down again
I just want to see you in your eyes
I would have taken everything out on you
I only thought you could understand

They say every man goes blind in his heart
And they say everybody steals somebody's heart away
And I've got nothing more to say about it
Nothing more than you would me

Send me your flowers of your december
Send me your dreams of your candy wine
I got just one thing I can't give you
Just one more thing of mine

They say every man goes blind in his heart
They say everybody steals somebody's heart away
And I've been wondering why you let me down
And I been taking it all for granted  

"Into Dust"
 


Still falling
Breathless and on again
Inside today
Beside me today
Around, broken in two
Till your eyes shed
Into dust
Like two strangers
Turning into dust
Till my hand shook
With the weight of fear

I could possibly be fading
Or have something more to gain
I could feel myself growing colder
I could feel myself under your fate
Under your fate

It was you
Breathless and torn
I could feel my eyes turning into dust
And two strangers
Turning into dust
Turning into dust





Label : FMIC – FMIC024
Format : CD, Album, Unofficial Release
Country : UK & Europe
Released : 18 May 2015
Genre : Rock
Style : Psychedelic Rock, Alternative Rock

MP3 @ 320   Size : 140 MB
FLAC  Size :  424 MB

OPAL on This Blog  Take it HERE
DREAM  SYNDICATE on This Blog HERE
MAZZY STAR on This Blog HERE
          Horror Headlines: Monday July 15th, 2013        
In Real People News: 

I had no idea there was a thing called "the third rail" on the NYC subway system rails. I wish someone had warned me though, because this guy in Brooklyn died after being electrocuted when he pissed on it. I rode the subway for 13 years. I'm lucky to be alive.

An Oklahoma man is under arrest after a woman caught him looking into her house while he was hiding in her septic tank. How does that even work? I always thought those were underground. I need some sort of diagram to even understand how this happened.

News Bullet: 

Three new characters have been confirmed for the second season of A&E's "Bates Motel". It looks like Norma is going to get a new boyfriend, a new friend in town and a brother who shows up in town. Chances are they'll all be dead before the end of the season but for now let's just sit back and drink in all the love I feel flowing in this post. God that feels good inside you doesn't it?

Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, the guys who wrote the "Friday the 13th" remake have apparently gotten in bed with the folks at New Line for a new horror flick that they are apparently calling a "potential franchise starter". No other details are available but they've also said the film won't be found footage and won't be micro-budget. They didn't say it won't be awful though. So ya know, that's still on the table.

Elijah Wood is producing a horror-comedy film called "Cooties". Rainn Wilson, Alison Pill, Jack MacBrayer, Jorge Garcia and Nasim Pedrad have all been added to the movie about a group of rabid kids who terrorize their teachers. I assume all of these people will be teachers, or this will be the worst "teen" casting since "Scream 4".

Paul Reiser, the poor man's Richard Lewis, has been added to the cast of "Life After Beth". John C. Reilly and Aubrey Plaza are also in the film about a man who tries to reconnect with his girlfriend after she comes back from the dead. No joke here. Paul Reiser is awful at everything he does and must be stopped. If you say "Mad About You" was great I will slap the taste out of your mouth. If you say you don't know what "Mad About You" is I will slap the taste out of your mouth.


          The NEW Editor of NY Times Magazine's Poetry Column is Matthew Zapruder @matthewzapruder CONGRATS!        
This just in...


Saint Mary's College Professor, Acclaimed Poet, Matthew Zapruder
Named New York Times Magazine's New Poetry Column Editor


Saint Mary's College of California English professor and critically acclaimed poet Matthew Zapruder has been named the new poetry column editor for The New York Times Magazine. As the column editor, Zapruder will select and introduce poems each week for the prestigious 120-year-old national Sunday magazine. Zapruder succeeds former U.S. Poet Laureate and Emory University Professor Natasha Trethewey. His appointment begins March 6, 2016 and runs until the spring of 2017.

School of Liberal Arts Dean Sheila Hassell Hughes said Zapruder's latest honor is an inspiration to his students and to all in the Saint Mary's community. “Matthew is a rising poetry rock star. His work is terrific and is garnering all kinds of recognition. What's especially wonderful for us is that his first thought is always, ‘How can I use this experience to benefit Saint Mary’s students?”

An associate professor in Saint Mary's English Department, Zapruder teaches in and directs the College's MFA in Creative Writing Program, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. He said he is thrilled to have the opportunity to share poetry with the magazine’s large online audience and nearly 4 million print readers, who come to the newspaper for the news of the world.

“I like the idea that someone would turn the page of The New York Times Magazine and see a poem, and that those words in the poem would have a chance to follow up on, refract, amplify, reconfigure, the language of culture and news,” said Zapruder. “The poem gets a chance to exist in a place that is not isolated or rarified. It gets to be a part of life, and we get to read it that way, too.”

Zapruder is the author of several collections of poetry, including Sun Bear (2014), Come on All You Ghosts (2010), The Pajamaist(2006), and American Linden (2002), For You in Full Bloom (2009), a collaboration with painter Chris Uphues, and Secret Weapon: Selected Late Poems (2008), Romanian poet Eugen Jebeleanu’s last collection, which he co-translated with historian Radu Ioanid.

His poems have been included in the anthologies Best American Poetry (2013, 2009), Third Rail: The Poetry of Rock and Roll(2007), and Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century (2006), as well as Poets on Teaching: A Sourcebook (2010).Why Poetry, a book of prose about reading poetry for a general audience, is forthcoming in early 2017.
Zapruder’s poetry has also been adapted by some of America’s most exciting young composers. In fall 2012, his poetry was adapted and performed at Carnegie Hall by composer Gabriel Kahane and Brooklyn Rider, with a recording of those works forthcoming in 2016. Composer Missy Mazzoli, along with Victoire and Glenn Kotche, performed “Vespers for a New Dark Age,” a piece commissioned by Carnegie Hall for the 2014 Ecstatic Music Festival, and was released as a recording on New Amsterdam records in spring 2015.

He is also the recipient of many honors including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lannan Foundation Residency Fellowship, the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the May Sarton Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Zapruder lives with his family in Oakland and is also editor at large for Wave Books, one of America’s premier independent poetry presses.

About Saint Mary's MFA Program in Creative Writing
Founded in 1995, the MFA Program in Creative Writing is a two-year course of study leading to a graduate degree in creative fiction, nonfiction or poetry. MFA program alumni have published over 60 books, published in numerous journals and periodicals and won many distinguished literary prizes. After 20 years, the program continues to thrive, distinguishing itself with its award-winning faculty and opportunities for students in the areas of teaching, publishing, and community engagement. Noted poet and Saint Mary’s English Professor Matthew Zapruder directs the program. For more information visit stmarys-ca.edu/mfa-in-creative-writing.

~ Kells 

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          Grant Miller, Community Newspapers: Metrorail to Florida City: Build it now!         
The time is now - editorial in the Community Newspapers
The Metrorail may finally be getting its long-overdue extension. Now we just need to decide where to start.
...
...the South Dade Transitway is the easiest of the six SMART Plan corridors to develop. There is an existing right-of-way, Route 38 Busway Max, which runs the same route the rail would. The rail extension could begin immediately, and compared to other corridors, the construction would be minimal; the new rail will likely run at ground level utilizing an overhead line instead of a third rail system. In total, it should cost half of what an elevated rail would.
At a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce panel last month, District 13 Commissioner (and Commission Chair) Esteban Bovo and Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez agreed that the Florida City extension should be prioritized. They’re hardly alone.
Almost 15 years have passed since Miami-Dade County residents approved the People’s Transportation Plan (PTP), a half-cent sales tax overseen by the Citizens’ Independent Transportation Trust (CITT) to fund an enormous expansion of Miami’s mass transit: 88 new miles of Metrorail and 635 new buses. To date, the PTP has raised more than $2.5 billion.
But during the 2008 financial crisis, the CITT voted to use those funds to support and maintain the present transit system. As a result, fewer than 200 buses have been added and little progress has been made on extending the rail. 
CLICK HERE to view the entire op ed by Grant Miller, Community Newspapers: 

Metrorail to Florida City: Build it now! 

 



                  

Flip-flop-a-dee-doo-dah, flip-flop-a-dee-ay...


In African folklore, there are many different tales...stories of proud kings, and haughty warriors. Mischevious children, and wise beasts of the plain.

Sadly, most of that folklore has been filtered, and peeled, and torn away by the peculiar, yet powerful institution of slavery--leaving us, several generations hence, with precious few of those stories told by the "village griot" from our points of origin in the Motherland.

But one hardy character from many of those tales of yore stays with us to this day, and that is the character of...The Trickster. Be he Anansi (from West Africa), or Ti Malice (via Haiti's African ties), or perhaps the most familiar to us Americans, the crafty, Br'er Rabbit (later refined by the broader culture into the supremely infamous trickster Bugs Bunny)--we know his modus operandi. Seemingly "in trouble", or in peril from his enemies, he manages, via a smart mouth and quick wits to not only manage escape, but to often put his pursuer/attackers in the "trick bag", leaving them to look foolish, or with their rabbit trap laughably sprung on themselves.

Ol' Br'er Rabbit came to mind recently in a big way via this um..."near-story".

"Civil rights activist Al Sharpton, who led the charge to have radio host Don Imus fired for making racially insensitive remarks, is now under fire for a comment about Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's Mormon faith.

During a debate on religion and politics at the New York Public Library with atheist author Christopher Hitchens, Sharpton said, "As for the one Mormon running for office, those that really believe in God will defeat him anyway, so don't worry about that. That's a temporary situation."
On the campaign trail in Iowa Wednesday, Romney fired back, calling Sharpton's comment "terribly misguided."
"It shows that bigotry still exists in some corners," Romney said. "I thought it was a most unfortunate comment to make."
Asked if he thought Sharpton is a bigot, the former Massachusetts governor said, "I don't know Rev. Sharpton. I doubt he is personally such a thing. But the comment was a comment which could be described as a bigoted comment.
"Perhaps he didn't mean it that way, but the way it came out was inappropriate and wrong."


Now, post-Imus, it's pretty clear that a boatload of scalp-hunters on the right were been itchin' for a fistful of the rotund Rev's bone-straight locks. And damned if this story wasn't just the angle that members of the crimson-neck-tocracy were looking for.

"We gotcha' bo-way! Gotcha but good this time. An' we gonna have us an ol' pic-a-nic whilst you kick n' twitch too! Sheee-*t! Somebody call Ah-mus n' Bernie, so's they can work th' grill, jes' fer irony's sake."

But then, a funny thang happened on the way to the media lynching.

It never took off. Didn't get any steam. It went up as nicely as one a' those old unmanned test rockets that we launched into a thousand pieces just off the pad at Canaveral back in the day. Except, this attempted "story" was the modern day version of those vintage "flopniks".

So, just what happened exactly?

Enter "Br'er Rabbit", ya'll. The next graf in the CNN story is where the bunny trap goes all to sh*t.
"Sharpton said his remarks were being taken out of context and that he was responding to an attack by Hitchens, who, he said, had charged that the Mormon Church supported segregation until the 1960s."

It's where Anansi cackles while escaping the hungry bird. Where the cigar explodes in Elmer's face.


Where Br'er Rabbit dashes off into the briar patch, and Br'er FOX (yeah, as in network) and Bear stands there looking at the viewer as their faces morph into jackass heads. You see, Sharpton's comment was a pointed one. A mean dagger jab, leaving a seemingly superficial flesh wound to Romney. But nobody noted the poison on the dagger's tip until Mitt, and the few in the media who backed him, tried to walk around and crow afterward while going after Sharpton. The poison hit the bloodstream but good, then. And that poison was the FACT that Romney's Mormon faith was an especially despicable supporter of naked racism until fairly recent years in American history. In fact, the stuff was baked right into their good book.

Dig on these fun bits of Mormon teaching:

2 Nephi 5:21
21 "And the Lord had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.
Alma 3: 6 "And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion against their brethren, who consisted of Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph, and Sam, who were just and holy men."

3 Nephi 2:14-15
14 "And it came to pass that those Lamanites who had united with the Nephites were numbered among the Nephites;
15 And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites;"

Moses 7:22
22 "And Enoch also beheld the residue of the people which were the sons of Adam; and they were a mixture of all the seed of Adam save it was the seed of Cain, for the seed of Cain were black, and had not place among them."

There's all kinda fun stuff like that in Mormon scripture, and thankfully, there has been "something" of a repudiation of a lot of that blatant f*cking racism in their tracts, and the exclusionary racism within the sect itself, but old habits die hard, and that nutty belief in the whole less-than-their-brethren "Children of Cain and Ham means n*ggers" sh*t still has if not legs--quiet cat feet still tip-toeing around in the group. It wasn't actually "disavowed" until sometime in the mid-seventies when under pressure, post-Civil Rights gains, a "new" revelation from God was revealed to the Mormon hierarchy that treating Black folks like compost was now uncool in The Lord's eyes. It sounds loopy, but hey, you can look it up.

And this is why the story died. Because once Mitt, and his "C-Cupped" sycophants on the right instinctively yelped about that mean ol' Black man calling Mitt's *ss out, it was gonna open an ugly--no, not ugly, but a hideous, hatchet-faced pandora's box of questions about Romney's faith that nobody wanted to really f*ck around with. Seriously. Rev. Al's statement was a dual-fuse time bomb. You react to the initial incendiary flash--then you walk over to the device thinking that's it--all done, and then it explodes in your face. Br'er Rabbit to a "T", sucking you in, setting you up, thinking you've got him...and then you're f*cked. And Sharpton knew exactly what he was doing, too. Keeping it totally real, I'm pretty damn sure he has a "THEM!" -sized bug up his *ss about Mormonism's lateness to the equality dance--as a lot of Black folks who know about it do-- the talented, but crazy-*ss Gladys Knight notwithstanding. And his tweaking of Romney had a heapin' helpin' of the ol' "Oh please, please don' throw poor me inna dat briar patch, ya'll" to it. Pull that hook out, and you set a razor-sharp barb that'll f*ck you up as you try to remove it.

And once the media outlets that rushed to his aid realized what they'd signed onto--and trust me, they will run with "big" stories totally half-*ssed.-- they somehow snatched their hand off that live, toasty third rail and quickly found some other sh*t to amuse themselves with. Mitt's buddies in the wingnuttosphere, tone-deaf as an ear-infected Malkin doing karaoke to Aretha songs, of course are still apoplectic over Sharpton's "slur". Dim-witted as usual, to the nth degree and unable to realize why the story's radioactive half-life is something they maybe shouldn't d*ck around with. But what do you expect from the likes of lunatics who promote interning an entire ethnic group in concentration camps, or goofed about Katrina victims as hell descended upon them? So on they prattle, fighting, thrashing and setting the hook deeper in their gullet. as their slightly smarter co-corts in the MSM slip away into the briny deep, lip torn, but alive nonetheless.

And off in the distance, you can hear a hare...a chunky, slick-maned, hare laughing to beat the f*cking band as he scoots on down the road, after having been tossed into the briar patch of handling racism-- the most familiar place in the world to him.
"Ha, ha, ha, ha! I told you, Brer Bear, you shouldn't pay attention to what I said because us rabbits was born in the briar patch."

Thus, the tale ends the way you remember it...with a bouncy, knowing, and winking nod to it's modern-day refinement. :)

-- LowerManhattanite
          Missouri & Burlington River Railroad's Role in Settling the West        


Missouri & Burlington River Railroad Company.
The 1872 pamphlet on which this magnet is based was published by the Missouri & Burlington River Railroad company.  Using an illustration of the Big Blue River between Camden and Crete in Nebraska, it offered attractive credit terms on acreage: 6% for a 10 year note with the first payment not falling due until the 4th year, and a 20% discount for a cash payment.  The offer was further sweetened with transportation rebates.*
Running through southern Iowa, the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad (B&MR) was the third railway between Chicago and the Union Pacific junction in Kerney, Nebraska.  The project was conceived around 1850 but it wasn't until 1869 that serious construction got underway, beginning with 2.5 million acres from federal and state grants.  By 1872 the line was acquired by Chicago, Burlington and Quincy RR (CB&Q).
 
To build a market, start by importing buyers.
For railroads west of the Mississippi, laying rails was just the first step.  For

profitability they needed fares from passengers and, more importantly, from cargo.  Since population was sparse, railroads first had to sell land so as to increase the number of residents operating farms and ranches, who would then pay fares to ship their produce and livestock east to Chicago.  Whew.  Talk about growing the market!  Players of video games such as Frontierville (or SimCity for ye older folks), probably think, "well doh, of course," but I wonder what awareness Harris and other railroad land commissioners had of themselves as nation builders or history makers.


Preiswerter Flächeninhalt, Westen nach Nebraska!
The Burlington Railroad's colonization efforts are credited with creating Lincoln as well as a dozen other cities along the rail line.  In their promotions, land officers targeted immigrants from certain countries they felt were better at farming.  One land officer had poor regard for Italian and French farmers, for example, so used selective language transcription in promotional pamphlets to attract immigrants he felt were better farmers, ie., people from Germany, Scandinavia, England, Wales, Scotland, Russia and Canada.  In other words, immigrants from Italy or France who did not read German, English or Dutch were less apt to find their way to Nebraska.  



Targeted sales were also accomplished by leg work from traveling salesmen and advertising in European and American cities on the east coast.  The ads usually consisted of small classified advertisements placed in newspapers and agricultural magazines.  Interested parties were invited to write for a pamphlet or send $.30 for a map.  According to correspondence from one European agent, Burlington was disadvantaged in attracting immigrants because the company didn't offer the goodies offered by others such as free land, houses, implements and wages.




Burlington Railroad Land Commissioners became part of Lincoln community.


George S. Harris (1815-1874)

As senior land commissioner for the Hannibal & St. Joe Railroad George S. Harris sold 600,000 acres in Missouri.  He then went to work for Burlington and sold 360,000 acres in Nebraska and Iowa.  A Caldwell, NY native, Harris  is credited with selling land to over 100,000 European immigrants from 1869-1874.   


George made his home in one of the cities he helped build, Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife Sarah and their 10 children.  He was instrumental in establishing the Congregational church and was active in the Republican party.  Reportedly his life was shortened when he narrowly surviving the sinking of the steamer Metis in Rhode Island in 1872.  Pioneer Park in Lincoln was part of a 600-acre donation in 1928 by one of George's sons, as a tribute to his father and the pioneer immigrants who settled in Nebraska.  Another of his son's, George B. Harris, distinguished himself in the railroad industry, becoming president of the Burlington & Missouri. 


T. H. Leavitt, Assistant Land Commissioner
Thomas H. Leavitt founded the 20-acre Riverside Stock Farm in Lincoln where he raised 250 head of cattle, 200 hogs and annually produced 20,000 lbs of cheese.  The Riverside place was sold to Charles M. Branson in 1883.  Thomas was formerly of Massachusetts and, like his boss George Harris, a trustee in the Congregational church.  He was also active in the Lincoln, Nebraska historical society, elected to serve on the organization's first board of directors, and in 1893 helped organize a chatauqua program at the Lincoln Penitentiary.  In 1886 he was involved with an organization formed to control alcohol in Lincoln.  Leavitt remarried in Nebraska; prior to that he was married to a noted temperance leader and suffragist, Mary Greenleaf Clement Leavitt.





Lincoln, Nebraska history


The Q Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad CBQ


Burlington and Missouri River Railroad (B&MR)


*What?
I don't understand the following paragraph on the pamphlet. I get it that they refunded the ticket price to land buyers but do not understand the business about terms better at $5 than pre-empting at $2.50.

Land Exploring Tickets Sold and Cost allowed in First Interest paid, on Land bought in 30 days from date of ticket.  Thus our Land Buyers Get a Free Pass in the State where the Land bought is located.  TERMS are BETTER at $5, than to pre-empt United States Land at $2.50 per Acre.  Ordinary inducements on freight and passage are afforded to purchasers and their families.


          The First Amendment (Literally) Banned in DC        
Can the government ban the text of the First Amendment on municipal transit ads because free speech is too “political”?

Can the government ban the text of the First Amendment itself on municipal transit ads because free speech is too “political” for public display?

If this sounds like some ridiculous brain teaser, it should. But unfortunately it’s not. It’s a core claim in a lawsuit we filed today challenging the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) restrictions on controversial advertising.

The ACLU, ACLU of D.C., and ACLU of Virginia are teaming up to represent a diverse group of plaintiffs whose ads were all branded as too hot for transit: the ACLU itself; Carafem, a health care network that specializes in getting women access to birth control and medication abortion; People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA); and Milo Worldwide LLC — the corporate entity of provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos.

To put it mildly, these plaintiffs have nothing in common politically. But together, they powerfully illustrate the indivisibility of the First Amendment. Our free speech rights rise and fall together — whether left, right, pro-choice, anti-choice, vegan, carnivore, or none of the above.

Let’s start with the ACLU. Earlier this year, following President Trump’s repeated commentary denigrating journalists and Muslims, the ACLU decided to remind everyone about that very first promise in the Bill of Rights: that Congress shall make no law interfering with our freedoms of speech and religion. As part of a broad advertising campaign, the ACLU erected ads in numerous places, featuring the text of the First Amendment. Not only in English, but in Spanish and Arabic, too — to remind people that the Constitution is for everyone.

ACLU Advertisement

The ACLU inquired about placing our ads with WMATA, envisioning an inspirational reminder of our founding texts, with a trilingual twist, in the transit system of the nation’s capital. But it was not to be: Our ad was rejected because WMATA’s advertising policies forbid, among many other things, advertisements “intended to influence members of the public regarding an issue on which there are varying opinions” or “intended to influence public policy.”

You don’t have to be a First Amendment scholar to know that something about that stinks.

Our free speech rights rise and fall together — whether left, right, pro-choice, anti-choice, vegan, carnivore, or none of the above.

Let’s start with the philosophical argument. WMATA’s view is apparently that the litany of commercial advertisements it routinely displays involve no “issues on which there are varying opinions.” Beyond the obvious Coke-or-Pepsi jokes, there’s a dark assumption in that rule: that we all buy commercial products thoughtlessly. Buy beer! (Don’t think about alcoholism.) Buy a mink coat! (Don’t think about the mink.) That is, WMATA sees “varying opinions” only when they relate to something it recognizes as controversial. And as the Supreme Court recently reminded us, the government violates the First Amendment when it allows only “happy-talk.”

And now to the practical. This is a policy so broad and vague that it permits WMATA to justify the ad hoc exclusion of just about anyone. And the broad set of plaintiffs in this case confirms that.

Despite the fact that Carafem provides only FDA-approved medications, its ad was deemed too controversial because it touched the third rail of abortion. Carafem’s proposed ad read simply: “10-week-after pill. For abortion up to 10 weeks. $450. Fast. Private.” As we at the ACLU know all too well, as states continue to erect draconian barriers to the right to choose, information about and access to abortion care is more critical than ever. Yet Carafem’s ad was apparently rejected simply because some people think otherwise.

Carafem Ad

One of PETA’s intended advertisements depicted a pig with accompanying text reading, “I’m ME, Not MEAT. See the Individual. Go Vegan.” Despite the fact that WMATA routinely displays advertisements that encourage riders to eat animal-based foods, wear clothing made from animals, and attend circus performances, PETA’s side of this public debate was the only one silenced by the government.

Peta ad

WMATA’s advertising agency suggested that with some changes, ACLU and PETA might be able to get their advertisements accepted. Perhaps PETA could remove the “Go Vegan” slogan from its advertisement? But for the ACLU, “You’ll have to dramatically change your creative.” In other words, as long as we don’t try to make anyone think, we might get the right to speak.

That brings us to our final client: Milo Worldwide LLC. Its founder, Milo Yiannopoulos, trades on outrage: He brands feminism a cancer, he believes that transgender individuals have psychological problems, and he has compared Black Lives Matter activists to the KKK. The ACLU condemns many of the values he espouses (and he, of course, condemns many of the values the ACLU espouses).

Milo Worldwide submitted ads that displayed only Mr. Yiannopoulos’s face, an invitation to pre-order his new book, “Dangerous,” and one of four short quotations from different publications: “The most hated man on the Internet” from The Nation; “The ultimate troll” from Fusion; “The Kanye West of Journalism” from Red Alert Politics; and “Internet Supervillain” from Out Magazine. Unlike Mr. Yiannopoulos’ stock-in-trade, the ads themselves were innocuous, and self-evidently not an attempt to influence any opinion other than which book to buy.

Milo Advertisment

WMATA appeared to be okay with that. It accepted the ads and displayed them in Metro stations and subway cars — until riders began to complain about Mr. Yiannopoulos being allowed to advertise his book. Just 10 days after the ads went up, WMATA directed its agents to take them all down and issue a refund — suddenly claiming that the ads violated the same policies it relied on to reject the ads from the ACLU, Carafem, and PETA.

The ideas espoused by each of these four plaintiffs are anathema to someone — as is pretty much every human idea. By rejecting these ads and accepting ads from gambling casinos, military contractors, and internet sex apps, WMATA showed just how subjective its ban is. Even more frightening, however, WMATA’s policy is an attempt to silence anyone who tries to make you think. Any one of these advertisements, had it passed WMATA’s censor, would have been the subject of someone’s outraged call to WMATA.

So, to anyone who’d be outraged to see Mr. Yiannopoulos’ advertisement — please recognize that if he comes down, so do we all. The First Amendment doesn’t, and shouldn’t, tolerate that kind of impoverishment of our public conversation. Not even in the subway.

At the end of the day, it’s a real shame that WMATA didn’t accept the ACLU’s advertisement — the agency could really have used that refresher on the First Amendment.


          Do as I say        
If public pensions are a third rail in Massachusetts politics, Michael Sullivan has his hands on it right now.

The former Massachusetts legislator and Plymouth County District Attorney lobbied his former colleagues for higher salaries and pension benefits while he was head of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association.

And while Sullivan proudly proclaims his refusal to take a legislative pay hike in the '90s, he wasn't shy about the better benefits he received as DA.

The boost results from elevating DAs to Group 4, a category reserved for employees with high-risk jobs like police officer or prison guard. Lawyers were not originally envisioned as a member of the group.

But that was before Paul McLaughlin, as assistant Suffolk County DA was shot at an MBTA train station by a gang leader in 1999.

What's at issue is less the question of the risk involved than the reality of Sullivan, who edges closer to the Tea Party than has Senate race rivals, appears to be speaking out of both sides of his mouth.

For starters, he is collecting since age 55 as his right, a $27,492 a year pension. No mind that a local conservatively-bent publication has recently pursued a series of stories about pensions, in which the early retirement age is an issue.

And Sullivan seems to have amnesia on the subject, unable to recall his role in the effort despite the recall of the DA association's chief lobbyist at the time, Robert F. White, who told the Globe:
Initially, [he] had negotiated an agreement with legislative budget leaders that would have given district attorneys an increase to $113,000 a year, White said.
“I was blindsided when ­Sullivan announced at an association meeting he had gotten a special commitment from the House Democratic leadership for $117,490,’’ White said.
Sullivan poo-poohed White's contention and insists the lobbyist has it out for him because he prosecuted former House Speaker Tom Finneran while serving as US Attorney for Massachusetts.

It's a real tough place to be in if you are proclaiming yourself as the right's best hope in the April 30 Senate primary. Feeding at the public trough and short memories don't go ever well with the voters he is wooing.
          Trump Touches the Third Rail in a Brunch Setting        

Listen to Episode No. 10 of Podcast for America!

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Podcast for America is your inside look at the preening self-celebration of human striving and shamelessness that is a presidential campaign cycle. Your hosts are Mark Leibovich, national correspondent for New York Times Magazine; Annie Lowrey of New York magazine; and Alex Wagner of MSNBC’s Now With Alex Wagner.

This week, Donald Trump calls for veteran appreciation while attacking John McCain’s war hero status. Also, Black Lives Matter protesters overwhelm Bernie Sanders at a conference. We look at what effect the movement’s having on the Democratic Party. Lastly, Hillary Clinton signs up for Snapchat and opens her campaign headquarters to media tours. Are we seeing the laidback side of Clinton’s campaign?

Subscribe to Podcast for America with the links above, and let us know what you like about the show, and what we should do differently.

Email: podcastforamerica@gmail.com
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          The Maps of the Max Payne 3 Painful Memories DLC Pack        
In addition to the new avatars[www.rockstargames.com], weapons and items in the Max Payne 3 Painful Memories DLC launching December 4th[www.rockstargames.com] - this pack features four new multiplayer maps that hark back to Max&#39;s blood-stained past. For the nostalgic heads out there, you&#39;ll enjoy revisiting NYC&#39;s Roscoe Street Subway from the original Max Payne. If dive bars are your thing then the Marty&#39;s Bar map is for you. And for the sun-and-fun folks, you can choose between close-quarters firefights on the Shoot First map or battle it out in Gang Wars at Canal De Panam&aacute;.

[media.rockstargames.com]
[[url=http://media.rockstargames.com/rockstargames/img/global/news/upload/actual_1354307836.jpg]click to enlarge[/url]]

ROSCOE STREET SUBWAY (DEATHMATCH + TEAM DEATHMATCH + PAYNE KILLER)
The Painful Memories Pack brings this landmark level from the original Max Payne into the world of Max Payne 3 Multiplayer - made even more dangerous than you remember it. The Roscoe Street station&rsquo;s platforms can get you killed faster than a third rail with overpasses and stairwells designed for run and gun action and accessible bathrooms that may prove a vile final resting place. Take the fight from the tops of the subway cars down to the tracks and use columns and other available cover to prevail against your fellow straphangers.

Check out the rest of the maps at the Rockstar Newswire[www.rockstargames.com].
          not setting the world on fire but starting a flame in your heart        
Previously on Maddy writes about Ponyboy Curtis: there was the R&D writing, the collective writing, and the heartbroken writing (links to all in that third one). This is dedicated to Simon Bowes, who was with me both nights at the Yard when I saw FCKSYSTMS, and said afterwards on twitter that it had left him "with a Hangover to be reckoned with", but is yet to write anything more.

1: Score
I sometimes get the impression that people think Chris tells me everything I need to know about his work. It's fair enough: I'm often in his rehearsal rooms, we chat now and then. But the truth is, I struggle to figure it all out as much as the next person. I haven't been behind-the-scenes with Ponyboy since the initial R&D in December 2014, so the stuff that's going on within that square of crumpled clothing is a series of riddles, enigmatic and mystifying. I have luminous moments in which an interpretation suggests itself to me, and befuddled moments when I haven't a clue.

In Chris' book A History of Airports, a collection of pre-Company texts for performance, there are two things that have long puzzled me: handprint/mouth configuration schematic (ON THE FLY), a “kind of textual archive” of a series of improvisations with Jonny Liron, and O Vienna (score for solo performance), which Chris says in his notes is “designed … to be interpreted (by a dancer, say) rather than read”. Handprint in particular is typographically exquisite; O Vienna flows like a poem; neither of them give me any indication whatsoever of how they might have looked, sounded or felt on stage. I don't know how to see them.

Watching FCKSYSTMS at the Yard, I suddenly understood those pages. Or rather, what I felt I was watching was a score activated, detonated even. I have no idea what that score would actually look like: angry scrawls in emerald ink, a collage of images and text ripped from financial pages and gay magazines, instructions on a set of postcards, Dennis Cooper's blog? It wouldn't look like this text, that's for sure.

Incidentally, I'm aware it's possible to read in the assumption that Chris tells me everything I need to know about his work the inference that I have meagre capacity to analyse it on my own. Like dedicating yourself to trying to understand the intricacies of thinking of another human being, in all their complexity and contradiction, not within the context of a romantic relationship or a therapy transaction, but as a basic function of being human, is too strange a pursuit to be believed.

2: Concerto
And if it's a score, what if it looks like music? What if each body is an instrument, with its own timbre and tonality, and Chris is, not composing exactly, but conducting an arrangement of tone clusters and sharps?

3: Text
I'm not even going to talk about the poem. I see FCKSYSTMS twice and it washes over me both times. It's the word ontological: by the third syllable I'm lost and I can't compute anything that's wrapped around it. In this room, it's the language of bodies that focuses me, not the system of communication already privileged.

4: Wrestling
Back in that original 2014 R&D, scant space was given to such banal expressions of testosterone-fuelled masculinity as grappling or wrestling. At the Yard that's prevalent; a fierce delight is taken in wrapping limbs around a torso and pulling it to the ground, in attempting to evade the touch of another, in hurling the body at walls and up scaffolding poles as though defying the building itself for its attempt to confine. When I see FCKSYSTMS on Thursday 2 June, I'm charged up and exhilarated by this; returning on Saturday 4 June it has me charged up but stressed out. There is a carelessness of bruises and the fragility of bones in the aggression directed against not just each other but themselves that alarms me. I'm not frightened by the slap of skin against concrete floor the way I would be watching an actual fight: it's the desire to care that's triggered, not fear. I want them to look after themselves. I want to look after them. But I also hear the echo in my mind of a paragraph from Men inthe Cities:

“And there's an old black-and-white photo of some kind of scuffle between these smartly dressed men and then on top of that it says: 'You construct intricate rituals which allow you to touch the skin of other men.' Rufus looks at that one for a while and he thinks about what it says and in the end he thinks: not thatintricate.”

(5: )
(And I miss Jonny. I'm sorry. He was only there for those first few days. But there's something about how he moves through a room, daring it, daring gravity even, to obstruct him, something about how he gives of himself without giving away, something in the cadence I've described elsewhere as charisma, whose absence I notice both nights at the Yard. It's not that the others don't have these things – Nick, boyish and sly, clambering along the edge of the balcony, reminds me of him – but those chimerical glimpses just make me more wistful for the dynamic shifts he might bring.)

6: Soft
Turning the volume up on aggression makes the softness speak louder, too. Those moments of caress, of kindness, of support. Of love. Not the love charged with sexual excitement – although it is that, too – but the love that's ready to tend the bruises and mop the blood and tie the bandage tight. The unconditional love of human beings that rely on each other to survive. That pulses more clearly in FCKSYSTMS than ever before.

The softness is also a softening of the boundaries of what's sexually permissible on stage. The touch reaches further, fondness becomes fondling, tongues explore nipples, hips and thighs. In that first week of June I was reading Viv Albertine's memoir Clothes Music Boysand fascinating at the contradiction between “how uptight I am about my body, bodily functions, smells and nudity” and her use of her body in public space to shock or unsettle. “Referencing sex,” she knows, “is an easy way to shock.” The bodies in Ponyboy are neither uptight (there's a glorious line in Chris' book The Forest and the Field, quoting Jonny, on whether it's “unseemly” for people to stare at his genitals: “If I'm going to go to the trouble of getting my cock out,” Jonny says, “the least you can do is look at it”) nor out to shock: they're simply taking pleasure in each other – or rather, finding pleasure in giving it.

There's another softness here: that of individual personality. There are three new Ponyboys in the room, making seven in total, and each Ponyboy does something distinct (Paul a furious, stuttering, splintered dance; Andre a tattoo of gate-marks above his pelvic bone; Craig a sequence of hand-gestures from the sidelines, instructing others to perform specific actions). And yet I'm aware of a struggle in my mind: to differentiate one from another, or to work out whether the shift in temperature in this room compared with previous performances results from the new personalities coming in or the development of Ponyboy Curtis' own personality as a hydra-headed individual becoming braver about love, touch and reach.

7: Work
As I write this I'm reading Nicholas Ridout's book Stage Fright, Animals and Other Theatrical Problems, which is brilliant but also a brain-melting macrocosm of the word ontological. In his introduction he talks about Heinrich von Kleist's Uber das Marionettentheater, and in particular extrapolates from one of its passages the argument that “erotic exploitation is an inevitable part of the theatrical experience”. Theatre is the intersection of actor's work and audience's pleasure; as such, “sexual and economic exploitation are always on the scene”.

FCKSYSTEMS makes this explicit, while also questioning the assumption in the word exploitation. Just as there are sex workers (most likely white and in a position to choose other employment should they wish; the example I have specifically in mind is Amy Cade, who talks about this in Sister, her collaboration with her sister Rosana) who embrace the work as a fulfilment of their own desire, so Ponyboys don't kiss and hold and snog and thrust and wrap lips around another's erect cock because we've paid money to watch them but because they want to and they can. I don't watch porn and never have by choice because no one has ever persuaded me that it won't be degrading or objectifying, but I watch Ponyboy Curtis and pay money to do so because this isn't porn, it's an argument about society. Even so, I feel a shiver of discomfort about how my dedication to watching this group is perceived in the wider world. It's definitely exacerbated by the fact that I'm old enough to be their collective mother.

A few days after the show finishes at the Yard, Andre tweets the following: “The pursuit of sexual pleasure as a means of relatedness rather than procreation can be understood as a profoundly anti-capitalist act”. It's in quote marks but he doesn't say where he's quoting from. I'm excited by this as a proposition, but the more I contemplate it, the more it strikes me that this is a homo-centric aggrandising of a kind of sex that I, as a cis straight woman, can never access. All sex carries the possibility or threat of procreation for me. I also wonder if the person being quoted has ever asked a woman what sex as a defined means of procreation is actually like for her: in my experience it's pretty demoralising.

In the Thursday performance, one of the new Ponyboys – I don't know his name (status as Chris Goode know-it-all instantly downgraded to AA) – crouches on the floor and wanks. I don't see how this begins, I catch him in my peripheral vision at the moment that he sticks a finger up his anus while the other hand continues to pump. I've seen this before, on another concrete floor, in Jonny's bedsit: it happened during The Infancy Gospel of Pseudo-Belladonna, the final piece Chris and Jonny made together as the collaboration Action one19, I can't remember what Chris was doing but Jonny was wanking and it took him a really long time to come. My thought at the time was: my god, so much work. So much energy and effort required for a little spurt of sperm. I have the same thought watching the Ponyboy do it. The work you're putting into this. The work.

On Saturday night it doesn't happen and I wonder if I dreamed it.

8: Spectre
I'm fascinated by how much Griffyn and Paul's bodies are like that of my son Ben's. Ben is seven, wiry, bones protruding at shoulders and knees; he eats well but that's his physique, lean and taut. When he was a smaller child it terrified me how easily I could snap him; now he's almost too heavy to carry what awes me is his capacity for strength. Apparently little boys experience a surge of testosterone at just Ben's age: it makes them suddenly interested in fighting (check), wrestling (check), waving sticks around like swords (check), all things he didn't do much before now. I look at Griffyn and Paul's bodies and wonder how I would feel if Ben walked into the room, his tiny, fragile, powerful body naked and shining alongside theirs. If I would give permission for that. What I would be giving permission to. How that permission might be condemned or understood.

There's a bit of text towards the end of FCKSYSTEMS, co-written by Simon Stephens and teenager Stan Smith and performed by Stan (fully clothed) that, if I'm honest, repulses me with its aggression. I feel like I do when Ben is shouting at me because that's how he's learned to communicate from me and his dad: the last thing I need is an entitled little white boy telling me how superior he is. I have no idea if this is actually what that text is saying because in all honesty I don't hear it, not clearly, because the tone of it is white noise.

There is a huge conversation to be had about how boys become men. I have a little boy in my house becoming a man, a little white boy becoming a man in a world in which the damage wreaked across centuries and continents by white men is being condemned with a vociferousness and ferocity unprecedented, and I need a huge conversation about how to help him be the best man he can possibly be. Deep down I know the key to it is teaching him how not to be a man but a human. To be able to do so, there are ways in which I need to dismantle myself.

Ben, my little Ben, standing in front of the audience, his naked body speaking without words. I can't even begin to imagine.

From an email I sent to Chris, 2.05am, Friday 3 June:
i try (but often fail) to be v v cautious about what i write abt my kids, but i became really preoccupied at one point this evening with the similarity between paul's and griffyn's bodies and ben's, they're all three of them such strength and wiry, and i really wondered what work like this would look like if at some point a child appeared in it naked. i think it's part of my very deep regret about missing the charmatz that you saw, which i'm so burningly curious about, and also part of [a conversation I've had with a male director about his] fundamental fucking fury at safeguarding that happens in british theatre and how it basically casts any man working with young people in a kind of suspicion of paedophilia role.

From the email Chris sent back, 2.52am:
You're so right about the way that the child's body is so spectrally present & so frustratingly absent from Ponyboy. … The first few times [Stan] was in the room with us he was barefoot, of his own volition, I guess because everybody else was so it must have looked to him like a protocol. When we moved to the Yard he started wearing shoes for the speech and I was really sorry about the change in the image but it felt completely impossible in the context even to refer to it. Everything immediately becomes fetishistic and kind of incendiary. In the final third of the Charmatz piece when the kids start taking off some of their own clothes, apparently of their own will, I remember my heart thumping through it, like surely we were going to get busted or something. It really does feel like the untouchable third rail. I keep thinking about Terry Gross's interview of Sally Mann on Fresh Air last year. Here:


I won't say any more in case you get to hear it, but it's such a sad, strange conversation, about exactly the questions you're raising, and in particular what connotations and permissions go along with motherhood.

9: Weaklings
So there's the holding and the falling and the wrestling, there's the posing and the dancing and the snogging and (maybe) the wanking, and then, oh my, there's the gif sequence. Over a club beat punctuated with a voice intoning “move” – Chris would be able to tell you what the track is, I can't (downgraded further to AA-) – a series of gifs projects across the back wall and each of the Ponyboys enacts the movement within it. Words flash up on the back wall, too: “move”, “incite”, “agitate” (might have made that last one up, it's certainly what it made me want to do). I have a flashback to CG&Co's production of Weaklings, a homage to and documentary about Dennis Cooper's blog of the same name, which also used gifs and movements based on them, in honour of the storytelling Cooper has been doing with them; and in particular I recall something Chris' regular collaborator and lighting designer for that show, Katharine Williams, told him: that Weaklings looked beautiful, because he had a grown-up, experienced, careful team who could make it so, but what the spirit of the work really needed was a bunch of kids ready to fuck everything up. Watching FCKSYSTMS, I see what she means.

But this isn't just about aesthetics, it's about community. Much more than Weaklings, Ponyboy Curtis are an embodiment of Cooper's blog, particularly in its heyday (at least, as that has been described to me by Chris). They are a group apart, vital and challenging and obsessive, a secret world at the heart of this one, in which there are no boundaries, no respect for money as a pre-requisite for action or happiness, and no limits to what sex can be or do. They are a 2am world of hallucination and extremity; Weaklings looked at that, Ponyboy live it.

8: Hail the new puritans
I was eight or nine when director Charles Atlas, choreographer Michael Clark and designer Leigh Bowery released Hail the New Puritan, and about 39 when I finally saw it. It does something that feels both more familiar now and absolutely still strange: it's neither dance nor documentary nor fashion show nor punk, but it's somehow the best of all these and more. It's sexy and silly and noisy and pretty; to adopt a quote from Matt Trueman on Ponyboy, it's alluring and wreckless, full of ego, mischief and dicks. I think I catch a glimpse of it amid the film clips and images projected on the back wall during FCKSYSTEMS, and sure enough it's listed in the works quoted or borrowed from in the credits at the end. (Brief note: Ponyboy audiences, what the fuck are you doing leaving before the credits play out? This isn't the cinema, it's not a boring list of dolly grips and stunt doubles. Chris is giving you the materials he's used to make the show: are you not interested in that?)

Like I say, I was small when it was released, so I have no idea how it landed in the art world, whether a culture already convulsed by punk would have batted even an eyelash at it. Online I've found a review, dated 27 February 1987, published in the LA Times, which hails it as “ambitious” before unleashing a barrage of criticism at the “whimsical” and “puerile” choreography, “derivative” performances, and a flamboyance that “leaves the subculture it wants to celebrate looking recklessly, suicidally self-indulgent”. Between the lines I'm reading: I want this to be more straight. Hail the New Puritan is resolutely not straight: it's queer and queers every cultural form it touches. That is its act of resistance.

I see Ponyboy Curtis in just those terms. But I wonder whether the theatrical climate in which Chris is working is, if not more restrictive than the one in which Clark operated, then more resistant back. I wonder how far he can really push things. I wonder what boundaries will neither soften nor crack.

On the Saturday night, Stan appeared on stage for his speech, pulled out an aerosol can and a lighter and lit a flame. From what Craig told me afterwards, no one knew he was going to do this, he just hinted he had “something up his sleeve”. That proved to be almost literal when he misjudged the angle and set his arm on fire. But the accident made the action perfect: not just belligerent but vulnerable and idealistic. Would any theatre give advance permission for an action like that to happen on stage? I doubt it. And I wonder how that deference to fear and safety is circumscribing imagination.

          The strange case of David Icke         
The Orwellian closing down of unsanctified speech and thought is standard practice today as our overlords work to keep us in The Matrix, comatose and quiescent. In some of our 'liberal democracies' questioning the Narrative in even the most trivial way can land you in jail.  Which makes the case of David Icke all the more remarkable.

Icke doesn't just question the Narrative, he opens up on it with both barrels. He doesn't avoid the Third Rail, he enthusiastically leaps on it.

He writes and speaks on:


()  The globalist NWO agenda, expertly tying it in to the strategic events shaping our world such as mass immigration to White-only lands, cultural degeneracy, the EU, the UN, media control etc.

() The Rothschild/Zionist/globalist/NWO nexus

()  Israel as an illegal state which controls the USA

()  The 9/11 false flag

()  Holocaust Denial (which admittedly he subsequently rowed back on)

()  The Global Warming hoax

There's lots more of an equally offensive nature (Michelle Obama is a tranny) yet he not only survives, he thrives. His books and videos sell by the millions and he regularly speaks to monster packed-out audiences throughout the world. Sure, he gets ridiculed in the MSM and his FB was closed down. But contrast this with what happened to David Irving, Brendan O'Connell, 87 year-old Ursula Haverbeck and others too numerous to mention and the 'disappearing' of legendary author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Even middle-of-the-road organisations like American Renaissance find it difficult to book a hotel for a conference. Yet he not only survives, he thrives. 

Very strange, is it not?

          Long-Time U. S. Senator Frank Church [otd 07/25]        
Senator Church. Library of Congress.
U.S. Senator and third-generation Idahoan Frank Forrester Church was born July 25, 1924 in Boise. In 1942, he started school at Stanford University, but left to enlist in the U. S. Army the following year. After the war, despite a bout with cancer, he completed his education, obtaining a law degree from Stanford in 1950.

He opened a Boise law practice, but quickly embarked upon his real goal. He wanted to be a professional politician like his hero, William A. Borah [blog, June 29]. In 1952, Church ran unsuccessfully for the state legislature. Yet he succeeded four years later in a bid for a U. S. Senate seat.

Church would be re-elected to the Senate for three more terms. Thus, this short essay can only touch the highlights of his career. Although only a freshman Senator, he helped shepherd the Civil Rights Act of 1957 into law, and continued to support other civil rights legislation. Appointed to the Special Committee on Aging in 1967, Church became Chairman of that group five years later. He thus actively sponsored and promoted medical, housing, and other programs for the elderly.

He supported the limited early U. S. involvement in Vietnam, but then led the successful fight to end our heavier role in the conflict. Church also gained much notoriety for his aggressive investigation of the Central Intelligence Agency. His committee certainly found much to condemn, and much that needed fixing. However, corrective measures imposed by Congress had many unintended consequences. For example, agents who seek information from knowledgeable locals – "Humlnt" or Human Intelligence – must often deal with unsavory, even reprehensible characters. New Congressional guidelines made such contacts difficult, if not next to impossible.

Many have asked how Church, with his mostly liberal views, spent four terms in the Senate from what is acknowledged to be a conservative state. His help to the elderly was definitely a plus. Also, despite caricatures to the contrary, Idahoans have a tradition of embracing some liberal (so-called) causes. For example, only three states preceded Idaho in granting women the right to vote (almost a quarter century before the Nineteenth Amendment).

Church opposed a liberal position that would have been a "third rail" issue in Idaho: gun control. He was also very careful in how he handled agricultural legislation. But perhaps more than anything else, the Senator was a master of "pork barrel" politics. He funneled money to the state far in excess of what its minor population might otherwise warrant.
Wilderness area, Idaho. Bureau of Land Management photo.
Finally, some of his environmental positions resonated with many voters. (Some, however, found them elitist, and complained about the loss of jobs.) The Frank Church/River-of-No-Return Wilderness Area in central Idaho is so named in his honor.

In 1976, Church pursued the Democratic Party nomination for President. Although he won four primaries, he chose to end his candidacy. About that same time, Church helped secure Senate passage of treaties to end U. S. ownership of the Panama Canal. His advocacy of those accords, plus other issues, allowed Congressman Steve Symms to defeat Church’s bid for re-election in 1980. Church died of pancreatic cancer in April 1984.
                                                                                 
References: Richard J. Beck, Famous Idahoans, Williams Printing, (© Richard J. Beck, 1989).
Special Collections: The Frank Church Papers, Boise State University (1988)
“Frank Forrester Church,” Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress.
Stephen F. Knott, “Congressional Oversight and the Crippling of the CIA,” History News Network, George Mason University (November 4, 2001).

                  

MORE FANZINE FANABLA


Let's skip the opening huzzah (you know by heart the schpiel about hapless kids saving pennies and sacrificing in other painful ways to put their opines to press) and start out this soiree with a fanzine that I tried like the dickens to latch onto back during my really depression-era wages days with nil luck. That fanzine was CONTEMPO CULTURE, and the only reason I wanted to pick up a copy of it was because of that plug inna pages of (now brace yourself!) THE VILLAGE VOICE during the days when Lester Bangs was cloistered in Austin Texas and contributing articles on the Thirteenth Floor Elevators and DNA to their pages. Unfortunately CONTEMPO CULTURE was not being sold in any of the Rough Trade or Systematic catalogs that I possessed and given that I wasn't exactly a guy who liked to send shekels through the mail unless it was like a bulk order (postage costs, y'know) it was like forget that 'un Chris. Or so I thought at the time.

Thanks to the miracle of internet I have obtained some of these CONTEMPO CULTUREs years after the fact, these two being amongst 'em (or at least the three that I do own and I might have even mentioned that one in these pages before!). Not that my life has improved the way it would had I been able to latch onto a copy of NIX ON PIX #1 or some of the NEW AGE/GROOVE ASSOCIATES that I do not have, but at least I have these within the realm of my paws and like, I have been sleeping better at night because of it, y'know...

These two are I guess typical of the 'zine's run. Not the standard rock fanzine (punk or otherwise) of the day, CONTEMPO CULTURE operates more as a deviant art (this being from the pre "deviant art" days when people who did things like this were just nutzo) rag that was put out by those fru-fru boho types you used to come across back in college during the seventies onward. (Locally there was a fanzine of this sort called 3-D ETHYL which earns my all time respect for featuring a very good NANCY article amidst the art cut ups.) Actually there is very little regarding music here, though the spirit and layouts that permeated the early-eighties under-the-underground scene of the day can be easily discerned.

Not only that but there's a pretty good sense of true nihilist concerns here what with the bizarro takes on everyday life (Barbie and Ken demonstrating birth control methods) and a piece on William Burroughs that doesn't read like some of the goo that has been written on him recently. Not to mention a smattering of recent record reviews and the like which sure do dredge up them memories. Hard to read and maybe infuriating, but always enough to make you wanna read more. And sure it was stuff like this that has led to the whole pouty youth rebellion of today where everything except well...certain things...are ripe for ripping, but at least back then these same kinda kidz sure knew how to do it right!
***
I'm always game for a good seventies-era rock 'n roll fanzine, as long as it ain't filled to the brim with loads of subpar sputum passing for mind-filled writing or hippie head musings about getting high on life 'n rot like that. That's why a rag like RECORDS really appealed to me, what with the typical mid-seventies fanzine-styled cover listing the droolsome contents along with those masterfully cheap xeroxed Rolling Stones single sleeves. Nice effort true, though how'n the heck is anybody who dunt know the inside story on this 'un gonna realize that RECORDS really ain't nothin' but an adzine faturing auction and set sale lists for records, tapes, fanzines etc. and nothing else!!!

No real articles here to speak of, the fanzine review section's nothin' but a list of what the writers just happ'd to get, and although it is great looking through those lists of then-affordable bootlegs and mid-sixties garage gems its like, where's the meat and potatoes anyway??? Nice letter section featuring notes from some of the bigwigs in the fanzine game, though I sure wonder why Phast Phreddie Patterson of BACK DOOR MAN fame dissed on onetime mag contributor and future Frontier Records head Lisa Fancher? Sheesh, you'd think there's be more solidarity in this unnerground than to have people acting all nice to you then stabbing you in the back once the momentum is with (or even against) you!
***
And speaking of the mid-seventies (I always seem to be), these Iggy Pop related fanzines (y'know, the ones that were done up long before boondock-locked suburban slobs such as I learned about 'em via the pages of ROCK SCENE) are really the best in pure addled reading if I do say so myself. Keeping this in mind you can bet that those IGGY POP FAN CLUB rags that were comin' outta both San Francisco and Germany are the kinda reads that really rankle my regions! Take this second issue of IGUANA put out by the San Francisco club...pure high energy bliss if I do say so myself. It doesn't just contain recent pix and the like as the IGUANA reviewed in the previous FANZINE ESOTERICA did but is brimming full with a whole batch of interesting Ig wanderings done up by the fans who put this thingie out! And man, were they guys who were just as anxious as everyone else regarding the METALLIC KO bootleg making its way to their door, not to mention the exact whereabouts of the man himself who was then spending time in an Insane Asylum where David Bowie would frequently smuggle in some cocaine to ease the tedium. The clippings are pretty rare because I can't even recall seeing most of 'em before and the ENERGY over-the-top punkified Ig raves that prove there was still enough interest in him at a time when the major forces that be had long written the guy off as just another suburban slob loser. It even features a snip of a missive (complete with an early Bowie bashing!) from ace fan Miriam Linna, who really must have done very little studying during her college kid days at Kent State University considering all of the time she had spent playing records and writing for fanzines way back when.

***
And whaddaya know...right after getting hold of the above I latch on to the second and final issue of HONEY THAT AIN'T NO ROMANCE and boy is it the proverbial pip! Better'n even the debut, this artyfact from EUROPE'S ONLY IGGY POP FAN CLUB is all encapsulating and sucks you in even with its one-sided xeroxed pages its that wowzer-like! Lotsa people wrote in to praise the mag so not only do you get to read the Iggified opinions of the likes of Phast Phreddie Patterson and D.D. Faye of BACK DOOR MAN fame and Jymn Parrett, Dee Daack and Evan Jones from DENIM DELINQUENT but see pix of 'em as well!

True you prob'ly've already seen all the Stooge snaps before, but the spirit and fan thrills this one exudes can light up the skies for miles and you too will drool to the photos of Metchild (Iggy's #1 fan!) in various stages of undress even if she coulda used the Mark Eden Course! Too bad this was the last one...it could have really developed into a real top read had the club developed into something HUMONGOUS once Iggy's solo career got into gear and the guy's mug was poppin' up all over the place!


 HONEY THAT AIN'T NO ROMANCE's Harald Inhulsen midt Jonh Ingham
***
White we're still inna seventies here's a good discovery that's probably worth your effort to search out. 3rd WAVE was one of those fanzines that really exemplified the days back when new wave wasn't quite the dirty word it would become within a relatively short period of time, and this debut issue just goes to remind ya of just why this breed of rock was so important to more'n just a few cloistered kids who were probably picked on even by the principal. Slapping Stiv Bators and Johnny Blitz of the Dead Boys onna cover was a good move, and the interview to be found therein is equally boffo. (Cheetah Chrome says he wrote "Ain't It Fun" on January 19th or 20th of 1973 after the Stooges played Cleveland a few days earlier---prob'ly a typo) Also good were the record and live reviews, the Robert Gordon interview even if he does come off kinda detached not to mention the gab with the Fleshtones who back then seemed like one of the better enigmas to come outta the New York scene. Gotta give this one five stars if only for the David Johansen/Johnny Thunders centerpiece poster which can be neatly removed from the mag and placed smack dab in the middle of your fart encrusted bedroom wall.
***
 I always got the impression that while there were many rock fanzines out there in the seventies that were getting their just dues via reviews in BOMP and COWABUNGA there were many more that just didn't hit the spotlight like perhaps they shoulda. Maybe they were just too low budget and too low circulation to make a dent anywhere. And somehow I get the impression that some of these fanzines were rather informative despite their being quite outta the loop and distributed to a few fans and nobody else but!

I should dismiss THE DISTRICT DIARY on the mere basis of its subtitle "The People's Paper" (whenever I would see something from the seventies with the word "people" in it I knew I was in for a politically pious experience!) but it comes off more like a teenage rock rag than an imitation VILLAGE VOICE no matter how you look at it! Edited by a Lee Lumsden, this Seattle-area spirit duplicated job  really does capture the grade school newspaper feeling even if I doubt most sixth-graders would be as hip as these kids. The staff of THE DIARY go for the likes of Lou Reed, the Dolls, Kiss, Iggy and much more and even if they are tend to make more'n a few boo-boos (like their feature story on streaking, a fad that was no good unless it was being done by nice looking females) you can't fault 'em for sticking up for Elton John and raving on about THE WAY WE WERE. Fanzine allusion of the year---when contributor Ben Rabinowitz mentions that if you're aware of Lou, the Dolls and Iggy you should be aware of Queen, and that's no lie!
***
The later issues of Mick Mercer's PANACHE don't strike me as anything special outside of the entire English "post-punk" cadre of Rough Trade-styled bands and goth wannabes, but the earliest ones really do have that hot fanzine style that I liked in a number of contemporary rags from THE NEXT BIG THING on, complete with that hefty Stooges worship and love of everything that was new and exciting in a rock world that seemed to ignore the fresh and innovative in favor of big biz cocaine karma and general drop dead (literally!) musical acts. This third issue is no exception, what with the cover feature on Ultravox and loads of news on those old "save the world bands" that seemed so new and innovative in the mid-seventies only to become lost in the shuffle once we clocked into the snoozeville eighties. Hand printed (just like NBT!) and filled with that talking to you 'stead of AT you attitude, this one-sided print job rag might seem like just another crudzine to some but it had a whole load of that high energy and spunk to it that really reminds me of what it meant to be a suburban slob crawling through flea market stacks to find that elusive Seeds album I never ever could find. Lotsa non-p-rock mentions in the bootleg and record review section too making PANACHE the English answer to...TB SHEETS???
***
THIRD RAIL #3, being from the mid-eighties and all, really ain't from a period in fanzinedom that cozies up to me and vicey versey. After all this was during the mid-eighties when for all practical purposes the rock scene was tiresomely dreadful on the "mainstream" front, and the underground from which rock fandom seemed to gravitate towards was either big on hardcore punk or new wave unto gnu wave as Bill Shute so acrimoniously put it. So why did I snatch THIRD RAIL up you say??? Not only because the writing is pretty good considering the time, and not only because the acts reviewed from Syd Barrett to the Mothers of Invention are the kinda things I still like to read even if on a retrospective level, but because Bill Shute himself actually contributed an entire "Inner Mystique" page and I really can't get enough of Bill's writings, especially these earlier forays into print. Hey Bill, if you're reading this there's one thing I'd like to know, what was the free LP given away and who won it???
***
Here's one that will really throw you for a loop-de-loop. Remember TEENAGE NEWS, the fanzine from Montreal Quebec what began in 1975 as a New York Dolls-oriented fan mag yet soon opened its doors to other favorites such as the Flamin' Groovies and later the whole English (and local---meaning Canada) punk rock contingent? I sure do, but then again for the life of me I don't remember this other TEENAGE NEWS from early-eighties Hamilton Ontario which featured the same style of rock 'n roll worship only with about eight years of deadweight dragging things down. I mean, in 1975 things like the Dolls and Stooges and those groups playing in their "tradition" sure seemed exciting and life-reaffirming. By 1983 it was about as easy to get excited over Boy George as it would be getting excited over nude pictures of Totie Fields, and not post-mortem you necrosickies out there!

This "new" TEENAGE NEWS ain't bad even though such championed groups as Rank and Fire weren't exactly anything that captured my spirit of rockism. Reminds me a lot of THE MOLE which would figure since the long gone Bruce Mowat contributed to it. Mat Mania also contributed one of those wrestling articles done up back when wrestling was still fun Saturday afternoon tee-vee viewing. And like the old TEENAGE NEWS they even got part two of a Flamin' Groovies history, nothing we don't know already but gee is the heart-warming THOUGHT just baked into its eternal being!

Like just about any fanzine of worth there is loads to peruse and digest here. But sheesh, you think the guys who did this 'un woulda done some research into their name because this coulda resulted in a lawsuit. And those fanzine publishers sure needed to count each and every penny they got into their mitts now, right?
***
And to close this post out comes this li'l surprise. I never heard of OUTLET, this cheap l'il photocopied fanzine before and when I discovered that it lasted a good number of issues before capitulating I was surprised! I mean, I thought I was the only stubborn soul onna fanzine scene willing to waste money and time outta pure spite if anything! But hey, this mag was a cool effort, part funtime fanzine rah rah and part collectors mag with articles on Stiff Records, Ruben Guevara of Ruben and the Jets fame regarding his Bicentennial single on Rhino, some Glaswegian gang called the Exiles and hey, how can you fault a rag that puts the DOWNLINERS SECT on the cover of their first issue??? The writing is good enough in that late-seventies hipper writers on the English Weaklies scene style, and this debut's got me slobbering for more and more issues which are available out there, albeit at pretty dicey priceys! So it's either save the skekels or do some hard-time begging if I wanna read any more of these in my lifetime!
***
Before I go, a big 'n happy SEVENTIETH birthday to none other'n Roky Erickson as well as a big thirty-first (I think!) birthday greetings to Eric Shute who doesn't read this blog anyway  but I'll betcha daddy'll tell 'im.

          Israel, the Palestinians, and the Cyber-Donks (Part One)        

Yesterday Charles Johnson linked to a Daily Kos diary in which the diarist – an Israeli - calls it quits, with one of the best door-slammer endings ever: “I came to this site with Leftist Zionist Environmentalist Pro-Peace ideology (Meretz style). I leave it with a heavy doubt of the entire ‘Progressive’ ideology, morals and goals.”

I briefly skimmed the comments to this diary and something caught my eye. I don’t usually read the comments at Kos, partly because the signature lines tend to be longer than the comments and it is very annoying to be subjected to the same tag-line slogan over and over. But what caught my eye was this:

“Israel/Palestine is not a germane topic for this site to begin with. The Kos himself has said so many times, and I agree with him. … It's been said here many times - it is a THIRD RAIL that blogsites touch at their peril. Kos blocks diaries that try to bring this topic up … Pro-Israel and Pro-Palestinian arguments HAVE NO PLACE HERE. Most people here, frankly, are not interested in discussing this chronically intractable subject.”

It’s a stunning admission for “progressives” who claim to speak credibly on world events to say that they are not interested in talking about Israel and the Palestinians. Besides being a salient feature of the international landscape, it is a very important part of American political culture – the culture that the progs are trying to harness and ride for a saddle-pony. The comment claims that “The Kos himself” tries to steer Kos away from such discussion, even to the point of deletion. And I found that very strange.

I already knew, as most people who read the blogs know, that one does not turn to the left for detailed discussion of Israel and the Palestinians. As the departing Kos diarist noted, there are an unnerving number of people over there who seem to assume that Noam Chomsky has said the last word on the subject. Still, the left has articulated lots of pro-Israeli - and even pro-Zionist - opinion in the past. For many decades there has been a lot of left and center-left interest in a positive future for Israel, so why does it suddenly and emphatically HAVE NO PLACE HERE? And above all, SAYS WHO?

More to come.


          In U.S., Continuing Record-Low Support for Stricter Gun Control        
After the heavy democratic losses in 1994 over gun-control the democrats looked at additional Federal gun laws as the third rail in politics. Many dems even ran as pro Second Amendment liberals just to get back in to power and it seemed to work.
          Hamptons Subway Newsletter: Week of December 3–9, 2016        

The new, misspelled Hamptons "Sobway" motorman's hat

Week of December 3–9, 2016
Riders this past week: 14,813
Rider miles this past week: 92,967

DOWN IN THE TUBE
Chef Jean-George Vongerichten was seen eating a piece of rum-infused fruitcake from a white paper box on the subway leaving Southampton headed for Hampton Bays on Wednesday at 2 p.m.

MOTORMAN HAT MADNESS
The first of two delays on the subway system this week happened at the Southampton platform when people went wild about being given, or not being given, a Hamptons Subway motorman’s hat. New marketing director Claude Bellaire had organized the giveaway. These beautiful motorman’s caps were presented to every 20th passenger who came through the turnstiles at our Southampton station. They were so beautiful that people held back coming through the turnstiles to be the 20th passenger. This created a crowd, then a melée, as those getting caps and those not getting caps scuffled with one another and with those just wanting to get to the trains.

These caps were specially made for Hamptons Subway by an overseas firm to replenish our dwindling supply, but all 1,000 of them had the words HAMPTONS SOBWAY MOTORMAN on the silver badges and so were unacceptable on arrival. Subway delays persisted through much of Saturday afternoon as a result. You wouldn’t think people were so passionate about this.

NEW MAIL SERVICE
You may have noticed the new red mailboxes six feet up on every subway platform wall where the platform wall meets the tunnel wall. From inside the trains, they’re accessible by opening the front left side window on all lead cars of every train, while stopped in the station. This is our new, free, Hamptons Subway Mail Service, HSMS. Slide the window up, reach out with the letter you want mailed, open the mailbox door, put it in, raise the flag and that’s it. Text whoever you’ve sent the mail to, for example someone in Westhampton if you’re at the Westhampton stop, and you’re from Amagansett, and tell them to come down to our Westhampton platform, reach around to the mailbox, open its door and reach in to get your letter. This service is free, except the receiver has to pay to get onto the platform. Step stools and grab bars are located by the mailboxes. Those picking up letters should be careful not to fall down onto the tracks and the third rail.

DISCLAIMER
This week is the annual anniversary issue of the Hamptons Subway newsletter. As it says in our contract with Dan’s Papers, we are obliged, every year, to state the fact that there is no Hamptons Subway, but if there were one, this would be its newsletter. So please don’t be fooled into thinking there is a Hamptons Subway, and don’t believe those telling you this disclaimer is just a trick to keep you from using Hamptons Subway so the rest of us don’t have to mingle with people like you. We regret, after 382 weekly newsletters, that this year is the first time we’ve noticed this paragraph in our contract with Dan’s Papers so only now are we putting in this notice. We will not forget next year.

COMMISSIONER ASPINALL’S MESSAGE
I am happy to be able to thank everyone who voted for me to continue as your Subway Commissioner for an eighth term. Thank you. It was a hard fought campaign against a valiant opponent, that crook Giuseppe Rappi, and I would like to thank him too now that he’s lost, for putting up such a vigorous fight. This is how, with our democratic system of checks and balances, our subway government works. I will do good and look forward to the vote next year.

READ MORE HAMPTONS SUBWAY

The post Hamptons Subway Newsletter: Week of December 3–9, 2016 appeared first on Dan's Papers.


          off the grid: when mel freezes over        
As I no longer have a copy of this story as it originally appeared on The Grid's website in early February 2013, this reprint is based on the draft I submitted for publication. I also integrated a "bonus features" post which originally appeared on this website on February 8, 2013.

Toronto Sun, January 15, 1999.
“It might have people across this country shaking their heads, even rolling their eyes,” Peter Mansbridge observed while introducing the January 13, 1999 edition of The National. To some Canadians, Mel Lastman’s plea for military assistance to help Toronto cope with a record-breaking month of snowfall confirmed their view of the country’s largest city as a magnet for spoiled, whiny wimps.

By the time Lastman requested help, Toronto had endured 84 cm of snowfall over the first two weeks of 1999, with 21 cm alone coming down on January 13. The deepening accumulation, combined with gusty winds and cold temperatures led to chaos. Clogged switches delayed GO service, drifting snow covered the third rail of exposed subway lines, and the Scarborough RT proved its uselessness in inclement weather. TTC chief general manager David Gunn recommended people stay home, as chances were “poor to nil” that closed subway sections would operate for several days. Snowplows barely made a dent on roads as the white stuff continued to fall.

Toronto Star, January 14, 1999.
“I’m petrified of what could happen,” Lastman told the press. “You come to a point where you can’t push it back any more. Then no cars move. I want to have (the army) ready in case there’s 25 cm of snow.” Lastman had recent precedents: troops were called in for assistance during the Red River flood in Manitoba in 1997 and the ice storm that paralyzed eastern Ontario and Quebec in 1998.

The next morning, four Bison armoured personnel carriers arrived at the former Downsview military base from CFB Petawawa to await use as emergency ambulances. While reservists shoveled out bus shelters and fire hydrants, 420 regular troops were placed on standby. They spent most of their time relaxing around the old base by rehabbing an old gym basement bowling alley, playing cards, and practising snowmobile manoeuvres for a future Arctic posting. One officer who had assisted with the ice storm cleanup told the Star that “it’s kind of hard just sitting here when you want to help.” Lastman told the troops that “it’s better to be safe than sorry…I don’t believe you want to wait until people are possibly gonna die.”

Torontonians coped with the situation in varying ways. Commuters stuck downtown booked hotel rooms and made Eaton Centre merchants smile. Cotton Ginny reported a run on nightgowns, while Shoppers Drug Mart was packed with people stocking up on bathroom essentials. Rentals at the Yonge-Wellesley Rogers Video more than doubled. Meals on Wheels provided extra food to clients in case they were forced to close. Municipal and transit employees racked up overtime, with some snow removal employees sleeping in temporary trailer camps. There were the expected idiots: one man was charged after being caught drunk snowmobiling along the Don Valley Parkway.

Toronto Sun, January 14, 1999.
As the city dug itself out, several city councillors questioned Lastman’s actions and lamented that he didn’t consult them. Lastman didn’t call an emergency council meeting out of fear of the speeches his colleagues might make. “The press would have been there, and what they would have been saying I don’t know. Some of them would have been absolutely out of it.” The mayor believed he was the only person who cared about the welfare of the entire city instead of specific wards, He never regretted his actions. “We arranged it so that senior citizens could go around the corner to get milk,” he boasted to the Star a decade later.

By the time the month was over, Toronto endured a record-breaking 118 cm of snowfall. Councillor Jack Layton found the storm “a teaching lesson in municipal arrogance” due to the city’s complacency. Eye Weekly noted that the previous fall, council’s urban environment committee voted against budgeting an extra $28 million to clear windrows. Up to $70 million was spent on clean-up, more than double the annual $32 million snow clearing budget.

Eye columnist Donna Lypchuk had fun with the charges that Torontonians were wusses when it came to snow. “Torontonians get a little touchy the minute they see a snowflake,” she observed. “Like little robots, they go outside, see their cars covered with snow, make a phone call and then drop back into bed with complete resignation.” She felt the exhaustion of those battling the storm could have been avoided by just letting the snow melt on its own.

Lypchuk’s conclusion? “I think it’s time Torontonians familiarized themselves with important Canadian concepts, such as snow. During the winter, snow is going to fall from the sky. This is not a scary, unusual thing. It is normal. Respect the snow and be prepared.”

***

Bonus Material

Toronto Sun, January 14, 1999.
Confession time: I’m drawing a blank as to what I did during the Snowmageddon of January 1999.

I definitely experienced it. I was living in Guelph, working at the campus paper. Given the regular dumpings Guelph received, the storm likely didn’t seem unusual. It was probably just another snowy day, albeit one with greater accumulation. My guess is that either I curled up with a pile of library books or headed over to the Ontarion office to work, surf the net, or play endless games of Civilization II. It was around this time that staff relations within the office settled into a permanent deep-freeze, sparked by deep disagreements about the cover of that week’s issue. The only story about the storm in the following week’s edition noted there were no plans to shut down the U of G campus, and that students were encouraged to take advantage of increased Guelph Transit service as parking lots turned into mountains of cleared snow.

As for Lastman’s call for the army—it was Mel. Given his bombastic style, it would have been hard not to expect anything else.

Toronto Sun, January 16, 1999.
After hearing all the jokes made about the situation over the years, reading about the circumstances at the time makes it clear action was needed. The factor that seems to be forgotten is that Toronto was already buried under an unusually large amount of snow. The forecasts for the storm that prompted Lastman to call in the troops didn’t look promising, and city services were already strained. And he did have the examples of military involvement in other natural disaster over the previous two years. The laughs at Toronto’s expense seem partly a natural reaction against the centre of the universe, and partly out of little comprehension of how badly the city’s infrastructure, especially for commuters, was affected. I was really struck by CBC archival clip’s depiction of a Meals on Wheels run, where deliverers provided extra food to clients in case the service had to be suspended.

I also checked out the Sun’s coverage. The front page on January 14, 1999 bluntly echoed TTC chief general manager David Gunn’s advice: “STAY HOME.” It also introduced the paper’s method of measuring the snowfall: the “Mel freezes over” infographic, which used Lastman’s height as a yardstick for how much snow fell that month.

On the editorial page, a list of snow-related mottos was devised to replace the new official motto the paper loathed, “Diversity our strength.”

Toronto—The city under North York
Toronto—Home of the squeegee kid, until you need one.
Toronto—Our mayor shovels it better than your mayor.
Toronto—Beware of drive-by plowings.
Toronto—Don’t even think about parking here.
Toronto—Where snow melters go to die.
Toronto—Where snowballs have a chance.
Toronto—Apocalypse Snow.
Toronto—Home of the two-hour cab wait.
Toronto—It’s not as bad as Buffalo, but we’re working on it.
Toronto—Where “The Better Way” is walking.
Toronto—We’d rather be in Florida.
Toronto—The flake by the lake.
Toronto—As pure as the driven slush.
Toronto—Home of Pearson Airport—you can check in anytime you like, but you can never leave.
Toronto—Plow me.

Toronto Sun, January 14, 1999.
Meanwhile, back over in the Star, it was interesting to read how angry councillors were over the lack of consultation from Lastman. Among the miffed was Frances Nunziata. “I sent a letter to the Mayor January 6 with a number of recommendations,” she told the paper. “I didn’t get any response, or even an acknowledgement.” According to Michael Prue, who represented East York, councillors were “taking all the crap because Mel Lastman tells (the public) that everything’s wonderful and everything’s being fixed and I get phone call after phone call that it’s not that way.”

Additional material from the January 21, 1999 edition of Eye Weekly, January 19, 1999 edition of the Ontarion, the January 14, 1999, January 15, 1999, January 16, 1999, January 17, 1999, and January 11, 2009 editions of the Toronto Star, and the January 14, 1999, January 15, 1999, and January 16, 1999 editions of the Toronto Sun.
          Unauthorized Person On Subway Tracks Causes Morning Meltdown On 1/2/3        
Video: Unauthorized Person On Subway Tracks Causes Morning Meltdown On 1/2/3
BY JOHN DEL SIGNORE IN NEWS ON AUG 10, 2017 9:07 AM
 
This morning's rush hour commute turned into a considerably vexing experience for those poor souls trying to get to work along the 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 subway lines. The MTA says an "unauthorized person" on the trackbed at 14th Street is responsible for the delays, which have snarled multiple lines. One straphanger posted photos and video on Twitter of what she said was the individual in question:
 
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By 8:40 a.m., there was no 1 train service in either direction between South Ferry and 42nd Street Times Square. Southbound 1, 2, and 3 trains were terminating at 34th Street Penn Station, and some 2 trains were being rerouted along the 5 line between Nevins St and 149 St-Grand Concourse in both directions. This resulted in delays on the 4/5 lines.

 

At 72nd Street on the Upper West Side, stranded travelers received an evolving series of messages. At one point, an announcement encouraged everyone to vacate the station and try hailing a cab, find a bus, or walk to another subway station. Then confused straphangers were told, "This 1 train isn't moving for the foreseeable future. Your best bet is to take the bus or the express train and double back." Minutes later, an announcement came that trains would be moving again soon, which they eventually did.

One commuter at 125th Street emailed to report that on her stalled train, the conductor announced that all power had been turned off at 14th Street due to an unauthorized person running on the tracks, and police were trying to catch them. The detailed announcement appears to be part of a new effort on behalf of the MTA to give straphangers more information about the cause of delays.


DG3ut-GXsAAsvXZ.jpg

 

As of 9 a.m., the MTA said service had resumed with "extensive" delays. The MTA confirmed a "person was on the express tracks south of 14th Street, and was attempting to the touch the third rail, but we had turned off power." The unidentified person was taken into custody at 8:35 a.m.
 

The MTA could not immediately confirm if the person shown in the video and photos was the same individual who caused the delays.

 

UPDATE: An NYPD spokesperson said the unidentified man was taken into custody and removed from the subway at the Christopher Street station. The man, who appeared to be uninjured, was taken to Bellevue Hospital for evaluation.

 

Additional reporting by Aidan Gardiner

If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide: do not leave the person alone; remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt; and call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.

 
Contact the author of this article or email tips@gothamist.com with further questions, comments or tips.

Source: http://gothamist.com/2017/08/10/person_on_subway_tracks.php


-----

This isn't really news.  What is news is how often this is happening now.  My question is what are some short-term answers to help combat this ongoing problem?  I don't know if I support having those sliding doors installed on the tracks. I think it's too expensive to implement and will disrupt service too much.  The (MTA) has said that it is going to work diligently to reduce track fires that cause delays, but what are they doing to coordinate with the city to reduce the amount of unauthorized people walking or jumping onto the tracks?  To me this says that we have a problem in that we have too many people walking around in general that either aren't on their medication or should be in an institution rather than on the streets, and this is something that the (MTA) should be calling on the city to address.  If they're going to reduce delays, then these issues have to be addressed.


          Rail Design Led to Deadliness of Valhalla Metro-North Train Crash        

Rail Design Led to Deadliness of NY Train Crash: Official

 

The Metro-North Railroad train crashed into an SUV on the tracks at a crossing in Valhalla, about 20 miles north of New York City By Ida SiegalMichael Balsamo and Jennifer Peltz

 

Federal investigators have concluded that a fiery crash between a commuter train and an SUV that killed six people in the suburbs in 2015 was extra deadly because of an unusual rail design, a U.S. official told The Associated Press on Monday.

 

The Metro-North Railroad train crashed into an SUV on the tracks at a crossing in Valhalla, about 20 miles north of New York City. The impact sparked an explosion, and flames blasted into the passenger area, burning out the first car of the train. The driver of the SUV and five people aboard the train were killed. More than a dozen other people were injured.

 

National Transportation Safety Board investigators found that about 340 feet of electrified rail was pulled up from the ground, penetrated the SUV's fuel tank and then sliced into the train, according to the official, who was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation and spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity.

 

The rail was an under-running or under-riding design, in which a metal shoe slips underneath the electrified third rail, rather than skimming along the top. Questions were raised after the crash about whether the collision caused the shoe to pry up the third rail.

 

Metro-North, which operates in New York and Connecticut, is believed to be the only U.S. commuter railroad with the under-riding rail configuration.

 

NTSB investigators are also recommending risk assessments be conducted for grade crossings, the official said.

 

The board is scheduled to meet Tuesday in Washington, and investigators are expected to present their final report on the crash.

 

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates Metro-North, "will carefully review any safety recommendations" made by NTSB investigators, MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said.

 

Passengers were trapped in the fiery, mangled wreckage and tried to pry open the doors to escape. One passenger, whose hands, shirt and hair were on fire, shattered an emergency box and then pried the doors open before leading a group of passengers out of the wreckage.

 

The SUV's driver, Ellen Brody, had stopped in traffic on the tracks, between the lowered crossing gates. Witnesses said Brody got out of her Mercedes SUV to inspect the damage to her vehicle before driving forward and being struck by the oncoming train.

 

A data recorder showed the train's engineer hit the emergency brakes and sounded the horn as it bore down on the Valhalla crossing, traveling 58 mph in a 60 mph zone, the National Transportation Safety Board has said.

 

Brody's husband has filed a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit against Metro-North, its parent agency, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the train's engineer. The lawsuit alleges that the crash was caused by a badly designed grade grossing and improper warning signs.

"She just didn't know she was on a railroad track," Brody's husband, Alan Brody, said Monday. "The warning signals were invisible."

 

Alan Brody says his wife got stuck in traffic that fateful night and ended up on the tracks with no room to move forward or backward. He says the Commerce Street crossing where she lost her life has insufficient signage and warning lights and that it's inherently unsafe. 

 

"This crossing really should be shut," he said. "They need to straighten the road. They need to change the signs so you can actually see them." 

 

Witnesses at the time questioned why Ellen Brody didn't back up her car when the lever came down and it was apparent the train was coming.

 

"Once you understand all the pieces, and how they came together, I think people will have a deeper understanding of what's really wrong, what really happened, and yes, that she is innocent," Brody said.

 

Brody is heading to Washington to hear the NTSB's findings in person, and perhaps put to rest years of questioning why his wife was killed.

 

"I just feel that the story has to be told and understood, and this is the moment when we hope it will be," he said. 

 

 
Published at 6:17 PM EDT on Jul 24, 2017 | Updated at 8:19 PM EDT on Jul 24, 2017
 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC4 Washington

Source: Rail Design Led to Deadliness of NY Train Crash: Official | NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/national-international/NTSB-Metro-North-Valhalla-Ellen-Brody-SUV-Deadly-Train-Crash-436359043.html#ixzz4nrE7xRCD 


          Anti-Growth 'Make It Fair' Lobby Pushes For $9 Billion Tax Increase In California        
California voters approved the People’s Initiative to Limit Property Taxation (Proposition 13) in 1978. To this date, Proposition 13 stands as one of the most important advances in the history of American tax reform. The initiative, which decreased property taxes by assessing homes at their 1975 value, allowed thousands of families to stay in their homes; the skyrocketing property taxes would have forced many Californians (particularly working-class families and seniors on a fixed income) to move. Proposition 13 was (and is) so popular among California residents that many politicians consider it a “third rail” – changing or weakening it seems virtually unthinkable.
          UnionDocs Presents Inductive Thread at MoMA's Documentary Fortnight        
UnionDocs Presents Inductive Thread
February 20, 2010
New York, NY

As a viewer of documentary film in the cinematic sense, I was deeply challenged, yet profoundly informed by a strange, yet entertaining two-part experimental nonfiction film and essay production called “Inductive Thread,” presented by Brooklyn nonprofit UnionDocs during MoMA’s Documentary Fortnight. Inductive Thread combined short works that engaged multiple subjects and diverse aesthetic approaches to documentary arts. The key to this performance was “collaboration.” While each piece was directed by one or two people, it was the group of collaborators as a whole who nurtured each project from beginning to end, and each project was thread together to create one performance as a whole, hence its title, “Inductive Thread.”

The first part touched on the history of UnionDocs, its rotating body of participants, and their collaborative exploration of topics as diverse as the death of payphones and the popularity of currywurst. The second part was an investigation of myth in contemporary society. The excerpt from a larger ongoing project shared many inspirations, including the experimental laboratory of the Bauhaus and the collection of short but revelatory essays within Roland Barthes' classic 1957 text Mythologies.

Participating in the presentation were UnionDocs founders Christopher Allen, Executive Director; Jesse Shapins, Kara Oehler, and Johanna Linsley; along UnionDocs programmer, Steve Holmgren, and several other UnionDocs Collaborative participants. The following are highlights from the presentation.

Inductive Thread Part 1 – Presentation About UnionDocs

MoMA Film’s Sally Berger introduced the presentation bringing out Allen, who went over some background of UnionDocs, and Linsley, who described what would be taking place in both parts of the program. UnionDocs’ mission is to present a broad range of innovative and thought-provoking nonfiction projects to the general public while cultivating specialized opportunities in learning and critical discourse. It also creates collaboration for media makers and curators. The organization uses a broad definition of the word “documentary” taking an interdisciplinary approach encouraging the production of film, video, radio, written essay, photography, Internet and more. Linsley said they’ve had a big question as how to acknowledge the individual in group practices.  They settled on the word 'collaborative' instead to describe their activities, after trying out 'collective,' which felt wrong, like visions of a faceless mass.

The film presentation began with a very clever and funny mockumentary of sorts about UnionDocs titled “Time Capsule,” in which a time capsule is found in their building, which is actually a vacuum cleaner that apparently has never been changed in its five-year history. The vacuum bag is removed and dissected, revealing its unappealing contents made mostly of dried-up hair, dust, and other peculiar objects. A long piece of string that’s intertwined with the rest of the bag’s contents symbolizes the “Inductive Thread.”

Allen and Linsley continued by dividing the rest of Part 1 of the program into three parts (short videos were interspersed with each of the three parts) and I’ve provided a brief summation of each below:

1)   Assumptions:
a.     It’s useful for curious and concerned friends and collaborators to gather to watch documentaries on a Sunday night, it is more interesting if it is open to the public.
b.     Documentaries should be approached critically and the truths they claim should be questioned and debated.
c.      Merely watching, listening and discussing might not be enough to satisfy the curiosity and concern, the foundation for the endeavor. The consumption of the stories must be matched by creative work in order to be more fully digested, and presenting should be matched by processing, usefully blurring the line between creators and their audience.
2)   Associations:
For this, UnionDocs made a series of projects with payphones for the Conflux festival in 2006. They were interested in using this to think about the public, private, and possibly occult implications of living in the city.  UnionDocs also has a “living component” in that it has a lease on its whole building. Allen said he’s left the living aspect out of the conversation until now, because of the associations it comes with. “UnionDocs is not and has never been a commune, the set of a reality TV show, or worse, an experimental documentary frat house,” he said. Instead, UnionDocs a refuge from New York City’s distractions, an epicenter of activity for people who work days, have busy lives, and who can get things done and have a sense of continuity in their experience, if they are given the space.
3)   Renovations:
A better understanding of collaboration prompted the restructuring of UnionDocs and brought it closer to how it exists today.
a.     Process:
Collaboration requires openness to chance, structured communication, clearly defined separation of roles, dialogue and reflection, trust in your collaborators’ opinion and confidence in critique. Making lots of little inter-related pieces in a group creates a growing, somewhat unruly database of media that when brought together might make interesting results, such as their 20 hour-long radio shows for WKCR 89.9 FMNY. 
b.     Problems:
Collaboration is frustrating. You can't always get what you want, but sometimes you spend more time on process and get less product. You need lots of structure and considerable time for dialogue and discussion. There’s the risk of individuals’ ideas being exploited by others under the cover of collaboration, which can devolve in marketing language. Personal motivations must also be examined. Working in a group can sometimes be a way to hide from oneself.
c.      Benefits
                                               i.     Unexpected results.
                                              ii.     Valuable resources
                                            iii.     Inter-subjectivity

To conclude Part 1, UnionDocs Programmer Steve Holmgren held a dialogue with Allen about the state of funding for the organization, and how last year at this time, they had none, but with the help of an emergency grant from the Experimental Television Center, Allen used what money they received to work with a consultant rethinking how the organization might work. Out of that came the UnionDocs Collaborative Program – a one to two-year program for emerging media producers, theorists, and curators. Holmgren continued to explain the program with clips of more short videos interspersed.

Inductive Thread Part 2 – “Documenting Mythologies”

For Part 2 of Inductive Thread, “Documenting Mythologies,” audio of people talking and other ambient sounds transitioned from one pair of speakers to the next. Collaborative project directors Jesse Shapins and Kara Oehler introduced Part 2 saying that the collaborative is documenting mythology in contemporary society. A dialogue between continued where they deconstructed the meaning of myth in relation to documentaries. Myth is usually thought to be fiction. Documentaries are concerned with facts. This paradox might be what attracts us to the idea of trying to document mythology. The rhetorical question was asked, “Haven't mythologies been documented for centuries?” Homer could be considered a classic documentarian. He gathered the oral traditions of the Greeks and consolidated them into fixed narratives. But that’s not the only way to define mythology. French author Roland Barthes was given as an example. In his book Mythologies, he talks about myth in a different way.

Quotes from Barthes’ book followed such as, "I was at the time (between 1954 and 1956) trying to reflect regularly on some myths of French daily life. The starting point of these reflections was usually a feeling of frustration at the sight of the 'naturalness' with which newspapers, art and common sense constantly dress up reality. In short, I resented seeing Nature and History confused at every turn, and I wanted to track down, in the constant display of what-goes-without-saying, the ideological abuse which…in my view…is hidden there. Right from the start, the notion of myth seemed to me to explain these examples of the falsely obvious."

Barthes’ book is made up of short, surprising essays on topics you would have never considered thinking about as mythologies, as evidenced in the index with such topics as “The World of Wrestling,” “Operation Margarine,” “Toys,” “Wine,” Milk,” “Steak,” Chips,” “Plastic,” and more. Linsley said that “Plastic” was one of her favorite essays. Barthes gathered these topics by wandering through the streets of Paris. The book has the character of an author exploring the city with a heightened awareness. Paying attention to everything. Looking for new meanings in overlooked details of everyday life.

Next to present were Joshua Gen Solondz and Jolene Pinder, who were asked, “What is the form of myth?” Going back and forth, they asked “Fact or Myth?” showing a series of slides on screen such as:

[Slide of Kitten + fountain]
Fact or Myth?
Adding a water element to your home adds circulation and flow.

[Slide of Wedding fountain]
Fact or Myth?
Miniature fountains rank 7 out of 10 on a list of most popular wedding presents.

This was followed by their short documentary, “Little Fountains.”

The next presenter was Tina Antolini, who was asked, “Do you know how language is created?” Tina said that language, at its root, is composed of sound. Noise that we channel into symbols—letters we string them together to communicate with one another. How did a mouthful of syllables come to add up to a word? – And who’s responsible when that meaning shifts? As babies, we learn our first words. “Mother” gets a woman, a feeling attached to it. For most of our lives, it retains much of the definition  it had when we first pinned it to the woman who birthed us, fed us, cared for us. But other words assume new meanings—and come into them mysteriously. How did “dog”—once purely canine—become associated with a buddy or friend in certain circles? Or “awesome”—once reserved for qualities inspiring amazement—how has it come to imply a more general, even casual goodness? [Audio of the famous line “Whatever!” from the movie “Clueless” sounds]. Tina goes into the many associations of the word, “whatever.” Anything that sounds slangy will be associated with teenagers or street gangs or drug users, and especially things that are felt to be around the early to mid 1980s, they’ll say, people will say this is from Valley Girl talk. She also refers to the popular slang from Wayne’s World, “Not!”

Katia Maguire and Ben Brown are next asked, “Why do we believe in cause and effect?” With slides of political figures interspersed throughout, they said that cause and effect is something that even a country as great as ours cannot evade.  A thorough understanding of our nation’s rich history has proved this to us.  Our forefathers knew this, and put this into our country’s greatest document, the Constitution. However, we have to change the tone in Washington.  The political gridlock needs to be broken. No one likes to sit in traffic all day.  No one likes to hear that their Congressmen are squandering their hard earned tax dollars with partisan squabbles and petty arguments. Our children’s future is at stake.  Let me tell you a story about a little girl I met in our country’s heartland.  Her father off at war, her mother working two jobs to keep her home from being foreclosed and paying her skyrocketing health insurance bills.  We cannot have any child left behind. We all make mistakes.  I’m only human, and I never said I was perfect.  I knew that this would be a hard road to travel, and at times, we may veer off the path, but it’s time to move forward.  It’s time to move on as a nation.  We must let this healing process begin.  I’ve journeyed into the heartland of America, and I’ve spoken with real Americans, who all say the same thing.  We need real change.  But we also need to stick with our ideals, and our values as a nation.  What we need is a leader bold enough, brave enough, with the courage to reach out, to touch the third rail, and to once and for all really deal with the challenging and critical issues of our time.  

This is followed by the short video, “3rd Rail,” which shows the view from inside the front subway car looking out onto the dark subway tracks with bright, distorted lights illuminating the way.

Will Martin and Andres Almeida are next asked, “What sustains the myth that man is separate from nature?” They take photographs of the audience. A trumpet player is heard from in back of the audience.

Shawn Wen and Hyatt Michael are next asked, “Does this mean all of our motivations are aesthetic?” A slide of the color “red” is shown. They say that red is just light.  Red is light with wavelengths measuring 630 to 740 nanometers. Eve offered Adam red fruit.  Together, they sinned.  As her punishment, God decreed that she would bleed red. Oxygenated blood is red because of the presence of oxygenated hemoglobin. Red is the color of anger and passion, love and pain.  The red-blooded young man, Cain, was caught red-handed spilling the blood of his brother Abel. If the wavelength were any longer, light could not be seen by the naked eye.  Hence, infrared. Red stirs the blood.  Hester Prynne sewed the red letter A onto her breast as a symbol of her illicit love.  Red radiates at 480 to 405 teraherz. Red stop lights and red stop signs. Red warnings and red fire hydrants.  Red inflames the bull’s temper.  Red cars tend to get into more accidents.  The beaches of Normandy were stained red by soldiers' blood. Red is a primary color.

This is followed by the short video, “Hair is Alive,” which shows various strands of hair in water, doing funky wiggle waggles.

Robbie Wilkins and Rahul Chadha are next asked, “What myths are hidden within friendship? They ask each other a series of questions such as, “how many co-workers have you ever worked with in your entire life?” “How many relatives do you have?” If you take everyone of these people or connections, “what would you tell them about yourself?”

Audience Q and A

Allen, Linsley, Holmgren and all the other participants totaling 16 people, went on stage and sat on UnionDocs’ signature red-cushioned benches to take questions from the audience.

One question was, how much was the final product originally conceived as a multi-chapter performance? Allen said when everyone came on board last September; the intention was to create a collaborative project. They knew it would take some kind of form, just not exactly what. It would be a combination of individually produced works. They created a structure that collaborators responded to and were given assignments that went into a lot of different directions. They matched everyone up with a partner and gave them two or three myths, which they presented to the group, and the group voted which myth they thought was most interesting. There was always a sense that there would be some structure weaving the pieces together with a certain thematic conceptual framework. Later on in the Q and A, someone else on stage said that there was always a consistency in tone as the pieces evolved over the months they workshoped them together. Allen added that as a group and an organization, they have a deep interest in nonfiction, but they also have a lot of doubt about its ability to transmit reality or truth.

And how does the collaboration experience now shape their future work as individuals? Making work is a process; a lot of hours go into it, one of the young ladies on stage answered. It’s pushing something until you’re nauseous. Having one person to share that burden 12 other people to let some air into it, it helps a lot…to allow people to put their fingerprints on it. Another lad on stage added that even if you’re working by yourself, you’re influences by other people’s work, which is a kind of collaboration, too.

One woman in the audience said she was intrigued by the fact that they used Roland Barthes’ work as a departure point. How did the engagement of his work evolve over time as they were making these documentaries? Secondly, she asked if Chris could elaborate on UnionDocs’ doubt of nonfiction conveying reality. One gentleman on the panel said he found at the beginning the reading to be very inaccessible and frustrating. It was open to interpretation, and everyone had a different entry point to their pieces based on their understanding or frustration of the reading as an exercise. Another person added that in choosing Barthes, they felt there was something unique and particular about the ambiguity of all of his writings. It wasn’t a didactic theoretical text, it was something you could come back to again and again and always discover new layers. Essays as a genre are short pieces that allow themselves to open up. For the second question about their doubt of nonfiction conveying reality, Allen said it’s a combination of presenting work and having Q and As with filmmakers in the space, people getting the details of their representation, and trying to study this person that is the documentary filmmaker from a presenting point of view.

          Unknown Father Unknown Soldier        
June 18th, Friday. A day I always celebrate in a dismal sort of way. It falls five days before my birthday - it is the day my father died. This year, it also happened that the day before I finally met my sister, from his side, for the first time. We went to Rose Hills Cemetery and we tended our father's, grandfather's and grandmother's graves by cleaning them up and putting flowers. We sat there and talked, took photos and offered a libation of beer to them (well the bottle kept tipping over dad's grave so he got what was left). Because of this new found and incredibly powerful relationship I have found, I want to share the little of what I have. I gave my sister copies of the pictures I had of my father along with copies of his birth and death certificate.
I look forward to obtaining copies of the investigation that was done years after his death for both us. Copies of my grandfather's WWII military record.

This time of year I keep my ancestors, and my father particularly, close in my thoughts and heart. I don't carry any memories of him even though I carry pictures and I always wondered of his character. Of that which others say. I wonder what influence he had in me, indirectly. I wonder of the influence my ancestors have within my family, and what of it still lingers on in the blood, in the daily interactions with each other and what sort of luck or fortune has been passed through the lineage. The Norse called this Hamingja.

I've never been one to directly experience the dead. My mom is, however. Now it seems, she sees them on constant basis in her new home. She even saw my father on the day he died while she was overseas, in her house - and she knew. No, I have never felt my father, or my grandfathers, or great-great grandfather nearby even though I honor and think of them. Makes me feel lonely during these times.

On Wednesday - a day before I would meet my sister - I was walking home listening to my podcasts, when I came upon a section of this one episode. It's an an old episode of This American Life, to which I have filled my iPod with. It is moving, heartbreaking and in such a peculiar moment of my life that it hurt - What was the last thing he saw?



Unknown Solider

[...]
So give my eyes to the eye bank,
give my blood to the blood bank.
Make my hair into switches,
put my teeth into rattles,
sell my heart to the junkman.
Give my spleen to the mayor.
Hook my lungs to an engine.
Stretch my guts down the avenue.
Stick my head on a pike,
plug my spine to the third rail,
throw my liver and lights to the winner.
Grind my nails up with sage and camphor
and sell it under the counter.
Set my hands in the window as a reminder.
Take my name from me and make it a verb.
Think of me when you run out of money.
Remember me when you fall on the sidewalk.
Mention me when they ask you what happened.
I am everywhere under your feet.

-Luc Santé

Happy Father's day, Dad.


          Is tax reform even possible?        
From the Daily Record:

Critics say talk bogs down progress; Democratic lawmakers urge patience

So what happens when you put a sacred cow, a third rail and an 800-pound gorilla all on a table?

So far, not much.

Nearly two months into lawmakers' efforts to curb property taxes by tackling some of New Jersey's most politically charged and expensive elements of government -- Gov. Jon S. Corzine lumped together those metaphors in a July speech to lawmakers --committee hearings have mostly resulted in dry, academic discussions that often outline what cannot be done rather than what money-saving options exist.

Some critics are frustrated at the pace of progress on the long-standing issue, but with another two months left until the Democrats' self-imposed deadline to propose their solutions, legislative leaders said last week that they are laying the foundation for reform by closely studying the complex issues involved and expect their plans to take shape over the next month -- even if the hearings might be putting people to sleep, said state Senate President Richard J. Codey, D-Essex.
...
William Dressel Jr., executive director of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities and one of the most vocal advocates for property tax reform, said lawmakers are learning firsthand how difficult the subject is, and he has doubts that they will have meaningful solutions in place by Nov. 15.

"There is no easy solution to dealing with a very complex problem," Dressel said. "I think they realize that there is not going to be a broad-based meaningful property tax relief served to them on a silver tray."

          Can Bourbon Save Social Security        
Can Bourbon Save Social Security
So I know what you are about to say, what does Bourbon have to do with Social Security.  Well nothing in regards to the distilled spirit itself.  But a possible excised tax could save the day.  Our Founding Fathers have used an excised tax on Spirits three times in American history to pay for wars.  Washington did it to pay for Revolutionary war debts.  The Great Whiskey Rebellion eventually forced a repeal.  But then Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln both used a Spirits Tax to pay for their respective wars; War of 1812 and the Civil War.  Today the Federal Government does not have tax on spirits, they leave that up to the state governments. Fast forward to today.  Social Security has been called the Third Rail of politics.  A subject that politicians do not want to tackle for fear of being ousted from their jobs.  So what are the three biggest problems with Social Security and possible solutions. The number of people receiving benefits is growing faster than the...
          A HISTORY OF DUBLIN AND LAURENS COUNTY, GEORGIA        
The Native American Millennia





Laurens County was first inhabited by the American Indian about ten thousand years ago. The first inhabitants were organized into small groups known as bands. These bands predominately settled along the creeks and rivers in the area. Over the years the Indians were categorized as Creek Indians while they were, in fact, several different groups. This area was occupied by the Creeks, Seminoles, Hitchiti, Yamassee, and Uchee (Yuchi), among others. The Lower Uchee Trail ran from lower Alabama to the Augusta area. The trail entered the county from the southwest following Highway 26 which turns into Blackshear's Ferry Road. The trail crossed the Oconee at Carr's Bluff opposite the Country Club and ran into Highway 319, thence toward Augusta. This trail and others helped in the development of our area in the late 18th century.



One village site, the Sawyer site at Fish Trap Cut, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The site contains two mounds which were constructed in the 13th Century during the Mississippian mound building period. University of Georgia anthropologists recently discovered that between the two mounds are the remains of a Woodland Period village. This village, which was first occupied about 200 B.C., is the oldest known site of its kind in Georgia.



Several Spanish expeditions were conducted in the Laurens County area during the 16th and 17th centuries. The most famous of these was Hernando de Soto, who came near this area in 1540. Historians and scientists have debated for years over De Soto's exact route. Today the prevailing theory is that the explorer crossed the Oconee River above Laurens County. It also stands to reason that DeSoto or some of his patrols passed through what was originally Laurens County. The Spanish government set up a mission south of here at the Forks of the Altamaha. Spanish missionary, Father Chozas, visited this area in 1597. He told of the "Diamond Mountain" and barely escaped with his scalp between here and the forks of the Ocmulgee and the Oconee where the village of Tama is said to have been located. Juan de Lara returned to this area five years later to look for survivors of earlier expeditions. The Spanish established a mission at Tama about 1680 but soon abandoned it. The English attempted to colonize the area, but the plan was abandoned. The Uchee and the Oconee in this area were subjected to a brutal invasion in 1695 from other Indians to the south. The Oconee traveled south to Florida, which was controlled by Spain. The Oconee tribe evolved into a tribe we know today as the Seminoles. The Indians left this area in the latter part of the 17th Century and the early 18th Century. The lands of Ocute gradually became nothing more than hunting grounds for the Uchee.







The Post Revolutionary War Period





After the Revolution, Georgia acquired all of the land between the Ogeechee and Oconee Rivers. The entire area was known as Washington County. The first owners of the new lands were soldiers of the Continental Army. Later lands were granted under the headright system to heads of household. Among the earliest settlers in what became Laurens County were David Blackshear, Elijah Blackshear, Joseph Blackshear, William Bracken, John Brewton, William Brewton, William Bush, John Culpepper, Thomas Fort, Benjamin Harrison, Blasingame Harvey, Peter Messer, and William Neel. The State of Georgia established a Fort Telfair at Carr's Bluff in 1792. The fort was among a series of forts placed at strategic points along the eastern bank of the Oconee River, but were too far apart to prevent all Indian intrusions into Georgia. Troubles with the Indians plagued the new settlers until 1795, when Benjamin Harrison of Montgomery County massacred seventeen Indians while they were on a friendly visit in the area. The incident nearly precipitated a war. Diplomats prevailed, and hostilities ceased.



On December 19, 1793, most of present day eastern Laurens County was placed in Montgomery County. During the 1790s, George Walton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and William Few, a signer of the Constitution, presided in the Superior Court of Montgomery County.



A portion of present day northern Laurens County was included in the Trans Oconee Republic. The fledgling country was founded by Gen. Elijah Clarke, Georgia's hero of the Revolution. With a show of military might, Jared Irwin forced his friend, Elijah Clarke, to leave the country's capital, which was located just above Toomsboro.



With the defacto removal of the Indians beyond the Ocmulgee already accomplished, the Indian nations sold the lands between the Oconee and Ocmulgee Rivers to Georgia. On May, 11, 1803, Wilkinson County was created and encompassed a portion of western Laurens County. These new lands were granted under a lottery system to all eligible residents of Georgia in 1805. The remainder of western Laurens County was granted to settlers in the Land Lottery of 1807. Most of the early settlers came from the Carolinas and Virginia, or indirectly from other parts of Georgia. Their heritage was mostly English, Scottish and Irish, with a few families of German heritage. On August 1, 1807, Poplar Springs Baptist Church was established in central Wilkinson County. This church, which is now located in Laurens County and is still in existence, has the oldest church congregation west of the Oconee River in Georgia.









1807 - 1819:

The Creation of Laurens County and It's Early Years





On December 10, 1807, nearly one- third of Wilkinson County was cut off to form the new county of Laurens. The county was named in honor of Col. John Laurens. Col. Laurens, Gen. George Washington's aide, worked with Benjamin Franklin in securing more French funding and military support to bring the Revolutionary War to an end. Col. Laurens was killed at Combachee, South Carolina, after the British surrender at Yorktown.



The original county seat of Laurens County was located at Sumpterville on Turkey Creek about five miles west of Dublin. The first court was held in the home of Peter Thomas, which was located on the Uchee Trail west of Thomas' Crossroads. Presiding was Judge Peter Early, who later became Governor of Georgia. The first Solicitor General was Elijah Clark, a son of Gen. Elijah Clarke. The first county officers were: Clerk of Superior Court Amos Love, Sheriff James Thompson, Clerk of Inferior Court James Yarborough, Surveyor John Thomas and Coroner William Yarborough. The first justices chosen to sit on the Inferior Court of Laurens County were: Thomas Davis, Thomas Gilbert, Edmund Hogan, William O'Neal, and Peter Thomas. In 1809, Laurens County lost a great portion of its lands to the new county of Pulaski. One Laurens County resident, who became a resident of Pulaski County, was a young boy by the name of James Fannin. Fannin lived with his maternal grandfather, George Walker, a one year resident of what was Laurens County. Fannin, with two years of military training at West Point, went to Texas in 1834, where he led Texas forces in the war against Mexico. Fannin and four hundred of his men were executed by the Mexican army at Goliad, Texas, three weeks after the infamous "Battle of the Alamo."



A new group of settlers arrived in the early 1800s. They included Amos Love, Henry Fuqua, Josiah Warren, Jethro Weaver, David McCormick, Hardy Smith, Benjamin Hampton, Jethro Spivey, Thomas Moore, Gilliard Anderson, Alexander Stringer, Noah Stringer, Benjamin Daniel, Elisha Ballard, Dennis McLendon, William O'Neal, John Guyton, Charles Guyton, Moses Guyton, Samuel Yopp, Jeremiah Yopp, James Stanley, Ira Stanley, Jonathan Sawyer, John Clark, and Thomas McCall. Most of the county's residents settled in the northern half of the county where the soil was more fertile. The 1810 Census enumerated 2210 Laurens Countians with just more than three-quarters of that number being free whites and one quarter being slaves.



With the loss of new lands, local leaders sought to obtain more lands. The legislature agreed and in 1811 annexed extreme portions of northwestern Montgomery and southwestern Washington counties into Laurens. With new lands to the east, the Justices of the Inferior Court decided that the county seat should be located nearer to the center of the county. The justices chose a plateau nearly a mile from the Oconee River. Just across the river to the east was a riverside community known as Sandbar. It was settled by merchant Jonathan Sawyer in 1804.



In June of 1811, Sawyer was appointed postmaster of a new post office. Sawyer's wife, Elizabeth McCormick, was a native of Baltimore, Maryland and a progeny of Dublin, Ireland. She died in childbirth a couple of years before. Sawyer, as postmaster, was given the right to choose the name of the new post office, which he named Dublin, in honor of the capital of his wife's ancestral homeland. On December 13, 1811, the legislature appointed Jonathan Sawyer, Jethro B. Spivey, John G. Underwood, Benjamin Adams, and Henry Shepherd to act as commissioners of the courthouse and other public buildings granting unto them the power "to lay out and sell such a number of lots as may be sufficient to defray the expenses of such public buildings as they may think necessary." The town was chartered on December 9, 1812 by an act of the legislature. The town's original commissioners were Neil Munroe, Lewis Kennon, William Tolbert, Eli Shorter and Henry Shepard. The original city limits extended a distance of 250 yards in all directions from Broad Street. Eventually, the streets of the town were named for American Presidents and heroes of the American Revolution and the War of 1812.



Among the early settlers of Laurens County was Thomas McCall, Surveyor General of Georgia in the 1780's. McCall, who served in the North Carolina militia in the American Revolution, was known throughout the South as a master winemaker, cultivating the natural grapes of the area and experimenting with imported varieties as well on his "Doll Neck" plantation near Fish Trap Cut. Gov. John Clarke, son of Gen. Elijah Clarke and bitter enemy of Gov. George Troup, owned a large tract of land in eastern Laurens County. Jonathan Sawyer, Dublin's founder, went to Darien, where he was a founding director of the Bank of Darien in 1818, the strongest bank south of Philadelphia.



The Oconee River and old Indian trails were the only methods of transportation. The old roads were improved. New ones were cut by the male citizens of the county and their slaves. William Neel and George Gaines established ferries across the Oconee at Sandbar prior to the formation of Laurens County. Jared Trammel established the first Laurens County ferry in 1808. That ferry was purchased by David Blackshear in 1823 and consolidated with Blackshear's old ferry. Laurens County took over the operation of the Gaines Ferry, which operated until the railroad bridged the river in 1891. Blackshear's Ferry ran under county supervision until 1947.



Shortly after Dublin was chartered, the United States entered the War of 1812 with Great Britain. The Georgia government organized an expedition which assembled at Dublin in July. Their mission was to beat the British to St. Augustine in an effort to protect the southern flank of Georgia. On the southern front the United States fought the British-supported Indians. General David Blackshear of Laurens County was ordered to command several divisions of Georgia Militia headquartered at Fort Hawkins. Gen. Blackshear served as a delegate to the Electoral College on three occasions, in 1800 when he voted for Thomas Jefferson, in 1828, when he voted for Andrew Jackson and in 1832, when as chairman of the delegation, again voted for Andrew Jackson as President of the United States.



While most muster rolls from Laurens County have not survived, many of the county's young men served in the armies formed to protect the front along the Ocmulgee River. The only known casualties were William Kemp and John Perry, soldiers in the United States Army. Ezekiel Attaway was cited for bravery during the Georgia militia's attack on Autossee in southern Alabama in 1813, a battle which saw the commanding general John Floyd fall in action. After the battle, David Blackshear took over command of the Georgia forces. In 1818, the Laurens County Dragoons, under the command of Jacob Robinson, participated in an unfortunate massacre of defenseless members of a Cheehaw Indian Village.



Near the end of the second decade of the 19th century, river traffic began to arrive in Dublin. Lands along the river were sold at a premium. The result was a period of short lived economic growth. Coastal Georgia merchants opened stores in Dublin. Among these merchants was Andrew Low, the uncle of the Savannah man of the same name who was featured in Eugenia Price's novels. Roswell King, overseer of the Butler Plantation and the founder of Roswell, Georgia, owned a store building on the courthouse square.



The Laurens County Academy was incorporated in 1819. Most of the early schools were conducted in the churches. Other academies established in the early 1830s were Troup, Dublin, Buckeye, and Laurens Hill.



Dublin planter, Henry Fuqua, was credited with being the first person to discover the feasibility of using cotton seed as a fertilizer. By the end of the first full decade of the county's history, the population of the county swelled to 5436. The total increase of 146%, boosted by a 400% in slave population, resulted in the largest single population increase of any county in the state.







1820s to 1850s: The Antebellum Decades





With no banks and no railroads, Dublin virtually faded away before the Civil War. Four land lotteries opened the remaining portions of Georgia over the next dozen years. The migration into western and southwestern Georgia caused a toll in the county's population from 1820 to 1840. Capt. Basil Hall, of the English Royal Navy, came to Dublin in the early spring of 1828. Capt. Hall noted the appearance of a withering and decaying economy in Dublin. He found free whites and slaves working in the fields together. To his astonishment, he found the slaves here were treated much better and were clothed much better than those in the coastal counties. In 1830, Macon newspaper man Simri Rose described Dublin as "a town containing but few inhabitants - most of the buildings are decaying and many unoccupied. Considerable calculations appear to have once been made on it as a place for business and many stores were erected, which are now, except for four or five, fast crumbling to the earth. This place has always been considered unhealthy and sometimes proved so. The value of its property has declined to the lowest ebb, and its general aspect of decay is calculated to create somber and unpleasant feelings."



Many people left Laurens, including Dr. Ambrose Baber, who later became a U.S. Minister to Sardinia. James S. Moore, son of Dublin's first physician, Dr. Thomas Moore, graduated from West Point in 1829, along with future Generals Robert E. Lee and Joseph Johnston and moved to another state. Eli Shorter, Dublin's first lawyer, became prominent in legal affairs in Columbus. Ga. in the 1820s.



From 1820 to 1840 the population increased by only 149 persons. Only a few residences and stores were to be found. Antebellum plantations were scattered across the northern portions of the county. The major plantations were owned by the Tuckers, Yopps, Guytons, Troups, Whites, Harvards, Hamptons, O'Neals, Thomases, Blackshears, Kellams, Greens, Weavers, Coneys, and Stanleys.



Most of southwestern Laurens County was a forest of virgin pine trees. Scottish cattlemen settled in the southern extremities of Laurens County. The Scots came to Montgomery County during the War of 1812 to raise fine beef cattle beneath the trees and in the wiregrass pastures. They were America's first cowboys when this part of Georgia was actually the southwestern United States. Nearly a half century later, U.S. government experts estimated that the virgin pine timber amounted to a billion board feet. That is enough timber to build a four inch wide plank to the moon and back.



Laurens County's most well known resident moved here in the early 1810s. George M. Troup served in the House and Senate of the United States from 1806 to 1818. Troup lived on the old River Road just above I-16 on his Valdosta Plantation. His two other plantations, Valambrosa and Thomas Cross Roads, were located east and northeast of Dudley. George Troup was one of the largest slave owners in Laurens County. Many descendants of those slaves still live in Laurens County. One of his slaves was Isaac Jackson, known to many as "Old Isaac." Isaac was credited as being the last surviving slave of President George Washington.



In 1822, George Troup was elected Governor of Georgia in the last regular election by the legislature. Two years later he became the first governor of Georgia to be elected by popular vote. Gov. Troup oversaw the acquisition of the last remaining Indian lands in Georgia. His actions brought the threat of military action by the United States if Georgia's expansionary practices were not halted. Gov. Troup returned to the United States Senate following his two terms as Governor. Gov. Troup's son, George M. Troup, Jr., was the first Laurens Countian to graduate from the University of Georgia. The governor's daughter, Florida, married into the famous Bryan/Forman family of the Altamaha Delta of Georgia.



Gov. Troup sought the aid of his first cousin, William McIntosh, in the acquisition of Indian lands. McIntosh, half Scottish and half Creek Indian, was Chief of the Lower Creeks and a military leader, who was allied with the Americans against the British in the War of 1812. McIntosh visited Troup on a regular basis. One legend states that the chief stayed at his reservation at Well Springs, about eight miles below Dublin, while visiting Gov. Troup. Chief McIntosh sent his children to school in Dublin during his visits. William McIntosh was attacked and murdered by upper Creeks for his part in the sale of Indian lands. His son, Chili, who went to school in Dublin, escaped and later became the first state school superintendent in Oklahoma.



During the first three years of Governor's Troup's terms in office, his personal secretary Mirabeau Bonaparte Lamar lived in Troup's Valdosta home. In 1830, Lamar moved to Columbus, Georgia, where he established "The Columbus Enquirer." He joined the army of Texas after the fall of the Alamo. Colonel Lamar led the cavalry at the battle of San Jacinto and later became a major general and commander in chief of the army. Lamar served as Secretary of War in the interim administration of President David G. Burnet's cabinet. In September of 1836, in the first national election in the Republic of Texas, he was elected as the first vice-president of Texas. Two years later, when President Sam Houston could not succeed himself as President, Lamar was elected as the second president of Texas. Lamar fought in the Mexican War of 1845 as a Lt. Colonel. In the last two years of his life, Lamar served as Ambassador to Nicaragua and Costa Rica.



During the mid 1830s, the railroads first came to Georgia. The Central of Georgia Railroad planned to build a railroad from Savannah to Macon. The straightest line ran through Dublin and Laurens County. Local residents led by Governor Troup forced the railroad to the north. Ironically their actions kept Dublin and Laurens County away from the route of the right wing of General William T. Sherman's army during its "March to the Sea."



The first documented tornado in Laurens County quickly struck Dublin on April 6, 1831 doing considerable damage to buildings, trees and fences. One man lost a part of his ear when a remnant projectile of an old building whizzed by his head. The most celebrated meteor shower in the history of the United States awed and frightened most Laurens Countians on November 13, 1833. A total eclipse of the sun occurred on November 30, 1834 with the path of totality passing over Laurens County. The superstitious and the uneducated believed that "judgement day" had come. February 8, 1835 is still known to have been the coldest day in the history of Georgia. Temperatures fell locally to nine degrees, below zero.



The last of the so called "Indian Troubles" took place in 1836. General Eli Warren was in command of the militia in Laurens and surrounding counties. In May 1836, Capt. George M. Troup, Jr. led the Laurens Volunteers as a part of the state's expedition to finally rid the state of Indian depredations against its citizens. Other officers in the company were Lt. Newman McBain, 2nd Lt. Thomas N. Guyton and Ensign Edward J. Blackshear.



Politics were as heated as ever in the 1830s and 1840s. Martin Van Buren did not receive a single vote in the 1836 presidential election. He quadrupled that total in losing the election to William Henry Harrison in 1840. By the 1840s, most of the county's democratic voters began to shift their allegiance to the Whig Party, an unlikely alliance of Southern democrats and northern liberals. Alexander Hamilton Stephens, the future Vice President of the Confederate States of America, became Laurens County's first elected congressman in 1843.



Court times were the only busy times in Dublin. Among the visiting lawyers were Charles J. Jenkins and Herschel V. Johnson, future governors of Georgia, and Judge Arthur E. Cochran, brother of Dublin attorney John Cochran, namesake of Cochran, Georgia and President of the Macon and Brunswick Railroad. Rev. David Daniell of Laurens County founded the First Baptist Church of Atlanta in 1847. George Troup reluctantly ran for president of the United States as a State Rights Candidate in 1848.



Judge Cochran married Eugenia Tucker, daughter of Dr. Nathan Tucker, who was one of Laurens County's largest land and slave owners. Miss Tucker attended Wesleyan College in Macon, where she became the founder and first president of the Aldephian Society, which later became the college sorority Alpha Delta Pi and was the world's first secret collegiate society for women. Isabella "Carrie" Hamilton, the future Mrs. Everard H. Blackshear of Laurens County, was the first student to enter Wesleyan in 1836, when it became the first state chartered college for women in America.



Two former residents, Lott Warren and James L. Seward, served in the Congress of the United States in the 1840s and 1850s respectively. Laurens County was saddened in 1856 by the death of the venerable Gov. George M. Troup. Dr. Peter Early Love, a Laurens County native who also practiced law and sat on the bench of the Superior Court, was elected to Congress in 1859. Congressman Love was one of the Georgia congressmen who resigned their seats when the Ordinance of Secession was passed. James Seward attended the devise 1860 Democratic National Conventions, which helped to only guarantee the election of Abraham Lincoln and the South's secession from the Union in 1861.



Boiling Springs Methodist Church was built in 1851. It still stands today as the oldest wooden church in the South Georgia Conference of the Methodist Church. The Rev. John McGehee began his service as the first pastor of the First Methodist Church in Dublin in 1854. Rev. McGehee served for 63 years, making him the longest serving active pastor and presiding elder in Georgia Methodism. In 1854, Laurens County erected a poor house and later a poor farm on the land now occupied by the Law Enforcement Center and Southern Pines Recreational Complex. The facility was used until the 1930s and remained in use as a prisoner work farm until the 1960s. Laurens County rapidly became an agricultural center of east central Georgia. With its enormous size and multitude of slaves cotton and wool production began to soar.



In 1860, the county's largest slave owners were Oralie Troup, daughter of Governor George M. Troup, Thomas Foreman, grandson of the governor, and the Blackshear brothers, Edward, Elijah and Everard. Other large slave owners were Hayden Hughes, Nathan Tucker, Ashley Vickers, Cullen O'Neal, Willis Brazeal, J.T. Fullwood, Mary Coney, and Joseph M. White. Two Hundred and twenty-seven persons owned 3,269 slaves, which constituted nearly forty-seven percent of the county's seven thousand residents.



On the eve of the Civil War, the civil government of Dublin had all but disappeared. On December 20, 1860, the Town of Dublin was reincorporated under a commissioner form of government. James F. Robinson, George Currell, W. S. Ramsay, Joel E. Perry, and John B. Wolfe were appointed commissioners under the new form of government.







The War Between The States - 1861-1865





James L. Seward, a former Laurens Countian and member of Congress, attended the 1860 Democratic National Convention in Charleston, South Carolina. Set in the center of a brewing maelstrom, the divided delegates could not produce a candidate to defeat the rapidly rising Republican party under the leadership of Abraham Lincoln. It may be noted that Herschel V. Johnson, a former Georgia governor, United States Senator, and frequent practicing attorney in Laurens County, was on one of the three split Democratic tickets as a vice-presidential candidate. Laurens County sent Jeremiah Yopp and Dr. Nathan Tucker, two of the county's largest slaveholders, as delegates to the Secession Convention in 1861. Dr. Tucker voted no on the issue of secession, thereby giving the county a split delegation. Though the delegation was split in its desires to remain in the Union, the popular vote for remaining as a part of the United States was an overwhelming sixty-seven percent. The landslide vote did not include any female votes, nor any votes of slaves. Obviously, a true poll of the voters' beliefs would have been an overwhelming veto of the movement toward secession. After the war, Ashley Vickers, a wealthy and influential planter, wrote to President Andrew Johnson stating that he was against secession and tried to convince all of his friends to remain with the Union. Many of the neighboring counties to the east also voted against leaving the Union.



Despite the fact that more than two thirds of all Laurens Countians voted against secession, Laurens County furnished nearly seven hundred men to the armies of the 14th, 49th, 57th, and 63rd Georgia Infantry Regiments of the Confederate States Army and several companies of the Georgia Militia and Reserves.



Laurens Countians fought in all of the major battles of the war with the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Tennessee. Sgt. Daniel Mason of Laurens County was the first to fall. Mason was wounded in the first battle of the war at Manassas and died several weeks later. Seven sons of Eason and Eliza Weaver Green enlisted in the Southern Army. Whiteford S. Ramsay and C.S. Guyton of Dublin were appointed Colonels in the Confederate Army. Col. Ramsay was appointed a Lt. Colonel a month after his 22nd birthday, making him one of the youngest colonels in the Confederate army. Lt. Col. Guyton, the highest ranking Laurens County officer during the war, was given temporary command of Mercer's Brigade just after the brigade began the Battle of Atlanta. Dublin lawyer, Capt. Young Anderson, served as Quartermaster of the famed Cobb's Legion.



William H. "Bill" Yopp, a former slave, served as a private in Co. H. of the 14th Georgia. He earned the nickname of "Ten Cent Bill" when he was doing chores for his fellow soldiers. Private Yopp is the only African-American Confederate soldier buried in the National Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia. Three former slaves, Myers Blackshear, George Hozendorf and Francis Hughes, enlisted in the Union Navy in 1863 and served until the end of the war.



Elijah Curl, a Laurens County private in the 49th Georgia, was given some credit for firing the shot that killed Gen. Phillip Kearney, the highest ranking Union officer killed in the Civil War. A few Laurens Countians were members of the 48th Georgia Infantry which assaulted and overran Federal positions on Cemetery Ridge on July 2, 1863 at Gettysburg the day before Gen. Pickett's failed charge marked the "high water mark of the Confederacy." A small commissary was established by the Confederate Government at Laurens Hill on the Cochran Road near Dudley and Montrose. Future Dubliner Alex Moffett served in the Macon Volunteers with Georgia's most famous poet, Sidney Lanier. In the early months of 1864, Laurens Countians serving in the 57th Ga. Infantry, were assigned as guards at Andersonville Prison. Dr. Andrew J. Lamb, who practiced medicine in Laurens County after the war, left his infantry regiment and volunteered for service in the Confederate Navy. He was assigned to the C.S.S. Virginia, which was refitted with an iron hull and was also known as the Merrimac. In 1862, the Merrimac engaged the U.S.S. Monitor in one of the most famous one on one naval battles in the history of the World.



Laurens County itself avoided the war for the most part. General Joseph Wheeler, C.S.A. led his four thousand cavalrymen in a river crossing at Blackshear's Ferry in November of 1864 in an attempt to flank the right wing of Gen. Sherman's army. Gen. Samuel Ferguson and his Mississippi Cavalry spent a few days in Laurens County protecting against an anticipated mission by Sherman's forces to capture Andersonville prison. In late November of 1864, the closest battle to Laurens County occurred at Ball's Ferry near where Georgia Highway 57 crosses the Oconee River in Wilkinson County. Sherman's right wing was delayed for a few days by military cadets, prisoners and their guards, and the local Washington County militia. Legend has it that Major James B. Duggan and an elderly lady tricked a Union cavalry unit into thinking that they were Wheeler's Cavalry. Their actions at the Lightwood Knot Bridge on the Toomsboro Road saved Chappell's, then Stanley's Mill, from destruction by the "Yankees." Chappell's Mill still stands in the northern part of the county. The mill was closed in the 1990s after nearly 180 years of operation.



In the summer of 1863, the Confederate government leased a 3,000 acre tract of land from Dr. Thomas A. Parsons for the location of an infirmary for diseased and broken horses. The institution, under the command of Capt. J.G. McKee, was located at the very top of Laurens County along the eastern banks of the Oconee River and accommodated thousands of horses in hopes that they would recuperate and once again be of service to the Confederate Army.



In the days following General Lee's surrender at Appomattox, Laurens Countians wondered what the future held for them. Future Dubliner Louisa Kohn Baum attended the play "Our American Cousin" and witnessed the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Little did Laurens Countians know they would be witnesses to history within a month. Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, left Richmond before it fell. Davis traveled south in an attempt to escape to England or Texas.



On May 6, 1865, Davis and his escorts reached Sandersville. His family and the members of the Confederate Cabinet were traveling in a wagon train on a separate route. At Ball's Ferry in Washington County, Davis learned of a plot to rob the train. Davis traveled down the river road frantically looking for his family. They met at the home of E.J. Blackshear, son of Gen. David Blackshear. After a short rest and breakfast, the wagon train crossed the Oconee at dawn. Davis moved down the east bank of the river crossing below Dublin. Confederate Postmaster General John Reagan stopped the train in front of F.H. Rowe's store on the courthouse square. Rowe, a native of Connecticut and a loyal southerner, directed the Confederates along the Telfair Road. Davis spent that night at the southern tip of Laurens County between the forks of Alligator Creek.



That same night the Wisconsin Cavalry reached the Dublin Ferry. Col. Harnden was sent east from Macon in hopes of picking up Davis' trail. Col. Harnden was informed by former slaves of a small wagon train crossing the ferry earlier in the morning and that one of the men was called "Mr. President." When the cavalry arrived in Dublin, they were misdirected by Rowe, who sent them down the River Road east of the Telfair Road. Had the cavalry been sent a day earlier, Davis would have been captured in Laurens County. A day or two later, Davis might have escaped capture entirely. Davis and his party were captured two days later in Irwinville, Georgia. John Davis, the presidential carriage driver, returned to Laurens County to marry Della Conway, whom he met while he was in Dublin. The Davises lived here for the rest of the 19th century.



Gen. John C. Breckinridge, a former Vice - President of the United States, and Judah P. Benjamin, Secretary of State of the Confederacy, were right behind Davis and his party. Both men barely avoided capture in Laurens County and escaped to England.









The 1860s and 1870s: Reconstruction and Resurrection





The Reconstruction period was a difficult time for Laurens countians. Nearly half of the soldiers were killed, wounded, or captured during the war. One of those wounded men was Col. Jonathan Rivers. Col. Rivers, a Wilkinson County attorney and former Judge of the Court of Ordinary of that county, moved to Dublin in 1866. Col. Rivers, commanding officer of the 49th Ga. Infantry, survived two amputations. Rivers practiced law in Dublin from 1866 to 1873. Col. William H. Wylly, former Lt. Colonel of the 25th Georgia Infantry, C.S.A., practiced law in Dublin for a brief period in the latter part of the 1870s. Moses Guyton, a former Laurens County teenage soldier of the Confederacy, was named valedictorian of the graduating class of 1869 at the University of Georgia. Those surviving soldiers came back to a home which would never be the same.



Rev. George Linder was elected to the state legislature in 1868, becoming the county's first black representative by a virtually racial equal electorate. Rev. Linder founded three A.M.E. churches in Laurens County. Ten former slaves, Madison Moore, Billy Coates, Tempy Stanley, Jack Robinson, Thomas Allen, Isaac Jackson, Frances Thompkins, Emily Horn, Daisy Wilson and Llewellyn Blackshear, reportedly lived well into their twelfth decades. Robinson, the oldest of the five, died in 1872 at the age of 118 years. Most of the former slaves took the surnames of their masters or men they respected. Among the many African - American families in this category were the Stanleys, Yopps, Guytons, Kellams, Blackshears, Whites, Perrys, Thomases, O'Neals, Coneys, and Troups. Many former slaves like George Linder, Crawford Lord, Ringold Perry and Madison Moore established large farms on their former master's lands.



The county's first corporation was established in 1868. F. H. Rowe, M. C. Holloway and John W. Yopp, of Laurens County, J. A. Brown, of Randolph County, John B. Wright, of Johnson County, and T. L. Brown, of Washington County, formed the Dublin Manufacturing Company for the manufacturing of cotton and wool, for the grinding of grain, and for the manufacture and repair of machinery.



The 1870s brought the genesis of the new age in Laurens County. Dublin and Laurens County were on the verge of a boom. The Laurens County Board of Education was established in 1872. Rev. W.S. Ramsay was appointed the first school commissioner. Richard "Dick" Hicks established Lee Academy for boys in the early 1870s. Hicks, a graduate of Washington and Lee University, named his Academy for the president of his alma mater, Gen. Robert E. Lee. In 1875, the Academy published The Student, the first newspaper in the county. The first weekly newspaper, The Dublin Gazette, was published by Col. John M. Stubbs in 1876. The first fire department was established in 1878. The department's two segregated companies were led by Captains W.H. Tillery (white) and J.A. Yopp (colored.) Judge John T. Duncan established the county's first weather station on April 1, 1878.



Rural post offices were being established in the 1870s. The trend continued through the early part of the twentieth century when rural free delivery began. Most of the post offices were consolidated into a central post office in a municipal area. Among the early post offices were Laurens Hill, Reedy Springs, Blackshear's Mill, Condor, Wylly, Buckhorn, Picciola, Tweed, Arthur, Branchville, Lovett, Inez, Hatoff, Beulah, Turkey, Dodo/Brewton, Nameless, Donaldson, Pearly, Walkee, Brutus, Dexter, Westbrook, Springhaven, Grimsley, Dudley, Montrose, Bender, Garbutt, Lollie/Minter, Elmwood, Musgrove, Maggie, Harlow, Martha, Itville, Kewanee, Orianna, Rockledge, Pinehill, Thairdale, Unit, Shewmake, Catlin, Kemper, Elliston, Rentz, Mullis/Cadwell and Batson.



While relationships between whites and blacks were generally good when compared with other parts of the country, the largest slave insurrection ever devised in Georgia was thwarted in August 1875. The defendants were charged with plotting a reign of terror throughout Laurens, Johnson, Wilkinson and Washington counties. All of the defendants, including a dozen Laurens County men, were exonerated by all-white juries and grand juries, an amazing result considering the real fears of repercussion of disenchanted slaves and their descendants.







The 1880s: Railroads, Steamboats and Demon Rum





John M. Stubbs, Robert C. Henry, William H. Tillery and William Burch formed the Oconee River Steamboat Company, which rejuvenated the steamboat traffic along the Oconee River to Darien in the late 1870s. In 1879, Col. Stubbs joined with L. C. Perry, David Ware, Jr., Rollin A. Stanley and Robert C. Henry and citizens of Wilkinson County in establishing the county's first telegraphic connection with the outside world. The Dublin Telegraphic Company was established to run a telegraph line from Dublin to Toomsboro on the Central of Georgia Railroad, thereby connecting Dublin to one of the state's major communication lines.



A tornado cut an one-hundred and twenty five foot wide swath through Laurens County on May 14, 1881 in what was described as an unprecedented destruction of timber.



Meanwhile Laurens Countians finally agreed that in order to thrive, Dublin would need a railroad. The town lived and died with the fluctuations of the depth of the Oconee River. Winter rains and summer droughts often ground the economy to a halt. Local businessmen took subscriptions to build the Dublin and Wrightsville Railroad from Wrightsville to the Oconee River, giving Dublin a connection with the railroad's terminus at the Central of Georgia Railroad at Tennille.



Col. John Stubbs of Dublin and Dudley M. Hughes of Danville began a railroad from Macon to Dublin with plans to extend it to Savannah. The Macon and Dublin Railroad, along with the Savannah, Dublin, and Western Shortline, ultimately failed. Nearly twenty years after the first railroad meetings were held, the Dublin and Wrightsville Railroad reached the east bank of the Oconee in the fall of 1886. With no bridge, freight and passengers were unloaded and ferried across the river into Dublin.



The town of Bruton became the county's second town on August 20, 1889. The name was officially changed to Brewton in 1895. The first slate of the town's governing officials were Mayor M. M. Sheppard and councilmen Dr. Esra New, D. F. Williamson, J. A. Jackson, G. T. Mason and J. O. Wilson. Three days later, the Town of Lovett, Bruton's sister stop on the Wrightsville & Tennille, was incorporated. William Bales was appointed Mayor. W. H. H. Bush, M. R. Rachels, Z. M. Sterling, J. M. Hutchinson and E. A. Lovett were hereby appointed as the first councilmen.



The beginning of the shakeup in Dublin's stagnation as a town began with the coming of the railroad, which nearly coincided with the great Charleston earthquake of 1886. A slight earthquake shook Dublin early in the morning of March 22, 1884. An extremely more powerful quake gently shook the buildings and people of Laurens County on the night of August 31, 1886. Most of Dublin's entire business district was destroyed by fire on May 26, 1889.



Politics were big in Laurens County in the 1880s. Among those politicians visiting Dublin were Benjamin Harvey Hill, a senator in both the United States and Confederate governments; Gov. Charles Jenkins, who hid the state seal and valuable state documents from Federal reconstruction officials; Alexander Stephens, former Governor, Senator, and Vice President of the Confederate States of America; and John B. Gordon, Governor, Senator, and a Lt. General and a Corps Commander in the Confederate Army. Gordon is said to have ridden into town on a mule when his train broke down. Judge David Roberts, a native of Laurens, was a member of the 1888 Democratic National Convention, which nominated a Union hero of the Battle of Gettysburg, Winfield Scott Hancock. Dublin mayor Thomas B. Felder, Jr. served as a presidential elector in 1888. In 1906, He was the first Laurens Countian to appear before the Supreme Court of the United States. Felder served as delegate to a Democratic national convention and took an active role in the Leo Frank murder trial and found himself in the middle of the Tea Pot Dome scandal and its related cases of the 1920s. He died under mysterious circumstances as did many other members of the inner circle of President Warren G. Harding.



The question of the legalization of liquor sales bitterly divided the town of Dublin for the entire decade. It wasn't until the prohibitionists convinced the Georgia legislature to ultimately decide the issue by requiring bar owners to pay a prohibitive license fee of ten thousand dollars per year to operate that liquor sales were effectively banned.



Judge John T. Duncan led the effort to build a bridge over the Oconee. Dr. R.H. Hightower's wooden bridge had been washed away in a flood. In 1883, the first election to build the bridge failed due to the no votes from western Laurens County and the Buckeye District of eastern Laurens County, which had Blackshear's Ferry.





The 1890s: The Phoenix Rises





The year 1891 was one of the most important in the history of the county. Four events signaled the beginning of the explosive growth of Dublin and Laurens County's "Golden Era." The Wrightsville and Tennille Railroad completed a concrete railroad bridge over the river near the first permanent passenger bridge which had just been completed. Judge John T. Duncan died a few weeks after his dream had been realized. The third major event was the completion of the Macon, Dublin, and Savannah Railroad into Dublin. This railroad was headed by Dudley Hughes of Danville, Col. John M. Stubbs and Capt. Hardy Smith, both of Dublin. New communities sprang up along the main railroads.



A third railroad, the Empire and Dublin Railroad, later known as the Oconee and Western, came to Dublin in 1891. On its path was Dexter, which grew to become the second largest town in Laurens County. This railroad helped to open up a portion of Laurens County which had been a large forest of virgin pines. It opened all the way to Hawkinsville in 1893, giving Laurens County a connection to markets to the south and west. Dexter, a railroad stop formerly known as Barnes, was incorporated on August 22, 1891. T. A. Wood was the first mayor. J. H. Witherington, W. W. Wynn, W. L. Herndon, J. H. Smith and T. H. Shepard were the town's first councilmen.



In 1891, Lucien Q. Stubbs, one of Dublin's most popular mayors, was appointed as Captain of the Dublin Guards, which were one of nine companies which composed the Fourth Regiment of Georgia Volunteers. The volunteers mustered and trained on a regular basis throughout the end of the century. They disbanded in the early 1900s.



The Brewton and Pineora Railroad, came to Brewton at the turn of the century, giving Laurens County its first direct route to Savannah through Scott, Adrian and Stillmore in 1901. That next year, the Macon, Dublin and Savannah Railroad completed its line to Vidalia, giving Dublin its second direct route to Savannah.



The county's fifth railroad, the Wadley and Mt. Vernon, was completed to the M.D. & S., and the boom town of Rockledge was born. The sixth and final railroad, the Dublin and Southwestern, was completed to Eastman in 1905, creating the towns of Rentz and Cadwell. Cedar Grove was on the proposed railroad to McRae. That railroad failed despite the support of the powerful future governor, Eugene Talmadge. Cedar Grove, the largest town in acreage ever created in Laurens County, was incorporated on August 17, 1908. John P. Harrell was appointed mayor. James Purvis, J. T. Parish, W. E. Kinchen, J. Y. Hill and S. Harrelson were the town's first councilmen.



Dublin, at the intersection of five railroads, exploded almost overnight. With the prohibition of liquor sales, Dublin had outgrown its image as a lawless and violent community. The railroads brought in new industries. Downtown Dublin was filled with all types of mercantile stores from department stores, to dry goods, to grocery stores. Around the turn of the century, local business and newspaper man L.H. Hilton purchased the old hotel on the courthouse square which later became Dublin City Hall. The hotel was named for the owner, a custom in those days, possibly making it the first Hilton Hotel in America. The railroads opened up southern Laurens County. There farmers planted cotton where tall pines once grew. The cotton compress of the Georgia Warehouse and Compress Company was completed in 1895. The company boasted that a farmer's Monday morning cotton would be aboard a European bound ship on Tuesday afternoon.



The city of Dublin established its own power plant, bringing the first electric lights into homes and businesses. The Dublin Telephone and Telegraph Company was granted a franchise on December 20, 1897. The Dublin Furniture Manufacturing Company was established in the Scottsville section of the northeastern part of the city.



The Rev. George Mathews, a future pastor of the First Methodist Church, founded the Indian Springs Holiness Association in 1890 and served as its president for more than two decades. Delegates to the Weekly Press Association of Georgia gathered in Dublin in 1898. Bishop Henry M. Turner, the first Civil Rights leader in Georgia, spoke to large crowds in Dublin in November 1898 during the annual conference of the Macon District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. In December of 1899, the First Methodist Church hosted the annual convention of the South Georgia Methodist Church.



The Dublin Cotton Mills were completed in 1900 in the southwestern section of the city. The operation of the mill caused a small city with its own stores and churches to form around the mill, which was located on Marion Street just beyond the city water tower. Kewanee's peach orchard, with its some 350,000 trees, was hailed as the world's largest, but it succumbed to several hard freezes which the investors never overcame. Perhaps the coldest day ever recorded in the history of the county came on February 13, 1899 when temperatures fell to at least five degrees below zero. Thirty mile per hour winds blew across four inches of snow and caused the wind chill temperature to drop to thirty-three degrees below zero. On July 5, 1898 and again on October 14, 1899, the depth gauge near the river bridge measured one foot and three inches below zero.



River boat Captain W.W. Ward, was the first Laurens Countian to volunteer for service in the Spanish American War. Dubliner William Little, a member of the 9th U.S. Cavalry, followed Col. Teddy Roosevelt up San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War. Following the war, Private Little served as an orderly for Arthur McArthur, Governor-General of the Philippines and father of Gen. Douglas McArthur. Dr. C.P. Johnson, perhaps Dublin's first Negro physician and a former slave educated by Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens, left his practice for Cordele in 1895. Dr. B. Judson Simmons, a Laurens County native, graduated with honors from Meharry Medical School, became Milledgeville's first African American physician and the first known Laurens County African American native to practice medicine.



It was in the late autumn of 1894 when a young Nat Porter of Dodge County was transferred to the chain gang of Laurens County. Porter, a convicted gambler, was mercilessly beaten by his guards. This single outrage, which sparked a five-year debate on the method of which convicts were leased and how they were treated, led to the virtual end of the convict lease system in Georgia.







The 1900s and 1910s: The Golden Age of the Emerald City





A six inch blanket of snow covered the fields, farms, forests and house of Laurens County on the very first day of the Twentieth Century. This unusual snowfall would be unmatched for until February 25, 1914, when 6.5 inches covered the ground.



During the first decade of the 20th century, Dublin was the third fastest growing city in Georgia. Dublin grew so fast that boosters named it "The only town in Georgia, that's doublin all the time." People by the thousands came into a town that only numbered a few hundred two decades before. The county's population grew by 572% during the period from 1890 to 1910. Laurens County went from 52nd in population in 1890 to 14th in 1900 and was the third fastest growing county in the state. People from several states and countries came into Dublin. The 1900 census revealed that Laurens was the sixth largest county in Georgia. From 1900 to 1910, Laurens County dropped to the seventh largest county in the state, but was the second fastest growing county in Georgia, only behind the capital county of Fulton. Once source noted that Dublin had more millionaires per capita than any other city in the nation.



Finally, not one but two banks, The Dublin Banking Company and The Laurens Banking Company, were organized in Dublin in 1898. Before the period of economic growth ended, Dublin would be home to seven banks. The First National Bank of Dublin was organized in 1902. The First National, "the largest country bank in Georgia," issued its own national bank notes and built Dublin's tallest building in 1912. At the beginning of World War I, Laurens County had more banks than any county in Georgia, other than Fulton and Chatham counties. Dublin's oldest bank, The Farmers and Merchants, just before its acquisition by Capital City Bank, was recently evaluated as one of the one hundred safest banks in the United States, being one of only three in Georgia so designated. The bank started in Brewton in 1910.



More new towns were being incorporated. Once slightly populated railroad stops were given official recognition as municipalities. Dudley, originally known as Elsie, was incorporated on December 20, 1902. T. H. Hooks was appointed as the town's first mayor. I. J. Duggan, W. J. Gilbert, W. R. Cook, Felix Bobbitt and R. J. Chappell served as the first councilmen. On August 21, 1905, Rentz became the first incorporated town along the Dublin and Southwestern railroad which ran from Dublin to Eastman. J. P. Pughsley was chosen by the legislature as the town's first mayor. The first town council was composed of J. L. Proctor, A. W. Davidson, J. E. Gay, Dr. C. E. Rentz and Dr. W. E. Bedingfield. The town of Mullis came next. On August 1, 1906, the legislature appointed W. H. Tate, W. H. Mullis and D. E. Mullis as town council members. J.P. Barrs was the first mayor of the town, which was absorbed by the town of Cadwell after only a few years of existence. Cadwell, the third town on the Dublin and Southwestern Railroad, was incorporated on August 22, 1907. J. W. Warren was appointed mayor of the town, The council was composed of James Burch, Joe Etheridge, C. C. Cadwell and Ed Walden. Rockledge was incorporated on August 17, 1908, with W. H. H. McLendon as the first, mayor. L. A. Autry, Rollin M. Keen, R. N. Odum and J.R. Hester constituted Rockledge's first town council.



The first sanitarium was opened on North Jefferson Street by Dr. J. H. Bradley in 1900. The businessmen of Dublin organized the Young Men's Business League in 1900. Two years later, the Dublin Board of Trade was organized by T.L. Griner, S.M. Gibson, H.M. Stanley, W.F. Schaufele, J.B. Outler, N.B. Baum, O.H.P. Rawls, J.A. Jackson, E.R. Orr, Emanuel Dreyer, J.S. Simons, Jr., H.G. Stevens and Z. Whitehurst. It was later reorganized into the Dublin Chamber of Commerce in 1911. At the turn of the Twentieth Century, sentimentalism and celebration of the exploits of Confederate veterans swept the South and Laurens County. The veterans began to meet on a regular basis. Their male descendants, led by C.A. Weddington and J.E. Burch, in 1901 formed the first Sons of Confederate Camp, which they named in honor of Gov. George M. Troup of Laurens County. Every community was improving their schools. Laurens County farmers led the state in the production of sweet potatoes in 1901. A.W. Garrett, A.R. Arnau and F.H. Rowe led the formation of the county's first Y.M.C.A. chapter in Dublin. The soil along the banks of the Oconee River in Dublin provided brick manufacturers with an abundant supply of clay. L.A. Chapman's Dublin Brick Company furnished the city of Jacksonville, Florida with three million bricks to rebuild after a devastating 1901 fire. The largest of the several brick companies along the river had the capacity to produce a million bricks in a single month.



The first automobile came in 1902 thrilling onlookers and frightening horses. Dr. Charles W. Hicks was elected President of the Georgia State Medical Association. The Georgia Cooperage Company, with a daily capacity of 10,000 barrel staves, was established in Dublin. J.A. Jackson took a delivery of more than ten thousand dollars worth of tobacco products for his store in Dublin in 1902. The shipment was said to have been the largest ever made to a retail store. During an intense thunderstorm in the summer of 1902, Dr. G.F. Green noticed that snowflakes were falling out of the dark storm clouds.



Laurens County maintained 117 schools, the second most of any county in the state. The Dublin City Board of Education made a firm commitment to provide a superior learning environment for its students. The board hired many of the state's top educators to head the school system. Among the most widely heralded of these superintendents were Joseph C. Wardlaw, a future head of Extension Services at the University of Georgia, Kyle T. Alfriend, future President of Georgia Military College, and W.P. Martin all of whom would later be elected presidents of the Georgia Education Association.



The citizens of Dublin built the first library in 1904 with the aid of philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. That small library has grown into a regional library serving over one hundred thousand patrons with state of the art technology resources. "Laughing Ben" Ellington toured the country with his humorous story telling Vaudeville act. His most famous performances came at the 1901 Pan American Exposition in Buffalo. Following a 1901 fire which destroyed the Dublin Academy, the city school board in 1902 erected a two-story modern brick school building which now serves as Dublin's city hall. The school's auditorium served as a community auditorium. In one of the first public events, Tom Watson, the widely heralded Georgia Populist politician, electrified a capacity crowd with his oratorical skills in December. Ernest Camp, editor of the Dublin Times, was known far and wide as the "Wiregrass Poet." His column, Learned in Laurens, featured his humorous and entertaining poetry. Camp gained fame as editor of the Walton Tribune and was inducted into the Georgia Newspaper Hall of Fame in 1962.



The Laurens County Board of Health met for the first time on February 5, 1904. The board was initially composed of Chairman A.R. Arnau, Secretary Dr. L.J. Thomas, and board members and physicians J.G. Carter, J.E. New and Wiley Wood. In one of its first major steps to combat disease, the board worked with the city of Dublin in establishing a detention camp and pest house across the river in East Dublin. A spring fed pool was constructed to help cure small pox victims. Judge John S. Adams and Ernest Camp organized a local military company, The Laurens Volunteers. W.C. Davis was elected captain. Dr. Hugh Moore, T.O. Dupree and A.M. Wolfe were elected to serve as company lieutenants. C.W. Brantley completed construction of the county's first three-story building. Brantley added the third story to his building at the northwest corner of West Jackson and North Lawrence streets to accommodate the lodge of Laurens Lodge No. 75 F&A.M. in the fall of 1904.



The Four Seasons Department Store, the largest in this section of Middle Georgia, became the third firm in Georgia to take out a four page newspaper ad. The Bank of Dudley, Laurens County's oldest bank, was founded in 1905. The first Theater, the Theatorium, was opened in 1905 by Mrs. R.H. Hightower. Over the years, Dublin would be home to theatres such as The Crystal, The Rose, The Ritz, The Gem, The Star, The Amusu, and The Strand. Dublin's modern city hall was opened in 1905.



Miss Emma Perry and the members of the Poplar Springs North Church community established the Poplar Springs Industrial School in 1906. It was one of the first of its kind in rural Georgia. The trial of G.A. Tarbutton and Joe Flucker for the murder of Letcher Tyre grabbed the headlines in the fall of 1906. The attorneys for the defendants, after an analysis of the Laurens-Johnson county line, were able to convince the court that the alleged murder actually took place in Johnson County. The baffling result of the case was that Laurens County picked up an additional one hundred acres of territory and the defendants were never indicted by a more sympathetic hometown grand jury. Dr. Charles Kittrell became the first person to manufacture eyeglasses outside a large city in the Southeast. Dr. Kittrell served as the President of the Georgia Association of Optometrists in 1908. The original Buster Brown and Tige arrived in downtown Dublin on February 13, 1907. A crowd of nearly five thousand showed up to get a glimpse of the dog Tige wearing sunglasses with a cap on his head and a cigar in his mouth. Throughout the first decade of the Twentieth Century, the city of Dublin continually made improvements to its infrastructure. The city completed a half-million gallon reservoir in 1908. The first paved street was that portion of North Jackson Street along the northern side of the courthouse square in 1909.



As the young men who fought for the Confederacy began to grow very old, their children and grandchildren banded together to commemorate their heroism and bravery. Under the auspices of the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, a thirty-five foot, ninety thousand pound marble statue was erected on the lawn of the Carnegie Library at the intersection of Bellevue Avenue and Academy Avenue. After a four-year dispute when the statue remained veiled, the monument to the Confederate soldier was dedicated on Confederate Memorial Day in 1912.



Stubbs Park, designed by world renowned horticulturist P.J. Berckmans, opened in 1909. Berckmans' beautiful home gardens became a part of the Augusta National Golf Course. The Dublin High School's first athletic team played on an outdoor court in the park, after playing their first game on the road against Mercer University in 1911.



The Chautauqua Festival was the main entertainment event every summer from 1902 to 1909. Dr. Charles Kittrell led a community effort to build a large wooden auditorium to house the festival and other community events in 1906. The auditorium, with a seating capacity of 1625, was located on the west side of South Monroe Street and just above the railroad and featured one of the largest stage curtains in the state of Georgia. The annual summer Chautauqua programs consisted of scientific, musical, educational, literary, political and religious lectures and performances. Dr. Frederick Cook, the self-proclaimed discoverer of the North Pole, spoke to large crowds in 1902 and 1913. Future congressman and admiral, Richard P. Hobson, a hero of the Spanish American War, spoke to the largest Chautauqua festival to date in 1906. In October of 1908, Thomas E. Watson, Populist candidate for President, became the first and only presidential candidate to appear in Dublin during an election campaign. Perennial presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan spoke to a large crowd at the auditorium during the Summer Festival of 1911. The building burned shortly thereafter.



Thousands of Baptists from all over the state gathered in Dublin during the middle of November 1909 for their State Convention. In attendance were former Georgia governors William J. Northern and Joseph M. Terrell, then current governor Joseph Brown and future governor Clifford Walker.



Laurens County's first County fair opened on October 23, 1911 inside the store of Gilbert Hardware Company. Seeking a more appropriate venue for the fair, Peter S. Twitty, Jr., R.M. Martin, Frank Lawson, Vivian L. Stanley, James M. Finn, Thomas W. Hooks, Sam Bashinski, Izzie Bashinski, E.R. Carswell and the owners of the Four Seasons Department Store organized the 12th Congressional District Fair Association in 1912. The first district fair was held on the site of the present day Farmers Market and a in 1916 moved to the northwest corner of Troup Street and Telfair Street. The first fair featured speeches by Governor John Slaton, Congressman Dudley M. Hughes and future Senator Thomas E. Watson. An attempt to establish a 12th District College in Dublin was surprisingly nixed in favor of one in the much smaller town of Cochran. The school later became Middle Georgia College.



During the year 1912, eight associations held their state conventions. During the pinnacle of Dublin's reputation as a central meeting area, the members of the Al Sihah Mystic Temple of the Shrine, the State Sunday School Association, the Order of the Eastern Star, the Georgia Banker's Association, the Weekly Press Association, the State Agricultural Society, the Macon Presbytery, and the Hotel Keepers of Georgia, all gathered in the Emerald City for business meetings and pleasurable activities.



Laurens was a perennial leader in the production of cotton, having led the state in production from 1911 through 1913. In July of 1911, the Laurens Cotton Oil Company, began the erection of one the largest cotton gins in Georgia. In 1912, the county produced well over thirty million pounds of cotton. That crop, larger than
          Times Square’s sex industry may lose its most infamous member        
Back in the 1970s and early ’80s, 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue stewed with illicit activity. Underage prostitutes wearing hot pants and high-tops propositioned middle-aged men. Hustlers peddled loose joints, switchblades and freshly heisted gold chains. A tourist got chased, naked, onto the Times Square subway station’s third rail. In the middle of this urban...
          News Feed – Feb. 6, 2007        
Story 1) Candidates Beware: Health Insurance is a Thorny Issue Campaign lore has it that Social Security is he “third rail” of American politics – meaning any candidate who touches the issue dies. Yet, health care reform could very well wind up assuming that dubious distinction in 2008. Most everyone thinks that all Americans should […]
          Fascinating, Confounding, Mind-Boggling        
My position has changed a lot in the past 200 days. I started out, the day after Trump’s election, with hopeful (albeit skeptical) support. If you root for your homeland, you hope that its leaders do a good job. Even if everything they say and do indicates they are in way over their head.

The current presidency started out less the dry, boring, but competent government you mostly ignore and was more like the reality TV programing that is Trump’s true realm. In that sense, it was almost entertaining to watch, but more as a comedy of schadenfreude, a satire of itself.

But it has become less and less chuckle-inducing.

We had hoped that President Trump would differ from Candidate Trump. Candidate Trump was demonstrably a boisterous, bull-in-the-china-shop, incompetent, inexperienced, racist, misogynist, sexual-predator, thin-skinned, narcissist. Surely such an over-the-top character was just that… an act.

However, as the presidency has lurched and stumbled forward, we have only seen confirmation of the immaturity we saw in the candidate. I used to jokingly compare Trump to a cartoon version of a teen-aged girl. However, one of the more inciteful pieces written on Trump since he has been president was conservative columnist David Brooks’ column in May “When the World is Led by a Child.” He really is like an out of control child. And the scary truth is, we have gone from reality TV programing to an episode of “The Twilight Zone.” Specifically, “It’s a Good Life.”

It is time to break free of the tribalism in America that forces otherwise rational people to support Trump, not because he is right, but rather because he isn’t from the other side of the aisle. Conservative people do not need to join liberal ideologies to oppose Trump. He is a third rail of irrational, unpredictable behavior. He is not seeking America first, but rather Trump alone.

There is room in the opposition for more than one philosophy. Going forward, every faction of American politics should be about minimizing, checking and balancing, the damage that Trump is inflicting.


          Healthcare Is My Third Rail        
"Under Obamacare, the majority leader’s home state, Kentucky, experienced one of the biggest reductions in the rate of uninsured people of any state in the nation."--NYT

The beyond stupid sadism of this only has to do with the momentum behind the effort to destroy Obamacare: "a black man created a law, so thousands of Americans must now die." (About 29 000 per year it has been estimated, once they go back to being screwed by the insurance companies.)
          Democratic Views on Prison Reform        
The very notion of prison reform is a divisive topic within the United States. It’s hardly a surprise, then, that even within the relatively cohesive Democratic party, there’s a fair range of opinions. Many politicians still consider the topic a political third rail entirely, one to be avoided at any cost. Why? Well, depending on [...]
          Issues Under Fire: Donald Trump: Badass or Madman, Israeli Fears Grow        
When Donald Trump slammed Mexicans, slandered Muslims, ignored Blacks, scoffed at the physically challenged, demeaned women and scolded Pope Francis during this 2016 campaign for the White House, he still hadn't touched the third rail of American politics. But when Donald Trump failed to pledge his undying loyalty to Israel, Trump went from a Badass to be tolerated if necessary, to a Madman to be stopped by any means necessary.
          Touching The Third Rail        
My post yesterday on the War On Drugs, its casualties and its existence as a third rail in American politics, an issue politicians can not Even discuss without being painted as horribly soft on crime and rendered instantly unelectable was quite an experience for me. 62 Diggs, 150 new unique visitors many of whom stuck around and read more than one of my essays. And then there were the really great comments.

In comments here and on Blog Catalog, I suggested to rockstories that it sounded as though she had written a very different post with the same title I'd used. And now she has. I urge you to go and read This Isn't My Post which I would have titled Touching The Third Rail.
          Ron Paul-- Will He Get Zapped by WOD Third Rail?        
I touched on the subject of immigration reform in the post on Social Security so I had figured to do a follow up post on immigration, and looked up Ron Paul's position, I found that I completely agreed with everything he said. That does increase his palatability in the general but does not make for an interesting blog post. Ditto Ron Paul's position on Iraq. With over 70% of Americans wanting to bring our troops home, Paul's position is for once positively Mainstream.

And then I read Ron Paul's position on the War On Drugs. And again I agreed, but this issue is, imho, meatier for a real discussion on the theoretical Hillary vs Paul in November question.

The War On (some) Drugs (users) has been a third rail in American politics since Jimmy Carter pledged on the trail to de-criminalize marijuana and found the issue untouchable once he got to Washington. And while it is widely acknowledged by sensible people that the United States' War On Drugs has been a costly failure that has caused far more harm than it has prevented, no politician has ever been willing to go Near this issue.

It's an issue I feel strongly about. Just last night I was sitting at a restaurant table and the name of an old friend who has moved away came up and we recalled how horrible it was when her son was murdered. Her son had been a heroin addict. He had gotten himself clean and had been off the junk for over two years when he was killed soon before he was scheduled to testify against his dealer, which he had been more or less forced to do to keep his own hide out of jail. Let's be clear here. This bright, handsome young man did not die because of drugs. He died because of Prohibition.

My own cousin, who was a number of years younger than me, and who had been a kind of little brother to me at family gatherings through the years died of a drug overdose. And I always felt strongly that if it were not for prohibition, his death would likely have been avoided. Drugs purchased pharmaceutically of a specific and known strength and dosage are much less dangerous than street drugs that may be tainted or 'cut' with who knows what and if unexpectedly purer than expected can cause an accidental overdose. In any case, my argument that my cousin was Not well served by our present system seems incontrovertible, even to those who would argue that in this case it was drug abuse and not Prohibition that killed my sweet, funny cousin.

A part of me is thrilled to see that Ron Paul agrees with me about ending this horrid and destructive 'war' that we will never win and which is largely fought as a cash cow for the prison industrial complex (one of the few true growth industries in Bush America) just as Iraq is primarily a cash cow for the Halliburton wing of the Republican party, regardless of the justification du jour for our misadventure there.

But another part of me strongly suspects that if and when the media comes to feel that they can Not continue to largely ignore Ron Paul they will attack him hard with the soft on drugs, soft on crime meme that the Rove wing of the Republican party often uses successfully against politicians who defy the playbook. And the fact that the Rove wing would be operating via Terry McAwful and the Hillary campaign should not surprise anyone who's been paying attention.

So my questions are-- how long can Ron Paul stay under the media radar on the WOD Third Rail and is there any way he can survive the attack when This story gets its 15 minutes of fame?



          Hani Selim Launches Crowdfunding Campaign to Publish Controversial Novel "Osama's Jihad"        

Crossing the boundaries of Islam and as it blends with Western culture, Osama’s Jihad tells a bold story in a fictional yet believable backdrop.

New York, NY -- (SBWIRE) -- 05/23/2017 -- Hani Selim's latest book Osama's Jihad is a story of unconditional love that binds a family together from the Middle East clear across the world to Manhattan over the course of fifty years. The author claims that in this fictional novel, every reader will find out something they will be able to relate to despite subject matter that could hit a nerve or even a third rail when it comes to human emotion and the values that drive them.

As the name suggests, the story of the novel revolves around the character of Osama, a person who finds himself alienated from his family, friends and society itself after a series of changes. The story is set in Cairo and New York, two cities where Osama spends his life from childhood to adulthood.

"Osama struggles to define his identity as an Arab, a Muslim and an American, which ultimately forces him to question everything he has grown to know, and the intentions of everyone he grew to love. His unique and unusual first-hand experiences transported him between local Gay bars in New York City, and as far as Makkah in Saudi Arabia. It gave him a different perspective on his own life, as well as life in general, and taught him important lessons about tolerance, acceptance and unconditional love," says the author.

Through Osama's Jihad, Hani has made serious attempts to bridge the widening gap between Western civilization and the predominant culture of the Middle East. Over the years, only a few Arab American writers have focused on the Arab narrative. Predictably yet unfortunately, most of them have failed to reach the mainstream American audience.

Highlighting the significance of his novel in the present context, Hani says, "We, Arab Americans, need to own our narrative. With the increased demand, we can blend other aspects of the culture into the mainstream market other than belly dancing, hookah, and camels."

By self-publishing his book, Hani wants to introduce the readers to the world of an Arab American, with all its joys, fears and struggles. All funds raised via Kickstarter will be used to complete the final stages of publishing. Adequate funding will also help with editing, printing, marketing and shipping.

Perk pricing is very attractive with the eBook available for as little as $5 while a paperback edition can be had for just $15. A signed hardcover along with other perks including week-long cinema passes to Arab Cinema Week in New York City are available via Kickstarter until June 17th.

The Official Osama's Jihad Kickstarter Project - http://kck.st/2qxoLIw

About Hani Selim
Hani Selim is an Arab/American poet and writer. Hani has been a consultant to the United Nations for a number of years where he has worked on a wide range of issues, including Gender Equality, Human Rights, Children in Armed Conflict, Persons with Disabilities, Autism Awareness, AIDS, Earth Day and Climate Change. He has also taught courses at Baruch College in Manhattan

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          Gingrich Risks Conservative Outrage on Immigration        
Newt Gingrich embraced a third rail of Republican politics Tuesday night, saying that the country should find a way to make millions of illegal immigrants legal.
          Milestones in German Railway History        
Epoch I (1835 - 1919)
This is generally referred to as the Länderbahn era when many of the German States had their own railroads of which the major ones were the:
  • Königlich Preußische und Großherzoglich Hessische Staatseisenbahn (K.P.u.G.H.St.E.) which later became the Königlich Preußische Eisenbahn-Verwaltung (K.P.E.V.)
  • Königlich Bayerische Staatseisenbahn (K.Bay.Sts.B.)
  • Königlich Sächsische Staatseisenbahnen (K.Sächs.Sts.E.B.)
  • Königlich Württembergische Staatseisenbahn (K.W.St.E.)
  • Großherzoglich Badische Staatseisenbahn (Baden)
  • Großherzoglich Mecklenburgische Friedrich-Franz-Eisenbahn (Meckl. or M.F.F.E)
  • Großherzoglich Oldenburgische Staatseisenbahn (Oldenburg)
  • Pfalzbahn der Königlich Bayerische Staatseisenbahn (PfalzB)
  1835
One December 7th the first German train runs between Nürnberg and Fürth. Powered by the Alder (Eagle) this locomotive was built by Stephenson and Co. in Newcastle upon Tyne and followed along the lines of a Patentee 2-2-2. The locomotive would stay in service until 1857. 
  1838
In 1828, the King of Saxony founded a Technical School in Dresden (since 1890: Dresden Technical College). Johann Andreas Schubert, a universal engineer and professor at the Technical School designed the first "German" steam locomotive based upon what he had learned while traveling in England. The locomotive was built by the Übigauer Maschinebauanstalt in Dresden from his plans.
  1838 Joseph Anton Ritter von Maffei (1790-1870), the son of a businessman from Verona (Italy) who moved to Munich establishes the first locomotive factory in Bavaria, Eisenwerk Hirschau
  1840 On October 4th the last section of the München Augsburg Eisenbahn Gesellschaft railway was completed as designed by Paul Camille von Denis who also laid out the Nürnberg and Fürth line.
  1849
Edmund Heusinger von Waldegg invented what became know as the Heusinger valve gear which is similar to the Walschaert gear but was closer to the form generally adopted by most locomotives.
  1850 Principal dimensions of rolling stock are agreed by the German railway companies allowing interchange of stock.
  1853 First working rules for Prussian and North German railways.
  1854 First steam railcar - Berlin-Hamburg Railway.
  1857 First International through coach working - Frankfurt am Main - Basel.
  1866 Krauss & Comp. is founded by Dr.-Ing. e. h. Georg von Krauss (1826-1906) with a factory on the Marsfeld in Munich.
  1875 Unified signaling for all of Germany.
  1878 First Prussian 'standards' for locomotives, coaches and wagons.
  1879
Werner von Siemens demonstrated the first practical electric locomotive at the Berlin Industrial Exhibition. The  miniature locomotive produced 3 HP and carried passengers over a 300 meter long rail line. Current was drawn from a third rail between the track allowing the locomotive to haul a maximum of some thirty passengers at a speed of about four miles an hour.
90 000 people would ride Siemens' train in the four months it was on display from May 31st to August 30th.
  1880 Four years after Jules Anatole Mallet's successful demonstration of his compound system, August von Borries and the Schichau Works introduced their two-cylinder compound system to Germany. Mallet's two-cylinder compound system involved a single high-pressure cylinder passing its exhaust steam into a second, larger, low-pressure cylinder. One of the drawbacks to this system was that they to be unsteady at high speed, because one cylinder exerted more thrust than the other. Borries improved upon Mallet's work by using his own design of starting valve and his conjugated valve gear. His system kept the cut-off of the low-pressure cylinder always a little behind that of the high-pressure, thereby alleviating the unequal thrust problem.
  1881 Siemens' demonstration led to other exhibitions at Brussels, Düsseldorf, and Frankfurt. Siemens and Halske built a line to Lichterfelde, near Berlin, one and a half miles long. This line, which was opened for traffic with one electric car in 1881 and was the first public electric railway in the world. The motor was carried on a frame below the body of the car between the axles. Power was transmitted from the armature of the motor to drums on the driving axles by means of steel cables. The car carried twenty-six passengers, and could reach a speed of thirty mph on a current supply of 100 volts.
  1882 First German owned restaurant coach.
First corridor train between Berlin and Köln.
  1894 Electrical signaling block system introduced in Prussia.
  1897 Wilhelm Schmidt designed the first superheaters, equipment provided in a locomotive boiler for producing superheated steam.  Early superheaters were fitted in the smokebox and were little more than steam dryers.  Later superheaters used enlarged boiler tubes to dry the steam and raise the temperature to a higher level. His firetube superheater of 1901, rapidly fitted to thousands of locomotives throughout the world, raised thermal efficiency by up to 30%
  1899 The Royal Bavarian Railway Museum—the first museum dealing with the railways, their technology and history opened on October 1st, making it Germany's oldest museum of transport history.
  1902
One February 15th the Berlin underground opened. It ran between Warschauer Straße and Zoologischer Garten, and had a short spur to Potsdamer Platz.
  1908
The Bay.StsB. S 3/6 is considered by many as one of the finest steam locomotives ever built, J.A. Maffei built a total of 141, the first in 1908 and the last in 1930. S3/6 locomotives pulled the prestigious Rheingold Express. The last S3/6, the the "Grazie" was decommissioned in 1965.
  1909 Pfalzbahn incorporated into the Bavarian State Railway.
Formation of the Deutschen Staatsbahnwagen-Verband (German Railway Wagon Assoc.) by the eight Länderbahnen.
  1910 First Verbandsbauart wagon (freight car design standardized by the Deutschen Staatsbahnwagen-Verband) was built.
  1911 First long distance electrification in Germany - Bitterfeld-Dessau (15kv, 162/3Hz).
  1912 The K.P.E.V. introduces the first diesel-electric locomotive.
The K.P.E.V. introduces the first all steel through-corridor express passenger coaches.
  1916 The Mitropa company was founded during World War I on November 24, 1916, as Mitteleuropäische Schlafwagen- und Speisewagen Aktiengesellschaft. Its founders included different railroad companies in Germany and Austria-Hungary as an alternative to the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (CIWL). After the war, CIWL was able to take over most routes in Central Europe outside of Germany, while MITROPA maintained most of its routes within Germany as well as routes to the Netherlands and Scandinavia.

After World War II and the division of Germany, MITROPA AG became the catering company for the Deutsche Reichsbahn, the national railroad of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). The Western part of MITROPA split off and was re-named the Deutsche Schlafwagen- und Speisewagengesellschaft (DSG) to manage the sleeping and dining cars of the Deutsche Bundesbahn in the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany).

Today MITROPA is part of the Compass Group and its division MITROPA GmbH operates stationary food services at railroad stations and highways.
     
Epoch II (1920 - 1945)
  1920 On April 1st the Deutsche Reichsbahn was formed from from 11 provincial railways. Two administrative regions were set up, Prussia and Bavaria.
  1924 On August 30th an act of parliament converted the Reichsbahn to a state owned enterprise or Gesellschaft. One of its first tasks was to introduce a numbering scheme that allowed to integrate the existing various classes of locomotives. For steam locomotives a numeric system or Braureihe. Class numbers of 01 to 19 indicated express train tender locomotives, numbers 20 to 39 passenger train tender locomotives, 40 to 59 freight train tender locomotives, 60 to 79 passenger train tank locomotives, 80 to 96 freight train tank locomotives (including switchers), 97 rack locomotives, 98 Lokalbahn (local railway) locomotives and 99 for narrow gauge locomotives. For example, class 01 was the first class of unified express train locomotive, and the first unit of this class received the number 01 001.

Similar numbering schemes were introduced for electric and diesel locomotives, but with prefix letters E for electrics and V (from German Verbrennungsmotor for internal combustion engine) for diesels. Electric and diesel railcars and multiple units were designated by prefix letters ET and VT, respectively (from German Elektrischer Triebwagen and Verbrennungsmotortriebwagen)
  1925 The Deutsche Reichspost was formed.
  1928 The first run of the Rheingold from Hook van Holland to Basel.
  1931 Maffei and Krauss merge to form Krauss & Comp.-J. A. Maffei AG in Allach, Germany. Locomotives are still the core product.
  1933
The Flying Hamburger (high speed diesel railcar) enters service. The "Flying Hamburger“ was the prototype of an entire fleet of two to three-car express multiple units. Following the successful completion of trials with this new train type on the Hamburg–Berlin line and on the hilly Saalfeld–Bamberg line, the Reichsbahn decided in 1933 to operate these trains on their future national express rail network. Top speed for these rail cars was 160 km/h.
  1936
On May 11th the steam locomotive 05 002 sets a world record of 200.4 kmh (125.25 mph).
  1937 The DRG becomes plain DR, and the Hoheits Adler (winged eagle + hakenkreuz (swastika)) is introduced.
  1938 Germany takes control of the countries (and railways) of Austria, the Sudetenland, Bohemia and Moravia.
  1939 Germany takes control of the countries (and railways) of Czechoslovakia, Danzig and Poland.
  1940 The DR takes over control of the railways of Luxembourg.
  1945 The 3rd Reich is defeated, and the DR is split into zones operated by the occupying forces of Britain, France, America and Russia.
     
Epoch III (1945 - 1970)
  1949 The German Federal (west) and Democratic (east) Republics are formed.
  1952 The DB and DR are formed.
     
Epoch IV (1970 - 1985)
  1973 On September 12th the electric locomotive 103 118 reaches 252.9 kmh (165.6 mph) during tests.
  1977 Last steam locomotive in regular operation retired.
  1984 On October 7th The electric locomotive 120 001 reaches 265 kmh (158 mph) during tests.
     
Epoch V (1985 - Present)
  1986 The first section of the Neubaustrecke (new high speed lines) from Mannheim to Graben Neudorf is completed.
  1988 The prototype Intercity Experimental sets a new German railway speed record of 406.9 kph (254.3 mph) on the newly completed high speed line between Fulda and Würzburg.
  1994 The DB and DR are merged to form the DB AG.

          KiwiRail's third Auckland train line will get built - Julie Anne Genter        
KiwiRail's latest report recommends building a third rail freight track in Auckland. Green Party MP Julie-Anne Genter joins us.