Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Jimmy Carter -- No Friend of Israel:

Carter was also a vocal critic of Israeli policies and “view[ed] the unarmed young Palestinians who stood up against thousands of Israel soldiers as ‘instant heroes,’” wrote Brinkley. “Buoyed by the intifada, Carter passed on to the Palestinians, through Arafat, his congratulations.”

Carter's anti-Israel penchant was apparent to me at the time. I voted Republican for the only time in my life in 1980, because I could not bear to vote for Carter. The final straw was when Andy Young at the UN "accidentally" failed to veto a Security Council resolution condemning Israel. At that level, one doesn't make mistakes like that. The linked commentary places that vote in the appropriate historical light.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


An Israeli physicist's 2004 analysis of the nature of the conflict between the Muslim world and the West. Interesting and compelling. The only reservation I have is relative to Iraq. To what extent prior to 2003 was Iraq actually sponsoring international terrorism? Let us assume it was. Nevertheless, the stated reasons for invading Iraq were to prevent it from using WMDs against the West. If this argument is another effort to recast the rationale for military action in Iraq to simply fighting terrorism, I don't buy it.

The other comment is the writer's spot-on analysis of "democratic" elections leading to fanatic regimes. He failed to mention, however, the abject failure of elections in Gaza, that led to Hamas being elevated to power. His theory is correct; he just failed to mention the most obvious example of his theory in action.

Aside from those comments, a cogent and worthwhile analysis.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

EMAIL FROM THE TENNESSEE REPUBLICAN PARTY [from Nashville City Paper editorial]:

Certainly, Americans are at their wit’s end with the oil industry. Rising gasoline prices are changing how people run their businesses, take their vacations and lead their lives.

We are an oil-addicted nation, and it is beginning to impact our lives in ways we had never thought imaginable until gas prices at the pump began to soar and soar.

The national Democratic Party, though, has gone too far in their bid to win Tennessee’s U.S. Senate seat in accusing a Tennessee company of being “big oil” and part of the country’s gas crisis.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) launched attack television advertisements last week against Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bob Corker’s supposed ties to “big oil.”

The target of the attacks was Tennessee’s largest privately held company, Pilot Oil, based in East Tennessee, and its CEO, Jimmy Haslam. Haslam is also Corker’s campaign chair and a long-time supporter of the GOP in solidly Republican East Tennessee.

Branding Pilot Oil as “big oil” is a disingenuous political ploy that hopefully Tennesseans will see through as they make their way to the November general election.

The DSCC is the arm of the Democratic Party in charge of electing Democrats to the U.S. Senate. Their attacks on this Tennessee company are in tandem with Democratic Senate nominee Congressman Harold Ford Jr.’s own set of attacks on the Corker and Haslam connection.

Ford and national Democrats are glibly obscuring a few facts about Pilot Oil as well as their own ties to the oil industry.

As Haslam has explained to the state’s media, Pilot Oil is a gas retailer and has no control over the per-barrel price of crude oil or the world energy market.

Yet Pilot Oil is the largest seller of biodiesel fuel in the country and the largest seller of ethanol in Tennessee — both gasoline alternatives that national Democrats and Republicans have held out as possible solutions to our nation’s energy crisis.

In addition, the Corker campaign maintains the DSCC itself has taken six figures in campaign contributions from the oil and energy industry.

National Democrats and Ford should tell the whole story about Tennessee companies if they are going to make them part of the debate about who should lead the U.S. Senate. Yes, the Haslam family and Pilot Oil have done very well over the years. Haslam is also as politically active as a citizen can be without being a candidate himself.

But suggesting Pilot Oil in some way is partly responsible for the nation’s energy crisis and a “big oil” player on the world stage is simply unfair and inaccurate.


The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee issued the following statement on Bob Corker's efforts to cover up his relationship with the oil industry and divert attention from the fact that he is big oil's favorite senate candidate:

"Every time you pull up to a gas station in Tennessee, you see two signs: One says gas is $3 a gallon and the other says Bob Corker for Senate," DSCC spokesman Phil Singer said.

"Bob Corker has taken more money from the oil and gas industry than any other Senate challenger running this year. His campaign finance chairman is the CEO of Pilot Oil Company – a company that has given him nearly $35,000 in contributions.

"So who do you trust more to lower gas prices? Harold Ford, Jr. who has put out a plan to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, or Bob Corker who is bought and paid for by big oil?"

Well, Pilot and the Haslams may not be in control of crude oil prices, but they nevertheless are reaping the benefits of high oil prices. It seems apparent that Pilot's health is directly proportional to the health of the oil industry itself. The oil industry looks mighty healthy these days. Because Corker accepts big money from Pilot, and because Pilot's honcho is his finance chair, it would appear that "oil money" is front and center behind Corker.

While I am not in favor of going negative so quickly [and wonder whether the ad was cleared by the Ford campaign first], and while the spot itself is somewhat lurid, there is some truth to it.

I also wonder why Corker won't release his tax records. He only released a one page summary of income from 1976 through 2005. You gotta ask what he doesn't want us to see.

He did report almost $5 million in 2005. Yeah, I'm sure he can empathize with the average working person. Is this the case of another rich guy looking to buy public office?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Donald Thompson, who retired from the Oklahoma trial bench in 2004, was just convicted of using a penis pump to masturbate while presiding over several trials between 2001 and 2003. He was sentenced to four years in prison, and ordered to pay a $40,000 fine. Here's more, including the probable cause afidavit that spells out the allegations in, er, gory detail. I also wonder, along with the blogger: how did the Court come up with the amount of the $40,000 fine for these acts?

Yuck. One may only hope that this guy isn't representative of our, uh, fine jurists across the country. Oh, God, I hope not.
ATLA has released an indictment of the insurance industry's questionable tactics post-Katrina as well as following other natural disasters. The report focuses on Big Insurance's spinning the hurricane from the outset, as "the Great New Orleans Flood." The report also notes that Big Insurance showed a whopping $44.8 billion profit in 2005, and raised its surplus more than 7% to $427 billion. Reference to previous natrual disasters demonstrates that Big Insurance has a long track record in such potentially fraudulent, bad faith tactics.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Here's a neat web site, which shows the power of the Internet when used by motivated private individuals. This Israeli couple put together various informational presentations, among which is "Pipeline of Hatred."

This nifty Powerpoint-type presentation graphically illustrates how classic anti-semitism [hatred of Jews as a religious group] is being morphed by Islamic radicalism into a contemporary form of anti-semitism [hatred of the Jewish State of Israel]. The presentation also shows graphically how geographically insignificant Israel is, compared to Islamic staes throughout Africa and the Middle East. The other slide that got to me was the graphic illustration of the number of violent conflicts involving radical Islam currently ongoing in the world. It strikes me that this surge of violent Islamic fundamentalism is much more dangerous to our western way of life than was communism in its heyday.

Well worth a few minutes of your time.

The New Republic Online has an [unscientific] poll on Edwards'spotential as Democratic standard-bearer in 2008. Its conclusion: "A shoo-in for 2008, perhaps? TNR readers have answered that question with a resounding, Eh, maybe. How about Al Gore?"

Some of the comments cited were kind of ridiculous. One commenter thought he was too young [he's in his 50s, for God's sake], and some were turned off because he used to represent injured victims of negligence. Others were suspicious of a "thin resume."

But consider this: Edwards made a [very good] living representing people, as opposed to the insurance industry, big business or faceless corporations. He is plenty old enough, in fact older, I believe than JFK or Bill Clinton were when they first entered the presidency. And, in terms of resume, Edwards is not a professional politician. He actually was out in the real world working for a living; he came to public service in his middle age. Given the no-substance platitudes we are accustomed to hearing from the professional pols, I think it's refreshing to have someone want the job bcause he wants to serve.

In any event, who else on the Democratic side is centrist enough to actually have a chance of winning in 2008. I mean, I hate to be a spoilsport, but it is about winning. I think I've said it before: I'm sick of goint down with the ship of "rightness." I'd rather find the candidate that really represents the political center, and give myself the best chance of prevailing. Appropos of the lottery, you can't serve if you don't win.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The New Republic bemoans the Connecticut result, somewhat echoing my earlier post that the results will be felt significantly in the 2008 presidential. One kind of inaccurate point in the piece, though. The article says, "The news that Wesley Clark and John Edwards will stump for Lamont. . . ." Well, the link as to Edwards simply says that he called Lamont to congratulate him: "John Edwards called Lamont to congratulate him last night--which presumably means he'll find his way to Connecticut to offer his congratulations and support in person."

There's a big difference between a phone call and stumping in the state. That the blogger speculates that he'll campaign for Lamont is unsupported, as far as I know. Edwards would be smart to steer clear of Connecticut for the next three months.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Let's see if I've got this right. Conventional wisdom says that the country has gone progressively to the center/right. The last two Democratic presidents were centrists. The Democrats desparately want to regain control of Congress in 2006, and the White House in 2008. Joe Lieberman was the Democratic standard-bearer just six years ago, along with Al Gore. the DSCC and the Democratic establishment [aside from President Clinton] provided little or no help to Lieberman in his campaign, which is the same as opposing him. And many left-leaning Democrats are now gleeful over his defeat by a "trust fund baby" in the Connecticut primary, which makes the party as a whole look like total freaking disloyal idiots to the rest of the country.

What's wrong with this picture?

Not for nothing, but it does strike me that this deepening division in the Democratic party benefits -- wait for it -- the Republicans. Why? When push comes to shove the Repubs can hold their base, as they did in the last two presidentials, as well as in the mid-terms. The Dems, however, are so divided that only chaos will result. Result [and prediction]: Repubs will hold onto their congrssional majorities in 2006. If the Dems continue this exercise in mass denial, we'll have another "northeastern liberal" [or some such] running in 2008, and the White House will be lost again. The Republicans couldn't have done better if they had planned it. Hmmm, did they plan it?

Who knows, but I, for one, am sick to death of going down in flames, but feeling good about myself in the process. If I don't win, I can't govern. I can't win unless I am a centrist candidate. Polarizing the party plays directly into Repub hands.

The left wing of the Democratic party better get its collective head out of, er, the clouds, or they'll have it handed to them come election day.

By the way, I wouldn't be the least surprised if Lieberman runs as an Independent, kicks Lamont's ass in the general, and then sticks it to the Democratic party forever. I wouldn't blame him. And I say that as a loyal Democrat.
AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION: Presidential bill-signing statements expressing reservations about signed legislation violate Constitution:

If left unchecked, the president's practice does grave harm to the separation of powers doctrine, and the system of checks and balances that have sustained our democracy for more than two centuries.

ABA's point is well-taken. If the President really believes a bill he is signing is unconstitutional, then why doesn't he veto it?

Monday, August 07, 2006

The first photo in this post, by the way, proves conclusively that Glenn does NOT have a "comb-over." My opinion on his tendencies toward being the Anti-Christ vary, based on my daily level of psychosis.

The dog in the second photo is Mojo, who has her own photo on the board with the "other" DiveTech staff. her job description is listed, I believe, as "dive master summoner."

I was lucky enough to take the rebreather course along with Glenn -- I think I took that shot he put up on his blog, in fact -- so many thanks to him for letting me tag along as well to the great folks at DiveTech for making the rebreather experience such a memorable one.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Mel Gibson: drunk AND anti-semitic. AND, the L.A. Sheriff's Department apparently tried to cover it up.

That's why we must have freedom of the press: to expose governmental misconduct, whether to protect the privileged, or otherwise.

UPDATE: The L.A. Times wonders whether Gibson got preferential treatment. And, Mel apologizes to the cops, but NOT to anyone offended by the anti-semitism, like, uh, Jews.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

I got interested [courtesy of Instapundit] in Eugene Volokh's criticism of Slate's "Bushism" transcript quote, mainly because I deal all the time with stenographic transcripts. You know, depositions and such.

So I called a friend who is a court reporter/stenographer, and asked for an opinion of the "offending" transcription. My friend's response: stenographers often use their judgment when there is a misstatement or "space marker" in a particular bit of testimony. Thus, if a word is cut off, or if the speaker says "uh," the stenographer often will cut the blip, if it does not appear to be substantively significant. I can say that such non-substantive cuts are done routinely, in almost every deposition transcript I have ever read.

My review of the president's statement suggests -- to me -- that cutting the following: "the c--" changes the substance of his statement not one whit. My friend agrees, and concludes with the comment that whoever is wasting their time criticizing the corrected transcript should "get a job, because he needs to be doing something important."

I agree, especially because I have just spent 45 minutes thinking about this, talking to my friend, and posting this comment. I guess I'm one of those people to whom my friend was referring.

UPDATE: I fixed the two grammatical errors correctly identified by the commenter. I'm embarassed by them, especially because I hate it when writers wrongly switch off "there" and "their." My only explanation is that I was posting in a hurry, and Blogger is not the easiest interface for proofing. Apologies to all, and thanks to the commenter for pointing out the goofs.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Tom Hayden tries to sound like a statesman, but ends up looking like a dupe:

But the roots of this virulent spiral of vengeance lie in the permanent occupation of Palestinian territories by the overconfident Israelis. As it did in 1982, Israel now admits that the war is not about prisoner exchanges or cease-fires; it is about eradicating Hezbollah and Hamas altogether, if necessary by an escalation against Syria or even Iran. It should be clear by now that the present Israeli government will never accept an independent Palestinian state, but rather harbors a colonial ambition to decide which Palestinian leaders are acceptable.

"Palestinean territories"? Define, please. What idiots like Hayden continually fail to understand is that to the Arabs, "Palestinean" or "occupied" territories means all of Israel. Their complete rejection of the 2000 Camp David proposal, resulting Intifada, rockets from Gaza, killings and hostages from Gaza, rockets from Lebanon, and killings and hostages from Lebanon all prove to anyone actually paying attention that the Arabs don't want peaceful co-existence; they want Israel GONE.

All they've got to do is leave Israel alone, and all would be hunky-dory. Israel is no more imperialistic that WE are.

Monday, July 24, 2006

This blogger just got fired as a lawyer from the big firm of Reed Smith. While she denies that her blogging was contributory to her termination, she does say: "But there's more to talk about here than just the easy answer. Kevin O'Keefe's client base and several thousand others notwithstanding, Evan Schaeffer is probably correct when he says that 'outsiders' (including most of the legal profession) 'remain skeptical'" about blogging.
As a small firm lawyer/administrator, I'm always interested in new and different ways to market. The continuing question for years has been whether Internet usage has reached such a critical mass as to make it a potent marketing tool, i.e., driving cases to the Internet advertiser/marketer. Here's a fascinating new tool for marketing, and a young criminal defense lawyer who apparently is using it to her advantage.

She's also got a blog, apparently, and has been positively reviewed by Professor Bainbridge.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Some responses to the news that Bill Clinton will campaign for Joe Lieberman:

Remember that Clinton is part of the DLC movement, which believes that the country has moved right and that a centrist Democratic thrust is necessary to achieve electoral success. That meant compromise with the right. And who else has been more willing to compromise with the right: Lieberman.


It's On Days Like This That [sic] I really think we have to consider a new political party and let the Democratic Party destroy itself.

As for President Clinton, "He questioned why antiwar Democrats are seeking to oust a fellow Democrat, saying that instead of seeking to retire Republicans they were pursuing 'the nuttiest strategy I ever heard in my life.' "

I agree with President Clinton. The two quotes above highlight the tremendous divide between the disproportionately vocal far left wing of the Democratic Party and the rest of us, who are more or less centrists. Let's face it: the reason the Democratic ticket won in 1992 and 1996 was that the candidates were centrist Democrats. History proves that a "centrist Democratic thrust" is essential to winning the presidency.

The commenter who says that "We have to demonstrate that we can beat the Republicans our way, not the Clinton way. We can rant and rail against the Clintons, the DLC, Lieberman, and the lot, but unless we win elections, it's all academic." demonstrates the essential psychosis of the left wing: They want to win their way or not at all. If the Democratic party follows "their way," it'll be not at all. Again.

Dukakis lost in 1988 by moving left. Kerry lost in 2004 by going [or being] left. Benjamin Franklin said long ago that "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." If true, then these left wingers are nuttier than a fruitcake. They don't speak for me or, I believe, for the majority of the Democratic Party.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

What was life like in 1906? Check this out:

The average life expectancy in the U.S. was 47 years.

Only 14 percent of the homes in the U.S. had a bathtub.

Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone.

A three-minute call from Denver to New York City
cost eleven dollars.

There were only 8,000 cars in the U.S., and only 144 miles
of paved roads.

The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.

Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa, and Tennessee were each more
heavily populated than California.

With a mere 1.4 million people, California was only the 21st
most populous state in the Union.

The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower!

The average wage in the U.S. was 22 cents per hour.

The average U.S. worker made between $200 and $400 per year .

A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year,
a dentist $2,500 per year, a veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 per year, and a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.

More than 95 percent of all births in the U.S. took place at HOME .

Ninety percent of all U.S. doctors had NO COLLEGE EDUCATION!
Instead, they attended so-called medical schools, many of which
were condemned in the press AND the government as "substandard."

Sugar cost four cents a pound.

Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen.

Coffee was fifteen cents a pound.

Most women only washed their hair once a month, and used
borax or egg yolks for shampoo.

Canada passed a law that prohibited poor people from
entering into their country for any reason.

Five leading causes of death in the U.S. were:
1. Pneumonia and influenza
2. Tuberculosis
3. Diarrhea
4. Heart disease
5. Stroke

The American flag had 45 stars.
Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Hawaii, and
Alaska hadn't been admitted to the Union yet.

The population of Las Vegas, Nevada, was only 30!!!!

Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and ice tea
hadn't been invented yet.

There was no Mother's Day or Father's Day.

Two out of every 10 U.S. adults couldn't read or write.

Only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.
Eighteen percent of households in the U.S. had at least
one full-time servant or domestic help.

There were about 230 reported murders in the ENTIRE ! U.S.A. !

Monday, July 17, 2006

Remarks by Rabbi Marvin Hier of Los Angeles:

Let us be very clear, this is not a conflict over borders, not about 1967 or 1948. This is about enemies who have one purpose in mind, a Middle East that is Judenrein, free of Jews.

For years, the critics of Israel opined that when Israel pulls out of Lebanon and Gaza, when it allows the Palestinians to write their history, to define their own destiny, when they are empowered to rebuild their own economy, then they will devote their energies to peace.

Well, Israel pulled out of Lebanon, after guarantees by the international community that the Lebanese government would exercise jurisdiction over its territory and control Hezbollah. But it didn’t and look what happened? An unprovoked terrorist attack and the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers.

In the South, Prime Minister Sharon withdrew from Gaza in a bold attempt to jumpstart the peace process. What was the Palestinian response? They went to the polls and elected Hamas, a terrorist government whose undisputed leader Khaled Meshaal lives in Damascus. Almost immediately, Hamas began firing more then 1,000 rockets at the city of Sderot which is not disputed territory, but an uncontested part of Israel.

Day after day, month after month, the rockets fell, but the world watched and did nothing. Hamas felt emboldened and dug a tunnel into Israel, kidnapping Corporal Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier and holding him hostage, but again, the world took no concrete action.

Hier's point illustrates the Bizarro world in which we live: for years, Israel has been importuned to get out of "occupied territory." Now, to the West, "occupied territory" means the West Bank and Gaza. To the Arabs, "occupied territory means all of Israel. Thus, the Arab call to relinquish "occupied teritory" means, to them, the abandonment of the State of Israel completely.

Many people, including me, were apprehensive at the Sharon government's bold move to unilaterally pull back from Gaza. The naysayers foretold that the Arabs simply would fire rockets, unimpeded, from the Gaza territory into Israel. The Israeli government and people nevertheless took a chance in good faith that the "Palestineans," essentially having been ceded the land they had wanted, would leave Israel alone. Alas, the naysayers were right, the "Palestineans" continue to kill innocent civilians to gain more territory.

This continued use of terror killings over the past year appears to have escaped the notice of the world community. Continued Arab violence, both in Gaza and in northern Israel, undersocres the fact that the Arabs want Israel destroyed. Nothing less. Israel has no choice but to do all in its power to destroy the destroyers before it's too late.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

This Comments thing is interesting, for a change if nothing else. One commenter believes that a blog is not a blog without Comments enabled. Instapundit doesn't have comments, so I'm not sure I agree. We'll see how this [not so] grand experiment goes, though.

On the John Edwards post from a couple of days ago, one commenter said this: "Rove actually said following the 2004 election that Edwards was the Dem he feared the most. He lucked out and got Kerry. He won't be as lucky in 2008." That's quite interesting, except I don't believe Rove "lucked out." They wanted to run against Kerry, and look who they ran against.

As to the tried and true bromides that Edwards couldn't even win his own state, we don't really know that, because with Kerry and his baggage in the mix, there's no way to accurately extrapolate what would have happened with an Edwards/Mr. X ticket. And, if the ticket had been switched to put Edwards in the number 1 slot, I think it at least possible that he would have taken at least one southern state, which has for years been the Democrats' achilles heel. If anything, 2004 suggests that the significance of where the VP candidate is from is overstated.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Just for yucks, I have enabled the comments feature of this blog. I've never done this, in over three years of on and off blogging, so it ought to be interesting.

So weigh in, all you dozens of faithful readers!
This MUST be right: "07/13/06 FOX News Poll: Democrats Favored On Most Issues; Bush Approval Down." After all, consider the source!
Glenn links to a good interview with John Edwards on poverty and its societal consequences.

Which leads to an interesting hypothesis: Americans are less interested generally in specific issues, such as foreign policy, than they are in how government and society is going to make their lives better [or worse]. Thus, one of the reasons the Clinton administrations were so popular was that peoples' lives improved during that eight year period.

We keep hearing that the economy is strong, that the war in Iraq is progressing, but people here at home are worried, incomes don't seem to buy what they used to, gas prices are through the roof, there's a lingering vague apprehension of terrorist activity domestically, and there's no general sense we are moving forward or getting ahead. Republicans used a fear-mongering strategy in 2004 to keep the White House, i.e., we can't trust Kerry or the Democrats, things are too dangerous to make a change, it sends a bad signal to terrorists, etc. My sense is that with the passage of time, the public has realized that we can live our lives, even with the potential for terrorism in the U.S. The restlessness of the public may then be ascribed to dissatisfaction with the government's progress at helping improve peoples' lives.

In that respect, a guy like Edwards, as he would have in 2004, would make a choice candidate for the Democrats. It doesn't help that he's got that certain something that draws people to him. It's that intangible that Kennedy, Clinton, and even Reagan had. He's got positives, where Hillary Clinton or Kerry have negatives.

It is also noteworthy that he is completely off the Republicans' radar screen. I believe that the Republicans have for years been remarkably adroit at pushing to the front in the public eye the candidate they want to run against. Consider McGovern in 1972, Dukakis in 1988 and Kerry in 2004. I think they didn't want to run against Clinton, and did everything possible to deep six his campaign in the primaries, to no avail, based on Clinton's extraordinary campaigning skills and determination to persevere. The fact that nary a word has been said by MSM or Republican punditry about Edwards suggests that they fear his ability to contend strongly with whichever Republican emerges from the pack. That's especially important in the upcoming 2008 cycle, because the Repubs don't have a "Natural" to rely on.

In this respect, I am reminded of Hal Holbrook's great speech from the movie All The President's Men:

Nationwide--my God, they were
frightened of Muskie and look who
got destroyed--they wanted to run
against McGovern, and look who they're
running against. They bugged, they
followed people, false press leaks,
fake letters, they canceled Democratic
campaign rallies, they investigated
Democratic private lives, they planted
spies, stole documents, on and on--
don't tell me you think this was all
the work of little Don Segretti.

To place the analogy in 2004 context, they were frightened of Edwards and look who got destroyed--they wanted to run against Kerry, and look who they're running against. Not to belabor it, but in 1992 context [had it worked out the way they wanted it to]: they were frightened of Clinton and look who got destroyed--they wanted to run against [Tsongas, Jerry Brown, whoever], and look who they're running against. Let's face it: with a lesser campaigner than Clinton, the whole barrage of Gennifer Flowers, draft status, and "I didn't inhale" would have been fatal. For details on the 1992 shennaigans, read Carville and Matalin's All's Fair. Unfortunately, I absolutely believe that the Republican leadership will do almost anything to steer national elections in the direction they favor.

In any event, I don't know if Edwards is considering another run in 2008, but he ought to. If he does, however, he should watch his back, because they'll be comin' for him.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Here's a cute take on the NSA domestic spying program, courtesy of Newsday.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Hey! I got published, kind of.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Karl Rove:

"Like too many Democrats it strikes me they are ready to give the green light to go to war, but when it gets tough, they fall back of that party's old platform of cutting and running. They may be with you for the first few bullets but they won't be there for the last tough battles," he said.

Let me get this straight -- this guy, who as far as I know never saw a day of combat, is saying this about twodecorated combat veterans? Besides, he's wrong:

* WWI was started by Woodrow Wilson, a Democratic President. WWI was finished in victory by Woodrow Wilson, a Democratic President.
* WWII was started by Franklin Roosevelt, a Democratic President. WWII was finished in victory by Harry Truman, a Democratic President.
* Korea was started by Harry Truman, a Democratic President. WWII was finished by leaving before winning (or "cutting and running in Rove parlance) by Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican President.
* Vietnam was started by John Kennedy, a Democratic President. Vietnam was escalated by Lyndon Johnson, a Democratic President. We began withdrawing before winning (or "cutting and running in Rove parlance) under Richard Nixon, a Republican President. withdrawing before winning (or "cutting and running in Rove parlance) under Gerry Ford, a Republican President.
* Grenada -- fricking Grenada? -- was invaded under Ronald Reagan, a Republican President. Grenada -- fricking Grenada? -- was finished in victory under Ronald Reagan, a Republican President.
* Iraq War I was started by George HW Bush, a Republican President. We left before removing Saddam Hussein from power (or "cutting and running in Rove parlance) under George HW Bush, a Republican President.
* Bosnia war was started by Bill Clinton, a Democratic President. Bosnia was won by Bill Clinton, a Democratic President.

Not that accuracy makes a difference. All this guy is doing is playing into the Republican-created and perpetuated stereotype of Democrats being wimps. Hell, even George McGovern was a decorated WWII veteran as a B-24 pilot. Let us all keep in mind the Hitler/Goebbels lesson of the "big lie:" The bigger the untruth, the easier it is to get people to believe it en masse.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Ben Fong-Torres gets the Howard Stern treatment: "Back in San Francisco, I heard from people who'd caught the show. Stern and Quivers, they said, had treated me with respect. Is that what you call it? But it's true. Through all the grilling and joking, they'd maintained an all-in-fun tone. In exchange, I'd had my 10 minutes of (almost) fame."
Ben Fong-Torres gets the Howard Stern treatment: "Back in San Francisco, I heard from people who'd caught the show. Stern and Quivers, they said, had treated me with respect. Is that what you call it? But it's true. Through all the grilling and joking, they'd maintained an all-in-fun tone. In exchange, I'd had my 10 minutes of (almost) fame."
Ben Fong-Torres gets the Howard Stern treatment: "Back in San Francisco, I heard from people who'd caught the show. Stern and Quivers, they said, had treated me with respect. Is that what you call it? But it's true. Through all the grilling and joking, they'd maintained an all-in-fun tone. In exchange, I'd had my 10 minutes of (almost) fame."
The "Jersey Girls" respond to Ann Coulter:

"We have been slandered. Contrary to Ms. Coulter's statements, there was no joy in watching men that we loved burn alive. There was no happiness in telling our children that their fathers were never coming home again. We adored these men and miss them every day," the women said.

Extremism, or zealotry, whether on the left or the right is equally bad. Coulter, who has made a name for herself largely on the fierceness of her invective and her looks (would she have gotten on the cover of Time had she NOT been an attractive, leggy blonde?) exemplifies the reprehensible natrue of the right's approach. While The Anchoress condemns Coulter's statement, her phraseology on this topic is telling:

To me she is embodying everything I currently cannot abide in the “conservative movement,” the arrogant presumption of absolute moral certitude (which is ugly, ugly, ugly coming from the left, so honey, it’s not pretty when it’s from the right, either), combined with the sense of over-confidence which is sending so many on the right into a self-destructive Roy Moore/Tom Tancredo plunge off a cliff.

Thus, if it comes from the left, its "ugly, ugly, ugly," but whenit comes from the right, it's mere'l "not pretty." I hope that's just her turn of phrase, but I believe that right wingers see the distinction in just that way.

Shredder Trucks? Shredder Trucks??

Well, before we jump to conclusions, maybe it's all an innocent mistake. After all:

With identity theft on the increase, State Farm wants to keep customer information out of the wrong hands. State Farm spokesman Richard Ludke said the company works to maintain the confidentiality and security of private records.

"It would be of course cost-prohibitive to maintain every document, obviously, and so we've implemented this program to orderly dispose of the records we don't need.

"But we do issue litigation hold orders so that we make sure we retain the records that may be needed for specific litigation."

On the other hand:

at least one shredded document was an engineering report that went missing after Attorney General Jim Hood subpoenaed such State Farm reports for a grand jury investigation. Scruggs said he also had subpoenaed that report and others for his lawsuit against State Farm.

But wait:

The employee was told that State Farm was transferring paper records to computer images, then shredding the original paper.

Well, that's fine, except:

while computer imagining works fine for photographs, the quality at the State Farm office is so poor with printed documents that they are almost impossible to read.

How do we know this? A State Farm employee explains:

The employee first learned while working on a policyholder file that an original engineering report had been destroyed. The copy scanned to images could not be located, either.

"I can tell you I was in a file that was supposed to have an engineer report. No one could find the engineer report and the person I was working with was told it had been shredded because they'd decided to scan it into images.

No problem! Just get another copy from the engineering firm, right? Except:

The employee's co-worker was about to call the engineering firm for another copy, but a claims manager said not to. Instead, an employee authorized to talk to the engineering firm called and requested another copy of the report.

The firm sent over another report, the employee said, adding, "but of course at that point you don't know if it's the one we originally got or not."

I feel like I'm watching a tennis match. These charges are serious, though, and if it's demonstrated to the court's satisfaction that State Farm is destroying evidence, the court ought to be imposing severe sanctions based on spoliation of evidence. Moreover, if State Farm destroyed subpoenaed evidence [i.e., a court order to produce], then it ought to be held in contempt of court.

By the way, if a plaintiff was caught doing what State Farm is alleged to have done here, then you can bet the defendant insurance company would be pushing hard for sanctions, including dismissal of the plaintiff's case.

By the Numbers:

$44.8 Billion: Record profit of insurance companies in 2005

18.7%: Increase in insurance industry profits over 2004

$427 billion: Total insurance industry surplus

So I guess I don't feel too much sympathy for the insurance industry in its efforts to deny liability for hurricane losses in 2005

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

No, Glenn is not the antichrist. And no, that's not a comb-over, either.

Nice fake smile, though....
God is the chairman of the Texas Republican Party.

Well, I guess I really am on the wrong side.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Glenn says that Democratic pollster Mark Blumenthal fisks the Kennedy article. Well, not precisely, as Blumenthal states at the outset of his post:

First, despite its weaknesses, the Kennedy article raises some important and troubling questions about real problems in Ohio in 2004. As Ohio State University Law Professor Dan Tokaji puts it, the article is "useful in exposing how shoddy election administration practices can result in lost votes, and how some recently enacted laws will make things worse rather than better." The summary of problems deserving attention includes long lines in minority precincts, efforts of the Republican Party to selectively challenge (or "cage") new registrants and the many examples of pure incompetence by local election officials. And then there is partisanship of Republican Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, now his party's nominee for governor. Blackwell will need to answer to Ohio voters for, as Salon.com's Farhad Manjoo writes, having "used his powers for partisan gain," issuing "a series of arbitrary and capricious voting and registration rules that could well have disenfranchised many people in the state" (but interests disclosed: I am a Democratic pollster with clients in Ohio)

Second, while I have devoted 68 posts and tens of thousands of words to the exit poll controversy since Election Day 2004, I have never argued that the exit polls can be used to rule out or disprove the possibility that vote fraud may have occurred in Ohio or anywhere else during in 2004.

Blumenthal's overall point: the discrepancy between the exit polls and the eventual announced vote tabulations does not affirmatively demonstrate electoral fraud. As indicated by his disclaimer as quoted above, he doesn't rule it out, either. Blumenthal clearly thinks Kennedy and Rolling Stone are making too much of the exit poll issue, though.

And while maybe I'm dense [maybe?], I don't see how this is an embarassment for RFK and Rolling Stone, any more than the polemics of, say, an Ann Coulter or Mark Levin are for the radical right. Well, OK, maybe it is embarassing, considering those two....

Remember the wildly inaccurate exit polls in the 2004 presidential election? In a documented and sourced piece from Rolling Stone, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. argues persuasively that the exit polls were not inaccurate:

In January, a team of mathematicians from the National Election Data Archive, a nonpartisan watchdog group, compared the state's exit polls against the certified vote count in each of the forty-nine precincts polled by Edison/Mitofsky. In twenty-two of those precincts -- nearly half of those polled -- they discovered results that differed widely from the official tally. Once again -- against all odds -- the widespread discrepancies were stacked massively in Bush's favor: In only two of the suspect twenty-two precincts did the disparity benefit Kerry. The wildest discrepancy came from the precinct Mitofsky numbered "27," in order to protect the anonymity of those surveyed. According to the exit poll, Kerry should have received sixty-seven percent of the vote in this precinct. Yet the certified tally gave him only thirty-eight percent. The statistical odds against such a variance are just shy of one in 3 billion.

Such results, according to the archive, provide "virtually irrefutable evidence of vote miscount." The discrepancies, the experts add, "are consistent with the hypothesis that Kerry would have won Ohio's electoral votes if Ohio's official vote counts had accurately reflected voter intent." According to Ron Baiman, vice president of the archive and a public policy analyst at Loyola University in Chicago, "No rigorous statistical explanation" can explain the "completely nonrandom" disparities that almost uniformly benefited Bush. The final results, he adds, are "completely consistent with election fraud -- specifically vote shifting."

Read the whole article. Considering the likely shenanigans in Florida in 2000 -- whose election mechanism also was controlled by Republicans -- I tend to be convinced. Remember, the reason the Nixon Administration is justifiably castigated is not because their people broke into Democratic headquarters, it was the overall pattern of subverting the electoral process. If it is true that the Republicans threw the election to Bush -- a conclusion that is statistically inescapable, according to this article -- then the subversion of everything this country is about is even more massive and pernicious. I fear for the electorate that fails to cry "foul" and bring the wrongdoers to justice.

Update on MCE 2005 and the mystical [ha!] Adaptec dual TV tuner:

The latest info I have had -- relative to my problems in connecting a set top box [STB] to one input and direct cable through a VCR to the second input is that it simply can't be done. Those who know -- supposedly -- say that I must have the same input source for each input. Thus, I can have two STBs, or two direct cable inputs, but I cannot mix and match the two. Well, they're wrong!

Here's what I did last night. I connected the STB to input 1 and direct cable through a VCR to input 2. I then went through the MCE tuner setup manually. As before, the STB on input 1 set up properly -- MCE saw the picture, the remote set up for my particular STB, etc. The MCE setup then automatically went to the same setup procedure for input 2. It saw the picture, and I just pretended that it set up a remote properly. Setup ended normally, and I was left seeing input 2 [direct cable through VCR].

Using the electronic programming guid [EPG], I started recording what I was seeing on input 2 [direct cable/VCR]. Once the record started, I went to the EPG again, and chose another channel. Voila! The STB changed to that selected channel, and I could see/record from input 1 [STB]. While one or both inputs are recording, I can toggle between the two by going to the guide and selecting those channels. If both inputs are recording and I try to select a third channel, MCE gives me a pop-up asking if I want to terminate the record on one or the other channels. It's a little kluge-y, but at least (1) I can go back and forth between the tuners, (2) I can record from the VCR using the manual record, and (3) if I want to record from input 2 [direct cable/VCR], then all I have to do is manually set the VCR channel at the same time I set the record with the EPG. I can live with this.

Next problem: MCE saves the recordings in a proprietary format called DVR-MS. If I want to edit the recording after the fact -- to remove commercials or to add an alternate audio track -- what's the best, if any, software to convert from DVR-MS format to a recognizable format like MPEG 2? Any ideas out there?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

I saw that Glenn was talking about kids' books. I too [can't remember if he got Henry Reed from me or I got Henry Reed from him] have fond memories of my pre-adolescent reading. For geeks like us, those books were incredibly formative. They must have been, because I still vividly recall,albeit through the filter of a kid's perceptions, all those books. I mean, Glenn wouldn't be Glenn without the Mad Scientists Club. Trust me on this.

Personally, I started with the Happy Hollisters, and moved on to the Hardy Boys. In those halcyon days, every book I read was the best book I'd ever read, which was, I guess, literally true. Believe, me, I was disappointed years later when I actually ran across books I didn't like. The bloom was off the rose....

One of my dreams has always been to pass on the books I read as a kid to my children, such that those books would have the effect on my kids that they had on me. Not be be, apparently. My nine year old, who is an avid reader, has eschewed both my Hollisters and Hardy Boys books, sadly enough. His current favorites seem to be the Goosebumps books. A couple of years ago, he couldn't get enough of Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants series. He'll be happy to know the Captain will be appearing in a new story soon.

Maybe my six year old will like my old books ....
For all those who, like me, are relatively clueless on Windows MCE 2005 issues, we have -- you guessed it -- an MCE blog!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Thanks to all for checking out my reviews of Dell's customer service and my odd-yssey involving Adaptec. I got a couple of emails about trying to get the AVC-3610 TV tuner to work properly, and one canny emailer posited that the problem was likely through Windows Media Center edition, and not necessarily with Adaptec. Spurred by this cogent comment, I went into Microsoft's MCE site, and posted the following question into the applicable newsgroup:

I've got MCE 2005 with an Adaptec AVC-3610 dual tuner. I set it up originally with input 1 coming from set top box RCA out to AVC-3610 RCA in. The device saw the signal and set up for the remote. Then I set up Input 2 with direct cable, split at the wall, coming through a VCR, into Input 2 of the AVC-3610. MCE went through the setup for both inputs and saw the signal on both inputs. Even though I had no STB on Input 2, I allowed MCE setup to use the EPG that was also being used for input 1 [STB]. After all, the reference the same channels.

When I completed MCE setup, however, I could see and control only Input 2 -- the second input set up. It is as if the first set up -- through the STB -- doesn't exist. I have been able to find no way to toggle between input 1 and input 2. How can I record from both signal feeds if I can't toggle between the two to set the record commands for one, the other or both?

What am I missing? Right now, I;m running only one tuner setup, through the STB. I want to be able to record VHS tapes up to digital, and currently can't, without recabling and re-setting up.

Then, after a response which was nice but not too helpful, I got more specific:

OK, let's say I use 2 STBs on each input. How then do I toggle between the two feeds? Example: I start recording West Wing at 7:00 through input 1,
but I want to watch/record MSNBC on live TV through input 2. How do I go back and forth to set the timer for each input source and to watch one or the other?

Here is, I think [finally],the answer I have been looking for:

Since they're both the same, MCE treats each source as identical and
interchangeable, and it manages it for you.

In other words, if you're recording West Wing through the schedule, and you turn on MCE and go to watch Live TV and switch to MSNBC, it does so without question or hesitation. This is as opposed to the case where you only have one tuner. In that case, it will give an error saying that you will have to interrupt the recording if you want to watch Live TV.

Want to record two programs simultaneously? Just tell it to do it, and it manages it for you. If you try to record three, it will then give an error and ask you to pick which 2 of the 3 you want to record.

Does that help?

So here's the solution. First, I have to use the same signal sources on each input, although I don't know how the device senses the different signals. Second, apparently, I don't have to do anything to toggle between the two input sources -- MCE does it for me seamlessly.

Cool, if it actually works. Here's my next question, though. One of the reasons I sprang for the new computer and TV tuner was to be able to move my Tennessee football games [I've got most of the televised games since 1989] up to digital, and then move them to DVD. If I have to use the same input sources on each input, how do I get a VCR into the chain. Can I daisy chain the VCRin between the set top box and the AVC-3610? Any bright ideas out there?

Sunday, May 28, 2006

In my previous post, I described the Kafka-esque experiences in dealing with Dell on the supposedly bundled-in TV tuner with my Dell XPS-M140 computer. Here is a review of the computer. Well, the pain continues, focused now on the TV tuner, an Adaptec AVC-3610. Here is how Adaptec describes the product:

Dual TV tuners and dual hardware MPEG-2 encoders let you watch one show while recording another, record two shows at the same time, or even record two shows and watch another pre-recorded video. Enjoy DVD-quality video on your desktop PC or notebook.

Based on these kinds of statements, I figured that I could hook up my cable converter box to one input, and direct cable through a VCR to the second input. Thus, I could record off the cable box, off direct cable through the VCR, off the VCR [converting VHS programs to digital], and potentially record two signals at the same time.

Last Saturday, I set up the device, which appears above. You can see that it has RCA inputs on either side of the device, with S-Video capability and RF/Coaxial capability as well. So here's what I did: From the wall, I split the cable with a splitter. One side goes to the converter box. From converter box RCA outs to Adaptec RCA 1 ins. From the other side of the splitter, Co-ax to VCR Co-ax in. Then, VCR RCA outs to Adaptec RCA 2 ins. Voila. I thought.

I used the Getting Started Guide, which is the only documentation Adaptec has for this device. Nothing in its knowledge base, no troubleshooting. Just this guide.

Windows MCE had no problem installing the Adaptec device drivers. To use the device, however, you must go through the MCE set-up. OK, so I did that.

With the Adaptec dual tuner device, MCE sets up the first input, and then does the same setup procedure for the second input. As part of the setup, MCE tries to "see" the signal being sent through the device. Then MCE sets up the included remote control to operate the converter box.

The setup for input 1 [with the converter box] was fine. MCE "saw" the signal, and the remote control setup was seamless and easy.

The setup for input 2 [cable to VCR to Adaptec] was conditionally fine. MCE "saw" the signal, but could not set up the remote control to work with the Sony VCR. I expect that's because it's a VCR, and not a cable converter box. But that's OK. If I have to manually change the VCR channel to record from that input, fine. In any event, I wanted the VCR in the loop more for VHS conversion to digital than for timer recording of cable programming.

So, once it was all set up, I sat down with the remote control and realized there was a problem. A big problem. There was no control on the remote to toggle between input 1 and input 2. What I was seeing on the computer/TV screen was input 2 [VCR], i.e., the last input installed through MCE setup. There was no way to see, or to record, input 1 [cable converter box].

Could the problem lie with the fact that I was attaching two different input sources: cable converter box vs. direct cable/VCR? I couldn't see how, because there is no control to switch back and forth, even if both inputs were from a converter box.

I had to wait till Monday to call Adaptec. I had to be missing something. I talked to Adaptec tech support on Monday. They set up a service ticket [or whatever], and took a few hours to look at the problem. The guy I talked to did not sound too knowledgeable, but I had to hope that the manufacturer of the device knew more about it than I did.

Well, maybe not. The guy probably knew less about the device than I did. At least I had played around with it, and he obviously had not. His conclusion was that I could not "mix and match" input sources. OK, fine, but how do I switch between sources? I have to be able to do this, because if Adaptec's above-quoted sales come-on is accurate, then I have to be able to view and set up recordings on input 1 and input 2. And, if I am recording on input 2, how do I watch input 1? Or vice-versa. There has to be an answer to this. The Adaptec guy had no answer, and knew of no one at Adaptec who knew the answer. He said he would keep working the problem, and get back to me. That was Monday, May 22. I haven't heard from Adaptec or that guy since.

Now, this makes no sense to me. How can it be that no one knows the answer, because there has to be an answer. I'm currently operating off input 1 alone, and it works fine. But the dual tuner capability is completely unused.

I'm hoping someone out there in the Blogosphere has the [hopefully ridiculously easy] solution to this problem.

The Trials and Tribulations of Buying From Dell [grrr], by Instalawyer:

OK, so I had some extra cash, and/or needed a deduction, and my none too reliable Sony Vaio finally bit the dust with a motherboard glitch that crashed the computer anytime I physically moved it. After weeks of dithering as to what type replacement laptop to get, I finally decided at the end of March to go with the Dell XPS-M140, a relatively light and compact notebook that I could load up with features. Interestingly -- and of some concern to me -- Dell's web site no longer seems to contain a link to the XPS-M140. Have they taken it off the market already?

Anyway, I elected to get the full 1 GB of RAM, the fastest processor available for the unit, Bluetooth, even though I currently have no Bluetooth devices [you never know in the future], the longer life [9 cell?] battery, and the three year on-site service deal. Finally, I got the Windows Media Center Edition 2005 [MCE] operating system and the bundled "TV tuner" [make and model unspecified by Dell], with the goal of using the new computer as a quasi-do-it-yourself personal video recorder and video capture device.

In this latter respect, I would be able to record items off the cable TV [for work purposes, of course -- news stories and such related to cases], as well as take items on VHS video and convert them to digital editable form. You see, with my TIVO, I can do this conversion, but TIVO's digital file format is not susceptible of editing. Why would I need to edit? Well, to remove commercials, to redact deposition testimony that I don't need, that sort of thing.

After a couple of weeks, I finally received the computer. The computer itself seemed fine: appropriately speedy and compact, but with a wide-format screen big enough that I didn't have to squint to see, and a well-sized keyboard for typing.

However, no TV tuner was included. I called Dell, and the heavily accented overseas customer service person [Indian?] told me that the TV tuner was not included with what I ordered. Now, this makes no sense, because there's really no reason for me to get MCE unless I have PVR capability, for which I would need that TV tuner. I made some noise about this , and the Dell person generously agreed to ship me a TV tuner for free. OK, great, I thought to myself. Problem solved.

After another week or so, I got the tuner. It was an ATI TV Wonder USB 2.0 model. I took it home and thereupon spent about four hours trying to install it. For some reason, the install program off the CD-ROM kept failing at the outset. I did kluge an install once, but then the device wouldn't see the cable TV signal. I was stymied, but because it was Friday night, I couldn't get any customer support from ATI until Monday, during business hours.

The following Monday, I got ATI on the phone [their support rep was in California], and while on hold, I found semi-hidden documentation on the ATI web site that this particular device only worked with Windows XP. In other words, Dell's idiots had sent me a TV tuner device for my MCE computer that was incompatible with my MCE computer!

So I called Dell again. This call was the second or third to Dell, not counting their "inadvertent" hang-ups. The new overseas Dell person i spoke with needed some convincing that the ATI device was incompatible with an MCE computer, but finally agreed to take the return and then ship me a new device. Dell's accessories page showed a few devices that allegedly worked with MCE 2005. The top contenders in my my mind were the Hauppage WinTV-PVR-USB2 Personal Video Recorder and the Adaptec AVC-3610.

I suggested to the rep that Dell send me the Adaptec device, because it was a dual tuner device, so [at least] theoretically, I could attach one signal input from my cable converter box, and the other from direct cable/VCR. That way, without any recabling, I could record signal off cable, as well as using the device for VHS conversion to editable digital format. Also, if I wanted, the dual tuner capability would allow me to record two different signals simultaneously. That's pretty cool. To my surprise, the Dell rep said they would send the Adaptec device. Standard delay time: three to five days to ship. Great, I said, we're finally straightened out, I said. Little did I know....

Two weeks later, I still didn't have my TV tuner. I called Dell again, and the overseas rep [apparently, Dell uses no one in the U.S. for customer support] stunned me by asserting that the Adaptec AVC-3610 is not available from Dell!. While this person was saying this, I was punching up that very item on Dell's web site. While looking at Dell's page for the AVC-3610, I told this person, in [ahem] exasperated tones that he was flatly wrong, and that it was available from Dell. The person put me on hold for a few minutes. When he/she came back on the line, lo and behold, the AVC-3610 was available. He/she agreed to send the device, using the exact same language as had been used two weeks previously. I could have bitched more, but it would have served no purpose. I was just going to have to wait and see whether Dell actually made good on its [second] promise to ship me this item.

Finally, finally, I received the Adaptec device. Total time elapsed from when I received the computer to when I received the TV tuner: six weeks. Am I happy with Dell? Not a bit. The computer works fine. The large battery I got is great -- I used the computer at depositions this past Friday. I turned the computer on at 9:00, and when we finished at 2:30, I still had an hour and a half of battery time left. That's great. Dell's customer service leaves a lot to be desired, however. I estimate that between the phone calls, the time spent on trying to install the ATI device and the general tsouris of it all, I spent about five hours dealing with what should have come with the computer originally. I bill my time at $225 per hour. In the words of Paul Newman in Absence of Malice: "Who do I see about that?"
Instapundit and Power Line are clearly better proofreaders than CBS viv-a-vis miscategorizing Rep. Jefferson as a Republican. CBS has now corrected its online news story to identify him as a Democrat.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Scary, and not surprising:

Human rights groups are raising alarms over a new law passed by the Iranian parliament that would require the country's Jews and Christians to wear coloured badges to identify them and other religious minorities as non-Muslims.

"This is reminiscent of the Holocaust," said Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. "Iran is moving closer and closer to the ideology of the Nazis."

One commenter to the piece asserts that the Nazis didn't start such practices, Muslims did: "Anyone who knew the rules applied to dhimmi would not be in he slightest shocked by news of its implementation. Any more than the marriage age being lowered to 9 for girls by the Ayatollah. Most think it was the Nazi's idea, it wasn't, it was Mohammed's."

For years, people looked at the Nazi atrocities and said, "it could never happen again. It will never happen here." I suspect a lot fewer people are saying that these days.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

ATLA reports that, in a new book entitled "The Medical Malpractice Myth,"Tom Baker, Connecticut Mutual Professor of Law and director of the Insurance Center at the University of Connecticut, uses empirical evidence to dismantle the myths that permeate the national debate over medical malpractice and liability insurance costs. A couple of excerpts:

. . . except for auto accidents and the occasional “mass tort” situation like asbestos, Agent Orange, or breast implants, Americans actually do not bring tort claims all that often, especially compared to the number of accidents and injuries there are. We now have two decades of solid research documenting this fact. What is more, the rate of auto lawsuits—the most frequent kind of tort lawsuit—is going down. And, despite the media focus on mass torts, products liability, and medical malpractice, those kinds of cases are far less important in dollar terms than either auto accidents or workers’ compensation.


Where Americans do excel in litigation is in the area of business lawsuits. If you read the business section of the newspaper, you know that B2B—business-to-business—sales are hot. So is B2B litigation. Some of the business executives who complain about the litigation explosion must be thinking about their own behavior. In one indication, the proportion of lawyers who bring personal-injury lawsuits has remained steady since 1975, while the share of lawyers involved in business litigation has more than tripled.

Read the whole excerpt I posted to, but the conclusion this author reaches is that "Built on a foundation of urban legend mixed with the occasional true story, supported by selective references to academic studies, and repeated so often that even the mythmakers forget the exaggeration, half truth, and outright misinformation employed in the service of their greater good, the medical malpractice myth has filled doctors, patients, legislators, and voters with the kind of fear that short circuits critical thinking."

Here's a summary of Baker's findings. Interestingly, Baker cautions Big Insurance to be careful what it wishes for. If injured victims of negligence are denied access to the courts, then businesses, doctors, and individuals have no need for insurance. They could win the battle for "tort reform," and lose the war by putting themselves out of business.

Monday, April 17, 2006

President Bush: He talks the talk, but he don't walk the walk.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Instapundit has posted to Tim Blair's disparagement of Howard Stern. Contrary to Tim Blair's bald assertion, Sirius Satellite Radio had about 600,000 subscribers when Howard announced his move. The tally stands now at 4,000,000. Howard's take:

It's a big universe. But I have proven myself in that universe. And I'm not sure many other people could bring the millions of people to satellite so quickly. When I signed on [in October 2004], Sirius had 600,000 subscribers. Now it has 4 million. Maybe that's the crowning achievement. Compared to terrestrial it's still small, but I think about it and go, ''Well, that's still more than Imus has.'' On satellite I do worry that we're like the Shree Rajneesh, off with our cult. [But it] excites me that it's our world. There's nobody interfering. We can give the fans anything they want. It's liberating.

As to critical complaints relative to the plethora of naked girls, Howard responds: "It's funny, if I never had another naked woman on, I'd be fine with it. Or another guest. I could care less. I believe the rapport between Robin, myself, Fred, Artie, and the characters is really the substance of the show."

Not surprisingly, he's absolutely right. Recently, Howard riffed for over half an hour about his sidekick Artie's vending machine proclivities, even quizzing him on what food item was in, say, E2 [Artie knew, of course!]

I listened to the Stern show when I lived in the D.C. area -- 1988 through 1992 -- but have not heard the show regularly since moving home to Tennessee. I was one of the terrestrial radio types who shelled out, specifically for the Stern show. I haven't regretted it. Most of howard's most vociferous critics have never heard his show. More often than not, I drive to work with a smile on my face. For me, that's well nigh a miracle!

UPDATE: Bear Sterns is bullish on Sirius!

Disney's Mission to Mars [at EPCOT] was quite a ride, although I think the kids enjoy it more. All the adults in my group were somewhat more than vaguely nauseous when it was over. I now thank the stars [pun intended] that nauseous is all we were.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

ATLA is responding to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce smear campaign with a full page ad in USA Today.

UPDATE: Here is the Harris Poll the ad is responding to. ATLA's in-depth response to the poll is as follows:

On Monday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will release an updated “study” that supposedly ranks the best and worst state legal systems in America. But as with past editions, this “study” merely measures how Corporate America perceives the civil justice system, ignoring the views of consumers. The “study” is based on a survey of corporate lawyers from multi-million dollar corporations who spend their days trying to ensure that consumers or employees can’t hold these corporations accountable for wrongdoing and gross negligence. A survey isn’t necessary to tell us that the attorneys working for Merck are not happy with the legal system that holds their company accountable for the deaths and injuries caused by its controversial drug Vioxx. Similarly, any convicted criminal would say that the legal system doesn't work. Nevertheless, the Chamber touts this study as fairly measuring the states’ legal systems. The facts tell a different story.


The Chamber’s “Study” Is Actually a Survey of Corporate Lawyers Working for Multi-Million Dollar Corporations. Instead of attempting to measure the effectiveness of the civil justice systems in each state, the Chamber instead commissioned a poll of corporate lawyers at companies with $100 million or more in annual revenues. These are the very same lawyers who work every day protecting and defending large corporations when they take unfair advantage of consumers and employees.

The Chamber’s Own Pollster Admitted that There is No Way to Measure the Fairness of a State’s Legal System. Humphrey Taylor of Harris Interactive, the polling firm that conducted the survey for the Chamber, admitted that there is no way to measure fairness of the legal system in each state. According to the Copley News Service, “Humphrey Taylor of Harris Interactive said the survey is based on the individual responses of the [corporate] lawyers because there is no hard data that can be used to measure the perceived fairness of a state's legal system.” Copley News Service, 3/8/04. Nevertheless, the Chamber has mischaracterized the “study” as “rank[ing] the best to worst legal systems in America.” “AdWatch,” The Tallahassee Democrat, 3/12/05.

After Ranking West Virginia as Having One of the “Worst” Liability Systems, the Chamber’s CEO and Pollster Were Forced to Admit that Only of a Fraction of Those Surveyed Actually Knew Anything About the State’s Court System. When questioned about the methodology of last year’s “study” that ranked West Virginia as 49th in the list of state legal systems, the Chamber’s CEO, Thomas Donohue, and the pollster that conducted the survey, Humphrey Taylor of Harris Interactive, were forced to admit that only a fraction of the corporate lawyers surveyed actually knew anything about West Virginia’s courts. According to the Charleston Gazette, “Taylor and Donahue [sic] acknowledged not all of the 1,437 lawyers surveyed knew anything about West Virginia's courts. Taylor said ‘around 107’ said they had direct knowledge of the state. ‘You could argue that's a small sample, but what they keep saying is ‘49th, 49th, 49th,’ he said.” “Corporate lawyers rank state's legal climate poor,” The Charleston Gazette, 3/9/05.

Florida Newspaper Criticized Chamber for Mischaracterizing the “Study” in a Television Ad. According to the Tallahassee Democrat [“AdWatch,” The Tallahassee Democrat, 3/12/05], the Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform sponsored a television ad in Florida last year that mischaracterized the results of their “study” of state legal systems. The Chamber’s ad included the line, “[a] recent Harris poll ranked the best to worst legal systems in America.” However, the Democrat reported that this claim was “wrong,” noting that the “ad did not mention the Harris poll was conducted among corporate lawyers who have to defend their clients against civil suits.”


A Recent Survey Published by the National Association of Manufacturers Found that American Manufacturing Companies Ranked the “Fear of Litigation” at the Bottom of Their Concerns. The National Association of Manufacturers recently released a survey of manufacturers in the United States showing that the “fear of litigation” ranked at the bottom of their list of concerns:

Please rate the following factors in terms of their negative impact on your company's operations (with 1 representing the greatest negative impact and 10 the least).”

2.9 Cost of non-wage compensation
3.5 Cost of materials used in production
4.0 Inability to raise prices
4.1 Energy prices
5.0 Foreign competition
6.1 Taxes
6.3 Cost of wages
6.4 Shortage of qualified workers
7.4 Regulations/corporate governance rules (Sarbanes-Oxley)
7.8 Fear of litigation

Survey by Business Week Magazine Found that the Threat of Lawsuits is Not a Major Concern of Small Business Owners. According to a recent survey published in Business Week magazine, owners of small and medium-sized businesses are generally not concerned about the threat of lawsuits: “One of the survey's more surprising results revealed that tort reform -- particularly limiting class-action lawsuits -- is not a major priority.” The survey found that the biggest threats to their businesses are: (1) Rising inflation, 44 percent; (2) The trade deficit and a weak dollar, 40 percent; (3) Energy shortages, 40 percent; (4) Excessive household and/or corporate debt, 29 percent; (5) The growing federal deficit, 28 percent; (6) Poorly prepared labor force/Shortage of skilled labor, 27 percent.


Bush Administration Statistics Show that the Number of Federal Tort Trials is Down Nearly 80 Percent Since 1985. Last year, the Bush Justice Department reported that the number of tort (personal injury) cases resolved in U.S. District Courts fell by 79 percent between 1985 and 2003. In 1985, 3,600 tort trials were decided by a judge or jury in U.S. District Courts. By 2003, that number had dropped to less than 800. “Federal Tort Trials and Verdicts, 2002-03”, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 8/17/05

The Number of State Tort Trials is Decreasing. According to the most recent statistics from the Bush administration’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, the number of tort trials at the state level has decreased. These statistics were compiled as part of the Bureau’s survey of state civil justice systems in the nation’s largest 75 counties. Among these counties, the number of tort trials decreased 31.8% between 1992 and 2001. “Civil Trial Cases and Verdicts in Large Counties, 2001”, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 4/04.

“Overwhelming Majority” of Federal Judges Don’t See “Frivolous Lawsuits” as Major Problem. According to survey by the Federal Judicial Center – the research and education agency of the federal court system – most Federal judges do not view “frivolous lawsuits” as a problem: “Frivolous litigation is not a major problem in the federal court system, according to an overwhelming majority of federal judges who participated in a recent survey. The survey, conducted by the Federal Judicial Center, was based on the responses of 278 federal district court judges. Seventy percent of the respondents called groundless litigation either a ‘small problem’ or a ‘very small problem,’ and 15% said it was no problem at all. Only 1% called it a ‘very large problem,’ 2% called it a ‘large problem’ and the rest rated it as a ‘moderate problem’ in their courts. … In addition, 91% of the judges surveyed opposed provisions in the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act, which won House approval in the last Congress.”

I'm still reading Sidney Blumenthal's definitive political history of the attacks on the Clinton administration, "The Clinton Wars," and I think his conclusion -- and President Clinton's -- is absolutely correct, as well as applicable here. Lies, damn lies and statistics, all used in the vicious and machiavellian quest for power. Despite a well-documented refutation, the forces that seek to limit -- or eliminate -- the rights of people to legal redress will say anything, and stop at nothing, to achieve their goals. The irony is that the public, through naivete, lethargy or lack of comprehension, is allowing it to happen, piece by piece, bill by bill, and regulation by regulation.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Well, Knoxville hits the big time. All these stories on immigration demonstrations around the country have hit our fair city, too. An excerpt:
Most of those in attendance wore red or white shirts with the words, in Spanish and English, "Where are our Rights? Dignity and Justice for All." Hundreds carried American flags, though there was also a smattering of Mexican flags and at least two Honduran flags among the crowd.

Many brought pay stubs to show they pay taxes.

"All these people they are good people," said Kim Salazar, a California native. "They are hard workers, and they do the jobs American people don't want. Doesn't that deserve some kind of rights?"

One Mexican man, carrying a large American flag, said he had been in the United States six years. He shrugged when asked if he was here legally.

I saw the people congregated around the City-County Building yesterday, but was on the way to court and didn't get a chance to snap my own photos. I am not well educated on the subject, but my take is that productive taxpayers who do jobs others don't want to do ought to be allowed to stay, and be given legalized status. After all, we're all immigrants.

As to security concerns, a lawyer I was walking with said this: "Nineteen people committed the 9/11 attacks. And not one of them was Mexican." Facetious, but true.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Michael Barone bemoans the alleged fact that 90% of the news media is of the Democratic persuasion. I say, so what? Consider:
* Does being a Democrat mean one can't report the news objectively?
* If the Democrats had Big Media locked up, then why the unprecedented attacks on the Clinotn Administration from 1992-2000? See, e.g., The Clinton Wars, by Sidney Blumenthal.
* If Big Media is so infested with Democrats, impliedly forcing a Democratic agenda, then how is it that a Republican won in 2000 and 2004, and how is it that Republicans have kept control over Congress for years?
* Who owns Big Media? I'm betting there are a bunch of Republicans in there.

The fact is that the media is, as Carville and Matalin called it, "The Beast," and The Beast must be fed. The Beast doesn't care who is -- literally -- the sacrificial lamb; it just needs stories to feed it. I used to yell about the Washington Post when I lived in D.C., considering its coverage of Israel unfair and biased [it was]. The point is, The Beast is non-partisan, omni-partisan, whatever. It doesn't care, as long as it has raw meat from somewhere.

UPDATE: Here's a how-to on getting the Beast to pay attention to you.

How this woman got on Al-Jazeera is beyond me. She gives better than she gives, though.

Take a look quickly, because I'll bet the link doesn't stay active for long.

Monday, March 27, 2006

In my last post, an exhaustive [or exhausting?] look at the recording career of the rock group Chicago, I promised my own review of the group's first album of original songs since 1991. Since then, several reviews have sprung up, including a scathing thumbs down from Blogcritics.org, and mixed home-grown reviews on the Amazon site. Not to be outdone, here's my take.

Chicago has gone through several incarnations. The bad news is that XXX is a resumption of the last incarnation, continuing the sad trend toward sappy power ballads exemplified in Twenty-One [1991]. This latest collection, eleven years after their last album of new music [Chicago Night and Day Big Band] and fifteen years after their last record of original tunes [Twenty-One] includes forgettable ballad-like songs as four out of the first seven selections. Clearly growing out of Bassist Jason Scheff's strong influence on this record, these songs are for the most part a waste of space. Not only do the lyrics noy SAY much of anything, the music [which is my emphasis] is routine, ordinary, and frankly blah.

The good news is that the remaining songs, "Caroline," "Ninety Degrees and Freezing," "Already Gone," "Come to Me, Do," "Lovin' Chains," and "Better" are, after repeated listenings, not bad at all. As Tolkien said, "This tale grew in the telling...." And so it is with at least some of Chicago XXX.

"Ninety Degrees" is probably the strongest proto-Chicago song, co-written by Robert Lamm, in previous incarnations the band's most prolific and interesting songwriter. "Already Gone," penned by Bill Champlin and George Hawkins [previously from Kenny Loggins' band in the 80s?] combines an at-first annoying and then interesting guitar/bass riff with a seemingly atonal vocal that resolves into a satisfying tongue-in-cheek chorus. Lamm's "Come to Me, Do" is bouncy and catchy, if not particularly lyrically deep. Here's a sentiment I agree with:

On the other hand, Robert Lamm lets his age and experience serve him well. His smooth, jazzy baritone is deeper and rougher around the edges, but he works these new bits of character in his favor on "Come to Me, Do", the record's simplest and most immediately appealing number - and also, unfortunately, Lamm's only solo composition here. The song has an uncommon warmth that suggests that Chicago need not do so much blatant pandering to the next generation to preserve their beloved institution. Maybe, if they, y'know, just played music, it would all work out.

"Lovin' Chains," written by Rascal Flatts' [and album producer] Jay DeMarcus, has a wickedly infectious set of chord changes that makes one wait impatiently for the chorus.

James Pankow's horn charts are fun to listen to, even if sometimes predictable. At times, the horn riff one hears is a bit too reminiscent of lines from past songs. Also, an annoying tendency of the Chicago horn sound in the last twenty years is to emphasize the brass element of the section, at the expense of Walt Parazaider's woodwinds in the middle. The horn solo on "Come to Me, Do" is the only ensemble solo on the record where Parazaider's sax can be heard, doubling Lee Loughnane's trumpet.

The musicianship is fine, as far as it goes. These guys are all professionals, and the record is put together reasonably well, from the point of view of the playing of the songs. But that limited accolade misses the point. What haas been lacking in Chicago's music for decades is the sense of grit, creativity, of simple balls to the wall playing. With Chicago's orignal incarnation, it was obvious that the whole exceeded the sum of the parts. One does not get that impression here. it is a meticulously assembled album, but not a cohesive sound that makes the listener sit up and take notice.

As usual for Chicago efforts since 1982, the album is woefully over-produced. Jay DeMarcus, one-third of country's Rascal Flatts, had the chance to put these guys in a room and let them play; he missed the boat with his overdone vocal arrangements and sterile overall feel. A lot of the reason for this perceived sterility is the continuing lack of a strong guitar presence on record. Keith Howland, Chicago's guitraist for over ten years, is a fine player, but he never gets the chance to blow out his amp. And that's what this band needs, maybe more than anything.

Other reviews have bemoaned the return to 80s power ballad formula music, and have ridiculed this group's failure to artistically stretch at a point in their career when they can afford to do it. They're right, to a point. The Chicago of 2006 is nothing close to the group that recorded "Mississippi Delta City Blues" in 1977, either technically [two of the three lead singers adre different], or musically [the lack of a rock guitar presence stunts the record from the start].

But, taking this record for what it is, it's an okay piece of work. It's good for maybe two and a half stars out of five. For those of us starved for Chicago music, it has to do, because that's all we've got. But, given that the band had a decade and a half to put its best material together, XXX has to be considered an overall disappointment. Hearing the unreleased Stone of Sisyphus and Lamm's Subtlety and Passion leads me to believe that these guys can do better.

The original Chicago members are either approaching or into their 60s now. If they have anything left to say, and I believe they do, it's time for them to take the risks that defined them as a young band breaking all the rules, and create music that they -- and the world -- would be unreservedly proud of. While Chicago XXX has some decent tuneage, it is not in any sense of the word the groundbreaking work that Chicago ought to be striving for.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Chicago. The band, not the city. Anyone who came up in the 1970s and was musically oriented probably has an appreciation for this rock icon.

For me, as a trumpet player cum drummer out of the big band and Tijuana Brass school of music, Chicago was a veritable feast of musical textures. Imagine – a horn driven rock and roll band. Wow!

Their output from 1969 through 1977 was nothing short of extraordinary. Chicago’s first three releases [1969, 1970, 1971] were all double albums. Chicago at Carnegie Hall was a four record set. These albums were revolutionary, not only musically, buy politically, as well.

From 1972 onward, the band edged more and more toward radio-friendly pop and rock, and away from the harder-edged politically-based work previously done. Chicago V, and VI were single albums, but both had big hits and great music past the radio-played songs. 1974' Chicago VII was another double album, containing percussive Latin-based work, folk-derived songs, and jazz/funk-tinged pop. VIII, from 1975, showed the group heading more toward pop/rock sensibilities, but with outstanding musicianship and arrangement skills. The prolific nature of the three main writers, Lamm [keyboards], Kath [guitar], and Pankow [trombone and arrangements] was nothing short of astounding

My first real exposure to Chicago was their tenth album, with the chocolate bar cover. I owe it all to my friend Glenn. That was the record that included “If You Leave Me Now,” the worst song on the album and ironically the band’s first number one single. The other songs were the actual meat of the collection: “Once or Twice,” featuring Terry Kath’s sizzling vocal and the driving horns, “You Are On My Mind,” an infectious samba number with James Pankow’s rolling trombone solo [in a rock and roll song, mind you!] and Danny Seraphine’s solid Latin groove, “Skin Tight,” a half-time shuffle hot enough to scorch your skin right off with a horn solo transcendent enough to drive you crazy, and perhaps the best song on the album, Robert Lamm’s “Scrapbook,” a lyrical band biography with contemplative but fabulous horns and Kath’s wicked guitar work gluing it all together.

The band’s eleventh album featured strong work, too, with Kath’s “Mississippi Delta City Blues,” Lamm’s “Policeman,” Kath’s guitar tour-de-force, “Takin’ It On Uptown,” Lamm’s scathing campaign number, “Vote for Me,” which works well in any election cycle, and the anthemic "Take Me Back To Chicago," featuring the great Kath and Chaka Khan preach at the end. To this day, I can see my friend Glenn, listening to that song over and over, living for that moment of the keyboard surge during the bridge. Well, I guess you had to be there.

Then, in late 1977, Terry Kath, who was idolized by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, stupidly put a gun to his head in jest, and blew his brains out. Chicago lost its way, and has never been quite the same since. The band parted ways with its long-tie producer, Jimmy Guercio at the same time.

1978's Hot Streets, with a hastily-added Donnie Dacus on guitar and vocals, was a decent record, with some quality tuneage and a couple of big hits for the group. The thirteenth album was an ill-considered descent into disco, and was the first nadir of the group’s discography. Chicago XIV, produced by the great Tom Dowd, provided four very good songs, but typified a directionless effort. Instead of setting the standard, Chicago was relegated to following trends. Chicago had become irrelevant.

After jumping labels from Columbia to Warner Brothers, adding San Francisco’s Bill Champlin to the lineup, and hooking up with hot producer David Foster, Chicago appeared reinvigorated with their sixteenth effort in 1982. They had a number one single and some solid arrangements, but it was apparent that the new label wanted to push the band away from horn-driven rock and roll, and more toward power ballads sung by Peter Cetera. In other words, Cetera with his backup band. Chicago 17 (1984) was a big success, but was a typical 80s album, with boring drum machine grooves, boring power ballads, and incessantly 80s pop sensibilities. I believe that you dance with who brung ya. Chicago forgot what brung them. The public loved it; I hated it, other than the three or four songs that still had some signature Chicago horn riffs.

Chicago 18 saw the departure of Peter Cetera, who obviously decided he could hire his own back-up band. Jason Scheff, son of Elvis bass player Jerry Scheff, was recruited to sing the Cetera alto parts and play bass. The eighteenth and nineteenth albums are frankly, almost un-listenable, at least to me. The mind-numbing Humberto Gatica-style production values are just awful. These albums saw a complete lack of the organic Chicago sound. The songs basically sucked, too, with a few exceptions. This period is the second nadir of the group.

With their twenty-first album in 1991, the production was clearer, but the material was still mediocre at best. The great Danny Seraphine was abruptly replaced by former Kenny Loggins drummer Tris Imboden, who sounded nothing like Seraphine’s free-wheeling style, and nothing like his own very solid and intricate work with Loggins. Clearly, this talented drummer was being held back by the rest of the group. Boring. Amply stocked with Diane Warren power ballads, there are maybe three or four songs that are worth a listen. Apparently, the public was as bored with Chicago as I was, because Chicago Twenty-One sold about four copies. Chicago had become – again – irrelevant.

Four years passed. Chicago left its label, and produced a big band album in 1995 on Giant Records, taking swing standards and giving them the “Chicago treatment.” This record was a strong effort, taking well-known songs and making them Chicago songs. And it was a real return to the days when Chicago set musical standards. Chicago Night and Day Big Band predicted the rise of big band rock efforts by the likes of the Brian Setzer Orchestra and even Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. I heard more of the real essence of Chicago in its Night and Day covers than I had heard in years.

Unfortunately, it did not sell well, and Chicago again disappeared from the ranks of bands producing and releasing new material. They became what I had always feared: an oldies band, regurgitating their [very] old hits during the obligatory summer tour. Without new work, new songs, new growth, it was inevitable that they withered on the vine.

Then, I discovered that, in fact, Chicago had completed an album for Warner Brothers in 1994. Prospectively titled Stone of Sisyphus, Warners had rejected the album outright. Apparently, the label wanted the same old power ballads, which is not what “Stone” is. Chicago bought themselves out of their contract and shelved “Stone” indefinitely.

It turns out that Stone was available, in varying degrees of mp3 quality, on the Internet. I downloaded it and got a shock, because it was good. At points, it was great. The guys are writing about what matters to them. While the record had ballads, they are written by band member, and are actually pretty good. And the horn-driven rock and roll aspect, so long left out of the equation, is back. “Stone” is a first rate piece of work, and should have been released when made, in 1994. I’m lucky to have found decent mp3s of the songs, and have my own copy of the work.

So here it is, the Spring of 2006. Chicago’s last commercially released album of original work was fifteen years ago, in 1991. Robert Lamm’s “Subtlety and Passion” from 2003 was an excellent collection, and as close to a real Chicago album as we have seen in a decade. But it wasn’t Chicago.

Now, finally, released on March 21, is Chicago XXX. Have the guys pulled it off? Can they reinvent themselves yet again? Will XXX “take me back to Chicago,” as it were? I’ll post soon with my review of the long-awaited Chicago XXX.