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Monday, October 31, 2005

And another thing... 

...isn't a boycott sexist?

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

(1) comments links to this post

Update on PCC and China 

In the last post, I mentioned that the Puget Consumers Co-Op began to boycott Chinese goods in 1996 in protest of conditions in Tibet.

I just went to their website and searched for the words "boycott China." I got the following message:

No matches were found for '(boycott or boycotted or boycotting or boycotter or boycotts) and china'

I did find one mention of Tibet - in an article on the origins of rhubarb.

I did a little more digging, and found out that the boycott of Chinese goods ended in 1999:

Members of Puget Consumers Cooperative have voted 52 percent to 48 percent to reject a boycott of China.

It is the second such vote at PCC, and reverses one taken three years ago. Of the 35,000 active members, about 8.5 percent voted this time, up from about 6 percent in 1996....

A group of members first proposed a China boycott in 1995. PCC's nine-member board of trustees, which is elected by co-op members, rejected the boycott.

The anti-China group took up a petition, which at PCC takes only 1 percent of members, and put the measure on the co-op's ballot. In May 1996, their proposal won a majority of votes. PCC removed Chinese garlic presses, wire whisks, pine nuts, cinnamon, medicinal herbs and other items from its shelves.

Co-op spokeswoman Bridgette Boudreau said members complained about the herbs. "So many of our shoppers count on those products for their health," she said.

Others objected to singling out China. "They were calling us hypocrites because we stopped carrying Chinese cinnamon and brought in Indonesian cinnamon," she said.

PCC's China boycott expired in May 1998. In its place, the co-op sent out questionnaires to 1,000 vendors, asking whether human rights were being observed in the supply chain....

It didn't satisfy the critics. A company boycott is "far more effective," wrote Dr. Heather Woods....Woods said PCC had to take its vendors at their word, and there was no way to verify statements about human rights in China....

The two sides disagreed whether the influence of business was good or bad. "The more money China makes, the worse it gets for human rights there," Woods wrote. Management argued that a boycott would hurt "pro-democracy entrepreneurs who are fueling positive change."

The trustees were officially neutral, but unlike the vote in 1996, management campaigned for a "no." "A boycott pre-empts your right to make informed choices," said management's pamphlet.

Under a boycott, it said, members "will be unable to purchase Chinese herbs important to their health, such as astragalus, dong quai, fo-ti, ginger and Siberian ginseng."

Woods argued that Chinese herbs were available from Taiwan and other sources, including the United States....

Buying stuff from Taiwan? Don't tell the International Labor Organization.

Taiwan should not be treated as a country, since its status is that of a province of the People's Republic of China. If in exceptional cases it has to be mentioned in an ILO publication or document it should be referred to as Taiwan, China.

So if you're a labor union member and are asked to boycott China because of its human rights abuses, do you boycott Taiwan too?

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

(1) comments links to this post

There was hardly a raised eyebrow 

This blog has touched upon China in two different ways of late.

Assisting in Chinese Repression

Regarding the first issue, Jennifer has provided the following comment:

U.S. companies like Yahoo that are cooperating with China’s regulations are enabling the assault on human rights to continue. In my opinion, we need to cease ALL trade with China, period. Microsoft doesn’t need to do business with China. They make trillions already. Allowing them to do so, and to comply with Chinese law in such a way that violates everything our nation stands for, should be illegal. If, however, we allow them to continue doing business with China, and that many Chinese are online, there is no way that the government can prevent the ideas of freedom and democracy from infiltrating their society, even if sites containing hot words are banned.

In a related note, the BooYahoo blog (which calls for a user boycott of Yahoo) is now available at www.booyahoo.com.

And, in another related note, Cisco's assistance in building the Great Firewall of China has not gone unnoticed:

Internet equipment maker Cisco Systems is fighting a shareholder action that urges the company to adopt a comprehensive human rights policy for its dealings with the Chinese government, and with other states practicing political censorship of the internet.

A shareholder resolution filed last May by the Massachusetts-based investment group Boston Common Asset Management calls for Cisco to add human rights considerations to the criteria it uses to certify resellers....

But Cisco's Terry Alberstein, director of corporate affairs for the Asia Pacific region, says the company has never helped the Chinese government suppress free speech.

"Cisco does not participate in any way in any censorship activities in the People's Republic of China," Alberstein says. "We have never custom-tailored our products for the China market, and the products that we sell in China are the same products we sell everywhere else."

Cisco is formally asking the Securities and Exchange Commission to omit the Boston Common proposal from the agenda for the company's next annual meeting in November, which would prevent shareholders from voting on it. The company argues the proposal is too vague to act on, and that Cisco already has a suitable human rights policy. "The proposal has been substantially implemented by Cisco, and is therefore moot," says spokeswoman Robin Jenkins.

Even if it came to a vote and passed, the resolution would not be binding on Cisco's executives. But "it sends a strong message to management, and it gets across the sentiment of shareholders in a way that writing a letter can't do," says Wolfe.

Alberstein has a point when noting that Cisco products have not been modified for the Chinese market. The technology that can be used to block Chinese from accessing information on "democracy" is the same technology that can be used to block Yahoo or Cisco employees from surfing porn during business hours. So do you need to attach social conditions to the use of the technology (e.g. if a Chinese router manufacturer financed by a porn collective wants to sell to the United States, would the Chinese manufacturer prohibit its customers from using its technology to block porn sites?)?

Undermining American Labor

As I noted previously, the Ontario Mountain Village Association lists some reasons why they oppose Wal-Mart. Here's one of them.

The Mom and Pop businesses do not need the "made in China" competition.

In a similar vein, Wal-Mart is the sole company blamed for the problem:

Even worse, Wal-Mart shoppers are supporting forced labor camps where the healthiest inmates are executed for “organ harvesting”. Wal-Mart also buys heavily from slave labor manufacturing zones, where women workers are typically paid 3 cents an hour or less for 70 to 90-hour work weeks.

Well, we all know that Wal-Mart isn't the only company that's buying from China, just like we all know that Yahoo isn't the only business that's selling to China. Walk through a Target, or a 99 Cents Only Store, or even a unionized grocery store, and you'll find "Made in China" goods all over the place.

Are there places that you can shop that DON'T sell Chinese goods? Sure there are - in Russia:

"Chinese down garments used to sell well in Russia. Then certain unscrupulous merchants began to fill garments with odd bits of cloth, cotton and even bloodstained down. As a result, Chinese merchants lost the Russian market. When I visited Russia, I saw signs in stores that read, 'No Chinese goods in this store,' and felt demoralized," said Gao Dekang, president of Bosideng Co., Ltd. whose sales volume of down garments ranks first in China.

Or you could shop in Inner Mongolia:


You know all those cool gadgets that you can buy, which all say, "Made in China"??? Well, I can't find any of those here. For instance, I want to buy an electric/battery-powered hair clipper, with attachments. Can't be found. I purposefully left my made-in-China back scratcher in Korea, because I figured I could buy one here. Can't be found. And China dolls... not made in China. If you want some China, yeah, there's plenty of that here, but heck! Every country has China these days. Am I really in China? There aren't any mobile phones made by Chinese companies, either. All right. What's going on here. I must be in some country that speaks Chinese but isn't China. Oh, yeah... I'm in Inner Mongolia.

But what about the U.S.? After some searching, I finally found a U.S. firm that boycotts China - well, at least in 1996; don't know what they're doing today:

Bucking the trend in Washington state, which trades heavily with China,
one small local company has taken a stand on human rights by ending all
commerce with that nation.

Puget Consumers Co-op has become one of a handful of companies in the
country to boycott all Chinese goods.

Members of PCC, a chain of seven natural-food markets in Seattle, voted
last month to stop buying goods from China until that country ends its
occupation of Tibet. Tibetan supporters now plan to lobby other member-owned
cooperatives to halt their China trade, said Kunzang Yuthok, director of the
Tibetan Rights Campaign....

More than 100 civic groups, churches and other organizations, including
the AFL-CIO, have pledged to boycott China, Yuthok said.

But what does the AFL-CIO's boycott of China mean? Will they withhold labor services from their employers if they do business in China? Or would they simply say that they have no control over the matter (kind of like what Yahoo and Cisco say when questioned about their cooperation with the Chinese government)?

This comment, not authorized by the AFL-CIO, is interesting:

Only b[u]y union made, even if it is from China.

In other words, if Chinese workers are organized, this union member doesn't care whether the government is repressive or not.

P.S. I was going to visit a page on the website boycottmadeinchina.org, but got the following message from the Great Firewall of My Employer:

The site you have attempted to reach may be considered inappropriate for access....

And no, I'm not going to withhold services from my employer. Call me hypocritical. That's probably what's driving a lot of the actions that Yahoo, Cisco, and the AFL-CIO aren't taking. What would you do? What have you done?

P.P.S. The title of this post is taken from a Brian Eno song ("China My China") on his album Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy. The last two verses of the song are tangentially relevant (emphasis mine):

China, my China, I've wandered around and you're still here
(Which I guess you should be proud of)
Your walls have enclosed you,
Have kept you at home for thousands of years
(But there's something I should tell you)
All the young boys, they are dressing like sailors.

I remember a man who
Jumped out from a window over the bay
(There was hardly a raised eyebrow)
The coroner told me,
This kind of thing happens every day.
You see, from the Pagoda, the world is so tiny.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Sunday, October 30, 2005

China, My China and Two Sun Cities 

From SFGate.com:

U.S. tech giants are helping the Chinese express themselves online -- as long as they don't write about democracy, Tibet, sex, Tiananmen Square, Falun Gong, government corruption or any other taboo subject.

Microsoft bans "democracy" and "Dalai Lama" from the Chinese version of its blog site. Yahoo recently turned over information that helped the Chinese government track down and imprison a journalist for the crime of forwarding an e-mail. Google omits banned publications from its Chinese news service.

Critics say that cooperating with governments to suppress free speech violates human rights, international law and corporate ethics. But what the experts can't agree on is what the companies should do about it. The Internet -- even with limitations -- is generally considered a powerful democratizing force. If international companies withdrew from the Chinese Internet market, the result might mean even fewer chances for free communications there....

Professor Tom Donaldson, director of the doctoral program in ethics and law at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, compared tech companies helping China squelch free speech with Polaroid's providing photographic technology for the passport system used under South African apartheid to control the movements of black citizens.

Donaldson said that while what China is doing may not seem as insidious as the apartheid system, free speech is a human right just as important as freedom of movement....

Despite the controversy, U.S. companies aren't likely to willingly forgo doing business in China, a market of huge promise. More than 100 million people there are online, yet that still represents less than 8 percent of the population. By 2009, Chinese e-commerce is expected to be a $390.9 billion market, according to research firm IDC. By then, there are expected to be more Internet users in China than in the United States.

Cisco, which provides many of the routers the Chinese Internet is based on, is far from considering withdrawal from the Chinese market. John Chambers, CEO of San Jose's Cisco Systems, said he feels good about doing business there....

Some suggest that U.S. companies continue following Chinese law but be a little less cooperative about it. Danny O'Brien, activism coordinator for San Francisco's Electronic Frontier Foundation, suggested that Yahoo call attention to any future requests for information from the Chinese government.

"A perfectly reasonable thing for Yahoo to do within the legal framework is to comply but announce it publicly," O'Brien said. That's a strategy Google has used when complying with legal requirements in the United States to remove links to copyrighted material.

Interesting strategy, considering that Shi Tao was jailed because he reported on a ban on reporting about the Tiananmen Square anniversary. Of course, The Great Firewall of China would block any mention of Yahoo's action to the Chinese themselves.

Reminds me of a situation in the early 1980s when a church worker got in trouble for serving Nestle products at a social functions. Or that big song "I'm not gonna play Sun City." This despite the fact that Sun City is the place for guys to go:

Population (year 2000): 17,773
Males: 7,837 (44.1%), Females: 9,936 (55.9%)

OK, let's read on:

Median resident age: 66.1 years
Median household income: $29,814 (year 2000)
Median house value: $104,200 (year 2000)

Interestingly enough, there's an on-line record of Sun City political contributions. I wonder if any of the residents contributed to banned political organizations:

Stimmel, Marcie Mrs. (Self-Employed/Rancher), (Zip code: 92584) $250 to REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE on 07/02/03
Friedman, Jean Mrs. (Retired), (Zip code: 92586) $750 to REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE on 08/12/03
Harris, Norma A. Mrs. (Retired), (Zip code: 92586) $375 to REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE on 08/04/03
Mayda - Lara, Andres A. Mr. (Self-Employed/Auto Cad Drafter), (Zip code: 92586) $500 to REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE on 10/07/03
Stimmel, Marcie Mrs. (Self-Employed/Rancher), (Zip code: 92584) $500 to REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE on 06/08/04
De Rita, Mary Ms. (Retired), (Zip code: 92586) $750 to REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE on 07/15/04
Spangler, Timothy D Mr. (OWNER), (Zip code: 92586) $1250 to NATIONAL REPUBLICAN CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE on 05/12/03
Sannipoli, Dale C Mr. (Hauler Racks/President), (Zip code: 92585) $300 to NATIONAL REPUBLICAN CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE on 09/19/03
Larriabee, Julie Ms. (Southland Mortgage Lenders/Owner), (Zip code: 92586) $250 to NATIONAL REPUBLICAN CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE on 09/29/04
Mr. Lionel J Bogut (White Star Laundry Publishing/SELF), (Zip code: 92586) $210 to VICTORY 2004/CALIFORNIA REPUBLICAN PARTY on 02/14/03
J Bogut, Lionel MR. (White Star Laundry Publishing/SELF), (Zip code: 92586) $210 to VICTORY 2004/CALIFORNIA REPUBLICAN PARTY on 02/14/03
Warmoth, Mark E., (Zip code: 92587) $2000 to RICHARD POMBO FOR CONGRESS on 08/15/03
Warmoth, Mark E., (Zip code: 92587) $1000 to RICHARD POMBO FOR CONGRESS on 08/15/03
Meszar, Marcelle (Not employed/Retired), (Zip code: 92586) $300 to DEAN FOR AMERICA on 05/06/03
Meszar, Marcelle (Not employed/Retired), (Zip code: 92586) $400 to DEAN FOR AMERICA on 06/25/03
Meszar, Marcelle (Not employed/Retired), (Zip code: 92586) $200 to DEAN FOR AMERICA on 05/12/03
Meszar, Marcelle (Not employed/Retired), (Zip code: 92586) $250 to DEAN FOR AMERICA on 09/10/03
Madden, Ethel, (Zip code: 92586) $250 to DEAN FOR AMERICA on 12/30/03
COREY, PATRICIA A MRS. (N/A), (Zip code: 92585) $440 to BUSH-CHENEY '04 (PRIMARY) INC. on 02/23/04
OSTER, ROGER A MR. (SELF-EMPLOYED/TRUSTEE), (Zip code: 92586) $2000 to BUSH-CHENEY '04 (PRIMARY) INC. on 07/02/04
MAYDA - LARA, ANDRES A MR. (SELF-EMPLOYED/AUTO DEALER), (Zip code: 92586) $500 to BUSH-CHENEY '04 (PRIMARY) INC. on 09/07/04

Let me break away from the Sun City, California vs. Sun City, South African Homeland joke for just a moment to wonder: why would ANYBODY contribute to the Bush Cheney '04 primary? I mean, what's the point of the contribution? Did they really think they were making a difference in whether or not Bush and Cheney would get the nomination?

Switching to a discussion of Sun City in South Africa, what's the story today?

Deep in the rugged bushveld, in the heart of an ancient volcano, lies the world's most unique resort. This is the internationally acclaimed Sun City....

Sun City Resort has a unique heartbeat and an African rhythm of its own and is unlike any other Resort destination in the world. This is pure fantasy and your every desire is met. There are four world-class hotels including the magnificent Palace of the Lost City that glitters like a jewel beneath the African sun, brilliant in its rain forest surroundings and luxurious in its detail and design.

Adjoining the Resort, is the beautiful Pilanesberg National Park, which will delight game viewers as it is a malaria free zone and home to the Big 5....

And, naturally, there is a commitment to corporate social investment:

Sun City, through its fortunate position as a major role player within the NorthWest economic and business spheres, has accepted its responsibility and obligations to both the local communities and the surrounding areas. It’s aim is not only to make a difference in the physical sense, which would directly affect people’s lives in a positive manner, but also by creating awareness and shifting an existing mindset.

Into the fabric that is our company policy is woven vital aspects, which we feel, is the essence of responsible business practice: the threads of community involvement and that of environmental integrity. In order for our business and the surrounding community to co-habitat in a harmonious and beneficial fashion, Sun City gladly shoulders this mantle in our efforts toward community upliftment and empowerment by initiating and supporting various project.

Mma Mokwena started her work in the community of Chaneng in 1993 amongst pensioners. In 2002 she was distressed about the alarming rate at witch Aids left orphans behind, having to fend for themselves. She initiated an Orphans project with the assistance of the Department of Social Development. In October 2003 the project was appropriately launched in Welfare Month. Sun City was approached for sponsorship of the launch and the rest is history! Sun City committed to building a new 20 bed Hospice as patients were crowded in the old ward....

Health care is a great concern amongst our youth and HIV/AIDS has affected many of the families in our communities. Through the construction of various health care facilities, Sun City are able to provide primary health care, maternity facilities and childcare to many of the outlying villages, saving them at least 3-4 hours bus ride....

The Holy Family School is one of 6 schools built and equipped at a cost of R 2 million to ensure that all local learners have easy access and opportunity to a proper education. This school is situated in the Mogwase community that lies 10 km to the North of Sun City. They maintain the highest of academic standards and 40 learners have matriculated since Sun City’s involvement in 2002. 4 Pre-schools have been built since 1997, to value of R 775 000, providing hundreds of early learners a head start.

The absence of any sporting activity for the youth in the Pilanesberg region has long been a frustration for both parent and child....

The Sun City Junior Football League has been formed to address those needs. The association is a joint initiative between employees of the resort and 18 schools from our surrounding community. Forty teams are participating from schools in Ledig, Mogwase, Chaneng, Boshoek and Monokato (Moses Kotane Municipality)....

Tourists visit SA for 3 main reasons being, scenic beauty, wildlife and climate, but moving more to the forefront also is the “African Experience”. Motseng Cultural Village @ Sun City is striving to offer the tourist a visual experience of true African Cultures and customs....

Our lonely dark and desolate roads leading to Sun City have always been of great concern to Sun City Management. After intense negotiations with the Mogwase Municipality it was agreed that a percentage of the rates and taxes paid to the Municipality by Sun City, would be applied for the betterment of the community. Thus the High Mast Lighting Project was born....

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

(3) comments links to this post

Put your money where your mouth is 

A quote from the recent meeting at Redeemer Lutheran Church of people opposing a Wal Mart in northwest Ontario:

While most at Wednesday's meeting raised concerns about the impact a Supercenter would have on traffic in the area, others listed a litany of complaints against Wal-Mart as reasons for their opposition.

"The city does not need the revenue," said activist Richard Briggs. "The mom-and-pop businesses do not need the made-in-China, predatory pricing competition."

So I guess that Richard Briggs opposes stores that sell goods made in China.

Although it needs to be confirmed by the executive membership, I suspect that the Ontairo Vineyard Village Association will do him one better, and call for a boycott of all stores that sell or promote goods made in China.

More from the Daily Bulletin article:

A Wal-Mart spokesman could not be reached for comment. The company has previously stated that its low prices help raise the standard of living for customers as a result of the amount of money they are able to save by shopping there.

A study last year by the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation found even customers who shop at other stores will save money, as prices are lowered through competition.

But those studies don't interest the retailer's opponents in Ontario. They're so opposed to the site that several volunteered their homes for yard sales to raise money for possible legal action against any city approval of the project.

"It's like David and Goliath," said resident Anita Logue. "We have to sell our belongings to fight Goliath."

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

(1) comments links to this post

Beatles Biography, and Slumming on Bob and Rachael (but no mention of the toothy swimmer - sorry) 

From David Bauder/AP/Yahoo:

Eight years, 2,792 pages. That was the effort author Bob Spitz put into telling their story, although editors whittled his manuscript down to 856 pages (minus the end notes).

"The Beatles: The Biography," available Nov. 1, is a compulsively readable history that brings the same exhaustive level of scholarship to the Fab Four that Robert Caro brought to Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson....

Lennon, McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr agreed on their version of the Beatles' story, a mix of truth and legend, and it formed the basis of what Spitz considers the band's only other serious biography, written by Hunter Davies four decades ago. Some of the stories were told so often that the lines between truth and fiction had even blurred for the surviving Beatles.

Spitz set out to make the record straight.

"I interviewed 650 people on this," he says. "I approached this book as if nobody had ever written a biography on the Beatles."

McCartney cooperated, and so did Harrison before his death in 2001. Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono did not, and neither did Starr or Neil Aspinall, who used to drive the Beatles to gigs in Liverpool and now runs their business empire.

Almost more important than his recollections was McCartney quietly putting the word out to dozens of former associates, many of whom had never spoken publicly about their roles, that it was OK to speak to Spitz. Spitz also tracked down new sources. In western Canada he found Dot Rohne, who nearly married McCartney and miscarried his baby before being dumped as the Beatles were on the cusp of making it big....

From Janet Maslin, quoted in The Cheese Sandwich:

Mr. Spitz means to...[elevate] the Beatles' story to the realm of serious history. Imagine "John Adams" with music and marijuana. "The Beatles" is written for the reader who seeks deep, time-consuming immersion in the past and can look beyond traditionally lofty subjects to find it. Like Mark Stevens's and Annalyn Swan's recent biography of Willem de Kooning, it means to meld the forces of personality, culture and art into a broad and emblematic story.

From ilya_son:

Ah, but the outtake! Dylan and Neuwirth decided to pick John Lennon up at his home in the pastoral countryside and take him on a 30-minute trip to London. Pennebaker filmed the resulting car ride conversation between the two rock superstars in the backseat. The scene was never used (only a three second clip made it into the official Eat The Document), and you can see from the edited transcript below why the complete "car ride" sits in a vault somewhere today, and not in the viewing room of the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.

Dubs of the clip show that Lennon is more than willing to play along with the forced comedy and drug-addled psychobabble, but Dylan (zonked-out from lack-of-sleep and god knows what) proceeds to insult everyone from Mama Cass to (apologetically) Johnny Cash, make a total ass out of himself, and then, ultimately, throw up.

Ah, history. As Lennon, cameraman Pennebaker, and Bob Neuwirth watch their folk-rock pioneering host barf his brains out outside of camera range (we get John's reaction instead-- Pennebaker was a great filmmaker), you can just hear the Mystery Science Theatre Robots screaming, "How does it feeeeel?!!!"

Bob Spitz, a Dylan biographer, writes of the Infamous Car Ride outtake, "Furtively, Lennon inches away from Bob the way a passenger creeps off when a pervert squeezes next to him on the subway."

History can be ugly, folks....

And, to the disgust of the "rachael_ray_sux" community, Bob Spitz likes Rachael Ray:

[T]here's a disgustingly pro-Rachael article in the November issue of Reader's Digest. The author, Bob Spitz, (Take a bite of her food, what do you do? The irony of his surname is delicious) says her image is "less overtly glamorous than the girl-next-door. And yet her appearance dazzles. Ray is short, with plenty of soft curves and a wide, toothy smile."

Ick..it's not soft curves. Those are nice to look at and maybe touch. What he saw is pudge! No wonder the article in Reader's Digest after RR's has a headlining picture of a rat.

I wonder if the rachael_ray_sux people have another blog called hilary_duff_is_hott?

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

(1) comments links to this post

It's totally dismal and excellent 

A few months ago, I could not have imagined that on a Friday night, I would drive by the Shell at 1202 East Yorba Linda, Placentia, CA 92870, see a gas price of $2.579 per gallon...

...and be ecstatically enthusiastic about the pricing, bragging about it all weekend.

Big change from a few weeks ago. But now we're getting to the levels in late August. We have a ways to go to get to the early August prices. Witness:

The Shell charged over $2.40 a gallon for gas, and we wouldn't stand for that. No, we kept on searching and got gas for $2.369 at the Conoco.

Those were the days, my friend. We thought they'd never end.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

(1) comments links to this post

Friday, October 28, 2005

Keeping score... 

...of the blog entries that mention the phrase totally dismal and excellent.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Anarchie Andrews 

Joey deVilla continued:

It has been said that the goth subculture is derived from two earlier subcultures: the new romantics and the punks. I don't know if Archie or his pals ever appeared in a new romantic incarnation (wearing clothes from Parachute, listening to Visage and Vince Clarke-era Depeche Mode), but they've gone punk at least once, most notably in a "comic-within-a-comic" in issue 1 of Anarchy Comics....

Check out the full comic segment, ...[which] may not be safe for work if your workplace is a little on the conservative side....I rather like the lampooning of hippie parents -- the pot-smoking Mr. Andrews (Archie's dad) reminds me of a few of my friends' folks.

[A tip of the hat to Josh Karpf for providing the comic!]

I'm at work and haven't checked it out yet, so I don't know if it's totally dismal and excellent (or, in this instance, it may be more appropriate to say that it's f@@kin' abysmal). Go here if you'd like to do so.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Betty Cooper is Weary of the Universe 

Check out the Joey deVilla (Accordion Guy) post about an Archies comic in which Betty goes goth to get attention. Joey's comment:

It's a little-known fact that your subculture is over the minute it becomes a plot point in an Archie Comic.

Of course, if Al Hartley had inked the comic, perhaps Stryper or Undercover would have dropped by.

Blake Reitz says, "I'm a little sad now that Archie has no continuity." What, did Jughead go outlaw country in the previous month?

Caitlin links to an easy-to-read version of the comic at statusbar.com, and offers the following comment:

I love how they have to say "V Box" instead of X Box, but are free to use Sonic the Hedgehog since the same people that publish "Archie" publish the Sonic comic books.

And here's what the Sketch Pad says:

Are you passive-agressive and lonely? Are your friends ignoring you? Well, Betty’s got the perfect solution!

Go goth! All the cool kids are doing it!

Sketch Pad says more, but I'd be giving away the ending of the comic.

I wonder if the Archie comics still feature the band (late 1960s version), or if that has been dropped. You'll recall that Betty played the tambourine in the band, something that attracted Graeme Burk:

My relationship, if you want to call it that, with Betty Cooper began when I was about six or seven. Back then she was a backing musician to the musical group The Archies. I didn’t really know a lot about her then....In those days, Betty didn’t have a whole lot to do except play tambourine and do backup vocals....

What was the appeal of Betty? It’s true she’s a pretty blonde. Back in her classic days in the 1970s and 1980s being drawn by Dan DeCarlo, she was gorgeous. However, don’t let the golden locks fool you. Betty Cooper was no bimbo. Next to Dilton, Betty was the smart one of the Archie gang—she always had good grades and she was the one in Riverdale High you could picture eventually graduating from law school or med school and have a professional career helping people before going into politics for the noble reason of public service. It’s safe to say she probably has the brightest future of any of the gang. Veronica would probably get an MBA and run the family firm and become a female Donald Trump. It’s clear Archie’s never going any further than perhaps managing Pop’s Malt Shop once Pop retires. And, mark my words, Reggie’s going to be running a strip joint one day.

Ah, but Betty is the Helen Marnie (Ladytron) of the Archies:

Helen Marnie covers the other end of the spectrum: she's the pouty, breathy pre-teen disco queen, ruling a hazy, undulating wonderland of Human League/New Order melodies and broadly licentious grooves. She sounds like she exists only to please, and in songs such as the creepily-sexy "Seventeen" and the deliciously naughty "Evil", it's an offer that's hard to refuse.

Betty and Helen both want to be loved. So Betty goes goth. And Helen (especially in the "Blue Jeans" era) puts on Tammy Faye levels of makeup.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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P. T. Barnum was right 

I was reading a Souls Road post and decided to explore an attempt at blog valuation.

My blog is worth $23,710.68.
How much is your blog worth?

The calculation is based upon this:

AOL bought Weblogs inc., the two year old weblog network founded by Jason Calacanis and Brian Alvey, for a number that is rumored to be anywhere between $25 million and $40 million. In this process, Time Warner may be providing some ideas as to the valuation of blogs by traditional media....

Many in the blogosphere say that traffic is not a good measure of what blogs are but that conversation, as represented by links and indexes like Technorati, represent a more accurate view of the value of a blog....

In acquiring Weblogs Inc., AOL has now provided us with some numbers traditional media are willing to pay for a blog. Looking at the numbers above, one can try to guess at the value of a link from an external site. a single link on the weblogsinc network represents 0.002258559942180087 percent of the overall network.

At the different rumored price points from AOL, it looks as follows [for 1 link]:...

$25 million value $564.64
30 million value $677.57
40 million value $903.42

I don't know if those values are based on any real rationale but it's nice to dream up the value of one's blog based on this.

Should we now assume that traditional media companies are willing to pay between $500 and $1000 per site that links into a blog?

Not quite. The incremental value is in the size of the network and the underlying tools. Jason and Brian have been working on developing a blog authoring technology, called BlogSmith, that sits at the core of their network and one has to believe that AOL saw some value in the software too. However, one can easily say that blog valuations are going to be easier to make after this deal since it provides the first yardstick in that space.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Last Years of Andrew Johnson's Life 

OK, I did my research. From the New York Times on August 1, 1875:

Andrew Johnson, ex-President of the United States and member of the Senate from Tennessee, died at the house of his daughter, Mrs. W.R. Brown, near Elizabethtown, Carter County, Tenn., at 2 o'clock yesterday morning....[He evinced] his continued hold upon the popular heart by a subsequent election to the Senate in the teeth of a bitter personal and political opposition....

On the expiration of his term, in March, 1869, he retired to his home at Greenville, Tenn. In 1870 he was a candidate for the United States Senate, but was defeated by two votes...

Don't forget that Senators were elected by state legislatures at this time.

...in 1872 he was defeated on independent nomination for Congress. He came again into public life, however, in the beginning of the present year, being elected to the United States Senate by the Tennessee Legislature after an exciting contest, receiving on the fifty-fifth ballot fifty-two votes, which was only four more than was necessary for a choice....

Also, don't forget that in these years, service as a Senator was not a full-time job. Although elected to the Senate, he probably never took his seat (I believe that the Senate's term would have started in December of that year, and he of course died in the summer.)

In the history of our nation, two Presidents have been impeached, but none has been convicted. Clinton wasn't even close to conviction, but Johnson was as close as you could get - a lot of close votes in the last years of his life. However, he won two out of three, so he must have worn white stockings.

After seven scoreless innings, Jermaine Dye singled home the only run in the eighth, and the White Sox beat the Houston Astros 1-0 Wednesday night to win their first title in 88 years....

After Chicago's 14-inning, 7-5 win that lasted a Series-record 5 hours, 41 minutes and ended at 1:20 a.m. Wednesday, the crowd was more subdued at Minute Maid Park....

Close, but they got a cigar. (Cigars are happy in Kentucky, remember. This has nothing to do with Andrew Johnson or the White Sox, but I just thought I'd mention it for no apparent reason.)

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Miers Can Continue Working for Mister Smartypants 

I first mentioned the opposition to Harriet Miers in my post "Further Proof That George W Bush is a Communist," which documented significant conservative opposition to the Miers nomination.

I never got around to mentioning Dianne Feinstein's comments:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein met privately with Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers on Monday, emerging to describe Miers as unusually soft-spoken and to defend her against what the senator has called sexist attacks....

Feinstein, D-Calif., is the only woman on the Senate Judiciary Committee that will hold hearings and vote on whether to send Miers' nomination to the full Senate....

During a CNN interview Sunday, Feinstein said the criticism of Miers by conservatives was “sexist,” adding, “I do not believe they would do that to a man.”

Asked Monday about the sexism issue Feinstein said: “This is a woman, after all, who's been head of a very large bar association in a large state and the head of a large corporate law practice, and worked in positions of trust for the president of the United States, and I think she should be treated with due deference.”

Feinstein, 72, also said she felt sympathy for Miers, 60, because the two had similar personal experiences as women seeking to advance in the mid-20th century.

“I think people don't remember the ‘50s and even the ‘60s to some extent, but particularly in the ‘50s, when it was really women need not apply, a man was worth much more,” Feinstein said....

Yet as of today, Feinstein's statement on Miers' withdrawal had a very different tone:

Statement of Senator Feinstein on Harriet Miers
October 27, 2005

“The White House today announced the withdrawal of the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. While I had not taken a position on this nomination and maintained an open mind, there were serious questions especially concerning her independence from the White House. History shows that no President has ever nominated one of his staff members to the Supreme Court.

I call on the President to name a nominee in the mainstream of American jurisprudence, who can help bring this nation together and demonstrate a scrupulous knowledge of the law and a judicial temperament that enables support by both sides of the political aisle.

I would urge the President to take his time in naming a new nominee. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor has agreed to continue to serve and much more important is the quality of the nominee rather than the immediacy of the appointment.”


So how will Feinstein react if Bush presents a nominee "in the mainstream of American jurisprudence"...who happens to be male?

P.S. If Kennedy had lived, and if there had been a Supreme Court opening, would he have tried to nominate Bobby? Hard to say - Bobby was more useful to him in the executive branch.

P.P.S. I've also been musing about people who serve in two of the three branches of the Federal Government. It's common to see Congresspersons who become President (the last being George H. W. Bush), but you have the rare cases of ex-Presidents serving in the other branches (most notably John Quincy Adams and William Howard Taft; also, Andrew Johnson may or may not have returned to Congress; need to research).

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Times Have Changed 

Jennifer commented on a previous post of mine:

Somehow, though, I'm not sure how "protected" I'd feel in Israel right now.

I just finished watching Ray Vander Laan's "That the World May Know" video series. (If you read this, and this, you'll understand some of the background behind this).

Could such a trip be mounted today? Frequently.

St. Jerome has said, "There are five Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the land of Israel." Israel in Depth will concentrate on studying that "fifth gospel." We will examine the history and concepts contained in the bible in their geographical and cultural settings. This is an educational trip with an intentional focus on significant faith development for participants.

Tour leaders will help participants explore the underlying relationship between the land of Israel and the history of the people living there. Study of specific cultural, archaeological and geographical sites in Israel will help travelers gain new insights into the Bible....

The Reverend Raynard VanderLaan is founder and developer of the Israel In Depth experience. He received his undergraduate degree from Dordt College in 1973, and his Master of Theology degree from Westminster Seminary in 1976. He has done graduate study at the Hebrew University and Yeshiva University in Israel as well as doctoral work at Trinity University.

Rev. VanderLaan is a teacher of Bible at Holland Christian Schools, and he is an ordained minister in the Christian Reformed Church. He is the author of the video series That The World May Know and the novel Echoes of His Presence.

The waiting list for a trip with Rev. VanderLaan is extremely lengthy-approximately ten years. Rev. VanderLaan feels led by God to limit the number of trips he leads. Frankly speaking, it is unlikely that a person signing up at this time will ever by assigned to a trip led by him. Over the years, Rev. VanderLaan has trained a number of others to lead Israel in Depth trips. These leaders are Biblical scholars and teachers in their own right, and have studied independently in Israel.

Kent Dobson joined Ray in one of his tours a few years ago and fell in love with the method, the text and the land. Since that time he has participated in several tours, learning, and now contributing. Kent has just completed his master's degree program from Jerusalem University and has become an exceptional 'rabbi' in his own right. His trips involve considerable hiking and climbing.

Also, we're excited to welcome back Art Tuls, a Bible teacher/historian, leading Israel-in-depth tours. We're excited about Art's return because he offers a powerful tour to Israel without the rigorous hiking and climbing that the other tours require.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Hillary Clinton, Baby Seal Clubber 

Jesse Jackson (at least in the early 1970s) understood very well that you don't mortgage your entire future on a single political party, and that you have a better chance of achieving your goals by positively encouraging multiple political parties.

Cindy Sheehan is taking this strategy in reverse, trying to alienate both political parties. Now she's going after leading Democrats:

Cindy Sheehan is at it again, confronting those prolonging the Iraq war. Without letting up on the White House, the mom of one of the first 2,000 U.S. military fatalities is also speaking up about Sen. Hillary Clinton.

The New York senator is one of many Democrats with confused positions on Iraq.


A grieving mother who's become the face of the anti-war movement says any politician who supports the Iraq conflict shouldn't be supported -- even if it's Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Cindy Sheehan says she met with Clinton in Washington last month to discuss the war. She says the senator told her that she wanted to be sure that the troops who were killed "didn't die in vain." Sheehan calls that "a totally Republican talking point."

Clinton voted in 2002 for the congressional resolution authorizing the president to use military force in Iraq. And she has supported troop-level expansions, even while criticizing the president's handling of the war.

Here's what the democrats.org blog says about the controversy:

But others will talk. Here's what Progressive Pulpit says:

It's hard to resist the allure of a Hillary Clinton candidacy in 2008. But I am committed to standing firm on principle, lest the country will not really be lead out of the nasty hole Bush has dumped it in.

Hillary is a more shrewd, disciplined and possibly more savvy campaigner than our 2004 nominee John Kerry. Yet they share the commitment to clinging to the center, aka not taking a principled position, that I just can't tolerate. What will I do if it's Hillary vs. McCain or Guiliani or Allen or whomever? I'm not sure. If there's a third party candidate I believe in, that person will likely get my vote.

This is probably a shock to the baby seal clubbers who think that the Clintons are Mr. and Mrs. Karl Marx, but they came to national prominence by challenging the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. Remember Sister Souljah?

[C]andidate Bill Clinton seized a golden opportunity to reassure moderate and independent voters that he was not beholden to his party's far-left voter base. That controversial move, dubbed "the Sister Souljah moment" helped Clinton defeat a sitting President....

In June of 1992, Sister Souljah, a rapper and writer, was quoted by the Washington Post about the Los Angeles riots, "If black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?"

"If you took the words 'white' and 'black' and you reversed them, you might think David Duke was giving that speech," Clinton responded later at the National Rainbow Coalition Convention, much to the annoyance of Jesse Jackson, who had earlier spoken much more favorably of the racist remark. Some people on Clinton's left flank, including Jackson, weren't happy. Jackson denounced Clinton’s comment as Machiavellian and accused Clinton of pandering to conservative whites.

But when it came to peeling centrists and moderates away from Bush in 1992, such annoyance from the left was a small price for Clinton to pay. The media loved the flap and the stunt helped convince voters Clinton was the centrist he claimed to be. Jackson eventually had no choice but to back up Clinton, as jumping to the Republican side or the Perot camp was not an option for the activist.

And whatever happened to her? She makes her living as a campus lecturer today. Here's her pitch:

Sister Souljah, hip-hop generation author, activist, recording artist,
and film producer, is the most powerful and meaningful person speaking
to youth and students today. Her intelligence is unselfish. She shines as she offers cultural, spiritual, political, economical, practical analysis and constructive solutions with the precision of a surgeon. Souljah’s words, thoughts, lessons, and books are transforming the next generation. Once you have heard her speak, it’s impossible for you to remain the same. You’ll change the way you think, love and live.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Those Randy Shrinks 

With apologies to Shrinkette.

In a recent post about mistyping, Jennifer replied:

Hmmmm....sounds like a Freudian slip to me!

Although I'm not certain how unsold/unsoled relates to my secret longing for various family members...unless it reveals a shoe fetish.

Well, that just begged for some research. Eager to please:

The Freudian Slip

Freud's term for these was "faulty action" (Fehleistung), for which his editor/translator adopted the pseudo-Greek scientism parapraxis. The colloquial label is "Freudian slip" -- and as we'll see, the old man found some beauts. Freud's fascinating 1901 book on the subject (The Psychopathology of Everyday Life) distinguishes errors of speech (Versprechen), memory (Vergessen), and action (Vergreifen). In every case there is presumed to be an unconscious determinant of the faulty action, which can sometimes be inferred directly from the context....

But I believe that this anonymous statement (collected by Rand Lindsly) says it all:

Higgeldy Piggeldy,
Hamlet of Elsinore
Ruffled the critics by
Dropping this bomb:
"Phooey on Freud and his
Psychoanalysis --
Oedipus, Schmoedipus,
I just loved Mom."


From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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One more bit of happiness 

My brakes are fixed.

I didn't mind the mass transit itself - it's just that it took some effort to get to the mass transit stop.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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So Non-Trendy It Hurts - So Poppy It Pleases 

I started my Yahoo! LAUNCHcast video watching session tonight by watching/hearing Backstreet Boys' "Incomplete" video. I've listened to it three times this evening so far. Plus the time that I listened to it on Sunday.

And yes, when you watch the video, it's typical Backstreet Boys, but perhaps a little rougher with fire and junk toward the end.

Yes, _ _m n_t tr_ndy.

Here's what the Amazon.com reviewer had to say about the album.

On Never Gone, the Backstreet Boys crib from the pop foundation they helped establish. Like a lot of smart popsters on the rebound, the reunited fab five broach their return by borrowing from the current hit makers. Even after a four-year hiatus, the flecks of new influence won't matter a bit to the fans. The boys' signature sugar-coated yearning softens every song to a melty consistency, and the lyrics haven't lost any of their babe-magnet pull....

Somehow, I suspect Tammy La Gorce could have written that review without listening to the album. (Perhaps she did.) Frankly, I'm more impressed with amateur reviewer Matthew G. Sherwin.

The Backstreet Boys have produced an incredible album with their fourth studio release, "Never Gone." Just one of the awesome tracks on this CD, "Incomplete," is already standing out as a fine example of their talent and creative strength. This album proves the band is STILL here and ready to rock us while making it all look so easy. Backstreet Boys fans will be very pleased with this album and I think many other music fans would do themselves a favor by trying this CD on for size. Yes, yes, I know: Some people have practically written off the band as has-beens and losers; but I say their life experiences and their natural talent have once again forged to produce a very good album that is one of the best you'll buy this year. Still other people have said that this album does not offer "new enough" material. I wasn't aware the band was obligation to change drastically!...

"Incomplete" is an emotional, passionate and just plain beautiful ballad which is a strong way to start off the album. There's no secret why this song is blasting all over coffee shops already! Try it yourself and tell me you don't like it. (The video was great, too.)...

And here's what Anthony Rupert said:

This is the first BSB album I've listened to, and I have to say it's pretty good.

There are two things that I noticed right away with this album. As soon as I first heard "Incomplete", I said, "I've never heard of a Backstreet Boys song without Brian singing lead." In fact, he hardly sings at all on here; he only sings lead on about two songs, if that. But that's not too bad because A.J. and Nick handle things pretty well -- yes, that's the other thing: Nick Carter's singing has greatly improved. One thing that's weird, though, is how Kevin keeps popping up in the videos playing the piano when he doesn't play at all on the album. Ah well.

mbrady panned the album, but did so intelligently:

Doesn't even sound like the Backstreet Boys. There is not a great song on the album. Most of them are boring and sluggish, IMO.

I agree with the reviewer who thinks the 5-star reviews are planted. No way this is a 5-star effort. If you liked Millennium you'll probably be very disappointed in this one. Gone are the melodic songs with soaring harmonies.

It's too bad because this is a very talented group.

Here's another perspective:

I guess older guys and girls would like this CD, but i don't think kids do ( such as me. ) I never liked BSB, but I recently heard this CD and it's not very good. There is definitely good lyrics, but if this was directed at kids, kids like to listen to fast paced stuff. ( most of them, like me. ) There are a lot of slow songs on this CD. ( I hate slow songs. ) But then there are very few that are a little faster. I think I would only recomend this to a fan of BSB, or a fan of soft rock, or something along those lines.

This raises the question - who was the target marketing audience for this song? (Not necessarily implying that the song creation itself was "product," but once you start getting the promotional and video engine running, you gotta market to somebody.) The video leads me to believe that they were trying to market to a younger audience (all the dramatic gestures and backgrounds and all that stuff). Or maybe they were trying to attract multiple audiences - I'm not sure.

Well, regardless, I like it - I'm a sucker for nice hooks and nice pop songs. Although I regard the Sex Pistols and the Clash as two of the best pop groups ever - they had good hooks too.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Some more happy news 

I think this one will be happy all the way through. Let's see:

Happy Homemakers #25 Club held its regular meeting Oct. 17 at 5:30 p.m. at the Russellville Housing meeting room with six members present. The meeting was called to order by president Essie McKinney. Thought for the month was “Autumns of the past” and was read by Joyce Barker. The Pledge to the Flag and Homemaker's Creed was said by all. Words of Inspiration was led by Essie.

The lesson was “Our trees and forests, take part and take care,” given by the president. The minutes of the last meeting was read by Geraldine Bunton.

Any relation to Emma?

A treasurer report was given by Margaret Todd.

Essie then thanked the group for their work on the Homemakers' float for the Tobacco and Heritage Festival Parade.

Just to clarify, this newspaper (the News-Democrat & Leader) is published in Kentucky. Tobacco makes the people in the area very happy.

Margaret Todd, Joyce Baker, and Zula Bailey helped with this greatly. There was a discussion on the club attending the Annual Meeting Oct. 20 at Cave City. Margaret, Zula, Joyce, Fannie, and Essie planned on attending.

There was some discussion on canned goods brought to the next meeting to be given to families before Thanksgiving. There were two birthdays discussed, those being Fannie Woodard's and Henrene Duncan's. Prayer was also offered up for Albertia Brouder who was not able to be at the meeting. The meeting was adjourned until Nov. 21 at 5:30 p.m.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Some Happy News 

Between proposed freeway closures, car problems, bankruptcies, and other failures, it's time for some happy news, don't you think?

Jennifer Reinhart announces the opening of her home-based quilting business in Newport, I'm Sew Happy Quilting.

Reinhart offers professional, long-arm machine quilting services specializing in computer and hand guided designs, "and affordable quilts for everyday pleasures," she said. "The services I offer (include) many options for quilting - basting for the hand quilter, binding services, and a variety of other options for finishing quilts."

To keep the mood happy, I won't say why she started a home-based business.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Failure Magazine 

(Notice the thematic unity.)

Yes, there is a magazine (or at least a website) called Failure Magazine. A few content samples:

When Grizzly People founder Timothy Treadwell appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman in 2001 the host quipped, “Is it one day going to happen [that] we read a news article about you being eaten by one of these bears?” The studio audience howled but Letterman proved to be prophetic. On October 6, 2003, Treadwell and his girlfriend Amie Huguenard were attacked and eaten by a grizzly bear in Alaska’s Katmai National Park.

Since 1939, [Joe's Diner] has been a fixture in Lee, and over the years it has come to be regarded as the quintessential American diner. In part, the establishment owes its fame to Norman Rockwell, who, in 1958, chose it as the inspiration for "The Runaway," one of his most enduring images....From 1955-2000, the atmosphere, décor and even the prices remained almost unchanged....Thus it’s safe to say that Sorrentino’s retirement and attempted sale of the diner at the end of last year caused considerable consternation among locals and tourists alike. The year 2001 has brought a heretofore unthinkable amount of change and instability—an unsettled ownership situation, new furnishings, and an extended period in which the diner was simply closed—which has alienated many of Joe’s most loyal customers.

In 2009 the United States will commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of our sixteenth President, Abraham Lincoln. The date is nearly five years away yet Congress has already established a 15-person national committee and appropriated millions of dollars solely for the planning of the celebration. In contrast, November 23 of this year will mark the bicentennial of the birth of President Franklin Pierce (1804-69), an anniversary that might have passed without notice if it weren't for Jayme Simões, chairman of the comparatively modest Franklin Pierce Bicentennial Committee.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Democrats Encouraged Bankruptcy, For A Good Reason 

From the late Ronald Reagan:

Republicans believe every day is the Fourth of July, but the democrats believe every day is April 15.

This ties in with the popular perception in baby seal clubber land that Republicans are fiscally responsible, and Democrats are reckless spenders.

In a corollary, Democrats would encourage people to file for bankruptcy.

Well, actually they did, in the early 19th century. Andrew Jackson did it. But in retrospect, he had some good reasons for doing so:

In the 1820s Andrew Jackson came up with a brilliant plan to encourage development in the United States of America. The plan was to created the idea of legal bankruptcy were one could wipe some of your debt clean if you found yourself in way over your head. The idea was to do away with debtor’s prisons and allow people to climb out of the hole of impossible debt. Before this idea was introduced people were routinely sent to prison for years on debts as small as $100.00.

With such a possibility looming over your head, was it any wonder that people were reluctant to borrow money. The only people that wanted to borrow money were the ones who could pay it back. Or, in other words, the people who had assets would borrow money and those who had no assets would not.

So are debtors' prisons gone? Pretty much, according to Nolo:

Debtors' prisons were eliminated in the United States by 1850. In a few unusual situations, however, you can still be jailed if you:

  • willfully violate a court order, especially an order to pay child support

  • are convicted of willfully refusing to pay income taxes, or

  • are about to conceal yourself or your property to avoid paying a debt for which a creditor has a judgment against you.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Thank you for your support 

Various Ontario Vineyard Village Association stories have been picked up by the keywordblogger empire, including its Bankruptcy blog. See here.

This suggests a solution - to end the perceived threats to residential dwellers in the Fourth and Vineyard Area, perhaps all of the businesses in a threatened residential area should go bankrupt. Actually, my previous proposal will probably encourage this action anyway.

So how should the related organization, Ontario Mountain Village Assocation, react? They should react in kind and campaign for Wal-Mart's bankruptcy. This would solve all sorts of problems, since you wouldn't have excess traffic, and since you wouldn't be attracting a criminal element.

Whoops - the criminal element would be attracted to the empty buildings. But bankruptcy does seem to solve our traffic problems, and would also solve my commuter situation. After all, if I don't have a job, then I don't have to commute to it. And I wouldn't be able to afford a car, so I wouldn't have to worry about fixing my brakes.

So perhaps governments should adopt policies that make it tough for businesses to operate in California. And I'm not just talking about preventing penalties for businesses that don't pay taxes. We need to undermine good companies - good, traffic-attracting companies.

Perhaps the government will adopt such policies to discourage business. This would be a good thing, don't you think? Some think so:

A new proposal, now California law, required employers who don’t provide health insurance to pay into a government pool to provide healthcare for the uninsured.

This law levels the playing field. Now CEOs who want to do the right thing will face lower premium costs and won’t have to worry about subsidizing less public-spirited competitors. The law gives responsible businesses the freedom to adopt practices that reflect their values.

In our local assembly race, Democrat Ira Ruskin supports the initiative as a step on the road to universal healthcare, while Republican Steve Poizner describes it as a drag on business, and says it will force jobs out of the state.

Are Bush and Poizner pro-business? Their policies -- the subsidy for shipping jobs overseas, and the implicit subsidy for not providing healthcare -- clearly result give money to businesses. The policies of their Democratic opponents provide more jobs at home and more healthcare coverage, and are clearly motivated by pro-worker values.

But many people would not make the distinction that way. Most CEOs value a level playing field, fair competition, and the freedom to run their business the way they want. When the tax code offers a subsidy to bad business practices, even though it’s a business subsidy, these CEOs would like to see it eliminated.

Not only do the Bush tax loophole and the old healthcare system distort the operation of the free market, they punish CEOs who want to do the right thing. Even their CEOs’ job is maximizing shareholder, most CEOs are good people who want to make the world a better place. Tax distortions that artificially put profitability at odds with making the world a better place should be eliminated. Whether that’s pro- or anti-business, it’s clearly pro- good business.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Nobody rides in El-Lay 

Monday was a fun commute. Right before arriving at work Monday morning, I heard wonderful squealing from my car EXCEPT when I was using my brakes. Initially while driving home to Ontario I didn't hear it, but within a few minutes I was hearing it again.

So that car was out of commission until I could get the brakes fixed.

I couldn't use my wife's car, because she needed it to go to Los Angeles County on Tuesday.

I was going to borrow my father in law's car, but when he went to start it to get it to me, it wouldn't start.

Enter Metrolink. In the ideal world, I'd hop on the Ontario train that went straight down to Orange County. Southern California is not the ideal world. With the employment centers spread out all over the place, I don't see how you can design a system that gets from every residential area to every employment area.

So I had to hop a ride to the North Main Corona station, and select the correct train to get me to my location in Orange County. (Luckily, my work is just a short walk from one of the train stations.)

It all worked out...except that on Tuesday morning I got to North Main Corona a minute too late, and therefore missed my train. Had to wait about an hour at North Main Corona, which (at least for a walker) is in the middle of nowhere, service-wise. Even the Williams, Arizona train station had a fake Starbucks - North Main Corona has nothing.

Yet it all worked out, I had no problems getting home Tuesday evening, and I did make the train Wednesday morning.

Now I just have to get my brakes fixed.

Perhaps I should blame the car companies for my mass transit difficulties:

The reality is that the transportation problem in most parts of this country, and Los Angeles in particular, has a long history. Prior to World War II...Los Angeles...had the largest electric train system in the world....

Suffering from the economic slump of the Depression and far from being secure that the "car culture" would catch on, large auto companies began targeting mass transit systems as enemy No. 1 in the hopes of selling more cars. General Motors was the first, forming a front company in 1932, called United Cities Motor Transit, with the intention of buying out cities' transit systems and running them aground. Through GM's efforts, New York City's massive trolley system was dismantled in only 18 months.

After being caught in Portland, Ore., GM joined together with other automotive industry players, including Greyhound Bus Lines, Firestone Tire and Rubber, Mack Manufacturing, Standard Oil of California and Phillips Petroleum. Together, they formed a new company called National City Lines (NCL), and poured some $10 million into its development by 1937. It was worth the investment for them; NCL eventually destroyed the transit systems of more than 45 cities in the United States. Most importantly, it firmly established the automobile as the primary transportation vehicle in the rapid economic expansion of the postwar years.

By 1955, only 12 percent of streetcars remained across the nation that had been running in the mid-1930s.

For the skeptics waiting for me to pull a Kennedy assassin out of my hat for my next trick, this particular conspiracy is well documented, if not well known. These companies were eventually convicted in federal court of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act by engaging in an illegal conspiracy.

Unfortunately, justice was not served by the slap on the wrist each received in penalties. Each company was assessed a $5,000 fine, and each individual official implicated was fined a single dollar....

It is argued that this episode is still relevant. Although the text below was written in 1974, we can't say that the auto/oil situation has improved since then:

As auto development and marketing progressed, the street railway industry didn’t stagnate....[In] 1936...the efforts of the Presidents’ Conference Committee (PCC) produced the fi[r]st batch of 100 modern streetcars, which represented the greatest single advance ever made in electric rail transportation. More than a mere cosmetic facelift of old equipment, or a series of minor improvements in previous technology, the PCC car set a new standard of comfort, performance and patron acceptance through technical innovations still used in the design and manufacture of rapid transit and light railway equipment throughout the world.

Yet, just 20 years after that huge forward step, the street railway had all but disappeared from the American scene. Why?

A casual observer might well ask whether that question has more than historical significance in today’s auto-dominated world. His answer would be a definite yes. We have reached a crossroads in national transportation policy, where our future way of life may well depend upon decisions which may be better understood in the context of recent transit history.

Rather than scrapping mass transit, the report implies that GM simply wanted to substitute different mass transit, at least initially:

On June 29, 1932, the GM-bus executive committee formally resolved that ‘to develop motorized transportation, our company should initiate a program of this nature and authorize the incorporation of a holding company with a capital of $300,000.’ Thus was formed United Cities Motor Transit (UCMT) as a subsidiary of GM’s bus division. Its sole function was to acquire electric street-car companies, convert them to GM motorbus operation, and then resell the properties to local concerns which agreed to purchase GM bus replacements. ‘In each case,’ [GM General Counsel] Hogan stated, GM 'successfully motorized the city, turned the management over to other interests and liquidated its investment.’ The program ceased, however, in 1935 when GM was censured by the American Transit Association (ATA) for its self-serving role, as a bus manufacturer, in apparently attempting to motorize Portland’s electric streetcar system.”...

In 1936, GM caused its officers and employees to form National City Lines, Inc. (NCL) the report alleges, and continues: "During the following 14 years General Motors, together with Standard Oil of California, Firestone Tire, and two other suppliers of bus-related products, contributed more than $9 million to this holding company for the purpose of converting electric transit systems in 16 states to GM bus operations. The method of operation was basically the same as that which GM employed successfully in its United Cities Motor Transit program: acquisition, motorization, resale. By having NCL resell the properties after conversion was completed, GM and its allied companies were assured that this capital was continuously reinvested in the motorization of additional systems. . .

"By 1949, General Motors had been involved in the replacement of more than 100 electric transit systems with GM buses in 45 cities including New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, St. Louis, Oakland, Salt Lake City, and Los Angeles."...

Progressing from the conversion of rail systems to bus transportation, new market temptations appear on the transportation scene:
“General Motors’ gross revenues are 10 times greater if it sells cars rather than buses. In theory, therefore, GM has every economic incentive to discourage bus ridership. In fact, its bus dieselization program may have generated that effect. Engineering studies strongly suggest that conversion from electric transit to diesel buses results in higher operating costs, loss of patronage, and eventual bankruptcy. They demonstrate, for example, that diesel buses have 28 percent shorter economic lives, 40 percent higher operating costs, and 9 percent lower productivity than electric buses. They also conclude that the diesel’s foul smoke, ear-splitting noise, and slow acceleration may discourage ridership. In short, by increasing the costs, reducing the revenues, and contributing to the collapse of hundreds of transit systems, GM’s dieselization program may have had the long-term effect of selling GM cars.”...

“[T]he National Highway Users Conference [now Highway Users Federation for Safety and Mobility (HUFSAM)] has compiled an impressive record of accomplishments. Its effect, if not purpose, has been to direct public funds away from rail construction and into highway building. At the State level, its 2,800 lobbying groups have been instrumental in persuading 44 of the Nation’s 50 legislatures to adopt and preserve measures which dedicated State and local gasoline tax revenues exclusively to highway construction. By promoting these highway ‘trust funds,’ it has discouraged governors and mayors from attempting to build anything other than high- ways for urban transportation. Subways and rail transit proposals have had to compete with hospi- tals, schools and other governmental responsibilities for funding.. Prom 1945 through 1970, States and localities spent more than $156 billion constructing hundreds of thousands of miles of roads. During that same period, only 16 miles of subway were constructed in the entire country.”...

And, ironically, the GM presence extends even to these promoters of transit—“Due to its position as the Nation’s largest producer of bus and rail vehicles, it is a major financial contributor to both the American Transit Association and the Railway Progress Institute. It is also an influential member of the Institute for Rapid Transit.”

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Monday, October 24, 2005

OVVA Press Release 

has been posted here.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Criminal Shoe Sales 

I meant to type the word "unsold," but I typed "unsolved" instead.

I went to correct "unsolved," and mistakenly ended up with "unsoled."

Perhaps typos reveal your innermost personality, which means I wanna be a criminal shoe salesman. (And you can be my criminal shoe salesgirl. Oh yippie, yippie yo yo.)

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest O.V.V.I. news here)

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So how many called to complain about a lack of city services? 

We'll find out, I guess:

Despite the memory of Hurricane Katrina, at least 90 percent of residents along the Florida Keys refused to evacuate as Hurricane Wilma swirled toward the state.

"We're not New Orleans," said Elaine Chinnis, walking her dogs along Duval Street in Key West a few hours before Wilma was expected to pass by to the north.

The people here are not only hurricane weary, they've dealt with four this year alone, they're also hurricane savvy. They insist they're not being cavalier by refusing to leave. Instead, they're simply not that afraid of a hurricane that wasn't expected to make a direct hit on Key West....

"I'm disappointed, but I understand it," Monroe County Sheriff Richard Roth said. "They're tired of leaving because of the limited damage they sustained during the last three hurricanes."

Officials hate that attitude. A storm surge of up to 17 feet, enough to cause devastating flooding, was possible, according to forecasters. And hospitals were closed, meaning emergency situations could be even more dire....

"I cannot emphasize enough to the folks that live in the Florida Keys: A hurricane is coming," an exasperated Gov. Jeb Bush said Sunday before it became too late to flee. "Perhaps people are saying, `I'm going to hunker down.' They shouldn't do that. They should evacuate."...

Officials say they're the ones who will be criticized if the storm comes ashore bigger than expected, or takes a last-minute turn and goes where it wasn't expected....

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest O.V.V.I. news here)

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A little touchy, aren't we? 

From AP/Yahoo:

The latest "Got Milk?" commercial hit a little too close to home for Major League Baseball. Poking fun at the league's steroid scandal, the television ad for the California Milk Processor Board talks about a player getting pulled from a game "after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance."

In the next scene, a coach pulls a carton of milk from the slugger's locker.

"There is nothing humorous about steroid abuse," said Tim Brosnan, executive vice president for business for the league. "I would think that the California Milk Processor Board and their advertising agency would know better regarding an issue that threatens America's youth."

Perhaps MLB would prefer that the issue not be mentioned at all.

Incidentally, there is a site in the Fourth and Vineyard area where people, even young children, can buy performance-enhancing substances, no questions asked:

1837 E 4TH ST
Store Phone: 909-988-4646

Perhaps the Ontario Vineyard Village Association should look into this too.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest O.V.V.I. news here)

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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Yeah, THAT tour 

I've been searching for some type of account of the end of the Songs of Faith and Devotion tour. I did find this bit:

For all their success on stage, however, Depeche Mode are more famous for their excess off stage. The two-year long tour supporting Songs of Faith and Devotion culminated with them travelling separately and living in different hotels....

"Ah, the infamous Songs of Faith and Devotion tour," laughed Andrew Fletcher from his record company office in Paris recently.

"The truth is, that was quite possibly the worst time for the band. I was depressed from all the touring, Dave was a drug addict and the whole band wasn't on speaking terms. Funnily enough, the only thing I remembered about that tour was our Singapore stop in 1994 when we played at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

"It was a very good gig, even if we spent our times separately because it was a difficult time for us," added the affable 44-year-old. "It was sad the way things turned out eventually, especially with Alan leaving. I miss him terribly; he is a good friend. Those were very difficult times for the band."...

For long time Depeche Mode fans, one issue still persists: What exactly does Fletcher do in the band?

The 1989 tour documentary 101...revealed some stunning facts — Dave Gahan sings, Martin Gore writes, Alan Wilder produces and Fletcher, well, dances on stage and does very little else.

When I put the question to him, a loud roar of laughter echoes down the phone.

"The truth is, I don't write songs. I have no interest. I play a bit of keyboards but I took an interest in the business side of the band, dealing with the record label and our daily affairs," he said. "Martin and Dave are the backbone of the band, I suppose I'm the guy who brings them together."

Here's what Wikipedia says, briefly:

The 14-month "Devotional" world tour followed. Strains became apparent when Fletcher declined to participate in the second "exotic" leg of the tour.

In June 1995 after the tour Alan Wilder left the band citing "unsatisfactory internal working conditions"; he continued to work on his personal project, Recoil.

Contributing factors that have been suggested include the drug addiction issues of Dave Gahan, Martin Gore's admission of "battling his own demons" at this time, and growing tensions between Wilder and Andrew Fletcher. Wilder had stated that he contributed a lion's share of work while receiving the least credit on past albums.

And another allusion:

When Depeche Mode lead singer Dave Gahan strode to center stage at the Worcester Centrum Centre in Massachusetts Tuesday (Oct. 27) night, he did it with the confidence of a happy man. In fact, the band as a whole seemed to exude a relaxed confidence that shined through in the music, the vocals, the imagery... Everything said, "It's good to be back."

And if ever a band could appreciate the chance to wipe the slate clean, it would have to be Depeche Mode. As a group, the 18- year- old Depeche Mode has seen some trying times in recent years: Gahan's much- publicized battle with drugs, keyboardist Andy Fletcher's nervous breakdown, and the departure of longtime keyboardist Alan Wilder....

From a different page on the same site:

1993 saw them released a very un-Depeche Mode like album in 'Songs of Faith and Devotion'. The album overall has a rock edge to it. It debuts simultaneusly at the No.1 position on both the U.S. and U.K. charts, the first album by a band to have achieved such a feat ! which serves as a testimony to Depeche Mode's strong fan base. The fans besides noticing the change in sound, also noticed that the lead singer David Gahan has metamorphosised into a rock god.

Depeche Mode went on a lengthy tour which caused severe strains on their relationships. Before the end of the tour saw Martin Gore having seizures and Andy Fletcher having a nervous breakdown and David Gahan getting more and more into dangerous drugs. Shortly after the tour ended, key member Alan Wilder shocked Depeche Mode fans worldwide and to a lesser extent his bandmates when he announced his decision to quit the band.

Or from another perspective:

The band decided to do a HUGE tour, larger than any other they had done, to promote the album. During this time Andrew Fletcher, who also handled band finances, began to have a mental breakdown, leaving the tour half way through. To everybody near him, Dave was clearly self-destructing. As the tour winded down after over a year of touring, it was obvious Dave was not healthy. After the end of the tour, Dave attempted suicide by slashing his wrists. After a brief hospital stay, he was released. In 1995, Alan Wilder announced that he was leaving the group, citing the fact that he didn't get enough credit for the amount of work he did, and was tired of working within the confines of a band..

In 1996, Martin tracked down Dave, and the trio (Dave, Martin, and the healthy Fletch) proceeded to try to record new material for the next album, "Ultra." But due to David's continuing addiction to drugs, recording of vocals became practically impossible....

Moral - multi-year tours are a bad thing. So much was made of Dave and the SOFAD tour, but truth is that all four of the (then) members of Depeche Mode were adversely affected by the ordeal.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest O.V.V.I. news here)

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