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Archive for February, 2011

“If law fails, CIA will assassinate Assange”

February 25

TV programs aren’t used to candor.

Paul Craig Roberts


Paul Craig Roberts (born April 3, 1939, in Atlanta, Georgia) is an American economist and a columnist for Creators Syndicate. He served as an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration earning fame as a co-founder of Reaganomics.”[1] He is a former editor and columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, and Scripps Howard News Service. Roberts has been a critic of both Democratic and Republican administrations.


Russian Mayor Wants To Shoot Homeless

Russian mayor laments that he can’t hunt down the homeless

Moscow News, 2/24

Mikhalev’s dramatic solution to the problem dogging his remote Siberian outpost came as he answered questions at a meeting of the city council.

“Unfortunately we do not have a license to shoot the homeless, and other legitimate ways of coping with them are not available today,” he said.

And he called for an official definition of a “parasite” to be created to free up much-needed space in social shelters.

This guy is the mayor of Chita, a “remote Siberian outpost”.

I figure this is what Republicans in the USA want to say, but the social climate isn’t quite there for them. Not yet, anyway.

(h/t to FrumForum)


Fraudulent Chile

New Mexico Takes Its Chile Very Seriously. Even the Spelling.

NYT 2/26

Despite an increased demand around the country, chile harvesting in New Mexico has plummeted in the past 20 years. Farmers and suppliers say they are being priced out by cheaper foreign peppers and betrayed by impostors who falsely claim to sell New Mexico chile in restaurants and supermarkets and at roadside stands.

Lying about the origins of one’s chile is considered blasphemy in New Mexico, where the spelling of choice sets the sauce apart from the more common rendering.

And now, a new bill is taking aim at those who fraudulently assert that their chili is grown in New Mexico.

Hatch Chile is unhappy about this. Some of the fraudulent chile (ironically) is from Mexico (also Asia).

However, we will note that laws on pesticide use are not the same in both countries, with Mexico having somewhat looser laws.

It is sad to see that chile production in NM has gone down nearly 75% between 1992 and 2010, though. Last year was rainy, too.

This article notes that Asian chile is sometimes faked as New Mexico chile (even in New Mexico) because it’s cheaper. Globalization strikes again!


Making The Books Go Away

For the last eleven years, I have sold used books on the Internet. Sometimes rare books, sometimes not so rare. Never very quickly, but it’s made me a bit of money, and it provided a lot of enjoyment, just by virtue of getting to look at a lot of cool books.

Used books are a hard sell these days, though, and they rarely appreciate in value. One of the most difficult things for many used book dealers (who tend to be inordinately fond of books), is bringing one’s self to throw them out.

I’ve been facing the ordeal of getting about two thousand books off my premises and out of my life, just recently. These are books I failed to sell, and books I’ve culled from my private collections.

They sit around on a myriad of shelves, gazing at me reproachfully, getting dustier and sadder. I move them back and forth between sections from time to time – sections that I think I want to keep, sections I want to try to keep trying to sell online, sections to give to the thrift shop.

The thrift shop is a good charity, but they only have so much room for books, and even though they are very inexpensive, they can only absorb so many of my books any given week. The library has a book sale, but they only take donations for the books, and tend to net about fifteen cents per book – an awful lot of work involving hauling and storing and unstoring, for not much return. The thrift shop at least charges a quarter, or fifty cents, and sometimes even a dollar.

Some I do throw away. And occasionally I put a bunch in boxes out on the street.

I put about 400 books out in boxes on the street this Friday afternoon around two. Reasonable books. We’re not talking used romance novels here. Lots of science, household stuff, science fiction, eclectic items. I piled them up so people could see there were books. I made a big sign out of a scrap piece of sheetrock reading “Free Books” and tied it to the mailbox post.

I watched cars go by for awhile, maybe one a minute on this moderately trafficked sidestreet. Nobody stopped. Nobody even slowed down.

They drove by in nice cars and trucks, the kind that you spend quite a few thousands of dollars on.

I went to the store, came back around five. It’s a windy day, a few of the books were blown off the piles. Otherwise, everything looked the same.

As I went in the house, I saw a boy riding down the street on his bicycle, one-handed, waving a book in the other. “Look! I got a free book!” he was yelling to someone across the street.

Okay…that’s a start.

It is grueling, this business of giving away books. I’ve tried giving away books on Freecycle. I get very little response, and they don’t tend to show up. I had one guy show up who owned a bookstore in California who offered to buy all of my books, including some that I’ve sold for some money on eBay since then, for $100.

Stubborn to the end, I passed on his offer.

It’s Friday evening. People may be going around looking for yard sales, who knows? They do yard sales here on Fridays, and sometimes the evenings.

Maybe someone will take away some of these books.

Or maybe not. They could be out there till Sunday. It’s taken days when I’ve done this in the past.

These are not bad books. Some were in my private collection for years. I threw out the hopeless ones; the used text books, the overly damaged, the excessively obscure or specialized.

I know, they’re just books. Just paper. There are other copies around. You can get just about anything from Print on Demand these days, if you want it that badly.

I’ve always been all about books, though. They have been there for me so often, when humans have not. Even when I don’t read them, I like having them around. I like the look of several rows of books covering many themes of some subject I find of interest. Sometimes I even open one and look something up.

There they sit, though, with the wind blowing their pages, and me worrying about them. They’re not safe out there. Bad things could happen to them. Dogs could come around and pee on them. People could come by in the night and commit unspeakable acts. Throw them around. Set them on fire. You never know.

There is something terribly sad about it, this business where you cannot even find homes for your inventory without worrying about people setting it on fire. It’s like having extra puppies. Such nice books; surely somebody will like them? Surely there is a place for them, somewhere?

Meanwhile, what people *do* want is my pecans from my pecan tree. I’ve had five times as many requests this year as usual. These range from offers to “help” get the pecans down, to people showing up and gathering the ones off of the easement, to even in one case sneaking into my yard.

The pecans on the easement included pecans I’d put out there from last year, and second-rate pecans that have fallen, from whatever years. Cracked pecans, bird-pecked pecans, old pecans.

All those pecans are gone now. The ground is scoured.

I can see the failure in my strategy. I should have collected ALL the pecans, and put them in boxes with books on the bottom, and set *those* out on the curb.

It’s important to know one’s market.

Update: Now it’s Sunday evening, and 95% of those books are still out there. The sign has blown over; it’s a windy day and the twine broke.

The books have been moved from tidy piles to untidy piles. I don’t know how many people have looked at them.

But the writing is on the ground.


Hasbro Revamps “Monopoly;” All Computerized Now

Is nothing sacred???

(h/t to Harper’s Weekly Review)

Hasbro’s Monopoly to Gain Computer Overseer

Monopoly is going 21st century. Soon, there will be a computer managing all the transactions in the game, which will make all the clever alterations to the game’s rules that people inevitably use as part of the fun a thing of the past.

Monopoly Live, as it is called, was shown off at last week’s Toy Fair in New York. Instead of that huge center space in the board, where players used to throw money, put the Community Chest and Chance cards, and roll the dice, is an infrared tower with a speaker. It’s the HAL 9000 for your Monopoly board, and it issues commands, er, instructions, keeps track of the money and makes sure players stick to the rules. There’s no confusion here. It even makes sure you advance the correct number of spaces.

Since they went this far, it’s unclear why they didn’t simply use electronic representations of the Monopoly figures you move around the board.

HAL-like computer tower rules Monopoly Live

The classic tokens, properties, and plastic buildings have been retained, but there’s no paper money; dice; or Chance or Community Chest cards.

The tower does all that, along with barking instructions to players, as seen in the vid below. An added feature involves sending a plastic cab around on a rail to dodge taxes, and the tower can sometimes announce random events like a horse race or property auction.

In classic Monopoly, players wheel and deal with each other, screaming for rent and hiding $100 bills up a sleeve or under the board. In Monopoly Live, they seem to be interacting with the computer. Is that the purpose of a board game?

Monopoly Live? Are we really this lazy?

Compared to what is going on in the streets, I understand that this is relatively minor. But it’s necessary. First they came for Guitar Hero, and nobody said anything. Now they’re coming for Monopoly – someone has to speak up!

After all, it’s only from Monopoly that I understand how foreclosures work or what spawned the financial crisis. “Watch the banker!” I insist. “Because if the banker takes your money and spends it on houses nobody can afford, then no one has any money and the game is over! Also, do not let Bernie Madoff be the banker.”

But this is no Monopoly. “Monopoly Live” is to Monopoly as listening to baseball on the radio is to playing baseball. This game is perfect for people who don’t want to play Monopoly, but would like a robot to tell them about it in detail. It’s the books-on-tape edition of life. “Don’t have a childhood?” it asks. “Here’s a bored, yet patient robot voice describing what it would be like if you had one!”


Great Moments in Homophobia

h/t to Julie Waters


Congressman Pearce Says Gas Outage Payback For Higher Pollution Standards

GOP policies created natural gas fiasco during winter storm

Alamagordo Daily News

Congressman Steve Pearce visited Alamogordo Feb. 4 and said that PNM had taken three generators off line and idled many coal miners because they did not want to upgrade their generators to reduce the pollution of our New Mexico air and water.

Pearce said the government should not interfere with free enterprise. An electric utility is a monopoly there is no choice. Do we have to agree to more water pollution already hazardous to babies and pregnant women and air pollution increasing health costs?

PNM is making a profit and the top three CEOs each make almost $2 million a year. PNM recently asked and received an 11-percent rate increase. This will impact every aspect of our lives. Will a small business be able to stay open or have to lay off workers?

New Mexico Gas bought PNM a few years ago.


Is Feeding the Needy a Constitutional Right?

Fight over feeding homeless goes to court — again

Orlando, 2/14

This case is going to court on Tuesday.

The arguments before the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals come more than four years after the Orlando City Council restricted how often people may feed large groups in parks around downtown. Businesses and residents had complained that frequent group meals at Lake Eola Park drew the homeless into the neighborhood.

After years of legal wrangling, the case has been condensed to a single question: Whether sharing food with homeless and hungry people in a public park is “expressive conduct” protected by the constitution. Expressive conduct is an act or behavior that’s equivalent to free speech, like burning a flag or wearing a black armband to protest a war.

Members of the group Orlando Food Not Bombs argue that by feeding the homeless, they are spreading the message that society should ensure no one goes hungry.

I admire the tenacity of these activists more than I can say.


Global Drying

Got to chatting with Laughing Planet on DK this evening; s/he pointed out this essay LP posted back last December on DK:

Global Drying


Warming sounds nice.

Ya know, warm & fuzzy, a glass of warm milk, a warm-hearted person, etc.

But the gruesome truth of climate change is this: Our planet’s supply of fresh water is disappearing.

Weather patterns differ from region to region. But what lies beneath is the terrifying reality that more often than not, erratic weather cycles are causing weaker rainfall & hotter heatwaves that sap the moisture from the earth.

Great essay; lots of good links and graphics and quotes.


Happy Valentine’s Day!

From NPR:

The Dark Origins Of Valentine’s Day

From Feb. 13 to 15, the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia. The men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain.

The Roman romantics “were drunk. They were naked,” says Noel Lenski, a historian at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Young women would actually line up for the men to hit them, Lenski says. They believed this would make them fertile.

The brutal fete included a matchmaking lottery, in which young men drew the names of women from a jar. The couple would then be, um, coupled up for the duration of the festival – or longer, if the match was right.

I think I prefer chocolate.

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