Friday, August 31, 2007

Students Stage Virtual Protest on Facebook

College is an awfully expensive time, leaving most graduating students completely broke or, more likely, buried under reams of college loan books. For those who don't find a job immediately after graduation, things get worse as loan payments quickly come due.

At least students who banked with Hong Kong-based HSBC could always count on the bank's free overdraft protection on checking accounts -- that is, until the bank recently announced that the program was slated for termination.

Fortunately, we no longer live in a time when "writing a letter" is your only recourse in a situation such as this. When students learned of HSBC's plans, they massed together on Facebook in an interesting sort of virtual protest -- a protest that led to the bank axing the interest fees and keeping the program in place.

This is reminiscent of the trashing Wal-Mart recently took when it created its own Facebook group. However the negative feedback there was directed toward the company's overall business practices, something Wal-Mart is unlikely to change based on a few thousand posts on a Web site (since it's those very practices that have enabled it to stay profitable). The HSBC protest, on the other hand, was more focused on that single issue of interest on overdrafts, organized by the National Union of Students (NUS). The group set up a group on Facebook to keep in touch with students and organize the protest. NUS Vice President Wes Streeting indicated that it was Facebook that enabled them to get the program re-instated, saying: "There can be no doubt that using Facebook made the world of difference to our campaign."

It just goes to show that today's youth is, after all, still willing to stand up for something they believe in ... so long as it doesn't require they actually stand up.

The GOP's crowded closet

Salon: The party's culture of concealment has led to embarassment and personal destruction. Isn't it about time for the right to cure its homophobia?
By Joe Conason
""Is everybody gay?"

That was the cry of the lovelorn schoolteacher in the classic 1997 film "In and Out," after her diffident fiancé reveals his true orientation (and dumps her for Tom Selleck). Ten years later, more than a few discombobulated Republicans must be muttering the same question, despite the fervent denial of Sen. Larry "Wide Stance" Craig that he is, indeed, gay. As one embarrassing episode follows another, with almost predictable regularity, perhaps it is time for Republicans and conservatives to ask themselves an obvious question: What makes the Republican Party -- and the conservative movement more generally -- so attractive to closeted homosexual men?
Somewhere in the textbooks of psychosexual pathology there may be a straightforward answer, so to speak. Does the party draw closeted men because they can hide behind Republican homophobia? Or does the party promote homophobia as a political ruse while closeted men run the show? Whatever the answer, the result is routine humiliation and personal destruction. Even worse, the party's culture of concealment encourages right-wing gay-bashing, such as Tucker Carlson's grotesque boast that he and another adolescent thug beat up a gay man who "bothered" him in a bathroom years ago."

Warming Trend: White Jeans Year Round

WSJ: "Labor Day is upon us, and Maury Rogoff has no intention of putting away her white jeans. It has been years since the New York marketing consultant went through the seasonal ritual of switching her closet around. "I'm in total seasonal denial," she says. "I only cave in when it really gets cold in January and February," she says. "I resist tights and hose all winter long."
One of the most surprising effects of climate changes can be found in your closet: With the exception of heavy winter coats and flimsy sundresses, there aren't a lot of truly seasonal clothes in many people's wardrobes anymore.
The move toward seasonless dressing is largely an effect of climate change. In most places in the Northern Hemisphere, the weather is getting warmer, and winters are shorter and less extreme, according to the Center for Climate Systems Research at Columbia University in New York. Radley Horton, a climatologist at the center says 11 of the Earth's 12 warmest years since 1890 occurred after 1996. But in recent years, he says, "there are less extreme differentials between seasons," he says. The result: Spring is starting earlier by a week to 10 days, and fall is starting about a week later.
At the same time, people spend so much time indoors and in cars that their lives are essentially climate-controlled. There's less of a need for bulky sweaters and tweedy woolens. The casual movement of recent years has also helped drive the trend, as jeans, a year-round fashion item that can be dressed up or down, have emerged as the workhorses in most people's wardrobes. Turning a spring look into a fall outfit is as simple as layering on a sweater or heavier jacket."

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Assholes of the Week #7

*Senator Larry Craig, not only for the opening statement at his press conference -- "Thank you all very much for coming out today" -- but also for his silly rationalization that when he tap-danced on the shoe of an undercover cop in the adjoining stall, it was only because of his own "wide stance," thereby breaking Rose Mary Woods' excuse record. She testified that, while transcribing Richard Nixon's tape, she answered a phone call, but when reaching for the stop button on the recorder, she mistakenly hit the record button next to it, [unnecessarily] keeping her foot on the pedal, resulting in the infamous 18-1/2-minute gap. When asked to replicate that position, her extremely awkward posture caused political pundits to
*Senator John Kerry, for not ridiculing George Bush's 180-degree turnaround concerning the comparison between the Vietnam and Iraq wars by labeling the president a flip-flopper.

*********General Wesley Clark, for waiting until recently to reveal to Amy Goodman on "Democracy Now" the following:
***********************read this!!!***************
"About 10 days after 9/11, I went through the Pentagon and I saw Secretary Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz. I went downstairs just to say hello to some of the people on the Joint Staff who used to work for me, and one of the generals called me in. He said, 'Sir, you've got to come in and talk to me a second.' I said, 'Well, you're too busy.' He said, 'No, no.' He says, 'We've made the decision we're going to war with Iraq.' This was on or about the 20th of September. I said, 'We're going to war with Iraq? Why?' He said, 'I don't know.' He said, 'I guess they don't know what else to do.' So I said, 'Well, did they find some information connecting Saddam to al Qaeda?' He said, 'No, no.' He says, 'There's nothing new that way. They just made the decision to go to war with Iraq.' He said, 'I guess it's like we don't know what to do about terrorists, but we've got a good military and we can take down governments.' And he said, 'I guess if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail.' So I came back to see him a few weeks later, and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan. I said, 'Are we still going to war with Iraq?' And he said, 'Oh, it's worse than that.' He reached over on his desk. He picked up a piece of paper. And he said, 'I just got this from upstairs' -- meaning the Secretary of Defense's office -- "today." And he said, 'This is a memo that describes how we're going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.' I said, 'Is it classified?' He said, 'Yes, sir.' I said, 'Well, don't show it to me.' And I saw him a year or so ago, and I said, 'You remember that?' He said, 'Sir, I didn't show you that memo! I didn't show it to you!'"
*Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, for championship pandering. Although he now wants to overturn Roe vs. Wade, when he was running for the Senate in 1994, he came out in favor of choice for women. He admitted to Mormon feminist Judith Dushku that "the Brethren" in Salt Lake City told him that he could take that position, and that in fact he probably had to, in order to win in a liberal state like Massachusetts.

*Great Assholes of the Past: The Sunday School teacher who advised one of his students to write on his penis, "What would Jesus do?" Presumably, "Jerk off" was not considered to be the correct answer.

Volkswagen and Apple heads discuss possible "iCar" project

AP: "U.S. computer company Apple Inc. and German automaker Volkswagen AG are discussing the possibility of building an "iCar" which would feature products by the producer of the ubiquitous iPod personal music player.
Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs and Volkswagen's chief Martin Winterkorn met several days ago in California, and plan to meet for further discussions, said Hans-Gerd Bode, a spokesman for VW.
There are "scores of ideas," but few concrete plans at this point, Bode said.
Market experts estimate that a compact car upgraded with Apple products would be of substantial interest to young target groups, according to German financial magazine Capital."

Federal Judge Orders Wal-Mart to Offer Health Insurance to Workers' Stepchildren

Federal Judge Orders Wal-Mart to Offer Health Insurance to Workers' Stepchildren
Joel Stashenko
New York Law Journal

The stepchildren of working parents in New York state are dependent children for the purposes of qualifying for coverage under federally regulated group health insurance plans, a federal judge has ruled.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., based in Bentonville, Ark., had balked at providing coverage for the stepson of one of its employees in upstate Essex County, N.Y. The county sought to force Wal-Mart to insure the boy after he was enrolled in Medicaid, the taxpayer-supported health insurance program.

Wal-Mart argued that the relationship did not meet two criteria under its Associates' Health and Welfare Plan. The plan requires that non-custodial stepchildren must live with Wal-Mart employees at least nine months out of the year and that they must be claimed on their parents' federal tax returns as dependents to qualify for coverage.

William Lamica, now 13, is the son of William L. Vradenburg, husband of Wal-Mart employee Aime Vradenburg. The boy does not live with the Vradenburgs and Aime Vradenburg has not adopted him. Nor does she claim him as a dependent on federal taxes. William L. Vradenburg receives health insurance coverage through his wife's Wal-Mart policy.

In O'Neil v. Wal-Mart, 8:05-cv-1572, Northern District of New York Judge Lawrence E. Kahn said the Wal-Mart plan provisions run counter to New York Insurance Law §2608-a, which expressly prohibits the denial of coverage to a parent's child based on the fact the child was born out of wedlock, is not claimed as a dependent on federal tax returns or does not reside with the parent.

Recognizing stepchildren as eligible for coverage, even if employees have not become the children's legal parent or guardian, is also in keeping with New York state laws and public policies that make stepparents responsible for the health and care of stepchildren as if they were biological parents, Kahn ruled. He also found that New York's laws are consistent with the federal Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993, which sought to facilitate health care coverage under group health plans subject to the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

Neither the state nor the federal statutes say whether "stepchildren" fall under the definition of "children" for group health insurance plan purposes, the judge noted.

"Interpreting section 2608-a to apply equally to stepparents and natural parents advances the goals of the federal statute: protecting public finances, expanding insurance coverage for children, and shifting some of the cost of children's health coverage to private parties," Kahn wrote.

He denied Wal-Mart's request for summary judgment and ordered the company to comply with a Qualified Medical Child Support Order issued by Essex County and provide coverage to William Lamica.

Wal-Mart contested the order, issued in 2004 by Essex County Social Services Commissioner John P. O'Neil, on the ground it would impose a new coverage requirement on the Associates' Health and Welfare Plan in violation of ERISA. The plan provides coverage to employees and their dependents, who are defined as legal spouses, natural children, adopted children and stepchildren who live with the plan participant.


Kahn ruled that the question of whether Congress intended for ERISA to pre-empt state child support statutes, as Wal-Mart contends it did, is crucial to Essex County's case. He wrote that there is "considerable evidence" that Congress did not intend for such pre-emption.

By creating the Qualified Medical Child Support Order system in the first place, Congress was obviously anticipating certain circumstances where group health plans could be compelled to deviate from coverage limits, the judge reasoned.

"It is illogical to assume that Congress intended to preempt the application of a state law assigning child support obligations to stepparents and adoptive parents, especially as Congress gave no indication of such an intent," Kahn ruled.

Advocates for the poor and some politicians have criticized Wal-Mart and other big-box retailers for not providing health insurance coverage to some workers or their dependents.

Earlier this month, Eastern District of New York Judge Arthur D. Spatt struck down Suffolk County's "fair share law," which required large retailers that sell groceries to make health care expenditures for most non-managerial employees according to a health cost rate set by the county. Spatt ruled in Retail Industry Leaders Association v. Suffolk County, 2:06-cv-00531, that the county's law was superseded by ERISA.

Federal judges also have struck down a 2005 Maryland state law that would have forced Wal-Mart and other large retailers to pay 8 percent of their payroll costs for health insurance coverage for employees.

Wal-Mart spokesman John E. Simley said the company was "disappointed" by Kahn's decision.

"We are evaluating how we might proceed," he said in an interview. Simley said benefit offerings like Wal-Mart's health care plan are consistent with those of other major retailers in the United States, though he did not know how other companies defined qualified coverage for stepchildren in their plans. Wal-Mart has said it provides health care coverage to 43 percent of its 1.4 million employees.

Thomas H. Lawrence of the Lawrence, Russell Law Firm of Memphis, Tenn., represented Wal-Mart in the case involving Essex County.

Assistant Essex County Attorney David D. Scaglione argued for the county.

Neither Scaglione nor O'Neil returned calls for comment.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Shorter Waits for Botox Than Examinations of Moles

New York Times: "Patients seeking an appointment with a dermatologist to ask about a potentially cancerous mole have to wait substantially longer than those seeking Botox for wrinkles, says a study published online today by The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
Researchers reported that dermatologists in 12 cities offered a typical wait of eight days for a cosmetic patient wanting Botox to smooth wrinkles, compared to a typical wait of 26 days for a patient requesting evaluation of a changing mole, a possible indicator of skin cancer.
“The difference in wait times between medical dermatology and cosmetic dermatology patients is clearly real,” said Dr. Jack S. Resneck Jr., the lead author of the study and an assistant dermatology professor at the medical school of the University of California, San Francisco. “We need to look further and figure out what is leading to shorter wait times for cosmetic patients.”
In Boston, the median Botox wait was 13 days, versus 68 days for a mole examination. In Seattle, the median Botox wait was seven and a half days, compared to 35 days for a changing mole."

Pattie Boyd: 'My hellish love triangle with George and Eric'

Daily Mail: "George Harrison wrote the love song Something for his wife Pattie Boyd. Eric Clapton wrote Layla for her. Theirs was the most extraordinary love triangle in rock history.
Now, after four decades of silence, the woman who drove two music legends wild tells the raw, unexpurgated story of her life...
We met secretly at a flat in South Kensington. Eric Clapton had asked me to come because he wanted me to listen to a new number he had written.
He switched on the tape machine, turned up the volume and played me the most powerful, moving song I had ever heard. It was Layla, about a man who falls hopelessly in love with a woman who loves him but is unavailable.
He played it to me two or three times, all the while watching my face intently for my reaction. My first thought was: 'Oh God, everyone's going to know this is about me.'"

Trying to Connect the Dinner Plate to Climate Change

New York Times: "EVER since “An Inconvenient Truth,” Al Gore has been the darling of environmentalists, but that movie hardly endeared him to the animal rights folks. According to them, the most inconvenient truth of all is that raising animals for meat contributes more to global warming than all the sport utility vehicles combined.
The Humane Society links environmental issues and food.
The biggest animal rights groups do not always overlap in their missions, but now they have coalesced around a message that eating meat is worse for the environment than driving. They and smaller groups have started advertising campaigns that try to equate vegetarianism with curbing greenhouse gases.
Some backlash against this position is inevitable, the groups acknowledge, but they do have scientific ammunition. In late November, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization issued a report stating that the livestock business generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation combined.
When that report came out, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and other groups expected their environmental counterparts to immediately hop on the “Go Veggie!” bandwagon, but that did not happen. “Environmentalists are still pointing their fingers at Hummers and S.U.V.’s when they should be pointing at the dinner plate,” said Matt A. Prescott, manager of vegan campaigns for PETA."

I'm Not Gay ... ? :( ! ? I'm Not!

* Click on the link, there is audio... It's Hilarious

As a public service to those people who are straight or gay or NOT GAY, NOT GAY, NOT GAY, who may be dramatically impaired, I offer you my reading of the police report from the incident in which the NOT GAY conservative Senator from the great state of Idaho was arrested for playing NOT GAY footsie with an undercover cop. Though I am NOT GAY myself, I was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor In A Musical and feel that that does qualify me as an honorary gay, so I hope my performance does justice to these excerpts of the hottest gayest police report EVER written about a NOT GAY Senator who is CONSERVATIVE and doesn't like gay stuff because he is NOT GAY and was just trying to pick up an invisible piece of paper in the hottest gay action men's room from here to The Stonewall

Day One: How to Be a Freegan in Nine Easy Steps

I am now a Freegan. In answer to your second question (the first question was “Who Cares?”, right?), a Freegan is a “person who employs alternative strategies for living based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources. Freegans embrace community, generosity, social concern, freedom, cooperation, and sharing in opposition to a society based on materialism, moral apathy, competition, conformity, and greed" (quoted from So, that means that as of this morning, I have changed my profligate ways. I'm a new and radicalized woman. I am a green goddess, an eco-princess, a humble servant to planet earth.

Why would a eBay-loving, omnivorous, cigarette-smoking shopaholic do something like that? Firstly: I'm trying to examine the phenomena of the Freegans from the inside out in order to explain it to NEWSWEEK readers and I have no problems playing the martyr for dramatic effect. Freeganism first popped up out West in cities like Seattle and Portland (of course) and has also become popular in larger cities back east like Washington, D.C., New York and London. Nobody knows for sure how many Freegans there are out there (counting is for capitalists, man). But, given the proliferation of Freegan Web sites and the popularity of the New York Dumpster-diving dinners, for example, there is evidence that their numbers are growing.

Did I not mention Dumpster diving earlier? Ah, well, it's actually called “waste reclamation” and it's a Freegan practice to boycott our capitalistic world by living off its shocking excesses. Seems crazy and gross doesn't it? (For the record, I personally won’t be Dumpster diving--not because I’m afraid to get my hands dirty but because it’s illegal in New York City and our legal department won't let me.)

Second: These environmentalists are not going away. They are going to nag us, scare us and tell us we're not cool until we change our gas-guzzling ways. So for the next 30 days, I, at least, won't be in their sights. Unless I screw up.

Third: the American way of life has to change if we want to do something about global warming. But, I don't want Al Gore, Leonardo DiCaprio or any of the snotty people in my very green and very self-righteous neighborhood (if you Google “Park Slope, Brooklyn” and “judgmental,” you'll get more than 40,000 hits) to tell me that's it's going to be easy. It's not. It's time-consuming, confusing and infuriating. I was doing fine, living my little piece of the American Dream, and now the inconvenient truth is that I feel bad about it. That would be the Freegans' fault, too (though I'd also like to spread some blame around to Al, Leonardo, PETA, Greenpeace and that "Supersize Me" guy).

I haven't been the same since I pitched this story. I see waste everywhere. I feel guilty about everything--doing my laundry, spending a day at the mall, leaving my computer on at night, relaxing in the shower, BUYING FOOD AT THE GROCERY STORE. How can absolutely everything I've been taught to do to survive be wrong? I'm going to try and figure it out. This experiment may be forcing me to give up "everything"; but it will also give me the opportunity to spend the next four weeks examining the impact of my previous way of life. Here are the rules I've set up (with the advice of my Freegan mentors Madeline Nelson and Adam Weissman, also known as my frentors):

1. I will spend as little as possible on food, and shell out for medical needs or in case of emergency.

2. I will be a vegan.

3. All my food will be organic (and local if at all possible) and only from local sources such as New York City's greenmarkets or the Park Slope Food Co-op. I will also investigate waste reclamation and wild foraging. (Gross maybe, but Americans waste more than 90 billion pounds of food a year, and that can feed a lot of starving activists.)

4. I will scrupulously recycle, reuse and compost. If I want something, I will barter for it or go to or try and find it in that house of horrors I call a storage space.

5. I will not throw away what I already have and buy "green" items. I will use what I have until it's gone.

6. I will aim to reduce my energy bill by 50 percent and be carbon neutral.

7. I will only use eco-friendly transportation (including the subway), but I will take a car if it is a matter of personal safety (such as late nights).

8. I will open a Freedom Savings Account where I will put the money I save. This money will, in time, give me the freedom to quit working if I want to. And when I get the Man's foot off my neck, I'm going to move upstate and read used books.

9. Most importantly, I will mindful of the impact of my actions on the earth.

How Does Laura Bush Sleep at Night?


With the passing of Lady Bird Johnson, we are reminded that First Ladies used to stand for something. She was not as beautiful as Jackie Kennedy, and in the mid-1960s with the war in Vietnam escalating, beautifying America’s highways may have seemed a trivial goal. It wasn’t. Lady Bird Johnson—a successful businesswoman in her own right—combined a disdain for the spread of commercial clutter with a love for the environment that today seems positively progressive in a first lady. She helped her husband advance the Head Start program and civil rights; she spoke publicly in support of the Equal Rights Amendment.

By contrast, what does Laura Bush stand for? Well, at first it was “literacy” and the merits of being a stay-at-home wife who gets her husband (allegedly) to quit drinking. Then she was going to combat the influence of gangs on school children. (Her husband subsequently eliminated this program.) Then there was some hand-waving about women’s heart disease. Her very glitzy website also cites “Gulf Coast Rebuilding” (no comment) and “Global Diplomacy” as top Laura priorities. All of these are advanced with a smile as lock-jawed as Nurse Ratched’s.

As one of the scant 15 percent of likely voters who has a “very unfavorable” assessment of Mrs. Bush (and who finds her high approval ratings a complete mystery), I would like to suggest that she may be the worst First Lady in recent memory. Here are the reasons: First, she has had no consistent program or agenda that has changed anything for the better. Second, she provides PR cover for her husband so she can pretend they’re doing one thing, like helping school children, while he can do another, like screwing them and their teachers through disasters like “No Child Left Behind.” (Another example of being a beard for Bush, she promotes awareness about women’s heart disease while he proposes slashes in Medicaid, 70 percent of whose recipients are poor women.) Third, she has taken absolutely no stand against her husband’s relentless, Shermanesque march across women’s rights. Last and most damning, she is an utter hypocrite, especially when it comes to global rights for women....
(click link for full article).

Not coming to your TV soon "The Big Ten Network, a sports junkie's dream, will launch on Thursday. The TV channel dedicated to Big Ten athletics is set to air 35 football games, 105 men's basketball games and 55 women's basketball games in the next year.
But it may be weeks, even months, before the network flickers onto your television, depending on which company provides your TV service.
The Big Ten hasn't yet cut deals with some TV providers. The biggest holdout is Comcast, which provides cable TV to 35 percent of the homes in the Big Ten Network's core Midwest target area. The explanation why is not going to be as thrilling as watching Ohio State play Michigan, so indulge us for a moment.
Comcast argues the Big Ten Network will have a niche audience, so it should be placed on Comcast's sports tier, also home to the NFL Network and NBA TV. If Comcast stuck it there and you wanted it, you would have to pay for that entire tier of service.
The Big Ten Network wants a home on what's called the extended basic tier of service, which would provide a much, much larger audience. It also wants Comcast to pay $1.10 per customer per month to the network. Comcast says that's way too high.
OK, we admit we're sports fans. Maybe we wouldn't watch Michigan play Appalachian State Saturday on the Big Ten Network, but dang it, we want the chance. Comcast seems to hold most of the cards in this, but the Big Ten seems willing to deal. So Comcast ought to be flexible and get this network to its customers.
(Northwestern vs. Duke on Sept. 15 isn't going to decide the national championship, but we want that game too.)
Beyond the immediate question of the games, this impasse points to a larger issue about cable TV. The arcane structure of tier pricing is bad for consumers. Bring on a la carte pricing -- you would pay only for each channel you want.
Most cable TV customers receive 60 to 75 channels, but they watch no more than a quarter of those channels. In essence, they subsidize channels they don't need or want. That keeps your cable TV bill very high.
A la carte pricing -- Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin is its biggest advocate -- would let you choose what channels you want to buy. Buy what you want, don't buy what you don't want.
So a decision on whether you get to see the Big Ten Network wouldn't be up to a sports giant and a cable TV giant. It would be up to you.
The insatiable sports fan could order up a full slate of sports channels -- including the Big Ten Network -- while saving money by eliminating, say, Comedy Central. Someone with no interest in sports could take a chunk out of the bill by getting rid of ESPN -- at roughly $3 per subscriber per month, one of the most expensive cable channels. Sports programming makes up 39 percent of the cost in an average Comcast customer's monthly bill.
Parents could do away with channels that traffic in sex and violence. Singles and seniors could decide to do without Nickelodeon.
A la carte pricing might drive some lightly viewed niche channels out of business. Then again, there's a reason they're niche channels. It's their job to compete in the marketplace, not your job to subsidize their survival so tens of your neighbors can watch them.
There's little danger that choices in television viewing would suddenly dry up. Entrepreneurial zeal would ensure that for every channel that dies, another would spring up, convinced that it is the next breakout success story. Consumers could vote with their subscription fees.
Let consumers speak for themselves.
Oh, and Comcast: Michigan State plays Indiana on Oct. 13. We want to see it."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

With Software and Soldering, a Non-AT&T iPhone

Published: August 25, 2007
George Hotz, 17, says he has unlocked two Apple iPhones and is using one with T-Mobile service.
AT&T is paying millions to be the exclusive United States provider of Apple’s much-hyped and glowingly reviewed gadget, the iPhone.

It took 17-year-old George Hotz two months of work to undermine AT&T’s investment.

Mr. Hotz, a resident of Glen Rock, N.J., published detailed instructions online this week that he says will let iPhone owners abandon AT&T’s service and use their phones on some competing cellular networks.

Mr. Hotz’s method, which requires a soldering gun, a steady hand and a set of obscure software tools, is one of several techniques that have emerged over the last week to break the technological locks confining the iPhone to AT&T’s network.

“This was about opening up the device for everyone,” Mr. Hotz said in an interview over his iPhone, which he was using on the network of T-Mobile, a rival to AT&T.

Carriers like Verizon, AT&T and Sprint seek to keep their customers in two ways. They force them to sign multiyear contracts, which are expensive to break. And the carriers put complex technological locks on phones to ensure that they run only on a given carrier’s wireless network. Without the locks, the phones could be used on rival networks that use the same underlying technology.

People who work on unlocking cellphones say those technical locks unfairly restrict customer choice. They want to give cellphone users the flexibility to take their phones with them overseas without incurring heavy roaming fees, or to transfer the devices to other networks once a user’s service contract has expired.

Mr. Hotz says it took him about 500 hours to unlock two iPhone units. He put one of them up for sale on eBay, and by late yesterday, bids on the phone had reached many thousands of dollars. An unmodified iPhone sells for $499 at an Apple store.

His technique is probably not accessible to most people. But Mr. Hotz described it in detail on his Web site in the hopes that others could simplify the procedure.

Neither Apple nor AT&T would comment on Mr. Hotz’s handiwork or on another unlocking technique revealed yesterday by an anonymous group calling itself iPhoneSimFree.

Members of that group demonstrated their technique to a writer for the Web site Engadget. They said they had developed a way to unlock iPhones with a software update, without any hardware changes to the device.

IPhone owners presumably would be able to run that software and then insert another carrier’s SIM card, the small card inside phones that run on G.S.M. networks. A SIM card stores information about the subscriber.

The writer for Engadget verified that the iPhoneSimFree technique worked. Apparently only one feature, AT&T’s visual voice mail system, which lets users retrieve voice mail in whatever order they choose, stopped working when an iPhone was removed from the AT&T system.

The six-man iPhoneSimFree group says that it has been working on unlocking the iPhone since June and that it plans to start selling its software to parties that want to unlock large numbers of iPhones.

The members have not disclosed what they intend to charge, and they declined to reveal their identities.

“We’re a bit paranoid about privacy because we don’t know how things are going to evolve,” said one group member, who identified himself only as Jim in a brief phone interview.

His caution stems from the murky legal status of unlocking cellphones.

Last fall, the Librarian of Congress issued an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, ruling that people can legally unlock their cellphones. But the ruling does not specifically apply to people like Mr. Hotz and the iPhoneSimFree group who distribute the unlocking tools.

Apple and AT&T could conceivably sue such distributors under the copyright act. The companies could also argue that people sharing modifications to iPhones are interfering with a business relationship, between Apple and AT&T and the customers.

Apple might also seek to block the unlocking tools with its regular software updates to the iPhone. Mr. Hotz says he thinks his unlocking process is immune to such changes, because he is making a change to the device’s read-only memory, which cannot be changed with a software patch.

One other approach to unlocking the iPhone has made some waves recently.

Two weeks ago, a company called Bladox, based in the Czech Republic, began selling an $80 device called a Turbo SIM. The thumbnail-size card, attached to another carrier’s SIM card and inserted into an iPhone, tricks the iPhone into thinking it is running on the AT&T network even when it is not.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Gonzales resignation: reaction in quotes

By: The Politico Staff
Aug 27, 2007 12:07 PM EST
"Al Gonzales is a man of integrity, decency and principle. ... After months of unfair treatment that has created a harmful distraction at the Justice Department, Judge Gonzales decided to resign his position and I accept his decision. It's sad that we live in a time when a talented and honorable person like Alberto Gonzales is impeded from doing important work because his good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons." [Read statement here]
-- President George W. Bush

"Better late than never."
-- Former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), candidate for president

"I have long believed that Alberto Gonzales subverted justice to promote a political agenda, and so I am pleased that he has finally resigned today. The president needs to nominate an attorney general who will be the people's lawyer, not the president's lawyer."
-- Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), candidate for president

"This resignation is long overdue, and so is the appointment of an attorney general who will put the rule of law and our Constitution above partisan politics."
-- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), candidate for president

"Alberto Gonzales was never the right man for this job. He lacked independence, he lacked judgment and he lacked the spine to say no to Karl Rove. This resignation is not the end of the story. Congress must get to the bottom of this mess and follow the facts where they lead: into the White House."
-- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)

"I thank Alberto Gonzales for his public service and wish him well in his future endeavors. It is my hope that whomever President Bush selects as the next attorney general, he or she is not subjected to the same poisonous partisanship that we’ve sadly grown accustomed to over the past eight months."
-- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

"The resignation of Attorney General Gonzales is long overdue. The rampant politicization of federal law enforcement that occurred under his tenure seriously eroded public confidence in our justice system."
-- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)

"It is a sad day when the attorney general of the United States resigns amid a cloud of suspicion that the system of justice has been manipulated for political purposes. More than accountability, we need answers."
-- Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee

"The life of Alberto Gonzales has been defined by his devotion to family and deep commitment to public service. He presided over a time of great consequence and tremendous challenge in our nation’s history -- a point of transition between the development of new resources designed to keep Americans safe, and the implementation of these tools in an effective manner. I appreciate his hard work in defense of our country, and look forward to his future contributions."
-- House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)

"Under this attorney general and this president, the Department of Justice suffered a severe crisis of leadership that allowed our justice system to be corrupted by political influence. It is a shame, and it is the Justice Department, the American people and the dedicated professionals of our law enforcement community who have suffered most from it."
-- Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee

“Alberto Gonzales, the highest ranking Hispanic to serve in a president's administration, is a decent and honorable man who has served his country at a difficult time when we are engaged in a global war on terror. His resignation marks another casualty of the hyper-partisan atmosphere in Washington that does not serve the best interests of the American people.”
-- Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas)

"It was clear to me from the start that Attorney General Gonzales had been a part of a political scheme and consequently should have been quickly removed from his position. The delay is another failure of leadership and display of incompetence by the Bush administration."
-- Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.)

"Attorney General Gonzales' tenure was marked by unprecedented politicization of the Department of Justice, deception of Congress and the American people, and disrespect for the rule of law. He should never have been confirmed and should have resigned long ago. The first loyalty of the next attorney general must be to the law, not the president."
-- Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.)

"The resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is long overdue. The president must nominate an attorney general who is a lawyer for the American people, not a political arm of the White House."
-- Gov. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.), candidate for president

Friday, August 24, 2007

What's Wrong with Killing Dogs? - Living Now on The Huffington Post

So it's a federal crime to be mean to dogs? Who knew?

What's wrong with what Michael Vick did? I have no inclination to do what he did with dogs, but I have no comprehension of what all the fuss is about. Most people who are upset about killing dogs or letting them attack each other have at some point in their lives caught a fish, which is as extreme a form of murderous torture of an animal as I can imagine. Not only have most of them caught a fish, they have actually eaten many more of them than they've caught. Which is weirder, killing an animal or eating its dead flesh? Most of us have never eaten dog meat, but in some countries it is a delicacy. Is there something evil going on in those countries? Are they violating the natural order of things? Should we invade them or get the UN to intervene? They are killing and eating dogs for god's sake!!!

What is the moral basis -- the natural law, if you will -- that accords special respect and protection to dogs in our written laws? And how does that same natural law allow for fish being clubbed to death on boat decks if they haven't died already from the hook-in-mouth trick we so enjoy pulling on them?

Our reverence for dog life resembles our reverence for human life. Up to a point. It's okay to kill your dog if you think your dog is too sick to go on living much longer or if you just can't afford medical help for your dog. And, don't worry, no legal authority is ever going to ask you to prove that your dog was really sick enough to kill or even sick at all. If you don't have the stomach for killing your dog yourself, you contract with a dog killer -- otherwise known as a veterinarian -- to do the dirty work for you. No federal law against that yet. Our dog reverence is so shot full of loopholes that there is no describable moral order to it at all.

Americans revere horses too, but it's okay to shoot your racehorse in the head in public if it so much as breaks a leg--something I saw the first time I went to a racetrack. And it's more than okay--politicians consider it a leadership demonstration--to hunt. Shoot 'em, kill 'em, cook 'em, eat 'em is the American way for a lot of pretty birds and every four-legged animal other than dogs, cats, and horses.

Between bites at McDonald's today there will be a lot of outrage expressed about Michael Vick getting off easy. I won't understand a word of it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

'Lunar Ark' Proposed in Case of Deadly Impact on Earth

The moon should be developed as a sanctuary for civilization in case of a cataclysmic cosmic impact, according to an international team of experts.

NASA already has blueprints to create a permanent lunar outpost by the 2020s. (Read: "Moon Base Announced by NASA" [December 4, 2006].)

But that plan should be expanded to include a way to preserve humanity's learning, culture, and technology if Earth is hit by a doomsday asteroid or comet, said Jim Burke of International Space University (ISU) in France.

Burke, once a project manager on some of the earliest American lunar landings, now heads an ISU study on surviving a collision with a near-Earth object.

An impact of the size that wiped out the dinosaurs hasn't happened since long before the rise of humans, he pointed out.

Yet scientists' expanding knowledge of asteroids and craters left throughout the solar system has created a consensus that Earth remains vulnerable to a civilization-crushing collision.

This calls for the creation of a space age Noah's ark, Burke said.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Loneliness Is Bad For Your Health

Science Daily — Two University of Chicago psychologists, Louise Hawkley and John Cacioppo, have been trying to disentangle social isolation, loneliness, and the physical deterioration and diseases of aging, right down to the cellular level.
The researchers suspected that while the toll of loneliness may be mild and unremarkable in early life, it accumulates with time. To test this idea, the scientists studied a group of college-age individuals and continued an annual study of a group of people who joined when they were between 50 and 68 years old.
Their findings, reported in the August issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, are revealing. Consider stress, for example. The more years you live, the more stressful experiences you are going to have: new jobs, marriage and divorce, parenting, financial worries, illness. It's inevitable.
However, when the psychologists looked at the lives of the middle-aged and old people in their study, they found that although the lonely ones reported the same number of stressful life events, they identified more sources of chronic stress and recalled more childhood adversity. Moreover, they differed in how they perceived their life experiences. Even when faced with similar challenges, the lonelier people appeared more helpless and threatened. And ironically, they were less apt to actively seek help when they are stressed out.
Hawkley and Cacioppo then took urine samples from both the lonely and the more contented volunteers, and found that the lonely ones had more of the hormone epinephrine flowing in their bodies. Epinephrine is one of the body's "fight or flight" chemicals, and high levels indicate that lonely people go through life in a heightened state of arousal.
As with blood pressure, this physiological toll likely becomes more apparent with aging. Since the body's stress hormones are intricately involved in fighting inflammation and infection, it appears that loneliness contributes to the wear and tear of aging through this pathway as well.
There is more bad news. When we experience the depletion caused by stress, our bodies normally rely on restorative processes like sleep to shore us up. But when the researchers monitored the younger volunteers' sleep, they found that the lonely nights were disturbed by many "micro awakenings."
That is, they appeared to sleep as much as the normal volunteers, but their sleep was of poorer quality. Not surprisingly, the lonelier people reported more daytime dysfunction. Since sleep tends to deteriorate with age anyway, the added hit from loneliness is probably compromising this natural restoration process even more.
Loneliness is not the same as solitude. Some people are just fine with being alone, and some even see solitude as an important path to spiritual growth. But for many, social isolation and physical aging make for a toxic cocktail.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Radar's quiz asks: Does the sporting world value a pit bull over a wife?

Radar Online: "
Bitch slap: What makes the public angrier: Dog abuse or human abuse?

The world waits to see if Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick files a plea bargain for dogfighting charges, it's safe to say he's already been convicted in the court of public opinion.
Allegations that Vick tortured and executed dogs for sport have infuriated fans, league officials, and even his own teammates. Vick's critics have been so unforgiving that a reporter in Pittsburgh went so far as to say that the player would have been "better off raping a woman." The reporter later apologized for his remarks but, based on people's vitriolic reactions, he may not have been so far off the mark.
It seems that Americans will tolerate certain things from their athletes—a sexual assault charge, stalking, the occasional domestic dispute—but they draw the line when it comes to their pooches. Does the public really value a pit bull over a woman? Radar has compiled a list of quotes to help you decide.'

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Secrets and Lies: The man behind the world's most dangerous website

"Why should I believe you?"
John L. Young asks that question a lot. When he poses it to me, leveling his intense, glassy blue eyes at mine across a barroom table on a muggy evening in late May, it is less a direct attack on my credibility than a cruel epistemological riddle. Over the previous week, I had exchanged e-mails and spoken on the telephone with Young, a 71-year-old architect, spy buff, and proprietor of a strange and engrossing website called Cryptome, to set up an interview. In doing so, I supplied him with certain data: my name [John Cook], occupation [reporter], employer [Radar magazine], location [216 E. 45th St.], e-mail address [redacted], telephone number [redacted]. Young craves data. He covets it, collects it, triangulates it, and uploads it to Cryptome—an online repository of forbidden information—where it collides with more data, gig after gig sloshing around in chaotic digital clouds. There are high-resolution satellite photos of President Bush's Crawford ranch, technical documents detailing how the National Security Agency spies on computer traffic, even the home addresses and telephone numbers of government officials, including former Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte.

But Young knows that raw data is suspect. Before it is loosed on the Internet, scrubbed, cross-referenced, and interrogated by the hive mind for inconsistencies and cracks, it can be used to deceive. People lie. Misinformation is everywhere. People will use you; they will try to get you to believe things that aren't true in order to advance their own agendas. It is, as Young likes to say, "standard tradecraft." I could hand him a business card, show him a magazine, look him firmly and earnestly in the eye, and swear up and down that I am who I say I am. "But," he'll reply with a caustic smile, "that's how liars talk."

There is no way out of this for John Young. He has a very good reason to suspect me, but he has good reasons to suspect everyone. Inquisitive reporters could have ulterior motives. Even the most casual of social interactions could be an attempt to shake him down for information. Every smiling stranger could be a Trojan horse; each friendly e-mail the beginning of a sting. It must be exhausting.

Cryptome is, in the words of columnist and NBC News military analyst William Arkin, "the Google of national security." It is a meticulously maintained online compendium of information—some previously available to the public, some not—devoted to plumbing and exposing the secrets of the intelligence world. With a clean, crisp design, it presents, in no discernible order, simple red links to documents and text files against a white background. Much of the material Young collects is stultifyingly dull—"RFC Keyed-Hash Message Authentication Code" will take the reader to an announcement in the Federal Register concerning a "mechanism for message authentication using cryptographic hash functions and shared secret keys" from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, for 
instance—but some of it is dangerous and even breathtaking.

During the past few years, Young has published detailed overhead satellite imagery of Site R, a military installation in Pennsylvania that he claims is Vice President Dick Cheney's undisclosed location. Hours after the FBI announced charges in June against four men for plotting to blow up jet-fuel tanks at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Cryptome ran photos of the airport tank farms, pointing out the exact route of a jet-fuel pipeline buried beneath nearby residential neighborhoods. He regularly publishes satellite photos of the homes of intelligence officials, including CIA Director Michael Hayden's Washington, D.C., residence. He has exposed the names of what he claims are 276 British agents covertly working for MI6, the names of 400 secret Japanese intelligence agents, and the names and home addresses of what he claims are 2,619 CIA sources.

WHO'S LOOKING OUT? Bill O'Reilly's home in Manhasset, NY, published on Cryptome last year


Scans 'show CIA wikipedia edits'

BBC NEWS: "An online tool that claims to reveal the identity of organisations that edit Wikipedia pages has revealed that the CIA was involved in editing entries.
Wikipedia Scanner allegedly shows that workers on the agency's computers made edits to the page of Iran's President.
It also purportedly shows that the Vatican has edited entries about Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.
The tool, developed by US researchers, trawls a list of 5.3m edits and matches them to the net address of the editor.
Wikipedia is a free online encyclopaedia that can be created and edited by anyone.
Most of the edits detected by the scanner correct spelling mistakes or factual inaccuracies in profiles. However, others have been used to remove potentially damaging material or to deface sites."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Japanese biker fails to notice missing leg

TOKYO, Japan (Reuters) -- A Japanese biker failed to notice his leg had been severed below the knee when he hit a safety barrier, and rode on for 2 km (1.2 miles), leaving a friend to pick up the missing limb.

The 54-year-old office worker was out on his motorcycle with a group of friends in the city of Hamamatsu, west of Tokyo, on Monday, when he was unable to negotiate a curve in the road and bumped into the central barrier, the Mainichi Shimbun said.

He felt excruciating pain, but did not notice that his right leg was missing until he stopped at the next junction, the paper quoted local police as saying.

The man and his leg were taken to hospital, but the limb had been crushed in the collision, the paper said.

Farewell TB

Monday, August 13, 2007

Blind 'drunk driver' caught again

CNN: "TALLINN, Estonia (Reuters) -- An Estonian man who was caught driving a car even though he is blind has been at it again, police said on Monday, and this time he faces jail.
Police first arrested the man, 20, a week ago.
"We arrested the same blind man driving his car again on Saturday in the town of Torvandi, near Tartu (in southern Estonia)," said Marge Kohtla, a spokeswoman for Tartu police district.
"He was drunk. There were three people in the car with him giving him instructions."
She said police wanted the court to jail the man for 30 days and confiscate his car"

Pearl Jam censored by AT&T, calls for a neutral 'Net

Ars Technica: "A bit of heavy-handed censorship of a Pearl Jam concert by AT&T this weekend led the band to fire off an open letter to fans—a letter in which Pearl Jam railed against media and ISP consolidation and called for readers to support network neutrality.
The incident happened during a Lollapalooza webcast over at AT&T's "Blue Room" media showcase. Pearl Jam's performance of their big 90's hit "Daughter" morphed into the melody from Pink Floyd's "The Wall," and Eddie Vedder served up a pair of anti-Bush lyrics to the tune. "George Bush, leave this world alone," he sang. "George Bush, find yourself another home."
Fans at the event got to hear the words in all their glory, but in the webcast, the lines were censored—AT&T made the decision to silence them, apparently believing that they would prove offensive to listeners. When Pearl Jam found out about the censorship, the band posted a strongly-worded message on its web site.
"This, of course, troubles us as artists but also as citizens concerned with the issue of censorship and the increasingly consolidated control of the media," wrote the band. "What happened to us this weekend was a wake-up call, and it's about something much bigger than the censorship of a rock band."
In Pearl Jam's view, it's a wake-up call for network neutrality advocates. The same sort of censorship could take place on any Internet content, and what could be done about it an a world where the only real option is... the cable company?"

Colbert on YearlyKos

A gangster underworld? "In tunnels below Green Mill, a maze of Prohibition-era history and myth

By Robert K. Elder | Tribune staff reporter
June 28, 2007

Few people know it's there - fewer know where it leads.
In the floor behind the bar at the Green Mill, a century-old jazz club in Uptown, lies a door. Beneath it: a musty labyrinth of gangster and Uptown history.
The World Below - a series of tunnels branching underground from the Green Mill to the bookstore Shake, Rattle & Read a few doors away - mixes myth and fable, dusty boilers and blood-splattered urinals (more on this in a moment).
In the mid-1910s, the Green Mill was an exclusive hangout for Essanay Studio executives and early film stars such as Charlie Chaplin and Wallace Beery. In recent decades, jazz musicians such as Clifford Jordan, Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick Jr. have graced its stage. But tales of Jazz Age Chicago, when gangsters such as "Machine Gun" Jack McGurn and boss Alphonse Capone defied Prohibition, are most prominent down below.
"They could either come to the tunnels and hide, or escape. Of course, the booze was stashed down here," says Ric Addy, owner of Shake, Rattle & Read. The bookstore has been in his family since 1965, which makes Addy an armchair historian and raconteur of all things Uptown."

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Boot camp workers charged with dragging girl

BANQUETE, Texas - Authorities charged the director of a Christian boot camp and an employee with dragging a 15-year-old girl behind a van after she fell behind the group during a morning run.
Charles Eugene Flowers and Stephanie Bassitt of San Antonio-based Love Demonstrated Ministries, a 32-day boot camp for at-risk teens, are accused of tying the girl to the van with a rope June 12 and dragging her, according to an arrest affidavit filed Wednesday.
Flowers, the camp’s director, ordered Bassitt to run alongside the girl after she fell behind, according to the affidavit. When the girl stopped running, Bassitt yelled at her and pinned her to the ground while Flowers tied the rope to her, according to the affidavit.

I think Texans are charming.
G Bara

PS: Christians too.

Night owls make the most of the meteors

How to maximize your view of shooting stars for the Perseids and beyond
Look for a spectacular weekend meteor shower
Alan Boyle
Science editor
CLE ELUM, Wash. - I was falling behind in the meteor count, but it really wasn't a fair contest. My newfound friends had been watching the dazzling skies for quite a while before I arrived, and they seemed to know just where to look.
"Wow! There was a good one," Tim Horne cried out. "Oops, sorry you missed it."
Eventually, I caught up with Tim and his wife, Kim, but the competition could be even keener Sunday night and early Monday morning, when the annual Perseid meteor shower reaches its peak. How many will skywatchers see? The meteors themselves really aren't the main determining factor — rather, the trick is where you go to see them, and exactly when.
The Perseids are among the most reliable of the year's cosmic fireworks displays. In mid-August, Earth passes through a stream of grit left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle in its eccentric 130-year orbit. Flecks of debris burn up as they pass through the atmosphere, at a height of about 60 miles, producing streaks of light — and sometimes leaving behind glowing trails that fade into the night.
Astronomers have calculated that Earth will pass through the thickest part of the stream this year around 2 a.m. ET Monday. Theoretically, you could see a meteor or two every minute if you're watching under optimal viewing conditions at that time.
The viewing conditions are what make the difference between a dazzling sky spectacle and a disappointing letdown. This year, the Perseids reach their peak when the moon is completely out of the night sky — which means the meteoric fireworks are facing no competition from the moon's glare. But that advantage doesn't do you any good unless you find a clear stretch of sky, far away from the glare of city lights.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Ron Paul’s Camp May Catch Romney’s Bus

Representative Ron Paul talks with Mary McCraken of Des Moines after speaking at the Iowa State Fair. (Photo: Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press)
Ron Paul’s supporters are actively encouraging Iowa voters to take advantage of Mitt Romney’s offers of free transportation to the Iowa Straw Poll in Ames on Saturday and then, once they are there, to vote for Mr. Paul.
“Some say if Mitt is willing to bus Iowans to Ames for the straw poll, they should take him up on his offer!” says a flier in Iowa and on the Internet in advance of the straw poll for the Republican presidential candidates. The flier says that after riding the Romney bus to Ames, and allowing the Romney campaign to pay one’s $35 entry fee, Iowans should then carefully weigh their options and “they may decide to vote for Ron Paul.”
The flier is topped with a banner that says “2008 Ron Paul News,” but Jesse Benton, a campaign spokesman, said it was the handiwork of independent supporters over whom the campaign had no control. “We can’t tell our supporters what to do or not do,” Mr. Benton said, adding that the campaign did not want to get “entangled” with federal finance regulations involving potential in-kind contributions.
But he conceded that infiltrating the Romney bus could certainly help Mr. Paul. It is his first visible attempt at converting his popularity online into success offline, which, alas, is where it counts.
Mr. Paul, a relatively obscure Congressman from Texas who caught fire online after appearing on the televised presidential debates, has only just started campaigning in Iowa. Mr. Benton said the fact that Mr. Paul was a full-time member of Congress prevented him from campaigning in Iowa sooner, although other candidates have been swarming over the state for months.
“This is his third trip to Iowa, but his first chance to really get out there,” Mr. Benton said. He just opened a campaign office in downtown Des Moines and started to advertise his anti-tax, anti-abortion rights, Libertarian message on radio, television and in the newspapers.
Mr. Benton said that regardless of how Mr. Paul did in the straw poll, he would stay in the race at least until voters started going to the polls in the primaries and caucuses, which could start in late December or early January.
While Mr. Romney is pouring thousands of dollars into winning the Ames straw poll, it is not clear what role Mr. Paul might play in cutting into Mr. Romney’s lead or jumbling the outcome for the other candidates.
Red and white “Paul” signs have sprouted up in cities across Iowa, at street corners and in front lawns, signaling at least some level of interest.
“He’s kind of a wild-card candidate,” said Chuck Laudner, executive director of the state’s Republican Party. “We don’t know what to expect. We’re sure he’ll have a big turnout, but we don’t know how many votes that will be.”
Mr. Laudner said that the Paul campaign appeared to be “bringing in a lot of folks from out of state” to help organize Iowans, who are the only ones allowed to vote. He said it was hard to read what the campaign was doing because it had made no contact with the state party. “They’ve moved outside the whole campaign community,” he said. “They don’t come by. They do their own thing.”
The Romney campaign is bracing for a larger-than-expected showing from Paul supporters, according to Gentry Collins, who is overseeing Mr. Romney’s Iowa operations, although his saying that may be part of a broader attempt to lower expectations for Mr. Romney.
While Mr. Collins said he was confident of the Romney straw poll organization, he said it was carefully watching the excitement that seemed to be building for Mr. Paul.
The Paul campaign has bought the minimum of 800 tickets to give to Iowans to vote. Other campaigns have bought thousands. Simple math would suggest that to do passably well, the Paul campaign is relying on Iowans who buy tickets from other candidates to vote for Mr. Paul. The suggestion that Paul supporters catch Romney buses and vote for Mr. Paul is being widely debated on the Internet ; some see it as smart while others see it as dishonest.
Mr. Benton would not speculate where Mr. Paul might finish, but said he expected most of the candidates to receive between 1,500 and 3,000 votes. “If we can be somewhere in the middle of that pack, that would be a big success for us,” he said. “Our goal is to prove that we can translate our online support into bodies in Ames and prove we can run with the pack. We feel we have a lot of room to grow, while other campaigns might have reached their peak.

A neighborhood, city cops on edge

Jimmy Rogers was in the back of an unmarked squad car, his sister on the sidewalk on a sticky summer afternoon yelling to anyone who would listen.

"He didn't do anything!" Katherine Smith shouted across a vacant lot, as police drove her 16-year-old brother into an alley.

The North Lawndale teen was let go about 15 minutes later and ambled back toward his friends and family. He tried to look calm, but his face, twisted in fear and frustration, betrayed him.

It's an expression on many faces across this West Side neighborhood, a swath of Chicago that has writhed for decades under the weight of poverty and violent crime, where some now say they've grown fearful of those charged with keeping them safe.

"You don't just have to be afraid of the people on the streets anymore," said Kashia Russell, as she hustled her five children into their apartment Thursday afternoon. "You have to be afraid of the police too."

On Monday night, for some, distrust of the police morphed into fear. Aaron Harrison, 18, was running from several officers when he was shot in the back and killed in a vacant lot strewed with trash and broken bottles. The officers said the teen -- who had been convicted once on a drug charge and arrested at least eight other times -- was pointing a 9 mm handgun at them.

A number of residents who claimed to have witnessed the shooting said Harrison was unarmed, and many who weren't there questioned how he could've been aiming at police when he was shot in the back.

The shooting has sparked a series of volatile protests throughout this week of stifling heat, and frustration has often boiled over. People have thrown rocks and bottles at the police during marches. Officers have arrested protesters who have crowded around the locked doors of the Harrison District police headquarters and poured into the street.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Crocodile survives tower plunge

MOSCOW, Russia (Reuters) -- A crocodile survived a fall from the 12th floor of a Russian apartment block after making an escape bid through a window, emergency services said on Wednesday.

The crocodile lost one tooth in the fall but was otherwise unscathed, said a spokeswoman for the emergencies ministry in the Nizhny Novgorod region of central Russia.

"It seems the owner was not at home when the crocodile came out of the window," she said.

Diving out of the window has become a habit for the crocodile, called Khenar, with concerned neighbors saying it was the third time he had used that method to flee, Moskovsky Komsomolets daily reported.

Emergency services put the crocodile in a local aquarium to recover from his fall. Within a few hours his concerned owner came to pick him up and the crocodile was last seen lying on the back seat of his owner's car.

A War We Just Might Win

VIEWED from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel, the political debate in Washington is surreal. The Bush administration has over four years lost essentially all credibility. Yet now the administration’s critics, in part as a result, seem unaware of the significant changes taking place.

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

After the furnace-like heat, the first thing you notice when you land in Baghdad is the morale of our troops. In previous trips to Iraq we often found American troops angry and frustrated — many sensed they had the wrong strategy, were using the wrong tactics and were risking their lives in pursuit of an approach that could not work.

Today, morale is high. The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference.

Everywhere, Army and Marine units were focused on securing the Iraqi population, working with Iraqi security units, creating new political and economic arrangements at the local level and providing basic services — electricity, fuel, clean water and sanitation — to the people. Yet in each place, operations had been appropriately tailored to the specific needs of the community. As a result, civilian fatality rates are down roughly a third since the surge began — though they remain very high, underscoring how much more still needs to be done.

click here to read the rest of the op-ed. READ IT!

FROM THE "HORSES MOUTH - click here to view page

Media Outlets That Went Nuts Over O'Hanlon Ignoring Cordesman's Pessimism About Iraq

Here is a list of the big news orgs and network shows -- compiled from here, here, and here -- that lavished coverage on Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack over their now-infamous Op-ed saying that we just might win the war in Iraq:
CBS Evening News

CNN Newsroom

CNN Evening News

CNN Situation Room

MSNBC Tucker

NPR Talk of the Nation


CBS Early Show

CBS Evening News

Fox News Special Report

MSNBC Hardball

O'Hanlon and Pollack:

Fox News Sunday

As noted here yesterday, national security analyst Anthony Cordesman went to Iraq with O'Hanlon and Pollack, and reached a strikingly different conclusion. The Center for Strategic and International Studies, where Cordesman works, just told me that they sent out a release about this yesterday morning.
Over 24 hours later, here's a list of the media outlets that have covered it, according to a Google news and Nexis search:

Agence France Press


Yep -- one major network.
Really, it's worth stepping back and pondering just how unprofessional and dysfunctional the media's performance has been on this story to date. It starts with The Times's editors, who actually allowed these two to con the paper's readers into forgetting their unflagging support for the invasion and the surge, letting them get away with describing themselves only as war critics. That embarrassing flub then colored virtually all the coverage that followed. Because of it, the big news orgs persuaded themselves that there was something counterintuitive about their conclusion -- and proceeded to report, in one outlet after another, that these war "critics" had suddenly found reason to be hopeful.

Now we have a story that's genuinely counterintuitive -- that is, that a companion of the two went along and reached very different, and far more pessimistic, conclusions about the prospects for success in Iraq. Not only is this counterintuitive, but there's also conflict here, too -- Cordesman flags his disagreement with his esteemed colleagues in the first paragraph of his synopsis. This also puts Cordesman at odds with the White House, which relentlessly flacked O'Hanlon and Pollack's findings. And the media response to Cordesman thus far? Virtual silence.

I'm told that some reporters have inquired about the report, so things may change; I really hope they do. As of now, however, the silence that has greeted Cordesman's far more detailed report -- from the same news orgs that gave exceptionally generous, and outright misleading, coverage to O'Hanlon and Pollack's optimism about Iraq -- stands as a sad, though perhaps fittingly pathetic, postscript to this whole affair.

Update: Check out this comprehensive comparison of the assessment of Cordesman versus that of O'Hanlon and Pollack.

Tribune, Sun-Times ink historic distribution deal

The Chicago Sun-Times has entered into an historic distribution agreement with the Chicago Tribune, contracting to have copies of the Sun-Times and 10 of its sister suburban dailies delivered to subscribers by its larger rival, it was announced today.

The agreement, finalized after months of discussions, does not include delivery of copies for single-copy sales to newsstands and news boxes within the city of Chicago, which would violate existing labor agreements.

"We reported to you previously that our distribution system is facing significant challenges in both customer service and costs. This agreement with Chicago Tribune enables us to upgrade significantly our service to subscribers and our advertisers and to reduce our costs," Cyrus Freidheim, Jr., president and CEO of Sun-Times Media Group, said in a statement. "This is an exciting step in our previously announced plan to improve the financial health of our operations."

3 Canadian activists jailed after Tibet protest

Three Canadians arrested by Chinese authorities following a protest at the Great Wall against the Chinese presence in Tibet have been released.

The New York-based Students for a Free Tibet said at about 12 p.m. ET Wednesday that it received a call from witnesses who said the activists — Lhadon Tethong, Sam Price and Melanie Raoul — had been released in Beijing and deported. But it was unclear where they were deported to.

A spokesperson at the Chinese embassy in Ottawa confirmed to CBC News that the three Canadian protesters were "dealt with according to Chinese regulations and have been expelled from China."

He gave very little information beyond that, refusing to give details as to where the Canadians were going or how they were "dealt with."

Tethong, the group's executive director and a Tibetan-Canadian born and raised in Victoria, was detained Tuesday night in Beijing.

Price and Melanie, both from Vancouver, were arrested earlier in the day after they unfurled a 42-square-metre banner reading "One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008" in English and Chinese from the Great Wall. The banner adds three words — "Free Tibet 2008" — to the official slogan of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The one-year countdown to the Games started Tuesday.

Five other members of the group — two from the U.K and three from the United States — were also arrested.

Genocide tourism: Tragedy becomes a destination

Julie Dermansky is a genocide tourist.

Since visiting the former Nazi death camp at Dachau in 1997, Dermansky, a 40-year-old from Santa Monica, Calif., has seen the killing fields in Cambodia, walked through mass grave sites in Bosnia and stood among human remains in Rwanda. She is, in her own words, obsessed.

"Why go to Club Med," Dermansky, a photographer, asks, "when you can witness this kind of history?"

She is not alone. An increasing number of tourists are traveling to places of horrific human catastrophe. In Rwanda, Bosnia and Armenia, travelers pay their respects to victims of genocide at popular memorials and cemeteries. Even Kurdistan in Iraq, scene of an ethic cleansing campaign during the 1980s, is promoting its horrible past with a genocide museum. Tragedy has become a destination.

Nearly a million tourists visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum in 2005, up from half that the year before. Other former death camps have seen a similar increase in recent years.

Lately at Auschwitz, the growth in tourism has made for some odd juxtapositions. Visitors dine in a newly renovated cafeteria built within the large room where thousands of Nazi victims were processed upon arrival at the camp. This blending of modern tourist convenience and the apparatus of organized death disturbed Dermansky.

"It's a tourist jungle," she says.

Good bye Dude

Why Eco-Hypocrisy Matters

Radar Online "few weeks ago, I wrote an item about Barbra Streisand, who was on tour in England. Though she's a big backer of environmental causes, and even offers tips for low-carbon living on her personal website, she was busted by the British press for touring in a private jet with a massive entourage that required 13 trucks and vast amounts of laundry—in other words, for sponsoring a traveling CO2 extravaganza.
I e-mailed my item to an editor at Grist, a popular environmental website and blog. The editor promptly sent back a sarcastic reply accusing me of "trolling for links by carrying right wing water." In his view, only conservative blogs would be interested in a snarky item about a liberal totem like Streisand; left-leaning sites protect their own. And here I thought hypocrisy was a non-partisan punch line.
Why should anyone bother to carpool when Barbara Streisand requires her own convoy? Or forgo A/C for a fan when John Edwards is chilling in the largest house in his county?This was no isolated incident, but part of what's becoming a tediously familiar pattern. It starts when Celebrity X clambers up on a soapbox to tell the rest of us what we ought to be doing to Help Stop Global Warming. In short order, News Outlet Y reveals that Celebrity X is, in fact, a hypocrite, owing to her frequent private jet travel, energy-sucking McMansion, and generally outsize carbon footprint. Right on cue, supporters of Celebrity X counterattack, alleging that News Outlet Y is a tool of Right-Wing Corporate Interests, which merely want to obscure the debate over climate change with a lot of he-said-she-said crosstalk so they can continue with their nefarious, polluting ways. At the end of it all, Celebrity X, feeling vindicated, is free to carry on with her Earth-defiling behavior.
Over the past couple years, as global warming has become the fashionable cause among the bien-pensant class, this scenario has played out with increasing frequency on blogs, in gossip columns, and on cable TV shoutfests. Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Aniston, Barbra Streisand, John Edwards, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Laurie David, Jann Wenner, and even Al Gore himself have all taken turns being accused, with varying degrees of justification, of failing to match word to deed."

Monday, August 06, 2007

Mojo and I attended YearlyKos in Chicago over the weekend. And if there's one thing I learned, its that opinions are like blogs - everyone has one (or in most cases, several). Seeing as such, here are some of my impressions.

YearlyKos is the second gathering of liberal bloggers, all rallying around the website It was in McCormick place, which is a big monstrosity of a building - fitting for Chicago, since we don't do anything small here. Mojo and I bounced around from room to room, popping in on various panel discussions. Some were very interesting - like Anthony Romero, the head of the ACLU. I'm on their email list, so it was good to see a face and hear his stories behind the mail blasts. I wish his letters were as interesting as he was in person. I learned that the assault on our civil liberties are further reaching than anyone of us care to imagine, and that 90% of the people who went to that talk were old, which someone in the audience pointed out as being strange, and Anthony laughed it off - but, to be fair, the entire convention was skewed that way. Another of my favorite panels debated the role between old media and new media (aka print vs. online only bloggers). It was funny because even the panel seemed to physically distance themselves - Sidney Blumenthal and another middle aged woman who wrote for a respectable Colarado online newspaper on one side and then Abdi Aynte and Ezra Klein, two young guys big in the blogosphere. I'll just say it is a rich subject, and too much ground was covered to adequately sum up in a few sentences. Some panels, on the other hand, felt like a college lecture at 8am, and I had a hard time keeping my mind in it.

Otherwise, we had some fun doing spotting notables in the mix. Wesley Clark, Ned Lamont, John Dean, Sam (?) from air america, etc. Mojo was more on it than I was. I was ready to tackle Maureen Dowd if she showed on the scene, but she was nowhere to be found. We spent a lot of time just wandering around, gathering freebies, etc. It was a longggg two days, sun up to sun down, with a group of people who looked like they don't spend too much time outside of the glow of their labtop. It was political saturation, and as much as I can foam at the mouth for that game, these are people who analyze every move to the nth degree. I guess its good someone does.

The highlight, by far, was the presidential forum. They were giving out wristbands for the one on one sessions with the candidates, and by the time we got there, Edwards and Obama were gone. No matter, because I wanted to see Hillary anyway. And everyone was bitching and moaning about her potentially cancelling, and then confirming but having to show up earlier than scheduled. Get over it people - this is a first lady, and not someone with a schedule like the rest of us, where some days the only task reads "grocery store." Anyway, she came, and she was awesome. She looked really good. She was so quick witted, and self-effacing at times. She answered every question without batting an eye. Her answers were honest and nuanced and really revealed she knew both the ideals of what could happen, but the reality of what it takes to play ball in Washington. Mojo and I left her one on one room smiling, newly minted Hillary converts.

The big debate was fun too. It was Obama's birthday and the crowd sang. The moderator said something to the effect of - "normally in debates, we ask you to hold all applause till the end. But of course, that's not going to happen with this crowd! So just keep in mind we are on a time limit, so keep your reactions to a minimum so we can keep things moving." And there were big applauses, and then the occasional "hssssssssss." But in short summary - Edwards: is a pandering political robot and if he gets the nomination I will freak. He just says some canned response to every question about - we need change! blahblahblah, when the question was just something like, do you want ketchup with that. In fact, Bill Richardson had to answer the questions that Edwards spaced on twice. He doesn't listen. Change, my ass. The guilty dog barks loudest, you ex-ambulance chaser, coiffed play-boy. Ahhhhh. I had to get that off my chest.... Obama: he's a nice guy, but with a lot to learn. I mean, he didn't even know to look into the camera when he answered. Everything he said sounds real nice, but what's going to happen if he gets in and has to play down in the mud with the rest of them? For example, he was asked if he was willing to retain a deficit in order to fund all the programs he's promised. Stuff like that, you realize its an unfortunate give and take that he'd have to learn the hard way. Speaking of, you had old Denny Kucinich there - he's our uncompromising idealogue, and in a perfect world, we'd have a vegan president. But, alas, its not. On the otherside, you have straight up realists like Bill Richardson and Mike Gravel. They both came off as hardened politicos who knew straight up how the deals go down, and spoke with a great bit of directness that was refreshing. God, these guys are hard working too. I saw Richardson's one on one after the debate, and he talked for well over an hour, at least. He even told his campaign manager at one point - "look, I'm at 12%, i'm gonna answer some more questions!" - as he was trying to butt-in and end the session. Both Richardson and Gravel were the only ones who stuck around for the Teamster picnic out on the patio. It felt like politics of yore to see these gruffy guys getting up on the riser set up in front of a semi, yelling to the heavens of change! and helping the average joe! How they keep that energy up, I'll never know.

And who does that lead us back to? Good ol' hillary. The perfect middle ground in my book. Big ideals, but enough experience to know what jives with reality. I'm sure all the blogs will talk about how she wouldn't promise to refuse lobbyist money like robo-Edwards did. I loved it. She didn't pander to us just for applause. She knows. What, all these saintly democrats won't take a dime, meanwhile Guiliani is making backroom deals with Murdoch, et al? Were in it to win, my friends, and she'll need every dime she can get. And she's right when she said - look at my record. I've believed in the same things for 25 years - money hasn't affected my decisions in the past, and it won't in the future. And I believe her.

All in all, it was fun to be around passionate people. But I'm also a bit of a cynic, and got fed up with everyone being so quick to pat their own backs, or being just as susceptible to group think as the right are. Also, this is the last year of it being a "yearlykos." Its now Netroots Nation, or something like that. And what a big mistake, in my book. It takes that element of being underground and a club that is open but you just got to know where to find it, and changes it into some big official entity that'll have bumper stickers and t-shirts to jam down your throat. And there's certainly enough of that in the world.

So there's my two cents. Thanks Kosssacks for coming to my city and bringing your enthusiasm. Keep fighting the good fight!

Pick Your Candidate

I ran across this thing today. Seems interesting for. I haven't done it because I already know who my candidate is after this weekend. (Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!!)

"Okay, here's a really simple way to find out which candidates share your views. This script is composed entirely of data collected by Enter your choices below and hit GO to rank the candidates.

Here's how it works, if you want to know. If you agree with a candidate, he gets point(s). If you disagree, take point(s) away. Unkown/other results in no points. The number of points given or taken depends on the weight you set. "Meh" is worth 1 point, "important" 2, and "key" is worth 5. The items you disagree about will be listed directly underneath each candidate (if they score greater than zero).

Anyway, this is not meant to replace the 2decide page and I hope you check it out. I would assume that most of you would have already seen it before this, anyway. Also, it is entirely possible that there are bugs in the script, so take it with a grain of salt. If for some reason you are inclined to contact me about this, go ahead. If you want to inspect my code for bugs, feel free. I don't care if you improve upon it and/or repost it somewhere else."

Sunday, August 05, 2007


Chicago Tribune: "Somewhere along the way, I had become nothing. A zero.
A combination of overwork, Third World travel and problems with A Man (always good for a swing of 5 or 10 pounds, coming or going) and -- Voila! -- my once-healthy body made its way down to a size 0.
There was nothing deliberate or attractive about it. Yet I soon discovered that what should be impossible (When did the absence of a number become a dress size? How did we make nothing into something?) was actually highly desirable, at least to the whisper-thin crowd that floats through Chicago's upscale fashion boutiques.
"Don't even look at the 2s, you're a 0," a Damen Avenue shop owner trilled triumphantly while a fellow shopper looked on, not with pity for a woman emaciated by a Third World virus, but with envy.
"You've lost so much weight!" an acquaintance rejoiced later that week. "It's fantastic! Who is your nutritionist?"
What is going on here? It's bad enough that our dress sizes are shrinking to 0, but so too is our common sense and our understanding of health, wellness and lasting beauty. Most distressingly, our ambitions are shrinking as well.
It sometimes seems that we like our women small, literally and figuratively.
We tell girls that they can be anything, while showing them -- through airbrushed ads and glossy media images -- that their first order of business is to be beautiful. We celebrate Grrl Power while marketing "Property Of My Boyfriend" T-shirts. When Madonna dons a "Mrs. Guy Ritchie" sweat suit, she speaks volumes without saying a word.
Though the dress size of the average American woman is 14, the average fashion model is -- you guessed it -- a size 0. The Hollywood starlets who dot our cultural landscape look just this side of skinny on their good days, and dangerously tiny the rest of the time.
Between the size 14 real and the size 0 "ideal" exists a world of women and girls, many of them pursuing an elusive body type through means that can be psychologically and physically devastating.
We feed the billion-dollar diet industry while denying our own bodies. We accept the premise that being thin will change our lives while failing to see that the pursuit of smallness, sometimes manifested in anorexia or bulimia, can actually shorten our life span.
Fashion designers and magazine editors argue that clothes look better on skinny women. The sad thing is that many of us have bought into that twisted logic. Instead of demanding that designers create fashion that fits real women, we try to refashion our bodies to fit today's most unforgiving styles. All hail the skinny jeans, and whatever it takes to fit in them.
The shrinking goals are another matter, a far more baffling one.
Golden Globe winning actress Calista Flockhart says that becoming a mom has left her with "zero ambition."
Gifted singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse, at all of 23 years old, tells Rolling Stone magazine that now that she's made one good album, she'd be happy to give it all up and just take care of her husband. Memo to Ms. Winehouse: Consider where rock 'n' roll would be had Mick Jagger and the boys called it quits after recording "Let It Bleed."
When Hillary Clinton publicly jokes about her problems losing weight, she appears to be speaking in focus-group code: Don't hate me because I'm smart and ambitious. I want to be skinny too.
Much has been written about what it takes to reach the so-called female ideal: the endless calorie counting, the hours on the treadmill, the nip and tuck we hope will make us whole.
The truth is that loving oneself -- and one's body -- is a discipline all its own. It means challenging the images that the fashion industry has foisted on us. It means ignoring the voices that tell us that being healthy is a distant second to being thin. It means celebrating female ambitions -- our own, and other women's -- instead of downplaying or deriding them.
So cancel your subscription to Vogue, tell the next size 14 woman you see that she's gorgeous and banish the word "ladylike."
As for me, I'm 15 pounds heavier than I was as a nothing, and once again a quite ordinary size. The attention of the fashionista set has disappeared. Healthy and happy, I'm waiting for someone to ask me again who my nutritionist is."

Outrage over proposed NYC photo/video permit changes

If you've ever tried to set up a tripod in New York City, you know that it can be difficult enough just avoiding all the people. Then, if a police officer spots you, you also have to explain why you've set it up, which can lead to the officer telling you that you need a permit. Now, the city is planning to modify its photo and video permit rules in ways that has alarmed many local photographers and videographers. An brief announcement by the city outlines some of the changes, though a PDF of the full notice explains the new rules in further detail.

On the surface, the new rules might seem benign, since it makes sense to require permits for large professional productions, which typically involve many people, vehicles, and the potential for very large equipment. However, with the rise of photo and video sharing sites, such as Flickr, Webshots, and YouTube, many more non-pros have been embarking on more elaborate projects, which could easily put them at odds with the proposed regulations. The new rules require permits for any shoot that includes two people or more for a period of longer than 30 minutes and restrict tripod use to 10 minutes, including set up and break down times. I don't know about you, but for a complicated shot, it can take me 10 minutes just to set up my camera on a tripod. Also, just to get a permit, you need to have insurance, which adds to the cost of some already expensive hobbies, and effectively limits the freedom of expression of all New Yorkers and anyone who visits the city.