Friday, July 4, 2008

Bozo the Clown is dead


Larry Harmon, who popularized Bozo the Clown through the new medium of television 50 years ago, died today of heart failure in his Los Angeles home. He was 83.

Harmon was not the original Bozo, who was created by Alan W. Livingston in 1946. Harmon exaggerated the original look, then donned the distinctive make-up, hair and suit for countless appearances as "Bozo, The World's Most Famous Clown." More important, however, he licensed the character to TV stations — which hired their own Bozos — and created a cartoon series.

"You might say, in a way, I was cloning BTC (Bozo the Clown) before anybody else out there got around to cloning DNA," Harmon told the Associated Press in a 1996 interview. "Bozo is a combination of the wonderful wisdom of the adult and the childlike ways in all of us."

Happy Independence Day - Let's put the Constitution back on the table!

Dennis Kucinich -

Click here to view video

Click here for a special video message from Dennis.

Happy Independence Day - Let's put the
Constitution back on the table!

"As we once again celebrate our Independence as a nation, let us celebrate freedom from fear and pledge that government 'of the people' will survive in this land that we love."
- Congressman Dennis Kucinich

Please sign the online petition

Some Democratic Leaders say Impeachment is off the table.

So, let's set a new table for our nation, upon which we place the Constitution and where we demand that all those who have taken an oath to defend it ... keep their promise and protect our nation from the threat within.

Please go to now and sign the petition, which calls for impeachment. This is the one petition that will make a difference because I will be personally delivering it to your member of congress. Please circulate word of this petition far and wide, to all your friends and family. This is the one opportunity that we have right now to actually change events in this country.

Two hundred and thirty-two years ago, our nation was conceived in liberty. We have once again reached a moment of truth, one that Lincoln recognized at Gettysburg as to whether "this nation or any nation so conceived or so dedicated can long endure."

Through the ashes of the civil war, Lincoln prayed that "this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom ... and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

This Fourth of July, 2008, we face a different kind of war; one which is trying our souls ... a war based on lies. But with the power of truth and the power of the people we can achieve a new birth of freedom, standing up for what is good in America, insisting on the rule of law, demanding adherence to the Constitution, and supporting the impeachment of a President who lied to take us into a war against Iraq.

Be the answer to Lincoln's Prayer. Please pledge your support now to restoring the rule of law in America. As we once again celebrate Independence Day, let us celebrate freedom from fear and pledge that this government of the people will survive in this land that we love.

Please go to now. This is your opportunity to make a difference; truly celebrate Independence Day.

Sign the petitionThank you and Happy 4th of July.

Dennis Kucinich
Dennis Kucinich

Paid for by the Re-Elect Congressman Kucinich Committee

PO Box 110475 | Cleveland | OH | 44111 | 216-252-9000

Cannibal liberals

Why do left-leaning journalists eat their own?
By Neal Gabler
June 29, 2008
Oh, those crazy journalists. You know the ones I'm talking about. The one who described John Kerry as "French-looking" and made up some silly locution to show how out of touch he was -- "Who among us doesn't like NASCAR?" -- even though he never said it. Or the one who taunted Al Gore for claiming that he and his wife, Tipper, were the models for "Love Story" when Gore said no such thing. Or the one who described Bill Clinton as an "overweight band boy" and Hillary Rodham Clinton as "inauthentic." Or the one who tabbed Barack Obama "Obambi" and said that when visiting him at his office, she felt like Ingrid Bergman in "The Bells of St. Mary's," having to teach a bullied schoolboy how to box. Or the one who kept pressing Obama at a debate to fess up to his relationship with a 1960s terrorist.

Of course, what do you expect from right-wing nuts who will do and say anything to demonize Democrats? Except for one thing. All these examples -- and there are hundreds more -- were uttered not by Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, David Brooks or any of the other Republican mouthpieces in our newspapers and on our airwaves. They were all said or written by liberal journalists, and even in a few cases by onetime Democratic operatives turned journalists, such as Chris Matthews and George Stephanopoulos. Indeed, the worst offender by far, the "Ingrid Bergman" in the example above, has been the New York Times' liberal columnist Maureen Dowd, who has never met a Democrat she hasn't disparaged.

And that is the point. Democrats wading into this year's rough media surf don't really have to fear the right wing because the right has staked out its own beach with its own folks and not many Democratic voters go there. For instance, only 7% of regular Fox News watchers voted for Kerry for president in 2004, according to Democratic pollster Mark Mellman. What the Democrats generally and Obama specifically have to fear is what the liberal media -- pundits, TV commentators and even some reporters at reputedly leftish newspapers -- will wind up doing to them. That's because, far from delivering the kind of spirited to-the-death defense that even the widely unpopular President Bush gets from most right-wing commentators, the liberal media almost always eat their own.,0,4277251.story

'Toons Learn Physics, The Better To Break Its Rules

by Lonny Shavelson

Listen Now [4 min 17 sec] add to playlist

The Hulk

Bulked up: When Bruce Banner becomes the Incredible Hulk, where does all that extra mass come from? Professor Alejandro Garcia explains in the video below. Universal Pictures

"You have to know what the rules are in order to break them, to advance the story successfully and [to] keep the audience believing."
Illustrator Courtney Granner
Alejandro Garcia in front of a projected slide
Lonny Shavelson

Alejandro Garcia teaches The Physics of Animation at San Jose State University.


All Things Considered, July 3, 2008 · What is it that makes Looney Tunes so loony?

Well, for one thing: when Road Runner lures Wiley Coyote at seemingly supersonic speed off the edge of a cliff. The coyote freezes in mid-air, looks down and realizes there's no cliff under him anymore.

Then, usually with a pained expression, he rockets straight down into the ground.

Of course if a real coyote — one subject to the laws of gravity — were inattentive enough to go speeding off a cliff, it would fall immediately. And its downward path would follow a continuous arc, as vector laws and the physics of velocity insist.

Still, despite its scofflaw ways, Road Runner is physicist Alejandro Garcia's favorite cartoon.

Which is saying something because, thanks to a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, Garcia is spending his summer teaching a master class, The Physics of Animation, for cartooning students at San Jose State University.

In the first class of its kind, he's showing animators how the rules of physics apply to their world.

Secret report: biofuel caused food crisis

Corn used for biofuel

A handful of corn before it is processed.

Photograph: Charlie Neibergall/AP

Biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75% - far more than previously estimated - according to a confidential World Bank report obtained by the Guardian.

The damning unpublished assessment is based on the most detailed analysis of the crisis so far, carried out by an internationally-respected economist at global financial body.

The figure emphatically contradicts the US government's claims that plant-derived fuels contribute less than 3% to food-price rises. It will add to pressure on governments in Washington and across Europe, which have turned to plant-derived fuels to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and reduce their dependence on imported oil.

Senior development sources believe the report, completed in April, has not been published to avoid embarrassing President George Bush.

Top X: 10 Perfectly Pure Gadgets


By BBG Staff

Perfection? Some gadgets are already perfect. They don't need further technological advancement. They're pure. If you change one thing about them significantly, you make them worse. You change their nature entirely. When someone finally comes up with a significant improvement to a pure gadget's tech, it will cease to be: it becomes something else. We're calling these gadgets "perfectly pure" and here's ten of them, for the passive absorbption into your cerebral membranes.

The Wristwatch

From the automaton-makers of Rhodes to the battery-powered blinkenlights of a crazy Tokyoflash timepiece, we've always loved machines that work to a schedule. Strip out the modern fad for electronics, however, and the basic workings of the not-so-humble wristwatch haven't changed an awful lot since the mechanism was miniaturized about a century ago. Permitting pocket watches — and a lot of genuine advances in accuracy — and we can look back as far as the 16th century.

In an uncharacteristic flourish, even Wikipedia's army of officious tone-editors allows its entry on the matter to note our enduring love for the wristwatch's "old world craftsmanship." For the rest of us, however, this is a mere a prelude to its introduction to another world—one of escapement mechanisms, differential gears, and other cogporn—that we know we'll love to revisit even when we all have personal atomic clocks embedded in our marrow.

The Toaster

For millennia, the cloddish neanderthal method of toast production reigned haute cuisine — much like a gazelle's torso or the scooped out brainmeats of a blood enemy, toast was best prepared by lancing it with a skewer and holding it over an open flame. There were, of course, sophistications: silver-coated cages used to dangle, to toast unevenly. But it wasn't until the 20th century that the toaster perfected itself, transforming from a helpful kitchen accessory into a nearly Platonic form: the pure mechanical interpretation of the verb to toast.

My handgun, my parasite

Never forget: The brutal effects of the Bush regime will be felt for generations

Ah, so this is how it's gonna be.

Like recurring cancer. No, more like a rogue rash, an STD, flaring up at unexpected times and in unexpected places and when it fades, you gently let yourself forget all about it until it suddenly erupts and hits hard and ruins your day, and then you can only sit back and moan softly, slather on ointment, shudder.

Wait, one more: Maybe it's most like a nasty intestinal worm, a wicked parasite like those you suck down in India or deep Mexico or the jungles of Indonesia, the kind that burrow deep and attach to all manner of essential organs and induce a wicked bout of dysentery or all-over body convulsion, until you finally crawl out of the hospital and drown in antibiotics and slowly work your way back to semi-health — but only semi, because of course you are never quite the same.

This is where we are. This is the state of the nation after having swallowed the malicious worm of Bush. We have, by all accounts, suffered — and somehow survived — the very worst of the illness, the cancer, the oozing spirit. But now, as America's worst president prepares to amble off the stage he never deserved to be on in the first place, it is time to prepare for any number of convulsions, aftershock, excruciating reminders.

Here is your Bush-loaded Supreme Court, for one regrettable example, addressing the much-misinterpreted Second Amendment for the first time in eons. Here is the majority of the court basically arguing that, in case you forgot, much of America still blindly loves its guns, and of course handguns are a nice addition to any God-fearing family's arsenal of ridiculous self-defense weaponry and therefore banning a device designed to do nothing but kill other humans is just plain wrong.

It is, by all accounts, a severe, dark cloud of a decision, loaded with sadness and a feeling of despair, the cruel notion that America is still defined by its love of violence, or even the utterly phony idea, put forth by Justice Antonin Scalia himself, that only violence prevents violence, or that the answer to the gun problem is, quite simply, more guns, because surely that's what the founding fathers intended, more paranoid NASCAR dads stocking Glocks in the rec room to protect the rug rats from those icky drug-dealing rapists who never come.

London Mayoral vote can't be verified due to e-voting irregularities

Glyn sez,

The Open Rights Group's report into e-counting of votes cast in the London Elections is out today. The report finds that:

"there is insufficient evidence available to allow independent observers to state reliably whether the results declared in the May 2008 elections for the Mayor of London and the London Assembly are an accurate representation of voters' intentions."

Votes for London Mayor and the 25 member London Assembly were counted electronically, and overall the election was well-managed by the independent body set up to run elections in London, London Elects.

However, transparency around the recording of valid votes was a major issue, leading many of our team of 27 official observers to conclude that they were unable to observe votes being counted. And while hundreds of screens set up by vote scanners showed almost meaningless data to observers, London Elects admit that the system was likely to be recording blank ballots as valid votes.

The report also details how London Elects are unable to publish an audit, commissioned from KPMG, of some of the software used to count the London vote, because of disputes over commercial confidentiality. The situation highlights the problems that arise when the very public function of running elections is mixed with issues of commercial confidentiality and proprietary software. In the context of a public election, it is unacceptable that these issues should preclude the publication of the KPMG audit.


Christopher Hitchens waterboards himself

After Christopher Hitchens wrote a Slate article suggesting that waterboarding wasn't really torture, readers suggested that he try it himself. He did.
So what did it feel like? Hitchens recounts how he was lashed tightly to a sloping board, then, "on top of the hood, three layers of enveloping towel were added. In this pregnant darkness, head downward, I waited until I abruptly felt a slow cascade of water going up my nose ... I held my breath for a while and then had to exhale and - as you might expect - inhale in turn."

That, he says, "brought the damp cloths tight against my nostrils, as if a huge, wet paw had been suddenly and annihilatingly clamped over my face. Unable to determine whether I was breathing in or out, flooded more with sheer panic than with water, I triggered the pre-arranged signal" and felt the "unbelievable relief" of being pulled upright.

The "official lie" about waterboarding, Hitchens says, is that it "simulates the feeling of drowning". In fact, "you are drowning - or rather, being drowned".

He rehearses the intellectual arguments, both for ("It's nothing compared to what they do to us") and against ("It opens a door that can't be closed"). But the Hitch's thoroughly empirical conclusion is simple. As Vanity Fair's title puts it: "Believe me, it's torture."


Wall-E is a copyright criminal

Jesse Willis went to see the new Disney/Pixar movie Wall-E and discovered that the lovable little robot is actually a dire criminal -- because he undertakes a variety of copying activities (bypassing DRM, file-sharing) that will be illegal under Canada's DMCA. Click through to read the unredacted version (warning -- minor spoiler if you do):
1. WALL-E records audio from his favorite movie, XXXXXXXXXXX, putting in onto his own digital recorder (bypassing the macrovision DRM on the tape). A COPYRIGHT CRIME UNDER C-61

2. WALL-E archives the audio, he doesn't merely time-shift it. He listens repeatedly! A COPYRIGHT CRIME UNDER C-61

3. WALL-E shares his DRM-broken music with his friend, another robot named XXXXX. A COPYRIGHT CRIME UNDER C-61


SOS: the signal that has saved thousands turns 100

"Send SOS," one of the Titanic's radio operators supposedly said to another after the famous ship struck that infamous iceberg. "It's the new call and besides this may be your last chance to send it."

That "new call" is 100 years old today, and people around the world who owe their lives to that piece of Morse code may reflect this morning on its importance.

In the past century, "SOS" has become a firm part of popular culture used in everything from DIY programme titles to Abba hits. But it began life in a far more serious setting after being adopted by the international community on July 1, 1908, as the globally recognised distress signal for ships at sea.

At that time voices could not yet be carried across the airwaves and sailors needed a standard means of saying, in Morse code, that they were in trouble.


5th Anniversary of Bush's 'Bring 'em On' Boast on Iraq Is Today

By Greg Mitchell

NEW YORK It appeared, quite innocently and only in passing in The New York Times, five years ago, recording a statement by George W. Bush.

"President Bush today came close to taunting Iraqis who were attacking American-led forces in Iraq and said the assaults would not cause the United States to leave prematurely," the Times reported on July 2, 2003.

'''There are some who feel like -- that the conditions are such that they can attack us there,'' Mr. Bush said. ''My answer is, bring them on. We've got the force necessary to deal with the security situation.'''

An AP account the following day reported that the official White House transcript of the press gathering had Bush saying "bring them on" but "reporters say the phrase actually sounded like 'bring 'em on.'"

In any case, the remarks inspired outrage. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., called the president's language "irresponsible and inciteful." Sen. John Kerry said they were "unworthy of the office."

To that point in 2003, 186 Americans had lost their lives in Irag. More than 4000 American military personnel, and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians, have died since that date. Nearly 30,000 Americans have been wounded.

Biodiversity: Some species could be wiped out 100 times faster than feared, say researchers

· Calculations of risk found to be seriously flawed

· Most-endangered may be months from extinction

mountain gorilla in Rwanda

Mountain gorilla in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda. Photograph: Andy Rouse/Corbis

Endangered species could become extinct 100 times faster than previously thought, scientists warned yesterday in a bleak reassessment of the threats to global biodiversity. They say methods used to predict when species will die out are seriously flawed and dramatically underestimate the speed at which some will disappear.

The findings, presented in the journal Nature, suggest that animals such as the western gorilla, the Sumatran tiger and Malayan sun bear, the smallest of the bear family, may become extinct much sooner than conservationists had feared.

Ecologists Brett Melbourne, at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Alan Hastings at the University of California, Davis said conservation organisations should use updated extinction models to urgently re-evaluate the risks to wildlife. "Some species could have months instead of years left, while other species that haven't even been identified as under threat yet should be listed as endangered," said Melbourne.


Republican Campaign Against Likely Democratic Voters Begins

Democracy and Elections

The GOP's latest accusations are long on rhetoric but short on facts.

Across the country and on the Republican National Committee website, a handful of GOP office holders and party officers are trying to discredit recent voter registration drives and record-setting turnout by Democrats in 2008 primaries, saying efforts seen as benefiting Democrats are rife with "voter fraud."

Consider the following examples:

  • The Louisiana Republican Party last month attacked Democrats for a "phony" registration drive because as many as 30 percent of applications were missing information -- an industry norm -- and called for an investigation. Louisiana Secretary of State Jay Dardenne, a Republican, launched that investigation; however, his office has since declined to comment.
  • This past Sunday, Alabama Attorney General Troy King, a Republican, appeared on Fox News to complain that voter "fraud and systemic corruption" were rampant in a handful of mostly Democratic-majority counties. He said absentee ballots were being sold for $40 or traded for driveway gravel, but he did not announce any prosecutions.
  • In Indiana, after that state's presidential primary, the East Chicago Republican Party chairman claimed that record turnout by Democratic voters included people from nearby Illinois, a charge that the local county election director rejected as unfounded.
  • Most notably, the Republican National Committee has a page on its website titled ""You Can't Make This Up!" It features an interactive map on which states are linked to a list of "voter fraud" stories. The reports are a grab bag of almost anything nefarious concerning the voting process or elections, including allegations that may never be prosecuted or tried in court.

Since the 1960s, the Republican Party has raised "ballot security" issues in campaigns to justify a range of activities that critics have said lead to voter suppression. In recent years, fears of voter fraud -- which as defined by the GOP refers to people impersonating other voters -- have led state legislators to pass additional voting regulations, such as tougher voter ID laws and stiff penalties for errors by registration groups. Critics say the laws often are intended to shape the electorate to benefit GOP candidates.

Great Moments in History

Documenting what really matters -- on the Etch a Sketch.
Hey! The Iraq War was over like 6 years ago, right?  SYKE  For Johnny T.

Hey! The Iraq War was over like 6 years ago, right?

Tomgram: Rick Shenkman, American Stupidity


The buck stops… well, where does it stop? And who popularized that phrase, anyway? Herbert Hoover, J. Edgar Hoover, Harry S. Truman, George Washington, or none of the above?

Wait, don't answer! The odds are -- as Rick Shenkman, award-winning investigative journalist and founder of the always provocative website History News Network, tells us in his new book Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth about the American Voter -- you'll be wrong. And when you realize the depths of the ignorance so many Americans take into the voting booth, you may indeed wonder, as Shenkman does to great effect in his new book, where indeed the buck stops.

So here we are heading toward another July 4th, that glorious day when American independence was declared and the Liberty Bell rang out to the world -- the first of which didn't happen on July 4th, the second of which was made up "out of whole cloth" in the nineteenth century in a book for children (but you knew that!). Think of today's post as a bit of counter-programming to our yearly summer celebration of history, a way to ponder what exactly, in the 8th year of the reign of our latest King George, any of us have to celebrate. Consider instead the state of our national brain, preview Shenkman's new book (which should set anyone's mind spinning), and, while you're at it, watch his recent interview with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show by clicking here. Tom

How Ignorant Are We?

The Voters Choose… but on the Basis of What?
By Rick Shenkman

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." -- Thomas Jefferson

Just how stupid are we? Pretty stupid, it would seem, when we come across headlines like this: "Homer Simpson, Yes -- 1st Amendment 'Doh,' Survey Finds" (Associated Press 3/1/06).

"About 1 in 4 Americans can name more than one of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment (freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and petition for redress of grievances.) But more than half of Americans can name at least two members of the fictional cartoon family, according to a survey.

"The study by the new McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum found that 22 percent of Americans could name all five Simpson family members, compared with just 1 in 1,000 people who could name all five First Amendment freedoms."

But what does it mean exactly to say that American voters are stupid? About this there is unfortunately no consensus. Like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, who confessed not knowing how to define pornography, we are apt simply to throw up our hands in frustration and say: We know it when we see it. But unless we attempt a definition of some sort, we risk incoherence, dooming our investigation of stupidity from the outset. Stupidity cannot mean, as Humpty Dumpty would have it, whatever we say it means.

Calling all ugly

The Weighting Game

A few weeks ago, I received the following email which made me snort Jelly Bellies out of my nose when I read it:


I found your name through SheSource. Jim O'Connor publicity professional and award winning author, is writing a book about unattractive people who have faced the world and found happiness, a good job, and love. In a world which places so much emphasis on beauty, Jim wants to know what the secret is in finding success without being beautiful.

Can he interview you? Can we call and set up a time which is good for you?

Hahahahaha. Ha. That, I thought, is the most amazingly backhanded compliment I have ever gotten.

Alas, I was intrigued, and we set up a time to talk.

Yesterday we chatted and he explained his concept a but more and I think it's fascinating and an important topic to address - the world is not all fluffy kittens and Angelina Jolie lips. People are discriminated against and teased about the teeniest, tiniest "imperfections" - we hold ourselves up to impossible standards and criticize ourselves for things (cellulite, a big shnoz) that we'd never even notice on a friend, let alone make them feel like crap for it. I mean, I was on the Today Show discussing "Would you rather be 40 pounds overweight and smart or skinny and dumb" for crying out loud! And let us never forget the day a random teenage boy on the street told me I have cankles.

I told Jim I would help him spread the word as he gathers info for his book. He's already spoken with a number of people from the Ugly NY Talent agency (loathe the name but I "get" the concept of needing "real people" for films and such…and many of them are not traditionally "ugly" - they're simply intriguing or extraordinary-looking -- something we need more of in the media, quite frankly) and is scouting for other men and women to talk to via internet.

Trendspotting: The Vonnegut Files

In my book 2011: Trendspotting I tried to cover as much about the future as I could, but the damn editors said a 500-page book wasn't feasible. Recently, I found one of the chapters we cut. I kinda regret it.

It's about Kurt Vonnegut.

No one understood creativity in our world like Vonnegut did. He always said the problem was that people thought too small.

In his last TV interview, the great thinker said he thought what America needed was a "cabinet post" of Secretary of the Future.

On Now on PBS, the esteemed PBS program hosted by David Brancaccio, KV said he thought such a hosted position "would help us live a more sustainable life, not pollute a place where generations in the future have to live. You could also take that to businesses being run in a more sustainable way. Politics. The deficit." Listen to his words:

KURT VONNEGUT: Look, I'll tell you. It's one thing that no cabinet had ever had, is a Secretary Of The Future. And there are no plans at all for my grandchildren and my great grandchildren.

DAVID BRANCACCIO: That's a great idea. In other words a Cabinet post-

KURT VONNEGUT: Well, it's too late! Look, the game is over! The game is over. We've killed the planet, the life support system. And, and it's so damaged that there's no recovery from that. And we're very soon going to run out of petroleum which powered everything that's modern. Razzmatazz about America. And, and it was very shallow people who imagined that we could keep this up indefinitely. But when I tell others, they say; Well, look there's- you said hydrogen fuel. Nobody's working on it.

Reefer Madness


Book By Kevin Murphy & Dan Studney
Lyrics by Kevin Murphy
Music by Dan Studney 
June 27-July 13

Directed by David McLaughlin
Choreography by Kar-el Green
Costumes by Derik Shopinski
Scenic/Lighting Design by J.W. Layne

The year is 1936. As the play opens, THE LECTURER, a severe authority figure, informs the audience of the new drug menace "Marihuana," which threatens the American way of life! His warnings are reinforced by THE PLACARD GIRL who throughout the play holds up large signs that clearly state the moral of what we've just seen. From his podium, The Lecturer warns us that action must be taken immediately, before the Good Ol' U.S.A. succumbs to the Demon Weed! (REEFER MADNESS!) The Lecturer illustrates his point, introducing us to JIMMY HARPER and MARY LANE, a lovable pair of wholesome teens who hold hands, sip hot cocoa and think pure thoughts while studying Shakespeare for English class. (ROMEO AND JULIET)