Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, March 26, 2005
Freedom of Speech Defense for Conspiracy

LaShawn Barber is on Hugh Hewitt's side:
    A man has been arrested for making threats against Michael Schiavo via the Internet. In that case, he shouldn’t be the only one. How many people have said or written such things about Schiavo in the past week out of emotion? Should they all be arrested?
What, this guy?
    A man arrested in Buncombe County Friday was charged with threatening the husband of Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman at the center of the right-to-die case gripping the country.

    Richard Alan Meywes was arrested in Fairview by the FBI and the Buncombe County Sheriff's Office, the FBI said in a prepared statement.

    Meywes is accused of sending an e-mail putting a $250,000 bounty "on the head of Michael Schiavo" and another $50,000 to eliminate a judge who denied a request to intervene in the Schiavo case, the FBI said. The FBI did not immediately identify the judge.

    "The e-mail also made reference to the recent death of a judge in Atlanta and the death of (a) judge's family members in Illinois," the FBI said.
Yeah, who has not threatened violence in anger regarding the Schiavo case? Well, for starters, I would guess those who don't want the government to do extralegal things don't talk about individuals doing extralegal things, but that consistency is our hobgoblin.

(Thanks to John Cole for the link to the news story.)

Book Report: Three from the 87th by Ed McBain (1971)

I inherited this book from my Aunt Dale; I don't know if this was her personal copy or if she bought it to sell on eBay, but I do know that she liked Ed McBain, or at least owned one or more of his books; I remember in particular that I read her copy of Lightning when I was young and impressionable.

This collection includes, oddly enough, three of Ed McBain's 87th Precinct novels: Fuzz (1968), Jigsaw (1970), and Hail, Hail, The Gang's All Here (1971). That's right, McBain (or Hunter, if you prefer) has been writing these books for fifty years now, and to a certain demographic, the books haven't aged too badly.

I mean, of course, to people from Generation X and before, these books have aged well. We remember computers coming into the fore in our lifetimes; before that, typewriters. Criminey, I wrote my first couple of college papers on an old Smith Corona before I could spring the thousands of dollars (with a loan, no less) for the 286-10 running MS-DOS 5.0 and LotusWorks that would last the rest of my college career). So these stories, which feature cops handwriting forms and typing on typewriters, remain relevant and undated to me. I pity writers now (myself included) whose crime fiction will seemingly be ever dated from this point on--what, he was typing on a computer and not just intuiting through the Gibsonterface?

These three novels are short; the whole book runs under 500 pages. But that's something else I remember: novels running under 200 pages each. Now, the publishers think you'll wilt if you spend $30 on fewer than 350 pages. Come to think of it, I would, too. Perhaps hardback publishers are pricing themselves out of the entertainment marketplace by keeping their book prices in line with that of video games.

But I digress.

These three novels represent not only McBain's deftness, but the power of the third person narrator. Because these books don't rely on a single character's viewpoint, McBain has more latitude to try different things than, say, a first person narrator writer like Robert Crais.

The novels appear in this book in reverse chronological order (hence, pardon me while I discuss them in the opposite order in which they appear in the book). Fuzz depicts a series of assassinations in the city perpetrated by the Deaf Man, who will become the 87th Precinct's nemesis over the years. This is his second appearance (I believe, and textual evidence supports it). Jigsaw features a couple of detectives from the 87th Precinct, supported by others of course, investigating a particular crime. Hail, Hail, The Gang's All Here depicts a 24-hour period in the 87th Precinct, with two shifts of detectives dealing with the crimes that occur on their shift. The third person narrator allows a lot of latitude of who the author can include and exclude and even who can die during the course of the book. Authors who use the first person narrator shortcut its immediacy by including third person sections (see also Robert Crais and, I daresay, Robert B. Parker). McBain p0wns you.

The novels within the book do present an interesting artifact, though, as they depict life in The City (a proxy for New York) in the 1960s and 1970s. Wow, it did seem like a dangerous place to live....until this fellow named Giuliani showed up. McBain found something to write about afterwards, as his books don't stop with Giuliani's election, but I cannot help but read them in that context.

So would I recommend the book? Unabashedly. Although my wonderful and well-read mother-in-law has, on occasion, condemned Ed McBain as smut, I still laud the poetry interspersed with the gritty. Also, she was a high school teacher who had the public's morals to protect. Me? I am a poor boy from the ghetto who wanted to escape with his writing. I cannot think of a better example of the third person narrator in crime fiction series than Ed McBain. Any of them, or any three of them in one volume.

Jack Cardetti Strikes Again

    Jack Cardetti, a spokesman for the Democratic Party, said Blunt's budget cuts would hurt children, older adults and vulnerable people who lack lobbyists to protect their interests in the state capital.

    "He's especially ravaged the Missouri Division of Youth Services, a national model for how to take care of juvenile offenders and then turn them into productive citizens," Cardetti said.
What's he talking about? My governor, Matt Blunt, has apparently announced more cuts:
    Gov. Matt Blunt has announced a second round of state budget cuts that will reduce state spending by $240 million and eliminate an additional 1,274 state jobs.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to say that Matt Blunt, boy wonder of Missouri, will be old enough to be president in 2008.

I don't want to gloat to my friends in Illinois or Wisconsin, but Ha! In your face! A Republican governor with a Republican legislature!

From the Bookmark Collection

Well, it's Saturday, so I've got nothing better to do than to expose you to a representative of my well-used bookmark collection. It's really only a collection because the bookmarks are accumulating in the nightstand drawer, not because I'm actively seeking new and exotic bookmarks. If I were, I'd undoubtedly have better items than the collection of Amazon, used book store, and "here's a gift, send us money" unsolicited fundraiser bookmarks I've got. Still, some of the bookmarks merit comment, including this one:

This bookmark comes to us from 1985, and it's geared to students. Check out the fellow depicted upon the front of the bookmark. He's got a flattop haircut undoubtedly helped out with a liberal dose of gel. By 1985, we were moving out of the heavily-teased hair styles for the most part and into more natural looks. At least we were in the middle of America; perhaps the Flock of Seagulls thing persisted in pockets on the coasts (although the mullet has yet to go out of style in Jefferson County, Missouri). This kid's wearing a t-shirt with his own picture on it, the very latest thing available from the malls, and a pair of the oversized shorts they called jams. Me, I never had a pair of jams, although I liked to call the patterned oversized swimming trunks I acquired via hand-me-down-from-outside-the-family or parental garage sale purchase "jams" simply because they had a design upon them. This kid's also wearing a pair of untied Converse or some other non-Nike brand of high-tops, all the rage amongst the rural toughies in the area in which I went to high school. Toughies whom the urban toughs that I spent my early years would have eaten alive (and probably have in prison by now, or so I hope in the remainder of my adolescent revenge fantasies).

The text of this bookmark reads, "It's cool to be you!" The irony, of course, lies in that this self-esteem-boosting message lies on a bookmark. Cool kids, or at least those of the soc or jock or hooter/stoner mentality would not be privy to this particular boost. The very fact that this message appears on a bookmark implies that the adults-that-be, or at least the adults-that-were expected that young people with books needed self-esteem boosts to make up for the slights and the lacks of dates and for all the other various and sundry humiliations levied against those who preferred books to television and the assorted social and physical vandalism that represents the high school experience.... well, a simple I'm OK, You're OK from a bookmark wouldn't do a thing for a teenager, who would see through its facetiousness and condescensious consolation. I wouldn't have taken it seriously as encouragement had I owned this bookmark in 1985; since I got it sometime as part of a yard sale book purchase, where it was wedged between the incompletely-read pages of some adult book, it helped me even less than a "It's cool to be a middle-aged suburban subdivision dweller" bookmark more geared to my demographic.

Crikey, I hope no teenager has thrown a belt over a rafter as a result of the loss of this security blanket.
The back of this particular bookmark indicates that I'm not lying when I say it's circa 1985; as a matter of fact, the text indicates it's copyright, which I am no doubt violating terribly since you gentle readers could blow up the pictures, print them on the new-fangled photo-quality color ink jets whose abilities we could only see in movies in 1985 while we listened to our dot-matrix printers chattering away or the daisy wheels pounding on paper. Please, do not send me a nickel when you do so, for you'd just be an obvious plant from the copyright holder's lawyers.

The brand name, Tab-Marks, would indicate that this bookmark was the product of one of the big three book clubs of the era. Come on, Generation X, you know what I am talking about. The single sheet of full-color (not the Weekly Reader, you pre-addled baby boomleters) front and back distributed in class that allowed those of us who needed ego-booster bookmarks to choose from a menu of paperback books for a buck or two each. Arrow, Tab, and Scholastic fliers made the rounds at my elementary and junior high (although in Missouri, they call them middle school) classes. Kinda like Columbia House for kids, with nothing required to buy in the future.

It was always a big deal, as our family was rather, um, undercapitalized, to get to order books from these services. I did, on occasion; after a couple of weeks, I got some books that were mine and not the library's. Wholesome youth entertainment like Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary (I consider it a testament to the power of these book clubs, and the library, that I still score 8 of 10 on the Harry Huggins trivia quiz).

Do kids still get these circulars? We don't have children yet, so I don't know whether schools fit them in yet amongst the year-round fundraisers to which those pimping schools subject their students. Perhaps children of the twenty-first century don't need pencils to make checkmarks and ticks on full-color order forms when they can use their cellular phones to order the books directly from

I hope one or the other is the case; I'd hate to think that no children spend rainy afternoons in overstuffed recliners with simple paperbacks extolling the adventures of anyone not named Potter. Mainly because my dream is to open a used book store, and to be honest, the Greatest Generation, who stocked their post WWII homes with New American Library editions of the classics, the few Baby Boomers not into free love and protests, and the few straggling, under-self-esteemed (apparently) Generation Xers are dying off faster than I can accummulate the wealth and stock to start the money-losing dream-come-true.

Remarkable, ainna, that bookmarks can jog as many memories and reflections, sometimes, as the books into which we stick them? So many people just jam notes, slips of paper, and bank privacy notices (hem, well, perhaps only for technical, business-related books, you see) into books because reading doesn't require the pomp and circumstance of true bookmarks.

Although, oddly, perhaps that would merit a better sign of books' ubiquitousness....

Friday, March 25, 2005
Don't Settle for the Lesser Symbol

Australian columnist Phillip Adams calls the Oscars a symbol of American hegemony. To alter the quote of a more famous Australian, that's not a symbol of American hegemony, this is a symbol of American hegemony:

Visualize World Hegemony

(Link seen on Tim Blair.)

On the Other Side

Looks like John Cole isn't on Hewitt's side either.

I might describe this as a conservative crack-up, but I'm not a professional radio host.


Apparently, Instapundit is not on Hugh Hewitt's side.

Let's settle this like Floridians; one gets a box cutter, the other gets a gun store.

On Hewitt's Side

Perhaps this fellow is a part of Hewitt's rank and file:
    A man was arrested after trying to steal a weapon from a gun shop so he could "take some action and rescue Terri Schiavo," authorities said.

    Michael W. Mitchell, of Rockford, Ill., entered Randall's Firearms Inc. in Seminole just before 6 p.m. Thursday with a box cutter and tried to steal a gun, said Marianne Pasha, a spokeswoman for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.
Although one would hope that "Hewitt's Side" is staffed by people who are generally smarter than to try to rob a gun store with a box cutter.

Build a Meme Workshop

This morning, Weber and Dolan (teh best morning radio show evar!!!1!) asked listeners what albums they could sing from memory. I didn't call in because I would have filled the segment myself.

Not that you care, but here's a partial enumeration of albums I could sing end-to-end were they playing (although for many, I am taken aback when they're played on CD and there's no pause between the song at the end of side 1 and the beginning of side 2).

So, anyway:
  • 52nd Street by Billy Joel
  • Glass Houses by Billy Joel
  • An Innocent Man by Billy Joel
  • Piano Man by Billy Joel
  • Greatest Hits Volume 1 by Billy Joel
  • Greatest Hits Volume 2 by Billy Joel
  • Scoundrel Days by a-ha
  • Hunting High and Low by a-ha
  • Stay on These Roads by a-ha
  • East of the Sun, West of the Moon by a-ha
  • Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd
  • Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd
  • Animals by Pink Floyd
  • The Wall by Pink Floyd
  • A Momentary Lapse of Reason by Pink Floyd
  • Flesh and Blood by Poison
  • Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich by Warrant
  • David Gilmour by David Gilmour
  • About Face by David Gilmour
  • Sports by Huey Lewis and the News
  • A Pocket Full of Kryptonite by The Spin Doctors
  • I'm Your Man by Leonard Cohen
  • These Eyes by The Guess Who
  • The Return of Bruno by Bruce Willis
  • No Time to Kill by Clint Black
  • Repeat Offender by Richard Marx
  • No Fences by Garth Brooks
  • Greatest Hits Volume 1 by The Eagles
  • The Scattering by Cutting Crew
  • David Gilmour by David Gilmour
  • Weird Al Yankovic by Weird Al Yankovic
  • Dare to Be Stupid by Weird Al Yankovic
What can I say? I listened to these things over and over in my high school and college years. Note that none of these albums dates past 1994. Telling.

Now, you play. What albums could you sing every song on if that album is playing?

Hugh Hewitt Excludes Me

Hugh Hewitt, responding to something by Andrew Sullivan that I haven't and won't read, says there's no conservative crack-up occurring:
    On this side, Andrew, the ABC polling team, Charles Fried and --sort of-- William F. Buckley and some additional, talented essayists. On the other side --my side-- the president, all of the leadership of the GOP in the House and the Senate, every possible GOP presidential candidate who has spoken on the issue, all but Boortz of the vaunted "Republican noise machine," and the rank and file.
Hewitt enumerates a large number of elected leaders and the only voters he names are the rank and file. That is, the dyed-on-the-sheep conservatives.

However, those elected leaders didn't get elected by just the rank and file. Bush was elected with a coalition of moral/religious conservatives, libertarian-conservatives, and hawkish Democrats. During the election season, I was pleased with how inclusive the Republican electorate was becoming. Now, after the election, it's condensing to its rank and file "Hewitt's side" is sacrificing government constraint and government fiscal discipline to legislate its morality.

Now that Hewitt and his side have gotten my libertarianesque vote in the election cycle, they're ready to excommunicate me from the Republican orgy. I, and some of the others not on Hewitt's side, will remember this next election cycle. When a third party candidate comes along with just enough strength to draw our protest votes and the Clintonocracy is restored to the throne, will Hewitt's side learn its lesson?

Probably not. But the last time we had a Republican legislature and a Clinton presidency, it worked out to the best for domestic policy. The Republicans wouldn't give Clinton what he wanted, and Clinton could veto what Hewitt's side wanted. Of course, the United States lost ground in foreign policy and international safety, but perhaps we need to toggle between good domestic policy and good foreign policy every decade or so to keep the republic as healthy as possible.

Which, unfortunately, seems only to be heroic measures at the end of the republic's life.

A Technology Consumers Won't Embrace

Ever need to phone 7,000 people at once?
    If you ever need to get in touch with several--or several thousand--people at once, Send Word Now has the software for you.

    The New York City-based start-up is promoting a communication application at PC Forum that lets a user type a message on a PC that then transforms into a phone call to a few people, or a few thousand. (PC Forum is owned by CNET Networks, owner of

    Though the urgent message currently needs to be typed into a PC (or broadcast from a company's server farm), on April 7, Send Word Now will announce that customers can broadcast messages with a Palm handheld.
Wonder how companies will use this technology, huh? Two words: Phone Spam.

Thursday, March 24, 2005
Brian Bows to Fark

For Fark linked to the story "Paula Abdul Charged With Hit-And-Run" with:
    Straight up now tell me
    do you really want to love me forever
    oh oh oh
    or am I caught in a hit and run?

Do Not Eat

A study commissioned by a number of environmental groups interested in regulating chemicals has uncovered, in a shocking twist, that your house contains things that the environmental groups want to regulate more (Study finds toxic chemicals in dust samples from U.S. households):
    Americans are exposed to a variety of potentially dangerous chemicals in their homes from products such as computers, frying pans and shower curtains, according to a new study released Tuesday.

    The study, called "Sick of Dust," found 35 hazardous industrial chemicals in household dust samples from 70 homes in seven states, including California. It was commissioned by nine environmental groups, including the Center for Environmental Health in Oakland and the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition in San Jose.

    "It literally brings home the fact that hazardous chemicals are in our daily lives," said Beverly Thorpe, international director for Clean Production Action, one of the study's sponsors. "We feel now is a prime opportunity to overhaul chemical regulation in the United States."

    The researchers tested the dust samples for six types of chemicals, including pesticides and flame retardants. All the chemicals are legal, but many are known to be harmful to immune, respiratory, cardiovascular and reproductive systems. They said infants and young children are especially vulnerable to exposure.
I should have chipped in a couple dollars since this also proves a maxim of mine: Do not eat the dust bunnies.

I'd like to take a moment to elaborate on this thesis and enumerate some other things I don't think you should put in your mouth or slide down your gullet:
  • Dust brontosauri. If you're like me, your dust has clung together in much larger beasts than mere bunnies; these are probably worse and more toxic than mere dust bunnies, although they're just as cuddly and furry.

  • Color newspaper inserts. Although the richly-colored flame-broiled burgers look appetizing, and come to think of it, so do the vinylly-sided homes, the colored inks might, in fact, be bad for you. So I implore you to do what I do, stick to the healthy black inks and eat only news pages.

  • Charcoal briquette residue. Although the fine grey powder does provide a noticeable high when snorted, it also brings the risk of mockery and various and sundry cancers.

  • Windex. You know, Mai Tais just don't look right without a touch of something blue, but you should choose Boone's Farm Apple Wine Product instead of any glass cleaning product. Listen, Mr. Yuck was right.

  • Insect carcasses after the exterminator has left. I don't care if Fear Factor is your favorite television show, the reason that the bugs are now easier to catch is that their little bodies are pumped full of poison. If you break the record for ants consumed in an hour, it might be your finest hour, but it could also be your final hour. Chocolate covering is not an antidote.
Face it, the world is full of substances that could hurt or kill you, and the government cannot regulate them all. If you're really having that much trouble keeping toxic substances out of your mouth, perhaps you should consult with your psychoanalyst and see if he or she can get you promoted to the next stage of psychosexual development.

Forget Taiwan

Same old story, underplayed as usual: Report: China Faces Severe Water Shortages:
    China's already severe water shortages are worsening due to heavy pollution of lakes and aquifers and urban development projects with a big thirst for water, such as lawns and fountains, state media reported.

    More than 100 cities have inadequate water supplies, with more than half "seriously threatened," the official Xinhua News Agency cited Qiu Baoxing, a vice minister of construction, as saying.

    "The uneven distribution of the limited resource and serious pollution further deteriorate the situation," Qiu said.

    In Beijing, for example, each resident has access to only 10,593 cubic feet of water a year, compared with the world average of 35,310 cubic feet, Xinhua said in a separate report.
That reminded me of an article I read in the November 1997 edition of The Atlantic Monthly entitled "Our Real China Problem" by Mark Hertsgaard (available online to subscribers here) which documents the impact of China's population growth and industrialization on China's environment. Excerpt:
    At least five of the cities with the worst air pollution in the world are in China. Sixty to 90 percent of the rainfall in Guangdong, the southern province that is the center of China's economic boom, is acid rain. Since nearly all the gasoline in China is leaded (Beijing switched to unleaded gas in June), and 80 percent of the coal isn't "washed" before being burned, people's lungs and nervous systems are bombarded by an extraordinary volume and variety of deadly poisons. One of every four deaths in China is caused by lung disease, brought about by the air pollution and the increasingly fashionable habit of cigarette smoking. Suburban sprawl and soil erosion gobbled up more than 86 million acres of farmland from 1950 to 1990 -- as much as all the farmland in Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. Farmland losses have continued in the 1990s, raising questions about China's ability to feed itself in years to come, especially as rising incomes lead to more meat-intensive diets.
    Beijing has so little water that Party leaders have questioned whether the city can remain the capital, according to Yu Yuefeng, the staff director of the Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Conservation Committee of the National People's Congress. With a nervous chuckle, Yu told me that the problem has eased in the past two years, thanks to higher than normal rainfall, but, he conceded, "This is a roll of the dice. We have to rely on the gods to keep the rains coming." In his privileged Party position Yu can afford to laugh. The problem is not so amusing for some 50 million people in rural northern China who must walk for miles or wait for days to obtain any drinking water at all. As for farmland, population growth has reduced the supply per person to about the size of one third of a tennis court.
That article appeared seven and a half years ago.

If China wants to conquer, Taiwan might only be a starting point. If China goes the militaristic conqueror route, it will need clean land, arable land and fresh water. Which would worry me if I shared a frontier with China.

The Hottest Thing Since

Apparently, entrepreneurs have decided that some people don't want to sing a la karaoke; they want to lip synch comedy routines:
    Karaoke is soooooo 1990s. For those who'd rather make people laugh at their punch lines than cringe at their high notes, the new wave in participatory entertainment is Joke-e-oke.

    The premise behind Joke-e-oke is that, at some level, everyone wants to be a comedian. It's a form of entertainment software that allows people, momentarily, to realize this ambition while emulating the classic comedy routines of their favorite comedians.

    The idea for Joke-e-oke is simple. It's basically karaoke with stand-up comedy material. Many dream of the chance to be a comedian with killer material in front of a laughing crowd. With Joke-e-oke, people are able to live out their comedy fantasy of being their favorite comedian onstage, choosing from a list of stand-up comedy icons to perform. A built in laugh track is added, timed perfectly to accent punch lines.
Wow, those whacky entrepreneurs will try anything! But seriously, I think this will be the hottest thing since Movieoke, which is at least six degrees Kelvin above absolute zero.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Red Herring?

How come I haven't heard Terry Wallis mentioned at all by those who want to save Terri Schiavo.

Granted, comatose ain't vegetative, but still, I would expect some comparison.

UPDATE: Because in this highly-complicated case in which most commentators have incomplete or inadequate knowledge, it's important to introduce more incomparable situations as direct metaphors for the possibilities. Obfuscation through opination. That's the other thing the blogosphere does best.

Carnival of the Honkers

The first weekly Carnival of the Honkers is up at angelweave.

Hurry, for this will probably be the only Carnival of the Honkers, which makes it a blogosphere collectible.

Mark Your Calendar

May 7: Free Comic Book Day

The Longest Yard

In San Francisco, high school athletic officials have banned the postgame handshake and goodsportsmanship greetings after girls' soccer games:
    A series of ugly run-ins between girls soccer teams in San Francisco's high schools has prompted a ban on that proverbial act of good sportsmanship -- the post-game handshake.

    Not only that, but "all soccer players will be barred from saying a single word to their opponents, opposing coaches or officials upon the conclusion of every soccer game," Donald Collins, the school district's high school athletic commissioner, decreed in an e-mail to all coaches and referees Monday.

    So instead of winners and losers exchanging friendly or even perfunctory high-fives, "all soccer players will immediately proceed to their respective sidelines upon the conclusion of every soccer game," Collins commanded.
You know, one of the arguments against home schooling is that public schools help socialize children. There's your socialization, ma'am: socialized like inmates, not allowed to interact with those from different high schools to show that the participants understand the limited nature of the game and understand that although they have competed fiercely, they respect each other.

Just because a few girls didn't. So the schools will socialize to the lowest common denominator, which will always prove to be a half step above animal given human nature.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Outside What Box?

While declining to support a local sales tax increase for some communities in Wisconsin so that those communities could then spend the money, Wisconsin state senator Alberta Darling had some confusing praise:
    "I applaud them for thinking outside the box, but I don't want to add another tax," Darling said.
Adding another tax is outside the box? A sales tax increase represents creativity in government in the suburbs of Milwaukee?

Pardon my skepticism, but that doesn't sound new at all. It sounds rather....common for government "leaders."

The Noggle Blitzed

You know, I don't normally play chess because most knowledgeable opponents recognize the Noggle Blitz for what it really is--a shortsighted attempt to take as many of the opponent's pieces as fast as possible while sowing confusion with those inexplicable queen-for-knight swaps.

Of course, I don't normally drink hard liquor either. But this Shot Glass Chess Set might make me take up both. Take a piece, do a shot!

I wonder what the blogosphere's resident chessophile would think?

UPDATE: Pejman says what he thinks.

What Did You Think Would Happen, Casinoport?

November, 2004: Maryland Heights voters pass Proposition D, which charges wireless companies $1000 per communications tower (city press release announcing proposition here; results here and here; mayor does happy dance over his new revenue in city newsletter PDF here)

March, 2005: news in my wireless bill:
    Attention Chesterfield, Manchester, Maryland Heights, Vinita Park, and Wellston MO Customers
    Next month, we will begin collecting a City business license surcharge of 5.0 percent (5.5 percent in Maryland Heights) to recover the cost of a business license tax that the City claimes must be paid by Verizon Wireless. This surcharge will appear in the Verizon Wireless Surcharges section of your bill as the item labeled CITY BUS LIC SURCHG. This surcharge is a Verizon Wireless charge, not a tax, and is subject to change. If ytou have any questions or concerns about the City's imposition of its business license tax on wireless companies, please contact your elected City officials at 636-537-4000 (Chesterfield), 636-227-1385 (Manchester), 314-291-6550 (Maryland Heights), 314-428-7373 (Vinita Park) or 314-385-1015 (Wellston).
Some of us saw that coming and recognize that a business tax--even those the City wants to spend on beautification projects of all things--get passed onto the customers. Verizon's surcharge is very upfront; in most cases, these additional taxes designed to soak corporations just get rolled into price increases, and the consumer and city resident pays for them anyway.

Not Quite The Victim

Agency says school chief bought less than $2,000 in gambling credits: Official embezzled $844,477, said he had gambling problem:
    Gambling records at Missouri's 11 riverboat casinos indicate that a former northwest Missouri school superintendent who stole more than $844,000 from his school district bought less than $2,000 in slot machine credits or table game chips since 2001.

    Ronnie Gene DeShon, former superintendent of the Pattonsburg School District, admitted in federal court earlier this month that he embezzled $844,477 over four years. He said he used to money to feed his gambling addiction.

    But Troy Stremming, president of the Missouri Riverboat Gaming Association, said if DeShon lost hundreds of thousands of dollars gambling, it wasn't at Missouri's riverboat casinos. Gambling records at the riverboat casinos indicate that DeShon bought less than $2,000 in slot machine credits or table game chips since 2001.
I would say the embezzler played the victim card, but he wasn't playing cards at all. Instead, he pushed an obvious sympathy button to lessen his punishment.

Like this guy, I took money from my employer's account last year and deposited it in my personal account, although I understand this is less of an issue when you're self-employed. In case it's not, I want to document my addictions and disorders that led me to this sad low:
  • Sex.

  • Coffee.

  • Beer.

  • Sprecher's Root Beer.

  • Yellow Tail Shiraz/Cabernet.

  • Gambolling.

  • Napping.

  • Reading.
Does that press your sympathy button, or your envy button?

Universe in Danger as CNN Deploys Headline Paradox

Villain announced for 'Spider-Man 3': Thomas Haden Church will play unnamed nemesis.

So the studio identified the actor but has not identified the villain. Whomever the character is, undoubtedly Marvel Comics named it in one comic book or another.

I'll take Venom in the pool, please.

Tomorrow's Anti-Gun Arguments Today

From this Haaretz article:
    Meanwhile, the Palestinian Interior Ministry has begun placing restrictions on the use of weapons by Palestinian militants, Palestinian security officials said Monday, a step toward fulfilling a long-standing Israeli demand that the armed groups be dismantled.

    A Palestinian security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Interior Ministry has distributed a letter outlining weapons restrictions to hundreds of militants in the West Bank.

    The restrictions limit militants to a single weapon, and bar them from loading the weapons or carrying them in public, the official said. He said the measure obligates militants to license the weapons with the Interior Ministry and forbids them from changing their serial numbers.

    Many militants possess more than one weapon.
Watch for Feinstein or Schumer to start saying, "Even Palestinian militants can only have one weapon; why should US citizens be allowed more?"

(Link seen on Roger L. Simon.)

Monday, March 21, 2005
Worse Than International Law

I don't know how I feel about this hit:
    Domain Name ? (United States Government)
    IP Address 208.27.x.x ? (ARIN - North America)
    Language Setting English
    Operating System Microsoft Win2000
    Browser Internet Explorer 5.5
    Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.5; Windows NT 5.0)
    Time of Visit Mar 21 2005 7:44:41 pm
    Last Page View Mar 21 2005 7:44:41 pm
    Visit Length 0 seconds
    Page Views 1
    Referring URL http://www.technorat...rl=Schiavo&start=200
    Visit Entry Page http://stlbrianj.blo...5_03_20_archive.html
    Visit Exit Page http://stlbrianj.blo...5_03_20_archive.html
    Time Zone UTC-5:00
    EST - Eastern Standard
    EDT - Eastern Daylight Saving Time
    Visitor's Time Mar 21 2005 8:44:41 pm
That's someone with the Federal court system doing a Technorati search on the name Schiavo.

Pleasepleaseplease do not reach a precedent-setting judicial decision based on what the blogosphere says.

But There Won't Be Smoking Allowed

Attorney: Owner has right to open adult bookstore:
    Kleinhans and his attorney Grant Shostak argued the business application should be accepted under Crystal City ordinance.

    "It's the law," Shostak said. "It is not the whim of this city government to determine whether a business license should be issued. From someone looking from the outside, it appears that if it is something the city likes then it will be issued. If it is something the city doesn't like, then it will not be issued."

    "We took the city's ordinance and analyzed the zoning issues," Kleinhans said. "We studied it and did our due diligence. We have met all of the requirements according to the ordinance."
Peh, you can do with your property whatever the government wants you to do with it.

Perhaps Shostak should emphasize that smoking will be prohibited on the premises. City councils seem to like to ban that. Or maybe they don't appreciate voluntary smoking bans since those entrepreneurs prevent the city councils from doing something!!!1!

Post-Dispatch Gets It Right In Sidebar

Along side a story entitled Is your poker game legal?, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch provides a sidebar, Will you get busted?, which details numerous poker game scenarios and whether you can be arrested for them. In which, we find the gospel:
    The game: Texas Hold’em with 20 of your closest buddies at someone’s home, each buying in for $25.

    Is it legal? No

    Will you get busted: Not likely, unless you’re playing with a bunch of suspected felons who already are under surveillance.
You can violate this silly law with impunity unless law enforcement wants a charge to hang upon you.

Al Capone got arrested for tax evasion. Piss off a cop or prosecutor, and you can get busted for cards with your buddies.

Collateral Damage Audience

I don't think these people will sell to their target audience:
    Underwear. It can say "I'm sexy." It can say "I'm confident." But can it say "I'm waiting for marriage?"

    That's what Yvette Thomas is banking on. Her growing line of clothing, WaitWear, plasters slogans like "Virginity Lane: Exit When Married" and "Notice: No Trespassing On This Property. My Father Is Watching" on underwear and T-shirts, and is meant to inspire young people to abstain from sex until they tie the knot.
Yeah, I bet her $2,000,000 in annual sales come from people who believe what's on their new panties.

UPDATE: Radley Balko concurs.

The Dogs That Didn't Bark

White House: Schiavo Bill Not a Precedent:
    The White House said Monday that an extraordinary law allowing a federal court to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case was narrowly tailored and not intended as a precedent for Congress to step into battles over the fate of seriously disabled or terminally ill patients.
Mmm hm. Operative words are not intended.

The road to this Republic's hell are paved with non-intentions.

Sunday, March 20, 2005
Book Report: Duty: A Father, His Son, and the Man Who Won the War by Bob Greene (2000)

I bought this book for fourteen bucks in paperback at Borders (well, I used a gift card for part of it) because I like Bob Greene's work. As some of you might recall, I read Bob Greene's America last year. He's much better at columns and essays than at full length novels, it would appear based on this single sample.

This book chronicles the aftermath Bob Greene's father's death. Greene explores his relationship to his father and seeks a better understanding of the World War II generation as he interviews Paul Tibbets, the man who not only flew the Enola Gay but commanded the military force responsible for putting together the mission. So Greene weaves together the individually compelling stories in what, ultimately, proves to be a less than satisfying mishmash.

Greene wanders between his memories of his father's last days, his interviews with Tibbets, and the audiotapes that his father made to tell his children his WWII experiences as an infantryman in Italy in the war. Throughout, we get Greene's earnest voice, sometime plaintive and sometimes naive, discussing the events as they unfold. I've complimented Greene's columns and his collection of columns for their concision and transparent eyeballness, but he cannot sustain it in this longer work. And at the end, Greene gets to meet the two other surviving members of the Enola Gay crew as the three reunite in Branson, Missouri. We get to see they're older and that most people don't know who they are, and at the end of the weekend, the book pretty much ends. It doesn't build to a strong insight or conclusion of any real meat, and although a column doesn't have to, a book should.

So I'm ultimately disappointed. I look forward to more collections of his columns, if any exist, but have some trepidation regarding his other long works and his novel. But I'll try at least one, since it's on my too-read shelves.

To say Noggle, one first must be able to say the "Nah."