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June 28, 2007

Getting Back at Central Pennsylvania

A reader writes in regarding my commentary about the Hershey Park boardwalk. I like the way he thinks. He says:

Probably nothing to worry about. Worst comes to worst, New Jersey can always counter with an Amish-farm-themed casino in Atlantic City.

Posted by Dean at 11:08 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

June 24, 2007

Rooney Plays at the 9:30 Club

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I made it to see Rooney last night, band #2 in the Rooney-Ozma-Straylight Run trifecta happening this weekend. One of the things that makes Rooney worth seeing is how they are clearly a step above your typical small-venue band in terms of musicianship and polish. Rooney has a new album coming out, from which they played a few songs during their set. As I mentioned before, I last saw Rooney at The Wiltern in Los Angeles, a much larger venue than The 9:30 Club. Compared to three years ago, Rooney is a bit scruffier, a bit less pop-y, and with the benefit of the smaller venue, a bit more willing to engage the audience and have more fun with the show. Or maybe DC fans are less uptight than LA concert-goers, which might skew a bit too far towards The OC-watching crowd.

I like these pictures I got of the lead singer:

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More pictures in my photo archive.

The final question is whether I have enough energy to make it to see Straylight Run tonight at the Black Cat. Probably not. I have too much work to finish tonight, and I don't have the benefit of a mid-afternoon nap I should have taken given my late night last night and early morning today. Back to work.

Posted by Dean at 8:22 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

June 22, 2007

Ozma Plays at the Rock and Roll Hotel

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Things come full circle. Back in October of '06, I made my first trip to the Rock and Roll Hotel to see a show. Now, at my return to the Rock and Roll Hotel, I saw Ozma, a band I first saw in July of '04 when I first started this weblog. At the time, they were opening for Rooney along with Straylight Run. Now, this weekend, Ozma was the headliner at the Rock and Roll Hotel on Friday, Rooney is at the 930 Club Saturday, and Straylight Run is the headliner at The Black Cat on Sunday night. I wonder if that was coordinated.

I was able to make it for one of Ozma's opening bands, Eastern Conference Champions, which were a three-member band that sounded a lot like the Smashing Pumpkins. Ozma likes them enough that one of their guitarists wore an ECC t-shirt during their show.

More pictures of the Ozma show after the jump...

Continue reading "Ozma Plays at the Rock and Roll Hotel"

Posted by Dean at 10:54 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

June 21, 2007

Coming Soon, a theme-park-themed theme park

While setting off the metro on my way to work, I came across this billboard advertising a new section at Hershey Park:

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It's "The Boardwalk." I cannot even begin to explain how ridiculous this is, but I'll try. First of all, having grown up in New Jersey, my family would go to the beach at the actual "boardwalk" in Asbury Park. You know, the one from the song Under the Boardwalk. It's the boardwalk that Bruce Springsteen sang about. What the heck is it with making a "Boardwalk" at a themepark that is located 100 miles inland?

Cripes, I feel like my childhood is being co-opted, repackaged, and mass produced for the purpose of being sold cheap to rural Pennsylvanians and Marylanders.

Posted by Dean at 10:28 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

June 16, 2007

Best Defense Ever!

As a federal employee, I need to be wary sometimes of whether my actions violate the Hatch Act-- the law that prevents anyone from engaging in partisan political activity on federal property or using my position for political purposes. It's not really a big deal... I just don't forward any political e-mails to my friends, don't make any partisan suggestions to my coworkers about political races they might be interested in, and I don't make partisan political statements on the internet while I'm at work. I can't host fundraisers or solicit donations for political candidates at any time (interestingly, I can have my home used for fundraisers; I just can't be directly associated with the event. I know, it sounds stupid, but if I were married to someone in the private sector or if my roommate were in the private sector and either of them wanted to host a fundraiser where I lived, it would be legal, which is totally fair).

Anyway, this brings me to the case of Lurita Doan, director of the General Services Administration, the federal agency which is responsible for government procurement. She is currently under investigation for violating the Hatch Act because she held a meeting with federal employees on federal property where the deputy director of political affairs in Karl Rove's office gave a presentation about the 2006 midterm elections, specifically described which House seats were targets for 2008, and Doan started asking "How we can help our candidates" -- specifically how the office itself and her employees could be used to help the Republicans in 2006 and 2008. This is not cool. It is not the job of civil service employees to take partisan sides in elections or have our talents used for the specific purpose of helping politicians' campaigns. Ultimately, the way this took effect was that various federal agencies were used to time their announcements and new initiatives in specific congressional districts to coincide with the election cycle and government employees were present to engage in public events that were used to promote the candidacies of various politicians. This was not unique to the GSA.

That brings me to how Lurita Doan defended herself in public investigations of her behavior and possible lawbreaking. This is so awesome. While she was being investigated, she took issue with and threatened retaliation against employees who cooperated in the investigation into her possible law violations, saying

"Until extensive rehabilitation of their performance occurs, they will not be getting promoted and will not be getting bonuses or special awards or anything of that nature."
Sounds pretty bad, actually. Not only is she accused of violating the Hatch Act, not she's caught threatening retaliation against anyone cooperating with the investigation against her. How does she defend herself? She said that this was not a threat or a statement of what would happen in the future, she said that she meant to use the hortatory subjunctive. Witness this truly awesome discussion of tense and mood in the House of Representatives:


Of course, as John Sarbanes (D-MD, Greek-American!) points out (don't mess with grammar with people who speak Greek), the hortatory subjunctive is usually translated as "Let us do something" -- exhorting people to take an action (which in Spanish, for example, is constructed using the first person plural imperative tense). She was probably trying to defend herself by saying that she meant to use the subjunctive in the sense of "Should extensive rehabilitation of their performance occur, they would be getting promoted." However, it was probably a Freudian slip that she inserted "hortatory" in there, because she wanted to exhort people not to promote them for cooperating with the investigation. She was, as Sarbanes pointed out, using the simple future tense to describe what will happen to those employees under her watch.

See also (referenced before): God save the subjunctive!

Posted by Dean at 8:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 13, 2007

Not Blogging Like It's the End of the World

Someone came up with an interesting idea today -- Blog Like It's the End of the World. Lots of people sign up to write their weblogs as though a Zombie Apocalypse is happening (examples in the June 13th, 2007 entries here, here, here, and here with video). Bloggers even cross-over with each other's narratives. Entertaining and reflective of the increase in popularity of zombie fiction over the past several years, to say nothing of the various new zombie movies (e.g., Resident Evil, the remake of Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, etc.). There are various problems with this, of course-- namely that if you don't know anyone who's participating, it's hard to know who's going to be a good writer and who isn't (check the list of participants-- it's long). I did read through some of them, though, and while I had no desire to write one of my own, it did get me thinking of what I might have written....

NIST would not have been a bad place to be when a zombie apocalypse went down. It's a fenced-off complex with controlled access from armed police-forces. There are probably preset plans in place to shut the complex down in the event of an attempt at unauthorized access (the government is a bit paranoid owing in part to the fact that we have a nuclear reactor, euphemistically referred to as "The Neutron Research Center"). Even in the event of infiltration (in the unlikely event someone might have shown up sick to work) all of the buildings have controlled access with fire-safe doors that can only be opened from the outside if you have a security card. You can't even access the other buildings from the main building, directly. Plus, it's a self-contained complex with plenty of food available in the cafeteria. So this would actually be a pretty safe place to be when dealing with a zombie apocalypse. I presume the situation is similar at other government laboratories and suburban federal complexes.

So, just in case you are trying to be prepared-- get a job with a large government agency if you want to increase your chances of survival in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Stay safe!

Posted by Dean at 9:36 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Cars and Possible Alternatives

I have had my car for more than 5 years, and I like it. We've been through a lot. I was glad to see it when I got back from my long vacation. While it's given me some trouble, I've managed to always make sure it stays fixed. These days, however, I'm beginning to wonder about alternatives to owning a car. For example, I'm sure that instead of keeping my car, I could get rid of it and instead buy a box of Honduran cigars which I could light with a fistful of flaming $20 bills. I am pretty sure that this would provide me more enjoyment than my car does for quite a bit less money.

Posted by Dean at 8:34 PM | Comments (33) | TrackBack

June 6, 2007

New Yorkers are Awesome

Mayor Bloomberg: On one hand, a total jerk by supporting police corruption and false arrests during the 2004 Republican Convention.

On the other hand, when faced with this:

When U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf described the alleged terror plot to blow up Kennedy Airport as "one of the most chilling plots imaginable," which might have caused "unthinkable" devastation, one law enforcement official said he cringed.

The plot, he knew, was never operational. The public had never been at risk. And the notion of blowing up the airport, let alone the borough of Queens, by exploding a fuel tank was in all likelihood a technical impossibility.

And now, with a portrait emerging of alleged mastermind Russell Defreitas as hapless and episodically homeless, and of co-conspirator Abdel Nur as a drug addict, Mauskopf's initial characterizations seem more questionable

The mayor stands up and tells the public and the various quivering non-New Yorkers how to deal:
"There are lots of threats to you in the world. There's the threat of a heart attack for genetic reasons. You can't sit there and worry about everything. Get a life," he said.

That "What, me worry?" attitude pretty much sums up Bloomberg's advice to New Yorkers on the terror plot. As far as he was concerned, the professionals were on it, so New Yorkers shouldn't let it tax their brains.

"You have a much greater danger of being hit by lightning than being struck by a terrorist," he added.


Well played, Mr. Mayor. Also, a sign that he will never, never in a million years rise any higher in national politics.

Posted by Dean at 9:09 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 5, 2007

Awww....

I found this on a Turkish weblog:


The wife is 105 years old and the husband is 94 years old. I don't know how long they've been married.

Posted by Dean at 9:52 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

June 2, 2007

When Bloggers Pass Away

The blogger Steve Gilliard of The News Blog passed away today. Weblogs are a new enough medium that we're not used to their proprietors dying. They skew young. Steve was 41. He'd had various health problems he never really discussed, then went in for a heart valve operation, and over the next few months had a series of cascading organ failures and infections that he just wasn't able to recover from.

He wasn't the best blogger. Most of his online experience was formed early on, and he was wedded to the "Listserv" (mailing list) format, in which people would forward on articles they saw, so the majority of his blog posts were just links to articles, followed by a reprint of the entire article itself as the blog entry. I don't think he ever really managed to exploit the medium as well as many others have. On a bunch of issues, from education to labor to housing to entrepeneurship, he reflected the sort of narrow-minded provincialism that only someone born and raised and living in New York City could have. For a relatively young technophile, he had a disdain for the personal eccentricities of others rarely seen outside of assistant directors of human resources in suburban office parks and conservative commentator David Frum. Plus, he hated the Yankees, which is inexcusable for anyone living outside of the greater Boston area.

Yet I kept him on my "to read" list almost daily. He always found good articles. His opinions were forthright and reasoned and, most importantly, well-informed. He wasn't shy about mixing it up in the comments, and when he did do his own original writing, it was a thing of beauty. In Steve's memory, I'm going to do what he did-- link to one of his posts and excerpt it in its entirety, entitled I'm A Fighting Liberal.

This isn't my favorite. My favorite is a post he wrote in the early aftermath of Hurricane Katrina entitled We Told You So. It's almost prescient, given the outcome of the 2006 elections and seeing the current crop of Republican presidential candidates running away from Bush as fast as they possibly can.

Anyway, though, I'm a Fighting Liberal:

I'm a fighting liberal

You know, I've studied history, I've read about America and you know something, if it weren't for liberals, we'd be living in a dark, evil country, far worse than anything Bush could conjure up. A world where children were told to piss on the side of the road because they weren't fit to pee in a white outhouse, where women had to get back alley abortions and where rape was a joke, unless the alleged criminal was black, whereupon he was hung from a tree and castrated.

What has conservatism given America? A stable social order? A peaceful homelife? Respect for law and order? No. Hell, no. It hasn't given us anything we didn't have and it wants to take away our freedoms.

The Founding Fathers, as flawed as they were, slaveowners and pornographers, smugglers and terrorists, understood one thing, a man's path to God needed no help from the state. Is the religion of these conservatives so fragile that they need the state to prop it up, to tell us how to pray and think? Is that what they stand for? Is that their America?

Conservatism plays on fear and thrives on lies and dishonesty. I grew up with honest, decent conservatives and those people have been replaced by the party of greed. It is one thing to want less government interference and smaller, fiscally responsible government. It is another thing entirely to be a corporate whore, selling out to the highest bidder because the CEO fattens your campaign chest. They are building an America which cannot be sustained. One based on the benefit of the few at the cost of the many. The indifferent boss who hires too few people and works them to death or until they break down sick. Cheap labor capitalism has replaced common sense. "Globalism" which is really guise for exploitation, replaced fair trade, which is nothing like fair for the trapped semi-slaves of the maquliadoras. In the Texas border towns, hundreds of these women have been used as sex slaves and then apparently killed,the FBI powerless to do anything as the criminals sit in Mexico untouched by law.

For the better part of a decade, the conservatives made liberal a dirty word. Well, it isn't. It represents the best and most noble nature of what America stands for: equitable government services, old age pensions, health care, education, fair trials and humane imprisonment. It is the heart and soul of what made American different and better than other countries. Not only an escape from oppression, but the opportunity to thrive in land free of tradition and the repression that can bring. We offered a democracy which didn't enshrine the rich and made them feel they had an obligation to their workers.

Bush and the people around him disdain that. They think, by accident of birth and circumstance, they were meant to rule the world and those who did not agree would suffer.

Liberal does not and has not meant weak until the conservatives said it did. Was Martin Luther King weak? Bobby Kennedy? Gene McCarthy? It was the liberals who remade this country and ended legal segregation and legal sexism. Not the conservatives, who wanted to hold on to the old ways.

It's time to regain the sprit of FDR and Truman and the people around them. People who believed in the public good over private gain. It is time to stop apologizing for being a liberal and be proud to fight for your beliefs. No more shying away or being defined by other people. Liberals believe in a strong defense and punishment for crime. But not preemption and pointless jail sentences. We believe no American should be turned away from a hospital because they are too poor or lack a proper legal defense. We believe that people should make enough from one job to live on, to spend time on raising their family. We believe that individuals and not the state should dictate who gets married and why. The best way to defend marriage is to expand, not restrict it.

It was the liberals who opposed the Nazis while the conservatives were plotting to get their brown shirts or fund Hitler. It was the liberals who warned about Spain and fought there, who joined the RAF to fight the Germans, who brought democracy to Germany and Japan. Let us not forget it was the conservatives who opposed defending America until the Germans sank our ships. They would have done nothing as Britain came under Nazi control. It was they who supported Joe McCarthy and his baseless, drink fueled claims.

Without liberals, there would be no modern America, just a Nazi sattlelite state. Liberals weak on defense? Liberals created America's defense. The conservatives only need vets at election time.

It is time to stop looking for an accomodation with the right. They want none for us. They want to win, at any price. So, you have a choice: be a fighting liberal or sit quietly. I know what I am, what are you?

Posted by Dean at 9:38 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Washington, DC Code Translated into Laymen's Speak

There's a strange phenomenon here in DC that goes on where there will be facts that "everyone" knows, but no one is willing to say to the rest of the public. Things like who Deep Throat was-- if you really wanted to know, you could have just asked Carl Bernstein's ex-wife, Nora Ephron, and she would have told you. Or take the liasons of Jessica Cutler, aka The Washingtonienne. Outside of the one guy who is currently suing her, no one publicly outed all of the men in government she was sleeping with, even though, by an large, pretty much everyone who worked on the Hill knew who they were.

And so we come to another case of this, where journalists write articles in "code" that everyone here in DC understands but no one says outright. I refer to the latest story of the resignation of White House advisor Dan Bartlett, most famous for saying that "It's never been a stay-the-course strategy" in Iraq when the White House tried drop that phrase. The Politico contains a fawning retrospective (fawning to the point of embarassing) on Dan Bartlett and lets loose this little tidbit, in the form of a quote from one of his White House colleagues, Michael Gerson:

"[Bartlett and the President] both have a casual manner and a manly humor and share a lot of political interests, coming out of that Texas Republicanism."
What is this "manly humor" being referred to? That is left up to the reader to figure out. Those who know what's going on know exactly what this mention of "manly humor" refers to-- fart jokes:
President Bush loves to swap fart jokes with Karl Rove. Before a morning senior staff meeting in 2005, Woodward reports, Bush schemed to have Rove sit in a chair that triggered some sort of high-tech whoopee cushion activated by remote control. The prank was postponed in deference to news of the al-Qaida bombings in London. When the gag was carried out two weeks later, the room erupted in riotous laughter while Rove hunted down the culprit.
Also featured at USA Today:
A top insider let that slip when explaining why President Bush is paranoid around women, always worried about his behavior. But he's still a funny, earthy guy who, for example, can't get enough of fart jokes. He's also known to cut a few for laughs, especially when greeting new young aides
This is all apparently too delicate for the virgin eyes of The Politico's readers.

Posted by Dean at 3:19 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack