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»  June 30, 2008



Commentator and author Eric Alterman discusses whether Barack Obama is a progressive realist or a conservative with The Real News analyst Pepe Escobar.

ALTERMAN: If you want to lose. I have so little patience for the romanticism of left-wing romanticism with defeat. I want to win. I want to do the world some good. Let the other side blame themselves for being impure. Politics is about compromise. If you don't want to compromise, you don't want to do what's necessary to get power, do something else.

ESCOBAR: So what you're saying is that Barack at the moment is holding his cards very close to his chest. Is it?


ESCOBAR: Yeah. That's it.

ALTERMAN: Well, yeah. I mean, you know, if Barack Obama is saying, "I'm a person of good values and good judgment who is broadly progressive, and I can win." That's a pretty good deal. Look what this country's been doing for eight years. Look at what this country's been doing since the election of Jimmy Carter, who didn't work out very well. He's the most progressive—he's certainly running the most progressive campaign since Jimmy Carter, you know, as a Democrat nominee. And I think he'll be the most effective president, if he wins, since Franklyn [sic] Roosevelt. So if he's got to say a few things that I wish he didn't feel he had to say, first of all he's smarter than I am. He knows what he has to do and what [inaudible] better than I can figure it out. But I'm just so sick of saying, you know, "We're pure and they won." You know?

ESCOBAR: Yeah, sure.

Let's see. In just the past week, among the "few things" Obama's said was that the FISA bill with telecom immunity was more or less OK by him, that he thought Gen. Wesley Clark was wrong when he said that Sen. John McCain's war record didn't automatically qualify him for the White House, and that he might just keep Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on in his own cabinet.


What the...?  

forFun: More smart car fun from Fifth Gear:


What the...?  

Comparisons: A British show compares the new Mitsubishi iCar to a similarly-configured smart:


»  June 29, 2008

What the...?  

I Should Have Parked Closer For the Photo:

Xebra and Smart

I've had a soft spot in my heart for ZAP, an electric car company that worked for years to get the smart car into the US (despite the best efforts of smart GMBH and parent company DaimlerChrysler) only to have the rug pulled out from under its conversion market by the announcement of an official smart car launch this year.

ZAP saw the potential of the smart car in the US more than five years ago, in the halcyon days when gas was still in the $2 range. I followed their news releases assiduously, and if I'd been able to afford the price of the converted 450 model smart while they were selling them (and if I'd been able to get one) I'd have been driving it for a lot longer.

I've been seeing a lot of these little three-wheel, four passenger (sort of), electric Xebra sedans around. This one's from today's grocery shopping trip at the Grocery Outlet in the Hollywood district. Just under $12K. 98% fewer pollutants than gas cars (counting power plant emissions, they say). More power to ZAP!



My Five Minutes Are Up: I was a little excited over the weekend because I'd gotten an email Thursday from a reporter at The New York Times about a little something I'd done back at the end of February.

Tired of the implication that Barack Obama's middle name of Hussein was somehow a bad thing, I posted a short Spartacus-inspired video on YouTube in which I stated by name was Darrel Hussein Plant, then linked it here, to an iamhussein blog I set up, and at Daily Kos.

Apparently, while I was doing that, a number of other folks had come up with the same idea and after I posted mine I saw a couple of others, which I acknowledged.

And then I more or less forgot about it until Thursday, when one of the Times' political reporters — Jodi Kantor — wrote me a note saying she was doing a piece on Obama supporters who were using Hussein as a middle name. I called her back, answered questions to the best of my recollection, and actually went back to look at what had sparked it for me (which she recounted, although I don't know if I was the only source for it) buuuuuut she didn't use my name.

Interestingly, however, I did find out that someone just set up iamhussein.com today (according to the whois record), and apparently they put my Daily Kos posting on the front page along with the Times article.


»  June 23, 2008


You Can Say Those Words On the Internet: The late George Carlin on the first Gulf War, discusses how American foreign policy is often described in the sexual terminology of thirteen-year-olds with terms like "pulling out" and "going all the way." He ends with the admonition:

If you want to know what happened in the Persian Gulf, just remember the names of the two "men" who were running that war: Dick Cheney and Colin Powell.


»  June 21, 2008

What the...?  

The Horde: Prosecutors are trying to restrict the leader of the Oregon chapter of the Mongols Motorcycle Club from associating with his membership, based on his recent reckless driving and misdemeanor conviction. His lawyer cries foul:

[Justin "Mooch"] DeLoretto's lawyer, Kelly Beckley, said he would fight to protect his client's right to free association.

"The state's attempt to vilify everybody associated with the Oregon Mongols, and to make them sound like some sort of a vicious outlaw motorcycle gang, is just wrong," he said.

Of course, the name doesn't help with that perception, either.


»  June 20, 2008

What the...?  

Wanna Ball?: Seriously, Nike, a social tool called "Ballers Network"? What are you thinking?


»  June 19, 2008

What the...?  

smart Sightings: After two-and-a-half months of seeing only one other smart on the road (except for the ones from the dealership), I thought we'd broken the string yesterday when we were driving back from the coast and pulled off of Highway 26 at the Sylvan exit behind an all-black hardtop. We were headed the same way, up to Barnes Road and down into town on West Burnside. When we pulled up next to it, it turned out the driver was Massimo Orsini from smart Center Portland, who'd sold us the car. So that didn't count.

Finally, today, as I picked up Barbara from work, we ran across two. Both black hardtops. The first was crossing our path at SW Third and Madison on our way to the Hawthorne Bridge; the other was waiting to make a left turn across SE Hawthorne going the other way around 35th.

Greetings to our smart Portland comrades.


»  June 17, 2008

What the...?  

Mama Warned You About Things Like This:

Dinged By A G-String?

Woman, 52, sues Victoria's Secret, claims injury from defective thong

JUNE 17--As she was attempting to put on a Victoria's Secret thong, a Los Angeles woman claims that a decorative metallic piece flew off the garment and struck her in the eye, causing injuries and a new product liability lawsuit against the underwear giant.

I wish I could claim credit for this comment from Fark.com:
Yep, thongs are all fun and games until somebody loses an eye.


»  June 16, 2008

What the...?  

2,000 Miles: The smart hit the two thousand mile mark today, after roughly ten-and-a-half weeks.



Pinning the Democrats: Former Democratic Senator and presidential candidate Gary Hart suggests that all supporters of Barack Obama could now "prove" that they are "just as patriotic as anyone on the right" by starting to wear flag pins. It's got to be his best idea since deciding to take a trip on the Hanky Panky during the 1988 presidential campaign.

A number of the commenters at his blog entry on The Huffington Post rightly take offense at the suggestion. After all, who is it supposed to convince? And since when does flag-waging (or flag-sticking) prove anyone's actual patriotism? Wouldn't it just play into the idea that you weren't patriotic if, say, your flag pin fell off that day?

Perhaps Hart has some investments in a flag pin factory or something....


»  June 13, 2008


Tim Russert Dies At 58: Now MSNBC has someplace for Tucker Carlson to land.


»  June 12, 2008

What the...?  

Working At the Car Wash: The New York Times Wheels blog notes the Canadian take on the standard SUV ad:



Tempest In A Typepot: Blue Oregon's Kari Chisholm really ought to leave questions about design and copyright issues to the professionals, because his "a-ha" about the Gordon Smith campaign using the same typeface as the University of Oregon athletic department is mind-blowingly mis-informed.

Not only is it untrue that a typeface can be copyrighted, but the font the athletic department uses appears to be derived from Handel, a font that's been around for a while. It substitutes modified lower-case versions of the characters for some of the upper-case characters, despite claims from Duck Sports News that it's a closely-held super-secret font.

I spent many hours matching fonts in the early '90s, in order to build electronic versions of traditionally-developed logos, but Nate Currie -- one of the commenters at Blue Oregon -- already did that. So let me focus on the actual build of the logo. Here's the progression.

The original version of Gordon Smith's logo:

A digital sample of ITC Handel Gothic Heavy from Fonts.com:

Three stages of the bitmapped characters:

  1. Direct screen capture from the Fonts.com page.
  2. Moving the "m" so that the crossbar matches the height of the capitals and extending the stems.
  3. Widening the space in the "m", and replacing the "N" with a modified "m".

Each of the names anamorphically stretched to fit over the logo.

Not an exact fit, because I didn't want to take more than a few minutes to do it -- I'm not about to spend any time defending Gordon Smith -- but this is truly a non-story.

Hopefully, Jeff Merkley's web guy has some better material to work with than this.


What the...?  

Really?: An email from Amazon.com that I have a hard time believing (despite Robert Greenwald having directed both films):

Dear Amazon.com Customer,

We've noticed that customers who have purchased or rated "Outfoxed - Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism" or other films in the ( G ) > Greenwald, Robert category have also purchased "Xanadu - Magical Musical Edition (With Complete Soundtrack CD)" on DVD.

What about Flatbed Annie & Sweetiepie: Lady Truckers?



Separated At...Whatever: Maybe it's because I saw a broadcast repeat of Hellboy last night, but when when the page for the RNCthulhu RNC's YouTube contest (win a trip to the convention!) hit my eye, it reminded of something much older than the republic. Maybe it was just the cropping of the logo....



Cats and Politics: Marc Maron figures out how to get his political message across to uninterested voters: cats.


»  June 11, 2008


Multiples: An odd but mildly entertaining fact: Though the vote was largely split along party lines, several of the 24 Republicans who voted to refer Representative Dennis Kucinich's (D-OH) articles of impeachment against President George W. Bush to the House Judiciary committee had the same last name as Democratic representatives who voted for the motion! There's

  • Robert Brady (D-PA) and Kevin Brady (R-TX).
  • John Hall (D-NY) and Ralph Hall (R-TX).
  • Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Tim Johnson (R-IL).
  • Stephanie Jones (D-OH) and Walter Jones (R-NC).
  • Patrick Murphy (D-PA) and Tim Murphy (R-PA).
  • Charles Wilson (D-OH) and Heather Wilson (R-NM).
That's a quarter of the Republicans who voted for the motion. That doesn't even take into consideration the two Florida Republican Diaz-Balarts.


What the...?  

Seven Years Ago Today:

Margaret Baker, 1918-2001

A word from my cousin Roxana about our grandmother:

I have spent many years in a volunteer capacity working against domestic violence, so I was shocked when my grandmother was shot and killed June 11 in the White Salmon area. My grandmother was bedridden, blind, and has suffered many strokes over the years. I did not expect her to die in this manner.

She died because her caregiver, Toni Stencil, was the target of an angry man.

There is not room to write all the details Toni has given me, and Toni has her own story to tell. I am not a legal expert, or an expert in domestic violence. I am simply a granddaughter asking questions and looking for answers on why my grandmother had to die so violently.

Through my questions, I have found out that the state of Washington has a Mandatory Arrest Law, as does Wisconsin, where I now live. This law does vary from state to state, and I'm not clear on the stipulations in your law. What I have been told by Toni is that she called 9-1-1 on the Thursday evening prior to the (Monday) shooting because this man had bound her and held her against her will for over three hours. She talked her way out of this dangerous situation and did call 9-1-1.

I wonder why he was not arrested on that evening. Certainly this will be determined, and police in White Salmon have declined to answer my questions concerning this issue at present.

Why should you care about this law? Remember that my grandmother was an innocent victim of a dispute between two people that she had absolutely nothing to do with. This was a dangerous man. Are the laws you have in place working for you? If not, why?

These are the questions running through my head that keep me up at night. There is another state law that interests me as well that I'm checking into concerning self-help information that is to be given to victims of domestic 9-1-1 calls. Three days passed between Toni's initial call for help and the shooting; she needed professional help. I have found out that you have the Programs For Peaceful Living. This program could have offered Toni some very needed support in a number of ways.

I pose these questions and tell this story because it is my way of helping and healing. On my own, I cannot look into your laws and check into the rapport between your police force and your programs in place to help people. You need to be concerned because you care about the health of your community. I believe domestic violence issues are so important, because the health of a whole community starts in the home.

Please support your local law enforcement and program such as Programs For Peaceful Living in working together against domestic violence.



Impeach Cheney, Too: Back in January, when Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) called for House Judiciary hearings on the articles of impeachment introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) against Vice President Dick Cheney, only 19 members supported the move, but one of them was Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio.



Impeachment and Criminality: In the wake of the thirty-five articles of impeachment against President George W. Bush submitted by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and co-sponsored by Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL), geomoo at Daily Kos references a post of mine from 2006 on the issue of whether a provable criminal act is a prerequisite for impeachment.

Short version: It's not.

Long version:


»  June 9, 2008


Pirates: Pirate Satellite TV's seven-minute spot on Steve Novick.



The Knowledge: All this time I'd been giving Sen. Ron Wyden credit for seeing through the lies of the Bush administration about WMD in Iraq. I thought that the reason he'd voted against the Authorization to Use Military Force in Iraq was because he hadn't seen any evidence of WMDs (because there weren't any). What I was having a hard time reconciling was how someone could be aware of that and not speak up about the lack of evidence to justify the claims for the war.

I was wrong. Apparently Wyden did believe that there were WMD in Iraq, even after Hans Blix reported to the United Nations Security Council that his inspectors (UNMOVIC) had not found anything other than a "small number of empty chemical munitions."

The week before the invasion of Iraq began, Willamette Week posed several questions about Iraq to Oregon's congressional delegates. When WW asked if Wyden believed Iraq had complied with UN Resolution 1441 (calling for compliance with previous resolutions on disarmament and weapons inspections), this was his reply [emphasis added]:

WYDEN: No. The resolution calls for complete disarmament, and they have not completely disarmed. I think it's clear that they have VX nerve gas, anthrax and certainly a significant missile capability.
That was nearly a month after Blix's report to the Security Council stating that UNMOVIC had found no evidence of WMD after eleven weeks of work. So I have to wonder what made it "clear" to Wyden that the non-existent nerve gas and anthrax existed (because they didn't).

But it explains a lot about why he didn't put up any significant opposition to the war.


»  June 8, 2008


A Real Threat: Senator Ron Wyden, in his own words from 2002 on the Iraq Authorization to Use Military Force:

"There is no question in my mind Saddam Hussein represents a very real threat to this country and to the world, but I do not want to, in the days ahead, compound the problems we already face with Hussein in the region by authorizing a unilateral, preemptive military strike at this time, and that is why I will oppose the resolution."
A "real threat" to the US? And to "the world"? Really? Maybe I've been giving him too much credit.


»  June 6, 2008


Blast From the Director Past: I just talked to Terry Schussler on the phone.


»  June 5, 2008

What the...?  

darrelplant is watching phillipkerman:



Nonpartisanship: "I am glad Wilson has come out in the open. I fear Judas most when he can cloak his activities behind the treacherous make-believe of nonpartisanship."

— Former President Teddy Roosevelt, writing to Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, a month before the 1918 off-year elections, after President Woodrow Wilson had given a speech advocating voting for the Democrats over Republicans in order to assure a compliant Congress.


»  June 4, 2008


Raggin' On Ron: Apparently, Jack Bogdanski has an even harsher assessment of Ron Wyden than I do....


Profile in courage

Senator Ron Wyden (R-N.Y.) is crossing party lines to endorse Barack Obama.
Posted at 1:45 PM


What the...?  

At Home With the smart:

Tiger Lily at home on the smart car

It's been two months to the day since we picked up the smart. Hit 1,700 miles yesterday. Had the top down (again) despite threatening skies. Tiger Lily loves to sit on the convertible roof, and I need to get out there with a good brush, because it doesn't blow off even at 70mph.



Coincidental Condor: It's was an odd, coincidental evening last night when I sat down to watch the 1975 movie Three Days of the Condor, a potboiler movie based on James Grady's spy thriller Six Days of the Condor (presumably shortened to fit film length). I'd racked it up on Netflix months ago for no particular reason I can remember.

One of the odd coincidences about the film for me was that director Sydney Pollack just died last week. That was a very minor frisson of serendipity.

Robert Redford's starred in his share of clinkers and I have to say that when I saw Dino de Laurentis' name as producer on the opening credits, I once again adjusted my expectations.

There are a lot of things about the movie that belie its mass-market paperback and a shared production heritage with Death Wish and Mandingo, not the least of which is an excruciating-to-watch scene where Redford's CIA bookworm-on-the-run-from-the agency character Joe Turner convinces a woman (Faye Dunaway) he's kidnapped at gunpoint to have sex with him so that he can forget his troubles for a few hours. Ewwww.

Rooting around through trash does occasionally get you a find or two, however. Which is, oddly enough what Turner and his compatriots are doing at the beginning of the film: analyzing foreign-language mystery and thriller plots for ideas of what's going on and what might be a good idea.

At the very end of the movie, Turner confronts the New York City CIA chief (Cliff Robertson). He's figured out that the agency is trying to cover up the fact that the Middle East Deputy Director of Operations put into effect a "contingency" plan for setting up an invasion of the Middle East, a plan which also has links to Venezuela. "The whole damn thing was about oil," says Turner, after confronting the deputy director in his home.

That final scene is where the other coincidence comes in. Last week, of course, Scott McClellan's book What Happened came out with its charge that the media had been too compliant with the administration. "Ohhh, no, no no," say most of the media pundits. Well, this was written as the capping scene in a sort of cheesy (although fairly successful) spy flick released just a year after the press was patting itself on the back for their part in exposing Watergate (and only a year before the same star would appear in the movie version of All the President's Men).

Robert Redford and Cliff Robertson in 'Three Days of the Condor'

After some very improbable machinations, Turner arranges to meet Higgins on a New York City street to tell him where to stick it. He's going public!

JOE TURNER: Well, go on home, Higgins. Go on. They've got it.


TURNER: You know where we are. Just look around. That's where they ship from. They've got all of it.

[Higgins sees that as they've walked they have reached the front of the New York Times printing plant.]

HIGGINS: What? What did you do?

TURNER: I told them a story. You play games. I told them a story.

HIGGINS: Oh, you...you poor dumb son of a bitch. You've done more damage than you know.

TURNER: I hope so.

HIGGINS: You're about to be a very lonely man. It didn't have to end this way.

TURNER: Of course it did.

HIGGINS: Hey, Turner. How do you know they'll print it? You can take a walk, but how far if they don't print it?

TURNER: They'll print it.

HIGGINS: How do you know?


»  June 3, 2008


McGovern for Veep: Today's the South Dakota Democratic primary, and there would be no better time for Barack Obama to announce this choice for his running mate: former South Dakota Senator George S. McGovern.

McGovern was right about Vietnam and Iraq. He spoke out in 1965 for recognition of the Cuban government, saying that sanctions wouldn't work to bring down the Castro regime. He advocated opening relations with China years before Henry Kissinger made his secret trips for President Richard Nixon. He's been a ceaseless advocate for ending poverty and hunger around the world, something that was recognized by President Robert Kennedy when he gave McGovern the reins of the Food for Peace office. He tried to warn the American public about Nixon's role in the Watergate affair even before the 1972 election, but the voters didn't listen.

He was bombing Nazis when Senator John McCain was still in short pants, he won a Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions in saving the lives of his men. And unlike McCain, he did his 35 missions in a slow, difficult-to-fly B-24 Liberator (sometimes known as "The Flying Coffin") without getting his ass shot down.

It's been 36 years since McGovern topped the Democratic ticket, taking on Nixon and the war supporters in his own party. He's tanned, he's rested, he's ready.

Darrel Plant and George McGovern at the 2007 McGovern Conference in South Dakota