For their eyes only

We begin with this:

In a recent case brought by the ACLU of Southern California, the FBI denied the existence of documents. But the court later discovered that the documents did exist. In an amended order, U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney wrote that the “Government cannot, under any circumstance, affirmatively mislead the Court.”

The most transparent Administration in history now replies “Yes, we can”:

A proposed rule to the Freedom of Information Act would allow federal agencies to tell people requesting certain law-enforcement or national security documents that records don’t exist — even when they do.

Under current FOIA practice, the government may withhold information and issue what’s known as a Glomar denial that says it can neither confirm nor deny the existence of records.

The new proposal — part of a lengthy rule revision by the Department of Justice — would direct government agencies to “respond to the request as if the excluded records did not exist.”

This is of course wonderful, if you’re a lying sack of shit: previously you could deny lying, or that whole “shit” part, but now you don’t even have to admit to the existence of a sack. No wonder Justice is embracing the concept.

At this point, we’re going to have to nuke DOJ from orbit.

(Via this Poynter tweet, pushed forward by Don Mecoy.)

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Some of these are patently absurd

Miriam contemplates the state of the art, and some things, she concludes, are just not ready for prime time:

Great inventions: Flat screen tvs, dishwashers, air conditioning, microwaves, eyeglasses, and above all iPhones all do what they are expected to do and then some.

Need more work: garbage disposals, digital thermostats, electric cooktops, hearing aids, Bluetooth devices, and above all, pantyhose.

You already know what I think about digital thermostats. I’ve pretty much made my peace with the garbage disposal, and I own three Bluetooth headsets, not one of which I have bothered to pair with my phone, and maybe two of which I can actually find.

I complain occasionally about microwaves, but this is usually because I was dumb and set the product directly in the center of the turntable, which does next to nothing to insure actual even cooking.

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Anything we can’t stop them from doing

My current Book at Bedtime is the memoir Yossarian Slept Here by Erica Heller — yes, Joseph’s daughter, about my age — and I must pass along this particular paragraph, since it seems as implausible as some of her dad’s own:

The living room on the tenth floor seemed to scream “piano,” so we got one, a Mason & Hamlin grand with a slightly cracked sounding board. Somehow it was decided that I’d be the logical one to take lessons. So one day, a petite, soft-spoken, gentle Russian woman named Essie Gilado arrived and began giving me piano lessons, poor woman. I recall an endless amount of Scarlatti sonatas and the classic arguments with my parents about insufficient practicing. I struggled a bit learning to read music, although I could play by ear. One afternoon, right in the middle of my lesson, my father came in. He asked to sit down at the piano bench, then placed his hands on the keyboard and immediately played the piece through to perfection. Essie applauded. I gaped in stunned surprise. He didn’t play the piano. In fact, so far as any of us knew, he’d never played any instrument. How could he have possibly known not only how to play but also so effortlessly and with such aplomb?

The piece is not identified, but I assume it was in a Major Major key.

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Line up and get your bubble

“It is not the desire for security that causes our ruin,” says Cobb. “It is the implacable demand for it.”

Listen to the rhetoric and you will see the fragile state of the American soul. We demand infinite recourse against all slights and offenses. Against fat in the food at McDonald’s. Against incompetence in the teachers in free public schools. Against offensive remarks and jokes. Against the very presence of unwanted people from undesirable countries. Against unbelievers. Against believers. Against the possibility of dying of cancer. Against the belly fat you get from AIDS medication. We have become a nation of infants with zero tolerance for pain. So somebody has got to pay.

Needless to say, someone profits from this state of affairs:

Today is a good day to be a grifter. That is because all the yellers and screamers want to hear is how somebody screwed up and made their life miserable. All a grifter has to do is agree and sell them an insurance policy against that somebody, write up some legal fine print that says “you take your chances” and voilà — there’s an app for that.

“Democracy,” said Mencken, “is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” He said that ninety-five years ago, but it could have been said ninety-five minutes ago with equal validity.

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So proudly she hailed

Zooey Deschanel takes on the National Anthem:

Allow me, please, a Marv Albert-ian YES!

(Since it’s their actual embed code, I think we can safely assume that this presentation has the express written consent of Major League Baseball.)

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Snappy ginger

Another find — almost — from the Zappos heat map:

Ginger by Gabriella Rocha

This is “Ginger” by Gabriella Rocha, which demonstrates that some people never quite get tired of the Mary Jane look, though on this one the strap is a little closer than average to the toe, and the stacked 1¾-inch heel is not as clunky as some. Zappos sells this in thirteen different colors, the one portrayed here being Bone, though the person who actually ordered it at the time I saw it on the map got hers in black patent. Then again, she’s from New York.

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Strange search-engine queries (299)

Monday morning, in contemporary American culture, seldom has anything to recommend it. I’m not at all sure this list of recent search strings will help, but it’s worth a try, right?

why are people just too zoned out:  Hey, it’s Monday morning. I’m zoned out.

my own demands:  Sounds like someone is keeping himself Occupied.

pre rejected credit card:  Don’t think of it as having been rejected; think of it as having incurred no additional fees.

“oklahoma kitsch”:  Roughly speaking, anything that looks perfectly at home in Stockyards City, after you’ve set it on your mantel in Philadelphia.

is there a down side to high speed rail?  Other than the billions of dollars it costs to acquire right-of-way and to build, and the further billions it costs to operate, not really, no.

supply and demand for abercrombie and fitch:  I’m not so sure about Abercrombie, but there is no shortage of people fitching about something or other.

oscar wilde dining alone:  It’s the lunch that dare not speak its name.

females between 4ft 9in and 5ft 1in and men who are 6ft 1in or more are the most likely to marry and have children:  My apologies to the Bureau of Questionable Statistics for messing with their graphs.

zooey deschanel is not a nerd:  She can be a nerd if she wants to, if you ask me.

porn site:  Um, no. Not that everything here is safe for work, but if you’d get in trouble for reading this site, I suggest you move.

squirrel porn:  Well, okay, there’s that.

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Karma on four wheels

For some reason, not everyone is happy about it.

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Forty or fight

Before the question, here’s my answer: I haven’t.

Now, the question: “Does anyone actually get 40 mpg on the highway?”

[E]ven as “40 MPG” becomes more and more important as an industry benchmark, it inevitably raises a perennial question: do EPA numbers mean anything in the real world? Hyping the highest possible number rather than a “combined” figure is a classic marketing move, but one that risks exposing the EPA highway number as a meaningless metric. And if nobody actually gets the rated efficiency, it’s only a matter of time before the market begins to demand more accurate reporting.

29 mpg city 41 mpg highway 1983 Mazda 626There was a time when the EPA wouldn’t let an automaker hype the highway number without also mentioning the (back then, usually quite a bit lower) city number. (The numbers you see at right are from the 1983 Mazda 626; this is the complete ad.) It surprises me that Washington, which has been pounding the fuel-economy drum for decades now, would let this rule fall by the wayside, but obviously it has: nobody even whispers the city rating anymore, except for the makers of hybrids, which often get better numbers in the city than on the highway.

My own best numbers came on World Tour ’05, the last WT undertaken in a Mazda 626, albeit a 2000 model, rated at 22 city/28 highway. The trip average was 30.7, with one tank reaching 34. (My current ride, 20/28 according to EPA, has been on two WTs, averaging about 28 if you factor out sitting in Austin traffic in ’08; a couple of tanks did break 30.) This tells me that I might get 40 on the highway out of one of the current crop of 40-mpg cars — maybe.

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Meanwhile in Tupelo

First, a mission statement:

Extraordinary Women’s mission is to host Christian women’s events and provide resources that equip women to handle life’s difficulties while enriching their hearts, encouraging their souls and expanding their ministries.

That doesn’t mention anything about providing high-quality promotional pictures, so all I have at the moment is this one shot, courtesy of “Recovering Liberal” M. Joseph Sheppard, of Sarah Palin rocking a not-too-scandalous outfit:

Sarah Palin at Extraordinary Women conference in Tupelo October 22

I must point out that not all of Mr Sheppard’s commenters liked her garb.

(Shot my way by Smitty, since he knew I’d use it.)

Update: Mr Sheppard advises that this shot actually came from the conference in Lynchburg, a couple of weeks earlier. (More info.)

Further update: Missy Stewart has the word from Tupelo.

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We never wanted you anyway

First-world problem: Occasionally we give our children unusual, even peculiar names. As a general rule, though, we don’t go this far:

More than 200 Indian girls whose names mean “unwanted” in Hindi chose new names Saturday for a fresh start in life.

A central Indian district held a renaming ceremony it hopes will give the girls new dignity and help fight widespread gender discrimination that gives India a skewed gender ratio, with far more boys than girls…

“Now in school, my classmates and friends will be calling me this new name, and that makes me very happy,” said a 15-year-old girl who had been named Nakusa by a grandfather disappointed by her birth. She chose the new name “Ashmita,” which means “very tough” or “rock hard” in Hindi.

I expect to see an Ashmita fighting for the UFC title before too long.

That sex ratio is indeed skewed: barely 900 girls for every 1000 boys. And the reasons aren’t at all biological:

Such ratios are the result of abortions of female fetuses, or just sheer neglect leading to a higher death rate among girls. The problem is so serious in India that hospitals are legally banned from revealing the gender of an unborn fetus in order to prevent sex-selective abortions, though evidence suggests the information gets out.

Part of the reason Indians favor sons is the enormous expense of marrying off girls. Families often go into debt arranging marriages and paying for elaborate dowries. A boy, on the other hand, will one day bring home a bride and dowry.

Meanwhile, we kvetch about the glass ceiling.

(Via this Dan Collins tweet.)

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This is why we can’t have nice laws

Jenn finds several loads of codswallop in the OWS-related American People’s New Economic Charter, one of which we’ll single out here:

ECONOMIC AGENDA OF THE OWS MOVEMENT Item 4 – … Members of the Congress and Senate should not be allowed to debate economic problems. The lawmakers must seek economic advice from economic experts from leading universities.

Last I looked, Congress included the Senate, but what I want to see is their list of “leading universities”: I’d bet you several pre-tax dollars that they don’t include the University of Chicago.

Now if I were in an Occupying mood, I would rewrite Item 4 this way:

“Members of the Congress should not be allowed to create economic problems.”

And if they actually took the Constitution seriously, it would never even occur to them to try.

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Shelby released

Today is Shelby Lynne’s forty-third birthday, and this bit should tell you everything you need to know about the music biz: she made a record with George Jones (“If I Could Bottle This Up”) way back in 1988, and she put out six full albums before winning a Grammy for Best New Artist — for 2000.

She also has a certain visual appeal:

Shelby Lynne

But what I really wanted to mention is this: in 2008, Shelby put out Just a Little Lovin’, a tribute to the late Dusty Springfield that garnered decent reviews. Did her label put out a single from it? They did: “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” a song which Dusty did cut but which is much more strongly associated with Dionne Warwick. More music-biz brilliance, right? Except that Shelby’s sparse, stripped-down, aching version packs just as much of an emotional wallop as Dionne’s — and more than Dusty’s. Sometimes the music biz gets it right.

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More Doobieous than ever

The last time we brought up the Doobie Brothers in this space, we noted that they seemed like a totally different band with Michael McDonald out front, which may have been a factor in the group’s disbanding in the early 1980s.

But if you’ve been following the Doobies, you probably know that they didn’t stay disbanded: they had a Top 10 single in 1989 (“The Doctor”), and last month they put out a new album, World Gone Crazy. The first single therefrom is a reworking of their very first single from forty-one years ago: Tom Johnston’s “Nobody.”

Sounds quite a bit like 1970, doesn’t it? And it doesn’t hurt that Ted Templeman, their producer from the very beginning through the golden years, is back at the helm.

(Obviously aimed at Jeffro.)

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The Dread Pirate [your name here]

Earlier this year, publisher HarperCollins came up with new license terms for libraries lending ebooks, which were duly mocked in this space. Apparently that wasn’t hilarious enough, since this maneuver is nearly as perverse:

Warner Home Video is forcing DVD distributors to:

  • place a 28 day embargo on sales of Warner feature titles to libraries
  • discontinue providing libraries with DVDs that contain all the bonus features, but instead only sell us the “rental” version that is just the movie

Will this actually work? Probably not:

[T]he law gives libraries several tools to lawfully combat this kind of policy, according to Brandon Butler, director of public policy initiatives at the Association of Research Libraries.

“The first-sale doctrine allows libraries to buy DVDs lawfully in any channel and then lend them without asking permission,” Butler said. “If a library wants to circumvent the 28-day delay or buy a full-featured DVD, for example, there is nothing to stop them from buying DVDs from regular stores like Amazon or Target,” he said.

I note with some amusement that Amazon is now considered a “regular store.”

Lest we think that they’re just picking on libraries, be it noted that Warner’s rental discs will be similarly delayed and decontented. As always, if there’s anything that content providers really hate, it’s providing content.

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Happy and glorious, I assume

Before you ask: no, I’m not in this film, nor should I be.

Here’s a list of who is, though.

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