Saturday, May 12, 2007


...has gotten on my last nerve. I've uninstalled it, at least for now, and reverted to the original Blogger commenting.

Sorry for the inconvenience, but I bet it's not half as inconvenient for you as trying to get the ORIGINAL FREAKING COMMENTING SYSTEM working again has been for me. If there are any complaints, I'm very likely to suggest that you all "Talk to the hand".

Which wouldn't be very nice, I know. So I should probably just go and grumble quietly offline for a while.

Messing with code does this sort of thing to me sometimes.

P.S. If you do find the change disturbing, maybe making your own lolcat style image can help you relax. Here's one I did earlier.

Happy Caturday

From Wikipedia:

Lolcats, a compound of lol and cat, are photos of cats with humorous captions. They are a type of image macro, and are thus also referred to as cat macros. Lolcats are created for the purpose of sharing them with others on imageboards and other internet forums, especially on Saturdays ("Caturdays").

(By the way, that mousepad is in a separate basic store--our main Cafe Press store is here.)

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Scotts sues eco-friendly startup

Originally posted at the Independent Bloggers' Alliance

Demetrius told me about this story a few weeks ago, but I never got around to reading the whole thing for myself. On break yesterday, I saw a story in the Business section of the Columbus Dispatch:

Scotts' turf war

Miracle-Gro brand sues tiny startup over packaging, eco assertions

And after actually reading the story for myself, I really wanted to see it get wider attention.

The makers of garden products Miracle-Gro and TerraCycle are as different as mature plants and seedlings.

The Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. is a $7 billion global business with broad brand recognition, a 59 percent market share and Roman columns framing the entry to its corporate headquarters. TerraCycle Inc. is a fledging startup with $1.5 million in annual sales, an infinitesimal share of the market and a graffiti-covered warehouse with used tires on the lawn where the rose bushes were before someone stole them out of the ground.

But Scotts sees similarities between the two plant-food makers. So, the Goliath of plant products sued late last month, accusing TerraCycle of copying its look and falsely asserting that its organic products are better than synthetic ones such as Miracle-Gro's.

"I don't think their claims are valid," said TerraCycle Chief Executive Tom Szaky, a 25-year-old Hungarian-born entrepreneur who dropped out of Princeton in 2003 to create an eco-friendly company. TerraCycle's products are made from worm waste and packaged in used plastic bottles and jugs.

"They're claiming that (the colors) yellow and green are theirs," he said, referring to Scotts.

He added, "Miracle-Gro has sued us over advertising. I've never bought an ad."


TerraCycle, which has yet to turn a profit, has created the TerraCycle Defense Fund through its Web site to help defray legal costs.

Click here to read the rest of the article, and here to check out TerraCycle's web site. Visit Sued By Scotts to donate to the TerraCycle Defense Fund, to find a store near you, or to purchase TerraCycle products online. (There are also links to PDFs showing other lawn and garden products with yellow and green labels.)

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Something Is Not Always Better Than Nothing

Also posted at Disabled Americans for Democracy

Note: You can still leave comments in the "Remembering Douglas Adams" thread.

In a TruthOut Report yesterday, Matt Renner discusses HR 811 (the Holt bill), an amendment to the Help America Vote Act. Voted out of the Committee on House Administration on Tuesday the bill, with its two committee-passed amendments and its 212 cosponsors, is expected to come to an early vote in the full House.

MoveOn and Common Cause, together with People For The American Way, an organization to which this blogger has been known to donate, supports this bill, on the premise that something is better than nothing. Some improvement to current voting technology must be gotten into the pipeline now, in time for the '08 elections. David Becker, PFAW's senior counsel, is quoted in the report as saying "This will not be the last piece of election reform passed in history. It is urgent that a [any?] reform bill be passed now or else it will not be ready by November, 2008."

So, apparently PFAW, who helped draft the legislation, is of the "something is better than nothing" school. Well, this voter is not. In the case of verifiable voting (as in a growing list of other cases), I'm tired of lesser weevels. If Congress is going to act, then it should do something substantive, not just wave its hands, say "Abracadabra," and pretend the problem has been magically solved.

A large and ever-growing body of evidence, amassed by Black Box Voting and others, shows that electronic voting machines in general, and DRE (Direct Recording Electronic) voting systems in particular, are vulnerable to hacking, physical tampering, simple computer failure; in short, the thousand ills that data flows are heir to. BBV has reported on human unscrupulousness with regard to the physical security of voting machines as well as the malfeasance of voting machine software manufacturers. Moreover, as Renner reports, MIT and CalTech have performed a study that shows that voters are "very unlikely to recognize errors on the paper record after their electronic ballots were completed." Somehow, I doubt that hanging signs in polling places admonishing voters "to check the paper records for errors after they complete their ballots," as mandated by the Holt bill, will cut down very much on computer-related voting problems.

Sometimes, lower tech is better. If Congress wants to institute verifiable voting, it should mandate the system used in my home town, Springfield, MA. Here, we mark paper ballots and feed them, under the watchful eyes of poll monitors, into an optical character recognition (OCR) machine to be counted. This system works admirably. It does not address the understandable desire of disabled voters to vote independently, which is a drawback. Overall, however, this system has it all over the electronic voting machines I've been reading about for years now.

I am disappointed that the organizations named above have adopted the "a solution now is preferable to the solution a little later" view on the matter of voting verifiability. This reminds me strongly of the NFB and AAPD position on accessibility; namely, security and verifiability that might be built into systems later can - and indeed should - be sacrificed for accessibility now. In the case of NFB and AAPD, they are cozy with Diebold and other manufacturers. Knowing this, and perhaps being just a touch cynical, I can't help but wonder what's in it for Common Cause, PFAW and MoveOn that they're in such an all fired hurry to get this particular legislation on the books.

Something is not always better than nothing. In this instance, it is not. Secure, accessible, verifiable voting shouldn't be fudged, or rushed. If Congress is going to do it, they owe it to the citizenry to do it right. At the same time, those organizations, and legislators, who have ties to or are otherwise influenced by the voting machine companies have an obligation to state these connections clearly, so voters know exactly where every voice in the debate is coming from.

It may be that PFAW and the others have no strings leading back to Diebold et al, and are acting in good faith. After all, it is true that action on voting systems can't wait. But, if so, they and all other organizations with an interest in such matters, like NFB and AAPD, should cooperate and collectively support a thorough, lasting solution to the problem. A stopgap measure such as the Holt bill, like HAVA itself, wil simply generate further problems and further inadequate patches.

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Remembering Douglas Adams

Six years ago, I was greeted with the shocking and entirely unwelcome headline that Douglas Adams had died. Don't know why I always remember that date, but I do, automatically, every year. So I'm going to go ahead and post a sort of mini-tribute to my favorite author.

Picture of Douglas Adams via this post at synaptic disunion, where you can listen to an audio clip of Douglas Adams reading a bit of Last Chance to See.

Save the Rhino International has an annual Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture. (Douglas was a Founder Patron of the organization.)

Towel Day is coming up on May 25.

Finally, if you're able to view a YouTube video, you can see Douglas Adams reading a section of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe at a lecture by Richard Dawkins here:

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Interview with (fired U.S. Attorney) David Iglesias

From My Left Wing:

Jeff Huber: We have the privilege today of speaking with Mr. David Iglesias, who is famously known for a number of things, one of which is [that] during his time as a Navy JAG lawyer, he was the real life model for the Tom Cruise character in the movie A Few Good Men.

More recently, and perhaps more famously, he has been caught up in what some folks are calling "AttorneyGate". He is one of the eight U.S. Attorneys fired by the Bush Administration in 2006, for supposedly performance related issues, that it turns out, appears to most of us to have actually been a politically motivated issues.

Click here for the rest.

P.S. Haloscan is screwed up, I know. I tried a couple times to post "new thread", but ran out of patience.

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Desmond Tutu on global warming

This is worth reading and sharing:

The melting of the snows on the peak of Kilimanjaro is a warning of the changes taking place in Africa. Across this beautiful but vulnerable continent, people are already feeling the change in the weather. But rain or drought, the result is the same: more hunger and more misery for millions of people living on the margins of global society. Even in places such as Darfur, climate change has played a role. In the semi-arid zones of the world, there is fierce competition for access to grazing lands and watering holes. Where water is scarce and populations are growing, conflict will never be far behind.

Click here for the rest.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Open Thread . . . .

Talk amongst yourselves. (As if there were ever any other directive, lol!)

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Make Your DemocracyFest Reservations Today!

DemocracyFest 2007

Have you reserved your DemocracyFest lodging yet?

The Wayfarer Inn, location of the 4th Annual DemocracyFest, is providing our discounted block of hotel rooms until May 15, or until they sell out! Don't miss out on a great rate for a room in the heart of the action!

Their regular rate is $130/night, but as a DemocracyFest guest, they are offering you a discouted rate of $87/night! To reserve your room, you must call the Wayfarer Inn at 603-622-3766 and tell them you are attending DemocracyFest.

The 4th Annual DemocracyFest is being held June 9- 10 near Manchester, NH. Get your event tickets today before they sell out! (You don't want a hotel room without an event ticket

The DemocracyFest Incorporated Team
Charlene, Ellen, Jessica, Liane, and Quintus

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Green Is Good for the Hungry

Organic food has long been considered a niche market, a luxury for wealthy consumers. But researchers told a U.N. conference Saturday that a large-scale shift to organic agriculture could help fight world hunger while improving the environment.

Crop yields initially can drop as much as 50 percent when industrialized, conventional agriculture using chemical fertilizers and pesticides is converted to organic. While such decreases often even out over time, the figures have kept the organic movement largely on the sidelines of discussions about feeding the hungry.

Researchers in Denmark found, however, that food security for sub-Saharan Africa would not be seriously harmed if 50 percent of agricultural land in the food exporting regions of Europe and North America were converted to organic by 2020.

While total food production would fall, the amount per crop would be much smaller than previously assumed, and the resulting rise in world food prices could be mitigated by improvements in the land and other benefits, the study found.

It's about time this sort of argument was made out loud. What's good for Monsanto et al is not necessarily good for the planet. And, we need to realize that before it's too late -- assuming it's not already too late.

Click the title to go to the full article.

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

In the garden of Eden, honey...

In one of her comments yesterday, anniethena introduced me to the marvel that is The Brick Testament. Clearly, the creator of the site has shown real dedication to his craft, and I have only just scratched the surface of what the site has to offer. But already, in the first part of Genesis, the site has revealed to me something new. I'm not quite sure what it means yet, but I have a feeling it must have great theological significance.

Here is the depiction of Adam and Eve "before the fall"--naked, but unashamed.

Here they are immediately after partaking of the forbidden fruit and realizing they were naked--the caption says that they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

Eve seems to have gotten a little something "extra" in the bargain, hasn't she? What an astounding discovery--why didn't I know about this before? And what does it *mean*?

Off the top of my head, I think it's symbolic of the fact that, once in a state of sin, Adam and Eve were no longer in harmony. Eve's cleavage is a symbol of the "otherness" they now experience when they look at each other.

Or maybe Eve just sewed herself the world's first Wonderbra.

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Planting a seed

A post by Subway

Back in 2003, someone had an idea for a get together called "DEANSTOCK," which was billed as "Three days of music, fun and Howard Dean." This crazy idea later morphed into DemocracyFest, and although I didn't get to the first one, this year I'm going, and I'll be performing at The Blogger's Breakfast.

Last night I ordered the T shirt pictured above for the event and I hope that it will plant a seed in the minds of the party activists: Put these two men in the White House for eight years and America has the chance to reclaim it's rightful place in the 21st Century.

That would be a Deaniac dream come true.

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Standing up (and sitting down) for justice

I got a letter from my church this week, in advance of B.R.E.A.D.'s upcoming annual assembly, reminding me of what an appropriate choice it was to call this the Nehemiah Action Assembly. At last year's assembly, in his opening reflections, Rabbi Howard Apothaker provided an excellent (and, at times, humorous) retelling of the story of Nehemiah calling an assembly, including what, for me, was the most memorable line:

G-d does not just want us to do justice. G-d is *waiting* for us to do justice. G-d is *expecting* us to do justice. G-d is saying, "Get off your tuckus and do justice!"
Since one of the main issues being addressed at this Monday's assembly is predatory payday lending, the Nehemiah reference is quite fitting. From the letter my rector sent:
The fifth chapter of Nehemiah tells the story of how the governor of Jerusalem, Nehemiah, calls a great assembly to deal with a situation that is jeopardizing the rebuilding of the community. The situation has to do with the charging of interest to those resettling Jerusalem at such rates that people are sliding into poverty and slavery. Nehemiah, though governor, does not have enough power to make the nobles and officials of Jerusalem stop this blatant practice of usury. This is why he calls the great assembly. Confronted by the people, the moneylenders and the governing leaders, who allowed this debilitating practice, change their minds.

The parallels to predatory payday lending are so many that I can only list a few here. Interest rates that can exceed 390%. Fees tacked onto fees tacked onto fees until a $500 loan can only be retired by a payment of $3000. There are few regulatory statutes over payday lending in the State of Ohio. What B.R.E.A.D. is asking is not the end of payday lending but a just interest rate that cannot exceed 36% and the passage of regulations that would bring payday lending institutions into line with accepted banking and lending rules. The Nelson-Talent Amendment, passed by the United States Congress, that exempts military families from the worst excesses of payday lending is what we are seeking.

This is a statewide issue and B.R.E.A.D. has already begun meeting with state representatives and others who may be helpful in passing some new statutes. Payday lenders, though, are well financed and well represented by lobbyists in the legislature. We will need a great assembly on May 7 if we are going to use our people-power to combat the injustice of predatory payday lending. That is where you come in.
And the letter goes on to say that the only offering that is being asked of us is our time. With the kind of hours I've been working for the past few weeks, my time is a rather precious commodity. Yet I am mindful of the fact that powerful people are only able to get away with this sort of usury because ordinary people don't stand up. Heck, often we don't even *know* these things are going on, because we're so busy trying to keep our *own* heads above water.

But things like this are important, so I'm gearing up for a drive to the other side of town after work on Monday, to once again be "packed like sardines for justice". Because, well, I gotta. In a recent essay, BrimStone was explaining why the God of Fred Phelps and Randall Terry sucks. And I was thinking, mine doesn't suck, but s/he sure can be a bit of a nag sometimes. Always calling us, again and again to, "Get off your tuckus and do justice!"

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