Wednesday, January 28, 2004


Just to let y'all know that blogging may be erratic until next Monday. Super Bowl weekend is the bomb for my business and we're ramping up already for the onslaught. I'll be either busy, tired or sleeping until Monday. If I don't get frustrated enough to quit, which is a possibility.

Not to say I won't be posting, just that it may be light, short or weird.

OK, weirder than normal.
Memphis Blogger's Bash

Just a reminder I'm still soliciting ideas and suggestions for a blogger's bash for the River City. Go down to the first post under Monday and speak up. It's tentatively set for the second week of February. Y'all come!
A Disaster Waiting To Happen

I was watching WMC, Channel 5 NBC, morning news today when I noticed something new. The familiar news crawl was working its way along the bottom of the screen. Time & temp on the right; ad or station logo on the left. The ad logo this time was the McDonald's golden arch. When the crawl finished with this sentence: "David Kay has claimed there's no evidence Iraq possessed WMDs." the crawl then changed to: "I'm lovin' it!" That's the latest McDonald's ad catchphrase. It's the first time I've seen an advertiser's tag so prominently displayed.

Oooooh, bad timing. I can just imagine the morning when that ad bit comes after some murder or disaster story. Gonna piss some folks off, no doubt. I'm sure WMC will tell you they exercise caution, but we're only human. One morning, someone will come in a little too tired and bleary-eyed, or a bit late and rushed, or a finger will slip, or some joke will get away from the joker, or someone just won't see the connection until its too late. It's gonna happen.
The Enemy Of My Enemy Is My...Leader?

Hilarious expose on the sad state of Howard Dean's Southern strategy (at least the Central Mississippi version) from the Washington Time's Inside the Beltway column:
Last month, a Republican lawyer in Mississippi who previously lived here in Washington, infiltrated a Howard Dean for President "meet-up" in Jackson. He took charge of more than the meeting.

"I'm basically now head of Central Mississippians for Dean," J. Kevin Broughton tells Inside the Beltway.

The handful of Dean supporters on hand included a political consultant who was state chairman of Al Gore's 1988 presidential campaign, a retired Army colonel, a local broadcaster and a pair of middle-aged women.

Honest lawyer he is, and feeling a bit guilty, Mr. Broughton decided to come clean.

"I disclosed that I was a Republican, interested in seeing Dean take Mississippi's delegates and win the nomination. I had to take charge of the meeting," he explains.

"They were all talking about how [President] Bush lied about WMDs [weapons of mass destruction] and how sick it was that Arnold [Schwarzenegger] got elected [governor] in California.

" 'Listen,' I said, 'it'll be a four-man race at most by Super Tuesday. Dean will be one ... [but] we'll have an incredibly low turnout. We need 25 percent of the black vote, and that will get us the 30 [percent] to 32 percent plurality that will take the delegates.'

"Blank stares," Mr. Broughton recalls. "I'm trying to walk them through the mechanics of winning a primary. 'Look, let's divide up the counties in the middle third of Mississippi. Each of us can contact the Democrat county chairs, and get the voter and donor lists.'

"The retired colonel said, 'Kevin, tell us what it is that has disaffected you with the current administration.'

" 'Not a darn thing,' I said, finally getting through. 'My motivation may be different than yours, but our goal is the same, at least until next summer. Your guy can't be president if he doesn't win the nomination. I want him to get the nomination.' "

Wouldn't you know, Mr. Broughton was crowned chairman of the Dean club. They meet again next week.
I Haven't Won SQUAT!

Say Uncle notes that in its first week the Tennessee lottery has paid a staggering 0.719% in prizes! Less than a percent!

According to law (scroll to the bottom), 50% of earnings go to prizes. It may be that since the big games haven't come out yet, we are seeing this piddling return. I hope so. I've been hearing from coworkers, and on local black talk radio, some anger at the small numbers of winners and the small takes.

From the Commercial Appeal comes a breakdown of the odds of winning:
The odds of winning something - most often, a free ticket - in the Tennessee Millionaire game are 1-in-4.

Another inaugural game is Tennessee Treasures, which features $2 tickets bearing scenic photos from around the state. The maximum prize will be $25,000. Overall odds of winning will be 1-in-4.

A third game, called Lucky 7's, requires the player to find three 7s in a tic-tac-toe-winning arrangement and will pay out up to $7,000. Those tickets will cost $1 and will carry overall odds of 1-in-5.

The fourth game is the $100,000 Jackpot. Tickets will cost $5. Overall odds are 1-in-3.
Huh. I've played the lottery. Yeah, even though I opposed it. I've only invested $6 and I haven't won a DAMN THING. So, I'm not playing any more. Probably.

Googling around for this story, I ran across a study done by Middle Tennessee State University on the impact of the lottery on enrollment, retention and staffing. It's an eye-opener. According to the study, the rate of students elible for lottery scholarships drops pretty markedly as the students move through their four years of schooling:
Freshman year: 85%
Sophomore year: 38%
Junior year:22%
Senior year:18%
There's some confusion about the way the data is presented, but still, this is disheartening. Read the report for yourself; it's a brisk read with lots of tables.
Ask And Ye Shall Receive

The Commercial Appeal runs a few blogs on their website. They don't quite seem to grok the whole blogging thing yet. But they are getting there. Over on Blake's Blog, maintained by political reporter and shrewd eye Blake Fontenay, he usually posts bits that didn't make the cut for publication, but he has also gone into discussions about his love of college football and has tried to get readers of his blog to cough up some discussion. He's getting there.

Anyway, today came great news! I've been bugging Blake, in his comments, to have the CA print a transcript of Mayor Herenton's New Year's Day inauguration speech, the one that ignited the firestorm of recriminations and infighting that's consumed City Hall ever since. Today, they did the next best thing. They have uploaded an audiofile of the speech in MP3 format (Right click and "Save Page as...") and also left a link for Windows Media Player.

It's wonderful to see the CA take this step, a welcome change of attitude from the Glass Block of News of old. It's not newsprint publication, yeah; it's only for those who find Blake's Blog or another blogger who links to it. I'm downloading it tonight. (I'm on dial-up and it's a 12MB file; takes an hour for me.) I would ask other Memphis bloggers to get the word out on this availability and to give it a listen, if you've been following this story. Hear the Mayor boast, brag and browbeat for yourself!

Next step: A written transcript. Anyone know a transcriber who'd take up the job pro bono? Maybe the paper has an intern lying around? Back when the story was red-hot, it was imperative to give readers a clear, easily read copy of that speech, so that we knew exactly what was said, and not just the soundbites of television nor the selected quotes of the paper, so that we could make up our minds for ourselves and have a complete picture, without selection bias.

When someone else pops off, here's hoping the Commercial Appeal will jump on something like this a bit faster. And in print. Or at least with a detailed writeup on the website with a link to an audiofile, if one is available. It's what the web is all about, and what good news reporting ought to be in the age of computers and the Internet.

Once again, kudos to Blake for making it happen and the Commercial Appeal for doing it.
Confessions Of A Car Salesman

From, an auto site, comes this story of a reporter going undercover at two different carlots. He literally becomes a used and new car salesman, getting well into the culture. He has some revealing insights and offers some great advice for car buyers. The degree to which he identifies with and finally sympathises with other car salesmen is fascinating.
Columbia's Final Moments

A detailed rundown, from Newsday, of the events and mishaps of the shuttle Columbia's final, fateful descent into Earth's atmosphere. Here are a few tasters, but read the whole, sad, horrifying thing.
Twenty-seven truckloads of wreckage were hauled to Kennedy Space Center between Feb. 5 and May 6. More than 25,000 searchers, who scoured a debris "footprint" that was 645 miles long, found 84,900 individual pieces, about 38 percent of the space shuttle. Each piece or component was cleaned, decontaminated, bar-coded, photographed and entered into a computer database....

The foam measured 21 to 27 inches long by 12 to 18 inches wide. It was tumbling at 18 revolutions per second. Before the foam separated, the shuttle -- and the foam -- had a velocity of 1,568 mph, about twice the speed of sound. Because of its low density, the foam rapidly decelerated once in the airstream, slowing by 550 mph in that two-tenths of a second....

At 8:48:39 a.m., just four minutes and 30 seconds after Columbia had dipped into the atmosphere, a sensor mounted behind the forward spar, near the point where RCC panel 9 was bolted to the other side, measured an unusual increase in stress. The spar was softening....

On the flight deck, shuttle commander Rick Husband and rookie pilot William "Willie" McCool remained oblivious to their ship's ongoing destruction. They might have noticed the elevon movement on their forward computer displays, but the adjustments were small and would not have caused concern....

Investigators concluded the module fell intact for 38 seconds after main vehicle breakup, plunging 60,000 feet to an altitude of 26 miles before it began to disintegrate from the combined effects of aerodynamic stress and extreme temperatures. From the debris analysis, investigators believe the module was probably destroyed over a 24-second period beginning at 9:00:58 a.m. During that period, the module fell another 35,000 feet, to an altitude of 19 miles or so.
It isn't long, but it is saddening.

One thing though. The article mentions that nothing was known about the final moments of the Challenger crew after the shuttle blew up. It is my understanding that the astronauts did in fact survive the explosions and their intact crew module, with them alive inside, plummeted to the ocean with NASA recording their death screams. The tape is purported to be as horrifying as you'd imagine. The astronauts died from the impact of the module onto the ocean's surface, which was considerable. Supposedly the tape exists but hasn't and will never be made public, for obvious reasons.
If You Visit The South

I picked this up from FreeRepublic, but it has apparently been circulating in email for awhile.

If you visit the South, keep the following in mind:

1. That farm boy you see at the gas station did more work before breakfast than you do all week at the gym.

2. It's called a "gravel road." No matter how slow you drive, you're going to get dust on your Navigator. Drive it or get it out of the way.

3. The red dirt - it's called clay. Red clay. If you like the color don't wash your car for a couple weeks - it'll be permanent.

4. We all started hunting and fishing when we were seven years old. Yeah, we saw Bambi. We got over it.

5. Go ahead and bring your $600 Orvis Fly Rod. Don't cry to us if a flathead breaks it off at the handle. We have a name for those little 13-inch trout you fish for - bait.

7. Pull your pants up. You look like an idiot.

8. If that cell phone rings while a bunch of mallards are making their final approach, we will shoot it. You might want to ensure it's not up to your ear at the time.

9. No, there's no "Vegetarian Special" on the menu. Order steak. Order it rare. Or, you can order the Chef's Salad and pick off the two pounds of ham and turkey.

10. Tea - yeah, we have tea. It comes in a glass over ice and is sweet. You want it hot - sit it in the sun. You want it unsweetened - add a lot of water.

11. You bring Coke into my house, it better be brown, wet, and served over ice.

12. So you have a sixty thousand-dollar car. We're real impressed. We have a quarter of a million-dollar combine that we only use two weeks a year.

13. Let's get this straight. We have one stoplight in town. We stop when it's red. We may even stop when it's yellow.

14. We eat dinner together with our families. We pray before we eat (yeah, even breakfast). We go to church on Wednesdays and Sundays and we go to high school football games on Friday nights. We still address our seniors with "yes, sir" and "yes, ma'am," and we sometimes still take Sunday drives around town to see friends and neighbors.

15. We don't do "hurry up" well.

16. Greens - yeah, we have greens, but you don't putt on them. You boil them with salty fatback, bacon or a ham hock.

17. Yeah, we eat catfish, bass, bream and carp. You really want sushi and caviar? It's available at the bait shop.

18. They are pigs. That's what they smell like. Get over it. Don't like it? Interstate 65 goes two ways - Interstate 40 goes the other two. Pick one.

19. Grits are corn. You put butter, salt, and maybe even some pepper on them. If you want to put milk and sugar on them, then you want cream of wheat - go to Kansas. That would be I-40 West.

20. The "Opener" refers to the first day of deer season or dove season. Both are holidays. You can get pancakes, cane syrup, and sausage before daylight at the church on either day.

21. So every person in every pickup waves? Yeah, it's called being friendly. Understand the concept?

22. Yeah, we have golf courses. Don't hit in the water hazards. It spooks the fish and bothers the gators -and if you hit it in the rough, we have these things called diamondbacks, and they're not baseball players.

23. That Highway Patrol Officer that just pulled you over for driving like an idiot - his name is "Sir," no matter how young he is.

24. We have lots of pine trees. They have sap. It drips from them. You park your Navigator under them, and they'll leave a logo on your hood.

25. You burn an American flag in our state, you get beat up. No questions. The liberal contingent of our state legislature - all four of them enacted a measure to stop this. There is now a $2.50 fine for beating up the flag burner.
Math Humor

At New York's Kennedy Airport today, an individual, later discovered to be a public school teacher, was arrested trying to board a flight while in possession of a ruler, a protractor, a set square, and a calculator. Attorney General John Ashcroft believes the man is a member of the notorious al-gebra movement. He is being charged with carrying weapons of math instruction.

Al-gebra is a very fearsome cult, indeed. They desire average solutions by means and extremes, and sometimes go off on a tangent in a search of absolute value. They consist of quite shadowy figures, with names like "x" and "y", and, although they are frequently referred to as "unknowns", we know they really belong to a common denominator and are part of the axis of medieval with coordinates in every country. As the great Greek philanderer Isosceles used to say, there are 3 sides to every angle, and if God had wanted us to have better weapons of math instruction, he would have given us more fingers and toes.

Therefore, I'm extremely grateful that our government has given us a sine that it is intent on protracting us from these math-dogs who are so willing to disintegrate us with calculus disregard. These statistic bastards love to inflict plane on every sphere of influence. Under the circumferences, it's time we differentiated their root, made our point, and drew the line.

Remember, these weapons of math instruction have the potential to decimal everything in their math on a scale never before seen unless we become exponents of a Higher Power and begin to factor-in random facts of vertex. As our Great Leader would say, "Read my ellipse." Here is one principle he is uncertainty of---though they continue to multiply, their days are numbered and the hypotenuse will tighten around their necks.

Ashton Kutcher, speaking about his new movie The Butterfly Effect: "I don't think that there is anything that's in our movie that hasn't happened in real life, other than possibly time travel," Kutcher said. Rocket scientist he ain't.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Blogger Bash, Y'all?

I asked once before and got not much response (Thanks anyway, Len!), but how about a Memphis-area blogger's bash? It would be an opportunity to put faces to pixels, to get to meet the folks who run these blogs we read and write. There are more than enough of us here in the River City to make it fun. What say you?

Is there a particular day of the week, or weekend, that's best? A particular location? I lean to somewhere in Midtown, of course, like Huey's or the Blue Monkey, but I'm asking y'all. Just to have a place to start, let's say the second week of February.

C'mon. Let's party.
Victorian-Era Robots?

I'll bet you were unaware of those engineering marvels of the Victorian age: Boilerplate, The Electric Man, The Steam Man and The Automatic Man. All were early, fully functional robots; androids in the case of the carriage-pulling Automatic Man! Go to the History of Robots in the Victorian Era site to learn more.

A lost opportunity, like Charles Babbage's difference engine, an early-nineteenth century computer? Or something else altogether? You decide.
The News You Don't Get To Read

Intrepid and dogged Nashville blogger Bill Hobbs noted last week that, once again, Tennessee is running a revenue surplus. As of December, the State has taken in $82 million more than expected! And we are only at the half-way point in the fiscal year.

I've waited all week to see if the local paper would print the news. Unbelievably, as of Sunday, they have not! If all you relied on was the Commercial Appeal for your news, you'd never know this important piece of political and governmental information. I find this shocking and depressing, to say the least. While they have space for all kinds of pictures of (hopeful) readers, they can't find time for something that you couldn't learn from other local sources!

Hobbs also did some further digging, contacting State Comptroller John Morgan, and learned that the surpluses are even more impressive. For this fiscal year, the State expects to run a surplus between $114 and $177 million dollars! For next fiscal year, the State is now expecting a surplus of $317 to $387 million dollars. Astonishing.

Bredesen is already making plans to spend the money, rather than take a more prudent approach. I have my own proposal, which I'll outline later this week.

And the Commercial Appeal didn't think you needed to know.
Snapshot, Not Prediction

This map, from a site called Election Projection, is being bandied about by some Republicans, notably Bill Hobbs, who also links to Michael Totten's similar misreaction, as a predictor of a Republican landslide. True, EP also does the same, touting their "prediction" efforts, but as the site notes it is reactive. They take their information from national and state-level polls to contruct the map and track the electoral result. What this map is, is a snapshot of what the country looks like at the time of the last update.

Since the time of Hobbs' post, the state of Illinois has gone from Bush to Democrat, tilting the "landslide" a bit. Things are still in flux; November is a long, long way away. All sorts of things can, and will, happen. It would be wise of folks to remember that.
The Passion of the Christ Update

More reviews, and now some stills, about the Mel Gibson movie.

Yet another review from the Ain't It Cool News movie site, this one from a self-professed devout Christian who also works in the graphic arts and media business.
The Christ pictures of recent can?t just tell the story. They seem to need to fix things, make Jesus not raise from the dead, make him the lover of Mary Magdalene, make him whatever. But Gibson leans on the simplicity of the original story. He?s not shackled to the scriptures, because he boldly throws in details here and there that blend with the original story. He?s respectful, but he?s not afraid. This is a movie that secular Hollywood could not make, but it?s also a movie that the Christian community could not make either.

The Christ pictures of the 40s and 50s were too busy glorifying the spectacle of Jesus. Every time he turns around he?s doing this neato miracle, like it?s a magic show. The Passion of Christ downplays the miracles to focus on Jesus' terrestrial dilemma. This is a story about the son of God stuck on Earth with only one way out and he knows it?s coming.
Warning! This review mentions a couple of spoilers from the film, but the author does give clear notice before he gives them. Just keep your eye out.

I also found David Limbaugh's review, which is really more of a summary of the controversy around the movie and some of the pains Gibson went to in making it. Oddly, it ends up making Gibson look bad, as it mentions a lot of the overt religiousity around the set.

I'm throwing in this link to an older Mike Rose article because it follows up (or preceeds, I guess) the Limbaugh article's comparison of The Last Temptation of Christ, which was critically acclaimed, with Passion. That film was also covered from the "controversy" angle, but it got sympathetic coverage for its "courageous" stance against fundamentalist anger.

Speaking of coverage, I caught a short Passion piece on the NBC "Today" show this morning. Apparently working from some video taken from an interview done by a religious network, Katie Couric unsurprisingly framed the piece in "controversy." Gibson was shown talking about how this movie was his "career-killer" and a rabbi was shown mentioning the film's supposed anti-Semitism. They did show some clips from the movie, and warned viewers of their intensity.

Boston Globe columnist James Carrol did a piece early last year which fed from and passed along the "anti-Semitism" line. You can read it here. Here's some of his liberal twaddle:
Even a faithful repetition of the Gospel stories of the death of Jesus can do damage exactly because those sacred texts themselves carry the virus of Jew hatred. ''Crucify him! Crucify him!'' Matthew has the Jewish crowd shouting. ''Let his blood be upon us, and upon our children!'' The murderous Jews force the hand of a compassionately reluctant Pontius Pilate, who then, famously, washes his hands, saying, ''I am innocent of this man's blood. It is your concern.'' (Matthew 27: 23-26).

A momentous challenge confronts the Christian conscience faced with what scholars now assert with near unanimity -- that the death of Jesus did not happen as the Passion narratives recount. ''The Jews'' did not sponsor the death of Jesus. The dramatic trials are unlikely to have occurred. Control-obsessed Romans would have instantly smashed anyone drawing restive crowds in the volatile Passover season. Pilate, no humanitarian, was noted in non-Christian sources for brutality surpassing even the Roman standard. The Gospels tell the story as if Jesus, in conflict with ''the Jews,'' was not himself a Jew. The Gospel of John goes so far as to characterize the Jewish people as allies of Satan, a slander to which Jesus of Nazareth could have in no way given his assent.
You can find some excellent pics and stills from the movie here, at a British movie site. Some of these stills are breath-taking. The framing, lighting and composition resemble medieval and Rennaisance paintings. On purpose, I'd guess.

Lastly, the Anti-Defamation League managed to raise a ruckus with a press release. Much piousness and finger-pointing, as you'd expect on their part. While they mention attending a screening, they don't admit that they snuck in under false prentenses, with false intent.
After two of its representatives attended a screening of Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of The Christ" at a religious gathering in Florida, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today renewed its concerns about the film's potential to promote anti-Semitism through its "painful portrayal of Jews" as being responsible for the death of Jesus. The film is scheduled for national release on Ash Wednesday, February 25.

Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, who attended the screening at the Beyond All Limits Conference in Orlando along with Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor, ADL Interfaith Consultant, issued the following statement:

[SNIP]It's sad that we could not see this film at the invitation of Mel Gibson, but instead by finding an opportunity to be part of an audience.
You have to go to to get the full story:
In their press release, ADL National Director Abrahama Foxman and another ADL official said they saw the film while attending a "religious gathering" in Orlando, Fla., called the Beyond All Limits Conference.

As it turned out, Hirsen informs us, the religious conference is organized by the Global Pastors Network.

Sources at Icon Productions were surprised to learn that the uninvited ADL officials had registered for the Christian conference under the name "The Church of Truth."
It makes for good media circus for the ADL, but tarnishes their purpose, which I will admit some sympathy to. It will be interesting to see if any incidents happen (I hope not.) and how they are reported.

Last item: The Reverend Donald Sensing, of One Hand Clapping and a fellow Rocky Top Brigadier, has his own post on the film, noting tongue-in-cheek that the film has already been reworked to avoid controversy. I'm eager to read his take on Passion after he sees it. Should be thoughtful and detailed of course, and I suspect somewhat surprising.

If you know of any reviews from movie fans, or folks who are mildly religious or irreligious, I'd like to know about them. I'm most interested in reactions from those approaching the film from a cinematic angle, not so much from the faith angle. Their response to the religious message in the movie they see is what fascinates me. That will be the measure of how the broad American public will react to the film. I still think this will be a $300 million blockbuster, and that the press will label that success a "surprise."
Breaking News: Clinton Plane Crash

This just in: New York Senator Hillary Clinton was involved in a crash of her small aircraft. The Senator was not injured, but the vehicle, which landed nose first, was a loss.

Link courtesy of Neal Boortz.
Inside The Liberal Educator's Mind

Great article over at The Progressive, titled "Why the Right Hates Public Education." It's not what the article says, so much, as the view into the author's mind that's instructive here.

First, she says this:
For those in the thick of the debate, it's long been obvious that vouchers are an attack on teacher unions. Even Wisconsin State Representative Annette "Polly" Williams, an African American who helped start the Milwaukee voucher program, the country's first, now admits as much. "The main motivation of some of the choice supporters was to weaken public education unions," she wrote in a letter this summer to Governor Jim Doyle.
But she also says this:
While both teacher unions overwhelmingly support the Democratic Party, conservatives especially hate the NEA. It is larger, more geographically diverse, with members in every Congressional district in the country, and more likely to push a liberal agenda that includes social issues such as gay rights....

The teacher unions back up their support for the Democratic Party with money and grassroots organization. After all, public schools exist in every municipality and county in the nation. Unlike manufacturing, teaching cannot be outsourced to Mexico, China, or Bangladesh.
Gee, wonder why the Right wants to go after the teachers' unions? Maybe it's opinions like this:
Eliminating public education may seem unAmerican....
Yeah, wanting change that serves kids, trying to budge some of the very folks blocking progress, it's UnAmerican.

We can't get rid of these yahoos soon enough.
The Not-So-Secret Tie Between Bush And Kerry

If we end up with an election choice between Republican President George Bush and Democrat John Kerry, there's a unique tie between the two men that I'm sure very few people know about. Both are Skull and Bones men.

Skull and Bones is a secret society at Yale, the oldest one on campus and one of the oldest in the nation. It boasts some very presitigious and powerful alumni.

An article at Common Dreams lays out the connection, its current meaning and some of what it's meant in the past. This is not conspiracy stuff, but simply laying out facts and connections. Here's a taster:
Skull and Bones is America's most powerful secret society. It's based at Yale, where it's headquartered in a building called the Tomb, and Skull and Bones has included among its members, presidents, including presidents George W. Bush and his father, as well as William Howard Taft, Supreme Court Chief Justices, C.I.A. officials, cabinet members, congressmen and senators. What makes it so staggering that we could have a Skull and Bones versus Skull and Bones, Kerry versus Bush election is that this is a tiny tiny club. There are only 800 living members. Only 15 per year. It's staggering that two of them could be facing off for the presidency and so many of them have achieved positions of prominence. One of the interesting and I think disturbing things about Skull and Bones is that its purpose is to get members into positions of power and have those members hire other members into prestigious positions. This is something we have seen with George W. Bush since his ascendancy to the presidency, he has put several Bones members into prestigious positions, such as Bill Donaldson, the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The number two and number three guys in the Justice Department, the guy that puts out all of Bush's secrecy memos. His assistant Attorney General is a major Bonesman. Bonesman Frederick Smith was Bush's top choice for Secretary of Defense until he had to withdraw for health reasons. The general council of the Office of Homeland Security, the Secretary of Defense’s representative to Europe. The list goes on and on and on. That's something that's interesting, because George W. Bush likes to feign his distance from Yale, from Bones, from Northeastern establishment elite connections, and yet he's going ahead and following Skull and Bones to the letter.
Kerry is completely mum on his connections. It's a chilling reminder of just how small is the pool of people who end up at the top of the power heap in America.
Me Too

Mark over at Conservative Zone asks an unflinching question: "Am I Weak?" He was in a bad place yesterday and he shows you just what living with mental illness means in the day-to-day world. I saw him the day before and he was in a normalish place, so reading about this was unpleasant.

And that's how mental illness is. My problem is depression. Not the suicidal kind, not any more, but the endless-grey-plain kind. Life is something I endure. I joke sometimes that I'm lucky to be an atheist. Since I don't believe in an afterlife there's nothing to look forward to, no motivation or promise to cross over to. This is the only life I'll get, as screwed up as it is, and so suicide makes no sense. When I die, it's over. There's also some little bit of hope floating in the back of my mind that keeps me from checking out. That and no afterlife.

That's why I disappear sometimes. I just pull back and disconnect; pull into myself and wonder when it'll get better. Eventually, I either guilt myself back into the blog (gotta satisfy you readers) or I find something I have to write about and that starts me back on the blog. But I'll still find myself being pulled back into the cocoon, invariably. It's hard to fight, and when I lose I get pulled away.

Folks don't always understand these kinds of mental illness. My best example would be diarrhea. Remember the last time you had it. Now, imagine me standing before you saying, "Just hold it in! You could if you wanted to! Snap out of it." You'd think I was nuts, right? You have to go. It can't be stopped no matter what you think. That's a bit what depression, and alcoholism, are like.

I wish I had a better job so I could afford the insurance to get medicated. I'd like to see what might help. But a better-paying job means more stress, which sets off the depression, which makes it hard for me to hold down the job, etc. Vicious circle. And I take stories like Mark's as cautionary tales; I also have friends on various drugs for various reasons and I don't like their descriptions of the experience, for the most part.

So, I slog on. One day after another. End upon end. I've had better times, and that's the hope I hang on to. About fifteen years ago, I got some help on other problems and went on an "up" that lasted nearly a decade. It enabled me to work full-time and go to school full-time. I finally got my degree. Then, about five years ago, I started to slide. I've been on this low plateau ever since. No real deep downs, but not many highs either. They are transitory. I've considered that I might be a very-long-term bipolar disorder type, but I really think I'm just depressed.

One day I'll start back on an upswing. I just wish it would GET HERE! Know what I mean? Meantime, just keep shouldering on, Mark. You're not alone.
Don't Look Behind The Curtain

Finally did the massive update to the template. I still want to explore some color changes, making inline post links grey or silver instead of gold, but I got the Rocky Top Brigade and Axis of Weevil rolls up to date. I also added a new section, long overdue, called "Folks" for all the non-RTB Memphis bloggers I keep up with. If you are a Memphis-area blogger who would like to be added, let me know! The more the merrier.

Also, I changed commenting to Haloscan. BlogOut has announced that he's closed the service for the time being until he can get server space up to the task. Ah well, I'm not a high-traffic site, but I was wondering why I wasn't seeing any comments at all.

Last note: I've been fighting a cold the past few days. I seem to be over the hump, as in I won't be getting a bad, nine-day cold, but rather I seem to have caught a small three-day one. I'm glad. I rarely catch colds. The last one was about five or six years ago and was bad. So dodging this bullet just before our busiest weekend of the year at work is welcome.