Saturday, July 19, 2008

"Let's pretend to be enemies" 

KBR's shoddy work continues to endanger American troops overseas.

And let's not forget two things:

1) This under-appreciated Splender song:


===
And you're paranoid/As you look me up and down/And I'm soaked in gasoline
...
You must be aware what you're doin' to me/We sunk like a stone on a rock in the sea/We don't have to stay friends (Not for very long)/We don't have to stay... friends (Just because you're gone)/[Let's pretend to be enemies]

Yeah, whatever makes you happy/Yeah, whatever makes it beautiful/Yeah, whatever leaves you satisfied/You get what you want cuz you won't let it die
===

2) And this report on Cheneyburton:

According to journalist Jason Leopold, sources at former Cheney company Halliburton allege that, as recently as January of 2005, Halliburton sold key components for a nuclear reactor to an Iranian oil development company. Leopold says his Halliburton sources have intimate knowledge of the business dealings of both Halliburton and Oriental Oil Kish, one of Iran’s largest private oil companies.

Additionally, throughout 2004 and 2005, Halliburton worked closely with Cyrus Nasseri, the vice chairman of the board of directors of Iran-based Oriental Oil Kish, to develop oil projects in Iran. Nasseri is also a key member of Iran’s nuclear development team. Nasseri was interrogated by Iranian authorities in late July 2005 for allegedly providing Halliburton with Iran’s nuclear secrets. Iranian government officials charged Nasseri with accepting as much as $1 million in bribes from Halliburton for this information.

Oriental Oil Kish dealings with Halliburton first became public knowledge in January 2005 when the company announced that it had subcontracted parts of the South Pars gas-drilling project to Halliburton Products and Services, a subsidiary of Dallas-based Halliburton that is registered to the Cayman Islands. Following the announcement, Halliburton claimed that the South Pars gas field project in Tehran would be its last project in Iran. According to a BBC report, Halliburton, which took thirty to forty million dollars from its Iranian operations in 2003, “was winding down its work due to a poor business environment.”

However, Halliburton has a long history of doing business in Iran, starting as early as 1995, while Vice President Cheney was chief executive of the company. Leopold quotes a February 2001 report published in the Wall Street Journal, “Halliburton Products and Services Ltd., works behind an unmarked door on the ninth floor of a new north Tehran tower block. A brochure declares that the company was registered in 1975 in the Cayman Islands, is based in the Persian Gulf sheikdom of Dubai and is “non-American.”
...
During a trip to the Middle East in March 1996, Vice President Dick Cheney told a group of mostly U.S. businessmen that Congress should ease sanctions in Iran and Libya to foster better relationships...
...
Cheney was the chief executive of Halliburton Corporation at the time... It was Cheney who directed Halliburton toward aggressive business dealings with Iran—in violation of U.S. law—in the mid-1990s, which continued through 2005 and is the reason Iran has the capability to enrich weapons-grade uranium.

It was Halliburton’s secret sale of centrifuges to Iran that helped get the uranium enrichment program off the ground, according to a three-year investigation that includes interviews conducted with more than a dozen current and former Halliburton employees.

If the U.S. ends up engaged in a war with Iran in the future, Cheney and Halliburton will bear the brunt of the blame. But this shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone who has been following Halliburton’s business activities over the past decade. The company has a long, documented history of violating U.S. sanctions and conducting business with so-called rogue nations.

You don't have to believe Leopold's report. His journalistic track record isn't perfect. But just remember, there's a long history here with Cheney and Iran.

Cheney's blind trust still has options on 333,3333 shares of Halliburton stock which will expire over the next 18 months. The immense profits from these options will be donated to the University of Wyoming and a voucher scholarship program in D.C., among other charities. Michael at 2 millionth web log offers us another Cheney "stocks option" that I wish was available.

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Fist jabbing America in the Barack 

Item!

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told a German magazine he supported prospective U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's proposal that U.S. troops should leave Iraq within 16 months.



It will be interesting to see if the Bush Administration still has the leverage to make Maliki "walk back" this statement in coming days.

===
Update: Marc Ambinder reports that "a prominent Republican strategist who occasionally provides advice to the McCain campaign said, simply, 'We're fucked.'"

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Congratulations Keva! 

A reliable YRHT source informed us that attorney Gary Bizal will withdraw from the race for Section E judgeship tomorrow. The only other qualifier, D.A. Keva Landrum-Johnson, will therefore win and become judge. Congratulations to her and her campaign.

As T-P columnist Stephanie Grace said in her recent T-P chat session, "I think Keva Landrum-Johnson deserves a big thank you from this city. She's really calmed things down over at the DA's office."

Indeed. Thank you, Keva Landrum-Johnson.

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Are the lifestyle centers ok? 

Sadly, no:

The hottest trend this decade in shopping-center development has gone cold.

Known as lifestyle centers, the open-air shopping venues offer small parks, fountains and cafés amid name-brand retailers selling fashion apparel, housewares and other discretionary fare. Developers raced to add new ones as they became popular with shoppers, especially women between 20 and 50 years old, a coveted category. Meantime, construction of traditional enclosed malls all but stopped.

But now, with the economy slumping and shoppers spending less, retailers that had flocked to the centers -- like Chico's FAS Inc., AnnTaylor Stores Corp. and Talbots Inc. -- have begun canceling expansion plans and even shutting stores. Others, such as Linens 'n Things Inc., have sought bankruptcy protection.

This couldn't happen at a worse time for lifestyle-center developers, which were putting up more of the shopping centers than ever. Last year they built 37 centers totaling some 12 million square feet, or roughly 40% of the total lifestyle-center square footage added this decade, according to market-research firm Portfolio & Property Research Inc. Double the 2007 total is now under construction, and three times as much is in the planning stages.

Aaaigh! Where will suburbanites get their faux-urbanity?

A couple years ago, I got a preview of the lifestyle center phenomenon.

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Insidious "McCain is confused" meme pops back up 

Four months after the debut of this YRHT post, and a month after the national media picked up the story, The Corner's Jim Geraghty thinks he's discovered something. He writes:

Let’s play a game of "detect the pattern."

Barack Obama, appearing on Larry King Live, last night: “Where Senator McCain I think is confused is the difference between tactics and strategy.”

The same day, Joe Biden on a campaign conference call: “As a consequence of their profound confusion [Bush and McCain] make profound mistakes.”

The liberal blog The Carpetbagger Report uses the word “confused” in almost every post about McCain; same deal at ThinkProgress. At AmericaBlog, the words "McCain" and "confused" have appeared together 108 times. DailyKos.com, hundreds.

...

I’m sure it’s completely coincidental that when running against a 71-year-old, Obama, his advisers and his allies repeat the phrase “confused” like they have obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Then Geraghty embarrasses himself by trying to imagine a "similar" attack on Obama, repeatedly making reference to Obama as a Muslim. (That's basically using two layers of code to refer to an untruth-- politically, that's just way, way off. The goal is one layer of code that refers to a "truth".) Geraghty obviously doesn't understand why the "McCain is confused" meme is so powerful. It's powerful because it's true enough, which makes it plausibly deniable. In a broad sense, it's true because everyone becomes confused-- including septuagenarians like McCain. In a narrow sense, McCain has made enough confusing statements to permit the Obama camp to fairly characterize his statements as such. Yet the word "confused" has the enormous political benefit of activating voters' subconscious fears about McCain's age. (The Obama campaign is well aware of this, and probably giggles about it over late night cocktails.)

That's why it's a perfectly insidious play. It works, deep in the brain, but if the opposition calls you on it-- they look stupid.

For Republicans to suddenly pretend they've never seen these types of plays before is really rich. They practically invented this sh*t, and have won many an election with these sorts of plays. But they're not used to a Democratic Presidential campaign effectively tapping into voters' "lizard brain" hot spots.

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Quotes of the Weak 

“I really want to get the word out about mentally challenged dogs. My dog is retarded.”

-- Megan Hauserman, on the "I Love Money" show, describing what she would do with the $250,000 prize money.


"I believe 9/11 could have been prevented if we'd had a Republican president at the time."

-- Singer Mike Meehan, inartfully explaining his view that 9/11 wouldn't have occurred (on Bush's watch) if a Republican had been president instead of Clinton.


"[Brooke Buchanan and Mark McKinnon] go on for me. I am learning to get online myself, and I will have that down fairly soon, getting on myself."

-- Presidential aspirant John McCain, responding to a question from the NYT about whether he goes online "for himself".

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The "N" stands for nonsense 

Senatorial candidate John N. Kennedy just repeated the GOP/Big Oil myth that "not a drop of oil was spilled" in the Gulf after Katrina and Rita. He was talking about drilling in ANWR on Eric Asher's radio show, and went out of his way to repeat this lie. Could someone show Professor Kennedy these satellite photos taken after Katrina? Here's one (click to enlarge):



The white dots are platforms, and the dark stuff is billions of drops of oil stretching for scores of miles into the Gulf. Kennedy (the Kierkegaardian) would have you believe these things didn't exist. He radically diminishes the risks and sacrifices Louisiana has undertaken in order to provide energy to the rest of the country.

Paw Paw has written some recent posts on the energy "crisis". One of the things he advocates is drilling everywhere. Even national parks? Yes. Even Yosemite? You betcha.

I agree much more with Schroeder's "fact-based" post on the issue.

However, my basic view is that the run-up in oil prices is the result of the weakening dollar, which is the result of Bernanke and Bush's (and Greenspan's) easy money/weak dollar policies, which exacerbate inflation. Inflation is the cruelest tax, which (as Von Mises wrote) "does not cure unsatisfactory conditions. It merely helps the rulers whose policies brought about the catastrophe to exculpate themselves."

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Who will watch the watchers? 

Banzai Bill posted this video by 2-cent entertainment (more here). I thought it was cool, too.




"The State has already proved its impotence at addressing the housing crisis following Hurricane Katrina despite multi-million dollar appropriations which have languished for years. Brad Pitt has built more houses for us than our own government!" -- State Rep. Neil Abramson

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

It's a Crouere summer (part III: director's cut) 

In early June, Jeff Crouere wrote a Bayou Buzz column titled "Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton: Democrats Pick The Weak This Week":

Despite the political disadvantages from his party, McCain now has the advantage going in to the fall election.

If he was facing Hillary Clinton in the fall election, McCain would be the underdog. Facing Barack Obama, McCain is the favorite.
...
The only way for Obama to win in the fall will be to invite Clinton to join the ticket. An Obama-Clinton ticket would be a powerful political force and would insure victory for the Democrats in the fall... Despite the political advantages, due to the political fireworks between the two, a political marriage is unlikely. Thus, expect a McCain victory this fall.

That's pretty clear. Crouere believes Obama is doomed to lose unless Hillary is on the ticket. Obama is too "weak" to beat Str8 Tawlk, so we can "expect a McCain victory this fall".

However, this week Crouere writes another column about the presidential race. He begins by identifying some longstanding political dynamics (none of which have changed significantly since his last column).

U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) has received the benefit of a fawning media... He has been receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in donations and will be able to outspend his opponent U.S. Senator John McCain... The incumbent Republican President is extremely unpopular due to worries about the economy and the war. The housing industry is in a depression, the oil crisis is getting worse and the Republicans are taking the blame. So, Obama is well positioned to take advantage of anger with the incumbent and the party in power. Republicans have controlled the White House for two terms and voters seem to like changing the political power structure on Pennsylvania Avenue every eight years.

Crouere puts these obvious political dynamics together, and radically changes his view from a month ago:

Yet despite his significant financial and political advantages, Obama and McCain are tied in the latest Rasmussen poll. The race is a toss-up even though Obama is a great speaker and McCain is not very good in front of a microphone. The amazing thing is that this race is even a contest... Obama should be ahead by double digits and should cruise to victory.

When and more importantly "WHY" did Obama suddenly become the favorite over the past month, in Crouere's view? What changed? Why is it "amazing" that the race is a contest when McCain was "expected" to win unless Obama took Hillary for veep?

Crouere offers no explanation for the change in his position. He simply identifies more longstanding political trends that he surely was aware of last month:

The GOP has been in disarray for years and the losses in the 2006 mid-term elections were followed by embarrassing losses in special congressional elections. Voters are tired of the Republican Party and want a change.

Did he just realize this?

To say the least, McCain is very fortunate to be in this game at this point.

Wait-- all of a sudden, that's the "least" Crouere can say? Huh? Crouere's turned his evaluation of McCain's chances inside out, and that's the "least" he can say?

Actually, no. I think a professional political analyst/pundit like Jeff Crouere needs to say more. Much more. Why is McCain no longer a lead pipe cinch to win? Why is he suddenly a long shot, who is "very fortunate to be in [the] game"? Crouere should tell us why his earlier column was so flawed, or explain what unforeseen conditions occurred during the past month that made him radically alter his political handicapping.

However, instead of explaining his new position, Crouere simply concludes:

[McCain] needs to energize his disillusioned conservative supporters while still working to bring on independent and moderate voters.... Don’t be surprised to see McCain choose the Louisiana Governor to give the Republican ticket a much better chance of victory this fall.

I see: A month ago Obama couldn't beat McCain without Hillary. Now, suddenly, McCain needs Jindal to greatly improve his chances for victory.

That's too funny.

-- McCain's the favorite (slap) McCain's the longshot (slap) He's the favorite (slap) the longshot...

-- I said I want the truth!

-- He's the favorite and the longshot.
...
-- Forget it Jake, it's Croueretown.

My election predictions here still hold. I'll say more about them in the coming weeks and months. There's no hurry. But, should my analysis and predictions change, I will respect my readers enough to tell them why they changed.

As for Bobby Jindal being McCain's veep selection, I've been surprised how the pro-Jindal chatter has ratcheted up again in recent days. I just can't see it happening for the reasons I listed here (among many others). To me, it's unthinkable. But I would so love to be wrong on this one. (All of Jindal's apparent strengths will actually turn into weaknesses for the GOP ticket during the national vetting process.)
---
Flashback: Here's Part I and Part II. of YRHT's "Crouere Summer" series.



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*

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TV notes 

1. Project Runway season 5 begins this Wednesday, but will air an hour earlier. This is a less convenient time for Lovely and I, but we'll "make it work".

If a Project Runway contestant copied another's design, they would be immediately auf'd. Rightfully so.


2. T-P entertainment columnist Dave Walker informs us that Spike Lee is planning to make a sequel to "When the Levees Broke".

Maybe if Walker reviews Spike Lee's sequel, he'll do a better job than he did reviewing the original. Wouldn't be difficult.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Good freakin' questions 

1. Cunning Realist:

[I] you're one of those strident advocates of "fixing" Social Security via private accounts (as is McCain, and others on the Right who were strangely silent about the financial market turmoil last week) you've got some 'splainin to do. This [Fannie/Freddie/GSE bailout] mess exposes the folly of building an even higher government backstop in the name of ownership society. And let's not kid ourselves: if Social Security funds were invested in the common stock of Fannie or Bear Stearns or the raft of other financial firms currently in trouble, what effect would that have on Washington's definition of "too big to fail"?


2. The Corner's John Derbyshire (no, I can't believe his name is appearing here, either):

What do I have to say about Louisiana Governor Jindal signing the Louisiana Science Education Act? Very little more than I said here back on June 20.

Whether or not the law as signed is unconstitutional per se, I do not know. I do know, though — as the creationist Discovery Institute that helped promote the Act also surely knows — that the Act will encourage Louisiana local school boards to unconstitutional behavior. That's what it's meant to do.

Some local school board will take the Act as a permit to bring religious instruction into their science classes. That will irk some parents. Those parents will sue. There will be a noisy and expensive federal lawsuit, possibly followed by further noisy and expensive appeals. The school board will inevitably lose. The property owners of that school district will take the financial hit.

Where will the Discovery Institute be when these legal expenses come due?


3. Begging your indulgence, this query comes from yours truly:

Yesterday, I saw a flashing ambulance trying to drive through stopped traffic at a "photo enforced" intersection. The cars in front of the ambulance took forever to get out of the way*, presumably because they didn't want to run a red light and get a ticket from the traffic camera. Of course, drivers are not supposed to be ticketed in such situations, but how many of them know that? Certainly not all. Therefore, are the extra delays encountered by emergency vehicles at photo enforced intersections factored into the city's statistics showing "safer streets" in recent months?


* even longer than they "normally" do

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Street tile update 

Just days after YRHT delivered a "FYYFF!" to Entergy on behalf of the late great Ashley Morris, some of the street tiles at the intersection of Pine and Birch have been replaced. Yesterday, on my way to a lovely B-day celebration, I stopped and noticed that the "PINE" street tiles had recently been laid down. They don't quite match the rest of the neighborhood's tiles, but at least it's a sign of progress. We're still waiting for the "BIRCH" street tiles to be installed.

Big thanks to Tim's Nameless Blog and Cold Spaghetti for spreading the word.

Of course, several months ago Entergy said that their own quality control people had discovered the street tile destruction, and that the tiles were already being replaced-- no matter who "reported" on the story. So I guess it's just pure coincidence that the tiles were finally replaced a few days after several bloggers made a fuss.

YRHT will keep you updated on when/whether Entergy gets around to installing the Birch Street tiles that were destroyed.

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The McCain movement reaches critical mass 



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Thx Suspect Device

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Ro-J reports on the Iraqi Christians 

Link!

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"They threw a noomey rooter back in our face" 

The T-P reports on the unveiling of a time capsule buried in a church:

Gloved and delicate, ...archivist Emilie Leumas carefully separated bits of brittle, 1871 newsprint just lifted Thursday out of a time capsule buried 137 years ago in the cornerstone of St. Joseph Catholic Church.

Nearby, the Rev. Perry Henry photographed scraps of newspaper, a religious medal, some corroded coins and tattered paper currency, all spread carefully across a table in a parish meeting room.

At first glance, no extraordinary revelations. No obvious treasures.


===
I believe the year was 1983. I was 11 years old and my exposure to good music was incredibly limited (with the exception of the Beach Boys). Without an older sibling to guide me towards alternative, punk or classic rock, I was basically left with pop radio. My favorite songs at the time were tunes like "I love Rock'n Roll", "Don't you want me baby" and "Hungry like the Wolf". Inevitably, I also liked a lot of one-hit wonder stuff like "Safety Dance" and "Come on Eileen".

So, that year (I believe) our church decided to make a time capsule, and fill it with items that would be uncovered by future generations. My Sunday School teacher decided that our youth class should contribute an audio cassette tape to the capsule. We would each have the opportunity to record a statement about who we were, and any thoughts or messages we wanted to say to those in the future. She also said that there would be room on the tape for each of us to contribute two songs we liked (from the current day), that we thought captured something essential about 1983. We had to give her a copy of the lyrics, so the teacher could review and approve them.

For some reason, I really took this assignment seriously. I spent a long time thinking about which songs to select. I couldn't necessarily pick my favorite songs, because perhaps they wouldn't stand the test of time like some others. So, I decided that Billy Joel and Duran Duran would be around for a while, and decided that I'd put "Allentown" and "Save a Prayer" into the church time capsule.

Unfortunately, I didn't have a print copy of the lyrics, so with pen and paper I listened to the songs over and over, struggling to discern and write down each word. I'd play the tape, then stop it, then write down a few words, then rewind the tape and start it again...

It took hours, and I got hung up on a few lyrics that didn't make any sense to me . I was transcribing Allentown, and remember being puzzled by this lyric

Well our fathers fought the Second World War
Spent their weekends on the Jersey Shore
Met our mothers at the USO

I thought: What the hell's the USO? Shouldn't it be "the USA"? Did Billy Joel make a mistake on that? Let's listen to it again... No, he clearly says "USO". Or maybe he's just saying U.S.-- oooh? Let's listen again and see...

Then, I remember struggling with the penultimate verse for at least an hour:

Every child had a pretty good shot[s]
To get at least as far as their old man got[s].
Something happened on the way to that place
They threw [a noomey rooter back in our?].. faaaaaaaace, oh oh oh.

What the hell's a "noomey rooter"? Let's listen again... Ok, maybe it's all one word: "anoomeyrune". But what's "anoomeyrune"? Never heard of that before. I'll go ask my parents.... That was no help. Let's listen again. Yeah, Billy Joel really seems to be saying "they threw anoomeyrune back in our face". What could it mean? Is it some East Pennsylvanian slang? Let's play that part again...

On and on...

(The real lyric in question is "They threw an American flag in our faaaaaaaace, oh oh oh".)

So, after slogging through this tedious exercise for two hours, I realized I still had a whole 'nother song to go. Again, my Duran Duran Rio tape didn't have an insert with lyrics, so I had to copy them as well. I figured "Save a Prayer" would be easier, though. The song is slow, and I didn't remember any really unclear passages.

You need to understand that at the time I was fully convinced that "Save a Prayer" was about two lovers who were seeing each other before nuclear war broke out. I thought the "save a prayer for the morning after" was a pretty clear reference to the morning "after" nuclear war. (Sort of like "The Day After". I mean, duh, it's so obvious. Nuthin' got past this 11 year old.)

So I was chugging along, listening to the song, writing down the lyrics, and so very happy the words were clearer than some of the tricky passages of Allentown. But then I came to this uncomfortable verse:

And you wanted to dance so I asked you to dance
But fear is in your soul
Some people call it a one night stand
But we can call it paradise


And I realized it wasn't "one LAST stand", as I had always thought. It was "one NIGHT stand", and even I knew what that meant. I was horrified. Maybe this song wasn't about nuclear war after all, I thought. Maybe it's just about ... "SEX!!" Aiiggh!

What's the Sunday School teacher going to think when she reads that? I struggled with this new dilemma for a long time. It was late at night (for me) and I was tired. I didn't have the energy to select and transcribe another song.

But what if she rejected this one because of the subject matter? Should I perhaps not write down that lyric and hope she doesn't catch it, but what if she does and sees that I was trying to deceive her? What if she doesn't let me contribute anything to the time capsule? This might be my only chance to communicate with people in the future, and I'm going to ruin it with this perverted song about casual sex!!

I forget what I ended up doing. Probably, I just wrote "one last stand" and decided I'd feign ignorance if I were caught. I remember going to church that Sunday fully confident that the Sunday School teacher would bust me, and I'd have to plead very sincerely so that she'd allow me to just include "Allentown" on the class tape.

You can imagine my shock when she literally glanced at my pages of lyrics, handed them back to me, and said "We're running a bit late, so let's just record the songs on the tape and then everyone can make a short statement into the microphone about what these songs mean to you."

So the class politely listened while "Allentown" and "Save a Prayer" got copied on to the time capsule tape, and then they put the microphone in front of me, and asked what these songs meant to me. Why are they so important? I totally choked. I imagined all the church members in 2058 listening to the tape, and being disgusted by Duran Duran's lyrics. Then I imagined that I was still alive, and that after living a long and productive life I would be embarrassed and disgraced in front of all my elderly church friends by the song on this time capsule tape.

I ended up babbling something about "nuclear war" into the microphone, and hoping humanity would still be alive to uncover the time capsule. I stuttered and sputtered and looked very stressed. "Fear was in my soul." My teacher and classmates thought I was having a panic attack or something, and felt the need to ask if I was "ok" or if I needed some water.

Ah, the unexpected joys of Sunday school.
===

Then I read this from Wikipedia:

"Save a Prayer" is the sixth single by Duran Duran, released on 9 August 1982.

The soft, seductive ballad was the third single from the band's second album Rio. It became Duran Duran's biggest hit to date in the UK Singles Chart, reaching #2, held off the top spot by Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger". It is probably the most successful song ever about sexually transmitted diseases.

Nice.

===

What songs represent 1983 (or thereabouts) to you? Better yet, what songs would you have chosen to put in a time capsule when you were eleven?

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Shrinkage 

The other day I thought I heard WWL radio report that the Times Picayune was stopping its daily paper deliveries to Baton Rouge, (most of) Mississippi and Washington Parish. Couldn't find the web link to it.

Editor and Publisher reports on the T-P's Miss. circulation cutbacks.

===
And since the T-P eliminated the entire Op-Ed page on Mondays, and replaced it with a small viewpoint section entitled "Monologues", and a small "statistics" box... I'm having trouble finding these new features on nola.com's opinions index. If reading the statistics box and the Monday monologue is such an "engaging" way to start one's week, why deprive the online community of these delights?

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