Betsy Devine: Funny ha-ha and/or funny peculiar

Making trouble today for a better tomorrow…

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Entries from April 2006

The podcaster with the post-Einsteinian parrot

April 30th, 2006 · Comments Off on The podcaster with the post-Einsteinian parrot

SteveMirsky: Steve Mirsky, host of Scientific American's podcast

Einstein once tried to cheer up a dejected parrot by telling it jokes. Years later, Sci Am podcaster Steve Mirsky claimed he found the parrot (there’s some uncertainty here) and tape-recorded its memories:

“How do I order beer in a bar? I say ‘Ein stein for Einstein.’ Hey, Parrot, what’s the difference between a wild boar and Niels Bohr? When I say that God doesn’t play dice, a wild boar doesn’t tell me to stop telling God what to do. I hate that. So what do you say to the man who developed the exclusion principle? You say, ‘Pauli want a cracker?’ Wolfgang Pauli, get it? Hello, is this thing on? Testing, one, two. Hey, Parrot, I had a dream where I made love to Rita Hayworth for an hour. Well, for her it was an hour. For me, 35 seconds. That’s relativity. Okay, Newton is standing on the shoulders of a giant…

Steve’s sense of humor might be one reason people love his podcast

I’m looking forward to hearing how his podcast with both Frank and me will turn out–it’s due May 3. Anyway, it was fun meeting Steve backstage at the NYC book party…and, as for his podcast–subscribed!

Tags: Blog to Book

Fantastic Realities: 49 Mind Journeys And a Trip to Stockholm

April 29th, 2006 · Comments Off on Fantastic Realities: 49 Mind Journeys And a Trip to Stockholm

Each chocolate cupcake is topped with a tiny photo of the front cover of Frank Wilczek’s new book Fantastic Realities…thanks, Dorian!

I’m pretty new at this book-tour thing, but here’s a short list of resources the new author gets asked for, again and again, by people planning to host a public lecture, a book-signing, or some combination of the two:

  • A photograph of the author
  • A photograph of the book’s cover
  • A link to the book’s page at its publisher and/or at Amazon
  • A short biography of the author
  • A short description of the book
  • Blurbs (short excerpts from reviews of the book)

Real authors also have press kits for reporters, but Frank and I aren’t quite so professional yet.

Tags: Blog to Book · Frank Wilczek

Two new phone-jamming items in the news

April 28th, 2006 · Comments Off on Two new phone-jamming items in the news

AP reporter Larry Margasak followed the money that paid for Republican dirty phone tricks during the 2002 federal elections. He discovered that an early prime investor in GOP Marketplace, Allen Raymond’s telemarketing services company, was GOP insider Haley Barbour. According to Wikipedia, Barbour held the same position in Ronald Reagan’s White House that Ken Mehlman had when his White House office got those hundreds of phone call from busy phone jammers:

…Barbour was President Ronald Reagan’s Director of the White House Office of Political Affairs for two years…Barbour later served as chairman of then-Governor George W. Bush’s presidential campaign advisory committee in 2000…

In 1991, Barbour helped found Barbour, Griffith & Rogers, a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm, with Lanny Griffith and Ed Rogers, two lawyers who formerly worked in the George H. W. Bush administration. In 1998, Fortune Magazine named Barbour Griffith & Rogers the second-most-powerful lobbying firm in America. In 2001, after the inauguration of George W. Bush, Fortune named it the most powerful.

Margasak’s article also details the other known 2002 GOP Marketplace dirty phone trick, attack calls made during the Super Bowl.

In related and recent news, Republicans got caught attacking Democrats with anonymous robocalls in Illinois. They defended their action (after denying it) by claiming that a loophole allowed them to do it.

Last week, a few Democratic House members said their constituents were getting
prerecorded phone calls at home, in which a voice would allege that the
legislator was cutting state pensions and veterans’ funds. The recording would
implore the listener to tell the legislator to oppose the budget practices of
Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat.

The calls didn’t identify who they were from. After initial denials, Republican
House officials last week acknowledged they were behind the phone campaign.
They said the program, which cost “less than $10,000” in party funds, was
designed to put pressure on Democrats to stop backing what Republicans see as
dangerous budget maneuvers by the Blagojevich administration.

The exploitiation of loopholes like this is just what you’d expect from a party hierarchy where lobbyists are accepted and welcome partners in national politics.

Tags: New Hampshire!

One lawyer’s take on those phone-jamming “appeals”…that aren’t!

April 26th, 2006 · Comments Off on One lawyer’s take on those phone-jamming “appeals”…that aren’t!

Newspapers and this blog have talked about three appeals made by James Tobin’s lawyers after his conviction for Phone Jammer Gate. Are they meaningful objections… or just one more excuse to keep Tobin from being questioned under oath in the civil suit against the RNC?

Now, with her permission, I welcome guest blogger Marie Devine, Attorney at Law, whose (informal) opinion is more educated than mine.

Hi Bets,

Thanks for the documents.

First, I must give the following “caveat”: I do not now and have never practiced criminal law in either State or Federal courts. My own litigation experience is mostly in civil litigation and though I’m licensed to practice in NH. I have not actively practiced law in NH since 1987. Most of my legal experience has been in the State of Florida.

That said, I can provide some general legal information that is pertinent.

As to our earlier discussion on news reports that Tobin has “appealed”:

His attorneys have not filed an “appeal”. What they have filed are post-judgement motions in the Federal District Court of NH –which was the trial court. An “appeal” is an action filed in the court having appellate jurisdiction over the trial court, which in this case would be the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (the circuit within which NH sits). The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit is located in Boston. Appeals from rulings made by the Courts of Appeals go to the US Supreme Court in Washington.

Anyway, the Motions filed ask for: “Arrest of Judgment”, “Acquittal”, and a new trial. The arguments put forth in the Motions are all issues that were considered and denied by the trial judge during the trial. In other words, they are a rehash of the same old defense arguments. Such motions are rarely granted by trial judges, who have already carefully considered the issues, the facts, and the law and who have already ruled on them.

Th docket reveals that these motions were argued before the judge on March 17, 2006 and “taken under advisement” by the Judge. Apparently, he has not yet ruled.

So, the case basically sits in limbo right now. Appeal, at this point, would be premature, as the trial court is still considering the post-judgment motions. Works for them!!

Love, Ri

Tags: New Hampshire!

Younger than springtime?

April 26th, 2006 · Comments Off on Younger than springtime?

RiKim: My little sister Ri helping my little brother Kim. I drove up to NH yesterday to see my sister and brother, now both grown-up lawyers although they still look to me just like their sweet helpful selves way back in our Manchester-growing-up days.

And of course they also know what I “really” look like too.

You couldn’t imagine a lovelier spring day, anywhere.

Tags: My Back Pages

Blogportunity for science-minded bloggers!

April 25th, 2006 · Comments Off on Blogportunity for science-minded bloggers!

Luboš Motl’s Reference Frame is an extremely popular physics blog–in fact, the number one Google result for “frank wilczek blog.” Luboš is offering a prize to his 400,000th visitor–and the same prize to visitor number 400,001, 400,002, 400,003, or 400,004–the opportunity to write a guest post there. But hustle on over there if you want to win; he’s already up to 399,679.

In other Luboš news, he is very kindly attempting to double (or do I mean halve? the nice one of those two) the Amazon rank of the now almost-officially-released Fantastic Realities.

Thanks, Luboš, and I hope those big-number visitors add interesting and amusing posts to your own collection.

Tags: Metablogging

Did anyone tell Ken Mehlman about the Hatch Act?

April 24th, 2006 · Comments Off on Did anyone tell Ken Mehlman about the Hatch Act?

RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman defended the phone-jammers’ calls to the White House as just plain politics as usual: “…during the 2002 election cycle, my staff and I regularly communicated with competitive Congressional campaigns and Republican Party organizations…Alicia Davis, my deputy responsible for the Northeast, frequently communicated with the New Hampshire State Party, the RNC and others.

The only problem with that “defense” is that letting US taxpayers foot the bill as White House staffers work for the Republican party comprehensively violates the Hatch Act–for example,

…a District of Columbia employee may not perform partisan campaign duties during the course of the employee’s normal business day if the employee is: (1) on duty; (2) in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties by an individual employed or holding office in the Government of the United States or any agency or instrumentality thereof; or (3) wearing an official uniform or insignia.

…an employee may not write campaign speeches, make political calls, or send political emails on behalf of a partisan candidate or political party while the employee is in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties by an individual employed or holding office in the Government of the United States or any agency or instrumentality thereof, even if he is not “on duty” for purposes of the Hatch Act.

The NH Democrats have filed a civil suit asking the GOP to reimburse them for the cost of their GOTV efforts in 2002. I’d like to see something else added to the lawsuit–for the RNC to reimuburse US taxpayers for the campaign activities Ken Mehlman brazenly admits were carried out from within the White House itself.

Tags: New Hampshire!

It’s …. fantastic?

April 24th, 2006 · Comments Off on It’s …. fantastic?

Wow–Fantastic Realities got its blog-launch yesterday–thanks to Luboš Motl, whose energetic efforts pushed its Amazon rank up from #136,000 yesterday morning to an overall rank of #24,099 yesterday and #7,389 so far today….

If this continues, Fantastic Realities should hit number one at Amazon sometime during the night and go into negative numbers by the time it’s officially published–which is tomorrow.

FrankBook: Cover of new book, Fantastic Realities Tomorrow, Frank and I head to NYC for the book’s official launch in real space and time. Then on Friday, Frank is giving a talk and signing some books at CUNY’s Graduate Center, Fifth Avenue at 34th Street–3:30 p.m., it’s free if you don’t buy a book there.

The hometown launch is a talk and book-signing at the Harvard Square Coop Bookstore on May 2, 7 p.m.

It seems like only yesterday that I was just force-fitting this blog’s saga of Nobel adventures into manuscript form (goodbye to reverse chronological order!)

Most of the book, however, is assorted short pieces by Frank, who goes around winning awards for his science writing when he’s not getting Nobel Prizes or packing his suitcase.

I’ll be blogging more practical details as we go along with this adventure, because it’s my firm belief that many a blog out there ought to end up as a published book–or (like mine) as a part of published book.

Yes, it’s a lot of work, but it’s also great fun.

Tags: Blog to Book

Phone jammers get some long overdue attention

April 24th, 2006 · Comments Off on Phone jammers get some long overdue attention

MiniElephant: Elephant, labeled "GOP Phone Jammer Follies", crushing telephone. In 2002, the phone-jamming was secret. In 2003 and 2004 and 2005, a few papers covered it for a NH audience.

Finally, in 2006, the story breaks national–after some hard digging by TPM Muckraker and the Senate Majority Project and solid articles in the Boston Globe and New York Times.

Here’s what’s new, in just the past couple of days…

Senate Vote Inquiry Widens as Democrats Probe White House Link (Bloomberg, April 24)
Money quote: “Democratic Senators Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts wrote U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on April 20 seeking information on any links Abramoff or the White House may have had to the phone-jamming scheme.”

How the GOP Lost Its Way (Washington Post, April 22)
Money quote: “On top of all the scandals, it has just come to light that the RNC paid millions in legal bills to defend operative James Tobin, who was convicted with associates in an illegal phone-jamming scheme aimed at preventing New Hampshire Democrats from voting. In doing so, the GOP appears to sanction and institutionalize corruption within the party.”

GOP Phone-jamming scandal has legs (Newsweek, April 21–which has now mysteriously changed the story’s title to “Winning at any cost”)
Money quote: “A little noticed scandal in New Hampshire about phone-jamming is gaining traction. Initially dismissed as a petty political trick, it led to the trial and conviction for telephone harassment last December of the New England political director for the Republican National Committee, James Tobin. That in itself would barely register on anybody’s radar except Tobin was represented by one of Washington’s white shoe law firms, Williams & Connolly, and his legal fees were $2.5 million. The Republican National Committee picked up the tab, which suggests this may not have been a rogue operation. Was Tobin’s high-priced defense an effort to keep him from ratting out his contacts in the Bush White House?”

Tags: New Hampshire!

Just saying no to United and US Airways

April 24th, 2006 · Comments Off on Just saying no to United and US Airways

I’m over at Expedia trying to book flights this morning, a job made more complex because I’m determined not to fly US Airways again. Or United either, since our “United” flight to Pittsburgh turned out to be flown by a US Airways crew.

In principle, I have sympathy for airline employees, as corporate drones have discovered a new source of profit in milking their salaries, benefits, and work schedules. But, as a frequent passenger, I know that not every airline makes flying unpleasant. Here’s why US Airways is on my blacklist:

  • You can’t reserve seats until you get to the airport.
  • When the bins near our seat were full of other people’s huge carry-ons, the stewardess was crabby about finding us someplace else to put Frank’s computer, even as she curtly demanded that we move it somewhere for take-off.
  • Lonnnggg waits for checked baggage.

Good-bye to the unfriendly skies of US Airways.

Tags: Wide wonderful world