The Thing on the Roof: It had fur and claws. J.H. Farr’s spooky tale.
A Halloween emergency room scene from No Code.
Halloween games for kids from Rayne.
All about tarot, from She’s Actual Size.
Wozz offers a pithy summary of a recent Tom Petty interview in Rolling Stone.
Archives for October 2002
Let’s replay the sorry recent saga of the SEC’s accounting oversight board debacle:
(1) Back in September, SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt told John Biggs of TIAA/CREF — according to Democratic members of the SEC and Biggs himself — that Biggs would be appointed to head a new accounting board, one promulgated in the wake of the past year’s scandals to restore some sense of trust in the profession.
(2) Biggs was perceived as being too tough on big accounting, and Pitt got cold feet or succumbed to pressure (he denies the latter) and pulled the plan to nominate him.
(3) Pitt chose former FBI chief William Webster to head the accounting board and rammed the appointment through the SEC in a party-line 3-2 vote. Webster’s lack of experience in corporate accounting was not, the world was assured, a problem.
Today, we learn that Webster actually told Pitt before the vote about what seems like a serious and highly relevant matter: Webster had till recently headed the audit committee of a corporation, U.S. Technologies, that was being charged with fraud.
Read this from the New York Times account:
|The small publicly traded company, U.S. Technologies, is now all but insolvent and it and its chief executive, C. Gregory Earls, are facing suits by investors who say they were defrauded of millions of dollars. The suits contend the misconduct occurred in late 2001 and this year. That was after the three-person audit committee, headed by Mr. Webster, had voted to dismiss the outside auditors in the summer of 2001 after those auditors raised concerns about internal financial controls.|
So Webster told Pitt about this, and the response of Pitt’s SEC staff was “that the staff concluded that there was nothing worthy of passing on to other commissioners or that would disqualify Mr. Webster.”
Nothing worthy of passing on to other commissioners, who were about to enter a hotly contested vote on Webster’s appointment? When the SEC reviews the behavior of corporate officers and finds, for instance, that they have withheld key information from shareholders before a vote, the commission calls it “fraud.” This is why corporate reports, when prepared responsibly, are so full of disclaimers and disclosures of risk.
Pitt, who has always seemed barely conscious of the ethical dimensions of his role, can now legitimately be charged with having rigged a fraudulent vote on the accounting board position. The only seemly thing for William Webster to do now would be to refuse to serve. The only seemly thing for Pitt to do would be to resign.
Instead it seems that there is to be an investigation into the affair by — who else? — the SEC itself.
Ivan Cavero Belaunde writes in to (gently) correct my account of the relationship between Flash and Director. Far as I can tell he’s absolutely right and I was wrong. Flash emerged from a product called “FutureSplash” that Macromedia acquired and renamed; Shockwave was the Web-ified Director. I think I once knew all this but forgot it! In any case, Webmonkey has some more details, and here‘s an account of Flash’s history. Marc Canter’s thoughts remain pertinent as ever; my history was what was in error.
Marc Canter explains why you shouldn’t turn off Flash in your browser just because you’re annoyed by Flash ads. Canter is the father of Director, the program that Macromedia transmogrified into Flash as it tried to jump into the Web era; I don’t know whether that makes him Flash’s granddad, or its renegade uncle, or what, but it makes him worth listening to on the subject.
Since this project has always been, and remains, an experiment, I don’t think I have any fixed answer to that question. Technically, of course, a blog that registers with our community server — typically by having downloaded Radio through Salon and, after 30 days, paying the license fee — is part of the community. But since blogs can be anything — compulsively communicative or proudly isolationist — the notion of “community” is an awfully vague one. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 13 years on the Well and seven years at Salon helping run Table Talk, it’s that you don’t define an online community from the top down — you let it define itself. So I’ll keep reading these discussions and conversations, chime in where it seems appropriate, and try to jot down all the useful suggestions that involve Salon doing something.
Here are some of the things we want and intend to do, soon, with Salon blogs:
(1) Begin occasionally featuring other Salon Blogs, not just mine, on the Salon home page headlines list. Doing so will, we hope, direct some more attention to bloggers’ work. Now, this will have its popular aspect (yay, Salon is sending us more readers!) and its unpopular aspect (Hey, how come you picked that blog to highlight and not mine?). But we’ll play around with it.
(2) Work with UserLand to eventually enable more “personalized” URLs. We know that most bloggers would rather be a name than a number! But this is a change that has to come from UserLand’s side. It’s their software.
(3) Build a more permanent listings page of Salon blogs that lives on Salon itself, featuring listings and brief descriptions of the blogs that have a more fixed existence than the “Updates” and “Rankings” pages. This listing would only be available to users who have paid their license fee for the Radio software. Still to be worked out: How is this page ordered?
I wish we’d been able to move on these changes sooner. This month has sort of been a wash for me — between the time-sink that was the Jason Leopold affair and other management stuff here at Salon, and then getting sick, all I can say is, I’m looking forward to November!
Time for a music break. I’ve always been a fan of the Silos, but recently I’ve been delighted to find that their earliest recordings are now available again on CD. The mid-80s EP “About Her Steps” was (I think) their first commercial recording, or at least my first introduction to them, and it now forms the cornerstone of “Ask the Dust,” which also collects other early work by the band and its leader, Walter Salas-Humara. Also newly available on CD is the album “Cuba.” The Silos have never sold a lot of records, but their style of domestic folk-rock — “About Her Steps” begins with a description of cleaning up a house and “Cuba” is shot through with the love and pain of marriage — has prodigious staying power. The Silos sprang out of the same scene as (and once shared some members with) another little-known but much-loved band, the Vulgar Boatmen. (Read Charlie Taylor’s great paean to them here.) Today’s practitioners of “alt-country” are mining a similar vein but without quite the same spirit or simplicity. Music like this is worth having a reunion with.
Well, I was out of town for the weekend, then felled by a relapse of the darn flu, so I’ve been offline. Expect to return to posting today or tomorrow.
Brad DeLong takes out the scalpel and fillets Sen. Chuck Grassley’s letter to the editor of the New York Times defending the fairness of the Bush tax cuts (the first sentences below are Grassley; italics is DeLong reading the mind of the letter-writer):
|Some observers claim that 40 percent of last year’s tax cuts went to the top 1 percent of taxpayers. The Joint Committee on Taxation, Congress’s official, unbiased source, says the top 1 percent will receive 27 percent of the income tax cuts [see how I snuck “income tax” into this sentence? All but the most alert one percent of readers will believe that I am claiming that the 40 percent number is flat-out wrong. *Snort*!]|
Britt Blaser offers this moving parable, from the author’s Air Force experience in Vietnam: Sometimes, the paranoia can be worse than the danger. Now that the immediate threat of sniper shootings is behind us, these words are worth attending to:
|Our brain — specifically the reticular formation (so-called “reptile brain”) — is set up to face threats first and only seek opportunities when not threatened. That bias for threat info sells stuff to us. To that end, the media has grabbed and holds our attention, robbing us of the chance to pay attention to something other than the media.|