Pastry blues

by Eszter Hargittai on April 28, 2005

Kieran’s recent analysis of Timberites’ blogging habits showed that one of my main contributions around here is in the area of trivia. (In a more generous or delusional moment one may call it the “other” or “interesting tidbits” category, but I digress.) So to live up to my role around here, I thought I would post an entry about the unfortunate downturn in the life of what used to be the wonderful Starbucks espresso brownie bar.

I don’t drink coffee so Starbucks holds limited appeal to me. I am also not fooled by most of their pastries, which tend to look good, but usually do not measure up in taste. There is one exception, however: their espresso brownie bar. It is great! Unfortunately, in the past few months they have added a nearly tasteless fudge on top. The bar in general seems to have gotten smaller and this may be a way to distract from that and put less quality chocolate in the product. Suffice it to say that it is a really bad innovation (if you can even call it that). They have pretty much ruined an extremely good pastry. Yes, I can get dramatic when it comes to chocolate. I do not like people messing with a good chocolate product.

It turns out that you can still get the fudgeless type in other markets, however. During my recent travels I noticed them at various airports. Maybe introducing the new version in some markets is their way of experimenting to see if the change holds up. If you would like to join my campaign [1] to help save a perfectly good pastry then please send the company a note by filling out this form on their Web site. Espresso brownie enthusiasts will thank you.

1. I will keep you posted regarding tax-deductible donations to the cause as the movement progresses.

Closing The Scientific Hack Gap

by Henry on April 28, 2005

Lorelei Kelly at Democracy Arsenal writes:

Two cliches that the conservative movement lives by: “Nature abhors a vacuum” AND “Half of winning is just showing up”. So conservative leaders proceed to destroy public infrastructure–thereby creating a vacuum–and then outsource its replacement to their friends and allies. A great example of this occurred with the “reforms” implemented by the Contract with America–the de facto elimination of much of the cooperative informal infrastructure like staffed caucuses–that helped Members stay educated and also built alliances between Democrats and Republicans on issues of interest (like arms control or the environment). Congressional staff from the old days refer to 1995 as “the lobotomy of Congress”. Gingrich had no need for these informal venues … he consolidated formal power of recognition to himself and simply outsourced substantive policy needs to the Heritage Foundation. The left had nothing similar to Heritage in 1995. Now we’ve got Center for American Progress, but also years of catching up to do.

While Kelly is bang on in her diagnosis, I don’t think that think tanks like the Center for American Progress provide a very good solution, useful though they may be in other senses. Much of the dumbing down of political debate in the last decade was indeed an intended consequence of the Gingrich revolution. Congressional institutions which provided impartial information were axed, and replaced by spin from handpicked “experts” and right wing think-tanks. The prime example was the closing of the Office of Technology Assessment (which had peeved Gingrich by exploding some of the bogus science underpinning the Star Wars initiative). Still, creating “our own” think-tanks isn’t a solution to the underlying problem (although it may be a necessary political strategy). It would be far preferable to try to recreate some of the previously existing infrastructure, as Congressman Rush Holt has proposed (it wasn’t very expensive in the first place). This would make it far more difficult for bullshit artists like Senator James Inhofe to get away with murder on the floor of Congress. Doubtless, this would sometimes prove inconvenient for the left, whenever the existing research or scientific consensus presented awkward or uncomfortable facts for left-wing policy positions. But it would improve the quality of political debate in areas such as stem cell research, global warming and missile defence, where right wing politicians continually and persistently make claims that are bizarrely at odds with the existing body of scientific research.

Facts Curious and True

by Henry on April 28, 2005


If you do an Amazon search for “Glenn Reynolds,” the movie Troll II appears in the first page of results, beating out Reynolds’ book with Merges on space law and policy (the latter is actually quite a useful volume, and the reason I was doing the search in the first place).

Live Blogging, God help us

by Daniel on April 28, 2005

We’re having a live, almost Presidential-style “debate” in the UK on the program “Question Time”, ahead of our almost Presidential-style election. If you fancy “live blogging” it, like the Americans did, the place to go is I won’t be myself; I will be sulking because an impromptu meeting at work plus childcare duties has caused me to miss out on a drink with the creme de la menthe of the UK blog community. Or maybe I will; much depends on how much of a fuss I think there is going to be over the Attorney General’s advice furore. Never has the phrase “the coverup is always worse than the crime” seemed so apposite; if they’d just published this straight off it would have convinced those who supported the war, and not convinced those who didn’t, for no net loss. Publishing it now after having fibbed so much about its contents, looks pretty bad.

Republican Alabama lawmaker Gerald Allen says homosexuality is an unacceptable lifestyle. As CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann reports, under his bill, public school libraries could no longer buy new copies of plays or books by gay authors, or about gay characters.

“I don’t look at it as censorship,” says State Representative Gerald Allen. “I look at it as protecting the hearts and souls and minds of our children.”

Books by any gay author would have to go: Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Gore Vidal. Alice Walker’s novel “The Color Purple” has lesbian characters.

Allen originally wanted to ban even some Shakespeare. After criticism, he narrowed his bill to exempt the classics, although he still can’t define what a classic is. Also exempted now Alabama’s public and college libraries…

“It’s not healthy for America, it doesn’t fit what we stand for,” says Allen. “And they will do whatever it takes to reach their goal.

Hi, I’m the bloody corpse of satire. Rep. Gerald Allen, you have defeated me in mortal combat.

What’s going on

by Ted on April 28, 2005

I’ve got some long quotes about the decision of the Army inspector general to clear all but one of the top officers involved in the Abu Ghraib scandal of all charges under the fold.

[click to continue…]

Google Print

by Chris Bertram on April 28, 2005

Fully searchable “Google Print is now out”: and there’s lots of valuable stuff. A fantastic resource!