Monday, June 30, 2008

Carlin, Gone But Not Forgotten

George Carlin made me laugh, but he is gone now. I found this video of Carlin giving his thoughts on the Persian Gulf War... you remember, it was that war we fought back in 1992? But everything he said then could have been said in 2008. And I'm afraid everything will need to be said again in 10 years, and again in 20 years, and again in 30...

Too bad he won't be around to say it.

I'd post a wreath of flowers and a flag at half-staff, but I too prefer to "leave symbols to the symbol-minded."

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Bush, The Oil Man

Yesterday The New York Times reported that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is freezing solar energy projects, citing the need to study the environmental impact. It sounds to me like somebody is trying to kill the solar power industry:

While proponents of solar energy agree on the need for a sweeping environmental study, many believe that the freeze is unwarranted. Some, like Ms. Gordon, whose company has two pending proposals for solar plants on public land, say small solar energy businesses could suffer if they are forced to turn to more expensive private land for development.

The industry is already concerned over the fate of federal solar investment tax credits, which are set to expire at the end of the year unless Congress renews them. The moratorium, combined with an end to tax credits, would deal a double blow to an industry that, solar advocates say, has experienced significant growth without major environmental problems.

This is the same Bureau of Land Management that under President Bush has allowed a huge expansion of oil drilling. But now suddenly they are concerned about the environment? This news deserves a big WTF!

But I really shouldn't be so shocked. We all know that Bush, and his entire cabinet actually, are owned by the oil industry, and therefore the notion that they could care about the environment is thoroughly absurd.

At least I haven't become totally desensitized to hypocrisy.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Mini Scandal

So why is everybody so shocked over the Verne Troyer sex tape? If case you haven't heard, the 21 second leaked video shows "Mini Me" making out with his former girlfriend, Ranae Shrider. There is supposed to be more to the video, but Verne is suing TMZ to stop the distribution, and he is also seeking $20 million in damages.

But what's with all the freaked out online commentary? Is anybody really shocked that a Hollywood actor gets laid? Or am I just reading the rantings of frustrated, dateless bloggers home alone on a Friday night?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

World Domination

Full-Spectrum Dominance sounds like something from an apocalyptic science fiction movie, but it's not. It's an actual concept by the U.S. military to achieves control over all elements of the battlespace including the physical space (air, surface and sub-surface) as well as the electromagnetic spectrum and information space.

At the center of the information-space battle is the Arabic-language television network al-Hurra. Last Sunday, 60 Minutes did a report on the ineptitude of the project. (If the video doesn't show, click here.)

Coincidentally, the Washington Post also has a two part series on al-Hurra.

What did Americans get for $350 million? Enough laughs for a TV bloopers show:
One news anchor greeted the station's predominantly Muslim audience on Easter by declaring, "Jesus is risen today!"
"Many people just didn't know how to do their job," said Yasser Thabet, a former senior editor at al-Hurra. "If some problem happened on the air, people would just joke with each other, saying, 'Well, nobody watches us anyway.' It was very self-defeating."
In 2004, when an Israeli airstrike killed the spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, virtually all Arabic news channels interrupted their regular programming. Al-Hurra continued with a cooking show.
Meanwhile, al-Qaeda is conducting online chats in their own propaganda coup. You can read some of the questions and answers here (PDF).

Somehow I don't think any amount of U.S. money, PSYOPS, or mass persuasion is going to win the ideological war.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Kindle Is Great In Bed!

I've had my Amazon Kindle book reader for a little over a week now, and I love it! In my first Kindle review I discussed its basic functions and my first impressions, but now that I've finished reading one novel, I can better share my experience.

The first book I purchased was Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller. currently has over 110,000 books available for the Kindle, but Tropic of Cancer had been on my reading list for a while, and it was a mere 80 cents. That was a savings of 68% over the print edition. I noticed that Kindle editions of older novels are very affordable. There are similar savings on new novels. You can save 45% on A New Earth (Oprah's Book Club). You can save 62% on When You Are Engulfed in Flames. And you can save 64% on What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception.

Books download via Whispernet directly to your Kindle in about a minute. It's almost too easy. I can conveniently browse, buy, and read almost anywhere... but mostly in bed it seems.

The reading experience has been so comfortable. When I'm engrossed in a book, I'm not even thinking about the technology I'm using. The high-resolution screen is easy on the eyes. There is no glare, and the black "electronic ink" on the gray background feels just like a paperback. But like a paperback, the Kindle has no backlight, so you still need a light source. However, even in dim light, I can still read the screen.

The Kindle has six font sizes you can easily switch between. I prefer the default size, but there are three larger sizes. Using the largest font, I can easily read the screen from three feet away.

The battery life is impressive. In fact, I've owned many electronic gadgets, but the Kindle battery life is the best I've ever seen. Of course this is mostly due to the new technology of electronic-paper, but the reason doesn't matter. The bottom line is that the battery can easily last 5 days with normal use and the occasional downloading.

One odd concern I had was how quick can I tuck the Kindle away when I'm done reading. It's not really an odd question I guess since people like to read while waiting in line, or for a plane, or for a dentist appointment. I found that bookmarking a page in the Kindle was simple -- just scroll to and click on the upper right corner. Then you can switch in and out of standby mode by holding the alt key and pressing the font key. But even if you forget to bookmark, the Kindle will still remember your last location in every book you have. So all you really have to do in a hurry is switch the Kindle to standby.

Which, by the way, the Kindle has the most artsy standby mode I've ever seen. It randomly puts an image on the screen... it might be the portrait of an author, or some ancient Egyptian art, but it is always interesting.

Here are some other things I've learned about the Kindle in the past week.

While reading, you can press alt-T to see the current time in the lower left corner. (I knew this function had to be available somehow. It just took me a while to find it.)

The Kindle web browser has some features integrated with Google maps. If you press alt-1 you will see a map of your current location. Pressing alt-2 is supposed to map nearby gas stations, and pressing alt-3 is supposed to map nearby restaurants, but I couldn't get those last two functions to work! Google didn't seem to understand the location information that the browser was sending to it. I'm hoping this problem will be fixed soon.

If you'd like to convert a Word or PDF document for use on your Kindle, you can email it to (check your Amazon account for your correct Kindle address and to whitelist any address you want to send from). Having Amazon convert docs and send them to your Kindle costs ten cents per doc. However, you can also email your docs to and they will convert and send it back to your email account for free. Then it's up to you to send the doc to your Kindle by a USB connection.

If you're sitting at your computer and reading a long article and thinking to yourself "gee, I'd rather read this later on my Kindle," well, there is a free service for you. It's called Instapaper. You use a bookmarklet to save pages while on your PC, and then using the Kindle web browser you can easily access them later. Instapaper was designed with the iPhone in mind, but the simple interface works perfectly well with the Kindle.

In my previous review I mentioned Many Books, but I think it deserves another plug. It's a great source for FREE public domain books you can download straight to your Kindle. They offer their texts in the Mobipocket file format which is compatible with the Kindle.

So my conclusion is that I love the Kindle. It is a great product, and I will be using it for a very long time. If you're thinking of buying one, consider clicking this link so I can earn a little commission: Amazon Kindle $359.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Semi Controversy ;)

Over on Slate, somebody complains about modern life killing the semicolon. All I remember from school was that the semicolon can be used instead of a period when the two clauses are closely related. I also remember this article from the NY Times where it was noted that David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam serial killer who taunted police and the press with rambling handwritten notes, could wield a semicolon just as well as a revolver.

I, however, am only handy with the semicolon when I'm programming or winking. ;)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

What You Should Know About FISA

FISA stands for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. It became a U.S. federal law in 1978.

The law prescribes procedures for the physical and electronic surveillance and collection of "foreign intelligence information" between "foreign powers" and "agents of foreign powers" (which may include American citizens suspected of espionage) on territory under United States control.

What you should know about FISA is that it created the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) which meets in secret, and approves or denies requests for search warrants. Only the number of warrants applied for, issued and denied is reported. In 1980, the court approved 322 warrants. In 2007, the court approved 2370 warrants. Check the FISA Stats web site to see that 99% of warrant requests are approved.

What you should know about FISA is that it has always had emergency provisions. The Attorney General has the power to authorize secret electronic surveillance and searches before any warrant is granted, or an application is made, for up to 72 hours. It was not a FISA weakness that prevented the capture of Zacarias Moussaoui prior to 9/11.

What you should know about FISA is that it was amended by the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001. One of these changes was to remove a legal "wall" between criminal investigations and surveillance for the purposes of gathering foreign intelligence, which hampered investigations when criminal and foreign surveillance overlapped.

On December 16, 2005, The New York Time's reported that President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency in cooperation with major telecommunications companies to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying.

On August 17, 2006 U.S. District Court Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ruled in ACLU v. NSA that the warrantless wiretapping program is unconstitutional and ordered that it be stopped immediately, on the grounds that such activities are violations of the rights to free speech and privacy.

What you should know about FISA is that it was again amended this time by the Protect America Act of 2007. This act was a response to the NSA ruling and modified FISA in several ways.
  • It allows the Attorney General to issue program warrants for international calls without court review.
  • It has no protections for American phone calls and emails that are caught up in an investigation.
  • It gives the administration greater power to force telecom companies to cooperate with surveillance operations. The telecom companies can be compelled to cooperate by orders from the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence.

The Protect America Act expired on February 17, 2008. However, the underlying FISA did not expire.

What you should know about FISA is that yet another amendment was approved by the House of Representatives on Friday. This law is called the FISA Amendments Act of 2008.

  • It ensures the dismissal of all cases pending against the telecommunication companies that facilitated the warrantless wiretapping programs over the last 7 years. The test in the bill is not whether the government certifications were actually legal – only whether they were issued. Because it is public knowledge that they were, all the cases seeking to find out what these companies and the government did with our communications will be killed.
  • It permits the government to conduct mass, untargeted surveillance of all communications coming into and out of the United States, without any individualized review, and without any finding of wrongdoing.
  • It permits only minimal court oversight. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court) only reviews general procedures for targeting and minimizing the use of information that is collected. The court may not know who, what or where will actually be tapped.
  • It further trivializes court review by explicitly permitting the government to continue surveillance programs even if the application is denied by the court.
  • It does NOT guarantee members of Congress not on Judiciary or Intelligence Committees access to reports from the Attorney General, Director of National Intelligence, and Inspector General.
What you should know about this amendment is that it has no public value for citizens or civil liberties.

What your should know about the Fourth Amendment to The United States Constitution is that it states:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
And that's the clearest government document I've read all day.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Reason Number 36

Well, Dennis Kucinich now has one more charge to add to his 35 articles of impeachment against President George W. Bush. CNN's Lou Dobbs believes Bush should be impeached for failing to protect American consumers from the recent salmonella outbreak which has made 383 people sick.

At about 4:30 into the video Dobbs expresses his frustration:
You know, I have heard a lot of reasons over the years as to why George W. Bush should be impeached. For them to leave the Food and Drug Administration in this state -- its leadership in this sorry condition and to have no capacity apparently or will to protect the American consumer –- that is alone to me sufficient reason to impeach a president who has made this agency possible and has ripped its guts out in its ability to protect the American consumer. It’s insane what is going on here.
I totally understand the anger over this... I hate poop on my salad too... but I think there are much better reasons (about 35 or so) for impeachment... wiretapping, outing a CIA agent, suspending habeas corpus, torture, starting a war on false pretense, etc.

By the way, if you've ever wondered "how do tomatoes get salmonella," then you should check out Slate's excellent explainer on the subject.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Yes, It's About Oil

In case anybody still had any doubt that this war is about oil... [click here if the video doesn't show below.]

Of course, John McCain accidentally told us the real reason for the war last month.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Purge Was Working

Remember the US Attorney Purge Scandal? It was a scheme by the Bush administration to turn the Department of Justice into a Republican re-election machine.

The WSJ reports a development in the scandal. Federal prosecutors are pursuing their first criminal indictment in the case. The focus is on the possible perjury by Bradley Schlozman, the former chief of the Justice Department civil rights division.

Here is the rundown on this guy courtesy of TPM:

So Schlozman does all this stuff to suppress the Democratic votes of minorities... all while heading the civil rights division??? This deserves a big WTF! Then, as his reward, he is the first interim U.S. Attorney to be appointed under a new controversial provision in the revised U.S. Patriot Act (which allowed for an indefinite appointment without Senate confirmation). Keep in mind, Schlozman had no experience as a prosecutor prior to his appointment as US Attorney.

Oh, and let's not forget that while he was head of the civil rights division, he had two minority women transferred out of their jobs in order to "make room for some good Americans." Who put this guy in the civil rights division? Oh yeah, it was Bush.

So although it is good news that this investigation is advancing, there are no guarantees that any criminal charges will be filed. But they should be filed. And the next President might have to open a whole new division of the DoJ just to handle all the criminals from the Bush administration.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Baracknophobia: "The Irrational fear that behind the mild-mannered persona, Barack Obama is intent on enslaving the white race... The sickness manifests itself as rumor, most often in the form of the only email your grandmother has ever successfully been able to forward."

Yes, well, substitute "grandmother" with "mother" and that's my experience. The first time I heard any of the crazy rumors about Barack Obama, it came from an email from dear old mom. I don't know what hurt more -- that my mother actually was seriously worried about the claims, or that all the wisdom I tried to pass on to her about avoiding internet hoaxes and rumors was lost.

Last night the Daily Show aired a montage of the smears that the Internet, the mainstream media and my mom have pushed upon us:

The only smear I hadn't heard before was at 5:45 into the video. It's Fox News comparing a Barack Obama speech to a Mario Cuomo speech. The two speeches had three words in common: to, of, we. The Fox reporter asks "is that plagiarism there?"

Never mind the fact that the two speeches aren't even vaguely similar. Never mind the fact that both candidates use typical political rhetoric. It's the Fox technique that deserves analysis. Ask a question rather than stating a fact. "Is that plagiarism there?" Or as The Onion put it, "A Statement Followed By A Question Separated By A Colon: An Effective Journalistic Technique?"

Of course, if Fox News makes a false statement, they could be accused of slander, but they can't be accused of slander for asking a question. Sounds tricky, but let me try:

The Mainstream Media: Can They Be Trusted?
Fox News: Just Stirring Up Trouble?
Fox Reporters: Are They Retarded?
All Fox Reporters Have Assholes: Is That Where They Pull Their Stories From?

The formula is easy to master, and raising the specter is all it takes to hook the average viewer. Then repeat the innuendo over and over again. And that's how the media diverts our focus from the real issues.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Habeas Corpus

When you hear the Republicans crying about the Supreme Court, it can only mean one thing -- they did something right!

By now, you've probably heard about last Thursday's Supreme Court decision. Foreign detainees held for years at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba have the right to appeal to U.S. civilian courts to challenge their indefinite imprisonment without charges.

John McCain wasted no time blasting the decision, saying it was “One of the worst decisions in the history of this country.” Really, McCain? I don't know. I thought the Dred Scott decision was pretty bad. I also loathe the Bush v. Gore decision.

Scott Ritsema writing for Prison Planet gets it right when he explains that habeas corpus is a right not a privilege:
...where exactly in the text of the Constitution does the Constitution give this right the right of habeas corpus?

You won’t find it. The Constitution only puts limits on the removal of habeas corpus, which implies that human beings possess this right naturally, and that habeas corpus is not some peculiar civil privilege, such as welfare, or some right that only citizens have, such as voting in our elections.

Similarly, human beings possess the rights in the Bill of Rights naturally, and as such, government is prevented from infringing upon them in the first ten amendments to the Constitution. But the rights are not granted by the government or the Constitution; we already had the rights as human beings!

Yes, it's that whole “inalienable rights” thing that a lot of people need to learn about. Inalienable rights cannot be taken away, violated, or transferred from one person to another. They are considered more fundamental than alienable rights, such as rights in a specific piece of property.

What scares me the most is that four Supreme Court justices (Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito) don't comprehend this basic fact. In Scalia's dissenting opinion he wrote "It will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed." I should probably read Scalia's entire opinion, but I sure hope it contains more legal citations than fear-mongering.

Because his fear-mongering argument leaves me perplexed. He certainly agrees that U.S. citizens have the right to habeas corpus... but that certainly does not mean nobody gets convicted! To the contrary, the U.S. has more than 2.3 million people behind bars! Habeas corpus is not some kind of obstacle to a just conviction. It's only an obstacle to an unjust conviction.

John McCain and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) are already planning to introduce legislation to undermine the Supreme Court decision by setting up a “national security court." And so, justice be damned, down another unproven path we will go...

If McCain is the next "decider," we can watch this country go down in a blaze of stupidity.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Oh how I love learning new words! I'm talking about words that aren't just new to me, but are new to the English language. I'm doubly thrilled when the definition seems long overdue.
Nutpicking: The practice of sifting through the comments of blogs, email threads, discussion groups and other user generated content in an attempt to find choice quotes proving that the advocates for or against a particular political opinion are unreasonable, uninformed extremists.
The word was apparently coined by readers of The Washington Monthly in 2006, so maybe I'm not a fashionable early adopter, but I'm early enough to identify the nutpicking strategy in the 2008 election. The right-wing blogs are pointing out anti-semitic hatred on the Obama blogs, and the left-wing blogs are pointing out the racial slurs on McCain's blog.

Of course, there are bound to be some crazies in every movement, but I must point out the irony that it was McCain who introduced the Stop the Online Exploitation of Our Children Act of 2006 (PDF) which would have regulated blogs and held bloggers responsible for the comments posted by others... responsible to the tune of $300,000!

What a mess that law would have been! Consider the Twat-O-Tron script which spits out incoherent xenophobic rants. Now consider that when these rants are posted on the BBC's Have Your Say website, they are actually rated quite highly by other readers. (h/t Kuro5hin)

So if ever such a blog regulating bill passes, then the Internet will become a battle ground of nutpicking scripts attempting to incur penalties on enemy blogs by launching the weapon of stupid comments and bad grammar.

And I bet when you clicked this post you thought I'd be writing about what people do when they have crabs. Fooled ya.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Like a Dog that Returns to its Vomit

The signs are clearer every day. Bush is about to attack Iran. Why can't America see it?
Rather than winding down one war, Bush is starting another. The entire world knows this and is discussing Bush's planned attack on Iran in many forums. It is only Americans who haven't caught on. A few senators have said that Bush must not attack Iran without the approval of Congress, and postings on the Internet demonstrate world wide awareness that Iran is in the Bush Regime's cross hairs. But Congress and the Media – and the demonstration in Washington – are focused on Iraq.
So here are some clues in case you still don't believe it.
  • The US government has long considered Iran to be a state sponsor of terrorism, and will reportedly put Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on the terrorism list.
  • Last year, the BBC reported that US contingency plans for air strikes on Iran extend beyond nuclear sites and include most of the country's military infrastructure.
  • The Senate report last April by Gen. David Petraeus and Amb. Ryan Crocker was interpreted by some as an argument for going into Iran.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has hinted that U.S. action on Iran nukes is near.
  • The rhetoric and the aggressive posturing from the White House, and the MSM's echoing of the talking points are a frightening repeat of the arguments made for invading Iraq five years ago.
And just like five years ago, I find myself looking for some signs of sanity from voters, politicians and pundits. There are a few:
However, Bush will never understand his previous errors. He is like a dog that returns to its vomit. He will repeat his folly. He will go back to what has made this country sick. I hope the media doesn't eat this up too.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Amazing Kindle

The Amazon Kindle is a convenient, portable reading device with the ability to wirelessly download books, newspapers, magazines, and blogs. I have at times advertised the Kindle on this blog, but last Sunday, when Amazon offered me free 2-day shipping, I decided I needed one for ME!

Yesterday, after two days of waiting (it seemed like forever), my Kindle arrived. UPS didn't deliver until after 7pm, so I haven't had as much time with it as I would like. However, here are my first impressions.

The viewing area is similar to a typical paperback novel. The size of the Kindle is much thinner than a paperback. The weight is less than a paperback (10.3 ounces). The price is way more than a paperback. Anyway, if it's technical specs that you're after, you can find them all here.

What I really want to talk about is the quality of the reading experience. The display is unlike any laptop, PDA, or cell phone I've ever seen. The Kindle uses a new technology called electronic-paper. The result is a sharp, high-resolution screen that looks and reads like real paper!

And like ordinary paper, electronic paper uses no backlighting, eliminating the glare associated with other electronic gadgets. I've discovered that the Kindle is as easy to read outdoors as it is indoors.

You navigate through pages by clicking next and previous buttons located on the left and right edges of the Kindle. You can easily read a book while holding the Kindle with a single hand.

There is also a little scroll wheel on the right edge which allows you to select a line of text to highlight, annotate, or perform a dictionary lookup. I've found it very handy to have instant access to a dictionary.

You also get instant access to WikiPedia and the Amazon Kindle Store... And here are two facts that might surprise you:

  1. You don't need to setup any WiFi. Kindle utilizes the same high-speed data network (EVDO) as advanced cell phones.
  2. There are no monthly wireless bills, service plans, or commitment -- Amazon takes care of the wireless delivery so you can simply browse, buy, and enjoy.

The wireless features include some basic web browsing capabilities, but it seems best suited for simple sites that are mostly text. I recommend that one of your first stops should be which has many FREE public domain books you can download straight to your Kindle. Hint -- select the Mobipocket file format for Kindle compatibility.

There are a few things that I don't like about Kindle web browsing. First is input and navigation. Kindle has no mouse like a laptop and no touchscreen like a PDA. Instead you're stuck with the same scroll wheel you use for selecting lines of text. So you scroll to the line with a link or button, press the scroll wheel... and then the software asks you which link or button you actually meant. It's clunky and annoying, and it takes too many clicks and scrolls to get where you're going.

Also, the connectivity seems unreliable. I don't know if it's my location or I've just had bad luck in my first 24 hours of usage. I'm hoping it improves.

Sometimes while paging through a WikiPedia article I noticed the bottom line of text was half cut off. Flipping to the next page didn't help... still only displaying the bottom half of the cut-off line. I hope they will address this annoyance in a software upgrade.

But to me, the web browsing is only a secondary feature of the Kindle. The primary feature is book reading.

Obviously the Kindle isn't for everybody. Here are my main reasons for purchasing one:

  • I like to read.
  • I love electronic gadgets if they are useful.
  • I like to have resources at my fingertips.
  • I am honestly a small little weakling who has trouble holding up hardcover books while in bed. This is no joke. For me, the size and weight of the Kindle makes books much more accessible.
  • I like instantly getting the books I want without having to go to the store or waiting days for a delivery. The Kindle fits with my lifestyle.
  • I can sample many books from the Amazon Kindle Store before purchasing.

Anyway, since I have the Kindle in my hot little hands right now, feel free to post any questions you might have about features or quality.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Basically it's a Google

John McCain recently joked about using the Internet to investigate his list of potential VP candidates.

"You know, basically it's a Google," he said. "What you can find out now on the Internet -- it's remarkable."

That's great that he's learning about "the Google," but one day he should learn about "the YouTube." It's also remarkable. In fact, the most remarkable consequence of video sharing is that it's making it harder for politicians to get away with lying. Take for example this montage of McCain's own words (h/t The Jed Report):

My favorite McCain quote: "I disagree with what the majority of American people want."

Remind me to run this post again in early November.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Ambush Reporting

Hidden cameras, one way mirrors, catching criminals in the act -- these were the original tactics of ambush reporting pioneered by 60 Minutes. A new generation of reporters and infotainment channels have redefined the ambush interview. I prefer to call the new style "bullying" because it has nothing to do with reporting, journalism, or integrity.

I've written about one Fox News ambush boy before. His name is Porter Barry. I've also written about a journalist who I really respect. His name is Bill Moyers. Let's see what happens when the two meet at the National Conference for Media Reform:

It's no surprise that Moyer's intelligence, composure, and wit beat Barry's obnoxious, repetitive talking points, but the highlight of the argument is when, at about 2 minutes into part 2, Moyers asks this key question: "Is Rupert Murdoch responsible to the American people?"

I say of course he is responsible. Murdoch is the major shareholder, chairman and managing director of News Corporation. News Corporation owns many newspapers, magazines, studios and television channels around the world. And the man has been accused of violating editorial independence and destroying once respectable newspapers with his tabloid style sensationalism. That's not my idea of free press.

Bill Moyers once said "There is no more important struggle for American democracy than ensuring a diverse, independent and free media. Free Press is at the heart of that struggle.”

But I would like to hear Porter Barry's opinion, so I hope he does go on Moyer's show next week to offer his insight on the media's responsibility to the American people. I'm sure it will be fascinating.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

X-Ray Vision

Ten U.S. airports are installing new body-scanning machines that produce whole-body images that reveal your most private parts. Feel safer yet?

I certainly don't. With a tiny bit of brainstorming, I can come up with a few holes in this system.

Obese people can hide items under their folds of fat. Skinny people can conceal items in their body cavities. People can simply disguise things in their carry-on bag. Or multiple people can carry on weapon parts to be assembled on-board. And if a suicide-bomber is caught with a device, what's stopping him from detonating it right there in the airport killing hundreds? Keep in mind, I came up with these genius ideas and I'm not even a criminal mastermind.

The alternative to submitting to the indignity of the full body scan is a full body pat down. What baffles me the most is that people don't seem to mind this invasion of privacy. I'm hearing a lot of comments like "well if it speeds things up and I can keep my shoes on..." Are we getting too used to these humiliations? Today the airport, tomorrow the mall.

Another issue is who views these body scans? We are told a security person in a separate room views the image and immediately deletes it. Call me cynical, but I estimate in 6 months a voyeuristic body scan web site will pop up. Viewing primo celebrity shots will cost extra of course. They can call the web site "Security Theater."

Because that's exactly what the airports are creating -- ostentatious displays of expensive technology to give an illusion of safety. But so far the results are more like a dysfunctional sideshow that has cost the economy $26billion.

Flying the not-so-friendly skies is an inherently dangerous adventure. Planes crashed and sometimes exploded long before we were targeted by terrorists. Security measures should concentrate on keeping the bad guys out of the cockpit. That protects the people on the ground. The people on the plane are already taking a calculated risk.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Bush? A Liar?

Earlier this week, A long-delayed Senate committee report concluded that President Bush and his aides built the public case for war against Iraq by exaggerating available intelligence and by ignoring disagreements among spy agencies about Iraq’s weapons programs and Saddam Hussein’s links to Al Qaeda. You can read the report here (PDF), and public statements here (PDF). (Unfortunately, these files contain scanned images of the report, and are therefore not searchable.)

This Senate report is important because the committee analyzed major policy speeches that were central to the decision to go to war. The speeches examined included:

Then the committee examined whether these public statements were substantiated by intelligence information. For example, Bush said this:
"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production." - President George W. Bush, State of the Union Address, January 29, 2003.
But not all intelligence sources agreed. The Department of Energy (DOE) disagreed with the CIA's conclusions regarding the aluminum tubes, and assessed that it was more likely that the tubes were intended for a different use, such as a conventional rocket program. The Department of State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research also disagreed with the CIA.

Bush, Cheney, and Powell made similar deceiving statements regarding biological and chemical weapons programs. They lead the public and the international community to believe that intelligence was conclusive when it was not. The mainstream media can describe Bush's prewar claims as exaggerated, overstated, inflated, unsupported, or oversimplified, but I say he lied.

I'm not alone in my assessment: [video below or click here if it doesn't show.]

I agree with Richard Clarke's sentiments regarding Bush, Cheney and company: "I just don’t think we can let these people back into polite society and give them jobs on university boards and corporate boards and just let them pretend that nothing ever happened when there are 4,000 Americans dead and 25,000 Americans grievously wounded, and they’ll carry those wounds and suffer all the rest of their lives."

This article marks my 101st blog post this year. I've decided to republish my news blog from 2001 - 2002. Many of the links are no longer available, but some of the titles demonstrate the prewar hysteria as well as some early signs of sanity.

Friday, June 06, 2008

True Love Shorts

I always believed that K-Mart clothes could prevent you from getting laid. Apparently, this is a selling point now. This new line of K-Mart sweatshorts, which some are calling chastity shorts, feature a drawstring waist and are available in five colors with the abstinence slogan "true love waits" stamped across the ass or front pocket.

If you ask me, they look way too easy to get off.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Great Egress

Let's go to the circus, and see The Great Egress. The signs indicate something stunning, and the arrows point the way. The crowd follows, whispering rumors about the fascinating secrets of the Egress. They go through the doors, and end up outside. There they see a sign with the definition of egress: "1) The action or right of going or coming out. 2) a place or means of going out." And now everybody has to pay 25 cents to get back in.

There is no proof that P.T. Barnum ever said "there's a sucker born every minute," but he did say "every crowd has a silver lining." The man would still profit brilliantly today...

Just tell people you have a shocking video of a living, breathing space alien, and watch the bloggers and mainstream media swarm to you. Better yet, claim you are a former CIA analyst with a scandalous video featuring a politician or his wife (as I laughed about earlier this week), and watch your web traffic skyrocket.

The profit is more than monetary if one has a political agenda. Because the rumors, embellishments, and lies grow as we head down the dark corridor towards the egress. The damage is done long before we reach the door.

The world has fallen for many hoaxes both political and scientific. A hoax usually sounds like it has some kind of credibility by association, has some technical sounding language, and often enough, the artifact or video never even surfaces.

As we head out the exit this time, the sign will say "Oh, grow up!"

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

McCain's Speech

Tonight I watched Clinton's speech, I watched Obama's speech, and then I tried to watch McCain's speech, but it was so painful. He looked nervous and awkward. His head turned back and forth reading alternate teleprompters. What was this speech about anyway?

You will hear from my opponent’s campaign in every speech, every interview, every press release that I’m running for President Bush’s third term. You will hear every policy of the President described as the Bush-McCain policy. Why does Senator Obama believe it’s so important to repeat that idea over and over again? Because he knows it’s very difficult to get Americans to believe something they know is false. So he tries to drum it into your minds by constantly repeating it rather than debate honestly the very different directions he and I would take the country.
And that was my cue for booing and hissing at my television. His live audience only clapped politely.

Of course, I'm not an objective observer. Nobody is. McCain said many things I strongly disagree with. But his pledge to end partisanship makes me nauseous. We heard the same thing from Bush in 2000, and we all know how that worked out.

Despite McCain's claims, I do believe he's running for Bush's third term. He can't escape it. McCain and Bush perfectly represent the Republican party: ugly, hateful, and un-inspirational.

Wiser in Battle

Another new book, and the claims of liberal bloggers are vindicated once again.

Wiser in Battle: A Soldier's Story is the groundbreaking new memoir by Lieutenant General Ricardo S. Sanchez, former commander of coalition forces in Iraq. Sanchez describes the chaos on the Iraqi battlefield caused by the Bush administration's misguided command of the military.

NPR has an interview with Sanchez and an excerpt from his memoir:
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, I watched helplessly as the Bush administration led America into a strategic blunder of historic proportions. It became painfully obvious that the executive branch of our government did not trust its military. It relied instead on a neoconservative ideology developed by men and women with little, if any, military experience. Some senior military leaders did not challenge civilian decision makers at the appropriate times, and the courageous few who did take a stand were subsequently forced out of the service.
Much like the "revelations" in Scott McClellan's book, Sanchez's revelations aren't so stunning if you've been following anything other than Fox News in the last 5 years. Here are a few of Sanchez's claims:

  • He witnessed the cynical use of war for political gains by elected officials and acquiescent military leaders.
  • Political decisions created conditions that caused unnecessary harm to our soldiers on the ground.
  • There was a complete lack of Phase IV post-­invasion planning by the administration and the military.
  • The decision to turn over sovereignty to the Iraqis in July 2004 was a decision designed to make a bad situation look good for Bush's reelection.
  • Some units were deployed without proper training.
  • Sanchez believes Abu Ghraib represents America's initial abandonment of its commitment to human rights and the Geneva Conventions—and an eventual return to reason.

How will the Bush administration react to this? Will they sadly lament that this is not the General Sanchez they knew? Call him a disgruntled general with an axe to grind? Blame the Abu Ghraib abuses on him? Accuse him of hating the troops maybe?

Critics, however, can't call this authoritative book another case of too little too late. Sanchez has been speaking out for a while.

But I don't think Bush is listening, and I don't think Bush will suddenly learn to govern for the common good. I don't think he'll start telling the truth, or stop waging unnecessary wars. I don't think he'll be wiser in battle.

Sadly, I think he wants to be seen as a madman.

Monday, June 02, 2008


Rumors everywhere! I heard that the Republican party has a video of Michelle Obama talking about "whitey." Now, I haven't seen the video yet, and apparently nobody has seen it yet. But my experience tells me this: when a white person uses the "n word" it's a scandal. When a black person calls somebody "whitey" it's hilarious! Face it, that word simply doesn't elicit the same emotional response.

Maybe the video is a diatribe against all whiteys. I agree that could possibly be offensive. Maybe the video is a remark about one particular whitey... oh, I don't know who. Say Hillary Clinton maybe? That would offend a few people, but not me.

I predict the video won't be as stunning as some people are expecting, and then we'll get back to talking about the real issues. Ok, I'm just kidding about that last part.