Monday, November 28, 2005

WH to Attack Anti-Illegal Immigration

Just as I predicted last October, President Bush is set to launch a campaign to crack down on illegal immigration. It's an issue that if managed properly can be politically beneficial. Immigration can be like fire for Republicans, though, since short-term gains may produce long-term deficiencies.

I'm dubious about efforts to stop illegal immigration (look how well we've done with drugs), however.


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Nicholas Cage Upset at Brit Bond Rule

From the sour grapes dept.:
Hollywood actor Nicolas Cage is angry that his American nationality hindered his chance to become James Bond because he thinks the prejudice is petty and stupid.

The Con Air star resents the unwritten rule which states the secret spy can only be played by British actors and is devastated he will probably never get another opportunity to try for the role.

He says: "You can cast a Brit to play Bond but you can never cast an American to play him.

"I think that is totally unfair."

Cage was a secret contender to play 007, but lost out to Layer Cake star Daniel Craig.

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Pernicious Effects of McCain-Feingold

I've long been of the opinion that the press should have been the biggest opponent of restrictive campaign finance laws, in part because they have the most to lose. Once politicians and groups can be restricted in their campaigns, press censorship is the necessary next step.

That is apparently what is going on in Washington state where a county judge ruled yesterday that a radio talk show host's remarks against a Seattle-area gas tax were an "in-kind" contribution to a campaign against it.
Comments made by radio talk-show hosts this past summer supporting anti-gas-tax Initiative 912 should be considered in-kind political contributions, a Thurston County Superior Court judge reaffirmed Wednesday.

Judge Chris Wickham also found that the I-912 campaign had complied with his ruling by reporting the contributions to the state and closed the case.

The ruling was called a blow to free speech by the law firm representing the I-912 campaign, which is seeking to overturn a 9.5-cent-a-gallon increase in the state gas tax. They vowed to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

"Campaigns and media figures are going to have this in the back of their heads. 'Am I too close to this, am I talking about this too much? Should I be having lunch with this guy from the campaign?' " said William Maurer, executive director of the Institute for Justice Washington Chapter, which represents I-912 in the case.

Others, however, say Wickham's ruling was narrowly focused and does not infringe on free-speech rights.

"We did not ever want to be in a situation where anyone felt that their speech was limited," said Michael Vaska, a Seattle attorney who helped bring the case. "We just wanted people to have the right to know who was paying for this campaign."

I don't think the day is too far away when a media outlet will be sued for being biased. It's a shame it will turn out this way because it didn't have to be considering that there hasn't been any public demand for "reform." (Via Michelle Malkin.)

Dennis Hastert, Blogger

Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert just launched his blog, Speaker's Journal. This makes him the highest-level public official to start one.

IBM Agrees to Sell Sun's Solaris

The computer hardware and software businesses have seen some strange bedfellows of late (Apple switching to Intel processors, Corel pledging to support an open-source document formats, etc.). That continued yesterday as hardware giant IBM announced that it will begin offering its customers Sun's Solaris Unix operating system. The development is significant because IBM has long made its own version of Unix and is also a big proponent of Linux.

I can see some potential profit in this for Sun but it does absolutely nothing to clarify its business plan which has been an absolute mess of contradictory offerings and changes of plans. Could this deal be a foreshadowing of things to come for the company?

Plamegame Not Likely to Yield Rove Indictment

It's old news by now (read Josh Marshall's summary if you're not up on it). I only bring it up because the whole Valerie Plame Wilson scandal has become such a farce and continues to get more ridiculous every day. It's unfortunate that the special prosecutor was put into a situation in which the focus of the investigation seems to be to justify its own existence.

Congress is the place where alleged political misconduct should be investigated. As it is now, both the admin and the prosecutor's office are leaking like sieves about a supposed leak investigation. Instead of fighting a proxy battle through the press, the admin and its opponents should be doing it the old-fashioned way, in a Capitol Hill hearing room.

How Miers Went Down

National Journal's Hotline has a nice piece (for subscribers only, alas) on how the Harriet Miers nomination ended. Fortunately, for those who don't pay, the site made available an excerpt on its blog, which I now shamelessly will reproduce below:
The tipping point came within the past several days. GOP Senators privately communicated to WH CoS Andy Card that unless they had access to hard evidence that Miers was conversant in constitutional issues, there was no way she would be confirmed. Her performance in private meetings was weak, at best, these senators told Card. Throughout the day yesterday, says a senior Senate aide, there were "conversations throughout the day at the staff level." Late yesterday, Senate Maj. Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) called Card and told him in no uncertain terms that Miers would probably not be confirmed. An aide: "He provided frank assessment of situation in the Senate. [The] lay of land on committee." After that call, according to White House sources, Bush and Card met privately with Miers, and they decided jointly that preserving WH privilege on documents was too important a principle to risk. Miers officially informed Bush at 8:30 pm ET. As late as 8 p.m., one White House aide said the WH counsel's office was rushing to finish a revision to the Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire. (It arrived after 11:00 pm ET). Word began to spread through conservative Washington last night. The White House office of political affairs notified allies at about 8:30 a.m ET this morning but swore them to secrecy until the White House released the President's statement.
Good reporting from what I've heard. Though the use of "tipping point" is really starting to become a cliché.

Competancy issues and an uncertain record were the main factors behind the failure of the nomination. The WH failed to sufficiently vet Miers's record and now it's paid a huge price. In retrospect, we should have seen something like this coming since President Bush seems averse to certain aspects of the presidency such as nominations and vetos. That only John Ashcroft and Colin Powell have been the only major cabinet secretaries to quit during Bush's second term is a good indication that the administration is not sufficiently open to revisting its approach to things.

Related: Miers's exit sets Senate calendar haywire.

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Miers Pulls Out

Looks like the rumors that were floating around last week about Harriet Miers being dropped were correct. President Bush announced moments ago that she has withdrawn her nomination:
President Bush on Thursday accepted the withdrawal of Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, according to a statement from the White House.

In the statement, Miers said her nomination presented a "burden for the White House."

Miers, the White House counsel, was nominated earlier this month by President Bush to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the high court.

On Wednesday, White House spokesman Scott McClellan dismissed the suggestion that senators have been reluctant to come out in support of Miers because they are unimpressed with her as a nominee.

"I think you're seeing a lot of members of the Senate saying, 'We want to hear what she has to say in the hearings,' before they make a judgment," he said. "With Harriet Miers, there are many in the Senate that simply did not know her previously, although she is widely respected within the legal profession."

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Will Bush Pull Miers Nomination?

The Washington Times has been talking with some people who seem to think so:
The White House has begun making contingency plans for the withdrawal of Harriet Miers as President Bush's choice to fill a seat on the Supreme Court, conservative sources said yesterday.

"White House senior staff are starting to ask outside people, saying, 'We're not discussing pulling out her nomination, but if we were to, do you have any advice as to how we should do it?' " a conservative Republican with ties to the White House told The Washington Times.

The White House denied making such calls. [...] A second Republican, who is the leader of a conservative interest group and has ties to the White House, confirmed that calls are being made to a select group of conservative activists who are not employed by the government.

"The political people in the White House are very worried about how she will do in the hearings," the second conservative leader said. "I think they have finally awakened."
I think it's likely that a Miers pullout scenario is being floated just as a contingency. But contingencies often have the habit of becoming realities. It's doubtful President Bush would yank the nomination without Miers's consent, though.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Specialist Who Spammed Me

As someone who never really supported the Iraq war but who also thinks press coverage of it is often inaccurate and simplistic, I was surprised when I received the following comment:
I was referred to your blog. I think I have a helpful resource that you can use for your readership. US Central Command has a website,, with the latest news and photos from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. It features the “hard to find” stories from the Middle East, as well as an interesting “What extremists are saying” section. You’re welcome to use any materials you find on our site, please just include the standard attribution to CENTCOM.

You can also sign up for the weekly electronic newsletter and monthly Coalition Bulletin at signup.asp. If you’d like me to subscribe you, just ask.

Lastly, if you could include a link to CENTCOM, that would be appreciated.
All the best,

Spc Richardson
US Central Command Public Affairs
Who knows if this really was from CENTCOM. I'm apparently not the only one who's received it, though. If it is real, it's extraordinarily stupid. Comment spamming is the quickest way to get a blogger to hate your site.

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Dobson's Choice

Well whaddya know? The FreeRepublic posts I cited earlier regarding the process behind how Harriet Miers was tapped to be the supreme court nominee turned out to be correct information. Almost three days before evangelical leader James Dobson confirmed the reports. If you're a reporter (or blogger even) who isn't read forums, you should start.

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Monday, October 10, 2005

Miers Update

Instead, for 30 years, Hecht and Miers — President Bush's Supreme Court nominee — have nurtured a kinship that has entranced and confounded their closest friends. They are traditional conservatives content in a modern, nontraditional relationship, one that leaves plenty of time for their true love, their work, to take center stage."

'I think they thought seriously about getting married,' said Dallas commercial litigation attorney Brady Sparks, who lived across the hall from Hecht in law school and has been friends with Hecht and Miers ever since. 'They both decided that it just wasn't in the cards for the agenda they both wanted, and that was to do about three lifetimes worth of work in one lifetime.'
Freeper GarySpFc:
When Miers was first nominated I contacted my best friend who is pastor in Dallas. I asked him if he knew anyone who was familiar with Miers. It just so happens his father has known HM since she was elected to the city council. He stated even back then she frequently stated, 'We need to refer back to the city charter.' She also said, 'Our courts have gone too far and left the Founders intent.' Hecht has also stated she reads her Bible like an originalist.

Would she vote pro-life? Hecht is simply being careful in his statements so as not to predjudice the Senate agains Miers. My buddy stated Valley View Christian is THE LEADING EVANGELICAL CHURCH in the Dallas area, and VERY PRO-LIFE....THINK FUNDAMENTALIST. Hecht has also stated Miers is pro-life. She is also very active in her church, and teaches and works on the missions committee, which also works with pro-life groups.
American Spectator:
It appears that conservatives' long simmering distrust of moderate chief of staff Andrew Card has been confirmed with the nomination of Harriet Miers.

Sources inside the White House say Card in several meetings literally shouted down opposition to Miers during the vetting process. "Harriet was his pick all the way up 'til the President jumped on board wholeheartedly," says a White House staffer. "This was not a Rove pick or Laura Bush pick. It was Card's pick." [...]

The natural question will be to wonder, "Where was Rove?" But sources inside the White House say Rove was not distracted by other issues, or overloaded with work. Rather, he was simply one of several voices speaking to the President. In this case, perhaps, he wasn't the last to be heard.
David Frum:

More talking over the weekend to more conservative lawyers in Washington. It is hard to convey how unanimously they not only reject, but disdain, the choice of Miers.

Another told me of a briefing session to prepare Miers to enter into her duties as White House Counsel. A panel of lawyers who had served in past Republican White Houses was gathered together. After a couple of hours of questions and answers, all agreed: "We're going to need a really strong deputy."

It's been reported the reason Miers was named White House Counsel in the first place was that she had proven incompetent as Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy. Her boss, Chief of Staff Andy Card, badly wanted to get her out of his office - but couldn't fire her because she was protected by the president and the first lady. So he promoted her instead.
Freeper Pukin Dog:

Information was shared with me on Saturday, which described in no uncertain terms that Harriet Miers stands as the only nominee on Bush’s list which has any chance of confirmation by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The reasons for this are numerous, and would be embarrassing to the Conservative movement should one or many of the ‘stars’ who we hoped Bush would select be shot down in Committee, which again, if true, would be a certainty.

More than one of the persons we might have wanted made it clear to the President that they would not accept his nomination if selected. You can draw your own conclusions as to why, but the only hint I will provide is that data mining works too damn well these days. What we saw back when Clarence Thomas was nominated would seem like a walk in the park, compared to what would be done to some of our most popular jurists.

Our Democrat opponents have been quite busy, especially after John Roberts embarrassed them, searching for any information that would allow an open personal attack on a nominee. Sadly, many of the folks we wanted badly would have had their lives destroyed had they attempted confirmation to the bench, and wisely declined. There is no one among us who has not done (or had a family member do) things that we either regret, or would rather keep to ourselves. Because none of us are perfect, it is possible that had one of our choices been selected, we might have lived to regret that day for a very long time.

It's starting to look like this nomination is not only upsetting Bush's conservative base but also starting to cause the famously leak-free White House to spring a few. Who knows how much of the above is true, but I don't doubt some of is.

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CDU and SPD Ink Deal, Merkel to Become PM

I wonder how long this will last:
BERLIN, Oct 10 (Reuters) - Conservative leader Angela Merkel will become Germany's first woman chancellor under a deal with Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats (SPD) to break a post-election deadlock, sources said on Monday.

Three weeks after voters gave Merkel's conservatives an unexpectedly narrow win over Schroeder's SPD in a federal election, senior sources from both parties said an agreement had been struck that should pave the way for a power-sharing cabinet.

According to a senior SPD source, the SPD is poised to get the foreign, finance, justice and labour ministries in a new coalition government led by the 51-year old Merkel, a pastor's daughter who grew up in the former communist east.

That would leave Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and its Christian Social Union (CSU) allies with the economy, interior and defence portfolios.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Scalia Says He Didn't Expect to Be Chief Judge

AP report:

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said Saturday that he had not expected President Bush to nominate him to replace the late William Rehnquist as chief justice.

"I'm not even sure I wanted it, to tell you the truth," Scalia told reporters at a media briefing before a gala dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan.

Bush, who had in the past mentioned Scalia as one role model for an ideal chief justice, passed on Scalia and nominated John Roberts after Rehnquist's death.

Scalia said the time he would have had to devote to administering the court as chief justice would have taken away from his thinking and writing. However, he said, "The honor would have been wonderful."

Asked if he knew why he wasn't nominated, Scalia said the reason "is locked in the heart of the president."


Sunday Morning Stuff

NY Daily News gossips George Rush and Joanna Molloy are in trouble for overreacting to FNC reporter James Rosen's clumsy attempt to introduce Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to his colleague, Lauren Green. Upon finding out about the Rosen-Rice exchange, the gossip duo ran with an overheated item all but asserting that Rice and Green were lesbians. Instead of getting a response from Green or someone with whom she works, Molloy talked to a guest booker. D'oh!

Kashmir death toll estimated at 18,000. Will it bring peace to the region as both Hindus and Muslims were hit?

Britain's Roman Catholic Church says not all parts of Bible should be considered reliable. This isn't exactly news since many in the church (liberal and orthodox) have long said stated this. It raises the question, though, if somene claiming to be inspired by God may declare some portions of the Bible to be inaccurate or allegorical (in this case portions of Genesis, Matthew, and Revelations), what's to stop others from disbelieving other portions? Literalist religions avoid this problem, thus making them, however paradoxically, more rational from an organizational point of view.

MSNBC's "Situation with Tucker Carlson" gets its first real buzz when failed Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork condemns current SCOTUS nominee Harriet Miers as a "disaster."

Via his New York vantage-point, WSJ columnist James Taranto reports something I've picked up among DC conservatives: there is a tremendous sense of anger and betrayal at the Miers pick. I'll go out on a limb and say that the only way the President Bush can get his base back is to do something about immigration, especially since Democrats are starting to see its value as an issue. Related: A reminder just how far ahead Senate Dems came out ahead during the recent filibuster fight.

From the life-imitating-fiction department: Seattle cops criticized for patronizing prostitutes before arresting them, one of the longer-running gags on the Comedy Central improv hit "Reno 911."

Anonymous French blogger behind Le Journal de Max asks readers to buy his book so he can reveal his identity. The blog has become sort of a "Dilbert" of the much-smaller French blog community, mocking the absurdities of office life with a dry, spare wit.


Saturday, October 08, 2005

Hot Christian Porn--Or Not

Apparently, tomorrow is National Porn Sunday. However, it's not quite what the name sounds, even if the site marketing it is called and bills itself as "the no. 1 Christian porn site." In truth, the site is a project of two Christian ministers, Craig Gross and Mike Foster who think porn is pernicious.

The event is built around a screening of an indie documentary film called "Missionary Positions." Interestingly enough, though, the director, Bill Day, isn't especially against pornography as he said in an interview with ABC News.

"The style of the films I make is that I'm not so much interested in what's on the placard, I'm more interested in the guy holding the placard," Day said. "What gets him out of bed in the morning when the going gets rough? It's more of a human story. I think that's why the churches like it, because it shows the struggle."

The pornography industry has for years been probably the best innovator in using new technology and marketing theories, it looks as though its religious critics may finally be catching up. is pretty slickly designed and even offers a podcast. Porn Sunday is smashing from a marketing perspective although I'm certain many American congregations won't be taking part, especially since the movie has an "R" rating. Initially, Gross and Foster weren't allowed to show their film in congregations.

I wonder how long it will be before pornography is turned into another tobacco? Or will that even be possible?

In a possibly inversely related story, Laura W. blogging at Ace of Spades observes that environmentalists are upset that the Mexican government is using a sexy model in an ad campaign designed to save sea turtles.

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Thursday, October 06, 2005

I Wonder What Bush Really Said?

Reading this BBC press release linked to by Drudge, I'm wondering what really happened in an exchange President Bush reportedly had with Palestinian politicians in which he's alleged to have said that God told him to attack al Qaeda, invade Iraq, and establish a Palestinian state. One hopes it's not accurate. If he did indeed say it, it puts him in a difficult position, admit to something that most people would find strange, or admit that he was merely telling religious Muslims what they want to hear. Neither is particularly a strong position, therefore, one expects the White House to challenge the accuracy of the report.

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Monday, October 03, 2005

Turning the Tables on RIAA

Digital Music News reports:
This is the case peer-to-peer file sharers have been waiting for. Tanya Andersen, a 41 year old disabled single mother living in Oregon, has countersued the RIAA for Oregon RICO violations, fraud, invasion of privacy, abuse of process, electronic trespass, violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, negligent misrepresentation, the tort of "outrage", and deceptive business practices.
Details of the complaint at link above.


Monday, September 26, 2005

TimesSelect and 'Free Plus'

I wrote recently on the New York Times’s new TimesSelect program (Aside: why on earth did the Times pick two words that end and start with the same letter for the name?) but after reading Jay Rosen’s thought-provoking and comprehensive post on the matter, I feel more is necessary.

One of the main points in the posting is that charging for opinion columns makes no sense since one non-governmental figure's views on something are worth(less) as much as the next informed person's, thus, no one would be inclined to pay for them.

To me, this idea is based on the theory that most people care more about what one ought to think about the news rather than what it really and truly is. That’s perfectly natural considering that no one has the time to try and find out everything about every story.

At this point, the best way a news medium can deliver on this expectation is through an opinion piece or in a toned down “news analysis,” since like their publics, they, too have limited resources to discover what’s really happening.

This is why the opinion columns in newspapers (whether about sports, news, politics, or the party scene) are what keeps people reading. News consumers come back for more because they expect not only good information but the manner in which it is delivered. It’s also the primary reason why blogs have become so popular so rapidly in this country but not in others with similar internet penetration. (The USA is not even the first in that regard.) People like news delivered with some attitude, especially if done with one they find agreeable. The American press’s absurd pretensions to objectivity saw to it that the public’s desire for their preferred news was being largely ignored.

Talk radio, Fox News Channel, and blogging have been the ways in which this public desire for more zesty news coverage have been met. That isn’t to say that the “new media” are all that profound, though. Most blogs don’t produce much that’s of great value, especially since the plurality of them seem to be written by people under 20 who comment on their daily experiences. Similarly, the missing-white-girl-obsessed Fox News and the johnny-one-notes of talk radio usually don’t provide perspicacious analysis or engage in superb investigative reporting (not to say they can’t).

What the new media do provide is a means to facilitate discussion. Agree or disagree, getting your news from someone who admits to being a human being is far more engaging and entertaining than listening to broom-up-the-ass talking heads who insist that not only do they not have opinions, even if they did, they’d never allow them to intrude into their reporting.

Statistical studies bear this conclusion out. In a survey released last June, the Pew Research Center for People and the Press found that 55 percent of respondents liked it when news outlets presented debates between differing sides, as opposed to 6 percent who said they disliked it. On the question of personality in the news, 53 percent said they liked it when “reporters with present personalities” present the news.

Among people who follow so-called hard news heavily, 43 percent said they like news that shares their viewpoint compared to just 13 percent among those with low interest.

More than likely, the TimesSelect program is based on the above concepts.

This may seem odd at first since the arguments I just mentioned are points used by critics of TS. The commonplace nature of opinion is just the thing that the dominant Times faction seems to be banking on--except in their minds, the expectation is that the public not only wants to know what others think about sports, news, and politics; it also will place a premium on the opinions of the newspaper’s reliable, accurate, and bemusing columnists.

That’s a gamble in my view even though it’s certainly true that a fairly large number of people--the types who believe every word the Times publishes with the exception of 65 percent of every David Brooks column. The trouble for the Times, though, is that this group of people is an ever-shrinking number of people.

This leads me to wonder: What if TimesSelect (especially the part where columnists will interact with subscribers) is actually just a deal sweetener to get people to subscribe to the paper’s archives? A ham-fisted concession to the idea of information communities?

If that’s what TimesSelect is, I think the idea could have some merit if the cost-benefit ratio were a bit more lucrative for the customer and more enticing for the window-shopper.

Not only should the Times allow today’s columns to be available tomorrow, as Doc Searls suggests, the paper should allow subscribers to see tomorrow’s news today (and not just Sunday’s as it is at present). An expansion of the public editor’s office to include a “subscribers’ advocate” might also prove attractive, especially since current public editor Byron Calame is perpetually overwhelmed with queries.

Another valuable asset for TimesSelect subscribers might be the idea of user-controlled blogs, from which the paper might draw during times of breaking news as some media outlets did during the London Underground attacks. TimesSelect may also prove useful as a breeding ground for an NYT foray into internet television.

With some modifications, I think TimesSelect could be made more likely to succeed. In its present form (and present price), I don’t think it’s worth much for the people who are inclined to pay for online news services.

In most of the analysis on the subject that I’ve seen, the discussion seems to assume that a news source should either be fully free or entirely subscriber based and not a free/pay hybrid. I disagree. A hybrid site which is “free plus extras” can succeed as and have shown. Limbaugh’s site has been profitable from day one while the Journal’s has been profitable for the past few years.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Eight Years of Spam

I've sometimes thought about starting a spam blog, a place where people can read some of the more creative spams, solicitations or viruses that come along. Since I've moved over to Google's GMail service, though, the amount of spam I receive has declined quite a bit so that hasn't been feasible (plus who needs more work?)

Fortunately, Paul Wouter has this interesting collection of spam which he maintained for eight years, complete with lots of statistics and graphs. It's worth checking out if only to see the summaries.


Friday, September 23, 2005

Pennywit Gets Cold-called

Pennywit recounts his experience being called up and asked to join an anti-Sheehan protest.

Yet another reason I'm glad I don't have a land line.


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Evaluating NYT, WSJ's Latest Efforts

Alan Mutter has two worthwhile posts up assessing the Wall Street Journal's new "Weekend Journal" and the NYT's new subscription service I wrote about recently.

Opera Browser Becomes Free

Opera Software, makers of my preferred web browser, announced yesterday that its signature product is now totally free for users. Great news.

Via Andrew Cory at Dean's World.


David Hasslehoff to Record Rap Album

Via Ace, I learned today that David Hasslehoff of "Baywatch" and "Knight Rider" (my favorite childhood TV show) fame is set to record a rap album under the name Hassle the Hoff. Supposedly washed up rapper Ice-T will be producing.


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Bush Admin Attempts to Pursue Porn Purveyors

I really don't know why people think that this congressionally funded campaign to target people who create and distribute porn depicting "bestiality, urination, defecation, as well as sadistic and masochistic behavior" will do any better than federal government's CANSPAM Act did to reduce junk email.

CANSPAM has basically been a total failure. It failed primarily because trying to regulate the internet is a fool's errand--the more a country manages to suppress domestic violators, the more profitable the prohibited enterprise becomes outside its borders. Users will always be able to find a way around the restrictions as well. The CANSPAM restrictions have only made things more difficult for organizations who do bother to comply with the law.

It's basically axiomatic. Legislation trying to ban a socieotechnological behavior must rely on superior technology, which eventually will be circumvented. Without destroying free society by instituting controls on the client end, regulating the internet is like trying to draw water with a sieve.

In essense, this is the governmental conundrum. No one likes the fact that sick people do sick things. But unless those wrong actions are of such magnitude ipso facto (such as murder) or are common enough (tax evasion, drug use) that they are problems in the aggregate to the civic majority, no action will be taken. In this case, none should.

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Monday, September 19, 2005

Easy Categories for Blogger Users

Probably the most annoying things about using Blogger to run your blog is its lack of categories for your postings. As usual with technology, a big company's failures (Google in this case) means users need to create workarounds.

After getting asked this question a number of times, I decided to develop a solution which is easy to use once set up and requires less time or knowledge than other solutions out there which rely on Technorati, Delicious, or both.

All of these solutions work but to me they weren't complete. If you wanted the categories not to turn up results from other blogs when readers clicked on their links, you had to sign up for a Delicious account and manually bookmark your postings. If you avoid Delicious (many do), then you're stuck with generic Technorati tags. Plus if either of those sites go down, your categories are useless.

To solve this dilema, I decided to rely on Blogger's built-in search engine to create the categories. That way, if people can read your blog, they can use your categories. Plus, you can have as many as you like without worrying about organization.

Installing Blogger Categories
  1. Make sure you're using Mozilla Firefox as your web browser. If not, download and install it from
  2. Once you have Firefox, make sure the Bookmarks Toolbar is enabled. Check this on the View > Toolbars menu. If it's enabled, you should see a toolbar right beneath the address bar with some icons. Look at the screen in this picture right underneath the web page address bar. The toolbar with the red dinosaur is the Bookmarks Toolbar.
  3. Next, drag the following link onto a blank space on the toolbar:
    Categories: ';for(var i=0;i 0){a+=', ';}if (checkplus=='-1'){a+='
    '+tr[i]+'';}else {var chat='';var plus=tr[i].split(' ');for(var q=0;q'+tr[i]+'';}}a+='';prompt('Copy this code, press OK, then paste to your blog entry:',a);})()">Blogger Categories
  4. In the code box below, replace my blog's URL with your own. If your address is, look in the box for (it's in there twice way over on the right side of the box). Erase my URL and put yours in the box. Make sure to use no spaces.
  5. Click inside the text box, press Control+A to select all the text. Then copy it to the clipboard with Control+C.
  6. Finally, right-click on the icon you made in step 3, choose Properties. Erase everything in the Location box. Paste in the text you copied in step 5. Press OK.
Using Blogger Categories
  1. Write up your posting. When you're finished, press the "Edit HTML" button.
  2. Click inside the editing box, then move the cursor to the end of the file. Press the "Blogger Categories" button on the Bookmarks Toolbar.
  3. Follow the instructions on the box to assign one or more categories to your posting. Make sure to copy the code you get to the clipboard.
  4. Once the box is gone, press Control+V to paste in your category code. Push the "Compose" button to make sure everything is good. Publish as normal.
Code Box

Technical Info
  1. Blogger doesn't immediately update its search database. Therefore, your most recent postings will take a little while to show up in the categories list.
  2. If you haven't updated your blog for a while, your blog may not be indexed by Google's software.
  3. For best results, make the words you use for categories just a bit different from the words you use in your postings.
  4. My category hack also will make Technorati tags for any categories you create.
  5. Tip of the hat to "A Consuming Experience" for the basis of this code.

UPDATE 2006-07-11: I notice several comments on this post which I didn't see since I don't have time to check it repeatedly. If you want help, drop me an email!


Tracking Buzz with Blog Search Tools

One of the nicest features of two of the blog search engines is their ability to help you keep track of how much usage a particular word or URL is getting. Both Ice Rocket and BlogPulse offer this feature. Since blog search engines are still far away from catching up to the millions of blogs that are out there, the results you'll get when clicking the "trend" link vary quite widely.

At this point, Blogpulse's trend tool is better for three reasons: 1) it allows you to go further back into the past (six months vs. three), 2) by clicking specific points on the graph, you can view blog postings for that particular day, and 3) you can compare up to three different search terms and have them show up on your graph.

This last point is best illustrated by the following graph which shows just how little most people care about political scandals. In my chart, I searched Blogpulse for the last six months for the terms "downing street memo," "cindy sheehan," and "hurricane katrina."

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Friday, September 16, 2005

NYT to Bill Readers for Columnists

Despite the enormous popularization of blogging and other public media, the New York Times bucked the trend yesterday with an announcement that it will start charging readers a fee to read the articles of its opinion columnists.

In all honesty, when I first heard the news, I thought it was some sort of joke. Surely the Times wouldn't do something so stupid, especially after seeing the Wall Street Journal became a virtual nonentity online. The NYT's move is especially bizarre considering that since the Journal became a total subscriber site in the late 90s, it's been gradually moving toward freer content through the creation of, periodic free subscription programs, and a recent campaign to free some articles which may be of interest to bloggers.

Sure, some people will be dumb enough to register for the program. But most people, especially those who have no idea who the likes of Tom Friedman or Paul Krugman are, certainly will not. That's because to most people, an opinion slinger is far less valuable than the stuff he or she writes. People develop relationships with columnists, it's true, but only after they've done so with their writing.

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Thursday, September 15, 2005

Rice Tops Poll of Iowa GOPers

From the Quad-City Times:
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is a surprising top choice for president among Iowa Republicans, according to a poll to be released today — more than two years before the state's first-in-the-nation caucuses.

Among 400 Republicans who said they are likely to attend the 2008 caucuses, Rice received the backing of 30.3 percent. U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona was second in the survey with 16 percent, and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani received support from 15.3 percent. Roughly 20 percent were undecided.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Google Enters Blog Search Sweepstakes

The crowded blog search space may soon contract now that Google has debuted its Blog Search service. Like competing services Technorati, Feedster, Blogpulse, and Ice Rocket, the database relies on site notification rather than crawling. Like Feedster and Ice Rocket, Google's index uses RSS feeds as its data source.

Google's entry is still beta quality but in some informal testing, I found it had picked up a number of blogs which its competitors had ignored. Things are about to get even more interesting as blog searching becomes increasingly sophisticated. I wonder which Google competitor will die first?

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Monday, September 12, 2005

Big News from Oracle

It looks Oracle is feeling the pressure from open source databases.

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Saturday, August 20, 2005

Costas Refuses to Do Show about Holloway Case

It's been a while since I last posted here (so busy with work), but I thought I'd take time to note that Bob Costas who's been guest-hosting the "Larry King Live" show on CNN refused to host a show about the non-news event of the missing white girl Natalee Holloway.

Kudos to Costas for taking a stand against news trivialization.

Friday, July 15, 2005

CAIR to Launch Anti-terrorism Ad Campaign

Coming to a TV near you, according to Reuters:
American Muslims have launched an advertising campaign to denounce acts of terrorism after bombers believed to be British Muslims killed at least 54 people in attacks on London.

"Any effort by terrorists to hide their criminal activities under the mask of religious piety is being categorically and unequivocally rejected by mainstream Muslims," said Parvez Ahmed, chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

He said the television ad, which will air nationwide by July 19, is an attempt to detach Islam from the "heinous" acts of a few Muslims.

Police believe the attacks are linked to al Qaeda, the Islamic militant group behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and the Madrid train bombings last year.

"Backlash is a concern ... but it's not our main motive," said CAIR spokeswoman Rabiah Ahmed. "Our main motivation lies with making sure our position is clear where Islam stands on terrorism."

The Admission That Wasn't

Doing a bit of catch-up on the Plame Game, I came across the beginnings of a web firestorm (see here, here, here, here, and here) about an apparent admission from Joe Wilson that his wife wasn't undercover at the time Robert Novak divulged Plame's occupation.

At issue is the following exchange Wilson had with Wolf Blitzer on CNN:
BLITZER: But the other argument that's been made against you is that you've sought to capitalize on this extravaganza, having that photo shoot with your wife, who was a clandestine officer of the CIA, and that you've tried to enrich yourself writing this book and all of that.

What do you make of those accusations, which are serious accusations, as you know, that have been leveled against you.

WILSON: My wife was not a clandestine officer the day that Bob Novak blew her identity.

BLITZER: But she hadn't been a clandestine officer for some time before that?

WILSON: That's not anything that I can talk about. And, indeed, I'll go back to what I said earlier, the CIA believed that a possible crime had been committed, and that's why they referred it to the Justice Department.

She was not a clandestine officer at the time that that article in Vanity Fair appeared. And I have every right to have the American public know who I am and not to have myself defined by those who would write the sorts of things that are coming out, being spewed out of the mouths of the RNC...
One reading of this is that taken by John Podhoretz at National Review's Corner:
Here is Joseph Wilson himself, talking to Wolf Blitzer on CNN today: “My wife was not a clandestine officer the day that Bob Novak blew her identity.” Read that again. Now reflect on the fact that there has been an ongoing investigation FOR TWO YEARS conducted, we were breathlessly and rather constantly told in the weeks surrounding the initial controversy, on the basis that the White House and reporters OUTED A CLANDESTINE AGENT. Now we know. She wasn’t. Not then.
As smarmy and self-aggrandizing as Joe Wilson is (what normal human being would put his name on a book called "The Politics of Truth"?), he's not so stupid as to completely undercut everything he's been yapping about for two years now. Obviously, he meant to say that his wife was no longer "under cover" the moment Creator's Syndicate released Bob Novak's column which mentioned her. I hope the bloggers who misinterpreted Wilson in this instance will correct the record.

Thankfully, Wilson's ill-deserved and over-utilized fame will soon be coming to an end as USA Today and the New York Times report that 1) Plame likely was not "covert agent" covered under the law administration critics accuse Rove and others of violating, 2) Rove heard about Plame from Novak and other journalists.

UPDATE 3:48, Podhoretz corrects the record, mostly.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Hillary Clinton, Wire Services, and Pixelated Sex

Wire services are very useful as clearinghouses of information. They're often good at breaking down complex situations and making them easier to understand for people who haven't been following the story. Sometimes, though, the simplification goes too far.

Such is the case with the AP's and Reuters's reporting about a controversy that's errupted over the popular video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. At issue is whether or not GTA's creator, Rockstar Games deliberately included (disabled) pornographic minigames that can be unlocked through downloading a minor hack of one of the PC version of the game's files.

After word got out of the PC hack (a PlayStation2 version soon followed), various people started getting involved including the video game industry's ratings body, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. Next to step up was Senator Hillary Clinton who sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking it to investigate Rockstar.

In her FTC letter, the senator used the correct language to describe the situation. Reporting on Clinton's missive, however, the AP and Reuters were overly generic. While nothing the reporters said was false, it was misleading.

From the AP report:
Clinton, D-N.Y., is asking the Federal Trade Commission to probe how users of the game can access "graphic pornographic and violent content" for the game from the Internet.
Of course "access ... from the Internet" can mean a variety of things from third-party modules that can be downloaded (such as the infamous and short-lived Nude Raider mods) to unlocking disabled game features.

Reuters reporter Peter Kaplan phrased his story in more mysterious tones:
Clinton asked the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to investigate the origins of a downloadable modification that allows simulated sex in the personal computer version of one of the most popular and controversial video games in history.
This is all true, but Kaplan gave no hint as to "the origins" of the game patches, or even a statement from their creator, a Dutch individual going by the name PatrickW, despite the fact that he has an official statement about the patches on the front page his web site:
All the contents of this mod was [sic] already available on the original disks. Therefor the scriptcode, the models, the animations and the dialogs by the original voice-actors were all created by RockStar. The only thing I had to do to enable the mini-games was toggling a single bit in the main.scm file. (Of course it was not easy to find the correct bit). The Nude models that are used as a bonus in the Quick action version of the mod, were also already present on the original disk.
But all this material is completely inaccesible in an unmodded version of the game. It can therefor not be considered a cheat, easter-egg or hidden feature. But is most probably just leftover material from a gameplay idea that didn't make the final release. I would really like to stress that this material is only accessible after willfully applying the hot coffee mod (or something similar) to the game.
In the end, PatrickW will most likely to be proven correct. The idea that the ESRB should monitor and rate disabled and hidden code within games is absurd. Still, though, if the bad publicity continues for Rockstar, the company may very well pull the current version of GTA San An, even though Clinton's attempt to moderate her image will likely increase the game's sales among people who somehow think that polygon sex is kewl.

Va. Governor's Race Still the Same

I'm not a big follower of my state's politics, but do occasionally like to peek in on the electoral battles, especially since this year, Virginia is one of only two states with a governor's race.

According to the latest Rasmussen poll(a company whose record I'm not sure is entirely reliable), Republican Jerry Kilgore leads Democrat Tim Kaine by the same margin he did a month ago, though both candidates have gained a point. Kilgore is up 47 to 41.

Monday, July 11, 2005

The Anatomy of a Screwup

In a fascinating post, Ed Bott follows the story of how an anonymously sourced item speculating that Microsoft was in negotiations to buy adware company Claria (the maker of the Gator program) morphed on the web into an outright claim from the Boing Boing blog that the deal was done.

Demographics and Democrats

PoliPundit spots a Washington Times article claiming that interstate migration patterns are helping increase the population of Republican-leaning states, thereby increasing their clout in the electoral college. He files it under the "demographics-are-bad-for-Democrats" department which is somewhat premature. The ensuing discussion among the site's commenters (revolving around the question of who is migrating, liberals to the conservative states or conservatives seeking ideologically friendlier climes) is worth reading, though as yet, no one's pointed out that the article PoliPundit linked was written by Donald Lambro who is notorious in Washington for being as overly upbeat on Republicans' chances as the New York Times is on Democrats'.

On November 6, 2000 (article not online), Lambro claimed that California was "clearly in play" in the presidential election the next day and stated that Oregon, Maine, and Iowa "were leaning toward Mr. Bush." Bush lost all three.

Demographics are important, no question, but good strategy, the issue climate and candidate effectiveness are more of a factor on elections in my opinion.

The HD-DVD, Blu-ray Battle

The movie, computer, and consumer electronics industry is about to break out in a VHS vs. Betamax war over the next generation of DVD formats. Barring last-minute concessions, things are going to get interesting.

The New York Times reports (HT TV Barn) that Hollywood is still deadlocked in a battle over the successor to the DVD format. Right now there are two primary formats, HD-DVD and Blu-ray DVD. In short, HD-DVD can be thought of as an extension to to the regular DVD format which makes it cheaper and quicker to produce than the BDVDs which use an entirely new technical model. The downside for HD-DVD is that its capacity is much smaller compared to BDVD. Just recently, Sharp announced it has developed a 100GB disc which it says will be compatible with BDVD. The max an HD-DVD can hold is 45GB. (Detailed specs for both here.)

In the article, the Times gives a listing of which studios and tech companies are on which side (HD-DVD almost has 50 percent of the movie market) but strangely leaves out the fact that Microsoft is backing HD-DVD which could be significant.

In the end, however, it may not be the movie industry that determines which format wins. The still-growing console video game industry may do that. Market leader Sony is one of the creators of the Blu-ray technology and is incorporating them into the upcoming PlayStation3, in the process driving the production cost of it to around $490 and creating a $90 loss on each unit. The system isn't skedded for release until next year.

Microsoft's next-generation Xbox 360, meanwhile, is still sticking with the existing DVD format. The advantage for MS is that this will allow it to release the 360 before Christmas this year. However, some developers don't like the size limitations of the disc format and are worried they'll have to release games on multiple DVDs, thereby annoying gamers. As a business strategy, Microsoft's failure to integrate HD-DVD into the Xbox may be what dooms the format.

As for Nintendo, the third-place (at least in the U.S. and Europe) is playing its cards close to the vest, though it's rumored that the company's upcoming system will be using disc technology from Panasonic, one of the backers of HD-DVD. Even though it may be using HD-DVD discs, Nintendo has officially stated that it "will not support high-definition." This announcement has spawned the creation of a web site devoted to convincing Nintendo to support HDTV.

MS Releases Longhorn Screenshots

Mirrored screenshot galleries here and here. My take: Those default colors sure are ugly. It also looks like they copied the transparent titlebars on inactive windows right from MacOS which has had that feature for about four years. I'm glad they added tabbed browsing to Internet Explorer.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Plame Game

The investigation into the leak of then-CIA analyst Valerie Plame's identity (contrary to widespread belief, she was not an undercover agent) continues to unravel as Newsweek reveals that Time reporter Matt Cooper did talk with Karl Rove about Plame's husband's trip to Niger.

Newsweek got a leak of Cooper's office email from someone at the rival magazine and reprinted portions of it in this week's issue. It's possible that Rove was the original source of the leak for both Cooper and New York Times reporter Judith Miller, but the available evidence is beginning to suggest otherwise.

In last week's Newsweek, Rove's lawyer Robert Luskin was quoted saying that Rove had waived any confidentiality agreements he had with reporters:
Luskin told Newsweek that Rove "never knowingly disclosed classified information" and that "he did not tell any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA." Luskin declined, however, to discuss any other details. He did say that Rove himself had testified before the grand jury "two or three times" [the last time was in 2004] and signed a waiver authorizing reporters to testify about their conversations with him.
Cooper's source, however, only at the last minute released the reporter. From the July 7 Washington Post:

In a last-minute surprise, Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper avoided Miller's fate by agreeing in the same court hearing to cooperate with special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald's probe.

Cooper told the judge that he said goodbye to his 6-year-old son yesterday morning and was expecting to go to jail for as long as four months. But minutes later he received a surprise phone call from his government source, who, Cooper said, freed him to break their confidentiality agreement and to tell a grand jury about their conversations in July 2003.

Another piece of evidence suggests that Rove was not the primary source. If the Newsweek emails really were written by Cooper, they seem to point to someone at the CIA being the principle leaker:
Cooper proceeded to spell out some guidance on a story that was beginning to roil Washington. He finished, "please don't source this to rove or even WH [White House]" and suggested another reporter check with the CIA.
Novak's own public statements on his report also seem to suggest someone(s) other than Rove. In his Oct. 1, 2003 column, Novak said his original source as "no partisan gunslinger." That hardly sounds like Rove who has routinely bashed Democrats:
During a long conversation with a senior administration official, I asked why Wilson was assigned the mission to Niger. He said Wilson had been sent by the CIA's counterproliferation section at the suggestion of one of its employees, his wife. It was an offhand revelation from this official, who is no partisan gunslinger. When I called another official for confirmation, he said: "Oh, you know about it."
The NYT's and its reporter Miller's actions also point to a larger pool of people being in on the allegation that Plame was a nepotist since she is refusing to identify whoever it was that told her about Plame. If Rove released reporters to whom he talked, if Cooper's primary source released him, then it stands to reason that, unless Miller has some sort of sick craving for prison, she had a different source.

At this point, it seems to me that Plame's career was an open secret (a National Review contributor disclosed in 2003 that he knew about Plame before Novak's column), therefore, once word got around elite Washington circles that her husband, Joseph Wilson--who had donated to Democrats for years and had a high position in the Clinton admin--had gotten assigned to investigate possible Iraqi uranium dealings in Niger, gossip started spreading that she had gotten him the job.

The gossip spread more widely and rapidly after Wilson went public with his mission in a New York Times op-ed blasting the Bush admin and the war in Iraq. Eventually, several reporters heard about the gossip through sources and that Novak's column was released to its subscribers on July 11, the day before Cooper asked Rove about Wilson. Like many of the kerfuffles created by Clinton foes in the 90s, the Plame game seems to be another scandalous non-scandal. Instead of going after Rove who can easily claim he didn't know Plame was "undercover," administration foes would do well to follow the Left Coaster's advice and look elsewhere.

In conclusion, here is a list of reporters who knew about Plame and their sources. There may be some overlap. Not everyone in the list was mentioned in my post above. If you know of anyone I left out, post them (and a link) in the comments. I'm counting at least four to eight people who knew and told reporters.

Robert Novak, syndicated columnist: "two senior administration officials," one of whom is "no partisan gunslinger"

Matthew Cooper, Time reporter: Karl Rove, Scooter Libby (chief of staff for VP Cheney), at least one other person who released him from his promise of anonymity

"Other reporters": "During a July 12, 2003, conversation, according to a source involved in the investigation, Time reporter Matthew Cooper told Libby that he had been informed by other reporters that Wilson's wife was a CIA employee. Libby, the source said, replied that he had heard the same thing, also from the press corps."

Cliff May, conservative activist: "someone who formerly worked in the government" "but not by anyone working in the White House."

Judith Miller, New York Times reporter: At least one person who has not released her from a confidentiality agreement

Walter Pincus, Washington Post reporter: someone other than Libby

UPDATE 7/11 7:39, The WP reports that Rove signed his universal waiver of anonymity in December 2003 or January of 2004, but:
Cooper had indicated he would go to jail rather than expose a confidential source, but he agreed last week to cooperate with the grand jury after getting clearance from his source to testify. Luskin said Cooper had been clear to testify all along -- because of the waiver signed 18 months ago -- but that the waiver was "reaffirmed" on Wednesday, the day of a hearing to decide whether he and Miller would go to jail.
I may be wrong in saying that Rove was not Cooper's primary source.

For a comprehensive roundup of blog opinion on this subject, see this post from Joe Gandelman.

UPDATE 10:38, After reading over JustOneMinute's very good post on the Plame Game, I'm adding "other journalists" to the list of people who knew about Plame and told Cooper, especially since the crux of Novak's July 14 column was distributed to the press on July 11.

The Key to GOP Success

It's one of the most overlooked facts of politics that people opposed to abortion are the main reason Republicans have enjoyed congressional majorities since 1994. Many pro-lifers are uneasy with being in the GOP, and consider their allegiance to the party purely a strategic decision. After reading the web for 10 years, I've seen many posts like this post from a FreeRepublic member Vicomte13 on the subject of potential Supreme Court appointment:
The Pro-Lifer's deal was: we work out hearts out in election after election, for 32 years, and when you Republican leaders finally get control, you install judges who will overturn Roe. We are not going to change our expectations in order to make it easier for the Republicans. This is why we are at the party in the first place. If the Republicans had not made this their platform for 32 years, the pro-lifers would not be in the party as a bloc, and the Republicans would not be the majority.

There is an effort to try to renegotiate the terms of a deal after 32 years of substantial performance by pro-lifers.
It is not going to fly.

Remember the electoral disaster after Bush's father raised taxes? Low tax conservatives decided that the betrayal was too much, and Bush 41 and his team were out.

That will happen to the Republicans now if they do not put pro-life conservatives on the Supreme Court, people who will overturn Roe. That was the deal, and we are not going to accept the Republicans changing the deal now.

Arrested at the Airport

Three men have been arrested at London's Heathrow Airport. Police are saying not to attach their arrests to the investigation of Thursday's bombings.

In other news, it appears an American was among those hit by the blasts.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Blogs Part of Groups' Strategies for Nomination Fight

Joe Gandelman talks about how political groups will be using blogs as part of their communications strategies in the upcoming battle over Sandra O'Connor's replacement on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Yet more proof that blogging has arrived. In fact, having a blog message is probably more important in the political realm than in the business realm because politics requires dialogue so much more than most for-profit enterprises.

Coming to a Phone Near You?

Forbes reports on the how several large companies are looking to get into the cellular phone market, not through building their own networks but by reselling another company's services as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO).

This sales technique is commonplace for landlines and to a lesser extent DSL. Among companies mentioned as exploring MVNO services are Wal-Mart, Nike, and Apple. Others who are already in the game: 7-Eleven, Earthlink, and Disney subsidiary ESPN.

The idea is feasible though I expect that too many companies will try to cash in. All the new resellers will probably lower cellular prices even further.

Bush Repeats Flypaper Argument

In his Saturday radio address, President Bush and his advisers made a bone-headed play: he repeated the terrorist flypaper argument just two days after London was hit by a terrorist attack. Now it may be that the theory is valid (I don't think so) but it's just a little too soon to be repeating the line because surely Here's What's Left isn't alone in disliking it.

England on Edge

Just like after Sept. 11, in the immediate aftermath of the London underground bombings, the country is on alert. As of now, Britain's second-largest city Birmingham is being evacuated.

This comes after a three hoax threats one earlier in Birmingham, one at the central city of Stourbridge (see first link), and another in the city of Manchester.

In other news, a mosque was burned, prompting some to suspect arson.

UPDATE 16:53, BBC: Unconfirmed report there are two suspicious packages.

UPDATE 17:09, If you really want to know what's going on in Birmingham, the BBC has a great local radio service (RealPlayer required) which includes roving street reporters and allows people to call in and report. FYI, the stream plays music and local news so don't think you're at the wrong place if you don't hear news.

UPDATE 17:51, That radio service I linked to has gone to automated programming as they've been evacuated. Over 25,000 people in Birmingham have been evacuated. In the mean time, check out the BBC Five which is London-based.

UPDATE 17:56, Nothing new on the security threat, just the first poll post-7/7. Contrary to what happened after Spain was attacked, the Underground bombings have actually increased British resolve to remain in Iraq. Ed Morrisey has analysis and the link.

Iacocca Returns to Chrysler (Well Sorta)

Lee Iacocca, the former CEO of Chrysler who helped bring the company out of bankrupcy nearly a decade ago has agreed to appear in three ad spots for DaimlerChrysler. In return, the company has agreed to give him $1 for every one of the surviving brands from his time as CEO that sells. Plus his charitable foundation gets a donation. Hat tip Adrants.

Blogs and Overpersonalization

One of the things I tell clients and classes when I'm telling them about how blogs and other online media is to avoid putting too much personal info online. Here's an AP article that looks at some of the consequences of people who forget this. My advice: If you want to be really personal (and sometimes everyone does) try doing it with a pseudonym whether on a forum or a blog, and don't do it for too long.

Heritage After-action, Part I

Friday I attended a panel discussion at the Heritage Foundation which featured Ed Morrisey of Captain's Quarters, Jim Hill of the Washington Post Writers Group and Dan Glover of National Journal and Beltway Blogroll.

As usual, the best part of these sessions was after the prepared remarks when the dialogue between the panelists and audience begins. Mark Tapscott of Heritage did a good job finding a quality panel with the kind of diversity that makes for good discussion. I would post more of a reaction but unfortunately, I left my laptop at a client's office so that will have to wait until next week.

In addition to the three gentlemen above, I met several other people some for the first time, Mike Marshall of Pajamahadin and Michael Calderon. Both were interesting and it was nice to put a face on the postings. Like me, Mike is a consultant while Michael is a high school teacher.

It was also nice to see E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post again. He's always got something interesting to say. Friday, he mentioned his latest theory on newspapers: that the blogging explosion has actually helped increase the online audience of newspaper columnists. I'd love to see some research on the topic because it sounds quite possible.

For a good summary of what went on, see this post from Mary Katherine Ham, a blogger at Heritage, whom I also had the pleasure of seeing again. Ed Morrisey also has an after-action post.

Friday, July 08, 2005

The Impact of Grokster

Now that the dust has settled on the U.S. Supreme Court's unfortunate ruling in MGM v. Grokster, Doc Searls surveys the situation. The findings are mixed: while companies trying to get into the p2p space are now more restricted than before, they at least have some of the uncertainty removed. And, if they watch their marketing rhetoric so as never to appear to support copyright infringment, may be able to pursue their existing strategies. There are lots of supplemental links in the piece for those wanting further reading.

The Trouble with O'Connor

Charles Krauthammer:
Perhaps the most telling moment of Sandra Day O'Connor's nearly quarter-century career on the Supreme Court came on her last day. In her opinion on the Kentucky Ten Commandments case, O'Connor wrote that, given religious strife raging around the world and America's success in resolving religious differences, why would we "renegotiate the boundaries between church and state. . . . Why would we trade a system that has served us so well for one that has served others so poorly?"

This is O'Connorism in its purest essence. She had not so much a judicial philosophy as a social philosophy. Unlike a principled conservative such as Antonin Scalia, or a principled liberal such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, O'Connor had no stable ideas about constitutional interpretation. Her idea of jurisprudence was to decide whether legislation produced social "systems" that either worked or did not.

But that, of course, is the job of the elected branches of government. Legislatures negotiate social arrangements. Judges are supposed to look at their handiwork and decide one thing and one thing only: whether the "system" the politicians produced comports with the Constitution. On what other grounds do judges have the authority to throw out legislation? Do they have superior wisdom about what works, superior capacity to decide which social boundaries require negotiation and which do not?
Hat tip: Betsy Newmark.

Bus Bomb Was Carried by Suicide Attacker

The Sun has an account from several eyewitnesses. This was the first suicide bomb in the West as far as I can remember. Here's an excerpt:
Shocked survivors told how they saw a “suicide bomber” on board the double-decker bus destroyed in yesterday’s terrorist outrage.

Up to 20 people were last night feared dead after the packed No 30 was ripped apart by a 9.47am blast in Tavistock Square, Central London.[...]

Terence Mutasa, 27, a staff nurse at University College hospital, said: “I treated two girls in their 20s who were involved in the bus bomb.

“They were saying some guy came and sat down and that he exploded. The girls received minor injuries and were in shock and distressed.

“They said the guy just sat down and the explosion happened. They thought it was a suicide bomber.”

Passenger Richard Jones was convinced he saw the bomber setting his device.

He said he became suspicious of the olive-skinned man because he looked anxious and was fiddling constantly with his bag.

The Day After

This is London:
Network Rail said the vast majority of its services were running normally, with the exception of the east coast mainline GNER services to King's Cross which were stopping at Peterborough.

But they said they hoped to have a limited service up and running by lunchtime.

As rush hour got started, a Network Rail spokesman estimated the number of passengers was at 60% of normal.

"A lot of people do seem to have taken the day off," he said.

On the streets of the capital, there were extra high-visibility patrols as police sought to reassure the public, including in areas with large Muslim populations.

Don't Mess with Momma

Dean provides a link to a web store selling t-shirts of Uncle Sam saying "Don't mess with my momma." Nice idea though somewhat unrefined.

Olympics Comm. Cuts Baseball, Softball

When I saw this story, I couldn't help but think of Baseball Crank. Of course, he may not care about the Olympics; many don't. Could there be a political motivation behind the vote?
SINGAPORE, July 8 (Reuters) - Baseball and softball will not feature in the 2012 London Olympics after they were wiped from the programme in a controversial vote on Friday.

The two sports failed to win a majority of votes in a ballot of members at a meeting of the International Olympic Committee in Singapore and became the first sports to be axed from the Olympics since polo in 1936.

The 26 other sports from the Athens 2004 programme did win a majority of votes and will remain on the programme in London.

Baseball and softball's ejection opens the door for two of golf, squash, karate, rugby sevens and roller sports to be added.

Will Rehnquist Retire?

From the Washington Post:
A week after Justice Sandra Day O'Connor announced her retirement, the White House and its allies are preparing for the possibility that Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist might soon follow suit, opening up a second vacancy to fill and scrambling the politics of this summer's brewing nomination battle.

Talk of a possible Rehnquist retirement has reached full boil again as Republican strategists mapped out plans for how to tackle a double nomination. Advisers inside and outside the White House are discussing how to select two potential nominees, how they might match or balance each other and how to sequence their confirmation hearings.
Elsewhere on the web, National Review's Kathryn Lopez is spreading rumors about Justice John Paul Stevens. Would she be willing to bet 50 bucks on that rumor? I would. He won't retire during this administration, not voluntarily at least.

Software Patents Rejected by EU

One positive news item came out of Europe Thursday: the European Parliament overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to establish patents on software. The measure was backed by many large software companies who think that it would have helped them stave off competition from the open-source community. That's especially bizarre since one of the biggest backers of the bill was Microsoft, the company who made famous the concept of "embrace and extend," the idea of copying competitors' features and then improving on them, which in turn makes competitors do the same.

In the long run, so long as the EU remains true to its principles, both open and proprietary software will benefit and by extention, every computer user. Software feature races are good. Software patents stop them. Kudos to everyone who helped secure the victory.

For more on why software patents are a bad idea, read this post from venture capitalist Joi Ito.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

What About Bob?

I haven't posted much on the Valerie Plame leak case. Jay Rosen has, though; his latest is a call for Bob Novak to be exiled from journalism. I think that's a little premature, especially since I believe it's based on conflating two facts in Novak's original column about Plame as being from from the same source:
Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report. The CIA says its counter-proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him.
There are two distinct points in this paragraph: 1) Plame works for the CIA. 2) She arranged for her husband to be sent to Niger.

Isn't it possible that the "two senior administration officials" only told Novak the second point and that he already knew (either from common knowledge as he says) or by some other means?

What lends credibility to this scenario is the fact that Novak doesn't appear to be bound for the slammer in any way. This suggests (though neither the columnist nor the prosecutor will confirm it) that Novak did appear before the grand jury and revealed at least how he came to know Fact #1. As a man who's been probably the biggest success for the longest time, he's been on the beat since the 1960s, I highly doubt that Novak would have compromised a source who told him something in confidence.

From this we may conclude that Novak either aquired knowledge of Plame's career through non-confidential means or that his source released him from a confidentiality agreement. It's not likely that the second scenario occurred because a person who knowingly disclosed classified information has committed a serious crime and therefore has no incentive to tell a grand jury this.

Having eliminated the second possibility, let's turn to the first one. Three possible scenarios flow from it: 1) Plame's career was common knowledge and Novak's source did not think that revealing this would be a criminal offense. Therefore, an administration source told Novak but not under a confidentiality agreement. Subsequently, Novak told the grand jury about this. 2) Novak obtained his information from someone outside the White House or from a fellow journalist such as Matt Cooper or Judy Miller. 3) Novak obtained information on both Plame's identity and her alleged role from administration officials who were actually passing on information they heard from Miller, Cooper or someone else.

In the end, I think it's too soon to render judgment on Novak's actions. If, as I believe, Novak's knowledge of Plame's career and her alleged involvement with her husband's Africa trip came from separate sources, I'm not sure there's anything he could say that would have helped Cooper and Miller avoid jail, especially if Plame's identity wasn't privileged information.

With regard to Novak's lack of comment on the case so far, it's either that he has agreed not to say anything as part of an immunity agreement or he just doesn't want to get in any more trouble than he's already in.

As for Fitzgerald, I find it hard to condone his prosecution. According to Ann Althouse, the judge in the case seems to be a jerk, too. Incredibly, he actually said this at Miller's sentencing:
"That's the child saying: 'I'm still going to take that chocolate chip cookie and eat it. I don't care.'"