Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Filibuster Foolishness

Driving around DC the past few days, I've had my car radio tuned in to C-SPAN Radio (which is available on satellite radio to those living outside DC) and ongoing debate over Senate Democrats' efforts to block President Bush's appellate court nominees and the Republicans' idea to stop the use of the filibuster to do so.

In the course of listening, I'm getting an impression that the Democrats will probably back down on the issue, despite their threats to shut down the Senate if the Republicans get the votes to end unlimited debate. Why? Because, contrary to the rhetoric from groups like People for the American Way, there really isn't that much at stake here for Democrats, at least compared to the risks.

Sure, federal appeals court judges are powerful but not in the grand scheme of things since their rulings can be overruled by Congress or by the Supreme Court. In other words, backing down before the GOP removes the filibuster has no real downside. By contrast, a prolonged battle in which Democrats act in the classic stereotype most Americans have of congress (bitter, partisan, and "do nothing"), there is nothing but political trouble. Most voters aren't particularly engaged on this issue. Those who are tend to support the Republican position.

Democrats also won't be able to effectively rely on liberal resentment of President Bush since he is staying out of the battle, making the focus solely on congress. This is bad for Democrats since their leadership is mostly inexperienced at playing to a national audience (Harry Reid and Barbara Boxer) or ineffective (Ted Kennedy).

Republican mismanagement of their oppositional strategy back in 1995 partially lead to the reelection of Bill Clinton, a similar thing could happen to Democrats if they insist on fighting over such small stakes. If Democrats are smart, they'd let these nominees go through before the GOP takes the filibuster away from them at a time when few are paying attention to a debate subject matter that is not of large consequence.

UPDATE: Is it just me or doesn't judicial nominee Priscilla Owen and Fox News/NPR reporter Mara Liasson look amazingly similar?

The Light Posting

I'm in the process of moving so posts have been non-existant as my time and access to the web have been spotty. I'm also behind on my email so if you emailed me and I haven't gotten back, don't think I've fallen off the face of the earth. I hope to have things settled in sometime next week.

In the mean time, I must note that the final shoe has dropped in the CBS Memogate story I was following back when I ran "60 Minutes Wednesday" has been cancelled. No surprise, really, given the ratings or the controversy surrounding the show. Word has it that Dan Rather will be moving back into his old digs at the Sunday "60," but I would expect that not to last past his contract expiration in 2006.

Another article that caught my eye recently (which I found on the BCBeat blog) was an interview that Comedy Central star Dave Chappelle gave to Time magazine. I've mostly liked "Chappelle's Show" and am even more impressed with him after reading about his trip to South Africa to take a break from the non-stop hustle and bustle of showbiz and look at himself and his friends. With that kind of attitude, I expect Chappelle to stay on the scene longer than similar fly-by-night TV and pop stars.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Back from BlogNashville

I'm back from BlogNashville. Here's a partial list of people I met and spoke with for the first time:
Tom Biro, Mark Dunn, Eric Scheie, Jason Clarke, Mark Glaser, Gateway Pundit, Andi, Bill Hobbs, Ian Schwartz, JD Lasica, Donald Sensing, Glenn Reynolds, Alan Cox, Tim Schmoyer, the Peacefire guys, Chris Muir, Linda Seebach, Hossein Derakhshan.

Bob Cox, Mark Tapscott, Sean Hackbarth, La Shawn Barber, Rebecca MacKinnon, Gabe Rivera.

More later but I figured I'd better get this list up here before I forgot. More on

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Washington Bookers Having Trouble with Baseball

FishbowlDC mirrors a National Journal report (not online) on how the return of baseball has caused some problems for TV bookers:

The new National Journal reports on a new problem facing the TV bookers in and around Washington with the arrival of the Nationals: Talking heads evidently like baseball (if you doubt otherwise, try this Google search.

"On a recent Thursday afternoon, with perfect baseball weather blowing over the Potomac, a booker for one show struck out trying to find a Congress-watcher to appear that evening. The first, second, and third experts that the booker called were either already at the old ball game or headed to RFK. Same with No. 4! Considering the first pitch was thrown out at 4:35 p.m., you have to wonder: Did the bosses of these Beltway insiders know they were passing up free airtime for the national pastime? No, scratch that. Since this is Washington, their bosses were probably at the game, too," the Inside Washington column writes.

So This is What They've Been Up to

The blog economy continues to expand. Craig Newmark, founder of is looking to get into online news: gets more than 4 million classified ads and 1 million forums postings each month, and Newmark — who no longer runs it but remains one of three board members — is often blamed for decimating classified advertising revenue at regional newspapers. But he says he has no desire to steal readers from mainstream media.

But he believes the reason why newspapers are losing circulation is that too many traditional journalists are willing to quote politicians and business executives even if they're blatantly lying — merely for the sake of perceived objectivity. He'd prefer an "open source" model of journalism where legions of volunteers act as writers, assignment editors and fact checkers to challenge mainstream journalists.

"People are looking for attitude and guts in reporting — not full-on gonzo journalism, but hey, tell us what you think," said Newmark, who described himself as having Whig values — strong on defense, fiscally conservative but socially liberal.

"Maybe Hunter Thompson had it right," Newmark said, referring to the late cultural icon whose rollicking, first-person narratives of drug addiction, the Hells Angels and the 1972 presidential election shook up the media decades ago.

Newmark isn't ready to unveil any new ventures, but said he's been brainstorming with Dan Gillmor, a former technology columnist at the San Jose Mercury News and founder of Grassroots Media Inc., and Jeff Jarvis, blogger and a former critic for TV Guide and People.

Newmark hopes the ideas take shape in time to supply voters with a "trustworthy" daily political report before the 2006 midterm elections. Young people, he said, particularly need credible online news, since the Internet is the top source of news for 18- to 34-year-olds, besting second-ranked local television by a 41-to-15 percent margin, according to a recent Carnegie Corp. study.

A European Counterpart to Google's Book Project

From the AP's Paris bureau:

The world according to Google? Europeans have long bemoaned the influence of Hollywood movies on their culture. Now plans by Google Inc. to create a massive digital library have triggered such strong fears in Europe about Anglo-American cultural dominance that one critic is warning of a "unilateral command of the thought of the world." [...]

Google's ambitions are grand — if a bit more modest than the hostile corporate takeover of the tiller of world literature that many critics seem to be imagining.

The project, announced in December, involves scanning millions of books at the libraries of four universities — Oxford, Harvard, Stanford and the University of Michigan — as well as the New York Public Library and putting them online. It will take years to complete.

So great is the concern that six European leaders have jointly proposed creating a "European digital library" to counter the project by Google Print, as the new venture is known. Other countries are expected to come on board.

The idea was actually first conceived of earlier this year by the president of France's national library, Jean-Noel Jeanneney, in an article he wrote for Le Monde (no longer available online). Jeanneney expands on his thoughts in a book he's releasing called "Quand Google défie l'Europe" ("When Google Defies Europe"). [I would prefer définir]

At this point, the Euro-library proposal is nothing concrete and it would be best if they could work together with Google to move forward on digitizing European books (and in this case other countries besides France are interested) since there is a certain absurdity in the idea of libraries competing with each other.

This concept may provoke a certain visceral reaction from many Americans considering that many of us think very little about the French, but the idea that a search engine monopoly has many downsides from a variety of points of view. The idea of one company being the de facto broker of the internet is something to be concerned about.

If you can read French, Hervé Le Crosnier has an interesting response to the Jeanneney proposal.

Watching the Tube in Nashville

Just got back to the hotel and saw an ad for a syndicated "View" knock-off show called "Life & Style." I remember hearing about the show in 2004 when it launched but haven't heard a lot of buzz about it since. Apparently, Sony Pictures, the show's distributor, is only now seriously pushing it out for syndication, though ratings are not going too well as far as I've seen poking around through LexisNexis.

Another thing I noticed is that the Fox affil here has a British guy (named Ashley Webster) as its lead male anchor. Western Tennessee isn't exactly the first place you'd think to hear a British voice on TV.

UPDATE: I haven't dared to put up any of my shots from my camera phone, so instead, I'm linking to Eric Scheie's Classical Values blog since he has a nice camera (didn't get the specs, sorry) and has been posting some very good pics, especially of the architecture of the area.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Repost of Blogging Through P2P

I'm bumping my post on using anonymous p2p.

Here is a link to the EFF steps about how to blog anonymously in a safer way.

Recovering from Browser Crashes

I'm here at BlogNashville where I'm rooming with Tom Biro, whose browser just crashed while he was trying to view a PDF.

This got me thinking about how one of Opera's greatest features, its ability to resume your browsing session after a crash, could be even better if it would periodically save your form data in the event of a crash alongside the web pages you're reading.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Off to BlogNashville

I'm headed off to Tennessee for the upcoming BlogNashville conference where, among other things, I will be participating in a panel on protecting anonymous bloggers.

My camera phone is also coming along and I'll try and use Flickr to post a few photos. Or not.

If you're going and haven't checked out the official event site for a while, you might want to since Bob Cox, the tireless primary force behind BlogNashville, and Jason Clarke, the web guy who set up the very attractive site, have got some announcements and other cool stuff such as this BN discussion tracker which uses Technorati,, and Flickr tags to show what everyone's saying about the conference.

PS: I am going to be setting up an IRC server for BlogNashville. Right now, I'll probably try to work something out with someone at Belmont University, host of the event, unless someone can recommend a free or quickie IRC server somewhere else.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Canadian Conservatives Accuse Liberals of Bribing MPs

The Liberals are engaging in squalid horse-trading in a bid to forestall their defeat in the Commons, the opposition Conservatives said Tuesday.

The Tories said at least four of their MPs had been offered plum government jobs to remove their votes from a coming showdown in the House. The Liberals denied the charge and no evidence was put forward by the Tories who made the claim, MP Inky Mark and deputy leader Peter MacKay.

Mark said a cabinet minister called to offer him an ambassadorship. MacKay said he was aware of similar offers to at least four Tories.

The allegations come in a political climate so intense the fate of the government could turn on a single vote.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper confirmed Monday night he will attempt to bring down the government in a confidence vote this spring.

Read the rest at Canadian Press.

OurMedia Still Not Working, So...

Well, I've all but given up that OurMedia is going to upload the "Harvey Birdman" ad clip spoofing those cheesy lawyer ads. In the meantime, you can watch it at AdJab.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Night Links

Jonathan Zasloff and Juan Non-Volokh have an interesting back-and-forth over who disrupted the normal order of things in the Senate by denying judicial nominees their rightful floor vote. Both make good points though I think Zasloff's revised argument is somewhat more persuasive, even though one-to-one comparisons of both eras aren't possible given the different governmental structures.

Over at the New Republic, Reihan Salam blogs on what Democrats can learn from Tony Blair who will probably win by a fair margin despite a lot of public animosity toward him and how our politics might follow the British trend.

Paul Krugman's theory of welfare: "Once a program is defined as welfare, it becomes a target for budget cuts." This, in essense, is the main reason why he opposes Social Security means testing. Question: since this is essentially a variant on the tragedy of the commons theory (the idea that people care less for something they have little personal stake in), might not we apply it to the entire concept of Social Security? Doesn't this mean that people would take better care of their own Social Security account since it is uniquely theirs? There are better arguments against SS change.

TechNewsWorld columnist Rob Enderle echoes my thoughts about operating systems: Linux is best for the server while Apple or Windows are winners on desktops. He doesn't mention laptops where, I think a PC is better simply because I can't replace the Mac's internal one-button mouse without wasting time and money on an entirely new keyboard.

The battle over p2p is heating up. Susan Crawford recounts her experience moderating a panel on the subject.

Bits: Slashdot discusses the future of database technology. ABC News to deliver videos to PlayStation Portable.

Spanking James Dobson

Max Blumenthal (and Jeff Jarvis by extension) hyperventilates that James Dobson--the most evil man in America and a threat to the very lives of everyone who isn't a fang-bearing evangelical Christian--will be running some ads on ABC's "Supernanny" in support of spanking!! How can such a thing be permitted, Blumenthal asks, when Dobson also happens to run a political 501c4 organization?

Before you pee your pants in outrage, I'll tell you that the non-profit arms of political organizations such as the NAACP-affiliated United Negro College Fund or the pan-environmentalist group Earth Share run similar ads, usually for no cost, on cable and broadcast routinely.

Blumenthal is also upset because ABC approved the Dobson ads after it earlier rejected a campaign from the United Church of Christ promoting the denomination's belief that homosexual conduct should not exclude one from church leadership. Those ads were rejected on the grounds that they were too politically controversial and ideological.

Unfortunately, the comparison of the two campaigns doesn't hold here since spanking is not nearly as controversial as homosexuality, as this ABC News poll shows. Last year, by a 2-to-1 margin, American adults said they sometimes spank their kids.

Personally, I would've run all of these groups' ads but to insist that Dobson shouldn't be allowed the right to simply because he's a sumbitch is nonsensical. Would Jarvis have let Dobson's group run them if he were running ABC? He should if he truly believes in open media. If he does, why link to such an illogical and poorly researched rant without condemning it?

UPDATE: Welcome Ace of Spades readers! I have to say, I agree wholeheartedly with Ace's remark that "one's politics are decided chiefly not by what you believe per se, but by whichever side's bullshit annoys you the least." It's why negative campaigning is almost always successful.

Animal Planet to Document Wookies and Ewoks

Just in time for piggybacking onto a highly anticipated theatrical release, Animal Planet will be running a special documentary May 18 explaining Ewoks and Wookies from the Star Wars universe. Fictional biology, what's next? (Via TV Barn.)

The Newspaper for the Internet Age

Ever since the mid-nineties when subscription dialup services like Prodigy, CompuServe, and America Online began popularizing getting news through the computer, the newspaper industry has tried to incorporate this content distribution method into its existing business models. Billions have been spent on this effort and very few large papers have made money online, even as their print circ declines tremendously.

The web mystery has everyone in the industry shaking their heads in dismay and wonderment at how they should change to fit the new media world. This is one reason everyone in the biz is watching the experimental San Francisco Examiner and DC Examiner which deliver free daily papers to households with $75,000+ incomes, hoping to rely exclusively on ad revs.

"I think you have to go in with a premise that we are living in a time and generation of folks that really don't believe you should pay for access to news," SF Examiner publisher Scott McKibben tells Boston Globe media reporter Mark Jurkowitz. "You must run your operation with a high degree of cost discipline. You must have an exceptional distribution network."

This strategy might just pay off. The only time people my age and younger consider buying a paper is when they're heading to the train. And even then, many won't do it.

The Examiner model is sounder to me than those silly free papers such as the Washington Post's "Express" which is more of a trash paper that you pick up on the street and throw away when you get to your destination. People are more likely to keep a paper lying around the house, even if it's just to use for birdcage liner or recycling.

I'm also hopeful for the Examiners because they're doing what I think is the best philosophy in politics and business: applying new ways of thinking to improve an existing operation. That is how old media such as books or radio have been able to survive, by finding their niche within the new media world.

If you're looking for more about the changing newspaper scene, I highly recommend reading Alan Mutter's blog Reflections of a Newsosaur if you aren't already.

UPDATE: According to these stats from Drudge (he says he got them from the Audit Bureau of Circulations), the circ of the SF Examiner's rival paper, the San Francisco Chronicle is down 6.1 percent, the highest of any top 20 newspaper except the LA Times. It' probably a California thing, but it's possible that the Examiner might have played a role. I guess we'll know in about two years.

Reid's Deal

There's been a lot of online discussion about a column by David Brooks in the New York Times in which he alleges (via unnamed sources) that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid offered Republican counterpart Bill Frist a deal in which some of the judicial nominations the Dems are holding up would be rescinded in exchange for a promise on Reid's part that his party would not block the next nomination of a supreme court justice.

Two possible scenarios present themselves here: Brooks is lying or misinformed; Mark Schmitt is convinced of this and makes a somewhat compelling argument to that effect.

The other possibility is that the offer really existed but that Frist rejected it. Ezra Klein is dumfounded that Reid would "unilaterally lay down arms no matter how crazy-insane Bush's nominees were."

In truth, though, this offer (if it happened) was mostly just a restatement of the existing Democratic strategy. They want Bush to back down on his nominees (whether some or all it makes no difference) and most everyone in Washington suspects that it will be Chief Justice Rehnquist who steps down next, and Bush will appoint Scalia or Thomas to take his place, both of whom have already been confirmed to the court. A fillibuster at that point would be pathetic, absurd, and hypocritical.

If the deal was offered, it's no surprise Frist didn't take it. It was a sucker offer.

Billboard Baggage

Many Californians are upset at a billbord in Los Angeles that proclaims it "Los Angeles, Mexico." California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger denounced it which prompted the LA Times to chide him for missing the humor. Patterico doesn't like their lecture. I don't either, but not for the same reason.

Frankly, I don't understand the fuss over the billboard. It wasn't obscene or defamatory. It was just a mildly amusing billboard which could easily be interpreted as meaning that the station makes Mexicans feel at home in California. To me, it's no more offensive than someone planting an American flag in a foreign country in a movie.

Still, the Times exemplifies one of the worst aspects of people who criticize others for taking offense: if the thing in question is too trivial (in your judgment) to offend you, why get upset at someone else's not liking it? If the billboard is insignificant, then it's not worth talking about someone else's (incorrect) disliking of it.

And don't tell me "it's the principle" because it isn't. Most people not upset with the LA, Mexico billboard are just fine with censoring billboards of cigarette or alcoholic beverage companies even though they sell fully legal products. Don't try that slope because you've already greased it. Why is it OK to censor cigarettes but not Mexico? There's no harm done by promoting either one provided you do so without being slanderous or obscene.

Killing Another Cliché

I hate buzzwords, especially ones that don't make sense. Writing at Dean's World, Mary Madigan chronicles the death of the term "Arab street." I've always hated it because it's so preposterously generic.

Washington State to Try Election in Court

Judge John Bridges this morning said he would allow Republicans to offer statistical analysis to show how illegal voters cast ballots in the November governor's election.

In Chelan County Superior Court, Bridges denied a Democratic Party motion to exclude the evidence, saying he did not see anything in law or court precedent that would prohibit the use of expert testimony to show how illegal votes were cast. [...]

Republicans want to be able to use what they call proportional deduction. They want to use expert testimony to show that illegal votes by felons and others in any given precinct should be apportioned between Rossi and Gregoire at the same rate they won the overall vote in that precinct. The illegal votes would then be deducted from both candidates' totals. [...]

Democratic Party Attorney David Burman told Bridges that the Republican plan relies on chance and leaves "a great potential for unproductive sour grapes."

Is it just me or is this an example of both sides flipping their positions from the battle over the 2000 census in which the Democrats supported sampling while Republicans were against it?

Harvey Birdman and the Future of Free Media Hosting

Reading this Mark Glaser OJR article on the upcoming battle for video hosting reminded me to put up a video of that "Harvey Birdman" commercial I mentioned earlier. Since this blog is largely an experiment in what stuff can be done online for free (and that I'm too busy to move to my own setup), I just uploaded it to the OurMedia site which actually is using the Internet Archive for media hosting. When it's available, it should be online here. They'll need to minimize this downtime if they want people to use the service, though.

UPDATE 20:30: It's still not up yet. I am not impressed. I'm about to start looking for non-free hosting of this great clip.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

MSNBC to Rename?

Drudge: "MSNBC to change its name, the Drudge Report has learned. The all-news cable network, which was founded as joint effort between Microsoft and NBC, will simply become 'The NBC News Channel' ... Top source explains: 'The new name is cleaner, less confusing...represents the programmig.'"

I know the old name was definitely confusing to casual news consumers I've asked about it. Some call it MNBC or that NBC channel. And of course, there's the Rush Limbaugh favorite, PMSNBC.

Earlier in March, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer toed a fine line in hinting his company was going to pull out of the cable channel:

"At MSNBC we're trying to drive very hard to bring more and more of this video content to bear, and press reports to the contrary, we and General Electric are very committed to what we're doing together online with MSNBC. And I talked about search and profitability."

This Oughtta Stop 'Em