Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Edsall's Stand for Shades of Grey

It's not something you often see talked about but there's basically an unwritten assumption in national political circles that if you're a political liberal and you're also a reporter, you should be willing to be a "team player" and not admit that you even are one.

This point is important, you see, because conservatives are liars bent on "hurting America" (to use Jon Stewart's phrase), so anything that gives them comfort is something you should never do.

That attitude was very much on display in an online chat today with former Washington Post reporter Thomas Edsall. If you recall, Edsall was the one who caused a stir by admitting (to conservative talker Hugh Hewitt) the blatantly obvious fact that liberals dominate the national elite media. Everyone who has any sort of contact with the New York and DC press corps knows this. People who work for Democrats tell me it all the time.

But in the mind of some liberals, most of them journalists, this is something that should never be publicly talked about for fear that if "the little people" get wind of this fact, we won't believe the proposition that journalists are demigods who can invariably see past their personal and group biases. And if we don't believe that line from them, perhaps we'll begin to question the received wisdom we get from them on a daily basis. Maybe then, we might start realizing that what you believe is primarily shaped by the information you take in.

Thus, it's better that liberal journalists not even start down that slippery slope. Certainly that's what a Post reader claiming to be from Seattle, Washington appears to believe. Here's the question and Edsall's answer (h/t Jim Romenesko):

Seattle, Wash: Why would you allow Hugh Hewitt to bait you into stupid questions about mainstream media bias and your personal loyalties? He and his ilk thrive on maintaining the illusion of a vast left-wing conspiracy in the news, and you basically confirming his worst suspicions makes you look like a sap and just serves to worsen conservative distrust of your work and the work of your colleagues.

Really, what were you thinking even answering those types of questions?

Thomas B. Edsall: I think his questions about the ideological leanings of reporters and editors are valid and appropriate. Instead of hiding behind claims of objectivity, members of the press should acknowledge and discuss their leanings. If anything, that will make them better reporters. Transparency is the best policy for almost all circumstances.

Esdall is right on the money. It is eminently important to know the politics of a group of people claiming to know "the truth" and saying that's all they're interested in.

It's amazing that Edsall's questioner couldn't see just how black-and-white this idea sounds to a non-liberal observer. There are some things that truly are indisputable and are always true. But for most things (especially politics), there is going to be disagreement, bias, separate sets of facts, and few shared truths between groups.

Liberals ought to know this, since they're forever denouncing conservatives as incapable of seeing the shades of grey (we even had a troll here by that name remember?). The reality, however, is that it's liberals who are incapable of seeing differing viewpoints on most issues and being tolerant of those who disagree. Kudos to Edsall for being more open-minded than many of his ideological compatriots.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

How Do You Say 'Sore Loser' in Spanish?

From the sore loser department:
Felipe Calderon was declared president-elect Tuesday after two months of uncertainty, but his ability to rule effectively remained in doubt with rival Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador vowing to lead a parallel leftist government from the streets.

The unanimous decision by the Federal Electoral Tribunal rejected allegations of systematic fraud and awarded Calderon the presidency by 233,831 votes out of 41.6 million cast in the July 2 elections — a margin of 0.56 percent. The ruling cannot be appealed.

Calderon now must win over millions of Mexicans angry that President Vicente Fox, who is from Calderon's party, didn't make good on promises of sweeping change — and fend off thousands of radicalized leftists who say they will stop at nothing to undermine his presidency.

Lopez Obrador, whose support is dwindling but becoming more radical, said he will not recognize the new government.

"I do not recognize someone who tries to act as the chief federal executive without having legitimate and democratic representation," Lopez Obrador told followers at Mexico's main central plaza, the Zocalo.

Lopez Obrador has vowed to block Calderon from taking power Dec. 1. Protesters outside the tribunal wept as the decision was announced and set off firecrackers that shook the building.
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Bad PR for Legacy Computer Users

I normally avoid blogging about missing people stories (too common and sensational) but this story of a British girl who escaped from a kidnapper has an interesting angle:
Police combing through the house where Natascha Kampusch was held captive for more than eight years have discovered her captor, a communications technician, used an obsolete computer.

Gerhard Lang of the Federal Criminal Investigations Bureau said kidnapper Wolfgang Priklopil relied exclusively on a Commodore 64 computer - a model popular in the 1980s but now considered an antique.

Lang told reporters the outmoded computer would complicate investigators’ efforts to transfer files for closer examination later, saying it would be difficult "to transmit the data to a modern computer without loss."
Incidentally, it's still possible to use the internet on a C64 using the Contiki web browser (named for the primitive boat Kon-Tiki, used to sail around the world). Lots of folks are still using their machines or the old software through emulation.

Friday, August 25, 2006

YouTube Starts Selling Video Ads

It's a first for the company. But the ads are a little different from the usual fare:
Paris Hilton's face is shiny. The lighting is bad, and she's sitting against yellow wall, filmed with what appears to be an amateur's video camera."Hey, YouTubers, it's Paris," she says to the camera, followed by a clip of her latest video and an invitation to check out the "Paris Hilton channel" on

Her appearance on the Internet's most popular video site is part of a new advertising strategy announced yesterday by YouTube, a year-old Internet phenomenon that has yet to find a viable revenue stream. By midday, the Paris Hilton video -- found at a home page location that YouTube will be selling to advertisers -- had attracted 155,000 views and more than 600 comments from visitors. The company said it would sell the upper right corner to advertisers for an undisclosed daily rate, also allowing them to create special YouTube "channels," for which they would be charged based on the number of page visitors.

"It's giving brands and advertisers a new way to provide new material to the YouTube community," YouTube chief executive Chad Hurley said. "This gives them a chance to create a viral video," he said, referring to fast user-to-user spread.

YouTube visitors will have to click on the video ad to activate it, and its appeal will be measured by the number of visitors who choose to watch it, share it and provide a short commentary below the clip.

Terrorist-praising Boy Band Tops Palestinian Charts

Here's a story you're not likely to see covered by today's MSM TV: the story of a Palestinian boy band who made it writing up a song praising Hezollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah. (Click here for an MP3 of it.)

The song, "Hawk of Lebanon," is mostly a 10-minute repetition of the phrase "Yallah, Nasrallah" along with other delightful lyrics such as "I hope we can destroy your life and make you worry, Zionism and Zionists are the biggest poison in Arab land."

It's taken the Palestine by storm. AP reporter Sarah El Deeb has more:

They were struggling in a boy band, working the West Bank wedding circuit and dreaming of stardom.

Now the five singers who make up the Northern Band have come a little closer to their goal, with help from an unwitting ally — Hezbollah guerrilla chief Hassan Nasrallah.

At the height of the Israel-Hezbollah war, the band wrote new lyrics, in praise of Nasrallah, for an old tune. The Hawk of Lebanon song tapped into Nasrallah's huge popularity among Palestinians and became an instant hit.

The song is being played on Arab TV networks, used as a ring tone for cell phones, passed around on e-mail and distributed on pirate CDs and tapes. Music stores have trouble keeping up with demand, in part because Israeli soldiers have confiscated some Nasrallah tapes and CDs at checkpoints.

Basking in its newfound success, the band has doubled its fee per performance to $230 US. At a recent wedding in the town of Ramallah, the band was asked to play the Nasrallah song six times.

Lead singer and manager Alaa Abu al-Haija, 28, said he gives the audiences what they want to hear.

Alaa and his two younger brothers and band partners — Nour, 25, and Mohammed, 22 — are already working on the next song about Nasrallah. Alaa also wrote the Hamas election song, to the same tune as the Nasrallah anthem, but it never reached the same popularity.

So just like their American counterparts, the Northern Band is recycling music from other songs.

The Washington Times also has a report:

At a wedding party in Ramallah this week, Alaa Abul Heijah's chants of "Yallah, Nasrallah" sent the male-only dance circle into a relentless spin, with arms flailing and hands clapping.

"The song has brought us fame," said Mr. Abul Heijah, the songwriter and leader of the Firkat Ishaman band. "Palestinian people are interested in talking about people that fight for their cause. Hassan Nasrallah is that person."

Just one month ago, the band would have been lucky to find gigs for two weeks a month, but now it is performing almost every day.

The band's popularity highlights how Hezbollah and Sheik Nasrallah burnished their prominence in the Arab world after a monthlong war with Israel that ended in a cease-fire. Palestinians see Sheik Nasrallah as the one Arab leader capable of facing down Israel.

According to a survey by the Ramallah-based Near East Consulting Group, 97 percent of Palestinians support Sheik Nasrallah. There are newspaper reports about young couples naming children Hassan or Nasrallah. And Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has reportedly bestowed words of praise on the Lebanese leader.

The upshot:

Palestinian society is divided, with some pledging loyalty to the Islamic militant Hamas, which took power in March, and others backing the Fatah movement of moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

However, Hezbollah fever appears to have united the Palestinians, who feel deep resentment against Israel after 39 years of military occupation, including harsh restrictions on travel, commerce and other aspects of daily life. Many admire Hezbollah for holding off Israel's mighty army — similar to the popular support enjoyed by then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein when he fired Scud missiles at Israel in the 1991 Gulf War.

"We used to sing for Saddam," said Saed Akrawi, 26, whose perfume shop in downtown Jenin is adorned with a Nasrallah portrait, next to posters of models. "Saddam is gone. We want someone else to sing for."

Here is a translation of the lyrics.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Left-wing Insanity

If you've ever wondered why some liberals simply cannot be friends with anyone who is inclined even the slightest bit toward being conservative, check out this forum discussion started up at a Howard Stern fansite by a banned NewsBuster reader who became incensed that he wasn't being allowed to post nonsensical, trollish comments.

One of the many ironies here is that "hater" and friends claim to dislike NB for its alleged intolerance while making it their "life's work" to disrupt it. When called on it by a fellow reader, "hater" explodes into a frothy rage.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The New Generation Gap

Interesting thesis in this Arthur Brooks WSJ piece: Democrats are destined to lose to Republicans, simply by virtue of the fact that they're less likely to have children:
Simply put, liberals have a big baby problem: They're not having enough of them, they haven't for a long time, and their pool of potential new voters is suffering as a result. According to the 2004 General Social Survey, if you picked 100 unrelated politically liberal adults at random, you would find that they had, between them, 147 children. If you picked 100 conservatives, you would find 208 kids. That's a "fertility gap" of 41%. Given that about 80% of people with an identifiable party preference grow up to vote the same way as their parents, this gap translates into lots more little Republicans than little Democrats to vote in future elections. Over the past 30 years this gap has not been below 20%--explaining, to a large extent, the current ineffectiveness of liberal youth voter campaigns today.

Alarmingly for the Democrats, the gap is widening at a bit more than half a percentage point per year, meaning that today's problem is nothing compared to what the future will most likely hold. Consider future presidential elections in a swing state (like Ohio), and assume that the current patterns in fertility continue. A state that was split 50-50 between left and right in 2004 will tilt right by 2012, 54% to 46%. By 2020, it will be certifiably right-wing, 59% to 41%. A state that is currently 55-45 in favor of liberals (like California) will be 54-46 in favor of conservatives by 2020--and all for no other reason than babies.

The fertility gap doesn't budge when we correct for factors like age, income, education, sex, race--or even religion. Indeed, if a conservative and a liberal are identical in all these ways, the liberal will still be 19 percentage points more likely to be childless than the conservative. Some believe the gap reflects an authentic cultural difference between left and right in America today. As one liberal columnist in a major paper graphically put it, "Maybe the scales are tipping to the neoconservative, homogenous right in our culture simply because they tend not to give much of a damn for the ramifications of wanton breeding and environmental destruction and pious sanctimony, whereas those on the left actually seem to give a whit for the health of the planet and the dire effects of overpopulation." It would appear liberals have been quite successful controlling overpopulation--in the Democratic Party.
Of course, Brooks is ignoring the potential impact of immigration on the American body politic. I suspect that both parties are not, though. Expect both immigration and low liberal birth rates to become high priorities for Democrats in the near future.

Brooks's essay is instructive in one point, though, it dispels the myth that young people of today are not "turning more conservative." They're being born this way instead. If the GOP wants to keep them voting that way, they'll need to keep their rhetoric more futuristic libertarian conservative (or my preferred term "liberal conservative") and less traditionalistic conservative.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Preach It, Al! (Well, Mostly)

Many black youths fall under a spell of "gangster mentality," preventing them from becoming leaders and making a positive impact in politics, the Rev. Al Sharpton said.
The civil rights activist faulted Hollywood and the record industry for making "gangsterism" seem cool and acceptable.

"We have got to get out of this gangster mentality, acting as if gangsterism and blackness are synonymous," Sharpton said Thursday at the annual conference of the National Association of Black Journalists.

"I think we've allowed a whole generation of young people to feel that if they're focused, they're not black enough. If they speak well and act well, they're acting white, and there's nothing more racist than that."

The key to leadership is taking the initiative to change things, said Sharpton. He said his National Action Network is just one group willing to help young black leaders get into politics.

"Nobody broke in my house in Brooklyn and dragged me out the projects and made me a leader, I wanted to do that. Clearly, we would work with young people who want to do the work," he said.

Sharpton is right about the gangster culture being a motivational drag, but the solution to the problem isn't just to get young black kids interested in politics. Most non-black kids aren't particularly interested, either.

Motivating urban youth isn't about getting kids into voting. It's about getting them to realize that the future is theirs and not anyone else's.

Back in high school, I spent about a year in the Kansas City School District, which at the time had some of the very highest in per pupil spending in the country. Yet test scores never really improved much, and eventually, the school district lost its accreditation by the state. My experience there led me to believe that the solution to getting people off their ass isn't to be found in a politician's speech. The solution will be found in parental involvement and community participation.

Government can provide some of the solution in this, but it can't fill all the gaps.

Via Ace.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

'I Don't Bother You at Work'

Mindless fun with media. Must watch:

HT: The Moderate Voice

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Universal Waiting Time

Health care is not something I normally write much about, mainly because I think a lot of people who do really aren't qualified to do so. It's one of those political issues that isn't just not black and white, it's full technicolor.

London's Telegraph provides another example of why this is true:
Hospitals across the country are imposing minimum waiting times - delaying the treatment of thousands of patients.

After years of Government targets pushing them to cut waiting lists, staff are now being warned against "over-performing" by treating patients too quickly. The Sunday Telegraph has learned that at least six trusts have imposed the minimum times.

In March, Patricia Hewitt, the Secretary of State for Health, offered her apparent blessing for the minimum waiting times by announcing they would be "appropriate" in some cases. Amid fears about £1.27 billion of NHS debts, she expressed concern that some hospitals were so productive "they actually got ahead of what the NHS could afford".

The minimum waiting times, however, dismayed Katherine Murphy, of the Patients' Association, who said last night: "This all stems from bad financial planning and management. No wonder there is a crisis. If staff are available for an operation, they should be utilised."

Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, added that the minimum waiting times shed new light on the Government's target that patients should wait no longer than six months. "It is outrageous that the purpose of the Government's targets is not so much to drive down waiting times, as to impose a six-month wait."


Disaster Averted

This is sure to be a huge story:

British authorities said Thursday they had thwarted a terrorist plot to simultaneously blow up several aircraft heading to the U.S. using explosives smuggled in carry-on luggage, averting what police described as "mass murder on an unimaginable scale." Home Secretary John Reid said British police and government were confident the main suspects had been arrested.

Huge crowds formed at security barriers at London's Heathrow airport as officials searching for explosives barred nearly every form of liquid outside of baby formula. [...]

The U.S. government responded by raising its threat alert to its highest level for commercial flights from Britain to the United States amid fears the plot had not been completely crushed. The alert for all flights coming or going from the United States was also raised slightly.

In Washington, two U.S. counterterrorism officials said the terrorists had targeted United, American and Continental airlines. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

Police arrested 21 people in London, its suburbs and in Birmingham as part of a major covert counterterrorism operation that had lasted several months, Deputy Commissioner Paul Stephenson said. Searches continued in a number of locations.

I'll bet that this attack was the one that bin Laden et al. have been warning about for a while.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Technical Difficulties

FYI: If you're trying to access NewsBusters, we're having some technical issues that we hope to have resolved tonight.

UPDATE 6:18. Things are back to normal.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Everyone's Healthy, at Least in Their Minds

More than three-quarters of obese Americans say they have healthy eating habits, according to a survey of more than 11,000 people.

About 40 percent of obese people also said they do "vigorous" exercise at least three times a week, the telephone survey found.

"There is, perhaps, some denial going on. Or there is a lack of understanding of what does it mean to be eating healthy, and what is vigorous exercise," said Dr. David Schutt of Thomson Medstat, the Michigan-based health-care research firm that conducted the survey.

The survey also found that 28 percent of obese people reported snacking two or more times a day, only slightly more than 24 percent of normal weight people who said they did.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Bloggeurs Extraordinaires

I was somewhat surprised by this:
Already famed for angry labor strikes and philosophical debates in smoke-filled cafes, the French have now brought these passions online to become some of the world’s most intensive bloggers.

The French distinguish themselves, both statistically and anecdotally, ahead of Germans, Britons and even Americans in their obsession with the personal and public journals of the Internet age. Sixty percent of French Internet users visited a blog in May, ahead of Britain with 40 percent and little more than a third in the United States, according to Comscore, an Internet ratings service.

Likewise, French bloggers spent more than an hour in June visiting France’s top-rated blog site, far ahead of the 12 minutes spent by Americans doing the same and the less than 3 minutes by Germans, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, a sister company to the television ratings giant.

More than three million Internet users, or more than 12 percent of those online in France, have created a blog, a study released in June by the ratings agency Médiamétrie found.

“You cannot be elected president of France without a blog,” said Benjamin Griveaux, director of Web strategy for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a former finance minister and current member of Parliament who in 2004 was among the first politicians to start a blog. “Blogs have not replaced traditional media, but they are absolutely necessary for every politician.”

Some bloggers even harbor a faint hope that flourishing online discussions might curb the French population’s penchant for taking to the streets in protest.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Myspace ... for Old People

Wall Street Journal reporter Kelly Greene has an interesting piece on media entrepreneurs who are focusing their attentions on the aging baby boom generation. Mentioned prominently is a new site,, which bills itself as a social networking site for those older than 50.

Unlike a lot of business reporters, Greene includes a nice dose of skepticism about the venture, noting that many past attempts to cater to aging boomers have failed. It will be interesting to see what happens in this case. I wonder if Eons could have picked a worse name for a web site targeting people who already are apprehensive about getting old.

Jeff Taylor, founder of, is spending $10 million to build an online social network. But he couldn't care less about teenagers, college students and 20-somethings, the biggest users of such Web sites. Instead, he wants their parents and grandparents.

Taylor, age 45, is launching, a kind of MySpace for the 50-plus crowd. He hopes it will one day become the online "center of gravity" for the 78 million Americans born from 1946 to 1964.

"If you are over 50, please join us . . . to start living the biggest life possible," a notice on the Web site says.

A growing number of new ventures are targeting aging baby boomers, their obsessions in the final third of their lives — and their $2 trillion in annual spending power. Start-up magazines with titles such as GeezerJock, Grand and What's Next are beckoning to boomers with advice on triathlons, grandchildren or new careers.

(Gracing the cover of recent and coming issues of Grand: Donny Osmond, Martin Sheen and Goldie Hawn.)

Retirement Living TV, started by a retirement-development operator with $50 million, is set to hit cable TV screens in September.

Advertisers of everything from autos to electronics have traditionally preferred to link their brand images with younger consumers, and they revelled in baby boomers as children and teens in decades past. Now, with the oldest boomers turning 60 this year, the new ventures raise the inevitable question: Will marketers have any use for them when they're 64? Taylor thinks so.

"A lot of corporations have openly embraced (the idea) that most of their customers are over 50, but they've never said that publicly," he says. "There's been this sensitivity to not wanting to skew too old."

He says advertisers won't worry about the image fallout if they are seen on, because the Web site's self-selecting audience will be made up of people 50-plus.

History suggests that it won't be easy: The magazine industry tried once before to cash in on boomer demographics, when the oldest boomers started turning 40 in the 1980s. New Choices. Second Wind. The titles all failed.

Samir Husni, a journalism professor at the University of Mississippi, recalls back then helping a student sell an idea for Grandparents magazine to Meredith Corp., the Des Moines, Iowa, publisher. The upscale magazine aimed for a circulation of 500,000; it quickly folded.

"People didn't want to be reminded that they were old enough to be grandparents," Husni says.

Some media entrepreneurs this time around are slicing and dicing the interests of older adults into smaller niches. A magazine and Web site in development at Looks Media Inc., a Laguna Beach, Calif., start-up, plans to focus on health, beauty and fitness for boomer women.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Open Quote

I just discovered something about Google today. If you're searching for an exact phrase with quotation marks, you don't need to close the last phrase.

Thus "howard dean" = "howard dean

However, this only works with the last phrase as I mentioned

"ken mehlman "republican national committee"ken mehlman" "republican national committee

From the Department of Duh

Lance Bass, the former 'N Sync heartthrob, reveals that he is gay in an exclusive interview with PEOPLE.

"I knew that I was in this popular band and I had four other guys' careers in my hand, and I knew that if I ever acted on it or even said (that I was gay), it would overpower everything," says Bass, referring to bandmates Joey Fatone, Chris Kirkpatrick, JC Chasez and Justin Timberlake.

"I didn’t know: Could that be the end of ’N Sync? So I had that weight on me of like, ‘Wow, if I ever let anyone know, it's bad.' So I just never did," he says speaking about his sexual orientation for the first time with PEOPLE.
HT: Ace who has exclusive insider details on what the magazine was originally going to run as its cover but changed at the last minute.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Movie Critics Are Losing Their Jobs, Should This Matter?

If an MSM movie critic reviews a movie in an empty forest, will anyone care? That is the question posed by newspaper film reviewer, Steven Whitty who seems agonized that the general public and the movie industry increasingly regard him and his colleagues as irrelevant:

[Helping end the days when MSM critics matter more] has been Hollywood's increasing reliance on pre-sold titles, saturation advertising and action franchises aimed at teenage boys.

"When I started at Paramount in the '60s, you opened a picture in four theaters and hoped for good reviews," says the former studio exec. "Nowadays, when you open a movie on 4,000 screens, spend $80 million on ads -- well, you're not exactly dependent on word of mouth."

No argument there, and no news to veteran critics.

"I think the studios have finally realized they have all this power, so why don't they use it," says Dave Kehr, who reviewed films for the Chicago Tribune, the New York Daily News and the New York Times before switching to a DVD column for the Times. "They don't need us. People like Adam Sandler have demonstrated that you can treat critics with open contempt and it doesn't make the slightest difference."

There's a lot of truth in Whitty's analysis so far. Since most people no longer read newspapers, it stands to reason that they'd stop consulting critics working in their employ. And he is certainly right about Sandler, whose cinematic corpus delicti demonstrates contempt not only for critics but for anyone with an IQ higher than 70. Unfortunately, this is about all our erstwhile critic gets right.

After a brief discussion and complaint about corporate media behemoths using their empires to cross-promote products, Warner Bros. films being plugged in Time, etc., Whitty's analysis begins to veer off-track as he complains about how critics like him often are not allowed to watch a movie before its general release (quel horreur!) before getting into the inevitable bashing of his internet competitors for having the temerity to write about film without consulting him:

Another jolt to mainstream critics has been the rise of the Internet, a phenomenon that has studios buying online ads and mainstream media rethinking their approach. Some Web site critics brag that they have more readers than their local paper; some papers worry that their print reviewers won't appeal to the online generation they're trying to reach.

And so the Village Voice, once the bastion of long-form, serious reviews, has made room for shorter, snarkier and shallower critiques. Entertainment Weekly has been redesigned to look more like a Web site, crowded with trivia, inconsequential lists and personal Q-and-A's. [...]
Many Web sites, however, operate like personal fiefdoms. How do you know that the anonymous rave you saw wasn't posted by a publicist? How can you be sure that the blogger you've bookmarked isn't plugging only film festivals that comp her expenses? [...]
It's also endemic. Sure, there are cyber critics who post detailed critiques rooted in an appreciation of cinema's history. But sometimes it seems as if they're outnumbered -- or at least outshouted -- by hundreds of Comic Book Guys, all hurling invective and tediously explaining how every other reviewer is wrong.

"The Internet has given a huge number of young people the chance to write criticism and yet so many of them are imitating the worst aspects," says Kehr, who keeps a hand in at "It just seems as though there are an awful lot of people getting up on their hind legs and yelling. If you disagree with them you're an idiot. And if you choose not to continue the disagreement endlessly, you're a coward."

While it's certainly clear that there are plenty of web sites where a PR person can be operating in sock puppet fashion, it's worth noting that Whitty provides no examples of this, nor does he establish how exactly a blogger "plugging only film festivals that comp her expenses," is any worse than Time magazine shilling for a corporate sibling-produced movie. One could even argue that Whitty's fictional blogger is more ethical than editors, reporters, and critics who willingly give free advertising to awful or mediocre films like "Fahrenheit 9/11," "American Beauty," or "Brokeback Mountain" simply because they promote left-wing values.

The essence of Whitty's complaint is essentially the same as many others emanating from many MSM critics who are irritated and even upset that people no longer have to jump through the hoops of the media establishment in order to get their voices heard.

"But people will get it wrong!" goes the refrain. Absolutely. Some will. But some will also get it right. What complaining old media types fail to realize is that bloggers and journalists deal in the same coin, credibility. And credibility is something that has to be earned and maintained. Most people are smart enough to extend it to anyone who consistently turns out intelligent and fair content about films or anything else. The rest will watch Adam Sandler despite what anyone says.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Democratic Quandary

I normally don't think much of CBS's Dick Meyer's work but his piece today on the problem of democracy within the Muslim world is thoughtful, balanced, and ought to sober up those who think democracy is the solution to all the world's problems. His deconstruction of several myths about the region is also wrong in a few ways. I'll have something on it later today but in the meantime, here's an excerpt:

The current round of violence was partially but substantially caused by America's campaign for Arab democracy.

Obviously, since the administration's democracy campaign is primarily public relations, the Bush doctrine could not be a material cause of the current war.

Bush's opponents on the left ingenuously are trying to blame Bush for the current crisis. So are some of his conservative critics, like George Will, though with more honesty, if not accuracy. The argument goes like this: Hamas gained state-based power through semi-legitimate Palestinian elections encouraged by the Bush Doctrine. Hezbollah gained power because a genuine popular protest — the so-called Cedar Revolution — pushed Syrian military forces out of Lebanon, leaving a power vacuum in the south for Hezbollah to fill; Hezbollah then won parliamentary seats and thus legitimacy in free elections supposedly fostered by the Bush doctrine. This vastly overstates the power administration's magic wand of democracy has in the region.

More fundamentally, Hezbollah and Hamas clearly don't need elections to help them kill Israelis and continue a crusade to annihilate the Zionist state. That is their whole mission.

Can free elections and the political openness they entail be destabilizing? Of course. Can totalitarian, theocratic or tyrannical parties paradoxically gain power or legitimacy through democracy and open elections? Of course. Should the United States be the one to balance these competing pressures in other countries and regions? Of course not. America must pursue its interests and security and not be so un-humble as to decide what other nations "ought" to want — that is actually the classic American conservative foreign policy.

Arab and Muslim nations and peoples are not "ready" for democracy.

This is a matter of great debate, and intellectually it's a fascinating issue. President Bush for years has argued it is a form of racism or prejudice to think that Iraqis, Muslims or Arabs are not "ready" for democracy. He believes democracy is good for everyone. Others believe that certain societies, many of them Muslim, are not ready for democracy. They think that forcing democracy onto a society that isn't ready for it is dangerous, as proven by today's fighting.

The mistake here is in thinking about democracy anthropologically, even biologically. Democracy is not a human capacity like sadness or empathy. Democracy is an invention; it is an idea and a practice.

Yahoo, Google and MS's Dirty Secret

Internet giants Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft have come under fire today from Amnesty International for actively complying with the authoritarian government of China's attempts to censor the internet in that country.

These companies came in for withering criticism as part of Amnesty's campaign to raise awareness of political censorship throughout the world by highlighting its impact in China where internet suppression is more widespread and effective largely because American tech companies are "particularly willing to cooperate with the Chinese government," the group said in a statement.

"The internet can be a great tool for the promotion of human rights -- activists can tell the world about abuses in their country at the click of a mouse. People have unprecedented access to information from the widest range of sources," the statement continued. "But the internet's potential for change is being undermined -- by governments unwilling to tolerate this free media outlet, and by companies willing to help them repress free speech."

If you don't feel like reading the China report PDF, see my post on this subject at NewsBusters for some excerpts. For a look at web censorship in India, read this from Michelle Malkin.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The final word on illegal immigration:

Will Text Messaging Really Replace Email?

I'm dubious about the premise of this breathless article from AP reporter Martha Irvine that text and instant messaging is set to replace email for younger internet users.

It's certainly true to an extent but the real emerging technology of the future will be universal messaging, the same email, the same buddy lists, etc.

I have it right now with my Motorola Q and a little bit of hacking. Once push email becomes common for non-business users (as every wireless provider is desperately trying to make happen), so will everyone else.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Barry Manilow, Law Enforcement's 'Secret Weapon'

Whenever I go to Virginia Beach for the weekend, I can't help but notice the city's strategy of playing classical music in spots on the street where they don't want people to congregate. It seems an Australian city likes the idea but with a different twist, using Barry Manilow and Doris Day music to drive loiterers away. Obviously the thinking here is to play "old people music" in the hopes that young loiterers won't stick around.

I'll bet it works better than classical music. I'd go nuts if I lived there.
SYDNEY, Australia - It could be magic for some, but the use of loud Barry Manilow music to drive away late-night revelers from a suburban Sydney park is getting on the nerves of nearby residents.

In a move reminiscent of U.S. efforts to drive former Panama strongman Manuel Noriega from the Vatican Embassy where he took refuge in 1989, the local council in Rockdale, in Sydney's southern suburbs, started a six-month trial of high-volume hits by Manilow and Doris Day to chase away car enthusiasts who were gathering on weekend nights at Cook Park Reserve.

"Barry's our secret weapon," Rockdale Deputy Mayor Bill Saravinovski told The Daily Telegraph newspaper, four weeks after the start of the effort. "It seems to be working."

But some people living near the park are less than enthralled. They say the barrage of "Copacabana," "Could It Be Magic" and "Que Sera Sera," blasting from 9 p.m. to midnight every Friday, Saturday and Sunday is driving them crazy.

"I don't know how I will cope," said Moya Dunn, describing how the songs have invaded her house. "I just can't sleep when it's on, and to think there's going to be another six months of this."

Officials have given in a little, agreeing to turn down the volume a bit after residents complained.

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Employers Start Scouring Online Community Pages

Nothing is sacred any more. OK well, online sites like Myspace and Facebook never were actually supposed to be sanctuaries of any kind. Still, this is getting a little too obsessive on a potential employer's part. People have the right to act however they wish away from the office.

Some employers apparently don't think so, though:

At least one Washington intern is glad she did not post unprofessional information about herself on the social-networking Web site Facebook: A potential employer asked a past intern to look up her profile.

Started in February 2004 as a Web site for college students to list their interests, communicate with friends and meet people, Facebook now boasts more than 8 million registered members from universities, high schools and workplaces across the country.

As the popularity of Facebook, MySpace and other social-networking Web sites grows, employers are signing up and logging in to perform background checks on job and internship candidates, or asking employees who are members to do so.

"The Internet's fair game," said the intern, an upcoming junior at Barnard College who asked not to be named because she didn't want to identify the D.C. nonprofit think tank that looked up her posting. She turned down the position offered, she said, but not because of the employer's actions.

The intern said she created her Facebook profile fully aware of the Internet's public nature.

"There were no pictures of me drunk on the floor in the bathroom," she said. "I feel it's like checking a reference. You just want to make sure you look good."

A poll released last week found that 26.9 percent of employers check the backgrounds of job applicants by using Google and social-networking Web sites. The National Association of Colleges and Employers surveyed 254 organizations in the services, manufacturing and government-nonprofit sectors.

Of the employers who said they use Web sites, 41.2 percent reported occasional use, 35.3 percent said their use was infrequent and 7.4 percent called it standard practice.

Monday, July 17, 2006

No Nudes is Good News

This surely belongs in the "idiots" category:
Minus the nudes, an exhibition of works by illustrator Burton Silverman will open later this month at the Brigham Young University Museum of Art.

Silverman, who chuckled about the church-owned university eliminating his nudes from the show, said he began doing nudes by visiting burlesque houses.

"Nudity in public life is relevant," he told the Deseret Morning News.

BYU officials said nude illustrations are irrelevant to the exhibition that will open July 29.

"The purpose of the show was not to show a retrospective of all of his work," museum spokesman Christopher Wilson said.

Rather, the exhibition is to show how Silverman, whose works have appeared on covers of Time and Newsweek, captures the human face and the essence of humanity.

"We picked works that reflect what we wanted to show about Burt's work," Wilson said. BYU officials told Silverman which pieces they plan to exhibit.
Nudes don't fit the theme of the exhibition titled "The Intimate Eye: Drawings by Burton Silverman," he said.

The museum will exhibit 33 of Silverman's life drawings. Many were preliminary to paintings, while others were commissioned.

Silverman's work, which spans four decades, has appeared in a variety of national publications, including The New Yorker magazine.

The university, which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, does not use nude models in art classes and has some nude works in the past.

In October 1997, the university attracted attention by hosting an exhibit of the works by 19th century French sculptor Francois-Auguste-Rene Rodin, but leaving in the crates four pieces, including the famous work, "The Kiss."
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Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Return of 'Rome'

American TV critics really have a great setup, they get paid to watch TV and every few months, they get wined, dined and fed information by the people they cover.

On the current tour, HBO announced that it will be debuting the second season of its fantastic show "Rome" early next year. It will be the show's last, however, because it's so expensive to produce (and very well done).

I'm dissappointed but partly happy because that keeps "Rome" from devolving into the recycled nonsense that "The Sopranos" and "Sex and the City" turned into.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A Message from the Self-promotion Dept.

I was on MSNBC earlier this afternoon. Video, transcript, and screenie are up at NewsBusters.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Phone Books Another Old Media Relic

I don't have a phone book at home. I don't use them pretty much ever. Nor am I alone in this. The telephone directory business of communications company Verizon is facing some serious hurdles, especially when it comes to moving its print advertisers over to its online side.

The WSJ and Rich Gordon have the details.

Tech Bits

I'm not sure when they did it since I was on vacation until this week, but it seems Technorati has added trend images to searches, allowing you to track how popular a term has been in its blog index for the past 30 360 days. It's something rivals IceRocket and Blogpulse have had for a while.

Myspace seems to become more and more filled up with scammers lately. I keep getting spams from random profiles asking to be added as friends. Naturally, when you go to the profiles, they're hardly anything more than random links to "take surveys for money," and all the usual suspects.

On a related note, reports on how the adware and spyware company Zango is using Myspace to get unwitting users to promote its software.

UPDATE 14:15. I didn't notice but Technorati's chart goes back for 360 days. Very nice.

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A Different Kind of Bounty Hunter

Sick stuff:

Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, head of the ultra Orthodox Edah Haredit rabbinic court and a leading opponent of the planned Gay March in Jerusalem, said Tuesday that he was opposed to violence against homosexuals.

"We must protest the desecration of the Holy Land," said Sternbuch in a phone interview. "But we must do it nonviolently."

Sternbuch was responding to a pamphlet distributed in Jerusalem that promised a NIS 20,000 bounty for killing a homosexual. In addition to the bounty offer the two-page pamphlet also provided directions complete with hand-drawn diagrams how to construct weapons that could be used to attack homosexuals.

The three preferred weapons were a Molotov cocktail, a rock-filled sock and a nail-studded stick. The Molotov cocktail was nicknamed a Schlissel special and the stick was called a Schlissel spike. Both were named after Yishai Schlissel.

During last year's Gay March Schlissel a haredi resident of Jerusalem used an 18-centimeter knife to stab three people, two 18-year-olds and one 50-year-old man. One was moderately wounded and two were lightly wounded.

The Edah Haredit's rabbinic court has issued several notices or pashkevilim calling to "do everything in your power" to stop the Gay March. However, Sternbuch denied that this implied the use of violence.

Don't let anyone fool you that only Christians can be violently intolerant.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Losing an Election? Blame Satan!

If God hates fags, then who does Satan hate? Why politicians, of course, despite the stereotype that they're willing to sell their souls to him. That's at least according to Utah congressional candidate John Jacob. Oddly enough, though, el diablo can't seem to decide who he wants to oppose, though, since Jacob believes he's also working against Republican representative Chris Cannon, the man he's trying to unseat in a primary election. (Maybe Satan is a Democrat?)
As if beating a five-term congressman wasn't hard enough, John Jacob said he has another foe working against him: the devil.

"There's another force that wants to keep us from going to Washington, D.C.," Jacob said. "It's the devil is what it is. I don't want you to print that, but it feels like that's what it is."

Jacob said Thursday that since he decided to run for Congress against Rep. Chris Cannon, Satan has bollixed his business deals, preventing him from putting as much money into the race as he had hoped.

Numerous business deals he had lined up have been delayed, freezing money he was counting on to finance his race.

"You know, you plan, you organize, you put your budget together and when you have 10 things fall through, not just one, there's some other, something else that is happening," Jacob said.

Asked if he actually believed that "something else" was indeed Satan, Jacob said: "I don't know who else it would be if it wasn't him. Now when that gets out in the paper, I'm going to be one of the screw-loose people."

Jacob initially said the devil was working against him during a Wednesday immigration event, then reiterated his belief Thursday in a meeting with The Salt Lake Tribune editorial board.

"There's a lot of adversity. There's no question I've had experiences that I think there's an outside force," he said.

University of Utah political scientist Matthew Burbank said Jacob's sentiment is unusual for a political candidate and might show his inexperience, but is unlikely to be a major issue for the conservative voters he is targeting.

"Given that, I don't think it's very likely to make a big splash among Republican primary voters, but certainly if he gets through to the general election it might come up again and he'd have to explain it more," Burbank said.

Jacob, who like Cannon is LDS, said he is not the only one who is being opposed by Beelzebub. He said both Cannon and Sen. Bob Bennett have lost millions of dollars since going to Congress, and he believes their adversity is rooted in the same dark origins.

Cannon's campaign would not address whether Lucifer is opposing either candidate.

"Chris would not attribute any adversities to any outside influence," Cannon's chief of staff, Joe Hunter, said regarding Cannon's diminished personal wealth since going to Congress. "I'm not sure that Chris would even call them adversities. It's a conscious decision on Chris' part to do what's important to him. There's been far more important events in Chris' life than his business."

Jacob explained that, when people try to do something good, there are frequently forces that align to stop them.

"We have a country that was created by our Heavenly Father and it was a country that had a Constitution and everyone who came to America had strong faith. If that can be destroyed that would be the adversity. . . . Whether you want to call that Satan or whoever you want to call it, I believe in the last eight months I've experienced that."

Going Out with a Whimper

Reality often is stranger than fiction, the saying goes. An author writing the story of former anchor partners Dan Rather and Connie Chung's lives would never have had the temerity to have them both get canned within a week of each other. Not after the two's well-known history of bickering and fighting with each other. Yet that's exactly what happened. Seattle Post-Intelligencer TV critic Melanie McFarland looks back at the twighlight of both discarded anchors (Diskussionsleitersdämmerung?), realizing that between Rather's delusions and Chung's bizarre singing debut, the former duo provide another lesson in how not to behave:

More than a decade has passed since Dan Rather and Connie Chung had us shaking our heads at the obvious tension when they briefly shared an anchor desk between 1993 and 1995.

Rather won in the end, using a nasty behind-the-scenes campaign to force out his co-anchor. He remained at CBS; she jumped to ABC and later to cable.

Nobody would have guessed their separate and drastically declined careers would share headlines again -- and in the same week. [...]

Many are the lessons of how to begin a journalism career. These two showed us how not to end one. Different as their career trajectories may have been for a time, Chung and Rather's respective undoings are, in the end, the same. They held on for too long. And you know what happens when you overstay your welcome: You get cast out with a rough push instead of a friendly wave.

This is truer of Rather's departure, of course. Given his inglorious step down from CBS's anchor chair, a muffled exit was inevitable. The 74-year-old newscaster insists he's not done and has announced his intention to host a weekly interview program on Mark Cuban's high-definition channel, HDNet, where he will be watched by a few thousand, if he's lucky. He told The New York Times that he's contemplating a blog.

Which means, to you and me, that he's done. [...]

It's not all misery for the once-formidable Chung. We're talking about her again, aren't we? For that she can thank the tool that has become the bane of evening newscasts and 24-hour cable news alike, the Internet. Chung's William Hung moment went viral over the weekend, and by Wednesday had logged in nearly 540,000 views on -- more than double the MSNBC audience for "Maury & Connie's" series finale, which hovered somewhere around 264,000.

But if these pitiful moments underscore anything, it is the growling irrelevancy of network news. Millions still tune in each night. But millions more have abandoned it because they're not home to watch or because they get their news from news radio, from NPR or the Internet. Plus, nobody needs to be told that broadcast and cable reporters and anchors aren't the fearless crusaders they used to be. The journalistic Rottweilers of yesteryear have been replaced by puggles. Where politicians once feared the wrath of Walter Cronkite, now they dodge correspondents from "The Daily Show."

Bloggers inform a great deal of the mainstream reporting happening these days. The idea of Rather mulling over the idea of a blog at this late date is somewhat laughable. [...]

So, good night, Connie. Good luck, Dan. And, all right, thanks for the memories, even if it would have been better for you, and for us, to have lived without the final batch.

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Friday, June 16, 2006

Stinky German Kicked Off Airplane

Think twice before you go to the airport without showering:

A German man is suing an airline after being kicked off a flight for being too smelly.

Werner Brechtfeld, 46, who had spent the day sightseeing in the hot Hawaiian sunshine, was asked to leave the plane in Honolulu when the person sitting next to him complained.

The passenger told flight attendants that Mr Brechtfeld "stinks to high heaven".

A spokesman at the Duesseldorf court where Brechtfeld is suing for damages, said: "He was asked to change t-shirts but his bags had already been checked in.

"So the air hostesses said he would have to get off the flight as he was disturbing other passengers. He had to wait four hours for the next flight and missed his connection to Germany."

Brechtfeld is asking for £1,500 in compensation for missing his flight back home to Dusseldorf, via LA.

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Indecent Proposal

Some people have all the luck. Some have none of it:

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- A marriage-minded man ran naked through his Michigan neighborhood, trying to show his hesitant girlfriend that taking risks is important.

However, he got more than he bargained for when he ended up being chased and shot at.

Police in Ann Arbor, Mich., said it all started when the couple was discussing marriage Wednesday morning and the woman said she wasn't sure she was ready.

Her boyfriend tried to make his point about taking risks by jumping out the window and running naked through the neighborhood. But after jumping out of the window and running across the street, he found trouble.

A couple strolled by and a man ordered the naked suitor out of his hiding place in the bushes and started chasing him, then shot at him.

The naked man fell to the ground and suffered minor injuries.

Police arrested the gunman on charges of aggravated assault and carrying a concealed weapon. But the naked man said he didn't want to press any charges. The naked man was not arrested.

A detective said, "Just when you thought you had heard everything."

Related: Islamic cleric: "Kerry was supported by homosexuals and nudists."

Al-Qaradawi is nuts but he's a typical guy in at least one respect: "Lesbianism is not as bad as homosexuality, in practical terms."

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Cars and Public Image

From the Department of Obvious comes this never-before-known fact: People generally buy cars to fit their lifestyles. Amazing!
Some people seem a perfect fit for the cars they drive, like Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his Hummer, Michael Jordan and his Ferrari. Yet most drivers' faces and bearing give away clues that tip off their favored model, a new study has found.

Psychologists at Julius-Maximilians University in Wurzburg, Germany, report in a recent issue of the Journal of Individual Differences that students correctly matched photographs of male and female drivers to pictures of the cars they drove almost 70 percent of the time.

The drivers' age and wealth were the most helpful cues, the researchers reported. [...]

Psychologists had shown in previous studies that people can accurately gauge some personality traits, like extroversion, from photos of strangers, and from personal effects, like a CD collection or bedroom decorations. The German study is the first to demonstrate that clues from both sources can be combined to match owners to their cars, the authors say.

In the study, the psychologists took photographs, from the waist up, of 60 men and women at a rest stop who agreed to participate in the study. Their cars, also photographed, included luxury models, modest family sedans and compact cars, from BMWs and Audis to Opels, Fords and Volkswagens.

The students looked at 60 sets of three photos, matching one of a driver to one of two car pictures — either the correct one, or one belonging to another driver.

In matching experiments like this, early choices often alter later ones: if you have already found someone to match with a black-cherry Porsche Boxster, you are less likely to pair it with another person later. But because many of the cars were similar in color and model, students' early matches were not likely to alter later ones, the authors said.

The researchers found that 41 pairs, or about 68 percent, were correctly matched by more than half of the students. "Interestingly, it seems to be easier to match people with cars than people with animate beings like dogs. Or people with their babies," concluded the authors, Georg W. Alpers and Antje B. M. Gerdes. [...]

Moreover, in making judgments, people soak up dozens of clues unconsciously, noting the emotional cast of a person's face in a photo, say, or the style of the hair, the texture of the clothing, the tilt and quality of the eyeglasses.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A Surprise from No. 3

MSNBC surprised everyone Monday with its announcement that the struggling channel will now be headed by an executive tag team of "Today" chief Phil Griffin and one of its show hosts, Dan Abrams.

The appointment of Griffin didn't exactly come as a surprise; last week's scuttlebutt had him being given the top spot. Abrams's elevation does surprise. But it also gives insight into what MSNBC's strategy to avoid being known as "electronic journalism's version of the Chicago Cubs."

Some key facts:

  • Griffin, known officially as "executive in charge," is also keeping his title as executive producer of NBC's "Today" show.
  • Newly dubbed "general manager" Abrams will keep his job as NBC's top legal affairs analyst but will be giving up his current main job as host of the courts-heavy "Abrams Report."
  • Griffin will not move his offices over to MSNBC's far-flung New Jersey location.
  • NBC is in the process of buying out its partner Microsoft's stake in MSNBC entirely. It's already the majority owner.

For Aaron Barnhart, the verdict seems in: "They're letting him keep his network job. Which tells you something about what a high priority fixing MSNBC is over there at GE."

UPDATE 20:54. My take: That Abrams was brought in as Griffin's deputy indicates that there may be relatively major changes in the near future, with a team comprised of a newsie and an exec, it will be harder for competing factions within the organization to resist management. Abrams's hiring also likely means that MSNBC is going to approach news with more irreverence, and give greater latitude to anchors to express their opinions and show emotion (i.e. be more like human beings instead of talking infoheads). [Abrams not getting the top spot also shows that upper management views this as a test of sorts for him. If he pulls it off, expect him to move up the NBC ladder.]

Griffin probably will restrict himself primarily to streamlining operations. NBC is interested in integrating MSNBC more into its news operations. This makes sense because NBC has wasted millions over the years maintaining studios and satellite stations in two separate locations, hemorrhaging money unecessarily. Griffin's staying in New York will either move the cabler closer to its parent broadcast network, or things will fall apart because of a lack of oversight.

In an interview with Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Gail Shister, Abrams claimed "everything is on the table" as far as primetime goes, but said "it would be crazy for us to think about moving or changing Olbermann or Chris Matthews."

I see that remark in a few ways. It could mean the rest of MSNBC will be transformed into Matthews and Olbermann's brand of brash liberalism.

Or, it could mean that the value Abrams sees in these two isn't their politics but rather their brassiness. It's not exactly a secret that many viewers have love/hate relationships with television hosts. Getting hosts with strong personalities makes sense especially for MSNBC since its competitors pretty much have the casual news observer market sewn up. This wasn't always the case. For a long time, CNN was the channel of choice for the so-called "news grazer" largely because of its brand recognition. Fox News coveted this large market segment and was only able to tap into it by establishing its own brand through making news more enjoyable and more politically balanced.

MSNBC has a similar chance before it. There is a large, underserved market out there, despite claims that cable news ain't big enough for three channels. Fact is, many people 20-50 don't find news especially interesting the way CNN serves it up. And they aren't interested in Fox's brand of confrontation and endless discussion. This is the same audience that is reading and writing blogs and forums.

Griffin and Abrams's predecessors have tried pursuing this elusive demo in the past but always in the wrong way. Instead of adopting the blog ethos, they tried to make television into a blog. That was bound to fail because television and the internet are such dissimilar media that one can't readily reuse techniques from one medium in the other. However, one can learn from the manner of a medium. The advent of the internet has moved news from being a small group's bloodless representation of "the truth" to a discussion in which a variety of interested parties try to find it. Fox's success has shown that people know there is more than one side to a story.

Will MSNBC manage to become the first truly modern television network? We'll see. I think it's possible.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Stealth Wings

Seeing this story reminded me of the glider planes used back in WWII. They were a great idea during those days. Now, it looks like the technology is getting a well-deserved update:

Elite special forces troops being dropped behind enemy lines on covert missions are to ditch their traditional parachutes in favour of strap-on stealth wings.

The lightweight carbon fibre mono-wings will allow them to jump from high altitudes and then glide 120 miles or more before landing - making them almost impossible to spot, as their aircraft can avoid flying anywhere near the target.

The technology was demonstrated in spectacular fashion three years ago when Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner - a pioneer of freefall gliding - famously 'flew' across the English Channel, leaping out of an aircraft 30,000ft above Dover and landing safely near Calais 12 minutes later.

Wearing an aerodynamic suit, and with a 6ft wide wing strapped to his back, he soared across the sea at 220mph, moving six feet forward through the air for every one foot he fell vertically - and opened his parachute 1,000ft above the ground before landing safely.

Arbitrary Evil Day

Happy 6/6/6!
Buzz for the remake of the 1976 horror film has been building since March.

There were posters trumpeting "Heed the Omen" and "The Signs Are All Around You." Airplane banners reading "You Have Been Warned" flew over popular spring break destinations, prompting frightened calls to 911 dispatchers and the FBI.

Thirty years after the original classic, the story line remains the same: A couple suspects their son is the spawn of Satan. But the remake comes with a twist, debuting by design on June 6, 2006.

The folks at 20th Century Fox liked the tie-in with the No. 666, which is considered the "number of the beast," as written in the Bible.

Just one problem, according to a group of English biblical scholars. The number should be 616, which appears on ancient papyrus fragments of the Book of Revelation, they say.

Looks like the film's marketing gurus will miss their ominous release by five days.

So, why hasn't this 616 translation caught on?

"Because six-six-six rolls off the tongue easier," Daniel P. Winters, author of "Superstitions 101," said with a laugh. "Plus, `The Omen' would have to be rewritten, the related superstitions reconsidered, the stars realigned, a whole population re-educated. And, I'd have to rewrite my book."

The Gregorian calendar in use today was not adopted until the 16th century. John, the author of Revelation, lived under the Julian calendar which calculates time slightly differently. The actual 6/6/2006 date in the Julian calendar happens this year on June 19 (see this calculator). If 616 is the evil number, that makes things more interesting since every June 29th is scary.

But dates are most likely not what had John spooked, especially since the real 6/6/6 (i.e. 2000 years ago), took place before he wrote his book. Instead, John was probably thinking of numerology, the idea of using a number to represent a person or concept. Most Bible scholars see him as identifying Nero Caesar, or rather the idea of emperor-worship as the villain, since Nero was dead by the time Revelation was written.

This makes sense from a historical point-of-view since the earliest Christians believed the world was about to end. Because Nero's successor, Domitian, took Caesar worship even more seriously, it stands to reason that John saw this development as Satan-inspired.

In any case, I hope no one out there is taking today seriously. I'll be celebrating and I hope you are, too!

More 666 fun stuff:

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A Party for Everyone

This story about Dutch pedophiles forming a political party is both scary and bizarre considering that the Netherlands is also home to one of Europe's largest Muslim populations.
Dutch pedophiles are launching a political party to push for a cut in the legal age for sexual relations to 12 from 16 and the legalization of child pornography and sex with animals, sparking widespread outrage.

The Charity, Freedom and Diversity (NVD) party said on its Web site it would be officially registered Wednesday, proclaiming: "We are going to shake The Hague awake!"

The party said it wanted to cut the legal age for sexual relations to 12 and eventually scrap the limit altogether.

"A ban just makes children curious," Ad van den Berg, one of the party's founders, told the Algemeen Dagblad (AD) newspaper.

"We want to make pedophilia the subject of discussion," he said, adding the subject had been a taboo since the 1996 Marc Dutroux child abuse scandal in neighboring Belgium.

"We want to get into parliament so we have a voice. Other politicians only talk about us in a negative sense, as if we were criminals," Van den Berg told Reuters.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

'Couple Seeks Lady'

Lest any male readers get their hopes up about this Las Vegas Craigslist ad, take a gander at the picture above as well as the actual text:
We are a couple who are seeking an open minded lady to form a poly family. I am 52 and my wife is 35, and we practice the Messianic Jewish faith. We believe that, contrary to popular beliefe, Scripture does not forbid a man to have more than one wife. We are seeking a lady between the ages of 18-35 to form a long term heterosexual family.
If HBO's fantastic series "Big Love" is an inspiration for people to become polygamists, the actual polygamists ought to be sufficient warning against it.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Internet Buyout Rumors Abound

Is something big about to happen in the tech industry?
Speculation is rife on Wall Street that a big internet deal or alliance is in the works, with Google, Yahoo, eBay or Microsoft as possible partners - and a Yahoo-eBay partnership seen as most likely.

"A partnership or merger between eBay and Yahoo! is the most strategically feasible," a report authored by analyst Imran Khan and the JP Morgan internet team said.

"A combined company would have the leading position in auctions, communications, payments, graphical advertising, audience reach, and geographic breadth," the report said.

Silicon Valley insiders, high-tech bankers and financial analysts are giving new credence to potential merger deals, which fly in the face of common wisdom that the internet's rapid growth has always outweighed the logic of consolidation.

But internet growth is slowing and competition among the biggest companies - Google Inc, Yahoo Inc, eBay Inc and Microsoft Corp - is intensifying.

EBay stock is down 30 per cent on the year, Yahoo is off 20 per cent and Google down 10 per cent.

Google, which nearly doubled its revenues last year, is expected to grow 62 per cent this year. EBay is seen growing 30 per cent, down from 50 per cent two years ago, and Yahoo's growth is slowing at a similar pace.

EBay spokesman Hani Durzy said the company works very closely with all the major web search providers - Google, Yahoo and Microsoft - but he declined to comment on any potential Yahoo tie-up.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Can Bush Learn PR from Canada's Harper?

Most Americans don't care one whit about news from Canada, often justifiably so. I think at least some Americans, namely the press folk in the Bush White House, are keeping an eye on how Stephen Harper, the new Conservative prime minister (whose party is in power after decades of Liberal dominance) is taking no prisoners when it comes to dealing with a press that is actually further left-biased than the one in this country. There are two effective ways of dealing with the press, neither of which has been pursued by the Bush White House up until new press secretary Tony Snow started practicing the genial-but-tough tactic.

One gets the impression that Harper and his staff are pursuing the "bad cop" route, based on the conclusion that making nice with journalists who despise you, your party, and your policies, doesn't do much good.

The latest proof of this is that Harper has let it be known that he won't be attending the annual Parliamentary Press Gallery dinner, Canada's version of the White House Correspondents Association confab over a dispute about media behavior at press conferences.

Harper, like his Liberal predecessor, wants to keep the practice of a staffer calling out a reporter's name before he or she is allowed to speak. For its part, the press wants to return to its regular practice of shouting out questions with whoever is the loudest and most brash getting called on by the PM.

So far, the "bad cop" approach seems to be working for Harper. His poll ratings have gone up significantly since the Consevatives took power two months ago. Will Snow's "good cop" approach work similar magic for Bush? Will Harper's no-nonsense approach make journalists increase their attacks? Only time will tell.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Do Tax Cuts Pay for Themselves?

Sebastian Mallaby has a very biting column in today's Washington Post against the idea of supply-side economics. "Nobody serious believes that tax cuts pay for themselves," he asserts. Federal income tax revenues have increased since the 2003 Bush tax cuts but there is no correlation between lower taxes and higher revenue. The reason tax receipts increased was simply that the economy has rebounded out of the post-9/11 recession.

There's probably a lot of truth in this analysis; Mallaby's article is something that advocates of supply-side theory need to respond to. Still, however, it's hard to see a liberal columnist preach about Republican fiscal insanity since his party seems to be incoherent when it comes to taxation. Sometime during the 90s (likely due to a combination of Ross Perot and Bill Clinton), Democrats became the party of taxation, mainly on the idea that high national debts produce high interest rates which in turn harm the economy. Thus, in order to save the economy, you must destroy it by raising taxes. This model seems counterintuitive and certainly the opposite of Keynesian economics which call for tax reductions in times of economic downturn. Of course, the alternative to this would be to cut government spending, but I have yet to see liberal politicians or opinionistas call for reducing government's impact in anything other than the abstract.

Can governments do anything to improve their economy? I think so. But to suggest that the remedies are always to be found tax or interest policy applied exactly the same is doctrinaire and surely futile.

Supply-siders kind of respond: Bullwinkle Blog and Real Clear Politics.

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After being somewhat instrumental in the popularization of the VCR and online payment systems, the pornography industry is pushing forward on another new technology, letting customers download and burn their own DVDs, something mainstream Hollywood has thus far been too old-fashioned and risk-averse to try:
It's another first for adult film companies that pioneered the home video market and rushed to the Internet when Hollywood studios still saw it as a threat.

"Leave it to the porn industry once again to take the lead on this stuff," said Michael Greeson, founder of The Diffusion Group, a consumer electronics think tank in Plano, Texas.

"The rest of Hollywood stands back and watches and lets the pornography industry work out all the bugs," he said.

There are business and technology factors that make it easier for adult film companies to embrace new technology faster than traditional media.

On the business side, Hollywood makes more money offering films on DVDs than in theaters. As a result, studios are hesitant to anger large retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Blockbuster by selling DVD-ready downloads directly to consumers.

Recently, most of the big studios have started selling films over the Web, including on CinemaNow, which is partly owned by the film studio Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., Microsoft Corp., Cisco Systems Inc. and Blockbuster Inc. Consumers can burn a backup DVD, but it can only be played by a computer, not a DVD player.

The adult film industry doesn't face the same business challenges.

"We don't have to divvy up the pie," said Bill Asher, co-chairman and co-owner of Vivid Entertainment, the largest distributor of adult entertainment. "We sell in smaller stores, mainstream chains, but no one dominant component where we're going to get that phone call."

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