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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MS Gets OK for Search Box

Google will soon find its dominance of the search engine field under much greater attack now that the Department of Justice has approved Microsoft's addition of a search box similar to that found in Mozilla Firefox to the next version of Internet Explorer.
While criticizing Microsoft for its implementation of its existing antitrust accord, regulators appear satisfied with the software maker's plans for Windows Vista, including a new search box that is part of Internet Explorer 7.

As part of its status report on Microsoft's antitrust compliance, the Justice Department said that it had reviewed the search box and concluded that Microsoft's implementation "respects users' and (computer makers') default choices and is easily changed."

Google had recently cried foul over the box, which is set to conduct Web searches from a specified engine, while Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer this week defended Microsoft's approach.

How users gets their browser--whether on a new PC, as part of a Windows upgrade or downloaded from the Internet--helps determine which search engine is used in that program. The box also leaves unchanged any default search engine already chosen by the user and can be changed by the user. If no default has been set, Microsoft does slot in its own MSN Search.
Many users don't seem to use these boxes much at all I've found, but power users do. With proper marketing and internal reminders within Windows, I suspect the number of people who become aware and use the auto search will increase dramatically. Google is likely to try and counter this move by taking more steps toward desktop integration and becoming less-reliant on search technology.

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Prosecution for the Prosecutor's Sake

The perjury case against Scooter Libby continues to grow more absurd by the day. Byron York details just how:
Perhaps the key moment in the descent happened last February in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton. Fitzgerald was there, along with the Libby defense team.

Libby’s lawyers had asked Fitzgerald to produce evidence that Valerie Plame Wilson was a covert agent at the CIA. They had also asked for an assessment of the damage, if any, caused by the exposure of her identity.

In papers filed with the court, Fitzgerald refused both requests. Now, in the courtroom, Judge Walton wanted to hear Fitzgerald’s reasons.

“Does the government intend to introduce any evidence that would relate to either damage or potential damage that the alleged revelations by Mr. Libby caused, or do you intend to introduce any evidence related to Ms. Wilson’s status and whether it was classified or she was in a covert status or anything of that nature?” Walton asked.

“We don’t intend to offer any proof of actual damage,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re not going to get into whether that would occur or not. It’s not part of the perjury statute.” [...]

“We are trying a perjury case,” Fitzgerald said. “If she turned out to be a postal driver mistaken for a CIA employee, it’s not a defense if you lie in a grand jury under oath about what you said.”

So there you have it. Not only does it not matter if the Valerie Plame Wilson leak did any damage, or no damage at all. It doesn’t even matter if Wilson even worked for the CIA. What Patrick Fitzgerald set out to investigate, the alleged politically motivated, deliberate exposure of a covert CIA agent, no longer matters.
The Plame game is further proof that prosecutors should not be tasked to investigate certain "special" offenses, because inevitably, if nothing is there, they continue pursuing things purely to keep their jobs. It's better to leave such efforts to someone whose salary gets paid for other prosecutorial work as well.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Have Journo Degree, Need Boobs

The things you find on Craig's List:
I know this is a long shot, but it's worth a try. This month I attained my B.S. degreee in journalism with a minor in marketing. I hope to one day soon be a leading broadcast journalist, but feel that my small chest is holding me back.

I am seeking understanding, kind-hearted people who are willing to invest in my A-cup breasts and help me finance a breast augmentation surgery and advance my career in broadcast journalism.

The surgery will cost $3,000 and get me up to a full C-cup. I believe that this is the final piece that I need to have more self-confidence and gain better job opportunities.

In this day and age, I know how important looking good is for any career. I know this surgery will increase my chances three-fold on top of my education, experience and talent.

Please reply if you can help. This is not only an investment in my confidence; It is an investment in my fruitful career. Thank you.

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