Thursday, May 31, 2007

eHarmony Sued for Excluding Gays, Bisexuals

This lawsuit should be interesting. I'm sympathetic but I doubt the plaintiffs will be able to win at the federal level as eHarmony isn't exactly a "public accommodation."
The popular online dating service eHarmony was sued on Thursday for refusing to offer its services to gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

A lawsuit alleging discrimination based on sexual orientation was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of Linda Carlson, who was denied access to eHarmony because she is gay.

Lawyers bringing the action said they believed it was the first lawsuit of its kind against eHarmony, which has long rankled the gay community with its failure to offer a "men seeking men" or "women seeking women" option.

They were seeking to make it a class action lawsuit on behalf of gays and lesbians denied access to the dating service.

eHarmony was founded in 2000 by evangelical Christian Dr. Neil Clark Warren and had strong early ties with the influential religious conservative group Focus on the Family.

It has more than 12 million registered users, and heavy television advertising has made it one of the nation's biggest Internet dating sites.

Back in U.S.

I'm sitting in New York waiting for my return flight to D.C. I like hearing English again although I could do without all the northeastern accents.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Google Wants Your Info

Google's technological ambitions continue to grow. I have to admire their foresight even as its increasing scope makes me uneasy.
Google's ambition to maximise the personal information it holds on users is so great that the search engine envisages a day when it can tell people what jobs to take and how they might spend their days off.

Eric Schmidt, Google’s chief executive, said gathering more personal data was a key way for Google to expand and the company believes that is the logical extension of its stated mission to organise the world’s information.

Asked how Google might look in five years’ time, Mr Schmidt said: “We are very early in the total information we have within Google. The algorithms will get better and we will get better at personalisation.

“The goal is to enable Google users to be able to ask the question such as ‘What shall I do tomorrow?’ and ‘What job shall I take?’ ”

The race to accumulate the most comprehensive database of individual information has become the new battleground for search engines as it will allow the industry to offer far more personalised advertisements. These are the holy grail for the search industry, as such advertising would command higher rates.

Mr Schmidt told journalists in London: “We cannot even answer the most basic questions because we don’t know enough about you. That is the most important aspect of Google’s expansion.”

He said Google’s newly relaunched iGoogle service, which allows users to personalise their own Google search page and publish their own content, would be a key feature.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Bumming in the 21st Century

Bumming has really gotten a lot more sophisticated these days.

A few days before I left for Switzerland, my fiancee Yolanda and I were stopped on the corner by a couple who told us that they were in town and getting ready to open up a local P.F. Chang's franchise restaurant but were stranded since their car was towed and impounded. They had been all around downtown DC, including to local churches, asking for help but hadn't really gotten any. The churches had been uncooperative because, according to the guy (who was quite well-dressed incidentally), they have a central coordinating committee which decides who is going to receive help but unfortunately they were all closed.

Long story short (and he did make it into quite a yarn), both of them were stranded in DC with $2000 in cash in their impounded car inside his wallet which his wife wouldn't let him bring. They told us they had about $80 but that wasn't enough for a hotel and they needed just a little bit more.

That was quite a strange story, especially the part about leaving the wallet in the car, and it seemed just a little too far-fetched for us. We didn't have any money anyway but could have gotten some if we had wanted to.

I hadn't given the incident a second thought until early this morning when Yolanda emailed me to say that she had seen the couple on the street Saturday night, wearing different clothes but apparently up to the same thing.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Off to Switzerland

Conferences, like telephone calls and work requests, seem to come in bunches. The same day I'm headed off to Switzerland for a conference designed to bring together up-and-coming American and Swiss leaders, the Personal Democracy Forum is holding its annual conference. Sigh.

I think I'll take the free trip to Europe, though :-)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Is the Web All a Twitter?

Not hardly.

However, the free microblog site Twitter is worth monitoring. Microblogs, the buzzword for short messages that basically amount to a soundbite about your current activity, are something that has been around for a while. Many sites, including NewsBusters, use it as a means of putting out information that isn't worth it's own blog post. Facebook, though, probably brought microblogging mainstream.

In any event, if you're interested in social media, you should read this interview that Mark Glaser conducted with the founders of Twitter, a site devoted exclusively to microblogging. He explores many different topics including the company's different management style, whether they even have a business model, and text messaging in the U.S. Must read.

Top Five

  1. After some rumors that Nicolas Sarkozy might be appointing the same type of people that got France into its current mess, some encouraging news: the new president has appointed a "socialist mugged by reality" to be his foreign minister.

  2. Democrats in the Senate failed to pass another Iraq war cutoff bill with many of their own party voting against it, further signaling what I said earlier that withdrawing from Iraq. If Republicans stick to their principles, they have the upper hand on this issue.

  3. was found guilty of violating the Fair Housing Act by providing means for users to manually choose to exclude potential roommates depending upon categories such as race, sex, and sexual orientation. This was a Ninth Circuit ruling, however. Nathan Goldman thinks the ruling has big implications. Eugene Volokh does not. Expect appeal in any case.

  4. Google is in the news today, successfully defending itself against a lawsuit filed by porn publisher Perfect 10 over the use of small thumbnails used on Google's Image Search function. The case is a victory for fair use and should be hailed. Here's hoping that SCOTUS upholds it.

  5. The Senate has worked out an amnesty bill for illegal immigrants. I wonder to what degree the conservative movement will accept it?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Top Five

  1. Richard Perle attacks Bush admin for losing its way on Iraq:

    "'The president's failure to get his own way stems from his general inexperience in foreign affairs and his ignorance of the way Washington works, Mr. Perle suggested. 'He came ill-equipped for the job and has failed to master it,' he said. 'I do not meet the president, but from the people I meet who are close to him and from his speeches, I believe the gap between the president and his administration is without precedent.'"

  2. Writing in the WSJ, Bernard Lewis argues the West has failed to realize the Islamists view of us is quite sophisticated:

    "We in the Western world see the defeat and collapse of the Soviet Union as a Western, more specifically an American, victory in the Cold War. For Osama bin Laden and his followers, it was a Muslim victory in a jihad, and, given the circumstances, this perception does not lack plausibility. From the writings and the speeches of Osama bin Laden and his colleagues, it is clear that they expected this second task, dealing with America, would be comparatively simple and easy. This perception was certainly encouraged and so it seemed, confirmed by the American response to a whole series of attacks."

  3. With Justice John Roberts on the supreme court, the dynamic has changed:

    This is a Supreme Court engaged in a fierce battle of ideas, a big-picture struggle over the role of the Court and the direction it’s going to take. When you talk about long-range influence over the law, it’s the ideas that define the Court. It’s a Court in struggle—not for the vote of one justice, but for an intellectual mooring. It's the Roberts Court v. the Stevens Court." (Via Patterico)

  4. After signing a patent indemnification pact with Linux vendor Novell, many in the open source world expressed concern that Microsoft might be mounting an intellectual property claim against various Linux vendors. Those fears have begun to pan out after Fortune magazine printed claims from Microsoft that various high-profile open-source projects violate 235 of its software patents. Things have developed further as Microsoft said publicly it would not litigate on these alleged violations. That wasn't enough of an assurance for Linux creator Linus Torvalds who accused MS to put up or shut up as to which of the company's patents his software is violating. The whole situation is a further example of why software patents are a bad idea.

  5. Democrats tried briefly to alter House rules and seriously limit minority Republicans' ability to debate and to submit amendments to bills. This attempt was thwarted, however. (Via Rob Bluey)

Global Warming Comes to Neptune

Watching the global warming alarmists it's amazing to see how much they completely discount the sun's role in determining the earth's temperature. It's something that can be readily observed simply by stepping outside during the day and at night. Yet, we almost never hear the sun mentioned by Al Gore and friends.

This is despite the fact that astronomy continues to prove that the sun has an influence on its planets temperatures and is likely to be responsible for observable warming of the earth. First came the news that Mars is getting warmer, now comes the news that Neptune is also experiencing global warming:

Neptune is the planet farthest from the Sun (Pluto is now considered only a dwarf planet), Neptune is the planet farthest from the Earth, and to our knowledge, there has been absolutely no industrialization out at Neptune in recent centuries. There has been no recent build-up of greenhouse gases there, no deforestation, no rapid urbanization, no increase in contrails from jet airplanes, and no increase in ozone in the low atmosphere; recent changes at Neptune could never be blamed on any human influence. Incredibly, an article has appeared in a recent issue of Geophysical Research Letters showing a stunning relationship between the solar output, Neptune’s brightness, and heaven forbid, the temperature of the Earth. [...]

In the recent article, Hammel and Lockwood, from the Space Science Institute in Colorado and the Lowell Observatory, note that measurements of visible light from Neptune have been taken at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona since 1950. Obviously, light from Neptune can be related to seasons on the planet, small variations in Neptune’s orbit, the apparent tilt of the axis as viewed from the Earth, the varying distance from Neptune to Earth, and of course, changes in the atmosphere near the Lowell Observatory. Astronomers are clever, they are fully aware of these complications, and they adjust the measurements accordingly. [...]

Neptune has been getting brighter since around 1980; furthermore, infrared measurements of the planet since 1980 show that the planet has been warming steadily from 1980 to 2004. As they say on Neptune, global warming has become an inconvenient truth. But with no one to blame, Hammel and Lockwood explored how variations in the output of the Sun might control variations in the brightness of Neptune. [...]

Hammel and Lockwood conclude that “In summary, if Neptune’s atmosphere is indeed responding to some variation in solar activity in a manner similar to that of the Earth albeit with a temporal lag” then “Neptune may provide an independent (and extraterrestrial) locale for studies of solar effects on planetary atmospheres.”

MSNBC Anchor Cites Anti-Jerry Falwell Parody Web Page as News Source

Ah, live television--where chipper interns can embarrass even the most self-important anchor types.

Earlier today, MSNBC's Contessa Brewer cited the anti-Bush parody web site as if it were the official web site of the president. Later in the show, she corrected her mistake, but tried to make it seem she mentioned the phony site on purpose.

It was a really bad error, too, since, as Allahpundit points out, is quite over-the-top in its "tribute" to Falwell, having the fictional reverend speak warmly of his "foot-high stack of mostly gay hardcore pornography" on the same page that Brewer quoted from.

Hat tip: TVNewser

Looney Anti-Gay Preacher to Protest Falwell's Funeral

Fred Phelps, the psychopathic cult leader who heads up a church in Topeka, Kansas has announced that he will be continuing his morbid tradition of protesting funerals by turning up at the service for the late Jerry Falwell. Phelps posted the announcement on his site along with an exclamation "Falwell is in Hell, Praise God!!"
WBC [Westboro Baptist Church] will preach at the memorial service of the corpulent false prophet Jerry Falwell, who spent his entire life prophesying lies and false doctrines like "God loves everyone".

There is little doubt that Falwell split Hell wide open the instant he died. The evidence is compelling, overwhelming, and irrefragable. To wit:

1. Falwell was a true Calvinistic Baptist when he was a young preacher in Springfield, Missouri, and sold his soul to Free-Willism (Arminianism) for lucre.

2. Falwell bitterly and viciously attacked WBC because of WBC's faithful Bible preaching -- thereby committing the unpardonable sin -- otherwise known as the sin against the Holy Ghost.

3. Falwell warmly praised Christ-rejecting Jews, pedophile-condoning Catholics, money-grubbing compromisers, practicing fags like Mel White, and backsliders like Billy Graham and Robert Schuler, etc. All for lucre -- making him guilty of their sins.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Direct TV May Try Internet Through Power Lines

Satellite television provider DirecTV Group Inc. may test delivering high-speed Internet service through power lines in a major U.S. city in the next year, its chief executive said on Monday.

DirecTV and others are talking to companies that specialize in providing broadband through the electrical grid, Chief Executive Chase Carey said at the Reuters Global Technology, Media and Telecoms Summit in New York.

"We're not the only ones talking to them," Carey said, in response to a question on whether DirecTV would consider a test in a major city. "I think you'll see some meaningful tests in this arena."

DirecTV would like to test delivering Internet access on power lines in a "top 50 city where you're covering at least half the city."

While DirecTV and fellow satellite TV operator EchoStar Communications Corp. have managed to keep increasing their subscriber base in the face of stiff competition from cable operators, Wall Street analysts have long questioned what broadband strategy the satellite operators will employ to counter competitive pressures.

Certainly they should be doing something since fast satellite internet requires an FCC permit. This fact has crippled satellite's growth as a technology platform. Up until now, satellite firms have tried to steer customers to local telcos which is a losing proposition.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Nudist Clubs Face Greying, Sagging Demographics

Here's the naked truth about nude recreation: The people who practice it aren't getting any younger.

To draw 20- and 30-somethings, nudist groups and camps are trying everything from deep discounts on membership fees to a young ambassador program that encourages college and graduate students to talk to their peers about having fun in the buff.

"We don't want the place to turn into a gated assisted living facility," said Gordon Adams, membership director at Solair Recreation League, a nudist camp in northeastern Connecticut that recently invited students from dozens of New England schools to a college day in hopes of piquing their interest.

The median age is 55 at Solair, where a yearly membership is $500 for people older than 40, $300 for people younger than 40 and $150 for college students.

The Kissimee, Fla.-based American Association for Nude Recreation, which represents about 270 clubs and resorts in North America, estimates that more than 90 percent of its 50,000 members are older than 35.

"If a young person is enlightened enough to go to a beach or resort, they'll find that they're outnumbered by people who are not like them," said Sam Miller, 32, a medical student in Riverside, Calif., who is helping to plan a youth ambassadors workshop being held next month in Orlando, Fla. "Oftentimes they won't go back for that reason."

No one is quite sure why nudity, at least the organized version promoted by the AANR and similar groups, is such a tough sell for younger people.

"I think people think that we're all hippies," said Laura Groezinger, 22, of Billerica, Mass., who grew up visiting Solair with her family. "Other people, I don't know the right way to say this, but they think it's more sexual, kind of. They don't understand just the being free with your body and being comfortable."

Money is also an issue. As nudist resorts become increasingly upscale, catering to baby boomers and retirees with plenty of disposable income, they're less affordable for college students and young families.
Hat tip: Ken Shepherd

Paper, Scissors, Rock Tournament

Too funny:
Ever since he was crowned regional champion, Matt Corron has been stopped on sidewalks and in bars by folks who want a crack at beating him. Last week, a stranger had to pay for Corron's breakfast after challenging him -- and losing -- at the Boulevard Diner in Worcester.

Corron rarely loses at Rock, Paper, Scissors, and for his talent he's on his way to Las Vegas this weekend for a shot at $50,000 and a national title.

Wait -- there's a national title for that? And money? For that innocuous childhood game and conflict resolution method most often used to decide who gets the last Creamsicle?

Believe it. The two-day 2007 USA Rock Paper Scissors Tournament Finals will bring together more than 300 regional finalists from across the nation, including about two dozen from New England. Each won a free contest at a neighborhood bar or restaurant, then triumphed again at a competition among several bars in their area to earn a berth for the ultimate prize.

"I take it very seriously," said Corron, 23, a history-political science major at Worcester State College. "If I win, that's a nice little paycheck."

The two-year-old USARPS League was founded by co-commissioner Matti Leshem, a 44-year-old Hollywood producer who never plays a round for less than $100 a shoot.

A lifelong devotee who discovered that there was a professional Canadian league, Leshem decided to start one here. He's written a set of rules, trained referees, and has unsuccessfully petitioned the International Olympic Committee to make it one of their events. At this weekend's event at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, a paramedic will be on standby because wrist and shoulder injuries often occur, Leshem said. ESPN is expected to air footage of the competition this summer.

All this silliness has a payout, however.
Leshem's league is blossoming largely because of its main sponsor, Bud Light, which is the engine behind the national tournament. The beer's parent company, Anheuser-Busch, last year hit upon the league as it sought unusual new marketing opportunities. Beer distributors organized the tournaments that produced the regional finalists, and Anheuser-Busch puts up the prize money and picks up the tab for each finalist and a guest to fly to Las Vegas and stay for three days.

This is the second year for the national tournament. In addition to the $50,000 first prize, the runner-up gets $5,000. Plus, two finalists will be chosen at random for a 500-shoot contest for a free car. All told, the promotion is costing the company at least $400,000.

"We asked ourselves, 'What do we want to do to get the attention of young contemporary adults?' and we came up with this," said Rick Leininger, Bud Light brand director. "Some people get really serious about it but they have a lot of fun at it, too. Some people dress up in costumes as scissors and rocks. A lot of people bring strategy."
Hat tip: Ace.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Tech Use: A Nation Divided

This is hardly surprising: Most Americans don't have much use for the modern gadgetry most bloggers and blog readers consider essential:
A broad survey about the technology people have, how they use it, and what they think about it shatters assumptions and reveals where companies might be able to expand their audiences.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project found that adult Americans are broadly divided into three groups: 31 percent are elite technology users, 20 percent are moderate users and the remainder have little or no usage of the Internet or cell phones.

But Americans are divided within each group, according to a Pew analysis of 2006 data released Sunday.

The high-tech elites, for instance, are almost evenly split into:

— "Omnivores," who fully embrace technology and express themselves creatively through blogs and personal Web pages.

— "Connectors," who see the Internet and cell phones as communications tools.

— "Productivity enhancers," who consider technology as largely ways to better keep up with their jobs and daily lives.

— "Lackluster veterans," those who use technology frequently but aren't thrilled by it.

John Horrigan, Pew's associate director, said he started the survey believing that the more gadgets people have, the more they are likely to embrace technology and use so-called Web 2.0 applications for generating and sharing content with the world.

"Once we got done, we were surprised to find the tensions within groups of users with information technology," Horrigan said.

Many longtime Internet users, the lackluster veterans, remain stuck in the decade-old technologies they started with, Horrigan said. That a quarter of high-tech elites fall into this category, he said, shows untapped potential for companies that can design next-generation applications to pique this group's interest.

The moderate users were also evenly divided into "mobile centrics," those who primarily use the cell phone for voice, text messaging and even games, and "connected but hassled," those who have used technology but find it burdensome.

Mobile companies, he said, can target the mobile centrics with premium services, especially once faster wireless networks become available.

The Pew study found 15 percent of all Americans have neither a cell phone nor an Internet connection. Another 15 percent use some technology and are satisfied with what it currently does for them, while 11 percent use it intermittently and find connectivity annoying.

Eight percent — mostly women in the early 50s — occasionally use technology and might use more given more experience. They tend to still be on dial-up access and represent potential high-speed customers "with the right constellation of services offered," Horrigan said.

The telephone study of 4,001 U.S. adults, including 2,822 Internet users, was conducted Feb. 15 to April 6, 2006, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Democrats' Momentum Slows

After Republican missteps lead to their loss of Congress, Democrats seemed to think that they controlled the national agenda. But like Republicans in 1995, Pelosi et al. are finding that (contra Time) the bully pulpit is actually that:
The "Six for '06" policy agenda on which Democrats campaigned last year was supposed to consist of low-hanging fruit, plucked and put in the basket to allow Congress to move on to tougher targets. House Democrats took just 10 days to pass a minimum-wage increase, a bill to implement most of the homeland security recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission, a measure allowing federal funding for stem cell research, another to cut student-loan rates, a bill allowing the federal government to negotiate drug prices under Medicare, and a rollback of tax breaks for oil and gas companies to finance alternative-energy research.

The Senate struck out on its own, with a broad overhaul of the rules on lobbying Congress.

Not one of those bills has been signed into law. President Bush signed 16 measures into law through April, six more than were signed by this time in the previous Congress. But beyond a huge domestic spending bill that wrapped up work left undone by Republicans last year, the list of achievements is modest: a beefed-up board to oversee congressional pages in the wake of the Mark Foley scandal, and the renaming of six post offices, including one for Gerald R. Ford in Vail, Colo., as well as two courthouses, including one for Rush Limbaugh Sr. in Cape Girardeau, Mo.

The minimum-wage bill got stalled in a fight with the Senate over tax breaks to go along with the wage increase. In frustration, Democratic leaders inserted a minimum-wage agreement into a bill to fund the Iraq war, only to see it vetoed. [...]

The House's relatively simple energy bill faces a similar fate. The Senate has in mind a much larger bill that would ease bringing alternative fuels to market, regulate oil and gas futures trading, raise vehicle and appliance efficiency standards, and reform federal royalty payments to finance new energy technologies.

The voters seem to have noticed the stall. An ABC News-Washington Post poll last month found that 73 percent of Americans believe Congress has done "not too much" or "nothing at all." A memo from the Democratic polling firm Democracy Corps warned last month that the stalemate between Congress and Bush over the war spending bill has knocked down the favorable ratings of Congress and the Democrats by three percentage points and has taken a greater toll on the public's hope for a productive Congress.
From a caucus standpoint, being in the minority is easier. Governing is the difficult task, something that many in the grassroots right forgot in their frustration with a "wasteful" Congress.

The Coming VoIP Battle

The article is rather old but worth noting. I imagine this technology will become perfected as a means of stopping Skype users from using their phones to make free calls. No one may complain if and when Verizon, AT&T, and the rest come out with their own VoIP services.
Mobile phone operators around the world are investing in equipment to counter what they see as a growing threat to their voice revenues from voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP.

The moves add impetus to a petition that leading VoIP player Skype lodged with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last month demanding that mobile phone network operators allow their customers access to VoIP services via their mobile phones.

The gear in question is Deep Packet Investigation (DPI) equipment, which analyzes and identifies data packets as they flow across a carrier’s network.

Initial investigations using DPI have startled carriers. One major European operator recently found that Skype usage over its network was far higher than its worst fears, according to DPI equipment supplier Allot Communications of Israel.

“Revenue loss was staggering,” according to Antoine Guy, Allot’s marketing director.

Some carriers are blocking access to web sites from which Skype software can be downloaded as a result of what they have learned from DPI technologies.

For example, Volubill said its technology can analyze traffic patterns and identify the traffic as Skype with a high degree of accuracy and subsequently block it. But Skype may then be able to dynamically reroute around the technology by using other ports, for example, which then need to be identified in the same way, said David Knox, product marketing director at Volubill.

But that does not mean that carriers are not trying to do just that. South African carrier MTN and Vodafone’s German subsidiary have both informed customers that Skype usage could lead to cancellation of their services.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Media More Prominent in First GOP Debate

Last night, the Republican presidential candidates had their first debate. It was an odd affair, punctuated by bizarre questions, more than a few of which looked like they could be written by a Daily Kos member.

The debate was hosted by MSNBC (the GOP was not afraid to tangle on the liberal network) with the newly launched Politico newspaper/ezine tagging along for laughs.

At least that's what one has to assume, judging from the strange line of questioning apparently selected by Politico editor Jim VandeHei. My MRC colleague Brent Baker and I tracked the more ridiculous aspects of the debate late last night.

As seen on Drudge: "Silly Questions Abound in First GOP Debate: 'What Do You Dislike Most About America?'"

Gore Gets a Little Too Religious for Liberal Enviro

Al Gore's prophecy tour of doom hit a snag the other day. Apparently, he caused a stir among some atheist environmentalists for stating that he believes in creation science. Amazingly, no one in the media has picked it up. The irony is especially delicious since many on the left are making fun of some of the GOP presidential candidates for having the same belief.

One liberal Canadian blogger who was at a Gore presentation reports Gore's act of blasphemy:

The slide I found particularly interesting/shocking/sad, was his new(?) slide containing a graph of human population growth over the past couple hundred-thousand years. It started off good. He pointed at the beginning of the graph, showing the population of humans on Earth from 200,000 years ago, and referred to the “rise of humans." Cool beans. So he believes that Homo sapiens evolved from other hominid ancestors, right? Nope.

In the very same breath, he then continued to explain that according to his religious beliefs, this “rise of humans” was God’s creation of mankind - apparently 200,000 years ago. His graph then changed to include the caption “Adam & Eve” above this starting point.

I started laughing, and I had to consciously blink my eyes and double-check the screen to make sure I was seeing it properly. Let me get this straight...the guy's entire presentation exists in order to present people with the scientific data showing that human-caused climate change is a fact. He does his very best to include references in all of the slides, showing to any thinking person that this data is not made up, that it comes from the forefront of our scientific research (there was many slides containing data from Science journal, and a few from Nature).

He tarnishes his beautifully crafted presentation by not only stating his belief in creationism - but by placing the words “Adam and Eve” right on the slide (which is actually a scientific graph) as a caption explaining the beginnings of mankind.

Something doesn't add up here. On one hand, he is using science to predict the disastrous outcome of our current actions and rally support for taking proactive measures to make sure bad things don't happen, but on the other hand, he is clinging to stone-age beliefs that another very important area of science has proven wrong (that we humans evolved from other forms of life, and that every organism on Earth has a common ancestor).

And of course, all the religious people in the audience get to feel good knowing that this important politician sees no dilemma in using this this zero-sum belief system. I should also note that at this point in the lecture (I'll call it the schism) he stated that there is no conflict between science and religion. He appeared as though he wanted to say more about this, and even mentioned the Scopes trial, but then decided to continue on with the slideshow instead.

Whaaaaa???? You tell me that anthropogenic climate change is a scientific fact (to the degree that science can use that word), mankind came from God's creation of Adam and Eve 200,000 years ago, there is no conflict between science and religion, refer to the Scopes trial, and then shrug it off and move on with the show?

More commentary on Gore's heresy here.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


One hopes this is a marketing stunt and not the product of spare time:

Illegal Immigration, Caused by Satan

Just embarrassing:

Utah County Republicans ended their convention on Saturday by debating Satan's influence on illegal immigrants.

The group was unable to take official action because not enough members stuck around long enough to vote, despite the pleadings of party officials. The convention was held at Canyon View Junior High School.

Don Larsen, chairman of legislative District 65 for the Utah County Republican Party, had submitted a resolution warning that Satan's minions want to eliminate national borders and do away with sovereignty.

In a speech at the convention, Larsen told those gathered that illegal immigrants "hate American people" and "are determined to destroy this country, and there is nothing they won't do."

Illegal aliens are in control of the media, and working in tandem with Democrats, are trying to "destroy Christian America" and replace it with "a godless new world order -- and that is not extremism, that is fact," Larsen said.

At the end of his speech, Larsen began to cry, saying illegal immigrants were trying to bring about the destruction of the U.S. "by self invasion."

Republican officials then allowed speakers to defend and refute the resolution. One speaker, who was identified as "Joe," said illegal immigrants were Marxist and under the influence of the devil. Another, who declined to give her name to the Daily Herald, said illegal immigrants should not be allowed because "they are not going to become Republicans and stop flying the flag upside down. ... If they want to be Americans, they should learn to speak English and fly their flag like we do."

Senator Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, spoke against the resolution, saying Larsen, whom he called a "true patriot and a close friend," was embarrassing the Republican Party.

There's more at the source.

Democrats Deny They Backed Down on Iraq

The Washington Post made a big splash today with a story linked by almost everyone that said congressional Democrats had backed down on Iraq withdrawal timetable after their failure to override President Bush's veto which struck it down.

In a possible continuance of the congressional Dems' jostling with the Washington Post after their complaints against Post columnist David Broder, Democratic leaders are denying that they have caved to liberal blogger Joshua Marshall:

[T]he offices of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are denying a Washington Post story today saying that Congressional Democrats have backed down to the White House by offering to remove Iraq withdrawal language from the now-vetoed Iraq bill.

Pelosi just went before the Democratic caucus and informed them that the story's false, a Pelosi aide tells me. WaPo is standing by the story, and the lead writer of the Post piece, Jonathan Weisman, told me that leadership aides told him that the withdrawal language had to go. But the WaPo story goes further than that, saying explicitly that Dems have already "backed down" and offered the concession of removing the withdrawal language. Those aren't the same thing.

Why report that Dems have already caved in the negotiations if they haven't yet? [...]So what happened here? I just emailed Post reporter Weisman and requested comment. His answer:

That is very interesting, since I was told in no uncertain terms by one of her aides that the withdrawal dates had to go, since they could not stand by language Bush would never sign. That was cofirmed by another senior leadership aide and two members of the leadership.

I can say with no reluctance whatsoever that we stand by the story. By the way, nobody has contacted me about it. That should tell you a lot.

Congressional Dems are trying to save face it seems. Marshall continues:

I have no problem believing that these aides said this, or that the withdrawal language is likely to be taken out in the end. But the question remains: If this offer hasn't actually been made yet, why is WaPo saying it has been? It's one thing for the aides to be saying that the language will have to go; it's another to say even before the negotiations have started that the concession has already been offered to the White House. If what the Pelosi and Reid aides are telling me is true, isn't WaPo jumping the gun in saying Dems have already caved in advance of the negotiations?

This all gives rise to a bigger question: Why is much of the media's coverage of this focussed on the Democratic dilemma the veto creates, while so little of it is focussed on the fact that Republicans, too, are in a bind, are trapped between public opinion and their unyielding President, and are going to have to make concessions towards a compromise?

I'm surprised Marshall can't see it. He's usually quite a good analyst. Democrats are going to cave on this simply because their position is ipso facto worse than that of Republicans.

Comments like those made by Harry Reid about the war in Iraq being "lost" coupled with the surrender timetable being demanded by Dems are playing to all the worst stereotypes of Democrats being cut-and-run cowards when it comes to foreign policy.

The veto override failure was a sharp jolt back to reality for Reid, Pelosi, et al., making them realize that they will never get the votes to surrender so they moved accordingly. The Post somehow found out about it and printed it. After that leaked out, the leadership realized that they needed to save face with the extreme left, hence the quasi-denial to Marshall.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Battle for Obama's Space

Memo to prospective political candidates: Don't let this happen to you. Sign up for accounts on Myspace or Facebook as part of your preparations.
At the cost of losing 160,000 friends, Democrat Barack Obama's presidential campaign has taken over control of the MySpace page listed under his name on the popular social networking site.

For the past two and a half years, the page has been run by an Obama supporter from Los Angeles named Joe Anthony. At first, that arrangement was fine with the Obama team, which worked with Anthony on the content and even had the password to make changes themselves.

But as the site exploded in popularity in recent months, the campaign became concerned about an outsider having control of the content and responses going out under Obama's name and told Anthony they wanted him to turn it over.

In this new frontier of online campaigning, it's hard to determine the value of 160,000 MySpace friends—about four times what any other official campaign MySpace page has amassed. But the Obama campaign decided they wouldn't pay $39,000, which is what Anthony said he proposed for his extensive work on the site, plus some additional fees up to $10,000.

MySpace reluctantly stepped in to settle the dispute and decided that Obama should have the rights to control as of Monday night, while Anthony had the right to take the contact information for all the friends who signed up while he was in control. That includes the right to tell them exactly how he feels about the Obama campaign.

Anthony referred The Associated Press to his MySpace blog, where he has written that he is heartbroken that the Obama campaign was "bullying" him out of the page he built. He said the candidate has lost his vote.

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign is trying to rebuild his friends network from scratch and was up to more than 17,000 by midday Wednesday. "We support the MySpace community, and look forward to building our relationship," said campaign spokesman Bill Burton.

Geeks Gone Wild: Faces User Revolt Over HD-DVD Crack

Yesterday, the computer geek world was abuzz with news that someone had managed to break the encryption code on the next-generation DVD system, HD-DVD.

The code was posted all over the internet (a Google search for "09 F9," the first four digits of the code turns up 62,000 results). One site it was posted on was, a popular and somewhat left-leaning news community. Digg, however, was contacted by Hollywood lawyers who warned them to delete the post or face legal action under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Digg deleted the post and in the process set off a firestorm of user protest within its community. Immediately, everyone started posting the code into non-related entries and denouncing Digg for being a censor. It got so bad that the site shut down entirely.

While this was going on, people were tracking the controversy and also posting the code around the internet. Finally, Digg reversed course and Kevin Rose, the founder of the site, posted the code on the company's blog with the following statement:

[T]oday was a difficult day for us. We had to decide whether to remove stories containing a single code based on a cease and desist declaration. We had to make a call, and in our desire to avoid a scenario where Digg would be interrupted or shut down, we decided to comply and remove the stories with the code.

But now, after seeing hundreds of stories and reading thousands of comments, you’ve made it clear. You’d rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company. We hear you, and effective immediately we won’t delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be.

If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying.

That stopped the revolt in its tracks as the users began praising Digg and Rose for their courage. Digger "Codplay" spoke for many:

Actually, this whole thing gave me a lot of hope for our society. Sure it's a minor issue, but enough people felt strongly about it that they stood up and told everyone else why they thought the situation was wrong. As is just proof, enough people stood up that it made a difference.

Thanks to both sides. And now that we have proved that we are a strong community, let us get back to our other geeky stories...

Is that the lesson here? Partially.

What really happened is that Digg realized two things: media outlets can never do something that a majority (or even a vocal minority) opposes. That's relevant in the context here where we discuss the left's control of the media in this country.

Does it also prove that libertarian ideals cannot work in practice, as Bryan at Hot Air asks? Or does it prove that the liberal left cannot tolerate other people disagreeing with it?

Digg's reversal wasn't entirely in response to community demand, however. I'm not a lawyer but I believe that since the code was leaked out onto numerous web sites and that Digg wasn't the first site to have it, any kind of DMCA action against Digg will be doomed to fail. Therefore, Digg had nothing to lose by not caving to its community.

There's another lesson here, for the Hollywood community: it was only a matter of time before HD-DVD was cracked. Copyright protection methods are always doomed to fail, because there's always a better hacker out there, especially when you implement copyright protection schemes that infringe on fair use principles.

Update 15:00. Charles Johnson at LGF weighs in on the controversy:

I’ve had this discussion so many times with so many people that my eyes start to glaze over when it comes up.

You either respect the concept of intellectual property, or you don’t.

A whole lot of people don’t even know the concept exists.

Some of this is healthy; challenges lead to stronger systems. But the troubling part here is that, in way too many cases, the insistence on “fair use” is coupled with a thuggish and ignorant disregard for the intellectual property of the creators of the work.

I'm inclined to agree on the question of "should" people respect the law on this, however, if IP law (or more especially companies' content usage agreements) becomes overly restrictive, "should" becomes a moot point.

Everyone should have the right to make copies of their music, software and movies for personal use. It's the natural order of things, ever since humans began circulating information in written form.

Why Most Sports Writers Suck

I generally avoid sports media, in part because everything is so ridiculously overhyped, and also because sports writers usually are not journalists. Were they, much of the idiotic behavior that is tolerated from players and management wouldn't be.

Sports writing and commentary is usually lame as well. Nowhere else do you here such antiquated words as "harriers." Sports writers are especially lame when they try to inject their (irrelevant) personal political views into their writing or make preposterous analogies. My MRC colleague Tim Graham caught one such bout of moronitude earlier today:
Sports Illustrated has this annoying tendency to serve up its sports coverage with a side dish of liberal politics. On its website, basketball writer Jack McCallum wrote of deciding to compare Democratic presidential candidates to NBA playoff teams after watching the Democrats debate on C-SPAN in the middle of the night after some spicy quesadillas.

He began by lauding Mike Gravel's routine of poking Barack Obama about which country America should "nuke" next. "So there you are -- Gravel is the Golden State Warriors. A feisty, combative, in-your-face underdog who loves the public stage." Later, McCallum added to the comparison: "Unorthodox and even a little scary, both are trying to overcome the odds with offense." Here are the other comparisons, enough to ruin the day of a conservative fan of any of these teams:

Chicago Bulls = Dennis Kucinich: Undersized but confident and intelligent. Neither team nor candidate will go away even if some say they have no chance of advancing any farther.

Cleveland Cavaliers = Joe Biden: The Cavs, like the candidate, seem awfully confident and even haughty. But they make critical mistakes and haven't shown they can close.

Dallas Mavericks = Hillary Clinton: The target everyone was gunning for from the beginning. No-nonsense and business-like, both candidate and team have a strong male figure behind the throne, one named Bill, one named Mark. As with Hillary, it was the Mavs' to lose ... and they just might lose it.

Phoenix Suns = John Edwards: Neat, clean, fun and articulate, with a strong chance of proving they are not third best.

Detroit Pistons = Barack Obama: Both team and candidate are poised almost to the point of smugness and both are a strong favorite to make the Final Two. But get either of them in a tight spot and they know how to mix it up, and, possibly, even self-destruct.

San Antonio Spurs = Bill Richardson: A strong resume and an understated way of getting things done. In many respects, in fact, the best in the field. But both team and candidate are often overlooked and undervalued.

Houston Rockets (or Utah Jazz or New Jersey Nets) = Christopher Dodd: All three teams have a track record, they're kind of hanging around and, like the veteran senator from Connecticut, their face is familiar. But no one is quite sure if they're really in the race.

I'm sure it's safe for McCallum to call Edwards "clean" and "articulate," but it might be more politically troublesome (a la Biden) to use those adjectives for the Suns.

Is Global Warming a Sin?

Despite Al Gore and friends' best hopes, not everyone on the left is running around proclaiming catastrophe when it comes to global warming. One such liberal is Alexander Cockburn who is uneasy about just how close alarmist global warming rhetoric seems to be to a religion:

In a couple of hundred years, historians will be comparing the frenzies over our supposed human contribution to global warming to the tumults at the latter end of the tenth century as the Christian millennium approached. Then, as now, the doomsters identified human sinfulness as the propulsive factor in the planet's rapid downward slide.

Then as now, a buoyant market throve on fear. The Roman Catholic Church was a bank whose capital was secured by the infinite mercy of Christ, Mary and the Saints, and so the Pope could sell indulgences, like checks. The sinners established a line of credit against bad behavior and could go on sinning. Today a world market in "carbon credits" is in formation. Those whose "carbon footprint" is small can sell their surplus carbon credits to others, less virtuous than themselves.

The modern trade is as fantastical as the medieval one. There is still zero empirical evidence that anthropogenic production of CO2 is making any measurable contribution to the world's present warming trend. The greenhouse fearmongers rely entirely on unverified, crudely oversimplified computer models to finger mankind's sinful contribution. Devoid of any sustaining scientific basis, carbon trafficking is powered by guilt, credulity, cynicism and greed, just like the old indulgences, though at least the latter produced beautiful monuments. By the sixteenth century, long after the world had sailed safely through the end of the first millennium, Pope Leo X financed the reconstruction of St. Peter's Basilica by offering a "plenary" indulgence, guaranteed to release a soul from purgatory.

Cockburn spends some additional time on the science behind it all in the rest of the article. Read it for a user-friendly look.

Hat tip: Matthew Yglesias, who really ought to know better than thinking all global warming skeptics are funded by omnipresent "Big Oil."

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Leading by Example

I have to approve of this action from the NAACP: giving a funeral to the n-word, thereby hoping to end its usage in the black community. Double standards are never good and especially ones that are self-defeating:
The NAACP will hold a symbolic funeral for the "n-word" at the organization's annual convention in July as a part of its national Stop Campaign to end the prevalence of racist and sexist language, images and concepts in the media.

"Our unit in the youth and college division is directing this, and they are focusing on how badly blacks and other ethnic minorities are treated in the media in movies, on television and in the music as well," said Hilary Shelton, the group's Washington Bureau director.

Holding symbolic funerals to demonstrate the end of a racially discriminatory practice is common practice for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People when they begin a campaign. In the 1960s, the NAACP held a funeral for the segregationist Jim Crow policies in the South, and most recently held a funeral for voter apathy.

"The funeral for the 'n-word' has been part of the NAACP national programming for the last several months," said the group's spokesman Richard McIntire. [...]

"It fits very well with our Stop Campaign turning the corner and going beyond the Imus controversy and taking personal responsibility to stop the derogatory speech and images in hip-hop music and videos and other media," Mr. McIntire said.

The targets of the campaign are the record and television industries, recording artists and the black community. Its mission is to get those industries and black people to voluntarily stop tolerating the use of derogatory terms for women -- commonplace in popular rap recordings -- and to stop supporting or excessively portraying hurtful images of the black community.