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Tuesday, January 20, 2004  

Internet: Pesky pop-ups are on their way out

The 800-pound gorillas are signing on to the movement to end one form of annoyance on the Internet -- pop-up advertisements. The New York Times reports Time Warner, owner of AOL, and its competing portals, have decided it is time for the weasel to stop popping.

The big ads that flash in separate windows above or below Web pages are among the most intrusive, and to many people, the most obnoxious features on the Internet. Not coincidentally, the pop-up format is also among the most effective for advertisers and the most profitable for Web site publishers.

But the potential reach of these ads is starting to be sharply curtailed as major companies, like Time Warner's AOL unit, Yahoo and Google, distribute software that blocks pop-up ads from opening. This summer, Microsoft will put a pop-up blocking feature in the next release of Internet Explorer, the dominant Web browser.

Earthlink has taken the lead in the backlash, providing pop-up blocking software to its customers.

"There is a consumer revolt as forms of advertising get more intrusive," said Rob Kaiser, vice president for narrowband marketing at EarthLink , the first big Internet service provider to distribute pop-up blocking software. The reaction to pop-ups, he said, is similar to the rush to join the government's do-not-call list to block telemarketing calls and the increase in the use of video recorders to block TV commercials.

I haven't tried Earthlink's blocker, but I do rely on the feature when I am surfing with Apple Computer's Safari, which I use about 80 percent of the time. In fact, it is one of the decision makers in regard to which browser I open. Internet Explorer renders more web pages effectively, but does not block ads. It is also slow compared to Safari and OmniWeb. But, a world in which pop-ups are stymied is not perfect surfdom. There is inconvenience in not having ancillary windows open when signing into a service such as Wi-Fi hotspots or completing forms. Ideally, it would be possible to have pop-up windows without them being taken over by intrusive advertisers.

A shill of the advertising industry says Internet users should appreciate pop-up ads.

"I haven't spoken to any people who say I love pop-ups, send me more of them," said David J. Moore, the chief executive of 24/7 Real Media, an online advertising firm. "But they are part of a quid pro quo. If you want to enjoy the content of a Web site that is free, the pop-ups come with it."

Not necessarily. There are methods of advertising that don't make spectacles of themselves. This user has responded to sites that insist on bombarding her with pop-up ads or else, by choosing 'or else.' I avoid About.com sites precisely because they wallow in pop-ups that appear to slow browsers equipped with blockers. Similar sites also get shown to the door.

An estimated 20 to 25 percent of Internet users are believed to enable pop-up blockers. The proportion has doubled in just one year. I suspect more surfers would employ the option if they were aware of its existence and/or how to use it. The lack of awareness is likely to change.

"In the year and half since EarthLink offered blocking software, one million of its five million customers have installed it. AOL added pop-up blocking to its software in 2002. Google added a blocker to its toolbar, a small program that adds some features to Internet Explorer. Yahoo, more recently, added a similar feature to its toolbar. And Microsoft's MSN just added a pop-up blocker to its most recent software.

The biggest potential impact will come this summer when Microsoft releases its Service Pack 2 for Windows XP, which will add a pop-up blocker and many other features to Internet Explorer. For now, Microsoft says Internet Explorer will not block pop-ups unless users enable the feature."

Some advertisers and web site owners are responding to the change as if they have a divine right to intrude into our lives. "A guy has to make money," says a proprietor of tourism and pornography sites. My response is a guy doesn't have to make his money in such an annoying way. I look forward to the elimination of pop-up ads. Next, I hope something can be done about redirects -- bots that grab users' browsers and take them to unrequested webpages.

Reasonably related

  • A discussion of extending blocker capabilities at Slashdot.

  • Google's official statement on pop-up ads.

  • The Financial Times asks: Should some forms of pop-up ads be illegal?


  • 6:48 AM

    Monday, January 19, 2004  

    Analysis: The Jonathan Luna case

    The investigation of Maryland prosecutor Jonathan Luna's murder, which some people had blamed on a rapper and his associate, has stalled. Current evidence does not direct attention to the the duo. They are not considered suspects.

    Renee Graham at the Life in the Pop Lane has the back story.

    Hip-hop didn't kill Jonathan Luna.

    A federal prosecutor in Baltimore, Luna was found dead Dec. 4. He was stabbed multiple times, and his body was discovered face down in a creek in rural Pennsylvania. An autopsy later revealed that Luna, 38, may have been tortured before he drowned. When Luna's death was reported, attention quickly turned to the lawyer's recent cases, in particular his prosecution of two men accused of trafficking heroin. Yet what the headlines and sound bites blared was that one of the men was an aspiring rapper.

    From CNN to CNBC to National Public Radio, there was an implicit nudge-and-wink that if Luna, at the time of his death, was prosecuting someone even marginally connected to rap music, then that person had to be involved with the lawyer's murder. In a Dec. 4 story on NPR's "All Things Considered," correspondent Brian Naylor spent a sizable chunk of his report talking about the men who ran a "violent drug ring in part from a recording studio in Baltimore they called Stash House Records." CNBC's Brian Williams opened his report saying Luna was "in the middle of a major drug case against a rap artist." CNN flashed a smiling photo of Luna, with the words "was prosecuting a rap artist," as if that caption was supposed to connect the dots and explain everything.

    In an example of the media's dunderheaded tendency to sanctify the victim first and ask pertinent questions later (if at all), few seemed willing to consider that Luna's caseload may have had nothing to do with his death. Those two men Luna had been prosecuting -- Luna was reported missing after he had failed to appear in court for their trial -- were already in jail when Luna was killed. Furthermore, the men had pleaded guilty to some of the drug charges in exchange for the government dropping the more serious conspiracy charges. Satisfied with the plea agreement, the men had no reason to want Luna dead, their lawyer said.

    But associating rap music and hip-hop culture with the brutal death of a dedicated, hard-working prosecutor was just too sexy for the lazy media to ignore. There was little focus on Luna's other cases, which included others facing drug charges.

    . . .In the weeks since Luna's death, attention has shifted from the prosecutor's caseload to his personal life. Some believe Luna, a married father of two, may have been leading a double life, possibly involving secret sexual assignations. "Nothing has been ruled in or out [as a motive]," FBI special agent Larry Foust told People magazine. "Everything is on the table." Still, there's no longer any talk about Luna's prosecution of a rap artist. (Now, the men are referred to as "heroin dealers.")

    The Baltimore Sun has continued probing the mystery.

    From its grim beginning in a rural Pennsylvania field five weeks ago, the mystery of who killed Baltimore federal prosecutor Jonathan P. Luna has only deepened as initially promising leads have soured and potential evidence troves have failed to identify a suspect.

    Privately, investigators have expressed frustration that their efforts have yet to produce a break in the high-profile case. Agents again retraced Luna's final movements this week and visited a Pennsylvania Turnpike tollbooth to ascertain how well workers can see into the backs of vehicles. A source close to the investigation called those steps "desperation stuff."

    The source, a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there has been little clear progress and some setbacks in the case in recent weeks. Most significant, though authorities collected DNA and partial fingerprint evidence, they have not matched those clues to a potential suspect.

    . . . In the first weeks of the investigation, the killing drew widespread media attention and inspired far-reaching theories by armchair and Internet detectives.

    The 38-year-old prosecutor had disappeared as he was preparing to conclude a drug conspiracy trial in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, but authorities have found no evidence linking the killing to Luna's work and instead have closely reviewed details of Luna's personal life for possible clues to explain his mysterious death.

    There's a certainly an object lesson about jumping to conclusions in this episode. The desire to believe the worst about some people is one of the more unpleasant aspects of human nature. It seems to become even stronger when the targets are of the 'wrong' race, nationality or profession. I am seeing the same rush to judgment in regard to the sexual abuse of a child case filed against megastar Michael Jackson. I believe it best to wait and see whether the prosecutor can present convincing evidence against him.


    9:32 PM

    Sunday, January 18, 2004  

    Neo-Confederate commemorates King

    Different people have different ways of doing things, including celebrating holidays. Linda Sewell of Alabama wrote this poem in commemoration of the birthday of civil rights martyr Martin Luther King, Jr.

    From: LindaLee4dixie (Original Message)

    Sent: 1/16/2004 9:19 AM


    It is a fright, a horrid shame,
    that Monday I will know dismay;
    how soon the South has sold her soul,
    R.E. Lee for MLK.

    It pains me so to see how close,
    one honoured, one of low degree;
    tis shame to mention in one line,
    MLK and R.E. Lee.

    A whorish man, decietful (sic) lies,
    on bended knee, pretends to pray;
    who could not write one paragraph,
    but signed them all with MLK.

    Compare the honour, duty, strength,
    that fills one with integrity,
    a Godly man, a Southron son
    is what we have with R.E. Lee.

    It is a fright, a horrid shame,
    so many now have gone astray;
    For R.E. Lee is pushed aside
    and people worship MLK.

    LL

    Sewell has been the very energetic doyen of the state's neo-Confederate movement. A member of the Daughters of the Confederacy and associated with the segregationist and secessionist Council of Conservative Citizens, she heads Alabama's Heritage Preservation Association. She and her organization have been adept in obtaining recognition of Confederate holidays and situating Confederate flags and statues around the state, often in predominantly black areas. But, Sewell suffered a setback last year. Despite wearing a disguise, she was photographed accepting an award from the Ku Klux Klan by local media. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which knows her well, shares the details.

    Like most latter-day Confederate groups, the Atlanta-based Heritage Preservation Association (HPA) says it cares about preserving history, not promulgating racism. "We do not foster hatred, nor do we tolerate those who do," the HPA's Web site declares. "Our organization is built on the love of our heritage and not [on] hatred or bigotry towards our fellow Americans."

    But the president of HPA's Alabama branch, Linda Sewell, has been keeping company that calls the group's tolerant nature into question. On Jan. 25, a clumsily disguised Sewell joined a coalition of hard-line neo-Nazi, Ku Klux Klan and Christian Identity hate groups in a protest outside the Southern Poverty Law Center.

    She then gathered with about 60 of the white supremacists at a post-rally meeting in the Clanton, Ala., Shoney's Inn, where Sewell accepted a "certificate of appreciation" from Bradley Jenkins, imperial wizard of the Aryan Nights of the Ku Klux Klan.

    "This is somebody who needs to be recognized," Jenkins said, introducing Sewell. Then, before she came forward, he lapsed into a racist reverie: "The only people I hold grudges against is the Jews, the niggers, the Mexicans, the mud race," Jenkins ranted, before coming back to the matter at hand. "This certificate of appreciation is presented to Linda Sewell in appreciation of all her hard work and dedication to our cause."

    Other neo-Confederates in the state stood by Sewell during her debacle. Though she was reported to have submitted her resignation, the president of the national HPA said she had done nothing wrong and retained her leadership position. Among those who refused to criticize her, even after the pictures of her accepting the award were shown on television, was the town's mayor, Mike Dow. More recently, she is said to have decided to lower her profile.

    Ultimately, Sewell bowed out. On April 22, Ben George, Mobile's leading neo-Confederate activist, sent an E-mail message to Mobile Mayor Mike Dow and other city officials announcing that Sewell had resigned from the Atlanta-based HPA. . . .

    Whether or not the Heritage Preservation Association tolerates haters, Linda Sewell does not appear to be sticking around. Sewell's one-time ally, George, says that she and her husband - who has been a local leader of the Council of Conservative Citizens hate group - have left public life, vowing never to be heard from again.

    Sewell may have curtailed her other activities somewhat, but she is still very active in the neo-Confederate forums I have monitored for years. Her poems, a mixture of maudlin sentiment, misspellings and malevolence, are staples of the sites she visits.

    Note: The photo of Sewell in camouflage is from the SPLC's report on the controversy.


    3:10 PM

    Saturday, January 17, 2004  

    Consuming: Electronics buy tests decision making

    Things fall apart. It eventually happens. My 900 Mhz answering machine, which lasted for years, has been failing to date and time stamp accurately for a while. However, I don't want to be like this whiner at Amazon.

    Reviewer: An electronics fan from Ann Arbor, MI USA

    The predecessor to this model (MA350) has what appears to be the same handset. We had the phone for a little over a year (just beyond warranty) and the buttons started malfunctioning -- which is maddening! I thought Motorola would be a good quality brand, but now I must add it to the list of companies whom I don't buy phones from: Panasonic, Motorola.

    Better to accept the inevitability of products having limited life spans (like people). I received an answering machine as a gift after missing the immediacy of a friend's messages one time too many. It is the Vtech 2656. I must decide whether to keep it. On my own, I selected the Motorola MA361. Though a smaller, less complex unit, it seems to be tailored to the kind of use I engage in. I also like getting just as much recording time, fifteen minutes, as more ritzy models offer. Both meet my basic requirements - 2.4GHz, digital and cordless.

    The description of the Vtech 2656 is pretty impressive.

    Features Include:

  • 2.4GHz Digital Spread Spectrum Cordless Technology
  • 95 Communication Channels
  • Operating Range: Up to 50m Indoors/300m Outdoors
  • LCD Display (Number Dialled, Call Duration and Icons)
  • SUPERFLEX Speakerphones on Handset and Base Unit
  • Multi-Handsets (up to 4 handsets per base unit)
  • Intercom Calls and Call Transfer Between Handsets
  • Conference Call (1 external and 2 internal)
  • 50 Name & Number PhoneBook
  • Call Waiting & Caller ID Ready (50 # Log)
  • 2.5mm Headset Port
  • 5 Last Number Redial, Recall, Hold and Mute
  • Handset Receiver Volume Control

    Digital Answering Machine Features

  • Up to 90 Seconds of Outgoing Message
  • 15 Minutes Recording Time
  • 3 Mailboxes
  • 2 Outgoing Messages (Record and Announce Only)
  • Time/Day Stamp
  • Voice Prompt Memu
  • Full Remote Access including TURN ON/OFF
  • Selectable Ring Delay (2, 4, 6 or Toll Saver)
  • Includes Rechargeable 600mAh NICAD Battery Pack
    and Built-in Belt Clip on Handset
  • Handset Size: 171.5L x53W x45D mm
  • Handset Weight: 134 grams (including Battery)
  • Colour: Silver
  • Another attractive, if iffy, feature is this model promises to be compatible with 802.11b. I am not sure whether this is a solution to a problem or not. I've not encountered interference with my wireless network from my previous answering machine. Nor am I seeing lamentations about such a problem online.

    The Motorola MA361 is a more basic unit, not intended for expansion.

    Features

  • 2.4 GHz analog operation
  • Tapeless digital answering system
  • Caller ID with call waiting
  • 6-hour talk time, 6-day standby battery life
  • 1-year limited warranty


    I am leaning toward my prejudice in favor of small things. That would mean keeping the Motorola and returning the Vtech. The reviews at Amazon are mixed, with two score people either loving or hating the Motorola and few comments on the Vtech. I've decided to make the decision based on information, not experience, so both units remain unopened. I doubt either answering machine is a truly bad buy.

    Since "things fall apart" is a philosophically fraught sentence, I suppose I should end this entry by saying something profound. The best I can muster on a lethargic Saturday afternoon is: When small things fall apart, get up off your arse and replace them.


    4:13 PM

    Friday, January 16, 2004  

    Blogospherics: Blogging via PDA a challenge

    I've been trying to use my PDA more often during the last couple weeks. If you are going to own something that cost someone a month's rent, it shouldn't just clutter your desk or handbag, after all. The feature that really convinced me I wanted a new personal digital assistant was the ability to have wireless connections available when I don't have my laptop with me. So, it made sense to attempt wireless uses. One of the things one can, theoretically, do with a wireless PDA is blog. My efforts at achieving that goal have been mixed.

    They definitely began without promise. The wireless blogging applications seemed not to work with my Palm Tungsten C, which uses Palm's latest operating system, OS 5. I've yet to wheedle a post out of Blogplane, Azure, Vagablog or Kablog. The responses from the PDA to Blogplane, Azure and Kablog is: "The application required to view this data cannot be found." That is after installing and reinstalling the software, both from the laptop and directly into the handheld. Vagablog alternates between saying there is a Java language format exception, to saying something is wrong with XML, to just refusing to make the post.

    I've had better luck with the oldest of the PDA blogging software, Avantblog. The program uses a channel on the well-known anthologizer of websites for handhelds, Avantgo. Many, if not most Palm and Pocket PC users, consider Avantgo a must have service.

    Beau Lebens, its developer at Dented Reality, describes the processes.


    Access to the Internet via your synchronisation/cradle

    1. Install the AvantGo program on your Palm.

    2. Install the AvantBlog channel in AvantGo, using the link provided on http://www.dentedreality.com.au/avantblog/.

    3. Synch your palm to get the channel onto your Palm.

    4. Open AvantGo on your Palm and there should be an AvantBlog channel listed there - open it.

    5. Log in using your Blogger.com username and password.

    6. Synchronise again to transfer your user/pass to Blogger and make sure you are allowed to continue - you will get back a list of blogs on your account.

    7. In AvantBlog on your palm, there should now be a screen where you can enter a post and submit it to a blog. Write something to post, then click 'Post.'

    8. Synchronise one more time to transfer the actual post to your blog, via the Blogger.com server.

    Direct access (wireless Internet)

    1. Install AvantGo if you need to.

    2. Install the AvantBlog channel as above, making sure to refresh the pages in AvantGo and get the new channel listed.

    3. You should now be able to access the channel and log in directly, as soon as you do, you should get back a form which will allow you to post to your blog. Clicking 'Post' will immediately post it to your blog and republish it.

    I was unable to get Avantblog to function properly until recently. In fact, it caused crashes on my PDA whenever I tried to access it directly from the Avantgo Channels list. That has changed. I am now able to post to Avantblog directly using my wireless connection. The alteration I made most immediately before achieving success with Avantgo was to turn off the VPN (Virtual Private Network) on my PDA. However, I am reluctant to identify VPN as the lone culprit in previous failures. There are issues between Avantgo, which houses Avantblog, and Palm software editions 4.0 and 4.1. I also got memory messages when I had to do resets. Or, there could be something I haven't identified that caused those problems.

    This lede for an upcoming blog entry was sent to my drafts blog via Avantblog.

    Sometimes scientific information can be misleading That seems to be the situation with businesses that offer to analyze people's genetic makeup. Some of them even claim they can locate relatives of customers merely from examining their DNA. But, it isn't true.

    So was this picture.

    But, simply getting a blog-by-PDA program to work does not resolve the difficulties inherent in blogging with a tiny, and often, touchy, device. Other challenges are already apparent, including how to input the arcane symbols that are important to blogging, but not readily available on PDAs. (I am not aware of any API clients that work with Palm devices.) I will have more to say about blogging via PDA as I experience more of it.


    2:29 PM

    Thursday, January 15, 2004  

    Politics: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

  • Say 'I do' . . . or else
  • Yo, single guy - and gal! The president wants you. To stop being single, that is. The New York Times broke the story.

    WASHINGTON, Jan. 13 - Administration officials say they are planning an extensive election-year initiative to promote marriage, especially among low-income couples, and they are weighing whether President Bush should promote the plan next week in his State of the Union address.

    For months, administration officials have worked with conservative groups on the proposal, which would provide at least $1.5 billion for training to help couples develop interpersonal skills that sustain "healthy marriages."

    "The officials said they believed that the measure was especially timely because they were facing pressure from conservatives eager to see the federal government defend traditional marriage, after a decision by the highest court in Massachusetts. The court ruled in November that gay couples had a right to marry under the state's Constitution.

    This is a way for the president to address the concerns of conservatives and to solidify his conservative base," a presidential adviser said.

    Several conservative Christian advocacy groups are pressing Mr. Bush to go further and use the State of the Union address to champion a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage. Leaders of these groups said they were confused by what they saw as the administration's hedging and hesitation concerning an amendment.

    Administration officials said they did not know if Mr. Bush would mention the amendment, but they expressed confidence that his marriage promotion plan would please conservatives.

    Jon Walz of Jon's Mind believes Shrub's initiative is too little, too late. If he had acted just weeks earlier, a great American tragedy could have been averted, it appears.

    KENTWOOD, LA -- The “celebrity” pop-singer and former fleeting [R]epublican Stepford-Wife Britney Spears admitted this afternoon that her 55-hour marriage to childhood sweetheart Jason Alexander in Las Vegas last week could have been saved had the Bush administration, just a few days earlier, “gotten off their, like, lazy, pathetic collective candy-asses and proposed this whole $1.5 billion plan to make marriages work and stuff, like, seriously,” Spears told reporters.

    Today's $1.5 billion Bush proposal, a transparently political campaign stunt and obvious wink-and-nod to his administration’s “conservative base of NASCAR fans who beat their wives” would, according to the New York Times, use the country’s hard-earned and very limited tax-dollars “. . .for training to help couples develop interpersonal skills that sustain ‘healthy marriages.’”

    Spears added, “My life is, like, ruined - I'm only about sucking face with the ladies now. . . .”

    Something smells funny here. And, I don't mean Jon's kind of funny. Funny strange, not funny entertaining. The Republicans have decided to micro manage the intimate relationships of the poor and minority. Seems rather paternalistic. But, wait, there's more. The reason the GOP will be embracing love in the ghetto is to send a message of disapproval about love in the Castro. So, meddling in the domestic lives of one outgroup will be used as a weapon against another outgroup. Is Karl Rove slick or what?

  • Aunt Jemima has left the building
  • Blogger and new mother Dawn Olsen is perturbed about a poster of presidential advisor Condoleezza Rice being circulated in liberal circles. Dawn believes the poster communicates contempt for black conservatives.

    "Oh, I think I understand what's going on. See, if you are a person of color AND conservative then clearly your race can be used against you, because heaven forbid you not follow the stereotypical party-line of liberalism. If you are a conservative and also a minority in this country, then you have CLEARLY sold your soul to the "white devil" and have made a mockery of your race. It couldn't possibly be that you have educated yourself to the various political paths and ideologies and chosen the one that you feel best represents your values, beliefs and faith.

    . . .There seems to be a vast left-wing conspiracy going on here. It seems that certain liberals are trying to keep conservative, free thinking individuals, who happen to also be of a different race than whites, DOWN. Why is that?

    Maybe it's just me, but I find it kind of duplicitous to call into question someone's race in a derogatory way just because their philosophy differs from your own, but then use that same race as a benefit when it suits your agenda.

    It's no secret that Liberals traditionally have championed the dignity of minorities and their right to equal treatment, and then when some members of those minorities turn conservative they turn around and make slave jokes."

    My initial response to Dawn's entry was as a civil libertarian: Rice is a public official. She is helping make decisions that impact millions of lives, both in America and abroad. People have the right to criticize public officials and public figures because of the power such persons hold. Indeed people should criticize the powerful, since that is one of the few forms of accountability they are subject to.

    After more thought, I decided Dawn may have a point regarding the 'fighting for whitey' language. I believe what Rice is actually doing is helping the oligarchy that runs the country. It does not include or concern itself with most of the citizenry, including most white people. So, accuracy has been sacrificed to catchiness in the slogan on the poster. Do read the rest of Dawn's entry.

  • Read more than his lips
  • Zizka has been thinking about George W. Bush's affair with Enthymeme. That's Shrub's drinking partner and hot tub chanteuse. (Would I kid you?) Hell, yeah.

    Enthymeme

    \En"thy*meme\, n. [Gr.?: to keep in mind, consider; in + mind, soul.] (Logic) An argument consisting of only two propositions, an antecedent and consequent deduced from it; a syllogism with one premise omitted; as, We are dependent; therefore we should be humble. Here the major proposition is suppressed. The complete syllogism would be, Dependent creatures should be humble; we are dependent creatures; therefore we should be humble.

    -- Houghton-Mifflin, via www.dictionary.com

    He suggests the not exactly elected leader of the free world and used car salesmen have something in common.

    Now we all know what enthymeme is

    In an enthymeme, the speaker builds an argument with one element removed, leading listeners to fill in the missing piece." As a rhetorical device consciously used, enthymeme can be a dramatically effective way of making a point, and as long as the missing element of the argument is actually true, no harm is done.

    On the other hand, when a used car salesman uses enthymeme to "let you think" something that isn't actually true, while very carefully avoiding making the false claim explicit, that's deception. The fact that the false claim has been carefully avoided is common-sense evidence for the salesman's dishonesty, though the absence of any explicit claim usually means that the salesman is legally off the hook.

    Recent claims that Bush never actually said that Iraq had WMD, or that Saddam was allied to al Qaeda, or that the Iraqi threat was imminent, actually make Bush look worse. His careful avoidance of the clincher sentences makes it very likely that he knew that they weren't true. An enormous swarm of administration statements convinced the American public of several untrue propositions, while at the same time carefully avoiding legal liability. And anyone who believed Bush is a sucker who has only himself to blame.

    There's a lesson in this -- always read the fine print, and never assume anything.

    It seems to me the syllogism at the core of the rot is: Saddam Hussein is a bad person. Ergos, most of which make no sense, are emanating from that core claim. They are the misleading missing elements of the argument.

    Read Zizka at his blog or at Seeing the Forest.


    12:10 PM

    Tuesday, January 13, 2004  

    Technology: DataViz makes software that works

    As I learn a new application, Macromedia's Contribute 2, I've found myself thinking about software that I've been pleased with for years. I've just begun exploring Contribute, with all the kinks that implies.  My initial irritations are that it can be anti-intuitive and rather slow loading and saving.  I was also surprised to discover that I can't just drop prewritten and precoded material into the program.  I did that thinking I would get a completed webpage when I hit 'publish.'  Wrong.  The result was a page with all the code visible.  Back to the drawingboard.

    Two programs I've used for years and never have problems with are DataViz's MacLink and Documents to Go.  The venerable MacLink, now called MacLink Deluxe and in Version 14, was initially included with every Macintosh under a packaging agreement with Apple Computer.  A few years ago, DataViz began selling it directly.  MacLink can translate just about every file format.  The most recent additions are Excel X for Macintosh and WordPerfect 10 and 11 for Windows.  Other abilities of the application include decompression of stuffed documents, viewing of documents without having to open them in a separate program and identification of items prepared in obscure programs.  It also repairs some documents or programs with erroneous coding.  Once installed, MacLink is a quiet application.  It can be set to open automatically when needed or given a home in the toolbar to make it quickly available.  Once you are a registered user, you receive news of updates and upgrades.  Upgrades are always discounted, often to $39.95, half the full price of $79.95.

    Documents to Go is newer and was developed for users of Palm platform devices.  It comes in two flavors, Standard and Premium.  Standard makes Microsoft Word and Excel, AppleWorks and plain text documents usable on your Palm handheld. You can read them, edit them and use them in presentations.  Premium adds to the programs repertoire.  Like MacLink, DataViz offers reasonably priced upgrades.  The current upgrade, to Version 6 of is $29.95..  List price is $49.99.  Buy Standard for $29.95.

    DataViz does not leave Windows users out in the cold. They get the same functionality as the MacLink faithful with the Conversion Plus Suite. It opens just about any Mac or Windows file and allows Windows users to read, write and format files for Mac users. CPS sells for $69.95.

    Because of the fine record DataViz has established over a decade, I trust the company to produce quality products.

    I am an aficionado of Macromedia's Dreamweaver, a highly rated web design program, the . I hope Contribute 2 will prove equally worthy. But, it will be a while before I can form an opinion about it. I have a tutorial to complete .

    Around the blogosphere

  • Trish Wilson is shifting her fine blog to Movable Type.
  • Zizka is guest hosting over at Seeing the Forest.
  • Rick Heller brought my attention to a gathering place for moderates, Centerfield, a group blog for centrists.

  • 5:17 PM

    Monday, January 12, 2004  

    News: Around the world

  • Suspect confesses to murder of Swedish politician
  • The murder of a prominent European politician has been solved. It does not seem to have been politically inspired. Faced with evidence that proved he had the motive, means and opportunity to kill Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, the suspect has confessed. Among the evidence is a DNA test revealing Lindh's blood on a knife in his possession.

    STOCKHOLM, Sweden Jan. 7 - Under pressure to solve last year's murder of Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, prosecutors received a surprise confession from the lone suspect after months of denials. His lawyer said the attack was random.

    Mijailo Mijailovic confessed during an interrogation Tuesday night to the Sept. 10 fatal stabbing, chief prosecutor Agneta Blidberg told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

    His lawyer Peter Althin didn't disclose the nature of the confession but said there was no political motivation behind Lindh's stabbing, which happened four days ahead of a bitter referendum on the euro. Lindh had been an ardent supporter of the common currency, which Swedes voted not to adopt.

    Lindh's murder revived memories of the violent demise of another Swedish politician.

    It also brought relief: Many were concerned the Lindh murder might not be solved, as in the case of the late Prime Minister Olof Palme. He was shot in a Stockholm street in 1986, but his murderer was never found.

    Justice Minister Thomas Bodstroen said the confession should give Swedes peace of mind that the right man was caught.

    . . .Haunted by the specter of the shooting of Palme as he walked home from a movie theater with his wife and, like Lindh, without bodyguards police labored to build a meticulous case with plenty of evidence.

    Unlike American pols, Swedish leaders do not go about with a entourage of security personnel. It seems unlikely that Mijailovic distinguished her from any other woman on a shopping trip. Lindh was killed in a ritzy department store, probably in a robbery attempt.

    Since Sweden does not have a death penalty, the confessed murderer will receive a sentence of from ten years to life in prison.

  • Muslim minority blamed in Thai raids
  • Muslims, a minority of Thailand's population, are said to responsible for guerilla activity in a border region there.

    PATTANI, Thailand - Suspected Muslim rebels launched a grenade attack on a police station in southern Thailand on Wednesday, the latest in a series of raids since Sunday in which six police officers and soldiers have been killed.

    There were no casualties in the latest attack, said police Maj. Thani Twibsi. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said three people suspected of involvement in the raid were arrested, but Defense Minister Thammarak Issarangkura na Ayudhaya later said they were only questioned.

    The prime minister said insurgents with Thai-Malaysian citizenship were responsible for the attacks, in which 21 schools have been razed.

    The provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani, Yala and Satun, which border Malaysia, are the only Muslim-majority regions of Thailand. The provinces were plagued by an Islamic insurgency for decades before it died down in the late 1990s. But over the past two years, attacks in the area have killed more than 56 police and soldiers.

    On Sunday, suspected insurgents set fire to schools and raided an armory in Narathiwat province, killing four soldiers. Two bombings in Pattani province on Monday killed two policemen.

  • Airbus bests Boeing in rivalry
  • For rather silly reasons, it has become fashionable to bash the French in the blogosphere.But, a major corporation has good news for France.

    At last week's Dubai Air Show, Airbus claimed supremacy in the commercial jet market, saying it is selling more jets than Boeing, its longtime rival. Boeing, however, was not so willing to move over to the No. 2 slot. While Boeing did not dispute that Airbus has more orders so far this year -- 263 vs. 216 -- a spokesman said it's the longer term that counts. We are not concerned about one downturn year," Boeing's Randy Baseler told the Associated Press. Airbus touted its 555-seat A380 at the show, while Boeing said the market is limited for such unwieldy big aircraft, and the future is in smaller jets. Airbus countered that it is "making civil aviation history," with 129 orders for the jumbo jet already in hand. Deals worth about $7.5 billion were made at the Dubai show, including a $3 billion order from Qatar for Airbus aircraft.

    The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports zooming past Boeing is quite an accomplishment.

    It's official. For the first time in its 33-year history, Airbus has bested The Boeing Co. in jetliner production.

    And Airbus may end up holding the title of "world's biggest airplane maker" for a few years.

    . . .At a dinner for journalists last month in Munich, Germany, Rainer Hertrich, co-chief executive of the European Aeronautic Defense & Space Co.

    , which owns 80 percent of Airbus, said Airbus could be the world's biggest plane maker for at least 10 years.

    "I believe we will be just ahead of Boeing for the next six to eight years, maybe even 10 years," Hertrich said. "Boeing isn't weak or dead, though, and should not be underestimated."

    Industry analysts agree that Airbus will probably deliver more planes than Boeing for the next few years. Neither manufacturer, however, is likely to dominate production the way Boeing did for so long, analysts say.

    Boeing has drastically cut its production rates since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks contributed to the worst downturn in airline industry history. Boeing is unlikely to boost production until 2005.

    Airbus also has more orders for this year. Its headquarters are in Toulouse.

    Note: Are Muslim rebels in Thailand part of an international terrorist movement? Learn more about them at Silver Rights.


    2:12 PM

    Sunday, January 11, 2004  

    Meltdown!

    Today is the first day in a week one can actually get out and about in the Pacific Northwest. I've been trying to catch up on some of those postponed errands. The cupboard is completely bare. The photographs are from the Oregonian.


    2:38 PM

    Friday, January 09, 2004  

    Culture: 'Ethnic' plastic surgery may be boon or bane

    Prince C. at American Black brought my attention to a controversy in my natal region. City officials cast and erected a statue honoring African-American civil rights martyr Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in North Carolina. But, critics of the design don't like the way the statue looks.

    ...plans to honor Dr King's memory by commissioning a bronze statue have triggered a huge disagreement in what is already a divided city, with members of the black population making accusations against white officials.

    The critics say the pose of the statue appears "arrogant" and Dr King's face does not look realistic. But what has really upset them is that the sculptor is white.

    The critics are demanding that the sculpture be recast - at least its head - with a different pose and a more "African" face. Kimberle Evans, one of the most outspoken critics of the $56,000 (32,000-pound) statue, said: "We need an artist who can relate."

    Perhaps the contretempts is about ethnic chauvinism as Prince suspects. However, the topic happens to segue into something I was just thinking about. We are snowbound in the Pacific Northwest, so I've been doing something I rarely do -- watch 'junk' TV. Last night, I caught Extreme Makeovers. It is a 'reality television' show on which people spend two months in the care of plastic surgeons who repair their supposed defects. A commercial for plastic surgery masquerading as a television show in other words. Some of the patients' problems are real. A woman on last night's show was nearly deaf. She was fitted with new high tech hearing aids that allow her to hear better than ever before.

    Other operations or fittings raise the issue of wants being placed over needs. One of the makeovers was of an African-American woman. The plastic surgeons reduced the size of her nose and lips among other things. I was very ambivalent watching it. Is there something so wrong with nonwhite features they need to be 'fixed'? The patient, a down-to-earth mother of six from Wisconsin, said she had considered herself ugly all her life because of her broad nose and full lips. She did not question the idealization of European features. Neither did the African-American surgeon who performed her rhinoplasty and lip reduction.

    Plastic surgeons are well aware of the pressure to look as white as possible many people of color feel. They are targeting nonwhites, particularly people of Asian descent. As a result, their case loads are disproportionately Asian and Asian-American, and, as the black middle-class grows, African-American. Blepharoplasty, an operation to alter the Asian eye, is most common.

    Ms. Wu at at All Look Same has pondered the puzzle of Asian eye surgery.

    The way of Moi has been terribly occupied in consulting for a major international cosmetics company. These poor souls with big, round eyes who want to tap into the Asian market have not a clue on the mysteries of the Oriental Eye.

    The single eyelid.

    Accursed to some and quite lovely to others such as Moi, the epicanthic fold has always been a point of contention and debate among Asian women. Defined in the dictionary as "a vertical fold of skin from the upper eyelid that covers the inner corner of the eye," this piece of skin is more popularly known in Asian communities as the "single eyelid" as opposed to the "double eyelid" common in Caucasian features.

    Blepharoplasty, a surgical procedure in which "single eyelid" women can have their eyes "fixed" to have a "double eyelid" look, is common in Asian countries along with other forms of tormenting rituals such as eyebrow and eyeliner tattooing. Many of my Shanghai flowers back in the days pinched and saved their earnings just to have the surgery. It would make my eyes look more beautiful, they'd say. My eyes will look bigger. I will look more like Hollywood movie star. And if one could not afford blepharoplasty, one can simply purchase little crescent-moon shaped "eye tapes" from the cosmetic store. This creates a temporary crease on one's eyes but it is also known to cause blistering. Alternatively, one can emulate the ways of Connie Chung and apply an impressive amount of blue eyeshadow on one's eyelids and hope ones eyes look doubly big.

    Many a times I have lost my patience during conversations with Asian women who contemplate having their eyes fixed. On one level, I empathize with them. Applying eye makeup is much easier on double eyelids. Curling one's eyelashes also creates a more dramatic flare on double eyelids. But on another level, the fake double eyelid makes one appear either terribly sad or extremely sleepy.

    One of the emotions I experienced watching Extreme Makeovers was a poignant sense of doubt when the African-American woman's young children stared at her visage after the makeover. Their faces were her original face. What message was she sending their young minds about their natural appearance?

    An argument can be made that, in a capitalist country, people are free to buy whatever they want as long as it is not an illegal commodity. But, I believe sometimes it is a good idea to examine what we want and why we want it.

    Note: Learn more about the King statue controversy at Silver Rights.


    2:17 PM

    Wednesday, January 07, 2004  

    Blogospherics: Blogging boondoggles

    Don't you just lo-o-o-ve academic jargon?

    Really, though. Some experiences I recently had in the blogosphere have led me to make a suggestion.

    Neo-Confederate sympathizer Al Barger, innocently, he says, claims insurers should charge homosexuals different premiums than heterosexuals because they have very short life expectancies in an entry at Blogcritics. Barger, unusually for him, did cite a source. Unfortunately, the source, Right Wing commentator Walter Williams, relied on 'research' by zealots from the Christian Right, one of whom has been ejected from the American Psychological Association for making up data to support his antipathy toward gays.

    Yesterday, Doug Mohney, a reporter for the Inquirer, angered some Blogcritics by briefly alluding to blogs as 'losers.'

    Blogging, in combination with dead half-finished web pages, has the potential to give Google and anyone trying to find information on the increasingly cluttered web high-blood pressure. Advocates say it's a democratic way to counter the mass media so anyone can post a screed against The Man. Not that anyone would want to consider the old-fashioned values of editing and reworking text before posting. And maybe I don't care what albums or books you are reading.

    The most common response was to castigate the reporter for daring to criticize a sacred cow hereabouts, weblogs.

    John Mudd was not pleased.

    Both bloggers and non-bloggers can plainly see that Doug's outlash against bloggers is only a cheap way for him to keep his job, to maintain his value to his publisher.

    The Inquirer is wasting their money. They should let Doug go today and hire a blogger who will do work of equal-value and expertise for less money, or perhaps even for free.

    Neither was Anita Campbell.

    Chris Seper, in his Chat Room LIVE weblog , points out an article in the Inquirer naming bloggers as losers in a listing of the year's technology winners and losers.

    The Inquirer article is so far out of touch with the majority of the population, the only possible response is amusement.

    I mean, you can't give much credibility to an article so filled with tech jargon that it is virtually unintelligible.

    And yet the author complains about blogs?

    However, an examination of data about weblogs mostly supports what he said: They are mainly web clutter. Does that mean your blog is just clogging up Google? Probably not, especially if you are on the blogroll at Mac-a-ro-nies, but most of the five million or so are. Their proprietors usually abandon them sometime between one day and four months. Even while publishing blogs are too often sources of disinformation and misinformation.

    Barger's entry is an example of what is wrong with the blogosphere. So, is the blog entry I cited in an piece below, "Parents are greatest peril to children." The mythologies he is promoting about child abuse -- that women are natural nurturers and that the main danger to children is strangers -- are the exact opposite of the truth research supports. Around 80 percent of child abuse cases involve the child's parents. Sixty percent of reported abusers are women. About five percent of abductions are by strangers, the rest are by family members.

    So, we see the problem. Too often bloggers post any old thing to the Internet. I believe the solution to that problem is to advise people of how they can recognize the difference between reliable information and, well, bullshit. So, I am suggesting that capable bloggers post entries about how responsible research is done. For example, one might explain why a methodology that relies on making conclusions from newspaper obituaries is not reliable in regard to non-apparent characteristics such as sexual preference. Or, one could note that 'because people at Free Republic believe this' does not make it true. Most useful of all would be explanations of research methodology.

    You, say, 'But, that sounds like doing some hard work. It is much easier to write about my cat's affection for her new rubber mouse.' You are right. However, I think applying at least minimum standards to blogging will go a long way toward making the criticisms of people like Mohney less true. If we perform better, most blogs won't be Web clutter anymore.


    2:15 PM

    Tuesday, January 06, 2004  

    People are saying: Politics

  • MoveOn ads stir controversy
  • Craig Lyndall at Filtering Craig is among many bloggers considering the MoveOn.org ad controversy.

    At moveon.org there is a contest running 30 second ads created by people around the internet which should let people know the truth about George Bush in 30 seconds. So there are two that compare George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler. This is protected speech and you have the right to say it all you want, but seriously that kind of thinking is flawed.

    Rampaging across Europe in an effort to cleanse populations and take over countries is just a little bit different than taking directed shots (justified or not) at two countries in the Middle East. Putting people in concentration camps and eventually to death because of their religion and/or ethnicity is a little different than taking terrorists and other suspected terrorists and putting them in a military prison.

    Exaggerating is certainly a good way to get your point across I guess, but you must be careful who you use as a comparison. People are not going to just buy the fact that Bush is like Hitler. Bush is not very popular, but the level of hate and fear that people reserve for a monster like Hitler is much different. If you exaggerate your point too much the meaning is lost just as easily as if you don't press your point well enough.

    I don't really care that this outrages Republicans. This, in my opinion, is not a partisan thing. I expect that Jewish groups will be outraged and I think this should be offensive to lots of people regardless of party affiliation. If you think about it, they are using the horrible things that Hitler did to these groups of people and exploiting those actions for an anti-Bush political agenda. This should be unacceptable to all people.

    Craig's interpretration of the more extreme characterizations of Shrub is accurate in my opinion. I loathe the man. But, Bush the younger is mainly inept. He might aspire to the evil machinations of a Hitler, but he lacks the character for it. In fact, he lacks character, period. Shrub is playing with the present the Supreme Court of the United States gave him -- the Presidency. Our goal should be to send him back to playing with something less dangerous.

  • Blog politics impacts political reportage
  • Is it possible this early in the presidential race to count any of the contenders out? Intrepid blogger and film makerBrian Flemming thinks not.

    The idiot test

    Know how to tell if a political pundit (or candidate) is an idiot?

    They give it away when they trot out the tired old meme that Howard Dean is "unelectable."

    In April 1992, Democratic candidate Bill Clinton trailed the previous President Bush in national opinion polls by 20 points. Seven months later, he won the Presidency.

    Today, with 10 months to go until the election, by how many points would candidate Howard Dean have to trail President Bush in national opinion polls to be considered "unelectable"?

    According to some observers, the answer: 5 points.

    CNN: Dean Leads Democrats, Trails Bush by Only 5 Points [Blog for America].

    (Mark Kleiman, who most certainly is not an idiot, nonetheless has an interesting definition of "suicide" here. Apparently rising to within 5 points of Bush and raising $15M in a quarter is political "suicide.")

    I began my blog experience reading Mark Kleiman's weblog fairly often because the liberal bloggers I was famliar with suggested it. But, over time, I've lost interest. It seems to me that Mark goes out of his way not to offend Right Wing bloggers too often. I understand why. If a liberal or moderate says what he really thinks in the Right dominated blogosphere at a blog people actually read, he will eventually be targeted for abuse. But, I consider shilly-shallying to please people and avoid attacks a form of cowardice. There are capable bloggers I can read who aren't afraid to call'em as they see'em.

  • Truth Out revisits 9/11
  • Composer and bloggerRichard Einhorn of Tristero brought my attention to an excellent analysis of 'spin' at Truth Out.

    Two words: 'Bush Knew.'

    It is, frankly, amazing that this has fallen down the memory hole. Recall two headlines from that period. The first, from the UK Guardian on May 19, 2002, was titled 'Bush Knew of Terrorist Plot to Hijack US Planes.' The first three paragraphs of this story read:

     "George Bush received specific warnings in the weeks before 11 September that an attack inside the United States was being planned by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, US government sources said yesterday. In a top-secret intelligence memo headlined 'Bin Laden determined to strike in the US', the President was told on 6 August that the Saudi-born terrorist hoped to 'bring the fight to America' in retaliation for missile strikes on al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan in 1998. Bush and his aides, who are facing withering criticism for failing to act on a series of warnings, have previously said intelligence experts had not advised them domestic targets were considered at risk. However, they have admitted they were specifically told that hijacks were being planned."

    Another story on the topic came from the New York Times on May 15, 2002, and was titled 'Bush Was Warned bin Laden Wanted to Hijack Planes.'

      

    Unlike the Guardian piece, the Times chose to lead the article with the Bush administration's cover story, one the administration has stuck with to this day:

     

     "The White House said tonight that President Bush had been warned by American intelligence agencies in early August that Osama bin Laden was seeking to hijack aircraft but that the warnings did not contemplate the possibility that the hijackers would turn the planes into guided missiles for a terrorist attack. 'It is widely known that we had information that bin Laden wanted to attack the United States or United States interests abroad,' Ari Fleischer, the president's press secretary, said this evening. "The president was also provided information about bin Laden wanting to engage in hijacking in the traditional pre-9/11 sense, not for the use of suicide bombing, not for the use of an airplane as a missile." (Emphasis mine.)

    Yes, we were warned, said the Bush administration, but who could have conceived of terrorists using airplanes for suicide bombings?

    A lot of people, actually.

    The article captures the reason why rewriting history is problemmatic. If we don't recall that this is the same administration that ignored intelligence that might have prevented 9/11, we risk giving them the power to repeat the same kind of mistake.

    Richard is a fine point man in regard to the Bushies. Read his blog whenever you can.


    2:39 PM

    Monday, January 05, 2004  

    News and analysis: Parents are greatest peril to children

    It has happened again. Another baby will not live to see her first birthday and her mother appears to be at fault. The Associated Press reported the details.

    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) - A woman has been charged with murder in the death of her 10-month-old daughter, who deputies say was bitten and violently shaken because she was crying.

    Sashine Howell, 23, was being held without bail Sunday.

    Broward County sheriff's deputies said Howell gave conflicting stories, first saying a boyfriend shook her daughter, Faith, and then admitting that she didn't have a boyfriend and that she shook the child herself.

    According to sheriff's reports, Howell shook the baby and bit her because the infant was crying and had bonded with her father during a recent visit.

    The infant had a bite mark on her back, intercranial bleeding and a swollen bruise on her head. She died Saturday at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

    Why am I blogging about an occurence so commonplace? Because, I was recently reminded the message that family members, friends and acquaintances are more likely to abuse children than strangers has not sunk in with many Americans. David Flanagan, a blogger with ties to Free Republic posted an entry lauding women for being naturally good parents.

    . . .Even more impressive is the fact that Moms everywhere seem to have formed this unofficial child safety pact that I never knew a thing about until just recently. That was the day my wife, Julie, was in a children's clothing store in our local mall and lost sight of our oldest for about ten seconds. Julie called out, no response. Then, with the slightest edge of panic in her voice, she called out again for our daughter. Immediately, every woman in the store stopped what they were doing and began looking for our daughter. Suddenly, all those Moms of various ages, races, and creeds were as unified and focused as any military force preparing to do battle.

    It took only about 15 or 20 seconds before a woman from the back of the store called out that she had located our daughter. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief, then went back to whatever it is they were doing just seconds before, almost as if nothing had happened.

    In a sense, nothing had happened. A fellow Mom needed help locating her child, and the other Moms responded as instantly as if it were their own child. Once the child was successfully located, they all went back to what they were doing. This extraordinary community of women acted naturally, responding in a coordinated fashion to help protect a child. When my wife told me about this incident I was, to say the least, impressed. More than that, it underscored to me one of the wonderful differences between men and women.

    Do you think a bunch of guys would have reacted in the same manner if it had been a shop mostly filled with men? I think not! What you'd probably see is that the men who heard my wife's slightly panicked call for our daughter would just continue doing what they were doing. A few fathers might slow down a bit and glance quickly around them before resuming. Maybe one or two out of a dozen might have begun to look around actively. But, unless it were their child, I don't think the majority of men would have acted in the same coordinated way as those women did on that day.

    Women, I believe, are the nurturers of society. Whether its social, biological, or both, they feel compelled to comfort and protect in a way that men do not. I'm not saying that men can't do it, but I don't think its a skill that comes as naturally to us. . . .

    And so on. He titled the entry "The League of Extraordinary Women." When I first glanced at the title, I thought I was going to read about women who had accomplished impressive feats in politics, industy or the arts. Instead, I learned that if I hear someone yell, 'Erin, get back here this minute!' at Target and look behind the display of towels I'm examining in case a kid is hiding there, I am extraordinary. Thanks, dude, but I'll pass. If someone is going to give me props, I would prefer it be because I've really done something superb, not because I was born without a Y chromosome and some people believe that makes me a natural nurturer.

    But the condescension toward women is not what bothers me most about Flanagan, and others, urging on this myth. I told him so in a comment.

    David, I guess you intend this entry as what we called a 'bright' when I was in the newspaper business. But, I think we need to look at the issue of child abuse in a more balanced way. Most child abusers are women. That is mainly because women do most childcare, I guess. Believing women are natural nurturers can actually make child abuse less likely to be recognized. I watched a woman verbally abuse her two young daughters on MAX (our train system) a few days ago. She didn't do anything severe enough to have the police intervene. But, if I had been wearing 'Mommies are all good people,' blinders I would not have recognized the abuse for what it was. I fear the kind of piece you've published may actually do harm to the cause.

    The National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect has the most recent data on child abuse and neglect.

    In 2001, 3 million referrals concerning the welfare of approximately 5 million children were made to CPS agencies throughout the United States. Of these, approximately two-thirds (67 percent) were screened in; one-third (33 percent) were screened out. Screened-in referrals alleging that a child was being abused or neglected received investigations or assessments to determine whether the allegations of maltreatment could be substantiated. Some of the screened-out reports were referred to the attention of other service agencies.

    . . .Approximately 903,000 children were found to be victims of child maltreatment. Maltreatment categories typically include neglect, medical neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and psychological maltreatment. More than half of child victims (57 percent) suffered neglect; 2 percent suffered medical neglect; 19 percent were physically abused; 10 percent were sexually abused; and 7 percent were psychologically maltreated.

    . . .Most States define perpetrators of child abuse or neglect as a parent or other caretaker, such as a relative, babysitter, or foster parent, who has maltreated a child. Fifty-nine percent of perpetrators were women and 41 percent were men. The median age of female perpetrators was 31 years; the median age of male perpetrators was 34 years. More than 80 percent of victims (84 percent) were abused by a parent or parents. Almost half of child victims (41 percent) were maltreated by just their mother, and one-fifth of victims (19 percent) were maltreated by both their mother and father.

    According to the data, 12.4 per 1,000 children were reported as victims of abuse in 2001. About 1,300 children died of abuse that year. More than eighty percent of abusers were family members. Nearly 60 percent of abusers reported were women.

    People may find two myths, the naturally nurturing nature of women and the evil stranger who lures children away and harms them, reassuring, but neither is well supported by research. An estimated 4,600 children per year are abducted by strangers. Most are returned very quickly unharmed. The other 300,000 children kidnapped each year are taken by family members, friends or acquaintances. Law enforcement pays particular attention to stranger abductions because they are more likely to result in murders, but, obviously, many children live in homes where they are more imperiled.

    If the epidemic of parental child abuse is ever to be stanched, we must acknowledge it exists. I hope publishing factual information on the topic will help achieve that goal. But, I was unable to pierce Flanagan's armor of self-satisfaction. He assured me that I didn't know what I was talking about in that 'get on with you, gal,' tone so many Right Wing men have. That's life.


    12:11 PM

    Saturday, January 03, 2004  

    Writing: Understanding Michael Jackson

    As some of you know, I write. One of the hardest things a writer does is put herself in the heads of people she is not like. Michael Jackson's difficulties have led me to wonder how I could make a wealthy entertainer's problems comprehensible. I believe one way would be to fault society for being so money driven, or perhaps fault individuals for their eagerness to jump through all kinds of hoops in return for moolah. Think about it. But for Jackson's wealth, he would not have been able to afford the problems he has.

    Jackson is said to be extremely overextended financially because of his profligate lifestyle. Neverland alone devours millions per year. Salaries for its more than 100 employees alone would feed the hungry in a small state like West Virginia. Yet, society expects celebrities to live large. Would a poor boy from Gary, Indiana, who shared his bedroom with his brothers, be living so extravagantly now if he had not been encouraged to?

    Plastic surgery is the pit of medical practice. That is because most plastic surgeons don't operate to remedy disabilities. They perform cosmetic surgery to try to satisfy people's idealized visions of their bodies. Furthermore, a significant share of doctors performing such procedures are not even trained in or certified in plastic surgery. Into this setting wonders a young Michael Jackson. Because of his deep pockets, he is doubtlessly encouraged to change virtually everything about his visage. No one considers sending him to a mental health professional who could him help him accept the face nature gave him. That would be against the plastic surgeons' interest. Instead, year after year, procedure after procedure is performed until the man looks like nothing Mother Nature would recognize as hers. The doctors become wealthy. Jackson becomes the recipient of unneeded alterations that are probably not reversible. He will likely never look like himself again. If a young man who worked at McDonalds had wandered into the same doctors' offices and sought a new nose or a cleft in his chin, he would have been told the doctor wasn't in, if not escorted out by security. Again, Michael's millions got him into trouble.

    Jackson seems to have little, if any, interest in women. But, he has been able to pay two of them to bear children for him. But for his wealth, he would not have been able to hire them as extremely well-paid surrogates.

    I do not know whether he is a pedophile or not. My inclination is to believe he is isn't -- his weirdness notwithstanding. But, if he is, again the way the filthy rich are treated in our society may be relevant. It is possible a loaded pedophile would see sex with children as one more thing he could buy.

    I doubt I will ever write a story or book in which there is a character like Michael Jackson, but this interpretation of where he is coming from may be pretty close to home. Do I believe in what I would be writing about such a character? Readers ask writers that question often. The answer is not necessarily. But, what I believe is not what is important to characterization. I need to explain things in such a way that they seem true of the character. It is his point of view that gives the narrative verisimilitude. Characterization is not about agreeing with a character, it is about understanding him.


    11:56 AM

    Friday, January 02, 2004  

    Tech talk: API clients fail blogger in time of need

    I've been having a problem with the API client I usually use the last couple days. Caffeinated Bliss' Chronicle Lite v.1.2 is refusing to connect to the server, giving me the dreaded "no route to host" response when I try to make contact, either automatically or by signing in. Chronicle works fine about 90 percent of the time based on my six months experience with it, but when it goes down, it really goes down. (If you know Blogger well, you are probably thinking it is the real culprit. Not this this time, I'm fairly certain.) Uninstalling and reinstalling Chronicle has made no difference.

    So, I decided to use my second favorite API client instead -- Kung-Log. But, alas, it is one of the applications erased before my PowerBook G4 went to the repair shop last week. After several failed attempts to download versions 1.5.7 and 1.5.8, using both Safari and Explorer, I discovered why I was coming up empty at both Version Tracker and Mac Update. Kung-Log is no longer itself. The developer has decided to re-release a new version as ecto.

    what is ecto?

    ecto is a feature-rich desktop blogging client for Mac OS X (we also have a Windows version in the works), supporting a wide range of weblog systems, such as TypePad, MovableType, Nucleus, Blogger , and more. ecto is the successor of the wildly popular Kung-Log, which has been in use by thousands of Mac users and which earned a 4.5 mice in the MacWorld July 2003 issue, a 4.7 rating by users of VersionTracker.com, and a 5.0 rating by users of MacUpdate.com.

    I'm sure it is a fine product. But, unfortunately ecto is currently only available to beta testers. So, for the time being, you and I are out of luck.

    I will check to see if there are any old MacWorld or Mac Addict discs around here I can grab Kung-Log from.

    My next experiment was with iBlog from Lifli, which is free to .Mac users.

    iBlog is an elegant desktop weblogging application that makes authoring and publishing your personal weblogs (a.k.a blogs) a breeze. Unlike other weblogging systems, You don’t have to be an expert database administrator or a perl programmer to setup and use iBlog. You can preview and publish weblogs to your iDisk with a single click of a button.

    With iBlog you can create different blogs for your personal interests, hobbies, work activities, projects, tasks and anything you like to write about. You can create multiple categories under each blog to further organize your entries.

    The entry I copied and pasted from Text Edit into it and coded turned out well. It looked fine when I previewed it in iBlog. But, when I transferred it to Blogger, all my HTML, except for paragraphing, disappeared. (Don't ask me why it was not touched. Maybe paragraphing is privileged.) I know there is a way to FTP publish material from .Mac, where iBlog blogs are housed, to Blogger, but do not have time to figure out the process presently.

    I will test a few other Blogger-compatible API clients. But, for now, I will likely fall back on an unused BlogStudio account. I'll prepare my entries there and then transfer them to Blogger, keeping the coding in the process.

    It is not my intention to bash Chronicle Lite. It is an uncomplicated API client that works on all platforms and prevents using Blogger from being as unpleasant as it can be without intervention. As I said, Chronicle performs well most of the time. However, Chronicle, along with Kung-Log and iBlog, has failed me for now.


    1:05 PM

    Thursday, January 01, 2004  

    News and analysis: Jackson kidnapped by Nation of Islam?

    I first learned about the alleged connection between Michael Jackson and the Nation of Islam from Eric Olsen at Blogcritics, a rather Right site. Now, progressive blogger Ronn Taylor of A Burst of Light has also posted an entry on the topic. Predictably, the two bloggers' takes are different.

    First, let's look at the back story.

    LOS ANGELES, Dec. 29 — Officials from the Nation of Islam, a separatist African-American Muslim group, have moved in with Michael Jackson and are asserting control over the singer's business affairs, friends, employees and business associates of Mr. Jackson said.

    Initially invited to the Neverland Ranch several weeks ago to provide security for Mr. Jackson, members of the Nation of Islam are now restricting access to him and have begun making decisions for him related to the news media, his business affairs and even his legal strategy, some of Mr. Jackson's friends and associates said. Mr. Jackson faces charges of child molesting in Santa Barbara and recently moved into a rented house in Los Angeles, where Nation of Islam officials have accompanied him.

    Efforts to reach Mr. Jackson through his spokesman were not sucessful, but his lawyer, Mark Geragos, and The Final Call, the Nation of Islam's newspaper, denied the claim.

    Leonard Muhammad, chief of staff and son-in-law of the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, now works out of the Los Angeles office of Mr. Geragos, Mr. Jackson's lawyer, the Jackson associates said. Mr. Muhammad stood behind Mr. Geragos during a recent televised news conference and, according to two of Mr. Jackson's employees who spoke on condition of anonymity, he participates in phone calls involving media and legal strategy.

    Mr. Jackson's official spokesman, Stuart Backerman, resigned on Monday to protest the Nation of Islam's presence, said a colleague of Mr. Backerman, who could not be reached for comment on Monday.

    The employees said they spoke out because they are concerned about Mr. Jackson's welfare and because his multicultural message was at odds with the group's philosophy of black separatism. The Nation of Islam is a small group that advocates black self-empowerment and a separate African-American state, and some of its leaders have espoused anti-Semitic, anti-gay and racist rhetoric. Mr. Jackson is not Muslim nor a member of the Nation of Islam.

    "The Nation of Islam and Louis Farrakhan's son-in-law have taken over completely and are in full and total charge," said one senior Jackson employee, speaking on condition of anonymity. "They have gone in and taken over control of the finances in terms of who's getting paid, how much," the employee added. "They're approving all funds and have decided they have control of the business manager and accountant, without signing authority or power of attorney. They are working out of Geragos's office; in essence they're telling him what to do."

    . . .In a telephone interview on Monday Mr. Geragos denied that the Nation of Islam was running Mr. Jackson's affairs. "The idea that there is some takeover by the Nation of Islam — someone is spinning you," he said. "Nobody has told me what to do and what not to do. Leonard, I believe, is someone Michael consults with, just like in excess of 25 people."

    Mr. Geragos said that members of Mr. Jackson's security detail were Muslim but that that did not mean they belonged to the Nation of Islam. Mr. Geragos said that he felt these accusations of Nation of Islam control have originated with the Santa Barbara district attorney's office, which is "playing the race card," he said.

    Some of what Sharon Waxman of the New York Times is reporting is inaccurate. The NOI rejected separatism decades ago, though some members still say things that can be construed as racist. Furthermore, the article leaves the common misconception that most black American Muslims are members of the Nation of Islam untouched. They aren't. As mainstream Islam has become increasingly available in the United States, African-Americans have converted to its sects instead of to the NOI. If not for its prison ministry, I believe the NOI's membership would be even lower.

    Has Michael Jackson, currently laboring under more trouble than anyone can deal with alone, been practically kidnapped by the Nation of Islam? I suppose it is possible. I've heard of opportunists. including ministers, stepping in to try to take advantage when celebrities or anyone with money comes under fire. Mike Tyson may have lost millions to such manipulation. But, I would need to see more evidence than I have so far to believe the allegations about Jackson and the NOI. What I see is a man in turmoil who has some serious emotional problems beyond the question of whether he is a pedophile or not.

    Ronn isn't buying it all.

    I'd rather not quote from the article, just note that mainstream (read: WHITE!) media is eating this shit up like manna from heavan. While I don't believe MiJak's accusations of physical abuse and snide commentary by a couple of officers, to see the lead screaming Banshee Diane Dimond nearly foaming at the mouth about the timeline (*hint* see: OJ Simpson) not gelling with his allegations is almost sickening to me. I'm still waiting for Dimond to produce MiJak's "love letters" written to the boy. Hell, I'm still waiting for that '94 video to finally appear. This twat has no credibility and has an obvious ax to grind. (Google her name, Michael's, "video," and, "slander lawsuit" yourself.)

    . . .Until the NOI comes out and proclaims its intent to assist Michael, until the man himself says he is involving the org, I won't believe a word of this bullshit. I can't accept the remarks of "anonymous sources" and disgruntled former employees/NOI members.

    A trial is probably many months away and he's already convicted in the eyes of many because he's weird. Maybe I'm just a simple Black man from Brooklyn, but this looks like nothing more than another extortion plot by a financially desparate, morally bankrupt parent. Given the absence of any physical evidence, no talk of circumstantial evidence and the obvious hatred on the part of the sneering DA (and much of white America), I have serious doubts that Michael will receive a fair trial or that this won't dissolve into another sad case of race and religion being used to divide.

    Eric, though not questioning the truth of the claim, believes becoming involved with the NOI is a rotten strategy.

    Um, yes. Good move. The public is almost as sympathetic to the Nation of Islam as it is to child molesters. It seems pretty clear that the Jews are behind the whole damn thing.

    My primary concern is that Michael Jackson get a fair trial. For that to happen, jurors must look at whether there is any proof Jackson had sexual relations with his accuser. Is there evidence the child was given wine to drink as alleged, such as blood alcohol tests? Does the alleged victim show any physical evidence of molestation? Considering Jackson was previously cleared by the applicable state agency, when did the alleged molestation now at issue occur? It is important that we not allow claims such as the supposed link between Jackson and the Nation of Islam distract us from the real issue in this case.

    Updates:

    (1) Eric Olsen believes my description of Blogcritics as 'Right' is not fair. However, based on active posters and commenters, I feel the group blog site does have a conservative tint.

    (2) The imbroglio now includes a claim CBS paid Jackson for the 60 Minutes interview.


    3:09 PM

    Wednesday, December 31, 2003  

    Blogospherics: Guys are saying

  • Good bloggers don't steal
  • Sometimes, people we want to consider friends in the blogosphere do things we can't approve. I recently learned a compiler of blogs by African-Americans behaved in a way my blog bro' George Kelly of All About George is thumbs down on. George has written him a letter.

    Dear Prince Campbell, operator of American Black:

    On Tuesday morning, I stopped by Prometheus 6 and read his "Sticking a Toe Back in the Water." P6's notice of your site, and his praise of American Black's list of black journalists and editorial bloggers, made me curious enough to visit.

    As soon as I saw the "Black Media Sources" links on your page (copied here ), I knew where you'd ripped them off: Negrophile's links page. Sure, you added a few extra links to your roll, but not enough for you to plausibly deny theft. I mean, what are the odds that your list, independently created, would reproduce all of Negrophile's name and code errors? Including at least one that I was asked to correct only yesterday?

    If you had wanted to use the list, it would have been fine. All you needed was permission. I mean, it's right there in the license on Negrophile's front page.

    The error in doing something like this is that it's on the Web. You want your site to be read. You even link to Negrophile. You want to be part of a community, to participate in it and to gain acceptance and consideration for your words and opinions. There are lots of ways to do this, but what you did isn't one of them that will work in either the short or long term. You're essentially admitting either an inability to create a list you like, or an unwillingness to create. Which is it?

    Come on. You can do better. The sooner you start, the better off you'll be. Hell, as soon as you do, I'll be the first to applaud you.

    Note the problem is not that Campbell borrowed someone else's expertise. It is that he did so surreptitiously. As George explains, all he had to do was ask. But, much too often in Bloggersville, people don't give credit where it is due, usually in regard to sources of information. Many bloggers don't cite where material they publish is coming from at all. I think they do that because they believe appearing to know it all makes them look smarter. It doesn't. It makes them appear egocentric and sneaky.

    I believe an apology from Campbell to Negrophile and George will put this unfortunate episode behind us.

    I commend George for speaking out. Months ago I was faced with a similar dilemma and didn't know what to do. A blogger who is one of the few other Native Americans around had padded her blog, Wampum, with phony links to make it climb in the blogosphere ratings. Someone circulated an email with proof of the fraud. When I received it, I decided to send it to another blogger who had known her longer with the suggestion he tell her to desist. I never wrote about the woman's dishonesty until now. Perhaps believing me to be a patsy, she subsequently joined an effort to destroy my blog by slandering me. Now, I wish I had spoken up when I initially realized what an unethical person she is.

  • Lousy links mislead readers
  • Another blog brother, Roger Ailes (not that one) has noticed a recurrent blogger sin -- citing a news story as saying something it doesn't.

    It must be something in the blog. Daniel Drezner fills in for Sully Joe and immediately laspes into Sully's habit of linking without reading. Drezner asserts that this Los Angeles Times article is "trying to predict the 2004 election" by "roll[ing] out th[e] fact" that since 1960, "'the party in the White House lost when the unemployment rate deteriorated during the first half of the year.

    In fact, the article doesn't try to predict the election. The article is about jobless rates. It cites the fact, and then cites an author of several books who says that it's not a coincidence that the President loses when unemployment increases before the election. But there's nothing in the article predicting the outcome of the 2004 election, or even suggesting the outcome in 2004 will follow past history. The Times article doesn't say it, and it doesn't quote the author as saying it either.

    Next time, Daniel, "[r]ead the whole thing -- yes, even if you need to register." And don't pick up Sully's bad habits.

    I suspect some bloggers just throw things up without reading them because:

  • They think they already know what the source is going to say based on their opinion of it.

  • Reading and comprehending an item takes time. It is faster to not do either.
  • They believe readers will not notice the discrepancy.
  • It is true that sometimes readers don't have time to follow up on links. That is why they trust bloggers to link accurately. I believe we let them down when we don't.

  • 'Joe' may be most common commenter
  • James McLaughlin of A Skeptical Blog, who I've known since my guest blogger days, has been getting visits to his comments from a sock puppet.

    I noticed our sock puppeteer is back. I can only assume he is not really reading the blog and is unaware that we know he is one person, or he is just to stupid to realize that we know he is one person. In any case the list is as follows.

    Poster: Mark IP address: 69.11.207.149
    Poster: Joe IP address: 69.11.207.149
    Poster: Joe IP address: 69.11.207.149
    Poster: Tim IP address: 69.11.207.99
    Poster: J Edgar IP address: 69.11.207.99
    Poster: Cliff IP address: 69.11.207.215

    Now I don't really mind the sock puppet, it reflects more upon our commentator than it does me. But I am a bit bothered by his attempt to copy someone else's identity (J Edgar, who has a different IP and email address than the J Edgar above).

    My commenting rules are real simple. Unless your post is 90 percent obscenity then I don't erase and I don't ban. So keep up the good work guy. All you are doing is provoking laughter.

    Which is not a bad thing.

    When I post at group blogs that have comments sections I often encounter a rude and disapproving fellow who calls himself Joe, too. But, come to think of it, a lot of sock puppets are probably just not-so-average Joes.


    10:20 AM

    Tuesday, December 30, 2003  

    News and analysis: Canada, U.S., have 'steak' in stopping epidemic

    I did a little leg work at a couple neighborhood groceries today. The manager at Trader Joe's said he believes the chain will withstand the fallout from the mad cow disease problem because people have more confidence in natural foods stores than in their mainstream counterparts. Clerks at general merchandiser Fred Meyer said they have not noticed any dimunition in sales of beef.

    "Actually, people are still buying beef, including hamburger and tube steaks. They don't seem to be aware of the situation. Or, maybe they don't care about it,' one of them told me.

    Meanwhile, more has been learned about the cow at the center of the controversy.

    The Mabton, Wash., farmer who owned a Holstein with mad cow disease now says the animal was born four months before the United States and Canada banned feed containing processed cow parts known in some cases to spread the fatal illness.

    That knowledge helped pinpoint the cow's origin and the likely means of infection on a day when officials revealed they are searching for eight cows thought to be from the same Canadian herd as the sick cow and imported to the United States.

    After checking his records more carefully, the Mabton farmer told U.S. Department of Agriculture veterinarian Dr. Ron DeHaven that the cow was 61/2 when slaughtered Dec. 9, two years older than he previously thought, DeHaven said Monday. The cow was born in April 1997; the ban went into effect in August 1997.

    "The age of the animal is especially important in that it is a likely explanation as to how this animal would have become infected. She would have been born before feed bans," DeHaven.

    Feed containing protein from animals with mad cow or a sister disease "is the primary, if not in fact the only, means by which" the disease spreads among animals, he said

    The ban on feeding cows cannibalistically, i.e., parts of other ruminants, went into effect because the practice is the major conduit for infecting healthy cattle with the disease. However, there are ways around it. Some farmers feed their chickens cow parts and then turn around and feed chicken litter, including feces and feathers, to their cows. Until evasions are legislated against, animal feed will likely to continue to be a vector for the disease.

    Once cows become infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, it gradually eats holes in their brains, leading to various physical anomalies. All cases of mad cow disease are fatal. Humans are believed to be capable of catching the disease if they come into contact with the brain, spinal column or intestines of an infected cow because most of the antagonistic prions are concentrated there. Its human variant is also fatal.

    It has been confirmed the cow was born in Canada and imported to the U.S. The eight cows from the same group not yet tracked may have also been exported. Canadian officials may respond to the outbreak by setting new rules to guard herds against mad cow disease.

    OTTAWA (CP) - Canada will increase its testing for mad cow disease and may further tighten its regulations on the feeding of slaughterhouse waste to cattle, says a spokeswoman for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

    Francine Lord said new policies to prevent the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) will likely be announced soon in the new year.

    "Definitely, there's going to be more testing," said Lord, who is national manager of import-export issues for the federal agency.

    . . .Currently, Canada and the United States test only a tiny percentage of their cattle for BSE. Japan tests every cow before it is slaughtered and the European Union tests an estimated 25 per cent.

    The U.S. Agriculture Department tests only about 20,000 to 30,000 cows per year out of a total of 104 million - roughly two or three per 10,000.

    Cattle raisers balk at the prospect of more testing because they consider it too costly. However, not doing as much as possible to maintain confidence in the North American beef supply could prove more costly in the long run.

    More information about mad cow disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is available at The Official Mad Cow Disease Home Page.


    7:29 PM