Tuesday, February 03, 2004
News: Jackson apologizes, Powell fumes
In the interest of research, I tried to interview a four-year-old boy about breasts. He was a tough nut to crack. First, he sang words that rhyme with breast. Some real. Some not. (We play word games sometimes.) Then he hung upside down from a chair and made faces. Just when I thought he might be about to express his outrage about the pictures of Janet Jackson's boob he had seen, he grabbed my iPod and I had to chase him around the room several times to get it back. So, I have no tearful remonstrations by a victim to report.Meanwhile, Jackson has admitted there was a plan to expose her red underwear at the end of the steamy song she sang with Justin Timberlake.
In a statement released Monday night, Jackson apologized and said it was a last-minute stunt that went awry.
"The decision to have a costume reveal at the end of my halftime show performance was made after final rehearsals. MTV was completely unaware of it," she said. "It was not my intention that it go as far as it did. I apologize to anyone offended -- including the audience, MTV, CBS and the NFL."
Jackson's official Web site was bombarded with angry postings. Her spokeswoman, Jennifer Holiner, said a red lace garment was supposed
to remain when Timberlake tore off the
The most unattractive man in America, Michael Powell, is still claiming to be shocked (yes, shocked!) by the event. Unfortunately, Powell heads the Federal Communications Commission.
Powell promised an investigation, with potential fines of up to $27,500. If applied to each CBS station, the fine could reach the millions.
In response to multiple phone calls from the public, acting Houston police chief Joe Breshears reiterated that no criminal charges would be filed.
Despite the apparent premeditation -- the display coincided exactly with Timberlake singing, "I'm gonna have you naked by the end of this song" -- all involved denied that the peep show was planned.
"This was done completely without our knowledge," said Chris Ender, entertainment spokesman for CBS, which was deluged with angry calls. "It wasn't rehearsed. It wasn't discussed. It wasn't even hinted at... This is something we would have never approved. We are angry and embarrassed."
An examination of the FCC rules suggests the conduct may not violate them.
Over-the-air TV channels cannot air "obscene" material at any time and cannot air "indecent" material between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. The FCC defines obscene as describing sexual conduct "in a patently offensive way" and lacking "serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value." Indecent material is not as offensive but still contains references to sex or excretions.
Furthermore, in the past, the FCC has saved severe fines for premeditated acts that explicitly break the rules. This one or two second event, that most viewers did not see clearly, is hardly that.
On Monday's Nightline, veteran newsman Ted Kopple observed that more people watched the exposure on Tivo and the Internet than caught the real thing. Doesn't that suggest that at least some of the folks cavailing about the behavior sought it out?
And, let's not let Powell off the hook. Michael Powell has plans, I suspect. Po-lit-i-cal plans. Just like the other parties in the saga is he out to exploit it. Here's an opportunity for him to reap name recognition the head of the FCC doesn't usually get. And, since ole lipless has been an unpopular FCC chairman, he will play this to the hilt.
At this juncture, I think there is enough blame to go around - including Jackson, Timberlake, MTV, CBS and the NFL itself, which does its share to encourage vulgarity. I still believe the entire episode has been blown out of proportion.
On other channels
Drew, of So Far, So Left, has the skinny on George W. Bush's speech condemning the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court for "judicial activism." The Court ruled that homosexual couples cannot be denied the right to marry. Funny, the president saw nothing wrong with appointing a rather activist judge, Ku Klux Klan apologist Charles Pickering to a seat on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals during the holiday recess of Congress.
Ms. Lauren has been considering the Jackson stunt at Feministe. And, no, hers are not the same trite remarks one can read all over the blogosphere. She is offended by the act because of the image of woman as victim it promotes. This entry was written before Jackson's apology, but I think that development underscores her point. Should Janet Jackson be apologizing for or being apologized to?
After providing some of the funniest remarks about the Super Bowl caper, Victoria Pitt is in a serious mood and in search of answers about why we are in Iraq.
The real news today is this: Bush announces outside probe of Iraq intelligence. Well, finally, it seems that people are starting to realize that the Bush Administration got something very wrong. There were no WMDs in Iraq. There was no smoking gun and the American public was misled in going to war with Iraq. There is a lot of egg on many faces but the most interesting thing is that now they are trying to find heads to roll.
Read Vic at Smells like fish, tastes like chicken.
Monday, February 02, 2004
The news desk
Ugly American douses baby on plane
A tourist from the United States has scandalized Brazil by abusing an infant while flying to that country.
SAO PAULO, Brazil (Reuters) - Poor Ronald Duffy. First he couldn't get into Brazil. Now he can't get out.
The 35-year-old Pennsylvania native was barred entry in the South American country after he threw water on a baby whose crying annoyed him on the long flight from Miami, police said on Thursday.
Duffy, who had been planning to spend Carnival with his Brazilian girlfriend in the city of Salvador, was arrested by federal police at Sao Paulo international airport when the flight landed on Wednesday.
"I think I overreacted a little," Duffy told Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper.
Police said Duffy appeared to be drunk on the flight. When the baby began to cry, he complained he could not sleep. He then asked for a glass of water and doused the toddler with it as the shocked parents watched.
The other passengers "nearly lynched him" and applauded when police boarded the aircraft to arrest him, the newspaper said.
Duffy, who said he had been taking medicine to sleep, was supposed to fly back to the United States on Thursday morning. But the Varig flight he boarded brought him back to the gate before take-off after he "acted up" again, police said.
The blogosphere is largely a haven for Right Wingers. So many bloggers express contempt for other peoples and cultures that one gets used to it. Some, such as Little Green Footballs, build their readership largely on fueling hatred. Because ugly Americanism is the norm, it usually goes unremarked. But, here, we are talking about words on a computer screen. Much more direct harm occurs when such people act on their beliefs in the real world. The Ronald Duffy story epitomizes the attitude in action. It takes an ugly American to believe he deserves to get his way to the extent that he would abuse a baby in a public venue.
FCC to probe Janet Jackson's breast
The latest development in the brouhaha over singer Janet Jackson baring a breast during her halftime show at the Super Bowl is an FCC complaint.
An outraged Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell on Monday ordered an investigation into the broadcast of the Super Bowl's halftime entertainment show, during which singer Janet Jackson's right breast was exposed.
During the break in the National Football League's championship game, pop singer Justin Timberlake reached for Jackson as they sang a duet and tore open part of her black leather bustier.
"That celebration was tainted by a classless, crass and deplorable stunt," Powell said in a statement. "Our nation's children, parents and citizens deserve better."
Television networks are already on the defensive, with the FCC taking a more aggressive stand against indecency over the airwaves and Congress threatening to sharply raise the fines for such incidents.
Viacom Inc.'s CBS television network, which aired the show, and MTV, which produced the halftime bonanza, apologized for what they described as an unscripted moment.
A spokesman for CBS had no immediate comment on the probe and a Viacom spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
Powell, one of my least favorite boobs, echoes the hysteria quite a few people have been expressing in regard to the incident. Ward, a commenter at Blogcritics, is typical.
. . .It isn't a big deal until it affects YOU. True, this is a free society and we all have certain freedoms. However, MY freedom is to only view controversial (kon-trow-verse-yee-all) material at MY discretion. I would not have been watching, nor allowed my daughter to watch the pitiful descent into primal lust of anatomy that was displayed tonight.
The response seems vastly out of proportion to the offense to me. Though some children saw the brief flash of forbidden flesh, I doubt they were harmed by it. If they were alarmed, it is more likely because of their parents' agitation.
I suspect the FCC's investigation of this titillating episode will turn out to be much ado about nothing. It seems unlikely they will find any proof the baring of the breast was intentional.
Baggage search nets pocket knife
A Presidential candidate has run afoul of the rigid, yet arbitrary, constraints on airline passengers that are part of the Bush administration's so-called war on terrorism.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Sen. John Edwards had a penknife confiscated as part of a stepped up security search that caused a one-hour delay for the Democratic presidential candidate and others boarding his chartered plane.
Albuquerque security officials gave extensive screenings to those traveling with the senator, including hand inspections of everyone's luggage and carry-on bags.
``We must look dangerous,'' joked the North Carolina Democrat, who was forced to go through a metal detector along with other passengers, and to have all his bags X-rayed, before being allowed to board his campaign plane.
A small knife was confiscated from Edwards' luggage. [Emphasis mine.] ``It was a pocket knife,'' Edwards said. ``I didn't even know it was there.'' He said he was told it would be returned to him later.
A pair of scissors, tweezers and assorted small tools used by photographers and television cameramen also were confiscated. The extra scrutiny, which was not explained, caused Edwards to be an hour late for his next scheduled appearance, a speech at a union hall in Oklahoma City.
About three dozen people are traveling on Edwards' plane, most of them members of the news media.
The episode leaves Edwards open to the criticism that he is a 'lawbreaker.' Silly? Yes. But, as the election season heats up, I will not be surprised to see attempts to make hay out of even an incident this minor.
Friday, January 30, 2004
People are saying
Wilson wants justice
Trish Wilson, who is unabashedly a cat person, has her dander up over a recent lawsuit, with good reason. A California man with a history of bipolar disorder and anxiety is suing his local library because of a scrap between his dog and its cat. He claims the spat amounts to denying him use of a public facility because of his disabilities. The case went to trial, with the plaintiff representing himself, yesterday.
I think the guy in question here is just looking for an excuse to sue the city of Escondido.
A disabled man tearfully described a library cat's attack on his assistance dog. Rik Espinosa uses the dog because he has disabilities that include major depressive and panic disorders. The cat, named L. C. for "Library Cat," has been a fixture at the library for the past eight years. The animals fought, and L. C. scratched the dog on its snout. Espinosa claims to have suffered "significant lasting, extreme and severe mental anguish and emotional distress including, but not limited to, terror, humiliation, shame, embarrassment, mortification, chagrin, depression, panic, anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares, loss of sleep..."
I don't doubt that Espinosa, who is unemployable, has the problems he describes. But, I don't believe observing the animals brawl caused or worsened his longterm medical condition. He already had the problems he is trying to make a causative link to based on the animals' scrap.
In the interim, Library Cat died, but Espinosa wouldn't settle the case.
He is suing for $1.5 million.
His actual damages (lost wages, trips to the vet and his own doctor) amounted to about $325.00.
The city offered him two settlements, one for $1,500, but he has refused.
. . .The judge in the case has ordered it to proceed. Espinosa's response made me wonder about his motives : "Here I am, a guy without a college education, and I've whipped this deep-pocket government," he said. "I've out-lawyered the lawyers. That means this case is pure."
I understand the city's response. The plaintiff did encounter at least minimal disruption of his daily schedule. And, if the city attorney who handled the case has a heart, he probably was willing to give the fellow, who probably can't afford to buy himself much, enough money to purchase something nice with a small settlement check. But, I believe Escondido may have made a mistake by treating Espinosa's case as if it were valid. The underlying premise - that a person with severe emotional problems needs to have a dog with him even in public places where the animal may cause disruption, is doubtful. Taking the case on in regard to its merits (or lack thereof) is much more expensive for the city. But, it was what was needed to dissuade him and people who might file similar frivolous suits in the future.
Over the years, I've known my share of business cats and dogs, often at bookstores. I hope what Espinosa has started here doesn't catch on. The presence of animals in businesses can give them a warmth of atmosphere and provide a nexus for conversation. I would hate to see those attributes sacrificed to the selfish motives of a few people.
Flemming gives advice
Filmmaker Brian Flemming has been thinking about image, in a somewhat different way than I have below. He believes the Democratic presidential candidates have allowed the Right to determine the image that appears in people's minds when they hear the phrase 'gay marriage.' So, the ever energetic auteur has written them a letter.
Dear Democratic presidential candidates,
You guys are blowing it on the gay-marriage question.
When Brit Hume or another RNC tool interrogates you about the "homosexual marriage" issue, he's purposefully trying to draw up in red-state people's minds the image of a wedding ceremony in which a couple fag grooms in leather tuxedoes shove their fists up each other's butts while Satan looks on, laughing and stroking his giant red penis.
Your immediate obligation is to change the damn image.
Here is the image you need to evoke immediately: A woman on her deathbed in the hospital. Is that so hard? Just use some of those adjectives you learned in politician school. The dying woman's name is, oh, I don't know, Mary. (Hey, if W. can speak in code for his base...)
Now the next image: Mary's partner of 30 years. Stuck in the lobby of the hospital-- because she's not allowed to visit her dying partner . Those are the "rules," and there's nothing Mary or her partner can do about it. So Mary dies alone. And her partner is robbed of providing the woman she loves comfort in those dying moments. Because of the "rules."
Even conservatives will not be able to ignore the twinge of sympathy they will feel about this Great Injustice. Of course Mary's partner should have been allowed hospital visitation.
Well, that's what a "civil union" is. It gives Mary and her partner the civil right to hospital visitation. And of course you are in favor of that-- and you don't understand how any decent person could be against it, and you sure would like an explanation.
Say it for me three times: Hospital visitation, hospital visitation, hospital visitation.
Now say it in a damned debate and get the national conversation moving in the right direction.
Yes, Brian is the guy in the picture. And, yes, I know he is hot.
If Flemming is ever at a loss for words - interesting ones - I haven't noticed. Read more of his.
Davis likes Soros
Natalie Davis at All Facts and Opinions expresses her admiration for the stance taken by multimillionaire George Soros.
Please check out an excellent commentary in the UK's Guardian, in which writer, investor and philanthropist George Soros tells it straight -- "it" being what AF&O and many voices have been saying all along: Religious fundamentalism in the US has become too powerful, and as a result, this nation is ruled by dangerous extremists who will do or say anything to achieve their foul aims.
[W]e have been deceived. When he stood for election in 2000, President Bush promised a humble foreign policy. I contend that the Bush administration has deliberately exploited September 11 to pursue policies that the American public would not have otherwise tolerated. The US can lose its dominance only as a result of its own mistakes. At present the country is in the process of committing such mistakes because it is in the hands of a group of extremists whose strong sense of mission is matched only by their false sense of certitude.
This distorted view postulates that because we are stronger than others, we must know better and we must have right on our side. That is where religious fundamentalism comes together with market fundamentalism to form the ideology of American supremacy.
Do read the article, which is an extract from Soros' new book, The Bubble of American Supremacy: Correcting the Misuse of American Power, whose primary goal is "to persuade the American public to reject ... Bush in the forthcoming elections."
I've been doing my share to staunch the flow of Christian Right propaganda in the blogosphere lately. A longtime far Right Christian fundamentalist from Free Republic recently turned up at Blogcritics. David Flanagan regularly posts entries in which he pretends to be in pursuit of Mom, baseball and apple pie. But, each of them has an agenda detrimental to society. Most recently, he has penned lengthy pieces claiming the First Amendment's Establishment Clause denies the citizenry freedom by opposing such practices as placing the Ten Commandments in courtrooms. But, despite its conservatism, Blogcritics is not quite Free Republic. Contributors and commenters have challenged Flanagan every inch of the way.
We last considered Fatuous Flanagan in regard to misinformation about child abuse.
Silver Rights explores the connection between neo-Confederates and libertarianism. Strangely, more mainstream libertarians don't seem to realize the connection is bad for their image.
Sick of Bush examines another blemish on Shrub's image as a compassionate conservative - foreign aid.
Thursday, January 29, 2004
Tech talk: A bite of the Apple
ACC, WMA fans clash over HP iPod
Will Hewlett Packard include Apple Computer rival Microsoft's audio format in its iPod branded MP3 player/hard drive? Online sources disagree.
Contrary to reports, Hewlett-Packard will not be supporting Microsoft's Windows Media Audio format in its forthcoming HP-branded iPod.
According to Paul Thurrot's WinInfo newsletter, HP is working with Apple to add support for WMA to the iPod. Thurrot's report was widely circulated online on Monday.
However, a spokesman for HP denied any such plans.
"We're not going to be supporting WMA for now," said Muffi Ghadiali, product marketing manager for HP's digital entertainment products group.
"We picked the service that was the most popular (Apple's iTunes Music Store)," said Ghadiali. "We could have chosen another format, but that would have created more confusion for our customers."
He added, "Most customers don't care about the format they're downloading."
Last week, HP made the surprising announcement that it will be reselling a HP-branded iPod this summer. HP will also bundle Apple's iTunes digital jukebox on all new consumer PCs.
That means Apple's Advanced Audio Coding (ACC) will be expanded into another customer base.
Apple uses a proprietary, copy-protected scheme based on Advanced Audio Coding. While AAC is a proposed standard for Internet audio developed by a consortium of companies, Apple has wrapped its songs in a Digital Rights Management scheme that puts some restrictions on playback devices.
Meanwhile, the majority of Apple's competitors -- Napster, Wal-Mart, Musicmatch, Best Buy and dozens of others -- sell music encoded in Microsoft's WMA format, which is also proprietary.
The problem is that Apple's iPod -- the most popular portable player on the market -- will not play music encoded in WMA.
Likewise, none of the other portable music players from the likes of Dell, Rio or Creative Technology will play Apple's AAC files.
In the interest of playing nicely with others, an argument can be made that Apple should make iPods of all flavors compatible with WMA. However, if it does so, it will be surrendering thousands of possible converts to its competitor.
I don't think we have heard the last about this conflict. Stay tuned for additional maneuvering.
Apple will repair iBook screens
It appears that biting into an Apple has proven a sour experience for some iBook users. Apple Computer has agreed to repair problem displays for them at no expense.
Apple Computer began a three-year, worldwide repair program Wednesday for certain of its iBook notebook computers that can have problems with their internal or external display monitors.
Apple declined to comment on the exact number of iBooks affected, but said it will repair these components for free and offer a full refund for customers who already have paid for the repair. Apple will pay for shipping costs, the company said.
In the last several months, there has been increasing chatter on Mac community message boards about problems with the logic board, one of the building blocks of a computer. Apple said that problems can include scrambled or distorted video, unexpected lines on the screen, an intermittent video image, video freeze and the computer starting up to a blank screen.
Though the repair agremment is limited to iBooks, I had problems with the screen on my PowerBook G4 before the computer was repaired, gratis, in December. There was a darkening of the lighting, about two inches wide and one high, right above the centered name on the display frame. Intermittently, a cobalt blue vertical strip would appear on the screen. And, occassionally, the screen would go pinstripe, usually when there was a power surge. These problems, which existed about two months, ceased when Apple replaced the logic board in my computer. The only blemish now is a new top clamshell frame that does not close completely.
From a legal perspective, it is revealing that Apple has decided to refund money to customers who paid for the repair. It is practically an admission of liability for a corporation to disgorge funds without being forced to.
Virginia Tech dean predicts change
The dean of the school of engineering with the third fastest, and cheapest, supercomputer in the world believes this innovation may spark a revolution in what institutions and businesses can afford a big machine.
In the words of Hassan Aref, the dean of the college of engineering at Virginia Tech, thanks to Apple: "Yesterday's supercomputers have suddenly become affordable."
Discussing the comparably low cost of the Virginia Tech supercomputer in an article for Cnet, Aref explains: "That is extremely good news for universities and corporations and for society at large. It follows that any institution or company that can afford to set aside 1,000 desktop machines - and invest in the communications software to link them - can own a supercomputer."
He continues: "Some are predicting a minor revolution in computing similar to what happened many years ago, when the VAX computer became "everyman's mainframe." Small cluster computers have already been popping up in departmental labs and within academic research groups. Now, clusters at the frontline of performance can be assembled and run anywhere, more or less. The consequences could be truly dramatic."
Regarding the plans to [upgrade] the Tech's supercomputer to Xserve G5 cluster nodes - as announced earlier this week - Aref predicts that they will: "Gain even more industry-leading price performance benefits."
Virginia Tech made history by using Macintosh G5s to form its cluster supercomputer.
Wednesday, January 28, 2004
News and analysis: What becomes a legend least?
My fellow Tarheel, the much admired sportsman Julius Erving, is at the center of a seamy story. After 31 years of marriage, many of them marred by infidelity I suspect, his lovely wife, Turquoise, is divorcing him. Someone has thrown a Molotov cocktail into the mix - a video of Dr. J. having sex with another woman. A scandal sheet, Page Six of the New York Post, broke the story.
The tape was apparently shot several years ago. It shows Erving - who went to the NBA finals four times and led the Philadelphia 76ers to a title - in a hotel room wearing a sleeveless undershirt, boxers and metal-framed glasses. The Afro of his early years is gone, and the gray of his later years has yet to arrive.
His co-star is a voluptuous, dark-haired young woman with cinnamon skin wearing a negligee. A radio in the background is playing "Sea of Love" by the Honeydrippers as Erving adjusts the camera. The couple sips white wine and chats inaudibly before the kissing begins and they get naked.
The two unhurriedly run through several positions, including a Kama Sutra-like contortion. At one point on the radio, an early morning weather report of fog is announced for San Jose, Santa Cruz and Monterey.
Erving has had two childen out-of-wedlock since marrying Turquoise - tennis player Alexandra Stevenson, 22, and a 6-year-old identified in divorce papers last year.
Mrs. Erving's camp denies it is responsible for the release of the video.
The Seminole County, Fla., court ordered Erving, who listed his net worth at $9 million, to pay Turquoise $1,500 a week, plus household expenses and $8,000 a month for credit card bills.
"He made agreements to do things. He did not do those things. We're about to have a hearing for enforcement and sanctions," Turquoise's lawyer, Andrea Black, said.
As for the video, Black said, "I'm sad it's reached this point. We've been trying to resolve this amicably. Making something like that public would help no one."
I recall hearing of Erving's wondering eye when I was growing up and, again, when I lived and worked in Philadelphia. It isn't hard to understand why his wife stood by her man until now. As the girl who fought her way out of the hardscrabble life of people of color in Winston-Salem by marrying a star, Mrs. Erving had won a prize. The perks that come with being the spouse of a celebrity are difficult to give up after one has become accustomed to the lifestyle. So, I suspect she just accepted that her husband was far from hers sexually for more than three decades. In case she forgot, there were paternity cases to remind her.
A friend and colleague who knows Erving well, Pat Williams, has expressed his disappointment, tempered with awe.
"These guys have opportunity, finances, time, and the temptations that face all of us face them in abundance," said Williams, now the vice president of the Orlando Magic. "They have opportunities beyond opportunities and temptation that us commoners couldn't imagine."
He prefers another image of Erving.
The story takes Pat Williams back almost 23 years, and even now, his voice cracks and quivers over the telephone as he tells it. This was the summer of 1981, and Williams and Julius Erving had just finished renegotiating Erving's latest contract with the Sixers, and Williams had one more condition: He asked Erving to come to the mountains of northern New York State to help him coordinate a youth sports camp.
Erving agreed, but the day before he was to appear at the camp, he was in Colorado. He landed in Philadelphia at midnight, caught a 7 a.m. flight to Albany the next morning, and arrived in time to spend the day coaching the children.
"All those kids, they were so overwhelmed," Williams, the former general manager of the Sixers, said last night from a hotel room in Houston. "He just poured himself into that day - teaching, demonstrating, posing for pictures. When I drove him back that afternoon and left him at the airport, I sat behind the wheel and started weeping, that this giant of a man had given so much and didn't have to."
But, Alexandra Stevenson has said her father never contacted her during her childhood and snubbed her when she turned up at an elemetary school autograph session. Don't misinterpret. Erving seems to have been a perfect noncustodial parent in regard to child support. It is another kind of support that was lacking.
So, which of the images is the right one:
The all-American family picture the Ervings usually projected, including when the parents were shaken by the death of one of their children.
Dr. J. in flagrante delicto with a bombshell.
A father who allegedly signed an autograph for his baby-faced spitting image and then urged her to move on down the line?
All of them, I think. The celebrity machine simplifies its fodder before we're fed it. Pete Rose becomes just crooked. Martin Luther King, Jr. becomes just another liberal, not a revolutionary. Sylvia Plath? Some silly woman who committed suicide. Julius Erving as Dr. Player may be next on the menu. However, we are naive to accept such simplification. People are complex and people with opportunities tend to become even moreso.
Philadelphia columnist Mark Sielski has been thinking about celebrity athletes. He talked to Williams about Erving, but formed his own opinion.
But the hard truth is that Julius Erving can't be encapsulated by this anecdote from the Adirondacks, just as he can't by the scandalous videotape sent to the New York Post by his wife's legal team. [As I stated before, Mrs. Erving's team denies throwing the incendiary device.] As a basketball player he was held up as a hero, always gracious, always giving. Since his retirement his indiscretions have seeped out - his fathering two children out of wedlock while married to Turquoise, this tryst he and a lover videotaped somewhere near San Jose 15 years ago - and have painted him as a hypocrite, left him as a punchline for off-color jokes.
Nothing is so simple, and sooner or later everyone who watches sports will learn the lesson of Erving, Kobe Bryant, Mickey Mantle and every other athletic giant hoisted onto a house of cards: Stop being surprised. Stop believing you know them. Stop thinking they're pure. They're only men. They're only us.
Yes and no. Celebrities are only us, but with a plus when they deserve their name recognition. Each of them does something extraordinarily well. I believe we are right to appreciate the gifts they confer on society, but wrong not to suspect their feet may be resting on clay while they write that brilliant book, break that home run record or play a guitar riff so beautiful that it could awaken our ancestors. People are complex.
Monday, January 26, 2004
Tech talk: Better than Wi-Fi?
If you have a laptop, you've probably received correspondence, by email or post, about signing up for wireless enhanced access. It also called digital cellular data service or wWan - Wireless Wide Area Networks. Solicitors usually describe it as a giant step above 802.11 accessibility. A pitch from Sierra Wireless is typical.
What if you could turn downtime into productive time? All that time you spend in hotels and airports. All that time between sales calls or meetings. Even the time you spend driving in a cab or traveling by train. . . With just one click from your laptop, you can check your important email messages, instant message friends and colleagues, make travel reservations, download directions - whatever you need.
The manufacturers say the cards, which are inserted into one's PCMCIA slot, access the Internet at speeds up to 144Kbps.
The key to the greater usability of these wireless cards is that they don't rely on hotspots. Even in cities with reputations for good Wi-Fi access, such as Portland and Seattle, finding available sites can be tricky. I've pretty much given up on Personal Telco, a local free network that gets good press, but is rarely available when one needs it. Of the dozen or so of hotspots it lists in my home area, at least half are unavailable, often because they were never really established or closed down without informing anyone.
Until recently, only owners of Microsoft Windows laptops running later OSes need apply for wireless enhanced access. That has changed. MacCentral reports on software that will make at least one Sierra Wireless card Macintosh-compatible.
Stretched Out Software Inc. has released a Mac-compatible data driver for the Sierra Wireless AirCard 555 - a PC card that enables laptop computers to communicate through cellular telephone networks. The software works on both Jaguar and Panther, and is available for online purchase for US$29.95.
"Wi-Fi" wireless networking access through AirPort (IEEE 802.11b) or AirPort Extreme (IEEE 802.11g) is ubiquitous across Apple's product line. Finding a "hot spot" - a location where you can actually connect online - can be vexing when you're on the road, however. More and more hotels, coffee shops, bookstores, airports and convention centers feature Wi-Fi hot spots, but in most areas, cellular telephone access is far more widespread.
Sierra Wireless Inc. manufactures a line of PC Card expansion cards that communicate through cellular telephone data networks. Their AirCard 555, for which Stretched Out Software developed its Mac-compatible data driver, is just such a product. It uses the CDMA2000 1X protocol supported by some carriers in the United States and Canada (Sierra's Web site has more information).
Sierra's own card offering requires various flavors of Windows - and even with Stretched Out Software's drivers, still requires pre-activation on a Windows PC. But once you've done that, Stretched Out Software's own drivers can enable that card to function on a Mac laptop.
The flip side? The cost of enhanced wireless is greater than for 802.11. The wireless cards sell for about $300. The customer must commit to at least a one-year contract with Sierra Wireless or other providers. If she signs up through an Internet service provider, there will likely be additional monthly charges in the $30 range.
Hewlett Packard offers an enhanced wireless access service that is less restrictive than others.
Wireless Wide Area Networks (wWAN) provides access to information anytime & anywhere you have cellular (data) coverage. What that means is that you can possibly get your e-mails, browse the web and access other corporate information while you are away from the office.
HP provides you a one stop shop for your wWAN solution. You can purchase your card and activate through HP!
Should you already have an existing account with a carrier, no problem. HP Wireless can still activate your wireless modem under your existing account to ensure proper billing and related activation credits. As an additional benefit, we may provide [an] activation rebate when you activate with us.
I believe enhanced wireless access might be a boon to someone who really needs to be able to go online at any time or who can pass on the bills on to her employer. With its lower cost, Wi-Fi, though less convenient, seems suitable for the average user of wireless data services.
Friday, January 23, 2004
Reading, too: Phillips' take on Bushes a must read
When a book by Kevin Phillips is reviewed, it gets reviewed. Books maven Michiko Kakutani examines his new book, about the Bush dynasty, in a New York Times column today. She finds it a crazy salad with some pretty substantial slices of substance among the lettuce.
In American Dynasty, his furious jeremiad against the Bush family, Kevin Phillips does not explicate the many differences between President George W. Bush and his father, or their very different brands of foreign policy. Instead he delivers a high-decibel, high-dudgeon rant against what he sees as their dynastic ambitions and their shared biases and motives.
"Dynasties," he declares at the start of this book, "tend to show continuities of policy and interest-group bias - in the case of the Bushes, favoritism toward the energy sector, defense industries, the Pentagon and the C.I.A., as well as insistence on tax breaks for the investor class and upper-income groups."
Mr. Phillips worked in the Nixon administration and made his name back in 1969 with "The Emerging Republican Majority," a book that predicted the ascendancy of the G.O.P. In recent years, however, he has become a populist social critic, increasingly focused on the gap between the rich and poor, and to his mind the Bush family embodies the worst sort of elitism. In these pages he accuses family members of Machiavellian deception and "blatant business cronyism" with ties to big corporations, big oil and the military-industrial complex.
"After four generations of connection to foreign intrigue and the intelligence community, plus three generations of immersion in the culture of secrecy (dating back to the Yale years of several men in the family)," he writes, "deceit and disinformation have become Bush political hallmarks. The Middle Eastern financial ties of both Bush presidents exemplify this lack of candor, as do the origins and machinations of both Bush wars with Iraq."
Those charges are not difficult to substantiate. The Bushes' latest maneuvers, the invasion and occupation of Iraq and tax cuts that favor the wealthy, fit right into that pattern. George W. may say the U.S. is in Iraq to forward a war on terrorism, but the winners there will likely be Halliburton and other elite corporations.
Kakutani is less pleased with what she considers Phillips' scattershot approach to analysis.
Mr. Phillips is eloquent on the continuing fallout of American decisions, beginning in the 70's, to pour huge amounts of armaments into the tinderbox of the Persian Gulf and Middle East, into countries "menaced by religious and resource conflicts." He also raises disturbing conflict-of-interest questions about the Bush family's intertwining political and business relationships around the world, relationships embodied by Bush Senior's post-presidential affiliation with the Carlyle Group, a merchant bank with military-sector investments.
The narrative of American Dynasty, however, is so discursive, its ambitions so amorphous, that the book all too often devolves into a simple litany of accusations against the Bushes, some grounded in careful research, others based on little more than innuendo and speculation.
I trust Kakutani's judgment enough to respect her opinion. But, I have found Phillips' previous works to justify close reading, despite their imperfections. I will be purchasing American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush, and encourage other people concerned about our political future to do the same.
I'm currently reading Richard Powers' National Book Critics Circle Award nominated The Time of Our Singing. Rarely have I seen a writer capture the essence of American hypocrisy as well as he does. The novel, about the offspring of an interracial marriage that occurred in 1939, is the perfect microcosm to explicate matters as seemingly distant as the theory of relativity and the world of classical musical, as well as race, that continuing cleaver of our society.
When I can bring myself to put the near perfect Singing aside, I turn to the stories in The New Yorker's Winter Fiction Issue. Among the writers included are Edward P. Jones and Edward Sedaris. If you can find it on a newsstand, buy it.
Thursday, January 22, 2004
Reading: Hugo nominee is a worthy sci-fi novel
The novel is mature, so exploited in its potential that nerve is required to dare to test its limits. In his latest novel, Kiln People, speculative fiction writer David Brin, best known for The Postman, does just that. Characterization and plot are stretched and reshaped in innovative ways.
In a future at least a century from now, people are no longer limited to using just their flesh and blood bodies. They can inhabit the forms of clay dolls imprinted by a machine that copies their 'soul waves.' Just about everyone has his own home kiln where he can produce his own golems daily. The major restriction on kiln people is they survive for only one day. At the end of that period, they can be inloaded to the brain so the original shares their experiences, or discarded.
Detective Albert Morris makes a modest living tracking down copyright thieves who steal the clay facsimiles, called dittos, of famous people, usually artists, and make cheap copies for resell. His chief client is Gineen Wammaker, an interactive pornography star who regularly requests his services in retrieving dittoes of herself from Beta, a master copyright thief. Morris' girlfriend, Clara, is a part-time soldier in modern wars, which appear to be based on computer games, but have real life consequences. His best friend, Pal, is a paraplegic who has a capacity for imprinting novel, not necessarily humaniform, golems. Both become important to the plot in the second half of the book.
Morris' career seems to be on the upswing when he is hired to investigate the murder of an executive at Universal Kilns, the Microsoft-like corporation that produces most of the clay blanks for the dittoing process. But, is Morris really operating in a new realm when he accepts the assignment and delegates several of his dittos to it? He begins to wonder when he keeps in encountering golems of his nemesis, Beta, as he is consumed by the investigation.
The detective's facsimiles provide the fulcrum through which the reader develops an understanding of life in a ditto dominated world. Hired in his real form, Morris sends a gray ditto, the type that performs most administrative work, to interview the decedent's partner. Another gray is dispatched to a meeting with Wammaker, which results in orders to penetrate Universal Kilns in search of illegal technology. That is a conflict of interest, so that gray cannot contact either realAlbert or other dittos of him. Meanwhile, Morris' green ditto is relegated to doing the kind of things greens do -- house-cleaning and shopping. (That won't last long. Unbeknown to Morris, he has produced a 'Frankenstein,' a freak golem that is self-directed.) A black ditto is imprinted to perform the intense analytical work involved in tracking the disappearance and subsequent death of the UK co-founder, Yasil Maharal, who invented dittotech. In following the dittoes, the reader explores different facets of Morris' character and how they interact with his world. That world is one in which most experience has been relegated to dittos and real people attempt to fill their empty lives with various kinds of entertainment. It is the philosophical question: 'What would you do if you did not have to do anything?' that haunts the novel.
Without realizing it, Morris has stumbled into the most important conspiracy in his world. Who will control the direction of dittotech is being decided and the candidates are anything but wholesome. It isn't long before Morris, and several of his dittos, find themselves on the defensive among the nefarious players as they try to solve the mystery of who killed Maharal -- and save their real and imitation lives. Clara and Pal are needed to help save realAlbert from other people, real and not, who have no qualms about killing him or millions of humans to reach their ultimate objective.
Brin's daring and the book's flaws are related. It can be difficult to keep up with where each Morris is, and, of just as much significance, what each Morris knows. Instead of an integrated personality, the reader must try to make sense of the Several Faces of Albert -- and of the antagonists, too. The metaphysical nature of 'soul imprinting' makes it a difficult concept to grasp. Time becomes so nebulous the reader is sometimes not sure when it is that actions take place.
However, the overall effect of Brin's experiments is to produce a memorable novel. Kiln People, a runner-up for the Hugo Award, is well worth reading.
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
Blogosphere: Blogger offers list of standards
Yvelle at Radical Rejection has compiled a list of standards she believes bloggers should meet in response to my entry about blogging boondoggles.
In it, I said:
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.
. . .But 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.
Yvelle has expanded on the thought by describing ways bloggers can produce more reliable and credible weglogs. I heartily endorse them. Let's look at my favorites.
You will notice Mac-a-ro-nies does not comply with one of Yvelle's suggestions. There isn't a comments section. That is partly because I learned the limitations of Blogspot hosting before I created a blog of my own. For months, I watched the comments regularly crash at Blogger sites, including Atrios' Eschaton. Then there is the burdensomeness of having something else to administer in addition to the several blogs I contribute to. I do try to compensate by publishing emails to Mac-a-ro-nies and differing opinions from other blogs. I will consider adding comments, most likely when, or if, I switch to Movable Type or TypePad.
"Titles - Every entry should have a title that is descriptive and topically singular. Its the easiest way to distinguish an informative weblog from an online journal. If mulitiple topics are covered in the majority of posts, then the web log probably isn't a reliable source for information. An exception would be a "what i've been reading" entry that is identified as more of a bibliography than a commentary. But, in general, posts that cover multiple topics leave the reader prone to confusion and allow the writer to make off-the-wall connections by jumping topics. As a weblogger, its best to link to your own posts if you are trying to make analogies between topics.
Links - Every entry needs to include a link. With a very few
exceptions, you probably got the idea for what you are writing about from
another webpage. Link your sources, etc. . . . The point being, if you aren't willing to back up your claims with links, then people aren't going to respect your writing.
Comments - If you don't have comments you aren't allowing for
correction. If you aren't allowing for corrections then there is something
inherently wrong with the information you are presenting. Obviously print
books are not correctible, but they have two things web logs do not have:
Editors and Readers with Pens. Editors take care of (or should take care of)
most of the inaccuracies. And where editors fail, a polite reader will leave
a brief citation in a margin for other readers to refer to for accuracy.
(Yes, some books are still helpless - like Anne Coulter's books).
Quotes - The writer should have an effective way of delineating
quotations. Its as simple as indenting or using some CSS with a Blockquote
tag. But it really is more effective than quoting things inline. Unlike
print, which has standard page widths and font-sizes, people's browser widths and font sizes can vary based on many circumstances. The 32 word (or 42 word depending on your citation system) cutoff to distinguish inline and
blockquotes are not really effective. I say only use blockquotes. They are
easier to read and just more effective. Besides, the way websites go up and
down, chances are you want a large chunk of information. We can't rely on
links to be working in a months so you have to make sure you have enough
context to prove your point."
My current method of freshening up this now ten-month-old blog is to use pictures more often. I hope you like the change.
Be sure to go to Yvelle's site and read her entire list of blogging standards.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
2 Outgoing Messages (Record and Announce Only)
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)
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.
Features2.4 GHz analog operationTapeless digital answering systemCaller ID with call waiting6-hour talk time, 6-day standby battery life1-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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
\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
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.
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.
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.
Airbus bests Boeing in rivalry
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.
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.