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Sunday, May 09, 2004  

Technology: Sony wants MP3 fans to Connect

There was a time when megacorp Sony owned the hip music gadget market. Sure, Bang & Olufsen and Bose were popular with many audiophiles, but for the larger segment of the population seeking better quality, but somewhat reasonable prices, Sony was it. The slogan "It's a Sony," meant something. Sony's introduction of the portable music player 20 years ago sealed the deal.

But then, when Sony's mastery of music to go seemed complete, Apple claimed part of the market, hardware and content, for itself.

ZDnet's Anchordesk reports Sony is fighting back. Eliot van Buskirk tells us how.

For years, Sony has seemed reticent to embrace the Internet as a means of distributing music, despite its unique positioning as the only company in the world with a major music label, a computer hardware division, and a consumer electronics arm. But finally, in the face of incontrovertible evidence, Sony executives admitted that this is the year of the online music store and that it couldn't risk letting the likes of Apple steal the show, the way Sony itself did with its introduction of the Walkman more than 20 years ago. Yesterday, the company announced its own online music store, called Connect, to compete with Apple's market-leading iTunes Music Store and other services.

He reminds us that Sony previously, along with other music purveyors, refused agreements with online resellers. The success of Apple's iPod and iTunes Music Store, along with prosecutions of users of peer-to-peer services, has changed that. It is a brave new world, and Sony wants a piece of it. Connect will be entering a market with a bevy of competitors. They include Wal-Mart, second to iTMS in sells, Napster and BuyMusic.

Van Buskirk has tested the new service.

But these are different times, and Sony has finally decided to quit experimenting. Instead, it has released a full-featured online music store called Connect, embedded in its jukebox software, SonicStage. From initial inspection, the software and the store appear to run fairly smoothly and intuitively. Like iTunes, the store generally sells music downloads à la carte for 99 cents a pop and complete albums for $9.99, and it's designed to work with Sony audio devices. Although Apple is entrenched in the top MP3 player and MSP [music service provider] spots, Sony has two competitive advantages: it offers more than one portable device that can play the music it sells, and it owns a substantial catalog, so the company has to pay licensing fees only to the other labels. In contrast, Apple must pay Sony as well as the different labels, and it owns no music.

Van Buskirk acknowledges that there is still no way to play MP3s on Sony's proprietary Memory Stick modules. The alternative to hard drives, secure digital and compact flash devices, is favored for Sony portable devices, including its Clie personal digital assistants. But, there is a strange bifurcation between the computer and the portable device when it comes to installing music. One must convert the music into Sony's proprietary OpenMG codec on one's hard drive and then transfer it to the MP3 player.

Another oddity is that Sony has blocked sharing of its music store downloads on networks. Short of hacks, an individual user's music remains his, even when he wants to share.

I'm not as sanguine as van Buskirk about the potential of Sony's efforts. iTMS is well thought of and has a significant headstart. I suspect owners of Clies and other devices that support Memory Stick will be annoyed anew. And, having a new codec to fiddle with is not exactly what consumers have been clamoring for. Another dark cloud, pointed out by a commenter to van Buskirk's column, is Connect only works with Windows 98SE and later. It will be interesting to see if Connect has made any inroads into Apple and Wal-mart's domination of the online music store market a year from now.


1:33 PM

Friday, May 07, 2004  

News and analysis: The face of Iraqi prisoner abuse

Sometimes looking at the actions of a single person can tell us what has occurred collectively. The apparent torture campaign against Iraqi prisoners by American forces may have involved thousands of American military personnel over the months, but I've found myself focusing on one of them. We have learned about what is occurring there because the media did not fall for efforts to suppress photographs of American soldiers in that occupied country. Among those presenting evidence of American misconduct is The Washington Post. It describes hundreds of photographs of troops engaged in various activities in Iraq, including humiliation and torture of prisoners and abuse of corpses, it has at hand.

The collection of photographs begins like a travelogue from Iraq. Here are U.S. soldiers posing in front of a mosque. Here is a soldier riding a camel in the desert. And then: a soldier holding a leash tied around a man's neck in an Iraqi prison. He is naked, grimacing and lying on the floor.

Mixed in with more than 1,000 digital pictures obtained by The Washington Post are photographs of naked men, apparently prisoners, sprawled on top of one another while soldiers stand around them. There is another photograph of a naked man with a dark hood over his head, handcuffed to a cell door. And another of a naked man handcuffed to a bunk bed, his arms splayed so wide that his back is arched. A pair of women's underwear covers his head and face.

The pictures were taken at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, copied to compact discs and passed among soldiers. Many of those who participated in the apparent abuse and distribution of the photographs were military police entrusted with upholding the law.

Six soldiers have been charged with prisoner abuse so far, but it is one who hasn't been who interests me.

Yesterday, in Fort Ashby, W.Va., two siblings and a friend identified Pfc. Lynndie England, 21, as the soldier appearing in a picture holding a leash tied to the neck of a man on the floor. England, a member of the 372nd, [a military police company] has also been identified in published reports as one of the soldiers in the earlier set of pictures that were made public, which her relatives also confirmed yesterday. England has been reassigned to Fort Bragg, N.C., her family said. Attempts to reach her were unsuccessful. The military has not charged her in the case.

England's friends and relatives said the photographs must have been staged. "It just makes me laugh, because that's not Lynn," said Destiny Goin, 21, a friend. "She wouldn't pull a dog by its neck, let alone drag a human across a floor."

England worked as a clerk in the unit, processing prisoners before they were put in cells, taking their names, fingerprinting them and giving them identification numbers, her family said. Other soldiers would ask her to pose for photographs, said her father, Kenneth England. "That's how it happened," he said.

Soon after CBS aired its photographs, Terrie England said she received a call from her daughter.

"'Mom,' she told me, 'I was in the wrong place at the wrong time,'" Terrie England said.

England is of interest to me because I believe she represents the typical abuser, assuming of course that the pictures tell the truth. She is a lowly clerk, nondescript in appearance and sounds rather vapid. Yet, because she has the power of the wealthiest, most influential country in the world behind her, she is empowered to beat Iraqi prisoners, even lead one around on a leash as if he is a dog. Her superiors created the environment in which widespread abuse appears to be occurring, but they rely on people like England to carry it out. I suspect those underlings do so very willingly, considering the humiliation, crippling and even killing of other human beings just fooling around. Unfortunately, when it comes to interaction with the Other, that is the American way.

Defenders of whatever the Bush administration does are trotting out various evasions to counter facing the growing scandal. They say the allegations are made up. After all, you can't trust what 'those people' -- Iraqis who claimed they were abused or witnessed abuse -- say. Americans who say the same thing are fifth columnists. The photographs? Maybe they have been faked by persons unknown. Or, the American soldiers staged them. (Yet, so far no Americans have been identified as posing as Iraqi inmates.) Commenters at a large Right Wing group blog, Blogcritics, claim torture is not occuring at all. They've yet to address the matter of 25 or more Iraqi prisoners killed in American custody. Perhaps they will say death is not really death.

Last week, I read about and listened to a toothless inquest into the killing of an unarmed African-American motorist here at home. The justifications for mistreating, even killing, someone who was considered subhuman were the same ones I am hearing in regard to the abuse of Iraqi prisoners. The gist is that whatever those empowered in America do is acceptable because they are empowered and American. Again, I am reminded that my countrymen perceive internal and external 'enemies' the same way.

I don't know whether Pfc. Lynndie England will be charged with her participation in abuse of Iraqi prisoners. The fact she appears in numerous photographs over a period of time, and, that those pictures have become public, may lead the powers that be to turn on her. In the absence of the publicity, I believe England and her compatriots would have continued to do what they have apparently been doing, with their superiors' knowledge and support.

Reasonably related

Seymour Hersh tells it like it is at the New Yorker.

See Lynndie England in action at Democratic Underground.


3:30 PM

Thursday, May 06, 2004  

Blogosphere: People are saying

Bush family values

Byte Back is wondering about Bush family values. Laura and George W. will not be at their daughters' college graduations. He is skeptical about the purported reason.

(Not) There in Good Times and Bad

Laura and George Bush Junior will not attend their daughters' graduations. Don't want to be a distraction? Please. I understand Dick Cheney not showing up to his daughter's wedding but, c'mon these are IMPORTANT dates in any family.

Spare me the piety and the matyrdom and go.

Jeb Bush and family did not turn up for his daughter Noelle Bush's drug conviction arraignment.

George HW Bush and Barbara Bush did not attend their oldest son's high school graduation. Oh, wait. nevermind.

Salon.com - May 6, 2004  |  New Haven -- President Bush and first lady Laura Bush will skip their twin daughters' college graduations later this month to avoid creating a distraction at the respective schools, the White House said Thursday.

"There are no plans at this time to attend these ceremonies,'' said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for Laura Bush. "The Bushes felt the focus should be on the students, and not how long the lines are to go through the metal detectors.''

Jenna Bush is slated to graduate May 22 from the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor's degree in English. Barbara Bush graduates May 24 with a bachelor's in humanities from Yale University.

Conservatives often say they are upset that Bush is not a Reagan Republican. In regard to family relationships, maybe the Bushes are. Nancy and Ronald Reagan managed to alienate all four of his children, often at the same time. Daughter Patty Davis did not speak to them for more than a decade. Perhaps the Bushes are vying for equal distance from those distractions known as offspring.

Heller weighs words

I recently wrote that I agree with editorial writer Myriam Marquez that John Kerry's remarks are too 'nuanced.' Writer and blogger Rick Heller is also thinking about how to describe the presidential candidates' communications.

Bush Isn't Decisive, He's Rash

The NY Times reports that the Kerry campaign is struggling to find a theme for the fall campaign. Meanwhile, the incumbent's message is that Bush "is a steady leader and Kerry's a flip-flopper."

I think a little jujitsu is called for--using the opponents strength against him.

The Kerry campaign needs to portray Bush's decisiveness as "rashness."

Bush rashly led us into an unnecessary war in Iraq when waiting for the inspection process to complete would have proved there were no weapons of mass destruction.

Bush has rashly pursued radical tax cuts which turned a budget surplus into a yawning deficit that will burden the next generation.

Bush makes critical decisions prematurely, pre-emptively, and in a seat-of-the-pants manner. He sticks to failing policies because he's unwilling to admit mistakes.

If an election is a referendum on the incumbent, it should be made a referendum on Bush's rashness, not Kerry's caution.

Yes, writers love to locate the 'right' adjective or adverb. With good reason, I think. Applying a label, and getting it to stick, can have longlasting implications. If what George W. Bush wants to market as 'boldness' becomes known as 'rashness' instead, the impression that has been conveyed could decide the outcome of the upcoming election. If Kerry's 'nuanced' messages paint him as 'cautious' in the public mind, that could be equally decisive.

Join the discussion at Heller's Swing Voter Weblog.

City drags feet in domestic violence case

Sometimes local politics can have national import. A tragedy that has played out in Tacoma, Washington, over the last year is a fine reminder that domestic violence remains one of the most intractable problems Americans contend with.

Fallout from Brame murder limited

Let's revisit the facts.

Police Chief David Brame fatally shot his wife, Crystal, then killed himself in a Gig Harbor parking lot on April 26, 2003, as their two young children watched.

A report by the state patrol was presented to the mayor and other city officials this week. A previous investigation by the city itself claimed that neither it nor its officials are responsible for the murder and suicide.

The state's administrative investigation, which was agreed to by city leaders, followed a six-month state criminal investigation that concluded no crimes were committed by employees of the city or the police department in the Brame case. The administrative review focused on whether employees violated city or department policies, including those on sexual harassment.

The state's investigation was expected to be more objective.

The patrol was looking into whether promotions were given out based on alleged participation in sex clubs, as well as the alleged practice of looking the other way when local big shots were suspected of wrongdoing. Former State Patrol Chief Ronal Serpas said earlier that department culture put rank-and-file cops in a position where "they see corruption running rampant and they just lay low."

The administrative review also was to examine the failure by city leaders to act on Brame's deterioration as his marriage came apart, his preoccupation with sex and sexual topics, his 1981 hiring despite two psychological profiles that indicated he was ill-suited to the work, and his rise through the ranks despite a 1988 rape allegation.

In the fallout over the shooting, Assistant Police Chief Catherine Woodard, who was close to Brame, took disability retirement and City Manager Ray Corpuz Jr., who appointed him, lost his job.

Learn more about the Brame tragedy and how a bureacracy is seeking to continue the status quo at Silver Rights.


11:12 PM

Wednesday, May 05, 2004  

Law: Flemming challenges Schwarzenegger

Talking about pushing the envelope. Fair Use Press has decided to shove the envelope. The chief executive of a blogger's state has misbehaved in a manner that begs to be challenged. In response, someone has stepped forward to do just that. Blogger and auteur Brian Flemming, who is FUP, has the details.

A revealing new mini e-book from Fair Use Press attacks California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for using intellectual property law as a tool to intimidate his critics. Making its point through parody and ridicule, the book's cover features a 1970's-era nude photo exposing the Governor's under-sized genitalia.

To enrage Schwarzenegger attorney Martin D. Singer, the book also reprints in its entirety a blistering letter by Singer that the lawyer claims is "confidential." Singer has threatened legal action for any republishing of the letter.

The title of this purposefully provocative book is "Sue Me, A***ole." The twin goals of Fair Use Press are to cause the governor and his attorney to regret their sinister abuses of power and to demonstrate to the public that it has a right to criticize public figures.

Download the book right now at

http://www.fairusepress.com/

The impetus for the episode is Schwarzenegger's lawsuit against Todd Bosley, a fellow who created a bobble-head miniature of the actor in the governor's seat. Shwarzenegger claims he owns the rights to publicity about himself. Therefore, he says, Bosley's invention is a tortious. Yes, you read that right.

Now seems like a good time to review some First Amendment law. The chorus of outrage that will doubtlessly follow Fair Use's actions will turn on purported insult and injury to Schwarzenegger. However, Schwarzenegger's hurt feelings are not the concern of the law, unless a very high standard of proof can be met. As a well-known B (more accurately D) movie actor, Schwarzenegger has been a public figure for years. When he was elected governor of California, the kind of excess that makes one pray despite being an agnostic, he became a public official. Though many laymen don't realize it, those descriptions matter a great deal.

When a public figure or public official claims he has been slandered or libeled, he must prove the slight is both untrue and maliciously intended. Even if the allegation is untrue, that is not adequate grounds for him prevailing. Sometimes, people are in error when they contribute to discussions. To punish them for those mistakes would cause the citizenry to become afraid to publicly express opinions about issues, including vital political concerns. The seminal case for making a distinction between private citizens and public citizens is New York Times v. Sulllivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964).

We hold today that the Constitution delimits a State's power to award damages for libel in actions brought by public officials against critics of their official conduct. Since this is such an action, the rule requiring proof of actual malice is applicable.

It is helpful to revisit the facts of the case.

Respondent, an elected official in Montgomery, Alabama, brought suit in a state court alleging that he had been libeled by an advertisement in corporate petitioner's newspaper, the text of which appeared over the names of the four individual petitioners and many others. The advertisement included statements, some of which were false, about police action allegedly directed against students who participated in a civil rights demonstration and against a leader of the civil rights movement; respondent claimed the statements referred to him because his duties included supervision of the police department.

A response to Sullivan that recurs is 'why should public persons be treated differently than you and me?' The answer is because they have much more power at their disposal than we do. The officials in Sullivan were using lawsuits against supporters of the civil rights movement to try to silence it. In other words, their official capacity allowed them to tap tax dollars to defend American apartheid. But, anyone who spoke out against them would have been subject to a slander or libel judgment before the ruling in Sullivan. The actions of a governor are also powerful. To offset that imbalance in power, the law allows us to question, or even ridicule, his behavior, liberally.

Scwarzenegger has styled has case against Bosley as protecting his "publicity rights." Novel, but, not convincing. I believe any right to control publicity about himself would apply only to his role as an actor. Furthermore, the role of public official, someone vested with power by government, trumps the role of public figure, in my opinion. It raises the very concern that Sullivan addresses, a government official using power he has been endowed with by citizens against some of them.

There's another galling aspect of the governor and his mouthpiece's performance.

Additionally, Martin Singer even claims a *copyright* on the letter he sent to Bosley. In other words, not only is it forbidden to criticize the governor via caricature, but also one is not even allowed to expose the vicious tone of the threat letters Governor Schwarzenegger employs to enforce that moratorium.

This behavior makes the White Citizens Council types who sued the New York Times appear to be lightweights. Let's support Brian Flemming in his efforts to inform people about their right to more than question authority.

Flemming's weblog has become "Sue Me" Central. Visit it to learn more about the challenge to Schwarzenegger.


11:41 PM

Tuesday, May 04, 2004  

Politics: Kerry critics, right and wrong

Much of the criticism I read of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry is irrational, often accusing him of positions he hasn't taken or claiming George W. Bush has abilities he does not. As anyone who reads the mainstream press should know, Kerry stacks up as a much more intelligent and resourceful person in any comparison to Bush. The current occupant of the White House proves that mediocrity, money and a malleable Supreme Court can land a person at that address.

Scott Pepper, a Right Winger who surely will vote for Bush, says Kerry isn't a viable candidate because of organizational problems in his fledgling campaign.

As a disillusioned Republican, I would like nothing more than to have a viable alternative to voting for George W. Bush when the November elections roll around. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly obvious that John Kerry is not that alternative.

Last month, I blogged about the ineffectiveness of the ABB (Anybody But Bush) strategy and Kerry's lack of direction. Sunday's New York Times makes it clear that the junior Senator from Massachusetts has yet to get his campaign out of the starting gate:

In one example of how this has hindered the operation, Mr. Kerry's aides fielded complaints from donors and party leaders this week when the candidate went on television to respond, in a contentious interview, to questions about his anti-Vietnam activities 30 years ago.

One has to wonder how we can expect this man to run our country when he can't even get the bare basics of a campaign strategy together. . . .

The article in the New York Times does paint a picture of a campaign that needs to be better organized. But, it doesn't reach the substantive issues that should determine whether a candidate is qualified to be president or not. Therefore, I believe offering it as evidence of incompetence on Kerry's part is reaching.

That does not mean there aren't valid criticisms of John Kerry. Editorial writer Myriam Marquez of the Orlando Sentinel says Kerry may lose voters because his views are too "nuanced."

King of Nuance has own deficits

Kerry's not only in denial about his liberal voting record, he nuances most every issue to his peril. He's trying to win over as many undecided voters as possible, of course. But in the process, he comes off as a mealy-mouthed, wishy-washy politician. At worst, he flip-flops, an accusation the Bush campaign has managed to make stick on the Massachusetts senator. The label surely has helped drag down Kerry's popularity among voters.

Marquez offers an example.

During a recent stop to secure South Florida's Jewish community in Palm Beach County, Kerry noted his "100 percent record of sustaining the special relationship and friendship with Israel."

Israel surely has every right to exist, but how would Kerry end the impasse with the Palestinians and help Israel secure lasting peace and give Palestinians the homeland they, too, deserve? It's 100 percent unclear.

She believes Kerry has also 'nuanced' himself into trouble regarding relations between the United States and Cuba. Apparently, Kerry, reasonably enough, has said in the past that he favors allowing people to travel to that socialist island, and, that it should not be treated differently from other Leftist regimes in regard to trade. More recently, perhaps in an effort to appeal to Cuban exiles in Florida, he has said he is against lifting the trade embargo against Cuba. To have an understandable position in regard to Cuba, Kerry needs to explain why he supports travel to Cuba, but has changed his mind about trade.

Marquez's criticism strikes me as reasonable. The nitpicking of the Right doesn't. She wants Kerry to state his positions in clear, concise language that acknowledges the complexities of some issues. That would be in stark contrast to the behavior of the Bush administration, which favors jingoism and simplicity to the point of stupidity. Much of its appeal is that it reassures its constituency that the populace does not need to think. If Kerry is to mount a meaningful challenge to Bush, he must overcome his 'nuance' problem. But, it is just as important that he not resort to the fallacious reasoning and falsehoods of the opposition.


7:45 PM

Monday, May 03, 2004  

Consumers: Where's my rebate?

Having scored some spiffy and expensive new tech gear for Christmas and my birthday, I'm beginning to wonder: 'Where's my rebate?' Among the items I'm due a reduction in price paid on is the Palm Tungsten C wireless personal digital assistant pictured. A rough calculation says I'm owed about $350 if the companies offering the rebates honor their promises.

However, being a consumer who has been around for a while, I know that I may never see a penny. CBS 2 has looked into the world of rebates.

Each year Americans are bombarded with 50 billion rebate offers on everything from coffee machines to personal PC’s. The Federal Trade Commission says many companies use excessive paperwork and slow processing to discourage redemption’s, and it's effective, only 10 percent of consumers actually apply for their rebates.

“There is a deliberate effort to trick consumers,” says the FTC’s Barbara Anthony.

At Christmas CBS 2 randomly bought four products offering mail in rebates, a Fellowes Home/Office Power Adapter, a pack of TKD CD’s, a Schick razor and a Windmere Coffee Maker. We sent the forms in, and according to the manufacturers we would receive our money within six to eight weeks. But as you'll see, there's a big difference between getting a rebate offer and getting a check in the mail.

“Nobody gives you anything for nothing and in some cases you really need to be careful with these rebates,” adds Anthony.

My custom is to skip small rebate offers, but pursue those worth ten dollars or more. Two of the currently delayed rebate checks are for $100 each. My calls and emails to 'Where's My Rebate?,' an online clearinghouse, and manufacturers, resulted in 'getting paid' for most of 2003's dubious promises. I've yet to open the mailbox and say 'yeah' to any of the rebates I've applied for in 2004. That isn't surprising. It took nearly a year to be compensated via rebate for buying a new VCR/DVD player last year.

The most egregious promise breaker this year is Palm. It owes me $200 in rebates.

Most manufacturers get away with their delay or no pay practices because consumers give up. But, occassionally, a big corporate fly gets swatted.

Harry Nobel says he was more than careful, he was meticulous about filling out and mailing in the $40 rebate forms for his Philips CD drive to be refunded in 8 weeks, “I had to send the UPC, I had to send the cash register receipt and I had to send the form.”

But when the time was up and no check arrived in the mail Nobel says the manufacturer gave him the rebate runaround, “They said 4 to 6 weeks, 4 to 6 weeks were up and they said that again another 4 to 6 weeks, they reset the clock.”

Nobel was in good company, an investigation by the FTC found some 50,000 Philips Electronics customers ran into the same rebate roadblock in 2001, they couldn't collect because of what the FTC called "unfair or deceptive acts or practices."

However, such a response is much too rare. Both federal and state consumer agencies do little about the deceptive trade practices associated with rebates.

Some consumers have become fed up. They would rather have a manufacturer acknowledge the true cost of its product than lead them on. I agree. I might have bought the same VCR/DVD player it took months to get a rebate for at exactly the same price. But, by offering the rebate and then trying to renege on the offer, the manufacturer left a customer disgruntled. In legal terms, promisers of rebates create an expectation interest. Then, manufacturers dash that interest more often than not. The problem with such behavior is that people rely on the promises made. They think of that new cell phone or PDA as having cost the price with the rebate deducted, when, in fact, they paid significantly more for it. The check that doesn't come represents another product not purchased or a bill not paid with those funds. Consumers who have had enough are encouraging the government to put an end to rebate rip-offs, by putting an end to rebates. You can learn more about the movement at stopmailinrebates.com.

CBS 2 has received two of its rebates and is still waiting for the others. Nobel got his rebate when the FTC strong-armed Philips. I expect to eventually recoup maybe half of what I'm owed in rebates -- after phoning and emailing complaints.

Reasonably related

•Who decides whether you get a rebate? Warning: you will not be pleased.

•The problem with 1967 or 'how old is your firewall?'


9:00 PM

Saturday, May 01, 2004  

News and analysis: Nightline put the facts first

Having been an admirer of Nightline since I was in my teens, I watch it whenever I can. One would be hard put to find a program that has consistently reported on serious issues with both professionalism and empathy more often than Nightline. So, when the some folks began trying to bully Ted Koppel (pictured) into not running Friday's program, a tribute to Americans who have died in military service in Iraq, I was steadfastly in his corner. Nothing I've read or heard since has changed my mind, including viewing the show.

WCJB in Gainesville, Florida reported on an effort by an affiliate group to stifle Koppel.

The ABC news program Nightline will devote a special edition of its broadcast Friday night to US troops. Anchorman Ted Koppel will read the name of every soldier who has died in Iraq. The broadcast is being called "The Fallen." But, viewers in eight cities will not see Nightline the special because Sinclair Media Group objects to the format.

People in Gainesville we spoke to say they have no problem with the program. Tinone Purton says, "I feel like it’s a good gesture to read out the names of all the men and women who took the courage and went out and died for the country." Deloris Gaitainus agrees, "I realize that some people are concerned about it bringing up the bad memories, but for people that have suffered that loss, the memories are there." Eric Bendler is a reservist, "It seems like a large pill to swallow to put it on a prestigious show like Nightline."

A pill Sinclair says their viewer's don't need to swallow. Vice President Mark Hyman told ABC news that, "We don't want to see Nightline trivialize the deaths of our brave service men in the fashion that they are doing."

Trivialize? The program consisted of the names of the service men and women being read aloud while photographs of them, usually in uniform, were shown. The only trivial aspect of it as broadcast on KATU here, was that a disclaimer, basically apologizing for daring to air "The Fallen," ran in place of commercials. The interruptions deprived the program of what would have otherwise been a dignified display. The disclaimer also revealed the station's management to be craven people.

The persons who complained about the episode cite the supposed trauma to family members caused by hearing the names and seeing the pictures. That makes no sense. Anyone who has lost a family member in Iraq is very much aware of it already. Grief will occur whether the loss is acknowledged on a television show or not. Furthermore, most survivors interviewed about the "The Fallen" do not object. They want their relatives' names and faces known.

Nor has Sinclair necessarily won the approval from people deprived of the broadcast it likely expected.

ASHEVILLE - A somber crowd of nearly 100 gathered on the lawn of WLOS-TV's property in Biltmore Park late Friday night to protest the station's parent company's decision to black out a Nightline broadcast in which the names of more than 700 war dead were read.

"If they were my children, I'd want you to know their names,'' read a sign carried by one older woman, signaling the anger generated by Sinclair Broadcast Group's decision to pre-empt the Nightline broadcast in Asheville and seven of its other markets.

. . .Sinclair aired a special program in place of Nightline. The program discussed the merits of the war and Sinclair's decision to pre-empt Nightline.

Illuminated by the glow of candles flickering in a light breeze, the protesters spoke quietly among themselves before organizers began reading the names of the 700 men and women who have died during the war in Iraq.

So what is it that those harassing Nightline really object to? I think what they oppose is the dissemination of information. If the program had consisted of cheerleading for the war they would not be up in virtual arms. But, it didn't. Instead one came face to face with facts -- the faces of the Americans who have died in an ill-conceived invasion and occupation. It is much more difficult to sell 'heroic' myths about the war when the populace is presented with information. It is that harm to continued myth making these people fear.

Ted Koppel should be commended for his contribution to truth telling about a war that continues to claim lives, both American and Iraqi, daily.


6:45 PM

Tuesday, April 27, 2004  

Politics: Ben & Jerry's rocks the vote

I signed up with Rock the Vote today. I did so by going to the Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream site and signing a pledge to vote on November 2. I also agreed to contact at least five friends by email and encourage them to rock the the vote. But, hey! I have a blog, so why not let more people in on a good thing? If I were not already a registered voter, I would have gone to www.rockthevote.com and signed up.

Consideration? (You know how lawyers are, eh?) In return for joining Rock the Vote, I am getting a free download from the iTunes Music Store. I am competing in a contest to win a trip to Vermont to be a Ben & Jerry's Flavor Guru for a day, plus a new iMac and iPod from Apple, too.

The form is short and Ben & Jerry's will not sell your identifying information to marketers. So, there is no reason not to join. Go ahead. Rock it.


11:47 PM

Monday, April 26, 2004  

Analysis: New 'hero' symbolizes inequality

The Right blogosphere is as full of itself over in a casualty in Iraq as it has been since the reign of false claims about Pfc. Jessica Lynch. You recall that we were supposed to believe she went down fighting, and, was raped and tortured by Iraqis afterward. I was among the first bloggers to express doubt about that made for television version of events. The truth turned out to be that Lynch never fired a shot. The Iraqis who were accused of abusing her actually saved her life. One might believe people would learn something about the difference between fantasy and reality from watching the myth of Jessica Lynch disintegrate. Instead, we are privy to another round of myth making.

The new All American Hero is Pat Tillman, a white, middle-class former football player who is beng being embraced right and left by conservatives. (Well, not Left.) Tillman's 'heroic' act is being the only American casualty in a firefight in Afghanistan. An article that purports to give the details says his platoon pursued mujahedeen who ambushed them in rugged terrain.

[Lt. Col. Matthew] Beevers also gave a few more details about the firefight that cost the 27 year-old Tillman his life.

He said it occurred at 7:30 p.m. Thursday on a road near the village of Sperah, about 25 miles southwest of a U.S. base at Khost. After coming under fire, Tillman's patrol got out of their vehicles and pursued the attackers, then were ambushed. Beevers said the fighting was "sustained" and lasted 15-20 minutes.

He said Tillman was killed by enemy fire, but he had no information about what type of weapons were involved or whether Tillman died immediately.

Though the word 'heroic' should be saved for people who make a sacrifices for others, it is often misused. I will reserve it for soldiers who attempt to help or save comrades or civilians. A soldier who pursues his adversaries is just doing his job. Tillman is a soldier who died in the poorly conceived war on terror. I don't see any reason to elevate him over other people who have suffered the same fate.

My interest in the Tillman story is largely about what lurks beneath the surface. Tillman is being hailed partly for reasons of class and race. But, in a volunteer military, both his class and his race fail to carry their weight. People like Tillman, who have prospects in civilian society, largely eschew military service. Those who do not have better options, the poor and working-class, especially minorities, settle for the only jobs they can get. That has resulted in a military skewed toward a disproportionate share of America's least appreciated citizens. The Army has consisted of from 24 percent to 29 percent African-Americans over a twenty-year period. More than half of women in the Army are nonwhite. Hispanics are also disproportionately represented. The data from other branches reflect disproportions, as well. Nonwhites tend to be enlisted and relegated to low level jobs. Projections for coming years say the imbalance will continue unless there is government intervention. More legislators are questioning an unfair status quo.

Will Uncle Sam soon be calling? He might if some lawmakers have their way.

Some lawmakers said the United States should resume the military draft. Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel said our forces are being stretched too thin and our volunteer army isn't large enough.

Locally, Senator Neil Breslin said he's also in favor of reinstating the draft. Breslin said a large majority of the military is made up of minorities and working class citizens.

He said, "What the draft does is it spreads risk among all economic levels, and it brings it closer to home because right now, inner-city kids, blacks and Latinos and poor rural kids are dying on a daily basis in Iraq, and it's not fair."

. . .Legislation is pending in the House and Senate proposing the draft be reinstated as early as next June.

The Congressional Black Caucus has been aggressively involved in the movement to reconsider conscription. The National Catholic Reporter has been following the controversy.

At the beginning of this year, Rep. Charles B. Rangel, D-N.Y., along with Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., introduced the Universal Service Act 2003, a bill requiring two years of compulsory military or alternative civilian service from all American men, women and legal permanent residents ages 18-26. The president would determine the number of people needed and the means of selection. Deferments would be limited to those completing high school, up to the age of 20, with no exemptions for college or graduate students. The bill, introduced in the Senate by Fritz Hollings, D-S.C., remains in committee and is unlikely to come to a vote in the near future.

I am leaning in the direction of supporting reinstating the draft. Seeing the fuss being made of over Tillman makes me more sure that is a goal to be pursued. Working-class and nonwhite people make up a disproprortionate share of our armed forces. Yet, when America watnts to create a hero, it selects a Lynch or a Tillman. People such as Staff Sgt. Kendall Damon Watersbey, 29, one of the first wave of American casualties in Iraq, are ignored. It seems to me that the people who reap the most benefit from American society should be the ones most eager to defend it. That would be white middle and upper-class men. Instead, they shirk. There shoud be more Pat Tillmans in the military. If it takes reinstating the draft to end the imbalance, then that is what we need to do.

What's the art?

Kenneth Watersbey 10, is the son of an enlisted man killed in Iraq.


8:47 AM

Friday, April 23, 2004  

Opinion: Still irked by Indymedia

Introduction

Recent events in Portland have led me to think about press bias. Most of the time that is a term I would apply to conservative publications such as the neo-Confederate overrun Washington Times and United Press International. My position in regard to the mainstream media is that it has somewhat of a conservative bias, but that most reporters don't weigh political impact when writing a story. I base that belief on both research and my own experience as a journalist. The press I'm annoyed with currently is Left, though I am not sure it even deserves to be called 'press.' Indymedia is again publishing dubious claims about a local event -- the second shooting of an unarmed African-American motorist in ten months. The impact of the biased coverage is to encourage people to confront the police. The outcome may be more violence deaths. These people are irresponsible. During my early days blogging I wrote an entry about Indymedia.

My newborn blog has already attracted critics. They hail from the environs of the advocacy and propaganda sites that form IndyMedia. The contretempts began with a comment I made at Atrios' house:

I don't like Indymedia and avoid it. They are not media, but propaganda producers. I no more trust what is reported there than I trust Moonie-owned UPI and the Washington Times. The mainstream media is imperfect, but propagandists of any political stripe are much worse.

Furthermore, as several people have pointed out, IndyMedia is very fringe. No intelligent person reading an IM story would mistake it for an even somewhat objective account. The advocacy and lack of professionalism is too obvious. Criticizing liberals for the sins of IndyMedia is just like criticizing us for being fellow travelers with ANSWER -- ludicrous.

The remark had been occassioned by an item about middle-of-the-road blogger Mark Kleiman's criticism of Left activists who interrupted a fundraiser for John Edwards in N.C. Mark wanted to know why liberals weren't criticizing an attack by leftists on one of their own. Were we cutting the Left slack that we wouldn't cut the Right? Atrios responded, in part:

Mark Kleiman wonders why I'm not all over the people who disrupted a John Edwards fundraising event. Mostly it's because I didn't know anything about it as I don't spend much time hanging out at Indymedia.

My comment above was made in regard to his reference to IndyMedia. An advocate for IndyMedia, one among several, said:

Mac Diva, you can not like Indymedia if you want to but that shouldn't mean that you misunderstand how it works. When you say "they are not media" who are the "they"? Anyone can post whatever they want on IMC. That kind of freedom has both an up and a downside but what you see there is not the result of a static "them" that excludes you.

A site or publication where one can post whatever one wants is not a newsgathering operation at all. The content is of little interest to me because it does not report facts and is not remotely objective. Call it advocacy. Call it public relations. Call it propaganda, but don't call it news. Is the mainstream media perfect? Far from it. And, as a veteran journalist I know that better than most people. However, I am looking for reportage better than what I can find in the mainstream media. What is available at IndyMedia is worse.

Another reason for my distance from Indymedians is I am a liberal, not a radical. As a full gauge liberal, I believe in reforming anything and everything that is wrong with our society. However, I don't believe the revolution will or will not be televised, because I don't believe there will be a revolution. The, I suspect, mainly youthful participants in and audience for IndyMedia, probably do believe that smashing a few store windows, blocking a few television cameras and disrupting a Democratic candidate's fundraiser will lead to the overthrow of the government. Silly rabbits. Don't they know tricks. . . .

The discussion of the altercation at the Edwards event has continued and spread to other blogs.

Based on what I've read, I don't agree with the disruption of Edwards' fundraiser. The disruptors seem very skeptical of electoral politics. That leads me to wonder if they are really Democratic voters or merely seeking the spotlight reflected by a mainstream candidate. However, I don't feel any particular need to chatise them. As I said in my comments at Atrios,' fringe Leftists do not represent the views of most liberals. We should not let ourselves be snookered into considering them our burden.

Some things change. Some things don't. The recent excesses of Indymedia irk me as much as that episode did. It may be 'indy,' but it is not credible media.


6:14 PM

Thursday, April 22, 2004  

Politics: Far Right targets Arlen Specter

The chubby Right Winger with attitude -- and twelve guns -- is at it again over at Tom's Nap Room. He is promoting the senatorial candidacy of an anti-abortion wacko in Pennsylvania. I hadn't been paying much attention to politics in the Keystone State, but when Tom Bux supports a cause there must be something awry. There is. Rep. Pat Toomey is seeking to unseat longterm incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter. He is the poster child of the far Right Christian fundamentalists and the 'disassemble the government' lobby. Among Toomey's supporters is the leader of Focus on the Family, an anti-abortion religious group that would like to limit the roles of women in society.

Pennsylvania's four-term senator, Arlen Specter, is facing a tough challenge in next week's Republican primary. Why? Some observers says it is because his opponent, U.S. Congressman Pat Toomey, has a strong pro-life, pro-family voting history that resonates with conservatives in The Keystone State. And Specter's chance for a fifth term in Congress may have taken another hit, now that a nationally-known pro-family spokesman has publicly endorsed Toomey.

Dr. James Dobson admits he seldom endorses political candidates. But the pro-family leader says it is "imperative" that Pat Toomey, a conservative Republican who has served three terms in the U.S. House, win the primary on April 27 against Specter. Speaking on behalf of his fellow conservatives, Dobson says in a letter dated March 22, 2004, that Specter opposes "nearly everything we hold dear."

For example, Dobson -- offering his endorsement solely as an individual and not as the representative of the organizations he leads -- describes the 74-year-old Specter as "a one-man roadblock" to the appointment of pro-family judges to the federal bench. And the four-term senator, he says, opposes a federal amendment that would protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Toomey, on the other hand, would be "a splendid pro-family, pro-life voice" in the Senate, he says.

"[Toomey] is a man of great courage to take on a sitting senator," Dobson states in the letter, "and the defeat of Arlen Specter would send a mighty signal that the days of waffling, devious, anti-family Republicans who are liberals in disguise is finally over."

The far Right has called out the troops on Toomey's behalf. Dobson is speaking at fundraisers for him. In additon, anti-abortion crusaders have targeted their activity to cities in Pennsylvania. Among them is The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform (CBR). One of its forms of interaction is to drive trucks with graphic photos of what it claims to be aborted fetuses through neighborhoods.

This time, CBR is showcasing billboard-size images of abortions on the sides of about six trucks traveling through downtown State College and on campus, a campaign that is continuing today.

. . .The images of aborted fetuses at different stages of development are displayed on the sides and back of the trucks and are accompanied by the word "Choice." The Web site www.abortionno.org is also included." [Link omitted.]

"People are going to see more and more of these. Our whole purpose is to bother the American people into doing something to stop the killing," said Mark Harrington, a director for CBR in California.

CBR targets areas with schools so that children and college students are exposed to its message.

Toomey's other major support comes from the ultraconservative Club for Economic Growth. The Club is said to be providing the money to finance his campaign while the religious Right provides manpower. People for the American Way has a site devoted to the Club.

About CFG:

  • Main agenda is promoting tax cuts and drastically reducing the size of the federal government.
  • CFG patterns itself after EMILY's List, a progressive group that raises campaign funds for pro-choice women. CFG encourages donors to mail in checks for favored candidates. By “bundling” these checks and sending them off to candidates, CFG can have a large impact on individual races while avoiding the rules that govern more traditional political action committees.
  • CFG has more than 9,000 members, dominated by Wall Street financiers and executives.
  • CFG’s president and founder Steve Moore has called for closing several government departments, including Education, Commerce, Labor and Agriculture. As always, CFG isn't afraid to take on Republicans who disagree with its policy goals.
  • CFG’s latest target is Sen. John McCain, an opponent of some of President Bush's latest tax cut proposals. According to Moore, CFG members “loathe” McCain and hope to find “a true, Reagan conservative” to face him in the 2004 primary.

  • Toomey is not just conservative; he is truly a reactionary. Even by far Right standards he stands out.

    If it were up to the American Conservative Union, the decision would be clear: the ACU gives Toomey a 96 percent lifetime rating, and Specter a 43 percent rating. Republican Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania's other U.S. senator, has an 87 percent lifetime rating from the ACU.

    Pollsters say Toomey is fast closing the gap in projected votes.

    Fighting incumbency, an overwhelming financial edge and President Bush's endorsed candidate, U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey is within range of upsetting U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, new polls show.

    Toomey's conservative challenge to the moderate four-term incumbent, and polls showing Specter's lead at only 6 percentage points, have turned Tuesday's primary into the nation's most-watched spring election.

    I've never been fond of Arlen Specter. He is the kind of slippery politician I instinctively distrust. Furthermore, I will never forgive his shameful conduct during the Clarence Thomas hearings. But, faced with a choice between Specter and Toomey -- a shill for people who want to dismantle much of what is good about our government -- I must side with Specter. I am no longer a Pennsylvania voter. I hope folks who are reach the same conclusion.


    7:25 PM

    Monday, April 19, 2004  

    Tech talk: Apple rejects Real

    What if you invited a rival to become a friend and he said 'no'? Wired reports that is just what happened when RealNetworks, which has been expressing an interest in an alliance with Apple for weeks, tried to get a date. It says Apple rebuffed Real. Both of the parties have been around the block a few times. You would think they have mellowed enough to at least meet for discussion. But, that wasn't to be. One self-made man, and chief executive, said he wasn't interested in the other.

    "Seattle-based RealNetworks said Thursday that Apple chairman Steve Jobs had declined an offer by RealNetworks' chief executive Rob Glaser to meet and discuss forming an online music alliance involving Apple's best-selling iPod portable players.

    "He's in the neighborhood, but whatever meeting Rob wanted with Steve isn't happening," RealNetworks spokesman Greg Chiemingo said Thursday. "Steve just doesn't want to open the iPod, and we don't understand that.""

    The New York Times has the details.

    The offer to create a "tactical alliance" was made on April 9 by Rob Glaser, chief executive of RealNetworks, the Seattle-based Internet music and video service, in an e-mail message to Steven P. Jobs, Apple's chairman.

    But if an alliance with Apple could not be struck, Mr. Glaser strongly hinted in the e-mail message that he might be forced to form a partnership with Microsoft to pursue "very interesting opportunities" because support for Microsoft's media-playing software seems to be growing.

    Steve and Rob appear not to be destined for an excellent adventure -- or even lunch. So, who is zooming who? The interest in such an alliance for Real is clear. If it enters into an agreement with Apple, its customers will be able to transfer Real's heretofore proprietary content to the iPod, the most popular of digital audio players. However, Jobs apparently does not see a balancing interest in such an alliance for Apple.

    In an interview earlier this week with The Wall Street Journal, Jobs said Apple has little incentive to open its popular digital music player to others.

    "The iPod already works with the No. 1 music service in the world, and the iTunes Music Store works with the No. 1 digital-music player in the world," he said. "The No. 2s are so far behind already. Why would we want to work with No. 2?"

    Observers do see a reason the two companies might merge their efforts against 800-pound gorilla Microsoft. Apple and Real both use Advanced Audio Coding format (ACC), a rival to Microsoft's Windows Media Audio format. If the two joined forces that could have a greater impact on attracting users to ACC. Currently, Apple prevents Real's ACC content from playing on the iPod. If the barrier was dropped, users would have the option of buying and playing content from both music stores.

    Though Jobs is being coy about not needing to snuggle up with Real currently, I'm not sure the rebuff will be the end of the matter. If WMA sites become more competitive with the iTunes Music Store, Apple will have good reason to reconsider. Also, having been a rather coy gal who kept the guys calling in my youth, I don't believe Jobs is immovable. Perhaps Steve just wants Rob to beg.


    8:15 PM

    Sunday, April 18, 2004  

    Internet: Writer limns race in cyberspace

    Though writing about what participation in the Internet means is developing, it is still in its childhood. About ten years after non-academic, non-journalist Americans discovered the World Wide Web, perhaps 25 books that are worthy of being considered serious scholarship about life on the Net exist. To a list that includes classics such as Silicon Snake Oil, I am adding Race in Cyberspace. The book is the first to attempt to delineate how race, and sometimes gender, is rendered and received in virtuosity. It is a collection of essays about different aspects of race and the Web gathered from academics. The glue that holds the anthology together is that each paper was required to meet the one requirement of discussing race and life on the Net in some way. Because of the broad range of topics discussed, individual contributors deserve attention.

    Among them is Tara McPherson, an Assistant Professor of Critical Studies in the Film School at the University of Southern California. McPherson wrote one of the most striking essays in the book, "I'll Take My Stand in Dixie-Net: White Guys, the South, and Cyberspace." As some of you know, I've long been a monitor of white supremacist hate groups, including the neo-Confederate movement. McPherson's is one of the first academic papers to delve into the Internet world of the virtually reconstructed Old South. The neo-Confederate movement, though grounded in wish fulfillment, plays an important role in American politics, especially in the South. There its members have caused the defeat of governors and is currently preventing the National Park Service from adding sites that served the freed slaves to its itinerary. McPherson does not explore the connection between neo-Confederate activity on and off line in her short article. However, she does bring the movement into the spotlight, and, provides some useful observations about it and the treatment of race on the Internet.

    Early theorists of the Internet posited that being online allows people to remove themselves from 'place' in a geographic sense, and, allows them to develop broader personas or even multiple personalities. Neo-Confederates online do quite the opposite. McPherson realizes that neorebels online are engaged in constructing a very specific place, a South where white men of their type reign, much as the pre-Bellum Southern aristocracy did. Nor are they interested in multiplicity of identity. Instead, they seek to structure a very narrow identity that embraces a phantasmagoric perspective of history. That identity is pretty exclusively white and male. Cybertheory has also focused on being online as play. That viewpoint grew out of the use of the Net by gamers. It is said that the 'playfulness' has carried over into other online communities. McPherson notes, accurately, that there is nothing playful about the neorebel sites. The advocates for overturning Reconstruction behave as if their lives, or at least their idealized sense of self, is at stake.

    I believe McPherson overstates the covertness of racism in cyber Dixie. Perhaps the rhetoric has become less subtle as the real life neo-Confederate movement has split into at least two factions, which was happening as Race in Cyberspace went to press in 2000. Though they attempt to be crafty, the secessionists at the League of the South and the Council of the Conservative Citizens no longer make much effort to disguise their white supremacist beliefs. And, tellingly, mutual membership among those two organizations and the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which tries to market itself as more moderate, has increased. The leaders of the SCV are also the leaders of the LOL and CCC. Meanwhile, 'heritage' advocates who prefer to stick to decorating Confederate graves or who, mistakenly, try to paint the Confederacy as multiracial, are heard from less and less.

    McPherson has observed "the faith in colorlessness is one of the great racist conspiracies of the late twentieth century, and a vision of a raceless future is a racist future." I believe that insight applies particularly well to the part of the Internet we call the blogosphere.

    Race is largely a subject not to be discussed in the blogosphere unless two requirements are met.

    It must be in terms with which Right Wing commentators are comfortable. An example would be Dean Esmay's White Citizens Council -like pronouncements about racial issues. For example, he claimed that segregationist politician Strom Thurmond's treatment of his biracial daughter, Essie Mae Washington was "good." Thurmond disowned his daughter for decades, but sent her small amounts of hush money. Only someone to whom horrid treatment of African-Americans is just fine would Thurmond's treatment of Washington be good.

    It must be in terms that allow white 'liberals,' to cast themselves as the persons most capable of understanding race. Unfortunately, many of those same 'liberals' are a stone's throw from being overt racists themselves.

    You will notice that no 'space' is left here for bloggers of color to do much expressing of thoughts about race themselves. That is intentional. As McPherson observes, not allowing discussion of race is in itself a form of racism. Since racism has played such an important role in the development of American society, it is the default setting. When voices that would interrogate racist assumptions are silenced, those assumptions carry the day.

    Race in Cyberspace appeared before weblogs had any appreciable presence. But, I believe the cybertheories discussed by its authors are relevant to the blogosphere. Future writing about race in cyberspace will be enriched when the insights of bloggers unafraid to discuss issues of race are added to the mixture.


    7:26 PM

    Friday, April 16, 2004  

    Opinion: Who gains from higher productivity?

    On last night's Nightline, Ted Koppel talked to people we don't normally see on television. The episode was called "On the Edge" and the transcript should soon be available. The working poor described their experiences -- pay day loans with interest rates that would choke a giraffe, a rip-off income tax 'refund' program perpetuated by H.R. Block, working hard and never getting ahead.

    Trish Wilson is interested in a recent column by Bob Herbert (pictured) that considers who benefits from increases in productivity. With productivity on the rise, the lot of workers should be improving, eh? Herbert says it isn't and explains why, with the support of a new study from Northeastern University. It turns out that the people who profit as a result of increased productivity are those who are already considerably more than solvent. Why aren't I surprised?

    Trish Wilson's Blog: Productive American Workers Not Reaping the Benefits Of Their Labor

    Bob Herbert's New York Times Op-Ed, We're More Productive. Who Gets the Money? (April 5, 2004), described the American worker treadmill that has resulted in more productivity. However, American workers are not reaping the rewards for their work. Corporations are - to the detriment of hard-working men and women.

    American workers have been remarkably productive in recent years, but they are getting fewer and fewer of the benefits of this increased productivity. While the economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, has been strong for some time now, ordinary workers have gotten little more than the back of the hand from employers who have pocketed an unprecedented share of the cash from this burst of economic growth.

    What is happening is nothing short of historic. The American workers' share of the increase in national income since November 2001, the end of the last recession, is the lowest on record. Employers took the money and ran. This is extraordinary, but very few people are talking about it, which tells you something about the hold that corporate interests have on the national conversation.

    The situation is summed up in the long, unwieldy but very revealing title of a new study from the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University: "The Unprecedented Rising Tide of Corporate Profits and the Simultaneous Ebbing of Labor Compensation - Gainers and Losers from the National Economic Recovery in 2002 and 2003."

    Andrew Sum, the center's director and lead author of the study, said: "This is the first time we've ever had a case where two years into a recovery, corporate profits got a larger share of the growth of national income than labor did. Normally labor gets about 65 percent and corporate profits about 15 to 18 percent. This time profits got 41 percent and labor [meaning all forms of employee compensation, including wages, benefits, salaries and the percentage of payroll taxes paid by employers] got 38 percent."

    The study said: "In no other recovery from a post-World War II recession did corporate profits ever account for as much as 20 percent of the growth in national income. And at no time did corporate profits ever increase by a greater amount than labor compensation."

    In other words, an awful lot of American workers have been had. Fleeced. Taken to the cleaners.

    Please recall that I had posted in both in the comments section of my earlier post about Bush's misleading rising jobs statistics that since the Great Depression and WWII, the U. S. has suffered a series of devastating deficits. Herbert writes that "the recent productivity gains have been widely acknowledged. But workers are not being compensated for this. During the past two years, increases in wages and benefits have been very weak, or nonexistent. And despite the growth of jobs in March that had the Bush crowd dancing in the White House halls last Friday, there has been no net increase in formal payroll employment since the end of the recession. We have lost jobs. There are fewer payroll jobs now than there were when the recession ended in November 2001."

    The money from the strong economic growth Bush has boasted about has not gone to American workers. It was "used to boost profits, lower prices, or increase C.E.O. compensation."

    Read the rest of Herbert's piece. And, drop by Trish Wilson's Blog. The proprietor has the blogger blues. Cheer her up.

    The rare look at the real lives of America's least compensated workers on Nightline last night should have awakened anyone from torpor. We are usually told the poor deserve their poverty because they don't strive hard enough. However, the people profiled in the episode belie that rationalization in every way. Here's hoping agenda setters watched the program instead of changing channels.

    Reasonably related

    Learn more about low-wage workers who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit.

    •Up by your bootstraps. Beneficent billionaires. Early to bed and early to rise. Perhaps it is time to debunk the American dream.

    •One of the first contretempts I encountered as a blogger was when I wrote an entry lauding op-ed writer Bob Herbert. It set several of the Right blogosphere's least capable people after me. They followed me from around at comments on other blogs, name-calling and lambasting. At least one set up a hate page based on my praise of Herbert. Why does Herbert bother people like that so much? I believe it is because he is everything they aren't: very bright, an excellent researcher and an incisive writer. And something else, he is African-American. That shouldn't matter, but it does. The blogosphere is quite a haven for bigotry. Any person of color with ability and a mind of his or her own pays the price for that, whether as a blogger or as a source.


    4:15 PM

    Thursday, April 15, 2004  

    News and analysis: Realities of war harder to hide

    •Blogger doesn't hail the chief

    Hal Pawluk, the dude at 'Tude, watched George W. Bush address the nation and was not knocked dead.

    Bush on TV: Condi was better

    President Bush opened his press conference last night with an18-minute "set piece" which disappointed.

    This was largely a replay of his speeches in the weeks and days leading up to his unilateral invasion of Iraq, back in early 2003. A minor deviation was that Iraq, with the resistance and deaths increasing, is now "a theater in the war on terror" rather than "central to the war on terror."

    I was particularly disappointed in the question and answer period.

    The President asked a number of reporters who had previously been chosen (the "must calls" he mentioned) to read questions they had previously submitted (he complained about not have gotten one).

    I would have expected him to take advantage of this opportunity to insert his vision, but again, the answers were formulaic. Clearly he had nothing to impart, and simply rambled on, repeating as much of his scripted responses as he could remember (there were long pauses, and responses that didn't seem to fit the questions).

    There was little content - or comfort - in the entire presentation. He did not have an answer to the question of who Iraqi sovereignty was going to be handed over to on June 30th (now 77 days away), and waved the red herring of the UN as if it were the UN's responsibility. The 9/11 Commission got short shrift, too, with the President unwilling to take any responsibility.

    Overall, it was a frightening performance when contrasted to what is happening in the real world, so my rankings are:

    Style: 7, Substance: 0.

    Speaking of death, this month marked the highest casualty rate for the occupying forces in Iraq since the invasion occurred. One difference I've noticed in the blogosphere is fewer entries extolling how happy the Iraqis are to have American troops there. But, can it last? Most conservative bloggers are reluctant to face reality. I suspect the usual bevy of entries pretending the war is going wonderfully will soon return.

    Newsman freed by hostage takers

    The whereabouts of a kidnapped American in Iraq are still unknown. But, French newsman Alex Jordanov was released by the militants who had nabbed him yesterday.

    BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - A French television journalist, freed after four days in captivity in Iraq, said he was repeatedly interrogated by captors who accused him of being an Israeli spy and made him prove his nationality by drawing a map of France.

    . . .Jordanov, 40, was freed Wednesday and taken to the French Embassy, where he collapsed from exhaustion and spent his first hours as a free man staring blankly at a ceiling.

    . . .Jordanov, who works for Capa Television in Paris, was kidnapped Sunday while videotaping an Iraqi insurgent attack on a U.S. military convoy between Baghdad and Karbala, a city to the south.

    `We got caught in a mass, mass, mass battle between the Mujahedeen and the Marines,'' Jordanov said. Many of the insurgents call themselves mujahedeen, or holy warriors.

    During the chaos, Jordanov was separated from his cameraman, Ivan Ceriex. While Jordanov ran for cover, a car pulled up to him, four men jumped out, grabbed him and put a knife to his throat.

    . . .Herve Chabalier, president of Capa, told LCI television that negotiations with Sunni Muslim clerics led to Jordanov's release.

    Jordanov says physical abuse was minimal, but he was thoroughly humiliated.

    The reporter did not say whether he intends to continue covering the occupation of Iraq. During the years I spent as a journalist, I was never assigned to a war zone. The most dangerous assignment I had occurred during rioting in an American city. If I had to make a decision about reporting from Iraq, I would find doing so daunting.

    Did 'Nice' Rice lie?

    Richard Einhorn at Tristero brought my attention to this analysis of Condoleezza Rice's testimony before the 9/11 Commission. Tom Ball at the Daily News Online explains why he believes the perky Bush appointee was less than truthful.

    Top 27 Pieces of Evidence that Show Rice Perjured Herself in Front of the 9/11 Commission: A Reference for Seekers of Truth

    The August 06, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing, or PDB, has been declassified and released.

    CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider

    "What this [PDB] says is, the White House knew what bin Laden was capable of planning, where he intended to do it, which was New York or Washington, D.C., how he was going to do it. There was only one thing missing, which was exactly when he was going to do it, which turns out to be September 11."

    1) This memo, which was central to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice's testimony, is the latest injection into the evidential warchest that targets the administration's 9/11 claims intended to shield itself from accusations of incompetence, apathy, misdirection and distraction.

    Note that the citing of this memo is nothing new. On May 17, 2002, Bob Woodward wrote an article titled "Aug. Memo Focused On Attacks in U.S.":

    "In earlier comments [made by] National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and other administration officials, [they] stressed that intelligence officials were focused primarily on threats to U.S. interests overseas. But sources made clear yesterday that the briefing presented to Bush focused on attacks within the United States... Ari Fleischer told reporters [that] the headline on the document was, 'Bin Laden Determined to Strike the United States.' But sources who have read the memo said the headline ended with the phrase 'in U.S.'"

    In sworn testimony to the 9/11 commission, Rice acknowledged that the title of the document said 'in' the US, but went on to insist that the memo was an 'historical document' rather than a warning of general strikes on American soil.

    How can a document about what were current events be "historical"? That tidbit is just to prime the pump. The analysis is one of the best I've seen. And, you will love their handy color-coded chart. Read it.


    10:45 PM

    Wednesday, April 14, 2004  

    Confession: Portrait of an addict

    I drink.

    Almost daily from my home supply. More days than not away from home. Usually during the day, but sometimes after dark. I drink alone and I drink with others. My nose isn't red. I've never had delirium tremens. My liver is fine.

    I drink coffee. My pattern is a couple cups of the hard stuff, with cream and artificial sweetener, when I arise. Then, later, a tall latte or short cup of the house brew at Starbucks. If I feel tired, I make the latte a double. My limit is a double latte and a couple cups of brew per day. When night clubbing, I sometimes drink Irish coffees. Seems harmless. But, according to yesterday's The Wall Street Journal, I may have a drinking problem.

    It isn't just the long lines and high prices that are outsized at Starbucks and other specialty coffeehouses. There's also the caffeine.

    In pursuit of a bolder taste, coffeehouses typically brew their blends much stronger than a trusty cup of Folgers. But a powerful side effect is unusually high levels of caffeine, according to a national test of ready-made coffee run by a laboratory for The Wall Street Journal. House blends at Starbucks Corp., Gloria Jean's and other gourmet coffee chains have an average 56 percent more caffeine than samples tested at 7-Eleven stores and 29 percent more than at Dunkin' Donuts nationwide.

    One of the strongest happens to be the most successful: The Starbucks house blend had 223 milligrams of caffeine on average per 16-ounce "grande," or medium, cup size. Starbucks says that on average, its array of coffee drinks contains even more — 320 milligrams in a medium cup. That's nearly double the caffeine in Folgers, the leading grocery-store brand.

    The reporter observes that the extraordinary success of Starbucks and other specialty coffee house chains may owe some of its vigor to the fact the product makes customers "physically dependent," i.e., is addictive.

    Researchers say that those of us who drink (coffee) have the same rejection characteristics as other 'habituated' persons. If we try to give the java up, we suffer headaches, drowsiness and inability to concentrate. They believe we crave that cup when we get up because we are in or about to go into withdrawal.

    Other observations complete the portrait of an addict.

    Gourmet coffeehouses have extraordinary customer loyalty. About 12 percent of coffeehouse patrons nationwide visit four or more times a week, according to Mintel International Group, a market-research firm. Starbucks says that its typical heavy user shows up 18 times a month. What makes these numbers more impressive is that coffee, of course, can easily be brewed at home. And 67 percent of regular coffeehouse customers recently surveyed by Mintel agreed that gourmet takeout coffee is too expensive.

    I do go to Starbucks several times a week, but I want to believe part of the lure is WiFi. Yes, I'm wireless at home. But, lounging at a neighborhood coffee house lets me read and write without domestic distractions, and, talk with friends as well as browse the Web. Really.

    The research sheds light on why, if it is convenient, I prefer a trip to Starbucks for a cup of theirs to brewing my own. I could also save at least a fiver each week by skipping a couple lattes at Starbucks.

    I don't have any plans to quit. Though continual, my coffee habit does not compare to those of the heavy-hitters described in the article. I haven't experienced any noticeable side effects. Of most significance, I believe I've earned the right to good coffee. I began my working life at newspapers. The coffee we drank, whether during reasonable hours or while working news or copy at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m., was a burnt tasting, sludgy substance that barely deserved the name. I've paid my dues.

    I drink.


    5:15 PM

    Monday, April 12, 2004  

    Revisited: Conservatives for Kerry

    Several bloggers are curious about the Conservatives for Kerry weblog I wrote about recently. They wonder if its proprietor, Jim Cook, is serious about opposition to the Bush regime. The entry that has us asking questions appeared after I had written about the site.

    Another Alternative to Bush? Draft Roy Moore for President

    A reader has alerted me to another alternative to George W. Bush for conservatives: Roy Moore is apparently considering a run for the presidency under the banner Constitution Party. Those of you who have been paying attention know Roy Moore as the judge who refused to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments from his courthouse, and lost his job as a result.

    If you can't stand thinking of voting for Bush, you're looking for someone else who is definitely conservative, and you're curious (and I must say I am, although I still lean to John Kerry), Click here to visit a clearinghouse of links to the budding Draft Roy Moore movement. [Link omitted.]

    You may recall Mac-a-ro-nies broke the story that ultraconservative Moore might seek the presidential nomination in the blogosphere. And, was not sanguine about the prospect. No, I haven't changed my mind. If the entry supporting Moore had been on Conservatives for Kerry when I looked at it earlier, it would've given me pause. In subsequent examination, I wasn't able to find anything on the blog that implies Cook is not serious about his opposition to Bush. The links to other sites promoting Kerry are legitimate. Cook's opinions are consistent in regard to opposition to the invasion and occupation of Iraq, which seems to be his motivation for rejecting the likely GOP nominee.

    However, CFK has done it again. 'It' being express support for a celebrity Right Wing religious, um, personality.

    Another Conservative Against Bush - Pastor Chuck Baldwin

    Thanks for the great link, Jim. . .I want to follow it up with another one, a resource called The Bush Record. It's compiled by conservative talk show host Pastor Chuck Baldwin, a true American patriot who I think speaks for a lot of Americans who believe that protecting America's heritage of freedom and decency is more important than letting the Republican Party bosses threaten us into giving them a party-line vote. [Link omitted.]

    Thanks for putting this resource together, Pastor Baldwin, and keep up the good work!

    That entry appeared April 1, but I don't think they're just fooling. Cook and Edward Plancke, a second person posting entries at the site, seem to have a weakness for the religious Right.

    In addition to being anti-abortion and pro-theocracy, Chuck Baldwin is a supporter of the neo-Confederate movement. If anything, he is even a more unattractive choice than Moore and Bush. Among the links you will find at his site is justification of slavery, under the guise of defending the Confederate Flag, by a 'scholar' from the infamous Bob Jones University.

    So, where are Cook and Plancke coming from? I still don't believe Conservatives for Kerry is an intentional mockery of opposition to Bush. Perhaps they don't see the inanity inherent in replacing Bush with a person who proposes establishing a race, gender and class-based theocracy to rule the nation, like neo-Confederate Baldwin. Maybe anti-war fervor has blinded them. Could be that they are supporters of everything reactionary except the invasion of Iraq.

    The intrepid Brian Flemming presents us with a way out. We can wonder about Conservatives for Kerry and welcome its contribution to the movement to oust Bush simultaneously, he says.

    . . .but, what the hell, they're making trouble for Bush, so I enthusiastically support Conservatives for Kerry.

    Not that Brian is ignoring how very strange the situation is.

    Hmm. . .let's see. . .John Kerry or Judge Roy Moore? Boy, that is a close call, isn't it? Almost as tough as choosing between, say, Dennis Kucinich and Pat Robertson. Six of one, six of the other, really. Also, I can't decide what to eat tonight -- spaghetti or a giant plate of ten-penny nails.

    The enemy of my enemy is my friend. So, I may end up temporarily sharing a cause with people I would not otherwise give the time of day. Works for me!

    No, we're not picking on Cook and Plancke. I would love to know their explanation, but efforts to locate an email address have proven fruitless.


    8:15 AM