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Thursday, September 30, 2004  

Technology: The advent of wireless speakers

Tech writer David Pogue has been checking out innovations in the wireless world. In this week's Circuits column in the New York Times, he considers wireless speakers. As I previously wrote, Bose also has a new speaker system for the iPod, the SoundDock, coming to the market. Though it is not wireless per se, the use of a remote control makes it virtually so. The products Pogue is considering all function in the 900-meghertz range, as do many cordless phones. Not one to ignore the onions while praising the orchids, Pogue weighs both. His honesty may not sit well with some manufacturers, who I believe provided devices for him to test.

These speakers transmit FM signals on the 900-megahertz band. The manufacturers say that you can position the speakers up to 150 or 300 feet away from the base station (depending on the model you buy), even through walls, ceilings and floors.

Unfortunately, all FM-based wireless sound systems, whether headphones, speakers or iPod-to-car-stereo adapters, are notoriously susceptible to interference. The range and reception you'll get from these systems depend on the wiring of your house, the configuration of your neighborhood and whether or not you sacrificed poultry during the last full moon. (This quirk explains the bipolar online ratings given to wireless speakers by people who've bought them: they're all either one-star or five-star reviews.)

Still, if you are a neat freak or just tired of wires dangling from just about every appliance, wireless speakers are worth considering. (Face it, interior design magazines erase cables and cords from their photographs because wires are ugly.)

Pogue reviews four speaker systems: the Sony RF90RK, RCA WSP150, Acoustic Research AW871, and Advent ADVW801. The Sony scores high for flavor, but fails in functionality. Its attractive design is undercut by limited range and poor sound quality. The RCA WSP150 irritated Pogue. It requires complicated 'tuning' of each speaker and the base unit. Apparently, despite developing an overly intimate relationship with the device, one may not be rewarded with a frequency that works. But, at $40 online, these speakers are thrifty. Their big brother, the RCA WSP250, functions without the fuss of tuning, according to Pogue. He also credits this model with having the best sound. Want to listen to music outside, even in the drizzly Pacific Northwest? The Advent ADVW801 is waterproof. It is also so unattractive, Pogue nicknamed it Mr. Mushroom. If you consider the Jolly Green Giant a handsome fellow, you will love Mr. Mushroom, though.

Pogue reserves most of his praise for another contestant.

But what if you want wireless speakers that don't have any of the gotchas that plague its rivals? The Acoustic Research AW871 speakers ($120) are practically disappointment-free.

The range is just as good as Mr. Mushroom's, and the power (15 watts) and frequency response trump the other speakers in this batch. A simple three-position switch lets you change channels if your baby monitor is interfering, and a clever L/R/Mono switch lets you change the stereo identity of each speaker. (You'd use the Mono position when, for example, using each speaker in a different room of the house rather than as a stereo pair.)

Wired technology tends to be superior to wireless. Ethernet is still the 800-pound gorilla of connectivity, despite WiFi (802.11) and Bluetooth. Power adapters trump batteries. As handy as cell phones are, most of us have kept our home phones. Wireless speakers are inherently inferior to their wired peers. However, the best of them will be adequate for us non-audiophiles who prefer convenience. The advent of wireless speakers will make it possible for us to have music in the air wherever we want, without a welter of wires.

What's the art?

A picture of the Sony RF90RK.

Reasonably related

•Though expensive, Bose's SoundDock makes the iPod virtually wireless. Read about it here.

•What's on my iPod? "Wake Up Everybody" by the Wake Up Everybody Artists Collective, "Trynna Find a Way" by Nellie Furtado and "Accidentally in Love" by Counting Crows

6:30 PM

Wednesday, September 29, 2004  

Culture: Klingons commit to Kerry

By now, you're familiar with the either foxed or fixed AOL straw poll that claimed the Democratic candidate for president would get only three electoral votes. Meanwhile, scientifically conducted surveys say the presidential race is close. A more reliable straw poll with more encouraging results was recently brought to my attention by Willamette Week. A group of beings who know a thing or two about war say John Kerry is the man who should lead the nation for the next four years.

EXCLUSIVE: Straw-poll shocker! Fierce warrior race strongly backs Democrat.

Even as John Kerry struggles to establish national-security credentials nationally, an exclusive WW straw poll shows his campaign dominating one skeptical, warlike demographic: Klingons.

The poll, conducted when the DVD release of the Star Trek fan documentary Trekkies 2 attracted Portland's Klingon community to Tower Records on Southeast 102nd Avenue, may spell trouble for President George W. Bush.

The incumbent has staked his campaign on the war on terror. But those who speak the language of the Trek warrior race--known to disdain dishonor, or quvHa'ghach --seem alienated by Iraq and other issues.

According to the poll of eight local Klingons, a whopping 75 percent support the Democratic nominee.

Two Klingons polled -- or 25 percent -- said they planned to write in Satan.

Bush scored an abysmal zero percent in the poll.

The Klingons say they are unable to support Bush because he is a deceiver. Their strong code of honor will not allow them to vote for a candidate who lied about Iraq possessing Weapons of Mass Destruction as a pretext for invading the country. In their culture, disgrace and dishonor are the appropriate response to deception by a leader.

But, they are not merely voting against a shameful example of leadership. They admire Kerry as a fellow warrior.

Though I find it predictable that the spirited, no-nonsense Klingons would support Kerry for president, I believe there are members of the Star Trek family who will proudly stand with the current administration. The Ferengi doubtlessly admire Vice President Dick Cheney. How could they not? Seldom has a man become richer as the result of suffering of other human beings.

Other Star Trek communities may back one or another of the third-party candidates. I suspect Odo will abstain.

11:30 PM

Tuesday, September 28, 2004  

Politics: Constitution Party reflects Christian Right

Mike Kole is chagrined. He believes that bloggers are picking on the Libertarian Party. I disagree. Folks are merely describing the muddled mess the libertarians are. But, for now, let's give'em a break. It is time to revisit the Constitution Party. I last recall mentioning it in regard to a potential presidential candidacy by the runaway judge of Alabama, Roy Moore. He became very popular with the Christian Right when he placed a large granite sculpture depicting the Ten Commandments in the state's judicial building. After the monument was removed because it violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, and he lost his judgeship, Moore was seen as a martyr by his fellow travelers. Many of them wanted him to run for president of the United States. Moore chose not to seek the nomination to lead the Constitution Party's ticket.

The nominee is Michael Peroutka of Maryland. The man is like another Mike, Badnarik, presidential standard bearer for the Libertarians, only more far out. He has made this promise.

“On my first day in office, I will obey my Oath and abolish the Federal income tax, end ‘legal’ abortion, get the U.S. out of the U.N., withdraw from NAFTA, GATT, WTO, IMF, and the World Bank, begin the process of deporting illegal aliens and protecting the borders, refuse to enforce Federal gun control laws that infringe on the right to keep and bear arms, restore the Ten Commandments in the courts, refuse to recognize homosexual marriages, abolish the Department of Education, and end all Federal funding of education.”

At the American Independent Party's website, Peroutka expands on his vision.

~ Taxes. Peroutka says: "The tax code is a nightmare from hell. Taxes are crushing us at the Federal level because those running the national government do not care if what they are doing is constitutional or not." He proposes to "abolish the IRS" and "eliminate the income tax.”

~ Abortion. "As President," Peroutka says, "I would start with a formal acknowledgement of the legal person-hood of every child from the moment of conception. Under my presidency, Roe v. Wade will not be enforced," and funding will be cut off for Planned Parenthood and to other organizations which promote abortion.

~ American Sovereignty. Baldwin says: "The United States is an independent nation and has no authority or commission to 'change the world'. Independent nationhood is the gift and plan of God. Anyone attempting to bring about an international 'New World Order' will meet with the same fate as did the builders of Babel."

The CP differs from the Libertarians mainly in its explicit embrace of religion. The intention to establish a theocracy is stated in the preamble to its platform.

This great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been and are afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.

The goal of the Constitution Party is to restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations and to limit the federal government to its Constitutional boundaries.

The Constitution Party, which boasts more than a million members, consists of the remnants of George Wallace's American Independent Party, members of the Christian Right, disaffected Republicans and/or members of the Southern heritage movement. The CP has been endorsed by the Dixie Daily News, the most prominent neo-Confederate publication on the Internet. The Libertarians were second in the periodical's poll of readers' preference for the presidency. George W. Bush received five percent of the vote.

Chuck Baldwin, a far Right preacher and talk radio host, is running for vice-president on the CP ticket.

There is considerable disagreement among far Right Republicans, Libertarians and members of the Constitution Party. For the religious, the dissension is often about who is holier than his adversary. But, to an observer, far Right Republicans and their third-party peers appear to have much in common.

Reasonably related

Vote Smart hosts a Michael Peroutka page. His positions on the issues can be found there.

Remember George Wallace at the News Hour with Jim Lehrer.

9:30 PM

Friday, September 24, 2004  

Law: Florida court upholds right to end life

The Supreme Court of Florida has struck a blow for separation of powers. The name Terry Schiavo probably rings a bell. She is the Florida woman who has been breathing, but not living, for fourteen years. Efforts to allow her to pass peacefully have been thwarted by the pro-life movement. It contends that any body, even those without brains or brain stems, should be kept 'alive' through mechanical means. The conflict around Schiavo became particularly unpleasant because the governor of the state intruded into it. He and pro-life legislators hurriedly passed a law that forced Schiavo to continue her ordeal. The legislation put all power in regard to the issue in the governor's hands.

CNN has the details.

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (AP) -- The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a law that was rushed through the Legislature last fall to keep a severely brain-damaged woman hooked up to a feeding tube against her husband's wishes.

The unanimous court said the law that kept Terri Schiavo alive violated the separation of powers between the judicial branch and the legislative and executive branches.

Lower courts had ruled that Michael Schiavo could have the tube removed, but the Legislature passed the law to overrule the courts. Gov. Jeb Bush then used the law to order the tube reinserted. The court's decision came just weeks after oral arguments.

. . ."It is without question an invasion of the authority of the judicial branch for the Legislature to pass a law that allows the executive branch to interfere with the final judicial determination in a case," Chief Justice Barbara Pariente wrote for the court. "That is precisely what occurred here."

The court said the law improperly delegated legislative powers to the governor, who had complete authority to issue or lift a stay.

The good news about this decision is:

•It affirms that the courts are the proper venue for weighing issues of equity effecting individuals.

•t confirms that the legislative process cannot be used to undermine judicial decisions.

•A state court rendered it, instead of relying on the federal judicial system to 'rescue' it from the excecutive and legislative branches' folly.

The bad news is that the state's Supreme Court had to step in at all. The lower court's decision was fairly rendered. It weighed the competing interests involved and decided that Schiavo, who will not recover from her persistent vegetative state, need not remain in limbo for years to come.

The interlopers seeking to advance their interests in the case -- the pro-life movement -- have no actual standing. Their lives will not be impacted if the woman is allowed to finish dying. Schiavo is merely a vehicle for them to use to further their cause. That, in part, is why I have no empathy for them. They took what should be a personal decision made by family -- whether to maintain a body after it can no longer function -- and converted it into a decision to made by strangers for political expediency. That is the antithesis of caring about other people, not evidence of a reverence for life. They must be very muddled thinkers to confuse imposing their will on others with protecting people from harm.

Reasonably related

So Gov. Bush behaved as if he is King Jeb. Why does it matter that a governor usurped the judicial prerogative? Michael C. Dorf offers additional insights at Findlaw.

8:10 PM

Thursday, September 23, 2004  

Politics: Keyes chases his tail in Illinois

Is there any good news for Alan Keyes? Yes. Far Right supporters paid off thousands in tax debts so he could move to Illinois and engage in a political battle royale there. However, that appears to be the only development Keyes can brag about. Any hopes that prognosticators were wrong about his ability to compete with Democratic senatorial hopeful Barack Obama have proven unfounded. Obama's popularity has grown, if anything. His campaign doesn't ignore Keyes, but is treating him like one does a very determined gnat. The Baltimore Sun reports that the polls tell why.

At the moment, if you believe the polls -- Keyes does not; he recently termed them "manipulative and degrading" and "the work of a biased media" -- Illinoisans aren't buying it. A Bloomington, Ill., Pantagraph-St. Louis Post-Dispatch poll conducted last week found Obama favored 3-1, with 22 percent of voters reporting a favorable impression of Keyes.

Oh, those plots by the 'liberal media!'

But, let's go back to taxes. Keyes, a chronic tax deadbeat who resides in a $750,000 home, says neither he, nor others, should have to pay them.

He called for government to get out of people's private lives, and for an end to the income tax: "Not to cut the income tax, not to manipulate people by talking about how much of their own money we will let them keep so that they fall down on their knees and thank 'massa' government. ... We must be liberated from tax slavery."

Seems that, left to his own devices, Keyes takes the initiative in that regard.

Analysis of issues has not been the focus of Keyes' curious campaign so far. His jeremiads about them have. He says a proposed plan to match Individual Retirement Fund monies with government contributions is Communism. The movement to extend marital rights to homosexuals is pandering to "selfish hedonist(s)." According to Keyes, domestic terrorists are not Right Wingers who might blow up a federal building or maim and murder health care providers, but doctors who perform abortions. Barack Obama? He's a Marxist.

The big picture one garners from reading about the Keyes campaign is of a megalomaniac eager for attention, not a political hopeful with plans to solve the country's problems. Mike Murphy, a Republican political advisor may have summed him up best.

"The Illinois Republican Party is so beat down," he added. "My theory is that Keyes has a small but very vocal following, made up mostly of people from the pro-life movement, and when all else failed, some of the grassroots activists started agitating for Keyes," Murphy said.

. . .Murphy thinks any number of in-state Republicans, including the tainted [Jack] Ryan, would have been a wiser choice than Keyes.

"My view was they should have found some nice young state representative. He could have lost with honor. That would have been better than bringing in a man from another state who jumps from entertaining oratory to madness in about a nanosecond."

I find myself watching Alan Keyes for the same reasons I watch my neighbor's puppy chase cars. The spectacle is entertaining. And, perhaps both Keyes and the puppy will wise up.

9:00 PM

Tuesday, September 21, 2004  

Internet: FBI nabs WiFI wardrivers

I report. You decide. Here's the story.

Two young fellows, full of their internet techology oats, like to go wardriving. For the unitiated, wardriving is the automobile version of warchalking. A person uses either software or hardware to locate WiFi (802.11) networks. If the network is unsecured, one can access it. For example, it is not unusual for neighbors to piggyback on the unencrypted signal from the guy on the third floor or the gal in the home across the street. I have a friend who used the wireless connection of the folks in the house on the corner for two years, saving himself an estimated $2500. (He was borrowing the people's ISP account, as well as their wireless signal.) This is an everyday occurrence. But, things get hairy if the donor is a powerful corporation.

Robert Vamosi, at ZDNet's Anchordesk delves deeper.

It started out as a simple wardriving exercise. In the spring of 2003, Paul Timmins , 23, and Adam Botbyl, now 21, were out wardriving in Southfield, Michigan. They were members of Michigan 2600, a group of local hackers who meet periodically over Coke and pizza to share new techniques and skills, but which discourages its members from accessing networks illegally or committing any crimes in general. (Remember, it's legal to wardrive, but it's illegal to access found networks.)

At some point in their wardriving experience, Timmins and Botbyl came upon a Lowe's hardware store with an open wireless network. Timmins later admitted to Kevin Poulsen of Security Focus that what he did next was technically illegal: he used the Lowe's network to check his e-mail. When he realized it was Lowe's private network, however, he says, he disconnected.

Enter the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Timmins was identified. Once the FBI enters the picture, the barriers normal folks would have to penetrate to learn someone's identity fall like a gentle spring rain. Besides, Timmins made it easy. Leaving the route to one's email account is not exactly brilliant. He was charged with a single count of unauthorized computer access. His conviction, last year, was the first of its kind involving a wireless network.

Our star-crossed wardrivers were not finished. Botbyl found another partner in crime, Brian Salcedo.

Knowing the Lowe's wireless corporate network was exposed, the pair gained access on October 25, 2003. This time, they routed through the company's North Carolina headquarters, then out to the satellite stores nationwide. Log files show they connected to several stores located in California, as well as Florida, South Dakota, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Kansas.

While inside the Lowe's system, they found a custom app, Tcpcredit, which Lowe's uses to process credit card purchases. On November 5, 2003, from the parking lot of the Lowe's in Southfield, Michigan, the pair attempted to load an unspecified malicious program on several computers in a Long Beach, California, store. It might have been an early attempt to capture credit card transactions, but the app crashed several point-of-sale machines at the store.

Already familiar with Timmins and Botbyl's location and modus operandi, it did not take the FBI long to close in. They apprehended Botbyl and Salcedo on November 11, after some confusion over whether Timmins had been present on November 5 or the next day, during another wardriving episode.

Botbyl and Salcedo face 16 counts , including conspiracy, wire fraud, computer fraud, unauthorized computer access, intentional transmission of computer code, and attempted possession of unauthorized access devices (which includes the use of illegally obtained passwords).

Obviously, these twenty-somethings, despite their Internet savvy, are not as smart as they think they are. But, one would be remiss not to identify the really stoo-pid party in this situation -- Lowe's. Months passed between the two warchalking episodes. Yet, the company did nothing to protect the personal information of its customers from prying eyes in its stores and parking lots. Reportedly, the second store lacked even elementary, WEP, encryption. Vamosi has a suggestion I heartily agree with: Pass laws that make it incumbent on corporations to protect consumer data from wireless intrusion. Prosecute those who do not.

The nature of American law is that corporations have the advantages over individuals in most respects. However, corporate personnel often fail to earn the protected status of the corporate entity through negligence such as these warchalking incidents demonstrate. Timmins, Botbyl and Salcedo have been held responsible for the errors of judgment. Lowe's should be, too.

What's the art?

Ready for wardriving. The WiFi card is circled.

7:40 PM

Thursday, September 16, 2004  

Technology: Bose frees the iPod

I said the Apple iPod had arrived when it made the cover of Newsweek in July. The evidence has become even more convincing since. Not only are most new buyers of iPods Microsoft Windows users, the iPod is being used to promote the Power Mac G5, Apple's workhorse desktop computer. Now, the tiny device is the impetus behind an innovation by a veteran manufacturer of audiophile products.

Bose has developed a sound system solely for the purpose of supporting and enhancing the iPod. According to coverage at Mac News World, it will allow iPod users to listen to their music without earphones and control the menu without direct contact. As wireless capabilities, such as WiFi (802.11) and Bluetooth have spread, the lack of untethered access to the iPod became noticeable. Designers at Bose were among those aware of the barrier.

Bose today introduced its SoundDock digital music system, designed to deliver superior audio performance for Apple's iPod and iPod mini.

The new speaker system lets iPod users access, control and listen to their stored music with the ease of dock and play -- no headphones, cables or adaptors are required.

The SoundDock system includes a proprietary acoustic design that delivers clear, full sound across the entire musical spectrum.

. . .The SoundDock system seamlessly integrates with third- and fourth-generation iPods, as well as the iPod mini. An infrared remote is included that can control the iPod from across a room. The iPod and SoundDock system can also be operated without the remote.

Despite the plethora of products designed to complement the iPod, only recently has it become possible to dispense with the earpods. The other missing option has been the ability to control the iPod from a distance. The remote control Apple includes requires that the iPod be close at hand. For those of us who prefer being as wireless, and as flexible, as possible, Bose's product may be just what we've been waiting for.

Bose describes a very simple set-up. Plug the device in. Put the iPod in the SoundDock. Hit 'Play' on either the home unit or the remote. Other menu controls include fast forward, reverse, repeat, pause, and stop.

The SoundDock will retail for $299.

Gadget Whore reports the product will be available by October 15.

Over at iPod Lounge, many of the habitues say they are ready to buy.

The SoundDock looks wonderful and seems like a perfect solution to untethering the iPod. But, I will wait for the release and reviews.

11:15 PM

Wednesday, September 15, 2004  

News: Polls predict close race for president

The oracle of our political future some folks around here are determined to promote is an AOL straw poll. It is embraced in the blogophere because of the results. According to it, John Kerry will garner only three electoral votes. Some people say, AOL, embarrassed by just how unreliable the thing must be, has removed it from the site or made it difficult to find. I won't be looking. The reason the Right is embracing the AOL straw poll is not because it is remotely scientific, even it wasn't 'fixed,' but because of wishful thinking. Much of the conservative blogosphere is so emotionally invested in George W. Bush remaining in the White House, it would believe tea leaves or animal entrails if they favored him.

Fortunately, there are pretty reliable polls. They are showing a close race with a slight advantage in Bush's favor. The Associated Pressreports.

WASHINGTON (AP) - An electoral battlefield map half its original size is prompting President Bush and challenger John Kerry to alter their campaign strategies and reallocate resources in the home stretch to the Nov. 2 election.

Both political parties now see as few as 10 states as truly competitive as Bush pulls ahead in places where the contest had been neck and neck, including Missouri, Wisconsin and Ohio.

Bush has opened a single-digit lead in national polls taken after the Republican convention, which also is reflected in the polling in some battleground states.

Both parties are focusing most of their attention and advertising dollars on 10 states: Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, West Virginia and New Hampshire.

The Kerry campaign is trying to woo swing voters in four states carried by Gore in 2000 -- Michigan, Oregon, Maine and Minnesota. It also believes West Virginia can be won over.

The constituency the Democrats will be courting most is African-Americans. Kerry's campaign has not been as popular with that bedrock bloc of voters as he wished. Black Americans are not likely to support the Republicans. The party's history, including its Southern Strategy -- pandering to white voters who oppose progress in civil rights -- has alienated them. The fear is that African-Americans will not vote, not that they will support Bush. High turnout among black voters is crucial. Entreaties are being made.

Kerry advisers said Tuesday that his weaknesses in Wisconsin, Minnesota and other former Gore states seem to be partly a result of lower-than-expected support from blacks. Blacks overwhelmingly favor Kerry, but not by as much as he needs.

Aides said Kerry has stepped up his speeches to black groups, including to the Congressional Black Caucus last weekend.

So, two themes emerge when considering reputable polls. The race will be close. It will be decided by how many citizens vote and who they vote for in ten states. I am not about to go out on a limb and predict the outcome of this election. But, I suspect the AOL straw poll is the stuff of fantasy, not reality.

11:15 PM

Tuesday, September 14, 2004  

Blogospherics: Vapid political entries worse than silence

Sometimes the sheer vapidity of so much of what passes for serious discussion in the blogosphere is enough to make one wonder why those of us who read and research before we write bother. We can provide the mineral enriched water, but, a Right Wing blogger, Art Green, recently stated the likely response from too many: "I refuse to drink." The occassion was comments to an entry he wrote stating what he believes to be the situation in Iraq. He had cross posted it to Blogcritics. As occassionally happens to those with far Right views at that largely conservative group blog, Green was surprised when some informed people who disagree with his perspective pointed out the fallacies in his entry. This is the piece.

Kerry Advisor: Iraq Worse Than Vietnam

John Kerry's foreign policy advisor, Richard Holbrooke said on Fox News Sunday that "strategically and politically, the situation in Iraq is worse than it ever was in Vietnam. The situation is clearly getting worse ... and there is no strategy either for success or for victory or for exit."

"The current situation in Iraq is a tunnel without any light at the end of it."

Mr. Holbrooke. Don't you think that way over the top and divisive? Iraq is not near the level of the Vietnam war. There is not near as many dissidents. (75% of the Iraqis want us there until the job is done)

Sure, not everything is perfect in Iraq now. There are more than 1,000 people that will never walk on the earth again, but this is not even remotely close to Vietnam.

You divide the country with the your scare tactics and your lies. And half of the country is too blinded with bias to see through the lies and the scare tactics. It saddens me.

Let's take it from the top. Why would anyone believe that seventy-five percent of any population wants its country to be occupied? Since no source is offered for the statistic, I cannot refute it properly. However, it begs common sense to make such an unreasonable supposition. People everywhere want to run their own lives. They also want their countries to be autonomous. Why would the Iraqis be any different? The daily news of opposition to the occupation, including terrorist acts, suggests that many Iraqis are opposed to the occupation.

One thousand people have died in Iraq? I could swear thousands more have given up the ghost there. Omitting the Iraqis killed during the invasion and occupation is incredibly telling. If says their deaths don't matter.

Scare tactics and lies? Green has failed to cite a single underhanded tactic or bent interpretation. Holbrooke merely stated the opinion he has arrived at after analyzing the facts about the occupation. His credentials in foreign policy make his opinion expert. One would be hard put to find someone more capable of presenting an informed opinion.

Informed opinion. That is what it comes down to. Too much of what passes for information in the blogosphere is gibberish. Linkage means that very thin porridge such as this entry gets passed around, creating or encouraging greater ignorance as it circulates. Unless some legitimate support is offered for claiming an excellent source does not know what he is talking about, a blog entry attacking him serves no useful purpose.

Blogger Hal Pawluk, of 'Tude, an astute observer of politics, offered Green better porridge and a spoon to eat it with. He provided links to articles and blog entries describing how Holbrooke might have reached his conclusion that the United States risks becoming mired in Iraq. Green's response to the information? Not "More, please." He refused to read it. Too many bloggers and blog readers would have done the same.

On another channel

At Silver Rights, "In Memoriam," a farewell to blogger Aaron Hawkins of Uppity Negro.

11:47 PM

Thursday, September 09, 2004  

Commentary: Good dog, bad dog

In the newspaper business, different tags are applied to types of stories. 'Shorts' are filler, used mainly to fill small areas, preventing excess white space. A 'bright' is a short piece meant to make readers smile. News of the weird usually involves someone doing something unusual. You know, the man who bites a dog. Speaking of canines, I'm not sure how to categorize this furry critter story. You decide.

A man who tried to shoot seven puppies was shot himself when one of the dogs put its paw on the revolver's trigger.

Jerry Allen Bradford, 37, was charged with felony animal cruelty, the Escambia County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday. He was being treated at a hospital for a gunshot wound to his wrist.

Bradford said he decided to shoot the 3-month-old shepherd-mix dogs in the head because he couldn't find them a home, according to the sheriff's office.

On Monday, Bradford was holding two puppies -- one in his arms and another in his left hand -- when the dog in his hand wiggled and put its paw on the trigger of the .38-caliber revolver. The gun then discharged, the sheriff's report said.

Three puppies that had been shot to death were found buried on Bradford's property. Apparently, he believes in 'cleaning as you go.' There is no mention of the Floridian being a parent. Something can be said for his genes not being passed on.

I suppose the story is a bright because the remaining puppies were rescued, and, will likely find homes as a result of the publicity.

But, then, being shot by a dog is a kind of man bites dog tale, too. Weird.

I'm been thinking about dogs lately because people are, to put it bluntly, going too far in regard to them. Within the last two weeks, I've had to complain about persons bringing canines into three inappropriate places. Two were Kinko's copy centers. One was a Starbucks. The woman in Starbucks became quite peeved when I, and two other customers, suggested that plopping her plump Pug on the counter where people are served -- where it promptly urinated -- was not a good idea. She was even more put out when she was told the dog should not have been in the cafe in the first place. I don't know whether these folks mistakenly believe the law that allows handicapped people to bring their assistance dogs into public buildings applies to them, or, are just presumptuous.

The first episode in Kinko's involved a wandering, but friendly, German Shepherd. The second was more troubling and highlights why there are laws excluding dogs from public buildings. Like other people entering the Kinko's, I encountered a growling, turf protecting Rottweiler. After he turned his attention to the person behind me, I approached the counter and asked the clerk what the dog was doing there. He said it belonged to a customer. I said that unless it was an authorized assistance dog that did not matter. The fellow looked uncomfortable. The dog continued to guard the door, his behavior escalating to barking and leaping at people entering. After several complaints, the timid clerk finally got up the nerve to ask the dog's owner, a pony-tailed, granola eating man in his 30s, to take the dog outside. The customer, typing away on his laptop, pointedly ignored the clerk, who looked like he was going to cry. I intervened. I once worked on a civil suit in which a Rottweiler had literally ripped a man's neck open, leaving him partly paralyzed. I told that anecdote. Afterward, I noted that if the next person to enter was of small stature, a child or someone with a baby, the situation was going to go from bad to worse. It was our responsibility not to allow that to happen. Either Granola Guy was going to take the dog outside or the police were going to be called. We finally got results. Though the man never acknowledged our existence, he took the Rottweiler outside. Visitors to the Kinko's still had to find their way around a dangerous dog, but at least it was not inside the building.

The situation ended well, considering the utter lack of interest in the welfare of other people the owner of the dog expressed. I don't have any friends or acquaintances who are so self-centered they refuse to consider that dogs who are lovable companions to them are nuisances, or even dangers, to others, that I know of. If I discover I know someone who has been imposing his pet on other people in public buildings, I will give him a good talking to. I hope you will do the same.

11:45 PM

Wednesday, September 08, 2004  

Blogospherics: Starbucks' blogging barista fired fairly

Starbucks is a company some people find easy to hate. It is big. It serves an appetite one might consider a want, not a need. It caters to elitists -- people for whom Maxwell House and Folger's are not good enough. It is in a field, agriculture, where First World meets and sometimes exploits Third World. It has a mermaid on its logo. So, it is not surprising that a current employee fired for blogging tale, featuring a Starbucks' barista, has some people sneering, They were already inclined to, and this story bolsters their disdain. Jason Koulouros brought the sad saga of the unemployed Canadian blogger to my attention.

When does criticizing an employer become a firing offence?

That is the question a former Starbucks employee is asking after the ubiquitous coffee chain terminated him this week for profanity-laced remarks he made about a manager, and the company, on an Internet journal.

Matthew Brown, a 28-year-old Starbucks supervisor in Toronto, uses the Blog, or online journal, to keep in touch with friends and family. The diary contained his thoughts, a place where Mr. Brown vented his frustrations about everything from personal issues to work. When a manager refused to let him go home sick, Mr. Brown sounded off about his boss from home. He said he didn't use his real name, and gave the journal's address to a select group of people, so he doesn't know how the diary ended up in Starbucks' hands.

''I feel violated,'' he told Global News.

Predictably, some people commenting on Brown's dismissal have condemned Starbucks.

Firing an employee for muttering unflattering comments about his employer is ridiculous.

Would you stop buying Starbucks because one of their employees ranted in a blog? Yeah right. Are consumers supposed to believe that everyone who stands behind a fastfood chain's countertop waiting to serve us, loves their job? Give me a break.

Everyone has had bad days. Maybe the employee's supervisor was deserving of the comments. Who knows? Who cares.

The real concern here is personal freedom. Should corporate entities have the power to control their employees' thoughts and expression off the job?

If you answered yes, perhaps you should revisit G. Orwell's 1984. We're talking about brand loyality not the country's security issues.

And if you do trade freedom for "security" you will end up losing both.

I can't join the chorus. Since the situation occurred in Canada, American law does not apply. However, if an American employee engaged in the same conduct, he could be legally terminated. Most workers are employees at will and can be dismissed for almost any reason. Any reason includes a silly reason or no reason at all. Furthermore, Goliath does have a valid concern, despite David's lamentations. Anyone searching for 'blog' and 'Starbucks' could have happened upon Brown's blog. Persons doing so would have been treated to a diatribe against the company it did not have an opportunity to respond to. So, the harm Starbucks is attempting to protect itself from is real. Indeed, if multiple employees chose to criticize their employer publicly, the behavior would have a substantial effect. 'Good will' -- the way consumers feel about a business -- may be difficult to quantify, but it has a tangible impact on the success or failure of an enterprise. Diatribes such as Brown's can harm even a behemoth.

But, what of the "freedom" the naive correspondent above refers to? The truth is there is relatively little of it in workplaces the world over. People trade degrees of freedom, meaning the ability to do what they choose, in return for the necessities of life. Matthew Brown has little choice about how he will behave if he is to remain an employee of just about any company. If he feels violated by being fired for blatantly breaking an employer's rules, he is destined to have a difficult work life. He has the options of being self-employed, or, finding an employer who does not mind being ridiculed on the Internet. However, Starbucks was on solid ground when it decided to let him go.

Reasonably related

There are myths about the evil allegedly done by the humongous Starbucks Corp. An investigation of the allegations by Willamette Week found them to be mainly false.

11:35 PM

Tuesday, September 07, 2004  

Law: Dismissal in Bryant case anti-climactic

It is the big celebrity case that wasn't. When Kobe Bryant was indicted for sexual assault, he joined celebrities Robert Blake and Martha Stewart as the accused of national scrutiny. Blake's trial is still on hold. To the surprise of many, Stewart was convicted and has been sentenced to months in prison. Criminal charges against Bryant were dismissed, with prejudice, last week.

I wondered if the prosecution was desperate when it made a last ditch effort to undermine the defense in an earlier entry. Asking that all DNA evidence be excluded, apparently to hide allegations the accuser had intercourse with another man within a few hours of the encounter with Bryant, seemed to signal defeat. My skepticism proved accurate. The prosecution dropped the charges without even waiting for a ruling on its motion.

The New York Times reports citizens of the small town in Colorado where the victim lived are glad to have the case go away. They look forward to returning to normalcy and regret the expense, a reported $400,000, the episode cost the county.

Coverage by KABC-TV in Los Angeles focuses on Bryant's 'apology.'

In the end, the rape case against Kobe Bryant was dropped because the young woman accusing him did not want to testify at trial. Without her, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said they could not proceed.

. . .In a statement, Bryant, while not admitting blame, apologized to the woman.

"I want to apologize for my behavior that night," he wrote, "and for the consequences she has suffered in the past year."

Should Bryant have apologized? From a legal perspective, the answer is probably no. Since a civil suit alleging he did the woman harm is still pending, an apology could be used as evidence against him. However, the dismissal of the criminal case makes it less likely the civil case will go forward. Even if it does, a jury will be harder to convince that Bryant harmed his accuser and that she deserves damagaes as a result. The best evidence she could have would be a conviction of Bryant in a a criminal trial. It is possible the parties will reach a settlement of the civil suit. But, the accuser will have fewer chips to bargain with as a result of the dismissal of the criminal case.

Some other sources see the gamesmanship of the Bryant prosecution as proof a prosecutor succumbed to the allure of convicting a public figure at the expense of common sense. The GJ Sentinel, in Colorado, takes the person who made the decision to indict Bryant to task.

But one thing has been reasonably clear from the get-go: The prosecution never had a strong case. It was riddled with inconsistencies and evidence that challenged the accuser’s story. It was highly unlikely that 35-year-old District Attorney Mark Hurlbert and his equally youthful staff could have convinced a jury of Bryant’s guilt, even if the young woman had not decided at the last minute that she didn’t want to proceed with the case.

One has to ask whether Hurlbert would have so aggressively pursued the case if the defendant had not been a multimillionaire, world-famous sports star. If the evidence were the same, but the man accused was — let’s say, a young man who worked at the same luxury resort as the young woman — would the same efforts have been made to keep the case alive when it was clearly on life support?

...Hurlbert, a Republican, is up for re-election this year and is facing a Democratic challenger. Voters in Eagle and neighboring counties that comprise the Fifth Judicial District would do well to recall his handling of the Kobe Bryant case when they go to the polls this November.

Kobe Bryant did not really win. Being accused of a crime and having it publicized is never a 'win' for anyone. That is particularly true for a celebrity who relies on endorsements and public good will to remain a multi-millionaire. However, he did obtain his freedom from even more humiliation, and possibly, a prison term, with the dismissal. The American public's aggregate memory is fairly short. Hardly anyone recalls Rob Lowe's sex scandal. The name Jessica Hahn is pretty much forgotten. If he does not find himself in trouble again, Bryant will suffer the consequences of unpleasant notoriety for a few years, but, eventually, regain much of the luster he has lost.

What's the art?

Many basketball fans were loyal to Bryant despite the rape charges.

2:20 PM

Wednesday, September 01, 2004  

Politics: Bloggers out gay Right Wing pol

It is one of those scenarios that offer plenty to ponder. Why are so many closeted gay men who are politically active vocal opponents of equality for homosexuals? (Indeed, why are so many vocal Right Wingers revealed to have life styles that don't comport with their stated beliefs, period?) Does the closeted gays' hypocrisy provide permission for others to out them? Should bloggers, particularly anonymous bloggers, do the outing? There is all that and more in the revelation that a legislator has resigned after being outed by blogs. Planet Out reports on the controversy.

A Washington, D.C.-based blogger triggered the resignation of U.S. Rep. Edward L. Schrock, R-Va., with accusations that he solicited sex with men.

Schrock, a vocal opponent of gay rights and proponent of several anti-gay laws, announced Monday that he will not seek a third term in Congress.

"In recent weeks, allegations have surfaced that have called into question my ability to represent the citizens of Virginia's Second Congressional District," Schrock said in a press release.

Apparently, the love that dare not speak its name had still better keep mum. His statement is purposely vague. He did not say: I have been accused of being homosexual.

Schrock, 63, is married and a father. The most outspoken of the weblogs that have made the allegations, Blog Active, has posted audio that it says is of Schrock calling gay sex hotlines and soliciting specific acts. The blogger is not apologetic about having taken action against the politician.

The editor of blogactive, Mike Rogers, said his blog's purpose is to expose "hypocrites" in politics. Rogers has promised more embarrassing revelations about people "who say they are Republicans and then use sexual orientation to stay in power."

Is Shrock a reasonable fellow who just happens to be a Repubican? Far from it. He is a poster boy for the extreme Right. He seems to be particularly opposed to liberalizing laws in regard to homosexuality.

Schrock, who received a 92 percent rating (out of 100) from the Christian Coalition, was one of 233 lawmakers who supported the Marriage Protection Act, which would block federal courts from considering constitutional issues arising from same-sex marriage cases, and he was a co-sponsor of the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would amend the U.S. Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage.

A retired Navy officer and Vietnam veteran, Schrock also has called for ending the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in favor of asking enlistees about their orientation to prevent gays from entering the military.

Schrock apparently thinks the allegations, if believed, would make him unwelcome in the Christian Right, where he has made his political home. That has prompted his resignation. Is there fire as well as smoke? I doubt that Rogers would have openly accused Schrock unless he was certain of the evidence he has in hand. Unlike some of the other bloggers who have accused Schrock, Rogers has put his name and reputation in play.

Gay advocacy groups are responding cautiously. Shrock is the enemy -- a person in a powerful position who has done his best to limit the rights of homosexuals. But, at the same time, he is thought to be one of them, a homosexual man. Steven Fisher, communications director for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) says he cannot condone using outing of gays as a weapon, even when the person suffering the consequences is not someone he sympathizes with.

In his autobiography, Blinded by the Right, former GOP operative David Brock says there has long been a 'gay Mafia' at the higher levels of the party. A sort of Order of Roy Cohn. Despite their homosexuality, they are men (he doesn't mention any women) who have decided the beliefs of the far Right are to be championed, including contempt for homosexuals. It appears that Schrock may have been among that secret society.

2:28 PM