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Friday, October 08, 2004  

Politics: Wearing your heart on your highway

The Scarlet Pimpernel, of the Freeway Blogger, asks you to join him in a very visual get out the vote effort. Those of you familiar with this blogger's banners, which are posted above and beside highways, realize that his is a very effective form of expression. A problem with just blogging is that only the comparative handful of people familiar with the blogosphere even know we exist. The Scarlet Pimpernel breaks that barrier. He believes you can, too.

Freeway Free Speech Day: Driving America to Think

October 13, 2004

On October 13th, hundreds of activists nationwide will post signs critical of the Bush Administration on area freeways, reaching millions of voters in states from Maine to California. The Freeway Blogger has posted more than 2000 such signs over the last year.

In addition to coordinating activists, we will launch a nationwide media campaign to promote the fact that hundreds (if not thousands) of these signs are going up across America on the same day, and to highlight this newest, and oldest, form of civic dialog. We anticipate wide-spread news coverage about this powerful grassroots effort.

The ultimate goal is to increase voter turnout and defeat Bush.

We also hope to stimulate the democratic process in the way it was originally intended--with each citizen being able to express their political views directly to their fellow citizen.

We are asking for your help in posting signs and recruiting activists, especially in the following states: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

If you plan to post freeway banners, please email us to let us know so that we can include your numbers in our media outreach. If possible, please also take a digital photo of your banner and email it to us on October 13th. We will add it to the visitor’s gallery as a resource for reporters and fellow freeway bloggers.

Please also read the How To and the frequently asked questions sections to learn how to safely post your message, and for other important information.

Last, tell your network of friends and activists to join us. Together, we can drive America to Think again.

-- The Scarlet Pimpernel

Freeway blogging is another way to heighten voter awareness as Election Day approaches. I recently blogged about the Democrats increased spending on online advertising. Those messages reach a significant part, but not all, of the population. One bright aspect of posting signs supporting candidates is that they are low cost. Another is that they reach people who cannot afford to be on the Internet. If you have the time and ability, I encourage you to consider this form of activism.

What's the art?

The Freeway Blogger influenced a father and son to create their own sign.


11:55 PM

Thursday, October 07, 2004  

Review: The fourth-generation iPod

Six weeks into experiencing the latest version of the iPod, I've decided it is time to talk about it. But, first, some background. I am a veteran 'Pod person. I bought an iPod as soon as the original, the 5 GB model, was released. I've owned each of its successors. The shortest relationship was for about four months, with my 40 GB third-generation iPod. I replaced it with the 40 GB fourth-generation device, named Titaness. During my three years of experience with Apple Computer's MP3 player/hard drive, I've used it more often and I've become more satisfied.

There are innovations in the latest version. I've found them to be improvements.

~ The third-generation model's pressable buttons have been replaced with a clickable scroll wheel. One presses the arrows to achieve the functions: go to the menu, go forward, go backward, and stop.

~ The device's battery life has been extended to twelve hours, according to the manufacturer. The previous estimate of battery life was eight hours. I cannot say with certainty whether I've used Titaness for twelve hours without charging her. But, I have never received the out of power response from my fourth-generation iPod, even when I forgot to put her in the charging dock overnight. I did run out of power with previous models. That can be frustrating because it usually happens when one most wants to 'disappear' into one's portable music.

~ The price of the iPod has been reduced. The 20 GB version sells for $299. The 40 GB version sells for $399. You may find them for a few bucks less, but, as the elite of its market, the iPod has a pretty stable price. There is a catch. Previous models came with a case, a $40 value, included. The fourth-generation doesn't. The iPod scratches easily. You will need to buy a case. So, you save from $30 to $60, not $100 for the 40 GB model. You must purchase the dock and remote control as accessories for the 20 GB iPod, in addition to a case. Either can be omitted, but both make using the device easier.

Speaking of cases, they aren't readily available yet. Apple makes surprise announcements of new products. Manufacturers of peripherals and other paraphernalia are rushing to catch up with the newest version of the iPod, released in July. I'm still using a third-generation case, which means I must either remove the iPod from the case to access the scroll wheel or use the remote control.

Other aspects of the iPod are not new, but are still neat. Foremost is the device's compatibility with both Macintosh and Windows-compatible computers. That change in Apple's marketing strategy has led millions of consumers to 'think different.' The ability of the iPod to act as a hard drive, on which one can back up one's entire computer, is another feature that makes it a must have, in my opinion. The iPod replaces bulky Zip drives or external hard drives. One gets two products, an MP3 player and a hard drive, for one price. And, both fit in your pocket. Let's not forget the iPod's content companion, the iTunes Music Store. The store has expanded its catalog to include more mainstream artists and now offers support for audiobooks, via Audible. Among the choices currently available are the presidential debates, hours after they occur. Sound from both iTMS purchases and CDs that you copy to iTunes is better than ever. Now, one can use 'lossless' imports to iTunes to guarantee the same quality of sound as the original, according to Apple.

Sometimes, I look back at technology and am puzzled by how tacky it seems in hindsight. Serial adapters. SCSI chains. The Iomega Clik! Drive. However, I believe the iPod is a product that will pass the test of time.

Reasonably related

~ Visit Apple's iPod page for general information about the device.

~ Want the the technical lowdown? ZDNet Reviews explains it all to you.


10:00 PM

Wednesday, October 06, 2004  
Cheney

Blogospherics: Indy blogger judges VP debate

Natalie Davis came to the debate between vice presidential candidates for the two major parties in a different posture than most of us. She is supporting neither Bush/Cheney nor Kerry/Edwards. Both the Democrats and the Republicans have refused to endorse equal rights for gay people in regard to marriage. So, Davis has refused them her support. Her candidate is Green Party nominee David Cobb. As a result, she was able to look at Dick Cheney and John Edwards with a greater degree of objectivity than is the norm.

Semantic Slugfest

I would call the night a draw, at least on the surface. Edwards gave a strong performance, underscored the differences between his side and the other's (at least on a few key issues), and made his points quite clearly. He even rattled the selected veep on a few occasions. Edwards deserves kudos for much of the job he did. I don't think he did anything to hurt the Kerry effort and he may have helped. The same could be said for Bush's second. But the good news for libs is that big, bad Cheney, the one with the experience and gravitas, did not achieve any knockouts -- Edwards absolutely held his own.

Unfortunately, though, the viciousness of Cheney overwhelmed much of the verbal duel, which perhaps will lead some -- Bush supporters and people inclined to believe statements only because they are repeated angrily and ad nauseum -- to call Cheney the victor.

Truth is, while both candidates stretched facts here and there, Cheney lied deliberately, repeatedly and constantly. And while Edwards was well prepared, able to anticipate what his opponent would say, composed, and yes, smooth, he missed some opportunities to nail the Squatter's number-two man to the wall.

Davis offers these insights.

~ Cheney lied about never having met Edwards, because, he said, the senator from North Carolina is absent from Congress so often. She provides a photographs of one of two prior meetings. (I would not be surprised to learn there have been more.)

~ Cheney's denial that the Bush administration has linked the terrorist attacks of 9/11 to Saddam Hussein is false and disingenuous. The alleged linkage has been used to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq, though none of the terrorists were Iraqi. Davis directly quotes previous statements by Cheney in which he explicitly says Hussein is responsible for Al Qaida and other terrorists' actions.

~ One of Edwards' best moments was his recapitulation of Cheney's ultraconservative voting record.

The vice president ... when he was one of 435 members of the United States House, he was one of 10 to vote against Headstart, one of four to vote against banning plastic weapons that can pass through metal detectors. He voted against the Department of Education. He voted against funding for Meals on Wheels for seniors. He voted against a holiday for Martin Luther King. He voted against a resolution calling for the release of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. It's amazing to hear him criticize either my record or John Kerry's.

Edwards does not escape unscathed by Davis' scrutiny. She notes, accurately, that he did not always use his time well. By sticking to a script that emphasized promoting Kerry whenever possible, Edwards missed opportunities to refute some of Cheney's scurrilous claims.

I am a Kerry supporter, pretty much by default. But, I found Davis' outlook informative. I believe you will, too. Read the entire entry. While you are at All Facts and Opinions, avail yourself of the transcript of the debate Natalie Davis has generously provided.


9:19 PM

Tuesday, October 05, 2004  

Internet: Kerry campaign ups online ads

This evening's stellar performance by John Edwards, the Democratic nominee for vice president, in his debate with Dick Cheney, is more of what has been days of glad tidings for the John Kerry campaign. Reputable polls are showing increases in support for the contender. Some say he is tied with the incumbent, George W. Bush. Kerry is perceived as having won the first debate and is favored to prevail in the second. Bush's awkward presentation of himself and his failing policy in Iraq have resulted in doldrums in the White House. Wired reports that Kerry strategists are not wasting their newfound momentum. They will be promoting their message harder than ever. One of the places they will put their money where their mouth is is online.

The presidential campaigns and the major political parties have mostly ignored online advertising as a way to reach voters in the 2004 election, according to a report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. That is, until now.

After Thursday night's debate between Sen. John Kerry and President George W. Bush, the Democratic National Committee bought roughly $400,000 worth of ads on 50 sites, including USA Today ,The Washington Post , MSNBC, The New York Times, Salon.com, Weather.com, ESPN.com and Movieline.com. The DNC also bought ads on local news sites. In a few days, it almost doubled its entire online advertising budget for the previous eight months.

And the DNC isn't done. The party plans to have another online media blitz after Tuesday night's debate between the vice presidential candidates, Sen. John Edwards and Vice President Dick Cheney, said Jano Cabrera, the DNC's communications director.

Again, the Democrats will have good news to tout. Edwards, in early analyses, was perceived as having won his debate.

However, it is difficult to say what a victory in online advertising means overall. Indications are that the blitzes have been very effective in reaching some potential voters.

[Doug] Kelly said the DNC site had so many visitors that it deactivated the visitor log feature. "It takes up so much bandwidth, so we turned it off," he said. Kelly said Kerry's site, JohnKerry.com , had three times the number of visitors the night of the debate that it had the night of his convention speech. Twenty thousand signed up to be volunteers.

The DNC also raised $4 million the day of the debate, said Nancy Eiring, director of the DNC's grass-roots fund-raising efforts. Between 9 p.m. and midnight, she said, the party brought in $10,000 a minute. Eiring added that the DNC ads on national websites had a staggeringly high click-through rate of 5 percent.

If online advertising leads those undecided voters to cast their lots with Kerry, that is grounds for rejoicing for Democrats. But the demographics involved strike me as ambiguous. More than half of Americans have Internet access. But, the access is not always at home. Delayed viewing of material meant to influence opinion has less of an effect. An estimated forty-seven percent of Americans are not online. Some, a minority, have chosen not to surf the Web. Most people without Internet access are on the wrong side of the Digital Divide. They can't afford computers or the fees for Internet Service Providers, which average about $20 monthly for dialup, and about $50 monthly for a Digital Subscriber Line or cable modem access. Contrary to what Vice President Cheney would have us believe, Americans are divided by class. The poor and working-class, those least likely to have Internet access at home, are those most likely to vote for Democrats. The increased online advertising by the party may develop or confirm support by middle-class voters. But, efforts to get out the vote among low-income Americans should continue to be in the form of television ads, phone calls, mailings and door-to-door canvassing. There's no question about it. The age of Internet advertising is arriving. But, exposure to those messages is not available to many potential voters.

What's the art?

A logo for Rock the Vote, a voter registration project.


11:00 PM

Friday, October 01, 2004  

Reading: Asimov's Foundation cycle ends weakly

Isaac Asimov's Foundation cycle is a six-part series about the future of humanity after it has taken to the stars. The first empire established by humans, which encompasses millions of planets and billions of people, has disintegrated. To prevent an extended period of barbarity, psychohistorian Harry Seldon has initiated the Seldon Plan. It will save knowledge of human achievement and enable progress in technology and 'benign' mind control. However, since the Seldon Plan challenges all other forms of power, it must be hidden from those who would feel threatened by it. A First Foundation, in charge of technological progress, has been established on the distant planet of Terminus. A Second Foundation, in charge of progress in mind control, is at home on the old empire world of Trantor. Under the plan, ultimately, the Second Foundation will control civilization, including the First Foundation, to make sure that technological success is not squandered on wars. The two Foundations are in conflict from the time the First discovers the existence of the Second. Eventually, the First Foundation believes it has prevailed over what it sees as usurpers of its power.

One of my complaints about Asimov is the nature of his heroes -- egotistical men, who seldom share credit for achievements. In Foundation's Edge, there are several know-it-all heroes. In a stretch for him, Asimov has made one of them, the mayor of Terminus, and therefore the leader of the First Foundation, a woman. Mayor Harla Branno is typical of a Asimov hero, in that she believes herself to be an authority on everything that matters and is motivated by ambition. Her fellow heroes represent the Second Foundation and a new power introduced in this book. Each hero is a copy of the other.

Foundation's Edge finds the two foundations in conflict, again. Five hundred years have passed since the founding of the First Foundation. The original empire is in decline. The Firsts have made inroads into worlds abandoned by or never included in the empire. They now hope to consolidate their power. But, the leader of the First Foundation suspects its efforts to destroy the Second Foundation more than a century ago failed. Mayor Branno is correct. The supposed elimination of the Second Foundation was stage managed by . . . the Second Foundation. Its leaders, the Speakers, sacrificed some members to make it appear the entire organization had been wiped out. That allowed the Seconds to continue to implement the Seldon Plan without interfence from the Firsts. Though the current Second Foundation is worried about the now suspicious Firsts, it has a greater concern. A third entity, capable of mind control like it, has emerged. It appears to be more of a threat to the Second Foundation than its old nemesis on Terminus. Though the Seconds will continue to try to hide their headquarters on Trantor from the Firsts, their next act of aggression is planned against the interlopers.

What is the new entity? Gaia is a conscious planet. Everything, from blades of grass, to food animals, to humans, is part of a collective consciousness and plays a role in determining the course of the planet's civilization. Though it predates both Foundations, Gaia has enveloped itself in secrecy until now. The Gaians have decided a decision has to be made. Whither galactic civilization? They believe their choice -- a conscious galaxy based on their planet, called Galatea -- is the best plan for the future. However, the Seldon Plan is in the way.

From Asimov's perspective, there are three options:

~ The First Foundation, which is very advanced in technology, and catching up in regard to mind control, can declare a new empire. The declaration would be 500 hundred years ahead of the Seldon Plan's intentions, but the new empire would probably be as sustainable as the previous empire.

~The Second Foundation can continue its stewardship of the Seldon Plan. A new empire will emerge in 500 years, as planned. It will be dominated by the Speakers, leaders of the Seconds. The benefit is that the violence of previous human societies will be avoidable. The expert mind control of the Second Foundation will guarantee a peaceful future.

~ All the galaxy can accept Gaia as a model. Eventually, all life will be an integrated whole. Issues of conflict and violence will be resolved as humans evolve beyond such behavior under Gaia's influence.

It is probably a measure of my distance from Asimov's thinking that my response to the three options was 'none of the above.' It seems to me that he is again imposing his views as if they are the only ones available. All three of his options rely on a domineering elite controlling not just countries, but planets, even the galaxy. My inclination is to favor a diversity of solutions to the problems of human nature, including war. Perhaps some planets would form an alliance before the end of the Seldon Plan. Maybe the Second Foundation would control some planets, but not others. It seems entirely possible that societies with pacifist inclinations would be amenable to knowingly joining Gaia.

A plan for the future of the galaxy is chosen through typical Asimovian sleight-of-hand. It is as if having actions occur openly is taboo to him. There must be subterfuge. Though I have described the possibilities above, I've decided against an actual spoiler. Read Foundation's Edge to learn what the outcome is.

Reasonably related

The first three books in the Foundation cycle were written decades before the last three. I reviewed them previously. There also an addendum to the cycle, Foundation and Earth.


9:30 PM

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  
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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  
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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