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»  March 26, 2005

Politics  

P. Diddy on W: During his interview on The Late Show With David Letterman Thursday (March 23), David Letterman asked P. Diddy about meeting President George W. Bush at the White House. After a couple of non-commital comments about how it was the White House, it was the President, Dave asked Diddy if he thought W was someone he could hang with. This was the answer.

I got the sense that what you see on TV...that's what you get in person.
Laughter ensued.

 


»  March 25, 2005

Politics  

2+2=5 in Florida: From Alligator Online via Alkaline Earth via The Poor Man, comes this gem from the Florida Senate. Just something to slip under the rug while the Schiavo thing's got people's attention:

Republicans on the House Choice and Innovation Committee voted along party lines Tuesday to pass a bill that aims to stamp out “leftist totalitarianism” by “dictator professors” in the classrooms of Florida’s universities.

...

The bill has two more committees to pass before it can be considered by the full House.

...

Students who believe their professor is singling them out for “public ridicule” – for instance, when professors use the Socratic method to force students to explain their theories in class – would also be given the right to sue.

...

Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, warned of lawsuits from students enrolled in Holocaust history courses who believe the Holocaust never happened.

Similar suits could be filed by students who don’t believe astronauts landed on the moon, who believe teaching birth control is a sin or even by Shands medical students who refuse to perform blood transfusions and believe prayer is the only way to heal the body, Gelber added.

 

What the...?  

Chili Con Dedo: From the Washington Post:

A woman said she bit into a partial finger served in a bowl of chili at a Wendy's restaurant, leading authorities to a fingerprint database Thursday to determine who lost the digit.

...

Employees at the Wendy's were checked and the fingertip didn't come from any of them, officials said, adding that the well-cooked finger may have come from a food processing plant that supplies the company.

...

Health officials said the fingertip was approximately 1 1/2 inches long. They believe it belongs to a woman because of the long, manicured nail.

"1 1/2 inches long"? I should hope that there wouldn't have been any need to check the employees to see if it was theirs.

 

Politics  

Democrats: CNN, MSNBC, or other?: Now that the battle for the Democratic National Committee's been won by Howard Dean, the discussion (or fight) over the path the Democratic Party will take has moved beyond the walls of wonkdom and bloggerland into the open. The Senate cloture vote on the credit card industry's bankruptcy restriction bill emphasized the split in the party, with Democratic Leadership Council stalwarts like Joe Biden, Joe Lieberman, Tom Carper, et. al. (Lieberman, to his credit, voted against the bill itself) all voting with the unanimous block of Republicans. To paraphrase the Iron Chef: "Which flavor of Democrat will reign supreme?"

In the DLC's corner are folks like Al From and Bruce Reed, making the point that the only Democratic President elected in the past quarter-century was former DLC Chairman Bill Clinton. On the other side, people like David Sirota of the Center for American Progress and Eli Pariser, Executive Director of MoveOn.org have countered that Clinton is virtually the only success the DLC's "triangulation" strategy has had, that under the DLC's influence Democrats lost control of both the House and Senate, and that Clinton's last electoral success (1996) is itself nearly a decade in the past.

Partisans in the DLC camp argue that Democrats need to continue their tack to the center, jettisoning members of groups like MoveOn and people like Michael Moore, in a gamble that they'd gain more people from the center than they'd lose. (The miscalculation inherent in this strategy has been displayed in the timidity shown by Democrats on the Terri Schiavo case. Though public opinion was later shown to be solidly against Congress involving itself, few Democrats spoke out against it, and nearly half of the 100 House Democrats who voted, voted for the bill.) DLC detractors say the party is at risk of alienating its core supporters by abandoning its principles, and that rather than giving up long-held beliefs and explaining how they agree on most issues with Republicans, Democratic leaders should spend more time convincing voters that their mode of government is better.

Elections for national positions only come around every couple of years, though. Experimenting with one policy or the other is incredibly risky. Is there some way of knowing who's right before the mid-term elections in 2006?

There is one analogous model that might be illuminating. It has direct parallels with the political spectrum. It has virtually instant feedback. And it shows the pitfalls of continuing along the DLC path.

FOX News Channel has been steam-rollering its way toward cable news supremacy for years now. It's the news source of choice for the White House, military bases, and die-hard Republicans. It has an unambiguous and synchronized message.

Cable News Network's been losing viewership to FOX, just as the Democrats have been losing voters. They don't have the luxury of waiting two years between rating periods — they get their clobbering in the overnights — to figure out what to do. It's a constant correction/feedback loop. But they're still losing market share, even as they move toward the FOX model.

CNN's strategy to deal with FOX has been to "triangulate", playing essentially the same game the DLC advocates for the Democratic party. Over the years, they've moved people like Wolf Blitzer and Judy Woodruff to the fore, where they regularly offer conservatively-slanted commentary. The recent changes to CNN Headline News, adding Nancy Grace (a counter to FOX's Greta Van Susteren), an hour of entertainment "news", and an hour-long news report continue the FOXification.

None of these efforts have served to increase viewership. Die-hard conservatives won't watch CNN because they've already got FOX to tell them what they believe. Many Democrats find CNN's Blitzer, Woodruff, and reputed Rush Limbaugh squeeze Daryn Kagan so biased that they might as well watch FOX. Certainly, the coverage of the Schiavo case hasn't varied much between the two networks.

CNN viewership jumped during the coverage of the Asian tsunami just after Christmas. People turned to "the most trusted name in cable news" for actual, fact-based reporting on a tragedy. But for day-to-day political reporting, their attempt to sidle up to FOX has been a failure so far.

There's a lesson in here for Democrats. The book is still out on whether the latest changes at CNN (i.e. the CNN Primetime lineup) will reverse the trend, but any effect should be evident before the end of the spring. My money says that they fail to stop or even hasten the slide. If I'm right (and assuming CNN doesn't change up its format to a purely fact-based style before then), leaders of the Democratic Party sticking to the DLC model for success should think about their own strategy before they end up becoming the next CNN.

Or worse, MSNBC (with apologies to Keith Olbermann).

 


»  March 19, 2005

Politics  

Oregonian, morning edition 3/19/2005, page A2: That Senate seat seems to really be ageing Hillary Clinton.

 


»  March 17, 2005

What the...?  

And Then We Were 10: My business domain, moshplant.com was registered 10 years ago today: 17 March 1995.

It predates PHP. It predates MySQL. It predates Flash. It predates Shockwave. In its lifetime, it's run on a variety of servers, but mostly Macintosh machines in my office that were connected to the Internet using standard phone, Frame Relay, and SDSL lines. We ran databases with FileMaker, Butler SQL, and Tango; ran a webcam back when they were still black and white; and jumped through all sorts of hoops to do things that anybody with a hosted domain can do today without even thinking about it.

The Web. It's been a long, expensive decade.

 


»  March 10, 2005

Director  

Director@GDC2005: I'd hoped to have these up last night, and in a less crummy version than a generic Dreamweaver photo album, but here are a few images from my brief foray down to the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco this week.

I only signed up for the Expo, so I'll leave comments on the sessions to Gary and others who actually spend most of their time on game projects. About 15-20 folks showed up for Wednesday night's Director game developer soiree Wednesday night, including a couple of folks I was introduced to but didn;t get into my notes (i.e. remember the names of after a couple of drinks). Regrettably, I didn't get pictures of everyone, specifically Otto and his pal from Sulake (producers of Habbo Hotel).

As I was taking a last lap around the show floor, I ran into an actual game industry legend. Steve Jackson, the Steve Jackson, of Steve Jackson Games, purveyors of GURPS, Illuminati, and a little zip-loc baggie game called OGRE once upon a time. Also, Car Wars, the official journal of which (Autoduel Quarterly) published a note from yours truly as the first letter in its first issue twenty-odd years ago.

 

Politics  

Who Needs Civil Rights? Not George Will!: In a syndicated column I saw in the SF Chronicle and which also appears in the online version of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, but which I didn't see at the WaPo (his home paper), George Will gloats over the conservative majority on the Civil Right Commission, then asks:

...it is tempting to just enjoy the new 6-to-2 conservative ascendancy on the commission and forgo asking a pertinent question: Why not retire the commission?
He continues:

Its $9 million budget -- about 60 employees and six field offices -- is, as Washington reckons these things, negligible.

 ...

But although the monetary savings from closing the commission would be small, two prudential reasons for doing so are large.

One is that someday Democrats will again control the executive branch and may again stock the commission with extremists -- [former Commission chair Mary Frances] Berry celebrated Communist China's educational system in 1977, when she was assistant secretary of education; she made unsubstantiated charges of vast "disenfranchisement" of Florida voters in 2000 -- from the wilder shores of racial politics. The second reason for terminating the commission is that civil rights rhetoric has become a crashing bore and, worse, a cause of confusion: Almost everything designated a "civil rights" problem isn't.

"Crashing bore." Now there's a case of the pot, kettle, and blackness -- if I may be excused for using that particular expression in a discussion of race and civil rights.

If anything, the fact that the Civil Rights Commission had a $9 million budget is indicative of how little people like Will thought of the goal of people of all races who supported the Selma March 40 years ago this month, the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts, and the people who have fought discrimination in the years since. Will thinks churches -- "proper pulpits" -- and "barbershops" (apparently the only two venues he imagines adult African-Americans inhabiting, except, perhaps for jails) are the places to address the "cultural crisis" that leads to problems in "crime, welfare, abortion, schools". The dismantling of a "caste system maintained by law" has been accomplished.

The other side of "law", though is enforcement. The Commission is supposed to oversee the implementation of civil rights, not just on matters of race but also for "color, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin." That includes voting rights, Constitutional protections, federal laws, etc.

Maybe he's right, maybe it's not doing its job well considering it's only got $9 million a year, but I have a hard time imagining it's completely irrelevant.

 


»  March 1, 2005

Politics  

So Long, Mom, I'm Off to Drop the Bomb: Has anyone noticed how in the space of just a couple of years this country's gone from fighting the conflict of the 1990s that the Bush administration had no interest in prior to 9/11 (aka the War on Terror) to fighting the conflict of the 1960s that the Bush administration has no interest in (aka halting nuclear proliferation)?

This came into my mind while listening to Tom Lehrer's 40+ year old ditty "Who's Next?" (lyrics below). Prior to 9/11, the Bush administration dropped the ball on both terrorism and attempts to stem the spread of nuclear materials and technology.

After 9/11, the US was haphazardly mobilized to battle terrorists. But that front quickly turned into a supposed search for WMDs in Iraq, a "victorious" shutdown of the Khan nuclear network in Pakistan, upcoming attempts to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, and -- of course -- the nuclear debacle that is North Korea.

The sad thing is, we've been here before. Not only that, it was so long ago that it was satirized in a Golden Oldie song that plays on the Dr. Demento show, is on a Rhino Records collection, and appeared on an album ("That Was the Year That Was") in which another nuclear-themed song mentions co-anchors Chet Huntley and David Brinkley as contemporary figures.

Forty years of on-again/off-again work to contain the nuclear threat plus followed by four years of George Bush and company equals squat. Zero. Nullification.

Tom Lehrer, "Who's Next"

First we got the bomb and that was good
Because we love peace and motherhood
Then Russia got the bomb but that's OK
Because the blance of power's maintained that way
Who's next?

France got the bomb but don't you grieve
Because they're on our side, I believe
China got the bomb but have no fears
Because they can't wipe us out for at least five years
Who's next?

Then Indonesia claimed that they
Were gonna get one any day
South Africa wants two, that's right
One for the black and one for the white
Who's next?

Egypt's gonna get one too
Just to use on you-know-who
So Israel's getting tense
Wants one in self-defense
"'The Lord's our Shepherd,' says the Psalm
But just in case, we better get a bomb!"
Who's next?

Luxembourg is next to go
And who knows, maybe Monaco
We'll try to stay serene and calm
When Alabama gets the bomb
Who's next? Who's next? Who's next?
Who's next?