Saturday, April 30, 2005

O Captain. How could you?

For more info click on HJ's picture. (He's the tomato in the Top Hat.)

This should scare you just a tad.

Most computers (as least those running Windows) give out some amazing information to complete strangers. Here is a frightening example. Cut and paste this URL and go to this web page.

This will tell you what your browser is telling any page that asks (but only if you are running Active x controls on your browser. If you have Active X controls turned off this page will tell you that too.)

Now scroll down to the section marked Clipboard. Yep, that's right. Someone can read what you last put in your clipboard. Try it again with something else in your clipboard if you don't believe me. Scary stuff eh?

In a related note, I watched numb3rs* last night and it uses the same pedantic over explanation that you often see on CSI. It also uses the same trick the CSI writers use, "What unusual form of math or death can we write about and build a show around?"

That guy from Northern Exposure, David Krumholtz from "The Santa Clause" and the always adorable Sabrina Lloyd from Sliders.

Last night on numb3rs (that's l33t speak for Numbers!) they showed off a method to read a computer screen (referring to Wim van Eck's** work on computers emitting faint electromagnetic radiation) and pretended that some contractor guy would have had the brains to:

1)Ask the PI to install it in the house.

2)Find a PI smart enough to know it would be needed.

I'm probably underestimating the level of intelligence of the PIs used by people. Since I know I have a large readership of people in the NSA and the CIA I suppose I should give the writers kudos for assuming that the characters in their stories are smarter than pretty much 98% of the planet. Let me think about that for a minute. Nah. They writers were just lazy. I'd like to know what Kellyb thinks. Of course Mr. Future (aka Mr. A) would assume that every PI knows and uses these tools instead of simple breaking and entering, but that is because he has a brain the size of a planet. Would you assume your local PI would know that he would need to use something that sophisticated to read someone's computer?

Numb3rs: This show reminds me of "Knight Boat". Every week there's an inlet or a fiord. Why does every crime have to be solved with math. Math sucks. Math never did nothing for nobody. CBS 9pm ET
--From Telechimp

** Wim Van Eck
(this is the best image I could find of him. That is pretty sad, unless he doesn't WANT us to find his image, then "Way to Go Wim!"

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

It's not manipulation! It's explanation!

I can't believe the evil propagandist

Republican Pollster Frank Luntz agreed to do this piece. He reveals all the tricks. It just shows how arrogant these people are, and how they know that their base will go along with anything. You have to watch this video, it is filled with stuff that I've written about before (plus it is very funny). Control of the visuals, no dissent in the audience, no tough questions, Orwellian word selection. Luntz just comes right out and opens the kimono (I know, scary image).

Only the court Jester can say, "Look at what these jerks are doing!" because if the "so called liberal media" did it they would flooded with letters and screams they have a "liberal bias" if they pointed out the truth. These fake Town Halls are a mockery of free speech. They are so afraid of confrontation and they know the message and the message giver (the President) are so weak they will deny citizens who oppose a chance to speak out. They even kick out people who have tickets to see The President because they are afraid they might create a scene by disagreeing.


Once again, a parody news segment on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" is offering better journalism than much of what you'll find coming from "real" newsrooms. CC's Samantha Bee interviews Republican media strategist Frank Luntz for advice on how to create her own fake town hall meetings, like the ones that President Bush has been using to promote his Social security privatization scheme.

"A real town hall can be very dangerous if it gets out of control," Luntz explains. "A town hall where the speaker cannot command the respect and the control of the audience can look very bad on television. ... To me the most important component of a successful town hall is the visual, is the backdrop." And the audience itself is part of the backdrop, Luntz explains as he reviews footage from an actual Bush town hall video: "There he's got an African-American, he's got an Asian, there's your female he's got. It's one of everybody. It's almost like the rainbow wedding line."

SOURCE: Comedy Central, April 19, 2005
For more information or to comment on this story, visit:

Monday, April 25, 2005

Thank you Paul Krugman!

How much to I appreciate Paul Krugman? His photo is on my monitor desktop. All his work should be, "required reading at the Academy" as my Captain likes to say. Today's column once again addresses some issues I've been writing about. I'm sure he reads my blog to stay in touch with the mind of this Vulcan, so let me say again, "Thank you for your work." Drop me an email when you are lecturing at Star Fleet Academy, I'll treat you to some of my favorite Vulcan meals.

The Oblivious Right
By PAUL KRUGMAN Published: April 25, 2005

The story is very different for the great majority of Americans, who live off their wages, not dividends or capital gains, and aren't doing well at all. Over the past three years, wage and salary income grew less than in any other postwar recovery - less than a tenth as fast as profits. But wage-earning Americans aren't part of the base.

But Americans are feeling a sense of dread: they're worried about a weak job market, soaring health care costs, rising oil prices and a war that seems to have no end. And they're starting to notice that nobody in power is even trying to deal with these problems, because the people in charge are too busy catering to a base that has other priorities.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Celebrity Blogs! Is there Anything they Can't do?

Sometimes I get SO sick of our celebrity culture. And I LIKE celebrities! When someone who digs movies as much as I do gets tired of them, you know something has gone over the edge.

Arianna Huffington, the columnist and onetime candidate for governor of California, is about to move blogging from the realm of the anonymous individual to the realm of the celebrity collective.

She has lined up more than 250 of what she calls "the most creative minds" in the country to write a group blog that will range over topics from politics and entertainment to sports and religion.
I doubt if any of these blogs will take on any more vitality than the official websites of celebrities. The level of detail will be interesting for people, but as Sage Potatohead reminds me "mystery and glamour are essential for some movie stars to remain movie stars."

Have any of you read any webchats with celebrities or "A day in the life" profiles in publications? They are usually self indudulgent pap. Now the agents of the smart ones will have someone help them. The less savvy will try and write a few posts and might be seen as "down home" but also might be seen as lame.

Exhibit One. Winona Ryder. Saw her on The Jay Leno Show. She went from an actress I really liked to someone I stopped enjoying.

There are few, whose thoughts I'd actually like to hear from: David Mamet, for example. If you haven't seen Spartan, rent it.

Spartan Val Kilmer in a comeback role and Veronica Mars! Mr. Mamet did a great job on that movie. Mr. Spocko says check it out!

It's a chilling gripping movie and one of my favorites from last year.

Nora Ephron because she is funny and a good writer. Walter Cronkite because some people might like his take on this administration and listen to him. James Fallows who I think is always interesting.

Hopefully this new group blog with "notables" might attract attention to a different view of things, but it it does I expect the wingnuts to come out in force and diminish, downplay and deride the work of these celebrities. Sadly for every sharp Janeane Garafalo there are plenty of not fully informed people who might be posting. If they make strong statements against the administration they will be attacked and mocked like the Dixie Chicks were.

Maybe it will devolve to non-interesting, offend-no-one trivia like a bunch of blogs I've surfed over. Only their trivia will involve glamorous parties and other "bold face names".

I think this just saddens me the way that it saddens me knowing the best voice talents don't get jobs in animation anymore. "Starring the voice of..." Now I can't get lost in an animated story anymore because I'm constantly reminded this is really Eddie Murphy.

I want MORE substance, less celebrity. I want our press to ignore the trials of Michael Jackson and write about the trials of Saddam and the people responsible for the disaster in Abu Ghraib. I'm not against entertainment, and I think these people have a right to say what they think, but sometimes it all seems like so much bread and circuses for the uneducated masses.

Mark Danner on Torture and Truth

Today at 6:00pm you can hear Mark Danner talk about his book Torture and Truth on Writer's Voice Radio on KALW Radio (91.7 FM). The show is the San Francisco Bay Area but they archive and stream the show. I attended the event and shot some video. Below is the first clip (I'll put up more later as I digitize them.)

I don't know if the show will air some of the final questions, but he says that Hannity's listeners (and most right wing talk show listeners) are like cavemen sitting around a campfire grunting. He thinks Hannity is uninformed and basically stupid. I'd love to hear him talk to Hannity about torture, especially today right after most of top officers were cleared in Abu Ghraib prison scandal

This is in a Windows media file. It's about 5 minutes long. Right click to save as or click to stream. I have 14 readers and if you all try to stream at the same time you might not hear it.

Right Click here to save as or stream just click to stream.

{UPDATE} I just listened to Writer's Voice Radio and the Hannity Question made the cut! In fact it was the first question. I would have liked to hear more of Mark reading from his book, but I'll post my video when I've digitized them. His tales of torture are chilling.
It might take me awhile I'll have to get some speed tips from my DV expert reader Jeffraham Prestonian. Let me know what you think of this one.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Bloggers! Time to Kick The Ass of your Least Favorite Company!

Bloggers, you've got a window here. In about two shakes of an ad wizards' tail the ability to tell your experience about a company in your blog to lots of new people will be buried or crushed.

Today's story in Businessweek will be a wakeup call for PHBs everywhere. "You mean any Joe 12 pack with a computer can write nasty stuff about us for the world to read!? Release the hounds!" (And by hounds he means lawyers.)
I posted my thoughts on this issue on Businessweeks blog, but now I'm kind of glad they did what I expect all corporate blogs to do, they dumped my post. But companies will push hard to take back the "ownership" of their brand. This has been going on since the early days of sites like "Walmartsucks" in which a webpage that said "Walmartsucks" was crushed by the copyright lawyers from Wal-mart. (Or Disney. A great IP Lawyer once told me, "Don't mess with the Mouse. And don't fuck with the Clown.")

Well now that the corporate giant of PR has awoken to blogging they will be scowering the blogs looking for dissent. "Reputation blog fixers" will be all over the blogs and working hard to push your post that tells the world how much a product sucks to the 8th page of Google.

So you have until maybe this fall to get your comments out there. Smarter (or meaner) companies will crush people first. They will have to because you, the customer, are rarely right when it comes to complaining about their brand. Just thought you should know.

My next campaign will be complaining about companies that run ads before movies. Let's all write about them and taint their brands! Can you imagine how pissed they will be when someone searches for their product name and someone is bitching about the lame ads they run before the movies! Now that the movie theatre police are locking in people videotaping the movie you better watch what you say about the annoying ads that run before movies!

Blogs Will Change Your Business. Businessweek story.

As I have predicted, the business community is waking up to the world of blogs.
The story, Blogs Will Change Your Business from Businessweek is in the May 2, 2005 issue

Their first thoughts? How do we avoid the revenue drain, how do we make money and finally what they really want to know, How do we crush dissent? In their brave experiment they have offered their own blog, Blogspotting, WITH COMMENTS! Bully for them! How hip! How edgy! A pun on the popular movie about heroin junkies! But of course the comments will be moderated and my comment will never see the light of day. I SWORE! I defamed! I told a truth they probably don't like! But until my blog is crushed by the full weight and power of McGraw Hill's lawyers I can make my comment on my own little blog! I have 14 readers! That's right 14! Hear me roar!

Here are the brilliant comments of my Vulcan educated mind that I posted on there blog.
Well let's see how long your comments section last.

Good article, I wonder how many companies will understand how blogs can really mess with their business and what they will do about it.

Here I am, an anonymous blogger. I could post some truly damaging info about you or our competitor. Right here in your own comments page. Or on my own blog. I could be a disgruntled employee working for Businessweek. I could be a kid hired for 100 bucks to roam around and post nasty stuff about Businessweek

You had some predictions, well me too. I see more crap from people like Steve Rubel telling companies how to subvert the blogs. "Screw the authentic customer voice!" Companies can say how great it is to hear it, but their first priority will be to crush any blogging dissent. You want to know what I learned from the political blogging last year? How big a sucker the media is for a scandal and they will run with it with out checking the source or the backing of the rumor starter. Who started the story about Dan Rather? A blogger with deep ties to the Republican party. Don’t get me started on the thousands of crap stories that got fed to Drudge by the republicans and worked their way up to partisan hacks from Fox, CNN and finally to the so called liberal media. It is the nature of most businesses to want to control the information about them. You think the idiots at Free Republic and Little Green Footballs allow dissent on their blogs? Hell no! Do you think that companies will want any crackpot with a laptop to say shit about them and NOT try and track them down and destroy them? Hell no!

How? Lots of tricks. I don't want to reveal them all here because if I know the people who are reading these comments they will be taking notes, “Hey boss! I found out how we can stop the bloggers!” But since they are already doing it and you mentioned it… We’ll see things like using SEOs to tweak their own blogs to the top. Hiring fake bloggers to say nice things or nasty things about competitors. They will create flogs, or Fake Blogs. Guess what McDonalds already did to trick consumers.

But even if GM doesn't pay for positive coverage in blogs (HOW DO YOU KNOW THEY DON'T?), just consider the possibilities in this new footloose media world.

There's little to stop companies from quietly buying bloggers' support, or even starting unbranded blogs of their own to promote their products -- or to tar the competition. This raises all kinds of questions about the ever-shrinking wall between advertising and editorial.

Yep, that makes sense about what you care about, not the ethics of buying support or starting fake blogs, but what happens to the advertising revenue. LOOK AT THE BIGGER PICURE! Blogs can be SO easily subverted. And they will be because until companies figure out how to crush the voice of unhappy bloggers their brands are at risk. Of course they COULD do the right thing and make good products and give good support. But that is much harder than gaming the blogging system.

We'll cover that later, when we get to the blogs' impact on our own business -- the media.
What if someone blogs on a topic that is outside the norm on their personal time. Does the employer have the right to fire someone who is blogging on socially distasteful, racist, or sexist topics?

Say that I work for Clear Channel and in my off time I post to my blog talking about how I think that all the prisoners in Abu Ghraib should have a stick of dynamite put in their behind and dropped from 30,000 feet from an airplane. Now is that okay? What if I say it during my radio program?
Is that okay? Well that is what Michael Savage did. He works for Clear Channel. But he said this ON THE AIR! Would it have been acceptable on his blog? What if he worked for YOUR company?

Bloggers are lucky; there is a window of opportunity to talk to the rest of the world. But this tool will be subvert and junked up to practically uselessness like email has been by spam. The fact that BusinessWeek is writing about this signals the beginning of the end for authentic voices on blogs.
Say Goodbye to blogs hello to flogs.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Office Space cast Reunion

Bill Lumbergh: Oh, and next Friday... is Hawaiian shirt day... so, you know, if you want to you can go ahead and wear a Hawaiian shirt and jeans.

What Office Space character are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Because of my calm Vulcan demeanor this is my character:

Fake Blogs, or Flogs, the disgusting wave of the future

I was roaming around finding fake blogs or flogs (thanks Wil!), when I came across someone talking about people getting fired for breaking rules about talking to the public.

(McDonald's Lincoln Fry Fake Blog--Look at me! I'm Fake!)

Here was my response on the issue:

Of course they have guidelines. It sounds like he broke them. Maybe he was not educated enough on what they were. Or he was confused on the topic, we don't know the whole story.

According a friend in investor relations most public corporations have guidelines about what you can say about the company on message boards and chat rooms (the place to go pre-blogging). What is interesting is that when I went to two conferences about blogging most people there said that their company didn’t have any blogging guidelines. Now they might not have been familiar with the message board guidelines (lack of education) or they considered blogging so different that they didn’t consider it covered under these guidelines.

Does the employee bear responsibility for not following the stated guidelines? If I've signed an employment contract that says I can't talk about the next quarter financials or a new product under development and then I go out and talk about them to someone at the local paper, is that grounds for dismissal?

What I think the bigger issue here is a lack of education about what is and is not acceptable to blog about regarding corporation actions. Once that is determined then you have to deal with the larger issue of what if someone blogs on a topic that is outside the norm on their personal time. Does the employer have the right to fire someone who is blogging on socially distasteful, racist, or sexist topics?

Say that I work for Clear Channel and in my off time I post to my blog talking about how I think that all the prisoners in Abu Ghraib should have a stick of dynamite put in their behind and dropped from 30,000 feet from an airplane. Now is that okay?What if you do it during your radio program? Is that okay?

I spoke to a friend to works in IR the other day and he assures me that all the high level execs know what they can and can not say. What he was not so sure about was if the employees knew what they could and could not say.
PR and marketing people are jumping on to blogging as a way to create buzz and promote products. They will do whatever they can to push their product up the list on search engines and create “buzz”.
Say I have a $5,000 budget to create “buzz”. I could use that to pay a bunch of people to create posts on popular blogs. If have a $30,000 budget I can create a bunch of fake blogs with links to a bunch of other fake blogs or "real" blogs that I have established and set up for this purpose. These techniques have been used by PR types for years.

Front groups.
Beware of front group blogs. Check out and SourceWatch at to see the long history of front groups buying ‘respectability’ in the form of fake grass roots (Astroturf) and paid off experts.

You think it is hard to get accountability in the media? Try getting accountability in the blogosphere. The barriers to entry are low. Their no oversight. It is ripe for exploitation. Some companies will be subtle about doing this others will be ham handed and then people will be shocked that McDonald's tried to manipulate the blogosphere. It is not the ham handed work that we have to worry about it is the subtle things that remain invisible to most people.

Interestingly coming up in April is a conference on how to exploit blogs for PR. I'm going to crash it and blog about it. It should be interesting.

Debbie Downer will Cheer you up!

First a Fedora tip to the funniest man in his office(lotta good THAT did him) for the call the other day. If I was capable of emotion that would have really cheered me up.

Second, there are few things funnier than this clip (it ranks right up there with the video of my favorite motivation speaker and public speaking role model, Matt Foley.)

Quicktime link about 3 minutes

Thanks to for hosting the clip! It's their birthday over there.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Coming up next, Debtor Prision!

Bankruptcy bill passed. How did this happen? Easy, the people who need to file for bankruptcy aren't big political donors. Watch for an increase in filing in the next six months and then the punitive fun begins! Soliders and their families! Stupid people who choose to get cancer! Dumb software programmers whose jobs got outsourced!

A bankruptcy-related poll at MSNBC asks: “Will new bankruptcy laws curb Americans' spending habits?” The choices are (1) Yes, it's a good deterrent and will rein in reckless spenders and (2) No, spendthrifts will overspend no matter what the law says.

What's the correct answer? Neither. The poll is predicated on the hackneyed premise that the average American bankruptcy filer is a spendthrift whose unchecked pursuit of luxury goods is the root cause of her bankruptcy. If that were true, bankruptcy reform would be easy. But it isn’t true. The research has been overwhelming. About 90% of those who file for bankruptcy do so after a job loss, a serious medical problem or a family break up. How about a poll on that?

-- Jason Spitalnick
Talking Points Memo Bankruptcy Special Blog

The human face of bankruptcy.

Debtors’ narratives painted a picture of families arriving at the bankruptcy courthouse emotionally and financially exhausted, hoping to stop the collection calls, save their homes, and stabilize their economic circumstances. Many of the debtors detailed ongoing problems with access to care. Some expressed fear that their medical care providers would refuse to continue their care, and a few recounted actual experiences of this kind. Several had used credit cards to charge medical bills they had no hope of paying.

The co-occurrence of medical and job problems was a common theme. For instance, one debtor underwent lung surgery and suffered a heart attack. Both hospitalizations were covered by his employer-based insurance, but he was unable to return to his physically demanding job. He found new employment but was denied coverage because of his preexisting conditions, which required costly ongoing care. Similarly, a teacher who suffered a heart attack was unable to return to work for many months, and hence her coverage lapsed. A hospital wrote off her $20,000 debt, but she was nonetheless bankrupted by doctors’ bills and the cost of medications.

A second common theme was sounded by parents of premature infants or chronically ill children; many took time off from work or incurred large bills for home care while they were at their jobs.
MarketWatch:Illness And Injury As Contributors To Bankruptcy

Culture of life my ass.

Most of my 13 readers know the phrase, "There but through the grace of God go I." Do you ever wonder if the President or his family think this?
H.W. Bush's daughter, W's sister, died of leukemia. How might that impacted George if it had caused the family to file bankruptcy? What if his family was one of the 1.9–2.2 million Americans (filers plus dependents) who experienced medical bankruptcy? What if his failed company wasn't bailed out?

In seven to ten months we will start to hear some more stories about normal people crushed by medical debt. Remember who helped make these stories possible.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Going Sideways

Spocko's Brain was in a bit of overload the last 5 days. Dealing with big life issues. I'm still trying to make sense of them all and move forward and not backwards. More on this later. But in the mean time read part of this this excellent review of Sideways by David Denby in the New Yorker.

Payne and Taylor have always made movies about the melancholy middling-to-lower range of achievement and ambition, the near-losers that Americans hate but that so many of us at our most demoralized become. Up until now, the dead-eyed blandness of Omaha, Payne’s home town, has dominated his work. He and Taylor have repeatedly satirized the emotional flatness and evasiveness of the place, while treating with tender respect their characters’ hesitant, inarticulate yearnings for something more. Together they have created a gallery of memorably mediocre people: the dumb, paint-sniffing but tenaciously enduring Ruth Stoops (Laura Dern) in “Citizen Ruth”; the vindictive schoolteacher (Matthew Broderick) in “Election”; the soured widower (Jack Nicholson) in “About Schmidt.” There is, I believe, a quiet but persistent spiritual ethos at the heart of their intention. The blinkered, semi-unconscious sinners stumble toward grace—a moment of clarity, of self-realization. Some of them may even get there.

I didn't think Sideways was Payne's best movie, but it had its moments. Part of the reason it resonated with many man was that it so often appears that only the stories of the highest or the lowest get told. Where is the meaning in the middle? In a world of winner take all and the rich get richer do our lives count?

I often wonder about the "aspirational" republicans. Does deluding themselves work better than seeing a hard reality and associating with a class that is getting shafted again and again in subtte or not so subtle ways?

Friday, April 15, 2005

Questions for the President

I was thinking about journalists who cover the president. I don't know if people appreciate how incredibly difficult the White House makes it to get a straight answer. Wouldn't that drive you NUTS?

I won't bore you with the reasons why; things like: no follow ups, big egos, brow beating of your editor, self censorship and "protocol".

What would you tell yourself about this situation? Would you try to craft a question so great it couldn't be dodged? Would you band together with the other people asking questions and say, "This stinks. If he doesn't answer Bob's question, I'll ask him and then Jim will ask him and we will keep asking him the question until we get a decent answer." Would you quit? Or, more likely would you sigh and say to yourself, "I'll make the best of it"?

Just for fun I thought it would be interesting to do a little series of questions I want the answers to. To make it more fun I might imagine a the few responses.

1) How would he respond while wearing Wonder Woman's Golden Lasso? What if he was compelled to tell the truth?

2) What would the typical bullshit response be to a question? "In light of 9/11, which changed everything..."

3) What would YOUR response be to the bullshit response? Don't be intimidated and you wouldn't be taken to task for disrespecting the man or the office (maybe you don't feel he has earned the respect in the first place). Maybe you aren't concerned about keeping your job. Maybe you didn't care about millions of people who were upset at kicking the shit out of his bullshit responses? Maybe you were only concerned with the truth or maybe you were trying to really represent the millions who WANT someone to ask tough questions and who are tired of the charade.

For example, "Would you stop hiding behind 9/11 and your golden moment sitting on your ass in a class room and answer the god damn question? And YES I will have a follow up if you keep giving me your bullshit answers.

The folks at Daily Kos did something like this and got a bazillion responses. I don't expect my thirteen readers to come up with a bazillion responses, but if a question comes to you post away.

1) How many times have you been arrested and what were you arrested for? (If I asked that question I'd get $8,484.00!)

2)What's the real reason you didn't take your physical and stopped flying?

3)Why haven't you attended any soldiers funerals?

4)How many "ghost" detainees are there? Where are they? Are they being tortured?

I've got a million of 'em. I kind of wish Holden of First Draft read my blog. It would be interesting to hear what he has learned from his obsession with the Gaggle. What Questions have worked? Has anyone asked The President these questions?

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Who should file for moral bankruptcy?

A very thoughtful post from Attaturk over at Rising Hegemon
Ultimately, the CAUSE you fight for determines the prism in which I, at least, view a figure. Lee fought for the side that he knew at the time was morally wrong on slavery for another cramped principal of fighting for his home. It's all very chivalrous...and morally bankrupt. I give some slack to Lee, as I give to any person trapped within their time, but ultimately, how much slack can you really give a man that chooses to fight for the side advocating the maintenance of human bondage? Link

Interesting post Attaturk. Thanks for writing this. Very thoughtful. Most of the funny people (like you) I know are also pretty thoughtful. Your post triggers something that I've been thinking about on a more personal scale. How big is the number of people who loath what they do for a living? When jobs are cut and cut it’s harder to hold out for a job that is in line with your moral system. This came to me reading about that gay guy who actively worked to deny rights to gay people.

How many people working in think tanks and offices work in the cause of destruction, selfishness and corruption because it pays the bills (or is the only job that even pays at all)? Maybe they are all true believers and have convinced themselves it is good to support Bush’s regimen of torture, pre-emptive war, crony capitalism and the destruction of social security. It seems like there is no money to be made in protecting civil rights. But if you want to smash gay marriage some church group will fund you.

George Lakoff brilliantly observed that the right is happy to spend tons of money on infrastructure to support their cause; whereas the left take pains to direct as much money as possible to the people they want to help. Destroying the environment, LOTS of money. Environmentalist, get out the begging bowl! Ya got to wonder how many smart people like David Brock are out there? I think of a lot of lawyers I know who hate what they are doing, but keep rationalizing their actions. There are lots of things that lock people in to jobs and feeling unconfident about the economy is one of them.

Can you imagine how many people who would ditch their crappy job if it wasn’t tied to continued medical coverage? Do you ever wonder if part of the growth of blogging is because of a large group of people who are underemployed or unemployed who feel the need to be subversive in their blog because they feel they can't live it in their work?

In real life Ralph would have laid off Sally Forth and sent her work to India. What I appreciate about this comic is it is addressing an issue about workers in the US and their lack of security in the first place. Continuing attempts by the government to strip away what little social safety net that exists saddens me. But if they convince workers that it's their fault they won't collectively say, "Stop rigging the system against us." I wonder what it would take for some of these laid off workers to get "religion" and see that "pro-business" policies are often anti-worker. The right and this administration works overtime to ensure there is no connection between their actions and the effects on workers.

Remember, 80 percent of Americans get their money from wages, not stocks, bonds and interest on capital. But if workers can be persuaded that labor is corrupt, "free trade" is more important than people, human rights and the environment and that any hint of regulation is bad, then they will have won. (And you thought it was the terrorists trying to destroy the health of America!)

You know, it would be funny to see a jerk like Ralph get his comeuppance if jerks ever really did their comeuppance. But like the good liberal I am, I have empathy for his situation.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Loss of.21¢ generates 5 paragraphs of faux outrage

It's only .21¢ so no need to generate Emergency Outrage. I just wonder if the disk problem and the sale are related. We may never know.

KHypermedia Corp
7150 Patterson Pass Road, Suite F
Livermore, CA 94550

Dear Sirs/Ladies:

What a deal! At OfficeMax I found a 50 pack of DVD-Rs, for $19.99! Normally $49.99 but there was an Instant Discount of $30.00! Subtract my coupon for $10 off on purchases of $20 or more and add tax, that’s only.21¢ each! I was considering a name brand, but who could resist?

So, I bought. I burned. I was burned. It turns out that the second DVD I had pulled off the spindle failed. Why? The Ulead software burner didn’t give me much info on what caused the error, but I assumed a software problem. Pulling the disk out of the burner I noticed a splotch of white paint in the shape of bird droppings marking the spot of the error.

(Here's copy of my DVD. I don't see what the MPAA is afraid of.)

Lucky for me the disk failed in the burning process, not six months later while trying to restore my precious data. Finding such a sloppy manufacturing error doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the KHypermedia DVD product. The first disk I burned seems fine, but I’m going to reburn the data on another brand of DVD disk until I have find out what kind of QA process they go through and how it compares to other name brand disks. I’m sure OfficeMax wouldn’t have a sale just to dump products their customers have found are faulty, would they? Maybe you should check with them.

I’m sending you back this disk, as well as another disk I found in the spindle that has a smaller flaw in it. As per your warranty I should receive replacement DVDs. I just don’t know if I can trust them since I couldn’t find any data about your QA or manufacturing process on the web.

I’m also copying OfficeMax on this letter in case I’m one of many customers who are having this problem.


Mr. Spocko (last name unpronounceable by humans), Star Fleet Academy, SF, CA, Earth. Federation Sector, 0,0,0

Friday, April 08, 2005

Mr. T Says, "Treat Your Mother Right"

Click image for the Best. Mr. T. Video. Evar!

"Gimme some moan and miserable groan
from the pain that she felt when I was bone"

(Sure they rhyme, Mr. T says so!)
Thanks to Bill Simmon at Candleblog for the link and iFilms for hosting the clip

For more info about the video go to 5 minutes to live.

Have a nice weekend everyone!

Republican Samaritan

© Charles Barsotti, The New Yorker, October 4, 2004

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Dear Lawyers: Please take on Spyware companies. Signed, End Users

The (Uphill) Battle Against Spyware by Steve Bass, PC World
Below is my response to Steve's column where he talks about all the tools end-users can use to remove and prevent spyware. It has lots of good info in it, but ignored a bigger issue. It will be available to non-subscribers next week. Here is his previous column on privacy in the mean time.

Dear Steve:

Nice article on resources to battle spyware. I agree with you, it will come under control, but are we really so numbed by viruses and spam from 16 year old kids and fly-by-night companies that we use the same tactics against spyware?

The companies creating these products have assets, clients and in a lot of cases are interrupting a revenue stream of a legit company. Yes we should find technological solutions and yes we can educate users on how to protect themselves. I know some corporations don't really care about privacy, but considering these spyware companies are stealing money from them, I would think they would unleash some of their $300 an hour lawyers to bring these spyware companies down. ATTENTION CORPORATE LAWYERS: Companies are stealing your revenue and clients! Go get ‘em! You have my permission to bust ‘em up!

I think that a few serious lawsuits would have a serious chilling effect on spyware. Why do we have graduate students and law students doing the heavy lifting? If ever there was a good reason to love lawyers, this is it. Will the spyware companies move to other countries? Yes. That is why we have to develop the technological solutions at the same time. Will people lament the lost of 'innovative software development jobs' in the US? Sure, but screw 'em, Make some honest software for a change buddy. Hey spyware developers, stop hating yourself for working for the dark side, go develop for the spyware finders as they battle spyware from overseas. I've read these spyware companies websites and they would make a slippery politician proud. If they were doing above board stuff they wouldn't have to hide their activities under 39 pages of fine print.

One reason people screamed about the RIAA's lawsuits is because they went after grandmas and kids. Do you really think anyone will scream for the poor spyware and stealware makers? Oh, THE MAKERS will. They will give you a huge song and dance about how legit they are and who benefits from their work, but you won't see any end users speaking out. Can you imagine an end-user in FAVOR of web browser hijackers? "I really am glad I have the 180search assistant spyware hijacking my web browser, “ said Grandma Millie. “It gave me an opportunity to go to web sites I didn't really want to visit. I especially like the way they installed themselves on my computer without my informed consent. My computer was running too fast anyway and now they have slowed it down to a more manageable speed. I don't really care that I'm watched during my web surfing sessions, I don't have anything to be ashamed of. Only people who are ashamed of their web surfing habits should be worried about being watched."

Letters to Grandkids later, ladies. First I have to hack the registry to remove this spyware.
Photo from BTW, I have no idea what Selo moje means. Mr. Future? Sage Potatohead? Reader #13 GradeSchoolTeach? BlakNo1? Jeffraham? Ellroon?

I would really like to read the letters that come in to you SUPPORTING the whole adware, spyware makers. Watch how they dance around the issue. “We are doing a SERVICE to our customers! “ I predict you won't hear from any REAL end users. (Fake end user who work for a company, yes, but real end users, no. Please vett anyone who claims to be a disinterested end user.) Frankly I'm sick of having people make excuses for the actions of a few selfish software makers that are looking to exploit the system and destroy the user experience of the rest of us. And if you want to vett me, drop me and email with a number and we can talk, I’ll give ‘ya an ear ful.


Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Here I am, a sucker, writing for free

Hey Kids! Do you want to get paid for all those great thoughts you post on your blog? Turn your brilliant "musings", random thoughts and pithy viewpoints into CASH! Someone has finally found a way to monetize (a great 1990's era word) your positive perky paragraphs of pixels! And you can do it in the comfort of your home!
In a neat bit of vertical integration, Hot Nacho also pays writers Bangalore-style word rates for content to fill out the garbage web pages: as little as $3 for a 300 word article. Another piece of Hot Nacho software collates the garbage into a coherent spam campaign -

Whenever there is money floating around and suckers to be fleeced there will be fleecers. As a G-tier blogger I was somewhat fascinated to see that I was a target, now after reading an interview with a blog spammer I see "it's nothing personal", it's just business.

This is another example in which a shared code amongst individuals is exploited by the person who doesn't share the code. The group will use multiple methods to halt this individual using the social, technical, and legal means at their disposal. It's a drag and it will drag on. Partly because of the examples set by the richest and most powerful. "Hey, they get away with breaking the rules and murder, why not me?"

At the heart of this phenomena is a person's lack of consideration for anyone else and the value money has to them over other people's needs. Other people's experience using the web is meaningless to them. Your blog is just another commentary posted on a semi-busy corner destined to be papered over with offers for penii pills.

Some people engaging in these practices might have qualms, but they have seen selfishness pay off again and again. Qualms can be rationalized; punishment for exploiting systems and social customs is nonexistent or easily dodged. Here the Bush Administration is truly leading by example. Any attempts to put a stop to the selfishness of the few at the expense of the many are questioned and ridiculed. "It's Un-American!" As if the greatest American value is to trick people out of their money.

The power of the magic phrase "to create shareholder wealth" has trumped all other values in huge parts of society. If you even question this assumption with the suggestion that some oversight might be a good idea, you are branded as an obstructionist, communist or protectionist. I'm not anti-business. In fact I'm a big fan of all sorts of businesses. But like the children disciplined by Nanny Jo on Super Nanny, business actually is better with some structure and rules.

The reality is that businesses benefit immensely by certain rules and regulations. Also, society overall benefits from certain forms of regulations. Rules and regulations that individuals would be unable to demand can come about through the power of government. Businesses don't want to admit it, but they need a working legal system, a working banking system, trustworthy accountants and protection from illegal practices like dumping and fraud. Some constantly look for more regulation from government, but only when it benefits them! With a government tied so close to the money spigots of corporations it is hard for elected officials to say, "The good of the majority trumps the good of the corporate few." It is almost impossible for a politician who has taken big money from an industry to stand up to them and say, "This regulation is for your own good. You know it, I know it and the American people know it. Your selfishness is hurting you, your industry and the rest of the country. Cut it out." Yet those are the exact words that they might need to hear.

I've heard multiple people long for someone to stand up to politicians who are doing terrible things and demand, "Welch: You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?
(Click on the Welsh and McCarthy photo to hear Welsh's famous quote.)

Talk radio, think tanks and a culture of selfishness has been teaching for a long time that decency is bad for business. And that the standard response to a request that people do the right thing is to attack the questioner. I think that part of the struggle against an acceptance of cruel selfishness is to show we are connected -- via weblinks, the air we breathe and the food we eat. As Rev. Joseph Rossi, S.J., said when discussing the role of higher education in today's society.

Concern for self is not sufficient. Wealth, security, advancement are not enough; they can never be the focus. If they are, Ignatius believed, then truly one can be said to be uneducated.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

A Modified Form of Shunning

I love Miss Manners. She takes things that appear to be about an etiquette rule and addresses the real issue underneath it all.

Today I spotted an H2. It was shiny and dark green. It looked ready to roll over pesky humans.

Looking for Hummer photos to illustrate post this I noticed no photos on the official site showed the "car" looming over people or cars. No mention of gas mileage could be found. There were no photos of them rolling over things or people and crushing them. No photos of the actual size of the men's... egos before and after their purchase.

As I crossed the street in front of the behemoth, I peered through the windshield. Who buys these things?

Driver: Male. 30ish. Sunglasses, not mirrored, but that colored coating going on that forms rainbows. Dark hair. Hairline receding. Dark warm up type jacket with a "sheen" to it.

Passenger: Female. 30ish Blonde "South Bay" haircut with dark roots showing. Tan. Too much makeup. Wearing a white jacket and a white ribbed sweater. Gold jewelry and accessories.
I wanted to say or do something to express my displeasure with their choice of vehicle. But who am I to tell them what to do? Aren't they free to do what ever they want if they can afford it? Isn't this America?

These articles (from The Detroit News) make the point--more that once--that the owners of these vehicles don't care about what others think. The owners can't be allowed to care because if they did they might feel shame. Why does one author argue so hard for not caring if there wasn't some nagging feeling of shame? Instead, there is the suggestion that owners:

  • bully themselves through the shame
  • surround themselves with others who don't care
  • mock people who do care
  • dispute science and society and any rational reasons to care
  • deny that their choices have any impact

In the cause of disassociating themselves from the rest of the world, papers are commissioned, think tanks are created, PR firms are hired and op/ed authors are paid to say you don't have to care.They want to send a message to people that Caring about others is weak. And for men, it’s not a “manly thing to do”. Real men don’t hug trees.

Anything that hints of a connection and responsibility for anyone other than themselves is twisted, denied or ridiculed. If they weren’t, childhood lessons of right and wrong might come rushing back. Imagine this H2 owner as a child:

If Sam eats 3/4's of the cake that means the other five kids will get less. Then Sam has to come up with rationalizations for WHY what he did was okay.

"It's my party! I deserve more! I got here first! Three kids are girls and they don't really want more cake anyway. They are on a (mocking tone) I NEED this cake so I can ride my bike really fast! My mom baked it so I should get most of it. If I didn't invite you, you wouldn't get ANY cake, so be grateful. Finally, "My mom will go and buy some more cake for everyone else. Let's pay soldier until she gets back from the store!"

As Miss Manners would point out, part of getting along in society is good manners. Society uses subtle and not so subtle methods to express their displeasure and encourage certain activities.

Trying to explain the impact of their choices to these drivers would do nothing, they have set up a worldview where they won't take in conflicting info. But maybe a modified form of shunning would help change attitudes.

In the future when I see a Hummer, H2 or huge SUV I will point and laugh and maybe roll my eyes as I shake my head to say to them, "You silly men and women under the illusion you are safer in your vehicle. You think you are not a part of society, and bear no responsibility for your choices that impact all of us, but your choices do matter, now stop eating all the cake."

Sin City: A Man's Gotta Have a Code

Go see it. If ya' got da belly for it.

Get on da blower and go with the gang. Flap yer gums about it later. Go!

Marv's story knocked me out.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Turn in your baby! Get $5 bucks from Safeway!

Gee, I remember when your first born child was really WORTH something.
Well five bucks in five bucks and I really like those flame-grilled gardenburgers.

Have a great day!