Saturday, April 09, 2005

Cardinals agree to ban media interviews

Houston Chronicle reported The unanimous vote today by 130 cardinals to maintain public silence was unprecedented. But in an era of continuous news updates and constant speculation, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls called the media ban an "act of responsibility."

He asked journalists not to ask the cardinals for interviews and said they should not take the prelates' silence as an act of "discourtesy."

"The cardinals, after the funeral Mass of the Holy Father, began a more intense period of silence and prayer, in view of the conclave," Navarro-Valls said. "They unanimously decided to avoid interviews and encounters with the media."


This was a wise decision by the cardinals. I suspect many in the press were trying to influence the cardinals decision, and the cardinals should be listening to God, not to the press.

I am not Catholic, but I suspect many in the USA and Europe are going to be disappointed in the new Pope the cardinals will select. Many in the USA and Europe would like to see the Catholic Church lighten up on the strict discipline the John Paul II imposed, and they would like to see acceptance of abortion, a more lenient view of sexual orientation, and women becoming priests, but since John Paul II appointed almost all of the cardinals I suspect their selection will want to maintain the policies John Paul II believed in. Since church attendance has dropped of in the US and Europe I don't think they are likely to select a Pope that will cater to people that don't even attend Mass regularly. Rather I suspect the new Pope will come from the third world, where the largest increases in membership have come from -- either Latin America or Africa. But whereever the new Pope comes from, I don't expect the Cafeteria Catholics to approve of the selection.

Read More...

Stamp Out the Stamp Increase

Chicago SunTimes reported The post office wants an extra 2-cents-worth for its stamps. As the agency proposed the stamp price increase Friday, however, it also invited Congress to eliminate the need for it.

The proposal sent to the independent Postal Rate Commission calls for increases to take effect early next year. They would boost first-class stamps from 37 cents to 39 cents, increase postcards from 23 cents to 24 cents and raise other postal prices similarly.

In announcing the rate proposal, the Postal Service said it is needed because a 2003 law requires the agency to place $3.1 billion annually in an escrow account. Postal officials have been urging Congress to drop that requirement and said they will withdraw the rate request if Congress does so.

I believe we should urge Congress to make a change, but not the change requested by the Postal Rate Commission. I believe we should urge Congress to pass a law requiring the rate commission to increase the cost of stamps to 40 cents and to then place in escrow the additional money, and inform them that they must live with the revenue from the 40 cent stamps for at least 5 years, and whenever they require additioinal funds after that, the increases must be in 5 cent increments. The rate for additional ounces should be set at 35 cents, and it also should be required to stay there until they can justify raising it to 40 cents. Post cards should be 25 cents until the Postal Rate Commission can justify raising them to 30 cents. That way we only have to have a supply of 5 cent stamps, rather than one, two, and three cent stamps, to upgrade old stamps.

An alternative proposal would be to require that all first class stamps just say First Class, and whether they cost 37 cents or 39 cents they would always be good for First Class Postage (stamps for Post Cards would be labeled as such, and stamps for additional ounces would be so labeled, and they would always be good for that purpose). That way if we wanted to stock up on 37 cent stamps before the rate went up we could, and they would still be good for First Class postage, even after the rate went up.
Congress mandated the requirement in 2003 when it passed a law [Public Law 108-18] reducing the amount of money the agency has to pay into its retirement system, which was overfunded. Congress ordered the money to be put into the escrow fund. AP

Read More...

Saturday, April 9

This Day In History

  • 1682   French explorer Robert La Salle reached the Mississippi River.
  • 1833   The nation's first tax-supported public library was founded in Peterborough, N.H.
  • 1939   Singer Marian Anderson performed at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., after she was denied the use of Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution.
  • 1940   Germany invaded Denmark and Norway.
  • 1942   American and Philippine defenders on Bataan capitulated to Japanese forces during World War II.
  • 1945   National Football League officials made it mandatory for football players to wear socks in all league games.
  • 1959   NASA announced the selection of America's first seven astronauts: Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard and Donald Slayton.
  • 1965   The newly built Houston Astrodome featured its first baseball game, an exhibition between the Astros and the New York Yankees.
  • 1969   Bob Dylan released the album ''Nashville Skyline.''
  • 1992   Former Panamanian ruler Manuel Noriega was convicted in Miami of eight drug and racketeering charges.
  • 1996   Dan Rostenkowski, the once-powerful House Ways and Means chairman, pleaded guilty to two mail fraud charges in a deal that brought with it a 17-month prison term.
  • 1996   President Clinton signed a line-item veto bill into law.
  • 2001   American Airlines' parent company acquired bankrupt Trans World Airlines, becoming America's No. 1 carrier.
  • 2002   Former Arthur Andersen auditor David B. Duncan pleaded guilty in federal court in Houston to ordering shredding Enron documents, and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
  • 2003   U.S. troops in more than 100 U.S. armored vehicles rumbled through downtown Baghdad, seizing one of Saddam Hussein's opulent palaces and toppling a 40-foot statue of the Iraqi ruler.
Happy Birthday To
  • 1883   Frank King (cartoonist: creator of Gasoline Alley cartoon strip; died June 25, 1969)
  • 1926   Hugh Hefner (publisher: Playboy magazine)

Read More...

Friday, April 08, 2005

Left not willing to credit Pope

Marc Fisher in Slate is not willing to credit the Pope for a role in the end of Communism

This week, it's been a given in most of the tributes to the pope that he was fully or at least largely responsible for the fall of communism and the collapse of the Soviet empire. And surely, this pope's firm and insistently communicated stand for freedom inspired his fellow Poles to rise up against the regime that controlled their country.

But elsewhere in the old Eastern Bloc, the pope's impact was at least a couple of steps removed from the courageous decisions that ordinary people made to head out onto the streets and march in protests that they fully expected would be met with absolute resistance from the Soviet forces and their local puppets....

The Communists did a good job of detaching the people of Eastern and Central Europe from their religious traditions. But before we weep too much over that loss, we ought to cast our eyes across to Western Europe, which achieved pretty much the same thing without any official atheism or overt state antagonism to religion. In West Germany, for example, the churches ran the public schools, yet those schools produced generations of children whose connection to Christianity is limited pretty much to Christmas sentimentality.

Even in Catholic churches at the time, the pope's name did not come up. The priests who created sanctuaries for political rebellion specifically said that they had neither intent nor desire to convert their neighbors into people of faith. They spoke of freedom and of choice, and they went out of their way to note that this was not about religion. One priest in Leipzig, Father Christian Fuehrer, who turned his Nikolai Church into a clubhouse for demonstration organizers, told me that he never discussed any of his actions with his superiors in the church hierarchy because they would have told him to desist. If Father Fuehrer preached any religion in those weeks, it was that of nonviolence and peace. He drew from Martin Luther King, Jr., whom he cited liberally in those days, not from Pope John Paul the Great, whom he never saw any call to mention.


Randall Parker blogged Fisher's argument strikes me as correct. The Pope had some influence in Poland. But most of the people in late communist era Eastern Europe were not Christians of any sort, let alone Catholics. Russia and the Ukraine were formerly Orthodox but few believers remained. What caused communism's collapse? The material differences between the communist East and relatively more capitalistic West became too large and glaring. The communist economies were stagnating and even in decline. The greater exposure to Westerners that came as a result of Nixon and Kissinger's negotiations with Moscow heightened the awareness of Eastern Europeans and Russians that they were falling hopelessly behind.

Tim Cavanaugh blogged Marc Fisher reminds readers that back in the actual year 1989, it was the allure of big TVs, fresh fruit, and new cars, not the prospect of trading a set of authority figures in drab garb for one authority figure in outlandish garb, that motivated Eastern Europeans to get out into the street.

The Pope certainly did not cause the collapse of Communism by himself, Regan's military buildup certainly helped drive them broke, but the Pope helped give the people the strength of conviction to "Be Not Afraid" and dare to go out in the streets and demand changes, and his support let other church leaders to know that they could also support the people in their desire for changes.

Read More...

Judge Sentences Spammer to Nine Years

SFGate reports A man convicted in the nation's first felony case against illegal spamming was sentenced to nine years in prison Friday for bombarding Internet users with millions of junk e-mails.

However, Loudoun County Circuit Judge Thomas Horne delayed the start of Jeremy Jaynes' prison term while the case is appealed, saying the law is new and raises constitutional questions.

Jaynes, 30, who was considered among the top 10 spammers in the world at the time of his arrest, used the Internet to peddle pornography and sham products and services such as a "FedEx refund processor," prosecutors said. Thousands of people fell for his e-mails, and prosecutors said Jaynes' operation grossed up to $750,000 per month.

Jaynes was convicted in November for using false Internet addresses and aliases to send mass e-mail ads through an AOL server in Loudoun County, where America Online is based. Under Virginia law, sending unsolicited bulk e-mail itself is not a crime unless the sender masks his identity.

While prosecutors presented evidence of just 53,000 illegal e-mails, authorities believe Jaynes was responsible for spewing out 10 million e-mails a day. Prosecutors said Jaynes made millions of dollars from the illegal venture.


James Joyner blogged One suspects that the constitutional arguments here will fail. The obvious claims are under the 1st and 8th Amendments (and, by extension, the 14th). Jaynes could argue that his free speech rights are being violated here.

The courts have been very stingy in protecting commercial speech, especially those that impose externalities on others. Indeed, until fairly recently, commercial speech was deemed to be uncovered by the 1st Amendment, period.

I'm less familiar with 8th Amendment jurisprudence but would think it would be hard to convince a judge that a nine year sentence for one of the most prolific spammers constitutes "excessive" punishment. The courts have applied a proportionality test in such cases. Given the number of offenses here, nine years seems quite reasonable.


Patti blogged Bad day to be a spammer! But a good day for the rest of us!

Ken Masugi blogged The case does raise some federalism issues, so the conviction might well be overturned on appeal. See these thoughts on the internet tax. In any event, do not expect an immediate drop in spam.

DavidNYC @DailyKos blogged Memo to Viagra peddlers, Russian bride hawkers, home business entrepreneurs and "enlargement" specialists : You. Are. Next.

ACM blogged I'm sure I'm not alone in looking forward to watching this person go away, nor in hoping that this will strike some fear into the others who make our electronic lives so much less enjoyable...

I hope we see many more of these convictions in the future. I think this is something all of us can agree with.

Jay Tea pointed out this cartoon which is very appropriate.

Read More...

Spammer in the can

SFGate reports A man convicted in the nation's first felony case against illegal spamming was sentenced to nine years in prison Friday for bombarding Internet users with millions of junk e-mails.

However, Loudoun County Circuit Judge Thomas Horne delayed the start of Jeremy Jaynes' prison term while the case is appealed, saying the law is new and raises constitutional questions.

Jaynes, 30, who was considered among the top 10 spammers in the world at the time of his arrest, used the Internet to peddle pornography and sham products and services such as a "FedEx refund processor," prosecutors said. Thousands of people fell for his e-mails, and prosecutors said Jaynes' operation grossed up to $750,000 per month.

Jaynes was convicted in November for using false Internet addresses and aliases to send mass e-mail ads through an AOL server in Loudoun County, where America Online is based. Under Virginia law, sending unsolicited bulk e-mail itself is not a crime unless the sender masks his identity.

While prosecutors presented evidence of just 53,000 illegal e-mails, authorities believe Jaynes was responsible for spewing out 10 million e-mails a day. Prosecutors said Jaynes made millions of dollars from the illegal venture.


James Joyner blogged One suspects that the constitutional arguments here will fail. The obvious claims are under the 1st and 8th Amendments (and, by extension, the 14th). Jaynes could argue that his free speech rights are being violated here.

The courts have been very stingy in protecting commercial speech, especially those that impose externalities on others. Indeed, until fairly recently, commercial speech was deemed to be uncovered by the 1st Amendment, period.

I'm less familiar with 8th Amendment jurisprudence but would think it would be hard to convince a judge that a nine year sentence for one of the most prolific spammers constitutes "excessive" punishment. The courts have applied a proportionality test in such cases. Given the number of offenses here, nine years seems quite reasonable.


Patti blogged Bad day to be a spammer! But a good day for the rest of us!

Ken Masugi blogged The case does raise some federalism issues, so the conviction might well be overturned on appeal. See these thoughts on the internet tax. In any event, do not expect an immediate drop in spam.

DavidNYC @DailyKos blogged Memo to Viagra peddlers, Russian bride hawkers, home business entrepreneurs and "enlargement" specialists : You. Are. Next.

ACM blogged I'm sure I'm not alone in looking forward to watching this person go away, nor in hoping that this will strike some fear into the others who make our electronic lives so much less enjoyable...

I hope we see many more of these convictions in the future. I think this is something all of us can agree with.

Read More...

Hackers Use 'Windows Update' To Deliver Trojan Horse

Wireless reported Sophos has issued a warning about a fake Microsoft security update website which is being used to deliver a Trojan horse.

The company said that its spam labs have intercepted an e-mail campaign initiated by hackers that attempts to get computer users to log on to a site that pretends to be the official Microsoft site for security patches.

When users try to download patches from the site, however, their computers are infected with the DSNX-05 Trojan horse, which allows hackers to remotely control the infected computer.

The e-mails from the hackers come from "Windows Update" and include subject lines such as 'Update your windows machine,' 'Urgent Windows Update' and 'Important Windows Update.'

A spokesperson for Sophos said that the scheme is targeted to take advantage of people worried about Windows security, and users must be careful and ensure they are going to an official site when downloading security updates.

Read More...

AOL and DoubleClick

USA Today reported America Online Inc. revealed Thursday said it partnered with DoubleClick Inc. to begin using the company's online ad-management software across AOL's Web sites.

New York-based DoubleClick's software will be used by AOL Media Networks to organize and target advertisements to specific users on AOL's Web properties, which include AOL.com, AOL Instant Messenger, Mapquest, Moviefone and CNN.com.

AOL said it already uses several other DoubleClick products for managing ad campaigns, targeted e-mails and search and affiliate marketing through Performics, a division of DoubleClick.


Tulsa Computer Society members may recall my seminar about DoubleClick and its invasion of privacy in my presentation on Firewalls and other Net security matters at the Computer & Technology Showcase shows and Steve Bass's article or a number of other news stories about them, such as this, this, this, this, this, this, and this.

Read More...

Medicare Drug Plans

NYT reported The Bush administration has told states that they cannot steer Medicare beneficiaries to any specific prescription drug plan, even if state officials find that one or two insurance plans would provide the best deals for elderly people with low-incomes.

State programs that steer people to a specific drug plan are "contrary to Medicare policy goals" and "may violate federal fraud and abuse laws," said the memorandum, signed by Leslie V. Norwalk, deputy administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. By enrolling low-income people in a preferred plan, Ms. Norwalk said, state officials are violating beneficiaries' freedom of choice and undermining competition among insurers. Moreover, she said, if states receive money - rebates or other "financial benefits" - in return for sending people to a particular drug plan, such payments may constitute illegal kickbacks.....

Federal officials were alarmed to learn that some states were drafting legislation that would allow them to act as "authorized representatives" for people in state drug assistance programs. Using this power, state officials could enroll certain state residents in a preferred Medicare drug plan. The drug plans are expected to negotiate with drug companies to obtain discounts, rebates and other price concessions.

Ms. Norwalk said "we are particularly concerned" that such rebates would go into state coffers, rather than being used to reduce drug prices for low-income Medicare beneficiaries. High drug prices mean "higher costs for all Medicare beneficiaries and for the Medicare program," she said.

Under the law passed by Congress in 2003, Medicare will subsidize the basic drug benefit and will provide extra subsidies to defray costs for low-income people. By favoring one Medicare drug plan, Ms. Norwalk said, states would illegally discriminate against the others, impairing their ability to recruit members and secure discounts.


Nathan blogged So Much for States Rights

That is the conflict you get when you want the Federal government to pay for something; it wants to control how its money is spent. If the states want to control everything, they should ask for the right for their state to completely opt out of Medicare/Medicaid, and the state could run a program for its citizens just using state tax revenue. But if you want the Feds to tax other states to send money to your state, you have allow them to control how that money is spent.
.... The Bush administration response. Threaten to throw state officials in jail
Actually the referenced article does not mention the word "jail", it just says that State programs that steer people to a specific drug plan are "contrary to Medicare policy goals" and "may violate federal fraud and abuse laws,"
.... The Medicare legislation prohibits the federal government from negotiating lower prices from pharmaceutical companies
the reason for that is that the drug companies depend on the profits they make from US sales to support their research and development. If the US forces prices down there will be no money to develop new drugs. Personally I would not mind seeing them do that, since I think it would mean they would have to raise prices not just for the US but also Canada and Europe and the rest of the world, so that everyone would be paying for the R&D, but there would be a length of time when the drug companies could do no more R&D until their negotiated discounts with the rest of the world expired.
and now states are prohibited from negotiating better benefits for low-income seniors. These folks don't believe in "federalism", just in disabling decent government at every level.
The Golden Rule applies: The man with the gold makes the rules. As I said above, if states want to control the program, they should fund it totally with state revenue sources.
Stirling Newberry blogged And another nice touch, Bush Administration admits that the drug plans are a swindle, and that states have to look the other way, or else.
There is nothing in the referenced article which says that they admit the drug plans are a swindle. There are quotes which indicate that rebates or other "financial benefits" - in return for sending people to a particular drug plan may constitute illegal kickbacks [whether they go to individual state legislators or] into state coffers [to be spent on something else].
Abby commented I hate the Bush administration as much as the next person, and I'm willing to give any criticism of them the benefit of the doubt. That article, however, does a very bad job of explaining exactly what the States were proposing to do and why the Bush administration opposes it etc.
At least Abby recognizes that the article does a poor job of explaining exactly what the States were proposing to do and why the Bush administration opposes it

Read More...

Friday, April 8

This Day In History

  • 1513   Explorer Juan Ponce de Leon claimed Florida for Spain.
  • 1834   Cornelius Lawrence became the first mayor to be elected by popular vote in a city election. The voters of New York City decided to make him mayor of their fair city.
  • 1873   Alfred Paraf of New York City patented the first successful oleomargarine.
  • 1935   The Works Progress Administration was approved by Congress.
  • 1952   President Harry S. Truman seized the steel industry to avert a nationwide strike.
  • 1970   The Senate rejected President Richard Nixon's nomination of G. Harrold Carswell to the Supreme Court.
  • 1974   Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves hit his 715th career home run, breaking Babe Ruth's record.
  • 1981   Omar N. Bradley, a World War II general and the first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, died at age 88.
  • 1986   It took 18 years of singing the U.S. national anthem, but on this day, at long last, baritone Robert Merrill of the Metropolitan Opera became the first person to both sing the anthem and throw out the first ball at Yankee Stadium for the Yanks home opener.
  • 1987   Los Angeles Dodgers executive Al Campanis resigned after saying on ABC's ''Nightline'' that blacks may lack some of the ''necessities'' for becoming baseball managers.
  • 1990   Ryan White, the teen-age AIDS patient whose battle for acceptance gained national attention, died in Indianapolis at age 18.
  • 1992   Tennis great Arthur Ashe announced at a news conference that he had AIDS.
  • 1994   Kurt Cobain, singer and guitarist for Nirvana, was found dead in Seattle of a self-inflicted gunshot wound; he was 27.
  • 1997   The Vatican chose Archbishop Francis George of Portland, Ore., to head the Archdiocese of Chicago, succeeding the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.
  • 2002   Suzan-Lori Parks became the first black woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for drama for her play ''Topdog/Underdog.''
Happy Birthday To
  • 563 B.C.   Buddha (Shakyamuni) (?The Enlightened One? in the Buddhist faith; died Feb 15, 483 B.C.)
  • 1892   Mary Pickford (Gladys Louise Smith) (Academy Award-winning actress: Coquette [1928-29], Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Stella Maris, The Taming of the Shrew, Pollyanna, A Poor Little Rich Girl; died May 29, 1979)
  • 1912   Sonja Henie (ice skater: Norwegian Olympic gold medalist [1928, 1932, 1936]; World Champion [1927 thru 1936]; died Oct 12, 1969)
  • 1968   Patricia Arquette (actress: Flirting with Disaster, Holy Matrimony, True Romance, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors; granddaughter of actor Cliff Arquette and sister of actress Roseanna Arquette)

Read More...

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Democrat Hypocrisy on Filibusters

Hat Tip to Matt at Blogs for Bush for pointing me to this post by Patrick Ruffini Over the weekend, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell unceremoniously inserted himself into the debate over judicial nominations, and his stance against the limiting filibusters were greeted uncritically in mainstream media.

In this weekend's coverage, this is how Mitchell characterized his time as Senate Majority Leader vis a vis the filibuster:

Mitchell said: “Our system of checks and balances is in place for a very good reason. It works. It protects all Americans.”

“During the six years that I served as Senate majority leader, Republicans often used filibusters to achieve their objectives,” Mitchell said. “I didn’t always agree with the results, but I accepted them and we were able to work together on many important issues.
But here's Mitchell on December 2, 1994, speaking to CNN's Bob Franken, reflecting on his tenure in his final days as Majority Leader:
The Senate is unique among legislative institutions in the world, in part because of two rules - one, the unlimited right of debate, which can become a filibuster, and the unrestricted right of amendment.

I think we should keep them, but we should limit the opportunities for their use much more than is now the case. To give you an example - not just an example - to cite some facts to illustrate the need for this, in the entire 19th Century, there were only 16 filibusters, one every six and a half years. In most of this century, they occurred less than once a year. In this Congress just concluded, there were 72 times that we had to file motions to end filibusters.
Note: he does not say Republicans blocked 72 measures, he just said that there were 72 times cloture was invoked to limit discussion, and thereby overcome a possible fillibuster. Also the Republicans NEVER used the fillibuster to block Judicial appointments.
But I think the appropriate course is to say that we retain those provisions which make the Senate the unique institution it is, but we reform them in a way that doesn't lend itself to abuse of those procedures, as occurred in this past Congress.
If the Dems are able to intimidate the Republicans not to use the so-called "Nuclear Option" to prevent use of a fillibuser to block Judicial Appointments, do you think there is ANY chance that if the situation is reversed, and if a Democratic President finds a Democratic Senate can't approve his Judicial Appointments because Republicans are blocking them with a fillibuster that they won't invoke the Nuclear Option? I suspect they will even use it to block the use of the fillibuster on legislation they want passed, something the Republicans have never suggested be done.

Read More...

PlayStation Portable

MacDailyNews reported Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. announced today that the first week sales of the PSP (PlayStation Portable) handheld entertainment system generated more than $150 million at North American retailers, outpacing the launch week sales for any other product in the space. Additionally, demand drove the sell through of over 500,000 PSP Value Packs in the first two days alone

PostGazette described several "hacks", but none of them involve modifying the hardware or installing unlicensed software on the PSP (which would void your warranty), though the last two require that you install software on your PC.

  • Web Browser - The PSP comes with a built-in Wi-Fi antenna that lets you to play games with other PSP users nearby. It also connects to the Internet but there's not much you can do with that connection -- the gadget has no built-in e-mail program or Web browser. However, the game "Wipeout Pure" contains a rudimentary Web browser. It's only there to access a single page, containing game updates, so to gain access to the wider Web a bit of trickery is required. You need to be close to a Wi-Fi hotspot for this to work....
  • Watch Your Movies - The PSP can play movies from a Memory Stick, but only in the MPEG-4 format, which is used by some digital cameras. Here's how to convert your movies and get them on to the device. You'll need a USB A to mini-B cable, available at electronics stores for around $20. For a 90-minute movie, you will probably need a 512-megabyte Memory Stick...
  • Read e-books - One day, you're going to be tired of all those games. Classics of world literature to the rescue! Getting e-books on the PSP is quite a process because the device doesn't read text files or PDFs. Here's how to get around that....
SlashDot said "Volksport has created a new script that allows PSP owners to access IRC from the PSP. The script requires the use of the Wipeout Pure Web browser hack in order to get the PSP online. Once that is done, all you have to do is access this Web page (as the script is server side), and you will be able to chat on the official PSPIRC project IRC channel. Users are currently limited to the PSPIRC chatroom. The script also features virtual PSP keyboard support."

CnnMoney said Other "hacks" include a way to transfer TV shows recorded by the TiVo digital video recorder to the PSP, a program for reading ebooks and a viewer for comics downloaded from the Internet. Much of the new PSP functionality comes from using the Web browser built into the racing game "Wipeout Pure," which was meant to go to a Sony site. By changing some of the PSP's network settings, the browser can be pointed to an Internet portal. A number of people have already set up such portals, formatted to fit in the PSP's screen and offering links and a place to enter Web addresses. The technology blog Engadget has rounded up a number of those links.

Read More...

Becker and Posner

Ideoblog reported that Gary Becker and Richard Posner wrote a very interesting article in the Chicago Tribune about their blog. He said

I was most interested in Posner's comments on why he blogs. In general, I think the quotes in the article line up with observations in my Law and Economics of Blogging: The informality and open access of the blogosphere should be viewed as an important contribution to discourse, not as an invasion of pajama-clad amateurs. Certainly the Becker-Posner example does a lot to improve bloggers' image.Recently Becker and Posner have debated Will China Overtake the U.S., The Bankruptcy Reform Act, The War on Drugs, Judicial Term Limits, Immigration Reform, Medicare Reform, and Tort Reform. The site's a little different in that it doesn't have the daily posting frequently seen in the blogosphere. Posner and Becker decide on a topic, then each writes an entry on it. Both entries are posted about once a week, along with their reactions to comments by readers.

The article, titled SMART BOMBS, with a subtitle: "2 high-powered Chicago thinkers (a Nobel Prize winner and a rabble-rousing federal judge) rattle the blogosphere -- one intellectual grenade at a time" is a very interesting read. For example they said:
  • with Business Week or any other magazine, of course, you get letters to the editor. But with the blog, what would be a letter to the editor is a comment that a reader of the blog can just post. It's much easier than writing a letter, it doesn't have to be formal, you don't need a stamp or anything. It's really simple.

    Then it's very easy for us to read the comments. And we can respond to them. Again, we don't have space or time limitations, we can respond whenever we have a set of interesting comments, then the commenters, they can go back and forth with each other, so the blog stimulates a kind of interchange that isn't really feasible in the print medium.

    And, of course, it's free; we don't get anything and it doesn't cost anything to create the blog; it doesn't cost anything to read it. Once you have [Web access] it's free. You don't have to subscribe, there's no paperwork, no billing. So it has extraordinary flexibility. And autonomy -- you don't negotiate with an editor what you can write about -- you write whatever you want to.
  • What's good about it is that through the comments and through other blogs, as we know from the CBS fiasco, there's extremely rapid communication and correction. So the blogger doesn't have his fact-checking staff, but if you make a mistake, within minutes a bunch of people have descended on you.
  • People can respond immediately. We usually post Sunday night or Monday morning, and the vast majority of comments that we see are in within a couple of days or so. So this instantaneous ability to be in contact with your readership and get responses from your readership I think is unique to the Internet.
The article ends with a list of other popular and influential academic and/or legal blogs:
  • Lessig: A site from technology-law guru Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Stanford Law.
  • Instapundit: Current-affairs site from University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds.
  • Volokh: A group blog addressing legal issues; named for contributor Eugene Volokh, a professor at UCLA's law school.
  • Sentencing: Ohio State law prof Douglas Berman's site is one-stop shopping for latest changes to federal sentencing guidelines.
  • j-bradford-delong: U of C-Berkeley econ prof J. Bradford DeLong tackles economics, politics and current events.


Read More...

Drudge gets competition

MarketWatch reports Matt Drudge has owned the online news/gossip/investigative reporting/scaremongering Web space for almost 10 years. That may be set to end Wednesday, as blog publisher Nick Denton is launching Sploid.com, a tabloid Web site for breaking news with attitude.

"Sploid is a news site with a tabloid mentality -- top stories up top, played big, as fast as they break," Denton said in an e-mail. "If there's a political line, it's anarcho-capitalist -- sniffing out hypocrisy and absurdity, whether from salon left or religious right."


TLA thought Sploid is serious eye candy.... a seedier version of Google News Top Stories that apparently incorporates flickr technology

I took a look at Sploid and thought it looked more like The Onion than Drudge or Google News Top Stories, but "different strokes for different folks" and "your mileage may vary"

Read More...

The Future of Web Search

Leslie Walker hosted an online discussion about the future of Web search with Udi Manber, the CEO of A9.com -- the Amazon.com entry into the crowded online search market and posted the transcript in WaPo.

A9 it is a search engine owned by Amazon.com that uses Google to deliver its underlying Web search results. But A9 adds various personalized extras to how users conduct searches and see results. A few things A9 lets users do:

  • store and search your personal Web browsing and search history
  • save and edit bookmarks online for access from any computer
  • jot notes about sites in a personal diary
  • get recommendations of sites A9 thinks you might enjoy
I recommend people interested in search engines read the transcript

Read More...

Nanotech Swarms

NASA takes the first step to developing Shape-Shifting Robot Nanotech Swarms to send to Mars

As the engineers watched like anxious new parents, the robot pyramid traveled across the floor of a lab at NASA Goddard. Robots of this type will eventually be miniaturized and joined together to form "autonomous nanotechnology swarms" (ANTS) that alter their shape to flow over rocky terrain or to create useful structures like communications antennae and solar sails.

In the leadin to this item, NASA refers to them as nanotechnology, with a bunch of nanorobots moving like a giant amoeba over the rugged terrain, flowing around large rocks and over small ones, and growing stalks that carry instruments. CSM and USA Today also talked about a swarm of microscopic robots — so-called nanobots — that could change its function and shape at will. NASA is going to have to do a LOT of minaturization before these things can be called microscopic.
"This prototype is the first step toward developing a revolutionary type of robot spacecraft with major advantages over current designs," said Dr. Steven Curtis, Principal Investigator for the ANTS project, a collaboration between Goddard and NASA's Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va. Using advanced animation tools, Langley is developing rover operational scenarios for the ANTS project.



The robot is called "TETwalker" for tetrahedral walker, because it resembles a tetrahedron (a pyramid with 3 sides and a base). In the prototype, electric motors are located at the corners of the pyramid, which are called nodes. The nodes are connected to struts which form the sides of the pyramid. The struts telescope like the legs of a camera tripod, and the motors in the nodes are used to expand or retract the struts. This allows the pyramid to move: changing the length of its sides alters the pyramid's center of gravity, causing it to topple over. The nodes also pivot, giving the robot great flexibility.

In January, 2005, the prototype was shipped to McMurdo station in Antarctica to test it under harsh conditions more like those on Mars. The test indicated some modifications will increase its performance; for example, placing the motors in the middle of the struts rather than at the nodes will simplify the design of the nodes and increase their reliability.

Read More...

Right to Exist

FrontPage magazine reported A friend of mine asked me how I would answer the following question: "By what right does Israel exist?

The last 65 years of Arab hate-speech, hate-preach, and hate-teach make it pretty clear that some significant part of the Arab world really does not want Israel to exist.

Most of them also believe that Christians have no right to exist either. They think that Islam is the only legitimate religion, and all others (Judiasm in the case of Israel, Christianity in the case of the US, Hinduism in the case of India, have no right to exist)
That same segment really does the best it can to end Israel's existence, with 65 years of terror war punctuated by 3 major attempts at invasion, conquest, and destruction. The rhetoric of annihilation and the diatribe of genocide match the actions of these same Arab states, whose commitment of massive resources to the destruction of Israel is an implicit rejection of Israel's right to exist....

In my opinion.... no country in the world and throughout all of history has a right to exist. No country in the world exists today by virtue of its 'right'. All countries exist today by virtue of their ability to defend themselves against those who seek their destruction.

Take Tibet, for example, and Israel for the opposite example.

Tibet did nothing to threaten or anger China. No aggression, no threat of aggression. But in 1950, China invaded Tibet and ended Tibet's existence as a nation. The world did nothing (except create some bumper stickers). As with all nations, Tibet had no right to exist. It existed only as long as it was not attacked. When it was attacked and could not defend itself adequately, nor garner support for its continued existence from the world's family of nations or from the world's governing body, it ceased to exist.

The same would be true of Israel, except that Israel has defended itself adequately.
More than adequately, IMHO. In the Six Day War they really kicked a$$
Israel's continued existence is not by right, but only by its ability to defend itself against the Arab and Moslem world that seeks her destruction. And if it were ever unable to defend itself, it would soon share Tibet's fate. Or worse.

All nations throughout the world and across history came into existence by virtue of their ability to conquer some other country or people or tribe or indigenous inhabitants. Violence, murder, war, rapine, conquest, massacres, burning, looting, pillaging, and sometimes even genocide: those are the costs of nation creation in the real world, throughout all of history.

The only known exception to this gallery of historical horrors is the modern state of Israel. Israel came into existence by virtue of:
  1. its ability to buy land with the help of world-wide Jewish and Christian Zionists
  2. its ability to reclaim deteriorated waste land
  3. its ability to organize itself in its pre-state existence into a viable well-governed cohesive society with a developing and expanding economy and an effective defensive force.
  4. its ability, via lobbying and political leveraging, to get the world governing body to vote it into existence
In sharp contradistinction to the manner in which all other nations have been created, Israel came into existence by legal, peaceful, constructive processes....

So why pick on Israel? Because the question has nothing to do with an inquiry into Israel's rights or lack thereof. It is simply a mechanism for the launching of an anti-Israel diatribe. Its real purpose is to open an avenue of attack, to bash Israel, de-legitimize her, denigrate her; and ultimately to justify the Arab world's desire to destroy her.

In the absence of any inquiry into the right of infinitely more reprehensible societies—Russia, China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Libya, Mauritania, Sudan, inter alia, come to mind—why condemn Israel as a rogue state with no right to exist? Why not start with the worst offenders?

Why de-legitimize Israel for a conquest (which actually did not happen, but that's a different article) that was far less destructive than that of the Arab states whose Jihad in the 7th to 9th centuries racked up tens, if not hundreds, of millions of casualties and destroyed four ancient civilizations (Byzantine, Coptic, Sassanian, and Berber). Why not start with the most horrific of conquerors? Because the purpose of the question is to attack Israel and justify those who attack Israel!

The bottom line is that if you think Israel has no right to exist, you are right. And I'm sure that Hitler would agree with you wholeheartedly.


Ted Belman: blogged Paul Eidelberg, in his great treatise, Jewish Statesmanship, posits the same thing. Why? Because it is self evident. This being the case, why is Israel weakening its ability to defend itself in exchange for an acknowledgement of its right to exist or even a peace agreement. It wouldn't be the first time that the Arabs have violated an agreement or an acknowledgement. There is no such thing as a right to exist because there is no one to enforce the right. A nation must have the power to exist.

I believe they are doing it for strategic reasons. Sharon is not withdrawing from Gaza because he does not believe in settlements (he is the father of the settlement movement), but because he hopes that the weakneed Europeans will see it as a reasonable action, and then he will allow the Palestinian State to be formed with the promise to live in peace with Israel. He knows there is not a chance they will keep their word.

In July 1922, the League of Nations entrusted Great Britain with the Mandate for Palestine. Recognizing "the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine," Great Britain was called upon to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine-Eretz Israel (Land of Israel). Shortly afterwards, in September 1922, the League of Nations and Great Britain decided that the provisions for setting up a Jewish national home would not apply to the area east of the Jordan River, which constituted three-fourths of the territory included in the Mandate and which eventually became the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.



The resulting map provides an area (then called Palestine) which would have been a defendable area for the state of Israel. I don't see how the 1967 boundaries are really defensible (although Israel has done a good job defending them). But they just encouraged the Arabs to try to take over the rest and control all of the area. If they agree to living in peace with Israel to get a Palestinian State, and then immediately violate that agreement (which they will), hopefully Israel will push them back across the Jordan, and get a defensible State of Israel.

Read More...

Evidence

In NRO Larry Kudlow reported Evidence, Evidence, and More Evidence
Lower tax rates spur economic growth. End of story.

An opinion piece by reporter Anna Bernasek in last Sunday’s New York Times actually argues that there’s no real evidence that lower tax rates spur economic growth. Bernasek finds a couple of economists to back up her idea before concluding that tax “reform based on a notion that taxes are bad for the economy is just that: a notion not backed by strong evidence.”

Let me beg to differ in a very strong way.... In our capitalist free-market system, strengthening the link between effort and reward has proven to work time and again. I respectfully disagree with Anna Bernasek and the New York Times. More tax freedom will always fuel our free economy.


Extreme Leftwing Matthew Yglesias blogged I'm sticking with my line that conservative lack of substantive policy knowledge is a much bigger problem than the liberal lack of philosophizing. To get a good sense of where things have gotten to, take a look at Larry Kudlow coming out against "academic-style econometric finagling" as a way to assess the impact of tax rates on economic growth. After all, who needs finagling when you've got "the laws of common sense." Needless to say, only a lunatic like Paul Krugman would think that contemporary conservatism has become hostile to the basic methods of scholarly inquiry.... He cites a few academics in defense of his proposition, which is good of him, but then he goes on to disparage the very concept of engeging in "academic-style" reasoning, which he prefers to call "finagling." Obviously, Kudlow cares not a whit about what the actual empirical research shows

At least Kudlow specifically cited a few academics in defense of his proposition. Yglesias does not cite ANY sources for what he calls the actual empirical research

Kevin Drum blogged Matt is right to point to this piece of nitwittish writing from Larry Kudlow, one of National Review's seemingly endless stable of embarrassing shills on economic matters. Commenting on a perfectly sound and well backed up article in the New York Times that highlights the embarrassing lack of evidence to support the notion that tax cuts increase economic growth, Kudlow says

That is a good way to show you know what you are talking about. You belittle the opposition. Kevin does go on to at least quote some sources to try to prove his point that there is no correlation between taxes and growth, showing a graph indicating "declining growth rates" and then saying "the total tax take in the United States has only gone up from 24% of GDP to about 28% of GDP in the past half century. That's just not enough to have much of an effect on anything" and then ends with "we have plenty of scope to raise taxes if it's necessary to fund programs we want to fund." which shows the left's real objective - raise taxes to fund programs THEY want to fund.

apostropher blogged You'd think that the right-wing clown brigade would eventually get tired of being wrong about everything. But you'd be mistaken.

Another ad hominum attack

Read More...

The US and the UN

Reuters reported The U.S. Senate voted on Wednesday to reduce the U.S. share of U.N. peacekeeping costs, a plan backers said would boost the Bush administration's negotiating power in lowering its dues and pressing for U.N. reforms. Reflecting frustration over allegations of U.N. mismanagement and corruption, the Senate agreed to a Republican-backed measure to reduce the cap on the U.S. share of U.N. peacekeeping costs to 25 percent from the current 27.1 percent. It rejected 40-57 a Democratic amendment to keep the current cap for at least two more years.

"The negotiations at the U.N. regarding U.N. reform and the lowering of U.N. peacekeeping dues is under way. Let us ensure that our next ambassador to the United Nations has an opportunity to go to New York and work on this issue," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican. If the measure becomes law, it will give the administration a stronger argument to persuade the United Nations to lower U.S. dues.


NYT reported A former chief of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research is expected to testify in opposition to John R. Bolton's nomination as ambassador to the United Nations when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds hearings on Mr. Bolton next week.

With one Republican member, Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, reserving final judgment, the committee's approval of Mr. Bolton's nomination does not appear to be certain, senior Congressional officials said.


These two stories are related. The Senate voted to cut back on US dues to the UN because of frustration over allegations of U.N. mismanagement and corruption, and Bolton was nominated to encourage the UN to clean up those problems.

Read More...

Reuters reported The U.S. Senate voted on Wednesday to reduce the U.S. share of U.N. peacekeeping costs, a plan backers said would boost the Bush administration's negotiating power in lowering its dues and pressing for U.N. reforms. Reflecting frustration over allegations of U.N. mismanagement and corruption, the Senate agreed to a Republican-backed measure to reduce the cap on the U.S. share of U.N. peacekeeping costs to 25 percent from the current 27.1 percent. It rejected 40-57 a Democratic amendment to keep the current cap for at least two more years.

"The negotiations at the U.N. regarding U.N. reform and the lowering of U.N. peacekeeping dues is under way. Let us ensure that our next ambassador to the United Nations has an opportunity to go to New York and work on this issue," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican. If the measure becomes law, it will give the administration a stronger argument to persuade the United Nations to lower U.S. dues.


NYT reported A former chief of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research is expected to testify in opposition to John R. Bolton's nomination as ambassador to the United Nations when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds hearings on Mr. Bolton next week.

With one Republican member, Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, reserving final judgment, the committee's approval of Mr. Bolton's nomination does not appear to be certain, senior Congressional officials said.


These two stories are related. The Senate voted to cut back on US dues to the UN because of frustration over allegations of U.N. mismanagement and corruption, and Bolton was nominated to encourage the UN to clean up those problems.

Read More...

CQ rattles Canadian Liberals

NYT reports An American blogger has suddenly emerged as a force in Canadian politics.

Edward Morrissey, a 42-year-old Minneapolis area call-center manager who runs a Web log, or blog, called Captain's Quarters as a hobby, last Saturday began posting allegations of corruption that reached the highest levels of the Canadian Liberal Party. The postings violate a publication ban instituted a few days earlier by a federal judge, Justice John Gomery, who is leading an investigation into accusations of money laundering and kickbacks in a government program from the 1990's that was aimed at undermining Quebec separatists.

The scandal, which involves government payments of up to $85 million to a handful of Montreal advertising firms for little or no work, has dominated national politics for a year and led to the Liberals losing their majority in the House of Commons last June....

Mr. Morrissey said his blog had been flooded since Canadian CTV television first reported on its existence and contents Sunday night, and that he was now getting 400,000 hits a day.

"This is a historic moment for blogs," Mr. Morrissey said in a telephone interview. "The point of having free speech and a free press is to have people informed. These information bans are self-defeating for free societies. The politicians know, the media knows, but the Canadian voters are left in the dark and that's a backwards way of doing things."

Mr. Morrissey characterized himself as a libertarian conservative who had written extensively on his blog about Federal Election Commission regulations, free speech and foreign affairs.


Captain Ed blogged One complaint that Americans receive from Canadians, and deservedly so, is how little our media covers Canadian issues, leaving Americans poorly informed of the affairs of our northern neighbors. I don't believe it to be deliberate, but in an effort to cover global hot spots, our media gives Canada short shrift. I wondered when I started writing about Adscam when the American media would pick up on the story, if at all, since it held the real possibility of toppling the government.

Ironically, the tremendous interest from Canada in this blog has caught the notice of American media and put Adscam in our newspapers. Yesterday and this morning, several articles appeared around the country, including an interview I did with the New York Times which went out on their wire service to newspapers all over.


An Active Mind blogged The mainstream American media has picked up the Gomery story (New York Times, American Spectator) which basically renders the publication ban useless as now just about anyone who can use Google can easily find all the info that is required to circumvent the ban. It will be interesting to see if Gomery lifts the ban now that Brault and Guite's trials have been pushed out a month.

DustMyBroom has a very large number of links

FlapsBlog blogged A few days ago we published a very long list of blogs who were either ignoring or flaunting the publication ban of the Canadian Adscam scandel. Now, it is time for a round-up of opinion and commentary pieces both here and in Canada while we await the latest news from the inquiry as to the fate of the publication ban.

The Big Trunk blogged In its own backyard the Minneapolis Star Tribune narrowly avoided being scooped by the Times: "Eagan blogger fans Canadian scandal." The Star Tribune demonstrates its superior attention to the local scene by correctly identifying the relevant municipality in the headline, and its superiority over the St. Paul Pioneer Press by discovering the story.

Orrin Judd blogged Shouldn't the scandal itself be the bigger story?

I am glad that American Bloggers were able to assist their Canadian brethren by posting things they were not allowed to post.

Read More...

Saddam 'upset'

Guardian reported Saddam Hussein watched the televised election of Iraq's new president from his jail cell yesterday and was "clearly upset", a senior official said.

Jalal Talabani, a former Kurdish guerrilla commander and sworn enemy of Saddam, was elected to the highest office in a parliamentary ballot, bringing a new government a step closer.

Under Saddam the only way Mr Talabani would have left his northern redoubt was in chains or a coffin, but yesterday he arrived in Baghdad in a blaze of triumph.


CQ blogged Imagine that you are the dictator of an oil-rich country, where your whims are law and any irritating presence gets immediately dispatched. Potentates bow before you; heads of state from Western nations greedily take your kickbacks in order to help you sell your natural resources to the highest bidder, and in exchange continually thwart your enemies. You've managed to consolidate all power into the hands of your family and closest cronies, and the only question about your death is which of your sons to put on the throne after you.

Then imagine that all of the money you've paid out in bribes and kickbacks stops working, and that your partners in graft can't stop the world's most powerful military force in history from grinding your army into mincemeat in a matter of weeks. Your sons put up a better fight than you do, dying in a hail of bullets, while you get hauled out of a glorified latrine hole in the middle of the desert without even firing a shot in your own defense. The liberators toss you into a cell where they leave you in the care of your former victims, who leave you and the rest of your retinue to watch TV until they can figure out the best way to deal with you.

Sitting there in your cell, you fantasize about the stupidity of your former subjects. You thought they were nothing more than dogs when you were in charge; you knew they needed someone to tell them what to do and how to live. Perhaps you laugh at the notion that anyone could possibly expect the diverse population that you controlled with such an iron grip to get together and govern themselves rationally as a nation. You prepare for the day when the entire country collapses in on itself and the people once again turn to you to lead them out of chaos.

Then one day, you turn on the TV, and see this:


Bebeaux blogged I would have loved to have seen Saddam's reaction, watching a Kurd address the Iraqi people. After all of Saddam's brutal oppression and outright murder of Kurds and Shi'ites, he watched a Kurd who was freely given the title he himself claimed a couple of years ago -- President of Iraq.

Stephen Pollard blogged The poor dear

Ann Althouse blogged Beautiful!

Saddam was upset by the first television he had seen in 16 months. Don't we all feel sorry for him? NOT!!!

Read More...

Thursday, April 7

This Day In History

  • 1862   Gen. Ulysses S. Grant defeated the Confederates at the battle of Shiloh.
  • 1864   The first camel race in America was held. Nope -- not in the Mojave Desert; but in Sacramento, California.
  • 1927   U.S. secretary of commerce Herbert Hoover’s Washington speech was seen and heard in New York in the first long-distance television transmission.
  • 1940   Booker T. Washington became the first black to be pictured on a U.S. postage stamp. His likeness was issued on a 10-cent stamp this day.
  • 1948   The World Health Organization, a UN agency, was founded.
  • 1949   Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s Pulitzer Prize winner, South Pacific opened on Broadway. 1953   The U.N. General Assembly elected Dag Hammarskjold of Sweden to be secretary-general.
  • 1957   New York City's last electric trolley completed its final run from Queens to Manhattan.
  • 1969   The Supreme Court unanimously struck down laws prohibiting private possession of obscene material.
  • 1970   John Wayne, a movie veteran of over 200 films, won his first and only Oscar. The Duke earned an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in "True Grit", also starring Kim Darby and Glen Campbell.
  • 1992   PLO chairman Yasser Arafat survived the crash-landing of his plane in the Libyan desert; three crew members were killed.
  • 1994   Hutu extremists in Rwanda began massacring ethnic Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus. In 100 days of killing, an estimated 800,000 are murdered.
  • 2001   NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft took off on a six-month, 286-million-mile journey to the red planet.
  • 2001   An unarmed black man wanted on 14 misdemeanor warrants was fatally shot by a white police officer in Cincinnati, sparking three days of riots.
  • 2003   C√©cile de Brunhoff, creator of Babar the elephant, died.
  • 2003   The Supreme Court voted 6-3 to uphold a 50-year-old Virginia law making it a crime to burn a cross as an act of intimidation.
Happy Birthday To
  • 1786   William King (13th U.S. Vice President: 1st VP to have served in both the House of Representatives and the Senate; took the only presidential or vice presidential oath ever administered outside of the United States [Havana, Cuba]; died Apr 18, 1853 [a month after taking that oath])
  • 1897   Walter Winchell (vaudeville performer, journalist, gossip columnist: New York Mirror, radio commentator: “Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea.”; died Feb 20, 1972)
  • 1915   Billie Holiday (Eleanora Fagan) (‘Lady’: jazz singer: Lover Man, They Can’t Take that Away from Me, Fine and Mellow, Don’t Explain, Strange Fruit, God Bless the Child; died July 17, 1959)
  • 1928   James Garner (James Scott Bumgarner) (actor: The Rockford Files, Maverick, The Americanization of Emily, Victor/Victoria, Tank, A Man Called Sledge, Duel at Diablo, The Distinguished Gentleman, My Fellow Americans, Space Cowboys)
  • 1931   Daniel Ellsberg (author: known for releasing Pentagon Papers to the NY Times)
  • 1933   Wayne Rogers (actor: M*A*S*H, Cool Hand Luke, Passion in Paradise, Pocket Money, The Killing Time, Chiefs, The Gig)
  • 1939   Francis Ford Coppola (Academy Award-winning director: The Godfather: Part II [1974], screenwriter: Patton [1970], The Godfather [1973], The Godfather: Part II [1974]; The Godfather: Part III, Apocalypse Now, Finian’s Rainbow, Peggy Sue Got Married)
  • 1939   David Frost (TV host: That Was the Week that Was, The David Frost Show)
Thanks to On This Day and Those Were The Days

Read More...

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Google Syndication

Steve Rubel blogged For over a year now I have been wondering why Google hasn't more openly embraced syndicated feeds – be they RSS or its splintered sister, Atom. When you look at how MSN and Yahoo are partying with RSS like it is 1999, Google is like the nerd sitting in the corner in the corner with no one to dance with.

Before I continue, let's look what Google, Yahoo and MSN are already doing with feeds. In Google's case every Blogger blog and Google Group publishes a feed. In addition, Gmail publishes a feed as well. However, Google does not offer any Google News or Google Web Alert feeds.

The significant thing to understand is that when Google provide me a feed for my blog or a Google Group I started and drew participants to, or to email sent to my Gmail account, they are just the host, and are allowing me or others access to my words
On the flip side Yahoo and MSN are offering RSS feeds that not only drive users away from their properties (such as search results and news alerts), but also the kinds of feeds that also alert users when they have posted new content that is relevant to them (such as music alerts).
I am not familiar with the search results (I need to check into that), but news alerts and music alerts use my email to pull me to their service, and Google offers news alerts as well
That leads to an "aha" moment. Google views syndication drastically differently than its competitors. On the Web Google is all about driving people away from their sites. Once they've shown them an Adwords ad they had their opportunity to collect a dollar, so why not give the users what they need and send them on their way. However, when it comes to syndicated feeds they use it as a tool to drive users to their services and that’s why they are syndication shy. Remember Autolinking? I rest my case.
The certainly caught criticism for autolinking, in which they would modify my web page on the fly to insert links I did not intend to be there
Feeds may be Google's greatest enemy. If Google did offer feeds that connected users with the information they are looking for from the Web they would miss the opportunity to advertise to them. What will remedy this? Google will incorporate contextual Adwords ads into these kinds of feeds, much like Overture has done. What’s taking so long? Beats me.

Dotwind blogged I am gonna have to disagree with Steve on this one. Yes they do want the customer to click and go away but they also want repeat business. Also, they don't want their customers going to their competitors. They have been running Google News for a couple of years and it's not generating any revenue for them other than attracting visitors to their search results where they can display the ads.

This last point is I think where Steve got a bit confused. Google wants customers to leave their website by clicking on ads, but they also have to guarantee a stream of new visitors and repeat visitors. And what's a better way to do this other than an Rss feed for it's news and search results.


RexBlog blogged While we're asking that question, I just visited Drudge for the first time in months (years?) and am wondering why he doesn't offer a feed? If it's a revenue issue, Steve's suggestion for how Google could make money would work for him, as well.

TDavid commented Prediction: Adsense in RSS by year end 2005. I'm hearing rumblings already about it (nothing official though). When that happens, I think we'll see Google be all over RSS. They clearly have put too much stock into Atom.

Read More...

HeyPix!

CNET Networks acquired Windup Labs, the creators of HeyPix!. Basically, in a nutshell, HeyPix! is becoming part of the CNET Networks family and more specifically, part of Webshots and its 20 million member photo sharing community.

Microsoft Geek Blogger said This might just be a bigger photo deal than Flickr going to Yahoo. Here's why.

It's joining Webshots. Now, don't know about Webshots? I didn't either until recently. But Webshots has 23 million members (Flickr has less than a million). and they get 750,000 uploads a day. More uploads in five days than Flickr has had in all of its existence. And HeyPix's team is going to add on some killer new technology to Webshots, James [James Park, president of Windup Labs] tells me. (He showed me his app at a geek dinner earlier in the year and we've kept in touch since then).

Read More...

Trackback

James Joyner blogged Dean Esmay is getting sufficiently tired of trackback spam that he's considering doing away with the feature altogether. Kathy Kinsley has more or less cured that problem at OTB, although I still get dozens of e-mails to delete that are autogenerated by the spamming attempt.

Dean asks an interesting question: "How many of you out there actually follow trackbacks?"

My guess is that few non-bloggers do, whereas most bloggers do. Certainly, trackbacks are invaluable as a means of networking within the blogosphere and a key way for up-and-coming sites to get noticed. As a reader-blogger, I find myself more irritated with sites that lack trackbacks (or don't make the trackback URL easy to find) than with sites lacking a comment feature.


Matt (Matt's Blog)commented Aside from my first thing in the morning reads, I use trackbacks almost exclusively to surf. If you only use your blogroll, you’ll never find anything new.

I commented I certainly follow trackbacks, to find additional blogs that address a particular subject. I particularly like them when I am blogging an item on my blog, so that I can quote what other bloggers have thought about the same topic. If I quote a blog and if it offers a TrackBack, I also attempt to do a trackback to my blog’s entry so the quoted blogger can see if I have quoted him correctly.

I hope that you will continue trackbacks.


Dean Esmay blogged I'm seriously considering disabling trackbacks. Dean's World gets something on the order of a hundred trackback spams a day. While the fine folks at Powerblogs have added a filtering feature, it's still a grind to have to ban so many trackbacks a day.

How many of you out there actually follow trackbacks?


Chris Short blogged I know I sure do and I get tons of trackback spam too.

I decided to do some research about TrackBack Spam

Photo Matt blogged The flood of truly vile Trackback spam today sadly confirms what I was worried about months ago: if we lock down commenting (with things like WP Hashcash and Typekey) it’ll just push them to Trackback. All the captcha in the world won’t fix Trackback. Our last line of defense is the content-based filters like Spam Karma, Spaminator, and Three Strikes.

Hermann commented Rather than trackback moderation I think this calls for Pingback

Matt commented WordPress, of course, supports Pingback. Obviously we need a way to deactivate trackbacks but leave pingbacks on.

Sparticus commented How is pingback different from trackback with advanced moderation that’s defaulted to off? If you’ve got pingback to notify you by e-mail (which you logically would have) then it looks like a pretty sweet way of getting spam back into e-mails.

Richard@Home (his blog) commented I’m currently beta testing some automatic anti trackback spam (I get thousands a day) on my blog.
So far so good. Not ONE has got through :-) I’ll be blogging the results (and the code) sometime (hopefully) in the next week.


Jonas M Luster commented One of the things, I find intrigueing about Drupal, is the fact that it handles trackbacks just like most other content submissions, and therefore allows its users to apply the same bayesian filter pool to them. http://www.b19s.org had a fair bit of trackback spams lately, and all but one got caught in the SPAM filter. Another idea would be to parse the sending URL for an occurence of the trackbacked string.

Todd commented I actually went a couple steps further… I tracked down the trackback spammers to their hosts and ISP’s and reported them, logging everything they were doing and every IP# they were using and bugging the crap out of the hosts and ISP’s until something was done.

Lo and behold, I haven’t seen hide nor hair of 5 trackback spammers that were abusing the priviledge severely. Sucking up my bandwidth hasn’t been an issue for the past month after this phenomena had been happening to my blog. I may be going to extremes, but it works instead of going in and fiddling with any code.

I have even e-mailed them pretty much threatening them with reporting them to their ISP’s and hosts and getting such nice letter asking me to e-mail them URL’s so I can get off the lists so my site isn’t spidered. I have usually reported them anyway, so it makes no difference to me, but they can get real nice, real fast when you play hardball. ;)


Tom Keating commented I was hit with 2 trackbacks from a WordPress blogger that reference similar content on his blog, but when I checked to see if my blog’s link was there, it was not.

He probably entered in a manual ping to my blog and didn’t put my URL in. But I wonder if someone could do automate this to try and make it appear like a legitimate trackback.

For example:
1) I write about Skype in my blog
2) A blogger (who spams) also writes a blog about Skype.
3) Blogger spammer does a Google query on “Skype” and pings all the URLs listed in the search query using the excerpt of his “Skype” blog entry, so it appears legit.
4) Blogger gets trackback “links” that appear to be legitimate, but he doesn’t “reciprocate” the link.

Perhaps this has even happened already or is happening? If so, that makes it much more difficult to find the trackback spam.

thoughts?

p.s. Hope I haven’t given the spammers any ideas! LOL!


See also Learning Movable Type: Trackback Spam, Fighting Trackback Spam (WordPress users), WordPress Support, ScriptyGoddess, MT Blacklist.

Read More...

Net speeds

A good friend brought this to my attention USAToday reported If you think that today's high-speed Internet connections are fast, wait till you see what cable operators plan. The industry's standard-settings unit, CableLabs, plans to endorse this month technology that will let operators boost speeds 400% to 1,600%, over their existing lines. Motorola and Cisco are among the companies offering alternative methods to increase broadband speeds by linking together the bandwidth used for four or more conventional TV channels.

What would the faster speed bring?

"The sky's the limit," says CableLabs CEO Dick Green. "There are a lot of high-data-rate services lurking out there — including a lot that we haven't even thought of." While cable operators now usually transmit broadband at 3 million bits per second (3MB), a download of "a billion bits per second is completely doable," Comcast CEO Brian Roberts told the industry's annual convention here this week. "The network could do this quite easily." That could dramatically affect how people use the Internet when the new modems to handle the speeds arrive, which is expected to be in 2008.

Read More...

Wednesday, April 6

This Day In History

  • 1830   The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was organized by Joseph Smith in Fayette, N.Y.
  • 1862   The Civil War Battle of Shiloh began in Tennessee.
  • 1896   The first modern Olympic Games opened in Athens, Greece.
  • 1909   Commodore Robert Peary became the first man to reach the North Pole -- not counting Santa Claus, of course. Actually, Robert Peary and Matthew H. Henson, Peary’s servant, were the first men to reach the North Pole. Because Henson was a black, hired man, his presence at this historic moment was not recognized until 1945 when he received a medal for outstanding service in the field of science from the U.S. government.
  • 1917   U.S. declared war on Germany and entered World War I.
  • 1927   William P. MacCracken, Jr. earned license number ‘1’ when the Department of Commerce issued the first aviator’s license.
  • 1957   Trolley cars in New York City completed their final runs on this day.
  • 1958   Arnold Palmer won his first major pro golf tournament by capturing the Masters in Augusta, GA (and the coveted green jacket). Palmer defeated defending champion Dough Ford for the honor. Palmer was 28 years old and had been a pro since 1954 after he won the National Amateur title.
  • 1983   Interior Secretary James Watt banned the Beach Boys from the 4th of July celebration on the Washington Mall, saying rock 'n' roll bands attract the ''wrong element.''
  • 1987   Los Angeles Dodgers executive Al Campanis said on ABC's ''Nightline'' that blacks ''may not have some of the necessities'' to hold managerial jobs in major-league baseball.
  • 1992   Science-fiction author Isaac Asimov died at age 72.
  • 1994   Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun announced his retirement after 24 years.
  • 1994   The presidents of Rwanda and Burundi were killed in a plane crash near Rwanda's capital; widespread violence erupted in Rwanda over claims the plane had been shot down.
  • 1998   The Dow Jones industrial average closed above 9,000 points for the first time.
  • 1998   Pakistan successfully tested a medium-range missile capable of striking neighboring India.
  • 1998   Country singer Tammy Wynette died in Nashville, Tenn., at age 55.
  • 2000   The father of Elian Gonzalez, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, arrived in the United States to press for the return of his 6-year-old son to Cuba.
  • 2001   Algerian national Ahmed Ressam, accused of bringing explosives into the United States just days before the millennium celebrations, was convicted twice in the same day   first in France for belonging to a group supporting Islamic militants, then in Los Angeles on terror charges.
  • 2001   Pacific Gas and Electric filed for bankruptcy.
Happy Birthday To
  • 1882   Rose Schneiderman (U.S. women’s rights activist: organized 1913 strike of 25,000 women blouse makers & ILGWU (International Ladies Garment Workers Union); president of WTUL; only woman member of F.D.R.’s Labor Advisory Board; died Aug 11, 1972)
  • 1892   Lowell Thomas (reporter, journalist: New York Daily News; newscaster: NBC radio, CBS radio, NPR radio: Lowell Thomas Remembers; “So long, until tomorrow.”; died Aug 29, 1981)
  • 1929   Andr√© (Ludwig) Previn (pianist, composer; Oscar-winning film scores: Gigi, Porgy and Bess, Irma La Douce, My Fair Lady; conductor: Pittsburgh Symphony, London & LA Philharmonic Orchestras)
  • 1952   Marilu Henner (Mary Lucy Denise Pudlowski) (actress: Taxi, Evening Shade, Cannonball Run 2)

Read More...

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Google Maps

Google purchased Keyhole last October and dropped the access price to $29.95, but as their blog reports incorporated Keyhole technology into Google Maps and Google Local. Now when you type an address into Google Maps, you can click the 'Satellite' link and see a view of the area. You can zoom, move the view by dragging, and even resize the window just like the normal 'Maps' view.

For example I did a Google Map search for my house, and got

I then clicked on Satellite

and got



As DirectionsMag reports Coverage is limited to about half of the U.S. according to Keyhole's general manage, speaking to the Associated Press. One blogger reports "the satellite images are currently only available for North American addresses but will be introduced for other regions as the year progresses."

The imagery is from DigitalGlobe and EarthSat. That leads to some interesting seams between different resolution images, and those acquired at different times of year. One area I viewed had vibrant sharp (high resolution) green fields on one side with a brown, fuzzy landscape on the other. The best resolution I found allowed the viewing of cars - so it's likely three meter data at best. Keyhole's website notes that it has high resolution imagery for certain areas, for example, down to 3" resolution in Cambridge, Massachusetts. That detail does not seem to be available via Google Maps. Further, what data are available are watermarked "© 2005 Google." While that may frustrate geospatial data users, from a commercial standpoint, Google is making the correct decisions regarding resolution choices and watermarking at this point.

No "flying" is available in this version; that requires the subscription version of Keyhole. Keyhole is noted for its "3D fly overs," which put the company on the map during the early part of the Iraq war. Still, panning and zooming with the images are as fast as with the old "map" option.

Those following the announcement expect that this move will prompt Google Maps competitors to jump into imagery. Recall that MapQuest did have free imagery, from GlobeXplorer for a brief time, but the deal ended in 2004. MapQuest's FAQ regarding imagery simply provides a link to GlobeXplorer. Other mapping portals, including National Geographic's Map Machine and ESRI's MapShop, incorporate GlobeXplorer's technology and imagery.

The other company that should be concerned, some say, is Amazon's A9 search engine which recently began offering photos of the faces of businesses. I see that as a separate set of data; seeing the front of a business is quite different from seeing roofs. Recall that most people are very familiar with looking at businesses' front doors, but are less experienced in aerial imagery interpretation.


Orin Kerr blogged This story about the service focuses on the privacy concerns, which seem relatively modest now but will become quite troubling if and when the resolution of the maps improves.

Notably, Google has blacked out or blurred some areas with national security importance. For example, this picture of the White House has the contour of the buildings blacked out. Interestingly, Congress's image is blurred while the Supreme Court's is clear: see the picture of both here.


Gordon Smith blogged This thing is addictive!

Read More...

Daughter of the Enlightenment

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a Dutch legislator who has rejected her Muslim faith to become an outspoken advocate for "European values." It's a cause that some of her opponents want her to die for.

NYT Magazine reports Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who was born in Somalia and has been a member of the Dutch Parliament since January 2003, had endorsed the view that Islam is a backward religion, condemned the way women live under it and said that by today's standards, the prophet Muhammad would be considered a perverse tyrant. She had also announced that she was no longer a believing Muslim. The punishment for such apostasy is, according to strict interpretations of Islam, death.

jdubner blogged When I saw the article and the byline, I admit, I was somewhat skeptical. I expected a hagiography of the immigrant woman who, for the crime of speaking out against the treatment of women in traditional Muslim societies, earned a death warrant impaled on the slain body of her friend, the provocative commentator Theo van Gogh. But Caldwell defied my expectations. He painted an accurate picture of her role in the great Dutch debate over multiculturalism, all the while giving fair treatment to Ali’s liberal detractors. I, for one, have mixed feelings about her. And while the article was appropriately sympathetic to the plight of a woman driven into hiding for the simple fact that she threatens conventions of conservative Islam by speaking her mind, I still have a hard time endorsing someone whose insulting comments about the person of Muhammad are not dissimilar to the kind of insults hurled by Jerry Falwell.

Pieter Dorsman blogged It's not a total coincidence that the 'value debate' in Holland has primarily been conducted by a gay professor, an unruly film director and a Somali immigrant, two of whom are now dead. There simply is no appetite among the ordinary Dutch to engage themselves in a debate about their future by changing political parties from within and find an appealing and electable leader of whatever political stripe to steer the discussion in the direction of results.

Yourish blogged Muslim ERA Watch: Via Charles Johnson, an excellent profile in the Times Magazine of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali Dutch woman who is under constant death threats for her criticism of Islam.

LGF blogged An amazingly sympathetic portrait of Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali

lowandslow commented What a woman. WOW.

realwest commented What a courageous woman. And if the freckle faced young "man" was indeed 24 or older, he needs to a) find his soul and b) assuming he finds it, look deep within it.

Alone in NY commented Can someone explain why this brave freedom fighter is not the poster child of the women's movement in this country?

Gagdad Bob commented Are you sure this is from the NY Times? Their fact chuckers must be asleep at the switch.

Final Historian commented Anyone want to take bets on how long before CAIR demands this be pulled? I am guessing 2 days.

mich-again commented awesome read and thank you NYT for bringing her to the spotlight. If the Leftists who read the NYT can recognize that her cause deserves support, then maybe the R&L in the USA can finally find some common ground. When that happens, look out!

Read More...