Saturday, March 12, 2005

No Easter Bunny

As Michelle Malkin said, with the War on Christmas behind us, it's time for the War on Easter to begin.

Multiculturalism makes people think that some might be offended if they referred to the Easter Bunny, so malls are now referring to the Garden Bunny or the Mall Bunny.

Not wanting to offend people by referring to Merry Christmas, and insisting instead saying Happy Holidays, and refusing to say Christmas Tree, and instead saying Holiday Tree was bad enough, but the Easter Bunny is not even a Christian symbol. The symbol originated with the pagan festival of Eastre. The goddess, Eastre, was worshipped by the Anglo-Saxons through her earthly symbol, the rabbit.

The Easter Egg also predates the Christian holiday of Easter. The exchange of eggs in the springtime is a custom that was centuries old when Easter was first celebrated by Christians. From the earliest times, the egg was a symbol of rebirth in most cultures. Eggs were often wrapped in gold leaf or, if you were a peasant, colored brightly by boiling them with the leaves or petals of certain flowers.

J Rob said At the risk of being the old "party pooper", I have long wished to see the Easter Bunny divorced from the Christian observance of Easter.

I fully understand what he is saying. I never was too upset at Easter Bunnies and Easter Egg Hunts, just as I never was upset at Christmas Trees (whose origin is Pagan. The Norse pagans and Celtic Druids revered evergreens as manifestations of deity because they did not "die" from year to year but stayed green and alive when other plants appeared dead and bare. The trees represented everlasting life and hope for the return of spring. The druids decorated their trees with symbols of prosperity -- a fruitful harvest, coins for wealth and various charms such as those for love or fertility. Scandinavian Pagans are thought to be the first to bring their decorated trees indoors as this provided a warm and welcoming environment for the native fairy folk and tree elementals to join in the festivities. The Saxons, a Germanic pagan tribe, were the first to place lights on the their trees in the form of candles. Ancient Romans decorated their homes with greens at the Festival of Saturnalia, their New Year and exchanged evergreen branches with friends as a sign of good luck.

I don't expect people of other faiths (or no faith at all) to celebrate the Birth of Jesus or his Crucifixion and Resurection, but I wish they would just ignore the holiday, and let the 80 - 90 percent of us that do believe in Him, to have our celebration.


Karen Hughes

First (6:44 AM) Blogs for Bush reported that the Star Telegram reported Karen Hughes is coming back to the White House.

Later (10:43 am) Michelle Malkin referred to an AP report which indicated:

President Bush will nominate one of his closest longtime advisers to a key State Department post in an effort to help repair the United States' image abroad, especially in the Arab world, a senior administration official said Saturday.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the announcement that Bush has selected Karen Hughes to be undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs will be made early next week, possibly as early as Monday. The position requires Senate confirmation.

The official said that Hughes, 48, will spearhead the administration's campaign to promote democracy in the Middle East.
Karen is a wonderful person, and I am very happy to see her back, but since she has much more experience in domestic matters, I wish she was helping to sell private accounts, and letting others with more international experience work on promoting democracy in the Middle East. Even the left wing Josh Marshall seems to agree. Dan Froomkin discussed Karen's return vs Karl Rove in detail with lots of links.


Brian Nichols is in custody

Brian Nichols, the man that killed a judge, a court reporter, a deputy sheriff, and a Customs Agent in Atlanta, is now in custody. He probably would have also called the assistant DA, but she was 90 seconds away from the courtroom when he shot the others. He had been caught with two shanks on his last visit to court, so the judge ordered more security. I wonder what security he had before, if one small, armed, 50 year old deputy was considered to be more security. I am also amazed that the green car they were looking for all day yesterday turned up in the same parking garage as it was carjacked (just one floor down).

At least this incident got the police's attention, because when they finally tracked him down they did a complete search of him, including looking under his tongue, behind his ears, etc, and they then transported him to the local FBI office, rather than having the local police try to hold onto him.

Update March 13: NYT reports Long before the carnage that Brian Nichols is accused of unleashing Friday at the Fulton County Courthouse - killing a judge, a court reporter and a sheriff's deputy - the jail where he was housed and the courtroom where the first shootings occurred were beset with security problems..... Last week's rampage and the circumstances surrounding it have given rise to a chorus of criticism from judges, lawyers and law enforcement experts, who say that security in the courthouse, which is the responsibility of the Fulton County sheriff's office, has been too lax for too long..... One senior judge flatly blamed the sheriff's office, telling Atlanta's major daily newspaper, The Journal-Constitution, that it was "absolutely ludicrous" for an armed deputy to have been alone with a potentially violent and much bigger prisoner.


Google Searches

Google offers site-specific searches

Hat tip to Tech Smores

Thanks to Ken Leebow you should also check out Soople for
  • Normal Google search
  • Search for a topic
  • Search in multiple sites at once
  • Search within one site or domain
  • Filter search for filetype
  • Specific image search (filetype, size, domain)
  • Definitions
  • Search in latest news
  • Translate text
  • Scholar Search (search only in scholarly literature)
  • Search in language/country
  • Search by number (UPS/Fedex tracking number, Patent numbers)
  • Search for sites that relate to a specific site
  • Search for movie reviews
  • Search for stocks in 5 finance sites
  • Look who's linking to your site

Update 3/16 Google Adds New Tool Amid Local Search War reports Google released on Tuesday a free tool that allows businesses to add or update business listing information, such as operating hours and addresses, that appears within its local search results. The Local Business Center tool is available to U.S. businesses, including those that do not operate an Internet site, potentially expanding the reach of its service. Search providers aim to have consumers use local search to find nearby restaurants, stores or service providers, like dry cleaners or plumbers. Local search is currently one of the most competitive markets in the booming Internet search industry as providers eye potential profits from search advertising.

eWeek reports Marissa Mayer, Google's director of consumer Web products, would not quantify the company's investment in the segment but said it had recently stepped up efforts, adding a local search tab to the home page and integrating maps and business information.


Symantec Set To Raise Prices In Late Summer

Forbes reports that Piper Jaffray predicts that even though Microsoft is expected to have a mid-summer Beta release of an antivirus product, Symantec is expected to raise prices on its security products in late summer.


Reading Blogs

Gallup has released a new poll indicating

Blogs Not Yet in the Media Big Leagues
Very few Americans read them with any frequency
Whether they are seeking immortality or just letting off steam, Web bloggers are multiplying in number and are seemingly affecting American media and political insiders, at the very least. But whether bloggers are directly influencing the broader public is questionable. According to a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, relatively few Americans are generally familiar with the phenomenon of blogging, in which individuals, ranging from famous to anonymous, post running narratives of their thoughts and observations on whatever interests them.

Three-quarters of the U.S. public uses the Internet at work, school, or home, but only one in four Americans are either very familiar or somewhat familiar with blogs (the shortened form of the original "Web logs"). More than half, 56%, have no knowledge of them. Even among Internet users, only 32% are very or somewhat familiar with blogs.

Mystery Pollster said No, the collective reach of blogs is nowhere near that of television or print media, but focusing on the relatively small percentages misses the rapidly growing influence of the blog readership in absolute terms. The 12% that say they read political blogs at least a few times a month amount to roughly 26 million Americans. That may not make blogs a "dominant" news source, but one American in ten ads up to a lot of influence.

Mickey Kaus with Slate responds that Mystery Pollster notes that if 12% of Americans really read political blogs, as Gallup reports, that's not a small number. It's an astonishingly large number. (I would have guessed 3%.)

Cori Dauber notes if we were only to invert Gallup's phrasing, a quite simple rhetorical move, we get a figure of one quarter of all Americans already familiar to some degree with blogs, one third of all Internet users. Pretty good for a medium in its infancy, which Gallup admits is already influencing the "insiders."

Tom Biro said Obviously I'm biased as a blogger, but I have to say that my on-top-of-it-ness has significantly increased since I began reading and writing weblogs, and the large number of people using instant messaging devices and software has changed the way we learn about what's going on around us. So while Americans may not be directly aware of what blogs are, that doesn't mean they don't know people who are bloggers. Those bloggers could be, in some circles, viewed as influencers (or "sneezers" if you like Seth Godin), spewing forth the news and info that they learn on a daily (hourly?) basis to their circle of contacts. I'd be interested to see some measurement of this "speed" that information is now being disseminated, as compared to the same type of thing two or three years ago.

Deacon notes only about 6 percent read such blogs at least a few times a week. Why is this good news? Because it shows how much room for growth political blogs have. In this regard, blog readership is significantly higher among those in the 18-29 age group. This group made up 17 percent of the sample but 25 percent of blog readers.

Andrew Sullivan notes Two points from me: I'm struck by the youth of blog readers, their relative influence and wealth, and, again, the overwhelmingly male cast of the readership. Susan Estrich can't ascribe that to Mike Kinsley's bias. All in all: skewing young, educated, wealthy, politically balanced (39 percent Dems, 35 percent Republicans or Libertarians, 19 percent Independents), and influential. An advertizer's dream.

As Terry Heaton notes the study's useful as a snapshot, but it'll be more useful if it's repeated next year. The trendline is what's important.

On a related point Kevin Drum references a very interesting study by Lada Adamic and Natalie Glance about blog behavior available in a PDF file and shows this cool blogo-diagram
which shows several very interesting things:
  • The conservative blogosphere has a generally denser web of relationships than the liberal blogosphere.
  • However, it also includes the least connected major blogs. In the bottom diagram, the only large blogs without a single connection are both on the right: Andrew Sullivan and RealClear Politics.
  • Generally speaking, there aren't very many ongoing relationships between right and left. You only need five links to get a connection in the middle diagram, but even so there are only three connections between right and left: Sullivan-Marshall, Sullivan-Kos, and Volokh-Crooked Timber.

I highly recommend study of both the PDF file and Kevin's analysis. You may also want to study the results from the Blogads Reader Survey

If Gallup (or anyone else) had done a poll shortly after Johannes Gutenberg came out with the Printing Press would it have shown that more people got their news from newspapers or the Town Crier? And what would the results be today?


Friday, March 11, 2005


Yahoo! News reports that McDonald's Corp. is looking into using remote call centers to take customer orders in an effort to improve service at its drive-throughs. "If you're in L.A.... and you hear a person with a North Dakota accent taking your order, you'll know what we're up to," McDonald's Chief Executive Jim Skinner told analysts at the Bear Stearns Retail, Restaurants & Apparel Conference in New York. Call center professionals with "very strong communication skills" could help boost order accuracy and ultimately speed up the time it takes customers to get in and out of the drive-throughs, the company said.

I have heard many people complaining about companies that outsource their technical support calls to India. IndiaTimes reports India is becoming a major information technology research hub of the world, according to Kiran Karnik, president of Nasscom. And Call Center India says there are more than 425 Call Centers in India that are expected to cross $5.1-billion revenue mark this year. IndiaDaily even reports Outsourcing phone sex from call centers in India!

Let us hope they don't also outsource fast food sales to India as well.


Sciavo Case

ABC News reports that Michael Schiavo rejected a California businessman's offer to pay him $1 million to give up his right to decide her medical treatment.

Thursday's offer, which the husband's attorney labeled "offensive," came hours after a judge refused to let the state's social services agency intervene a move that would have delayed next week's scheduled removal of the tube.

Other such offers, including one for $10 million, had already been made and rejected by Michael Schiavo, said his attorney, George Felos.

Even if the husband did walk away, Felos said, there is still a court order requiring removal of the tube at 1 p.m. next Friday. A judge ordered that the feedings be stopped after finding "clear and convincing" evidence that she would not want to be kept alive in her current state.

Judge George Greer denied a request by the state Department of Children & Families to delay that order for 60 days so it can investigate allegations of abuse and neglect against Michael Schiavo.

The judge said the allegations had already been investigated and found to be groundless. He said the agency was apparently trying to pull an end run around the court by getting involved at this late stage.

SFGate reported San Diego businessman Robert Herring, who founded an electronics company and later a cable and satellite channel, said he felt "compelled" to try to have the husband transfer the legal right to decide his wife's medical treatment to the parents, Bob and Mary Schindler.

"I believe very strongly that there are medical advances happening around the globe that very shortly could have a positive impact on Terri's condition," Herring said.

Herring's offer is valid until Monday, according to a statement from his attorney, Gloria Allred. The money has been deposited into a trust account at Allred's Los Angeles law firm, the statement said.

Felos said his client would not consider any such proposals.

"Michael has said over and over again that this case is not about money for him," Felos said. "It's about carrying out his wife's wishes. There is no amount of money anyone can offer that will cause him to turn his back on his wife."

This is a sad case, and however it turns out, it points out that people should never depend on verbal end-of-life wishes, but that everyone should have a Living Will, such as that available here or here or here or here or here or here.


Lesson on the Filibuster

Hat tip to Blogs for Bush for pointing to what Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (out-going Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee) said in GOP Senator Offers a Lesson on the Filibuster.

Before 2003, no majority supported judicial nomination had been defeated by a filibuster. Under our Rule 22, we did vote on motions to end debate on judicial nominations, though we did so just 15 times in 35 years. Simply taking a cloture vote, however, does not mean a filibuster is underway. In fact, some of those cloture votes were used deliberately to prevent filibusters, clearing the procedural path and guaranteeing an up or down confirmation vote....

Before 2003, only one judicial nomination on which cloture was not invoked was not confirmed. Opposition to cloture on the controversial 1968 nomination of Abe Fortas to be Chief Justice was evenly bipartisan and showed that the nominee lacked clear majority support.....

Before 2003, if the Senate rejected a judicial nomination that reached the Senate floor, we did so by voting it down; filibusters did not prevent a final vote in order to keep a nomination from confirmation.....

Those who want to end this Senate tradition of giving judicial nominations reaching the Senate floor an up or down vote fear they will lose if we follow that tradition. To them, the end of defeating President Bush’s judicial nominations justifies the means of destroying Senate tradition. Being honest about it would reveal how such partisan strategies are politicizing the judicial appointment process, so they try to make other arguments.

They claim Republicans filibustered President Clinton’s judicial nominations, but each of his judicial nominees on whom we took a cloture vote is today a sitting federal judge.

They claim they don’t filibuster very often, which is beside the point if using the filibuster against judicial nominations violates constitutional principles and departs from Senate tradition. There have already been enough judicial nomination filibusters to give President Bush the lowest appeals court confirmation rate of any president since Franklin Roosevelt.

Or they claim they filibuster only nominees who are out of some kind of mainstream. It is difficult to know what that charge really means, especially since the American Bar Association, which Democrats once considered the gold standard, has found them qualified.....

Filibusters of Legislation and of Judicial Nominations are Not the Same

Mr. President, the Senator from West Virginia next equated filibusters of judicial nominations with filibusters of legislation. His policy arguments in favor of the filibuster, however, apply only to the legislative process. He said, for example, that without the filibuster “there exists no leverage with which to bargain for the offering of an amendment. All force to effect compromise between the parties will be lost.” .... this notion obviously applies where the Senate either fashions or affects legislation, but it is irrelevant to nominations

Democrats' history on filibusters belies their current stance indicated In terms of personal history, Byrd left out a few facts of great saliency in his speech. In his long litany of majority abuses, he failed to note his own past history as a member of the Ku Klux Klan, a group dedicated to the abuse of a minority of the citizenry.

Further, he didn't note his own association with the most infamous and longest filibuster in the Senate's history: the 534-hour, 1-minute and 51-second attempt to block the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Of course, mentioning either of those facts wouldn't have exactly bolstered his argument.

Even of more significance than these embarrassing incidents from Byrd's past is the fact that despite his protestations that the rights of the minority to debate in the Senate should be sacrosanct, it was Byrd himself, as Senate minority whip in 1975, who successfully led the charge to lower the threshold for stopping a filibuster from 67 votes to 60 votes.

Such a move diminished the power of the minority party (then the Republicans), a cause that Byrd now paints himself as the champion of.

Further, in a debate in 1979 over the rules of the chamber Byrd argued that each new Congress had the right to change the rules made by previous Congresses. He stated specifically "this Congress is not obliged to be bound by the dead hand of the past."

Yet he is now arguing that rules from the past cannot be altered.

It should be noted the filibuster is not a constitutional right, but rather one that derives from the rules of the chamber itself. And, as noted above, those rules have been altered from time to time.

Indeed, the closest thing to this issue in the Constitution is the fact that "Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings" (Article I, Section 5, Clause 2). That clause indicates that any given Congress can change its own rules as it sees fit.

Beyond the issue of Byrd's remarkable hypocrisy on these issues is the fact that he is being blatantly disingenuous about what the Republicans and Democrats want at this moment in time. He claims, especially in his Post column, that the Democrats want the ability to debate, while the Republicans seek to squelch debate.

This is demonstrably false.

If all Sen. Byrd and the Senate Democrats want is a debate, then they can have it. The Republican majority is not adverse to a debate; indeed, what the Democrats are currently filibustering is a debate about these nominees, because the goal of the filibuster is to block the nominations from reaching the floor, which is where debate takes place.

The debate now, if one wants to call it that, is a debate over whether to have a debate about these nominees. It is, therefore, the Democrats who are blocking debate.

If this was about debate, then the Democrats could take the floor and attempt to employ their persuasive powers to try and change the minds of some of the majority, or to use the press to transmit their views to the public in hopes that the public, in turn, would pressure the majority.

However, this is not about defending the right of the minority to debate (they have that now). It is about the right to outright block the president's nominees (which they have been exercising for several years now).

Since they appear to assume that their persuasive powers are inadequate, they have chosen to use the filibuster rule as a blunt instrument that cuts off debate, rather than enhancing it.

The goal is the destruction of these nominations, plain and simple.

Ultimately the Democrats face some hard choices: either compromise on some of the nominees, or force the hand of the Republicans on the "nuclear" option. Democrats are betting that if the Republicans go nuclear, that they will be able to win the PR war by shutting down the Senate in protest.

However, they should check their congressional history: Former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich shut down the government over a budget dispute with President Clinton in late 1995/early 1996.

But the strategy backfired and Gingrich was never the same again, politically speaking.


Fatwa against Osama

CNN reported Muslim clerics in Spain issued what they called the world's first fatwa, or Islamic edict, against Osama bin Laden on Thursday, the first anniversary of the Madrid train bombings, calling him an apostate and urging others of their faith to denounce the al Qaeda leader.

The ruling was issued by the Islamic Commission of Spain, the main body representing the country's 1 million-member Muslim community. The commission represents 200 or so mostly Sunni mosques, or about 70 percent of all mosques in Spain......

The fatwa said that according to the Quran "the terrorist acts of Osama bin Laden and his organization al Qaeida ... are totally banned and must be roundly condemned as part of Islam."

It added: "Inasmuch as Osama bin Laden and his organization defend terrorism as legal and try to base it on the Quran ... they are committing the crime of 'istihlal' and thus become apostates that should not be considered Muslims or treated as such."

The Arabic term "istihlal" refers to the act of making up one's own laws.



Washington Post said Blogging Clicks With Colleges Interactive Web Pages Changing Class Participation but they really were not talking about blogging, but rather about Wikis.

The wiki, which got its name from the Hawaiian word for "quick," is the scrappy little brother to the blog, an interactive Web page that can be changed by anyone who stumbles upon it. While blogs let people publish their thoughts online, wikis take things a step further, creating freewheeling, collaborative communities: Students can edit one another's work, bounce ideas around or link to infinite other Web sites...... Wikis, including interactive encyclopedia Wikipedia, have been around for several years but they're just on the cusp of becoming mainstream; as the technology improves, they're popping up in a few classrooms and offices, and people are finding all sorts of uses for them.


Get a dog instead

The Associated Press reported Cat Shoots Owner

BATES TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) -- A man cooking in his kitchen was shot after one of his cats knocked his 9mm handgun onto the floor, discharging the weapon, Michigan State Police said. Joseph Stanton, 29, of Bates Township in Iron County, was shot in his lower torso around 6 p.m. Tuesday, the state police post in Iron River reported. He was transported to Iron County Community Hospital..... State police said he was cooking at his stove when the cat knocked the loaded gun off the kitchen counter behind him.

Dawn Patrol reported it as well, and Wind Rider commented I have had a few cats pull a switch blade on me as they did not want me to get up while they were sleeping on my chest as I watched T.V. but the idea of a cat packing heat really scares the devil out of me. I think that the National Rifle Association is going to have to take action here before this gets out of hand. I seriously doubt that the cat even had any gun safety instruction.


Activists decry finding

The Globe and Mail reported Rumsfeld cleared in prison abuse scandal; activists decry finding

Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon's top brass were exonerated yesterday of accusations that they ordered, or turned a blind eye to, the brutal torture and humiliation of detainees at Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib prison.

That was not what some on the left wanted to hear. The Bush Haters were desperate for the report to say that President George W. Bush had set a permissive and extralegal tone for the war on terrorism, and the truth just did not satisfy them.

These were the same people that were so quiet recently when people started saying Bush was right


2008 looks good

As GOP Bloggers indicated the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, has released their latest poll showing the Republicans having an early lead for the 2008 White House Race.

2008 looks good.


No substitute for journalism

As Dawn Patrol pointed out the Baltimore Sun carries an anti-blogging op-ed by Christopher Hanson, a journalism professor at the University of Maryland entitled No substitute for journalism (As Dawn indicates, if you want to read the article but don't want to go through the Sun's registration process, use the e-mail address "" and the password "bugmenot" (both sans quotation marks). E-mail address and password come via

Professor Hanson said: [B]loggers hastened Dan Rather's retirement as CBS news anchor by questioning the authenticity of documents he had relied on in a report critical of President Bush. Blogger agitation also led CNN News Chief Eason Jordan to resign last month for supposedly stating without evidence that U.S. troops had, in effect, executed journalists in Iraq. There is no denying that the bloggers are a powerful force in the information world. But at least for now, they are no substitute for mainstream journalism, despite its flaws. A great many bloggers are either too self-absorbed to focus on keeping the public informed or too skewed by ideology to put factual accuracy front and center.

And yet they exposed Dan Rather and Eason Jordon, something the Main Stream Media (MSM) did not do.

And in any event, I don't know of any bloggers that consider themselves as a substitute for mainstream journalism. I certainly don't consider myself as a substitute, but I do consider myself, and even more so the many good bloggers whose work I read and comment on, as useful supplements to mainstream journalism. And since most of the Mainstream Media (MSM) are very far to the left, a good conservative blogger can give a different perspective on things.

Many of the best journalists have impact because they expose serious abuses of power, as in Watergate, by painstakingly verifying their facts. But, perversely enough, bloggers' impact often derives from reckless impatience - a rush to shoot first and verify later, usually driven by ideological zeal.

And as just indicated in the case of Dan Rather and Eason Jordon, they accomplish the same result.

Take Clinton-hater Drudge,

Professor, I believe that is what in Journalism class is called an Ad Hominem Attack. Is this a technique taught at the the University of Maryland?

whose online "scoop" about the president's affair with Monica Lewinsky was essentially a rumor. Because the story later turned out to be true, Mr. Drudge suddenly was elevated to media icon, kitchen table giant killer, radio and TV star. No matter that he had also reported a series of false rumors. One can't expect a cyber-cowboy to match the standards that apply to a Dan Rather!

Would that be the same Dan Rather whose producer was fired, and where three other high executives were "asked to resign", and who himself was forced to retire early because of pushing a story using fake documents attempting to control a Presidential election?

Consider the Eason Jordan affair. Even today it is unclear precisely what the CNN exec said, or intended to say, during a January panel discussion in Switzerland. Mr. Jordan insisted afterward that he had meant U.S. soldiers had recklessly targeted individuals, not knowing they were journalists. But a sketchy Web posting by a conference participant said Mr. Jordan had accused soldiers of deliberate journocide. No transcript was available.

Even so, a brigade of conservative bloggers, incensed by CNN's "liberal bias," bellowed for Mr. Jordan's blood and got it, vigilante style, with the facts still murky - an approach that would have resulted in failing grades in any journalism school. Lynch Bloggers want to have big-league journalistic impact but to avoid ethical standards they apply so vigorously to mainstream reporters.

As I recall there was a tape of the session, and the main thing the bloggers were pushing for was for the tape to be played. Would mainstream reporters, replete with all of their ethical standards, not want to hear the actual tape if someone said someone else said something?

The Blogosphere does wonders as a forum for debate, political and social "networking" and wild creative expression. But it is not realizing its potential to backstop mainstream news coverage with solid, factual grass-roots journalism - the kind most acutely required where cash-strapped, short-staffed newspapers fail to scrutinize government and business while ratings-crazed TV stations chase carnage.

If newspapers are cash-strapped and short-staffed, where do you expect bloggers, who are usually individuals, to come up with expense money to back up those newspapers? And how are they to get Press Passes? Jeff Gannon got a DayPass at the White House, but could not get a regular pass, and he was not a blogger, but rather a paid reporter for Talon News. The first blogger to get one was a left wing gossip blogger, and he had the support of some of the left wing main stream media outlets.

As Dennis, a 2nd-year seminarian for the Diocese of Memphis, said in a comment on Dawn Patrol: Deriding bloggers because they are not good journalists is like deriding novelists for not being better poets, or complaining that the local Baptist preacher doesn't include a formal epiclesis in his worship service. It's different medium. Hanson seems to misunderstand what's going on. Sure, some bloggers have a pretense of journalism. Other bloggers keep a diary or journal. Others do some of both, and from day to day you don't know what you'll get at a given blog. All of life does not consist of just one kind of conversation.

And as Andrea Harris commented: "Calling blogging 'no substitute for mainstream journalism, despite its flaws...'"

Nice misdirection, there, Mr. Hanson. The only people bleating about blogs attempting to "substitute" for mainstream journalism are the mainstream journalists who have been coasting on the automatic regard their positions get, and are now feeling threatened because they can no longer avoid the fact that there are "amateurs" out there who not only write better than they do, but don't care what "the mainstream" thinks about it. I'm not even going to bother with the rest of the article.


Thursday, March 10, 2005

Proping up dominoes

Critics Give Bush Credit for Middle East Events: The Cedar Revolution in Lebanon is only the latest example of the spread of freedom and democracy in that region. The President's liberal critics are now wondering how they should respond to the encouraging developments..... This week, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), who opposed invading Iraq, said the war "gave the Lebanese the spine they needed" to stand up against Syria. And staunch Bush critic Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), in a televised interview, acknowledged the President's involvement in the headway being made throughout the Middle East.

But as the Guardian (left wing British newspaper) says: Tony Blair hailed a "ripple of change", encouraged by the US and Britain, that was bringing democracy to benighted Muslim lands.

First the Palestinians, then the Iraqis have finally had a chance to choose their leaders, it is said, courtesy of western intervention, while dictatorships such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia are democratising under American pressure. And then in Lebanon, as if on cue, last month's assassination of the former prime minister triggered a wave of street protests against Syria's military presence that brought down the pro-Damascus government in short order.

At last there was a democratic "cedar revolution" to match the US-backed Ukrainian "orange revolution" and a photogenic display of people power to bolster George Bush's insistence that the region is with him. "Freedom will prevail in Lebanon", Bush declared this week, promising anti-Syrian protesters that the US is "on your side". The foreign secretary, Jack Straw, is expected to join the cheerleaders for Arab democracy in a speech today and warn the left not to defend the status quo because of anti-Americanism.

The first decisive rebuff to this fairy tale of spin was delivered in Beirut on Tuesday, when at least 500,000 - some reports said it was more like a million - demonstrators took to the streets to show solidarity with embattled Syria and reject US and European interference in Lebanon.....

At least they reported the positive views of Tony Blair and Jack Straw before dropping into attack mode.

But the Hizbullah rally did more than demolish the claims of national unity behind the demand for immediate Syrian withdrawal. It also exposed the rottenness at the core of what calls itself a "pro-democracy" movement in Lebanon. The anti-Syrian protests, dominated by the Christian and Druze minorities, are not in fact calling for a genuine democracy at all, but for elections under the long-established corrupt confessional carve-up, which gives the traditionally privileged Christians half the seats in parliament and means no Muslim can ever be president

If that was true, then why were Muslims a part of the demonstration

The neutralisation of Hizbullah, whose success in driving Israel out of Lebanon in 2000 won it enormous prestige in the Arab world, is certainly one aim of the US campaign to push Syria out of Lebanon.

I believe the withdrawal from southern Lebanon was in response to UN Security Council Resolution 425

The US brands Hizbullah, the largest party in the Lebanese parliament and leading force among the Shia, Lebanon's largest religious group, as a terrorist organisation without serious justification

Here is what the Department of State says: Radical Shia group formed in Lebanon; dedicated to increasing its political power in Lebanon and opposing Israel and the Middle East peace negotiations. Strongly anti-West and anti-Israel. Closely allied with, and often directed by, Iran but may have conducted operations that were not approved by Tehran.

There certainly were demonstrations but as Mark Noonan indicated The giant Hezbollah rally that drew nearly half a million purported supporters of Syria's occupation of Lebanon included non-Lebanese citizens, Syrian workers, students and municipal employees coerced into joining the protest, former Lebanese Prime Minister Michel Aoun told WorldNetDaily in an exclusive interview this morning and it is disappointing that Lebanon's Pro-Syrian PM was Reappointed but the PM Karami said "The difficulties we all know cannot be confronted without a government of national unity and salvation," he said. "We will extend our hand and wait for the other side."

The opposition rejected Karami even before his reinstatement was official. They have demanded a neutral government, complaining the national unity proposal was a trap to bring opposition members into the Cabinet without giving them a say in policy.


Wednesday, March 09, 2005

A Neo-Conservative's Caution

In A Neo-Conservative's Caution Daniel Pipes cautions Having been trained in Middle Eastern history makes me perhaps more aware of what can go wrong:

  • Yes, Mahmoud Abbas wishes to end the armed struggle against Israel but his call for a greater jihad against the "Zionist enemy" points to his intending another form of war to destroy Israel.
    He may well plan to declare war on Israel once he gets an independent state, but Israel seemed to do a pretty good job in the 6 day war against Egypt, Jordan and Syria, all receiving support from Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Algeria, and in 132 hours and 30 minutes (less than 6 days) they won. Should the new state declare war on Israel, I suspect they can do as well again, and this time rather than just occupying the territory, hopefully they will enlarge the state of Israel to cover the entire area, and let the arabs go live permanently in other Arab countries.
  • The Iraqi elections are bringing Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a pro-Iranian Islamist, to power.
    I believe he has made it clear that he wants a secular state, and since he does not control two thirds of the population I doubt the others would allow him to set up a theocracy even if he wanted to
  • Likewise, the Saudi elections proved a boon for the Islamist candidates.
    If they let the women vote in the next election, as they have said they will, I suspect reason will prevail
  • Mubarak's promise is purely cosmetic; but should real presidential elections one day come to Egypt, Islamists will probably prevail there too.
    Perhaps, but perhaps not
  • Removing Syrian control in Lebanon could well lead to Hezbollah, a terrorist group, becoming the dominant power there.
    Perhaps, but it could also lead to Hesbollah transitioning from being a terrorist group to being a political party that needed to focus more on helping the people to be sure they stayed in power
  • Eliminating the hideous Assad dynasty could well bring in its wake an Islamist government in Damascus.
    Perhaps, but is an Islamic government worse than a Thugocracy?
Hat tip to LGF


Oooohh, scary

Garance Franke-Ruta wrote in the American Prospect article Blogged Down that although Time magazine described the three writers for PowerLineBlog as “three amateur journalists working in a homegrown online medium [who] challenged a network news legend and won,” that In reality, its three writers are all fellows at the conservative Claremont Institute who attended Dartmouth College in the early 1970s and now work as attorneys; two of them have been writing articles as a team for conservative publications such as the National Review and The American Enterprise for more than 10 years.

In Power Line exposed "deacon" writes I love the use of the phrase "in reality" followed by a series of biographical facts that have nothing to do with the material the author purports to challenge -- i.e., whether we are amateur journalists, whether our medium is homegrown, whether we successfully challenged Dan Rather, and whether we were Time's blog of the year. The sloppy thinking behind the sloppy writing was captured brilliantly by a "Joe M" (what secret affiliations does he have?)who commented as follows on Kevin Drum's site:

Oooohh, scary. They are fellows at the Claremont Institute (meaning, they get to have their names on a masthead somewhere as thanks for their donations). They went to Dartmouth and work as attorneys! Clearly, these are not real "citizens." And they've even been known to publish articles in conservative magazines! Who would have ever thought that a blogger might be the type of person who is interested in writing! Has Powerline no shame? I can think of nothing more contemptible, really. To think, here they are posing as citizens who happen to be interested in writing their thoughts, when in reality they are Dartmouth-educated attorneys who have written for publications before!

Deacon does say In the interest of full disclosure, I should confess that I have never given any money to the Claremont Institute (which took me on as a Fellow only after I had established myself as a blogger). But that's only because I'm, um, frugal, not because it doesn't deserve my financial support. Our status with the Claremont Institute was best described by Rocket Man this way: 1) we write when we feel like it; 2) they print our stuff if they feel like it; and 3) alas, no money changes hands.

Franke-Ruta's approach to Power Line mirrors her approach to the other bloggers who come in for attack. She simply drops whatever biographical information she has without any analysis of how it might undercut the blogger's credentials as a "citizen," his or her ability to say valid things, or the truth and quality of what the blogger actually said

What a person writes should be evaluated on the truth and quality of what they say, how well they say it, what justification they give for their opinion, and how well they document their sources. Their background is immaterial, as are publications they have written for in the past.


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Harvard does not know what a hacker is reports that Harvard Business School said on Tuesday it is rejecting applications from 119 would-be students it accused of hacking into a Web site to learn early if they were accepted, before the sending of official notifications.

According to Philip Greenspun

  • Harvard .... outsourced Web-based applications to a company called ApplyYourself....
  • The ApplyYourself code had a bug such that editing the URL in the "Address" or "Location" field of a Web browser window would result in an applicant being able to find out his admissions status several weeks before the official notification date. This would be equivalent to a 7-year-old being offered a URL of the form and editing it down to to see what else of interest might be on the server.
  • Someone figured this out and posted the URL editing idea on the BusinessWeek discussion forum, where all B-school hopefuls hang out and a bunch of curious applicants tried it out.
  • Now all the curious applicants, having edited their URLs, are being denied admission to Harvard and, due to the fact that universities form cartels to fix tuition prices and other policies, presumably to the other B-schools as well.
In the 1960s the term "hacking" meant smart people developing useful and innovative computer software. In the 1990s the term meant smart evil people developing and running programs to break into computer systems and gain shell access to those systems. Thanks to Harvard Business school the term now means "people of average IQ poking around curiously by editing URLs on public servers and seeing what comes back in the form of directory listings, etc."

Outside the Beltway comments So, essentially, the students are being denied entrance to business school for the crime of . . . backspacing?

Hat tip to Begging to Differ for the link to ComputerWorld which tells a slightly different story. Using the screen name "brookbond," the hacker broke into the online application and decision system of ApplyYourself Inc. and posted a procedure students could use to access information about their applications before acceptance notices went out. The hack was posted in a Business Week online forum mainly frequented by business students, said Len Metheny, CEO of the Fairfax, Va.-based ApplyYourself.

ComputerWorld explanation has NOTHING to do with HOW the 119 applicants got access to their results. In my opinion Philip Greenspun was right, and what they did was trivial (and in fact something I have done myself, and I don't consider myself a hacker). What ComputerWorld calls "hacking" was just that the person who discovered how to get the information, and who posted it on the Business Week online forum registered for the Forums & Message Boards (as well as access to Portfolio Manager, Magazine Archives, and Free Newsletters) using an alias.

Update 3/16 NYT published an OpEd by Lauren Weinstein entitled Harvard Needs More Hackers. The tease was Business schools should use the recent breach of their security by "hackers" to teach — and take — an ethics lesson. The article admitted On the scale of "hacks," this incident barely makes the needle quiver. Yes, the students shouldn't have done it, since they presumably realized that they were trying to gain access to information that wasn't intended for their eyes at that moment. On the other hand, they also knew that they were using their own accounts and would be looking only at their own status. They weren't trying to alter files or gain access to others' data. It also admits The students who used it first logged into their accounts, then entered a minor modification into a Web address - the same sort of alterations that curious surfers routinely make all over the Internet. As it turned out, many of those who tried this trick simply saw blank pages, but the schools could tell which students had made the attempts., and then goes on to conclude Instead of rejecting these applicants based solely upon this shared lapse, the business schools could ask them to become the focal point of much-needed ethical education courses. These students could then serve as ambassadors of this cause to other students, faculty and, yes, administrators. Instead of being relegated to the ranks of student rejects, these applicants could become superior managers and executives by virtue of this experience - that is, if they're permitted to continue their studies.

Let me be sure I understand.
  • The students used a technique curious surfers routinely make all over the Internet
  • they were looking only at their own records
  • many of those who tried this trick simply saw blank pages
  • on the scale of "hacks," this incident barely makes the needle quiver
and that should form the basis for the focal point of much needed ethical education courses. Can Harvard not come up with something more important to use as the focal point of much needed ethical education courses?


Oklahoma near bottom of 'livable' list

NewsOK reports that the Morgan Quitno Press ranked Oklahoma the 43rd most livable state, down three spots from last year it it's
Livable State Award. We scored a 20.37 compared to the top ranked New Hampshire which scored 35.45, or the lowest ranked Mississippi which scored 16.11, according to 44 Positive and Negative categories listed here.

Oklahoma placed low in several categories:

  • Fourth highest prison incarceration rate.
  • Fourth highest percent of population without health insurance.
  • Fifth lowest per capita gross state product.
The state placed higher in other areas:
  • Fifth lowest state and local government outstanding debt per capita.
  • Ninth most number of sunny days.
  • 12th highest in legislative appropriations to art agencies per capita.
In another report released Monday, Oklahoma was ranked the 14th most dangerous state. States were ranked based on the number of serious crimes committed in 2003 per 100,000 residents.

The Morgan Quitno Press also named Oklahoma the 46th healthiest state. But the state did well in other categories, such as a low percentage of people with AIDS (No. 18) and adult binge drinkers (No. 11).


Could Bush Be Right

By Dawn's Early Light has a FANTASTIC list of 18 articles from Europe, America and the Left in general about Could Bush Be Right (The Left Reconsiders)

In the Washington Post we seeThe tipping point came last week when Lebanon's pro-Syrian government fell. The international online media, much of which had been critical of Bush during his first term, had to acknowledge democratic developments on the American president's watch. Many commentators also cited free elections in Afghanistan last fall, Palestinian elections in early January followed by the Jan. 30 Iraq elections. Then came local elections in Saudi Arabia and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's announcement of constitutional changes allowing his opposition to challenge him electorally.

Given Bush's insistence that the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq would lead to a democratic political order in the Middle East, many Europeans are "somewhat embarrassed" by these developments, Sorman wrote in Le Figaro.

"Hadn't they promised, governments and media alike, that the Arab street would rise up [against U.S. military forces], that Islam would burn, that the American army would get bogged down, that the terrorist attacks would multiply, and that democracy would not result nor be exported?"

"These dramas did not occur," Sorman says. "Either Bush is lucky, or it is too early to judge or [Bush's] analysis was not false."


Specter betrays GOP Leadership

In order to get the Judiciary chairmanship, Specter promised to support all of Bush's judicial nominees, but he did not promise the order in which he would send nominees to the floor. The first choice of Majority Leader Bill Frist and the other Republican leaders was Justice Janice Rogers Brown, a conservative member of the California Supreme Court. A Democratic filibuster stopped her in the last Congress. The spectacle of Democrats blocking an African-American woman from becoming an appellate judge is welcomed by Republicans. With no chance to get 60 senators supporting her, Frist would then make a point of order to be upheld by Vice President Dick Cheney, presiding over the Senate. If a simple majority upholds him, Brown is confirmed -- and the war is won.

But as RealClearPolitics reports Without consulting the Republican leadership, Specter launched a procedure that undercuts party strategy for confirming President Bush's judicial nominees. Specter, on his own, picked William Myers, a former cattle industry lobbyist, as the nominee blocked by Democrats in the last Congress who will go first in the new Congress. He did so because he figured that Myers, among 16 blocked Bush appellate nominees, had the best chance to get 60 votes needed to break a filibuster. But, as Specter is well aware, the Republican party is not interested in confirming judges with 60 votes. It wants to re-establish the constitutional principle that a simple majority of 51 votes is sufficient for confirmation.... The last outcome the Republican leadership wants would be a filibuster against Myers broken by 60 senators voting for cloture. That precedent would restrict what kind of Bush Supreme Court nominee could get through the Senate. Republican leaders want to use parliamentary procedures to confirm judges with a simple majority -- the so-called "nuclear option." which is the scary-sounding name for a simple Senate rule change to stop the filibuster of appeals-court nominees. Ending a filibuster requires 60 votes--rather than the simple majority of 51 that was sufficient to confirm judges for all of Senate history until this Presidency. The idea is that if the Democrats filibuster another nominee, Majority Leader Bill Frist would ask for a ruling from the Senate's presiding officer that under Rule XXII only a simple majority vote is needed to end debate on judicial nominations. Assuming 51 Members concur--and GOP nose-counters say they have the votes--the Senate would then move to an up-or-down floor vote.

Former Klansman and current West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd wants to scare the Republicans away from changing the Senate rules in this manner, and he got into hot water last week for introducing Hitler into the Senate's already acrimonious debate on Democratic filibusters of President Bush's judicial nominations. Speaking of the Republicans' threatened "nuclear option," he said, "We, unlike Nazi Germany or Mussolini's Italy, have never stopped being a nation of laws, not of men." LGF reported he backpeddled a little on the Hitler reference, but only a little.

Yet as GOP Bloggers noted, the Wall Street Journal reported that changing Senate precedents by majority vote would be nothing new to Mr. Byrd, who used the tactic to change Senate precedents on filibusters and other delaying tactics when he was Majority Leader in 1977, 1979, 1980 and 1987. This is documented in Harvard JLPP which is available in a PDF File

As the New Yorker noted The filibuster has been around in one form or another since 1806, when the Senate absent-mindedly neglected to readopt a rule allowing a simple majority to move the previous question. It has been a favored tactic of conservatives.... [and] liberals, historically, have passionately called for its abolition. Lately, the roles have reversed. Now it’s conservatives who indignantly denounce the filibuster as undemocratic.

Byrd once used the filibuster to block the Civil Rights Act, but he wants to use it to block minorities nominated to the federal bench if they are conservatives.


Worms and Viruses Infect IM and Phones

MSNBC reported on Kelvir, an Instant Message worm that began circulating Sunday.

With e-mail viruses less effective than before, virus writers, they say, are now turning their attention to the popular — and not very secure — chat tools used by millions. Symantec, CA, TrendMicro, and McAfee all report on Kelvir. In addition to Kelvir, other IM viruses and worms have been reported, such as Bropia, by here and Symantec.

MobilMag reports on CommWarrior, a new virus that attacks Symbian Phones via MMS (multimedia messaging) as well as Bluetooth. DataFellows and McAfee report on these new phone viruses., ComputerWeekly, Reuters,
TechTree, and ZDNet report on this new threat to cell phones.


E-Mail Phishing

The New York Times ran a story about E-Mail Phishing, which is a type of online fraud that collects victims' account passwords and other information, after they respond to an e-mail that appears to come from a legitimate business. I have provided a number of articles in the I/O Port, beginning in June, 2004, and continuing through July, August, December, and March, 2005.

Those articles showed how a person could identify Phising (Identity Theft) attempts; the NYT article, on the other hand, begins with a specific example where a coin collector and dealer who buys and sells on eBay had his identity stolen, and someone had used his eBay account to sell about $780,000 worth of coins - about five times the online business he had done over several years - and many of the coins offered for sale never existed. Adding insult to injury, fees for hosting photos for the fraudulent auctions had been financed with $300 from Mr. Alofs's account with PayPal, eBay's online payment service.

The article then describes how eBay has taken three steps recently to increase it's security:

  1. offering users of Windows-based computers a free toolbar that flashes a warning when a browser is pointed toward what it believes to be a fraudulent Web site,
  2. joining an effort organized by WholeSecurity to block fraudulent Web sites, and
  3. introducing a Web mail service called My Messages to get around the problem of junk mail filters blocking legitimate messages from the company to its users (the feature may evolve into a communications tool for users). The article indicated the introduction of My Messages was relatively low-key. I must agree with that, since I searched for quite a while, and could not provide a link to it, but eBay does have this page related to Online Security and Protection.


Monday, March 07, 2005

Dominos Falling

Power Line reports Demonstrations continue in Beirut

GOP Bloggers reports Around 500 Kuwaiti activists, mostly women, demonstrated outside parliament on Monday to demand female suffrage amidst tensions in the Gulf Arab state over a government drive to grant women political rights.

"Women's rights now," chanted the crowd, which included women dressed in abayas, or traditional long black cloaks. Some of the demonstrators wore veils over their faces.

"Our democracy will only be complete with women," said a placard written in Arabic. "We are not less, you are not more. We need a balance, open the door," said one written in English.

The dominoes are really falling

Click to enlarge


Dems Lean Left

The New Republic said Today Democrats find themselves in a similar predicament; yet those clamoring most loudly for change have turned to New Democrats not for inspiration, but for vilification. To the MoveOn activists, liberal bloggers, and Deaniacs on the rise within the party, New Democrats are shills for corporate America who, in the words of The Nation, "have hijacked 'centrism' to sell out America's middle class." New Democrats, they argue, are without principle; like their leader Bill Clinton, they triangulate their way from issue to issue, abandoning Democratic values in the process.

NDOL pushes a A Reform Insurgency to get on the offensive again as true progressives

NewDonkey favors a reform agenda [that] represents a return to our insurgent roots prior to the 1992 Clinton campaign

And yet their poster girl, Hillary Clinton, is racing to the center, trying to pretend that she is a New Democrat like her husband.

Sounds like schizophrenia to me.


A solution to private accounts

In their article on Social Security Choice says

  1. You can never get more from any negotiation than your initial offer. The Administration’s Social Security reform proposal would allow workers to divert to PSSAs 4% of their current 6.2% Social Security tax, with a “cap” on contributions of $1000/year. Unfortunately, this plan is too small and too timid to generate much excitement. The proposal would not allow workers to accumulate real wealth, while the “cap” prevents Social Security reform from acting as an economic-growth-boosting cut in marginal tax rates.
  2. President Bush’s suggestion that raising the “wage cap” on Social Security taxes was “on the table” was a breathtaking error in judgment..... “If you talk about raising taxes at all, soon all you can talk about is raising taxes.”
But then in another article they say Teddy senses that President Bush and the Republicans can be “rolled” on Social Security Reform the way they were on Education Reform in 2001. His belief is not irrational. In 2001, Bush wanted school vouchers and Teddy wanted more spending. Bush decided that he had to have a bill that session and therefore had to compromise. The “compromise” was…more spending.

Now Bush wants Personal Social Security Accounts and Teddy [Kennedy] wants higher taxes. Bush says that Social Security is in crisis. He also (incomprehensibly) suggests that raising the wage “cap” on Social Security taxes is “on the table”. Can anyone not understand why Teddy Kennedy is now licking his chops?

They are right that Bush got Kennedy's support on Education Reform by swapping vouchers and testing for more spending, but the Dems are still complaining that he never fully funded the more spending they thought they were going to get.

But if Bush plays his cards right, he can sucker Kennedy (and others) into supporting Private Accounts in exchange for raising the cap, and if he plays his cards right he can offer to raise it a little, and when they want him to raise it more, he can counter with raising the $1000 cap on contributions to the PSSAs. Increasing the cap on taxes might hurt the economy, but establishing PSSAs and increasing the contribution cap will be an economic-growth-boosting cut in marginal tax rates, which should counter it, and we would have PSSAs in place, helping the transition to an "ownership society".


Social Security Tidbits

David Limbaugh reports that NBC's "First Read indicates

  • The White House is willing to compromise so long as any compromise includes private accounts;
  • congressional Democrats are willing to deal on tax increases and benefit cuts so long as private accounts are off the table.

Well I'm glad that is settled. NOT!!!

The Boston Globe looks at Bush's consideration of "a controversial new source of revenue to help fix Social Security: shutting off the exemption from Social Security taxes of future state and local public employees who otherwise would be contributing to public pension plans." While "labor unions are fighting hard to make sure the proposal doesn't materialize,... [c]ritics say the unions are trying to have it both ways: fighting the Bush plan on grounds that private accounts are too risky, while fighting to ensure that 5 million workers are exempt from Social Security and thus able to benefit from pension plans that rely on stock market investments."

Another interesting dichotomy. They have to support the Dems, so they have to oppose private accounts, yet all of their pension plans rely on stock market investments.

The only solution the Dems want is one that raises taxes. If they were not so frightened that Private Accounts would turn people into Republicans they could probably get some sort of tax increase together with private accounts.


The First Credentialed White House Blogger...

Michelle Malkin reports that Garrett Graff--contributing editor for Washington media blog FishBowlDC--will make history as "the first known blogger to be admitted to the White House press corps." Graff has apparently been trying to get a day pass for some time.

Matt Margolis says Quick look around site indicates to me that it’s a left-leaning blog… it is self-described as a “gossip blog.” Something tells me this is just a move to put water on the fire of GannonGate.

Shane Raynor says I’m betting that this news frosts more than one member of the traditional media establishment, considering the fact that their antics are Graff’s biggest source of blog fodder.

Bob at Civil Commotion asks a very good question: Does a White House press pass mean that, in Uncle Sam’s eyes, they’re legitimate journalists?

First Read revealed something I missed: as Graff himself notes in his bio, he was Dean's first presidential campaign webmaster.

A left-leaning gossip blog is entitled to a White House press pass. Will a right-leaning political blog also get a White House press pass?


Google launches Desktop Search 1.0 reported Google has formally launched its desktop search application designed to allows users to search for information on local computers.

The full 1.0 release of the free downloadable tool, which was previously available as a beta test version, adds functionality including the ability to search the full text of PDFs and the meta-information stored with music, image and video files.

Additional enhancements include support for the Firefox and Netscape browsers, Thunderbird and Netscape email clients and new Chinese and Korean language interfaces.

BusinessWeek reports "Google Desktop Search brings the power of Google search to information on the computer hard drive," said Jonathan Rosenberg, vice president of product management, in a statement. "It's like having a photographic memory of everything you've seen with your computer, right at your fingertips."

The product is available for Windows XP and Windows 2000 Service Pack 3 and above, the company said.


More People Turning To Online News

As WebProNews reported During the 2004 presidential campaign, six times as many people used the internet to get political news as they did in 1996.
... The influence of newspapers dropped to 39 percent last year, from 60 percent in 1996, according to the joint, telephone-based survey from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press and the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

BusinessWeek reports Americans who got campaign news over the Internet were more likely to visit sites of major news organizations like CNN and The New York Times (43 percent) rather than Internet-only resources such as candidate Web sites and Web journals, known as blogs (24 percent).

You can see the bias of the media, in that when they identify major news organizations they just list extreme left wing sites like CNN and The New York Times.

Fifty-eight percent of political news users cited convenience as their main reason for using the Internet. This group was more likely to use the Internet sites of traditional news organizations or online services.

But one-third of political news consumers cited a belief that they did not get all the news and information they wanted from papers and television, and another 11 percent said the Web had information not available elsewhere. These individuals were more likely to visit blogs or campaign sites for information.

And blogs, Rainie said, likely had an indirect influence on what campaigns talked about and what news organizations covered.... Blogs "are having a modest level of impact on the voter side and probably a more dramatic impact on the institutional side," Rainie said. "Blogs are still a realm where very, very active and pretty elite, both technologically oriented people and politically oriented people go."


Sunday, March 06, 2005

Niger cancels 'free-slave' event

BBC News reports that The government of Niger has cancelled at the last minute a special ceremony during which at least 7,000 slaves were to be granted their freedom.

A spokesman for the government's human rights commission, which had helped to organise the event, said this was because slavery did not exist.

It is not clear why the government, which was also a co-sponsor of the ceremony, changed its position.

At least 43,000 people across Niger are thought to be in slavery.

Representatives of the slaves, the government and human rights campaigners had been due to attend the event at In Ates, near the border with Mali.

A local chief had agreed to the release after the introduction of a new law, which punishes those found guilty of slavery with up to 30 years in jail.

Anti-Slavery International had described the ceremony as a historic step forward.

The British-based campaign group said the people who had been due to be freed made up 95% of the local population.....

In a ceremony in December 2003, dozens of slaves were liberated, many of them shedding tears of joy as they were given certificates showing they were free.

Hat tip to D. Rogers at The New Editor


Wayback Machine

LGF just called my attention to a FANTASTIC tool, the Wayback Machine, a wonderful tool, containing more than 30 billion web pages archived from 1996 to a few months ago. It’s a good place to look for sites that no longer exist on the web, if you know the site’s former address.

Drag this link to your browser's toolbar: Wayback and then when you are on a page and want to see earlier versions of that page, just click that link on your toolbar.

LGF used the Wayback Machine to discover a page which was apparently removed from the Internet some time around July 2001 with a map of "The United States of Islam".


Free Flow of Information Act of 2005

Michelle Malkin points out that Dan Gillmor indicated that H.R. 581 (the "Free Flow of Information Act of 2005") sharply circumscribes the definition of who's a journalist -- and appears to explicitly exclude bloggers and other non-traditional online journalists.

Who's get the protection? The legislation would give it to:

A) an entity that disseminates information by print, broadcast, cable, satellite, mechanical, photographic, electronic, or other means and that--

(i) publishes a newspaper, book, magazine, or other periodical;

(ii) operates a radio or television broadcast station (or network of such stations), cable system, or satellite carrier, or a channel or programming service for any such station, network, system, or carrier; or

(iii) operates a news agency or wire service;

(B) a parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of such an entity; or

(C) an employee, contractor, or other person who gathers, edits, photographs, records, prepares, or disseminates news or information for such an entity.

In other words, bloggers need not apply unless they work for a major publication or broadcast.

See a pattern?

We're moving toward a system under which only the folks who are deemed to be professionals will be granted the status of journalists, and thereby more rights than the rest of us. This is pernicious in every way.

Mass media journalists and their bosses should be leading the fight against what's happening to bloggers. I fear they won't, because old media typically refuses to defend the rights of new entrants until the threats against the new folks directly threaten everyone.

points out that Rep. Mike Pence that introduced the Free Flow of Information Act of 2005 has .

Martin Stabe says Defining “journalism“ for the purposes of extending special protections is dangerous business — not because of who it protects, but, as we see here, because of who it excludes from that protection. and here he says Journalists should never forget that the First Amendment and the freedom of expression guarantees in other liberal democracies are not intended to protect and privilege professsional journalism, much less enterprises that sell commodified news.

Freedom of expression is intended for all citizens to discuss politics in public without threat of intimidation. The fact that the prohibitively high cost of participating in the public sphere has until recently confined the exercise of that right to professional journalists and moneyed publicists is purely incidental — a disfunction of liberal democracy arising out of economic reality not an intentional privilege to be defended.


Italy Rejects U.S. Version of Iraq Shooting

Yahoo! News says Italy Rejects U.S. Version of Iraq Shooting. Italian hostage Giuliana Sgrena, shot and wounded after being freed in Iraq, said Sunday U.S. forces may have deliberately targeted her because Washington opposed Italy's policy of dealing with kidnappers. She offered no evidence for her claim, and could the fact that she is a reporter for a Communist daily Il Manifesto have influenced her recall? Sgrena's newspaper, Il Manifesto, has been a fierce opponent of the war. Could that have had an affect as well? Also she remembered her captors' words, when they warned her "to be careful because the Americans don't want you to return." Could they have caused the Italian driver to ignore the soldier's signals to stop at the check point?

Sgrena claimed the soldiers fired between 300 and 400 bullets at if from an armoured vehicle.

Update: 3/8
LGF initially showed a photo of that AP identified as being the car, but subsequently they learned that it was not the car, and LGF quickly corrected the record.

I showed the photo initially in this article, but with LGF's retraction, I have removed it.


New era in Middle East

Australian Prim Minister credited the overthrow of Saddam Hussein as a catalyst for Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon and other promising democratic developments in the Middle East.

As Syria confirmed at the weekend that all of its forces in Lebanon would move to the border with Syria, Mr Howard said democracy was beginning to emerge in the Middle East.

He pointed to the 59 per cent turnout in Iraq, the election of Mahmoud Abbas as Palestinian leader and the "real prospect of some settlement" with Israel. Municipal elections in Saudi Arabia and a multi-candidate race for Egypt's presidency were also promising developments, he said.

"Now, these things wouldn't have been remotely possible a year ago," he told Channel Seven's Sunday Sunrise program.

"I have no doubt that one of the reasons - I am not saying all the reasons, but one of the reasons - is of course, or was, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein."

Charles Krauthammer said in the Washington Post Revolutions do not stand still. They either move forward or die. We are at the dawn of a glorious, delicate, revolutionary moment in the Middle East. It was triggered by the invasion of Iraq, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and televised images of 8 million Iraqis voting in a free election. Which led to the obvious question throughout the Middle East: Why the Iraqis and not us?

To be sure, the rolling revolution began outside the Middle East with the Afghan elections. That was followed by the Iraqi elections. In between came free Palestinian elections that produced a moderate, reform-oriented leadership, followed by an amazing mini-uprising in the Palestinian parliament that rejected an attempt to force corrupt cronies on the new government.

And it continued -- demonstrations in Egypt for democracy, a shocking rarity that led President Hosni Mubarak to promise the first contested presidential elections in Egyptian history. And now, of course, the "cedar revolution" in Lebanon, where the assassination of opposition leader Rafiq Hariri led to an explosion of people power in the streets that brought down Syria's puppet-government in Beirut.

Revolution is in the air.


Netscape 8.0

Netscape, the browser that dominated the Web in the 1990s until Microsoft’s Internet Explorer took over, has faded into obscurity since it was acquired by America Online in 1998.

But AOL is hoping for a Netscape comeback, starting today. The company is releasing a beta, or prerelease, version of an all-new edition of the storied browser, called Netscape 8.0. This new Netscape, which works only on Windows, sports some unusual features designed to help bolster security and compatibility on the Web.

We reported earlier how Firefox was gaining on IE in popularity. Firefox is based on Mozilla, which in turn was based on an earlier version of Netscape which was released to the Public Domain as open source software.

What goes around comes around, because Netscape 8.0 is based on Firefox, but it adds two major new features. First, Netscape rates every Web site for trustworthiness. This includes whether the site is genuine, and not a fake created by crooks for so-called "phishing" schemes; and whether it can be trusted not to secretly load spyware or other malicious programs onto your PC.

Second, Netscape has the capability to render a Web page in two ways: as Firefox would present it or as Internet Explorer would. This is useful because some Web sites don’t work properly in Firefox and rely upon special features available only through Internet Explorer. With the new Netscape, you can see the Internet Explorer version of a page without launching Internet Explorer.

If a site is considered trustworthy, Netscape automatically renders it using the Internet Explorer method, for maximum compatibility. Internet Explorer’s method for rendering Web pages opens security vulnerabilities that Firefox’s doesn’t. Netscape figures that, at trusted sites, it’s OK to take that risk.

On the other hand, if Netscape isn’t sure about the trustworthiness of a site, it uses the Firefox method for rendering the pages, which is safer but might have compatibility issues.

Netscape 8.0 beta can be downloaded here or here or here.

A Washington Post review said Netscape's new browser crashed twice during our four-hour test. Worse, it was painfully slow, taking much longer than Internet Explorer or Firefox to render streamlined sites such as Google News.

Another flaw is how America Online has cluttered the top toolbar and left-margin sidebar with links to AOL's own Web content, including CNN, MapQuest, Netscape News and AOL Yellow Pages.

The links across the top toolbars are the most annoying, because it is not as easy to change them as it should be. Users may have to dig deep into the help file to decipher how to add and delete links from this new, multi-level toolbar.

There are a number of comments from users that have tried the beta at BetaNews.