Archive for March, 2004

Software Report

I have only managed to catch about ten minutes total (non-consecutive) of the historic first hour of “The O’Franken Report.” While the show sounds good (what little I’ve heard), I am now absolutely firm in my conviction that when it comes to streaming audio, RealPlayer sucks toad.

Wednesday, March 31st, 2004

Bizarro Politics.

Ralph Nader is not happy.

Ralph Nader knows all the arguments against him. He can recite, word for importuning word, the letters from old friends urging him not to run for president � “all individually written, all stunningly similar” � and he does so with the theatrical relish of a man whose public life has been one long, unyielding argument with the world.

“Here’s how it started,” he said, his soft voice taking on mock oratorical tones over dinner with a group of aides in Charlotte, N.C., last week: “For years, I’ve thought of you as one of our heroes.” He rolled his eyes. “The achievements you’ve attained are monumental, in consumer, environmental, etc., etc.” He paused for effect. “But this time, I must express my profound disappointment at indications that you are going to run.”

How very… Bushist of him. Essentially, it seems that Nader is taking the Georgie-Porgie stance that it doesn’t matter how many people advise him, how sensible their arguments may be, or how bad his public image gets – he’s going to stick to the campaign trail and treat his would-be advisors to a sound mocking.

Unfortunately for us, it’s worse than Nader just refusing to take advice. The man has obviously entered a Bizarro World version of the Presidential race.

No, he says, he is neither a nut nor a narcissist. Yes, he agrees with his sharpest Democratic critics that defeating President Bush is essential. In the end, he believes, out-of-power Democrats will rally around John Kerry, and Mr. Nader will take votes from disaffected Republicans and independents.





Sorry. It’s no laughing matter, I know – but the idea of Ralph Nader reaching out to disaffected Republicans just seems funny. The man who spent the last election telling Democrats to vote for him because there was no difference between Al Gore and Dubya is now counting on Republicans voting for him.

Ralph, listen closely – disaffected Republicans are much more likely to vote Kerry than to ever consider voting for you. Not because Kerry is “Bush Lite,” but because he’s not you. Kerry’s a damnéd Massachusetts liberal, but you’re an ultra-liberal whackjob. Those of us on the Left love you for it – but those who are on the Right lock their doors and hide their daughters when they hear you’re coming to town.

If you think you’re stealing votes from the Republicans, you need to wake up. You’ve started dreaming that you’re in Bizarro World – where “Hello” is “Good-bye” and trashmen drop trash off at your house instead of picking it up. If you want to run, then nothing’s going to stop you. You can ignore the facts, deny your advisors, and shun your friends all you want, but don’t for a second believe that you’re not going to hurt our chances of getting Bush out of office. Your political groundhog act (“And Nader has seen his shadow, meaning four more years of Bush”) is a very real problem – for you as much as it is for Kerry.

At least this time the Greens realized it before it was too late for them to save their own booties.

Tuesday, March 30th, 2004

Your History Lesson for Today

A few events that occurred on this date in history.

  • President Reagan shot (1981)
  • Preston Tucker announces plans for a new car post-WWII – “the Tucker” (1947)
  • North Vietnamese launch Nguyan Hue Offense (1972)
  • Henry Clay begins his successful 2-day defense of the Tariff of 1824 (1824)
  • Japan sets up a government in Nanking, the former capital of China (1940)
  • The U.S. buys Alaska from the Russians for $7.2 million. (1867)
  • Jack Paar films his final episode as host of The Tonight Show (1962)
  • 5,000 border ruffians from western Missouri invade the territory of Kansas and force the election of a pro-slavery legislature in Kansas’ first election (1855)
  • Academy Award debuts on CBS radio, adapting Oscar-winning films into 30-minute radio dramas (1946)
  • 15th Amendment passes, guaranteeing African American men the right to vote (1870)
  • First episode of Ellen airs (1994)
  • European nations allied against Napoleonic France capture Paris (1814)
  • C. Glen Williams born (1980)

Happy birthday to me.

Tuesday, March 30th, 2004

Dick Clarke’s Rockin’ New Year’s

My initial reaction was to feel sorry for Richard Clarke. It’s tough to come forward with testimony like his and deal with the machine grinding you up. Bush has been one of the dirtiest fighters politics has seen in a long time, and he and his administration are levelling everything they’ve got at Clarke.

Then I realized something. I didn’t need to feel sorry for Clarke. Because Clarke’s a big boy, and as his testimony shows he’s clearly capable of taking care of himself.

The Bush administration is having a hard time with Clarke. Why? Because it’s hard to discredit somebody who wants everything out in the open and who’s willing to cut through all of the typical political crap and put his answers and plainly and bluntly as possible.

Clarke in general is turning out to be a tough nut for the Bush administration to crack because he doesn’t seem to even have a shell. He’s clever, intelligent, well-spoken, and brutally honest.

It’s tough to fight honesty.

All they can do is beg off and ask for more time to think.

Monday, March 29th, 2004

Why didn’t I think of that?

It’s one of those ideas that you wish you had thought of yourself. It’s not rocket science to make the connection. It’s been a while since the music industry took an interest in talent, entertainment, or – well – music, to be frank. Instead, the music industry sees its future in pushing little discs of plastic. Many, many little discs of plastic.

So, why not use little discs of plastic to push further little discs of plastic?

About 16 months ago, Mr. Arnold, a co-founder and former chief executive of the WebMD Corporation, was visiting Los Angeles when a colleague showed him a lid for a 34-ounce plastic soda cup. Tucked inside a transparent pocket were several coupons offered to customers at a convenience store. Mr. Arnold said he was dumbfounded.

“I said, ‘Forget the coupons. What if this was entertainment? What if it was music on CD’s or movies on DVD’s or games?’ ” Mr. Arnold said. “I thought, ‘If this was entertainment, this could be a blowout.’ “

Actually, it’s kind of a nifty idea. Spend the extra quarter for a large drink at the local McFood-Like and take home a new hot single – or go see the latest Hollywood knock-off of a popular TV show and actually get an episode of the TV show with your drink and popcorn. The potential to push plastic is phenomenal. And it’s all sewn up in one company – LidRock has ownership of 19 different patents, which they claim makes them the sole providers of such a service. So the independent labels will have to do what they always do. Depend on word of mouth and sales at the local college music store.

On a final note, Mr. Arnold is a little bit ambitious.

Mr. Arnold has an even bigger goal: selling movies in a soda lid. He said he is considering either older films on DVD’s in the lids or a first-run movie that would “self-destruct” after 60 hours.

“The technology’s out there,” Mr. Arnold said.

Yeah. Keep dreaming. Older films? Fantastic. I love it. That way, maybe I’ll actually feel like my eight bucks actually got me something when I walk out of a showing of FeardotCom’s next incarnation. But first-run films that “self-destruct” after 60 hours? With the MPAA’s vicious pursuit of fileswappers, it’s highly unlikely that they’d allow computer hackers 60 hours to find a way to crack the disc’s copy protection and get a pristine digital copy of a first-run film.

And even then, there’s the matter of the consumers. Sure the technology exists to create a time-limited DVD. It was called “DIVX” (not the video codec), and it died a painful, messy death in the market. Because the general feeling among consumers is that when you buy something, you should actually get something. Something more than a useless disc of plastic that once held viable content. And, oddly enough, we expect the same when we get given something. A destroyed DVD isn’t even worth an AOL floppy in today’s market.

Is it going to catch on? Maybe the CD singles will, or the older movies on DVD – not too certain about the time-limited DVD’s. Whatever the outcome, however, there’s two things that are certain.

First, the consumers are going to see prices skyrocket with all of this so-called “added value” (I got charged a buck extra and got a Britney Spears single. Yay). Second, somebody’s going to get awfully rich from pushing all that plastic – and it probably won’t be the artists.

Monday, March 29th, 2004

How Now, Howie?

So you say you’ve got a sweet gig. You’ve got the world convinced that you’re a sensitive, wonderful guy and all it took was a bit of strumming and crooning and some “Baby, I’m so hurt” lyrics. It doesn’t pay much, but hey – it gets you a snazzy tour bus, an opening slot for some big names, and a “get laid free” ticket.

And then you have to go and pull a Howie Day.

According to the complaint, Day and his band members invited four or five women on their tour bus while signing autographs after the show. The group sat around drinking and talking, and one of the women went to the back of the bus to use the bathroom. Day followed her in and tried to kiss her, but she refused his advance.

Day became upset, left the bathroom, slammed the door and then blocked it when she tried to leave, the complaint said.

Another woman tried to get Day to let her friend out, then tried to call police on her cellphone. Day allegedly grabbed the phone and broke it in half, then yelled at her to get out.

“That was probably wrong of me,” Day reportedly told an officer, referring to breaking the woman’s cell phone. “But I felt violated.”

After the first woman got out of the bathroom, Day allegedly threw beer on them, the complaint said.

Day admitted grabbing the cellphone as the woman tried to call police and breaking it, but said he thought it may have already been broken, the complaint said.

He denied throwing beer on the women.

“The phone was probably broken before I broke it.” That’s a good one. Not particularly original, tho – the first line of Yeats is Dead! is, “I think he was dead before I shot him.” The phone was broken before you broke it doesn’t really hold much water because you broke the damn phone. As for “I felt violated,” how did the woman locked in the bathroom feel?

Of course, Howie has an iron-clad defense. To summarize his defense, it’s – “They were groupies. They followed me to my bus. If they didn’t want to have sex, they shouldn’t have followed me.”

Goddess forbid that any woman who likes the latest sensitive, caring folksinger might just want to spend a little bit of time hanging out and talking to him without having sex. Maybe Howie felt that he was just owed something for pretending like he cares.


Sunday, March 28th, 2004

My New Saturday Night Thang

I’ve been listening to Clarke’s testimony.

I know, I know. It’s sad how I spend my Saturday nights. Let’s move on, shall we?

For those of you who haven’t had a chance to review it yet, it’s mind-blowing. As Jon Stewart pointed out, it shows just how wrapped up in the beauracracy government is – a stunning portrayal of how government works.

It also makes me rather impressed with Clarke. I was impressed after the 60 Minutes interview, but that interview was a fairly controlled, friendly environment.

His testimony, however, was most decidedly not.

If you haven’t reviewed the testimony yet or you’ve only read the transcripts, you really should hear Clarke speak. Nothing phases this man. He doesn’t pander to the members of the 9/11 Commission who praise him, and he doesn’t buckle under the members who want to run him down. And he presents a consistent argument the entire time. He weathers insults, snide jokes, and some of the thickest guilt trips I’ve ever heard laid on somebody by someone who wasn’t their mother – and he comes out on top. It’s something to hear.

Also, you’ll get to hear Senator Kerrey suggesting that Fox News should change its slogan to “Occasionally fair and balanced reporting.”

Saturday, March 27th, 2004

Be Hear Now

It used to be that one of the best ways to drive consumers to your store and get new names on your roster was to offer something for nothing.

Audible has learned this lesson.

Missed the C-Span broadcast? Want to hear it again?

Audible offers the 9/11 Commission hearings. Free.

If you don’t already have an account with them, you’ll have to set up a username and password, but you don’t have to pay a subscription to get to them.

Friday, March 26th, 2004

Laci and Connor Bill passes

I just heard it from TalkLeft: Congress has passed the Unborn Victims of Violence Bill.

The supporters of the bill have declared pro-choice arguments against it to be nonsense – stating that the bill only relates to criminal acts and not to legal medical treatments.

Meanwhile, in Florida, the legislature is arguing over whether or not they should pass a bill to allow the courts to assign a legal guardian to a fetus if the mother is “a threat” to her own unborn child.

The battle for choice just took a turn uphill.

Thursday, March 25th, 2004

Hindsight is [a television newsmagazine I don't want to be sued by]

As if there were any doubt – Colin Powell took the stand today to mount a vigorous defense of the administration’s anti-terrorism policies pre-9/11. That defense? It wouldn’t have made any difference, anyway.

“Anything we might have done against al Qaeda in this period or against Osama bin Laden may or may not have had any influence on these people who were already in this country, already had their instructions, were already burrowed in and were getting ready to commit the crimes that we saw on 9/11,” Powell said.

In all fairness, Powell has a point.

We can’t be certain that 9/11 wouldn’t have happened if we had gone after Osama bin Laden earlier. Just as we can’t be certain that if Rudolf Diesel had been able to sell his new engine in the late 1800’s, we would all have cars that run on vegetable oil today (check question #3) and not be dependent on oil. We can’t even be certain that if some of the 40,000+ people who were wrongly expunged from the Florida voter roles had been able to cast their votes, we would have Al Gore in the White House today.

But we do know now – thanks in part to Clarke – that under Clinton’s watch we were able to keep tabs on known terrorists. We know of at least one instance where one Ahmed Rassem was apprehended with a carload of explosives before he could even get close to his target, LAX.

And we know that during the Clinton administration, most of the terrorists involved in 9/11 were on a terrorist watch-list. These would be the same terrorists who – during the Bush administration – rented apartments, booked flights, and took flying lessons (with a suspicious statement that they “didn’t need to know how to land”) all under their own names – all of which should have at least sent up a warning flag.

Maybe the issue isn’t whether or not taking out Osama would have prevented 9/11. Maybe – just maybe – the issue is that Bush was more concerned with hitting Iraq than with protecting America from terrorist attacks, period. Maybe Powell’s insistence that, “Most of us still thought that the principal threat was outside the country,” rings just a little bit hollow when we had already had one attack on the World Trade Center and had just managed to stop another on Los Angeles International.

Maybe – just maybe – we need the Nuance Brigade.

On an added note, doesn’t anybody else find the detail of Powell’s answers to the 9/11 commission a little… funny? I mean, he basically says, “We didn’t know the exact details of the plan, including the exact date or time of the attacks” – but he fails to recognize that we did know that an attack was planned, and that it involved using hijacked passenger planes “as weapons,” and that we knew the names of most of the terrorists.

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2004