Wednesday, November 30, 2005

If this is the future of food...

I'll take the "tyranny of California cuisine" any day.


More O'Reilly funny

Bill takes a break from "saving Christmas" to hawk "holiday ornaments." You know, for your "holiday tree."


Tragic, heartbreaking winter in store for Pakistan

Matt Taibbi takes a break from snark to file this report.
High above the valley city of Muzaffarabad, the view is at once terrible and awesome. Stretching for miles along both sides of the turbid Jhelum River is what's left of a major city -- in every direction piles of rubble and dust and glass, still hiding thousands of corpses, with all the standing structures giant deathtraps mined with fatal cracks. Above all that, on a piece of exposed earth on a mountain plateau now home to a sprawling tent city of displaced persons called Tariqabad, a young man shows me his new home. His eight-member family's tent is on the edge of a dirt slope. There is no plastic sheet on the ground, no blankets, nothing. The family simply sleeps on top of one another in their clothes, their only possessions. At the first rainfall, I'm guessing, their floor will turn to mud and they will all slide some 1,500 feet down the cliff in the middle of the night. I ask about that.

"But what about the rain?" I say. "What will you do?"

The young man shrugs. "We stand," he says.

"All night?" I ask.

"Yes, all night," he says.


Bill O'Reilly goes nuts

Hee hee...

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Get Your Hitchens On

David Rees takes on Hitchens' latest nonsense at the Huffington Post.
Anyway, I think it's great that Hitchens is now officially "anti-taunt" (or, "taint"), because maybe now he will stop screeching long enough for me to whisper something in his ear: "Are you there, God? It's me, Margaret--the fairly reasonable, kinda principled, somewhat intelligent opponent of the Iraq war. Just want to say that, contrary to EVERY ARTICLE YOU'VE WRITTEN IN THE PAST THREE YEARS, I am not a pro-Slobodan, bootlicking, A.N.S.W.E.R.-brainwashed Kurd-basher. OK, thanks! See you at the GREAT DEBATE."


Wanna know who I called?

Apparently, there are websites that will give you the cellphone record of any cellphone number you give them, for $110. How the hell is this ok?

People to Govt: "Stop screwing with our TV and get back to work!"

WASHINGTON (Hollywood Reporter) - Americans overwhelmingly want Big Brother to butt out of their TV watching, according to a new study of U.S. viewing habits set for release Tuesday.

According to the survey done this month by Russell Research for TV Watch, 81% of American TV watchers worry about the kinds of programs their children could be exposed to, and 91% of parents said more parental involvement is the best way to keep kids from seeing what they shouldn't see. Just 9% of parents said the government should increase control and enforcement of network television programming.

The survey arrives in time for Tuesday's Senate forum focusing on racy television programming. The all-day gathering, called by Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, includes representatives from conservative and liberal groups, the Federal Communications Commission, TV executives and groups like the Parents Television Council that have been the big drivers in recent moves to crack down on racy broadcasts.

"People see something on TV they don't like, and some activists yell from the rooftops calling for more government intervention, but that's not what people want," said Jim Dyke, executive director of TV Watch. "The vast majority of the people don't want the government making their programming decisions."


Monday, November 28, 2005

Fascism Then. Fascism Now?

Required reading:

How an online music store SHOULD work

Jane Siberry knows how.
Her new download store, recently unveiled at her site, is a model of what the music downloading world could be. All of her songs are available as plain MP3s, which means they will play on your iPod and are not loaded with DRM restrictions (much less evil rootkits).

And you pay whatever you like for them. Yes, you set whatever price you like. Options include:

* free ("gift from Jane");
* a standard price (CAN$0.99);
* self-determined price - pay now; or
* self-determined price - pay later (to facilitate try-before-you-buy).

When you purchase the song, moreover, you can select up to 5 people to whom you can email a link to the song.

I just saw her perform in concert here in SF, and she summed it up this way: "I want to treat people the way I'd like to be treated. I don't like being treated like a child, so I won't be doing that to other people."


Saturday, November 26, 2005

Michael Kinsley's back

Cheney and others insist that Bush couldn't possibly have misled anyone about WMD since everybody had assumed for years, back into the Clinton administration, that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. That's why any criticism of Bush on this point is corrupt, reprehensible, distasteful, odiferous, infectious and so on. But this indignation is belied by Cheney's own remarks in the 2000 election. In the vice presidential debate, for example, Cheney was happy to agree with Bush that Saddam Hussein's possession of weapons of mass destruction would be a good enough reason to "take him out." But he did not assume that Hussein already had such weapons. And he certainly did not assume that this view was the general consensus. "We'll have to see if that happens," he said. "It's unfortunate we find ourselves in a position where we don't know for sure what might be transpiring inside Iraq. I certainly hope he's not regenerating that kind of capability."

If you're looking for revisionist history, don't waste your time on the war's critics. Google up Cheney's bitter critique, in the 2000 campaign, of President Bill Clinton's military initiatives, specifically the need for more burden sharing by allies and a sharply defined "exit strategy." At the time, there were about 11,000 American troops in Bosnia and Kosovo, working alongside about 55,000 from allied countries. If only!


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Mother(s) Rage

A pile of scary-ass audio clips of moms gone crazy. This is sort-of cruel, but these ladies are over-the-top. And who can blame them, when there are kids like this one (Video, NSFW) in the world. Most of these are NSFW, but the link isn't.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Serves me right for having an imagination

LOS ANGELES - In a deal aimed at reducing illegal Internet traffic in pirated films, Hollywood reached an agreement Tuesday with the creator of the popular file-sharing software BitTorrent.
The agreement requires 30-year-old software designer Bram Cohen to prevent his Web site,, from locating pirated versions of popular movies, effectively frustrating people who search for illegal copies of films.


A business model for bittorrent

Seeing the teaser post on boingboing today got me thinking about how a commercial business could be built around bittorrent. Maybe this is exactly what they will announce, but how about:

Use bittorrent as part of a pyramid scheme, with a secure commercial tracker, run by the studios. Files would cost an amount - let's say $5, to download. Then, as your seeding ratio increased, the amount of money the downloader owed would go down - let's say a dollar per integer (ie when your ratio exceeed 1, your cost would be $4, when it is 2, your cost would be $3, etc.).

This would have numerous positive benefits for the studios:

1. They wouldn't have to provide bandwidth, except for the initial seed.
2. There would be great incentive for people to try and get the file first, so they would recoup their money. This would build interest in the content, and might even make people download (and pay for, in some cases) content that they might otherwise wait for. Plus it would increase the number of seeders, resulting in super-fast downloads.
3. In the end, the number of people who download versus the number of "full" seeders (seeders who have uploaded 5x the amount they've downloaded, in my model) will still be a large number.

For downloaders:
1. Nobody gets sued who stays in the system. This is, of course, the big incentive.
2. People who provide the most bandwidth get something tangible back for their contribution.
3. People who DON'T chose to seed can still use the system to get legitimate content quickly - they just get a bill every so often (or a charge to their account)

Bittorrent going legit?

Who knows where this is going?

Monday, November 21, 2005

James Bamford pulls the lid off pre-war propoganda

Somehow, Rolling Stone is now the best place to find good political reporting.
On December 17th, 2001, in a small room within the sound of the crashing tide, a CIA officer attached metal electrodes to the ring and index fingers of a man sitting pensively in a padded chair. The officer then stretched a black rubber tube, pleated like an accordion, around the man's chest and another across his abdomen. Finally, he slipped a thick cuff over the man's brachial artery, on the inside of his upper arm.

Strapped to the polygraph machine was Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, a forty-three-year-old Iraqi who had fled his homeland in Kurdistan and was now determined to bring down Saddam Hussein. For hours, as thin mechanical styluses traced black lines on rolling graph paper, al-Haideri laid out an explosive tale. Answering yes and no to a series of questions, he insisted repeatedly that he was a civil engineer who had helped Saddam's men to secretly bury tons of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. The illegal arms, according to al-Haideri, were buried in subterranean wells, hidden in private villas, even stashed beneath the Saddam Hussein Hospital, the largest medical facility in Baghdad.

It was damning stuff -- just the kind of evidence the Bush administration was looking for. If the charges were true, they would offer the White House a compelling reason to invade Iraq and depose Saddam. That's why the Pentagon had flown a CIA polygraph expert to Pattaya: to question al-Haideri and confirm, once and for all, that Saddam was secretly stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.

There was only one problem: It was all a lie. After a review of the sharp peaks and deep valleys on the polygraph chart, the intelligence officer concluded that al-Haideri had made up the entire story, apparently in the hopes of securing a visa.

The fabrication might have ended there, the tale of another political refugee trying to scheme his way to a better life. But just because the story wasn't true didn't mean it couldn't be put to good use. Al-Haideri, in fact, was the product of a clandestine operation -- part espionage, part PR campaign -- that had been set up and funded by the CIA and the Pentagon for the express purpose of selling the world a war. And the man who had long been in charge of the marketing was a secretive and mysterious creature of the Washington establishment named John Rendon.


Friday, November 18, 2005

A REAL script treatment for Star Wars Ep. 3

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Generic "lego" allowed by SCOC (Supreme Court of Canada)

This is a great thing, as Legos (whoops! I meant "Models built of Lego bricks") have, as of late, descended into lame branding excercises in order to shift product. Other than the wonderful Technic kits, Legos (whoops!) have become crappy toys that happen to snap together.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court justices concurred with a lower court judge who found that "purely functional" features, such as the well-known geometrical pattern of raised studs on the top of the bricks, could not be the basis of a trademark.

"Trademark law should not be used to perpetuate monopoly rights enjoyed under now-expired patents," the Supreme Court says.

The last of Lego's Canadian patents on its blocks expired in 1988.

"The fact is ... that the monopoly on the bricks is over, and Mega Bloks and Lego bricks may be interchangeable in the bins of the playrooms of the nation – dragons, castles and knights may be designed with them, without any distinction," the high court ruled.

Hopefully, now that Lego has been forced to allow interoperation, other more innovative building brick companies can fill the void.

Or maybe not.


Great interview with the writer of Syriana

This movie sounds like it's going to be pretty powerful.


Sweet geeky gift shop

Looking for some great stocking-stuffers for your nerdy friends and family members?


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Let's see if MTV has thhe BALLS to play this

Do ya, MTV? Do ya have the BALLS?


Video for Tangerines and Cigarettes

The new CD isn't out yet, but here's a taste, with lots of stop-motion goodness.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Reclusive Bush goin' nutso

Is there anyone out there selling nuclear holocaust insurance? Because I've got this nagging itch like I should be stocking up on duct tape. Seriously, I hope one of the Joint Chiefs has hidden the key to the liquor cabinet at this point.


Monday, November 14, 2005

Adz is "Living in the Future"

If you are thinking about using your mac as a media center, Adz has already done much of the heavy lifting (and believe me, it's heavier than you'd think). Follow his progress, and get updates on mac media products at his blog:


Friday, November 11, 2005

Mansion Impossible

Fun Flash game for real estate heads

Reaction to original iPod announcement

Great just what the world needs, another freaking MP3 player. Go Steve! Where's the Newton?!

Sounds very revolutionary to me. :(

hey - heres an idea Apple - rather than enter the world of gimmicks and toys, why dont you spend a little more time sorting out your pathetically expensive and crap server line up? :(
or are you really aiming to become a glorified consumer gimmicks firm? :(

Steve Jobs: "Isn't this cool? It's never been this fast or this easy before."

Me: Uhh, no!


O'Reilly calls for Al Queda attacks on San Francisco

What a frickin' douchebag.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Esquire on the rise of "Idiot America"

The rise of Idiot America is essentially a war on expertise. It's not so much antimodernism or the distrust of intellectual elites that Richard Hofstadter deftly teased out of the national DNA forty years ago. Both of those things are part of it. However, the rise of Idiot America today represents—for profit mainly, but also, and more cynically, for political advantage and in the pursuit of power—the breakdown of a consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is a good. It also represents the ascendancy of the notion that the people whom we should trust the least are the people who best know what they're talking about. In the new media age, everybody is a historian, or a preacher, or a scientist, or a sage. And if everyone is an expert, then nobody is, and the worst thing you can be in a society where everybody is an expert is, well, an actual expert.


Creating the ultimate Linux-powered synth

The designers at Korg have built a super-keyboard that fuses the open platform of a PC with the dedicated, proprietary sound engines of a traditional hardware synth. With its uniquely deep sound-production capabilities, the OASYS, whose name stands for Open Architecture Synthesis Studio, is more than a traditional electronic keyboard. And it's also more than a computer, with lavish audio quality that high-end audio workstations struggle to match.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

New Gondry/White Stripes video

With a nice, fat helping of Conan!

Latest Troma silliness

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

What happened next - gay marriage edition

Ed Helms looks into the truly terrible consequences of gay marriage in Massachusetts.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Even the Vatican thinks "intelligent design" is bogus

"The fundamentalists want to give a scientific meaning to words that had no scientific aim," [Cardinal Paul Poupard, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture] said at a Vatican press conference. He said the real message in Genesis was that "the universe didn't make itself and had a creator".


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Say hello to the new DNC ad

All they need to do is re-print this memo sent by Michael Scanlon,
a former aide to Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, sent the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana to describe his strategy for protecting the tribe's gambling business. In plain terms, Scanlon confessed the source code of recent Republican electoral victories: target religious conservatives, distract everyone else, and then railroad through complex initiatives.

"The wackos get their information through the Christian right, Christian radio, mail, the internet and telephone trees," Scanlon wrote in the memo, which was read into the public record at a hearing of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. "Simply put, we want to bring out the wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public lets the whole thing slip past them." The brilliance of this strategy was twofold: Not only would most voters not know about an initiative to protect Coushatta gambling revenues, but religious "wackos" could be tricked into supporting gambling at the Coushatta casino even as they thought they were opposing it.

Sleaze+Disdain for your constituents = Big time losses in '06, if there is any justice in the world (which remains to be seen).

Where we're at

Not long after 9/11 -- a few days maybe -- I was thinking about where the "war on terrorism" might take America and the world, and it seemed to me at the time that there were three broad paths it might follow.

One would have been the path of recognition, in which the American people woke up and started asking the hard questions about how we got into this mess, and demanding answers that didn't consist entirely of inane slogans about how the terrorists "hate our freedoms."

That path would have still led to the war in Afghanistan -- it was inevitable -- but we might at least have come to some glimmer of public understanding that the real war was a war of ideas and influence in which America would need all the allies it could get, both inside and outside the Islamic world. Who knows? Maybe the rest of the story would have developed very differently.

But I understood even then how unlikely that scenario was, given our history and our culture. So my best guess was that the war would follow one of two other paths. One would plunge the CIA and the other covert agencies into a filthy, brutal, subterranean campaign to root out Al Qaeda's networks, track down its top operatives, and kill or capture them -- efficiently and ruthlessly. I understood that kidnapping, torture, assassination and "extraordinary rendition" (although I hadn't yet heard the term) would be the weapons of choice. I realized that innocent people, as well as guilty ones, would die; that wives and children would be used as hostages, or tortured in front of their husbands and fathers; that prisoners without names would be buried alive in cells without numbers; that battered corpses would be quietly buried, or dropped out of helicopters into the sea. And I knew that even if Americans didn't do these things themselves, they would find or hire others who would.

And God help me, I supported that war. Because the other path I saw -- the one that haunts me still -- led to an ever-expanding counterinsurgency war in the Middle East, against a constantly growing number of enemies. It would be a war in which a military industrial complex that doesn't know any other way to fight would use technology and massive firepower to try to obliterate an invisible army that swims through the cities and villages of the Islamic world like fish through the proverbial sea. It would be a war in which whole cities would be razed in order to chase out a few hundred guerrilla fighters, in which 500-lb bombs would be dropped on alleged terrorist safehouses that turned out to be filled with women and children, and in which GIs trained to respond to snipers or suspected car bombers with overwhelming fire would kill hundreds and eventually thousands of innocent civilians. And it would be war in which the enemy struck back with suicide bombers and savage propaganda killings -- although I wildly underestimated the kind of carnage that a group like Al Qaeda in Iraq might unleash.

It would be, in other words, a war like the one darkly foreseen by CIA counter-terrorism chief Michael Scheuer, which I wrote about a few weeks back:

Progress will be measured by the pace of killing and, yes, by body counts. Not the fatuous body counts of Vietnam, but precise counts that will run to extremely large numbers. The piles of dead will include as many or more civilians as combatants because our enemies wear no uniforms.

What I thought I saw lurking down that particular path looked something like Vietnam, but on an even grander scale -- a bureaucratic killing machine locked into the logic of escalation, in which the tonnage of bombs dropped and the number of .50 caliber rounds fired might become the measuring sticks of military "success." And when I thought about the effect on American public opinion if 9/11 were to be followed by something far worse, it seemed to me that kind of war could eventually turn into a war of pure retaliation, in which whole cities would die.

Better a dirty war than a genocidal one -- or at least, that's how I rationalized it at the time.

What I didn't suspect -- even in my worst fits of post-9/11 depression -- was that we might get both.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Overheard in New York

Josh Marshall goes deep in "The Italian Connection"

Until recently, Josh Marshall's hints and bits about the Niger document forgeries have been maddeningly vague. Finally, it looks like he is ready to tell the story.
Ever since ElBaradei had exposed the documents as forgeries in March 2003, Burba had wanted to pursue the story behind the forgeries. But her editors at Panorama and then higher up in the Berlusconi publishing empire had warned her not to pursue the story. By December 2003, however, she had began reporting out the story on her own.

She confronted Martino and demanded to know where he had gotten the documents. She threatened him with exposure, telling him she had no responsibility to preserve his anonymity since he had deceived her.

Burba told us that Martino seemed genuinely afraid for his life. And now, in response to her demands, he began to describe a murky story involving an Italian intelligence officer and a woman working at the Embassy of Niger in Rome.

Rocco Martino was an information peddler, a former member of Italian military intelligence (SISMI) who, after retiring from SISMI in the early 1980s, had worked as a supplier of information and sometimes agent-for-hire for other intelligence agencies in Europe and the Middle East. His specialty, he would later tell us, was work on Islamic fundamentalist groups around the southern Mediterranean. He recounted trips over the years to countries across the Arab Middle East and North Africa.

The story began, Martino told Burba, when a former SISMI colleague had approached him with a proposition. The man’s name was Antonio Nucera, a SISMI colonel. The two had remained in professional contact over the years since Martino had left the service.


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Scooter Libby's trashy sex novel

Libby has a lot to live up to as a conservative author of erotic fiction. As an article in SPY magazine pointed out in 1988, from Safire (“[She] finally came to him in the bed and shouted ‘Arragghrrorwr!’ in his ear, bit his neck, plunged her head between his legs and devoured him”) to Buckley (“I’d rather do this with you than play cards”) to Liddy (“T’sa Li froze, her lips still enclosing Rand’s glans . . .”) to Ehrlichman (“ ‘It felt like a little tongue’ ”) to O’Reilly (“Okay, Shannon Michaels, off with those pants”), extracurricular creative writing has long been an outlet for ideas that might not fly at, say, the National Prayer Breakfast. In one of Lynne Cheney’s books, a Republican vice-president dies of a heart attack while having sex with his mistress.

And live-up-to he does, with passages like:
He could feel her heart beneath his hands. He moved his hands slowly lower still and she arched her back to help him and her lower leg came against his. He held her breasts in his hands. Oddly, he thought, the lower one might be larger. . . . One of her breasts now hung loosely in his hand near his face and he knew not how best to touch her.


Ridiculous "audiophile" equipment

If you like $9000 speaker cables and expensive bits of wood (audiophile wood, of course), you'll love this list.

Hollywood tries again

This time they want to plug the analog hole. Good luck with that,
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