Friday, July 28, 2006

Israel starts to scare Billmon

But I think the most eloquent expression of Zionism without a human face was the reaction of Israel's UN ambassador (who's apparently been taking asshole lessons from John Bolton) to Kofi Annan's complaint about the deaths of four UN observers in Lebanon -- an incident which appears to have been the result of either negligance on a world-class scale or cold-blooded murder.
Dan Gillerman, Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations, was more outspoken, demanding an apology. He said he was "shocked" by Annan's "premature and erroneous" accusations.

So the IDF wipes out a clearly marked, long-established UN observation post after an eight-hour artillery barrage, and Gillerman wants Annan to apologize. He sounds like some monacled Prussian general who's just been told the Belgians are complaining about the behavior of the Kaiser's troops. One can almost see the cold-eyed sneer on his face.

I've been watching events in the Middle East off and on for the past 25 years, and I've seen the Israelis get ugly before. But I can't remember a time when I've seen them this ugly -- Ariel Sharon's scowling mug excepted, of course.


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Time Warner won't give out CableCards to TiVo owners

Hey Time Warner! If you don't want your customers to use TiVo, MAKE A BETTER FREAKIN' PVR!
An inquiry was sent today to Time Warner Cable of Raleigh, NC. It was concerning the costs of CableCards leased from Time Warner Cable for use in the soon to be released Series 3 HD Tivo. According to this service representative Time Warner Cable of Raleigh, and presumably other cities, will not be supporting the Series 3 Tivo. The representative claims that Time Warner Cable of Raleigh will NOT install cable cards in Tivo devices nor will they allow Tivo's to access their network. If this is true, it is completely outrageous and unacceptable. Please note that customer service representatives are not known for their skill, knowledge, or awareness of what is and is not true, so this particular representative's response may not be accurate. However, it does sound as if this person knows that Time Warner Cable of Raleigh will not install cable cards in Tivo devices.

Here is a copy of the last message in the inquiry with response:

Dear G***** C*****,

Inquiry: Just to confirm, you are saying that when the Series 3 Tivo's are released, you will not be providing cablecards for Tivo Series 3 owners?

Submitted: by gc****@**********.com
Response:Time Warner Cable of Raleigh does not provide support for or allow TIVO devices on our cable network. Time Warner Cable provides DVR service and equipment for customers that would like to record programs and watch them later. Cable Cards will only be installed on Cable ready, Cable Card slot available television sets. This policy is subject to change at the discretion of Time Warner Cable of Raleigh.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Put this on your "I'll read it sometime before the fall" list

A ridiculously-detailed summary of all the meta-television nuttiness that is "The Lost Experience."


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Turn your coins into gift cards

Are you one of those misers who lets change pile up around your house because you can't bear to give Coinstar 8.5% of the take? Well now you can get 100% of your change value in the form of a gift card from Amazon, iTunes, etc.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Christian nutcases excited about new Middle-East conflict

I thought just the conflict itself was depressing enough...
Praise God! We are chosen to be in these times and also watch and spread the word. Something inside me is exploding to get out, and I don't know what it is. Its kind of like I want to do cartwheels around the neighborhood.

I am excited beyond words that the struggle of this life may be over soon and I can finally be FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!

Yay. I love America.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A balanced look at Isreal and Lebanon

In a remarkable moment at the United Nations Security Council last week, Dan Gillerman, the Israeli ambassador, quoted plenty of Hezbollah-badgering by one Lebanese official after another, then looked at the Lebanese ambassador, who sat there, stone-faced, and said: "I would like to make a personal appeal to my esteemed Lebanese colleague. Your excellence, you know deep down that if you could, you would add your own brave voice to those voices of your brave compatriots and colleagues. You know deep in your heart that if you could, you would be sitting here right next to me right now, because you know that we are doing the right thing, and that if we succeed, Lebanon will be the beneficiary."

The words sound right. The logic sounds right. The sincerity is unquestioned. But aren't these very words what Israel told its esteemed colleague in 1982, when it invaded Lebanon to rid it of the Palestinians' state-within-a-state, killing 18,000 Lebanese civilians in a matter of 12 weeks along the way and seeding the rise of Hezbollah in the PLO's wake? Aren't these very words the words the Bush administration used in its defense of the Iraq invasion, and uses still, in the name of "doing the right thing" for other people?

Spare us the opportune rationales. Spare us the false moral metrics. You don't answer savagery with savagery -- not in Iraq, not in Lebanon, not in Gaza. There is no excusing Islam's little franchises of barbarians all over the Middle East. But there's no excusing their enablers, either. And that's what Israel has been, what the Bush administration has legitimized -- not only taking the bait of those Islamic fanatics and their terror-toting vermin, not only playing into their hands and perversely reinforcing their causes by responding in spades, but laying waste to lands and lives that don't give a grape's wrath about bleeding their part so the appearance of resolve can live another day. The notion of a proportionate response is derided only because it is made to look like a lesser alternative by trigger-happy leadership. But it's been all disproportion, especially since 2001. It shows. And with our own "stay the course" fanatics still calling the shots, it's bound to get worse.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A new way to fight cancer

Azar sounds like an expert [on cancer]. Part of this comes from being a naturally curious 14-year-old boy, hoping to be a doctor one day. But some part of this comes from the new videogame called Re-Mission, developed specifically for teens fighting cancer. But this isn't your ordinary educational game, the boring kind kids toss aside before sneaking in a few sessions of Halo. Developed by a team with a history in commercial videogames, Re-Mission is actually fun. Also, teens that have played Re-Mission are more likely to adhere to their often painful chemotherapy treatment schedules; they are more knowledgeable about their own illnesses; and most importantly, kids are generally happier and more comfortable living with cancer.

Best videogame level ever?
One interesting stage places Roxxi, traveling through a patient's bowel, among the more disgusting levels in gaming history. But a serious side-effect of chemo is constipation, relieved by stool-softeners. A number of kids are embarrassed by the problem, however, and sometimes don't take the softeners. As a result, stools will rupture the bowel, causing raging infections in the body that have too often proven fatal. In the game, Roxxi shoots out stool-softeners at these giant piles of crap, dissolving them instantly. Every now and then Roxxi gets splattered herself and she'll respond with a witty, crude comment, the kind of comment for which Re-Mission earned a Teen rating by the ESRB.

"You can talk about shit in gameplay in a way that the kids think is fantastic," Christen said. "They learn to take the stool softeners, that it's important to keep hydrated, through the course of gameplay that really means something to them. They find ways then to have conversations about constipation that's not embarrassing because they're talking about the game.


Monday, July 17, 2006

Spike Jonez made a Gore campaign video?

Why the f*** did this not air?


A little something for Dano

Friday, July 14, 2006

Netflix Guilt

What happens when all your on-demand entertainment starts to pile up?

Time for a NetFlix Capacitor.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Just so we're clear...

The president is always right.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

What if "frivolous" medical malpractice lawsuits aren't the problem...

And the problem is actually, well, actual medical malpractice?
When baseless medical malpractice suits were brought, the study further found, the courts efficiently threw them out. Only 150 of the cases in which the researchers couldn't detect injury received even token compensation. Indeed, a bigger problem was that 256 cases were thrown out of court despite evidence of harm to patients by physicians. The other 1,046 cases, in the research team's opinion, were decided correctly, with damage awards going to the injured and dismissal foiling the frivolous suits.

Nor is there evidence to show that the level of jury awards has shot up. A recent RAND study looked at the growth in malpractice awards between 1960 and 1999. "Our results are striking," the research team concluded. "Not only do we show that real average awards have grown by less than real income over the 40 years in our sample, we also find that essentially all of this growth can be explained by changes in observable case characteristics and claimed economic losses."

Which brings us back to the Republicans' and Democrats' divergent approaches. The Obama-Clinton legislation fits well with Studdert's and RAND's findings. It also builds on successful efforts by the nation's anesthesiologists and a few hospitals to reduce their medical malpractice payouts.

Anesthesiologists used to get hit with the most malpractice lawsuits and some of the highest insurance premiums. Then in the late 1980s, the American Society of Anesthesiologists launched a project to analyze every claim ever brought against its members and develop new ways to reduce medical error. By 2002, the specialty had one of the highest safety ratings in the profession, and its average insurance premium plummeted to its 1985 level, bucking nationwide trends. Similarly, feeling embattled by a high rate of malpractice claims, the University of Michigan Medical System in 2002 analyzed all adverse claims and used the data to restructure procedures to guard against error. Since instituting the program, the number of suits has dropped by half, and the university's annual spending on malpractice litigation is down two-thirds. And at the Lexington, Ky., Veterans Affairs Medical Center, a program of early disclosure and settlement of malpractice claims lowered average settlement costs to $15,000, compared with $83,000 for other VA hospitals.


Monday, July 10, 2006

New Mac ads on the way

Friday, July 07, 2006

A dog that walks on its hind legs



Another chapter in cluelessness

"I would love it if the MSOs, during the deployment of the new DVRs they're putting out there, would disable the fast-forward [button]," Shaw said.

While MSOs risk losing some of their DVR customers if fast-forwarding were blocked, Shaw said the cable operators--who are beefing up their own local ad sales operations--"are in the same business we're in." "They've got to sell ads too," he said. "So if everybody's skipping everybody's ads, that's not a long-term business model for them either."

Shaw also threw cold water on the idea that neutering the fast-forward option would result in a consumer backlash. He suggested that consumers prefer DVRs for their ability to facilitate on-demand viewing and not ad-zapping--and consumers might warm to the idea that anytime viewing brings with it a tradeoff in the form of unavoidable commercial viewing.

"I'm not so sure that the whole issue really is one of commercial avoidance," Shaw said. "It really is a matter of convenience--so you don't miss your favorite show. And quite frankly, we're just training a new generation of viewers to skip commercials because they can. I'm not sure that the driving reason to get a DVR in the first place is just to skip commercials. I don't fundamentally believe that. People can understand in order to have convenience and on-demand (options), that you can't skip commercials."

I understand that if Comcast tries this, I will cancel my PVR and go back to using my Replay.


Thursday, July 06, 2006

There is a new "coolest thing of everything!"

And it's called a "Thingamagoop!"


Drug Prohibition is the new Jim Crow

If you want to contemplate what this means, consider the state of Florida in the 2000 presidential election, where 200,000 black Floridians were barred from voting because of prior felonies in an election in which the presidency was determined by 537 disputed votes. If even one-third of these people had actually voted--say, 70,000--and if they voted in the usual proportions that blacks vote for the Democratic candidate--say, 80 percent, probably a low estimate--those 70,000 voters would have produced a 42,000 net gain for Al Gore.

This is a dramatic example, but hardly unique. A 2002 study in the American Sociological Review concluded that John Tower would never have been elected to the US Senate from Texas in 1978 but for racially disproportionate felony disenfranchisement; that John Warner for the same reason wouldn't have been elected in 1978 from Virginia; and that despite the apparent rise in conservative Republican voting, the Senate would have remained under Democratic control every year between 1984 and 2003 if former felons had been allowed to vote. Indeed, if the same degree of racially disparate felony disenfranchisement that exists now had existed in 1960, Richard Nixon might well have defeated John F. Kennedy.

The kicker for all this is that all these black citizens who were disproportionately targeted for arrest and incarceration and then barred from voting are nonetheless counted as citizens for the purpose of determining how many Congressional seats and how many electoral votes states have. During slavery, three-fifths of the number of slaves were similarly counted by the slave states, even though slaves were not in any way members of the civil polity. This is worse. In the states of the Deep South, 30 percent of all black men are barred from voting because of felony convictions, but all of them are counted to determine Congressional representation and Electoral College votes. If one wants to wonder why the South is so solidly white, Republican and arch-conservative, one need look no further.

The fact is, just as Jim Crow laws were a successor system to slavery, so drug prohibition has been a successor to Jim Crow laws in targeting blacks, removing them from civil society and then denying them the right to vote while using their bodies to enhance white political power. Drug prohibition is now the last significant instance of legalized racial discrimination in America.


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Corruption without end

Last year, [newspaper reports of Duke Cunningham's corruption] caused him to sink into a depression that included thoughts of suicide. He wasn't wholly to blame for his troubles, Cunningham later told Saul Faerstein, a Beverly Hills psychiatrist. He'd been led astray, his "moral and religious values" perverted by unwholesome friends. "He recognizes now that Wade and others in Washington were part of a culture of corruption," wrote Faerstein, an expert for the defense in the O. J. Simpson trial, who was hired by Cunningham's lawyer in an effort to obtain a lighter sentence for his client. "He is troubled he didn't see the motives of the people he trusted." In fact, Faerstein wrote to the court, he found Cunningham "naïve in some ways, always trying to see the best qualities in people."

Do you know that Cunningham wrote a "bribe menu," detailing how many hundreds of thousands he should be paid for defense contracts, right under the bald eagle on his House of Representatives stationery? I ask the psychiatrist. Did Duke tell you he tried to inveigle innocent people into covering up his moneymaking schemes? "That was certainly quite damning…. But I never heard about that until later," says the psychiatrist. "I asked Cunningham's lawyer, 'Why didn't you provide me with that information?' They told me they gave me what I needed…. I am not very happy I didn't know all the facts." (Blalack says, "We made available to Dr. Faerstein all of the evidence that was in our possession.")

So, even as he was pleading guilty, Duke wasn't straight with you? I ask. "No," says Faerstein. "If I'd known about those things, I would have seen he was not so much influenced by the culture of corruption as part of the culture of corruption.

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