2004 Webbys

Posted by: on May 12, 2004 | No Comments


Apple wins two for iTMS, in the Commerce and Music categories.

blogforamerica (Dean) wins People’s Choice for politics.


Threat Matrix

Posted by: on May 10, 2004 | No Comments


It was the lead item on the government’s daily threat matrix one day last April. Don Emilio Fulci described by an FBI tipster as a reclusive but evil millionaire, had formed a terrorist group that was planning chemical attacks against London and Washington, D.C. That day even FBI director Robert Mueller was briefed on the Fulci matter. But as the day went on without incident, a White House staffer had a brainstorm: He Googled Fulci. His findings: Fulci is the crime boss in the popular video game Headhunter. “Stand down,” came the order from embarrassed national security types.

[ via Atrios ]


Posted by: on May 10, 2004 | No Comments

Ugh. Instapundit. Yeah, I know, I shouldn’t torture myself.

Today he’s channeling this drivel from Mudville Gazette, which sent me over the edge.

Seymour Hersh has had an amazing story dropped into his lap. A group of American GIs, caught on camera, abusing and humiliating Iraqi prisoners. Heinous acts. The wheels of justice were certainly turning, but nailing the abusive guards is not enough for the intrepid reporter. Indeed, since evidence indicates that one of those guard’s attorneys most likely provided that information to Hersh, it follows that getting the higher ups was likely part of the deal. . . .

Hersh has embarked on a televised disinformation campaign, recently appearing on the “O’Reilly Factor” in an effort to sow additional confusion in a public already stunned into incomprehension by the graphic photos he helped make famous worldwide.

The campaign relies on two main points, neither of which is completely factual: 1) the Army did nothing, and 2) it’s the superior’s fault, not the troops. Point one is a lie. Point two is true, but there’s a level where it becomes ludicrous. Given that point one is a lie, that level is low.

In essence, this is attempt to indirectly call Hersh a liar, while not actually attacking his “largely factual” article since that could be easily debunked. This goes way beyond the pale, and, of course, is not backed up by any evidence except, apparently, an interview with Bill O’Reilly. Good God.

So, supposed lie #1: the Army did nothing. Didn’t Hersh base the entire article on General Taguba’s report? Is Hersh denying this? I just don’t get this at all. It is clear, however, the administration made little (if any) attempt to correct the situation. Who gives a shit if 3 investigations were done, nothing was done to stop the abuse. Is it acceptable to take months and months to investigate continuing abuse and possibly murder? This did not happen in the past! As far as I can tell, this is still going on, and while some military personnel have been removed, contractors have apparently received no requests from the administration to remove their personnel which were also involved. At the very least we know this was still happening while the investigations were underway.

And, yes, there was at least some action on the part of the armed forces: General Myers requested that CBS delay the Abu Ghraib story by two weeks, presumably because it could color the debate about whether we could detain and strip all rights from the “enemy combatants” in Gitmo, which went in front of the Supreme Court on April 21st.

Alleged lie #2 Hersh is spreading is, “it’s the superior’s fault.” Is not the entire military based upon a chain of command? Did not Rumsfeld himself take responsibility for this saying it happened on his watch?

He goes on to agree with another wingnut who compares this to the Ramparts scandal in the LAPD, “which turned out to be rather less than initially thought.”

Then, in the next post, we have this: “It’s a scandal, to be dealt with. The people who want to make it the whole war are misguided, at best.”

So Glenn thinks (a) it’s “rather less” than we think, and (b) it just needs to be dealt with. This attitude is being spewed from all corners of the rightwing nutosphere.

The fallacy in comparing this to Ramparts is obvious. Ramparts was a local issue, by Los Angelians for Los Angelians. Story after story offer a buffet of sources which claim rampant abuse, including accounts from the Red Cross and even reports from the enlisted themselves who reported this to their superiors in vein. Despite who may or may not get hung for this, we know more data is coming. This attempt to downplay the gravity of the situation before we even see the second round of evidence is disingenuous.

But more short-sighted is the inability to see this: In Iraq, we invaded a country, presumably to liberate them and sow the seeds of democracy. (Well, at least that’s the reason now, since the mushroom clouds didn’t materialize. And never mind that some simple homework would tell you that Iraqi citizens would never vote for a democracy.) We are foreigners. We forcibly took over their country. This continuing belief that we can run roughshod over whatever the fuck we want to and then think it’s okay because we’re Americans and we know better, and they should be kissing our feet, is The. Most. Naive. Thing. Ever. We need to win the hearts & minds, not assume it’s a freebie because we’re the great geopolitical Jesus. [insert Vietnam comparison here.]

Whether we like it or not, the average Arab conversation about this “war” will now be framed in those pictures. (Unless we do something worse.) This is a PR disaster so monumental it’s likely we’ve blown any chance of getting that hearts & minds thing.

Some of the inability to see the obvious may be because of the utter lack of focus on the victims. There’s some basic lip-service: “Troubled.” “Horrible.” “Upsetting.” But that’s it. Sure, they’re not explicitly written off as a bunch of uncooperative sandniggers who deserved it, but it’s all there in the undercurrent. We know that 6 GIs were “involved.” So we talk about “only 6” and how it was “isolated,” yet no mention of the Iraqis themselves. They’re merely props. Naked human being props hooked up to batteries through their genitals.

So, IMHO, we’ve lost the war abroad. Not militarily, but ideologically. The two are not mutually exclusive. GAME OVER.

I hate to give Karl Rove tips, but I think there could be one situation where this could really turn against us on the left here at home: if any of the accused Americans are tried in Iraqi courts. Hypothetically, they could be sentenced to death which may or may not be an appropriate sentence, but that wouldn’t matter. First of all, it is improbable any trials could be completed before the November election. But an Iraqi court merely seeking the death penalty would cause the fickle American public to rally behind Shrub; perhaps creating a November landslide. Sure, this scenario is rife with hypocrisy, but that never bothered the voting public before. And after what W did to McCain in SC in 2000, I certainly wouldn’t place this out of the realm of possibility.

Old Dog, New Tricks

Posted by: on May 8, 2004 | No Comments

With Apple dragging their feet on G5 upgrades (where’s my “3 GHz in a year?”), I shoved some old life into my dusty 4-year-old Mac via a processor upgrade.

Out came the G4 500MHz Dual Processors, and in went a 1.2 GHz DP card from PowerLogix. Surprisingly, the upgrade wasn’t as hard as I thought, although getting the screws in through the heatsink proved a bit of a challenge. For all you PC weenies, these are RISC chips so 1.2 is more than enough for now. (RISC being “reduced instruction set,” meaning less instructions per cycle — thus faster.)

PowerLogix has had some rough patches lately, many of these upgrades suffered from bad chips, or just didn’t work at all, and apparently PowerLogix’s return policy is long and tedious. So caveat emptor.

Overall, I’m quite thrilled though. It’s been humming along for days now with no glitches.

For all you geeks out there, I’ve about gone as far as I can with this machine: 1.5 GB memory, 500 GB disk space, Radeon 9800.

Next step will be a G5, when they’re finally upgraded. Then this machine will enter the world of serverdom, replacing my creeky Blue & White G3.


Posted by: on May 8, 2004 | No Comments

ExxonMobile may become the world’s largest company, surpassing GE

Not a bit of a correlation between this and our ultrahigh gas prices, right?

Oh, wait, maybe:

High energy prices are bad news for the global economy, but they’ve generated windfall profits for Exxon. In the first quarter, the Irving, Texas, company reported record earnings of $5 billion, putting it on track to surpass last year’s record profit of $21.5 billion.

Isn’t this why we invaded Iraq? No, I mean, really… we’re not still buying this “democracy” crap are we?

Buck Fush.


Posted by: on May 7, 2004 | No Comments

So, the Bush team listening devices picked up this outside of Rummy’s house tonight:

Joyce Rumsfeld: Good evening stud, how did your day go?

Rummy: Well, I lied to Congress. Then I masturbated. Oh, and after that… I sold my soul to Cheney for a bag of Cheetos. They were delicious, but they get all over your fingers, ya know?

Mrs.: Yes, I know sweetie. Well, just another day then? Huh?

Rummy: Yep.

And there’s this:

Rumsfeld did not describe the photos, but U.S. military officials told NBC News that the unreleased images showed U.S. soldiers severely beating an Iraqi prisoner nearly to death, having sex with a female Iraqi female prisoner and “acting inappropriately with a dead body.” The officials said there was also a videotape, apparently shot by U.S. personnel, showing Iraqi guards raping young boys.

I will give Rummy this much: he admitted there were more photos, and even videos coming.

Ohhhh!!! *chortle* I can’t wait for the “American GIs Gone Wild” videos. I mean, there’s young boy rape and even inappropriate action with a dead body. Hot, hot, hot!

Meanwhile, of VITAL importance today, was denying OTC “morning after” pills for absolutely no sound scientific reason.

Kinda like when Bush was in Crawford ignoring the “Bin Laden Determined to Attack the US” PDB because he had more important business to attend to — vacationing and denying stem cell research.

God Bless Amerika.

Comcast Jesus

Posted by: on May 5, 2004 | No Comments

Apparently “cannot be waived” CAN be waived.

Backstory is here, and today I received this:

Dear Steve,

Thank you for contacting Comcast Cable.

I understand you we’re charged an installation fee of $15.99 when all
the technician did was drop off the HDTV box.

After careful consideration, and upon reviewing your account, I have
decided to request a credit for your account for $15.99. Please allow
for 30-90 days for the credit to be approved and applied to your
account. I do thank you for your patience.

I do apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

If you have any further billing related questions or issues you wish to
discuss, please feel free to write back into us.

Thank you for choosing Comcast.


Stephen H.
Comcast Customer Care Specialist

What really irritates me is, whether I’m right or not is entirely beside the point, in Comcast-land, arguing with me is more expensive than just giving me the credit. In other words, the poor get screwed — yet again. Who’s gonna argue semantics over bullshit charges but me (and those like me)?

Mildly ironic, I’m also a “Stephen H.” But still, Comcast: go fuck yourself.

I’m slightly encouraged to take this further — to push for refunds for all those that were charged some bullshit fee when the “cable guy” did little more than drop off a box. I imagine I’m not alone, considering the thought of some sweaty 20-year-old molesting my expensive TV gives me chills. It’s my fucking TV, and I set it up, why do I want you fiddling with it? I’d just rather do it myself.

As I said it before: Comcast, go fuck yourself.


Posted by: on May 4, 2004 | One Comment

I was out to dinner with some friends the other night, and there was someone there that I found, let’s say, interesting. Attractive, talkative.

So, I was headed to the bar.

Me: Drink?

Them: No.

Me: You sure?

Them: Yeah, it doesn’t mix well with the Risperdal.

Me: Risperdal… [long pause] Um, isn’t that for severe schizophrenia?

Them: Uh huh. It is.

Me: I see. Riiiiiight… no drinks for you.

Boy. I know how to pick ’em.

Go Outsourcing!

Posted by: on May 4, 2004 | 2 Comments

An e-mail exchange I’m having with Comcast. What a bunch of weenies.

Back story: they dropped off a new cable box the other day, which I just took delivery of and hooked up to the TV myself. The guy was here maybe 3 minutes. For this, I have to pay $15.99 for an INSTALL fee. But nothing was installed. Semantics, I know, but the fee is clearly a rip and, well, they can go fuck themselves. At the very least, I fully intend to use at least $15.99 of their resources arguing this with their dimwitted support staff.

My original query, sent via online web form:

What’s up with the $15.99 “INSTALL” charge for the HDTV box? The
guy was there all of 3 minutes. He dropped the box off and didn’t touch
one wire.

Their reply:

Thank you for contacting Comcast Cable.

We apologize for the confusion, but the $15.99 is the fee for installing
the HDTV box. This fee cannot be waived. We apologize for any

If there is anything else we can help you with, please contact us.
Thank you for choosing Comcast.


Comcast Online Orders

Good job Caleb. You da big man around the office, aintcha? You told me!


Thank you for your curt and dismissive email.

However, I must point out — yet again — that nothing was actually INSTALLED. I was simply handed a box, which I connected myself. If the $15.99 is indeed for installation, the way I figure it, you owe me $15.99. After all, I installed it.

So to whom should I send the bill?

Thank you.

Debtor Nation

Posted by: on May 2, 2004 | 2 Comments

The 5/10 issue of The Nation features “Debtor Nation,” an article by William Greider.

At task are our rising trade deficits and what it really means to us, as Americans, in the ever increasing global economy we live in. It’s no secret that Americans are uber-consumers, putting themselves ever-more in debt for new cars and furniture. Meanwhile, they facilitate the trade deficit by patronizing “intra-trade” multinationals, like Wal-Mart, which use cheap overseas labor in favor of American jobs to sell ever-cheaper goods to Americans. It doesn’t take a genius to see that’s not sustainable. And mixing our declining economy with the world’s most powerful military leads to some terrifying scenarios.

I’m not on the imminent doom bandwagon yet, but it’s got some eye-opening and “putting 2-and-2 together” moments.

Full article is here, but here’s some salient excerpts:

For several decades, in fact, the federal government has tolerated and even encouraged the dispersal of American production overseas–first to secure allies during the cold war, later to advance the fortunes of US multinationals. No other major economy in the world accepts perennial trade deficits; some maintain huge surpluses. But American leaders and policy-makers are uniquely dedicated to a faith in “free market” globalization, and they have regularly promised Americans that despite the disruptions, this policy guarantees their long-term prosperity. Present facts make these long-held convictions look like gross illusion. By 1998, the trade deficit was back to a new high and expanding ferociously, despite supposed improvements in US competitiveness. Last year it set another new record: $489 billion.


The US economy, in essence, is being kept afloat by enormous foreign lending so that consumers can keep buying more imports, thus increasing the bloated trade deficits. This lopsided arrangement will end when those foreign creditors–major trading partners like Japan, China and Europe–decide to stop the lending or simply reduce it substantially.

That reckoning could arrive as a sudden thunderclap of financial crisis–spiking interest rates, swooning stock market and crashing home prices. More likely it will be less dramatic but equally painful. As foreign capital moves elsewhere and easy credit disappears for consumers, many Americans will experience a major decline in their living standards–a gradual grinding-down process that could continue for years. If the US government reacts passively and allows “market forces” to make these adjustments, the consequences will be especially severe for the less affluent–families already stretched by stagnating wages and too much borrowing.


Both China and Japan are prodigious financiers of US consumption–the two largest foreign holders of US Treasury bonds–despite the weak returns they get from low US interest rates. China and Japan are willing to do this because they calculate that sustaining their own industrial output and employment is worth more than seeking stronger financial returns elsewhere.


The poker game ends when one major player or another decides it has gotten the last dollar off the table and it’s time to go home. Creditor nations naturally have the upper hand, like any banker who can call the loan when he sees the borrower is hopelessly mired. But the decision to exit might be dictated by necessity more than bad faith. China, for instance, is booming, with a banking system riddled with bad loans to its domestic enterprises. If a banking crisis developed, Beijing might have no choice but to sell off its US bonds and use the capital at home to stabilize its financial system or to assuage political unrest among its unemployed masses. Tokyo has for some years anticipated an eventual American reckoning but hoped to keep the United States from doing anything rash until the Asian sphere was strong enough to prosper on its own, without depending so heavily on American consumers. (Bold mine.)

What might be done to avoid the worst? The necessary first step is for American politicians to cast aside the propagandistic claims advanced by multinational business and finance and endorsed by policy elites and orthodox economists. For decades, globalization advocates insisted, for example, that the solution to America’s trade deficits was more “free trade.” Each new trade agreement has been heralded as a market-opening breakthrough that would boost US exports and thus move toward balanced trade. That is not what happened–not after NAFTA (1993) and the WTO (1994), nor after China normalization (2000). In each case, the trade deficits grew dramatically. (Yes, it’s true that since the early 1970s US export volume has grown by more than five times, but import volume has grown by eight times.) Economists have also claimed that ending deficit spending by the federal government would eliminate the trade gap. Yet when the federal government’s budget did finally come into balance in 1999, the trade deficits were exploding. This discredited explanation is nonetheless being recycled, now that huge federal deficits have been spectacularly revived by the Bush Administration.


A decisive President, one who grasped the gravity of the situation, would start by bringing up a taboo subject–tariffs–and inform the world that the United States is prepared to impose a temporary general tariff of 10 or 15 percent on all US imports. Every multinational would have to rethink its industrial strategy, because some of its production might be stranded in the wrong country. Import-dependent retailers like Wal-Mart would be seriously disrupted, too.

The idea of tariffs is so alien to conventional wisdom it probably sounds illegal. Actually, a nondiscriminatory general tariff is permitted under the original GATT agreement for a nation to correct grave financial imbalances–exactly the problem America is facing. Richard Nixon stunned the world in 1971 when he abruptly announced a 10 percent import surcharge, devalued the dollar and unilaterally discarded the Bretton Woods monetary system. America needs a bit of Nixonian nerve.

With a general tariff, the practice of wage arbitrage–shifting high-wage jobs to low-wage nations, then selling the goods to the US market–would no longer be a free ride. If the US market were less wide-open, globalization could continue, but countries and companies would need to disperse production on different assumptions. They might finally confront the central dilemma of inadequate global demand versus the permanent overabundance of supply.

It goes on to propose some solutions. They are radical, but at the same time, there’s a certain amount of undeniable logic. When you have Warren Buffet moving his wealth into overseas markets and currency, it’s probably a good idea to wonder about these things yourself.

…read the full article