Nero's Fiddle
A View From The Handbasket

Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Good News!
Posted by neros_fiddle at 7:29 PM
After delivering the same speech for the 3,584th time today, apparently believing this time will do the trick and convince everyone Iraq is a great idea executed flawlessly and roaring toward success, it's clear that the Bush White House loves propaganda. No matter how weird the policy, there's a psychosemantically correct propaganda blitz all ready for it. (Remember the megahyped tour around the country to promote dismantling Social Security?)

So it should come as little surprise that the Pentagon is using its unfettered power in Iraq to cut out the middleman and inject a little propaganda of its own into the media we so famously "freed" 2 1/2 years ago.

The twist seems to be that we're paying the Iraq media to run our propaganda, as opposed to just forcing them to. Propaganda with a profit motive -- now that's the sort of progress even a Republican can appreciate.

0 comments on this post
Hell is repetition
Posted by neros_fiddle at 3:59 PM
The President performed yet another version of Why I Went To War, his perennially popular performance art spectacle, this morning to another hand-picked audience. A new stage set was featured:

But the content, alas, was pretty much the same. The old hits "Central Front In The War On Terror," "I Won't Cut And Run," "Flypaper Strategy," "Watching Iraqis Grow," and "Did I Mention Terror?" were all reprised.

And the media covered it, again, as a major event.

Another well-covered performance is expected shortly.

0 comments on this post
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
"Liberal" media recycles GOP spin
Posted by neros_fiddle at 12:54 PM
I'm on vacation this week, and part of that has been staying out of the day-to-day political food fight. Thus, not a whole lot of blogging. Yet, Leonard Pitts, Jr. appeared in my Sunday paper, asserting confidently as I rummaged for the funnies:

So yeah, I think Bush is right. More to the point I think U.S. Rep. John Murtha is wrong. Murtha, D-Pa., made headlines recently by calling for an immediate pullout of American forces...

It's not that he persuaded his fellow lawmakers to agree with him. A Republican-engineered proposal calling for a pullout (it was designed to get Democrats on the record on the issue) was defeated 403 to 3.

Pitts has swallowed the Republican bait-and-switch hook, line and sinker. What really happened, of course, is that Murtha introduced a resolution that called for withdrawal "at the earliest practicable date."

To bury this resolution, which had substantial support, the GOP immediately brought out its own resolution, which called for US military presence in Iraq to be terminated "immediately."

Needless to say, there's a world of difference between "earliest practicable" and "immediately." Yet the GOP spin machine quickly moved to equate the Republican resolution and the Murtha resolution, to the point where reliable GOP mouthpieces like Sean Hannity started referring to the Republican resolution as the "Murtha amendment."

No one in their right mind would vote for the Republican resolution -- it was designed to fail. Pitts woefully misstates the goal as "get[ting] Democrats on the record on the issue." Clearly, the goal was rather to introduce a completely inadequate and reckless "withdrawal resolution" that no one would vote for, have it defeated, and then loudly trumpet to the press that the House had nearly unanimously rejected "withdrawal" -- thus killing Murtha's resolution (which never made it out of committee).

Which is, of course, exactly what happened. And the press cheerfully went along with it, with the headlines obligingly reading, "WITHDRAWAL RESOLUTION DEFEATED 403-3."

And then Pitts can paint Murtha as a wacko whose ideas were voted down, 403-3.

It's a good thing we have Fox News so we can escape all the anti-GOP bias in the media.

1 comments on this post
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Iraq to US: Get out. Now.
Posted by neros_fiddle at 10:38 AM
Hot on the heels of the GOP demonizing John Murtha for suggesting we start thinking about getting the hell out of Iraq, comes a rare show of unity from Iraq's squabbling factions -- a demand that we start thinking about getting the hell out of Iraq.

But they went a step further and rejected the label of "terrorism" for attacks that do not target civilians:

Leaders of Iraq's sharply divided Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis called Monday for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces in the country and said Iraq's opposition had a "legitimate right" of resistance.

The final communique, hammered out at the end of three days of negotiations at a preparatory reconciliation conference under the auspices of the Arab League, condemned terrorism, but was a clear acknowledgment of the Sunni position that insurgents should not be labeled as terrorists if their operations do not target innocent civilians or institutions designed to provide for the welfare of Iraqi citizens.

The participants in Cairo agreed on ``calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops according to a timetable, through putting in place an immediate national program to rebuild the armed forces ... control the borders and the security situation'' and end terror attacks.

The conference was attended by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Iraqi Shiite and Kurdish lawmakers, as well as leading Sunni politicians.

Seems pretty clear to me. And it definitely puts the GOP bluster in an interesting context. I'm expecting a stern lecture from Dick Cheney directed at the Iraqi government about "staying the course" and "accepting nothing less than victory" and not "cutting and running" and other such manly topics.

Or perhaps the (democratically-elected) government will get branded as "terrorists" for not considering attacks on US troops to be "terrorism." That would be fun.

1 comments on this post
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Just say no
Posted by neros_fiddle at 9:31 PM
I decided to post a rare shot of Rosabelle not sleeping this week. Here she's enjoying the sweet embrace of magic kitty herbs:

0 comments on this post
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Tedious pontificating on piracy and copy protection
Posted by neros_fiddle at 10:59 AM
Tedious, and a rerun.

I'd originally posted this in the comments (in slightly different form) Down There Somewhere, but thought it might merit more visibility, what with all this rootkit brouhaha. The question from Ron was, basically, how do you square the "evilness" of these DRM schemes with the obvious need of copyright holders to protect their stuff? Aren't music lovers getting a free ride, and aren't the labels obligated to protect their property?

(We'll leave aside the specific example of the Sony rootkit, since I think we can all agree that its security problems outweigh its value in protecting copyright, and consider the merits of copy protection in general.)

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, the Internet as distribution system is what has driven all of this. Up until ten years ago, there wasn't a good way to massively violate copyright. You had pirates selling bootleg cassettes on street corners, and friends making tapes for friends (Remember "home taping is killing music"? How quaint that sounds now.), but it was all pretty well contained by the limits of the technology. With analog tape, by the time you got three or so generations away from the source, it wasn't really something you wanted to listen to or watch anyway.

Now a single copy of something can be distributed with no generational loss across the globe for little or no cost. That's a whole different set of rules, and one the labels and studios are desperately trying to come to grips with. And so they're riding roughshod over usage patterns we've all come to accept as normal (like being able to copy an album into a portable device -- consumers have been doing that for 25 years now, ever since the first Walkman came out).

Yes, life's good for the music lover. It's hard to be an enthusaist and *not* take advantage of the situation. I download stuff for two reasons: (a) to get out-of-print material without paying outrageous money on eBay (which the copyright holder wouldn't profit from, anyway -- see below), and (b) to check out unfamiliar things, quite a bit of which I end up buying. (I dropped $90 in the record store recently, all on things I discovered from downloads. Ironically, it turned out that one of those CDs was equipped with Sony copy protection, though not the rootkit flavor.)

But as a rationalization for downloading that stinks, because most people just download stuff and don't bother to buy it if they like it. In a perfect world, downloading would be *encouraged* by the labels as an advertising vehicle, if consumers would follow up by buying stuff they like. But the follow-up doesn't happen in enough cases to make that model work.

(As an aside, where things like Bittorrent really shine is when the studio/label system fails. I want to watch the new Doctor Who series. There's no US distribution -- the system has failed to get the show to US viewers, either via broadcast or DVD. So I download it. That's a case where I think the copyright owner has no one to blame but himself.)

Likewise, I've discovered a lots of things by trading CD-Rs back and forth, and that's generated purchases I wouldn't have otherwise made. But you can't use that as a "real" argument either, because it's strictly honor system, and most consumers ignore the "honor" part.

So what can be done to protect copyright?

I think the labels/studios are going at it from the wrong angle. The stuff that hurts them isn't Joe Consumer making a copy for his iPod (or his friend overseas), it's the massive digital net-based duplication I talked about above. All of these DRM things do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to address that problem. All you need is ONE copy to get into the wild, and you are hosed. And no matter how much intrusive technology is wrapped around content, someone somewhere will find a way to make a copy and put it on the net. All of this flailing about with complicated copy-protection schemes is a massive waste of time and money.

If I were the labels/studios, I'd do two things:

1) Accept that the rules have changed. Instead of trying to shoehorn their old business model in to the new reality, they instead need to adjust the business model. Look at iTunes -- that's a massive success, and it's a success because Apple understands what people today want to do with music, and they are adapting the sale of music to that reality. But, as I noted in a post a few weeks back, the labels don't get it and are trying to poison that well.

As part of that, the harsh reality is that the huge profits of the era when labels and studios had an effective monopoly on distribution (legal or illegal) are probably over. No more bands flying around the country on their own jet planes. No more giving a movie star a Porsche as a bonus for a good opening weekend. That's the way it is.

In fact, I would suspect that the used CD/DVD market is probably comparable to piracy in terms of a drain on new CD/DVD sales. After all, the sale of a used disc generates zero revenue for the copyright holder and (under RIAA/MPAA logic) costs the copyright holder a sale. But the copyright holders have accepted that (after some initial noise about banning used sales that proved legally untenable -- their lobbyists are better today, however).

2) In combination with making legal DRM-lite downloads available (DRM isn't intrinsically evil, just the more brain-dead versions of it. I think Apple strikes a good balance with iTunes, though I'd buy more from them if the files were of higher quality.), they need to focus their energy on making illegal distribution as hard as possible. Since so many of the pirate servers are overseas, this'll require more international cooperation, but I think it will eventually pay bigger dividends than trying to retrofit DRM onto existing technology, which as often as not blows up in the face of those who try to deploy it.

7 comments on this post
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Sony shoots self in foot, then sticks it in a bucket of salt, then sets fire to own head
Posted by neros_fiddle at 4:25 PM
This is the story that keeps on giving. Visit the ever-expanding Fiddle Archives for more details, but in short: First Sony puts amazingly evil copy-protection on around 20 CD releases, which includes "rootkit" software that compromises the Windows kernel and is considered malware by everyone except Sony. Finally, Sony relents and allows users (after surrendering all sorts of personal information) to apply a "patch" that replaces the evil copy-protection with merely intolerable copy-protection. Then, as the news breaks that half a million networks are infected with this software, Sony sheepishly announces a recall and exchange program.

But just when Sony thinks a corner has been turned, an oncoming truck appears:

A patch that Sony issued a week ago when virus writers began taking advantage of the software's file-hiding capabilities actually introduces serious new security risks onto the user's machine, according to research released today by Princeton University computer science professor Edward Felten.

The Sony Web page where users can download the removal patch installs a program that remains on the user's PC even after removal tool has done its job, Felten said. And because of the way the tool is configured, he said, it allows any Web page that the user subsequently visits to download, install and run any code that it likes.

Great leapin' Trojans.

In spite of all this, Sony (along with EMI) is still planning to copy-protect every title they release in 2006. On the list of ways to drive the final nail into the music industry's coffin, that ranks right at the top. Driven mad with fear by the spectre of internet piracy, the music industry is killing itself rather than face the problem, as its customers and artists look on in wide-eyed astonishment.

(All links harvested from Slashdot.)

10 comments on this post
Bread and circuses
Posted by neros_fiddle at 8:51 AM
After naming this blog what I did, how could I resist this story?

Two Iraqi businessmen, who were imprisoned by U.S. forces in Iraq, claimed Monday that American soldiers threw them into a cage of lions in a Baghdad palace, as part of a terrifying interrogation in 2003.

The claims could be a load of lion poo, but you've got to love the historical resonance.

2 comments on this post
Monday, November 14, 2005
Random notes
Posted by neros_fiddle at 10:51 AM
My iPod sits at my desk at work, always plugged in. It hasn't been away from a power source long enough for the shuffle feature to reset itself, so I've been working through all 6510 songs in a single, months-long shuffle session (as I type this, it's on song 4813). Yesterday was my birthday, and one of the first songs to come up (yes, I worked yesterday) was "Birthday" by the Beatles. Spooky. They're becoming sentient.

In other music-related babble, I made the mistake some time ago of becoming interested in Frank Zappa. Usually, this is a straightforward proposition, you decide you like something, and blithely pick up some well-reviewed CDs to dig deeper. Yeah, audiophiles will get worked up over relatively minor sound-quality issues, but you'll run into that with anything.

Zappa is a whole other universe, though. His catalog is in what can kindly be called disarray. Pick up one of the currently available CDs, or (horrors) paw through the used bins, and you might be confronted by anything from a 60s recording with re-recorded 80s bass and drums to sound quality comparable to an 8-track-tape left on the dashboard of a Ford Torino since the Nixon administration.

The curious and the masochistic are invited to check out the invaluable Zappa Patio, currently in the capable hands of David Goodwin, to get an idea of the problem. If you make the same grevious error of judgement I did and start collecting Zappa records, look before you leap. It's a cold hard world out there.

4 comments on this post
Friday, November 11, 2005
Play it again, George
Posted by neros_fiddle at 9:44 PM
It appears that some of the more fanatic followers of Bush's performance art (see below) have been doing in-depth textual analysis of some recent appearances. The results are enlightening, if not exactly informative.

0 comments on this post
Posted by neros_fiddle at 9:03 PM
Just to be unpredictable, here's some Friday catblogging. Chloe is a Sleep Inducer.

2 comments on this post
War On Christmas Terror Alert
Posted by neros_fiddle at 4:30 PM

0 comments on this post
Stop me if you've heard this before
Posted by neros_fiddle at 1:55 PM

The President, joined on stage by an enormous Humvee as a subtle reminder that he is the War President, unveiled his latest variation on Why I Went To War, his ever-evolving performance art piece that's drawn rave reviews from hand-picked audiences around the country. The new parts of today's performance included the "Rewriting History" talking point:

It is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began... more than 100 Democrats in the House and the Senate who had access to the same intelligence voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power.

Long-time followers of WIWTW noted that this section was reminiscent of what fans called the "If I Wasn't The Only One Wrong, I Wasn't Wrong" routine, which was featured in the versions of WIWTW Bush performed at several stops on his 2004 Re-Election Tour. (Others noted that it was totally inaccurate, but they were quickly escorted from the venue by ushers.)

Ironically, though, this new "Rewriting History" piece omitted what was a centerpiece of the late 2002 version of WIWTW, a motif fans call "Last Resort." This constant insistence that voting for the Iraq War Resolution was a necessary bargaining chip to force a peaceful resolution to the Iraq situation would seem to be at odds with the President's present characterization of this vote as one to "support removing Saddam Hussein from power", but fans insist than this apparent discrepancy will be resolved in future performances of WIWTW.

Another interesting new theme was "Watch Your Back, Syria," which promises to take Why I Went To War in exciting new directions in the next several months.

Otherwise, today's presentation of the piece was largely a "Greatest Hits" set that thrilled audiences with old favorites such as "Iraq Is The Central Front Of The War On Terror" (an audacious number that plays with traditional expectations of linear narrative by using the *negative result* of the war as a reason for *starting* it), "A Muslim Empire From Spain To Indonesia," "Determined To Destroy Our Way Of Life," "This Possibly Fake Letter Says The Terrorists Want To Scare Us Into Leaving Iraq," and the crowd-pleaser "Criticizing Me Is The Same As Helping The Terrorists." But for many of those who follow WIWTW, the big surprise was a reprise of "Bashing John Kerry," a theme many assumed had been retired after the mammoth Re-Election Tour.

There were charges that trotting out so much old material was evidence that Bush was worried about his shrinking fan base, but many noted that Why I Went To War continues to draw news coverage week and week out, regardless of the freshness of the material, so the question is largely moot.

6 comments on this post
Sony DRM update
Posted by neros_fiddle at 1:44 PM
Guess what? All those unlucky souls who dared to play their legally purchased Sony CDs in their Windows PCs are now officially at greater risk for malware infection:

When recipients click on an attachment, they install malware, which may tear down a computer's firewall and give hackers access to a PC. The malware hides by using Sony BMG software that is also hidden -- the software would have been installed on a computer when consumers played Sony's copy-protected music CDs.

Whatever Sony was smoking when they decided that using this wretched software would actually encourage to people to buy their products, I want some. What's next? "Ford announced today a new anti-theft feature in all its new cars: any attempt to start the car will result in the fuel tank exploding."

0 comments on this post
Double-shot of duplicity
Posted by neros_fiddle at 8:40 AM
I remember when I listened to classic-rock radio (back when it was still "rock" radio) and they'd make a big deal out of double-shots ("Back-to-back Boston!"). It was a sort of queasy flashback this morning as NPR sent me screaming from my bed with the blood-stained combo of Ahmad Chalabi and Judith Miller.

First up, rehabilitated Iran spy Chalabi smugly disclaimed any responsibility for the lies and distortions that the US government eagerly accepted from his Iraqi National Congress as sufficient cause to go to war. Sure, his group provided a steady stream of dissidents with stories to tell, but he of course couldn't personally vouch for the authenticity of those fairy stories. But he's very grateful to us for sacrificing 2100 soldiers and spending hundreds of billions of dollars to put him in power as deputy prime minister of Iraq. Thanks!

The last chorus of Chalabi's exercise in buck-passing had barely faded before the dissonant power chords of Judith Miller blared forth. In a contentious interview with Renee Montagne, Miller insisted that the WMD fantasies she dutifully received from Chalabi and disseminated in the New York Times with the encouragement of people like "Scooter" Libby (and for which her newspaper eventually was forced to apologize) were in no way examples of sloppy or credulous reporting.

But the best part of the Miller piece was the obfuscation solo, where she tried to weasel out of the passage in the NYT piece she wrote just a few weeks ago, in which she recalled agreeing to identify Libby as a "former Hill staffer" for some particularly juicy background details (which in Washington is like identifying someone as a "former high school student"). She hotly denied that she ever intended to do such a thing and then insisted it was common practice for reporters to agree to identify someone in a certain way, get the info, and then try to negotiate a different identification. Montagne asked her if she did this often, and Miller screeched a denial. It was a head-spinning performance.

I'd rather listen to Boston, and that's saying something.

1 comments on this post
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Right-wing defeats? What right-wing defeats?
Posted by neros_fiddle at 11:12 AM
AMERICAblog has a great set of screenshots from some major news websites last night.

It apparently hurt so much to report that Democrats won the NJ and VA governor races, and that the Governator got his cyborg ass handed to him in CA, and that the Dover intelligent design advocates got swept out of office, that the only thing Fox News could find to trumpet was the Texas gay marriage ban and the Kansas pro-ID school board decision.

The more out-of-step they are, the further from the mainstream their agenda is, and that's fine with me.

0 comments on this post
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
President Crankypants
Posted by neros_fiddle at 8:50 PM
Many thanks to the Rude Pundit (link to the right, posts left) for alerting us to this passage from a recent NYT piece on the President's calamitous journey to South America:

Not least, the always-on-time, early-rising Mr. Bush found himself so much at the mercy of Argentina's late, leisurely scheduling that on Friday he sat down to a dinner with Western Hemisphere leaders at 10:15 p.m., already past his bedtime, and did not get back to his hotel room until nearly 12:40 a.m.

The next day, an administration official said Mr. Bush would skip a two-hour lunch with the leaders because of "time served" at dinner the night before. But the president's planned escape was soon moot because the contentious summit talks ran so late, three hours over schedule at that point, that Argentina canceled the lunch.

So by 3:30 p.m., evidently on an empty stomach, Mr. Bush said he was sticking to his itinerary - a 4:05 p.m. Air Force One departure from Argentina to go to Brazil - and he did, leaving an assistant secretary of state behind to sweat out the trade talks. They ended hours later in failure.

So we have a President who doesn't do his job because he missed his bedtime. I thought there was a minimum age specified in the Constitution for that position.

2 comments on this post
I'm thinking of a number between 1 and 100
Posted by neros_fiddle at 3:29 PM
With all the hooplah around Bush plumbing new depths in his popularity polls (one poll had him at an all-time-low 35 percent a couple of weeks ago), I thought it might be interesting to put that number in some sort of historical context. So, here's a few interesting Presidential job-approval numbers from recent history.

Bush 43, a week ago (low): 35
Bush 43, at 2004 election: 53
Bush 43, at start of Iraq War: 68
Bush 43, 10/8/01 (all-time post-FDR high): 92
Bush 43, 9/6/01: 54
Bush 43, on taking office: 57

Clinton, on leaving office: 68
Clinton, after impeachment: 64
Clinton, after Starr Report released: 60
Clinton, "I did not have sex with that woman" (high): 73
Clinton, at 1996 election: 60
Clinton, May 1993 (low): 36
Clinton, on taking office: 56

Bush 41, on leaving office: 56
Bush 41, just before 1992 election: 34
Bush 41, August 92 (low): 29
Bush 41, after the Gulf War (high): 89
Bush 41, on taking office: 51

Reagan, on leaving office: 63
Reagan, after Iran-Contra hearings: 47
Reagan, May 86 (high): 68
Reagan, at 1984 election: 61
Reagan, Jan 83 (low): 35
Reagan, May 81 (high): 68
Reagan, after assassination attempt: 67
Reagan, on taking office: 51

Carter, on leaving office: 34
Carter, at 1980 election: 31
Carter, after failed hostage rescue: 43
Carter, after hostages taken: 38
Carter, July 79 (low): 28
Carter, after Camp David accords: 49
Carter, after Panama Canal Treaty: 59
Carter, March 77 (high): 75
Carter, on taking office: 66

Ford, on leaving office: 53
Ford, Mar 75 (low): 37
Ford, Jan 75 (low): 37
Ford, after pardoning Nixon: 50
Ford, August 74 (high): 74
Ford, on taking office: 71

Nixon, on resignation: 24
Nixon, Jan 74 (low): 23
Nixon, Jan 73 (high): 67
Nixon, at 1972 election: 62
Nixon, after Vietnam cease-fire: 50
Nixon, Nov 69 (high): 67
Nixon, on taking office: 59

Johnson, on leaving office: 49
Johnson, Aug 68 (low): 35
Johnson, Mar 64 (high): 80
Johnson, on taking office: 78

Kennedy, before assassination: 58
Kennedy, Sep 63 (low): 56
Kennedy, after Cuban Missile Crisis: 74
Kennedy, after Bay of Pigs (high): 83
Kennedy, on taking office: 72

Eisenhower, April 58 (low): 48
Eisenhower, Dec 56 (high): 79

Truman, Feb 52 (all-time post-FDR low): 22
Truman, June 45 (high): 87

Roosevelt, Jan 42 (high): 84
Roosevelt, Aug 39 (low): 48

0 comments on this post
Monday, November 07, 2005
Turning water into whine
Posted by neros_fiddle at 8:29 PM
In the comments to a post down there somewhere, Dob complains about a blogger over at First Draft complaining about white Christian men with persecution complexes. (So, in effect, it's a complaint about a complaint about a complaint. This sort of thing is what makes blogging so much fun.) As part of my response, I mentioned Bill O'Reilly's crusade last year to save Christmas from the godless heathen who say, "Happy Holidays."

Well, it looks like this year is going to be even worse. Rampaging into the "Right-Wing Paranoia" section of your local bookstore is this screed by Fox News talking head John Gibson:

This is just the beginning, though. Those white-Christian-male haters over at First Draft helpfully point out that a "Christian legal group" is offering free legal representation to anyone whose right to encourage others to celebrate Christmas is trampled by Satanic school boards and meddling city councils.

Now let's think about this for a minute. These groups are behaving as though the celebration of Christmas (and by extension Christianity itself, assuming we grant the premise that Christmas is really "Christian" in the first place) is somehow being threatened. That a holiday that single-handedly makes many corporations profitable is somehow in danger. That the biggest orgy of commercialism in the Western world is being pushed out. It takes a certain kind of sucker to fall for a premise like that, and that's John Gibson's target market.

According to a 2002 Pew Research survey, 82% of Americans identify themselves as Christian. The only other category to get more than 2% was "no preference" (with 10%). It's this 82% majority that is apparently scared witless that their entire religion is going to be wiped off the face of the map.

That's hyperbole, of course. Christians aren't really worried about the survival of their religion, and most Christians aren't part of this wacky crusade. What the subset of Christians that are making noise about this are really frightened of, of course, is the possiblity that they might have to confront the reality of a world in which that pesky 18% exist.

Like Jim Crow racists who tolerated blacks only if they used separate facilities and stayed in the back of the bus, these "Christians" can only move through the scary world if all other religions give them proper deference. They want a Nativity scene on the lawn of the courthouse (and a Ten Commandments monument inside) to remind everyone which God is in charge 'round these parts. They demand a Christmas pageant at their kid's school to remind any heathen kids that they aren't "real" citizens unless they love Jesus. They want that minimum-wage temporary cashier at Best Buy to tell them, "Merry Christmas," to reassure them that everyone else either thinks like them or can be forced to.

These people have no actual religious conviction. They have no faith. They have only a shaky group identification and a massive fear of the world. "Otherness" frightens them, and they find comfort in rigid conformity. They're the ones who want to turn America into a theocracy, like the Taliban running amok in Afghanistan blowing up statues that didn't mesh with their worldview. They want to infect the rest of us with their fear -- they want us to be as afraid of them as they are of us.

I think FDR had some appropriate advice for how to deal with people like Bill O'Reilly and John Gibson. Reject fear.

4 comments on this post
Saturday, November 05, 2005
Posted by neros_fiddle at 10:32 AM
Screw it, I'm just going to catblog on Saturday because I'm congenitally lazy. Deal with it.

Here's Griz endearing herself to Athena:

3 comments on this post
Thursday, November 03, 2005
Even more heckuva job
Posted by neros_fiddle at 12:29 PM
My fellow Americans, I give you the man once in charge of your safety (and still getting a FEMA paycheck).

The Smoking Gun has some e-mails that Michael Brown sent and received during the Katrina crisis. While New Orleans descended into death and chaos, the head of FEMA was obsessing over how he looked on TV and trying to get a dogsitter. He was advised by his press secretary, Sharon Worthy:

Please roll up the sleeves of your shirt...all shirts. Even the President rolled his sleeves to just below the elbow.

In this crises
(sic) and on TV you just need to look more hard-working...ROLL UP THE SLEEVES!

He's also not a very good typist.

2 comments on this post
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Samuel Alito: Friend of gays, enemy of the Patriot Act
Posted by neros_fiddle at 3:20 PM
Well, at least he was 34 years ago.

As a senior at Princeton University, Samuel A. Alito Jr. chaired an undergraduate task force that recommended the decriminalization of sodomy, accused the CIA and the FBI of invading the privacy of citizens, and said discrimination against gays in hiring "should be forbidden."

That was a long time ago, and he could easily back off of those positions now if he chooses. Should be interesting.

The whole paper is available online.

0 comments on this post
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
It's about time
Posted by neros_fiddle at 6:36 PM
I thoroughly enjoyed the political theater today from Harry Reid taking the Senate into closed session over Iraq intelligence. I loved seeing Bill "Nuclear Option" Frist sputtering about "political stunts."

More like that, please. Let's drag this out into the light.

1 comments on this post
More DRM madness
Posted by neros_fiddle at 5:52 PM
How does banning analog-to-digital video converters grab you?

Well, OK, not "banning" exactly, just forcing them to contain a ridiculous array of rights management technology designed to prevent you from doing anything useful at all with any analog video you should want to capture. This is intended to prevent evildoers from running the analog outputs of their HD settop boxes and eventual HD-DVD players to a video digitizer, converting The Simple Life to DivX, and uploading it to Bittorrent. (This practice of bypassing the "broadcast flag" and other digital-domain DRM traps via analog outputs is amusingly called the "analog hole," which I suppose we can just shorten to "a-hole.")

But what effect will it have on perfectly legitimate fair-use applications (like when I copied some of my LDs to DVD so I could watch them without giving over half my equipment rack to an enormous LD player that will break someday without much recourse for replacement or affordable repair)? I wouldn't bet heavily on "none."

Just to be clear, an "analog-to-digital converter" isn't some exotic device. It's a Tivo. It's a DVD recorder. It's a TV tuner card for your PC. It's one of those gizmos to copy a VHS tape to yor PC. All those things would be hopelessly crippled under this legislation.

4 comments on this post