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Friday, November 19, 2004

Microsoft raises FUD over patents

You have to admire Bill Gates. Who else can convince 100 million people to pay 150 dollars and up to be beta testers for buggy software? As one Duke PhD Candidate in Electrical Engineering (customer of mine) said: "What we call 'bugs' in our software in India, Microsoft calls 'features' and charges extra for them."

MS releases the most insecure, hack prone stuff you can imagine, so that websites running activeX insert all kinds of goodies on your internet explorer (IE) machine, unknown to you. Someone in bangkok could be logging your keystrokes, browsing your files, or as happened to one guy I knew, remotely storing porn on your hard drive as a server for his X rated peep shows (now THAT is active X for ya!). Here at the office, we update anti virus, anti popup, anti adware, and anti spyware daily. Tired of this crap, people are starting to show interest an alternative popular overseas for some time, LINUX . Even if you want to stay with Windows, Mozilla Firefox (my favorite internet browser) has had over 4.5 million downloads in the last 3 weeks. Secure, fast, reliable, and RESISTANT TO ACTIVEX, I would highly recommend it.

The Vaderites over at MS have waked up to the fact that even some non geeks are bailing on them. IE is actually losing market share and MS has promised to address some of their security gaps..., something they had earlier refused to do till the release of "Longhorn" in 2006. This is largely due to Firefox (get it and use it!)

Further, they have sent out Steve Ballmer (the same guy tasked with burying IBMs OS/2, which was superior to Windows in every way) to spread FUD (fear uncertainty and doubt) about the nature of Linux, the free operating system mentioned above. I don't have the brainpower, time or space here to address the intricacies of "open source" software, except to say that it is free, and anybody can look at it, twiddle with it, improve it, and re-release it. Geeks make money servicing it, not writing it. It is not "compiled" or hidden from view so that you only know what it DOES and not what it IS. Microsoft is terrified of it, and has been buying up "patents" on many of the processes that are ostensibly "open source." Ballmer showed up at a geekfest last week, clearly tasked with scaring anyone thinking of using Linux or developing apps with visions of a MS lawyer knocking on the door with a patent infringement suit. I think it is too late for them this time. The tech bust knocked the wind out of alot of the open source software guys, but they are coming back, and I really think MS's days of complete desktop dominance are numbered. Can't come soon enough for me.

I happen to like a local (here in Durham, NC) flavor of the open source world Red Hat . Download it and try it.


Techweb has a story today about a retail version of Firefox and OpenOffice, an open source office suite that runs under Linux and Windows.

Every Molehill a Mountain

My secretary showed me a link yesterday on some evangelicals protesting Sadie Hawkins day at school (have to remember to dock her pay for surfing the web instead of working!). This silly day has taken on import to some, given the gender twisting trend in our country. Then this commentary on cultural clashes and protests showed up on the radar screen this a.m. Thanks to

When Janet Jackson flopped out of her top, the popular question asked by many of my fellow conservatives - to anyone who refused to believe that a 40-year-old woman's exposed tit meant the end of civilization - was, What would you say to your child if he asked about the Awful Incident? This seemed to suggest that because a few parents would stumble over the question, it was out of reach for parents everywhere. It was the first time in a very long time I'd seen the Republican party talk down to the same people it claimed to implicitly trust.

As it happened, my son (about to turn 10 at the time) asked me about Janet Jackson two days after it happened, on the way to school. He wanted to know 1) if I'd seen the Awful Incident, and 2) what I thought about it. "I saw it after the fact. She has a new album coming out soon, and she thought that if she did something like that, more people would be interested in her again, and she'd sell more CDs. I think it's pitiful when people think they have to take their clothes off to get attention." He agreed, and that was the end. No chaos, no endless hours of debate, no great moral struggle. In those 15 seconds I conveyed to my son the greater ethical point without feeling the desire to write the FCC and demand it drum CBS out of broadcasting.

This is on my mind because ABC is in hot water over a skit it aired as Monday Night Football was going on the air last Monday. The scene: some blonde actress from the show Desperate Housewives is in the Philadelphia Eagles locker room, combing her wet hair, wearing only a large white towel. She looks up and smiles; there stands Terrell Owens, Eagles wide receiver (and professional football's premier jackass). There follows some "amusing" conversation, at which point the actress opens her towel and drops it to the floor; here the viewer is treated to approximately one second of her bare back. Owens mutters something about how his team is now going to have to win the game without him, and the woman jumps into his arms. Cut to two other actresses from the same show (one of whom I recognized as Teri Hatcher) sitting on a couch at home, viewing the locker room exchange on their television. More "witty" banter between those two; on with the show. No nudity was seen, other than the second of back skin

Yes, there is a moral divide in America, and oftentimes it is only dogged conservatives standing between innocent bystanders and pockets of chaos. Here and there, I am one of the dogged. But the conservative movement has lost the ability to roll its eyes, recognize when something is merely silly, and leave well enough alone. Because of this, it takes great delight in turning every single molehill into a mountain, just before deciding it's acceptable to figuratively die on every one of them. By turning every annoyance into a slippery slope, conservatives run the risk of becoming the movement that cried Wolf!, meaning that people may not take it as seriously as before when it comes time to fight the battles that really matter.

Ever hear of Armando Valladares? Oscar Elias Biscet?

One of the true heroes of the 20th century, Armando Valladares's struggle for freedom, diginity, and democracy in Cuba was chronicled in the excellent book Against All Hope: A Memoir of Life in Castro's Gulag.

Another symbol of human freedom, protest, and mind bending oppression has surfaced from the bowels of the sugarcane gulag 90 miles south of Miami. Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet has been in prison for 25 years, despite never having been charged with a crime, other than that of political affiliation. He is an Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience", and his crimes consist of being a member and founder of the LAWTON FOUNDATION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS . The Lawton foundation seeks to bring democracy and freedom to Cuba by nonviolent civil disobedience, citing the examples of Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr., (the) Dalai Lama, and Thoreau.

Valladares was eventually released from Cuba (and now lives in Spain), due to the pressure from the international community. I for one would love to see the trendy idiots who have dorm walls with posters of Che replace them with pictures of a TRUE voice for justice, resistance to tyranny, and unbelievable courage. You can read more about this guy and what you can do HERE

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Electronic Votes, Bush Haters, and Conspiracy Nuts

Thanks to Betsy's Page, who quoted Ann Applebaum

When the ATM asks whether I want a receipt, I usually say no. When a Web site wants my credit card number, I usually say yes. When I pay bills online, there is no paper record of the transaction. In my failure to demand physical evidence when money changes hands, I am not very unusual. Most Americans now conduct at least some of their financial transactions without paper, or at least sleep happily knowing that others do. Yet when it comes to voting -- a far simpler and more straightforward activity than electronic bank transfers -- we suddenly become positively 19th century in our need for a physical record.

It is, if you think about it, quite inexplicable.

Two weeks after the election, the Internet rumor mill continues to spout stories of computer-stolen votes. Nutcase conspiracy theories re: Diebold "giving" Ohio to Bush and the machines being "hacked" (despite the fact that they are standalone and have NO networking capabilities) spring up like toadstools. No sooner are they disproved than others appear. Some are demanding an Ohio recount. Otherwise sober people are asking whether there can be smoke without fire. Last weekend the New York Times published an editorial that found "no evidence" of vote fraud but called electronic voting "a problem" all the same. After all, the editorial noted, there is "no way to be sure" that votes weren't changed "by secret software" inside the machines. If you're tempted to believe that analysis is rational, just ask yourself this question: Are you really sure that your bank isn't using secret software to steal $9.72 from your retirement account every week? And if the answer is no, why aren't you up in arms about that, too?

It is just willing self deception that springs from a deep hatred of Bush.

Maureen Dowd: "Toadies"

It seems pretty clear that Bush's second term is going to be characterized by a staff of people who agree with him. Colin Powell is an honorable man who disagreed intensely with the opinions of Rumsfield, Wolfowitz and Cheney, reportedly describing them to Tony Blair as "f*cking crazies." He is also gone. Around the country, most people are getting used to the idea that the president is gathering people around himself who understand agree with where he wants to go and will help him implement his policies. That sounds REASONABLE to me. If he wants to listen to dissenting viewpoints, he can get someone to read him the editorial pages of the NYT. I don't see why once someone has told you 800 times that they disagree, that you should continue to invite them back in to tell you yet again.

I further don't see why career bureaucrats at State and CIA should be given carte blanche to undermine the political decisions of their boss. Ostensibly, these people are paid to be nonpartisan. Porter Goss thinks so, too.

Those ideas have Maureen Dowd and Joe Conason in an absolute hissy fit. "Crusted out nutbars and neocon crazies" are now running the show, with "panting enablers" "lackeys" and "toadies" as a supporting cast.

I really can't wait to see the hysterical lather coming when we get into talks re: Tax Code Overhaul. The prevailing sentiment, according to the Washington Post is that the main changes coming will be to shield most savings and investments from taxes, and remove the need for evaluating taxes from business decisions.

My view is that the more howling panic we see from nitwits like Maureen Dowd, the closer we are to doing the right thing. Ms. Dowd reminds me of the shortwave rants I used to be able to pick from Radio Albania. All she is missing is a yowl that the proletariat will soon rise up and crush the exploitative capitalist pigs, and socialism will issue in a paradise on earth. I actually heard that diatribe about the time some union members went on strike in Gdansk, Poland. He did not realize he was the mouthpiece for a set of ideas soon to be mocked around the world. He had caterwauled this nonsense for so long that agitprop was reality to him.

The suicide of the west?

The New York Times has an interesting article on the population collapse in Germany. The birth rate among Germans is 1.3 children per couple. Russia's is even lower. Italy, Spain, France, and Sweden are also mentioned as countries who have become alarmed at what some have called "Malthusianism in reverse." For example, without immigration, Germany's population will wither from 82 million to 21 million by 2100, and even the influence of higher birth rate among immigrants is waning, as they quickly adapt to the values of the west. Commenting on the declining birth rate among Bosnian immigrants, one German sociologist stated --"It is partly selfishness," ..... "They want a Mercedes, and it costs so much that they can't afford a child."

The scenario is bleak and frightening. An aged population is timid and fearful, as opposed to the opportunism and vigor of youth. The topheavy social programs of Europe are facing a fiscal crisis that makes the looming Social Security problems look mild by comparison. The book "The Methuselah Conspiracy" has sold 400K+ copies. Calls to curtail social services, cutting back hospitals, and re-thinking the way insurance pays for medical bills are already occuring.

Maybe "old Europe" was more than just a sneer?

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Blogs and The Belmont Club

One of the VERY BEST things about the blogworld is the very bright, comprehensive, and intelligent commentary on current issues (present company excluded, of course).
I read blogs for the same reason I used to watch the PBS news hour, or read the NY Times. The broad scope of stories out there, editorial comments from intelligent people, views that challenge my own and feeling like I have interacted with people who know way more than I do. I don't read the TIMES much anymore, except online, for the simple reason that the Main Newsies (aka Lame Stream Media) have editorialized themselves to the point that I can't tell the editorials from the front page anyway, and there are MANY good bright minds out there who review, comment, and dissect the news in the blogworld. Easier to just go with the people who admit that they are commenting as they report, rather than those who seek to hide it.

All that was said as a way of intro to the review in Belmont Club of the current changes going on in the CIA. It is the best I have seen, and that includes the articles I have seen in the WAPO.

Peta: Comedy Central Subsidiary?

Some things, like PETA's pronouncement on the sensient qualities of fish, and the inherent immorality of ending their hopes and dreams by eating them, don't need to be mocked. Just read them. Thanks, and a hat tip to Captain's Quarters

Monday, November 15, 2004

Faith genetically determined?

The idiocy and prejudice announced in the name of "science" never ceases to amaze me. Perhaps they will put this one on display next to the "gay" gene. NO, WAIT! This is the same guy who ANNOUNCED they had a gay gene, back in 1993. Note the sop thrown out that "Religious believers can point to the existence of God genes as one more sign of the Creator's ingenuity."

Dean Hamer is a great example of how scientists start from a belief base and then work to develop a data field that supports their "faith." If there are any benefits from post-modernism, it is the repudiation that "scientists" are somehow shielded from prejudices, irrationality, and agenda driven "science."

Sunday, November 14, 2004

527s: McCain's Frankenstein Monster

It is a maxim of mine that no matter how screwed up something is, once the fed passes a law on it to "help" us, it becomes intolerably worse. McCain Feingold seems to be a case in point. After we "reformed" the system, we have (surprise!) a LESS accountable system for funding the political process. Not only is McCain Feingold a direct repudiation of the first amendment, it opens up a carriage and four for huge amounts of completely unaccountable and anonymous moneys to flow into the process. Moreover, the last election showed us that it is next to impossible to enforce a key element restricting the influence of 527s in the election, which is forbidding them from having campaign staff on their boards. This is just stupid. The parties can and did simply set up the revolving door they were using, before they just decided to ignore this part of the law altogether. Now Congress has decided that they need to "fine tune" this awful monstrosity of a law to fix the debacle represented by vs. SwiftVets

What is the big problem with allowing ANYONE to contribute ANY amount of money, but demand that there be complete openness and reveal all records of all contributors so the public can see where the money is coming from?

Saturday, November 13, 2004

God and Red America

First of all, a bit of background: I am an ex-religious right footsoldier since the nascent days of the Reagan revolution and I know Christian conservatives from the inside out. I helped form two Metro Right to life organizations, have organized and led protests outside abortion clinics, given interviews to scores of media types (who usually found my views a combination of odd and unsettling, or infuriating). I attended seminary with Paul Hill, and have spoken on multiple occasions with Joe Scheidler.

The hysteria of the left about the fundies putting Bush into office is overblown. The fact is, Bush won not because of the surge of religious crazies who took a detour from a new round of witch burning to vote, but because the democrats had no message other than "I hate Bush" and a candidate who had nothing to say but "I am not Bush." The religious comprise some 40% of our population, and 80% of those voted Bush. There is nothing new about those numbers, and despite the herculean efforts to get out the vote among the Christians, only about another 2.1% showed up to vote.

So why so much titter about the "values" votes? I think there are a couple of reasons besides the poorly worded question at the exit polls:

1) There is a HUGE cultural divide in our country. The secular left does not understand the evangelical/orthodox/fundamentalist world, and politically motivated religious people scare the hell out of them. The two groups live in worlds not only vastly different, but threatening to each other. Neither side understands the other, or really cares much about doing so. Because the secular left views the religious right as bogeymen, they overplay their own fears about them "taking over." Some of the spokesmen for the right overplay their own influence due to power/financial/lobbying interests in advancing those fears.

2) The "old left" at the core of the democratic party simply cannot admit that people don't like them, don't want them, and have rejected their vision for society. It is easier to blame the crazies storming the gates than admit your agenda sucks.

So, on the off chance that someone might read this, I am going to give a piece of advice. Core Democrats should remember something REALLY simple: Many Republicans and many Democrats are religious. The faithful whites have already largely bailed on you, and the fissures have started among the many pious blacks. You need to ask yourselves a hard question: Do you hold very religious people in contempt? If you do, religious people will sense it—and will continue to vote against you. And there are more of them than there are of you. As superior as it makes many on the secular left feel, you cannot AFFORD to alienate them.

Finally, It is not good for Christians to be 80% Republican. There is something very WRONG when a large section of society senses that they must "buy into" a whole cultural package in order to be Christian. The problem is that there is increasingly nowhere else to go. We need a loyal, moral, opposition party. Otherwise Christians start thinking (and talking) like "God is on OUR side" rather than the better question (which goes back to the implied angeiic question to Joshua, "are we on GOD's side?" in the various societal issues. It would be nice to have an opposition party to global opportunism that does not define morality in terms of defying core moral principles in place for at least 3000 years.

Question Authority, just not OUR authority

Red and Blue and Me and You

Auburn - Georgia game, SEC, Hits, and Testosterone

Weird to have my first post on a football game, but it is what was going on as I do the edits. Auburn has annihilated Georgia. They clearly should be rated #1. Say what you want, the SEC is going away the TOUGHEST conference in college football. Just being undefeated in that conference should be good to vault one ahead of any other teams in the country with similiar records.

Did anyone out there catch the hit on Georgia's Reggie Brown? As an ex-defensive back I have had the pleasure of ringing a few bells, but that one was just SAVAGE. I would not have been surprised if it had killed him. I was glad to see him get up and motor off under his own power. Nominal Me has a nice commentary on the event.

All that reminds me of how I felt, and how I tried to describe my feelings to my wife after watching the (very good) movie "Friday Night Lights." I was not a good athlete in HS, but football allowed someone of minimal talents and alot of desire and aggressiveness to learn some lessons that have stood me well so far in life.

1) You can always dig down deep and pull up more than you think you can.
2) NEVER quit
3) The most talented guy can be, and often is beaten, by the guy who has more HEART
4) It takes more class to be a gracious winner than a gracious loser, and the corrollary:
You don't spike the ball till you are in the end zone, and trash talk before the game is over is an invitation to be abused
5) Pain is not death. Athletics teaches you that you can and should continue to push yourself when you are hurt sometimes
6) and this was the hardest to explain to my wife -- Testosterone, violent contact, and aggressiveness are a part of being a guy, or at least they were a part of THIS guy and alot of my friends.

I told my wife that I missed the contact, the "hits" about as much as anything, even the ones in which I got the bad end of the deal. Even at late middle age, I still remember them with fondness. Non-jocks (including the guy who wrote the book on which the movie was based) just don't understand, and love to sneer at balding guys with pot bellies remembering the "glory days." As I said, I was never a star, and did not really deserve to be on the field with alot of the guys I played with. But the game made me a better person, and continues to make young men better people, even if you have to work through the swagger sometimes.