28 May 2002

Joining The Gathering At Magic Online

Always wanted to play Magic the Gathering, but didn't have anyone to play with? And then when you looked around online for a suitable net application to facilitate virtual play, all you found were home brewed programs that didn't enforce the byzantine, self-referential nature gameplay rules and assumed you had an extensive background with MtG already? Well, fret no more, as Wizards of the Coast (and Hasbro or whatever behemoth multi-conglomerate faceless corporation that keeps swallowing up companies in pac-man fashion ...) and Leaping Lizard unite forces to bring Magic the Gathering to the virtual masses.

Magic Online is in open beta still, with a "live" production release slated for sometime in June - right now, everything is free, but when R-day comes, all will have to pony up real coin. You'll have to purchase cards just like you do in real life, and it appears that the pricing won't be much different than at your local game shop. Whether or not the powerful, crack-like addiction that inflicts the rabid MtG afficionado will trump the overpriced gouging, I'll not speculate. But I will describe Magic Online from the newbie perspective. My experience with MtG is almost zero and though I've amassed quite a collection of Star Wars CCG cards (now defunct, since Wizards/Hasbro received the Lucas license for Star Wars TCG, thus curtailing any more Decipher releases), I've only played the game a few times. My only encounter with Magic was limited to purchasing a starter 7th edition set and briefly perusing the rules. To get started, it's painless - just download the client from the link above or from fileplanet (( After installation is completed, simply start the client program and it will patch and auto-update. You can then join the gathering.

New players do seem to be a focus of Magic Online. There are basic and advanced tutorials available and they walk you through the fundamental aspects of gameplay. There are even some additional special topic tutorials dealing with split cards and how to understand X. Some more of these might be needed - or perhaps a hypertext glossary of all the common and arcane concepts (I'm still befuddled about regeneration). I did go through the tutorials twice, the second time after I got owned in my first few matches in the practice room. Actually, there are separate servers for registered accounts and guests. There is a **free trial** option that will allow you to play on a "guest" account where you can play with pre-constructed 7th edition decks. A little blurb says that you only get two hours on that account - so after 120 minutes, you can't be guest001283 anymore and when you relog, you can be guest001314.
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26 May 2002

Into the Buzzsaw: Leading Journalists Expose the Myth of a Free Press

Simply put, this book is the read of the year - every concerned American should read this book. Investigative journalists speak out on the obstructive forces they encounter when they have written the truth about powerful entites that would rather not have the truth announced. Courageously, they stuck to thier principles and fought the righteous battle, sticking to the course, and became even more vigilant in their research. Lost homes, financial ruin, public discrediting, blacklistings, legal challenges - it would be easy to say "OK, I'll change the story" or "Whatever you want me to say boss". It's my take that these individuals are real heroes, sacrificing personal security, esposing family and friends to humility and ridicule, all for the sacred adherence to an fundamental American cause - freedom of speech.

Libertarians always are quick to argue that "censorship" can only occur by government edict, that private entities that exercise suppression of speech are not censoring, for it is their ownership of production and accompaning right to limit their employees. But as we rapidly move to a state where there are a handful of media content providers, who exercise complete control over the channels and modes of mass communications, this assertion just isn't true anymore. If a reporter discovers voluminous mounds of evidence that indicates a given food additive is harmful, but yet not one of the major media conglomerates will air or print this information, is that not paramount to censorship? For now, he could write a web page and detail his findings, but that's not a mass medium, not unless he has deep pockets to pay for servers (in addition to all the time and money spent researching) and more essentially, it's not immune to a bigger content provider pulling the plug on the site, with legal hounds or just simply forcing the upstream bandwidth provider to turn it off.

In addition to private enterprise, high powers in the executive branch of government also seek to the constraints on free speech. Restricting speech under the guise of national security, threatening and imploring news outlets to cease airing messages deemed risky, or inappropriate, not by the public, but by the whim of the executive administration. Measures have been orchestrated to place organizations like the FBI and CIA "above the law", and make them answerable to nobody. Freedom in American seems to dissipate every day.
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21 May 2002

John O'Neill and the Phoenix Memorandum

I published this story way back in November, but I guess many rely solely on the likes of Fox News Channel, CNN, the major TV networks, and the daily newspaper for their news and information, so it may be revealing. Who was John O'Neill? John O' Neill was a counter-terrorism deputy director in the FBI who resigned in protest over the obstruction by Bush administration officials. According to French authors Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie, O'Neill told them that ''the main obstacles to investigate Islamic terrorism were U.S. oil corporate interests and the role played by Saudi Arabia in it''. The two authors claim the U.S. government's main objective in Afghanistan was to consolidate the position of the Taliban regime to obtain access to the oil and gas reserves in Central Asia.

Now let's connect the dots here. John O'Neill receives the "Phoenix memorandum" and is rebuked on it. He quits in protest in August and takes a job as head of security at the World Trade Center. So, after O'Neill is allegedly told to "back off on Bin Laden", he is then killed by evil minions of Bin Laden. I don't think Chris Carter, the creator of the X-files TV series, could come up with a better conspiracy story.

This story of the Bush administration and the Taliban is bizarre. According to Brisard and Dasquie, the Bush administration met with the Taliban on several occasions - in Washington, Berlin and Islamabad. To polish their image in the United States, the Taliban even employed a U.S. expert on public relations, Laila Helms. The authors claim that Helms is also an expert in the works of U.S. secret services, for her uncle, Richard Helms, is a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The last meeting between U.S. and Taliban representatives took place in August, five weeks before the attacks on New York and Washington, the analysts maintain.

And as reported in, there are some questions that the recent NY Times article should have asked, but did not:

They report, incredibly, that O'Neill simply "retired" back in August -- ignoring the well- known background, leaving the dots unconnected!!

What did O'Neill know back in July? Whom did he try to warn? What happened when he did so? What did his "retirement" -- and its tragic consequences -- have to do with his frustrated efforts to get Bush's people to listen to him about the Phoenix memo, and/or about everything else he knew about Osama bin Laden's clear and present danger to American lives?

16 May 2002

Star Wars: Attack of the Clones

Caught the midnight showing of Star Wars: Episode 2 - and it was a much better movie than Episode 1 TPM - special effects were incredible and the fight scenes were all wonderfully done. Every Yoda appearance in the movie (which was plentiful) the theatre audience erupted with applause and his fight scene displayed the most enthusiasm I've witnessed ever. Thanks to my son for procuring tickets and we waited in line almost an hour for seating ...

Warning: possible plot spoilage ahead ...
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