22 April 2004


Today's Mac OS X Tip.

From most applications (Cocoa), you can highlight any text then press Command + Shift + L (together) and it will load a Google search results page for a query on the words in your selected text.

No Google toolbar needed whatsoever.

Caught up in the negativity surrounding Iraq

On Tuesday morning, KTAR David Leibowitz presented a case that the news in Iraq isn't as bad as being painted and read over the air a column by Andrew Sullivan boasting that the Iraq excursion was "win-win". Mr. Leibowitz gave creedence to the notion that all news from Iraq is not negative.
This morning at 9, we'll give some media time to the other Iraq -- the one where negativity doesn't always hold sway, and where hatred of President Bush and "his war" doesn't color every headline.

Is Leibowitz trying to out "Clear Channel" Clear Channel?

Here's some headlines that bring one back to the sobering reality of the deal:

18 April 2004

Since I was moved out of prime time, KFYI has turned in its worst quarterly ratings in well over a year

Charles Goyette takes issue with a recent editorial blurb by Arizona Republic editorial writer Doug MacEachern.
If my problem with Clear Channel's KFYI was about ratings rather than about my opposition to Bush's elective war with Iraq, it wouldn't have taken them 3 1/2 years to figure it out. Instead, in January 2003, more than three months before the war, they officially notified me they would be extending my contract at their option for another year. With still another increase in salary.

A few months later I declined management's kind invitation to shut up about the war and at the end of the second quarter was moved from afternoon drive time. That, despite the fact that Clear Channel paid me a ratings performance bonus for the quarter! Management's recent spin that it was about ratings is just that - recent. Last year station management denied to a writer from Phoenix Magazine that moving me was about ratings. That was before I went public with my account about being a war opponent at Clear Channel. Thereafter, the ratings spin started.

More proof that Clear Channel and KFYI are tools of the neconservative power block, interested only in shilling for the Bush administration.

14 April 2004

A kind of political aristocracy that is the very negation of the principles upon which this government was established

Rutgers political science professor Ross K. Baker details the rise of family political names and the straight handoffs of congressional posts directly from father to son. But buried in the article, near the bottom, states an important truth that I rarely see reflected in the mainstream media.
The trend toward hereditary seats in Congress is most pronounced in the House and is a direct result of the partisan redrawing of congressional districts that stack the deck decisively in favor of one party. For years, incumbent House members have enjoyed rates of re-election well over 90%, but even when an incumbent retires or dies, the seat stays in the column of the same party. Combine an overwhelming partisan advantage with a familiar name, and you have the ingredients for another dynastic handoff.

Each party has been quite content to seal their own individual fiefdoms, and Democrats have even sacrficed contending for House control in exchange to secure the slots they already possess. The real losers, however, are the U.S. citizens who pay an even higher price.

But this is Hank Aaron — if he won’t dignify the occasion, why should we?

David Whitley ponders why Hank Aaron won't "dignify the occasion" when (and if) Barry Bonds breaks his all time homerun record.
So it was striking recently when Aaron announced he planned to violate sports protocol. He will not be in attendance when/if Barry Bonds breaks his all-time home-run record.

“I’m gonna wake up at 6 o’clock and go fly out to San Francisco? I’m not gonna do that,” Aaron said. “I wish him all the luck in the world, but I have no intention of being there.”

Eh, but Bonds still has a big fat zero in one very important statistic - number of world series championships. I don't care how many homeruns Bonds hits, he couldn't even tie Roberto Clemente's shoelaces.

Where is the benefit for Americans of having their human capital destroyed when they are replaced by cheap foreign labor?

A couple of notable articles on information technology outsourcing. First, Paul Craig Roberts pokes holes in the March job numbers, noting that other than domestic construction, the figures are still a big minus. And for the first time on record, the U.S. ran a trade deficit in advanced technology products and services.

Next, InfoWorld columnist Tom Yager on how outsourcing has fostered an "assembly line" mentality in IT culture, that destroys loyalty, crushes innovation and imposes a cap on solution creation.

All outsourcing shares one major characteristic: A worker in a temporary role has little incentive to innovate, invent, or create. This is spirit, blood, and emotion, gifts we bring to work only under rare conditions. During the ’90s, IT set aside its position as a hotbed for collaboration, new ideas, and individual achievement. All of those workers with temporary mind-sets reduced what used to be engaging, knowledge-expanding jobs to fixed stations on an assembly line. A generic Java programmer with x years of experience stands here. It doesn’t matter whether that programmer is full-time, contracted, brought in on a visa, or part of a consulting team.

9 April 2004

When the Bush Administration took office, top officials downgraded counterterrorism

The veracity of Condoleezza Rice's testimony before the 9/11 commission on Thursday is examined here.

7 April 2004

Use of Mercenaries Blurs the Line

In the wake of Fallujah, I find this new reliance on private armies to be very troubling on so many different levels.

First, the dispute about whether or not the term mercenary is apropos. I believe it is.

Seven essential characteristics distinguish modern-day mercenaries from other combatants and military organizations:

Foreign: A mercenary is not a citizen or resident of the state in which he or she is fighting
Independence: A mercenary is not integrated (for the long term) into any national force and is bound only by contractual ties of a limited employer
Motivation: A mercenary fights for individual short-term economic reward, not for political or religious goals
Recruitment: Mercenaries are brought in by oblique and circuitous ways to avoid legal prosecution
Organization: Mercenary units are temporary and ad-hoc groupings of individual soldiers
Services: Lacking prior organization, mercenaries focus just on combat service, for a single client

Maybe it's not an exact fit, but private military force definitely smacks of mercenary-hood to me...

Why does it bother me so much?

  1. Accountability - mercenary loyalty is to the firm that employs them, not the country they fight for. Does anyone think that Chilean commandos recruited by Blackwater are serving because of patriotic duty to the U.S.A.? And there are no tallies on how many kills or how many killed, no military code of conduct to answer to, a total black hole.

  2. Cost - don't know the exact figure of what an enlisted soldier is taking home in pay, but I wager it's nothing near the $1,000 a day these private force individuals are collecting, let alone the $2,000 (and upward) that's being charged back to the government. It's estimated that half of the staff on some reconstruction projects are devoted to security. No wonder Iraqi engineers are steamed that their 300K bids are rejected for 50M bids by American/coalition firms. Soldiers are having to buy their own gear, but Uncle Sam can dish out thousands per day per man on these shadowy dudes?

  3. The free reign of lawlessness that such private military campaigns entail. Whereas a soldier would be courtmartialed for raping children, so-called contractors hop on a plane and return to America, without facing any charges for their brazen acts of hideous debauchery.
    In Bosnia, employees of DynCorp were found to be operating a sex-slave ring of young women who were held for prostitution after their passports were confiscated. In Croatia, local forces, trained by MPRI, used what they learned to conduct one of the worst episodes of "ethnic cleansing," an event that left more than 100,000 homeless and hundreds dead and resulted in war-crimes indictments. No employee of either firm has ever been charged in these incidents.

I'm not alone in my assessment either...

The current business boom is in Iraq. Blackwater charges its clients $1,500 to $2,000 a day for each hired gun. Most security contractors, like Blackwater's teams, live a comfortable if exhausting existence in Baghdad, staying at the Sheraton or Palestine hotels, which are not plush but at least have running water. Locals often mistake the guards for special forces or CIA personnel, which makes active-duty military troops a bit edgy. "Those Blackwater guys," says an intelligence officer in Iraq, "they drive around wearing Oakley sunglasses and pointing their guns out of car windows. They have pointed their guns at me, and it pissed me off. Imagine what a guy in Fallujah thinks." Adds an Army officer who just returned from Baghdad, "They are a subculture."

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5 April 2004

How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity

Free Culture

The latest book by Lawrence Lessig, University of Stanford law professor, is a gripping read, replete with historical tales that seem to be forgotten. Beginning with Thomas Lee and Tinie Causby, who sued the government for flying over their farms. By rule of law, their property extended to the heavens. But SCOTUS would have none of it, instead decrying common sense revolts at the idea.

Then there's the story of Edwin Howard Armstrong, inventor of FM radio. RCA did everything in its power to crush Mr. Armstrong and his patents. Armstrong committed suicide, defeated, broken and impoverished by corporate behemoths, protecting the old radio guard.

I felt outrage after reading the story of Jesse Jordan. Young Jesse thought it a nifty programming project to use Microsoft's network to index files at RPI. The RIAA pursued him with a vengeance. In fact, as the chief lawyer for the RIAA, Matt Oppenheimer instructed:

You don't want to pay another visit to a dentist like me.

Mr. Jordan, facing 250K in costs to battle such a punitive legal onslaught settled for his life savings of 12K in the bank.
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