Archive for February 20th, 2007

Perhaps It’s Pining For The Twenty-Fjords…

Heh. By way of CrispyShot in the First Draft comments, I give you… The Americans Who Voted For George Bush Wish To Return Their Television, by Wayne Gladstone:

AMERICA: Yeah, hi. I bought this TV here about two years ago and I’d like to return it.

BEST BUY CLERK: Oh, yeah. I remember you. You loved this TV. What happened? Is it broken?

AMERICA: Broken? Well, I’m not sure. It’s just that … hmm. How do I explain?

BEST BUY CLERK: Well, what’s the problem?

AMERICA: Well, I’ve heard there are other TVs? Like a smart TV that knows when your shows are on and can record them for you? One that can be programmed with parental controls and specifications.

BEST BUY CLERK: Yeah, sure, but you said you didn’t want a smart TV. I remember. I tried to sell you that. But you said it was “haughty.” That it gave you too much information – like it couldn’t make up its mind. You wanted a “simple” TV that you could relate to.

AMERICA: Yeah, I know … but this TV. I mean, sometimes I’ll put it on a channel and it just stays there. No matter what. No matter how bad the channel is or how much I want something different. I even changed the batteries in the remote control and banged on the side of the set, but nothing works. It’s like it’s ignoring me.

BEST BUY CLERK: And that’s a problem?

AMERICA: Well, yeah.

BEST BUY CLERK: But I thought you liked that. I remember. You were all like, “I like a TV that knows what it wants.”

AMERICA: Well, yeah, that’s true. And don’t get me wrong. Sometimes I like what’s on. I’m a very spiritual person, so sometimes I like the religious programming, but that can’t be all there is.

BEST BUY CLERK: But that’s why you bought the set. We watched The 700 Club together right in this showroom. I pointed out that all these other TVs had that channel, too – they just don’t show it all the time. And you said you weren’t sure you could trust a TV that didn’t show it all the time.

AMERICA: Yeah, I remember … Well, it gets confused.


AMERICA: Yeah, like sometimes – and this is going to sound crazy – but sometimes I’ll tune in to one show and it will show me another.

BEST BUY CLERK: What do you mean?

AMERICA: Well, like the whole fall schedule. Supposedly, there are options out there. I’ve been reading about all these new shows in my local paper, but I can’t watch them. I’ll ask for Heroes and suddenly I’m watching 24 again. Just like that. It switches one thing for another like I’m not going to notice the difference.

BEST BUY CLERK: How long has it been doing that?

AMERICA: Well, in truth, probably from the beginning, but I didn’t notice at first. I’m a pretty big 24 fan. And, also, I only just started reading the newspapers. They’re mostly opinion, you know.

BEST BUY CLERK: Yeah, but, you see, nothing’s really changed. Your TV’s not broken. This is exactly what you wanted. You just changed your mind. I’m sorry, you can’t just-

AMERICA: Oh, I know! It uses way too much energy. My utility bills are through the roof! Wasn’t there some warranty that this TV would keep those costs down?

BEST BUY CLERK: No. Not in the warranty. It was in the advertising. They’re not the same thing. TVs use energy. That’s just the deal.

AMERICA: So there’s nothing we can do?

BEST BUY CLERK: Sorry. Nothing now. There was talk of building more-efficient TVs. Ones that are better for the environment. That would free us from our reliance on our enemies’ resources. Technology that might even provide a new source of revenue for America and create jobs for its people. And then we …

AMERICA: Whoa, whoa. Easy. You’re giving me a headache with all that.

BEST BUY CLERK: Yeah, that’s what you said in 2000.


BEST BUY CLERK: Yeah. You take care, now. But mark your calendar. Big sale coming in ’08.


February 20th, 2007 at 10:12pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Coolness,Elections,Politics

24! Huh! What Is It Good For?

Carlson’s snarky “Oh, grow up, people!” tone makes me want to smack him, but his “Magazine Reader” column today has some interesting and horrifying follow-ups on the real-interrogators-ask-24-to-lay-off-the-torture story:

When the general arrives at the studio, wearing a uniform decorated with countless ribbons, people figure he’s an actor playing a general and they ask when his scene will be shot. Then, at the meeting, one of Finnegan’s experts suggests some non-abusive interrogation techniques including — get this! — “giving suspects a postcard to send home, thereby learning the name and address of their next of kin.”

And when the show’s lead writer, Howard Gordon, hears that, he slams his fist on the table and says, “You’re hired!”


For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of watching “24,” and it is a pleasure if you have a strong stomach, here’s a bit of background: The Emmy-winning show depicts the amazing adventures of agent Jack Bauer, who specializes in stopping terrorists from blowing up America. Nearly every week, terrorists torture Jack, or Jack tortures terrorists, or both. In one episode, the president orders a Secret Service agent to torture his national security adviser, whom he suspects of treason.

The show, as Gordon tells Mayer, consists largely of “improvisations in sadism.” Not surprisingly, “24” is very popular in the Bush administration.

Last March, Rush Limbaugh hosted a dinner for “24’s” executive producer, Joel Surnow, and invited Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, Virginia, who works at the conservative Heritage Foundation…. Inspired by the dinner, Virginia Thomas organized a full-blown Heritage symposium with the wonderful title ” ’24’ and America’s Image in Fighting Terrorism: Fact, Fiction, or Does It Matter?” Michael Chertoff, the real-life homeland security secretary, showed up to praise the show, saying, “Frankly, it reflects real life.”

After the symposium, Surnow and other “24” honchos went to the White House to dine with Karl Rove, Tony Snow, Lynne Cheney and Mary Cheney.

“People in the administration love the series,” says Surnow, who described himself to Mayer as a “right-wing nut job.”

He was joking, sort of, but he does hang out in what might be called the “right-wing nut job community.” He’s pals with the twin blond bomb throwers of the right — Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham. Coulter and Surnow have discussed collaborating on what Surnow describes as “a movie that depicted Joe McCarthy as an American hero.” And Ingraham invited Surnow on her radio show and then informed the world that while she was undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, “it was soothing to see Jack Bauer torture these terrorists, and I felt better.”

Given my own tastes, I can’t really begrudge someone enjoying violent entertainment, but that’s… a bit creepy.

February 20th, 2007 at 07:11pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Media,Republicans,Terrorism,Torture,TV,Wankers

WaPo Chat Nuggets

Just a mini-roundup of some interesting tidbits I noticed in various WaPo chat sessions. The most alarming being this wingnut question at the end of Dan Eggen’s chat about the fired US Attorneys, one of whom has yet to be identified, and “is not in the West, from what [Eggen’s] been told”:

Baltimore: Has Fitzgerald’s name been mentioned as at least a candiadate to be fired? After the pursuing the Valerie Plame case for years after he knew he had no crime, I’d think the idea of firing him would at least occur to somebody.

Dan Eggen: I will post this just because there have been a number of questions along this line, inquiring about the identity ofthe other prosecutor.

We obviously put everything significant in the paper that we can confirm, and all that I have been able to confirm so far about the eighth unidentified prosecutor is that this person was called and informed on Dec. 7 that he or she was being fired, but has somehow negotiated out of it, at least until now. I have not confirmed a name.

But I am ALWAYS open to tips if anyone’s got one! My email is and my direct line is 202-334-7542.

Oh my. That would be something. I doubt it’s Fitz – I’m not sure even Dubya has that much chutzpah. But if he did, it would make sense to wait until after the Libby trial to officially pull his plug to avoid (more) uncomfortable Saturday Night Massacre comparisons.
From Peter Baker’s chat on politics in general:

Old City:“The notion that there are “powers that be” across the media that get together and decide collectively how to treat a story would be funny if you saw how a news outfit really works. Honestly, there’s no conspiracy.” Yep, not on the news side, but on the editorial side Hiatt and Co. have had an agenda for quite a while now — and it ain’t liberal…

Peter Baker: The Post editorialists have a point of view and they use their page to express it. So does every newspaper. My point was that doesn’t have anything to do with news coverage. And for what it’s worth, Fred Hiatt, the editor of the Post editorial pages, also prints a variety of columns by people of widely differing points of view — from Richard Cohen and Gene Robinson to George Will and Charles Krauthammer.


And, of course, we have Howie…

Re: Plame: Do you think the press will push further about the Plame story after the trial? There’s been a bunch of interesting news in the testimony.

Howard Kurtz: I don’t think the trial has suffered for lack of media attention, and I’m not sure how long it lasts after the verdict, especially since a large number of Americans find the whole case incomprehensible.


Boston: Where are you getting that a large number of Americans find the case incomprehensible. The only poll I’ve see says 70 percent of Americans find the Libby trial to be very important. [I think they’re talking about this one, #41] It seems it’s the D.C. media that wishes it would go away.

Howard Kurtz: I’m the first to argue that the reputation of Washington journalism has hardly been enhanced by this trial. But the major MSM outlets have covered the trial every day. Outside of the media/political world, though, I believe there is very little interest in a former vice presidential aide who was hardly a household name and who is accused not of outing a CIA operative but of lying about what he did with reporters. I wish there was more public interest in the case, but as I watch Fox and MSNBC continuing wall-to-wall coverage of the latest Anna Nicole hearing this afternoon, I just don’t think there is. Maybe if federal trials were televised, the situation would be different.

Move along, nothing to see here…

2 comments February 20th, 2007 at 06:57pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Constitution,Corruption/Cronyism,Libby/Plame,Media,Politics

What Is Viacom Doing???

Um… WTF?

Viacom Inc., engaged in a public battle with top Internet online video service YouTube, said on Tuesday it had agreed to offer its videos to Joost, the Internet video service created by the founders of Skype.

Hundreds of hours of programming from Viacom’s MTV Networks, Paramount Pictures movies studio and BET Networks will be available to Joost users for free.

The deal comes amid a public quarrel between Viacom and Google Inc.’s YouTube over protecting copyright owners material.

Failing to reach a distribution deal, Viacom in February demanded the removal of over 100,000 video clips from YouTube that were uploaded by users without the company’s authorization.

Top media companies Viacom, News Corp. and General Electric’s NBC Universal have discussed launching a competitor to YouTube, but sources said earlier that differing interests have stalled plans.


Warner Music Group and TV production company Endemol have also signed deals with Joost.

So… let me see if I have this straight. Viacom throws a hissy fit over their content being hosted for free on YouTube, alienates pretty much the entire userbase by bombarding YouTube with cease-and-desist letters, and wipes out huge swaths of content that was serving as free viral advertising… and now they’re willing to let someone else host their content, just so long as it’s not Google/YouTube?

I just don’t get it – is there more to this story? Do they think their content is going to be such a difference-maker that it swings the balance of power from YouTube to Joost? Are they planning to get people hooked on free viddies at Joost and then start charging for it? Or did Joost joost make a better offer?

Personally, I’m skeptical. Unless there’s some seriously good backstory, I think Viacom have made themselves look like total asses here. (Also, is there any reason why their content should be restricted to a single video provider?)

UPDATE: Hm. Maybe this has something to do with it. (h/t Caro at

2 comments February 20th, 2007 at 02:53pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Media,Technology,Wankers

Why We Flame

Sounds like the internet is an addiction in more ways than one…

Flaming has a technical name, the “online disinhibition effect,” which psychologists apply to the many ways people behave with less restraint in cyberspace.

In a 2004 article in the journal CyberPsychology & Behavior, John Suler, a psychologist at Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J., suggested that several psychological factors lead to online disinhibition: the anonymity of a Web pseudonym; invisibility to others; the time lag between sending an e-mail message and getting feedback; the exaggerated sense of self from being alone; and the lack of any online authority figure. Dr. Suler notes that disinhibition can be either benign – when a shy person feels free to open up online – or toxic, as in flaming.

The emerging field of social neuroscience, the study of what goes on in the brains and bodies of two interacting people, offers clues into the neural mechanics behind flaming.

This work points to a design flaw inherent in the interface between the brain’s social circuitry and the online world. In face-to-face interaction, the brain reads a continual cascade of emotional signs and social cues, instantaneously using them to guide our next move so that the encounter goes well. Much of this social guidance occurs in circuitry centered on the orbitofrontal cortex, a center for empathy. This cortex uses that social scan to help make sure that what we do next will keep the interaction on track.


Socially artful responses emerge largely in the neural chatter between the orbitofrontal cortex and emotional centers like the amygdala that generate impulsivity. But the cortex needs social information – a change in tone of voice, say – to know how to select and channel our impulses. And in e-mail there are no channels for voice, facial expression or other cues from the person who will receive what we say.

True, there are those cute, if somewhat lame, emoticons that cleverly arrange punctuation marks to signify an emotion. The e-mail equivalent of a mood ring, they surely lack the neural impact of an actual smile or frown. Without the raised eyebrow that signals irony, say, or the tone of voice that signals delight, the orbitofrontal cortex has little to go on. Lacking real-time cues, we can easily misread the printed words in an e-mail message, taking them the wrong way.


And now, the online equivalent of road rage has joined the list of Internet dangers. Last October, in what The Times of London described as “Britain’s first ‘Web rage’ attack,” a 47-year-old Londoner was convicted of assault on a man with whom he had traded insults in a chat room. He and a friend tracked down the man and attacked him with a pickax handle and a knife.

This isn’t really news, I don’t think. It also doesn’t really address some of the group dynamics that go on – in some online communities (i.e., blog comments), the flamers are spurred on by the presence of an audience. If they’re a hostile outsider, they get off on the negative responses they generate. If they’re part of the community, they feel an impulse to protect it, or maybe just to show off, in the belief (correct or not) that it will enhance their status within the group.

Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be any good solutions – the only ones offered by the article are video chat (good luck with that) and a sort of take-a-deep-breath-and-count-to-ten checklist. Ultimately, it has to boil down to people making a conscious choice about how they want to present themselves. I personally believe that there are many instances where, shall we say, forceful language is warranted, and many others where it just make things worse.

This is probably also a good place to talk about civility, and the Right’s cynical misuse of the term. As I understand it, the right-wing conception of civility appears to be that no matter what kind of ugly, psychopathic thought you express, as long as you refrain from swearing, you are still within the bounds of “civility”. On the other hand, no matter how measured and reasonable your overall argument, if you swear even once, you are automatically disqualified. This is, well, bullshit. (You may now clutch your pearls and stop reading.) Civility is about showing respect for another person and his/her arguments, not about whether you can express your sneering contempt or atavistic hatred without using naughty words. And when neither side believes (or will admit to believing) that the other is arguing in good faith, this kind of civility is all but impossible (I have seen a few liberal bloggers and commenters with a knack for politely taking right-wingers’ arguments at face value and hanging them with them, but the willingness or the ability is rare).

Personally, I believe that most of the Right is constitutionally incapable of arguing honestly, or conceding that we liberals are, but I’m not sure if this is psychopathology or strategic necessity.

Okay, flame away – there’s no-one here to stop you, and everyone will think you’re totally cool.

2 comments February 20th, 2007 at 11:37am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Blogosphere,Democrats,Polls,Republicans,Science

Indoor Photoblogging

Well, I was too damn lazy and cold-averse to go out picture-taking this weekend, but I managed to snap off a few shots anyway…

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Flourescent lights at work.

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More flourescent lights at work. Whee!!!

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At home; it was right about now that all my toys started going wild, especially the cymbal monkeys…

February 20th, 2007 at 07:31am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Photoblogging,Pittsburgh

Eli’s Obsession With The Google

#3 search result for mental illnesses which disqualify you for military service. (I didn’t know my blog qualified as a mental illness, but if it keeps even one person out of the meatgrinder, I’m happy)

On the first page of search results for Secret Donald Trump is a Reptilian and he shape shifted.


3 comments February 20th, 2007 at 12:58am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Eli's Obsession With The Google

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