Archive for November 20th, 2007

T-Boone Snake

John Kerry replies to T. Boone Pickens weaseling out of his Million-Dollar Swiftboat Challenge:

I’m grateful that you are prepared to make good on your word and fulfill the offer you made publicly at the American Spectator Dinner in Washington, D.C. on November 6th.

I must remind you, however, that this was and is your “challenge,” not mine. You are, after all, the one who said explicitly at the dinner — in a way that was calculated to challenge any naysayer — that you would give one million dollars “to anyone who could show that anything the SBVT said was false.” (RedState.Com) These were your words — and nowhere did you ever suggest, as you are now trying to, that your challenge referred specifically and exclusively to any advertising by the SBVT.

As you know, the lies of the SBVT were not confined just to their ads; they were a constant barrage of television, radio, Internet, speeches, and forums in which — significantly bankrolled by you — they launched and repeated lie after lie. Your challenge expressly stood behind all of their allegations.

It is disturbing that in reaffirming the challenge you issued, your parsing and backtracking seems eerily reminiscent of the entire approach of the SBVT — say one thing, put out an allegation, then duck and weave, hedge and bob when your words catch up with you. I want to believe that this was not your intent because I am told that you are a man of your word, not “all hat and no cattle.”

Honor and duty, which you purport to defend, demand that you not selectively back away from your original challenge. Your offer clearly said — boldly, unequivocally — to an audience of your friends and supporters — that you would give “a million dollars to anyone who could prove wrong anything the Swiftboat Veterans charged about Kerry.” (AmericanThinker.com) In my letter, that is the offer which I accepted.

(…)

As I’ve said to you before, I am prepared to prove the lie and marshal all the evidence, the question is whether you are prepared to fulfill your obligation — no variations, no back pedaling, no retreat, no new bets, no changing the subject.

The only thing remaining now is to set the date for our meeting in an appropriate forum, after which I look forward to you keeping your word and writing a check for one million dollars payable to the Paralyzed Veterans of America so that we can put your money to good work for veterans who have returned home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

I just wish we had seen this Kerry 39 months ago. Sigh.

3 comments November 20th, 2007 at 10:59pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Politics,Republicans,Wankers

Losing Facebook

I really have no idea what these Facebook wankers are thinking:

On Saturday night I used Fandango to purchase the tickets for the movie Michael Clayton.

Then on Sunday, I looked at my Facebook feed and saw this:

“Ari bought Michael Clayton on Fandango. 5:25PM”

Having your privacy violated is a strange feeling. I don’t really care that people know I went to the movies on Saturday night. I would freely share this information with anyone. But that’s exactly the point. It should be up to me to share this information with others, not up to Facebook or Fandango to make that choice for me.

If the producers of Michael Clayton, without permission, decided to send post cards to the friends of everyone in the theater saying “XXXX saw Michael Clayton this weekend” there would be a massive outcry. This is essentially what Facebook (and Fandango) did as part of their new “Beacon” advertising program.

Under Beacon, third party sites pay FaceBook to use its members, without permission, as their corporate spokespeople. In this case it was an ad paid for by Fandango – hunting around over the past few days, I have also seen ads from Overstock.com and Kongregate.com.

Facebook claims the practice is fine because users can “opt-out.”

However David Weinberger points out in this case it’s the defaults that matter:

I find myself creeped out by this system because Facebook gets the defaults wrong in two very significant areas. When Blockbuster gives you the popup asking if you want to let your Facebook friends know about your rental, if you do not respond in fifteen seconds, the popup goes away … and a “yes” is sent to Facebook. Wow, is that not what should happen! Not responding far more likely indicates confusion or dismissal-through-inaction than someone thinking, “I’ll save myself the click.”

Further, we are not allowed to opt out of the system. At your Facebook profile, you can review a list of all the sites you’ve been to that have presented you with the Facebook spam-your-friends option, and you can opt out of the sites one at a time. But you cannot press a big red button that will take you out of the system entirely. So, if you’ve deselected Blockbuster and the Manly Sexual Inadequacy Clinic from the list, if you go to a new site that’s done the deal with Facebook, you’ll get the popup again there. We should be allowed to Just Say No, once and for all.

Why? Because privacy is not just about information. It’s all about the defaults.

For the record, when I purchased my tickets at Fandango, I never got the popup that David talked about and therefore never had the chance to opt-out.

(…)

From now on every Facebook user needs to assume ANY online action, whether it’s the sites they visit or the products they buy, will end up in their feed, completely public for the world to see.

They can’t even make the case that this benefits their users in any way. The idea that seeing what your Facebook friends have bought, or your Facebook friends seeing what you’ve bought, is any kind of a selling point, just won’t wash, which is why it’s opt-out instead of opt-in. It’s just a gruesome combination of advertising and privacy violation, and it can even be downright harmful and destructive.

Hopefully Facebook will pull their head out and realize that this was a very bad idea, and either make “Beacon” opt-in, or remove it completely. What’s wrong with wishlists? They have the same effect of indicating what users are interested in, and they have the added benefit of improving the gift-giving process.

November 20th, 2007 at 10:19pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Technology,Wankers

Not Just A River In Egypt

The life force of the Republican party:

In this emerging view, social scientists see denial on a broader spectrum — from benign inattention to passive acknowledgment to full-blown, willful blindness — on the part of couples, social groups and organizations, as well as individuals. Seeing denial in this way, some scientists argue, helps clarify when it is wise to manage a difficult person or personal situation, and when it threatens to become a kind of infectious silent trance that can make hypocrites of otherwise forthright people.

(…)

In a series of recent studies, a team of researchers led by Peter H. Kim of the University of Southern California and Donald L. Ferrin of the University of Buffalo, now at Singapore Management University, had groups of business students rate the trustworthiness of a job applicant after learning that the person had committed an infraction at a previous job. Participants watched a film of a job interview in which the applicant was confronted with the problem and either denied or apologized for it.

If the infraction was described as a mistake and the applicant apologized, viewers gave him the benefit of the doubt and said they would trust him with job responsibilities. But if the infraction was described as fraud and the person apologized, viewers’ trust evaporated – and even having evidence that he had been cleared of misconduct did not entirely restore that trust.

“We concluded there is this skewed incentive system,” Dr. Kim said. “If you are guilty of an integrity-based violation and you apologize, that hurts you more than if you are dishonest and deny it.”

(…)

In an effort to calculate exactly how often people overlook or punish infractions within their peer groups, a team of anthropologists from New Mexico and Vancouver ran a simulation of a game to measure levels of cooperation. In this one-on-one game, players decide whether to contribute to a shared investment pool, and they can cut off their partner if they believe that player’s contributions are too meager. The researchers found that once players had an established relationship of trust based on many interactions – once, in effect, the two joined the same clique – they were willing to overlook four or five selfish violations in a row without cutting a friend off. They cut strangers off after a single violation.

(…)

Nowhere do people use denial skills to greater effect than with a spouse or partner. In a series of studies, Sandra Murray of the University of Buffalo and John Holmes of the University of Waterloo in Ontario have shown that people often idealize their partners, overestimating their strengths and playing down their flaws.

This typically involves a blend of denial and touch-up work – seeing jealousy as passion, for instance, or stubbornness as a strong sense of right and wrong. But the studies have found that partners who idealize each other in this way are more likely to stay together and to report being satisfied in the relationship than those who do not.

“The evidence suggests that if you see the other person in this idealized way, and treat them accordingly, they begin to see themselves that way, too,” Dr. Murray said. “It draws out these more positive behaviors.”

Faced with the high odor of real perfidy, people unwilling to risk a break skew their perception of reality much more purposefully. One common way to do this is to recast clear moral breaches as foul-ups, stumbles or lapses in competence – because those are more tolerable, said Dr. Kim, of U.S.C. In effect, Dr. Kim said, people “reframe the ethical violation as a competence violation.”

She wasn’t cheating on him – she strayed. He didn-t hide the losses in the subprime mortgage unit for years – he miscalculated.

So let’s see, we’ve got the deny-everything-and-never-apologize strategy, we’ve got the wildly skewed double standards where Democrats have to be purer than Mother Theresa and Republicans just have to be purer than Aleister Crowley, we’ve got the recasting of negatives (bloodthirsty and insane) into positives (resolute and strong), and we’ve got evil explained away as simple incompetence.

It’s by no means comprehensive, but it covers the Republican modus operandi pretty well, at least in terms of how they present their own behavior. Yes, I’m sure Democrats and progressives are guilty of some of this as well, but I’m pretty sure we haven’t actually elevated it to doctrine.

November 20th, 2007 at 09:11pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Politics,Republicans,Science

There’s A Party For Me Out There Somewhere…

Since I’m in a bit of a pox-on-both-their-houses mood lately, it’s reassuring to know that there are alternatives – I just have to move to another country.

While there are benefits to America’s two-party system, unquestionably its biggest drawback is the lack of the bizarre fringe groups on ballots. Other nations have long been ahead of the U.S. market on this score; in Canada, for example, the Neo Rhino Party is once again in the news, with its platform of free drugs and weekly orgasms and its proposal to “invest five million in an army of clowns.” It also promises to “not to keep any of its promises if elected.”

The NRP may not have a Canadian snowflake’s chance in hell of taking over the government. But it is undeniably entertaining. So for anyone bored by America’s bipartisan political snooze-fest, here’s a list of strangest parties ever to grace an election ballot:

(…)

The Church of the Militant Elvis Party
This outspoken British party has been around since 2001. According to its Web site, the CMEP was founded “to overthrow the Corporate Capitalist State which turned Elvis, a man of immense talent, into a fat media joke.” Its near Communist leanings appear to be balanced with equal opportunity concerns, as was demonstrated by the recent appointment of Lesbian Elvis, “a female dummy,” to the party’s highest leadership position, called “The Leader.” Deputy Leader Lord Biro has “stood in four Nottingham City Council elections the latest being Wollaton West 2007 (105 votes).” It should be noted that Lesbian Elvis was part of Lord Biro’s “Armageddon Art Show” in 2006.

(…)

The Official Monster Raving Loony Party
The undisputed king of all fringe political parties, the OMRLP has been formed and re-formed intermittently since the 1960s. The OMRLP reached its hey day in the early 1990s, when it beat out several mainstream parties to become a household punchline in Britain. Despite its joking facade, it has helped to effect several reforms, including lowering the voting age to 18. Today its platform remains bent on the absurd, with such proposals as: “The European Union end its discrimination by creating a ‘Court of Human Lefts’ because their present policy is one_sided.” It is also seeking a bill to make it illegal “for super heroes to use their powers for evil.” Now who could argue with that?

There’s hope for humanity yet.

November 20th, 2007 at 08:11pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Democrats,Politics,Republicans,Weirdness

Is It Just Me?

Do any of you find that whenever you read a transcript of Dubya’s blather, you can actually hear him saying it, with all his inflections and vocal tics, maybe even picture some of his gestures and expressions?

It’s pretty disturbing, really, and something I could do without. Is there some kind of surgery, or medication, or brain exercises that will make it stop, or do I just have to wait for 2009?

November 20th, 2007 at 05:47pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Wankers,Weirdness

Halftime Is Not Mardi Gras

I prefer the Giants over the Jets, but this is still mortifying:

At halftime of the Jets’ home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, several hundred men lined one of Giants Stadium’s two pedestrian ramps at Gate D. Three deep in some areas, they whistled and jumped up and down. Then they began an obscenity-laced chant, demanding that the few women in the gathering expose their breasts.

When one woman appeared to be on the verge of obliging, the hooting and hollering intensified. But then she walked away, and plastic beer bottles and spit went flying. Boos swept through the crowd of unsatisfied men.

(…)

The mood of previous Gate D crowds – captured on video clips posted on YouTube – sometimes bordered on hostile, not unlike the spirit of infamously aggressive European soccer hooligans. One clip online shows a woman being groped by a man standing next to her.

(…)

Throughout halftime, about 10 security guards in yellow jackets stood near the bottom of the circular, multilevel ramp, located beyond the stadium’s concourse of concession stands and restrooms. One of the guards was smoking a cigarette; many fans do the same during halftime on the giant ramps, which are located at each corner of the stadium. Another guard later said they were not permitted to do anything about the chants at Gate D because of free speech laws. Yet when a reporter tried to interview two security guards after halftime, he was detained in a holding room, threatened with arrest and asked to hand over his tape recorder.

Wonderful. I’m so proud.

1 comment November 20th, 2007 at 07:07am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Sexism,Sports,Wankers

Why Rudy Is The Perfect Choice

If you liked Dubya, you’ll love Rudy. He’s perfect!

[Former NYC mayor Ed] Koch added: “They don’t know him. He’s a really smooth, charming person. When you talk to him, you don’t become aware from what he says to you of his history in New York City. I honestly believe on 9/10 he couldn’t have been elected dogcatcher.”

Koch said he supported Giuliani twice for mayor but, because of what he sees as his authoritarian and thin-skinned temperament, does no longer.

He has a “knee-jerk need to antagonize critics and people he perceives as enemies,” said Rob Polner, editor of “America’s Mayor: The Hidden History of Rudy Giuliani’s New York.” “He’s perceived as being not only punitive but being a bully, picking on weak targets and being unpredictable.”

This is exactly what we need four, maybe eight more years of. The public demands it.

1 comment November 20th, 2007 at 12:16am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Elections,Politics,Republicans,Rudy


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