Archive for June, 2006

Happy Fourth of July!

June 30, 2006

See what happens when a fireworks factory explodes:

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Who owns the media in the US?

June 30, 2006

The Big Ten (Nice diagram)

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Thus what we have today is not a problem wholly new in kind but rather the disastrous upshot of an evolutionary process whereby that old problem has become considerably larger–and that great quantitative change, with just a few huge players now co-directing all the nation’s media, has brought about enormous qualitative changes. For one thing, the cartel’s rise has made extremely rare the sort of marvelous exception that has always popped up, unexpectedly, to startle and revivify the culture–the genuine independents among record labels, radio stations, movie theaters, newspapers, book publishers and so on. Those that don’t fail nowadays are so remarkable that they inspire not emulation but amazement. Otherwise, the monoculture, endlessly and noisily triumphant, offers, by and large, a lot of nothing, whether packaged as “the news” or “entertainment.”

Of all the cartel’s dangerous consequences for American society and culture, the worst is its corrosive influence on journalism. Under AOL Time Warner, GE, Viacom et al., the news is, with a few exceptions, yet another version of the entertainment that the cartel also vends nonstop. This is also nothing new–consider the newsreels of yesteryear–but the gigantic scale and thoroughness of the corporate concentration has made a world of difference, and so has made this world a very different place.

A sad, sad state of affairs…

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The interstate system turns 50

June 30, 2006

Engineering Gems of the U.S. Highway System

The U.S. interstate highway system is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Fifty years ago, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill to pay for the wide ribbons of highways that connect America’s cities and towns.

The system of highways profoundly changed American society: where we live, how we live and how much we depend on our cars.

It occurs to me that the interestate highway system, while perhaps being the engineering marvel the NPR piece highlights, was a government project. Damn socialists.

I mean – can’t you imagine how much *better* it would be if it were done and controlled by private industry instead? The left lane would be reserved only for people who drive GM SUV’s because of a deal cut between GM and the highway. The tolls would factors of ten more than they are now, to cover both the marketting expensese of getting you to drive on it. Some of the most convenient thoroughfares would be paved with gold and reserved only for the rich. And every time a blizzard comes through, the companies could come *crying* to the federal government about how they couldn’t have seen it coming and ask for a bail out from the taxpayers to cover the snow plow expense.

Yep. Government is always a bureaucratic inefficient mess with no incentive to provide good service. If only it were privatized…

(For those unable to pick up on the satire, this was a veiled reference to the Net Neutrality debate, contrasting our public transportation infrastructure with our private communications infrastructure).

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Supreme Court says “No”

June 30, 2006

Yesterday, the Supreme court handed Bush a major defeat, basically saying “Yeah… that rule of law thing… you’re still bound by it”.

Go Democracy!

Justices, 5-3, Broadly Reject Bush Plan to Try Detainees

The Supreme Court on Thursday repudiated the Bush administration’s plan to put Guantánamo detainees on trial before military commissions, ruling broadly that the commissions were unauthorized by federal statute and violated international law.

“The executive is bound to comply with the rule of law that prevails in this jurisdiction,” Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the 5-to-3 majority, said at the end of a 73-page opinion that in sober tones shredded each of the administration’s arguments, including the assertion that Congress had stripped the court of jurisdiction to decide the case.

The decision was such a sweeping and categorical defeat for the administration that it left human rights lawyers who have pressed this and other cases on behalf of Guantánamo detainees almost speechless with surprise and delight, using words like “fantastic,” “amazing” and “remarkable.”

A dictatorship would be a lot easier… So long as I’m the dictator. – George W. Bush

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Operation removes lightbulb from anus

June 30, 2006

There’s nothing I can possibly say that could either add or detract from that headline.

But wait, it gets better on its own:

Mohammad, who is serving a four-year sentence for making liquor, prohibited for Muslims, said he was shocked when he was first told the cause of his discomfort. He swears he didn’t know the bulb was there.

Oh, and here’s the photo of the x-ray:

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Democracy owes it’s existence to pirates!

June 29, 2006

Pirates pursued democracy, helped American colonies survive

Pirates practiced the same egalitarian principles as the Founding Fathers and displayed pioneering spirit in exploring new territory and meeting the native peoples, said Jason Acosta, who did the research for his thesis in history at the University of Florida.

Like the American revolutionaries, pirates developed three branches of government with checks and balances. The ship captain was elected, just as the U.S. president; the pirate assembly was comparable to Congress; and the quartermaster resembled a judge in settling shipmate disputes and preventing the captain from overstepping his authority, he said.

Colonists and pirates also were alike in emphasizing written laws, democratic representation and due process, Acosta said. All crew members were allowed to vote, ship charters had to be signed by every man on board, and anyone who lost an eye or a leg was compensated financially, he said.

These ideals grew out of both groups’ frustration at being mistreated by their leaders; the British forced the colonists to quarter troops and pay taxes, and captains on merchant ships beat their shipmen, starved them and paid less than promised, Acosta said.

“It’s no wonder that many sailors seized the opportunity to jump ship and search for a better way of life, namely piracy, which offered better food, shorter work shifts and the power of the crew in decision-making,” he said.

Shiver me timbers, that’s awesome.

Somewhere high above us, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is smiling.

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Video: Giant centipede eats bat

June 29, 2006

So I’m not going to be sleeping tonight….

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Warren buffett calls for retention of Estate Tax

June 28, 2006

Reuters:

Billionaire Warren Buffett on Monday called for U.S. lawmakers to retain the estate tax, after announcing plans to leave more than $37 billion of his own fortune to charity, not his children.

Buffett spoke after agreeing to sign over roughly $30.7 billion of his $44 billion fortune to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, run by the Microsoft Corp. chairman and his wife, and another $6.4 billion to foundations on behalf of his late wife Susan and his children.

“I would hate to see the estate tax gutted,” Buffett said at a Manhattan news conference with the Gateses about his donation.

“It’s a very equitable tax,” Buffett said. “It’s in keeping with the idea of equality of opportunity in this country, not giving incredible head starts to certain people who were very selective about the womb from which they emerged.”

Isn’t it amazing how a guy who actually earned his own fortune thinks that other people should have to do the same?

Personally, I have a great respect for people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. While I might not agree with everything they did to earn their money, they did in fact earn it by actually working for it.  It’s the Paris Hilton’s and George W. Bush’s of the world I can’t stand; people who never earned (much less deserve) the vast amounts of wealth they control through an accident of birth. The difference between the two kinds of wealthy is is as stark as night and day.

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Monty Python meets Star Wars

June 27, 2006

Simply Brilliant.

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DRM Debate debunked

June 27, 2006

There’s an awesome point-by-point debunking on IPac of a debate featured in the WSJ about DRM schemes. It’s sad that these arguments actually fly with some people (especially Congress), given how easily they’re shown to be pure BS. What’s even more depressing is that the original arguments were featured in the Wall Street Journal, and these great counterpoints weren’t.

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