Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Chavez, the Decider

In a stunning move, the Venezuelan Congress has moved to grant President Hugo Chavez nearly unlimited power to rule by decree. According to congressional Vice-President Roberto Hernandez:
"We in the National Assembly will not waver in granting President Chavez an enabling law so he can quickly and urgently set up the framework for resolving the grave problems we have."
First of all, how can any elected leader lay claim to that kind of power. And secondly, how could a democratically elected body such as a Congress willingly give up its power to such a controlling ruler?

I mean, really. That's not what modern nations do. That's not how civilized people behave. That's not what you'd ever see happen here in the...

Oh... Never mind.

In other news, all your innermost thoughts must now be approved a presidential appointee.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Officially Existential

The results of a meme I took this morning:

You scored as Existentialism. Your life is guided by the concept of Existentialism: You choose the meaning and purpose of your life.

“Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.”
“It is up to you to give [life] a meaning.”
--Jean-Paul Sartre

“It is man's natural sickness to believe that he possesses the Truth.”
--Blaise Pascal

More info at Arocoun's Wikipedia User Page...









Justice (Fairness)




Strong Egoism




Divine Command


What philosophy do you follow? (v1.03)
created with

Sorry for the sporadic posting - I've been out with a flu for a few days. I'll be heading out of town on family business for a bit, too, but regular posting will return next week with another edition of the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Body Bags for Charity

In addition to this general/political blog, I also keep a nonprofit consulting blog (and a guitar playing/collecting blog), and sometimes I have to wonder which blog I'm going to post a certain item to. This is one of those items.

This is one to file under "nonprofit fundraising," but it's also going here, in the general interest blog, because it's just that odd.

The Los Angeles County Coroner (office of the infamous Thomas Naguchi and inspiration for the classic TV show, Quincy) was facing a fiscal crisis when the County didn't have enough money to fund the Youthful Drunk Driving Visitation Program (YDDVP) - A court ordered alternative sentencing program for youthful offenders, that takes participants through the Coroner facilities and exposes them to the realistic and traumatic consequences associated with their offense.

Their answer? A web site selling body bags, toe-tag key chains, "Undertaker" boxer shorts, and many other less-odd items, each featuring the County Coroner's seal or a chalked body outline design. They'll get a lot of publicity for the store, and - I believe - a lot of sales revenue as well.

I just wish some of the nonprofits I work with could be this creative, original, and off-the-wall with their fundraising efforts.

(Thanks to the Selfish Giving blog for the lead and link.)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The State of the Union v. Oscar Nominations

Last night's State of the Union address began appropriately enough by marking the historic occasion of a President addressing a female Speaker of the House. From there it drifted into a feel-good, fact-less, national pep talk that could have originated from the middle of the road of any political party.

Bush has, apparently, just discovered that there are millions of Americans with no health coverage, and that health care costs have been destroying families and lives. Oh, and it seems that making a lot of pollution isn't very good for the environment either. But, by-golly-gosh, we're Americans and we work together to solve all of this, yes-siree!

The speech seemed to be nearly over by the time there was any mention that we might be in the midst of a quagmire. Excuse me, a war against evil. But we're just doing a swell job there, too, if we can just approach it with the same determination that's fixing all those domestic issues we just discussed.

All was swell, and without controversy, on the surface. Just don't scratch the surface too deep. For one thing (reports the Washington Post) Bush's description of "the enemy" was full of misdirection and outright lies. His blending of events and situations into one incohesive mass is typified is such quotes as "The Shia and Sunni extremists are different faces of the same totalitarian threat."
At one point, Bush catalogued what he described as advances in the quest for freedom in the Middle East during 2005 -- such as the departure of Syrian troops from Lebanon and elections in Iraq. Then, Bush asserted, "a thinking enemy watched all of these scenes, adjusted their tactics and in 2006 they struck back." But his description of the actions of "the enemy" tried to tie together a series of diplomatic and military setbacks that had virtually no connection to one another, from an attack on a Sunni mosque in Iraq to the assassination of Maronite Lebanese political figure.
Oh, and there were contradictions in his alternative energy plan too.

Meanwhile, the Oscar nominations (full list here) were all controversy on the surface, but logical and sound choices at the core. The big controversy is that Dreamgirls received the most nominations, over-all, but was snubbed in the Best Picture category.

This supposed snub is, presumably, a result of the latent racism of the Academy and Hollywood in general. Some of these racial snubs in the past may indeed have been unfair, this time, however, I don't buy it.

I loved Dreamgirls. I thought it was a wonderful movie, and certainly one of my favorites of the past year. The nominations it received were all well-deserved and I expect to see a few winners out of the group. But "best picture?" The performances (especially the supporting performances) were great. The art direction, production design, and music all worked together to bring the picture to life. But "best picture?"

I expected it to get a nomination in that category, because of all that went right with the film, but would have been disappointed if it won because of what went wrong. Mainly, the way the story fell apart at the end. Too many loose pieces and disjointed elements were conveniently washed away in order to bring all the characters into the big finale together.

And, as good as Beyonce and Jamie Foxx were, having a "supporting" cast (Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy) that could out-sing, out-act, and consistently up-stage them also took it out of the running.

So, let's see... The State of the Union versus the Oscar Nominations... which was more exciting? The envelope please... And the award goes to... Oscar Nominations!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy, edition 2.2

Welcome to the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy, Edition 2.2 - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of DemocracyAs always, narrowing all the blog posts I receive down to the target number of seven entries per carnival is always tough, but I think you'll find it worth the effort. The first few entries this week each have to do the President's recent announcement of a troop escalation in Iraq:

Rey Thomas, of The Thomas Political Report, presents What The President Said, What The President Meant.

vjack, of Atheist Revolution, presents The Escalation in Iraq.

Madeleine Begun Kane (Mad Kane) presents Bellicose Bush (poem, satire).

We round out the week with a broad look at American's fears, outlaw politicians, the lapdog press, and an explanation of why we allow it all to happen:

GrrlScientist, of Living the Scientific Life, presents Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush.

murad, of The New Business World, presents A Nation Without Leaders: A Poll On American Fears.

Michael Boldin, of the Populist Party of America, presents Outing the Constitutional Criminals.

Finally, one of my favorite posts in a long time, John Wesley, of Pick the Brain, presents Resist the Temptation to Submit to Authority.

The next edition of the Carnival will be posted on Monday, February 5th, 2007 with entries requested by Saturday, February 3rd, at midnight. Submit your blog post for the next edition of the carnival of the decline of democracy using our carnival submission form. More information on future carnivals can be found on our carnival home page.

Friday, January 19, 2007

McCain was for independence before he was against it

For somebody who hoped to build his presidential campaign on his credentials as a maverick, independent, credible straight-talker, John McCain seems to have bought himself a new, industrial strength, waffle iron.

In the last year or so, McCain has reversed positions on more than a dozen issues, including the landmark campaign reform and lobbying legislation that bears his name.
Asked to explain the complete reversal, McCain's spokesperson said the senator changed his mind after receiving "feedback" from conservative groups, which, coincidentally, just happen to be some of the same far-right activist organizations McCain hopes to impress for his presidential campaign.
Among his changes in attitude are his positions on abortion, tax cuts for the wealthy, Jerry Falwell, Henry Kissinger, the use of torture, ethanol, campaign finance and lobbyist reform, and flying the Confederate flag (check the full list).

"Republicans... don’t trust him, independents... are disappointed..., and Democrats [have] grown disgusted." Sounds like he's well on his way to the White House!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Viral video infection

Part of the innovation of viral video websites like YouTube and LiveVideo - indeed, the feature that makes them viral - is the ability to embed the videos into other websites with a simple bit of html or java code. That's how I've included my YouTube videos here, and elsewhere on my web.

Using that same bit of code, other bloggers have been able to include my videos when they want to. When that happens I'm always pleased and honored. That's also how I've occasionally included other people's videos on this and my other blogs.

But when does embedding go too far and become an invasion or a copyright violation?

I was recently alerted (thanks to the Frozen Ghost!) to two websites that have turned embedding into a business model: and (I'm not linking them, because I'm not sure I want to give them any more business). Users at these video sites don't create content, they simply link to it. And, they make money off of the linking.

YouTube and LiveVideo don't share their revenue with the content creators. I make nothing off the videos I create. It's a hobby, and that's fine with me. These other sites, with no much lower overhead (they're not actually hosting the videos, so it's a much cheaper site to run) split the ad revenue with their members. But do those members (or even the sites) deserve to make money off of my content?

Yes, my content. Even though I'd never heard of these sites (and others like them) until a couple of days ago, many of my videos are there - through the magic of embedding - on other users' accounts. Now, they're not making much money off it. I doubt it's more than a couple of bucks. But still, is it right?

I wrote to each company and asked that my content be removed. responded that I was free to turn off embedding in my YouTube account settings, but that they would not remove the links from their site. responded that they would be happy to remove my videos if I supply them with a list of the URLs (in the works).

Obviously, I like the response from better - so much so that once the fraudulent copies of my videos are removed, I may set up an account their and post them under my own name and see just how much (or little) money is to be made there.

But, what to do about In a way, I do see their point about my being in control of embedding at the source host site. But I don't want to turn that feature off because I use it.

I also, as I pointed out, use the embed to post other people's videos here and at my Highway 17 Music guitar blog. But, when I do it, I always try to credit the video author. What I do (in my mind) is put the video into the editorial context of the blog. I don't believe I'm doing anything fraudulent or trying to rip off other people's creativity.

Am I a hypocrite, or is there really a difference between what I do and what these new embedded video sites do? In my mind there is a difference, but I'd really like to hear some more opinions on this.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Accidental beheading a "mishap" not "mistreatment"

Saddam Hussein's two co-defendants were executed today. Saddam's half-brother Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti and Awad Hamed al-Bandar were hung side-by-side using the same gallows as were used for Saddam just a week or so ago.

The Iraqi government admitted that, in what is explained was a "rare mishap," al-Tikriti's head was severed by the rope, with the body and head falling below the gallows and landing several yards apart.

According to an Iraqi government spokesperson:
The convicts were not subjected to any mistreatment. Their rights were not violated. There was no chanting. The Iraqi government acted in a neutral way.
I don't know about you, but I'm relieved to know that nobody was mistreated or had their rights violated by having their heads ripped from their bodies. I mean, that may be disgusting, brutal, and viscous, but at least there was no chanting this time.

Friday, January 12, 2007

What is the sound of $1.65 billion going down the drain?

By now you know that I've been hooked on YouTube for a number of months now (watch my videos here). If you are also among the 'Tubers, you know that for some weeks now the site has been plagued by technical issues, mostly revolving around the messaging systems.

You'd think by now a basic email application would be easy to build into a site and keep up, but apparently not so. Worse than the constant error messages has been the complete lack of communication from YouTube staff on what's happening, or if there's any hope of a fix.

Enter It looks an awful lot like YouTube, but the video quality is a bit better and the audio blows you away with full, true, stereo sound. Oh, and the messaging systems work.

This week it seemed like a mass exodus occured once certain notable 'Tubers began to promote their LiveVideo vlogs on the 'Tube. I, too, have claimed my username (kenrg) and started to cross-post my videos. A few people have made Farewell to YouTube videos and shifted over entirely.

(There have even been a few conspiracy-minded 'Tubers asking if LiveVideo could be a project of YouTube itself to test out new features before rolling them into the original.)

Now, today, YouTube has finally mentioned the technical issues on their blog, "Our engineers looked into it and discovered an over-enthusiastic spam filter." We'll see if that cures anything. It may be too little too late.

YouTube is still far and away the market leader when it comes to online video. But the ease and speed with which a small competitor can snag a large group of their users should be a wake up call to them. In the Internet age there are no customer loyalty guarantees. In the time it takes to shut down a site for overnight maintenance another site can cast its spell on your users.

Yes, I said I opened an account at LiveVideo. I like a lot of the features that they've introduced (and that wild stereo sound), but I'm not leaving YouTube yet. I'm still rooting for them to get their act together. I'm also betting on their new masters from Google giving them a swift kick in the pants.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Still Surgin'

Okay, yesterday I gave you my pre-speech opinions via my Uncle Joe Bile character. Then I watched the Bush, the whole thing, awake and sober. I didn't finish off the bottle of Scotch till well after he got off the air (Glenmorangie, yum).

So, let me ask you, besides the form of the rhetoric, and a slight touch of well rehearsed humility, is there anything actually new or different about this "change of course?"

It's "only" 20,000 more troops (actually, 20,000 of the same troops on longer tours and shorter stateside rotation), not the 100-200,000 troops that a real "surge" strategy would require. And it sure as hell isn't any kind of a stepping down or withdrawal.

Still, it's not exactly the same failed strategy. It's more of the same failed strategy. It's the same, but different.

Now, according to the President, when we "go from door to door" looking for insurgents, we'll have more soldiers to stay behind and maintain the areas that we've secured. He made it sound like they're ringing doorbells and asking if everybody is alright inside, rather than kicking in doors (or what's left of them) and machine-gunning down anybody who moves.

And, the president cautioned, if we pull out too soon, we'll end up having to stay in Iraq a lot longer. That's right. If we leave, we'll be stuck there, but if we stay, we can go home. Really. That's what he said.

It was a kinder, gentler, more conciliatory stayin' of the course, but in the end, all he really said was, "Screw you, we don't care what the people (American or Iraqi), the generals, or the Iraq Study Group have to say, we're Staying the Damn Course!"

So, by accepting more responsibility for American troops we'll force the Iraqi's to take responsibility for their own security, and by re-committing American troops we'll be able to bring them home, and by fighting a civil war in Iraq we'll soon capture terrorist master-mind Osama bin Laden.

Oh, wait, there was no mention of Osama in the speech. I guess the statute of limitation on that September 11 thing has run out. Too bad.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Uncle Joe Surges into Iraq

A video blog entry today:

Your Uncle Joe Bile supports his president in sending 20,000+ more troops into Iraq. The only way to win is to refuse to loose, even if it takes another 30 years. "Real men don't pull out!"

Monday, January 08, 2007

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - 2.1

Happy New Year & Welcome to the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy, Edition 2.1 - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of DemocracyHaving taken a few weeks off for the holidays there were many, many, great blog entries in my in-box. It's always hard to narrow it down, but I think you'll enjoy and learn from what I've selected:

Justin Lowery presents US Policy: Self-Determination or Imperialism?

Bill Losapio presents The Source of the National Debt, Why It Will NEVER Be Paid, and Why the Federal Reserve Should Be Liquidated (part 1 of 2).

David Gross presents The Picket Line — Is there any hope for a People Power movement in the U.S.A.?

John presents Heroin Sheikh: US Overthrow Means More Opiates for the Masses.

Rey Thomas presents The Thomas Political Report: For Bush, Troop Surge Is Last, Best and Worst Hope.

J.C. Wilmore presents Why Republicans will be excluded from power in the 110th Congress.

Dana presents Testing and mind reading.

Charles Feldman presents U.S. Solves Housing Shortage - Puts Everyone Behind Bars.

The next edition of the Carnival will be posted on Monday, January 22nd, 2007 with entries requested by Saturday, January 20th, at midnight. Submit your blog post for the next edition of the carnival of the decline of democracy using our carnival submission form. More information on future carnivals can be found on our carnival home page.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

"...exigent circumstances..."

Another bill, another signing, another Orwellian statement...

The bill was the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (HR 6407), which sounds harmless enough, but with the signing statement President Bush swept away any right to privacy you ever had in sending mail.

Think the government needs a warrant to open and read your personal mail? Not any more:
The executive branch shall construe ... the Act, which provides for opening of an item of a class of mail otherwise sealed against inspection, in a manner consistent, to the maximum extent permissible, with the need to conduct searches in exigent circumstances, such as to protect human life and safety against hazardous materials, and the need for physical searches specifically authorized by law for foreign intelligence collection.
There's no need to show a judge evidence that you might have black market anthrax or that you might be planning a bombing, all the right people in power need is a hunch that you might not like them.

Okay, you don't care. You get all your personal messages by email, and all that's in your mail box is bills and advertisements. The media doesn't care either; ABC, CBS, and CNN pretty much ignored the statement in their coverage.

And that's what worries me even more. That 95% of Americans will never hear this news is scary. That of the few who do hear it, 75% of those won't care is what truly terrifies me.

It's not the idea that some government agent is going to be peeking into my mailbox I'm upset about, it's the idea that this government has blatantly said that we no longer have any privacy rights, that there is no more due process of law, and that most people can't be bothered to care.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Aliens arrive in Chicago - Are turned away at airport

A group of United Airlines employees - including several pilots - swear they saw a mysterious, saucer-shaped craft hovering over O'Hare Airport late last year. The object hovered over the airport briefly before shooting straight up through the clouds sometime in November.

The FAA has acknowledged taking the report, but a review of the radar readings at O'Hare shows nothing. The FAA's current theory is that the sightings were the result of a "weather phenomenon."

O'Hare air traffic controller and union official, Craig Burzych, put it all in perspective:
To fly 7 million light years to O'Hare and then have to turn around and go home because your gate was occupied is simply unacceptable.
The FAA is not investigating any further.

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