Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bhutto murdered; Rudy calls for blood

By now you've likely heard the news that former Pakistani Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, has been assassinated in a bombing and possible shooting (at this time, it "appears" that she died from gun shot wounds during the blast, but that may turn out to have been shrapnel from the blast). Pakistan is, of course, our highly unstable little buddy in the War on Terror, and Bhutto, of course, had recently returned from exile to try to bring the country back towards a democratic track.

All of the 2008 Presidential candidates have started to react, mostly calling for calm and democracy, but Rudy 911 Giuliani has jumped in front of the parade calling for more blood, saying that the killers "must be brought to justice." (Note to Rudy: it was a suicide bombing, the killers are already dead). Of course, Rudy knows that the killers are already dead; he'd just like to tie this event to 911 and use it to help support his tough on terror presidential ambitions.

Which brings us to this question: Is Bhutto's assassination a re-enactment of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo, 1914? Blogger Robert Paterson seems to think so, and he makes some good points. As we all [should] remember from high school history, it wasn't the importance of the Archduke that set off the first world war, it was simply the final straw on tensions that had been building for decades.

Paterson builds on his thesis in a second posting on what may be in store for us if the Sarajevo comparison is correct. Writes Paterson, "Like in 1914, the powder charges have been laid over 40 years. Now the fuse is lit - the bang is inevitable."

I'm not so sure yet. Amazing that I may have a glimmer of hope here. Or is it simply that I'm so cynical and jaded by this point that I refuse to believe anything I read, even predictions of our coming demise.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Edition 2.26

Welcome to the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy, Edition 2.26 - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy Starting us off this Christmas eve is Chris, who fights back against the Bush administration's trampling of justice in I am a Homegrown Terrorist posted at Gratuitous Common Sense.

Erich Engelbrecht discusses political parties as "a novel form of social networks" in Democratizing Politics posted at Innovation Politics.

Judy Aron wonders if Yogi and Booboo are in trouble in U.S. Forest Service Purchases 6,000 Tasers posted at Consent Of The Governed.

Michael Bass maintains that freedom and democracy begins with the right to private property in Do we have Private Property in the USA? posted at Debt Prison.

Sagar Satapathy presents all views in Comparison: Major Presidential Candidates on Monetary Policy and the USD posted at Currency

Finally, in the satire department, Jon Swift explains that fiction is stranger than truth in Jamie Leigh Jones Undermines the War Effort posted at Jon Swift.

I'll be back again in two weeks (January 7) with the next edition of the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Submit Your Posts Here. More information on future carnivals can be found on our carnival home page.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Anonymous accusations

A couple of weeks back there was a random comment placed on this blog from an anonymous poster accusing me of "stealing from other writers." I didn't think much of it at the time, as it was a) anonymous, b) had no evidence or links, and c) was attached to a posting that was obviously original and personal. So, I assumed it was a "joke" and deleted the comment.

But that's not to say that I take plagiarism lightly. As somebody who has posted quite a bit of original writing on various web sites, I am always aware of the potential for my work to turn up under somebody else's name, and the difficulty of finding it and having it removed. So, yes, I take it very seriously, and I have never stolen another writer's work.

As a consultant who makes a good portion of my living from writing (mostly for nonprofit organizations), I also believe in paying writers for their work. So serious accusations that I stole from another writer is also something I would not take lightly.

Last night my anonymous accuser reappeared. This time I replied, and anonymous posted again with a little more information. Anonymous apparently believes that I used the Elance web site to rip off him (or her?) and three or four other people. The poster asked when I plan to pay the writers I steal from. I'm not quite sure if I'm being accused of hiring writers and not paying for their product, or of passing off their writing as my own.

First off, not only have I not stolen from whomever this may be, or anybody else, I have never even used the Elance web site.

So, one of two or three things is happening. Either I was right the first time and this is just some idiot's idea of a joke, or it's a case of mistaken identity. And if it's somebody else with the same, or similar, name or username as me, it might be a coincidence, or it could be that I'm the victim of an online identity thief.

Now, this is not the post I had intended to write. I wasn't planning on getting into the details of this accusation. I had intended to simply write about online anonymity, and the types of people who hide behind it. But maybe it is best that I take this posting to state clearly that I am not a plagiarizer.

If "anonymous" is reading this, and you truly have a bone to pick with me, contact me for real (not just a blog comment), or tell me how I can contact you, and let's talk about this. Because if somebody really is using my name, username, or image to rip off other writers, I want to know about it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Do you Twitter?

Okay, now I've got yet another way to waste time online. This time it's Tom's fault. I've known about this Twitter thing for several months now, but never saw much reason to get into it, but Tom swears I need to play with it and I'll be fascinated, so here I go....

Twitter, if you don't already know, is sort of a mini-blog, but not really. In fact, it's anything but that. Each time you twitter, it's a short blast of text, 140 character maximum, telling where you are, what you're doing, or what you're thinking at any given moment. And people are hooked.

In the right-hand margin of this blog you'll see my latest twitters there between the Google search form and the "Recent Posts/Archives" listings. Or, if you're reading this in RSS, you can find my twitters at, and, if you care to, you can "follow me" by subscribing to that feed.

For those with mobile web devices, or who are into text messaging on their phones, they can twitter away the hours wherever they are, posting their own little blasts of information, or following their friends. For the old folks in the room (me) who still only use their cell phones for, well, phone calls, there are still multiple options.

Besides the Twitter website itself, you can also plug Twitter into your Facebook profile and twitter from there. Or, plug your favorite feeds into the RSS reader and stalk, er, follow your friends there. Or... it seems there are new Twitter applications being written and released every 45 minutes.

But still... Does anybody really care if I've got to go out and buy cat food now?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Carnival of the Decline of (American) Democracy - Edition 2.25

Welcome to the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy, Edition 2.25 - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy Starting us off this week is... well... nobody. Sorry. This week's carnival is canceled.

This is not to say that there were no submissions to the carnival this time around. It's just to say that there were no relevant submissions. Which is surprising. Every other carnival, I've had plenty of good material to choose from, along with a few unrelated political spam posts. So let's go over the point of this bi-weekly exercise again:

"From questionable election results to collecting the phone records of every law-abiding citizen to the suspension of habeas corpus, for the past six years or so we have witnessed a massive erosion of our civil liberties and freedoms in the United States. Some would say it's just a matter of time before elections are canceled for our own protection."

The Carnival of the Decline of Democracy was founded to link to those blog posts that best chronicle the decline of American democracy. It's not all negative, however. My point in organizing this blog carnival is also to show that citizens can still do something about this decline. Free speech and an active electorate can provide a balance to power-hungry politicians.

Got that? Good. Now let us also review what this carnival is NOT:

It is not a platform for promoting a single candidate for high office, or for linking to posts that have that as their primary objective. It is also not a platform for slamming any one candidate unless it is for specific reasons related to the above description of the carnival.

In other words, claims that Candidate X, and only Candidate X will restore our democracy will not be included in the carnival. Likewise, claims that Candidate Z is pure evil (without specific evidence of their supporting anti-democratic measures) will also be rejected. Virtually every posting I received this week fell into these two categories.

Okay. Now that we've got that straight, I'll include one link from the dozen received this week. Technically, it's not specifically about the decline of democracy, but it's short and amusing, so here it is: Madeleine Begun Kane presents My Family Needs Me (Limerick and Video) posted at Mad Kane's Political Madness.

I'll be back to try again in two weeks (December 24) with the Christmas Eve edition of the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Submit Your Posts Here. More information on future carnivals can be found on our carnival home page.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Anyone but Hillary?

There are by now dozens of anti-Hillary Clinton web sites out there, with most of them run by Republicans with the presumption of her being the Democratic nominee. These sites tend to go beyond calm discussion of her policy positions into personal bashing, name calling, and threats. But there are a small, and I believe growing, number of anti-Hillary blogs and sites that come from the grassroots Democratic side.

These sites are a bit more shy about their approach, as they don't want to throw the election to whomever the Republican nominee ends up being, but they're equally terrified of a Hillary Clinton presidency. I can relate. These sites are generally talking about her support for the war, her support of the surveillance-security state, and her massive amounts of corporate lobbyist dollars.

As the media is sure to point out every five minutes, Clinton is leading in all the Democratic primary voter polls, with Barack Obama second, and John Edwards bringing up the rear (followed by all those other guys). Clinton is leading, but she hasn't won yet. And here's something to note: she could win the majority of the primaries, but not get the nomination.

How could that happen? The primaries don't choose the nominee; the Convention does. And, while some states give all their delegates to the winner of that state's primary, others send proportional numbers of delegates based on the actual primary results. And, once at the convention, delegates can switch candidates if there's no winner on the first ballot.

What got me thinking about this, and the possibility of a convention-time mutiny against the front-runner, is listening to John Edwards most recent comments about the two candidates leading him. Edwards is increasingly vocal about Senator Clinton's shortfalls, and increasingly praising of Senator Obama.

Check out this bit of Edwardsian prose, courtesy of NPR:
"The cause of ending poverty in America is a cause that's very central to what I want to do as president, and central to my life. ... And there is at least one other candidate on this stage who has also spoken, strongly and eloquently, about doing something about poverty in America, and it's Sen. [Barack] Obama [of Illinois], and I applaud him for having done that: I think our voices together are more powerful than our voices alone."
Here's my theory (hopeful thinking?): The new Edwards strategy is not to win very many primaries. He knows that ain't gonna happen. His strategy is simply to gather enough convention delegates to deny Clinton the nomination on the first ballot. He can then negotiate with Obama to decide what the Democratic ticket will be.

It's not a bad strategy, if I'm right. And it would make Edwards the ultimate "Anyone but Hillary" player. It might even make the convention worth watching again, rather than the canned speeches and predictable events they've been the last couple of decades.

Does anybody else think this is a possibility, or am I just crazy? How about the math? Does anybody have the figures on which states are winner-take-all, delegate-wise, and which are proportional?

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