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Familiar hold music
Oct 30th, 2006 by Ken Hagler

I’m stuck on hold with Micron trying to get through to their tech support, and the hold music is by somebody I know (Vienna Teng). It’s a first, although I suppose it will happen more often as people I’ve photographed gain wider recognition.

Iranian President sets a good example
Oct 24th, 2006 by Ken Hagler

Ahmadinejad Opposes Finger-Print Bill. [AP World News]

Speaking to a crowd in the northern Tehran suburb of Shemiranat, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he had asked Iranian legislators to set aside a bill that would require immigration officials to take fingerprints of all U.S. passport holders.

“We do not have a problem with American people. We oppose only the U.S. government’s bullying and arrogance,” Ahmadinejad said Monday night, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

The bill, which passed a preliminary reading in the Iranian parliament earlier this month, was drafted by conservatives who sought to retaliate for the U.S. requirement that Iranian visitors be fingerprinted.

I find it interesting that President Ahmadinejad, who is constantly accused of being a crazy tyrant by the Busheviks, is showing more respect for the privacy and dignity of foreign visitors to Iran than the Busheviks do for foreign visitors to America.

Commentary on the Enabling Act
Oct 20th, 2006 by Ken Hagler

Countdown Special Comment: Death of Habeas Corpus: “Your words are lies, Sir.” [Crooks and Liars]

There’s a video floating around of some TV news guy commenting on Bush’s signing of the Enabling Act Military Commissions Act. I’d never heard of him before (I haven’t watched TV news in many years), but he has one of the best commentaries I’ve seen on it. The link contains a transcript.

The useless mainstream media
Oct 18th, 2006 by Ken Hagler

I saw a couple of good posts today on the way the mainstream media ignores or downplays important stories. First is this post on coverage of Bush’s signing of the Enabling Act, and second is this story about an alternative theory on global warming.

How pros report the news
Oct 17th, 2006 by Ken Hagler

How pros report the news.

A lot of people paint a Mr Smith Goes to Washington picture of investigative reporting, and maybe sometimes it does work that way, but really, not very often. There aren’t too many Woodwards and Bernsteins. Most of the reporting that goes on is pretty mundane workaday stuff, that follows a pretty simple template.

1. Get an idea. It could come from reading a colleague’s article at another paper (news stories tend to come in droves, once an idea is reported by one publication, it can often be repeated by others).

2. Make a handful of phone calls, ask people what they think. Write down some of what they say. The parts you don’t quote might be important to what the person thinks, but you can’t write it all down. Also at this point very often errors get introduced, also known as the “misquote.” The reporter may or may not understand the gist of what the person is saying, but that’s not important, because neither will the reader. Look for the juicy quote, that’s what they pay you the big bucks for. It doesn’t matter, emphatically, if the quote reflects the beliefs of the person you’re quoting. You’re trying to catch them saying something interesting, and that’s usually something embarassing, either to themselves, or someone else. Or something you can make sound embarassing (or stupid) by putting it after something that sounds reasonable or intelligent.

3. Do some searching on the Internet to get some impressive-sounding statistics.

4. Now it’s time to write your lead and your close. See if you can find the “middle ground.” Pick two extreme positions, and imply or directly say that the truth lies somewhere between. Even if the question is something that is true or false, like the sun revolves around the earth, or the moon is larger than the sun (it looks that way, doesn’t it, and perception is everything, they say).

[Scripting News]

I’ve noticed this myself. The big exception is when the story involves some very powerful entity which might shut the reporter out from future press conferences, etc. (government agencies being the most common example), in which case the reporter will basically regurgitate whatever they’re told to say.

The gambling ban, and how to get around it
Oct 13th, 2006 by Ken Hagler

More on the Gambling Ban.

Been doing interviews all day, including one with the BBC, which should air tonight.

Here’s the statement I issued through Cato:

This bill is paternalistic, moralizing big government at its worst. It won’t eradicate online gambling, it will only make those gambling sites that are incorporated and publicly traded and regulated in countries like Great Britain unavailable to U.S. customers. But the $12 billion per year U.S. customers spend on online gaming won’t dry up. Instead, much of it will now go shady offshore sites based in countries less steeped in the rule of law, meaning more potential for fraud, abuse, preying on minors, and involvement from organized crime and terrorist groups. Meanwhile, state lotteries (which studies show are among the most addictive forms of gambling) will exploit the exemption the bill grants them, and continue to spend millions of dollars encouraging their citizens to engage in government-run gambling, with far less favorable odds.

From House Republican leaders’ baffling attempts to invoke the shame of Jack Abramoff and pass the ban in the name of “lobbying reform,” to Senator Frist attaching the ban to a port security bill late at night on the last day of Congress, nothing about the way the GOP has pushed this bill has been honest. It is the height of hubris that the last law enacted by a party beset by charges of corruption and abuse of power was a moralistic bill passing judgment on the millions of Americans who play online poker and other games recreationally and responsibly.

[The Agitator]

I’ve never had any interest in gambling personally, but I have been hearing for years that The Gold Casino is a reliable and honest operation. Everything I’ve heard from their customers has been highly complimentary. As the name suggests, they accept e-gold, so you don’t have to worry about your credit card company selling you out to the Evil Empire.

Campaign finance reform in action
Oct 12th, 2006 by Ken Hagler

Buying Your Way Into the Debate. [Hit and Run]

While there was initially some doubt that his stunt would work, Libertarian Party Senate candidate in Washington state Bruce Guthrie managed to meet the stated rules for getting invited to a candidate debate by lending $1.2 million of his own money to his campaign. Thus, he will be appearing at an Oct. 17th debate sponsored by local TV station KING-5, the Seattle Times, and a gaggle of other local media and civic organizations.

He’ll be up against incumbent Democrat Maria Cantwell and Republican challenger Mike McGavick. Cantwell has been leading 8-10 percent in the polls. Guthrie needed to have gathered at least 10 percent of what the previous winner, Sen. Patty Murray, has gathered, which was $12.1 million in third quarter 2004.

It’s ironic (although not at all surprising) that the consequence of the campaign finance laws, which generally have a stated purpose of “keeping money out of politics,” have the effect of explicitly and openly requiring that anyone wanting to participate in the system be a rich person who can buy his way in.

Teaching serfdom
Oct 11th, 2006 by Ken Hagler

The Heirs of Liberty.

Each morning, the 16,000 students in the Spring Independent School District in suburban Houston swipe their ID tags as they climb onto the school bus. A radio frequency tag tracks them, as it does when they arrive at school and as they leave the building.

Nearly 1,000 cameras watch them all day. Every visitor — parents, volunteers, the guy who fills the Coke machine — must surrender his or her driver’s license to a secretary who checks it against a national database of sex offenders. This fall, nearly one in three schools literally trap visitors inside a “secure vestibule,” a bulletproof glass room, until they’re checked out.

From the people who bring us “gun free schools” come conditioning camps designed to produce inmates, not sovereigns.

And remember: Our enemies hate us because we’re free. [The War on Guns]

After thirteen years of this, the survivors are rather unlikely to even be able to conceive of a free society, let alone want to live in one. Of course, that’s the whole point.

A “terrorist plot” you won’t hear about on Fox News
Oct 9th, 2006 by Ken Hagler

Terrorist plot in Britain?. Also in Britain, we learn about a raid that found the largest haul of chemical explosives ever found at a residence in the country, a rocket launcher, and “some kind of master plan” to use these weapons.

Why haven’t you heard about it? Apparently, because the suspects are right-wing extremists associated with the British National Party, rather than being Muslims.

[…]

I think we all know that if the suspects had been Muslims, this would be a huge news story with much hyperventilating. To see it get so little coverage when the suspects are white right-wing extremists makes the double standard pretty darn blatant. [Al-Muhajabah’s Islamic Blogs]

The post has links to several small local newspapers’ stories on the raid. Of course she’s right about the double-standard–this sounds similar to the “liquid bomb” business, except that those guys didn’t actually have anything that was immediately usable, like a rocket launcher.

This Is What “Waterboarding” Looks Like
Oct 9th, 2006 by Ken Hagler

This Is What “Waterboarding” Looks Like. Pictures and descriptions of what it is (torture) and how it works (makes the victim suck in water until they pass out). It’s a throw back to the medieval days when forced confessions were the norm. We are moving backwards as a culture when otherwise decent people try and defend this and other such practices, even on ostensibly utilitarian or practical grounds.

Via the AlterNet blog. [Strike The Root]

Like many other aspects of their domestic and foreign policies, the Busheviks copied their torture chambers from now-defunct Communist countries.

I do disagree with the author on one point, though: anyone who tries to defend torture is, by definition, not a decent person at all.

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