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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