Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Supreme Court to Corporations: Take all the Megaphones You Want, It's Your Right

This week, the Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 to lift spending restrictions on corporations and unions, claiming that such restrictions are a violation of Free Speech, a right given to all "citizens" by our Constitution.

Given that corporations are allegedly "Persons"*, and given that there is legal precedent dating back to the 1970s for equating money spent on lobbying and advertising with Free Speech, the winning side here believes that the Constitutional Rights of these poor helpless fictional entities have been justifiably restored

To me this means we've just cleared the way for America to be a Corporate Fascist nation, not a Democracy.

Sure, there are Constitutional Purists, like Glenn Greenwald, who drank the Kool-Aid and think this ruling was about an abstract fight against the notion of limiting free speech to some category of entities.   He and others think having any such regulation in any context is paramount to censorship and must be stopped.

I don't buy it.

We're dealing here not with stopping ideas we may or may not agree with.  Glenn is right when he points out that government banning and censoring human communication in one context, but not in others, is unacceptable in a true Democracy.  Either you have Free Speech or you don't.  If you don't, you live in China and mere mentioning of certain topics will get you imprisoned or killed.

But, even if we don't restrict its content, the intent of Free Speech was never to allow one group of entities to have more of it than anyone else. The problem is how to mix all the communications channels in a fair, informative way.  Prior regulation kept the Corporate voice lower in the mix.  Now that regulation will be off.

Thanks to these Supreme Court idiots, Corporations will able to seize the control room, crank up the volume and mix everyone else out of the dialogue.

The Megaphones vs. The Unmiked.

It is not that Corporations have not been able to speak.  (They already have).

It's not that they cannot speak the particular messages they would like to (even if those might be misleading or false).

No.  The problem now is that Corporations do not speak.   With billions of dollars, they can YELL.

They can now yell louder, and across more loudspeakers and channels than any other entity on the planet.  These entities can now buy up all the megaphones and boomboxes. 

Speech?  Or Corruptive Influence

Then there is the matter of corruption.  Corruption can trump even the fairest of dialogues and messaging between elected officials and the citizens voting for them.

When a human being donates money to a politician in the hopes of getting him or her elected, there is the hope (or expectation) he or she will vote in a way pleasing to the donor.

But with a corporation, we're talking HUGE sums of money that no mere mortal human being can simply walk away from.  In effect, the politician will think twice before enacting any laws against such a "generous" donor.  In effect, the Corporate Donor has just bought the Law, custom-made for its own self-interest.

Theodore Roosevelt and our preceding governments recognized the danger of granting unlimited power to Corporations.  We had protections in place to separate government and commerce.  They gave corporations a voice, but muted so that the rest of us could be heard too.

But now our members of Congress are former members of Corporations and vice versa.  They have debts to repay, Laws to create on their donor's behalf.  This ruling will make he voice of the Corporations so overwhelmingly loud that we human beings might as well call it a day and do what Douglas Rushkoff suggests -- forget about government and do stuff ourselves.

* Albeit fictional, and only made so in the 1800s by a clerk writing notes on a court case about granting rights to slaves.

Labels: , , , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 12:42 PM 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Save the Poor Health Insurance Companies!

Awwww... There, there monstrous corporate entities -- it'll be all right in the end. Don't worry.

Labels: , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 11:07 AM 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Obama Giving In?: The U.S. May Spy On You; You Can't Sue

Well I for one am disturbed. The Electronic Frontier Foundation's lawsuit against AT&T and the Bush administrations's illegal surveillance hit a humongous snag -- Obama's Department of Justice filed a brief saying they not only endorse the Bush administration's reasoning that the suit cannot be pursued because of national security, but that retroactively, from now on, NO ONE may sue the government or its contractors for warantless wiretapping unless that information is made public by said government.

But more importantly, it undermines Obama's entire campaign.
This is a complete about face, folks. He vowed to hold our government accountable for illegal activity, to preserve the Constitution which expressly forbids surveillance without warrants. To sneak around having to do this to prevent rocking the boat this early in his term is a horrible sign that perhaps, we were all duped. I really hope this isn't the case -- Obama is a nice friendly figurehead but, despite election promises, unwilling or unable to fix the corruption his predecessors engineered.

He better do something. That we are in a manufactured "War on Terror" (a term the Obama team no longer uses) is NO EXCUSE for tramping the civil rights of its citizens. Unless of course you want a fascist nation. (Some do -- better for business.)

Is Obama's DOJ full of lingering Bush administrative people seizing the opportunity? Is Obama oblivious? How could he support such a thing?

More editorial about this here.

If you're angry with all this, please sign the CREDO petition.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 1:14 PM 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

If You're Reading This, Go Watch the Inauguration!

Hey! Scram! You ought to be watching President Obama and company on this historic day. Go watch it here.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 1:56 PM 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Support Mentors!

Please help support Citizen School's mentoring campaign by clicking on the link above and voting. Only 140 60 22 more votes needed to get their cause to the next level! Now in 2nd place and off to the second round, but please vote if you haven't yet!

UPDATE:Thanks for voting! Citizen School made it to the next round and needs about 200 more votes to be in the top 10 of all ideas in the running. Please vote on the widget to the right.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 4:58 PM 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Comic: Federal Government Bailing Out The Federal Government

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 12:52 PM 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bailing out the "American" Auto Industry is a Misnomer

So there are three remaining American corporate entities that are pleading with our Government to bail them out with taxpayer money. These entitities have over the last ten years failed to produce energy efficient cars, despite both government regulation requiring them to (which they lobbied against) and increasing consumer demand. Now struggling in every sense of the word against foreign auto companies, they insist they need $25 billion to get them through this crisis, or "millions of jobs are at stake" and American industry will be in jeopardy.

Too late for that, points out Huntington Post blogger Chris Kelly. Chrysler, for example is no longer really an American company, it's owned by an international holding firm Cerberus who couldn't care less about keeping jobs in America if it didn't suit them. It's simply eager to get money from the new corporate socialist trough.

As Mr. Kelly points out, nostalgia is not a good reason to keep a dying company going with taxpayer money. These companies should go bankrupt, restructure themselves, rehire folks, and get ready to start over, or close up shop. Feeding them money to stay how they are, how how they have been and reward more executives is ridiculous.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 4:58 PM 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obama Wins

Thank God.


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 10:25 AM 1 comments links to this post

Monday, November 03, 2008

Marriage Cannot Have Its Feelings Hurt, Nor Is It Taught In Schools

I'm quite shocked how many times I've seen a certain google advertisement supporting a "Eliminate Marriage Between Same Sex Couples" Proposition that California voters will be voting on tomorrow. It's all over the Internet on completely random websites, like youtube's front page, tech reviews, a Muppet site, a forum I visited about routers, even one in the UK!! Complete blitz.

While google can't censor it (free speech and all), it just seems very uneven to see it without the corresponding "Vote No on 8" ad next to it. Whoever is running their ad campaign is quite savvy -- buying up Google ads and keywords to bombard the Internet. Their advert is appearing on pages by folks writing AGAINST their cause.

I'm really quite bewildered that people are spending so much energy fighting to eliminate rights from people, ones that harm no one, spewing lies about how the rest of us are somehow harmed by same sex unions. Not merely protesting but lying and using extortion. This is not a whole lot different than Laws declaring that Voting is an option for Men Only, and that Blacks are Not People, which people fought hard to REMOVE in this country. Whether you approve of homosexual activities or not, Marriage, so-called traditional families, and heterosexuals are not under attack. This proposition is 100% discriminatory in its intentions.

Here's an op-ed against Proposition 8 from a Rabbi not in California.

We have serious issues with the Economy, with a corporately-governed War, with a corrupt but seemingly justice-immune government that bulldozes over our Constitution and regulations when it serves corporate interests, and a starving, environmentally decaying planet to deal with right now.

UPDATE: As expected, I merely write AGAINST this proposition and the pro ad shows up on my page. The only way to remove it is for me to use google's content ad blocker, but this takes a few hours to kick in.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 3:21 PM 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Alternative to the Bailout: Why Paulson Is Wrong

The assumption that both McCain and Obama and everyone who wants to save the economy from apparent ruin is that the Bailout is the only responsible way to stop it. But it's not. Even you don't believe it's reprehensible for taxpayers to subsidize corporations, there's no guarantee it will even work! University of Chicago Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance Luigi Zingales has written a critique of Paulson's bailout plan which provides an alternative solution.

It's sad that the White House has not brought in economic experts (many of whom think the Bailout is absurd) or anyone else with other solutions -- they'd rather meet in secret and ram things through quickly, without explaining anything to the general public. I've not seen any rational discussion on major networks about alternatives. It's either Taxpayer Bailout or Doom.

We all want the situation to end but accepting a solution proposed by one of the people who caused it at face value is just ridiculous.

UPDATE: Even chief economist at Business Week magazine Michael Mandel, and 200 other economists think the Bail-out is an awful idea. They've petitioned Congress to vote No. Why aren't we hearing their opinions on the TV news? (Oh right, the Media and the Government are buddies.)

Meanwhile, instead of rethinking the solution members of the Senate are trying throw in unrelated frosting (like tax cuts) on top of the original plan to entice Republicans to vote Yes. AND, they've deliberately shut down their email servers to prevent the public from petitioning via Internet (the strategy which had a huge effect on the rejection of the Bailout proposal). Unbelievable.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 12:01 PM 0 comments links to this post

In Case You Thought Saturday Night Live Was Exaggerating Palin's Scariness...

This would have been a good opportunity for Palin to dispel the negative press, to quell those that question her experience, to prove she's a competent, knowledgeable, strong woman ready to rule the country.

Ooops. And this is just one example.

And so predictable is her speaking style that someone made a random Sara Palin interview generator.

Though I disliked Clinton, she was 10,000 times smarter and more qualified than this lady. Even infamous and often mocked Vice President Quayle seems a better candidate.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 9:14 AM 0 comments links to this post

Saturday Night Live: Sarah Palin

At last, something about this election that made me laugh.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 1:24 AM 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Cartoon In Honor of 9/11

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 3:23 PM 0 comments links to this post

Monday, September 08, 2008

Republican Media Bias In Action: MSNBC Demotes Its Highest-Rated Anchors

Media analyst Glenn Greenwald wrote on his blog today about the recent demotion of MSNBC's highest rated anchor-people and how the only rationale for it is political pressures from the White House, McCain, and Republicans.
The single dumbest claim in our political culture is that the huge corporations which own our establishment media outlets promote a "liberal" ideology. Why would General Electric ever use NBC and its other media assets to promote political liberalism? They lavishly benefit from the whole panoply of right-wing policies -- from endlessly expanding defense spending to deregulation. Their multiple businesses depend upon maintaining good relations with the right-wing ideologues who run our Government. Even ignoring all of the above-documented empirical facts, the very idea that a corporation like GE -- or Viacom (CBS), Disney (ABC) and Time Warner (CNN) -- would actively promote a left-wing agenda in its news divisions and undermine the very Government power centers on which they rely has been the most self-evidently moronic premise one can imagine. As Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone confessed in 2004:
Senator Kerry is a good man. I've known him for many years. But it happens that I vote for Viacom. Viacom is my life, and I do believe that a Republican Administration is better for media companies than a Democratic one.
And yet the myth of the large-corporation-owned "Liberal Media" persists, and even intensifies.

This decision by MSNBC is as alarming as it is illustrative. They just implicitly chided and overtly demoted their most popular and valuable news personality because the White House, the McCain campaign and the Right demanded that they do so. It's fine for Brit Hume to host a "news program" and for hard-core right-wing ideologues to dominate cable news. The fact that Dick Cheney (understandably) viewed Tim Russert's Meet the Press as the ideal forum to allow the White House to "control the message" bothered nobody outside of a few online critics, and didn't remotely impede the perception of Russert as the Beacon of Tough and Objective Journalism. But MSNBC's ratings-based decision to feature Keith Olbermann is a grave threat to modern journalism and must be stopped. So decrees the White House and the McCain campaign, and so the GE-owned MSNBC complies.
Basically, the Right is cheating. Rather than let we the people decide who to vote for, what better way to win than to cry foul: "The Liberals have too much coverage!" Grab the media corporations by the balls, tell them "Remove your Liberal content or there will be consequences." Corruption at its finest and most blatant. Bye bye Journalism, informed Electorate. Hello government-controlled media.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 1:30 PM 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Our Potential VP Sarah Palin is a Book Banner?

I can't think of many things more unpatriotic than banning books in a country that prizes free speech. Libraries are not in the business of catering to preference; they are there to allow access to that very free speech we protect.

And yet, Republican John McCain has picked a doosy of a V.P. Apart from her obvious political abuses (like having a brother-in-law fired using her political power), her religious beliefs include censorship:
[...] as mayor, Palin continued to inject religious beliefs into her policy at times. "She asked the library how she could go about banning books," he says, because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. "The librarian was aghast." That woman, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn't be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire Baker for not giving "full support" to the mayor.
Whether you're Republican or pro-McCain, I hope you realize what a dangerous person this would be as President (should McCain die). If you really want to put our "country first" as the battle-cry goes, elect someone who does not abuse power, who protects the First Amendment.

via TIME magazine.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 1:14 PM 0 comments links to this post

Monday, August 11, 2008

Watching the Olympics in London

One of the unexpected perks of being in London as the Beijing Olympics started was that I was able to see the entire (as far as I know) opening ceremony and watch some of the more obscure Olympics events (archery, women's weightlifting, sailing, etc) on a satellite TV, LIVE. If you're a U.S. citizen, you're getting a very processed, filtered experience with added sentimentality, sportscasting chatter, music, athlete story vignettes, and numerous commercial interruptions, delayed deliberately to maximize advertising revenue across time zones. NBC says "We don't care, we paid millions to have exclusive control over what you see."

Now that I'm back, I am finding I can't even replicate the UK experience because of the various entities involved (China, NBC, BBC) restricting access and enforcing geopolitical barriers. Seems to me with the Internet we ought to be able to shift viewpoints, but the old distorting lenses are being enforced even online. What a missed opportunity.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 4:13 AM 0 comments links to this post

Saturday, August 02, 2008

DHS says it can search Laptops At Border Without Suspicion. Why? "Cuz we gotta."

My Brazilian friend sent me this article from the Washington Post this morning. (She is now questioning ever visiting the United States.)
Federal agents may take a traveler's laptop computer or other electronic device to an off-site location for an unspecified period of time without any suspicion of wrongdoing, as part of border search policies the Department of Homeland Security recently disclosed.

Also, officials may share copies of the laptop's contents with other agencies and private entities for language translation, data decryption or other reasons, according to the policies, dated July 16 and issued by two DHS agencies, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"The policies . . . are truly alarming," said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), who is probing the government's border search practices. He said he intends to introduce legislation soon that would require reasonable suspicion for border searches, as well as prohibit profiling on race, religion or national origin.

DHS officials said the newly disclosed policies -- which apply to anyone entering the country, including U.S. citizens -- are reasonable and necessary to prevent terrorism. Officials said such procedures have long been in place but were disclosed last month because of public interest in the matter.

Read more here

Remember, this is the USA. We have a Constitution and a Bill of Rights that say we can NOT under any circumstances be searched without reasonable suspicion. We and travelers coming into this country put up with mildly invasive searching at the borders, but still, the governing principle is that we have privacy, and that we are innocent until we break the Law, taken to Court, and proved guilty through a process.

But now, the impatient DHS has gone mad, claiming "There are lots of bad things out there on computers! We gotta catch 'em!" Thanks to recent rule changes at the Department of Homeland Security, everyone's laptops are fair game. Note, they did not announce these changes -- only after "the public expressed interest" did they reveal them. WTF? We are not ruled by the Stasi in Communist Germany. Did you see The Lives of Others? Did you see that, without checks and balances, these unregulated searches become an excuse to stifle enemies of all sorts, be they political, romantic rivals, industry competition, or "I just don't like these people"? Don't you realize that there's no way to examine effectively 400 million laptops and that these untrained guards will falsely identify more problems that can possibly be countersued? Don't you see that the DHS's claim that "This won't hurt Americans" is bullshit -- other countries will develop blanket sweeps against us too when we travel abroad in retaliation? Aren't we tired of the "We gotta do this unconstitutional, China-like, Orwellian Law to protect us against terrorism" excuse this administration (both Democrat and Republican) spews out whenever there's the slightest dissent?

Is this really the America you want? The World you want? Do you truly want your computer or PDA or iPOD exposed when you travel? All those songs you don't have receipts or CDs for that now the RIAA will gladly sue you for $10s of thousands of dollars once they cut a deal with the DHS? All those non-compliant Windows XP installations that Microsoft would LOVE to know about and sue you for. Health care agencies eager to look for signs on your computer that you're not healthy enough for coverage or deserving of claims. Remember, this may start as a fight against terror but YOU have enemies too, and they will reap the benefits of these unregulated policies, I guarantee you.

Wake up America, this Bush Administration is slowly turning us into a totalitarian, corporate fascist state for the rich, only with better P.R. and marketing.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 10:56 AM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, May 02, 2008

Will the Real Issues Please Show Themselves?

This is hardly the first time the network news outlets have focused on irrelevant nonsense instead of things the American people ought to be caring about. It is also not the first time that creating smoke screen non-issues has been used for political advantage (Swift Boating).

I'm referring to the whole non-issue about a former pastor that presidential nominee Barack Obama had some association with in the past. The alleged problem? This pastor allegedly made strong statements during speeches that some might interpret as negative, racial, and perhaps anti-American. (Never mind that in our country, statements like this are protected, free speech).

Obama calmly reacted to this, basically saying "I have nothing to do with these statements, whatever they might be." But the media has not let go of it, trying to fan the fire. Have any of them ever bothered to show or play these speeches in context, or even analyze what these soundbites might actually be saying? Of course not. (All except one radio station, where it was clear this pastor was unhappy to have his soundbites taken out of context.)

Then the ABC Debate fiasco. Instead of helping us elect a president who can get our country out of a recession and deal with our Wars, ABC chose to treat it as a game show with inane questions like "Would you wear an American flag pin?" and more about this irrelevant pastor.

Here's a great parody of how the Lincoln Douglas debates might have been like today.

Seriously hoping whoever gets elected can bring us back to being a mature, intelligent country again. Reality TV shows are making us all stupid.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 2:14 PM 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Fascism's Ugly Head: Your Laptop Can Now Be Screened at Border Crossings

At what point do we stop calling America the "Land of the Free," or a "democracy" and call it what it's becoming, a fascist, totalitarian police state? It really doesn't matter what the reasoning behind policy changes such as this example, where cops can arbitrarily decide to peruse your laptop when you cross the U.S. border without probable cause. This is hardly the first example to take place in Bush's post-2001 America. The excuse to eliminate our Constitutional rights is the same as China's. "We must protect the country."

The one thing we have going for us is that, in theory, we can replace our leaders with those who'll revert us back to being a true democracy, with a Constitution, with civil rights. You know, those sorts of things we've been fighting to protect in the first place.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 1:26 PM 0 comments links to this post

Monday, March 10, 2008

Comic: Trust Us, the Iraq War Pays for Itself

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 3:33 PM 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

What If Voting Were Global?

Thought of the Day:
What would the world be like if instead of being confined to vote locally and federally, we could also vote internationally?

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 7:36 PM 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lessig on Whether Clinton Can Win

Lessig has another video out.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 9:09 AM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, February 08, 2008

If You Support Obama, You're in Good Company

Let me know of others...

Sadly, Obama did not win the vote in California, but the race was very close. This is not over!


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 6:22 PM 1 comments links to this post

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Michael Chabon, Obama vs. the Phobocracy

Brother Henry referred me to an essay by Michael Chabon, who wrote The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay:
The point of Obama's candidacy is that the damaged state of American democracy is not the fault of George W. Bush and his minions, the corporate-controlled media, the insurance industry, the oil industry, lobbyists, terrorists, illegal immigrants or Satan. The point is that this mess is our fault. We let in the serpents and liars, we exchanged shining ideals for a handful of nails and some two-by-fours, and we did it by resorting to the simplest, deepest-seated and readiest method we possess as human beings for trying to make sense of the world: through our fear. America has become a phobocracy.
Fear and those who fatten on it spread vile lies about Obama's religion, his past drug use, his views on Israel and the Jews. Fear makes us see the world purely in terms of enemies and perils, and leads us to seek out the promise of leadership, however spurious it proves to be, among those who speak the language of that doomed and demeaning, that inhuman view of the world.
Clinton has not shown herself to be above this fear. She perpetuates it, leverages it and even succumbs to it. In her campaign against Obama. Her fear of the ramifications of voting against the war. Her fear of losing funding and reputation from industry lobbyists... But watch Obama speak. His focus is unity, peace, problem solving, and healing without belittling the other side, without attacking character, without misleading and spinning so characteristic of politics over the last few years.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 4:00 PM 0 comments links to this post

Why Obama is the Better Visionary than Clinton

If you're Democrat and currently in the Clinton camp, I urge you to watch this well-reasoned video essay from my hero Lawrence Lessig:

Certainly, Clinton is a competent Democratic politician far more desirable than anyone running our country now. But watch Obama speak. This is not the voice of mere competence. This is the voice of an eloquent, uniting leader, something we have not seen in a very long time. It's not just that we need to restore our country to something closer to what it was before Bush / 9-11. We need to rebuild our reputation with the rest of world, to end this corporate-controlled, no-holds-barred political in-fighting that tramples our Constitution and our Democracy.

With Obama there's hope we can do that.


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 1:21 PM 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Federal Government to California: You're Making Us Look Bad

California is one of the States leading the way towards lowering car emissions responsible for Global Warming. While it's great that a Federal bill was passed recently setting a higher MPG benchmark (35 mpg) by 2020, one must realize this benchmark was a target for the mid-1980's during the early 1970s oil crisis and the technology already exists to get there. Look up 1980s car commercials on YouTube -- you'll find cars advertising 35 mpg. Basically, the administration is trying to get credit for taking action while caving to industry pressure. California has never been turned down before for having higher standards than the rest of the country, but today the historically corrupt Environmental Protection Agency announced they were rejecting California's request:
“The Bush administration is moving forward with a clear national solution – not a confusing patchwork of state rules,” EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson told reporters on a conference call. “I believe this is a better approach than if individual states were to act alone.”
Mr. Johnson, what is so confusing? If states want to do a better job than you, then adjust your Clean Air Bill appropriately. These States are challenging you to do a better job, to start joining the rest of world in reducing the impact of Global Warming. There is no confusion; you don't want to take real action and you don't want these States to make life difficult for your friends in the energy and auto industries.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 9:03 AM 0 comments links to this post

Saturday, September 08, 2007

So You Think You Can Swindle?

Very depressing Rolling Stone article about how the War in Iraq is being outsourced to rich friends of politicians and their own corporations. These "contractors" charge outrageous prices (which we taxpayers foot the bill for) and do largely nothing, and in fact threaten the lives of anyone over there who could cry foul. ("What? You don't like what we're doing? We'll stop paying for your security.") There's also the possibility that these contractors have supplied money and arms to the enemy in exchange for not being killed. Meanwhile, our government insists the surge of troop levels is working (by cooking the books and redefining terms) and that all this lovely money, er, freedom-spreading should continue.
[But] what happened in Iraq went beyond inefficiency, beyond fraud even. This was about the business of government being corrupted by the profit motive to such an extraordinary degree that now we all have to wonder how we will ever be able to depend on the state to do its job in the future. If catastrophic failure is worth billions, where's the incentive to deliver success? There's no profit in patriotism, no cost-plus angle on common decency. Sixty years after America liberated Europe, those are just words, and words don't pay the bills.
We don't have a truly free market or a Democracy once the government regulating it becomes just another business player, using its military might and media control to reap monetary benefits paid for by brainwashed taxpayers. What's really infuriating is that the Democrats do not seem capable or interested in Impeaching the whole mess of cronies along with Bush, whose crimes are against the American taxpayer, U.S. and other countries' troops, the Constitution, and the World at large.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 12:25 PM 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, March 15, 2007

If George Bush were Steve Jobs...

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 3:41 PM 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Hazards of Unregulated Free Market Capitalism #17: Vulture Funds

Those of you (probably not reading my blog) who still have unquestioning faith that so-called Free Market economies (the particular variety with few if any regulations governing the behavior of entities within) will "regulate" themselves and play nice with the Earth, Nature, and Man-Kind should read this eye-opening commentary, a blurb of which is found below:

From salon.com:
Donegal International is a breed of investor known as a "vulture fund" -- though such an association is a foul slur upon a bird that never deserved such calumny. Surely, no living creature other than a human being could conceive of and carry through so insidious a business plan as buying up the debts of destitute African nations at bargain rates and then turning around and suing those same nations for vastly inflated sums.
The inspiration for this commentary is at documentarian Greg Palast's site.

Now I realize, buying debt is a common practice (at least in America) -- one can buy foreclosed houses, cars, property, etc. Given that we save -1% of our incomes on average, this would suggest there's a high risk of debt sales.

But buying government debts?? Who needs to invade a country -- if it's poor, just buy its debt and threaten to sue it out of existence with an army of lawyers. Settle with payments of property instead of cash.

Hmm, anyone want to buy New Orleans' debt after Katrina? Nothing illegal about it. It's a Free Market, after all. Would hurt the Economy if we stopped such a thing...
*petting* Poor little Economy. Silly regulators trying to hurt you. Oh, but what about the the Children! We must regulate regulate regulate! Nudity? Ban! Words? Ban! Evolution and other un-Godly ideas? Ban! Filthy World out there must be kept away from the Children! Filthy World tarnished by sinful Mankind, made by the Intelligent Designer. Oh, but Corporations -- those are good for the Economy. Good little Economy. There there. *petting*

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 5:03 PM 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Thoughts on Television

Isn't it funny that while regular Analog TVs are being forcefully phased out in the United States (by industry-paid-for government mandates) to make way for high resolution giant screen Digital Televisions, the largest demographic of content watchers in our country is NOT watching the major TV networks or cable; it's watching YouTube videos with a picture worse than a 1970s TV?

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 10:12 AM 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Go see "The Lives Of Others"

My friend Danny over at SPI invited me to a free Sony screening of the Oscar™- nominated German film, "The Lives of Others," about characters caught up in the surveillance society of East Berlin just before the fall of the Great Wall. The entire city is monitored by an elite group of secret police, called Stasi, who gather statistics and spy on the personal lives of citizens, looking for those spreading ideas contrary to the government, and rewarding those who turn suspects in. All mail is opened and read. Artists can be blacklisted. All public speech requires permission. It is a city that has chosen security above all other freedoms and rights.

Amidst all this, a top interrogator (renowned for his grueling 48 hour interrogation sessions) is assigned to wire-tap a playwright's house day and night. He becomes entangled in the day-to-day events of this artist, and despite his mission to find and report all suspicious activity, discovers his own motives changing.

How topical a film this is -- an example of what could happen to America if our current Administation's efforts to increase policing and surveillance power (in the name of National Security) are left unchecked. Just as now, the Socialist GDC's battle-cry was not "Hey, we're Authoritarian Fascists!" It was "We will Protect You," and just as now, the personal and business interests of government officials took priority over Law, stengthened by this Knowledge Over Everything.

If you are able, go see this film in the theatre.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 10:09 AM 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Dahoo Doray! Rumsfeld Resigns!

It is a good day. Not only have the Democrats taken control of the House (and are insanely close to winning the Senate too), but the man responsible for extremely bad strategy and tactics in the Iraq Occupation is stepping down.

Granted, it will be impossible to remove the damage he and his cohorts have done to the Iraqi people and to America's reputation, but I am hopeful that the environment in which decisions are made will be far less toxic than it has been.


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 10:18 AM 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Keith Olbermann Demands Apology from Bush

I'm blissfully unaware of the mainstream news media, but I'm pleased to see that on MSNBC at least, there's a commentator challenging Bush and the administration head on.

Thanks to salon.com.


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 11:56 AM 0 comments links to this post

Monday, August 07, 2006

So long, U.S. Constitution. We'll Miss You.

From the Washington Post
A draft Bush administration plan for special military courts seeks to expand the reach and authority of such "commissions" to include trials, for the first time, of people who are not members of al-Qaeda or the Taliban and are not directly involved in acts of international terrorism, according to officials familiar with the proposal.

The plan, which would replace a military trial system ruled illegal by the Supreme Court in June, would also allow the secretary of defense to add crimes at will to those under the military court's jurisdiction. The two provisions would be likely to put more individuals than previously expected before military juries, officials and independent experts said.
Does this sound like America to you? Me neither. Maybe it's all just a bad dream.


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 1:31 AM 0 comments links to this post

Monday, June 05, 2006

U.S. Press Secretary unable to define civil rights

As the Senate decides whether to legislate away the potential rights of gay people (even though Bush has stated he doesn't care one way or another about it), our Press Secretary stumbles when asked why he compares this legislation to other historical civil rights legislation (presumably ones that gave rights to citizens). Click here to see the transcript and video.

Just what is a civil right anyway? Hmm. Good question. Eh, worry about that later. First, make sure we appease some gay-hating people so that they'll vote for us.


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 1:14 PM 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Fascism Is Easy When You Know How

Tom the Dancing Bug offers a Public Service announcement about the NSA phone record gathering program.


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 7:24 PM 0 comments links to this post

FOX Unbiased Reporting Example

I just saw Al Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth. It quite calmly describes -- with evidence and without angry finger-pointing -- why not only the economy would be destroyed were we to ignore global warming, but a large chunk of mankind itself.

As usual, FOX presents very compelling arguments, like from "Mr. Flat-tax" Steve Forbes: "the fact of the matter is, the policies that result from it would hurt the economy, would create unemployment." Hmm. How? Massive flooding has a tendency to reduce employment. 100 million refugees won't exactly be helping the economy.

Meanwhile, Toyota is rocking as the number one automobile manufacturer, investing money into hybrids and alternative fuel vehicles (which consumers are buying). American companies, in contrast, are whining about it costing too much to change, and subsequently are tanking in the marketplace. They're the ones laying off people. They're spending money on lobbyists.

FOX focuses most of its show worrying about Gore getting into office, not on what to do about global warming. As Mr. Gore's film illustrates, there is really no debate here -- the world's most populated, coastal cities will flood if we do nothing.


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 11:50 AM 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Nintendo Wii™ Controller: Puppet Control?

You know how I've been wanting a cheap but accurate controller for manipulating virtual puppets on either a PC or a videogame console. Ever since the Nintendo N64 offered 3-D graphics on par with a circa-1994 Silicon Graphics machine, this seemed inevitable, though that was 10 years ago.

But soon, with the Nintendo Revolution Wii™ and it's 6-degree of freedom, wireless remote, capable of tracking rotation AND position, Internet connectivity, and fairly good (though not the most impressive) 3-D graphics engine, the time has come! This thing could make a great virtual rod control. Imagine four of these per box, which would be connected to other performers on the Net, performing in the same scene, or watching and providing virtual applause!

Come on! Who's with me? The development kit is only $2000 (compared to the $20,000 Sony Playstation2 kit).

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 11:41 AM 1 comments links to this post

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

What Good Ingredients, Liberty & Immigrants

Getting home was a challenge last night. The sidewalks and crosswalks were flooded with folks coming back from the Immigrant protests.

(By the way, my blog title is a line from the Schoolhouse Rock! song, "Great American Melting Pot", a great though perhaps naive song about how America is built up from people from all over the world.)


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 5:55 PM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, April 28, 2006

Super Mario Brothers, as a Black Light puppet show

This video impressed many at the special FX company I work for. Most of us recognized the entire level of the classic Nintendo game, Super Mario Bros., performed live using bright objects held by people wearing black. This sort of theatre can be seen in Prague and other places, and as Andrew pointed out below, the objects are often painted with UV paint and the light is a black light, enhancing the illusion of inanimate objects moving or disappearing.

Nice to see blacklight Black Light Theatre finally reach the masses!

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 10:29 AM 3 comments links to this post

Monday, April 17, 2006

1960's Muppet Short

Puppeteered and voiced by Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 9:58 PM 0 comments links to this post

Don't Let AT&T Turn the Internet into Cable TV

Recently, the AT&T telecommunications monopoly of the 1980's that was split up has managed to come back as a giant again, under much looser, monopoly-favoring government policies. This time, it wants to control who uses bandwidth on the Internet.

Click the link above for the entire salon.com article.
Technology companies do say they fear AT&T's network won't provide a level playing field, and that AT&T's competitors won't be able to deliver videos that work as well as AT&T's content. Networks have finite space, and it is a fact of network engineering that when some data is given a priority on the network, other data will be pushed aside. At the Senate hearing, Stanford Law professor and Internet policy expert Lawrence Lessig argued that this will put companies or individuals that can't pay for high-quality service at an enormous disadvantage, "reducing application or content competition on the Internet." In the past year, streaming-video Web sites have proliferated on the Internet, and some of the most popular services have come from start-ups like YouTube. Under AT&T's plan, flush firms like Google would be able to pay for all the space on the line, leaving the smaller guys out of luck. The Internet has long been a meritocracy, where smart and creative companies can act quickly and beat out established players. That wouldn't be so on AT&T's Internet.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 9:05 PM 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

American History For Sale: Smithsonion sells out to Showtime

From the New York Times:
Smithsonian Agreement Angers Filmmakers
Published: April 1, 2006

Some of the biggest names in documentary filmmaking have denounced a recent agreement between the Smithsonian Institution and Showtime Networks Inc. that they say restricts makers of films and television shows using Smithsonian materials from offering their work to public television or other non-Showtime broadcast outlets.

Ken Burns, whose documentaries "The Civil War" and "Baseball" have become classics of the form, said in an interview yesterday that he believed that such an arrangement would have prohibited him from making some of his recent works, like the musical history "Jazz," available to public television because they relied heavily on Smithsonian collections and curators.

"I find this deal terrifying," Mr. Burns said in a telephone interview from San Francisco, where he is filming interviews for a documentary on the history of the national parks. "It feels like the Smithsonian has essentially optioned America's attic to one company, and to have access to that attic, we would have to be signed off with, and perhaps co-opted by, that entity."

On March 9, Showtime and the Smithsonian announced the creation of Smithsonian Networks, a joint venture to develop television programming. Under the agreement, the joint venture has the right of first refusal to commercial documentaries that rely heavily on Smithsonian collections or staff. Those works would first have to be offered to Smithsonian on Demand, the cable channel that is expected to be the venture's first programming service.

A Smithsonian official who is managing the institution's content and production assistance for the venture said yesterday that while the new arrangement did limit the ability of commercial filmmakers to sell some projects elsewhere, it ultimately would affect a small number of the works that draw on the museum's resources.

"It's not our obligation to help independent filmmakers sell their wares to commercial broadcast and cable networks," said the official, Jeanny Kim, a vice president for media services for Smithsonian Business Ventures.

"What it boiled down to is that we don't have the financial resources, the expertise or the production capabilities," she added, to continue to provide extensive access to materials but not to reap any financial benefit from the result.

She said films that made incidental use of a single interview with a staff member or a few minutes of pictures of elements of the Smithsonian collections would be allowed.

The Showtime venture, under which the Smithsonian would earn payments from cable operators that offered the on-demand service to subscribers, comes as the Smithsonian has suffered financial problems. At a Congressional hearing on Wednesday, a Smithsonian official said some necessary repairs to Smithsonian buildings could not be made because of lack of financing. That led to a suggestion by Representative James P. Moran, Democrat of Virginia, to suggest that the institution should charge admission, a proposal that its board of regents has rejected repeatedly.

The Showtime agreement began attracting widespread attention this week as filmmakers said they had been told that some of their projects might fall under the agreement. Two Smithsonian curators, who were granted anonymity because they feared for their jobs if they spoke publicly about the Showtime venture, said in interviews yesterday that they could not be certain what kind of projects would be subject to the restrictions because details of the contract with Showtime had been shared with few employees below the executive level.

Linda St. Thomas
, a Smithsonian spokeswoman, said the details of the contract with Showtime were confidential and would not be released publicly. She said the outlines of the agreement had been left deliberately vague to allow the Smithsonian to consider "on a case-by-case basis" whether a proposed project competes with its new television venture or not. A Showtime executive, Tom Hayden, said the deal was not intended to be exclusionary but was intended to provide filmmakers with an attractive platform for their work.

One well-known filmmaker, Laurie Kahn-Leavitt, said she had been told recently by a Smithsonian staff member that her last film, "Tupperware!," a history of the creation and marketing of the venerable food-storage containers, would have fallen under the arrangement, because much of the history of Tupperware is housed at the Smithsonian. The documentary, which won a Peabody Award in 2004, was broadcast on "American Experience," the PBS show produced by WGBH, the Boston public television station.

"This is a public archive," Ms. Kahn-Leavitt said. "This should not be offered on an exclusive basis to anyone, and it's not good enough that they can decide on a case-by-case basis what they will and won't approve."

Margaret Drain, a vice president for national programs at WGBH, said she feared that public television programs like "Nova" and "American Experience" would suffer greatly because of the new restrictions.

"These are programs that regularly rely on the collections of the Smithsonian Institution," she said. "If access is restricted, we are really going to be in trouble."

She added: "I'm outraged that a public institution would do a semiexclusive deal with a commercial broadcaster."

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 9:59 AM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Administation's Tactic: Attack the Messenger

This article shows in a case by case fashion how are administration is trying to blame the media for allegedly only showing the "bad side" of the Iraq war -- you know, the deaths, the carbombs, the insurgents, our own military killing unarmed families.

Contemptuous examples include O'reilly declaring that all this is just about "idealogical hatred" by Liberals. But more insididious ones are having Bush talk to an audience member desperately trying to explain what a great place Iraq is now that we're there.

Funny how if it's against the war (yet accurate), the Administration will do anything to either stop it or punish the reporter (ie. claim it's against national security). Yet if it's completely unsupported or irrelevant (wow, two kids managed to play a game today! See? America's occupation is great!), they want this on the news. Considering how our Military is telling the Iraqi media what to say, it's not surprising it's happening here.

I can't think of any other time in American History where the Administration deliberately attacked the Constitution, the Media, the News, anyone or anything its wake, without respect for process or Law. But then I'm ignorant. Perhaps this happened and somehow we restored balance eventually.


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 4:53 PM 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Comic Strip: Uncle Sam, post-9/11

From salon.com:


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 4:13 PM 1 comments links to this post

Friday, March 10, 2006

Freedom From vs. Freedom To

I've been reading about how one of my favorite meta-blogs, Boing Boing is being censored across the world by a British/American software tool originally designed to protect children from seeing nudity. BoingBoing is not a porn site, but occasionally might have a photo containing a nude human being. The software can't tell the difference. This impacts our Freedom to get information.

The problems with any censorware are:
  • False Positives, or good things getting tagged as bad.
  • False Negatives - bad things getting tagged as good.
  • The inherent self-interest problem of anyone in control of what is good/bad
  • The potential for misuse if applied on a large scale (i.e. oppressive governments)
Computers are terrible at pattern matching. In this example, distinguishing between nudity and pornography is pretty much impossible, because it's one of those "I know it when I see it" problems that computers can't quantify.

It turns out this software is not particularly good at keeping out porn sites either (i.e. False Negative) Yet, the developer continues to sell the product to governments and unwitting parents. It has no vested interest in taking it off the market until it works better, nor suggesting that perhaps parents should look after their children better. Instead it coerces websites to "cooperate".

I don't believe websites should have to cooperate in their own censorship. Adults have a right to be adults and discuss adult things. Children can be protected by getting them interested in other things besides sex (until they're old enough).

But this is a relatively benign example. What about the Freedom to be anonymous? NPR discussed how a newspaper was able to uncover supposedly secret information about CIA agents, whose lives depend on being hidden. The down side of all this tracking of people (in the name of security) is that being hidden is next to impossible. The agents' information was simply the wake created by standard transactions, like mortgage payments. Freedom to be hidden is at odds with Freedom of access to information.

Whether or not you're in a supposedly Free country or not, Freedom is not a constant value. It's a tug-of-war between entities -- Governments, Individuals, Corporations. It's a tug-of-war between security and convenience.

I'm wary of software solutions to enforcing who wins that tug-of-war.


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 2:49 PM 2 comments links to this post

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Henson screenings at the Museum of TV & Radio

If you're a Henson fan anywhere near New York or Los Angeles, the MT & R is showing many screenings of Muppet and other Henson works on weekends until April 30th. Of course, you can always see their collection of 140+ Henson television works, but these are showing in their large auditoriums.

By the way, I'm soo angry I did not pay more attention to MT & R's screenings. Last night, only a few walkable blocks from my apartment, the cast and producers of Battlestar Galactica were in an MT & R panel at the Director's Guild of America (where I saw Tim Burton). Aaaaah! I could have so easily gone to that. Oh well. I'll see them at Comic Con I guess (though in a far less intimate setting).

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 9:34 PM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, March 03, 2006

How do we tell if Iraq is actually having a civil war?

Over and over in the media I hear the phrase "Iraq is on the verge of civil war." Or "brink of civil war." Well ok, but at what point do know that it's a full-fledged civil war, versus a "sectarian conflict" or "don't worry, Iraq's doing great now that the American military is there"?

From globalsecurity.org:
civil war: A war between factions of the same country; there are
five criteria for international recognition of this status: the
contestants must control territory, have a functioning government,
enjoy some foreign recognition, have identifiable regular armed
forces, and engage in major military operations.
Hmm. That's a rather strict qualification for civil war, and it makes me wonder if that also refers to War with a capital W. Trouble with calling this whole ordeal "The War on Terror" is that is that Terror is not a nation. It doesn't control territory, have an officially recognized government, nor have identifiable, regular armed forces. Hell, it's an emotion, for heaven's sake! "Terror" is an abbreviation for "terrorism" for better propaganda purposes. But even terrorists don't fit the above criterion.


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 5:23 PM 1 comments links to this post

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Impeachment. Not just for Sex Anymore.

The voices of impeachment are getting louder these days. For example, here, and here.


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 11:29 PM 0 comments links to this post

Bush Not Well-Liked — Needs 5000 Armed Personnel To Visit India

I am curious if any other U.S. president or official has been this well-protected while visiting another country. Wouldn't surprise me if rulers in ancient times had this sort of protective entourage, but this seems like a lot.


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 12:07 PM 0 comments links to this post

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Lord of the Rings on stage!

My brother Colin knows the director Mark Warchus and has seen some of the early rehearsals for this quite ambitious adaptation of everyone's favorite Hobbit trilogy. It premieres this February in Toronto. From the Playbill article and my brother's descriptions, it sounds really really cool! Though there is music, it's not a musical. The set sounds even more elaborate than The Lion King. The adaptation is deliberately different than Peter Jackson's and has the blessing of the Tolkien estate.

You can find out more info and buy tickets on their main website

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 10:17 AM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, January 27, 2006

America: Democracy or Despotism?

This educational film was made in 1946. Isn't it hauntingly relevant today?


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 11:28 PM 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Let's Play Global Information Keep-Away

Google is now the king of search engines. It has the god-like ability of being able to know what people are looking for on the Web, and also provide people with what they are looking for. For totalitarian China, this is a problem, because it wants to control what people look for and prevent them from seeing certain things. For the quasi-democratic United States, it wants to monitor the communication of whom they have deemed criminals and/or terrorists, in the hope that this will lead to their eventual capture. It also wants to justify its desire to ban Internet porn, by gathering Internet porn search word statistics.

Google has refused to give the United States government access to data involving Internet porn search words. But it has decided to censor data (with a warning saying "This has been censored") for the Chinese government. While it is fortunate that Google's mantra is "Do no Evil", eventually self-interest tends to corrupt good intentions like that. I suspect there was no financial benefit for Google to handing over the incredible volume of data to the United States government (It's also likely that there's no reasonable way the government would be able to mine it inexpensively -- it's enormous!)

For China though, losing all access to the Chinese is billions of missing eyeballs for advertisers.

I find this very interesting because lately I've been chatting with a number of Chinese ICQ members. Many are not able to read blogs that are hosted on Blogger, but can read mine because I host it myself. Does that mean my website could get banned by the Chinese government? Why should I be under the realm of Chinese Law?

These are weird times for governments, corporations, and individual people. The Internet is acting like a supercollider of governmental & corporate & cultural rules, many of which will be in total conflict. I don't see how China will be able to continue controlling its people. Likewise, unless we change our administration and corporate law, America will be more like China as it justifies China-like behavior in the name of anti-terrorism and protecting children from pornography. Content industries are chiming in too, convincing Canada, the EU, Australia, and the United States to crack down on individuals sharing content with each other.

And just when it was getting crazy enough, the owners of the pipes beneath the Internet want more financial action. They want to set up tiers of payment, where people who pay more get the fast lanes and people who pay less get slower than they are now.

An information earthquake!


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 12:38 AM 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Virtual Puppets Exhibit

Oooh, I hope I can get to Pittsburgh sometime because there's a nifty interactive puppet exhibit there. There have been other attempts at interactive puppets, but this Animateering project with swappable character parts, two-player mode, 3-D animation, and marionette-like controls looks impressive. This photo shows the control box, which hooks up to two projectors, a bunch of interactive lights and glowing buttons. Guests use the touch-screen monitors to create their puppets.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 1:20 PM 0 comments links to this post

Monday, November 21, 2005

Plain Stoopid & Talking Inanimate Objects

My friends Geoff and Jessica started this web comic. Jessica's a Lighting ATD here at SPI, and last year I did some puppet work with them on Geoff's killer pancake movie. I just read that Geoff was accepted into a Hollywood screenwriter's program. Congrats!

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 11:05 AM 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Everyone's Favorite Dummies

A site devoted to Ventriloquism and Vaudeville.

You may not realize this but in general, ventriloquists and puppeteers do not tend to hang out in the same circles. I'm not sure why this is. If anyone knows what caused this rift, please let me know.

[link], via memepool

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 10:59 AM 3 comments links to this post

Thursday, October 20, 2005

NRA Immunity, Programmer Liability, Author/Publisher Stupidity

A bill is being considered (and Bush plans to pass it through) to eliminate almost all liability for gun companies. So no sueing them if your kid accidentally kills himself or you are robbed at gunpoint by someone with a weapon designed to take down airplanes.

Meanwhile, pointing the blame rather than deflecting it, a prominent security advisor suggested that individual software engineers should be sue-able (rather than the companies they work for) for creating insecure software. So instead of making it a companies best interest to make good stuff, punish the worker. We're already short on students interested in getting into computer science at a time when almost everything around us has computer software in it. Now they'll be finding less risky work (like working for gun companies!)

And finally, shooting themselves in the foot are the Authors & Publishers who are suing Google for planning to make a giant online card catalog, where people could actually find obscure works for a change. Of course, this requires copying parts of the documents, and uptight (and misguided) authors are complaining it's their right to prevent it. Well not really (it's not illegal to index things), but wouldn't be better if people knew about your books?


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 9:40 AM 0 comments links to this post

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Federal Excuses and Media Ass-kissers

A couple weeks ago I read on a Fire Fighter's Association website a memo to firefighters NOT to go down to New Orleans to help, but to wait for FEMA coordination. Well, here's what FEMA had those firefighters do. Guess what those diversions in Atlanta (and Virginia) were about? Not how to handle the stress of disaster. Not how to coordinate with other rescue groups. Not how to help people. Nope.

It was how to be public relation officers. They attended lectures on sexual harrassment and received goody bags with FEMA t-shirts. Re-quoted from the New York Times:
When 50 of them were finally dispatched to Louisiana, the paper reported, their first assignment was "to stand beside President Bush" as he toured devastated areas.
Utter incompetence, negligence, and a total disgrace. When I was in England during the tsunami earlier this year, I kept admiring how the media and government there responded with humanity, intelligence, and focus. Our government acted like a bunch of spoiled 8 year-old being told to clean up a mess.


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 8:30 AM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, September 09, 2005

Federal Excuses for Money Alliances

So FEMA, consistent with the government's conservative religious bias, has listed only 2 secular charities on its website while emphasizing Christian ones, in particular the one owned by the infamous Pat Robinson. This article describes in more detail.

But it also turned down a truck owned by Wal-Mart that would have delivered much-needed supplies to folks in need, so that's just incompetence and negligence, if not racism, and a whole mess of other things that should indict someone in charge. Oh wait, that never happens in Bush's administration. I forgot.


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 12:32 PM 0 comments links to this post

More FEMA/Homeland Security Outrageousness

Survivors of Katrina had more to worry about than poisonous water, sharks, disease, drowning, unstable buildings. They were treated like criminals and animals by the soldiers sent in to take control of the city, not help anyone survive. This article here does describe the heroism of working class people, helping each other once basic needs were met.

Is the media covering any of this? Or only the canned responses of the defensive government? Someone let me know.


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 10:06 AM 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Mr. Bill Predicted the Demise of New Orleans

President Bush, you're wrong. Mr. Bill and his public service announcement predicted the demise of New Orleans.

According to cartoonbrew, referring to a blog by the Rude Pundit, there was a public service announcement video with Mr. Bill (from Saturday Night Live) produced back in 2004 meant to encourage donations to protecting New Orleans:

This is the news clip and here is a transcript.

There used to be a link to the video itself HERE but it was removed! I'm a bit suspicious... Although it is available here.


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 1:58 PM 0 comments links to this post

Monday, September 05, 2005

Europe Plans to Implement Orwell's Dystopia

A quote from my perl-guru friend Mark Jason-Dominus at a computer security lecture: "Security is the opposite of Freedom." Founding Father Ben Franklin was quoted several hundred years ago: "Those who would sacrifice essential liberties for a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

But it sounds like the EU has legislation pending that would require all phone companies, all cel phone companies, all ISPs to maintain all transactions for three years, and make those transactions available to any competent entity.

Surveillance to the extreme, ala George Orwell's 1984. All in the name of safety. Problem is, there's nothing particularly useful about all this data except after the fact, in which case you're no safer than before. Naturally, they claim they don't intend to keep the content of those messages, but it doesn't take content to infer something private that is none of their business, for example whom someone is calling (why?) and where someone is (tracked by the cel phone he/she's carrying). Meta-content ought to be private unless there is probable cause.

The United States is likely to adopt similar legislation and if the EU succeeds, you can bet they'll do it. You can attempt to nip this in the bud by clicking this link and signing the petition:


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 8:10 AM 0 comments links to this post

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Consumers To Be Punished for Modifying or Doing Things with Products They Buy?

Reuters.com has a blurb about the new Blu-Ray DVD format that will be forced upon us in the near future. I work at Sony, and hear that Blu-Ray is technically great, but the following part disturbs me:
On top of that, consumers should expect punishment for tinkering with their Blu-ray players, as many have done with current DVD players, for instance to remove regional coding. The new, Internet-connected and secure players will report any "hack" and the device can be disabled remotely.

"A hacked player is any player that is doing something it's not supposed to do," Andy Setos (engineer at News Corp) said, adding the jury was still out if regional coding would be maintained or scrapped.

Not supposed to do? Like what? Show porn? Show material that the religious minority finds offensive? Play DVDs criticizing the government? Show material that isn't licensed by the Hollywood cartel? Shows material supporting the ideas of public domain or open source? Play back DVDs or music more than the number of times that Hollywood executives want you to? Play back movies from other countries?

Come on! No corporate entity, just because it's acting as a creator of a product, should claim infinite rule-making abilities under patent and copyright laws. Infinite scope is not protected, only the right to control copying with the priviso of Fair Use. That's it. The D.M.C.A. added the ability to sue folks who tried to go around their rules, but there's nothing from stopping them from expanding the scope of whatever rules they want. Hence, Andy's quote of "Anything it's not supposed to" meaning "what we say it should do." You want to try make your DVD player work in your car? Too bad. That's a crime. You want to hook it up to Linux since Hollywood doesn't want to support it? Too bad. That's a crime.

I feel like I'm in the former Soviet Union more and more every day. A centralized design committee declaring that consumers have no rights to change what they buy. Not for safety reasons (like you shouldn't use rat poison in cooking or to make bombs), but because the committee feels it is against their interests.

The good news is, any device that uses the Internet to tattle tale on you can be thwarted by having something listening for its outgoing signals. But if Hollywood gets to build the "uncopyable" DVD player, that doesn't mean we have to buy it. If they want to cry "Oh oh, we're losing so much money because the DVD spec before was so easily copied", and then turn around and make more profit in DVDs over the last several years than regular movies, I couldn't care less. I'll go on renting Netflix until they require me to let my DVD player tattle tale on me.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 11:42 AM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, September 02, 2005

Quotes from our Inept Administration

Don't you just love our Administration?

Quotes from the people in charge of helping out a city in need after a hurricane.


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 8:46 AM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, June 24, 2005

PBS is not supposed to be Concerned about Profit

From an article I read today, after hearing our signatures were able to pressure the House to go from a cut of $200 million to $100 million:

"These stations are fat and happy. They're sitting on millions, if not billions of dollars, in property and equipment and very large salaries. These people are not going anywhere," said Tim Graham, director of media analysis at the Media Research Center, a conservative watchdog group.

Graham says broadcasters could easily make up the money with alternative sources of revenue. For example, he said, the producers of PBS' children's programs could give to public broadcasting a share of the robust profits they reap from merchandise — the toys, the videos, the books — associated with the shows.

Wrong, wrong wrong. PBS is supposed to be non-commercial. If it's commercial, then it has an interest bias for itself, not for the people, not for education, not for informing Americans in an unbiased way. That would mean instead, a focus on getting more money. What will reach millions of people, what will be cheaper to producer. The same focus that commercial TV has. The same reason we have lousy, bottom-line focused entertainment now because the focus of the huge media giants is more money now, not "let's make great TV."

So when Media Research Center folks, Newt Gingrich, and Conservative Republicans cry "Hey, look! They're making all this money on their own!", they are forgetting the entire purpose of PBS. NOT to make money. That's for-profit, business methodology. PBS has a different mission that needs Federal funding, it needs donations, and if necessary, limited commercial revenue. I say limited because if it depends on corporate sponsors (with pro-business goals), their own goals are compromised. If survival and fundraising is its focus, then shows like Sesame Street and Bill Moyers have to change themselves to be cheaper, appeal to broader audiences, and all the things that ruin commercial media as the entities that make them get bigger and bigger.

This is already happening. The fact is, these folks dislike the content and want it gone. They know it can't really survive without changing itself. Making PBS and the CPB into just another media company will destroy it.


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 7:56 PM 1 comments links to this post

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Land Developers Misusing the 5th Amendment

More Signs of America's Corruption:

The Fifth Amendment allows governments to take away (and compensate for) privately owned land for "public use" (i.e. roads, parks, etc).

In New London, Connecticut, city officials are claiming it's within "public use" for tossing out homeowners that are in the way of building office complexes. And what's worse, the Supreme Court denies any power in the matter:
Writing for the court, Justice John Paul Stevens said local officials, not federal judges, know best in deciding whether a development project will benefit the community. States are within their rights to pass additional laws restricting condemnations if residents are overly burdened, he said.

"The city has carefully formulated an economic development that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including — but by no means limited to — new jobs and increased tax revenue," Stevens wrote in an opinion joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

"It is not for the courts to oversee the choice of the boundary line nor to sit in review on the size of a particular project area," he said.


New London officials countered that the private development plans served a public purpose of boosting economic growth that outweighed the homeowners' property rights, even if the area wasn't blighted.

"We're pleased," attorney Edward O'Connell, who represents New London Development Corporation, said in response to the ruling.

Sorry, city officials. That's not what the 5th Amendment was for. You can't justify corporate development and kick-backs to you by saying there might be community benefits like jobs and economic growth. Nice work, Supreme Court. When it comes to protecting Bush's "ownership society", we can now see whose side you're on.


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 8:59 AM 0 comments links to this post

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Sign Petition to save PBS and NPR now!

Click here to sign a petition (already close to a million so far) to tell Congress we don't want them to listen to the House. We don't want them to phase out taxpayer funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. We want intelligent, non-corporate, non-commercialized, non-partisan media to exist. We are sick and tired of the full-scale attack on so-called Liberal bias, the lying, the abuse of power. We don't want the incessant privatization of everything under the sun.


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 3:39 PM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, June 17, 2005

Mommy! His Copyright Term is Longer Than Mine

Good editorial about the misguided attempt to lengthen UK's copyright term to match the United States' (which itself lengthened ITS term to match the UK's old term)


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 10:43 AM 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Bill Moyer Speech: Robber Barons, Anyone?

Bill Moyer gave this speech a couple years ago.

..you have to respect the conservatives for their successful strategy in gaining control of the national agenda. Their stated and open aim is to change how America is governed - to strip from government all its functions except those that reward their rich and privileged benefactors. They are quite candid about it, even acknowledging their mean spirit in accomplishing it. Their leading strategist in Washington - the same Grover Norquist – has famously said he wants to shrink the government down to the size that it could be drowned in a bathtub. More recently, in commenting on the fiscal crisis in the states and its affect on schools and poor people, Norquist said, "I hope one of them" – one of the states – "goes bankrupt." So much for compassionate conservatism. But at least Norquist says what he means and means what he says. The White House pursues the same homicidal dream without saying so. Instead of shrinking down the government, they're filling the bathtub with so much debt that it floods the house, water-logs the economy, and washes away services for decades that have lifted millions of Americans out of destitution and into the middle-class. And what happens once the public's property has been flooded? Privatize it. Sell it at a discounted rate to the corporations.


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 1:00 PM 0 comments links to this post

The Republicans want PBS dead

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the private corporation funded by taxpayer money to provide diverse, educational programming through PBS and NPR, is being undermined from the inside.

If you think I'm kidding, or that there's no way our administration would try to kill Sesame Street, Frontline, Nova and other shows of intelligence (that might once and a while feature lesbians, nudity, language, or ideas counter to the Administation), think again.

Already, the current (also conservatirve Republican) head of PBS agreed to censor a kids show that happened to have a lesbian in it, after pressure from our mis-Education Secretary. Face it, we do not live in the finest example of a Democracy anymore. Democracy requires an informed public, and our Administration sees fit to remove all tax-paid opposing voices in the name of "Balance".

If we don't do something soon, my niece will not experience the benefits of PBS that me and my brothers were raised on. This is personal, Mr. Bush.


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 11:29 AM 0 comments links to this post

Monday, January 31, 2005

Bush Wants New FCC Chairperson to Draw Line of Decency for All Society

From the IMDB News:

President George W. Bush, while calling himself a "free speech advocate," nevertheless said that the FCC must "call to account" any television program that "gets over the line" of decency. In an interview with Brian Lamb on C-SPAN Sunday, the president also said that he would ask candidates to succeed Michael Powell as head of the FCC: "Please tell me where the line is." Later, he commented, "Look, we are a great society because we're a free society. On the other hand, it is very important for there to be limits, limits to what parents have to explain to their children." Referring to bills that were introduced in the House and Senate last week that would significantly raise the fines for broadcasting indecent programs, Bush said, "Well, they're going to collect a lot of money when some of these TV shows are still on." Meanwhile, today's Los Angeles Times quoted lawmakers of both parties as predicting that fines will be raised this year. "This bill is noncontroversial, bipartisan," Massachusetts Congressman Edward J. Markey, a Democrat, told the newspaper.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 3:48 PM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, January 28, 2005

Homophobic Education Secretary, anyone?

Bush's new Education Secretary Margaret Spellings is on a tirade against PBS (which relies on government funds like Ready-To-Learn) for producing an episode of Postcards from Buster about sugar and where it comes from. Why is this a big deal, you ask? Because Buster (the bunny) encounters two lesbian couples who produce sugar & maple syrup in Vermont (where same-sex unions are legal). Margaret does not want her children watching this lifestyle in the intimate medium of television, and is demanding PBS give back the funds it used.

Margaret, with all due respect, resign from your post. It's not your job to keep kids from seeing an episode about sugar production just because the people interviewed happen to have a lifestyle you don't agree with. The show is about sugar production, not lesbian sex...

Shame on you, PBS, for cowering to her.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 8:42 AM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, January 21, 2005

An end to Communication Tyranny?

Hooray! Michael Powell, head of the Federal Censorship, er, I mean Federal Communications Commission, is resigning.

Let's hope the new guy will stop making a fuss about boobs and the occasional "bad" word,
both of which are common in Europe, and ultimately, not worth million dollar fines.


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 11:40 AM 0 comments links to this post

Monday, October 25, 2004

Joss Whedon's Kerry/Edwards Fundraising Party

Joss, the genius behind Buffy the Vampyre Slayer and Angel, and some folks from the aint-it-cool-news.com website decided to host Kerry parties around the country. At the L.A. party I went to, Joss and various cast members from his shows conducted a conference call to unite all the parties, and answer questions. His mood was both festive and firm -- a lot more is at stake at this election than whether Republicans win or Democrats win. In Joss's mind, Bush is neither.

My friend & Sony Imageworks co-worker Jessica, and her boyfriend Jeff also attended. Having them there (and drinking an outrageously-priced rum & coke) made bearable the surreality of it all.

More Photos Coming soon!

Me and Joss Whedon, Genius Extraordinaire. (He's also the son of Tom Whedon, who was head writer of The Electric Company!)

Me and Alyson Hannigan (Willow)

Me and Amy Acker (Fred). She's from Texas too!

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 1:29 PM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, October 01, 2004

Bush & Kerry Puppets, Avenue Q style

Bush & Kerry puppets debate, courtesy of Avenue Q.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 1:22 PM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, September 10, 2004

Cheney's telling remarks

After making a remark that if the American people made "the wrong choice" we could expect another massive terrorist attack (which is just as true as if we made the "right choice" -- neither will have much influence on terrorism), Vice President Cheney made a backtracking comment:

"We are not in the business of challenging Senator Kerry's patriotism."

Mr. Cheney, running the country is not a business. All too often you've treated it as such, having secret boardroom meetings on issues the Public has a right to hear. Go back to doing that if you wish, with your own company, not the U.S. Government.


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 6:27 PM 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Comic strip "Doonesbury" Censored by its own Distributor

Gary Troudeau's comic strip "Doonesbury" has always been a bit controversial, and certainly unashamed about criticizing President Bush or the Iraq war. It's extremely popular though. According to this
article though, the head of its distributor wrote a letter to all its clients and asked for a vote, asking the baited question "It's time for a change. Do you agree?" A small majority voted to not carry the strip.

Yet, this head claims "This was not a political decision. I don't care one way or another." Liar! Why then is it time for a change for one of your more popular comic strips? If you're going to make a political statement through censorship, have the balls to stand behind it..


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 3:04 PM 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

"America is safer now."
-- George Bush

"Threat of Al Queda attack greatest since 9/11"
-- CIA chief



Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 6:14 PM 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

An Intellectual Property Review...
or why Schwarzenneger needs to chill

Arnold, once famous for playing the part of a time-traveling cyborg with a vengeance, is now governor of California.

With equal vengeance, he is suing a small company for making a bobble-head version of him, believing he owns his image as a copyright.

Uhuh, not so fast, Mr. Schwarzenneger. You're no longer a celebrity, you're a public official, which in this country means, you are
not immune from public mockery of your image.

Now in this blurry administration, the rules of business & commerce have invaded those of public, democratic government.
One of those rules is that you own your product, your inventions, your trademarks. I can see why he might think he can claim
those rights coming from the commercial world of Hollywood.


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 9:02 AM 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Ashcroft Tries to De-Charter Greenpeace Using 19th Century "Sailor Mongering" Law

I am really starting to despise every aspect of our Administration.

Our so-called Justice Department is charging Greenpeace with "sailor mongering," an obscure late 19th century law to curb brothel women from boarding navy ships to get them drunk. Why? Well, Greenpeace members boarded a ship that was allegedly
carrying an ultra-rare, endangered Mahogoney that is illegal to transport & sell. They were protesting the apparent lack of enforcement on both the Brazilian and Miami ports. The individuals spent a low-stress weekend in jail. Should be enough for a civil disobedience charge.

But no.

Mr. Ashcroft and his cronies wanted "vengeance" against this anti-Bush group. If they succeed, Greenpiece will lose its 503c status as a non-profit and be fined large sums of money. If they succeed, few members of groups will be able to protest
without possible repercussions on the group. Perfect if you want a country of no dissent.

This is NOT America, folks. It was, now it is not. Over and over since 9/11, our corporate sponsored government is undoing the Constitution, lying, rewriting history, censoring, suing, doing whatever it takes to make the world safe for Democracy Business.
All with a smile.

But as Yoda reminds me, one must not give in to the Hate.


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 6:47 PM 0 comments links to this post

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Economy vs. the Individual

One of the predominant beliefs of so-called Republican/Conservatives is that the mythical Law of Supply & Demand will take care of everything. Unfortunately, from common sense and also a systems theory point of view, this is not the case. Oh sure, it will take care of everything for someone but it does not necessarily mean the whole system is healthy or balanced, nor does it mean that any particular individual will end up getting treated beneficially.

Take for example, a woman's father is dying of cancer. They've tried many options but nothing has worked. Finally, there's one option left, a drug manufactured by an American pharmaceutical company. The problem: it costs $47,000. They don't have that much money. The woman does some research and discovers she can get the same drug overseas for $1200, but this practice is illegal because the FDA has not put its seal of approval on drugs manufactured elsewhere. So she goes overseas and manages to get a 3 month's supply, which works, but it runs out. So she ends up having to lie to the actual manufacturer of the drug to qualify for their "low earner" program.

I can imagine some conservatives having no sympathy. "It's his own fault he got cancer -- he made choices that led to this. He gets what he deserves."
Maybe... but he has a right to live, one would hope. Or "The company invested millions of dollars to create that drug, and deserves compensation." True, but that point is really "we need to earn more money than we did last quarter, and charging more for an obscure drug is within our rights and necessary to meet our numbers." And is that really more important than a person's life?

I get frustrated, being a moderate, watching people stick steadfast to a single principle and expect it to work in all cases.


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 8:05 AM links to this post

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Grey Tuesday: Civil disobedience in response to excessive copyright enforcement

I'm not a huge rap fan by any means, but anyone who likes rap, hip-hop, or electronic music knows that sampling (that is, the use of snippets of other people's music, sound fx, or recordings) is at the core of those art forms. It's like collage, where you use cut-outs from magazines to make up your expression, creating something new out of the old.

Danger Mouse created new art by combining Jay Z's work with some samples from The Beatles' White Album. EMI/Capitol Records has threatened lawsuits and has been trying to ban the existence of this work, called "The Grey Album."

This website is sponsoring a day of protest for 2/24 (today), in which websites will be hosting the music for download.
Later tonight I will add my site to the list.

Have a look -- even if you don't like this sort of music, it's crucial to creativity that people be able to use bits and pieces from other people's work. Imagine not being able to bake a cake because the idea of eggs is owned by one person, and sugar is owned by another. That's what is happening in the movie and music arts.


Bookmark and Share
posted by Brian at 10:54 AM 0 comments links to this post