aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Thursday, January 26, 2006
I’m not proud of my resistance to accepting Oprah’s apology - what more could I have asked for? And if she pulls this off that really might mean something:
“An author brings his book in and says that it is true, it is accurate, it is his own,” Ms. Talese said. “I thought, as a publisher, this is James’s memory of the hell he went through and I believed it.”
But Ms. Winfrey pointed out that her producers had asked about reports of the book’s truth in September, after the Hazelden counselor raised doubts, and that they were reassured by Random House.
“We asked if you, your company, stood behind James’s book as a work of nonfiction at the time, and they said absolutely,” Ms. Winfrey said. “And they were also asked if their legal department had checked out the book, and they said yes. So in a press release sent out for the book in 2004 by your company, the book was described as brutally honest and an altering look at - at addiction. So how can you say that if you haven’t checked it to be sure?”
Ms. Talese replied that while the Random House legal department checks nonfiction books to make sure that no one is defamed or libeled, it does not check the truth of the assertions made in a book.
Ms. Winfrey replied, “Well, that needs to change.” [...]
One former publisher said he believed that the publishing industry would have to change its practices at the behest of its biggest patron, Ms. Winfrey. Laurence J. Kirshbaum, who recently retired as the chief executive of the Time Warner Book Group and who now runs his own literary agency, said in an interview yesterday that “there is no question what she said will have a far-reaching impact on our business.”
SEE ALSO Slate:
The sectional kept expanding-first for publisher Talese, then Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, then the New York Times’ Frank Rich. They talked about Frey as if he were a troublesome puppy. After a while, there was little for him to do but sip his water and wait for the episode to end. Via videotape, Joel Stein, Stanley Crouch, and Maureen Dowd piled on, too-a full flock of pundits!
LATER: A NYTimes editorial praises Oprah, Kurtz
adds nothing weighs in (please forgive that snarky blogger indulgence, I try to keep it reigned in). Salon calls it a little creepy, “ it was hard to avoid thinking that Frey was being put on display not to set the record straight, but for a public flogging.”
Doug says, “I betcha Frey writes a book about being redeemed.” If he does, and readers buy it, they’re dupes. He should husband his resources and live out his days anonymously. I am persuaded that the biggest problem here is the publishing industry (in symbiosis with the media machine) and this is an opportunity for change.
Switching from Poli Sci to Sci Fi
Looking for a West Wing replacement, I’ve settled on Battlestar Galactica. The enlightened way they treat their fans - inviting them to watch the first episode online commercial free and uncut prior to airing and making a wide variety of podcasts, blogs, message boards and downloads available to them - is one reason. Last summer’s NYTimes article is another.
This week’s New Yorker clinched the deal:
[W]hat interests people who normally don’t care about science fiction is how timely and resonant the show is, bringing into play religion and religious fanaticism, global politics, terrorism, and questions about what it means to be human. (There are also a couple of funny jabs at the media, particularly at talk-show airheads who don’t, or can’t, distinguish between news and entertainment.) ... The central twist is that both the Cylons and the human beings they’re trying to kill are religious: the humans believe in gods, and the Cylons believe in God. In killing people, they think they’re doing God’s work… There have been a couple of good episodes focussing on the realities of being stuck in space-the need for water, and the need for fuel. The characters are well drawn and have unfolded in a way that could keep people watching for several more seasons… The story isn’t ridiculous-something that viewers are on the lookout for in science fiction more than in any other genre-and it raises questions that nag at you in the same way that life on Earth does. “Battlestar Galactica,” refreshingly, is as real as science fiction gets.
My TiVo is set.
Overextended? Don’t ask, don’t tell!
While some say the army’s near the breaking point:
Stretched by frequent troop rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army has become a “thin green line” that could snap unless relief comes soon, according to a study for the Pentagon.
Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer who wrote the report under a Pentagon contract, concluded that the Army cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments to Iraq long enough to break the back of the insurgency. He also suggested that the Pentagon’s decision, announced in December, to begin reducing the force in Iraq this year was driven in part by a realization that the Army was overextended.
As evidence, Krepinevich points to the Army’s 2005 recruiting slump - missing its recruiting goal for the first time since 1999 - and its decision to offer much bigger enlistment bonuses and other incentives.
Among the nearly 10,000 service members expelled under the Pentagon’s antigay “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy over a 10-year period, hundreds have been medical specialists and officers. According to data released on Wednesday by the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military, 244 medical specialists were kicked out in the period spanning 1994 to 2003, the first 10 years the policy was in effect. The data were obtained from the Pentagon with the help of Rep. Marty Meehan, a Massachusetts Democrat who sits on the House Armed Services Committee.
It’s worth noting, of course, that Rep. Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) has championed the Military Readiness Enhancement Act (H.R.1059), which would repeal the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and allow these men and women in uniform to stay in the military. As of now, the bill is up to 107 co-sponsors, three of whom are Republican. It has no chance of even coming to the floor for a vote, but it’s way overdue.
A friend I worked with as a waiter in New York for nearly a decade sent this link with the note, “Those were the days!!! “
A runaway who ended up in New York with no skills, waiting tables was my ticket off the streets (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). Through rose-colored glasses I recall my waiter days as such good days that to this day people are regaled with my waiter day tales.
NYTimes restaurant critic Frank Bruni:
[L]ast week I traded places and swapped perspectives, a critic joining the criticized, to get a taste of what servers go through and what we put them through, of how they see and survive us…
From Monday through Saturday, I worked the dinner shift, showing up by 3:30 and usually staying past 11. I took care of just a few diners at first and many more as the week progressed.
And I learned that for servers in a restaurant as busy as the East Coast Grill, waiting tables isn’t a job. It’s a back-straining, brain-addling, sanity-rattling siege.
Of course, for a less sentimentalized view of the waiter-world check out Waiter Rant:
[T]urnabout is fair play. If Frank gets to play in my end of the pool it’s only fair I get to play in his.
I extend an offer to Frank and the New York Times. Let me play food critic for a week. I’ll follow Frank around, see how he does his job, and then, under his guidance, review a restaurant for publication in your newspaper. (And Frank, don’t worry about your anonymity, I don’t want anyone to know what I look like either.)
So how about it? Seems like a fair trade. And I promise I won’t get drunk with power. (Well, maybe just a little.)
Oh to have been a blogger then… What great fun they have.
Man’s best friend
If they’re this good now imagine how great they’ll be in 20 years when I get mine:
Researchers studied children aged between seven and 15 who had a Sony Aibo robot dog in parallel with other children who owned a living pet. Over 70 per cent of the robo-pet owners said that the machines ‘could be a good companion’.
“Interaction with animals has been shown to increase children’s physiological health, social competence and learning opportunities,” said lead researcher Gail F. Melson.
“In turn, there has been a movement to create technological substitutes for pets, such as the Tamagotchi, Furby, Tama and Aibo. As this technology becomes more sophisticated and pervasive, its impact on children’s lives will increase. “
The team also gave Aibos to elderly residents in care homes for six weeks and found that they were less depressed and lonely after interaction with the robotic dogs. Some residents reported being more active after playing with the robot.
Here’s the study.
LATER: Personal beer serving robots from Asahi.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Google’s turn to the dark side
I have a ton of respect for all that the Google folks have done and aspire to do, and they can dress the decision up in whatever way makes them comfortable, but this is just wrong to the bone, a capitulation that is anti-everything the Net and the communications revolution is supposed to represent.
[C]ompanies do have to follow the laws of the countries they operate in. For those in the US and elsewhere to say Google shouldn’t follow Chinese laws is hypocritical if they are not forcefully demanding that Google not follow other laws.
To avoid this hypocrisy, I’d like everyone upset about the Google move in China to also start protesting that the governments of France and Germany should not require Google to remove Nazi or hate sites.
Good point. Me, I wonder what would Fareed Zakaria say? That’s because I completely buy into his political reforms follow economic reforms optimism for China. Freedom is coming; personal liberties are expanding; even if not on our American timetable and to our American liking.
Life is compromise. For today, I understand and accept Google’s move.
The West Wing season 8
Out with friends tonight, we talked about ways The West Wing might be back. A special. On pay TV. None of us proposed downloads. Andy Bowers is right on:
Writing in Slate last year, MIT media analyst Ivan Askwith suggested that dead or dying shows might find an afterlife on iTunes. I can think of no current TV show better placed to blaze this new distribution model than The West Wing.
His reasoning is good, go read it, but his numbers are good too:
The West Wing has about 8 million viewers per week. It costs about $6 million per episode. In other words, if every person who now watches the show paid $1 a week, TWW would more than pay for itself.
Obviously not all 8 million viewers could or would pay for the show. But let’s say a quarter of them would. That’s 2 million people paying $3 per episode (or maybe $4, throwing in a buck for Steve Jobs and the cable companies). The episodes could be viewed on a PPV channel, downloaded to a DVR, or slurped onto video iPods.
The same model could work for other quality shows that are always teetering ”on the bubble”-shows like Arrested Development and Scrubs (as well as departed critical darlings such as Freaks and Geeks and I’ll Fly Away).
This model would have been absurd a year ago. Now it’s completely possible, although admittedly improbable. In the near future, I guarantee it will be happening regularly. Once we realize that we can overrule the lowest-common-denominator decisions of network honchos with a few bucks a week, I think it’ll become a habit.
Quicken sunset policy
I’ve been a Quicken user since 1988. I’ve upgraded through a variety of company strategies, most annoyingly the “new and improved...add more features” bloatware phase that went on for years. When I read about the most recent back-to-basics, stripped-down-simple, offer-tailored-products phase, I thought it a great move and decided to upgrade right away. And that I’d buy some of the tailored products.
I should rethink.
Today, out of the blue, I got notice that if I am using an older version of Quicken it is subject to their Sunset Policies. Certain features will stop working. SUNSET POLICIES??? I missed it when it was covered last year in the Washington Post:
Users of the popular Quicken financial management program are facing a yearly ritual this April that many dread and none enjoy—a ritual that does not involve any 1040 forms.
It’s Intuit Inc.’s forced retirement of the online components of slightly dated versions of Quicken, which has long dominated the personal finance management-software market. [...]
Intuit calls this phase-out of older software its “sunset policy,” and nothing rankles some Intuit customers quite like it. This “sunsetting” means they will either have to start typing in all their financial data, from credit card bills to 401(k) statements, by hand, instead of simply downloading it into Quicken—or pay to upgrade to a new and unfamiliar version of the program.
“They haven’t offered any compelling reason for me to upgrade, so now they are just trying nasty stuff to try and make me upgrade,” said Dan Doernberg, a Charlottesville resident who has used Quicken and other Intuit products for 12 years. “They’re effectively breaking the old software; it’s not that they just aren’t supporting it anymore.”
My friends will remember that years and years ago I said that as we moved from an analogue to a digital world we would move to process over product; we’d subscribe instead of buy. I don’t have an inherent problem with that. But I want it to be made loud and clear.
When we buy a CD we are in fact buying a license to play the music contained on the CD in certain limited circumstances. That’s not made loud and clear. When buying Quicken software there’s no “Good through” date on the package. (I could find no published schedule and have long since thrown away the box. My guess is it can’t be found there.) By all that is right this date should be made clear or made illegal.
We won’t care because as the Intuit public relations man said, “most customers upgrade every other year anyway.” But we’re losing something here, and we’re hardly even noticing.
A new moral majority
A political science professor here who has a very different perspective than my own sees the emergence of a new moral majority. Would that this were what he had in mind:
All across the country, conservative evangelicals are re-evaluating what it means to be a Christian and their soul searching, evangelical leaders and scholars say, has the potential to fundamentally reorder the federal government’s priorities and trigger seismic shifts in the Republican and Democratic parties.
“Never before has God given American evangelicals such an awesome opportunity to shape public policy,” the National Association of Evangelicals declared in a manifesto of sorts called “An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility.” With evangelicals accounting for a quarter of the electorate, it says, “Disengagement is not an option.”
But this isn’t your father’s Moral Majority.
The newly recognized wave of evangelical social activism remains committed to the sanctity of life, the preservation of marriage and protection of the family. But it is far more progressive socially than the Religious Right juggernaut that emerged as a conservative - and wholly Republican - political force a generation ago.
These evangelic activists believe that serving God also means acting on a “biblically balanced agenda” that would, among other things, erase poverty, trim tax cuts for the rich and protect the environment.
Somebody writes a version of this article every six months or so. When I worked for a progressive evangelical nonprofit, we used to make photocopies of them to include in our fundraisers as evidence that we weren’t just spinning our wheels. We weren’t, but we weren’t moving ahead that much either.
Reporters like Kemper aren’t wrong, exactly, there has been some progress and some movement away from the hardline partisanship of the religious right. But this progress has been glacially slow, and cherrypicking exceptions is not quite the same thing as reporting a trend.
I’m a hernia hero!
Any resemblance to Jerry Stahl’s Free James Frey! rant in defense of the post-truth memoir is purely coincidental. This is my story and I’m sticking to it:
But wait . . . I swear, I’m so excited I’m spotting. Which may have to do with the hernia operation I endured this morning with nothing but a can of Solarcaine and a half bottle of expired Anacin - which I actually CRUNCH, motherfucker - to take the edge off.
The whole hernia procedure is not, like, going to make me give up my sobriety. I’m going to HANG ON. Because my favorite writer did, and his bravery in the face of fantastic agony - some of it dental - gives me hope that I, too, can make it through. Without drugs and alcohol. And without having to sit around some church basement pretending to give a fuck what some Sanka-swilling, sugar-scarfing freak who wouldn’t knock over a 7-Eleven if his life depended on it has to say about God. Yeah thanks, pops, now why don’t you go home and change your pants for New Year’s? When you’re a really manly man, you can cure yourself. [...]
Hard to resist the fevered call of what the WWF might call EXTREME NONFICTION. Prose as real as wrestling!
Somehow, five minutes of poring over Frey’s gory-glorious bildungsroman makes me want to exorcise some demons from my own imagined past. Makes me crave a chance to mine my own trove of searing memories - the kind of memories only memoirists have, of really high-impact scenarios, where everything is realer than real. In a staccato style. That hurts. But in a real and life-changing way.
Don’t buy bottled water
Today’s story about the ADA’s concern that bottled water doesn’t have fluoride - so some companies are adding it - reminds me that I am 100% persuaded by Tom Stangage’s OpEd from almost exactly one year ago, Bad to the Last Drop.
Stangage begins with a taste test. Though hardly anyone can detect a difference between tap and bottled water, still we buy it. At a cost of 250 to 10,000 times tap water, sales are growing faster than for carbonated soft drinks. There are no health or nutritional benefits from drinking bottled water over tap water and “tap water is more stringently monitored and tightly regulated than bottled water.”
He notes that bottled water is actually bad for the environment, “It is shipped at vast expense from one part of the world to another, is then kept refrigerated before sale, and causes huge numbers of plastic bottles to go into landfills.” But the clincher in his argument for me is that while we turn our noses up at tap water here, in much of the developing world people are literally sick and dying for lack of it:
More than 2.6 billion people, or more than 40 percent of the world’s population, lack basic sanitation, and more than one billion people lack reliable access to safe drinking water. The World Health Organization estimates that 80 percent of all illness in the world is due to water-borne diseases, and that at any given time, around half of the people in the developing world are suffering from diseases associated with inadequate water or sanitation, which kill around five million people a year.
Widespread illness also makes countries less productive, more dependent on outside aid, and less able to lift themselves out of poverty. One of the main reasons girls do not go to school in many parts of the developing world is that they have to spend so much time fetching water from distant wells.
Clean water could be provided to everyone on earth for an outlay of $1.7 billion a year beyond current spending on water projects, according to the International Water Management Institute. Improving sanitation, which is just as important, would cost a further $9.3 billion per year. This is less than a quarter of global annual spending on bottled water.
I have no objections to people drinking bottled water in the developing world; it is often the only safe supply. But it would surely be better if they had access to safe tap water instead. The logical response, for those of us in the developed world, is to stop spending money on bottled water and to give the money to water charities.
I don’t buy bottled water. If your tap water tastes good I urge you to think twice before buying too.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Santorum’s “me, me, me culture”
Santorum: We have a culture right now that doesn’t say serve, that doesn’t say don’t think about yourself. It says me, me, me. It’s a very self-absorbed, me centered, excessive popular culture. And yet we have brave men and women who are willing to step forward because they know what’s at stake. They’re willing to sacrifice their lives for this great country. What I’m asking all of you tonight is not to put on a uniform. Put on a bumper sticker. Is it that much to ask? Is it that much to ask to step up and serve your country?
Huh? That’s not the culture talking, that’s the self-absorbed chickenhawk politician running for office. Don’t serve just put on a bumper sticker! Good God!
Via Crooks and Liars.
The Parents Permission to Participate bill is back
The Senate Education and Youth Committee passed a controversial bill Monday requiring parental permission for students to join or take part in extracurricular activities.
“There was no discussion, there was no input from people in attendance like myself. They just brought it up ... and passed it,” said Don Rooks, legislative specialist with the Georgia School Boards Association, which opposes the bill.
The measure was introduced last year but was tabled after Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox asked lawmakers to let the State Board of Education address the issue.
The state board held hearings last summer but ultimately declined to pass a rule, a move superintendents and principals cheered.
UPDATE: In comments Harry wonders, what’s the point of the bill and who is it aimed at?
My post assumed we knew that these bills are being introduced all across the country to target gay straight alliances by forcing questioning young people to get their parents’ permission - permission conservative Christian parents are unlikely to give, even if their son or daughter is brave enough to ask - in order to join the support groups.
Yet another argument for same-sex marriage
Then you won’t have nonsense like this:
Critics of a new policy that extends health benefits to the unmarried partners of employees at the University of Florida complain that it unfairly requires potential beneficiaries to sign an affidavit saying they are having sex with their partner before they can receive insurance.
The university will begin offering health insurance to the unmarried partners of both gay and heterosexual employees in February. As part of the sign-up process, unmarried employees must show that they jointly own property with their partners, have shared bank accounts, or have a will that specifies their partner as the beneficiary. Such requirements are common among university policies that extend benefits to domestic partners.
But the Florida plan goes a step further by requiring employees to swear that they and their partners “have been in a nonplatonic relationship for the preceding 12 months.”
SEE ALSO: My post gay marriage strengthens all marriage.
Yahoo! to Google: you win
“We don’t think it’s reasonable to assume we’re going to gain a lot of share from Google,” Chief Financial Officer Susan Decker said in an interview. “It’s not our goal to be No. 1 in Internet search. We would be very happy to maintain our market share.”
Thomas Hawk, Hey wait just a gosh darn minute!
Look, Yahoo!’s got all the pieces… There is no way that they should capitulate to anyone—especially Google. Search is a billion dollar game, Yahoo! just needs someone there with some power, vision and authority to tie it all together.
The only thing that I can possibly speculate on why it isn’t being done today is that they lack the corporate visionary to use the chess pieces that they have in play. The rook is sitting over there in the corner and not being used. Whether because of internal politics or Yahoo! fiefdoms or whatever all of their best pieces are not being played. That hot new player that you just paid way too much money for is sitting on the bench while the coach plays the tired old veteran player who is no longer on his game.
Whatever the analogy, Yahoo! needs a strong visionary in place who can tie all of the pieces of social search together, make a few more acquisitions, and turn this ship around. They need to be empowered from the top to make changes where necessary and they can in fact get back into the search game.
Hawk’s 6 point plan makes good sense to me. (I particularly like #5, “Buy TiVo.") Maybe Yahoo! will issue a “clarifiication” before the day is out.
UPDATE: See Hawk’s update for Danny Sullivan’s explanation and this later post for more. Henry Blodget, “ I suspect the new communications strategy, at least with respect to the Street, is to try to set the bar low and then clear it easily.”
FINAL UPDATE: The definitive clarification.
Hold Oprah accountable!
To Oprah Winfrey, the power of James Frey’s memoir, “A Million Little Pieces,” lay not in whether the author really spent three months in jail, as he claimed, or whether he lost a lover to suicide.
Rather, she said in her now-famous call to CNN’s “Larry King Live” on Jan. 11, where Mr. Frey defended himself against accusations that he falsified significant parts of his life story, it was the author’s story of recovery, a rebirth that took place within the walls of an addiction treatment center, that provided “the underlying message of redemption” that resonated with her.
But more than three months before questions were raised about Mr. Frey’s memoir by the Smoking Gun Web site (http://www.thesmokinggun.com) - before, in fact, Ms. Winfrey first had Mr. Frey as a guest on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” - producers at the program were told by a former counselor at the foundation that runs the Minnesota treatment center reportedly used by Mr. Frey that his portrayal of his experience there grossly distorted reality. [...]
After receiving the information from Debra Jay, a Michigan addiction counselor who herself has been a frequent guest on Ms. Winfrey’s program, a senior producer for the “The Oprah Winfrey Show” conducted an extensive interview with Ms. Jay. It is not known if Ms. Winfrey was apprised of the concerns, but she made no mention of the potential discrepancies in her many on-the-air comments about “A Million Little Pieces,” including when she called the book “all completely true” on her program and told Mr. Frey, “I don’t doubt you.”
In response to questions last week about the early warning given to the program, a spokeswoman for Ms. Winfrey, Angela DePaul, said, “We have no comment.”
Let’s be clear - as this article makes clear - that the damage done by this book, and particularly Oprah’s endorsement of it, is that it exaggerates the claims of addiction then describes a recovery based on “Hold on” (the 12 Steps slogan is “Let go") and uses those exaggerated claims as authority to bash traditional, proven, successful but difficult recovery methods.
Real people who are struggling with real issues are hurt by this book. They have been lied to and misled, and that lying continues and is endorsed by Oprah. Hold her accountable!
RELATED UPDATE: The publisher has offered up 2 “witnesses” to corroborate Frey. They hardly do.
Monday, January 23, 2006
Egregious is as egregious does: Google as cause cÃƒÂ©lÃƒÂ¨bre
I’m so irked by the Google thing. I’m reading all kinds of overblown rhetoric from people I admire who in true knee-jerk fashion call this an egregious invasion of privacy. I just don’t get it.
An anonymous list of search terms and the results they return is no cause cÃƒÂ©lÃƒÂ¨bre to me!
So to pick but one random example, Columbia Law professor Tim Wu in Slate today:
[T]he big news for most Americans shouldn’t be that the administration wants yet more confidential records. It should be the revelation that every single search you’ve ever conducted-ever-is stored on a database, somewhere. Forget e-mail and wiretaps-for many of us, there’s probably nothing more embarrassing than the searches we’ve made over the last decade.
Should they be confidential? Need they be confidential? Let’s discuss. But I’ll tell you this, the supposition that “there’s probably nothing more embarrassing” than my searches is flat-out wrong. I promise you, I have a lot of things to be embarrassed about - and plenty of secrets to keep - the terms I search for are least among them.
Bill Gates & the end of spam
Bill Gates predicted a spam-free world by 2006:
“Two years from now, spam will be solved,” he told a select group of World Economic Forum participants at this Alpine ski resort… Gates said Microsoft, where he has the title of chief software designer, is working on a solution based on the concept of “proof,” or identifying the sender of the e-mail.
One method involves a human challenge, or requiring the sender of an electronic pitch to solve a puzzle that only a flesh-and-blood person can handle. Another is a so-called “computational puzzle” that a computer sending only a few messages could easily handle, but that would be prohibitively expensive for a mass-mailer.
But the most promising, Gates said, was a method that would hit the sender of an e-mail in the pocketbook.
People would set a level of monetary risk - low or high, depending on their choice - for receiving e-mail from strangers. If the e-mail turns out to be from a long-lost relative, for example, the recipient would charge nothing. But if it is unwanted spam, the sender would have to fork over the cash.
So it’s 2006; what of it? A qualified success:
Microsoft says it sees things differently. To “solve” the problem for consumers in the short run doesn’t require eliminating spam entirely, said Ryan Hamlin, the general manager who oversees the company’s anti-spam programs. Rather, he said, the idea is to contain it to the point that its impact on in-boxes is minor.
In that way, Hamlin said, Gates’ prediction has come true for people using the right tactics and advanced filtering technology. Microsoft’s MSN Hotmail says it stops more than 95 percent of the spam that enters its system from reaching in-boxes. Yahoo says it’s just as effective.
“If you are a consumer that’s taking advantage of the technologies that exist ... then the spam problem for you is solved,” Hamlin said. “Bill didn’t say that there would be no spam. But he said the problem would be solved, and I think that is what we actually have accomplished.”
But it’s important to look more broadly, said Scott Chasin, chief technology officer at e-mail services company MX Logic. Although filters and other advances have had some impact on in-boxes, he pointed to the huge volume of spam that continues to be transmitted over the Internet. Despite declines, spam still represents more than half of all e-mail, based on MX Logic data.
“I think the only way to characterize that prediction, as we stand today, is inaccurate,” Chasin said of Gates’ declaration from two years ago. “Spam is still congesting the Internet, and it’s obviously a very visible problem in most consumer mailboxes.”
RELATED: CAN-SPAM is working?
The AJC reported over the weekend that Ralphie paid for the good crowd he got at the annual gathering of the Christian Coalition of Georgia:
His Republican campaign for lieutenant governor sent an e-mail to supporters this week offering to pay the $20 entrance fee and - for out-of-towners - an overnight stay in a hotel.
Reed campaign manager Jared Thomas characterized the offer as routine. “Certainly, we want our grass-roots people to be well-represented,” he said.
Given the evidence and publicity surrounding his dealings with Abramoff, I’m struck by the resiliency of his ongoing support. There’s apparently more Abramoff associated troubles to come from a Texas investigation.
Meanwhile, the Christian Coalition he once headed is in debt and being sued by creditors including a mover and its direct-mail firm.
W + (D-d) x TQ / M x NA
Welcome to the gloomiest day of 2006. That’s right, 23 days into the year and this is going to be the low point. It has nothing to do with the reorganization announcement due today from Ford Motor Co., although that’s not going to help.
No, according to a Cox News Service report, there are “personal and seasonal factors” combining to bring today down, based on a formula devised by a health psychologist at the University of Cardiff in Wales.
The formula “variables are (W)eather, (D)ebt, (d) or monthly salary, (T)ime since Christmas, time since failure to (Q)uit a bad habit, low (M)otivational levels and (NA), the need to take action.”
This PR poppycock was cooked up by Dr. Cliff Arnall of the University of Cardiff in Wales - Arnall named June 24 the happiest day of the year 2005. I prefer my friend Howard’s formulation.
A beach lover, Howard calls the winter solstice, December 21 or 22, the happiest day because each day after gets longer and closer to summer; and the summer solstice, June 21 or 22, the saddest because each day after gets shorter and further from summer.
I’m with Howard, but generally much happier with winter here in the South, where the days are longer and the chills much shorter.
Yahoo! (YHOO) is on a quiet acquisitions tear. First, it snapped up photo-sharing site Flickr in March. In December, it acquired del.icio.us, a service that bookmarks and shares users’ favorite Web sites. And on Jan. 6, Yahoo purchased WebJay, a site for creating and sharing music playlists. Over 10 months, Yahoo has acquired at least five fledgling Internet companies, all pursuing a similar goal: to build communities of Internet users that interact with one another over the Web.
What’s afoot? These deals are key building blocks in one of Yahoo’s biggest bets. By cultivating online communities—and encouraging people to tap into the collective knowledge of these groups—Yahoo is hoping to change the way people find information online. Known in industry parlance as “social search,” it presents a significant departure from Google’s (GOOG) main approach, which relies on complicated mathematical models to help users find sites. [...]
It could represent a monumental shift in search technology. All major engines analyze the link structure of the Web as a key ingredient in determining what pages are most relevant—a breakthrough that Google championed when it launched in 1998. A Web page that has a lot of other sites linking to it will rank higher, figuring more prominently in a given search, than one with only a few incoming links. Social search aims to shift power from Web publishers, who create these links, to everyday Internet users by examining their bookmarks or giving them tools to express their opinions.
Via Thomas Hawk.
Sunday, January 22, 2006
Christopher Stern has a good primer on the coming tug of war over the internet:
For more than a year, public interest groups, including the Consumer Federation and Consumers Union, have been lobbying Congress and the Federal Communications Commission to write the concept called “network neutrality” into law and regulation. Google and Yahoo have joined their lobbying efforts. And online retailers, Internet travel services, news media and hundreds of other companies that do business on the Web also have a lot at stake.
Meanwhile, on the other side, companies like AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth are lobbying just as hard, saying that they need to find new ways to pay for the expense of building faster, better communication networks. And, they add, because these new networks will compete with those belonging to Comcast, Time Warner and other cable companies—which currently have about 55 percent of the residential broadband market—this will eventually bring down the price of your high-speed Internet service and television access.
Would these new fees imposed by carriers alter the basic nature of the Internet by putting bumps and detours on the much ballyhooed information superhighway? No, say the telephone companies. Giving priority to a company that pays more, they say, is just offering another tier of service—like an airline offering business as well as economy class. Network neutrality, they say, is a solution in search of a problem.
Maybe you’ve never heard of this issue—and if so, you’re far from alone. In my job as a media analyst, I’ve been talking in recent weeks to lobbyists for some of Hollywood’s major entertainment conglomerates. These are people who know that consumers’ ability to download their studios’ movies and television shows as easily and cheaply as anyone else’s will be key to the studios’ future profits. Yet hardly any of them were more than vaguely concerned about the potential ramifications of network neutrality. READ ON.
RELATED: Christopher Stern was a guest on Talk of the Nation this afternoon.
West Wing ends
I only just got caught up! I was hoping maybe Vinick would win and the show would go on, completely retooled. Oh well:
PASADENA, Calif., Jan. 22 - NBC will end two of its most successful series of recent years, “The West Wing” and “Will & Grace,” at the conclusion of the current season and will shift the schedules of three other hit shows, “The Apprentice,” “Las Vegas” and “Law & Order,” Kevin Reilly, the president of NBC Entertainment announced here today.
As for Will & Grace, I tired of them seasons ago.
So how does a news organization - with its standards and practices and elaborate structure of editors and fact-checkers and all the rest that goes into maintaining its journalistic integrity - justify altering the transcript of its own programs? Twice.
Atrios homage: Time for another blogger ethics panel! And how ‘bout we fact-check Wikipedia and belittle it’s amateur writing!
Assisted-suicide ruling & pain relief
We look at pain killers through the lense of criminal narcotics - instead of as medicinal relief from suffering - and arrest the doctors trying to relieve pain. Some see hope for change in this week’s assisted-suicide ruling:
With dozens of doctors, pharmacists and patients now in jail or awaiting imprisonment after being convicted of drug trafficking, the specialists and their attorneys say the Oregon ruling supports their contention that prosecutors have reached improperly into the state-regulated practice of medicine.
“The prosecutors have been making a policy argument in court against the treatment of chronic pain as it’s being practiced, and this Supreme Court decision makes clear that is not their role,” said Eli Stutsman, an Oregon attorney who represented a doctor and pharmacist in the assisted-suicide case. He is now arguing appeals for several convicted pain doctors. [...]
The Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration stepped up investigations and prosecutions of pain specialists after doctors began prescribing larger dosages of narcotic painkillers and the powerful new painkiller OxyContin became widely abused in the 1990s.
The prosecutions have become increasingly controversial as the number of health professionals targeted has grown. Pain specialists say doctors have become reluctant to write medically appropriate prescriptions of controlled drugs for patients in pain for fear of being investigated and arrested.
According to Stutsman, the attorney, the direct legal connection between the Oregon assisted-suicide case and the prosecutions is the Justice Department’s use of the standard of “legitimate medical practice.” In both contexts, the government has argued that it has the right to set that standard, and in many prosecutions it has persuaded juries that the pain specialists violated it.
In his decision in the Oregon case, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote that it is the right of the state, and not the federal government, to regulate the practice of medicine and define the standard.