Tuesday, July 20, 2004

They even pissed off Walter Cronkite

Inspiration: Doonesbury@Slate - Me and Rupert

It's all clear to me now! Fahrenheit 9/11 is balancing factor to the FOX News Channel, just as FOX News is a balancing factor for all the rest of the liberal media.

One of the first memories I have of FOX news after the invasion of Iraq. They cited a poll where 1/3 German youths believe that the US sponsored the 9/11 attacks. Why this is important for viewers to know is beyond me. I'd heard that FOX was biased and came to a dismissive conclusion that it was indeed but never got around to thinking explicitly about it.

At a later time, I also came across a seemingly far-fetched study that, among other things, isolated dedicated FOX viewers as having the highest likelyhood (80%) of having at least one of three misconceptions about Iraq and 9/11 compared with people who fell in any of the other 6 categories. Those with did not have any of the three misconceptions had the least likelyhood of supporting the war, 23%. NPR listeners and PBS viewers had the least likelyhood of thinking one of the following:
  1. Iraq was directly involved in 4 hijacked plane attacks of September 11th (MAJOR CORRECTION! Updated 10:44 PM EST 8/22/04; The major misconception was that 'world public opinion favored the US going to war in Iraq'. However, the report cited these results: 'Polled June through September, the percentage saying that Iraq was directly involved in 9/11 continued to be in the 20-25% range, while another 33-36% said they believed that Iraq gave al-Qaeda substantial support. [Note: An August Washington Post poll found that 69% thought it was at least “somewhat likely” that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in 9/11—a different question than the PIPA/KN question that asked respondents to come to a conclusion.]'. These results weren't included in the three misconceptions, but are actually more disturbing in nature. No relationship between primary source of news and belief in these statements. Refer to this new report linked from Chrenkoff for recent poll information.);
  2. collaborative [the actual study didn't specify] links between Iraq and Al Quaeda had been found;
  3. weapons of mass destruction had been found;
This week's topic in Doonesbury talks about the unfair and unbalanced documentary, "Outfoxed." After watching the trailer and reading the NYTimes article about it, I finally have an understanding of exactly how FOX is biased and how its wrongs are fundamentally different from any accused bias of other news sources that may be left-leaning. The NYTimes summarized the documentary's primary message with the following:
The story they tell is of the systematic and deliberate dismantling of journalistic norms, and of an outfit that has become not merely a voice of conservatism but a cheerleader for the Republican Party.
One difference between Outfoxed and F911 is that Outfoxed at least closes by touching on the problems of ever increasingly consolidated media corporations. The other is that Outfoxed is dealing with a much simpler subject matter and doesn't try to tell any conspiracy theories. Interviews with employees, Walter Cronkite and Al Franken, internal memos make the case presented by FOX personalities themselves even stronger, depicting journalism at its worst. The anchors frequently cut off their guests (the trailer opens with Bill O'Reilly telling the producers to kill the mic') and repeat propagandistic messages (John Kerry is a flip-flopper).

The worst thing, however, is of course the top-down approach to reporting the news. From the memos just shown in the trailer, it would seem that orders come straight from the top as to how anchors should make John Kerry look bad today. They've already decided which candidate to support in the 2004 election. Now its someone else's turn to report.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Hone your retail skills

Free copy of XP Pro anyone? - The Unofficial Microsoft Weblog - microsoft.weblogsinc.com

The title is quite self-explanatory. Not interested in XP Pro? How about 4 Cross Ion pens? A Swiss Army knife? Keyboard and Mouse? There are a number of rewards Microsoft will bribe you with to keep you from selling Palm devices. What am I talking about?

The link takes you to htttp://www.windowsmobiletraining.com— a retail training site that introduces you to the features, benefits, key selling points and strategies of a large number of Windows Mobile devices, including a variety of Pocket PCs, Pocket PC Phones, and Smartphones. You take interactive and multiple choice quizzes and a bonus quiz intermittently spread out among flash-based tutorials. Although Greg Scher of "the unnofficial microsoft weblog" says it's easy and takes around 45 minutes, you shouldn't just breeze through the questions.

After completing the entire tutorial and getting earning as many points as I could (enough to get my intended bribe), I realized that I had just learned that all along, I had been selling my Pocket PC in the wrong way, lauding the features I liked and impressed me. So, now I'm more attuned to the needs of my my customers. Wait a minute...

Friday, July 09, 2004

What goes on in the White House?

Ok, so the last of DeLong's entries didn't quite capture the delight of reading his blog. He has bunch of running themes that tie a lot of his posts together. For example, one is "We need a better press corps." Anyhow, here's one that might do the trick—Cheney as Grand Vizier. We've been hearing all along that Bush sucks as president, but the truth should be much more than that. Of course, a president shouldn't be a one man executive show. He's got to have a strong staff. Then there are those (I included) that DeLong quotes who publicly say that Cheney does the actualy presiding. How much involvement does the president (or should the president) have in making the countless decisions involved in leading the American governemnt? DeLong lays out three possible explanations floating around. I actually had to think to figure out the differences between the first two, but as this is coming from republicans who are in the administration, I'd expect it to be nuanced and not plain as day. He seems to implying a general model of how the executive branch could work where the Head-of-State is the figure head and the Chief of Staff as the Head-of-Government who coordinates staff, leaving the specifics to each theory.

The first theory is that Bush is the moral leader, attempting to follow in the footsteps of Reagan. Cheney runs the show as the "Grand Vizier", Rumsfeld owns foreign policy and O'Neill formerly running domestic policy. It's implied that these guys know what they are doing.

The next theory posits that, instead of a bunch of guys running the show, Cheney's serving as Head-of-Government coordinating the staff (and not actually dictating all policy), but doing it badly.

The third is that Bush, unfortunately, not only is Head-of-State but actually does want to make all the decisions of head-of-government, but isn't interested enough to get adequate information before doing so. This one is more sophisticated and you'd definitely want to check this one out.

What does Brad think? I don't want to imply that his quotes are all soundbites, but it's just the way things turned out:

Which of these theories is correct? I don't believe Theory 1--I don't believe that the American government has been honestly and competently led over the past 3 1/2 years, whether by Cheney or by somebody else. I don't have enough information to decide between theories 2 and 3.

The frustrating thing is that the elite White House press corps does, in all probability, have the information to decide between theories 2 and 3. Yet with a few exceptions (Ron Suskind, I believe, plumps for theory 3), they aren't saying what they think. They need to find a way to do so.

Oh, the liberties we take with statistics...

Brad DeLong is a really cool (does that trivialize him?) econ professor whose posts I take to be very authoritative. They are far from being just about economics. Here is a snippet of his very apropriate comment:

..."We're not an economic-reporting firm, we're a campaign," says Bush policy director Tim Adams.
Just keep that in mind *whenever* you hear a number reported by the friends of George W. Bush.

Read his short entry here.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Bubby responded!

... I've always been busy and I seem to work all the time but I also manage to get a social life in. I work best late at night -- a hold over from my years in school - and I don't mind a bit.

Today, Bubby responded to my email. Bubby, which means grandmother in Yiddish, who was convinced by her grand-daughters to use her experience to help people out is a sort of help blog. She always comes up with great advice, often relating her own life experiences.

I wasn't really satisfied with the reply I got this time, but it wasn't really representative of her replies to others. This might be because her granddaughters labeled me as "trying to get down to specifics." I've read her other responses relating to everything (well, not everything) from mending family conflicts to procrastination to love and work.

Next time, I guess I'll ask a question that actually asks for advice and not for info about her.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

A test of Photoblogger

Hello Bloggerbot: A random Christmas picture.

State of the blogger

I feel like I need to accomplish something by the end of the summer. Anything significant will do. Since I don't have a job and am not taking summer classes, the pressure to do something over the summer is quite overwhelming that I end up doing little of anything else. Picking up projects and putting them down to do other ones, then procrastinating on those secondary tasks. Back in high school, I thought it'd be great if I could start school again different somehow. Many people who I didn't see for July and August would change. I usually stayed the same. So this summer, although I don't have anything structured, I hope to accomplish smaller things. I started out wanting to finally make a website from scratch. That entailed getting a beginner's grasp of php, more html (yes... you read that right), then CSS (capitalized out of reverence), and now JavaScript. I also want to get a bit more in shape physically, at least cardiovascularly. Oh, and study for the MCAT. That's a biggy. And get my drivers license. I actually have to think a little hard to come up with these things. OH, and make some progress on planning for clubs at school. My life is currently dominated by a small number of things. Funeral Quest (hey, at least I have a shot at making 25 bucks over my summer), visiting my sick grandma, going insane reading, and less often posting, blog entries (deciding between here and/or here), learning web scripting, worrying about all the other things I should be doing or am attempting to do concurrently (I looked that up in a thesaurus because I wanted to avoid simultaneously). Well, well, well... that's all for now.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Independence Day

Benjamin Franklin biography with actors playing the roles of important 18th century figures

Although the link I've provided (maybe it is a bad habit, but I can't understand an aversion to linking...) isn't centrally related to the day independence was declared from Britain, I happened to be watching it on PBS and really enjoyed it. Benjamin Franklin was a remarkable man who contributed in so many ways to our country, politically, diplomatically, scientifically, socially, and humanistically.

I also started the morning reading an essay by Elie Weisel that was the feature on the Sunday magazine of NJ's Star Ledger newspaper. In it, he mentions touching moments about being freed from the concentration camps to weak to show gratitude to American soldiers who some with tears, couldn't believe what they were finding. He also mentions that as a Jew, being naturalized as a citizen of the US was a moment he would never forget (well, obviously) because while before, no country would take him and every society denied him, here was one that was actually accepting him. He said that there was that greatness in America in treasuring its own freedom by sharing it with others.

I don't know if we were primarily motivated to invade Iraq for the express purpose of freeing the Iraqi people, but now that we're there, I want to believe that the Iraqis will reject the terrorists that are shaming Iraqi society. I also want to believe that people in the United States will not rest on its laurels and continue to scrutinize the actions of our government and hold them accountable in accomplishing their jobs, be it upholding the constitution, legislating fair laws, or running the government in a way that would make Benjamin Franklin proud.

What would make Ben Franklin proud? Society that values and rewards personal merit. Free and civically active society. A healthy, tolerant and compromising people. Scientific progress and the betterment of life and humanity.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Spam hides decent content

How often do you actually read your spam? Well, these two jokes were so good that they fooled my spam filter into thinking they were regular mail:
Young Hopeful: "Father, what is a traitor in politics?
Father (a veteran politician): "A traitor is a man who leaves our party and goes over to the other one."
Young Hopeful: "Well then, what is a man who leaves his party and comes over to yours?"
Father: "A converter, my son."
By the time John pulled into the little town, every hotel room was taken.
    "You've got to have a room somewhere." he pleaded. "Or just a bed--I don't care where."
    "Well, I do have a double room with one occupant," admitted the manager," and he might be glad to split the cost. But to tell you the truth, he snores so loudly that people in adjoining rooms have complained in the past. I'm not sure it'd be worth it to you."
    "No problem," the tired traveler assured him. "I'll take it."
The next morning, John came down to breakfast bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
When asked about how he slept, he replied, "Never better." The manager was impressed. "No problem with the other guy snoring, then?"
    "Nope. I shut him up in no time."
    "How'd you manage that?"
    "He was already in bed, snoring away, when I came in the room," John said. "I went over, gave him a kiss on the cheek, said, 'Goodnight, beautiful.' With that he sat up all night watching me."

Funeral Quest

I'd like to apologize ahead of time to anyone who is currently planning a funeral. This game really lampoons the actions of greedy people and tries to make light of one of the most universal of human experiences.

Today is day one of a new Funeral Quest tournament ith cash prized totaling $60. It's a multiplayer Macromedia flash-based simulator of the world's "second oldest profession". From the maker of Dink Smallwood, this game combines making economic decisions and interacting with your competitors. Check it out. If you're hardcore, you can try other servers that are already in progress through the RTSoft main site. Some have interesting modifications like church bingo and a gun store.

Why am I announcing this? Starting at day one puts you ahead of the game, so here's your chance.

note: sorry for the double posting

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Gmail going public as early as August

Google's Brin Talks on Gmail Future

I read an interesting interview with Sergey Brin I found a link to in GmailForum and have compiled a short list of extractions:

  • Gmail said and reiterated that Gmail will[is] likely[to ]come out of Beta in 3-6 months (as of April 23, 2004)!
  • They are committed to providing IMAP or at least POP3 access and coming up with ways to continue advertising through those channels
  • Files are deleted when you delete them, but because they keep a number of backups, it takes longer to delete all the copies
  • Future possibilities (with privacy taken very seriously):
    • Searching Google to find out whether you have new mail
    • Being logged into Orkut and being able to see if you have new mail
    • Of course, other new features...
Correction: The interview took place way back in April 23, 2004, so 3-6 months means we can expect a launch from August through November.