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August 3, 2007

Given This Congress, So What? [2:29 pm]

I mean, what’s it going to take to get Congress to decide that we elected them to do their jobs, rather than meekly accede to whatever illegalities the Executive wishes to undertake? Ruling Limited Spying Effortspdf

A federal intelligence court judge earlier this year secretly declared a key element of the Bush administration’s wiretapping efforts illegal, according to a lawmaker and government sources, providing a previously unstated rationale for fevered efforts by congressional lawmakers this week to expand the president’s spying powers.

[...] “It clearly shows that Congress has been playing with half a deck,” said Jim Dempsey, policy director for the Center for Democracy and Technology. “The administration is asking lawmakers to vote on a very important piece of legislation based upon selective declassification of intelligence.”

As I said, so what’s new? Look at the example we’re setting — compare and contrast: Bush officials use soldiers case to argue for new spy powers (pdf) and Zimbabwe passes law to monitor communications (pdf). I mean, Mugabe’s other policies have been such a success, I’m sure that our government will happily eventually copy him in other respects as well.

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Arghhhh! [1:58 pm]

How long before this evolves into the “Fritz Chip?” If these folks get their way, all communication devices will become CRM-114s — the radio device in “Dr. Strangelove” specifically designed NOT to receive information: Senate panel backs development of super V-chip

The Senate Commerce Committee approved legislation Thursday asking the Federal Communications Commission to oversee the development of a super V-chip that could screen content on everything from cell phones to the Internet.

Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., the sponsor of the Child Safe Viewing Act [S.602], claims that the new law is necessary because content is no longer confined to the TV or radio, and he contends the same technology that allows content to increasingly migrate from device to device also can be used to empower parents.

“It’s an uphill battle for parents trying to protect their kids from viewing inappropriate programming,” Pryor said. “I believe there is a whole new generation of technology that can provide an additional layer of help for these parents.”

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OT: Calling A Spade A Spade [8:55 am]

This is risky stuff, but I’m glad to see that the question is being posed. Count on tons of negative reaction, but she’s touching on something that is, in fact, quite chilling about our language these days: Heroism and the language of fascismpdf

‘Everyone’s a hero, everyone’s a star,” sings Jon Bon Jovi on his 2005 album, “Have a Nice Day.” It’s an insipid song, but a fitting anthem for what has become a thoroughly insipid age.

Once upon a time, you had to do something truly exceptional to qualify as a full-fledged hero: single-handedly hold off a battalion of enemy soldiers to allow your platoon to escape, or rescue 100 children from a Nazi concentration camp. But today, just showing up at your Army recruiting station makes you an instant hero — and getting yourself hurt or killed doubles your heroism, even if you were sound asleep when your supply convoy went over an IED.

The empty rhetoric of heroism is everywhere these days. [...]

[...] Bah, humbug.

Before you run me out of town on a rail, let me be clear: I respect the service and sacrifice of the troops. It takes guts to volunteer for the military. Injured service members deserve top-quality care, and the families of those killed deserve our deepest compassion. Soldiers, firefighters, police and many others accept risk and privation to serve the public, and we should be grateful.

But it’s a big mistake to mix up the idea of service — or the idea of sacrifice and suffering — with the idea of heroism.

[...] [T]here’s a deeper reason to be wary of the “everyone’s a hero” rhetoric. Simply put, it fits neatly alongside other terms beloved of the powers that be, such as “warrior” and “the Homeland”: It’s part of the language of fascism.

For a chilling account of another society in which “the devaluation of the concept of heroism” was “proportional to the frequency of its use and abuse,” check out Ilya Zemtsov’s “The Encyclopedia of Soviet Life.” [...] “With time, the awarding of the title came to be used as a token to be disbursed or withheld according to political considerations. . . .”

In other words, comrades, whenever it seems as if they’re handing out “hero” medals for free, look out: There’s usually a hidden price.

For example — Bush officials use soldiers case to argue for new spy powers (pdf)

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The Evolution of Retail, and the Music Business [8:46 am]

Remember, in the early days MTV was nothing more than music videos (i.e., ads for albums) interspersed with conventional advertising: Shopping channels tune in to musical actspdf

That’s right music fans. In between the blond women selling jewelry and the dermatologists shilling skin-care products, television retail channels are booking live musical acts — and not off-brands, either. Think LeAnn Rimes, Barry Manilow and the Goo Goo Dolls.

Manilowis [sic] preparing for his second QVC gig this fall to promote his new CD, “The Greatest Songs of the Seventies.” His first appearance, to promote “The Greatest Songs of the Sixties,” resulted in 43,000 CDs being sold in one hour, according to QVC.

It’s just one way the home-shopping channels are trying to change their image. As network and cable TV shows become laden with ads and branded products, shopping channels such as QVC and HSN are going in the opposite direction — attempting to attract new viewers by working more content into their shows and making them seem less about selling.

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“Scraper” Sites in the News [7:55 am]

Please Dont Steal This Web Content

VanFossen isnt referring to the kind of plagiarism in which a lazy college student copies sections of a book or another paper. This is automated digital plagiarism in which software bots can copy thousands of blog posts per hour and publish them verbatim onto Web sites on which contextual ads next to them can generate money for the site owner.

Such Web sites are known among Web publishers as “scraper sites” because they effectively scrape the content off blogs, usually through RSS Really Simple Syndication and other feeds on which those blogs are sent.

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