Wednesday, June 30, 2004

[NBA] Skip Bayless thinks that Shaq won't leave the Lakers.

[NBA] Tracy McGrady has been traded. The rumored deal has gone through. Orlando sends Tracy McGrady, Juwan Howard, Tyronn Lue and Reece Gaines to Houston for Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley and Kelvin Cato. An about even swap. Both teams require more off-season moves to improve further.

Steve Francis is a good player. A little sad to see him leave Houston because him and Yao were a good pairing and played better as a team last season. The biggest issue was Houston not throwing the ball into Yao often enough. Will that change with the league leading scorer McGrady? I'm not so sure. Still, Francis for McGrady. That's an upgrade for Houston.

Juwan Howard has mostly been a disappointment. Last year, he averaged 17 points and 7 rebounds per game. Good stats, but the problem is, he's not a difference maker. He doesn't seem to make teams better. He and his massive contract have been bounced around from Washington to Dallas to Denver to Orlando and now to Houston. Kelvin Cato doesn't have the hype and expectations that Howard brings (or used to bring). A decent backup. This is about even for both teams but Howard is a bigger name.

Tyronn Lue's biggest moment was defending Allen Iverson in the finals a few years ago. His stint in Washington showed he's not that great. Decent as a backup point guard. Cuttino Mobley is the better player in my book. Good for Orlando because him and Francis work well together and are friends off the court as well. Houston needs to look for an even better point guard. Derek Fisher or Steve Nash would be good choices. Nash probably would prefer to stay in Dallas with Nowitzki. He might also end up with the Lakers as part of a Shaq trade. If that happens, Fisher might be a very good possibility, given that he's already playing backup to Payton. A hard working, full effort guy like Fisher would work especially well with a coach like Jeff Van Gundy.

[US Politics] Latest Quinnipiac poll shows Florida is a dead heat. 43 percent each for Kerry and Bush Republicans and Democrats were highly polarized in their responses so we'll look at the independents.

- 51 percent disapprove of Bush's handling of his job as president. 41 percent approve.
- Kerry leads 43-40 in a two-way race and 40-37 with Nader in the mix.
- Most important issue is the economy followed by terrorism. (For Republicans, it's terrorism followed by the economy while for Democrats, it's the economy followed by Iraq)
- 55 percent think Kerry would do a better job with the economy. 37 percent say Bush.
- 52 percent think Bush would do better fighting terrorism. 37 percent say Kerry.
- Kerry and Bush tied at at 46 percent on who would do better in Iraq.
- 54 percent say going to war in Iraq was the wrong thing to do. 37 percent say it was the right thing.

Nader remains a factor. 5 percent of Democrats said they would vote for Nader, as did 9 percent of independents. Knowing how close the race was last time, I wonder if those respondents will follow-through and vote for Nader or if they will end up voting for Kerry.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Fahrenheit 9/11

[US Politics] Perhaps the most important movie this year. Whether you agree or disagree with Michael Moore, you should watch Fahrenheit 9/11. If you agree with him, you will feel outraged at the Bush administration, moved by the families of the soldiers sacrificed in Iraq and energized to take action to make sure this never happens again. If you disagree with Moore, figure out the reasons why you disagree. Don't get caught up with Moore or his filmmaking techniques. Rather, examine the facts he presents, the questions he raises and the actions of Bush and friends. If you have no opinion, this is an opportunity to see recent events from a slightly different perspective than what is portrayed in the media. At the very least, this movie will make you think.

Monday, June 28, 2004

[US Politics] PBS Frontline documentary- The Jesus Factor: "Examining George W. Bush's personal religious journey, its impact on his political career and Presidency, and the growing influence of America's evangelical Christians".

The viewer comments are very interesting. Many Christians praise the "unbiased" presentation of Bush's faith while others express negative sentiments towards that very same faith. I suppose it is a sign of a balanced program that both sides can view it through their own eyes and see what they want and not bash the program in the process.

Friday, June 25, 2004

[US Politics] Was Hillary Clinton named after Sir Edmund Hillary? (via Andrew Sullivan).

Snopes- Hillary vs Hillary:

Given all the available facts, it's difficult to view the claim that Hillary Clinton was named after Edmund Hillary as anything but a little white lie concocted for a special occasion. Only her mother, Dorothy Rodham, knows for sure, but so far she hasn't spoken up.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

[NBA] Peter Vecsey has some last minute pre-draft speculation. The draft itself is pretty boring this year compared to last year's LeBron mania. What's exciting is all the maneuvering and trade talk surrounding Shaq, Kobe and Tracy McGrady.

[Blogging] Al Giordano has Ten Suggestions of Authentic Journalism which apply to blogging as well.:

1. Honor the voice inside your heart. It is the Authentic Journalist's most important source.

2. Thou shalt not claim objectivity: Disclose your bias. Admit your bias. Know your bias. Honor your bias. Make love to your bias. And always question your bias.

Art of The Start

[Startup] Mike Rowehl over at Bitsplitter has done a great series of writeups on the Art of the Start conference, which is billed as "time-tested, battle-hardened information for anyone starting a company".

Art of the Start 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
Beginners Mind vs Godzilla
Art of the Start Redux, Redux Part Two

[Euro 2004] The Czech Republic sent Germany crashing out of the tournament. With 3 wins in 3 games including wins over Germany and Holland, the Czechs are the dark horse to win it all. The quarterfinals are set:

Portugal v England (Prediction: England)
France v Greece (Prediction: France)
Sweden v Holland (Prediction: Sweden)
Czech Republic v Denmark (Prediction: Czech Republic)

Portugal v England and Sweden v Holland should be great games.


Dallas On The Move

[NBA] Another off-season, another Dallas remake. The Mavs traded Antwan Jamison to Washington for Jerry Stackhouse, Christian Laettner and the No. 5 pick. A decent trade for both sides.

Mike Wise of the Washington Post is happy about the deal:

Ladies, gentlemen, Washington basketball junkies everywhere: Put your hands together and give it up for Mark Cuban, the man who makes more Wizards problems go away than the merciful end to each regular season. ... He traded for Jerry Stackhouse, his depressing locker room aura, his three years and $22.5 million remaining on his deal, his balky knee. Cuban took it all off Washington's hands. Not to mention the moody and mercurial Christian Laettner.
They both may have a few good years left. Yet walking around that locker room was just uncomfortable when Stackhouse was in there. His teammates had little or no respect for the injured player who was supposed to lead after Michael Jordan was jettisoned. Gilbert Arenas just felt Stackhouse did not have enough passion for the game or he would have been playing through his leg injury. And Laettner? He was getting into the younger players' ears way too much, teaching them all the things a jaded journeyman should know about the league, not the advice impressionable youngsters should be getting.

Stackhouse's stock has fallen a lot the last couple of years, having been traded from Philly to Detroit to Washington and now to Dallas. According to the Dallas Morning News, he may be moved again:
It is unlikely that Stackhouse would ever wear a Mavericks uniform. There was speculation late Wednesday that Stackhouse would be sent to New York today for Kurt Thomas.

It appears that everything is being done to set up a trade for Shaq. The Mavs want to pair him with Dirk Nowitzki and are trying to put the pieces together to make that happen. I don't think Nowitzki is that great but he's still currently their best player. If they don't trade Nowitzki for Shaq, they'll probably have to give up Steve Nash. If that happens, they'll need a new point guard. How about Derek Fisher? If they manage all that, maybe Cuban can try to conjure up a last bit of magic and trade for Tracy McGrady. Shaq, McGrady, Nowitzki, Fisher ... that'd be quite a lineup.

[NBA] ESPN The Magazine writes up Michael Jordan's recent promotional tour through Asia:

Don't get the idea he's just a giant puppet interested only in sole-selling. Jordan has taken away the swoosh of his brand, replacing it with a silhouette of himself jumping to carve out his own space. He refers to Nike as a rival. Manufacturing the competition he can't stop craving, he wants to sell more sneakers with Jordan Brand member Carmelo Anthony than Nike does with LeBron, and here's one of the reasons:

More cash will buy him the kind of freedom in basketball he has never had. It will buy him ownership. And, well, he still wants to kick everyone's butt at his game. His fire helped him to succeed like no athlete before him, and you can't just turn down the roar on that after a lifetime spent feeding it, and being rewarded for feeding it. You don't just put on a suit and cool off. The dominance-junkie still craves the winning, any game, any stakes, and while you might not like him channeling all that power into becoming a sneaker salesman, of all things, that's your problem, not his.

[US Politics] NYT- Schwarzenegger, Confident and Ready for Prime Time

[Sports] "Don't rob me of my hate. It's all I have left."- NYT profile of Mike Tyson.

[Music] NYT- Metallica in Therapy

Italy Out, Conspiracy Theorists In

[Euro 2004] Italy are out of Euro 2004 after Sweden and Denmark drew 2-2. The Italians are naturally angry and suspicious of the result. After having watched highlights and the end of the Sweden-Denmark game, I don't think the match was fixed. Did both sides know what they needed to go through to the second round? You bet. Did that affect the way they played the game? Most definitely. Did they agree beforehand or in some way fix the result? No way.

I don't think either team would purposefully let the other side score a goal. The most that can be said is that they knew what they needed to go through, played for that result instead of attacking aggressively and risking defeat. Italy would probably have played the same way in a similar situation. In the end, the Italians only have themselves to blame, having failed to defeat either Denmark or Sweden in their earlier matches.

Tonight, either Germany or Holland will join Spain and Italy in leaving the tournament early. My money is on the Germans going through. They play the Czechs, who are already through and will likely take it easy and rest their key players. Not only that, the Dutch are another underachieving and disappointing team, having failed to even qualify for the last World Cup.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

[E-mail] G-Mailto: "A utility that automatically associates "mailto" email links on the web with GMail." (via Biz Stone)

[US Politics] Read the first chapter of "My Life" by President Clinton.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

[Net] David Galbraith writes about a web based "disposable instant messenger": "Chatango is an instant message application that allows people to post links on Craigslist, Ebay etc. and have people chat anonymously with sellers with no signup."

[NBA] The Charlotte Observer has posted the secret list of unprotected players for the expansion draft. Top players available:

Boston- Chucky Atkins
Dallas- Antoine Walker
Houston- Maurice Taylor
Miami- Brian Grant
New Jersey- Kerry Kittles
Washington- Jerry Stackhouse

Lakers- Kobe is Responsible

[NBA] Kobe Bryant is responsible for everything that has happened with the Lakers this off-season. Mitch Kupchak made clear that re-signing Kobe is their top priority. If Kobe told management that he wouldn't sign unless Jackson and Shaq returned as well, I'm sure both would have been taken care of long ago. Obviously, the opposite has happened and Kobe has let Jerry Buss know that he doesn't want either of them around next season. That is really disappointing.

A few years ago, Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf sided with GM Jerry Krause and broke up the Chicago dynasty. The franchise has yet to recover. Will this be a repeat?

What's done is done. The question now is, did Lakers owner Jerry Buss make the right choice? Is there a better chance of winning with Kobe or with Phil Jackson and Shaq?

Mark Heisler: "Bryant is more competitive, works harder and should extend his prime into his 30s. O'Neal's is over with no assurance he'll do the work and avoid the injuries to stay at this level."

BIll Plaschke: "The league has a handful of Kobes, maybe not in the final two minutes, but certainly in the course of a season, and none of them are capable of winning a championship by themselves. There is only one Shaq."

Tim Kawakami: "Yes, I'd take Bryant, fiercely focused and a Staples Center obsession at 25, over an increasingly pudgy (and salary-cap-squashing) O'Neal at 32."

Michael Wilbon: "Why not consider dealing [Kobe] to Orlando ... for Tracy McGrady? If Kobe agreed, I'd make that move in a heartbeat ... I'd explore getting Allen Iverson, plus a little something to sweeten the deal, from Philly."

Sam Smith: "O'Neal already is missing 15-20 games per season with injury and conditioning issues. Plus, as his lowest-scoring playoff performance since his rookie season showed, he has reached basketball middle age."

Monday, June 21, 2004

Rudy T as Lakers Coach?

[NBA] It appears that the Lakers' first choice for new coach is Rudy Tomjanovich. Other people mentioned include Henry Bibby, Kurt Rambis, Jim Cleamons, Pat Riley and George Karl.

My preference of course would have been to keep Phil Jackson. Since that didn't happen, I would have turned to Pat Riley but It looks like he's staying in Miami.

Out of those remaining, Rudy T is probably the best choice. Bibby has no pro-level coaching experience and hasn't even led USC to the Final Four. Kurt Rambis would have more trouble getting Shaq and Kobe to listen. Jim Cleamons might be best in terms of continuity but he had his shot in Dallas and was unimpressive. George Karl coached the US team to dismal failure in the World Championships and didn't do too much better in Milwaukee the last few years. Tomjanovich at least won two championships with the Houston Rockets. Since then however, his record has been average. The Rockets missed the last couple of playoffs until Jeff Van Gundy took over this year.

[US Politics] Newsweek has the latest on Kerry's VP search (via Political Wire)

Kerry sources say the choice is narrowing to Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and former House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt, and that the candidate remains personally uncomfortable with Sen. John Edwards. Some say Kerry could still choose a wild card like Bill Cohen, the GOP senator who became Clinton's Defense secretary.

Vilsack, Gephardt, Cohen ... three words come to mind. Uninspired, disappointing, boring. Vilsack signed an English-only measure which could hurt Kerry and Gephardt represents the old Washington establishment. Edwards is the most talked about choice. Adding him will add excitement. He may even help Kerry gain a few points. There's already some letdown with Kerry failing to convince McCain. Not choosing Edwards will be even more disappointing.

[Euro 2004] Portugal are through to the second round, Spain is out. The Spainards must be quite disappointed, having lost 0-1 to Portugal and managing only a draw against Greece in their previous match. Spain should have played Morientes and benched Raul. Greece will probably be knocked out in the next round.

[Blogging] Sage is an improved version of the RSS Reader Panel for Mozilla Firefox.

[Net Biz] NYT writes about StubHub, an eBay for event tickets: looks like a ticket brokerage. It's not. The company, founded four years ago by a couple of Stanford Business School students, is a kind of stock market where the only shares traded are tickets to live events.
StubHub, which sells tickets to events all over the United States, does not buy tickets. Instead, it creates a regulated arena in which people who have bought tickets can sell them, and people looking for tickets can buy them, knowing that the tickets are genuine and that StubHub backs them with a guarantee.
Like the auction houses, StubHub makes its money by taking a cut from buyers and sellers, collecting 15 percent of the purchase price of the ticket from the seller and 10 percent from the buyer ... StubHub simply acts as a referee, making sure no one hits below the belt, and collects a commission for its trouble.
StubHub gives ticketholders a way to recoup some of their season's investment. This makes sports franchises happy for several reasons. It encourages season ticketholders to buy season tickets again, and it puts warm bodies in empty seats, where they can buy hot dogs, souvenir caps and programs. The teams also receive a percentage of the resale profits, usually 10 percent. So far, StubHub has signed agreements with nine professional teams in North America, and each team's Web site encourages season ticketholders to sell their extras through StubHub. Ticketmaster, eyeing StubHub's sports profits, recently jumped into the secondary market, signing similar deals with 20 professional teams.
StubHub also separated itself from the herd by offering a guarantee. Buyers will receive either the tickets they order or comparable tickets purchased by the company ... "If you open the package and it contains two squares of toilet paper instead of the tickets," he said, "then we debit the seller's credit card for the amount of the purchase."

[Music] Observer Music Monthly has their list of the 100 greatest British albums (via Metafilter).

1. Stone Roses- Stone Roses
19. Oasis- Definitely Maybe
24. Radiohead- OK Computer
59. The Verve- Urban Hymns
70. Oasis- (What's The Story) Morning Glory
93. Coldplay- Parachutes

No Travis?

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Too Many Blogs

[Blogging] There is simply too much information out there. Too many blogs to keep track of. I had been using Sharpreader as my news aggregator. I'd added about 1400 feeds. If I refresh every single feed, it takes about 30-60 mins and during that time, the program is completely unusable and consumes too much resources. Instead of being able to use the "aggregate" function, I was limited to refreshing sections or single feeds at a time, thus reducing it to nothing more than a bookmark manager.

I've decided to go with a different solution. Since that is how I've been reading the feeds, I'm using the RSS Reader Panel extension for Mozilla Firefox instead. It doesn't aggregate but you can read the feeds one at a time. It's fast and uses Firefox, my browser of choice. It also allows me to open multiple posts in new tabs in the background. This method so far feels more natural and compatible with my reading behavior.

Sharpreader will be reserved for the following:
- feeds that I want to automatically track and be notified of when additions are made
- New York Times feeds so article links can be archived for a longer period of time
- feeds for the very best blogs which I read on a daily basis

Now, since it doesn't aggregate, why use the Firefox RSS Reader Panel? Why not just visit the actual sites? Speed. RSS feeds are cruft free. Content only. Feeds load much faster than the entire website. If it's good, I can still visit the actual site but to skim, the feeds are good enough. If I am looking for information on a particular topic, I can use the integrated Feedster search bar.

For aggregation, I am considering using a web-based service. Haven't decided which one yet but I'm sure there are lots of good options out there.

Ways to improve the Firefox RSS reader panel:
- feed autodiscovery if a link is dragged onto the panel
- single click opens the feed, double click opens the actual website
- display post date, time and author
- a button/keyboard shortcut to open next feed on list (this feature would be useful for the bookmark manager in general)
- show feed URL in address bar
- ability to search for feeds by name
- auto detect duplicate feeds

Saturday, June 19, 2004

[Euro 2004] Italy drew 1-1 with Sweden, making their final Group C game against Bulgaria a must-win. This is not impossible. Bulgaria is weak, having lost both games and getting thrashed by Sweden 0-5. Sweden should be good enough to defeat Denmark. All Italy can do is beat Bulgaria by two goals and hope that Sweden v Denmark is not a 2-2 draw. BBC explains the scenarios:

- If Italy beat Bulgaria and Denmark-Sweden ends in 0-0 draw, Sweden and Italy will advance to the last eight.
- If Italy beat Bulgaria by two goals and Denmark-Sweden ends in 1-1 draw, Italy will join Sweden in the knock-out stages. However if Italy beat Bulgaria by just one goal and Denmark-Sweden ends in a 1-1 draw, Denmark will join Sweden in the quarter-finals.
- If Italy beat Bulgaria and Denmark-Sweden ends in 2-2 draw, Sweden and Denmark will advance to the quarter-finals

Got that?

Let the Rebuilding Commence

AFP/Getty Images[NBA] It's official. Phil Jackson won't be back as coach of the Lakers next year. ESPN is also reporting that Shaq is requesting a trade.

Replacing Phil most likely means replacing the triangle offense which means starting over from scratch. Who can you get that'll be a better coach than Phil Jackson? Kurt Rambis? Del Harris? Larry Brown and Jeff Van Gundy aren't going anywhere. The only person I can think of is Pat Riley. He has the credentials to instantly command respect and coach this team but I doubt he could be convinced to leave the Miami Heat.

It'd be a huge mistake to let Shaq go. The Lakers already lack depth at power forward and center. Who can you get that'll be a more dominant center than Shaquille O'Neal? At 32, he's still not too old to have MVP-caliber play. He'd be the final piece in a lot of other teams' puzzles. Not only would you lose him, you'd most likely have to beat him in order to win the title.

A Shaq-less and Phil-less Laker team with Kobe only has the potential to be as "good" as the Tracy McGrady-led Orlando Magic were last season. It would be doubly sad for L.A. if they burned their bridges with Jackson and O'Neal only to have Kobe sign with another team or get sentenced to prison. Then they'd be left with ... Devean George.

The one glimmer of hope is that Shaq is still under contract for next season. It's not too late to convince both him and Kobe that they'll do best playing together. But if Jackson couldn't do it, who can? Karl Malone maybe.

LAT- Doomsday For Lakers
LAT- Shaq Looking For A New Squad

(Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

Friday, June 18, 2004

[NBA] There's a good interview in the LA Times with Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak. Kobe appears to be their top priority. They want to sign him to the max contract and won't consider a sign-and-trade if he decides to leave. The other interesting tidbit is that they would be open to trading Shaquille O'Neal. I guess it all hinges on what Kobe wants to do. First, whether or not he wants to return to the Lakers. Second, whether he wants Phil Jackson to remain as coach. If Kobe stays and doesn't ask Jackson to return, Shaq might demand a trade. That would be a mistake for all involved. Here's who should be back next year: Shaq, Kobe, Phil, Karl Malone, Derek Fisher, Luke Walton. Everyone else is expendable.

[Blogging] The Calico Cat asks "How does Blogger make any money?"

Kerry-Edwards Ticket Most Talked About Online

[US Politics] A Google search comparison has shown that a Kerry-Edwards ticket is the most mentioned possibility in the Kerry VP stakes, far outpacing Kerry-Gephardt and slightly more than Kerry-McCain. Kerry-Clinton generated a surprising amount of attention. There is very little interest in Kerry-Vilsack, Kerry-Graham and Kerry-Bayh.

Number of hits for each combination:

Kerry-Edwards 14,300
Kerry-McCain 14,000
Kerry-Clinton 12,600
Kerry-Clark 4,720
Kerry-Gephardt 4,330
Kerry-Dean 3,510
Kerry-Vilsack 507
Kerry-Graham 449
Kerry-Kerrey 275
Kerry-Nelson 159
Kerry-Biden 129
Kerry-Bayh 119
Kerry-Springsteen/Kerry-Bruce 59
Kerry-Nunn 17
Kerry-Hagel 14
Kerry-Sebelius 6

Methodology: Search was conducted on Google searching for "Kerry-[VP Candidate]" and "ticket". The word "ticket" was added to try to eliminate some false hits from articles talking about the Democratic primaries. This method does not differentiate between positive and negative evaluations of each combination, simply counting the number of times that possibility is mentioned. Pages that Google does not search obviously could not be counted.

[US Politics] Kerry's VP Search Process (Washington Post):

Kerry has privately expressed confidence that voters see him as sufficiently strong on national security, they say, but wonders whether he needs a moderate or conservative Democrat on the ticket to improve his centrist credentials ... and is much more concerned with finding a ready-made president, though one who will not try to steal the show ... Kerry, who had been enamored with the idea of a unity ticket, all but dropped that as a possibility after Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) rebuffed his overtures

On John Edwards:
Edwards's stock has shot up in recent weeks as private polling shows the freshman senator providing a boost to the ticket in key states because of his southern appeal and perceived likeability ... Kerry has privately expressed concerns about whether Edwards meets this presidential threshold, the sources said. After the primaries, Kerry remarked to aides, "What makes him think he can be president?" ... Kerry's competitive streak, which has run deep throughout his career, is also coloring his decision, friends say. Kerry, they say, sometimes appears conflicted when talking about his desire to find a strong leader, or a peer, who could without a doubt run the nation in wartime and his concern of being upstaged or unfavorably compared with his running mate, stylistically or professionally.

On Richard Gephardt:
Many of his friends said Kerry showed where they think his heart is by giving a 90-minute interview Wednesday evening to another rival from the primaries, Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (Mo.). Kerry considers the former House minority leader not only presidential and trustworthy but also unlikely to upstage or overshadow him on the campaign trail or in office ... Kerry told aides that if he had lost the nomination, he would have endorsed Gephardt, who he described as ready-made for the job ... Gephardt is widely respected by most Democrats but is seen as a less exciting choice ... He enjoys fervent backing for labor union leaders, some of whom privately express frustration with Kerry. Having run for president twice, and having been in a House leadership position, Gephardt has already been vetted by Republicans and the media. "There are no surprises with Dick. Everything is already in the record -- good and bad," one Gephardt ally said. But Gephardt's assets could be his liabilities. During both his presidential races, he failed to demonstrate a broad national appeal, and he is viewed by many in his party as an old-school Washington politician.

[Blogging] Looks like everything will turn out alright. Dave Winer outlines the transition plan for the 3000 sites he took offline. Kudos to him and those volunteering to help out.

[US Politics] NYT Editorial- The Plain Truth:

It's hard to imagine how the commission investigating the 2001 terrorist attacks could have put it more clearly yesterday: there was never any evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, between Saddam Hussein and Sept. 11. Now President Bush should apologize to the American people, who were led to believe something different. Of all the ways Mr. Bush persuaded Americans to back the invasion of Iraq last year, the most plainly dishonest was his effort to link his war of choice with the battle against terrorists worldwide.
The Bush administration convinced a substantial majority of Americans before the war that Saddam Hussein was somehow linked to 9/11. And since the invasion, administration officials, especially Vice President Dick Cheney, have continued to declare such a connection.
Mr. Bush is right when he says he cannot be blamed for everything that happened on or before Sept. 11, 2001. But he is responsible for the administration's actions since then. That includes, inexcusably, selling the false Iraq-Qaeda claim to Americans. There are two unpleasant alternatives: either Mr. Bush knew he was not telling the truth, or he has a capacity for politically motivated self-deception that is terrifying in the post-9/11 world."

WP Editorial- An Iraq Sideshow:
Administration foes seized on this sentence to claim that Vice President Cheney has been lying, as recently as this week, about a purported relationship between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. The accusation is nearly as irresponsible as the Bush administration's rhetoric has been. The importance of the two new reports lies not in the clarification of any supposed Iraq link but in the new details that fill in and correct the state of the public's knowledge of the attacks themselves.
The trouble for the administration is that Mr. Cheney has not always been careful to distinguish between Iraqi ties to al Qaeda and supposed support for the attacks. Indeed, it was he who kept the Prague meeting story alive long after others in the government thought it discredited. His recent comments not only overstate what now appear to be rather tentative ties between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, but they probably help to keep alive in the minds of many Americans a link between Iraq and the attacks that not even Mr. Cheney still alleges. If the U.S. intelligence community now believes that the relationship between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein consisted of no more than what the commission reports, Mr. Cheney ought not be implying more."

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Iraq Had Nothing To Do With 9/11

[US Politics] Saddam Hussein, monster that he was, had nothing to do with the attacks on September 11. Let me repeat that. Iraq was not responsible for 9-11. This is something that most people have known and accepted for quite some time. Yesterday, the Sept 11 Commission confirmed these findings.

NYT- Panel Finds No Qaeda-Iraq Tie:

The staff of the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks sharply contradicted one of President Bush's central justifications for the Iraq war, reporting on Wednesday that there did not appear to have been a "collaborative relationship" between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.
The commission's staff said its investigation showed that the government of Mr. Hussein had rebuffed or ignored requests from Qaeda leaders for help in the 1990's, a conclusion that directly contradicts a series of public statements President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney made before and after last year's invasion of Iraq in justifying the war.

"We have no credible evidence that Iraq and Al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States," one of the staff reports released on Wednesday said. "Bin Laden is said to have requested space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded." The report said that despite evidence of repeated contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda in the 90's, "they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship."
"There were systematic efforts by Al Qaeda to connect with Iraq - many of them failed," Thomas H. Kean, a Republican and former governor of New Jersey, said in an interview.
Mr. Bush said in September of last year that "there's no question that Saddam Hussein had Al Qaeda ties." Richard A. Clarke, Mr. Bush's former counterterrorism director in the White House, testified to the commission in March that Mr. Bush had pressed him right after the attacks to search for a link to Mr. Hussein. In last year's State of the Union address, Mr. Bush said that "Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of Al Qaeda."

The contradictions between the staff reports' findings and past White House statements on Iraq were all the more striking given that the commission's staff director, and the final editor of the reports, is Philip D. Zelikow, a University of Virginia historian who was a member of Mr. Bush's White House transition team and who served on his Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board until last year.

NYT- No Evidence of Al Qaeda Meeting With Iraqi in Prague:
A report of a clandestine meeting in Prague between Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence officer first surfaced shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. And even though serious doubt was cast on the report, it was repeatedly cited by some Bush administration officials and others as evidence of a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq. But on Wednesday, the Sept. 11 commission said its investigation had found that the meeting never took place. In its report on the Sept. 11 plot, the commission staff disclosed for the first time F.B.I. evidence that strongly suggested that Mr. Atta was in the United States at the time of the supposed Prague meeting.
The supposed meeting in Prague by Mr. Atta, who flew one of the hijacked jets on Sept. 11, was a centerpiece of early efforts by the Bush administration and its conservative allies to link Iraq with the attacks as the administration sought to justify a war to topple Saddam Hussein. ... In effect, the commission report endorsed the views of officials at the C.I.A. and F.B.I., who have long been dismissive of a supposed Prague meeting and of the administration's broader assertions concerning an Iraq-Qaeda alliance.

The panel's findings effectively rebuke the Pentagon's civilian leadership, which set up a small intelligence unit after the Sept. 11 attacks to hunt for links between Al Qaeda and Iraq. This team briefed senior policy makers at the Pentagon and the White House, saying that the C.I.A. had ignored evidence of such connections.
Soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, Czech officials said they had received reports that Mr. Atta had met in April 2001 with Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim al-Ani, an Iraqi intelligence officer stationed in Prague. But the C.I.A. and F.B.I., and some top Czech officials, quickly began to cast doubt on the story, and Czech security officials were never able to corroborate the initial report, which was based on a single source ... The evidence concerning Mr. Atta's whereabouts in Virginia and Florida in early April 2001, at the time of the purported Prague meeting, severely weakens the case for it.

[Gaming] Profile on IGN/Gamespy (Washington Post):

"IGN/GameSpy does this by being part Web publisher, part Internet matchmaker. Its network of 90 Web sites cranks out some 4,400 articles and reviews a month that pay microscopic attention to nearly every conceivable aspect of the industry. The company also provides an online arena where gamers are able to meet up and challenge one another and where fans can get free software updates and other extras. The formula has had success. The company's sites see 19.7 million visitors a month, and more than 200,000 subscribers pay $7 a month or $60 a year for access to special features or files. The privately-owned IGN/GameSpy, born of a recent merger between onetime rivals, expects to collect revenue in the neighborhood of $50 million this year from its collection of online businesses."

[Euro 2004] Spain drew 1-1 with Greece while Portugal beat Russia 2-0. This sets up a do-or-die match between Spain and Portugal in the final game of Group A. Greece have been the surprise of this tournament. The BBC has the best explanation of the likely scenarios.

If Spain and Portugal are to go through, the following must happen:
1. Portugal defeats Spain
2. Russia defeats Greece
3. "Russia beat Greece by a greater margin than Spain lose to Portugal OR if the goal difference is equal (between Spain and Greece) and Spain have scored the same or greater number of goals in all three group matches as Greece." (from the BBC article).

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

The Use of Torture

[US Politics] ThoughtsOnline asks the following (via Instapundit): "To those who claim that torture is wrong, I'll ask you the Michael Dukakis question: 'if torturing someone would provide information that would save your wife from death, would you approve of doing that?'. Don't evade the question by saying that torture doesn't work - soldiers aren't trained to resist torture because it doesn't work. And, if your answer is no, have you told your wife?"

This is the position that this administration and this war has put its supporters in: having to defend torture. In the hypothetical situation posed, I would certainly question him and do everything I could but I still don't think I would resort to the use of torture. In my gut, I simply feel that it is wrong.

To pose another hypothetical question: "If torturing a killer would extract a confession from him and put him behind bars for life and stop him from killing again, would you approve?" If so, we might as well implement this in our justice system now.

The biggest problem with approving the use of torture is that we cannot be surprised or outraged when it is used on our own soldiers. The enemy certainly would value their own lives highly and would use any means necessary to find out the plans of those seeking to attack them. If we use torture, then we must also accept it when they use torture. Such a strategy puts those in the front lines at much greater risk.

[Blogging] Dave Winer responds to the criticism of his decision to shut down the free blogs at

[Blogging] Aggregator for medical blogs

Gmail First Impressions

[Email] Was lucky enough to get a Gmail account today. It's got a nice clean interface. Usernames have to be at least six characters long. Google says it's to reduce spam. Getting the account really wasn't as exciting as I thought. After all, it's still just e-mail. The only good thing about getting it early is a chance to get the name you want. My full name was already taken! But my regular username that I use on other accounts was thankfully still available.

I generally don't like to use web-based mail. I prefer my trusty Mozilla Mail program. I keep a web mail account strictly for travel purposes, those times when I don't have access to my laptop and need to use e-mail. The one thing stopping me from using the Gmail account as my main account is the ability to download and backup Gmail messages. True, there's a third-party tool available but I want a reliable solution that will allow me to download via POP3 not only messages in my Inbox, but also messages in my Sent Mail box as well. If they provide that, I will gladly switch everything over to Gmail and use my e-mail program as backup only.

As an aside, today was also the day Yahoo upped its free mail capacity to 100MB. Competition is good.

[Blogging] Dave Winer unexpectedly shut down the free blogs he had previously hosted at Jeneane Sessum has a transcript of Dave's audio post. There's been a bit of discussion on Slashdot.

First of all, people should thank Dave for hosting the blogs for free for 4 years. His Scripting News was one of the first blogs I read regularly before I even knew they were called "weblogs". Gratitude should be shown not just for the free hosting but also his efforts in developing RSS and promoting blogging in general.

Having said that, this could have been handled better. What would he have thought if Blogger or Six Apart had done something similar? Advance warning of a month or even a week to give people a chance to back up their information or upgrade to a paid plan would have been a good idea. If money for bandwidth or a better server was the issue, a call for donations could have been posted. The blogging community would likely have stepped up like it usually does. Unfortunately, this incident will only serve to confirm some people's negative impressions of one of blogging's founding fathers.

Pistons Win

[NBA] The Detroit Pistons are the new NBA champions. They deserved it. They were the better TEAM and simply outplayed the Lakers the entire series. They worked as a unit whereas each Laker seemed to have his own agenda. Chauncey Billups won the MVP. For a team known for its defense, I would have chosen Ben Wallace instead. Looks like they did the right thing in firing Rick Carlisle and hiring Larry Brown. Rip Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace played vital roles as well. A little disappointed because the Lakers lost. Felt bad for Karl Malone. Malone and Payton are Hall of Famers but they're not the same players they used to be. Karl set an example for the whole team but Payton and the triangle offense didn't really go well together.

If I were Lakers GM, I would re-sign Phil Jackson and rebuild around Kobe and Shaq. Malone can still contribute but Payton should probably move on. Rumor is Derek Fisher will be left unprotected in the expansion draft. That's a mistake. He's a player that puts forth maximum effort every play. They need a better power forward/center backup and a spot shooter who doesn't need to dribble the ball and can hit 3s. Someone like Steve Kerr.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

[NBA] Detroit Free Press profile on Joe Dumars: "The thing that separated Joe from every other player I ever recruited or coached was his work ethic. He was so focused that when he decided to do something he did whatever it took to get it done. He worked religiously ... Leaders command respect, they don't demand it, and that's the way Joe was as a player. He commanded respect of those on his team and those who played against him ... Joe was a self-made player. He has God-given talent and gifts, but he worked to get where he is. One of my players recently asked me, did I know Joe was going to be an NBA player? I said I knew he had a chance because of his work ethic and his focus."

[NBA] LAT's Bill Plaschke thinks Kobe cost the Lakers Game 4: " Bryant took four more shots than a man who could not miss. Bryant threw up balls while falling and sliding and dancing two-dozen feet from the basket, ignoring a guy waiting to dunk. In 45 minutes, Bryant had zero rebounds, two assists, three turnovers, and one big question. What on earth was he thinking?"

[NBA] Michael Jordan's thoughts on the NBA Finals: "When you do something more than once, you lose some of that hunger to do it again. Those guys are trying to do something for the fourth time. That is so hard. I lived through that. You've got to keep reinventing challenges so you can maintain that hunger. If you don't, there's a team more hungry than you. They're going and getting those loose balls and making sure that every possession is important. With the Lakers, from what I've seen, every possession isn't important. They think they can turn it on and turn it off. That doesn't work and they've come up against that hungry team."

Monday, June 14, 2004

[US Politics] With Kerry-McCain talk perhaps finally dead, the media is turning its attention to the remaining VP candidates. The LA Times has a long profile on Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack. This unknown is bound to generate the same amount of excitement that Jack Kemp brought to Bob Dole's campaign which ultimately propelled Dole to the White House. Oh wait ...

From the LAT article:
"Allies suggest he would be a bright and articulate spokesman for Democrats, a fresh face to inspire some media buzz but not so sparkling (like the glib and handsome Edwards) as to steal the limelight from Kerry ... But all that does not change the fact that Vilsack's name and face are a mystery to most Americans. His state, assuming he can deliver it, offers only seven electoral votes. Perhaps most importantly, Vilsack has limited foreign policy experience. At a time when the U.S. is still at war in Iraq and concerned about the threat of terrorism at home, Kerry may opt for a partner with a more worldly resume."

[Blogging] Time- Meet Joe Blog (via Scripting News)

107th Post

[Blogging] My 107th post on this blog. It's been an interesting experience. Blogging helps me to think, sort out and analyze my ideas and to test out what works and what doesn't in an actual blog situation.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

[Blogging] Two things wrong with RSS evangelism for the average web surfer (via Scobleizer)

[Net] LAT has a nice piece on Craig Newmark, the Craig of craigslist

Friday, June 11, 2004

Built For Battle

[NBA] Pistons shutdown Lakers in Game 3 and go up 2-1. This is the best matched Eastern Conference team that we've had in the Finals for a number of years. The 76ers, Pacers and Nets of past years were all too small inside. The Pistons have shown they can go toe-to-toe against super-sized West teams like the Lakers and Spurs. Ben Wallace has done a great job on defense. Larry Brown has probably refined his strategies since reaching the Finals with the 76ers a couple of years ago. Were it not for Kobe in Game 2, Detroit could be up 3-0 right now. While Detroit can definitely hold their own against Los Angeles, I still believe that the Lakers will win the series. Kobe and Shaq have the talent and experience to do it. All they need is a third player like Fisher, Malone, Payton, Walton or Rush to put them over the top.

[US Politics] NYT- How will history remember Reagan?

[Software] Turn Your PC into a Mac (via Boing Boing)

Thursday, June 10, 2004

[Net] Real Simple Shopping (via Scobleizer)

[US Politics] The Washington Post has a Quicktime VR of the U.S. Capitol Rotunda where Ronald Reagan is lying in state.

[NBA] ESPN's David Aldridge- Larry Brown's Game 2 mistake: "Malone inbounded the ball ... to O'Neal! If ever a player was on a floor with a neon sign around his neck flashing Foul Me! Foul Me! ... it was Shaq. But O'Neal was allowed to catch the ball and hand it off to Luke Walton, who got it to Kobe, who ... well, you know."

[US Politics] Dinesh D'Souza: "Distort D'Newsa" (via Atrios)

[US Politics] I was watching CNN earlier. Dinesh D'Souza observed that Reagan popularized the notion that government, instead of being seen as public servants helping society, were bureaucrats who did more harm than good and that this idea has won out in our society today. He wrote about this same idea in a 1999 Slate article:

"Reagan launched a powerful moral attack on the idea of Big Government. He challenged the idea, popularized by JFK, that if you were an idealistic American, you should join the Peace Corps or do "public service," in other words, become a bureaucrat. Reagan denounced the bureaucrat as a do-nothing and a loser, and celebrated the entrepreneur as one of the highest embodiments of American creativity and possibility. And I think that Reagan prevailed. The era of the welfare state that began with FDR effectively ended with RR. Bill Clinton admitted as much when he said "the era of big government is over." Today it's a settled question that markets, not intellectuals and bureaucrats, run the economy."

[US Politics] LATimes has a brilliant flash based electoral map. I was thinking about this very idea not too long ago. It shows the latest poll results and you can click on each individual state to choose whether it goes for Bush or Kerry and calculate the effects on the presidential race. There's a nice surprise when a candidate gets enough states to win the electoral college.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Associated Press

[NBA] Kobe's game tying clutch 3 capped a Laker rally late in the fourth quarter. Great game. Series goes to Detroit tied 1-1. One of the great shots of all-time. I'd rank it up there along with Derek Fisher's vs the Spurs, Robert Horry's vs the Kings in 2002 and Jordan's "final shot" vs Utah in 1998.

ESPN- Greatest NBA Finals moments
ESPN- Best NBA playoff buzzer beaters Greatest shots of the Finals Greatest shots of the playoffs
MSNBC- Greatest NBA playoff finishes NBA Finals Blog

[TV] NYT- Tivo to launch video download service: "The new TiVo technology, which will become a standard feature in its video recorders, will allow users to download movies and music from the Internet to the hard drive on their video recorder. Although the current TiVo service allows users to watch broadcast, cable or satellite programs at any time, the new technology will make it possible for them to mix content from the Internet with those programs."

[US Politics] LAT- Zell Miller: The Democrat Republicans Love to Love

[Tech] Domain Name Sales Hit Record High: "A record 4.7 million Internet addresses were sold in the first three months of 2004, bringing the total number of registered addresses to a new high of 62.9 million, according to a study released today by Mountain View, Calif.-based VeriSign Inc. The report attributed the spike in domain-name sales to growing Internet usage in Europe and Asia, as well as a rebounding U.S. economy ... The growing demand for domain names was fueled in part by the new availability of Internet addresses that use Arabic, Chinese and Russian characters."

Hmm... I don't think I've ever seen a non-English domain name. I'd also be interested in seeing how many of these domain names are active, how many are squatters and how many are just duplicates and variations.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

[Psychology] NPR- Study Sheds Light on Compulsive Hoarding: "Most people save and collect objects that have special meaning. But some people save such large amounts of materials and items that their lives become focused exclusively on the collecting and keeping. In the disorder's worst form, people are unable to throw away even their garbage. They're called compulsive hoarders, and it's estimated they number 1 million Americans."

[Economics] NYT Magazine has an interesting piece about selling bagels on the honor system (via Brad DeLong):

"He had also -- quite without meaning to -- designed a beautiful economic experiment. By measuring the money collected against the bagels taken, he could tell, down to the penny, just how honest his customers were. Did they steal from him? If so, what were the characteristics of a company that stole versus a company that did not? Under what circumstances did people tend to steal more, or less? ... He has identified two great overriding predictors of a company's honesty: morale and size. Paul F. has noted a strong correlation between high payment rates and an office where people seem to like their boss and their work ... He also gleans a higher payment rate from smaller offices ... If the payment tendencies that Paul F. has noted so far might be called macro trends, it is the micro trends -- those reflecting personal mood -- that are perhaps most compelling. Weather, for instance, has a major effect on the payment rate. Unseasonably pleasant weather inspires people to pay a significantly higher rate. Unseasonably cold weather, meanwhile, makes people cheat prolifically; so does heavy rain and wind. But worst are the holidays ... As considerable as these oscillations may be, the fact is that a poorly paying office rarely turns into a well-paying office, or vice versa. This has led Paul F. to believe in a sobering sort of equilibrium: honest people are honest, and cheaters will cheat regardless of the circumstance."

[Tech] Scobleizer: "Digital photography is huge, but there's something missing: the ability to instantly share photos. If I were getting married today, I'd setup a laptop or a Tablet PC with a universal jack. Then I'd make sure everyone at the wedding knew to come over and put their pictures on it. Then, I'd have someone picking the best pictures and building a live photo album for all the guests to have access to. Something big is going to happen in the next few years in digital photography. I just feel it. Too many people now have digital cameras not to."

Monday, June 07, 2004

[HK Politics] Anson Chan writes a commentary in the latest issue of Time Asia: "I do not doubt that Beijing wants what is best for Hong Kong. In its eyes, stability is key. But the tactics being employed are likely to have the opposite effect. Hong Kong society is now polarized to an extent not seen in recent history ... Hong Kong people treasure the freedoms and rights enshrined in the territory's constitution. And they will fight to protect those rights. This does not mean they love their country less than self-professed patriots do. We yearn mainly for good, strong and transparent governance ... We ask our leaders in Beijing to put a little more trust in us. That trust will not be misplaced."

Lakers vs Pistons

Reuters [NBA] Get your NBA Finals coverage here:
Los Angeles Times: Lakers
Detroit Free Press: Pistons
L.A. Daily News: Lakers

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Courage and Sacrifice

Robert Capa

Blogosphere Reaction to Reagan's Death

[US Politics]

California Insider: "Ronald Reagan will always be remembered as a conservative icon. But he was much more pragmatic than most people realize, especially as governor of California ... It was in Reagan’s interest, and that of his friends and foes, to always portray him as a purist of the right. His conservative friends overlooked his many compromises because he was their best bet for winning the White House. And his liberal foes never wanted to acknowledge his pragmatism, because to do so would have made him an even more elusive target as the leader of what they called the far right."

Daily Kos (Trapper John): "He earned the enmity of many of us on the left through his dismantling of the New Deal and enabling of a culture of greed -- but we should not forget that he was once one of us, an FDR Democrat. His journey to the far right mirrored a similar, if less dramatic, shift that occured in the general American psyche."

The Agitator: "Of all the tributes we're likely to see to Ronald Reagan over the coming week, I can't think of a better way to remember him than to read this Reason interview from way back -- almost older than I am -- in July 1975."

Tom Watson: "I believe his biggest moment was not the "tear down this wall" speech we'll be watching all weekend, but the singular moment in Iceland, when he scared the life out of his advisors, and proposed total nuclear disarmement to Gorbachev. At that moment, he took a true leap of faith."

TBogg: "Somewhere an editor is flipping a coin over which above-the-fold headline to use... So what's it gonna be? Ronnie's Gone or J-Lo Weds. You have to ask yourself: which one will sell more papers? Journalisming is hard...."

RuminateThis: "Ronald Reagan can be said, in a nonprejudicial way, to have been a giant. Giants can be a force of good, but - at the same time - that was a giant at the top of Jack’s beanstalk and his action wasn’t of the sort that most folks (with the possible exception of Enron employees and certain Republican operatives) would ever choose to emulate."

Talking Points Memo: "A revered, popular president hasn't died in America for more than thirty years -- Harry Truman's death in 1972 is probably the last such similar event."

Pacific Views: "Ronald Reagan was just the prototype Republican figurehead president -- a front man for the people who really held the levers of power ... Now that Reagan has died, we're going to be subjected to interminable rosy assessments of his presidency and political contributions to the nation, and testimonials as to what a nice guy he was. While we're sure we'd probably have enjoyed Reagan as an eccentric neighbor, he never should have become governor of California, let alone president of the United States. "

Whiskey Bar: "I found it hard to hate Reagan - even though I detested most of what he stood for, believed and sought to do. Yes, he was as ignorant and stubborn and incapable of rational thought as our current president, but he wasn't arrogant - or at least, he didn't come across as arrogant. He lacked Bush's infuriating sense of entitlement, and his nasty temper. Reagan smiled, he didn't smirk."

Scripting News: "Listening to the TV reports of the Reagan presidency, you'd think we had been governed by God Himself for eight years ... Reagan was a smelly old dude, even when he was Prez ... Prediction: Reagan is going to be Dubya's virtual running mate."

Wizbang: "I know exactly where I was when I heard President Reagan had been shot."

Winds of Change: "Some Americans like Reagan, some do not. Regardless of how one feels, the fact remains: Reagan played a leading role in the global demise of an empire that had slain over 40 million people in its bloody history, and of an ideology whose democide count has topped 100 million. Millions and millions of people around the world will mourn in the next few days - because what this man did changed their lives, and their futures, for the better. That ought to inspire a certain level of respect."

Body and Soul: "I didn't like him as a president, or know him as a person, which leaves me without much positive to say. And this is a day, maybe a week, even a month, to be positive. History can take a breather for awhile."

Kevin Drum: "For a different perspective on his presidency, try "Reagan's Liberal Legacy," Joshua Green's take on Reagan from the January 2003 issue of the Washington Monthly."

War Liberal: "You know what? I don't care. I never cared for Reagan and the Reagan-worship that's infected America has left me immune."

Open Source Politics: "Be prepared for several weeks of the liberal media providing loving and gooey tributes"

Oliver Willis: "Yes, I expect in the coming days -- especially online -- we'll hear from people on the left about all the bad things Reagan did and how he's evil incarnate, and from people on the right we'll be told about how he was the greatest president ever and that he's going to direct to heaven."

Scobleizer: "I took pictures of him back in 1984 when he visited DeAnza Community College in Silicon Valley."

Confessions of a Political Junkie: "Reagan said he was tired of an American that blames itself first and refused to act for fear of criticism. I'm glad we have a current President who feels the same way."

Corrente: "Although Nixon was impeached for Watergate, Reagan didn't suffer for Iran-Contra at all, as an increasingly toothless Democratic party caved."

Ronald Reagan 1911-2004

[US Politics]

LAT's Ronald Brownstein- Reagan Redefined U.S. Politics:
"No one since Franklin D. Roosevelt reshaped American politics or restored the primacy of the presidency more than Ronald Reagan. Reagan redefined the message of the Republican Party, expanded its reach to working-class voters who had rejected it for decades, and put in place the final pieces of a conservative alliance that has carried the GOP to unified control of Congress and the White House for the first time in half a century. As the Great Communicator, Reagan changed the way presidents pursue their goals, enormously elevating the role of direct communication with the public through television. He hastened the realignment of the South from solidly Democratic to the cornerstone of GOP strength. And he crystallized an anti-government populism that has lastingly constrained Washington's role in society. During the New Deal period ushered in by Roosevelt, "the burden of proof was on those who tried to argue that government should not act," said veteran Democratic strategist Bill Galston. "But in the era of Reagan, which I think we are still in, the burden of proof is on those who think the government should act. And if you bear the burden of proof, you have the problem." Following a series of presidents who failed in one way or another ... Reagan at the most fundamental level demonstrated that the Oval Office was a lever from which a talented leader could change the country and the world ... He shook the political landscape so powerfully that he became one of the few who profoundly influenced both parties, forcing Democrats toward the center while tilting Republicans toward the right."

WP- Actor, Governor, President, Icon:
"Although Reagan was an outspoken anti-communist who described the Soviet Union as an "evil empire," he forged a constructive relationship with the reform-minded Gorbachev, who ascended to power midway through the Reagan presidency ... There is general agreement ... that the meetings between Gorbachev and Reagan and later between Gorbachev and President George H.W. Bush eased the transition from Cold War to peace ... Reagan gave weekly Saturday radio speeches to the American people, a practice continued by his successors. He was particularly effective in prepared television speeches delivered from the Oval Office. Drawing upon skills forged in his earlier careers in radio, films and television, Reagan set the standard in using television to promote his presidency ... Overall, the "Reagan Doctrine" foreign policy of aiding anti-communist insurrections had mixed results ... SDI remains a controversial legacy of the Reagan presidency ... but there is little doubt that SDI, whatever its feasibility, was a factor in prodding the Soviets to negotiate ... Reagan said he wanted to become part of government in order to reduce its influence ... One of the paradoxes of Reagan's political career was that he campaigned ceaselessly against government, even as an incumbent president, but wound up strengthening the presidency and the influence of the central government."

WP Editorial- Ronald Wilson Reagan:
"Mr. Reagan's inattentiveness to detail, as well as to some fairly major goings-on, was well known, and in at least one instance -- what came to be known as the Iran-contra scandal -- it hurt him, his administration and the country. But on the things that mattered most to him and that turned out to matter most to the country, he was both decisive and influenced to an unusual degree by what he had himself seen and done over the years ... Mr. Reagan will forever be seen by certain of his adversaries as an easily manipulated executive, something of a figurehead, fronting for the traditional interests of his party. This view fails to take into account how forceful, focused and sometimes stubbornly personal Mr. Reagan was regarding the basic matters on which his administration will be judged."

WP- Key Role in Ending the Cold War:
"The United States, in the years before and during the Reagan presidency, underwent a revolution in high technology that the Soviets could not match. The Soviet system was under pressure from Reagan's defense buildup ... and Reagan's proposed missile defense system, the Strategic Defense Initiative ... In Reagan's second term, it was disclosed that he had sought to bypass congressional restrictions on aiding the rebels, known as the contras, by diverting $3.8 million from the secret sale of 2,000 antitank missiles to Iran. What came to be known as the Iran-contra scandal touched off a furor. Reagan, frustrated at the inability to free American hostages in Lebanon, had traded the missiles for the release of three of them, breaking his own earlier vows not to make deals with terrorists or states that aided them ... Reagan's ardent anti-Communist rhetoric was extremely controversial in its time, but events have shown he was prescient and probing about the depth of Soviet internal weaknesses."

WP- Sagging GOP Rebuilt in His Image:
"Reagan's 1980 campaign symbolized the emergence of the conservatives as the dominant force in the party ... What the 1980 campaign demonstrated, to the surprise of many Democrats who underestimated his political skills, was Reagan's ability to enunciate strong conservative principles without appearing threatening to a majority of Americans ... Reagan exploited the country's demoralized mood with an upbeat campaign in which he promised to return the country to greatness ... That campaign marked a major shift in the Republican Party's approach to economics when he embraced the supply-side tax-cutting philosophy of many young conservatives ... The principles that undergirded Reagan's campaign for the White House guided his actions as president, as he pushed his party and the country farther to the right ... "Beginning with Roosevelt, the presumption was that if you had a problem, the federal government was going to solve it," said David Keene of the American Conservative Union. "Beginning with Reagan, the presumption was that if you had a problem, government was likely to screw things up and you looked for a private solution." ... Reagan's presidency brought a new term to the political lexicon: Reagan Democrats. His social conservatism, his unapologetic appeals to patriotism, his challenge to the Soviets and his economic policies brought onetime Democrats streaming into the Republican column ... Reagan's political career was marked by strategic retreats from his stirring conservative rhetoric, pragmatism when he needed it, and a number of instances where he failed to come close to achieving his goals, most notably in bringing the federal deficit under control. But in the almost 16 years since he left the presidency to return to California, his influence on the party and the politics of the country has never waned. Few politicians in the history of the country have had that kind of lasting legacy."

LAT Editorial- A Presidency Characterized by Paradox:
"The mark of Reagan's presidency was paradox. Having campaigned as an implacable foe of government deficit spending, he left office with a federal debt that was nearly triple its level when he was inaugurated. He succumbed, as Bush has, to the fallacious "supply side" economic notion that government revenues rise if taxes are cut. ... Hero though Reagan was to so many Americans, his legacy is marred. Economically, the Reagan years were epitomized by a freewheeling entrepreneurialism and free spending. But the affluent got more affluent and the poor got poorer. The number of families living below the poverty line increased by one-third. The Reagan administration's zeal for deregulation of industry helped create the savings and loan debacle, which left taxpayers holding the bag for billions of dollars in losses. All of this presaged a recurring malaise among American workers, who continue to see jobs lost to corporate downsizing and outsourcing."

WP- Reaganomics:
"Reagan owed his election to the economy. He won the presidency by asking a voters a simple but devastating question: Are you better off than you were four years ago? ... [Reagan] would unleash the forces of the free market by reducing the size of government and cutting taxes. Reagan also demanded larger defense spending. These goals appeared contradictory or, in the memorable phrase of 1980 presidential candidate George H.W. Bush, "voodoo economics." But Reagan insisted that reducing taxes would generate enough corporate activity to make up the difference in lost revenue. This was a theory espoused by "supply-side" economists, who focused on the impact of taxes on the total supply of output, in contrast to those who concentrated on how to stimulate demand."

LAT- Reagan Left Mark on California:
"He was a non-threatening conservative ... who appealed to working-class Democrats — "Reagan Democrats" they became called — and governed as a pragmatic moderate, having the courage and sense to raise taxes when necessary to honestly balance the state's books."

LAT- Cold War's End a Reagan Legacy:
"Reagan will be remembered less for his failings in what would later be called a "war on terrorism," and more for his success in bringing the Cold War to an end."

LAT- Reagan's 1994 Letter Disclosing He Has Alzheimer's Disease:
"In closing let me thank you, the American people for giving me the great honor of allowing me to serve as your President. When the Lord calls me home, whenever that may be, I will leave with the greatest love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future.
I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead."

LAT- A Collection of Reagan's Speeches and Documents

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Candlelight Vigil


[HK Politics] Last night's June 4 candlelight vigil was attended by over 80,000 people, the largest crowd in years. I think people have been shook up out of their complacency by recent events. The Communists received a lot of goodwill and trust over the past decade. People saw the economic progress being made in China and the relatively hands-off attitude they adopted in Hong Kong. Now, the truth is coming out. The Communists have exposed their true colors. If they continue their anti-democracy stance and dirty tactics in HK, this will only lead to more anger and resentment against them.

For many years, people have bought the idea that the Tiananmen crackdown was needed because it preserved stability and allowed the progress that was made in the past decade. But who is to say that the same wouldn't have happened under a free and democratic government? People have accepted the idea that perhaps a country as big as China needed a strong authoritarian hand to run it. What any country really needs are competent leaders and a competent government. A democratic system ensures that those that are incompetent and unpopular may be removed and replaced. In a dictatorship, you are stuck for life with whoever those people are, good or bad.

15 Years

Associated Press
Wanted to post this yesterday but Picasa was acting up.

Friday, June 04, 2004

[US Politics] War and Piece speculates on why George "Slam Dunk" Tenet quit.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

[US Politics] Breaking News: CIA Director George Tenet Resigns


[E-mail] Trying out PopTray Mail Notifier. Using version 3.1 beta. So far so good. Useful features:

- System tray popup notification on new mail. Automatically disappears after set time.
- Separate configurable check times for each e-mail account
- Filters to mark and delete spam
- Filters to enable popup notify new mail for certain messages only. This is the best feature for me. I stopped using my last notifier because I would get frequent notifications for new mail only to find spam only. With PopTray, I can be notified of new mail from certain people only. All others will be ignored until I manually check my mail.

Reclaiming My E-mail

[E-mail] Finally getting the spam situation under control. Like most other things in life, I needed to simplify and reorganize.

- Redirected junk accounts. I have a number of junk accounts that I use only for unimportant site registrations and which receive nothing but spam. I have set all these accounts to forward to a single account. Nothing important will get sent to this account so the only thing I need to do is empty it out periodically.
- Consolidated personal accounts. Instead of checking several different accounts, set them all to forward to one only. Since all the junk account mail is redirected elsewhere, my personal account so far only has a couple of spams per day.
- Separate work support account. There is a customer support account whose address needs to be published online. This is another spam magnet but it does receive the occassional real e-mail. I had previously set this to forward to my actual work account but the spam load is immense. I am now separating these two accounts. Important work e-mail can be handled efficiently and the other account will be checked on a less frequent basis.
- After enabling hiding my e-mail address in Whois, changed the contact e-mail.
- Better use of filtering in the e-mail program. Besides already using automated spam filtering, I also move messages not directly addressed to me to a bulk e-mail folder.
- Use whitelisting. Messages from people in my address book are placed into a separate folder for priority handling.

[Music] Avril Lavigne - Under My Skin (***). Good sophomore effort.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Whois Spam

[E-mail] I own a couple of domain names. The e-mail address listed in the contact information is a spam magnet. Unfortunately, it's also the e-mail address through which the registrar contacts me. It's a real hassle to have to sort through all the junk e-mail to get to the important ones. Here's what I've done:

1. Open a new Yahoo e-mail account (or something similar) which you will use solely for domain name registration. Yahoo is good because they have free anti-spam filters.
2. Use this account for your contact information when you register for domain names. Do not use this account for any other purpose.
3. Enable the anti-spam filtering on the e-mail account.
4. Set up a custom filter so that all e-mail not sent from your registrar's domain name is moved out of your Inbox and placed in another folder (eg. in an "Unsorted" folder).

By doing this, only important e-mails from the registrar will be placed in the inbox. Spam identified by Yahoo will be automatically filtered out and all other e-mail will be placed in an "Unsorted" folder. I wish that registrars would allow you to provide one e-mail address to place in the whois directory and specify another for correspondence with the registrar only.

UPDATE: I found out my registrar has added an unlisted e-mail feature. Be sure to enable it on your account if your registrar provides it.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

[Tech] What's In Your Gadget Bag, Xeni? (via Boing Boing)

[China] HKU's Public Opinion Programme has released the results of their annual June 4 poll. Key findings:

This year's survey findings revealed that 42% of the respondents believed that the Beijing students did the right thing in 1989, while 19% believed that they did the wrong thing. Meanwhile, with regard to the way the Chinese Government handled the matter at that time, 10% regarded it as correct and 67% regarded it as wrong.

The findings also showed that 54% of the respondents supported a reversion of the official stand on the incident while 23% did not. Regarding the human right condition in China, 70% of the respondents believed that China's human right condition has been improved since 1989, and 63% anticipated that China's human right condition will be improved after 3 years.

Associated Press [US Politics] George Soros recently gave the commencement speech at the Columbia School of International & Public Affairs. There's a PDF file of the entire speech. Excerpts:

The War on Terror: Victims Turning Perpetrators

The Bush administration knew what it was doing when it declared war on terror and used that pretext for invading Iraq. ... These people are guided by an ideology. They believe that international relations are relations of power not law and since America is the most powerful nation on earth, it ought to use that power more assertively than under previous presidents. They advocated the overthrow of Saddam Hussein even before President Bush was elected and they managed to win him over to their cause after September 11.
I find the excuse that we went into Iraq in order to liberate it particularly galling. It is true that Saddam Hussein was a tyrant and it is good to be rid of him. But the way we went about it will make it more difficult to get rid of the likes of Saddam in the future. The world is full of tyrants and we cannot topple them all by military action. ... By taking unilateral and arbitrary action, the United States has made it more difficult to solve that problem. I am actively engaged in promoting democracy and open society in many parts of the world and I can testify from personal experience that it cannot be done by military means.
I would dearly love to pin all the blame on President Bush and his team. But that would be too easy. It would ignore the fact that he was playing to a receptive audience and even today, after all that has happened, a majority of the electorate continues to have confidence in President Bush on national security matters. If this continues and President Bush gets reelected, we must ask ourselves the question: “What is wrong with us?” The question needs to be asked even if he is defeated because we cannot simply ignore what we have done since September 11.

We need to engage in some serious soul-searching. The terrorists seem to have hit upon a weak point in our collective psyche. They have made us fearful. And they have found a willing partner in the Bush administration. For reasons of its own, the Bush administration has found it advantageous to foster the fear that September 11 engendered. By declaring war on terror, the President could unite the country behind him. But fear is a bad counselor. A fearful giant that lashes out against unseen enemies is the very definition of a bully, and that is what we are in danger of becoming. Lashing out indiscriminately, we are creating innocent victims and innocent victims generate the resentment and rage on which terrorism feeds. If there is a Single lesson to be learned from our experience since September 11, it is that you mustn’t fight terror by creating new victims.

By succumbing to fear we are doing the terrorists’ bidding: we are unleashing a vicious circle of violence. If we go on like this, we may find ourselves in a permanent state of war.
If we want to preserve our privileged position, we must use it not to lord it over the rest of the world but to concern ourselves with the well-being of others.

[US Politics] Memeorandum "presents a distinctly readable and relevant hourly synopsis of the latest online news and opinion, combining weblog commentary with traditional news reports" (via Scobleizer). Reminds me a little of Google News but with blogs included.

[Tablet PC] 25 Things You Can Do With a Tablet PC (via Scobleizer)

Political Blogs

[US Politics/Blogging] The AJR has a good article on political blogs (via Dan Gillmor). The one negative aspect about political blogs and perhaps society as a whole is a trend towards extreme partisanship. Often we only read what we agree with. There is a place for this. It can help to reaffirm the validity of our opinions, give us a sense that there are others who feel the same way. Unfortunately, opposing sides often seek to demonize their opponents, portraying them in the most negative light possible. It is possible to disagree without being disagreeable. What about evaluating each issue on its merits instead of mouthing the party line? There is no doubt that political blogs and the internet as a whole is going to have an impact in November. One individual blog may not have an effect but the combined effect of hundreds of blogs will count. Not necessarily on the population as a whole, but as a tool for motivating and organizing the grassroots and swaying perhaps 1 or 2% of voters. That may be the margin between victory and defeat.