Saturday, March 31, 2007

Too Little, Too Late

Matthew Dowd, political strategist for George W. Bush in his 2000 and 2004 campaigns, gives an interview with the New York Times in which he, um, "express[es] disappointment" with the president's leadership.

"He criticized the president as failing to call the nation to a shared sense of sacrifice at a time of war, failing to reach across the political divide to build consensus and ignoring the will of the people on Iraq. He said he believed the president had not moved aggressively enough to hold anyone accountable for the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and that Mr. Bush still approached governing with a “my way or the highway” mentality reinforced by a shrinking circle of trusted aides."

Really? It took him seven years to come to this realization?

“I think we should design campaigns that appeal not to 51 percent of the people,” he said, “but bring the country together as a whole.”

Well, Matty, you had two more opportunities than most people ever will to orchestrate those kinds of campaigns. What did you do?

Mr. Dowd, a crucial part of a team that cast Senator John Kerry as a flip-flopper who could not be trusted with national security during wartime...

Oh yeah, that...

...said he had even written but never submitted an op-ed article titled “Kerry Was Right,” arguing that Mr. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat and 2004 presidential candidate, was correct in calling last year for a withdrawal from Iraq.

Well, it's a good thing you kept the irresponsible, crazy, lying flip-flopper out of office, isn't it?

In television interviews in 2004, Mr. Dowd said that Mr. Kerry’s campaign was proposing “a weak defense,” and that the voters “trust this president more than they trust Senator Kerry on Iraq.”

But he was starting to have his own doubts by then, he said.

Shit, man, why let your doubts get the best of you?

He describes as further cause for doubt two events in the summer of 2005: the administration’s handling of Hurricane Katrina and the president’s refusal, around the same time that he was entertaining the bicyclist Lance Armstrong at his Crawford ranch, to meet with the war protester Cindy Sheehan, whose son died in Iraq.

“I had finally come to the conclusion that maybe all these things along do add up,” he said. “That it’s not the same, it’s not the person I thought.”

He never was.

He added, “I do feel a calling of trying to re-establish a level of gentleness in the world.”

Better hope it's not too late, asshole.

By the way, what's spurring this introspection, this dark night of the soul?

In the last several years, as he has gradually broken his ties with the Bush camp, one of Mr. Dowd’s premature twin daughters died, he was divorced, and he watched his oldest son prepare for deployment to Iraq as an Army intelligence specialist fluent in Arabic. Mr. Dowd said he had become so disillusioned with the war that he had considered joining street demonstrations against it, but that his continued personal affection for the president had kept him from joining protests whose anti-Bush fervor is so central.

I'm sorry that his marriage ended; I'm really, truly sorry that his daughter died; and I hope that his son returns from Iraq healthy and whole. But with that said, this smacks of a case of "I-Never-Thought-It-Would-Happen-To-Me" syndrome. It's the sort of thing that strikes people of a certain stature who think that poor people are poor because they don't work hard enough, marriages end because couples don't really understand what commitment is, children get sick or die because their parents are irresponsible or negligent, and only other people's children get sent halfway around the world to get shot at and potentially blown up. They lack the imagination or the empathy to put themselves in other people's shoes and to conceive of a world in which luck didn't favor them. In fact, luck is a foreign concept, as everything that happens is due to astute planning and diligent hard work. No breaks, no fortunes, all them.

And then, one by one, some misfortunes befall them, and suddenly a realization of the fragility of everyone's lives starts to dawn on them. Bad things happen because they happen, not necessarily because God is meting out judgment. Marriages can end, even if you love each other. Children can get sick, even if you do everything right. And if bad things can happen and not be punishment, then maybe the good things weren't rewards. Maybe they were luck. Maybe they were breaks. Maybe somebody knew somebody who owed a favor.

If Dowd has really learned something, if he feels that maybe he should atone for his sins, real or imagined, then he should really do something. He says about the 2008 presidential campaigns, "“I wouldn’t be surprised if I wasn’t walking around in Africa or South America doing something that was like mission work," instead of working for any of the candidates. That's all well and good, but you cannot easily turn your back on a system that you helped to create, and walking around on another continent can be just a way of avoiding the consequences of your actions. I'm glad that he's sorry, but doing " mission work" is a little flip-floppy, a little evasive, a little like "I was for this president before I was against him," and it isn't going to fix anything.

Playing With the Sidebar

I just added some fine podcasts off to the side there (scroll around and see if you can find them). They're all iTunes links, because I am lazy. If you listen to any podcasts, there's nothing there that you've never heard of before, either.

That is all.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Somebody Adjust the "Vert. Hld."

Interesting that one of the more insightful and farsighted things I've read about the future of online entertainment comes from someone pretending to be Steve Jobs:
The Internet is a transport mechanism. Simple as that. Its real power involves its ability to let you choose from millions of pieces of content in a non-linear format, the idea that you can see whatever programs you want to watch, however and whenever you want to watch them. The real power of the Internet is going to be when the big media companies, with all their great content, figure out how to aggregate that content into huge archives in the cloud and put some kind of interface in front of the archive that lets you search and choose content; and when they find a way to make you pay for it. That's when things are going to get amazing. That's how the Internet will change the media business -- not by creating new content that looks like a Special Olympics version of real TV, but by finding new ways for you to consume the shows you already like. It's a new distribution deal. That's all.

What we're doing today with things like Apple TV or TiVo is just applying Band-Aids to patch up a frigtarded system (linear TV programming) that made sense in the 1950s when bandwidth was limited. Our Apple TV only sidesteps the problem. It still forces you to download to your computer, then beam through a router to our TV box and then up into your TV. So great. Now you've got more pipes coming into your TV but this new pipe is kind of unreliable (wifi routers) and slow and clumsy.

The real fix is gonna happen when someone figures out the back end, aggregating good content (ie Seinfeld and I Love Lucy rather than Ask a Ninja) and then finds a way to get that straight into your TV without all these clumsy connections and multiple hops. But it's a battle. The linear model, as stupid as it is, still clings to life. Inertia is a powerful thing. But ultimately we'll win. Give us ten years. And yeah, this is why Apple is presenting itself to the Hollywood studios as a friend and ally, not a competitor. It's also why we didn't buy YouTube.

I have lots of notes that I've written to myself in the last year about the future of media and the frustratingly wrong-headed predictions that some people have made, and I will sit down one day and make them more coherent in order to post them here. But when I read this, I have to admit that I was pleased with the elegance with which he made his point, and I agree with a great deal of it. "YouTube will change TV -- we will all generate our own content and watch each others' videos!" rings false as a prediction when you consider how much of YouTube is made up of clips from TV shows, from the very medium it will supposedly replace.

Access is what it's all about. Everything being available in different media. Pushing things out on the internet is still broadcasting, it's just using different equipment. Imagine being able to pull and old episode of "Seinfeld" or "M*A*S*H" or "I Married Joan" down whenever you wanted it, rather than waiting for someone to air one over a transmitter at 3:30 in the morning. There are going to be shifts in power -- some will adapt, some won't; some new blood will rise, some old guards will fall -- but the spoils will still go to whoever can be depended upon to produce good, entertaining programming and get it to viewers in an easy and reliable way.

So, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go and watch the episodes of "Andy Barker, P.I." that I just downloaded. Maybe later, if I still can't fall asleep, I might click on that episode of "The Incredible Hulk" that I got for the sake of nostalgia.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Last Lazy Afternoon For A While

I've been on vacation this week. Can you tell? Be prepared for the number of posts I put up to drop quite a bit once I go back to work on Monday.

Anyway, I went to Descanso Gardens today, taking advantage of a bright, beautiful afternoon

Here are some pictures:
Descanso Gardens

I tweaked some in iPhoto, like this one:

I hope it doesn't come across as overprocessed on anyone's monitor.

Picture Pages

Hm. It seems that the little elves at Google have been tying things together, linking Picasa and Blogger and making things easy to use. I've long heard that Picasa is a nice little photo management application, but it's been available for PCs only. Turns out that there are some tools that lets Mac users running iPhoto easily export to Picasa online. The storage has been bumped up to 1GB, and it's easy to link albums to blogs, like so:

Chicago 2004

If that worked correctly, there should be a link up above to an album of some pictures I took in Chicago a few years ago.

I know that a lot of people swear by Flickr, but I'm sometimes less than enthused by it. I'm not sure why. I guess there's some powerful mojo behind the scenes that let you do things with those pictures in other applications across the web, but I've never been that interested in learning the whats or hows. As a web album for photos, it's just kind of ... there. On the other hand, it did set a lot of what are now considered standards for letting people share photos in a relatively pain-free fashion, giving a cheap-to-free way of hosting those pictures.

I ramble. The point of this post was to see if I could get the album to link to the entry. That is all.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Weird Stuff In The Feed

I've been cleaning some stuff up in some old posts -- fixing permalinks and the like -- and I don't know of any way to do that without the update going out over the RSS feed as a new post. Apologies if anything shows up that seems woefully out of date.

"Why?", you might ask. Don't know. It's just the compulsive side of me that wants the outdated links to point to the things that they were supposed to.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Her Again?

I'm not linking to it, since you can find it for yourself if you want it (and I couldn't bring myself to read the whole thing, anyway), but this first sentence in Ann Coulter's latest column is precious:

Lewis Libby has now been found guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice for lies that had absolutely no legal consequence.

Really? 'Cuz I thought the same thing about President Clinton's impeachment, and you sure seemed to think that was important.

So, let's recap former Law Review editor Ann's view on the pressing legal crises of the last decade: Purposely deceiving federal investigators about your roll in publicly disclosing the identity of an undercover1 CIA agent? No biggie. Purposely deceiving federal investigators about getting a blow job from an intern? A threat to the moral fiber of the republic and an impeachable offense.


If she really believed that lying was the worst of all possible crimes, then she'd have the guts to stick by that, regardless of the circumstances. All this proves -- like it needed to be proved -- is that it isn't about the law, it isn't about morality, it's about politics. Not politics in the noble "art of the possible sense," but just naked grabs at power and, pathetically, grabs at being close to power.

And I really hate myself for even posting this, because its exactly the sort of attention that someone like her doesn't deserve. It's the reason she called John Edwards a "faggot" (by saying that she couldn't call him one -- there's that fine legal training at work), a deep desire to have people look at her, for any damn reason at all. As she gets older and more haggard, though, no one's really looking as much as they used to.

Say something stupid and everyone spins around to look at the freak.

Update: I was poking around in my archives and found this. The link to the story doesn't work anymore, so you can't read the fucktarded defense of Linda Tripp as the moral equivalent of Deep Throat, but I did like my own line:
If you can't tell the difference between a subversion of the constitution and a blowjob, you aren't doing either one right.

I think that's still true.

1- Before anyone gets in a twist by trying to suggest that Valerie Plame was not undercover -- however broadly it might be defined -- and therefore could not have been "outed," please remember that the CIA complained to the Department of Justice that her identity had been made public. If the CIA believed that her identity was worthy of being kept secret, it was not the purview of anyone at the White House -- by way of the DC cocktail party chattering class -- to decide otherwise.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Cheap Music - An Update

A few months ago, I wrote about trying out eMusic, a subscription-based music site that allowed downloads of MP3s free from any DRM or restrictions from use, other than a sort of honor system. The files are easy to burn to CDs, and are playable in iTunes and on iPods without any problems (at least in my experience). The drawback is that none of the major labels use the service, so you've got to either like music from independent music labels, or be willing to learn to like it.

So, how have things been going?

Surprisingly well. I've either learned to like some indie music, or I've discovered that I liked it all along. Of course, as you can see below, I'm not exactly pushing the boundaries of musical taste.

The thing about this subscription service model is that I get 40 tracks a month1 that must be downloaded. If I don't use them all, they go away -- no rollovers2. Keeping that in mind, though, it isn't very difficult to budget and prioritize what tracks and albums I want. In a couple of cases, I've downloaded the first few tracks from an album, waited a couple of days until my downloads refreshed, and then got the rest. It's a little unusual, but there's no savings in downloading a whole album versus individual tracks, like with iTunes, so it all works out in the end.

Here's a sampling of what I've downloaded since September 2006:

Anonymous 4 -- On Yoolis Night
Arcade Fire -- Funeral
Beirut -- Gulag Orkestar
Blonde Redhead -- Misery Is A Butterfly
The Decemberists -- Castaways And Cutouts
The Decemberists -- Picaresque
Eddie Izzard -- Glorious
El Perro Del Mar -- El Perro Del Mar
El Ten Eleven -- El Ten Eleven
Explosions In The Sky -- How Strange, Innocence
Explosions In The Sky -- The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place
George Carlin -- You Are All Diseased
Kaki King -- ...Until We Felt Red
Kaki King -- Everybody Loves You
Lenny Bruce -- Live In San Francisco
Lionel Hampton -- Jazz In Paris: Lionel Hampton and His French New Sound, Vol. 1
Lionel Hampton -- Jazz In Paris: Lionel Hampton and His French New Sound, Vol. 2
Lionel Hampton -- Jazz in Paris: Mai 1956
London Symphony Orchestra -- Beethoven: The Nine Symphonies -- Symphony No. 9 in D Minor
The New Pornographers -- Twin Cinema
Red Letter Agent -- Burn The Good Ones Down
Spoon -- Gimme Fiction
The White Stripes -- Get Behind Me Satan
Yo La Tengo -- I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass

Not bad, and new downloads seem to lead to new discoveries. Having to download all 40 tracks each month means that I'm much more motivated to try things out that I might otherwise have been hesitant to sample. ("I don't want to waste the downloads!" "If you don't download anything, you'll lose them anyway. Why not get something out of the waste, at least." Or so goes the dialogue in my head.)

There are some snags, though. The Decemberists, for example, signed with a major label, Capitol Records, so their last album, The Crane Wife, is not available. The White Stripes, I have heard, are signing with Warner Bros., meaning presumably that their new albums will not be available, either. (Nor, I assume, will Jack White's other band, The Raconteurs.)

On the whole, though, I'm enjoying the experience. Explosions In The Sky and Arcade Fire are bands that I might never have given a chance if I didn't feel like I had nothing to lose. Anonymous 4's On Yoolis Night is a Christmas album (of sorts) that I heard in a Blockbuster Music (remember them?) years ago and could never quite justify paying full price for, but couldn't find at any discount over the years. El Perro Del Mar wasn't such a great choice, but break it down and I'm only out $2.50, so lesson learned.

1 - Basic membership has been reduced to 30 downloads per month. However, those who signed up at 40 per month still get that number, and eMusic did send out several emails to forewarn members and offer opportunities to upgrade to other plans before they were also reduced. So it kind of stinks, but they didn't really screw anyone out of what they'd signed up for, and they didn't spring it on anyone with absolutely no warning.

2 - Also available for purchase are Booster Packs, extra downloads available in quantities of 10, 20, or 30, that are good for up to one year and can extend the number of downloads available in a month. So if you want just one more album, but need a couple of tracks more than you have left, having some of these on hand might prove useful. I haven't bought any myself, but I might.