Why I Love Feeds

Occasionally, content providers like to tweak their stories after they go out. Usually it's because of a typo, but sometimes there's more to the story. A very recent example is Wired: it published a story on hybrid vehicles, and shortly afterward changed the headline. My feed reader picked it up as two different stories, since it has two different headlines. The difference in this example, as in many others, is instructive:

  • "Doubt Cast on Plug-In Hybrids"
  • "Doubts Can't Stop Plug-In Hybrids"

    Framing at its finest. Here's the link to the actual story.

    Anyway, keep your eyes open!

  • 2006-10-25

    David Mamet On Anti-Semitism

    I've been reading David Mamet's new book, called "The Wicked Son", which is about anti-Semitism - specifically, about Jewish anti-Semitism. It's an incredible read, especially since he's in the avant-garde theater crowd, where he most likely encounters many of the disaffected Jews his book is aimed at. In other words, he knows exactly what he's dealing with, unlike many rabbis, who are simply not in contact with the self-hating Jews that Mamet chastises in this book.

    The book also surprised me since Mamet's movie "State and Main" featured a stereotypical ultra-greedy Yiddish speaking film producer. It was meant as satire, but after watching it, I suspected Mamet of exactly the sort of perspective he is criticizing here (even though I thought the movie was hysterically funny). After reading this book, I'm much more willing to give Mamet benefit of the doubt. The movie, which is about a Hollywood movie shooting "on location" in Vermont, and what kind of effect Hollywood can have on a small town, may be playing to our expectations of what might happen in that situation, as opposed to what actually does happen. Or maybe Mamet has simply changed his outlook since making the movie in 2000. Anyway, here's another take on the Jewish aspect of "State and Main".

    Also, here's an article by Mamet on Israel's war with Lebanon (written while it was happening). It's not nearly as poetic as the book (which is partially styled after Talmudic questions and answers), but it's a good taste of how he sees things.

    Anyway, I've always been a Mamet fan ("Glengarry Glen Ross" is among my favorite movies), and it's very interesting to see him contribute to contemporary Jewish thought. It's a book well worth reading.



    Wired News Hates You

    The proof is that they posted this story:
    Amputated Arm Moved to Groin


    p.s. Poor S.O.B... that is not a good day.
    p.p.s. Yes, I'm aware that my posting this means that I hate you, too.

    Good Net Neutrality Article

    The Minnesota Daily has a nice article on why Net Neutrality is so important as, yes, a regulation.



    Obama For President?

    I just saw this via Google News: Sen. Obama mulls bid for White House in 2008. He certainly doesn't have the political baggage that Hillary Clinton does, for example, and he's new enough to Washington to still be considered an "outsider". It could make for a very interesting race in 2008...



    The Brilliant Battlestar

    I got back into Battlestar Galactica a few weeks ago (I finally caught up). The 3rd season is AWESOME so far. The end of the 2nd season was a little slow up until (but not including) the last episode of the season, and I was getting a little worried that the show was losing its way. Hell no. It's back, and it's been as intense and complex as ever. The double length episodes that ended season 2 and started season 3 are nothing short of epic. If I'm gushing, it's because I was really worried that BSG would devolve into soap operatics and just drag on until its death by cancellation or whatever. I'm not worried anymore. Welcome back, Battlestar Galactica!


    p.s. This is my 200th post since moving to Blogger :-) I was going to make a special 200th post, but honestly, who gives a s--t? I had 279 posts on my old LJ site, so this actually makes 479 total posts. Maybe I'll do a special 500th post, but honestly, I probably won't remember :-P.


    Stephen Colbert Is a Genius

    With his "Green Screen Challenge", Stephen Colbert leveraged the power of YouTube and the DIY community to make some great content for his show (in tonight's case, a whole show's worth). He just announced the winner tonight - Bonnie Rose of California (video here). Incidentally, the runner up of the challenge ("not a contest") was a certain George L. from Marin County, California. George L. got a Stephen Colbert mug and T-shirt as a prize - congrats, George! I did a little digging, however, and it turns out that George L. owns an entire post-production company devoted to special effects. So the deck was a little bit stacked in his favor, no?

    George L. was sporting enough to stick around for Colbert's Tek Janssen cartoon, featuring a 5 minute landing sequence. Sweet. And he stuck around for lightsaber battles at the end of the show. Awesome!

    UPDATE: fixed broken link for winning video - sorry!


    Lighting Up In Slo Mo

    Very cool high-speed photography video of a lighter in action. The best thing about high-speed photography is how it makes watch commonplace events with a new sense of wonder :-)



    Israel Lobby Addendum

    I would be remiss if I didn't point out this line from OpenSecrets' article on the Israel Lobby:
    Note: The Center categorizes individual contributions to candidates as being ideological only under strict conditions. For example, a contribution to a candidate will be considered to be pro-Israel only if the contributor gives to a pro-Israel political action committee AND the candidate has received money from a pro-Israel PAC. Thus, the contribution figures attributed to ideological groups, including pro-Israel and pro-Arab interests, may be artificially low.

    However, as I showed in the original post, even if you double, or even triple, the amount contributed by pro-Israel interests, it still doesn't compare to the big guns - corporations and unions. Note that my original post had the easier task of debunking conspiracy theories claiming that the Israel lobby is the biggest of them all. The numbers show that to be far from true.


    The 2 1/2 Day Senate Work "Week"

    Lost in the Foley scandal is this gem:
    Sen. Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, last Monday delivered an unusually candid assessment of the Senate's notoriously light work schedule.

    In a National Press Club luncheon speech, Specter noted it was "very hard to convene a Monday morning hearing" because of extended weekends. He continued: "We've fallen into a routine . . . of starting our workweek Tuesday at 2:15 after we finish our caucus luncheons, and people start to get edgy and heading for the airports early on Thursday. So we might increase the workweek by 50 percent, say, to three days."

    As USA Today points out: "Lawmakers will make $165,200 this year. Leaders earn more."


    p.s. The USA Today article also has this gem of a quote:
    "I don't think there's anything wrong with them being out of Washington,” says John Samples of the Cato Institute, a think tank that favors limited government. "They might be better representatives."

    Absolutely. If you define "representatives" as "Corporate Whores".


    The Unethicist

    Gawker has a new feature that's sure to amuse fans of the Randy Cohen's New York Times Magazine's advice column, The Ethicist.



    How Big Is The Israel Lobby, Really?

    To hear anti-Israel extremists tell the tale, supposedly the Pro-Israel Lobby (a.k.a. the Jewish Lobby) is a massive operation that dwarfs other special interest groups, twisting American policy towards supporting Israel even when it's not for the good of the country. I personally am concerned about the influence of special interests in America, and I feel pretty strongly about this topic. And while I believe that those lobbying for Israel have the best of intentions, I have always had misgivings about this particular approach to supporting Israel, if only because it's very hard to approach politics without acquiring a nasty stench. So I decided to consult OpenSecrets.org, run by The Center for Responsive Politics, and see for myself just how the Israel lobby measures up, in the scheme of things. I found out some pretty interesting things.

    First off, here's AIPAC's site. And here is OpenSecrets's article entitled Pro-Israel/Pro-Arab Money, and here are the numbers for the Israel lobby. Unsurprisingly, there was a peak during the 2002 election, shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks. There was even bigger peak around 1992, shortly after the Gulf War, during which Sadaam Hussein shot SCUD missiles at Israel - a period of relative tension between the United States and Israel. In both those years the total number of pro-Israel donations were around $8.5 million - nothing to sniff at.

    Let's stick with 2002 - a very tumultuous year, and as I've mentioned, a year of unusually high levels of pro-Israel lobbying. Here are some of the other industries contributing that year:

  • Lawyers and Law Firms: $95 million.
  • Retirees: $76 million.
  • Real Estate: $66 million.
  • Wall Street: $60 million.
  • Health Professionals: $42 million.
  • Insurance: $37 million.

    In fact, the rank of the pro-Israel Lobby as it compared to other industries that year was 44th. In 1990, it was 12th - probably because other industries weren't as sophisticated yet. This year, it's in 63rd place. Hardly the uber-powerful Elders of Zion the anti-Israel people want you to think they are.

    Business actually has a much more effective lobbying force than any ideological group: Dennis Hastert (I'm picking on him because he's the Speaker) got 93% of his PAC funds from business interests in 2002. As an aside, Hastert (the incumbent) raised about $3 million that race, compared to his opponent's $18,000. Ouch. Not surprisingly, Hastert won with 74% of the vote in his district. Looking at the top-ranking Democrat in the House, Nancy Pelosi (the incumbent): In her 2002 run, over $200,000 came from Business, $300,000 from Labor, and $50,000 from Ideological causes. Pelosi raised just under $1 million, compared to her opponent's $6,930. Ouch. Not surprisingly, she won 80% of the vote. See a pattern here?

    Back to my point: Congress certainly is poisoned by the meddling of special interests who are determined to steer the agenda in their direction, at any cost. But to single out the Israel lobby is absurd, and smacks of anti-Semitism. The Israel lobby is nothing more than a medium-sized fish in a very polluted pond.


    p.s. FYI, The Center for Middle East Peace & Economic Cooperation was listed as a pro-Israel group. Say what? "The Center for Middle East Peace & Economic Cooperation does anything in its ability to encourage a peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict and further understanding between Jews and Arabs. Established in 1989 by then-Slim Fast Foods Chairman S. Daniel Abraham and then-Utah Congressman Wayne Owens, the Center is a private, non-profit, non-partisan organization." So a sizable percentage (around 17%) of the pro-Israel lobby isn't even a pro-Israel lobby!
  • AP Gets Lazy

    Here are two snippets from the same article by the Associated Press. See if you can see a pattern:
    "The COBE results provided increased support for the big-bang scenario for the origin of the Universe, as this is the only scenario that predicts the kind of cosmic microwave background radiation measured by COBE," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm said in its citation.

    And a few paragraphs later:
    The COBE project gave strong support for the big-bang theory because it is the only scenario that predicts the kind of cosmic microwave radiation measured by the satellite.


    O'Reilly Meets Orwell

    Sent over to me by my co-worker T: Mark Foley was shown as a Democrat on the O'Reilly Factor. Head over to the link for screenshots and video clips. The most generous interpretation of what happened is that O'Reilly's staff is grossly incompetent. More likely it was intentional, and O'Reilly or whoever it was that authorized it wanted to subliminally disassociate Foley from the Republican party and/or attack the Democratic party. I guess they hoped no one would notice or say anything. Very 1984.



    I Need A Sock Puppet

    Via WordSpy:
    sock puppet n. A fake persona used to discuss or comment on oneself or one's work, particularly in an online discussion group or the comments section of a blog.

    Check out the link for some disturbing examples of prominent sock puppets.


    Life, In Graph Form

    "indexed" is a cute site I discovered via Joystiq. The Joystiq post has a graph showing the inverse relationship between gamer income and gamer free time - when you have time to play, you can't afford it, and when you can afford it, you don't have time. Sounds like it's true about life in general...