Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Media Restraint?

Brian Ross and Richard Esposito of CBS News' "The Blotter" have reported that President George W. Bush authorized the CIA to engage in non-lethal destabilizing efforts within the Iranian government. They report that the plan involves "a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran's currency and international financial transactions".

Although I have always defended the media as having a Constitutional duty to serve as a checks and balances system against the government, this one made me raise my brow. When it was revealed that the Bush administration had actively engaged in the use of warrantless wiring tapping of our communication systems, I was glad that someone within the government blew the whistle. Someone thought, hey, this is wrong, and the media told us about it.

In 1991, current Deputy National Security Advisor, Elliott Abrams, pleaded guilty to withholding information in regards to the Reagan administration's destabilization efforts during Iran-Contra within the Nicaraguan Sandinista government. Again, giving weapons to the Contras, who were known drug traffickers, for hostages, was a bad idea. (It's kind of funny in a way, that National Security Adviser, Robert McFarlane got Reagan's approval while Reagan was in a hospital bed recovering from cancer surgery, in the same way that Alberto Gonzalez went to John Ashcroft's hospital bed to ask him to override the Justice Department and reauthorize the domestic wiretapping program).

However, this story about modern day Iran feels different. Let us pretend for a minute that Iran was oblivious to America's meddling. America is now a lot more unsafe now that the "covert action" has been caught with its pants down. Let's be honest, Iranian President Ahmadinejad is not someone who has been entirely consistent and who even the most far-left "liberal" would not trust. One day he is claiming he is developing a nuclear program ONLY for energy, the next day he is making power posturing and flaunting his indigence to well meaning nuclear oversight. Is it too much of a stretch to be hesitant of trusting a President that publicly states that he wants to blow Israel off of the map, with nuclear weapons? If he didn't know before, now Ahmadinejad knows we have been actively trying to derail his government. The repercussions, given America's spread out military, is unnerving and scary. This is one of those times when I think the media, could have shown some restraint in releasing this story.

They could have waited until Iran figured it out and made an angry statement on TV. Then the media could have piled on about how stupid it was to try and destabilize Iran which is represented by someone who you could refer to as a "slam-dunk" of a threat to the US. Which is more worth it, exposing another ill thought out Bush plan, or having a severely pissed off Iranian leader who gives updates on his nuclear capabilities like he was a weather man?

"I think everybody in the region knows that there is a proxy war already afoot with the United States supporting anti-Iranian elements in the region as well as opposition groups within Iran... And this covert action is now being escalated by the new U.S. directive, and that can very quickly lead to Iranian retaliation and a cycle of escalation can follow,"- Vali Nasr, adjunct senior fellow for Mideast studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Memory hog. Unnecessary full screen interface. Super cool.

The creators of Skype and the college staple Kazaa, have released a legal, industry backed, video on demand application. At one time it was known as "the Venice Project", it has been renamed Joost, and is currently undergoing beta-testing. To sign up for the beta-test and download the software, follow this link ---> Link! The interface is relatively smooth, I was able to stream a good quality Gym Class Heroes music video and an episode from Laguna Beach. This is the strength of Joost, somehow they convinced companies like Viacom to allow them to distribute their content on a sponsorship based system. When I loaded up the video, up popped a quick brand logo for Motorola, it appeared, disappeared, and the video started. Considering Joost is in beta, it is a strong sign that video loading and playback was smooth; Joost operates on a form of p2p using h.264 as the video decoder. The more users, the more nodes that can be downloaded from, and thus the smoother playback will be. It's not even under wide internet adoption and it's already smooth. Good sign.

There have been other video services that have been similar, but this is the best one I've seen so far. Democracy 2.0 was cool, but the content was limited; think of it as populated by free video podcasts or a YouTube that was trying to deliver tv length shows (Democracy 2.0 streamed the Wine Library TV, that was cool).

YouTube is going to have some serious competition. The only drawback so far is that the software isn't anywhere near as optimized as it needs to be. It was eating up ~ 130 MB of RAM and slowing down my computer. Mind you my machine is an Athlon XP 3000+, 1 GB of Ram, and a 512 MB Radeon 9800 Pro, which while not bleeding edge, is still a pretty fast rig.

Still... sweet deal.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

A Signal For The Death Of The Two Party System?

For my entire life American politics has been dominated by the two party system. It is broken. The only thing that having two political powerhouses has done is create an artificial classification of citizens as either conservatives or liberals. These terms are not representative of beliefs or a view of the future, they are mud-slinging labels that fuel the fire of their respective voting base.

Conservatives are cold hearted, money loving, un-progressive stick in the muds. Liberals are tree hugging hippie peaceniks that don't understand market economics or the military.

In reality, the conservative/liberal labels probably accurately describe 1% of the population.

The reign of George W. Bush has only made the situation in Washington worse. If you were not lock step with the Bush administration you were cast aside and excluded from the election dominance machine that is Karl Rove. If you were not following in the footsteps of Pelosi and Reid, you were acting detrimentally to the overarching goal of defeating Bush. Now that George II is reaching the finale of his second term, those who would not speak out against the administration and their peers, are coming out of the woodwork. It is a good sign that perhaps Washington isn't secretly controlled by a cabal that identifies political candidates via a tap on the shoulder from Skull & Bones, and candidates have the ability to think freely.

Chuck Hagel has publicly stated (he has for a long time now), "I am not happy with the Republican Party today... It's been hijacked by a group of single-minded almost isolationists, insulationists, power-projectors." For most of us, this has been obvious for a long time. If you were actually a traditional "conservative", you must have been shitting a brick watching the Bush administration freely spend, drive the economy into a nosediving level of debt, and grow the government and its special interest attachments to sizes that would have made President Reagan squirm. How could anyone possibly be happy with the modern Republican Party?

The possibility of a Hagel-Bloomberg independent ticket is intriguing, especially with New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, on the ticket. While people herald Rudi Giuliani as the hero of 9/11 and the cleaner-upper of NYC, in post 9/11 times, he can only be seen in my eyes as a political opportunist and one trick pony; I can't think of anyone who has ridden the 9/11 card so hard, not even George W. Bush mentions it with Giuliani's frequency. Given Bloomberg's progressive stance on social issues and his guidance over NYC, I would vote for him in a heart beat.

Historically, people like Ralph Nader have been longshots, emphasis on the "long". Are there other independent Dark Horses, strong ones, electable ones? So far we have the specters of Hagel, Bloomberg, and perhaps even Al Gore. America should monitor Gore's weight, should he lose enough to bring him back to non-fat ass status, consider him a serious candidate for 2008.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Do They Actually Care?

The Democrats are now in control of the U.S. House and Senate, even with the Republican majority ousted I still can't tell if politicians actually care about what is happening to the American public. Speaking on the recent veto of the Democrat's funding proposal for Iraq by President Bush, Senator Harry Reid was adamant that Republicans, Democrats, and yes, the Bush administration would work together and hopefully they'd have a solution before Memorial Day.

I heard this on my way home from work while listening to NPR. This announcement came during the same week where I have been working 7:30 AM to ~ 9 PM all week long. When something happens at work, when I have responsibilities to take care of something, you just suck it up and put in the time. Americans do this every day, some may work two or more jobs, some work the worst of the worst jobs to provide for their family, and they do it because they have to do it. For once I'd like to see a similar effort from politicians. From the laziest and least working 109th Congress to the new and improved "100 hour plan" 110th Congress, what's the difference? If the Democrats were serious about withdrawing our troops from Iraq, they should hunker down, put their heads together and begin serious negotiations and proposals immediately. Memorial Day is more than three weeks away, while they are engaging in their political dance of posturing and expedience, men and women are dying.

Chris Shays spoke out against the Iraqi government going off on vacation,"If they go off on vacation for two months while our troops fight — that would be the outrage of outrages," said Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn. On the same side of the coin, a solution needs to be proposed now. If withdrawal is the serious conclusion of months of developing the spending bill, they should resubmit it with no changes. The politicians take forever to come to any sort of usable consensus, the Bush administration led us into a deadly Catch-22 in Iraq, and all the while blood continues to spill; the future of Iraq seems bleak.