Friday, October 14, 2005

A story on the10th anniversaryof the O.J. Simpson verdict notes his recent plans:

Last year, on the 10th anniversary of the murders, he told Fox News that he was about to re-enter public life with a TV show in which he would pull practical jokes on unsuspecting victims. On a scale of one to 10,"it's 7 or 8 that it's gonna happen,"he said. It never happened.

I haven't seen much reality TV sinceMarried by Americaperfected the form, but I'd watch an alleged double murderer being sprung on unsuspecting prank victims. O.J. would be the newAllen Funt, who had to go off-camera towards the end of hisCandid Cameradays because he was scaring the hell out of people.

IfJuic'dbecame a hit, think of the copycats it would spawn: Kobe Bryant runs a rape crisis hotline! Roman Polanski teaches junior high girl's soccer! John Bolton serves as U.N. ambassador!

This post onThe Corner, the weblog of contributors to the conservative magazineNational Review, sums up how the Harriet Miers pick is going over with the right wing:

I am actually hoping there are no more vacancies during this presidency.

ConfirmThemappears to be considering a name change.

$500,000 for a Flying Fish

There may be no fat left in the federal budget, if you believe the assessment of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, but there's a lot of protein and Omega 3 fatty acids.

A non-profit in Alaska led by a Republican Congressman's son spent $500,000 in federal funds to paint an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-400 like a salmon, according to theAnchorage Daily News.

A team of 30 painters and airbrush artists used more than 140 gallons of paint and took 24 days to render the lifelike chinook -- triple the time normally needed to coat an airliner.

"There's no question, at least in my mind, that this is the finest airline art ever conceived,"said Bill MacKay, the company's Anchorage-based senior vice president."People will just be amazed at the detail."

The fishy expenditure comes from the Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board, whose chairman Ben Stevens was spawned by U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens. The board received $29 million in federal funding to promote Alaskan seafood.

This is Anna Badkhen

The most compelling stories from a newspaper reporter in Iraq are being penned byAnna Badkhen, a 29-year-old foreign correspondent for theSan Francisco Chronicle. She frequently writes stories that bring first-hand accounts from frontline soldiers home, such as her article this morning of aMarine platoon outside Sada, a town near the Syrian border that's one of five controlled by insurgents:

The mortar rounds hit in the early morning. The first one, a harbinger of the assault to come, whooshed up from the sleepy border town of Sada at around 5:30 a.m. Friday, landing in a burst of sparks several hundred yards short of the sandstone cliffs where U.S. Marines were camped out.

The shell's trajectory left a momentary orange trace in the predawn sky, but the impact was almost inaudible, and most of the Marines slept right through it, wrapped in their sleeping bags in the foxholes they had dug in the hard-packed desert dust.

The second round landed closer ...

Badkhen has a novelist's ear for dialogue, relating Thursday how desert-encamped Marinesmake their beds:

"It's like digging a grave,"he says."I'll lay in my little grave, I'll put my sleeping bag on top of me, and I'll be warm. I've found out that the deeper you dig, the warmer it gets."

"Last time we were out,"he continued,"the first day, I dug like a champion. The second day, I didn't dig deep enough, and I was cold."

TheChroniclethinks so much of Badkhen's work that it sent her from one warzone to another, assigning her to theaftermath of Hurricane Katrinain New Orleans.

Badkhen, who publishes anonline journalfor the paper, described herself asanti-warin a 2003 interview. Before bias monitors make too much of that, it appears to be an apolitical expression of sympathy for civilians caught in a warzone:

I don't like wars. I think wars are bad. I see a lot of people suffer ... If one government doesn't like the other government and they go to war, or if one regime doesn't like the separatists, and they go to war, then the people who suffer are not just the government and the separatists. The people who suffer are the people in between, just people who are living their lives. I'm on their side.

Another blogger hasdiscovered Badkhen, complimenting her ability to note things that"snottier, glitzier reporters don't."

The more I read of her work, the more it feels like the nextPulitzer Prize for International Reporting.

While deleting some comment spam in theDrudge Retortdatabase, I just had to use the following MySQL query:

delete from feedback where author like '%sperm%';

Bill Bennett Races to Judgment
The crime rate would go down in the U.S. if blacks were aborted, former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett said during hisnationally syndicated radio showyesterday:

... it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down.

The belief that a particular race is more prone to criminality is often based on rates of incarceration, such as aBureau of Justice Statisticsreport that blacks have an 18.6 percent lifetime chance of being incarcerated, compared to 10 percent for Hispanics and 3.4 percent for whites.

Judging this solely on the basis of current incarceration is both extremely ugly and misleading. Other contributory factors are ignored, such as a2004 poverty ratefor blacks that's 24.7 percent, three times as high as that for whites, and the fact that minorities aresignificantly more likelyto be arrested and convicted than whites who commit the same offenses.

There's also the tragic generational consequences of a parent's incarceration, which increase the chance a child will end up in prison later in life.

Bennett could have made the same point using gender instead of race -- males are 10 times as likely to be incarcerated as women, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

By choosing to make this about race and single out blacks, Bennett engaged in one of the uglier examples of race baiting I've heard from a national radio host, even though he tried to qualify his thoughts by admitting they were"morally reprehensible."I hope he has the decency to offer a full apology.

Update: Matthew Yglesias, perhaps fishing for another Yglesias Award,defends Bennetton TPM Cafe, while Rep. John Conyers calls for hissuspension.

Throw the Book at Google
Jim Minatel, an acquisitions editor at Wiley for one of my books, believes that Google's plan to turn web-crawling googlebots loose on print libraries is aclear violation of copyright.

I'm not so sure.

If I had a copy of the world's most useful computer book (let's call itMovable Type 3 Bible Desktop Edition), and I made a practice of sending one page of the book to people who asked a question answered by that page, would I be violating Wiley's copyright?

Selective quotation of a book is fair use. Is repeated selective quotation of a book still fair?

There are full-text books on the web under copyright, such asLive Simpleby John December. Google did to this book what it wants to do to library books in the real world -- it grabbed copies of all the pages and will search the text in response to aquery, presenting the relevant excerpts.

As an armchair copyright lawyer, I can't figure out how it matters that Google grabbed one book with a bot and grabbed the other with a scanner. Google grabs the full text of copyrighted works all the time --56,000on this server alone. If Google Print is illegal, wouldn't Google be illegal as well?

Thank God we have wealthy corporations with high-powered intellectual property lawyers who can answer this question for us.

Bill Bennett's Reproducible Error
Eugene Robinson of theWashington Postresponds to Bill Bennett'son-air musingabout blacks and abortion:

He should know enough history to understand why black Americans would react strongly when whites start imagining experiments to limit black reproduction. For hundreds of years, this country was obsessed with the supposed menace of black sexuality and fertility. Bennett's remarks have to make you wonder whether that obsession has really vanished or just been deemed off-limits in polite discourse.

Bennettquit his jobas chairman of the board of the educational curriculum company K12 this weekend, claiming to be the victim of a"coordinated campaign willfully distorting my views, my record, and my statements."

I spoke to a producer of theEd Schultzradio show yesterday who told me exactly how this vast left-wing conspiracy began. Schultz heard Bennett's show while driving, couldn't believe his ears, and asked his producer to see if Media Matters had the audio.

Media Mattersran the audio, dozens of bloggerspicked it up, and the media followed the story.

Bennett probably could have aborted this controversy with an apology, but humilitymust be missingfrom his book of virtues:

A thought experiment about public policy, on national radio, should not have received the condemnations it has. Anyone paying attention to this debate should be offended by those who have selectively quoted me, distorted my meaning, and taken out of context the dialogue I engaged in this week. Such distortions from 'leaders' of organizations and parties is a disgrace not only to the organizations and institutions they serve, but to the First Amendment.

Why do people always wrap themselves in the First Amendment when their words get them into trouble? I'm not clear on how criticizing Bennett is any less an expression of free speech than his expressed belief that blacks are more prone to criminality.

Don't Fall for Scamazon.Com
Considering the sophistication of the scam e-mails that I've been receiving lately, there must be a huge black market in phishing, the practice of tricking people into revealing their passwords from ecommerce sites and banks.

A phony Amazon.Com e-mail I received last night is pretty convincing:

Dear Amazon member,

Due to concerns we have for the safety and integrity of the Amazon community we have issued this warning.

Per the User Agreement, Section 9, we may immediately issue a warning, temporarily suspend, indefinitely suspend or terminate your membership and refuse to provide our services to you if we believe that your actions may cause financial loss or legal liability for you, our users or us. We may also take these actions if we are unable to verify or authenticate any information you provide to us.

Please follow the link below:

[link removed]

and update your account information.

We apreciate your support and understanding, as we work together to keep Amazon market a safe place to trade.

Thank you for your attention on this serious matter.

Amazon Safety Department

NOTE: This message was sent to you by an automated e-mail system. Please don't reply to it. Amazon treats your personal information with the utmost care, and our Privacy Policy is designed to protect you and your information.

The link had the Chinese hostname, which resolves to an IP address in Germany. Yesterday, a net abuse monitor reported on Usenet that it had a different IP address in Thailand. The site looks exactly like Amazon.Com and asks for your username, password and credit card information.

Never respond to an e-mail asking for your account or credit card information, no matter how official it looks. These are always scams, run professionally by criminals who will rapidly hit your accounts for everything they can get and are unlikely to ever be caught. Most operate outside the U.S., as this globe-trotting Chinese/German/Thai effort demonstrates.

Considering the importance of ecommerce, browser users need more help detecting these scams. I could tell that the host was suspicious because I am adomain name geek, and Amazon.Com would never use a host in China for American customers. A Microsoft program manager wasnot so lucky, falling for a similar e-mail because he had just ordered from Amazon.

The server monitoring company Netcraft offers a freeInternet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox toolbarthat warns users of known phishing sites, providing hosting information about each site you visit. When I installed it this morning, it already had the Amazon scam attempt in its database,alerting menot to visit before I loaded the page.

The toolbar displaysdetailed informationabout each site, revealing where it's hosted, what company controls the IP address, and how long it has been online. Toolbar links opendetailed reportson each site.