Archive for December 27th, 2009

Andy Borowitz: Homeland Security Considers Making People Fly Naked

December 27th, 2009 admin No comments

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) – Responding to the botched terrorism attempt on board Delta flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit, the Department of Homeland Security announced today that it was considering a new rule that would force passengers to fly naked.

“They won’t be able to hide any powders or liquids, and they’ll speed right through security,” said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. “This is a win-win.”

Anticipating complaints from chilly travelers, she said that the Homeland Security Dept. would force the airlines to institute a “Snugglies for Purchase” plan once the aircraft doors are closed.

Ms. Napolitano expressed no embarrassment at having ignored a warning from the Delta terror suspect’s dad made weeks before the terror attempt: “Our official policy is that we have to be warned by both the mom and dad before taking it seriously.” More here.

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Bernard-Henri Lévy: A Letter From Roman Polanski

December 27th, 2009 admin No comments

At Roman Polanski’s request, I would like to share the letter he has written me with all of his friends and supporters, in particular the readers of The Huffington Post. It is here, in these columns, that I have published my articles and expressed my position, from the very beginning.

Thanks to the generous access provided by Arianna Huffington and her staff, I have been able to present a different “voice,” one that contrasts with the howling of the pack. And so it seems natural, priority dictates, that the readers of my journal in France and the readers of Arianna’s journal in the United States should be the first to read these words, Roman Polanski’s first words since his incarceration.

My dear Bernard-Henri Lévy, what you have said in the Swiss press is true — I have been overwhelmed by the number of messages of support and sympathy I have received in Winterthur prison, and that I continue to receive here, in my chalet in Gstaad, where I am spending the holidays with my wife and my children.

These messages have come from my neighbors, from people all over Switzerland, and from beyond Switzerland — from across the world. I would like every one of them to know how heartening it is, when one is locked up in a cell, to hear this murmur of human voices and of solidarity in the morning mail. In the darkest moments, each of their notes has been a source of comfort and hope, and they continue to be so in my current situation.

I would like to be able to answer all of them. But it is impossible: there are too many. Do you have any suggestions as to how I could reply? Perhaps in your journal, La Règle du jeu, which has supported me from the very first day? Perhaps you could disseminate these few words I’m sending you? I don’t know. I’ll leave it up to you.

Happy holidays to you and yours — and, through you, to all of these unknown friends whom I am discovering day after day, and who have helped me so much.

My warmest regards,

Roman Polanski

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Mark Kleiman: "2044" packs a polemical punch

December 27th, 2009 admin No comments

The basic flaw in libertarian reasoning is its neglect of all the ways freedom can be threatened by private (including corporate) action, rather than public action. There is no doubt a fine essay to be written on that topic; probably someone has written it.

But to make an actual political point no essay is as good a strong story; can anyone doubt that Harriet Beecher Stowe was a more effective abolitionist than Sumner? Orwell was a great essayist and (with the huge exception of Animal Farm) a distinctly second-rate novelist, but in terms of both readership and impact Nineteen Eighty-Four is orders of magnitude above “Politics and the English Language” and “Notes on Nationalism,” which have more or less the same conceptual content but not a fraction of the emotional impact.

Eric Lotke is a lawyer and a progressive activist, not a professional novelist, but his book 2044 is, just as a novel, a far more polished performance than its Orwellian model; for one thing, the characters are more or less human, and the author is capable of making you care about their fates, which is more than can be said for Winston Smith (whom Orwell deliberately made a thoroughly uninteresting “last man”) or Julia.

As a tract, 2044 pursues the same strategy as its predecessor: it takes some of the more noxious features of contemporary society and imagines a future in which they have grown to monstrous proportions without really changing their fundamental shape. Malcolm Moore, like Winston Smith, is a bureaucrat. Instead of working for the Ministry of Truth, he works for Tentek Corporation. Somewhat against his will, he finds himself in opposition to his employer and to the transnational corporate/state symbi0sis of which Tentek is an element. The book’s subtitle states its theme: “The problem isn’t Big Brother; it’s Big Brother, Inc.”

Frederick Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth ploughed some of the same ground half a century ago in two fine science-fiction novels, The Space Merchants and Gladiator-at-Law. If Lotke lacks some of their invention, his superior grasp of the actual social and economic processes involved more than makes up for it; Tentek is as frighteningly plausible a workplace as MiniTrue.

Regrettably, 2044 is samizdat, which means that few bookstores will carry it and – more damagingly – few reviewers will bother to notice it. But there’s always a chance that word-of-mouth will pluck it from undeserved obscurity, especially since the Kindle price is only 99 cents. Take a look.

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Steve Marmel: Vacation’s Over, Mr. President.

December 27th, 2009 admin No comments


What is wrong with this picture?

It’s December 23rd – I lug my tired butt to the airport, ready to leave for vacation. Carrying a bottle of very nice wine, I have to leave my place in the security line as I can’t bring it as a carry-on, check it in a bag, get a special box, go through security again and hope I – and my fancy wine – arrive intact. Despite some turbulence, we do.

It’s December 24th – I’m keeping track of some winter storms that could affect a few arrivals here and there. The weather could screw up air travel. That was the big fear. Weather.

It’s Christmas day, and the only thing that stopped 12/25 from feeling a lot like 9/11 was a failed detonator and a guy named Jasper Schuringa. Weather now seems like a quaint travel threat – like a cold does compared to the Bubonic Plague.

It’s December 26th, and the last of my guests arrive keenly aware of what happened over the skies of Detroit. Across America, everybody’s gut tightens and old fears and old wounds re-open.

Meanwhile, the president continues his vacation. News that he hit the gym 15 minutes after being briefed on the attack – and had a lovely time playing golf later that day – begin to trickle in.

America lucked out this holiday season. It’s as simple as that. Something terrible could have happened and It was the bravery of passengers, and the ineptitude of a would-be terrorist, that prevented it.

Not the police bottlenecking the only road into the airport. Not the nice lady making sure my liquids were in the right containers. Not the german shepherd sniffing my boy parts.

It was luck.

And if you’re like me – that scared the crap out of you. You probably wanted assurances. What will be done to prevent this? How are we reacting?

If you’re like me, you’re not looking for Attorney General Eric Holder, or Representative Pete King to be telling you how it could have been worse or how it will be managed.

When the nation is attacked, I expect to be informed and hopefully calmed by the President of the United States.

So I ask, one more time – of this President who understands that how a message is delivered is just as important as what the message is – What is wrong with this picture?

Yes, the President deserves a vacation. Especially this President, who I believe has worked so hard on issues he cares about to the best of his ability; who is attacked and stalled by enemies for every attempt to fix every ill he inherited over the last eight years.

This is a man who needs a break.

But that vacation should have been over moments after the plane landed at noon on Christmas day, and everybody was starting to do the math that once again, Al Qaida tried to strike at this country.

This is no “My Pet Goat,” or sharing birthday cake with John McCain while New Orleans flooded. But it’s close enough that it’s making the hairs on the back of my neck stand up… and I like this President.

Some things are too important to delegate to a subordinate, or manage through a blackberry.

It’s December 27th, and people are getting ready to travel for New Years Day. They’re going to get patted down, sniffed and searched. They will not be able to get up for the last hour of their flight. And God knows what else.

They will be inconvenienced, in a way that I’m sure every sane human being on the face of the Earth hoped that Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab had been.

And even if it were only for appearances – even if it were simply to make people know the Commander-In-Chief was in front of whatever buttons and levers are at his disposal to act and react to threats to this nation – the President should have been inconvenienced as well.

There are moments like these where it’s important not to simply just do the work, or be told by others that the work is being done. We need to see it.

And that could have been done in Hawaii. Just not from the back nine.

Back to work, sir. Back to work.

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Witnesses: Iranian security forces open fire on anti-government protestors

December 27th, 2009 admin No comments

Iranian security forces opened fire on anti-government protesters in the capital Sunday, killing at least four people in the fiercest clashes in months, opposition Web sites and witnesses said.

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Kindle most gifted item in Amazon’s history, e-books outsell physical tomes on Christmas Day

December 27th, 2009 admin No comments

We’re still not about say the e-book reader industry has branched out beyond the infancy stage, but one of its flagship products certainly has reason to celebrate. Amazon has announced it’s hit some pretty big milestones with the Kindle. The two bullet points it’s currently touting loudest is that the reader has become “the most gifted item” in the company’s history — quite an achievement given the size of the online retailer, but what’s missing here is any quantitative sales data to give us even a ballpark of the number of units sold. The other big news is that on Christmas Day (we’re guessing not Christmas Eve, else the press release surely would’ve mentioned it, too), e-book sales actually outsold physical books. Those brand new Kindle owners needed something to read, right? It’ll be interesting to see if that momentum is maintained through next year, especially with some major publishers starting to show some teeth with digital delays.

The Kindle bits were all part of Amazon’s annual post-holiday statistical breakdown, so in case you’re wondering, besides Kindle, the company is claiming its other top-selling electronics were the 8GB iPod Touch and Garmin nuvi260W, and in the wireless department the honor goes to Nokia’s unlocked 5800 XpressMusic, Plantronic’s 510 Bluetooth headset, and AT&T’s edition of the BlackBerry Bold 9700.

[Thanks to everyone who sent this in]

Kindle most gifted item in Amazon’s history, e-books outsell physical tomes on Christmas Day originally appeared on Engadget on Sun, 27 Dec 2009 09:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Your Abbreviated Pundit Round-up

December 27th, 2009 admin No comments

Recovered from Christmas yet? Here’s some opinions you may or may not share.

NY Times editorial:

The Senate’s passage of a heath care reform bill over lockstep Republican opposition required every single member of the Democratic caucus to vote to override Republican filibusters. It will take equal political will to fuse the Senate’s bill with the more expansive reform approved by the House and enact a final version.

Health care reform doesn’t pass the Congress every day. Appreciate what’s in the bill while we work to make it better.

SF Chronicle:

It came after 24 consecutive days of exhausting debate, and the ideas approved promise to affect the life of every American. The Democrats in both the House and the Senate – the Republicans in both houses opted out of the chance to make history – should be proud of their determination.

Now they have to make sure that they don’t mess up everything.

It could still happen. We’re Democrats.

Nate Silver:

Are Democrats (well, some of them) celebrating too soon? Could the health care bill have gotten 60 votes in the Senate only to be doomed to failure in the House, which much reconcile its own, more liberal version of the legislation with that passed by the Upper Chamber?

As Ramesh Ponnuru argues, there are certainly no guarantees. But if I were a conservative, I wouldn’t be holding out more than a thin sliver of hope — probably not more than a 10 percent chance — that the bill could still be defeated.

Nate also argues that there’s less difference of opinion on the left than meets the eye.  

And if you want to argue that the appropriate progressive reaction to the bill is a lukewarm one, and that it would be premature to celebrate while the bill can and should still be improved, I certainly don’t have a problem with that. Implicitly, in fact, that’s what a lot of people — particularly Markos, Howard Dean, the unions, and Darcy Burner but also many others — have been saying all along. The differences I have with those folks are more semantic than substantive, and I apologize to anyone to whom I’ve conveyed the wrong impression.

That’s because substantive policy disagreements are not personal disagreements.

Ruth Marcus:

We are, or so we are told by conservative commentators and politicians, supposed to be indignant, outraged, horrified at the fact that lawmakers with bargaining power extracted special deals for their states in the negotiations over health care reform.

“Prostitution has been legalized in Washington, D.C.,” railed Rush Limbaugh. “Backroom deals that amount to bribes,” lamented South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Give me a break.

You may not like it. It’s certainly not pretty. But this kind of political horse-trading has been around since the dawn of politics, if not the dawn of horses. So the protestations of fury from opponents of the measure are awfully hard to take.

Dan Laffoley:

For the many disappointments of the recent climate talks in Copenhagen, there was at least one clear positive outcome, and that was the progress made on a program called Reducing Emissions From Deforestation and Forest Degradation. Under this program, key elements of which were agreed on at Copenhagen, developing countries would be compensated for preserving forests, peat soils, swamps and fields that are efficient absorbers of carbon dioxide, the primary heat-trapping gas linked to global warming.

Betsy Karasik:

There is no assurance that the new plan will be successful, and there remain many obstacles to the wolves’ recovery. At the last count in January, there were only two breeding pairs among the 52 wild Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico. I may never see a Mexican gray wolf in the wild. But one lethal loop of red tape has been cut. And somewhere in the desert Southwest, a tiny population of exceedingly rare and beautiful wolves continues to defy the label: “extinct in the wild.”

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Derek Jeter is the Daily News’ New Yorker of the Year

December 27th, 2009 admin No comments

New Yorkers rallied because here were winners and because, far more important, here were winners with unique class. Jeter class.

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Terrorist led life of privilege before attack on Flight 253

December 27th, 2009 admin No comments

Police in London scoured Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s swanky apartment Saturday in search of clues as to what – or who – might have led the 23-year-old to try to blow up a packed jet over Detroit.

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iToos M6HD PMP outputs 1080i without breaking anyone’s bank

December 27th, 2009 admin No comments

There’s really only two things you need to know about the iToos M6HD PMP, and at the risk of repeating the headline: it can output 1080i via HDMI and its price is pretty hard to argue with. As for the fine print, we’re looking at a 4.3-inch TFT screen with 1360 x 768 resolution, 4GB internal memory upgradeable via memory card, and the usual variety of codecs you’ve come to expect from Asian PMPs, including FLAC audio and H.264 video. According to Akihabara News, it technically retails for only $58.50, but for the moment the best we’ve is online retailer Ownta for pocket change under $87.

iToos M6HD PMP outputs 1080i without breaking anyone’s bank originally appeared on Engadget on Sun, 27 Dec 2009 05:38:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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