Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Lou Dobbs vs. Reality -- Who Will Win?

I read an article in the New York Times today that talked about how a Lou Dobbs guest incorrectly cited the number of leprosy cases inside the United States over the past 3 years as being 7,000, when that total applies to the number of cases over the past 30 years.

It's bad enough that this lie was ever allowed to air, but instead of Mr. Dobbs, when confronted on "60 Minutes" about it, accepting the possibility that an error might have been made on his program, he boasted,
“Well, I can tell you this. If we reported it, it’s a fact.”

What media outlet, whether mainstream or not, can afford to be so cocky about its accuracy in the age of instant, bottoms-up fact checking via the blogosphere?

Aside from this, I just feel like "Lou Dobbs Tonight" is not really a news program, but an editorial program with the filtered (and apparently in some cases, falsified) news sprinkled in to make it feel legitimate.

Just like the corners of newspapers containing news-looking ads are required to contain somewhere the word "advertisement", shouldn't there be a disclaimer at the start of "Lou Dobbs Tonight" that says something like "For Infotainment Purposes Only"?

Monday, May 28, 2007

Online dating blurs the rules

So I met this guy on Yahoo! Personals and he seemed like a really cool guy. We talked on the phone for over a half hour on Thursday, and I enjoyed it. I then said we'd continue the conversation tomorrow, as it was late. But I never called back, and neither did he.

Then on Saturday, I gave him a call to see if he was still up for doing something on Sunday or Monday, as we had discussed earlier in the week. I never heard back.

Is it the fact that this started through an online dating site that the rules of courtesy don't seem to apply (both for me not calling him back originally on Friday, and for him ever calling me back at all)? I know nothing was ever set in stone, but somehow I feel like because we started online, the ephemerality of it all just makes it seem like less of a big deal if someone doesn't get back to someone else.

Maybe I should try bars again. :-)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Amazon Movies Unboxed on My TiVo

I tried out for the first time yesterday Amazon's Unbox Video-on-Demand service and its integration with TiVo.

The link process between my Amazon and TiVo accounts was quick and painless, and the process of ordering a movie rental couldn't be more straightforward.

Unfortunately, even with a fast 802.11g wireless network, the download of the movie ("Casino Royale") onto my TiVo Series 2 took almost as long as the movie itself runs. More importantly, all motion (whether it was a car chase or simply the movement of people across a room) was distractingly blurry throughout. It kind of felt like you were watching the movie in a perpetual, drug-induced haze.

Maybe Amazon Unbox through TiVo works well for movies in which there isn't much action, but for action films, I think you'll start to get dizzy just watching them.

I think this is a great first try, and I look forward to future improvements.

Giving the President His Props

I was home sick the other day and had the opportunity to watch President Bush conduct his apparently 35th (according to CNN) press conference in the Rose Garden outside the White House (transcript available).

I was not surprised at all at his continued stubborn insistence in the belief that the world is safer without Saddam in it (it's not; see "Iraq"), nor his repeated attempts to link 9/11 to the need for the Iraq invasion (there are no such links, though he's done a good job of giving al Qaeda an opportunity now to set up camp in Iraq).

Where I was pleasantly surprised, though, is in some of the language that he was using (I think for the first time in some cases) to praise some of the elements of the Iraq Study Group Report and in even (I couldn't even believe my ears) liking to "see us in a different configuration at some point in time in Iraq". I'm not saying "we've turned the corner" on Bush's Iraq policy, but I was at least heartened by the slight change in tone.

Where I think the President deserves the most credit, though, is in actually making some articulate, reasoned arguments for a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Here's a sample:
People will come here to do work to feed their families, and they'll figure out ways to do so. As a result of people wanting to come here to do work to feed their families, there is an underground industry that has sprung up that I think is essentially anti-humanitarian. It is an industry based upon coyotes -- those are smugglers. Good, hardworking, decent people pay pretty good size money to be smuggled into the United States of America.

There is a document forgery industry in America. There are people who are willing to stuff people inside temporary shelter in order for them to evade the law. I don't think this is American. I think the whole industry that exploits the human being is not in our nation's interests. And the best way to deal with this problem is to say, if you're going to come and do jobs Americans aren't doing, here is a opportunity to do so, on a temporary basis.

I would much rather have people crossing the border with a legitimate card, coming to work on a temporary basis, than being stuffed in back of an 18-wheeler. And I would hope most Americans feel that, as well.

I'm not saying President Bush has all the answers, or that there are not serious flaws in the immigration bill that need to be addressed. I'm just saying that at least on one issue, President Bush has taken the time to think about some of the alternatives, and has realized and articulated that the ones espoused by the most conservative people on this issue in Congress are simply not workable. Hopefully some of those conservatives were listening.

Richardson's MTP Implosion

I saw Gov. Bill Richardson on Meet the Press this morning, and wow, was I disappointed.

I had heard great things about him, especially in terms of his experience with international diplomacy and energy efficiency/independence. And I heard some great ideas from him on both fronts during this interview.

But when asked why he decided to join the board of an oil refinery company that recently bragged it would have even bigger profits due to the squeeze on supply, he answered, multiple times, "I have to make a living", in some form or another.

Is there no other way to make a living than by working for the board of a company whose policies typically directly contradict yours with respect to energy efficiency and independence?

What is Richardson's ethical guidelines for choosing to serve on the board of a company? Has he none?

Another thing that disturbed me was his switch in stance on the assault weapons ban. He originally voted for it, but then voted to repeal it as a representative of the state of New Mexico. His argument? He's a Western governor and he needs to represent his constituents. Well, he's not going to be a Western president!

I know this gets into the gray area of what views an elected representative should espouse once in office--his/her own or that of his constituency--but I honestly believe that if you think giving uzis to hunters is unnecessary one day, you shouldn't change that view on another day because you're now in a position where that view is unpopular.

Lastly, Governor Richardson simply needs to do a better job of doing his homework before he speaks.

He was originally for the comprehensive immigration reform bill when it was announced, but now he's against key provisions. The reason? When he announced his initial support, he had only read the bill's summary! Um, if you served in Congress for over a decade, it shouldn't be a shock to you that the devil is in the details. It's perfectly acceptable to say when asked whether you're for a piece of legislation, "While I like the ideas that this bill puts forth in summary form, I'm going to the responsible thing and take some time to study it before I make any judgments one way or the other." What the heck would have been wrong with that?

Governor Richardson has some great ideas, and some real passion to him, but I don't feel his MTP interview was a demonstration of his presidential qualities.