this one's not quite dead yet
eldred updates
Posted: 2003-03-13 13:47
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Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Stuff

Lawrence Lessig, the Stanford law professor who served as lead counsel on the Eldred v. Ashcroft case, has finally updated his blog with some info about the case, namely that a petition for rehearing has been denied. He notes that 'such petitions are never granted any more', but are commonly filed anyway, so that the case doesn't just fade into nothingness. This marks the end of the Eldred case; one can only hope this end brings about a new beginning in perception of copyright law. More of my thoughts of the case will come soon.

Also on the Eldred front, whilst reading Code and Other Laws Of Cyberspace, I became compelled to finally finish my letter to Congress about the Eldred decision. The versions sent to Sen. Corzine, Sen. Lautenberg, and Rep. Chris Smith have been added to the Files section. The content of each letter is the same; they differ only in the addressee and the greeting, so if you've read one, there's no need to read either of the others.

As previously mentioned, I am working on a synopsis of the BALANCE Act, which should be posted sometime tonight or tomorrow.

Lastly, I've added to the files section a piece by Geoffrey Heard about what a war with Iraq might be about. It's a lengthy read, but it's very well written and most definitely worth the time.

sense and stupidity
Posted: 2003-03-11 11:42
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Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Stuff

For the first time since his arrest, Jose Padilla is being allowed to talk with a lawyer, after being held without access to counsel since June 2002. The government's argument for continued detention without a lawyer was that Padilla would be convinced by an attorney not to share knowledge of future attacks with the government. The practice of holding American citizens without the Constitutional right to a lawyer was defended by John Ashcroft, saying that giving these people the trial they are Constitutionally guaranteed could 'reveal intelligence secrets, sources and methods.'

This is yet another part of our Constitution that has been ripped to shreds by the Bush administration, who puts a few government secrets over the very rights and principles on which this country was founded.

18 judges were sworn in at the International Criminal Court today. Missing from the event is any representative of the US, since Bush withdrew support for the court in 2001, claiming that it would unfairly target Americans. Bush has sought treaties with other countries so that US citizens would not face a trial at the hand of the court, which deals primarily with handling war crimes and crimes against humanity. By shunning the court, and by then signing treaties with countries to prevent the trial of US citizens, it seems Bush is nervous that someone is going to be put before the court and convicted of war crimes. It's not much of a stretch to imagine that would be Bush himself.

From the this-just-in department, the Austin American Statesman is reporting that the US & UK may push back their deadline for Saddam to disarm by a month. From the stupidest-things-ever department, 3 restaurants serving the House Of Representatives will be changing the names for French fries and French toast to 'Freedom Fries' and 'Freedom Toast' to protest the French opposition to war with Iraq. The French had no comment, except that french fries come from Belgium.

US airlines would have to cut up to 70,000 jobs and face a loss of up to $7 billion if there's a war with Iraq, they say. The airlines are seeking help from Congress in the form of tax breaks and loans, on top of the relief they're getting to try and recover from an estimated $20 billion loss since 9/11. Wonder why there's a federal budget deficit now? War and corporate welfare.

balancing act
Posted: 2003-03-10 07:28
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Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Stuff

Last week, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren introduced H.R. 1066, the "Benefit Authors without Limiting Advancement or Net Consumer Expectations" (BALANCE) Act. The bill seeks to amend the DMCA to allow more exceptions for non-commercial uses and for fair-use. I will be writing a summary of the act sometime this week, until then, check out some of the other info about it (Lofgren's press release or the Slashdot discussion, for example).

A prime contender for the Darwin Awards, SCO is suing IBM for $1,000,000,000 (one billion dollars), alleging IBM misappropriated proprietary UNIX technology into their Linux offerings. SCO's basis for the accusation? They say that there's no way IBM could have done what it has without the use of the other technology. No conclusive evidence, just a very weak circumstantial claim that I'm sure can and will be easily defeated. While SCO (who is also one of the partners of UnitedLinux) says this lawsuit has nothing to do with Linux, it's clear that there will definitely be an effect. Sun is positioning Solaris as an alternative to IBM's AIX, making the claim that they control all the code in Solaris and so this would never happen. It's rumored that Suse, whose distribution is the basis for UnitedLinux, is considering pulling support for it based on the actions of SCO. I'm going to sit back, laugh, and watch SCO be crushed under the weight of their own stupidity.
(Additional links: interview with Linus, SCO page about the suit, speculative comment from Bruce Perens)

In what can only be considered hypocrisy of the worst kind, Wired is reporting that the US is stocking depleted uranium bombs to be used against Iraq. Despite the fact that depleted uranium is 40% as radioactive as pure, with a half-life of 4.5 billion years, and that the particles from an explosion can carry in the wind away from the impact zone toward civilian populations, and the reports of 'Gulf War Syndrome' from the use of depleted uranium in the Gulf War, the Pentagon claims that it is completely harmless to both military and civilian personnel. So it would seem it's ok for the US to kill innocent Iraqis, when we don't even have any business in the country in the first place, but not for Saddam.

This leads me to something I mentioned a while back, regarding the effectiveness of the UN. Who watches the watchers? What country will take any action against the US should we decide to do something that would be against the principles of the UN? Who has stopped us so far for the things we have done? The answer is no one. There's not a single country in the world that has both the capability and the desire to take us on, and as long as that's the case, people like Bush will be able to get away with whatever they want, without any fear of repercussion. This means that the UN is little more than a puppet for whoever has the most power. Since the US has veto power on the Security Council, it could (and no doubt would) veto any resolution calling for some action against them, and the same would go for the General Assembly. The UN cannot be effective so long as any of it's members can act with impunity, and then have the power to veto any calls to action against them.

CNN apparently thinks it knows more about what Russia will do if a vote comes than the Russian minister or president do. This report, with the headline 'Russian minister vows Iraq veto', very concise and very clear. Yet, reading just 3 paragraphs into the article, we see that "The minister, however, did not use the word 'veto' and his boss, President Vladimir Putin, who has the ultimate decision on the matter, has not said what Russia will do.", making the headline completely wrong, and blatant sensationalism. Further evidence that the mass media cannot be trusted.

Congressman Ron Paul has a list of questions that won't be asked about Iraq. 35 questions without answers; 35 questions that deserve answers.

The Adam Kosmin Saga, Part I
Posted: 2003-03-06 22:50
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Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Stuff

Yesterday, Adam Kosmin had his first day in court against Toshiba. Adam, with about 6 others in support of his case, were present at the Queens County Courthouse, particularly Small Claims Court. The night was rather uneventful, after waiting to find out where we were going, we ended up waiting in a long line outside one of the courtrooms. After waiting for a while, we were moved to a different courtroom, where Adam and the lawyer from Toshiba discussed their side of the case with 2 women, who I assume were there to try and talk them into taking the case into arbitration. Since any agreement reached in arbitration would be binding, without the possibility of appeal, and that an arbitration agreement wouldn't set any precedent for future cases like this, Adam wisely decided that he wanted the case to be heard before a judge. Before the night was through, he and the Toshiba lawyer had a brief conference before a judge, where they each presented their side of the case. Since this was the first time the case had come up in court, and since there is a backlog of older cases still waiting for a hearing, this hearing was postponed until April 23, 2003.

It was not a wasted night, however. We did find out what the major arguments of the Toshiba case are. Number one, they claim that they have a contract with the buyer that supercedes the EULA provided by Microsoft, two, the Microsoft EULA is not their responsibility (seems to contradict their argument for point 1), and that the customer has express knowledge that Windows came installed on the machine but bought it anyway. We also know that we need to be a little better prepared for next time, and to help that, a couple of suggestions were made, like looking for pro bono help, or seeing if any law students would be interested in helping with the case. Also, the possibility of seeking an expert witness to demonstrate that the OS is not tied to the hardware was mentioned, and this avenue may be pursued if needed.

The important thing to take note of is that this case is no longer simply about the monetary value of the refund, it's the precedent that a case like this would set, and the floodgates it could potentially open. I wish Adam the best of luck with any future proceedings (which I hope to be able to attend), and I ask that you help to spread the word about the case and just about the Windows refund provision in general.

Please note, by 'we' I refer to Adam's side, which I support. Any opinions expressed here are mine and not necessarily those of anyone else supporting Adam.

one government to rule them all ...
Posted: 2003-03-05 12:16
1 comment(s)
Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Stuff

Tonight, I will be in attendance at the Small Claims Court of the Queens Couny Courthouse. Why? To witness a hearing on a case brought by Adam Kosmin against Toshiba. The issue in the case? Toshiba's failure to uphold the following provision of the Windows 2000 EULA:


In this case, Toshiba failed to provide a refund despite Mr. Kosmin's attempts to obtain it. I feel this is a very important issue, as if Toshiba is found to not have to provide a refund, the Windows EULA will be an entirely one-sided contract, and you are effectively forced to pay for Windows whether or not you use it.

I've decided to close the current poll, with the result an even tie at 14 votes. No doubt there was some ballot-stuffing taking place, but not on such a large scale as to change the outcome: neither side enjoys a generous lead in opinion.

In other site news, the port of the entire backend to C++ is making progress, if all goes well it should be unveiled within 2 weeks.

There's also a new file in the Files section, an email from myself to Zoe Lofgren, the California Congresswoman who is behind H.R. 1066, the Digital Choice and Freedom Act.

A few days ago, mkomitee cited this page as 'an excellent rebuttal to the standard "war is bad mmkay" we've been seeing in the words and actions of predominantly european groups, and also in the american anti-war movement.' The page itself is little more than an author's elitist and ad hominem attacks on a (presumably) Dutch writer. If that is an "excellent" rebuttal to an anti-war view, then I would hate to see what a poor one looked like. People like that serve only to lower the standing of their cause, no matter what it may be, when they cannot or do not address the issue, instead stirring up emotion and anger, and claim they're right because they are somehow better than the person they're addressing.

Delta Airlines will begin a 'trial run' of CAPPS (Computer-Aided Passenger Pre-Screening), a program which checks on passenger's backgrounds to determine who is a 'risk'. One of the checks is on a person's credit history. For most of the others, no one outside the program knows. The program provides 3 threat levels, Green, Yellow, and Red, and this rating is encoded on your boarding pass when you check in. This is nothing more than discrimination against people who are suspected (without cause) of being a potential threat. Additionally, the lack of information available about the program leaves a number of other questions, like the length of time that the information will be stored, what factors are checked, and what recourse there is for those who suffer some harm at the hands of this.

Business 2.0 has an article about 'advertainment', which I railed against in this rant. The view there is primarily the business view, so it's a more favorable look, but in any event, it's worth reading for the info it provides, and also a glimpse into the mentality of those who are behind this like that.

Russia, France, and Germany decided today that they will not allow a UN resolution allowing force against Iraq to pass. Colin Powell said that the latest compliance by Iraq is only 'a diversion', a point which the Daily Show mocked, by showing the Bush administration diverting attention away from the economy and Bin Laden with the Iraq showdown. Rumsfeld is quoted as saying Saddam can avoid war, but "[t]o do so, he will have to disarm or leave." Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't he disarming right now?

It should make for amusing rhetoric and lies from the Bush administration, but the humor is dampened by the gravity of the situation. It makes a person wonder, when did we the 'right thing' to do become whatever was on the mind of the President of the US?

update on last update
Posted: 2003-03-03 15:41
No comment(s)
Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Stuff

It has been brought to my attention that some of what I said in my update last night could easily be taken the wrong way, due to inadequate explanation on my part. Since I would prefer not have an opinion about me formed simply by some potentially misleading statements, I'm going to address the major things that need it.

First, I am not against programs like welfare and social security on their principles. Since a big deal was made about the welfare program, I think that it does have a definite place, and there are a number of people out there who are alive today only (partially, at least) through the welfare program. The same goes for social security. The problem I have with these programs isn't even with the programs themselves; it's with the abuses and mismanagement of them. I feel a very strong sense of anger towards those who abuse a program like welfare, which was designed to help people who had no other source of income to eat while they looked for a job, instead using it to cater to expensive tastes they otherwise wouldn't partake it. And the mismanagement of Social Security is at fault for the fact that the program is running at a loss, not those who receive the money from it. If you have any other questions, comments, etc, about my views on this, let me know.

war, aliens, and leeches
Posted: 2003-03-02 21:45
1 comment(s)
Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Stuff

Yesterday, it was reported that Iraq has destroyed 10 of its estimated 120 resolution-infringing al-Samoud 2 missiles. We're talking actually destroyed, not just said they would. And Tony Blair claimed that it was 'a game' by Saddam. This raises the question, exactly what does Iraq have to do to avoid a war?

It seems for every demand that Iraq complies with, it's called a 'joke' or a 'ploy', and 2 more requirements are imposed. An important point seems to be missing from this though, namely that destroying missiles and other weapons takes time. Disarmament is not something that can be expected to occur overnight, nor is it something that should be demanded under the threat of war. What motivation is there for Iraq to disarm itself, when the Bush administration has stated that it will go a war with Iraq alone, seemingly even without a reason like the WMD that Iraq is alleged to have. So if Iraq were to disarm, there is the very possible threat that they'll still be attacked by the US, except that Iraq won't have a way to defend itself. The fact that the Bush administration is now calling for a regime change as a condition to avoiding war shows that the Bush administration seems to be hiding their true motivations, and only revealing them when they feel there is enough public support for an existing, similar measure to begin on their new path. Or, should I say, enough of a chance to mislead the public with fallacious arguments and baseless fear-mongering to drive 'support' of a war.

It certainly appears though, that Bush feels that it takes a war to create peace, saying that a democracy in Iraq will benefit the Middle East as a whole. I fail to see how toppling the government of one of the area's largest countries is going to suddenly make the entire area a more peaceful place. If anything, it would create a greater amount of chaos and increase the likelihood of something happening just due to the massive shake-up that would be happening. Assuming, of course, that Iraq has anything to do with a long-standing conflict that has absolutely nothing to do with them.

An interesting link (first linked on omlette's site) compares the US government to Iraq's. Who has weapons of mass destruction? The US does, Iraq may or may not. Who's preparing to wage an offensive war and invasion? The US is, Iraq is not. While there are no doubt points which this doesn't address (fair & balanced reporting is very hard to come by, and many of those who profess it merely lower the standard for those who actually try and provide it). That comparison, when viewed in close temporal proximity with this short presentation by the Democrats of the House Appropriations Committee, show that Bush is quite willing to say something to appease a large group, and then in his next move, go against everything he said to further his own agenda.

The Bush war machine suffered a setback today, as Turkey failed to pass a vote to allow use of Turkish bases by US forces to attack Iraq. I wonder how long until Bush's post 9/11 'you are either with us, or you are against us' statement is applied and Turkey accused of supporting Saddam and terrorism.

Enough about the war though, another issue has been in the news a lot lately, and I would definitely like to express my feelings on this. The issue is that of Jesica Santillan, the 17 year old girl who received a botched heart/lung transplant and eventually died after a second transplant was ineffective. Did I mention that she was an illegal immigrant from Mexico? Her family paid someone to smuggle them into the US three years earlier to increase her chances of getting a transplant. And indeed, she received two heart and lung transplants, which are the rarest form of transplant. So now, 2 deserving, legal American citizens are forced to wait, and possibly die, because it was felt every effort had to be put forth to save someone who had absolutely no right to be here in the first place. This brings up the question, what created such a media frenzy about this? The first I remember seeing about this issue was about the botched transplant, nothing before that, so I'm going operate on the assumption that's the impetus for all the attention this has drawn. Could the fact that many news programs seem to have it out for hospitals and health care system in general have any effect on this?

I'm sure there are those who are going to say that she deserved that chance at life, even more so after it was bungled the first time. To which I say, if Jesica were to have received the correct transplant the first time, and still died, virtually no one outside of her family and the hospital staff involved would have known or cared about it. But since the operation was messed up once, it was all over the news, and somehow a dying illegal immigrant became the focus of so many people's sympathies and prayers. It's my feeling that if you want to receive public health care in the US, you should, at the very least pay taxes to us. I would very much like for it to be only open to citizens and legal immigrants; people who have legal reasons to be in this country, and who just aren't here because something or other isn't perfect in their country. I find the widespread acceptance of this, and the widespread sympathy people expressed for this girl, to be absolutely wrong. Because of someone who offers absolutely nothing to the US, the government health programs that we the taxpayers fund has spent money which should have been earmarked only for those who paid money towards those same programs. We the taxpayers, the supporters of all government programs, should not have to bear the burden of those seeking a free ride at our expense. The fact that our country still distinguishes between legal and illegal immigrants, has a Border Patrol to keep people from illegally entering our country, and makes efforts to return those who do to their native countries, says that our country is not open to anyone who comes by and asks. It is open to those who will contribute to it; those who put their efforts in to this country are the ones who should see the benefits of their labors.

This line of thought is worthy of elaboration. If I look back at pay stubs from all the jobs I've worked, they all have one thing in common, and that is the taxes that I am forced to pay out of them. Things like unemployment, and in particular, welfare programs. One of my previous jobs was as a cashier for a supermarket. In the year that I worked there, I never once rang up a customer who used food stamps or welfare checks who actually deserved to be getting them. When you see the same people coming back after 6 months, I became very angry at the fact that part of the compensation work I was doing was forcibly going toward programs that give people no reason to ever do anything with their lives. I've seen people who purchase large, expensive steak with their food stamps. If you can use them to buy steak, then you certainly didn't need them in the first place, since steak is hardly something that could be considered anything close to a necessity. And there was the guy who paid for what he could with food stamps, and then use a gold credit card to pay for the rest. These are stories and sentiments I've heard echoed from my co-workers there, and from others who have worked as supermarket cashiers. The sentiment goes beyond that though, many people I've talked to have similar feelings. The problem is the loud and obnoxious 'human rights' groups who feel that the lazy have some sort of natural right to benefit from the work of the willing. Such groups badger politicians with their views, oftentimes making their cause seem far larger than it actually is, in the hopes of convincing this politician that their cause is what a majority of people want, without actually taking the time and effort to find out just what it is the majority actually wants. And even if they did, would that stop them from misreporting those views?

There are always jobs out there, no matter what the conditions may be like. A job at McDonalds may not be very appealing, but it's work, and it's a way of giving effort, and then getting compensating. The phrase 'beggars can't be choosers' comes to mind here. I'm not generalizing people on welfare to beggars. but rather, my point is that there's work out there, and if you need a job, you can't be picky about what it is you do. Unfortunately, we've given people an extra option. It would otherwise be the case that you would either work and get paid, or not work and have no source of income. But we've added programs like unemployment. You don't have to do anything, but you can still make close to $500 a week. That's $500 a week that's paid for by the people who actually are working. Social Security is the same way, those who work now are funneling money to those who didn't have enough foresight to plan on their financial future after retirement. There is absolutely no reason that the government should continue to pay retired workers. Especially not a rate greater than that with which money was put into Social Security. As it stands now, it's entirely likely that the funds for Social Security will no longer be adequate within 20 years. That is long before myself or any other member of my generation should plan to retire, and so we won't ever see a cent of this money that we continually feed into the bureaucracy of the federal government.

What else can I say, but this country is heading to hell in a handbasket; I have seen predictions of a major governmental collapse within 50 years. With the actions of the Bush administration, I have a feeling it won't take nearly this long; and the fact that very few people are expressing and kind of discontent with these policies (the war being the exception, there is quite a large upswelling of public opposition to that) is only serving to expedite the process. And if it were only the US, it might not be so bad, because there would be other places where freedom was still a right enjoyed by the people. The problem is the US pushing it's weight around in an attempt to 'harmonize' other countries to the US system. Threats of sanctions and embargoes by a major power such as the US is often enough to cause a smaller government to just give in, and abandon those things which made it different than the US. No country on this planet has any system of government that is well-suited for use on a global scale, the Unites States included. But yet we seem to have taken it upon ourselves to the humanitarians of the world, yet at the same time the warriors of the world. The same people who on one hand support unity and solidarity on certain issues are the same who turn around and then decide to wage a war.

I think 'Not in my name' (I refer the phrase, not the organization) sums everything up best; I am an American citizen, but I do not support a government action against Iraq (not without any provocation), and I have opposition to many, many parts of the inflated and unworkable behemoth that has become the federal bureaucracy. Not in My name, indeed.

creative commons
Posted: 2003-02-28 10:35
1 comment(s)
Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Stuff

As arsjerm noticed last night, and possibly others have, there's something different than a regulay copyright notice. Instead, there's mention of a Creative Commons license.

What's a Creative Commons license?
Creative Commons licenses are licensing options for creative works such as writings, but instead of reserving all rights, reserve only some rights to me as the author.

Some rights? Which ones?
Under the license I have chosen, anyone may use any content found on this site, so long as it is attributed to me. The same applies to any works derived from anything here, it's allowed as long as I am credited as the original author.

For those who know me well enough, you'll know that I've recently been reading the Supreme Court decisions in the Eldred v Ashcroft case, relating to the term of copyrights. I feel that placing the content of my site under a license such as this is very beneficial to the public at large, since it is a mere step above placement in the public domain.

What about comments?
When you post a comment, you have the copyright to it. Without explicitly transferring ownership to me, you own your comment. The license only applies to that content which is created by me.

If you have any questions or comments about this, please contact me.

something to pass along
Posted: 2003-02-27 10:39
4 comment(s)
Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Stuff

I got this in my email last night, and for increased public consumption I'll pass it along here.

WHEN: Wed., March 5, gather at 5:30PM
WHERE: Assemble at Hillary Clinton's office, 780 Third Ave. (47th & 48th)
BRING: Candles, signs and drums
Sponsored by United for Peace and Justice NYC, NYC Forum of Concerned Religious Leaders, and Not in Our Name

We rallied on February 15 -- and NOW WE WILL MARCH IN PEACE to prevent this war! Our march will be in conjunction with a national day of action, including student actions taking place on over 300 campuses around the country.

Senators Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer voted "yes" on the resolution to send our country into war on Iraq. They must be held accountable! Let's show them that New Yorkers say NO to war!

Join us for a legal candlelight march on the sidewalks of OUR city, led by community, religious, political and labor leaders. We will begin outside Hillary Clinton's office (780 Third Ave. @ 47th), proceed downtown past Chuck Schumer's office (757 Third Ave. @ 46th), and march peacefully from there to Washington Square Park for a candlelight vigil.

For more information, contact or

For more information on the March 5 student strike, see

For more information on the March 5 national moratorium, contact or see

I work right nearby, and may be going, if you're interested, let me know.

Posted: 2003-02-26 10:06
No comment(s)
Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Stuff

Just a brief blurb about the poll, what it's asking is, do you support a war on Iraq given what we have now, not what we might find.

two sides of the same coin
Posted: 2003-02-25 08:25
No comment(s)
Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Stuff

First, sorry for the lack of updates as of late, I have been busy and also without much to say. Plus, it's hard to get anything done when every waking moment outside of work is spent fixing a computer, beit yours or someone else's. Without SSH though, I don't know where I would be; as I recompile Gentoo remotely from work.

Second, there have been a couple of updates to the backend, with more coming in the next few days. Most of it's hidden stuff, but the main addition is that of an 'Old Polls' link beneath the poll box, which allows you to see the results of all the old polls. Most everything else I'm doing is administrative related, but I'm known to randomly add features without thought or warning *cough*fortune*cough*.

Which brings us to the happenings over the past week. Two separate club incidents left a total of 118 people dead due to human stupidity. 302 people died in an Iranian plane crash, which has been grossly under-reported in the American news, while the nightclub deaths are all over. The same can be said for the at least 260 dead in an earthquake in China. Bush and Blair continued their press going to war with Iraq. Most humorous is Blair's quote: "I do not want war."

mkomitee recently called into question the significance of the UN if it were to do nothing about Iraq. To which I must ask, what gave the UN or any of it's member nations the right to force their policy on another member for no reason whatsoever? What gave the UN the right to call for crippling economic sanctions against a member, which have resulted in the deaths of over a million Iraqi civilians? When did it become the 'right' and 'humanitarian' thing to do to cause suffering and death to an untold number of innocent people? People who support their leader only for show, people who have done no wrong to the world, are being killed by this decision of the UN. And it makes me wonder - why? Why are we involved Iraq at all? Here we stand, on the brink of war with a country that has taken no aggressive action in the past 10 years, a country that we have contributed to the ruin of, and without any provocation, we are needlessly meddling in their affairs.

The UN measure calling for disarmament in Iraq has been around since 1991, but only now, on the push of George Bush against Iraq, is anything being done. The UN has shown itself to be little more than a puppet for the interests of the US government under the guise of being a humanitarian organization.

Just as the League of Nations failed because of lack of support, so shall the UN fail because it has no strength of it's own. If the US were to defy the UN, not a thing would be done to stop it, short of wasting a lot of breath talking about it. Why is Iraq different? Because they've been labeled 'evil', associated with the 9/11 terrorists in spite of no evidence of ANY connection whatsoever, and made to look like the most likely cause of another attack. Yet North Korea, who recently restarted it's nuclear program, and has publicly stated it has missiles capable of reaching the US, is ignored. I would definitely consider North Korea to be much more of a threat that Iraq, they definitely have the will and the potential to initiate a large attack on the US, whereas Iraq lacks that, having only its animosity towards the US.

I wonder, if North Korea were to attack us, would the government even notice? Or would Bush be too busy working on his smokescreen in Iraq to even notice or care?

As I've stated before, I am not opposed to war, if it's justified. If Iraq were to attack us, I would have no problem with us fighting back. What I do have a problem with, however, is an unjustified war than can only be considered a war of aggression on our part. A war of aggression, the same thing we are ostensibly trying to prevent in Iraq. Does a definite war of aggression to stop a potential war of aggression justify itself?

Turning to a rant from last week, we see the poll favors the idea that America is too commercial. No one was sure enough to vote No, though there were a number of votes for Unsure. On a related note, I have been trying to locate a copy of 'No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies', which seems to tie in a lot with the content of said rant. jmoiron pointed me to a GNN report called Coca-Karma, which makes for a very good read if you have the time.

fear will keep the local systems in line
Posted: 2003-02-21 11:05
No comment(s)
Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Stuff

An oil tanker exploded near Staten Island this morning. Authorities say there is no evidence of terrorism. Take a look at the lower left corner of this screen capture from MSNBC's coverage:

MSNBC screen capture

Apparently they feel it necessary to remind people of the High terror alert as they show footage of what might have been, but wasn't, a terrorist attack. This comes on the heels of the unveiling of the new 'Be Ready' campaign from the Department of Homeland Security. Their oh-so-helpful website has some strange images that make little sense, and offers advice that completely contradicts common sense. As mocked on the Daily Show, if you are on fire, don't run. If confronted with a giant aerosol can, stop, think for a minute, and walk away. The TV commercials are even better, when members of the NYPD and FDNY talk about 'getting through this' (getting through what?) and Tom Ridge tells us that every family should be prepared for a terrorist attack (likened to hurricanes in Florida and earthquakes in California).

Why? One possible explanation, though it may sound like a conspiracy theory, is that the government wants to keep the public afraid, so that they're more willing to support things like the 'Patriot' 2 act. It was fear that got the first act passed, and I'm more than willing to bet that an artificial threat created by our government will create fear amidst which this bill will be introduced.

right-wing religious zealots
Posted: 2003-02-20 10:07
No comment(s)
Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Stuff

first, a start with a quote:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.
-- Dwight Eisenhower, April 16, 1953

this quote, obtained from a fortune and first spread through the omlettesoft webchat, was parodied by arsjerm. ignoring that part of his latest update, we see that i've been accused of being a 'leftist liberal' and a 'rioting, slandering nincompoop'.

first, i point you to a recent posting by jmoiron, which seemingly addresses this exact point, despite having been posted 2 days prior to the libel of arsjerm. secondly, how much trust would you put into the words of a conservative religious rightist? from a member of an organization which sides with bush because he prays, i am yet to see anything from him addressing the issue at hand here, besides gross generalizations that are entirely baseless and totally incorrect.

in the interest of brevity, and on the fact that this is jerm's first offense, i shall progress no further with this at the present time.

a 'real' update will be made tonight.

America, a Coca-Cola© country
Posted: 2003-02-18 13:40
2 comment(s)
Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Stuff

Walking through Times Square station on my way to work this morning, I became more aware of something I'd always noticed, and always just pushed into the back of my mind - advertising is EVERYWHERE. Spaced less than 2 feet apart down the entire tunnel were ads. This isn't the only place like this, at one point or another both Verizon and Johnnie Walker had taken over all the ad space at the Hoboken PATH station. As in, every single ad there was for them.

It seems that everywhere we turn, we're bombarded with more advertising. We have games with product placement, increasingly longer runs of commercials on TV ('For every 30 minutes of network television, there are approximately 22 minutes of the actual show and 8 minutes of commercials.', meaning over a quarter of a show's 'usable' time (the whole half hour) is commercials), commercials before movies and on DVDs, popups & banners on the Internet, sponsored stadiums/arenas/other buildings, and even more beyond that. Each of these, I think, deserves to be elaborated on.

Product Placement in Games

The most notable example of this is The Sims Online. McDonald's is featured in the game as a prime way to satisfy a character's hunger, with the side effect of also increasing that character's Fun rating. Don't want to eat McDonald's in-game? Too bad, there's no choice. This blatant product placement (and also the completely unnecessary correspondence to an unrelated game stat) detracts from the game as a game, turning it towards being an interactive commercial.

And what exactly did this 'sell-out' accomplish? The game still sells for $50 plus the monthly fee, so the revenue from this certainly wasn't passed along to the players, instead going towards lining the pockets of some EA execs.

Longer Commercial Breaks On TV

As noted above, more than 1/4th of the average half-hour of television is commercials. This number is even worse when you're in the closing of a suspenseful Fox show, like Joe Millionaire, with a 'teaser' recap show that was only a money-grubbing action on Fox's part, or Greed, which cut to commercials 3 times before finally showing the last minute of the show.

It seems that advertisers just want to get their names into our heads by sheer repitition. It's not uncommon for the exact same ad to appear twice during the same break on the same network, and a virtual certainty that any ad you see, you will see again the next break.

It's even better since, with the exception of basic broadcast, cable & satellite channels are a subscription service. We're charged for the channels, and then also are shown ads on them. It's getting worse now, some networks (Discovery Channel comes to mind) have annoying and intrusive ads for their own programming be shown over the bottom of the screen. Annoying and irritating because these ads are animated, and distract from the show. I can't imagine it'll be long before one network sells that space for ads (or has someone already?)

Commercials Before Movies

The price for a movie ticket in NY is $10. At the AMC Theater near where I live, it's $8. So I've paid money to see a movie, and for at least 5 minutes before it starts, I'm stuck watching ads. Not the slides that they show when the lights are still on, I mean full-motion ads, shown right before the previews. And not just ones for the concession stand; I've seen ads for, AFI, Lego Mindstorms, and some game which I can't remember the name of. And for what? These ads don't bring down the price of my ticket, I actually pay more now that I did years ago before there were ads (though the ads aren't responsible for that at all).

Commercials on DVDs

This is quite similar to commercials before movies, in that commercials are shown in front of content I've already paid to see (and in the case of a DVD, paid to own a copy of). Yet some companies put unskippable commercials (see section 2) at the front of the DVD. After paying $20 for a DVD, why should someone be forced to watch commercials every time they want to view the movie? The fact that getting around this is illegal is a subject for a whole other write-up, but the fact is that it's a misuse of a technology to force ads on the public.

Popups & Banners

Anyone who uses the Web has undoubtedly encountered banner ads, and almost certainly popups. Popups are bothersome enough that some ISPs are offering popup blockers as part of their service, and some browsers have a popup blocker included and enabled by default. Banner ads were generally considered the 'right' way to do Internet advertising, at least to me, until ad companies starting doing Flash ads. I've seen Flash ads that expand to take up the whole screen, ones that have sound, and ones that hang my browser. This sort of invasive, disruptive advertising actually accomplishes the opposite purpose, I know that I would never buy or visit the site of someone whose ad crashes/disrupts any part of my computer. Conversely, when a banner or text ad is done right (Google being the #1 example of this), I do click on the ad, if only to to support that site in some small way. This differs from the other things I've mentioned so far in that many of these sites don't have any other way to obtain income, and advertising is the only thing they can do to offset some of the cost of keeping the site up. Movies and TV have no excuse, because I've already paid them, and then I have to be fed ads to make them even more money.


Think back 10 years, about how many sponsored stadiums you can remember. I for one can't think of any. Nowadays though, we have 3Com Park (formerly Candlestick Park), Enron Field (now Minute Maid park, the old stadium being the Astrodome), the First Union Spectrum (formerly the Corestates Spectrum, originally just the Spectrum), and so on. So much of sports tradition in naming is being lost to corporate sponsorship. As shown by Houston's Enron Field, we see that a corporate name is hardly a permanent or dependable thing, this one having come and gone within 2 years, while the Astrodome name was around since 1965, or about 35 years, lasting the entire life of the stadium. But it's not just stadiums which suffer from this sponsorship; NASCAR has a racing series called the Winston Cup, which from it's inception has been sponsored by Winston, the cigarrete company. Recently, though, RJ Reynolds (which owns the Winston name), has made it clear it's through with sponsoring the series, possibly sooner than the 2007 date it's contract with NASCAR is through. NASCAR itself seems to be little more than a money-making venture, with all the sponsorship of the cars, and it seems that any entertainment is provides is only secondary.
This isn't just confined to sports though. On my walk from work to the PA Bus Terminal, I typically walk past the Ford Theater. Ford as in Ford Motors, evident since the Ford logo appears all over the building. I'm sure there are plenty of other examples of this just in NY alone.

Hallmark Holidays

Secretary's Day (apparently this is now Administrative Professional's Day). Boss's Day. Mother's Day. Father's Day. Just a few of the 'holidays' that are artificially created by companies like Hallmark so that they can squeeze money out of the public when they feel compelled to buy cards and gifts for people.

Even More

Beyond those, we have some other advertising ideas that are just plain stupid. There's a company that wants to buy advertising space on college students' foreheads and stories of Pepsi and Coca-Cola grafitting pristine natural formations. There were rumors of a Pepsi game show with up to a $1 billion prize; contestants would be winners of a contest (one of those bottle cap-type ones).

And it's not like the quality of advertising has gone up. It's been quite some time since I've seen a commercial I didn't think was stupid, even after putting aside my dislike for them in general. A short discussion with Joe about this brought about the logical idea that nearly all advertising is aimed at the stupid people, and since it's so prevalant, there must be a lot of stupid people. Which won't get any argument from me, but still, either I underestimate or ad agencies overestimate the number of stupid people who will be viewing their ads.

Before I'm labeled anti-capitalist, I want to go on record as saying I'm not opposed to capitalism. I also want to say I think that socialism is a good idea on paper, though it will never work in practice. The whole point that I'm trying to make here is not that companies shouldn't advertise, they exist to make money, but it's certainly not a right that they have. And when their desire to make money, and the actions they take toward this end, go too far and become nothing but ridiculous, something needs to be done, like evaluating the effectiveness of current techniques, and coming up with something new, innovative, and effective. When done properly, advertising can be an effective tool, but the overcommercialization of nearly everything in America has greatly decreased the potential impact that it can have.

And now, having spent much of the day working on this, I prepare for my trip home, which will have me on the ad-laden subway, to a bus with a ads on it's sides. The other option would be to take the PATH, with the same level of ads as the subway, but with the added 'benefit' of seeing the flashy animated commercials that are displayed between 23rd & 14th street stations along the wall of the tunnel.

rally, et. al
Posted: 2003-02-17 00:07
No comment(s)
Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Stuff

Yeah, it's the update I'm sure you've all been on the edge of your seats waiting for. Or not. Anyway, yesterday's anti-war rally, I was one of an estimated half million people to take to the streets of Manhattan to protest an 'imminent' and 'inevitable' war with Iraq. Overall, it was a very well-organized and well-run event, despite generally cattle-like treatment from the NYPD, effectively forcing us to march, in spite of the fact that the organizations behind the rally didn't have a permit for that.

This in and of itself warrants more telling. After arriving at Grand Central station, myself, Jay, Krupnick, and Christian walked down 42nd street to 3rd avenue, expecting to walk to 1st ave and then uptown to 49th street, the announced 'center point' of the rally. Upon arriving at 3rd ave, we saw that there was quite a large crowd there, and that the NYPD had closed off 42nd street east of 3rd avenue. Figuring a walk uptown was going to have to happen anyway, we began the slow process of walking up from 42nd street to 66th street. When we got to 53rd street, however, an impasse was reached. the NYPD was holding people back from pressing north or east. Chants of "let us pass" and "whose streets? our streets!" could be heard from every direction, to little or no avail. We discovered that it was possible to continue, and proceeded uptown to 66th street, at which point we were able to cross over to 2nd ave. From there, we had to walk up to 72nd street to cross over to 1st ave, necessitating a walk downtown just to be in visual range of the stage. We made it as far down as about 58th street, where we could press on no further due to the immense crowd. Before long though, the end of the rally was announced, and the dispersal began. At jew's suggestion, we walked from about 60th street down to 34th, so that he could meet up with some group he's involved with. When we got there, the building was locked, and we decided to go home. Crossing 5th ave though, we looked uptown and saw a rather large group of protesters who were blocking off 5th avenue. Who these people were, why they were there, or what became of them, I do not know, but I think it's safe to assume they were also part of an anti-war protest.

Also of note were some of the signs people were carrying. "Drop Bush, not bombs." "Bomb Texas! They have oil too!" "How many lives per gallon?" "Empty warheads found in Washington" (with accompanying pictures of Bush, Rumsfeld, and others with obvious empty-headedness). These were the most memorable of the signs, though I believe the greatest was this: A picture of Uncle Sam followed by the text

To die a horrible meaningless death to sustain a lifestyle that will ultimately destroy the earth

All this took place under 'orange alert', which, it has been learned, was raised on the basis of false information. Government intelligence shown once again as the oxymoron it really is. The fact that nothing happened comes as absolutely no surprise to me; if something was going to happen, our government wouldn't know about it or be able to do anything, so they just pretend to know of attacks that are 'almost certain' to happen, but never materialize. It's almost like the boy who cried wolf; if they do this enough, people will stop taking the alert seriously (of course, there are people (like me) that never took it seriously to begin with).

In other news, NATO decided to provide Turkey with defense in case of a war, over the objections of France (who is not a member of the Defense Council); the San Francisco rally drew upwards of 200,000 people; and CNN is lying to us (a lie of omission is still a lie).

Pictures from yesterday's rally will be available shortly, thanks to the camera of arsjerm and the photographic skills of jay.