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Tuesday, December 20, 2005  
Bush in April 2004:

Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.

Bush yesterday:
QUESTION: Why did you skip the basic safeguards of asking courts for permission for the intercepts?

ANSWER: First of all, right after September the 11th, I knew we were fighting a different kind of war. And so I asked people in my administration to analyze how best for me and our government to do the job people expect us to do, which is to detect and prevent a possible attack. That's what the American people want. We looked at the possible scenarios. And the people responsible for helping us protect and defend came forth with the current program, because it enables us to move faster and quicker. And that's important. We've got to be fast on our feet, quick to detect and prevent.

We use FISA still -- you're referring to the FISA court in your question -- of course, we use FISAs. But FISA is for long-term monitoring. What is needed in order to protect the American people is the ability to move quickly to detect.

Now, having suggested this idea, I then, obviously, went to the question, is it legal to do so? I am -- I swore to uphold the laws. Do I have the legal authority to do this? And the answer is, absolutely. As I mentioned in my remarks, the legal authority is derived from the Constitution, as well as the authorization of force by the United States Congress.

Get it?

April quote via Dana.


Friday, December 16, 2005  

So much going on, Iraqi elections, multiplying washington money scandals, Bush endorses the McCain act, and the normal lunacy of life in the end times goes on. But I just had to take time out to say: This is the best music video I have ever seen, and this is the best beer commercial I have ever seen. Irrelevant? Obsession with minutia? Fiddling while Rome burns? Well, scrape scrape scrape.

Video via Slate; beer ad via Kate, to whom I'd link but she don't cotton to trespassers.


Monday, December 05, 2005  
John Gorenfeld at Alternet reports that the president's kid brother Neil has been traveling through Asia in the company of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, self-proclaimed messiah and sole proprietor of the loyal Republican Washington Times, promoting (ready for this?) a $200 billion "Peace King Tunnel"--51 underwater miles joining Alaska to Russia.

Forwarded without comment. Because, really, what is there to say?

Update You've probably seen this, but just in case and just for context, here's a link to one of the strangest stories of 2004 (or any other year): Reverend Moon was crowned Messiah last March in the Dirksen Senate Office building, attended by a bipartisan retinue of U.S. Congressmen, asserting that the ghosts of Hitler and Stalin had ordained him as "none other than humanity's Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent."


Thursday, December 01, 2005  
A la carte cable. Zachary Roth at Washington Monthly posts about the FCC's statement in support of a la carte cable:
PRO-CHOICE AT THE FCC....That was quick. Just weeks after the publication of this piece in support of an a la carte cable system (which would require cable companies to let customers select individual channels, instead of being forced to pay for entire packages), FCC chair Kevin Martin has officially come out in favor of a la carte.

Actually, Martin has been inching this way for a while — thanks largely to pressure from social conservatives, who, understandably, don't see why they have to pay for MTV to get the Disney Channel — but it's still significant that he's made it official, since it adds to the pressure on Congress to act. Looks like more and more people are recognizing that the best way to give parents control over what their kids see — not to mention giving everyone a break from skyrocketing cable bills — is to actually give consumers the power of choice.

And yes, I think I can survive without the Oxygen Network.

I have long wished for cable companies (and satellite carriers - the linked articles make it clear that this recommendation applies to them as well) to cut it out with the so-called "total choice" packages that require you to get five shopping channels in order to get ESPN, or a half-dozen video game and extreme sports networks in order to get BBCAmerica. I disagree, however, that this is likely to affect "skyrocketing cable bills." The industry opposes the measure, so clearly they think that it will affect their revenue, but they will figure out a lobbying hook to protect themselves.

For example, the cable industry will argue, successfully I'll wager, that offering such a choice without a minimum bill would force the cable companies to maintain subscriptions to channels without the ability to spread the cost of those subscriptions across a wide consumer base. The result will likely be the extirpation of many marginally popular networks that have been developing by the grace of the mandatory channel packages, as the carriers will only subscribe to the networks that a large percentage of their customers are going to want. This will arguably have the unfortunate effect of limiting consumer choice rather than increasing it. Admittedly, some of the loss will be deadwood (do we really need The Discovery Times Network, which seems to be dedicated to 24-7 coverage of the Battle of Leyte Gulf?), but I don't know if the The Travel Channel will survive, in which case I'll lose both the World Poker Tour and Anthony Bourdain's new show. That would suck.

However, the essential points raised by Roth still stand - Cable companies do force people to buy what they don't want, while at the same time disclaiming any responsibility for the content that they provide. When the cable companies argue that parents can block certain channels from the set-top box, that's a little disingenuous, as the cable company keeps on charging for the blocked channel as part of the package.

The endgame will likely be prosaic; the cable giants will probably get permission to require customers to choose a minimum number of channels, so that they can continue to charge $50-$75/month. I will say this - the first system to make this switch gets my business. I subscribe to satellite now, but if cable rolls this out for the same or less money, I will switch in a heartbeat.

A decent rundown of how the cable industry works is here. A list of all U.S. cable networks is here.


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