Four Senators Question Facebook Privacy Policies

There has been a lot of concern raised on Facebook by the changes in the privacy settings which have suddenly made information which had been private, only seen by Facebook friends, available to the public. Four Democratic senators,  Charles Schumer,  Michael Benne , Mark Begich, and Al Franken send  a letter expressing regarding the privacy questions to to Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The full text (via Politico) is under the fold:


David Duke Demonstrates Racism Of The Far Right, Tainting Tea Party

The tea party supporters, like much of the right wing, is tainted with a reputation for racism. It doesn’t help them shed this image to have former KKK leader David Duke make an argument claiming they are not racist. Crooks & Liars has the video and transcript. Here’s a portion:

Tea Party people are called racist because the vast majority wants to stop the massive non-European immigration that will turn America into a crumbling tower of Babel. Most Tea Partiers believe that we in America have the right to preserve our heritage, language, and culture, just as every nation has that human right. The vast majority of Tea Party activists oppose affirmative action and diversity, which are nothing more than programs of racist discrimination against white people. The vast majority of Tea Party enthusiasts despise Hollywood and the mass media.

You know, the unelected media bosses have far more power than any senator or congressman, and are far more alien to America than the British were at the time of the American Revolution. At least the British were of our own, Christian cultural heritage, while the non-Christian ethno-religious minority who dominates Hollywood sees itself as very distinct from the 98 percent of the rest of us.

Thanks to David Duke for reminding everyone that the far right is not only racist. It is also anti-Semitic with their paranoia about the Jewish media and Hollywood. David Duke is certainly not doing the tea party movement any favors.

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Democrats Using Obama To Get New Voters From 2008 To Turn Out In November

The Democrats face a major disadvantage in the 2010 midterm elections compared to the 2008 and presumably the 2012 election–they won’t have Barack Obama on the ballot. In addition, many of the young voters who helped Obama win typically do not vote in off year elections.  Obama also received the votes of many new voters in 2008, including minority voters. The Democratic National Committee began distributing the above video as part of an attempt to get the first time voters who backed Obama in 2008 to turn out in 2010:

“This year, the stakes are higher than ever,” he said, according to a transcript of his remarks provided by Democratic officials. “It will be up to each of you to make sure that young people, African Americans, Latinos and women who powered our victory in 2008 stand together once again.

“If you help make sure that first-time voters in 2008 make their voices heard again in November,” he added, “then together we will deliver on the promise of change, hope and prosperity for generations to come.”

While so far Republicans have been winning the spin war despite being wrong on the issues, the Democrats are finally talking about explaining why voters should not return the Republicans to power:

Kaine said Obama plans to frame the elections as a choice between continued Democratic control or a return to Republican power. “Our story begins with: Democrats are results people and the Republicans are political obstructionists,” he said in an interview. “Do we want to continue the direction that sees us climbing out of the recession or do we want to go back to the same policies that put us in the ditch in the first place?”

The Democrats have a tough job considering how far ahead the Republicans are in the spin war.  For example,  Republicans have managed to get a substantial number of voters to tell pollsters they oppose the health care plan despite agreeing on the individual components of the plan. Conservatives have been misled into protesting higher taxes despite  receiving tax cuts from Obama. Republicans have also had success in denying the benefits of the stimulus package while getting many voters to forget which party is responsible for the recession in the first place.

While they are unable to actually govern, the Republicans are far better at distorting the facts to support their goals. Joe Gandelman even notes that this is being done with the above video. Politico ran the video as part of a story entitled  Obama seeks to ‘reconnect…young people, African-Americans, Latinos, and women’ for 2010.” This headline is explained in the story:

The Democratic National Committee this morning released this clip of the president rallying the troops, if rather coolly, for 2010. Obama’s express goal: “reconnecting” with the voters who voted for the first time in 2008, but who may not plan to vote in the lower-profile Congressional elections this year.

Obama speaks with unusual demographic frankness about his coalition in his appeal to “young people, African-Americans, Latinos, and women who powered our victory in 2008 [to] stand together once again.”

Turning out those so-called “surge” voters — who turned out for the first time to back Obama, but who sat out gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia last year — has become the Democrats’ central pre-occupation for the midterm elections, and the new Democratic effort to nationalize the election around Obama and his agenda mark an attempt to energize those voters.

Gandelman then compared this to the spin in Drudge’s headline for the same story: “OBAMA PLAYS RACE CARD: RALLIES BLACKS, LATINOS FOR ‘10 UPSET”

Gandelman explained that the Politico story ” is further confirmation of something many on this site and a zillion other political blogs and mainstream reporters have noted: in order for the Democrats to win they need to get out the vote by getting out people who voted for the Dems last time and won the election.” He then explained why the Drudge story is inaccurate and concluded:

It’s pure, partisan button-pushing — which will translate (just you watch) into blog posts, indignant talk radio hosts, cable hosts asking about plans to play the “race card.” Who cares if it’s accurate or not? It’s a great chance to get indignant and arouse hatreds about an opponent. It’s (these days) as American as apple pie.

It will take all of Obama’s famed oratory skills to overcome the damage caused by the right wing noise machine.

Leno’s Ratings Have Fallen To Conan Levels

Did NBC make a mistake in returning Jay Leno to The Tonight Show? Team Coco claims that “Leno’s losing to repeats of Letterman, and his ratings have dipped below those achieved by Conan O’Brien for the first time since he returned to the Tonight Show stage.” TV By The Numbers has a chart showing how close Leno’s ratings are to Conan’s.

Steven Hawking Warns About Aliens

Steven Hawking is concerned about our search for alien life which might show aliens where we are. While most alien life might be limited to microscopic organisms, he is concerned about the development of intelligent life on some planets which would behave far too much like humans:

Hawking believes that contact with such a species could be devastating for humanity.

He suggests that aliens might simply raid Earth for its resources and then move on: “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach.”

He concludes that trying to make contact with alien races is “a little too risky”. He said: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”

This is obviously an idea which has been used in many science fiction television shows and movies, including this year’s remake of V. Other science fiction shows have speculated that there is a greater risk of humans creating their own threats as opposed to threats coming from space, such as in Battlestar Galactica and the Terminator series.

Obviously we have no evidence as to whether Hawking is correct and can only speculate. I tend to think that it would be far easier for aliens, regardless of their ethics, to use the vast number of uninhabited planets for resources as opposed to traveling all the way to earth. I also wonder if a race advanced enough to travel to earth will have already found renewable energy sources and ways to supply their resource needs.

Perhaps evil aliens might come to earth due to the presence of humans. They might see humans as a useful slave source, but such an advanced race might also manage to manufacture robots or train their version of intelligent apes to be servants. Of course we have seen science fiction examples where that would be a mistake–but if they wiped themselves out by trying this they would not be a threat to us. Another danger from alien visitors was suggested in an old Twilight Zone episode in which a book entitled To Serve Mankind turned out to be a cookbook.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Moral Choices, And Politics (Real Present and Fictional Future)

On Saturday night the BBC aired what very well might turn out to be the first part of this year’s Steven Moffat story to win the Hugo award while in the United States BBC America aired Doctor Who’s second episode of the season. Spoilers will be limited to discussion through the second episode, with comments on the third and fourth episodes limited to general comments which have been widely publicized.

Steven Moffat seemed to use The Beast Below to make as statement that he was not going to radically change Doctor Who. The premise was far more like one Russell T. Davies would have used than what we have seen in the Moffat episodes. The episode had many good ideas but the story did not entirely work. The show is far better enjoyed for the advancement of the relationship between The Doctor and his new companion, Amy Pond. Both Matt Smith and Karen Gillan did an excellent job of supporting the episode regardless of its flaws.

The episode began with The Doctor lecturing Amy about observing everything around her and ended with Amy, instead of The Doctor, figuring out the solution by seeing something which even The Doctor missed. Along the way The Doctor even threatened to take Amy back home. Meanwhile Amy was surprised to see herself listed in the computer (now at age 1306) but disappointed to find that her marital status was “information unavailable.”

The episode did have brief moments of terror with the Smilers which do show one way in which the writing style of Moffat differs from that of Davies.  The Doctor faced a moral dilemma which had him saying he would have to find a new name because he would would not be The Doctor anymore after doing what he thought was the only solution.  Fortunately he is spared by Amy figuring out something he missed, providing a preferable solution. Matt Smith’s Doctor was also able to discuss his past, and the Timelords, without showing the angst of David Tennant’s doctor:

The Doctor: “The computer doesn’t accept me as human.”
Amy: “Why not?” (The Doctor just looks at her.) “Well, you look human.”
The Doctor: “No, you look Time Lord. We came first.”
Amy: “So there are other Time Lords, yeah?”
The Doctor: “No. There were, but there aren’t… Just me now. Long story. It was a bad day. Bad stuff happened. And you know what, I’d love to forget it all, every last bit of it. But I don’t. Not ever.”

The episode even managed to sneak in a comment on the current election campaign in the U.K. Ethically questionable decisions were made by the future U.K. government but there is a perverse manner of achieving the consent of the governed. Inside a voting booth citizens are told the truth, and then given the choice to protest or forget.

This provided Moffat the opportunity to write in the warning,  “Once every five years everyone chooses to forget what they have learned. That’s democracy.” Moffat is not only speaking of the situation on Starship U.K. but of the current political situation where a show source put it more bluntly: “This almost echoes what Labour has been saying about how people should not forget what they learned in the 80s. They think the Tories will drag the country down again and it looks like the Doctor feels the same.”

American viewers can also relate to this as a disturbing number of Americans currently plan to vote Republican this fall, forgetting that the problems they are concerned about were caused by the Republicans not very long ago.

Criticism of conservatives is not unique for either Doctor Who or for Steven Moffat. Moffat had mocked conservatives in his BBC comedy, Coupling. Both Moffat and his predecessor Russell T. Davies have warned against the Tories winning. Former Doctor Who star David Tennant has been backing the Labour Party.

The episode ended with a lead-in to the following weeks episode with Winston Churchill calling The Doctor and previews showing Britain’s new weapon–Daleks. Meanwhile the crack in the universe was shown again. Victory of the Daleks, written by Mark Gatiss, is the only episode to air so far which was not written by Steven Moffat. This week’s episode, The Time of Angels, is the fist of a two part episode written by Steven Moffat. The episode has Moffat returning to two of his additions to the Doctor Who universe, the Wheeping Angels of Blink and River Song, who may or may not some day be The Doctor’s wife.

Quote of the Day

“Federal taxes last year when down for 98 percent of people, but when asked about this, only 12 percent of the Teabaggers thought this was the case. 88 percent of them had it wrong. And a spokesman for the Teabaggers said, ‘We don’t want to just be taxed less. We want to be taxed less by a white guy.” —Bill Maher

Socialism Polling Surprisingly Well In Rasmussen Poll

Despite the paranoia and distortions from the right, actual  support for socialism in this country seems pretty non-existent. For example, the health care reform which the right pretends is a radical proposal actually is designed to increase the number of customers for private insurance companies. Neither a government-run program or even a single-payer program was ever considered. Government ownership in General Motors was a result of a plea from a private company for assistance with plans to return it private ownership, and certainly not a step towards government nationalization of industry. Calls for true socialism are limited to people who are marginalized on the far left without any influence on public policy, and I bet their is a very small number of them.

In such an atmosphere I would expect a poll of capitalism versus socialism in this country to show a result with virtually everyone choosing capitalism. A Rasmussen poll shows  socialism doing far better than I’d expect. Rasmussen both does real polls on elections which are of reasonable value, and does a number of  less reliable polls between elections to promote conservative memes (and in this case to promote a book by Scott Rasmussen). Their poll shows, “Sixty percent (60%) of U.S. adults nationwide say that capitalism is better than socialism.”  In contrast, 18 percent  disagree and  21 percent are not sure.

I’m sure we will see some conservatives use this to argue they are on the right side per public opinion. Actually I would definitely be on the side of supporting capitalism over socialism–provided we have the necessary government regulations to keep markets functioning properly. The same is true of Barack Obama as well as the Democratic Party. On the other hand, many of the actions of Republicans I have opposed over the years, from Richard Nixon’s wage and price controls to George Bush’s use of Medicare funds to provide corporate welfare for the insurance and pharmaceutical companies, are due to Republican actions which are contrary to free market principles. At other times my opposition to conservatives stems from their lack of understanding that some government regulation is needed for markets to function–a concept which even Adam Smith understood.

While I doubt many Americans currently support socialism, my bet is that some people who not actually support socialism are unsure about saying they oppose it because of the repeated Republican attacks on socialism. Some people might hear the false claim that Obama is a socialist and respond by saying they support socialism.

Jon Stewart Taking on Fox

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Bernie Goldberg Fires Back
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

Comedy Central responded to their upcoming competition from Conan O’Brien at 11:00 p.m. on TBS by extending the contracts of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert through 2013. Even more importantly than helping maintain Comedy Central’s ratings, the two help provide a counter to Fox’s right wing propaganda disguised as news shows. Criticism of Fox’s overt bias has become a common target for Stewart, as is seen in the above clip. Additional  clips of Stewart mocking Fox have been posted here and here. The New York Times has a report today on Stewart taking on Fox:

“Stewart does a great job of using comedy to expose the tragedy that is Fox News, and he also underscores the seriousness of it,” said Eric Burns, the president of Media Matters.

The segments about Fox are often replayed hundreds of thousands of times on blogs and other Web sites, amplifying their significance. “Media criticism has become part of his brand,” said Mark Jurkowitz, the associate director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, who noted that Mr. Stewart had also dissected CNN and CNBC in lengthy segments in the past.

It is true that the often-left-leaning “Daily Show” deals with a wide array of topics, but Fox is one that Mr. Stewart is overtly passionate about; he said on the show this week that he criticizes the network a lot because it is “truly a terrible, cynical, disingenuous news organization.”

According to “The Daily Show” Web site,, Fox News has been a subject of 24 segments so far this year, including eight in the month of April. The lower-rated news channel CNN, by contrast, has been a subject of five segments this year.

In many of the segments, Mr. Stewart questions Fox’s journalistic practices. He noted that Fox had hired former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska to be a political analyst in a January segment he called “News of the Weird.” But he wasn’t laughing when he asserted that Fox is “functioning as her de-facto rapid response media arm, and they’re paying her for the privilege of doing it.”

In February he noted that Fox News had stopped showing President Obama’s widely praised meeting with Republican leaders while CNN and MSNBC had carried it start to finish. Mimicking a Fox anchor, Mr. Stewart said, “We’re gonna cut away because” — humorous pause — “this is against the narrative that we present.”

In March he ridiculed the news anchor Megyn Kelly for lining up guests who were opposed to the Democratic health care overhaul and citing polls that claimed the American people were opposed to it. Then he played a clip from October 2008, when Mr. Obama was leading in most polls, of Ms. Kelly’s saying “don’t trust the polls.”

John Edwards and Sarah Palin Both Doing The Same Thing

Superficially the careers of John Edwards and Sarah Palin are somewhat similar. Both were the vice presidential candidate on the last losing ticket from their party. Edwards attempted to win his party’s nomination in the next election cycle. Palin is widely expected to seek her party’s nomination and fail (unless the Mayan calendar is correct about 2012). Despite this similarity, the two are at such different points in their career that I described it as being odd when Gallup ran a poll last October looking at these two. Looking at today’s headlines there is yet another superficial similarity. Both are testifying in court.

The Daily Beast report that Edwards will be testifying about his sex tape and affair with Rielle Hunter. Judging by the reaction to her in the conservative movement, many conservatives might wish that there was also a Sarah Palin sex tape. Sadly for them, Palin will be testifying about the hacked email case, not a sex tape.

Maybe the two are right where they belong. Conservatives such as Palin love to portray themselves as victims. Here Palin really is a victim (and we have a rare case where I side with her in opposing the hacking of her email). Palin gets what she wants in beng the victim, and we all know what John Edwards wants.