Saturday, February 09, 2008

Sea Monster Attacks Internet UPDATE!

Got an update on the severed underwater cable which provides internet services - mentioned earlier this week. It seems a 5-ton ships anchor was the culprit, according to press reports. Not, apparently, nefarious aquatic monsters nor super-secret underwater hooligans of any sort. The link above even has a picture of the anchor being hauled out of the water by a FLAG Telecom repair ship. Of course, that only explains one of three mysteriously severed cables (there was another in some Arctic fjord but that was blamed on wild weather and roiling seas, according to spokesperson Marty Kuluguqtuq. No I did not make that up. And that's Mister Kuluguqtuq to you, bucko.).

Curious creature that I am, the element of the report of a repair which caught my eye was the reference to FLAG Telecom. FLAG stands for Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe, a company based in India which laid the cable in the late 1990s. The cable in question is part of a worldwide creation - some 28,000 miles long and at only an inch thick, it may well be prone to slicing.

Likely the best source of info on FLAG comes from writer Neal Stephenson, in this massive article from Wired magazine in December of 1996.

Everything that has occurred in Silicon Valley in the last couple of decades also occurred in the 1850s. Anyone who thinks that wild-ass high tech venture capitalism is a late-20th-century California phenomenon needs to read about the maniacs who built the first transatlantic cable projects (I recommend Arthur C. Clarke's book How the World Was One). The only things that have changed since then are that the stakes have gotten smaller, the process more bureaucratized, and the personalities less interesting."

Stephenson's detailed research reveals the links between the creation of international trade routes and treaties from the 1800s, the rise of telecoms and the current state of how information moves to the FLAG project and makes fascinating reading.

If you have time and energy, his Hugo-award-winning novel "Cryptonomicon" is a stunning tale of history and fiction on the creation of computers and lost gold, U-Boats and ISPs and how everything is connected by being connected. The book should already be in your home as proof of your inner tech Geekness.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Camera Obscura - Online Horror Festival; Rolling Stones Documentary; Make A Dead Movie

It is true I have a film festival in my brain 24/7. It's way swanky.

If you don't, and if you always wanted to attend a film festival, all you need to join one is a computer connected to the internets. In fact, that's the only way you can witness Insomnifest, the world's first Online Horror Movie Festival.

12 movies are featured in the fest, which runs from Feb. 11 thru Feb. 24. The web site for the fest boasts a mega-trailer from most of the movies. I'm thinking this is not the kind of festival one attends hoping to meet the people who actually made these movies or the fans who seek them. At least they did not call it Splatterfest or Cheesefest, but perhaps they could have. And I don't recommend you use your computer at work to bask in the buckets of fake grue.

But you don't have to stand around in the snow like at Sundance, or wade through the beautiful people.

You can enjoy a virtual pressbox seat for the annual Berlin Film Festival, which starts today. The US normally ignores this festival, but the media is hyping it because Martin Scorsese is debuting his documentary of the Rolling Stones, "Shine In Light", and because Jagger's quip at a press conference that this is Marty's first film to NOT feature the song "Gimme Shelter" was actually funny.

The official website and trailer is here. One notable element to this doc - Marty is often onscreen, as the movie is as much about the show as it is about how he filmed the show. And guests like Buddy Guy, Jack White and others perform with the band too.

Sweeping Declaration: The Stones are the best rock band in the world. When your fave band has passed the 45-year mark, then let me know. Otherwise, the Stones are it. (That means if Hannah Montana is packing arenas every year for the next 44 years, she could be in the running. But we know that's not gonna happen. And she'll never have an album with a zipper down the front either.)

In other film festival news, SXSW in Austin is just a month away, and the full rundown on all 64 films is here. Winner of the Best Title Award already goes to Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay.

Also showing at SXSW is the zombie movie my brother is in, "Dance of the Dead", filmed last Spring in Rome, Georgia. He gives the details on the day he spent as a zombie here.

Finally today, writer/director George Romero wants to see your scary movie. In a contest, which ends on Feb 29th, to promote his new zombie movie "Diary of the Dead", you can get your horror movie (of 3 minutes or less) included with the DVD release of Romero's latest.

All the details here at his MySpace page.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Sea Monsters Attack Internet?

There is something fishy happening to some of the transoceanic communications cables which provide internet connections. Three and perhaps as many as five of them have somehow been cut.

No internet for many nations.

How and why were they cut? Could it be sea monsters???

(yes, the week has been far too stressful and serious)

I Don't Approve

A heap of non-factual, semi-factual and otherwise distorted paranoia landed in my email yesterday from someone I know, all about how this person is in a twist because of (whisper the word) "Mexicans."

The massive numbers of non-facts, the furor of fearfulness and my low threshold of tolerating hoo-ha yesterday made me actually write back to refute the info. This person who sent the original email is not a "bad person", but that email pretty much reeked of dangerously bad ideas.

Here's a sample of the email sent to me:

"I have been hammered with the propaganda that it is the Iraq war and the war on terror that is bankrupting us. I now find that to be RIDICULOUS. Now, I hope the following 14 reasons are forwarded over and over again until they are read so many times that the reader gets sick of reading them. I have included the URL's for verification of all the following facts.

1. $11 Billion to $22 billion is spent on welfare to illegal aliens each year."

My response to that, from the very article cited, was that law prevents any such aid being given to "illegal immigrants". To legal immigrants, yes, aid is given. I'm not linking to the article cited as I am not eager to drive web traffic to that site.

And I also commented that the funding for the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan comes from borrowing money, not from existing tax revenue streams. The response I got to that was the following:

"Do you sense we are being overrun? It's not easy to know know who is legal and who is illegal. Hang out at DHS some day, or the Health Department and just observe. I felt like a foreigner when at the Health Department for a T.B. test last summer. There was not one local in the waiting room, but it was filled with Hispanic people who did not speak English - or let's put it this way, they were not speaking English in my presence. Take a walk through our elementary schools and see even more. And there are days, when crimebeat makes my eyes pop!! I know several legal Hispanics and have a couple that good friends from Puerto Rico and one from Guatemala - so it's not that I dislike these folks, I don't, but it looks like if we continue the way we're going, one day, our local government will look a whole lot different. Hey! That might be a good thing! tee hee"

So I am sadly left with the realization the email was not meant to start a discussion - it was instead an unhappy emotional reaction to having non-whites in the neighborhood. Other problems are obvious in those comments, too.

I know I'm not the only person who gets ramped-up, half-truthful email screeds on some "vital topic" of the moment. And yes, responding to such is fruitless. But if I did not respond, then perhaps my silence could be taken as approval. And I don't approve.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Election Aftermath

The county by county results of the state's primaries are available at the TN Dept. of State website.These are unofficial results, awaiting certification. Statewide turnout was 36% of registered voters.

Curious to see how some counties had very close (sometimes not so close) battles between Huckabee and McCain. Also notable, the number of Democrats voting statewide outpaced the number of Republicans. Are Republicans so unhappy over the concept of "conservative purity" that they will sit home this fall and not vote in the actual election? More on that here. And here, too, Huckabee's win of Southern states ... does this reflect a split GOP and a certainty the next president, no matter who wins the nomination, will be a Democrat?

Or perhaps the question should be - is there any ticket which would allow for a GOP president to be elected?

One clear winner in the elections/primaries -- Knox County got rid of some bad ju-ju.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Hamblen County Election Returns

Some early returns, mostly early voting and absentee ballots (scroll down for full returns), out of Hamblen County --

In the presidential primary for the GOP: John McCain had the lead with about 41% of the votes, followed by Bill Huckabee 32% and then Mitt Romney with 17%

In the presidential primary for the Democrat party: Hillary Clinton with about 66%, Barack Obama with 12%.

The local sales tax increase referendum was a dead heat, with about 51% voting yes, 49% voting no.

Surprising to me is that the ultra conservative district went so largely with McCain, despite many GOP pundits refuting him as a "liberal." On the Democrat side, it's no surprise that Clinton has such a commanding lead. Many women have held and do hold office, while there are no minorities in office. Only two minorities, both men, a father and son, have ever held office in the county.

UPDATE 1: Local radio WCRK news reporters, joined by County Mayor David Purkey on the scene live at the county courthouse, make no bones they hope the sales tax increase is approved. As of 9:15 p.m, the vote favoring the tax leads the No votes by some 130 votes.

Meanwhile, MCain's lead over Huckabee has decreased, with McCain at 38.5%, Huckabee at 33.4%.

Final returns should be in momentarily.

UPDATE 2, FINAL RETURNS: The sales tax referendum fails, with No votes at 5759, Yes votes at 5668. Total turnout estimated at 40.8%.

McCain wins the county with 37.7%, Huckabee 35.3%, Romney 17.9%.

Clinton wins the county with 68.7%, Obama with 22.7%.

No return total votes were given out in the WCRK broadcast in the primaries for John Edwards, Fred Thompson or Ron Paul or any other candidates on the presidential ballots.

UPDATE 3, SULLIVAN COUNTY, STATEWIDE RETURNS: Sullivan County saw Huckabee win the GOP primary over McCain, with 36.9% over 31.4%.

Statewide totals, with only 8 of 95 counties shows Huckabee ahead, 39.94% and McCain with 31.7%, and Romney with 17.5%. Fred Thompson has 3.37%

Rep. Davis Rallies GOP With Old Time Revival

"The crowd responded very enthusiastically when Davis quoted Psalm 33:12, which says: "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord." He noted that the verse does not say "whose God was the Lord," and pointed out the difference.

"We should protect 'Under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance: return prayer to our schools; maintain 'In God We Trust' on our money; and allow the Ten Commandments to remain on courthouse lawns and walls," Davis said, to considerable applause.

"And finally, we must protect the rule of law," he said. "During the 45 years leading up to the Immigration Act of 1965, 10 million immigrants came to the U.S. and were successfully integrated into American culture." But the onset that began then and accelerated has "overwhelmed our ability to assimilate."

This year, Davis noted, 1.3 million immigrants will enter this country, 400,000 of them illegal.

"If America is to survive as a safe and sovereign country," he said, "We must protect our borders. I call on the president and the Democrat leaderhip in Congress to build the fence now, not later." Davis said extending citizenship to children born in this country should be limited to those having at least one parent who is an Ameican citizen.

All comments from your local Congressman, David davis, as reported in the Greeneville Sun.

Davis was certain to invoke his unending support for war in Iraq, was certain to mention 9-11, and other concerns of the fearful and he did not disappoint. No mention of enforcing the laws on business which relies on illegal immigrants, just distaste for immigrants.

I hope voters take note of all the current office-holders and candidates who share these views. Are they representing you? Or do they represent a view more 19th Century that 21st Century?

Election Nervous Breakdown

The state is among several ranked as "High Risk" for voting machine tampering or malfunctions today. Since Tennessee uses electronic machines, we "do not produce an independent, voter-verifiable paper record that could be used in the case of a recount or audit." The full report on the factors involved is here.

The sad fact is that that since the 2000 presidential election, confidence in the security, accuracy and the counting and casting of votes remains in doubt as little has been done to address the problems. How they work, how we use them, and much more continues to be nebulous quandary for the vast majority of voters. And since 2000, there has not been an election where critical questions on accuracy have not emerged, either locally or nationally.

Nashville filmmaker David Earnhardt has been screening his movie documenting the uncertainties, "Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections" and holding discussions after each screening. The movie website is here.

So in addition to the "act-of-faith" element to a voter's decision in general, there is even more when pondering if and how the votes are counted. If oversight of the just how the machine works and how to correct malfunctions exists only in the hands of the few ....

The state legislature has a Voter Confidence Act Study Committee did meet last week, and committee member Rep. Susan Lynn says some legislation is being reviewed:

Because of the concerns over ballotless voting equipment, some states reconsidered their use of electronic equipment in the 2006 elections. Congress is currently considering banning equipment without a paper ballot and funding replacement machines.

Tennessee House Bill 1256 would mandate replacement of all electronic voting machines without a paper ballot at a cost of $25 million. I believe that the General Assembly should commit to fund this legislation whether or not Congress sends us the money. HB 1282, legislation that I have sponsored each year since 2004, will ensure that going forward, all new voting equipment purchased in Tennessee will have a paper ballot.

A frightening quote by Joseph Stalin states, "Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything." Tyranny relies on secret processes controlled by a scant few. The Voter Confidence Act Study Committee has voted to put the ballot back into the hands of the people. Let us pray the General Assembly will ultimately vote to do the same."

Today, as we vote, none of these proposed changes will apply, even 8 years after the chaos of the 2000 election.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Weekly Best of TN Blogs

It's a Super Bowl/ Super Tuesday edition of the best in Tennessee blogs -- via TennViews. The coverage, the stories and the writing you'll find here is always a great collection.

• 10,000 Monkeys and a Camera: Electability: You can argue the merits of one candidate over another, but with three potential Supreme Court appointments waiting for the next president, it is absolutely essential that we elect a Democrat in November. Also: The Kennedy Scorecard

• 55-40 Memphis: Can he?: Think about it. If you work in the White House and Bill stops by your desk, will you tell him politely that you take orders only from his wife?

• Ablignation (a new addition to the blogroll and roundup): Barack Obama: America's Only Hope: With the most unfortunate departure of John Edwards from the Presidential race, we now find our Democratic selves left only with the choices the media picked for us....

• Andy Axel (at KnoxViews): McCain, Rewound...: In this process of self-re-invention, McCain is now opposing legislation that he actually championed, or worse, wrote.

• Aunt B.: My Lack of Unbridled Optimism: Since I was six years old, we’ve either had a Bush or Clinton living in the White House or next in line to live in the White House. That’s no way to run a healthy democracy.

• BlountViews (Farmer John): Fred Thompson for President?: I DEMAND A RETRACTION OF THE ENDORSEMENT!

• The Crone Speaks: Some Specific Questions for Clinton and Obama: We are left with a symbolic vote rather than a vote for real progress at a time when progress is needed most. Plus: Rightwing World: A trip through the Looking Glass

• Cup of Joe Powell: Debating Politics: Perhaps Ron Paul or Mike Huckabee should consider hiring Britney Spears or Paris Hilton to their campaign staff in order to get some media attention. And: A Human Digital Interface (on the Pupblish2 Tennessee election coverage project): It's more than just adding a human editor to search engine algorithms, it's also about how we structure and understand the world around us.

• The Donkey's Mouth: Welcome Huckabee & Co.: The Donkey’s Mouth welcomes Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee to Nashville. ... In case anyone has forgotten, The Donkey’s Mouth brings you this reminder of the last time [Huckabee campaign architect] Saltsman and SALT PAC were in the news...

• Enclave: A Late Breaking Voter Watching the Last Democratic Debate before Tennessee Votes on Tuesday: I wavered and went back and forth, but John Edwards' withdrawal pretty much took my safety net away (although voting for him is still an option for me). So, tonight's debate is incredibly important to my decision on Tuesday. (Ed. note: some good live blogging and commentary.)

• Fletch: Humanscapes. Also: North Carolina Doing Its Part to Keep the Great Smokies Smoky

• KnoxViews: Tough choices Americans shouldn't have to make (R. Neal): It is immoral and just plain wrong that anyone in America has to make decisions like this. Yet millions do every day.. And: Obama: wrong then or wrong now? Also: Tennessee Feb 5th election certification delay, plus: Yes, We Can (mjw)

• Lean Left: Reagan Worship Good For Progressives? (Kevin): I wonder if the necessity of paying lip service to that ultra-conservative, ideologue-above-all myth of Reagan in order to impress the base makes it harder for Republicans to appeal to moderates in the general election. Plus: Voter ID Laws (tgirsch): Last weekend, I pulled a little stunt to make a point about voter ID laws. I chose to use the gun rights movement as an example here, because many of their legitimate complaints about various gun control laws ... apply to voter ID laws.

• Left of the Dial: Just The Two Of Us: An imaginary possible phone conversation between Mitt Romney and John McCain...

• Left Wing Cracker: Maybe he can....: Yes, I have already voted for John Edwards, and I have my reasons. However, for those of you who say that you cannot do that, and that it is down to Hillary or Barack, I will say this...

• Liberadio: Stop Spreading the (Fake) News

• Loose TN Canon: More proof that Bush weakens America: And the GOP front runner McCain wants to stay in Iraq for 100 yrs...

• NewsComa: John Edwards Asks To Remain On Rhode Island Ballot. And: The Reason I Will Vote For Barack Obama Tuesday

• Pesky Fly: Please Obama, win me: Unity is not an issue. And it shouldn't be an issue because it's meaningless at best and possibly antithetical to itself. (Everybody shows up to the kegger happy, but if there's only a six-pack...).

• Progressive Nashville: Progressive Nashville: America's path: But the most important element in determining America's path is the people. And, Where America Stands: The economy, Values, Health care, and The Truth

• Resonance: Shell Oil Hints At Peak Oil: We now have energy company leaders talking about the upcoming oil supply crunch. Where is the political leadership on this issue?

• RoaneViews: Official Sample Ballot (Corvus): This is an overly complicated mess for a simple choice between two groups of candidates.

• Russ McBee: With Edwards out, things shift: At least until the convention, the race between Clinton and Obama will now shrivel into two camps shouting "Hope!" and "Experience!" at each other, with little discussion of the real problems the country faces. And: Congressional Dems find more streamlined way to cave to Bush

• Sean Braisted: TNR Tennessee Rundown: The New Republic profiles Tennessee's primary today. And: : ...the truth is most people don't pay attention to minute policy differences when choosing a candidate; like it or not, personality goes a long way in making that decision.

• Sharon Cobb: Last Night We Witnessed History: Right now my mind is flooded with all the events of the 60s I participated in, yet I'm smart enough to step to the side and let a new generation of activists take their place in this complex progression. Plus: Snoop Dogg Torn Between Obama and Clinton: I know what you're thinking. Where's the punchline, right?

• Silence Isn't Golden: California Dreamin', On Such A Winter's Day: And the labor unions are dreaming of the candidate who will best support labor now that John Edwards has dropped out. Who might that candidate be? And: A Profound Sadness, And Why I'll Always Be A Democrat: I believe that yes, it is my problem when someone in the wealthiest nation in the world can't afford their medications.

• Southern Beale: Iraq 4 Ever: That is why those of us on the left, written off as “defeatocrats” and worse, have been saying all along that we need to cut off war funding. Period.

• Tennessee Guerilla Women: Hillary Fans in CA: 'Yes, SHE Can!!' (Video): As Todd notes, "her opponents underestimate the passion people have for her at their peril." And: Obama Attacks Universal Health Care With the Return of Harry & Louise: What the hell is Obama thinking?

• TennViews (Eleanor A): McCain on the Environment: In contrast to the media's saintly image of Republican Senator John McCain, his voting record is that of a Reagan-era, deregulation-happy extremist. And: Democratic Presidential Candidates - Senate Voting Record Comparison (bizgrrl). Plus: Super Tuesday poll preview (R. Neal). And finally: Ode to Edwards, a Wednesday roundup of reaction

• Vibinc: The War on Krugman: Working to discredit one of the only consistent liberal voices in the MSM is counterproductive to progressives, and ultimately counterproductive to Obama. Take it down a notch Barak, between this and your rabid fan-boys, you’re not winning any friends, you’re pissing a bunch of us off.. And: Sports and Politics: The difference between a national party and a sports organization is that we are the stockholders of the organization. That position gives us more influence in the party than in any sports organization.

• West Tennessee Liberal: Trouble up ahead in '08...: What is wrong with Democratic voters? I feel like we vote to lose...first Gore wouldn't enter the race, and then the party turned on John Edwards, the banner of Democratic Party populism, who was shown to be the only Democratic candidate running who could beat any Republican.

• Whites Creek Journal: Saturday Funnies ("Don't Tease me, Bro!") And: I hear voices...See 'em, too... (a multimedia roundup)

• Women's Health News: Ridiculous Lawmaker of the Day: Mayhall Wants to Ban Obese from Eating: ...this is so offensive that it barely warrants explanation of the offense. Let’s have a go at it, anyway... Bonus: I’m Cranky, and These Labor Nurses Aren’t Helping

National Primary Day Ahead

More minds, ink, attention, web sites, TV and radio are focused on the giant, nearly national primary election day this Tuesday than ever before. (Jack Lail breaks down how the Knox News Sentinel and Publish2, aided by yours truly and several other bloggers are furiously providing coverage on the state primary and much, much more.)

Unlike, say, today's Super Bowl battle where you have a pretty clear idea of who is likely to win - the election is still an unknown. And even with never-before-seen 24 states holding elections on the same day, a clear leader may or may not emerge.

Tennessee offers more delegates for Democrats (85 total) than for Republicans (just 55 total for them). Worth noting too - voters in Tennessee have for 11 presidential elections gone with the eventual winner of the national race.

In-state fundraising efforts so far have given the more dollars to Romney than McCain or Huckabee and for Obama rather than Clinton.

Typically in the past, a state's governor got the state election machines rolling for a candidate - less so this year. Gov. Bredesen, for example, has not endorsed a candidate, and he has had some conflicts with Hillary Clinton. Nationwide, Governors in the Republican Party have shown little support for Romney (getting only 3 of a potential 22 endorsements).

But the usual guides to who might have an edge - campaign fundraising, endorsements, earlier primary results, etc - still point in many directions.

Some things, however, do not seem to change --while teaching some students (ranging from 5th thru 8th grade) yesterday, the topic of the primaries came up and they all agreed that the politicians only do one thing consistently: lie.