Posts from June 2002

The Winona/Martha T-shirt collection at

The Winona/Martha T-shirt collection at a store near you
: First, Winona wore a Free Winona T-shirt on the cover of W.

Now there is a Free Martha T-shirt. [via Relapsed Catholic]

Why I am no longer

Why I am no longer a Presbyterian
: I left the Presbyterian Church five years ago and I am happier than ever that I did.

Yesterday, the NY Times had a story about a group of Presbyterian ministers being sued in the denomination’s ecclesiastical court for allegedy violating the Presbyterian policy against ordaining gays to the ministry or church office.

Evil, disgusting bigots.

Here’s my tale:

I first left the church way back in 1968 when our minister preached against the Vietnam War and received death threats against him and his family from his own congregation. He left the ministry. I left the church.

Decades passed. I had children. I decided they deserved the same right to reject what I had rejected and so I went searching for churches.

We went to a local Presbyterian church. I knew I was a round peg in a square hole when I gave an adult class in TV — I was a TV critic then — and said I liked Cheers and was attacked by church ladies. Why? Because it has sex on it. Well, so does life, you shriveled prunes! I knew I didn’t fit in when one of the ministers had people coming up to the front of the church to witness like Baptists; Presbyterians usually do not wear their faith on their bumpers like that.

But I knew I had to leave when the ruling body of the congregation eagerly signed — in secret — a morally repugnant letter that came out of Princeton Seminary condemning gays in the ministry, pouring fire on a fight that has been raging in the denomination for more than a decade.

How dare they sit in judgment over others? How dare they decide who is and is not good enough to be a minister? Would they do the same to blacks? Well, actually, they would; this church tries to hide the fact that it hosted KKK meetings — in New Jersey, mind you — way back when. These were the same sorts of people who tried to keep women out of the ministry.

Now it so happens that my sister is a Presbyterian minister. I’m proud of her and her vocation. She fights the fight in the church against this discrimination. She loses but keeps fighting. I support her in that.

But I refuse to raise my children in this atmosphere of hate. Raising them in the Presbyterian Church would be like raising them in the KKK or the Nazi Party. And no, I’m not exaggerating for effect. A church that breeds hate is a most hateful institution.

So I told the minister that he and his cohorts were a bunch of bigots and quit.

We went to another church but it got mired in politics when a new minister who did not fit in was fired. We quit again.

Now I go to a small, open-minded Congregational church.

That story in the Times only reminded me of my disgust and anger.

The Catholics aren’t the only church in trouble these days.

Speaking of fascists
: The Guardian reports that the FBI spied on the Duke and Duchess of Windsor because she was allegedly shtupping and passing secrets to Joachim von Ribbentrop:

The damning dossier – released for the first time by the intelligence agency – shows that the main reason why the Americans thought the abdication of Edward VIII had taken place in 1936 was because the duchess fervently supported the Nazi regime and this was totally unacceptable to the then Conservative prime minister, Stanley Baldwin. The official view has always been that he abdicated to marry the person he loved but could not stay on the throne because she was a divorcee.

The papers show that the FBI was told by a minor German royal that Wallis Simpson was having an affair with Joachim von Ribbentrop, who was then German ambassador to Britain, while she was seeing the Duke of Windsor….

The papers also contain reports from a party in Paris that the duchess told guests that the duke was impotent and she was the only person who could satisfy his sexual desires.

The documents fuel the long-running controversy over allegations that the disloyal pair secretly admired fascism and that he was lined up to return to the throne if Hitler had conquered Britain.

Speaking of corruption
: The Observer gets to the core of the corruption in American business:

This is not just a case of companies fudging a billion here or there, as President Bush said in his folksy statement on Friday, and hoping nobody notices, a problem, as he characterises it, of individual ethics rather than systemic deformation. Rather, this is where America’s business culture has led, legitimised by the conservative ideological barrage now a generation old which has transformed American public discourse. Everything should and must be pro-market, pro-business and pro-shareholder, a policy platform lubricated by colossal infusions of corporate cash into America’s money-dominated political system.

The Observer blames much of this on the South.

Come to think of it, the Presbyterian Church was ruined when it merged with its Southern half. Hmmm.

Speaking of rich dolts
: Can you believe Michael Bloomberg saying that investors are as much to blame as crooked CEOs for the capitalist crisis into which we are now sinking and fast? He said:

“People who were buying stocks in the stock market at multiples that never made any sense should look at themselves in the mirror. They’re as responsible, I think, as those who actually committed the crimes of misstating earnings and fudging the numbers.”

Dick. As if these investors could know that these CEOs were lying to the tunes of billions of frigging dollars and their accountants were covering up for them. Dick.

Fly me: More reasons why

Fly me
: More reasons why I am very glad I have not flown since September 11: Lileks on being grounded.

Just fix it, bozos
: Harvey Pitt, head of the SEC, appeared on FoxNews yesterday saying just what he should not say. He wasted the time saying that he didn’t cause this Enron-Anderson-Worldcom-Imclone-Qwest mess; he whined that he inherited it; he said it didn’t happen on his watch.

Bozo.

We don’t give a damn, Harvey. All we want you to do is FIX IT! Stop with the frigging fingerpointing and get off your fat ass and FIX IT!

It’s easy: Just read the last issue of Fortune and follow their simple seven steps to FIX IT!

Mark my words: The economy is going to sink fast (see the depressing Denton). And when we analyze why George Bush couldn’t win a second term it will be because he didn’t FIX IT!

You have two wars now, George: You have to get rid of bin Laden and the crooked CEOs (and accountants and analysis) who are all ruining our consumer confidence, investor confidence, international confidence, and wiping out the last of my F.U. money. You have to FIX IT!

The new Yiddish
: Howard Stern this morning played tape of an awards show with hip-hop stars saying things I could not understand (of course, I’m not supposed to; I’m so whitebread, I am devoid of nutritional value). Every day, this is becoming more and more a language in its own right — a descendant of English just as Yiddish is mostly an offshoot of German — but still, a new language. Where is the dictionary? Where are the language classes?

Why spam will never work
: Having tired of trying to make a certain part of me bigger and bigger and bigger, my spam has now shifted its focus. It is offering me bigger breasts. No thanks. No mansiere here.

Video claustrophobia
: A trend: The fight for every pixel on a video screen — whether that’s a computer monitor or a TV set — is getting out of hand.

Every web site has bigger ads that weren’t big enough and so they have ads that cover everything for as long as they can get away with it. Hey, we gotta make a buck.

But the same thing is happening on TV. FoxNews covers the bottom of its sceen with logos, tickers, clocks, summaries of what the person on the screen just said, and anything else they can think of. It’s getting so you can’t see the person on the screen; TV is turning itself into a web page. And the trend is set to explode; expect to see tickers everywhere. TV Remote reports that the AP is now offering tickers to TV stations.

Things are moving so much on the screens I see I’m getting dizzy.

In the land of the networked, the networker is king
: Nick Denton brought together a great mix of fascinating people last night, a blog brain trust.

Afterwards, it occurred to me that a blog is a bit like a good party: It is selective; you decide to who to link to just like you decide who to drink with. And a good blogger is a good and generous host, like Denton.

It was refreshing to talk about an exciting new business again with Scott Heifermann of and about the meaning of community with Clay Shirky and about new technology I barely understand with the legendary Doc Searls and about brains with Steven Johnson (Plastic, Feed, Emergence) — who really should be blogging — instead of what online people usually talk about when they get together and drink: how tough it is to make this thing into a business. It inspires new thinking (instead of drunken depression).

Also was delighted to finally meet or remeet Matthew Yglesias, Anil Dash, Megan McArdle, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Rick Bruner, David Gallagher, Cameron Marlow, Om Malik, Elizabeth Spiers, the very gracious host John Johnson of Eyebeam, and others whose links I can’t find now. Also always great to see Amy Langfield and John Hiler.

Tomato, tomahto, rotten in any case
: Allan Connery answers my question:

I’ve always thought of it as ebb it- dah, with the stress on the first syllable.

For example, recall Porky Pig’s farewell at the end of his cartoons:

“EBITDA, EBITDA, that’s all, folks.”

Salon gasps: Another sound of

Salon gasps
: Another sound of the death rattle from Salon. From it’s 10-K [via The End of Free]:

As of March 31, 2002, Salon’s available cash resources were sufficient to meet working capital needs for approximately three to four months depending on revenues generated during the period. Salon’s auditors have included a

paragraph in their report indicating that substantial doubt exists as to its ability to continue as a going concern because it has recurring operating losses and negative cash flows, and an accumulated deficit.

A year ago, its ad revenue was $7.5 million; in the fiscal year ending this March, that fell to $1.9 million and total revenue was $3.6 million. Loss: $11 million. Stock: 8 cents today. Market cap: $1.28 million (v. more than $5 million a year ago). Not looking good.

You say rotten tomato, I say rotten tomahtoh
: A trivial curiosity: What is the proper pronounciation of EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and ammortization)? Back when I worked at Time Inc. when it became Time Warner and because of its crushing debt it pushed this measure of performance (as opposed to the old-fashioned PROFIT!), it was pronounced with a short “i” sound at the start (as in “hit) and the accent on that syllable: IH-bih-dah. A friend and colleage who used to work at Goldman (they oughta know) and a financial reporter on TV this morning put the accent on the second syllable and started with a long “e”: ee-BID-dah. We’re going to be hearing a lot abot this as companies that use EBITDA — instead of PROFIT! — are slammed on Wall Street, so I just want to know.

One nation, under Howard Stern…
: Howard Stern sides with the court on the pledge of allegiance ruling. He also says it’s a nonissue; when he was a kid, he never paid attention to the pledge. Right on both counts.

Crime pays
: Just saw a new commercial for Mr. Deeds. They’re not promoting Adam Sandler (small mercies). They’re promoting Winona Ryder. She’s in the news. Shoplifting must be hot; just look at what’s happening on Wall Street.

Graduation: I went to a

Graduation
: I went to a high school graduation tonight (no, not my own).

I was surprised — and perhaps I should not have been — that every single speech by every single kid — and there were lots of them speaking — focused on 9.11, on the impact on their year and their lives and the country and the future.

: By the way, at the start of the ceremony, we said the pledge of allegience. Yes, I said it. Nobody was compelling me to and so I did.

I [select one: do/do not] pledge allegiance…
: The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals declared recitation of the pledge of allegiance in schools unconstitutional because of the words “under God.”

I expect packs of conservative jackels to come out of their caves with fang bared on this one.

But I also expect that this is the true test of the libertarians out there: I can’t see how they could agree with the government compelling anyone to pledge anything, eh?

When I was in school, in the Vietnam era, I was one of those obnoxious kids who refused to say it and I stand by that right now. The government at any level should not compel me to pledge anything, including God; that would be unAmerican. And I’m not libertarian.

Say it ain’t so
: Matt Welch is taking a break.

Give me liberty or give me blog
: Two guys are studying the impact on top-down media of blogs and other such bottoms-up media. Their study is not out yet, but the preview looks interesting. The study comes from Shayne Bowman and Chris Willis; the preview from Dale Peskin:

Bowman and Willis are exploring a shift in thinking about the mainstream press that is not merely generational or technological, but societal. It considers how a civic-minded citizen-press, not unlike the one at the time of the American Revolution, may impact the set of journalistic values that have been in place in the United States for about 150 years. It examines the principle of the press as privileged, trusted, informed intermediary of the news, and whether it can endure in an interconnected world where individuals have inexpensive, frequently equal, sometimes advantageous access to news and its sources. It tests the notion of “journalist as expert” in an empowered society of specialists and a global, collective intelligence.

Do not think for a second that there will be no value to (a) real reporting and real facts and (b) credibility in the media future. They will stay valuable and their purveyors — newspapers, magazines, broadcast news — with them.

Still, these guys make a point from the other perspective, the perspective that matters — especially online: from the perspective of the audience. I like the sound of “civic-minded citizen-press.” Now we’ve been hearing about this press of the people for sometime and often, it has not been so high-fallutin’; it has been shrill or tacky or worse. But that was on usenet and forums and chats and personal web pages.

Blogs are different. They add the element of quality to the citizen press. As I said to a reporter who called me on this topic the other day, blogs are edited products. And blogs and their links live within a system of self-selection in which the cream rises, quality wins. The best blogs get linked to and get traffic; the worst ones done.

And though real reporting, real facts, and real credibility still have value, this bottoms-up press also adds value; it selects and summarizes and links to and packages and adds perspective to all that real news; it saves us time and it lets us here another voice, the voice of the people. It is the beginning of a citzen press.

More mallaise
: I went to techxny (formerly PC Expo) — a hardware show — in New York today. Beyond sad. Below depressing. The show was way smaller than it used to be — a third of its former self. The attendance was down. Most disturbing: There was no innovation, no development. There was no new there.

Our economy needs help.

Salad: The crisis in confidence

Salad
: The crisis in confidence in American business management only gets worse.

Now Worldcom says it has uncovered massive fraud: costs that should have counted as operating expenses — coming out of the current P&L — were instead counted as capital expenditures, which can be depreciated in the future. Thus the bottom line was inflated by $3.8 billion over five quarters.

As a result, Worldcom is expected to declare bankruptcy.

Worldcom runs most of the Internet.

Meanwhile, Martha Stewart kept trying to change the subject when she was quizzed about her stock trading scandal on CBS this morning. “I want to focus on my salad,” she snipped as she snipped her lettuce.

And the stock market tanked. Again.

Enron… Anderson… Qwest… Adelphia… Global Crossing…

Meanwhile, consumer confidence tanked. Again.

And airlines went begging for federal loans while Amtrak damned near died.

And terrorism fears continue.

And war fears continue.

What a frigging mess.

I hate to give all you libertarians the heebie-jeebies but… It is time for some GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION. We need regulation; the last few months are the proof that a completely unfettered marketplace will be up to no good. We need government reassurances that they will clean up business; we cannot rely on business to police itself. We need help.

Thanks to Osama bin Laden and a bunch of crooked CEOs, the American economy is sinking into the sewer.

Help!

Demos
: The wise Andrew Sullivan is running a survey to find out the demographics of his audience because sponsors want to know.

This would be a wise move for a larger group of bloggers to do. The more we know about you (aka us), the readers, the more we can make the case for our business.

Any volunteers?

Please, folks, remember: Amy Langfield

Please, folks, remember
: Amy Langfield remembers to remember what happened in September.

The blog blog
: Hylton Jolliffe of the wonderful Corante media and technology site now has a blog on blogging. I hope he can keep up this level of energy: very impressive.

The blog biz
: John Hiler, whose Microcontent News is also associated with Corante, writes that blogging software is disruptive technology — disruptive to content management systems. He’s onto something. Blogging software could not run lots of sites. But for certain sites, it does pretty amazing things: publishing current and archived content to multiple templates from multiple authors. It could do wonders for workflow and some other things I’ve been thinking about, too….

Blog blather
: Watch for another blogging story, this time from a certain great British magazine; was interviewed today.

Body v. brain
: I was feeling inferior tonight watching Dog Eat Dog, the latest alleged-reality show on NBC. The bodies were amazing; the strength impressive; just looking at them, I was reminded of all those times I was picked last for the team in school. But then we came to the final question that determined the winner of the night: Who served as both president and vice-president of the United States but was not elected to either office? The lady with the body as hard as the rocks in her head answers, after much thinking, “Colin Powell.”

I no longer felt inferior.

But I did fear for the news business. Is anybody paying attention out there?

Ken Layne is a fool
: And so am I. He tells us why we should all be writing TV scripts.

Rossi reads: Rossi will read

Rossi reads
: Rossi will read from her memoirs — “Days of Awe,” cooking for rescue workers at Ground Zero — on WNYE FM (91.5) on July 3 at 6p.

Whew
: I am a centrist leaning toward left-liberal.

I know because I took the test. [via Jim Henley]

It’s so good to know that there is no recessive libertarian gene in my DNA. Such a relief.

Is it me?
: Tonight on This Old House, the homeowners hugged their contractor, Tom Silva.

I sued mine.

Not fair.

Oy Oz
: Jewsweek has lots of good stories. This week: Jews in prison.