Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas war profiteers

Who's profiting from the Christmas wars?

Profiteers, of course.

AFA says buttons and magnets are selling so well, it plans to expand its campaign to Easter.

Hm, wonder what that slogan will be? "Put Eostre back in Easter"?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Richard Dawkins, fundamentalist

Not unlike the religious simpletons he claims to disdain, Dawkins sees the world in terms of a battle of Good vs. Evil, cloaked here as Science vs. Religion. Where Religion is corrupt, tyrannical and false, Science offers intellectual integrity, freedom and truth. As Robinson notes, Dawkins fails to acknowledge Science's less admirable achievements, be they eugenics, Hiroshima, or the more mundane travesties committed by unethical doctors or fat-cat researchers in service of corporate funding.

"Dawkins implicitly defines science as a clear-eyed quest for truth, chaste as an algorithm, while religion is atavistic, mad, and mired in crime," Robinson writes.

In this version of atheist theology, Science attains the same status as Dawkins' loathed "alpha male in sky," whose laws rule all things known and unknown. If we do not quite understand how the universe was created or the human brain works -- or the competing, contradictory claims about the virtues of, say, table salt -- all we need to do is wait and keep faith in the scientific method, which will reveal all in good time. The ways of Science are no less sacred or mysterious than that of God.

Lakshmi Chaudhry @ AlterNet

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Charitable solicitations a rip-off

One reason not to respond to charitable solicitations over the phone: the telemarketer is pocketing half the money.

Charitable organizations that used telemarketers to solicit money from Colorado residents in the past year kept an average of 51 percent of the cash collected, with the telemarketing companies retaining the rest.


About 15 percent of the charitable campaigns conducted in Colorado received less than a dime for every dollar collected over the phone. Just two [of 187] campaigns got more than 90 cents per dollar raised.

Spirit of Christmas

I don't know if you've followed what's been happening at the Seattle airport and its taking down of Christmas trees after some Jews requested a menorah be installed. There was quite the outcry.

Not only the Port, but local Jewish organizations, felt the consequences of that decision.

Robert Jacobs, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said about 14 organizations or rabbis had reported receiving hate e-mail. On Monday, his organization was advising local Jewish institutions that have received significant numbers of hate e-mails to consider having security during Hannukah and other holiday season events.

How's that for Christmas spirit?

Oh, the trees have been put back up.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Allchin on Macs

"I would buy a Mac today if I was not working at Microsoft."

Windows chief Jim Allchin in a January 2004 e-mail to Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates.

iTunes sales shrinking?

AppleInsider has a story about how iTunes music purchases may be shrinking instead of growing.

I know from personal experience, I've owned an iPod for a couple years and I still buy CDs instead of albums from iTunes. iTunes is great for purchasing individual tracks, but $10 (or more!) is still too expensive for a full album when I can get a CD from Amazon for the same (or a couple bucks more). With the CD I get better sound quality, a backup and a printed insert.

iTunes needs to make purchases more tempting with albums costing $5 or $7. But, of course, that's not fully up to Apple. And the record companies seem intent on continuing to shrink their market by charging too much.

Update: Another analyst says iTunes music purchases continue to be strong.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Good Advent to you

Christianity Today's Ted Olsen summarizes this year's Christmas wars. It appears America's retailers have learned their lessons and have put Chri$tmas back into their commercialization.

And then there's this:

Those who engage in combat to remind others of "the reason for the season" would do well to remember that the Christmas season as such has only existed for about a century and a half. The 1,500-year-old Christian season that precedes December 25 is Advent, a time of fasting, penitence, and somber waiting. Protestants who eschew Advent because of an association with Rome have precedent for doing so. But the Reformers, Puritans, colonial Baptists, and others who gave rise to modern evangelicalism either passed Christmas Day with a simple worship service, or strongly opposed such a "popish" observance.

How's that for irony?

Wishing you a good Advent.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Pre-paid cell phone discussion

There was a discussion on Slashdot yesterday about pre-paid phone plans in the US. Virgin and T-Mobile came up as the ones to look at. I think Virgin is a little cheaper for the absolute minimal user ($60/year vs. $100/year) but I think T-Mobile has the better phones, especially if you want an unlocked GSM phone that you can also use internationally.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Democrats in moderation

Lo and behold, it looks like the Democrats in Washington do know how to moderate themselves. They realize that in order to win elections (including the upcoming 2008 presidential contest), you have to aim for the middle. This was something I think Republicans, including the president, forgot. They have two years to re-educate themselves.

Now maybe all the Republicans who worked themselves up into a lather over the idea of ultra-liberals in control (or out of control?) will be proved right eventually, but it's not looking promising at this point. Today the bipartisan Iraq study group did not advocate "cut & run". And the NY Times ran a piece about how liberal black lawmakers realize that even if their seats wouldn't be jeopardized with too liberal lawmaking, there are moderate Democrats that just got elected who could be shown the door in 2008.

like other leaders of the larger Democratic caucus, the black lawmakers are being cautioned to be mindful of a broader audience that includes voters in Republican-leaning swing districts, where those initiatives can be politically perilous.


“It’s going to be a delicate balance for the chairmen,” said Representative Melvin Watt, the North Carolina Democrat who is chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. “They want to be progressive in their agenda, but they don’t want the public to react negatively to what they are doing, because they know you are leading up to a 2008 presidential election.”


[Representative Charles B.] Rangel [said] he was conscious that as Ways and Means chairman he would be accountable to a different constituency, including what he called “wannabe Democrats” — moderate freshman elected in Republican-leaning districts.