Thursday, September 27, 2007

Frustrated by press leaks about its most sensitive electronic surveillance work, the secretive National Security Agency convened an unprecedented series of off-the-record "seminars" in recent years to teach reporters about the damage caused by such leaks and to discourage reporting that could interfere with the agency's mission to spy on America's enemies.
Harvard Coop In the Doghouse

The 125-year-old campus bookstore The Harvard Coop is facing some stiff competition from online book retailers. So much so that students trying to do some comparison shopping could find themselves bounced out of the store.

The situation escalated recently when Coop management had police eject a group of students who were writing down ISBN numbers and prices from the bookstore shelves. The "offenders" work for the student-run, a website that provides information on where textbooks can be found for the lowest price.

All along, the Coop has maintained that the ISBNs are its intellectual property. But the director of Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, along with another Berkman Fellow and a Harvard law student, beg to differ: "The Coop neither authored the ISBN numbers on its books nor compiled them in an original selection or arrangement," the trio writes. "Locking competitors out from price comparison is not part of copyright's aim. While some courts have protected the creativity of price estimates, they haven't allowed companies to exclude others from learning market prices or catalog part numbers."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Kill Hill... Or No Bill
Celebrity Culture and the Campaign

Early this summer, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign for president learned that the men’s magazine GQ was working on a story the campaign was sure to hate: an account of infighting in Hillaryland.

So Clinton’s aides pulled a page from the book of Hollywood publicists and offered GQ a stark choice: Kill the piece, or lose access to planned celebrity coverboy Bill Clinton. Despite internal protests, GQ editor Jim Nelson met the Clinton campaign’s demands.

The spiked GQ story shows how the Clinton campaign has been able to use its access to the most important commodity in media — celebrity, and in fact two bona fide celebrities — to shape not just what gets written about the candidate, but also what doesn’t.

There’s nothing unusual about providing extra access to reporters seen as sympathetic, and cutting off those seen as hostile to a campaign. But a retreat of the sort GQ is alleged to have made is unusual, particularly as part of what sources described as a barely veiled transaction of editorial leverage for access.

Politco's Ben Smith reports

Monday, September 24, 2007

The (London) Times' Carol Sarler tells religious pundits to stop all the jibber jabber.

Meanwhile, Paul Kurtz responds to similar requests for humanists and sundry godless types to keep it down: "Let’s be fair: Until now, it has been virtually impossible to get a fair hearing for critical comment upon uncontested religious claims."
KATHMANDU - Officials at Nepal's state-run airline have sacrificed two goats to appease Akash Bhairab, the Hindu sky god, following technical problems with one of its Boeing 757 aircraft.

God Wins Again!
"How can Americans say that they respect science and even know what scientists believe and yet still disagree with the scientific community on some fundamental questions? The answer is that much of the general public simply chooses not to believe the scientific theories and discoveries that seem to contradict long-held religious or other important beliefs."
Or... Does He?
"The anti-Darwin movement has racked up one astounding achievement. It has made a significant proportion of American parents care about what their children are taught in school. And this is not a question of sex or salacious novels; the parents want their children to be taught the truth."

Monday, September 17, 2007

It's The Reunion We Were Told Would Never, Ever, EVER Happen.
Since they broke up decades ago, they’ve turned down many offers and serious gobs of money to perform again.
Regularly lauded as one of the most influential rock and roll bands in history, its members seemed content to just sit back and watch their legend grow... Which it has, to genuinely mythological proportions.
But just last week, fans the world over lathered in sheer ecstasy when news of the impossible was confirmed... There would finally be a one-off reunion.
Uh, what's that you say...? Led Zeppelin?
Well, as nice as it is to hear that those boys are back in the sandbox, we’re talking about something far more monumental…

The Sonics were one of, if not the great architects of the raw rock and roll that went on to be known variously as Garage, Punk and Grunge. In their heyday of 1964-66, The Sonics were cranking out some of the fiercest gutbuckets of sound ever waxed, with a power that holds up remarkably well to this day.

Just think about what was on the radio then…. Lovable mop-tops, harmonizing surfer boys, cuddly girl groups… Hell, think about what's on the radio today... and know why the world needs The Sonics reunion... Now more than ever!

More info at the Cavestomp! MySpace page

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Haidt on Morality and Religion
"Surveys have long shown that religious believers in the United States are happier, healthier, longer-lived, and more generous to charity and to each other than are secular people." Read "Moral Psychology and the Misunderstanding of Religion" By Jonathan Haidt

Harris on Haidt
"...Religion remains the only mode of discourse that encourages grown men and women to pretend to know things they manifestly do not (and cannot) know." Sam Harris and others respond in "The Reality Club" at

Free Speech For Me But Not For Thee

Islamist Orders Hit on Cartoonist and Editor
The head of an al Qaeda-led group in Iraq has offered a $100,000 reward for the killing of a Swedish cartoonist for his drawing of Islam's Prophet Mohammad and threatened to attack major Swedish companies. Reuters' Diala Saadeh reports

Woman Sues Judge Over Language Restrictions
The accuser in a sexual assault case is suing a judge because he barred the word "rape," "victim" and "assailant" and other words from the trial. Read the AP report at

Ridiculously Rich Guy Buys Respect
Since 2002, Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz, has used his considerable financial clout as one of the richest men in the world to garner apologies and damages through the UK courts. Recently, his attention has been turned to respected academic publisher Cambridge University Press, over the book "Alms for Jihad."

The book's authors firmly deny bin Mahfouz’s claims that their book links him, financially and through family, to Osama bin Laden. However, CUP recent issued an outright apology, declared that it would pulp all unsold copies of the book in the UK, and requested that library copies be returned to meet the same fate. Such is the fear of bin Mahfouz that even US-based Amazon is not selling "Alms for Jihad," instead, somewhat disingenuously, offering a 557-word review for the knock-down price of $9.95. Read more in the Index On Censorship

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Event Planning... The White House Way!
Tip #42: If You Can't Keep Your Protesters On Ice, at Least Strive for a Chilling Effect

A married couple neither said nor did anything to disrupt a Bush rally in Charleston, W. Va. But when they refused to remove their anti-Bush T-shirts, they were, at the direction of White House event staff, handcuffed, booked, photographed, and fingerprinted, charged with trespassing, and held for several hours in jail.
Dahlia Lithwick looks at the "Presidential Advance Manual" in Slate