Liberal Media

Recently a co-worker sent an e-mail that was a forwarded message from a friend serving in the US military in Iraq.  The message talked about how the war was very different than what was portrayed in the American media.  The introduction to the forwarded message made specific reference to the “liberal media” and how “they” ignore the realities of American operations in Iraq.  The “liberal media” phrase got me thinking.


“Liberal media” is a term that I hear bandied about quite frequently.  It is usually used by conservative talk show hosts or politicians who feel that their views aren’t adequately represented by the main stream media outlets or, worse, that the media are somehow perpetrating a massive fraud on Americans to further the “liberal media” objective.  What does “liberal media” really mean?  Does the media really have a liberal bias?  And if so is that bias really a bad thing for a liberal democracy such as America?


A liberal democracy is a society traditionally defined as one which respects the rights and freedoms of the individual and one where the government is selected by the individuals that comprise the society.  This is sometimes also considered classical liberalism.  It does not imply, as some suggest, the appropriation of private assets by the government (as in various forms of socialism), though such socialist activities if agreed to by a majority of the society could be part of liberal democracy.  Strong liberal democracies tend to have very high levels of wealth relative to their less democratic neighbors.


Major American media outlets are owned by some of America’s, and the world’s, largest and most conservative corporations.  ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Company; NBC by GE; CNN by Time Warner Inc.; and Fox by News Corp.


One would conclude from even a small sampling of the most well-known news outlets that if the corporate parent truly objected to the manner in which their news subsidiaries presented the news that the parent would act to “correct” any “liberal” bias in the selection and presentation of news.  That they have not should be telling.  Corporations exist for one purpose and one purpose only:  to make monetary profits for their stockholders.  To accomplish that purpose, media companies must deliver the news in manner that their readers and watchers want.  If biased “liberal media” does in fact exist, one can conclude it is because that is what the consumers of the services demand and what is, therefore, profitable for their corporate interests.  If more consumers of mainstream media demanded a different bias then the media outlets would change their presentations to match the preferences of consumers.  That media outlets are still charged by some to have a bias towards deceptive liberalism should also be telling in that not enough consumers have demanded a change.


Advocates of the view that the news media are too “liberal” quickly forget, or, perhaps, deliberately ignore, that the news media tend towards a moderate position with respect to the liberal or conservative view points on major events.  One need only look to the behavior of the news media with respect to the troubles of President Bill Clinton.  A “liberal” media would have ignored the moral foibles of President Clinton.  Yet the media of the period pursued those indiscretions with the same zealousness they are accused of today with respect to the Iraq War.


The Founders considered the free press to be so important to the successful functioning of a liberal democracy that the very first amendment to the Constitution contains the phrase: Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press … .  It is clear from this statement that the Founders believed that a free and independent press (including today’s plethora of media) be accorded protections to pursue their coverage of the affairs of government as the press saw fit and not as the government would like them.


In effect, the press is the fourth branch of government.  It is the conscious, it is the memory of government.  It is fully independent.  Individual reporters are free to present the news, and their interpretation of the news, as they believe appropriate.


The phrase “liberal media” has, in some quarters, a connotation that questioning the decisions of the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch, and the Judicial Branch of government is some how bad or wrong; that a “liberal media” some how eats away at the core, traditional values of America.  Media free to question any subject, any statement, any act (or failure to act) of the sitting government is an effective check on the abuse of power that can accrue to a sitting government.


What would it be like to live in a country like Russia, North Korea, Iran, or China where the media that does exist celebrates the achievements of the government and personalities within the government, ignores that same government’s failings, and reports on every failing or negative event in other free countries, such the US, with great glee?  The same people who criticize the “liberal” US media wish that other countries where the media isn’t free would be more like the US media.  If the US media is “liberal” and that is “bad,” how can the US media model be good for these other countries?  This is one of the paradoxical features of claiming that the US media is “too liberal.”


Is the modern American media perfect?  No, it leaves a lot to be desired.  But it is free.  The media are unshackled by government in the news that they choose to present and the editorial analysis so frequently presented with the news is unfettered by any governmental “line”.  The media should be criticized for their genuine failings.  Being “liberal” is not one of those failings.

Metallica – Death Magnetic

Metallica’s new album, Death Magnetic, is finally out.  After 2003’s St. Anger disaster I was prepared for another, politely, poor showing.  I’m not a rabid Metallica fan, so I wasn’t ready to write them off on Death Magnetic.  But I’ve been pleasantly surprised.  I’ve already listened to the entire CD more time in the last couple of days than I have ever listened to St. Anger.

There’s definitely some interesting guitar work in lots of places … the later portion of “The Day that Never Comes” stands out.  I’d like to hear entire songs like that.  Lars finally got his drum kit fixed; it sounds like real drums again (though occasionally a little bit of the drum sound from the last album leaks through).  I also like “Broken, Beat, & Scarred”.

Metallica - Death Magnetic
Metallica - Death Magnetic

Whether I like the album or not is immaterial.  If I don’t like it what I hear before the release, I won’t buy it.  The only people in the world that have to like it is Metallica … it’s their work.  I’ve said this for years and I stand by it.  Death Magnetic, though is a good album.  Definitely worth being considered in the same breath as their best works (which I think are Master of Puppets and the Black Album).

Fake Antivirus Programs

Fake anti-virus warnings like the one below really piss me off.  This one came up in Internet Explorer while using Google to do some research.

Antivirus 2009
Antivirus 2009 in Internet Explorer


This dialog popped up from a perfectly legitimate link in Google results.  Regardless of whether the dialog is closed with the OK button, the Cancel button, or the window close button, the user is taken to a malicious web site.  The web site behind the link redirects to

Pop-up blocking is activated in Internet Explorer.

Internet Explorer Popup Blocking Set
Internet Explorer Popup Blocking Set

Firefox is no less immune in this respect.

Antivirus 2009 in Firefox
Antivirus 2009 in Firefox

 Apple Safari on a MacBook Pro has the same issue.

Antivirus 2009 - Safari
Antivirus 2009 in Safari


I’m a fairly knowledgable computer use with up-to-date security software installed on my systems, so it was a bit of a surprise when browsers started popping up warnings about being “struck by the virus.”  It is easy to see how “average” computer users can be misled by these sorts of popups

Free Browser Toolbars

Why is it that every application thinks that it needs to install a toolbar into Internet Explorer (or other browsers) to help me with my browsing experience?

I’ve collected a few examples of installation programs “helpfully” offering to install a toolbar into Internet Explorer; there are, undoubtedly, many others.

AVGs Free Toolbar
AVG's "Free" Toolbar
Skypes Free Toolbar
Skype's "Free" Toolbar
SpySweepers Free Toolbar
SpySweeper's "Free" Toolbar
Suns Free Toolbar
Sun's "Free" Toolbar

These are just a few of the “helpful” toolbars that are offered by these otherwise reputable vendors.

Most often these toolbars are installed automatically if the user runs the default installation.  I’m a fairly savvy user (I write software professionally afterall) and I normally run through “custom” or “advanced” install options if provided in the installer to see what “helpful” things I might be signing up for (there’s always the “send us anonymous feed back about your experience to help us improve the user experience” opt-out option).  Unsophisticated users, like my wife or my parents, won’t likely take the custom installation route because it probably seems to hard or they feel like they “don’t know enough” to make informed choices while customizing.

Ok, I do know why these tools are installed:  reputable vendors install them to “improve the user experience.”  That’s marketing spin to obscure the fact that these toolbars are really there to help the company and its “carefully selected partners” obtain more information about what interests consumer and help the “better tailor products to ” their “core demographic.”  In other words, they’re installed because it helps the marketers sell more stuff.

A lot of the toolbars are really pretty harmless … other than slowing down the browsing experience with other stuff loaded in memory and all of the extra communications to improve the user experience.

Software vendors should take the “opt-in” rather than the “opt-out” approach to installing these helpers.  It would make the default installation process faster, safer, and result in less clutter on user systems and user browsers.  But, and this is why they won’t, if they did the marketers would pay less for the information because fewer computers would actually be returning data to the marketers and, in turn, their clients would pay them less for the information.  All marketing operations should be “opt-in” rather than “opt-out”, but that isn’t likely to happen unless consumers rise up and demand a change in law to clearly disclose all marketing data collection operations and require that the default answer to the “Would you like to participate” or “Would you like this widget that is going to collect all sorts of information about you and send it to our servers so we can sell you more stuff” questions be “No, I don’t.”

The vendors that choose to add these “helpers” to their installation packages aren’t likely to stop anytime soon.  If anything, more vendors will feel the pressure to do this as well.  It will be a challenge to train unsophisticated users to properly deal with installation programs to minimize the chances that unwanted “helpers” will be installed on their system.

Update:  Noticed I missed the SpySweeper image when I posted this.

Google Chrome

Google released a new web browser today, Google Chrome.  Currently Chrome is only available for Windows.

In my brief experiments with it on a Windows Vista 32-bit system it seems to be an interesting, if incomplete entry into the 21st century browser wars.  Chrome seems to me to be a bit faster starting up and loading web pages than Internet Explorer 7, Firefox 3, and Opera 9.  But I haven’t actually confirmed that it is faster.

One feature that I’ve noticed missing from Chrome is RSS and Atom feed discovery.  If feed discovery does exist in the browser it isn’t obvious.  Google’s marketing spin is that it is “not just a browser, but also a modern platform for web pages and applications.”  RSS/Atom feed discovery is, at least to me, an essential part of a “modern platform.”

I think I like the idea that Chrome spawns a separate process for each tab page.

Google Chrome Tasks
Google Chrome Tasks

The idea behine this is that if one web page fails it does not take the rest of the browser with it.  I’ve had just that happen on occassion, so it seems like a useful innovation in the browser space.

Google Chrome even comes with its own Task Manager!


Google Chrome Task Manager
Google Chrome Task Manager

This seems like it might be a handy little tool for inspecting the operation of Chrome.  “Stats for nerds” opens a web page with some other interesting details about Chrome.  Download it and try it out.

Google Chrome seems like it might be a viable entrant in to the browser marketplace.  As a part-time web developer it will certainly become one of the tools on Windows with which I test web applications.

Blog Experiment

This post is being done from my iPhone. Because I can. The phone doesn’t want to display the visual editor. Now that I know that it will be quicker to do this. Now … If I could just master typing on the darn thing.

Judas Priest Live

As promised, I got to see Judas Priest live in Seattle last night at the WaMu Theater with my son and a friend of his.  And, as predicted, the Priest opened with Dawn of Creation/Prophecy.  Halford came through the set wearing a robe covered in chrome (the picture sucks a little … what do you expect when taking a picture of a mirror?).
Halford - Nostradamus
Halford – Nostradamus

The set covered all of the classic material like Breakin’ the Law, You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’, Hell Bent for Leather, Painkiller, and The Green Manalishi as well as some more unusual choices like Dissident Aggressor and Hell Patrol.  You can get a complete set list here.  They chose a nice mix of songs.  The audience seemed to respond.

I’ve seen Judas Priest (and Fight/Halford) many times.  This was a very good show.  Halford was far more animated and interacted with the crowd much more than some recent shows I’ve seen.  The whole band, I think, was in top form.  It was clear that they were excited to be on the road in support of some very good material.



Judas Priest
Judas Priest


We had third row seats on the left side of the stage as the crowd faces the stage.  KK was right in front of us the whole time.  The view doesn’t really get any better than that.  (You might have noticed that third row is a little different from second row that I mentioned earlier.  With the way WaMu Theater laid out the seats for this show it was effectively second row.)

One thing I think I will always remember from this show is Halford walking out on stage during the “encore” and upon reaching the Harley saying, “I’m such an idiot.  I forgot something.”  And then turning around and walking back off stage looking for his assistant.  He had forgotten the American flag.

Priest - Harley - US Flag
Priest - Harley - US Flag


Testament opened the show.  I’ve seen Testament before (oddly enough opening for Judas Priest the last time I had second row seats).  Testament was, well, Testament.  You either like Testament or you don’t.  I don’t and their performance didn’t do anything to change that.

All in all, a very good show.  Money and time well spent.  Keep up the great work, guys!

P.S.  I’d still love to see Judas Priest perform Nostradamus – The Opera.

Adventures in Updating the iPhone

This is a little late, but last Friday (July 11, 2008) I took Apple iTunes’ advice that it was time to update my iPhone. Little did I know that it would be an adventure through confusing messages from the iTunes application and non-existent information from Apple on what was happening. By now we all know that Apple rolled out the new iPhone 3G and updates to existing iPhones. Their authentication servers simply could not handle the load.

Everything started OK. iTunes told me about all of the nifty things my iPhone would be able to do right after the update.

iTunes Update

I was soon greeted by this rather disturbing message:

iPhone Error

So I did. iTunes then informed me that there was a problem with my internet security settings were wrong.

iPhone Error

A quick check revealed that both SSL 3.0 and TLS 1.0 were enabled.

SSL / TLS Settings

Trying again didn’t really change anything. I received the message a few times, but it couldn’t give it much attention as I needed to get some actual work done.

Later, iTunes would sit on the “Accessing iTunes Store” step for extended periods.

Accessing iTunes Store

Eventually, it would timeout with a slightly more informative message than the SSL/TLS message.

iTunes Timeout

(Yes, I did switch computers during this process. I’m good programmer after all … try different tricks to see if something works …)

By this stage, I knew that Apple was having problems. I would just have to be patient. I figured I’d check on Apple’s web site to see if they had any sage advice. No such luck.

Apple's Respone

So, I spent much of the morning looking at this:

After about 4 ½ hours I finally received a message on the phone that all would be well.

And Apple’s web site today tells how successful the iPhone 3G rollout and upgrade for existing phones was.

Apple's Cheery Report of Successful Rollout

There are a lot of seemingly interesting new features on the updated iPhone. It will be interesting to see if the iPhone will be able to attach to my employer’s rather finicky VPN for one. The ability to add third-party applications also looks interesting.

Sampling the Apple

I’ve finally purchased an Apple computer product.  Specifically a MacBook Pro.  This post is actually being written from it.

The only real reason to purchase the MBP was to experiment with it.  I’ve used so many Microsoft products (and the occasional Linux system) for nearly 20 years that I decided it was time.  Plus, I have an iPhone and I want to explore writing applications for it.

The MBP is a big adjustment after all the Windows notebooks.  There are keys missing from the keyboard!!  How do Mac programmers get along without “Home” and “End”?  And the track pad only has one button!!!  Whoever heard of having to put two fingers on the track pad and then click the mouse button?

The biggest problem I’m having at the moment is figuring out how to attach to a printer on a Windows XP Pro system.  It just isn’t intuitive.  The setup process for the MBP didn’t ask me about what printers I wanted to use.  That seemed a bit odd as well.

This shouldn’t sound like I’m bashing on the MBP; I’m not.  It’s just a big adjustment.  There are things I like.  For example, it is lighter than my comparable HP notebook.  I also think I might like the feel of the keyboard better.  The dock (or whatever the thing at the bottom of the screen is called) seems cooler than the the Windows taskbar (including the improved Vista taskbar).

It’s really too early to tell what I think about this computer.  I expect that I will write much more about my adventures with the MBP.

Behind the screen you hear the clatter of dice. The Dungeon Master begins to laugh. What do you do?