Thursday, May 31, 2007

Water Balloons Are Cool

Water balloons thrown at people are cool:

Water balloons that don't break are cool:

Water balloons being punctured are cool:

Here are more. if you can't get enough.

Toys Are Relative

Mike commented on the my previous post about teens and the net.

Yesterday I found this YouTube video about a guy who got a new air condition and found the remote used the same IR code as his TiVo's select button. So he posed the question to America, which should he give up, a/c or TiVo?

My three best toys are my TiVo, PowerBook, and nav system. but I never really thought of a/c as a toy and do enjoy it those hot summer months. I vaguely remember getting an air conditioner in my room as kid. I certainly remember getting color TV (we were the last of my friends to do so) and obviously getting cable and a VCR. One of the things about cable was that it came with a wired remote. It was a box with 15 buttons in a row and a 3 position dial so you could choose from 45 stations; and you had to be careful not to trip over the cord. I can't even find an image of one online now.

What about the refrigerator or stove, are they toys? The dishwasher or washer/dryer? The phone? Are lights toys? And even all of those pale in comparison to indoor plumbing. I guess the definition of toy is relative.

Mike had such fun with his kids during a black out he's thinking of shutting the power off to the whole house once a month. I bet he doesn't. His TiVo wouldn't record his favorite shows, he'd have to reset a dozen clocks and his food would spoil.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Oppenheimer On Einstein

The New York Review of Books has a lecture delivered at UNESCO House in Paris on December 13,1965 by Robert Oppenheimer on Albert Einstein.

Steve Jobs live from D 2007

Engadget has Steve Jobs live from D 2007. Now the Apple TV has a 160GB drive, that's reasonable. Also, hints that they'll open the iPhone platform to developers at some point.

Palm Foleo

So Palm's new Foleo is basically what was predicted and I can't say I'm running out to get one.

Working on the idea that PDAs and Smartphones were limited by their their small screens and keyboards, the Foleo is a small laptop like device that works with the smartphone (treo and windows mobile now, blackberries and iPhone in the future), giving it a bigger screen (10") and kinda full size keyboard. But it has no hard drive or optical drive and runs Palm's new Linux-based OS. So it's instant on/off like a Palm, does email and has an Opera browser and can read and write MS Office documents. While it has WiFi builtin apparently they're pushing to use the bluetooth connection to the smartphone for a connection.

It syncs data with the smartphone (only with the phone, not the computer). What I don't get is people already have a laptop (or a desktop) and sync stuff to the phone to make it portable. if the Foleo is also supposed to be portable why is it important to sync to the phone too? Or if it's on my phone, will I want to carry this other thing around too. Ok, it's small and only 2.5lbs and apparently gets a real 5 hours of battery life but it's also $500 and not pocket sized.

It's browser can do flash but not well, apparently YouTube videos won't work and it's the fault of the slow processor. The Office stuff comes from Documents to Go, so you have those compatibility headaches too.

Photo Gallery of the Foleo.

Liveblog from the announcement

engadget's version of the event.


White House Dodges Who Made the Purgegate List

In Friday's Friday's White House Press Gaggle Deputy Press Secretary Scott Stanzel continued to dance around who choose the US Attorney's to be put on the list to be fired. At least one reporter Helen Thomas wasn't taking crap, not that did much good:

Q Since no Justice Department official has been forthcoming, who drew up the list of the attorneys -- the prosecutors to be fired?

MR. STANZEL: Well, I think, Helen, that's a subject that's been covered exhaustively on hearings on the Hill --

Q Okay. Tell me, I'm sorry, I have not read who --

MR. STANZEL: I will allow the Justice Department to help you out with that question because --

Q But I'm telling you they're not saying.

MR. STANZEL: They've testified hours and hours and hours about this very issue.

Q Did they say who drew up the list?

MR. STANZEL: Well, I think it's been testified to the fact that Kyle Sampson was working on the process, and I think they testified to that fact.

Q Did he think of the names, himself?

MR. STANZEL: I think he's spoken at length about the review process that was underway.

Q Don't stall, just tell me. Who drew up --

MR. STANZEL: I will refer you to the Department of Justice, Helen.

Q Well, that's another dodge.

Q They won't tell her.

MR. STANZEL: I got that. Thank you. Any other questions?

New Palm Device Today

Mac Rumors has the rumor roundup on the new Palm Device to be announced today. Apparently it's a smartphone companion product called Folio.

"Foleo has a large screen and full size keyboard to view and edit email and office documents. Edits made on Foleo automatically are reflected on its paired smartphone and vice versa. Foleo and its paired smartphone stay synchronized throughout the day or at the touch of a button. Foleo turns on and off instantly, features fast navigation, a compact and elegant design, and a battery that lasts up to five hours of use."

Hopefully it's cooler than that.


Another announcement today is Livescribe. It's a sub-$200 "Montblanc-size" pen with a builtin "computer with advanced processing power, audio/visual feedback, and substantial memory for handwriting capture, audio recording, and applications". As you write it does handwriting recognition.

"Livescribe’s first key application is “Paper Replay.” When taking notes during a discussion or lecture, the smartpen records the conversation and digitizes the handwriting, automatically synching the ink and audio. By later tapping the ink, the smartpen replays the conversation from the exact moment the note was written. Notes and audio can also be uploaded to a PC where they can be replayed, saved, searched and sent."

Microsoft Surface

Expect a number of technology announcements today because of The D Conference | All Things Digital.

First up, Microsoft Surface. They took a 30" LCD touchscreen display, put it horizontal and added some cool software. The website is slick. Apparently it will be available for partners (restaurants, hotels) in November and not for consumers for 3 years. Popular Mechanics has a Behind-the-scenes First Look video of it.

The real neat thing is that you can put a wifi digital camera down and it's detected (drawing a circle around it) and automatically downloads the pictures in it and displays them. Then you can do the Minority Report/iPhone thing, moving them around, resizing, editing, etc. The site shows video of the WiFi capabilities of the Zune coming in real handy here and to send them to a wifi phone on the surface, just drag it to the phone. The Today show showed this in the restaurant theme, doing the same thing with credit cards. You put the card(s) down, it saw them and then you could drag the items from the bill to the various cards to split the check. I'm not sure how it read the credit card though. The MS site has this in "The Possibilities" video so I suspect it's not there yet.

Another thing that confuses me is that I thought Apple had the patents for these various touch technologies. That's what Jobs said during the iPhone announcement. I thought a lot of this stuff came from NYU researcher Jeff Han. He released a video in jan of 2006 that everyone linked to; I blogged it in feb 2006. I guess this is why the Microsoft Site has an "Origins" section showing the evolution of this project from 2001 till now.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Ignoring the Risks of Staying

Glenn Greenwald writes in Salon about The risks of staying. He makes two good points.

"The pre-war debate in the establishment press endlessly showcased and dramatized the supposed risks from not invading (i.e., a Saddam-Al Qaeda alliance, mushroom clouds over U.S. cities, more anthrax and other chemical attacks, a growing perception that America is 'weak'). Yet the risks of invading a sovereign country were all but ignored (i.e., endless occupation, civil war, intense anti-American anger in the Middle East and around the world, regional instability, conflict with Iraq's neighbors, unpredictable consequences, the need to resort to limitlessly brutal means to subdue the population, the temptation to establish a permanent presence)."

It's happening again with Iran.

Padilla Judge Doing Well

"The trial of suspected al-Qaida operative Jose Padilla is by far the biggest ever for U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke, and she is drawing praise for how she has handled the pressure and the complexity of the case."

Iraq Intelligence Horror Stories

Congressional Quarterly has an article Iraq Intelligence Horror Stories Shouldn’t Be Old News. Here's just one story:

Patrick Lang told a hilarious story the other night, for example, about a job interview he had with Douglas Feith, a key architect of the invasion of Iraq.

"‘He was sitting there munching a sandwich while he was talking to me,’ Lang recalled, ‘ which I thought was remarkable in itself, but he also had these briefing papers — they always had briefing papers, you know — about me.
‘He’s looking at this stuff, and he says, ‘I’ve heard of you. I heard of you.’
‘He says, ‘Is it really true that you really know the Arabs this well, and that you speak Arabic this well? Is that really true? Is that really true?’
‘And I said, ‘Yeah, that’s really true.’
‘That’s too bad,’ Feith said."

Too bad this was so serious.

Heckava Job

In early 2006 Bush Aide Claude Allen resigned. He was a domestic policy advisor and "the No. 2 official in the Health and Human Services Department when Bush nominated him in April 2003 to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, VA" It turns out in spite of his $160,000 salary he shoplifted (via fraudulent returns) from Target and Hecht, 25 times.

Now Karl Zinsmeister is the President's Domestic Policy Adviser, and Director of the Domestic Policy Council, which coordinates the domestic policy-making process in the White House. The New Republic has an article on him and it's quite damning. Before joining the administration he ran the American Enterprise Institutes magazine and apparently badly.

"Despite all this--the declining quality of his magazine, his questionable use of subscription sales to promote his own books, his unprofessional treatment of co-workers--Zinsmeister still had one thing going for him: his relationship with AEI President Christopher DeMuth.?

When he got the White House job "privately, many conservatives were stunned--and horrified. "Everyone who knows Karl that I've spoken to reacted with blatant shock," says a former editor at The American Enterprise. Another former staffer at the magazine told me that, after Zinsmeister's hiring, "the last vestige of confidence I had in the Bush administration--which wasn't very much--was shot to hell." A prominent neoconservative Washington journalist put it this way: "Everyone thought it was wacky."

Think Progress led with his quote about a female employee who apparently did good work but he didn't like, "I am never going to hire another woman because they just get pregnant and leave."

Heckava Job...

Administration Fails to Help Global Climate

Daily Kos reports on the news that "The US has rejected any prospect of a deal on climate change at the G8 summit in Germany next month."

"The United States, on this issue, is virtually isolated," one European diplomat said on condition of anonymity under diplomatic rules, and then added, "with the exception of other big polluters."

In other climate change denial news, a House committee has launched an inquiry into claims that the Smithsonian toned down climate change exhibits for fear of angering the Bush administration and Congress.

Teens and the Internet

GigaOM has an article Facebook & Mobile: Teens can’t live without em that was amusing.

"One girl told the audience, ‘I would be lost, helpless, and alone without the Internet. I don’t know how you people survived without it!’"

Personally, I don't know how I found anyplace 10 years ago without my nav system or Google Maps. We used to call people and ask for directions.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

My Current Wallpaper

The Eta Carinae Nebula, I got it from here.

Cheney Speaks at West Point

Saw this on Talking Points Memo. Yesterday Cheney spoke at West Point, see his remarks here: Vice President's Remarks at the United States Military Academy Commencement. He mentioned the Geneva Convention and the US Constitution just once, in the same sentence, see what he said:

"As Army officers on duty in the war on terror, you will now face enemies who oppose and despise everything you know to be right, every notion of upright conduct and character, and every belief you consider worth fighting for and living for. Capture one of these killers, and he'll be quick to demand the protections of the Geneva Convention and the Constitution of the United States. Yet when they wage attacks or take captives, their delicate sensibilities seem to fall away."

So he thinks the Geneva Conventions only apply to non-killers we capture or only to people we don't capture? And he thinks we should ignore the Constitution when he thinks so. This man should not be Vice President, he's not qualified.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Top 25 Censored Stories of 2007

Project Censored released the Top 25 Censored Stories of 2007. These stories all pretty amazing but I'll concentrate on three, all related to Halliburton.

#24 says "Vice President Dick Cheney’s stock options in Halliburton rose from $241,498 in 2004 to over $8 million in 2005, an increase of more than 3,000 percent, as Halliburton continues to rake in billions of dollars from no-bid/no-audit government contracts." Not only are his vested options skyrocketing, but he continues to receive close $200,000 per year in deferred salary from Halliburton.

#2 says that "as recently as January of 2005, Halliburton sold key components for a nuclear reactor to an Iranian oil development company." "Halliburton has a long history of doing business in Iran, starting as early as 1995, while Vice President Cheney was chief executive of the company." Maybe Cheney knows so much about Iran's nuclear program because he's been helping them. "During a trip to the Middle East in March 1996, Vice President Dick Cheney told a group of mostly U.S. businessmen that Congress should ease sanctions in Iran and Libya to foster better relationships, a statement that, in hindsight, is completely hypocritical considering the Bush administration’s foreign policy." What a scumbag.

And to be more frightening, #14 says "Halliburton’s subsidiary KBR (formerly Kellogg, Brown and Root) announced on January 24, 2006 that it had been awarded a $385 million contingency contract by the Department of Homeland Security to build detention camps in the United States."

"It is relevant, says Scott, that in 2002 Attorney General John Ashcroft announced his desire to see camps for U.S. citizens deemed to be 'enemy combatants.' On February 17, 2006, in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld spoke of the harm being done to the country’s security, not just by the enemy, but also by what he called 'news informers' who needed to be combated in 'a contest of wills.'" What freakin' country is this?

The full list of stories:

#1 Future of Internet Debate Ignored by Media
#2 Halliburton Charged with Selling Nuclear Technologies to Iran
#3 Oceans of the World in Extreme Danger
#4 Hunger and Homelessness Increasing in the US
#5 High-Tech Genocide in Congo
#6 Federal Whistleblower Protection in Jeopardy
#7 US Operatives Torture Detainees to Death in Afghanistan and Iraq
#8 Pentagon Exempt from Freedom of Information Act
#9 The World Bank Funds Israel-Palestine Wall
#10 Expanded Air War in Iraq Kills More Civilians
#11 Dangers of Genetically Modified Food Confirmed
#12 Pentagon Plans to Build New Landmines
#13 New Evidence Establishes Dangers of Roundup
#14 Homeland Security Contracts KBR to Build Detention Centers in the US
#15 Chemical Industry is EPA's Primary Research Partner
#16 Ecuador and Mexico Defy US on International Criminal Court
#17 Iraq Invasion Promotes OPEC Agenda
#18 Physicist Challenges Official 9-11 Story
#19 Destruction of Rainforests Worst Ever
#20 Bottled Water: A Global Environmental Problem
#21 Gold Mining Threatens Ancient Andean Glaciers
#22 $Billions in Homeland Security Spending Undisclosed
#23 US Oil Targets Kyoto in Europe
#24 Cheney's Halliburton Stock Rose Over 3000 Percent Last Year
#25 US Military in Paraguay Threatens Region

Fewer candidates apply for positions as U.S. attorneys

What a surprise, Fewer candidates apply for positions as U.S. attorneys. There are currently 22 openings and for the one in Florida, only 2 applicants.

How the Pentagon Got Its Shape

The Washington Post has an excerpt from Steve Vogel's upcoming book The Pentagon: A History called How the Pentagon Got Its Shape "The country was about to take the plunge into World War II, and the race was on to build the biggest office building on the planet."

Foreign Commercials Are Better Than US Ones

Bill Maher on Jimmy Carter on George Bush

Transcript should be here soon:

Barack Obama: How To Combat Republicans

Keith Olbermann on the Funding Wimp Out

Transcript here.

The Funding Wimp Out

I don't understand the cave in on the funding bill. Jim Webb (D-VA) says it's because the Senate wouldn't overturn Bush's veto. But I agree with the DailyKos, "Webb, like most of his colleagues, bought into the b.s. right-wing frame that voting against this supplemental was voting against our troops. And the congressional Democrats were wholly incapable of making the ridiculously simple observation that they were funding the troops, it was Bush who was vetoing that money. Ultimately, as other Democrats have said, they didn't "relish" going home on Memorial Day weekend and getting criticized by Mr. 28% on an issue in which vast majorities of Americans oppose the president."

digby says "But I never in a million years thought that we would re-run 2004 again, and the prospect of having to watch our candidates do verbal gymnastics explaining why they didn't vote for the one thing that could have ended the war --- de-funding --- is almost incomprehensible. Every single day the Republicans are on television trash talking the Dems, saying, "if you are so against this war why won't you use the power o' the purse!" Here we have an opportunity for the presidential candidates to take a free shot and shut down this line of argument right now --- and they aren't jumping at the chance."

John Murtha (D-PA) says "Some have suggested that since the president refuses to compromise, Democrats should refuse to send him anything. I disagree. There is a point when the money for our troops in Iraq will run out, and when it does, our men and women serving courageously in Iraq will be the ones who will suffer, not this president." He then goes on to say that September will be the key date and since his information is that the surge won't work, he thinks we'll have enough votes them. He points out that 418 Americans have lost their lives in this latest surge; apparently he doesn't care about those that will lose theirs till September.

As Glenn Greenwald writes "What does seem clear is that one of the principal factors accounting for the reluctance of Democrats to advocate de-funding is that the standard corruption that infects our political discourse has rendered the de-funding option truly radioactive. Republicans and the media have propagated -- and Democrats have frequently affirmed -- the proposition that to de-fund a war is to endanger the 'troops in the field.'"

"This unbelievably irrational, even stupid, concept has arisen and has now taken root -- that to cut off funds for the war means that, one day, our troops are going to be in the middle of a vicious fire-fight and suddenly they will run out of bullets -- or run out of gas or armor -- because Nancy Pelosi refused to pay for the things they need to protect themselves, and so they are going to find themselves in the middle of the Iraq war with no supplies and no money to pay for what they need. That is just one of those grossly distorting, idiotic myths the media allows to become immovably lodged in our political discourse and which infects our political analysis and prevents any sort of rational examination of our options."

Maybe the Democrats should get Scott Adams to write their scripts. "It’s easy to know who supports the troops more. Anyone who supports policies that would save the most troop lives, and/or reduce injuries, is the most supportive." Read the whole thing it's worth it.

And is it too much to ask for the Democrats to figure out a way to combat the rhetoric? Consider this from the DailyKos, "Consider that the main point of contention -- indeed the only point of contention -- between what Congress has already passed and what Bush will accept has nothing but nothing but nothing to do with the funding. It's definitionally impossible for that to be the case, because every version of the supplemental either house has passed has had more funding in it than the president requested. What Bush and his apologists object to is accountability accompanying that funding."

And to be more mystifying, "70% disapprove of the job the Bush Administration has done [helping returning veterans] and 65% do not think the Department of Veterans Affairs has done well." and yet "Here's what's interesting about this. While the public sees Bush's policies as wasteful of the lives of American soldiers and against their interests -- frequent polls show that Americans think the war was not worth fighting, and now this poll shows that they think he's letting Iraq veterans down -- Americans do appear to think of Bush as overwhelmingly supportive of the troops in a general way."

Friday, May 25, 2007

Courtroom Dramas

Cleaning out some email I came across this list I sent someone. These are the best Courtroom Drama movies; the first 6 are all must-sees, seriously. Stanley Kramer directed 3 of them, Sidney Lumet 2. Spensor Tracy stars in the 3 of them.

12 Angry Men (1957) - Sidney Lumet directs one of my favorite films
Inherit the Wind (1960) - My favorite book I read in school, and I did badly on the exam because they asked crap like what color was his suit, entirely missing the point. Read Summer of the Gods for the true story.
Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) - The Bush administration needs to watch this
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) - Gregory Peck in Harper Lee's classic
Witness for the Prosecution (1957) - Billy Wilder directs an Agatha Christie tale
Adam's Rib (1949) - Tracy and Hepburn at their best
Anatomy of a Murder (1959) - Otto Preminger directs Jimmy Stewart and a great cast
The Caine Mutiny (1954) - not exactly a courtroom drama, but it culminates in a great one.
A Few Good Men (1992) - written by Aaron Sorkin, directed by Rob Reiner, "You can't handle the truth"
The Verdict (1982) - directed by Sidney Lumet, written by David Mamet, starring Paul Newman, I was too young to appreciate it when I first saw it and have to see it again.

How A Democrat Can Get A Veteran's Vote

Kevin Drum writes How A Democrat Can Get My Vote "Our June issue has a pretty provocative set of short pieces called 'How a Democrat Can Get My Vote.' The pieces are written by seven recent war veterans and offer competing perspectives on how a Democratic presidential candidate can win the votes of the active duty military."

Cheney's Warmongering on Iran

Steve Clemons in The Washington Note reports on how Cheney is trying to push is policy to be in a war with Iran. "It is not that Cheney wants to bomb Iran and Bush doesn't, it is that Cheney is saying that Bush is making a mistake and thus needs to have the choices before him narrowed." It's pretty scary. "This White House official has stated to several Washington insiders that Cheney is planning to deploy an "end run strategy" around the President if he and his team lose the policy argument."

Joe Klein confirms some this. The Joints chiefs oppose attacking Iran "Because our intelligence inside Iran is very sketchy. There was no way to be sure that we could take out all of Iran's nuclear facilities. Furthermore, the Chiefs warned, the Iranian response in Iraq and, quite possibly, in terrorist attacks on the U.S. could be devastating. Bush apparently took this advice to heart and went to Plan B--a covert destabilization campaign reported earlier this week by ABC News. If Clemons is right, and I'm pretty sure he is, Cheney is still pushing Plan A."

Meanwhile, Senators Harry Reid (D-NV, Carl Levin (D-MI), Joe Biden (D-DE) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) write to President Bush asking for a report on his Iran policy. "As you know, Section 1213 of the fiscal year 2007 Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 109-364) requires you to provide Congress with an unclassified and classified report on your policy objectives and strategy regarding Iran."

Woody Allen Interviews Billy Graham

Cave Skylights on Mars

Maybe Martians live underground, Caves on Mars. "This black spot is one of seven possible entrances to subterranean caves identified on Mars." It's about 100m across.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I Was Told Things Would Be Different

I completely agree with Cenk Uygur in the Huffington Post, I Was Told Things Would Be Different.

Goodling Thought

There have been a couple of Democrats who have been what I think is unfairly adversarial, particularly with a witness that really seems to be trying to answer the questions. But for the last few republicans that have been talking (questioning seems too strong a word), Ms. Goodling seems to be staring at them with a look that says "do I have to sit here while you talk?"

Goodling Testifies

We're at the first recess and it's a little anti-climatic. She comes across as a nice person trying to do her job. She says she had little interaction with the White House in spite of her title as WH Liaison. She didn't put people on the list though she also makes a distinction about the 8 or not. There was one US Attorney on the list that she recommended be removed and after the second such recommendation she was.

From her opening statement I wondered what reason she had for taking the fifth, a few congressmen asked just that. It turns out that she improperly used political considerations in making hiring decisions for career (that is non-political) decisions. One congressman pushed to clarify that improperly means illegally; there are statues that say this can't be done.

It's still not clear who made the decisions. Kyle Sampson had the list and brought it around to people. He claims he just changed it based on consensus, but Goodling's recommendations were seemingly not followed at times and followed at other times, so someone made a judgement call.

Several Republicans have been useless in this hearing. Chris Cannon (R-UT) used the time to talk about John Murtha. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) repeated the point that US Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president and repeated the lie that there was nothing unusual about the firings last December. In fact it's highly unusual for such a large number of US Attorneys to be replaced at once in the middle of a presidents term, never been done before.

I will say this about Goodling's testimony; she seems to have taken her oath to tell "the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth" seriously. She speaks quickly and completely but not extraneously. She gives yes/no answers when appropriate. On a couple of occasions when asked to give yes/no answers she gave a complete sentence that wasn't a "I don't recall" or a rephrasing of the answer into being for a different question, but rather was more complete than a pure yes/no. E.g., when asked if she ever asked political questions about a career applicant she said she certainly did for every political appointment and sometimes people applied for both positions at the same time and sometimes when finding background info on applicants they found political information about them.

She even answered both Republicans and Democrats equally. Rep Dan Lungren (R-CA) was trying to give her softballs. He started by saying don't US Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president and isn't it appropriate to find people who will support the policies effectively. He asked about people suggesting replacing US Attorneys to influence cases, mentioning Domenici complaining about corruption cases and Feinstein complaining about lack of coyote prosecutions in San Diego. She said "Yes, but I didn't understand those to be...the memory is not that it was of any specific case but it was more of a focus or emphasis, but again I didn't hear the Senator's comments because the Attorney General had the phone up to his ear, so I couldn't he actually what he said." (referring to Domenici). C-SPAN had a split screen showing Lungren during her answer. He kept nodding at the beginning of the answer in the way you do to tell someone I get it you can stop now. When she got to the part about not hearing what was actually said, he grimaced, as if saying why did you say that, and spoke over her answer saying "Thank you very much" as if trying to get her to stop. It seemed like a Daily Show moment.

I wish Gonzales and others answered questions like Goodling.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Talking With Iraqi Students

An interesting article in the Huffington Post describes an ongoing conversation between students at Davidson College in North Carolina and the University of Baghdad in Iraq. The two previous conversations were in 2003, the first on March 12 before the war and the second on May 8th after the invasion.

"When I asked the U.S. group if the war had been worth it, almost all agreed that it had been a mistake and 'not worth it.'"

"One [Iraqi student] captured this ambivalence in a single sentence: 'We need help - don't leave us,' the student begged, 'but at the same time, leave as soon as possible.'"

"It was important to the Baghdad students that their American counterparts understand that they don't believe their country is in a civil war. Rather, it is a power struggle between competing political groups, with innocent Sunnis and Shi'ais caught in the middle."

It's a good article worth a read.

Democrats Drop Iraq Timelines

The Democrats caved, Iraq Timelines Dropped. I don't really understand, Bush is the one that needs the money, by not funding the war, withdrawl is the only option. Apparently about 100 Democrats (including Pelosi) won't vote for the bill.

Wired Gas Price Atlas

Stop whining about gas prices:

Monday, May 21, 2007

Former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor

Interesting interview with Former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

The administration's FISA Lies

Glenn Greenwald points out the lies in Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell's Washington Post Op-Ed. When the administration tells you that the FISA law is obsolete, don't believe them.

Movie Review: Once

Once is very low budget Irish film that's getting rave reviews after winning the Audience Award at Sundance this year. It's about an unnamed Irish guy that plays his guitar on the streets of Dublin when not working in his father's vacuum repair shop. He meets an unnamed Czech girl that likes his music and plays piano. They play some more together, learn a little about each and make a demo recording.

Ok, it's not really about the plot. No really it's not. They guy is getting over a past love. We don't learn much about the girl at first and I kept expecting a big secret to be revealed but instead she has a background story that's all too common but still interesting. The stars, Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová are not actors but musicians. The film is certainly more than an extended music video but it's an excuse to tell a small story through music. You can hear many of the songs on the album The Swell Season.

I liked the music, but found many of the songs very similar. Irish accents get in the way of understanding the dialog a few times but the worst is the first scene (which is pretty fun), it gets better after that. Once is nothing like a Hollywood musical, instead there are no costumes, dance numbers or even music that comes out of nowhere. Instead muscians play music (sometimes in public) and sing heartfelts songs and a hand held camera films it all.

I liked Once but don't understand the universal praise that's being heaped on this film. I appreciate what was done for only about $150,000 but I did check my watch a couple of times. I think I probably would have enjoyed the soundtrack a little more.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Al Gore's Office

I want those monitors.

MLB Salary vs Performance

This is a cute salary vs performance graph of major league baseball. Salary per team down the right, standings down the left and lines connecting the two. The slope, coloring, and size of the line shows if they're overpaid or not. What's fun is the selectable timeline at the top so you can manipulate it to see how it changes during the season.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Real Life Spy Story

Wired Magazine has a fun read about How the CIA used a fake sci-fi film to sneak six Americans out of revolutionary Iran in January 1980. Cameo appearances by the Oscar winning makeup artist of Planet of the Apes, comics legend Jack Kirby, and Rosie Grier. This would be a good movie.

Coulter Update

I hate Ann Coulter and hate writting about her. The BRAD BLOG reports the Ann Coulter Voter Fraud case gets weirder and weirder.

"The Palm Beach Sheriffs Office, which had been investigating the matter, has closed the case after an FBI agent interceded on Coulter's behalf"

"The reason offered by the FBI man for Coulter's use of a phony address on her form...was because of claims that she was being "stalked" by a conservative" blogger. This doesn't really hold up because she didn't hide her real address at other times (the house was purchased in her own name, not a trust) though it seems she also lied for her driver's license address.

"The FBI man in question, Supervisory Special Agent Jim Fitzgerald [an FBI profiler from the FBI Academy's Behavioral Analysis Unit in Quantico], was Coulter's former boyfriend."

"After the [Palm Beach] Post contacted the bureau for comment on the matter, the FBI 'immediately launched an internal review of the agent's involvement.'"

More Bush Scandals -- So What?

Interestng article by Dave Johnson in the Huffington PostMore Bush Scandals -- So What?. There's a media matters post too Lawlessness ... and fecklessness. Many (e.g., the Washington Post) keep calling the administration lawless (Iraq War, NSA Spying, etc. ) but nothing seems to happen.

Live Earth

I hadn't heard of this but apparently on July 7th 2007 (that's 7/7/7) there will be several large LiveAid-style concerts called Live Earth "Live Earth will be a legendary music event – 9 concerts, over 100 headlining music acts, 24 hours of music across all 7 continents broadcast to over 2 billion people. Live Earth and the SOS campaign were created to increase awareness and engage a global audience with solutions to the climate crisis." Al Gore is behind it.

Uh huh. Apparently there's already some backlash. Roger Daltry said "The last thing the planet needs is a rock concert. I can't believe it. Let's burn even more fuel. We have problems with global warming, but the questions and the answers are so huge I don't know what a rock concert's ever going to do to help." Sir Bob Geldor, organizer of LiveAid is also opposed to it. Expressing a view I wish was true in the US he said "Everybody's known about that problem for years. We are all fucking conscious of global warming." Whlie the concerts will try to use green energy, others complain that the performers will use private jets to get to the events.

I also learned there's another big concert this summer, the week before. On July 1st will be the Concert for Diana. "Prince William and Prince Harry will mark the 10th anniversary of their mother’s death with an event to celebrate her life." Proceeds go to charities. They seem with it, the web site today (May 19th) says "Extra tickets are going on sale tomorrow, Friday 27 April, at 9am."

What's the Matter with HDMI? What's the Matter with HDMI? — Audioholics Home Theater Reviews and News

Interesting article at Audioholics, What's the Matter with HDMI?. Everything you ever wanted to know about designing a digital cable. The take away is keeps your HDMI cables short and avoid switches, no surprise. Digital is digital but there isn't alway error-correction involved.

6,288 Smithsonian Images

A flickr Collection of all 6,288 Smithsonian images "which appear to be overwhelmingly in the public domain." Public.Resource.Org is a new non-profit and they are arguing that the the Smithsonian's images are in the public domain despite the copyright notices on the Smithsonsian's site. So they copied them to a flickr group (and even "scraped the metadata from the html pages, and embedded the metadata in the .jpg headers") and are trying to change the policy they think is illegal.

Friday, May 18, 2007

6 New Yorkers are trying to live in 2 dimensions, recreating Flatland. They choose to do this vertically which strikes me as odd. See their blog here.

Neocons Still Frighteningly Wrong

This is one of the scariest things I've read recently. Commentary Magazine is neocon central; they had their first annual dinner this week.

it started with a "a standing ovation from the crowd of 300 persons for Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff [and convicted felon], I Lewis 'Scooter' Libby".

Then they honored former editor-in-chief Norman Podhoretz who has an article in the June issue called 'The Case for Bombing Iran'. Of course the biggest problem is hinted in the title. It's not what to do about Iran but rather how to justify bombing Iran.

They ended with a speech by former UN Ambassador John Bolton on regime change. He walked through historical regimes he would have "changed": Bolshevism, Hitler, Iraq in the early 1990s and Afghanistan in the late 1990s. But hindsight isn't enough for him he discussed which regimes we should consider changing now (in other words, what are the next countries we should invade not because they are threats, but just because). Top of the list was North Korea and Iran. Cuba will take care of itself when Castro dies. Genocide apparently isn't a reason for regime change because he said Sudan was not a sufficient threat to American interests. Burma and Venezuela are ones to watch. Burma because they might be starting to work with Russia on a research nuclear reactor and Venezuela last year they bought 100,000 AK-47s. Syria is apparently a difficult question because in a burst of forethought he thought what would come after Assad might be worse. Maybe they did learn something from Iraq.

Here's a great clip of John Bolton on British TV. I wish our political debates were like theirs.

Clarence Thomas, Man of No Words

Justice Clarence Thomas is known for not asking many questions during oral arguments. "But the last time Thomas asked a question in court was Feb. 22, 2006"

"A recent tally by McClatchy Newspapers underscored this point: Thomas has spoken 281 words since court transcripts began identifying justices by name in October 2004. By contrast, Thomas' neighbor on the bench, Justice Stephen Breyer, has uttered nearly 35,000 words since January."

What Does Gonzales Have on Bush?

Given that he hasn't been fired (or asked to resign) yet, why is Bush so loyal to Gonzales? Does Gonzales have something on W? Maybe a stained blue dress? What else could it be?

More on Comey

Glenn Greenwald has More fallout from the Comey revelations with lots of links to good stuff.

On Paul Wolfowitz

Brad DeLong on Paul Wolfowitz's failings. "But he wasn't doomed from the start. It required a special series of mistakes to doom him, even given his lack of qualifications and previous track record of failure...And even given all this, Wolfowitz would still be head of the World Bank if he hadn't engaged in penny-ante corruption to get a sweet deal for his significant other."

Daily Show Catches Gonzales Inconsistencies

Think Progress notes Daily Show catches Gonzales hypocrisy on McNulty. Stewart pointed out two quotes from Gonzales, about a month apart:

"Alberto Gonzales, 4/19/07: ‘Looking back, things that I would have done differently? I think I would have had the Deputy Attorney General more involved, directly involved.’

Gonzales, 5/15/07: ‘The recommendations reflected the views of the Deputy Attorney General. He signed off on the names and he would know better than anyone else, anyone else in this room.’"

Why does it take Comedy Central to point out these lies inconsistencies? Why isn't this in the Washington Post? I don't want a no-confidence vote, I want some kind of trial.

The House and Pork

TPMmuckraker writes today about how the House Ethics Committee found no conflict of interest in Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) "used his power as a lawmaker to appropriate $5.6 million in taxpayer dollars to build a transit center that's within walking distance of seven of his properties."

The Committee found that since others would benefit too it wasn't a problem. That sounds a little suspicious to me but if you're representative you live in the district you represent and you're supposed to get things for your constituents, so you're likely to benefit from them too. Yes pork is bad, but I don't know enough about these deals to evalute them.

There are some interesting links at the end of the article including this one. CREW and other watchdog groups have been tracking several of these kinds of things on both sides of the aisle. "Taxpayers for Common Sense, is taking the effort a step further, by using the online satellite imagery and geolocating tools of Google Earth to map real estate holdings belonging to U.S. lawmakers, in the hopes of seeing where certain tracts match up with certain improvements." Clever.

Air Travel in the Near Future

Lighthouse History

I found Sundown to be an interesting rant on the history of how Sun killed Lighthouse Design and OpenStep. The more I learn, the more impressed I am with what NeXT had in 1988.

Dell's New LCD Monitors

Gearlog reports Dell Shows Off Super-Slim Display Port LCD Monitor. There's nothing on the Dell site but it's supposedly a report from a Dell launch yesterday. This will apparently be available by the end of the year:

"It will support up to 4x the current HDTV resolutions, allow for integrated peripherals around the display, and will let you daisychain multiple monitors, rather than installing them in a star configuration. Everyting, including audio, microphone, panel I/O and more will all go through a single bi-directional cable. Even better, by eliminating a lot of the electronics used for video conversion, new LCD monitors will be super-thin, and super sleek."

Wikipedia says DisplayPort "is a new digital display interface standard (approved May 2006) being put forth by the VESA (Video Electronics Standards Association). It defines a new license-free state-of-the-art digital audio/video interconnect, intended to be used primarily between a computer and its display monitor, or a computer and a home-theater system." It's a competitor to HDMI and other companies will have new products based on it. Wouldn't it be nice if standards lasted longer than the product rollouts.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Ron Paul, Guiliani and YouTube

In more proof that Time magazine was right, some guy, a Ron Paul supporter, posted to youtube a pretty effective clip attacking Giuliani's statements in the debate that our bombing in Iraq might have had an influence on 9/11 was absurd.

Even Andrew Sullivan picked up on it. I bet he didn't get copyright permission for the Queen soundtrack and the RIAA goes after him.

Cheney Claims to be Above the Law

The Washington Post reports on the Plame civil suit: Judge Told Leak Was Part of 'Policy Dispute'

"The lawyers said any conversations Cheney and the officials had about Plame with one another or with reporters were part of their normal duties because they were discussing foreign policy and engaging in an appropriate "policy dispute." Cheney's attorney went further, arguing that Cheney is legally akin to the president because of his unique government role and has absolute immunity from any lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge John D. Bates asked: 'So you're arguing there is nothing -- absolutely nothing -- these officials could have said to reporters that would have been beyond the scope of their employment,' whether the statements were true or false?

'That's true, Your Honor."

What Cheney is claiming has so far only been true for the President, that's the one without the word "Vice" in front of the title. And since when is outing a covert agent "appropriate policy dispute"?

Edwards vs Giuliani

Edwards Camp Blisters Rudy For Saying He "Usually" Hears Dems Blame America For 9/11.

Edwards senior advisor said: “It's alarming that Rudy Giuliani continues to run a campaign that relies on the politics of fear. These are the same polarizing tactics that the president has used in his `Global War on Terror,' which has ended up leading to more terrorism than it has stopped. And it is the same kind of politics that has led to this disastrous war in Iraq, where America is now policing a civil war. Instead of more of the same failed policies, we need a smarter approach to fighting terrorists, that will also restore our moral leadership in the world."

TPM Cafe points out: "Such dustups, it should be noted, serve both sides in crude political terms. Rudy gets more attention for his efforts to hyper-politicize 9/11 in order to dupe GOP primary voters into overlooking his pro-choice and pro-gay-rights statements. And Edwards is out front in defending the Dems' honor, something that may hold equal appeal for the Dem base."

Works for me, I'm thrilled that some Democrat is calling this crap what it is.

More than Eight

Kevin Drum writes about the news that there were More Than Eight US Attorneys on "the list".

"But, you know, a whole bunch of DOJ employees, up to and including the Attorney General, have testified repeatedly under oath about this whole process, and with their hands on a Bible they've all managed to forget to testify that there were a couple dozen people who flitted on and off the purge list over the course of a year."

"So: back to the witness stand for all of them! They do work for the Department of Justice, after all. It seems like they could use a wee reminder of what "the whole truth" actually means."

I remember hearing Pat Leahy ask either Gonzales or Sampson for the names of US Attorneys that were on the list but then removed. I remember because Arlen Specter was concerned about smearing their names publicly. I believe the witness was supposed to get back to the committee with the names after the public hearing. Guess it didn't happen.

Why Ethanol Backfires

Los Angeles Times has an article Why ethanol backfires. It tries to get people to realize that corn-based ethanol won't help the environment, it will just make corn farmers richer. "Although corn is a renewable resource, it has a far lower yield relative to the energy used to produce it than either biodiesel (such as soybean oil) or ethanol from other plants. Moreover, ethanol yields about 30% less energy per gallon than gasoline, so mileage drops off significantly. Finally, adding ethanol raises the price of blended fuel because it is more expensive to transport and handle."

Gonzales Sticking with Testimony

The Washington Post reports No Dissent on Spying, Says Justice Dept. "The Justice Department said yesterday that it will not retract a sworn statement in 2006 by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales that the Terrorist Surveillance Program had aroused no controversy inside the Bush administration, despite congressional testimony Tuesday that senior departmental officials nearly resigned in 2004 to protest such a program."

Yep, must have been another program.

Today's Torture News

Charles C. Krulak, commandant of the Marine Corps 1995-99 and Joseph P. Hoar, commander in chief of U.S. Central Command 1991-94 write in the Washington Post Torture Betrays Us and Breeds New Enemies. "As has happened with every other nation that has tried to engage in a little bit of torture -- only for the toughest cases, only when nothing else works -- the abuse spread like wildfire, and every captured prisoner became the key to defusing a potential ticking time bomb. Our soldiers in Iraq confront real "ticking time bomb" situations every day, in the form of improvised explosive devices, and any degree of "flexibility" about torture at the top drops down the chain of command like a stone -- the rare exception fast becoming the rule."

"If we forfeit our values by signaling that they are negotiable in situations of grave or imminent danger, we drive those undecideds into the arms of the enemy. This way lies defeat, and we are well down the road to it."

Andrew Sullivan is now calling the GOP The Party of Torture. "But increasingly, the explicitly pro-torture position of the GOP will define their party. And it should define their party. The attempt to hide behind the ludicrously Orwellian term "enhanced interrogation techniques" won't work if it's properly challenged."

"Romney's and Giuliani's position that they don't favor 'torture' but would support any method necessary to extract transparently absurd. The simple legal definition of torture must be thrown in their faces at every opportunity. These people do not get to define torture in a country under the rule of law. We are not in a Lewis Carroll novel. The law and our treaty obligations define torture."

On the good news front, last week General Petraeus sent a letter to every servicemember. Sullivan describes it as: "Petraeus is finally doing what no one has yet done in this war: he is asserting the immorality, illegality and dishonor of torture and abuse from a position of authority. It has taken six years to hear that clarity again, after the shameful stain of this president's record."

Scientists Cast Doubt on Kennedy Bullet Analysis

The Washington Post reports Scientists Cast Doubt on Kennedy Bullet Analysis . "A research team that includes a former top FBI scientist is challenging the bullet analysis used by the government to conclude that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in assassinating President John F. Kennedy in 1963."

"This finding means that the bullet fragments from the assassination that match could have come from three or more separate bullets,' the researchers said. 'If the assassination fragments are derived from three or more separate bullets, then a second assassin is likely,' the researchers said. If the five fragments came from three or more bullets, that would mean a second gunman's bullet would have had to strike the president, the researchers explained."

I guess sometimes conspiracy theories are right.

Chris Matthews slams Rep. Kingston over War propaganda

Chris Matthews slams Rep. Kingston over War propaganda: Lazy and dishonest. I wish more reporters did this.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Habeas Schmabeas This American Life

If you didn't hear the This American Life Habeas Schmabeas episode you owe it to yourself and your country to listen.

Senators Ask Gonzales About Apparent Lie

Based on the testimony of James Comey Senators Now Question Whether Gonzales Lied Under Oath About NSA Wiretapping Program. "A group of senators led by Russ Feingold (D-WI) sent Alberto Gonzales a letter today highlighting an apparent lie Gonzales told while testifying under oath last year about the NSA warrantless spying program."

Comey described how Gonzales and Card when to Ashcroft's hospital bed to get approval of the NSA Domestic Spying program because Comey wouldn't approve it. Ashcroft refused. Gonzales testified "Senator, I want to be very careful here. Because of course I am here only testifying about what the President has confirmed. And with respect to what the President has confirmed, I believe – I do not believe that these DOJ officials that you are identifying had concerns about this program."

So either Gonzales is lying or more spying programs exist. I'm guessing the latter. Bastards.

Republican Candidates, Bleech

I didnt' watch the second Republican Presidential Debate, I didn't even know about it. Andrew Sullivan did. Some big points:

Romney thinks "We Ought to Double Guantanamo". As Sullivan says: "Romney would double the size and scope of Gitmo, to ensure that none of the detainees have lawyers, regardless of their innocence or guilt. That is in itself a disqualification for the presidency of the United States. A man who has open contempt for the most basic rules of Western justice has no business being president."

When asked about waterboarding, Rudy Giuliani and Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) both supported "every method they could think of". Tancredo said "I’m looking for Jack Bauer”. If he can settle the whole issue in 24 hours, ok I'm for him. Otherwise, I think he should listen to the generals when they say 24 is fiction and damaging. The source link for this is broken, but Sullivan also says "Rudy's For Waterboarding".

And while McCain is campaigning on Iraq, he's missed the last four votes on it in the Senate.

DOJ to Senate: Just One Email to Rove

DOJ Responds to Subpoena: "The Department searched the email accounts of sixteen Justice Department officials over the period of November 1, 2004 through May 2, 2007. All they found, according to the letter from Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard Hertling, was a single email sent on February 28, 2007 forwarding a copy of McClatchy's bombshell story on U.S. Attorney for New Mexico David Iglesias."

First off, what kind of title is "Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General"?

The search "terms were: Rove, Karl, kr,,, and Both the "from" and "to" fields were searched in current and archived e-mail
accounts. The "to" field captured "cc's." So did people bcc Rove? Or did he use an alias? Maybe "rovebunny43"? Maybe they just communicated by SMS or phone? It will be interesting to hear Goodling's testimony next Wednesday.

Gonzales Ignores Subpoena, Gets Letter

Gonzales ignored the Senate Judiciary Committee's subpoena so Leahy and Spector wrote Gonzales a letter. Oooooo. Given all the stalling (he ignored the request twice before the subpoena) I might have jumped straight to Contempt of Congress.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Antarctica is Melting Too

Antarctica Had Vast Regions Melt Recently.

Gonzales and Purgegate Updates

Today Gonzales missed the deadline from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) subpoena to turn over all email to or from Karl Rove.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI), Jr., Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) wrote Gonzales today asking about information about the firing of the ninth US Attorney Todd Graves of Missouri. They also expressed "concerns" about Gonzales testimony on the matter. "There are disturbing indications that the decision to fire Mr. Graves was related to his disagreement with a voter fraud lawsuit pushed by Mr. Schlozman, the very person eventually named by you to succeed Mr. Graves as an interim U.S. Attorney. Notwithstanding your assertions, our review indicates that the district court decision dismissing that lawsuit focused on much more than the procedural defect of naming the wrong defendant."

Here's a crazy story. In March 2004, when Gonzales was White House counsel, he tried to get an extension of the warrantless domestic spying program. He needed the Attorney General to sign off on it. Then AG John Ashcroft was in intensive care for a week and had transfered his powers to to Deputy Attorney General James Comey. Comey had said no so Gonzales and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card went to Ashcroft in his hospital bed to reauthorize the program. This might have been illegal because Ashcroft didn't have power. Ashcroft apparently choose not to reauthorize the program. Then after this, Gonzales blocked Ashcroft and Comey from testifying on the program to the Senate Judiciary Committee for over a year.

Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty Resigned. There's a lot of speculation about how he's annoyed about his involvement in Purgegate and that Gonzales was mad at him for his Feb 7 statements saying "that at least one of the fired prosecutors was ordered to make way for a protege of Karl Rove". Think Progress has a number of updates on this.

I guess the next big thing will be Monica Goodling's testimony.

Honestly, at this point I don't want Gonzales to resign; I want him impeached for lying to Congress, obstruction of justice, and violating his oath to uphold the Constitution.

Laser Tag Helicopters

Laser Tag Remote Control Helicopters sound very very cool. If only they were available in the US.

Movie Review: Salud

Yesterday I saw the documentary Salud. It was an accident, Google lied about what was playing at the Coolidge and had a link to the wrong film. Anyway it was an interesting look at the Cuban health care system. The BBC calls it "one of the world’s best health systems." They have better longevity and infant mortality than the US at a fraction of the cost.

Cuba has universal coverage and has a large number of doctors that work in very poor rural areas. They also have sent over 100,000 doctors on humanitarian missions in 101 countries. The film spent a lot of time relating the experiences of people in South Africa, Gambia, Honduras and Venezuela. They really appreciate the Cuban doctors and in some cases are trying to model their own health system after Cuba's. They can't model the industrialized nations systems because they don't have the resources. And it's not clear it would work as those places with privatized medicine have difficulty getting doctors to go into poor barrios.

Good movie, interesting and eye-opening topic.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Rock, Paper, Scissors Championships?

The Boston Globe has an article Rock, Paper, Scissors has come a long way. "The two-day 2007 USA Rock Paper Scissors Tournament Finals will bring together more than 300 regional finalists from across the nation" for a $50,000 prize.

"A lifelong devotee who discovered that there was a professional Canadian league, Leshem decided to start one here. He's written a set of rules, trained referees, and has unsuccessfully petitioned the International Olympic Committee to make it one of their events. At this weekend's event at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, a paramedic will be on standby because wrist and shoulder injuries often occur, Leshem said. ESPN is expected to air footage of the competition this summer."

"Beer distributors organized the tournaments that produced the regional finalists, and Anheuser-Busch puts up the prize money and picks up the tab for each finalist and a guest to fly to Las Vegas and stay for three days." Who 'da thunk?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Movie Review: The Good German

This was playing in my local art theater and I wanted to catch it on a big screen. It's a Steven Soderbergh homage to post WW II noir films like The Third Man. It succeeds in capturing the look and feel of such films with high contrast black and white and lots of shadows. In fact it was filmed as much as possible with the technology available in the 1940s (fixed length lens, harsh incandescent lights, boom mikes). The plot's involved but not quite fun.

George Clooney plays Captain Jacob Geismer, a war correspondent in Berlin at the time of the Postdam summit. Cate Blanchett plays Lena Brandt, his former German flame who's now seeing
Patrick Tully played by Tobey Maguire. Tully is Geismer's driver and is also involved in the black market. The allies are there to divide up Germany (and its scientists) but there are war crimes, murders, and the black market to deal with. Geismer uncovers mystery after mystery.

Clooney does very well as William Holden or Joseph Cotton. Blanchett is brilliant as Marlene Dietrich or Ingrid Bergman. Toby Maguire stands out as being out of place. They're going for the evil innocence but it didn't really work for me. it could be that I just saw him as Peter Parker and didn't really like him in Spider-Man 3 since he had the same odd grin the whole film. He did creepy evil very well in Sin City but he didn't speak in that role.

I think my problem with The Good German was that all of the big issues of the time were treated merely as plot elements in a mystery. It didn't explore difficult moral choices, it barely stated they existed. I didn't feel a lot of tension and I didn't really care about the characters. The mystery was fine and the noir was fun, but it wasn't enough.

The Problem With DRM: The Name?

Ed Felton writes HBO Exec Wants to Rename DRM "People have had lots of objections to Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology — centering mainly on its clumsiness and the futility of its anti-infringement rationale — but until recently nobody had complained that the term ‘Digital Rights Management’ was insufficiently Orwellian. That changed on Tuesday, when HBO’s Chief Technology Officer, Bob Zitter, suggested at an industry conference that DRM needs a name change. Zitter’s suggested name: Digital Consumer Enablement, or DCE."

"Which makes the nature of the “enablement” clear. By enabling your set-top box to be incompatible with your TV, HBO will enable you to buy an expensive new TV."

DRM won't stop pirates, it will just annoy honest customers.

Galactica Last Season Official

Dark Horizons reports that Battlestar Galactica has one more season. Not enough of you watched what is the best show on television.

You can follow the slashdot debate of whether this will save it before it gets bad or if the third season was already the start of that or if the Sci-Fi channel is to blame. While I think there was more filler, season 3 was still very good. It could just be that this is all the time the creator needs to bring the story where he planned.

Until this Boston Legal clip I posted earlier today, Galatica was the only drama I know of on TV that had the guts to really explore over 4 episodes the issues raised by Guantanmo and Iraq. 24, as much as it's been fun (at times), really did just exploit it.

TV will be less interesting without Galactica but hopefully season 4 will be great.

What Kindergartners Think of Global Warming

Dan Brown (not the Da Vinci Code author) in the Huffington Post writes What Kindergartners Think of Global Warming.

"When the ice melts, the ocean will be like a bathtub that's going up and up."

The New Iraq Transitional Assistance Office

Headline Junky asks : Is The Fat Lady Singing? "I'm not sure what to make of this Executive Order, issued today, that establishes the 'Iraq Transitional Assistance Office' within the State Dept. The new office will ostensibly assume any outstanding functions of the 'Iraq Reconstruction Management Office'. But the unmistakable emphasis is on a gradual phasing out of the 'reconstruction' plank of the occupation"

Gonzales at the House and More

The Washington Post has a summary of yesterday's Gonzales testimony to the House Judiciary Committee: House GOP Stands Behind Gonzales.

Dahlia Lithwick at Slate has a better summary at Alberto Gonzales, Zen Master. "Instead, the AG answers some questions with a giggle and most others with the same old catchphrases we've heard so often...The fact that the attorney general can't even be bothered to pull out a thesaurus after all these weeks—even if only to create the illusion that these nonanswers come from him as opposed to a list of pre-approved talking points—reveals just how little he cares about what Congress and the public think of him anymore."

Kevin Drum adds "Alberto Gonzales has learned this lesson well. Normally, cabinet officers who have been caught in multiple obvious lies have to either resign or else seriously try to defend themselves. But Gonzales realizes this is just tradition. Unless House Democrats have the votes to impeach him, he doesn't have to do anything. He can just mock them to their face and there's nothing much they can do about it."

And here' s an article about how David Iglesias says "My job now is to seek full vindication".

Meanwhile McClatchy reports White House sought investigations of voter fraud allegations before elections. "Only weeks before last year's pivotal midterm elections, the White House urged the Justice Department to pursue voter-fraud allegations against Democrats in three battleground states, a high-ranking Justice official has told congressional investigators."

Boston Legal Guantanamo Rant

I might have to start watching Boston Legal...

TiVo Update Fixes FF Problem on FIOS

My last FIOS TV problem was that my HD TiVo had problems fast forwarding; at the higher speeds it would jump around and not FF smoothly. Last night I got the 8.3 TiVo Update and the problem seem to be fixed. Now I can find that specific scene in this week's Lost with those couple of single frames that show Ben isn't Norman Bates and Jacob is real and obviously something more than human.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Apple Stuff

Interesting notes from the Apple shareholder meeting.

Evolution is a Jewish Plot?!?

So some nutcases think evolution is a jewish plot. "Indisputable evidence – long hidden but now available to everyone – demonstrates conclusively that so-called 'secular evolution science' is the Big Bang, 15-billion-year, alternate 'creation scenario' of the Pharisee Religion," These idiots also believe the sun goes around the earth. Yeah idiots.

digby pointed this out that "The second most powerful member of the Texas House...House Appropriations Committee Chairman Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, used House operations Tuesday to deliver a memo from Georgia state Rep. Ben Bridges." The memo was about this stupid claim.

"Mr. Chisum was asked if Mr. Bridges' memo reflects his own views. 'No, absolutely, although I'm a Christian, and I believe in creation'" Part of this country frightens me.

So Much for Unanimity

SCOTUSblog has an article on the The State of the Court -- May 2007 -- Part II (Unanimity and Justice Kennedy's Vote) "If anything, the ideological divisions on the Court have grown more stark."

"So far this Term, there have already been eleven five-to-four decisions – twenty-eight percent of the decisions for the Term. (At one point ending last week, six cases in a row were decided by a single vote.) At the same point last Term, the figure was three of fifty-two, or just six percent. As noted above, all last Term there were only eleven five-to-four rulings."

"So far, there have been eight unanimous decisions this Term – twenty-percent of the decisions to date. At the same point last Term, 57% of the decisions were decided unanimously"

"The most dramatic statistic relating to the five-to-four decisions is that Justice Kennedy has been in the majority in all of them. In five, he sided with the more liberal Justices. In three, he sided with the more conservative Justices. The remainder did not divide on ideological lines."

"Nonetheless, this is very likely to be a Term that labels Justice Kennedy as a conservative. By far, the cases that will define the Term are the pairs of cases involving race and abortion."

"Although the total output of decisions has slowed, it is notable how quickly the Justices have decided such highly contentious cases."

The Secret of Apple Design

The Secret of Apple Design "The inside (sort of) story of why Apple's industrial-design machine has been so successful."

General Batiste Attacks Bush on YouTube

Retired Major General John Batiste (former Commanding General 1st Infantry Division in Iraq basically calls Bush a lier.

"Mr. President you did not listen. You continue to pursue a failed strategy that is breaking our great army and marine corps. I left the army in protest in order to speak out. Mr. President you have placed our nation in peril. Our only hope is that Congress will act now to protect our fighting men and women."

I want to know when Jon Stewart will have him on the Daily Show.

More Purgegate

Charges may result from firings, say two former U.S. attorneys:

"Two former U.S. attorneys said today they believe ongoing investigations into the dismissals last year of eight federal prosecutors could result in criminal charges against senior Justice Department officials.

John McKay, the former U.S. attorney for Western Washington, and David Iglesias, the former U.S. attorney for New Mexico, also said they believe White House political operative Karl Rove and his aides instigated the dismissals and ultimately decided who among the nation's 93 U.S. attorneys should be fired. But the White House on Wednesday flatly denied the firings were instigated by the White House."

Daily Kos also points outs that John McKay said that Gonzales' "first speech to us was a 'you work for the White House' speech," McKay recalled. " 'I work for the White House, you work for the White House.' " This is in conflict with Gonzales' statements during his confirmation hearing: "With the consent of the Senate, I will no longer represent only the White House; I will represent the United States of America and its people." and "And I feel a special obligation, maybe an additional burden coming from the White House to reassure the career people at the department, and to reassure the American people that that I'm not going to politicize the Department of Justice."

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

More Star Wars

Roger Friedman of Fox News celebrity gossip says there will be two more Star Wars films.

"And here's a little news: Lucas tells me he will make two more live-action films based in the 'Star Wars' era. 'But they won't have members of the Skywalker family as characters,' he said. 'They will be other people of that milieu.' The two extra films will also be made for TV and probably be an hour long each. But, like 'Clone Wars,' Lucas doesn't know where on TV they will land."

White House Lies Over National Guard Shortages

Think Progress reports » White House Blames Gov. Sebelius For National Guard Shortages. Basically when cornered, the White House does what is usually does, it lied.

White House Press Secretary Tony said: "If you don’t request it, you’re not going to get it. … As far as we know, the only thing the governor has requested are FM radios. There have been no requests to the National Guard for heavy equipment."

Think Progress documents 5 such requests over a year and half.

New Story for Purgegate Emerges

The Washington Post has a new angle on the firings of US Attorneys. "A U.S. attorney in Seattle was singled out for dismissal in part because he clashed with senior Justice Department officials over the investigation of a federal prosecutor's murder, and he was recommended for removal 18 months earlier than was previously known, according to newly disclosed documents and interviews."

Read the whole thing, it's pretty amazing.

Jose Padilla

Yesterday was the 5 year anniversary of the arrest of Jose Padilla. "Five years after his initial arrest, Padilla's criminal trial appears finally destined to actually take place, with jury selection concluding today and opening arguments scheduled to begin next Monday, May 14."

The article points out that the trial might be anti-climatic on this case. Remember he was a US citizen arrested on US soil and declared an enemy combatant and held in a military brig for 3 years. There were rumors of him being a terrorist, plotting to blow up a dirty bomb in the US, etc.

He petitioned for habeas corpus, but the government fought to deny him his basic right. It made it to the Supreme Court but it was ruled on a technicality. Shortly before it made it back to the Supreme Court, he was transfered to a civilian prison and indicted on charges he "conspired to murder, kidnap and maim people overseas." The scary thing about this case is that the US government arrested and held a US citizen as an enemy combatant without charges for 3 years and then let him go on anything that would allow that action.

This is one of the real reasons that Alberto Gonzales shouldn't be Attorney General.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Conan Visits Intel

This might be the best argument against cubicles ever...

4 Months Later, Democrats Secretly Undo Corruption Reforms

Not quite 4 months in, Democrats are already undoing efforts to clean up Congress. Now "Friends" can fly congressmen under new rules. Always be suspicious of a voice vote at midnight. And it was unanimous.

"Led by House Ethics Committee chair Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH), the House of Representatives on Wednesday unanmiously agreed to loosen strict rules on members' acceptance of free airplane rides that were adopted when Democrats took over Congress in January. The measure, adopted on a May 2 voice vote minutes before the House of Representatives adjourned at 11:59 p.m., was labeled as an effort to 'clarify certain matters relating to official conduct' of the House of Representatives."

No he wasn't a lobbyist, he was my personal friend who happens to be a lobbyist. I guess this proves that flying commercial sucks too much for Congress. Boo hoo.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Three New Get a Mac Ads

Apple has posted three new Get a Mac Ads: Choose a Vista, Genius, and Party is Over.

Oh Yeah, Iraq...

James Love, who I've never heard of, has an interesting article in the Huffington Post, The Future of Al Qaeda in Iraq, If We Pull Out "The U.S. occupation of Iraq has given Al Qaeda whatever popularity it has in the Islamic world. Our belated departure from Iraq will allow the Iraqi people to deal with Al Qaeda, and they are likely to be far more effective at curtailing its activities in Iraq than has the occupation by our highly vulnerable and greatly resented armed forces."

I agree with the main point, our presence in Iraq is making things worse. That's not a knock against our troops, it's a knock against our policy. Iraqi's don't want us there and that's radicalizing people.

Bush veto's a bill that would fund our troops because it "substitutes the opinions of politicians for the judgment of our military commanders." However, Retired Major General Paul D. Eaton says "Respectfully, as your former commander on the ground, your administration did not listen to our best advice. In fact, a number of my fellow Generals were forced out of their jobs, because they did not tell you what you wanted to hear."

On the 4th anniversary of Mission Accomplished Think Progress compared then and now by the numbers. I think the most telling ones are the number of insurgent attacks when from 8 to 149 per day and the number of insurgents went from less than 5,000 to about 70,000. Explain again how this is working?

Daily Kos points out that 90 days ago Rep John Boehner (R-OH) said we'd know in 90 days if the surge was working. They have a kept track of Friedman Units which are estimates that in 3-6 months we'll know if it's working, but the problem is, we're always 3-6 months away from knowing. Then again, some of us already know.

Americans Are Not Safer

Tornado Death Toll in Greensburg KS Hits 10. The Governor was quick to point out that the recovery efforts will be difficult because much of the National Guard's equipment and manpower is in Iraq. Apparently 50% of the trucks are there and 12% of the manpower.

'I don't think there is any question if you are missing trucks, Humvees and helicopters that the response is going to be slower,' Sebelius said. 'The real victims here will be the residents of Greensburg, because the recovery will be at a slower pace.'

"White House spokesman Tony Snow rejected the criticism, saying the National Guard had equipment positioned around the country to respond to disasters when requested by states. 'There's been an enormous amount of help on the scene already, frankly, when it comes to what's been going on with the tornado. FEMA has certainly been actively engaged, and the administration is doing whatever it can,' Snow said at the White House. 'And if there's a need for equipment, it will arrive.' Five trailers to house displaced families have arrived, and 20 more are on the way, said FEMA Director R. David Paulison. He said if his agency can house 80,000 people on the Gulf Coast, it can handle 1,000 people in Greensburg."

See they did such a good job on the Gulf Coast, a small Kansas town will be easy. The point is that due to the war, the ability of states to respond to emergencies, natural or manmade, is worse than it was before. It's been almost 6 years since 9/11, you think it would have improved.

And while we waste time in Iraq, we've forgotten about bin Laden. US News reports U.S. spy agencies say al Qaeda's top leaders, once on the run, have regrouped. "When President Bush talks about Osama bin Laden these days, it's usually to rally support for the U.S. effort in Iraq. Last month, he told an audience that bin Laden and his al Qaeda network "have made it clear they want to drive us from Iraq to establish safe haven in order to launch further attacks." But over the past year, U.S. intelligence agencies have completely revised their assessment of al Qaeda and reached an alarming conclusion: Bin Laden already has a safe haven-in Pakistan-and may be stronger than ever."

Bush and the Economy

If I ask some Republicans to name one thing Bush has done well, they often say that the economy is doing well. The Democratic Caucus's Senate Journal has a report: Middle-Class Life Under Bush: Less Affordable and Less Secure. "President Bush's record of fiscal incompetence and mismanagement, and Republicans' close ties with special interests, have helped lead to both lower wages on the one hand and skyrocketing costs for basic necessities like gas, health care, and college tuition on the other. "

Worst job creation record since Hoover Administration
Unemployment has increased 7.1 percent and long-term joblessness has nearly doubled
While families work harder, their wages continue to decline
Earnings for workers with college degrees declining

It also lists things the Democrats are trying to do to improve things.

More on SCOTUS and the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003

FindLaw's has a two part article on: New Justices, New Rules The Supreme Court Upholds the Federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 part 1 and part 2.

Presidential Job Approval Ratings

I'm not sure how long this will stay available at the Wall Street Journal but I found this look at U.S. presidents' job-approval ratings very interesting. Click on the links at the left for more details.

Birth Of An Apple Store

I can't believe there's a live webcam of the construction of the new Apple Store in Boston. Mac fans really are fanatics.

The Sopranos

The Sopranos is soon to be over and I've been watching. I didn't watch at first but then tried it, liked it and saw all the back episodes. The one that really sold me on the series was the third, Meadowlands, where AJ learns his father is a gangster. Warning, spoilers follow.

I haven't been that impressed with the second half of season 6. I find it's a little slow, particularly when whole episodes have concentrated on just one story (Tony at the lake, Tony and Paulie traveling). I like the tension of will Tony kill someone (first Bobby, then Paulie, etc.) but then it's good to get back to the whole crew. Given what seems to be fitting less in an episode it's odd to see them spend time on Vito's son; which was kinda interesting but seemed to come out of no where.

I liked yesterday's episode with Christopher. It was interesting to see how hard it would be for a recovering alcoholic to be in the mob (this is a face-to-face business, you gotta be there, we don't leave voice mail messages about stolen goods). I don't get why Paulie was stealing from his own guy's stash, that seemed kinda rude and dumb, but I guess that's in character.

I think this season starting out showing the various paths Tony could take:

Eugene tried to retire to Florida but wasn't allowed and ultimately hung himself (he was also an FBI informant)
Christopher has been trying to get into a new line of work and deal with addiction
Vito ran away but couldn't hack it in the real world
Johnny Sack went to jail (and got sick and died)
Bobby is still in but his family is more important to him now
Paulie is still in but is a loser
And of course Tony got shot and almost died

With this second half of the season they seem to have Tony back to his old self and a little less confident. I think that's probably the most realistic choice but the least interesting. I hope they don't do a movie, that gives them more freedom in ending the series.

The police could always arrest him but it's not clear if his informing the FBI about what he thinks might be muslim terrorists makes that more or less likely. There's always the New York mob who might wack him. He could have potentially run away, but his new gambling debts seem to make that unlikely. He seems to be ending his therapy which might have helped get out of the mob but hasn't. His family life seems pretty constant though now that AJ is suicidal that might be a traumatic event. For a while he was groom Christopher to take over but now it's not clear that anyone is in position to do so. Carmella's speech about a piano hanging over him seems foreshadowy.

I suspect they might go boring and just leave things continuing on as always, with some underlings getting wacked. I hope they do something more interesting. Maybe Christopher gets pinched for the murder and turns states evidence because he's pissed at them for enabling the alcoholism. Maybe Phil will kill Tony for a business reason.

They also need to address the family. I'd like to see Carmella stuck supporting herself. They've done nothing with Meadow, they keep trying to show she's smart and good but she keeps coming back to the family that ruins her relationships (kills her boyfriends, disapproves of her boyfriends, scares off her boyfriends). I suspect either AJ will kill himself or put himself in a position where he is killed. That should send Carmella over the deep end but she'd still have no realization that she's a horrible mother. Maybe it will be the event that gets Meadow away from her family.

What do you think?