Monday, March 31, 2008

Are Lessig Presentations Lord Privy Seals?

I was listening to Lawrence Lessig's speech @ UPenn 4 Barack today. It's a video clip and it's in Lessig's style of talking while many slides go by with just a few key words or an image. Many people are impressed with this style and while I too loved it at first, it's starting to wear on me. Occasionally he does something clever typographically but the real strength to his presentations is what he's actually saying and now I'd rather just see him while he presents, without any slides.

I was reading Richard Dawkins "review" of the creationist propaganda film Expelled. Not only did he not like the message of the film (obviously), he also hated the filmmaking. He described a technique I hadn't heard of before: "A favourite joke among the film-making community is the 'Lord Privy Seal'. Amateurs and novices in the making of documentaries can't resist illustrating every significant word in the commentary by cutting to a picture of it. The Lord Privy Seal is an antiquated title in Britain's heraldic tradition. The joke imagines a low-grade film director who illustrates it by cutting to a picture of a Lord, then a privy [outhouse], and then a seal [balancing a ball on its nose]."

Isn't this what Lessig does? Maybe by using text and forcing the audience to read rather than looking at images makes them a little more involved, but does it help deliver the message? In this presentation he has a picture of Hillary Clinton and to describe a change in her position (a flip-flop), he actually turns the picture upside-down. Is that any different than showing a picture of seal? Maybe in the A.D.D., sound-bite, YouTube age we live in, the added visuals help keep our attention, but given the effort he goes through to create the slides, I'd rather he create more presentations.

Registering Books But Not Guns, Seriously

Jayne Lyn Stahl: comments in The Huffington Post on Indecency. "While the Supreme Court gets to ponder whether or not to allow the D.C. handgun ban to stand, think about this: you're not legally required to register your rifle, shotgun, or handgun in the state of Indiana, but if you own a bookstore in that state, you're now required to register books that contain 'sexually explicit materials,' according to a new law. "

Neal Stephenson's Anathem in Sept

Time's Nerd World reports on The Return of Neal Stephenson. He'll have a new book called Anathem out September 9th.

"Since childhood, Raz has lived behind the walls of a 3,400-year-old monastery, a sanctuary for scientists, philosophers, and mathematicians—sealed off from the illiterate, irrational, unpredictable 'saecular' world that is plagued by recurring cycles of booms and busts, world wars and climate change. Until the day that a higher power, driven by fear, decides that only these cloistered scholars have the abilities to avert an impending catastrophe. And, one by one, Raz and his cohorts are summoned forth without warning into the Unknown."

I guess I have to tackle Quicksilver.

Obama and Bloomberg

On Thursday Barack Obama gave a speech in NY calling for Modernizing Our Regulation of Financial Markets. What was most reported was that he was introduced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. I've seen three speculations about this. FIrst is that this was a political maneuver on Obama's part to help bring back some Jewish votes he might have lost after the Reverend Wright issue. The second is that Bloomberg is getting ready to endorse Obama. The third of course is that Obama is courting Bloomberg to be Vice President (this rumor is even in the UK). Well, we can only hope.

Movie Review: The Bank Job

The Bank Job is a lot of fun. It's based on the true story of a bank robbery in London in the 1970s. Some robbers tunneled from a clothing store two doors down from the bank, up into the vault. The details of how the police found out about it and searched for them are interesting and I won't give them away. What's more interesting is that after this made the London press for a few days a D-Notice was issued by the government which stopped the press from reporting on the story. It's not known why but it usually involves national security reasons. The movie presents its view of the causes, though this New Yorker article says it's very hard to tell how much is real and how much isn't.

What's fun is that the film doesn't dumb down the story for the audience. There are a lot of players involved, including black supremacists, local criminals, police, MI5 (and maybe MI6 the film suggests even the British can't remember the difference), and of course the small time crooks we get to know who are pulling off the job. At times you might not follow the big picture, or know which group of agents is which, but you can follow each scene and it all works.

Jason Statham of The Transporter and Crank was perfectly competent in a non-action role. When he gets in a pretty simple fist fight at the end with one barely over-the-top twist, it's hard to not to give a little cheer. The only other person I knew in the film was Saffron Burrows and I didn't even recognize her. I've been pretty unimpressed with most of her early roles, but thought she was quite good here.

So far, this and In Bruges have been my favorite films of the year.

Movie Review: The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra

I got The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra from Netflix on the advice of two different sets of friends, otherwise I never would have heard of it. It came out a few years ago in very limited release and is a spoof of B grade sci-fi films from the fifties, done as a straight up black and white grade B sci-fi film. There are aliens, mutants, scientists and their wives, a forest ranger, a woman made from a cat and of course a skeleton. The special effects and costumes aspire to Lost in Space quality. It took me a few minutes but then I realized this was one of the funniest films I've seen in a very long time. It's just amazing that virtually every single line is a quotable deadpan gem. Here are a few examples:

"Aliens? Us? Is this one of your Earth jokes?"
"I must make a skeleton meatier using a crowbar covered in lettuce."
"I've seen a bear do things, well... even things that even a bear wouldn't do."
"Of course, Betty, it's absurd. Putting the Amish in glass cases would be inhumane."
"Moons... teaspoons... that's all gibberish to me I'm afraid."
"Ranger Brad, I'm a scientist, I don't believe in anything."


David Macaulay at MIT

51R573D6Y9L._SS400_.jpgThe Way Things Work by David Macaulay is one of my favorite books. Through engaging illustrations (often with Wooly Mammoths) he shows the mechanics and science behind most inventions.

He has a new book coming out in October called How We Work that takes the same approach for the human body. Macaulay is giving a talk at MIT tomorrow. I saw him speak last fall at the MFA and assuming it's the same, it's about how he figures out how to illustrate the concepts he's trying to get across (and learn himself). Highly recommended.

Molecular Gastronomy

If you've watched some Top Chef and are curious about molecular gastronomy then you'll find What's Cookin in Science News Online interesting.

What's Going On In Basra?

Kevin Drum on What's Going On In Basra?. "In urban warfare like this it's frequently hard to figure out who's "won" and who's "lost." Often both sides lose. In this case, though, it certainly looks as if Maliki has lost more than Sadr. Both sides have taken casualties, but Sadr doesn't appear to have lost any ground; he's forced Maliki to come to him to ask for terms; he's successfully projected a statesmanlike image throughout; and politically he seems to be in stronger shape than before. Maliki, conversely, appears by all accounts to have launched an ill-timed mission with inadequate troops and then been unable to close the deal. The Iraqi army and the redoubtable Gen. Mohan al-Furayji, the much lauded leader of the regular forces in Basra, are both looking pretty banged up in the bargain too."

Obama Misspeaks Too

The Washington Post reports Obama Overstates Kennedys' Role in Helping His Father. It's not just Hillary that exaggerates but at least this example doesn't seem as bad to me. And I don't see Obama saying "no this really did happen, who are you going to believe me or a comedian?"

The Grand Canyon of Mars

The ESA Mars Express has some amazing pictures of Hebes Chasma, "an enclosed trough, almost 8000 m deep, in Valles Marineris, the Grand Canyon of Mars, where water is believed to have flowed"


Wikipedia says: "Its maximum extents are approximately 320km east-west, 130km north-south and 5-6km in depth. At the center of the depression there is a large mesa rising some 5km off the valley floor, thus nearly as high as the surrounding terrain. This central plateau makes Hebes Chasma a unique valley in Martian geography."

Many more pics at the mission site.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

It Just Works

Tonight I did my first 4-way video iChat. Fun stuff.

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Clinton's Snipers

What bothers me about Hillary's sniper story isn't so much the lie, but rather that she stuck with it after it was disproved. She's told the story several times on the campaign trail since January and it wasn't until this week that reporters called her on it and she told the most detailed version yet. After the video showed up her campaign said she misspoke.

Bloomberg has her various responses: "for the first time in 12 or so years I misspoke", "I was joking, gosh, lighten up guys", "I say a lot of things -- millions of words a day -- so if I misspoke, that was just a misstatement." Here's another angle: "Mrs Clinton told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that she had made the mistake about sniper fire because she had been "sleep-deprived". Her schedule showed she had no public engagements the day before her Washington speech and she spent the night in her Embassy Row home." And really trying the sleep deprivation card when you've been pitching yourself as the one to take the 3am phone call is pretty lame.

I don't know as I have enough information to agree with Carl Bernstein: "“She has often chosen to obfuscate, omit, and avoid. It is an understatement by now that she has been known to apprehend truths about herself and the events of her life that others do not exactly share…"

I liked how the Washington Post found her story happened to Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) six months before Clinton claimed it happened to her. That article also has one of my favorite sentences of the week: "Clinton's story has been debunked by sources including television news accounts and the memories of the comedian Sinbad."

I heard some report that she's been telling this story for a long time and it's even in her book. The Fact Hub has what she wrote in Living History [p. 343] "Security conditions were constantly changing in the former Yugoslavia, and they had recently deteriorated again. Due to reports of snipers in the hills around the airstrip, we were forced to cut short an event on the tarmac with local children, though we did have time to meet them and their teachers and to learn how hard they had worked during the war to continue classes in any safe spot they could find. … We were then off to the fortified American base at Tuzla, where over two thousand American, Russian, Canadian, British, and Polish soldiers were encamped in a large tent city." Unfortunately there's no supporting evidence for event that claim. They also found an article that said "Protected by sharpshooters, Hillary Rodham Clinton swooped into a military zone by Black Hawk helicopter." Maybe the snipers were ours.

I believe all of the candidates have lied at some point. In the scheme of things, this one isn't so bad. Unlike Bush's lies it didn't start a war. Bill Clinton's lied about Lewinsky to protect himself. HIllary's lie seems to be to enhance her toughness. But still if after she was called out on it she just said yeah I must be misremembering that, I'm sorry I think it would been in the news a couple of days and been done. By defending it as long as she did (and since it was also originally in stump speeches her campaign must have vetted it) she just made it worse. In all the things I've seen written about what's she's said on the matter, I didn't see one place where she said she was sorry. I want an apology. I want an admission of a mistake and remorse for it and then I'll be glad to move on. Same with the vote to authorize military force in Iraq. But she doesn't apologize. The closest I've seen is a few weeks ago she said of Bill's comments about Jesse Jackson and Obama, "You know I am sorry if anyone was offended. It was certainly not meant in any way to be offensive," and a non-apology apology doesn't count. I'm sorry you were offended is not I'm sorry I did something (and in this case I'm sorry my husband did something).

By never apologizing and by digging in deeper when confronted with facts, she reminds me of Bush. While I like her policies I have doubts she could work with Republicans to get her policies passed in the Senate. Certainly I think Obama will have an easier time.

Since writing about this on Monday, I haven't thought too much about the story. I was out with some friends last night, one of whom was out of the country for a couple of weeks so it came up again. I looked through the articles linked to above and felt there was something missing in all of this. Then it occurred to me that it was Jon Stewart's take. The Daily Show was in reruns last week. Tomorrow's episode should be good.

Bush on Basra: ‘A Very Positive Moment’

Think Progress wrote about Bush calling Iraq’s Resurging Violence ‘A Very Positive Moment’. CIA chief General Hayden was on Meet The Press this morning and described the violence in Basra, the confrontation between the al-Maliki Iraqi forces and the al-Sadr's militia, as inevitable and something we've been waiting for.

As Think Progess says: "In reality, the violence is undoing the very goals of Bush’s surge. Iraqi forces aren’t trying to restore “the law,” as Bush thinks, but are trying to do the opposite — suppress its political enemies before the October elections, historian Reidar Vissar noted. Most ironically, if U.S.-backed efforts “succeed,” Iran’s hand in Iraq will be strengthened. IPS’ Gareth Porter explains: The Badr Organisation and the ISCI had always been and remained the most pro-Iranian political-military forces in Iraq, having been established, trained and funded by the [Iranian Revolutionary Guard] from Shiite exiles in Iran during the Iran-Iraq war."

I just want to know, if this fighting is good, and we've been waiting for it, wouldn't it have come a year sooner if not for the surge? I suppose it could have given the government forces time to train. On Thu The New York TImes reported, "American officials have presented the Iraqi Army’s attempts to secure the port city as an example of its ability to carry out a major operation against the insurgency on its own." But by Friday "Washington Post correspondent Sudarsan Raghavan saw U.S. Stryker armored vehicles, backed by U.S. helicopters and drones, engaging militiamen armed with AK-47 assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, as Iraqi army and police units stayed on the outskirts of the sprawling Shiite stronghold." And how did this happen? "Col. Abbas al-Tamimi, media officer for the 14th Iraqi Army Division operating in the city, said he expected the fighting to escalate. 'The gunmen have heavier and more sophisticated weapons than we have,' he said."

The Mortgage Crisis and McCain's Campaign Co-Chairman

Paul Krugman on the Economic crisis: Taming the Beast. Here's a nice summary of history and the importance of regulation.

"America came out of the Great Depression with a pretty effective financial safety net, based on a fundamental quid pro quo: the government stood ready to rescue banks if they got in trouble, but only on the condition that those banks accept regulation of the risks they were allowed to take.

Over time, however, many of the roles traditionally filled by regulated banks were taken over by unregulated institutions — the ‘shadow banking system,’ which relied on complex financial arrangements to bypass those safety regulations.

Now, the shadow banking system is facing the 21st-century equivalent of the wave of bank runs that swept America in the early 1930s. And the government is rushing in to help, with hundreds of billions from the Federal Reserve, and hundreds of billions more from government-sponsored institutions like Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks.

Given the risks to the economy if the financial system melts down, this rescue mission is justified. But you don’t have to be an economic radical, or even a vocal reformer like Representative Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, to see that what’s happening now is the quid without the quo."

The part I didn't realize: "[McCain's] chief economic adviser is former Senator Phil Gramm, a fervent advocate of financial deregulation. In fact, I’d argue that aside from Alan Greenspan, nobody did as much as Mr. Gramm to make this crisis possible."

Lisa Lerer has more details on Gramm. "The general co-chairman of John McCain’s presidential campaign, former Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas), led the charge in 1999 to repeal a Depression-era banking regulation law that Democrat Barack Obama claimed on Thursday contributed significantly to today’s economic turmoil."

"A year after the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act repealed the old regulations, Swiss Bank UBS gobbled up brokerage house Paine Weber. Two years later, Gramm settled in as a vice chairman of UBS’s new investment banking arm."

"Gramm lobbied Congress, the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department about banking and mortgage issues [deregulation] in 2005 and 2006...For his work, Gramm and two other lobbyists collected $750,000 in fees from UBS’s American subsidiary. In the past year, UBS has written down more then $18 billion in exposure to subprime loans and other risky securities and is considering cutting as many as 8,000 jobs."

McCain's Teflon

Digby writes. "The 'special relationship' between John McCain and the press is particularly dangerous in one respect: he is not held accountable for his words on the stump, (while Democrats' are used against them as if they'd carved them in stone from Mt Rushmore) and he's not held liable for his gross and obvious panders and policy shifts. I'm not sure I've ever seen a politician have this kind of industrial strength teflon before."

She quotes various recent articles on the topic.

"As disturbing as his obvious mental lapses might be, McCain's bizarre policy flip-flops make Daffy Duck look positively stolid in comparison, especially because they have come in many cases in which he has made himself a national reputation. Things like torture and campaign finance ethics." And add immigration to that.

"His most famous pander came in 2000, when, after earlier denouncing the Confederate flag as a 'symbol of racism,' he embraced it as 'a symbol of heritage.' To his credit, Mr. McCain later acknowledged, 'I feared that if I answered honestly I could not win the South Carolina primary, so I chose to compromise my principles.'”

Or in other words, lie to get the vote. But at least he's honest? Maybe not...

"That sentiment is quite common among the punditocrisy and the media fanboys. They have talked themselves into believing that McCain's flip-flops and panders are actually a sign of his integrity and strength because he does them so blatantly. Now that's teflon."

I Can See Through Time (Capsule)

C6BEEF5F-5C08-4FB0-880D-DAB328A01209.jpgOn Friday I got a 1 TB Time Capsule. I decided to go for that rather than an AirPort Extreme with external drive because it took up less space and it left me with a free USB port. If I want to backup the backup drive, I can attach another drive and do so.

First I need to say I got it at the Natick Apple Store and that is consistently the worst Apple Store I've been to. The employees are friendly enough, but they are not knowledgeable and take a while to correct mistakes. They also seem less organized and less likely to offer help than in other stores (like Chestnut Hill, Burlington and Peabody).

This trip I also wanted some ethernet cables. They had Cat5e and Cat6 and I didn't know the difference. Sure 6 is a bigger number, but I didn't know what that meant for access speeds or if I needed it for the extra cost. The box (both were Belkin) didn't differentiate between speeds or hardly anything. I asked a clerk who asked me what I was using it for. One was to connect the Time Capsule to my Actiontec g router the other for a hopefully Gigabit connection to my MacBook Pro. He said get the Cat6 for the gigabit but it was clear he was making it up. I said I'll just walk over to one of those iMacs and surf. Turns out Cat6 is faster though Cat5e is good enough for most home purposes and could possibly do gigabit. I needed only a short cable, they had 14' Cat5e and 7' Cat6 for the same $15. Since they only had the 7' in Cat6 I went with that. I'm sure I could have found them cheaper somewhere else.

Then I had picked out the Time Capsule and wanted to pay for it. I stood by the counter in the back and there was one genius working and others walking by but no one taking sales. After several minutes I had to find someone on the floor and say "Can I pay someone for this?" To his credit he said sure I can help you with that. The clerk asked how I was going to connect it and I said I was using ethernet to a router and then creating a new n network for the MacBook Pro which would have no g clients to slow it down. He said that wouldn't work, that since the g router was doing the routing it would still be slow. We went back and forth a little bit and I said I knew someone who had done it. He said he wanted look it up later. Meanwhile he screwed up the transaction. Yes there was a discount and a gift card involved, but it was taking forever and in the end he still got it wrong by $1.75. There were similar issues when I bought the MacBook Pro at the same store 3 weeks prior.

So I got it home and the fun began. First I wanted to change my existing AirPort Express to connect to my router via ethernet instead of via g wifi. At first the router didn't the Express and I was confused. It turned out it was due to one of my (old) ethernet cables being bad. Changing to a different one got everything working fine but it wasn't obvious what was wrong at first. Then I connected the Time Capsule using one of the new Cat6 cables. I started the AirPort Utility and it found the new Time Capsule. I first went through the wizard but it was easier to use manual configuration. I created a new n-only (5 GHz) network and configured it to act as a bridge so the Actiontec is doing all the routing. My MacBook Pro connects to it fine and I'm getting much faster speeds. I have 20 Mbps FiOS service and while I got that when the computer was connected using ethernet, using g (with a weak WEP encryption) I was only getting 8 Mbps. Now I'm getting the full 20 Mbps. I still have the g network running so that the Wii and TiVo (and the old PowerBook) can connect to the net.

I connected my MacBook Pro to the Time Capsule via ethernet for the Initial Time Machine backup. 93GB took about 5.5 hours over what should have been gigabit ethernet. Not too bad. I've since done several hourly backups and Time Machine's interface is pretty slick.
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I haven't needed to restore anything but I have been a little freer upgrading some infrequently used applications, knowing the old ones are easily accessible if need be.

Aside from the glitch with my old AirPort Express and a bad ethernet cable, the hardest part of the whole process was picking names and passwords for networks and devices.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Digital Picture Frames Contain Chinese Computer Virus

Virus from China the gift that keeps on giving "An insidious computer virus recently discovered on digital photo frames has been identified as a powerful new Trojan Horse from China that collects passwords for online games - and its designers might have larger targets in mind."

Time Space Map

Time Space Map "is an encyclopedic atlas of history and happenings that anyone can edit. It is a geographic wiki." They use ordered google map markers to show events over time, such as Giovanni da Verrazzano's Voyage of 1524. I can't say I love it, but I like the idea.

Your Sex Industry Questions Answered

If you've been caught up with the Spitzer story, Freakonomics Your Sex Industry Questions Answered will interest and probably surprise you.

Clever Cycling Safety Video

The point being, it's easy to miss what you're not looking for. Very clever.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Heckava Job Roddy...

The Washington Post reported White House Taps Tech Entrepreneur For Cyber Defense Post. "Sources in the government contracting community said the White House is expected to announce as early as Thursday the selection of Rod A. Beckstrom as a top-level adviser based in the Department of Homeland Security. As the article and security expert Bruce Schneier point out he "has no cyber-security experience".

He is a co-author of The Starfish And the Spider who's subtitle "The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations" seems strangely appropriate to this administration. It's actually fairly well received and is about decentralized organizations.

Still I'm reminded of Bush's signing statement to a new law saying the head of FEMA must (shockingly) have emergency management experience. He said such qualifications would too limit the pool of candidates. Uh huh.

McCain's Cred with the Media

Last night I caught part of On Point on NPR about The Media and John McCain. They had the author of Free Ride: John McCain and the Media on the show. He pummeled all the conventional descriptions of McCain. He's not a maverick, he's not a moderate, he not a straight talker, he is politically calculating, etc.

Kevin Drum wonders about McCain's Cred. "Let's recap. Foreign policy cred lets him get away with wild howlers on foreign policy. Fiscal integrity cred lets him get away with outlandishly irresponsible economic plans. Anti-lobbyist cred lets him get away with pandering to lobbyists. Campaign finance reform cred lets him get away with gaming the campaign finance system. Straight talking cred lets him get away with brutally slandering Mitt Romney in the closing days of the Republican primary. Maverick uprightness cred allows him to get away with begging for endorsements from extremist religious leaders like John Hagee. "Man of conviction" cred allows him to get away with transparent flip-flopping so egregious it would make any other politician a laughingstock. Anti-torture cred allows him to get away with supporting torture as long as only the CIA does it. Remind me again: where does all this cred come from? And what window do Democrats go to to get the same treatment the press gives McCain?" Lots of links in the original post.

Antarctic Ice Shelf Collapsing

"Scientists monitoring satellite images of the Wilkins Ice Shelf spotted that a huge (41 by 2.5 km) berg the size of the Isle of Man appears to have broken away in recent days – it is still on the move... A large part of the Wilkins Ice Shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula is now supported only by a thin strip of ice hanging between two islands."

Cnet has some pictures.

Salon reports in Bye-bye, Antarctica? - How the World Works about how the deniers are describing this. It turns out it is a little confusing. It seems the mainland of Antartica has been cooling for the last 30 years. So the deniers ask how could the collapse be about global warming. Of course the collapse was on the pennisula which (I think) hasn't been cooling.

Global Warming models have predicted a cold Antarctica and southern ocean for a while. That sound contradictory but apparently it's not. It has to do with how heat is stored in oceans. "As greenhouse gases increase, the heat seeps gradually deeper and deeper into the oceans. But when larger volumes of water are brought into play, they bring a larger heat capacity. Thus as the years passed, the atmospheric warming would increasingly lag behind what would happen if there were no oceans." So the warming happens first deep in the oceans and won't show up in the atmosphere until later. Also since the southern hemisphere has more ocean than the north, it will heat slower.

"Computer models have improved by orders of magnitude, but they continue to show that Antarctica cannot be expected to warm up very significantly until long after the rest of the world’s climate is radically changed."

Still though, as I read that I still have to wonder why an iceberg 5 times the size of Manhattan has already collapsed in Antarctica. I'm not by any means a denier but I clearly don't understand what's expected to happen. And with all the world's reputable scientists agreeing on this, you'd think at least one of them would be able to explain it to the public.

Also I hadn't realized this from the Salon article. "It's amazing, really. Pick a random datapoint of climate skepticism floating through the infosphere, and you can almost invariably connect the dots back to Exxon."

What Can And Cannot Be Spoken On Television

Glenn Greenwald has a really good article, What can and cannot be spoken on television. Ever notice that the media doesn't interview Iraqis about what's going on in their country? All the info I hear is usually from the US military or polticians. Well for the 5 anniversary of the war Charlie Rose interviewed Sinan Antoon and Ali Fadhil, an Iraqi professor and journalist and got an earful.

The same night ABC's Nightline had Peter Jennings talk to two Iraqis on the phone and was left wondering: "To be honest, sitting in this newsroom for the last many hours, I'm not quite sure how we get people on the phone. But we've had two phone calls like that tonight and the very least they are an admonition that if Americans end up in Baghdad, perhaps not everybody is going to welcome them."

Greenwald concludes: "Whenever things of this sort slip through, it illustrates just how narrow and controlled the standard script is. As Singel said in his email: 'The Rose video and the Jennings moment are such clear ruptures of what can and cannot be spoken on television.' And the most amazing part of all of it is that the conventional wisdom holds -- and the establishment press even believes -- that they are the 'liberal media,' meaning they are insufficiently reverent of our wars, our Republican leaders, and our military exploits. Imagine what it would look like if the media weren't 'liberal'."

Exploring Color Names

"We showed thousands of random colors like this to people on Mechanical Turk and asked what they would call them." The color label explorer lets you search through their answers visually. Just type a string like "dark" or "green" and only those names matching will show. Try "baby".


Hypnotist thief hunted in Italy

This is awesome. The BBC reports Hypnotist thief hunted in Italy "Police in Italy have issued footage of a man who is suspected of hypnotising supermarket checkout staff to hand over money from their cash registers. In every case, the last thing staff reportedly remember is the thief leaning over and saying: 'Look into my eyes', before finding the till empty."

NSA's Domestic Spying

Bruce Schneier writes about NSA's Domestic Spying "This article from The Wall Street Journal outlines how the NSA is increasingly engaging in domestic surveillance, data collection, and data mining. The result is essentially the same as Total Information Awareness."

He quotes Barry Steinhardt of the ACLU: "I mean, when we warn about a "surveillance society," this is what we're talking about."

Executive Order 12333 signed by Reagan says "Collection within the United States of foreign intelligence not otherwise obtainable shall be undertaken by the FBI or, when significant foreign intelligence is sought, by other authorized agencies of the Intelligence Community, provided that no foreign intelligence collection by such agencies may be undertaken for the purpose of acquiring information concerning the domestic activities of United States persons."

As far as I know that's still governing. Perhaps this is yet another law Bush is violating. Oh I forget, the current administration believes that the President cant violate an executive order. Since he can issue new ones, if his actions, um, are not in line with an existing order, it's just as if he issued a new one changing the rules. Really.

NASA Funds Mars Rovers

Universe Today reports NASA U-Turn Over Mars Rover Funding "No sooner had news hit the web that NASA had cut funding to the Mars Exploratory Rovers (MER), NASA took a huge U-turn and voided the letter that was sent to MER mission scientists. Apparently both Spirit and Opportunity can continue to roll around the Mars landscape as if nothing had ever happened."

Very good.

Clinton Misstatement

The New York Times reports Clinton Seeks to Soften Impact of Misstatement. All I want to know is if she ever left a plane ducking because of sniper fire. If so, then perhaps she "misspoke". If not, she's either delusional or lying. Making that up doesn't count as exaggerating.

Shuttle Pictures

Amazing images from the shuttle mission.

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Yes the last one is the aurora borealis. Many more at the site above.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Egg Recipes

101 Cookbooks lists their Favorite Egg Recipes. A couple of these look interesting.

Apollo 11 Moonwalk Map

Strange Maps shows in You’ll Never Moonwalk Alone « a map of where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission. It's superimposed over a soccer field for scale.

NASA Budget Cuts Means Mars Rover Will Sleep

The Associated Press reports "Scientists plan to put one of the twin Mars rovers to sleep and limit the activities of the other robot to fulfill a NASA order to cut $4 million from the program's budget, mission team members said Monday. The news comes amid belt-tightening at NASA headquarters, which is under pressure to cover cost overruns of a flagship Mars mission to land a Hummer-sized rover on the Red Planet next year."

The rovers are one of NASA's biggest successes. Originally planned to run for just 90 days, they've been running for over 4 (earth) years at a cost of a mere $20 million a year.

Meanwhile the Census Bureau was going to spend a record $11 billion for the 2010 Census including using new handheld computers. Now there might be a $2 billion cost overrun because they couldn't manage the $600 million contract with Harris Corp. for the handhelds.

And then there's Iraq. "Officially, the US spends $16 billion every month to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan, but this figure includes only direct expenses." That's over $6,000 a second and that doesn't include everything. About 11 minutes of merely the official costs of the war could fund the Mars rovers.

"On Thursday, Joseph Stiglitz told the congressional Joint Economic Committee that $3 trillion was at the low end of estimated war costs. After factoring in the cost of weapons and operations, future health-care costs for veterans, interest on foreign loans used to fund the war, and future borrowing, Stiglitz said the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would be somewhere between $5 trillion and $7 trillion for the US alone. Another estimated $6 trillion will be borne by other countries, he said."

Kissing Hank's Ass

Kissing Hank's Ass is a pretty funny commentary on religion.

Craigslist Scams

Here's a new bit of mischief and it's pretty bad. People are posting fake ads on craigslist saying that someone has to move quickly and they are giving away everyything in their home. They post an address and then hoards of people arrive and empty the house.

This happened this weekend to Robert Salisbury in Jacksonville, OR. It also happened almost exactly a year ago in Tacoma, WA. 28 year-old Nichole Blackwell got back at her aunt Laurie Raye for evicting her mother. "Nearly everything that wasn't bolted down — and some stuff that was — was taken."

That's a pretty evil prank.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Pilot's Gun Fires on US Airways Flight

Yup, guns on planes were a clever idea. Apparently they do go off by themselves.

Digby on Obama

Yesterday digby wrote about Obama's race speech and as usual, it's well worth reading.

Restaurant Week

Boston Restaurant Week is actually two weeks long and ended last Friday. About 200 restaurants had special menus, about $20 for lunch and $30 for dinner. Some people complain it's not the real experience of the restaurant, others think it's a great way to try places you've been meaning to. I did one dinner and 3 lunches. All were quite good.

Dinner at Beacon Hill Bistro
Salade Saucisson - House-Made Sausage with Warm Potatoes and Shallot Vinaigrette
Baked Pasta with Tomato, Rapini, Ricotta, and Eggplant Caviar
Claufouti of Pineapple and Armagnac - was a pineapple bread pudding

Lunches at:
Top of the Hub
Sweet Potato Soup
Pan Seared Salmon with Chorizo & Rock Shrimp Crust,
Crème Brulee

Sweet Potato Leek Soup
Pan Seared Salmon with quinoa, grilled asparagus, oranges & mushroom vinaigrette
Bittersweet Chocolate Cake

Oishii Boston
Crispy Tuna Pancake with Arugula Salad
Maguro, Salmon and Ishitai (Snapper?) Shushi with Catepillar Maki
Ginger Ice Cream

Hillary Clinton Makes Up Bosnia Story

A week ago Hilary Clinton described her trip to Bosnia in 1996:

"I certainly do remember that trip to Bosnia, and as Togo said, there was a saying around the White House that if a place was too small, too poor, or too dangerous, the president couldn't go, so send the First Lady. That’s where we went. I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base."

Turns out it's completely untrue. Here's the video of her walking on the tarmac and being greeted by an 8 year-old girl...

Her campaign is saying she "misspoke". Uh huh.

Time Travelers Forum

International Association of Time Travelers: Members' Forum Subforum: Europe – Twentieth Century – Second World War is pretty funny.

2008 James Beard Awards

2008 James Beard Awards Finalists Announced. "Hailed as 'the Oscars of the food world,' the Beards honor cookbooks, chefs, journalists, food writers, and food and beverage professionals. Winners will be announced in a black-tie ceremony at Lincoln Center on Sunday, June 8." Do people run pools on these?

Dear Mr. Carville...

I liked Seth Grahame-Smith: Dear Mr. Carville... in the Huffington Post about Carville's statements about Richardson's endorsement of Obama. Judgement trumps loyalty.

South Park Episodes Online

South Park Studios will show you any complete episode of South Park you want. Legally. Gizmodo says "Streams are fast and vid quality is solid; every episode, from first to most recent is available (with one exception); and newer ones are uncensored. Major point of suck: ads. They're mercifully short, but you get hit with about three per episode (marked by the little white lines in the timeline), though you have a limited ability to jump around the ep to sorta avoid them"

What Will Life Be Like in the Year 2008?

What Will Life Be Like in the Year 2008? is an article from the Nov 1968 issue of Mechanix Illustrated. If only...

Fellowship of the Peep

I guess this is from last year. Fellowship of the Peep. Can't imagine why they stopped.

Lego Models of Space Telescopes

Lego Models of Space Telescopes is a forum thread with some fun links of telescopes and models of space telescopes (at this point the Spitzer and James Webb). Fun stuff.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

John Dean on Obama's Speech

John Dean (yes that one) on Obama's race speech, Barack Obama's Smart Speech "A More Perfect Union" Did It Reveal Him To Be Too Intellectual To Be President?.

"With his speech addressing race in America, Obama has done something that few politicians are willing to do: speak with compelling intellectual honesty. Rather than fuzzy-up difficult and troubling questions about race, he confronted them directly. Rather than avoiding issues that are typically ignored, he brought them forward for public discussion. Most strikingly, he did this with nuance, great tact, and conspicuous intelligence."

"Republicans have spent the past half century dumbing-down the American presidency, for it has helped them win the White House Colleen Shogan, wearing her political scientist hat, has assembled epigrammatic case studies demonstrating the effectiveness of the anti-intellectualism of Republican presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush."

The Tables Turn for Dilbert’s Creator

New York Times reports The Tables Turn for Dilbert’s Creator "In other words, Scott Adams, the ‘Dilbert’ creator and the progenitor of the multimillion-dollar Dilbert empire, is now a pointy-haired boss himself." That is of a restaurant he is part owner of.

Bush Is Allowing Species Extinctions

The Washington Post reports Bush has made Guarding Species Is Harder.

"With little-noticed procedural and policy moves over several years, Bush administration officials have made it substantially more difficult to designate domestic animals and plants for protection under the Endangered Species Act."

"During Bush's more than seven years as president, his administration has placed 59 domestic species on the endangered list, almost the exact number that his father listed during each of his four years in office. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne has not declared a single native species as threatened or endangered since he was appointed nearly two years ago."

The article discusses some species like specific salmon, rabbits, prairie dogs, butterflies, snails, etc. that should be protected but aren't.

Fish Brains Have Two Bits

This is a really interesting article, the Telegraph reports Fish can count to four - but no higher "Fish can count, according to scientists, who have found that North American mosquito fish have the ability to count up to four. A second series of experiments revealed the fish's ability to process larger numbers. The fish were not able to directly count over four, but they were able to distinguish between larger numbers if they differed by a ratio of 2:1."

This means that they have similar counting abilities to those observed in apes, monkeys and dolphins and humans with very limited mathematical ability." For my CMU readers, this means fish can do H&SS math.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Galactica Recap in 8 Minutes

In the style of the Lost in 8:15 recap video here's one for Battlestar Galactica (it sounds like the same narrator. Lots of info and very funny. "Now there are 12 humanoid cylon models, some actually look like models." "Starbuck and Apollo like each other, so they beat each other up." And I didn't realize that paper doesn't have corners. It goes through the first 3 seasons, so if you're working your way through the recently released season 3 DVDs be careful.

Season 4 starts on March 4th. Sci-Fi has two half hour specials on 3/28 and is running a bunch of marathons starting 3/31 showing all of seasons 1-3.

Top 10 Jackie Chan Stunts

Friday, March 21, 2008

Dexter Crossover?

Entertainment Weekly has a weekly "What to Watch" segment which goes through TV shows and includes some smarmy comments. For Sunday March 30th under Dexter, they write: "I dream of a CBS crossover in which Dexter moves into the Big Brother house."

Watchlist Failures

The Washington Post had an article Wednesday A Good Name Dragged Down which explains why terrorist watch lists don't work. It begins...

"One man went into a Glen Burnie, Md., Toyota dealership to buy a car, only to be told that a name check revealed he was on a U.S. Treasury Department watchlist of suspected terrorists and drug dealers. He had to be 'checked for tattoos,' he said, to make sure he wasn't the suspect.

An 18-year-old found he could not open an account to accept credit card payments for his fledgling technology consulting business because his name was similar to that of a Libyan official on the watchlist.

A former U.S. Navy officer who served in the Persian Gulf and whose father was killed in the Korean War when he was a child, found himself locked out of his PayPal account because his name was similar to one on the watchlist."

Top Ten Reasons to Watch Battlestar Galactica Season 4

Letterman's Top Ten Reasons to Watch Battlestar Galactica's New Season

This would have been a reason to watch Letterman.

Homer Untooned

pixeloo has some cool "real-life" images of Homer and Mario. Here's Homer "untooned", kinda disturbing...


Check out Mario.

Change Congress

Change Congress Lawrence Lessig's new movement, Change Congress now has a web site.

The Flickr Name That Film Pool

Flickr has a pool called Name That Film. You'd think I'd love this but I've not even heard of most of the films, let alone seen them.

Jon Stewart on Iraq War 5 Year Anniversary

The Daily Show was really funny last night. Here's the clip.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Underground Oceans Discovered on Titan

Universe Today reports Underground Oceans Discovered on Titan, Saturn's moon.

"Over the course of 19 separate Cassini Titan flybys, members on the mission science team carefully established the position of 50 unique landmarks on the surface of the moon. After each flyby, they located the landmarks again, and marked their positions.

During nearly 2 years of flybys, from October 2005 to May 2007, surface features had moved from their original positions by up to 30 km (19 miles). The only way the surface could be shifting like this is if the moon's icy crust is floating atop an internal ocean.

'We believe that about 62 miles beneath the ice and organic-rich surface is an internal ocean of liquid water mixed with ammonia,' said Bryan Stiles of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in, Pasadena, Calif."

Largest Gamma Ray Burst Seen

218809main_grb_20080320_226.jpgTwo years ago Swift recorded the most distant cosmic explosion, 13 billion light-years away. Yesterday Swift saw the largest cosmic explosion ever recorded. It was 7.5 billion light-years away and yet was visible with the naked eye. "If someone just happened to be looking at the right place at the right time, they saw the most distant object ever seen by human eyes without optical aid."

Battlestar Galactica Prequel in the Fall

A prequel set 50 years before the current Battlestar Galactica series will air on Sci-Fi in the fall. It will be called Caprica. Got from this interview with the cast and staff but there is some info that could be considered a spoiler for season 4 in it, so be warned.

Apple Airport Updates

I've previously complained that I wanted an update to an AirPort Express that used the faster 802.11n wifi because having a single slower g client would slow down the whole network. This week Apple updated the Express.

I've also previously complained that while Time Capsule is a good product I'd like to be able to use an external drive connected via USB to an AirPort Extreme for Time Machine backups. This week Apple released software and firmware updates that permit this.

I've since realized that I probably don't need the first. Since they're close, I can probably connect the AirPort Express to my FiOS Actiontec router via an ethernet cable and not need to make it a wifi client. This avoids the problem of having a slow wifi client on the network, though with the Wii, I probably need to keep a g network around. I think I can use the same trick and connect an AirPort Extreme or Time Capsule to my router via an ethernet cable as a client (I guess as a bridge) then use n to connect my laptop to my existing home network. The g and the n networks are separate but are connected. I'll give this a try soon. Now I have to decide if I go with an Extreme or a Time Capsule.

Methane Found on Another World

HD 189733 b is a planet orbiting a yellow dwarf star about 63 light-years from Earth. It was discovered in 2005 and is a little more massive than Jupiter. It's close to it's star (it completes an orbit in just over 2 days) and is known as a hot Jupiter.

Astronomers using the Spitzer Space Telescope have estimated the temperature is 1200 to 1700 degrees F. About a year ago it became the first extra-solar planet to be mapped (it's temperature variations). It's one of the first two planets to have spectroscopic observations which identifies some of the elements in the atmosphere. Previously they've found a significant amount of water vapor.

Today a paper published in Nature reports observations using the Hubble Space Telescope have found Methane (CH4) in the atmosphere. This is the first time methane has been found in the atmosphere of planet outside our solar system, and doing so really pushed the Hubble to its limits.

Methane is interesting for two reasons. First methane could combine with other organic compounds to form amino acids, the building block of life on Earth, though not at the very high temperatures on this world. It's also something that like oxygen is formed by life on Earth, without life, there wouldn't be much of either on Earth. Being able to find it here, means we might find it on more hospitable words. The second is that it's odd to find methane at these temperatures, where the carbon would more naturally produce carbon monoxide (CO).

Update: APOD has a nice map.

It's Spring

It doesn't feel like it but I'll take what I can get. Happy Equinox .

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Today's Obama Speech

Here's Obama's speech today on Iraq. Not as good as Tuesdays, but still good.

Cheney Distorts Iran Intelligence (Again)

Think Progress reports Cheney distorts Iran intelligence. In the ABC interview he talked about what the NIE said about Iran's nuclear weapons program.

”What it (the NIE) says is that they have definitely had in the past a program to develop a nuclear warhead; that it would appear that they stopped that weaponization process in 2003. We don’t know whether or not they’ve restarted,” he said."

"What Cheney failed to mention is that the NIE also stated that “Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007” and is “less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005.”"

The full interview is here and he's even more evasive. And while Martha Raddatz tried to follow up with questions, shouldn't she have had some facts about what the NIE said?

Justice Scalia and Oscar the Grouch

Justice Scalia and Oscar the Grouch. Oscar the Grouch has made a Supreme Court
decision, thanks to Scalia. And Scalia and Roberts continue to have issues.

Supreme Court Weighs Right to Guns, and Its Limits

The Supreme Court heard a case on Tuesday about the 2nd Amendment involving a handgun ban in Washington DC. We'll have to wait for an opinion but the case is the first significant case about the 2nd Amendment in decades.

"Court Weighs Right to Guns, and Its Limits" is a rundown of a lot of articles about the oral arguments.

They basically come down to this. Thomas, Scalia, Roberts, Alito and Kennedy all seem to support an individuals right to own guns (as opposed to doing so just in a militia capacity, the first clause of the Amendment) so the ban will be overturned. The question is on what basis the court will use. Is it reasonable to have an regulation? All parties seemed to indicate that it's legal for a state to ban machine gun ownership and for Congress to ban interstate-commerce involving them. Then it comes down to what's a reasonable regulation. It seems DC's outright ban of handguns will be found unreasonable. One justice asked about a state that wanted to ban handguns from school dormitories, would that be reasonable. We'll have to wait to find out.

Here's a Layman's Guide to Heller

Science Pictures

2005 MicroGraph Winners are cool black and white microscope pictures.


Here are the entries to the Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest 2007



Obama Reactions

The New York Times praises Obama's speech. Let's hope that's the dominant view over this idiot's or this other idiot. Based on morning news coverage I'm not so sure. The Today show (and TIm Russert) missed the point, played the sound bites, and said it's not clear if it accomplished what it needed to do. It's like they didn't actually listen to it and were preparing their polls for the moment it ended. Wolf Blitzer blew it too (well no surprise there).

Adam McKay (director of Anchorman) got it, and he realized how different this was. "In other words, he didn't pass the buck to save his own ass. It was a monumental moment in modern American politics. He didn't distract, deflect, or attempt to frighten. He didn't accuse, declare war, or get angry. He didn't game play, scape goat, or blame. Can you imagine? We need to engrave this shit onto a commemorative coin fast."

Socratic on Daily Kos writes about watching the speech at a car dealership in the Atlanta suburbs. "but just at that moment I stopped watching it ... and started watching the people around me. The young black man. The elderly white couple. The two white women, one college-aged, one in her late-20s. One middle-aged white woman. Two white men, one college-aged, one in his late-30s. One Asian couple. All of them were watching the speech. Rapt. Nodding." Now this does remind me too much of a Scott Templeton article and yes that's a reference from The Wire, watch the DVDs dammit.

As usual Glenn Greenwald gets it and takes it one step further. "But in Obama's faith in the average American voter lies one of the greatest weaknesses of his campaign. His faith in the ability and willingness of Americans to rise above manipulative political tactics seems drastically to understate both the efficacy of such tactics and the deafening amplification they receive from our establishment press. Even Americans who authentically believe that they want a "new, better politics" may be swayed by the same old Drudgian sewerage because it is powerful and ubiquitous."

I had kinda burned out on the election coverage. It was the same old thing again and again. This speech reenergized me. The fact many issues aren't blank and white but shades of grey and when someone does something you object to the standard politics say you either "denounce and reject" them or dismiss them as Hillary did with Ferraro or literally stand by them as Silda Wall Spitzer. I heard debate about whether Imus should be fired and people saying how ridiculous it is for the wife to have to stand next to the adulterer but that's merely almost getting to the point that the political media is theater. Which is better: supporting the delusion that your staff is perfect or they'll be fired; or dealing with the nuances of people's strengths and weaknesses? Which is more likely to end a crippling division in politics?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

An Intuitive Explanation of Fourier Theory

I only briefly covered fourier transforms in college and never really groked them. An Intuitive Explanation of Fourier Theory would have helped.

McCain's Blunders

McCain is taking a lot of heat for misstatements about Iran and Iraq.

Maybe Daily Kos went too far with "In comments to reporters in Syria Jordan, John McCain demonstrated that he does not understand even the most basic of facts about his signature issue, the Iraq War." But watch this and tell me if this is a guy with a command of foreign policy and the middle east.

Seems like a "senior moment" to me and that's not encouraging. Then again he apparently made the same mistake yesterday.

White House E-Mail Battle Heats Up

ABC News reports White House E-Mail Battle Heats Up. The National Security Archive, a nonpartisan group affiliated with George Washington University sued the administration in September to restore the missing emails since federal law requires they be preserved.

"Judge Facciola rejected as 'draconian' a proposal by the Archive that would have forced the White House to quarantine every computer workstation it had. Instead, Facciola proposed the White House make a 'forensic copy' of all preservable data on every computer that could have been used by an employee between 2003 and 2005, the period in question. Observing that even that step is 'not without its costs,' Facciola gave the White House until close of business Friday to argue why it should not be required to make such copies."

The Wire, Deadwood and the Sopranos

The House Next Door has an interesting discussion comparing The Wire, Deadwood and the Sopranos. David vs. David vs. David; or which is the greatest TV drama ever, Simon's The Wire, Milch's Deadwood or Chase's The Sopranos?.

"The following is a transcript of a roundtable audio discussion featuring House contributors Andrew Johnston (Time Out New York), Alan Sepinwall (The Star-Ledger, What's Alan Watching) and Matt Zoller Seitz (The New York Times)."

You can read the transcript or download a podcast.

My order is in the title.

SCOTUS Hears Heller

SCOTUSblog has a lot of coverage on Heller, the DC handgun case that was argued at the Supreme Court today.

Arthur C. Clarke 1917-2008

The New York TImes reports Arthur C. Clarke Dies at 90. Clarke is mostly known for having written 2001 A Space Odyssey as well as numerous other sci-fi novel. He also invented the concept of the communications satellite. He died tomorrow in Sri Lanka.

David Simon on The Wire's Final Season

The Wire's creator David Simon writes in the Huffington Post: The Wire's Final Season and the Story Everyone Missed.

Obama's Race Speech

Obama's speech on race today was pretty remarkable and a worth a read.

"For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies. We can do that. But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change. That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, ‘Not this time.’"

Here's the video, about 40 mins:

Update: As Jon Stewart said tonight "And so at 11:00 am on a Tuesday a prominent politician spoke to Americans about race as though they were adults."

Signing Statements Are Still a Problem

On January 28th, President Bush Signed H.R. 4986, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 into Law. He also issued this signing statement:

"Provisions of the Act, including sections 841, 846, 1079, and 1222, purport to impose requirements that could inhibit the President's ability to carry out his constitutional obligations to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, to protect national security, to supervise the executive branch, and to execute his authority as Commander in Chief. The executive branch shall construe such provisions in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President."

That's the entire text. At the time Think Progress reported on this and explained that Congressional Quarterly said: "One such provision sets up a commission to probe contracting fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another expands protections for whistleblowers who work for government contractors. A third requires that U.S. intelligence agencies promptly respond to congressional requests for documents. And a fourth bars funding for permanent bases in Iraq and for any action that exercises U.S. control over Iraq’s oil money."

"Legal professionals testified [last] week before Congress that there might be some practical concerns with the signing statement issued by President Bush on the fiscal 2008 Defense authorization bill. The president's objections to certain provisions leave some in doubt about whether he will follow the letter of the law."

The GAO reported that in 9 out of 30 cases, "agencies did not implement provisions the president has objected to in signing statements." They didn't make a direct link between the signing statements and the agencies actions but Bush is the clear one.

"In this particular signing statement, it's difficult to know exactly what the constitutional objections are," said Nicolas Rosenkranz, associate professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center. No shit. Did I mention the above was the entire text of the signing statement? It was the House Armed Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee that had the hearing on March 11th and I wish they'd actually do something. Bush wouldn't even send someone from DOD or DOJ to testify at the hearing.

Now I read something about Backdoor Signing Statements.

"Newly enacted bipartisan legislation (S.2488 the Openness Promotes Effectiveness in our National Government Act or OPEN Government Act) calls for the creation and funding of an independent ombudsmen's office [the Office of Government and Information Services (OGIS)] to resolve disputes between the federal government and those requesting information via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)...The way it is now, the federal government can stonewall FOI requests and drag the process out indefinitely."

"The act was passed by unanimous consent in the Senate and was signed by President Bush on Dec. 31, 2007. The newly enacted legislation calls for OGIS to be funded through the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)." The NARA is an independent agency which is what you want for an ombudsmen, however in the appendix of Bush's $3.1 trillion 2009 budget, he funds OGIS via the Department of Justice which you might know is getting a lot of FOIA requests lately.

So there wasn't an actual signing statement. The law says to fund OGIS via NARA but Bush wants to fund it via DOJ. Is that breaking the law? What's the penalty for breaking this law? Anything? What about the others?

Calories Burned During Sex

Calories burned during sex is pretty funny.

No Link Between Saddam and al Qaida (Duh)

In case anyone missed it last week Pentagon Study finds no link between Saddam and al Qaida "An exhaustive review of more than 600,000 Iraqi documents that were captured after the 2003 U.S. invasion has found no evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime had any operational links with Osama bin Laden's al Qaida terrorist network."

"President Bush and his aides used Saddam's alleged relationship with al Qaida, along with Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction, as arguments for invading Iraq after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld claimed in September 2002 that the United States had "bulletproof" evidence of cooperation between the radical Islamist terror group and Saddam's secular dictatorship."

Cheney Is Still Lying

Daily Kos fact checks Cheney's description of the Iraq war "...successful endeavor ... and it has been well worth the effort."

In contrast, Patrick Cockburn In The Independent writes Iraq is a country no more. Like much else, that was not the plan. "Five years of occupation have destroyed Iraq as a country. Baghdad is today a collection of hostile Sunni and Shia ghettoes divided by high concrete walls. Different districts even have different national flags. Sunni areas use the old Iraqi flag with the three stars of the Baath party, and the Shia wave a newer version, adopted by the Shia-Kurdish government. The Kurds have their own flag. The Iraqi government tries to give the impression that normality is returning. Iraqi journalists are told not to mention the continuing violence."

McCain is in Iraq too. Remember that market he "strolled through" a year ago with a bulletproof vest, 100 Soldiers, 3 Blackhawks, and 2 Apache gunships while saying saying you or I could walk freely around some Baghdad neighborhoods? It's too dangerous for him to go there this trip.

Bush's Measure of Hard Work

Bush's latest heckava job quote: "I want to thank you, Mr. Secretary, for working over the weekend."

Monday, March 17, 2008

Time Machine Details

Quarter Life Crisis has all the details of Leopard's Time Machine. More than the consumer wants to know, interesting from the programmer's perspective.

Charting The Banking Crisis

And Still I Persist in Charting The Banking Crisis takes the really interesting graphing technique and applies it to the current banking process. Two charts show Bank Portfolios of 8 large banks by quarter from 2002-2007. One shows 90+ Days Late and the other Total Charged Off Mortgages. Interesting stuff.

"The banks are under a growing amount of stress, but unless you are a hard core accountant or analyst, it can be tough to wade through the public data to figure it out. Tools like the trend animator provide a means to convey complex data sets in a manner that lets anyone recognize what is happening."

Bush and the Economy

Menzie Chinn shreds Bush's speech (and role in the economic crisis) in Harvard's Feldstein Says U.S. Economy in Recession.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

New Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Portrait Found

New Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart portrait found. "It shows him in 1783, aged 27, dressed in a red tunic and a white ruff, with a wig of grey hair and an elegant but slightly hooked nose. Until now the enduring image of Mozart has been largely based on the posthumous 1819 portrait by Barbara Kraft, painted 18 years after his death. But this discovery could help change that. "

I immediately thought of how different things are now. Mozart is one of the most famous people from the late 18th century and we barely have pictures of him. 200 years later we're excited to find a new one. Ashley Dupre enters the public consciousness and the first thing she does is remove pictures from her facebook and myspace accounts.

I bet I'm the only person to relate Mozart with Dupre. Thankyouverymuch.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Photoshop Disasters

A pretty amusing blog of Photoshop Disasters.

Pig in ....

syrup.jpgI was wandering through Whole Foods and found Ginger Syrup. Ginger being my favorite flavor I was pretty happy. I was even more happy that it was by the Ginger People makers of the best Ginger Beer. So this morning I took their advice and made cinnamon whole wheat pancakes from The Best Recipes. Mmmmmmmm.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Larry Miller: Not This Time, Buster

Larry Miller's article in the Huffington Post, Not This Time, Buster is the best thing I've read on the Spitzer story.

How About Mentioning McCain's Tax Returns

Jamison Foser writes in Media Matters: Media ignore McCain's finances after obsessing over Dems'. It's really good article pointing out how the media (in particular MSNBC) is obsession on Hillary Clinton not having released her tax return but not even mentioning that John McCain hasn't either; even when Republican strategists mention it. He also points out that calling McCain's Arizona home a "rustic cabin" is ridiculous when they went after John Kerry for his expensive home own by his heiress wife (McCain's is own by his heiress (second) wife as well). It's a good read.

Different Kinds of Averages

How To Analyze Data Using the Average is a clear explanation of mean, median and mode. But I knew that already. I didn't know (or is it remember) when to use a geometric mean or a harmonic mean. That was pretty interesting.

Supreme Court To Hear Landmark Gun-Control Case

Supreme Court to hear landmark gun-control case.

"On Tuesday, Bush and his political base will enter a three-sided showdown when the Supreme Court considers the District of Columbia's strict ban on handguns. The conservative split is only one of the surprises that are shaping how cities and states will regulate guns in the future. 'There is a difference in view, not only between sides in this case, but within each side,' noted Lisa Brown, the executive director of the American Constitution Society, a nonprofit legal organization. Everything about the case called District of Columbia v. Heller screams history in the making."

House Passes FISA Amendments Act

House Passes FISA Amendments Act. "The House has just passed the House amendment to the Senate amendment to H.R. 3773, to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to establish a procedure for authorizing certain acquisitions of foreign intelligence, and for other purposes, by a vote of 213-197-1. The revised House legislation to amend FISA grants new authorities for conducting electronic surveillance against foreign targets while preserving the requirement that the government obtain an individualized FISA court order, based on probable cause, when targeting Americans at home or abroad. The House bill also strongly enhances oversight of the Administration’s surveillance activities. Finally, the House bill does not provide retroactive immunity for telecom companies but allows the courts to determine whether lawsuits should proceed."

Here are the details of the maneuvers of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to circumvent all of this allowing telecom immunity. It's interesting how all of this works.

The AP article on the passage includes this quote: "'We cannot conduct foreign surveillance without them. But if we continue to subject them to billion-dollar lawsuits, we risk losing their cooperation in the future,' said Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas." Um, they would be at risk if they don't break the law.

Bush Weakens Intelligence Oversight Board

The Boston Globe reports President weakens espionage oversight given no reasons for the action, but clearly we have too much oversight on our intelligence services. President Ford created the Intelligence Oversight Board "made up of private citizens with top-level clearances to ferret out illegal spying activities."

"Under the old rules, whenever the oversight board learned of intelligence activity that it believed might be 'unlawful or contrary to executive order,' it had a duty to notify both the president and the attorney general. But Bush's order deleted the board's authority to refer matters to the Justice Department for a criminal investigation, and the new order said the board should notify the president only if other officials are not already 'adequately' addressing the problem.

Bush's order also terminated the board's authority to oversee each intelligence agency's general counsel and inspector general, and it erased a requirement that each inspector general file a report with the board every three months. Now only the agency directors will decide whether to report any potential lawbreaking to the panel, and they have no schedule for checking in."

Sounds exactly the way you'd want an oversight committee to operate doesn't it? I mean it's not like the FBI has been improperly accessing your telephone records, credit report or internet usage for four years running. Oh wait, they have been. And it's not like the NSA has it's Total Information Awareness program in place. Oh wait, they do.

Organic Companies

Here's achart of which large companies own all those organic brands you see.

NPR Interviews Clinton

NPR Interviews Hillary and asks some real questions and she dances around all of them. Andrew Sullivan and his readers are incredulous.

Stroke of insight: Jill Bolte Taylor at TED

This is one of the best TED talks I've ever seen.

"Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor had an opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: One morning, she realized she was having a massive stroke. As it happened -- as she felt her brain functions slip away one by one, speech, movement, understanding -- she studied and remembered every moment. This is a powerful story of recovery and awareness -- of how our brains define us and connect us to the world and to one another."

"And in that moment my right arm went totally paralyzed by my side. And I realized, 'Oh my gosh! I'm having a stroke! I'm having a stroke!' And the next thing my brain says to me is, 'Wow! This is so cool. This is so cool. How many brain scientists have the opportunity to study their own brain from the inside out?'"

The page has both video of the 18 minute presentation and the text transcript. It took her 8 years to completely recover and parts of this are very funny but others are very emotional. But it's also very interesting. I knew about the two halves of the brain but I didn't realize one acted as a parallel processor and one as a serial one...

"And when you look at the brain, it's obvious that the two cerebral cortices are completely separate from one another. For those of you who understand computers, our right hemisphere functions like a parallel processor. While our left hemisphere functions like a serial processor. The two hemispheres do communicate with one another through the corpus collosum, which is made up of some 300 million axonal fibers. But other than that, the two hemispheres are completely separate. Because they process information differently, each hemisphere thinks about different things, they care about different things, and dare I say, they have very different personalities."

Google Sky

Google Sky, now in your browser.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

FISA Debate Leads to 5th Closed House Session Ever

The Associated Press reports House to Close Its Doors for Spying Bill "Republicans requested privacy for "an honest debate" on the new Democratic eavesdropping bill that is opposed by the White House and most Republicans in Congress."

David Mamet goes Dennis Miller...

Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal' by David Mamet.

Hacking Charlie Cards?

Don't keep a large balance on your Charlie Card (Boston's subway's new stored value card). Charlie Cards may soon be virtually worthless. I don't expect the average person to understand security, but people spending millions on new systems to replace other forms of money like cash and subway tokens should know what they're doing.

Spitzer Warrant Affidavit

The Volokh Conspiracy writes Spitzer Warrant Affidavit "Here's a (redacted) copy of the actual affidavit supporting various search and arrest warrants in the Spitzer case. It gives a better feel for the seriousness of the allegations than some of the general speculation I've seen elsewhere."

The first comment is an accurate description: "Both the facts asserted, and the law referenced, in the affidavit seem to have to do with federal anti-prostitution and money laundering laws as they are implicated in the defendants' conduct. Though Kristen and client-9 make their appearances, the criminal allegations are not directed to client-9."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Dashboard Widgets I Use 3

This is an update to the post I did 2 years ago, Dashboard Widgets I Use. I had stopped using Dashboard because it used too much memory. With Leopard the widgets share a process and use much less memory. I also stopped because with Quicksilver I could get to anything on the web with a keystroke. I still have no need for widgets that just allow you to enter searches to appear in a browser window (again I use Quicksilver for that). So this is what I'm running now with Leopard:

  • Weather - I probably check the weather 3 times a day and this Apple widget remembers where I am, shows a lot of info, in a little space, and is very pretty.
  • RadarInMotion - This is a great addition to the Weather widget. I have it cycle between a radar and satellite view. It uses a lot of memory but it lets me know if that 30% chance of rain will actually happen where I am.
  • Stocks - Just like the weather, it's easy to check several stocks a few times a day
  • Calendar - Nice to see a calendar in easy reach without having to open iCal. Since the clock in the menubar doesn't show the date, this is an easy solution. There is a 3rd pane you can open to see a list of todays events. The iCal Events widgets can show a list of several days worth of events.
  • iStat nano - This is the best of the system status widgets. It's very small and the overview shows CPU, Memory, and Disk Usage, network throughput, and temperature.
  • Minutes - I keep looking for a good simple timer widget and this is the one I'm currently using.
  • StatCounter - I use to monitor hits on this blog.
  • Delivery Status - When I have a package coming I open this widget and enter the tracking number and I have easy access to see where my stuff is. Several times I have found out my stuff has arrived by seeing it in the widget even when I'm home when it's delivered (they don't ring the bell anymore).
  • Sports Fan - is a pretty awesome scoreboard widget that shows the standings for US baseball, football, hockey and backetball. It also shows todays schedule and scores with lots of rollover details and letting you click to get to a web page with more. I don't even follow sports much and I like this widget.
  • Widget Updater - This widget checks your installed widgets on various sites to see if there have been newer versions posted and will let you download them. Easy and great.