Monday, June 30, 2008

SCOTUS Misread Death Penalty Research

How the Supreme Court Misread My Research: Empirics and the Death Penalty. Apparently both sides got it wrong. "In short, the best reading of the accumulated data is that they do not establish a deterrent effect of the death penalty."

Scalia said deterrence was shown, it wasn't. Stevens needs to understand “the absence of evidence of deterrence should not be confused with evidence of absence.”

John McCain Doesn't Know the Price of Gas

Huh. John McCain Doesn't Know the Price of Gas. I'm ok that he hasn't pumped his own in longer than he can remember, but since he's proposing a gas tax holiday, I would expect him to be able to say around $4/gallon. It's not like there haven't been lots of news stories about it lately or that it's posted on large signs at gas stations everywhere.

Update: as noted in the comments, it wasn't as bad as the article makes it out to be.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Movie Review: WALL*E

Go see WALL*E. Don't read about it or watch trailers. I think it's better not knowing where it's going. Here's all you need to know. It's Pixar. It's about robots. It's a love story. It has a 97% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. What more do you need to convince you? It's hard to compare WALL*E to In Bruges but I think this is my favorite film of the year so far. I saw it twice opening weekend and it was just as good the second time.

One thing I don't understand is why 30 years after R2D2 so many reviewers seem astonished that this is a love story about robots, as if how could we possibly care about robots? It's a cartoon. Why do we root for the rabbit instead of the human hunter in a Bugs Bunny cartoon? Why do we believe a duck can talk let alone be Daffy? Why do we accept a mouse who drives a riverboat? Or a baby deer with a rabbit as a best friend or a flying elephant? All of these work not because of what species the characters are but because they are fully realized and engaging. It's been 20 years since Who Framed Roger Rabbit which had us accept a cartoon rabbit married to a cartoon woman. WALL-E isn't even an interspecies romance! Go see for yourself how good the acting is in WALL*E. The audience I saw it with was constantly awwwwwing at the film.

There is an opening short, Presto, that could be the best Chuck Jones cartoon in 50 years. Reviewers comment about how the beginning of WALL*E has no dialog and is basically a silent film and how daring that is. But all of Presto is silent and that isn't daring at all. Also, the closing credits of WALL*E are really to fun to watch. I can't say I read any of the text but I was glued to the screen through all of them. So was about half the audience I saw it with. There's a cute final screen but it's not a scene.

I think it ranks third for me of the Pixar films after The Incredibles and Finding Nemo. It's a hard comparison. The Incredibles had a lot of energy and covered two genres (superheroes and James Bond) that I really like. Finding Nemo looked prettier, probably because of the richer color palette and more organic characters and settings and had a strong narrative.

*SPOILES: Read This After Seeing The Film*

A couple of things really struck me about this film. First off is how we immediately care about WALL*E. He's so expressive and yet it's accomplished mostly by how he bends his eyes and raises a small bit of metal that kinda acts like an eyebrow. It reminded me of Gromit. It's really apparent at the end when he's just a robot and then as EVE grabs his hand we watch as he comes alive, with just the slightest physical changes. It's really amazing. They achieve similar results with EVE and her eyes. The cockroach doesn't have eyes but the full theater I saw it with gasped when WALL*E accidently rolled over him. How do they make that happen?

WALL*E also has remarkably succinct storytelling. They show us so many things, so briefly and yet we remember them as they are reused later in the story. When WALL*E first wanders around the Axiom we see many different kinds of robots but it's always self evident what they are supposed to do. When we meet the defective robots it surprised me how many different ones I knew and that I understood how each one was broken. M-O stares at the ground a few seconds and we know that he's pondering jumping off the green line he follows.

I also liked the Apple references. There are probably more but I noticed the iPod in WALL*E's trailer, WALL*E's boot sound used twice. I thought the mice in the trash pile were Apple's Mighty Mice but I think they were regular two button ones. Also the first time I saw it I missed the obvious Star Trek references, particularly when EVE's ship docked with the Axiom. This site lists some of the Easter Eggs.

The real theme of this film is how WALL*E is the only character that's really alive and virtually everyone he meets, robot or human, becomes alive for having known him (or having to deal with his clumsiness). I loved how even the robot that was just pushing buttons on a (binary) keyboard learned to wave after WALL*E waved to him. John and Mary and the Captain all come out of their stupor after meeting him and I loved the line "I didn't know we have a pool." After seeing the film, two friends and I went out to dinner, at one point I was sitting there as both were texting other people. I leaned over to one and said "Don't just survive...live!" Perhaps we really do need to listen to WALL*E.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Yoo and Addington Stonewall House

The Washington Post reports Bush Administration Officials Defend Policies on Interrogation "Two key architects of the Bush administration's controversial interrogation policies defended their legal positions today, sparring with House Democrats over whether discredited Justice Department opinions led to unlawful torture of military and CIA detainees. The testimony from David S. Addington, chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, and John C. Yoo, a former senior Justice Department lawyer, was light on details but heavy on semantic disputes with lawmakers on a House Judiciary subcommittee."

Compare that article to this commentary by dday.

I watched some of this on C-SPAN. They were so evasive it was amazing. If they were asked "What color is the sky?" they would ponder and then say "there's no way I can give you answer in the general case, the answers would be different if it was during the day or night." If they representative specified during the day they would delay and ask what the weather was. If told clear they would ask the time of day. And then the representative's time would expire.

I did hear them asked if there was any interrogation technique the president could not order be used. Yoo answered that no president would order torture be used. This went back and forth and then the chairman tried clarifying that Yoo had been asked several times if the president could approve any technique and yet had always answered using "would". I never saw Yoo answer the question. It must have been deliberate stonewalling because there's no way a lawyer doesn't understand the difference between "could" and "would". If I were chairman I would have declared them in contempt of Congress.

At the end the chairman (Jerrold Nadler D-NY) asked "There have been a number of unanswered questions today, some on grounds of privilege others on the basis that any answer would unavoidably get into classified information. we will take those under advisement. depending on our determination we may need to revisit some of these questions with you perhaps in exec session for any matters that are classified. Can I get a commitment from each of you to make yourself available to any followup hearing that may be warranted?" Addington said "No Mr. Chairman but I'll wait here as long as you like."

C-SPAN has the video online in two parts: part 1 and part 2.

Update: Having watched it again I think Addington came off has quite smart and smug and Yoo as struggling and a bit over his head. I think he was assigned to take a position, he did so strongly but without good legal basis and unfortunately the administration (like Addington) ran with it.

Scientists Find Water Vapor, Key Nutrients in Mars Soil

The New York Times reports Scientists Find Water Vapor, Key Nutrients in Mars Soil "‘We basically have found what appears to be the requirements, the nutrients, to support life whether past, present or future,’ Samuel P. Kounaves of Tufts University, who is leading the chemical analysis, said during a telephone news conference on Thursday. ‘The sort of soil you have there is the type of soil you’d probably have in your back yard.’"

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Dark Knight Director Shuns Digital Effects for the Real Thing

Wired has a good story Dark Knight Director Shuns Digital Effects for the Real Thing. "The studio should take heart. Nolan has a cogent Theory of Applied Batmatics: Insist on reality — no effects, no tricks — up to the point where insisting on reality becomes unrealistic. Then, in postproduction, make what is necessarily unreal as real as possible. "Anything you notice as technology reminds you that you're in a movie theater," Nolan explains. "Even if you're trying to portray something fantastical and otherworldly, it's always about trying to achieve invisible manipulation." Especially, he adds, with Batman, "the most real of all the superheroes, who has no superpowers.""

I can't wait to see The Dark Knight in IMAX.

Slate Sums Up the New Wiretapping Law

Why the new wiretapping law is a lot worse than you think. "Here, then, is the bitter joke of the new legislation: From 2001 to 2007, the NSA engaged in a secret program that was a straightforward violation of America's wiretapping laws. Since the program was revealed, the administration has succeeded in preventing the judiciary from making a definitive declaration that the wiretapping was a crime. Suits against the government get dismissed on state-secrets grounds, because while the program may have been illegal, it was also so highly classified that its legality can never be litigated in open court. And now suits against the telecoms will by dismissed en masse as well. Meanwhile, the new law moves the goal posts, taking illegal things the administration was doing and making them legal.
"

Senators question border laptop searches

Macworld reports Senators question border laptop searches "Two U.S. senators [Feingold (D-WI) and Leahy (D-VT)] called on U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to back off its assertion that it can search laptops and other electronic devices owned by U.S. citizens returning to the country without the need for reasonable suspicion of a crime or probable cause."

FISA Bill Makes Progess in Senate

Chris Dodd (D-CT) gave this amazing speech yesterday in opposition to the FISA compromise bill.

Glenn Greenwald described it as "Chris Dodd went to the Senate floor last night to speak against the FISA bill and delivered one of the most compelling and inspired speeches by a prominent politician that I've heard in quite some time. He tied the core corruption of the FISA bill's telecom amnesty and warranltess eavesdropping provisions into the whole litany of the Bush administration's lawless and destructive behavior over the last seven years -- from torture and rendition to the abuse of secrecy instruments and Guantanamo mock trials -- with a focus on the way in which telecom amnesty further demolishes the rule of law among our political class."

Also, "Several other Senators besides Dodd have ratcheted up the opposition to this bill in the last couple of days. In addition to Dodd, Sens. Feingold, Boxer, and Wyden all announced they would oppose cloture on the bill. Not insignificantly, Sen. Reid announced not only that he would co-sponsor the Dodd amendment to strip immunity out of the bill, but would also vote against the bill on final passage:"

However the cloture vote passed 80-15 so it will go to a full vote and probably pass by July 4th. Sucks.

White House Refused to Open EPA E-Mail

The New York TImes reports White House Refused to Open Pollutants E--Mail. "The White House in December refused to accept the Environmental Protection Agency’s conclusion that greenhouse gases are pollutants that must be controlled, telling agency officials that an e-mail message containing the document would not be opened, senior E.P.A. officials said last week. The document, which ended up in e-mail limbo, without official status, was the E.P.A.’s answer to a 2007 Supreme Court (MA vs EPA) ruling that required it to determine whether greenhouse gases represent a danger to health or the environment, the officials said."

I don't even know where to begin.

Obama and Hillary's Debt

Talking Points Memo reports Obama Making Private Calls Appealing To Hillary's Top Fundraisers -- And Sometimes Hearing Criticism In Return. "According to sources, the Hillary fundraisers' criticism of Obama on these calls has focused partly -- but not exclusively -- on a demand that Obama do more to retire Hillary's campaign debt."

To make friends you have to do things, but this seems odd to me. He campaigned against her, she ran a fiscally irresponsible campaign and now the victor has to bail out the loser? Why are her supporters saying he has to pay off her debt? Shouldn't it be that he talk to her supporters and convince them to pay off their candidates debt?

Is Speculation Causing the Oil Price Rise?

I saw a bunch of articles like this one ‘Perhaps 60% of today’s oil price is pure speculation’ and never quite followed the connection of how futures contracts drove up current prices except for this "A refiner will purchase extra oil today, even if it costs $115 per barrel, if the futures price is even higher." Though this particular article says "This is not an OPEC problem, it is a US Government regulatory problem of malign neglect. By not requiring the ICE to file daily reports of large trades of energy commodities, it is not able to detect and deter price manipulation."

This Wall Street Journal editorial, Political Speculators seems to pick apart every argument of the above article. Now I don't normally follow the editorial page of the WSJ, but this one is endorsed by none other than Paul Krugman. "I agree with a lot of what this WSJ editorial says. The difference, I think, is that they seem to believe that speculation is always good; I don’t, but I fail to see any evidence that speculation is the villain in this particular crisis."

On This Point I Agree With McCain, Not Obama

The New York Times reports Obama Camp Closely Linked With Ethanol.

"Mr. McCain advocates eliminating the multibillion-dollar annual government subsidies that domestic ethanol has long enjoyed. As a free trade advocate, he also opposes the 54-cent-a-gallon tariff that the United States slaps on imports of ethanol made from sugar cane, which packs more of an energy punch than corn-based ethanol and is cheaper to produce."

"Mr. Obama, in contrast, favors the subsidies, some of which end up in the hands of the same oil companies he says should be subjected to a windfall profits tax. In the name of helping the United States build ‘energy independence,’ he also supports the tariff, which some economists say may well be illegal under the World Trade Organization’s rules but which his advisers say is not."

34 Uses for Lemons

Reader's Digest lists 34 Extraordinary Uses for Lemons

Bill Gates Email Rant on Windows Usability

An epic Bill Gates e-mail rant is listed in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer so I assume it's true. It describes his experiences using Windows to download Moviemaker and buy the Digital Plus pack. It didn't go well so he sent this message to his managers. It completely echos my experiences using Windows and why I now use a mac. The whole thing is worth a read but here are my favorite lines:

"So they told me that using the download page to download something was not something they anticipated."

"Then it told me to reboot my machine. Why should I do that? I reboot every night -- why should I reboot at that time?"

"Someone decided to trash the one part of Windows that was usable? The file system is no longer usable. The registry is not usable. This program listing was one sane place but now it is all crapped up."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Costanza Energy Policy: 25 Ways to Drive Oil to $150

Also in my queue a while, The Big Picture wrote The Costanza Energy Policy: 25 Ways to Drive Oil to $150.

"The United States is heavily  dependent on fossil fuels (>80%), most of which come from places we would rather not send our money to. We consume 26% of the world's energy, with only 3% of the world’s known oil reserves. It turns out that for the past 3 decades, we've had a George Costanza Energy policy -- every decision we have made as a country has worked to drive energy prices higher. Had we made the opposite decisions, Crude Oil prices would be much lower than they are today ($130.17 as I type this).  What follows is a list of energy-related policies of the United States."

This is absurd, yet this is what we have. You also get a bonus Seinfeld clip.

White House Issues Climate Report 4 Years Late

This has been sitting in my queue a few weeks. White House issues climate report 4 years late "Under a court order and four years late, the White House Thursday produced what it called a science-based 'one-stop shop' of specific threats to the United States from man-made global warming. While the report has no new science in it, it pulls together different U.S. studies and localizes international reports into one comprehensive document required by law. The 271-page report is notable because it is something the Bush administration has fought in the past."

So the Bush administration finally admits global warming is real and is man-made. "The report was required by a 1990 law which says that every four years the government must produce a comprehensive science assessment of global warming. It had not been done since 2000." Incompetence is an impeachable offense.

Guantanamo: Beyond the Law

McClatchy had an excellent series Guantanamo: Beyond the Law "An eight-month McClatchy investigation of the detention system created after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has found that the U.S. imprisoned innocent men, subjected them to abuse, stripped them of their legal rights and allowed Islamic militants to turn the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba into a school for jihad. Here's a guide to the contents of our online report."

This really is a must read.

More Politicalization of the DoJ

Kevin Drum writes "This one comes from a report of the Justice Department's inspector general. It shows the approval rate in 2002 of applications for DOJ's honors program, a civil service initiative for hiring recent law school graduates into the department. As a civil service program it's supposed to be nonpolitical, but as you can see, the approval rate for applicants who belonged to the liberal American Constitution Society was 0%. The approval rate for applicants who belonged to the conservative Federalist Society: 93%."

The New Orwellian Surveillance Law

Here are the ACLU's complaints with the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. Glenn Greenwald has been all over the FISA "compromise".

George Bush's latest powers, courtesy of the Democratic Congress . "The provision granting amnesty to lawbreaking telecoms, Title VIII, has the exact Orwellian title it should have: "Protection of Persons Assisting the Government." ... So all the Attorney General has to do is recite those magic words -- the President requested this eavesdropping and did it in order to save us from the Terrorists -- and the minute he utters those words, the courts are required to dismiss the lawsuits against the telecoms, no matter how illegal their behavior was."

What Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and Fred Hiatt mean by "bipartisanship" "It's bad enough watching the likes of Steny Hoyer, Rahm Emanuel and a disturbingly disoriented Nancy Pelosi eviscerate the Fourth Amendment, exempt their largest corporate contributors from the rule of law, and endorse the most radical aspects of the Bush lawbreaking regime...As I noted yesterday, the GOP couldn't even wait for the ink to dry on this "compromise" before publicly -- and accurately -- boasting that they not only got everything they want, but got even more than they dreamed they would get."

"But this absurd praise underscores what the Washington power structure means when they speak of "bipartisanship" -- it means having the Republican Party demand something, and then having enough Democrats agree to it to ensure it passes in essentially undiluted form. In January, I compiled a list of the Great Bipartisan Compromises of the Bush era and demonstrated that they are characterized by one common attribute: namely, they are supported by almost all Republicans and then enough Democrats from a split caucus to ensure its passage."

My congressman voted no. Here's the roll call.

Obama's support for the FISA "compromise". "The bill legalizes many of the warrantless eavesdropping activities George Bush secretly and illegally ordered in 2001. Those warrantless eavesdropping powers violate core Fourth Amendment protections. And Barack Obama now supports all of it, and will vote it into law. Those are just facts."

"Obama has embraced a bill that is not only redolent of many of the excesses of Bush's executive power theories and surveillance state expansions, but worse, has done so by embracing the underlying rationale of "Be-scared-and-give-up-your-rights." Note that the very first line of Obama's statement warns us that we face what he calls "grave threats," and that therefore, we must accept that our Leader needs more unlimited power, and the best we can do is trust that he will use it for our Good."

Finally, Time magazine uncritically prints Nancy Pelosi's "justifications" for the FISA "compromise". "It's hardly news that Time Magazine's principal function is uncritically to amplify false claims from government officials, but this article by Massimo Calabresi -- entitled "Behind the Compromise on Spying" -- is such a masterpiece in spouting simplistic government propaganda and rank falsehoods that it is revealing on numerous levels. The article has only one purpose -- to depict the spying "compromise" as a brilliant and heroic centrist masterstroke by Nancy Pelosi to protect us from Terrorists while simultaneously preserving our liberties -- and it employs one factually false claim after the next to achieve this. Let's just take it piece by piece..."

I like how he points out that Calabresi quoted him (Greenwald) "But when quoting what I wrote, I have to be an unnamed "one blogger" who is "attacking [Nancy Pelosi] on the internet," because the only people who could possibly object to this Important Centrist Compromise are shrill, unhinged leftist rabble who (unlike real journalists) write "on the internet" and shut down Official Government Switchboards with their "rage."...Moreover, the article of mine which Calabresi is quoting, and thus presumably read, amply documents that the Right loves this bill and was boasting that they got everything they wanted. Calabresi thus knows full well that the central premise of his article -- it angered both extremes! -- is patently false."

How Many Fruits Can You Name?

Andy Rooney did a segment on fruit this week and ended by saying they had a competition in their office and the winner could name 26 fruits. I tried it and added a 5 minute time limit. I named 34:

apple
pear
pineapple
lemon
lime
orange
tangerine
nectarine
clementine
grapefruit
melon - cantaloupe, casaba, water, honeydew
peach
plum
grape
cherry
berries - blue, straw, rasp, black
mango
avocado
papaya
banana
plantain
tomato (has seeds)
kumquat
lichee
rambutan
starfruit
uglyfruit
durian

This was mostly from mentally walking the aisles of my favorite grocery.

New Features in Mac OS X Snow Leopard

Two articles on Snow Leopard features: RoughlyDrafted Magazine writes Ten Big New Features in Mac OS X Snow Leopard and Apple Insider expands on it a little with Five undisclosed features of Apple's Mac OS X Snow Leopard.

I think the size reduction probably mostly due to removing the PPC support that universal binaries provide. But fighting bloat is a very good thing. I also look forward to more data detectors (particularly recognizing contacts in any app) and more multi-touch controls in more applications.

Plumpynut

60 Minutes had a segment this week , A Life Saver Called "Plumpynut", Anderson Cooper Reports On A Nutritional Breakthrough. "It's cheap, easy to make, and even easier to use. What is this miraculous cure? As CNN's Anderson Cooper reports, it's a ready-to-eat, vitamin-enriched concoction called 'Plumpynut,' an unusual name for a food that may just be the most important advance ever to cure and prevent malnutrition. "

Monday, June 23, 2008

Bush's Crimes Described Plainly

Could anyone read this by Andrew Sullivan and then not want Bush and company impeached. If you can, explain it to me.

Spinning for Obama

Bring It On is a great example of spinning things very effectively. I believe Francis Wilkinson is a former Democratic consultant, I wonder why "former"?

"Ever since Watergate, the ideal of campaign finance reform has been to replace a system fueled by special interests and big money with either full public financing or a system of civic-minded small donors. The former is abhorred by much of the public while the latter looks remarkably like barackobama.com. In effect, the Obama campaign has come closer to achieving the ideals of campaign finance reform than 30-plus years of regulation. To condemn the campaign’s departure from the system is to elevate rules over the principle that gave birth to the rules in the first place.

If reformers make Mr. Obama out to be the bad guy, that may be fine by him. Despite what we have witnessed with our own eyes, some people remain under the illusion that Mr. Obama is soft. (Apparently they missed the part where, two years into his first term in the Senate, he ran for president against the most powerful political machine in America and steadily ground it down.) Mr. Obama’s willingness to snub reformers isn’t exactly akin to taming a lion or wrestling an alligator. But more than four months before the election, even beating up on a toothless bunny might send a message."

George Carlin 1937-2008

Well this sucks. George Carlin, 71, `Seven Dirty Words' Comedian, Dies "George Carlin, a Grammy award-winning comedian whose routine about ``The Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television'' was the subject of a U.S. Supreme Court decision, died of heart failure in California yesterday. He was 71. Carlin went to St. John's Hospital, Santa Monica, yesterday after complaining of chest pain and died at 5:55 p.m. local time, his publicist Jeff Abraham said."

As usual indexed expresses it well.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Fiery Car Crash In Coolidge Corner

Fiery car crash in Brookline's Coolidge Corner kills one, injures seven. "A 79-year-old Newton man was killed and a 52-year-old Wellesley woman seriously injured in a fiery three-car crash in Coolidge Corner Thursday afternoon. Five children and a 32-year-old woman also sustained minor injuries, according to Brookline Police Capt. John O'Leary. Theodore Green was pronounced dead at 9:18 p.m. at Brigham & Women's Hospital. Lisa Zizzi remains in critical but stable condition at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, O'Leary said."

And thanks to the modern era there's video on YouTube of the events right after the crash. You have to praise the rescue workers.

John Yoo Using Same Old Lies

It seems John Yoo's is still lying to support the administration. " In a Wall St. Journal Op-Ed today, John Yoo defends the right of the Bush administration to imprison people at Guantanamo indefinitely with no judicial review and condemns last week's Supreme Court habeas corpus ruling as "judicial imperialism of the highest order."

This article makes clear an important point. The detainees were (I think mostly) not captured on the battlefield and therefore their guilt is more in question than POWs and that's exactly why they need some kind of habeas review.

Clinton Helps Obama

It seems Hillary is doing everything she can to help Obama, including campaigning with him, introducing him to her financial backers, and actively urging her supporters to back Obama. Good for her.

McClellan Testifies

I'm watching Scott McClelan Former Bush Press Secretary Testify Before Congress on C-SPAN. It's worthless. I've never seen a set of people (in this case Congressmen) ask dumber questions. They know the answers to all of these and bringing up various things that they know McClellan knows nothing about. It's funny, McClellan isn't being evasive and yet he sounds like he's answering questions from the White House Press corp when he was Press Secretary.

The Democrats are obviously digging to discredit the president and the Republicans are discrediting McClellan. One said the world would have been better off if he had gone to the grave without revealing the information he did in the book. Another literally asked if he had come to Congress today as part of impeachment hearings. Does he not know what meeting he's in?

America's 4 Year-Olds Have Talent

4 year-old Kaitlyn Maher - America's Got Talent 2008 NYC Auditions. I wonder how anyone will vote against her. She seems to have Puss in Boots' powers from Shrek.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

There is Ice on Mars

Mars ice! Now you see it, now you don’t. From the official site.

Cuisipro Ice Cream Scoop

Huh. Cuisipro reinvented the Ice Cream Scoop.



(someone please tell me why these images aren't next to each other.)

Indiana Jones 4: The Abridged Script

A lot of people really hate the latest Indiana Jones film. I'm not that negative about it but appreciate that negativity can inspire this...Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: The Abridged Script. I laughed, out loud. Uncontrollably. Twice. Maybe more, it's hard to remember.

Yet More on Boumediene

Convictions : Boumediene Three Days Out:

"Second, back to Boumediene, Dahlia correctly points out that Scalia has now written into Supreme Court jurisprudence the canards regularly trotted out about classified information leaked during terrorist trials that have compromised intelligence sources and methods. Relying on a minority report by Republican Sens. Kyl, Sessions, Graham, Cornyn, and Coburn and on a single Washington Post article, Scalia says: (1) in one terrorism prosecution in federal court, trial testimony revealed that the U.S. had been monitoring an al-Qaida satellite phone, leading bin Laden promptly to stop using it and cutting off that source of intelligence; and (2) the 1995 prosecution of Omar Abdel Rahman in federal court led to Osama bin Laden learning the names of the 200 unindicted co-conspirators in the case. As Human Rights First exposes in its must-read report on the success of terrorism prosecutions in federal court, Claim 1 is demonstrably false, and Claim 2 is at best misleading. (1) The phone records at issue were not introduced into trial evidence until March 20, 2001, almost two and a half years after the satellite phone went dead (nor did defense counsel have access to the records until well after the phone was out of use). (2) Looks like the government didn't even try to keep the names of the unindicted co-conspirators classified. The prosecution certainly could have invoked CIPA or any of the other mechanisms that exist for the protecting classified information at trial. Evidently, they just didn't. As with all such discussions of how well-suited the federal courts are to prosecuting terrorism cases, important to note these are just anecdotes. Can't conclude much one way or another. But it would be nice if folks stopped citing these particular examples in arguments that the federal courts can't possibly deal with terrorism cases."

Disagreements Both Modest and Fundamental talks about what legal rules should apply to detaining terrorists both now and going forward. What about detainees that are both actually dangerous and not triable because of torture or other issues? Deborah Pearlstein (visiting scholar at Princeton University's Law and Public Affairs Program) gives her suggestions in Getting the Truck Out of the Ditch and It's Sept. 12, 2001—What Kind of Detention Power Do We Want Now?.

Personally I wonder if anyone followed up on the pirate law idea?

Crazy CEOs Death Benefits

No wonder Republicans are so concerned about the estate tax. The Wall Street Journal reported last week: Companies Promise CEOs Lavish Posthumous Paydays.

"You still can't take it with you. But some executives have arranged for the next best thing: huge corporate payouts to their heirs if they die in office. Take Eugene Isenberg, the 78-year-old chief executive of Nabors Industries Ltd. If Mr. Isenberg died tomorrow, Nabors would owe his estate a 'severance' payment of at least $263.6 million, company filings show. That's more than the first-quarter earnings at the Houston oil-service company." It's not like these people can't afford life insurance.

"A federal rule change 18 months ago required companies to be clearer about what they're obliged to pay if top executives end their employment, under various circumstances." I guess the Bush administration hasn't given up regulation entirely.

What did it mean to ‘bear arms’ in 1791?

The big Supreme Court case this term is D.C. v. Heller about Washington's ban on handguns. It's the first test of the 2nd amendment in a long time. One argument is that the leading phrase "a well regulated militia" means this is a public right but not an individual one. Another argument is that "bear arms" referred only to military use, not individual use. I didn't realize there was an amicus brief filed known as the Linguists' Brief defending this point. Language Log examines What did it mean to ‘bear arms’ in 1791?

Leahy Says Supreme Court Has Undermined Constitution

The Blog of the American Constitution Society reports Senator Leahy: Supreme Court Has Undermined U.S. Constitution "On Friday at the ACS National Convention, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) called the current U.S. Supreme Court one of the most activist in history for a series of recent rulings he said have undermined the U.S. Constitution and federal and state laws designed to protect the health, safety and economic well-being of Americans."

China 5.12 Earthquake Comics

Coco Wang has a blog of comic strips about the China Earthquake of 5/12/2008.

"The amount of incredibly moving stories of victims, rescuers, volunteers is simply shocking at the moment. I have been collecting newspapers of all the stories, and telling them in the form of comic strips. I hope these stories could show the UK readers the love, warmth and courage of the Chinese people, also the sad and cruel reality of the horrible 5.12 Earthquake."

Obama Refuses Public Funds

No surprise, he's raised a ton and it's a real advantage. Now we'll hear McCain say he's broken his word. The New York TImes has more.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Fourth Amendment Protects Text Messages

Apparently there is Fourth Amendment Protection in Text Messages ""

Second-Chairing the White House

The Law Blog of the WSJ reports Second-Chairing the White House: A Look at Potential Lawyer-Veeps. It's a look at potential Obama VPs.

Mr. Bush v. the Bill of Rights

The New York Times has a good editorial today Mr. Bush v. the Bill of Rights about the upcoming compromise between the White House and Congress on illegal wiretapping. I'll be calling my representatives.

Boumediene Arguments

I still haven't read the Boumediene decision (it will be a while) but the Blog of the American Constitution Society in Text, History, and Boumediene provides a summary of Kennedy's and Scalia's arguments.

"Accordingly, one of the most important cases of this Supreme Court term finds the conservative Justices failing to live up to their purported loyalty to constitutional text and history, while the majority opinion deftly uses structural, textual and historical arguments to reach its result.  As Boumediene shows, text and history are vitally relevant to assessing current Executive encroachments on the rights and structure established in the Constitution."

Boston Globe Graphics

Some very cool Boston Globe Graphics. Browse around the site for more good stuff.

Scientists find bugs that eat waste and excrete petrol

The (London) Times reports Scientists find bugs that eat waste and excrete petrol.

"To be more precise: the genetic alteration of bugs – very, very small ones – so that when they feed on agricultural waste such as woodchips or wheat straw, they do something extraordinary. They excrete crude oil. Unbelievably, this is not science fiction. Mr Pal holds up a small beaker of bug excretion that could, theoretically, be poured into the tank of the giant Lexus SUV next to us. Not that Mr Pal is willing to risk it just yet. He gives it a month before the first vehicle is filled up on what he calls ‘renewable petroleum’. After that, he grins, ‘it’s a brave new world’."

AFI: 10 Top 10

The American Film Institute has come out with their list of 10 Greatest Films in 10 Classic Genres. The genres are: Animation, Romantic Comedies, Western, Sports, Mystery, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Gangster, Courtroom Drama and Epic. Of course all animators will be upset since animation is a medium not a genre but so be it. They don't list non-romantic comedies or action films or monster movies. Having King Kong in Fantasy with Groundhog Day and Big seems a little strange.

I've seen all but two of the films. Oddly they're not westerns or sports films which I'm weaker on but courtroom dramas, one of my favorite genres. I have to see In Cold Blood and A Cry in the Dark.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

House Panel Subpoenas Valerie Plame Records

The Blog of Legal Times reports House Panel Subpoenas Valerie Plame Records.

"The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee today sent Attorney General Michael Mukasey a subpoena demanding the FBI interview records of Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush in the CIA agent identity leak probe."

This has been going on for a while with Waxman wanting info and the administration saying no or "separation of powers". I guess McClellan's book did something...

"New details about Cheney's and Bush's roles in the Plame affair by McClellan in his book, What Happened: Inside The Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception, have bolstered Waxman to press for more access to Justice files. The revelations are the subject of a hearing this Friday before the House Judiciary Committee, where McClellan is expected to testify."

Wired Could Wrong?

RealClimate rips apart a Wired article Inconvenient Truths: Get Ready to Rethink What It Means to Be Green.

Judge Backs White House in Dispute Over E-Mail

The New York Times reports: Judge Backs White House in Dispute Over E-Mail. This is the email that was at the time of the Plame affair and Iraq decisions.

"A federal judge ruled on Monday that a White House office did not have to make public its records about millions of e-mail messages that may be missing. The judge, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of Federal District Court here, said the White House Office of Administration was not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, allowing the White House to maintain the secrecy of an internal paper trail about its problem-plagued e-mail system."

"The functions of the Office of Administration “are strictly administrative,” Judge Kollar-Kotelly said in her ruling. She said that the Office of Administration had no authority over others in the executive branch and that it was dedicated exclusively to providing services to the executive office of the president." I don't know why that matters. People at the bottom of the org chart of our government aren't subject to FISA?

Kitchen Done

I came back from a weekend at the NJ shore and found my kitchen was put back together:
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It then didn't take too long to put everything back in the cabinets (throwing out some old stuff) and back on the countertops:
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Colin Powell slams Bush

The Vancouver Sun reports Colin Powell slams Bush. Aside from the "blot on his record", he might make a good VP.

Venter's Planet-Saving Bacterium

Fareed Zakaria writes in Newsweek : Craig Venter's Planet-Saving Bacterium "Genome pioneer Craig Venter wants to make a bacterium that will eat CO2 and produce fuel"

"In a Maryland lab, he's manipulating chromosomes in the hopes of creating an energy bug—a bacterium that will ingest CO2, sunlight and water, and spew out liquid fuel that can be pumped into American SUVs."

Wilkins Ice Shelf Continues Disintegration in Winter

The European Space Agency reports Even the Antarctic winter cannot protect Wilkins Ice Shelf "Wilkins Ice Shelf has experienced further break-up with an area of about 160 km² breaking off from 30 May to 31 May 2008. ESA’s Envisat satellite captured the event – the first ever-documented episode to occur in winter."
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STS-124: A Mission in Pictures

Cool Space Shuttle Pictures from the last mission.

Monday, June 16, 2008

What Will Be In Snow Leopard

RoughlyDrafted writes about what's New in Mac OS X Snow Leopard. It's the most detailed I've seen. See also the follow on articles linked at the bottom.

Chris Matthews Tears Up Kevin James on Hardball

I had missed this, but on the May 15th Hardball Chris Matthews (who I'm normally not a fan of) exposes that Kevin James is calling Obama an appeaser but doesn't know what the word means. Seriously. And this guy has a right-wing talk radio show of his own in Los Angeles. This clip starts getting fun 4 mins in.


Friday, June 13, 2008

More on Boumediene

The Volokh Conspiracy writes on Boumediene, Executive Power, and Congressional Power: "In Boumediene, the Court challenges congressional power as well as the executive. It strikes down as unconstitutional several provisions of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 and the MCA. This is a nearly unprecedented situation where the Court rejected an important assertion of wartime power backed by both of the other branches of government. To my knowledge, virtually every previous case in which the Court ruled an important wartime policy unconstitutional was one where the policy in question was adopted by the executive acting alone."

They followup asking Could Congress Suspend the Writ of Habeas Corpus in the War on Terror?

Convictions says Next Time Just Issue a Press Release " So, despite its soaring rhetoric that "security subsists in fidelity to freedom's first principles," the opinion might be summarized as: Our security was breached on 9/11; we are unsure of the scope of the continuing threat, but we're feeling safe now. Because that is the case, Guantánamo will be treated as functionally part of the United States and alien detainees who are within it will be given access to the federal district courts by means of the writ of habeas corpus. It is just not proper to keep noncitizens in custody for six years with no regular, Article III judicial determination that we caught the real enemy...The Chief Justice's dissent admirably illustrates the empty suit character of the majority.  I'm not prepared to join Justice Scalia's anticipation of military doom, though this much is true, the opinion disregards the wisdom of Justice Jackson, not in leaving an opinion lying around like a 'loaded weapon,' but by discharging and leaving a mess of anything that used to make sense in the jurisprudence of warfare and foreign affairs."

Linda Greenhouse writes Justices Rule Terror Suspects Can Appeal in Civilian Courts.

Jan Crawford Greenburg and Ariane De Vogue write Gitmo Inmates Get Court Rights.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Boumediene v. Bush

I'm going to need more time to examine the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling today in Boumediene v. Bush regarding habeas corpus for Gitmo detainees. In the mean time here are some interesting posts:

How Appealing has a brief description and links to the ruling (a 134 page pdf).

The Volokh Conspiracy has Key Quotes from Boumediene v. Bush:.

As usual, SCOTUSblog has the best summary of the ruling.

The Wall Street Journal has summaries of Reactions from Around the Web (all blogs I read).

SCOTUSblog asks What are detainees’ rights now?.

The Blog of Legal Times summarizes things in the Dramatic Day at the Supreme Court.



Bypassing the Media Via YouTube

Wikinomics describes Obama's YouTube Secret: Longer Videos. Some research shows that Obama is posting a lot of videos and is getting a lot of views, the longer ones (over 20 minutes) getting the most views.

"It’s a myth that NetGeners don’t follow politics on TV. Its just that we know that watching CNN for 5 minutes isn’t much more informative than watching it all day. We go to YouTube for greater insight, to use that NetGen norm of scrutiny, and short clips consisting of ads and quick sound bytes don’t  provide that opportunity...I get the impression that Clinton and McCain both view YouTube as a way to engage with a younger, and in their minds less mature, audience. Instead, like Obama, they should see it as a way of bypassing the mindlessness of mainstream political coverage, and engaging in a higher level of civic dialogue."

I still remember the old quip, there isn't enough time to cover anything in depth on 24 hour cable news. C-SPAN does it, but it's stuck covering Congress, which even I think is pretty boring most of the time. Now if you can give speeches like Obama, who wouldn't want to hear more than a sound bite? And for the campaign, posting to the web is free vs trying to get lots of television time (imagine buying a 30 minute block like Ross Perot did).

Obama and Internet Fundraising

The June issue of The Atlantic has a good article, HisSpace, about how the Obama campaign made enormous use of the internet.

"The communications revolution under way today involves the Internet, of course, and if Barack Obama eventually wins the presidency, it will be in no small part because he has understood the medium more fully than his opponents do. His speeches play well on YouTube, which allows for more than the five-second sound bites that have characterized the television era. And he recognizes the importance of transparency and consistency at a time when access to everything a politician has ever said is at the fingertips of every voter. But as Joshua Green notes in the preceding pages, Obama has truly set himself apart by his campaign’s use of the Internet to organize support. No other candidate in this or any other election has ever built a support network like Obama’s. The campaign’s 8,000 Web-based affinity groups, 750,000 active volunteers, and 1,276,000 donors have provided him with an enormous financial and organizational advantage in the Democratic primary."

Also in the same issue is The Amazing Money Machine. It talks about how the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law took effect, capping donations at $2,300. This broke the model Gore used to raise funds. “By the time [Gore] was the nominee, a fund-raiser might be 20 people in a living room who’d given $100,000 to the party, and 50 to 100 in the backyard at $5,000.” Now it's important to find people that can raise money, not donate it.

"What’s intriguing to Democrats and worrisome to Republicans is how someone lacking these deep connections to traditional sources of wealth could raise so much money so quickly. How did he do it? The answer is that he built a fund-raising machine quite unlike anything seen before in national politics. Obama’s machine attracts large and small donors alike, those who want to give money and those who want to raise it, veteran activists and first-time contributors, and—especially—anyone who is wired to anything: computer, cell phone, PDA."

Hillary had lots of connections in California, but not in tech wealthy Silicon Valley. Obama got there first, sometimes via video conference, and took off like a startup.

"Obama’s campaign moved first. Staffers credit the candidate himself with recognizing the importance of this new tool and claim that his years as a community organizer in Chicago allowed him to see its usefulness. Another view is that he benefited greatly from encouraging a culture of innovation and lucked out in the personnel department, with his own pair of 20-something wizards. Joe Rospars, a veteran of Dean’s campaign who had gone on to found an Internet fund-raising company, signed on as Obama’s new-media director. And Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, took a sabbatical from the company and came to Chicago to work on the campaign full-time."

"When My.BarackObama.com launched, at the start of the campaign, its lineage was clear. The site is a social-networking hub centered on the candidate and designed to give users a practically unlimited array of ways to participate in the campaign. You can register to vote or start your own affinity group, with a listserv for your friends. You can download an Obama news widget to stay current, or another one (which Spinner found) that scrolls Obama’s biography, with pictures, in an endless loop. You can click a “Make Calls” button, receive a list of phone numbers, and spread the good news to voters across the country, right there in your home. You can get text-message updates on your mobile phone and choose from among 12 Obama-themed ring tones, so that each time Mom calls you will hear Barack Obama cry “Yes we can!” and be reminded that Mom should register to vote, too."

And perhaps the most encouraging thing: "The Clinton campaign belatedly sought to mimic Obama’s Internet success, and has raised what in any other context would be considered significant money online—but nothing like Obama’s totals, in dollars or donors. John McCain’s online fund-raising has been abysmal."

There's much more in the article and it's definitely worth a read.

GPS Aware Software

I see that a lot of iPhone 2.0 apps will make use of the GPS chip and be geo-aware. The simplest example is geotagging photos but OmniFocus (a todo list app) will make use of location to show what you to do next. As GPS chips drop below $3.50 I wonder how long until laptops will have them?

MobLogic on the Right to Choose

I think MobLogic's Lindsay Campbell discusses the Right to Choose in just over 3 minutes more intelligently than anyone I've heard in a long time at any length. If video podcasts can do this, why can't cable TV news?

Hybrid Light Bulb

Panasonic invents the hybrid light bulb.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Math Education: An Inconvenient Truth

This YouTube video boggles my mind. Is math education really this bad?

Eat This, Not That

Eat This, Not That describes 15 Secret Restaurant Swaps. I don't normally eat this stuff (except for Panera), but two caught my attention:

Eat Subway's 6" turkey sandwich over Panera's Sierra Turkey.

Drink Guinness Draught over Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

Update: Well huh. See the comments for what Sierra Nevada has to say about this.

McCain: Bringing Troops Home from Iraq "Not Too Important"



From Talking Points Memo which comments 'Get a good look. Within a day or so he won't have said it."

5min - Life Videopedia

"5min is a place to find short video solutions for practical questions and a place for people to share their knowledge. The idea behind 5min is very simple: any solution can be visually explained in no more than 5 minutes. Our goal is to create the first communal Life Videopedia allowing users from all over the globe to contribute their knowledge by sharing visual guides in areas such as arts, business, fashion, sports, health, tech, food, and much more."

For example, how does David Copperfield fly?

Find more Magic Tricks videos

3 Physicists in Congress

No this isn't the start of a joke. The New York Times has an article, The 3 Physicists in Congress Calculate Their Influence. "According to the Congressional Research Service, there are only about 30 scientists among the 535 senators and representatives in the 110th Congress, and that is counting the psychologist, the psychiatrist, a dozen other M.D.’s, three nurses, an engineer, two veterinarians, a pharmacist and an optometrist. But physics is on a roll."

There are 3 Physicists in Congress. Vernon J. Ehlers (R-MI since 1993), Rush Holt (D-NJ since 1998), Bill Foster (D-IL since March).

"There are 435 people in the House, Mr. Holt said, and “420 don’t know much about science and choose not to.” He recalled his exasperation when anthrax spores were discovered in the Capitol in 2001 and colleagues came to him and said, “You are a scientist, you must know about anthrax,” a subject ordinarily missing from the physics curriculum. 'The difference,' he said, 'is we would be perfectly happy to pick up a copy of The New England Journal of Medicine and read about the etiology of anthrax.'"

I suspect the other 420 don't even know what the word "etiology" means. (I had the right general idea but did have to look it up.)

"He cited the debates over electronic voting machines that caused problems “that would be obvious to any computer scientist but went right past some people here in Congress.” Mr. Foster mentioned the debates over electronic border fences, which he said lacked “fundamental concepts of what radar can or cannot do.”

They cite other confusions like cutting game theory funding thinking it had do with sports and not economics and cutting ATM research thinking it was about banking machines and not an asynchronous transfer mode communications protocol. Unfortunately he didn't name names. Wouldn't you want to know who the dumb ones are so you could vote them out of office? Isn't one of the most basic things to understand what the bill (or clause) you're voting on is about? Not even what it says but what the topic is!

"For example, Mr. Ehlers said, it is irksome to encounter people who ignore the scientific consensus that human activity contributes to global warming yet count on science to produce new sources of energy magically. 'They sort of reject our reasoning,” he said. “But they will come back and say, ‘Science will find a way.’'"

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

World of World of Warcraft

The Onion does it again:

'Warcraft' Sequel Lets Gamers Play A Character Playing 'Warcraft'"

US Proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is Scary

The Sydney Morning Herald has an opinion piece: Digital copyright: it's all wrong:

"The US (surprise, surprise) has circulated a draft 'Discussion Paper on a Possible Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement' (ACTA) for the next G8 meeting, in Tokyo in July. The full text of the document has been published on Wikileaks (wikileaks.org).

The ACTA draft is a scary document. If a treaty based on its provisions were adopted, it would enable any border guard, in any treaty country, to check any electronic device for any content that they suspect infringes copyright laws. They need no proof, only suspicion.

They would be able to seize any device - laptop, iPod, DVD recorder, mobile phone, etc - and confiscate it or destroy anything on it, merely on suspicion. On the spot, no lawyers, no right of appeal, no nothing."

"The proposed treaty is being sponsored by a small group of US Congress members, all of whom Wikileaks says have received significant contributions from major record companies and film studios."

Cool Pictures

25 Unbelievable Pictures You May Have Never Seen Before is really quite impressive.

You Tattooed That On Your Body?

From ABC News "While mistakes in life are common, only a select few are permanently inked into your skin. Authors Aviva Yael and P.M. Chen scoured the country for the most outrageous, and often regrettable, examples of body art for their recently released book, 'No Regrets: The Best, Worst, & Most #$%*ing Ridiculous Tattoos Ever.' A flip through the book -- a humorous array of the tattoo industry's most 'creative' works -- might make the reader feel better about, say, a not-so-permanent lapse in judgement at the bar last weekend. "

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Obama on Religion

I really like this speech:

tristero comments.


Smelling Paint Dry

Progress. Now just need the upper cabinets and the outlets put back.
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Snow Leopard

Apple has posted info about Snow Leopard (the next release of Mac OS X, due in "about a year") and Snow Leopard Server. Looks like interesting stuff, even if there aren't many consumer visible new features.

I'm now impatiently waiting for July 11th to get my 3G iPhone and hoping that AT&T has coverage at my home.

Video Lectures

VideoLectures seems to be a treasure trove. Even found one by a fraternity brother from college.

IBM's Roadrunner Does a Petaflop

IBM's Roadrunner is the new fastest computer on earth, the first to break the petaflop barrier (1,000 trillion floating point operations per second). It's at the Los Alamos National Laboratory working on nuclear weapons simulations.

"Roadrunner uses 3.9 megawatts of power, which Grice noted is enough to power 39,000 100-watt light bulbs. It has 6,948 dual-core Opterons on IBM LS21 Blades, as well as 12,960 Cell processors on IBM QS22 blades. The machine, which has 80 terabytes of memory, has 296 IBM BladeCenter H racks. It takes up 6,000 square feet, uses 57 miles of fiber optic cable and weighs in at 500,000 pounds."

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Saturday, June 07, 2008

ABC Outsources Reality Show

"I Survived A Japanese Game Show has begun shooting in Japan and will premiere Tuesday, June 24 (9:00-10:00 p.m. ET) on ABC. This unscripted reality/game show takes an eye-opening, behind-the-scenes look at 10 Americans - many of whom have never traveled outside the United States -- who are whisked away to Japan and compete in the ultimate Japanese game show...with hilarious results. The final winner will take home $250,000. "

Friday, June 06, 2008

Malcolm Gladwell on Hiring

"Malcolm Gladwell on the challenge of hiring in the modern world. From “Stories from the Near Future,” the 2008 New Yorker Conference." Interesting speach based on his new book due in November. He still looks like Sideshow Bob:
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Obama/Edwards?

The Washington Monthly presents 10 Good Reasons For an Obama/Edwards Ticket.

I still remember the first time I liked Edwards. He was being interviewed sitting next to Kerry. The question of supporting the troops came up, why didn't you vote to support the troops. Kerry gave some unintelligible answer (as he repeated doing time and time again) about I voted for it before I voted against it. I forget if at the time it was framed as flip-flopping or not.

Edwards then butted in and gave a perfectly clear answer. Something like: "the first bill was paid for but Republicans voted it down, then they brought up the bill again but didn't say where the money came from. The real question is why didn't the Republicans support the troops the first time." If only Kerry understood the answer.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Stopping Photography in the Name of Security

Earlier this week Bruce Schneier wrote: "This video is priceless. A Washington DC news crew goes down to Union Station to interview someone from Amtrak about people who have been stopped from taking pictures even though there's no policy against it. As the Amtrak spokesperson is explaining that there is no policy against photography, a guard comes up and tries to stop them from filming, saying it is against the rules."

Today he wrote a wonderful essay on The War on Photography. He cites a number of examples where in the name of security, "photographers have been harrassed, questioned, detained, arrested or worse, and declared to be unwelcome." and then declares it nonsense because in none of recent terrorist plots did terrorists ever photograph their targets. It's inefficient to fight terrorism by fighting photography.

Then what really made me happy is that he goes even further by saying that even if they did, they would be such a tiny fraction of photographs taken that it's still an inefficient way to combat terrorism. Terrorists use shoes, should we ban shoes? (Oh wait, we kinda do at airports).

"Fear aside, there aren't many legal restrictions on what you can photograph from a public place that's already in public view. If you're harassed, it's almost certainly a law enforcement official, public or private, acting way beyond his authority. There's nothing in any post-9/11 law that restricts your right to photograph. This is worth fighting. Search "photographer rights" on Google and download one of the several wallet documents that can help you if you get harassed; I found one for the UK, US, and Australia. Don't cede your right to photograph in public. Don't propagate the terrorist photographer story. Remind them that prohibiting photography was something we used to ridicule about the USSR. Eventually sanity will be restored, but it may take a while."

Now It's Fact, The Administration Lied About Iraq

"The Senate intel committee's Phase II report on pre-war intelligence on Iraq is just out. " Talking Points Memo has the key points, that the administration (Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld) lied about the reasons to go to war with Iraq based on the intelligence they had. It's not that they had incorrect intelligence, it's that they lied about the information they did have.

--Statements and implications by the President and Secretary of State suggesting that Iraq and al-Qa'ida had a partnership, or that Iraq had provided al-Qa'ida with weapons training, were not substantiated by the intelligence.
--Statements by the President and the Vice President indicating that Saddam Hussein was prepared to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups for attacks against the United States were contradicted by available intelligence information.
--Statements by President Bush and Vice President Cheney regarding the postwar situation in Iraq, in terms of the political, security, and economic, did not reflect the concerns and uncertainties expressed in the intelligence products.
--Statements by the President and Vice President prior to the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate regarding Iraq's chemical weapons production capability and activities did not reflect the intelligence community's uncertainties as to whether such production was ongoing.
--The Secretary of Defense's statement that the Iraqi government operated underground WMD facilities that were not vulnerable to conventional airstrikes because they were underground and deeply buried was not substantiated by available intelligence information.
--The Intelligence Community did not confirm that Muhammad Atta met an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague in 2001 as the Vice President repeatedly claimed.

Matthew Yglesias says: "Going forward, I merely urge people to recall that the administration didn't make all this stuff up for fun. They did it because they know that the public is not, in fact, particularly jazzed about preventive war and unilateral militarism. It's a lesson I wish more Democratic politicians would learn." I really don't know what that means.

digby says: "Impressively bold of them to finally release it six months before Bush is out of office. This information is already well documented, of course. But it would have been very helpful if they'd released it earlier".

Brad DeLong says: "These gross violations by Richard Cheney and George W. Bush to take care that the laws be faithfully executed are High Crimes, demanding immediate impeachment and removal from office."

I'm with DeLong, impeach them now; otherwise we let them get away with it.

Let's Recap

I liked this part of Coda by digby: "Bill Clinton is in the pantheon of popular ex-presidents who continues to do important work on global initiatives. Hillary Clinton is a Senator and historic breakthrough presidential candidate who won more primary votes than any candidate in history aside from Barack Obama. Al Gore is a global leader and Nobel prize winner. On the other side of that epic battle, Newt Gingrich is a Fox News commentator, writing reviews of mystery thrillers on Amazon. Tom Delay is a private citizen facing indictment. Half of the social conservatives who unctuously criticized Clinton's behavior have been run out of town on morals charges. Fox News is sinking in the ratings faster than George W. Bush. "

Map of Milky Way Redrawn

Universe Today reports Map of Milky Way Redrawn (again).

Freebase

Freebase is an open, shared database of the world's knowledge. It's different from wikipedia in that the information is structured, which means you can do searches like (and this is there example not mine) "Films starring Jennifer Connelly and actors who have appeared in Steven Spielberg movies".

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Largest Picture of the Milky Way

Universe Today reported on the Largest Picture of the Milky Way Unveiled "The imaging team from the Spitzer Space Telescope today unveiled the largest, highest resolution infrared picture ever taken of the Milky Way. The photo spans 55 meters (180 feet), and takes up almost one entire wall in the huge exhibit hall here at the AAS meeting in St. Louis (above.) The image is made of 800,000 snapshots taken by Spitzer, amassing 39,000 X 6000 pixels, and shows an area of sky 120 degrees longitude by 2 degrees latitude."

There is also this less impressive online image:
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There's more in the article.

USDA Axes National Survey Charting Pesticide Use

The AP reported last month: USDA Axes National Survey Charting Pesticide Use. Remember when some people were saying Bush was the first president to have an MBA and would make government run as efficiently as a business?

"Consumers and farmers will soon be on their own when it comes to finding out which pesticides are being sprayed on everything from corn to apples. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Wednesday it plans to do away with publishing its national survey tracking pesticide use, despite opposition from prominent scientists, the nation's largest farming organizations and environmental groups."

"Since 1990, farmers and consumer advocates have relied on the agency's detailed annual report to learn which states apply the most pesticides and where bug and weed killers are most heavily sprayed to help cotton, grapes and oranges grow."

"Joe Reilly, an acting administrator at the National Agricultural Statistics Service, said the program was cut because the agency could no longer afford to spend the $8 million the survey sapped from its $160 million annual budget."

Holodeck 1.0? Seriously

Holodeck 1.0? Star Trek-style 3-D displays make their debut "The upshot is that users do not need goggles, and the 3-D image is maintained as they move about – both in contrast with early attempts at holographic displays. But the real star of the Coherent project is not simply the display. The researchers made exciting advances in enabling applications that show the system's real potential."

Why Can't You Just Pay Artists?

After reading Media Oligopolies (or, why I love BitTorrent) in Wikinomics I wonder why shows or artists don't have public paypal accounts to take "donations". If you have performances people would be willing to pay for you probably have a web page where you could post payment information. Is there an accounting issue?

Such a model apparently worked for downloads of Radiohead's In Rainbows but why does it have to be bound to a specific album?

David Sedaris on How He Quit Smoking

From the Daily Show last night.

The Downside of Online Shopping

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Why does the days to delivery counter only decrement once a day?

Young Hillary Clinton

This says it better than I did.

Sunset on Mars

Taken by the Spirit Rover.
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Useful Text Message Services

I don't use any of these but Lifehacker had Top 10 Additions to Your Phone's Contact List "There are a few contact numbers and services that make even the cheapest phone a high-tech wonder that can schedule and plan events, transfer money, price a potential purchase, or do just about any Google search. Let's take a look at 10 contact numbers and email addresses worth making frequent SMS correspondents."

It's Over For Clinton

Last night, between pledged and declared superdelegates, Obama got enough delegates to clinch the nomination. But still Clinton has conceded. I heard a call-in to NPR say that duperdelegates aren't pledged so they can change their minds up until they vote at the convention. This is delusional, particularly since Obama is so far 40 delegates above the needed 2118. According to CNN he currently has a 232 delegate lead over Clinton.

Her talk about having more primary votes than anyone in history is perhaps technically true, but irrelevant in choosing a nominee. First the rules (which she agreed to) say to count delegates. Second her counting ignores 14 caucus states (which don't report individual vote totals) of which Obama won 12. By one estimate that's 1,241,132 additional votes for Obama and 837,937 votes for Clinton. Third she's counting a primary in FL that at the time didn't count so isn't a true representation of the voters' opinion and one in Michigan where Obama wasn't on the ballot, because the vote didn't count.

Now I hear that Obama should choose her as his VP. I think this would be a mistake and doubt he will. First, given how this campaign went I don't think the two of them get along. Second, I think Bill Clinton has become a liability that Obama shouldn't take on. Third, Obama's campaign has been about change in Washington and about bringing the party and the GOP together; Clinton in her campaign and refusal to concede can only be called divisive. For Obama to choose her would be to turn his back on the principles he ran on and got him his votes in the first place. I also think Clinton in the last month has shown the same stubbornness as Bush and Obama choosing her would undermine his consistent message of change. If she wanted to be VP she should have worked towards it two months ago. Not doing so shows a lack of forethought.

I don't know who Obama should pick. The most interesting name I've heard is Gen Wesley Clark.

Chasing the Space Station

Today's Astronomy Pic of the Day is a nice time lapse photo showing the space shuttle and space station as streaks across the sky.
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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Contact Juggling

Never heard of this before, but it's amazing. Kinda like a cross between juggling and mime. Apparently Bowie's character in Labyrinth did this, but I don't remember. Why don't I see stuff like this in Quincy Market or Harvard Square?


Kitchen Progress

This is the work that was done. Basically all the white pipes you see are new.
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And this is what it looks like tonight.
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The lower cabinets are all in and I could put all that stuff back. I had to take some stuff out from under the sink (under the window on the left) and the lower cabinet to the left of the sink to enable removing the countertop. Hopefully some coats of paint go in tomorrow and the top upper cabinets can go back soon. By the way, these are the pipes that were removed:
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Notice the long crack in the top one. And this is the buildup:
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Quiz: Biology or Physics

Here's a fun quiz, Biology or Physics?. Identify 12 images as being from physical or biological science. I scored 10/12, missing 1 biology thing and 1 physics thing. Thanks Rich.

McCain's Economic Advisor: Phil Gramm

The Washington Monthly says Phil Gramm: There's More.... The former senator is McCain's chief economic advisor and he's been a primary agent of the deregulation of the last decade that has caused the sub-prime mess and others.

"If Gramm basically legalized credit default swaps, then his involvement in the subprime crisis goes far beyond his work for UBS. And John McCain should have to explain why he thinks that Phil Gramm is a good person to turn to for economic advice."

Brain Rules

This looks interesting: Brain rules for PowerPoint & Keynote presenters. Anyone read Brain Rules?

Scott McClellan on The Daily Show

Scott McClellan was on The Daily Show last night and Jon Stewart again showed why he's sometimes the best interviewer on TV.

Monday, June 02, 2008

John Hodgman Reviews Comics

In the Sunday TImes John Hodgman Reviews Comics: Jack Kirby's Fourth World, Age of Bronze and Y: The Last Man.

goosh - the unofficial google shell

How strange: goosh.org - the unofficial google shell.

Are You Frightened of a Gun on a T-Shirt?

The Sun reports: "[Heathrow] guards stopped [30 year-old Brad Jayakody] boarding a plane — for wearing a Transformers T-shirt showing a cartoon gun." He asked to speak to the supervisor, who supported the decision and threaten to arrest him. "But then the guy told me to stop and said ‘you cannot get on the plane because there is a gun on your T-shirt’."

"A spokesman for Heathrow operator BAA said: "If a T-shirt had a rude word or a bomb on it for example, a passenger may be asked to remove it." I don't get this at all. Maybe if the T-shirt had a functioning bomb on it or the schematics to assemble one; but a picture of a bomb?

Running the Numbers

"Running the Numbers looks at contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on. My hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books"

My Kitchen

There's been a leak in the wall of my kitchen for a while. it caused the sheetrock behind my microwave to buckle a little. My landlord patched it last fall but it came back. So Friday we decided to fix it right. Turns out two old pipes had holes in them. One was the drain from the unit above and the other was vent pipe. Getting them out is a little more involved than anyone anticipated.

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The white vertical pipe is new to replace the old drain. To the left is where the vent pipe was. You see it at the top and where it needs to connect just to the left of the top of the ladder. It's noon now, we'll see what shape it's in by evening.

Phoenix Updates From Mars

Universe Today is keeping up with Phoenix updates from Mars. It Really Looks Like Ice on Mars:
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"Take a look at this image sent back from the Phoenix lander. On Friday, Phoenix scientist Ray Arvidson said there may be ice directly under the Phoenix lander, exposed in the blast zone by the retrorockets used for Phoenix's soft landing. Friday's image showed a small portion of the exposed area that looks brighter and smoother than the surrounding soil. On Saturday, Sol 5 for Phoenix on Mars, a new image shows a greater portion of the area under the lander. Scientists say the abundance of excavated smooth and level surfaces adds evidence to a hypothesis that the underlying material is an ice table covered by a thin blanket of soil. This is just what the Phoenix mission was hoping to find, and how incredible to land directly over your goal."

And here's a photo of Phoenix's first dig with it's arm:

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Clinton Math

Daily Kos Beats Up Clinton Math.