Monday, November 30, 2009

When The Cia Tried Its Hand At Magic

The Boston Globe writes When the CIA tried its hand at magic "The CIA hired [magician John] Mulholland to explain techniques of sleight-of-hand and surreptitious signaling so that agents could use them in the field. His text, which was originally supposed to have been destroyed, has now been recovered, declassified, and reprinted as ‘The Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception.’ "

The included slideshow is interesting.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

James Galea Card Trick

Lots of fun:

The Visual Display of Stupid

Kieran Healy pointed out The Visual Display of Stupid brought to you by Fox News. I don't know does Palin's 70% really look bigger than Romney's 60%?

Fox Pie Chart

Tough-guy John Bolton, hiding under his bed

Glenn Greenwald writes Tough-guy John Bolton, hiding under his bed.

"John Bolton and his comrades love to run around accusing anyone who doesn't want to wage more wars of being an 'appeaser' and 'surrendering' to Terrorists, but Bolton's cry here is the ultimate, definitive surrender:  I'm too scared of the Terrorists to go about my normal life.  I'm too petrified even to have my family in the same city as a terrorist trial.  We can't adhere to our normal political system because the Terrorists will kill us all."

"All over the world, countries have put terrorists on trial in their largest and most important cities -- London, Madrid, Mumbai, Denpasar (the capital of Bali)."

I really don't understand why people should be afraid of having a trial in NYC, they have them all the time. They've tried terrorists there before. Yes I know this is just the GOP talking point of the moment, but why is anyone buying this one? What do they think the terrorists will do? Bomb a court house? Ok, is that worse than 9/11? Nuke the city during the trial? They already think that (and it's not going to happen). And remember it took al Qaeda years to plan 9/11 (and their attempts failed until they got the help of German terrorists).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Muppets: Bohemian Rhapsody

You have to know the muppets to really appreciate this, but then you have to know the muppets. It gets hilarious at about the 2 minute mark.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Debating Filibusters

TPM has an interesting post, More on Filibusters. I'm not sure where I fall on it, but I think it is too easy to filibuster and Senators should watch the old Star Trek episode A Taste of Armageddon.

Google Teams Up With Tivo to Give Advertisers a Clearer Picture

I don't really understand how this is going to work, Google teams up with TiVo to give advertisers a clearer picture.

"Here's where the fear and loathing come in. Google promises that advertisers pay only when their ads are seen. But TiVo lets viewers fast-forward through commercials. Now, with TiVo's data, collected from millions of digital video recorders across the country, Google can tell exactly which of those commercials are being bypassed. If all the commercials are being skipped, the channel gets no money. It's easy to see why TV executives get heartburn over this."

Is Google just processing the TiVo data and if so why doesn't TiVo do it itself? "Google currently has an agreement with EchoStar to sell ads on its Dish Network and collect similar data from the satellite TV company's subscribers." So Google sells advertising time on TV? Or are they just talking about the ads that the TiVo interface puts up, in which case, why doesn't TiVo already have the click-through info? Anyone understand this?

Volunteers Log Off as Wikipedia Ages

The Wall Street Journal writes Volunteers Log Off as Wikipedia Ages. " is the fifth-most-popular Web site in the world, with roughly 325 million monthly visitors. But unprecedented numbers of the millions of online volunteers who write, edit and police it are quitting. Volunteers have been departing the project that bills itself as "the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit" faster than new ones have been joining, and the net losses have accelerated over the past year. In the first three months of 2009, the English-language Wikipedia suffered a net loss of more than 49,000 editors, compared to a net loss of 4,900 during the same period a year earlier, according to Spanish researcher Felipe Ortega, who analyzed Wikipedia's data on the editing histories of its more than three million active contributors in 10 languages."

Monday, November 23, 2009

The 100 Best Films of the Decade

Earlier this month the London Times listed
The 100 Best Films of the Decade. "Art house or Blockbuster? Juno or Jason Bourne? Is The Bourne Supremacy really better than Brokeback Mountain? And if Finding Nemo made it, what the hell happened to Shrek?"

I've seen 74 of them and The theme of the list seems to be films that pushed the medium to new areas and that I can respect but it's a really odd list. Wedding Crashers at 90!?! Anchorman at 62!?! I enjoyed The Squid and the Whale but I don't think it makes the list and Bad Santa certainly doesn't (let alone at 54). Syriana three spots above Dark Knight? and Far from Heaven 18 spots above Syriana?!? Borat at 11?!!? Team America at 5!!

I liked Crash, though would have places far above 98 though I know of lot of people that hated it. He's got some very good documentaries on the list like An Inconvenient Truth, Touching the Void and Man on Wire. And I'm glad to see Pixar make the list though I wouldn't have included Monsters Inc. City of God is very well deserving but Children of Men is not. I'm also glad to see United 93 and Let the Right One In at 19 and 18 respectively.

I've seen the top 9 and am not sure any would make my top 10, maybe No Country for Old Men. One thing for certain, their top film of the decade, Hidden (Cache) wouldn't make my list at all.

And yeah I'll have to think my list of top films of the decade. I will be able to do one of the year pretty easily as I've been keeping a list of everything I've seen.

Trials of Guantanamo Detainees

A week ago Friday, Glenn Greenwald wrote in Salon about Guantanamo, Detainees to get the "state-always-wins" system of "justice".

"So what we have here is not an announcement that all terrorism suspects are entitled to real trials in a real American court.  Instead, what we have is a multi-tiered justice system, where only certain individuals are entitled to real trials:  namely, those whom the Government is convinced ahead of time it can convict.  Others for whom conviction is less certain will be accorded lesser due process:  put in military commissions, to which most leading Democrats vehemently objected when created under Bush.  Presumably, others still -- those who the Government believes cannot be convicted in either forum, will simply be held indefinitely with no charges, a power the administration recently announced it intends to preserve based on the same theories used by Bush/Cheney to claim that power. A system of justice which accords you varying levels of due process based on the certainty that you'll get just enough to be convicted isn't a justice system at all.  It's a rigged game of show trials."

A Day in the Life of the MBTA

Vanderlin has some cool infographics, A Day in the Life of the MBTA. The MBTA is the Boston Subway.

"The subway data from August 12, 2009 was parsed in openFrameworks and Matlab using custom applications. Statistical analysis was performed in Matlab for subway loading (temporal and geographical including the entire MBTA, individual lines, and individual stations), rate of subway activity, and associated data. openFrameworks was used to generate the central visualizations for the project. Programs were written to interpret data that was processed into several arrangements to emphasize different trends within the data. Linear charts were used to display the activity of stations on a given line to show the geographic relation of activity throughout the course of the day. Circular 24-hour clocks for individual lines and stations were made in order to see the relative activity throughout the day. Pie charts were used to visualize rush hour commutes on each line, showing the contrast of activity during morning and evening rush hours. Histograms were used to show the breakdown of daily activity in a linear fashion."

Here's one. "Built around a 24 hour clock each ring is a train station the thickness of the line represent the amount of people on the train at that time."

header 1.jpg

and the detail:

4100253787_d6aacd9566_b 1.jpg

10 Best Animated Short Film Contenders

If you play my Oscar pool and never see any of the animated shorts aside from the Pixar ones, you might be interested in this: Academy Announces 10 Best Animated Short Film Contenders.

"The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences today announced the animated short films short list, a list of 10 shorts, narrowed down from 37 films, that will advance in the voting process for the 82nd Academy Awards. The Academy branch members will select five nominees from the ten titles. I have included the list of 10 short films after the jump, along with trailers/previews, or video embeds of the full short films, when available."

Unfortunately, only the first one, The Cat Piano is the full film. The rest are just previews, though there is one of A Matter of Loaf and Death with Wallace & Gromit.

Texas' Gay Marriage Ban May Have Banned All Marriages

This is amusing. Texas' gay marriage ban may have banned all marriages. The clause in question (clause B) is: "This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage." I'm sure this is just a mistake that will be corrected, but it's amusing (unless of course you're affected by it).

The Fall of Greg Craig

Time had an interesting article The Fall of Greg Craig. He was the top White House lawyer charged with closing Guantanamo who recently resigned.

Sarah Palin Book Signing - Interviews with Supporters

It seems the only people who give worse interviews than Sarah Palin are her supporters:

"On November 20, 2009, at a Borders bookstore in Columbus, Ohio, Sarah Palin held a book signing event in support of "Going Rogue". Palin's supporters wanted her to run for the presidency, but they weren't exactly sure what she'd do as president. Short on specifics, most of them were uncertain what her policy positions are. They just felt that they liked her. She's "real". And that the solution to all of our country's problems—health care, energy, the deficit, unemployment, and the economy—was to cut taxes and lower spending, and Palin, they said, would solve them by doing just that."


Sunday, November 22, 2009

MIT ESP - Splash

If you have (geeky) High School kids (or will), you might be interested in MIT ESP - Splash "One weekend in November, thousands of students of all types flood to MIT just for ESP’s Splash program to learn anything they want. From fractal fun to Hungarian history to aircraft analysis, Splash participants are introduced to a huge variety of topics by over 400 classes taught by teachers from the MIT community. Want to take a class on Egyptian mythology? Origami? Chemical sensors? All are possible.

Over the course of 20 hours during Splash, you can get your feet wet with a short introduction to any number of subjects—things you always wanted to learn, or topics you never knew existed. Or you can dive head first into an in-depth seminar or intensive workshop. The whole thing happens over the course of two intense days on the MIT campus, with classes taught by MIT students and community members."

The list of classes is pretty cool.


This is probably the geekiest thing I've done in a while.

Four of us used to play the card game pinochle pretty often, but unfortunately Ed moved away.
We found a replacement fourth, but it's still difficult to get all of us together. Today we had three and were going to play to Schafkopf, but instead we tried this.
iChat Pinochle.jpg

We set the laptop on the table and setup a (fullscreen) video iChat with Ed. We dealt the cards here and picked up his hand without looking at it and showed it to him (we turned off the local view of the camera so we didn't see the cards). He took a screenshot so he could stare at his hand, even if he couldn't rearrange it. I taped two pieces of thick paper together so we could lay out each of his (12) cards separately and have them numbered by position.

My (external) iSight camera was tilted down to the table. We put a sheet of paper down where it was aimed and we played our cards there so Ed could see them. When it was Ed's turn he called out a number (like "card number six") and we played the card in that template position. He used Illustrator to mark the cards on the screenshot as he played them so he saw what was still in his hand.

It worked surprisingly well. We could see and talk with Ed and could play normally. The down sides for Ed was that he mostly just saw the table and couldn't rearrange his cards. On our side we split the duties of holding up the hand for him and putting the cards in the template (and playing them). It was odd for one person since he never saw cards thrown from his right, but I don't think we played out of order any more than we normally do.

It seemed worthy of The Big Bang Theory and I'd do it again anytime.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

More Cassini Eye Candy

Lots of pretty images and data from Cassini around Saturn.

Universe Today reports Infrared Saturn, Peek-a-boo Moons.

Here are raw images from today of the moon Enceladus.

And looking around our solar system, Cassini instruments has changed our understanding of the shape of the Heliosphere around our solar system.

Rutherford Crater on the Moon

Bad Astronomy points to this image of a small part of Rutherford Crater on the Moon taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter:

Rutherford crater Moon LRO 1.png

The LROC Image Browser lets you browse through some amazing images and zoom to great detail. Quite impressive.

Friday, November 20, 2009

How Images of the Planets have Changed in Past 30 Years

Popular Mechanics has a fantastic post, Pictures of Planets & Solar System - How Images of Mercury, Venus, Mars & Neptune Have Changed in Past 30 Years. "Pick up a 30-year-old astronomy textbook and you will find more illustrations of planets than actual pictures; Pluto still holds onto its full planet status and exoplanets are theoretical. In the intervening decades, new instruments and methods have acted together to form one giant, interdisciplinary zoom lens on our planetary companions in the solar system. We now not only have hi-res images of planets, we can also predict their weather, dig for water under their surfaces and send spacecraft through icy plumes on their moons. Planet by planet, here's a quick guide to how our vision of the solar system has changed in the past 30 years."

It's only 8 short pages and has great pictures.

The Visual Display of Unemployment

I'm not sure where this comes from but it claims to be by Latoya Egwuekwe, The Decline: The Geography of a Recession.

Color Photos of Holland in the 1890s

The Library of Congress has been posting old photos on Flickr for a while now. Today they posted several from Holland in the 1890s but these are in color. Here's one called Road to Scheveningen:

4119300519_4e62a8aa67_o 1 1.jpg

Start with The Oude Gracht Hamburgerbrug, Utrecht, Holland and click backwards through the stream.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Piano stairs

Movie popcorn = 3 quarter pounders? Movie Nation writes Movie popcorn = 3 quarter pounders?.

"The non-profit Center for Science in the Public Interest released a report and a news release today that claims a medium popcorn [without butter] and soda combo at your average movie theater contains as much as 1,610 calories and three days of saturated fat. According to the report, the Regal Cinema chain is the worst offender, with AMC close behind; based on CSPI's independent lab tests, both chains drastically underreport the calorie counts in their snack food. At least the smaller Cinemark chain pops their popcorn in canola oil instead of artery-busting coconut oil."

Turns out Regal's medium and large popcorn are the same size, though the large is a dollar more. And really coconut oil?!? I remember a report from 15-20 years ago saying movie theater popcorn was cooked in bad oils and all the chains changed. What happened?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The 100 Best Quotes From The Wire

Maybe people are tired of me posting about The Wire, but too bad. Here's a 10 minute compilation of the 100 Best Quotes. I heard a piece about George Carlin on NPR today, and yes the 7 dirty words are very well represented in this clip.

Reviewing Milk

Every once in a while a product on Amazon garners some wonderful reviews. I encourage you to read through some of the reviews for 1 Gallon of Tuscan Whole Milk.

Malcolm Gladwell explains Christmas

Vanity Fair has a humor piece, Malcolm Gladwell explains Christmas to Craig Brown.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hollywood Gets Honest at Governors Awards

Hollywood Gets Honest at Governors Awards.

"The first annual Governors Awards banquet, created to bestow career-oriented Oscars on the worthy without taking up time on the annual awards broadcast, was loving, lustrous and long.

Held in a giant banquet room near the Kodak Theater, where the regular Oscars will be handed out in March, honorary and career awards on Saturday night went to Lauren Bacall, Roger Corman, Gordon Willis and John Calley in a ceremony that clocked in at 3 hours and 18 minutes. That was only a little longer than the three hours considered ideal for a full-blown Academy Awards broadcast.

But something happened at the semi-private dinner — there was no television coverage, and a relatively modest press presence — that almost never happens on-air: Genuine things were said."

Maybe Hollywood should try to be honest on camera and see what happens. Maybe the rest of us will appreciate it as much they do.

Scorsese's Favorite Horror Movies

Martin Scorsese lists the 11 Scariest Horror Movies of All Time. I've only seen three: The Shining, The Exorcist and Psycho.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

David Simon on why he created The Wire

I don't know how I missed this from a month ago, Transcript: David Simon on why he created The Wire "Wire creator David Simon introduces his new book about the television phemonenon that redefined the way we think about cop shows."

I think the hardcover came out in the UK only and the US gets a paperback version in May.

Fact Checking Palin's Book

Calvin Woodward in the Huffington Post writes "Going Rogue" Fact Check: Palin's Book Goes Rogue On Some Facts, AP Says. No I won't be reading Going Rogue, but I hope Tina Fey comes back to SNL to play her in a skit.

Sotomayor Emerges as Frequent and Tough Questioner

Tony Mauro writes in The National Law JournalNew Justice Sotomayor Emerges as Frequent -- and Tough -- Questioner.

"As Sotomayor wraps up her second full argument cycle as a Supreme Court justice, it has become clear that she is a prolific and fearless questioner. She can be tenacious and direct, bordering on harsh. She can be impatient when the lawyer does not answer her question precisely. She knows her stuff and clearly loves the give and take.

All of which is to say, Sotomayor fits right in with her new colleagues, many of whom do exactly the same thing. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Samuel Alito Jr. can be every bit as dismissive, Stephen Breyer can be just as persistent and wordy, and Antonin Scalia can be just as critical. No, Scalia is more critical: During one argument last week, Scalia told an advocate, 'The big obstacle I find with your position is that it doesn't make any sense.'"

Visualizing Sound With Fire

Oli Lemieux Practicing Cirque du Soleil Trampoline Wall

I've seen a few Cirque du Soleil shows and still one of my favorite images is of the trampoline wall at the end of La Nouba.

Friday, November 13, 2009

How the Swine Flu Has Spread

Nate Silver tracks How the Swine Flu Has Spread.

Swine Flu

The Best Tv Series of the ’00s

The A.V. Club has a good list of The best TV series of the ’00s. They do a top 30 and the writeup one each is spot on. I've seen all but the following:

10. The Shield
15. Veronica Mars
20. Tim And Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!
23. Undeclared
28. Eastbound & Down
29. Wonder Showzen

They missed the UK series Coupling which should be in the top 10. I also liked Rome a lot and Rescue Me. South Park has been quite impressive over a long period of time.

I also like The Big Bang Theory and True Blood though IMHO they haven't been on long enough to make this list.

Change Congress vs Sens Lieberman and Bayh

Change Congress has posted a video narrated by Lawrence Lessig about Joe Lieberman and Evan Bayh. They've threatened to filibuster healthcare reform and as the video (and Glenn Greenwald) points out they've taken tons of money from the insurance industry and their constituents favor the public option by a wide margin.

And yeah, they ask for money to Change Congress.

Yes There's Water on the Moon LCROSS Impact Data Indicates Water on Moon

Remember last month when NASA crashed a space craft into the moon? Today NASA is announcing LCROSS Impact Data Indicates Water on Moon.

"NASA today opened a new chapter in our understanding of the moon. Preliminary data from the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, indicates that the mission successfully uncovered water during the Oct. 9, 2009 impacts into the permanently shadowed region of Cabeus cater near the moon’s south pole.

The impact created by the LCROSS Centaur upper stage rocket created a two-part plume of material from the bottom of the crater. The first part was a high angle plume of vapor and fine dust and the second a lower angle ejecta curtain of heavier material. This material has not seen sunlight in billions of years. "

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Rob Pike on Go

So Google announced a new programming language, Go. Here's a video of legend Rob Pike presenting the Go Programming Language.

Update: and here's Bram Cohen's thought's on Go.

More Movie Reviews

The Good Soldier : I just saw a shortened version of this on Bill Moyers. It's riveting and devastating. Really and astonishing film. It interviews four veterans (I think five in the theatrical version) and they just tell their stories of being in war. One is an infantryman from WWII, two others are from Vietnam and a fourth from the Iraq War in 2003. Amazing.

Bright Star tells the true story of the romance between poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne in the early 19th century. Not usually my cup of tea but it got some wonderful reviews so I figured I'd try it. I found it drawn out at two hours long and had too little of his poetry. I'm not a fan of Jane Campion (don't get me started on The Piano) and this didn't change my mind, though while sitting through this and wondering how it got 83% on Rotten Tomatoes, I did realize that a lot of the shots are beautifully composed, many could be paintings.

What’s New Pussycat might have been fun in 1965 but it's horribly dated and didn't keep my interest at all.

The Damned United is the kind of small film that just can't get made in Hollywood anymore. Technically a sports film about British football in the late sixties and early seventies. Don Revie was the acclaimed coach of the number one team Leeds United. He moved on to coach the national team. Brian Clough took over Leeds after turning a small team at the bottom of division two into the champions of division one in a few years. The film shifts back and forth between his disastrous 44 day run with Leeds and his success with Derby County which built up his resentment for Revie. Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon, The Queen) was great as Clough. The film spends most of the time on his famous battles with everyone and his obsession with beating Revie and I wish it had a little more soccer and a little more of his coaching skills as it implies that his assistant Peter Taylor (the always fun Timothy Spall) was responsible for all of the scouting and coaching success while Clough merely made deals happen. Still, a very interesting film.

Marley & Me was billed as a zany comedy but was a more serious relationship film about a couple with an uncontrollable dog. It covers about a decade and was better than I expected, but it seemed to want to be more than it was. It's based on the true story of a journalist who wrote about a column his life and his dog Marley and then tured it into a novel. I think it's probably better as separate columns, but not having read them or the book, it's not really fair of me to say so.

Endgame is a dramatization of the covert discussions that brought down Apartheid. The strong cast includes Chiwetel Ejiofor and William Hurt and Lester from The Wire plays Mandela. Still I didn't know the details of the story beforehand and found all the characters very difficult to follow. When it's a few of these people and their sitting across from each other at a table it's quite good but I think overall it's a bit of a jumble.

Wolf Blitzer Questions How Hasan's Lawyer Stupidly

TPM writes Wolf Blitzer Questions How Hasan's Lawyer Can Represent 'Someone Accused Of Mass Murder'. They included the video clip and I watched that. I think it's not quite as bad as the article makes out, e.g., "demands" is a bit strong, but he did cross the line saying "I'm sure he will get a much fairer hearing than those 13 Americans who were brutally gunned down the other day. I'm sure he will get all of the rights that are applied by the military code of justice." Though Galligan had a very nice reply to that.

I guess Wolf's problem was what to ask this guy? He can't ask about the defense because he probably hasn't worked it out yet and probably wouldn't talk about it anyway. And a lot of people would question how can you defend him, so maybe that's fine to ask. Honestly I think they just shouldn't have interviewed him and he shouldn't have agreed to do it.

I think last night's South Park, Dances with Smurfs, did a brilliant job of addressing the fallacy of "I'm just asking questions" as an excuse for Limbaugh-like baiting. I'm constantly impressed with how that show manages to stay relevant season after season.

15 Things Worth Knowing About Coffee

15 Things Worth Knowing About Coffee is kinda cute and I learned a few things.

Saturday Morning Cartoons

If you have fond memories of 60s and 70s Saturday morning cartoons you may be interested in these DVDs or just these reviews from DVDs Worth Watching: Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1960s Volume 1 and Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1960s Volume 2 and 1970s Volume 2.

They have reviewed many more similar dvds.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Shedding Light on the Sun's "Lithium Mystery"

Universe Today reports Shedding Light on the Sun's "Lithium Mystery" "For decades, astronomers have known our Sun contains a low amount of lithium, while other solar-like stars actually have more. But they didn't know why. By looking at stars similar to the Sun to study this anomaly, scientists have now discovered of a trend: the majority of stars hosting planets possess less than 1% of the amount of lithium shown by most of the other stars. ‘The explanation of this 60 year-long puzzle is for us rather simple,’ said Garik Israelian, lead author on a paper appearing in this week's edition of Nature. ‘The Sun lacks lithium because it has planets.’"

How strange, and they don't yet know why. But this does give them a better way too look for exoplanets.

iPhone Becoming a Tricorder

NASA brings chemical sensor to iPhone. "If you are in need of finding out if there is ammonia, chlorine gas or methane in the air around you, there’s an iPhone app for that. A researcher at NASA's Ames Research Center has developed what NASA calls a proof of concept of new technology that would bring compact, low-cost, low-power, high-speed nanosensor-based chemical sensing capabilities to cell phones."


"Readability - An Arc90 Lab Experiment is a simple tool that makes reading on the Web more enjoyable by removing the clutter around what you're reading."

I've been playing with it for a few months. I didn't use it much at first but I've used it a bunch in the last couple of weeks. It definitely works much better than just increasing the text size via your browser.

You customize the style, text size and margin width and then drag a bookmarklet to your toolbar. Then on whatever page you're reading, just click the bookmarklet and it will reformat the text on the page. It's great for reading long articles and removing the clutter of side articles, links and ads (if you don't already use an adblocker, I'm using GlimmerBlocker on the mac). To undo it, just reload the page.

A few weaknesses. It doesn't automatically convert from multiple page articles to all-on-one page viewing. You probably want to do that first before reformatting the text. Also it doesn't include images, even if they are part of the article (like graphs).

Vanity Fair on Larry Summers

Vanity Fair has a piece Endless Summers by William D. Cohan on Larry Summers. It's what I'd expect in Vanity Fair, more light biography and covering the controversies than the policies, but it was still interesting. I'd still love to see a conversation between Summers and Krugman.

Are Nuclear Weapons Safe in Pakistan?

Seymour Hersh writes in the New Yorker, Are nuclear weapons safe in Pakistan?. It's long and a bit depressing, but worth a read to explain a complex situation.

I wish there was an RSS feed of just Sy Hersh articles.

“SuperFreakonomics” and Climate Change

Elizabeth Kolbert writes about “SuperFreakonomics” and climate change in The New Yorker and slams them (like everyone else, but better).

"Given their emphasis on cold, hard numbers, it’s noteworthy that Levitt and Dubner ignore what are, by now, whole libraries’ worth of data on global warming. Indeed, just about everything they have to say on the topic is, factually speaking, wrong. Among the many matters they misrepresent are: the significance of carbon emissions as a climate-forcing agent, the mechanics of climate modelling, the temperature record of the past decade, and the climate history of the past several hundred thousand years. Raymond T. Pierrehumbert is a climatologist who, like Levitt, teaches at the University of Chicago. In a particularly scathing critique, he composed an open letter to Levitt, which he posted on the blog RealClimate.

‘The problem wasn’t necessarily that you talked to the wrong experts or talked to too few of them,’ he observes. ‘The problem was that you failed to do the most elementary thinking.’ Pierrehumbert carefully dissects one of the arguments that Levitt and Dubner seem to subscribe to—that solar cells, because they are dark, actually contribute to global warming—and shows it to be fallacious. ‘Really simple arithmetic, which you could not be bothered to do, would have been enough to tell you,’ he writes, that this claim ‘is complete and utter nonsense.’

But what’s most troubling about “SuperFreakonomics” isn’t the authors’ many blunders; it’s the whole spirit of the enterprise. Though climate change is a grave problem, Levitt and Dubner treat it mainly as an opportunity to show how clever they are."

Most Dangerous Large Metro Areas for Pedestrians

Transportation For America lists the Most Dangerous Large Metro Areas for Pedestrians "Table 1 ranks the 52 largest metro areas (those with at least 1 million residents as of 2008) according to their Pedestrian Danger Index for 2007-2008". The three cities I'm most familiar with are ranked 49, 50, 51 out of 52!

Security vs Political Correctness Revisited

Marc Lynch wrote Ft. Hood and the Clash of Civilizations: Security vs political correctness revisited

"Since the Ft Hood atrocity, I've seen a meme going around that it somehow  exposed a contradiction between 'political correctness' and 'security.'  The avoidance of Nidal Hassan's religion out of fear of offending anyone, goes the argument, created the conditions which allowed him to go undetected and unsanctioned in the months and years leading up to his rampage.  American security, therefore, demands dropping the 'political correctness' of avoiding a  confrontation with Islamist ideas and asking the 'tough questions' about Islam as a religion and the loyalty of Muslim-Americans. 

 This framing of the issue is almost 100% wrong.    There is a connection between what these critics are calling 'political correctness' and national security, but it runs in the opposite direction.   The real linkage is that there is a strong security imperative to prevent the consolidation of a narrative in which America is engaged in a clash of civilizations with Islam, and instead to nurture a narrative in which al-Qaeda and its affiliates represent a marginal fringe to be jointly combatted.  Fortunately, American leaders -- from the Obama administration through General George Casey and top counter-terrorism officials -- understand this and have been acting appropriately."

Worth a quick read.

Free vs. Competitive Markets

Mark Thoma today referred to this old post he did in April 2008, Making Markets Work for Everyone which I think makes a very clear and accurate statement:

"The confusion here is simple, I think. Free markets - where free simply means minimal government involvement - are not necessarily the same as competitive markets. There is nothing that says what many interpret as freeing markets - lifting all government restrictions - will give us competitive markets, not at all. Government regulation (as well as laws, social norms, etc.) is often necessary to help markets approach competitive ideals. Environmental restrictions that force producers to internalize all costs of production make markets work better, not worse. Rules that require full disclosure or that impose accounting standards help to prevent asymmetric information and improve market outcomes. Breaking up firms that are too large prevents exploitation of monopoly power (or prevents them from becoming 'too large to fail') which can distort resource flows and distort the distribution of income. Making sure that labor negotiations between workers and firms are on an equal footing doesn't move markets away from an optimal outcome, just the opposite, it helps to move us toward the efficient, competitive ideal, and it helps to ensure that labor is rewarded according to its productivity (unlike in recent years where real wages have lagged behind). There is example after example where government involvement of some sort helps to ensure markets work better by making sure they are as competitive as possible."

World Energy Use

Monday the Guardian had an article, Key oil figures were distorted by US pressure, says whistleblower. "The world is much closer to running out of oil than official estimates admit, according to a whistleblower at the International Energy Agency who claims it has been deliberately underplaying a looming shortage for fear of triggering panic buying."

Kevin Drum wrote Watching the Watchdog about it "It's pretty much impossible to know how seriously to take this. It's almost certainly true that analysts within the IEA disagree with each other about long-term projections, and it's also probably true that there are regional pressures of various kinds within the organization. That's pretty normal for international groups. But is the U.S. actively pushing the IEA to produce figures that it knows to be wrong? And are these two anonymous sources the first ones to ever go public with this?"

The IEA's 2009 World Energy Outlook came out yesterday. "For the first time since 1981, global energy use is set to fall this year, mainly due to the financial crisis."

Jon Stewart Shows Fox Lies With Wrong Protest Footage

Jon Stewart caught Fox showing the wrong protest footage for the healthcare protest last week...

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Yet again I have to ask, why is Jon Stewart the only one able to do this? Media Matters should be embarrassed. As Attackerman points out, I guess Obama was right about Fox.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Exist Act of 2009

James Kwak writes about The Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Exist Act of 2009. Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT) wrote a very short bill that says the Secretary of the Treasury will submit a list of financial institutions deemed too big to fail, and within a year must break them up any way seen fit.

"The administration’s own proposal requires the government to identify financial institutions that are “too [insert whatever adjective you want here] to fail” — the administration just calls them “Tier 1 Financial Holding Companies.” The Fed has called them “systemically important financial institutions.” Sanders basically says, you were making the list anyway, so you can’t use that as an excuse."

Sanders has a petition here.

A little more here.

Same-Sex Marriage and Time

James Kwak has some nice graphs on Same-Sex Marriage and Time. "Barring a backlash even bigger than the one we’ve seen over the last ten years (during which support for same-sex marriage increased in every state except Utah), time is on the side of same-sex marriage. That may still be small consolation to elderly couples who have been together for decades."

The Story So Far, In One Picture

Paul Krugman wrote last week: The story so far, in one picture:


Well here's another. Remember all the talk about TIPS, here's an updated graph.

Great Observatories Combine for Stunning Look at Milky Way

Universe Today reports Great Observatories Combine for Stunning Look at Milky Way. " In celebration of the International Year of Astronomy 2009, NASA's Great Observatories — the Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and the Chandra X-ray Observatory — have collaborated to produce an unprecedented image of the central region of our Milky Way galaxy."

hst-mikly-way-580x338 1.jpg

"In this spectacular image, observations using infrared light and X-ray light see through the obscuring dust and reveal the intense activity near the galactic core. Note that the center of the galaxy is located within the bright white region to the right of and just below the middle of the image. The entire image width covers about one-half a degree, about the same angular width as the full moon."

Grow Plants Upside Down

How strange, the BOSKKE Sky Planter.

At U.S. Airports, TSA Officers Covertly Monitor Travelers' Behavior

I'm not sure how I feel about this, At U.S. airports, TSA officers covertly monitor travelers' behavior

"To identify potentially dangerous individuals, the Transportation Security Administration has stationed specially trained behavior-detection officers at 161 U.S. airports. The officers may be positioned anywhere, from the parking garage to the gate, trying to spot passengers who show an unusual level of nervousness or stress."

That sounds kinda ok, until you get to: "These jobs do not require a background in behavior analysis, but are chosen based on their intelligence, maturity and ability to work with people, the TSA said. Officers undergo four days of behavior training, which includes training to spot suicide terrorists, and then receive 24 hours of on-the-job preparation."

A week of training to have the power to look at you and figure out if you should be searched without a warrant. The issue is, that these people are not looking for terrorists...

"In one case, in March 2008, detection officers noticed a passenger about to board a flight from Fort Lauderdale to Charlotte, N.C. During a secondary screening, officers found 209 grams of the drug ecstasy, with a street value of $2.5 million, in a carry-on bag. The traveler was arrested. In other instances, passengers have been arrested on charges of drug trafficking, possessing fraudulent documents and having outstanding warrants, Koshetz said."

TSA mission creep.

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Six Senators Who Will Decide the Fate of Health Care Reform

TPM writes about The Six Senators Who Will Decide the Fate of Health Care Reform. "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid faces a number of obstacles to passing health care reform but his main task is to keep his caucus united for not one, but two, supermajority votes, just to get the reform bill an up or down on the Senate floor. Failure to get 60 votes to push past either of those two procedural chokepoints could derail the reform bill. Here are the six key holdouts Reid must wrangle to reach the magic threshold."

House Democrats Who Voted Against the Health Care Bill

Nice Interactive Graphic in the New York Times House Democrats Who Voted Against the Health Care Bill

"Lawmakers in the House voted 220 to 215 on Saturday night to approve a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s health care system. Only one Republican voted for the bill, and 39 Democrats opposed it, including 24 members of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition. An overwhelming majority of the Democratic lawmakers who opposed the bill — 31 of the 39 — represent districts that were won by Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, in the 2008 presidential election, and a third of them were freshmen. Nearly all of the fourteen freshmen Democrats who voted ‘no’ represent districts that were previously Republican and are considered vulnerable in 2010. Geographically, 22 lawmakers from southern states formed the largest opposition bloc. Below are details on the Democrats that opposed the health care legislation in the House"

I didn't realize Dennis Kucinich is still in the House and he voted against it.

New David Simon in April

HBO's 'Treme' starts production on regular-season episodes. "Co-created by “The Wire” veterans David Simon and Eric Overmyer, “Treme” begins production this week on the remaining episodes of its first 10-episode season, to air starting in April."

"Set immediately post-Katrina, the drama intends to tell the city’s recovery story through fictional characters drawn from some of the real characters who were here then -- men and women who live and work in and around the peculiar vernacular culture known mostly to locals: second-line musicians, Mardi Gras Indians, cooks and chefs, music fiends, Kermit Ruffins."

Sunday, November 08, 2009

One in 8 Million

The New York Times has apparently had a series One in 8 Million - New York Characters in Sound and Images running for a while.

"New York is a city of characters. On the subway and in its streets, from the intensity of Midtown to the intimacy of neighborhood blocks, is a 305-square-mile parade of people with something to say. THis is a collection of a few of their passions and problems, relations and routines, vocations and obsessions. Anew story will be added weekly."

Saturday, November 07, 2009

20% Off Lots of Mac Apps

MacHeist is giving away six free (uninteresting) apps this week! If all that software makes you hungry for even more, take advantage of the "OneFingerDiscount" coupon code, and get 20% off (that's 1/5 free!). One Finger Discount! has a list of 75 participating mac software companies.

Seeing Al Gore

Al Gore has a new book out, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis. I went to a book signing in Harvard Square.

I saw him this week on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report and thought he was a little stiff.

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More candidate Gore than Oscar-winner Gore. He didn't do a book reading but rather gave a talk that was over an hour long. It was a little dry at times but then he'd add a joke and it was closer to Oscar-winner Gore (without the visual aids) than he was on The Daily Show. He said unlike An Inconvenient Truth, the new book is 99% solution rather than description of the problem, though 50 pages into it I'm not seeing that (it's about 400 pages long). The talk was similar but by the end of it, yeah you want to do something. That can only be a good thing.

As I left I saw a Ford Hybrid (non-stretch) Limo waiting which had to be his.

Friday, November 06, 2009

The Future of Shaving is Here

ShaveMate. Their pitch is: "The ONLY Razors with 6 Premium Precision Blades and REAL Shaving Cream in the Handle!".

Kind of a clever of idea, particularly for travel. It claims each has a weeks worth of shaving cream though I wonder if that's doll-sized portions. And I wonder about what other razors on the market come with FAKE Shaving Cream in the Handle!?

Drugs and the BNP

The Guardian has an article, Drugs and the BNP which introduces a new Guardian blog by the creator of Information is Beautiful. Here's a chart:


There's another more interesting one in the article.

Cassini Flys by Enceladus

NASA reports on Cassini's Successful Flight Through Enceladus Plume
Enceladus  1.jpg

"The Cassini spacecraft has weathered the Monday, Nov. 2, 2009, flyby of Saturn’s moon Enceladus in good health and has been sending images and data of the encounter back to Earth. Cassini had approached Enceladus more closely before, but this passage took the spacecraft on its deepest plunge yet through the heart of the plume shooting out from the south polar region. Scientists are eagerly sifting through the results. In this unprocessed image, sunlight brightens a crescent curve along the edge of Saturn's moon Enceladus and highlights its misty plume."

Jon Stewart's 11/3 Project

Last night Jon Stewart on the Daily Show did a phenomenal spoof of Glenn Beck. Well maybe it's more of an imitation, but I've never watched Glenn Beck so I won't say that. Watch it...

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Cell Size and Scale

The Genetic Science Learning Center of the University of Utah has a very nice Learn Genetics web site. Lots of interesting stuff, particularly this Powers of Ten like page, Cell Size and Scale.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Theater Review: Sleep No More

Last night I went to see Sleep No More a joint production between A.R.T. and Punchdrunk. For this theatrical performance they transformed an old high school in Brookline (the Old Lincoln School on Boylston St) into a setting, the actors perform throughout space and the audience wanders through the rooms, sometimes stumbling upon scenes. And I do mean rooms, I've read that 44 rooms have been turned into sets. I don't know if I saw them all and I don't know if it matters.

I'm not sure what to call this. A play isn't right, immersive theater doesn't seem right to me either. There's some similarity to old hypertext adventures like Zork. It's more like Myst crossed with LARPing. But you're not really playing a roll, you're really an observer (though I've seen some comments to the contrary, I don't believe them). I've heard the new term hyperdrama used for it. Everyone's experience will be different and you will be separated from your group.

But there's still something missing from this description, the scenes are silent. Even silent films had title cards. I heard no dialog aside from some indistinct mutterings. The actors are certainly in character and have to improv a bit to deal with the audience in the room but still this misses the point that most things in this performance were vigorous and dynamic dance. Those expecting the narrative of theater will be disappointed, instead I think it's better to expect modern dance which is unfortunately something I'm not that familiar with interpreting.

And I wasn't expecting that because the show is described as a combination of Macbeth and Hitchcock! "Shakespeare’s fallen hero. Hitchcock’s shadow of suspense." The Hitchcock part is most clearly because of the music which is mostly taken from Bernard Hermann film scores. This threw me as I kept remembering the scenes from Vertigo and North by Northwest and other films that the music came from. There's a functioning bar and jazz club where you begin and end the evening; it's called the Manderley which is a reference to Hitchcock's Rebecca, though I don't see significance in that. Oh and it's kinda spooky, maybe that's a Hitchcock reference, but since it's a make your own choices experience, the manipulation of Hitchcock's camera is no where to be seen.

The plot, if your wanderings show you any of it, is Macbeth. The characters are there and the actions and the sets but not the dialog, which really is the first thing I think of when I think of Shakespeare. Well and the sets are odd too, yes there's a bedroom and forest (in the old auditorium) and there's a witches lair in the basement. There's also a room with hospital beds and bathtubs and taxidermy and a hotel lobby which I don't think were at all mentioned in the play. I'm fine with Macbeth being re-imagined into the 1930s, but I didn't get a lot of the recurring motifs such as birds.

The first room I entered had several desks and filling cabinets and a man typing. I leaned over his shoulder and saw something about falcons. The filling cabinets were filled with shredded paper and half of them had a single egg (some ostrich sized). Ummm, yeah. Other rooms had lots of taxidermy and feathers and skeletons from odd animals. Even many of the dance moves reminded me of birds. One actress had a (fake) very pregnant belly, I kept expecting her to give birth to an egg but it didn't happen (at least I didn't see it if it did).

Then I wandered through many more rooms but only a few times saw more than one actor at a time. I've come to the conclusion this is not the way to see this. Several postings on forums described people who were thrilled to interact with the extensive sets, but I don't think it really had any point. I flipped through some diaries expecting to find some clue-like thing instead I saw unintelligible scrawlings or "it was a dull day" repeated over and over like Jack Torrance in The Shining.

In fact there were more Kubrick references. As you enter you're told to remain silent and given a mask that you have to wear. It's white and oddly shaped and reminded me of Eyes Wide Shut. I think the point is really so the audience knows who else is in the audience as opposed to an actor and to hide other people's confused looks and prevent audience members from communicating non-verbally. The result is there are a bunch of masked people wandering around a huge building or standing around watching a performance in the room. Given that a few scenes had nudity, that cinched the Eyes Wide Shut orgy reference. And when they're not running around wildly, the actors are often moving in dreadfully slow Kubrickian paces, giving you plenty of time to take note of every detail.

But the director this most made me think of was David Lynch. I felt like I was in Twin Peaks wandering around and being confused. I'm not a Twin Peaks fan as I felt the writers had no idea what they were doing. I wandered through sets and tried to figure out what was going on and what I was to experience but I'm not sure the producers had a clear goal in mind.

Unlike traditional theater this experience does use all of your senses. The forrest smelled overwhelmingly like pine. Actors push you out of the way and often you have to run to keep up with them as they travel to a different room or floor. Twice I was given drinks so I even experienced taste. But I'm still wondering to what effect.

In a room with a small bar in a corner and round table with three chairs around it and one lamp hanging down from the ceiling a woman dressed as a male bartender gestured for me to sit down and slowly dealt me three cards from a partial deck. We each slowly revealed the cards, I'm guessing I lost as she had three nines, but um yeah.... Then she picked up a bottle and gestured to ask if I wanted some. I nodded and she poured me a small shot of some licorice liqueur maybe Anisette or Sambuca. Then she firmly shook my hand and I got up and left. A half a dozen audience members watched this. I at least got a shot.

In another room a woman grabbed me and led me into a room with a desk in the corner behind a standing screen. I had seen this room before and didn't make much sense of it. The desk had various taxidermy references and tools and a bowl of eyes on it. She brought me behind the screen, now the other audience members who had followed us couldn't see this. The desk had three glasses of milk on it. She took one, poured some spice into it, mixed it up with a knife which she then licked, indicating it was safe to drink. She then took off my mask and poured it down my throat. I swallowed a few mouthfuls but that wasn't enough, she repeated so I finished the glass. Then she put my mask on and literally threw me out of the room, standing in the doorway as I looked at her and wondered what had just happened. Was I just poisoned? Embalmed? Then I went on into another room.

Experience? Yes. Theater? I wouldn't say so. Point? No idea. See what I mean about Twin Peaks?

Most of the scenes played to me as crazy people possessed. Macbeth and wife violently dancing all around the room. And I mean violently and all around the room, up the walls, on the bed, over stacks of dressers. It was alternating attraction and repulsion, two people making each other crazy. Then he left and half the audience ran after him, I stayed and watch her. She got a long gown and continued the dance around the room. He returned bloodied, apparently having killed King Duncan, and she removed his clothes and bathed him in the bathtub in the middle of the room, rubbing to get the blood of his hands.

A pregnant woman (Lady Macduff?) at home couldn't sit still and literally climbed the walls to sit on the top of a bookshelf next to a statue of the Virgin Mary. Well sit isn't right, she was dancing up there, and then got down and was back and forth to a desk to pick up what looked like a pill box only to put it back down several times. Again, all very quick birdlike motions. Then a man joined her and they repeated this. Then they stopped, went to separate rooms, got dressed up and went up to a dance.

I saw King Duncan's body wrapped and carried to another room and unwrapped. A woman, I assume his wife, caressed him and he got up! Was he not dead? A ghost now? Or just resetting a scene?

These I think expose another problem. As I read reviews now, the story is repeated three times during the three hours, so the actors have to get back to positions. But since the audience can see everything, the costume changes have to be worked into the performance. But while they do it silently and deliberately it doesn't really have any meaning. You have to recognize the scene cut as part of the language of this medium.

Macbeth does have action that happens offstage but still, I get the sense that I accidentally choose many filler scenes that didn't add to any narrative. The sets and things I saw did have some interesting Twin Peaks weirdness, but only enough to sustain about a half hour's of my interest, not three hours.

It seems an odd form of theater that you have to know the story ahead of time to know what you're seeing. I went with a friend who had been once before and enjoyed it both times and is going back for a third. He said he saw 8 new rooms and several things he hadn't seen before. He also watched Polanski's film since seeing it the first time. I'm still trying to figure out if I want to go again. It might not be clear from reading this but I think I probably do want to see it one more time. I do have some advice for those going.

1. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes, you will be running. The building is warm so check your coat and bags, you don't want to be carrying them.

2. Parts of it are very dark. When we first entered I literally couldn't see my hand in front of my face. After walking a little bit we made our way to the bar. Look for the candles on the floor and be comforted that nothing else is (quite) so dark.

3. You will be separated from your party, this is something to be experienced on your own and then you can discuss it afterwards. Spend some time listening to the Annie Darcy Jazz Band in the bar afterwards. The $11 cocktails were reasonably tasty.

4. Don't waste time wandering through empty rooms unless you really want to. Find actors and watch scenes and follow them around. I also suspect it's better to follow the men as more of the plot happens with them, though the witches have a scene reminiscent of Rosemary's Baby.

5. Move all the way into a room so others can fit in. It's already frustrating enough that actors run through narrow doors and swarms of people follow them, when they get there let them in.

6. Be well versed in Macbeth. I don't think reading a short summary is enough, watch a film or read the play.

I don't think the above is giving anything away and I don't know why the web page doesn't explain some of it. And when they hand out the masks and explain some rules like be quiet and people in black masks are crew, they could have given some hints like try following actors.

While writing this I've read several reviews (this is my favorite one) and looked through the comments on the web site. I really found them unsatisfactory. Someone complains about their experience and others chime back "if you need theater to be linear or spelled out you won't like it, try reading the play beforehand and expanding your experience". But I've yet to see anyone actually explain any part of it other than "it was amazing and I can't wait to go back". To those people I say try to use your words and if the point is to give everyone a unique experience, then be respectful of people's negative experiences, they're unique too.

Why American Health Care Costs So Much

Ezra Klein reports in the Washington Post An insurance industry CEO explains why American health care costs so much

"The packet's 36 pages are mostly graphs showing the average prices paid in different countries for different procedures, diagnostics and drugs. There is a thudding consistency to the pages: a series of crude bars, with the block representing the prices paid by American health-insurance plans looming over the others like a New York skyscraper that got lost in downtown Des Moines."

"There is a simple explanation for why American health care costs so much more than health care in any other country: because we pay so much more for each unit of care. As Halvorson explained, and academics and consultancies have repeatedly confirmed, if you leave everything else the same -- the volume of procedures, the days we spend in the hospital, the number of surgeries we need -- but plug in the prices Canadians pay, our health-care spending falls by about 50 percent."

Mercury Gives Up More Secrets to MESSENGER

Universe Today reports in Mercury Gives Up More Secrets to MESSENGER about some of the things we've learned about Mercury from the three recent flybys.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

How Will Healthcare Reform Work?

TPM has The Public Option Fight Continues--But How Exactly Does Reform Work?

What Happened and Why?

As usual 538 has the best election coverage. Nate explains What Happened and Why?.

Boston T Problems

The Boston Globe reports Report finds T’s riders at risk

"A decade of systemic neglect and mounting financial problems has left the MBTA with public safety issues that are far more serious than previously revealed and swiftly growing worse, according to a devastating independent report ordered by Governor Deval Patrick."

"The author of the MBTA report, David F. D’Alessandro, told several media outlets this morning that he found so many problems during his research that he would not ride the stretch of the Red Line between Harvard Square and Alewife."

Sunday, November 01, 2009

How Goldman Secretly Bet on the U.S. Housing Crash

McClatchy has a good article How Goldman secretly bet on the U.S. housing crash

"In 2006 and 2007, Goldman Sachs Group peddled more than $40 billion in securities backed by at least 200,000 risky home mortgages, but never told the buyers it was secretly betting that a sharp drop in U.S. housing prices would send the value of those securities plummeting."

"Now, pension funds, insurance companies, labor unions and foreign financial institutions that bought those dicey mortgage securities are facing large losses, and a five-month McClatchy investigation has found that Goldman's failure to disclose that it made secret, exotic bets on an imminent housing crash may have violated securities laws. 'The Securities and Exchange Commission should be very interested in any financial company that secretly decides a financial product is a loser and then goes out and actively markets that product or very similar products to unsuspecting customers without disclosing its true opinion,' said Laurence Kotlikoff, a Boston University economics professor who's proposed a massive overhaul of the nation's banks. 'This is fraud and should be prosecuted.'"

Obama as Bad as Bush on Domestic Spying?

Glenn Greenwald writes in Salon Obama's latest use of "secrecy" to shield presidential lawbreaking. "What was once depicted as a grave act of lawlessness -- Bush's NSA program -- is now deemed a vital state secret."

"In the case of Shubert v. Bush, the Electronic Frontier Foundation represents numerous American citizens suing individual Bush officials, alleging that the Bush administration instituted a massive 'dragnet' surveillance program whereby 'the NSA intercepted (and continues to intercept) millions of phone calls and emails of ordinary Americans, with no connection to Al Qaeda, terrorism, or any foreign government' and that 'the program monitors millions of calls and emails . . . entirely in the United States . . . without a warrant' (page 4).  The lawsuit's central allegation is that the officials responsible for this program violated the Fourth Amendment and FISA and can be held accountable under the law for those illegal actions.

Rather than respond to the substance of the allegations, the Obama DOJ is instead insisting that courts are barred from considering the claims at all.  Why?  Because -- it asserted in a Motion to Dismiss it filed on Friday -- to allow the lawsuit to proceed under any circumstances -- no matter the safeguards imposed or specific documents excluded -- 'would require the disclosure of highly classified NSA sources and methods about the TSP [Terrorist Surveillance Program] and other NSA activities' (page 8).  According to the Obama administration, what were once leading examples of Bush's lawlessness and contempt for the Constitution -- namely, his illegal, warrantless domestic spying programs -- are now vital 'state secrets' in America's War on Terror, such that courts are prohibited even from considering whether the Government was engaging in crimes when spying on Americans.  "


Saw this on Presentation Zen...

"Kuler is a web-based color tool from Adobe that has thousands of community-generated color themes from which you can search, but the best thing about Kuler is that you can easily make your own themes. Once you register with Kuler (it's very quick), you can begin to create your own color themes or palettes and store, view, and retrieve all your saved themes in your personal Mykuler space. There are two ways to create unique color themes: either by selecting a single color on the color wheel as your base color and building off of that, or by importing an image from Flickr or your hard disk and extracting"