Friday, July 31, 2015

Impossible Mission Force

I really enjoyed this video essay on the Mission Impossible franchise.

IMPOSSIBLE MISSION FORCE from Sean Witzke on Vimeo.

Video essay on the Mission Impossible franchise for Grantland:

Mission Impossible (1996), dir. Brian De Palma
Mission Impossible 2 (2000), dir. John Woo
Mission Impossible 3 (2006), dir. JJ Abrams
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011), dir. Brad Bird
- - -
From Russia With Love (1963), dir. Terence Young
Notorious (1946), dir. Alfred Hitchcock
North By Northwest (1959), dir. Alfred Hitchcock
To Catch A Thief (1955), dir. Alfred Hitchcock
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), dir. Peter R. Hunt
Licence To Kill (1989), dir. John Glen
Mission Impossible Rogue Nation stunt featurette
Alien (1979), dir. Ridley Scott
Aliens (1986), dir. James Cameron
Alien3 (1992), dir. David Fincher
Mission Impossible tv series opening credits
Carrie (1976), dir. Brian De Palma
Obsession (1976), dir. Brian De Palma
Blow Out (1981), dir. Brian De Palma
The Fury (1978), dir. Brian De Palma
Greetings (1968), dir. Brian De Palma
Topkapi (1964), dir. Jules Dassin
Gambit (1966), dir. Ronald Neame
Le Femme Nikita (1990), dir. Luc Besson
L’enfer (1994), dir. Claude Chabrol
Pulp Fiction (1994), dir. Quentin Tarantino
Macbeth (1971), dir. Roman Polanski
Chinatown (1974), dir. Roman Polanski
Tomb of Ligeia (1964), dir. Roger Corman
Face/Off (1997), dir. John Woo
Paycheck (2003), dir. John Woo
Hard Boiled (1992), dir. John Woo
The Whip and the Body (1963), dir. Mario Bava
Magnolia (1999), dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
Eyes Wide Shut (1999), dir. Stanley Kubrick
Jerry Maguire (1996), dir. Cameron Crowe
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), dir. Steven Spielberg
True Lies (1994), dir. James Cameron
Thief (1981), dir. Michael Mann
The Third Man (1949), dir. Carol Reed
24 tv series
Castle of Cagliostro (1979), dir. Hayao Miyazaki
Cruise from the making of featurette from the 3rd film's dvd - Audio only.

David Axelrod - “Reverie” / Lalo Schifrin - “Secret Code” from Mission Impossible / Michael Giacchino - “IMF Escape” from M:i:3 / James Newton Howard - “Edit on the Hood” from Nightcrawler / Hans Zimmer - “Chimera” from M:i:2 / Lalo Schifrin - Torture Sequence” from THX-1138 / Bernard Hermann - “Apartment House, The Windows” from Sisters / Brian Eno - “Sparrowfall 1” from A Better Tomorrow / John Carpenter & Alan Howarth - “Robots at the Factory” from Halloween 3 / Jack Nitzsche - “Roadblock” from Starman, later used in A Better Tomorrow 2 / Michael Vickers - “Dracula AD 1972 theme” / Lalo Schifrin - “Scorpio” from Dirty Harry / Brian Eno - “From the Beginning” from Opera / Brian Eno - “Another Green World”

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Chris Christie: A History of Dick Moves

The Republican field is crazy. Remember when Chris Christie was the loudmouth? A month ago GQ wrote Chris Christie: A History of Dick Moves. It's still entertaining reading and will be more relevant after Trump implodes and we get a repeat of last time of each candidate getting their week in the number one spot.

The cult of Vice

I like the HBO show Vice, but after reading more about the parent company in the Columbia Journalism Review's The cult of Vice I like them a little less.

The Camera Behind The New Pluto Photos Is Named 'Ralph'

The Camera Behind The New Pluto Photos Is Named 'Ralph' "How to build a camera that travels billions of miles from Earth". They had to adjust for shrinkage and really dim light and make it as small and power stingy as possible.

The Singular Mind of Terry Tao

The NY Times wrote about The Singular Mind of Terry Tao "A prodigy grows up to become one of the greatest mathematicians in the world."

Everything You Don't Know About Tipping

Tim Urban did a casual survey to find out Everything You Don't Know About Tipping. Turns out I'm ok though I'm "super cheap" will hotel bellmen.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Spatial Interfaces

Nice article on Spatial Interfaces. Lots of iOS examples showing how small animations, allow apps to imply functional relationships between interface elements.

The Senate’s wrongheaded IRS proposal

Apparently the Senate (and I assume that's Republicans in the Senate) want to privatize federal debt collection because everyone hates the IRS and obviously the market can do everything more efficiently. Catherine Rampell explains the insanity in The Senate’s wrongheaded IRS proposal,

The IRS has actually tried outsourcing tax collection activities to private debt collectors before, at Congress’s behest. Twice, in fact, over the last two decades.

Both times, the experiment was a disaster.

Privatizing delinquent tax collections led to complaints from taxpayers who got harassed and bullied by an industry known for rampant harassment and bullying, particularly of low-income people who don’t know their rights. In one oft-cited case, a private debt collector made 150 calls to the elderly parents of a taxpayer even after the collection agency learned that the taxpayer was no longer living at that address.

Perhaps more important, at least from a fiscal responsibility perspective, both times the program was scrapped because it actually cost taxpayers money on net, despite assurances ahead of time of the huge bounty it would lasso in."

I can't get over this giant contradiction in Iran hawks' case against the nuclear deal

Max Fisher in Vox points out I can't get over this giant contradiction in Iran hawks' case against the nuclear deal "Iran hawks are making their case in a way that exposes a very telling contradiction in their arguments, one that is so brazen and transparent it is almost hard to believe. If you look at what they've said in the aggregate, an odd position emerges: Delaying Iran's nuclear program for 10 years via diplomacy is bad, whereas delaying it for two years via war is good. What does that tell you?"

He quotes Robert Farley, a professor at the University of Kentucky:

What the hawks want is indefinite militarized confrontation between the United States and Iran. From the perspective of Israel and Saudi Arabia, this is hardly irrational. Iran supports terrorist groups and other non-state actors that like to mess with the Saudis and the Israelis, and both the Saudis and Israelis would like to have the military capabilities of the United States at their disposal. Nor is it irrational for the Saudis and Israelis to believe that the US will come through with this kind of support; the entire GOP Presidential field (with the possible, partial exception of Rand Paul) seems committed to making it happen.

... And for someone who really wants a semi-permanent guarantee that the United States will threaten to bomb Iran, only nukes work, even if nukes aren’t the central concern. As Fred Kaplan has noted, the really big problem for Israeli, Saudi, and US hawks is that the deal might work, that Tehran might take nukes off the table, and the Iran might reintegrate itself back into the community of nations.

NFL upholds Tom Brady’s four-game suspension

The Boston Globe writes NFL upholds Tom Brady’s four-game suspension. Good. The NFL found:

On or shortly before March 6, the day that Tom Brady met with independent investigator Ted Wells and his colleagues, Brady directed that the cellphone he had used for the prior four months be destroyed. He did so even though he was aware that the investigators had requested access to text messages and other electronic information that had been stored on that phone.

During the four months that the cellphone was in use, Brady had exchanged nearly 10,000 text messages, none of which can now be retrieved from that device. The destruction of the cellphone was not disclosed until June 18, almost four months after the investigators had first sought electronic information from Brady.

I don't know why this town is supporting this cheater.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The New Enemy Within

Peter Beinart wrote in May's Atlantic, The New Enemy Within "Why are conservatives more hostile to Muslims and Islam today than they were in the terrifying aftermath of 9/11? And why have American Muslims, who in 2000 mostly voted Republican, apparently replaced gays and feminists as the right’s chief culture-war foe?"

But if conservatives no longer believe they can transform the Middle East, they still greatly fear terrorism by Muslims. A 2014 poll by the Pew Research Center found that Republicans were 31 percentage points more likely than Democrats to be “very concerned” about the threat of “Islamic extremism” around the world. The result is a mismatch between conservative anxieties and conservative methods. Although most conservatives are happy to bomb ISIS, the American right has lost its appetite for a vast overseas struggle against jihadist terror. Instead of tempering their view of the threat, conservatives have domesticated it. By reconceiving the Islamist danger as a largely domestic problem, conservatives can now fight it ferociously without having to invade any other countries.

All they need to do is prevent Muslims from Islamicizing America. Thus, in 2010, Newt Gingrich called the adoption of Sharia “a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States.” To prevent an “attempt to gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government,” the GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain vowed in 2011 not to appoint any Muslims to his Cabinet. In 2012, five Republican members of Congress sent a letter to the State Department’s deputy inspector general suggesting that Hillary Clinton’s aide Huma Abedin, who is Muslim, had influenced the State Department on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The right’s new focus on the danger that Muslims allegedly pose at home is McCarthyite in a very specific sense. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, conservatives were deeply frightened by communism overseas. But many of them also worried that the Truman administration’s military spending was creating budget deficits and that America’s entrance into NATO (and later the Korean War) was undermining American sovereignty. By hunting alleged communists in the State Department, and thereby suggesting that the real threat lay not overseas but at home, Joseph McCarthy reconciled those concerns. “The reason why we find ourselves in a position of impotency is not because our only powerful potential enemy has sent men to invade our shores,” he declared in his infamous Wheeling, West Virginia, speech in February 1950, “but rather because of the traitorous actions of those who have been treated so well by this nation.” By suggesting that the real Islamic threat lies at home, today’s conservatives are saying much the same thing.

He also cites the conservative fear of "a war on christianity". And since they can't demonize the feminists and gays as much as they did, they blame Muslims. This is probably why the GOP establishment is mad with Trump for bringing the discussion back to Mexicans. They already had someone to blame, now they're stuck demonizing the biggest growing segment of the voting population.

There have been 204 mass shootings — and 204 days — in 2015 so far

WonkBlog points out There have been 204 mass shootings — and 204 days — in 2015 so far. "The Mass Shooting Tracker, a crowd-sourced project of the anti-gun folks at the Guns Are Cool subreddit, lists 203 mass shooting events so far in 2015. Add in the shooting at a Louisiana movie theater last night and you get 204. Incidentally, yesterday was the 204th day of the year."

"The Mass Shooting Tracker is different from other shooting databases in that it uses a broader definition of mass shooting. "The old FBI definition of Mass Murder (not even the most recent one) is four or more people murdered in one event," the site's creators explain. "It is only logical that a Mass Shooting is four or more people shot in one event.""

Sure, let's quibble on the details. Oh and it seems only one of the 34 mass shootings with an identified perpetrator was a Muslim.

After Amtrak Disaster, Rail Firms Ramp Up Lobbying to Delay Safety Regulations

The Intercept reports, After Amtrak Disaster, Rail Firms Ramp Up Lobbying to Delay Safety Regulations

"The derailment of an Amtrak train on May 15 brought a renewed sense of urgency to the federal law requiring Positive Train Control, a system that automatically keeps trains from reaching unsafe speeds. Leading experts say deployment of the technology would have prevented the Amtrak disaster, which left 8 dead and over 200 injured.

The Congressionally-mandated deadline for all train companies to implement PTC is the end of this year. But despite the renewed pressure for Amtrak and other companies to meet the deadline, Congress appears poised to provide a three year delay as the rail industry has increased its lobbying efforts.

Lobbying records suggest major rail firms began spending more on lobbying following the Amtrak crash."

Sigh, it's just so predictable.

New Horizons says goodbye to Pluto with beautiful high-resolution photos

The Verge reports New Horizons says goodbye to Pluto with beautiful high-resolution photos

Phil Pliat offers some explanation, Pluto: Ice flows and a ring of light..

More from New Horizons | NASA.

Measuring the heck out of shale gas leakage in Texas

Ars Technica reports Measuring the heck out of shale gas leakage in Texas. Researchers tracked methane leakage from the Barnett Shale (around Dallas-Fort Worth). The results seems to be that overall leakage is low but higher than expected. Also, most of the leakage comes from a small number of "super-emitters".

"One group sampled 186 sites where a well or pipeline equipment was located. Just five percent of them accounted for over half of the total methane leakage. At 30 percent of the sites, on the other hand, their instruments detected no leakage at all."

That would seem to make it easier to address.

Will massive mergers make health insurance as bad as cable?

Sarah Kliff writes Will massive mergers make health insurance as bad as cable?

"Anthem struck a deal Friday to acquire Cigna, creating the country's largest health insurance plan. And less than a month ago Aetna announced plans to acquire Humana. If the Department of Justice approves the mergers, the big five health insurers in the United States would shrink to just three. Taken together, these three companies will cover around 132 million Americans — about half the population under 65.

Researchers have studied historical insurance mergers and have learned that two things happen when health plans consolidate. First, medical prices go down: Bigger insurers have more clout to ask for steeper discounts from health-care prices.

Second, premiums go up: Insurers don't pass along their new discounts to consumers, but instead pocket the savings as profit."

Great. Well actually, maybe not so bad: "The big question for health economists is whether a new Obamacare regulation, aimed at limiting health insurers' profits, could change all that."

Conservatives Love This Deeply Misleading Factoid About Poverty in America

Dylan Matthews at Vox writes about how Conservatives love this deeply misleading factoid about poverty in America.

The factoid is:

It’s closer to the truth that they, like all Americans, are in a much better position to succeed if they honor certain basic norms: graduate from high school; get a full-time job; don’t have a child before age 21 and get married before childbearing. Among the people who do these things, according to the research of Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution, about 75 percent attain the middle class, broadly defined.

Matthews goes to the 2009 source and while the data is right, the interpretation is off, and explains why.

  • Very few obey none of the norms. More poor people obey all three than none.
  • It's wrong to list full-time work as a norm, particularly in a recession. Many can't find work. "Shockingly, earning a steady income is a good way to not be in poverty."
  • When you're poor, access to birth control is more limited
  • "Poverty brings with it hunger and food insecurity, neighborhood violence, periodic homelessness, and poor health, all of which are stressors that conspire to keep kids from poor backgrounds from making it out of high school."

"The truth is that low high school graduation rates in poor black communities are in part a legacy of systemic racism. Joblessness in poor black communities is in part a legacy of systemic racism. Single parenthood and family instability in poor black communities is in part a legacy of systemic racism. To say this isn't to reject the idea of free will. It's to acknowledge that if you're actually serious about solving these problems rather than waving them away, you need to tackle structural causes. Reasonable people can disagree about how best to deal with those causes, but just running around telling people to work hard and get married isn't a serious proposal."

Then there's this, How school district boundaries are gerrymandered to keep poor kids segregated and this, The remarkably high odds you’ll be poor at some point in your life.

Then there's James Ferguson's book Give a Man a Fish which apparently, This book will change the way you think about cash transfers for the poor. I haven't read it but I've seen a few articles over the years about this and the evidence that it works better (that is cheaper) than other things to bring the poor out of poverty.

Jared Bernstein: The Cadillac Tax, Part 2: My critics made some good points…but I still think I’m right

Jared Bernstein on The Cadillac Tax, Part 2: My critics made some good points…but I still think I’m right.

In a piece I recently posted up here, I made four arguments in support of the so-called Cadillac tax, the 40 percent excise tax on health care premium costs above caps set by the Affordable Care Act (the tax is scheduled to kick in by 2018).

First, at least initially, the vast majority of premium costs will be below the caps, meaning they won’t get hit by the tax. Second, by creating a strong incentive to hold down premium costs, the tax is likely to help slow the growth of premium costs going forward. Third, as employers put less compensation into health benefits, they’re likely to put more in wages. Fourth, the tax is expected to raise $90 billion over the next decade, so those who would get rid of it need to come up with a replacement, ideally one with some of the same incentives just noted.

You’ll rarely win friends defending a tax, and I got predictably critical responses. While some were from grumpy partisans who hate Obamacare, taxes, and especially taxes that fund Obamacare, others were sensible and deserve attention. Part of the problem was shorthand on my part and so I’ll elaborate a bit more here. And on point three above–the wage point–I was too dismissive of a legitimate concern.

It's posts like these that make me like Bernstein more and more. There are details and there is a willingness to listen to legitimate arguments. I tend to see that more on the left and rarely see it on the right (e.g., on the current Iran deal, or Benghazi or Obamacare). Sure Rand Paul has softened on a few things, but he's usually so far out there to begin with he still ends up way to right for me. I don't think Trump has ever admitted that some counter-arguments might be legit.

Fire Phasers - The New York Times

Paul Krugman in the Times, Fire Phasers

"Jeb Bush doesn’t just want Americans to work more hours; he also wants to ‘phase out’ Medicare, or so he told a Koch brothers backed group. What he’s talking about, presumably, is a Paul Ryan-type conversion of Medicare into a voucher system.

Fact-checking organizations please note, by the way. The next time Democrats say that Republicans want to destroy Medicare, and Republicans start screaming that this is a lie, remember that when talking to their own people like Jeb themselves call what they’re proposing a plan to, yes, end Medicare."

Follow that link and his quote is, "They know, and I think a lot of people recognize that we need to make sure we fulfill the commitment to people that have already received the benefits, that are receiving the benefits. But that we need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others and move to a new system that allows them to have something – because they’re not going to have anything.” Ok the link is to a Steven Benen post in the Rachel Maddow blog, but that has a link to the video in which I presume he says exactly that.

Kids React To 1st iPod

The Verge's Web Sucks

There's been a bunch of posts recently about the mobile web experience. The Verge generously commented with their perspective and it's legit, advertising is their best revenue source now and advertising on the web means giving up control to lots of third parties.

lmorchard weighs in with some data, The Verge's web sucks "TL;DR: Did you know that The Verge delivers you to around 20 companies for advertising & tracking purposes? I didn't. That might foul up your mobile web experience a little bit. Maybe we should try something different."

"Holy crap. It took over 30 seconds. In the end, it fetched over 9.5MB across 263 HTTP requests. That's almost an order of magnitude more data & time than needed for the article itself. Wow. Devtools performed a second reload of the page to get an overall performance analysis. This time it downloaded 12MB - a little over 7MB in that is JavaScript!"

Today I installed Ghostery. There's some debate about how ethical they are, A Popular Ad Blocker Also Helps the Ad Industry but they seem to be upfront about it and there's an option to enable their collection and it's appropriately turned off by default so I can't fault them for that. There's also Disconnect which I had installed but disabled. I probably tried it and ran into some issues which I've now forgotten. If get bothered by Ghostery I'll give it another try.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Clones on the Court - The Atlantic

Back in April, Constitutional scholar Akhil Reed Amar wrote in The Atlantic, Clones on the Court "A Supreme Court that once included former senators and governors is populated today by judges with identical résumés. Here's why that's a mistake."

Do You Code? You Should Try The New Font Monoid

CoDesign says Do You Code? You Should Try This Font "Monoid is a new programming typeface designed to be clean, uniform, and precise, just like good code."

"Programmers want a font that is clean, uniform, highly readable, and precise, just like good code. Monoid is a new font designed by Andreas Larsen that aims to do all the above, and more. An open-source font aimed at coders, Monoid has been designed, first and foremost, to be highly readable even when you're scanning through ten thousand of lines of C++, looking for that one bug-causing typo."

It's open source (so free) and you can download it here. At the bottom you can preview the font and choose from a few alternatives. I like the alternate 1 better. Note, the alternative preview doesn't work in Safari.

Kepler-452b: Earth-ish planet around a Sun-ish star.

Phil Plait writes Kepler-452b: Earth-ish planet around a Sun-ish star. "On Thursday, astronomers announced they have found another planet in its star's habitable zone: Kepler-452b. But this one is different: It orbits a star much more like the Sun. The star and planet are about 1,400 light-years away."

Bug in latest version of OS X gives attackers unfettered root privileges

Ars Technica reports Bug in latest version of OS X gives attackers unfettered root privileges

"A bug in the latest version of Apple's OS X gives attackers the ability to obtain unfettered root user privileges, a feat that makes it easier to surreptitiously infect Macs with rootkits and other types of persistent malware."

"According to Esser, the OS X privilege-escalation flaw stems from new error-logging features that Apple added to OS X 10.10. Developers didn't use standard safeguards involving additions to the OS X dynamic linker dyld, a failure that allows attackers to open or create files with root privileges that can reside anywhere in the OS X file system."

Security is hard. At least Apple is trying to elevate it in some products. MacWorld reports Apple's security requirements are reportedly holding up HomeKit. "Apple has stringent requirements for manufacturers aiming to get HomeKit-certified for Bluetooth LE and Wi-Fi accessories: those devices must use 3072-bit keys and Curve25519, the 128-bit elliptic curve, for encrypted key exchange and digital signatures. Those security standards will help HomeKit devices protect against outside attacks, but they’re also causing lags in devices that are supposed to respond quickly to user requests. For instance, a smart door lock that takes seven minutes to open using Apple’s encryption requirements, or even 40 seconds, can’t compete with a dumb door lock that opens almost instantly. The problems are at the chip level. Broadcom and Marvell are working to make their Bluetooth LE chips beefy enough to withstand Apple’s encryption standards so the lag time isn’t so lengthy."

Roughly 100 Fantastic Magazine Articles from 2014

Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic lists Roughly 100 Fantastic Magazine Articles from 2014 "Each year, I keep a running list of exceptional nonfiction that I encounter as I publish The Best of Journalism, an email newsletter that I send out once or twice a week. This is my annual attempt to bring some of those stories to a wider audience. I could not read or note every worthy article that was published last calendar year and I haven't included any paywalled articles or anything published at The Atlantic. But everything that follows is worthy of wider attention and engagement."

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

What The Supreme Court Has To Say About Sandra Bland's Arrest

ThinkProgress writes about What The Supreme Court Has To Say About Sandra Bland's Arrest.

Rodriguez v. United States held that police could not extend the length of a routine traffic stop, even for just a few minutes, absent a safety related concern or reasonable suspicion to believe that the driver may have committed an additional crime. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg explained in the opinion of the Court, ‘[t]he tolerable duration of police inquiries in the traffic-stop context is determined by the seizure’s ‘mission’ — to address the traffic violation that warranted the stop, and attend to related safety concerns.’ A police stop ‘may ‘last no longer than is necessary to effectuate th[at] purpose.’ Authority for the seizure thus ends when tasks tied to the traffic infraction are — or reasonably should have been — completed.’

By the time Encinia asks Bland to put out her cigarette, the ‘mission’ of his encounter with Bland is almost at completion. He has already written the citation and brought it to Bland. While she is being handcuffed, Bland even indicates that she was ‘trying to sign the fucking ticket’ before Encinia tried to pull her out of her car. Had the officer not decided to extend the length of the stop over the argument about the cigarette, it is likely that Bland would have been sent on her way very shortly after she declined to extinguish her cigarette."

This is just a crazy story and there are so many parts to it. She evidently did change lanes without signaling so the stop itself was ok. Enchain clearly escalated it because of her belligerence but that's entirely on him. The above says the escalation was illegal. I note that in the video he orders her out of the car but doesn't say she's under arrest until she asks, which seems a little backwards to me and in spite of her asking repeatedly about the charges he never answers, which I don't think he's allowed to do. So she pissed him off, which is legal, and he went too far, which isn't. There's probably excessive force involved too, but that's off camera and not clear.

Now that's just the arrest, how she ended up in prison for several days and then dead is another (very suspicious) matter. If she couldn't raise bail, the time is plausible (though ridiculous).

British man receives world’s first bionic eye implant for macular degeneration

Ars Technica reports British man receives world’s first bionic eye implant for macular degeneration. "A British man has become the first person in the world to receive a bionic eye implant that corrects for age-related macular degeneration (AMD)—the most common cause of vision loss in adults. The implant was a success: previously, the patient had no central vision at all; now, he has low-resolution central vision. The operation was carried out at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital; the recipient of the implant was Ray Flynn, aged 80."

More Misinformation about Banking Regulation

James Kwak has a great post on More Misinformation about Banking Regulation. It begins:

‘Fed Tells Big Banks to Shrink or Else,’ the Wall Street Journal proclaimed in the headline of its lead story today.* If only.

What the Federal Reserve actually did is impose new, additional capital requirements for the largest banks. JPMorgan Chase, for example, will have to hold 4.5 percentage points more capital than it would have had to otherwise. This is clearly a good thing, since it means that the banks that could do the most damage to the financial system will be a little bit safer. But it is neither a complete solution, nor is it the draconian constraint that the banks and the Journal make it out to be.

For starters, the rule will have no effect on seven of the eight banks in question (JPMorgan is the exception), since they already have enough capital to meet the new requirements. That alone should let you know how significant a rule this is.

Even so, the Journal says that banks will have to decide ‘whether to pay the cost of new regulation, which will fall to the bottom line, or change their business models.’ This is not true."

I'm so tired of news stories being completely one-sided and often false. Kwok does a great service in describing things in depth and not shying away from explaining the Modigliani-Miller Theorem (which I hadn't heard of and now kind of understand). Why can't newspapers do this? Why can't 24 hour cable news networks find the time to do this?

Most Beautiful Movies of All Time

CineFix lists their top 10 most beautiful films of all time, though they also mention a lot of other almost as beautiful films and give their reasons for their pick. Watch this in full screen. I have to go see Russian Ark, The Conformist, The Fall and Samsara. I've seen and own Lawrence of Arabia, but I'm hoping due to Omar Sharif's recent death, some local theater will show it in 70mm. If that happens near you, GO SEE IT!

The 100 Greatest American Films According To BBC Culture

BBC Culture lists The 100 greatest American films "BBC Culture polled film critics from around the world to determine the best American movies ever made. The results are surprising – Gone With the Wind appears at 97"

America’s films are among its greatest exports. Since Thomas Edison’s innovations in the medium in the 1890s, the United States has consistently been a powerhouse in the development of cinema – from the massively popular entertainments of Hollywood to independent and avant-garde film. In recognition of the astounding influence of the US on what remains the most popular art-form worldwide, BBC Culture has polled 62 international film critics to determine the 100 greatest American films of all time.

What defines an American film? For the purposes of this poll, it is any movie that received funding from a US source...Each critic who participated submitted a list of 10 films, with their pick for the greatest film receiving 10 points and their number 10 pick receiving one point. The points were added up to produce the final list. Critics were encouraged to submit lists of the 10 films they feel, on an emotional level, are the greatest in American cinema – not necessarily the most important, just the best. These are the results.

I've seen all but eight:

  • 89) In a Lonely Place (Nicholas Ray, 1950)
  • 72) The Shanghai Gesture (Josef von Sternberg, 1941)
  • 70) The Band Wagon (Vincente Minnelli, 1953)
  • 64) Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 1954)
  • 63) Love Streams (John Cassavetes, 1984)
  • 53) Grey Gardens (Albert and David Maysles, Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer, 1975)
  • 43) Letter from an Unknown Woman (Max Opuls, 1948)
  • 40) Meshes of the Afternoon (Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid, 1943) - it's a 14 min short available on YouTube.

Most of the rest I'd concede are all very good films. Well maybe not Heaven's Gate. I don't know how Hitchcock's Marne made it and Rear Window didn't. and why is Kubrick's Barry Lyndon on the list, let alone his highest?

Here are the directors with more than one film in the list:

  • Alfred Hitchcock (5)
  • Billy Wilder (5)
  • Stanley Kubrick (5)
  • Steven Spielberg (5)
  • Francis Ford Coppola (4)
  • Howard Hawks (4)
  • Martin Scorsese (4)
  • Charlie Chaplin (3)
  • John Ford (3)
  • Orson Welles (3)
  • David Lynch (2)
  • John Cassavetes (2)
  • Nicholas Ray (2)
  • Robert Altman (2)
  • Robert Zemeckis (2)
  • Spike Lee (2)
  • Terrence Malick (2)
  • Victor Fleming (2)
  • Vincente Minnelli (2)
  • Woody Allen (2)

Apparently the best films of this century are: 12 Years a Slave, The Dark Knight, 25th Hour, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and The Tree of Life.

For me that list (best on an emotional level from this century) is more like: 12 Years a Slave, The Dark Knight, Inception, Where the Wild Things Are, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Winter's Bone, The Act of Killing

Here's Kim Morgan's submission, I've only seen six of these and none would have made my top 10. And here's Devin Faraci complaining about the list (though not mentioning his submissions), THE DARK KNIGHT Is Better Than Any Paul Thomas Anderson Movie.

I Side With...

I just took the 2016 Presidential election quiz and found that I side the most with Democrat candidate Bernie Sanders. Who do you side with?

Here are my results.

I found this to be the most detailed of such things I've seen. A few issues I didn't know much about. Click "Other stances" to give you more nuanced choices. Also most sections have a "Show more questions" link at the bottom. I didn't use the importance slider but I think it would have helped in sorting the results.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Hackers Remotely Kill a Jeep on the Highway

Wired has a great and scary article, Hackers Remotely Kill a Jeep on the Highway—With Me in It "The Jeep’s strange behavior wasn’t entirely unexpected. I’d come to St. Louis to be Miller and Valasek’s digital crash-test dummy, a willing subject on whom they could test the car-hacking research they’d been doing over the past year. The result of their work was a hacking technique—what the security industry calls a zero-day exploit—that can target Jeep Cherokees and give the attacker wireless control, via the Internet, to any of thousands of vehicles. Their code is an automaker’s nightmare: software that lets hackers send commands through the Jeep’s entertainment system to its dashboard functions, steering, brakes, and transmission, all from a laptop that may be across the country."

"Miller and Valasek’s full arsenal includes functions that at lower speeds fully kill the engine, abruptly engage the brakes, or disable them altogether. The most disturbing maneuver came when they cut the Jeep’s brakes, leaving me frantically pumping the pedal as the 2-ton SUV slid uncontrollably into a ditch. The researchers say they’re working on perfecting their steering control—for now they can only hijack the wheel when the Jeep is in reverse. Their hack enables surveillance too: They can track a targeted Jeep’s GPS coordinates, measure its speed, and even drop pins on a map to trace its route."

I think I missed this article about them from last year which came out just as I was buying a new car, How Hackable Is Your Car? Consult This Handy Chart and I'm glad I didn't go with an Infiniti Q50.

"Later today, senators Markey and Blumenthal intend to reveal new legislation designed to tighten cars’ protections against hackers. The bill (which a Markey spokesperson insists wasn’t timed to this story) will call on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Trade Commission to set new security standards and create a privacy and security rating system for consumers."

  1. That's my Senator. :)
  2. Is this one of the first times that computer security is being legislated? Are there penalties for the car companies if they don't meet the standards? Can we get this in other industries like airplanes, medical devices, power plants, appliances, routers and oh, I don't know... computers!?!

Update: Chrysler recalls 1.4 million cars at risk of being remotely hijacked. "Chrysler owners can visit this website and enter their car's VIN to see if it's included in the recall. If so, you don't have to take your car into the dealership — or anywhere, for that matter. Instead, you'll receive the previously released patch on a USB flash drive." What I don't understand is why they didn't do this once they had the patch.

What Happens When You Talk About Salaries at Google

What Happens When You Talk About Salaries at Google is pretty fascinating. Not only the content (which is great) but how annoying Twitter was as a medium to disperse it.

Sea level study: James Hansen issues dire climate warning.

Sea level study: James Hansen issues dire climate warning. "The study—written by James Hansen, NASA’s former lead climate scientist, and 16 co-authors, many of whom are considered among the top in their fields—concludes that glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica will melt 10 times faster than previous consensus estimates, resulting in sea level rise of at least 10 feet in as little as 50 years. The study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, brings new importance to a feedback loop in the ocean near Antarctica that results in cooler freshwater from melting glaciers forcing warmer, saltier water underneath the ice sheets, speeding up the melting rate. Hansen, who is known for being alarmist and also right, acknowledges that his study implies change far beyond previous consensus estimates. In a conference call with reporters, he said he hoped the new findings would be ‘substantially more persuasive than anything previously published.’ I certainly find them to be."

"One necessary note of caution: Hansen’s study comes via a non-traditional publishing decision by its authors. The study will be published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, an open-access “discussion” journal, and will not have formal peer-review prior to its appearance online later this week. The complete discussion draft circulated to journalists was 66 pages long, and included more than 300 references. The peer-review will take place in real-time, with responses to the work by other scientists also published online. Hansen said this publishing timeline was necessary to make the work public as soon as possible before global negotiators meet in Paris later this year. Still, the lack of traditional peer review and the fact that this study’s results go far beyond what’s been previously published will likely bring increased scrutiny. On Twitter, Ruth Mottram, a climate scientist whose work focuses on Greenland and the Arctic, was skeptical of such enormous rates of near-term sea level rise, though she defended Hansen’s decision to publish in a non-traditional way."

Let's hope he's wrong. Because that's all we've been doing so far and that's worked out so well :(

Monday, July 20, 2015

Viewing Earth From Above

In Focus is Viewing Earth From Above "Just for fun, here are some recent images of the Earth, as seen from above. Shot from as close as a few hundred feet away, or as far as a million miles, the variety and beauty of our home planet depicted in these photos continues to amaze."

These are stunning photographs.

Inside The Manipulative World Of Film Color Correction

Co.Design goes Inside The Manipulative World Of Film Color Correction "Colorists' main job is to make film footage fit with what we’d expect to see in the real world. If they’re editing a scene of a woman walking down a street in daylight, the brightness and hues need to be consistent in each shot because that’s what our brains anticipate. But beyond those standard fixes, colorists have a sort of 'rulebook of emotions' they use to convey feelings in a scene"

  • warmer colors like yellow are inviting and friendly
  • blues are considered more negative and distant.
  • colorists add red to suggest strong emotions, like anger or passion or love
  • magenta and purple, are the unicorns of film. They tend to be applied to something unusual
  • And when a colorist wants to express creepiness or disgust, he'll pick fluorescent green
  • If you need to make something look like a new world, you make the blacks un-black and the whites un-white

Apollo 11 landing on TV as it aired 40 years ago

Apollo 11 landing on TV as it aired 40 years ago Kottke has "built a page where you can watch the CBS News coverage of Walter Cronkite reporting on the Moon landing and the first moon walk, 40 years to the second after it originally happened. Just leave this page open in your browser and at the appointed times (schedule is below), the broadcast will begin (no manual page refresh necessary)."

Understanding Art

Understanding Art is a video series by Nerdwriter. This one on Cezanne's The Large Bathers explains a painting in 7 mins better than anything I've seen before.

I also liked the one on The Death of Socrates.

He covers some movies as well and got much more out of Snowpiercer than I did.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

New Yorker on Sleep and Wakefulness

The New Yorker had a three part article on sleep.

Here's a bit from part one:

But it may be that the most important aspect of sleep hygiene has to do with light—which, of course, has gotten more pervasive during the past century, especially at night. Humans have evolved to be exquisitely sensitive to the most minute changes in the light around us. In fact, there are specific photoreceptors in the eye that only respond to changes in light and dark, and which are used almost exclusively to regulate our circadian rhythms. These melanopsin receptors connect directly to the part of the brain that regulates our internal body clocks. They work even in many people who are blind: though they can’t see anything else, their bodies still know how to adjust their circadian clocks to stay on schedule. Light helps the body predict the future: it’s a sign of how our environment will change in the coming hours and days, and our bodies prepare themselves accordingly. As the Harvard circadian neuroscientist Steven Lockley told me, “Our clocks have evolved to anticipate tomorrow.”

Now, however, that natural prediction system is being constantly wrong-footed. The problem isn’t just artificial light in general. Increasingly, we are surrounded by light on the short-wave, or “blue light,” spectrum—light which our circadian systems interpret as daylight. Blue light emanates from our computers, our televisions, our phones, and our e-readers; ninety per cent of Americans use electronic devices that emit it. When we spend time with a blue-light-emitting device, we are, in essence, postponing the signal to our brain that tells it that it’s time to go to sleep. (“What have we done with our dusk?” Charles Czeisler asks.) When “dusk” gets pushed progressively later because of these false light cues, we get a surge of energy rather than the intended melatonin release.

Czeisler has found that artificial light can shift our internal clocks by four or even six time zones, depending on when we’re exposed to it. In one study, out earlier this year in the journal PNAS, Czeisler and his colleagues asked people to read either a printed book or a light-emitting e-book about four hours before bed, for five evenings in a row. The effects were profound. Those who’d read an e-book released less melatonin and were less sleepy than those who’d read a regular book; their melatonin release was delayed by more than an hour and a half, and their circadian clocks were time-shifted. It took them longer to fall asleep. The next morning, they were less alert. These resetting effects can result not just from prolonged reading but from a single exposure. In his sleep lab, Lockley has seen it happen after exposing subjects to short-wavelength light for less than twelve minutes.

As a result of this I installed f.lux on my iMac (I'd heard of it before and was already interested and it works on all platforms) and read a physical book last night (John Cleese's autobiography So Anyway...). FYI, Flux "makes the color of your computer's display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day."

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Why It'll Take New Horizons 16 Months to Send Us This Week's Data

Gizmodo has a pretty detailed explanation of Why It'll Take New Horizons 16 Months to Send Us This Week's Data.

Running on a mere two to 10 watts of power—roughly as much as a nightlight— each of New Horizon’s seven state-of-the-art scientific instruments is currently busy collecting a deluge of data on the surface composition, atmosphere, and geologic features of Pluto, its moon Charon, and its four smaller moons. This data is being sent to one of two onboard, solid-state, 8 gigabyte memory banks. From there, the spacecraft’s main processor—a radiation-proof 12 megahertz Mongoose V—compresses, reformats, sorts and stores the data on a recorder, which NASA likens to a flash memory card for a digital camera. Once stored and formatted, the precious science and telemetry (aka housekeeping) data is ready for transmission to Earth—it’s being sent in compressed format now, and will be sent in a lossless format later on.

New Horizons communicates with the Earth through a series of four dish antenna. For key scientific data, it’s primarily making use of a large (2.1 meter-wide), high-gain antenna. But the high gain beam is only 0.3 degrees wide, means New Horizons must be pointing straight at the Earth in order for us to receive its signal. That’s why the craft’s comm system also includes a wider-beam (4 degree) medium gain disk, which it can use as a backup in cases when pointing might not be as accurate. The craft’s comm system also includes two broad-beam, low-gain antennas, which were used at the mission’s outset for near-Earth communications but are largely vestigial at this point.

A series of three high-sensitivity ground-based receivers—collectively known as NASA’s Deep Space Network—are currently downlinking New Horizons’ data at a plodding 2,000 bits per second...The craft is currently configured in what NASA calls ‘three-axis pointing mode’ (aka, Pluto observing mode), but it’ll transition over to ‘spin-stabilized mode’ after the encounter is over. In spin mode, New Horizons will be pointing itself arrow-straight at the Earth, spinning along its axis for increased stability. As a result, NASA reckons we’ll be able to boost downlink speeds to something in the neighborhood of 4,000 bits per second over the next few days.

"If you’re really geeking out about this stuff, you can go on the Deep Space Network’s website and watch as some of the most sophisticated comm systems on planet Earth literally collect the information, bit by bit,"

The Iran Deal

As usual, Vox has a lot of information on the deal, The Iran nuclear deal: everything you need to know. Max Fisher describes, The Iran nuclear deal, translated into plain English. Here is my formulation of the bullet points:

  • Iran currently has 20,000 centrifuges and will have to get down to 7,000 older models
  • Iran will be allowed to enrich uranium to only to 3.67%, way less than the 90% needed for a bomb
  • Iran will be required to reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium from 10,000 kg to 300 kg.
  • Iran fulfills initial commitments by Oct, IAEA inspects by Dec, and only then do sanctions start to be lifted
  • A panel of 7 nations plus the EU votes periodically on if Iran is complying, the US has a veto
  • Formerly secret sites Natanz and Fordow can be used, but only Natanz for enrichment. Fordow only for research.
  • Arak will be rebuilt to only make energy grade plutonium.
  • IAEA inspectors will have full access to Iran's nuclear sites, uranium mines and mills, centrifuge factories, and supply chains and managed access to certain military sites. It will monitor dual-use technologies. It can access "suspicious sites."

The Iran nuclear deal, explained in fewer than 500 words is also really good. The Guardian has their own description of the deal complete with bullet points, Iran nuclear deal: world powers reach historic agreement to lift sanctions. Wonkblog has 13 charts and maps that make the Iran deal a little easier to understand

Monkey Cage points out, The Iran deal reflects the U.S.’s overwhelming power over the world’s financial system. Apparently the deal will limit international sanctions, US secondary sanctions, but not US primary sanctions.

The sanctions program against Iran was supported by the United Nations. The U.S. engaged in an extended diplomatic effort to get the UN Security Council to sign up to extensive sanctions against Iran. It also succeeded in getting the European Union to impose tougher sanctions against Iran, to the chagrin of European energy companies.

However, the willingness of the U.S. to impose “secondary sanctions” against non-U.S. firms that did business with Iran was arguably just as important. In a series of actions, the U.S. has imposed hundreds of millions of dollars in fines on financial institutions dealing with Iran. The European Union also required SWIFT–a key intermediary in all financial transactions–to cut Iranian financial institutions out of its system. Together, these steps effectively froze the Iranian economy out of the world financial system.

Glenn Greenwald of course presents the Iranians' View of the Nuclear Deal: Optimistic, With Significant Caveats. "The optimistic Iranian view is grounded in the expectation that the deal will usher in a normalization of relations between Iran and the west, lifting both the sanctions regime and the threat of war."

"Expectations among ordinary Iranians are very high: they expect substantial economic improvement, and if that fails to materialize, [Hooshang] Amirahmadi sees a likelihood of serious political instability which 'could go in a terrible direction for Iran.'"

Ezra Klein talked with Ian Bremmer on why the Iran deal is about much more than nuclear weapons. While he thinks there will be some compliance issues to resolve, he thinks it's better than no deal because the current sanctions would have eroded and our threat of war with Iran was weakening (because who wants that?) and because the Russians, Chinese and Europeans wanted an even softer deal. Also there are two aspects that for political reasons the administration can't come out and talk about. The extra oil will bring down prices and hurt OPEC which is good, and a stronger Iranian economy participating on the world stage might hurt the Iranian regime.

Regarding oil prices, Ed Kilgore refers to a WSJ article and points out Iranian Oil Will Undercut Prices. "Yes, as sanctions are lifted against Iran its oil production for export will resume (they were cut in half when sanctions were first imposed), and what is already a global market surplus will get larger, undercutting prices." So that's bad for oil companies and good for everyone else. Vox has more details on how quickly (or rather slowly) this might happen, What the Iran nuclear deal means for oil prices.

Zack Beauchamp found 2 tweets that explain the real debate over the Iran deal. "So that's the debate. Deal supporters think the deal, as is, is the only realistic alternative to war or a nuclear-capable Iran; opponents think the deal makes a nuclear Iran more likely and that war is a preferable alternative. This is a debate about the big pictures, not the details."

To put the anti-deal side in perspective, as Bremmer said, after Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria, war Iran is obviously less desirable for the US and a harder sell, so it's less of a deterrent. With the international coalition weakening in their support of sanctions, we had fewer and fewer options. The Economist had this chart which really put the effect of Stuxnet on their centrifuges in perspective.


As for conservative opposition to this deal, Matthew Yglesias points out Conservatives have opposed every diplomatic breakthrough for decades. As an example he shows a 1988 conservative ad that compared Ronald Reagan to Neville Chamberlain regarding the INF treat with Gorbachev! He points out many examples to make this point, "Conservatives don't believe in talking to your enemies."

Ed Kilgore points to Two Takes on the Iran Deal.

This seems like a great analysis of options and why Republicans hate this deal. Why Republicans Are So Mad About Obama's Nuclear Deal With Iran.

Kevin Drum suggests wisely, Maybe We Should All Read the Iran Deal Before We Take a Stand On It. "In the meantime, it looks like a decent agreement to me after a first look at the deal outline—certainly better than doing nothing and letting Iran build a bomb whenever it wants, anyway. But I'll wait to see what nuclear experts have to say before I go any further. A few days won't kill me." I'm in the same boat, though from what I remember from nuclear experts a few months ago, the inspection regime is way better than they were expecting.

The LHC Has Discovered a New Sub-Atomic Particle Called a Pentaquark

The LHC Has Discovered a New Sub-Atomic Particle Called a Pentaquark "For a long time, people have speculated that another class of quark ensemble, called the pentaquark, could in theory exist. The pentaquark is, perhaps unsurprisingly, supposed to be made up of five smaller entities—four quarks and an anti-quark. Now, for the first time, researchers working on the LHCb experiment at the Collider have found evidence for their existence."

Ruth Bader Ginsburg at Harvard

A few weeks ago I attended Radcliffe Day at Harvard. They gave an award to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and she was there to accept it and it was open to the public. In the morning was a panel discussion about the Robert's court and during a luncheon was a interview with Justice Ginsburg (with an introduction by Justice Souter). I waited to post this until the video was up. Here's the Panel Video and here's the RBG Video.

Below are my notes from the day. There were some prepared case studies handed out and I've included the text and links to web pages describing some of the mentioned cases. It was a fun day.

I was far in the back for the interview,

IMG 2817 500

but afterwards as I was waiting for a tour to start, she walked right by me.

IMG 2820 500

Morning Panel

“A Decade of Decisions and Dissents: The Roberts Court, from 2005 to Today,”

Moderated by Margaret H. Marshall EdM ’69, the former chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts and a senior research fellow and lecturer on law at Harvard Law School.

The Roberts Court and Congress

by John Manning - Bruce Bromley Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

Case Study

National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius (2012)

In National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, 132 S. Ct. 2566 (2012), the Roberts Court upheld the so-called “individual mandate” in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The individual mandate required Americans either to maintain a minimum level of health insurance or to pay a fee or penalty to the IRS. The individual mandate worked in tandem with another key element of the ACA. Because the ACA required insurers to cover individuals with preexisting conditions, healthy individuals could (if left to their own devices) defer buying insurance until they got ill. The individual mandate addressed this potential free-rider problem in the interstate insurance market. The question before the Court was whether Congress had the constitutional authority to compel individuals to purchase insurance.

The Court split into two 5–4 majorities, with Chief Justice Roberts supplying the deciding vote for each. In an opinion joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, Chief Justice Roberts sustained the individual mandate as a proper exercise of Congress’s taxing power. The other 5–4 majority, however, better captures the Court’s approach to issues around federalism and separation of powers. In a solo opinion by Chief Justice Roberts and a joint dissent by Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito, a second majority found that Congress could not use the Commerce Clause—the broadest and most basic of its powers—to compel individuals to enter a stream of commerce.

Although the Constitution gives Congress primary authority to implement all constitutional powers, the second 5–4 majority gave no deference to Congress’s judgment about how to address a free-rider problem in a conceitedly interstate market. No constitutional text or tradition precluded Congress’s approach. Rather, a “lack of historical precedent” for such an approach was the “most telling” indication of a problem. Upholding the individual mandate under the Commerce Clause, moreover, would give Congress too much power in a federal system, perhaps even enabling it to compel bad eaters “to buy vegetables”—a result the Framers could not have countenanced. In contrast with the Court’s deferential post–New Deal approach to regulatory issues, the Roberts Court has displaced acts of Congress based on its own independent judgment about indeterminate federalism and separation of powers values.


  • Upheld Obamacare individual mandate
    1. valid as a tax - Roberts and the liberal justices
    2. not valid under commerce clause - was Roberts alone but conservative justices agreed -They said ACA created commerce didn't regulate it.
  • But there is big interstate commerce on healthcare
  • Allowing congress to regulate inaction would expand powers
  • Not what framers foresaw, but the framers didn't foresee lots in this world and gave power to congress to that end
  • Necessary and proper clause

The Roberts Court and Race

by Linda Greenhouse - Knight Distinguished Journalist-in-Residence and Joseph Goldstein Lecturer in Law, Yale Law School, and former Supreme Court correspondent, the New York Times

Case Study

Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 (2007)

“Parents Involved” was an early Roberts Court decision that invoked the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection to invalidate two public-school student-assignment plans that were aimed at preserving not racial segregation but racial integration.

The school systems were those of Louisville, Kentucky, and Seattle, Washington—cities with very different histories. Both had achieved a measure of integration as the result of federal court orders. They sought to preserve integration in the face of housing patterns that threatened their hard-won gains and adopted plans to take the preservation of racial balance into account when granting a family’s school assignment or transfer requests. Federal appeals courts upheld both plans, decisions the Supreme Court overturned by a vote of 5–4.

According to Chief Justice Roberts’s opinion for the Court, the constitutional flaw in both plans was that they involved the same kind of “racial classification” that the Court had invalidated in Brown v. Board of Education. The school districts’ “worthy goal does not mean they are free to discriminate on the basis of race to achieve it,” he wrote, in an opinion joined by Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito.

Justice Kennedy, providing the crucial fifth vote to declare the plans unconstitutional, refused to sign the Roberts opinion, declaring it simplistic and too dismissive of the history of the cities’ efforts to overcome the legacy of segregation. Justice Kennedy said that while the districts’ “compelling interest” was clear, they should have tried more narrowly tailored means of combating racial isolation.

The dissenting opinions were vigorous. Justice Stevens accused the chief justice of rewriting Brown v. Board of Education, not honoring it. In trying to preserve integration, Louisville and Seattle “do not impose burdens on one race alone and do not stigmatize or exclude,” he said. Justice Breyer, whose dissenting opinion was joined by Justices Stevens, Souter, and Ginsburg, said the Court was ignoring facts, history, and what he called “the moral vision that the Fourteenth Amendment itself embodies.”


  • An activist decision
    • there was no lower court conflict
    • similar case came up just before Roberts (w/ Sandra Day O'Connor) and wasn't granted cert
    • "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."
    • Schools wanted to preserve achieved racial integration
    • Roberts said there was no "compelling interest" in counting race
    • Kennedy said was compelling interest but plan wasn't narrowly tailored
    • Roberts could have just used Kennedy's argument but Roberts wanted to say what he wanted to say, ergo activism
    • Not sure we'd see smae behavior fom Roberts today

  • Sotomayor dissent in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action 2013 played on Robert's language:

    • The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination.

  • The 14th Amendment didn't say we had to be color blind and was written by racists, so originalists don't have an argument

Race and the Supreme Court: What the Schuette decision reveals about how we talk about race.

The Roberts Court and Access To Justice

by Lauren Sudeall Lucas - Assistant Professor of Law, Georgia State University

Case Study

Ashcroft v. Iqbal (2009)

In the wake of 9/11, the federal government detained thousands of Muslim men across the United States. One of those men was Javaid Iqbal, a Pakistani Muslim man who was arrested and held on immigration charges. Iqbal was detained under maximum-security conditions, where he claimed he was subject to abuse as a result of his religion and national origin. In its 2009 decision, Ashcroft v. Iqbal, the Roberts Court did not rule on the constitutionality of Iqbal’s treatment while detained. Instead, the decision focused on whether the accusations detailed in Iqbal’s complaint met the requirements for bringing a lawsuit in federal court.

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require a complaint to provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” In 1957 the Court had held that in applying this fairly lenient standard, a court should consider the plaintiff’s allegations as true “unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.” In 2007 the Roberts Court toughened the pleading requirements in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, requiring plaintiffs in antitrust cases to plead enough facts “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”

Writing for the majority in Iqbal, Justice Kennedy—joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito—made clear that Twombly’s “plausibility” standard would apply in all civil cases.

In doing so, the Court provided lower courts with greater judicial discretion, requiring them to draw on “judicial experience and common sense” in making such a subjective determination. Justices Souter and Breyer authored dissents challenging the majority’s interpretation of Twombly. Justices Stevens and Ginsburg joined Justice Souter’s dissent, confirming the view expressed in their Twombly dissent that the Federal Rules were designed “not to keep litigants out of court but rather to keep them in.”

Under the Iqbal standard, the Court held that Iqbal’s complaint failed to plead sufficient facts to support his claims. Although media coverage of the case focused on its relation to the September 11 attacks, Iqbal has much greater significance for its potential to obstruct plaintiffs bringing a wide range of federal claims—including discrimination claims and civil rights violations—from ever having their day in court.


  • Standing claim of Muslim detainee
  • Applied Twombly 2007 standard to all civil cases
  • Iqbal became widely cited
  • Souter wrote Twombly and dissent in Iqbal
  • Cited lots of stats about how many fewer cases are making it to court
  • Not a constitutional question, Congress could overturn with statute

Supreme Court Ruling Altered Civil Suits, to Detriment of Individuals

Greenhouse: Roberts court mixed on standing, ignores it when it wants to rule on merits

Michael Klarman - Kirkland & Ellis Professor, Harvard Law School

The Roberts court is the most pro-Chamber of Commerce court in history

Framers had a very narrow view of 1st Amendment. Even the Sedition Act wasn't unconstitutional. So Originalism fails Citizens United

Term Limits

  • class of his came up with a plan: 18 year staggered terms
  • solves a lot of problems:
    • presidents picking younger justices
    • justices picking when to leave,
    • clumping of openings

  • places that adapt our system, don't adapt lifetime terms
  • of states, only RI has lifetime terms for judges

On Being RBG Clerk

Entered Harvard in 1956, one of 9 women from a class of 500, couldn't live in dorms or eat in dining hall. Dean had women over for dinner once and asked why they came to HLS taking the spot of a man. RBG hadn't been prepared for the question but since her husband at the time was a second year HLS student she said she thought it was important that a woman understand her husband's work.

In the 70s she was very busy with work and had a 10 year old son. She got several calls from his school about his behavior. Eventually she told them the child has two parents and suggested they alternate calls between them. The calls stopped because the school wouldn't dream of bothering an important tax attorney at his work.

Luncheon Notes

David Souter

Her first day on the court, Souter sat between her and Scalia. Both Souter and Scalia were aggressive questioners. She beat both of them to the first question and then kept that up. Scalia leaned over to Souter and whispered "You and I may have asked our last question on the court"

"I can't reserve caution in my delight of Ruth"

RBG and Souter voted alike more than any other two justices. More than Scalia and Thomas

Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Kathleen Sullivan

Reed v. Reed (1971)

Sally Reed of Idaho. Divorced, one son, lived with his father, though she fought for custody arguing he would be a bad influence. Turns out she was right, the son, using one of the father's guns committed suicide. She wanted to administer the estate. Idaho law said all things being equal, choose a man over a woman. A perfect test case. "The Supreme Court ruled for the first time in Reed v. Reed that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibited differential treatment based on sex."

Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld (1975)

Stephen Wiesenfeld was a widower, his wife was earner but he was denied social security benefits. Unanimous decision but based on different reasoning:

  1. Discriminated against the mother who paid taxes but didn't get the same benefit to her family
  2. Discriminated against the father who wanted to raise child
  3. Renquist said discriminated against child for being denied right to be raised by either parent. First time he ruled against a lwa based on equal protection clause.

Court should not get ahead of public opinion. Roe v. Wade could have ruled just against the Texas law (which allowed abortion only to save the life of the mother, not the health), but it overturned all abortion laws, even liberal ones. So the pro-choice people went home having won and the pro-life people now had a single target to fight.

Scalia/Ginsburg Opera. Some people have complained about the order of the names, since alphabetically she should be first, but the court is based on seniority so it's proper for Scalia to be first. In the plot, Scalia is in a dungeon for excessive dissenting and she comes to his rescue breaking through a glass ceiling.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Top 10 fastest man made objects ever

I'm not sure when this was posted but here's the Top 10 fastest man made objects ever.

It appears Boston’s last snow farm has finally melted

How bad was Boston's winter? The snow lasted until July 13th! It appears Boston’s last snow farm has finally melted

"The apparent melting would make today the winner in the city contest asking people to guess when the snow will melt. However, when asked if July 13 would be declared the victor, a spokesperson for Mayor Walsh’s office said, “Not yet,” and sent along a photo of what appears to be a patch of dirt-encrusted ice at the snow farm scene."

Java and Flash both vulnerable—again—to new 0-day attacks

Java and Flash both vulnerable—again—to new 0-day attacks | Ars Technica "nternet users should take renewed caution when using both Adobe Flash and Oracle's Java software framework; over the weekend, three previously unknown critical vulnerabilities that could be used to surreptitiously install malware on end-user computers were revealed in Flash and Java. The Java vulnerability is significant because attackers are actively exploiting it in an attempt to infect members of NATO."

"The two Flash vulnerabilities were unearthed late last week in the 400-gigabyte dump taken from Hacking Team, the Italian spyware developer that was breached eight days ago. The two zero-day flaws, designated CVE-2015-5122 and CVE-2015-5123, are in addition to a separate previously unknown Flash vulnerability found by Hacking Team that Adobe patched on Wednesday. The currently unpatched vulnerabilities reside in the Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux versions of the most recent versions of Flash and allow attackers to remotely execute malicious code."

I'm guessing this is why Facebook's new chief security officer wants to set a date to kill Flash.

Flying By Pluto

Tomorrow the New Horizons spacecraft will pass by Pluto. Emily Lakdawalla has a bunch of info: What to expect when you're expecting a flyby: Planning your July around New Horizons' Pluto Pictures

For an image, this is the best view we have (and will have for the foreseeable future) of the far side of Pluto:


Update: In Focus has pictures of The Voyage of New Horizons: Jupiter, Pluto, and Beyond.

Friday, July 10, 2015

NYSE Explains Why It Went Down Wednesday

Time reports NYSE Explains Why It Went Down Wednesday. It was a botched software upgrade.

Ad Networks and Video Piracy

iMore is a site that writes about Apple tech. I've gone back and forth if I care for it, but many people do. One thing that seems the case, it has really intrusive ads on the site. Recently, as a result of iOS Safari Extension extensions enabling content blockers on that platform for the first time, some Apple followers have written about the utility of cleaning up some sites with egregious ads and sited iMore as a prime example (I believe the term was "shit-ass"). iMore responded with a good post describing the state of ads and financing for sites such as theirs Content blockers, bad ads, and what we're doing about it.

"Dean's right, Nick's right, and John's right. Of course they are. As I said in the original response, I know that, you know that, and everyone working at iMore and our parent network, Mobile Nations, knows that. Ads in and of themselves aren't bad, and can indeed provide a service where everyone wins, which is why so many sites and so many mediums employ them. But many of the ads—and the services that deliver them—suck. We all know that."

"Currently, ads pay the bills at iMore and Mobile Nations. That hasn't always been the case. Back in the heyday of TreoCentral and CrackBerry, accessory and app sales provided significant revenue. So much so that, for a while, we had zero ads. Now that app stores are built into the operating systems, phone cases are available at every mall kiosk, and sells gear at steep discounts, that revenue has largely gone away."

While we sell premium ads directly to advertisers, that only fills a small subset of the required "inventory" to support the network. Some 85% of ads we served last month were "programmatic"—provided by ad exchanges like Google Adx and Appnexus. Those exchanges are pretty much black boxes. We get a tag, we insert it, and ads appear.

We also have no ability to screen ad exchange ads ahead of time; we get what they give us. We can and have set policies, for example, to disallow autoplay video or audio ads. But we get them anyway, even from Google. Whether advertisers make mistakes or try to sneak around the restrictions and don't get caught, we can't tell. It happens, though, all the time.

When bad ads appear, we report them and ask that they be disabled. Since different people in different geographies see different ads, it can be a challenge to identify them, and it can take a while to get them pulled. It's a horrible process for everyone involved.

There's much more in the article and it's well worth a read. Basically these sites have outsourced their revenue to a third party and have no control over it anymore. You'd think a third party specializing in ads would be able to concentrate on just that and do it well (that's the outsourcing rationale) but of course, they have their own goals and they may be different than yours.

Another Internet problem is a new term for me, "freebooting". Slate describes, Facebook's Privacy Problem. "Freebooting: Stolen YouTube videos going viral on Facebook"

The problem was that Sandlin had never posted it to Facebook, and the version of it that appeared in millions of users’ News Feeds overnight wasn’t his. Rather, a British lads’ magazine called Zoo had apparently downloaded (or “ripped”) his video from YouTube, edited it to strip out references to Sandlin and his SmarterEveryDay channel, and posted the edited version on its own page, using Facebook’s native video player. It was an instant sensation, garnering millions of views and a raft of new followers for Zoo’s page. Sandlin, who puts some of the revenue from his YouTube videos toward his kids’ college fund, got nothing. (Zoo’s parent company, Bauer Media, declined to comment for this story.)

The article goes on to describe how Facebook and Google deal with copyright enforcement and how Facebook is basically attacking YouTube (which plays ads in front of videos to generate revenue) to gain marketshare (so that in the future they can monetize viral videos).

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

What's The Best Medium For A Storyteller In 2015 And Beyond?

Hugh Hancock has a very interesting piece, What's The Best Medium For A Storyteller In 2015 And Beyond?.

  • Feature Films - "The phrase I keep hearing about filmmaking is "there's never been a better time to get your movie made, and never been a worse time to get anyone to watch it"."
  • Television And Webseries - "Televison's a refugee camp right now, where half of the hollow-eyed survivors wandering around in a daze are absent-mindedly clutching Oscars." "And thanks to the brain-drain from film, there's no shortage of really well-known people with serious portfolios eager to get their series made. That means that it's at least as hard to break in as it ever was for a newbie. "
  • Games - like film, dev tools are advancing and cheap (free), but distribution (getting noticed) is hard.
  • Prose - "is interesting because it's the only one of the artforms I'm discussing here that has gone through a revolution in distribution but not in creation." and people are willing to pay for self-published content.
  • Virtual Reality - "The new frontier". Early adopter market but there is some money available there, but no one knows how to tell a story yet.
  • Comics - "They're about halfway between film and prose in terms of revolution of creation." "And in terms of distribution, it turns out that comics are very well suited to the Internet as a form of delivery."

The article has a lot more detail and speculation than I summarize above. Well worth a read.

Harry Shearer returning to The Simpsons

Entertainment Weekly reports Harry Shearer returning to The Simpsons. Whew.

Shearer has signed the same contract as did the other five primary voice actors—Dan Castellaneta, Yeardley Smith, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, and Hank Azaria—keeping the show’s original cast fully intact, EW has learned. These deals, which run for four seasons (including a network option for seasons 29 and 30), are estimated at more than $300,000 per episode. Fox recently renewed The Simpsons for a 27th and 28th season, which will bring its episode tally to 625.

Code Specialists Oppose U.S. and British Government Access to Encrypted Communication

Code Specialists Oppose U.S. and British Government Access to Encrypted Communication

"On Tuesday, the group — 13 of the world’s pre-eminent cryptographers, computer scientists and security specialists — will release the paper, which concludes there is no viable technical solution that would allow the American and British governments to gain ‘exceptional access’ to encrypted communications without putting the world’s most confidential data and critical infrastructure in danger."

Monday, July 06, 2015

Zero for 40 at Predicting Attacks: Why Do Media Still Take FBI Terror Warnings Seriously?

Zero for 40 at Predicting Attacks: Why Do Media Still Take FBI Terror Warnings Seriously? "On Monday, several mainstream media outlets repeated the latest press release by the FBI that country was under a new 'heightened terror alert' from 'ISIL-inspired attacks' 'leading up to the July 4th weekend.' "

The threat was given extra credence when former CIA director—and consultant at DC PR firm Beacon Global Strategies—Michael Morell went on CBS This Morning (6/29/15) and scared the ever-living bejesus out of everyone by saying he “wouldn’t be surprised if we were sitting [in the studio] next week discussing an attack on the US.” The first piece of evidence Morell used to justify his apocalyptic posture, the “50 ISIS arrests,” was accompanied by a scary map on the CBS jumbotron showing “ISIS arrests” all throughout the US:

But one key detail is missing from this graphic: None of these “ISIS arrests” involved any actual members of ISIS, only members of the FBI—and their network of informants—posing as such. (The one exception being the man arrested in Arizona, who, while having no contact with ISIS, was also not prompted by the FBI.) So even if one thinks the threat of “lone wolf” attacks is a serious one, it cannot be said these are really “ISIS arrests.” Perhaps on some meta-level, it shows an increase of “radicalization,” but it’s impossible to distinguish between this and simply more aggressive sting operations by the FBI.

Saturday, July 04, 2015