Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Score!!


Literally! I got > 160 on the LSAT.

I am quite pleased with this result.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Astute, as always


Doug Merrill, over at A Fistful of Euros, wins game, set, and match on Bush v. Dean:

"Former Vermont governor Howard Dean stands on the brink of a remarkable achievement in American politics, having transformed himself from rank obscurity to clear favorite for his party's presidential nomination. But rarely has a front-runner begun an election year with as many questions swirling around him as the man who rewrote the rules in presidential politics the past 12 months."
Coming from someone whose profession is supposed to be reporting on American politics, the second sentence is rankest stupidity.
For confirmation, look no further than the challenger from the party out of power four years ago. No primaries had been held, but GW Bush was a front-runner who had rewritten the rules of presidential politics, and he had an enormous number of questions swirling about him. And they were far more serious than those swirling around Gov. Dean right now: Bush was an admitted alcoholic until the time he turned 40; he was governor of Texas, a post the quirks of history left with far less political power than the state's Lieutenant governor; he had a poor record of convincing people to do his bidding; most of his career involved questionable business deals that traded on his name. None of that, of course, kept him from the White House.

...
...tagging Dean as someone who rewrote the rules is actually an astute observazion [my emphasis -- Sid], maybe even the most important one he could possibly make. Because rewriting the rules is precisely what GW Bush did in 2000, what Bill Clinton did in 1992, what GHW Bush did in 1988, what Ronald Reagan did in 1980, and what Jimmy Carter did in 1976, which is about as far back as my political memory reaches. If Dean really is rewriting the rules, then he is exercising the single most important presidential skill: dominating the national agenda.



Sunday, December 28, 2003

Life and all that Crap


It's occurred to me I've been posting a lot of politics and not much else. This is unlikely to change in the immediate future, as to say I care passionately about getting some change in the executive branch ASAP, rolling back some of the recent affronts to my civil liberties, and protecting the voting process, merely to mention three items off the top of my head, would be an understatement of such magnitude as to border on untruth.

However. I *do* have a life.

Point the First: The novel is in stagnant water. I suspect the last 20% will be the hardest to actually *write*. And that's not counting the excruiciating re-writing to come.
Point the Second: I'm working a contract for requirements and system analysis up in LA. This will cut into my rant time, what with the long commute, but it's not driving me crazy yet. Get it? Driving me crazy? Commute? Ha ha ha. I crack me up. This gig has no coding, which is both odd, and rather a treat. It's been much easier to leave the work at work, so far. And working for Hot Topic is simply the end. Yep. Relentlessly untrendy me, working for Hot Topic. One of life's little ironies. I'm listening to audio tapes of Lincoln's Prose and Lincoln's Letters on the drive home at the moment. Yes, Abraham Lincoln, the dead president. Him. He's not doing the reading himself. I definitely would like to get dead tree copies of his prose and letters.
Point the Third: My submission to the Writer's of the Future contest from last year has apparently been stuck in a box somewhere and only recently emerged into the light of day. It is now submitted for this quarter's contest. I am not exactly 'pleased' with this turn of events, although "lost" is a step up from "so bad you didn't warrant a letter telling you how bad it is".
Point the Fourth: The Christmas gifts were well received, so far as I can tell. Meinen Bruder has not been in touch.
Point the Fifth: I haven't sold a single story this year, dammit! The novel-as-excuse can only work for so long! But I did a rewrite on "Song of the Ghost Ship" and sent it...um...somewhere. I think it's quite improved, and I was pretty happy with it to begin with.
Point the Sixth: Parental types are coming down for New Year's Eve. Should be fun. We had a *fantastic* meal Christmas day, I've no idea if I can top it. Which reminds me...must email maternal relative recipe for pickled ginger.

That's everything I can think of at the moment.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Yep, America


Fascism, Anyone? by Dr. Lawrence Britt.

Read it.
Soot Matters


Soot 'makes global warming worse'

The effects of soot in changing the climate are more than most scientists acknowledge, two US researchers say.
In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they say reducing atmospheric soot levels could help to slow global warming relatively simply.
They believe soot is twice as potent as carbon dioxide, a main greenhouse gas, in raising surface air temperatures.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Saddam's Capture


This is good news. I'm genuinely surprised, but it's good news. I wonder what the spin on this will be -- I mean, Bush can't continue linking Saddam's name and the Sept 11, 2001 attacks like before we invaded. Can he?
Ebola


WHO WER and Epidemiological Bulletin E.Mail subscription service

Item(s)published on World Wide Web
http://www.who.int/csr/don

Ebola haemorrhagic fever in the Republic of the Congo - update 5
12 December 2003
Disease Outbreak Reported

As of 11 December, the Ministry of Health of the Republic of the Congo has reported a total of 31 probable cases, including 29 deaths, of Ebola haemorrhagic fever (EHF) in Mbomo District, Cuvette Ouest Department (see previous report http://www.who.int/csr/don/2003_12_03/en/). Other suspect cases are still under investigation. Forty-seven contacts are being followed up.

Surveillance and social mobilization activities are continuing.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

You Know You've Arrived When


You're in Snopes.

To some people, even-handed means "just and fair". To others, apparently, it means "anti-Israel".

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Electronic Voting in Ireland


(via Crooked Timber)

Electronic Voting in Ireland: A Threat to Democracy?

Electronic Voting


The Internet Rights Forum ("Le Forum des droits sur l'internet") published recommendations about the future of electronic voting in France:

the report.
Are Police Constitutional?


ARE COPS CONSTITUTIONAL?

Police work is often lionized by jurists and scholars who claim to employ "textualist" and "originalist" methods of constitutional interpretation. Yet professional police were unknown to the United States in 1789, and first appeared in America almost a half-century after the Constitution's ratification. The Framers contemplated law enforcement as the duty of mostly private citizens, along with a few constables and sheriffs who could be called upon when necessary. This article marshals extensive historical and legal evidence to show that modern policing is in many ways inconsistent with the original intent of America's founding documents. The author argues that the growth of modern policing has substantially empowered the state in a way the Framers would regard as abhorrent to their foremost principles.


Read it.

Huh. I must admit the question never crossed my mind.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Gore Endorses Dean


Gore to Endorse Dean

Gore. The man has bloomed, really, into the role of wise elder, statesman emeritus -- who understands politics but doesn't have to bow to it anymore.

He's going to leave the kind of impact on our politics, our political morality, that will have historians writing books for 100 years.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

The Blogsphere Ecosystem


Cool.

The Blogsphere Ecosystem at The Truth Laid Bear. (The scan this app performs is only on a blog's main page, btw...)

That's just...cool. I added my blog to the ecosystem and got 'sorted' -- the distribution ranges from higher being to insignificant microbe. I came up Wiggly Worm.

Pretty self-explanatory, don't you think?

And the WMDI -- Weblog MetaData Initiative seems very interesting.

Of course, I found all this because the ecosystem is what wizbang is using for categorizing awards, and I was looking at the group titles saying to myself, WTF is 'Best Ecosystem Slimy Molluscs Blog'?

Letter from an Angry Army Vet


Letter from an Army vet (Salon.com)

A disabled Vietnam-era vet visits a Minneapolis V.A. hospital and discovers that many fellow vets oppose the Bush administration's war in Iraq.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Remind Us


You know all those lists bloggers and journalists post of the reasons the Bush Administration stated for us to invade Iraq? This is visual and about 10 times more effective:

Remind Us (Shockwave, 1130K)
Out and Out Bribery


Who Tried To Bribe Rep. Smith?

On the House floor, Nick Smith was told business interests would give his son $100,000 in return for his father's vote. When he still declined, fellow Republican House members told him they would make sure Brad Smith never came to Congress. After Nick Smith voted no and the bill passed, [Rep.] Duke Cunningham of California and other Republicans taunted him that his son was dead meat.


Where is the NY Times, page 1, above the fold, banner headline: "House Threatens Members"? Where is it? Where?

*peers closely*

Did I miss it?

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Jessica Lynch and Finger-Pointing


Intel Dump explains how Elaine Donnelly in National Review got it wrong blaming PFC Lynch's capture on "Clinton-era" reforms of positions open to women that had nothing to do with Lynch's presence in a battle situation.

He makes 3 salient points in response to Donnelly:

1. "PFC Lynch's supply clerk billet would have been open to women in 1990 for Gulf War I. PFC Lynch was not a front-line position, such as that in the 3rd Military Police Company or 1-227 Aviation (Attack) -- two units where women fought as MP soldiers and Apache helicopter pilots respectively. Instead, she held a supply clerk position in a rear area logistics unit where the risk of combat was thought to be low." Clinton-era reforms of 1994 had nothing to do that position being considered a valid one for women.
2. Her company, the 507th Maintenance, was in harm's way because rear-area security was ineffective.
3. Her company, the 507th Maintenance, was not prepared for combat. (Probably in direct connection to #1.)

His solution? The right one: "Make every soldier a rifleman". Train even rear-area support services for front-line fighting. Train everyone, and keep that training up. Because, amazing as this may seem to us civvies, you cannot plan for everything. Why, your rear area may be overrun, for example.

So take a tip from the Boy Scouts and be prepared.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

One down, how many to go?


I finished The Sweater™ for my dad, binding off the ribbing on the second sleeve this morning while watching MTV (or was it VH-1? At 7 in the morning, they still show actual music videos, did you know that?), before heading off for some volunteer work I do every Tuesday.

It's a creamy colored gansey* worked in pretty run-of-the-mill yarn too thick for a properly traditional gansey, but I wanted to finish something complex before spending gobs of money on finer yarn and well, I started this project with only three completed sweaters under my belt, and I didn't want to risk 'wasting' money at the time when I started this one.

I have no qualms in that department now. :-) I can knit sweaters, by Jove!

Next up, finish a scarf for my brother. If I have time, throw out a hat or two, but that doesn't have to be finished by Christmas. I should have plenty of knitting time when I report next week for jury duty.


[*] A British fisherman's sweater -- not to be confused with the Aran, an Irish fisherman's sweater -- those are the ones known so well for their intricate cabling. The gansey or jersey is (generally) constructed differently and designs are frequently in horizontal panels across the body, rather than being vertically oriented work. Trust me, they're different beasts. It's OK.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Central News is Good News!


U.S. 'News': Is Anyone Watching the Iraqi Media Network?, by Cynthia Cotts.

I'm going to touch on something Cotts doesn't:

You know how when you're working somewhere and a new management team comes in and spends beacoup bucks restructuring everything they way they think it should be and all the money goes into that and production grinds to a halt because no one can actually do any work because they're stuck "transitioning" between two systems and using both at once and that takes too much time plus stuff falls through the cracks all the time and if the new mgrs had just examined the existing system and co-opted it, people could have just working and things wouldn't be in such disarray for days/weeks/months/heaven forbid, years?

Does anyone else feel like that about the U.S. and Iraq? It's like, every time you turn around, there's my government, re-inventing the wheel rather than use the perfectly good one that other organizations have ready and waiting.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

'Monstrous U.S. Justice'


'Monstrous US justice' attacked by law lord

Lord Steyn, a serving law lord, said the United States was acting illegally by holding the men without trial since their transfer from Afghanistan early last year.

"By denying the prisoners the right to raise challenges in a court about their alleged status and treatment, the United States government is in breach of the minimum standards of customary international law," he said.

"...Ought our government to make plain publicly and unambiguously our condemnation of the utter lawlessness at Guantanamo Bay?"



Yes. Mine, too.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

New Rant at 3rd WWWave


The 3rdWWWave of Feminism

(Said rant is from a week or so ago, I just forgot to mention it). Go look at "Replies to the News".
Dear Santa


Please bring me for Christmas (not in order):

Yarn for a Booga Bag! (click here for details)
Anything off my Amazon wishlist (linked in the nav elements to the left for your convenience, Santa!)
More spiffy 1" cone incense from Incense Galore (I'm particularly fond of moroccan tea, 'tree' scents like fir or cedar, 'spice' scents like licorice or vanilla, and sandalwood)
A small (< 6) selection of quality cigars
Money with which to buy groceries
Self-governance, peace, and liberty for Iraq and her people
Medicare


I have one remark from last nights presidential campaign debate in Iowa, and then a comment about the legislation.

1. Someone brought up the fact that Medicare had been originally intended as a safety net. My question then, is this: should it stay a safety net, or become something else (and if, so, what, exactly)?

A safety net is designed to catch someone falling from a problem elsewhere - like, say, not enough retirement income to pay for medical needs. Maybe in order to 'fix' Medicare (reduce associated costs), what is necessary is to improve citizen's retirement savings, and maybe reduce healthcare costs overall[*].

2. According to NPR's Morning Edition, this legislation was roughly 650 pages in length, and fully released (for review) less than two weeks ago.



[*] I can think of a couple things immediately that warrant attention in that case: malpractice suits and insurance, and weighty HMOs.
Three-State Solution for Iraq?


In an editiorial today, Leslie H. Gelb proposes a Three-State Solution in Iraq.

I don't know. If Iraq has been a national entity since the 1960's, is it too late? That's two generations worth who have grown up identifying themselves as Iraqi.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Isolationism


My jaw actually dropped when I picked this up off Eschaton.


GEORGE Bush's administration has called on US companies in Britain to relocate jobs to America in an astonishing move that could trigger a major trade war.

US-based multinationals have been told they will receive compensation from American trade authorities if they cancel contracts in Britain and take jobs home, according to CBI director-general Digby Jones.

The allegations come only a day before Bush arrives in London for his controversial State visit and escalate the storm of protest he has already caused by slapping big protectionist tariffs on European steel imports.

[read more]

Yes, let's offend *even more* nations. C'mon, everybody! It'll be fun!



Friday, November 14, 2003

Whole Truth


Reproduced from the eDirect for Democrats Newsletter # 323:

9. Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War

The hour-long documentary film - entitled “Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War” which is beginning to circulate in the United States features two dozen interviewees who reveal how the pre-war intelligence record on Iraq showed virtually the opposite of the picture the administration painted to Congress, to US voters and to the world. They also reconstruct the way senior White House officials - notably Vice-President Dick Cheney - leaned on the CIA to find evidence that would fit a preordained set of conclusions. 11-9

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/story.jsp?story=461953

The film on DVD (or VHS) can be ordered from
https://secure.ctsg.com/truth_uncovered/contribute/DVD_Store.asp?ms=alternet ,
or from
http://www.buzzflashcom.bigstep.com/item.html?PRID=1417321


Thursday, November 13, 2003

Bring It On -- No! Run Away!


Terrorists? 'Bring it on'.
Vets for Peace? Run away!

What is wrong with this picture?

Anti-Iraq war veterans removed from parade

Members of Veterans For Peace and Vietnam Veterans Against the War were yanked off a downtown Tallahassee street, directly in front of the Old Capitol, while marching in the holiday parade they had legitimately registered in.


And what's this 'exclusion zone' business over Bush's London trip?

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Christian Debt Management?


I just got spam for 'professional counseling with a christian perspective' from Christian Debt Management.

I'm sorry, what? What is 'debt management from a christian perspective'?

If I pray hard enough, my loaves and fishes will *spoing* just multiply?

Is there a John the Baptist Mutual Fund I should putting my money into, or something?

Given our
  • 'I'm anointed by God' President Bush; and,
  • matching 'in the toilet' economy

...maybe christian debt management is not the way to go.


Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Bushwhacked



NYT Review of Books: Strictly Business

The point about the mining-waste ruling is that it isn't at all exceptional. Instead, it is typical of the Bush administration—in its callousness toward the general welfare, in the brazenness with which special interests were able to buy a decision to their liking, and in the contempt officials showed toward the public and the press. (Indeed, the ruling received only brief mention in the national press.) We're living in a replay of the Gilded Age, in which robber barons openly bought and sold government officials and their policies.


Best read the whole thing.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Secretary of Defense = LIAR


The Bush Administration two-step: lie, and lie again.

Rumsfeld retreats, disclaims earlier rhetoric

...on Feb. 20, a month before the invasion, Rumsfeld fielded a question about whether Americans would be greeted as liberators if they invaded Iraq.
"Do you expect the invasion, if it comes, to be welcomed by the majority of the civilian population of Iraq?" Jim Lehrer asked the defense secretary on PBS' "The News Hour."
"There is no question but that they would be welcomed," Rumsfeld replied, referring to American forces.
But on Sept. 25..."Never said that," he said. "Never did. You may remember it well, but you're thinking of somebody else..."


Remember kids: whenever one of these gits opens their mouth, expect falsehood. It's easier that way.

Bush Administration in a Nutshell


Nov 6 2003 Press Briefing with Scott McClellan

Q Scott, there are 17 former POWs from the first Gulf War who were tortured and filed suit against the regime of Saddam Hussein. And a judge has ordered that they are entitled to substantial financial damages. What is the administration's position on that? Is it the view of this White House that that money would be better spent rebuilding Iraq rather than going to these former POWs?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know that I view it in those terms, David. I think that the United States -- first of all, the United States condemns in the strongest terms the brutal torture to which these Americans were subjected. They bravely and heroically served our nation and made sacrifices during the Gulf War in 1991, and there is simply no amount of money that can truly compensate these brave men and women for the suffering that they went through at the hands of Saddam Hussein's brutal regime. That's what our view is.
Q But, so -- but isn't it true that this White House --
Q They think they're is an --
Q Excuse me, Helen -- that this White House is standing in the way of them getting those awards, those financial awards, because it views it that money better spent on rebuilding Iraq?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, there's simply no amount of money that can truly compensate these brave men and women for the suffering --
Q Why won't you spell out what your position is?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm coming to your question. Believe me, I am. Let me finish. Let me start over again, though. No amount of money can truly compensate these brave men and women for the suffering that they went through at the hands of a very brutal regime, at the hands of Saddam Hussein. It was determined earlier this year by Congress and the administration that those assets were no longer assets of Iraq, but they were resources required for the urgent national security needs of rebuilding Iraq. But again, there is simply no amount of compensation that could ever truly compensate these brave men and women.
Q Just one more. Why would you stand in the way of at least letting them get some of that money?
MR. McCLELLAN: I disagree with the way you characterize it.
Q But if the law that Congress passed entitles them to access frozen assets of the former regime, then why isn't that money, per a judge's order, available to these victims?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's why I pointed out that that was an issue that was addressed earlier this year. But make no mistake about it, we condemn in the strongest possible terms the torture that these brave individuals went through --
Q -- you don't think they should get money?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- at the hands of Saddam Hussein. There is simply no amount of money that can truly compensate those men and women who heroically served --
Q That's not the issue --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- who heroically served our nation.
Q Are you opposed to them getting some of the money?
MR. McCLELLAN: And, again, I just said that that had been addressed earlier this year.
Q No, but it hasn't been addressed. They're entitled to the money under the law. The question is, is this administration blocking their effort to access some of that money, and why?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't view it that way at all. I view it the way that I stated it, that this issue was --
Q But you are opposed to them getting the money.
MR. McCLELLAN: This issue was addressed earlier this year, and we believe that there's simply no amount of money that could truly compensate these brave men and women for what they went through and for the suffering that they went through at the hands of Saddam Hussein --
Q So no money.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- and that's my answer.


Dean Issues Forum


http://deanissuesforum.com/ (registration required)

The Dean Issues Forum is an all-volunteer board of 20+ "issue forums" including Dean's policies and issues pertaining to healthcare, education, labor, ethnic communities, seniors, young people, globalization, the economy, foreign relations, the environment, and gender in America.

Note: Not officially affiliated with the campaign.
Note: I am a moderator.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Gore's Civil Liberties Speech


The speech was sponsored by MoveOn.org and the American Constitution Society was webcast, available on some satellite channels, and broadcast on CSPAN.

It was a very good, I think, very important speech: Gore listed so many of the transgressions against citizen's liberties that have been committed in the name of 'safety', flatly condemned the Bush Administration for them, urged that 'enemy combatants' be accorded due process *immediately*, and that the Patriot Act be repealed.

Those are just the high points. Worth reading the transcript or getting a video copy from someone.

Webcast
Text of the speech as prepared
MoveOn.org
American Constitution Society

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Dean Campaign: The Tea is in The Harbor


Dean for America forgoes matching public funds

Friday Five


1. What food do you like that most people hate?

There's food people hate? I've enjoyed anchovies on my pizza.

2. What food do you hate that most people love?

There's food I hate?

Mmmm. I actually don't like super-sweet food. I love desserts yet tend to find them overwhelming. Too much sugar, all at once, makes me ill.

Any dessert on a restaurant menu labelled 'death by' or with the word 'ecstasy' or 'avalanche' in it will actively drive me away.

3. What famous person, whom many people may find attractive, is most unappealing to you?

All those actresses who are so thin they're cadaverous. Models, too.

4. What famous person, whom many people may find unappealing, do you find attractive?

Um. Er. No idea.

5. What popular trend baffles you?

All of them. I have conformity issues.

Seriously, the cult of celebrity, in general, reality TV, and the endless supersizing of meals in an obese America (though I'm not baffled by it, I feel I understand the source pretty well).

Oh, and the support of George W. Bush.

Friday, November 07, 2003

1 in 100 votes denied for candidate


Fairfax Judge Orders Logs Of Voting Machines Inspected

...county officials tested one of the machines in question yesterday and discovered that it seemed to subtract a vote for Thompson in about "one out of a hundred tries," said Margaret K. Luca, secretary of the county Board of Elections.

Same Sex Unions in Premodern Europe


So. The church used to marry guys. That pause was me, blinking.

Same Sex Unions in the Church. I gotta read Boswell's book, Same Sex Unions in Premodern Europe. This is fascinating.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Voyager I


Voyager Says Goodbye to Solar System

Here's the wonderful thing. This little craft blasted off in 1977, that's 26 years ago, is currently 90 times the distance from Earth to the Sun, and researchers still get data.
Election Law Violations in Mississippi


Today, poll 'watchers' in Mississippi took it upon themselves to

* position themselves behind the poll workers at the sign-in table, or at the table with those workers;
* videotape voters in [some] predominantly minority precincts of Lowndes County, in Mississippi;
* enter the polling booth, while a voter was using the booth, without an express invitation from the voter to join them.

Miss. Sec of State's letter re: Potental Violations of Election Laws

Pinched from TPM

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Hello, Draft Board?


Oiling Up The Draft Machine (Salon, November 3, 2003.)

Facism


Fascinating post (forwarded by CTM):

Facism Anyone? (Allegedly from Free Inquiry, Vol 22, #2, but I didn't find a copy when I looked.)

Fascisms[sp] principles are wafting in the air today, surreptitiously masquerading as something else, challenging everything we stand for. The clichi[sp] that people and nations learn from history is not only overused, but also overestimated; often we fail to learn from history, or draw the wrong conclusions. Sadly, historical amnesia is the norm.


Read the whole thing.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Yes, Virginia, it is all Bullshit


Politics and the English Language, George Orwell, 1946.

Political language -- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists -- is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.


So true.
Nail. Hammer. *Bang*


Open Your Eyes

It doesn't make a bit of difference what WE think is going on in Iraq, or how WE think it is going. All that matters is how and what the Iraqis think. And they think we suck.


Blueprint for a Mess
The Religious Right Goes After Scientists Individually


U.S.-paid research place under moral microscope

Swept into the storm were three researchers from Emory University whose names appear on the lists. While they don't blame the NIH for responding to conservatives' concerns, they worry that what they see as an attempt to impose religious values on scientific research could suppress important studies, potentially costing lives.


Here's the problem.

Religion is about moral judgments. Science is a tool for figuring shit out.

The problem religious fanatics have with science are infinite and eternal: a religious fanatic does not want to figure shit out; a religious fanatic believes the answer to all questions is their religion.




Pinched from Fusion Reaction:

Web Patent Critics Spotlight Old Technology

If Web technologists can find the right example, they believe they can help set aside a federal jury's recent finding that Microsoft had violated a patent held by tiny Web developer Eolas Technologies. The so-called '906 patent describes a way that a Web browser can call up a separate application from within a Web page.


I'm obviously coming late to the game here, but if the crux of the matter is having a web browser communicate with a separate application from within a web page, well, software applications do that all the time.

Experienced users can write batchfiles to *effectively* *merge* the usage of more than one application into a seamless user experience. This idea easily predates web browsers. The resulting interface masks the fact that multiple applications were involved in presenting data, which is rather the point of having it. Why is the fact that a web browser might do it patentable?

Isn't it an obvious extension of browser usage to permit a web browser to call up a separate application from within a web page? Other applications do it all the time, it's practically human nature to simply our interfaces.

Hijacked Government


Cheney's hawks 'hijacking policy'

...the pursuit of national security decisions often bypassed "civil service and active-duty military professionals", and was handled instead by political appointees who shared common ideological ties.


Didn't I write about this once before?

So, you're President (you lucky duck, you). You need to be well informed. What do you do? Surround yourself with people who tell you what you *want* to hear? Or those who tell you the truth? Christ on a skateboard, if I was president, I would go out of my way to build balanced committees and a cabinet -- preferably non-partison, but I'll settle for balance.

We *need* debate. It is the mechanism by which everyone's voice gets heard.

Decision 2004


Decision 2004

Follow the poll link for 'if you had to vote today' (http://www.msnbc.com/news/970809.asp) and you'll see a poll pitting Bush/Cheney against Dean/Clark.

In other words, MSNBC just treated Dean and Clark as the only two Dem candidates worth notice.

Maternal-induced neural plasticity


Science agrees: Moms courageous, cool

"calmer under pressure, and deal with adversity better." Probably sounds like your mom, huh? Mine, too.

It made me wonder what effect hormonal birth control (pills, depo, norplant), which simulate pregnancy in several ways, will have on a woman. I also wonder how much of this induced plasticity is due to the chemistry of pregnancy, and how much due to some sort of pheromonal parent-child bonding or something?

Very interesting.
Juicy Book Goodness


Just got Star Gods of the Maya: Astronomy in Art, Folklore, and Calendars, by Susan Milbrath and Expert Legal Writing, by Terri LeClercq, from the University of Texas Press. These are payment for some site proof work I did recently (note: when asking a geek to do something, offering recompense in the form of books is frequently very attractive).

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Wha?


Post office proposes requiring ID on mail

I'm completely sans comment at the moment, just raising my eyebrow and making confused noises. What? Who? How?
New Blog


New (to me), interesting group blog, emphasizing women and technology: Misbehaving.net
Revisionist History Redux


Enabling historical revisionism. (Linked elsewhere in the blogverse, natch.)

There's nothing stopping me, personally, physically, from writing a search that ignores the robots.txt file. I might just do it. Or maybe some kind of WH site-mirror that strips the HTML header off the file (might be copyright issues with that) so that copy would then get indexed normally. Hm. Hm. HM. A possible new project.

Made Me Laugh Out Loud



Principles of Economics link via Discourse.net . 13-year-old and 10-year-old offspring, discussing Dad's textbook. Quite funny.
Today's Pres Press Briefing


Was quite long, I lucked out in hearing the whole thing, and of course there are several things I could comment on, but equally of course I was in bed just waking up and didn't take notes. (That habit probably needs to change.)

One thing I did note was when Bush was asked about his declaration earlier this year from the USS Lincoln that "major combat operations" were over, he said it was the crew of the Lincoln who were responsible for the "Mission Accomplished" banner. Isn't that interesting? It implies that the crew felt the US's mission was accomplished, not that the White House was asserting that in any way, oh, my, although until today that is exactly what the White House has implied.

Also noted more interesting language: the consistent use of "gathering danger" (imminent threat without the words "imminent threat") and the phrase "Iraq is a dangerous place", which came out of the President's mouth at least 4 times, in the text of the the speech and during Q&A.

UPDATE: You can read the full transcript (including Q&A) here.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Cool CSPAN-ness


Neat CSPAN call

...but I would just like to see them have...you know, if youre going to send these people to war then don't hide them, you know...and have some... have some news coverage where people are sitting and talking to these guys and seeing how they are and seeing their spirit and its just... I just... I think its a crime.


Follow the link above and read the whole thing.
Please Help Out


One of my fellows from The 3rd WWWave and Web, by Women, for Women would like your help in donating a brand new sofa to her local rape crisis center, in Northern California.

She's just moved, had put a down payment on the sofa, and now, can't actually take it. But the local rape crisis center can, if you chip in a few dollars for the remainder on the price.

If you've got a PayPal account, please consider making a sofa-donation to kjas@mindspring.com .

Obviously, this post has an inherent shelf-life, please consider contacting us before making a donation, if it's been more than a few weeks.
Bizarro World


Where more suicide bombings are a *good* sign!

Success in Iraq Provoking Attacks

So, if we start 'failing' in Iraq, everyone there will go home and start going about their lives normally. Is that it?

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Innocuous, not 'imminent'


Search in Iraq Fails to Find Nuclear Threat

Among the closely held internal judgments of the Iraq Survey Group, overseen by David Kay as special representative of CIA Director George J. Tenet, are that Iraq's nuclear weapons scientists did no significant arms-related work after 1991, that facilities with suspicious new construction proved benign, and that equipment of potential use to a nuclear program remained under seal or in civilian industrial use.


Friday, October 24, 2003

Truth, Lies and Duct Tape


Great article by Sara Paretsky, on the Patriot Act, libraries, and being a writer.

Truth, Lies and Duct Tape
Sunspots


Earth Put On Solar Storm Alert

Imminent disruption is predicted for satellites, power systems and even mobile phones because of a solar storm.
Welcome to the 19th Century!


Ashcroft accuses Greenpeace of 'sailor-mongering'.

Students, Nuns, and Sailor-Mongers Beware

In a Miami federal court, the attorney general charged the environmental group Greenpeace under an obscure 1872 law originally intended to end the practice of "sailor-mongering," or the luring of sailors with liquor and prostitutes from their ships. Ashcroft plucked the law from obscurity to punish Greenpeace for boarding a vessel near port in Miami.


This doesn't even pass the giggle test:

1. Were inducements such as alcohol and sex provided to tempt sailors to leave the vessel in question? No.
2. Was violence or the threat of violence applied to induce sailors to leave the vessel in question? No.
3. Were sailors induced to leave the vessel in question? No.

So, how can it be sailor-mongering if um, no sailors were...'mongered'?

As silly as this seems, it is actually quite a serious matter.

Typical Greenpeace Protest Leads to an Unusual Prosecution

The group is charged with violating an obscure 1872 law intended for proprietors of boarding houses who preyed on sailors returning to port. It forbids the unauthorized boarding of "any vessel about to arrive at the place of her destination."
The last court decision concerning the law, from 1890, said it was meant to prevent "sailor-mongers" from luring crews to boarding houses "by the help of intoxicants and the use of other means, often savoring of violence."


Bush Administration Targets Greenpeace

The charge:

One violation of U.S.C. section 2279, which prohibits persons, "not being duly authorized by law for the purpose," from "[going] on board any vessel about to arrive at the place of her destination, before her actual arrival, and before she has been completely moored".


Now then.

Point the First:

Greenpeace as an organization has been indicted, not the individual members. This is substantially different from past suits or charges against the members committing actual protest activities.

Point the Second:

Charges under this law have not been made since the 19th century. Yet Greenpeace members have performed plenty of 'direct-action' protests of this nature. What has changed?





Thursday, October 23, 2003

Go, Teddy!


Ted Kennedy's Senate Floor Remarks

Nearly six months have elapsed since President Bush flew out to the aircraft carrier and declared "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq. Today, we all know all too well that the war is not over; the war goes on; the mission is not accomplished. An unnecessary war, based on unreliable and inaccurate intelligence, has not brought an end to danger. Instead, it has brought new dangers, imposed new costs, and taken more and more American lives each week.
We all agree that Saddam Hussein was a murderous tyrant, and his brutal regime was an affront to basic human decency. But Iraq was not a breeding ground for terrorism. Our invasion has made it one.
Come up with a good reason, I dare you


East Timorese Labour intends to place Election Day challengers at 59 voting precincts in predominantly minority neighborhoods, a move that [minority] leaders yesterday called blatant intimidation.
The election workers, most of whom live outside the targeted precincts in western and central East Timor, will be on hand to challenge voters who they suspect aren't eligible.


Sound like voter intimidation? I think so, too.

Only it's not really East Timor. It's Louisville, Kentucky, USA.

Jefferson County Republicans intend to place Election Day challengers at 59 voting precincts in predominantly black neighborhoods, a move that NAACP leaders yesterday called blatant intimidation.
The GOP election workers, most of whom live outside the targeted precincts in western and central Louisville, Portland and Newburg, will be on hand to challenge voters who they suspect aren't eligible.


What's so magically special about *black* precincts that they need this special treatment?

Well, they are predominantly Democrat.

Like I said. Come up with a good reason. I dare you. I think whenever Republicans send challengers to a precinct, Democrats should, too, to challenge *their* challenges. It's the election official (the Inspector or Assistant Inspector) who determines if the challenge is upheld. So, be there. Present a dissenting view.

GOP to put challengers in black voting precincts
Giggle


Just found this when Googling for swear words in German (for reasons I shan't go into at this time, but, I assure you, with the best of intentions. *Ahem*.) :

Swearsaurus : How to swear, insult, cuss and curse in a wide variety of languages. Too bad the Latin ones are mostly made up.

Though,

Antiquis temporibus, nati tibi similes in rupibus ventosissimis exponebantur ad necem
"In the good old days, children like you were left to perish on windswept crags."

has a nice ring to it.

Oh, and I like this one in Polish:

Czys ty sie z chujem na glowy pozamienial?

Have you changed heads with your dick? (Are you nuts?)

Oo! Ooo!

Mermelada de huevas -- "Testicle Jelly", an extremely idiotic person (Chilean Spanish).
*giggle*

WTF?


Parliament greets Bush: A day in the life of our faltering democracy

I just want to say I'm impressed with and proud of Mr. Brown for standing up to President Bush during his address to Parliament (in Australia).

Opposition leader Simon Creane reminded us,

"...there remains an essential truth in Prime Minister Curtin's words 62 years ago - 'Australia still looks to America'. A truth not just for Australia, but for democracies everywhere. It is a profound historic truth, which derives its power - not from the might of America - but from the democratic promise upon which America was brought forth, conceived and dedicated 227 years ago: The equal rights of all nations. Respect for the opinions of all peoples. And the idea that all men are created equal. These principles, taken together, form the true and imperishable basis of the promise of, and the friendship between, our two great nations. May they never perish from the face of the Earth."


[full text]

It's also worth noting that Bush's statements were again good/evil black/white remarks, including the WWII quote from MacArthur, demonstrating his simplified -- I think dangerously simplified -- moral view. Has any politician *ever* spoken like this before, on a regular basis?

I mean, I remember Tony Blair saying, basically, that civilized nations can't abide this kind of act after the WTC/Pentagon attacks, but that's not exactly the same thing. When has any world leader used this kind of terminology (evil, good, right, wrong) so constantly? Blair's statements evoked and were based on the agreements that we make domestically and internationally to *be civilized with one other as people and sovereign nations*, and that considered action is an appropriate response when someone violates those agreements. Bush's say "we're right and anyone not a member of 'we' is wrong".

Bush's language has bothered me since day one.

The quote I'd like to discuss, however, is the following:

America, Australia and other nations acted in Iraq to remove a grave and gathering danger, instead of wishing and waiting while tragedy drew closer.
Since the liberation of Iraq, we have discovered Saddam's clandestine network of biological laboratories, his design work on prohibited long-range missiles, his elaborate campaign to hide illegal weapons programs.


[full text]

Iraq = imminent threat, only without the use of the word "imminent".
"We have discovered..." = WMDs, we did too find them, or stuff just as bad! Except, we didn't. We found a vial of botox in someone's fridge, and some long-abandoned trailers. This is the big threat?

And, what is the Proliferation Security Initiative Bush mentions?

Oh, here's some stuff on it:

PROLIFERATION SECURITY INITIATIVE: LONDON, 9-10 OCTOBER (AU Foreign Affairs Dept)
PSI:Statement of Interdiction Principles
Proliferation Security Initiative to Stem Flow of WMD Matériel (Center for Non-Proliferation Studies)
Proliferation Security Initiative (at GlobalSecurity.org)


Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Late Term Abortions


Remarkable article over at Alas, A Blog on why there isn't a ban on late-term abortions, the political usefulness (to Republicans) of Republicans keeping the issue alive as long as possible, the potential source of split in the GOP over first-trimester abortions, and that it's better to have a mother's health loophole in a late-term abortion ban than to not. Read it.
More Voting Stuff


Spotted on my votingtech mailing list today:

Md. Democrats Want Outside Voting Machine Audit

[Maryland legislators] asked that the agency [Md's Department of Legislative Services] examine a report issued in September by Science Application International Corp. on security weaknesses in a new computerized voting system the state is prepared to purchase for $55.6 million.
The SAIC report on the system, developed by Diebold Elections Systems Inc., found serious flaws that could allow tampering with election results. The study was a response to a July report by Johns Hopkins University computer scientist Aviel Rubin and colleagues who said the voting system was vulnerable to manipulation.


Electronic Voting: What You Need To Know -- This one's a great intro into the complexity of software, voting and otherwise.

Without a careful security analysis, you can't know what kind of outsider attacks may be possible. Except in the case of the Johns Hopkins paper from last week, where they managed to get their hands on the code through Diebold's carelessness and lack of security. Two graduate students noticed what turned out to be severe security blunders. I don't think it is important to emphasize whether people can hack these particular machines in these particular ways, although I find the problems these grad students found to be worrying. I think the most important thing about that is that it disproves any claim that the manufacturers or the independent testing authorities are actually carefully scrutinizing this code, or for that matter, know anything about computer security. I think we have conclusively disproven that there is anything in this process that guarantees these things are secure.


http://www.wheresthepaper.org/ -- demo on paperless machines producing inaccurate voting results while testing out correct.

Voter Suppression: It Can't Happen To Me -- Includes an overview of fishy election practices from 1982 onwards, and touches on the Republican Party's co-option by the religious right in America.


Chips in Your Library Book?


RFID Moves Into Public Library

Tien from the EFF has an excellent point. If I have one of these chips in a book,

a. I have no way of knowing it's deactivated or not, meaning;
b. It could remain activated when I depart the library without my knowledge or consent.

It's not so much worry about a library's intentions, as of those who might want to run roughshod over said library's intentions. The Patriot Act already lets the FBI peruse my lending records while barring my library from informing me. How, then, could such location devices be misused?

Yeah, Hypocrites


America owes talk host Rush Limbaugh a debt of gratitude, Libertarians say

"WASHINGTON, DC -- The entire nation owes radio broadcaster Rush Limbaugh a debt of gratitude, Libertarians say, because his ordeal has exposed every drug warrior in America as a rank hypocrite."

Thanks to K, for the tip!

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Interesting Blog


http://www.livejournal.com/users/collounsbury , for those interested in on the ground reports from the middle east. Society, Economics, Politics, and Other Matters.
Once in a *Century* Find


A member of a family of frogs thought extinct millions of years ago:

Old purple frog danced with dinosaurs

Monday, October 20, 2003

Awesome!


Wow!

New Power Source Found

"A team of Canadian scientists has discovered a completely new way to make electricity from nothing more than flowing water, it was revealed today."

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Friday Five, Late


1. Name five things in your refrigerator.
Chicken bones (so the cats don't get them), smoked sausage, squishy-dead eggplant, chocolate bars from the Endangered Species Chocolate Company, 2.5 gobs of carrots.

2. Name five things in your freezer.
Chicken thighs, chicken drumsticks, ahi, corn niblets, ground beef.

3. Name five things under your kitchen sink.
Comet, dishwasher detergent, garbage bags, liquid plumber stuff, an old bottle.

4. Name five things around your computer.
Wineglass, notebook, bookcase with dictionaries and foreign-language material, a book on Civil War-era medicine, my little book that holds other people's business cards.

5. Name five things in your medicine cabinet.
Floss, cold cream, hair gunk, some other hair spritz I never use, facial astringent.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Fabbo Quote


Someone pass this up the line at the Democratic Party, wouldja? Along with "Give into temptation".

"There comes a time in every man's life when he must feel tempted to spit in his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats."
-H.L. Mencken

Greenhouse effect, anyone?


The Patagonia ice fields of Chile and Argentina are the fastest area of glacial retreat on Earth, report scientists.

South American glaciers' big melt

Thursday, October 16, 2003

What Privacy?


From a post to Politech, Declan McCollough's politics/technology mailing list:

"The state and provincial DMVs are about to spring "Uniform ID" on the unsuspecting public, in the US, Canada, and Mexico. They swear up and down that it isn't "National ID". But their credo is "One driver, one license, one database record". Instead of building one Big Brother database, they're building seventy little ones, with a network that ties them all together. See http://www.aamva.org/IDSecurity . They plan to introduce the enabling legislation in each state or province's legislature in January."


God and the Pledge of Allegiance


One Nation Under Justices

"The 9th Circuit judges can be criticized for going out of their way to issue a provocative, substantive ruling in a case in which the plaintiff, a father who did not have custody of his child, may not have had standing to sue. They created controversy where little existed. And they brushed aside the fact that references to God, or to a Creator, have been part of American life since the nation's founding. The Constitution itself makes a passing reference to God (and how could that be unconstitutional?), as do the Declaration of Independence, the nation's currency, the national anthem and the national motto. A deity is embedded in the national holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Clearly, the constitutional prohibition against establishing religion does not require an extirpation of God from public life. "

I have several things to say, here:

1. I just checked my copy of the Constitution (by searching an electronic version) and found no use of the words "God", "Creator", or "Deity". Now, the Declaration of Independence does refer to a Creator, but does not refer specifically to the Christian God, instead simply asserting that all men are created equal, and endowed with certain inalienable rights as such.

2. The nation's currency does state the motto "In God We Trust, about which more in #4.

3. The national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner[*], as sung by American citizens does not contain any reference to "God", "Creator", or "Deity". The full song is not sung or taught as the anthem, only the first verse, which is completely secular.

4. The national motto, "In God We Trust", was declared such in 1956, replacing/alongside of "e pluribus unum", or, "out of many, one", the original motto [**]. I'm going to guess this, like the addition of "Under God" to the Pledge, was a red-scare tactic, historically speaking [***], to flush out those pesky athiest Commies. The use of "so help me, God" in oaths of office originates at the same time. For reasons of tradition now ('ceremonial deism', as the Court put it), I think it's unlikely to change, but I'd like to see an attempt, as I discuss below.

5. A deity is embedded in some of America's national holidays, and again, that's a reflection of the country's heritage. Most of the country's early settlers were Christian, of course we're going to observe, today, the Christian-centric assumptions they built edifices on without even thinking about it. We all assume.

So, yes, America has historically been a christian nation, but that does not mean this concern over the Pledge of Allegiance is spurious. As more and different waves of immigrants join and sign the national contract, American life has changed since its founding, and its religious face -- like its ethnic distribution, its linguistic one, and even its culinary one -- has changed. The historical trappings of law and custom should be questioned as we continue to evolve as a nation, to ensure that all citizens -- born or naturalized -- are not oppressed by law, should they have a different belief then mainstream Christians. That is, in fact, the point of the First Amendment - to not oppress other's religious beliefs. And if you force an agnostic or a Buddhist or a Shinto priest - or their child in a school - to swear by a Christian God whom they do not recognize with complete validity according to their own belief system, that's oppression.


[*]

Oh, say can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

For the complete lyrics: US National Anthem


[**] "On July 30, 1956 a law was passed stating that "the national motto of the United States is hereby declared to be 'In God we trust'." (70 Stat. 732. 36 U.S. Code 186). The House Judiciary Committee recognized that the phrase E Pluribus Unum had also received wide usage in the United States, and the joint resolution did not repeal or prohibit its use as a national motto. In 1963 the Department of State took the following position: "'In God we trust'" is the motto of the United States. It seems to the Department, nevertheless, that there is ample basis both in history and I law for calling 'E Pluribus Unum' a motto of the United States." The Congress has used both."

History of the Great Seal

[***] "In 1956, the nation was suffering through the height of the cold war, and the McCarthy communist witch hunt. Partly in reaction to these factors, the 84th Congress passed a joint resolution to replace the existing motto with "In God we Trust." The president signed the resolution into law on 1956-JUL-30. The change was partly motivated by a desire to differentiate between communism, which promotes Atheism, and Western capitalistic democracies, which were at least nominally Christian. The phrase "Atheistic Communists" has been repeated so many times that the public has linked Atheism with communism; the two are often considered synonymous. Many consider Atheism as unpatriotic and "un-American" as is communism. The new motto was first used on paper money in 1957, when it was added to the one-dollar silver certificate. By 1966, "In God we Trust" was added to all paper money, from $1 to $100 denominations."

The US National Mottos


Parrot Linguistics



That Damn Bird

Fascinating! Be sure to read the whole thing. It's not that long.

"THAT DAMN BIRD"
A Talk with Irene Pepperberg

"What the data suggest to me is that if one starts with a brain of a certain complexity and gives it enough social and ecological support, that brain will develop at least the building blocks of a complex communication system. Of course, chimpanzees don't proceed to develop full-blown language the way you and I have. Grey parrots, such as Alex and Griffin, are never going to sit here and give an interview the way you and I are conducting an interview and having a chat. But they are going to produce meaningful, complex communicative combinations. It is incredibly fascinating to have creatures so evolutionarily separate from humans performing simple forms of the same types of complex cognitive tasks as do young children."
Egg On Face


For the Bush Administration, I mean.

Iraq War Swells Al Qaeda's Ranks, Report Says

What a great way to wage war on terrorism! Go, team!

Monday, October 13, 2003

In Other News


Our birthday was last month. That's the Twin 'we', not the royal 'we'.

I've just registered to take the LSAT, the Law School Admission Test, in December. Paid money and everything. We'll see what happens there. I've always had more than a passing interest in the law, as this blog has borne out on multiple occasions I am sure, and it occurred to me that maybe I should look at doing something more in depth, now that my undergrad debts are mostly gone.

I'm also registering to test for entry into a completely different program in LA, related to the entertainment industry, about which I shall expound at a later date. Probably.

And, I'm about to do more volunteering related to the Howard Dean campaign than I have to date. Strictly unaffiliated stuff, though. About this I can probably expound later this week or next week, when a formal announcement has been made.

I *may* participate in National Novel Writing Month. Just like last year, I'm dithering until the last moment, in large part because of the novel I started writing last year, and all the above stuff going on at the moment.

None of this, of course, will stop me from accepting a job in my current field of expertise, should a juicy-looking one wander by. A scenario I am certainly working on creating.
Good Electronic Voting in America Article


All the President's Votes? A Quiet Revolution is Taking Place in US Politics. By the Time It's Over, the Integrity of Elections Will be in the Unchallenged, Unscrutinized Control of a Few Large - and Pro-Republican - Corporations. Andrew Gumbel wonders if democracy in America can survive

Good intro to the whole kit and kaboodle.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Many Soldiers, Same Letter


Many soldiers, same letter: Newspapers around U.S. get identical missives from Iraq

Letters from hometown soldiers describing their successes rebuilding Iraq have been appearing in newspapers across the country as U.S. public opinion on the mission sours.
And all the letters are the same.

...
"When I told him he wrote such a good letter, he said: 'What letter?'


I've used the word 'reprehensible' too often the past couple of years. This is simply immoral. Worse than that, it's nearly impossible to recover from.

All the people who'll read letters to the editor in their local paper and get a permanent warm fuzzy feeling from one of these faux epistles are not the same people who hang out online scarfing up international news sources, and not the same people who'll see the debunking of these letters. Yet, that warm fuzzy feeling will stick around and be used by the Bush administration as they try to convince the public that

Iraq is working!
Re-elect Bush!
Everything is All Right!
Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain!

Try reading something not produced by the US Government:

Baghdad Burning
Justin Alexander Be sure to go to his Future of Iraq portal.




Wednesday, October 08, 2003

CA recall


I'm going to make a voting-precinct-specific comment that is

1. purely, and I mean purely anecdotal (and therefore perhaps wildly inaccurate);
2. not scientific in any way - my impression only (and therefore perhaps wildly inaccurate).

More republicans voted then democrats in the CA recall election. This is strictly my sense upon processing their sign-ins in one precinct. And let me be clear:

1. I processed 98.95% of those San Diego registered voters who came in to vote in the precinct where I worked yesterday (this includes the small group of people who voted out-of-precinct). I went to the bathroom once. (It's easy to tell because there are 4 righthander checkmarks on the street index instead of my own southpaw checkmarks).

2. I have a funny memory for ordered data. Sometimes it's almost eidetic. With other stuff it's more like a steel sieve. YMMV -- the gods know mine does.

3. Having said the above, I'm not sure if my precinct is republican-heavy or not.

4. I am left with an impression (remember: not scientific or reliable in any way).

5. That precinct was not necessarily representative in any way -- by percentage voted, or distribution of party affiliations, for example -- of San Diego county or the state of California.

More republicans came out and voted yesterday then democrats.

If you're a citizen in CA and you failed to vote yesterday, you should be ashamed of yourself, regardless of your affiliation. And I have nothing further to say to you except this: get off your ass and participate in this country's democracy, before it doesn't exist any more.
Flatly. False.


"CONCORD, NH-- Yesterday in an interview with Bloomberg News, Comptroller General David M. Walker, head of the General Accounting Office, disputed as "flat false" President Bush's assertion that economic growth resulting from tax cuts will help shrink the federal deficit."


"Flatly False". This should be Bush's motto for his re-election campaign, don't you think?!

link via blogforamerica.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

More on voting and e-voting


Many of these links are from the votingtech list:

Of course, Bev Harris' Black Box Voting . Required reading if you're interested in the subject.

Center for Voting and Democracy

LA County Registrar of Votors: Voting System Replacement

Maryland's Accuvote Report, and Verified Voting's rebuttal

===

From LYNCHING BY LAPTOP by Greg Palast and Ina Howard

In 2002, with little public notice, Congress passed and the president signed the "Help America Vote Act." When the Bush family wants to "help" us vote, look out. Hidden behind the apple-pie-and-motherhood name lies a nasty civil rights time-bomb.
The new law to "Help America Vote" will eat up $3.9 billion of taxpayers' money, partly to tempt states and counties to adopt computerized 'touch-screen' voting. Why is King worried? The first elections with computers produced vote-count horror shows that make one yearn for hanging chads. In 2002, Comal County, Texas, tried out new computer voting machines-and three Republican candidates each won their respective offices with exactly 18,181 votes. "Isn't that the weirdest thing?" County Clerk Joy Treater asked at the time. "We noticed it right away, but it is just a big coincidence."
Just down the road in Scurry County, Texas, two unexpected landslide wins for Republican candidates struck election clerks as just one coincidence too many. That county's clerk, Joan Bunch, investigated and found that a "faulty" computer chip had caused the county's optical scanner to record Democratic votes as Republican instead. After two manual recounts and one electronic recount using a replacement chip in the scanner, the Democratic candidates were found to have won by large margins and the original results were overturned.


===

Dave Zweifel: High-tech voting must be fraud-free
Clinton, Dean


Great quote from Clinton in '97:

I'd also like to say that whatever it is that Howard Dean knows, or whatever it is that he eats for breakfast every morning, if I could give it to every other Democratic office holder and would-be office holder, we would immediately become the majority in the Congress and we would have about 35 governors. I have to tell you, I think a big part of it is just producing for people, actually doing what you say you're going to do at election time.


Translation: Dean is a guy who does what he says he's going to do.

I don't need to tell you how badly we need that in contemporary American politics. But I will anyway.

As a gen-X voter, I was personally, completely, *shocked* when I realized, in a disagreement with my parents a year or so ago, that they actually felt trust for the government. There is an age gap there that I expect will never be bridged.

I have never trusted my government. I grew up in a post-Watergate era. I cut my political teeth on Oliver North. I have never believed my duly (or unduly) elected representatives of the legislative and executive branches act on any real perception of the public good What.So.Ever.

Pretty much the only trust I ever had is that I feel I can rely pretty well on my government officials to betray the general welfare of citizenry for a quick buck and a re-election.

So, when I vote, and I do, it's in the hopes that by keeping Republicans and Democrats at each other's necks they'll be too occupied to come down on mine and those of ordinary citizenry. And we can get on with our lives without too much interference from a bunch of assholes.

Cynical, isn't it? Yes, yes it is. Justified? That, too.

And here...is Howard Dean. A guy in politics who does what he says he's going to do.

I cannot think of a single idea more galvanizing to my cynical fellows, more hopeful, and more desperately necessary to climb out of the terrible hole that the current administration has dug and then jumped into, headfirst.

Hope. It's not just a four-letter word anymore.

Quote via Value Judgment, opinion, of course, via me.


Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Recent Salon article re: Diebold voting systems


Hacking Democracy (Salon)

A critical point the article overlooks arises from Lewis's assertion about certification:

Lewis says, the testing labs simulate actual voting on each type of machine. The test, which is 163 hours long, "puts tens of thousands of votes into the system, and we know what the outcome is supposed to be."


Once an application has been patched (which we know happens[*]) *after* certification but before use, the certification is now in question -- because the software has *changed* due to the patch. Any responsible developer performs what checks they can before releasing a patch (because a patch is supposed to FIX something), but the patched code and the certified version of the application are *not the same*, and patches *frequently* are released without substantial QA, certainly not the 163 hour testing to which Lewis refers. You cannot state that version X.12 software is certified, and then assume that subsequent patches don't introduce an unexpected problem. This is why you need to constantly re-test code. Once you've patched X.12 with patch B44, you now have software version X.12.B44 -- software *based* on a certified application. But not itself certified.

This, by the way, is why when you go to download an open source application, you'll see versions marked as 'robust' or 'public' or 'official' -- they've been tested/certified/reviewed and released for general use, as well as 'beta' or 'developer's' versions, the two latter labels referring to code actively undergoing changes on a regular basis. Not tested or not tested fully. Not certified. Not reviewed. And, not released for general use.


[*] A technician describes loading new code onto touchscreen units for Diebold immediately before elections. Logistically, such code could not have gone through the 163 hour certification. Ref: Bald-Faced Lies About Black Box Voting Machines

An Open Invitation to Election Fraud (Salon)
Hacking Democracy (Salon)
Black Box Voting
Who spilled the beans?


The finger points at Karl Rove

Sunday, September 28, 2003

We call it 'Reason'


Dean on 'Face the Nation'

One thing I'd like to call to your attention.

SCHIEFFER: Listening to you talk about this, listening to you talk about some of the things that you said about Medicare and so forth, the republican national committee has put out a long press release that just says you're a flip-flopper, that you've changed on so many issues. How do you respond to that, governor?

DEAN: I have changed on some of the issues. I think that's one of the hallmarks of who I am. I'm a doctor. I believe if you have a theory and the fact comes along that changes the theory, then you throw out the theory. The republicans believe that if a fact comes along that changes the theory, they throw out the fact. They deny there is such a thing as global warming. President made the case now that bipartisan committee in congress admits was exaggerated and ignored the facts for going to war in Iraq. This is pretty serious stuff. I have no complaint and no embarrassment about changing my positions at all. If facts come along that show you things need to change, you need to change them.

This, my friends and fellow voters, is what we like to call, 'the scientific method':

  1. Look at some 'data' (information).
  2. Form an 'hypothesis', or conclusion, based on that data.
  3. Test your hypothesis (by using it to make a prediction, and then checking to see if that prediction is right).
  4. Correct hypothesis as needed.


Repeat until you can make no more corrections!

Even for the big brains, *thinking* *about* *stuff* frequently involves throwing away earlier ideas that no longer work given your revised understanding of the situation.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Happy Birthday


You say it's your birthday

na-na-na-na-NA-na

It's my birthday, too -- yeah

na-na-na-na-NA-na

They say it's your birthday

na-na-na-na-NA-na

We're gonna have a good time

na-na-na-na-NA-na

I'm glad it's your birthday

na-na-na-na-NA-na

Happy birthday to you.



Happy Birthday, meinen Bruder!

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Whee!


This is depressing. I don't see how we-the-world can fix what's wrong in Iraq without strong UN involvement. The US needs to get out, we're the bad guys now -- whether you feel we should be or not -- we need to get out and let someone else come in and get the power up and the hospitals stocked and the water clean.

Take that 87 billion and give it all to the Red Cross, then point them at Iraq.

UN to withdraw personnel from Iraq
The United Nations decided yesterday to withdraw almost all of its remaining international personnel from Iraq within 48 hours because of fears for their safety, undercutting claims by the United States that coalition forces are making headway towards curbing the violence in the country.

Here We Go Again


Deja vu, anyone?

Iran Has 'Last Chance' to Meet Nuclear Agreements, says White House

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

9th Circuit Heard Recall Arguments Today


I missed the first 25 minutes and came in during Rosenbaum's argument. Both sides have valid things to say, and I really liked Judge Kozinki's questions in particular.

Crazy-stupid


You know, I read stuff like this, and I think...."who needs The Onion?"

Bush wants marriage reserved for heterosexuals

I mean, honestly, 5 years ago, wouldn't that have been a believable headline for The Onion, and nowhere else?

And there it is, on CNN, pretending to be real news and real politics.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

'Warming Trends'


Alaska warned about warming

KAKTOVIK, Alaska -- Skeptics of global warming should come to this Eskimo village on the Arctic Ocean, roughly 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle. It's hard to be complacent about climate change when you're in an area that normally is home to such animals as polar bears and wolverines, but is now attracting robins.
...The U.S. Navy reports that in areas traversed by its submarines, Arctic ice volume decreased 42 percent over the past 35 years, and the average thickness of ice below water declined 4.3 feet. The Office of Naval Research warns that "one plausible outcome" is that the summer Arctic ice cap will disappear completely by 2050.


'Over 11,000' dead in French heat

An estimated 11,435 people died in France's heatwave in the first half of August, according to the country's Health Ministry.


Danube Reveals its Metal Graveyard

The Danube has fallen to its lowest level for more than 120 years, paralysing shipping and at one stretch, between Serbia and Romania, revealing the wrecks of a long-forgotten fleet of World War II German warships.


Fires are causing increasing destruction

[T]he record heat wave in Europe this summer has turned trees into tinder as far north as Sweden and as far east as Russia. Portugal has lost about 1 million acres to fire this year, which is more than a 300 percent increase over the nation's average annual losses during the last two decades, the U.N. agency said.
... The average annual acres of Alaskan and Canadian boreal forests burned surged from 3.7 million acres a year in the 1960s to 7.4 million acres a year in the 1990s, Kasischke [a geography professor at the University of Maryland and an expert on boreal forest fires] said. There does not appear to be a similar rise in acreage burned in forests in the lower 48 states, he said.
The increase in boreal wildfires appears to be linked to global warming, Kasischke said. The 1990s were the planet's warmest decade on record, while 1998 was the warmest year and 2002 was the second-warmest.


Heatwave Part of Global Trend

In nine out of the past 12 years, average temperatures worldwide have been higher than at any time since records began in the 19th century and it is very likely that the 1990s were the warmest decade for 1000 years.
...Sea temperatures in the Mediterranean region are two to three degrees warmer and reached their peak a month earlier than usual.


Side Note: It takes a lot of energy to warm up the ocean, a lot.

Whether you 'believe' in global warming or not, *something is changing*, noticeably, and government and citizenry need to respond. Lifestyle changes. Coming to terms with new animals entering an ecosystem as migration patterns change. Economic shifts as different geographical regions change - for good or ill - their agriculture, disease, and use of the ocean.

So. Let's ask questions that make sense to nations and their elected officials:

If the breadbasket of the world shifts farther and farther north, how will that effect, say, the standard of living in the American Midwest? Points farther south?

If rice is no longer a viable crop due to decreased rainfall in, say, Vietnam, what crop can replace it, and how?

If the Danube consistently stays low over the next decade, how can other areas of European infrastructure compensate to maintain necessary shipping?

How will citizens migrate in response to changing temperatures, both seasonally and permanently? Can your town handle becoming a tourist trap? Can your town handle losing visitors because it's *too* hot? What countries will face an influx of immigrants from nations losing their agricultural base?

Friday, September 19, 2003

Cool Campaign Article


Dean-a-Palooza: A Front-Runner Takes to the Skies

The author had a major professional/personal epiphany about "the shiny" -- you know, the multiculturally diverse citizens greeting The Man Who as he arrives in town, the cute schlock that no thinking human being (read, next year's votor) bothers with -- and the press corps' response to it.

"To be full of shit in American politics is a signal to our political press that you are serious..."

Yep. Not only do you need to be able to woo the citizenry, you need to woo the press. And they are two very different animals.

via Eschaton.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

"[it] changed everything"


Officials inside government and advisers outside told ABCNEWS the administration emphasized the danger of Saddam's weapons to gain the legal justification for war from the United Nations and to stress the danger at home to Americans.
"We were not lying," said one official. "But it was just a matter of emphasis."


I just have to snarky, here: it's not lying! It's emphasis! Yeah! Emphasis!

...Senior officials decided that unless action was taken, the Middle East would continue to be a breeding ground for terrorists. Officials feared that young Arabs, angry about their lives and without hope, would always looking for someone to hate — and that someone would always be Israel and the United States.


...Beyond that, the Bush administration decided it must flex muscle to show it would fight terrorism, not just here at home and not just in Afghanistan against the Taliban, but in the Middle East, where it was thriving.


...Former CIA Director James Woolsey said on Nightline this week that although he believed Saddam was a serious threat and had dangerous weapons, going to war to prove a point was wrong.


Reason for War?

Wolfowitz Admits Iraq War Planned Two Days After 9-11


Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Don't Cheat the Monkey


Monkeys Show Sense Of Fairness, Study Says

Researchers studying brown capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) have found that the highly social, cooperative species native to South America show a sense of fairness, the first time such behavior has been documented in a species other than humans.




Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Monday, September 15, 2003

Cool


Greeks "borrowed Egyptian numbers"

Neat.
RIAA+Napster


Over at Alas, a discussion on the music industry and copyright:

My point is not to be anti-copyright - I actually agree with Tyler Cowan, who (if I'm reading him correctly) approves of the general idea of copyright law but disagrees with how they're currently implemented. My point, rather, is that when two negotiating parties are enormously unequal, then copyright (and all the protections copyright entails) will inevitably wind up in the hands of the stronger party - and that party is usually not the artist.


Until the vast inequality in bargaining position between musician and 'the industry' is resolved, this (deal memos and bands getting a pittance in the end, etc.) is never going to change.

So. What is the source of this inequality, and what can be done about it?

The true source is centralization of music distribution in the hands of 5 or 6 companies, giving them control over *access* to music listeners, which is what bands need in order to have any success whatsoever.

Can it be circumvented? How? Well, the Internet permits persons to interact with transparancy regarding their physical location, and congregate and share data (in its literal sense - data, binary or text) on a shared interest with no oversight of any kind. This is grass-roots self-control of audience access, circumventing the centralized control exerted by these larger corporate entities. A band that attempts to plug in to *that* needs strong word of mouth, a website, and good music*.

Well, there you have it. In two short steps, why the RIAA hates technologies like Napster.

[*] One might also note that the success a band will have from online exposure instead of a major record deal is a very different entity -- and some bands may not want to pursue that. The likelihood of screaming groupies, jetting about world tours, and cult of cool that the industry promotes as 'music promotion' is much smaller. Want your face on the cover of Rolling Stone when you break up? Self-publishing online may not be the road for you. The current standard of success is a major record deal. Maybe that needs to change.