Saturday, September 13, 2003

Florida Supreme Court: Times Publishing v. City of Clearwater. In a nutshell, Times Publishing asserted that all emails sent/received by public officials (and thus residing on government-owned computer system(s)) were automatically public records, and the city said, no, some stuff is personal, some stuff is official business, and therefore public records. The court agrees with the city.

Read the whole thing

we conclude "personal" emails are not "made or received pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business" and, therefore, do not fall within the definition of public records in section 119.011(1) by virtue of their placement on a government-owned computer system.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

20 Questions

WHY DON'T WE HAVE ANSWERS TO THESE 9/11 QUESTIONS? -- from the Philadelphia Daily News (link courtesy of Eschaton)

Very worth reading.
I know what list *I'll* be on

Fliers to be Rated for Risk Level

In the most aggressive -- and, some say, invasive -- step yet to protect air travelers, the federal government and the airlines will phase in a computer system next year to measure the risk posed by every passenger on every flight in the United States.

This has such a strong potential to be misused -- and, let's be honest, any 'system' designed by the Bush Administration I am honor-bound to distrust, I mean, c'mon we're talking about people who couldn't come up with an exit strategy for a war! -- especially since now it will be the reallyenjoyingbeingfaceless Government doing the screening instead of airlines, who were doing a good job, once upon a time.

They're going to waste time and money and scoop up shitloads of questionable information about people who fly, and make fucking macrame out of it. And then when something bad happens again (and this is the Real World, kids, bad things happen), will ask for more money to be even more invasive into your privacy. And once that information is on file somewhere, it'll be used against you, right or wrong. Right or wrong.

This is the stupid approach.

The smart approach is to say: what is the end goal?

Answer: keep explosives and other flammables, guns, and to a lesser extent, knives, off of planes.

Now. If you assign individual travelers 'threat levels' based on what you *think* you know about them, and bar or permit passage based on that assessment...have you achieved your goal?


If you require everyone who gets on a plane - regardless of last name, skin color, turban or lack thereof - to pass through a reasonable security check, you know, like, say, an x-ray machine and - oh, how about this - a metal detector, and maybe if you're worried about flammables, even something with a nose (I've heard of these...they're called *dogs*), would you achieve your stated goal?

And while I'm getting pissed off about this, let me point out the following:

I have a reasonable expectation of safety when I travel by air. That's all. Air travel is a private service, provided to private citizens. I expect guns and anything else that could blow a hole in the plane to be removed from traveler's carry-on bags before they board. I expect airline personnel to be well-trained in their jobs, and knowledgeable about safety and FAA regulations.

That's it.

And here's a final, radical thought for you: Now that air travel *security* is being nationalized, is air travel itself next?

911 Anniversary Post

OH, our pain is so much more important than the rest of the world's. Oh, having a great monument to human endeavour (NYC) marred indelibly means we can do whatever the hell we want, unilaterally, 'preemptively', because we're America! And We're Right!

Bullshit. You want to wallow in self-pity because 3000 human beings died? You want to pretend Bush is a Valiant Man Doing a Good Job In Hard Times? Then this is not the blog for you.

Actually, I take that back, because a little truth might do you good.

Go read Baghdad Burning's entry for the 9th of September, where she talks about terrorists in Iraq, terrorists in the government of Iraq, and Bush's A-OK speech.

Ask yourself who probably has a clearer picture of "Life in Iraq" right now. George W. Silver-spoon pretend-flyboy Bush or someone living life in Iraq, right now?

This should not be difficult to figure out.

Here endeth the rant.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Did I post about this already?

Voting Technology Study:

National Science Foundation: Grant 0306698

Principal Investigators: Paul Herrnson (University of Maryland), Ben Bederson (University of Maryland), Fred Conrad (University of Michigan), Richard Niemi (University of Rochester), Michael Traugott (University of Michigan)

The events surrounding the 2000 presidential election called attention to a variety of seldom‑discussed facts: that voting technology and ballot design can influence election outcomes; that most polling places in the United States employ outdated technology; that training in election administration is inadequate; that minorities and the poor are more likely to cast their ballots on outdated systems; and that voting procedures affect how voters feel about their ability to exercise their right to vote and their willingness to accept the results of an election as legitimate...

...This project brings together social and computer scientists from a number of disciplines to study voting technology and ballot design.  We will first assess the impact of existing technology and ballot designs on a variety of factors: the ability of voters to cast their ballots accurately and efficiently, voter ease in casting complete ballots (if so desired), voter comfort using different technology and ballot interfaces, voter confidence that their ballots will be accurately recorded, and the
level of voter turnout.  We also will analyze the effects of alternative voting systems and ballot formats on the frequency of incomplete ballots and split‑ticket voting.

...Finally, we will create a generalized protocol for testing voting technology and ballot formats that will be disseminated for nationwide use.

Info about the study

Sheer Idiocy

(as opposed to opaque, reinforced-toe idiocy with tummy control panel)

9/11 liability cases given go ahead

Litigation has been initiated by about 70 people who were either injured in the attacks in New York, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania, or whose relatives died.
Defendants include American Airlines, United Airlines, aircraft manufacturer Boeing, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owned the World Trade Center.
The defendants argue that they should not be held liable because the suicide attacks were unprecedented and impossible to guard against.

The defendants are completely right, of course. This ought to be laughed out of court. I bet it won't.


Heavy rains have destroyed at least 180 ancient mud buildings in the Unesco-designated 'world heritage city' of Timbuktu.

Floods damage ancient Timbuktu

Monday, September 08, 2003

Work. Life. Balance.

Work Life Balance and the Rest of Our Lives, by Professor Andrew Oswald, of Warwick University. Terribly interesting. (link picked up from Fistful of Euros.) It's only 4 pages, go ahead and read it.

From the paper's intro:

Work. Yet more work. And still more of the stuff.
Many feel that this is what consumes us. As the most vibrant years of our life tick away, we sit at a hot desk in front of a still hotter keyboard. People in the industrial nations are rich -- breathtakingly affluent by any historical standard -- but it is easy in 2003 to believe that it is essential to rush down the office corridor, have business meetings with Cornflakes, compete endlessly for promotion, take no real lunch break, and the rest.

The endless competition for rank is a problem, as no one wants to get off the ride first. Oswald proposes coordinated time off, and then, perhaps cheekily, suggests abolishing Wednesdays. I think that's a great idea. Or, of course, Mondays.

Moving along...

I suck at work-life balance as a rule. Realizing that, I made a firm rule, two jobs ago, as firm as I could.

No weekends, yes lunch.

Four little words. It's hard. I've certainly worked weekends, but less than I did in 2000. And I went out to lunch almost every single day, away from the building I worked in, which is a vast improvement over 2000, when I almost never did.

But it takes effort to say, I will be more productive if I don't kill myself, because of course if you've got someone breathing down your neck on a project, and you go out to lunch, you can't possibly be working hard enough. Bull.

That observation points up something about the manager-employee dynamic, at least in tech fields, but I'm not sure I've got my finger quite on it:

If your manager doesn't know how you do what you do, they cannot gauge your productivity. Ergo, so long as you look busy, you must be busy. Thus, if they're panicking about something, and you're visibly not, you must not understand the severity of the problem (my god! how could you possibly be going to lunch when this needs to be delivered by close of business!) in which case you need constant on-site micro-management to within an inch of your life, which is never productive.

Hm. Both of which, by the way, come back to Oswald's paper. One of the things he discusses is feelings of autonomy and intrinsic worth.

Being micro-managed, of course, destroys any feeling of autonomy nigh-immediately.

And re: self worth, if your manager doesn't know how you do what you do, or what you do at all, not only can they not gauge your productivity, they cannot give you useful approval. This is very much so in tech work. If you can't understand what I did for you, sure, I"ll be happy that you're happy I solved your problem, but since you're not judging the quality of my work, there's no peer approval provided when you call me a deity. And as much as people like adulation, it's the approval of our peers - people whom we respect and admire within our field of expertise- that we need as much, if not more.

Make History. Rinse. Repeat.

Rumsfeld Strikes Back at Critics of U.S. Effort on Terror

With costs and casualties rising in the war on terrorism, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld struck back today at the administration's widening circle of critics, saying they were complicating an already difficult task.

This is where I snidely say, "shoulda thought about some of this stuff BEFORE invading, guys."*

Mr. Rumsfeld did not mention any of the domestic critics by name. But he suggested that those who have been critical of the administration’s handling of the war in Iraq and its aftermath might be encouraging American foes to believe that the United States might one day walk away from the effort, as it has in past conflicts.

Sorry to be so relentlessly logical, but...if my country's done it in the past, isn't that a reasonable expectation then? For a foe OR ally.

One of the most sensitive issues still outstanding for the administration is the American failure to date to produce evidence that Iraq was producing illicit weapons, something that Mr. Bush, Mr. Rumsfeld and other top officials cited as one of the main reasons for going to war.

And, on an unrelated matter, but apropos when talking about the Bush administration:

One can’t be a blogger for long before being reminded of the sad truth that people tend to believe information that is congenial to their interests and disbelieve that which isn’t.

from the gang over at Crooked Timber, a blog worthy of your note.

[*] Really. That's a whole 'nother theme. I get the idea that Bush, et al, believed all they had to do was eliminate Saddam, and *poof*, magically, Iraq would be 'fixed' (translation: just like us, only browner and offering low rates on oil). Is there a expert on Islam in the house? On the Middle East in general? Evidently not.