Friday, November 12, 2004

You say 'unclassified', I say 'classified'

Secrecy-oriented Bush Administration strikes again:


In a momentous expansion of the apparatus of government secrecy, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is requiring employees and others to sign legally binding non-disclosure agreements as a condition of access to certain categories of unclassified information.
Up to now, non-disclosure agreements have only been used by government agencies to regulate access to classified information. In fact, they are one of the defining features of the national security classification system, along with security clearances and the "need to know" principle. As far as Secrecy News could determine, such classification-like controls have never before been systematically imposed on access to unclassified information.

From Steven Aftergood's "Secrecy News".

100 Things to Hate About Me

100 Things To Hate About Me:

1. I dislike fads.
2. I'm a twin and have no other siblings.
3. I like a good cigar now and then.
4. There are more things on this Earth that I want to do than I have time for. This is alternately thrilling and horrifying.
5. I hate karaoke.
6. I sing superbly, or have in the past.
7. I am sometimes taken to be extremely arrogant. From my POV, I'm trying to be very precise about what I know how to do.
8.. I'm an INTJ on the Meyers-Brigg index.
9. I appear to have some kind of dairy-related allergy.
10. Artichokes make me fall asleep. Instantly. Not in a good way. Marinated artichoke hearts do not.
11. I have about a migraine a year, these days.
12. I don't like foods that stick to my teeth, even if I like the taste.
13. My idea of a great vacation is to get in my truck and tramp around for two weeks, camping willy-nilly.
14. I color my hair. Right now, various bits are blue.
15. I do things that scare the snot out of me, because they scare the snot out of me.
16. I've been chased by a bear.
17. On more than one morning when I was a child, I woke up to find our path to the bus stop closed "on account of moose".
18. My elementary school burned down when I was in 4th grade, over christmas break.
19. I love Monty Python.
20. I believe teachers and librarians are two of the most important types of people in the world.
21. I ran away from home in 6th grade.
22. I collect cookbooks.
23. I own a copy of the Hare Krishna book.
24. I collect dictionaries.
25. I went to Japan and didn't take any pictures at all.
26. I'm a published author.
27. I'm terrible at remembering my old addresses. Zip codes are the bane of my existence.
28. I came in second in a spelling bee, once.
29. I've performed choral work in Swahili, French, Spanish, Latin, German and English. 3 of those in one work, even.
30. I've always lived somewhere where there is earthquakes, until now.
31. It took me over 5 years to read The Tao of Physics, by Fritijof Capra. I started it in high school, and finished it in college. After I'd taken the right classes.
32. I always knew I wanted to study science, and I was right.
33. My father sang opera.
34. My first program was written in BASIC.
35. I own an oil painting.
36. I've studied Japanese and German. I prefer Japanese.
37. My natural father tells a story about me and my twin brother singing in Latin. As infants.
38. I have a photo of my (alleged) aura.
39. I felt constantly misunderstood as a child.
40. There is a certain category of 60's/70's "folk rock" that I think of as Sunday morning music. Gordon Lightfoot, Jim Croce, and CSNY.
41. I resent the implication that I have to be a Christian in order to be a patriotic American.
42. I miss each and every dog that's ever been a part of my life.
43. I've mushed dogs.
44. I avoid popcorn, but sometimes crave it.
45. I've been thoughtless and cruel in the past, and consciously try to be thoughtful and kind in the present.
46. I can bake an apple pie, including crust, from scratch.
47. The largest number of people I've ever cooked for is between 10 and 15.
48. I have more than one totem animal.
49. My ears are double-pierced.
50. I think parents over-protect their children and should be restrained from micro-managing their lives.
51. Sometime after a car accident, when I got measured for a custom-made wetsuit [because I'm so short], the assistant had to do the shoulder-to-groin measurement from both shoulders because one was lower than the other.
52. Some days I would kill to be just a few inches taller. "Some days" tend to occur when I have to drive an unfamiliar car.
53. I would like to direct a film.
54. I was bit by a dog once for slapping a mosquito near his leg. Poor boy, he thought I was going to hit him.
55. I have never met a dog I'm afraid of. This includes other people's guard dogs.
56. My very first friend in California was a big pitbull mix named "Bowser".
57. I've written 4 stories so far in some way inspired by or involving my cats. 2 of them are children's picture books.
58. Most of the porn movies I've watched are really pretty dull. It's the flat noises the girl makes that bore me. She's obviously not having fun.
59. My favorite thing in gymnastics was the vault.
60. A lot of my story ideas come from my dreams.
61. I used to rollerblade in the parking lot of the local elementary school near my apartment, in the middle of the night.
62. I'm scared of big rig trucks.
63. I love wood floors.
64. Whenever I donate blood, I get an obscenely big bruise on my arm. No, no, not obscenely shaped.
65. I worry about losing or breaking my glasses.
66. I have a scar on my hand where the tip of a big Rambo-esque knife stabbed into me.
67. I've swung on a rope from one tree to another. It was fun.
68. I spin, knit, and crochet and have a lot of unfinished projects.
69. I adore maps.
70. I own a piece of amazonite that I cut and shaped and polished myself.
71. I vote.
72. I have a cellphone.
73. I know how to SCUBA dive.
74. The farthest east I've ever been is Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
75. The farthest west I've ever been is Osaka, Japan.
76. The farthest south I've ever been is Waikiki, Hawaii, USA.
77. The farthest north I've ever been is Fairbanks, Alaska, USA.
78. I've touched a dolphin.
79. There really is nothing like a wood fire.
80. Autumn is my favorite season.
81. I was almost disqualified from a spelling bee once for spelling "favorite" "favourite". But they let me go on. I thought they were stupid. Obviously I'd demonstrated command of accepted British and American spellings, hadn't I?
82. I love red meat, onion, tomatos, and potatos. Sometimes all together.
83. I yell at people who don't use their turn signals.
84. I have a scar on my forehead right between my eyes. Just a little dot, usually not noticeable with my glasses on.
85. I used to collect "how to say 'thank you'" in different languages. I think the most I got up to was around 15.
86. I studied tap, 'acrobatics', and modern dance all before I was 11.
87. I worked for a living between high school and college.
88. I adored qualitative analysis in chemistry.
89. I worked for a living and then some between college and grad school.
90. I spend a lot of time alone, by choice. I'm not alone inside my head.
91. I've cut all my hair off 3 times, so far.
92. I tan.
93. I was a water-bearer at Estrella war in Arizona, but I forget which year. Helluva lot of fun.
94. I own a Star Trek Deep Space Nine(tm) Bajoran Earring.
95. My twin brother and I were once a special effect, for the Black Box Theater troupe. This involved vast quantities of paper airplanes.
96. My name means "star".
97. My favorite color changes over the years.
98. I love the smell of books.
99. Sometimes I wear makeup, sometimes I don't.
100. I want to be me, only better, when I grow up.

Thursday, November 11, 2004


'[The fact that] conduct which is actually cruel is motivated by an excess of religious zeal does not excuse it on any theory of a constitutional guaranty of religious freedom.' 17 Am.Jur. 295, § 59.

One of the things that I really didn't expect about coming to law school is that we spend nearly as much time talking about fair play, justice, or equity, as we do about the rules of law.

Cure for Diabetes?

A Diabetes Researcher Forges Her Own Path to a Cure

Pancreatic islet cells are the things that die in your pancreas, thus giving you diabetes.

Why do they die? Because your immune system (white cells) think they're bad guys.

Why? Because they're misreading a protein.

So. Fix the misread so the white cells stop.

And...the pancreatic cells just might grow back.

Thanks, Kim!

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

"Torture is Nifty"

'Cause, you know, absolute power is really kind of fun.

Memos Reveal War Crimes Warnings
Could Bush administration officials be prosecuted for 'war crimes' as a result of new measures used in the war on terror? The White House's top lawyer thought so.


No on Alberto Gonzales for Attorney General, or Supreme Court

White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales's Texas Execution Memos: How They Reflect on the President, And May Affect Gonzales's Supreme Court Chances, by John W. Dean.

From 1995 to 1997, Gonzales acted as his [Bush's -- sid] legal counsel when the then-Governor decided whether to grant clemency, or to allow the executions to go forward. What kind of counsel did Gonzales provide? According to Berlow[*], he "repeatedly failed to apprise the governor of crucial issues in the cases at hand: ineffective counsel, conflict of interest, mitigating evidence, even actual evidence of innocence."
Berlow writes that the memos reflect "an extraordinarily narrow notion of clemency." They appear to have excluded, for instance, factors such as "mental illness or incompetence, childhood physical or sexual abuse, remorse, rehabilitation, racial discrimination in jury selection, the competence of the legal defense, or disparities in sentences between co-defendants or among defendants convicted of similar crimes."
Take the case of Terry Washington, a thirty-three-year-old mentally retarded man with the communications skills of a seven-year-old executed in 1997. Gonzales's clemency memo, according to Berlow, did not even mention his mental retardation, or his lawyer's failure to call, at trial, for the testimony of a mental health expert on this issue. Nor did it mention that the jury never heard about Washington's history of child abuse; he was one of ten children, all of whom "were regularly beaten with whips, water hoses, extension cords, wire hangers, and fan belts."
Execution of the mentally retarded was already under a shadow at that point - a shadow has only deepened over the ensuing years. In 2002, in Atkins v. Virginia, a majority of the Supreme Court held - too late for Washington - that executing the mentally retarded is "cruel and unusual" punishment prohibited by the Eighth Amendment.

* The memos are unpublished, but were reviewed by Berlow in The Atlantic Monthly.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Ashcroft Resigns

Ashcroft and Evans resign from Bush Cabinet

Ashcroft, in a five-page, handwritten letter to Bush, said, "The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved."

*blink* *blink*

It has?

Well, we know what happened the last time someone said "Mission Accomplished".

Method v. Faith

Darwinism v. "Intelligent Design"

I've blogged about this before.

Let's go over this again:

Faith: belief without evidence.
Science: the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena. Very poorly paraphrased, "skeptical belief with gathered evidence".

Both are part of a whole: humanity's endless search for understanding, of self, self's place in the universe, and purpose. But they are not the same.

What I don't understand is why anyone would want to teach religion in science class. If you believe that your religion has all the answers, and science is a puny second-best, well, then let science be taught - it's just a method for studying what we see around us. Religion is The Truth, ineffable and pure.

Why do you want your Truth to be sullied, taught on the same level, in the same room as a mere method?

'No-fly' Lists

Justice wants 'no-fly' lawsuit tossed

The problem with no-fly lists is this:

They'd be great if they were actually a list of *names*. Or great at least in the sense of maybe *working*.

But what they are is a list of *name abbreviations*. How many people do you think will abbreviate to the same thing?

I blogged about this back in June of last year, after reading this article --

No-fly list ensnares innocent travelers

Many airlines rely on name-searching software derived from "Soundex," a 120-year-old indexing system first used in the 1880 U.S. census. It was designed to help census clerks quickly index and retrieve sound-alike surnames with different spellings -- like "Rogers" and "Rodgers" or "Somers" and "Summers" -- that would be scattered in an alphabetical list.
Soundex gives each name a key using its first letter and dropping the vowels and giving number codes to similar-sounding vowels (like "S" and "C"). The system gives the same code, L350, for "Laden" and all similar-sounding names: Lydon, Lawton, and Leedham.

So, you see, all these similar names get dumped into the same bucket, and only one label can be put on the outside of that bucket. Fly, or no-fly.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

"Mercy Killing" in Iraq

When PFC Collins' Bradley fighting vehicle was disabled and he was wounded in a mortar attack in western Bagdhad, he was still moving and calling for help in broken Arabic when he died.

Seven American soldiers were killed in the attack, including Collins, military officials said. Eight others were wounded.

Rather than provide medical help to the injured man, the local citizens, who had arrived shortly after insurgents left the ambush site, treated PFC Collins as if he were "an animal struck by a car", not a human being.

They shot him, twice. Collins was 19.

Residents of the neighborhood characterized the shooting as a "mercy killing," saying they shot the wounded American "to put him out of his misery."

I am livid.

And I ask you, I ask you --

If you swap the nationalities around, so that it was American soldiers killing a 16-year-old Iraqi boy after blowing up the garbage truck he was on, are you still appalled?

Mercy and Murder at Issue in Iraq Death

There were medics. On the scene. And relatives of the wounded boy. Yet two soldiers took it upon themselves to "put him out of his misery".

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.


Tradition of Female Hamlets

Vending Machine Hamlet

Vitale coat of arms

Honest, I couldn't think of a better place to put this. I just don't want to lose it.

-- note to self

Arms: Quarterly, 1st & 4th, gules, three hedgehogs or, on a chief of the last, an eagle displayed, sable; 2nd and 3rd, argent on a terrace vert, a tower, gules, issuing therefrom a sword, proper, all between two lions combatant, or; on an inescutcheon argent, a grapevine, vert.

-- end note to self

Hedgehogs. I love that my family crest (well, one of my family crests, I guess as I have the Family: extended edition) has hedgehogs in it. That's too cool.