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Deanies, Taking Initiative

Posted by Ogged
on 10.18.03

Recently, a fairly prominent liberal author was in my area for a reading. The bookstore was packed--more than I've ever seen--with good liberals. But just one campaign had thought to capitalize on this: the Deanies. They had a table set up just outside the store with Dean campaign literature and--smart cookies--voter registration forms. This is the kind of stuff that wins elections. The Deanies get it, no one else seems to.


 

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Atkins, Cornaro, Nietzsche

Posted by Ogged
on 10.18.03

Remember this? Now we have the video. It begins with Pavel's speech.

Comrades, accept the challenge of Russian kettlebell lifting. Kettlebell lifting is the favorite sport of the Russian military. Kettlebell lifting lets you build strength, endurance, and enables you to lose weight without the dishonor of dieting and aerobics.

First the biceps, then Chechnya. My fiancee is strong now. But she also has real injuries. So I've finally convinced her to transition to a more civilized workout regimen. Watching the taut Pavel throw around the kettlebell, I was reminded of this passage from Nietzsche's Twilight of the Idols.

The error of confusing cause and effect.— There is no more dangerous error than that of mistaking the effect for the cause: I call it the real corruption of reason. Yet this error belongs among the most ancient and recent habits of mankind: it is even hallowed among us and goes by the name of "religion" or "morality." Every single sentence which religion and morality formulate contains it; priests and legislators of moral codes are the originators of this corruption of reason.— I give an example. Everybody knows the book of the famous Cornaro in which he recommends his slender diet as a recipe for a long and happy life—a virtuous one too. Few books have been read so much; even now thousands of copies are sold in England every year. I do not doubt that scarcely any book (except the Bible, as is meet) has done as much harm, has shortened as many lives, as this well-intentioned curiosum. The reason: the mistaking of the effect for the cause. The worthy Italian thought his diet was the cause of his long life, whereas the precondition for a long life, the extraordinary slowness of his metabolism, the consumption of so little, was the cause of his slender diet. He was not free to eat little or much; his frugality was not a matter of "free will": he became sick when he ate more. But whoever is no carp not only does well to eat properly, but needs to.

Damn right. Keep the kettlebell away from me and pass the fries; this is body-wisdom talking.


 

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iTunes

Posted by Ogged
on 10.18.03

Ok, I'm back, soon to disappear again since we have people coming to stay with us and they'll arrive in a few hours. I was too wiped to blog yesterday, but I did play with the just released iTunes for Windows. The short skinny: wonderful interface, smart system, very thin music catalog. If your tastes run to Top 40, I think they have you covered. But no Gillian Welch? Just a handful of Pixies songs? And you can forget about anything like Malinky or the wonderful Boubacar Traore.

It's not clear, of course, whether the record companies even want something like iTunes to succeed. I guess we'll see if more music is released. But let's face it, gone forever are those roughly six months when Napster was legal, everyone was using it, and if you could think of a song, it was for the taking.


 

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Hot and cold

Posted by Unf
on 10.17.03

So I had to go to the dentist today to get a cavity filled. I got way numbed up, which of course lasted for several hours after I was done with the appointment. The interesting thing was, I tried drinking a cold soda just after I got into work after the appointment. It felt like there was cold soda on half my tongue and warm tap water on the other half. It was really cool - I highly suggest trying it.

Yes, I know this is possibly the lamest blog post ever. Cut me some slack; I'm trying to pick up some of the considerable slack Ogged has left us.


 

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Thinking big

Posted by Bob
on 10.17.03

It's like Lysenkoism on tomacco:

According to a Chinese news agency, Yang Liwei carried a bag of vegetable seeds into space. There have been stories coming out of China for several weeks that exposure of seeds to space radiation produces huge tomatoes and other vegetables. When it was pointed out to the news agency that most mutations are harmful, WN was assured that in China the radiation effect is always positive, leading to bigger and better vegetables that will revolutionize agriculture.

(Lifted in its entirety from Bob Park's What's New.)


 

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How could Jew?

Posted by Bob
on 10.17.03

Iranians shouldn't be seen driving black Beemers, and Jews shouldn't make money by gleefully depicting the murder of innocents. From Gregg Easterbrook's now-notorious piece on Kill Bill, for which he has apologized:

Disney's CEO, Michael Eisner, is Jewish; the chief of Miramax, Harvey Weinstein, is Jewish. Yes, there are plenty of Christian and other Hollywood executives who worship money above all else, promoting for profit the adulation of violence. Does that make it right for Jewish executives to worship money above all else, by promoting for profit the adulation of violence? Recent European history alone ought to cause Jewish executives to experience second thoughts about glorifying the killing of the helpless as a fun lifestyle choice.

The controversy and Easterbrook's apology have largely focused on Easterbrook's reference to the stereotype of Jews as amoral worshippers of money. That's fine, but what I take issue with is Easterbrook's assumption that there is some kind of historical legacy that all Jews share but that excludes everyone else. Do all Jews share in a single cultural legacy, just because they're Jewish?

If ethnicity (or is it religion?) is a valid way of determining who has particular historical responsibilities or obligations, then Howard Stern, William Shatner, and Madeline Albright belong in one group, and Hillary Clinton, Sigfried, and Roy belong in another. Stern, Shatner, and Albright must share certain ideological and moral stances because They Are Jews.

Now, I do sort of believe that there are responsibilities that arise from historical legacies. For instance, I would be doubly angry at a Japanese-American politician advocating internment of Muslims as a homeland-security measure. One difference is that there's a direct parallel between ethnic scapegoating of Muslims and ethnic scapegoating of Japanese-Americans. There's no similar parallel between a Tarantino bloodbath fantasy and the Holocaust. If Easterbrook can claim such a parallel, then where does it stop? Could we condemn Winona Ryder for shoplifting, after all the art the Nazis stole from her people?

(Thanks to Adam Sandler (here and here) for biographical research.)


 

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Sleep, Then Blog

Posted by Ogged
on 10.17.03

It's been a night of not entirely welcome exigencies and I won't even try to blog on 11/2 hours of sleep. I'll probably get back to the blog this evening.

In the meantime, there's Body and Soul for smart liberal outrage and Jack O'Toole for savvy liberal politics.

Brian Leiter has posted "Against Civility, Part II" to which I'll respond in the next few days.

And with that, I commend you to the talents of Unf and Bob. Good day all.


 

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Art that edifies and challenges

Posted by Bob
on 10.16.03

Here's the link (via Bookslut), but I'm giving you the whole thing:

Musician Celine Dion and renowned baby photographer Anne Geddes will reportedly "combine their unique gifts" for a project celebrating the bond that exists between a mother and her baby. It's not clear what form the collaboration of the celebrities will take, but it is likely to be a book of photographs packaged with a full length Dion CD. Fittingly called the "miracle project", the new project is slated for release by Sony in October 2004.

Maybe they mean it to be ironic?


 

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Schmiety

Posted by Ogged
on 10.16.03

First, go look.

It is an interesting face, isn't it? But I don't agree with the analysis. It's a very social expression (you wouldn't make it if you were alone), but I don't think there's such a real sentiment as "damn, got caught" behind it. It seems more like "I am signaling that I understand the gravity of the situation."

(There's a very similar face that people make when they're trying not to cry, but I think that one is different in the eyes.) Maybe we should ask Paul Ekman.


 

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Just the facts ma'am

Posted by Bob
on 10.16.03

Michael Kinsley has an obvious but good essay at Slate about George Bush's preference for "unfiltered" news. He quotes Bush in a month-old interview with David Brit Hume:

"I glance at the headlines, just to get kind of a flavor," he told Brit Hume of Fox News last month. But, "I rarely read the stories" because "a lot of times there's opinions mixed in with news." Instead, "I get briefed by [White House Chief of Staff] Andy Card and Condi [Rice, the national security adviser] in the morning." The president concluded, "The best way to get the news is from objective sources. And the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what's happening in the world."

I think it's most useful when we move beyond decrying Bush's vapidness and try actually to dissect it. Bush is often described as unintellectual and incurious, and I agree with both of these charges. What I find troubling in these quotes, however, is that Bush lacks the basic understanding of critical reading that my worst students also lack. He doesn't seem to get that after the sixth grade there's little useful difference between fact and opinion -- that as a grown-up he should have to take in the facts, the analysis, the opinion -- everything -- and form his own understanding of the truth. He doesn't want to acknowledge that intelligence reports are like weather forecasts: neither pure fact nor pure opinion. Bush wants to absorb uncritically, and uncritical absorption is the first (and most difficult) thing we try to stop our students from lapsing into. And like our worst students, Bush sees nothing wrong with any of it.

(And what is the uncritical absorption that he wants? Does he want to be fed pure facts, in which case he'll have to reinvent every analytical wheel that's he's having removed from his datastream? Or does he want preanalyzed information, predigested in the intellectual enzyme baths of Card and Rice? But then why whould he have lauded C&R's objectivity instead of their smarts?)

Or: Bush (again, like a poor student) oversimplifies the process of being critical, turns it into a matter of whom to trust, whom to label as biased. Ideas are so hard to judge, but people are easy to place into categories: With Us, Against Us.

Or: Bush understands all this. Given the context, it's not unlikely that Bush was just trying to discourage the public from being critical of Card's and Rice's pronouncements. Bush pushing a bright-line epistemology that acknowledges no grays, no uncertainties, and certainly no value to critical media intermediaries. That's less surprising and less scary, though it's more infuriating -- it's Bush once again capitalizing on and furthering the stupidization of America.


 

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Blast Off

Posted by Ogged
on 10.16.03
It's nice to see that someone understands that the Chinese space-flight wasn't just third-worlders playing modern.

 

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Sir, You're Stepping On My Toes

Posted by Ogged
on 10.16.03

Maybe you've seen NFL player Warren Sapp literally skipping through the opposing team's pregame warmups lately. So here's an uncomfortable question: if you're a big black guy, don't you have a duty not to act like a gorilla in the bush?

Just like: if you're Indian, you should never undertip; if you're Iranian, you should never drive a black BMW; if you're white, you should never be the most uptight person in the room.

Wail wail, unfair untrue, but some stereotypes just can't be subverted or enacted ironically. There is no way to be both 1) Iranian and 2) cool while driving a black Beemer: you'll always be a vain clueless foreigner following some solecistic notion of style. An Indian who undertips never says "service sucked," he says, "I'm cheap."

There's a serious question here. There's a raft of things I don't do because I don't want people to think that Iranians do them or "are like that." I've never found this unfair or oppressive: as long as I'm identified with a group (and we all always are), then I figure I have an obligation not to do things that reflect badly on that group. I can distantly understand people who take umbrage at the constraints group membership imposes, but I have to confess that, in the main, I find them childish and petulant.

But here's the problem. Are they doing more good for the group than I am? Am I not an Uncle Tom? I am a classic melting-pot assimilationist: I think I help myself and my group most if I act with deference toward the whole and I think that the best way to change the whole (eg, have it adopt norms important to me; make it respectful of those things it doesn't adopt) is through a mixture of deference and patient explanation. I'm not what you'd call a radical.

I know the temptation is to say that it takes all kinds (that may even be right), but that kind of answer doesn't help an individual decide how to act. Which is better for the group, the assimilationist or the radical?


 

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Unfalsifiable hypothesis

Posted by Bob
on 10.16.03

Apparently, intercessory prayer doen't work as a medical treatment. Contradicting an earlier, smaller study, a Duke University Medical Center study in which 750 angioplasty recipients' recoveries were the subject either of multifaith prayer or of internally voiced strings of random vowels (I'm guessing at what the control must have been) found no benefit to prayer. Some prayer advocates criticize the study for its assumption that the effect of prayer is dose-dependent. The study took place in North Carolina, where the prayerwaves are presumably choked with prayers in every direction. If fifteen strangers' prayers are no more influential to God than are the prayers of one or two of the patient's loved ones, then simply intensifying prayer for one treatment group would have no noticeable effect. (But then what about that earlier study? Did it happen in Berkeley?)

ADDENDUM: Berkeley was close: this 1988 study seems to have been conducted in San Francisco. This 1999 study, however, was conducted in Kansas City. KC is no atheist haven, and indeed the KC study failed to replicate the SF study's successful use of intercessory prayer. Proof that prayer's effect is not stoichiometric.

ADDENDUM 2: An old Time article about the woman who probably inspired the West Wing storyline about federally funded medical-prayer research.


 

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The Space-Time Continuum Remains Intact

Posted by Unf
on 10.15.03

"Well, you have to be happy that a club than lost more than 90 games last year gets all the way to game 7 of the NLCS this year. We should all keep in mind and be happy about what a terrific job Dusty has done with this club this year."

That's not an exact quote, but you'll be hearing something like that a lot over the next few days. To which I say, fuck that. This choke will go down as possibly the most epic choke of all time. Worse even, just maybe, than Bill Buckner's 86 Red Sox. Next year, it appears, will remain firmly rooted in next year and is not, as the signs would have it, now.

Of course, by next April all of my hope will be restored, sucker that I am.


 

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Job Done

Posted by Ogged
on 10.15.03

The latest Busy Busy Busy entry on Mickey Kaus is pretty great.



 

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Loose Ends

Posted by Ogged
on 10.15.03

This is probably worth saying: I still think the war was a good thing. The only acceptable alternative was sustained coercive inspections and I'm not convinced that those would have been, economically or politically, sustainable. But we don't need to rehash the whole pre-war debate. A couple of points are important now.

We won't have a good idea of the effects of the war for years yet. Of course there's chaos in parts of Iraq, but that's to be expected. I don't mean to excuse the administration's notable incompetence in post-war planning. But neither do I think that every bad thing that happens in Iraq is a result of incompetence. It's a fluid situation with lots of groups with their own agendas and no compunction about the use of violence. By all means, throw out this loathsome, lying administration, but don't be foolish enough to think that, less than a year after a complete overhaul of a nation's government, the situation should be much better than it is now.

Second, if anyone still says that because he has good speechwriters or good advisors it doesn't matter that George Bush is a moron who hasn't mastered English, then that person deserves a kick in the ass. The administration is trying to reorganize itself at a crucial moment because no one has controlled State, Defense, and the NSC. The public is riven because a coherent case for war was never made. Sometimes it seems people think that politicians are so horrible that it doesn't matter who's elected. Or they think that bureaucrats run the country by themselves. Both views are false: the President matters and it's still surreal to need to point out that George Bush isn't competent to be President.


 

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Even Colin

Posted by Ogged
on 10.15.03
A former aide to Colin Powell has this to say about Powell's speech to the UN prior to the invasion of Iraq.
I think my conclusion [about Powell's speech] now is that it's probably one of the low points in his long distinguished service to the nation ... The main problem was that the senior administration officials have what I call faith-based intelligence," says Thielmann. "They knew what they wanted the intelligence to show. They were really blind and deaf to any kind of countervailing information the intelligence community would produce. I would assign some blame to the intelligence community and most of the blame to the senior administration officials."
This is remarkable. Brady Kiesling, Rand Beers, now Greg Thielmann. All former officials who were willing to go on the record with dissent while the administration they served was still in power. via Drudge

 

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Padilla Matters

Posted by Ogged
on 10.14.03
You may have noticed that I've gone easy on John Ashcroft here. I always have in my mind what George Bush told him after 9/11: "Don't let this happen again, John." And I don't know, I really don't know, how I would act in his place, were I responsible not just for safeguarding liberty, but also people's lives. (His rhetoric and attacks on dissenters have been abominable, but other people have had that covered.) So it was with much interest that I read Eric Muller's account (via Volokh) of a talk by Mike Chertoff, the Assistant Attorney General actually responsible for carrying out Justice Department policy. Read it all (just one page) but I'll excerpt here.

The limited information they had suggested a realistic possibility of further strikes. (And, he pointed out, it still does.)
People who make decisions under this sort of pressure, and in this state of imperfect information, he noted, do not have the benefit of hindsight. They must act.
He said that he is entirely prepared to accept history's judgment of how he acted. And, interestingly, he reported that he and others were "acutely aware" of the eventual judgment of history, even as he was acting in those first few days. But he unapologetically defended most of what DOJ ultimately did.
The key portion:
Toward the end of his talk, he ticked off a list of features that showed the measured nature of the DOJ response: (1) there was, he said, no government suppression of dissent or criticism; (2) the PATRIOT Act, notwithstanding all of the protests against it, did not purport to push law beyond existing 4th Amendment doctrine. Even the much-reviled sneak-and-peak warrants, he asserted, had the endorsement of well-established 4th Amendment precedent; (3) military commissions have not yet been used, do not apply to citizens, and admit of the possibility of limited habeas corpus review (which FDR's WWII commissions didn't); (4) there was no evacuation or detention of citizens or aliens on the unadorned basis of ethnicity; (5) all detentions had a lawful basis; (6) all people detained as enemy combatants were arrested in battle, and there was no detention that approached the magnitude of the detentions during the Civil War.
And a very important admission.
If Chertoff doubted the legality of any single post-9/11 action, it was the detention as a combatant of an American citizen on US soil. On this issue, he said, questions nag: How is an enemy combatant to be defined? What should the role of judicial review be? How long may detention last?
He makes a pretty good case. But every case has another side.
The harsh treatment of aliens since September 11 has had little political attention. Relatively few Americans know or care much about it. In this powerful book, Enemy Aliens, David Cole shows why we should care, as a matter not only of humanity but of self-interest. He lays out the Bush administration's policies in the way they can best be understood, in their impact on individual aliens. His tone is measured, his legal hand sure. He lets the facts speak, and the result is gripping. Cole gives the most convincing view that I have read of the legal and bureaucratic threats that now face immigrants and visitors to America. But then he goes on to make an even more important point. The repressive measures that President Bush and Attorney General Ashcroft first took against aliens are now being applied to citizens.
...
The treatment of the Guantánamo prisoners may be regarded as an extreme in US policy toward noncitizens: they are held in indefinite detention, kept incommunicado and without access to counsel, with no hearing to determine whether they were in fact enemy combatants. But exactly the same is being done now to two American citizens, Yasser Hamdi and Jose Padilla.
Padilla was born in Brooklyn, was brought up in Chicago, became a gang member, and was convicted several times. In prison he converted to Islam. After travel abroad he was arrested at O'Hare Airport, Chicago, on May 8, 2002. He was flown to New York by Justice Department agents, who served him with a warrant as a material witness before a grand jury investigating the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. A federal judge set a hearing on the warrant and appointed a lawyer for him, Donna Newman. But two days before the hearing, Padilla was flown to a Navy brig in South Carolina and held as an "enemy combatant." There he remains.
For the last sixteen months Ms. Newman has been trying to speak with Padilla, her client. A federal trial judge decided that she should be able to do so for the limited purpose of getting any facts casting doubt on his designation as an enemy combatant. But the Justice Department objected even to that, saying that any contact with a lawyer might hurt the effort to extract information from Padilla by destroying the desired "atmosphere of dependency and trust between the subject and interrogator." The case is now before the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York. A lawyer involved, not Donna Newman, told me it was "still hard to accept that we are having to argue that an American citizen, picked up at O'Hare Airport, has a right to see his lawyer."


 

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Re: Cubs Game, Man in Stands

Posted by Ogged
on 10.14.03

Of course it's his fucking fault. And part of me hopes there's a group of drunken crazies waiting for him outside the park.

But then again folks...don't kill him. Just let him go. I'm serious. No murder.

UPDATE:The man was escorted out of the park by security.

MORE:Here's video of the man being escorted out. They really would have killed him.


 

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And your vote is?

Posted by Unf
on 10.14.03

I had been meaning to write about this topic a little while ago, but then the Man decided to stick his boot where the sun doesn't shine and I couldn't. But that particular area has freed up for the time being, so, with the news that the Texas Legislature has enacted its controversial redistricting plan, I thought I would give it another go. This may be duplicative of some of the discussions surrounding one of Ogged's earlier posts, but…well, I don't care.

Here's a somewhat simplified hypothetical situation. Say you have a state with 400,000 residents, 75% of whom are white and 25% of whom are black. The state has four congressional seats, and the law requires that each seat represent 100,000 residents. White residents vote 60% for Republicans and 40% for Democrats; black residents vote 10% for Republicans and 90% for Democrats. Demographic patterns combined with modern map-making technology make it possible to create districts that have any combination of (i) black and white residents and (ii) Democratic and Republican residents the map maker desires. Party affiliation is robust but not determinative - the course of events will determine election results, assuming the two parties are sufficiently close in numbers in the given district (anything closer than 55/45, say). Finally, assume a black representative will be elected only when black voters are a majority in the district.

So here are three possible districting plans.

1. Four districts that each have 75,000 white voters and 25,000 black voters, which translates into 52,500 Democrats and 47,500 Republicans per district. Thus, each district can be called competitive - that is, difficult to predict which party will win without knowing how the economy is doing, etc. No black representatives will be elected.

2. One district that has 85,000 black voters and 15,000 white voters, which translates into 82,500 Democrats and 17,500 Republicans, and three districts which each have 95,000 white voters and 5,000 black voters, which translates into 57,500 Republicans and 42,500 Democrats. Thus, the first district will elect a black Democratic representative and the other three will elect white Republican representatives. No districts can be called competitive.

3. One district that has 97,000 white voters and 3,000 black voters, which translates into 58,500 Republicans and 41,500 Democrats, and three districts which each have approximately 67,667 white voters and 32,333 black voters, which translates into 56,166 Democrats and 43,833 Republicans. Thus, the first district will elect a Republican and the other three districts will elect a Democrat. No districts can be called competitive and no black representatives will be elected.

Put aside what is required by the Voting Rights Act (which is easy for me to do, because I have no idea). If the state is in situation 1, am I supposed to care (putting aside my own party loyalty, but any other grounds are fair game) if it goes to situation 3? If I do care about such a change, should I care more (again, putting aside party loyalty) if it goes from situation 1 to situation 2 than situation 3? Should I care less? Frankly, I see no particular reason (as long as everybody gets one vote) to care what situation the state is in or whether it goes from any one situation to any other situation. Or am I missing something?


 

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Blacklist

Posted by Ogged
on 10.14.03

I've just installed this plugin to block comment/trackback spam. If you're a MT blogger, you may want to check it out (very easy to install). It passed my first rudimentary test (didn't crash the site, blocked obvious spam). If you're a commenter and find that it blocks a legitimate comment, please let me know.


 

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Bird bill

Posted by Bob
on 10.14.03

State politics isn't (aren't?) all in California. The Michigan state legislature is bracing itself for heated debate over the state bird. Currently the Michigan state bird is the robin, but an Audubon-backed (and Republican-sponsored!) bill would make the Kirtland's warbler the state bird and leave the robin to adorn oven-mitts. Most of the news media cover only the frivolous arguments: robins are beloved but ubiquitous, while the Kirtland's warbler, though it lives just in several counties in the north of the state, lives nowhere outside Michigan. KW-boosters complain that the robin is unspecial. Robin-boosters smear the Kirtland's warbler as being obscure, elitist. They also don't want to throw out all their robin sweatshirts.

If I were a Michigan legislator (oh, if only!) I'd go out and buy a bullhorn so that I could vote extra loud for the Kirtland's warbler. State-bird status means public visibility for the bird and a little extra political leverage for its protectors. Kirtland's warblers (which, by the way, are a federally listed endangered species) need stands of jack pine of a very particular age range. Because only very large forests are likely to have enough tracts of the right age at any time, saving Kirtland's warbler habitat means protecting many large forests. That's good for land protection, but it's also not bad for timber harvesters. Because jack pines grow in monospecific stands, moderate harvesting regimes may be perfectly compatible with Kirtland's warbler conservation, as long as the harvests are done in such a way that the entire forest maintains tracts with a diversity of ages. Win for conservationists, win for the timber industry. No robin can do that.


 

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Priorities

Posted by Bob
on 10.14.03

Why is China* conducting risky and controversial research to expand human fertility? Is it because the Chinese government values the happiness of individuals over the stability of the nation?

*That is, a Chinese research institution which presumably operates with government funding.


 

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I Need a Buck, Can You Call Dick?

Posted by Ogged
on 10.14.03

Time to watch the Salon ad again. They've selected the choice bits from Enron's email communications from the past few years. Go and enjoy.

(I have to add, including Ken Lay's daughter's emails seems like a pretty callous invasion of her privacy.)


 

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Distortion

Posted by Ogged
on 10.14.03
Yikes. Look out. Joseph Wilson hasn't been deterred by the attacks on him.
Wilson tells us he plans to circulate the text of a briefing by analyst Sam Gardiner that suggests the White House and Pentagon made up or distorted over 50 war stories.
Here's the memo (PDF). Here's how it starts.
It was not bad intelligence. It was much more. It was an orchestrated effort. It began before the war, was a major effort during the war and continues as post-conflict distortions.
The title of this study was difficult for me. When I began I thought it was going to be an analysis of Pentagon spin. I was going to call it, "Truth from this Podium." That was to be a play on promises we were given before the war. The more I did, the more it became clear that it was not just the Pentagon. It was the White House, and it was Number 10 Downing Street. It was more than spin.
I though about calling it "Apparatus of Lies," connecting to a title the White House gave a paper on Iraq's decade of fabrication, mostly about weapons of destruction. Although lies were part of the effort, that title would have been off the mark because the story is more about aversion to truth rather than the open lie.
...
This is one way of summarizing the study:
The United States (and UK) conducted a strategic influence campaign that:
• …distorted perceptions of the situation both before and during the conflict.
• …caused misdirection of portions of the military operation.
• …was irresponsible in parts.
• …might have been illegal in some ways.
• …cost big bucks.
• …will be even more serious in the future.
I know what I am suggesting is serious. I did not come to these conclusions lightly. Because my plea is for truth in war, I have tried to be very careful not to fall into a trap of describing exaggerations with exaggeration. I hope I've done that. I expect some will believe I have been guilty of the same sins. As long as we can have some discussion about truth in war, I accept the criticism.
A little googling on Sam Gardiner shows that he's not media-shy, but doesn't seem like a nutball. Of course, people will try to make him and Wilson the story here, but you can bet that this too will be in the headlines for quite a while. There's much more in the report, which I haven't had time to read. But it's long, thorough and, at first glance, pretty damning. story via the excellent Political Wire

 

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54

Posted by Bob
on 10.14.03

With all the fuss and my own angst over Arnold Schwarzenegger, I completely forgot about Prop 54 (aka the Racial Privacy Initiative), Ward Connerly's sneaky attempt to make it impossible for the California state government to identify its own discriminatory practices. It was defeated by 63.9% of the voters.


 

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Watch That Line

Posted by Ogged
on 10.14.03

jhp points to a very interesting passage in The Note arguing that even if there were two waves of leaks--one outing Plame to Novak, a second after publication pushing the story to other journalists--the second wave leakers aren't necessarily in the legal clear.

Nor can the administration claim that because the name appeared in the paper once it was no longer classified and that the government was no longer keeping it a secret. This Administration (and past ones) has often argued that something is still secret even if it was published once without collaboration.

This is where we should all just stop. I've made the point here before, that at sufficiently high levels of government, legal questions are always also political questions. No one will push for the prosecution of top administration officials on what appears to be a very strict and legalistic interpretation of the law unless there's strong public support for such a move. And that's where this liberal (who would dearly love to see George Bush's administration come to grief) draws the line.

If the CIA were pushing for the prosecution of an activist propagating a story only published in an obscure weekly that revealed the location of a secret detention center for legal immigrants suspected of terrorism, I would be outraged, and so would most of the people hoping that the Plame affair will hurt George Bush. And that's the right reaction. The CIA is not your friend. No matter how tempting, we shouldn't be helping the CIA set an absurd precedent for the protection of classified information. If the choice is between putting Karl Rove away by strengthening the CIA's legal position and letting Karl Rove walk by undermining the CIA's arguments, then we should let Rove walk.

MORE: Mark Kleiman is having dangerous thoughts about the Espionage Act (a different statute than the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which contains the familiar "the leaker needs to have known"..."was she undercover in the last five years" provisions). The details of the post are worth reading, but here's how Mark ends.

One reason for not using the Espionage Act routinely is its very sweep: it criminalizes a wide range of potential disclosures, and it doesn't exempt reporters or other re-transmitters of security-sensitive information (they're vulnerable under subsection e).
But this isn't a routine case. It seems to me that a prudent prosecutor going after the unmaskers of Valerie Plame would want to bring charges under 793 d and g, if only as backups to charges under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.
And if someone really wanted to make Robert Novak or Clifford May reveal his sources, just the hint of a prosecution that could result in spending eight hard years behind bars would probably cause either of them to reconsider the limits of journalistic confidence-keeping.

I'm glad that Mark is so careful with his phrasing: he doesn't actually say that the Espionage Act should be used. And I would once again counsel liberals to be very careful before they ally themselves with the CIA and begin calling for the prosecution of journalists. This is not a road we want to travel.


 

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Crash

Posted by Ogged
on 10.14.03

The server this site is housed on has been pretty jinxed. I hope last night's complete crash at my provider will be the catastrophe that expels all the demons from "Server 26." You'll notice that we're missing a day of posts and comments. That's because they had to restore from a day-old backup. I'll repost as soon as I can and try to add the comments, though the latter is a bit of work. Sorry again.

UPDATE: Posts restored. Comments later.

LAST: Comments restored.


 

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The Fuss

Posted by Ogged
on 10.14.03

I'm not in the habit of posting pornographic pictures on the site, but when I see a picture that is--in an almost unbelievably perfect way--porn in a nutshell, I have to share. (DON'T CLICK if other people can see your monitor.)

If, like me, you're interested in what unattractive, tasteless people find sexy, the Voyeurweb (from which that picture is taken), is a good place to look.


 

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Policy Issues

Posted by Ogged
on 10.14.03

Anne Galloway goes to a talk that leaves her...rather dissatisfied.

William Mitchell gave the keynote this morning, and talked about the wireless city. He said that wireless and mobile technologies continue to fragment and recombine urban and regional patterns, as well as building types. This allows for the nomadic occupation of space and creates the need for multi-use space. In addition to more dynamic informational overlays in the city, he said that a true global community is emerging - one based on the recognition of our moral obligations to people far away. But what does this mean for building in the 21st century? He said we need to resist the uniformity of response and commodification of place; that we need to combine local character with global presence; and that we need to create systems of highly differentiated networked spaces, with strong local character, built around people rather than technology, capable of accomodating multiple uses. And - of course - UbiComp will be a great enabler.

His talk was far too utopian for me - there was absolutely no critical awareness or discussion of the social implications.
I asked him: If we are to focus on people rather than technology, which people are we talking about? If being mobile is the way of the future, what will happen to people who are not? And what will ghettos look like in the wireless city?
He had no answers. Well, actually, he said that all technologies have raised these same issues, that these are policy problems ...
Um, okay. Thanks.

Thanks to Anne for bringing up the issues. I confess, the geek in me gets very excited about WiFi everywhere and the rest of me hasn't exactly taken up the slack by thinking about the social implications. I'm tempted to say that education for people of medium to low income is so atrocious that wireless connectivity is but a small part of a larger problem, but maybe not. If wireless connectivity really is changing the way we live (a scene from a few weeks back when several of us at dinner took out our phones to look something up on the web comes to mind), then certainly it's changing more and faster for some of us.


 

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PLoS

Posted by Ogged
on 10.14.03

The Public Library of Science (PLoS) has been getting some attention lately. It's a free, peer-reviewed, public-web accessible forum for the publication of high-quality scientific articles. It's a wonderful idea and one hopes it will work (eventually, something like it must happen, no?). I thought this part of what amounts to the mission statement was particularly interesting.

...how will newly formed open-access journals pay their bills, and how will the traditional journals that have served the scientific community for many years survive in an open-access world?

Because publishing is an integral part of the research process, a natural alternative to the subscription model is to consider the significant but relatively small costs of open-access publication as one of the fundamental costs of doing research. The institutions that sponsor research intend for the results to be made available to the scientific community and the public. If these research sponsors also paid the essential costs of publication—amounting, by most estimates, to less than 1% of the total spent on sponsored research (statistics found at dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0000036.sd001)—we would retain a robust and competitive publishing industry and gain the benefit of universal open access.

That's an amazing number; so amazing that you might say it has moral force: if allocating less than 1% of the current cost of research can make information free to the public, it's incumbent upon research institutions to so allocate. And public research institutions should be required to do so. Let's hope it becomes part of each university's mandata and mission, and for all subjects.


 

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Water Rising

Posted by Ogged
on 10.14.03

Apropos our discussion of the political isolation of the Bay Area (even relative to the rest of California), there's this article from the San Francisco Chronicle trying to make sense of the phenomenon. Not wonderfully clear, but helpful nonetheless.


 

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I Do, Ack Ack

Posted by Ogged
on 10.14.03

Dude, it was great, it was like, a three plane wedding.

A small plane crashed near a wedding party in central Serbia, and local media said it was apparently brought down by celebratory rounds fired by wedding guests.

...

Shootings and fatalities are frequent at Serbian weddings because of the centuries-long tradition of blasting away with firearms in celebration.

Do you know how to party?


 

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Fade

Posted by Ogged
on 10.12.03

I don't want to encourage them, but this copy protection scheme is really ingenious.

Fade exploits the systems for error correction that computers use to cope with CD-ROMs or DVDs that have become scratched. Software protected by Fade contains fragments of "subversive" code designed to seem like scratches. The bogus scratches are arranged on the disc in a subtle pattern that the game's master program looks for. If it finds them, the game plays as usual.
When someone tries to copy the disc on a PC, however, the error-correcting routines built into the computer attempt to fix the bogus scratches. When the copied disc is played, the master program then cannot find the pattern it is looking for, so it knows the disc is a copy.
What happens next turns the usual rules of software protection on their head. Instead of switching off the game and preventing it from playing at all, the master program begins to disable it. In the game Operation Flashpoint, which has been the proving ground for Fade, players soon find that their guns shoot off target and run out of bullets.

Cool! I mean, diabolical! The idea is that people will be able to play the game long enough to get hooked, so they'll buy a copy when their's begins to degrade. I don't know about that, I think that someone unwilling to pay for a game is unwilling to pay, period, but the little dramas of hackers and programmers are fun to follow.

via Agenda Bender


 

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A Newspaper

Posted by Ogged
on 10.12.03

A couple of really good articles from the Washington Post.

First, Condoleezza Rice, unable to exert control.

Second, more on the Plame affair, and an excellent analysis from Josh Marshall.


 

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